British North America
Flag of the United Kingdom (1801-1907)
|Capital||Administered from London, England|
|Common languages||English, French, Gaelic|
Nova Scotian dollar
New Brunswick dollar
Prince Edward Island dollar
British Columbia dollar
|Today part of||Canada|
British North America refers to the former territories of the British Empire in North America, not including the Caribbean. The term was first used informally in 1783, but it was uncommon before the Report on the Affairs of British North America (1839), called the Durham Report. These territories today form modern-day Canada and the Pacific Northwest of the United States.
English and later Scottish colonization of North America began in the 16th century in Newfoundland, then began further south at Roanoke and Jamestown, Virginia, and reached its peak when colonies had been established through much of the Americas.
In 1775, on the eve of the American Revolution, the British Empire included 20 territories in the Western Hemisphere northeast of New Spain, and apart from the islands and claims of the British West Indies. These colonies were:
Britain acquired Quebec from France, and East and West Florida from Spain, by the Treaty of Paris (1763), which ended the Seven Years' War. By the Treaty of Paris (1783) the United States acquired the part of Quebec south of the Great Lakes; at the same time Spain gained West Florida and regained East Florida.
Nova Scotia was split into modern-day Nova Scotia and New Brunswick in 1784. The part of Quebec retained after 1783 was split into the primarily French-speaking Lower Canada and the primarily English-speaking Upper Canada in 1791.
After the War of 1812, the Treaty of 1818 established the 49th parallel as the United States-British North America border from Rupert's Land west to the Rocky Mountains. Then in 1846, Britain and the United States split the Oregon Country. The United States was assigned lands south of the 49th parallel, but Britain retained all of Vancouver Island (south of the 49th parallel).
On 1 July 1867, the Confederation of Canada was created by the British North America Act. The new Dominion of Canada joined the provinces of Canada, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia. The former Province of Canada was split back into its two parts, with Canada East (Lower Canada) being renamed Quebec, and Canada West (Upper Canada) renamed Ontario.
In 1870, Rupert's Land was annexed to Canada as the Northwest Territories (NWT) and the new province of Manitoba. British Columbia, the British colony on the west coast north of the 49th parallel, including all of Vancouver Island, joined as Canada's sixth province in 1871, and Prince Edward Island joined as the seventh in 1873. The boundary of British Columbia with Washington Territory was settled by arbitration in 1872, and with Alaska by arbitration in 1903.
The Arctic Archipelago was ceded by Britain to Canada in 1880 and added to the Northwest Territories (NWT). Later on, large sections of the NWT were split off as new territories (the Yukon Territory in 1898 and Nunavut in 1999), or provinces (Alberta and Saskatchewan, both in 1905), or were added to existing provinces (Manitoba, Ontario, and Quebec, in stages ending in 1912).
In 1907, the sole remaining British North American colony, Newfoundland, was granted the status of a Dominion, although starting in 1934 it returned to British administration under the Commission of Government. In 1949, the island of Newfoundland, and its associated mainland territory of Labrador, joined Canada as the tenth province.
Canada became semi-independent beginning in 1867, and fully sovereign on foreign affairs beginning with the Statute of Westminster 1931. Canada gained the right to establish and accept foreign embassies, with the first one being in Washington, D.C.
Then the last vestiges of Canada's constitutional dependency upon Britain remained until Canadians from various provinces agreed on an internal procedure for amending the Canadian Constitution. This agreement was implemented when the British Parliament passed the Canada Act 1982 at the request of Parliament of Canada.
The colonies that existed before the signing of the 1846 Oregon Treaty:
Besides the local colonial governments in each colony, British North America was administered directly via London.
From 1783 through 1801, British North America was administered by the Home Office and by the Home Secretary, then from 1801 to 1854 under the War Office and Secretary of State for War and Colonies. When the Colonial Office was reestablished it was under the responsibility of the Colonial Secretary.
The postal system had a deputy based in British North America, with administration from London.