Greetings to you all. Gentlemen, it is an honour to speak in front of you here on this fine day. Allow me to introduce myself. My name is Thomas D’Arcy McGee. I am Irish and a Catholic, but I do not share the annexation-driven desires of my kin. Instead, I see in the not remote distance one great nationality bound like the shield of Achilles, by the blue rim of ocean … I see within the ground of that shield the peaks of the western mountains and the crests of the eastern waves. I am in full support of confederation, and wish to see it through as a delegate for my beloved colony of Canada East. The motives to such a comprehensive change as we propose, must be mixed motives—partly commercial, partly military, and partly political. I shall address them forthwith.

The first motive has to do with America’s attempts to take our land for themselves. Let us remember the American ideal of Manifest Destiny, the concept that America will one day preside over our entire continent. The acquisition of Canada was the first ambition of the American Confederacy, and never ceased to be so, when her troops were a handful and her navy scarce a squadron. Furthermore, let us not forget the ill will the States bear toward us for our harbouring of Confederate soldiers. With tensions this high, an attack may come at any time. Therefore, if we are true to Canada, if we do not desire to become part and parcel of these people, we cannot overlook this the greatest revolution of our times. Let us remember this, that when the three cries among our next neighbours are money, taxation, blood, it is time for us to provide for our own security…

The second motive is very much related to the first, but it also concerns the interests of the Irish people. As you are all quite aware, there have been many Irish Fenians attacking our borders in hopes of taking revenge on their British oppressors and allowing the United States to annex the Canadas. I myself once stood among the rebellious ranks of those seeking annexation, but I discovered how misguided I was after escaping the law into Canada. When I was in America, I had numerous unpleasant encounters with groups such as the “Know-Nothings” who actively fought against those of us who had immigrated here from afar. On the other hand, when I moved to Canada, I found it to be a land that treated its immigrants and minorities with far more liberty and toleration than in the United States. This is why, for the sake of the Irish Catholics who fervently wish for annexation, we must prevent the very annexation they so desire.

The final motive for union to which I shall refer is, that it will strengthen rather than weaken the connection with the empire, so essential to these rising provinces.  It is indeed true that, Britain has more control over our colonies in their current, separated state. But is not Britain already a great and vast empire with control over countless other colonies? For them, losing a portion of control over our colonies in no way measures up to the benefits of confederation. If we were to unite, our defenses would be stronger and in less need of British reinforcement. Furthermore, our greater power and wealth would make us far more valuable allies to Britain than we currently are. Why, if the thing did not answer itself, England has answered that she ‘cordially approves’ of our plan of union —and she has always been accounted a pretty good judge of her own Imperial interests.

I will content myself with those principal motives to union; that we are in the rapids and must go on because our neighbours will not, on their side, let us rest supinely, even if we could do so from other causes; and finally, that by making the united colonies more valuable as an ally to Great Britain, we shall strengthen rather than weaken the imperial connection.



Despite the lack of quotation marks, this post contains a very large number of direct and/or adapted quotes from McGee himself. These quotes were found in several sources including the three below.

Good for an overview.

More detailed.

Possibly the best primary source I ever could have asked for. 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes:

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>