A New Country About to Be Born

Wheat and flour.
Canadian workers standing on a pile of timber.
The areas that formed a confederation in 1867 shown in light yellow.

Britain’s colony British North America, an area later known as Canada, was a divided land in the early 1800s. It was made up of various organized provinces and unorganized territories, all with their own distinct characteristics and interests. Economic problems and security concerns in the mid-19th century, however, would drive them towards unification.

Economic concerns

Economically, things grew difficult for British North America in the 1840s. Britain, who had previously favored colonial products in trade, now switched to a free market system, practically leveling the playing field for all exporting countries in the world. This was to the detriment of British North America, which ended up in a relatively worse trading position than before and could no longer count on large quantities of its wheat and lumber being sold in Britain.

Security concerns

Security-wise, Britain’s North American colonies had always been wary of an invasion by the steadily growing United States. In 1865, these security concerns peaked when the cotton producing Confederacy of the American south, tacitly backed by their trading partner Britain, lost the American Civil War. Now, upset by Britain’s backing of their wartime enemy, representatives of the northern American states spoke openly about avenging Britain by attacking British North America, greatly worrying the Canadians who lived there and spurring a rapid response.

Unification

Scrambling to co-ordinate their military defenses and to become an economically strong trading block, after the U.S. Civil War, three British North American provinces quickly formed a confederation. An acquiescent British government, in 1867, granted this confederation dominion status, and even ceded the immense Rupert’s Land and other British-controlled areas to the new Canadian dominion. Though not fully independent, the seeds of a new, strong self-sufficient country had now been sown, and the United States never made the threats of invasion a reality.