Quebec Conference, 1864

Map of the Eastern British Provinces in North America at the time of Confederation 1867.jpg
Beginning on 10 October 1864, and lasting over two weeks, the Quebec Conference was held to discuss a proposed Canadian confederation. It was in response to the shift in political ground as Britain and the United States had come very close to engaging in war with each other. Therefore, the overall goal of the conference was to elaborate on policies surrounding federalism, and creating a single state which were discussed previously at the Charlottetown Conference around a month earlier. Canada West leader John A. Macdonald requested Governor-General Charles Monck to invite all representatives from the three Maritime provinces and Newfoundland to meet with the candidates who formed the United Canada to Quebec, in October 1864. Newfoundland sent two observers, but did not participate directly in the proceedings. The Conference was held at the Château Frontenac.

The Charlottetown Conference of September 1864, laid the foundations for the Quebec Conference and was a significant meeting that would determine what would be discussed in the Quebec Conference. During the Conference, the Canadians found support for the confederation, as discussions pointed towards a unified decision to unite the provinces under the name of Canada. The Canada West member, John A. Macdonald, who would be highly prominent in the Quebec Conference, began to find allies that would enable him to have a more dominant and influential role in the Quebec Conference a month later. One key alliance made in the Charlottetown Conference that would transfer over to the Quebec Conference was made between the Maritime delegates and Macdonald as they saw him as less abrasive than the other Canada West Official, George Brown. Macdonald appealed to the Maritime populace as he seemed a more friendly and diplomatic alliance than George Brown, and in terms of Canada East politician, George Etienne Cartier, Macdonald was an anglophone, and although Cartier was prominent at the discussions at Charlottetown, the Maritime politicians were yet to get used to the influence and power of the francophone politicians.

On the fifth and final day of the conference, it was clear that a second part of the confederation deal was on the verge of being consummated, and that the Charlottetown Conference had been making a breakthrough on the policy of Confederacy. The Maritime politicians, however, struggled to agree and accept the details of the Canadians' proposal. On 10 September 1864, in Halifax three days later, they drew up plans to hold another conference in Quebec, in order to finalize the negotiations made during the last few days. They drew up motions for the Quebec Conference after the conclusion of Charlottetown, where they would focus on the confederation of British North America. They also agreed to invite a delegation from Newfoundland, as they were not involved in negotiations at Charlottetown Therefore, the members of Charlottetown wanted to include all provinces of Canada in the negotiations at the Quebec Conference as the Charlottetown Conference had laid the foundations of discussions at the Quebec Conference. During the period between the two sessions, the members of Charlottetown prepared a list of resolutions that would be passed at the Quebec Conference, which proposed the constitution of a new union. These were going to become the "72 Resolutions."

The conference involved 32 delegates from various regions of Canada. The meeting included members from Canada East- George-Étienne Cartier, Etienne-Paschal Tache as well as Thomas D’Arcy McGee. Those from Canada West included George Brown and John A. Macdonald. Members in New Brunswick who also featured were John Hamilton Gray and Samuel Leonard Tilley. Nova Scotian delegates featured Adams George Archibald and Charles Tupper. Newfoundland sent two delegates whose mere purpose was to observe proceedings and Prince Edward Island sent George Coles and William Henry Pope. The two Newfoundland delegates included F.B.T Carter and Ambrose Shea, who were not government members. Overall Nova Scotia had five members, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island had seven each, and the total made up all the delegates, making up all of the Maritime delegates. There were 32 delegates in total, and were given sets of calling cards, with the names and photo identification so everyone was clear with names and where certain people represented. The Conference lasted 14 days, but to some people, such as Edward Goff Penny, editor of the Montreal Herald, and an eventual senator, complained that this was too little time to conclude proceedings.

The major source of conflict at the conference was between those who favoured a "legislative union", i.e. a unitary state, such as John A. Macdonald, and those who favoured stronger provincial rights. The Conference tied in very closely with the discussions of the aforementioned Charlottetown Conference, as the topics being discussed in Quebec centred around whether the country should have a strong and single central government, or a more encompassing federal system. Representatives from the Maritimes and Canada East (now Quebec) tended to argue for provincial rights, fearing they would lose their cultural identity under a centralized unitary state. John A. Macdonald thought the failure of a weak central power was evident in the American Civil War, which was still being fought in the United States as the delegates met in Charlottetown and Quebec. The delegates eventually compromised, dividing powers between a "general" parliament and "local" provincial legislatures. They also decided to have an elected lower house, the House of Commons of Canada, and an appointed upper house, the Senate of Canada, although there was considerable debate about how many senators each province would have. The Prince Edward Island delegation called for a scheme similar to the Triple-E Senate proposal of the 1990s. Eventually, a proposed structure for the government was written out in the form of the seventy-two resolutions at the end of the conference.

Following on from the topic of the proposed division of the central government into the upper house, that would be based on regional representation and the lower house that would represent the population, this was a key topic in both the Charlottetown Conference and the Quebec Conference. This topic was discussed at length during the conference with one examiner outlining that the meeting on 24 October 1864, that the topic was "debated all day with considerable warmth and ability but no agreement come to". He also outlined that "lower Canada complains that in the number proposed for her, 24, she would be unfairly represented (in the upper house), with it being proposed that upper Canada should have the same number." This discussion carried on over into the Quebec Conference in the hope that an agreement could be eventually made considering that it was not concluded at the end of the Charlottetown Conference.

This page was last edited on 6 June 2018, at 03:41 (UTC).
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