Canadian political leader John A. McDonald was a lawyer born in Scotland; he believed the American system of government to be “immoral” and “horrid.” He had attended an 1856 American political convention and was shocked at the floor lobbying, “which meant that “talent and worth counted for little and low trickery very much.’
Bernhard Thuersam, Circa 1865
What a Brave Fight the South Has Made
“MacDonald had an enormous feel for statecraft and was an unrivalled leader of men [with] a talent for using the system to his advantage. When it came to the United States, MacDonald had what American author Robin Winks has described as “a bundle of anti-American prejudices.” It is true that he disliked the American system of government. He saw the electoral process as a popularity contest between candidates and the separation of the executive and legislative branches as inefficient and lacking the checks and balances found in the parliamentary system.
He disliked Lincoln’s suspension of civil rights, including habeas corpus, which allowed for arrest and detention without trial. He believed the war was a result of the defects in the way Americans had devised their Constitution and wanted to ensure that it did not happen in Canada.
George-Etienne Cartier, MacDonald’s Quebec lieutenant . . . favored Confederation. Like MacDonald, he thought poorly of republican government and felt that if French Canada had to choose between the evils of the English and the Americans, they would choose the English.
He believed in the constant possibility of an American invasion, and saw the Confederacy as a way to distract the Northern States from such a move. If the South were victorious it removed the possibility entirely.
[The Canadian federation framers] believed that the Confederate States had been encouraged in their rebellion by the fatal clause in the American Constitution that provided that all powers not specifically assigned to the federal government were reserved by the States. This error could be avoided by doing the opposite – investing the federal government with all powers not vested with the provinces.
[Macdonald pushed for Canadian Confederation and told an audience that] they could make a great nation, capable of defending itself, and he reminded them of “the gallant defence that is being made by the Southern Republic – at this moment they have not much more than four millions of men – not much exceeding our own numbers – yet what a brave fight they have made.”
(Dixie and the Dominion, Canada, the Confederacy, and the War for the Union, Adam Mayers, The Dundurn Group, 2003, pp. 92; 95-98)