• THE AMERICAN CIVIL WAR AND THE BRITISH IMPERIAL DILEMMA

      Cox, Trevor (2015-01)
      The following study argues that existing historical interpretations of how and why the unification of British North America came about in 1867are flawed. It contends that rather than a movement propelled mainly by colonial politicians in response to domestic pressures - as generally portrayed in Canadian-centric histories of Confederation - the imperial government in Britain actually played a more active and dynamic role due to the strategic and political pressures arising from the American Civil War. Rather than this being a basic ‘withdrawal’, or ‘abandonment’ in the face of US power as is argued on the rare occasions diplomatic or strategic studies touch upon the British North American Act: this thesis argues that the imperial motivations were more far-reaching and complex. The British policy on union was bound up with the wish to make the provinces more responsible for defence, a need greatly intensified by the Civil War; however this imperative was meant to help preserve the North American colonies in the empire and even more vitally outside of the orbit of the United States. From the metropolitan government’s point of view Confederation had its genesis in the antebellum period and was a long-term aim - not only to secure the British North America - but even fact to counter United States hegemony in on the continent. Therefore rather than being conceived as a ‘retreat’, it was an overarching plan to challenge Federal preponderance in North America. Due to the security dilemmas arising from the Civil War the long-term nature of this scheme became unworkable and was therefore accelerated to become a short-term response to a strategic dilemma.