A Brief History
of Canada

1800 to 1866


Alexander Mackenzie was knighted. That same year, Mackenzie joined the XY Company (New North West Company). In 1803, the entire company was reorganized under Mackenzie's name, but, by the end of 1804, the XY Company had been absorbed by the rival North West Company, the very company the XY had hoped to run out of business.

In 1806, the Québec nationalist newspaper, Le Canadien, was founded.


Slavery in the British colonies of Canada (and throughout the Commonwealth) was abolished in 1807.


On June 18, 1812, the United States declared war on Britain, thus beginning the War of 1812. On July 11, Americans commanded by General William Hull invaded Canada from Detroit. On October 13, Queenston Heights (near Niagara Falls) was attacked, but Canadian (British) soldiers succeeded in repelling the attack.

Meanwhile, the Red River Settlement began in Canada's north-west. With the help of land grants by the Hudson's Bay Company to Lord Selkirk, Canadians began settling and working the Red River Valley in present-day Southern Manitoba.

In 1813, the Americans invaded and burned York (present-day Toronto) on April 27. However the Battle of Stoney Creek (June 5) and the Battle of Beaver Dam (June 23) were both Canadian victories. Laura Secord, her hometown having been taken over by Americans, overheard a conversation about the battle to come in a few days. Using the excuse of having to tend the cows in the pasture, she managed to walk right through enemy guards (who never would have suspected a woman to be 'up to something' in the first place) and hiked 32 km (10 miles) through dense forests and swamps to warn Lieutenant James FitzGibbon. Her efforts substantiated a warning from the Indians, and, with that information, FitzGibbon, about 50 soldiers and a handful of Indians managed to surprise the Americans and capture virtually the entire army as prisoners.

The Battle of Put-in-Bay, Lake Erie (September 10, 1813) and the Battle of Moraviantown a.k.a the Battle of the Thames (October 5) were both American victories. During the latter battle, Tecumseh, a Shawnee Indian Chief and British supporter was killed.

Finally, and still in 1813, the Battle of Chateauguay (October 25, with mainly French-Canadian soldiers) and the Battle of Crysler's Farm (November 11, with mostly English-Canadian soldiers) were significant British victories over considerably larger American armies.

On Christmas Eve, December 24, 1814, the Treaty of Ghent ended the War of 1812.


Future 'Father of Confederation', John Alexander Macdonald was born in Glasgow, Scotland, January 11. (see 1867 & 1878)


Hostilities arose again, but from the inside, in 1816. After years of harassment and intimidation by the agents of the North West Company, M´tis and Indians, under the command of Cuthbert Grant, killed the governor of the Red River Settlement, Robert Semple along with 20 others at Seven Oaks on June 19.


In 1817, the Rush-Bagot agreement, signed between Canada and the U.S., limited the number of battleships on the Great Lakes to a total of only eight.


The border between Canada and the United States was finally defined as the 49'th Parallel, west from Lake of the Woods to the Rocky Mountains.


Future prime minister John A. Macdonald emigrated to Canada.


The Hudson's Bay Company and the North West Company amalgamated. A substantial proportion of the Métis workforce suddenly found themselves unemployed.

Work on the Lachine Canal is begun. The Canal would be completed in 1824.

Future prime minister John Abbott was born in St. Andrews, Lower Canada (Québec) on March 12. (see 1891)
(Aside: Actor Christopher Plummer is a direct descendent of John Abbott.)

Future prime minister Charles Tupper was born in Amherst, Nova Scotia, on July 2. (see 1896)


Louis-Joseph Papineau, who had been a member of the Quebec legislature since 1814, travelled from Montréal to England where he opposed an Act of Union which, if passed by British Parliament, would designate the French-Canadians as a minority and would thus have no language rights. The Act was not passed.

Future prime minister Alexander Mackenzie was born in Logierait, Scotland, on January 28. (see 1873)

Future prime minister Mackenzie Bowell was born in Rickinghall, England, on December 27. (see 1894)

Map of Canada 18251824-1829

In response to American initiatives in the Erie Canal, the first Welland Canal was constructed.


The Rideau Canal is constructed with the guidance of Royal engineer Colonel John By.


Future prime minister Mackenzie Bowell emigrated to Canada.


York is renamed Toronto. William Lyon Mackenzie becomes Toronto's first mayor.


Joseph Howe, who had been the printer and owner of the weekly Halifax newspaper, Novascotian, was arrested for libel. In court, Howe successfully argued his case for freedom of the press and immediately became a local hero. He began advocating responsible government which would finally be established in 1848. (see 1848-1851)


Canada's first railway line, from St. Johns, Québec to La Prairie, Québec, was opened.


Violent rebellions erupted in Upper and Lower Canada. There had long been a feeling that the government was not democratic and the executive committee had failed in all attempts to maintain the confidence of the elected officials. The rebellions were quickly quashed and the leaders, William Lyon Mackenzie (a 'Reformer') and Louis-Joseph Papineau (a 'Patriot') both escaped to the United States.


Lord Durham, governor-general and high commissioner of British North America, arrived in Canada to investigate the Rebellion of 1837. In 1839, Durham recommended that responsible government be established and that Upper and Lower Canada should be united in order to facilitate the assimilation of French-speaking Canadians into Canada.


Land disputes arose between lumbermen from Maine and New Brunswick. This lead to the Aroostook War in the Aroostook River valley. The border between Maine and New Brunswick was finally settled with the signing of the Webster-Ashburton Treaty in August of 1842, ending the Aroostook War.


An Act of Union passed in British Parliament united Upper and Lower Canada on February 10, 1841, resulting in the Province of Canada.

Future prime minister Wilfrid Laurier was born in St. Lin, Canada East (Québec) on November 20. (see 1896)


Lodges were set up in Montréal and Halifax soon after the Independent Order of Odd Fellows broke away from the Manchester Unity.

Future prime minister Alexander Mackenzie emigrated to Canada.


Fort Victoria is completed, assuring Britain's claim to Vancouver Island.


Montréal granted amnesty to Louis-Joseph Papineau, allowing his return.


Future prime minister John Thompson was born on November 10 in Halifax, Nova Scotia. (see 1892)


Robert Baldwin and Louis-H. Lafontaine outlined the principles of responsible government in Canada. Joseph Howe (see 1835), by that time a member of the House of Assembly, brought the Maritimes into the plan.

Map of Canada 18491849

The 49'th Parallel border between Canada and the United States was extended to the Pacific Ocean.

Meanwhile, William Lyon Mackenzie was granted amnesty allowing his return from exile in the United States.


The land used by Colonel John By as headquarters during the construction of the Rideau Canal was incorporated as Bytown. (see also 1855)


Control of the colonial postal system was transfered from Britain to Canada.


The Université Laval was created out of the Séminaire du Québec, which in turn had been founded by Fran&ccidil;ois de Laval (see 1663), making it the oldest French university in North America.


Charter was granted to The Grand Trunk Railroad.


The Reciprocity Treaty was signed between Canada and the United States on June 6. The treaty effectively reduced and balanced custom duties between the two.

Future prime minister Robert Borden was born in Grand Pré, Nova Scotia, on June 26. (see 1911 & 1917)


Bytown (incorporated in 1850) was renamed Ottawa.


The Grand Trunk Railroad opened a line between Toronto and Montréal.


Future prime minister Mackenzie Bowell was an Ensign in the Belleville Rifle Company, a 65-man militia unit defending the border of Upper Canada during the American Civil War.


The Halifax-Truro rail line was opened for service.

Meanwhile, on the other coast, Chinese immigrants from California arrived in British Columbia, attracted by 'gold fever' during the Fraser River Gold Rush.


A radical group of Irish-Americans, the Fenians was organized in New York. Originally created to oppose Britain's presence in Ireland, their efforts would have a great influence on promoting Confederation. (see 1866)


The cornerstone of the Parliament Buildings was laid on September 1.


Joseph Howe became the Premier of Nova Scotia.

Map of Canada 18621862

The first female student was accepted into Mount Alliston University in Sackville, New Brunswick.


From September 1 to September 9, the Charlottetown Conference took place. This was the first step toward Confederation.

The Quebec Conference, from October 10'th to the 27'th, identified the 72 resolutions upon which the union would be based.


The Fenians (see 1859) began a series of raids on Canadian territory with the intention of drawing British troops out of England and Ireland, giving their fellow-Irelanders back home an opportunity to gain an edge over the British. The Battle of Ridgeway, which took place on June 2, was the most serious of the raids and gave a special sense of urgency to the Confederation movement. Pressed into action, the London Conference on December 4 passed the resolutions which would later be drafted into the British North American Act, the gateway to Canadian Confederation.

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