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1867: How the Fathers Made A Deal - by Christopher Moore Print E-mail

ABOUT this Book

This sorely missed book made its appearance in 1997. It is (of all things) a popular constitutional history of Canada, written by a story-teller who managed to make a living writing in an area that (sad to say) is of scant general interest, even to Canadians.

The huge contribution of 1867 is that it breaks us out of the centralist straightjacket imposed on Canadian history since the 1930s by the likes of Donald Creighton.

In lively, lucid fashion, Moore (an Ontarian) recounts how Confederation emerged from the British North American wilderness, and why the “deal” worked out by the four founding provinces between 1864 and 1867 was in every sense intended as a compact between autonomous British colonies determined to remain sovereign in their areas of jurisdiction.

Moore describes in compelling, practical detail how much more vigorous democracy was in pre-Confederation colonial Canada and the Atlantic than it is today, and how principles of British government were worked into what was a very unBritish federal compact amongst the provinces.

He also describes John A. Macdonald’s brazen attempt to centralize power almost immediately, and how it was foiled by his fellow-Father Oliver Mowat, who as premier and attorney-general of Ontario personally fought and won half a dozen key court cases before the British Privy Council preserving provincial sovereignty.

Moore includes almost nothing about the West, because in 1867 the West did not yet exist in political terms, and could not affect the formation of the federation. It doesn’t matter. Anyone who wants to understand the historical strength of the federalist case for provincial sovereignty must read and digest this book.

It comes highly recommended by Alberta MLA Ted Morton, B.C. political analyst Gordon Gibson, retired Liberal MP and western-rights advocate David Kilgour, Toronto historian Michael Bliss, and Alberta senator-elect Link Byfield.

(As a matter of interest, the author had this to say about the Calgary Congress:

“I don't expect to be in Calgary in September, but it's an impressive lineup. I would be inclined to argue against all the suggested principles as either unwise or unnecessary, but I certainly welcome and encourage discussion on federalism and parliamentary government. It seems to me Albertans have been driving the most interesting political debates in the country for years, and even when I disagree, I admire the contribution being made.”)

Christopher Moore’s book is still in print and available by order through book stores. If you’d like to order on-line, click on the link above.
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