July 1, 1867
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July 1, 1867

On July 1 1867, at noon, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and the Province of Canada were proclaimed the Dominion of Canada, with John A. Macdonald its first prime minister.

Now, the area of Upper Canada was called Ontario and Lower Canada was called Quebec.

In most parts of the new Dominion, it was a dazzling sunny day. The reverberation of a brass band could be heard in many towns.

In Toronto, children were given Union Jacks to wave and an ox was roasted in front of St. Lawrence Hall, with the meat then distributed to the poor.

In Ottawa, a military review on Parliament Hill fired a salute. The soldiers forgot to take the ramrods out of their rifles and the iron rods arched over Sparks Street.

Macdonald's new wife Agnes wrote in her diary marking the day. "This new Dominion of ours came noisily into existence on the 1st, and the very newspapers look hot and tired, with the weight of Announcements and Cabinet lists. Here - in this house - the atmosphere is so awfully political that sometimes I think the very flies hold Parliaments on the kitchen Tablecloths."

In Quebec City, a cannon was fired on the Plains of Abraham to mark the day and most Canadiens spent the time by the water, happy to have a long weekend.

In Halifax, the British Colonist trumpeted: "The days of isolation and dwarf-hood are past; henceforth we are a united people, and the greatness of each goes to swell the greatness of the whole."

The Morning Chronicle offered a different view: "Died! Last night at 12 o'clock, the free and enlightened Province of Nova Scotia." At the waterfront, an effigy of Charles Tupper - one of the Fathers of Confederation - was burned alongside a live rat.

But for many in the new Dominion of Canada, the day held magic and promise. One young girl in Hamilton, Ontario described the evening celebrations in her diary.

"There was the dark and then there was the light of a candle... then there was the opening of the great door, and the rush of cool, fresh air, and the deep darkness. 'Oh, Look!' said a voice. The sky was suddenly full of shooting stars. There were fountains of stars, coloured red and green and blue... 'This is the First of July, in the year eighteen hundred and sixty seven,' (my) father said, 'always remember this day, and this night. You are a very lucky little girl, to be a child in Canada, today.'"
On July 1, 1867, Canadians celebrated the birth of their country. (Courtesy of Queen's University Archives)
On July 1, 1867, Canadians celebrated the birth of their country. (Courtesy of Queen's University Archives)


Ottawa was designated as capital of the new Dominion of Canada. (Courtesy of the National Archives of Canada)
Ottawa was designated as capital of the new Dominion of Canada. (Courtesy of the National Archives of Canada)

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