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Prince Edward Island

Prince Edward Island (PEI; French, l'Île-du-Prince-Édouard) is a Canadian province situated in the Maritimes. It is the nation's smallest province in terms of both size and population; it has the highest population density of all Canadian provinces, yet this is only 24.47/km². The population of PEI is 137,800. People from Prince Edward Island are called Prince Edward Islanders (or colloquially just Islanders).

Prince Edward Island was originally inhabited by the Mi'kmaq people. They named the island Abegweit, meaning Cradle on the Waves. As a French colony comprising part of Acadia, the island was called Île Saint-Jean. Roughly one thousand Acadians on the island, many having already fled a British-ordered expulsion in the mainland British colony of Nova Scotia in 1755, were subsequently deported in 1758 when the British seized Île Saint-Jean during the Seven Years' War.

 

The new British colony of St. John's Island was virtually empty following the cessation of hostilities, save a British garrison. To attract settlers without draining the British treasury, "Captain Samuel Holland, of the Royal Engineers, sent a proposal to the Lords Commissioners of Trade and Plantation, proposing that a scientific survey be done to encourage land settlement and the fishery in British North America, particularly in the areas recently ceded by France." The survey was carried out between 1764-1766 whereby three roughly 500,000 acre (2,000 km²) counties were created, each of which was further subdivided into 100,000 acre (400 km²) parishes. Each county received a county seat (called "royalties"), and the remaining countryside was divided into 67 townships (called "lots") averaging 20,000 acres (80 km²) in area which were promptly auctioned to British nobility. The owners of the lots were expected to recruit settlers and finance their transportation to the island, whereby settlers were required to clear a certain amount of forest for farmland and pay annual "quitrents" to their landlords. Similar feudal systems were used in other British and European colonies, but few caused as much controversy, given peasant farmer uprisings over the following century against the actions of absentee landlords.

In 1798, Great Britain changed the colony's name from St. John's Island to Prince Edward Island to distinguish it from similar names in the Atlantic area, such as the cities of Saint John and St. John's. The colony's new name honoured the fourth son of King George III, Prince Edward Augustus, the Duke of Kent (1767–1820), who was then commanding British troops in Halifax. Prince Edward was also the father of Queen Victoria.

In September 1864, Prince Edward Island hosted the Charlottetown Conference, which was the first meeting in the process leading to the Articles of Confederation and the creation of Canada in 1867. Prince Edward Island did not find the terms of union favourable and together with Newfoundland, balked at joining in 1867. In the late 1860s the colony examined various options including the possibility of becoming an independent dominion, as well as entertaining delegations from the United States interested in joining their political union.

In the early 1870s the colony began construction of a railway, however with mounting construction debts, and under pressure from Great Britain's Colonial Office, negotiations with Canada were reinstated. In 1873, Prime Minister Sir John A. Macdonald, anxious to thwart American expansionism and facing the distraction of the Pacific Scandal, conceded to a request that the federal government assume the colony's railway debts, and also agreed to financing a buy-out of the last of the colony's absentee landlords to free the island of leasehold tenure. Another equally important condition was for the federal government to provide "efficient steamship service" to the mainland. Prince Edward Island entered Confederation with little fanfare on July 1, 1873.

As a result of having hosted the inaugural meeting of Confederation, the Charlottetown Conference, Prince Edward Island presents itself as the "Birthplace of Confederation" with several buildings, a ferry vessel, and the Confederation Bridge using the term "confederation" in some way. The most prominent building in the province with this name is the Confederation Centre of the Arts, presented as a gift to Prince Edward Islanders by the 10 provincial governments and the federal government in 1964 upon the centenary of the Charlottetown Conference where it stands in Charlottetown as a national monument to the "Fathers of Confederation."

This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Prince Edward Island".