British Columbia, Legislative Council: Debate on the Subject of Confederation with Canada (11 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 38-53.
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DEBATE ON THE SUBJECT OF CONFEDERATION WITH CANADA.
FRIDAY, 11TH MARCH, 1870.
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The debate was resumed by the Hon. Mr. Ring, who on rising was greeted with cries of ” Spoke, spoke.”
Hon. Mr. Ring said:—Sir, I have only spoken to the amendment, and have a right to speak to the original motion.
Doubts were expressed as to the Hon. gentleman’s right to speak a second time, but the Presiding Member was not called upon to decide, and Mr. Ring proceeded :—
Sir, the Hon. Member for Victoria District commenced by congratulating the Council on having the grand question of Confederation now before them. He congratulated them on the great advantage of being able to grapple with a great question like this.
I cannot compliment him on the way in which he introduced his subject. I admire his perseverance and confess that on many subjects he enlightens Members on both sides of the House.
I lament to find that having alluded to the opening speech of the Attorney-General, he thought fit to cast unwarrantable imputations upon that gentleman and the members of the Government. He suddenly turned aside and quoted a text, which he applied to the Official Members of this Council, He likened one of them to a woman who forgets her modesty and shame and goes after lovers for broad; to her who has a harlot’s forehead, and refuses to be ashamed. Sir, I deprecate such allusions; they throw no light upon the subject. I think that an Honourable and grave body like this, on hearing such charges, should have at once risen to express their indignation rather than have condoned it by their silence. Nothing is more easy than to take any one act of a man, or of a body of men, and apply it to a sinister motive, when it is capable of an honourable one, Sir. I was very glad that the Hon. Attorney. General had the courage to follow the example of the English House of Commons. He, finding […]
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[…] no Chaplain to this House, supplied the defect by invoking the blessing of God, which was met by a sneer. I say I admire his courage in fronting a godless age, by the invocation of the blessing of Him in whom we live and move and have our being. He was not ashamed to acknowledge the controlling power of Heaven over the destinies of this fallen Colony.
Now, Sir, the Attorney-General descanted at great length on the advantages of Union. He put that as the basis of the Government proposition. There is nothing like Union he says; this is a noble sentiment which all must join in. Everyone would welcome that comprehensive brotherhood which embraces all civilized Nations. I am sure that when the Hon. Member for Victoria alluded to the possibility of a prospective union with other Powers, he did not do so in the idea of this Colony abandoning its allegiance to the Crown; because he expressed a wish to see the desire of general union spreading, is no reason that he should desire to shake off his connection with the Mother Country. Had it been otherwise, I should have deplored the Hon. gentleman’s loss, of loyalty. Some surprise has existed at the Hon. Member for Victoria offering suggestions as to the possibility of any other union, Why so? The Hon. Attorney-General himself gracefully introduced it. Why should not the English-speaking race live in peace and form one nation? The people of the United States spring from one common stock with ourselves. I long to see the time when all national sectarianism shall be swept away,
My position as Member for Nanaimo has been assailed in a cowardly way by what is called the Press. I have been accused of shrinking from my duty to my constituents at Nanaimo, because I echoed their sentiments against Confederation. I ask the indulgence of the House whilst I allude to what occurred at Nanaimo at the last election. At that time the question of Confederation was rife throughout the Colony; people’s minds were agitated; the people of Nanaimo were almost unanimous against it. In what I said to them during the progress of the election, and also on the hustings, I told them that I agreed with their views against Confederation, but that when it came before the Council I should give it my best attention. It was not made a test question at my election. The people of Nanaimo are still of their original opinion; and, therefore, I express their opinion now, against this measure; and say that their convictions are against Confederation, notwithstanding the ” No, noes” of certain Hon. Members. There may be some amongst them, Canadians by birth and principle, who desire Confederation, who, though they are here, can say with the poet :—
“Where ere I roam, whatever realms I see,
My heart untravelled fondly turns to thee.”
Thus much for Nanaimo.
Now, I say. Sir, that the question of Confederation ought to be fully and amply discussed in this House, and to do this there should be a full House. I deny that it is the desire of the people to have Confederation, but I say let the people have an opportunity of expressing their opinions in this House. Let the disfranchised districts have first restored to them the rights of which they have been defrauded. The Governor has been betrayed into supposing that the people want Confederation, and assuming this to be true, he says I shall now give the people an opportunity to discuss the terms.
But let the Franchise be restored, then let the general question of Confederation come before an enlarged representation; and I say that Confederation should be put alone, aye or no. Shall we have Confederation; and not upon what terms shall we have it. The proper course is to dissolve the House, issue new writs, and let the people say whether they want Confederation; and after they have said yes, then descend into the particulars of it. A Government measure is now proposed, we are bound hand and foot, and handed over to Ottawa I say, Sir, that being so handed over, we ought to let our masters settle the terms for us.
I, therefore, venture again, Mr. President, to repeat that if it is to go abroad that the people desire Confederation. then the House should be dissolved, and a fair vote taken.
The Hon. Member for Victoria District puts it as if the voice of the people had been heard. I ask how? Through newspapers? Conventions? Speeches? I say this is not the proper way. Let the people speak in this House, through a full body of Representatives of their own choosing.
The question has been amply ventilated in this Council. The Hon. Member for Victoria City has gone fully into what he considers the difficulties. He has been met on the other side in a manly and able reply by the Hon. Chief Commissioner of Lands and Works, who has been again met by the Hon. Mr. Wood.
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It is not for me to go into the question of terms now; but I deny emphatically that Confederation is desired by the people. My own constituents are against it; many other constituents are, as I believe, against it also.
I ask, then, why should the Government attempt to force these Resolutions upon us, by means of the Official Members, who are only supreme in numbers?
The people have had no opportunity to express their wish. Difficulties have been presented by an Hon. Member, arising from the space between British Columbia and Canada—difficulties arising from the means of transit, and from the means of communication being cut off—difficulties arising from what is at present called the rebellion in the North―West Provinces; that strife, as I am informed, gathering strength day by day. [“No, no.” from Mr. DeCosmos.] Hon, Members say “No, no.” I am so informed I hope it is not so, but if it be, then under the name of Union we are called upon to take part in this internecine war.
I long for union as much as any man. In union of good there is strength and victory, but in union of evil there is defeat and disaster. I shall not occupy the time of this Council: in adverting to matters which have been amply discussed; in expressing my conscientious opinion I do my duty. The Hon. Mr. Wood has told us that he counts professional honours as nought. I say nothing of prior claims to professional honours which I have lost, from, at all times, conscientiously supporting what I conceived to be right. His Excellency says that we are not fit for Responsible Government. I want to know on what local data he says so? Who has tried the people? On the scope of whose mind is it said they are not fit? Who has examined them?
The Hon. Member for Victoria District has properly said, if Hon. Members were paid for their attendance in the House you would soon see whether men were capable or not to enter upon and fulfil the duties of Responsible Government. Then we should see whether the gentlemen disguised in mean apparel—Graduates of Oxford, Cambridge, and other Universities who have cast; their lot in this Colony, but are unable to defray their travelling expenses from remote places to the Capital. We should see, I say, whether they were capable, or not, of enlightening and controlling by their wisdom the feeble powers of Governmental diplomacy. Sir, by enlarged representation we shall discover such men. We had one foot forward in the direction of freedom, it has been forced back. The franchise has been taken away. Sir, I have very feebly endeavoured to touch upon these subjects. In line, I affirm that the matter has not been, discussed fairly. There must he an enlarged representation, that the people may tell the Government what they want.
Hon. Members who have supported Confederation have failed in showing that this is the time for it. They are afraid to ask the people. They have refused to do so.
Much has been said; more will be said. I have listened, and have heard high―sounding words, and inflated tautology of this and that Hon. Member, which reminds me of soap―bubbles, which, though beautiful by the reflection of the sun’s prismatic colours, are equally remarkable for their rotundity and their emptiness.
The Hon. Mr. Barnard said:―Sir, in rising to support the motion of the Hon. and learned Attorney—General, I can but express my feelings of pleasure in being permitted to take a part in the great work in hand-that of hewing off the rough corners of the block which has come to us from the hands of the Executive, and which, after receiving the finishing touch at the bands of the people, will become the key-stone of the great Confederation arch which will, ere twelve months, extend from ocean to ocean. The terms as sent down by His Excellency are, I consider, a fair subject of congratulation The manner in which they have been received by this House and the people is another subject of congratulation; and the paucity and utter idleness of the arguments used by the opposition, represented in this House as it is by the talent of the opposing party in the country, are also subjects of congratulation to His Excellency, this House, and the country. It is wrong, Mr. President, to Charge the desire for Confederation on the part of its promoters to a desire for change. So far as my constituency and the adjoining ones on the Mainland are concerned, I may say safely that such was not the case—we accepted the Organic Act constituting this Council, and agreed to work it out to its legitimate end; and we have not countenanced nor have we been subjected to the many changes which other parts of this Colony have. I desire, before going further, to allude to a charge commonly made against my countrymen—often offensively put—but yesterday put by the Hon. […]
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[…] Mr. Wood, in his usual gentlemanly way. It is that of “Canadian proclivity” As a native- born Canadian, in common with others, I love the land of my birth. We admire her institutions and revere her laws; but we never forget the land of our adoption, and we would no more consent to see her wronged by Canada than would the tens of thousands of Englishmen who have made Canada their home, permit a wrong to he done her by England.
It is also wrong and contrary to fact that, “so anxious are we for Confederation that we would accede to any terms proposed.” During the past three years, I have been one of the foremost in advocating the cause of Confederation; and, in so doing, throughout the interior of the Colony, I am free to confess I never uttered such a sentiment; and, in justice to my fellow-countrymen in particular, and the advocates of this cause in general, I will say that I never heard any one express a desire that this Colony should be confederated, except on such terms as might, on investigation, be found to be just and beneficial.
We desire Confederation with Canada, because we believe that it will be to the interest of this Colony to unite with the progressive Colonies to the east. That they are progressive I assert, and as proof I point to the fact that, previous to Confederation, Canada proper had expended $184,000,000 on public works, principally in building canals. Up to 1869, $170,000,000 had been expended in railways. She pays to-day $300,000 yearly for her ocean steam mail service alone, and her enterprise is followed by her people. Her manufactures are increasing yearly, and even now she is exporting cloths to England, and competing there with cheap labour. One firm alone, composed of men who landed in Canada penniless, now has $9,000,000 invested in ocean steamers, employing 4500 men, and thus sustaining 22,000 persons. Among the objections urged by Hon. Members against Confederation is our proximity to the United States. This, I hold, is no objection. Canadians are not taught to fear competition with the United States. The general feeling there is that we can hold our own (except in point of numbers) with her in any direction whatever. It is to her we look for a great portion of our trade, and the advantages of such trade are mutual.
The question is often asked: “What are the immediate advantages to be derived by us from Confederation? ” My reply is that, in addition to the amount paid us by way of subsidies, we will save by a reduction in the tariff and by importing Canadian manufactures, a very considerable sum, thus reducing our taxation. Next, the terms propose that $1,000,000 be spent on a waggon-road to be commenced immediately and completed in three years, thus causing over $300,000 a year to be spent.
Hon. gentlemen will recollect that in 1801. 1862, and 1863, immigration poured in on us, caused by the report of rich discoveries in Cariboo, and by a knowledge on the part of those coming that the Government was spending large sums on public works, and that those who failed in the mines might fall back on the roads to replenish their purses; and many who are now permanent settlers in the interior acknowledge that they made their “farm stake” there. How much more is this likely to be the case if the larger works contemplated in the terms are carried out.
Then, Sir, look at the construction of a Railway. You may judge of the magnitude of the work by the following figures. There were employed on the Central Pacific at one time 25,000 men and 6,000 teams; 600 tons of material were forwarded daily to the point of construction; 30 vessels in harbour at one time, loaded with material; the wharves at San Francisco and Sacramento loaded with railway iron; 70 locomotives landed, and 700 cars built to carry on the work on construction account; no less than 30 sawmills in operation at one point at one time. The enterprise that set this enormous trade in motion is not one of greater magnitude than will be the work undertaken on this side, and if our farmers and population generally do not profit, and that immediately, by the carrying on of such enterprises as these let them succumb, for I know of no state of prosperity that can help them. I contend the benefits of Confederation, in these respects at least, will be immediate. But Hon. Members have said “the United States will derive the benefit.” If that argument holds good, why not tell the merchants of Wharf Street to close their doors because foreign manufacturers reap a part of the benefit of their trade. Better, a great deal, for the opponents of this cause to advise the farmers to cultivate every inch of their farms and garner up their crops, for the day assuredly will come when they will have ample market for all they can raise.
It has been urged here that Canada cannot retain her population, much less the immigration that comes to her shores, In this, Sir, there is considerable truth, although the Hon. and […]
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[…] learned Member for Victoria has not put the matter fairly before this House. In giving the number of passengers going from Canada to the United States, he has omitted to give you the number of those passing from the States into Canada. One reason why Canada has not retained the whole number of emigrants landed on her shores, is that they find greater attractions in the treeless prairies of the Western States than in the heavily timbered lands of Canada. This, Sir, has ever been a serious drawback to her. But now the case is different. Having acquired the vast territories of the great North-West, she will open them to settlement, and then she will have inducements to offer such as cannot be boasted of by any other country in the world. Open those millions of acres to the settler, and you will see such a rush of immigration—not only from the older countries of Europe, but from the United States—as will astonish the world, and stand unparalleled in the history of immigration. Canada’s hardy sons who have left their homes for the Western States—allured by the advantages of prairie over wooded lands—will join in swelling the numbers, and once more plant their feet on British soil.
The difficulties of defence have been spoken of as a formidable obstacle. Sir, she never regarded them in any such light. Canada has no fears in that direction. She relies on the thorough good understanding that has existed between herself and the United States for so long a period, as a guarantee for the future. Their interests are so identical that they cannot afford to quarrel. The troubles between them heretofore have been on England’s account, and not Canada’s, as witness the Trent affair, and the more recent Fenian invasion, which was rather a stab at England than an attack on Canada. During the recent fratricidal war in the United States, Canada had a difficult part to play in maintaining strict neutrality, yet she came out unscathed. It must be remembered, also, that Canada possesses in her canal system a powerful lever—a guarantee for peace—vastly more potent than fortifications. The great bulk of the produce of the Western States finds its way to the ocean through Canadian channels, which could be closed at any moment.
As to that “other issue” (I will not use the word that has been so freely used outside), I have no tears for Canada or this Colony either. It used to be fashionable here, in early days, to associate the name of Canada with rebellion. It was the result of prejudice and ignorance, and was a great mistake.
I recently read, Sir, an account of a meeting held in one of our principal Canadian cities, on the occasion of a Sabbath school convention. An American gentleman was engaged in addressing the house, filled to its utmost capacity. In the course of his remarks, having occasion to refer to Her Most Gracious Majesty the Queen, he added:—”American though I am, I can with all my heart say, ‘God bless the Queen.’ ” Immediately, Sir, without any preconcerted action, the. entire audience of men, women, and children rose to their feet and sung the National Anthem. That gentleman said, that such a spontaneous, hearty, and unanimous outburst of loyalty was probably never heard before.
Such, Sir, is the kind of loyalty we were taught in Canada; such is the kind that is being taught to the rising generation of the new Dominion to-day; and I leave it to you as to whether there is room for that “other issue ” or not.
Before concluding. Sir, I would wish to remark with reference to the charge made by the Hon. Member for Victoria District against the Hon. Attorney-General, that his conversion to Confederation was late. I know that it is impossible to make some Honourable Members believe anything good of Officials, whether in respect of Confederation or anything else. But I simply desire to relate this fact. I had occasion to go into the Hon. Attorney-General’s office in 1867, and he then showed me a letter, written by himself, in favour of Confederation; and after perusing that letter I felt convinced that when, in his estimation, the proper time arrived, the cause, would have a warm and sincere advocate in the Attorney-General. I mention this in order to show that the Hon. Member for Victoria District has no right to arrogate to himself that he was the only man who was far-seeing enough to recognize the advantages of Confederation three years ago, and as a reproof to him for finding fault with the position taken by Hon. Official Members on this question now.
To sum up, Sir, I say that amongst the statesmen of Canada we may safely look for men fully competent to control the affairs of a young nation. They are men of as much ambition and grasp of thought as are the rulers in the adjoining States; and, depend upon it, nothing […]
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[…] will be left undone to advance the prosperity and well-being of every portion of their vast Dominion. We may safely repose full confidence in them. England has done so, or she would never have committed the well-being of four millions of her subjects to their care.
They can steer the good ship “Dominion” and hold her on her way. She will receive many a shock, “but ’twill be of the waves, and not the rock.”
The Hon. Mr. Humphreys, Member for Lillooet, said :—Mr. President, It is not my intention to occupy the attention of the House at any great length. I shall pass in review rapidly the arguments for and against Confederation, as they have been used by Hon. Members who have spoken during the progress of this debate.
It seems to me, Sir, that the people and their interests have been entirely ignored throughout the discussion of this question, and perhaps intentionally. I refer to the subject of Responsible Government [“Hear, hear,” from Mr DeCosmos], which has up to this stage been all but lost sight of. l, Sir, am one of those men who believe in the people.
I remember that in opening; this debate, the Hon. Attorney-General invoked the Divine blessing upon the work upon which we were then entering. This was high-sounding, and a very nice picture to look at, but it does not wear well without that strict attention to the divine rights of the people, which is inalienable from true political economy.
I have a distinct recollection of most Hon. Members now occupying an official position at this Council Board, and of the positions which they occupied when first they came to this Colony. I have often asked myself what entitles these Hon. Members to govern this Colony; but I have never been able to answer myself satisfactorily, I am perfectly ready to admit the ability of Executive Members as individuals. The learned eloquence of the Hon. Attorney- General has always, since 1 have had the honour to sit at this Council Board, impressed me with a deep sense of the advantage of thorough forensic training; and the power and force of the reply of the Hon, the Chief Commissioner has ever and again made me feel with especial force the utter hopelessness of combating stern official reticence with even the most brilliant powers of oratory. Yet, Sir, whatever our admiration for individual excellence, however great our estimation of personal worth, the question has still remained unanswered, and, in my opinion, unanswerable. What is there in the collective wisdom of these Honourable Official Members that entitled them to arrogate to themselves the right to rule? Are they, I ask, the dominant race, and are the people serfs?
We have heard a great deal about absorption, and the danger of the larger body swallowing up the smaller. I think about as much of that danger as I do of the other evil threatened in such earnest and thrilling language by the Hon. Member for Victoria, namely, that our salmon would be under Confederation, and the protection from salmon nets that would be extended to them, increase and multiply to such an extent that they would absorb all the smaller fish. I, however, to speak seriously, doubt very much if the Hon. Member can cite a single example in history of the larger absorbing the lesser. unless the larger possessed better qualifications, as in the case of the absorption by British Columbia of Vancouver Island. Sir, we must give up all personal prejudices, and we must bend our minds to the establishment of a great British Empire upon this Pacific Coast.
Lord Macaulay says that “Governments are made for the people, and not the people for the Governments.” Yet, Sir, how different seems to he the course of reasoning in this Colony. Here we have a strange compound of sickly representation and unpopular officialdom. The want of Responsible Government has become intolerable; the people have ceased to respect the Government, and the Government seem to be doing their best to educate the people up to hating the officials. There is to my mind, Sir, no necessity for the continuance of such a state of things; only let the people’s voice be heard, and there will be a change. The overwhelming preponderance of the official element in this Council, and the presence in the Legislative body of officials who are paid by the people, and yet are not responsible to them, is the real cause of the alienation of the hearts of the people from the Government. The votes of these Hon. gentlemen must always oscillate between their own interests and what their own consciences dictate to them as for the good of the country. It is our duty, Sir, to bring back the hearts of the people. We must have a Government by and for the people. This is what I believe the people really require, and this and more. if necessary, the Government must be prepared to give them. The people of this Colony will consent to no arrangement which has not for its […]
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[…] foundation—Responsible Government. We must be prepared to pull down and demolish the old structure, in order to rear up one that shall endure—as a Government secure in the affections of the people only can endure. I warn Hon. gentlemen that they must endeavour to recover the wills of the people; then, and not till then, will return that prosperity which we all desire to see.
I hope, Sir, that the Executive will not attempt to make any arrangement with the Dominion Government which does not include popular self-government. The people will never accept Confederation without Responsible Government.
We must first get the tree-Responsible Government—and we may afterwards, with some reason, hope to get the fruit. I say, Sir, that it is a gross libel upon the intelligence of the people of this Colony, to say that we are not fitted for self-government. In no country can you find men better capable of governing themselves, and of managing their own affairs, than in this Colony. I hold, Sir, that the greatest enemies of the people are those who always endeavour to blazon forth their learning. I am proud to say that I am of the people. My education, if not of so high a culture as that of some Hon. Members of this House, has at least enabled me, up to this time, to make my own way in the world, unaided by official pay and without the assistance of official favour or influence. And when I hear Hon. Members speaking of the people as a class unfit for self-government. I find it difficult to believe that such a set of men are the same as have been speaking before, in this House and outside, on Confederation.
In conclusion, Sir, I say fearlessly that Responsible Government is a sine qua non in the terms of Confederation. Place what conditions you will before the people, without the condition of Responsible Government, and Confederation is killed.
Confederation means to Official Members a pension; to the people it means self-government; and I say, Sir, that above all things, we must keep in view the absolute necessity of keeping control of our own local affairs, otherwise Confederation would be useless to the country; and I warn Hon. Members at the other side of the House, that to exclude Responsible Government from the terms is to ensure defeat for the whole Confederation scheme when it comes before the people at the polls.
The Hon. Mr. Carrall, Member for Cariboo, said :—Mr. President, I did not intend to open my lips during this debate; indeed, I am left with very little to say by the Honourable gentlemen who have preceded me. I have taken notes with a view, it those assertions which were put forth were not answered, of replying to them.
For three days I have sat at this Board and heard discussions pro and con. I have heard nearly every word; certainly every argument which Honourable Members on both sides have adduced ; especially have I listened to every argument of those who are in opposition, and I believe that nothing remains unanswered—in fact, but a few crumbs are left for me. Another reason why I did not desire to make a speech is that my principles are pretty thoroughly known, and I deem it almost a work of supererogation to reiterate my sentiments.
But as this debate as to whether we should go into Committee or not has taken such a serious turn, I think it right and proper to say a few words. Whoever knows me through this Colony, or through British North America, knows that my principles have never changed on this great Confederation question. I have always maintained that the fragments of empire lying loose, so to speak, in British North America, east and west of the Rocky Mountains, should be united and consolidated under one Government. The question of the Confederation of the whole Colonial Empire of Great Britain is one that has always appeared to me to be replete with the greatest interest, and I trust that I may be spared to see this consolidation consummated.
With regard to the advantages that Confederation will bring to British Columbia, it is almost forbidden, ground, for the advantages are in reality part of the Resolutions. If I allude to them I am forestalling the debate on terms; and as I should not be in a position to prove anything which is in futurity, I had perhaps better abstain from touching upon the subject. However, this much I will say, that, after sentiment and loyalty are disposed of, it becomes a question of advantage.
The terms sent down to this House, in my opinion, warrant our acceptance of them in their entirety; but if the House think otherwise, I may, I am sure, go so far as to say that […]
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[…] the Executive are open to receive suggestions, and that there will be no objection to adopt any suggestions which will not be likely to jeopardize the success of the whole scheme. In this conviction, I do not propose to go over the ground that has already been taken up. But I must allude to what I cannot help calling the feeling of over-care and caution which has been displayed throughout this debate.
I believe, Mr. President, that you are an Englishman, and as a nation I think you express too much caution, fear, and anxiety with respect to the course which Canada might pursue. I do not speak personally, but such appears to me to be the characteristic quality of Englishmen, and it has especially cropped out during this debate. I say that I believe we are treating with a far-seeing, fair-dealing set of men who would never forfeit their word, statesmen who would be incapable of offering “mean conditions,” even if we of British Columbia would accept them. They will give us terms to make us happy and contented. Another reason for our feeling confidence in the future is that we shall have under these terms, as the Hon. Member for Victoria District says, an enormous proportion of Representatives at Ottawa, and I presume that each of these Representatives will have a voice and the gift of speech.
It is fair to augur that the Dominion statesmen will give us what will make us contented and prosperous. In touching upon this point, I should like to make an historical allusion, and for example I would refer to the present condition of the Union between Great Britain and Ireland. [“hear, hear,” from Dr. Helmcken.] When Hon. gentlemen say “Hear, hear.” they may think I have given an unapt illustration. We, however, know that the number of Ireland’s representatives, amounting to something over one hundred, have enabled the Irish members of the British House of Commons to hold the balance of power and the bulk of patronage between the great contending political parties, and by swaying between the Gladstones and Disraelis, or other leaders of the day, they have frequently been able. to turn the scale so as to obtain what they desired. and to secure a liberal share of the patronage to office. I maintain, Sir, in this connection, that if British Columbia found that by reason of her small representation-large in comparison with the representation of the different States in the Congress of America—I say, that if British Columbian Members found that there was any disposition to tyrannize in the Dominion House of Commons, which I do not for one moment fear, they could make common cause with other small maritime Provinces against Canada proper. To quote the words of the Hon. Chief Commissioner, I believe that British Columbia will be a pet Province of the Confederacy.
I try, Sir, to avoid speech-making; the time for that will be in Committee. I do not hope to sway a single vote by any remarks that I make. I believe that every Hon. Member came here previously prepared to vote one way or the other, and I do not think any eloquent orators, and much less any feeble words of mine, will cause one of them to change his opinion. But I make a speech in order that a record may be taken of it, and my constituents may be able to see that I was not dumb. I believe, I say, that all Hon. Members came down with their opinions formed, as to whether the amendment of the Hon. and learned Member for Victoria, or the proposition of the Hon. and learned Attorney-General, which was so ably put before us, should be carried. I sincerely hope, however, that Hon. Members will join me in voting down the amendment and in supporting the motion of the Hon. Attorney-General. This is emphatically, the question of the day and the policy of the Government should meet with a liberal and warm support from every Member of this Council, in order that: the question may be fairly brought before the people for final decision.
And here, Sir, with the permission of the House, I will say one word upon the course pursued by the Government. The Executive Council have been actuated by motives of duty only. They have brought down these Resolutions, based on a broad view of the whole subject, and they ask you to make suggestions and additions. [Dr. Helmcken – “No, they don’t”]
[The Hon. Mr. Carrall:] Yes, Sir, I maintain that the Executive do so, and I will maintain it with my last breath. The Executive are prepared to consider, and it possible give effect to, every amendment or suggestion of this Council, provided it does not jeopardize the success of the scheme with the Canadian Government. The final verdict must: come from the people, and I can safely maintain that nothing could be fairer.
Among things brought up in the course of this debate, the questions of Tariff and Responsible Government occupy prominent positions. I think the Hon. Member for Victoria District has taken right ground, when he said that it was competent for the Dominion Government to alter and amend the tariff so as to protect every vested interest in this Colony. I am no lawyer, […]
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[…] but I believe the Canadian statesmen are sufficiently far-seeing to take care that not an interest in this Colony shall suffer by the Resolutions which we are about passing. With regard to the Dominion Tariff, people thought that the abrogation of the Reciprocity Treaty was the death- knell of the independence of Canada. I have lived, however, to see her more prosperous by that abrogation. It has taught her to develop her own resources, and to become self-reliant. After she was prevented from going to the United States, by that abrogation, she turned her attention to her own resources, and I believe she is now going to be one of the most progressive nations upon the earth. Undoubtedly, she is determined to progress westward, until she reaches British Columbia and the Pacific; and with all her progressive tendency she will not abate one jot of the loyalty for which, now as ever, she is distinguished.
Now, with regard to Responsible Government. [“Hear, hear,” from Mr. DeCosmos.] I desire to touch lightly upon this subject in passing, because I have been told that my popularity has suffered by some remarks to which I gave utterance in this House upon a previous occasion. Much as I value popularity, I must on this question express my honest and conscientious opinion as an individual. I believe that I was the first to break ground on the question of Responsible Government, in connection with Confederation. I did it, not hastily or thoughtlessly, but on conviction; and I maintain that so long as I do it honestly, I am free to say what I please, as an individual, upon this matter. I do not believe, Sir, that, with our present population, with our people scattered over a vast extent of thinly populated country, and having regard to the various conflicting interests consequent on remoteness from the centre, the principle of Responsible Government cannot be satisfactorily applied to this community at present. I believe entirely in the ability and fitness of the Anglo-Saxon race to govern themselves; but I say that the time has not yet arrived under which that particular form of government, generally known as Responsible, can be satisfactorily worked in this Colony. I believe that the scheme foreshadowed by the Governor for Representative Govermnent will be the best that, under present circumstances, the Colony can have. The popular members under that system will have a clear majority, and, consequently, the people will have the control of the purse-strings. I do not speak these words as a member of the Executive Council, but as the expression of my own deliberate opinion.
Sir, I was not sent here pledged to any particular platform. My constituents had confidence in me, and were content that I should act on my own judgment. Speaking officially, I say that Responsible Government is not a question of Union. The Act of Union gives us the exclusive right to alter our own laws with respect to everything connected with the internal and local Government of the Province, so long as the Federal prerogative, if I may so call it, is not infringed. If the majority of the people want Responsible Government after Confederation, neither Governor Musgrave nor any other power on earth can prevent their having it. It is unfounded, unfair, and unjust, on the part of those who are opposed to the Government on the question of Confederation, to endeavour to put any other complexion upon the matter.
With respect, Mr. President, to the remarks about Cabinet Ministers and Executive Councillors, which have fallen from certain Hon. Members, I will only refer to the work that the Executive have laid before this House. From the general approbation which has been tendered, both in this House and on the outside, to the terms of Confederation which have been sent down by the Executive, I think that I am fairly entitled to assume that our labour has not been in vain, and that it has given satisfaction. I thank this Council for the words of encouragement and approbation with which they have accepted these conditions, especially those who have endorsed them. No one—not even the Hon. Member for Victoria City—can say that it is not the wish of the people that this question should be discussed, and ultimately dealt with by the people.
A charge has been preferred by the Hon. Member for Victoria District, against the Hon. Attorney—General and the Hon. Chief Commissioner, to the effect that they had turned their coats and changed since they had given votes upon Confederation in this House upon a former occasion. If they have changed, I maintain that upon conviction they are not to be blamed for doing so. It was well known that the Hon. gentleman had stated, or at all events I have always so understood it, had a telegram, or some other information from head-quarters, more than a year ago, to the effect that the Dominion Government were not prepared to negotiate terms of Confederation with this Colony, until after the settlement of the Red River question, which was then pending with the Hudson’s Bay Company. The Hon. Attorney-General and the Hon. Chief Commissioner took this same ground last year. They were of opinion that nothing could be […]
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[…] done to further Confederation satisfactorily, until the sovereignty of the Dominion was established in the North-West Territory. Both assured me privately that they were in favour of Confederation, and I say that they entered into the consideration of the scheme without mention of pensions being secured to them. Who, I ask, are Confederates? The people most unquestionably; and could we, the people of this Colony, ever have made Confederation a successful issue unless it had been taken up by Government? His Excellency Governor Musgrave has done nothing but what Prime Ministers do every day, in making this a Government question. On the part of the Government, I cordially invite the assistance, co-operation, and earnest deliberation of all Members of the Council to the scheme—a good one—and after we have done our best with it, we must leave it to the people.
Before I close my remarks. Sir, I must allude to what fell from the Hon. Member for Victoria City, whose opinion and lightest remarks are always received and listened to by this House with the greatest deference and respect, and every wrinkle of whose brow is a notch in the calendar of a well-spent life, for whose character as an individual I have the highest reverence and esteem. I cannot but say, however, that in my opinion, and I believe in the opinion of this House, what the Hon. gentleman did say about another possible issue was ill-timed, inopportune, and unhappy; and, Sir, I deem it my duty as a Member of the Executive Council to say, that if he did intend to foreshadow the idea that the other union, to which he made ill-timed allusion, could ever be an issue in this Colony, he entirely misrepresented the views of the Executive Council.
In this connection I desire to say that, in common with the Chief Commissioner, I feel a great respect for our neighbours of the Great Republic. I honour the country and its institutions; particularly I esteem the people of America in the exercise of national and domestic relations. They are true Anglo-Saxons. They are at this moment lavishing an amount of hospitality on Prince Arthur, which would do honour to any nation. But, whilst professing great respect for the people and for the Government of the United States, I confess that I do not like their political institutions. I have many friends in America, and I have spent some time there myself, in their military service, but I left America a greater Canadian than ever. And I say, Sir, that I deem the action taken by certain foreigners here, in getting up a petition, which has perhaps been brought into more prominent notice than it was entitled to, exceedingly unhappy, and I know that I speak the sentiments of my constituents when I say so. These foreigners have received every hospitality, and have been treated with respect and liberality in this Colony. They enjoyed all the rights and privileges to which they would have been entitled in their own country, and perhaps more; they have acted foolishly towards the flag that sheltered them, and have abused the hospitality which has been extended to them in getting up this petition. If any British subjects signed it, I consider them unworthy of the name; they would be better in the chain―gang.
I must refer once again to the Hon. Member for Victoria City. He said that patriotism was dead in this Colony; that interest and self-interest was paramount, and that the dollar was supreme, and was the only patriotism. [Dr. Helmcken—” What? what? I said nothing of the kind.”]
[The Hon. Mr. Carrall:] I maintain that the words were used, and I say that the Hon. Member misunderstood or misrepresented the feelings of the people of this Colour in saying so. It is, perhaps, unbecoming in me, who have not the stake in the country, and who have not the status, domestic, monetary, or political, of most other gentlemen round this Council Board, and who have, comparatively speaking, but lately come to the Colony, to express an opinion; but nevertheless I do say that patriotism is not dead in this Colony, and that the people are as patriotic, noble, and generous-hearted as any other people in the world.
Hon. Mr Helmcken—Sir, I rise to a question of privilege. I cannot allow the Hon. Member to make a speech about something I did not say without correcting him. I said that this Colony had no love for Canada; the bargain for love could not be; it can only be the advancement of material interests which will lend to union.
Hon. Mr. Carrall—I maintain, Sir, that I have not in any way exaggerated what the Hon. gentleman did say; and I conclude by saying that the people of British Columbia are loyal, honourable, and true, and when they give their adhesion to the Dominion they will uphold the British flag, they always have upheld—
“The flag that has braved a thousand years
The battle and the breeze.”
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The Hon. Mr Alston, Registrar-General, said:—Sir, I should not have risen to attempt to make a speech at this late hour, had it not been from the peculiar position which I occupy in this Council, and I feel that I ought to apologise for detaining the House, even for a few minutes, after the very exhaustive arguments on both sides have been heard with such patient attention.
As I am neither one of the Executive, nor a Representative Member of this House, I have to satisfy my own conscience, and as it is probable I may not have another opportunity of expressing my opinion on the principle of Confederation with Canada, I must beg leave to say a few words.
It will be unnecessary to follow up the subject at any length, as I believe that the principle of Confederation has been virtually conceded. I give the Hon. Member for Victoria District all the credit that may be due for the consistent way in which he has agitated this question for years past, and probably the reason why the matter was not earlier brought to a successful issue through that agitation, was that either he did the right thing in the wrong way, or that he lived before his time. From 1867 to the present time, the question has been discussed in successive sessions of the Council, and it has been declared in effect that, at some future time, Confederation would be of advantage to this Colony. The Imperial Government have now spoken out unmistakeably in the matter, and have decided that Confederation shall take place. It seems that those who have the power to shape the destinies of this Colony have decided that it is to take a part in the great scheme of Confederation of the British North American Colonies, and have not hesitated to throw the whole weight of their enormous influence in the scale to effect this object; the Canadian Parliament manifestly urge this matter as a necessary part of the scheme; and last, though not least, a large portion of the people of this Colony cry aloud for it as a panacea for all their ills. Downing Street has not hesitated to guide and control the opinions of Her Majesty’s servants in this Colony. Whether this be wise or prudent on the part of the Secretary of State for the Colonies, in view of the present constitution of this Colony, it is not for me to say, but it is of no use blinding our eyes to the fact that they who have the power will—and for aught I know should—exercise it.
It was fitting, then, that the Executive of this Colony should take the initiative and undertake the responsibility of placing the matter before the country in a tangible shape, I rejoice that they have done so, and that the working out of the basis of arrangements has fallen into so able hands, for what other party have the power to do so? If they had not preoccupied the ground, who is there? What part is there in this small community commanding sufficient general respect that could have undertaken this important duty, with any chance of success?
Now, Sir, the Resolutions before us form no final measure, no unavoidable and perfected conditions I look upon them simply as the basis of arrangement—the initial step in the negotiation of the business. If it had been otherwise—if these were proposed as final conditions. upon which the people of the Colony would he allowed to pass no vote, over which they would exercise no control; if the Government had said to this Council, you shall have these terms or none. I would have voted against them or retired from this Assembly. But the Governor has declared that they shall be submitted to a popular vote, and ratified by a really representative and reconstructed Council.
That being so, I can give them my conscientious support, not only because I deem it to be my duty to support every well—considered Government measure, but because I believe them to be, as far as they go, reasonable, fair, and advantageous. Before now, a Government measure has claimed a support, but a reluctant one; in this case it is not so, I trust I may be allowed to render my small tribute of thanks to the Hon. Member for Victoria City, who with great self-denial has undertaken an unenviable position, one which, of necessity, would lay himself open to attack and misrepresentation; but one in which he has done and can do great service to his country. I think I can see, in the Resolutions before me, evidences of this service; traces of his handiwork; and although he cannot give the measure his support, I feel sure, though I desire not to penetrate the secrets of that mysterious chamber, that he has done all in his power to render them as beneficial, or rather, as the Hon. Member himself would say, as little hurtful as he could to the best interests of the Colony.
When this subject came up for discussion, in the last Session of this Council, I joined those who were supposed to form the Confederate party, and moved the following Resolution :—
“That however desirable Confederation with Canada may hereafter become, this Council believes that until the great Territory intervening between this Colony and the Dominion is transferred to the Crown, and contains a larger and more settled population, it would be premature to express any definite opinion on the subject.”
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It is unnecessary for me to say anything in favour of the principle of Confederation. It is admitted in the Resolution which I have just read. I take it, Sir, that the obstacle there referred to will be speedily removed; that the small band of disaffected spirits will soon disperse, and that the machinery of Government will shortly be put in motion; and though I do not take pleasure, like the Hon. Member on my left, in revolution, political hatred, agitation, and blood and thunder generally, I am not disposed to regret the occurrence of the difficulty in the Red River, for it will teach the Canadian Government, and the Imperial Government, and all Governments, that though you may buy and sell territories, you cannot transfer the human beings therein, like so many serfs and chattels, to a fresh allegiance with impunity; that the consent of the people must be first obtained; and that though the soil may be sold, the soul is free. This measure was, to a certain extent, forced upon the Government by the people of this Colony. It is said that the people clamour for a change in the Government. Why, Sir, we have had changes enough during that time I have been in the Colony, to ruin any country; changes generally for the worse. [” No, no,” from Mr. DeCosmos] But whether Confederation comes or not, there is one change more which I hope to see before this year expires, and that is a change in the Constitution of this Council. I desire to see all the Members, save the Executive Officers, elected by the people; and this change is promised by the Governor.
I hope, also, that the Colony will so prosper, and the population so increase, that before many years another change will come, that is to say Responsible Government. At present, I believe we are not fitted for it; it is practically impossible, and the Governor has had the courage to declare it. I would gladly believe that the cry for this panacea for all evil does not come from those who would fain jump into vacant places, and enjoy what they are pleased to term bloated idleness. Such pharisaic patriotism was so well exposed by my much-abused friend at the bottom of the table (Dr. Helmcken), that I will not further allude to it. But I say, Sir, that if they can find public servants who will perform their duties better and more perfectly, let them in God’s name come on. I am content, for one, to give place to better men. Now is the opportunity offered. But, Sir, I am rejoiced that this measure has come down from the Executive; it will, when accomplished, give us rest I hope from this everlasting change. The farmer, the artizan, the capitalist, and the merchant will know what to expect, and will make their plans accordingly. Years ago, the farmer naturally expected that the Free Port system was settled and approved of. Agitation commenced, the farmer and the merchant could not carry on their pursuits without anxiety, and the Colony suffered. The Free Port was abolished—that grand political mistake—Union with British Columbia was effected, and a heavy tariff imposed, and business calculations were confounded again. But this Colony and the people have such elastic force, that they are again beginning to settle themselves down to the new order of things. Business went on, it is true, but, nevertheless, it suffered; and for the last two years agitation has again been at work. The farmer is alarmed; he is prosperous at present, but he dreads (unnecessarily I think) what will be virtually to him the Free Port system again; and so alarm, and change, and unquietness are for ever distracting this small and struggling Colony, which., unless it had immense vital energy, and enormous latent strength, would long ago have succumbed. I see, however, in the prospect before us, a sign of better things—a more hopeful future—a state which when consummated will, I believe, secure a more settled life to the Colony.
I do not fear for the agricultural interest, for I believe the only protection which the farmer requires, is the protection of good roads, good laws, and an easy communication with the markets where he may best dispose of his produce. Self-interest, if no other reason, will induce the Canadian Government so to modify the Tariff as to endanger as little as possible the various interests, agricultural and otherwise of the Colony. I firmly believe that Canada will deal justly with us; at any rate, it is our duty to deal frankly and in a friendly spirit with the Canadians, until we see signs of a contrary spirit animating them. I am ready to shake hands across the Rocky Mountains with our Canadian brethren; let us not open negotiations with clenched fists.
As regards the paucity of representation allowed to us in the Dominion Parliament, after what has been shown so clearly to us by the Hon. Member for Victoria District of the analogous right of representation enjoyed by the Pacific States of the American Union, I think we cannot rightly expect more.
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My Hon. friend on my right (Mr. Wood), who certainly has placed the objections and arguments against Confederation forcibly before the House, says that Confederation means an union of equal States self—governed, and is equivalent to absorption. I doubt whether this is historically correct. But, Sir, whether that be so or not is beside the question, for the Resolutions which are before us are in fact Resolutions for the Union of this Colony with Canada. Union is the term used in the Organic Act, and the term Confederation never once occurs. It is Union we are seeking, not Confederation. The American States are States of the Union, not of the Confederation, and it has been conclusively shown that in that country the separate States are not absorbed, although united.
And again, Sir, we were told that we are selling our independence, and transferring our loyalty. Not a bit of it. If the people of this Colony pass the measure, surely their verdict is not one of slavery, unless they be slaves themselves, and yet they are free to act. This measure will not pass unless the people of this Colony are willing that it should, and declare unmistakeably that it is for their benefit. Whatever I may individually think, I shall bow to the free popular decision, and be prepared to believe that the vox populi is the vox dei. In so great a measure, I trust the people may be guided to a right conclusion.
As to loyalty, I need add no more than has already been said so forcibly by the Hon. Attorney-General and the Hon. Chief Commissioner of Lands and Works. Hemmed in to the north and south by a people owing a different allegiance to our own; forced back to the sea to west, the only direction in which loyal hearts can turn is to the rising people of the east, who ask us to unite in a friendly spirit with them, to form a great Nation. May that union prove a source of strength to us and them.
I shall give to the Government measure a hearty support, reserving, however, to myself the right of suggesting any amendment or improvements, or of supporting any recommendations which may appear to me to be necessary or desirable.
From the position which I hold in this Council as an officer of the Government, I have deemed it right to make this statement of the course which I propose to follow in this great and momentous subject, and I maintain it to be perfectly conscientious and perfectly consistent with my previous conduct.
The Hon. Mr. Dewdney, Member for Kootenay, rose and said :—Mr. President, I have purposely waited until this late stage of the debate in order to avail myself of the opportunity of listening to the arguments that have been adduced both for and against the scheme of Confederation as sent down for our consideration by His Excellency the Governor, and particularly for the reason that I have not been in a position (from my longer absence in the Upper Country) of making myself acquainted with the subject as I should like to have done.
As the debate progressed, I felt more and more that I had been right in so doing, as I have now the benefit of the well-considered opinions and arguments of so many Honourable Members; and upon these able arguments l have in a great measure been guided in coming to the conclusion which I propose to explain.
And now, Mr. President, I think it s incumbent on me to state the course I intend to take with regard to the subject.
I feel I have a most responsible duty to perform, not only to my constituents, but to myself and the country generally.
With regard to my constituents. I feel that I am placed in a rather peculiar position, and I regret that I have had no opportunity of communicating with them since Confederation has assumed the phase it now does.
You are aware, I presume, Mr. President, that I was selected, unsolicited on my part, to represent the Kootmay District in this Council. At that election Confederation was made the test question, and I can assure you that at that time the feeling of the majority of my constituents was opposed to Confederation with the Dominion of Canada.
At a subsequent period—only a few months ago—a petition, concocted in this city, was dispatched to Kootenay for the purpose of obtaining signatures in favour of Confederation. It was, however, unfavourably received, the party circulating it was roughly handled, and the petition returned a blank. I mention this to show you that up to a late period my constituents held the same views with regard to Confederation that they did some eighteen months ago.
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Shortly after this petition had been dispatched to Kootenay, as just mentioned, I wrote to my constituents. requesting them to advise me fully with regard to their wants and wishes; and, in reply, I received a communication setting forth what they specially desired that I should assist in obtaining for them, but not one word on the subject of Confederation.
I have now before me the terms submitted by His Excellency the Governor at the opening of this Council, as well as the paragraph in His Excellency’s Speech referring to those terms ; and I must say that had i resided as near my constituents as the Honourable Members for Victoria and Nanaimo Cities do to their I should most certainly have south an opportunity of meeting them and obtaining some expr .ion of their opinions on the now altered position of this question. But as the remoteness of my District has rendered such a course impossible, it is only left for me to exercise my own judgment.
I wish to cast no reflections on the Hon. Members referred to, and with regard to the Hon. senior Member for Victoria. I consider the action he has taken on this question only forces stronger and stronger on my mind, and I believe on the minds of the people. that any matter entrusted to his care will always be dealt with conscientiously, and with due regard to the feelings which he believes his constituents entertain,
Had I had an opportunity of submitting to my constituents the question of Confederation in the light that it now bears, I do believe that their opinions would he in unison with that of the country generally, in favour of Confederation on the terms now proposed, and being of that impression I intend to support the motion of the Hon. Attorney-General I feel assured that the vote which I am about to give will meet with the approval of my constituents.
I should feel some hesitation in supporting the motion of the Hon, Attorney-General, were it not for the assurance given in His Excellency’s Speech, that the action we may now take will not be final until ratified by the general verdict of the people.
I trust I have now stated openly and fairly the position in which I stand, and the course I intend to pursue. l propose, Mr. I resident, to support Confederation with terms, and I believe that is the stand that will be taken by all the Hon. Members who support Confederation at all.
With regard to the terms proposed for our consideration, it will be open for me to discuss them more particularly in Committee ; but I may here state generally, that I Consider they are only what the country is fairly entitled to demand, and I shall support them probably as they stand; and, at the same time, shall be ready to give my vote to any address that may be forwarded to His Excellency, recommending the insertion of other terms that I believe may be advantageous to the Colony.
Mr. President I must now thank you for the kind attention you have shewn me in listening to the few remarks I have felt bound to make; and I have now only to say, that as soon as the terms are decided upon by this Honourable Council, and placed in the hands of His Excellency, I, for one, shall feel perfectly confident that future negotiations will be brought to a successful issue.
I have acted conscientiously in this matter, and I am sure I shall not regret the action I have taken as long as I live.
The Hon. Mr. Helmcken, Member for Victoria, in reply, said:—Mr. President, every word that I spoke I am willing to abide by, but I have no wish to be misrepresented. I never said that patriotism was dead in ibis Colony ; and I have not yet advocated that closer union with another country, to which allusion has been made, as the other issue to come before the people ; but a strong feeling does exist in favour of that other union, and it is just as well that the Dominion Government should know that there are very many people in this Colony who think that Annexation would be far more advantageous than Confederation, and who have no love for Canada. I maintain that the people of this Colony do not desire Confederation ; they desire these glittering terms; take away or reduce the terms, and the people don’t want Confederation—will not have it. I have never seen any programme proposed by the Confederation party, and it is certainly to the credit of the Government that it has sent one down [hear, hear,] which has taken even the Confederationists by surprise. I once saw a scheme brought before this House, which included no Railway, no Dry Dock, a small Subsidy, and the Dominion Tariff, objectionable as it is acknowledged now to be. It was defeated. The new scheme asks more, and so the country has gained by the delay.
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But, Sir, the Hon, Members of this Council have been arguing as though these terms had been obtained—aerial castle building. I say they are only propositions. I have not heard one Member say those terms must be had, or no Confederation,
[Hon. Mr. DeCosmos,—I stated yesterday, that if certain terms were not granted I should oppose Confederation.]
[The Hon. Mr. Helmcken:] I expect to see you an opponent of Confederation before long ; probably we shall change sides [Laughter] ; but until these terms, or terms that will be satisfactory to the country, are arranged I shall not cease my opposition to Confederation. I think it necessary to say a few words in explanation of my position. I do stand here a Member of the Executive Council. Whether I gave in my resignation or not, is not for the Hon. Member for Victoria District to know ; I shall not gratify his curiosity; he should recollect, however, that party Government does not exist here.
I have opposed the Government on Confederation. I think it probable that when the terms come back from Canada they will bear but little resemblance to themselves; so until the country is satisfied I will oppose Confederation. It is sufficient that the ultimate issue now rests with the people themselves ; and I hope they will band themselves together to demand these or better terms.
Thus far the question is lost to me in this Council. I am beaten by the Imperial Government, by the Canadian Government, by Lord Granville’s despatch, but more than all by the alluring terms and a Government majority,—by no one else. In this Council, the Executive Council has repeated itself. I intend now to offer no factious opposition to the conditions, but it will be my duty to point out what I consider faults, and though 1 will support the terms as they are, or nearly so, others must go in. I will not attempt to introduce anything which Canada cannot concede ; so that on the one hand, Canada may have no excuse to refuse to accept the terms, and on the other, if Confederation does come it may come accompanied with conditions that will be beneficial to the material interests of the Colony. I now bide my time; when the terms as agreed to by Canada return, the people may find them changed, and not so attractive and enticing as they now appear.
In going into the Executive Council, I did so at a loss to myself. [Hear, hear, from themHons. Attorney-General and Chief Commissioner.]
After all, the Supreme Power hath made of one blood all the nations of the earth, and hath determined beforehand the bounds of their habitations. We are but instruments in carrying out this design, whatever it may be.
In the position which I now occupy, I have sacrificed no principle, forfeited no pledge, maintained my own honour, have done my duty, and I hope some good, to this Colony.
The Hon. Attorney-General said : — Sir, in rising to reply, I have to acknowledge and thank the members of this House for the care and attention which they have bestowed upon this great and momentous question, which I have had the honour to introduce to their notice.
With regard to the very decent, flattering, and personal remarks towards myself, in which the Hon, Member for Victoria District (Mr. DeCosmos) has been in the habit of’ indulging for several years past, the House is so familiar with that gentleman’s habit towards all his political opponents in that respect that it has learnt to estimate them at their proper value. I will not, therefore. waste the time of the House by any further comment on them. I will not condescend to notice them [Hear, hear, hear, hear,] but proceed to subjects of more general interest.
I maintain, Sir. that liberal Representative Institutions for this Colony are not dependent on the success of the scheme of Confederation; they are in no way connected with it, Confederation is, however, the easiest and quietest way of getting Responsible Government, should that be found after deliberation to be really desired ,(l so ardently by the whole community as some Hon. Members aver. To those who conscientiously believe in Responsible Government, and that the real desire of the country is for it, or as the Hon. Member for Victoria District says is a “unit” for it, I say fling in your voice with us; these Resolutions will most speedily assure the result you desire. If the people, after careful deliberation and full information on the subject, whether we be confederated with Canada or not, really desire Responsible Government, they will have it. Their voice will be heard on this particular question, as on all others connected with Confederation. But it is the hollowest pretence to assert that Confederation […]
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[…] should be stopped till the Governor can send down a scheme for Responsible Government. If we do not get Confederation we shall still have our own Representative Institutions. and once possessed of Representative Institutions under the Imperial Statute of Victoria, the Colony will, if it be such a unit as described, be able at once to get Responsible or Party Government. Now, I earnestly deprecate, on the part of the Government, the unfair allegation which one Hon. Member has so improperly insinuated that the Government or Government Officials considered the people of British Columbia unfit for self-government. Why, Sir, neither the Governor nor any member of the Government, or any other official, ever said or thought that the people of this Colony were individually or collectively unfit for Responsible Government. The utmost that has ever been said on this side of the House has been that, under the present circumstances of the Colony, it would be unwise, excessively costly—nay impracticable. As I have said before, and again repeat, the Governor has no power of himself to alter the Constitution. He can only refer it where it has already gone, to the decision of the Queen in Council, which we ought in common justice to await before bringing forward any Resolution for Responsible Government. Now, how would the country, if a unit on this point, get Responsible Government after Confederation? After Confederation the people can have Responsible Government, if they desire it, under clause 92 of the “British North America Act, 1867,” by which power is given for the Provinces to change their own Constitution.
The Hon. Member for Victoria City (Dr. Helmcken) has alluded to the Hon. Member for Victoria District having prepared a scheme for Confederation, now on the Journals of this House, which did not contain any reference to Responsible Government, or the Overland Railway, possibly in view of this very section 92 of the Organic Act. The Hon. Member for Victoria District may have considered that Confederation would, as a natural consequence after Union, bring Responsible Government. If so, I trust he will vote with us now [Hear, hear, hear], and leave a matter of such importance to be settled, not by a House constituted as this is, but by a House containing a majority of Representative Members elected by the country, after the question of party Government has been specially submitted to the polls.
I ask the House to deal with this subject on its merits, apart from all side issues, such as the special form of the Government which is to subsist at the time of Union, which is really not now before us. I ask them to place a generous trust in Canada. I acknowledge the encouraging manner in which the Council has dealt with this question, and sincerely trust that all parties and sections in the House, setting aside all prejudices and sectional issues, will unite cordially, frankly, and unanimously in giving a generous support to the Government, and thus strengthen their hands for the country’s good in all future negotiations. [Hear, hear, hear.]
The Hon. Mr. Drake, junior Member for Victoria asked permission to withdraw his amendment.
Leave having been granted, the amendment was withdrawn.
The motion of the Hon. Attorney-General to go into Committee was then put, and carried unanimously.
The House then went into Committee of the Whole on the Confederation Resolutions, and immediately rose, reported progress, and asked leave to sit again.
Leave was granted to sit again on Monday, at one o’clock.
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