Map Shewing the Railways of Canada to Accompany Annual Report on Railway Statistics 1886.
E.V. Johnson/ A.M. Edmonds
Published 1886, London
Size: 45" X 95"
Condition: Very good. Dissected and mounted on linen.
A very important and rare map meant to accompany the Annual report on Railway Statistics of 1886 that showed the progress made with the construction of the Railways in the newly formed Dominion of Canada following the Act of Confederation in 1867. The map shows the extant of the rail lines from Victoria, British Columbia to Cap Breton island in Nova Scotia. The importance of this map, published in 1886, is derived from the fact that it is the first official published map to show the complete Canadian intercontinental rail network following the completion of he Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) in the prior year. In fact, an important notation was added below the title indicating that the map showed the progress in the construction of the railways 6 months later than in the accompanying statical report. At first this notation seems innocuous until we remember that although the last spike completing the greatest engineering feat in Canadian history, was driven in on November 7th 1885, the CPR began operations only seven months later on June 28th 1886 because of the many construction shortcuts that needed to be addressed before the line could be safety opened for transcontinental service.
The importance of the completion of the Canadian Pacific Railway in terms of its social, economic and political ramifications cannot be under estimated. By linking British Columbia and the Western Territories , including the newly formed province of Manitoba to the former British colonies of Upper and Lower Canada, including New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia, the claims to Canadian sovereignty were solidified and Western expansion could proceed. Furthermore, by linking the East and West with a rail system in the newly formed Canadian political entity following Confederation twenty years earlier out of fear of American expansion following the Alaska purchase along with the cessation of the hostilities associated with the American Civil War, the trade patterns of a historical North South axis could now be altered to and East West axis and thus gain economic independence from the United States as envisioned by the New Economic Plan proposed by the government John A. Macdonald. This plan, and the basis of economic independence mounted on an East West trade axis with high trade barriers to American goods would linger on well into the 20th Century until the advent of the Free Trade Agreement between the two countries in 1987.
Thus, by completing the CPR, not only was the basis under which British Columbia had agreed to enter Confederation been met (although belatedly), as was the case for the Maritime province’s with a rail line linking all former British Colonies in British North America from East to West, but the ability to defend Canadian economic independence as well as its territorial integrity was also reached as witnessed by the ability by the Canadian government to send federal troops to quell the North West Rebellion in 1885 on the partially built CPR line. It should also be noted that an intercontinental rail system also allowed the eventual immigration policies of the Laurier government to be enacted at the turn of the next century and thus permitting for the creation of the Provinces of Saskatchewan and Alberta in 1905.
It can therefore be argued that this map showing for the first time the completed rail structure linking all parts of the newly formed entity of modern Canada, is actually a visual and cartographic representation of the sinews of the body politic that allowed it to thrive as an independent country. The completion of the intercontinental rail system is actually the back bone of Canada as an independent entity and the map is its X-Ray.