An Open Letter to George Brown: The Necessities of Confederation

My Dear Brown,

Once again, I ask you to consider the possibility of Confederation as a new vision of the so-called “Reform” you have so often advocated for. It seems apparent to me that if we wish to retain a great nationality capable of defending our own land against outward danger, to create a united land of British North American Subjects under a successful government, and  to commence freed trade amongst the colonies, then we must unite the colonies into a union of some sort.

As civil war lingers in America, it is to my utmost concern, and I hope certainly yours too, that the probabilities of war are becoming more unpredictable. Though I wish the two governments will act sensibly in times of crisis, as we have so often almost encountered, once commenced the war will bring great despair to our land. It has been brought to my attention that British holds very strong intentions of withdrawing their troops from British North America should there be war across the border. Once Mother Country abandons their interest in protecting this land for us, it becomes an immediate urgency for the Americans to take over Canada and its “abandoned” subjects. We must show the Americans that we are not scattered colonies meant to be manifested by their destiny, but a united nation under one flag that will fight for our own survival at all costs. Why should Britain defend us if we don’t have a single mean of defending ourselves? Why should Britain send their honourable troops to a band of small, scattered and weak colonies? For the sake of Mother Country—to relieve them of their burden and to defend Her Majesty’s Rule over this land—, and most importantly, for the sake of preserving our interests as British North America, we must unite the colonies to hold ourselves against all opponents. For the sake of securing peace to ourselves and our posterity, we must make ourselves powerful. The great security for peace is to convince the world of our strength by being united.

The Government will not relax its exertions to effect a Confederation of the North American Provinces.  We must, however, endeavour to take warning by the defects in the Constitution of the United States, which are now so painfully made manifest, and to form (if we succeed in a Federation) an efficient, central government. You and I are both well-aware of the incapability of this Parliament to move any motion forward. Election after election our ministry has failed to reconcile the violent disagreement between parties; the vote of a single loose fish may change the fate of an entire legislation for years. George, I ask you to put your strong feelings against the French aside, and think of the great potential of a united nation. This is not a party problem. The French will be our anchor to Confederation. Diversity will be our strength in the central system. The thoughts of Responsible Government for each individual colony is a dangerous one, as we have so often observed below the border. Provincial sovereignty will only grant internal separation within Confederation and invitations of invasions from the American army.

I also do you the compliment that, unlike some scoundrels in the Maritimes or Prince Edward Island, you are aware of the great economic possibilities behind Confederation. Those who fail to see the long economic benefits of Confederation must be blind to see the goods in which a transcontinental railway will grant every colony. With the Reciprocity Treaty ending shortly and the repeal of Corn Laws, the humble citizens of British North America must realize that a stable economy should not be dependent on foreign interests. With the formation of the Dominion of Canada, economic policies will be in favour of British North America: intercolonial trade, the transcontinental railway, and protection of local businesses… Though I am quite aware of your disagreement towards some of my opinions, I am certain that you agree with the potential of Confederation, unlimited by boundaries between colonies and pressure placed on us by other nations.

Everybody admits that the union must take place some time. I say now is the time. If we allow so favourable an opportunity to pass, it may never come again. 

I Am, Dear Sir, Yours Very Truly,


“ARCHIVED – Papers – Sir John A. Macdonald: Canada’s Patriot Statesman – Library And Archives Canada.” N.p., 2008. Web. 7 May 2018.

Cornwall, Claudia. “A Letter From John A. Macdonald.” The Globe and Mail. N.p., 2010. Web. 7 May 2018.

Gwyn, Richard J. John A.. [Toronto]: Random House Canada, 2007. Print.

Parliamentary Debates On The Subject Of The Confederation Of The British North American Provinces, 3Rd Session, 8Th Provincial Parliament Of Canada. Quebec: Hunter, Rose, 1865. Print.

Sir John A. Macdonald, Speech In The Confederation Debates. Ottawa: Macdonald-Laurier Institute, 2017. Web. 7 May 2018.


  1. George Brown
    May 8, 2018 - 6:09 pm

    My dearest Macdonald,

    Although I am not particularly impressed by your superfluous use of “il italics”, I must agree with you. However, a certain point that you so conveniently forgot, is that Confederation will bring rep. by pop. to our government. This is of far more importance to any citizen that is not a member of your elitist Family Compact.

    I hope to see you in a few weeks, and perhaps your wife could get out of bed for once to attend too.


    George Brown

    • John A. Macdonald
      May 9, 2018 - 5:36 pm

      Dear Brown,
      Thank you for your genuine condolences for Isabella, my warm wishes right back to you. At least I do not require the assistance of my wife to talk reason into my head.
      I remind you that rep. by pop. is not a party problem between Liberals and Conservative. I have repeated many times, and will do once more, that rep by pop is a crucial step in solving this political deadlock. I did not know that you had such insecurity at the lack of the mention of that term, even though it is almost a given that rep by pop will be brought to the table at the conference.
      However, let us not be divided by our deviation in methods, for we share the same goal to confederation.

      Yours Truly,
      John A. Macdonald

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