Riverview, New Brunswick
April 19, 2005
It is still the seat of the island’s provincial government, but of course, it earned its place in history in 1864, when delegations from Upper and Lower Canada arrived on the steamship Queen Victoria to join with representatives of New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Prince Edward Island. The latter three had gathered to discuss maritime union, but that was put aside until the arrival of John A. Macdonald and George Etienne Cartier. In a flurry of eating, drinking, and dancing that was punctuated with meetings, the basic ideas on which Canada rests were established. No documents were written up and signed, but the design of a nation had been drawn.
As a visitor, you will really want to see the movie, A Great Dream, which lasts about 17 minutes. It should be required viewing for every Canadian, as it tells the story of 1864 and of the ideals that were established at that time and why it had to be done. Our American neighbours might appreciate that they, through their militarization and expansion, actually provided the impetus. Following the movie, you will be taken upstairs, where you can see the Confederation Chamber, the room in which the discussions of 1864 took place and which contains the furnishings used at the time. It is as one would expect, a bright room with a long table running its length. It has a high ceiling below which there is a viewing gallery.
Passing down the hall, you will be able to look into the clerk’s office and the library. The latter is a substantial and inviting room, a room used by the island’s politicians, lawyers, and justices, and a room that appears to have been caught in time, in another time. Down the hall, opposite the Confederation Chamber, is the Legislative Assembly room. It has been used since the opening of the building and now contains the 27 desks of the elected representatives of the people of the island, the smallest of the provincial legislatures.
On a bright, sunny day in summer, you might be able to take in performances by the
Confederation Players or wander about the grounds. It is steeped in history and worth the visit, and there is no charge. Enjoy!
From journal Charlottetown: Crown'd with Summer Sea