The autonomous Dominion of Canada, a confederation of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and the future provinces of Ontario and Quebec, is officially recognized by Great Britain with the passage of the British North America Act.
During the 19th century, colonial dependence gave way to increasing autonomy for a growing Canada. In 1841, Upper and Lower Canada–now known as Ontario and Quebec–were made a single province by the Act of Union. In the 1860s, a movement for a greater Canadian federation grew out of the need for a common defense, the desire for a national railroad system, and the necessity of finding a solution to the problem of French and British conflict. When the Maritime provinces, which sought union among themselves, called a conference in 1864, delegates from the other provinces of Canada attended. Later in the year, another conference was held in Quebec, and in 1866 Canadian representatives traveled to London to meet with the British government.
On July 1, 1867, with passage of the British North America Act, the Dominion of Canada was officially established as a self-governing entity within the British Empire. Two years later, Canada acquired the vast possessions of the Hudson’s Bay Company, and within a decade the provinces of Manitoba and Prince Edward Island had joined the Canadian federation. In 1885, the Canadian Pacific Railway was completed, making mass settlement across the vast territory of Canada possible.