British Businessmen and Canadian Confederation

British Businessmen and Canadian Confederation: Constitution Making in an Era of Anglo-Globalization

Copyright Date: 2008
Pages: 240
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  • Book Info
    British Businessmen and Canadian Confederation
    Book Description:

    Andrew Smith discusses the role of British investors in Canadian Confederation, covering the period from the construction of the Grand Trunk Railroad in the 1850s to Canada's purchase of Rupert's Land in 1869-70. He describes how some investors lobbied the British government for the policies that made Confederation possible, working closely with the Fathers of Confederation, many of whom were participants in the same trans-Atlantic crony-capitalist system. British factory owners with classical liberal beliefs, however, disliked Confederation because they believed it would delay the political independence of the North American colonies, something they saw as beneficial.

    eISBN: 978-0-7735-7500-4
    Subjects: Business

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-2)
  4. 1 Introduction: Canada’s Heritage in the City
    (pp. 3-21)

    British businessmen played a crucial role in the achievement of Canadian Confederation. Without the support of a small but influential group of investors, Confederation would not have occurred in 1867, if at all. Studies of the making of British colonial policy usually focus on politicians and civil servants, an approach to the writing of imperial history that has been summed up by the phrase “Whitehall and the Wilderness.”¹ But in looking at the coming of Confederation, it is instructive to expand our purview from the Colonial Office to include the City, London’s financial district. On the eve of Confederation, British...

  5. 2 An Empire That Did Little for Manchester but Much for the City of London
    (pp. 22-43)

    In the 1840s Britain broke with centuries of tradition and announced that it would no longer give preference to its colonies in matters of trade.¹ The abolition of colonial preference placed the British subjects in Canada and Nova Scotia on the same level playing field as the citizens of Ohio and Massachusetts, and in the 1860s people were still trying to come to terms with this radical change in policy. The new economic environment shaped British reactions to both the separatist ideas articulated by people such as Goldwin Smith and the rival plans for a British North American federation. A...

  6. 3 From Bad to Worse: 1860–1862
    (pp. 44-61)

    The first twenty-four months of the 1860s were a terrible time for those Britons who had invested in the North American colonies. The decade began with the festive visit of the Prince of Wales,¹ but a far more significant event in the history of British investment in the colonies occurred on the first Tuesday in November 1860 when Abraham Lincoln was elected president of the United States. The sharp downturn in the North American economy that swiftly followed Lincoln’s election was only a foretaste of the tribulations that lay in store for British investors in Canada.

    The Civil War was...

  7. 4 The British North American Association and Its Campaign
    (pp. 62-76)

    The BNAA represented some of the most important investors in British North America, yet references to it in histories of Confederation are usually cursory.¹ The one historian to do more than briefly mention the organization was Don Roman. Roman’s suggestion that the association served the interests of British manufacturers and exporters reflected Robinson and Gallagher’s general theory of economic imperialism rather than any in-depth research into the composition of the organization.² Closely examining the BNAA has implications for both the Robinson-Gallagher thesis and the newer finance-centric interpretation of British imperialism supplied by Cain and Hopkins. The BNAA certainly enlisted the...

  8. 5 Attempted Economic Decolonization: The Short Premiership of John Sandfield Macdonald
    (pp. 77-90)

    The year 1862 saw progress towards an imperial loan guarantee for the Halifax-Quebec railway. But just as Gladstone’s resistance was being overcome in Britain, a new impediment emerged in the Province of Canada. While the governments of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia continued to act in ways congruent with the aims of the gentlemanly capitalists of the City, Canada’s new government adopted a very different stance on the question of the Intercolonial and on more fundamental issues of political economy. Because Canadian political history after 1841 is often viewed as a world of dull moderates, the word “radical” is infrequently...

  9. 6 Reconciling Britishness and Federalism: British Reactions to the Quebec Resolutions
    (pp. 91-108)

    In organizing the Charlottetown and Quebec conferences and drawing up resolutions outlining a constitution, colonial politicians took orders from nobody, least of all a group of bankers in London. The constitutional vision contained in the resolutions was entirely the work of the delegates. Moreover, the decision to hold the conference in camera¹ meant that outsiders, including the investors, had limited knowledge of the intentions of the constitutional architects. It was extremely difficult for people in London to predict what sort of constitution would emerge from the Quebec Conference. They knew that some sort of union of the colonies, perhaps a...

  10. 7 The British Parliamentary Debates on Confederation
    (pp. 109-131)

    Canadian historians have traditionally viewed the British parliamentary debate on Confederation as something of a non-event, maintaining that the bipartisan consensus in favour of the main elements of the Confederation settlement precluded any clashes of ideas or interests on the floor of the House of Commons. Donald Creighton claimed that the British were essentially indifferent to Confederation and that the associated parliamentary proceedings were a pro forma exercise. He famously declared that the British MPS regarded the British North America bill as less important than the dog tax they subsequently debated.¹

    The belief that British politicians were not interested in...

  11. 8 Gentlemanly Capitalism after the British North America Act
    (pp. 132-150)

    The previous chapters have shown that the major British investors in Canada played a role in Confederation that is largely ignored in the existing secondary literature. They influenced both the timing of Confederation and the character of the new polity. In the 1860s a community of like-minded individuals on both sides of the Atlantic worked together to produce a constitutional settlement that advanced the interests of both the investors and the Fathers of Confederation. Whether they supported or opposed Confederation, most contemporaries saw it as a measure that would solidify the constitutional bond between Britain and the North American colonies....

  12. Note on Sources
    (pp. 151-156)
  13. Notes
    (pp. 157-224)
  14. Index
    (pp. 225-229)