Province of Canada, Legislative Assembly, Parliamentary Debates on the Subject of the Confederation of the British North America Provinces, 8th Parl, 3rd Sess, (10 March 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 893-962.
Other formats: Click here to view the original document (PDF).
FRIDAY, March 10, 1865.
On the Order, for resuming the debate upon the motion “That the question be now put” upon the Resolutions relating to Confederation, being called—
Hon. Mr. Holton rose to a point of order, objecting that the “previous question” was in the nature of an amendment, and that no member could move an amendment to his own motion.
After some discussion,
Mr. Speaker decided as follows:—“The original motion, made by the Hon. Attorney General for Upper Canada [Hon. J.A. Macdonald], is that the House should concur in certain resolutions relating to a Federal union of the provinces. Debate having arisen thereon, the Hon. Attorney General for Upper Canada [Hon. J.A. Macdonald] moves, not in amendment in my opinion, ‘that that question be now put.’ The substance of an amendment is to alter the original question. Does this motion alter the original question? So far from that, it is a proposal to bring that question before the House for immediate decision. The authorities cited to show that this motion is an amendment sustain the contrary view in my judgment, because they only state that the previous question is ‘ in the nature of an amendment.’ If it were really an amendment, or were to be used as an amendment it would be stated that it was in fact an amendment. The motion to adjourn is also spoken of as being in the nature of an amendment, but it is not an amendment, and like ‘The previous question,’ does not displace the original proposition, if carried. Hence I conclude that ‘The previous question’ is not an amendment. The objection that the Hon. Attorney General for Upper Canada [Hon. J.A. Macdonald] cannot move it, on account of having proposed the original motion, in my opinion is not valid.”
Mr. Taschereau said—It is not without hesitation, Mr. Speaker, that I rise at this late period of the debate to offer a few observations on the measure before us—the plan of Confederation of the British North American Provinces; and my hesitation is the greater that I am under the necessity, not only of speaking on a question which has been so long and skilfully discussed, that it would appear almost impossible to say anything which may interest hon. members, but also and more especially that after long and deliberate consideration—after carefully weighing the gist and tendency of these resolutions, and tracing out the effects which cannot fail, I believe, to result from the measure of which they are the exponents—I feel myself bound, Mr. Speaker, to abandon, on this question, those with whom I have always acted hitherto, to differ in opinion from those whose talents and judgment I have never ceased to admire, and to record my vote against the new Constitution which is proposed to us in those resolutions. (Hear! hear! from the left.)
It could not fail to be to me a particular cause of regret that I felt compelled to come to this conclusion. I could not understand that this measure was a simple party matter—one of those questions on which those party feelings which have prevailed in Canada so many years ought to influence anybody. I could not conceive how, in considering a question which, in my opinion, imperils all that we hold most dear, and opens to us, if it is carried, the prospect of a future, dark with clouds, portending evil not only to us Lower Canadians, but perhaps no less to all British North America—I could not conceive, I say, how I could be unmindful of my convictions, and lay aside my fears and the sense of duty which binds me here, to yield blind obedience and submission to the influence of political party. I thought myself at liberty to think […]
- (p. 894)
[…] for myself, even on so important a question; and I am persuaded that if there are members of this House who consider themselves authorized to doubt the sanity of those who do not always think as they do, they are not in a majority here.
For my own part, Mr. Speaker, I respect every man’s opinion. I am willing to allow all who are so disposed to think differently from me, and do not, on that account, hold them to be either prejudiced or dishonest; on the contrary, I am willing to believe that they act according to their convictions, and with perfect good faith. I desire that others will judge me in the same manner, and that those from whom I am now dissentient on the subject of the resolutions in your hand, Mr. Speaker, will believe, at least, that I too am acting in this matter according to my honest convictions and with good faith; that I, too, am animated by love for my country and my nationality; that I, too, have at heart the preservation of that nationality and those institutions which have been transmitted to us by our fathers, as the reward of so many struggles and sacrifices. (Hear, hear.)
At this advanced stage of the debate, it is not my intention to combat or discuss all the arguments which have been urged in favor of Confederation. I must, however, observe that I have not been convinced by the hon. gentlemen who have spoken before me, that the Constitution offered to us embodies guarantees sufficient to protect our rights. I am of opinion, therefore, that the vote which I shall give against Confederation would be given by a large majority of my constituents, and a large majority of the people of Lower Canada; and my opinion on this subject is so firmly grounded, that I should despise myself if, for the sake of not separating from my party, I were to vote for Confederation, my convictions being so strong and so sincere. (Hear, hear.)
We were taught to believe, till within the last two or three days, that the most ample discussion of the question would be allowed; but, by the moving of the previous question, the face of things has undergone a change. This House, and all Lower Canada, supposed that before being called upon to vote on the main question, we should have had an opportunity of obtaining an expression of the opinion of the people. I am persuaded that if, after a full and complete discussion to the measure in this House, the people were called upon for their opinion, they would be more decidedly opposed to Confederation than they ever were to any measure. (Hear.) Unfortunately, as the previous question has been moved, we must vote on the resolutions as they stand, without being able even to move amendments which might render them less objectionable to the country.
I now come to the appeal to the people. Well, I maintain that in voting to change the constitution of the Government, without consulting the people on the subject, the members of this House are exceeding their powers; and that even if the people were in favor of Confederation, they ought not to pass it, as they are now about to do, without special authority. (Hear, hear.) The hon. member for South Lanark (Mr. Morris) has told us that this is no new question—that it has been for a long time a subject of discussion—that the people understood it thoroughly, and that the members of this House were privileged to vote on it without referring it to their constituents. I am quite aware that much has been written on the subject of the Confederation of the provinces; but has the question ever been discussed before the people at elections? I am fully convinced and perfectly certain this question was never brought up at any election, nor the question of any Confederation at all. It has never been laid before the people, and the people have never expressed an opinion on the subject. (Hear, hear.)
It appears to me that the amendment which is to be moved by the hon. member for Peel (Hon. J. H. Cameron), after the present resolutions have been voted by the House, will be in a singular position. (Hear, hear) I have understood the explanations given by the Honorable Attorney General for Upper Canada (Hon. J. A. Macdonald), relative to the resolution of the honorable member for Peel [Hon. J.H. Cameron]—that the resolutions before the House would be passed first, and that afterwards, when the House went into committee, the hon. member for Peel [Hon. J.H. Cameron] would move his amendment, namely, “that the House will vote the Address to Her Majesty this evening, in order that the Government may despatch it to England to-morrow, if they please, and that on Monday afternoon the hon. member for Peel [Hon. J.H. Cameron] will come and move an Address to His Excellency, praying that he will refer these resolutions to the people.” (Hear, hear.) I confess that I do not understand how the members of this […]
- (p. 895)
[…] House, who are in favor of the appeal to the people, can vote for Confederation after the previous question has been decided, any more than I can understand how the hon. member for Peel [Hon. J.H. Cameron] can move the appeal to the people after the resolutions have been passed. The hon. member has said that he would endeavor to move his resolutions before the Address is presented to His Excellency, or before it is referred to a committee of the whole House; but I think I understood likewise that the Hon. Attorney General for Upper Canada [Hon. J.A. Macdonald] will not allow this, and has said that the hon. member for Peel [Hon. J.H. Cameron] is not entitled to do so. (Hear, hear.) I am not alone in feeling the apprehensions which I have expressed relative to the new Constitution intended for us.
A member of this House, who wrote, now a long time since, on the subject of Confederation, has allowed us to see indistinctly that the resolutions as presented to us did not afford sufficient guarantees to settle all our sectional difficulties at once. The honorable member for Montmorency [Hon. Mr. Cauchon] could not, in his pamphlet written in 1865, avoid saying as follows:—
But, nevertheless, it is clearly evident that concurrent legislation is full of danger for the future; that is plainly laid down even in the clause that we are now discussing, since, to obviate it, central legislation has invariably been made to predominate over local legislation. Will it be possible to avoid the points of contact likely to be produced by concurrent legislation, or to define them with such precision that these conflicts would be impossible, or nearly so? Without harmony the system would be worth nothing, and would soon destroy itself; and the harmony of the system cannot be found exclusively in the predominant power of the Government and of the Federal Parliament. It is necessary that this harmony should also exist in the inferior machinery, and be felt throughout the whole system.
And afterwards, in the same chapter, he adds:—
In fact, will not the elements upon which the local institutions will be based, be reproduced in all their vivacity in the Government and in the Federal Parliament? And this local power which it has been their object to compress will react dangerously on the whole system. At one time it may be Lower Canada that will be punishing its Ministry and its members for having wounded Lower Canadian feelings and striking at its interest; and another time it may be Upper Canada, or perhaps the Atlantic Provinces, that may make similar complaints. This should not be, and to avoid it our eminent statesmen must put their head together to find a better solution to the problem.
While the hon. member for Montmorency [Hon. Mr. Cauchon] was writing that article, he naturally saw that Confederation would have some very complicated parts in its machinery, and that the difficulties which might occur would not be easily surmounted—that the resolutions would need to be amended. That was, no doubt, the opinion of the hon. member for Montmorency [Hon. Mr. Cauchon] when he wrote those articles, but since he has found that the Ministry are resolved not to allow any amendment of the resolutions, the honorable member has thought it better to take them as they art, with all their imperfections, than to risk losing Confederation altogether. (Hear, hear.)
I believe, Mr. Speaker that we needed a remedy for the constitutional difficulties in which we were involved, but I believe also that the remedy proposed would be worse than the disease sought to be cured. (Hear, hear.) I believe that the country has suffered from those difficulties, but on the other hand I see in Confederation internal strife in the local legislatures, not to speak of that strife which will infallibly spring up at an early day between the federal and the local legislatures. (Hear, hear.)
It is evident that the federal will never be able to satisfy the local legislatures. In Lower Canada, for instance, we shall have a pretty strong party—the English party, Protestants, who will carry their complaints to the Federal Government, just as, in Upper Canada, they made complaints relative to representation based on population, and that party being a minority in Lower Canada, will seek a remedy for their evils, real or imaginary, at the hands of the Federal Government. Moreover, we shall have constant contests and sectional heart-burnings between the local legislatures themselves, on all those subjects on which their interests may come into collision. (Hear, hear.)
Let us suppose, for instance, that the Legislature of Lower Canada should make some perfectly just demand, something to which that province is clearly entitled, and that the representatives of Upper Canada and the Maritime Provinces should combine to hinder it from obtaining its demand—would the Lower Canadians be well satisfied with such treatment? And this might easily happen. The hon. member for Vaudreuil (Mr. Harwood) has spoken in pompous language of the prosperous future which awaits us under Confederation. To hear him we are not only to have coal mines, […]
- (p. 896)
[…] but lakes of gold at our disposal. I think the honorable member’s figures of rhetoric have carried him rather too far; and I sincerely believe that instead of that prosperous and happy future foreseen by him, we are preparing for ourselves a state of things which will cause us to repent in ten years of what we are now doing. I believe that we are commencing Confederation ten years too soon. (Hear, hear.) We should have an Intercolonial Railway at least five or six years before thinking of Confederation.
At present we are as much strangers to New Brunswick and Nova Scotia as we were previous to last autumn. We may perhaps know them a little better than we did before we began to discuss Confederation; and we ought, in the first place, to establish easy methods of communication between those provinces and ourselves, as a means of bringing about Confederation at some future day, if it be practicable. I say that the Intercolonial Railway ought first to be built, and that Confederation might be put off even several years after that. (Hear, hear.) Article 41 of the resolutions before us says as follows:—
The Local Government and Legislature of each province shall be constructed in such manner as the existing Legislature of each such province shall provide.
If I understand that article right, the local constitution of Lower Canada will be settled by the present Legislature; just as in New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, &c, the present legislatures will decide on the constitution of their legislatures under Confederation. Very well; but in that case Upper Canada will give us a constitution, as we may give her one. The effect of that clause will be, that in order to the organization of its local constitution, Lower Canada will stand with 47 French-Canadian votes, against 83 votes of members of other origins. We shall therefore not stand on the same footing as New Brunswick or Nova Scotia in this respect; the difference will be very great. (Hear, hear.) We have only 47 French-Canadian votes out of 130, and we could not count on Upper Canadian members for the safety of our interests—either local or religious—whereas they would have the support of all the English and Protestant members from Lower Canada. (Hear.)
And in Confederation the English minority of Lower Canada will not make common cause with the French-Canadian party, but, on the contrary, with the Upper Canadian party; for they will look to Upper Canada for protection. (Hear, hear.) We are told that all our interests and institutions are protected, and that the clergy are in favor of Confederation. I, for my own part, have seen no proof of the truth of that assertion; I believe that the clergy have not made any display of their opinions on this question. I am moreover convinced that those of that body who have considered the question, have looked upon it as fraught with danger for us—as pregnant with evils, the development of which may be grievous to us as a nation hereafter. Another part of the resolutions which we should not adopt without consideration, is that contained in the 34th article of clause 29. It reads as follows:—
The General Parliament shall have power to make laws for the establishment of a General Court of Appeal for the Federated Provinces.
We have a guarantee that we are to have our own local tribunals, chat our judges will be taken from the bar of Lower Canada, and that our civil laws will be maintained. Why then establish a Federal Court of Appeals, in which appeals will lie from the decisions of all our judges? We are told, it is true, by the Hon. Minister of Finance [Hon. Mr. Galt], that the resolutions did not create a Court of Appeals, but only gave the Federal Parliament the power to create it. But what difference is there between creating the court forthwith and granting a right to create it hereafter? The principle is the same.
If the Government may lawfully create such a court, no one can prevent the Federal Government from establishing it whenever they think fit. Would this tribunal be an advantage to us French-Canadians, who are so attached to our civil code? It will be composed of judges from all the provinces—from New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Upper Canada, &c.; and notwithstanding the talents and the learning of all those judges, we Lower Canadians cannot hope to find the same justice from such a tribunal as we should receive from one consisting of judges from Lower Canada; for our laws being different from the laws of those provinces, they will not be able to understand and appreciate them as Lower Canadians would. (Hear, hear.)
And, moreover, when this new Court of Appeals is instituted, the appeal to England will not be abolished, so that we shall have one more means of producing delay and increasing the costs of suitors. Lower Canadians will […]
- (p. 897)
[…] assuredly be less satisfied with the decisions of a Federal Court of Appeals than with those of Her Majesty’s Privy Council. In good truth, I do not see why this clause was imposed upon our delegates. I do not suppose that the delegates of the other provinces can have very strongly insisted on it; but even if they had, I do not see why ours submitted to it. Of course our laws would not be understood in such a court, and most of the judges would render their decisions according to principles of jurisprudence unknown to Lower Canada. I am convinced that those Lower Canadian members who are in favor of Confederation are not in favor of a legislative union; but have they not read the speech made at Toronto by the Hon. President of the Council (Hon. Mr. Brown)? And did they not hear that of the honorable member for South Leeds (Mr. Ford Jones), and the speeches of the members from Upper Canada generally, who nearly all spoke in favor of a legislative union, declaring that they accept Confederation as an instalment—a first step—towards a legislative union, which we shall have in a few years?
It is not necessary for me to discuss, on this occasion, the advantages or disadvantages of a legislative union, for all the members are perfectly well acquainted with the question; but I am well convinced that the Confederation will be converted into a legislative union in a few years. I believe that the Hon. Minister of Finance [Hon. Mr. Galt] and the hon. member for South Leeds [Mr. Ford Jones] were sincere in saying that, and that they were perfectly convinced of its truth. (Hear, hear.) It has been said, as a reason for hurrying on the passing of the measure that if we wish for Confederation, now is the time to obtain it; that if we wait another year it will be too late; that the Lower Provinces are ready for Confederation, and that England is disposed to grant us a new Constitution. I believe that the Lower Provinces have proved to be a little slack in fulfilling their engagements, and that the policy of the Government might therefore, with great safety, undergo some modification. (Hear, hear.) But if we must absolutely have Confederation, if there is no getting on without it, why was not an appeal made to the people last autumn, when the scheme was quite prepared? (Hear, hear.)
For my part, I think that the want of the measure of Confederation is not so urgent as it is said to be, and that time should be taken to mature the plan Does anybody believe that the question of Confederation would have been thought of if the Taché-Macdonald Ministry had not been overthrown last summer? No; we should not have heard a word about it. (Hear, hear) So that Confederation was not so very pressing at that time! And if they want of it was so little felt in the Constitutional Committee appointed last year at the instance of the hon. member for South Oxford (Hon. Mr. Brown), that many members who this day vote themselves, and induce others to vote for Confederation, thought themselves authorized to oppose it then, and to vote against any proposition of the kind, I think that it is not so needful to unite us by Confederation as we are told it is. I believe that if the adoption of the measure is urged forward so anxiously, it is only because there is fear of public opinion being roused to examine it, and fear especially of its not being accepted hereafter, when the people have pronounced upon it. (Hear, hear.)
And, I repeat, I believe in my heart, if the Government had not been overthrown on the 14th June last, we should never have heard a word about Confederation this year. (Hear, hear.) As I said when I commenced speaking, I will not discuss every question connected with this scheme, because the House must be tired of such a long discussion. I am bound, however, to declare again, that all the reasons hitherto alleged in favor of Confederation, and all the magnificent pictures presented to our view of the prosperity we are to enjoy under its auspices, have entirely failed to convince me that it is our bounden duty to adopt the resolutions laid before us; and notwithstanding the eloquent speech made to us yesterday by the hon. member for Vaudreuil (Mr. Harwood), I cannot say, as he does, that our posterity will be grateful to us for having opened the way for them to become members of the great empire of the Provinces of British North America.
I shall say, on the contrary, what will be soon found out that this Confederation is the ruin of our nationality in Lower Canada—that on the day when Confederation is voted, a death-blow will have been dealt on our nationality, which was beginning to take root in the soil of British North America. (Hear, hear.) Our children, far from feeling grateful for what we are now doing, will say that we made a great mistake when we imposed Confederation on them. (Cheers.)
Mr. A.M. Smith—Mr. Speaker, I […]
- (p. 898)
[…] cannot permit the vote to be taken on this important measure, without placing on record some of the reasons which induce me to give it my support, and to show why, to some extent, I have changed my views on a few of the leading details of the scheme. When, sir, the people of the first commercial city in Western Canada elected me to represent them on the floor of this House, I publicly stated that by every legitimate means I would oppose the construction of a railroad between Canada and the Lower Provinces—then, as I do now, believing that in a commercial point of view, that Intercolonial road would never pay, nor be even beneficial to Upper Canada. But at the same time, sir, I pledged myself to urge upon the Ministers of the Crown and this House the vast importance to the country of an enlargement of our canals and the extension of our canal system. Since then, Mr. Speaker, our political and commercial positions are very much changed. (Hear, hear.)
Threatened with the abrogation of the Reciprocity treaty, a very serious loss will be entailed on Canada—if the threat be carried into execution—without any advantage accruing to the United States. Indeed, from the nature of our commercial relations with the United States—the natural result of a trade fostered and carried on between the United States and Canada for years—the abrogation of the Reciprocity treaty cannot be otherwise than attended with great distress and serious loss to the business men of this country. In addition to this, sir, we are threatened with the abrogation of the bonding system. Surely this is much to be deplored. To every thinking mind a resort to such measures must seem absurd, and what could induce a people so thoroughly commercial as the people of the United States, to desire the abrogation of a treaty which, while it benefits us by permitting the transit of goods through their territory, also benefits them largely by increasing their carrying trade, and fosters an immense trade in the purchase of goods of all descriptions in bond—I must declare my inability thoroughly to understand.
But, however strange, Mr. Speaker, all this may seem to us, angry men, it must be admitted, frequently do indulge in strange antics, and it need not surprise us that a nation plunged in all the horrors of civil war should, under the excitement of some real or fancied wrong, do the same thing; as has been exemplified in the adoption of the despotic system of passports, the abrogation of the Reciprocity treaty, and the annulling of the treaty for the extradition of criminals.
Yet, Mr. Speaker, I cannot believe that the United States will abrogate either the one or the other, and I do not believe that the great and high-minded and honorable men who control the moneyed institutions of the United States will permit it. But, sir, it is only right on our part to do the next best, and only thing we can, to protect ourselves from the loss and inconvenience to our trade in winter, and that is, to build the Intercolonial Railroad—for we must have a highway to the ocean at all seasons for our mails and otter merchandise. But, Mr. Speaker, while I admit that I have changed my mind with regard to the Intercolonial Railroad in voting for the scheme in which it is a prominent measure, I am more and more convinced of the paramount necessity of immediately setting about the enlargement of our canals.
We hear of schemes to connect the Georgian Bay with Ottawa by way of the French River route and the Trent route, and sir, perhaps the only practicable and shortest route via Toronto and Lake Simcoe; but all these only divert attention from what really can and ought to be done, at a very trifling cost in comparison with any other scheme—I mean the enlargement of the canals we now have. (Hear, hear.) We have now nine feet of water in the St. Lawrence canals, and ten feet in the Well and, and the cost of increasing the depth of those canals to twelve feet, I am told by men competent to judge, would be trifling indeed—probably not over two or three millions of dollars.
But if it cost as many pounds, I contend that it would not really cost the country one cent. If the toll of one cent per bushel on grain outward and a proportionate rate on inward merchandise were enacted, the canals would not only be self-sustaining, but would become a source of revenue to the provinces. Take for instance, what I believe a small estimate, one hundred millions of bushels outward, and an equal amount inward for other merchandise, and you would have a revenue of two millions of dollars—a sum more than sufficient to pay interest and working expenses. Then, Mr. Speaker, see the impetus it would give to our inland shipping trade, if we could—and we could then do so—attract to the St. Lawrence route the immense grain crops of the Great West. I might also refer, Mr. Speaker, to the ship-building suited to the wants of our country, and the immense advantage […]
- (p. 899)
[…] shippers of grain would have if their vessels proceeded to sea without the ruinous delay of transhipment, and the mixing and destroying of property round the wharves and storehouses at the different points at which grain, under the present system, has to be transhipped. I only wish I had the eloquence of the Hon. Attorney General West [Hon. J.A. Macdonald]; with the little practical knowledge I have of those things, I think I would be able to interest both western and eastern members alike on the necessity of improving, and at once, this great and vital avenue to our future prosperity. (Hear, hear.) Now, sir, with regard to our defences; while I do not object to some expenditure to please the English people if you choose; I am of opinion our best defence is to cultivate with the United States friendly commercial and political relations, and then, sir, I do not fear that if we do what is right, they will do us any wrong. Sound and honorable conduct on our part is of more strength than all the forts of masonry or earthwork that we shall ever see. (Hear, hear.)
Mr. Speaker, the prompt and manly course that our Government has pursued with regard to the Alien Bill, and calling out a portion of our volunteers to repress raiding and piracy, will entitle them to the gratitude of every right-minded man in this country. Sir, had they commenced to build forts and arm ships, instead of the manly and honorable course which they did pursue, they would, in my opinion, have found use for their volunteers and their forts too; while I hope that in a very short time they will not require either. (Hear, hear.)
I wish now to say a few words about this great Confederation, from which so much is expected, commercially and politically. I am of opinion that the advantages will be very evenly divided—they taking our grain and flour, while we buy their fish and oil. We will have an open market for our manufactures with them, and they will have the same for theirs with us, so that it is a mere matter of who gives most. But at present the Maritime Provinces import from the United States flour and grain, if I am correct, to the amount of three or four millions of dollars’ worth per annum, which our political and more intimate relations would in a more or less degree attract to Canada; and I have no doubt our merchants would know how to turn those advantages to account.
Mr. Speaker, these are some of the reasons why I gave this Confederation scheme my hearty support, believing that the honorable gentlemen who have brought this treaty before this House have no other motive, and can have no other motive, but the promotion of the best interests of this our adopted land. (Hear, hear.) I think the scheme as proposed is, as near as it can be, fair to all the provinces Before I close, I would just say a word with reference to the course pursued by my respected and honorable colleague from Toronto West (Mr. J. Macdonald).
I have no hesitation in saying that I am confident that he is sincere in his opposition, and he may be right; twit I am not so sure that he represents the wishes of his constituents. I attended a large and influential meeting of the citizens of the city of Toronto before the meeting of this House, and a gentleman there proposed that the scheme should not be carried into effect until it was referred to the people, but he could not get even a seconder to his resolution. For myself, I feel justified by the result of that meeting in supporting this scheme throughout. The meeting was extensively advertised—all had an opportunity to attend, and both sides of the question were ably argued. I shall record my vote for the scheme, and shall be happy to see it carried into early consummation. (Cheers.)
Mr. Shanly said—In rising to address the House on the great question under debate, it is not my intention to go minutely into the subject; for after all that has been said, and the great length to which the debate has dragged on, I cannot expect to be able to fix the attention of my hearers for very long, even were the subject one to which I could speak authoritatively, instead of being, as it is, one that the ablest and most statesmanlike among us must in a great measure accept upon faith—trusting to the future to developed the excellences claimed for it on the one hand, or to establish the faults that are charged on it on the other. But though I do not pretend to be able to say anything new on the subject, or to throw any light on the uncertain future that lies before us, still I would be unwilling that in, perhaps, the most important division ever taken in a Colonial Legislature, my vote should be recorded without my first stating some, at all events, of the reasons that actuate me in voting as I intend to vote. One feature has been strikingly observable in the debate, and that is, that from first to […]
- (p. 900)
[…] last, as far as it has yet gone, no new thing has been offered or suggested. The programme of Confederation stands now exactly as it was presented in a quasi-private form to the representatives of the people of this country some four months ago. The promoters of the scheme have added nothing to, taken nothing from the original bill of fare, and they have as good as told us, frankly and squarely, that they would add nothing to, take nothing from it if they could. The opponents of the project on the other hand, while giving it a sweeping condemnation, offer nothing, suggest nothing to replace that which they so summarily reject. Nothing is easier than to find fault with other men’s work; it is a talent that we all possess, and that few of us ever think to hide under a bushel. For myself, though in favor of the scheme, being equally at a loss with other honorable members to say anything new upon it, I, too, will have to turn to my fault-finding instincts in the first instance.
The honorable member for Montreal Centre (Hon. Mr. Rose) has said in his able speech that if we could not improve on the project, we should forbear to find fault with it. I do not agree with him. On the contrary, I conceive that even though approving of the resolutions as a whole, it is the duty of members speaking to the question to point out and place on record the faults that strike them as likely to require correction by and by. And first of all—coming to discuss Confederation from my own standpoint—I would say that I have long looked forward to the time when the whole, of the British North American Provinces would be united under one stable government; believing, as I always have believed ever since I came to know this country well, that we possess all the elements, in natural resources and endowments, and in distinctive geographical position, to form the ground-work of a power on this continent. I feared, nevertheless, when the project was foreshadowed here last year that the time was not yet full for bringing about the desired combination. I feared that the almost total separation, political and social, which had heretofore existed between ourselves and the provinces below, might possibly cause a premature union to result in permanent estrangement. It appeared to me that we should first have cultivated social and commercial relations with our kindred on the seaboard before uniting, for better for wise, in a political alliance.
These were the views which I took of the Confederation project when it was so suddenly sprung upon us at the close of last session; and I confess that I still entertain grave apprehensions that we may be about to come together upon too short an acquaintance, before we have an opportunity of knowing one another, and learning to adapt ourselves the one to the other. In this consists my broad and general objection, not to the principle of Confederation, but to the hastiness with which it is sought to be carried out—threatening, as I fear, to mar our destiny in striving to overtake it? To the details of the scheme itself I hold one strong and marked objection, which I desire to record, though I know that this is not the time or place for remedying defective details. I allude to the Federal feature of the project. I own to a rooted dislike, if not to the Federal principle or Federal theory, at all events to the practical results of the working of the system; and Dither the warm eulogium which the Hon. President of the Council (Hon. Mr. Brown) has passed upon the system as illustrated by its working in the United States, nor the milder defence of the system pronounced by my hon. friend the Hon. Minister of Agriculture (Hon. Mr. McGee), has served to clothe it in other than most distasteful colors in my sight.
However the Federal system of government may have tended to promote the material growth of the United States—and it would not be safe to assert that such a country, with such a people, would have failed to attain to early greatness under any form of free government—however, I repeat, the Federal form of government may have promoted the material progress of the United States, it does not seem to me to have elevated, politically speaking at all events, the moral standard of the people of the United States. One most marked and evil result of the system has been to produce politicians rather than statesmen—swarms of the former to a very limited proportion of the latter; and I would much fear, if we are to see Canada redevised, that the petty parliaments of the separated provinces will prove to be but preparatory schools for that class of politicians who take to politics as to a trade, and whose after-presence in the greater Assembly—to which they would all aspire—would serve to depress the standard of political worth, to lower the tone of political morality, which we might hope to see prevail in a Confederated Parliament of British North America under a purely legislative […]
- (p. 901)
[…] union, which is the description of union into which I trust to see the present imperfect Constitution, or proposed Constitution, eventually merge. For the reasons stated I have looked upon this Federal scheme of union with dislike and distrust. But the promoters of the scheme, most of whom, it must be admitted, have appeared here rather as its apologists than as its upholders, tell us that it is a necessity of circumstances, an unavoidable consequence of difference in language, laws and local interests between Upper and Lower Canada on the one part, and an absence of community of local interests between us here in Canada and the Maritime Provinces on the other hand. The latter part of the argument is undoubtedly correct; but, admitting the whole of the premises, for argument sake, the other question naturally suggests itself: Is Confederation, even in the faulty form in which it is laid before us, to be accepted as a likely remedy for the evils under which we now labor in Canada, and as a possible antidote against the greater evils which threaten us in the near future?
I would answer that question in my own way, and from my own point of view by and by; meanwhile I would ask to be permitted to say a word in respect of the financial phase of the Confederation project; and upon that point I feel it difficult to agree with my hon. friend the Hon. Finance Minister [Hon. Mr. Galt], in assuming that the joint expenses of the two local governments here in Canada may be kept so much below what we are now paying for our single form of government, as to leave a wide margin towards defraying, if not wholly to cover, our proportion of the expenses of the General Government. I can hardly venture to take such a couleur-de-rose view of our position as that. I will not weary the House with estimates and figures, which, after all, can be but problematical and conjectural; but I would venture to predict that under our new condition of existence, with its quasi national obligations, our expenditure must increase largely beyond the present limits that we have hitherto been accustomed to.
I believe that to be an inevitable result of the Confederation; but I also believe that there is a future looming upon us—Confederation or no Confederation—which will involve us in duties and responsibilities which we must not shirk—which, in fact, we cannot shirk if we would. The signs of the times are not to be mistaken, and I fear we have an expensive future before us for some time to come. But if, in bringing about a union of all these provinces, we were in reality laying the sure foundation of social, commercial, and political prosperity—if we felt that in reality we were laying the ground-work, as it were, of a new nation on this continent—we might justly, along with the great benefits we bequeath to posterity—benefits which we, in our generation, cannot hope to enjoy in thankfulness—bequeath to them also the financial burden which would seem to be the ordained and inevitable accompaniment of progressive nationality. And if I felt assured in my own mind that this measure of Confederation, faulty as it is, promised even a fair chance for successfully solving a great political difficulty, I for one would not fear to take my share of the responsibility of increasing the expenses of government and adding to the debt of the country. I have alluded to the expenses attendant on Confederation as being, to a certain extent, conjectural and problematical; but there is one item of its cost which is not of that character.
The Intercolonial Railway is a vital part of the Confederation project—the latter could have no useful, practical existence without the former. As a commercial undertaking, the Intercolonial Railway presents no attractions, it offers no material for a flattering prospectus; we could not invite tout the attention of European capitalists as presenting an eligible investment for their surplus funds. But for the establishing of those intimate social and commercial relations indispensable to political unity between ourselves and the sister provinces, the railway is a necessity. It will, therefore, have to be undertaken and paid for purely as a national work, and it is right that the people of Canada should know and understand in the outset what the probable addition to our public debt would be in connection with the 68th resolution.
I do not think the proportion of the cost of the railway falling to the share of Canada can be much short of what we have already given towards the construction of the Grand Trunk Railway—at all events from twelve to fourteen millions of dollars. If it shall come about that the sense of the people is to be taken on the Confederation question, the Intercolonial Railway feature in the plan will prove the most difficult to reconcile the people to, and especially the people of Upper Canada. In my own constituency—and I […]
- (p. 902)
[…] may venture to assert that there are not many honorable members in the House stronger in their constituencies than I am—if I were to come before my electors purely on the Confederation issue, and as the advocate of Confederacy, I know that denunciation of the 68th resolution would be a tower of strength in the hands of any anti-Confederate opponent who might choose to measure swords with me in the electoral field; but I would be prepared to face that difficulty, and in the fullest confidence that I could do so successfully and triumphantly, if satisfied that I could—and I think I could—show to my people that the scheme of Confederation, even with the Intercolonial Railway in separately interwoven in its web, is essential to our existence as a British people. (Hear, hear.)
Reverting to the objectionable features I have alluded to in the resolutions before us, I have asked myself this question—Is Confederation, as offered to us, faulty, as the plan may be likely to work well for the future of the country? Is it likely to prove a satisfactory solution of the very grave political difficulties that beset us? It would be in vain to attempt to conceal from ourselves that Canada is at this moment approaching the most critical period of her hitherto existence. Threatened with aggression from without, we are not in a gratifying condition of prosperity within, let blue-books and census returns say what they will to the contrary. Great any momentous events are transpiring just beyond our frontier—events which have already seriously and injuriously affected us commercially, and which must inevitably, in some way or other, affect us politically. A people until recently devoted only to industrial pursuits and the development of their country, have suddenly expanded into a great military power. To use their own expression, the Americans are “making history very fast,” and it is impossible that that eventful history can be manufactured in a territory separated from our own by little more than an imaginary line, without our having eventually some part in its pages, for good or for evil.
In fact we cannot con calf rom ourselves that some great change is impending over the destinies of our country—a change that will present itself to us in some form or other, and that before long, without its being in our power to avert, though it may be in our power to shape it. There is fast growing up in England a feeling of want of confidence in Canada. We see it in the tone of the press, in the parliamentary debates and elsewhere. We are told that we are giving more trouble to the Mother Country than we are worth. A similar feeling of want of confidence, amounting almost to contempt, has always prevailed towards us in the United States. The ignorance of everything relating to Canada—of our political and social condition—of our resources and our commerce—our growth and our progress—that exists among our kindred across the border, cannot fail to have surprised those who have mingled much among them, and if not altogether creditable to them is certainly very humiliating to us; but, great as the ignorance is there, it is fully equalled by that which exists with respect to Canada, and all pertaining to Canada, among our nearer and dearer kindred in the old world. What can we do to remedy this unfortunate and humiliating state of things?
What can we do to inspire confidence in us abroad; to command respect; to defy contempt? These appear to me to be the practical questions with which we have to deal. We are plainly told by England that we must rely more upon our own resources in the future than we have done in the past, and it is right and just we should do so. It appears to me that there are just three states of political existence possible for us here, when we emerge from the chrysalis-form in which we have hitherto existed. First, there is the attempt to stand alone as a separate nationality on this continent—that is one alternative. Secondly, there is the prospect held out to us in the resolutions—namely, a union of all the British North American Colonies, under the flag of England, becoming more and more every year a homogeneous British people, and building up a consolidated British power on this continent.
The last and inevitable alternative, if we reject the other two, is exactly that stated by my honorable friend from South Lanark (Mr. Morris)—absorption into the United States. It is in vain to shut our eyes to that fact, or that the time is at hand when we will have to make our selection. I know that the latter alternative—and I can speak from as thorough an acquaintance with the wants, feelings and wishes of the people of Canada as any honorable gentleman in this House possesses—would be most distasteful to the great mass of the people of this country. (Loud cheers.) To myself personally, it would be so distasteful that it […]
- (p. 903)
[…] would amount to a sentence of expatriation, rupturing the ties and associations of a quarter of a century. (Hear, hear.)
When my honorable friend the Hon. Attorney General for Upper Canada [Hon. J.A. Macdonald] introduced the resolutions to the House, he gave us to understand that the question, or the details of the question, were scarcely to be considered as open for debate. He told us plainly and squarely that the project must be viewed as a treaty already sealed and signed between the contracting parties, and would have to be accepted as a whole or rejected as a whole. I felt the force of the situation then, and when the same honorable gentleman came down here a few days since, and, in reference to the new phase of difficulty resulting from the turn taken by the elections in New Brunswick, announced that prompt and vigorous action was necessary, in a somewhat different direction from that originally contemplated, I felt the force of the situation even more fully than at first. (Hear, hear.)
And I would here ask to be allowed to digress a moment from the main question. I wish to take this opportunity of saying that I never had more than a sort of a half-confidence in the Government as now constituted. When the leaders of the Conservative party, with whom I have always acted, saw fit last year to make certain political combinations which, even they must admit, astonished and startled the country—combinations resulting in the present Coalition Ministry—I claimed that I and every member of the Conservative party, in this House or out of it, who chose to dissent from the course adopted by our leaders, had a right to hold ourselves absolved from all party ties and obligations whatever. I claimed then as I claim now, that from thenceforward I owed no political allegiance, no party fealty, to any man or anybody of men on the floor of this House. In electing to adopt for myself the anomalous and hybrid position of an “independent member,” I knew full well that it was to “burn my ship”—to cast away from me all chances of political advancement; but I never had political aspirations that warred with my own notions of political honor and consistency, or with my love of personal independence.
But when great changes in our political relations are taking place; when all feel, as I believe all do feel, that a great and momentous event is impending; when, under such circumstances, my hon. friend the Honorable Attorney General for Upper Canada [Hon. J.A. Macdonald] announces, as he has done, in a frank, bold, manly and statesmanlike manner, prompt and vigorous policy on the part of the Government in dealing with an unlooked-for difficulty—I allude to the difficulty growing out of the New Brunswick elections—I will tell that hon. gentleman that he and his colleagues may now—and always when boldly grappling with the political emergencies of the country—count on a cordial, earnest and admiring support from me. (Hear, hear.)
Without further discussion or debate, I cast my vote for and my lot with the Confederation, and this I do in the fullest confidence and belief that, however faulty may be certain of the details of the scheme, and however awkward it may be to work out some of its provisions successfully, the resources of the people of these provinces, their innate adaptation for self-government, will be found fully equal to overcoming all the difficulties and obstacles that may beset their path. I fully believe that the faults which I now object to in the plan of Confederation will, like the diseases incident to childhood, grow out of our system as we advance in political strength and stature, and that when another decade has passed over us we will be found a strong, united British people, ready and able, in peace or in war, to hold our own upon this continent. (Cheers.)
[Original Editor’s Note: It being six o’clock, the Speaker left the chair.]
After the recess,
Mr. Shanly, resuming his remarks, said—
Before the House rose, I had expressed my belief that the people of this country would be found equal to any emergency that might arise in working out the Constitution embraced in the resolutions, and would prove themselves capable of altering or amending it until it worked effectually and well for the benefit of the whole country. And in making the choice which I know the people of this country will make—as between annexation to the United States and connection with Great Britain—as between republicanism and monarchy—as between Canada our country, or Canada our state—I believe they will be choosing that which will best advance the material prospects, and best ensure the future happiness and greatness of the country. If we were to be absorbed into the republic, and become a state of the union, that would in no way relieve us of the great undertakings that are before us for the improvement and development […]
- (p. 904)
[…] of our resources. We would still have a large debt on our hands, of which, unaided, we would have to bear the burden; our canals and other public works would be treated, not as national, but as state enterprises, and the expense of enlarging or extending them would have to be charged upon a diminished revenue, for nearly the whole of the revenue we now raise from customs and excise would go, not to the improvement of this state of Canada, but would be poured into the coffers of the General Government at Washington.
I cannot understand how any patriotic Canadian, even of those who regard political matters from a material point of view only, can advocate annexation to the United States. I believe there are many persons in Canada who, though entertaining feelings of true loyalty to the Crown of England, imagine that in some way or other—they cannot exactly tell how—annexation would bring about an extraordinary and sudden state of prosperity. I differ entirely, even in the material and practical points of view, from the theorists and visionaries who entertain so face a conviction. How, I would ask, is this country, with diminished means at its command, to be enabled to carry out those great works through which alone it could hope to become great, but the ways and means for constructing or improving which still puzzle our financiers?
I have always been of opinion, since I first came to ponder carefully the future of Canada, that that future does not depend so much upon our lands as upon our waters. The land—the terra firma—of Canada is not inviting to those who have tilled the soil of Great Britain or explored the vast fertile plains to the west of Lake Michigan. Our country is just on a par with the northern part of the State of New York, and with the States of Vermont and New Hampshire in respect of climatic conditions and conditions of soil. But we possess one immense advantage over those countries, an advantage which gives us a distinctive position on this continent—the possession of the noble river which flows at our feet. It is through that river and our great chain of inland waters that the destiny of this country is to be worked out. But we cannot fulfil our destiny—or the destiny of this country rather—by standing idle in the market place; by, as one honorable member has suggested, doing nothing to improve our natural highways or create artificial ones, trusting to fortune or to Providence for the development of our resources. I believe that we have a high and honorable destiny before us, but that it has to be worked out by hard toil and large expenditure; and we certainly would not be in a better condition to work it out were we to be united to a country that would at once absorb four-fifths of the revenue on which we now depend for our very existence.
The improvement of our internal navigation is the first great undertaking we should consider, whether for commercial purposes or for purposes of defence. And as regards the promoting of our commercial interest in the improvement of our navigation, what advantage, I would ask, could we expect to gain by becoming a state of the American union? There is not one of the seaboard states but would be in every way interested in diverting the western trade from our auto their own channels, and in endeavoring to obstruct the improvements calculated to attract that trade to the St. Lawrence. The Western States, doubtless, would have interests in common with us, but they are not in a position to render us material aid for the construction of our works, being themselves borrowers for the means of carrying out their own internal improvements. I believe, then, that even from a material point of view, every unprejudiced thinker must admit that our future prosperity and importance lie in preserving our individuality, and in making the most of our heritage for our own special advancement. (Hear, hear.)
I feel quite certain that nine-tenths of the people of Canada would not be deterred from taking their chance as a nation through the fear that they may someday have to strike a blow in defence of their country; and of all else, whether of reality or of sentiment, that should be dear to a brave and loyal people. We stand here the envied possessors of, take it all in all, the greatest river in the world; the keepers of one of the great portals to the Atlantic; and I trust that Canadians will never be found to yield possession of their heritage till wrested from them by force! And that must be a force, they may rest assured, not merely sufficient to over-match the people of these provinces, but all the power of the Empire besides. (Hear, hear.)
Now, though I have said I would not enter into details, I must claim the attention of the House for a few moments longer, while I touch upon one very important point. I refer to the 69th resolution, foreshadowing the colonizing by Canada, and at the expense of Canada, […]
- (p. 905)
[…] of the North-West territory. There is not in this House one hon. member who appreciates more fully than I do the great natural resources and great future value of that territory; but I am not of that clash of sanguine and visionary politicians who would risk losing all by grasping too much, and in the vast dominion extending from Lake Superior to the shores of Newfoundland, the Confederacy will have ample scope for the energy and enterprise of her people for a long time to come. The North-West territory, from its geographical position as regards us, is very difficult of access. A broad tract of barren and inhospitable country intervenes between Lake Superior and the fertile plains of the Red River and the Saskatchewan, which for seven months out of the twelve are, in fact, wholly inaccessible to us save through a foreign country, rendering it next to impossible for us alone to effect close connection with and colonization of that country. We cannot jump all at once from the position of colonists to that of colonizers. That great territory can only be developed, colonized and preserved to us by the exercise of that fostering care which the Empire has ever bestowed upon her colonies in their infancy.
The Hon. President of the Council (Hon. Mr. Brown), in the course of the debate, said he hoped to see the day when our young men would go forth from among us to settle the North-West territory. I harbor no such wish. On the contrary, one of the fondest hopes I cherish as a result of Confederation is, that it will so attract capital and enterprise to the provinces, so tend to developed our internal resources, as to offer to the youth of the country a field for the exercise of that laudable energy and ambition which now cause so many of them to leave their own hearths and cast their lot with strangers. One of the greatest ills that Canada now suffers from is, that the young men born and brought up in her midst look abroad for their future, and bestow their energies and talents on another land; and, although an immigrant myself, I know and admit that a man born and brought up here is worth any two immigrants for the arduous task of clearing and settling what remains to us of the public domain. I hope and trust that the Confederation of the Provinces will create sufficient inducements to keep the young men of the country at home. (Hear, hear.)
It is in that hope that I support the measure. I trust at the same time that the great North-West territory will be preserved to our flag, and that, fostered by tie Mother Country, it will in time become great and populous, and finally extend the British American nation to the shores of the Pacific. It would be unfair, at this late stage of the debate, to enter further into details. I promised that I would not do so. With details, indeed, it has all along appeared to me we had little to do now. If the project as a whole be good, surely means will be found, as we go on, to remedy objectionable details. With all its defects—and I admit there are many defects—there never was a written Constitution but had its defects—I feel confident that the general design set forth in the resolutions meets with the approval of a large majority of the people of Canada at all events; and it would be an insult to the sound common sense of a people that have so long proved themselves capable of judging for themselves and of governing themselves, to suppose them incapable of adjusting, from time to time, as occasion arises, the minor details or defects of a system of government to which they have resolved on according a fair trial. (Hear, hear.)
And now, Mr. Speaker, what I had to say on this important subject of Confederation I have said. I promised that I would not weary the House by entering into details; I trust that I have not done so; but I may be permitted to express a hope—a hope founded in a deep and abiding belief—that the people of these provinces are and will prove themselves equal to face great undertaking that is before them; that aided by all the commercial power of Britain in time of peace, by all her military and maritime power in war, should war unhappily come about, we will show to the world that we are not unworthy scions of the noble races of which we come, but that we are competent to successfully work out to a great end the task that is intrusted to us—the noblest and worthiest task that can be intrusted to an intelligent and enlightened people—that of making for themselves a name and a place among the nations of the earth; that of building up—to borrow a quotation aptly introduced into his able speech by my hon. friend from South Lanark [Mr. Morris] —a quotation from the speech of a renowned British statesman, when speaking on a great colonial question—that of building up “one of those great monuments with which England marks the records of her deeds—not pyramids and obelisks, but states and commonwealths, […]
- (p. 906)
[…] whose history shall be written in her language?” (Cheers.)
Mr. Scoble—If I were to consult my own feelings or my convenience, Mr. Speaker, I should certainly not rise at this advanced period of the debate, to offer any observations on the great question which has now been so long under discussion; but having somewhat altered the opinions that I entertained of the scheme submitted to the House by the Government, I feel it necessary to make a few remarks in explanation and vindication of the vote I intend to give. In approaching the consideration of the question, I shall divest myself, as far as possible, of all party predilections, of all personal preferences, and of all sectional jealousies, and shall endeavor to discuss it upon its merits, fairly and impartially—first, with reference to the great difficulties which unhappily exist between Upper and Lower Canada; and, secondly, in relation to the proposed union of the British North American Provinces for purposes and objects common to them all.
These branches of the main question, or rather these two questions, are not necessarily connected, and may, therefore, be discussed separately; for it is possible we may not be able immediately to secure the union of the provinces, and in that case we shall still have to deal with the difficulties of our own position, and try, if possible, to find a satisfactory solution for them. (Hear, hear.) And first, sir, with reference to the difficulties which have so long distracted and disturbed us, and which hitherto we have in vain attempted to remove. If we may believe the hon. member for Brome (Mr. Dunkin), whom I regret to see is not in his place, the difficulties to which I have referred are imaginary, not real. He told us, in his elaborate and exhaustive speech, that in Lower Canada the Catholic and non-Catholic, the English and French-speaking populations, were living in the most entire harmony with each other; and this statement was confirmed by the honorable and learned gentleman the Hon. Atty. Gen. East (Hon. Mr. Cartier), who declared that so great was that harmony, that he enjoyed the confidence not only of the Catholic, but the Protestant section of the community, and in fact represented them both. Now, sir, I am not disposed to question the fact proclaimed by these honorable gentlemen; on the contrary, I fully believe it, and ascribe the circumstance to their having common objects to pursue, and common interested to maintain. (Hear, hear.)
But the hon. member for Brome [Mr. Dunkin] went further. He affected to believe that no difficulties of any moment existed between Upper and Lower Canada, and that any dissatisfaction that had been manifested by the upper section of the province, might be easily removed without resorting to an organic change in our present Constitution. At least, so I understood the hon. gentleman. On this point I am at issue with him, for I believe those difficulties to be of a most formidable character, and that they threaten at no distant day, unless they be adjusted, the peace and the prosperity of the province—perhaps its disintegration—perhaps its annexation to the United States. Every lover of his country must deprecate such results, and ought to strive to prevent them, or either of them. The House and the country will sustain me in the view I take of the danger of our position, and consequently of the importance of the measure now under consideration, as one means to removing it. (Hear, hear.)
If, sir, we can ascertain the true cause of our difficulties, we shall not have to seek far or long for their remedy. In what do they originate? Some tell us in difference of nationality, of religious creed, of civil institutions, and of language. I am not disposed to ignore these, or to deny that they may be made to play a conspicuous part in the non-settlement of sectional questions; but I utterly deny that they are the cause of our difficulties. Take the question of nationality, for instance. Those among us who are of French extraction may be justly proud of their ancestry of their traditions, and of their history. They can boast of the mighty empire which those of kindred blood with themselves have founded in Europe, and of the vast influence which it exerts over the civilization and politics of the world; but as they are no longer subject to France, but are within the allegiance of the British Crown, and enjoy all the franchises of British freemen, it appears to me that the question of French nationality disappears, whilst that of origin only remains; and that now the only nationality that can be recognized among us is a British nationality, unless indeed we are prepared to sever our connection with the parent state, commence a new nationality of our own, or merge our political existence in the neighboring republic. But who, sir, […]
- (p. 907)
[…] among us is prepared for either of these alternatives? Am I to suppose that the people of this province of French origin are less loyal to the British Crown than those of Anglo-Saxon descent? Am I to believe that were the opportunity afforded them, they would reunite themselves with France? These questions, I am assured, they will answer indignantly in the negative. At all events, of this I am satisfied, and I believe they are satisfied, that under no government in the world can they enjoy so large an amount of civil, political and religious liberty as under British sway.
The Scotch have their history and their traditions as well as the French, but where is the Scotchman now that is not proud of his alliance with England, or that would wish to dissever the connection, though thereby he might regain his parliament or his king? I believe that every enlightened French-Canadian is of the same opinion, whatever hot-blooded and harebrained demagogues may assert to the contrary. (Hear, hear.) Take the question of religious creeds. These are said to present an insurmountable obstacle in the way of the settlement of our sectional difficulty. If, sir, we had established in this province a non-Catholic or Protestant creed, to which all would be required to subscribe, or if not to subscribe, at least to support by compulsory taxation, then, sir, I could conceive that difference of religious opinion might operate in the way alleged; but as among us the most complete religious liberty is enjoyed—yes, a larger amount of religious liberty than Catholic Christians are allowed in France—I can see no valid ground for the supposition that they would suffer in this respect, or that they ever had the shadow of a reason to fear that in doing an act of justice to Upper Canadians they would be doing injustice to themselves. (Hear, hear.)
We are, all of us, too much and too deeply interested in the question of religious liberty, to trespass on the rights of conscience, or to allow of state interference in matters of such transcendent importance as our relations to the Divine Being, and the service and worship we owe to Him. Differing as we do in our creed and modes of worship, religious equality is necessary to the peace and good order of government, as well as to the life of religion itself among the people. We thus become the guardians of the most precious of all liberties, the right to worship God according to the dictates of our conscience, without let or hindrance from each other or the state. (Hear, hear.)
But it is said that the civil institutions of Lower Canada would suffer, were Upper Canada allowed a representation in the Legislature and the Government in proportion to its population. I marvel, sir, much that such a difficulty as this should ever have been started. It is well known that the policy of Great Britain has ever been of the most liberal and comprehensive character in relation to matters of this kind. Trace her history in connection with her conquest in any part of the world; and when, except with the consent of the people, has she imposed upon them the body of her statute laws? Her Constitution and her common law of right belong to the peoples subjected to her sway, and these are the guardians of personal and public liberty; but beyond these she allows the largest freedom in respect of customs, the peculiar institutions, and the administration of civil justice throughout the length and breadth of her dominions. However desirable the assimilation of the laws between Upper and Lower Canada may be, uniformity would be purchased at too dear a rate, if it led to dissatisfaction among any considerable class of the people. Time may accomplish what force might destroy. As an Englishman, whilst I believe our laws, in the main, as well as our whole judicial system, are the best in the world, I do not believe either the one or the other to be perfect.
To improve them by importing into them whatever is more excellent in other systems, is the dictate of common sense, and will always have my hearty concurrence. The institutions of Lower Canada are perfectly safe in the keeping of Lower Canadians, for practically nothing could be gained by Upper Canadians in changing them, supposing they had the power to do so, which they neither have no desire to have. (Hear, hear.) And then, sir, with respect to language, I can hardly suppose Lower Canadians serious when they imagine that any desire exists to destroy the use among them of their mother-tongue. It may do well enough to excite a prejudice among ignorant people to say so, but surely among those that are intelligent it can have no effect. It remains with French-Canadians themselves to determine whether they will abandon the use of their native tongue, and adopt ours, or not. They are free to use either, or both, at pleasure.
If, sir, in Lower Canada the English are […]
- (p. 908)
[…] compelled to learn the French language for business purposes and for social intercourse, and in Upper Canada the French are compelled to learn English for similar purposes, surely that need not be a subject for regret to the one or to the other, inasmuch as both will gain by it. And this further advantage will accrue to those skilled in both languages: they will have access to the literature, the philosophy and the skier cue of the two foremost nations of the world. No attempt will be made to ignore the French language among us, so long as those who prefer it to all others shall deem it worthy of preservation. (Hear, hear.) Give the people of Upper and Lower Canada a common object to pursue, and common interests to sustain, arid all questions of origin, and creed, and institutions, and language will vanish in the superior end to be attained by their closer union among ourselves, or by their wider union with other colonists under the proposed scheme of Confederation. (Hear, hear.)
The great difficulty under which we labor, and which we seek to overcome, is a political and not a social one. It has its root in the Constitution imposed upon the province in 1841 by the Imperial Government and Legislature. That Constitution versa founded on injustice to Lower Canada, and its fruit, as was then foreseen, has produced the grossest injustice to Upper Canada. Had the principle of representation based on population been then adopted, and the line which separated Upper from Lower Canada been obliterated, except for judicial purposes, we should now be working harmoniously together, instead of seeking organic changes in the Constitution, in order to preserve ourselves from revolution and anarchy. (Hear, hear.) The honorable member for Bagot (Hon. Mr. Laframboise), in his speech, quoted largely from the report of Lord Durham, to show that that distinguished nobleman was prejudiced against Lower Canadians, and was indisposed to do them justice.
By selecting here and there passages from that able document, the hon. gentleman gave a colorable appearance to his accusation, but nothing more. I deem it an act of justice to Lord Durham to supplement the extracts read by the hon. member, by further extracts which will show that His Lordship was governed by exact and impartial justice in the measures which he recommended to heal the divisions which then existed in Canada. With the prescient sagacity of a true statesman, he said:—
As the mere amalgamation of the two Houses of Assembly of the two provinces would not be advisable, or give a due share of representation to each, a parliamentary commission should be appointed for the purpose of forming the electoral divisions, and determining the number of members to be returned on the principle of giving representation, as near as may be, in proportion to population.
Where, I ask, is the injustice of this recommendation? Lower Canada had then the larger population, and was entitled to the larger representation in the united Legislature. But the Imperial authorities based the Constitution which they gave to Canada, not on representation according to numbers, but on equality or equal numbers of representatives for the two sections of the province, and the result we have to deplore this day. His Lordship goes on to say:—
I am averse to every plan that has been proposed for giving an equal number of members to the two provinces, in order to attain the temporary end of outnumbering the French, because I think the same object will be attained without violating the principles of representation, and without any such appearance of injustice in the scheme as would set public opinion, both in England and America, strongly against it; and because, when emigration shall have increased the English population in Upper Canada, the adoption of such a principle would operate to defeat the very purpose it is intended to serve. It appears to me that any such electoral management, founded on present provincial divisions, would tend to defeat the purposes of union, and perpetuate the idea of disunion.
These are words of wisdom, but they were not listened to at home, and the consequences have been lamentable. We find Upper and Lower Canada in a state of antagonism, and collision imminent. We find the Legislature brought to a dead-lock, and our public men driven to their wit’s end. All this was foreseen by Lord Durham and provided for in his admirable suggestions for the future government of this important province. And then, in reference to the peculiar institutions of Lower Canada, its religion and its laws, he said:—
I certainly should not like to subject the French-Canadians to the rule of the identical English minority with which they have been so long contending; but from a majority emanating from so much more extended a source, I do not think they would have any oppression or injustice to fear; and in this case the far greater part of the majority never having been brought into collision, would regard them with no animosity that would warp their natural sense of equity. The endowments […]
- (p. 909)
[…] of the Catholic Church in Lower Canada, and the existence of all its present laws, until altered by the united legislature, might be secured by stipulations similar to those adopted in the union between England and Scotland. I do not think that the subsequent history of British legislation need income us to believe that the nation which has the majority in a popular legislature is likely to use its power to tamper very hastily with the laws of the people to which it is united.
Such were the opinions and such the basis of that great scheme of union which Lord Durham contemplated, and which he aimed to secure to Upper and Lower Canada. It consisted of two parts: representation based on population in the Legislature; and guarantees that the peculiar institutions of Lower Canada should be protected, and her rights respected. But His Lordship had larger views before him than the union of Upper and Lower Canada. He was anxious that all the British colonies in North America should be consolidated under one government. When His Lordship received his commission from the British Crown, he was strongly in favor of the Federal principle in its application to the then state of Upper and Lower Canada; but a more profound study of the question when in this country, and from consultation with the leading men in the several American Colonies, he arrived at the conclusion that a Legislative would be preferable to a Federal union of those colonies. The change in his opinion is thus stated in the extracts from his report, with which I shall now trouble the House. By a legislative union he means “a complete incorporation of the provinces included in it under one Legislature exercising universal and sole legislative authority over all of them, exactly in the same manner as the Parliament legislates alone for the whole of the British Isles.” After a careful review of the whole subject, Lord Durham says:—
I had still more strongly impressed upon me the great advantages of a united government; and I was gratified by finding the leading minds of the various colonies strongly and generally inclined to a scheme that would elevate their countries into something like a national existence. I thought that it would be the tendency of a Federation, sanctioned and consolidated by a monarchical government, gradually to become a complete Legislative union; and that thus, while conciliating the French of Lower Canada, by leaving them the government of their own province, and their own internal legislation, I might provide for the protection of British interests by the General Government, and the gradual transition of the provinces into an united and homogeneous community. But, [His Lordship adds,] the period of gradual transition is past in Lower Canada, [and therefore he says,] that the only efficacious government would be that formed by a Legislative union.
Having thus dealt with the question in its application to Upper and Lower Canada, he extends the range of his observations to the whole of the British possessions in North America, and remarks:—
But while I convince myself that such desirable ends would be secured by a legislative union of the two provinces, I am inclined to go further and enquire whether all these objects would not be more surely obtained by extending this legislative union over all the British possessions in North America; and whether the advantages which I anticipate for two of them might not, and should not in justice be extended over all. Such an union would at once decisively settle the question of races; it would enable the provinces to co-operate for all common purposes; and, above all, it would form a great and powerful people, possessing the means of securing good and responsible government for itself, and which, under the protection of the British Empire, might in some measure counterbalance the preponderant and increasing influence of the United States on the American continent.
His Lordship had no fears that such a union would lead to separation from the Mother Country. He rather looked upon it as a means of strengthening the bonds which united them, and of its proving an advantage to both. On this point he says:—
I do not anticipate that a colonial legislature thus strong and thus self-governing would desire to abandon the connection with Great Britain. On the contrary, I believe that the practical relief from undue interference which would be the result of such a change would strengthen the present bond of feelings and interests, and that the connection would only become more durable and advantageous by having more of equality, of freedom, and of local independence. But, at any rate, our first duty is to secure the well-being of our colonial countrymen; and if in the hidden decrees of that Wisdom by which this world is ruled, it is written that these countries are not for ever to remain portions of the Empire, we owe it to our honor to take good care that when they separate from us they should not be the only countries on the American continent in which the Anglo-Saxon race shall be found unfit to govern themselves. I am, [says His Lordship,] in truth, so far from believing that the increased power and weight given to these colonies by union would endanger their connection with the Empire, that I look to it as the means of fostering such a national feeling throughout them as would effectually counterbalance whatever tendencies may now exist towards separation.
- (p. 910)
[…] His Lordship then strongly recommends the union of the two Canadas under one Legislature, and of reconstituting them as one province; and “the bill,” he says, “should contain provisions by which any or all of the North American colonies may, on the application of the Legislature, be, with the consent of the two Canadas, or their united Legislature, admitted into the union on such terms as may be agreed on between them.” These remarkable passages drawn from Lord Durham’s report, appear to me to embody the very spirit of the scheme submitted to our consideration by the Government, and coming to us recommended by so high an authority, merit our best attention; and if realized, though not in the precise form many of us might desire, we may hope it will heal our intestine divisions, and open to us a glorious future. Representation based on population is denied to Upper Canada, unless coupled with the Confederation of all the British North American colonies; the separation of Upper Canada, pure and simple, is not to be thought of; to return to the position we occupied only a year ago, would be to plunge once more into political contests, with feelings embittered by disappointment; and therefore, with reservations affecting details only, I shall feel it to be my duty to give the motion before the House my best support. (Hear, hear.)
And now, sir, I propose to consider the scheme submitted to us in relation to the larger question of the union of all the British North American Provinces under one government, for purposes common to them all. I needed not the arguments or the eloquence of honorable gentlemen on the Treasury benches to convince me of the immense importance of such a junction as shall lead to the development of a new nationality, and secure to generations yet unborn the advantages of unity and power. With the permission of the House, I will read an extract from a letter which I addressed to the Duke of Newcastle in 1859, when that nobleman visited this country in the suite of His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales, bearing directly on this point. Having briefly stated the grounds which induced me to write to His Grace, I said:—
The possessions of Great Britain in North America are not only vast extent and marvellous in resources, but for facility of internal communication by lakes and rivers, are unrivalled; and their geographical position is such as to make them of the very last importance to the political and commercial greatness of the British Empire. Possessing the control of this magnificent part of the American continent, with comparatively easy access through it from the Atlantic to the Pacific shores, Great Britain need not fear the rivalry nor dread the preponderance of the United States. But in order that she may derive from it all the advantages it is so well calculated to afford, she must have a fixed and determinate policy, wisely conceived, practical in its details, and perseveringly carried out. In the planting of future colonies in British North America, care should be taken to make them as few as possible. I regret, therefore, that it appears to have been determined to give the Bed River settlement a distinct political existence. Canada should have been allowed to expand westwards to the Rocky Mountains, instead of being cooped up within her present limits.
She would then have been able to absorb more easily the outlying colonies of Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island on the Atlantic, and British Columbia and Vancouver’s Island on the Pacific. Consolidated ultimately under one government, after the model of the Mother Country, with such modifications as the circumstances of the case might require, an empire might be formed over which, hereafter, some one branch of the Royal Family might reign a constitutional monarch, over a free and united people. In the meantime there is nothing to hinder the appointment of a Prince of the blood royal to the Viceroy over all the possessions of Great Britain in North America, and under him, lieutenant-governors to administer the affairs of the separate dependencies, until they could be gradually and permanently united. Your Grace will perceive from this statement that I object to the American system of federation, and would oppose to it the unification of the British colonies in this part of the world. One government, one legislature, one judiciary, instead of many, with their conflicting institutions, interests, and jurisdictions, is what I would respectfully venture to recommend as the true policy of the Mother Country on this side of the Atlantic, as it has been with the most splendid results on the other.
A Federal Government, such as that of the United States, for instance, is and must be weak in itself, from the discordant elements of which it is composed, and will be found to contain within itself the seeds of disorganization and dissolution. The multiplication of colonies in a new country like this is tantamount to the multiplication of petty sovereignties, and the creation of rivalries and antagonisms which, sooner or later, will manifest themselves, and prevent the development of that greatness, power and prosperity which an opposite policy, wisely administered, would, in my judgment, effectually promote and secure. By unification, however, I do not mean centralization. I am no friend to the bureaucratic system to France, Austria, and Prussia. A government, to be strong and respected, must leave to the people the largest amount of liberty consistent with the safety and advantage of the whole, in the management […]
- (p. 911)
[…] of their local affairs. Such a municipal system as we have in Canada is all that is necessary to secure that end. With the political franchise extended to all classes of the community, whether native-born or naturalized, the national life could not fail to develop itself in forms that would give permanence to its institutions, contentment to its people, and strength to its government.
The opinions which I entertained in 1859 I entertain now. Now, as then, I am in favor of the unification of the British American Provinces. Now, as then, I am opposed to the Federal principle, as exemplified in the formation and practical working of the Government of the United States. The greatest statesmen, the wisest men, who became conspicuous during the American Revolution, were clearly of opinion that a government to be strong must be a unit, and must possess within itself, and in all its organs, supreme power and a commanding influence. To diffuse those powers, or even to share them with state or local governments, they felt would weaken it in its most vital parts.
They would, therefore, have stripped the States of every attribute of sovereignty, and confined their action to matters of a purely local or municipal character; but they had not the power, and the consequences are visible in the fratricidal war now raging among them, devastating their fairest provinces and filling the land with mourning and woe. The lessons of history and the experience of other peoples should not be lost upon us; and for myself, I hesitate not to say that if, in the proposed Federation of the British American colonies, we were to follow the example of the framers of the Government of the United States, or to copy its Constitution, it would have my most determined opposition.
The scheme before us, however, is formed after a different model, and in its essential features is in perfect contrast to that on which the Constitution of the United States is based. It is true it creates local governments with large legislative and executive powers; it is true it gives those governments concurrent powers with the General Government; it is true it gives them possession of the public lands within their several jurisdictions; it is true it allows two of those governments to levy export duties on lumber, coal and other minerals,—and looked at in the light of an advanced political science, this is to be lamented; but looked at in the light of possible and practicable statesmanship, it was unavoidable. I am, therefore, prepared to accept it as a whole, as in fact the best that could have been produced under the circumstances in which it was framed. (Hear, hear.)
A careful analysis of the scheme convinces me that the powers conferred on the General or Central Government secures it all the attributes of sovereignty, and the veto power which its executive will possess, and to which all local legislation will be subject, will prevent a conflict of laws and jurisdictions in all matters of importance, so that I believe in its working it will be found, if not in form yet in fact and practically, a legislative union. (Hear, hear.) Taking this general and, as I believe, correct view of the case, I shall abstain from all criticism of its minor details, in the hope that what is found hereafter immature or unworkable will be abandoned by general consent. The Imperial Government will take care, no doubt, that that part of the scheme which conflicts with the prerogatives of the Crown will be removed, or, at all events, be brought into harmony with them. On one or two points brought out very fully by the Catholic members of the House in opposition to the scheme, I shall venture to offer a few remarks. They take exception to the power conferred on the General Government in the matter of marriage and divorce. I think, sir, the power is very properly placed there.
I respect their religious convictions; as a Protestant, I ask them to respect mine. We owe each other mutual toleration. If the Protestant section of this House and this province do not regard marriage as a sacrament, and, therefore, inviolable and indissoluble, I believe they will be found to have as high an opinion of the sacred obligations involved in it, and admit it to be as binding upon the conscience of all who enter upon that holy and honorable state, as their Catholic fellow-subjects. But quod the state or the civil government of the country,
Protestants at large, regard marriage as a civil contract only, and consequently dissoluble on cause shown. This view ought not to be offensive to the judgment or the conscience of our Catholic friends, for it will not and cannot interfere in the slightest degree, either with the form or the continuity of their marriages; and surely they will grant to us, the non-Catholic section of the province, that liberty of conscience in this matter we itch they claim and enjoy themselves. (Hear, hear.) Another point touched upon by my honorable friend the member for Peterborough (Col. Haultain) demands from me a passing remark. I believe that my honorable friend correctly interpreted the feelings of Protestants in Lower […]
- (p. 912)
[…] Canada, when he referred to the probable effect of the Pope’s encyclical on the Catholic mind of the country. They think that if the principles inculcated in that letter were acted upon, their religious liberties and privileges would be in peril. But it would appear that my honorable friend had not the true key to the interpretation of that famous document. Catholic commentators find it to be perfectly innocuous when properly understood.
Be that as it may, I rely rather on the good sense and good feeling of Catholics themselves, and above all, on the religious liberty secured to us in this province, than on the Pope’s encyclical, for the protection of our liberties, whether civil or religious. Let us be united in object and in interest as a people, and I have no fear, however diversified our opinions may be on matters personal to ourselves, but that we shall grow up to be a great nation, and that a glorious future awaits us. (Hear, hear.) As there are yet several honorable gentlemen to address the House, I shall not trespass on its attention much longer, as I am anxious the debate should be brought to a close as soon as possible, in order that the Government may be able, by its representatives in England, to perform those important duties which are so urgent and so necessary at the present moment. (Hear, hear.)
Before sitting down, however, I wish to make one or two remarks on the conflicting opinions entertained by honorable gentlemen on the permanency of our relations to the Mother Country. I do not believe there is any large party there who desire to separate themselves from us. On the contrary, I believe the great bulk of the British people are proud of the connection, and are prepared to maintain it if we do our part in cultivating that connection by meeting their just and reasonable demands. There can be no doubt that one cause of dissatisfaction expressed in England towards us has resulted from our fiscal policy. I shall venture no opinion on that policy just now, whether it was wise or otherwise, but it strikes me very forcibly that we have it now in our power to set ourselves right on that point, and to it I would respectfully invite the attention of the Government.
The question of our defences is very earnestly pressed on our attention by the authorities at home; but that is undoubtedly an Imperial as well as a provincial question, and might be dealt with in this way. If the British Government and people really desire to maintain their connection with the Canadas, they are under the obligation, both moral and political, to afford them adequate defence in money, material and men, in case of necessity; for it is clear that without these our position, except at one or two points, is clearly indefensible. On the other hand, if we are anxious to continue our relations with the Mother Country, then we are bound by the highest considerations of policy to adjust our tariff on imports in such a manner as to give no real cause of complaint to the people at home.
I am persuaded that if we do this it will smooth the way for the removal of any hostility that may have been shown towards us by any class of politicians in England. Privileges and duties are reciprocal, and should be met in a cordial spirit; and let it be remembered that material interests are, of all others, the most binding upon nations in amity with each other, and are the best calculated to maintain our relations undisturbed with the parent state. (Hear, hear.) With me, sir, it is a matter of extreme importance that our relations with the Mother Country should be settled on a firm and permanent basis. (Hear, hear.)
I therefore quite agree with the hon. gentleman (Mr. Shanly) who has just sat down, on the necessity of pressing this point on the attention of the Imperial Government. Mr. Speaker, my most earnest desire and prayer is that by a well-considered scheme of union—a union that shall embrace the whole of the British possessions in North America, from the Atlantic to the Pacific oceans, under one government—results may follow of the most beneficial character, both to the colonies and the Mother Country; and that Providence may so guide the counsels and influence the acts of those who now direct our affairs, as to secure to the people of this country, and to succeeding generations, the blessings of a well-ordered government and a wise administration of public affairs. (Cheers.)
Col. Rankin—Mr. Speaker, never has there been an occasion, since I have had the honor of occupying a seat in this House, when I have been so deeply impressed with the importance of the subject under consideration, as I am to-night. Every honorable gentleman who has addressed the House during the course of this debate has told you, sir that he rose under some degree of embarrassment. I, too, might give you the same assurance, but I shall not dwell upon it; suffice it to say, I only speak because I think it my duty to explain the reasons which induce me to take the view I entertain of the subject before the House. I have […]
- (p. 913)
[…] listened, sir, with great attention to the speeches which have fallen from honorable gentlemen on both sides; and it is to me a matter of congratulation to observe, that at last, something has arisen which has given a higher tone to the debates of this House, and to the utterances of our public men. (Hear, hear.) I attribute this improvement in a great measure to the fact that we are discussing a question of greater importance than has ever before been brought under our consideration; that we are at length turning our attention to something worthy of the consideration of gentlemen who aspire to establish for themselves the reputation of statesmen, while it has unfortunately happened heretofore that too much of our time has been spent in discussing questions which ought properly to be left to the consideration of a municipal, rather than of a legislative body. (Hear, hear.)
Inasmuch, sir, as I have reasons, which perhaps are somewhat peculiar to myself, for entertaining the views which I hold upon this question, I trust I may be pardoned if I refer to some of the most prominent events connected with the progress of affairs in Canada for some years past. And here I may remark, that though the country has become more important, though our population has increased, and our prosperity advanced, in perhaps as rapid a degree as any reasonable person could have expected, there are still some respects in which we have not advanced, but rather retrograded than otherwise. I mean that the tone of feeling among the prominent men of the country has rather deteriorated than improved, since the introduction of responsible government.
I, sir, am old-fashioned enough to believe, that although there may have been some objections to the mode of government which existed prior to the union, there was a higher tone among our public men in those days than has prevailed for some years past. Still, no doubt, there was much cause of complaint on the part of those who originated the agitation, which resulted in the rebellion of 1837. And speaking now in the light of the experience, many of us would probably be prepared to admit those gentlemen who took a prominent part in bringing about that rebellion, and whom we then considered it a duty to put down, were in reality true benefactors of the country. (Hear, hear.)
The result has proved that they differed only from those who thought it their duty to oppose them, in that they were in advance of the men and the sentiment of that day. They foresaw, indeed, earlier than their neighbors that the state of things which then existed could not long continue—they appreciated grievances sooner than others. (Hear, hear.) And thence arose the political struggles, which resulted, unfortunately, in a resort to arms. That insurrection was happily suppressed; and the statesmen of the great nation of which we are proud to be subjects, after the rebellion was ended, immediately applied themselves to the consideration of the best means of removing the just causes of complaint which had led to the revolt. The first step was to bring about a union of the two provinces.
That union was distasteful to many, who were forced reluctantly to accede to it. There were at that time gentlemen worthy in every way of the respect of their fellow countrymen who denounced the union, and predicted evil results from it. But is there an intelligent man in this country who will now say that those predictions have been realized? I do not think tiered is a hon. member of this House, on either side, who would expect anybody to believe he spoke sincerely if he asserted that the union had been attended by disastrous results. The time has passed for hostile feelings to exist between the people of the two sections of this country—I say the two sections, for I have never allowed myself to speak of Upper and Lower Canada as separate and distinct provinces or countries, as has been too much the practice.
From the moment the union was consummated, I felt that we should look upon ourselves as inhabitants of one country, and not as the people of two distinct provinces. In some instances legislation might operate with greater advantage to one section, while in others it would be more beneficial to the other section. But whatever was for the benefit of one was for the good of the whole, inasmuch as it added to the importance, the wealth and the influence of the whole. (Hear, hear.) But there were many people who, for many years after the consummation of the union, writhed under the state of things thereby brought about, and were disposed to sneer at responsible government, and to speak of it as a misfortune rather than as a boon. Sir, we have had some severe lessons, such as all individuals passing through the period intervening between childhood and manhood must to […]
- (p. 914)
[…] some extent be subjected to, and to which communities rapidly growing from insignificance to importance must also submit. The first lesson we were taught under the system of responsible government was in the passage of the bill for the indemnification of losses sustained during the rebellion in Lower Canada.
I, sir, happened to belong to a class in Upper Canada, at that time, who would have considered it almost, if not quite, justifiable to resort to arms in order to resist the enforcement of that law. But, as time has rolled on, I have become more capable of appreciating the course then taken, and I am now prepared to admit that it was but just and reasonable that that law should be enacted. (Hear, hear.)
I then sympathised with those who burned the Parliament House in Montreal, and am willing to admit, that if I had been there, I would probably have been one of the first to apply the torch to that building, while under the influence of the feelings which inspired me at that time. But experience and reflection have since taught me to regard things from a very different point of view. We were then taught practically to feel that we really did govern ourselves. We were made to taste the consequences of self-government. We were taught that questions like these must be decided by the will of the majority of the people, as made known through their representatives in Parliament. (Hear, hear.)
There was no mistake in that case as to what the will of that majority was; and I am free to admit that the rebellious spirit then indulged in, on account of the passage of that bill, was in some respects more worthy of condemnation than the conduct of those who resorted to arms to redress the real grievances which caused the rebellion; and, in course of time, many of those who were most incensed at the passage of this measure, began to realize the fact that it was only one of the natural consequences of the new state of things; and, step by step, the people of Canada have come to understand and appreciate the advantages of self-government. They have come now to understand that whatever is deliberately expressed as the will of the majority of the people, ought to be submitted to by the minority. (Hear, hear.) And I hope we have arrived at that stage in our political education, that there is no man in Canada who would now justify a resort to violence to resist any enactment by this Legislature, no matter how unpalatable it might be to the minority, and no matter how important that minority might be. Mr. Speaker, we are now invited to direct our attention to another union of a different kind, and on a larger scale.
Of that union I have long been an advocate. I have looked forward to it for years, as a desirable event; and in proof that I have done so, I may be permitted to read two or three lines from the Votes and Proceedings of this House, so far back as the year 1856. I do not desire to claim for myself any special credit in the matter, but merely wish to establish my consistency, in being now, as I am, the uncompromising advocate of this measure—in being prepared to go so far, as I declared was my intention the other day, as to vote for the motion submitted by the Hon. Attorney General West [Hon. J.A. Macdonald] for the previous question, which, under ordinary circumstances, I should look upon as a very high-handed and objectionable proposal.
Sir, in 1856 I called the attention of the Hon. Attorney General West [Hon. J.A. Macdonald]—who, if in his place, would readily recollect the fact—to a scheme such as that now under consideration. I urged it upon him, and prayed him to bring his great abilities to bear upon the attainment of an end of sufficient importance to be worthy of his continued exertions. I endeavored to convince him that, by identifying his name with the attainment of some great and important end, he would establish for himself a reputation worthy of his talents. I failed, however, to enlist the sympathies of that hon. gentleman with my views.
His idea was, that it was premature to entertain any such project—that it might be well enough, perhaps, at some future period, but that it was then quite out of the question; I nevertheless proceeded to draft a series of resolutions, and gave notice of them two or three weeks in advance of the day I intended to move them. During the intervening period, I addressed myself to honorable members of the House, but, I regret to say, met with no encouragement from any quarter, with one single exception—the late Hon. Mr. Merritt cordially approving of the idea. Finding that sufficient support could not be obtained in the House to commend the idea to the country, I felt it to be prudent—as even leaders of parties sometimes do under similar circumstances—not to make an exhibition of my own weakness; I came to the conclusion that the resolutions would not […]
- (p. 915)
[…] receive favorable consideration from any considerable number of hon. members, and that to move them would only be to attract attention to what might be looked upon as my own eccentricities. I accordingly abandoned the idea of pressing them at that time. But, with the leave of the House, I will now read the motion, which is as follows:—
Mr. Rankin—On Wednesday next (30th of April, 1856)—Committee of the Whole on the general state of the province, for the purpose of considering the subject of a union of the British North American Colonies, with a view to an address to Her Majesty to recommend the same to the consideration of the Imperial Parliament.
This, sir, I am happy to say, is the proposal which the Government are now carrying out. (Hear, hear.) This was what I proposed nine years ago, and I shall have the greatest pleasure now in giving them my hearty support while they endeavor to carry it into effect; and I congratulate them on having, though so long after myself, arrived at the same conclusion. (Hear, hear.)
Hon. J.S. Macdonald—It was advocated long ago by Bishop Strachan and other gentlemen.
Mr. Rankin—Far be it from me to deny that these gentlemen are entitled to the credit of having suggested the idea, long before I was of an age to think of anything of the kind. But I may congratulate myself that I had conceived the same idea—without borrowing it from them—which had been previously advocated by men so distinguished and illustrious. (Hear, hear.) The result shows, however, that in looking upon the movement as then premature, the Hon. Attorney General [Hon. J.A. Macdonald] was right, and that he correctly understood the feelings of the country; for I am willing to admit that the course of events has proved that it was premature. But, had it not been for certain occurrences which I shall not comment upon (since to do so might savor of a spirit unbecoming on this occasion)—had it not been for the extraordinary state of things brought about before the formation of this Coalition, I am not prepared to acknowledge that it would have been thought of, as a practical scheme, for twenty years to come.
But now honorable gentlemen have taken it up, and it only remains for me to congratulate them on having done so. When this Coalition was proposed, after the vote which resulted in the defeat of the Cartier-Macdonald Ministry, the honorable member for South Oxford [Hon. Mr. Brown], the Hon. President of the Council [Hon. Mr. Brown], and then recognized leader of the Opposition, did me the honor to invite me to a meeting of his supporters. Though I never was one of his followers—having been all my life, in the proper sense of the word, a conservative—still I was associated, for the time, with the gentlemen forming the party of which he was chief; and I think they will do me the justice to admit, that while allied with them, I acted in good faith, and they all knew that, though I was with them, I was not of them. (Hear, hear.)
At the meeting of the Opposition, called by the Hon. President of the Council [Hon. Mr. Brown], the project now under consideration was submitted and in justice to that gentleman, I am bound to say he made a frank, clear and intelligible explanation of the terms which had been agreed upon between himself and the other section of the Government. He informed us fully of all that had taken place between the negotiating parties, and submitted to us the question whether we would support him in the step ho had taken, and support the Government which was to be organised for the purpose of carrying out this project. Much was said after those explanations, and to the best of my recollection of what occurred—for I have not since refreshed my memory by reading the report of the proceedings—there was a general assent to the project. Though some hon. gentlemen did entertain views peculiar to themselves, and expressed opinions that perhaps did not convey a hearty or cordial assent, yet there was a unanimous consent that this Government should be formed. (Hear, hear.)
I think everyone absented to that proposal. I, at all events, fully assented to it in good faith—(hear, hear)—and in doing so, my meaning was to allow the mulcts latitude to those hon. gentlemen to concoct the best scheme they could, and to sustain them in working it out. I had no trick in my mind. I did not mean, as some honorable gentlemen seem to have meant, to place them in a false position, and afterwards assail them. (Hear, hear.) I honestly meant to empower them to confer with delegates from the other provinces, and to endeavor to bring about an understanding by which a union of some sort might be accomplished. (Hear, hear.) It is true that there was one feature in the explanations given by the Hon. President of the Council [Hon. Mr. Brown] which was not acceptable to me, but it was not of a character which rendered it necessary for me to make any remark at the time. To prevent misapprehension, I […]
- (p. 916)
[…] however, will explain what I mean. One idea suggested was, that failing the Confederation of all British North America, the Federation should be carried out with reference to Canada alone.
Hon. Mr. Brown—With provision for its extension, so as to embrace the other provinces, whenever they were prepared to come in.
Col. Rankin—Certainly; but though I did not approve of a Federation of Canada alone, I did not feel that it was part of my duty to rise and protest against any such project. I felt it was right to empower these hon. gentlemen to frame that scheme, which they found to be the best and most practicable—although I certainly had a mental reservation with reference to the point I have mentioned; and I did not then, nor will I at any future day, assent to a Federation of the Canadas alone, with a local government for each section. Rather than accept such a Constitution, I would prefer to remain as we are; for I never can be a consenting party to the making of two or three paltry provinces out of Canada.
But I am prepared to give my hearty support to the project now under consideration—not because I consider it perfect; for if I were so disposed, I might raise many valid objections to the scheme; but I am not so disposed. I really believe the gentlemen who have taken it in hand have applied themselves to the task committed to them in a spirit of patriotism and faithfulness to their trust, and I shall not permit myself to indulge in any remark with reference to the-position they occupied towards each other previous to the Coalition now established. While on this subject, I may remark that the Hon. President of the Council [Hon. Mr. Brown] seemed most favorable to the idea of a Federation of the two provinces of Canada alone, and I am bound to say, when he made his explanations, he appeared deeply impressed with the gravity of the step he was about to take, and perfectly well aware that he was exposing himself to be assailed by parties unfriendly to him, on points where he was, perhaps, open to attack.
I do not say he is not vulnerable, but I, at all events, shall not assail him now. If I have any attacks to make upon him, I shall suspend them till some future time; and if he succeeds in carrying out this project, he will find in me one who will always be ready to accord to him the highest med of praise, and, for the good he will do in bringing this about, I, sir, will be prepared to forgive him for all the evil he has heretofore done. (Hear, hear, and laughter.)
Hon. J.S. Macdonald—You have great faith.
Mr. Rankin—We ought all to profit by the lessons of experience. In the course of this discussion, it has been a pleasure to me to observe the general spirit of loyalty which has been displayed by hon. gentlemen who have addressed the House. Even those who are adverse to the scheme have not been behind its greatest advocates in their declarations of attachment to British institutions and British rule on this continent. (Hear, hear.) And I am not disposed to insinuate that there is a solitary member of this House who entertains sentiments of disloyalty to Great Britain. We all have a right to express our views, and in fact it is our duty to do so, since we are sent here to consider what is best for the interests of Canada first; for though we owe allegiance to England, Canada is our country, and has the strongest and best claims to our devotion. (Hear, hear.)
I, sir, am not one of those Canadians who place the interests of England first, and hold those of Canada in secondary estimation. It would be better if we could regard the interests of both with the same degree of concern—and I trust they always may be united; but we ought not to permit ourselves to lose sight of the fact, that with nations as with individuals, the time does arrive when it becomes each person to be responsible for himself, and when he can no longer look to his parents to give him a standing in the world.
Sir, the time must come, sooner or later, when this country must cease to be a colony dependant on Great Britain; and whatever we do, whatever arrangements for the future we may make, we ought always to keep the fact plainly before our eyes, that passing events are calling upon us, either to commence the establishment of a nationality for ourselves, or make up our minds to be absorbed in the republic lying along our southern borders. I, sir, do not desire to see the latter state of things brought about. Nothing could be more distasteful to me that to become what is called a citizen of the United States, though I admit the enterprise and intelligence which characterise the people of that country. Mr. Speaker, it is within the recollection […]
- (p. 917)
[…] of every honorable member of this House, that some fifteen years since a movement was set on foot in Montreal, which had as its avowed object the severance of Canada from its connection with England, and its annexation to the United States.
The gentlemen who inaugurated that movement were men of influence and high standing in the country, and some of them, as we all know, now occupy prominent positions in this House; they claimed then, as they do now, to be good and loyal British subjects, and yet they deliberately framed a document to which they attached their signatures, in which they prayed their Sovereign to allow this province to withdraw from its connection with England, and attach itself to the United States. Sir, the framers of the document to which I refer—the Annexation Manifesto—were not animated by a rebellious feeling against the Mother Country, but by feelings of loyalty to the interests of this country; their arguments were logical, and founded upon those material considerations which, after all, do exercise, and must continue to exert a more powerful influence over the minds of intelligent men in the nineteenth century, than any mere sentiment, or preference for any particular form of government; and sir, we all know that but a short time after the publication of the annexation manifesto, a new era dawned upon the country.
The Grand Trunk Railway and other important public works were inaugurated. British capital flowed into the province in copious streams, the pockets of the annexationists were replenished, and their loyalty re-established, upon a basis which has lasted ever since. The reciprocity, too, contributed largely to the removal of the depression which engendered the annexation movement; and under the operation of that treaty, the material interests of the country have prospered to a degree that will only be fully appreciated when we have been deprived of its advantages. Sir, no conceivable state of things would have induced me to become a party to that movement in favor of annexation, but I am free to confess that the arguments advanced by the framers of the document to which I have referred were sound and logical—regarding them from a material point of view; and if they were so at that time, why should they not be equally so now?
For the last ten years, we have enjoyed all the advantages of free intercourse and free trade with our powerful neighbors of the United States. We are now in danger of being deprived of both—and if we are, what will be the condition of this country three years hence? Shall we not be reduced to a state more disastrous to our agricultural and other important interests, than we have yet experienced? And am I wrong, sir, in assuming that similar causes would once more produce the same effects? It is all very well for hon. gentlemen to say “No, no,” but I maintain that I am right; and, Mr. Speaker, it is our duty to look the existing state of things in the face.
The impulses of mankind have been the same in all ages. We cannot change human nature, nor make men honest or disinterested, by act of Parliament. But, sir, I have only referred to the past in the hope that the recollection of the events and the state of things to which I have alluded, may have some influence upon the minds of hon. gentlemen—may, perhaps, induce some modification in the course of even a single member, who has hitherto been prejudiced against the scheme of union brought down by the Government. That we have arrived at a critical period in the history of this continent, is universally admitted. Events of the most momentous character are transpiring upon our borders, and I regret to say there exists towards us among our republican neighbors a deep-rooted feeling of hostility.
Occurrences have taken place during the progress of the war which have tended, step by step, to intensify that feeling, which has displayed itself in the stoppage of unrestricted intercourse, and the threatened abrogation of the treaty of reciprocal free trade. In view of this state of things, Mr. Speaker, if we wish either to continue our connection with England or to maintain a separate national existence of our own, it is our duty to devise some means by which we shall be enabled at all seasons to obtain access to the seaboard through our own territory; to strengthen ourselves numerically; to increase our wealth materially, and to add to our importance territorially. All these results, Mr. Speaker, may, in my opinion, be obtained by the union now proposed.
Sir, it is because I entertain this opinion that I am prepared to accept the proposition under consideration without criticising its details. If I were disposed to enter into details, I would most earnestly object to that part of the project which relates to the development of the North-West, and the […]
- (p. 918)
[…] uncertain period of the introduction of that territory into the Confederation; indeed I should object to the Federal principle altogether—for what I would prefer, Mr. Speaker, would be a Legislative, rather than a Federal union; but, sir, I am willing to award the highest credit to the Government for having accomplished as much as they have done. If we are not to have a legislative union in name, we shall have something very closely resembling it. In fact, to have expected that anybody of delegates, representing a number of different provinces and a great variety of conflicting interests, could concoct a scheme which would prove acceptable to everyone, would have been most unreasonable; and I think it ought to be admitted that the Administration are entitled to the gratitude of the country, for the great pains and patient labor they have evidently devoted to the consideration of this project.
It must be borne in mind, sir, that the scheme of Federation agreed upon by the delegates is not final; and we should remember that the House of Commons, or Parliament of British America, will have power to make such modifications and changes as the interests of the country may render advisable. If it is found that the working of the Federal system is objectionable, that the people would rather have their local affairs managed by municipal councils than by local legislatures, they can make their wishes known to the Federal Parliament in a constitutional manner, and that body can, and doubtless will, find means of abolishing the petty provincial parliaments provided for by the plan now before the House, and replacing them by extending the municipal system throughout the whole of British America.
Indeed, sir, the Federal Parliament will possess the same power to change, alter or amend for the whole country, as we now possess for Canada alone, and therefore it is that I so willingly accept the present scheme, believing it to be the best we can now obtain, and leaving to those who are fortunate enough to hold seats in the British American Parliament to detect and remedy its defects. And, sir, we have seen that the opponents of the union between Upper and Lower Canada were mistaken in their predictions of the disasters which they insisted would flow from that union. May we not venture to tell the opponents of the larger and more important change which we are now discussing, that their predictions will prove still more unsound, their apprehensions still more groundless?
Mr. Speaker, our destinies are in our own hands; by the consummation of this union, we shall lay the foundation of a great and important nationality; while on the other hand, if we reject this scheme, even if we are permitted to remain unmolested as we are, what is there in our present condition that we can reflect upon with pride or satisfaction, We are but a province, a dependency at best; the reputation of our statesmen is but local; their fame is confined to the limits of the colony; our Ministers of the Crown, as it is the practice to call them, are but the advisers of a deputy sovereign, upon subjects purely provincial, wholly unknown to the rest of the world, and attracting no attention beyond our own borders,—while the public men of the most insignificant European power would take precedence of them in any other country—even Mexico, with its mongrel and semi-barbarous population, enjoys the standing of a nation, and has its diplomatic representatives, and its foreign relations—and shall we be content to stand still, while all the rest of the world is moving on?
Sir, the most experienced, the most distinguished statesmen of the Mother Country appreciate the importance of the proposed change, and regard the movement as deserving of the highest commendation; and a writer in a recent number of the London Times remarks, that the Parliament of British America will exercise sway over a larger portion of the earth’s surface than any other legislative body in the world. Some hon. members have objected to this project on the score of expense; they have argued that some of the conditions were too favorable to the Maritime Provinces; while, on the other hand, the people of those provinces complain that we are getting the best of the bargain. I, however, shall not detain the House by discussing the question, of whether we have or have not undertaken to pay a few thousands more than any of the other provinces, than some may think they were fairly entitled to; for I hold that the advantage to be derived from this union would be cheaply bought at a cost far greater, than any liability we shall incur in carrying it out. Mr. Speaker, the extent of the British possessions which it is proposed to unite under this scheme includes some four millions square miles—more than the whole of the United States, North and South together, and […]
- (p. 919)
[…] equal to one-tenth of the surface of the whole world; the resources of the Lower Provinces are of incalculable value, while the boundless prairies of the North-West, with the fertile soil and genial climate of the Saskatchewan and Red River may be made the home of millions upon millions of our fellow beings.
Our population, including the Maritime Provinces, is at least equal in numbers, and far superior in intelligence and enlightenment, to that of the United States when they asserted their independence; and under the rule of the proposed Federal Government we may grow in strength and importance as rapidly as our republican neighbors; for though in some respects they are more favorably situated than we are, there are others, and important ones too, in which we have greatly the advantage over them—for instance, a far more advantageous line of communication from the Atlantic to the Pacific can be established through our country than through theirs; indeed so great is the superiority of our route, that they never could compete with us for the through traffic from Asia to Europe, which, within a few years I trust, will pour in a continuous stream through British territory from one ocean to the other. Sir, in support of these views, I trust I may be permitted to read an extract from an interesting and instructive pamphlet by a hon. member on my left (Mr. Morris), in which he quotes from the words of a distinguished American statesman as follows:—
The route through British America is in some respects preferable to that through our own territory. By the former, the distance from Europe to Asia is some thousand miles shorter than by the latter. Passing close to Lake Superior, traversing the water-shed which divides the streams flowing towards the Arctic sea, from those which have their exits southward, and crossing the Rocky Mountains at an elevation of some three thousand feet less than at the south pass, the road could be here constructed with comparative cheapness, and would open up a region abounding in valuable timber and other natural products, and admirably suited to the growth of grain and grazing. Having its Atlantic sea-port at Halifax and its Pacific depot near Vancouver’s Island, it would inevitably draw to it the commerce of Europe, Asia and the United States. Thus British America, from a mere colonial dependency, would assume a controlling rank in the world. To her other nations would be tributary; and in vain would the United States attempt to be her rival, for we could never dispute with her the possession of the Asiatic commerce, nor the power which that commerce confers.
Sir, this is not the language of an enthusiast or a visionary, but the opinion of one perfectly acquainted with the subject, and eminently capable of discussing it—one, too, whose judgment was certainly not biased by national prejudice. And again, Mr. Speaker, on a more recent occasion we find the Premier of the United States, the Hon. Mr. Seward, using the following language:—
Hitherto, in common with most of my countrymen, as I suppose, I have thought Canada—or to speak more accurately, British America—to be a mere strip, lying north of the United States, easily detachable from the parent state, but incapable of sustaining itself, and therefore ultimately—nay, right soon—to be taken on by the Federal union, without materially changing or affecting its own condition or development. I have dropt that opinion as a national conceit. I see in British North America, stretching as it does across the continent from the shores of Labrador and Newfoundland to the Pacific, and occupying a considerable belt of the temperate zone—traversed, equally with the United States, by the lakes, and enjoying the magnificent shores of the St. Lawrence, with its thousands of islands in the river and gulf, a region grand enough for the seat of a great empire.
Mr. Speaker, the great consideration with me is how can we best preserve for ourselves and for our children the essence of British institutions; by what means can we best prolong the connection which now so happily exists between England and ourselves, with mutual advantage and with equal satisfaction to both parties; and how can we best prepare, when the time comes, as in the natural course of events it most assuredly will, to assume the responsibility of a separate and independent nationality?
Sir, by uniting the scattered and now insignificant British Provinces under one general government, we shall, in the first place, consolidate and strengthen British feeling and British influence on this continent. By the adoption, on the part of the proposed Federal Government and Parliament, of a bold, enlightened and progressive policy, British America may be pushed forward in material wealth, in the numbers of her population and in general importance, to a point which will qualify her to take her place among the nations of the earth, in a manner and with a standing alike honorable to ourselves and creditable to the great country under whose glorious flag we have been sheltered, and by whose example we have been stimulated, while prosecuting that course of political studies which must in […]
- (p. 920)
[…] time qualify us to commence a national career of our own—as I would fain hope, under the sway of a constitutional monarch descended from the illustrious Sovereign who now so worthily fills the British Throne. But, sir, some honorable members object to this union from the apprehension that it will subject us to serious financial embarrassments. If the only effects of the union were to be the increased extent of our territory, and the addition which the inhabitants of the other provinces would make to the number of our population, I should be inclined to admit the force of their reasoning; but surely no one can anticipate that the Federal Parliament will be composed of men incapable of appreciating their responsibilities, or without the capacity to deal with the important interests committed to their charge.
Mr. Speaker, no one thing has done so much to attract emigration to the United States as the great public works that have been constantly going on in that country for the last five and twenty years. We hear much said about the superiority of their climate and the other advantages which, it is alleged, they enjoy in a greater degree than we do; but I can assure the House that those advantages have been greatly overestimated, and that such considerations have had but little weight in the minds of emigrants, compared with the knowledge of the more important fact, that in that country the demand for labor was always greater than the supply, and that the emigrant arriving without a shilling in his pocket need be under no apprehension about the maintenance of his family, knowing that he could always find employment at rates of compensation sufficiently liberal to enable him in a few years not only to secure a home of his own, but to surround himself with comforts which would have been far beyond his reach in his own country. Sir, the construction of the Intercolonial Railway will afford employment to thousands of laborers, it will open up vast tracts for settlement, and render accessible an extensive region abounding in mineral wealth and other natural resources of incalculable value.
Then, Mr. Speaker, the next great public work that should be undertaken is the improvement of the navigation of the Ottawa, so as to render that magnificent river the shortest, safest and most advantageous outlet to the ocean for the products of the fertile and boundless west, with its rapidly increasing millions. Mr. Speaker, the expenditure which it would be necessary to incur to render the Ottawa navigable for seagoing ships, great as it would be positively, would be insignificant when compared with the extraordinary advantages which it would confer upon the country by the thousands whom it would attract during the progress of the work, in the first place; and, secondly, by the immense manufacturing power which it would place at our disposal, thereby affording profitable employment for a dense population, throughout a line of some three hundred miles of country, the greater part of which is now but a comparative wilderness; for, considering the unrivalled water power which would thus be secured along the main line of communication between the west and the commerce of Europe, it is not too much to expect that that power would attract the attention of men of capital and enterprise, and that a succession of mills and factories of every conceivable description would soon grow up, along the whole line, which would afford employment for a numerous, industrious and valuable population. And then, sir, there is that still more important and magnificent project, the Atlantic and Pacific Railway.
All the best authorities agree that a far better, shorter, and cheaper line can be constructed through British than through United States territory. Mr. Speaker, it would be impossible to over-estimate the advantages which any country must derive from being possessed of a line of communication destined to become the highway from Europe to Asia. Sir, the acquisition of this advantage alone would be sufficient to justify us in advocating this measure; but when we reflect upon the almost boundless extent of fertile agricultural territory through which this line must pass, the millions upon millions of human beings which that territory is capable of supporting—when we bear in mind that by means of this union we shall not only secure the control of a larger portion of the world than is now under the sway of any power on earth, but that, by the adoption of such a policy as I have suggested, our population may be more than doubled within ten years, and that though our liabilities will have increased, those liabilities will fall upon the shoulders of so greatly augmented a population, that the burden to be borne by each individual will be more likely to be diminished than increased—when we remember, sir, that it will be in our power so to shape the […]
- (p. 921)
[…] destinies of British America that even the census of 1871 may show that we possess a population of from eight to ten millions. I must confess, Mr. Speaker that I cannot understand how any hon. gentleman can stand up here, and labor to perpetuate our present insignificance, by interposing obstacles to the carrying out of the only really great or statesmanlike idea which has ever been brought under the consideration of a Canadian Parliament. And now, sir, though I have already trespassed too long upon the patience of hon. members, I must crave their indulgence a moment longer, while touching briefly upon the subject of defence.
Mr. Speaker, without discussing the question of how much or how little we ought to contribute towards the defence of the Empire, in a war with any other nation than the United States, I assume that every true Canadian, whether of French or British origin, will be prepared to resist the invasion of his native soil; and if I am right in this, I take it, all we have to do is to inform the home Government that we are determined—not to contribute so much in men, and so much in money, to the defence of Canada, but that we are resolved—that every man and every farthing we can control shall be sacrificed before we submit to the power of our republican neighbors, and that all we ask of England is to pursue a course becoming the glory of her ancient renown. That she will do this, sir, we have no reason to doubt; but I regret to observe that Colonel Jervois, in his report upon the subject of fortifications, seems altogether to have ignored the Western Peninsula, for he makes no mention of any point west of Hamilton as capable of being fortified, from which I infer he must have come to the conclusion that in the event of war with the United States, it would be impossible for us to hold the country above the head of Lake Ontario.
Sir, this may be the opinion of that gallant officer, and it may be correct; but, as the representative of the most exposed portion of the western frontier, I am bound at least to say that the people of that part of the country would be most unwilling to admit that they are less able now to hold their own than their fathers wore in 1812. Mr. Speaker, our chief danger lies in the possibility of a reunion with the North and South, upon the basis of the Monroe doctrine; for unhappily the course pursued by England, so far from conciliating either party, has only engendered feelings of hostility in the minds of the people of both sections; and for the belligerents to combine their united forces against a common enemy, and that enemy one whom they both hate as intensely as they do England, would be an event which could excite no surprise in the minds of any one acquainted with the feeling which prevails among the masses of republican America.
Sir, talking of fortifications and defence, no force we can bring into the field, no line of forts we can build, nor, indeed, any course that could be adopted, would so effectually protect us, so absolutely guarantee the inviolability of our soil as the recognition of the independence of the Southern States by Great Britain; and when the proposed deputation from this Government reaches England, I trust they will feel it to be their duty strongly to urge the consideration of this fact upon Her Majesty’s Government; for with a powerful British fleet upon their coast, a formidable, warlike and bitterly hostile nation bordering them upon the South, and some half million well-armed and resolute Canadians in their front, depend upon it, Mr. Speaker, we need be under no apprehension of war’s alarms.
And now, sir, it only remains for me to thank honorable members for the patient hearing they have accorded me, and to express a hope that the deputation to England will not swerve from the course they have informed us they intended to pursue, in consequence of anything that has transpired in any of the other provinces, but that they will impress upon the home Government the fact that four fifths of the people of British America are represented by this House, which sustains the scheme of union by an overwhelming majority; that they will urge the Imperial Ministry to exert all the influence they can command in a constitutional manner, to induce the people of the Lower Provinces to reconsider their recent course, and to acquiesce in the project agreed upon by the Quebec Conference as the basis of an arrangement by which a balance of power may be established on this continent, the spread of republicanism checked, and our own immediate prosperity and future influence insured to such an extent as to secure for us a higher degree of consideration while we retain a colonial position, and qualify us hereafter to take our place among the family of nations, still animated by sentiments of reverence for the great people under whose fostering […]
- (p. 922)
[…] care we have attained our majority, and with whom, I trust, we shall always continue to maintain the closest alliance. (Cheers.)
Mr. Dufresne (Montcalm)—Mr. Speaker, in rising at this moment to express my humble opinion on the merits of the resolutions now under discussion by this House, I do not intend to follow the formula or preamble hitherto invariably adopted, by saying that I approach the subject with fear and trembling. (Hear, hear, and laughter.) But though I do not approach the question with anxiety and hesitation, it is not that I feel myself more competent than others for the treatment of it; it is simply for the good reason that I rely upon the indulgence of this House. We all know how difficult it is for a person who is not a habitual public speaker, or a member of the legal profession, to express himself with facility before a distinguished and highly educated body of men such as I now have the honor to address. I look upon the resolutions submitted to us as expressing the sentiments of the people, through their constitutional organ the Legislature.
We ask our Sovereign and the Imperial authorities to unite, by means of a Federal union, all these Provinces of British North America. In examining this question, and in order to express more clearly and fully my opinion of these resolutions, I may say that I accept them for many reasons, but chiefly as a means of obtaining the repeal of the present legislative union of Canada, and securing a peaceable settlement of our sectional difficulties. I accept them, in the second place, as a means of obtaining for Lower Canada the absolute and exclusive control of her own affairs. I accept them, thirdly, as a means of perpetuating French-Canadian nationality in this country. I accept them, fourthly, as a more effectual means of cementing our connection with the Mother Country, and avoiding annexation to the United States. I accept them, fifthly and lastly, as a means of administering the affairs of the country with greater economy. Such are my reasons for accepting the Confederation scheme submitted to us by the Government. (Hear, hear.)
I shall not undertake to discuss the merits of all the resolutions, for the honorable gentlemen who have already spoken have ably and fully developed the merits of the whole question; and, besides, if I may dare say it without being thought ridiculous, I have undergone a heavy loss—I have, in fact, been plundered.
The honorable member for Vaudreuil (Mr. Harwood) is the offender—(laughter)—but I cannot complain much of this, for the theft has turned to the advantage of the House. What he has stolen from me is the history of the Helvetic and Germanic Confederations; but inasmuch as he has set forth the facts in a far more able manner than I myself could have done it, and as the House has been a gainer thereby, I must endeavor to practise a proper degree of resignation under my own heavy affliction. (Hear, hear.) I intended to have said something on the Helvetic and Germanic Confederations, but as I have been thus despoiled. and as the honorable member for Vaudreuil [Mr. Harwood] has treated the subject so powerfully, I shall refrain from entering into the matter. Audi here again the House will be the gainer. (Laughter.)
As the question of Confederation itself has already been fully treated with far more ability than my own feeble powers would enable me to bring to bear upon the discussion, I will confine myself to answering certain statements made by honorable members of the Liberal party par excellence. Contrary to the opinions of the Church, or rather of the Head of the Church, who declares that the name Liberal cannot be allied with the doctrine of the Church, we have seen the extreme Liberals coming forward in this House as the champions of the Church and of its ministers. (Hear, hear, and laughter.)
The honorable member for Richelieu [Mr. Perrault] gave us in pompous terms a sketch of the benefits derived from the union of the Canadas. I must say that I listened to him with no little astonishment, for it was the first time I ever heard a democrat—a demagogue—lauding the union and the public men whom the country has, since the union, placed at the head of affairs. (Hear, hear.) He told us that we had had statesmen who succeeded in securing a triumph for the rights of Lower Canada—men who protected our interests and caused us to advance in the path of progress. “We see them in their works,” he says—”see the progress the country has made under the union; look at our primary-school system and our university system; look at the establishment of our ocean line of steamers, bearing our products to Europe, and returning to us freighted with the wealth of every foreign country! See that magnificent work, the Grand Trunk Railway, which is without a parallel in the world! See our splendid canals, the finest works of the kind in existence.” Really, Mr. Speaker, I am utterly […]
- (p. 923)
[…] astounded at these laudations falling from the lips of the honorable member for Richelieu [Mr. Perrault], and more especially at bus praise of the Grand Trunk Railway; and I feel certain that every honorable member who heard his speech must have been delighted with that portion of it. (Hear, hear, and laughter.) And while it will probably be admitted that other portions of that speech might well have been omitted, it is surely a good thing that the honorable member should have discovered at last that the statesmen of his country in his own day had done their duty. (Hear, hear.)
Mr. Perrault—Yes, but they might have done better still.
Mr. Dufresne—The honorable member says that they might have done better still; but that was not what he said in his speech, since he declared that they were men of the very highest order of merit, and deserved the greatest possible praise for the works and improvements they had carried out. Now this is indeed peculiarly gratifying to one in my position, after contending for years with the party of the honorable member for Richelieu [Mr. Perrault], and opposing them because they constantly strove to excite popular prejudice against all improvement and every great undertaking. I shall have occasion to exhibit to the House the means resorted to by that party, in order to prejudice the people against every man who labored in behalf of real progress, and I shall endeavor to contrast the prejudices they appealed to ten years ago with those they are now striving to excite. (Hear, hear.)
The Honorable member for Richelieu [Mr. Perrault] also stated that since the union we had advanced the settlement of our townships, and that this is why he wishes us to remain as we are at present. He says the union has not completed its work. He is right, only it is unfortunate that he and his party should not have succeeded in making that discovery a few years ago; it is unfortunate that they should only make that discovery now, when they themselves and the whole people are convinced that a change in the Constitution is unavoidably necessary—for we French-Canadians, a minority in the country, cannot dictate to the majority. (Hear, hear.)
I shall not endeavor to excite popular prejudices, as the honorable member for Richelieu [Mr. Perrault] has done. I do not desire to be too severe with the honorable member, or to condemn him too strongly; for his mode of treating this question may be simply the result of some peculiarity of mental organization; I merely wish to show that his views as to the dangers of the future are not a whit more sound than the views upon which he must have acted during the past. He has exhausted the library of Parliament in order to show, in black and white, that the people of England are the greatest oppressors on the face of the earth—(hear, hear, and laughter)—in order to demonstrate a fact which is not true, for he has cited to us nothing beyond the mere views of certain historians, whose opinions only go for what they are worth. (Hear, hear.)
It is not my purpose to undertake the defence of a people who have no need of me to defend them, nor to avenge the insults offered them by the honorable member; but I must say that I repudiate all he has said against the English people and against England, against the institutions and government of that country, and against her system of colonial administration. (Hear, hear.) What good can result from thus ransacking history in order to hold up a single page, the record of an evil deed? What was the condition of public manners among nations at the period of the events he has spoken of, connected with Acadia? Why bring up that matter now? What good can it do? Does the honorable member desire to provoke the prejudices of a sensitive and powerful nation against us? Does he want to bring about the ruin of this country? The honorable member, in his youth and inexperience, has rendered us a very questionable service. (Hear, hear.)
He rakes up an event which occurred one hundred years ago, and taunts a conquering nation with her mode of dealing with the vanquished! Surely this is a strange way of serving his fellow-countrymen—of laboring to promote their welfare and interests! Am I not right in saying that the honorable member has displayed an utter want of tact and experience? I trust, for the honorable member’s own sake, that the charge of inexperience is the heaviest charge to which he may be held amenable; for I cannot think it possible that he was in any way actuated by malicious motives. (Hear, hear.)
But, Mr. Speaker, the honorable member tells us that “the union has not yet done its work.” I she not aware that the population of Upper Canada—that the British population vastly outnumber our own population in the province? What then does he mean? Can it be that he really thinks because the union has not finished its work, that it ought to be preserved, and that we ought to remain as we are? I cannot be convinced that he is so […]
- (p. 924)
[…] completely devoid of information and judgment as really to desire that we should remain as we are. (Hear, and laughter.)
Does he not perceive that if the present union he continued, the Upper Canada members will unite together as one man, in order to carry representation based upon population in the Legislature? Notwithstanding the facts we have witnessed during the past few years; notwithstanding that he is aware that three-fourths of the Upper Canadian members were sent here by their electors in order to secure representation based upon population, he says the union has not done its work, and we must remain as we are! No, I cannot, I repeat, believe him to be sincere in that. He knows that we cannot remain as we are. We are in favor of Confederation, not because we believe it to be the very best possible remedy for our evils, but because we are convinced of the necessity of providing a remedy for our sectional difficulties.
The honorable member for Richelieu [Mr. Perrault] may play the alarmist as loudly as he likes. I can assure him that the vast majority of his fellow-countrymen are too intelligent to be deceived. They know full well that the minority cannot control the majority. The duty of the minority is to better their position as far as possible, but they cannot pretend to dictate to the majority—more especially when that majority is composed, if we are to believe the honorable member for Richelieu [Mr. Perrault], of men who delight in oppressing others. (Hear, hear.) The speech of the honorable member for Richelieu [Mr. Perrault] is the speech of a mere youth, and is devoid of weight and importance; but it is a speech which would have been extremely injurious to the best interests of Lower Canada, had it emanated from a man possessing a wider reputation or greater importance than that honorable gentleman enjoys. (Hear, hear, and laughter.)
He also stated that “the cry of representation based upon population had been used in Upper Canada merely for the purpose of securing the success of party leaders, of enabling them to get into power.” But we know that commanders are kidders of men; that commanders are to be dreaded when they have followers at their back; and the Upper Canada leaders surely do not lack followers. The honorable member for Richelieu [Mr. Perrault] went on to say:—”But we are in a good position! The liberals passed the Separate School Bill! “I believe he was in the House when the Separate School Bill was passed; but if he was not present, he may be somewhat excusable for that statement. I ask the honorable member how many liberals—how many supporters of the Government of the day voted for the Separate School Bill? If he did not know when he spoke, it would have been better for him to have kept silent on that point, and not to have referred to the matter at all.
Mr. Perrault—It was the Macdonald-Dorion Government that passed the measure.
Mr. Dufresne—No. It was not the Government that introduced the measure, and carried it in the House; it was an independent member of this House—Mr. Scott, of Ottawa—who introduced the bill. The Government of the day supported the measure, but only two of their Upper Canada supporters voted for it, and one of the two, the honorable member for South Wentworth (Mr. Rymal), did not do so until I had called upon him to give his vote, and forced him to record it. (Hear, hear.) These are the facts as they occurred, and they are proof positive that liberalism is no better here than elsewhere. (Hear, hear.) The honorable member for Richelieu [Mr. Perrault] loudly accuses the majority of servility and venality. There was a time when he spoke in a different tone, when he himself formed part of the majority, and when he availed himself of that position to make a little trip to the Saguenay at the expense of the Government, and to write a little romance afterwards. (Hear, hear, and laughter.) For my part, Mr. Speaker, as one of the majority at present, I have yet to learn when and in what I have been servile towards my friends in the Government; nor am I aware how or when the majority have evinced venality, as the honorable member asserts. (Hear, hear.)
The honorable mem beer for Richelieu [Mr. Perrault] has himself experienced the mode in which a majority evinced venality, and the lesson has evidently not been lost upon him. (Hear, hear.) The honorable member says—”We have a magnificent public domain in Lower Canada; we have an immense quantity of land, while Upper Canada has none left; we can establish magnificent settlements, and increase our population. Let us remain as we are under the union.” Now, for my part, I assert that for that very reason we ought to accept Confederation in order that we may get the complete control of that noble domain, instead of holding it only in common with Upper Canada. He gives us a grand outline of all we could do with that splendid domain, and then says he does not […]
- (p. 925)
[…] care to have possession of it. Well, for my part I do desire to have possession of it. The honorable member also said that we are to have direct laxation under Confederation, and that the local governments are to be mere municipal councils. I shall refer presently to the question of direct taxes; but I must say that municipalities having at their disposal millions of acres of land, will be something new in the way of “mere municipalities.” I rather think the honorable member does not quite do justice to the importance of the functions of the local governments. (Hear, hear.) The honorable member compares the local governments to municipalities. Now, I find that the Local Government of Lower Canada will have a tolerably wide range of matters to deal with; for besides the public lands, it is also to have control of the following:—
Direct taxation, and in New Brunswick the imposition of duties on the export of timber, logs, masts, spars, deals and sawn lumber; and in Nova Scotia, of coals and other minerals.
I call the attention of honorable members of this House to these provisions, and I will say a few words with reference to each provision in its turn. If some do not understand their importance, others will. “Direct taxation.”—I know that even your ultra-democrat will cry out—”But, for my part, I prefer having the right to tax myself to leaving the power in the hands of others, for I never will use the right, and others might perhaps enforce it. I quote again:—
Borrowing money on the credit of the province.
The establishment and tenure of local offices, and the appointment and payment of local officers.
Education; saving the rights and privileges which the Protestant or Catholic minority in both Canadas may possess as to their denominational schools, at the time when the union goes into operation.
As to education, the honorable member for Richelieu [Mr. Perrault] has eulogised our system of education; but do those honorable members who cry out so loudly against Confederation take a very deep interest in the education of our youth? Are they really anxious that that education should be in accordance with our principles, and the principles they themselves have advocated since they have constituted themselves the defenders of the altar and the throne? (Laughter.) We are to have the control of the public laws and of education, and yet are to be a mere municipality! Emigration and colonization are mere trifles—the functions of a mere municipality! (Laughter.) Be it so, but hereafter we shall be very glad to enjoy all this:—
The sale and management of public lands, excepting lands belonging to the General Government.
Sea coast and inland fisheries.
The establishment, maintenance and management of penitentiaries, and of public and reformatory prisons.
The establishment, maintenance and management of hospitals, asylums, charities and eleemosynary institutions.
Shop, saloon, tavern, auctioneer and other licenses.
The incorporation of private or local companies, except such as relate to matters assigned to the General Parliament.
Property and civil rights, excepting those portions thereof assigned to the General Parliament.
Inflicting punishment by fine, penalties, imprisonment or otherwise, for the breach of laws passed in relation to any subject within their jurisdiction.
The administration of justice, including the constitution, maintenance and organization of the courts, both of civil and criminal jurisdiction, and including also the procedure in civil matters.
And generally all matters of a private or local nature, not assigned to the General Parliament.
Now, I call the attention of hon. members of this House to the powers here granted to the local governments, and which would consequently be granted to us in Lower Canada. When we opposed representation based upon population, was it because we feared that the majority would pass a tariff weighing unequally on the two sections of the province? Was it because we feared they would erect no more light-houses in the Gulf or elsewhere? Was it because we feared that Upper Canada, by means of its majority, would establish a greater number of post-offices, or increase the rates of postage on letters? No, Mr. Speaker, it was not for any of these reasons; but it was because we properly and rightly feared that when Upper Canada obtained a larger number of representatives in the Legislature than Lower Canada, they would invade our rights and endanger all that we hold most dear. That is what we feared. (Hear, hear.)
And at the very moment when the Government presents a measure securing the safety of all our rights and institutions, with guarantees for the minority, honorable members declare that the union must be maintained, even with […]
- (p. 926)
[…] representation based upon population. No, they are not sincere in this; it is a mere subterfuge on their part, for they cannot propose anything to the country in place of the Government project. (Hear, hear.) The Opposition attempt to show that a Federal union and a Legislative union are the same thing, but the whole world knows that the two kinds of union are not in any way alike. In a Federal union the Legislature cannot go beyond the rights and powers assigned to it, whereas in a Legislative union it is vested with all power—it is sovereign. And is it to be supposed that under a legislative union, with representation based upon population, the majority would refrain from encroaching on our rights, our institutions, and all that we value as important for our well-being?
Mr. Perrault—Hear, hear.
Mr. Dufresne—The hon. member distinctly sees the mote in his neighbor’s eye, but he cannot in any way discover the beam in his own! He forgets that he wearied this House for five or six hours, reading passages from history calculated to excite prejudice against a nation which is in a majority both here and elsewhere. I can only account for his having forgotten his own speech so soon, by taking it for granted that the honorable member did not himself make the research required in order to swell it up to its vast dimensions, for it was nothing but a mass of scraps with which he wearied the House during five long hours. (Hear, hear, and laughter.)
I do not wish to be severe, but I trust the hon. member will pay attention to the remarks I now desire to make. He asserted, on the floor of this House, that the liberals had struggled to obtain responsible government. If he said that of the men woo really did do so, it would be all very well; but if he asserts it of those who form his own party, he is greatly in error; for we all know that that party has always protested against the union and against responsible government. (Hear, hear.) That party declared, at elections and elsewhere, on every occasion, that responsible government was a deception and a snare—an insult cast in our teeth by England. (Hear, hear.) That has been the cry of his political party ever since we obtained responsible government. How, then, can he have the hardihood to assert that we owe it to them? (Hear, hear.) The hon. member for Richelieu [Mr. Perrault] also said that the clergy were wrong in 1837, and that they are wrong now in supporting the Government.
Mr. Perrault—I did not say that.
Mr. Dufresne—I made a note of it at the time, as I did of his remark, that “even in the episcopacy there were men of talent.” (Hear, hear, and laughter.) He thought that “the bishops themselves might possess talent.”
Mr. Perrault—No, no.
Mr. Dufresne—Let the honorable member retract his words, and I shall be quite satisfied.
Mr. Perrault—You have completely distorted the meaning of what I said.
Mr. Dufresne—The honorable member stated that the clergy were wrong in 1837; that they are wrong now; and that there were men of talent even among the bishops.
Mr. Perrault—Will the honorable gentleman allow me to say a word in explanation, and in order to set him right?
Mr. Dufresne—With pleasure. I do not wish to take advantage of the honorable member’s blunder, and his words certainly require explanation.
Mr. Perrault—I have often heard words spoken in this House misquoted, but I must say I have never heard that species of tactics carried to such excess as it has been in this instance, with regard to myself, by the honorable member for Montcalm [Mr. Joseph Dufresne]. (Hear, hear, from the Opposition.) What I said with reference to the episcopacy and the men of talent who adorn it, was this—I stated that with our present system of public instruction in our rural districts, every child is enacted to receive such an education as will fit him to aspire to the highest position in the country, and to the highest rank in social life. I then added, in proof of my assertion, that we now see in the highest ranks in society men belonging to humble country families, whose parents posset seed neither the fortune nor the influence necessary to push their children forward, and that they had succeeded only through their own talents, their industry, and the advantages afforded by our system of education.
I also said, in proof of my assertion, that the children of the rural population had attained seats on the judicial and ministerial benches, and even among the episcopacy. Now, any one who understands the obvious meaning of words will admit that it is impossible to interpret that sentence as an expression of astonishment that there should be men of talent in the episcopacy, as the honorable member makes a pretence of doing. On the contrary, by reserving the most forcible expression to the […]
- (p. 927)
[…] last, when I said that even in the ranks of the episcopacy are to be found the sons of farmers who advanced themselves by their own talents, I wished to show that even the episcopal chair, the first and most elevated position in our country, was within the reach of our men of talent, thanks to our system of education, which enables all to compete for the highest dignities. And I defy anyone capable of understanding the sense and use of words, to deduce any other meaning from my remarks, unless it be done with the set purpose of foisting upon me words I never used. (Hear, hear.)
Mr. Dufresne—I have allowed the honorable member for Richelieu [Mr. Perrault] to explain what he said, or wished to say, but he had no right to conclude with an unjust insinuation. However, I am not greatly surprised, “for I am aware that it is the habit of his party, and that those honorable gentlemen never lose an opportunity of insulting those who differ from them in their opinions. (Hear, hear.) A few days ago, when I begged leave to interrupt the honorable member for Richelieu [Mr. Perrault], he consented courteously, and in replying to my remark—which was not of an insulting nature—he told me that he was not like me, for my speeches and my works were as yet things of the future. It was quite true, though it is not always well to speak the whole truth, nor, in fact, to hear it. (Laughter.)
But I must tell him that in my humble position, not being fully informed of all that takes place in the world, I have neither the means nor the leisure to bring forth works of such vast importance as those of the honorable member. I content myself with coming here to discharge my duty towards my constituents, and I do it myself. I do not employ an official in making researches in the library to enable me to make long speeches. (Hear, hear, and laughter.) I do not require a paid emeeloyé of the Government to prepare my speeches; and, moreover, I have not as yet found means to live at the expense of the Government. And if my speeches and works are as yet things of the future, I am not, at all events, in the habit of supporting myself, like the honorable member for Richelieu [Mr. Perrault], by drawing upon the public chest, with or without any just claim or right. (Hear, hear.) I have now done with the honorable member for Richelieu [Mr. Perrault].
I have a word to say to the honorable member for the county of Bagot [Hon. Mr. Laframboise]. Though his speech was not an excessively brilliant one, yet he did not weary the House like the honorable member for Richelieu [Mr. Perrault]. He told us that we did not represent the sentiments of our electors, but that there was no danger of our voting for an appeal to the people on the question of Confederation, because the people are so strongly opposed to the project that the Government dare not submit it for their approval. He was not the first to make the assertion, and I shall refer to the point presently. He then told the Government “that it never was their intention to have the question of Confederation seriously discussed, and that they did not desire a discussion of their scheme. But how did the honorable member expect to be believed? Was not the Government plan laid before the House at the commencement of the session—seven weeks ago?
Have not the Government and their friends done everything in their power to promote the discussion of the question, while honorable gentlemen opposite were unwilling to do so, and constantly strove to prevent its discussion? What was their motive in so acting? The honorable member for Bagot [Hon. Mr. Laframboise] was, therefore, wrong in stating that the Government did not desire a discussion, and that they stifled discussion; for it is perfectly clear that the Opposition did not desire it, and persistently refused it. (Hear, hear.) The honorable member for Bagot [Hon. Mr. Laframboise] is not in his seat; but when he returns I shall have a few words to say in reply to certain points in his speech. The honorable member for Drummond and Arthabaska (Mr. J.B.E. Dorion) also told us that the movement throughout the country is so strong that it cannot be resisted; that the people are discontented, and that the consequences of that discontent will be highly disastrous. He spoke of the vast number of petitions presented to the House against Confederation, in order to show that the people are opposed to it.
Well, if all the honorable members of this House who sent petitions to their counties for signature have followed the same course as the honorable member himself, it is not surprising that they should be numerously signed, for we all remember the honorable member’s letter, which was read in this House a few days ago by the Honorable Attorney General for Lower Canada (Hon. Mr. Cartier). There can be no two opinions as to the character of that document. (Hear, hear, and laughter.) The House will bear in mind that he wrote to the wardens of his county, directing them to get the petitions he forwarded signed by the men, the women, and the children! (Laughter.) And when his letter was read in this House, instead of blushing with shame and confusion, […]
- (p. 928)
[…] the honorable member said he gloried in having written it! “It was an energetic step,” said he, “and I am not ashamed of it.” (Laughter.)
I do not desire to make any insulting remarks, nor to indulge in painful comparisons; but it must be remembered that it is not the hardened criminal that blushes for his evil deeds; the rogue that blushes may still mend his ways; but those who have lost the power of blushing are in final impenitence. (Laughter.) The honorable member told us of the astonishing progress of the United States, in spite of the war and the enormous expenses it has entailed; and he told us that in five years from the present time New York will have paid off its debt; then why not unite ourselves with the State of New York? He did not say all that, but nearly all; it is the natural conclusion to be drawn from his speech. He tells us that the people are discontented, and that they will rise up in rebellion if we force Confederation on them. But what means does he employ in order to excite the prejudices of the people?
We may judge of the means he resorts to in this instance by those he employed in former days to prejudice the people against a measure favorable to their own interests, but unjust in some of its provisions, involving the spoliation of a particular class in society—I speak of the abolition of the Seigniorial Tenure. Were it not for the abolition of the Seigniorial Tenure, the seigniors would now be extremely wealthy. The effect, then, of that law was to despoil the seigniors for the benefit of the people—whom the honorable member for Drummond and Arthabaska [Mr. J.B.E. Dorion] pretends to represent. But, Mr. Speaker, how did the honorable member act at the time? How did he attempt to deceive the people, and excite prejudices against that measure? I have endeavored to find the pamphlet written by the honorable member at the time, but it is not to be found in the library of Parliament—it has disappeared. However, the democratic journals of that period are still forthcoming, and as they published a portion of the honorable member’s pamphlet, I will read a few passages, in order to show what a pot urriit was. The means then used succeeded so well with the people, that an attempt will probably be made to resort to similar expedients now against Confederation.
The people, convinced of the truth of what the hon. member wrote against the seigniors and against the Government, were incensed against the “traitors,” and in the county of Lotbinière they prevented the commissioners charged with the preparation of the schedules from proceeding with their duties during a certain period. It is well to bear in mind the existence of these documents, now that our adversaries are loading us with abuse; and it is time the people should know who are their friends and who are the “traitors.” (Hear, hear.)
Mr. J.B.E. Dorion—You will awaken the House!
Mr. Dufresne—I trust I may be pardoned if I have spoken too strongly, but I feel so strongly on these matters that I must reply to the statements made. (Hear, hear.) Well, here is the treatment awarded at the time to the men who introduced the measure for the abolition of the Seigniorial Tenure—a measure exclusively in the interest of the people:—
Seignorial Tenture.—Pay, Wretched People! Pay! The people will learn properly to appreciate the tendency of our political institutions only by the evil effects that must result from them, and the day will come when the disease will work its own cure.
This is a dark day, but the hour is coming when light shall succeed to darkness.
Such were the writings then distributed amongst the people.
Mr. J.B.E. Dorion—Go on.
Mr. Dufresne—Of course, I do not expect to see the honorable member exhibit any sense of shame; he has got beyond that. He would find it as difficult to blush as it would be for a Negro to turn pale. (Laughter.) I quote again:—
To The Canadian People.—People! I am one of your sons; Jean Baptiste, I am one of your brothers. When a brother does you a wrong, I feel that wrong; when you pay, I pay; when you are struck, I feel the blow; when you are brought low, I feel myself abased; when you suffer, I suffer; when you moan, I moan; when you weep, I weep. [Laughter.] When anything good betides you, I rejoice at it; when you prosper, I am happy; when you laugh, I laugh; when you sing, I sing. [Laughter.]
People! Here I am; look at me from head to foot. A simple rustic, living in the midst of you, I desire to render you a service. I ask but one favor—that you will read the following pages. I seek no reward, for if I can only make you understand your position and induce you to claim the restoration of your violated rights, to bless what is good and curse what is evil, I shall deem myself fully rewarded. [Prolonged cheers and laughter.]
“Yes, take the cup and drink the poison to the very dregs,” were the words of a democrat […]
- (p. 929)
[…] and demagogue. (Hear, hear, and laughter.)
In these evil days, when political prostitution holds the place of civic virtue, when feebleness and sluggishness hold the place of courage and action, when a flood of demoralization rushes forth from the very fountain head of power—put on the armor of patience, be of good heart, be vigilant and doubly vigilant, so that you may escape far worse evils. Your son,
Le Frere de Jean Baptiste.
Mr. J.B.E. Dorion—That is as true now as it was ten years ago. (Hear, hear, from the Opposition.)
Mr. Dufresne—I shall not read the whole of it, for it is too long; but I will read another short extract:—
Pay; for your most sacred rights are of no weight against the privileges, extortions and brigandage of which you have so long been made the victims by the seigniors. Pay; for Might is Right, and justice ceased to prevail in Parliament on the 15th December, 1854. * * * Then we shall have the rehearsal of the legal farce which is to be played, with a view of convincing Jean Baptiste that he is to get justice done him. The fourteen high judges of Lower Canada will form a special court to decide questions in dispute between the seignior and the censitaire. If they do not agree, an appeal may be had to England. The dissent of a single judge will suffice to cause the matter to be referred to England. Is not this also an admirable arrangement, more especially when it is borne in mind that the judges, who are, in some cases, themselves seigniors, may act as judges in their own cause? What a mockery!
The whole pamphlet is in the same style. I do not desire to occupy the House any longer with it, for I have quoted enough to show how the demagogues acted ten years ago with reference to a measure of such importance to the country. When the Government presented a measure for the despoiling of the seigniors, and voted an enormous sum for the redemption of the Seigniorial dues, that was the incendiary and dishonest language in which the people were addressed. And it is by the use of similar language that an attempt is now made to excite popular prejudice against the Government, when they present a measure giving to Lower Canada the full and complete control of her institutions, of her public lands and of education. (Hear, hear.) It is by means of similar incendiary pamphlets that the attempt is now made to excite the feelings of the people against those who are working in behalf of the interests of their fellow-countrymen. (Hear, hear.)
Mr. J.B.E. Dorion—Will the honorable member for Montcalm [Mr. Joseph Dufresne] allow me to say a few words? I merely desire to state that I am not ashamed of what I wrote at that time, and that so defective was his great Seigniorial law when I wrote that document, that it took five years to amend it into anything like proper shape.
Mr. Dufresne—It is true, nevertheless, that the first law took the burthen of the Seigniorial Tenure off the shoulders of the censitaires, and from that moment the seigniors were despoiled of their rights for the benefit of the censitaires. I admit that the bill was defective, and in fact I voted against the Act of 1854; but I did not act like the honorable member, and my only object was to compel the Government to do better. The honorable member may say what he likes—I maintain that the demagogues did everything in their power to ruin us, in connection with that question, and they are doing the very same thing now as regards Confederation. (Hear, hear.)
We French-Canadians form to-day but one-third of the population, and despite the progress we have made under the union, any man of sense who reflects on the position we now occupy, must admit that we ought to be delighted to accept the scheme of Confederation, since it will give us the control of our system of education, our institutions, and all the interests of Lower Canada. (Hear, hear.)
I have made a note with reference to the speech of one of my friends in this House—the hon. member for Beauce (Mr. Taschereau). I was really surprised to hear him express himself as he did with reference to this question of Confederation. I am quite sure he was sincere; but I must say I think he might have expressed his own opinions and refrained from adopting the false arguments in vogue on the other side of this House. (Hear, hear.)
I feel that with a friend one must not be severe. Between the honorable members for Drummond and Arthabaska [Mr. J.B.E. Dorion] and Richelieu [Mr. Perrault], and myself, there need be no such reticence of expression; but with the hon. member for Beauce [Mr. Taschereau] it is qui te a different matter. He told us that Confederation would give the death-blow to our nationality; but how can he possibly think so? I can easily understand such arguments being used by honorable gentlemen opposite, because they are in the habit of distorting facts; but I am pained to see the honorable member for Beauce [Mr. Taschereau] resort to such tactics, for I am convinced that the legislative separation about to take place under Confederation, cannot fail […]
- (p. 930)
[…] to have the effect of restoring French-Canadian nationality to the position it occupied previous to the union, coupled, moreover, with all the improvements since effected. (Hear, hear.) I do not desire to occupy the time of the House any longer; but as I have still a brief extract or two to read, I trust I may be permitted to say a few words more. (Cries of ”Go on,” “go on.”) The honorable members opposite reverence as their special apostles and patrons, Louis Blanc, Considérant, Blanqui, &c., &c., Now as to Blanqui, I shall quote his own words to show what his principles are. His sentiments are not very edifying, but it is necessary to read them in order that we may be enabled to judge of the disciples from the teaching of their masters. I quote:—
The people planted the red flag on the barricades of 1848. Let no one seek to scout it down. It was red solely with the generous blood shed by the people and by the national guards; it floats wide spread over Paris; it must be upheld. The victorious people will not remove their flag.
I shall not quote anything from Louis Blanc, who is well known to the Democrats; the following passage is from Considérant:—
Duty, says this singular apostle, comes from men, and attraction comes from God. Now, attraction is the free tendency of our passions. Every attraction is a thing natural, legitimate, and to which it is impious to resist. To yield to one’s attractions is true wisdom, for the passions are like a fixed compass which God has placed within us.
A free run then to your passions! The impulse comes from God! (Laughter.) Such are the doctrines of the democrats, the great leaders of our demagogues. I now quote Fourrier:—
All the passions of our nature are holy and good: they are like the notes in music, each one has its special value.
The passions, then, are to be man’s guides Good or bad, it is all one. (Laughter.) These are the principles of the men who have taken religion under their protection. (Laughter.) I would beg of them not to degrade the sacred name of religion, by using it as a political engine; not to drag the ministers of the gospel through the mire. The other day your cry was, “Let them remain in the vestry;” why, then, do you drag them forth? They know our opinions, and they do not need you to defend or protect them. (Hear, hear.) I say, moreover, to the honorable members opposite—show yourselves French-Canadians in earnest, and as your country requires your assistance and that of all its children to rescue it from its difficulties, give a helping hand to those who are working in the good cause. The ship is in danger; join hand in hand with the party which desires to save our nationality and our institutions; unite with us for the safety of our language, our laws, and all that we hold dear. I am aware that a famous demagogue, next to Voltaire, the chief promoter of the French Revolution, used these words at a public meeting:—
When the last of the Gracchi was expiring, he east a handful of dust towards heaven, and from that dust was born Marius—Marius who earned his greatness less by defeating the Cimbri, than by driving the aristocracy out of Rome.
That was the language of a great demagogue, a great orator, a great citizen—of a man who might have been great in every way, but who brought his country to a sad position. Attempts have often been made to blacken the reputation of the Hon. Attorney General for Lower Canada [Hon. Mr. Cartier], and to depreciate the fruits of his labors; for my part I cannot entertain a doubt but that posterity will yet say that the Hon. Attorney General for Lower Canada [Hon. Mr. Cartier] was great by his works, great by the codification of the laws, great by the abolition of the Seigniorial Tenure, and great, above all, in that he overcame and routed the demagogues. (Cheers.)
Mr. J.B.E. Dorion—Oh!
Mr. Dufresne—As I now see the honorable member for Bagot [Hon. Mr. Laframboise] in his place, I desire to make a few remarks in English, with reference to his speech. [Mr. Dufresne having hitherto spoken in French.] The honorable member for Bagot [Hon. Mr. Laframboise] stated to us in this House:—
You are robbing Lower Canada of $500,000, and for what? To give it to Upper Canada. Upper Canada will vote almost unanimously for this scheme of Confederation, because you rob Lower Canada of this amount for its benefit. And how so? Because there are only $100,000 due for public lands in Lower Canada, while there are $500,000 due in Upper Canada; and you in Lower Canada will receive only $100,000, while you give to Upper Canada $500,000. You are thus committing a spoliation of Lower Canada for the benefit of Upper Canada.
The proposition of the honorable member for Bagot [Hon. Mr. Laframboise] is then, if I understand it aright—and I took down his language at the time—to […]
- (p. 931)
[…] take from Upper Canada one-half of the dues on public lands and apply it for the benefit of the Local Government of Lower Canada. (Hear, hear.)
Mr. J.B.E. Dorion—He never used such language.
Mr. Webb said—Mr. Speaker, in the consideration of the scheme presented by the Government for the Confederation of the Provinces of British North America, I must say that I find a great deal of difficulty in dealing with it. It appears to me that before asking for a vote, the Government should have come down to the House with a more full and explicit statement of the measure in its entirety, so that honorable members might be able to arrive at a reasonable and just conclusion as to the merits of the case. (Hear, hear.)
And I think, sir, that taking into consideration the position in which the greater part of the population are placed who live in the section of country which other honorable gentlemen as well as myself have the honor of representing in this House, this line of argument is of much greater force coming from us than if it had been advanced by the people of any other part of the proposed Confederation. We all know that if this scheme is adopted, the English-speaking part of the population of Lower Canada will be in a very small minority in the Local Legislature; we all know that those who first opened up and settled the country which I allude to spoke the English language, and that the great majority of the people now living there are English-speaking Protestants; and, therefore, when their representatives are called upon to vote for a measure of this kind, which so deeply and intimately affects their future position and prosperity, I believe that all the details of it, all parts of it, should be fully and clearly placed before them, in order that they may know exactly in what position they stand with regard, and how it is to affect the interests they represent. (Hear, hear.)
The honorable gentlemen on the Treasury benches, in introducing this scheme and asking our assent to it, have thought proper to take a different course; they merely bring down the resolutions which consent to Confederation, reserving the all-important details for future consideration. It may be the right course, but I doubt it very much. (Hear, hear.) Although the Government has not given all the information which I would desire, I do not, however, think that the people of the section of which I am one of the representatives would be justified in opposing a seheme that may prove beneficial generally, merely because some of their interests may possibly be affected by it. I shall, therefore, vote for the resolutions in your hands, reserving to myself the right of voting for or against the details of the scheme for the local constitution as in my judgment may seem advisable. (Hear, hear.)
I consider that by voting for this measure I do not pledge myself to anything more than the general principle of a union of the Provinces of British North America. I admit, sir, that last summer the political affairs of this country were in a state of extreme difficulty, and I admit, too, that it was necessary something should be done to get rid of that difficulty. I would have thought, however, that the Conference which met here in October last, to consider a subject that has been before the people of this country since 1858, would have proposed, for the consideration of the respective legislatures, a legislative union of the British North American Provinces. It appears to me that a legislative union would be far more effective in binding the provinces together, and far more economical than the Federal union proposed. (Hear, hear.)
I admit, however, that there may be very great difficulties in bringing about a legislative union, that may not be in the way of a Federal union; and under all the circumstances of the case, the scheme, proposed may have been the best that could have been devised. The greatest objection I now have to it is that many of the people do not understand—that its details are not yet fully comprehended by the country. I believe that if hon. gentlemen had come down with the scheme in its entirety—presenting all its details, and the results expected to flow from them—that there would be far less opposition to it than there is in the country and in this House. (Hear, hear.)
But as it is now, they call upon the representatives of the people to give their consent to a measure that neither they nor the people thoroughly understand. These objections have been made to the scheme, and in my opinion they have great weight, more particularly in the part of the country which I have the honor to represent. It is not to be wondered at that the English-speaking part of the population of Lower Canada view it with apprehension, or rather have fears in their minds as to the working of it, when gentlemen like the honorable member for Peterborough [Col. Haultain], who are far removed from any of the difficulties that surround our position, have entertained the same feeling of apprehension. They have thought proper to express doubts and fears as to the […]
- (p. 932)
[…] result, and it cannot, therefore, be surprising that we should have our doubts and apprehensions about it. (Hear, hear.) I take it that the Protestants of Lower Canada have no cause of complaint against our French-Canadian neighbors. We have lived together since the union on good terms, and all our intercourse has been founded on equity and justice. (Hear, hear.) But there is a feeling amongst our community that they should be removed beyond the possibility of danger from any aggression by the French-Canadian population, and it is difficult to satisfy them that the scheme before the House and country will permit them to indulge in that feeling of security. (Hear, hear.)
It is not necessary for me, sir, to enter into any lengthy remarks upon this subject, nor to follow those honorable gentlemen who have gone into the matter thoroughly. I have no doubt that if a union of all the British. North American Provinces can be brought about on terms that shall be just and equitable to all sections and interests, it would be very advantageous to all of them. (Hear, hear.) I shall not, sir, detain the House any longer, but shall conclude by expressing my sincere hope that when we are again called upon to legislate upon this subject, we shall find that the details of this important change of our Constitution will be founded on justice and equity to all, and that we shall also find that honorable gentlemen who have now in a great measure the future destinies of Canada on their hands, may be found equal to their task, and that Canada, in connection with the other provinces, may become the land fit in every respect for the home of the free. (Cheers)
Hon. Atty. Gen. Cartier—I have listened, Mr. Speaker, with great interest to the observations of the honorable member for Richmond and Wolfe [Mr. Webb], who has just sat down. There is not the least doubt that the honorable gentleman represents a constituency and population, the majority of which is Protestant in its religious belief; and we know very well that great efforts have been made by those opposed to this scheme to create apprehension and distrust in the minds of the Protestant minority in Lower Canada in regard to it. Bat I now reiterate what I have already stated to this House, as a Catholic, and as a member of the Canadian Government, that when the measure for the settlement of the Local Government of Lower Canada comes before this House for discussion, it will be such as to satisfy the Protestant minority in Lower Canada. (Cheers.)
Mr. Rymal said—Mr. Speaker, relying upon the pledge given by the Hon. Attorney General West [Hon. J.A. Macdonald], that the members of this House would have a fair opportunity of expressing their views upon all the details of this measure, I had proposed reserving what little I had to say till such time as amendments embodying my views were before the House, But the pledge which I expected would be carried out in good faith has been violated by that hon. gentleman, and I am compelled now to raise my voice, and in my weak way, to assert what I would much rather have recorded by my vote. You are well aware, sir, and every member of the House is aware, of the circumstances that called into existence the present Government, and the avowed object for which it was formed; and all they asked, so far as I am aware, was that a certain degree of forbearance should be shown to them, in order that they might form a scheme that would remove the difficulties existing between Upper and Lower Canada, and, perhaps, tend to bring about a union of all the provinces. As I understood the policy of the Government, the Federation of the Canadas was the first object aimed at, arranging it in such a manner as to allow the Lower Provinces to come in when they desired to do so.
Mr. Speaker, that has by some been denied; but reading the memorandum drawn up and read by the Government at the time explanations were given to this House, and understanding as I do the purport of it, I think there is no loop-hole of escape from the obligation the Government were under to carry out the Federation of the Canadas first, leaving it to the other provinces to come in afterwards if they saw fit. (Hear, hear.)
I bring, then, two charges against the Government—one against the Hon. Attorney General West [Hon. J.A. Macdonald], and the other against those hon. friends in the Government with whom I have so long acted. The first is, that the Hon. Attorney General West [Hon. J.A. Macdonald] broke faith with the House in preventing amendments being moved; and the second is, that the Reform members of the Government broke faith in not bringing down a measure for the Federation of the Canadas. (Hear, hear.) I had hoped, sir, that the infusion of some pure blood into the Government—the addition of two or three men who had denounced all sorts of wickedness and corruption so loudly as the hon. gentlemen who went into the Government last summer—would at least have brought about some […]
- (p. 933)
[…] improvement in the other members of the Administration—(laughter)—and although I have been deceived and disappointed in my expectations, had the scheme propounded to this House been such as to commend itself to my judgment, and convince me it would remove the sectional difficulties long complained of, it would have received my approval. I had hoped, too, and fully believed, that when it came to be pronounced upon by the Legislature, it would, before final adoption, be submitted to the people for their approval. (Hear, hear.) That this was the opinion of a large majority of the people of Upper Canada, in November and December last, is, I think, beyond doubt.
The local papers in all sections of Upper Canada asserted that the Government could not take upon itself the fearful responsibility of forcing such a measure upon the people, we thought asking whether they consented to it or not. Allow me, sir, to read an extract from one that has accidentally fallen into my hands, in order to show the feeling of the people of Upper Canada upon this point. I am not in the habit of addressing the House very often, and when I speak I fear I do not acquit myself very creditably; and feeling on this occasion an unusual sense of responsibility, I am afraid I shall be worse than usual, which at all times is very indifferent. But I am impelled by a sense of duty to give my views upon the subject, and the House, I am sure, will overlook any shortcomings that I may exhibit. (Hear, hear.) The extract to which I have alluded reads as follows:—
Whatever mode may be finally chosen to bring the matter before the public, we feel certain that the people of this province, and of either of the Maritime Provinces, will tolerate no proceeding on the part of any one that has a tendency to despotism. The Canadians have battled for a long series of years for the liberties now enjoyed by them, and we greatly mistake if they allow the present or any other Government to make such sweeping alterations in the Constitution of the country without consulting them. The members of the respective governments were not appointed to frame a new Constitution; neither were the members of the various legislatures chosen for that purpose.
Mr. Speaker, I feel that in my own case in its fullest force. (Hear, hear.)
The question, as we have already said, was not even hinted at during the last election.—
I never, sir, heard it mooted. (Hear, hear.)
Nor was the voice of public opinion in its favor so strong, that it was forced upon the Government or Legislature. So far as Canada is concerned, it was the conception of the Government itself, and was taken up by its members to serve a necessity. This being the case, we contend that the people have a right to be asked to say yea or nay on the subject.
An Hon. Member—What is the name of the paper?
Mr. Rymal—It is the Norfolk Reformer, a paper the several issues of which, for the months of November and December last, were full of sentiments like those I have quoted; but, looking over the numbers that have appeared since that magnetic or mesmeric circular was sent out from the Provincial Secretary [Hon. Mr. McDougall]’s Office, I see that it has sung dumb. (Laughter.) I fearlessly assert that the Confederation of the British North American Provinces has taken no strong hold of the public mind of Canada. It never was demanded, and I believe as certainly as that I am now speaking, that if this mat term were submitted to the people, and fully understood by them, they would reject it. (Hear, hear.)
I have endeavored to obtain from the leading men in the riding which I have the honor to represent, an expression of their opinions with reference to this scheme. At the time the resolutions were printed here, I secured from twenty to twenty-five copies, and mailed them to my constituency, asking an expression of opinion as to the propriety of adopting them.
Only two sent anything like a favorable verdict, and all they were able to say in their favor was, that they thought the scheme might be advantageous in a national point of view, but they feared the expense of carrying it out would more than counter-balance the advantages. These are the most favorable expressions of opinion I have got, while in other instances they are denounced in toto. Allow me to read an extract from a letter I have received from one of the most influential gentlemen residing in South Wentworth [Mr. Rymal] the, and who is withal a set rung practical reformer, having received a part of his political education from the Globe. (Hear, hear.) He says:—
I did at one time allow myself to fancy that Confederation was destined to afford a means of escape from most of the evils which surround our political fabric. When I glanced over the printed resolutions now before the Legislature, I thought that we, the strongest member of the proposed Confederation had, in some respects decidedly the […]
- (p. 934)
[…] worst of the bargain. I now feel satisfied that this is the case.
Mr. Speaker, I am glad to find that I am not the only man resident in the South Riding of Wentworth [Mr. Rymal] who questions in a very slight degree the honesty of purpose of some members of the Government in bringing down a scheme of this kind, while, at the same time, refusing to give the House that information by which it ought to be accompanied. My correspondent goes on to say:—
I do not believe there is so much patriotism as is pretended among the advocates, or at least the parents of the scheme. I fear they see in it a nice arrangement by which they can extend their term of office, either in the General Government or in the present one. Their departure from the plan proposed by themselves last session; their hurrying the resolutions through the House without giving the country time to consider them; their great reluctance to give information on the subject, and some other things, lead me to doubt whether they are actuated solely by patriotic motives. I should not have been so uncharitable as to doubt their sincerity, had not their conduct on former occasions been characterized by a lack of that quality.
And I must say, Mr. Speaker, that to a certain extent I entertain the same opinion. I do not propose to go over the whole ground in discussing this scheme. I do not feel competent to that task. But since this debate commenced, I have listened carefully to almost every speech that has been made, with the view of receiving that light which would qualify me to give a vote satisfactory to myself and to my constituents. And I have come to the conclusion that taking this scheme all in all, I am not in a position to approve of it. (Hear, hear.) The refusal on the par two the Government to submit it to the people of this country, who have the deepest interest in it, proves conclusively to me that there is something in it which they do not wish the people to know. Their refusal, also, to give the fullest information on a matter of such importance, imparts to me a suspicion, that to use a homely but expressive phrase, “there’s a nigger in the fence.” (Laughter.)
It has been contended that with a view to our security, it was necessary to combine our strength. Now the strength, in my humble judgment, which we would obtain by consummating this union, is just that kind of strength which a fishing rod would obtain by fastening to it some additional joints. (Hear, hear.) If you can, by some convulsion of nature, bring Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland, and place them where the uninhabitable mountains, fifteen or twenty miles portly of this place, now are, or leave a couple of them in the boss imp of Lake Ontario, we might have additional strength. But, under our actual circumstances, you propose merely to add to us several hundred miles more of length; without any additional hands to defend them (Hear, hear.) I must allude to one matter, which is to bring upon us almost unlimited and unknown expenses, if this union is consummated. To undertake the construction of the Intercolonial Railroad is, in my judgment, to start upon a career of extravagance which will swamp this young country. As one of the agriculturists of Canada, and speaking in their name, I beg to assure the House—if it needs any assurance on a point so palpable—that the agriculturists of Canada are not in a very flourishing condition.
The failure of the crops, with low prices, and the heavy burdens they have hitherto borne, have left them in a bad position to bear increased burdens. (Hear, hear.) The balance-sheet of our public financial operations, I think, should be a warning to every one of us, that no uncalled-for or unnecessary expense should be entered upon, but that our means should be economised, and that a balance should, if possible, be shown in our favor for the first time in ten years. We also see many of our business men at present rushing into the bankrupt courts. I find no fewer than 905 insolvent notices in the Canada Gazette, from the 1st September to the 24th December last. (Hear, hear.)
Mr. A. Mackenzie—But did all these become bankrupts during the year?
Mr. Rymal—I cannot say. They at all events gave the notice during the year. And I believe the misfortunes which have befallen these men will, in each case, affect at least half a dozen, making an aggregate of 5,000. (Hear, hear.) I am satisfied, therefore, that this is not the proper time for these increased burdens being thrown upon the people of Canada. I think hon. gentlemen must agree with me, that we have lived as it were too fast, that we have gone beyond our means, and that we are reaping now the bitter fruits of this in tile heavy debt which we at present bear. Without enlarging upon the reasons why I feel it my duty to oppose this measure, I may mention some half […]
- (p. 935)
[…] dozen which to my mind justify me in opposing it. In the first place, I oppose it because this is not the scheme which the Government pledged themselves to submit to the House this session, nor the one which has been considered by the people of Upper Canada. I oppose it also, because I was not sent here to change the Constitution, or to enter into partnerships, without those who sent me here having an opportunity of pronouncing their opinion concerning them. I oppose it, because of the arbitrary conduct of the promoters of the scheme in endeavoring to wrest from the people privileges which they have enjoyed without abusing, and which they do not wish to give up. I refer here to the proposed mode of appointing the Legislative Council. I oppose it. Because the expenditure which this scheme involves, in my opinion, far outweighs the advantages to be derived from it. Further, I oppose it, because I do not believe it will settle the sectional difficulties we have complained of, but, on the contrary, will multiply them to the same extent as we take in new partners, and will leave upper Canada the victim, not of one, but of several smaller provinces. (Hear, hear.)
In conclusion, I think honorable gentlemen will agree with me that in 1850 Canada was the admiration and the envy of most of the people who were acquainted with our position. I would compare the position of Canada at that time—and I think I may without impropriety—to that of a young man of eighteen or twenty, handsome in figure, with a good constitution, of robust strength, and under the care of a tender and loving parent (as I presume England is to Canada), and this parent has committed the health of this child of his—this lovely youth—to the care of a family physician, who, however, has transferred him from time to time to the care of other physicians of different schools. Some of them were allopath’s, some were homoeopaths, some were hydropaths—but they all bled—(laughter)—they all blistered—they all sweated. (Continued laughter.)
Under hutch treatment this lovely youth became pale and sickly. The ruddy hue of health passed from his countenance, and instead of his step being firm and bounding, he began to stagger in his gait. Then the parent began to call the physicians to account, for they were acting or pretending to act under responsibility for the result of their treatment. And what answer did they make? Each one of them protested that his own nostrum was sufficient to cure the malady, although it was evident that he was sinking under the treatment. But in order that he might have the benefit of the craft, and themselves not be dismissed for want of skill, they agreed to join, and, making an admixture of their several nostrums, to administer that to the patient. (Great laughter)
Under this treatment, however, the kind parent began to think that his son had let a poor chance. He remonstrated—as I presume our parent (England) has done—and declared that this could not be allowed, that the patient would die, and that the neighbors were wondering at the amount of the patient’s endurance, and the parent’s folly in permitting this bleeding, blistering, sweating process to go on so long. And what do you suppose the quacks, in order to satisfy the parent, proposed to do? After acknowledging, as they could not help, but acknowledge, that they had brought the lovely youth to the brink of the grave, they proposed now to the parent that he should hand over three or four other members of the family that they might experiment upon them also. (Laughter.) But, Mr. Speaker, I am glad to say, that when they heard to this proposition, the other children said—“We will have none of it—no quack doctors for us from Canada—we will manage our own affairs and select our own physicians for ourselves.” (Hear, hear, and laughter.)
I have spoken in a figurative manner, but I trust my language has convoyed the sum and substance of our present position to the minds of hon. gentlemen. (Hear, hear) It conveys exactly, at all events, the opinion I entertain of the treatment which Canada has received at the hands of her rulers for a number of years past. They have been playing their parts, one arguing “I am right,” and the other, “You’re wrong”—each party arrogating to itself the greatest amount of wisdom—until Canada has been reduced to a state of poverty—I won’t say how low; I do not like to describe it—but to a position in which everyone admits we cannot remain. And now the men who have brought her to that position, who have been instrumental in creating the sectional difficulties and religious states that have embroiled the people of Canada, are to be the doctors who are to cure this malady! If they can do it, I shall be happy to assist […]
- (p. 936)
[…] in my humble way. But believing the nostrum they are about to administer will aggravate the evil rather than cure or alleviate it, I feel it to be a duty I owe to my constituents and to my own conscience to vote against the scheme, be the consequences what they may. (Cheers.)
Dr. Parker—Mr. Speaker, before the debate closes, I desire to make a few observations in explanation of the vote it is my intention to record on this question. I shall not trespass on the indulgence of the House, but will compress in a few sentences the explanations I desire to make. It is pretty well within the knowledge of the House that I entertain strong objections to the Address on the table—not only objections of principle, but detail—objections not only as an Upper Canadian, but as a British North American, and objections as to the time and manner in which it is sought to give to these resolutions the force of law. If it was possible to propose or secure certain changes, I would make them or warmly support them. The motion of the “previous question” by the leader of the Government precludes all amendments; for it I am not responsible, but by it I am forced to give a yea or nay vote on the Address as it now stands. I have no choice but to accept or reject these resolutions as a whole. If I could take the responsibility of the latter, I would state my objections to the basis of Confederation fully, perhaps strongly. I refrain from this expression, because, under the circumstances to which I have alluded, it would serve no good end or purpose.
It has been persistently urged during this debate that the opponents of this measure should propound a better. A sufficient answer to that argument is, that they are not allowed to do so. But aside from this, the opponents of a public measure are not always called upon to submit an alternative proposition, but may stand on their strict logical and parliamentary right of proposing nothing and conceding nothing, not even attempting to prove the particular measure to which they are opposed bad, but that its supporters have not proved it to be good. Upon all questions of ordinary magnitude and importance from which I dissented, I would feel justified by that answer. But, sir, this is not a question of ordinary magnitude and importance; our domestic and external difficulties are pressing and importunate, and I feel in rejecting this measure, I am bound morally and in duty to the country and the people I represent, to see my way to something better. On this part of the issue I am entirely with the Government. I believe the period has arrived when it is necessary to remodel our institutions, even for the purpose of conducting the civil government of the country. The time has come when it is necessary to carry some measure of constitutional reform.
The public opinion of the country—all the events of the last year—the reconstruction of the present Administration expressly to settle this question, places us in a position whence we can neither recede nor stand still. The status quo is impossible. Under these circumstances, the practical question is—can a better measure than that now before us be secured? Better measures could, perhaps, have been devised, but it is doubtful if they would have secured general concurrence or be carried. The only question, however, I have to determine is, that under the necessities of the time and the restriction from all choice—for neither of which I am in any way responsible—I can see my way to nothing better, and I have therefore determined to record my vote for these resolutions. (Hear, hear)
Conceding, as I honestly do, the necessity of constitutional changes, I accept this as the only practical measure at the present time. If I could see a reasonable probability of securing anything better, I would vote otherwise. But from some of the remarks made by leading members in opposition to this Address, the changes which they would probably propose I could under no circumstances support; because then, sir, circumstances, over which I have no control, make this the only practicable change possible; and, as the necessity is urgent, I accept these resolutions as a necessity of the time and situation. In voting for this Address, however, I reserve to myself the right of judgment on every question in these resolutions, which may hereafter become the subject of deliberation in Parliament, should I have the honor to hold a seat in this House.
In voting for these resolutions, I hold myself in no way committed to any proposed improvement; and will vote on them, and particularly the Intercolonial Railway, as though they were in no way mentioned in these resolutions. Should this measure fail, either in the House of Commons or by the persistent refusal of the Maritime Provinces to […]
- (p. 937)
[…] make good their contract, I shall consider the Government still bound to find some other solution for our difficulties. Seasonable time and allowance being made for the difficulties of their task, I will continue to hold them responsible for some satisfactory measure of settlement. Should British North America become united on the basis of these resolutions, a serious responsibility will rest on those public men who will be called in the first days to administer these several governments. Should they fall into prodigal hands, the most serious injury, even ruin, may be entailed on the country. These dangers may be averted by prudence and economy in our future legislators, by which happier results may be achieved. But, sir, under the most favorable auspices, I believe difficulties and embarrassments will grow up under this new Constitution.
I hope it will not then be considered a finality, but capable of amendment as time goes on. I sincerely trust that so far as its future defects may have their origin in matters of law, they will be redressed by wise, legal and enlightened means; and, so far as they may have their foundation in matters of sentiment or opinion, that they will be redressed by the cultivation of better and more fraternal feeling between the people of the different provinces. I trust and believe that by such happy means, although it is not now such a Constitution as we can all approve, that it may in the future be so modified and administered as to meet the requirements and expectations of the country, and that under it all the residents of these six provinces may become one united, firm, prosperous and happy people. (Hear, hear.)
Hon. Mr. Holton said—Mr. Speaker, I endeavored to catch your eye in the early part of the evening, with the view of offering a few observations, both upon the merits of the subject referred to in the motion in your hands, and of replying to some of the arguments adduced by the friends of the measure; but, knowing the extreme anxiety that existed on the part of many others to speak to the resolutions before the vote is taken, and feeling that there would be another opportunity to address the House, when the motion, of which notice has been given by my honorable friend from Peel [Hon. J.H. Cameron], comes up, I have determined not to claim the attention of the House for any lengthened remarks at the present time. There are, however, just one or two points to which I feel that I ought briefly to refer, before a division is taken.
My honorable friend from Granville (Mr. Shanly), in the course of his very interesting speech—a speech to which I listened with a great deal of attention—took occasion to remark upon what he characterised as the bold and manly course adopted by the Government, on learning of the rejection of this scheme by the people of New Brunswick. Sir, on that point, I join issue with that gentleman. The course of the Government ought to be bold and manly, to entitle it to the support of a bold and manly mind like his that was so much in doubt as to what course to pursue before this bold and manly policy was adopted. But, sir, instead of its being a bold and manly course, I hold that it was a mere running away from the difficulty which the defeat of those resolutions by the people of New Brunswick presented. What was the position at that moment? We were discussing the desirability and feasibility of having a union of all these colonies, founded upon resolutions adopted by a conference of delegates from the various colonies, which met in this city in October last.
These resolutions were to be concurred in by all the provinces, and were represented to us as being in the nature of a treaty. Suddenly we hear that the Province of New Brunswick, the only one whose territory adjoins ours, had, in effect, refused to ratify that treaty, and hence the treaty falls to the ground, and the refusal of that province to join the union renders a union impossible. My hon. friend says it was a bold and manly course to insist on going on with that which it had become impossible to carry out; but, sir, I maintain, as I said before, that their course was merely a method—cunning and adroit, perhaps, but neither bold nor manly—which they adopted of running away from their duty. (Hear, hear.) The refusal of New Brunswick to join the union, or to ratify the treaty, having destroyed it, a new duty then devolved upon our Government—a duty growing directly out of the obligation under which those gentlemen placed themselves in the re-formation of their Government in June last. That obligation was to settle the Canadian difficulty this session, either by a Confederation of all the provinces, or by a Canadian Federation.
The one now under consideration for the former object being dead, they were bound to deal with the Canadian question apart altogether from that relating to the Federation of all the British North American […]
- (p. 938)
[…] Colonies. Instead of dealing with it, however, I say that they have run away from it. And that is what is called a bold and manly course. (Hear, hear.) Instead of that it was, in my opinion, a most cowardly course to pursue. (Hear, hear.) It was a stratagetic course, the effect of which was to avoid the difficulty, and hold their places in the Government; but was anything but a manly one. The honorable gentleman spoke of this as a treaty. I am surprised that a gentleman for whose astuteness I had learned to entertain a very high estimation, should be carried away by such a fallacy as that. I maintain, sir, that no treaty has been submitted to us. It is not found in the resolutions, nor yet in the despatch of the Governor General transmitting them to this House. Neither the resolutions nor the despatch contain any intimation of their having been a treaty between the respective provinces, and certainly we have had no correspondence laid before us purporting to relate to a treaty between this and the other provinces. (Hear, hear.)
Mr. Shanly—the treaty was constructed in Conference, and therefore no correspondence was necessary.
Hon. Mr. Holton—well, we know that there was correspondence between the colonial governments which has not been submitted to us. It was referred to in the resolutions submitted to the Legislature of Nova Scotia. That correspondence, though moved for in this House on the first day of the present session by my hon. friend from Hochelaga [Hon. Mr. Dorion], has never to this day been brought down, and yet, sir, it has been pretended that it is a treaty. If it is a treaty, why did not the Government submit the treaty or the correspondence which proved the existence of a treaty? The seventeenth clause, sir, is the only one that can be quoted as having any bearing whatever on the question of a treaty. It reads as follows:—
- The basis of representation in the House of Commons shall be population, as determined by the official census every ten years; and the number of members at first shall be 194, distributed as follows—Upper Canada, 82; Lower Canada, 65; Nova Scotia, 19; New Brunswick, 15; Newfoundland, 8; and Prince Edward Island, 5.
Of course, sir, the honorable gentlemen undertook to bring before their respective parliaments the propositions which they had agreed upon in conference, and which, if acceptable to all the legislatures, were to serve as a basis of a Constitution for the contemplated union. But there is nothing in that clause to show that the governments, or the provinces which they represented, were to be bound to regard this whole scheme as a treaty, and to lay it before their respective legislatures as such. On the contrary, we find Ministers in the Lower Provinces stating that the whole of the scheme might be modified. (Hear, hear.) And, sir, if it is a treaty, and the governments were bound as by that treaty to stand or fall by it, that treaty has been grossly violated by the other parties thereto. What, sir, was the course pursued in Newfoundland? Why, the leader of the Government himself moves a resolution in the Legislature, to the effect that the consideration of the whole question be postponed until next session, with a general election intervening.
If there was a treaty binding on all parties—and there cannot be a treaty unless it is binding on all parties—that is the very nature and essence of a treaty. If honorable gentlemen are justified in their statement that it is a treaty, do they not, by necessary implication, thereby charge the governments of all the other provinces with a breach of faith? (Hear, hear.) But, sir, there was no treaty, and it was never intended to consider these resolutions as being in the nature of a treaty. It was simply intended that these heads of agreement—for they are hardly worthy of the name of resolutions, so clumsily are they strung together—should be brought before each Legislature in the shape of propositions, to be considered and voted upon separately, at the same time keeping in view the importance and expediency of adhering to the agreement arrived at in the Conference.
Any other agreement in a conference composed of members of the Opposition, as well as of the governments of the Lower Provinces, would have been simply absurd; but our Government were shrewd enough to see the difficulties that were likely to arise in considering the resolutions separately, and that it would be impossible to obtain the assent of this House to all of the self-contradictory, and, in some cases, absurd propositions, contained in this scheme; and therefore, they hit upon this expedient of proclaiming it to be in the nature of a treaty, of using their strength as a Government in its favor and of asking the honorable members of this House to vote for it en masse—to vote in stultification of all their antecedents upon every question that has engaged the attention of this Legislature, or that has been the subject of discussion in our Provincial Parliament during the last quarter of a century. […]
- (p. 939)
[…] (Hear, hear.)
Sir, up to a recent period there might possibly be said to have been some little life in this debate; but during the last week it has been to me not without its ludicrous aspects. When I have heard honorable members get up day after day and argue gravely for union with a people who we now know will have no union with us, and arguing that that union will be a means by which we could emerge from our sectional difficulties here in Canada, it has presented to my mind a most ludicrous aspect. I cannot conceive why hon. gentlemen, in the face of the intelligence we have had from New Brunswick and Newfoundland, and for what we know is likely to be the action of Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia, should go on gravely arguing in favor of this as a live scheme, from which anything else could come than the perpetuation of the official life of a few hon. gentlemen, brought together by means that I shall not now allude to more particularly, but which I shall take another occasion to characterise in such terms as I think are appropriate.
Their Confederation scheme is dead, sir, and they know it is dead; and yet they go on and ask their supporters here to vote for this string of seventy-two propositions. The hon. gentleman who has just taken his seat, said he was going to vote for the motion, but wished it to be distinctly understood that he was not in favor of any one of the propositions which the motion embraces. I tell my honorable friend that he is going to record his vote in favor of every one of these propositions. I tell him that the Government will not give to him, or to this House of Parliament, the privilege of recording a vote on one proposition alone, unless it is recorded in favor of the whole scheme.
Dr. Parker—What I said was this—that I reserved to myself the right of voting as I pleased on every resolution which might become the subject of parliamentary action on another day.
Hon. Mr. Holton—I understood my honorable friend perfectly; but notwithstanding any declaration that he may make in reference to the subject, the fact still holds good that by his vote he will place himself on record as being in favor of those seventy-two resolutions. That is the inevitable result of the mode in which these resolutions are put to this House—a very unsatisfactory mode, a very unparliamentary mode, and a mode which I maintain is an insult to this House as a free Parliament, representing British freemen—and I trust that before the final passing of the resolutions and Address, this House will resist this endeavor to tamper with its freedom, and condemn with it the men who have been the authors of the attempt. Well, sir, the scheme is dead, and yet it is to keep the men alive. (Laughter.)
That is the whole object of this discussion. The honorable gentlemen know very well that the scheme is dead. (Hear, hear.) They know perfectly well that I am uttering the simple truth when I say that when they came down with their new programme, they were in the greatest possible difficulty; and it was to retire from this difficulty, and not to force it, that they hit upon the expedient we saw them resorting to—proclaiming the refusal of the Lower Provinces to come into the union as the strongest reason why they declared in favor of the union. (Hear, hear.)
These are the few observations I proposed making to-night, reserving any further remarks I may have to make for the debate which will probably arise on the motion of the honorable member for Peel (Hon. Mr. Cameron). But while I am up, I desire to call the attention of the House to a somewhat startling statement which appears in the English newspapers that arrived to-day. I hold in my hands the Times of February 21st, containing the extended report of the debate in the House of Lords, of which we received a summary by telegraph a few days ago, and in respect to which some information was recently conveyed to the House by a member of the Government, on the authority of a telegram which had been received from New York.
It will be remembered that the first telegraphic report we had of the conversation in the House of Lords represented an appropriation of £50,000 as having been made towards the defences of Quebec. Although we had applied for this information, it was refused us, but it was given unhesitatingly by Lord De Grey, the Secretary at War, in the House of Lords, connected with some other statements respecting the share in the defences of the country to be undertaken by the people of this country. The honorable gentlemen, however, improved the opportunity which the news afforded them in their own way. They made it the basis of a new flank movement. It served as an excellent excuse for moving the previous question, in order that they might close this debate at the earliest possible moment, and start for England with the greatest haste, in order to save the country from impending invasion. The telegraphic report created a good deal of excitement in the […]
- (p. 940)
[…] House. It will be remembered that when my honorable friend from West Middlesex (Mr. Scatcherd) was making some remarks in reference to this subject, the Hon. President of the Council [Hon. Mr. Brown] rose in his place and told the House that either he himself or some other party had telegraphed to New York to learn the precise facts as to the alleged appropriation by the Imperial Government of £50,000. The honorable gentleman stated he had learned that the sum was not £50,000.
Hon. Atty. Gen. Macdonald—Thirty thousand pounds.
Hon. Mr. Holton—£30,000, or £50,000—it was variously stated—but £200,000. “Well, sir, we have the extended report at length, and it appears that £50,000 is the sum to be placed in the estimates this year. They look to the expenditure of £200,000 in the course of four years, beginning this year with an appropriation of £50,000. It appears from this that they do not consider the case as so very urgent—not, at all events, so urgent as to require the business of the Parliament of this country to be suspended, in order that Ministers may hasten thither to make provision for the defence of the country. (Hear, hear.)
So much would follow from the fact of their spreading the £200,000 over four years. But that is not all. Very startling statements on the subject of the defence of Canada were made in this debate in the House of Lords. We know how persistently our own Government have refused us the necessary information to guide us on the subject—seeking, in the absence of that information, unfairly to use the subject of defence as a means of persuading honorable gentlemen to support their measure of Confederation. (Hear, hear.)
Now I hold this doctrine, that quoad Canadian affairs, our Ministers are bound to furnish us with the same ample information as the Imperial Government are bound to furnish the Imperial Parliament, quoad Imperial affairs, when it is not inconsistent with the public interest so to do. (Hear, hear.) Well, we find that weeks ago this debate came up in an incidental manner in the House of Lords, on a motion of a noble lord (Lord Lyveden), for information on the subject, and that the Government at once entered into the fullest explanations, in the course of which they made some rather startling statements as to their negotiations on the defence question with this Government, and in respect to which all information has been withheld from us. In answer to Lord Lyveden, Earl De Grey said:—
The Government undertook to provide for the necessary improvements in the defence of Quebec, which had always been considered as an Imperial fortress, and which, though formerly of great strength, like other fortifications, required improvements to meet the altered circumstances of warfare. They had proposed to the Canadian Government to undertake the fortification of Montreal and the western points. The Canadian Government was well aware of the obligations which rested on them, and when they had received the necessary answer from the Canadian Parliament, were ready to undertake these works.
Mark this, that the Canadian Government are ready to undertake the fortification of Montreal and the western points. (Hear, hear.) Such is the information which we get from Earl De Grey, that our Ministers have entered into this understanding, provided that they can get the assent and authority of the Canadian Parliament to incur the whole expense of permanent defensive works westward of Quebec. (Hear, hear.) And yet, sir, although information on this subject has been sought for at almost eveiy stage of the debate—almost daily—they have persistently withheld it from us. But now fortunately before this debate is closed, we learn from the lips of the Secretary at War that in so far as in them lay, they pledged the resources of this country to an untold amount for the construction of fortifications throughout the province, with the exception of Quebec. They have agreed to this, I say, subject to the approval of Parliament, and which approval they dare not ask until this scheme, the whole of the seventy-two resolutions, with all their clumsy contrivances, is adopted by this House—in order that their official existence may be lengthened out for a few months longer. (Hear, hear.)
The whole amount which will be required for permanent fortifications, as stated in a leading article in the the Times, is £1,300,000 sterling—about $7,000,000, of which the Imperial Government propose to expend £200,000, or about, $1,000,000. We therefore learn that our Government have really bargained for the expenditure by Canada of $5,000,000 to $6,000,000 towards the permanent defences of the country, in respect of which we have had no information whatever. (Hear, hear.) There can be no doubt that they have made this bargain, because I have quoted the words of Earl De Grey stating in precise terms that the Canadian Government had agreed to it, subject to the approval of our Parliament. I say that this is a startling fact, and I hope that the honorable gentlemen […]
- (p. 941)
[…] who intend voting for these seventy-two resolutions, which in reality sanction this arrangement—because the Government have insisted upon it and urged it throughout this debate—will pause before they add other $6,000,000 to the untold millions to which we shall be pledged by the adoption of the scheme now before the House. (Hear, hear.)
Mr. Fortier—In rising to speak at such an advanced stage of the debate, it is not my intention to occupy the attention of the House for any lengthened period, especially as the topic of Confederation which has been under consideration for several days past, has been pretty thoroughly exhausted. I do not, however, consider that I should be doing my duty were I to allow this question to pass without remark, and without stating to the House and to the country the reasons which have brought me to the determination to vote as I have resolved to vote on this great question of Confederation. What, I would ask, Mr. Speaker, do Ministers call upon us to do on this occasion? To pass an Address to Her Majesty, praying Her by a single stroke of the pen to cancel our present Constitution, and to substitute another based on the seventy-two resolutions adopted by the Conference at Quebec, held on the 10th October last, and which resolutions are now before the House.
I am convinced that the Quebec Conference, when they framed the basis of our new Constitution, far from being actuated by any sentiment of disinterestedness, were on the contrary influenced by the desire of personal advancement. I may be deceived, Mr. Speaker, and I sincerely hope that I am. I hope that the electors of New Brunswick, who have just rejected the scheme of the Quebec Conference, and at the same time passed a direct vote of censure against the most illustrious men in that province, for having agreed to this scheme, and, by so doing, compromised the interests of their country—I hope, I say, that these electors have also been mistaken, knowing, as I do, that obedience must be yielded to the majority, and that, in spite of their triumphant opposition, Confederation will be imposed upon us as now projected. It its sought by a single stroke of the pen to abrogate our Constitutional Act, and to substitute for it a Constitution of the details of which we are altogether ignorant, of which, indeed, every effort is made to keep us in ignorance.
We are urged to exchange what we now have or something that they propose to give us. Franklin has told us that “a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.” I am one of those who would prefer the bird in the hand, and for that reason I am not prepared, without further guarantee, to change the Constitution of the country. (Hear, hear.) I hold to the Constitution of 1840, because it consecrates a great principle in favor of Lower Canada, that of equality of representation in the Legislature; and I adhere the more firmly to it, Mr. Speaker, when I bear in mind that it is one of the express conditions of my presence in this House as the representative of the county of Yamaska, and I do not intend to betray the confidence reposed in me. In relation to this subject, I will take the liberty of reading to the House extracts from two letters which have been addressed to me by two electors of great influence in my county:—
St. Michel D’Yamaska, 29th Jan., 1865.
My Dear Friend,—From the little information Í have been able to obtain in relation to what has taken place in the House since the beginning of the session, I observe that the true patriots, far from being able to avert, will not even have the satisfaction of delaying, the storm which threatens our unhappy country. The French-Canadian egotists are, as usual, in the majority, especially in this nineteenth century—the age of progress it may be, but the age of selfishness, of hazardous speculations, in which conscience (now, alas! only a by-word) takes no part—the age of usurious loans, to the great detriment of the poor people, whom, not content with pillaging and ruining, it is now proposed, with the view of securing a few years of power and position, to deprive of their nationality, their laws and their religion. * * What ought we to do under these circumstances, when we see our country threatened by its own children, allied with its bitterest foes? Treat the traitors with disdain, and maintain with firmness (no matter how few in numbers we may be) an energetic and constitutional opposition. It may be that at last the Catholic clergy will awake from their dream, and will manfully aid the Opposition, whose sole object is the preservation of its most cherished rights.
Mr. Speaker, I read such language with pride, and I now proceed to read the views of another of my electors, no less patriotic than the one whose letter I have just read:—
Rivière David, 21st Feb., 1865.
Dear Sir,—I have received a copy of the resolutions in relation to the projected union of the Provinces of British North America, and after having examined and studied them, and having read with care all that the papers on either side have to say for and against them, I beg to state as my opinion, that they are very far from meeting with my approval. Even were they better […]
- (p. 942)
[…] than they are, I should be very sorry to see them adopted before an opportunity has been afforded to the electors to pronounce upon them, and to authorize their representatives to vote in favor of them. I shall abstain, in view of the want of space in a simple letter like this, from discussing the reasons which have led me to form this opinion. Suffice it that I unite my voice with that of the best friends of our country in telling you that you were not elected to destroy, but rather to promote the working of our Constitution.
These remarks, Mr. Speaker, are so true and so reasonable, that I should be ashamed did I not agree with them; yet if I had reason to anticipate that our country would be endangered by the refusal of this House to pass the scheme of Confederation now proposed to us, I would not hesitate to vote in favor of it. But I am very far from believing that our Constitution cannot be made to work with benefit to the country for many years to come. If the Taché-Macdonald Government had not been defeated last year, and if it could have retained a majority of one or two votes only, as has been so well observed by the hon. member for Beauce [Mr. Taschereau], Confederation would still be in the clouds, and the hon. member for South Oxford [Hon. Mr. Brown] would still be at a great distance from his long-sought haven. It is, however, to be hoped that the offspring of the present Administration—composed, as it is, of such heterogeneous elements—will not be the victim of premature birth, and that the Government will have something else to present to the country than a still-born child. (Hear, hear.)
Mr. Speaker, that great principle of sectional equality was consecrated anew by the Legislative Council Act of 1856. And by whom was it consecrated? By the men who are now in power. On the 14th March, 1856, the hon. member for Montmorency [Hon. Mr. Cauchon], seconded by the Hon. Mr. Spence, moved the adoption of a law establishing equality in the Legislative Council between Upper and Lower Canada, and rendering that branch of the Legislature elective. The principle of that law was assented to by eighty-three votes against six. I read from the Journals of this House as follows:—
The order of the day for the second reading of the bill to change the constitution of the Legislative Council, by rendering the same elective, being read, the Hon. Mr. Cauchon moved, seconded by the Hon. Mr. Spence, and the question being put, that the bill be now read a second time the House divided, and the names being called for, they were taken down as follow:—
YEAS.—Messrs. Aikins, Alleyn, Bell, Bellingham, Biggar, Bourassa, Brodeur, Bureau, Cartier, Casault, Canchón, Cayley, Chapáis, Chisholm, Christie, Conger, Cooke, Cook, Chas, Daoust, Jean B. Daoust, Darche, Delong, Desaulniers, DeWitt, Dionne, J. B. B. Dorion, A.A. Dorion, Dostaler, Atty. Gen. Drummond, Dufresne, Felton, Ferrie, Foley, O. C. Fortler, Fournier, Frazer, Freeman, Gamble, Gould, Guévremont, Hartman, Holton, Jobin, Labelle, Laporte, LeBoutillier, Lemieux, Loranger, Lumsden, Lyon, John S. Macdonald, Atty. Gen. Macdonald, Mackenzie, McCann, Marchildon, Masson, Mattice, Meagher, A. Morrison, Munro, Papin, Patrick, Poulin, Pouliot, Powell, Prévost, Price, Rhodes, Sol. Gen. Ross, J. Ross, Sanborn, Shaw, Sol. Gen. Smith, S. Smith, James Smith, Somerville, Southwick, Spence, Stevenson, Thibaudeau, Turcotte, Valois, and Wright.—83.
NAYS.—Messrs. Bows, Brown, Cameron, Crawford, Robinson, and Yeilding.—6.
So it was resolved in the affirmative.
Thus, on this exciting question of representation by population, eighty-nine members from Upper and Lower Canada voted and took part in the discussion, forty-four from Upper Canada, of whom only six demanded representation by population (the Hon. Mr. Brown being one of them), and forty-five Lower Canadians, ten of English and thirtyfive of French-Canadian origin, constituting eighty-three votes against six. Observe the immense majority who voted upon the constitution of the Upper House, and ratified the Constitutional Act of 1840 to which I have just referred. Not only was this principle consecrated by a large majority in both branches of the Legislature; as I have just shown, it was also confirmed by the Government of the Mother Country, ior whose sanction this law was reserved, at most eight years ago.
And, Mr. Speaker, these two Constitutional Acts have been the means of establishing the peace, happiness and prosperity of the country since the troubles of 1837 and 1838; behind these two acts the French-Canadians have sheltered themselves as behind an impregnable rampart, and yet these two acts the present Administration, sustained by a majority of French-Canadians in this House, are ready to scatter to the four winds (Hear, hear.) For the last quarter of a century, Canada has enjoyed responsible government and the advantage of equality in the representation. What then is there to complain of, and by whom are complaints made? Who have complained during the last ten years—have the French-Canadians, have the Upper-Canadians? No, sir, it is the hon. member for South Oxford […]
- (p. 943)
[…] (Hon. Mr. Brown), and on what ground? On the question of representation based upon numbers. Why has that hon. gentleman created such a turmoil in Upper Canada, and why has he tried to tread under foot that which the French-Canadians hold most dear—their religion? It was to attain power, to reach the seat which he now occupies on the other side of the House, supported by the honorable members for Kamouraska [Hon. Mr. Chapais] and Dorchester [Hon. Sol. Gen. Langevin], like altar posts on each side of a statue. (Hear, hear, and laughter.) Who are those who have opposed that hon. member in this House? All the members for Lower Canada, both French and English without distinction. Never have the members from Lower Canada been divided on this vital question.
Bleus and Rouges, Mr. Speaker, have united as one man to preserve that which guaranteed to them their future as derscendants of old France. And what was the cause of this union of French-Canadians against the hon. member for South Oxford [Hon. Mr. Brown]? To refuse him that which the present Administration has conceded to him, by the Quebec Conference. What was the reason given by the Hon. Attorney General for Upper Canada [Hon. J.A. Macdonald], during the session of 1863, to the member for South Oxford [Hon. Mr. Brown], who reproached him for having governed Upper Canada by a Lower Canadian majority?
He replied—and his words are still ringing in my ears—”Never,” said he, “has Upper Canada had to complain of anything which my Government has imposed on Upper Canada by means of a Lower Canadian majority. You have no grounds of complaint, and you will never obtain your extreme demands.” This was the lauguage used at that time. But things are changed, and unfortunately autre temps autre chose. O tempora! O mores!And afterwards, the honorable member for Montreal East [Hon. Mr. Cartier] added expressions more or less ironical, more or less founded, comparing the Grits of Upper Canada to so many codfish in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. It was then, Mr. Speaker, that the honorable member for South Oxford [Hon. Mr. Brown] took an active part in the discussion. (Hear, hear.)
You, no doubt, remember the occasion, for then you yourself, Mr. Speaker, were, in the eyes of the hon. member for Montreal, only a codfish eager for the bait. Mr. Speaker, I have always admired the energy displayed by the hon. member for Montreal East [Hon. Mr. Cartier] in resisting the hon. member for South Oxford [Hon. Mr. Brown]; his courage and boldness were boundless, and there was such a vast difference of principles, and so much animosity existed between those two hon. gentleman-and their respective supporters, that you could never for one moment have imagined that they could endure each other as neighbors on the Treasury benches. This mutual reconciliation, Mr. Speaker, reminds me of the effect produced on my mind by the happy family, which I had an opportunity of seeing at New York a few years ago, when the rat was to be seen between the paws of the cat, the monkey running after the rabbit, and the sparrow coquetting with the owl. (Hear, and laughter.)
How long have the men to whom I have just raferred paid any attention to the claims of the hon. member for South Oxford [Hon. Mr. Brown]? How long have they listened to him? It is only since those hon. gentlemen have found themselves in a minority in this House, since the Taché-Macdonald Government have resolved per fas aut nefas to retain office—never before. Now, all this has not tended to inspire me with any confidence in the plan of Confederation, and has indeed made me resolve to vote against the whole, because this scheme is to be accepted in toto or not at all. (Hear, hear.)
The Government tells us, Mr. Speaker, that these resolutions cannot be amended in any particular; the seventy-two resolutions, they say, must be voted all together, so as to give no ground for complaint on the part of the Maritime Provinces. It is a treaty from which no deviation can be allowed. But how is it that the Honorable Mr. Tilley, of New Brunswick, offered to allow the Opposition in that province to amend this treaty? And did not the Government declare, at the end of the last session, that they intended to propose an amendment of some kind to the Constitutional Act, and that they would submit it to the people for their consideration before seeking its adoption? And now they refuse to do this. Ah! I repeat, all this is very far from inspiring me with the least confidence in the scheme of Confederation, and in the present Administration. You must swallow the whole scheme without hesitation, without power to offer a single amendment. Let those who please vote for such a measure, the humble member for Yamaska [Mr. Fortier] assuredly will not. I therefore declare that I am prepared to vote against the measure now under consideration. (Applause.)
Hon. Mr. Evanturel said—Mr. Speaker, in return for the indulgence […]
- (p. 944)
[…] extended by the House, I have to say that I do not rise to make a long speech, but that I shall content myself with giving a silent vote. However, before recording my vote upon the measure which is submitted to us, I wish to put a question to the Government. I acknowledge that if I confined myself to consulting my own ideas, I should not put this question; but I do so in order to meet the wishes of several of my friends, both within this House and beyond its precincts.
Those friends have expressed alarm in relation to one of the clauses of the resolutions, and have requested me to ask an explanation from the Hon. Attorney General for Upper Canada [Hon. J.A. Macdonald], as to the interpretation of that clause. I have therefore to ask him whether article 46 of the resolutions, which states that “both the English and French languages may be employed in the General Parliament and in its proceedings, and in the Local Legislature of Lower Canada,” is to be interpreted as placing the use of the two languages on an equal footing in the Federal Parliament? Instating the apprehensions entertained by certain persons on this subject—and I consider that it is a mark of patriotism on their part, and that their apprehensions may be legitimate—I hope the Government will not impute to me any hostile intention, and will perceive that the course I adopt is in their interest, as it will give them an opportunity of dissipating the apprehensions in question (Hear, hear.)
Hon. Atty. Gen. Macdonald—I have very great pleasure in answering the question put to me by my hon. friend from the county of Quebec [Hon. Mr. Evanturel]. I may state that the meaning of one of the resolutions adopted by the Conference is this, that the rights of the French-Canadian members as to the status of their language in the Federal Legislature shall be precisely the same as they now are in the present Legislature of Canada in every possible respect. I have still further pleasure in stating that the moment this was mentioned in Conference, the members of the deputation from the Lower Provinces unanimously stated that it was right and just, and without one dissentient voice gave their adhesion to the reasonableness of the proposition that the status of the French language, as regards the procedure in Parliament, the printing of measures, and everything of that kind, should be precisely the same as it is in this Legislature. (Hear, hear.)
Hon. Mr. Dorion—I do not rise to offer any lengthened remarks, but to draw for a moment the attention of the members of the Administration, with a view to obtain some information in connection with this scheme; but before doing so, I would say a word in reply to the explanation given by the Hon. Attorney General West [Hon. J.A. Macdonald] to the question put by the hon. member for the county of Quebec (Hon. Mr. Evanturel), with regard to the use of the French language. The Hon. Attorney General West [Hon. J.A. Macdonald] stated that the intention of delegates at the Quebec Conference was to give the same guarantees for the use of the French language in the Federal Legislature, as now existed under the present union. I conceive, sir, that this is no guarantee whatsoever, for in the Union Act it was provided that the English language alone should be used in Parliament, and the French language was entirely prohibited; but this provision was subsequently repealed by the 11th and 12th Victoria, and the matter left to the discretion of the Legislature.
So that if, to-morrow, this Legislature choose to vote that no other but the English language should be used in our proceedings, it might do so, and thereby forbid the use of the French language. There is, therefore, no guarantee for the continuance of the use of the language of the majority of the people of Lower Canada, but the will and the forbearance of the majority. And as the number of French members in the General Legislature, under the proposed Confederation, will be proportionately much smaller than it is in the present Legislature, this ought to make hon. members consider what little chance there is for the continued use of their language in the Federal Legislature. This is the only observation I have to make on this subject, and it was suggested to me by the answer of the Hon. Attorney General West [Hon. J.A. Macdonald].
Hon. Atty. Gen. Macdonald—I desire to say that I agree with my hon. friend that as it stands just now the majority governs; but in order to cure this, it was agreed at the Conference to embody the provision in the Imperial Act. (Hear, hear.) This was proposed by the Canadian Government, for fear an accident might arise subsequently, and it was assented to by the deputation from each province that the use of the French language should form one of the principles on upon which the Confederation should be established, and that its use, as at present, should be guaranteed by the Imperial Act. (Hear hear.)
- (p. 945)
Hon. Atty. Gen. Cartier—I will add to what has been stated by the Hon. Attorney General for Upper Canada [Hon. J.A. Macdonald], in reply to the hon. member for the county of Quebec and the hon. member for Hochelaga [Hon. Mr. Dorion], that it was also necessary to protect the English minorities in Lower Canada with respect to the use of their language, because in the Local Parliament of Lower Canada the majority will be composed of French – Canadians. The members of the Conference were desirous that it should not be in the power of that majority to decree the abolition of the use of the English language in the Local Legislature of Lower Canada, any more than it will be in the power of the Federal Legislature to do so with respect to the French language. I will also add that the use of both languages will be secured in the Imperial Act to be based on these resolutions. (Hear, hear.)
Hon. Mr. Dorion—I am very glad to hear this statement; but I fail to see anything in the resolutions themselves which gives such an assurance, in proof of which we have the honorable member for Quebec county [Hon. Mr. Evanturel] asking how the matter really stands. But it is not simply for the use of the French language in the Legislature that protection is needed—that is not of so great importance as is the publication of the laws and proceedings of Parliament. The speeches delivered in this House are only addressed to a few, but the laws and proceedings of the House are addressed to the whole people, a million or nearly a million of whom speak the French language. I now beg to address one or two observations on a different subject. When the question was first brought before us, I drew the attention of the Government to the discrepancy between the printed resolutions which are now submitted to us, and the resolutions which were despatched to the members of the Legislature, during the recess, by the Hon. Provincial Secretary [Hon. Mr. McDougall].
The discrepancy consists in the cording of the third section of the 29th resolution. In the resolutions which were sent us by the Hon. Provincial Secretary [Hon. Mr. McDougall], the 29th read as follows:—
The General Government shall have power to make laws for the peace, welfare and good government of the Federated Provinces (saving the Sovereignty of England), and especially laws respecting the following subjects.—
[The subjects, 37 in number, follow, the 3rd reading thus]:—
- The imposition or regulation of duties of customs on imports and exports, except on exports of timber, logs, masts, spars, deals, and sawn lumber, and of coal and other minerals.
[The 43rd of the same resolutions states]: The local legislatures shall have power to make laws respecting the following subjects:—Direct taxation and the imposition of duties on the export of timber, logs, masts, spars, deals, and sawn lumber, and of coals and other minerals.
So that the General Government are forbidden to place export duties on lumber, coals, and other minerals found in any of the several provinces, such right being reserved to the local legislatures. But in the resolutions submitted to the House in English, there is a most importaut and invidious distinction, and I drew the attention of the Hon. Finance Minister [Hon. Mr. Galt] to it early in the debate. It states:—
The General Parliament shall have power to make laws, etcetera, respecting the following subjects:—
* * * 3. The imposition or regulation of duties of customs on imports and exports—except on exports of timber, logs, masts, spars, deals, and sawn lumber from New Brunswick; and of coals and other minerals from Nova Scotia.
By the first of these series of resolutions the General Government was deprived of the right of imposing export duties on lumber, coals, and other minerals in regard to all the provinces; whilst by the resolutions now before the House, the General Government is allowed to impose such duties except on lumber exported from New Brunswick, and coals and other minerals exported from Nova Scotia. Then the 43rd resolution now before the House says:—
The local legislatures shall have power to make laws respecting the following subjects:—
- Direct taxation, and in New Brunswick the imposition of duties on the export of timber, logs, masts, spars, deals, and sawn lumber; and in Nova Scotia, of coals and other minerals.
That is to say, in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia they have a right to impose duties, for local purposes, on the export of lumber, coals, and other minerals, whilst in Canada and the other provinces that power is withheld; and while the timber and minerals from Canada can be taxed by the General Government for general purposes, the timber of New Brunswick, and the coal and minerals of Nova Scotia, can only be taxed by the local governments of these provinces, and for local purposes only. This is a most unjust arrangement for both Upper and Lower Canada. Now, sir, I find in an official document, published in Nova Scotia under the sanction of […]
- (p. 946)
[…] the Government of that province, and submitted to parliament now sitting, that the powers of the General Government and of the local governments in respect to the export duties upon lumber, coals, and other minerals, are exactly the same, word for word, as are set forth in the printed copy sent to the members during the recess. (Hear, hear.) It has been asserted that this was a treaty entered into by the delegates of the several provinces; but it seems to be a treaty in which alterations have been made. (Hear, hear.) I called the attention of the honorable gentlemen opposite to this discrepancy, and asked which was the true and correct copy of the resolutions, and I was told that it was the copy which had been submitted to the House.
There has been an alteration somewhere; and in a matter of this serious importance, the Government ought to tell us how and where it occurred—they ought to inform us if it is not the case that the treaty was changed after the Conference had ceased to meet, and at whose request and by whom the change was made. It is evident that we are called to vote for a scheme, here, different from that submitted to the Legislature of Nova Scotia, and one more unfavorable to us than that which the delegates from Nova Scotia have reported to their Government. While on this subject, I will also remark that there is also a discrepancy between the French and the English versions of the resolutions submitted to the House, the French version being the same as the one communicated to the members by the Hon. Provincial Secretary [Hon. Mr. McDougall], and also to those submitted to the Nova Scotia Legislature. This would indicate that the change has been made in these resolutions submitted to this House, and it is well that we should have some information, and know what has taken place about this pretended treaty since the separation of the delegates. (Hear, hear.)
There is another important matter which demands the attention of the House. It has been stated here that the whole of the delegates had agreed to the resolutions of the Conference. (Hear, hear.) The name of Mr. Palmer was mentioned as being an exception, and to that the honorable gentlemen opposite declared that all the delegates had agreed to these resolutions. Is not that what was stated?
Hon. Atty. Gen. Macdonald—Yes.
Hon. Mr. Dorion—But I find that besides Mr. Palmer, who asserted publicly that he had signed the resolutions of the Conference to authenticate them, and that he had not agreed to these resolutions, there is also Mr. Dickey, another delegate, who has taken the same course. Mr. Dickey even went so far as to address a letter to the Lieutenant-Governor of Nova Scotia, Sir R. Graves McDonnell, in which he says:—
The Honorable Provincial Secretary has submitted for my inspection a report to Your Excellency, dated 5th December last, and signed by himself, the Honorable Attorney General, the Honorable J. McCully, and A. G. Archibald, Esq., of the result of a mission with which we were charged by Your Excellency, to attend a Conference at Quebec upon the subject of Intercolonial union. In that report I am happy to be able cordially to concur, except as to that portion of it which would seem to imply the unanimous action of members of the Conference. As I had the misfortune to differ from my colleagues in several important details of the scheme submitted to Your Excellency, I feel myself constrained to withhold my signature from the report, unaccompanied by this explanation. My regret at this circumstance is greatly diminished by the reflection that the Right Honorable the Secretary of State for the Colonies, in his despatch of 3rd December last, sustains my view that the scheme is susceptible of modification and improvement.
(Hear, hear.) These are two points which I think are very important, and the honorable gentlemen opposite ought to offer some explanation—on the first point, at all events. In the return of correspondence presented to the Nova Scotia Legislature, I find also a very important letter which was addressed on the 9th of January last, by the Lieutenant-Governor of Nova Scotia to the Governor General of Canada. That letter has never been communicated to us, although an Address for all the correspondence in reference to this Confederation scheme was proposed and carried several weeks ago. This letter of Sir E. Graves McDonnell was in answer to a despateh from Lord Monck of the 23rd December, 1864, and the third paragraph reads as follows:—
It is evident from the communication of the Right Honorable the Secretary of State, that Her Majesty’s Government expects to be aided in the preparation of a bill embodying the suggestions of the Quebec Conference, by deputations from the several provinces. It also appears to myself and the members of my Government, that to avoid the probable multiplied divergence of opinion in each Legislature, inseparable from discussing a great variety of details in several independent parliaments, despite of a general agreement in the main objects and principles of the general scheme, it is better for these provinces to avail themselves of the friendly arbitrament of the […]
- (p. 947)
[…] Queen’s Government and send delegates to consult with the latter during the preparation of the proposed Imperial Bill. The peculiar “views”—and this is the point—of each legislature might, if necessary, find expression in instructions to the delegates from each.
(Hear, hear.) So we find in this letter, which has been withheld from us, a suggestion that amendments can be made to the scheme in the form of instructions to the delegates from each of the several legislatures; and yet honorable gentlemen have stated that these resolutions were, in point of fact, a treaty, which this Legislature could not alter or amend in the least important particular, but that honorable members must say “aye” or “nay” upon them precisely as they stand! (Hear, hear.) There are three material circumstances here cited—first, the discrepancies in regard to the export duties on lumber, coals and other minerals; second, the discretion which is reserved to the Lower Provinces, by their legislatures, to alter and amend the resolutions; and third, the dissent by two of the delegates to the so-called treaty, although we have been informed by our own Government that the Conference was unanimously in favor of it. (Hear, hear.) I desire explanations from the Ministry on these important points. (Hear, hear.)
Hon. Mr. Galt—As to the first point, I can only say that full explanations have already been given on several occasions; with reference to the second point, the Canadian Government is not responsible for the opinions of the delegates after they left this country; and as regards the third point, His Excellency the Governor General sent down the correspondence to this House as fully as he thought proper, and I presume the lieutenant-governors of the other provinces did the same.
Hon. Mr. Dorion—I will remind the honorable gentleman that there is another discrepancy. The French copy of the resolutions before the House is exactly in accordance with the printed document sent from Nova Scotia, and with the copy sent to members by the Hon. Provincial Secretary [Hon. Mr. McDougall], while the English copy now before the House is different. Now, of these different versions which is the correct one, and where has the alteration been made? The importance of the question is, I think, very great; for if the version given in this Blue-Book from Nova Scotia, and in the French copy, be correct, we in Lower Canada will have a right to impose, for local purposes, an export duty on all timber, either from Upper or Lower Canada. (Hear, hear.) The resolution is in plain terms, and declares that the General Government shall have no right to impose an export duty on timber, but that the local governments shall.
Hon. Mr. Brown—The right copy is that in the Speaker’s hands, of course.
Hon. Mr. Dorion—But there are two versions of it—the one in English differing from that in French.
Hon. Atty. Gen. Macdonald—I moved the resolutions in English, and if there is any difference in the French copy, it is an error in the translation.
Hon. Mr. Dorion—Well, if the English copy is the right one, the General Government will have the right to impose an export duty on all timber except that exported from New Brunswick, and on all coals and minerals except from Nova Scotia.
Several Members—That is the right one.
Mr. De Niverville—Mr. Speaker, as the junior member of this honorable House, it was proper that I should be the last to speak on the question which now engages our attention. A very few days before the commencement of the present session, I did not know that I should fill the seat which I now occupy in this chamber, and should be called on to vote on the question of Confederation, and take part in the debate upon it. Accordingly, I have not had time, as most of the honorable members who have spoken on the scheme submitted to the House have had, to prepare myself to treat it in apolitical and diplomatic sense, and to examine the basis on which it rests. If, on the other hand, I had had the time necessary to make myself thoroughly acquainted with it in all its hearings, I should have acted not otherwise than I shall now act. I should have left, as now, to other members of this House better qualified than I am in respect of knowledge, and the discussion and consideration of great political questions, which are the fruit of a long service in Parliament—I should have left to such honorable members the office of viewing the question in the various aspects which distinguish it. (Hear, hear.)
As member for the chief place of the district of Three Rivers, and a French-Canadian, I ought to speak in explanation of my views. The difficult position of the country for the last few years, arising from the equal strength of the two parties in the political arena, and rendering the-administration of public affairs arduous to the various […]
- (p. 948)
[…] ministries which had, one after another, come into power—that position, I say, necessitated a change which might put an end to such a deplorable state of affairs. Our situation was like that of the Roman Empire when near its fall. The union, as the Hon. Attorney General for Lower Canada (Hon. Mr. Cartier) so well said, had lasted its time; it now became necessary to try something else.
It was necessary that the nation which, of all the different races which inhabit the British Provinces in North America, is foremost in duration, energy and prosperity, should take the lead and initiate that measure which was to deliver the country from its difficulties Well, Mr. Speaker, the most natural remedy which occurred was the scheme for the Confederation of the English Provinces on this continent, and as the opponents of the measure—men who have thrown all their powers, courage and perseverance into their opposition—have never moved any other, it seemed to be the only one which found acceptance. This scheme has not had the effect of producing fear in my mind, as it has in several members who have spoken before me. After careful examination, I have arrived at the conclusion that it is practicable, and that it ought to be adopted. I am well aware that it is not perfect, for there is nothing perfect in this nether world.
It was not possible to take every advantage for Lower Canada, and to leave nothing for Upper Canada and the Maritime Provinces. Some concessions were necessary to be made in common justice, as we were obtaining great material advantages, together with the preservation and protection of our dearest interests. In short, it was necessary that we and they should make what is generally termed a compromise, and that compromise was such as to be in our favor in every respect. I do not profess to be a religious man, but I may venture to assert, without transgressing the bounds of modesty that I love and revere my religion as much as any other man in this House. Before, therefore, I could form any decided opinion on the question that is now before the House, and give my vote in favor of it, I did not omit to consult our priests. I have always blamed the conduct of those priests who interfered in elections and matters of policy, acting the parts of canvassers and ultra-partisans, instead of endeavoring from the pulpit—the very abode of truth—to calm the animosities of parties, and to aid the people in making an honest, free, independent and judicious choice, and turning in a manner the pulpit of truth itself into a political tribune, from which they promulgate principles which might be termed seditious. Such conduct I have always condemned.
I love to find in the members of the clergy those virtues which ought to characterise them; and as now the business in hand is not the election of a member of Parliament, but a complete change in the Constitution of the country, it is my opinion that they ought to be considered citizens, and to enjoy as fully and completely as any other class the endowments and privileges which belong to others, and that, as others have, so should they have a right to examine the new Constitution which we are to receive, and to give their opinion on its merits and imperfections. Relying on the judgment and the intelligence of certain of this order, I thought it right to consult them. I had recourse to two members of the clergy of the district of Three Rivers—men of great learning, and eminently qualified to give an opinion on the scheme of Confederation—men who were perfectly free from the spirit of party, without political bias or personal ambition to be gratified in preference to the interests of the country, and whose opinions were entitled to respect as being the fruit of a life of study and labor constantly employed to increase the happiness and prosperity of their fellow-citizens and their country, and to protect our religious institutions. (Hear, hear.)
I have no intention to name those two venerable men, who are known throughout the country as two of the most distinguished members of our Canadian clergy and most eminent citizens. “Well, Mr. Speaker, I consulted those two men, and both agreed in making answer that they were favorable to the project of Confederation of the British North American Provinces on this continent. Resting, then, on my own convictions that Confederation is the best means we have at hand of escaping from the present difficult position of the country, and on the authority of members of the clergy—an authority which I take pleasure in mentioning, because the opponents of the Ministerial plan have affected to believe that all the clergy in the country are opposed to the measure—thus supported, Mr. Speaker, I hold it to be my duty, and I do not hesitate to give my vote in favor of the principle and the project of Confederation. Certain apprehensions have arisen in the public mind relative to the project in question; these fears, I need not say, have been excited by the opponents of the measure, who make themselves hoarse with crying that French-Canadian, […]
- (p. 949)
[…] nationality would be swallowed up by Confederation, and that in twenty-five or thirty years’ time there would not be a single French-Canadian left, in Lower Canada.
Well, Mr. Speaker, I appeal, to prove the falsehood of these declarations, to the men who in 1840—the time of the union of the two provinces—labored with so much zeal and energy to guard the natural depository of our social and religious rights from danger—I appeal, to prove it, to those men who applied all their energy, their abilities, and their patriotism to prevent the union; to those men who, endowed with a singleness of mind at least equal to that which animates the opponents of Confederation, procured numerous petitions to be signed against the union of Upper and Lower Canada; to those men, in short, who predicted that in ten years’ time there would not be a single French-Canadian left—these men I summon to the bar of public opinion, and I ask them—”Gentlemen, did you predict truly? What has become of that French-Canadian nationality which was to be swallowed up by the union? Has it disappeared, as you said it would? See and judge for yourselves.” That nation, which was doomed to be annihilated, has built up Montreal, the first commercial city in the two Canadas—Montreal, on which the honorable member for Richelieu (Mr. Perrault) pronounced such a pompous eulogy in his speech the other evening—an eulogy that he extended to the country generally—praising its immense resources and growing prosperity. It was under the union and through the union that the splendid Victoria Bridge was erected, the most magnificent work of the kind in the world.
Under its auspices, also, we constructed those immense canals which have received honorable mention from the lips of the honorable member for Richelieu [Mr. Perrault]; and everybody knows that that honorable member is eminently qualified to pronounce a judgment on such matters, having seen and examined the canals constructed in Europe. Accordingly we are justified in saying that our canals are immeasurably superior to the canals of Europe, as he tells us in respect to several of our canals, that a boy in the smallest of skiffs could touch the revêtement walls with his two tiny oars. I must say that I do not accept the interpretation put on that part of the honorable member’s speech by the honorable member for Montcalm (Mr. Joseph Dufresne), in which he said that there were men on the bench of bishops as well informed and as eminent as any that were to be found in any ministry. This is the interpretation I put on that phrase of the honorable member for Richelieu [Mr. Perrault], and I do not think I mistake in saying that it turns against those who, at the time of the union of the two Canadas, did everything they could to prevent it.
In 1840 those men, those good and zealous patriots, told the people, by way of serving their cause, that in twenty-five years there would not be a single French-Canadian left in Lower Canada; and now the honorable member for Richelieu [Mr. Perrault] comes out and gives them the lie direct by saying that, at this present time, the Roman Catholic bench of bishops numbers among its members men—of course French-Canadians—who are as eminent for their talents and acquirements as the most distinguished members of our political world; and that religion is amply protected by the present Constitution, which was nevertheless destined, according to those great patriots, to swallow us up and sweep us from the face of the continent.
Mr. Denis—That is very true.
Mr. De Niverville—One word to comfort those French-Canadians who are afraid of suffering wrong in the Federal Parliament, being as they say an insignificant minority of that body. Ever since nations began to comprehend their true interests, a certain equilibrium has been established which it will always be their aim to maintain. This constitutes the protection which the union of two weak parties affords against a strong one, which would aggrandize itself at their expense. This law of equilibrium is reproduced in all times and places—among nations and among individuals: it is found even among animals. For what purpose did the two first nations in the world, France and England, unite together to resist the invading forces of the powerful despot of the north—the Emperor of Russia, and what was the object of the campaign in the Crimea?
Was it to reap the barren glory of shouting that the French soldiers rushed to the assault with the impetuous speed of the thunderbolt; that the English soldiers received the enemy’s fire without yielding a foot; that they marched with the cool determination of a wedge of iron against the enemy’s squares, and that nothing could resist their onward movement? By no means. Those two powers were perfectly acquainted with the qualities which distinguished their respective armies, and did not need to put them to the proof. Their intention was simply to prevent the […]
- (p. 950)
[…] Emperor of Russia from extending the frontiers of his states indefinitely, to the detriment of the surrounding nations. Why did the present Emperor of the French go to war with his cousin the Emperor of Austria? For exactly the same reason. I will go even further, and ask why the beast grazing in a pasture drives away the first strange animal which enters it? It is a mere instinct of self-preservation. (Hear, hear.)
Well, Mr. Speaker, as that instinct of self-preservation prevails among all created beings on the earth, why should it not be produced among the different provinces of the Confederation? If Upper Canada should ever seek to act unjustly towards Lower Canada and the Lower Provinces, the latter would naturally and instinctively strike up an alliance to resist the encroachments and injustice of the sister province. I am certain, therefore, that in this respect we have nothing to fear. As a French-Canadian, it is my business to speak of what concerns us most nearly: our religion, our language, our institutions and our laws Well, then, with respect to our language, I ask whether there is the least danger of our losing it in the Confederation?
Far from being in danger, I believe it will be more in vogue under the new régime, as it can be spoken and made use of not only in the Federal Parliament and local legislatures, but also in the supreme courts which will be hereafter instituted in the country. I say that when that time arrives—that is to say, when the Confederation is established, we shall have a fuller use of our language. For what liberty have we in its use in this chamber? That liberty which the liberals have vaunted so highly, which can not be touched without destroying it, in what way have we it here? Has it been conceded to us in the full acceptation of the word? By no means, Mr. Speaker; we have it, but it is as Tantalus had the water—he was thirsty, but he drank not; though the water bubbled to his lips, the water receded as soon as he attempted to receive it. (Hear, hear.)
In truth, what kind of liberty have we, who do not understand the English language? We are at liberty to hold our tongues, to listen, and to understand if we can. (Hear, hear, and continued laughter.) Under the Confederation, the Upper Canadians will speak their language, and the Lower Canadians theirs, just as we do now; with this difference, that they who count a large majority of their countrymen in the House, may hope to hear their language spoken the oftenest, as new members will use the language of the majority.
I intend no reproval to the honorable members who have spoken in English on the question now before the House, thus depriving us of the pleasure of understanding them, and, therefore, of enjoying their eloquence, and being convinced by their logic. What they have done on the present occasion is a simple act of justice due to the majority of this House, and one which the French-Canadians have always rendered with pleasure. But if we follow the example of most French-Canadians in days gone by, we shall not keep our language long How often do we find in the towns, nay, even in the country parts, Canadians who have no sooner caught up two words of English than they run off with delight to repeat them to their neighbors.
Emigration to the United States, which will cease under Confederation (for we shall have the management of our public lands), has been a principal cause of that stupid mania with which all seem to be seized who have lived some time among our neighbors and returned to Canada. To give you an idea of that lamentable mania, I shall relate a circumstance in which I was one of the actors. Not two months since, I was on the platform at the station where the branch from Arthabaska to Three Rivers leaves the Grand Trunk, when two young men, dressed in the American fashion, came to the hotel One, as he came in, called out in a loud voice, “Where is the ostler?” The man, who was a stout Canadian, soon made his appearance, and as soon as he set eyes on the gentleman, called out in his turn, “What! Joe, is it you?” (Tiens! c’est toi, Joh!)
Of course our pretended American was taken aback, and for the moment dumbfounded. Seeing his embarrassment, and willing, in pity to the poor victim of affectation, to relieve him from it, although it had its comic side, I called to the stableman and said, “Go and take the gentlemen’s horses; don’t you see they are Americans, and that they don’t understand you.” Well, Mr. Speaker, such scenes frequently occur; nay, those who move now and then from home may see them every day. So if we do not wish our beautiful language to lose its influence, we must not fail to discountenance the affectation of Canadians talking English when they hardly know a word of it. Otherwise we must take to talking English, and let our own language […]
- (p. 951)
[…] sink into disuse and oblivion. For our I religion I have no fears. The experience of the past is a guarantee for the future. We live no longer in those times when Paradise was the promised reward of all who ill-treated those of a religion different from their own. These are not the days in which wars and troubles between nations were begotten of religious hatred. The world is too civilized to renew the scenes which were then constantly exhibited. Every man is free to practise his religion as he pleases, and this tolerant spirit is especially to be noted as characterising the English nation. True, we find some fanatics both among the English and the French population: unfortunately we had two instances of the working of this spirit in one evening in this House—the one from a Catholic, the other from a Protestant. The former cried out loudly that Confederation would be a mortal blow to the Catholic religion, while the other cried as loudly that it would be the ruin of the Protestants.
I must confess, Mr. Speaker, that I am not one of those Who live in fear and distrust of British domination. As long as we live under the sway of free England, I have not the least doubt that our language will be fully protected, and that in fifty years from this present time, good Catholics will be allowed the exercise of their religion as freely, as safely and as piously as this day, and that the wicked will not be compelled to be more religious than they now are. (Hear, hear.) The hon. member for Bagot [Hon. Mr. Laframboise] told us that there are a great number of Catholics in England, and that they are perfectly at liberty to exercise their religion at their pleasure, but that they are not represented in the English Parliament. This, far from being a proof of intolerance, I take to be a proof of their tolerant character, since, although able to oppress the Catholics, they leave them at fall liberty to fulfil the pious exercises of their religion. I repeat it, Mr. Speaker, there are fanatics in all religions; happily for humanity, they are but a small minority, and men of good sense hold them in contempt. (Hear, hear.)
Our institutions are secured to us by our treaties with Great Britain; our laws by the articles of Confederation. What coercion, what restraint or opposition have we to apprehend from the Mother Country, when the subject of the British Government is acknowledged throughout the whole world to be of all men the most free? Most free in the exercise of his rights as a citizen; as free in speech and action as he is secure in his person, wherever he may find occasion to assert his rights, to uphold them and defend them. I say “wherever,” because the English people can, with as perfect freedom and perfect confidence, state their grievances before any tribunal and all authorities, from the highest to the lowest, as they can in the bosom of their families or in a circle of intimate friends. We, moreover, possess one infallible means—based on the laws of Nature herself—of preserving to the French-Canadians in all their purity their language, their religion, their institutions and their laws; and that means is education—the education which we receive first from the authors of our existence in our childhood, and which is afterwards continued in our elementary schools and our seminaries; that education—Christian, moral and religious—which is so carefully, wisely and anxiously instilled into us in our youthful days by the masters and tutors of our colleges; that practical education which we acquire in the course of our dealings and transactions with men of business.
That education it is, Mr. Speaker, which renders nations prosperous, rich and great, which elevates them to the rank of which they are worthy, and maintains them in it, It never fades from the mind on which it has been impressed—it remains fixed on the memory, like the characters which we engrave on the bark of a young tree, and which are found long years after, when it falls under the woodman’s axe. As the representative of the city of Three Rivers, I may be allowed to say a few words relative to the advantages which Confederation will bring to that district. Every one knows that it possesses immense tracts of land not yet opened out to the settler, magnificent forests of timber of all kinds, and mines of inestimable value. It is beyond question that Three Rivers yields the best iron in the country.
This was proved at the Great Exhibition at London, where the first medals were awarded to the Radnor Ironworks Company for the best iron-wheels, in respect of durability, elegance and quality. The St. Maurice has been grossly neglected by the various Administrations which, during the last ten years, have held office, although the district yielded a revenue of $30,000 or $40,000 to the public chest, which might have entitled it to some compensation. Nevertheless, the […]
- (p. 952)
[…] district of Three Rivers is not behind other districts in the country, either in industrial success or in the energy and enterprise of its inhabitants. The Arthabaska Railway, whioh it was said would not pay running expenses, is at present more productive than any part of the Grand Trunk Railway. We need colonization roads and railways, and I am convinced that under the Confederation, when we shall have the management of our own funds without the interference of Upper Canada, we shall build railways in all parts where the requirements of trade and industrial pursuits call for them. We shall then offer to the settler well-made and well-kept roads, and the district of Three Rivers will derive precious results from them, as well as other districts of the country. (Hear, Hear.)
We have a proof of the rapidity with which the district of Three Rivers would grow, it it were encouraged. This is found in the parishes of St. Maurice, St. Etienne, Ste. Flore and Shawinigan. It is nearly twenty-five years since St. Maurice was a mere forest; now it is a large, rich, and beautiful parish, of which the district of Three Rivers has reason to be proud. It numbers upwards of five hundred voters with the parish of Mont Carmel, which is an offset from it. The extensive trade in timber which is carried on in the valley of the St. Maurice, and which employs thousands of laborers, is an important element in the commercial business of the country, exporting to a great amount the lumber which is taken from the extensive territory—if I may be allowed the expression—belonging to the district of Three Rivers; and these vast tracts which await the settler, those iron mines so rich and so well known, those mines of other minerals still hidden in the mountains and valleys of the St. Maurice, those riches of all kinds which abound there await only the hand of man to render the district and city of Three Rivers an important part of Lower Canada. (Hear, hear.)
The Ministers of the Crown in Canada have been accused of bringing up the question of Confederation only as a means of retaining power and increasing it. The Hon. Attorney General for Lower Canada [Hon. Mr. Cartier] has been accused of moving that measure only that he may become Lieutenant-Governor of Lower Canada. Well, Mr. Speaker, I am thoroughly convinoed that that honorable Minister has too much energy, is too laborious, to seek or to accept an office in which he would have nothing to do. (Hear, hear.) For my part, I make a present to the Opposition of all the profit I am likely to derive from places or dignities under Confederation, when we have it. I repel the idea that Canadian statesmen allowed themselves to be influenced by paltry notions of personal interest, when they set about devising means to extricate us from the difficulties in which we were involved. They had in view only the interests of the nation, and never had a thought, as some have insinuated, of delivering the country up to ruin and desolation. I conclude, Mr. Speaker, by declaring that I am in favor of Confederation, and opposed to the appeal to the people, because I believe it to be perfectly useless.
An hon. member who spoke yesterday told us that the clergy are not qualified to form a judgment on the project of Confederation. Now, I ask you, if the clergy are not qualified to form a judgment on such a question, how; the people can form one who have not the necessary education? How can they comprehend the aggregate and the details of the scheme, and ascertain whether it would be beneficial to them or not? I repeat that I am in favor of the project now under consideration—first, because I declared myself favorable to the measure when I presented myself to my constituents; and, secondly, because I think it necessary and even indispensable, and calculated moreover to promote the interests of the country in general, and those of Lower Canada and the district of Three Rivers in particular.—(Cheers.)
Mr. Gagnon—Mr. Speaker, the scheme of a Confederation of the provinces now before this House is one too deeply interesting to be received in silence. If I rise to speak on this occasion, it is for the simple purpose of justifying my opinion on the subject, by stating my reasons for entertaining it; and as I am not in the habit of making speeches, I crave the indulgence of the House. It is the opinion of members on the other side of the House that the country will derive great advantages from this union; but those advantages depend, as most people think, on the contingencies of an unknown future, and by others, are looked upon as the doubtful results of a hazardous and dangerous speculation, which will involve the ruin of our credit. Not only, Mr. Speaker, do we risk our capital, which will be lost in the execution of this great scheme; […]
- (p. 953)
[…] not only do we ruin, by this new union, the credit of our country, but we Lower Canadians risk everything that is dear to us, even our nationality, while knowing that we can gain nothing by the change. As an inducement to Lower Canada to accept this scheme, we are promised a railway to open up an intercourse of commerce with the Lower Provinces, and we are given to believe that this great commerce to be opened up by the grand line of communication will be a vast benefit to us; but those who will take time to reflect may come to a different conclusion, without any danger of being mistaken, for those provinces have nothing to exchange with us. We have the same productions as they have, and in greater abundance than any of them. They have nothing but coal which we do not possess, and that is not transported by railway. This railway will, as a matter of course, lead to the expenditure of enormous sums for building it, and will afterwards cost us a great deal in repairs and working expenses, and after all, will only be of use as a substitute for a few schooners which carry down our produce to the Gulf Provinces every season.
This, Mr. Speaker, will be a dear price to pay for the complete destruction of our little inland navigation, which ought rather to be protected. The amount of expenditure involved in the building of this railway, if wisely applied to the opening of colonization roads, to the improvement of roads and bridges, and the clearing of the public lands, would be much more beneficial to the people of this province, who would find in these things a degree of satisfaction and happiness which would enable them to do without Confederation, which would be no cure for our political troubles. A little more good-will and calmness in discussing the question, would have stifled the cry for representation based on population, and our country would have been able to go on under the actual union, which is less dangerous and less expensive than that which is now proposed by the Government. I should have had other remarks to offer, Mr. Speaker, but I am obliged to postpone them, as hon. members must be worn out with their long sittings, and the lateness of the hour. (Cheers.)
Hon. Mr. Huntington said—I do not intend, Mr. Speaker, to occupy the time of the House in any lengthened remarks; and yet as a member representing a constituency of this country, I do not feel disposed to give a vote on this question, without saying at least a word upon it. And it occurs to me—and I say it in the best spirit, and with no intention to cast a reflection upon honorable gentlemen opposite—that if there is so great a desire as appears to exist to-night on the part of honorable members to express themselves upon this question—many of them who are favorable to the scheme as well as opposed to it—and if it is found that the opportunity is curtailed, the responsibility does not at any rate rest upon this side of the House. (Hear, hear.)
I do not, as I have said, propose at this late hour to enter at any considerable length into a discussion of this measure; but there are points that present themselves to me as possessing considerable importance, that have not, I believe, been brought out during the progress of the debate; and if an opportunity is subsequently given for remarking upon them, I may avail myself of it. But I cannot forbear remarking now, in reference to the announcement made by the Government the other night, that in a certain sense I consider it was a step in the right direction. I believe it was then stated that a mission would be sent to England to consult with the Imperial Government with a view of arranging definitely the question of the defence of this country, and the proportion of the cost of defence to be borne by the respective countries.
Now, without desiring or intending to occupy the time of the House by raising a debate upon this point, I cannot help observing that it was desirable, before this scheme of Confederation was adopted at all by the Conference, that this arrangement should have taken place with the Imperial Government—that it should have been preliminary to the plan of union proposed, and that the Conference should have taken upon itself to arrange with the Imperial Government the proportionate expense which is to be borne by the two countries in relation to the defence of these provinces; for, let it be borne in mind that this question has been forced upon us in Canada as the only means of preparing the country against the aggression of our neighbors; and yet we are asked in adopting this scheme, to go to a great extent in the dark. We are asked to adopt it, and at the same time it is known that the result must be a I change in respect to the proportion of defence we in this country will be called upon […]
- (p. 954)
[…] to bear. It has been said that the disposition in England to take part in our defence was owing to the fact that Canada had manifested a disposition also to make provision for defence. Now, supposing we should fail at any time hereafter to bear what may be considered in England a fair proportion of this, cost, what would be the consequence?
Why, we might be placed again in precisely the same position in which we find ourselves to-day. England might withdraw her troops from this province, and refuse to engage in any defensive works, unless we undertook more than in the opinion of the people of this country we are able to bear; and hence it is my opinion that if it was desirable that this question of Confederation should be submitted to the people at all for their adoption, the first and indispensable step to have taken was to arrange with the Imperial Government the terms and conditions as regards the question of defence upon which we are to enter this new state of political existence, in this sense I do not regret that the scheme, as far as the Lower Provinces are concerned—judging from recent events in New Brunswick and the utterances of public men in the other colonies—is likely to be delayed in its accomplishment; and I am not sorry that the Canadian Government, by this action of the Lower Provinces, will be compelled to consult with the Imperial authorities and arrange with thein the proportion we are to bear of the cost of maintaining the defence ot the country. (Hear, hear.)
It may be almost providential that we are compelled, by the force of circumstances in the Lower Provinces, to take this step now; and I must say that heretofore there has been a disposition manifested on the part of the Government to keep the people in ignorance upon this subject; but I trust that when these negotiations shall have taken place with the Imperial Government, we shall know precisely what the Government has done and what it has agreed to do, and that the exact proportion uf expense that we are expected to bear will be laid before this House and submitted to the opinion of the people of this country. (Hear, hear.) I make these remarks, sir, merely because to me the point appears to be a very important one, and because I believe the fullest information will be indispensable to this House in the future discussions that may take place upon this subject. (Hear, hear.)
There is another point that has suggested itself, to which, perhaps, I may be permitted to allude in a few words. I wish to do so without reflecting upon any hon. member of this House; but I cannot help feeling and expressing extreme regret, as a Canadian and a British subject, at the spirit that has characterized this discussion upon Confederation and defence on the part of those hon. gentlemen who support this scheme. Sir, in a British Legislature, where it is proposed to build up a great monarchical constitution on this continent, on the model which has flourished in England, I regret that any honorable gentleman should have found it necessary to charge a seditious and disloyal intention upon all those who cannot agree with them in supporting this scheme. (Hear, hear.)
For myself—I say it sincerely and earnestly, though I have boasted less of my loyalty and attachment to the British Crown and Constitution than some hon. members of this House—I think I may say there is no one who loves more than I love the British constitutional system, no man who desires more than I desire to see copied here that British constitutional-monarchical system, and no man who believes more firmly than I believe that it would give to the people of these colonies that greatness, prosperity and freedom that have distinguished the people from whom we have sprung on the other side of the water. (Hear, hear.)
But if this debate is considered to be of sufficient importance to have a place among the records of the country—to go down to posterity as the serious utterances of our public men, I think it is a cause of deep regret that hon. gentlemen opposite, in view of that great patriotism of which they have boasted so much, and which they affirm has induced them to sink minor considerations of party and personal antagonism for the sake of carrying a principle of which they profess to be the disinterested and self-denying exponents, have not seen fit, in the discussion of this question, to discuss it like statesmen, and not brand as infamous, traitorous and rebellious those who differ from them in their view of it. (Hear, hear.)
I think the people of this country, whether belonging to the Conservative or the Reform party, will feel a deep regret at this; and if there is one thing more than another that indicates that the present like past coalitions is going to result in advantage to the Conservative at the expense of the Reform party—if there is one thing more than another that makes me fear that […]
- (p. 955)
[…] the Reform members of the Government, for whom I have a strong political as well as personal sympathy, will be overwhelmed by their conservative colleagues—it is this cry, this bugbear, this bête noire of annexation raised by hon. gentlemen on the other side of the House. Why, sir, it is only a few months since we had the great Constitutional party organized in this country, and baptized with an amount of eloquence and parade such as never attended the birth of a party in any other country. We were told by the leaders of this great Constitutional party that the British Constitution in this country must be defended; that the country was divided into two parties—the Annexation party and the Constitutional party—and that the reformers composed the former, while the conservatives desired to perpetuate British connection.
My hon. friend the member for Lambton [Mr. A. Mackenzie] was singled out for attack, and told that he and those with whom he acted desired to hand the country over to the Americans; that he was unfaithful and untrue to his allegiance; that he carried the sign of democracy on his face; and the whole Reform party was branded last summer by the Conservative leaders as annexationists, who desired to uproot and overthrow the British institutions of this country. Well, sir, what do we find now? We find the same charges hurled at the minority in this House—my hon. friends who sit around me—by the leaders of this same great Constitutional party; and we find the Honorable Provincial Secretary [Hon. Mr. McDougall], the Honorable Postmaster General [Hon. Mr. Howland], and the Honorable President of the Council [Hon. Mr. Brown]—for all of whom, I confess, I yet feel a strong political sympathy—sitting silently by, while their old friends and former colleagues are suffering the same abuse that was dealt out to them by their present colleagues only a few short months ago. Have they suddenly turned to view these charges as just, or do they still think, as they thought last summer, that they are unfair and unfounded?
If they were unfair then, is it right now that, without a word of expostulation, they should allow them to be hurled at us without a word of expostulation from the great Liberal party of Upper Canada, that has suffered with us from these disgraceful, foul and slanderous imputations? (Hear, hear.) Is it liberal, is it just, is it fair, is it manly, sir, that they should now sit silently by and see the handful who compose the minority in this House—honorable gentlemen with whom, but a short time since, they acted and in whom they had confidence—branded, as they themselves were branded six months ago, with the name of annexationist and democrat? (Hear, hear.) I have thought, as I have heard these charges reiterated, that they might have interposed; I have thought they might have pitied us a little for the sake of former associations. I have thought that the great Liberal party of Upper Canada might have come a little to the rescue of their former colleagues, and said to those who uttered these false accusations—”Don’t hound down these men too much; we know and have acted with them: they are not annexationists, they are not rebellious, and we know that your accusations against them are unfair and ungenerous.”
But, sir, throughout this debate these members of the Government have listened to attacks of this kind—the great Reform party of Upper Canada, which only yesterday, as it were, was smarting under the lash that is now cracked over our heads, which only yesterday writhed under the odium of these false representations—sat silently by, without a word of expostulation, without a word in defence of their old friends, whom they know to be unjustly and slanderously accused. (Hear, hear.) Now, why I speak of this matter is because I fear that these gentlemen, who have long been the exponents of that great Liberal party, which has gained for us responsible government and everything worth living for under the political system we now enjoy, will be overwhelmed by the preponderance of conservative feeling in the Government and conservative influence in the country. I know that they do not feel comfortable under the present state of affairs. I know how the McKellars, the Mackenzies, who have been so long the victims of conservative sneers, and others who have long fought the battle of reform, must feel; but I fear that the conservative leaven is about to leaven the whole lump.
Mr. Rymal—Except me.
Hon. Mr. Huntington—My hon. friend, in the able speech he made upon this subject, excepted himself, and there is no need for me to except him. I say, sir, it is but yesterday since the organs of hon. gentlemen opposite, who lead the Constitutional party of this country, denounced us all as Americans and annexationists; and I warn the hon. members of the Liberal party, who sit quietly by while these charges are still made against the minority, that the measure which […]
- (p. 956)
[…] is meted out to us now, and to them last summer, may again be dealt out to them without mercy. (Hear, hear.)
I repeat, sir, I have, since this Coalition took place, seen no sign so perfect and so convincing to me, that the conservatives have had the best of the bargain, as this—to see those hon. gentlemen sitting tamely and silently in their seats, and not rising to say a word while the old cry under which they had writhed for so many years is fulminated against their former allies, and we have no indication from them that they are not the party which they once were. With these remarks, and reserving to myself the right of speaking more at length on the scheme, which I would be glad to discuss somewhat fully if time had been allowed, I have simply to say that the constituency which I represent is not disposed to permit me to vote for this scheme. I say this from knowledge, having been compelled to be a good deal among them while attending to my business. in the Eastern Townships, both among the French and English, the general opinion is strongly against this scheme.
I have had such opportunities of learning the views and wishes of my constituents with reference to this matter, as few other hon. gentlemen have enjoyed for learning the opinion of those whom they represent, and I come back to this House very much strengthened in the couviction that in the Eastern Townships, and especially in the constituency which I represent—
Mr. Pope—Hear, hear
Hon. Mr. Huntington—The hon. member says “Hear, hear,” but I think I may speak in behalf of a large number of petitioners in the county of Compton—(hear, hear)—there is a large majority of the people opposed to this scheme I have felt it to be my duty, as no one had risen to speak from the point of view I have taken, that I should say a word for those who were opposed to the scheme, and that as there was no one here to speak for the Eastern Townships, where so strong a feeling pervaded the masses against the scheme, I would but discharge my duty in rising to state what I found to be the feeling in those townships. (Hear, hear.)
I have no doubt that the Conservative party have large following in the Eastern Townships I have no doubt that a great many of those who follow the hon. member for Sherbrooke [Hon. Mr. Galt] are disposed to follow him in supporting the scheme but I speak for the Liberal party of those townships, with whose opinions I have had an excellent opportunity of becoming acquainted. I do not say that the hon. member for Compton [Mr. Pope] is not supported by that party in the position which he has taken, but I do say that those people in the Eastern Townships, as a general thing, who sympathize with the Liberal party, are opposed to the scheme in the circumstances under which it has been presented to the people. I was not a little surprised by a remark which fell from my hon. friend the member for Richmond and Wolfe (Mr. Webb). I know perfectly well the hon. gentleman’s sincerity, and therefore I was singularly struck with the position he took. While he seemed to admit the general feeling of apprehension which prevailed, and the unpopularity of the scheme in the Townships, yet he would vote for the whole scheme, reserving to himself the right to deal with details. The scheme having been adopted by this House as a whole, there is no probability whatever of the honorable gentleman getting a chance to vote upon the details a second time.
Mr. Webb—The resolutions have not been adopted, nor yet concurred in by the other provinces.
Hon. Mr. Huntington—Well, I am speaking of them as if they had been adopted. It makes no difference whether they are adopted or not in the other provinces for some time to come. So far as Canada is concerned, the scheme will be carried before this House rises, and there will be no further opportunity of dealing with its details. But suppose we should get the opportunity hereafter of voting on those details, in what position would be my hon. friend from Richmond and Wolfe [Mr. Webb], or my hon. friend from North Wellington (Dr. Parker)—in what position would they stand when they rose to move amendments to resolutions which they had only so short a time previously voted for? Would they not be reminded by honorable gentlemen opposite that they had swallowed the whole bait, hook and line, bob and sinker! (Laughter.)
They say they will oppose the details in future; but if the details are incorrect, and they believe so, and they say they do, why not oppose them, now? It was said by the honorable member for South Grenville (Mr. Shanly) that we ought to carry the whole scheme, let the details be ever so unsatisfactory, trusting to the Federal Legislature to detect and remedy them hereafter. Now I think that Canada […]
- (p. 957)
[…] has had some experience in that way of doing things. Those details become vested right, and the sections benefited by them claim them as such, and tenaciously cling to them. (Hear, hear.) Mr. Speaker, I have not time to go into this subject at this point, and show how objectionable are many of the details; but I maintain the position that it is most absurd and illogical to ask us to accept the scheme as a whole, and leave such objectionable details to be regulated hereafter. When the union of these provinces took place in 1841, the discussion in relation to it in the British Houses of Parliament showed that the framers of the Union Act expected that any difficulties that might grow out of it would be easily regulated by the united Parliament of Canada—that such questions as representation by population could be dealt with at any time. But what happened? Why! Lower Canada treated equal representation as a vested right, and stood firmly on that right. This being the case, there was no process provided by which the evil could be regulated.
The result was that a great struggle came on, the difficulties arising out of which, honorable gentlemen opposite tell us, have proved our Constitution to be a failure From this experience of the past, we ought to learn that it is very bad policy to deliberately put errors in our Constitution and trust to the future to remedy them. If you speak of a union of all British North America, nobody objects. Everybody is in favor of a union, provided the details are satisfactory; but providing imperfect details and trusting to the future for rendering them what they ought to have been made at the outset, reminds me of an incident a friend related the other day. A carter was about to take a friend of mine with his baggage to the railway station, when my friend observed that one of the tugs was nothing but a piece of rope.
Says my friend, “You are not going to take me through these twenty miles of woods with that string, are you?” “Oh! never mind,” says be, “I have more strings in my pocket with which I can regulate that on the road.” So hon. gentlemen on the Treasury benches ask us to follow them in their rickety concern, assuring us that they have a pocketful of strings with which they can regulate things on the way. (Laughter. ) But, sir, they will find no little difficulty in bringing their pocketful of strings into operation. They will find almost insurmountable difficulties in the way of removing the vested rights that will grow up under any system that may be established. I believe that a number of circumstances connected with this scheme, a discussion of which I cannot now go into, render it the general opinion of those whom it is my business to represent on this floor, that in its present shape this scheme ought not to be carried into effect.
First of all, so sweeping a measure as this—one for sweeping away our entire Constitution and substituting a new one unknown to the British flag—ought not to be carried out until it is submitted to the people; and, secondly, the multitude of details which it embraces ought to be calmly and critically considered, with a view to their amendment, where found defective, before being incorporated in our Constitution. I do not say that this is the feeling of the Conservative party of my own constituency, or of the Eastern Townships; but I do say that even among that party there are grave apprehensions of difficulty growing out of such a jumble as is presented for our adoption, when no time is to be allowed even for their consideration, to say nothing of their amendment.
And many of that party have no hesitation in giving expression to those feelings. I have not met with a man, conservative or reformer, during my absence from this session of the House, who has not been ready to contend that it was the first duty of the Government to provide for consulting the people, and ascertaining from them, in a definite manner, whether they desired the change proposed or not. (Hear, hear.) Having thus briefly expressed my views, Mr. Speaker, in order not to weary the House at this late hour of the night—or rather of the morning, for it is now after three o’clock—I will conclude by stating that I feel it my duty, as a true representative, to record my vote against the resolutions. (Cheers.)
Mr. Cowan—Mr. Speaker, the honorable member for Shefford [Hon. Mr. Huntington] says that he and his friends sympathised with the Reform party of Upper Canada when they were branded as rebels and writhing under the charge of disloyalty, and blames us for not extending the same sympathy to him and his friends when laboring under a similar accusation. I don’t deny, sir, that the reformers of Upper Canada have often been branded as rebels, but I do most emphatically deny that they ever writhed under the false accusation. Conscious of their fealty to both their Queen and country, they treated with the most sovereign contempt […]
- (p. 958)
[…] every such foul, unfounded imputation against their loyalty. And I would advise the hon. member for Shefford [Hon. Mr. Huntington] to keep equally cool under similar provocation. If he and his friends are really loyal—and I have no doubt they are—all such aspersions of their loyalty, instead of affecting them, will only recoil on the heads of their accusers.
Mr. T.R. Ferguson said—Feeling and knowing as I do, Mr. Speaker, the great desire that is felt by the honorable gentlemen on the Treasury benches, and also, I am ready to admit, by the large majority of the honorable members of this House, that discussion should not be continued unnecessarily, and that no obstructions should be thrown in the way of an immediate decision on the question before us, I beg to state that it is not from choice but from necessity, that it is not from any desire of self-gratification, but from a deep sense of duty, that I rise to say a single word upon this occasion, particularly as so much has been said, and as the night is now so far advanced. I hope, therefore, that as I have remained silent during the debate up to the present moment, the House will bear with me while I briefly express my views on this all important matter, and assign a few of the reasons that induce me to record my vote in the manner which I design.
Sir, I would say that I stand here in a different position from that of many honorable members who submitted the resolutions embodying the Confederation scheme to their constituents, and who held public meetings on the subject, and who received from them positive instructions as to how their vote should be recorded. I received a circular from the Government, marked “Private,” but took no action to ascertain public opinion on its contents, so that I am, I regret to say, without a single word of advice as to how I should act in the matter.
I may say, sir, that after reading the resolutions over again and again, I found many things in them that I could not endorse. I felt that they were not that which we had expected from the Government, when we gave our assent to the Coalition that was formed for the purpose of bringing down some proposition for the settlement of our sectional difficulties. I had expected that if a union of the colonies took place at all, and a change of our Constitution in that direction was proposed, we would not have had a Federal but a Legislative form of Government. It has been stated, since we had the pleasure of meeting together in the present session, that the honorable gentlemen who went to the Conference to represent Canadian views, and engage in preparing a scheme of union, could not obtain that union without its being based upon the Federal system.
Sir, I feel that this is very much to be deplored, as I believe that with a union based on the Federal system, we shall have constant dissension, and before very many years, if this scheme goes into operation, we shall again have agitations for constitutional changes of various kinds, and that the ultimate result must be a perfect union under one Legislative Government for the whole country, and that now was the best time to settle the matter finally. If in the end, however, that should be the result of the long discussion we have had upon this Constitution, then I shall feel that though no amendments have been allowed on the floor of this House, yet the discussion has been productive of some good purpose. (Hear, hear.)
I had resolved upon offering amendments upon various points in the scheme before us, but the motion for the “previous question” has shut them out, which I very much regret. It is too late now to enter into an explanation of these several amendments I was about to move, or to state what I contemplated accomplishing by proposing them. It is sufficient for me to say that the previous question having been proposed, I feel that there has not been that opportunity for the full consideration of the scheme in all its parts that was expected, or that ought to have been given to this House, in view of the fact that the people are not to be consulted in any other manner than by a vote of their representatives. (Hear, hear.)
Being one of those, sir, who earnestly sought for a constitutional change, and who joined in the very just complaint of Upper Canada that she was compelled to labor under great grievances—the lack of equal rights with Lower Canada on this floor, man for man, while she also contributed much the larger proportion of the revenue—it is needless for me to say that I earnestly desired some change, that I sympathized with the prevailing sentiment of Upper Canada, and used my best endeavors, in the House and out of it, to assist in bringing about a remedy for our political and sectional ills.
But, sir, we found we could not get representation according to population; and since the present scheme was announced, and knowing the strong feeling which exists against it on the part of many of the Lower Canada members, I endeavored to ascertain, on coming down here, the opinion of hon. gentlemen […]
- (p. 959)
[…] from Lower Canada, and I found that, notwithstanding their opposition to the scheme of Confederation, which they were willing to do almost anything to defeat, they were still persistent in denying to Upper Canada a single shadow of a hope that her grievances would be redressed, if this scheme were rejected, by the granting of representation according to population. (Hear, hear.) Before coming here, too, I entertained the opinion that those honorable gentlemen from Upper Canada, who had fought so long and so uselessly for representation according to population, would join with me in endeavoring to get an amendment to the scheme before us adopted, giving us a Legislative instead of a Federal union. I soon found out, however, that there was little hope of getting such an amendment carried, because nine-tenths of them were determined to accept the scheme as it stood, simply because their leaders were in the Government. (Hear, hear.)
My hon. friend the member for Shefford (Hon. Mr. Huntington), complains of this measure being forced upon the country; but if there is one hon. gentleman more than another chargeable with bringing about this state of affairs, it is that honorable gentleman. He once held a high and honorable position in the Government of this country. He is possessed of great ability, and being highly popular with his constituents, could well have afforded to have lent a helping hand to those who were desirous of having the union as it was work satisfactorily.
I am satisfied that when he held the reins of power, if he was so anxious for the good-will, as well as for the reputation of the great Protestant and Reform party of Upper Canada, and so desirous of maintaining and protecting the rights which he now desires to have given to his friends, he would have used his power in the Government and his eloquence in the House to obtain even-handed justice for Upper Canada, and to relieve his friends in that portion of the province from the difficulties under which they labored. But, instead of doing that, he joined a Government that denied its members the privilege of voting for representation according to population—a Government that made it a close question, and which, instead of dealing with it as they ought to have done, or even giving us reason to hope well of the future, took such a course in relation to that great question as left a dark and dismal future before those who had been struggling for their rights on that question. As regards the position of that Government, after it was reconstructed, I believe I am right in saying it was thoroughly understood that its members were not to vote for it.
Hon. J.S. Macdonald—No; they were to vote as they liked.
Mr. Ferguson—Well, whatever may have been their privileges, we all know that there was nothing done in the matter, although they might have seen that it would be better to come out honestly and say that even-handed justice should be done to both Upper and Lower Canada. As this was my impression, Mr. Speaker, and seeing that no change could be made in the Constitution that would benefit Upper Canada, I felt I had a duty to perform—I felt that if they would not give us a change in the mode we desired, it was not for me to say that I would play the part of the dog in the manger. I feel it would be better to have almost any scheme, than to endure the difficulties we had labored under for so many years past; and I told the honorable gentlemen from Lower Canada that if that were the course they were to pursue, they would change my mind to a considerable extent.
Another thing which had a peculiar effect on my mind, was the report of Col. Jervois on the defences of our country. It is impossible for me to deny that the speeches which have been made in the English Parliament, expressive of a want of sympathy with the Canadian people, and of a desire to get rid of Canada, have not been pleasant to me; and although I think I have a loyal heart, and am bound by powerful obligations to maintain British supremacy, I find it hard that English statesmen should express a willingness to shake us off and leave us in the power of a foreign nation. (Hear, hear.)
But Col. Jervois was sent out to ascertain what defences were necessary, and what could be done to defend this country if at an unfortunate moment a difficulty might arise. When I see that his report declares that we have a difficult country to defend—that it would take a large number of men to put us into a condition to defend ourselves—and when I see that the British Government, true to its real instincts, is resolved to aid us in our defence—this, I say, has a great effect upon my mind, and makes me think it would not be my duty, under the circumstances, to refuse assent to the Government measure at a moment when I feel that the lives and property of my constituents, 30,000 in number, are open to an attack at any time from the powerful armies a foreign people might choose to bring up against them. (Hear.)
The scheme seems to me to be an expensive and troublesome […]
- (p. 960)
[…] one; but I do not think it would be right for me to reject any measure calculated to ensure to us that assistance of which we stand so much in need. The United States are, perhaps, more willing to injure their neighbors than other countries are, owing to the universal idea that they must carry out the Munroe doctrine of complete domination over at least the American continent. They are at this moment a war-making and a warloving people. For four years they, have been practising the art of war upon their own flesh and blood, and have shown little sympathy with those who have been in congress with them and jointly concerned in every great enterprise—who grew with their growth, and strengthened with their strength; and I feel that they would have very little sympathy indeed with us in the event of any trouble arising either between us and them, or between them and the Mother Country. We are in a very difficult position. The Americans have done a great deal to provoke the wrath of England and to insult Canada. At this moment they want to abrogate the Reciprocity treaty, and talk of doing away with the bonding system.
They lately imposed a passport system, which has only just been removed. Well, seeing that there was no redress for the grievances of Upper Canada, one Ministry falling after another without doing anything, and viewing our condition relatively to the United States, I feel it my duty to forego opposition to this new arrangement. When I saw the telegraphic despatch, too, relating to the debate in the House of Lords a few days ago; when I saw that there people were so interested in Canadian affairs, that on the question being put in the House of Lords it was declared by the leader of the House that no steps should be taken respecting the Hudson’s Bay Company until some information should be received from Canada respecting the Confederation system; when I found that they were willing to be with us in peace and with us in war; when they said “Help yourself and we will help you”; when they said, in language stronger than words can convey, “Not a hair of your head shall be touched without returning the injury tenfold,” I felt that we must support these new resolutions. (Hear.)
I do not think, with my honorable friend who spoke to-day, that in three years there will be a cry for annexation. I think that in three years we shall be a stable people—that in three years we shall have sufficient defences to resist aggression—that in three years we shall have risen in the estimation of England and the world at large—that our boundaries will extend from Canada to the Red River and the Saskatchewan. I agree with another honorable gentleman who has spoken to-day, and do not desire to see the young men of this country sent away into another country, when we have spacious limits of our own. I desire to keep our young men among us, and our old men too, as long as they live. (Hear, hear.)
When I think that England is going to do much for us in other respects, I think she will be willing to open up that country; she will not be an unkind mother to us, and demand from her children that, when she has placed us in a position of difficulty, we should bear all the burdens. I believe, however, that we ought to put our shoulders to the wheel and do something for ourselves. That is the true spirit of Britons; for if we did not, we should be open to insult—and insult is worse than injury. Rather than have to bear with it, I am willing to risk the consequences of even a larger debt than we yet have—to give some of the means that I possess; and in saying and acting thus for myself, I am speaking and acting for my constituents too, who sent me here without any other pledge or bond than that I should do for them the best I could. I have made this the land of my adoption, and it is evident that any injury I impose on their children I impose on my own too. (Hear.)
Whatever may be the result of the scheme—and I trust it will not turn out so badly as some hon. gentlemen seem to expect, and which I much dreaded myself—I trust we shall have such arrangements made with the Maritime Provinces, if arrangements are made with them, that we shall have a real union—not union mixed with disunion. (Hear, hear.) I believe that in the course of the summer we shall see millions of British capital spent here for our defence, and I see clearly that we shall have to contract debt for this purpose ourselves. But we have another duty to perform: we have to prepare the strong-hearted yeomen of this country to man our fortifications.
England cannot supply us with all the men and money necessary to defend the province—that is the duty of our young men, and our middle aged men too. If we do not perform this duty, we shall not be worthy of the name of a people, not be worthy of the rights, liberties and privileges we enjoy. I will not detain the House much longer; but I must say that one remark I heard addressed to this Chamber to-day, seemed to me very […]
- (p. 961)
[…] uncharitable. This House will believe me when I say that I was as much astonished as others to see a Government formed, composed of men of different parties; but, sir, I came to the conclusion that the state of parties at that time, and the conduct of some so-called friends of the Ministry then in power, led to such an event; and I do not blame the Conservatives who were in that Government for taking in other gentlemen, if by that course they could advance the interests of the country. I have heard it said that some members of the present Government were actuated in entering that Government by the greed of office, its emolument and its power; but I will not be so uncharitable as to make such an accusation against them. I believe they suffered a good deal personally in making the arrangement, and I should be sorry to say they did it for any other object than to satisfy the obligations of their conscience. Their object, sir, was, no doubt, the good of the country, not the small gain or the temporary pleasure of holding for a few years the position of Ministers. (Hear.)
I trust they will discharge their duty as Ministers in such a way as to enable the people of the country to regard their advent to power with satisfaction—not to condemn them for wrong-doing as traitors to their country. (Hear, hear.) I think, sir, there are Ministers in the Cabinet who could make far more money in the pursuit of their various avocations than in governing the country, and I trust they will be as economical as they can in all their expenditure, while not losing sight of one great aim—that the people of this country must be prepared to defend themselves, so as not to be afraid of the threats and alarms that reach us every day. If in the end we arrive at a union of the colonies, good results will flow from it. I think we have no evil results to fear, though I would at this moment, if I could, remedy some of the faults in these seventy-two resolutions.
I am sorry, for instance, for one thing—that the clause relating to the general education of the people of this country was inserted in its present shape into the resolutions. I am sorry the separate school system is to be retained for Upper Canada. I am sorry that bone of contention is to be incorporated into the permanent Constitution of this country. Though 52,000 Roman Catholic children in Upper Canada attended school in 1863, no more than 15,000 of them ever availed themselves of the separate schools.
A Voice—You are wrong.
Mr. Ferguson—No, I beg the honorable gentleman’s pardon, I am not wrong. I take the figures of the Superintendent of Education, Dr. Ryerson. And of my own knowledge, in places where separate schools have been established and are still existing, the Roman Catholics have grown weary of them, and I am satisfied they would now be willing that their children should get their education along with the children of the rest of the community, without any fear that their respect for their own religion would be interfered with, or their consciences injured. (Hear, hear.)
I trust the day will come when they will all take the right view of it, and the question with them with reference to education may be—not what church they belong to—but how their children may receive the best education, and grow up with other youth in peace and harmony. I regret that the subject is mentioned in these resolutions. I had a resolution prepared on that matter, as well as another with regard to our canals, and I am sorry I have not had an opportunity of moving them.
I trust, however, that the assurances given by the Honorable President of the Council [Hon. Mr. Brown] will be carried out, and that a canal and a direct and unbroken communication from Lake Huron to Quebec will be an accomplished fact at no distant day. The people of Western Canada will be dissatisfied and bitterly disappointed if the honorable gentlemen on the Treasury benches neglect this; and if they do, they may rest assured that another cry will come, by and by, from Upper Canada which will remove them from their seats, as others have been removed from those seats before. (Hear, hear.)
While money contributed by the west is spent in the east, we insist that the improvements necessary for the prosperity of Upper Canada should also receive the attention of the Government; and there is not a man in Upper Canada who does not see the necessity of having our navigation improved and a sufficient channel for seagoing vessels made to the seaboard. If this is attended to, there will not be so much to complain of about the Intercolonial Railroad being built, although we should like to have it built at a cheaper rate. In conclusion, I would say, that notwithstanding all the objections I may have to details—yet, in view of the relations in which we stand to the neighboring country—the urgency of the defence question, and the threatening aspect generally of our present position, I take upon myself, though with great reluctance, the responsibility of voting for this scheme. (Cheers.)
- (p. 962)
The House then divided on the motion for the previous question, “that that question be now put,” which was agreed to on the following division:—
[Editor’s Note: “That the question be now put”, meaning a vote on the entirety of the Confederation scheme, was requested by Attorney General Macdonald on page 703.]
YEAS—Messieurs Alleyne, Archambeault, Ault, Beaubien, Bell, Bellerose, Blanchet, Bowman, Bown, Brousseau, Brown, Burwell, Cameron (Peel), Carling, Attorney General Cartier, Cartwright, Cauchon, Chambers, Chapais, Coekburn, Coruellier, Cowan, Currier, Be Boucherville, Denis, De Niverville, Dickson, Dufresne (Montcalm). Dunsford, Ferguson (Frontenac), Ferguson (South Simoe), Gait, Gaucher, Harwood, Haultain, Higginson, Howland, Irvine, Jackson, Jones (North Leeds and Grenville), Jones (South Leeds), Knight, Langevin, LeBoutillier, Attorney General Macdonald, MacFarlane, Mackenzie (Lambton), Mackenzie (North Oxford), Magill, McConkey, McDougall, McGee, McGiverin, Mc-Intyre, McKellar, Morris, Morrison, Pope, Poulin, Poupore, Rankin, Raymond, Rémillard, Robitaille, Rose, Ross (Champlain), Ross (Dundas), Ross (Prince Edward), Scoble, Shanly, Smith (East Durham), Smith (Toronto East), Somerville, Stirton, Street, Sylvain, Thompson, Walsh, Webb, Wells, White, Willson, Wood, Wright (Ottawa County), and Wright (East York).—85.
NAYS—Messieurs Biggar, Bourassa, Cameron (North Ontario), Caron, Coupal, Dorion (Drummond and Arthabaska), Dorion (Hochelaga), Duckett, Dufresne (Iberville), Evanturel, Fortier, Gagnon, Gaudet, Geoffiion, Gibbs, Holton, Houde, Huntington, Huot, Joly, Labreche-Viger, Laframboise, Lajoie, Macdonald (Cornwall), Macdonald (Glengarry), Macdonald (Toronto West), O’Halloran, Paquet, Parker, Perrault, Pinsonneault, Pouliot, Powell, Rymal, Scatcherd, Taschereau, Thibaudeau, Tremblay, and Wallbridge (North Hastings).—39.
The question being put on the main motion (of Hon. Mr. Attorney General Macdonald), it was agreed to on the following division:—
YEAS—Messieurs Alleyne, Archambeault, Ault, Beaubien, Bell, Bellerose, Blanchet, Bowman, Bown, Brousseau, Brown, Burwell, Cameron (Peel), Carling, Attorney General Cartier, Cartwright, Cauchon, Chambers, Chapais, Coekburn, Cornellier, Cowan, Currier, De Boucherville, Denis, De Niverville, Dickson, Dufresne (Montcalm), Dunsford, Evanturel, Fergucon (Frontenac), Ferguson (South Simcoe), Gait, Gaucher, Gaudet, Gibbs, Harwood, Haultain, Higginson, Howland, Huot, Irvine, Jackson, Jones (N. Leeds and Grenville), Jones (South Leeds), Knight, Langevin, Le Boutillier, Atty. Gen. Macdonald, MacFarlane, Mackenzie (Lambton), Mackenzie (North Oxford), Magill, McConkey, MeDougall, McGee, McGiverin, Mclntyre, McKellar, Morris, Morrison, Parker, Pope, Poulin, Poupore. Powell, Rankin, Raymond, Rémillard, Robitaille, Rose, Ross (Champlain), Ross (Dundas), Ross (Prince Edward), Scoble, Shanly, Smith (East Durham), Smith (Toronto East), Somerville, Stirton, Street, Sylvain, Thompson, Walsh, Webb, Wells, White, Willson, Wood, Wright (Ottawa County), and Wright (East York).—91.
NAYS—Messieurs Biggar, Bourassa. Cameron (North Ontario), Caron, Coupai, Dorion (Drummond and Arthabaska), Dorion (Hochelaga), Duckett, Dufresne (Iberville), Fortier, Gagnon, Geoffrion, Holton, Houde, Huntington, Joly, Labreche-Viger, Laframboise, Lajoie, Macdonald (Cornwall), Macdonald (Glengarry), Macdonald (Toronto West), O’Halloran, Paquet, Perrault, Pinsonneault, Pouliot, Rymal, Scatcherd, Taschereau. Thibaudeau, Tremblay, and Wallbridge (North Hastings).—33.
The House then adjourned.