Prince Edward Island did not start out an English colony. Instead, it began as a part of the French colony Acadia. Acadia at the time included Quebec, some maritime areas, and part of Maine as well. Prince Edward Island was called Ile Saint-Jean.
The Austrian War of Succession
During the Austrian War of Succession, which England and France joined mostly as an opportunity to fight each other, the island was captured by the New Englanders.
At that point in the world’s history, European wars had spread beyond Europe and into the colonies. What are now Canadian provinces butted heads with what are now American states. Of course, these only made up a small part of what are now Canada and the United States, but at the time it was just another way for both sides to fight each other.
During the Siege of Louisbourg, Ile Saint-Jean was invaded by a small force. With only twenty French soldiers to defend it the capital was quickly burned to the ground. However, the New Englanders were beaten back, at least on Ile Saint-Jean, by reinforcements from both the French and the Mi’kmaq (the native people of the area).
The key thing France had going for it during this time was a good alliance with the native peoples, instead of treating them like the English treated them (which was to view them as savages in need of either conversion or destruction).
The Anglicization of Ile Saint-Jean
After this, there was the battle of Port-la-Joye, and the English hold on what would become Prince Edward Island was strengthened. They threatened to deport people, and the French (but not the Acadians) were deported back to France.
In about 1755, expulsions of the Acadians were ordered. This was horrible for the Acadians, many of whom died during the expulsion. At least three ships sank taking them back to France, putting the death toll in hundreds, if not thousands, out of 5,000 people. There were two waves of expulsions, both intended to strengthen the hold of the English on Acadia.
However, Britain is not considered to have truly been the owner of Prince Edward Island until 1763, when it was given it in the Treaty of Paris. This treaty settled the Seven Years’ War, which incidentally would lead to taxation in the North American colonies which would be the cause of the American colonies’ Revolutionary War in about ten years.
The English renamed the island St. John’s Island, or alternately, the Island of St. John.
The American Revolution
During the American Revolutionary War it was raided by two American privateers. This attack did some damage, but obviously not enough to cripple the island, because during the entire length of the Revolutionary War, St. John’s Island tried hard to attract the Loyalist refugees from the colonies that had taken part in the Revolutionary War.
It was fairly successful until its leader, Walter Patterson, was taken from office. This was the same controversial man who tried to attract the Irish by trying to rename the island New Ireland. Many Loyalists from what had become the United States of America became prominent citizens of the island.
Prince Edward Island Gets its Name
In 1798, Prince Edward Island finally became Prince Edward Island. The name was changed because of confusion within other North American places named St. John or Saint John. The island was named in honor of the fourth son of George III, whose name was Prince Edward Augustus, Duke of Kent. This was the man who would go on to father the girl who would become Queen Victoria. He was commander-in-chief of the military forces in Canada for a short while, though not during a time of war that involved this area of the world.
In the 19th century, Prince Edward Island became a fashionable retreat and home for higher class families looking for a little adventure. Many Victorian families ended up coming there to live.
The Birth of the Canadian Confederation
After this Canada, once a loose collection of colonies, became a confederation. The inhabitants of what is now Canada were frustrated with the lack of representation the British government gave them.
There was a rebellion in Upper and Lower Canada, and it was put down. However, the British Empire had learned from the situation with America, and after putting down the rebellion, sent a group of men to survey the situation.
Charlottetown on Prince Edward Island was one of the places that they met and negotiated with the colonies. This was where the confederation was born and nowadays, Prince Edward Island is remembered as the birthplace of the confederation. This was where it was decided that the colonies should all come together and become what was essentially a country, though under Britain’s rule.
However, Prince Edward Island was not interested in joining Canada, and despite being the birthplace of the confederation, did not join it. They elected instead to remain a regular British colony, and began exploring different sovereignty options throughout the 1860s and 1870s.
Prince Edward Island Joins Canada
This independence of sorts only lasted up until they decided to build a railway. Riddled with debt for the railway, they began to court America, and this sent the British into a panic trying to avoid the American empire growing. The last thing anyone wanted at that point was war or having to deal with Prince Edward Island trying to leave the British Empire.
So, it was negotiated that Prince Edward Island would join Canada, and in return, the Canadians would shoulder the debt that they had incurred. This is how Prince Edward Island became part of Canada.
And now, there is a national monument in Charlottetown to the Fathers of the Confederation.