Thursday, September 01, 2011

Canada's First Big Party

Thursday September 1st, 1864 – I always like it when days across years line up – so exactly today, another Thursday in history, was a momentous day in Canadian history – the start to one long sun-drenched and warm, champagne and circus filled party.

Today the Fathers of Confederation landed in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, to almost complete indifference, to talk about the possibility of a union of the British Provinces – or Confederation.

There was certainly political indifference, as it was the Canadians themselves who had wrangled an invite to the Maritime conference discussing a Maritime Union. The Maritimers weren’t interested in that union either, but were forced to consider the proposal by Arthur Gordon, the then Lieutenant Governor of New Brunswick (in 1867 How the Fathers Made a Deal, p 37, Moore describes Gordon “just thirty-five in 1864 and unshakeably certain he was meant to rule New Brunswick as an Imperial potentate.”)  Gordon assumed he would have more power if the Maritime provinces united. He was definitely not interested in a union of all the British provinces.

The other and more exciting cause of the indifference was the Slaymaker and Nichols’ Olympic Circus – the first circus in 20 years to the Island. The circus arrived Tuesday August 30 and was leaving September 2. (The circus was there in the first place because it couldn't travel up and down the eastern seaboard of the United States because of the Civil War - too many warships.) All the hotels, carriages, everything had been booked by the circus goers, leaving the Canadians, the famous Fathers of Confederation – John A Macdonald, George Etienne Cartier, George Brown (founder of the Globe and Mail), D’Arcy McGee and the others to stay out on their ship The Queen Victoria – with their $13,000 worth of champagne mind you. Now that’s a party.

For all the historical details and more photos see The History of Canada Online here

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