The Great Enterprise
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The Great Enterprise
Confederation
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The London Conference
By November 1866, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Canada had agreed to join Confederation. Newfoundland and Prince Edward Island declined.

All that was left was to get the British North America bill passed in the British Parliament. Sixteen delegates from Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Canada - including John A. Macdonald, George-Étienne Cartier, Alexander Galt and George Brown - made the journey to London.

In London, Macdonald, Cartier and the others fine-tuned their bill. Only one important change was made to the Quebec deal. A new article was quietly inserted giving English Protestants in Lower Canada special rights.

Macdonald was eager to wrap up the work before other changes were demanded. By Christmas 1866, a preliminary draft was ready to send to Sir Frederic Rogers, the permanent undersecretary of the Colonial Office.

Rogers observed the drama surrounding the negotiations. "Macdonald was the ruling genius and spokesman," Rogers observed. "I was very greatly struck by his power of management and adroitness. The French delegates were keenly on the watch for anything which weakened their securities; on the contrary, the Nova Scotia and New Brunswick delegates were very jealous of concession to the arrière province."

While in London, Macdonald narrowly avoided catastrophe. He woke up one night to find that he and his bed were on fire. He went next door to Cartier's room to get help. His hair and hands were singed and his shoulder was burned badly enough to require medical attention.

The British North America bill crawled through the tedious, halting machinery of the Commons and the House of Lords. It was delayed several times, causing consternation among the Canadian delegates.

By March, tensions were rising as it appeared that the Conservative government at Westminster was on the brink of falling, endangering the safe passage of the Canadian bill. The eloquent Colonial Secretary, Lord Carnarvon, gave the British North America bill its final push.

"We are laying the foundation of a great State... perhaps one which at a future day may even overshadow this country. But, come what may, we shall rejoice that we have shown neither indifference to their wishes nor jealousy of their aspirations," Carnarvon said in a speech.

The bill was finally signed by Queen Victoria on March 29, 1867, and Macdonald and his colleagues left for home. On July 1, 1867, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and the Province of Canada were proclaimed the Dominion of Canada, with John A. Macdonald its first prime minister.
In London, Confederation delegates fine-tuned the British North America bill before presenting it to the British government at the end of 1866. (Courtesy of the National Archives of Canada)
In London, Confederation delegates fine-tuned the British North America bill before presenting it to the British government at the end of 1866. (Courtesy of the National Archives of Canada)


Prominent politician George-Etienne Cartier was the leading spokesman for French Canada during Confederation negotiations. (Courtesy of the National Archives of Canada)
Prominent politician George-Etienne Cartier was the leading spokesman for French Canada during Confederation negotiations. (Courtesy of the National Archives of Canada)

In the 1860s, John A. Macdonald was instrumental in creating the Dominion of Canada and became its first prime minister. (Courtesy of the National Archives of Canada)
In the 1860s, John A. Macdonald was instrumental in creating the Dominion of Canada and became its first prime minister. (Courtesy of the National Archives of Canada)

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The Great Enterprise
Confederation
The London Conference
July 1, 1867

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