We use cookies to enhance your experience on our website. By continuing to use our website, you are agreeing to our use of cookies. You can change your cookie settings at any time. Find out more

Chapter 3

Havoc, 1860–1871: Slavery, the American Civil War, and Canadian Confederation

9 July 1793 Legislation came into effect to abolish slavery in Upper Canada. Six of the fifteen US states had already passed similar laws. The Upper Canadian legislation was closely patterned after Connecticut’s 1784 statute.
18 September 1850 The US Congress passed the Fugitive Slave Act. Anyone who helped a slave flee could suffer penalties, including imprisonment. Everyone was obliged to help capture fugitive slaves or face heavy fines. Escaping to the Northern states was no longer an option for runaway slaves. They now had to make it to Canada to get beyond the reach of American law. As a result, thousands of blacks fled to Canada.
12 April 1861 American Civil War broke out between the North (the Union) and the South (the Confederacy). The conflict, which lasted until 1865, soured relations between British North America and the United States. In the 1861 Trent affair, the US Navy violated British sovereignty by stopping a British ship and arresting two Confederate diplomats. War between the US and Britain was averted when the Americans released the diplomats. In the Chesapeake affair, several New Brunswickers hijacked an American ship, killing one of the crewmen. A US Navy ship entered Nova Scotia waters to capture the vessel, angering British officials. For their part, Americans were upset that a New Brunswick judge refused to extradite the hijackers to the United States. In the 1864 St. Albans raid, 26 Confederate soldiers entered St. Albans, Vermont, from Canada, robbed three banks, and rushed back across the border, killing one man and wounding another. Thirteen of the robbers were arrested, but a judge released them, to the outrage of many Americans.
April 1866 Fenians attempted to seize Campobello Island in New Brunswick, the first of many Fenian raids from 1866 to 1871. The Fenian Brotherhood was an Irish nationalist group that aimed to advance the cause of Irish independence. The Fenians destroyed bridges, cut telegraph wires, damaged or stole private property, and engaged in combat against local militias in New Brunswick and Canada. The skirmishes increased public support for a union of British North American colonies.
1 July 1867 The British North American colonies of Canada, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick were united into one country, which took the name Canada. Fear of the United States had helped push colonies into Confederation. The US also shaped the Canadian political system, as colonial politicians sought to emulate the best of American constitution while avoiding its weaknesses.
8 May 1871 In the Treaty of Washington, Britain and the United States settled their outstanding differences. Canadian Prime Minister John A. Macdonald had been one of the British signatories and had sought, but failed to obtain, a reciprocity agreement as part of the treaty. The treaty marked the beginning of peace and friendship in Canada–US relations.