Province of Canada, Legislative Assembly, Parliamentary Debates on the Subject of the Confederation of the British North America Provinces, 8th Parl, 3rd Sess, (23 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 421-446.
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TUESDAY, February 23, 1865.
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Alexander Mackenzie [Lambton] resumed the adjourned debate.
He said—Before proceeding, Mr. Speaker, to discuss the measure of Confederation itself, I think it desirable to revert for a moment to the position which we have occupied, in discussing those constitutional questions that have so long separated parties, and involved the two sections of the province in serious dissensions I do this to meet the charges of inconsistency bought against myself and others, because we support the present Coalition Government with a view to obtain the solution of the difficulties with which we have had to contend—in a way not perhaps hitherto advocated very extensively, especially in that part of the province to which I myself belong. Since I had the honor of having a seat in this House, I have never advocated representation by population as the sole measure I would accept as a settlement of those difficulties. In the first speech I ever made in this House, I used the following language:—
I am not myself bound down to representation by population as the only possible measure. If the opponents of that measure can suggest any other remedy, I am quite willing to give it a candid consideration; and I am quite sure that the large constituency I represent will support me in considering any measure which will place it out of the power of the Government of the day to perpetrate sectional injustice; but until such a remedy is suggested, I feel bound to advocate […]
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[…] reform of the representation on the basis of population as one remedy I believe to be an effective one. (Hear, hear.)
The hon. member for Hochelaga (Antoine-Aimé Dorion [Hochelaga]) asserted that we had advocated this measure merely as a means of remedying the financial injustice of which we complained. That was not the case. It is quite true that we urged very strongly—and I am not prepared at this moment to withdraw a single statement I have made with reference to that we urged very strongly the injustice of the position in which we were placed, in contributing largely to the public revenue, and finding that that revenue was expended without due consideration being given to that part of the country which contributed most heavily towards it. But, at the same time, we felt that we were treated unjustly in another respect.
We felt that it was not fair—that it could not be just—that four men in Lower Canada should be equal, politically, to five men in Upper Canada. We complained that an eastern majority, in spite of our protestations, framed our laws. It was this which aggrieved us much more deeply than the mere loss of a certain sum of money. (Hear, hear.)
Up to the beginning of 1862 the agitation for a redress of this grievance had been carried on throughout the whole of Western Canada; and I am convinced that at that time there was not an individual who could appear in public in Canada West, and take any share in the public discussions of the day, with any chance of getting a favorable hearing, unless he asserted that he was in favor opt representation by population.
John Sandfield Macdonald [Cornwall]—Oh! oh!
Alexander Mackenzie [Lambton]—The hon. member for Cornwall [John Sandfield Macdonald] cries “Oh!” Well, I will accept him.
George Brown [Oxford South, President Executive Council]—No! no!
Alexander Mackenzie [Lambton]—It is true, perhaps, that even that hon. member cannot be excepted; for no one spoke more strongly than he did of the injustice perpetrated on Upper Canada.
John Sandfield Macdonald [Cornwall]—Hear, hear.
Alexander Mackenzie [Lambton]—He went even further in his assertion of the rights of Upper Canada, and of the justice due to it, than I would be disposed to do. He asserted on the floor of this House that he would not submit to any legislation, good, bad or indifferent, that came from the Administration of the day, simply because they would not accord justice to Upper Canada.
John Sandfield Macdonald [Cornwall]—Any Upper Canada legislation.
Alexander Mackenzie [Lambton]—The hon. gentleman could not have taken stronger ground than that. I shall come to speak presently of his own Administration. The hon. member for Hochelaga [Antoine-Aimé Dorion] seemed to think that, because the people of Canada West conducted their agitation with a good deal of system and order, there was nothing very alarming or dangerous about it. But the hon. gentleman should have remembered that it is a characteristic of the British people, that they on all occasions conduct a political agitation with due decorum and due respect to the laws, and that it is not the less serious on that account. When they have a deep-seated feeling that injustice is being perpetrated upon them, they will not sit still under it, although they will at the same time, while conducting the agitation against it, inspect the rights of other parties. (Hear, hear.)
I am free to confess that, when I first came into this House, I labored under some slight misapprehension of the position which the Lower Canadians occupied towards us of Western Canada. There is, or there was then, a popular opinion that the Lower Canadians were only afraid of representation by population, because they dreaded that the people of Canada West would use the larger power they would thereby obtain for the injury, if not the destruction, of their religious institutions. That is entirely an error. I am convinced that the people of Lower Canada have no such opinion and no such fear. In speaking the other day on that subject, the honorable member for Hochelaga (Hon. Mr. Dorion) quoted from a speech of mine delivered in Toronto a few days before this session commenced; and I do not think the hon. gentleman showed his usual candour or fairness in making the representation he did. He represented me as having stated at that meeting, that I had abandoned representation by population, as a thing that was not advisable, or possible, or something of that sort. Now what I did say was this:—
Having taken some part in public affairs, he (Mr. Mackenzie) had long felt it would be almost impossible, by representation by population, to obtain to the full extent the justice that Upper Canada should receive with a legislative union as the basis of our power.
George Brown [Oxford South, President Executive Council]—Hear, hear!
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Alexander Mackenzie [Lambton]—
He had looked at it in this way. The time had been when the people of Upper Canada imagined that the Lower Canadians were afraid to grant representation by population lest western reformers should interfere with their religious institutions. He was fully satisfied that that idea was entirely erroneous—that the French people never had the slightest fear of the kind, because they knew it would be political suicide, it would be absolute ruin to any political party having the administration of affairs in their hands, to perpetrate injustice on any section of the people, to whatever church they belonged. (Cheers.)
There was one element, however, which always entered largely into the discussion of all our national questions, and that was that the French people were a people entirely different from ourselves in origin, and largely in feeling. We all had a certain pride in our native country, and gloried in the deeds of our ancestors.
The French people had that feeling quite as strongly as any of us; this reason, and also because they were a conquered people, they felt it necessary to maintain a strong national spirit, and to resist all attempts to procure justice by the people of the west, lest that national existence should be broken down.
He (Mr. Mackenzie) felt for one that mere representation by population, under such circumstances, would perhaps scarcely meet the expectations formed of it, because although Upper Canada would have seventeen more members than Lower Canada, it would be an easy thing for the fifty or fifty-five members representing French constituencies to unite with a minority from Upper Canada, and thus secure an Administration subservient to their views.
These were the sentiments that I uttered at that meeting, and the sentiments to which I am prepared now to give utterance again. (Hear, hear.) I believe that tab feeling of nationality has-been our sole difficulty, in working our present political system. But I do not believe for one moment that it would be possible or perhaps desirable to extinguish that strong feeling of nationality. Break down that feeling and all patriotism will be broken down with it. (Hear, hear.)
I do not think it would be fair, or kind, or honorable, to attempt to do so. When Britain conquered the country, she accepted the responsibility of governing a foreign people in accordance with their feelings, so far as consistent with British policy. That feeling of nationality obtains so strongly in all countries, that, where attempts have been made, as in Austria, to break it down, they have signally failed.
When such an attempt failed, though made bay despotic government, with a powerful army at its command, how could we expect it to succeed in a free country. In Austria, at this moment, eighteen different nationalities are represented in the national councils; and, notwithstanding all its military power and prestige, Austria has been compelled to accord local parliaments or assemblies to every one of those eighteen nationalities. (Hear, hear.)
I have felt, therefore, that it would be utterly impracticable to obtain representation by population so long as the French people believed, as I came to find they did believe, that this concession, to us would involve destruction to them as a separate people
Luther Holton [Chateauguay]—That is what they fear will be the result of the scheme now proposed.
Alexander Mackenzie [Lambton]—No; I have yet to learn that they have any such fear. The Attorney General East (Hon. Mr. Cartier), in his speech, a few evenings ago, adverted to the position taken by the French inhabitants of Lower Canada at the time of the French revolution, and claimed credit for them, because they remained loyal to the British Crown, when all the other North American Colonies threw off the British sway. The honorable gentleman’s claim was perfectly just. But I believe that they were actuated by another feeling beyond the feeling of loyalty—that they felt their only safeguard as a distinct people—the only way to preserve their nationality, was to remain attached to Great Britain. Their existence for twenty years as a French colony under British rule, was not perhaps sufficient to give that attachment which they have now to the British Government. But it was perfectly clear to them that, if they entered the American Union, they would be absorbed and lost, just as the French colony of Louisiana has since been. (Hear, hear.)
I have been charged, and others with me, who have held the same political views, with deserting our party, because we have ceased to act with the gentlemen from Lower Canada with whom we formerly acted. I think there is no fair ground for such a charge. For what, after all, is party? it is but an association of individuals holding opinions in common on some grounds of public policy, or some measures which they may believe to be necessary for the conduct of the government of the country to which they belong Looking at the matter in that light, there is no part of our party politics in the west, that we have insisted upon so strongly as that which concerns the representation of the people in Parliament.
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George Brown [Oxford South, President Executive Council]—Hear, hear!
Alexander Mackenzie [Lambton]—And, as soon as our former political friends in Lower Canada ceased to take advanced ground on that question, while the other party, hitherto opposed to us, became willing to take that advanced ground, it became clearly our duty to unite with that party who held opinions in common with us on matters that concerned us above all others. (Hear, hear.) At the time of the formation of the Macdonald-Sicotte Government, I was, with many others, strongly blamed, because we allowed that Government to come into existence at all. It is quite possible we were wrong; but I think after all it was fortunate that the hon. member for Cornwall (Hon. J.S. Macdonald) had a fair opportunity to try his favourite remedy for our constitutional difficulties—the “double majority principle.”
That principle had been pressed on the attention of the country for ten years as one amply sufficient as a remedial measure, under which the existing political system could be harmoniously worked. In the Macdonald-Sicotte Government it had a fair trial and a speedy death. (Hear, hear, and laughter.)
The existence of that Government, if it served no other purpose, showed the utter impracticability of the one means, by which my hon. friend hoped to accomplish what he, in common with ourselves, had long aimed at (Hear, hear.)
Now, supposing the Liberal party of the west had refused the terms offered by the present Administration—if we had declined to support a government which was really giving us nearly all we demanded—I do think we would have been fairly chargeable with creating if not advocating a state of anarchy. I think it would have been a most suicidal thing, if, having obtained—if not to the full extent, yet to a very great extent—the concession of the principle we had contended for so long, we had refused to accept the settlement offered, merely because a certain number of gentlemen, to whom we had been strongly opposed before, were among the leaders of the new movement.
I for one felt it would be quite impossible for me to maintain my ground in Canada West, if I took the responsibility of acting in that way. Some honorable gentlemen have asserted, and truly asserted, that this measure is not as perfect as it might have been—and that it is not as complete as some of us might have desired it to be. It is not perhaps, considering everything, in the exact form in which we demanded it. But, where there are two great parties in a nation—as there have been with us—it is quite clear that, whet, they agree to effect a settlement of the constitutional difficulties which have separated them, this can only be accomplished by mutual compromise to a greater or less extent And the true question to be determined in this discussion, and by the vote at the close of this debate, is this—whether this a fair compromise or not. I am prepared to say it is perhaps as fair as could reasonably be expected, and I have therefore no hesitation in giving it all the support in my power. (Hear, hear.)
In its main features it is the very scheme which was proposed by the Toronto Convention—only carried to a greater extent than the convention thought advisable or possible at the time. The speeches which were delivered at that convention, as well as the resolutions which were passed, showed clearly that it was the opinion of the delegates there present, that a Confederation of the whole provinces would be desirable, it were possible to attain it as speedily, as they expected they could obtain a Federation of the two Provinces of Canada. That, I believe, was the sole reason why resolutions were not moved and adopted in favor of the larger instead of the smaller scheme. But we have been told by the two hon. gentlemen beside me—the hon. member for Chateauguay (Hon. Mr. Holton) and the honorable member for Hochelaga (Hon. Mr. Dorion)—that the scheme of the Toronto Convention took no hold upon the public mind.
As to this I have to say that having had as fair an opportunity perhaps as most men to ascertain the felines of the people in Western Canada, I can assert, without any fear of contradiction by hon. gentlemen iron that part of the country, that no scheme ever took a greater or more complete hold upon the public mind in Upper Canada than the scheme of the Toronto Convention. (Hear, hear.) And for the very reason that the present scheme is merely an expansion of that one, it has received almost universal approval in Canada West. (Hear, hear.)
It is true that after the Toronto Convention was held, there was not any very strong agitation in its favor. But I have observed this, that at all the elections which have been held subsequent to the convention, gentlemen who have taken the same side of politics as myself have been accustomed to say that as soon as the Lower […]
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[…] Canadians who were opposed to representation by population would agree to the scheme of the Toronto Convention, they were ready to meet them on that ground. Personally, I have always been in favor of a legislative union, where it can be advantageously worked. If it could be adapted to our circumstances in these colonies, I would at this moment be in favor of a legislative union as the best system of government. I believe that is the general opinion of the people in the west. But it is the duty of every public man to shape his course with reference to theoretical principles of government, according to the circumstances which may prevail locally. And it is quite clear that, if the legislative union could not be worked well with Upper and Lower Canada, it would work still worse with the other provinces brought in.
There remained, therefore, in my opinion, no other alternative than to adopt the Federal principle, or to dissolve entirely the connection which exists between Upper and Lower Canada at the present moment; and that I would look upon as one of the greatest calamities which could befall these provinces. Even if this scheme were more objectionable than it is, had I the alternative put before me to accept dissolution of the union or to accept this, I would without hesitation accept Confederation rather than dissolution. (Hear, hear.)
In the scheme as propounded, we have all that we could possibly demand in the way of representation in the Lower House. And, besides that, we have provision made for extending the representation east or west, as occasion may require, according to the increase of our population shown at the decennial periods for taking the census. Any thing fairer than that could not possibly be demanded. And if Lower Canada increases more rapidly in population than Canada West, she will obtain representation accordingly. For, although the number of her members cannot be changed from sixty-five, the proportion of that number to the whole will be changed relatively to the progress of the various colonies.
On the other hand if we extend, as I have no doubt we will do, westward, towards the centre of the continent, we will obtain a large population for our Confederation in the west.
In that quarter we must look for the largest increase of our population in British America, and before many years elapse the centre of population and power will tend westward much farther than most people now think. The increase in the representation is therefore almost certain to be chiefly in the west, and every year will add to the influence and power of Western Canada, as well as to her trade and commerce. The most important question that arises relates to the constitution of the Upper House.
It is said that in this particular the scheme is singularly defective—that there has been a retrograde movement in going back from the elective to the nominative system. I admit that this statement is a fair one from those who contended long for the application of the elective principle to the Upper House; but it can have no weight with another large class, who, like myself, never believed in the wisdom of electing the members of two Houses of Parliament with coordinate powers. I have always believed that a change from the present system was inevitable, even with our present political organization. (Hear, hear.)
The constitution of an Upper House or Senate seems to have originated in the state of society which prevailed in feudal times; and from being the sole legislative body—or at least the most powerful—in the State, it has imperceptibly become less powerful, or secondary in importance to the lower chamber, as the mass of the people became more intelligent, and popular rights became more fully understood. Where there is an Upper House it manifestly implies on the part of its members peculiar duties or peculiar rights.
In Great Britain, for instance, there is a large class of landed proprietors, who have long held almost all the landed property of the country in their hands, and who have to pay an immense amount of taxes. The fiscal legislation of Britain for many years has tended to the reduction of impost and excise duties on articles of prime necessity, and to the imposition of heavy taxes on landed property and incomes. Under such a financial system, there are immense interests at stake, and the House of Lords being the highest judicial tribunal in the kingdom, there is a combination of peculiar rights and peculiar duties appertaining to the class represented which amply justify its maintenance. We have no such interests, and we impose no such duties, and hence the Upper House becomes a mere court of revision, or one of coordinate jurisdiction; as the latter it is not required; to become the former, it should be constituted differently from the House of Assembly.
The United States present the example of a community socially similar to ourselves, […]
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[…] establishing an Upper House. They have—reasoning doubtless from the same premises—not only given the legislatures of the respective states the power of nominating the members of the Senate, but have also given that body powers entirely different from those possessed by the elective branch. It is a remarkable fact that there is only one other government in Europe which has a system similar to Great Britain, and that is Sweden. There is another class, represented by a number of the German nations. There are Wurtemburg, Hessen Darmstadt, Prussia, Saxony, Hanover, Baden and Bavaria, with an aggregate population of about 30,000,000, whose Upper Chambers are partly hereditary, partly nominative, and partly ex-officio.
The purely hereditary principle, as found in Great Britain and Sweden, obtains among a population of some 32,000,000. Then there is another class nominated by the Crown for life from a list chosen by intermediate bodies. The councils choose three lists and the Sovereign nominates therefrom. In this way, Spain, Brazil and the new nation of Romania, composed of the Turkish principalities of Moldavia and Wallachia, appoint their Upper Houses—Spain, with a population of 16,301,850; Brazil, 7,677,800; Romania, 3,578,000; altogether 27,556,650. There is another class where the members of the Senate are nominated for life, where the number is limited, and where some few members of the royal family have the privilege of sitting as members. Italy, with a population of 21,777,334; Portugal, 3,581,677; Serbia, 1,098,281; Austria, 34,000,000. This class represents altogether a population of 61,460,292. Then there is another class where the members are elected for a term of years, and it is a remarkable feat in this connection that the countries I refer to are, with the exception of three British colonies and one monarchy, entirely republican.
The one monarchy in the list that elects its Upper Chamber in this way, is Belgium; but Belgium, although a monarchy, is well known to be one of the most democratic countries in Europe. This list includes Switzerland, whose people number 2,534,242 La Plata, 1,171,800; Chili, 1,558,319; Peru, 2,865,000; United States, 30,000,000; Liberia, 500,000; Belgium, 4,529,000; South Australia, 126,830; Tasmania, 89,977; Victoria, 540,322—having a total population of 43,915,490. In Nassau we find the Upper Chamber partly nominative and partly ex-officio, the population being 457,571. Then there is Denmark, with a partly nominative and partly elective system, the elections being held by the Provincial Councils, the population being 1,600,000; while in the Netherlands, with a population of 3,372,652, the members are elected entirely by the Provincial Councils.
In one of the British colonies, New South Wales, the members are nominated for a term of years; whilst in two of the youngest and most enterprising of the British colonies, New Zealand and Queensland, they have the system which we propose to adopt, of nominating a limited number of members for life. There is evidently room here for great latitude of opinion as to the constitution of the Upper Chamber, and I do not think we can be fairly charged with retrogression because we choose to make the members of our Upper House nominative instead of elective. Our people comprise but one class, and if the members of the two chambers are to be chosen by the same electors, it is very clear that it will be extremely difficult for both to maintain their individuality, possessing similar powers and privileges, and avoid collisions.
It is evident that two chambers which have originated in precisely the same way, will claim to exercise the same rights and privileges, and to discharge the same functions; but were the Upper Chamber nominative, instead of elective, the jurisdiction of that chamber would be, of course, correspondingly changed, and the chances of collision made more remote. There are quite a number of states (some of them very considerable in size and population, and of recent origin) which have dispensed with an Upper Chamber altogether. I confess my arguments would lead to the adoption of this system, as the one most suited to our circumstances. (Hear, hear.)
The nations which have adopted this system are Hesse Cassel, with a population of 726,000; Luxemburg, 413,000; Saxe Weimar, 273,000; Saxe Meiningen, 172,000; Saxe Altenburg, 137,000; Saxe Cobourg, 159,000; Brunswick, 273,000; Mecklenburg Schwerin, 548,000; Norway, 1,328,471; Mecklenburg Streilitz, 99,060; Oldenburg, 295,245; Anhalt, 181,824; Lippe-Detmold, 103,513; Waldeck, 58,000; Schwarzburg, 71,913; and in the kingdom of Greece, with a population of 1,096,810, where a new constitution has been recently adopted, the statesmen of that country have, after some experience of the duplicate system, resolved to legislate with a single chamber. But while it is my opinion that we would be better without an Upper House, I know that the question is […]
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[…] not, at the present moment, what is the best possible form of government, according to our particular opinions, but what is the best that earn be framed for a community holding different views on the subject.
George Brown [Oxford South, President Executive Council]—Hear, hear. That is the point, and therefore I accept, as a fair compromise, a second chamber nominated by the Confederate Cabinet.
Alexander Mackenzie [Lambton]—One honorable member—I think the honorable member for Lotbinière (Mr. Joly)—used the argument that the Federal system was a weak one. I do not think the Federal system is necessarily a weak one; but it is a system which requires a large degree of intelligence and political knowledge on the part of the people, and I think it was entirely unfair on the part of the honorable member to compare our probable prospects in the future, under Confederation, with the past history of the Spanish republics in South America. We have in this country a population habituated to self-government, and this entirely destroys the parallel sought to be instituted.
For my part, I hold it would be altogether impossible for the honorable member for South Oxford [George Brown], for instance, or some other honorable members we know of, to Carry on the same agitation in any of the South American republics—(laughter)—that we have seen them doing in Upper Canada, without producing a complete revolution, and instead of my honorable friend (Hon. Mr. Brown) finding himself at the head of a newspaper, controlling his columns, he would find himself at the head of an army marshalling its columns. (Laughter.)
Alexander T. Galt [Sherbrooke, Minister of Finance]—He would, perhaps, be found issuing a pronunciamento. (Laughter.)
Alexander Mackenzie [Lambton]—Yes, a pronunciamento would undoubtedly be the legitimate result in such a state of society. The fact is, we cannot compare such a population with those who are educated to our own form of government. I have time and again attended political meetings with my honorable friends opposite, and after seven or eight hours indulging in strong language, and sometimes bitter enough speeches, the people have separated quietly without any personal feeling being entertained the one against the other, fore, then, asserting that the people of this country are incapable of governing themselves, or that the Federal principle is a weak one, it is necessary to prove that we are not more civilized than were the people of South America thirty years ago. (Hear, hear.)
I assume, therefore, that it is necessary to prove that our people are less civilized than the populations of the South American republics were thirty years ago, or that they have already shown an incapacity for governing themselves before we can receive the assertion that the Federal principle as proposed to be applied in our case is a weak one. If the honorable member based his argument against the Confederation on the question of weakness or strength as exemplified in existing governments, he would be bound to accept Russia as the model for his government, there being no stronger government on the face of the earth. But a despotism is only possible where the people are ignorant, and an attempt to establish a republic among such a people would be out of the question,—it would only produce weakness.
Were a republic to be established at this moment in Russia, it would occasion a state of anarchy, because the people are too ignorant to exercise intelligently the franchise bestowed upon them. It is for this reason unfair to institute comparisons between these unfortunate republics and the proposed government for the people of British North America. I am certain that, if there were a Federal union between all the colonies of British North America, extending even across the continent to our western confines, although great inconvenience might be experienced by such an extension, we would find a law-abiding people capable of self-government, in all parts of the Confederacy. (Hear, hear.)
The example of the United States has been appealed to, and it is true that when the war commenced, when they found themselves unable to enforce their laws in some portion of the states, that it did seem to prove to the minds of those who did not understand the people, and to the writers of certain newspapers in England, that there was an inherent weakness in the system. There is no doubt that there were some indications of such weakness, and the conflict of sovereignty between states and the Federal Government did produce weakness. But I think the attitude of the people of the Northern States fully shows that even with the imperfections of their system, which will be admitted, and which imperfections are avoided in the scheme now before the House—even with these imperfections, a strength, a power, and a vigor have been displayed, which have silenced even the attacks of hostile criticism. (Hear, hear.)
The Federal system, then, cannot be said to be a failure with our race, neither can it be said to be a failure in Switzerland. This was admitted in a measure by […]
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[…] the honorable member for Lotbinière [Henri Joly], but that honorable gentleman gave as a reason for its apparent success, that Switzerland was surrounded by a number of powerful nations. I think, on the other hand, that the reason assigned would be the very cause of a failure of the system in Switzerland. The government of that country would have broken down long ago if there was any inherent weakness in the form of the constitution, in consequence of the hostile systems which surrounded it. The fact of the Swiss maintaining their independence so long and conducting the administration of their affairs so well and cheaply, is an evidence to my mind that the Federal system of government is not weak where the people are trained and educated to understand and appreciate the benefits of self-government. (Hear, hear.)
Then, sir, we are assured that all sorts of calamities will overtake us if we change our Constitution, and many of the honorable gentlemen who prophecy these evil results will no doubt, like many other prophets, do all they can to bring their predictions to pass. (Hear, hear.)
This is not the first time in the history of the world that prophecies of this kind have been indulged in. I was a good deal amused the other night in reading the discussions which took place in the Scottish Parliament on the occasion of the proposed union with England in 1707; and in perusing one of the speeches in particular, I could not help remarking the coincidence between the tone therein assumed and that adopted by Her Majesty’s loyal Canadian Opposition. The speaker, Lord Belhaven, used this language in depicting the dire calamities which he imagined would befall Scotland by joining her fortunes to England:—
My Lord Chancellor,—I think I see our learned judges laying aside their practicums and decisions, studying the common law of England, gravelled with certioraries, nisi priuses, writs of error, verdicts in dovar, ejectione firmae, injunctions, demurs, &c, and freighted with appeals and avocations, because of the new regulations and rectifications they may meet with.
I think I see the valiant and gallant soldiery either sent to learn the plantation trade abroad, or at home petitioning for a small subsistence as the reward of their honourable exploits, while their old corps are broken, the common soldiers left to beg, and the youngest English corps kept standing.
I think I see the honest, industrious tradesman loaded with new taxes at d impositions, disappointed of the equivalents, drinking water in place of ale—(laughter;—eating his salt less pottage—( renewed laughter)—petitioning for encouragement to his manufactories, and answered by counter petitions. In short, I think I see the laborious ploughman, with his corn spoiling upon his hands for want of sale, cursing the day of his birth, dreading the expense of his burial—(laughter)—and uncertain whether to marry or do worse. (Much laughter.)
I think I see the incurable difficulties of landed men, fettered under the golden chain of equivalents, their pretty daughters petitioning for want of husbands—(laughter)—and their sons for want of employment. I think I see our mariners delivering up their ships to their Dutch partners, and what through presses and necessity, earning their bread as underlings in the royal English navy.
And here, Mr. Speaker, comes the climax, and if I were asked to point to one of the dramatis persona, in our Canadian House of Assembly fitted to take part in a similar scene as is here depicted, I should unhesitatingly turn to the honorable member for Chateauguay (Hon. Mr. Holton), who could more suitably than any one else I know personate Lord Belhaven when he exclaims: “But above all, my Lord, I think I see our ancient mother Caledonia, like Caesar, sitting in the midst of our Senate, ruefully looking round about her, covering herself with her royal garment, attending to the fatal blow and breathing out her last with et tu quoque mi fili.” (Laughter.)
It must have seemed very strange for the statesmen of Scotland, who saw in the union of the two kingdoms all the evidences of coming power and grandeur, to have heard expressed such desponding sentiments as these. (Hear, hear.)
No doubt the majority saw in the union which they were then about to consummate, the strength which subsequently grew out of that union, and the influence and greatness by which it would be attended. At the time of the union Scotland had only a revenue of £150,000 per annum, and last year she contributed to the British exchequer nearly £7,000,000. (Hear, hear.)
This, however, is but one instance of the benefit of the union, which has worked to the fullest extent as well as could possibly be desired. If necessary I could bring forward many arguments to prove that, in the same manner, union between different peoples who are geographically situated so as to favor it, adds to their strength, and makes them greater and more powerful than they could possibly hope to become in their several states of separation and isolation. (Hear, hear.)
I am quite aware, sir, that in a matter of this kind it is exceedingly easy to make objections. There can be nothing easier than to carp at a set of resolutions like these. It would not be difficult […]
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[…] to spend hours in captious criticism as to the details of such a scheme as is proposed. But I think we may fairly call on those gentlemen who criticise in a hostile spirit a measure of this character, to say what else they propose to do; for, if we cannot ovary this into practical operation now, it is quite evident something else must be devised. I recollect that last year, when the present administration came down to the House proposing such a plan for settling our difficulties, and received, as I for one imagined, the sanction of this House, I remarked that the course of the House was a revolutionary one, the revolution to be a peaceable one certainly, but still a revolution. It implied the opinion on the part of our public men, that our present system could not be gone on with; and if our present system cannot be continued, we ought not to attempt to throw out this measure merely because it does not entirely meet the views of every member of this House. (Hear.)
I think it would have been desirable that all the members from Lower Canada should have united with us and studied out a new system, and gone to work earnestly to give it effect by the necessary legislation. (Hear.)
I did hope that when the measure came down and we met this session to discus’s it, it would not have been thought necessary by any one to organize a regular opposition. Certainly I did not expect that honorable gentlemen like the honorable members for Hochelaga [Antoine-Aimé Dorion] and Chateauguay [Luther Holton], who have hitherto appeared to recognize the gravity of our constitutional difficulties, or have at least asserted that they did, would have found it necessary to go into unqualified opposition. I rather thought they would have endeavored to give effect to the measure as the only remedial one within our reach. (Hear, hear.)
It is not because I think the measure entirely faultless that I propose to give it my utmost support, but because I believe every other measure to be impossible now, and because, under the proposed government, the country has a great future before it. Looking at the matter commercially, as a question of comparative cheapness, we shall not be, to say tie least, any worse off than at the present moment. I believe we shall be able to govern as cheaply united as we now do separately.
I apprehend there will be no necessity in the Local Legislature for more than one chamber, and although this branch of the subject has not been discussed in the House, and we do not know what the propositions of the Government are to be, I may take occasion to say that I hope they will not think of adopting that double system in our local legislatures, for it will cause a serious increase of expenditure, not attended with a corresponding benefit. (Hear, hear.)
The honorable member for Montreal Centre [John Rose] devoted a large portion of his speech last night to the military side of the question, and argued very strongly, from the position of the neighboring republic, that it was absolutely indispensable for us to become a military power.
Now while I am not at all disposed to take the view that gentleman does of the position of the United States relatively towards ourselves; while I do not think that any large proportion of the people of the United States have hostile inclinations towards ourselves—though they are apt to indulge in language that is undoubtedly unbecoming and certainly threatening; while I do not at all anticipate they will adopt, in so unjustifiable a manner as he seemed to expect, any hostile measures towards us, it is not to be denied that with a population of three millions and a half, it will be absolutely necessary for us to take some steps that will place us in a more independent position. It is not honorable, it is not manly for so powerful a colony as this is to depend entirely on the Mother Country for protection. (Hear, hear.)
I took occasion to express these views last year, when discussing the estimates, and said I hoped the Government would bring down a measure to pay a large portion of the expenditure attendant on the maintenance, by the Imperial Government, of British troops among us. (Hear, hear.)
Portugal, with a population as nearly as can be equal to our own, has a standing army of 17,000 men. Holland, with about the same population as ourselves at home, but with extensive colonies abroad, has a standing army of 57,500 men.
Denmark, with a population not quite equal to one half what the Confederacy will possess, has an army of 22,900 men. Now I do not think it will be at all necessary for us to maintain a standing army like these nations. I do not think we are in the same position as these countries, because our wealth is, to a great extent, not realized. It would be hardly fair to assess some of our new counties, where people own nothing but their land, at the nominal value of that land, for the purpose of paying a large standing army; and besides we have no colonies, no outside sources of wealth. I think, however, we are nearly as well able, man for man, to maintain a force necessary for our defence as the people of Great Britain, […]
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[…] and whatever measure the Confederate Government may propose of a moderate, reasonable nature, will, I am convinced, receive the support of the majority of though people of this country. (Hear, hear, and cheers.)
I apprehend it is not looking at all too far forward to think of the day when another colony to the westward of Canada West will come into the union. I am of course unaware what papers may be brought down by the Government in reference to the North-West and the Hudson’s Bay Territory, but I hope when they do come down they will show some progress in that direction, in raising that magnificent country from the state in which it now is. I hope some system will be put into operation for extending roads and telegraphs to that country, so as to open it up for settlement by our own young men and immigrants coming from Europe.
The question of the Northwest is most intimately connected with our prosperity as a people, and some exception has justly been taken to the 68th and 69th paragraphs in though resolutions, which say:—
- The General Government shall secure, without delay, the completion of the Intercolonial Railway from Rivière du Loup through New Brunswick, to Truro in Nova Scotia.
- The communications with the North-Western Territory and the improvements required for the development of the trade of the Great West with the sea-board, are regarded by this Conference as subjects of the highest importance to the FederatedProvinces, and shall be prosecuted at the earliest possible period that the state of though finances will admit.
Thomas Wallbridge [Hastings North]—That is the point.
Alexander Mackenzie [Lambton]—Yes, that is the point my hon. friend is very much exercised over, but he is quite as much in favor of Confederation as I am. In this paragraph, while it is pronounced indispensable to have the Intercolonial Railway built at once, it is only promised that as soon as the state of the finances will permit, the Northwest is to be taken in hand. I think it is absolutely necessary for the prosperity of this colony that our canal connection with the upper lakes should be perfected as early as possible. Our canal system must be improved so as to accommodate the large trade that is coming from the Northwest. On the northern shores of Lake Superior we have sources of wealth that are perfectly inexhaustible. We read only the other day that a mountain of iron had been discovered close to the coast, quite sufficient to supply the demands of the world for 500 years. We have in that locality an abundant supply of minerals of all kinds, and unless our canals are made capable of carrying that traffic, it will necessarily find channels in another direction. (Hear.)
There is an agitation among a portion of the community for making a new canal from Toronto to the Georgian Bay, and I admit it is very desirable it should be constructed, though I do not think it ever can be; and even if it could be, it is entirely beyond our resources at the present time. I am convinced that the true route for a canal (if a new one should be undertaken) to the Georgian Bay is up the Ottawa, because that would be giving a great backbone to the country. If we had a fine canal, capable of carrying vessels of war in that direction, it would be a splendid means of defence, as well as a great highway for the commercial products of the west. Of course I know this to be impossible at the present time, but I think it exceedingly desirable that we should press on the attention of the Government, with all the influence that can be brought to bear, the necessity for having this 69th article attended to, though I am not inclined to go farther the an that now. (Hear.)
The importance of perfecting the present and other highways to the centre of the continent must be so apparent to all parts of our common country, that I see no reason to fear that the subject will not receive due attention from the Confederate Government at the earliest moment. As regards the Intercolonial Railway, I have taken some little interest in that, as I knew that I would be compelled to discuss it on approaching this subject, and, in examining the maps and reports of Major Robinson, I find that there is no difficulty whatever in arriving at a conclusion as to the comparative cost. The route that is most feasible—that alluded to by the honorable member for Richelieu [Joseph Perrault]—the northern or eastern route by the Bay of Chalmers, is about 655 miles from Halifax to Quebec.
It is already constructed to Truro, some 55 miles from Halifax, and from Quebec 140 miles to Rivière du Loup. This will leave nearly 400 miles to be built. Major Robinson estimates the cost of the road at about £7,000 per mile, or about £2,800,000 altogether. I do not think, judging from the statement he gives of the grades in the road, the bridges to be built, and the material to be found along the line, that it is a fair-inference that the cost would equal the amount he sets down. The character of the ground over which the road will pass is very similar to the railways of Canada. […]
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[…] It is represented to be very much of the nature of the country through which the Great Western runs westward of Hamilton over a great portion of though line. The best portion of the line is equal to the worst portions of the Great Western. Even at the cost of £7,000 per mile the expense of constructing the entire road would be a little over fifteen millions of dollars. The proportion of that payable by Canada would be about nine millions. I think it is extremely probable that when we obtain the report of the engineers sent out by our Government, it will be found that a very large portion can be constructed for much less than £7,000 per mile. But, whatever the sum may amount to, it is perfectly clear that without the road there can be no union of the provinces. (Hear, hear.)
It is equally clear that on that road there is a very large proportion of the country that is exceedingly desirable for settlement, and that only awaits the opening up of some means of communication with the markets. Major Robinson reports that on one portion of it—and I confess that I was not aware of the fact until I examined the report more closely today—that there is a tract of country along though New Brunswick portion of the line not excelled for timber or land in any part of the world that he ever saw. (Hear, hear.) I do not propose taking up the time of the House by reading from this valuable report, but estimates are given showing the amount of population that these districts will support when properly settled. He shows that the country, if the road is once carried through, will be settled very rapidly. I do not, however, expect that that road can possibly pay as a commercial enterprise for a long time to come, and I do not desire to deceive myself or deceive any other person on that point.
That it will be of importance more as a military work thou for any other purpose, nobody can deny. In 1862, when I opposed the proposition to construct the road, I then felt that this was an argument that could fairly be used in its favor. Military authorities are still unanimously of opinion that its construction would be of great importance as a means of protection in ease of hostilities.
The most important reason, however, why it should be constructed, in addition to the military reason, is, that without its construction there can be no union of the provinces, and without a Federal union of the provinces we cannot hope to obtain a settlement of our sectional difficulties. The one is dependent upon the other, and I believe the people of Canada are willing to accept the conclusion that this argument necessarily leads us to engage in the construction of that road. (Hear, hear.)
I do not propose to-night to indulge much in figures relative to what our condition will be, financially, after this measure is carried out; but the honorable member for Hochelaga [Antoine-Aimé Dorion] made some statements that I can scarcely allow to pass. He was understood to say that Lower Canada came into the union without any debt, and was to go out with thirty millions of dollars of debt, while only some twelve millions of dollars were expended in that section of the province. Now, sir, there has been spent altogether on the canals of Canada $20,813,304.03; on roads and bridges in Canada West, $562,866, and on roads and bridges in Canada East, $1,163,829.34; on the government buildings at Ottawa there have already been paid over $1,513,412.56; and on railroads there have been spent altogether $29,910,825.16, or altogether about $53,964,236.79.
Now, I think that one-half of this enormous amount is fairly chargeable to Lower Canada. One-half or a little more than that of the works on which the money was spent are situated in Lower Canada, and, if we include the Victoria Bridge, it is considerably more than one-half. Besides these, however, there are quite a number of other items which I do not take into account. There is the Quebec Fire Loan, and a deficiency in a number of special funds that I will not take any notice of at this time.
Then take it from another point of view. From a return made to Parliament, we find that the entire cost of improving the navigation in Upper Canada, including the cost of light-houses, canals, &c, altogether amounted to $7,022,665.61; that the revenue derived from Upper Canada harbours and canals has been $4,887,291.73; leaving a balance against Upper Canada of $2,145,373.88. In Lower Canada, during the same period, the expenditure has been $4,484,566.52, while there was a revenue of $708,086.80, leaving a balance against Lower Canada of $4,176,479.72. I give these figures simply to prove that the position taken by the honorable member for Hochelaga [Antoine-Aimé Dorion] was entirely incorrect; but it would be superfluous to do that if I were to allude to one item which he gave when how was comparing the amount of debt that we would have to pay per head of our population, compared with that of Great Britain. The amount per head with us is about $25, and he gravely told the House that the amount per head in Great Britain was only $37, when every person […]
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[…] knows or ought to know that it is about $140. Nevertheless he drew a comparison showing that while the comparatively poor people of Canada would have to pay $25 per head, the rich people of Great Britain had only $37 to pay. It is very remarkable, however, that the whole of this portion of the honorable gentleman’s speech was omitted from the report given in the papers next morning. I do not propose to go into these figures, but merely to refer to a few facts to place the assertions made by that honorable gentleman in their true light before the House. Our debt is indeed very large, and we could all wish that it was very much less than it is, but we have got to bear it and to pay it, and must do the best we can under the circumstances.
The measure of Confederation, in my opinion, will not add to nor yet lessen it, except what may be incurred for the construction of the Intercolonial Railway. It is quite possible, of course, that we may undertake enormous expenditures for public works calculated to open up and developed the resources of the country, and thus soon render our debt much heavier than at present, and it will be a question for the Government that may be established after Confederation, to decide how far it will be wise or prudent to undertake works of great cost until we shall have a good surplus in hand. (Hear, hear.)
One of the objections urged by the opponents of the measure is, that it is being hurried through too fast—that in a matter of so much much importance to present and future generations, more time for consideration should be given. We have been discussing this question for many years in Canada West. Since the Toronto Convention of 1859, the question has been continuously before the people. It is now nearly a year since it was proposed in something like its present shape in this House, and since that time the whole of our newspapers have been writing upon it continually. We have nearly 300 newspapers in the country—and they have been carrying on a constant argument for or against the scheme, until I do not think it is possible to say or write much more upon the subject with any advantage. If the question is not now fully understood, I fear it will not be much better understood by any delay that can be now accorded. (Hear, hear.)
Another objection raised is, that a measure of such vast importance ought not to be carried through without its first being submitted to the people. I have mixed with the people a good deal, and I have found the opinion all but universal amongst them, that it was expedient to put the measure into practical operation as soon as possible. The people consider it utterly impossible to carry on the former violent political agitation with any benefit to the country, and the desire is general that we should get rid of the present constitutional difficulties and get settled down to some quiet and permanent way of managing our governmental business and political discussions. (Hear, hear.)
The charges that are made against members of this House about inconsistency in advocating this measure, are very easily met. In a country like ours, so full of change, with a constant agitation going on fir constitutional changes and for new laws, both local and general, it is utterly impossible that a man can remain long in public life without being open to charges of inconsistency; but if these are caused by a strong effort to settle the difficulties under which the country has been labouring, like the present one, I feel certain that the success of the measure in hand will render the charges of only evanescent existence.
I think it exceedingly desirable, even for the sake of those people who might reasonably feel the strongest objections to it—I mean the English minority of Lower Canada, and the Catholic minority of Upper Canada—that it should be settled at once. So long as the question remains in its present state, there will be a constant agitation going on, and much injury may be done by the misrepresentations that will be indulged in, and the misapprehensions which will exist; but if these people can be assured that the scheme provides a perfect remedy for any injustice that they might apprehend, they will immediately concur in it. As regards the people of Lower Canada of French origin, and who are Roman Catholics, I have always heard it said in their favor, that a large degree of liberalism characterises their conduct toward their Protestant neighbors. (Hear, hear.)
Lower Canada, I believe, was the first portion of British territory to give political freedom to the Jew. I believe that a person of this persuasion sat in the Lower Canada Legislature thirty years before the same privileges were accorded in Great Britain. People who charged the French Canadians with intolerance should remember this with some degree of favor. With regard to the people of British origin, over the whole Confederacy, I do not think it is at all necessary to defend them from any charges of this kind. I do not think they will be inclined to persecute the people of Lower Canada if they had it in their power; but I admit […]
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[…] that it is reasonable and just to insert a provision in the scheme that will put it out of the power of any party to act unjustly. If the power that the central authority is to have—of vetoing the doings of the Local Legislature—is used, it will be ample, I think, to prevent anything of that kind. But the veto itself is objected to. It is objected that the elected Legislature will be rendered powerless by the influence of the appointed Upper House exercised over them. Well, sir, under the British Constitution, in all British colonies, and in Great Britain itself, there is a certain elasticity to be presumed. Everything is not provided for, because a great deal is trusted to the common sense of the people.
I think it is quite fair and safe to assert that there is not the slightest danger that the Federal Parliament will perpetrate any injustice upon the local legislatures, because it would cause such a reaction as to compass the destruction of the power thus unjustly exercised. The veto power is necessary in order that the General Government may have a control over the proceedings of the local legislatures to a certain extent. The want of this power was the great source of weakness in the United States, and it is a want that will be remedied by an amendment in their Constitution very soon. So long as each state considered itself sovereign, whose acts and laws could not be called in question, it was quite clear that the central authority was destitute of power to compel obedience to general laws.
If each province were able to enact such laws as it pleased, everybody would be at the mercy of the local legislatures, and the General Legislature would become of little importance. It is contended that the power of the General Legislature should be held in check by a veto power with reference to its own territory, resident in the local legislatures, respecting the application of general laws to their jurisdiction. All power, they say, comes from the people and ascends through them to their representatives, and through the representatives to the Crown. But it would never do to set the Local above the General, Government. The Central Parliament and Government must, of necessity, exercise the supreme power, and the local governments will have the exercise of power corresponding to the duties they have to perform.
The system is a new and untried one, and may not work so harmoniously as we now anticipate, but there will always but power in the British Parliament and our own to remedy any defects that may be discovered after the system is in operation. Altogether, I regard the scheme as a magnificent one, and I look forward to the future with anticipations of seeing a country and a government possessing great power and respectability, and of being, before I die, a citizen of an immense empire built up on our part of the North American continent, where the folds of the British flag will float in triumph over a people possessing freedom, happiness and prosperity equal to the people of any other nation on the earth. If there is anything that I have always felt anxious about in this country, it is to have the British possessions put in such a position that we could safely repose, without fear of danger from any quarter, under the banner which we believe after all covers the greatest amount of personal freedom and the greatest amount of personal happiness that is to be found in the world. (Hear, hear.)
And when we look to the vast territory we have in the North-West; when we know that the great rivers which flow through that territory, flow through immense beds of coal, and that the whole country is rich in mineral deposits of all kinds—petroleum, copper, gold and iron; that the land is teeming with resources of wealth calculated to build up an extensive and valuable commerce, and support a powerful nation; that all this we can touch and seize upon the moment we are prepared to open up a way to reach them and allow the settler to enter; when we remember this, I say, I think we can look forward with hope to a prodigious increase in our population and an immense development of strength and power. (Hear, hear.)
So far our people have had to contend with the usual difficulties common to the people of all new countries like ours; but now Canada is beginning to assume a position of commercial importance, and in proportion as that importance increases we will be able to devote ourselves to the opening up and settlement of the interior, and to the development of a new nationality—to use the term that has been so sharply criticised—in that vast western country where there is hardly a white man living to-day. (Hear, hear.) I do not propose, sir, to follow the example that has been set of speaking four or five hours upon this subject. I proposed at the beginning briefly to give my own views in reference to the Confederation of these provinces, and then to leave the ground to other honorable gentlemen. I am exceedingly desirous of seeing the debate proceed as rapidly as possible; and believing it will be necessary for us to […]
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[…] speak briefly upon the question rather than indulge in long set speeches, I determined to give an example in this respect and bring my remarks within reasonable bounds. (Hear, hear.)
I believe then, sir, in the first place, that Confederation is desirable; in the second, that it is attainable; and, in the third place, that it is the best thing we can get, and this last is perhaps the strongest reason of all for accepting it. It is quite clear that we must have a settlement of our difficulties in some way, and I think the scheme proposed is a very favorable settlement of them. I think it is more than perhaps some of us expected at the time when the present Government was formed to bring about a settlement; and I do think, sir, that it would be the greatest act of madness that western members of this House could perpetrate to vote against it. (Hear, hear.)
I am not, however, afraid that it will be voted against by them. I believe that under it we have obtained representation by population, that we have obtained what we have long contended was justly due to us, that we have obtained our legitimate influence in framing the financial policy of the country, and that beyond this we have obtained the prospect of building up a great British Union on this continent. We should, therefore, I think, in view of these great advantages, overlook those objections which may be regarded as antecedent to the scheme, and endeavor heartily to carry out the work successfully. I shall willingly yield my support to the scheme, and I believe it will be acceptable to the people I represent—not only to the people of the locality, but to those who surround me in Upper Canada. (Cheers.)
Alexander Morris [Lanark South] said—Mr. Speaker, the member for Lambton [Alexander Mackenzie] has, I think, set a good example, and I shall endeavor if it be possible to follow it. I desire to state at the outset that this, as has been well observed by many who have spoken upon the subject, is no new question; but that in one phase or another, as was very properly stated in the narrative given to the House by the honorable member for Montreal West [Thomas D’Arcy McGee], it has been before the people of this country from time to time for many years past. It is not my intention to follow that honorable gentleman in his interesting narrative of the history of this question, but I desire to ask the attention of the House to the fact that this is the third time that this question has been formally brought before Parliament by the Government of this country. The first occasion was, I believe, in 1858, when the then Governor General, in closing the session of Parliament for that year, used in the Speech from the Throne the following words:—”I propose, in the course of the recess, to communicate with Her Majesty’s Government and with the government of the sister colonies, on another matter of very great importance.
I am desirous of inviting them to discuss with us the principles on which a bond of a federal character uniting the provinces of British North America may, perhaps, hereafter be practicable.” That formal statement was followed by the despatch which has been referred to frequently in this House and during this debate, and which was made the basis of the motion laid before the House last session by the honorable member for South Oxford [George Brown]—which motion has had the effect of causing present and, as I believe, future great results. (Hear, hear.)
I believe the appointment of the committee moved for by that honorable gentleman will be looked back to as an era in the history of this country. (Hear, hear.)
Now, as to the second occasion on which this question was formally brought before the attention of the House and country, we have heard from those who object to this scheme, that the people of the country have been taken by surprise, that they do not understand it, and that they are not prepared to discuss it. I would ask, sir, in reference to that, if this present Government was not formed on the very basis and understanding that it would bring about a settlement of this question, and if the people of the country did not know this to be the fact? I hold in my hand the basis upon which the Government was formed, in which the following is stated as the result of a long negotiation between the leading members of it:—
The Government are prepared to pledge themselves to bring in a measure next session, for the purpose of removing existing difficulties by introducing the Federal principle into Canada, coupled with such provision as will permit the Maritime Provinces and the North-West territory to be incorporated into the same system of Government.
Luther Holton [Chateauguay]—Hear, hear!
Alexander Morris [Lanark South]—I trust the honorable gentleman will say “Hear, hear,” with the same emphasis when I read the next paragraph:—
And the Government will seek, by sending representatives to the Lower Provinces, and to England, to secure the assent of those interests which are beyond the control of our own legislation to such a measure as may enable all British […]
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[…] North America to be united under a general legislature based upon the Federal principle.
This, sir, was the pledge given to this House and country by the present Government on its formation. It was pledged to introduce the Federative system into the Government of Canada, with special provisions for the incorporation into this Federation of the Maritime Provinces, and it was also pledged to send delegates to those provinces and invite them to join us in this Federation. (Hear, hear.)
And yet we are told forsooth that these delegates, who were thus appointed in conformity with the pledge of the Government, were “a self-constituted junta,”—we were told that they had no authority for their action in the face of the distinct obligation resting upon the Government to send delegates to those provinces and to England with a view of bringing about this Confederation. No self-constituted junta were those delegates who framed these resolutions; but they met in accordance with a pledge given by this Government, and must be held to have been called together with the sanction of the Parliament of Canada, because Parliament gave the Government, formed to effect the Federation, its confidence. They met also with the sanction of the Imperial Government, as now appears from statements and despatches in possession of this House. (Hear, hear.)
But coming now to the present aspect of the matter, I feel that this country has reason to be satisfied with a scheme of so practical a nature as that now under the consideration of the House. I believe that the plan of union proposed will be found to meet the exigencies of our local position, give latitude to local development, and due protection to local interests, and yet secure that general control which is essentially necessary for the proper government of a country placed under the dominion of the British Crown. (Hear, hear.)
And while I thus look upon the plan, I desire to state emphatically and clearly that it is no new principle that the people of this country and the members of this House are asked to give their sanction to. The question of colonial union, in one shape or another, is one that hag engaged the attention of high intellects and able statesmen in England; and I think I will be able to show to the House that the very principle we are now endeavoring to introduce as a principle of government in these British North American Provinces, is one that has received the sanction of eminent men in England, and more than that, the sanction of a solemn act of the Imperial Parliament. (Hear, hear.)
I will go back a few years, when the condition of the Australian colonies rendered it necessary for the statesmen of Great Britain to endeavor to find a practical solution of the difficulty of governing those great and growing dependencies of the British Crown. What was the practical mode adopted when events made it necessary that they should form a new Constitution for the more perfect government of those colonies? Why, the Imperial Government revived an old committee of the Privy Council, called the “Committee on Trade and Foreign Plantations,” and referred the question to it, calling in to its aid, as new members of the committee, Lord Campbell, then Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, Sir James Stephen and Sir Edward Ryan.
The result of the deliberations of that committee was a report in which the eminent men who composed it recommended the formation of a general assembly, to which the control of the general affairs of the Australian colonies should be entrusted, with local governments having local jurisdiction and certain defined powers granted to them. I hold in my hands a series of letters on the colonial policy of England, addressed by Earl Grey to Lord John Russell, which contain the report of the committee of the Privy Council that I have referred to, and I find that the plan there suggested is analogous to the one we are now asked to give practical effect to in this country. (Hear, hear.)
The proposition of the committee was that there should be a Governor General to administer the affairs of the Australian colonies, and that he should convene a body, to be called the General Assembly of Australia, on receiving a request to that effect from two or more of the Australian legislatures; and it was recommended that this General Assembly, so convened, should have the power to make laws respecting the imposition of duties on imports and exports, the post office, the formation of roads, canals and railways, and a variety of other subjects. The advantages of this plan were so manifest, as uniting those colonies together and securing for them a better and more satisfactory form of government than they had before enjoyed, that the report was at once adopted by the Privy Council, embodied in a bill and submitted to Parliament. The bill passed the House of Commons and reached the House of Lords; but while before that body the two clauses which introduced into the government of the Australian colonies the same system that in effect it is proposed to […]
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[…] introduce here were dropped, and why? Not because of any change of opinion on the part of the Government on the question, nor because the House of Lords was opposed to the principle, but because it was found on examination that they were liable to practical objections, to obviate which amendments would have to be introduced which there were no means of arranging without further communications with the colonies. The Imperial Government would not make these changes in the measure without the consent of the colonies, but Earl Grey by no means changed his mind in regard to the advantages to be derived from the plan proposed, as the following extract from one of his despatches, written in 1850, to the Governor of New South Wales, will show:—
I am not, however, the less persuaded that the want of some such central authority to regulate matters of common importance to the Australian colonies will be felt, and probably at a very early period; but when this want is so felt, it will of itself suggest the means by which it may be met. The several legislatures will, it is true, be unable at once to give the necessary author tee to a General Assembly, because the legislative power of each is confined of necessity within its territorial limits; but if two or more of these legislatures should find that there are objects of common interest for which it is expedient to create such an authority, they will have it in their power, if they can settle the terms of an arrangement for the purpose, to pass acts for giving effect to it, with clauses suspending their operation until Parliament shall have supplied the authority that is wanting. By such acts the extent and objects of the powers which they are prepared to delegate to such a body might be defined and limited with precision, and there can be little doubt that Parliament, when applied to in order to give effect to an arrangement so agreed upon, would readily consent to do so.
Some may say, Mr. Speaker, that this is very true, but that the British Government dropped the plan and did not proceed with it. I think I shall be prepared to meet that argument, and show that it only rested in the plan to learn the wishes of the people of the colonies; for you find it following the very same principle, reported upon favorably by the Committee on Trade and Foreign Plantations, in the Constitution which was subsequently granted to the New Zealand provinces. In 1852, the plan suggested by that committee, in regard to Australia, was carried into effect in New Zealand, and it must be remembered that at that time the population of New Zealand was very small, so small indeed that one cannot help contrasting the position of that country with that of British North America at the present day; but the statesmen of Great Britain looked into the future of the colony, and they decided that it would be advisable to confer on it powers analogous to those now sought for by us.
The New Zealand Constitutional Act created six provinces, with superintendents, provincial councils of nine appointed by the governor, and a general government of three estates. In the debate on that bill, Earl Grey said that this was the only form of government, which could be conferred on a colony situated as that one was. He remarked:—
It was impracticable and must for many years continue to be so, for any general legislature to meet all the wants of so many separate settlements at a great distance from each other; hence it seemed absolutely necessary to constitute provincial legislatures on which a great portion of the public business must devolve.
The very difficulty which was met with there is the one we have to overcome here. It was found absolutely necessary to create in every province a Local Legislature, and in addition one central power, to which matters common to all might be referred. Earl Grey, in the course of the same debate, speaking of the importance of this arrangement, said:—“There were some subjects on which extensive inconvenience would arise, if uniformity of legislation among the several provinces were not insured, which could only be accomplished by a General Legislature.” And that, sir, is what this Government now asks us to adopt. They ask us to invite the Imperial Parliament to create for us provincial legislatures, to whom shall be referred all local matters, and that we shall have a General Legislature for the care of those subjects of a general character which could not be so well looked after by the provincial legislatures. And I say, sir, that finding as we do that this is no new question, we can, therefore, understand why this measure met with such ready approval from the statesmen of Britain and the high commendation of Her Majesty by her advisers. (Hear, hear.)
But, Mr. Speaker, I will now pass from the consideration of the history of this important movement—and I assure you that I feel the difficulty of addressing the House on this subject, in consequence of the sense I entertain of the gravity of the question itself and the momentous character of the issues it involves. The subject, sir, is one of the very highest importance. The destinies of this great country are bound up in it. (Hear, hear.) The […]
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[…] Upper House has already sanctioned the scheme, and I would take the opportunity of remarking that I do not think that the members of that House can be rightly charged with not having given it that deliberate consideration which its importance demands. I think that they have shown a very proper example in their discussion of the question, and one that we may well follow. They debated with leisure, deliberation, and a thorough appreciation of its gravity, day by day, during four weeks, and I therefore think that the members of the Upper House ought not to have been charged with “indecent haste.”
John Sandfield Macdonald [Cornwall]—Who said so?
Alexander Morris [Lanark South]—The honorable member from Cornwall [John Sandfield Macdonald] was one of those who said so.
John Sandfield Macdonald [Cornwall]—I said it was unsuitable haste.
Alexander Morris [Lanark South]—I have somewhat of a recording memory, and I think the words he unfortunately used were “indecent haste.” However, I have no intention of disputing with my honorable friend as to the particular words he used. I have only to express my opinion that the time, which has been already spent on this, question here and elsewhere has not been lost. I think it is our duty to consider this subject in all its aspects, and believing as I do that the scheme will be adopted by this House, I feel the importance of a full and free discussion, in order that its merits may be put before the country. (Hear, hear.) Mr. Speaker, I desire now to state that I support the proposal at present under our consideration, because in my honest and deliberate judgment I believe that this union, if accomplished, is calculated in its practical effects to bind us more closely to Britain than we could be bound by any other system. (Hear, hear.)
A Voice—It would put an end to the connection.
Alexander Morris [Lanark South]—An honorable member says “it would put an end to the connection.” Well, I would say to that honorable gentleman and this House, that in my opinion there are but two destinies before us. We have either to rise into strength and wealth and power by means of this union, under the sheltering protection of Britain, or we must be. absorbed by the great power beside us. (Hear, hear.) I believe that that is the only conclusion we can arrive at.
A Voice—But the people are against it.
Alexander Morris [Lanark South]—An honorable gentleman says the people are not in favor of a Federal union. But we know on the contrary, that the people are in favor of the change. When the public mind is excited against any measure, is there not a means open to the people to make known their opposition, and how is it that the table of this House is not covered with petitions against the scheme, if it is so unpopular as honorable gentlemen would have us believe?
An Hon. Member—There are no petitions for it.
Alexander Morris [Lanark South]—An honorable gentleman says “there are no petitions for it.” And why is it that there are not? Is it not because the Government was constituted on the basis of union? (Hear, hear.)
The people, through a vast majority of their representatives in this House, are in favor of it. If they are opposed to it they have the remedy in their own hands, they have the means of opposing, but they do not oppose it because they feel that a change of some kind is absolutely essential, and they have confidence in the wisdom of those entrusted with the destiny of the country in this crisis of its history. But I say that the great reason why this scheme has taken the hold that it has done upon the public men of the province, is that they see in it an earnest desire to perpetuate British connection.
Luther Holton [Chateauguay]—It will turn out a delusion.
Alexander Morris [Lanark South]—I am not a prophet, nor the son of a prophet, but I am willing to place my prediction against that of the honorable gentleman who says it will be a delusion. (Hear, hear.) A fear has been expressed that the Confederation will lead to the severance of those links which bind us to the Mother Country. But I believe it will be our own fault if the ties between us are broken. With entire freedom and the right of self-government in the fullest sense of the word, together with the great advantage of an improved position, and the strength and power of Great Britain to foster and protect us, why should we seek to change our connection, what object could we have to induce us to form other ties? (Hear, hear.)
What have we to envy in the position of the neighboring country, burdened as it is with the heavy load of taxation arising from the cruel war raging there, that we should covet that flag? Why then should our coming together for the purpose of union weaken our position or diminish the tie that links us to Britain? It will be for honorable gentlemen who do not believe that the union of these scattered colonies will give them strength, to prove that, […]
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[…] contrary to all precedent, union is not strength. (Hear, hear.)
But I will state why this union is calculcated to prolong our connection with Britain. It is well known that there has been an entire and radical change of late in the colonial policy of England. That policy has been to extend to us the utmost liberty in our relations to the Empire. What is after all the nature of the bond, which links us to Great Britain, apart from our allegiance and loyalty? What is it but a Federative bond? That is what links us to Britain, and I feel quite satisfied, in the words of an English publicist of some eminence, that “the new colonial policy is calculated to prolong the connection of the colonies with the Mother Country.” I believe it will raise these provinces as part of the British Empire, and so secure to us the permanency of British institutions, and bind us more closely to the Crown. (Hear, hear.)
I believe it will, in the words of that far-seeing statesman, Lord Durham, “raise up to the North American colonist a nationality of his own by elevating those small and unimportant communities into a society having some objects of national importance, and give these inhabitants a country which they will be unwilling to see absorbed into that of their powerful neighbors.” And, sir, our neighbors so see it. Shortly after the visit of the Duke of Newcastle to this country, attention was directed to the question of the union of the colonies, not only in this country, but also in England and in the United States. The New York Courrier and Inquirer, in an article published at that time, came to the conclusion “that the union would, in fact, be an argument for a continuance of the existing relations between the two countries: is a matter of policy and gratitude, and that such a change of government could be met with no objection of any weight.” (Hear, hear.)
I invite the attention of the honorable member for Chateauguay [Luther Holton] to that statement. But, Mr. Speaker, it is a singular study, looking back over the history of the past, to see how this question has come up in the experience of the various colonies. Before the American revolution, Benjamin Franklin suggested a plan for a Federation of the old colonies of Britain on this continent, which, he afterwards said, would, according to his deliberate opinion, have prevented the severance of the connection between the colonies and the Mother Country. I will quote a passage written by him after the revolution, in which he makes allusion to this project. He said:—
I proposed and drew up a plan for the union of all the colonies under one government, so far as might be necessary for defence and other important general purposes. By my plan, the General Government was to be administered by a President-General, appointed and supported by the Crown, and a General Council, to be chosen by the representatives of the people of the several colonies, met in the respective assemblies.
The plan was agreed to in Congress, but the assemblies of the provinces did not adopt it, as they thought there was too much prerogative in it, and in England it was judged to have too much of the democratic. The different and contrary reasons of dislike to my plan made me suspect that it was really the true medium, and I am still of opinion it would have been happy for both sides if it had been adopted. The colonies so united would have been strong enough to have defended themselves; there would then have been no need of troops from England; of course the subsequent pretext for taxing America, and also the bloody contest it occasioned, would have been avoided.
It is singular that nearly a hundred years ago, Benjamin Franklin, looking at the difficulties then existing between the colonies, should have suggested a plan of union similar to that now proposed to us, and it is a strong proof of the wisdom of the plan now before this House, that seeing the difficulties under which the other colonies labored for want of a central power, just as we now see them, proposing this Confederation, he should have declared that if such a plan had been adopted then it would have prevented the severance of the British connection.
Luther Holton [Chateauguay]—This scheme is looked upon as equal to independence.
Alexander Morris [Lanark South]—Is that the opinion of the honorable member? I think that far different views prevail in Britain. In 1858, when British Columbia was erected into a colony, it was found then that the Commons of Britain had no intention of surrendering the fair possessions of Britain on this continent, and Her Majesty was advised to say:—
Her Majesty hopes that the new colony in the Pacific may be but a loyal, industrious population of subjects of the British Crown may ultimately people one-step in the career of steady progress, by which Her Majesty’s dominions in North America in an unbroken chain from the Atlantic to the Pacific by a loyal, industrious population of subjects of the British Crown.
(Hear, hear.) I say, sir, that there is no evidence whatever that the statesmen of Britain look upon this great scheme as involving the severance of our connection with the Empire; but these utterances, as read here the other night by the honorable member from Montreal Centre [John Rose], prove directly the contrary. If breaking off from the Mother […]
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[…] Country were its tendency, then I, for one, would not support it, nor would it be supported by any of those honorable gentlemen who so strongly advocate it. I am not afraid to say that any government which dared to bring down such a measure would be hurled from their places. (Hear, hear.) But, Mr. Speaker, I have been led into the discussion of this question of connection with the Mother Country at much greater length than I had intended, by the suggestions of hon. members, and I will take the liberty of calling the attention of the House to a passage from a work I have already referred to, and in which we find an exposition of the policy which governed the administration of Lord John Russell.
I find there an elaborate argument to prove that the colonies are an advantage to Britain, and that Britain of course is an advantage to the colonies; and on the mere ground of material interest, if there were no other—if deeper and stronger ties did not exist as they do—I feel satisfied that this country would not be prepared to take the first step towards the severance of our connection with England, and the loss of that prestige and power which go with every British subject to every civilized part of the globe, enabling him to say, like the old Roman, “I am a British citizen.” Earl Grey states that:—
The possession of a number of steady and faithful allies, in various quarters of the globe, will surely be admitted to add greatly to the strength of any nation; while no alliance between independent states can be so close and intimate as the connection which unites the colonies to the United Kingdom as parts of the Great British Empire. Nor ought it to be forgotten, that the power of a nation does not depend merely on the amount of physical force it can command, but rests, in no small degree, upon opinion and moral influence. In this respect British power would be diminished by the loss of our colonies, to a degree which it would be difficult to estimate.
Passing on a little, we find him saying:—
To the latter [i.e. the colonists] it is no doubt of far greater importance than to the former, because, while still forming comparatively small and weak communities, they enjoy, in return for their allegiance to the British Crown, all the security and consideration which belongs to them as members of one of the most powerful states in the world. No foreign power ventures to attack or interfere with the smallest of them, while every colonist carries with him to the remotest quarters of the globe which he may visit, in trading or other pursuits, that protection which the character of a British subject everywhere confers.
(Hear, hear.) But to view the subject in another aspect. I believe it will be found that all the conditions are combined in the scheme now before us, that are considered necessary for the formation on a permanent basis of a Federative union. I hold in my hand a book of some note on Representative Government, by John Stuart Mill, and I find that he lays down three conditions as applicable to the union of independent states, and which, by parity of reasoning, are applicable to provinces which seek to have a closer alliance with each other, and also, thereby, a closer alliance with the Mother Country. The conditions he lays down are first,—
That there should be a sufficient amount of mutual sympathy among the populations.
And he states that the sympathies which they should have in common should be—
Those of race, language, religion, and, above all, of political institutions, as conducing most to a feeling of identity of political interest.
Luther Holton [Chateauguay]—Hear, hear.
Alexander Morris [Lanark South]—We possess that strong tie of mutual sympathy in a high degree. We have the same systems of government, and the same political institutions. We are part of the same great Empire, and that is the real tie which will bind us together in future time. The second condition laid down is:—
That the separate states be not so powerful as to be able to rely for protection against foreign encroachment on their individual strength.
That is a condition which applies most forcibly in our case. (Hear, hear.) The third condition is:—
That there be not a very marked inequality of strength among the several contracting states.
Antoine-Aimé Dorion [Hochelaga]—Hear, hear.
Alexander Morris [Lanark South]—Allow me to proceed with the extract:—
They cannot, indeed, be exactly equal in resources; in all federations there will be a gradation of power among the members; some will be more populous, rich, and civilized than others. There is a wide difference in wealth between New York and Rhode Island.
Just as there is between Canada and Prince Edward Island. I trust I have satisfied my hon. friend from Hochelaga (Hon. Mr. Dorion), that Mr. Mill’s views are entirely applicable to our position. (Hear, hear.)
I now proceed to state my belief that we will find great advantages in the future, in […]
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[…] the possession of strong Central Government and local or municipal parliaments, such as are proposed for our adoption. I believe the scheme will be found in fact and in practice—by its combination of the better features of the American system with those of the British Constitution—to have very great practical advantages. I shall read an extract from an article in the London Times, written in 1858, bearing on this subject, and which brings very clearly into view the distinction between the system which has been proposed for our adoption, and that which has been adopted in the States. The great weakness of the American system has lain in the fact that the several states, on entering the union, claimed independent jurisdiction; that they demitted to the Central Government certain powers, and that they claimed equal and sovereign powers with regard to everything not so delegated and demitted. The weaknesses and difficulties of that system have been avoided in the project now before us, and we have the central power with defined and sovereign powers, and the local parliaments with their defined and delegated powers, but subordinated to the central power. The article says:—
It is quite clear that the Federal Constitution of the United States of America forms a precedent which cannot possibly be followed in its principles or details by the united colonies, so long as they remain part of the dominions of the Imperial Crown. The principle of the American Federation is, that each is a sovereign state, which consents to delegate to a central authority a portion of its sovereign power, leaving the remainder, which is not so delegated, absolute and intact in its own hands.
This is not the position of the colonies, each of which, instead of being an isolated sovereign state, is an integral part of the British Empire. They cannot delegate their sovereign authority to a central government, because them do not possess the sovereign authority to delegate. The only alternative as it seems to us would be to adopt a course exactly the contrary of that which the United States adopted, and instead of taking for their motto E Pluribus Unum, to invert it by saying In Uno Plural.
Luther Holton [Chateauguay]—What are you reading from?
Alexander Morris [Lanark South]—From the London Times, and I quote the article on account of the force of the remarks themselves, apart from the standing of the journal in which they appear:—
The first steps towards a Federation of the American Colonies would thus bus to form them all into one state, to give that state a completely organized government, and then to delegate to each of the colonies out of which that great state is formed, such powers of local government as may be thought necessary, reserving to the Central Government all such powers as are not expressly delegated. The Government of New Zealand forms a precedent well worthy the attention of those who are undertaking this arduous negotiation.
And I cannot doubt that the framers of this Constitution have studied the precedent as well of the proposed Constitution of Australia, as that of the Constitution of New Zealand, which has been in use for ten years past.
Luther Holton [Chateauguay]—How does it work?
Alexander Morris [Lanark South]—I have not been there—(laughter)—but I know that from a small population of 26,000 in all the New Zealand provinces when that Constitution was given, them, they have risen in ten years to a population of 250,000—indicating certainly growth and progress.
Luther Holton [Chateauguay]—As we have grown in spite of that terribly bad union you wish to do away with.
Alexander Morris [Lanark South]—True, we have grown and progressed under the present union. But the hon. gentleman knows the heart-burnings we have had in the past. I have not been in Parliament so long as that honorable gentleman. But I recollect, when I first took a seat in this House, the state of excitement which then prevailed, and which continued, making government practically impossible. For we had governments maintaining themselves session after session by majorities of one or two—showing that it was impossible for any government to conduct public affairs with that ding tee and success with which a government ought to conduct them. But, as I have stated, I think the Conference has been exceedingly happy in the plan they have submitted for our adoption A community of British freemen as we are, deliberately surveying our past as well as our present position, and looking forward to our future, we in effect resolve that we will adhere to the protection of the British Crown; that we will tell the Goldwin Smith school–these who are crying out for cutting off the colonies—that we will cling to the old Mother Land–(hear, hear)–we desire to maintain our connection; we have no desire to withdraw […]
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[…] ourselves from that protection we have so long enjoyed; but we desire, while remain in under that protection, to do all that lies in our power for our self-defence, and for the development of all the great interests which Providence has committed to our trust; and we seek at the hands of the British Parliament such legislation as will enable us to accomplish these great ends for the whole of British America. (Hear, hear.)
Why, what a domain do we possess! We have over three millions of square miles of territory—large enough, certainly, for the expansion of the races which inhabit this country; and our desire is, in the language of a late colonial minister—language which, I believe, well expresses the views and sentiments of the people of all these provinces—we would approach the British people, the British Government, and our Sovereign, with this language: “We desire, by your aid, with your sanction and permission, to attempt to add another community of Christian freemen to those by which Great Britain confides the records of her Empire, not to pyramids and obelisks, but to states and communities, whose history will be written in her language.”
That was the language of the Colonial Secretary, Sir Bulwer Lytton, when he proposed and carried out the setting off of a new colony on the Pacific shore—language certainly which indicated a firm and sure reliance in the power and efficacy of British institutions—that these institutions would be found capable of all the expansion requisite to meet the circumstances of a new country, and of any body of British freemen to whom the care of these institutions may be entrusted. (Hear, hear.) But I fear I have been tempted to forget the excellent example of my honorable friend from Lambton [Alexander Mackenzie]. (Cries of “No, no,” “go on.”)
I desire very briefly to notice two or three immediate advantages which, in my judgment, would be derived from the consummation, under one central power with local municipal parliaments, of a union of the Canadas with the Maritime Provinces. Let us glance at what is their position, in relation to the great military power which is rising on the other side of the lines.
Let us see what they are thinking of us there. One of their eminent statesmen suggested some years ago, that they should cultivate our acquaintance, while we were still “incurious of our destiny.” But we have passed that state. We have become curious of our destiny, and are seeking, as far as we can, to place it on a sure and certain basis. (Hear, hear.)
Here is the view taken of our position by an American writer:—
They have now no comprehensive power that embraces the interests of all—that acts on the prosperity of the seacoast and interior—of commerce and agriculture where they are seemingly rivals—that gives uniformity in tariffs and taxes, and the encouragement that shall be entrusted to the fishing, mining and other great interests.
That is a view of the position of these provinces to which I commend to the attention of my hon. friends from Chateauguay [Luther Holton] and Hochelaga [Antoine-Aimé Dorion]. I ask, is it not a correct view? Is not that the position in which we have long been? And I believe the result of this union will be to do away with that state of things. (Hear, hear.)
I believe that when these colonies are combined, acting in concert, and quickened and invigorated by a feeling of mutual dependence and interest, the tendency will be to increase their wealth and manufactures, and general strength. And, sir, I am satisfied one of the great advantages of this union will be found in this that we will be raised above our sectionalisms, and come to feel and to act as the citizens of a great country, with destinies committed to us such as may well evoke the energies of a great people.
But I desire to point out another practical advantage which, I think, is of no mean or slight moment; and it is this:—Bound as we are to England, by the closest ties, and yet enjoying our own government, England is still compelled to act for us in all matters of an international nature. But, when we have for all these British provinces one General Government, able to take an oversight of the whole, and to attend to all their various interests, we will be able to represent to Britain on behalf of the whole, with a force and power we have never before been able to use, what these interests are; we will be able to press them home on the attention of British statesmen in such a manner as will lead them to appreciate, and seek to protect those interests in their negotiations with foreign powers. I would allude, as an illustration of what I mean, to the Reciprocity Treaty, and I cannot refrain from reading a very striking extract from a report presented to the United States House of Representatives, in 1862, from the Committee of Commerce on the Reciprocity Treaty. I ask the attention […]
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[…] of the House to this extract, as showing how the United States have been able to take advantage of our isolated condition—our want of central power and authority—to gain for themselves advantages in the negotiation of that treaty, such as they could not have obtained or even sought, had we been in a position to present all the advantages, in negotiations with the United States, which Canada and the Maritime Provinces as a whole could present. Instead of the American statesmen having to negotiate with the separate governments of separate provinces, they would have to negotiate with the combined interests of British North America. I read this extract as a very striking one, and as entitled, on account of the source from which it comes, to some weight. In the report I have referred to. The natural results of the treaty and have its abrogation is thus spoken of:—
A great and mutually beneficial increase in our commerce with Canada was the natural and primary result of the treaty. Many causes of irritation were removed, and a large accession to our trade was acquired, through the treaty, with the Maritime Provinces. Arguments founded upon the results of the treaty as a whole, with the various provinces, have a valid and incontrovertible application against the unconditional and complete abrogation of the treaty, so far as it refers to provinces against which no complaint is made. The isolated and disconnected condition of the various governments of these provinces to each other, and the absence of their real responsibility to any common centre, are little understood.
No fault is found with the acts of Newfoundland, Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. These separate provinces and that of Canada have each a separate tariff and legislature, and neither of them is accountable to or for any other. An abrogation of the treaty, as a whole, would therefore be a breach of good faith towards the other provinces, even if it were expedient to adopt such a course towards Canada, but no advantages gained by the treaty with the Maritime Provinces can be admitted as offsets in favor of Canada. Each province made its own bargain; and gave and received its separate equivalent.
(Hear, hear.) This is an instance of some moment, and I believe the same principles will be found to apply to all those questions on which, in the future history of this Confederation, it will be found necessary to confer with foreign governments, through the Mother Country. No longer detached and isolated from each other, we will be able to present a combined front, and to urge the advantages which may be derived from the exhaustless fisheries of the Lower Provinces, as well as those afforded by Canada. (Hear, hear.)
The defence question has been alluded to very frequently in this debate. I think there really cannot be a question that it would be for the advantage, not only of Britain, but of each one of these provinces, that on such subjects as the militia, and on all kindred questions, such as those relating to aliens, the observance of neutrality and like subjects, there should boo a general and uniform action; that, seeing the action of any one of the colonies might involve the parent state in war, there should not be separate and distinct action, but one uniform action, on all that class of national and international subjects, throughout the whole of the British Provinces.
I cannot help thinking that in practice an immense advantage would be derived from the introduction of such a system. It is not my forte, as that of some hon. gentlemen, to speak with regard to the defence question. There are other hon, members who understand that subject thoroughly, and will no doubt deal with it in a satisfactory manner. But I cannot help thinking that a uniform system of militia and marine for British North America would be powerfully felt in the history of this continent.
Luther Holton [Chateauguay]—Are we to have a navy?
Alexander Morris [Lanark South]—The hon. gentleman no doubt listened with interest to the speech of the President of the Council [George Brown], and he might have learned from that, that we had a navy of which any country might be proud, devoted to the pursuits of honest industry, and which causes us to rank even in our infancy as the third maritime power in the world. And should the time of need come—as I trust it never may—I am satisfied that in the Gulf, on the St. Lawrence, and on the lakes, there would be enough of bold men and brave hearts to man that navy. (Hear, hear.) I would further remark, that under the proposed system, local interests would be much better cared for. I am satisfied the local interests of all the separate provinces would be better cared for, if their legislatures were divested of those large subjects of general interest which now absorb—and necessarily so—so much of our time and attention. (Hear, hear.)
I will now only mention briefly one or two incidental advantages which I believe will be found to accrue in the future from our position as […]
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[…] united provinces of the British Empire. I will not at this late hour of the night, as I see the House is wearied—(cries of “No, no,” “Go on.” )—I will not quote any figures to shew the extent of intercolonial trade that will spring up with the Maritime Provinces and with the West India provinces. Some years ago there was, as mercantile men well know, a large trade conducted with the West India Islands, which, from various circumstances, has almost entirely ceased. I believe that, when the provinces are united, not only will a large trade spring up in those agricultural and other products which are now supplied to the Lower Provinces from the United States, but a trade will also be established with the West India Islands. Some time ago I took the trouble to look into the figures, and I was surprised to find how large a trade was conducted twenty-five years ago with those islands; and I believe that, by carrying out this union, we will have facilities for establishing such commercial relations as will lead to the reopening of that valuable trade.
Luther Holton [Chateauguay]—You should bring in the West India Islands also.
Alexander Morris [Lanark South]—The hon. gentleman is very anxious to extend the Confederation. (Laughter.) I have known him for long years as a Federalist, and I believe he is only sorry that we do not go a little faster. I am satisfied that when Confederation is accomplished, he will be one of its most hearty supporters. (Hear, hear.) I would now, Mr. Speaker, desire to quote a few words from a lecture delivered some years ago by Principal Dawson, of Montreal, a well-known Nova Scotia, and who is distinguished for his thorough acquaintance with the Maritime Provinces, He says:—
Their progress in population and wealth is slow, in comparison with that of Western America, though equal to the average of that of the American Union, and more rapid than that of the older states. Their agriculture is rapidly improving, manufacturing and mining enterprises are extending themselves, arid railways are being built to connect them with the more inland parts of the continent. Like Great Britain, they possess
important minerals in which the neighboring parts of the continent are deficient, and enjoy the utmost facilities for commercial pursuits.
Ultimately, therefore, they must have with the United States, Canada and the fur countries, the same commercial relations that Britain maintains with western, central, and northern Europe. Above all, they form the great natural oceanic termination of the great valley of the St. Lawrence; and although its commerce has hitherto, by the skill and industry of its neighbours, been drawn across the natural barrier which Providence has placed between it and the seaports of the United States, it must ultimately take its natural channel; and then not only will the cities on the St. Lawrence be united by the strongest common interests, but they will be bound to Acadia by ties more close than any merely political union.
The great thoroughfares to the rich lands and noble scenery of the west, and thence to the sea breezes and salt-water of the Atlantic, and to the great seats of industry and art in the old world, will pass along the St. Lawrence, and through the Lower Provinces. The surplus agricultural produce of Canada will find its nearest consumers among the miners, shipwrights, mariners, and fishermen of Acadia; and they will send back the treasures of their mines and of their sea. This ultimate fusion of all the populations extending along this great river, valley and estuary, and the establishment throughout its course of one of the principal streams of American commerce, seems in the nature of things inevitable; and there is already a large field for the profitable employment of labourers and capital in accelerating this desirable result.
Such, I believe, Mr. Speaker, will be found to be the results of the steps now being taken. (Hear, hear.)
In conclusion, I would desire to call attention to the advantages we will enjoy in consequence of our being able to do something to secure the development of the immense tract of country laying beyond us—Central British North America, popularly known as the Great North West. If Canadians are to stand still and allow American energy and enterprise to press on as it is doing towards that country, the inevitable result must be that that great section of territory will be taken possession of by the citizens of the neighboring states. The question is one of great interest to the people of Canada.
Years ago Canadian industry pushed its way up the valley of the Ottawa to the Great North West. In 1798 the North-West Company had in its employment not less than 12,000 persons; and there is no reason in the world why the trade, which was then carried on, should not be re-established between the Northwest and Canada. No insuperable obstacles stand in the way. A practicable route exists which can be used by land and by water, and there is no reason why the necessary steps should not be taken to secure the development of the resources of that country and making them tributary to Canada. (Hear, hear.)
I think it was a I wise foresight on the part of the gentlemen […]
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[…] who prepared the plan now before us that they laid this down as one of the principal features of the scheme—that they regarded the development of the Northwest as necessary for the security and the promotion of the best interests of British North America? (Hear, hear.) If the House will bear with me, Mr. Speaker, I would ask hon. members to consider for a moment the extent of the territory there possessed. An American writer, who estimates it at 2,500,000 square miles, puts it in this way:—
How large is that? It is fifteen and half times larger than the State of California; mahout thirty-eight times as large as the State of New York; nearly twice as large as the thirty-one States of the Union; and, if we omit the territory of Nebraska, as large as all our states and territories combined.
Between the settled portions of Canada and the Red River country, there are areas of arable land, ranging from 200,000 acres downwards, with facilities for opening up communication by land and water; and I do not wonder that the late Sir George Simpson, while making his celebrated journey round the world, in passing from Montreal to Red River, and thence overland to the Pacific, should be struck with the extraordinary advantages of this country, and that on one occasion, when surveying the magnificent expanse of inland lake and river navigation, in the midst of a fertile country, he should exclaim—
Is it too much for the eye of philanthropy to discern through the vista of futurity this noble stream, connecting, as it does, the fertile shores of two spacious lakes, with crowded steamboats on its bosom, and populous towns on its borders?
(Applause.) Sir George Simpson was not a man likely to be carried away by mere impulse; but viewing the prospect before him, he could not refrain from breaking forth in the glowing language I have quoted. Then glance for a moment at the Saskatchewan, the Assiniboine and the Red River country, with the Red River settlement of 10,000 people, forming the nucleus for a future province—a nucleus around which immigration could be drawn so as to build up in that distant region a powerful section of the Confederation.
It is a country which embraces 360,000 square miles, and the Red River, Lake Winnipeg, and the Saskatchewan afford a navigable water line of 1,400 miles. And what is the character of the country? On this point I would quote Professor Hind, who describes the valley of the Red River and a large portion of the country on its affluent, the Assiniboine, as “a paradise of fertility.” He could speak of it in no other terms “than of astonishment and admiration.” He adds that as an agricultural country the character of the soil could not be surpassed, affirming in proof of this assertion:—
That all kinds of farm produce common in Canada succeed admirably in the District of Assiniboia, and that as an agricultural country it will one day rank among the most distinguished.
Nor are there any difficulties of climate. If any hon. member will take the trouble to examine that excellent work in our library, Blodgett’s Climatology, he will find it stated as having been “demonstrated that the climate of the North-West coast, and of the interior towards Lake Winnipeg, is quite the reverse of that experienced in the same latitude on the Atlantic, and is highly favorable to occupation and settlement.” (Hear, hear.)
Mr. Speaker, I desire now to place before the House the extent of the territory we possess in the Atlantic and Pacific Provinces. The Atlantic Provinces comprise Canada East, with an area of 201,989 square miles; Canada West. 148,832; New Brunswick, 27,700; Nova Scotia, 18,746; Prince Edward Island, 2,134; Newfoundland, 35,913—together 435,314 square miles, to which add the territory of Labrador, 5,000 miles, making a grand total of 410,314 square miles, embracing a population of something like 4,000,000 of souls.
The Pacific Provinces are British Columbia, containing 200,000 square miles, and Vancouver’s Island, with 12,000 square miles; and there is the territory of Hudson’s Bay (including Central British North America), with 2,700,000 square miles. (Hear, hear.)
I desire now, sir, to thank the House for the patience with which hon. members have listened to my remarks. I rose at a late hour in the evening, and seeing that the House was wearied when I commenced, I did not wish to prolong the debate. I have thus shortened very much the remarks I intended to offer, and have treated only hurriedly and casually on many points, which might have engaged further attention under other circumstances. I desire to express my confident opinion, before closing, that […]
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[…] this great scheme is not one, which ought to be factiously met. For if ever there was a plan submitted to any legislature, which deserved to be treated with an avoidance of party feeling, it is this. (Hear, hear.)
It is evident that in the House there are a large majority in favor of the plan, and while it is their duty to concede to the minority—what is the right of the minority—the opportunity of stating their objections to it, it is, on the other hand, an evidence of the strongest kind that the majority, in supporting this measure, believe they are doing the best for their country, and that it is a measure which meets the popular sanction and approval, when they avow by their own act their readiness to return to the people for their approval of the steps they have thought proper to take. (Hear, hear.)
It is the duty of those who are in favor of the scheme—and I believe there are a very large majority who see in it advantages of the most substantial kind—I am firmly persuaded that it is a duty they owe to those who sent them to this House, it is a duty they owe to the country, it is a duty they owe to the great empire of which we form a part, to bring this scheme to a speedy consummation. I am glad, sir, in taking a retrospect of the three eventful years during which I have had a seat in this House, to reflect that on the first occasion I had the honor of addressing the House, in 1861, I declared myself in favor of an analogous scheme to that we are now discussing; that I then expressed myself in favor of a general government of the British North American Provinces, with separate local legislatures, in the following terms, when speaking of the question of representation by population:—
He had confidence that men would be found able to meet the question fairly and to come down with a measure satisfactory to the country. It might be that that measure would be one which would bring together the different provinces of British North America into a union, formed on such a basis as would give to the people of each province the right to manage their own internal affairs, while at the same time the whole should provide for the management of matters of common concern, so as to secure the consolidation of the Britannic power on this continent.
I have held this opinion ever since I have had the capacity of thinking of the destiny of this country, and I would beg to be allowed further to quote language I used in 1859. Reviewing at that time, as I have done hurriedly to-night, the extent of our possessions, and the great advantages we would be able to obtain by the union now proposed to be carried into effect, I spoke as follows, in a lecture on the Hudson Bay and Pacific territory, delivered in Montreal:
With two powerful colonies on the Pacific, with another or more in the region between Canada and the Rocky Mountains, with a railway and a telegraph linking the Atlantic with the Pacific, and our inland and ocean channels of trade becoming a great thoroughfare of travel and of commerce, who can doubt of the reality and the accuracy of the vision which rises distinctly and clearly defined before us, as the great Britannic Empire of the North stands out in all its grandeur, and in all the brilliancy of its magnificent future! Some hard matter-of-fact thinker, some keen utilitarian, some plodding man of business, may point the finger of scorn at us and deem all this but an empty shadow—but the fleeting fantasy of a dreamer. Be it so.
Time is a worker of miracles—ay, and of sober realities, too; but when we look east and west and north; when we cause the goodly band of the north-men from Acadia, and Canada, and the North-West, and the Columbia, and the Britain of the Pacific, to defile before us, who are the masters of so vast a territory, of a heritage of such surpassing value; and when we remember the rapid rise into greatness, as one of the powers of the earth, of the former American colonies, and look back over their progress, who can doubt of the future of these British Provinces, or of the entire and palpable reality of that vision which rises so grandly before us of this Great British Empire of the North—of that new English-speaking nation which will at one and no distant day people all this northern continent—a Russia, as has been well said, it may be, but yet an English Russia, with free institutions, with high civilization, and entire freedom of speech and thought—with its face to the south and its back to the pole, with its right and left resting on the Atlantic and the Pacific, and with the telegraph and the iron road connecting the two oceans?
Such, Mr. Speaker, is the vision which is present to myself and to many others who, like myself, whether in Upper or Lower Canada, are “to the manor born,” and whose all and whose destiny is here. I know and feel, and am assured that if the people of these British Provinces are but true to themselves, and if the statesmen of Britain now act aright their part in this great crisis of our national history, this vision will be realized. We will have the pride to belong to a great country still attached to the Crown of Great Britain, but in which, notwithstanding, we shall have entire freedom of action and the blessings of responsible […]
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[…] self-government; and I am satisfied we will see as the results of this union all that we could possibly imagine as its fruits. (Hear, hear.) Thanking the House for their kind attention, I have only to say further, that I believe the plan under which we seek to ask the Parliament of Great Britain to legislate for us is a wise and judicious one, and which not only deserves, but which I am confident will receive, the hearty support of the representatives and of the people of this province, and to which I, for one, shall feel it my duty to give my warmest and most cordial sanction. (Loud cheers.)
Matthew Cameron [Ontario North] moved the adjournment of the debate, which was agreed to.
 Mackenzie’s maiden speech to the Legislative Assembly (27 March 1862) in “Provincial Parliament. Legislative Assembly. Representation by Population”, The Globe (1 April 1862).
 Dorion summarized Mackenzie’s views on 16 February to the Legislative Assembly on p. 249.
 “The Meeting Last Night! A Great Success. The Confederation Scheme Endorsed…”, The Globe (18 January 1865).
 “The Meeting Last Night! A Great Success. The Confederation Scheme Endorsed…”, The Globe (18 January 1865).
 Lord Belhaven’s speech against the union of England and Scotland in 1707 from the ‘Scotch Convention’, which was probably the Scottish Convention of April, 1869 in Edinburgh. Speech from Select Speeches, Forensick and Parliamentary, Vol. I by Nathaniel Chapman (London: 1808), p. 311.
 Resolutions 68-69. All resolutions found on pp. 1-6. As presented to the Legislative Council on 3 February 1865.
 The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin by Benjamin Franklin (New York: 1909), p. 130. This plan is known as the Albany Plan.
 The [London] Times. Unconfirmed reference.
 Unconfirmed reference.
 Canadian–American Reciprocity Treaty of 1854 (Elgin-Marcy Treaty). The treaty expired in 1866.
 Lecture on the Acadian Provinces to the Natural History Society of Montreal by Principal Dawson. Unconfirmed reference.
 Unconfirmed reference.