Capital of Canada


On December 31, 1857, Queen Victoria was asked to choose a common capital for the Province of Canada, now Ontario and Quebec and chose Ottawa. While Ottawa is now a major metropolis and Canada's fourth largest city, at that time it was a sometimes unruly logging town in the hinterland, far away from the colony's main cities, Quebec City and Montreal in Canada East, and Kingston and Toronto in Canada West.
The Queen's advisers suggested her and she pick Ottawa for several important reasons. It was the only settlement of any significant size located right on the border of Canada East and Canada West, now Quebec and Ontario, making it a compromise between the two colonies and their French and English populations. The War of 1812 had shown how vulnerable major Canadian cities were to American attack, since they were all located very close to the border, while Ottawa was then surrounded by dense forest far from the border. The government owned a large parcel of land on a spectacular spot overlooking the Ottawa River.
Ottawa's position in the back country made it more defensible, while still allowing easy transportation over the Ottawa River to Canada East, and over the Rideau Canal to Canada West. Two other considerations were that Ottawa was at a point nearly exactly midway between Toronto and Quebec City (500 kilometers), and that the small size of the town made it less likely that politically motivated mobs could go on a rampage and destroy government buildings, as had happened in the previous Canadian capitals. The Ottawa River and the Rideau Canal network meant that Ottawa could be supplied by water from Kingston and Montreal without going along the potentially treacherous US-Canada border. At the time of the decision, the Ottawa-to-Prescott, Ontario railway had already been in operation for two years. Thus, another factor in the advisement was the knowledge that Ottawa would soon have railway connections to Toronto and Montreal via Brockville, and thus access to other connecting rail lines in Canada and the United States in the very near future. Thus, Ottawa would still be relatively isolated and thus defensible, but yet would soon be more easily accessible by water and rail, which would be essential for a permanent capital.
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