Despite hosting talks about Confederation, Prince Edward Island did not join the Dominion of Canada until 1873, when a crippling debt forced it into the national fold as the country's seventh province.
Home of Mi’kmaq
Prince Edward Island has been part of Mi’kma’ki, home of the Mi’kmaq, for at least 10,000 years. European settlement began in the 1720s when the French called it Île Saint-Jean. France ceded the territory to Britain in the 1763 Treaty of Paris. It became part of Nova Scotia that year.
In 1769 the island became an independent colony again, and in 1799 changed its name to
Like Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, P.E.I. began its path to Confederation by considering a union of the three Maritime colonies. This was initially the subject of the 1864 Charlottetown Conference. However, a contingent from the Province of Canada attended the conference, turning discussions toward a bigger union of all British North America (BNA) colonies.
Island delegates saw little benefit in joining a united BNA. The colony had a strong identity, a prosperous economy, and trade links with other Atlantic colonies and American states.
Edward Palmer, premier from 1859 to 1863 and an anti-Confederation activist, told the Charlottetown Conference that while he could see the benefits for BNA, he saw none for P.E.I. In the words of Palmer, “We would submit our rights and our prosperity, in a measure, into the hands of the general government and our voice in the united Parliament would be very insignificant.”
Still, P.E.I. agreed to consider Confederation, and sent a delegate to the 1864 Québec Conference, but was not persuaded to join the newly emerging country. Most Island newspapers backed the decision, worrying that union would increase taxation, lead to conscription for Canadian wars, and bring an end to the Island legislature. In 1866, Premier James Pope rejected the terms of the Québec Conference, which set out the constitutional details of Confederation.
New Offer Turned Down
The Reciprocity Agreement with the United States expired in 1866; P.E.I. officials met with their American counterparts in 1868 to discuss new trade options, but the colony was hampered in negotiating an actual agreement without British permission.
The new Dominion of Canada, worried about the possible forging of ties between P.E.I. and the
In 1871, P.E.I. began to build a railway, believing it would improve the
Haythorne went to Ottawa for discussions in February 1873, and put the resulting Confederation deal to Island voters in a general election. He lost, but to James Pope – who also backed Confederation, but on better terms. Pope reached a new and even better deal, which the legislature approved.
Fathers of Confederation
The “Fathers of Confederation” are the men who attended one or more of the conferences at