- At the beginning of the nineteenth century, Canada comprised the North American territories along the St. Lawrence River and to the north of Lakes Ontario and Erie, not including most of what became in the course of the century the Dominion of Canada. Canada was divided into Upper and Lower Canada by William Pitt ’ s Constitution Act of 1791. Lower Canada - subsequently Québec - had a Frenchspeaking majority and Upper Canada an English-speaking one. Each colony was granted a representative assembly and an appointive upper house under a Britishappointed Governor. Conflicts between the elected assemblies and the Governors led in both colonies to brief rebellions in 1837. The British responded by sending Lord Durham to report on the situation; his report led to the reunion of the two Canadas and the grant of effective local autonomy under the name of Responsible Government in 1848. The Dominion of Canada was founded on July 1 1867, pursuant to the British North America Act, which received its second reading in the British House of Commons on February 28, 1867.The intention, inspired by the American example, was to create a strong federal government, leaving only local matters to the provinces. Nova Scotia was initially an unwilling province of Canada, but its protests were ignored by the imperial parliament. In 1870, the western territories of the Hudson’s Bay Company, known as Rupert’s Land, were ceded to Ottawa. This resulted in a brief rebellion under Louis Riel, but rebel forces scattered on the arrival of an Anglo- Canadian force under Colonel Garnet Wolseley. The Province of Manitoba joined Confederation in 1870. British Columbia followed in 1871, an agreement having been reached to construct largely at federal expense a transcontinental railway. In 1905, the remaining territories on the prairies joined the Confederation as the provinces of Saskatchewan and Alberta. The Canadian Pacific railway was completed in 1885, somewhat behind schedule. That same year saw a further rebellion led by Riel in Saskatchewan put down by an expeditionary force from Ontario after the Battle of Batoche; this time Riel was hanged for treason. Initially led by a Conservative government under Sir John A. Macdonald, in 1874, the Liberals came to power after a scandal over railway financing. MacDonald came back into power in 1878, remaining prime minister until his death in 1891, and instituting the so-called “National Policy” of tariffs designed to protect Canadian industry. Nevertheless, Canada remained primarily an exporter of primary products, including agricultural products, minerals, and timber, throughout the pre-1914 period.Canada’s connection to the British Empire was controversial: many, likely most, English Canadians were imperialist to some degree, but the imperial connection was less popular with the French-speaking population of Québec. Under the Liberal Sir Wilfrid Laurier, Canada made a small contribution to the British war effort in the South African War of 1899–1902, and chose to create its own navy in place of making a contribution to the British. Canada’s initial reaction to the outbreak of war in 1914 was summed up by Laurier’s cry of “Ready, aye, ready!” but enthusiasm waned, particularly in Québec, as the war went on.See also <
>; < >.FURTHER READING:Lower, A.R.M. Colony to Nation. London: Longmans Green, 1957;Martin, Ged. Britain and the Origins of Canadian Confederation, 1837-63. Basingstoke: MacMillan, 1995.MARK F. PROUDMAN
Encyclopedia of the Age of Imperialism, 1800–1914. 2014.