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September Week

One Hundred and six years ago today the Queen Victoria sailed into Charlottetown Harbour with John A. MacDonald and his colleagues from Canada. They joined the Maritime Delegates who had arrived the day before. The Charlottetown Conference had opened officially at two o'clock in the Island's Colonial Building now know as Province House. It was a meeting to discuss Maritime Union, but when the Canadian deligation arrived it was decided that they become part of the meeting and as George Brown wrote to his wife " The Conference was accordingly organized without us, but that being done we were formally invited to be present and were presented in great style to the Conference" It was a busy week. The meetings were short and the social occasions long. This country was founded on good parties. That first day there was the Banquet at Government House. Can you imagine the people getting ready for that banguet. There were twenty six delegates at the Conference! The rest of the week went thusly:

Friday, September 2 the conference continued until it was time to go to Ardgowan, the home of Willaim Pope who gave them a "grand Dejeuner a la fourcehette - oysters, lobster and champagne and other Island luxuries ... this killed the day and we spent the beautiful moonlight evening walking, driving and boating as the mood was on us". Saturday saw them at the Colonial Building again and then in the afternoon The Canadians entertained on board The Queen Victoria with "luncheon in princely style ... eloquent speeches ... and whether as a result of our eloquence or the goodness of our champagne, the ice became completely broken, the tonques of the delegates wagged merrily and the banns of matrimony bewteen all the Provinces of British North America having been formally proclaimed and all manner of persons duly warned there and then to speak or forever after to hold their tongues .. no man appeared to forbid the banns and the union was thereupon formally completed and proclaimed! In the evening the group were entertained by Colonel Gray at Inkerman House, a house I knew very well. It is unfortunaeely gone now and all that remains on the spot is the Colonel's foot bath that is in Horace Carver's garden.

Sunday was a day of rest and they were back to work on Monday morning until they went for a late lunch at George Cole's Stone Park Farm on the Brackley Point Road. This year it seems that the house we thought long gone has been discovered, at least part of it, as an unsuspected treasure on our landscape. Tuesday morning the 6th was when that famous photograph was taken on the steps of Governmwent House. How lucky we are to have that and how amazing it was that it happened. although it is not the earliest photograph that we have taken on PEI, it is certainly an early one. That morning at the conference they began "earnestly discussing the several details of the scheme" until at four o'clock they went to Kent Street to Mr. Palmer's "a man of good sense and ability" for lunch. As if that wasn't enough for one day they were invited back to Government House for a Grand Ball in the evening. On Wednesday the 7th the Maritimers gave the Canadians the answer they wanted "they were unanimous in regarding Federation of all the provinces to be highly desirable, if the terms of union could be made satisfactory"!On Thursday the day was filled with offocial visits, drives in the country and generally getting ready for the Grand Ball at the Colonial Building. What a sight that affair must have been. Dusan Kadlec, a few years ago created a pppppppainting from what history has told us and it is hard now to believe the event was anything else but what we see in his work. Maybe someone should paint the scene of the delegates with their friends escorting them down Great George Street to their ship in the wee small hours of the morning after much food, much drink and much merriment. It was a great way to begin a country.

It all began without the sound of was, without the clash of battl, without the cannon's roar

Without the outstretched sword, but with the outstretched hand

They all sat down in Charlottetown and built themselves a land.

That is the song written by Johnny Wayne a few years ago. more later

Written Sunday, September 03, 2000 at 03:35 PM

(c) 2000 by Catherine Hennessey. Questions or comments? Email me@catherinehennessey.com

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