Province of Canada, Legislative Assembly, Parliamentary Debates on the Subject of the Confederation of the British North America Provinces, 8th Parl, 3rd Sess, (28 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 512-544.
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TUESDAY, February 28, 1865.
Christopher Dunkin [Brome], continuing his speech from yesterday, said—
Mr. Speaker, when the kindness of the House permitted me to resume my seat last evening, I was comparing the constitutional system of the proposed Confederacy with the Constitution of the United States primarily, and with that of Great Britain secondarily. I had gone over several leading points of comparison; and it will be in the recollection of the House, no doubt, […]
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[…] that I had compared the composition of our proposed House of Commons with that of the House of Representatives of the United States; and I endeavored to show, and I think I had shown, that we were departing altogether from the principles upon which the British House of Commons is constituted, and taking up mal apropos, and unfortunately, the least inviting features of the composition of the American House of Representatives. It is proposed to adopt here a plan which has a direct tendency to place on the floor of our House of Commons a number of provincial delegations, and not a number of independent members of parliament. The tendency is therefore towards a system antagonistic to, and inconsistent with, those principles on which the British Constitution reposes. With provincial delegations, rather than members of parliament, on the floor of the Federal Legislature, we are not likely to have that political longevity, whether of men or parties, without which the British system of government can hardly exist.
Turning then to the Legislative Council, and comparing its constitution with that of the Senate of the United States, the principles governing the former are diametrically opposite to those on which the latter is founded. The Senate of the United States forms an excellent federal check upon the House of Representatives, partly owing to the way in which it is constituted, and partly on account of the powers given to it, and which are not proposed to be given to our Legislative Council.
All that can be said of it is, that it is proposed to be constituted upon almost the worst principles that could have been adopted. It seems as if it were so constituted for the mere purpose of leading to a dead-lock. The members of it are not to represent our provinces at all, but are to be named by the Federal power itself, for life, and in numbers to constitute a pretty numerous body, but without any of the peculiar functions wisely assigned to the Senate of the United States. In fact, the federal battle that must be fought will have to be fought in the House of Commons and in the Executive Council, very much more than in the Legislative Council.
Turning then to the Executive Council, I had shown that it is a necessary consequence of the proposed system, that we are to have not merely a House of Commons cut up into sections, but also an Executive Council cut up in the same unfortunate way. You can get nothing else in the nature of a real federal check. Your federal problem will have to be worked out around the table of the Executive Council. But this principle, which must enter into the formation of the Executive Council, is clearly inconsistent with the principle of the British Constitution, which holds the whole Cabinet jointly responsible for every act of the Government. In our present union of the Canadas, we have latterly gone upon the plan of having almost two ministries. The plan urged upon our acceptance purposes the experiment of six or more sections in the Executive Council, instead of the two that we have found one too many Among the difficulties that will grow out of that plan is this, the absolute necessity of either having an Executive Council that will be ridiculously too numerous, or else one that will represent the different provinces in sections entirely too small.
From this comparison of these three leading features, I had passed on to consider the relations of the Federal Government with the several provinces, comparing them with the relations subsisting between the United States Government and the governments of the several states of the American Union. The several states of the neighboring republic commenced their existence as states with all their constitutions constructed on the same general plan as that of the United States, and in fact the same republican principles underlie all their governmental institutions, municipal, state and federal. But it is here proposed, that while we are to start with a system of general government, part British, part republican, partly neither, it is to be an open question, left to the decision of each separate province, what kind of local constitution is to be constructed for itself.
Each province must, of course, have an elective chamber, but as to a second chamber, that is to be as each local legislature may see fit. Some, probably, will have it elective, while others may dispense with it entirely. Then, looking to the appointment of the Lieutenant Governors, and the tenure by which they are to hold office, it becomes about as clear as day that you cannot carry on responsible government in the provinces, but must have in them all a system that is neither British nor republican, and that, I believe, will be found to be totally unworkable.
Turning to the assignment of powers to the Federal Government on the one hand, and the local or provincial governments on the other, we meet again with the unhappy contrast between […]
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[…] the wisdom displayed on that point in the Constitution of the United States, and the lack of wisdom in the arrangement proposed for adoption here. There is, in the United States’ system, a clear and distinct line drawn between the functions of the general and state governments. Some may not like the idea of state sovereignty, and many may wish that more power had been given to the General Government. But this much is plain, that it is not proposed to allow anything approaching to state sovereignty here. We have not even an intelligible statement as to what powers are to be exercised by the general, and what by the local legislatures and governments.
Several subjects are specifically given to both; many others are confusedly left in doubt between them; and there is the strange and anomalous provision that not only can the General Government disallow the acts of the provincial legislatures, and control and hamper and fetter provincial action in more ways than one, but that wherever any federal legislation contravenes or in any way clashes with provincial legislation, as to any matter at all common between them, such federal legislation shall override it, and take its place. It is not too much to say that a continuance of such a system for any length of time without serious clashing is absolutely impossible. This is in effect so declared in the despatch of Her Majesty’s Colonial Secretary, and it is clearly pointed out in the London Times and in the Edinburgh Review. It seems as if our statesmen had sought to multiply points of collision at every turn.
Then as to the non provision of a permanent seat of government, and the arrangements contemplated for the judiciary, we find still more of the same sort of thing; and as to the extraordinary pains that seem to have been taken to throw up a great wall or hedge round those institutions of Lower Canada which of late have been giving us no trouble to speak of—as to the extraordinary pains, I say, that seem to have been taken to put a wall around those institutions, and to give every possible guarantee about them on this side and on that; why, this very machinery, provided for the mere purpose of inducing people to agree to the scheme, who would not otherwise countenance it, is calculated, at no very distant day, to cause the cry to resound throughout the land—”To your tents, O, Israel!” (Hear, hear.)
I had reached this point of my argument, when I was compelled to throw myself on the indulgence of the House. There is just one consideration connected with these matters to which I have been alluding, that I wish to revert to in few words, because I believe it escaped me, in part at least, last night. A marked difference between the history of the United States just before they framed their constitution, and our late history, is this: the adoption of the Constitution of the United States followed immediately upon their successful war of independence. The men who adopted it had just gone shoulder to shoulder through the severest trial that could have been given to their patience and other higher qualities. Their entire communities had been, you may say, united as one man, in the great struggle through which they had passed, and were then equally united in their hopes as to the grand results which their new system was to bring forth. They had tried the system of mere confederation, and were agreed that it was inadequate to meet the wants of their situation. They were all trying to remove the evils that they felt and apprehended from it, and to build up a great nationality that should endure in the future. That was the position they occupied.
Ours is something very different indeed. We have not gone through an ordeal such as that through which they had so proudly passed. On the contrary, we have ended, temporarily ended at any rate, a series of struggles it is true, but struggles of a very different kind; struggles that have just pitted our public men one against another, and to some extent, I am sorry to say, even our faiths and races against each other. (Hear, hear.) For one, I do believe that these struggles—of the latter class I mean—were dying out, but for these contemplated changes, which are threatening to revive them.
But, however that may be, struggles there have been amongst us, of which we have no cause to be proud; things have occurred since the union of which we ought to be ashamed, if we are not (Hear, hear.)
Of this kind are the only struggles that we have had; and when, from such a past and present, we are told to start with the idea, so to speak, of at once creating and developing the character of a new and united nation, under institutions giving us a something short of independence, and at the same time any quantity of matters about which to dispute and come to trouble, we may as well not shut our eyes to the fact, that we start with but poor omens […]
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[…] of success. (Hear, hear.)
But I have to turn now, Mr. Speaker, to another branch of my comparison—the financial; and here, I may at once give the House an assurance, which I am sure it will be glad to have, that I will not trouble it with more figures than are absolutely necessary to my explanation of the views I have to present, and that I will not give a single figure as to which there can be the possibility of a controversy. The contrast between the financial system as a whole, with which the framers of the United States Constitution started, and the financial system with which it is proposed we shall start, is as salient as it is possible for the human intellect to conceive; and further the contrast between this proposed financial system, and the financial system of England, is just as salient too. The framers of the United States Constitution started with the principle, that between the United States and the several states there should be no financial dealings at all. They were to have separate financial systems, separate treasuries, separate debts—all absolutely distinct.
And ever since the time when the unhappy attempt on the part of Great Britain to tax the colonies was given up, almost as absolute a line of demarcation between the Imperial finances and treasury and the colonial finances and treasuries, has been maintained. We have had our own separate finances and our own separate treasury, with which the Imperial Government has had nothing to do. The Imperial Government may have gone, and may still go, to some expense on provincial behalf; but the British principle is, that imperial finance is as distinct from the provincial, as in the United States Federal finance is from that of any state. Now, the system proposed here for our adoption is not this of entire and simple separation of the federal from the provincial treasuries, but a system of the most entire and complex confusion between them. One has to think a good deal upon the subject, and to study it pretty closely to see precisely how the confusion is going to operate; but there it is, unmistakably, at every turn.
I do not mean to say that under all the circumstances of the case something of this sort was not unavoidable. In the course of debate the other day, I remember a remark was thrown across the floor of the House upon this point and the Hon Minister of Finance [Alexander T. Galt] in effect said: “Yes, indeed, and it would have been a very pleasant thing for gentlemen opposed to the scheme, if it had thrown upon the provinces a necessity of resorting to direct taxation.” Of course, in the mere view of making the scheme palatable, it was clever to make the Federal treasury pay for provincial expenditure; but the system that had need be established should bear testimony, not to cleverness, but to wisdom. Is the system proposed for our acceptance as good, then, as statesmen ought to and would have made it? I think not; and the extraordinary thing is, that it is brought out with a flourish of trumpets, on thy ground that in some indescribable way it is to work most economically! (Hear, hear.)
Well, to test it, I will take it up in three points of view—first, as to assets; next, as to debts and liabilities; and, lastly, as to revenues. As to the asset part of the question, the tale is soon told. The assets of these provinces, speaking generally, are of very little commercial value. They are much like the assets of an insolvent trader, with lets of bad debts upon his books; it is of small consequence to whom or how they are assigned. The general principle upon which the scheme proceeds, is to give the Federal Government the bulk of these assets. The only exceptions of any consequence—I am not going into the details of the scheme, but still I must present to the House so much of detail as to show that I am making no rash statement, not borne out by facts—the only important exceptions, I say, to this rule are those I am about to notice.
Certain properties such as penitentiaries, prisons, lunatic asylums, and other public charitable institutions, and other buildings and properties of the kind, which, together with those I have just mentioned, may be characterized as exceptional properties, are to be assigned by the general to the provincial governments. Also, with the exception of Newfoundland, the several provinces are to take the public lands, mines, minerals and royalties in each, and all assets connected with them—in common parlance, their territorial revenues. The General Government is, however, to have the mines, minerals and public lands of Newfoundland, paying for them of course. (Hear, hear.)
Then, Upper and Lower Canada are severally to have those assets which are connected with the debts, reserved for payment by them respectively; but these will not be worth much, and I shall not take the trouble of saying much about them. It is enough to know that the proportion of the debt, to be assumed by the two has not yet, for some reason, been stated, and that the assets connected with them, amount to very […]
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[…] little. Further, I am not quite sure that I am right, but I understood the Hon. Attorney General for Lower Canada [George-Étienne Cartier], the other night, to intimate that the seigniory of Sorel is to be somehow a provincial asset of Lower Canada. If that is not to be the case I will pass on; but if it is, perhaps the honorable gentleman will say so.
George-Étienne Cartier [Montreal East, Attorney-General East]—I will speak on that subject at another time.
Christopher Dunkin [Brome]—Then, I am to take it for granted, I suppose, that it is not to be a provincial asset?
George-Étienne Cartier [Montreal East, Attorney-General East]—I will not interrupt the hon. gentleman now.
Christopher Dunkin [Brome]—Well, Mr. Speaker, I did suppose that I should have had an immediate answer as to whether this seigniory is to be a provincial asset or not; but the hon. gentleman does not seem inclined to give any information upon the point. By these resolutions it is provided, that all ordnance properties are to be taken by the General Government; and I never heard but that the seigniory of Sorel is an ordnance property. But from the statement made here the other day, it would seem that although this printed document purports to be the scheme, it does not give us true information on this point. The wording of the 55th resolution is, that the “property transferred by the Imperial Government and known as ordnance property” is to belong to the General Government; if any part of it is really a provincial asset, it must become so by one of those explanations or glosses which we are not allowed to insert in the instrument now, but are to take our chance of for some future time. (Hear, hear.)
Passing over the mystery that seems to hang over the subject, I refer then to a matter about which there can be no mistake. There certainly cannot be a doubt that the lands, mines, and minerals of Newfoundland are to be a Federal asset; and there is not any doubt either that the Federal Government will have to pay $150,000 a year for them. It is perfectly certain that these lands will cost that money; and it is perfectly certain, I think, that the administration of them will also cost a certain amount of trouble and dispute, as to the manner in which it is to be carried on. But if human nature remains human nature, we may reasonably and probably surmise that they will not yield so great a revenue to the General Government as is by some thought. We shall have Newfoundland delegations in the Commons House, and in the other House; and in order to keep them in anything like good humor, and to enable the Lieutenant-Governor of Newfoundland to carry on his government with anything like ease and comfort, their lands, mines and minerals will have to be administered, not with a view to Federal revenue—even though to that end they are costing the direct payment of $150,000 a year—but with a view to Newfoundland popularity.
In fact, I think it will be found that the management of these properties will be carried on more with a view to the development and profit of Newfoundland, than for any profit of the people of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Upper and Lower Canada. Every man, woman and child—from the Lieutenant-Governor downwards—connected with Newfoundland, will regard it as a fit article of political faith, that they must be worked with a special view to the great future of that great country. And the consequence will be many little passages between the province and the Federal Government, not advantageous to the latter, but illustrative of the way in which governments too often have to deal with things for which they have had to pay. Well, sir, I pass to the matter of the debts; and these, it must be acknowledged, are rather more important than the assets. (Hear, hear.)
There is no mistake about that; though there might seem to be a mistake about the resolutions on this subject, were you to take their letter only. The sixtieth resolution says that the General Government shall assume all the debts and liabilities of each province; while the sixty-first has it, that part of our Canadian debt is to be borne by Upper and Lower Canada respectively. In a sense, I will presently explain. I think the sixtieth resolution about tells the truth, or rather, I ought to say, falls short of it. But it requires one to work the oracle out. To follow the calculation through, in order to see that it does so, that these debts will indeed all—and more than all—fall, directly or indirectly, on the Federal Government.
Meantime, on our way to that part of my argument, I set it down that under the sixty-first resolution there is an amount of reserved debt which, in a certain manner, is to fall on Upper and Lower Canada respectively. Pretty much as it was just now in the ordnance property, so here, […]
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[…] we cannot get an intelligible answer as to what these reserved debts are, as against either province, or what the assets are that each is to take as an offset to them. But, for the purpose of constituting the stated debt of the future Confederation, Upper and Lower Canada, we are told, are to throw into it an amount of $62,500,000, the surplus of their debt being nominally left to be borne by themselves, after they shall have become confederated; Nova Scotia, on the other hand, is to be allowed to increase her debt to $8,000,000; and Newfoundland and Prince Edward Island are to throw in theirs at the nominal figure they stand at now.
But, by an ingenious contrivance, the aggregate real debt of the country is to be, in effect, a good deal more than the aggregation of these figures would give. Upper and Lower Canada, to begin with, as we have seen, are, besides, separately to pretend to bear the weight of their considerable excess of debt over the $62,500,000, or $25 a head, allowed under this arrangement. Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, should they not increase their debts to be assumed up to this figure of $25 a head, are to be paid interest at five per cent, on any amount of shortcoming in that behalf they may be guilty of. And Newfoundland and Prince Edward Island are to be paid interest at the same rate, on the amount to which their smaller debts fall short of this same normal $25 allowance.
For practical purposes, therefore, the debts of the four Lower Provinces are thus brought up to this standard level. The Federal Government is to pay interest on them to that tune; if not to creditors of those provinces, then to the provinces themselves. And we are to start with a clear, practical debt of $25 a head for every man, woman, and child in the Confederacy. Incurred or not, we start with it as due, and pay accordingly. And there are, besides, those amounts of debt left nominally to the charge of Upper Canada, as to which I shall have a word more to say shortly.
Meantime, I proceed to our third head—of revenues. And here, the first and most striking fact is, that the Federal Government is to make yearly grants, payable, by the way, semi-annually and in advance, to each province, in proportion to its population as shown by the census of 1861, and at the rate of 80 cents a head. And the way in which this 80 cents a head apportionment is come at, is in itself, somewhat edifying. According to the statements made here by Ministers, the Finance Ministers of the several provinces were invited at the Conference to come forward with a statement of their respective wants. Of course their statements were to be framed with a due regard to economy. Such things are always to be done economically.
This is a diplomatic phrase, of which we understand here the full meaning; and I was not at all surprised to hear, that however economically the statements were made out, they had to be cut down. Whether they are said to have been cut down once or twice, or oftener, I do not distinctly recollect. But at last, after having been duly cut down, they were found to require this grant or subvention, at the rate of 80 cents a head all round—subject always to deduction as against the Canadas, and to additions in favor of the four Lower Provinces, as we shall presently see. With less, the provinces could not get on at the rate thought necessary, unless by levying undesired taxes.
Well, besides these subventions, the provinces (all but Newfoundland) are to have the proceeds of their lands, mines and minerals; and Newfoundland is to have, instead, the further grant from the Federal treasury, of $150,000 a year, forever. They may all, further, derive some more indirect revenue from licenses of various sorts; and Nova Scotia may add to these an exceptional, and exceptionable, export duty on coal and other minerals; and New Brunswick, the like on lumber. Besides which, on the mere ground that she cannot do without it. New Brunswick is to have a further federal grant of $63,000 a year for ten years; unless, indeed, in the event of her not augmenting her debt to the full amount, in which case, any payment made to her of interest on that scare is to be deducted from the $63,000—a shrewd hint, by the way, that she had not best be too economical—and, lastly, all are to have the precious right of direct taxation, and the higher privilege of borrowing without limit.
The Federal power is to have, of course, the right to tax in all sorts of ways, the special export duties made over to New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, alone excepted. Now, Mr. Speaker, taking this whole arrangement together, I must repeat that I see in it no principle but one. The provinces are to be able to carry on their operations according to their supposed probable future exigencies, without danger of direct, that is to say, oppressive or new taxation. Well, sir, engineers say that the measure […]
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[…] of strength of a fortified place is the strength of its weakest part. And this principle is here applied to our provinces in a financial point of view. The need of the neediest is made the measure of the aid given to all. The most embarrassed is to have enough for its purposes, and the rest are to receive, if not exactly in the same ratio, at least so nearly up to the mark as that they shall all be satisfied; while, on the other hand, the debts of all the provinces are to be, for all practical ends, raised to the full level of the most indebted.
To show this, sir, another word or two as to the amount of the promised subventions to Upper and Lower Canada. This is to be, as we have seen, only the 80 cents a head, less some deduction, I care not what, for the purpose of my present argument; but there is no doubt, I say, that they are to receive less than the 80 cents, because the excess of their debt over $62,500,000, though thrown on them, will have to be guaranteed, and the interest on it will have to be paid by the Federal Government, and that interest will be deducted by the Federal Government from the subventions payable to them respectively. The Lower Provinces, on the other hand, as we have also seen, are really to get more. Well now, suppose for the moment the arrangement had been, for the Confederation to assume at once the whole debt of Canada, and accordingly to pay proportionately larger amounts of interest to the other provinces. The two Canadas would then have needed, exactly, so much the less of nominal subvention, and the other provinces too. The cost to the Federal treasury, in the whole, would still have been exactly what it is.
Indirectly, therefore, I say that for all practical purposes there is thrown upon the General Government the whole amount of the past debts of these provinces, and more; and the whole burden, too, of the carrying on of the machinery of government, both Federal and Provincial; unless, indeed, any of the provinces should see fit hereafter to undertake what I may “call extraordinary expenditure, and to defray it themselves. I do not think they will. It would involve direct taxation. And I think they can do better. But for all this part of the plan, sir, it is like the rest, framed on the mere idea of making things pleasant—the politician idea of anyhow winning over interests or parties for today—not on any statesmanlike thought as to its future working and effects. (Hear, hear.)
Now, Mr. Speaker, with this outline of the system, I should be glad to know where the prospect of economy of administration is to be found. The Honorable Finance Minister [Alexander T. Galt] of the future Federal Government will have to do—what? To come with a budget, not merely to cover the outlay of the Federal Government, that is of course, but with a budget to cover also all that I may call the normal outlay, the intended outlay, the foreseen outlay of all the provinces. (Hear, hear.)
The Minister of Finance [Alexander T. Galt]—(if any there is)—of the province, unless he chooses to outrun the constable; unless, with his lieutenant-governor and local government and legislature, he chooses to spend more than he can get out of the Federal Government, by this system, or by that nice modification of it which is pretty sure to be soon thought of, and to which I shall by and by advert, need have no budget at all. He knows he is to have about so much from his lands, mines and minerals, so much from licenses and so forth, so much from the Federal Government, so many thousand or hundred thousand dollars in all; and he will of course make the best he can of that.
And by the way, it is a remarkable fact in this connection, that we find that with one accord those who are undertaking to speak to the different provinces in support of Confederation are agreed in each telling the people of his own province what a first-rate bargain has been made for it. (Hear, hear.)
My hon. friend from Hochelaga [Antoine-Aimé Dorion] read us an extract the other night from a speech of Hon. Mr. Tilley, of New Brunswick, in which that hon. gentleman spoke out, perfectly to his satisfaction, and to that of many who heard him, that New Brunswick is guaranteed an excess over her real needs, of $34,000 a year.
If I am not mistaken, the Hon. Solicitor General for Lower Canada [Hector-Louis Langevin] undertook since, in this House, to shew us that some $200,000 or more a year beyond hers, is in the same way secured to Lower Canada; even though she does not receive the full 80 cents a head. I think I remember that the Hon. President of the Council [George Brown], though I have not yet got the report of his speech to refresh my memory—made it a point that really Upper Canada, as well as Lower Canada, is comfortably off in this respect. One hears too, I think, of the same song in Nova Scotia; and in Prince Edward Island certainly, we have the advocates of Confederation telling the people there—”You, too, have got a capital bargain, you have so much more to spend, according […]
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[…] to this arrangement, than you ever had before.” A strange comment on that earnest desire for economy, which is claimed to have dictated the whole of these arrangements. (Hear, hear.) If that was the intention, the performance has fallen far short of it. (Hear, hear.)
And before I go further, there occurs to me this consideration, arising out of this state of things, out of this abundance, not to say plethora, that is meant to characterize the provincial exchequers, whatever may be the case with the Federal exchequer under the system, one consideration, I say, connected with this, which should not be lost sight of when we are talking about the application of anything in the least like responsible government to our provinces. I never yet heard of an elected legislative body that had much control over a government, unless it had hold of the strings of a purse from which the government wanted to get something. In the old days, before responsible government was thought of, in the days when casual and territorial revenues gave provincial governments all they wanted, or a little more, provincial legislatures had mighty little to do with government, and, if they complained of a grievance, were little likely to be listened to.
It was even the same long before at home. When the English Crown had its abundance of resources, English kings cared little for their parliaments. But when their resources were exhausted, and they could not borrow easily, and had to ask for taxes, then the House of Commons began to acquire power, and, in course of time, became the body it is now. I shall be surprised if we do not find, in the event of this Confederation taking place, that for some time our provincial legislatures, whether they consist of one chamber or of two, will be less powerful for good than many would wish to have them, that the machine of state will not be altogether driven by their moans.
But there is another result, about which there can be no question. With one accord, not in Newfoundland merely; I was hinting a little while ago at what would be the case of Newfoundland, as to its lands, mines and minerals, not there only, but in all the provinces, the provincial governments will, in a quiet way, want money, and the provincial legislators and people will want it yet more; grants for roads and bridges, for schools, for charities, for salaries, for contingencies of the legislative body, for all manner of ends they will be wanting money, and where is it to come from? Whether the constitution of the Provincial Executive savors at all of responsible government or not, be sure it will not be anxious to bring itself more under the control of the legislature, or to make itself more odious than it can help, and the easiest way for it to get money will be from the General Government. I am not sure, either, but that most members of the provincial legislatures will like it that way the best. (Hear, hear.)
It will not be at all unpopular, the getting of money so. Quite the contrary. Gentlemen will go to their constituents with an easy conscience, telling them: “True, we had not much to do in the Provincial Legislature, and you need not ask very closely what else we did; but I tell you what, we got the Federal Government to increase the subvention to our province by five cents a head, and see what this gives you—$500 to that road—$1000 to that charity—so much here, so much there. That we have done; and have we not done well?” (Hear, hear.) I am afraid in many constituencies the answer would be; “Yes, you have done well; go and do it again.” I am afraid the provincial constituencies, legislatures and executives will all show a most calf-like appetite for the milking of this one most magnificent government cow.
John Sandfield Macdonald [Cornwall]—There will be more municipal loan funds.
Christopher Dunkin [Brome]—Yes, that is one of the analogies, and there is another even nearer. Years ago, we in Canada said we would forever give a certain fixed sum per annum for an education fund. It was to be divided, in a certain ratio, between Upper and Lower Canada. But from time to time, as the census showed changes of their relative population, the division was to be altered. In a little while this alteration of ratio gave Lower Canada less money and Upper Canada more.” Oh! but,” said the Administration,” we cannot do that with Lower Canada. After having had distributed to her so many thousands a year, she could not stand having ever so much less. No, no; we cannot do that. What shall we do, then? In our estimates we will put in a vote for Lower Canada, just to keep her figure up to the mark of what she has been receiving. And what then? Why, of course, we must add a vote for Upper Canada in the same proportion, just to take her so much further beyond her former figure.” (Hear, hear.)
To be sure, I do find, with reference to this subvention, a pleasant little expression, which one wishes may be carried out. It is to be “in full.” “Such aid shall be in full settlement […]
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[…] of all future demands upon the General Government for local purposes, and shall be paid half-yearly, in advance, to each province.” Yes, sir, so the text runs. But suppose ourselves in the time of our first, or second, or third Federal Cabinet, consisting of its six or more sections, of course; and, for the sake of my argument, I will suppose a great deal, that every one of these sections controls comfortably the delegations from its own province in the two Houses of Parliament, that the machine is working beautifully, that there is no lieutenant-governor crusty, no provincial administration kicking over the traces, and no provincial legislature giving any other trouble than by its anxiety to be well paid. I will suppose even that this halcyon state of things has gone on for some time. But one or two or more of the provinces begin to feel that they cannot do without having more money. And the pressure will be such upon the Provincial Legislature and upon the Lieutenant-Governor, and upon the delegations to the General Legislature, and upon the section of the Federal Executive representing each such province, that it never can be long resisted; there will be trouble if it is, and things must be kept pleasant. (Hear, hear.)
One mode, the most obvious, though the least scientific, will be just to increase the subvention from eighty to eighty-five, or even to eighty-two or eighty-one cents a head. An additional cent a head from the Federal Exchequer would be an object, a few cents a head would be a boon. Or suppose the demand took this form: suppose the people, say of Upper or Lower Canada, should say, “Those Newfoundlanders are getting $150,000 a year for their lands, mines, and minerals; and the Federal Government is positively administering those lands, mines, and minerals, not for Federal profit, but more for the advantage of that province than we find we can administer our own; the General Government, therefore, must take our lands, mines, and minerals, and give us also an equivalent.” That is one way of doing the thing; and, when the time comes for making that sort of demand, depend upon it that it will sound singularly reasonable in the ears of the provinces whose representatives shall make it; and if two or three provinces shall join in the demand, my word for it, the thing will soon be done.
The same sort of thing may be looked for in reference to the New Brunswick timber export duty and the Nova Scotia mineral export duty. Here is one form of the cry that may be raised; “You give these exceptional privileges to New Brunswick and Nova Scotia; give them, or some equivalent, to us also.” With common ingenuity lots of such cries may be nicely got up. But for everything so given, much or little, to whatever province, you will have to do the like for all the rest, and the figure will be alarming before you get to the end. And even this is not all. Not only will you have these comparatively direct demands, more or less ingeniously, but always irresistibly made, but you will have demands made in a more indirect form which it will be yet easier to carry, from their consequences not being so clearly seen, and which will therefore be still worse in their effects.
I speak of that tremendous catalogue of outlays which may be gone into without the appearance of a grant to any particular province—the costly favors which may be done in respect of inter-provincial ferries, steamship lines between or from the provinces, railways between or through the provinces, telegraph lines, agriculture, immigration, quarantine, fisheries, and so forth. There will be claims of every description under all these heads; and besides them there will be the long roll of internal improvements of all kinds, whether for the benefit of one or of more than one of the provinces. For any local work in which it can be at all pretended that it is of general interest, pressure may be brought to bear upon the General Government and Legislature, and whenever one province succeeds in getting any such grant, every other province must be dealt with in the same way. Compensation must be made all round, and no human intellect can estimate the degree of extravagance that before long must become simply inevitable. (Hear, hear.)
Sir, with our Upper and Lower Canada we have had pretty good proof of this. We know that whenever anything has had to be done for one section of this province, it has constantly been found necessary to do something of the same or of some other kind for the other. If either needed anything very badly, then the ingenuity of the Minister of Finance [Alexander T. Galt] had to be exercised to discover something else of like value to give the other. In one word, unless I am more mistaken than I think I can be, these local governments will be pretty good daughters of the horse-leech, and their cry will be found to be pretty often and pretty successfully.” Give, give, give!”
But, sir, there is very little need for our dealing with considerations of this kind as to a future about which one may be thought to be in danger of drawing more or less upon imagination. […]
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[…] We have in these resolutions something that is to come upon us, one may say, at once; I allude to the expenditure for our defences—the Intercolonial Railway—the opening of communication with the North-West—and the enlargement of our canals. There is no doubt that all these new sources of outlay are immediately contemplated. Their cost is not given us; it could not be given with any safety to the scheme. I do not pretend to say, sir, but that some of these expenditures are necessary; and this I am even prepared to say as to one of them—the outlay for defences—that every province of the empire is bound to do its full share towards its own defence. (Hear, hear.)
I never gave a vote or expressed an opinion in any otter sense. I was always ready with my vote for that purpose. (Hear, hear.) But looking at the great outlay, I may say the enormous outlay here understood to be contemplated, I confess I cannot approach the subject in this connection without a feeling of misgiving. I can quite understand our going to the full limit of our means for all the expense that is necessary for the thorough maintenance of our militia on an efficient footing as to instruction and otherwise; but when we hear of Imperial engineers, with Imperial ideas as to cost, laying out grand permanent works of defence, then I confess I am much inclined to think that we had need try to practice what economy we can in that direction. (Hear, hear.)
Then, as regards the Intercolonial Railway, we have in these resolutions a very blind tale indeed. “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”—and this quite irrespectively of the expense. The vague pledge is, that the General Government shall at any cost secure the immediate completion of this work. As to its commercial or military advantages, I have not a great idea of them. I believe there has been much exaggeration as to both. Unless with a strong force to defend it, in a military point of view, it would be of just no use at all. (Hear, hear.)
For my own part, as I have often said, I heartily wish to see the road built; but unless we can get it done upon terms within our means, we had better do without it a little longer, and develop what other means of communication are at our command. While I want to see the thing done, I am not prepared for the declaration I find in these resolutions, that, coûte que coûte, we will at once have it. I doubt the policy of that way of dealing. (Hear, hear.)
Viewed in its political aspects, the work is as much an Imperial as a provincial work; one for which we have a right to look for aid from the Empire. I know it is said the Empire is going to aid us. Well, for a long time we held this language: if the Imperial Government and the Lower Provinces between them will combine to do the rest, we are ready with lands and subsidies, in a certain proportion and to a certain limited amount. It is unfortunate, in my opinion, that that proposal led to no result. I should have been glad to have obtained it on such terms, and even would have bid up the limit to the utmost extent of our means.
John Sandfield Macdonald [Cornwall]—That offer is extant yet.
Christopher Dunkin [Brome]—I know it is, but those since made have left it out of sight. In 1862 the start was made to a larger and not limited outlay—five-twelfths of an unstated whole—Great Britain to reduce the cost by endorsing for us to a stated figure. I regretted that scheme; but still it was better for us than what is now being forced upon us. By this last scheme, Canada will have to bear some nine-twelfths—it has been said ten-twelfths—but some nine-twelfths, at any rate. In fact, the bulk of the burden is to fall on us; and it is significant, though I dare say that the honorable gentlemen who drew up this resolution did not mean it, that it seems to let the Imperial Government off from its guarantee. This is no mere criticism of mine; my attention was drawn to the point by the article in the Edinburgh Review from which I was quoting last night. That writer—who is not a nobody, you may depend upon it—remarks, in effect, that from the wording of this resolution, the honorable gentlemen of the Conference do not seem to be holding to the Imperial guarantee. Should it not be given, the cost to us will be frightfully increased. And this it had not need be.
For the honorable gentlemen who are running us into it might do well to remember the past. We had the Grand Trunk railway offered us for what was called next to nothing. The guarantee we were to give was not for much; and it was well secured; and we were assured it was not meant to be made use of, was more a form than a reality. Yet the guarantee was used and extended, and made a gift of; every estimate failed; the cry ever since has been for more, more; and the whole concern is now in such a state as to be threatening us day by day […]
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[…] with yet larger demands on the public purse than ever, to keep it going. Well, sir, I pass on from these heavy outlays for permanent defences, and the Intercolonial Railway; and I read in these resolutions that “the communications with the Northwestern territory, and the improvements required for the development of the trade of the Great West with the seaboard, are regarded by this Conference as subjects of the highest importance to the Federated Provinces, and shall be prosecuted at the earliest possible period that the state of the finances will permit.” Well, sir, we are told that this last phrase is synonymous with those unqualified words, “without delay,” that are used as to the Intercolonial.
I am reminded of a saying current in the days of Lord Sydenham, who was a good deal in the habit of wanting work done faster than the workers liked, and of whom it used to be said that all he ordered had to be done “immediately, if not sooner.” (Hear, hear, and laughter.) I take it, the Intercolonial Railway is to be done “immediately, if not sooner,” and these other improvements are to wait till “immediately, if not later.” They are to be prosecuted as soon as the state of the finances will permit. I know some hon. gentlemen think that will be very soon, but if so, there must be most extraordinary means taken to borrow or otherwise raise money. (Hear, hear.)
Nothing can be vaguer than the intimation given as to what these works are to be. The communications with the Great Northwestern territory, where are they to begin; what are they to be; and where are they to end? And the other improvements to be carried out the communications with the seaboard—the enlargement of the canals—how much enlargement, sir, and of how many and what canals? An honorable friend near me says canal enlargement is or should be productive. No doubt, but at what rate? I remember reading in a Lower Province paper the other day of a late speech of Hon. Mr. Tilley’s, in which he said that at the Quebec Conference they went into a calculation of the productive value of the entire outlay of these provinces upon productive public works, and found them to be yielding an average of one and an eighth of one percent., or something like that, of yearly return upon their cost. I admit there may be in the widening of these canals a something of productiveness; but to say that it will be anything like proportionate to the outlay, is absurd.
But what I am coming back to is this—we are to go at once into the outlay of the Intercolonial Railway, and we are to go into this other, too; but yet, almost beyond the shadow of a doubt, these canals and other communications with the west—which western politicians think they are to get as their equivalent—are to be held back a bit. I forgot to bring here an extract from a late speech of Hon. Mr. Tilley’s, in which he plainly said that can immediate carrying on of these western works did not enter into the calculations of the Conference, that the Intercolonial was unmistakably to be put through at once; but that the Lower Province delegates gave no promise of the like prosecution of these other works as the price of that. (Hear, hear.)
An Hon. Member—Where do you find that?
Christopher Dunkin [Brome]—It is quoted in a late number of the Toronto Leader; and if anyone will bring me the file of that paper from below, I will read the words with pleasure. Now, Mr. Speaker, I am raising no question of any one’s sincerity upon this question. The politicians of the eastern provinces, I have no doubt, are thoroughly in earnest in their demand for the construction of the Intercolonial road, and are quite willing to have the western improvements begun about as soon as they can be; and I am quite sure that the friends of this scheme in the west want their western works instantly gone on with.
I even believe they both think they will get what they want; but I am surprised at their credulity, for I do not see how they can. I believe they are deceiving themselves and their friends with the bright pictures their fancy has been painting, and that my western friends, at any rate, are doomed to some disappointment. Whenever a Federal Parliament shall meet, I fancy it will become a question of grave interest whether or not the state of the finances will admit of the construction of all these works; and if not, then what is to be done first—and how—and when? And as I have shewn, unless the six majorities are pretty much agreed, there will be no great deal done in any hurry.
John Sandfield Macdonald [Cornwall]—That is worse than the double majority.
Christopher Dunkin [Brome]—Yes, three times as bad, to say the least. Well, suppose the financiers of the Lower Provinces, having before their eyes the fear of direct taxation by the Federal Parliament, should come to the […]
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[…] conclusion that it will not signify for a few years, whether these western works are begun at once or not; and should propose to sit down first a little, and count the cost.
John Sandfield Macdonald [Cornwall]—Insist on having a survey made, for instance, first?
Christopher Dunkin [Brome]—Well yes, that would probably be insisted upon before they would consent to commit themselves further to the undertaking. Suppose, then, Lower Canada to go with the Lower Provinces for staving off this commencement of these works, how will it fare with Upper Canada’s demand for them? And what will not be the indignation of the people of Upper Canada at being tied to, and controlled by the non-progressive people of the east? Or, suppose that Upper and Lower Canada should agree, and the Lower Provinces be seriously angry, at any over-caution eastward, or over-rashness westward; would not they too, so left out in the cold, be making things quite unpleasant?
Or again, suppose the more eastern and the western interests should continue to push on both plans, careless of cost, and that Lower Canada, for fear of direct taxation, should hold back in earnest, would that make no trouble? Is not any one of these suppositions more probable than the cool assumption, over which western gentlemen are so happy, that when the time comes all interests will instantly work together, and by magic do everything, east and west, at once? But, be this as it may, sir, on all three accounts—defences, Intercolonial road and western works—we are sure of cost, as well as of disputes, in plenty. And there is, besides, a fourth. I shall have occasion to show presently that we are going to be called upon to spend money for yet another kindred purpose, and a large amount too, and this, as a part of this scheme.
Our star of empire is to wing its way westward; and we are to confederate everything in its track, from Newfoundland to Vancouver Island, this last included. But, between us and it, there lies the Hudson Bay territory. So, of course, we must acquire that for confederation purposes; and the plan is, that before we get it we shall have to pay for the elephant—though, after we get him, we may find him costly and hard to keep. It will not be difficult to prove that this is contemplated by the promoters of this scheme. Between railways and canals, and western extension, before we get the scheme carried out in all its contemplated amplitude, we shall have bled pretty well, and seen some sights that we have hardly yet learnt to anticipate. (Hear, hear.) Well, with this certain prospect before us of a gigantic outlay, what is the prospect for a gigantic income?
A Member—Oh, never mind that.
Christopher Dunkin [Brome]—I quite understand that many hon. gentlemen take little thought of where money is to come nom, if only it is to be spent as they wish. But, Mr. Speaker, before I go further, I am handed the file of the Toronto Leader, and, with the leave of the House, I will read from it the extracts from Hon. Mr. Tilley’s speech to which I was referring some minutes ago. This journal refers to it as follows:—
Mr. Tilley, we are sorry to say, does not give us much hope of the speedy enlargement of our canals. He laughs at the idea of his opponent quoting Mr. Brown as authority that this work is to be undertaken at once. “The Conference,” says Mr. Tilley, “agreed to build the railroad without delay, the canals as soon as the state of the finances will permit.” But he ridicules the idea that the finances will be held at once to admit of this being done. “Canada,” says Mr. Tilley, “could not have been brought into the union on a promise to build her canals, for the railroad will cost $12,000,000, which added to the $22,000,000 for canals, would be an amount far above what they could have gained them for without Confederation.”
Such is Hon. Mr. Tilley’s style of remark, and I do not think it is at all encouraging to the very sanguine view of the scheme taken by some western politicians. It is presumable that he will take Newfoundland, Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia with him, and along with them he will get much of Lower Canada. If I should have the honor of a seat in the House, they may depend upon it, I shall do what I can to get them fair play. But I repeat, I do not expect to see them satisfied with the result. Well, sir, however this may be, there is going to be, at any rate, an immense amount of money required, come from whence it may. Where is it to come from? We cannot shut our eyes to the fact, that the customs tariff must come down. (Hear.)
There are no two ways about that. Our tariff is much higher than those of the Lower Provinces; and the advocates of Confederation there have to assure people that their tariffs will not be materially raised, in order to get any sort of hearing for the scheme. To tell them that the tariff of Canada is to be that of the Confederation, would be to ruin the chances of getting a favorable reception for it. (Hear, hear.) […]
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[…] We are marching fast and steadily towards free trade. We must meet the views of the people of the Lower Provinces, who are hostile to high tariffs, and the demand of the Imperial authorities that we should not tax their manufactures so heavily as—in their phrase—almost to deprive them of our market. It was distinctly and officially stated the other day, in Newfoundland, that assurance had been given to the Government of Newfoundland that the views of the Canadian Government are unmistakably in this direction. And I do not think there is any mistake about that, either.
To show how people at home, too, expect our tariff to come down, I may refer to the speech of Mr. Hambury Tracy, in seconding the Address in answer to the Speech from the Throne, in the House of Commons the other day. He could not stop, after saying generally that he was pleased with this Confederation movement, without adding that he trusted it would result in a very considerable decrease in the absurdly high and hostile tariff at present prevailing in Canada. I have not here the exact words, but that was their purport. Well, if the customs tariff is to come down largely, we must look for a decrease of revenue.
I am free to admit that a reduction of the tariff on certain articles, or even some measure of reduction all round, might be no material loss, or might even be a gain, to the revenue—in ordinary or prosperous times, that is to say. But when the object of reducing the tariff is to meet other exigencies than those of revenue, one can hardly hope to get such a tariff as shall give us the largest revenue attainable. And besides, no one can deny that we are about entering upon a time, commercially speaking, that may be termed hard. We have had, for some time past, pretty heavy importations, and our best informed and shrewdest commercial men tell us that we are going to have, for some time to come, pretty light importations. We are not to have a plethoric purse, even under ordinary drafts upon it, for some years.
Luther Holton [Chateauguay]—The hard time is come now.
Christopher Dunkin [Brome]—Yes, it is come, or is close on us, and it rather threatens to last. And if, with this state of things before us, to oblige the Imperial authorities and the Lower Provinces, under pressure of an inevitable state necessity, we are to reduce our customs rates, or any number of them, below what I may call their figure of largest productiveness, then surely it is little to say that we cannot look forward to an increase in the revenue, or even to a continuance of our present income, and it is rather strange that we should be called upon, withal, at the same time so to change our whole system a: to involve ourselves in the enormous extravagances here contemplated. No taxing scheme can ever meet the case. Nothing can be looked to, but a device of borrowing without limit—the incurring of an amount of debt that, in interest and sinking fund, must prove to be simply unendurable hereafter. (Hear, hear.)
But, in fact, we cannot even borrow to any large amount unless under false pretences. We cannot borrow without telling tales of our condition, resources and expectations, that will in the end be found out to be lies. We must awaken hopes in the minds of money lenders abroad, that cannot but prove delusive—the memory of which must work us hereafter an aggravation of punishment that we shall then scarcely need. And when that time of reckoning shall have come, then staggering under the load, without credit at home or abroad, the country will have to choose whether it will have heavy direct taxation—for heavy such taxation then must be—or have recourse to more or less of repudiation; or even run some risk of both. Sir, if ever that time shall come, the public men of that day and the people on whom the burthen will then press, will not bless the memory of those who held out the false hopes and inducements under which it is now sought to decoy us into wild expenditure and crushing debt. (Hear, hear.)
Well, Mr. Speaker, I now pass to another branch of my subject altogether. There is a further salient contrast between the American system and the system proposed for our adoption. The people of the United States, when they adopted their Constitution, were one of the nations of the earth. They formed their whole system with a view to national existence. They had fought for their independence, and had triumphed; and still in the flush of their triumph, they were laying the foundations of a system absolutely national. Their Federal Government was to have its relations with other nations, and was sure to have plenty to do upon entering the great family of nations. But we—what are we doing? Creating a new nationality, according to the advocates of this scheme. I hardly know whether we are to take the phrase for ironical, or not. Is it a reminder […]
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[…] that in fact we have no sort of nationality about us, but are unpleasantly cut up into a lot of struggling nationalities, as between ourselves?
Unlike the people of the United States, we are to have no foreign relations to look after, or national affairs of any kind; and therefore our new nationality, if we could create it, could be nothing but a name. I must say that according to my view of the change we ought to aim at, any idea of Federation that we may entertain had need take an Imperial direction. Whenever changing our institutions, we had need develop and strengthen—not merely maintain, but maintain, develop and strengthen—the tie, not yet Federal as it ought to be, between us and the parent state. (Hear, hear.)
It is the entire Empire that should be federalized, and cemented together as one, and not any mere limited number of its dependencies here or there. A general, or so called federal government, such as we are here proposing to create, will most certainly be in a false position. As I said just now, the Federal Government of the United States was to take its place in the great family of the nations of the earth; but what place in that family are we to occupy? Simply none. The Imperial Government will be the head of the Empire as much as ever, and will alone have to attend to all foreign relations and national matters; while we shall be nothing more than we are now. Half-a-dozen colonies federated are but a federated colony after all.
Instead of being so many separate provinces with workable institutions, we are to be one province most cumbrously organised—nothing more. How many grades of government are we going to have under this system? The Imperial Government, the one great head of the Empire; then this Federal Government; then our lot of provincial governments; below them again, our county municipalities, and, still below these, our township and other local municipalities. (Hear, hear.)
We have thus five different sets of governmental machinery, and of these five there is just one too many in my judgment. You might as well make six while you are about it, and interpolate between our provincial and county governments a district governmental machinery. If we did that we should be doing a thing not a whit more absurd than we propose to do now, in erecting a new piece of such machinery between the Imperial and provincial governments.
We do not want a third municipal government, because there is nothing for it to do; and when we propose to create a Federal Government between the Imperial and Provincial, we are equally proposing to create a something which, having nothing of its own to do, must find work by encroaching on the functions of the Imperial and provincial governments in turn, with no place among nations, no relations with other countries, no foreign policy; it will stand in just the same position towards the Imperial Government as Canada now stands in, or as Upper or Lower Canada before the union used to occupy.
That intermediate work of government which is now done by the Province of Canada, the Province of New Brunswick, the Province of Nova Scotia, the Province of Prince Edward Island and the Province of Newfoundland, is to be done, part by the Federal Government and part by the provinces. The work is simply divided that is now done by the provincial legislatures and governments, and in my opinion there is no use in this subdivision of work at all. You are putting this fifth wheel to the coach, merely to find out that a misfitting odd wheel will not serve any useful purpose, nor so much as work smoothly with the other four. (Hear, hear.)
Your Federal Government will occupy about as anomalous a position between the Imperial and provincial governments as I showed, last night, will be occupied by your lieutenant governors between the Federal authority and the provinces. Both will be out of place, and to find themselves in work they must give trouble. I do not see how they can do good, but I do see how they can do any quantity of harm. (Hear, hear.)
The real difficulty in our position is one that is not met by the machinery here proposed. What is that difficulty? In the larger provinces of the empire we have the system of responsible government thoroughly accorded by the Imperial Government, and thoroughly worked out; and the difficulty of the system that is now pressing, or ought to be, upon the attention of our statesmen is just this—that the tie connecting us with the Empire, and which ought to be a federal tie of the strongest kind, is too slight, is not, properly speaking, so much as a federal tie at all. These provinces, with local responsible government, are too nearly in the position of independent communities; there is not enough of connection between them and the parent state to make the relations between the two work well, or give promise of lasting long. There is in the machinery too much of what may be called the centrifugal tendency. […]
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[…] (Hear, hear.)
All the great provinces are flying off too much, attending too exclusively to mere local considerations, too little to those of the general or Imperial kind. And at home, as we seem to be flying off, they, too, are thinking of us and of the interests they and we have in common less and less.
What is wanting, if one is to look to the interest of the Empire, which is really that of all its parts—what is wanting, as I have said, is an effective federalization of the Empire as a whole, not a subordinate federation here or there, made up out of parts of it. I have neither time nor strength to-night to go fairly into the question of how this thing should be done; but a few words more as to that, I must be pardoned for.
Until latterly in Canada we have not had, and some colonies have not now, I believe, a Minister of Militia. Even we have not as yet, in our Cabinet, a minister to attend to what may be called Imperial affairs. It is not the business of any minister, nor is it even distinctly recognized as that of the Ministry as a whole, in any of these provinces, to attend to what is really at the present juncture the most important part of our whole public business—the regulation of affairs between them and the Mother Country. I know it may be said this is in the hands of the Governor. So are other things. But for them, we see the need of his having advisers. And as to this, if a Cabinet leaves it wholly to him, that practically amounts to its neglecting these affairs altogether.
Let me go back to a point or two in the history of affairs in Canada within the recollection of all honorable gentlemen. In 1862,when the then Militia Bill was before the House, it was asked over and over again by gentlemen of the Opposition, what communications, if any, had been received from the Imperial Government in respect of the defence of this province; and the answer invariably was, that there had been none, none known to the Administration, as an administration.
Now, if there had then been an officer—the Provincial Secretary [William McDougall], the Minister of Militia, or any other member of the Government—whose duty it had been and was to attend to that important branch of the public service; if the relations between the Mother Country and this province had been known to be in his charge, such an answer as that could never have been given, nor the second reading of that bill lost in consequence.
The other night, when the Raid Prevention and Alien Bill was before the House, we did receive the intimation that the Mother Country desired legislation of that kind at our hands; and it passed accordingly. But that intimation was then given us exceptionally. There is a large class of questions springing up continually which affect Imperial interests and Imperial views as well as our own, and we ought to have—and if our connection with the Empire is to last, we must have—this department of our public affairs attended to by a regularly appointed Minister of the Crown here, who, whenever occasion requires, may explain them and who shall be responsible to this House.
Of course, nobody denies that the Governor General is the channel of communication between us and the Imperial Government. He is the Queen’s representative and servant, and his communications with the Home Government must be of the most confidential character, except in so far as he may see fit to make them known. But fully admitting this, still besides those communications of this character which he may, have and indeed at all times must have unrestrictedly with the Imperial Government, there should be—and, if our Imperial relations are to be maintained, there must be—a further class of communications between the two governments, as to which the Governor should be advised by a minister whose particular duty it should be to manage affairs between the Mother Country and ourselves, and to be in effect a local adviser, as to such matters, of the Imperial advisers of the Crown in England.
In one word, we have got to develop the Imperial phase, so to speak, of our provincial system; to find the means of keeping our policy and that of the Mother Country in harmony; and if we do not, we cannot long keep up our connection with the Empire. If this were done—if we had in our several provincial administrations some member charged with this department of the public service, as latterly we have come to have one charged with the cognate subject of the militia and defence of the country—if these ministers of Imperial relations made periodical visits home, so as there to meet one another and such members of the Imperial Government or others as the Crown might charge to meet and confer with them—if there were thus organized, some sort of advisory colonial council upon the precedent (so far, of course, as the analogy might hold) of the Council for East Indian Affairs lately created—if, I say, something in this way were done, then indeed we should be developing our Imperial relations in the proper direction, taking at least a step—the first and hardest—towards the framing of that Imperial federation […]
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[…] of which we so stand in need.
But there is no provision of that kind in the system here proposed; there is no apparent contemplation of a step of that kind in connection with this step. On the contrary, this step is all in the wrong direction. We are here proposing to create in this part of the Queen’s dominions a mere sub-federation, so to speak, tending, so far as it tends to anything, towards the exclusion of this kind of provision. This other machinery to which I have been alluding, Mr. Speaker, if we had had it a few years ago, would have been of extreme usefulness. Suppose we had had something of that kind when the Rebellion Losses Bill was passed, when so much excitement was thereby created in the country. Suppose that then when the indignation of a large class was concentrating itself against Lord Elgin for his supposed purpose of assenting to that bill, he could have said— ”It is idle for you, as you must see, to require me to listen to you against the advice of my constitutional advisers; but you know there is a tribunal at home, to which you may appeal from that advice, where you will be heard and they, and from which you may be sure of justice if you have been aggrieved or injured here.”
Sir, if it had been possible for the Governor General to have given such an answer at that time to the angry remonstrances of those who opposed that measure, the Parliament House would not have been burnt, nor would we haye had to deplore the long train of consequent disturbances and troubles which then and ever since have brought so much discredit and mischief to the country.
Take another case. If such machinery had existed when the fishery treaty with France was entered into by the Imperial Government, conditioned upon the consent of Newfoundland, no such anomalous proceeding could have taken place. For the representatives of Newfoundland and of the rest of these provinces would at once have shown the Imperial Government that it would not meet approval in that colony, nor indeed for that matter, anywhere else in British America. Great Britain would have been saved from entering into a treaty that—as matters went—had to be disallowed, with some discredit to the Empire, and some risk of a rupture of its friendly relations with a foreign power.
John Scoble [Elgin West]—Does not the House of Commons afford that machinery?
Christopher Dunkin [Brome]—The House of Commons knows very little, and cares much less, about our local affairs. (Hear, hear.) I say, if there had then been a Colonial Council at home, where representatives of the different provincial administrations might have met and advised with any of Her Majesty’s ministers, there would have been no difficulty. It would have disposed of any number of other questions more satisfactorily than they have been disposed of. The north-eastern boundary question with the States, for instance, would never have been settled in a way so little accordant with our views and interests; and the question of the western boundary would have been settled sooner and better, also.
Take another illustration. When the difficulty arose between this country and England about our tariff, when the Sheffield manufacturers sought to create a feeling at home against us, because we, mainly to raise revenue, placed duties higher than they liked on importations of manufactured goods, if any such machinery had been in operation, no such wide-spread and mischievous misapprehension as to our acts and purposes could have arisen, as ever since has been prevalent in England, and even on the floor of the House of Commons.
In fact, I repeat that without some such system, I do not see how our relations with the Empire can be maintained on a satisfactory footing. It is just the want of it that is leading so many at home now to think us in a transition state towards separation and independence, when, in truth, we have such need to prove to them that we are in a transition state towards a something very different indeed—the precise antipodes of separation. (Hear, hear.)
Sir, I was saying that in this scheme there is no such conservative tendency as this—nothing indicative of a set purpose to develop, strengthen and perpetuate our connection with the Empire. That end we might indeed better gain without than with this extra machinery of local federation; for disguise it how you may, the idea that underlies this plan is this, and nothing else—that we are to create here a something—kingdom, vice-royalty, or principality—something that will soon stand in the same position towards the British Crown that Scotland and Ireland stood in before they were legislatively united with England; a something having no other tie to the Empire than the one tie of fealty to the British Crown—a tie which in the cases, first, of Scotland, and then of Ireland, was found, when the pinch came, to be no tie at all; which did not restrain either Scotland or Ireland from courses so inconsistent with that of England as to have made it necessary that their relations should be radically changed, and a legislative […]
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[…] union formed in place of a merely nominal union.
Suppose you do create here a kingdom or a principality, bound to the Empire by this shadow of a tie, the day of trial cannot be far distant, when this common fealty will be found of as little use in our case as it was in theirs; when, in consequence, the question will force itself on the Empire and on us between entire separation on the one hand, and a legislative union on the other. “But a legislative union of British America with the United Kingdom must be, in the opinion of, one may say, everybody at home and here, a sheer utter impossibility; and when the question shall come to be whether we are so to be merged in the United Kingdom or are to separate entirely from it, the answer can only be;—”At whatever cost, we separate.” Sir, I believe in my conscience that this step now proposed is one directly and inevitably tending to that other step; and for that reason—even if I believed, as I do not, that it bid fair to answer ever so well in the other respects—because I am an Englishman and hold to the connection with England, I must be against this scheme.
Suppose now, on the other hand, this scheme were not to go into operation, there would be no earthly difficulty in working out, with this Canada of ours, the other plan I have been suggesting for the placing of our relations with the Empire on a better footing. Nor would there probably be any material difficulty either in bringing about a legislative union of the Lower Provinces, or in developing a very near approach to free trade, or indeed absolute free trade between us and them. I know there are those who say that this mock Federal union is necessary in order to our getting that free trade with those provinces. Well, sir, as to that, all I care to say is this, that for a number of years past we have had a near approach to free trade with the United States—a foreign country; and I imagine we can have it with the Lower Provinces as well, without any very great difficulty. (Hear, hear.)
I say again, we had far better hold firmly to the policy of thus maintaining and strengthening our union with the parent state, than let ourselves, under whatever pretext, be drawn into this other course, which must inevitably lead to our separation from the Empire. (Hear, hear.)
But, Mr. Speaker, there is still another point of view in which this scheme requires to be considered. The people of the United States, when they framed their institutions, were not only starting as a nation—they were so starting with no dangerous neighbor-nation near them. If we are to take the step now urged upon us, not only are we to be something less than a nation, but we are to be this with a very dangerous neighbor-nation indeed. In this connection I may be allowed to read a few words. The thirtieth resolution says:—
The General Government and Parliament shall have all powers necessary or proper for performing the obligations of the Federated Provinces, as part of the British Empire, to foreign countries, arising under treaties between Great Britain and such countries.
It is quite right that the General Government should have such powers; but the very fact of our having to make a reservation of this kind, is an unpleasant recognition of the fact, in itself the reverse of encouraging, of the all darkening neighborhood of the United States. It is a most singular thing that we are required on the one hand to go into this union on this very account—for downright dread of the United States—and yet that on the other, we are as confidently assured of our own immense resources, are told that we are so wonderfully great and wonderfully rich, that we are something like—I don’t know whether we are not—the third or fourth power, or maritime power, one or other, in the world.
Really, I would not undertake to say how great we are, or are not, according to honorable gentlemen. They startle one. I had no idea how great we were! (Hear, hear.)
But yet, with air this wonderful magnificence and greatness, we are told we positively must not, for very fear of the United States—for fear of their power—for fear of their hostility, we must not any longer stay disunited, but must instantly enter into this so-called union. Just as if either their power or their hostility towards us—taking that to be their feeling—would be lessened by our doing so. Just as if they would not be only the more jealous of us and hostile to us, for our setting ourselves up ostentatiously as their rivals. (Hear, hear.)
In this connection, it does seem to me that we have more than one question to answer. Many honorable gentlemen appear to think they have done all that need be done, when they have answered to their own satisfaction the one question, what is the amount of our resources? Starting with the vastness of our territory, they go into all kinds of statements as to our trade and so forth, multiplying tonnage impossibly, adding together exports and imports—those of the Intercolonial trade and all. I only wonder they do not, on the same principle, calculate our inter-county and […]
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[…] our inter-township tradings, or our dealings between cities and country, adding exports and imports of course all round, and so proving that we have done more trade than all the rest of the world put together; unless, indeed, they were to count up the trade of the rest of the world by the same rule; and then to be sure they would find out that, after all, the rest of the world do more business, are more populous, richer, and stronger, than we. The question is not simply, What are our own resources? We must supplement it with a second; What are they comparatively? And especially, what are they as compared with those of the United States? And while we are asking this question, we may as well not take it for granted as a fact, that the larger our country the stronger we must be.
Suppose we are to be four millions of people in a country as large as Europe or larger. I wish to Heaven we were four millions of people—with all the adjacent unexposed territory you will—but in a country smaller than England. Why, sir, New England alone has more population and resources, all told, than the Lower Provinces and Lower Canada together; and with her compactness and advantage of position, she could alone, presumably, beat both.
George-Étienne Cartier [Montreal East, Attorney-General East]—New England stronger than the Lower Provinces and the two Canadas?
Christopher Dunkin [Brome]—I did not say that, I said stronger than Lower Canada and the Lower Provinces.
George-Étienne Cartier [Montreal East, Attorney-General East]—It is about the same in population, two and a half millions, while we have more shipping than they.
Christopher Dunkin [Brome]—I fear that if we were to come into collision, a good deal of shipping might change hands. At any rate, at the best, we should have a pretty tight time of it. (Hear, hear.)
An Hon. Member—Better put a bold face on it.
Christopher Dunkin [Brome]—Yes, yes. “Brag is a good dog, but Holdfast is a better.” Then, there is the State of New York, which would certainly be more than a match for Upper Canada—and New York is but one of several states conterminous with Upper Canada. Who in his tenses, sir, thinks of these provinces as able, of themselves, to hold their own against New England, New York and the rest of the tier of states along our frontier? And yet we are talked to as if Confederation were about to make us the third or fourth power, or maritime power in the world! But what I was saying more particularly was, that too much of territory, and above all too much of exposed frontier, does not increase our strength, but lessens it. Ours is the long thin line of red,” which is not so well able to receive a charge as the solid square.
Frederick Haultain [Peterborough]was understood to signify dissent to some of the propositions here advanced.
Christopher Dunkin [Brome]—If the hon. member for Peterborough [Frederick Haultain] thinks that in a military point of view, the length and narrowness of our territory adds to our strength, if he thinks we are the stronger for our length of frontier, I would respectfully recommend him to attend one of our military schools (Laughter.) But seriously, sir, if we are to compare our resources with those of the United States, we shall find, as I have said, that theirs are unmistakably, and beyond count, greater.
Frederick Haultain [Peterborough]—Than the British Empire?
Christopher Dunkin [Brome]—That is not the comparison. We are continually hearing of what Confederation is to do for ourselves, how it is going to make us a great power in the world. It is going to do nothing of the kind. But again, and here is a third question that in this connection we have got to answer—how is the temper of the United States going to be affected, on the one hand, by the policy here urged on us, of what I may call hostile independent effort—effort made on our part, with the avowed object of setting ourselves up as a formidable power against them; or on the other hand, by a policy such as I have been urging, of unobtrusive development of our institutions in connection with the British Empire?
In which of the two cases are they likely to be the more amiable, or, (which is perhaps more to the point), the loss aggressive or practically unamiable, as our neighbors? Besides, there comes up still another question. What is to be the attitude of Great Britain under either of these two suppositions? As I have said, the question is, first, as to our own resources; next, as to the comparative resources of the United States; then, as to their attitude and temper towards us, upon one or other of these two suppositions; then, as to the attitude and temper of Great Britain, in reference to each of these suppositions; and lastly, as to the reaction (so to speak) upon ourselves, of these respective attitudes of the two countries in either case. […]
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[…] If, sir, we are thinking to give other people the idea, that by uniting ourselves together in any such way as this, we are going to make ourselves able to take care of ourselves, we are merely humbugging ourselves, and trying to humbug others. The people of the United States are stronger than we are, and are known so to be; and if we are to hold our own against or beside them, it can only be by remaining strongly, avowedly, lastingly, attached to Great Britain. This is the firm conclusion I have come to; and I believe it is the conclusion to which any one who will give his thoughtful attention to the subject must come also.
And I must and do protest against the notion which seems to prevail among the advocates of this scheme, that somehow or other it is going so to increase our power, as to make us a formidable neighbor of the United States. The danger is, of its making that people more jealous of us and more hostile towards us than before. And if, besides that, it is going to give them and the people of England, or either of them, the idea that as a result of it we are to care less for the connection with the Empire than before—that under it we are before long to go alone, it is going to commit us to about the saddest fatal mistake that a people ever made. (Hear, hear.)
Mr. Speaker, I must apologize for the length to which I have wearied the House. (Cries of “Go on!”) I have gone through, as well as I could, the leading points of my arguments, so far; and have indicated a number of points of contrast between this system and that of the United States. I trust I have not been too long in my attempts to show that the Constitution now offered for our acceptance presents machinery entirely unlike that of the United States, and entirely unlike that of the British Empire—that it is inconsistent with either—that so far from its proffering to us all the advantages of both and the disadvantages of neither, it rather presents to us the disadvantages of both and the advantages of neither; that so far from its tending to improve our relations either with the Mother Country or with the United States, it holds out to us very little prospect indeed for the future, in either of these respects. (Hear, hear.)
I shall not attempt to review my argument on these heads, for I do not think that to anyone at all willing to reflect, what I have advanced can require to be proved more fully. If I am not entirely wrong, the only way in which this proposed machinery can be got to work at all, will be by an aggregation, so to speak, in the first Federal Cabinet, of the leading men of the different existing provincial administrations. The attempt must be made to combine the six majorities, so as to carry on an administration in harmony with the understood wishes of the six several provinces, irrespectively of every consideration of principle, or of sound farseeing policy, I do not see how, although this thing may be done at starting, it can be carried on—I was going to say, for any length of time—I might say, for any time, long or short, unless by a system of the most enormous jobbery and corruption.
Whenever any sore spot shall show itself—and we may rely on it, there will be more than one such show itself very soon—then feuds and divisions of the worst sort will follow, and the machinery will no longer work. Unfortunately, there are in it none of those facilities for harmonious workings, none of those nice adaptations by which the stronger power is so tempered as not to fall too harshly on the weaker. Just so long as the majorities in all the different provinces work cordially together, well and good. But they cannot possibly work harmoniously together long; and so would as they come into collision, there comes trouble, and with the trouble, the fabric is at an end. (Hear, hear.)
For myself, I am decidedly of opinion that our true interest is to hold this machinery over, to consider it carefully, to see if something better cannot be devised. (Hear, hear.) I am sure there can. But instead of that, we are called upon emphatically and earnestly at once to throw aside all considerations to the contrary, and to adopt the measure; and we are at the same time told, in unmistakable language, that we positively cannot—must not, shall not—change a single word of it. Various considerations are urged upon us for this unseemly haste; considerations connected with the attitude of the United States, with Great Britain, with the Lower Provinces, and with our own domestic affairs.
With the permission of the House, I will touch as briefly as I can on these four classes of considerations, and then cease longer to weary the House. I begin, then, with the considerations connected with the attitude of the United States, which are urged upon us as reasons why we should rush into this measure of Confederation. To some extent I have already incidentally […]
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[…] touched on these in another connection; but they call for some further notice, and in giving it them, I will try not to repeat myself. Judging from much of the language which we have heard on the floor of this House, one would suppose we must be on the verge of a war with the United States. For my part, I believe nothing of the kind. But if we were, would it be at all the right thing for us to abstain from the more pressing questions of our defences and the organization of the militia, and to be instead discussing here these plans of a Federal Union, Provincial Constitutions, and I know not what? These we are called upon, I admit, to discuss in a tremendous hurry, to settle off-hand, in workable or unworkable shape, nobody seeming to know or to care which, everybody professing to hope that all will come right in the end, whether he thinks it will or not.
But, sir, I say again, if war were imminent with the United States, the one question for us would be the state of our defences, the organization of our militia, how much England can do for us, how much we can do for ourselves, how much England and we, each of us, are to undertake to do together. That is not the question at the present time at all, and I therefore take it that the outcry raised in connection with this scheme, about our defences and the militia, is just so much buncombe. (Hear, hear.)
If honorable gentlemen opposite believed in it, I am certain that the pressing question would be taken up first. Further, if such danger were not even pretty far off, I for one would be disposed to think that the taking up now of this other class of questions comes a little late in the day. With any near, real danger of war with the United States, it would be quite too late for us to be sitting here, gravely discussing a political union, to be consummated months hence, at soonest, and then only to lead to the construction of railways which will take years, and defences which cannot be put in order for months or years, and to future developments of all kinds, which it will take years on years to carry out. If war, I say, is imminent, these ulterior undertakings, though begun now, would be begun all too late.
Whenever there is such danger, our defence will not be found in the making of federal or other constitutions, or in paper display of any kind, but must be found in the strong arms and determined courage of our people, responding earnestly to the call of the Mother Country, and backed with all the power she can bring to bear upon the conflict. Supposing that time come, we have plenty of governing machinery for that defence. We do not need, in order to it, a viceroy and court, and lieutenant-governors, and all the complicated political apparatus of this scheme. We could get along just as well under our present system, and I think better.
Certainly, if modified as I have indicated it might be, if improved by the better development of our relations to the Empire—the system which would thence result would be as good as that here offered for our acceptance—indeed, would be much better. But, sir, the real danger is not of war with the United States. It is from what I may call their pacific hostility—from trouble to be wrought by them within this country—trouble to arise out of refusal of reciprocity—repeal of the bonding system—custom-house annoyances—passport annoyances; from their fomenting difficulties here, and taking advantage of our local jealousies; from the multiplied worries they may cause us by a judicious alternation of bullying and coaxing, the thousand incidents which may easily be made to happen if things are not going on quite well in this country, and the people and government of the States are minded to make us feel the consequences of our not getting on quite so well as we might. Whether the union of the States is restored or not, this kind of thing can go on.
The danger is, that either the whole United States, or those portions of the United States which are near us, and which are really stronger than we are, and enterprising enough and ambitious enough, and not very fond of us, and not at all fond of the Mother Country, not at all unwilling to strike a blow at her and to make us subservient to their own interest and ambition—the danger is, I say, that the United States, or those portions of the United States near us, may avail themselves of every opportunity to perplex us, to embroil us in trouble, to make us come within the disturbing influences of their strong local attraction.— Now, to pretend to tell me that the United States or the Northern States, whichever you please, are going to be frightened, from a policy of that kind, by our taking upon ourselves great airs, and forming ourselves into a grand Confederation, is to tell me that their people are, like the Chinese, a people to be frightened by loud noises and ugly grimaces. (Laughter.)
I do not believe they are. They […]
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[…] are not to be frightened by any union we can make here. They have among them politicians, to say the least, quite as bold, shrewd and astute as any we have here. The danger will just be that of our having agitation of our own going on here, and internal troubles, while these annoyances on the part of our neighbors across the border are being multiplied upon us; and that England may at the same time be feeling that the tie between her and us is more or less relaxed, and that wrong and humiliation put upon us do not concern her so much as they would have done when our connection with her was practically more intimate.
In and before 1840, after the troubles which had been distracting Canada were put down, it was declared, and perfectly well understood, that the Imperial Government was simply determined to hold on to the connection with this country. And the knowledge of that expressed determination guaranteed us a pretty long term of comparative feedom [sic] from annoyances and trouble of the kind to which I have been referring. If, now, a different idea is to prevail—if the notion is to go abroad that we are, by creating ourselves into a new nationality, to be somewhat less connected with the Empire than these provinces heretofore have been, then I do apprehend that a very different future is before us, and that in all sorts of ways, by vexations of all kinds, by the fomenting of every trouble within our own borders, whether originating from abroad, or only reacted on from abroad, we shall be exposed to dangers of the most serious kind.
And, therefore, so far from seeing in our relations towards the United States, any reason why we should assume a position of semi-independence, an attitude of seeming defiance towards them, I find in them the strongest reason why, even while regarding, or affecting to regard them as little as possible, we should endeavor to make all the world see that we are trying to strengthen our union with the Mother Country—that we care far less about a mere union with neighboring provinces, which will frighten no one in the least, but that we are determined to maintain at all hazards and draw closer, that connection with the Mother Country which alone, so long as it lasts, can and will protect us from all serious aggression. (Hear, hear.)
But we are told that, on account of a variety of considerations connected with the state of opinion at home, and out of deference to that opinion, we must positively carry out this scheme. Well, there are two or three questions to be answered here, What is that opinion at home? What is it worth? And what sort of lesson does it teach us? There are some distinctions which, in my judgment, must be drawn with reference to this. There are different phases of opinion prevailing at home, which must be taken into account. I have great respect for some home opinions. Many things they know in England much better than we do. Some things they do not know so well. They do not know so much about ourselves as we do; and they do not occupy their minds so much with that class of questions which relate merely to our interests, as we at any rate ought to do; and on these matters I am not sure that we shall act wisely if we yield at once to the first expressions of opinion at home.
But now, sir, what is the opinion at home, or rather, what are the opinions entertained at home, with reference to this measure? Of course, I do not intend to weary the House with a long detailed statement on this subject. But I must say this—and I do not think that anyone who knows anything at all about it will contradict what I state—there is at home a considerably numerous, and much more loud-speaking than numerous, class of politicians who do not hesitate to say that it is not for the interest of England to keep her colonies at all.
John Scoble [Elgin West]—Not numerous.
Christopher Dunkin [Brome]—Well, I think they are rather numerous and pretty influential, and they make a good deal of stir; and some of them being in pretty high places, there is danger that their views may exercise a good deal of influence upon public opinion at home. There are many influences at work at home, tending to the prevalence of the idea that the sooner the colonies leave the Mother Country, the better—and especially that the sooner these colonies leave the Mother Country, the better. There is a very exaggerated notion at home of danger to the peace of the Empire from the maintenance of British supremacy in this part of the world. That is the fact; and there is no use in our shutting our eyes to it. We may just as well take it, uncomfortable and hard fact as it may be. If we choose to tell ourselves it is not the fact, we are only humbugging ourselves. (Hear, hear.) That is one point, as regards public opinion in England. Another is, as to the appreciation, at home, of this particular scheme. I take it, that what we are told on this head by those who urge this scheme upon us, about opinion at home, amounts to this—that at home this scheme is regarded […]
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[…] with very great favor, that we are expected to adopt it, and that if we do not adopt it, it will be the better for us with reference to home public opinion. Well, the questions for us are: What is the opinion at home about this scheme? What is the opinion entertained in high quarters as to its goodness or badness; and if there is an opinion in favor of the scheme being adopted, from what considerations does that opinion, to a great extent, prevail?
I am not going into these questions minutely, but I must be allowed to make a remark or two as to the opinion expressed by Her Majesty’s Government with regard to this scheme. I have already, to some extent, alluded to the dispatch of the Colonial Secretary; but in this connection, I must allude to it a little further. (Hear, hear.)
It is clear from that dispatch that the Colonial Secretary wrote under these impressions: first of all, he was under the idea that this scheme had been drawn up by the representatives of every province, chosen by the respective governors, without distinction of party. That was not quite the case. There were representatives from the two leading parties in each of the other provinces, but it was not so as regarded Lower Canada. (Hear, hear.)
The Colonial Secretary was, besides, evidently under the impression that when these gentlemen came together, they gave the matters before them the most mature deliberation. He says:—”They have conducted their deliberations with patient sagacity, and have arrived at unanimous conclusions on questions involving many difficulties.” The “patient sagacity” was exercised for seventeen or nineteen days, and the “unanimous contusions” were, after all, certainly not unanimous. The Secretary goes on to say:—
Her Majesty’s Government have given to your despatch and to the resolutions of the Conference, their most deliberate consideration. They have regarded them as a whole, and as having been designed by those who framed them, to establish as complete and perfect a union of the whole, into one government, as the circumstances of the ease, and a due consideration of existing interests, would admit. They accept them, therefore, as being in the deliberate judgment of those best qualified to decide upon the subject, the best framework of a measure to be passed by the Imperial Parliament for attaining that most desirable result.
Her Majesty’s Government thus take for granted a “deliberate” examination, which most unquestionably never has been given to this crude project. Now, with all this, with the impression that men of all parties had here acted in combination, when in truth they have done no such thing; that patient sagacity had been expended on the framing of the scheme, when in truth there was nothing of the kind; that the conclusions were unanimously arrived at, which again was not the fact; with all this, Her Majesty’s Government have only come to the point of giving a very general, and, as any one who reads the dispatch can see, a very qualified approval of the scheme.
First, an objection is raised as to the want of accurate determination of the limits between the authority of the Central and that of the local legislatures. I will not read the words, as I read them last night, but no one can read the dispatch without seeing that the language of the Colonial Secretary on that point is the language of diplomatic disapproval. (Hear, hear.)
Though he gives a general approval, he criticises and evidently does not approve. He sees an intention, but calls attention to the fact that that intention is not clearly and explicitly expressed. He then goes on and makes another objection—the financial. His language is this:—
Her Majesty’s Government cannot but express the earnest hope, that the arrangements which may be adopted in this respect may not be of such a nature as to increase—at least in any considerable degree—the whole expenditure, or to make any material addition to the taxation, and thereby retard the internal industry, or tend to impose new burdens on the commerce of the country.
The hope that it will not be is the diplomatic way of hinting a fear that it may be. When Her Majesty’s Government is driven to “hope” that these arrangements will not increase in any considerable degree the whole expenditure, or make any material addition to taxation, and thereby retard internal industry, or tend to impose new burdens on the commerce of the country, it is perfectly clear that they see that in the scheme which makes them tolerably sure it will. And then we have a third objection:—
Her Majesty’s Government are anxious to lose no time in conveying to you their general approval of the proceedings of the Conference. There are, however, two provisions of great importance which seem to require revision. The first of these is the provision contained in the 44th resolution, with respect to the exercise of the prerogative of pardon.
That is emphatically declared to be entirely […]
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[…] wrong. And then comes the fourth objection: “The second point which Her Majesty’s Government desire should be reconsidered”—and this phrase is positively, so far as words can give it, a command on the part of Her Majesty’s Government that it shall be reconsidered:—
The second point which Her Majesty’s Government desire should be reconsidered is the constitution of the Legislative Council. They appreciate the considerations which have influenced the Conference in determining the mode in which this body, so important to the constitution of the Legislature, should be composed. But it appears to them to require further consideration whether, if the members be appointed “for life, and their number be fixed, there will be any sufficient means of restoring harmony between the Legislative Council and the popular Assembly, if it shall ever unfortunately happen that a decided difference of opinion shall arise between them. These two points, relating to the prerogative of the Crown and the Constitution of the Upper Chamber have appeared to require distinct and separate notice.
Is not that a pretty emphatic dissent?
Questions of minor consequence and matters of detailed arrangement may properly be reserved for a future time, when the provisions of the bill intended to be submitted to the Imperial Parliament shall come under consideration.
So, sir, there are more objections still which the Colonial Secretary has not stated. He gives a general sanction, but specifies four matters, two of which he distinctly says must be altered, and the other two he does not approve of, and he says that other matters—too numerous, I suppose, to specify—must be reserved for remark at a future time. Well, just at the time that this despatch made its appearance, there was an article in the London Times, a passage from which I will read in this connection, though it may seem to bear on a somewhat different branch of the question from that with which I am just more particularly dealing. The London Times, referring to this despatch, makes use of these expressions, and I beg the attention of the House to them, because they give the keynote of a great deal of the public opinion at home with reference to this matter:—
It is true we are not actually giving up the American colonies,—nay, the despatch we are quoting does not contain the slightest hint that such a possibility ever crossed the mind of the writer; but yet it is perfectly evident—and there is no use in concealing the fact—that the Confederation movement considerably diminishes the difficulty which would be felt by the colonies in separating from the Mother Country.
Even now the North American Confederation represents a state formidable from the numbers of its hardy and energetic population, and capable, if so united, of vigorously defending the territories it possesses. A few years will add greatly to that population, and place Canada, Hochelaga, Acadia, or by whatever other name the Confederacy may think fit to call itself, quite out of the reach of invasion or conquest. Such a state would not only be strong against the Mother Country under the impossible supposition of our seeking to coerce it by force, but it might be separated from us without incurring the disgrace of leaving a small and helpless community at the mercy of powerful and warlike neighbors.
Here, then, is the somewhat less diplomatic utterance of the Times, on the occasion of the appearance of this despatch. It is perfectly true that no hint was given officially, when this scheme was sent home, that it contemplated separation. Perfectly true, that in the answer there is no hint that separation is contemplated. But it is perfectly true, also, that the leading journal instantly sees in it, and seizes at, the possibility—first, of its greatly facilitating our going—and, secondly, of its greatly facilitating, on the part of the Mother Country, the letting of us go. I shall come back to this branch of the subject presently, after I shall have quoted from a much more important expression of public opinion than any article in the Times.
Meantime, I must refer to the language of Her Majesty’s Speech from the Throne. It has been read during this debate already, and has been read as if it contained the most emphatic approval possible of this whole scheme—so emphatic an approval, that even to assume to discuss it now would seem to amount almost to treason. This language, of course, it is needless to say, is that of Her Majesty’s Imperial advisers, and is to be read in connection with what Her Majesty’s Government have said about this plan in the Colonial Secretary’s despatch—that before it is passed into an enactment, it will require a good deal of revision, We may be told here that the document before us is a treaty, on which not a line or letter of amendment can be made by us. But Her Majesty’s Government clearly understand that they are not bound by it, and that they are to alter it as much as they please.
They won’t give the pardoning power to these lieutenant-governors; they won’t constitute the Legislative Council in this way; they won’t look with indifference to the incurring of unheard-of expenses, and the hampering of commerce which they […]
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[…] consider to be implied in this scheme. No, they are to look into this thing, to look into the details of what they evidently think to be a pretty crude scheme; while we, who are most interested, are required by our local rulers not to look into it at all, but just to accept it at their hands as a whole. The language addressed from the Throne to the Imperial Parliament is this: “Her Majesty has had great satisfaction in giving Her sanction—”to what?—” to the meeting of a conference of delegates from the several North American Provinces, who, on invitation from Her Majesty’s Governor General, assembled at Quebec.” Certainly; we knew that before; they assembled without Her Majesty’s sanction, but they got her sanction afterwards to their having so assembled. “These delegates adopted resolutions having for their object a closer union of those provinces under a central government. If those resolutions shall be approved by the provincial legislatures, a bill will be laid before you for carrying this important measure into effect”—not for giving full effect to the details of this scheme, but for carrying the measure—the closer union—in the shape the Imperial Government may give it, into effect. That is all. (Hear, hear.)
Take this along with the despatch of the Colonial Secretary. If it is a declaration that this thing is a treaty, which may not be amended by us without flying in the face of Her Majesty’s Government, I do not understand the meaning of words. (Hear, hear.) In connection with the Speech from the Throne, we had, the other night, some notice taken, on the floor of this House, of language used in discussing the address in the Imperial Parliament. Lords Claremont, Houghton, Granville and Derby had something to say in respect of this scheme in the House of Lords; as also, Mr. Hanbury Tracy in the House of Commons. I do not attach great weight to what was there said, because there really was little said any way, and that little could not indicate any great amount of knowledge upon the subject treated. However, I will quote first what the mover of the address, the Earl of Claremont, said. After referring to the war in New Zealand, he went on:—
My Lords, although these operations in India, New Zealand, and Japan, are matters of more or less interest or concern to the nation, and, as such, are fully deserving of notice, yet they are small in comparison to the importance of the probable change in the constitution of our North American Colonies. Since the declaration of independence by the colonies, since known as the United States of America, so great a scheme of self-government, or one shadowing forth so many similar and possible changes, has not occurred.
Now, I cannot read this sentence without asking what analogy there is between this project and the declaration of independence. Why should these resolutions suggest to any one’s mind the declaration of independence? Did the gentlemen who signed these resolutions in order to authenticate them—pledge their lives and fortunes, and I don’t know what besides, to anything, or risk anything, by appending their signatures to the document? Was it a great exercise of political heroism? Why, the men who signed the declaration of independence qualified themselves in the eyes of the Imperial Government for the pleasant operations of heading and hanging. They knew what they were about. They were issuing a rebel declaration of war. But this is a piece of machinery, on the face of it at least, to perpetuate our connection with the Mother Country! Why then does it suggest the idea that so great a scheme of self-government, or one shadowing forth so many similar and possible changes, “hardly ever before occurred?” It is because there is, underlying the speaker’s thought, just that idea of the anti-colonial school in England, that we are going to slip away from our connection with the Mother Country; and in this respect, therefore, it seems to him that it is like the declaration of independence.
The remaining sentence indicates a curious misapprehension as to the present posture of this question. “If the delegates of these several colonies finally agree to the resolutions framed by their committee, and if these resolutions be approved by the several legislatures of the several colonies, Parliament will be asked to consider and complete this federation of our Northern American possessions.” The noble lord, the mover of the Address, seems to take the resolutions for a mere report of a committee which (on their way here) had yet to be submitted to the consideration of the delegates! Next, I turn to the language of Lord Houghton, the seconder of the Address; and from his lips too, we have an almost distinct utterance of the idea of our coming independence. He says:—
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That impulse which inclines small states to bind themselves together for the purpose of mutual protection and for the dignity of empire, has shewn itself in two remarkable examples, of which I may be permitted to say a few words. In Europe it has manifested itself in the case of Italy, which is not, indeed, alluded to in any part of Her Majesty’s speech, because it is an accomplished fact of European history. A convention has lately taken place between the Emperor of the French and the King of Italy, in which England can take no other interest than to hope that it may redound to the prosperity of the one and the honor of the other. At any rate, one great advantage has been accomplished. With his capital in the centre of Italy it is no longer possible to talk of Victor Emmanuel as King of Piedmont. He is King of Italy, or nothing.
On the other side of the Atlantic the same impulse—[that same impulse, which, in the case of Italy, the speaker characterizes as aiming at the dignity of empire]—the same impulse had manifested itself in the proposed amalgamation of the northern provinces of British America. I heartily concur in all—[the all being as we have just seen, not much]—that has been said by my noble friend the mover of this address in his laudation of that project. It is, my lords, a most interesting contemplation that that project has arisen, and has been approved by Her Majesty’s Government. It is certainly contrary to what might be considered the old maxims of government in connection with the colonies, that we should here express—and that the Crown itself should express—satisfaction at a measure which tends to bind together, in almost independent power, our colonies in North America. We do still believe that though thus banded together, they will recognize the value of British connection, and that while they will be safer in this amalgamation, we shall be as safe in their fealty. The measure will no doubt, my lords, require much prudent consideration and great attention to provincial susceptibilities.
I repeat, Mr. Speaker, there is in this quotation a second pretty-plainly-expressed anticipation of our nearly approaching independence. “We are supposed, by one of these noble lords, to bo taking a step analogous to that taken by the authors of the Declaration of Independence; and by the other, to be moved by the same impulse of empire that has been leading to the establishment of the Kingdom of Italy.
John Scoble [Elgin West]—It is a case of want of information.
Christopher Dunkin [Brome]—Yes, I have no doubt it is a case of want of correct information, and not the only one of its kind. And now, sir, for Lord Derby’s remarks, which also have been quoted here. Certainly, they are in a different, and to my mind a more satisfactory, tone; but they are suggestive, for all that, of an idea that is unwelcome. After remarking on certain passages indicative, in his view, of unfriendly feeling on the part of the United States towards Great Britain and towards us—their threatened abrogation of the reciprocity treaty, arming on the lakes, and so forth—Lord Derby says:—
Under these circumstances I see with additional satisfaction—[Meaning of, course, though courtesy may have disallowed the phrase, “less dissatisfaction,” for he certainly did not see those other matters with any satisfaction at all]—I see with additional satisfaction the announcement of a contemplated important step. I mean the proposed Federation of the British American Provinces. (Hear, hear.)
I hope I may regard that Federation as a measure tending to constitute a power strong enough, with the aid of this country, which I trust may never be withdrawn from those provinces, to acquire an importance which, separately, they could not obtain. (Hear, hear.) If I saw in this Federation a desire to separate from this country, I should think it a matter of much more doubtful policy and advantage; but I perceive with satisfaction, that no such wish is entertained. Perhaps it is premature to discuss, at present, resolutions not yet submitted to the different provincial legislatures, but I hope I see in the terms of that Federation an earnest desire on the part of the provinces to maintain for themselves the blessing of the connection with this country, and a determined and deliberate preference for monarchical over republican institutions.
Now, what I have to say is this, that while I think no man ought to find fault with any of the sentiments here uttered, they are yet the utterances of a statesman who betrays in those utterances at least, as they sound to me, a certain amount of scarcely-concealed apprehension. When a man in the position of Lord Derby, master of the whole art of expression, speaks at once so hypothetically and so guardedly, falls back upon “I hope I may regard,” “I trust may never be,” “I hope I see,” and so forth, one feels that there is an under our rent of thought, not half concealed by such expressions, to the effect that there is too much danger of the very things so hoped and trusted against coming to pass at no very distant period.
George-Étienne Cartier [Montreal East, Attorney-General East]—I see the reverse of that. (Hear, hear.)
Christopher Dunkin [Brome]—Well, the hon. gentleman sees differently from what I do. If there had been no doubt whatever in the mind of Lord Derby, as to our want of strength, the growth of the anti-colonial party at home, and the tendency of this […]
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[…] scheme towards separation, his hope and trust to the contrary, would either have been unuttered, or would have been uttered in another tone. I am well enough satisfied that Lord Derby himself has not the most remote idea of falling in with the views of the so-called colonial reformers in England, who desire to see the colonies pay for every thing or be cast off; but he knows the hold that their views have gained at home, and he speaks accordingly. And there is no doubt, sir, that this feeling has been got up in England to an extent very much to be regretted. In this connection I have yet to notice some passages—and I shall deal with them as briefly as I can, from the very important article I quoted last night, which is contained in the Edinburgh Review for January, and which, I am sorry to say, expresses this feeling in the strongest possible form.
But before citing them, I am bound to say that I by no means believe the views they express are universally or even generally entertained at home. I do believe, though, that they are entertained by many, and that there is much danger of their doing a vast deal of mischief. That they are loudly avowed, does not admit of doubt; and when we find them set forth in the pages of so influential an organ of opinion as the Edinburgh Review, the case assumes a very serious aspect. There are other passages in the article to the same effect as those I am about to read, and which might, perhaps, be quoted with advantage, did time allow. Well, here is one occurring early in the article:—
There are problems of colonial policy the solution of which cannot, without peril, be indefinitely delayed; and though Imperial England is doing her best to keep up appearances in the management of her five and forty dependencies, the political links which once bound them to each other and to their common centre are evidently worn out. Misgivings haunt the public mind as to the stability of an edifice which seems to be founded on a reciprocity of deception, and only to be shored up for the time by obsolete and meaningless traditions.
When an utterance like this finds its way into the pages of the Edinburgh Review, a review which more than almost any other may be held to speak in the name of a large class of the ablest statesmen of England, we have reason to ask what it is all tending to. I never in my life felt more pain in reading anything political, than I felt in reading this article; and I never discharged a more painful duty than I am endeavoring to discharge at this moment, in commenting on it. But truth is truth, and must be told. A little farther on, the same writer proceeds:—
It is not unnatural that the desire to maintain a connection with the power and wealth of the Mother Country should be stronger on the side of the colonies than it is on that of the British public,
for they owe almost everything to us, and we receive but little from them. Moreover, the existing system of colonial government enables them to combine all the advantages of local independence with the strength and dignity of a great empire. But the Imperial Government in the meantime has to decide, not as of old, whether Great Britain is to tax the colonies, but to what extent the colonies are to be permitted to tax Great Britain—a question which is daily becoming more urgent and less easy of solution.
Further on, the writer goes on to say:—
It might puzzle the wisest of our statesmen, if he were challenged to put his finger on any single item of material advantage resulting to ourselves from our dominions in British North America, which cost us at this moment about a million sterling a year.
They do no such thing; but that is neither here nor there. Then follow these sentences, more galling still:—
Retainers who will neither give nor accept notice to quit our service, must, it is assumed, be kept for our service. There are, nevertheless, special and exceptional difficulties which beset us in this portion of our vast field of empire.
Nearly a page follows of description of what these difficulties are, being mainly those arising out of apprehended dangers from the United States, and thereon is based this observation:—
It is scarcely surprising that any project which may offer a prospect of escape from a political situation so undignified and unsatisfactory should be hailed with a cordial welcome by all parties concerned.
But one meaning can be put upon all this. In the opinion of the writer, England does not believe that these provinces are worth anything to her, while the connection with the Mother Country is worth all to us; and she would hail with satisfaction any way of escape from the obligations and dangers that we are said to cast upon her. I go on a little further, and I find what are his views as to the undertakings that, in connection with this project, we are expected to assume. What I am next quoting forms […]
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[…] a footnote; but a footnote is often, like a lady’s postscript, more important than the text of the letter:—
A very important question, on which these papers afford no information, is that relating to the future condition of those territories and dependencies of the Crown in North America, which are not included within the present boundaries of the five provinces. “We allude more particularly to the territories now held by the Hudson’s Bay Company, under the Crown, by charter or lease. The Crown is doubtless bound to take care that the interest of its grantees—[it never seems to have occurred to our friend that we, too, are grantees]—are not prejudiced by these changes; but, on the other hand, an English trading company is ill qualified to carry on the government and provide for the defence of a vast and inaccessible expanse of continental territory.
One would think so, seeing that it is just this territory which this writer has been telling us England shrinks herself from defending:—
Probably, the best and most equitable solution would be the cession of the whole region to the Northern Federation for a fair indemnity—[probably enough, from a point of view not ours (hear, hear)]—and this would lead to the execution of the Great Northern Pacific Railway, under the auspices of the Federal power.
Would it? (Hear, hear, and laughter.)
George-Étienne Cartier [Montreal East, Attorney-General East]—Hear! hear!
Luther Holton [Chateauguay]—Is that the policy?
George-Étienne Cartier [Montreal East, Attorney-General East]—Hear! hear!
Christopher Dunkin [Brome]—A little further on, in the article, I find some amplification of this grand programme:—
The result of these proposals, if carried into effect, would be the creation of a new state in North America, still retaining the
name of a British dependency, comprising an area about equal to that of Europe, a population of about four millions, with an aggregate revenue in sterling of about two millions and a half, and carrying on a trade (including exports, imports and intercolonial commerce) of about twenty-eight millions sterling per annum. If we consider the relative positions of Canada and the Maritime Provinces—the former possessing good harbors, but no back country, the former an unlimited supply of cereals, but few minerals; the latter an unlimited supply of iron and coal, but little agricultural produce.
The commercial advantages of union between states so circumstanced, are too obvious to need comment. The completion of the Intercolonial Railway, and the probable annexation of the fertile portions of the Northwest territory to the new Confederation, form a portion only of the probable consequences of its formation, but in which Europe and the world at large will eventually participate. When the—
William McDougall [Lanark North, Provincial Secretary]—The hon. gentleman should do justice to the reviewer. He leaves out an important passage.
Christopher Dunkin [Brome]—What is it?
William McDougall [Lanark North, Provincial Secretary]—After the word “formation,” the following words are given: “The benefits of which will not be limited to the colonies alone, but,” etc. Taken with the context, these words are important.
Thomas D’Arcy McGee [Montreal West, Minister of Agriculture and Statistics]—Hear! hear!
Christopher Dunkin [Brome]—An ironical cheer is an easy thing to raise; but I fancy my character hardly warrants the insinuation that I would dishonestly falsify a quotation. I wrote out these extracts hurriedly, the one procurable copy of the Review being sent for while I was writing, and I had no opportunity of comparing my manuscript. I am sorry if in my haste I omitted a single word. [After comparing the passage in the Review with his manuscript, the hon. member said]: I find I have omitted exactly one line, certainly by the merest accident; indeed, if any one can suppose I did it on purpose, he must take me for a confounded fool. (Hear, hear)
But to continue my quotation, reading again that last sentence, with its dropped line:—
The completion of the Intercolonial Railway, and the probable annexation of the fertile portions of the Great North-Western territory to the new Confederation, form a portion only of the probable consequences of its formation, the benefits of which will not be limited to the colonies alone, but in which Europe and the world at large will eventually participate. When the Valley of the Saskatchewan shall have been colonized, the communications between the Red River Settlement and Lake Superior completed, and the harbour of Halifax united by one continuous line of railway, with the shores of Lake Huron, the three missing links between the Atlantic and Pacific ocean will have been supplied.
Three pretty large links, by the way, and it would have been more correct if the writer had said “three out of four”—the trifle of the Rocky Mountains being still left for a fourth. (Hear, hear.)
William McDougall [Lanark North, Provincial Secretary]—That is very good.
Christopher Dunkin [Brome]—I don’t think so; it’s rather too good. I have read these portions […]
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[…] of the article to show what we are expected by this writer to do. We are to buy the Hudson’s Bay territory, and take care of it, and make a grand road all across the continent, which Great Britain shrinks from contemplating herself. And now I will read just two passages to show how little sanguine he is of any good to be done by the scheme as regards ourselves, and in the conduct of our own affairs. Here is one of them:—
What we have to fear, and if possible to guard against, is the constant peril of a three-fold conflict of authority implied in the very existence of a federation of dependencies retaining, as now proposed, any considerable share of intercolonial independence.
Rather a suggestive hint, and which, further on, is expanded and emphasized thus:—
If, as has been alleged, a legislative union is unattainable, because inconsistent with due securities for the rights guaranteed to the French Canadians, by treaty or by the Quebec Act, and Federation is therefore the only alternative, the vital question for the framers of this Constitution is how the inherent weakness of all federations can in this instance be cured, and the Central Government armed with a sovereignty which may be worthy of the name. It is the essence of all good governments to have somewhere a true sovereign power. A sovereignty which ever eludes your grasp, which has no local habitation, provincial or imperial, is in fact no government at all.
Sooner or later the shadow of authority which is reflected from an unsubstantial political idea must cease to have power among men. It has been assumed by those who take a sanguine view of this political experiment, that its authors have steered clear of the rock on which the Washington Confederacy has split. But if the weakness of the Central Government is the rock alluded to, we fear that unless in clear water and smooth seas, the pilot who is to steer this new craft will need a more perfect chart than the resolutions of the Quebec Conference afford, to secure him against the risks of navigation.
So far, then, according to the writer of this article, we have three points settled. He considers, and those for whom he writes and speaks consider, and the Edinburgh Review makes known that it considers—first, that the retention of these colonies is so manifestly disadvantageous to the parent state, that it would puzzle any statesman to find any reason for keeping us; next, that a result of this nuisance is to be the early carrying through by us of undertakings too vast now for England not to shrink from; and thirdly, that the measure itself, viewed as a machinery of government for ourselves, is not going to work well. There is still a fourth point. The measure embodies a proffer of fealty to the British Crown—and with no hint but that such fealty, and the correlative duty of protection, are meant both of them to be perpetual. How does our writer treat of this? He says:—
If the Quebec project were to be regarded as in any sense a final arrangement, and the equivalent in honor or power to be derived by the Crown from the acceptance of so perilous an authority, were to be weighed in the balance with the commensurate risks, the safety and dignity of the proffered position might be very questionable; but it is impossible to regard this proposed Federation in any other light than that of a transition stage to eventual independence; and in this view the precise form which Imperial sovereignty may for the time being assume, becomes a matter of comparatively secondary importance.
And, as if this was not warning plain enough, the article closes thus:—
The people of England have no desire to snap asunder abruptly the slender links which still unite them with their trans-atlantic fellow-subjects, or to shorten by a single hour the duration of their common citizenship. * * * *
We are led irresistibly to the inference that this stage has been well nigh reached in the history of our trans-Atlantic provinces. Hence it comes to pass that we accept, not with fear and trembling, but with unmixed joy and satisfaction, a voluntary proclamation, which, though couched in the accents of loyalty, and proffering an enduring allegiance to our Queen, falls yet more welcome on our eats as the harbinger of the future and complete independence of British North America.
(Hear, hear). Well Mr. Speaker, I can only say that if these are the opinions which honourable gentlemen opposite are disposed to “hear, hear” approvingly, they are not mine. I find in them an unmistakable proof that there is an important party at home who take up this measure, and hope to see it carried through with the mere view to its being a step to absolute independence on our part, and a cutting of the tie between these provinces and the parent state. (Hear, hear.)
Sir, I look upon the early cutting of that tie as a certain result of this measure; and of that again, I held the inevitable result to be our early absorption into the republic south of us—the United States, or the Northern States, be which it may. (Hear, hear.)
It cannot be, that we can form here an independent state that shall have a prosperous history. I say […]
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[…] again, I am far from believing that this idea of separation is by any means the dominant opinion at home; but I am sure it is entertained by a prominent school of English politicians. (Cries of “Name, name.”) It is easy to call for names; but there are too many; one can’t go over the names of a whole school. I indicate them well enough when I give them the well-known name of the Goldwin-Smith school. There are influential men enough, and too many, among them—(Renewed cries of “Name.”) Well then, I rather think Mr. Cobden, Mr. Bright, and any number more of the Liberal party, belong to this school—in fact, most of what are known as the Manchester school.
But, joking apart, if honorable gentlemen in their simplicity believe that utterances of the kind I have been reading appear in the Edinburgh Review without significance, their simplicity passes mine. I read these utterances, in connection with those of the Times and of any quantity of other English journals, as representing the views of an influential portion of the British public, views which have such weight with the Imperial Government as may go some way to account for the acceptance—the qualified acceptance—which this scheme has met with at their hands. It is recommended at home—strongly recommended, just on this account, by those who there most favor it—as a great step towards the independence of this country. Now, I am not desirous that our acceptance of the scheme should go home to be cited (as it would be) to the people of England, as a proof that we so view it—a proof that we wish to be separated from the Empire. I am quite satisfied separation will never do. We are simply sure to be overwhelmed the instant our neighbors and we differ, unless we have the whole power of the Mother Country to assist us.
John Scoble [Elgin West]—We shall have it.
Christopher Dunkin [Brome]—I think we shall, if we maintain and strengthen our relations with the parent state; but I do not think we shall, if we adopt a scheme like this, which must certainly weaken the tie between us and the Empire. Our language to England had better be the plain truth—that we are no beggars, and will shirk no duty; that we do not want to go, and of ourselves will not go; that our feelings and our interests alike hold us to her; that, even apart from feeling, we are not strong enough, and know our own weakness, and the strength of the power near us; and that the only means by which we can possibly be kept from absorption by that power, is the maintaining now—and for all time that we can look forward to—of our connection with the Mother-Land. (Hear, hear.)
We are told, again, that there are considerations connected with the Lower Provinces which make it necessary for us to accept this measure, that it is a solemn treaty entered into with them. Well, a treaty, I suppose, implies authority on the part of those who framed it to enter into it.
George-Étienne Cartier [Montreal East, Attorney-General East]—We are asking for that authority now, but you oppose it.
Thomas D’Arcy McGee [Montreal West, Minister of Agriculture and Statistics]—Her Majesty says in her Speech from the Throne at the opening of the Imperial Parliament, that she approves of the Conference that framed the treaty. Is not the royal sanction sufficient authority?
Christopher Dunkin [Brome]—Her Majesty’s approval of those gentlemen having met and consulted together, is not even Her Majesty’s approval—much less is it provincial approval—of what they did at that meeting. At most, the resolutions are not a treaty, but the mere draft of an agreement come to between those gentlemen.
George-Étienne Cartier [Montreal East, Attorney-General East]—Oh, yes, it is a treaty, and we are now fighting to uphold it.
Christopher Dunkin [Brome]—Well, it is a draft of a treaty if you like, but it is not a treaty. Plenipotentiaries, who frame treaties, have full authority to act on behalf of their respective countries.
George-Étienne Cartier [Montreal East, Attorney-General East]—It is the same as any other treaty entered into under the British system. The Government is responsible for it to Parliament, and if this does not meet your approval, you can dispossess us by a vote of want of confidence.
Christopher Dunkin [Brome]—The honorable gentleman may have trouble yet before he is through with it.
George-Étienne Cartier [Montreal East, Attorney-General East]—Very well, we will be prepared for it.
John Sandfield Macdonald [Cornwall]—It is not so long since the honorable gentleman was voted out, and it may not be long before he is served the same way again. (Hear, hear, and laughter.)
Christopher Dunkin [Brome]—Well, I was saying that this is no treaty to which the people either of Canada or of the Lower Provinces are at all bound; and it is very doubtful whether the people of the Lower Provinces will not reject it. I am quite satisfied that the people of Canada ought not to accept it, and I am not […]
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[…] so very sure but that before the play is played out to the end, they will refuse to accept it, especially the people of Lower Canada, where, if it is carried at all, it will be by a very small majority. (Hear, hear.)
But the honorable gentleman (Hon. Mr. Cartier) has come over to my ground that it is not a treaty, but only the draft of a treaty, subject to the disapproval of the House and country. Taking it, however, as a treaty merely between those who entered into it, I am disposed to make one admission, that it has one quality such as often attaches to treaties entered into by duly constituted plenipotentiaries, and that is, that there seem to be some secret articles connected with it. (Hear, hear.)
George-Étienne Cartier [Montreal East, Attorney-General East]—The gentlemen who entered into it represented their governments, and the governments of all the provinces were represented. It is therefore a treaty between these provinces, which will hold good unless the Government is ousted by a vote of the House.
Christopher Dunkin [Brome]—The honorable gentleman does not, I suppose, forget that when this Government was formed there was a distinct declaration made, that until the plan they might propose should have been completed in detail and laid before Parliament, Parliament was not to be held committed to it in any way. (Hear, hear.) But I was going on to something else, and I cannot allow myself to be carried back. I was saying that, assimilating this to a treaty like some other treaties, it seems to have secret articles in it. I find that one of the gentlemen who took part in the negotiations, the Hon. Mr. Hathaway, of New Brunswick—
Thomas D’Arcy McGee [Montreal West, Minister of Agriculture and Statistics]—Mr. Hathaway was not here at all.
Christopher Dunkin [Brome]—I was under the impression he was; though I acknowledge I have not burdened my memory with an exact list of the thirty-three distinguished gentlemen who took part in the
Conference. At all events, he was a member of the Government of New Brunswick, which was a party represented at the Conference. Mr. Hathaway, at a public meeting lately, said that:—
He occupied a very unenviable position. He was under peculiar embarrassments, more so than any other speaker who would address them. It was well known to most of his audience that he had been one of the sworn advisers of His Excellency for the past three years. As such he could reveal no secrets of Council. It was true His Excellency had given him permission to make public the correspondence that had taken place on the subject of his resignation, but whatever might be the effect upon himself, there were secrets connected with the scheme that he could not divulge.
There were secrets of the scheme that he was not free to speak of. And we, too, find here that there are secrets; many matters as to which we may ask as much as we like, and can get no information. But the main point I was coming to is this. Call this thing what you like—treaty or whatever you please—it is not dealt with in the Lower Provinces at all in the way in which it is proposed to deal with it here. The Lower Provinces, we think, are smaller political communities than ourselves. Their legislative councils, their Houses of Assembly, we do not call quite so considerable as our own. We are in the habit of thinking that among the legislative bodies in the British Empire, we stand number two; certainly a great way behind the House of Commons, but having no other body between us and them in point of importance. (Hear, hear.)
The Lower Provinces, I say, are not so big as we are, and yet how differently has our Parliament been treated from the way in which their smaller parliaments have been. And the apology, the reason assigned why we are treated as we are, is, that this thing is a binding treaty, if not yet between the provinces, at least between the governments of the other provinces and the Government of Canada. But how does the Lieutenant-Governor of Nova Scotia address his houses of parliament? “It is not my provinces,” says he, “and I have no mission to do more than afford you the amplest and freest scope for the consideration of a proposal”—he does not call it a treaty—he calls it merely “a proposal, which seriously involves your own prospects.” I suppose it does; but, so far from calling it a treaty, he does not call it even an agreement.
George-Étienne Cartier [Montreal East, Attorney-General East]—But what he says implies that he so regards it.
Christopher Dunkin [Brome]—Does it? Let me read the whole passage:—
It is not my province, and I have no mission to do more than afford you the amplest and freest scope for consideration of a proposal which seriously involves your own prospects, and in reference to which you should be competent to interpret the wishes and determine the true interests of the country. I feel assured, however, that whatever be the result of your deliberations, you will deprecate […]
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[…] attempts to treat in a narrow spirit, or otherwise than with dispassionate care and prudence, a question so broad that it in reality covers the ground of all parties, and precludes it from becoming the measure of merely one government or one party.
He gives his parliament perfect carte blanche to deal with it as they please.
Edmund Wood [Brant West]—As a whole.
Christopher Dunkin [Brome]—It is a pity the same language was not addressed to us. In that case, Mr. Speaker, I think the motion put into your hands would have been, that you should now leave the chair, in order that we might go into committee of the whole to give the matter careful and becoming consideration. It is not pressed on in Nova Scotia, as it is here, with undue haste. The Lieutenant-Governor, in the next paragraph of his speech, goes on to say:—
I need only observe further, without in the least intending thereby to influence your ultimate determination, that it is obviously convenient, if not essential, for the legislatures of all the provinces concerned to observe uniformity in the mode of ascertaining their respective decisions on a question common to all. I have, therefore, desired to be laid before you some correspondence between the Governor General and myself on that point.
That correspondence, too, which is to be laid before the Parliament of Nova Scotia, has not been laid before us. (Hear, hear.)
I have given the language addressed by this Lieutenant-Governor to his Legislature with reference to this “proposal.” In what language do the Commons of Nova Scotia reply? How will they deal with it?
The report from the delegates appointed to confer upon the union of the Maritime Provinces, and the resolutions of the Conference held at Quebec, proposing a union of the different provinces of British North America, together with the correspondence upon that subject, will obtain at our hands the deliberate and attentive consideration demanded by a question of such magnitude and importance, and fraught with consequences so momentous to us and our posterity.
This, sir, is all that the Government of Nova Scotia ask the Legislature of that province to say. And I do not think that this course of theirs exactly indicates that they think they have made a treaty by which they must stand or fall, and to every letter and line of which they must force their Legislature to adhere. If they do regard it in that light, they have a very indirect way of expressing their ideas. But this is not the case merely in Nova Scotia. In Prince Edward Island, everyone knows the Government is not bringing this down as a treaty; in New Brunswick everybody knows that the Government has been more or less changed since the Conference, that a general election is going on, and that a great deal will depend on the doubtful result of that election. Everyone knows that the matter is in a very different position in every one of the Lower Provinces from what it is in here; that there is none of this talk about a treaty anywhere but here.
I would like, however, by the way, to draw the attention of the House for a moment to a case in which there undoubtedly was a treaty. I speak of the proceedings which eventuated in the union between England and Scotland. In the reign of Queen Anne, at the instance of the two legislatures, then respectively independent—of England on the one hand, and of Scotland on the other—Her Majesty appointed commissioners to represent each of her two states, and they framed what were declared to be articles of a treaty. They took months to frame those articles; and twice in the course of their proceedings Her Majesty came down to assist personally at their deliberations. Their meeting was authorized by acts of Parliament; they were named by Her Majesty; they deliberated for months; and the Queen attended their deliberations twice. And after they had entered into this treaty—so called on the face of it—the Parliament of Scotland departed from it and insisted on changes which were approved of by the Parliament of England, and the treaty as thus changed went into operation.
In both parliaments the bills to give effect to it passed through every stage; originated in Committee of the Whole, and had their first, second and third readings. All was done with the utmost formality; and yet there was there unmistakably a treaty solemnly made beforehand. Here we have an affair got up in seventeen days by thirty-three gentlemen who met without the sanction of the Crown, and only got that sanction afterwards. The document they agreed upon is full of oversights, as the Colonial Secretary states, and as everyone knows who has read it. Yet our Government regard it as a sacred treaty—though no one but themselves so regards it—and want to give it a sacredness which was not claimed even for that treaty between England and Scotland. (Hear, hear.)
I am at last very near the close of the remarks I have to offer to the House; but I must say a few words as to the […]
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[…] domestic consideration urged to force us into this scheme. We are asked, “What are you going to do? You must do something. Are you going back to our old state of deadlock?” At the risk of falling into an unparliamentary expression, I cannot help saying that I am reminded of a paragraph I read the other day in a Lower Province paper, in which the editor was dealing with this same cry, which seems to be raised in Nova Scotia as well as here—the cry that something must be done, that things cannot go on as they are. I have not his words here, but their general effect was this:—”Whenever,” says he, “I hear this cry raised, that something must be done, I suspect there is a plan on foot to get something very bad done. Things are in a bad way—desperate, may be. But the remedy proposed is sure to be desperate.
I am put in mind of a story of two boys who couldn’t swim, but by ill luck had upset their canoe in deep water, and by good luck had got on the bottom of it. Says the big boy to the little one, ‘ Tom, can you pray?’ Tom confessed he could not call to mind a prayer suited to the occasion. ‘No, Bill,’ says he, ‘ I don’t know how.’ Bill’s answer was earnest, but not parliamentary. It contained a past participle passive which I won’t repeat. It was, ‘ Well, something must be done—and that—soon!” (Laughter.)
Now, seriously, what do honorable gentlemen mean when they raise here this cry that “something must be done?” Is it seriously meant that our past is so bad that positively, on pain of political annihilation, of utter and hopeless ruin, of the last, worst consequences, we must this instant adopt just precisely this scheme? If that is so, if really and truly those political institutions which we were in the habit of saying we enjoyed, which, at all events, we have been living under and, for that matter, are living under now, if they have worked so ill as all that comes to, or rather if we have worked them so ill, I think we hold out poor encouragement to those whom we call upon to take part with us in trying this new experiment.
We Canadians have had a legislative union and worked it close upon five and twenty years, and under it have got, it is said, into such a position of embarrassment among ourselves, are working our political institutions so very badly, are in such a frightful fix, that, never mind what the prospects of this particular step may be, it must positively be taken; we cannot help it, we cannot stay as we are, nor yet go back, nor yet go forward, in any course but just this one. (Hear, hear.)
If this thing is really this last desperate remedy for a disease past praying for, then indeed I am desperately afraid, sir, that it will not succeed. The hot haste with which gentlemen are pressing it is of ill omen to the deceived Mother Country, to our deceived sister provinces, and to our most miserably deceived selves. But the truth is that we are in no such sad case; there is no fear of our having to go back to this bugbear past; we could not do it if we would. Things done cannot be undone. In a certain sense, whatever is past is irrevocable, and it is well it should be. True we are told by some of the honorable gentlemen on the Treasury benches that their present harmony is not peace, but only a sort of armed truce, that old party lines are not effaced, nor going to be. Well, sir, if so, suppose that this scheme should be ever so well dropped, and then that some day soon after these gentlemen should set themselves to the job of finding out who is cuckoo and who hedge sparrow in the government nest that now shelters them all in such warm quiet, suppose there should thus soon be every effort made to revive old cries and feuds—what then? Would it be the old game over again, or a variation of it amounting to a new one?
For a time at least, sir, a breathing time that happily cannot be got over, those old cries and old feuds will not be found to be revivable as of old. Even representation by population will be no such spell to conjure with—will fall on ears far less excitable. It has been adopted by any number of those who might otherwise be the likeliest to run it down. It will be found there might be a worse thing in the minds of many. Give it a new name and couple it with sufficient safeguard against legislation of the local stamp being put through against the vote of the local majority—the principle tacitly held so, and found to answer in the case of Scotland—and parliamentary reform may be found no such bug—bear to speak of after all. And as for the bug-bears of the personal kind, why, sir, after seeing all we have seen of the extent to which gentlemen can set aside or overcome them when occasion may require, it is too much to think they will for some little time go for so very much. Like it or not, honorable gentlemen, for a time, will have to be to some extent busy with a game that shall be not quite the old one.
The friends of this project, Mr. Speaker, never seem to tire of prophesying to us smooth things, if only it is once first adopted. To every criticism on its many and manifest defects, the ready answer […]
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[…] is, that we do not enough count upon men’s good sense, good feeling, forbearance, and all that sort of thing. But, sir, if the adoption of this scheme is so to improve our position, is to make everything so smooth, to make all our public men so wise, so prudent, and so conscientious, I should like to know why a something of the same kind may not by possibility be hoped for, even though this project should be set aside. If we are to be capable of the far harder task of working out these projected unworkable political institutions, why is it that we must be incapable of the easier task of going on without them? I know well that in all time the temper of those who do not think has been to put faith rather in the great thing one cannot do, than in the smaller thing one can.
“If the prophet had bid thee do some great thing, wouldst thou not have done it?” And here too, sir, as so often before, if the truth must be told, the one thing truly needed is what one may call the smaller thing—not perhaps easy, but one must hope not impossible—the exercise by our public men and by our people of that amount of discretion, good temper and forbearance which sees something larger and higher in public life than mere party struggles and crises without end; of that political sagacity or capacity, call it which you will, with which they will surely find the institutions they have to be quite good enough for them to use and quietly make better, without which they will as surely find any that may anyhow be given them, to be quite bad enough for them to fight over and make worse.
Mr. Speaker, I feel that I have taken up a great deal of the time of the House, and that I have presented but imperfectly the views I am anxious to impress upon it as to this great question. But for sheer want of strength, I might have felt it necessary, at whatever risk of wearying the House, to go into some matters more thoroughly, and more especially into that branch of the subject which relates to what I may call the alternative policy I myself prefer to this measure, and would wish to see adopted and carried out. As it is, I have but to say in conclusion, while warmly thanking the House for the attention and patience with which it has for so many hours listened to me, that I have said nothing but what I firmly believe, and felt myself bound to say, and that I trust the sober good sense of the people of these provinces, after my reflection and discussion, will decide rightly upon this the largest question by far that has ever been before them for decision. (Cheers.)
On motion of Joseph Cauchon [Montmorency], the debate was then adjourned.
 Toronto Leader. Unconfirmed reference.
 An Act to provide for the indemnification of parties in Lower-Canada whose property was destroyed during the Rebellion in the years one thousand eight hundred and thirty-seven, and one thousand eight hundred and thirty-eight, 1849 (Province of Canada).
 Resolution 30. All resolutions found on pp. 1-6. As presented to the Legislative Council on 3 February 1865.
 Despatch from Right Hon. Edward Cardwell to Viscount Monck, Downing Street (3 December 1864) from “Correspondence relative to the Canadian Confederation” in The Annual Register (London: 1864), p. 299.
 Despatch from Right Hon. Edward Cardwell to Viscount Monck, Downing Street (3 December 1864) from “Correspondence relative to the Canadian Confederation” in The Annual Register (London: 1864), p. 300.
 Ibid., p. 300.
 Ibid., p. 300.
 Ibid., p. 300.
 The Times [of London]. Unconfirmed reference.
 Ibid., p. 183.
 Ibid., p. 183.
 Ibid., p. 183.
 Ibid., pp. 189-190.
 Ibid., p. 190.
 Ibid., p. 192.
 Ibid., p. 194.
 Ibid., p. 197.
 Ibid., p. 199.
 Hathway address at public meeting. Unconfirmed reference.