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INQUIRY IDEA H - FIGHTING FATHERS:THE PEOPLE BEHIND CONFEDERATION

Consult these excerpts linked to the Web activity Inquiry Idea H "Fighting fathers: the people behind Confederation."

  1. How did Dorion argue against Confederation during the 1864 debates?
  2. What model of federation did Macdonald favour?
  3. What was Brown’s view on the separation of church and state?
  4. Why did Cartier’s bleus accept “Rep by Pop” and Dorion’s rouges do not?
  5. Why did Macdonald adopt the federal system even though he had fought for a legislative union?

 65) How did Dorion argue against Confederation during the 1864 debates?

“In the debate on the resolutions [to adopt Confederation] themselves, Dorion […] launched withering attacks on the agreement.  How could confederation protect British North America against the United States when it simply created a longer border to defend?  Why promote a customs union between colonies which had no trade ties?  What good were bold promises that union would bring intercolonial railways if confederation was, as Dorion put it, only “another haul at the public purse for the Grand Trunk,” which would bankrupt all the colonies together?”

Moore, Christopher. 1867: How the Fathers Made a Deal, Toronto, Christopher Moore Editorial Ltd., 1997, p. 147.

 66) What model of federation did Macdonald favour?

“One of the immediate, fundamental questions was what the balance of power should be between the federal and provincial governments.  Macdonald must have realized at once, the moment the word “federal” was used, that it could cover a great deal of ground.  There were many different kinds of “federal”.  At one end of the scale was a constitution like that of New Zealand in 1852, where the provinces were barely above municipalities; at the other, a constitution like the first American confederation of 1777-1789, where the states had virtually all the power.  Macdonald had one distinct and unequivocal aim – to combat that which the American Civil War had writ so large: the inherent tendency of federal systems to fly apart.  It was the result of too much weakness at the center.  He therefore set out to centralize as much control in Ottawa as he could, save only the irreducible minimum which of necessity went to all the provinces.”

Waite, Peter. “Between Three Oceans: Challenges of a Continental Destiny (1840-1900)”, in Illustrated History of Canada, Craig Brown (ed.), Toronto, Key Porter Books Ltd., 1997, p. 326.

 67) What was Brown’s view on the separation of church and state?

“Brown believed fiercely in the separation of church and state.  Not because he was irreligious or anti-religious.  Brown was a devout, God-fearing Scots Presbyterian, an heir to those early Protestants who had first condemned the worldly power and worldly corruption of the Church of Rome… It was Catholics, however, not Protestants, who felt most threatened by...Brown’s religion and his politics.”

Moore, Christopher. 1867: How the Fathers Made a Deal, Toronto, Christopher Moore Editorial Ltd., 1997, p. 10.

 68) Why did Cartier’s bleus accept “Rep by Pop” and Dorion’s rouges do not?

“Cartier, whose credentials as a defender of tradition were secure, could consider the leap to accepting rep-by-pop.  The rouges no longer could.  In the conservative Quebec of the 1860s, it was radical enough for rouges to question clerical authority by defending freethinking intellectuals and secular education. […] When Brown and Cartier began talking about federalism in the spring of 1864, Brown hoped to bring rouges leaders into the coalition.  Instead, the rouges took up the traditional bleu repudiation of rep-by-pop, proposing that the sectional equality of Canada East and Canada West should be entrenched forever.  The rouges stayed out of the coalition of 1864 and declared themselves opposed to its federal policy.”

Moore, Christopher. 1867: How the Fathers Made a Deal, Toronto, Christopher Moore Editorial Ltd., 1997, p. 145-6.

 69) Why did Macdonald adopt the federal system even though he had fought for a legislative union?

“Macdonald was the only member of the triumvirate [Great Coalition] who may have felt some momentary doubts [about the federal system].  Like his colleagues, he believed that the only possible federation was a federal union of the whole of British North America.  But he saw union chiefly as strength and as expansion; and now he was full of unhappy doubts that expansion by means of federation would never give a transcontinental British American union the strength he craved for it. […] Macdonald lived for the action of practical politics; and he knew as well as Cartier, and better than Brown, that practical politics is the art of the possible.”

Creighton, Donald.  The Road to Confederation, The Emergence of Canada: 1863-1867, Toronto, Macmillan of Canada, 1964, p. 60.