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Confederation of Manitoba.

The Confederation of Manitoba was one of the five original confederations that made up the Confederation of North America under the Britannic Design of 1781. Its capital is North City. Other major cities include Port Superior, Flange, and New Jerusalem. The chief executive is the Governor of Manitoba, and the legislature is the Manitoba Council.

Creation of Manitoba[]

The Confederation of Manitoba was created during Parliamentary debate on the Britannic Design in 1780. General Guy Carleton had urged that Quebec be included in the proposed C.N.A., and he was echoed by William Smith and Francis Legge. It was decided that Quebec would be divided into three sections, each of which would form a separate confederation from the Northern and Southern Confederations. The area south of the Great Lakes would become the Confederation of Indiana, and the area beyond the eastern boundary of Lake Superior would become the Confederation of Manitoba, while the remainder would become the Confederation of Quebec. Sobel mentions that at the time of its establishment in 1781, the western boundary of Manitoba was unclear, but was assumed to extend to the Pacific Ocean. A treaty was presumably negotiated between Great Britain and Russia defining the border between Manitoba and Alaska, although Sobel does not mention one.

A major problem in describing the early history of Manitoba is Sobel's failure to mention Hudson's Bay Company, which controlled much of the territory that made up the confederation. It is possible that the company was required to yield control of the area to the Crown, though it is difficult to imagine that Sobel would neglect to mention such an important event. Perhaps the company's charter was amended to require that it surrender control of such arable land as the Crown might require, while keeping the rest.

Legge, the former Governor of Nova Scotia, was sworn in as first Governor-General of the Confederation of Manitoba on 2 July 1782. This was probably due to the influence of General Carleton, as Legge's governorship of Nova Scotia from 1773 to 1776 had been undistinguished. Legge's time as Governor-General was brief, as he died within a year of his appointment. The H.B.C. probably had considerable say in the appointment of subsequent Governors-General.

Early Settlement[]

Floride Quesnay of France.

Settlement in Manitoba was initially slow, which was consistent with the H.B.C.'s policy of discouraging settlement, since it interfered with the fur trade. Those settlers who did come tended to be farmers, religious sects, utopians, poets, and the discontented of the other confederations. Madame Floride Quesnay, visiting Manitoba in 1850, called it a "dull paradise." Despite the H.B.C.'s restrictions, enough settlers emigrated to Manitoba to raise the confederation's population to 100,000 by 1840. The H.B.C. would also have discouraged the building of railroads, and in fact Sobel records that the first rail line linking Port Superior to North City was not completed until 1855, thirty years after the railroad boom began in the rest of the C.N.A.

Despite having only one half of one percent of the C.N.A.'s 22 million people in 1842, Manitoba was allotted 19 of the Grand Council's 150 seats in the Second Britannic Design, which was increased to 21 seats after the 1853 Grand Council elections. This may have been the H.B.C.'s price for supporting the Second Design. In any event, Manitoba's 19 members had little influence on the balance of power following the 1843 elections, since they split almost evenly between the Unified Liberals and the National Conservatives.

Governor-General Winfield Scott.

Winfield Scott, the first Governor-General under the Second Design, was a strong proponent of opening Manitoba to wider settlement. During his first year in office in 1843, he introduced a series of homesteading laws and actively encouraged Europeans to settle in Manitoba and Vandalia. Scott would also have needed to gain control of the H.B.C.'s remaining holdings in the confederation to do so, and the building of the rail line to North City may be taken as evidence that he succeeded. The settlement of Manitoba received a boost during the Rocky Mountain War, as thousands of disillusioned opponents of the war moved there (doubtless including those avoiding the military draft instituted in 1848). By the time the war ended in 1855, the population of Manitoba had risen to 1 million. Within twenty-five years of the completion of the Port Superior-North City railroad, the population had risen to 4 million.

William Johnson and John McDowell[]

Governor-General William Johnson.

One of the nineteen Manitobans elected to the Grand Council in 1843 was William Johnson of the National Conservatives. Johnson opposed war with the United States of Mexico in 1845, and he remained a persistent critic of the war while it was ongoing. By 1853, the people of the C.N.A. had grown weary of the war, and the National Conservative caucus nominated Johnson for Governor-General in the 1853 Grand Council elections. The National Conservatives won 91 seats in the 1853 elections (15 of them from Manitoba), and Johnson was elevated to the Governor-Generalship on 16 February. Johnson and Mexican President Hector Niles soon agreed to a cease fire, and both nations sent delegations to The Hague in June to negotiate a peace treaty. Johnson also sought out foreign investment in the C.N.A., sending his Minister of State, Montgomery Harcourt, to London to speak with Prime Minister John Temple about encouraging British investment. Along with rising British investment, Johnson's term as Governor-General also saw an increase in immigration from Great Britain, as well as the rest of northern Europe. After signing the Hague Treaty formally ending the war with the U.S.M. in August 1856, Johnson resigned, and the Conservative caucus chose his Minister of the Exchequer, Whitney Hawkins, to succeed him.

The Conservatives continued to dominate Manitoba politics in the 20 years following Johnson's election as Governor-General, winning 16 seats in 1858, and 19 seats in 1868. Following the reapportionment of Grand Council seats by the Reform Bill of 1870, Manitoba's delegation was reduced to 13. Conservative Governor-General Herbert Clemens attempted to redraw Grand Council districts to favor his own party, but the rise of the People's Coalition in the early 1870s upset his plans, and the Conservatives won only 8 of Manitoba's seats in the 1873 Grand Council elections.

Governor-General John McDowell.

One of the five Liberals who won in Manitoba in 1873 was John McDowell, and over the next five years McDowell earned a reputation as an honest, outspoken reformer, and a competent legislator with few enemies. At their nominating convention in Philadelphia in 1878, the Liberals chose McDowell as their nominee for Governor-General. The wave of political violence that swept the C.N.A. during the 1878 election campaign dismayed many voters, and in the 1878 Grand Council elections on February 15, the Liberals won a plurality of Grand Council seats, including 9 in Manitoba (the other four being split evenly between the Conservatives and the People's Coalition). After seven ballots, the Grand Council elected McDowell Governor-General on February 21. In elections to the 49-member Manitoba Council the next year, the Council's 25-member Liberal majority increased to 31 seats, while the Conservative caucus fell from 15 members to 11, and the Coalition caucus fell from nine members to seven.

The wave of revolutionary activity and social collapse in Europe during the Bloody Eighties resulted in a flood of 1.5 million immigrants into the C.N.A. in the early part of the 1880s, until Governor-General McDowell suspended immigration in 1882. Manitoba's reputation as a rustic paradise attracted many of these immigrants. These immigrants included the Turnerites, followers of the religious and social reformer Waldo Turner, who established a religious community called New Jerusalem in the unsettled area of western Manitoba.

McDowell's time as Governor-General greatly improved the fortunes of the Liberal Party in Manitoba. The Liberals won 11 of the confederation's seats in the 1883 Grand Council elections, and managed to hold on to 10 seats in the 1888 elections. However, Ezra Gallivan's popularity as Governor-General in the 1890s allowed the People's Coalition to improve its standing in Manitoba. With the devolution of Quebec to associated status in 1889, Manitoba's share of seats in the Grand Council increased to 16, and the P.C. won 9 of these in its landslide victory in the 1893 elections, though the number fell again to 7 when the Liberals nominated Manitoba Governor Douglas Sizer in the 1898 elections.

The Great Northern War and the Starkist Terror[]

Manitoba Governor Douglas Sizer.

The outbreak of the Great Northern War in May 1898 between the U.S.M. and the Russian Empire alarmed many Manitobans, particularly after the Mexicans conquered Russian Alaska within four months. For the first time in its history, the Manitoba Council passed a resolution asking for increased military spending. There was widespread opposition to Governor-General Gallivan's isolationism, and several prominent North Americans called for his resignation, including Governor Sizer in an address on 10 January 1899.

In the summer of 1899 the Mexican invasion of Siberia was followed by Councilman Fritz Stark's claim that Gallivan was receiving secret payments from Kramer Associates. People's Coalition offices were broken into, looted, and burned, and assassination attempts were made on sixteen of Gallivan's supporters in the Grand Council, one of which succeeded. After Gallivan's resignation on 24 July 1901, Manitoba Councilman Harry Burroughs was suggested as a replacement, but was ultimately rejected in favor of Councilman Clifton Burgen of Northern Vandalia.

Under Gallivan, a reform bill was passed requiring that Grand Council seats be reapportioned following every decennial census. Following the 1900 census, Manitoba's delegation was increased to 18. Governor Sizer's party-building skills were sufficient to gain the Manitoba Liberal Party 12 seats in the 1903 Grand Council elections, in spite of the P.C.'s nationwide 90 seat victory. Governor-General Christopher Hemingway's 1905 Grand Tour of the C.N.A. included an address in North City, and his popularity was sufficient to decrease the Liberals' share of the Manitoba delegation to 10 seats in the 1908 elections.

The Diffusion Era and After[]

Howard Washburne of Southern Vandalia.

When Governor Howard Washburne of Southern Vandalia called for the abolition of slavery in the U.S.M. on 10 February 1915, he had numerous sympathizers in Manitoba. Manitobans helped swell the ranks of Washburne's Friends of Black Mexico, which at its height had almost a million members outside of Southern Vandalia. Following the Chapultepec Incident of 4 January 1916, there were continuous demonstrations outside Mexican legations in the C.N.A., and several had to be closed. The Mexican legation in Flange, Manitoba was burned to the ground.

After Owen Galloway established the Galloway Trust in February 1923, Manitoba was a popular destination for North Americans seeking a new life, and its populaton rose from 21 million to 31.5 million over the next seven years. Between 1923 and 1970, nearly four million North Americans took advantage of Galloway Trust assistance to emigrate to Manitoba.

Councilman Henderson Dewey proved appealing to Manitoban voters, winning 13 of 23 seats for the Liberals in the 1923 Grand Council elections, and securing the election of Governor Foster McCabe. Five years later, he did even better, winning 19 seats, and making Manitoba the base of his power. Dewey's death on 10 May 1929 opened the way for McCabe to succeed to the governor-generalship. However, the Grand Council was not in session at the time, and half its members were absent from Burgoyne, including a majority of the Manitobans. Although the Liberal caucus met on the morning of the 11th, it did not achieve a quorum until the morning of the 12th, when ten of the Manitoba members were still in transit. By the time they reached Burgoyne, the Liberal caucus had chosen Minister for Home Affairs Douglas Watson to succeed Dewey. 

Governor-General Douglas Watson.

Under Watson, the National Financial Administration financed a record number of new businesses, and saw the failure rate among its investments rise to a record 17.1 percent. All of the N.F.A. branches were short of capital, but the Manitoba branch under Administrator Wilson McGregor was in particularly bad shape. When Kramer Associates President John Jackson announced on 24 February 1936 that he was moving the company's headquarters from San Francisco to the Philippines, the result was a global financial panic. By 14 March McGregor was unable to meet interest payments on Manitoba N.F.A. bonds. The national treasury provided funds to meet the branch's obligations, but word of the crisis got out, and the next day a panic struck the New York Stock and Exchange Board. The N.F.A. was unable to sell its bonds, and the prices of outstanding issues plummeted. The Manitoba N.F.A. was forced to shut down, and within two days the branches in the other confederations had done the same.

During the Global War and the New Day era, Manitoba continued to be a popular destination for North Americans who sought to escape from the corruption of industrial society. Despite this, Councilman Richard Mason won only 15 of Manitoba's 29 Grand Council seats in 1953, and only 14 in 1958. By the 1963 Grand Council elections, Mason won only 11 out of 27 seats, possibly due to the fact that Mason's supporters were split between the Liberals and the Justice Brigades.

Governor Jason Winters.

At the 1968 Liberal convention, a split developed between Mason's supporters and those of former Home Minister Grover Speigal. Manitoba Governor Jason Winters was chosen as a compromise candidate; Speigal's supporters accepted Winters, but half of the Mason supporters walked out, formed the Peace and Justice Party, and nominated political scientist and bestselling author James Volk for governor-general. In the 1968 Grand Council elections, Winters was able to win six of Manitoba's seats for the Liberals, while Volk won three, and incumbent Governor-General Carter Monaghan won 18 for the People's Coalition.


Sobel's sources for the history of Manitoba are Floride Quesnay's Travels through the C.N.A. (London, 1854); Waldo Turner's Utopia Across the River (New Jerusalem, 1903); Edward Keith's The Manitoban Century (New York, 1966); and Thomas Irwin and Donald McLean's Manitoba: Athens of the North (New York, 1966) and McLean's The Rise of Manitoban Nationalism (New York, 1970).

This was the Featured Article for the week of 3 February 2013.

Governors of Manitoba
Francis LeggeDouglas SizerFoster McCabeJason Winters
Confederations of the C.N.A.
Central ConfederationIndianaManitobaNorthern ConfederationNorthern VandaliaQuebecSouthern ConfederationSouthern VandaliaVandalia