Why Isn’t Canada Part of the United States?

How some British colonies in North America stayed out of the Revolution

Adam M Wakeling

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Hypothetical American flag with sixty stars, for the addition of Canada’s ten provinces.

AnAn international border runs across North America, from Passamaquoddy Bay on the east coast to Point Roberts on the west. Millions of people cross it, yet few ask why it exists in the first place.

Any student of American history knows the country was formed from the thirteen British colonies which rebelled against the Crown in 1775 — New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia. But these were not the only British colonies in North America at the time. There was also Florida, recently acquired from Spain, the Colony of Nova Scotia (including present-day New Brunswick), the Colony of Prince Edward Island (called St John’s Island at the time), the Colony of Quebec (including what is now southern Ontario), Prince Rupert Land around Hudson Bay, and if we jump across the Gulf of Saint Lawrence, the Colony of Newfoundland. Florida ended up being incorporated into the United States, but the others didn’t. Why not?

Of these colonies, Nova Scotia and Quebec were by far the most populous and important. And at first glance, it’s not clear why they didn’t join in the rebellion. The British conquered Maritime Canada from France between 1713 and 1758, expelled the French-speaking Acadians, and replaced them with English-speaking settlers from the south. At the time of the Revolution, as many as 15,000 of Nova Scotia’s 20,000 people had been born in New England. Culturally, economically and historically, Massachusetts had far more in common with Nova Scotia than it did with Virginia and the Carolinas. And Nova Scotians had the same grievances as the other American colonists. The same committees which led the Revolution in the Thirteen Colonies could be found there, and the residents of Halifax even protested against the Government by burning a shipment of hay destined for the British garrison at Boston — a Halifax Hay Party.

Almost all of the non-Indigenous people in Quebec were French colonists who had been conquered by Britain in 1759. They had only been under British rule for sixteen years when the American Revolutionary War broke out, had little…

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Adam M Wakeling

Adam Wakeling is an Australian writer, lawyer and historian. He is online at https://www.amwakeling.com/ and on Twitter @AdamMWakeling.