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COCHRANE, HENRY – Volume XII (1891-1900)

d. 22 May 1898 at Jackhead, Man.


Responsible Government

Sir John A. Macdonald

From the Red River Settlement to Manitoba (1812–70)

Sir Wilfrid Laurier

Sir George-Étienne Cartier


The Fenians

Women in the DCB/DBC

The Charlottetown and Quebec Conferences of 1864

Introductory Essays of the DCB/DBC

The Acadians

For Educators

The War of 1812 

Canada’s Wartime Prime Ministers

The First World War

The American Dimension
Original title:  ARCHIVED - The American Civil War - The Anti-Slavery Movement in Canada - Library and Archives Canada

Source: Link


Richard John UNIACKE’s concerns [see Early Advocates of Union in British North America] persisted into the mid 19th century. Early advocates feared political developments in the United States and their implications for British North America. Thomas Heath HAVILAND shared such concerns:

Haviland entered the 1860s profoundly fearful of what the rupture in the American republic might imply for British North America. Speaking in the house in favour of a bill to grant £400 to the volunteer militia in 1862, his scepticism about the republic surfaced. ‘Let us thankfully contrast our privileges with those of the people in the United States, where the press is shackled, editors imprisoned and Habeas Corpus unconstitutionally suspended,’ he argued, pointing to the need for strong colonial militias to fend off a potentially hostile United States.”


The Threat

With the outbreak of the American Civil War (1861–65), the growing military power of the United States, and increasing tensions between that country and Great Britain, the defence of Canada became an issue of paramount importance for Britain and its North American colonies.

In the early 1860s Sir William Fenwick WILLIAMS took on a heavy responsibility:

“He then accepted appointment as commander-in-chief of the British forces in British North America, and was thus in a position to organize the defences of the Province of Canada when the American Civil War broke out in April 1861. Williams believed Southern independence was permanent, and that in consequence the North would seek in British North America, especially Canada West, ‘a balance for lost theatres of ambition.’ As he wrote to the Duke of Cambridge, ‘our danger begins when their war ends. . . .’ Three additional British regiments were sent to Canada at Williams’ request and, in December 1861, at the time of the Trent crisis, a further 15,000 troops followed. Williams ordered heavy batteries set up at Toronto and Kingston. In fact, Governor General Lord Monck* had trouble holding Williams in and convincing the old warhorse that Britain was not yet actually at war with the United States.”


The Lesson

Some delegates to the Charlottetown and Quebec City conferences believed that the inherent structural weaknesses of the American republic had made its civil war inevitable. Such concerns explain John A. MACDONALD’s early opposition:

“[Macdonald] had always been cool to the idea [of confederation] because, he stated in a public address in 1861, he feared a federation would have the defects in the Constitution of the United States’ – a weak central government.”


To learn more about how views of the United States affected perspectives among politicians in British North America towards confederation, please consult the following lists of biographies:


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