British Columbia, Legislative Council: Debate on the Subject of Confederation with Canada (10 March 1870)
By: British Columbia (Legislative Council)
Citation: British Columbia, Legislative Council, Debate on the Subject of Confederation with Canada: Reprinted from the Government Gazette Extraordinary of March, 1870 (Victoria: William H. Cullin, 1912) at 19-38.
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DEBATE ON THE SUBJECT OF CONFEDERATION WITH CANADA.
THURSDAY, 10TH MARCH, 1870.
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The debate was resumed by the Hon. Mr. Trutch, Chief Commissioner of Lands and Works, who said:—Mr. President, in rising to renew the debate on the question which has been brought before the House by the Honourable the Attorney―General. I desire to express my regret that I was prevented yesterday, by indisposition, from speaking in support of the motion which I had the honour to second, because I fear that by the delay I may have laid myself open to the charge of waiting to reply to objections that might be urged against this motion, instead of at once supporting it upon positive and substantial grounds, as I hold it to be incumbent on those to do who advocate so important a measure. I must also ask the indulgence of the House if I find it necessary to follow the Honourable the Attorney-General over ground already so fully and ably occupied by him, as, rather than leave out anything in the history of this question which is pertinent to my argument, I will run the risk of laying myself open to the charge of plagiarism. In the first place, then, I must ask you, Sir, to allow me to trace the history of Confederation in this Council, as shown in the debates which have taken place on the subject.
You will find, Sir, that this subject was first introduced into this Council on the 29th of March, 1867, when a Resolution in favour of the abstract principle of the Confederation of the British Provinces in North America, and expressing the desire that this Colony should be allowed the opportunity of entering the Dominion upon fair and equitable terms, at some future time, was unanimously agreed to. I do not quite take the view of the Honourable the Attorney-General with respect to the discussions that have taken place on this question; for, Sir, I think that the question is now for the first time brought before this House and the country in a practical shape, for a full and deliberate expression of opinion. The vote which was taken in 1867, according to my understanding of it at that time, went no further than to express a desire on the part of the Colony to be confederated with Canada, when a favourable occasion should arrive, and the result of that vote was, I believe, the insertion of the clause in the “British North America Act,” on which the measure we are now discussing is based. Again, in 1868, when the Honourable Member for District No. 2 introduced a series of Resolutions setting forth terms on which this Colony should be united with Canada, the sense of the House, as then expressed, was that we were not possessed of sufficient information to enable us to come to any practical resolution on the subject; and, Sir, when the terms and conditions then proposed for the consideration of the House are compared with those now submitted for your adoption, no words are needed to show that the conclusion then arrived at was judicious.
Last year, again, the subject was introduced by the Hon. Dr. Davie, to a reluctant House. We all felt that there were circumstances which rendered its discussion then in this Council inexpedient, although the question of Confederation was even then occupying public attention to an absorbing extent, and had in fact been the test question at the elections a short time previously in the Districts in this part of the Colony. But certain remarks of the Honourable Member for Cariboo, in reference to the position of Government Members on this question, compelled the expression of the views of the Council on the subject at that time, in a Resolution pointing out the practical impossibility of the union of this Colony with Canada, until the North-West Territory was amalgamated with the Dominion.
But now circumstances are entirely changed. The Hudson Bay Company’s rights in that region, known as the North-West Territory, are determined by purchase, and that country is practically part of the Dominion of Canada; for the temporary opposition from a certain class of the population of the Red River Settlement, to the assumption of the Government by the Canadian authorities, is passing away, if not by the present moment virtually at an end. And treating that ebullition of feeling resulting from misapprehension of the real intention of the Dominion Government as passed away, I regard it as an established fact that, as stated in Lord Granville’s despatch, our boundaries are now conterminous with those of Canada.
But not only is Union with Canada now practicable, but, Sir, I regard the present as a most opportune moment for its consummation. I entirely agree with Honourable Members who say that this Colony requires a change. In its present depressed state, the Colony needs assistance and fresh impetus. There are many causes which combine to contribute to the depression now observable in the country. It has been attributed to the present form of Government. Take that as one cause, if you please; but, Sir, I believe it has had very little effect, if any, in producing […]
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[…] this result, and you will find many other and mightier reasons to account for it. Chiefly, I believe, with the Honourable Attorney-General, that this depression is attributable to the isolated position of the Colony, and to the cold shade thrown over us by the neighbourhood of the Territories of the United States, from whom we can never hope for aid in advancing the interests of this Colony whilst under the British Flag. The desire for some change is urgent, and if we wait for more prosperous times, under which to claim better financial terms, we may realize the old proverb of the “Horse starving whilst the grass is growing.” Besides, Sir, on reference to the terms now proposed for the consideration of this House by the Government, it will be found that they are based not altogether on the present condition of the Colony, but somewhat on an anticipated increase of population and prosperity; and I suppose we might wait many years before such a measure of prosperity would accrue to us, as to entitle us to ask better financial terms than are included in these Resolutions.
I believe the time, then, to be opportune, and I think that there is every reason to suppose that the present Government of the Dominion is now desirous and ready to grant us fair and liberal terms.
I believe, Sir, the Canadian Government are favourably disposed towards us, and prepared to go to the utmost of their ability in all reasonable matters to enable us to joint the Confederation. The policy and wishes of the Imperial Government, too, in the same direction are clearly enunciated in Earl Granville’s despatch; and we are fortunate in having now at the head of the Executive a Governor admirably adapted by his ability and experience to take charge, on our behalf, of negotiations for our union with the Dominion, and to whom the interests of the community may confidently be entrusted.
And that brings me, Sir, to this point: That in its first introduction into this Council, this measure must necessarily be a Government measure. The constitution of this House renders it imperative that the initiatory steps should he taken by the Government, although the final acceptance of the terms will properly rest with the people. The policy of the Imperial Government has been clearly stated: It encourages us to amalgamate our interests with Canada, and points out the advantages to be thus obtained, and nothing that I could add would enunciate more clearly than that document the grounds on which Her Majesty’s Government, on behalf of this Colony, favour Confederation.
This leads me to remark on the part that has been taken in reference to this question by the Official Members of this House, especially by the Executive Officers. Our position has been misapprehended—or it not misapprehended, it has been misrepresented—and I feel it my duty to allude to the false impressions which have been spread abroad on this subject. It has been stated that the Official Members have been obstructive to Confederation, with regard to their own official positions and interests. But this is not the fact. On a matter so clearly involving a question of Imperial policy, we were not at liberty to anticipate the views of the Home Government, which have now for the first time been distinctly made public. The Hon. Attorney- General and myself have consistently affirmed the principle of Confederation; and we have always felt that we could safely confide our personal interests to the care of the Imperial Government, whose servants we are. To Her Majesty’s Government those interests are entrusted by the Resolutions proposed for your adoption; and, Sir, we are well satisfied that this question as it affects us personally should so depend. We have been right, Sir, I believe, in not anticipating the views of the Imperial Government, for the terms of union now submitted for your adoption prove the wisdom of the course which we have pursued; and in the exercise of caution we have shewn ourselves the truest friends of the Colony, even though we have not appeared to be the most enthusiastic advocates of Confederation.
This, then, is a Government measure, as the Honourable the senior Member for Victoria has told you; and as I hold it is of necessity a Government measure. This scheme is propounded by the Government, as the guardians of the interests of this infant Colony; and I stand here as a member of the Government to support the Resolutions which are now before you, and I sincerely trust that they will be adopted by this Council. But His Excellency has told us that the ultimate acceptance or rejection of the terms of union with Canada, after they have been submitted to the Dominion Government, shall be left to the popular voice of this country.
I will now. Sir, come to the consideration of what Confederation is in the abstract, as I understand it. It is the union and consolidation of British interests in British Territory on this continent, for the security and advancement of each Province individually, and of the […]
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[…] whole collectively, under the continued support of the British Flag. A great idea of great minds, which have thus given a practical refutation to that doctrine of “America for the United States,” known as the “Munro doctrine,” held by leading politicians of the States south of us; and on this account, if on no other grounds, the principle of Confederation deserves the support of every British heart in the Colony.
I am now brought to a subject which I should not have known how to approach, but for the bridge thrown over for me by the Honourable Member for Victoria yesterday. By that Honourable Member the suggestion of a closer union with another country—with the United States, in fact—and the possibility that at the next General Election such an union might be presented as an alternative to Confederation with Canada, was introduced in so palpable a manner, that I should feel myself derelict to my duty as a Member of the Executive and as a Member of this Council if I did not refer to it.
Mr. President, I should do violence to my best feelings were I to refrain from availing myself of this opportunity of paying my humble tribute of respect and esteem for the people of that great Republic. [“Hear, hear,” from all sides] No one can better appreciate than I do the high and eminent qualities which characterise that great Nation, and especially that national feeling—that love of country, so worthy of our imitation―for which they have made such sacrifices. It has been my fortune to pass several years in the United States, and to have formed there some of the most valued friendships of my life, so that my acquaintance with Americans has led me to form a most appreciative estimate of their social and domestic relations, of which I can not speak in terms of too much praise. But my experience of the political institutions of that country only led me to prize our own more highly, and made me more than ever an Englishman; and I rejoice at the opportunity now afforded me of raising my voice against any movement tending in the direction of incorporating this country with the United States.
I must now make passing allusion to a petition gotten up in some mysterious way, looked upon here at first as a mere joke; so insignificant that it would not be worthy of notice but for the use made of it elsewhere. It has been represented in other quarters as expressing the views of a great portion of this community. It has been so represented in very high quarters, and I therefore notice it; and in doing so I feel compelled to state that, so far as I could learn, it was signed by a very small number of people―forty-two, I believe, in all—many of whom were aliens, and most of whom were foreign-born subjects, and who appear to have been generally actuated by prejudice, based upon a lack of information respecting Canada and the Canadians, and not by any regard for the permanent benefit of the community. But as this petition has been followed up by the publication of letters and by a discussion in the newspapers, which we cannot blink, as to what has been termed the Annexation of this Colony to the United States; and as allusion was made to it, by an innuendo at all events, in this Council yesterday, I feel bound to express my opinion of what our position would be under any such union as has been hinted at.
If British Columbia were placed in the same position as Washington Territory, we should be absolutely without representation―for that Territory has one representative in Congress, it is true, but he has no vote—and all our officials would come from Washington. Annexation to the United States would also entail on us largely increased taxation, and would most materially affect an interest which the Honourable Member for Victoria told you would suffer most from Confederation. Why, Sir, under the union suggested, our farmers would be brought into direct competition with the farmers of Washington Territory and Oregon, and then our agricultural interests would be indeed annihilated. Again, it this country were American Territory you would have the whole influence of San Francisco brought to bear against the mercantile interests of Victoria; no hope could we have of building up a port here to rival San Francisco; no, Sir, you would never see a foreign vessel in these waters. I see no advantages in the suggestion; I have heard none pointed out, unless it be the questionable expectation that American capital might buy up the real estate in and around Victoria, and so give the present holders the opportunity of realizing their property into money and then leave the country to its fate. But in this hope, Sir, I believe they would be egregiously disappointed. I will not pursue the subject any further. Annexation is entirely out of the question, and I should not have dared to allude to it, but for the introduction of the subject by another Honourable Member yesterday. What do these foreign petitioners propose to transfer? Themselves? Their own […]
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[…] property? No; not themselves, nor that which belongs to them, but the whole Colony, the soil of this vast domain which belongs to the Crown and the people of England. This I regard as treasonable. In supporting Confederation I support the flag I serve. I say that loyalty is no exploded idea; call it a sentiment if you will; life is nothing without sentiment. Every one whose soul is not dead must cling to love of country and attachment to her flag, as one of the most cherished sentiments of the heart, and I regard loyalty as one of the most deep-rooted and highly prized treasures of the human breast. [” Hear, hear,” from all sides]
Bear with me, Sir, while I tell you now what I think Confederation is not. I don’t think it necessarily means Responsible Government, or, as an Honourable Member at the other end of the House has put it, that it means getting rid of Government Officials. If that Honourable Member’s desire is to be rid of the present incumbents of office so that others may take their place, I think it probable that his wishes in this respect may be gratified through Confederation; and in that case I could only hope that the change would be beneficial to the Colony, But I doubt much if this measure would receive support from this Council on these grounds; and at all events the Honourable Gentleman cannot expect much sympathy on that score from this side of the House.
Again, Confederation does not, to my mind, mean Responsible Government, as some Honourable Members hold. British Columbia will assuredly get Responsible Government as soon as the proper time arrives, as soon, that is to say, as the community is sufficiently advanced in population, and in other respects, to render such a form of Government practically workable; sooner, probably, through Confederation than by any other means, and the sooner the better, I say. But I do not think it desirable to fetter or cumber the proposed terms of union with anything about Responsible Government, and specially for the reason that we should find it very difficult to arrive at any conclusion in favour of it. Great difference of opinion exists upon the subject even around this Council Board, and I am by no means sure that the strongest opposition to Responsible Government would come from the Government side of the House. It is easier to change the constitution after Confederation than before. [“No, no.”] Under the Organic Act, this Colony could get Responsible Government. In fact, it is the special prerogative under this Act of each Province to regulate the constitution of its own Executive Government and Legislature; and whence this desire to act so prematurely now in this respect?
Another Honourable Member has told you that in his opinion Confederation means the terms―means a Railway; but I take it, Sir, that the terms proposed result from Confederation, and that the Railway is a means to the end, for we cannot have real Confederation without a Railway, But, Sir, I advocate Confederation on principle; and I believe the terms to be the natural result of Confederation. They flow from it as a natural consequence, as the effect proceeds from the cause. I believe that by Confederation we are to gain those advantages which are set forth in the terms.
If it could be shown that by acceptance of these terms we should in any way sacrifice our honour―lose any political status that: we now enjoy—I would not support Confederation if it brought a dozen railroads. But I believe that each member of this community will be raised by the change. We shall have a distinct and very respectable representation in the House of Commons and Senate. We shall have as representatives there men whose voice will be heard, men whose duty it will be to speak for us Far from entertaining the views expressed by the two Honourable Members for Victoria, I am inclined to think with the Honourable Member for New Westminster, that this Colony will have its due weight and influence in the Dominion, that its representatives will be heard and listened to in the Canadian Parliament, and that this will be a favoured portion of the Confederation, when admitted, on account of its position as the outlet of Canada on the Pacific. I do not, then, advocate Confederation specially on account of the terms I find in its general merits ample grounds for support, and I consider, as I have said, that the terms follow as a matter of course.
The Honourable Member for Victoria has said that we are bound to prove the benefits. It is difficult to prove anything to some minds. The benefits of Confederation are among those things which, being in futurity, we cannot prove. I cannot prove that which has not happened. We can only rely on human judgment and experience, and argue that such and such things will occur, as certain causes will produce certain effects. I, and other Official Members of this Colony, have a considerable interest in this Colony; I have, to a certain extent, identified myself with it and its concerns for some years past, and speaking as an individual Member of this […]
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[…] Council, if I did not believe that Confederation would prove advantageous to this Colony, and redound to the benefit of our local interests, I should not support it by my voice. I might as a Government servant vote for it as a Government measure, but I should not be standing here to speak for it and to advocate it as heartily as I do. It is hardly possible to show where the colony will be benefited by Confederation, without discussing the terms, which is not my present intention to do; but I promise Honourable Members that if these Resolutions get into Committee, I will fully satisfy them of the local advantages that must accrue to the Colony from union with Canada, on the terms proposed in these Resolutions.
I believe, Sir, that many of the objections which have been raised to Confederation have arisen from prejudiced feelings. I have no reason to be prejudiced against or partial to Canada. I believe that Canadians as a people are no better than others, and no worse. I have no ties in Canada, no particular reason for entertaining any feeling of affection for Canada; and if I did not believe that the advance which we make will be met in a becoming spirit, [“Hear, hear,”] then I should be of opinion that Confederation would be nothing more than on union on paper, one not beneficial to this Colony or to Canada. There are statesmen there, Sir, who know that it would be useless to try to beat us down on terms; for what would be the use of Confederation if it afterwards turned out that this Colony was injured, rather than benefited, by it.
The Honourable Junior Member for Victoria asks what guarantee have we that the terms will be carried out. I say at once, Sir, that if the terms are not carried out, if the Canadian Government repudiate their part of the agreement, we shall be equally at liberty to repudiate ours. [Dr. Helmcken—”How?”]
[Hon. Mr. Trutch:] We should, I maintain, be at liberty to change; but I, for one, do not approach this subject with any such feeling. [” Hear, hear,” from Mr. DeCosmos.] There are always two sides to a bargain, and if the terms which are frankly and honestly proposed are not fairly and honourably dealt with, we should, in my opinion, be at perfect liberty to draw back.
There is, however, one real and practical objection which has always suggested itself to my mind from the first, and that is, that the same measures that apply to the circumstances of Canada, such as tariff, will not apply equally in all respects to this Colony. It will be asked, then, why is there no suggestion as to some alteration or modification of the tariff in the terms. The reason is somewhat similar to the reason for the omission of all mention of Responsible Government. You would find it very difficult to come to any conclusions on this subject in this Council. It is impracticable to define now positively what precise tariff would best suit this country. Some favour a free port. I should be inclined to favour it myself if I believed it, practicable. Some, on the other hand, say that we must have protection to agriculture, and that without it we cannot compete with the farmers of Oregon. This point was fully discussed in the Executive Council, but it was decided to omit any conditions for the regulation of Customs dues from these terms; and I do not think that this measure ought to be complicated with the tariff question. I believe that we may safely trust this people with whom we are about to negotiate, to do as much for us in this direction as we could do for ourselves; it will be to their interest to do so. It requires no argument to show that it will be to the interest of Canada, after Confederation, to advance the prosperity of this country. If it be possible to adopt a special tariff to this part of the Colony, and I see no reason why it should not be adopted, I confidently hope to see such a special tariff arranged under Confederation. [” Hear, hear,” from Mr. DeCosmos]
Rely upon it, Sir, that there are statesmen in Canada who have a far wider and longer political experience than Members of this House, and who would be able to point out many means of prosperity, for which we are looking with so much anxiety, powerful minds, before which I feel humbled,―men who I cannot for a moment suppose would fail to see as plainly as we do that Confederation would be of no benefit to Canada unless it redound to the advantage of British Columbia. This requires no argument; it is perfectly plain common sense.
If we are not to have Confederation, what are we to have? What is the proposition of those who oppose Confederation? The people of this Colony have been, for a long time past, asking for a change, and it has been the policy of those who ask for change to throw the blame of everything upon the Government. The policy of the Imperial Government on this matter is clearly expressed in Earl Granville’s despatch. He does not say you must confederate, whether you will or not; it is left to the people to decide this question for themselves; but he […]
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[…] says, virtually, ” You have for years been asking for a change, you complain that your present form of Government does not suit you; we point out for your consideration Confederation, which, if it suits you, we favour; the Government of Canada is ready to step in and assist you to carry out your views for the advancement of your local interests.” Now, Sir, I say to this Council,—If you don’t want Confederation, what do you want? To remain as you are? This I know you are not satisfied to do. What then? Establish a sort of Independent Government of about 6,000 people, connected with nobody, owing allegiance to nobody? The idea is absurd. There appears, then, to be no alternative to Confederation, but that suggestion which has been shadowed forth during this debate, and which I, for one, decline to consider as a possibility. And so we come to Confederation as our manifest destiny.
To sum up my argument in support of the motion of the Honourable the Attorney-General- I advocate Confederation because it will secure the continuance of this Colony under the British Flag, and strengthen British interests on this Continent; and because it will benefit this community, by lessening taxation and giving increased revenue for local expenditure; by advancing the political status of the Colony; by securing the practical aid of the Dominion Government, who are, I believe, able to—and whose special care it would be to devise and- carry into effect measures tending to develop the natural resources, and to promote the prosperity of this Colony; and by affording, through a railway, the only means of acquiring a permanent population, which must come from the east of the Rocky Mountains.
The Hon. Mr. Holbrook said:—Sir, In rising to continue this debate, after the able speech of the Hon. Chief Commissioner of Lands and Works, I feel that there is little left for me to say, as when we go into Committee I shall have an opportunity of expressing my opinion upon the terms; and it would be factions to oppose a measure which has to come before the people for their decision. The way, Sir, that I understand the question of Confederation to stand at present, is that it is not a mere abstract question of Confederation with Canada, but a question of certain terms which have to be laid before the people; therefore, I say that any opposition against this being done would be factious. As regards myself, I shall abide by such decision, whatever it may be, as I consider the people themselves are the best judges as to whether they will “benefit, or otherwise, by becoming part and parcel of the Dominion of Canada. This matter has evidently been well considered by the Executive Council, most of whom are largely interested in the welfare of the Colony, and several of them have been as much opposed to immediate Confederation, when the question has been before this Council on other occasions, as I have been.
But having had an opportunity of seeing the documents which have come from the Imperial Government on the subject, the Executive have arrived at the decision that it is best for this question to go to the country, upon the assumption that the people will ask for Confederation to be carried out on certain terms; therefore, I say, Sir, let it go to the people and settlers of the Colony, and by their verdict let it be decided. Earl Granville has sent out a despatch which states, in pretty plain terms, that we were not able to govern ourselves; and there was, perhaps, more truth than poetry in this; for we have had the greatest liberty granted to us, and yet we have not been content. Our Gold Mining Laws have been made by the Mining Board; we have had the most liberal Land Laws; and if we have had a want that the law could satisify it has been immediately granted.
Our Officials are an honour to the country. As an Englishman, I am proud of them. Justice has been properly administered in the country; there has been absolutely security to life and property so much so that a man can travel in perfect safety from Cariboo to Victoria, and capital can be safely invested in any part of the Colony.
We have excellent roads, and one of the richest spots on the whole earth for our Colony, whether as regards mining wealth or agricultural resources; and yet a petition has emanated from a small body of foreign residents in the City of Victoria, asking to be annexed to the great Republic adjoining. I am well aware, Sir, that, as has been well said by the Hon. Chief Commoner, the petition was paltry and unworthy of notice, and that those who signed it were insignificant; and I may be allowed to say that we of the Mainland had no feelings in common with them. If it were within reason to contemplate the possibility of the occurrence of such an alternative. it might be worth while to point out its disadvantages, and to show that under it we should not even have representation, as without a certain population, which we have not, we could not elect a member, and we should fall back to what Washington Territory and Oregon were in the days before this City of Victoria was brought forward by the Fleet, […]
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[…] to the encouragement and development of the neighbouring States, equally, or perhaps in excess of the interests of our own Colony. We may say that liberty had run wild; people have actually become dissatisfied because they have had too much of it. I remember a similar discontent with excess of liberty in Paris, after the Revolution of 1848; the people revelled in excess of freedom, and from so much liberty they fell into another Revolution. It is only in a country with such free institutions as England, that such a petition could have been signed with impunity; for if it means anything at all, it did not stop short of treason. In most other countries the signers would have forfeited their liberty; in some that I have lived in, the penalty would have been death. Speaking for the Mainland, Sir, and coming from the Royal Town of New Westminster, I have a right to speak in the name of its loyal inhabitants. I say that, although Confederation with Canada meets with favour in some quarters, the feelings of the inhabitants are, and ever will be, thoroughly loyal to the glorious flag of Great Britain, and feel proud of belonging to that flag which represents honour, power, justice, and wealth, and which is stainless and untarnished, whether unfurled in the face of an enemy and defended by its sons, or floating in peace over such a Colony as this. We have had our complaints on the Mainland, and we considered the removal of the Capital and centralization of business at Victoria an injustice to the rest of the Colony, for the reason, principally, that Victoria, from its proximity to the United States, draws its supplies thence, instead of from the Mainland, to the gain of the neighbouring States, and consequent loss to the agricultural districts of the Mainland of some $10,000 annually, in the article of beef alone; and for the reason that, by the Fleet being placed at Esquimalt, we of the Mainland were not only left without protection, but that the agricultural interests of Washington Territory and Oregon were being built up with the money expended by the Fleet in the purchase of supplies, which if spent in the Valley of the Fraser would, by this time, have given us there a population of some thousands. The people of my part of the Colony have favoured Confederation, in the belief that the resources of the Colony would receive some consideration from the Dominion Government.
We all acknowledge that population is required, and I think there is no reason to doubt that it will come. I do not attribute the depression, as some Hon. Members have done, to bad Government. We merely followed the course of other gold countries in over trading, and placed all our dependence upon a single mining district, and when we did not find another Williams Creek so rapidly as we expected, we became disheartened.
But, Sir, I mean to state, and I do so without fear of contradiction, that our natural resources are more prosperous to-day than they have ever been before, and I need only point to the 8,000 acres of land taken up last year as an example of real and solid prosperity. We shall acquire population from Canada by means of the railroad, and the large amount of money required for its construction will tend to our prosperity. Our merchants also want something fixed, that they may not be threatened with constant change, which renders commerce fluctuating and uncertain.
I consider, Sir, that the time is opportune for Confederation for many reasons, amongst others, that there is a favourable opportunity for us, with the aid of Canada, to make arrangements for the reception of some of the emigrant poor, who are now being assisted by the Societies in England to go out to the Colonies. Work could be found for them on the railway, and by this means much of our valuable agricultural land might be settled up.
I shall reserve to myself the right of opposing some of the terms when they come under discussion, and of asking that others may be inserted. I should be glad to see inserted in the terms a clause empowering our Local Government to make her own tariff, so as to protect our farming interests, in a similar manner under the Imperial Government, the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands have rights reserved; but I am of opinion that the full tariff of the Dominion should in all cases be charged, and that the Local Government of British Columbia should have the exclusive benefit of any extra tariff.
The Indians, also, should be secured the same protection that they have under our own Government. They are now content with us, and with the way in which the laws are administered, and it is quite possible that they may hereafter be a source of great trouble, if they are not considered as well as white men.
I shall hail with pleasure the salmon laws of Canada, spoken of by one Honourable Member, which will prevent the placing of salmon traps at the mouth of the Fraser, stopping thereby the fish from ascending the river, and by that means cutting off the food of the Indians, and […]
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[…] taking from them the means of support; but I should much regret to see any laws brought into operation which would grant monopolies, such, for instance, as in the case of cranberries, which are at present a source of living to many hundreds of Indians.
As regards our defences: we should have the right to have our own forces, as every one would have to serve in the Militia; but so long as English troops are stationed in Canada, we ought, when we become an integral part of the Dominion, to have our share of them. And at no very distant future I trust that the great scheme of Confederation may be carried out, and that the Dominion may have a Royal Prince at its head, and then may the views of the great Anglo―Saxon race as regards commerce and trade become enlightened so that English goods may come into the Dominion duty free.
As we shall, from our position on the Pacific Coast, be the keystone of Confederation, I hope we may become the most glorious in the whole structure, and tend to our own and England’s future greatness.
I shall support the motion of the Honourable the Attorney-General.
The Hon. Mr. Wood said :—Sir, I rise to support the amendment of the Honourable Junior Member for Victoria, to postpone the consideration of these Resolutions for six months. I desire, Sir, to express my unqualified opposition to what is termed the Confederation of this Colony with the Dominion of Canada on the basis of the Organic Act; and in dealing with the subject I shall address myself to three several heads of objection:
Firstly, to the principle of the Organic Act of 1867, as applied to the British North American Provinces;
Secondly, to the special application of the principle to this Colony;
Thirdly, to the mode in which the consent of its adoption is now attempted to be obtained.
Referring for a moment to my own personal position in this Council, I should wish to say that I feel bound as a non-representative and non-official member to present my own views. My mouth is not closed by official reticence, nor do I represent any constituency. I am here, bound by my duty as a Member of this Council, to express my own conscientious views in respect of the measure in explicit terms, in the interests no less of this Colony than of Great Britain, which in this, as in every Colonial question, I cannot but hold to be identical.
With respect to the general principle of Confederation of the British North American Provinces, it will be remembered that, in 1867, I was one of those Members who did vote that Confederation, on fair and equitable terms, was desirable I am of that opinion still; but my objection is that no terms based on the Organic Act of 1867 can be fair or equitable.
It cannot be denied that the idea of a confederation and general alliance between the British Colonies in North America is a very captivating idea. The existence of a homogeneous nation tending to act as a counterpoise to the great Republic to the south of us, is a grand political idea, but it is an idea most dangerous and difficult to carry out. When I voted in 1867 for Confederation on fair and equitable terms, I had in my mind Confederation in the general acceptance of the word as understood by all political writers and by the world in general—a union of free and self-governed States, united by a federal compact for purposes of offence and defence, of peace and war, and for the purposes of maintaining and preserving uniformity in laws and institutions which affect the social and commercial relation of life; such laws and institutions as criminal law and practice, the general administration of justice, and the laws regulating commerce and navigation. Such a Confederation I then believed to be possible, I am foolish enough to believe it to be possible still; but Confederation as understood by Canadian and Imperial statesmen—Confederation as effected by the Organic Act of 1867—is not Confederation at all. I would, indeed, throw the word Confederation to the winds, since by Confederation is obviously meant union, incorporation, and absorption. The Organic Act of 1867, provides for the entire transfer of all effective legislative power and control to Ottawa, as the seat of the Dominion Government, where, owing to the much greater wealth and population of Canada, the influence and authority of Canada bear all before it. It is a principle too obvious for proof or dissertation, that Confederation in its proper sense can only thrive where the States bound together by the federal compact are not only free, but where they are nearly equal. Excess of power in any one State is fatal to the interests of the rest. No, Sir, the word Confederation has no application to the intended movement. Lord Granville. in his despatch, no longer calls it by such a term. Union and Incorporation are spoken of, not Confederation, and the movement really is one of incorporation, absorption, and annihilation.
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Now, Sir, the objections that I raise are objections to the provisions of the Organic Act, and I find it necessary, for the purposes of my argument, to turn to those provisions. I do not mean to detain the Council at unnecessary length, but as the question before us is one which concerns the future of this Colony for all time, I trust that I shall be excused if I dwell for a few moments upon these points.
If we come into Confederation, we come in, as I understand it, under this Organic Act; and it is on account of the overwhelming influence of Canada in the joint Legislature of the Dominion, as given by that Act, that I object to the general principle of the Confederation of the North American Provinces of Great Britain. I am told I am in error, that profound statesmen in Great Britain and in Canada have determined otherwise, and that Confederation, on the basis of the Organic Act of 1867, is the policy of Great Britain
I regret, Sir, that I cannot be silenced by the weight of such authority. No statesmanship, no conclusion, is of any value except for the reasoning on which it is founded; and I am ready to rest the whole matter on simple argument and reason. All States large enough and populous enough to warrant such privileges, eagerly and passionately desire the power of self-government. It is the common passion of our race. Formerly, even now, in other places, it is British policy to give these powers; and as New South Wales has thrown off Victoria and Queensland, so would it appear to be reasonable to extend the principle to the British Provinces in North America, rather than to adopt a different policy, for the simple reason that it is in accordance with the instincts of the Anglo-Saxon race, and the just rights of man.
We want self-government, which means the protection of our own interests, and the establishment of our own welfare in our own way; the passing of our own Estimates in our own way; the selection of those who rule, and the subsequent meeting of our rulers, face to face, in open Council, that they may show us the results of their ruling. It means the imposition and collection of our own taxes, fostering our own industries, and the power of the purse. These are the elements of self-government, and they are reserved to the Dominion Government, and taken from the Provinces; hence my objections to the Organic Act. For these reasons I say that Confederation—or rather union—with Canada cannot be fair and equal, on account of the overwhelming influence of Canada in the Dominion Parliament, now and in the future; for it always must be so. Canada can extend, and will extend, and even of herself would be able to sway the destinies of the Dominion. And are we to accept this position because we are told that British statesmanship wills it? Statesmanship, Sir, is nothing more than very sound common sense put into practice—sound common sense, backed by a knowledge of mankind and of the subject matter to which that statesmanship is applied. And, although it is not for me to depreciate the renown of my countrymen, it cannot be disguised that they have not unfrequently gone astray, and been forced to submit to the control of national interests and national will. It is not difficult to find instances of error in British statesmanship, as applied to Colonial affairs. The errors of British statesmen, with a majority of the House of Commons-and the British Nation to back them, cost Great Britain the thirteen United States. The errors of British Statesman, with a majority of the House of Commons and the British Nation to back them, have inflicted wrongs upon Ireland, which are only now in process of removal; and the policy of British statesmen, with the British Nation to back it, has created a difference which has gone far to alienate tile affections of the Colonists of New Zealand.
In this question of Confederation it is impossible not to see the self-interest of Great Britain underlying the whole matter. England is alarmed at the extent of her Colonial possessions, and her obligations to protect them by sea and land. Of all her possessions, the Dominion of Canada is the most assailable; and, doubtless, Great Britain stands alarmed at the responsibility and cost of protecting so enormous a frontier. The question of Confederation is the question of every tax-paying Englishman, and whatever may be the reasoning put forth, the motive is economy and security to the tax―paying public of Great Britain. Confederation is, doubtless, of value to Great Britain, as establishing a counterpoise to the United States of America, and probably inducing the Dominion of Canada to ask for and obtain independence, and so relieve the Mother Country from the cost and duty of defending it. This is, I believe, the entire statesmanship of the measure—a statesmanship meritorious in English eyes—but, as I believe, fraught with extreme danger to British interests in this quarter of the globe.
Turning now to what may be called the argument in favour of Confederation, we have Lord Granville’s despatch. Lord Granville, it must be admitted, has ably, gracefully, and […]
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[…] plausibly put before us the supposed advantages of Confederation :―”Her Majesty’s Government believe that a Legislature selected from an extended area, and representing a diversity of interests, was more likely to deal more comprehensively with large questions, and more impartially with small questions, and more conclusively with both, than is possible when controversies are carried on and decided upon in the comparatively narrow circle in which they arise. Questions of purely local interest would be more carefully and dispassionately considered when disengaged from the larger politics of the country, and at the same time would be more sagaciously considered by persons who have had this larger political education.
“Finally, they anticipate that the interests of every Province of British North America would be more advanced by enabling the wealth, credit, and intelligence of the whole to be brought to bear on every part, than by encouraging each in the contracted policy of taking care of itself, possibly at the expense of its neighbour.”
This I understand to be the argument of the Colonial Office in favour of Confederation; and although I fully admit that it is well put, I believe that no argument is more fallacious. It is delicate ground for me to touch when I presume to differ from what comes from so able a man. On this point I wish to make myself distinctly understood. I do not profess to be a statesman or a politician, but as a lawyer of mature age, pretending to a fair share of common sense and a knowledge of human nature, I will venture to say, that if there is one passion more powerful in the minds of Colonists of Anglo-Saxon origin than another, it is the passion for self―government; in all English communities there is an ardent passion for self-government. Colonists here, as everywhere else, are animated by an intense desire to govern themselves in the way they think best; and to delegate that power to others is destructive of every feeling of self-respect and of social and political liberty.
It is not necessary for me to prove that this is the case, it is too notorious for comment; and as long as the spirit of liberty exists in the British Nation, we shall find that no one Province will submit to legislation at the hands of a Legislature in which its interests and welfare are overwhelmed and overborne. To secure submission to a Legislature such as that of the Dominion of Canada, where the majority of the Canadian Members make the law, uniformity of interest and feeling is necessary; and not only will the feeling of any separate Province be wounded by the consciousness that self-government is withheld from it, but on finding that its interests, or its feelings, are overwhelmed and subjected to the interests and feelings of a dominant portion, the sense of discontent and dissatisfaction will become universal and national, hence will ensue a condition of things most perilous ‘to British interests generally.
The bond of union between Canada and the other Provinces bears no resemblance to the union between England and her Colonial Possessions. There is no natural love and original feeling of loyalty. The feeling of loyalty towards England is a feeling blind, instinctive, strong, born with us and impossible to be shaken off; and I believe it is impossible to transfer a feeling of loyalty and fealty at will. The connection between the Mother Country and a Colony—even a Crown Colony―is well understood in principle and in practice. The Mother Country guarantees the Colony from enemies abroad and the entire work of inter-colonial management is, except in matters of prerogative, left to the Colonists themselves. The Crown pretends to no dictation, nor has it any interest at variance with the interests of the Colonists, Although in a Crown Colony the official element is supreme, it is well understood that it is to govern—and public opinion forces it to govern—according to the well-understood and well-established wishes of the Colony at large. The Government can not and dare not interfere except to prevent crude, irrational, or vicious legislation. There is no direct conflict between the Mother Country and a Colony in these days; but it cannot be supposed that any British Province will submit patiently to injustice at the hands of a Canadian Ministry or a Canadian House of Commons. If any scheme has been devised more likely than another to raise and keep alive local irritation it is, in my judgment, the scheme of Confederation on the basis of the Organic Act of 1867.
What is said by Lord Granville is true in theory, but practically it is opposed to human nature; and in endeavouring to carry out elaborate and elevated views Great Britain stands a fair chance of losing the whole of British North America,
Thus far I have treated of the general policy of the Organic Act.
With respect to the applicability of the scheme of Confederation to this Colony I have more special and particular grounds of objection, I consider such an union inexpedient on several grounds.
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First, the remoteness of the Colony from Canada;
Secondly, the comparative insignificance of British Columbia;
And, thirdly, the diversity of its interests from those of Canada.
That these objections specially apply to the extension of the principle to this Colony no one can doubt. Lord Granville admits that the distance is an objection, but thinks that a Railway will annihilate time and space. He thinks that the Government can be carried on at a distance of 3,000 miles without difficulty. This Railway is to bridge over the vast desert that intervenes between this Colony and Ottawa. The notion that we can with any effect represent the interests of this Colony in the Parliament at Ottawa at a distance of 3,000 miles is to me absurd. With a population such as ours, even if we have the representation suggested by the terms, with eight Members of Parliament against one hundred and eighty-two, and four Senators against seventy―two, how can it be supposed to be possible that our voices could he heard? When Lord Granville spoke of “comprehensiveness” am “impartiality” in a Legislature, surely he must have lost sight of the constituent elements of a House of Commons. For let us consider, without any reflection upon the House of Commons at Ottawa, what is the nature of the House of Commons of England, or of any other assembly of the same nature? Every House of Commons is but an assemblage of the Members of Parliament pledged to support the material interests of their constituents, whenever those interests are affected. I never can anticipate anything but the representation of the views and the material interests of constituents in any House of Commons. I believe that members would always vote according to the interests of men whose votes they would have again to solicit, and of whose interests public opinion holds them to he the acknowledged advocates.
How can we find eight men in a place like this, where at all events; the most valuable members of society are professional and business men, without selecting them from a class who are politicians by profession? Most men here are workers of some sort, and actively employed in their several professions and businesses, and we should have extreme difficulty in finding eight good men who would spare the time and expense to go to Ottawa. What we should want would be such men as are now at Ottawa, the principal business men, bankers, merchants, and professional men; but time and space will prevent this most valuable class of men from leaving British Columbia and representing our interests at Ottawa, and we shall be compelled either to retain the services of Canadian gentlemen, who, living in Canada, would be the British Columbian representatives only in name, or we should have to take eight representatives who will be content to make politics a profession, and we shall have to pay them for their services. To the insignificance of British Columbia as a Province of the Dominion the same remarks apply.
Difference of interests is a still more material point. Upon this point direct conflict is sure to arise. Canada belongs to the Atlantic, and looks to the Old World for her markets. We are a new country, our staples are totally different. Questions cannot but arise between British Columbia and Canada—between the East and the West—in which Canadian interests will prevail over those of British Columbia; and aggravated by the feeling of wounded pride and forced insignificance, the Colonists of British Columbia will feel naturally aggrieved.
The Colonial feeling is well known—pride and attachment to the Mother Country and intense sensitiveness and tenacity where injustice or wrong is done. Once let this feeling he roused amongst us and it will not be long before British Columbia is clamorous for repeal; and not obtaining it, the country will be ripe for any other change, however violent.
Now, Sir, with respect to the third head of my objections. With respect to the mode in which the consent of this Colony is attempted to be obtained, I am sorry to notice what I cannot but call a spirit of diplomacy and a spirit of management characterizing the whole movement in favour of Confederation on the part of the Imperial Government, it is obvious throughout that the Imperial Government desires to obtain their end and aim of Confederation in a mercantile spirit of bargain and sale, which jars upon my feelings of right and wrong.
If this Council is properly the Legislature of British Columbia; if we reflect the intelligence, the substance, and the interests of the Colony, we ought to have originated these Resolutions ourselves. The matter should have arisen spontaneously amongst us, without any attempt at leading or forcing. What may be His Excellency’s own views upon the subject of Confederation we cannot tell. I look upon Lord Granville’s despatch as a diplomatic order, couched in polite language, but nevertheless a requirement to the Governor to carry out the will of the Colonial Office, without reference to his own convictions. All that we are told by His Excellency upon […]
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[…] this subject is that the Colony will derive “material benefit” from Confederation, and the Colony has been offered by the Executive certain material benefits in the shape of a Railway, a Dock, cash in hand, and freedom from debt, in return for the transfer of all legislation to the Dominion of Canada. These “material benefits ” being paraded before the eyes of the colonists, the bargain is afterwards to be accepted or refused by a Council composed mainly of Representative Members. This mode of operation, no less than the bargain itself, is equally objectionable in my eyes. The material benefits—the Dock, the Railway, the money payments—are in effect nothing more than bribes to the present generation to forego the rights of self-government.
I have no doubt that the Colony will accept the bargain. The Colony is a small one, the population not exceeding 6,500 adult white men, and of these many are gentlemen of Canadian proclivities, Canadians by birth, who are naturally, and I may say patriotically, in favour of a union with their native country.
There are many, also, who, in the present adverse condition of things in this Colony, are desirous of change of any kind, and eager for any opportunity of benefiting by operations which promise to throw population, capital, and enterprise into the Colony. We have suffered much from pecuniary depression, and when we have an offer from a great country to come and spend money among us, can you doubt that any one will fail to feel these advantages; while many more hope for political power and eminence in a system which they expect will carry with it Representative Institutions, if not Responsible Government. Can we doubt that the vote will be in favour of Confederation? The people of this country will sell themselves for the consideration of the present, and posterity will hereafter ask indignantly what right had we to shackle them, and to deprive them of rights which cannot be sold.
We shall reap the benefit, and those that come after us will reap the disadvantage and humiliation. It is not in the power of the present generation to dispose of the birthright of its descendants. Liberty and self-government are inalienable rights. The original vice of the matter still remains, and when once the material benefits are enjoyed or forgotten, and the consciousness of disadvantage is apparent, reaction will set in; a party of repudiators and repealers will arise, who with great show of justice will clamorously demand the reversal of an organic change, founded on political error and wrong. Although our masters at Ottawa may be ever so amiable and ever so pure, the moment we feel the yoke we shall repent; it is not in the nature of Englishmen to submit to tyranny of any description; and dissent such as our posterity will express, will be on only too sound grounds. I say, Sir, that this matter ought not to be brought forward now, when the country is in a state of depression, ready to catch at anything. Recourse should not be now had to Representative Institutions for the first time, when the obvious effect is the acceptance by this Colony of a confederation which carries with it direct, immediate, pecuniary gain. Few have the self-denial to reject a bait so invitingly dangled before their eyes.
If the Colonists are to be trusted with Representative Institutions, for the purpose of effecting so important and radical a constitutional change, why are they not to be trusted with Representative institutions altogether? It is notorious that the Colony is, probably with justice, considered by the Imperial Authorities unfit for full Representative Institutions, and that a Council, with a predominant official element within it, is the only fit body to deal with important questions. Yet this Council is to be differently constituted, and the ultimate terms to be accepted by the people alone, for the sole purpose of forwarding the cause of Confederation. The whole scheme for effecting Confederation is but a scheme of temptation very difficult to forego, though it must be admitted recourse is not had to actual or practical force and obligation.
I have delivered my honest opinion on this matter, liberavi animam mcam, I fear at great length. But I have spoken according to my conscientious convictions and a spirit of the truest loyalty. I am desirous to promote the interests of the British Nation; and I believe the present movement puts them in great peril. I have given you the best proof of my sincerity. I have spoken against my own interests. I have material interests in this Colony which will greatly benefit by the movement which will ensue from the building of a Railroad and a Dock. The interests of friends and connections who are dear to me will be much benefited; and those who know the world tell me that it would have been much better for me if I had bent before the storm which I cannot avoid; that the honours and rewards of my profession are not likely to be bestowed upon one who is no friend to a popular, an Imperial, and a Canadian movement; but I cannot act against political conviction. I am here to give honest counsel, and I have done it, come what may.
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The question has always appeared to me to be this :—Confederation with England, which we have; Confederation in its truest sense; Confederation with all the security of protection, and all the pride of self-government, now or hereafter to be, when the Colony shall have population and wealth sufficient: or Confederation—or, as it should be termed, ” Incorporation “- with Canada. Incorporation with a country to which we are bound by no natural tie of affection or duty, and remote in geographical position, and opposed to us in material interests Incorporation with all the humiliation of dependence, and to my mind the certainty of reaction, agitation, and discontent. Canada can never become the assignee, the official assignee, the Downing Street official assignee of the affection and loyalty which exists between this dependency and the Mother Country. I am opposed to the political extinction of this Colony, and its subservience to the will of a majority of the House of Commons at Ottawa, and the administration of its affairs by the political adherents of Canadian statesmen. And all this for what? For “material benefits,” for a money consideration, in which the ring of the dollar only faintly conceals the clink of the fetter. I am grieved at the mode in which the change is sought to be effected, and view the bargain and sale of political independence for ourselves and our descendants for a few dollars in hand, and a few dollars in the future, as equally shameful and void.
Railway or no railway—consent or no consent—the transfer of Legislative power to Ottawa, to a place so remote in distance and in interest, is an injustice and a political extravagance which time will most surely establish.
The Hon. Mr. DeCosmos, Member for Victoria District, then rose and said:—Mr. President, I congratulate you, Sir, and this House upon the noble work on which we are engaged. We are engaged, I believe, in Nation-making. For my part I have been engaged in Nation-making for the last twelve years—ever since I have been engaged in politics in the Colony. [Hon Registrar- General—”You have not made a Nation yet”]
[The Hon. Mr. DeCosmos:] The Hon. Registrar-General says that I have not made a Nation yet. I need only, in reply, quote for his enlightenment the old adage ” Rome was not built in a day.” [Laughter.] In the humble part that I have taken in politics, I have ever had one end in view. I have seen three Colonies united on the Pacific Coast. [Hon. Mr. Helmcken ― “Three?”]
[The Hon. Mr. DeCosmos:] Yes, three: Stekin, British Columbia, and Vancouver Island; and if I had had my way, instead of the United States owning Alaska, it would have been British today. I have advocated the union of those three Colonies, and in the union of two of them particularly I have taken a prominent part. For many years I have regarded the union of the British Pacific Territories, and of their consolidation under one Government, as one of the steps preliminary to the grand consolidation of the British Empire in North America. I still look upon it in this light with the pride and feeling of a native―born British American. From the time when I first mastered the institutes of physical and political geography I could see Vancouver Island on the Pacific, from my home on the Atlantic; and I could see a time when the British Possessions, from the United States boundary to the Arctic Ocean, and extending from the Atlantic to the Pacific, would be consolidated into one great Nation.
Sir, my political course has been unlike that of most others in this Colony. Allow me to illustrate my meaning by the use of another old adage. My course has been that of ” beating the bush whilst others caught the bird.” My allegiance has been to principle, and the only reward I have asked or sought has been to see sound political principles in operation. Therefore, Sir, I say again that I congratulate you and this Honourable House on the noble work on which we are all engaged.
We are here, Sir, laying the corner stone of a great Nation on the Pacific Coast. When we look at past history, we find some nations that date their origin in the age of fable; some have been produced by violence, and extended their empire by conquest. But we are engaged in building up a great Nation in the noon-day light of the nineteenth century, not by violence, not by wrong, but I hope, Sir, by the exercise of that common sense which the Honourable gentleman who preceded me called statesmanship.
It was not my intention yesterday to have taken up the attention of this House with any remarks until we were in Committee of the Whole, although I have taken, for historical purposes, ample notes of the debate. Allusions have, however, been made during the course of this debate, amongst others to myself. I am, therefore, compelled to crave the indulgence of the House for a time to set myself right before this Council and the country, and to add my […]
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[…] humble opinion to those around me in favour of the consideration of this question in Committee of the Whole. I shall support the general principle of Confederation [Hear, hear], as I have always done, if we get to the discussion of the terms proposed.
First, Sir, let me allude to some of the statements of the Honourable the Attorney-General (Mr. Crease) and the Chief Commissioner of Lands and Works (Mr. Trutch), and to the Honourable Executive Member for Victoria City (Mr. Helmcken). Sir, I know something about the history of Confederation. Up to the opening of this Session Confederation has been a subject of agitation. It may properly be divided into several heads: Firstly, agitation; secondly, negotiation; thirdly, inauguration; and fourthly, I hope, successful operation. Now, Sir, it is apparent that every act of mine in reference to Confederation, up to the time it was announced in Earl Granville’s despatch, up to the time His Excellency the Governor sent down his Message—every act of mine was in the line of agitation. It was with the view to bring about the consideration of terms with the Dominion Government; to hear what they would do; to bring the question before the people, and to canvass its defects and advantages, that I for one have agitated the question. In doing so I have come in for blows from open enemies and treason from false political friends. Sir, the era of agitation has now passed, and we advance to the era of negotiation.
When I heard the Hon. Attorney-General, yesterday, invoking High Heaven; and when I heard him explaining the position of Official Members upon this question; when I heard him state that he was always in favour of Confederation, there flashed across my mind one of the proverbs of Solomon, which I cannot refrain from repeating: ” Such is the way of an adulterous woman; she eateth and wipeth her mouth and saith I have done no wickedness” [Laughter] Sir, I respect any Honourable Member who will, if he sees reason to change his opinion, come down and frankly tell the honest truth; but when an Honourable Member tries to make political capital out of other men’s labour, I confess I do not respect him. On the contrary, such men as the latter, when officers of a Government, remind me of the remark of a celebrated French philosopher, who said: “That in all the mysterious ways of Providence there is nothing so inscrutable as his purpose in committing the destiny of nations to such creatures as these.” [Laughter]
There are men in this Colony entitled to some honour; some men who are entitled to praise for having brought Confederation to its; present stage; but they are not the Honourable gentleman, the Minister of Justice, nor the Honourable the Chief Commissioner. [Hear, hear.]
Is Earl Granville entitled to the credit of bringing this matter forward? Is Governor Musgrave, or his Cabinet, or the Officials? No, Sir, I should be doing wrong if I permitted it to be supposed that the credit was due to any one of them. I have assisted to make history, and this is a page of it. Let it go forth to the world that the people of this country have made Confederation the important question that it is to-day.
The Hon. Chief Commissioner, whom we have heard with so much pleasure today, made an allusion to me. He said that when I brought this matter before the Council in 1868, that the Executive Council opposed Confederation then, and the present terms proved their wisdom in delaying the question at that time. On that occasion my object was only agitation to open negotiations. But, Sir, what did I hear at that time? “You pension the officials and we will all vote for Confederation.” and I think I could mention another Executive Councillor who said: ” Do you think we are such fools as to vote for Confederation without being provided for? ” That was the kind of wisdom in vogue, in 1868. Sir, I again object to Hon. Members taking credit where no credit is due. [Hear, hear.]
Let us turn now to the Honourable Member for Victoria City (Dr. Helmcken), once a warm and generous friend to Confederation; and what has been the result of his opposition? Impotence. He was impotent to retard the question. He was impotent to advance it. By impotent, I mean powerless. He was impotent to stem the course of events. He hung out the banner of Anti―Confederation in Victoria. and won his seat by crying: “down with Confederation.” Before he contested the seat with me, I told him that the Canadian Government would not negotiate until the North―West Territory question was settled. Yet the Hon. Member for Victoria City charged me with backing down from Confederation.
The Hon. Member for New Westminster, also, denounced me in his elegant English in the Columbian as giving up the cause of Confederation. But, Sir, why did I say that the Canadian Government would not enter into negotiations with us? It was because I had in […]
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[…] my pocket, at the time, a despatch from a Canadian Cabinet Minister, which said that the Dominion Government would not negotiate until the questions then pending with respect to the North-West Territory were settled. The Hon. Member for Victoria City held up, however, his puny arm against Confederation. But has he stopped it? No! Not a day, not an hour; for as soon as the North-West Territory question was settled, then came a despatch to the Governor to push on Confederation. I think I have said enough, Sir, to show that it was the people who took this matter in hand, and it is the people who will carry it through. [Hear, hear.]
Although I have risen unprepared to make a set speech, there are still some points raised in debate which, in my opinion, require attention.
The Hon. Attorney-General, after opening, his budget upon Confederation, has referred to the three courses which those terms had to take:—First, they are to be arranged by this House; next, to go to the Canadian Government; and, thirdly, to be ratified by the people of this Colony.
I hope, Sir, that this House will deal with these terms in the interests of British Columbia. I stand here not as a Canadian, but as a British Colombian; my allegiance is due first to British Columbia. I sincerely hope that these terms will be dealt with from a British Colombian point of view [Hear. hear, hear, hear], and first as to the money value of Confederation. [Hear, hear, from Dr. Helmcken]
It may grate on the ear of the once Solicitor-General (Mr. Wood) to mention money: but, Sir, I believe in the old adage that: “Money makes the mare to go.” I do not intend to allude to the terms in the Resolutions at present, any further than to say, that I do not believe in going into Confederation without good terms. I believe that it would be traitorous to British Columbia to consent to Confederation without good terms; and that we would not do our duty if we did not insist upon getting them.
The Hon. Attorney-General asks why we are not prosperous? In my opinion, Sir, the causes of our want of prosperity are various. They first arose under the administration of Sir James Douglas in 1858, and have been perpetuated down to the present day. The people were then almost driven away, and down to the present time the Government have done nothing comparatively to induce population to settle in the Colony. Another reason is, that the country is somewhat rugged, and not so attractive for settlement as some others. The Hon. Member for Victoria City says that it is our proximity to the United States. I most respectfully deny it. Population would have come if greater efforts had been made to get it. The Attorney-General is consistent in one thing. He said in 1867, and he says in his speech now, that British Columbia is of vital importance to Canada. I cannot see it. I cannot see why the Canadian Railway, if this was a foreign country and our boundary coterminous with that of Canada, might not have run through to connect with our railway system, as the French railways connect with those of Belgium.
When sitting in the Vancouver Island House of Assembly, in the place now occupied by the Hon. Chief Commissioner, I defined British Colonists to be politically, nothing but subordinate Englishmen; and I contend, Sir, that Confederation will give us equal political rights with the people of Great Britain. In labouring for this cause, Sir, my idea has been and is to assist in creating a nationality—a sovereign and independent nationality.
Now, I come to the Hon. Member for Victoria City again. I really confess, Mr. President, that I expected more sterling opposition from that Hon. gentleman, I thought we had here the modern Charles Martel, the celebrated armed warrior who had gone out to drive the Saracens—the Canadians—back across the Rocky Mountains. I thought that he would have protested like Paul the Protestant. [Dr. Helmcken—” What became of St. Paul?”]
[The Hon. Mr. DeCosmos:] Paul was converted, and I hope the Hon. Member may share the same fate. [Laughter.] I expected the Hon. Member to have delivered a philippic, that would have done honour to Demosthenes when declaiming against Philip of Macedon. But, I really don’t know but what he has been set up as a target by the Government—a man of straw—to draw the shot of all the Confederate party. I don’t know why he was taken into the Executive Council. I thought that this Council was an united and impenetrable phalanx, but it seems that it is otherwise. What a happy family that Executive Council must be! The Member for Caribou and the Member for the City differ in their views, and both differ in this House from the Honourable Executive Councillors at the other end of the table. It is like Barnum’s happy family. But the Honourable gentleman has told us some things which are good, and besides that he is going to raise other issues.
[Dr. Helmcken ― “I?”]
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[The Hon. Mr. DeCosmos:] Yes, the Honourable gentleman said that the issue would be raised at the next election, between going to Canada and going somewhere else.
[Dr. Helmcken ―”I said that I thought it very probable if mean terms were proposed by Canada, the people would raise other issues.”]
The Hon. Mr. DeCosmos O! “the people,” those much abused words. I believe in the people when they are right. But the Honourable gentleman did threaten to raise the issue of going somewhere else. Now, Sir, where else except to Canada could we go? The Honourable Member talks of the agricultural interests. Why, Sir, by going somewhere else, these interests from Comox to Sooke, and from Soda Creek and Kamloops to the Lower Fraser would be destroyed. The country would be flooded by produce from the United States. From Comox to Sooke, from the delta of the Fraser to Cariboo, the farming interests would be destroyed by going somewhere else. If that question came up, Sir, the farmers would quickly put it down. The Honourable Member for Victoria City says that the question comes here by desire of Her Majesty’s Government. Sir, I say again, that it comes here by desire of the people, a large proportion of whom have asked Her Majesty’s Government and the Government at Ottawa to bring it here. I am thankful that the question of Confederation is here. The Honourable gentleman says it is a Government measure, and that the terms must he passed. I say, again, that I hope terms will be passed of such a character as will contribute to the prosperity and happiness of this Colony. The Honourable Executive Councillor that this is a Government measure, and that it ought to be an open question. Why does he not retire from his seat then? I would not be a candidate for his place. ‘
[Dr Helmcken ―” There are no candidates. The Executive Council are appointed.”]
[The Hon. Mr. DeCosmos:] Then I am sorry for the choice that has been made. Why, Sir, the programme settled by Government would leave it virtually an open question by referring the terms to a popular vote. I may have something to say upon that hereafter. How patriotic will the Honourable gentleman be when he goes outside, and says that this nominative Council, presided over by a paid Colonial Secretary, have done this! How very easy it is for an Honourable gentleman to talk about the autocracy of Government, when it suits him to do so. Look at his conduct in voting supplies. When my Honourable friend on my left (the Member for Lillooet) tried to bring in a Bill to repeal the Crown Salaries Acts, was he not choked off by the Honourable Member for Victoria. City objecting first? But I am only delaying the House. [Hear, hear.] The Honourable Magisterial Member for Victoria City says ” hear, hear.” Now, Sir, as far as I am concerned, the Honourable Member has my full permission to withdraw. [Laughter.] I have always been ready to take a British subject vote on this question; but the Honourable Member for Victoria has always dissented from that proposal.
The Honourable Member for Victoria City has a remarkable way of putting things. But a few days ago he stated in this House, that if the people will only support the Government in getting the terms proposed, all will be right. I quote from the Colonist newspaper of 20th February, 1870, in which the Honourable gentleman is made to say, “I hope the people will support the Government in trying to get terms.” He now comes down here and opposes them. [Dr. Helmcken —”I don’t oppose the terms. I oppose Confederation.”]
[The Hon. Mr. DeCosmos:] A distinction without a difference. The Honourable Executive Councillor says the time is inopportune. I say, Sir. that now is the time. If the new gold discoveries, which have been mentioned in the course of this debate, really exist, now is the time to confederate, and to take means to attract and retain population. I have spent five years of my life in the mining districts of California, and have helped to build up town after town; but how are they now? Many of these towns which had their 5,000 inhabitants have almost none now. It will be the same with our gold-mining towns. I fear the Honourable gentleman will always say the time is inopportune, not only before the population arrives, but when it is here, and after it goes. If we can make a good bargain with Canada, by all means let us make it, and make it now. I like the word bargain, it sounds like business. What did the Honourable Member for Victoria say at the last election?—”Don’t let us have Confederation, for we shall have a surplus revenue of $100,000 in 1869, and we will do better without Confederation.”
Confederation was inopportune then. There was a large deficit or falling off in the revenue for 1869, and yet he says it is inopportune now. He said yesterday, we shall have a reduction of the public debt in 1873 of about $36,000, and by funding the floating debt make another saving of $15,000 per year. So that for a paltry saving of $50,000 three years hence, the Confederation question is now inopportune, I am surprised at […]
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[…] the Honourable gentleman. First, it is inopportune, because of the present depression; second, inopportune at the last election, because things looked so bright; thirdly, inopportune now, because we can save $50,000. Your predecessor as Minister of Finance, Mr. President, promised great things, but the Governor’s Message with the Estimates shows how they have turned out. I do not deal in prophesy, but in facts. Let any one look at Cariboo. Look at Victoria. If we wait for the time to be opportune, we may wait until it is too late. Suppose any unforeseen accident were to happen to our gold mines. If the golden spring is dried up, the golden stream that now flows from Cariboo to Victoria will be dried up also. We are asked by the Honourable Member for Victoria to wait for the Census of 1871. What has the census of Canada to do with the question? The basis of population as set forth in these terms is all fiction. It does not come up to my idea of nation-making.
Why not deal with facts? Why set up some legal fiction of John Doe and Richard Roe? I want facts, not fiction. Let us base our financial calculations upon facts, and the rest will work itself out satisfactorily. Much has been said, during the debate, about the Red River Territory and its settlement. For my part I don’t care if the Red River difficulty is never settled, so far as it bears on the question before the Council. I believe that the Red River country and the valley of the two Saskatchewans are not so favourable for settlement as some amongst us are accustomed to assert. But whether the North-West Territory is confederated or not, I go in for Confederation, because I believe we can make terms, and good terms, with Canada. The Honourable Member for Victoria City talks of the drawbacks to Confederation arising out of the vast extent of country, and our great distance from the seat of the Federal Government. That will hardly scare anybody, with the example of the United States before us.
Next he says that the Dominion is only an experiment, and that it may break up. How often have I heard people predict that the United States, as a nation, must break up, as it was only an experiment. Why, Sir, they forget that the States had existed as separate Government’s for one hundred and fifty years before their union. So with the Provinces of the Dominion of Canada; they existed as separate Governments for the last hundred to two hundred years, and Confederation is but the application of long-tried principles to a larger territory. Why did not the Honourable Member for Victoria City, when he said there were defects in the Confederation machine, tell us what the great defects in the machine were? He has merely raised up a scarecrow. Then he says it is absurd to ally ourselves to people who were 3,000 miles away; but nothing in his argument showed me that the absurdity was proven. I remember, Sir, when the communication between California and Washington was by Panama and Nicaragua. Was California then less to the United States than now? We now can hold communication with Ottawa by San Francisco and the Pacific Railroad, and will be as near to our Central Government as Washington Territory. The Honourable Member speaks of people 3,000 miles away being unable to do as well for us as we could do for ourselves. I believe they could do just as well, so far as some general principles are concerned, if we only settled the conditions properly. With regard to the States of the neighbouring Republic getting on better than the Provinces or ourselves, I would ask, where is the progress of Washington Territory, as compared with our own country? [Dr Helmcken ―” It contains a much larger population”]
[The Hon. Mr. DeCosmos:] The population is only five thousand voters!
The Honourable gentleman is pursuing the same devious course as he did in past years, when he opposed reform, when our Government might have been beneficial to the Colony, had it been based on the popular will. He says that the deposition of the Free Port drove people out of the Colony. I take this occasion to state that, in my belief, the deposition of the Free Port was the commencement: of the permanent prosperity of this city, and brought in its train the dawning of prosperity throughout the whole district, from Comox to Sooke. which includes the district which I have the honour to represent, and which now numbers six hundred voters, all of whom are prosperous. There, Sir, lies the key-stone of Confederation! If the terms between British Columbia and Canada do not protect the farming interests, the largest and the only permanent interest in this Colony, Confederation will do no good. If it does not protect the farming interest, I vote against Confederation, first, last, and all the time.
It would be most unwise to join Canada without protection. We must have a control over certain imports in the terms, for a protective tariff is the only inducement to farmers to remain upon the soil. We depend upon them to build up a permanent interest in the country, that will last for ever.
We most certainly do want extension of commerce but the true mode to obtain extension is to add to its volume internally. First, I believe in developing internal trade and industry; […]
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[…] next, I believe in external trade. Allow these terms as brought down by the Government to pass, and in a few years you will reduce Victoria to the position of a mere smuggling village. Protection is a necessity. So long as there are nations and national interests, so long will it be necessary to have laws to protect those interests. Allow me, Sir, on this point to say that there is a great revolution in the value of realty, capital, and labour commencing on the Pacific Coast. The equalization of the value of realty, capital, and labour has commenced. The whole tendency of events in the countries to the south of us is to equalize the value of labour, of real estate, of capital, of manufactures, and of produce on this coast with their value on the Atlantic side. No such revolution in values has over occurred on the Pacific Coast, except that produced by the discovery of gold, as has been produced since the opening of the Pacific Railroad. Take off protection, then, from our farmers, and they are reduced to the condition of agriculturists to the south of us, who will be reduced to the condition of those in the east. No doubt the prices of our farmers will be reduced by the revolution that is going on; but give them protection against foreign competition, and there will still be inducement for them to remain. The Honourable Chief Commissioner referred to this in a very proper spirit; and the Honourable Member for New Westminster says that it is one of the most important questions. I hope, therefore, that the subject will have due weight with them.
The Government of Canada, according to the proposed terms, would give us a surplus revenue of $200,000. [Dr. Helmcken —” No.”]
[The Hon. Mr. DeCosmos:] The Honourable Member says no. He may be right. But upon the calculation that we shall have $200,000 surplus revenue, I say that this subsidy will be equivalent to four hundred farmers who earn in the Colony $500 each, annually. By taking off protection from our farmers. to get the $200,000, we would injure the country instead of benefiting it. But get the surplus of $200,000, and at the same time protection for our farmers, and we will do a prosperous business under Confederation. This is what we have to arrange, what we have to get into the terms, [Dr. Helmcken ―” All right! I will help you”]
[The Hon. Mr. DeCosmos:] I would say that ” extremes meet,” for I now meet in Honourable friend (I mean political enemy) [” No, no,”] to secure protection. I do not see, with the Honourable Member for Victoria City, that we can get all we want without Confederation by a judicious arrangement of tour own tariff. I can show that what we want most in this Colony population, and that population employed in a remunerative manner. Isolation will not secure population. Confederation on proper terms will give us population; will give us means to employ labour remuneratively; will enlarge our commerce, and build up our industry. If it give us public works,—if it give us a railroad from a point on the Fraser, below Yale, to Savona’s Ferry on Lake Kamloops,—and if we connect Lake Okanagan with the Spel-mah-cheen River, by railway, which is only about thirteen miles—not only will the whole country from Osoyoos Lake, on the boundary, behind the Cascades, be opened up and connected with our chief commercial city, with a cheap and speedy means of transportation, but all this tract of country traversed by the railways and lake communication will be utilized in producing wheat and wool, and other articles for exportation. Victoria, then, will be built up, and will be the chief commercial city of British Columbia, with all other parts of the Colony tribute to her. This is what Confederation on proper terms will do for us.
The Honourable Member tor Victoria said that no lasting union could be maintained, unless the interests of British Columbia are preserved, if I look (for argument sake) at these things from a Canadian point of view, I find that by serving the interests of Brilish Columbia, the interests of Canada will be served. Canada, as well as British Columbia, will benefit by a protective duty here. Canada will get the revenue under protection, and British Columbia will have its industry protected from foreign competition. And there is no reason that we should not have our interests protected, [Dr. Helmcken —”The Organic Act says no.”]
[The Hon. Mr. DeCosmos:] The Organic Act says no such thing. Confederation is diversity in unity: really and essentially a general unity, and an application of law to diverse interests. First, we find that New Brunswick, under the Organic Act, gets a temporary subsidy of $63,000 per annum. None of the other Provinces receive any temporary subsidy under that Act. New Brunswick is allowed to collect export dues on lumber. All the other Provinces are prohibited from levying dues on lumber. Now, if New Brunswick gets an additional subsidy, and levies a lumber tax prohibited to the other Provinces, why cannot British Columbia get exemption from uniformity in her favour? Nova Scotia gets two subsidies, equal to $160,000, which are not in the Organic Act. The Crown lawyers say that the grant, is not unconstitutional. This is a noted exception, made to satisfy the Nova Scotia repeal party. Another exception is found in the compulsory provision that appointments to the Judiciary shall be made from the Bar of the Provinces for which the appointment is made, till the laws and […]
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[…] practice are assimilated. If the Organic Act is wrong, I say change the Act. But I believe that I have successfully shown that exceptions have been and can be made under the Organic Act.
Now, let us see what this horrible Canadian tariff is. It is too high on cattle for us; not high enough on bacon, butter, cheese, and lard by a few cents; and imposes nothing on hay, hops, and grain of all kinds. I explained the whole to my constituents, at eleven meetings, and they said, get these few alterations made to suit us, and we will support Confederation. So we must have an alteration. Why, Sir, under the English Constitution different tariffs can be imposed. Look at the difference in the excise spirit duties that were levied formerly in Scotland and England, for instance. As a lawyer, not as a judge, I give my opinion that we can have one tariff in British Columbia, and another in the Atlantic Provinces, under the Organic Act; and if the Act does not allow it, then we must alter it.
I have already given notice of motion respecting protection for our farmers and manufacturers. I desire to add a resolution to the proposed terms, keeping the power in the hands of the Local Legislature to impose a tax on certain imports, in case the tariff be too low. With respect to brewers, the tariff can easily be arranged so as to protect them; and the Honourable Member for New Westminster has answered the objection to the Dominion fishery laws. As for commerce, that common sense that the Hon. Mr. Woods calls statesmanship, will settle that; for if Confederation would injure the commercial interests of British Columbia, it would also injure the interests of the Dominion.
The Honourable Member for Victoria City has said a great deal about centralization. But I say, Sir, that there must be a centre somewhere. We cannot have it in British Columbia, and a centre would be no worse in Ottawa than in Washington. The Pacific Coast, so far as the United States are concerned, is represented at Washington, which is not so large a city as New York.
Representation is one of the most important elements in free Governments; and as it has been urged by the Hon. Mr. Wood and others, that British Columbia would not he heard in the Canadian Senate or Commons, and that our small delegation would be crushed and out-voted, I will briefly examine the subject. Now, Sir, the whole of the Pacific States of the United States have only twelve Representatives in Congress―six in the Senate and six in the House of Representatives. California has two Senators and three Representatives; Oregon, two Senators and one Representative; Washington Territory, one Delegate; and Nevada, two Senators and one Representative. Now, it is proposed in the Resolutions to grant to British Columbia twelve Members—four in the Senate and eight in the Commons―a number equal to the whole representation of the Pacific States, with 1,000,000 people, in the United States Congress. Again, there are only five States that have more than twelve Members in Congress. They are New York, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio. Take another glance at the representation of the States most remote from Washington. Texas has five Members; Florida, three; Maine, seven; and California, five. Remoteness and small numbers have never caused any of those States to be treated unfairly. Under the popular system of government there, the small States do not go to the wall. Has little Delaware gone to the wall? Has Rhode Island gone to the wall? No; neither would British Columbia go to the wall in the Parliament of Canada. The Government of Canada is based on the popular will; and that is the highest of guarantee that we shall be treated fairly by the Dominion.
I have never heard of Scotland being injured because she had a smaller representation in Parliament than England.
[Hon. Mr. Wood—”Yes, yes. Two revolutions followed immediately upon union”]
[The Hon. Mr. DeCosmos:] Yes; but that don’t affect my proposition. A little blood-letting, however, does no harm occasionally. I would not object to a little revolution now and again in British Columbia after Confederation, if we were treated unfairly; for I am one of those who believe that political hatreds attest the vitality of a State. [Hear, hear.]
The Honourable and learned Member for Victoria says that all power will be taken away by Confederation. Why, Sir, the Honourable gentleman cannot have read the Organic Act. For he will find the exclusive powers of the Dominion and the Provinces clearly set forth in it. Then, Sir, on the question of guarantee for the fulfilment of the conditions by Canada, there appears to be some misapprehension in the Honourable gentleman’s mind. In point of fact, we have a guarantee from the Imperial Government. If the Dominion refuse to keep the terms and repudiate their part of the bargain, we can appeal to the Imperial Government to release us.
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[Hon Mr. Wood ―” Let us have it in black and white.”]
[The Hon. Mr. DeCosmos:] Why, let the Act be repealed and down go the terms. The sovereign power is in the Parliament of England. It made the Act, and if it is violated without redress, it can repeal it, and the power of Canada ceases.
The Honourable and learned Member for Victoria City has referred to the possibility of a Fenian invasion, and said what will become of the Railway in such an event. I believe, Sir, on such an extraordinary occasion, such as invasion, each one in the Colony would be patriotic enough to do without a few miles of Railway, until the invasion may be put down.
It has been asked what is the gain under Confederation.
At present we have no surplus revenue. But with Confederation on equitable terms, there will be a clear gain of $384,000 annually from subsidies and reduction of tariff; therefore, as $384,000 is to nothing, so is Confederation to Isolation. There are a great many points to which I could allude were I disposed to trespass longer on the time of the Council; but I reserve them until we go into Committee.
There are, however, some few things to which I will passingly allude. It is important to British Columbia to know what will be the qualification of Members to the Dominion Parliament [Hear, hear, from Dr Helmcken] and the qualification of electors. And with reference to the Local Constitution, it may be necessary for us to know whether our Governors cannot be elected as in the United States. instead of being appointed on the English principle; and whether we may not acquire the right to pass local laws over the veto of the Governor, by a two-third vote of the Legislature. The usury laws, imprisonment for debt, and many other matters will require careful consideration and attention.
With respect to the main principle, I am in favour of Confederation, provided the financial terms are right in amount, and if the other terms will contribute to the advancement and protection of our industry. If we cannot get favourable terms, which I believe we can, it will then be for the people of this country to say whether we shall remain in isolation or seek some other more favourable union.
The debate was here adjourned until Friday, at 1 o’clock.
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