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Maritime Union

Maritime Union was a project pursued in 1863 and 1864 by Arthur Hamilton Gordon, the lieutenant-governor of New Brunswick. The project was unsuccessful, but it did help to spark Confederation.

The idea of Maritime Union  --  the reorganization of New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia into a single British colony -- was not new. Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick had once been administered as parts of Nova Scotia, until 1769 and 1784, respectively. Several of Lieutenant-Governor Gordon's predecessors, including J. H. T. Manners-Sutton, had also favoured reuniting the three colonies.

In addition to historical precedent, there were more pressing reasons to reorganize the colonies. The United States, embroiled in the Civil War, posed a military threat. Many prominent colonial politicians felt that the united colonies would be able to mount a more effective defense. In Britain, the Colonial Office also favoured a reorganization of British North America. The British hoped that union would make the colonies less reliant on Britain, and therefore less costly to maintain. Gordon's own ambition may also have been a factor  --  he envisioned himself as the governor of the united Maritime colonies.

Gordon did manage to create some interest in Maritime union. In the spring of 1864 the legislatures of the three colonies agreed to hold a conference to discuss the possibility of uniting. The movement stalled there, as none of the colonies would commit to a time and place for the conference. It was not until the Province of Canada asked for an invitation to the proposed conference during the summer of 1864 that a meeting was hurriedly organized for September 1 at Charlottetown. The Canadians arrived at the Charlottetown Conference well prepared to argue for a wider union of British North America, and support for Maritime Union quickly waned. Disappointed, Gordon left the conference before it had finished.

Sources

MacNutt, W. S.  --  New Brunswick, a history : 1784-1867.  --  Toronto : Macmillan of Canada, 1984.  --  496 p.

Moore, Christopher.  --  1867 : how the Fathers made a deal.  --  Toronto : M & S, 1997.  --  279 p.