The Life and Times of Confederation 1864-1867:
Politics, Newspapers and the Union of British North America
Peter Waite’s book on the events leading up to the 1867 Confederation of British North American colonies has long been regarded as a classic, one of the best and liveliest on the subject.
Newspapers were a mirror of life; all the world, Thackeray wrote, is in the newspaper. They were a transcript of life and society, imperfect no doubt, but vital and invigorating for all that. Men and women, life and politics, murder and mayhem, were the fare, and in retailing that they could be frank, forthright and wickedly partisan. If they were observers, they were also participants, shaping public opinion according to their several views of British North America’s destiny.
Public opinion, especially in the eastern colonies, was divided about whether Confederation was desirable, and even more so about whether the form of it, devised in 1864 in two sunny summer weeks at Charlottetown and three rainy ones at Quebec, was the best that British North American union might take. Newspapers could not of themselves shape public reactions, though they often acted as if they could. Certain it is that on the 1st of July 1867 the Province of Canada (today’s Ontario and Quebec) and Nova Scotia and New Brunswick were united to form a new nation, soon to be joined by the Northwest, by British Columbia and Prince Edward island, creating the Dominion of Canada.
This book will appeal to all with an interest in Canadian history and in this seminal period in our national life.
P.B. Waite is professor emeritus of history at Dalhousie University, Halifax, and one of the leading historians of the Confederation period. His books include The Confederation Debates in the Province of Canada; Canada 1874-1896: Arduous Destiny; Macdonald: His Life and World; and, most recently, The Lives of Dalhousie University.