Province of Canada, Legislative Assembly, Parliamentary Debates on the Subject of the Confederation of the British North America Provinces, 8th Parl, 3rd Sess, (7 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 53-71.
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TUESDAY, February 7, 1865.
George-Étienne Cartier [Montreal East, Attorney-General East] rose to continue the debate on Confederation.
He said that he approached this subject with a certain amount of diffidence, knowing it was not the first time he had had the honour of speaking upon it in the Lower Provinces and elsewhere. He felt that this was a momentous occasion, as for anything that he said on this grave question, he was responsible to his constituents and the country. Respecting this grave question, it had been said that the Taché-Macdonald Government had taken upon themselves the solution of a problem which was not at the time of its formation before the country, and had not even been mooted. Those saying so were ignorant of the parliamentary history of the past few years. He would briefly refer to the history of this great question, as far as it had been brought before the Parliament and country.
When the Cartier-Macdonald Government was constructed, after the downfall of the Brown-Dorion Administration, a programme of the policy of the former was laid before Parliament. Among the subjects contained in this programme of 7th August, 1858, was one referred to in the following terms:
“The late Government felt themselves bound to carry out the law of the land respecting the seat of Government, but, in the face of the recent vote on that subject, the Administration did not consider themselves warranted in incurring any expenditure for the public buildings, until Parliament has had an opportunity of considering the whole question in all its bearings; and the expediency of a Federal Union of the British North American Provinces will be anxiously considered, and communication with the Home Government and the Lower Provinces entered into forthwith on the subject; and the result of this communication will be submitted to Parliament at its next session. The Government will, during the recess, examine into the organization and working of the public department?, and carry out such administrative reforms as will be conducive to economy and efficiency.”
Here was this scheme of a union of the provinces mentioned in the programme of the Cartier-Macdonald Government, in 1858: He merely quoted this passage to show that neither Parliament nor the country was now taken by surprise with regard to this scheme. (Hear, hear.)
We had had general and special elections since 1858, and to pretend that […]
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[…] this subject, which had been so often canvassed, was new to the country, was to assert an untruth. At the close of that session, Sir Edmund Head, in his Speech proroguing Parliament, made use of the following language: “I propose, in the course of the recess, to communicate with Her Majesty’s Government, and with the Governments of the sister colonies, on another matter of very great importance. I am desirous of inviting them to discuss with us the principles on which a bond of a federal character, uniting the Provinces of British North America, may perhaps hereafter be practicable.” In accordance with that announcement of policy, a deputation was sent to England, composed of his then colleagues, Hons. Messrs. Galt and Ross and himself. We pressed the matter before the Imperial Government, whom we asked to authorize a meeting of delegates from the British North American Governments, to consider this subject and report upon it, said report to be communicated to the Colonial Secretary.
Of course we wanted, at that time, to act with the sanction and approval of the Imperial Government. We pressed the matter as strongly as we could before it. Of all the provinces that responded to the call of the Imperial Government, Newfoundland, he thought, was the only one which professed her readiness to appoint delegates when the opportune moment arrived. (Hear, hear.)
Although the other provinces were not opposed to Confederation, still, as the question had not been brought conspicuously before their people, they did not like then to join in the measure and in the proceedings which the Canadian delegates had urged upon the Imperial Government in 1858. At this time the Canadian Delegates had a duty to perform towards the illustrious Administrator of the Government, Sir E. Head, to fulfil the promise he had made, on proroguing Parliament, by pressing the measure upon the attention of the Imperial Administration.
The Canadian Government also kept its promise to report to the House the result of the mission to England, at the next session of Parliament. The hon. gentleman here read the despatch dated October, 1858, which was transmitted to the Imperial Government, setting forth the sectional difficulties which had arisen between Upper and Lower Canada, principally on account of the former’s demand for increased representation in Parliament, on the ground of its much larger population. Every one who knew anything of his past public course was aware that he was opposed to the principle of representation by population while Upper and Lower Canada were under one Government.
He did not regret his opposition. If such a measure had been passed, what would have been the consequence? There would have been constant political warfare between Upper and Lower Canada. True it was that the members from Upper Canada, being in the majority, it might have been imagined they would have carried everything before them; but as far as justice to Lower Canada was concerned, such might not have been the case. The consequence of representation by population would have been that one territory would have governed another, and this fact would have presented itself session after session in the House, and day after day in the public prints. (Hear, hear.) The moment this principle had been conceded as the governing element, it would have initiated between the two provinces a warfare which would have been unremitting. (Hear, hear.)
He wished that Upper Canada should understand him in this matter. He was accused of being opposed to Upper Canada’s rights, because during fifteen or twenty years he had to oppose his honourable friend the President of the Council (Hon. Mr. Brown). His honourable colleague took the ground that representation should be arranged according to population in each section of the province. He (Hon. Mr. Cartier) had resisted that position, believing that the moment such a principle was applied, his honourable friend, who, no doubt, wanted to maintain the peaceful government of the country, would have been disappointed in his wish. It would have given rise to one of the bitterest struggles between the two provinces that ever took place between two nations.
He did not mean to say that the majority from Upper Canada would have tyrannized over Lower Canada; but the idea that Upper Canada, as a territory, had the preponderance in the Government by a large number of representatives, would have been sufficient to generate that sectional strife to which he had alluded. In 1858 he first saw that representation by population, though unsuited for application as a governing principle as between the two provinces, would not involve the same objection if other partners were drawn in by a federation. In a struggle between two—one a weak, and the other a strong party—the weaker could not but be overcome; but if three parties were concerned, the stronger would not have the same advantage; as when it was seen by the third that there was too much strength on one side, the third would club with the weaker […]
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[…] combatant to resist the big fighter. (Cheers and laughter.)
He did not oppose the principle of representation by population from an unwillingness to do justice to Upper Canada. He took this ground, however, that when justice was done to Upper Canada, it was his duty to see that no injustice was done to Lower Canada. He did not entertain the slightest apprehension that Lower Canada’s rights were in the least jeopardized by the provision that in the General Legislature the French Canadians of Lower Canada would have a smaller number of representatives than all the other origins combined. It would be seen by the resolutions that in the questions which would be submitted to the General Parliament there could be no danger to the rights and privileges of either French Canadians, Scotchmen, Englishmen or Irishmen. Questions of commerce, of international communication, and all matters of general interest, would be discussed and determined in the General Legislature; but in the exercise of the functions of the General Government, no one could apprehend that anything could be enacted which would harm or do injustice to persons of any nationality.
He did not intend to go into the details of the question of Confederation, but merely to bring before the House the most conspicuous arguments in order to induce members to accept the resolutions submitted by the Government. Confederation was, as it were, at this moment almost forced upon us. We could not shut our eyes to what was going on beyond the lines, where a great struggle was going on between two Confederacies, at one time forming but one Confederacy. We saw that a government, established not more than 80 years ago, had not been able to keep together the family of states which had broke up four or five years since. We could not deny that the struggle now in progress must necessarily influence our political existence. We did not know what would be the result of that great war—whether it would end in the establishment of two Confederacies or in one as before. However, we had to do with five colonies, inhabited by men of the same sympathies and interests, and in order to become a great nation they required only to be brought together under one General Government.
The matter resolved itself into this; either we must obtain British North American Confederation or be absorbed in an American Confederation. (Hear, hear, and dissent.) Some entertained the opinion that it was unnecessary to have British North American Confederation to prevent absorption into the vortex of American Confederation. Such parties were mistaken. We knew the policy of England towards us—that she was determined to help and support us in any struggle with our neighbours. The British Provinces, separated as at present, could not defend themselves alone, and the question resolved itself into this: shall the whole strength of the empire be concentrated into Prince Edward Island, or Canada, as the case may be, in case of a war with the United States—or shall the provinces be left to fight single-handed, disunited? We were not sufficiently united. We had our duties, with regard to England, to perform. In order to secure the exercise of her power in our defence we must help her ourselves. We could not do this satisfactorily or efficiently unless we had a Confederation.
When all united, the enemy would know that, if he attacked any part of those provinces—Prince Edward Island or Canada—he would have to encounter the combined strength of the empire. Canada, separate, would be, although comparatively strong in population and wealth, in a dangerous position should a war ensue. When we had organized our good defensive force, and united for mutual protection, England would send freely here both men and treasure for our defence. (Cheers.)
He had stated before audiences in the Lower Provinces that, as far as territory, population and wealth were concerned, Canada was stronger than any of the other provinces, but at the same time was wanting in one element necessary to national greatness—the maritime one; and that, owing to the large trade and commerce of Canada, extensive communication with Great Britain at all seasons was absolutely necessary.
Twenty years ago our commerce for the year could be managed by communication with Great Britain in the summer months only. At present, however, this system was insufficient, and for winter communication with the seaboard we were left to the caprice of our American neighbours, through whose territory we must pass. He had also alluded to the bonding system, which if the Americans were to withdraw, Canada would be left in winter without any winter harbours. Canada, having two or three elements of national greatness—territory and population—wanted the maritime element; and as he had said, the Lower Provinces had this element and a seaboard, but not a back country or large population, which Canada possessed, and for the mutual benefit and prosperity of all the provinces, all these elements ought to be united […]
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[…] together. Those who pretended that the British North American Provinces would be in as safe a position, remaining separate, while they belonged to the British Crown, as under Confederation, were under great misapprehension. Now was the time for us to form a great nation of the several provinces. Now was the time to look the matter in the face and adopt the only safe and prudent course open to us in the shape of Confederation. He maintained it was necessary for our own commercial interests, prosperity and efficient defence. That was what we had now to discuss, and not the manner in which Confederation was to be brought about, which would be discussed when the details of the schema came up for consideration.
At present the question was: Was Confederation of the British North American Provinces necessary in order to increase our strength and power and secure to us the continuance of the benefits of British connection? He had no doubt that the measure was necessary for those objects. It would be observed that the English speaking opponent of the scheme, in Lower Canada, pretended a fear of this element being absorbed by the French Canadian; while the opponents, composed of the latter origin—of men who might be called the old Papineau Tail whose sole idea was annexation to the United States—said they were afraid of the extinction of French Canadian nationality in the great Confederation.
The annexation party in Montreal, including the followers of Mr. John Dougall, the proprietor of the Witness, opposed the scheme on the ground of supposed danger to the British of Lower Canada. The annexation party could not, however, be supposed to be sincere in their opposition to the scheme, except in so far as they desired to carry Canada into the American Union. The absorption of this province into the United States had long been contemplated, as would be seen from the 7th article in the original draft of the American Constitution, which he would read. It was as follows:
“Art. 7. Canada, according to this Confederation and joining in the measures of the United States, shall be admitted into, and entitled to all the advantages of this union; and shall be equally with any other of the United States, solemnly bound to a strict observance of, and obedience to, these articles; as shall be also any other colony which shall be admitted into this Confederacy. The eleven votes in Congress shall be increased in proportion as the Confederacy is extended. But, except Canada, no other colony shall be admitted into the Confederacy without the assent of eleven or more votes, as the case may require, by the Confederation being extended.” By that article, no new state could go into the union except by the vote of the number of states required to admit a new partner. But, as regarded Canada, no such assent was required; on knocking at the door of the union, she would, as a matter of course, be admitted. (Hear, hear.)
The honourable gentleman went on to say that the papers lately contained a report of a meeting at the Institut Canadien of Montreal, where it was resolved that it was for the interests of Lower Canada (in the interests of the French Canadians), were the province to become a part of the American Union.
Antoine-Aimé Dorion [Hochelaga]said that was not the case. The honourable gentleman had misquoted what had passed there.
George-Étienne Cartier [Montreal East, Attorney-General East] said he was right. If resolutions were not passed, sentiments were expressed to that effect. Then the organ of the Institute—L’Ordre, he thought—had set forth that the interests of Lower Canada would be better secured by annexation to the United States than entering into a Confederation with the British American Provinces. It was no wonder, then, that the French Canadian annexationists betrayed their purpose in opposition to British North American Confederation, and that their English-speaking colleagues pretended a fear of the rights of their class being jeopardized under Confederation. We knew their object in this—that they were aware that as soon as this project was adopted, there would be no avail in any cry of separation to form a part of the American Union. (Hear, hear,)
There had been a good deal of fault-finding and complaint as to the proceedings of the delegates having been conducted with closed doors. Such a course was an absolute necessity. Every one could understand that if all the difficulties arising among the representatives of the five colonies, during the Conference, had gone every morning to the public, it would have been impossible for the delegates to continue to meet, or compromise any of the difficulties that might be expected to spring up. Besides, the proceedings of the American Congress of 1782 was held with closed doors, and their proceedings were not published while matters were progressing. With regard to this, he would quote from a letter of Col. Mason, a member of the Convention: “All communications of the proceedings are forbidden during the sitting of this Convention; this, I think, was a necessary precaution to […]
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[…] prevent misrepresentations or mistakes; there being a material difference between the appearance of a subject in its first crude and indigested shape and after it shall have been properly matured and arranged.” On the same principle the Conference at Quebec very properly sat with closed doors. (Hear, hear.)
We wished, however, that the British Canadian public should know the result of our labours when concluded, and that result the Parliament and people of Canada had before their consideration, and it was for them to discuss its merits.
We, on this side of the House—the members of the Government and their supporters—had come to the conclusion that Federation was desirable and necessary; and we were ready to hear the honourable gentlemen on the other side who necessarily, from their standing, were supposed to have devoted their attention to it and appreciated their position, stating what in their opinion would be sufficient in order to maintain ourselves as a British colony on this side of the Atlantic, and to increase in wealth and power. He was aware that some members of the House, and a number of people in Upper Canada, in Lower Canada and in the Lower Provinces, were of the opinion that a Legislative Union ought to have taken place instead of a Federal Union.
He would say, however, at the outset, that it was impossible to have one Government to deal with all the private and local interests of the several sections of the several provinces forming the combined whole. (Hear, hear.)
The next question to be considered, therefore, by those who had set to work to discover a solution of the difficulties under which we had laboured was; what was the best and most practicable mode of bringing the provinces together, so that particular rights and interests should be properly guarded and protected? No other scheme presented itself but the Federation system, and that was the project which now recommended itself to the Parliament of Canada. Some parties—through the press and by other modes, pretended that it was impossible to carry out Federation, on account of the differences of races and religions. Those who took this view of the question were in error. It was just the reverse. It was precisely on account of the variety of races, local interests, etc. that the Federation system ought to be resorted to, and would be found to work well. (Hear, hear.)
We were in the habit of seeing in some public journals, and hearing from some public men, that it was a great misfortune indeed that there should be a difference of races in this colony—that there should be the distinction of French Canadian from British Canadian. Now, he (Hon. Mr. Cartier) desired on this point to vindicate the rights, the merits, the usefulness, so to speak, of those belonging to the French Canadian race. (Hear, hear.) In order to bring these merits and this usefulness more prominently before his hearers, it would be only necessary to allude to the efforts made by them to sustain British power on this continent, and to point out their adherence to British supremacy in trying times.
We were all conversant with the history of the circumstances which had brought about the difficulties between England and her former American colonies in 1775. Lower Canada, (or rather he should say, the Province of Quebec, for the colony was not then known by the name of Canada, but was called the Province of Quebec), contained the most dense population of any British colony in North America at that time. The accession of Lower Canada was of course an object of envy to the other American colonies, and strenuous efforts were made by those who had resolved to overthrow British power on this continent to induce Canada to ally herself to their cause. As early as 1775, the French Canadians were solemnly addressed in a proclamation by General Washington, who called upon them to abandon the flag of their new masters, inasmuch as they could not expect anything from those who differed from them in language, in religion, in race, and in sympathies.
But what was the conduct of the French Canadian people under these circumstances? What was the attitude of the clergy and the seigniors? It was right in treating this chapter of our history, to render justice to whom justice was due, and it was truth to say that the seigniors, forming, as they did, the educated class of our population at that early epoch, had fully understood that the object and aim of those who appealed to them was the downfall of the monarchical system in America. (Hear, hear.)
A few years only had elapsed at that time since the transfer of the country and its population from the Crown of France to the Crown of Great Britain; but even within that brief interval of time, they were enabled to appreciate the advantages of their new position, notwithstanding the fact that they were still struggling and complaining. The people, as well as the clergy and aristocracy, had understood that it was better for them to remain under the English and Protestant Crown of England, rather than to become republicans. (Hear, hear.)
They were proof against the insidious offers of […]
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[…] George Washington; and not only so, but when the Americans came as invaders, they fought against the armed forces of Arnold, Montgomery and others. (Cheers.)
Attempts were made to excite hostility to Federation on the ground that, under the regime of a local legislature, the English Protestant minority would not be fairly dealt with. He thought the way in which the French Canadians had stood by British connection, when there were but few British in the province, was a proof that they would not attempt to deal unjustly now by the British minority, when their numbers were so much greater. On this point, appealing to the evidence of history, he would quote from the work which he had already quoted. At a time when there were, perhaps, hardly a few hundred English Protestant residents in Lower Canada, the address in the name of Washington, to which he had already briefly referred, was circulated throughout the country by Arnold’s invading army. The hon. gentleman here read a number of extracts from General Washington’s proclamation, addressed to the inhabitants of Canada.
It made the most earnest appeals to the Lower Canadians to join the other colonies. “We rejoice,” said General Washington, “that our enemies have been deceived with regard to you; they have persuaded themselves, they have even dared to say, that the Canadians were not capable of distinguishing between the blessings of liberty and the wretchedness of slavery; that gratifying the vanity of a little circle of nobility would blind the people of Canada. By such artifices they hoped to bend you to their views, but they have been deceived. * * * Come then, my brethren, unite with us in an indissoluble union; let us run together to the same goal. * * * Incited by these motives, and encouraged by the advice of many friends of liberty among you, the grand American Congress have sent an army into your province, under the command of General Schuyler, not to plunder but to protect you, to animate and bring forth into action those sentiments of freedom you have disclosed, and which the tools of despotism would extinguish through the whole creation.
To co-operate with this design, and to frustrate those cruel and perfidious schemes, which would deluge our frontiers with the blood of women and children, I have dispatched Colonel Arnold into your country, with a part of the army under my command. I have enjoined upon him, and I am certain that he will consider himself, and act as in the country of his patrons and best friends. Necessaries and accommodations of every kind which you may furnish he will thankfully receive and render the full value. I invite you, therefore, as friends and brethren, to provide him with such supplies as your country affords; and I pledge myself not only for your safety and security, but for an ample compensation. Let no man desert his habitation, let no one flee as before an enemy. The cause of America and of liberty is the cause of every virtuous American citizen, whatever may be his religion or descent. The united colonies know no distinction but such as slavery, corruption and arbitrary dominion may create. Come then, ye generous citizens, range yourselves under the standard of general liberty, against which all the force of artifice and tyranny will never be able to prevail.”
It appeared by this address that the most tempting offers and promises had been made by the republican general; but they had failed, nevertheless, to accomplish the desired effect. This, however, was not the only trait of this nature in the history of the French Canadian people. There was another despatch, or rather proclamation, issued in 1778, by Baron D’Estaing, commander of the French fleet, which was acting in aid of the American revolutionary party. The honourable gentleman read some extracts from this proclamation, as follows:
“I shall not ask the military companions of the Marquis of Levis, those who shared his glory, who admired his talents and genius for war, who loved his cordiality and frankness, the principal characteristics of our nobility, whether there be other names in other nations among which they would be better pleased to place their own. Can the Canadians, who saw the brave Montcalm fall in their defence, can they become the enemies of his nephews? Can they fight against their former leaders, and arm themselves against their kinsmen? At the bare mention of their names, the weapons would fall out of their hands. I shall not observe to the ministers of the altars, that their evangelic efforts will require the special protection of Providence, to prevent faith being diminished by example, by worldly interest, and by sovereigns whom force has imposed upon them, and whose political indulgence will be lessened proportionably as those sovereigns shall have less to fear.
I shall not observe that it is necessary for religion that those who preach it should form a body in the state; and that in Canada no other body would be more considered, or have more power to do good than that of the priests, taking a part in the Government, since their respectable conduct has merited the […]
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[…] confidence of the people. I shall not represent to that people, nor to all my countrymen in general, that a vast monarchy, having the same religion, the same manners, the same language, where they find kinsmen, old friends and brethren, must be an inexhaustible source of commerce and wealth, more easily acquired and better secured by their union with powerful neighbours, than with strangers of another hemisphere, among whom everything is different, and who, jealous and despotic sovereigns would, sooner or later, treat them as a conquered people, and doubtless much worse than their late countrymen, the Americans, who made them victorious.
I shall not urge to a whole people that to join with the United States is to secure their own happiness, since a whole people, when they acquire the right of thinking and acting for themselves, must know their own interest. But I will declare, and I now formally declare in the name of His Majesty, who has authorized and commanded me to do it, that all his former subjects in North America, who shall no more acknowledge the supremacy of Great Britain, may depend upon his protection and support.”
D’Estaing had appealed to their ancestry and their prejudices; he had invoked the names of Levis and Montcalm, and endeavoured to influence their clergy; but the French Canadians understood their position too well. If they had their institutions, their language and their religion intact today, it was precisely because of their adherence to the British Crown. Had they yielded to the appeals of Washington and Baron D’Estaing, it is probable that there would not have been now a vestige of British power on this continent. But, with the disappearance of British power, they too would have disappeared as French Canadians. (Hear, hear.) These historical facts taught that there should be a mutual feeling of gratitude from the French Canadians towards the British, and from the British towards the French Canadians, for our present position, that Canada is still a British colony. (Hear, hear.)
He had occasion, a moment ago, to refer to the French Canadian clergy in connection with D’Estaing’s address, and he would say this, to their honour and credit, that, if today Canada was a portion of the British Empire, it was due to the conservatism of the French Canadian clergy. (Cheers.)
It was a pleasure to him thus to be able to quote from these old documents proofs of the honour, loyalty, and liberality of the French Canadian people. He (Hon. Mr. Cartier) was as devoid of prejudice as any honourable gentleman in this House; but when he heard or read the statements occasionally made, that there was some danger that, under the Federation system, the French Canadians would have too much power, and that the power thus obtained would be used to the prejudice of the British and Protestant minority, the history of the past, in many instances, was the best reply to such attacks. (Hear, hear.)
Baron D’Estaing issued his tempting proclamation in 1778, and it was sent into Canada frequently afterwards, and circulated at the instigation of Rochambeau and Lafayette; but our clergy and our aristocracy, the leaders of our people in these days, saw that it was not their interest to cast their lot with the democratic element—they knew the hollowness of democracy. (Hear, hear.)
We found ourselves at the present day discussing the question of the Federation of the British North American Provinces, while the great Federation of the United States of America was broken up and divided against itself. There was, however, this important difference to be observed in considering the action of the two peoples. They had founded Federation for the purpose of carrying out and perpetuating democracy on this continent; but we, who had the benefit of being able to contemplate republicanism in action during a period of eighty years, saw its defects, and felt convinced that purely democratic institutions could not be conducive to the peace and prosperity of nations.
We were not now discussing the great problem presented to our consideration, in order to propagate democratic principles. Our attempt was for the purpose of forming a Federation with a view of perpetuating the monarchical element. The distinction, therefore, between ourselves and our neighbours was just this: In our Federation the monarchical principle would form the leading feature, while on the other side of the lines, judging by the past history and present condition of the country, the ruling power was the will of the mob, the rule of the populace. Every person who had conversed with the most intelligent American statesmen and writers must have learned that they all admitted that the governmental powers had become too extended, owing to the introduction of universal suffrage, and mob rule had consequently supplanted legitimate authority; and we now saw the sad spectacle of a country torn by civil war, and brethren fighting against brethren. The question for us to ask ourselves was this: Shall we be content to remain separate—shall we be content to maintain a mere provincial existence, when, by combining together, […]
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[…] we could become a great nation?
It had never yet been the good fortune of any group of communities to secure national greatness with such facility. In past ages, warriors had struggled for years for the addition to their country of a single province. We had too, for instance, in our own days, the case of Napoleon III, who, after great expenditure of blood and treasure in the Italian difficulty, had acquired Savoy and Nice, by which he bad obtained an addition of nearly one million inhabitants to France—only one million souls, and if any person were for a moment to make a calculation of the value of the provinces acquired on one side, and the great cost on the other, he would at once see the great disproportion between the one and the other, and so ascertain the fact that the territory acquired did not compensate the outlay. Here, in British North America, we had five different communities inhabiting five separate colonies.
We had the same sympathies, and we all desired to live under the British Crown. We had our commercial interests besides. It was of no use whatever that New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Newfoundland should have their several custom houses against our trade, or that we should have custom houses against the trade of those provinces. In ancient times, the manner in which a nation grew up was different from that of the present day. Then the first weak settlement increased into a village, which, by turns, became a town and a city, and the nucleus of a nation. It was not so in modern times. Nations were now formed by the agglomeration of communities having kindred interests and sympathies. Such was our case at the present moment. Objection had been taken to the scheme now under consideration, because of the words ‘new nationality’. Now, when we were united together, if union were attained, we would form a political nationality with which neither the national origin, nor the religion of any individual, would interfere.
It was lamented by some that we had this diversity of races, and hopes were expressed that this distinctive feature would cease. The idea of unity of races was Utopian—it was impossible. Distinctions of this kind would always exist. Dissimilarity, in fact, appeared to be the order of the physical world and of the moral world, as well as in the political world. But with regard to the objection based on this fact, to the effect that a great nation could not be formed because Lower Canada was in great part French and Catholic, and Upper Canada was British and Protestant, and the Lower Provinces were mixed, it was futile and worthless in the extreme. Look, for instance, at the United Kingdom, inhabited as it was by three great races. (Hear, hear.) Had the diversity of race impeded the glory, the progress, the wealth of England? Had they not rather each contributed their share to the greatness of the Empire? Of the glories of the senate, the field, and the ocean, of the successes of trade and commerce, how much was contributed by the combined talents, energy and courage of the three races together? (Cheers.)
In our own Federation we should have Catholic and Protestant, English, French, Irish and Scotch, and each by his efforts and his success would increase the prosperity and glory of the new Confederacy. (Hear, hear.) We viewed the diversity of races in British North America in this way: we were of different races, not for the purpose of warring against each other, but in order to compete and emulate for the general welfare. (Cheers.)
We could not do away with the distinctions of race. We could not legislate for the disappearance of the French Canadians from American soil, but British and French Canadians alike could appreciate and understand their position relative to each other.
They were placed like great families beside each other, and their contact produced a healthy spirit of emulation. It was a benefit rather than otherwise that we had a diversity of races. Of course, the difficulty, it would be said, would be to deal fairly by the minority. In Upper Canada the Catholics would find themselves in a minority; in Lower Canada the Protestants would be in a minority, while the Lower Provinces were divided. Under such circumstances, would any one pretend that either the local or general governments would sanction any injustice? What would be the consequence, even supposing any such thing were attempted by any one of the local governments? It would be censured everywhere. Whether it came from Upper Canada or from Lower Canada, any attempt to deprive the minority of their rights would be at once thwarted.
Under the Federation system, granting the control of the General Government these large questions of general interest in which the differences of race or religion had no place, it could not be pretended that the rights of either race or religion could be invaded at all. We were to have a General Parliament to deal with the matters of defence, tariff, excise, public works, and these matters absorbed all individual interest. Now, he would ask those self-styled nationalists who accused him of bartering fifty-eight […]
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[…] counties in Lower Canada to John Bull, and his honourable colleague beside him (Hon. Mr. Brown)—he would ask them, under what supposition could they think it possible for any injustice to be done to the French Canadians by the General Government? (Hear, hear.)
He came now to the subject of Local Governments. We could easily understand how a feeling against the Federation project was raised in the minds of a few of the British residents of Lower Canada by fears of such difficulties as those which occurred in the days of Mr. Papineau, relative to the passing of laws relating to commercial matters. (Hear, hear.)
These difficulties had been of a very inconvenient nature, Mr. Papineau not being a commercial man, and not understanding the importance of these measures. He considered Mr. Papineau was right in the struggle he maintained against the oligarchy at that time in power; but he had never approved of the course he took with reference to commercial matters, and in opposition to measures for the improvement of the country. But this precedent could not be urged as an objection to Federation, inasmuch as it would be for the General Government to deal with our commercial matters. There could be no reason for well-grounded fear that the minority could be made to suffer by means of any laws affecting the rights of property. If any such enactments were passed, they would fall upon the whole community.
But even supposing such a thing did occur, there was a remedy provided under the proposed Constitution. The magnitude of the scheme now submitted was, perhaps, the reason why those who had not made themselves conversant with the question felt some apprehension in contemplating it; but, when we came to discuss it clause by clause, he would be ready to state that no interest would be harmed in any way if Federation took place. It was true that opposition was being offered in Montreal, by Mr. John Dougall, of the Witness. (Hear, hear.)
And, while referring to the opponents of Federation, he could not help adverting to the strange manner in which extremes met and worked in unison to oppose Federation. (Laughter.) For instance, we had the party who formerly composed what might be styled Mr. Papineau’s Tail—the extreme democratic party—joined with Mr. Dougall’s Tail. (Hear, hear, cheers, and laughter.)
Joseph Perrault [Richelieu]—And members of the clergy oppose it. (Hear, hear.)
George-Étienne Cartier [Montreal East, Attorney-General East] said the honourable gentleman was mistaken. The clergy were for it. But the honourable gentleman would have an opportunity of speaking afterwards. This scheme, he repeated, met with the approval of all moderate men. The extreme men, the socialists, democrats and annexationists were opposed to it. The French Canadian opponents of the project were, it appeared, afraid that their religious rights would suffer under the new arrangement. Fancy the celebrated Institut Canadien, of Montreal, under the lead of citizen Blanchet, taking religion under their protection! (Laughter.)
Mr. Dougall loudly proclaimed that the British Protestant minority would be entirely placed at the mercy of the French Canadians. He (Hon. Mr. Cartier) thought the arguments of the young French gentlemen belonging to the national democratic party who cried out that their religion and nationality would be destroyed, ought in all reason to be sufficient to satisfy the scruples and calm the fears of Mr. Dougall. The True Witness, which was also one of the enemies of the scheme, said that if it were adopted the French Canadians were doomed; while his brother in violence, the Witness, said that the Protestants were doomed. (Hear, hear, and laughter.)
At a meeting recently held in Montreal on the subject, he (Hon. Mr. Cartier) observed that Mr. Cherrier had enrolled himself among the enemies of the project. Well, this fine, quiet, old gentleman announced that he had come out of his political retirement for the purpose of opposing Federation. All he (Hon. Mr. Cartier) could say was that he never knew Mr. Cherrier was a strong politician. However, it appeared that he had come out once more on the political stage for the purpose of opposing this villainous scheme, which was intended to destroy the nationality and religion of the French Canadians, all brought about by that confounded Cartier! (Laughter and cheers.) Allusion had been made to the opinion of the clergy. Well, he would say that the opinion of the clergy was for Confederation. (Hear, hear.)
Those who were high in authority, as well as those who occupied more humble positions, were in favour of Federation, not only because they saw in it so much security for all they held dear, but because it was just to their Protestant fellow-subjects as well, because they were opposed to political bickering and strife.
This opposition to a state of political dissension and trouble was the general feeling of the clergy, and because they saw in Confederation a solution of those difficulties which had existed for some time, due regard being had to just […]
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[…] rights, they were favourable to the project. The fact, however, was that when we saw such extreme opponents as Mr. Clerk, of the True Witness, Mr. Dougall of the Witness, and the young gentlemen of the Institut Canadien combined to resist Confederation, (because each party argued it would produce the most widely different results) we might look upon this fact, he repeated, as one of the strongest arguments in favour of Confederation. (Hear.) We had, on the other hand, all the moderate men, all that was respectable and intelligent, including the clergy, favourable to Federation. (Hear, hear, and oh, oh.)
He did not, of course, mean to say that there were not respectable opponents to the project—what he did mean, however, was that it met general approval from the classes referred to. He was opposed, he might as well state most distinctly, to the democratic system obtained in the United States. In this country of British North America we should have a distinct form of government, the characteristic of which would be to possess the monarchical element.
When we had Confederation secured, there was not the least doubt but that our Government would be more respectable—that it would have more prestige, and command more respect from our neighbours. (Hear, hear.) The great want under the American form—the point which they all admitted formed the great defect—was the absence of some respectable executive element. How was the head of the United States Government chosen? Candidates came forward, and of course each one was abused and vilified as corrupt, ignorant, incapable and unworthy by the opposite party. One of them attained the presidential chair; but even while in that position he was not respected by those who had opposed his election, and who tried to make him appeal the most corrupt and contemptible being in creation. Such a system could not produce an executive head who would command respect. Under the British system, ministers might be abused and assailed; but that abuse never reached the Sovereign. Whether we were made a kingdom or a viceroyalty—whatever name or grade was assigned to us—we would undoubtedly have additional prestige.
He would now conclude his remarks by asking honourable gentlemen to consider well this scheme. It was his hope, his cherished hope, that it would be adopted by the House. The time was opportune, as his honourable colleague (Atty. Gen. Macdonald) had so ably stated last evening; the opportunity might never offer itself again in such a facile and propitious manner. We knew we had, in all our proceedings, the approbation of the Imperial Government. So if these resolutions were adopted by Canada, as he had no doubt they would, and by the other Colonial Legislatures, the Imperial Government would be called upon to pass a measure which would have for its effect to give a strong central or general government and local governments, which would at once secure and guard the persons, the properties and the civil and religious rights belonging to the population of each section. (Loud cheers.)
Alexander T. Galt [Sherbrooke, Minister of Finance] said,—Mr. Speaker, I trust the House will, on this occasion, extend to me the indulgence with which I have often previously been favoured when I have addressed it on subjects relating to the commercial and financial interests of this province; for I am now required to follow the very able and eloquent speeches of the two Attorneys General, East [George-Étienne Cartier] and West [John A. Macdonald], who have discussed, as none were more able than those gentlemen to discuss, the most important political and philosophical questions which are involved in the Confederation of the British North American colonies; and the material interests of the country upon which it is my province this night to dwell, though unquestionably those which are intended to be served through the political alterations we have to consider, are, nevertheless, likely to prove tedious to the House. Explanations respecting them are, however, imperatively called for when we are considering the question now at issue. (Hear.)
There is one advantage which I feel that I enjoy on this occasion, and it is that this House is not called upon, in dealing with the commercial and financial interests involved in the proposed changes, to consider the form or mode of government by which such interests are to be promoted. It makes little difference to the consideration of this branch of the subject whether the Constitution of the new Government be that of a Legislative or Federal Union—the points with which I am about to deal, are those which concern the public at large, and bear no reference to what may be the creed, nationality or language of portions of the people. The subjects on which I propose to address the House are those connected with the trade, resources and financial condition of the several provinces of British North America, and certain questions present themselves for decision, upon a satisfactory answer to which the determination of the House upon the whole plan that is submitted should depend, I […]
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[…] will divide my remarks into five distinct heads:—
First.—Do the commercial and material interests of the several provinces point to their union as an advantageous measure?
Secondly.—Is their financial condition such as to permit of this union being carried into practical effect at this moment, with justice to them all?
Thirdly.—Are the measures proposed in the resolutions before the House fair to each and to all?
Fourthly.—Is there a reason able prospect that the machinery through which these interests are proposed to be governed, will work smoothly and harmoniously?
Lastly.—Does the proposed system for the Government of the United Provinces appear likely to prove so expensive as to render it impossible for the people of Canada to consent to it?
In dealing with the first question, whether the material interests of the provinces will be promoted by their union, it may be well for me to offer, to the House some few remarks as to the resources of British North America. Possessing as we do, in the far western part of Canada, perhaps the most fertile wheat-growing tracts on this continent, in central and eastern Canada facilities for manufacturing such as cannot anywhere be surpassed, and in the eastern or Maritime Provinces an abundance of that most useful of all minerals, coal, as well as the most magnificent and valuable fisheries in the world; extending as this country does for two thousand miles, traversed by the finest navigable river in the world, we may well look forward to our future with hopeful anticipation of seeing the realization, not merely of what we have hitherto thought would be the commerce of Canada, great as that might become, but to the possession of Atlantic ports, which we shall help to build to a position equal to that of the chief cities of the American Union. (Hear.)
But it is not so much by the extent of a country that its power and real greatness are to be estimated, as by its containing within itself the elements of different interests, for it is in the diversity of employment that security is found against those sad reverses to which every country, depending mainly on one branch of industry, must always be liable. (Hear.) A most remarkable illustration of this has recently occurred in our own Mother Country. No one would have ventured to say, a few years ago, that England could have lost its immense cotton supply without having its system of commercial industry almost entirely overthrown, and having its people sunk into the deepest misery. Yet we have seen, within the last few years, the cotton supply cut off.
We have seen, it is true, a considerable portion of the people reduced to great want, but, at the same time, the wonderful diversity of employment which exists in the country opened new channels for the employment of the distressed operatives, and though there was great pressure for a time, it was only temporary in its operations; and at this moment, after a short pause, we see the industry of England greater than it was at the beginning of the American war. (Hear.) We may therefore rejoice that, in the proposed Union of the British North American Provinces, we shall obtain some security against those providential reverses to which, as long as we are dependent on one branch of industry as a purely agricultural country, we must always remain exposed. (Hear, hear.)
The resources of these great colonies, and the extent to which the industry and intelligence of their inhabitants have developed them, are most significantly shown in the Trade and Navigation Tables, which are in the possession of the public. I am afraid to weary the House by going at any length into statements relating to them, but I feel that in order to place the question of union fairly before the House and the country, I am called upon to glance, however briefly, at the position in which the trade and tonnage of each of the British North American Provinces at the present moment stands. The returns of the trade of Canada in 1863, taking exports and imports conjointly, show an aggregate of $87,795,000.
Taking the census of 1861, this trade represents thirty-five dollars per head of the population. The value of the import and export trade of New Brunswick, for the same year, reaches $16,729,680, amounting to sixty-six dollars per head of its population. The aggregate trade of Nova Scotia for the same period, amounted to $18, 622,359, or fifty-six dollars per head of its people. And in the case of Prince Edward Island, the import and export trade amounted to $3,055,568, representing thirty-seven dollars per head of the population of that colony. The value of the total trade of Newfoundland was $11,245,032, or eighty-six dollars per head. The whole of these figures represent an aggregate trade of all the provinces amounting to $137,447,567. Notwithstanding the large population and the very large amount represented by the trade of Canada, when it is divided par head it falls considerably short […]
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[…] of the trade of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, being a little more than half per head of the former, and not more than two-thirds of that of Nova Scotia. All the statistics to which I have had access show that the commercial and financial position of our sister colonies is such as to enable them creditably to seek an alliance with any country on earth; and it cannot be said that, in seeking or consenting to an alliance with Canada, they have any local, or sectional, or selfish object in view. (Hear, hear.)
Passing from trade, I will turn to another subject—the ship building and tonnage of those colonies—and will take the returns of 1863. In that year, the number of ships built in all those colonies was no less than 645, with a tonnage amounting to 219,763 tons. This statement of the enormous amount of tonnage built in one year is as good evidence as can be offered of the facilities we possess for becoming an important maritime power. The industry represented by those figures shows an export value of nearly nine million dollars! The sea-going tonnage of Canada, including that of the inland lakes, amounts to about nine million tons, a great portion of which, however, represents the tonnage of vessels performing coasting service, many of which frequently clear and arrive in the course of one day.
It is gratifying to know that the trade between Canada and the States on the other side of the lakes is of a nature to give employment to a large portion of this lake tonnage—amounting to 6,907,000 tons—but it cannot be classed in the same category as the tonnage arriving at Quebec and Montreal, which in most cases can make only two or three trips per annum. The sea-going tonnage of Canada amounted to 2,133,000 tons; of New Brunswick, 1,386,000; of Nova Scotia, 1,432,000 tons. Consequently the amount of sea-going tonnage, subject only to a small deduction, was actually about five million tons, of which about 2,133,000 was that of vessels trading between the St. Lawrence and foreign ports. In making this statement it is due to the House that it should be made aware that some portion of this trade will not be represented after the contemplated union has taken place. At present, the internal commerce between these colonies appears in the returns of each as imports and exports, but I should be glad if I were able to make on this account a large deduction from the figures I have given. It is matter for regret on the part of all of us that the trade between these colonies, subject all to the same Sovereign, connected with the same empire, has been so small.
Intercolonial trade has been, indeed, of the most insignificant character; we have looked far more to our commercial relations with the neighbouring—though a foreign country—than to the interchange of our own products, which would have retained the benefits of our trade within ourselves; hostile tariffs have interfered with the free interchange of the products of the labor of all the colonies, and one of the greatest and most immediate benefits to be derived from their union, will spring from the breaking down of these barriers and the opening up of the markets of all the provinces to the different industries of each. (Hear, hear.)
In this manner we may hope to supply Newfoundland and the great fishing districts of the Gulf, with the agricultural productions of Western Canada; we may hope to obtain from Nova Scotia our supply of coal; and the manufacturing industry of Lower Canada may hope to find more extensive outlets in supplying many of those articles which are now purchased in foreign markets. For instance, Newfoundland produces scarcely anything by agriculture, manufactures hardly an article of clothing, and a considerable trade may thus be expected to arise; while, instead of having payments made, as they are now, through Lombard street, they will be made through our own bankers in Montreal and elsewhere.
If we require to find an example of the benefits of free commercial intercourse, we need not look beyond the effects that have followed from the working of the Reciprocity Treaty with the United States. In one short year from the time when that treaty came into operation, our trade in the natural productions of the two countries swelled from less than $2,000,000 to upwards of $20,000,000 per annum, and now, when we are threatened with an interruption of that trade—when we have reason to fear that the action of the United States will prove hostile to the continuance of free commercial relations with this country, when we know that the consideration of this question is not grounded on just views of the material advantages resulting to each country but that the irritation connected with political events exercises a predominant influence over the minds of American statesmen, it is the duty of the House to provide, if possible, other outlets for our productions. If we have reason to fear that one door is about to be closed to our trade, it is the duty of the House to endeavour to open another; to provide against a coming evil of the kind feared by timely expansion in […]
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[…] another direction; to seek by free trade with our own fellow colonists for a continued and uninterrupted commerce which will not be liable to be disturbed at the capricious will of any foreign country. (Hear, hear.)
On this ground, therefore, we may well come to the conclusion that the union between these colonies is demanded alike on account of their extensive resources, and because of the peculiar position in which they stand relatively to each other, to Great Britain, and to the United States. All these are questions which fall within the province of the General Government, as proposed in the resolutions before the House, and whatever may be the doubts and fears of any one with respect to the details of the organization by which it is proposed to work the new system of Confederation, no one can doubt that the great interests of trade and commerce will be best promoted and developed by being entrusted to one central power, which will wield them in the common interest. (Hear, hear.)
I now come, Mr. Speaker, to the consideration of the second, and perhaps I may say the third division of my subject also—whether the material condition of these provinces is such as to make the union practicable, and whether the details of the measures proposed are equitable to each and to all. In considering this point, it is necessary for us first to review the liabilities of each province, the reasons why they were incurred, the objects which have been sought. In doing so, the House will not fail to remark that the same policy has animated the legislatures of all the provinces, or perhaps I should speak more exactly in saying those of Canada, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia.
The public debt of all these provinces has, with some slight exceptions, been incurred for public improvements, intended to develop the resources of the country, to attract immigration and wealth to their respective shores, to cheapen the means whereby the products of their farms were to be taken to market, and to reduce the cost of freight of articles which enter largely into the consumption of their inhabitants. Nor will anyone fail to observe the intimate connection which all these public works have with each other, a connection which singularly illustrates the natural union which exists between these several provinces.
If we consider the public improvements of Canada, her great canals intended to bring the trade of the vast countries bordering on the lakes down to the Gulf of St. Lawrence; if we look at the railway system forced upon us in our competition with American channels of trade, stretching from the extreme west to the extreme east of the province; and if we then look at the public works that have been undertaken in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, we find that, practically, they form parts of one great whole. It is through the St. Lawrence that the people of the Lower Provinces will send their fish, oils and other exports to the west, and it is through our canals and river that they will import the necessaries they require from the west. Through these canals and the river St. Lawrence, and along the railway systems of all the provinces, when hereafter connected, a great trade will flow in one uninterrupted stream, enriching in its course not only the cities of Canada, but also swelling the tide of a new commerce we may hope to see called into being in the open Atlantic ports of St. John and Halifax. (Hear, hear.)
I will now proceed, sir, briefly to lay before the House a statement of the present engagements of the several provinces, beginning with Canada. I find that our whole debt, exclusive of the Common School Fund, which does not form a portion of our engagements relatively to the Lower Provinces, amounts to $67,263,995. The debt of Nova Scotia is $4,858,547, and that of New Brunswick $5,702,991; and I may notice, with reference to the debts of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, that in the case of Nova Scotia a portion of their liabilities, to the amount of nearly half a million of dollars, consists of treasury notes, while the policy has been pursued both in that province and in New Brunswick of retaining in the hands of the Government the Savings Bank deposits of the people, which form, therefore, a part of the liabilities I have named to the extent of $1,167,000.
It must, therefore, be observed that the rate of interest on the debts of these two colonies is not, on the whole amount, higher than that which the bulk of the Canadian debt now bears. Newfoundland has only incurred liabilities to the extent of $946,000, bearing interest at five per cent., while Prince Edward Island owes $240,073. The total liabilities of those provinces are, therefore, $11,748,211, against the interest on which may be placed the net revenues of the railways which are the property of those provinces, and which produced last year a net amount of about $100,000. In addition to the existing liabilities of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, there are certain further engagements they have incurred for the extension of their railway system requiring future provision to the extent, in the case of Nova Scotia, of […]
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[…] $3,000,000, and in that of New Brunswick of $1,300,000.
It must be evident to the House that, in entering into such a partnership as is proposed, some common basis must be arrived at on which each province must enter into the Confederation. Taking all the engagements, present and future, of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, it was found that, relatively to their populations, they amounted to about 825 per head, and this amount, as applied to Canada, would entitle us to enter the union with a debt of $62,500,000. Some difficulty might have occurred in reducing our debt to this amount had it not been apparent, on examination, that a considerable portion of it was connected with local advances, such as the Municipal Loan Fund, which does not properly belong to the same category as debt contracted in connection with our system of public improvements, and the management of which is intended to be confided to the General Government, but rather partakes of a local character, and should more properly be left in the hands of the local legislatures.
It will therefore be found provided in the resolutions, that in assuming for itself, apart from the General Government, the surplus of debt of about five millions ($5,000,000), the Province of Canada became entitled to withdraw from the general assets all those items which were of a local character, and for which a portion of its debt had been incurred. Had not this means been adopted, it would have been necessary to permit all the Lower Provinces to increase their obligations beyond those for which their legislatures have hitherto had to provide, and bring in larger debts to the Confederation than they will now do, and a most unnecessary and prodigal expenditure of public money would have been the consequence. It was wise, then, to confine the liabilities of the General Government simply to those debts which had been incurred for purposes of general improvement, and to provide locally, in this country, for the assumption of the surplus, together with the assets which had been created by it.
Antoine-Aimé Dorion [Hochelaga]—Do the $67,263,995, stated as the debt of Canada, include the original seigniorial indemnity given to Upper and Lower Canada, under the Act of 1854?
Alexander T. Galt [Sherbrooke, Minister of Finance]—Yes; that amount does include the indemnity, and among the arrangements contemplated by the Government, assuming that Confederation does take place, they will submit, for the consideration of this House, a project for the assumption by Lower Canada of the seigniorial indemnity provided by the Act of 1859, whereby it will be rendered unnecessary to give an equivalent indemnity to Upper Canada, thus saving upwards of three millions of dollars. (Hear, hear.)
I would desire again, Mr. Speaker, to refer to the position of the Lower Provinces, and to call the attention of the House to the fact that both in the case of Newfoundland and in that of Prince Edward Island, their liabilities are very much less in proportion to the population than those of the three larger provinces; and in order to permit of their entering into the union upon fair terms, it was necessary to provide that they should be allowed to receive from the general exchequer a sum equal to the interest upon the amount of debt which they had not been obliged to contract. By this means provision was in fact made for the maintenance of their local governments, while at the same time a cause of future complaint was removed. (Hear, hear.)
It now becomes my duty to submit to the House a statement of the resources which the several provinces propose to bring into the common stock, and I may add that for the purpose of this statement being more readily verified, the financial returns of 1863 have been taken as the standard. From these returns it would appear that the income and expenditure of the several provinces stood in that year as follows: Nova Scotia, with a population of 338,857, had an income of $1,185,629, her outlay being $1,072,274; New Brunswick, with a population of 252,047, had an income of $894,836, and an outlay of $884,613; Newfoundland, with a population of 130,000, had an income of $480,000, the outlay being $479,420; Prince Edward Island, with a population of 80,000, had an income of $197,384, the outlay being $171,718. The total revenue of all these colonies amounted to $2,763,004, and the total expenditure to $2,608,025—the united surplus over expenditure for 1863 being $154,979.
It will be observed that as regards these provinces their income and expenditure are such that they will enter the Confederation with a financial position in no respect inferior to that of Canada. If an objection were made with respect to any province in regard to its financial position, it would be against Canada. The Lower Provinces have been and are now in a position to meet, from their taxation, all their expenses, and cannot be regarded as bringing any burden to the people of Canada. It is not necessary for me to say anything in reference to the financial position of Canada in 1863, but it must be gratifying to the House to know that the deficiency […]
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[…] which unfortunately existed during that year was removed in 1864, and that, therefore, we are not obliged now to propose to enter the Confederation in an inferior position, in this respect, to that of our sister colonies. (Hear, hear.)
The revenues of each of these provinces are, as the House is well aware, collected under different systems of taxation, suited to the local industry and the wants of their several populations. It is, therefore, manifest that one of the first duties of the General Legislature will be to consider the modes by which the burden of taxation can be most easily borne by the industry of the whole country, and to assimilate the several sources of revenue which are now in existence in such manner as will least interfere with the profitable exercise of the industry of the people.
It would be entirely out of place for me, sir, to attempt on this occasion to indicate what the policy of the General Government may be, but one thing must be evident to all, and that is, that where the taxation is about equal per head, the adjustment of it cannot be attended with any injustice to the people of any of the several provinces. Reductions may be made in our customs, on the one hand; and, perhaps, on the other, some portions of our commerce may be relieved from the exactions to which they are now subjected. Apart from the advantages which will manifestly flow from the free trade which will hereafter exist between us, it must be clear to every member of the House that the credit of each and all the provinces will be greatly advanced by a union of their resources. A larger fund will be available as security to the public creditor, larger industries will be subjected to the action of the Legislature for the maintenance of public credit, and we will also see removed some of those apprehensions which have latterly affected the public credit of this country. (Hear, hear.)
It must be evident, for it is proved by the fluctuating quotations of the securities of these provinces in London that the apprehension of war with the United States—which has, unfortunately, affected the prices of Canadian bonds—has not to the same extent effected those of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, which are less exposed to hostile attack; and we may therefore hope that the union, while it affords us greater resources, will, at the same time, carry with it a greater sense of security. (Hear, hear.)
I must now enquire whether the proposed system of general and local governments, as regards the interests to which I have already alluded, is likely to work beneficially; and this brings me to the consideration of the question of the means that will be at the disposal of the general and local governments. It must be admitted that having the power of taxation in their own hands, it will be the fault of the General Legislature if any embarrassment is felt in meeting the expenditure of the General Government. Before, however, passing to the consideration of the means at the disposal of the local governments, I would take this opportunity of replying to the honourable member for Hochelaga [Antoine-Aimé Dorion], in reference to the export duty on timber in New Brunswick, and the royalty in Nova Scotia on the produce of the mines. This has arisen from the circumstance that in the former province it was found both expensive and inconvenient to attempt to levy their timber dues in the forest, and they therefore adopted the plan of causing them to be paid in the form of an export duty upon the clearances of vessels at the custom house.
If, therefore, provision had not been made for securing to New Brunswick the payment of these dues, that province would have been deprived of the large amount which its territorial timber contributes to the revenue, and the General Legislature would have been required to increase the proposed grant to that province by an amount equal to those dues—somewhere about $90,000 per annum. In the case of Nova Scotia—not possessing any public lands or timber to any extent—her territorial revenue is almost wholly derived from her mines, and collected in the form of royalty. Her representatives at the Conference pointed out that if the policy of the General Government should be to impose an export duty on her coal, it would virtually oblige her either to relinquish the royalty, which now forms a large source of her revenue, or submit to be placed in a most disadvantageous position in competing in the American markets with the coal of that country. For these reasons an exception was made in the case of both of these provinces, such as has been alluded to by the honourable member. (Hear, hear.) In the case of Newfoundland, an arrangement has been made whereby the whole of the territorial rights of that colony have been ceded to the General Government, and I will take the opportunity, when adverting to the means of supporting the Local Government of that colony, to explain the manner and the consideration for which these rights were so ceded. (Hear.)
I now propose, sir, to refer to the means which will be at the disposal of the several local governments to enable them to administer […]
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[…] the various matters of public policy which it is proposed to entrust to them, and it is evident that unless ample provision is made in the arrangements, great danger will arise that the machinery whereby the local wants of the people are intended to be met will speedily become impaired, causing complaint on the part of the inhabitants of the respective localities, and involving considerable danger to the whole machinery of government. (Hear, hear.) In the case of Canada it will be remembered that the sum of nearly five millions of the public debt has to be borne by Upper and Lower Canada. It will hereafter be for the House to decide how this sum shall be apportioned, but the probability is that the Government will recommend that it shall be divided on the basis of population. (Hear, hear.)
It must be remembered that Canada will have at its disposal a large amount of the local assets, including especially the sums due to the municipal loan fund, which will produce an income for the support of their local institutions. As a matter of account between Upper and Lower Canada and the General Government, they will be charged with the interest on their respective proportions of the five millions against the subsidy which it is proposed shall be given to them, while they themselves will collect from the municipalities and other local sources all the revenue and amounts which now enter into the general revenue of the Province of Canada. The question of the sub-division of the local assets of Canada is not, however, before the House. What we have now to consider is whether the bargain as between Canada as a whole and the Lower Provinces ought to be assented to. If it be assented to the question will arise, how shall we deal with the local matters between Upper and Lower Canada? and a proposition will be brought down which I hope and believe will satisfy both sections, and do them substantial justice.
Antoine-Aimé Dorion [Hochelaga]—Will Lower Canada be charged with the municipal loan fund, the seigniorial indemnity, and the educational indemnity?
Alexander T. Galt [Sherbrooke, Minister of Finance]—I must repeat that, no matter what views the Government may have on the distribution of the liabilities as between Upper and Lower Canada, they will be susceptible of alteration in any way the House may see fit, this being a matter solely of local arrangement, and in no respect involving the agreement entered into with the other provinces; but I must point out that, as regards the original seigniorial indemnity and the municipal loan, they are both included in the sixty-seven millions already stated as the liabilities of Canada, and cannot, therefore, form any additional charge against Lower Canada. (Hear, hear.)
Indeed, as regards the Municipal Loan Fund, instead of being stated as a liability, it appears that the sums due under it are, in connection with the question as I now view it, to be regarded in the light of assets, because we are considering now the sums received as assets by Lower Canada. The Municipal Loan Fund being one of them, the sums due to it under the existing provincial arrangements will become payable as an asset to that section of the province. (Hear.)
It will be observed that in the plan proposed there are certain sources of local revenue reserved to the Local Governments, arising from territorial domain, lands, mines, etc. In the case of Canada, a large sum will be received from these resources, but it may be that some of them, such as the Municipal Loan Fund, will become exhausted in course of time. We may, however, place just confidence in the development of our resources, and repose in the belief that we shall find in our territorial domain, our valuable mines and our fertile lands, additional sources of revenue far beyond the requirements of the public service.
If, nevertheless, the local revenues become inadequate, it will be necessary for the local governments to resort to direct taxation; and I do not hesitate to say that one of the wisest provisions in the proposed Constitution, and that which affords the surest guarantee that the people will take a healthy interest in their own affairs and see that no extravagance is committed by those placed in power over them, is to be found in the fact that those who are called upon to administer public affairs will feel, when they resort to direct taxation, that a solemn responsibility rests upon them, and that that responsibility will be exacted by the people in the most peremptory manner. (Hear, hear.)
If the men in power find that they are required, by means of direct taxation, to procure the funds necessary to administer the local affairs, for which abundant provision is made in the scheme, they will pause before they enter upon any career of extravagance. Indeed, I do not hesitate to say, that if the public men of these provinces were sufficiently educated to understand their own interests in the true light of the principles of political economy, it would be found better now to substitute direct taxation for some of the indirect modes by which taxation, has been imposed upon the industry […]
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[…] of the people. (Hear, hear.)
I do not, however, believe that at this moment it is possible, nor do I think the people of this country would support any government in adopting this measure unless it were forced upon them by the pressure of an overwhelming necessity—the necessity of providing, by extraordinary means, against dangers by which the peace, happiness and prosperity of the country may be threatened, in fact, by some of those great disturbing causes which are frequently the beginning of the most important financial changes. (Hear, hear.) The local revenue of Upper Canada during the last four years has averaged the sum of $739,000, and that of Lower Canada, $557,239; together they amount to nearly $1,300,000, independent of the eighty cents per head which it is proposed to allow the local governments out of the general exchequer, for the purpose of meeting their local expenditures.
These local expenditures include such items as the administration of justice, the support of education, grants to literary and scientific societies, hospitals and charities, and such other matters as cannot be regarded as devolving upon the General Government. The whole charge, exclusive of the expenses of local government and legislation, on an average of the last four years, has in Lower Canada amounted to $997,000, and in Upper Canada to $1,024,622 per annum. In addition to these sums, will have now to be added such amounts as may be required to meet the cost of the Civil Government of the country and of the Legislation for local purposes. It may be difficult to form any reliable estimate of the sums required for this purpose, but when the House considers that, according to the statements given of the expenditure during the last four years, there will be available in the whole Province of Canada the sum of no less than $1,043,015, it must, I think, be admitted that if those charged with the administration of local affairs in Upper and Lower Canada exceed this amount they will be guilty of a degree of profligacy and extravagance for which a speedy remedy will be found by the people. (Hear, hear.)
With reference to the Lower Provinces, the delegates from them to the Conference were asked what reductions they could make in the existing cost of the government of their several colonies, and the figures I am about to give will be found most satisfactory, as showing their disposition to reduce their requirements to the lowest possible sum. In the case of Nova Scotia, the estimate of outlay in 1864 for objects of a local character required an expenditure of no less than $667,000. Some portion of this expenditure was for services that did not require again to be performed, but it is gratifying to observe that they have undertaken to perform the whole service in future for $371,000. (Hear, hear.)
In the case of New Brunswick, in 1864 the estimated expenditure was $404,000, which they have undertaken to reduce to $353,000, and at the same time they have further undertaken within ten years to make an additional reduction of $63,000, thus reducing the whole expenditure in the future to $290,000. (Hear, hear.) Prince Edward Island, with an expenditure of $124,000, proposes to perform the same local duties that formerly required $170,000; and in Newfoundland an outlay of $479,000 has been similarly reduced to $350,000. (Cheers.)
The House must now, sir, consider the means whereby these local expenditures have to be met. I have already explained that, in the case of Canada, and also in that of the Lower Provinces, certain sources of revenue are set aside as being of a purely local character and available to meet the local expenditure; but I have been obliged in my explanations with regard to Canada to advert to the fact that it is contemplated to give a subsidy of 80 cents per head to each of the Provinces. In transferring to the General Government all the large sources of revenue, and in placing in their hand with a single exception, that of direct taxation, all the means whereby the industry of the people may be made to contribute to the wants of the state, it must be evident to every one that some portion of the resources thus placed at the disposal of the General Government must in some form or other be available to supply the hiatus that would otherwise take place between the sources of local revenue and the demands of local expenditure.
The members of the Conference considered this question with the most earnest desire to reduce to the lowest possible limits the sum that was thus required, and I think the figures that I have already given to the House afford the best possible evidence that no disposition existed, at any rate on the part of our friends from the Lower Provinces, to take from the public exchequer one shilling more than the necessities of their respective communities absolutely demanded. (Hear, hear.)
In the ease of Canada, perhaps it will be said that a smaller sum would have met our immediate wants, but it was felt that it would be impossible to justify any distinction being drawn between subjects of the same […]
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[…] country. And if in Canada we receive perhaps a somewhat larger amount than we absolutely require, it ought rather to be a subject of gratification to this House that it will possess the means of giving greater encouragement to our educational system, and greater development to those interests which are peculiarly entrusted to the charge of the local governments, and this, too, without making any greater demand than is at this time made upon the resources of the people. (Hear, hear.) A subsidy of 80 cents per head was provided, based upon the population according, to the census of 1861.
The amount, if taken upon the basis of the present population, would undoubtedly be considerably less; and it must be observed that the agreement does not contemplate any future extension of this amount. It is hoped that being in itself fixed and permanent in its character, the local governments will see the importance—I may say the necessity—of their exercising a rigid and proper control over the expenditure of their several provinces. We thus obtain one of the greatest securities that can be offered to us that those influences which, in such a Legislature as we now possess in Canada, are brought to bear for the purpose of swelling the public expenditure, will not exist in the local legislatures, but will meet with such a resistance, from the mere fact of the inability of the local governments to obey them, as to produce a very considerable saving in the general expense of the whole country. (Hear, hear.)
I have now, Mr. Speaker, only to advert to the last question which I have stated is necessary to be decided on the present occasion; and that is, whether under the proposed Confederation such additional expenses will be incurred as to render it undesirable. In considering this point, I must state that in my opinion the question of expense alone is by no means a fair criterion by which to judge the advantages of a measure such as that now before the House. If it be looked at in its most restricted sense, the only point in which additional expense can be incurred, must be that of the simple cost of governing the country. In no other way that I am able to see, can there be additional expense charged upon the people; and looking at it in this point of view, we may well doubt whether the aggregate charge will be greater for the General Government, caring for the general interests of the whole, and for the local governments, attending merely to the local business of each section, we may well doubt, I say, whether that expense will be greater, in any considerable degree, than that which is required for our Government under the present system. (Hear, hear.)
On the one hand we shall be free from the empty parade of small Courts entailed by our present system on each of these provinces, keeping up a pretence of regal show when the reality is wanting; we shall have the legislation of the General Government restricted to those great questions which may properly occupy the attention of the first men in the country; we shall not have our time frittered away in considering the merits of petty local bills, and therefore we may reasonably hope that the expenses of the General Legislature will be considerably less than even those of the Legislature of Canada at the present moment,—while, on the other hand, the local legislatures having to deal rather with municipal than great general questions, will be able to dispose of them in a manner more satisfactory to the people, and at infinitely less expanse than now.
I believe, therefore, the simple cost of the Government of the country will not be in reality any greater under the new than under the old system: but there are other items of expenditure for great public objects, the absence of which from the estimates of any country is an indication rather of weakness and of dependence than a subject that ought to form a source of satisfaction. If such items are not now found in the public expenditure, either of Canada or the Lower Provinces, it is the best proof that could be given that our position is one of inferiority, and that we do not possess either the power or the means to undertake such works as make such items necessary.
Let me give one or two points as examples of my meaning; and first I will instance the great question of defence—(hear, hear)—the absence of items of expenditure for which can only be an indication that we are lacking in one of the chief elements of national greatness, that we do not properly value the institutions under which we live, and that we are not willing to make the sacrifices that every free people must make if they are desirous of preserving them. The same argument applies to public works, in connection with which it might be said that great advantage would arise from large expenditure; but with limited resources and an undeveloped territory it might be impossible for any small country to undertake the necessary outlay. Many works of this kind are not directly productive of revenue, although indirectly of the utmost advantage, and if the resources of a country generally cannot […]
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[…] be applied to that outlay, the absence of such expenditure ought to be a subject of regret in the community, and not of rejoicing. (Hear, hear.)
In this view let us look at the immense extent of territory that stretches away west of Upper Canada. The reason why we have not been able to assume possession of that territory and open it up to the industry of the youth of this country who, in consequence of the want of some such field for the employment of their energies, have been obliged to go off to the States in thousands, especially to those states possessing the boundless resources of the great North-West, is because these sources of Canada—great as they have been, considering the disadvantages under which she has laboured—have been inadequate for the development of this great district. Now, one of the resolutions of the scheme before the House refers to this same question, and I believe that one of the first acts of the General Government of the United Provinces will be to enter into public obligations for the purpose of opening up and developing that vast region, and of making it a source of strength instead of a burden to us and to the Mother Country also. (Hear, hear.)
Looking, however, to the whole question of expense, I must say that if the benefits of Confederation are to be weighed against the loss of three or four hundred thousand dollars, the House had better carefully consider whether the people of this country will not accept the former at such comparatively trifling cost—whether they will not feel that a union with a million of their fellow colonists is worth much more to them than any small pecuniary question of this kind that may arise. (Hear, hear.)
I trust the House will not permit the question to be judged of in a small, contracted manner. I trust it will keep in view the desire the country manifests for the utmost possible development of its resources. Let us endeavour by this measure to afford a better opening than we now possess for the industry and intelligence of the people. Let us seek by this scheme to give them higher and worthier objects of ambition. Let us not reject the scheme with the bright prospect it offers of a nobler future for our youth, and grander objects for the emulation of our public men. Let us not refuse it on small questions of detail, but judge it on its general merits. Let us not lose sight of the great advantages which union offers because there may be some small matters which, as individuals, we may not like. Let us trust that this machinery, however faulty it may be, will yet under Providence open up for this country a happy career; while at the same time the House must not forget that it will for ever remove the great, and crying evils and dissensions which have existed in Canada for the last ten years, and which have threatened to plunge the country into the most disastrous and lamentable state of discord and confusion. (Cheers.)
Surely this last fact alone will commend the project to the House. It should induce the Legislature and the people to make every allowance for the men who have been engaged in the work, and lead them to approach the result of their labours as now submitted, not in a hypercritical spirit so that the public mind may be led astray on mere matters of detail. Let the House frankly and kindly look at it as a great measure brought down for the purpose of relieving the country from distress and depression, and give it that consideration which is due, not to the arguments of the Government, feeble as they may be in view of the great interests involved, but to the fact that the country desires and cries for, at the hands of the House, some measure whereby its internal prosperity, peace and happiness may be developed and maintained. (Loud cheers.)
On motion of George Brown [Oxford South, President Executive Council], the debate was then adjourned.
 Canadian–American Reciprocity Treaty of 1854 (Elgin-Marcy Treaty). The treaty expired in 1866.