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Subject > Armed Forces > Naval Forces and Merchant Navy

Date > 1800 > 1880-1889 > 1887

Sir Wilfrid Laurier National Historic Site of Canada: End of a Long Reign

Type: Document

Wilfrid Laurier's penchant for compromise allowed him to remain in power for 15 years, earning him the nickname of the "Great Conciliator". But in 1911, this talent proved inadequate to the task of winning elections.

Site: Parks Canada

Justice at the Muzzle of a Cannon

Type: Document

During the mid 19th century, outbreaks of piracy by Amerindians were met with strong responses by the Royal Navy. In one such incident in 1864, pirates murdered the crew of a merchant vessel. When the Navy arrived and met with armed resistance, 8 villages were burned.

Site: National Defence

Royal Navy Polices the Coast

Type: Document

The Royal Navy acted as a kind of police force along the British Columbia coast in the mid-19th century. The local Amerindian nations were not keen about European settlement, and incidents resulted. In addition, British law against murder, piracy and slavery was firmly imposed.

Site: National Defence

HMS Monarch, iron screwship with turrets, Royal Navy

Type: Image

This Royal Navy warship, launched in May 1868, was one of the first iron-built battleships fitted with turrets enclosing and rotating its four 25-ton (25.4 mt) 12-inch (30.4 cm.) guns. One of the largest and fastest battleships of its day, HMS Monarch had a displacement of 8820 tons (8962 mt), armour six to seven inches (15-18 cm) thick and a top speed of 15 knots (27.8 kph).

Site: National Defence

Seldom Seen Guardians

Type: Document

The Royal Navy was crucial in the defence of British North America in the 19th century, even though Canadians seldom saw warships. The threat of a naval blockade and raids by the British fleet helped American politicians to find diplomatic solutions to Anglo-American disputes.

Site: National Defence

Royal Navy officers and midshipmen, 1830s-1890s

Type: Image

The two officers at left wear the scarlet collar and cuffs introduced by King William IV in 1830. The traditional white facings were restored in 1843. (Library of the Canadian Department of National Defence)

Site: National Defence

Naval Scares Of The 1870’s

Type: Document

A series of Anglo-Russian war scares in the 1870's prompted the General Officer Commanding (GOC) to re-examine Canada’s maritime defence. However, Canadian politicians took little action as they viewed Canada’s maritime defence as resting with the Royal Navy.

Site: National Defence

The Royal Navy

Type: Document

As an island state, Britain gave priority to its navy. The Admiralty (the appointed committee of admirals which made all strategic decisions) governed hundreds of ships worldwide. The Royal Navy used its bases in Canada to help control the Northern Atlantic and Pacific oceans.

Site: National Defence

Undefended Coastlines

Type: Document

A number of proposals to improve naval defence were made, including the development of a naval reserve with torpedo boats. However, the efforts were focused on improving shore artillery batteries to protect navy bases from which the Royal Navy operated.

Site: National Defence

Volunteer with an 40-pounder RBL Armstrong gun on a pivot mount, Royal Naval Artillery, 1892

Type: Image

This volunteer wears a loose blue jumper with white-trimmed blue collar, blue bellbottom trousers and a straw 'Sennet' hat - the standard clothing for ratings in the Royal Navy from 1857. The left arm of this man's shirt displays rank and ratings badges in white, officially replaced by red in 1860. He sits on the carriage of an Armstrong gun - a rifled breech loader firing a 40-pound shell adopted by the Royal Navy in 1859 and declared obsolete in the 1870s.

Site: National Defence