Confederation and the Anti- Confederates in Early Canada

"Confederation and the Anti-Confederates" relates that history has not recorded when a "group of Canadian politicians has suffered more from the national approach to Canadian history than the Anti-Confederates..." The anti-confederates are a group who were opponents in the 1860s to the British North America Act being passed as well as opposing the Canadian federation's establishment. The Anti-Confederates were accused of having little vision, being parochial, negative, cynical and without any understanding of the theoretical framework of federalism. This work holds that their side of the debate has been highly "misrepresented" as well as "completely ignored." Noted most specifically are Joseph Howe and Ike Smith who were labeled as "political opportunists" even while those in favor of Confederation were likely to benefit from the achievement of the Confederation. The three documents examined in this work are:

1) From a speech by Joseph Howe at Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, 22 May 1867;

2) From a speech by William Lawrence in Nova Scotia House of Assembly; and 3) From a speech by Christopher Dunkin in Canadian House of Parliament 27 February 1865.


Joseph Howe speaks against confederation of Nova Scotia to a group of old and middle age men and relates that these listeners most certainly understand that there were struggles thirty years prior to this speech "which the growth of population, wealth and intelligence rendered inevitable." Howe relates to his listeners that the reason for these struggles was the right of self-government and reminds the listeners that those rights were won from Downing Street following many struggles. Howe states that self-government was the norm and was exercised in a manner that was "never abused" for approximately 25 years but that now, those rights were "gone from us" Howe relates that there are those in Canada that hold power over the citizens of Nova Scotia that are more invasive and restrictive than before the struggles to gain self-government. Howe holds that Canadian citizens had been betrayed and their rights "bartered away." Howe relates how the right to self-taxation is gone along with control of the post office and even the military. Howe relates how the currency is to be regulated by the Canadians and that the country of Nova Scotia has been flooded with paper money and the savings banks to be handed over into Canadian hands. According to Howe, all that had been gained would be lost in the process of Confederation. Howe, an opponent to the Confederation clearly is convinced and intends to convince his listeners of the foolhardy nature that acceptance of the Confederation by Nova Scotia would represent.


William Lawrence in his 1866 speech in the Nova Scotia House of Assembly states that Confederation is not a party question as it "passes beyond all such considerations, and such feelings should be far from every mind." Lawrence states that the Canadians are indeed mistaken if they hope to generate enthusiasm among the people of Nova Scotia concerning its Confederation. Lawrence specifically states that "The spirit of liberty will make itself heard wherever it exists." Lawrence relates that the rights of individuals should be carefully cared for and that political hurriedness in limitation of the freedom of individuals is a principle that is dangerous and is left wanting in bringing satisfaction to a people. Lawrence relates that the founding principle of the constitution in Nova Scotia is…