8 May

American Plan Includes Acquisition of Canada

There have been a number of occasions when the United States nearly took possession of Canada. One of them was in 1782 when negotiations were taking place to end the American Revolutionary War.

Britain had been fighting France and Spain in Europe, as well as the Americans overseas, and was greatly tempted to end the war as quickly as possible. The United States had obtained a secret document, prepared by the French ambassador in 'Washington, stating that France would oppose American claims to fishing rights in Canadian waters. It was also clear that Spain, which owned Florida and the lands west of the Mississippi, would oppose American expansion to the south and west. The Americans thus had every reason to suspect the future intentions of their allies, and were willing to conclude a separate peace with Britain.

Benjamin Franklin, American ambassador in Paris, was told to try to make a deal with Britain as quickly as possible. Lord Shelburne, then Colonial Secretary, sent Richard Oswald to Paris to negotiate with Franklin. Oswald did not even know the geography of North America, and was no match for a wily trader like Franklin, who persuaded him that the surrender of Canada was a logical part of the peace plan. Oswald sent the proposal to Shelburne, who is believed to have shown it to the King, but kept it from the members of the cabinet.

Fortunately, Charles Fox who was Secretary for Foreign Affairs, sent his own agent to Paris on May 8 to see what was going on. He learned about the proposal to give up Canada and rushed the information back to Fox. There was a row in the cabinet during which Prime Minister Rockingham died, and Shelburne became Prime Minister. He immediately got rid of Fox and it looked as though the Canada deal would go through.

Just then, Britain received some favourable news from Admiral Rodney in the West Indies: he had beaten the French fleet there. He wrote: "In two years I have taken two Spanish, one French, and one Dutch admiral." This, and the obvious conflict between the United States, France and Spain, strengthened Britain's hand at the conference table. When the Treaty of Paris was finally signed in September 1783, Canada remained a British possession.


8 May

-1604    Champlain arrived at the mouth of the Lahave River, Nova Scotia.

-1620    Champlain sailed for Canada, bringing his young wife with him (see November 3).

-1642    Maisonneuve and colonists left Quebec to found Montreal.

-1756    Indians attacked Mahone Bay, Nova Scotia, as a reprisal for the expulsion of the Acadians (see December 9).

-1818    Samuel Leonard Tilley was born at Gagetown, New Brunswick.

-1849    Joseph Howe wrote his famous letter to the British North America League concerning Confederation.

-1858    John Brown, American abolitionist, held a convention at Chatham, Ontario.

-1871    New Brunswick adopted a school system similar to Ontario's; this led to rioting.

-1882    Northwest Territories were divided into four districts: Alberta, Saskatchewan, Assiniboia, and Athabaska,

-1906    The University of Alberta at Edmonton received its charter.

-1915    The War Purchasing Board was appointed.

-1945    The Armistice, ending the Second World War With Germany, was signed.