Happy Canada Day!
This year is the 149th anniversary of the day that Canada became a nation. But how many of us really know the story behind how it came to be? While our first Prime Minister Sir John A. MacDonald certainly must be given his due for his efforts shepherding the nation together, we should also be thanking the Americans. Primarily the decision by President James K. Polk to adopt the Manifest Destiny doctrine that established a real and constant threat of invasion from the United States in the Western Hemisphere. However it’s President Andrew Johnson over 40 years later who oversaw the more immediate events that would galvanize support for a unified Canada. Initially it started when tensions became strained between America and Great Britain after he completed the Alaskan Purchase from Russia in 1867. And were exacerbated when Johnson turned a blind eye to a series of armed incursions by Irish-American civil war veterans into Canada. These small-scale Fenian Raids were easily turned back by the British, and eventually Johnson did order the Fenians disarmed and barred from crossing the border.
But as you can imagine the damage had already been done. With fears that the Americans might attempt another invasion, and a change in colonial policy that would see a reduction in the number of British troops stationed in the colonies becoming more and more likely as Britain struggled with the costs of maintaining these forces, impetus was added to the movement for Canadian Confederation. Though Queen Victoria had already given her royal assent earlier in 1867 to the British North America Act, it took these events to push the more reticent provinces in joining Nova Scotia and New Brunswick in forming the Dominion of Canada over the following decades.