Chapter 2

Identities, 1814–1860: Building a Distinctive Canada after the War of 1812


20 October 1818 Britain and the United States signed the Convention of 1818, agreeing that the 49th parallel would serve as the border between the US and British North America from the crest of the Rocky Mountains to the Lake of the Woods near the centre of the continent. In the Oregon Treaty of 1846, the two countries extended the border along the 49th parallel west to the Strait of Georgia.
7 May 1828 Upper Canada’s Naturalization Act came into effect, putting an end to the Alien Question. After the War of 1812, officials in Upper Canada had discriminated against American immigrants, refusing to allow them to become British subjects and enjoy all the rights associated with citizenship. Ultimately, the British government in London instructed Upper Canada to recognize the rights of the American-born. Under the Naturalization Act, all residents of Upper Canada who arrived before 1820 were British subjects. Americans who arrived after 1820 could become British subjects after living in Upper Canada for at least seven years and taking the oath of allegiance.
23 September 1835 Thomas Chandler Haliburton’s first Sam Slick story appeared in the Novascotian newspaper. The stories were written in a distinctive North American style and portrayed the stereotypical American of the age: corrupt and unprincipled, but also energetic, friendly, and intelligent.
16 November 1837 Evading arrest, Patriote leaders fled to the countryside to prepare for clashes with government forces, marking the beginning of the Rebellions of 1837–38. In both Upper and Lower Canada, rebels sought to improve the colonial political system by importing key elements from the American model. When the rebellions were crushed, the leaders fled to the United States.
9 August 1842 The United States and Britain signed the Webster–Ashburton Treaty, settling the longstanding dispute over the boundary between Maine and New Brunswick. In 1839, both sides called up troops and prepared for a bloody conflict, but the so-called Aroostook War ended without a single death when Britain and the United States agreed to appoint a commission to settle the dispute. The commission could not solve the dilemma, but British envoy Lord Ashburton and US Secretary of State Daniel Webster did so in a treaty that gave about 60 per cent of the disputed territory to the United States.
23 May 1846 The Common School Act of Upper Canada came into effect. The legislation banned Americans from teaching in Upper Canadian schools. A new provincial board of education would make a list of acceptable texts, rather than leaving the matter to local school boards that often preferred American books. At the same time that the act was clearly anti-American, it also contained distinctly American elements. It assumed that education was a right for all children and that local boards should exercise considerable control over schools—ideas that came from the United States, not Britain.
11 October 1849 The Montreal Gazette published the Annexation Manifesto, signed by prominent Montreal anglophones. Montreal’s English community had been frustrated by the economic decline of British North America, caused by a global depression and exacerbated by British trade policy. The signatories of the Annexation Manifesto sought annexation to the United States as a way to gain access to the American market.
5 June 1854 Governor General Lord Elgin and US Secretary of State William L. Marcy signed the Reciprocity Treaty. It provided for free trade in most natural products between the United States and British North America (except Newfoundland). Each side would have access to the other’s Atlantic fisheries north of the 36th parallel. The treaty was in force from 1855 to 1866, a period of increased trade between British North America and the United States.