Prince Edward Island

2011-02-24 11:25:52

Ile-St.-Jean (Isle St. John) was claimed for France by Samuel de Champlain in 1603. It was sparsely populated and was part of Acadia, in New France. French immigrants began to settle the island in the 1720s, but numbers remained small, and France ceded it to Britain following the Seven Years’ War (1756–1763). After Britain acquired the territory, it anglicized the island’s name. The number of settlers remained small, both because of its isolation and the difficulty for colonists to acquire clear title to the land. In 1767, the British government issued land grants to military officers and others, requiring that they bring in colonists in order to redeem their lands. Few attempted to fulfill this requirement, and absentee landlords often made outright purchase difficult. This drove many of the 600 United Empire Loyalists, who had emigrated from America by way of Nova Scotia in 1783–84, to seek residence in other parts of the empire. Until 1769, the Isle St. John was governed as part of Nova Scotia. In 1799, the British government changed the island’s name to Prince Edward Island.
The first large-scale immigration to Prince Edward Island began in 1772 when 300 displaced Highland Scots arrived on the island, establishing a trend that would continue for more than 50 years as the Scottish Highlands were cleared for grazing. Among the philanthropists who promoted emigration, the most successful was Thomas Douglas, fifth earl of Selkirk, who assisted 800 Highlanders to emigrate in 1803 and hundreds more in succeeding years.
Prince Edward Island gained self-government in 1851. In 1867, it refused to join the Dominion of Canada, fearing that it would lose political control of the island. An economic downturn in the early 1870s, however, convinced most of the islanders that federation was a wise policy. In 1873, Prince Edward Island joined the Dominion of Canada as the seventh province.