The idea of Canadian-American union has persisted since 1775, and many people have worked to achieve such a goal. This study proposes to describe and analyze their efforts. It is not a definitive work, tracing the annexation movement in meticulous detail and year by year. Though it necessarily deals with the general history of Canada and the United States as background, it will not pretend a reinterpretation of those histories except insofar as the agitation for continental union throws a new light of explanation upon them. Its purpose, then, is to present in short compass an overview of the agitation for political union and its basic characteristics--its origins, areas of concentration, and failures--by studying the three periods of its greatest intensity. Earlier books, dealing primarily with other subjects, have scattered and usually incidental references to annexation. This is the only attempt to focus primarily upon that movement and to carry the story of its career through four and a half decades.
The American attempts to wrest Canada from Great Britain during the Revolution and the War of 1812 receive only passing notice in this study, as does annexation activity during the three decades following the Treaty of Ghent. Shortly after the colonies which now form the provinces of the Dominion achieved a large measure of self-government in the late 1840's, agitation arose in their midst to gain admission to the American Union, to effect a marriage by agreement. That was the real beginning of what is known as the continental union movement. From that point this book carries the story to 1893, when persistent failure and growing Canadian nationalism finally settled the question. The so-called agitation of 1911 is not included because it was almost entirely contrived and insincere,