Quebec History Marianopolis College

Date Published:
August 2004

L’Encyclopédie de l’histoire du Québec / The Quebec History Encyclopedia


Annexation Movement



[This text was written in 1948. For the full citation, see the end of the document.]


Annexation, the name applied to a movement, looking toward the union of Canada with the United States, which has at several periods made its appearance in Canadian politics. It was partly responsible for the War of 1812, since there were at that time elements of the population in Upper Canada sufficiently in favour of the absorption of Canada by the United States to give the Americans an excuse for thinking that the people of Canada were waiting for an opportunity to throw off British rule. The idea was also in the minds of some of the leaders of the rebellions in Upper and Lower Canada in 1837-8. In 1849, economic depression in Canada, resulting from the repeal of the Corn Laws in Great Britain, in 1846, and political anger caused by the passage of the Rebellion Losses Bill by the Canadian legislature in 1849 brought about the publication of an Annexation Manifesto, signed by many of the leaders of Conservative opinion; but the movement was a mere flash in the pan, and its leaders had, as one of the signatories, Sir John Abbott, said later, "no more serious idea of seeking annexation with the United States than a petulant child who strikes his nurse has of deliberately murdering her." The possibility of annexation was in the minds of the Canadian statesmen who brought about the federation of 1867; and John Bright supported the anti-Confederation movement in Nova Scotia in 1868 because he thought "it would be a grand sight to see one government from the Equator to the Pole." Later the idea was championed in Canada by Goldwin Smith, who believed that absorption by the United States was Canada's " manifest destiny"; and there were those who maintained that the policy of "commercial union" advocated by the Liberals in 1891 and the policy of "Reciprocity" advocated by them in 1911, were merely the precursors of "political union." Apart from a few persons, however, it must be said that the idea of annexation has never appealed to Canadians as a whole; and, indeed, on several occasions it has been a bogey of which loyalist politicians have made deadly use.


See H. L. Keenleyside, Canada and the United States (New York, 1929) and C. D. Allin and G. H. Jones, Annexation, preferential trade, and reciprocity (Toronto , 1911). The text of the Annexation Manifesto of 1849 is to be found in H. H. Egerton and W. L. Grant, Canadian constitutional development (London, 1907), and W. P. M. Kennedy, Statutes, treaties, and documents of the Canadian constitution (Toronto, 1930).


Source : W. Stewart WALLACE, "Annexation", in The Encyclopedia of Canada, Vol. 1, Toronto, University Associates of Canada, 1948, 398p., p. 75.



© 2004 Claude Bélanger, Marianopolis College