"By the West, for the West": And the Struggle for Provincial Rights in Alberta
Thrift, Gayle, Alberta History
One year after the Confederation celebrations of 1867, Prime Minister John A. Macdonald sent a Canadian delegation led by George-Etienne Cartier to London, England, to negotiate the acquisition of the North-West Territories. The Hudson's Bay Company had been given control of the vast territory by a Royal Charter in 1670 in order to establish the fur-trade. Macdonald considered it critical for the young country to acquire the North-West due to the threat of American western expansion overtaking the Red River settlement and the Territories. These fears were fuelled by the purchase of Alaska by the United States government from Russia as the British North America Act was signed. Macdonald believed that a viable continental federation would provide a countervailing force to the annexationist ambitions of the United States. When title to the North-West Territories was successfully transferred to the Canadian government in 1869, a federally-appointed lieutenant governor and council administered the vast area virtually as a colony of Ottawa.
In the 1870s the North-West was sparsely populated by Native groups devastated by smallpox along with a scattering of Hudson's Bay trading posts and American whisky posts. (1)5 Treaties 1 through 7 signed between 1871 and 1877 gave the Dominion government formal title to the lands that it hoped to settle and develop. The first Dominion Lands Act of 1872 offered settlers freehold title to 160 acres of land in return for a $10 filing fee, the fulfilment of a three-year residence clause, ploughing 15 acres and building a domicile. In 1874, the North-West Mounted Police were sent west to eliminate the whisky trade and restore order to the territory. Telegraph fines were built between Red River and Edmonton. In 1878 plans for the construction of the Canadian Pacific Railway to British Columbia rapidly progressed as part of Macdonald's National Policy.
The completion of the National Policy under the Liberal government of Prime Minister Wilfrid Laurier and his Minister of the Interior, Clifford Sifton, in the late 1890s resulted in the arrival of thousands of European immigrants to the North-West. The dramatic increase in population would compel territorial leader, Frederick W. G. Haultain, to appeal to the Dominion government for a greater level of fiscal and political autonomy in order to respond effectively to the needs of the newly-arrived settlers. His decision to remain non-partisan in order to lead a united Territorial government in the pursuit of autonomy and full provincial rights eventually cost him the political reward of provincial leadership that many believed he rightly deserved.
Haultain's family emigrated to Canada in 1860 from England when his father, Lieutenant-Colonel Frederick W. Haultain, retired from the Royal Artillery. He and his wife, Lucinde Helen Gordon, settled near Peterborough, Ontario, with their children, Frederick, who was three years old, and Clara Eliza, his younger sister. The family grew in quick succession with the addition of three more children. Within a year of his arrival, Colonel Haultain, a capable individual with a well-developed sense of public service, was elected as a Conservative for the Legislative Assembly of the Province of Canada. He participated in the Confederation Debates of 1864 and was a proponent of George Brown's platform of 'representation by population' and responsible government. (2)
Having witnessed firsthand the governmental deadlock produced by partisan interests, Colonel Haultain favoured non-partisan politics and supported the Great Coalition initiated by Brown, Macdonald, and George-Etienne Cartier. Frederick grew up in an atmosphere charged with political debate over the plight of the colonial government and the rights and privileges of the provinces entering Confederation.
As a young man, Frederick was athletic, participating in soccer and cricket as well as being an outstanding scholar. …