Birthplace of Confederation: The 1864 Charlottetown Conference
Charlottetown Conference delegates posing on the steps of Government House (Collections Canada)
On September 1, 1864, the meeting that led to Canadian Confederation convened in Prince Edward Island. PEI, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick had originally set the date to discuss the possibility of Maritime Union. When the Province of Canada (what is present-day Ontario and Quebec) asked to attend the meeting, the topic of Maritime Union became secondary to the grand matter of forming a nation.
Delegates arrived from August 30 through September 1 at the port of Charlottetown. Sir John A. Macdonald, the man who would become Canada’s first Prime Minster in a few short years, was among them.
The first circus to travel to Prince Edward Island in more than two decades also happened to be in town. The excitement created by the circus meant that few were on hand to celebrate the arrivals. More importantly, there were no accommodations available in Charlottetown in which to house the Canadian delegates.
As the Canadian delegates arrived, PEI’s Colonial Secretary William Henry (W.H.) Pope, was rowed out to the SS Queen Victoria to welcome them. In fact, it was aboard the SS Queen Victoria that most of the Canadian delegates found alternative accommodation during the Conference.
Over the next seven days the merits of Confederation would be discussed over formal meetings, grand balls and banquets. On September 8, the Charlottetown Conference was over, but for a ball that would last until early the next morning. Though further deliberation was required at conferences held in Quebec and London, the matter was settled – the concept of Confederation was approved.
In light of the work done and goodwill fostered at the Prince Edward Island meeting, the Dominion of Canada would become a reality on 1 July 1867 with the proclamation of the British North America Act.
The Charlottetown Conference Delegates:
The Prince Edward Island Delegation
The New Brunswick Delegation
The Nova Scotia Delegation
The Canadian Delegation