It is one of the three Maritime provinces and is the smallest province in both land area and population. The island has several informal names: "Garden of the Gulf" referring to the pastoral scenery and lush agricultural lands throughout the province; and "Birthplace of Confederation" or "Cradle of Confederation", referring to the Charlottetown Conference in 1864, although PEI did not join Confederation until 1873, when it became the seventh Canadian province. The backbone of the economy is farming, as it produces 25% of Canada's potatoes. Historically, PEI is one of Canada's older settlements and demographically still reflects older immigration to the country, with Celtic, Anglo Saxon and French last names being overwhelmingly dominant to this day.
According to the 2011 census, the province of Prince Edward Island has 145,855 residents. It is located about 200 km north of Halifax, Nova Scotia and 600 km east of Quebec City. It consists of the main island and 231 minor islands. Altogether, the entire province has a land area of .
Before the influx of Europeans, the Mi'kmaq people inhabited Prince Edward Island. They named the Island Epekwitk, meaning "resting on the waves"; Europeans represented the pronunciation as Abegweit. The natives believed that the island was formed by the Great Spirit placing on the Blue Waters some dark red crescent-shaped clay.
Battle at Port-la-Joye (1745)
After the Siege of Louisbourg (1745) during the War of the Austrian Succession, the New Englanders also captured Île Saint-Jean (Prince Edward Island). An English detachment landed at Port-la-Joye. Under the command of Joseph de Pont Duvivier, the French had a garrison of 20 French troops at Port-la-Joye. The troops fled and New Englanders burned the capital to the ground. Duvivier and the twenty men retreated up the Northeast River (Hillsborough River), pursued by the New Englanders until the French troops received reinforcements from the Acadian militia and the Mi'kmaq. The French troops and their allies were able to drive the New Englanders to their boats, nine New Englanders killed, wounded or made prisoner. The New Englanders took six Acadian hostages, who would be executed if the Acadians or Mi'kmaq rebelled against New England control. The New England troops left for Louisbourg. Duvivier and his 20 troops left for Quebec. After the fall of Louisbourg, the resident French population of Ile Royal were deported to France. The Acadians of Ile Saint-Jean lived under the threat of deportation for the remainder of the war.
Battle at Port-la-Joye (1746)
The New Englanders had a force of two war ships and 200 soldiers stationed at Port-La-Joye. To regain Acadia, Ramezay was sent from Quebec to the region to join forces with the Duc d'Anville Expedition. Upon arriving at Chignecto, he sent Boishebert to Ile Saint-Jean on a reconnaissance to assess the size of the New England force. After Boishebert returned, Ramezay sent Joseph-Michel Legardeur de Croisille et de Montesson along with over 500 men, 200 of whom were Mi'kmaq, to Port-La-Joye. In July 1746, the battle happened near York River. Montesson and his troops killed forty New Englanders and captured the rest. Montesson was commended for having distinguished himself in his first independent command.
Expulsion of the Acadians
Roughly one thousand Acadians lived on the island, many of whom had fled to the island from mainland Nova Scotia during the first wave of the British-ordered expulsion in 1755, reaching a population of 5,000. However, many more were forcibly deported during the second wave of the expulsion after the Siege of Louisbourg (1758). In the Ile Saint-Jean Campaign (1758) General Jeffery Amherst ordered Colonel Andrew Rollo to capture the island. Many Acadians died in the expulsion en route to France; on December 13, 1758, the transport ship Duke William sank and 364 died. A day earlier the Violet sank and 280 died; several days later the Ruby sank with 213 on board.
Great Britain obtained the island from France under the terms of the Treaty of Paris in 1763 which settled the Seven Years' War. The British called their new colony St. John's Island (also the Island of St. John's).
The first British governor of St. John's Island, Walter Patterson, was appointed in 1769. Assuming office in 1770, he had a controversial career during which land title disputes and factional conflict slowed the initial attempts to populate and develop the island under a feudal system. In an attempt to attract settlers from Ireland, in one of his first acts (1770) Patterson led the island's colonial assembly to rename the island "New Ireland", but the British Government promptly vetoed this as exceeding the authority vested in the colonial government; only the Privy Council in London could change the name of a colony.
Raid on Charlottetown (1775)
During the American Revolutionary War Charlottetown was raided in 1775 by a pair of American-employed privateers. Two armed schooners, Franklin and Hancock, from Beverly, Massachusetts, made prisoner of the attorney-general at Charlottetown, on advice given them by some Pictou residents after they had taken eight fishing vessels in the Gut of Canso.
During and after the American Revolutionary War, from 1776 to 1783, the colony's efforts to attract exiled Loyalist refugees from the rebellious American colonies met with some success. Walter Patterson's brother, John Patterson, one of the original grantees of land on the island, was a temporarily exiled Loyalist and led efforts to persuade others to come.
The 1787 dismissal of Governor Patterson and his recall to London in 1789 dampened his brother's efforts, leading John to focus on his interests in the United States (one of John's sons, Commodore Daniel Patterson, became a noted United States Navy hero, and John's grandsons, Rear Admiral Thomas H. Patterson and Lt. Carlile Pioou). Edmund Fanning, also a Loyalist exiled by the Revolution, took over as the second governor, serving until 1804. His tenure was more successful than Patterson's.
On November 29, 1798, during Fanning's administration, Great Britain granted approval to change the colony's name from St. John's Island to Prince Edward Island to distinguish it from similar names in the Atlantic, such as the cities of Saint John, New Brunswick and St. John's in Newfoundland. The colony's new name honoured the fourth son of King George III, Prince Edward Augustus, the Duke of Kent (1767–1820), who subsequently led the British military forces on the continent as Commander-in-Chief, North America (1799–1800), with his headquarters in Halifax. (Prince Edward later became the father of the future Queen Victoria.)
During the 19th century the colony of Prince Edward Island began to attract "adventurous Victorian families looking for elegance on the sea. Prince Edward Island became a fashionable retreat in the nineteenth century for British nobility."
In September 1864, Prince Edward Island hosted the Charlottetown Conference, which was the first meeting in the process leading to the Quebec Resolutions and the creation of Canada in 1867. Prince Edward Island did not find the terms of union favourable and balked at joining in 1867, choosing to remain a colony of the United Kingdom. In the late 1860s, the colony examined various options, including the possibility of becoming a discrete dominion unto itself, as well as entertaining delegations from the United States, who were interested in Prince Edward Island joining the United States of America.
In 1871, the colony began construction of a railway and, frustrated by Great Britain's Colonial Office, began negotiations with the United States. In 1873, Prime Minister Sir John A. Macdonald, anxious to thwart American expansionism and facing the distraction of the Pacific Scandal, negotiated for Prince Edward Island to join Canada. The Dominion Government of Canada assumed the colony's extensive railway debts and agreed to finance a buy-out of the last of the colony's absentee landlords to free the island of leasehold tenure and from any new immigrants entering the island (accomplished through the passage of the Land Purchase Act, 1875). Prince Edward Island entered Confederation 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" and this is commemorated through several buildings, a ferry vessel, and the Confederation Bridge (constructed 1993 to 1997). The most prominent building in the province honouring this event is the Confederation Centre of the Arts, presented as a gift to Prince Edward Islanders by the 10 provincial governments and the Federal Government upon the centenary of the Charlottetown Conference, where it stands in Charlottetown as a national monument to the "Fathers of Confederation". The Centre is one of the 22 National Historic Sites of Canada located in Prince Edward Island.