Province of Canada, Legislative Assembly, Parliamentary Debates on the Subject of the Confederation of the British North America Provinces, 8th Parl, 3rd Sess, (20 February 1865)
By: Province of Canada (Parliament)
Citation: Province of Canada, Parliament, Parliamentary Debates on the Subject of the Confederation of the British North America Provinces, 8th Parl, 3rd Sess, 1865 at 346-362.
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MONDAY, February 20, 1865.
Mr. Joly said—Mr. Speaker, when it is proposed to change the Constitution of the country, it becomes our duty to study with the greatest care, and from every distinct joint of view, the new Constitution which it is proposed to substitute for the existing one; and in doing so we ought not to disdain the experience of past ages […]
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[…] History is the statesman’s safest guide; it ought to be the basis of all his conceptions; indeed it would be treating its lessons with contempt, were we to attempt to dispose of the future without first knowing how Providence has disposed of the past. To make use of a maxim, common, but yet most truthful: “There is nothing new under the sun;” the history of the world is a constantly revolving scene; the same events pass and repass before our eyes under aspects varied enough, it is true, to deceive the superficial observer, but the man who thinks and investigates will have no difficulty in discovering that at all periods of the world’s history, men have allowed themselves to be controlled by the same motives and cessions, and will arrive at the inevitable conclusion that like causes produce like effects. The honorable ministers who have unfolded to us the scheme of Confederation have based all their arguments on the future; they have tried to prophecy, but for them the history of the past is a dead letter. Before attempting to predict the fate of our future Confederation, they should first have told us what had been the fate of past confederations.
It does not suffice to paint a splendid picture of grandeur: and prosperity; let it first be ascertained that the foundations on which the edifice is to be erected are sure and proved, and that established, we may then begin to build with safety. As has been said by one of the great professors of political science: “The wisdom of a statesman is the result of experience and not of theory.” I am by no means astonished, however, at the repugnance evinced by the advocates of Confederation to make allusion to the past. The Minister of Agriculture [Hon. Mr. McGee] alone has had the courage to open the volume of the world’s history, and he hastily closed it with the significant remark, especially so falling from his lips:—
In all the constitutions in which the Federal principle has been adopted, it cannot be denied that the same fatal vice is to be discerned—the weakness of the central authority. This has been the fatal disease in all confederations of which I have heard, or whose histories I have read. They have died of consumption.
What the Government has not been willing to do, I now propose to do. Let us take counsel of those nations which have adopted federative constitutions, and may the recital of their unhappy experience be of use to us by placing us on our guard against the same dangers. I propose to cast a brief glance on the history of each Confederation. I do not propose to lay before you my own views, and ask you to adopt them, but rather those of men of eminence, who have made the art of good government the study of their lives. I shall indeed make use, as nearly as I possibly can, of the very language which they have used. Lord Brougham, who is listened to with profound respect in the Imperial Parliament, thus expresses his views in the third part of his work on Political Philosophy:—
Besides the other defected of the Federal union, its manifest tendency to create mutual estrangement, and even hostility, between the different parts of the same nation, is an insuperable objection to it.
And further on he adds:—
Whoever would see further proofs of this position, may be referred to the ancient commonwealths of Greece. As a Florentine hated a Viennese worse than a German or a Spaniard, or even an infidel, in modern times, so of old did an Athenian hate a Spartan or a Theban worse than a Persian. Now, the Federal union, by keeping up a line of separation among its members, gives the freest scope to these pernicious prejudices—feelings which it is the highest duty of all governments to eradicate, because they lead directly to confusion and war.
Passing from tube confederacies of Greece and Italy to those of the Seven United Provinces (now Holland and Belgium), we there find the same state of things. Lot us hear what Lord Macaulay says in the first volume of his History of England:—
The union of Utrecht, hastily established amid the throes of a revolution, with the view of providing for the exigencies of the moment, had never been considered with calmness, nor brought to perfection in a period of tranquillity. Each one of the Seven Provinces, which this union bound together in one cluster, retained nearly all the rights of sovereignty, and exacted from the Federal Government the most absolute respect of its rights. As the Federal authorities had no means of enforcing prompt obedience from the Provincial authorities, so these latter were equally powerless as regarded the Municipal authorities.
The advocates of Confederation take pleasure in citing the result of the Swiss (or Helvetic) Confederacy as an exception to the disastrous fate awaiting all confederations; but Switzerland possesses all the germs of this fatal malady, as witness the civil and religious war of the Sonderbund. Here, however, the symptoms are less violent than in other confederations, on account of its […]
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[…] exceptional position; France, Prussia and Austria are deeply interested in maintaining the existence of Switzerland as a neutral and independent state—it is indispensable to their safety. Were it not go, the last hour of the Helvetic Confederacy would have sounded long ago. If we pass from the confederations of the old world to those of the new, we shall find that the climate of America appears to be still more fatal to confederations than that of Europe.
Let us begin with the Central American Confederacy or Republic of Guatemala. It was established in 1821, and was composed of five states: Guatemala, Honduras, San Salvador, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica. In 1829, that is to say, after an interval of eighteen years only, Honduras set the example by seceding from the Confederation, en example which was very soon followed by the four other states, and that Confederation has ceased to exist, after a brief existence, in the midst of revolutions and civil wars. The Confederation of Columbia was formed in 1819 of the twelve provinces freed by Bolivar from the dominion of Spain. After endless troubles and revolutions, they separated in 1831 (after an existence of 12 years) into three independent republics, though reunited under the name of Confederation of the United states of South America—New Grenada, Venezuela and Ecuador.
I hold in my hand a volume of the Annuaire des Deux Mondes, containing a general history of the different states during the years 1853 and 1854. I will not occupy the time of the House by entering into the details of that history; I shall epitomize it by reading a few lines from the table of contents, in which we find mention made of the principal events in the most succinct form. I read from this table as follows:—”Venezuela—General condition of Venezuela—Insurrection of 1853—Insurrection of 1854.” One per annum, one would soon become used to insurrections and think but little of them in that happy country. “Compulsory Loans”—I suppose one may get used to these operations in coarse of time, however disagreeable they may be.
At all events, if matters turn out well with the compulsory borrowers, as I have no doubt they do, they do not leave enough to their compulsory creditors to make it worth their while to renew the operation annually, and thus we see that compulsory loans are not effected every year in Venezuela with the same regularity in which the insurrections there are carried out. “New Grenada—movements of parties;” I augur nothing good from this movement. “The Golgothas and Draconians”—probably the liberals and conservatives, who have had the singular taste to assume these villainous titles and who discuss the question of the day by musketry practice—”struggles of parties and threats of military revolution; movement of 17th April.” Still another movement—”uprising of the Provinces;”—here, at all events, we have an unmistakable movement, as to the nature of which there can be no doubt whatever. “Present state of the civil war.”—In New Grenada civil war figures in the quotations just as in Canada; we quote transactions in flour or lumber; it is their normal condition I hear an honorable member exclaim “Oh, but they are savages!” They are not savages; but I am free to confess they behave like savages.
This is but the ordinary effect of civil war; as witness what is passing amongst our neighbors in the United States. But let us proceed to another confederation. Bolivia and Lower Peru formed,themselves into a Confederacy in 1836. This Confederacy was born and lived and died, the whole in three years, between 1836 and 1839, hardly allowing time to begin to write its history. Next we have the confederation of the United Provinces of Rio de la Plata or Argentine Republic, established in 1816, by the union of fourteen independent provinces. Boutillet, after having referred to the promulgation of the new Constitution, continues in the following terms:—
This Constitution, however, does not prevent the united provinces of Rio do la Plata from being a prey to anarchy. The federalists and the anti-federalists are continually at war. Manufactures there are none; and the trade is very limited.
In that same table of contents of the Annuaire des Deux Mendes, I read * * * “Civil war and raising of the siege of Buenos Ayres—separate Constitution for Buenos Ayres * * *—Struggle between the parties, and financial distress—Disturbance (echauffourée) of the 18th July 1853.” I suppose this word means something half-way between a movement and an insurrection, “Revolution of the 25th September.” Events succeed each other rapidly. “Civil war—Intervention of Brazil.” But all this passed in 1853 and 1854. It is ancient history. Let us look at a few journals of last week or the week before. What do we find? Here is a specimen or two: “The President of San Salvador in his speech at the opening of the House defends […]
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[…] himself indignantly against the imputation of a wish to annex Central America to Mexico;” or take another article: “Hostilities have recommenced between the Empire of Brazil and the Republic of Uraguay,” one of the States of the Argentine Confederation. “Paraguay, an ally of Uraguay, has also declared war against Brazil. The latter is assisted by the revolutionary party in Uraguay, under the orders of General Flores. A Brazilian fleet assisted by General Flores and the revolutionists of Uraguay, has burned Paysandu, the capital of Uraguay * * * so that Uraguay is torn at the same time by civil war and a foreign war.” This is a lamentable state of affairs! How prudently ministers have acted in omitting all mention of these sad scenes, in asking us to vote for Confederation! They would have spoiled their brilliant picture by too great a depth of shadow. Passy, in his Mémoire sur les formes de Gouvernement et les causes qui les déterminent, (Mémoires de l’Institut, Sciences morales et politiques, 2e série, vol. 3,) expresses himself as follows, speaking of all these South American Confédérations:
Seldom does a year pass, without fresh rebellions breaking out among them; very seldom do the heads of the governments reach the legal term of their functions. The president ships are ephemeral dictatorships, the prize of generals who, exiles one day, are at the head of armies the next, while the states themselves sometimes confederate, again independent, are constantly changing their forms of government and their aspect.
Passy assigns two main causes for these occurrences. The absence of homogeneity or common origin, and the want of knowledge. As to this want of knowledge, I must observe that there are few nations in the world, if any, the population of which is generally as enlightened as that of the United States of North America, and yet, at this very time, we see the dogs of civil war let loose among them and raging as fiercely as ever they did among the confederate governments of South America. As to the absence of homogeneity talked of by Passy, if it exists to such an extent as to lead to these sad results among the confederations of South America, in which all the citizens are, without exception, Catholics, speaking the same language, and who all within a few years fought side by side against their common enemy, Spain, to achieve their liberty,—if they are deficient, I say, in homogeneity, what is the case with us? Protestants and Catholics, French, English and Irish speaking two different languages. The strongest bond of union among the citizens of a state is a community cu language and religion. We have neither in common.
The confederations of South America have both, and yet, as Passy says, they have not sufficient homogeneity to afford a hope that they can ever live in peace under a federal regime. Mexico was constituted a Confederation in 1824. In 1837 it was united, and the union subsisted till 1846, except three years of dictatorship. In 1846 the Federal principle again prevailed, but disappeared in 1853, since which period the history of Mexico is too generally known to need repetition in this place. It is written with the blood of its citizens. I shall merely mention the United States of North America.
I do not pretend—I do not possess the ability—to trace out the real sources of the immense civil war by which they are now rent in pieces. Enough for me to say, that nobody is to consider slavery as the only cause of the civil strife. More than thirty years ago upon a question of tariff white went to protect the manufacturers of the North at the expense of the planters of the South, South Carolina sounded the signal of insurrection, as she since did in 1861; and had it not been for the firmness of General Jackson, who overstepped his powers to save his country, the civil contest would have commenced at that time. It was sure to come on; it was only delayed for a while. These were all trials of the Confederate system.
Mr. Cornellier—All the confederations which you have mentioned were or are republican, and had the common fate of republican institutions. You have not said a word about monarchical confederations.
Mr. Joly—I have made no mention of monarchical confederations, because none have ever existed, and none can exist. The principle of a monarchy is that the power resides in one person; the principle of confederation is that it resides in all the members of the confederation. A confederation would, therefore, always be a republic, even if formed of several states subject to a monarchy; because the power would not be vested in one person, but in each of the several states, of which no one would acknowledge a head; it would be a republic consisting of a very small number of members. Before I take leave of all the confederations, the names of which I have mentioned, I intend to say one word, at least, in their favor. We understand that states […]
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[…] perfectly independent of one another, and not subject to any authority bearing equally on them all, may have agreed (notwithstanding the inconveniences of confederation) to become confederate for the purpose of strengthening him or herself to resist a common enemy.
So much they may have done. But we do not understand how provinces like ours, which have no existence independent of each other, but are all subject to the same authority, need have recourse to confederation for the purpose of cementing a union which already exists. Confederation, by marking more strongly the lines of demarcation between them, spoken of by Lord Brougham, renders any more intimate connection between them for the future impossible. We are like bars of iron straggly welded together, which men should try to unite more strongly to each other by tearing them asunder to reunite them with shoemaker’s paste. Some will answer, “True! the Federal principle has always and in every case proved a failure, but the cause lay in the weakness of the central power. We shall obviate that inconvenience, by establishing a central power strong enough to preserve our Confederation from that danger.”
But then it will be no longer a Confederation; it will be a legislative union—a union which the most zealous advocates of Confederation reject as incompatible with the various interests of the different provinces. If you succeed in establishing this central power, with strength enough to bear sway over the local powers, the latter will no longer have an exclusive existence; they will become the authorized delegates of the central power, their officers and every vestige of confederation will disappear from your Constitution. If you absolutely resolve to adopt the Federal principle, you cannot do it without adopting at though same time all its inconveniences. The weakness of the central power is not the fruit of the Federal system; it is its root, it is itself. This is the reason why states which are perfectly independent of each other, adopt the Federal principle solely as a means of defence against foreigners, because the central power in a confederation cannot be other than weak. We already possess, under our present Constitution, and without confederation, a central power stronger than any power which you can create, and to which we submit without complaint, because it is perfectly compatible with the existence of our local powers—I mean the power of England.
It is exercised by men who live too far from us to hearken to the bickering are of race or of party, or to be mixed up with them in any way. But if that central power was wielded by men taken from among ourselves, men who have taken part in our quarrels and animosities, and who would make use of it to give effect to the views of their party, it would become insupportable. As it now exists, we feel it only by the benefits it confers. Having thus shown the serious inconveniences innate in the Federal system, let us see whether there be anything exceptional in our position, operating in our favor, and allowing us to hope for immunity from those evils which have befallen all former confederations. What is our position? In what respects is it more favorable than that of other confederations? Let us begin with Lower Canada; its population is composed of about three fourth French-Canadians, and of one-fourth English-Canadians. It is impossible, even for the blindest admirers of the scheme of Confederation, to shut out from their view this great difference of nationality, which is certainly fated to play an important part in the destinies of the future Confederation.
When Lord Durham wrote his celebrated report in 1839, he said, when speaking of the English-Canadians of Lower Canada:—”The English population will never submit to the authority of a parliament in which the French have a majority, or even the semblance of a majority.” A little further on, he added:—”In the significant language of one of their most eminent men, they assert that Lower Canada must become English, even if to effect that object it should be necessary that the province should cease to belong to England.”
Whatever errors Lord Durham may have fallen into in judging the French-Canadians, he certainly cannot be reproached with having shown too great severity towards the English-Canadians. He merely depicted their sentiments, as they manifested themselves in his day. Since then, things have undergone a change. And last autumn, at Sherbrooke, the Honorable Minister of Finance [Hon. Mr. Galt] presented to us a very different picture, when he said:—”For five and twenty years harmony has reigned in Lower Canada, and the English and French populations have entered into a compact to labor together to promote the common interests of the country.” This picture is a true one at the present time, as was also […]
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[…] that drawn by Lord Durham in his day; things have hanged! In the Parliament of the United Canadas, the English are in a majority; they have not to deal with a French majority. But, if circumstances have altered, men have not; place them in the same position in which they were previous to 1839, and again you will perceive in them the same sentiments as were depicted by Lord Durham. The seed lies hid in the soil, it does not show itself on the surface; but a few drops of rain are all that is necessary to cause it to spring up. If such sentiments did not exist between the two nationalities, why this resolution, to be submitted to the House by the honorable member for Missisquoi [Mr. O’Halloran], which I am now about to read:—
Resolved, That assuming the Federal system of government to he a political necessity in a union of the British North American Provinces, any Confederation of those provinces which ignores the difference of race, language and religion of the inhabitants of the respective states or territories gush to be thus united, and is not framed with a view to secure to the inhabitants of such slate or territory the management of their own local affairs, in accordance with their own peculiar views and sentiments, is unwise and inexpedient, and not conducive to good government or to the peace and tranquillity of those for whom it is framed;
Resolved, That with a view to secure to that portion of the inhabitants of Lower Canada speaking the English language, the free exercise and enjoyment of their own ideas, institutions and rights, in any proposed Confederation of the provinces, Canada should be divided into three civil divisions, to wit: Western, Central and Eastern Canada.
At the mere idea of a legislature in which the French element is to be in a majority if Lower Canada, the passions described by Lord Durham are evinced. It is true that the Ministry are doing their best to reassure both parties, and to each party, separately, they make promises at the expense of the other. French-Canadians! do not allow yourselves to be led away by those brilliant promises. An Italian poet describes the endeavours of a mother to induce her child to swallow a draught, which is intended to restore him to health; to tempt him, she covers the edge of the cup with honey; in like manner, the edge of the cup which is presented to you has been covered with honey, but instead of containing a health-restoring draught, that cup contains poison and death.
I do not believe that the French-Canadians will abjure the power of their majority in Lower Canada by striving to oppress the English-Canadians; but there are too many points on which they disagree to allow of their living long in peace together, in spite of their sincere wish to do so, under the system of local government which is proposed to us. The Honorable Prime Minister [Hon. Sir Etienne Pascal Taché] said in the Council:—
I believe the French Canadians will do all in their power to render justice to their fell low-subjects of English origin; and it should not be forgotten that, if the former are in a majority in Lower Canada, the English will be in a majority in the General Government, and that no act of real injustice can take place without its being reversed by the Federal Parliament.
But who is to decide whether any act of the French-Canadians is really an act of injustice? The Federal Parliament, in which the English element will be all-powerful! I political matters, a disinterested opinion is but seldom come to; the sympathies of the majority in the federal Parliament will be against us; I see in this the prospect of a position which may prove to be a most dangerous one for us; if the strife should commence, no one can tell when it will end.
Mr. Beaubien—I have confidence in the conscience of the Federal Parliament. We ought not to attribute evil intentions to men, but rather suppose that they will treat us as they desire to be treated themselves, with justice, and in a conscientious manner.
Mr. Joly—Despite the honorable member’s sermon—I beg his pardon, I mean despite the honorable member’s observation—I am of opinion that we ought not to leave interests so precious as those which are confided to us to the mercy of men with whom we are not always certain of living on good terms, without any other guarantee than their conscience. Confederation, by changing the state of things which established harmony between the English and French races in Lower Canada, will destroy that harmony, and the consequences may be only too easily foreseen. In Upper Canada there is much more homogeneity, and, by consequence, the danger of intestine trouble there is much less great; true it is, that the enormous power of the Orangemen and the law respecting separate schools may give rise to difficulties, but I fear more for the relations of Upper Canada with the other provinces, and especially the Atlantic Provinces. Upper Canada objects, in general terms, to the construction of the Intercolonial Railway. Its wish is to see the resources of the future Confederation applied to opening up the immense territory of the North-West, and to the enlargement […]
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[…] of its canals. The Atlantic Provinces desire the Intercolonial Railway; but they hold in dread the expenditure which would be entailed by the opening up of the Northwest Territory and the enlargement of the canals. Upper Canada already fears lest the Atlantic Provinces should unite with Lower Canada against her; the French-Canadians fear for their nationality, threatened by the English majority from the other provinces, and yet Confederation so far only exists as a scheme. If our relations with the other provinces are not at present very intimate, at least there is nothing hostile in them.
We regard them with interest and friendship as members of one and the same family with ourselves we all grow together under the shelter of the English flag, and in case of war with the United States, we are all ready to unite in our efforts, in good faith, for our common defence. But when the different provinces shall meet together in the Federal Parliament as on a tiled of battle, when they have there contracted the habit of contending with each other to cause their own interests, so various and so incompatible with each other, to prevail, and when, from repetition of this undying strife, jealousy and inevitable hatred shall have resulted, our sentiments towards the other provinces will be no longer the same; and should any great danger, in which our safety would depend upon our united condition, arise, it would then perhaps be found that our Federal union had been the signal for our disunion.
In such a position the greatest danger would result from the neighbourhood of the United States, a nation which for a long time has looked on our provinces with a covetous eye, and which has an immense army which the end of the war, probably not far distant, will leave without occupation. They will follow up our political struggles closely, will encourage the discontented, and will soon find an opportunity for interfering in our internal affairs, being called in by the weaker party; history is full of similar occurrences.
The Attorney General for Lower Canada [Hon. Mr. Cartier] pretends that the opponents of Confederation desire annexation to the United States. I find it difficult to believe in his sincerity when he expresses that opinion; it is usually by such arguments as this that he replies to his opponents when he has no other answer to make them. One of the most justly respected men in Lower Canada, a man who enjoys universal esteem, Mr. Cherrier, who had long withdrawn from public life, determined, despite his repugnance to entering the lists, to raise his voice in order to warn his fellow-countrymen against the dangers of the Confederation project.
The purity of his motives could not be questioned; being connected with no political party, he was perfectly disinterested in the course he took. It appears to me that the opinion of such a man deserved at least a respectful hearing. Instead of answering his argument, the honorable the Attorney General [Hon. Mr. Cartier] attempted to make him the laughing stock of this House. The Government stifles the voice of those who wish to enlighten the people; but it takes upon itself the task of enlightening them. Here is a work “in favor of Confederation,” published in 1865, entitled: L’Union des Provinces de l’Amérique Britannique du Nord, par l’Hon. Joseph Cauchon, membre de Parlement Canadien, et Rédacteur en-chef du Journal de Québec; and also author of a work published in 1858, “against Confederation.”
If the Government were generous, they would distribute the work of 1858 at the same time with that of 1865, in order to afford to every one the advantage of a choice, more particularly as the honorable author cannot be right in both. In bringing these two works into contrast, I do not wish to make a personal attack on the honorable member; the fact that he first wrote against Confederation and then in favor of it, is perfectly foreign to the debate. I should not have mentioned the matter, were it not that the Government make use of the work of 1865 (the second) in order to propagate in every direction their doctrines on Confederation; they are distributing thousands of copies of the work throughout Lower Canada, and in order to influence the English-speaking population, they are having it translated into English.
It is, therefore, right to warn the people that they must distrust the arguments contained in that book; they are diametrically opposed to the opinions enunciated by the author in his work of 1858, in which he says, in express terms, that the consequences of Confederation would be the ruin of Lower Canada. Of course the author, in his work of 1865, attempts to explain his change of opinion; it is none the less true that he was wrong either in 1858 or else in 1865—which? It may be said in behalf of the book of 1865 that it is four times thicker than the other; this perhaps may seem a disadvantage to the […]
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[…] minds of some readers. The Government, knowing well how much the people fear direct taxes, tell them that Confederation involves them in no such risk. “What new method are they going to invent then for raising money? It is perfectly clear that Confederation will largely increase our expenditure. Then, for instance, Canada, which has now but one Government to maintain (and it is as much as she can do to maintain it), will have three to maintain, or nearly so: the Government of Upper Canada, the Government of Lower Canada, and nine-twelfths of the Federal Government; it will be the same as regards the legislatures. Canada, with a population forming nine-twelfths of the Confederation, will have to build nine-twelfths of the Intercolonial Railway, in place of the five-twelfths she was to have been charged with, under the arrangements of 1863.
With reference to the opening of the all but boundless territory of the North-West, and the construction of the fortifications which are spoken of only in whispers as yet, lest we should become alarmed, it is impossible to calculate the expenditure these works will involve. And, in face of this increased expenditure, our chief source of revenue is to be considerably diminished. I refer to the import customs duties. Here is the justification offered by the Minister of Finance [Hon. Mr. Galt] for the reduction:—
It is evident since the Atlantic Provinces consume a far larger quantity of articles paying import duties than we do, that we shall be compelled, in order to assimilate all the customs tariffs, to diminish the import duties we pay in Canada. The Atlantic Provinces cannot adopt a customs tariff so high as ours.
I think I have shown that our expenditure must infallibly increase; and as our revenue will diminish, to what new tax will the Government have recourse in order to make up the deficit? We are told that Lower Canada will have a revenue of nearly a million and a half to meet her local expenditure; with what shall we meet our proportion of the Federal expenditure, which will be far larger? But I shall now deal with the advantages which we are told must certainly result from Confederation. They may be divided into three classes—political, military and commercial.
The honorable member for Montmorency [Hon. Mr. Cauchon] tells us that we are to have the advantage of a seat at the banquet of nations. The perspective is a highly flattering one, I admit, but we must be permitted to take a common-sense view of it. The Honorable Minister of Finance [Hon. Mr. Galt], faithful to the doctrine that the greatness of a State is proportioned to the greatness of its debt, announces to us that our credit will be considerably increased, and that we shall be enabled to borrow much more extensively than we have hitherto done, a prospect at which he seems greatly to rejoice. This facility of borrowing is not always an unmixed good; but it must be remembered that our credit will depend entirely on the success of our Confederation. If it should not succeed, if any serious difficulty should arise within it—a thing which is possible—public opinion will be more prompt to take alarm, in that our Federal form of government does not afford strong guarantees for the maintenance of order and peace, and our credit will soon be worth less than the credit of a single province is worth to-day.
The Honorable the President of the Council [Hon. Mr. Brown] enumerated all our provinces, comparing one after another, as regards superficial extent, with the great states of Europe. He finished with the Hudson’s Bay territory, stating that it is as large as European Russia; but will it ever be capable of supporting, like European Russia, a population of sixty millions, and feeding, with its surplus corn, a great part of Europe? The vastness of territory in which the honorable minister takes so much pride is precisely what inspires me with uneasiness; we shall have the outward form of a giant, with the strength of a child; we shall be unable to stand up. Hasty and premature growth is as fatal to states as it is to men; a state should extend its limits only in proportion as its strength increases.
The Roman Empire did not attain in a day its colossal proportions; its growth, like that of the oak, was slow but sure. Let us not allow ourselves to be dazzled by the ambition of becoming all at once a great people; the United States are a great people, but where is the people, however small it maybe, that now envies their greatness? Let us be content with our lot; few nations have a better one. The territorial formation of the future Federation will also be an insurmountable obstacle to the establishment of a strong government; it amounts to a deformity. I give the following passage in support of this proposition:—
What may the geographical advantages of the Union be? We speak more as regards the future than as regards the present. If the provinces it […]
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[…] is proposed to unite were grouped in a compact mass as are the majority of the states of the American Union, if their geographical position were such that they needed one another in order to prosper, in order to attain an outlet on the sea, we should say—here, at all events, is a motive for the sacrifices demanded of us. But no, they are scattered over the surface of the Gulf. The nearest to Canada, New Brunswick, is connected with us solely by a narrow strip of territory at most but a few leagues in width, and bordered throughout by the menacing frontier of the American Union.
And even at this moment, pending the carrying out of the works of improvement we have just referred to, the shortest route from the provinces to Canada is by way of the United States. While the union of the Canadas was odious in its formula, it was at all events justifiable in a geographical point of view; Upper Canada required the use of the St. Lawrence in order to reach the sea, and the two provinces together form a compact body, a fact which is the strongest possible condemnation of the Constitutional Act of 1791, and on which they were separated.
If the readers of the work published by the Hon. Mr. Cauchon, in 1865, in favor of Confederation, desire to know where I found that passage, I answer, in the work published by the Hon. Mr. Cauchon, in 1858. It is probably the portion of the honorable gentleman’s work of 1858, which he will find it most difficult to get over. He may, indeed, allege in explanation of his change of opinion on other points, that the political position is altered, that our relations with the provinces and our neighbors of the United States are no longer the same; but I apprehend he will hardly go the length of asserting that the geographical configuration of the country is changed. He will perhaps endeavor to show that the Intercolonial Railway, the construction of which forms part of the plan of Confederation, will obviate the defects of our geographical position; but I would remind him that in 1858, when he wrote his first work, the building of the Intercolonial Railway was proposed as it is proposed now; this will appear from the passage I have just quoted: “And at this moment, pending the carrying out of the improvements we have just referred to, the shortest way to come from the provinces to us is by way of the United States.”
Mr. Speaker, with the best possible desire to assist the honorable gentleman, I find it utterly impossible to extricate him from his unfortunate position, and I shall not make the attempt. The Hon. Attorney General [Hon. Mr. Cartier] promises us that Lower Canada will be the sun of the Confederation. Since we cannot find a comparison on this poor earth emblematic of our future greatness, let us borrow one from the heavens at the risk of losing ourselves in the clouds with the advocates of Confederation; I propose the adoption of the rainbow as our emblem. By the endless variety of its tints the rainbow will give an excellent idea of the diversity of races, religions, sentiments and interests of the different parts of the Confederation. By its slender and elongated form, the rainbow would afford a perfect representation of the geographical configuration of the Confederation.
By its lack of consistence—an image without substance—the rainbow would represent aptly the solidity of our Confederation. An emblem we must have, for every great empire has one; let us adopt the rainbow. Mr. Speaker, the fact of our provinces being all at once erected into a Confederation will not give us a single additional man; battalions cannot be made to spring forth from the earth, armed from head to foot, by a stamp of the foot as in the mythological ages. The Hon. Attorney General for Lower Canada [Hon. Mr. Cartier] has developed a plan of strategy which I take the liberty of seriously recommending to the Commander-in-Chief. The honorable gentleman sums up in the following terms the advantages of the Confederation in a military point of view: “When we shall be united, the enemy will know that if he attacks any part of our provinces, the Island of Prince Edward or Canada, he will have to meet the combined forces of the Empire.”
There was no need of the Confederation to convince our neighbors of that; they are, as a general rule, sufficiently sharp-witted to discover, without being told it, that if they content themselves with attacking us at a single point at a time, of course they will have to meet all our strength. Would it not be well to enter into a contract, binding them to attack us at a single point only at one time—says Quebec? We might, in fact, give them the free use of the Grand Trunk Railway to bring their troops to Point Levis. Of what benefit to the United States would be their vast armies, their great fleets, their abundant means of transport in every direction, if they were to attack us only at one point at a time, as the Hon. Attorney General [Hon. Mr. Cartier] seems to hope? In the war of 1812, they attacked us simultaneously at different points, though their troops were far less numerous in proportion to ours than they would now be in case of war, and though their means of transport were then far inferior to what they now are. Newfoundland, Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Canada, would […]
- (p. 355)
[…] be attacked simultaneously, and each province at different points. The provinces will help one another sufficiently if each of them can maintain the integrity of its own territory, so that the enemy may not be enabled to take the adjoining province in flank; in the same way that a soldier in line of battle assists his comrade at his side by simply keeping his own place in the ranks. We do not need Confederation to give us that unity which is indispensable in all military operations—unity of headship. A commander-in-chief will direct the defence of all our provinces; he will forward troops, and, if he can, vessels of war, to the points most seriously threatened, and will assist each province to defend the post which Providence has already assigned to each in our long line of battle.
Moreover, in the event of war with the United States, if we were to trust to numbers we should be sadly disappointed. What we need above all is enthusiasm; our citizen soldiers must be convinced that they are risking their lives for something worth while; that they are happier in being under the flag of England than they could be under that of the United States, and that they must lose by an exchange. In the present position of the United States it is not difficult to make them understand that; the taxes alone with which the Americans are now crushed down, and of which the vast volume is growing from day to day, suffice to show, at a first glance, how far our position is superior to theirs in a material point of view.
But if, in order to meet the extravagant expenditure the Confederation must bring with it, the people find themselves taxed beyond their resources, the Government need not be surprised, if they should ever appeal to the courage of the people and call upon them to meet the enemy, to receive the answer the old man got from his donkey in Lafontaine’s fable. When, at the approach of the enemy, the old man wished to mount and fly, the donkey refused to boar him, and commenced the following dialogue with his master:—
Me fera-t-on porter double bât, double charge?
Non pas, dit le vieillard, qui prit d’abord le large.
Et que m’importe donc, dit l’âne, à qui je sois?
Sauvez-vous, et me laissez paître.
Notre ennemi, c’est notre maître,
Je vous le dis en bon françois.*
Lafontaine, it will be seen, found means, two hundred years ago, of saying serious things in a laughing way. If the Government treat the people as a beast of burthen, to be pitilessly overladen, the people will one day make them the same answer that the donkey made to his master, in Lafontaine’s fable. Lord Bacon, in his essays, expresses the same thought in more serious terms. But apart from purely material interests, which are nevertheless highly important, for happiness and poverty rarely go hand in hand, there are other interests of a higher order which rouse the courage of a people and sometimes render it capable of sustaining the most unequal struggles.
Deprive the French Canadians of their nationality, and you deprive them of the enthusiasm which would have doubled their strength. I concur with the Government in their desire to form more intimate commercial relations between the different provinces; but when it is attempted to use the immense advantages which would result from these relations as an overwhelming argument in favor of Confederation, it is as well to form a proper appreciation of those advantages, and see whether we cannot secure them without Confederation. The Gulf Provinces possess timber, coal and fisheries; our own two great articles of export are timber and wheat. With regard to timber, the Gulf Provinces have no more need of ours than we of theirs. As to coal we import from England what we need for our present wants, in ballast, on board the numerous ships which come here for our timber, and we thus get it cheaper than we could import it from the Gulf Provinces. When this supply becomes insufficient to meet our growing wants, it will be necessary to look somewhere for a supply of coal.
If the Lower Provinces can furnish it to us at cheaper rates than we can get it in the United States, we shall buy it from them. Upper Canada will probably get its coal from the Pennsylvania mines, which are in direct communication with Lake Erie, on the north shore of which the richest and most thickly settled portion of Upper Canada is situated. As regards fisheries, Canada has a stock of fish in its waters sufficient not only to supply all its own requirements, but to enable it to export largely from Gaspé to Europe. Now as to wheat. The Honorable President of the Council [Hon. Mr. Brown] told us that in a single year the Atlantic Provinces paid $4,440,000 to the United States for flour, and that a portion of that flour came from Upper Canada; and the honorable gentleman asks why should not we […]
* “On me double burthen do you think they will lay?”
“Not so,” said the old man, ere he toddled away.
“Then, what odds,” cried the donkey, “to whom I belong?
You may take to your heels and leave me to feed.
The donkey’s real enemy is his own master’s greed,
And I trust you’ll admit that the argument’s strong.”
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[…] ourselves sell our flour to the Lower Provinces? For the simple reason that, instead of having to pay four millions four hundred and forty-seven thousand dollars to the United States, they would have to pay us five millions of dollars, and they would therefore refuse to buy from us. There is no such thing as sentiment in matters of business; men buy in the cheapest market. The Gulf Provinces will buy their flour from the United States so long as they can obtain it at a lower price there than in Canada; and the fact that they do obtain it cheaper from the United States is clearly demonstrated by their buying from the Americans and not from us. But a single glance at the map will account for the difference in price. I do not believe that the Intercolonial Railway can be advantageously employed for the transport of flour from Rivière du Loup to Halifax; the cost of transport over five hundred miles of railway would be too great; the water route must therefore be adopted.
Kingston and Halifax are in the same latitude, between the 44th and 45th parallel. From Kingston the St. Lawrence flows undeviatingly towards the north-east, and falls into the Gulf in the 50th degree of north latitude. From that point, in order to reach the Gut of Canso, you must not only make five degrees of southing, but also make nearly three degrees of longitude to the east, and then nearly three more towards the west before reaching Halifax. Moreover, the navigation is more or less dangerous throughout. When you compare this circuitous route with the far more direct one of the United States, it is quite easy to understand why the United States can sell even our wheat to the Gulf Provinces at lower prices than we ourselves are able to do. I have attempted to reduce the commercial advantages we are promised to their proper proportion.
I will now endeavor to show that we can secure every one of these advantages without the Confederation. I shall cite, for that purpose, the very words of the Honorable Minister of Finance [Hon. Mr. Galt]:—
If we look at the results of the free interchange of produce between Canada and the United States, we shall find that our trade with them increased, in ten years, from less than two millions to twenty millions of dollars. If free trade has produced such results in that case, what may we not expect when the artificial obstacles which hamper free trade between us and the provinces of the Gulf shall have disappeared?
But this fine result was not obtained by means of a Confederation with the United States. What hinders us from having free trade with the Gulf Provinces? In support of this view, I shall quote the work of the honorable member for Montmorency [Hon. Mr. Cauchon], not that of 1858, but that of 1865, written in favor of Confederation, pages 32 and 33, where he shews in the most conclusive manner that we have no need of Confederation to improve our commercial relations with the Gulf Provinces. It is under this head of commercial advantages that the Intercolonial Railway fitly comes in. The Honorable President of the Council [Hon. Mr. Brown] tells us that he is favorable to Confederation, because it will give us a seaport at all seasons of the year—a most powerful argument, he adds, in its favor. We stand in great need of a seaport in the winter season, more especially if the United States abolish the right of transit. Absolutely, without reference to that, we require it in order to perfect our system of defence. But is Confederation necessary in order that we may build the Intercolonial Railway?
Certainly not. The hon. minister, in the same speech, gives an answer to the representatives from Upper Canada complaining that the Intercolonial Railway is to be built before any scheme is entertained for opening up the North-West Territory,—”The reason is that the necessary means of constructing the Intercolonial Railway are already secured to us by the guarantee of the Imperial Government, which will enable us to obtain money at a very advantageous rate of interest.” These means were secured to us a long time since, long before the question of Confederation was agitated. I see also in a report laid before the House in a return to an address moved for last year by the Honorable Minister of Agriculture [Hon. Mr. McGee], that as soon as it became known in England that Mr. Fleming had been appointed to report upon a plan for the Intercolonial Railway, two offers were at once made for the building of it, uncalled for by us. One is contained in Mr. C. D. Archibald’s letter of 27th August, 1863, and the other in that of Mr. C. J . Brydges of 4th March, 1864. Our credit is good enough to procure us the means of building the railway without having recourse to Confederation.
To sum up all in few words: all the advantages are negative, that is to say, Confederation will do no harm to our interests, military or commercial, but neither do they require it. As to the inconveniences of which it may be productive, I leave them to the judgment of the House, who will decide whether they are positive. I am asked: “If you will have nothing to do with Confederation, what will you have?” […]
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[…] I answer, we would remain as we are. That, I am told, is impossible, in our present position ‘ with respect to Upper Canada. The Hon. Premier, in introducing the scheme of Confederation to the Legislature, said,—”At the time these measures were resolved upon, the country was bordering on civil strife, and he would ask if it was not the duty of both sides to do all they could to prevent the unfortunate results which would have followed.” All the ministers following him, used expressions of the same tenor, nothing caring for the incalculable wrong which they were doing to the country, they whose duty it was to watch for the preservation of its good name, and the safety of its interests. How will the world be astonished, who look upon Canada as one of the most favored countries on earth, in which the people enjoy more liberty and more perfect tranquillity than is to be found in any other—how will they be astonished to hear that we are “a country bordering on civil strife?”
How will such tidings affect our credit? The world will not understand the motives of our ministers in painting the condition of our country in such gloomy colors. It will not be aware that they must have Confederation to keep their places, and that this threat of war is uttered for the nonce as an unanswerable argument to force us to accept it. What a discrepancy there is between this declaration of the Ministry that we are “bordering on civil strife,” and the opening of the Speech from the Throne, which expresses “thankfulness to a beneficent Providence for the general contentment of the people of this province,” or the address voted by the Legislature in answer to the Speech from the Throne, which is the faithful echo of this grateful sentiment! What would the members of the Ministry have said, if a member had risen to move an amendment to the Address in the words made use of by the Hon. Premier, “That the country is bordering on civil strife, and that therefore the House cannot admit that there is general contentment among the people?” It is on reasons widely differing from these that the Speech from the Throne takes ground in recommending the adoption of the scheme of Confederation. But are we really bordering on civil strife?
Of course it is representation based on population which is the exciting cause. Do the people of Upper Canada demand representation based on population as a condition sine qua non of the continuation of our peaceful relations with them? Has this desire to obtain representation based on population taken such deep root in the bosom of Upper Canada, that it is ready to plunge us and itself into the horrors of civil war in order to achieve it? Or is not representation by population rather one of those political clap-traps which ambitious men, who can catch them no other way, set to catch the heedless multitude? We, Lower Canadians, who at this distance cannot judge of the sentiments of Upper Canadians by our own observation, must depend for the formation of our opinions respecting them on the Upper Canada newspapers, and on the speeches of their members in this House. They are the only sources of information which we possess.
Well, in 1862, we saw the Upper Canada leaders, except the President of the Council [Hon. Mr. Brown], who was wise enough to keep aloof, who are at the same time connected with the principal newspapers there, either as proprietors, editors or co-editors, accept office under the Macdonald-Sicotte Government, the fundamental principle of which was equal representation of the two sections, a principle which entitled it to the cordial support of Lower Canada. These gentlemen we saw re-elected, notwithstanding their abandonment of their principles, and we found them voting against representation by population. From this I conclude that Upper Canada is much more indifferent, and its leaders much less sincere touching this question of the representation, than they would have us believe. Were it otherwise, Upper Canada would have taken the opportunity, afforded by the election, of punishing the men who had betrayed her.
But who are those two men who now pitch their voices in harmony (formerly so discordant) to predict civil war, if we do not vote for Confederation? They are the Attorney General for Lower Canada [Hon. Mr. Cartier], and the President of the Council (Hon. Messrs. Cartier and Brown!)—the one demanding representation by population, the other refusing it: both took their stand as the champions of their sections, and became their chieftains respectively. When they found out that that game was unprofitable to both, as the President of the Council [Hon. Mr. Brown] seemed to be excluded for ever from the ministerial benches, and the Attorney General [Hon. Mr. Cartier] could not maintain himself in his position on them, the Attorney General [Hon. Mr. Cartier] gave way: he agreed to representation by population, trying to disguise it under the name of Confederation; and to reward him for this complaisance, the President of the Council [Hon. Mr. Brown] saved him—him and his colleagues—and condescended to take a seat among them. They hold over us a threat of civil war to […]
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[…] force us to ratify their bargain. There is only one man in Canada who could have done what the Attorney General for Lower Canada [Hon. Mr. Cartier] has done, and that man is himself. Thanks to his energy, to his intimate acquaintance with the strong and the weak points of his fellow-countrymen, the Attorney General for Lower Canada [Hon. Mr. Cartier] has succeeded in attaining an elevation which no one can dispute with him—that of chief of the French Canadian nationality.
To attain this eminence, he has crushed the weak, cajoled the strong, deceived the credulous, bought up the venal, and exalted the ambitious; by turns he has called in the accents of religion and stimulated the clamour of interest—he has gained his end. When Lower Canada heard of his alliance with the President of the Council [Hon. Mr. Brown], there arose from all quarters one universal cry of indignation.
He managed to convert the cry of anger into a shout of admiration. When his scheme of Confederation became public, a feeling of uneasiness pervaded all minds; that instinct forewarned them of the danger which impended. He has hushed that feeling to a sleep of profound security. – I shall compare him to a man who has gained the unbounded confidence of the public, who takes advantage of it to set up a Savings Bank, in which the rich man deposits his wealth, and the day labourer the small amount which he has squeezed out of his wages, against a day of need—both without a voucher. When that man has gathered all into his strong box, he finds an opportunity to purchase, at the cost of all he holds in trust, the article on which he has long set his ambitious eye; and he buys it, unhesitatingly, without a thought of the wretches who are doomed to ruin by his conduct.
The deposit committed to the keeping of the Attorney General [Hon. Mr. Cartier] is the fortune of the French-Canadians—their nationality. That fortune had not been made in a day; it was the accumulation of the toil and the savings of a whole people in a whole century. To prolong the ephemeral existence of his administration for a few months, the Attorney General [Hon. Mr. Cartier] has sacrificed, without a scruple, this precious trust, which the unbounded confidence of his fellow-countrymen had confided to his keeping.
Hon. Mr. Cartier—And what have I received in payment for that?
Mr. Joly—A salary of five thousand dollars per annum, and the honor of the position.
Hon. Mr. Cartier—That is not enough for me.
Mr. Joly—I am well aware of it; that is why the honorable member is desirous of extending the circle of his operations. But he will not long enjoy the fruits of his treason; by crushing the power of the French-Canadians he has crushed his own, for upon them his existence depends. Does he believe in the sincerity of the friendship of the Liberals of Upper Canada? They fought with him for too long a time to allow of the existence of any sympathy between them and him, and now he has lost even their respect. They consented to ally themselves with him in order to obtain their object—representation by population; but when they no longer stand in need of him, they will throw him aside like a worn-out tool.
I look upon this threat of civil war as resembling a farce played by two comrades; they shout out to us, “Take care, we are going to fight; we shall do some mischief if you don’t hold us.” Do not put yourselves out of the way to stop them; you need not be alarmed, they will not fight. It is also said to us, “See how many changes of Ministry there have been since 1862; can such a state of affairs continue any longer?” I am free to admit that all those changes must have been very unpleasant for the different ministers who have succumbed under them, but has the country suffered much by them? The condition of the finances of a nation is the touchstone of its prosperity. In 1862, the Minister of Finance [Hon. Mr. Galt], before resigning, declared a deficit of five millions one hundred and fifty-two thousand dollars (page 20 of his speech); for the year ending the 30th June last, there was a surplus of seven hundred and fifty thousand dollars. If all these changes of ministries had not taken place, it is impossible to say how large the deficit would have become by this time, as for several years previous to 1862 it had gone on steadily increasing.
These two reasons advanced by ministers are merely intended as a veil to conceal the true motive for this complete revolution in our Constitution; that true motive is simply a desire on their parts to remain in power. Without wishing to enter into all the details of the measure proposed to the House, which have been so ably handled by the honorable member for Hochelaga [Hon. Mr. Dorion], more especially those relating to the Legislative Council, there are some which I cannot pass over in silence. The following are the paragraphs of the resolutions of the Quebec Conference which regulate the organization of the Lower House of the Federal Legislature, principally in respect of the number of representatives:—
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- The basis of representation in the House of Commons shall be population, as determined by the official census every ten years. and the cumber of members at first shall be 194, distributed as follows:
|Prince Edward Island||5|
- Until the official census of 1871 has been made up, there shall be no change in the number of representatives from the several sections.
- Immediately altar the completion of the census of 1871, and immediately after every decennial census thereafter, the representation from each section in the House of Commons shall be readjusted on the basis of population.
- For the purpose of such readjustments, Lower Canada shall always be assigned sixty-five members, and each of the other sections shall at each readjustment receive, for the ten years then next succeeding, the number of members to which it will be entitled on the same ratio of representation to population as Lower Canada will enjoy according to the census last taken by having sixty-five members.
- No reduction shall be made in the number of members returned by any section, unless its population shall have decreased, relatively to the population of the whole Union, to the extent of five per centum.
- In computing at each decennial period the number of members to which each section is entitled, no fractional parts shall be considered, unless when exceeding one-half the number entitling to a member, in which case a member shall be given for each such fractional part. I object to the 21st clause, because it contains provisions which are unjust to Lower Canada. The full scope of that clause is not generally understood; that proportion of five per cent, appears to be a very small affair, and yet, under certain circumstances, it might produce considerable results, which are not taken into consideration in the explanations given on that subject in the work written by the Honorable Mr. Cauchon, which the Government has caused to be distributed (pages 72 to 87).
It is difficult to foretell what the exact numerical increase of the several provinces will be from the present time to the next census in 1871.
The Honorable Mr. Cauchon assumes, as the basis of his calculations, a rate of thirty per cent. Let us suppose the case to prove that in all the provinces (with the exception of Lower Canada) the population increases, by thirty per cent, between 1861 and 1871, and that that of Lower Canada increases by thirty-four per cent. It may, perhaps, be objected to this that it is improbable. My reply is, that when we are discussing a scheme of such importance as that which is now under our consideration, we should provide for all possible contingencies; but this one is far from being impossible if the predictions of the Minister of Finance [Hon. Mr. Galt] and the Attorney General [Hon. Mr. Cartier], who promise to Lower Canada so brilliant a future under the Federal system, are fulfilled.
If Lower Canada becomes the heart of the commercial life of the Confederation; if the mines of copper, lead, silver, and gold which we have lately discovered should produce the same results that they produce everywhere else, that of attracting a great influx of population, I cannot be accused of any very great exaggeration in supposing that the population of Lower Canada may, between the years 1861 and 1871, increase by four per cent, more than the population of the other provinces. In the case which I have supposed the increase would be as follows:—
|Prince Edward Island||24,227|
According to this calculation, Lower Canada would have, in 1871, a population of 1,488, 289 souls, which would have to be divided by 65, that being the invariable number of representatives assigned to Lower Canada, in order to ascertain what will be the number of constituents for each representative in the Federal Parliament; the result will be found to be 22,896. Upper Canada would have a population of 1,814,918 souls, which, divided by 22,896, would give her seventy-nine representatives instead of eighty-two. Nova Scotia would have a population of 430,114 souls, which would give her nineteen representatives as at present (eighteen and a fraction over the half). New Brunswick would have a population of 327,661 souls, which would give her fourteen representatives instead of fifteen. Newfoundland would have a population of 169,000 souls, which would give her seven representatives instead of eight. Prince Edward Island would have a population of 104,984 souls, which would give her five members as at present (four and a fraction over the half).
It will be seen that if the five other provinces were represented on the same scale as Lower Canada, they would, in 1871, lose among them five members; but as the total population of each will not have decreased by five per cent., relatively to the total population of the Confederated Provinces,
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there will be no reduction in the number of their representatives, in accordance with the provisions of this 21st clause. It is the interest of Lower Canada, more than of any other province, to watch with a jealous eye over the mechanism adopted for the organization of the Federal Legislature. In case of a vital question arising, we should have to counteract the votes of these five members (who ought, in justice, to be deducted from the representation of the other provinces) by those of five of our members, whose votes would thus be lost to us, as would also be the weight which their five united counties, with a total population of 114,480 (or 22,896 for each county), would throw into the scale.
Other combinations of circumstances might arise which might prove even more disadvantageous to us. This subject naturally leads me to address myself to my French Canadian colleagues; I fear that my remarks may not be well received by all, but I hope that honorable members will be good enough to excuse my frankness in consideration of the great importance of the question. I have no right to maintain that all those who are favorably disposed towards Confederation are not acting in good faith; it is not my wish to reproach them for acting according to their convictions, but in so acting they should not forget the duties which their charge imposes on them.
It a well known fact that when the scheme of Confederation was laid before the public, all the newspapers, and most of the members who support the Administration, declared themselves in favor of the scheme, but, in nearly every instance, with an express reservation of the right to introduce certain amendments which they considered indispensable. But the Honorable Attorney General for Upper Canada [Hon. J.A. Macdonald] declared, some days ago, that the Government would accept no amendment, and that the resolutions must be adopted exactly in the shape in which they were brought down. Are honorable members going to submit to this decree? Is it not their intention at least to make an effort to have those amendments, which they looked upon as indispensable, adopted? Their position in relation to the Government confers upon them an influence which they can never exert more usefully than at present; it is their duty to exert that influence; they are responsible for the results of this measure, which cannot be adopted without their concurrence.
Their principal argument in support of Confederation is that we have now an excellent opportunity of obtaining; favorable conditions—an opportunity which will probably never occur again, and one of which it is their duty to avail themselves. But have the honorable members made those conditions? Have they taken as great precautions to preserve intact the interests of nearly a million French Canadians entrusted to their care, as they would have taken in making an agreement for the sale of a farm, or even the purchase of a horse? Have they made any conditions at all? If they have made no conditions, do they at least know what the fate is that is reserved for us? Do they know the nature of the form of Government which will be imposed on Lower Canada? Can they say whether we shall have Responsible Government?
No! for the Ministry refuses to speak; it will only speak when the measure of Confederation shall have been adopted, and when it is too late to raise any objections. Responsible government would not be a very efficacious remedy for the evils which I foresee, but it would, at all events, be a means of defence for us, and we ought not to reject it. It is true that, according to the 41st article of the resolutions, “The local governments and legislature of each province shall be constructed in such manner as the existing legislature of each such province shall provide.” But the English element is at present in the majority. We are told that the English are naturally favorable to responsible government. That is true when it relates to themselves; for how many years did Canada remain without responsible government?
The painful events of 1837 and 1838 were the result of that anomaly in the parliamentary system. Upper Canada will not need, as we shall, a local responsible government; it will not have, as we shall have, to defend a nationality which will be in a minority in the Federal Parliament, but which, at least, ought to enjoy in Lower Canada those powers which parliamentary authority everywhere accords to the majority. Upper Canada only desires to make of her local legislature a municipal council on a large scale; she will fight out her party quarrels in the wider arena of the Federal Parliament.
The English of Lower Canada, who will gain nothing by having a responsible local government, because that government is the government of the majority, will unite their votes with those of Upper Canada to impose upon us the same system of government as in the other section. The local parliaments, in the event of that system being adopted, having no part in the government, will soon become perfectly useless, and […]
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[…] they will soon be dispensed with, just as in a machine we do away with useless and expensive wheelwork. Nothing will then be left to us but the legislative union which the honorable members have not ventured to propose, because they are compelled to admit it would be an act of crying injustice to Lower Canada. But we are told to rely on article 42, which gives to the local legislatures the right of amending or changing their Constitutions from time to time, and it is said that when Lower Canada is separated from Upper Canada, she may alter her Constitution if she pleases, and adapt it to her own views.
It must not be forgotten, however, that the Lieutenant-Governor, who will enjoy the right of reserving the bills of the Local Parliament for the sanction of the Governor General, will be appointed by the Governor General in Council, that is to say, by the Federal Government, and, as a matter of course, it must be expected that he will act in conformity with the views of the Federal Government. Any bill reserved by him will require to be sanctioned by the Federal Government, which may refuse such sanction if they think proper, as they undoubtedly will as regards any bill the object of which might be to give responsible government to Lower Canada, whilst all the other provinces would only have governments which were not responsible.
And the militia,—it will be exclusively under the control of the Federal Government. Have the honorable the French-Canadian members, to whom I more particularly address myself at this moment, reflected on the danger to us that is contained in this provision? It is with reluctance that I once more allude to the difficulties which may arise between the different sections of the Confederacy, but it would be wrong to shut our eyes to the future for fear that it may appear too threatening. Did we not, a few days ago, hear one of the honorable members, who most warmly supports the Government, complain in this House that Upper Canada was going to have four military schools, whilst Lower Canada would only have two? Why should we vest in the Federal Government the right of giving instruction in the military art and of arming the other provinces at the expense of Lower Canada? Why, while there is yet time, should we neglect to take those salutary precautions on which our existence as French-Canadians depend?
Our Local Government ought to have the same active part in the organization, instruction and equipment of our militia which belongs to all local governments which form part of other confederacies. But I was forgetting that this is to be a model Confederation, which is to unite within itself all the evils of the Federative system without including one of its advantages. I read in the work in favor of Confederation, to which I have referred on more than one occasion, page 25, as follows: “With them we offer protection to your religion, to your institutions, and to your civil laws,” &c, &c. They offer to protect the French-Canadians; but when, under the present Constitution, they can protect themselves, why should they abdicate the right of so doing? Now they are strongly entrenched in their citadel, and they are advised to raze the walls in order to secure their safety. The French Canadians, at the present day, are in a better position than they were at the time of the union.
They are at the same time both judges and suitors. They are asked to adopt a new form of government; it is not imposed upon them; and, to induce them to do so, the hon. Minister of Agriculture [Hon. Mr. McGee] tells them that this new form of government was recommended successively by Chief Justice Sewell, Judge Robinson, and Lord Durham.
The names alone of these three men ought to suffice to open our eyes; their avowed object always was to obliterate French-Canadian nationality, to blend the races into one only, and that the English; and to attain that end they recommended, as the Minister of Agriculture [Hon. Mr. McGee] has told us, the system of government now submitted for our approval. In the last passage, a few lines of which I have just cited, we find at page 25 a phrase upon which I have reflected seriously; it is as follows, and is placed by the author in the mouths of the English-Canadians of Lower Canada, “Remember that we, too, are inhabitants of Lower Canada, and that we, too, aspire to other and nobler destinies.” I asked of myself, with all seriousness, what then are the aspirations of the French-Canadians? I have always imagined, indeed I still imagine, that they all centre in one point, the maintenance of their nationality as a shield destined for the protection of the institutions they hold most dear.
For a whole century this has ever been the aim of the French-Canadians; in the long years of adversity they have never for a moment lost sight of it; surmounting all obstacles, they have advanced step by step towards its attainment, and what progress have they not made? What is their position to-day? They number nearly a million, they have no longer, […]
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[…] if they are true to themselves, to fear the fate of Louisiana, which had not as many inhabitants, when it was sold by Napoleon to the United States, as Canada had in 1761. A people numbering a million does not vanish easily, especially when they are the owners of the soil. Their number is rapidly increasing. New townships are being opened in every direction, and being peopled with industrious settlers. In the Eastern Townships, which it was thought were destined to be peopled entirely by English settlers, these latter are slowly giving way to the French-Canadians.
There is a friendly rivalry between the two races, a struggle of labor and energy; contact with our fellow-countrymen of English origin has at last opened our eyes; we have at last comprehended that in order to succeed, not only labor is needed, but well-directed and skilled labor, and we profit by their example and by the experience they have acquired in the old countries of Europe. Agriculture with us is now becoming an honorable pursuit; the man of education is no longer ashamed to devote himself to it. Our farmers feel the necessity and desire of attaining perfection in the art.
We possess magnificent model farms, in which we can learn the science of agriculture. We are entering a new era of prosperity. The French-Canadians hold a distinguished position in the commerce of the country; they have founded banks and savings banks; on the St. Lawrence between Quebec and Montreal, they own one of the finest lines of steamboats in America; there is not a parish on the great river which has not its steamboat; the communications with the great towns are easy; we have railways, and we now measure by hours the duration of a journey which formerly we measured by days; we have foundries and manufactories, and our shipbuilders have obtained a European renown. We have a literature peculiarly our own; we have authors, of whom we are justly proud; to them we entrust our language and our history; they are the pillars of our nationality. Nothing denotes our existence as a people so much as our literature; education has penetrated everywhere; we have several excellent colleges, and an university in which all the sciences may be studied under excellent professors. Our young men learn in the military schools how to defend their country. We possess all the elements of a nationality.
But a few months ago, we were steadily advancing towards prosperity, satisfied with the present and confident in the future of the French-Canadian people. Suddenly discouragement, which had never overcome us in our adversity, takes possession of us; our aspirations are now only empty dreams; the labors of a century must be wasted; we must give up our nationality, adopt a new one, greater and nobler, we are told, than our own, but then it will no longer be our own. And why? Because it is our inevitable fate, against which it is of no use to struggle. But have we not already struggled against destiny when we were more feeble than we are now, and have we not triumphed? Let us not give to the world the sad spectacle of a people voluntarily resigning its nationality. Nor do we intend to do so. Let the people have time given them to understand the question; let their opinion on the subject be obtained at the polls.
It is but their right, unless our form of government is a delusion and a snare. If the measure is a good one, what danger is there in discussing it? If the new Constitution it is proposed to give us is to last for centuries, why should we not at least endeavor to make it as perfect as possible?
Why press its adoption before it is understood? In conclusion, I object to the proposed Confederation, first, as a Canadian, without reference to origin, and secondly, as a French-Canadian. From either point of view, I look upon the measure as a fatal error; and, as a French-Canadian, I once more appeal to my fellow-countrymen, reminding them of the precious inheritance confided to their keeping—an inheritance sanctified by the blood of their fathers, and which it is their duty to hand down to their children as unimpaired as they received it. (Cheers.)
The debate was then adjourned.