26 July

Kingston, Ontario

Annexation Proposed

One of the early, important steps towards Confederation took place at Kingston, Ontario, on July 26, 1849. It followed the rioting in Montreal over the Rebellion Losses Bill (see April 25).

The Tories, who had opposed the Rebellion Losses Bill so violently, arranged to hold a convention at Kingston to discuss the ills of the country. The heavy losses caused by the rebellions in 1837 and 1838 now had to be paid for. Adding to the country's financial difficulties was Britain's adoption of free trade in 1846. Before free trade, Canadian wheat had paid a lower duty on entering Britain than wheat from the United States. As a result, the Americans were sending their wheat to Canada to be ground into flour, and then exporting it to Britain under the Canadian preference. This led to the creation of a large number of flour mills in Canada and increased business for the shipping industry, transportation and long-shore men.

When Britain adopted free trade, the Canadian preference ended. The milling and shipping business was ruined and there was a depression with unemployment. Canadians were moving to the United States where conditions were better.

There were many dismal speeches at the Kingston convention. The Kingston Whig correspondent reported a Scottish lady as saying: "I couldna hae conceived I had been sae truly miserable hadna I been telled it."

It was at this meeting that the Tories drew up a manifesto urging annexation to the States. It was probably the strangest document ever signed by responsible people in Canada, including J. J. Abbott, who later became prime minister. He dismissed his action later by saying that it was "the outburst of a moment of petulance." John A. Macdonald, then a young member of Parliament, refused to sign the document and said later: "Some of our fellows lost their heads."

Sir John always minimized the negative side of the Kingston meeting and emphasized the positive. One of its achievements was the creation of the British American League, which reaffirmed the connection with Britain and advocated the confederation of all the British North American provinces. Even so, Sir John voted against Confederation at the meeting in Quebec in 1864 (see June 22). The streams of politics are difficult to fathom!


26 July

-1664    The Sovereign Council fixed prices of commodities.

-1757    Montcalm defeated the British at Lake George, New York.

-1811    Selkirk Colonists led by Miles Macdonell sailed from Scotland for the Red River. They arrived in August the following year.

-1881    The C.P.R. was completed as far as Winnipeg.

-1923    President Harding of the United States visited Vancouver. He was the first American President to visit Canada during his term of office.

-1936    Edward VIII (the late Duke of Windsor) unveiled the Vimy Memorial.

-1953    An armistice was signed in the war in Korea.