It’s not an easy task to escape the fact that Charlottetown is considered the “Cradle of Confederation”. Whither it be the Confederation Players enacting the events of September 1864 or tour bus guides pointing out places of interest that first week of September one hundred and fifty two years ago has a major place in Island history. A month or two ago I told a bit of the oh so Canadian story of the events that led up to the seemingly random founding of my homeland in my new home.
Back in 2009 a, to my mind at least, whimsical bronze of John Alexander Macdonald was installed at the corner of Queen Street and Victoria Row – given his penchant for gin cocktails (if straight gin can be considered a cocktail) a not inappropriate location for the wily old bugger. Seated, legs crossed, his beaver hat beside him, his arm resting nonchalantly on the back of the bench, Michael Halterman‘s statue seems to invite you to have a seat and he’ll confide his plans for a united Canada to you – and probably talk you into agreeing to it.
In 2014 to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Conference three other “Fathers of Confederation” took their place in town. As well as being a PEI delegate at the Conference William Henry Pope was the one man “official” greeting committee when the “observers” from the Province of Canada showed up on the HMS Queen Victoria – you may recall that everyone else had gone off to see a circus of another type that day. And as he did on September 1, 1846 once again, and for the foreseeable future, he sets off from Peakes Quay to extend his welcome.
A week or two after the dedication in Charlottetown a statue (left) by Jules Lasalle, the same sculptor, was unveiled on the waterfront in Québec City of a fourth Father of Confederation. Étienne-Paschal Taché is shown greeting the delegates to the Québec Conference in October of 1864. A gift from PEI it is set in a garden that finds its companion garden – a gift from Québec City – at Confederation Landing in Charlottetown
By odd coincidence two of the delegates from the Maritimes, though not related, shared exactly the same name: John Hamilton Gray. One was from New Brunswick and the other was from PEI. Their presence at the Conference is marked by the work of Nathan Scott, placed – perhaps not just serendipitously – outside the Great George Hotel. There has been a hotel on that location since 1846, and though it had served as a general store for a time by 1864 it had been returned to its original purpose as the Pavilion Hotel. No doubt the two gentlemen would have had a few conversations in the salon of this fashionable Charlottetown watering hole.
There are twenty other “Fathers of Confederation” and I’m wondering how many of them have statues or memorial perhaps in their home towns or province? Given that most Canadians can’t name more than a handful I’m guess not that many.
On this day in 1642: The English Parliament led by Puritans issues an Ordinance suppressing all stage plays in theatres.