Province of Canada, Legislative Assembly, Parliamentary Debates on the Subject of the Confederation of the British North America Provinces, 8th Parl, 3rd Sess, (9 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 814-893.
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THURSDAY, March 9, 1865.
Mr. D. Ford Jones resumed the adjourned debate.
He said—I rise, Mr. Speaker, to address the House on the resolutions which you hold in your hand in favor of a Confederation of all the Provinces of British North America. I feel that the question is one involving such very great interests, involving a change in the whole Constitution of the country, and involving consequences which may plunge us into great difficulties, or which may have the very opposite effect—that I feel great diffidence and embarrassment in approaching it. But I feel it is a duty I owe to myself and to those who sent me here, that I should express my opinions on this proposed union, before I record my vote on the resolutions now before the House. I desire to do this, because I cannot give my approval to the whole scheme, some of its details being such that I cannot support them.
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Hon. Mr. Holton—Hear, hear.
Mr. Jones—The way in which I look at this question does not at all depend on whether this hon. gentleman or that hon. gentleman may be at the head of affairs in this country; or whether we may have a Coalition Government or a purely party Government; but I consider we should look at the sheme on its own merits, and deal with it as a whole, giving a fair and square vote on the resolutions as a whole. (Hear, hear.) I think, therefore, that the course which has been taken by the Government to obtain such a vote is the wise and honest course. (Hear, hear.)
I think they deserve credit for the step they have taken with a view to bringing this debate to a close. We have been debating this question day after day for a number of weeks, and I must say that the opposition given by hon. gentlemen on the other side has been of a very factious character; time after time they have risen to make motions on this, that, and the other thing, keeping the House from addressing itself to the matter really under debate, and protracting unnecessarily the decision of the question. Only the night before last, when an hon. gentleman had risen for the purpose of addressing the House, they cried out that it was too late, and called for an adjourment of the debate; and yet, when that was agreed to, they wasted two or three hours in moving additions to that motion for adjournment. This was done, too, by hon. gentlemen who were well conversant with the rules of this House, and who must have known that these motions were not in order. At midnight they were too tired to allow the debate to go on, and yet they kept the House sitting after that till three in the morning, discussing mere points of order. (Hear, hear.)
That has been the course pursued by hon. gentlemen opposite. And what, on the other hand, has been the course pursued by the Administration? Did they not put a motion on the notice paper—a motion which the factiousness of hon. gentlemen opposite prevented from being put to the vote—to give further time for the discussion of this question, by resolving that instead of its being taken up at half-past seven, it should be taken up at three, the whole time of the House being devoted to it? We have been debating the question for weeks, and though hon gentlemen opposite have been in their places they have not proposed a single amendment. And yet, after this had gone on for such a length of time, so soon as the “previous question” is moved, those hon. gentlemen get up and cry out that they are gagged. Even after the House began to discuss the question at three o’clock, these hon. gentlemen day after day wasted the time by getting in one sidewind after another, in order to create delay, to see if something might not turn up against the scheme. Now, at last, they have got something. Something has turned up in New Brunswick, and I suppose they will now permit us to come to a vote. (Hear, hear.)
In discussing this question, I do not see any necessity for going back eight or ten years to the speeches of hon. members. I do not see why lengthy extracts should be read to show that the hon. member for Montmorency [Hon. Mr. Cauchon] opposed the union of the provinces in 1858, or that the hon. member for Hochelaga [Hon. Mr. Dorion], at that time, was in favor of it. I do not see what that has to do with the question before us. It is now submitted in a practical form for our decision, and what we have to do is to give a square vote, yea or nay, that we are in favor of this Confederation, or that we are against it. Our circumstances have changed within the last few years; but it is noton that account merely that I now support this union. I have always, upon every occasion, on the hustings at public meetings and elsewhere, advocated a union of the British North American Provinces; and were our relations with the United States in the same favorable form that existed some five or six years since, I would still give my support to a union.
It is, therefore, sir, not because I think there is a great present necessity for the scheme being brought to a speedy conclusion that I now support it. That present necessity, however, now exists, and I do not see why other hon. gentlemen, after a lapse of five or six years, when times have changed, and a greater urgency has arisen for such a union, should not be allowed to change their minds. “Wise men change their minds; fools have no minds to change.” (Hear, hear.) Shortly before the meeting of this House, I advertised that I would hold a series of meetings in the riding of South Leeds [Mr. Ford Jones], for the purpose of placing my views upon this question before my constituents, and to see whether their views accorded with my own; men of all shades of politics were requested to attend these meetings, and they were very numerously and respectably attended, not only by those who supported me, but also by those who were my most bitter opponents at the last […]
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[…] election. And at all of those meetings, some six or seven, not a single voice was raised against the union of these provinces with the Provinces of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Newfoundland, and Prince Edward Island. All appeared to think such a union advisable and necessary, not only for commercial purposes, but because it would tend to strengthen the ties that bound us to the Mother Country. It has been said that this union has never been before the people, that it has never been a test question at the polls. Now, sir, so long ago as the year 1826, this union was advocated by Sir John Beverley Robinson, one of the most able men this country has ever produced; subsequently, on different occasions, it was adverted to by Lord Durham in his celebrated report—also by the British American League, presided over by the late lamented Hon. Geo. Moffatt of Montreal, and latterly in that despatch to the home Government in October, 1858, over the signatures of the Hon. Messrs. Cartier, Galt and Ross.
Why action was not taken upon that despatch, I cannot say; I leave this matter in the hands of. those who at that time administered the affairs of this country, and who are responsible for the course they pursued in allowing it to be dropped. Sir, the union of these provinces would, in my humble opinion, be of the very greatest advantage to us in many points. It would strengthen, and not weaken, as has been said by its opponents, the ties that bind us to the Mother Country. It would give us a standing in the eyes of the world. Instead of being several small, disjointed and fragmentary provinces, as was so ably expressed in the Speech from the Throne, we would form one great nationality, with a population to begin with of nearly 4,000,000 people, which would place us among the list of the first countries of the world. (Hear, hear.) It would tend to strengthen our securities both here and in the Mother Country. Instead of our stocks and our bonds being quoted as if by accident on the Stock Exchange in London, they would be looked for daily, and sought after. It would give us an increased market for our produce and our manufactures, and it would tend more than anything else to cause a tide of emigration to flow to our shores. (Hear, hear.)
Now the emigrant in coming to America is preplexed to know to which of the different provinces he shall go. and when he speaks of going to America, the only place he thinks of is New York. It would create a daily line of steamships from the different points of Europe to Halifax, the nearest point and shortest sea voyage to this country—and with the Intercolonial Railway to bring the emigrant directly through to Canada, who will say that we shall not have a tide of emigration to our shores such as we can scarcely imagine? The only emigration we now have is that induced to come by friends who have made this country a home and have prospered. These, sir, are the reasons, from a political point of view, why I support the resolutions now in your hand. And, sir, in speaking in a commercial sense, and as a commercial man, they shall also have my full and hearty support. (Hear, hear.)
Does any one pretend to say that by the addition of yearly a million of inhabitants to these provinces, a thrifty and intelligent people, that this country will not be made more prosperous? Does any one pretend to say, that by taking away the barriers that exist to trade, with a million of people living close alongside of us, that this country will not be advanced? Will we not have largely-increased markets for our manufactures when those hostile tariffs that now meet us at every port in the Maritime Provinces, restricting our trade with them, are removed? Will we not have an increased market for our produce when we are linked together by the Intercolonial Railroad, and when a free interchange of all our commodities exists? Can we remain, as at present, without any highway of our own to the Atlantic, for ingress or egress, for five months of the year? (Hear, hear.)
When we see the hostility existing towards us, and forcibly shown towards us, by the press, the people, and the Government of the United States, by the enforcement of the obnoxious passport system, by the notice of the abrogation of the Reciprocity treaty, hay the annulling of the bonding system, by the notice given to the Government of Great Britain that the treaty regarding armed vessels on our lakes is to be done away with—when our farmers cannot send their produce for five months of the year to a market; when our merchants, for the same period, cannot get their stocks of merchandise for the supply of the wants of the country; when we are dependent on the generosity of a foreign country even for the passage of our mails to Old England—when that is our position, shall it be said that this union with the Lower […]
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[…] Provinces is not desirable, and that we shall not, as soon as possible, have a railroad across our territory to the Atlantic seaboard, to Halifax, one of the best harbors in the world? Shall we be indebted, be subservient to, be at the mercy of a foreign country for our very existence? (Hear, hear.)
Sir, shall we remain dependent upon that country for all these things, or shall we not rather put our own shoulders to the wheel, throwing off our supineness and inertia, and by building the Intercolonial Railway, provide an outlet for ourselves? (Hear, hear.) And simultaneously with the construction of that great work, I hold that for the benefit of the commercial interests of the country we ought to enlarge and deepen our canals. (Hear, hear.) I desire now to read a Minute of the Executive Council, issued by the Sandfield Macdonald-Dorion Government, under date 19th February, 1864. It is as follows:—
Although no formal action, indicative of the strength of the party hostile to the continuance of the Reciprocity treaty, has yet taken place, information of an authentic character, as to the opinions and purposes of influential public men in the United States, has forced upon the committee the conviction that there is imminent danger of its speedy abrogation, unless prompt and vigorous steps be taken by Her Majesty’s Imperial advisers to avert what would be generally regarded by the people of Canada as a great calamity.
And in another place it is stated:—
Under the beneficent operation of the system of self-government, which the later policy of the Mother Country has accorded to Canada, in common with the other colonies possessing representative institutions, combined with the advantages secured by the Reciprocity treaty of an unrestricted commerce with our nearest neighbors in the natural productions of the two countries, all agitation for organic changes has ceased, all dissatisfaction with the existing political relations of the province has wholly disappeared.
From this Minute it appears to have been the opinion of the Sandfield Macdonald-Dorion Government that the abrogation of the Reciprocity treaty would probably be a great calamity to this country. But I am not of that opinion, and I believe that the people of this country will never be so reduced as to go on their knees to pray the Government of the United States to continue the treaty. (Hear, hear.) Indeed, for the past year or two, in consequence of the difference in the currency between the two countries, we have felt almost as though that treaty had been put an end to already. In consequence of the state of the currency, many of the best interests of this country have been injured, the mining interest of the province has been put a stop to, and the lumbering interest, one of the most important of our many important interests, crippled and paralysed. (Hear.)
What much greater injury can befall us, by the abrogation of the Reciprocity treaty, than that we now suffer through the derangement of the currency? Instead of the repeal of the Reciprocity treaty being a great calamity, it will lead to an agitation for organic changes which cannot fail to be of the greatest advantages to the future prosperity of the country. For my part I do not at all like the idea of a document of that kind, emanating from our Canadian Government, falling into the hands of the American people, and leading them to believe that in our estimation the repeal by them of the Reciprocity treaty would be calamitous to this country. (Hear, hear.)
I repeat that I do not believe that the abrogation of that treaty will eventually be detrimental to our interests. It is true that we may suffer for four or five years, and suffer greatly, but we will be thrown upon our own resources, and ultimately become strong and self-reliant. Our merchants will no longer be denied an outlet to the ocean during five or six months in the year, except by the favor or forbearance of our Yankee neighbors. Let us put our hands into our pockets to build this Intercolonial Railway, and we will be opening a way to the ocean to our merchants and our farmers for shipping their products over their own territory.
And when we are in that position, we shall be able to say to the people of the United States—”You shall no longer be allowed to participate in the benefits of our fisheries—we will close the navigation of our canals against you—and we will cease to permit, without the payment of a heavy duty, the importation into this country of your coarse grains for the supply of our distillers and brewers.” And, sir, when it is stated that the importations of these grains have amounted to nearly two millions of bushels annually, it will be seen that after all the reciprocity is not altogether on one side. (Hear, hear.)
I think that they will then acknowledge it will be better (or them to be on more friendly terms with this province, seeing that we control the navigation of the Welland and St. Lawrence canals, the […]
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[…] natural outlet for the products of the Western States, which in 1863 amounted to the enormous quantity of five hundred and twenty million bushels of grain—they will be dependent upon us, instead of our relying upon them. Compared with the St. Lawrence navigation the Erie canal is but a ditch, and it is closed by the frost earlier in the season than our lake and river navigation. When all these advantages which we enjoy are considered, the people of the United States will see how much better it is to live on terms of friendship and amity with us, instead of, to use a vulgar but forcible phrase, “cutting off their nose to spite their face.” (Hear, hear.)
With regard to the proposed resolutions, I stated at the outset that there were portions of the scheme to which I objected, and I may now, sir, be allowed briefly to advert to them. I would prefer that the whole power was concentrated under one head by a Legislative union, rather than a Federal union. I fear that the machinery will be complex, and that we will find, under the proposed system, that the expenses of the Government will be much greater than if we had one General Government without these additions of local legislatures for each of the provinces. (Hear, hear.)
But I am happy to say that the proposed Federal system is not a reflex of the old Federal union of the United States. Notwithstanding some honorable gentlemen have praised the Federal system in the States as worthy of imitation, full I think our proposed system much to be preferred. It differs in this—the United States Federal system was formed from a number of sovereign states, with sovereign powers, delegating to a central power just as much or as little of their power as they chose; thereby the doctrine of state rights obtained, and, as we have seen within the last four years, has been the cause of bloodshed and civil war, it may be to the probable destruction of that Federal union.
Our case is exactly the reverse instead of the Central Government receiving its power from the different provinces, it gives to those provinces just as much or as little as it chooses. Hear what the 45th resolution says—”In regard to all subjects in which jurisdiction belongs to both the general and local legislatures, the laws ot the General Parliament shall control and supersede those made by the local legislatures, and the latter shall be void so far as inconsistent with the former.” This places the whole control in the hands of the General Government, making the union as nearly legislative as the circumstances of the various provinces would admit. So much is this the case that the hon. member for Hochelaga [Hon. Mr. Dorion] fears that it would eventually result in a legislative union—a result to my mind most devoutly to be desired. (Hear, hear.)
There are two or three more of the points of the resolutions to which I have objection. The public lands are placed at the disposal of the local legislatures; immigration also is in the hands of the local legislatures, and the seacoast fisheries are in the hands of the local legislatures. These are matters common to the whole, and should, for many reasons, be under the control of the General Government. These various interests, however, are all covered by the 45th resolution of the Conference which I have just read, and which declares that when consistent with the welfare of the General Government, their control will be taken from the local legislatures. (Hear, hear.) I have, as briefly as possible, shown that in my opinion, in our political and our commercial relations we would be benefited by the union of Canada with the Maritime Provinces. I have also adverted briefly to the objections which I bold to the proposed mode of carrying out the union.
I shall now endeavor to show that as a means of defence it is highly desirable. If there is one thing more desirable than another, it is to have the whole forces of the country under one governing power. How might it fare with us, in case of war or invasion, with the provinces disunited? Objections could now be made against the withdrawal of a portion of the militia from one province to the others, without the consent of the government of that province, and before they could be brought into the field, valuable time would be lost, red-tapeism would stand in the way, and the delay might be dangerous. (Hear, hear.) By being united and controlled under one head, troops could be thrown upon any point attacked, at a moment’s notice. Objections have been made by hon. gentlemen to any expenditure for the purpose of building fortifications, at proper points, for the defence of the country; but I am satisfied there is no reasonable sum that may be required that will be grudged by the people of Canada; for if there is any purpose for which they will contribute cheerfully, it is for the defence of their country, and to continue the connection and cement the tie that binds us to the Mother Country. […]
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[…] (Hear, hear.) It has been also stated that we could not defend ourselves against an overwhelming power such as the United States. Time was when we did defend ourselves, and that successfully; and if the time should ever come again, the people of Canada and of the Maritime Provinces will not be found backward to defend everything they h ld sacred and most dear. (Hear, hear.) It has also been said that we should keep a strict neutrality; in fact that our neutrality should be guaranteed by England, France and the United Sates, in case war should unfortunately take place between them. But such an idea is too absurd to be considered for a moment.
Would the people of this country submit to such an arrangement even if attempted to be carried out? Would we allow England, if forced to go to war with the United States, want the assistance of her Canadian subjects? Could we restrain the people of Canada from doing their duty, when they saw the Mother Country battling with her foes? If I thought such would be the case, I should deny my country, for we should be held up to the scorn and derision of the world. (Hear, hear.) On the question of our defences, I desire to read an extract from the report of Col. Jervois, the able engineer sent out to report upon the practicability of defending Canada against attack:—
The question appears to be whether the British force now in Canada shall be withdrawn in order to avoid the risk of its defeat, or whether the necessary measure shall be taken to enable that force to be of use for the defer ice of the country. The sum required for the construction of the proposed works and armaments at Montreal and Quebec would only be about one year’s expense of the regular force we now maintain in Canada.
It is a delusion to suppose that force can be of any use for the defence of the country, without fortifications to compensate for the comparative smallness of its numbers. Even when aided by the whole of the local militia that could at present be made available, it would, in the event of war, be obliged to retreat before the superior numbers by which it would be attacked, and it would be fortunate if it succeeded in embarking at Quebec, and putting to sea without serious defeat. On the other hand, if the works now recommended be constructed, the vital points of the country could be defended, and the regular army would become a nucleus and support, round which the people of Canada would rally to resist aggression, and to preserve that connection with the Mother Country which their loyalty, their interests, and their love of true freedom alike make them desirous to maintain.
Such is the report of Col. Jervois, one of the ablest men on those subjects in the English service, and I think it can with greater reason be relied upon than all the mere assertions of hon. members, who are not supposed to know much, if anything at all, upon a subject which they have never made a study, and upon which they have had no experience whatever. (Hear, hear.) Sir J. Walsh also, a few days since, in a speech upon an Address to Her Majesty for papers and correspondence with the American Government in relation to the Reciprocity treaty, and the notice for a finality of the treaty restricting the number of armed steamers upon our inland waters, spoke thus:—
There might be some hon. gentlemen who would contemplate, without shame or regret, the total and entire severance of the connection between England and Canada, and who would say that this country would get rid thereby of a source of much embarrassment, expense and trouble. He would, however, tell those hon. gentlemen that Great Britain could not, if she would, cut Canada adrift. As long as Canada retained her desire to be connected with this country—as long as Canada preserved her spirit and her resolution to be independent of America, so long would England be bound by her honor, by her interests, and by every motive that could instigate a generous or patriotic nation, to sustain, protect and vindicate the rights of Canada, and to guard her, whether as an ally or a dependency, against the aggressions of the United States; it was impossible for England to shrink from the obligation.
But if ever that day should come, and if ever that speech were made, the whole world would observe that the old English oak was not only withered in its limbs, but was rotten at its heart. There was, in fact, no escape from the obligation which bound Great Britain, by every tie of national honor and interest, to maintain and defend Canada. The question was not one merely between England and Canada, but was one between England and the United States. It appeared to him that the notice given by the American Government was an act of such unmistakable hostility, that it almost […]
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[…] amounted to a declaration of war, and at a much earlier period of our history, it would have been so regarded.
When such views are held in England, when so strong a desire is manifested in Canada to maintain our connection with England, and to remain under the sheltering folds of that flag we love so well, shall it be said that we have not the spirit left to defend ourselves? I know, sir, that the people of Canada will not be backward, should ever that time arrive. I feel that there is some of the spirit of 1812 still left among us. I am convinced that the blood of those men who left the United States, when they gained their independence, and who gave up all in order to live under the protection oí the laws of Old England—the blood of those old U. E. Loyalists, I say, still courses through our veins. (Hear.)
Sir, I trust that this union may be consummated, in order that British power on this continent may be consolidated, our connection with the Mother Country cemented and strengthened, and that under this union this country may be made a happy home for hundreds of thousands of emigrants from the Mother Country—a happy and contented home for all now living here, and for our children and children’s children for generations to come. (Hear, hear, and cheers.)
Mr. Cartwright, said—Mr. Speaker, the turn which this debate has assumed of late is somewhat remarkable. Up to a very recent period, hon. gentlemen opposite have dwelt chiefly on the extreme—I think they even said the indecent—haste with which this project has been pushed forward. They have asserted that this scheme was the sole, the only bond of union between the members of the present Ministry, and further, that so rash, so inconsiderate was their eagerness to effect their end at any cost, that they have seriously compromised our interests by undue concessions to the remaining provinces, and notably to Newfoundland and New Brunswick.
Latterly, however, the question has assumed a new and different phase. It has been discovered that so far from being a bond of union, the project of Confederation is a mere pretext, a blind to cover their predetermination to maintain their position at all hazards. Now, sir, passing over the obvious inconsistency of these contradictory accusations, passing over the absurdity of calling the Confederation the sole bond of union, and yet a sham to cover that union, I shall have a few words to say as to the reasons which induced me, in common with a great majority of this House, and I believe with a great majority of the people of this country, to support honorable gentlemen on the Treasury benches, not only as regards the project we are now discussing, but as to their general policy in effecting the extraordinary fusion of parties which took place last summer. Sir, it is idle to talk of that step as if those honorable gentlemen were alone responsible for their conduct on that occasion. What they did was done with the full knowledge and consent of their supporters, and reflects on our honor, if wrong, quite as much as on theirs. But, sir, I am very far indeed from admitting that we were wrong. I think the reasons which influenced us then were strong enough to justify us fully; those reasons are tenfold stronger now.
To understand them, Mr. Speaker, we need only glance at the parliamentary history of the last few years, and then ask ourselves whether any language is too strong, any sacrifice too great, to put an end to the state of things which prevailed throughout that period. But first, sir, let me pause to deal with the charge of undue haste. Doubtless the rapidity with which these negotiations have advanced was as remarkable as it was unexpected. I believe there is hardly an instance in which a political project of such magnitude and delicacy has made such astonishing progress in so short a time; and so far from holding it an objection, so far from allowing that this is any evidence that the country has been taken by surprise in assenting to this scheme, I hold that it is, on the contrary, the best possible omen of its ultimate success, no matter what temporary checks it may encounter, because it shows conclusively not only how zealously and honestly Ministers have devoted themselves to the task of carrying it into effect, but, which I think of even more importance, because it proves how powerfully the events of the last few years have contributed to mature men’s views on this subject, and shows that, so far as this province is concerned, my honorable friends are but aiding to carry out a foregone conclusion—a conclusion long since arrived at by every man among us who desires to maintain our independence or our connection with the British Crown; that in this, or some such scheme as this, lies our best, if not our only hope of escaping absorption into the great republic which adjoins us.
Sir, this is an argument which perhaps has more weight with we than with some hon. […]
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[…] gentlemen before me. It may be that there are gone even here who are secretly dazzled by the magnificent vision, so dear to American statesmen, of an empire which shall spread from sea to sea, and unite every scattered state and province from the Gulf of Mexico to Hudson’s Bay under one law and one rule. Sir, I can understand the fascination which such an idea can exercise; I can even sympathise with it to some extent; and it is just because I do understand it that I am prepared to oppose it to the utmost, believing that in the long run the establishment of a power so gigantic could not fail to be fraught with the greatest misfortunes to those who might live under it, if not to the whole human race.
And now, sir, to return to my subject, I would like to take a rapid glance at the perils from which we have but lately escaped; and in so doing, I shall speak only of those of which I have myself been cognizant in my own parliamentary career, brief though it is; and I appeal again to the consciousness of every honorable gentleman, whether there is anything in the events of the past two sessions of which we have much reason to feel proud, save, perhaps, their closing scene? What was our position, Mr. Speaker; what was that position which some honorable gentlemen have the hardihood to affect to regret?
Two dissolutions granted (though in the latter case the Royal prerogative was not exercised); three changes of Ministry within the space of a single twelvemonth; the fate of cabinets dependant on the vote of a single capricious or unprincipled individual, in a House of 130 members; a deficient revenue and a sinking credit; all useful legislation at a stand-still—these, sir, were circumstances which might well have filled us with apprehension, had they occurred in a time of profound peace; but which, sir, coming, as they did, at a period when we are menaced with the gravest danger which can befall a free people, would have argued us deaf and blind to every lesson which the misfortunes of our neighbors ought to teach us, had we not embraced the very earliest opportunity to extricate ourselves from such a position; and the wonder to me is not that our statesmen should have shown themselves willing to bury their private grudges and paltry personal animosities, but rather that we could have been infatuated enough to permit such a state of things to continue at such a crisis for two whole years. It is not for me to say who has been most to blame in the past.
I judge no one, still less do I undertake to defend them; but I speak of acts patent and known to all, when I say that the position of parties in this province, the bitterness and virulence of party feeling, and the narrowness and acrimony to which those feelings gave rise, were degrading and demoralizing us all to a degree which it is not pleasant to look back upon even now. And so far from regarding the union of parties which has taken place as a political misfortune in itself, or as tending to deprive the people of any safeguard, I say that it was of the greatest importance to our people that they should be relieved, if only for a brief period, from the desperate party struggles in which they have been engaged—that a lull of some kind should be afforded, that they should have some opportunity of considering the grave daubers which encompass them, some chance of escaping from the state of practical anarchy into which they had been drifting.
It is to their credit, Mr. Speaker, and to the credit of those who control the press of this country, that ever since this project has been fairly before us a very marked improvement has taken place in the whole tone and temper of public discussion. Of the press, in particular, I must say that the moment they were relieved from the necessity of supporting party manoeuvres—the moment a subject of sufficient importance was submitted for consideration, they seem to have risen at once to the level of the subject, and to have abandoned all those unhappy and rancorous personalities which, in times past, were too apt to disfigure their pages.
Sir, I believe the people of Canada have learned a lesson which they will not easily forget. I believe that henceforward it will not be found so easy to array citizen against citizen, race against race, as it has been heretofore. I believe our people have discovered that men who rise to be the heads of great parties are not of necessity villains and scoundrels—that both sides may have great political principles to maintain—that the words Reformer and Revolutionist, Conservative and Corruptionist, are not absolutely convertible terms, and that men who have given up the best part of their lives, and sacrificed too often, the best part of their fortunes in the service of their country, have had some better and higher reasons than mere love of […]
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[…] jobbery and intrigue for doing so. To me, sir, this appears a matter of great moment. It is only too notorious how much of the misery and misfortune which has befallen the United States, is to be traced to the systematic degradation of their public men. It is well for us that the matter is still in our own power. It is well for us that we have still the choice whether we will have statesmen or stump orators to rule over us—whether this House shall maintain its honorable position as the representatives of a free people, or whether it shall sink into a mere mob of delegates, the nominees of caucuses and of wire-pullers. It is still in our power to decide whether we shall secure a fair share of the best talent we possess to carry on the affairs of the country, or whether we will ostracise from our councils every man of superior ability, education or intelligence—with what practical results we need not look far abroad to see; and I think, sir, it is fast becoming apparent that in this, as in other matters, the people of Canada are well disposed to adhere to the traditions of their British ancestry.
There is one objection, Mr. Speaker, which has been advanced perpetually throughout this debate by some hon. gentlemen who, while unable or unwilling to show any valid reason against Confederation in itself, profess themselves bitterly scandalised at the political combination by which it is likely to be brought about. Now, sir, I admit at once that there is a prejudice, a just and wholesome prejudice, against all coalitions in the abstract. I admit that that prejudice is especially strong in the minds of Englishmen, and that, in point of fact, a coalition is always an extreme measure, only to be had resort to in cases of extreme emergency. A coalition, Mr. Speaker, may be a very base act, but it may also be a very noble one.
It may be a mere conspiracy, for purposes of revenge or plunder, on the part of men hating and detesting each other to the uttermost—or it may be an honorable sacrifice of private personal enmity before the pressure of overwhelming public necessities, to escape from great danger or to carry a great object. Sir, I shall not insult the intelligence of the House by enquiring whether this present existing Coalition has proposed to itself an object of sufficient importance to warrant its formation Even those who censure the details of this scheme most strongly are fain to do homage to the grandeur of the project, and are compelled to admit that a union which should raise this country from the position of a mere province to that of a distinct nation, is a project well worthy of the utmost efforts of our statesmen.
To determine the remaining question whether the position of our affairs were so critical as to require the utmost energy of all our leaders, and to justify any union which gave a reasonable hope of extricating ourselves from our difficulties, I must again revert to the condition in which we found ourselves during the last few years, and I ask every hon. member to answer for himself whether it was one which it gives him any pleasure to look back upon? Was it pleasant for us, Mr. Speaker, a young country without one penny of debt which has not been incurred for purposes of public utility—was it pleasant for us, I ask, to find our revenue yearly outrunning our expenditure in the ratio of 20, 30 or even 40 per cent, per annum? Was it pleasant for us to know that some of our once busiest and most prosperous cities were being depopulated under the pressure of exorbitant taxation? Was it pleasant for us, inhabiting a country able to sustain ten times its present population, to find capital and immigrants alike fleeing from our shores, even if they had to take refuge in a land desolated by civil war? Was it pleasant for us, sir, the only colony of England which has ever vindicated its attachment to the Empire in fair fight, to know that our apathy and negligence in taking steps for our own defence was fast making us the byword to both friend and foe?
And lastly, Mr Speaker, I ask was it pleasant for us, needing and knowing that we needed a strong Government above all things, one which should maintain a firm and steady policy, and possess the good-will and support of at least a large majority of our people—I say, sir, was it pleasant for us at such a crisis to find ourselves the victims of a mere political see-saw—to be sure only of this one fact, that whatever course of policy was adopted, the circumstance that it emanated from one party would cause it to be viewed with jealousy and suspicion by the whole remaining moiety of the nation? I would not have it thought, Mr. Speaker, that in saying this, I am blind to the difficulties with which our statesmen have had to struggle. So far from this I believe that it has been quite too much the fashion to underrate them in times past. We have spoken of them as if it were the easiest task in the […]
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[…] world to blend together, in less than one generation, two distinct peoples—peoples differing from one another in race, in language, in laws, customs and religion—in one word, in almost every point in which it is possible for men of European origin, and professing one common Christianity, to differ from each other.
Sir, this could never have been an easy task. It is one which has again and again baffled the ablest statesmen of the most powerful monarchies of Europe; and I will not undertake to say whether it is ever capable of complete accomplishment. Be that as it may, I know that in every empire which has ever existed, from the English to the Roman, which has held different races under its sway, it has always been found necessary to make large allowances for distinctive national traits—has, in fact, been found necessary to introduce in some measure the Federal element, though it is equally, true that in every state which deserved the name of an empire, the supreme authority of the central power in all that concerns the general welfare has been acknowledged unreservedly.
And, sir, it is just because this seems to have been effectual in all essential points in the scheme now before us—because, while reserving to the General Government the power of the purse and the sword, it accords the amplest defensive powers to the various local bodies—because, even where there may be some conflict of jurisdiction on minor matters, every reasonable precaution seems to have been taken against leaving behind us any reversionary legacies of sovereign state rights to stir up strife and discord among our children. For all these reasons, I say, I am disposed to give my hearty support to the scheme as a whole, without criticising too narrowly the innumerable details which it must inevitably present to attack. All I hope is that in adjusting our new constitutions, local and general, we shall not allow our minds to be warped by antiquated notions of the dangers which threaten our liberty. No fear here, Mr. Speaker, for many a day to come at least, of perils which await us from the tyranny of hereditary rulers, or the ambition of aristocratic oligarchies.
No, sir, no; and while it is true that here as elsewhere, there are always dangers enough to retard our progress, I think that every true reformer, every real friend of liberty will agree with me in saying that if we must erect safeguards, they should be rather for the security of the individual than of the mass, and that our chiefest care must be to train the majority to respect the rights of the minority, to prevent the claims of the few from being trampled under foot by the caprice or passion of the many. For myself, sir, I own frankly I prefer British liberty to American equality.
I had rather uphold the majesty of the law than the majesty of Judge Lynch. I had rather be the subject of an hereditary monarch, who dare not enter the hut of the poorest peasant without leave had and obtained, than be the free and sovereign elector of an autocratic President, whose very Minister can boast the power of imprisoning one man in New York and another in St. Louis by the touching of a bell-wire! I said, sir, that there were many reasons why we should all unite in furthering this project. It is not merely because of the barriers to material progress which it will remove—though I am far from undervaluing their importance; it is not merely because of the higher prizes which it will throw open to individual ambition—though I do not affect to despise this either; but it is chiefly, after all, because I believe it will be found to have the most beneficial results, in elevating our politics and in inspiring our people with those feelings of dignity and self-respect which lie at the bottom of all real national greatness.
Sir, I can only liken our position for some time past to that of a youth who has been allowed to take possession of his inheritance at an age when he is not yet legally responsible for his actions. I do not believe that such a position is good either lord a nation or an individual, and I for one rejoice that it is about being brought to a close. There were several other subjects, Mr. Speaker, which I had intended to allude to; but I find my voice is still too weak to allow more than a few remarks. Still, sir, I do not wish to sit down without saying briefly that I am glad to find one lesson at least, which the British Constitution ought to teach us, is beginning to be impressed upon our people.
That Constitution, Mr. Speaker—though we have not always been sufficiently alive to the fact—while it does not require the possession of those lofty, impracticable virtues which most republican institutions demand from their votaries, does nevertheless presuppose a reasonable amount of discretion at the hands of those who are intrusted with the […]
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[…] carrying out of its details. And, sir, though it is true that it does recognise the calm, deliberate, just decision of the majority—and the calm and deliberate decision is almost always just—as final in the last resort, it does still so abound with safeguards—with latent checks of all kinds—checks established, mainly of them, more by custom and usage than by positive law—as to make it all but impossible for any majority, however strong, to perpetrate any gross act of injustice on a minority, so long as that minority could command but one or two resolute representatives on the floor of Parliament. Sir, it is impossible not to feel that it is in a very great degree to this fact; to the instinctive sense of the inherent powers of self-defence which our customs give to the weak against the strong—to the conviction that to drive any party to despair would create an inevitable dead-lock—that England owes it that she has contrived to administer her affairs for near two hundred years without any overt acts of tyranny or one direct collision or irregular interference with the ordinary course of law.
Sir, I rejoice to see that we will continue to adhere to a system which has borne such good fruit, as a whole, in the parent land; and I think the reflection how difficult, if not how dangerous, it is to oppress a determined minority under such a system, may serve to calm the fears of those honorable gentlemen who dread the loss of local rights and privileges at the bauds of the stronger race. For the rest, Mr. Speaker, though I will venture upon no predictions—though I know we must expect many difficulties, many checks before we can hope to bring so great an enterprise to a successful issue—I trust I may be pardoned for expressing my conviction that the loyalty and fidelity of the early settlers of this country—and I speak here without regard to any special nationality—is destined to be rewarded in the way in which they would most have desired to see it rewarded if they had lived to see this day, by the establishment of a kingdom on the banks of the St. Lawrence, which, without binding itself down to a slavish adherence to the customs of the old world, would yet cherish and preserve those time-honored associations our American neighbors have seen fit so recklessly to cast away.
Sir, our forefathers may have had their faults; but still, in spite of all, I dare affirm that the brave, self-sacrificing spirit they displayed—their manful struggle against heavy odds—and last, but not least, the patient, law-abiding spirit which has ever induced them to prefer reform to revolution, even when engaged in sweeping away the last vestiges of worn-out feudal systems in Church and State from their midst—I say, sir, that these afford us ample proof that the men to whom, I hope, we shall soon look back as the founders of a new nation, were ancestors of whom any people might be proud; and I trust that we, their descendants, may prove ourselves but half as capable of administering and developing the vast inheritance which awaits us.
Sir, I believe that even we ourselves are but just beginning to grow aware of the immense resources, whether in field or forest, in mine or in minerals, in seas or in fisheries, with which it abounds; that we are but just beginning to appreciate the advantages which surround us—our all but unpatrolled internal navigation; a healthy and far from over-rigorous climate, and a country which, even if it does not present the same facilities for accumulating enormous fortunes in the hands of a few individuals which some other lands may afford, still promises, and, I think, will continue for many a day to promise, comfort and competence to every man who is willing to work for it.
Older nations, Mr. Speaker, are working for us even now. Older nations are accumulating the skill and the capital which will yet be transferred to our shores, if our own folly do not prevent it. Older nations are even now busied in solving those problems which advanced civilization is sure to bring to us in our turn; and we, if we are wise, may learn and profit by their example.
A little patience, a little forbearance, a little timely concession to mutual prejudices, a little timely preparation against possible dangers, and we may well hope to establish a state which, in all essential attributes of power and happiness, need not fear comparison with any other on this continent. Let us not be daunted by any accidental checks—we must lay our account to meet such in matters of not one tenth its importance—this is the time and this the hour; never again can we hope to enter on our task under circumstances better fitted to remove the natural, the inevitable prejudices, which must exist between so many different provinces—never again can we hope to receive a warmer and more energetic support from the Imperial authorities—never again can we hope to see a […]
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[…] Ministry in office which shall command more completely the confidence of the great mass of our people, and which shall possess the same or equal facilities for adjusting those sectional difficulties which have disturbed us so long; and I trust that in this most important crisis, this House will show itself not altogether unworthy to be intrusted with the destinies of three millions of their countrymen.
My own years are not very many, Mr. Speaker, but yet even I can remember when Canada was but a petty province, an obscure dependency, scarce able to make its voice heard on the other side of the Atlantic without a rebellion; forgotten or ignored, as if, as the French Minister said when he signed the treaty for its surrender, “it mattered not what became of a few barren adores of snow!” And yet, sir, in less than thirty years I have lived to see Canada expand into a state equal in numbers, in resources and power of self-government to many an independent European kingdom—lacking only the will to step at once from the position of a dependency to that of an ally—a favored ally of the great country to which we belong, and to take that rank among the commonwealth of nations which is granted to those people, and to those only, who have proved that they possess the power as well as the wish to defend their liberties.
This, sir, is what I think Canada can do; this is what I think Canada ought to do; and if, as I believe, this project of Confederation would contribute most powerfully to enable us to do so, there are few sacrifices which I would refuse to make for such an object—much more, forgive my honorable friends yonder for having in time past spoken somewhat over harshly and hastily of each other. Let them only persevere, let them only go on and complete the task which I will say they have so nobly begun, and they will have made good their claim—I do not say to the forgiveness—but to the regard, the affection, the esteem of every man who shall hereafter bear the name of Canadian. (Cheers.)
Mr. Harwood said—Mr. Speaker, the importance of the proposed measure; the fatal consequences which would result to the country if the plan of Confederation were rejected by this House; the sources to social, political and commercial prosperity with which the measure of Confederation is pregnant, if it is adopted with a firm determination on the part of all to contribute their part towards its perfect working, are such, that notwithstanding the eloquent speeches delivered on the subject on both sides, and which seem to have completely exhausted it, I consider it my duty to make known to the country the reasons which influence me to assist in passing it. Called, as we all are, to record our votes either for or against this great constitutional change, it is no more than right that everyone should in his own way account for the part which he may take in a measure which will naturally inaugurate a new era in the parliamentary annals of Canada. (Hear, hear.)
I have listened attentively to the opponents of the measure, and read their speeches again and again, and truly the only effect they have had on my mind is a stronger conviction that in the anomalous position of the country, a Federal union of all the Provinces of British North America is the only remedy for all the innumerable difficulties which are shadowed forth on our political horizon. (Cheers.)
The opponents of the measure, not being able positively to deny the advantages of Confederation to all the five provinces of British America, endeavor to get up a cry that this union would involve the loss to us French-Canadians, and Catholics, of our nationality, our language, our laws and institutions. I, for my part, cannot look upon it in so terrible a light—having all history before me, I cannot come to that conclusion. I shill soon show clearly that there exists throughout the world confederations in which are included different nationalities, different religious sects, and in which, nevertheless, the most thorough equilibrium prevails of the political, civil and religious rights pertaining to the different classes of which they consist. Do we find any other means of settling our difficulties of all kinds besides this of Confederation?
No, I find none; and none is proposed to us by the opponents of the plan now before the House! Mr. Speaker, the country is come to a political dead-lock; we have arrived at a crisis; ambition, the thirst of power, political passions worked upon in all ways and on all sides, have so clogged the wheels of the machine of government, that it has been brought to a stand-still; and those who guided its movements have had to rack their brains to find some way of continuing the transaction of public business—a way by which we may arrive at a solution of the difficulty, and escape from the slough of status quo in which the wheels of government are stuck fast, and by which we may return to the […]
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[…] high road of progress and improvement. Truly, Mr. Speaker, if the bitterest enemy of Canada had had it in his power to invent an inclined plane on which he might place us to hurry us to ruin, he could not have done it better than the different political parties have done it within the last few years. Elections on elections, one Ministry succeeding another; one crying out extravagance, the other issuing commissions of inquiry to try to make places for its friends—what, in short, has been the course of events for the last few years? Since the 21st May, 1862, have we not had four or five governments who have managed the affairs of the country? One we had which seemed to be “the darling of the nations,” the paragon government of economy and retrenchment, the Macdonald-Dorion Government. What did it do for the country? Nothing, absolutely nothing; it had not even the moral courage to stand by its own measures. In the beginning of February, 1864, it brought in a bill (that respecting sheriffs).
Well, what did it do in the circumstances? Afraid of its own work, it stood aghast at the remonstrances of some of its own partisans, who were contumacious—despair fell upon the leaders—the camp was a scene of confusion; and lo! one fine day this Ministry, which was to bring back the golden age of happiness and prosperity, sank placidly to rest—became a thing of the past, and left “not a wreck behind” to mark its accession to power. In a word, that pattern Administration died in its virginity, died with the famous scheme of retrenchment in its hand, and a still-born “budget” on its conscience! (Continued laughter and cheers.)
I ask every man of sense how many such governments as that we should require to take the ship of the country’s welfare into port—to redeem us from our unhappy condition—to calm the strife of parties—to settle the many questions, often irreconcilably incompatible with each other, which had so long agitated the different sections of the country—a strife which threatened to become perpetual? What would have become of us if a providential piece of good fortune had not brought together the men who compose the present Administration? Every one can conceive that the Coalition Government, the only possible one in such circumstances, came in just in the nick of time; and, as a proof of its fitness for its mission, it “took fortune by the forelock,” as the proverb says, and cleverly made use of opportunity. In fact, three months after the present Ministry was formed, three of the Lower Provinces, comprehending the utility of a union among themselves, conceived the idea of forming one from which might flow strength and prosperity to all; being convinced that a state of disunion such as theirs had always been—their commerce paralyzed by hostile tariffs—was a political suicide.
They therefore sent delegates to Charlottetown, to devise a plan among themselves for the purpose of solving, in some profitable manner, the difficulties which beset them, the three provinces. What course did our Government then take? The members of the Cabinet—too wise to disregard the importance of the movement—too statesmanlike to neglect its advantages—found means to take part in the proceedings at Charlottetown; and being convinced that a Federal union of all the Provinces of British North America would be the real salvation of the country, laid before the delegates at Charlottetown a large, well-digested scheme based on a regard for justice and equality in respect of the rights and privileges of all; a scheme by which each origin and each belief will enjoy full and complete protection; a scheme of Federal union, in a word, having for its apex the powerful aegis of England; for its foundation, social, political and commercial prosperity; and for its cornerstone, Constitutional liberty in all its amplitude and strength. (Cheers.)
This idea of a Confederation of the provinces is not a new one. All who are in the slightest degree acquainted with the parliamentary history of the country, are aware that a plan for the Confederation of the British North American Provinces was one of the bases upon which the programme of the Cartier-Macdonald Administration rested in 1858.
It may be asked—”Why should we have Confederation?” “Why should we not remain as we are?” It is impossible, and its impossibility is proved by the past. Let those who do not see the reasonableness of the Confederation look at what is going on on the other side of the line—what do they see there? The threatened abrogation of the Reciprocity treaty. The abrogation of the transit system is threatened. A passport system, which throws the greatest possible obstacles in the way of our free travel through the States, and does serious injury to the development of our trade, has been inaugurated. We have no means of communicating […]
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[…] during the winter with the Mother Country, except by passing over American soil, and our passage over that soil is merely tolerated; we may at any moment be deprived of this privilege, and in that case we should find ourselves all at once, during the long winter season, without any possible means of communication with Europe. These reasons are more than sufficient to cause us to seek to improve our position, and the only possible means by which to effect that, object, is a commercial, social and political union with our sister colonies, the Maritime Provinces.
I hear honorable members say—”Why not rather have the repeal of; the union?” “Why not leave Upper and Lower Canada separate as they were previous to 1840?” Such a measure would probably put an end to the reiterated demands of Upper Canada for representation based upon population, and the fears entertained by Lower Canada, the fear of seeing her institutions endangered, should that system of representation be conceded; but that measure would be rather a retrograde one, which would throw the country back, and would place it in the position which it occupied previous to the union.
That measure would abrogate an agreement which has long existed—a union which has proved to the country a well-spring of progress, riches and prosperity. Such a dissolution would only tend to weaken us still more, and we should be but two weak and insignificant provinces, whereas our union has converted us into one province comparatively strong. We can realize the gigantic works which have been carried out when we look upon our canals and our railways. Is there any one man endowed with ordinary fairness—any one man who has not completely taken leave of his senses, who will venture to say that Upper and Lower Canada would have been as far advanced, each of them, as they now are, if they had remained separate, with tariffs inimical the one to the other? “Sooner than have Confederation,” will exclaim an opponent, root and branch, of the scheme proposed, “let us concede to Upper Canada representation adjusted on the basis of population wholly and entirely, as the honorable member for Hochelaga [Hon. Mr. Dorion] would appear in his celebrated manifesto of 1865 to desire;” but this is positively absurd—it is a violation of the spirit and the letter of the Union Act of 1840; it is the principal source of all the difficult is of a sectional nature which have proved the source of difficulty, both in this House and throughout the country, for several years past.
It would be asking for the utter ruin to the civil and religious rights of the French-Canadians. Under such melancholy circumstances, Mr. Speaker, what is then left for us? There is left for us the Confederation of all the British Provinces in North America. That is the only possible remedy under existing circumstances. Of two alternatives we must select one. Either we shall form part of a Confederation of the British North American Provinces, or we shall fall into the unfathomable gulf of the Confederation of the neighboring States, formerly the United States. (Hear, hear.)
How absurd are they who believe that the United States do not want us, with our mineral wealth and our fisheries, which latter are fry themselves an inexhaustible source of riches to the country! The United States did not, in 1776, number more than four millions of inhabitants; there were then only thirteen states; now there are thirty one states and seven territories—at least that was the number before the war—and a population of more than thirty millions. We know that the prodigious growth of the United States is owing to their purchases, their treaties and their conquests. They want us, and would stir heaven and earth to have us in their grasp. (Hear, hear.)
Let us beware! We stand on the brink of the yawning gulf of the American Confederation, falling into which we encounter, first, our share of liability to pay a national debt of three thousand millions of dollars, and an annual expenditure of five hundred millions; and next, a share of their national quarrels and civil wars. Exposed to persecution by the conqueror, and loaded with the heavy burthen of enormous debts incurred in the prosecution of a cruel and fratricidal war—a war of which, be it said, everybody knows the beginning, but of which nobody knows the end—the uncalculatingly opponents of the measure before us will regret their obstinacy and their disregard of their country’s weal. Then they will see the naked features of those democratic institutions which are in reality inconsistent with true liberty—of those boasted institutions, under whose influence the last vestiges of liberty have faded away, as does the light at the close of a bright day.
Under them the liberty of the press is unknown; under them, liberty is but a name, a dream, an illusion, a mockery, often a snare; under them no man can venture to speak frankly what he thinks, and must take care […]
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[…] that what he says is in unison with the opinions of the majority of his audience; under them the rights of the minority are unacknowledged, ignored, as if they had no existence: the will of the majority is law. For my part, Mr. Speaker, democratic institutions have no charms for me. Liberty, Equality, Fraternity! How many sad and mournful memories are connected with those three words in France? In the name of Liberty, Equality, Fraternity, in the year 1793, that country saw the best of kings led to the guillotine, provinces laid waste, blood flowing like water; the standard of rebellion and insubordination raised and borne triumphantly; file pillage of churches and monasteries, the desecration of the altar; priests, nuns, old men, women, and even children, murdered! Those three magic words were the signal and vindication of the “drownings at Nantes,” sometimes called by the fine sounding name of “republican marriages.”
Yes, Mr. Speaker, civil war rages among our neighbors; but let us hope that Divine Providence will guard these new countries from the disasters and the horrid crimes which, to the eternal shame of civilization, stain the history of certain portions of Europe at the close of the last century. It was after a civil war that the terrible proscriptions of Marius and Sylla commenced. Let peace once be made between the Federal and Confederate States, then we shall see the harvest of rancorous hatred cover the earth, the fires of revenge burst forth; then woe to those who have given offence to men of the type and character of the famous General Butler. What is incumbent on us, then, if we would escape sharing the horrors of the situation?
What but to unite, one and all—to combine all our means, our resources, our end rigs, and to have confidence in ourselves and in one another—to show England that we intend to emerge from the state of isolation in which each several province has lain as regards the others; that we intend to organize a system, so as to be prepared to do our part in the hour of danger? We have every assurance that England will spend her last man, her last shilling, in defending and protecting us. Having a Federal union, all the wealth which abounds in the five provinces will be most highly developed; our mineral riches, our timber, our fisheries, our commerce, internal and external, our industrial arts and manufactures, will all receive a fresh impulse; capital will flow in, and with it the means of defence of every description. I do not pretend to say that the mere fact of a “Confederation” will render us invincible. No, far from it, especially when opposed to so formidable, so warlike a foe as the neighboring Confederation has now become; but I do venture to say that if we do our best, England will never desert us, and if the armies of the neighboring Confederacy should occupy our country, it would not be hers to keep it long. It is not essentially a necessity,
Mr. Speaker that a small Confederation cannot exist by the side of a large one without being swallowed up and absorbed. If all great nations are bound to subject to their yoke all the little ones, why are there so many small states in Europe? (Hear, hear.) It may be that the mutual jealousies of the great powers are the cause; then who ball say that France—France which fought side by side with England in the Crimea—France which, looking at Mexico, is so deeply interested in the affairs of this continent—would not join with England in a war between that power and the neighboring States, if the latter should undertake to drive the English from the banks of the St. Lawrence? When a nation, strong in its rights, is determined to preserve them, it is often invincible. When Xerxes, with a million of men, fell upon Greece, was he not driven back with the total loss of his immense army? When war was declared against the South, was not the North, with its population of twenty millions, going to annihilate the South in three months?
It is now more than four years that the war has been raging, and the South, without friends, without allies, is not yet conquered and made to pass under the yoke. The history of Prussia affords a proof of what bravery can achieve, even when opposed to an enemy infinitely superior in numbers. In 1740, the youthful Prince Frederic ascended the Throne of Prussia. The country contained no more than 48,000 square miles, and had a population of only two millions and a half, less than the population of Canada alone, as it now is. Her frontier northward was a wall of ice, all the seaports were closed during the winter season; her only ally was lukewarm; to the east, west and south, she was bounded by powerful empires, the population of each of which alone far exceeded that which she could boast. The country was long and narrow; it was flat and well adapted at all points for the movements of troops; no country could be more exposed to an invasion; nevertheless the Prince, unchallenged, threw himself headlong […]
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[…] into a bloody war—as the aggressor—with all his neighbors. Alone, and simultaneously, he had on his hands Austria, France and Russia. Yet he left to his successor a kingdom of 74,000 square miles, and a people numbering nearly six millions. The small and heroic republic of Holland did not hesitate to enter into a war with the mighty monarchy of Spain, then mistress of the wealth of the Indies. At this day her vessels are found in every sea. Java and Sumatra belong to her. Yet her population is smaller than that of the Provinces of British North America. Single-handed in 1848, Piedmont dared to enter on a struggle with Austria. The King of Piedmont had then four millions of subjects; he now reigns over twenty-two millions. Even poor little Greece, with a million of inhabitants, must have its share in revolutions, choose a king, and talk of its rights, its pretensions, and its aspirations.
No, Mr. Speaker, the one, the only means of safety for us, in the circumstances, is to have a Federal union of all our provinces—a social, political, commercial and military union. Happen what may, when we have done all that men of courage and energy can be expected to do to mend our position, our future will not be so dark as the friends and advocates of the status quo would have us believe. Do these wonderful patriots really believe in their hearts, that continuing to be isolated as they are from each other, having no cordial alliance, almost no relations or intercourse, the Provinces of British North America would be either stronger or less exposed to the attacks of the Northern States than they would be if united? Are those persons not original in their ideas who allege that the endeavor of the Provinces of British North America to form a Confederation is a kind of provocation and defiance to the Northern States? If the Northern States made this allegation, the most that could be said of it would be, that it would be a vain pretext, as futile as it would be absurd.
Not less ridiculous and misjudging are those persons who pretend that the Confederation of the Provinces of British North America would be a step towards annexation to the Northern States. Truly, there are some minds which have an odd way of looking at things. If, indeed, the opponents of Confederation would only prescribe some other remedy to obviate the evils which threaten us as an effect of Confederation, we should have at least the benefit of a choice; but no—nothing of the sort—they attack, criticise, but suggest nothing. On the other hand, the principal journals of Europe and several respectable journals in the neighboring States have recorded their approbation of the scheme of Confederation submitted by the Government, and predict a brilliant future for the new empire which is about to arise on this side of the frontier line. (Hear, hear.)
Referring to history, we find that confederations have been formed in nearly all ages, and that the principal cause of their formation has been, not only the purpose of mutual protection, but a military object. These two motives combined with a third, that of commercial advantages, suggested the project which now occupies our attention. Among the ancient Greeks there were several Federal unions, the two principal being the AEtolian and the Achoean; the former, dating from a period long antecedent to that of Alexander, was broken up by the subjection of the states composing the league to Rome, about 180 years B. C.; the second, which was formed about 280 years B. C., was destroyed by the Romans about 150 years before the vulgar era. The AEtolian Confederation comprised all the northern parts of Greece on the confines of Thessaly and Epirus, a portion of Central Greece, and several of the islands of the AEgean sea. This was a union rather of provinces than of cities. It had a “Constitution” “States General,” a chief magistrate, a commander-in-chief, and different public officers, with different functions or powers; the power of declaring war and that of making peace, of levying taxes coining money current at that time—all were intrusted to the Central Government.
The Achaean League, on the contrary, was a union, not of provinces, but of cities or towns—not less than seventy in number. There was a Federal capital, a “Constitution,” different public officers, each invested with privileges and certain powers and duties, too many to be enumerated in this place. Who has not read the life of Aratus and that of Philopoemen, the latter one of the greatest statesmen, the other the greatest captain of the Achoean union? In reading the history of these nations we shall find that it was their union which saved them so long from the inroads of their enemies, and which, for ages, preserved their autonomy. We next come to the Italian Confederation of the middle ages. Like those of Greece, they derived their origin from military necessity. The League of Lombardy, and that of the Tuscans, were projected principally as a mutual protection […]
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[…] against the emperors, who were greedy of conquest, and among them against Frederic Barbarossa. In that of the Tuscans, there was even an ecclesiastical element of a decided character, inspired by Pope Innocent III., its principal author. The famous Roman Tribune Rienzi tried to form a Confederation of all the Italian States, but perished without realizing this dream of his existence. Rome was to be the Federal Capital. Rienzi died in 1352. The Swiss or Helvetic Confederacy existed from the twelfth century. In 1474 Louis XI of France endeavored to subdue it, but lost his trouble. In 1477 Charles The Bold of Burgundy lost his kingdom and life while foolishly assailing this Confederate power. In 1488 the Emperor Maximilian tried also in vain to subjugate the country. Spain likewise endeavored on many occasions to subdue the Confederate States, but failed. In 1798 the Cantons of Switzerland became the Helvetian Republic. In 1803 they fell under the protection of Napoleon I., and in 1813 the allies overran them. In virtue of the Federal Act signed at Zurich in 1815, important amendments were made in their Constitution.
The purpose of the Helvetian Confederation is the protection of the country against foreigners, the maintenance of peace and tranquility at home, the preservation of public liberty in the Confederation, and the increase of its general prosperity. This Confederation has survived two European revolutions, without mentioning internal troubles, and it is now fifty years old. We must bear in mind that a population the most various, the most mixed in point of origin, language and religion, lives under this Constitution. The people number about two millions and a half; about one and two-thirds of a million speak German, half a million speak French, and the remainder Italian and other languages. One half of the population is Catholic, the other Protestant. Their interests arising from locality, race and faith, are as complicated and as various as are their manners, language and customs, and yet they all are free, all live securely, respected, happy and prosperous. They all enjoy the greatest and the purest liberty. There are twenty-two Cantons, and what is astonishing is that the chief of the Canton of Neufchâte is a king, the King of Prussia. (Hear, hear.)
I shall not speak of the Confederation of the United States of the Netherlands, which had their day, their glory and their use; but I shall say a word of the great Germanic Confederation. This is composed of forty states of very different size, and contains thirty-four millions of inhabitants. There belong to it kingdoms, grand duchies, duchies, principalities and free cities. In this vast association are Catholics, Protestants, Jews, in short different religions and nationalities, and yet none tyrannise over others; all live happily under the same Federal union and under the protectorate of the Emperor of Austria. Of these states, Austria is, properly speaking, the first in importance; her army in time of peace is 280,000 men, in time of war she can bring into the field 800,000. Prussia is the second, with an army of 200,000 men, and a national militia of 400,000 men.
There are, as I have said, in these states various nationalities and different sects of religion, and, nevertheless, the rights of each are preserved in all their integrity. Why then should not we, French-Canadians and Catholics, become a component part of the Confederation of the Provinces of British North America, without any apprehension of seeing our language, our laws, our religion and our institutions endangered? It seems to me that we could find no perfect and complete protection otherwise than by a Confederation of this nature, inasmuch as it is a union based on equity towards the inhabitants of the five provinces as its most vital and fundamental principle.
As to the Confederation of the United States, I shall merely name them. Every one knows that in 1775, whom the thirteen colonies revolted against England, they believed that the only means of securing internal prosperity and of defending themselves against the common enemy, was to unite together for their mutual protection; clearly perceiving that if they remained separate, and without any bond of union, as the uncalculating opponents of the present plan of Confederation would wish the Provinces of British North America to remain, their defeat was certain, and instead of coming victoriously out of the struggle, they would be easily conquered. I shall now, Mr. Speaker, ask to be allowed to say a few words on the other confederations which have existed on the continent of America. In the first place I shall mention that of Central America, or Guatimala.
That Confederation was situated on the shores of the Pacific Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico. It consisted of five states—Guatimala, Honduras, San Salvador, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica. These states were peopled by Creoles, Mestizos, Indians and Negroes. Until the year 1821 this Confederation was rich and […]
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[…] prosperous. Guatimala, then, imitating the ill-advised example of other Spanish colonies, declared its independence, and thought fit to set up as a Federal republic; but in 1839 an insurrection detached the state of Honduras from the Confederation, and shortly after the other states also declared themselves to be independent (1847); and what are they now? They have fallen into complete insignificance, a prey to the ambition of numerous dictators, without any common bond, disunited, and therefore without vitality or strength. (Hear, hear.)
We next come to the united provinces of Rio de la Plata, now constituting the Argentine republic. The Confederation of La Plata comprised fourteen states, the greater part of which formed at one time a portion of the immense Viceroyalty of Peru. In 1778, being united to the present province of Bolivia, to Paraguay and Uruguay, they formed a particular Viceroyalty, that of Rio de la Plata. In 1810 they took part in the important insurrectionary movement which shook all the transatlantic dependencies of Spain; from that time everything tended to republicanism; separate and independent states became republics. They are now a prey to anarchy and the confusion which attends such institutions. The industrial arts are unheeded, and the commerce limited. If, sir, that Confederation had proved to be faithful to the cause which gave it life, if union had prevailed instead of disunion, strength, power, prosperity and wealth would have fallen to the lot of the association, in place of poverty, misery, and decay, which seem now to be their inevitable fate. (Hear, hear.)
But some of the honorable members of this House have maintained that the union would be beneficial to none but the Maritime Provinces, that they alone would derive advantage from it, as they are comparatively poor, while Canada is rich by means of its trade, through its industrial pursuits, its manufactures and its agriculture. I maintain for my part that we are as much in need of them as they are of us—(hear, hear)—both in regard to industry, to trade, and to military power. In the first place, let us consider the various resources of the several Maritime Provinces. Nova Scotia is not, certainly, altogether an agricultural country, but it contains valleys in which the soil is as deep, as rich, and as well suited for farming as the best lands of the West. A large portion of the population are devoted to fishing, and skilled in drawing from the bosom of the deep the inexhaustible treasures which will be a perennial source of wealth and prosperity to that country; moreover, such a life tends to form men to brave the dangers of the sea, and, in case of need, those hardy seamen would be ready and willing to lend their aid and do their part in the defence of the country.
Nor is this all; the country exports prodigious quantities of timber of all kinds, which will not be exhausted for ages to come. Every year they build a great number of ships, and, in proportion to its population, Nova Scotia has a larger amount of “tonnage” than any other country in the whole world. (Hear, hear.) Another source of wealth is possessed by that country, ever abounding, never failing. One would say that nature has especially favored it and endowed it with the most bountiful of her gifts—I mean the rich mines of coal which superabound in that country, which the hand of Providence has placed, as if by express design, not in the interior of the country, but along the sea side.
Everybody knows that coal at the present day, when steam does so much that the hand of man formerly did, is one of the principal aliments which nourish the industry of mankind throughout the civilized world. Situated on the shores of the Atlantic, these mines can be worked very cheaply, and are easily accessible to ships of all nations. The charges of loading are small indeed, there is scarcely any land carriage required to convey it to the bays and ports to which the different trading ships resort for their lading. Geologists celebrated for their knowledge have explored these regions, and declare that there are thousands of square miles of coal, and in some places seventy-six beds or layers of coal one above the other. What a fertile source of revenue, of wealth!
And when we reflect that the main source of the prosperity of England has been and still is her mines of coal, small in comparison with those of Nova Scotia, we shall find that no change of circumstances, no political ties or relations could ever prevent that province from possessing in it coal measures, a source, an element of wealth, incomparably greater than the famous gold and silver mines of Peru. Thousands of years must pass away, no doubt, before they will be exhausted. I say nothing of the mines of gold, silver and copper, with which the country seems to be covered. And now, am I to be told that Canada, having the benefit of free trade with such a country, is to be no better for it? Does not everybody know that firewood is beginning to run short in the district of Montreal and elsewhere in Lower […]
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[…] Canada, and that if we have no coal to take its place, the country people will in thirty years’ time be obliged to abandon their farms for want of means to enable them to bear the cold of our long winters? We shall obtain wood from a distance, some will tell you; but thinking men know very well that firewood is not to be carried far without great expense, which must raise the price so as to put it beyond the reach of the great majority of consumers. Perhaps we shall find coal in Canada. No, says Sir Wm. Logan, our learned geologist—impossible; science tells us that it does not exist. (Hear, hear.) Now every man who has the least idea of public order, of political economy, must be well aware that a mere commercial union, a union for the levying of customs—a “Zollverein,” in a word—would not suffice to create the wellbeing and general prosperity of the five provinces.
The Maritime Provinces are immensely important to us in a social, industrial, commercial, political, and especially a military point of view. New Brunswick has also considerable resources. Looking at the seasonableness, and the other points making for the union of the provinces, we must not omit to consider it in its relation to our means of defence. In this point of view, Newfoundland is of paramount importance. Casting a glance at it on the chart, we find it lying across the Gulf of St. Lawrence, commanding the two straits by which the trade of the countries surrounding the gulf and the river reaches the ocean. Let that island but fall into the hands of foreigners, the trade of Canada would in war time be as completely stopped as if the ice of winter had erected its permanent domicile in the middle of the gulf. (Hear, hear.)
These are the reasons which have led our statesmen to secure, by all possible, means, the alliance of that province, as they well understood that, that wanting, the Confederation would lose the benefit of all other advantages and would be in continual danger. The seaboard of Newfoundland is 1,200 miles in length, and it possesses the finest harbours in the world, roadsteads which might shelter whole fleets. The main source of her wealth is her fisheries, in which more than 30,000 men are annually engaged—men accustomed to brave the waves of a tempestuous sea. Her trade in fish with foreign nations brings her in contact with nearly all the maritime countries of Europe, and with the United States, and yet she has at present scarcely any such connection with Canada.
What is her position with relation to us at this moment? Her merchants are forced to resort to the States to transact their business, for, in order to reach Montreal, they must pass through Halifax and Boston. The establishment of a line of steamers between that island and Canada would be a great advantage to both provinces; for Newfoundland possesses what we want and requires what we have. It appears that-the Island buys from the United States to the amount of several millions of dollars yearly, and exactly those articles which we are able to furnish; and that the current of trade having taken its present direction, is owing to certain fiscal impediments to trade between the two provinces. With free trade, Newfoundland would buy from Canada woollen stuffs, cutlery and hardware—everything, in short, which she requires.
Under Confederation, the town of St. Johns, in Newfoundland, would be the most easterly sea-port of the union, and by making it a port of call for our transatlantic steamers, it would bring us within six days of the Mother Country. As to Prince Edward Island, that also has its importance. Its revenue is well managed; it is in a prosperous state, and has no debt; on the contrary, it has a considerable reserve fund. Accordingly, now is the time to take a step in the right direction. This union of the provinces is a political necessity, and any delay would entail the danger of losing the opportunity altogether, which might never occur again. Canada, with her immense commerce, is indebted for her access to the seaboard during six months of the year to the tolerant good-will of a neighboring nation. If that permission were withdrawn, our merchants must import during the summer all the goods which they require in the year.
This would, in the long run, be the loss of the consumer, because everything must, of course, be paid for at a higher rate. Finally—and this is the most important consideration of all for every one, and one which would of itself be sufficient to make us desire the union of the provinces—it would be the most effectual means of procuring the building of the Intercolonial Railway—a road which would open an uninterrupted line of communication between Sarnia and Halifax, thus connecting the two extremities of the Confederation. Three things are necessary, nay, indispensable, to the prosperity of a great empire—the personal element, the territorial, and the maritime element. In Canada we have the personal and the territorial elements; the maritime element alone is wanting, and this we may obtain by the union of the provinces. […]
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[…] (Hear, hear.) As to us, French-Canadians and Catholics, what have we to fear from Confederation? Our language, our rights and our privileges are guaranteed to us. Look at the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland; does it not consist of three distinct nations, holding several religious creeds? Those three nations have fought side by side on sea and land for ages, against the enemies of their country. What glorious victories, what noble deeds in arms have they achieved! And the most perfect harmony exists among them.
In England, are the Jews persecuted, deprived of their rights and privileges? Are the Roman Catholics? Is there not residing in the very capital of England a prince of the Romish Church—Cardinal Wiseman? And, Mr. Speaker, who would have believed the fact?—the last census shows that the city of London contains 100,000 Catholics more than Rome itself—Rome the seat of the Catholic Church! And a greater number of Jews than there are in Judea or all Palestine! (Hear, hear.) And yet all these people enjoy their respective rights and privileges, and worship their Creator according to the traditions of their forefathers, unmolested, undisturbed by any. (Cheers.) I now come to the plan of Confederation considered intrinsically. I shall not enter into a discussion of its details; four members of the Administration have given us explanations of it which were so clear and lucid, that it is useless to enter on the subject anew. There are, no doubt, certain points which are not all that we could desire; there are certain articles which I should be disposed to reject if I were not aware that we are to look at the question from five different points of view, and not from one sectional point of view.
I can conceive that the Conference considered the plan as a compromise—a treaty in which the five provinces were the contracting parities; that many concessions were found to be necessary, to satisfy the interests of individuals or of localities; that great conciliation was an important element, with a strong wish, by great concessions on all sides, to carry forward an important negotiation, which in their absence would have utterly failed! I am, moreover, convinced that the Ministers of Canada did everything in their power to promote and guard our general and local interests; that their only aim was to make us age eat and strong nation; that the dominant idea in their minds was that “a Federal union,” under the protection of England, would be for Canada a harbor of refuge from all storms, particularly that wok now assails us, as well as conducive to advance the best interests and the prosperity of all the provinces; that this union would secure to us the continued enjoyment of our laws and institutions, of our liberties and our relations with the Mother Country, while it would facilitate the development of our national, social, commercial and political prosperity.
If we do not adopt it as a whole, if we meddle with its clauses to make radical changes in it, the other contracting parties, justly offended, will reject it wholly, as they understand that we have no right to depart from its provisions without their consent; or if, following our example, the Maritime Provinces should also make changes in it, the whole plan would be so mutilated and disfigured, that it would become a mark for universal disapprobation, and all the labors of the Conference would be rendered useless and abortive. Moreover, if in the meantime the Maritime Provinces, taking up again their old scheme of a union among themselves, should refuse to listen to any overtures we might make, we should, like madmen, have lust the golden opportunity. Nothing would remain for us but annexation to the United States—an idea most abhorrent’ to my feelings, but one which is, perhaps, in reality, the cherished desire of the unreasoning opponents of the present measure. (Hear.)
As a British subject, I find most pleasure in that article of the scheme which declares the Sovereign of Great Britain to be the head of the Executive. The monarchical element will predominate in the Constitution, and we shall thus escape that weakness which is inherent in the Constitution of the neighboring States. Their President, Mr. Speaker, is no more than the fortunate chief of a party; he can never be regarded as the father of his people; his reign is but temporary; i.e. is, for four years a kind of despot, with unlimited power and immense patronage; his favors fall out those oily who have elected him, and who can elect him anew at the expiration of four years; none feel the refreshing dews of his favors, save his party. Woe to the unlucky ones who have voted against him at his election! For them there is no smile, no gracious acceptance, and no favors. Under the working of our Constitution, on the contrary, as the sovereign is permanent (“the King is dead—God save the King!”) we have at all times in him a father, whose interest and whose […]
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[…] inclination it is to extend his protection equally over the cottage of the poor and over the palace of the rich, and to dispense equal justice to both. (Cheers.) Our Ministers will still be responsible to the people. In the States, the President is under no obligation to consult his Cabinet, which is composed merely of the heads of departments. In the scheme which now engages our attention, all matters of general interest, which are not left to be disposed of by the local legislatures, will be settled by the General or Central Government, and the disposal of local matters will belong to the local governments.
Accordingly all necessary power has been assigned to the general as to the local legislatures; and that source of weakness has been avoided which has been so frequent a cause of trouble in the neighboring States—the conflict of jurisdiction and authority between single states and the Federal or Central authority. It is really astonishing to see the different means employed by the journals in the interest of the unreasoning opponents of the plan of Confederation.
They utter cries of distress, amidst which the veil of party is easily seen through. According to their views, no good can come out of the system for either party in the commonwealth. “Think twice of what you are doing; you English Protestants of Lower Canada! The Local Government will swallow you up,” cries the Montreal Witness. “Take care of yourselves, you French-Canadians of the Catholic Church!” bellows the Montreal True Witness;” if the plan of Confederation is sanctioned by the Legislature, you will disappear like a dream: the hydra of the Central Government will poison you with its pestiferous breath”(Hear, hear.)
And the other journals of the same party, inspired by the same spirit, open full cry on the plan of Confederation, as nothing less than a “political suicide!” Others there are—and some in the interest of the present Government—who have some misgivings, some doubts, touching the clauses relating to marriage and divorce.
With respect to the provision of the instrument which bears on these two important questions, they seem at first sight, I confess, a little alarming to Catholics—to us who have learned from the Church the indissolubility of the marriage bond, who look upon marriage not only as a civil contract, but “a sacrament.” With reference to this subject, I answer that the system on which the new Constitution will be based is to be considered in the aspect which it bears to all the provinces. We are not all Catholics, and the majority are Protestants. Again, if the control of matters connected with marriage and divorce had been assigned to the local governments, what would have been the fate of our co-religionists in Upper Canada, who are in a minority in that province? Add to this, we have not in Canada at present any divorce law, and we need not apprehend that the Federal Government will impose one upon us. Nothing indicates that the proportion of Catholic members in the Federal Legislature will not be about equal to what it is in the Parliament of United Canada.
Moreover, everybody is aware that it was by the help of the Protestants, who think as we do on this subject, that we have hitherto escaped the passing of a divorce law. Divorce is not looked upon with a favorable eye by all Protestants; far from it, and we must hope that at no distant time that source of disorder and scandal of every species will be effaced from the parliamentary records of every Christian community. (Hear, hear.) We must bear in mind, also, that there are Catholics elsewhere besides in Lower and Upper Canada; they are to be found in all the Lower Provinces, and what would be their position if these questions were left to the local legislatures? The Catholics, therefore, of both Upper and Lower Canada, as well as those of the Lower Provinces, are directly interested in the removal of these questions from the local legislatures.
It seems to me that every man who studies this question in a Catholic point of view, as it stands in the five provinces, will find that the Conference was perfectly right in not leaving the question of divorce to the control of the local governments I shall not enter into all the details of the plan of Confederation, inasmuch as hereafter inch of its clauses will be discussed. I shall reserve, however, the right of adding a few words. I think, therefore, Mr. Speaker, that every man who has the interests to his country at heart—every man who will take the pains to read history, the great teacher of kings and nations, will be convinced that situated as are the five provinces of British North America, separated, disunited, with no social, political or commercial ties to bind them together, but having tariffs calculated to injure each other, but no free interchange to commodities—without railways by which they might hold communication during the long winters, when the rivers are obstructed with […]
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[…] ice, and taking into consideration the exceptional position of Canadian respect of its near neighborhood to the United States, and the political troubles which have so long wounded it in its bosom—a Federal union of all the provinces is our only harbor of refuge, and the only means of securing to the Provinces of British North America sure and durable prosperity. (Hear, and cheers.) Now, Mr. Speaker, we have seen that in ancient days, in the middle ages, and in modern times, states, provinces and kingdoms desirous of growing in strength, wealth and prosperity—desirous of acquiring power internally, and making themselves formidable to rivals abroad—desirous of means to repeal ambitious assailants and enterprising neighbors—combined together—formed confederations with a view to increase the general prosperity, and the means of a common defence and mutual protection.
We have seen that it was the surest, the most rational, and the most generally adopted plan in all ages; and why should not we, profiting by the experience of others, do the same? How long has union been a cause of weakness? Is not England, united under one ruler, infinitely more powerful than in the days of the Heptarch or Seven Kingdoms? Are not the forty states which compose the Germanic Confederation stronger, more powerful, united, than they would be if isolated and separate? Would each individual state, if alone, left to its own resources, without free trade with its neighbors, without social, political or commercial relations, be richer, more prosperous than it is now, joined, united and allied to the rest? And in the United Kingdom of Great Britain, where a kind of Federal union is found, is not each nationality, every sect and every religion fully and entirely protected and guarded from the attacks of bigotry and of political and religious intolerance? After the States had separated from England in 1775, would they have done better to remain in the position of thirteen colonies detached from each other, without social, commercial, or political relations, as the colonies of British North America now are, than to form a compact as they did?
Is it not from that union that their strength has grown, that they have become so powerful, so rich, so independent of the rest of the world, and the admiration of modern times? So would they have continued to advance too, with giant strides, in the path of progress and improvement, if the demon of civil war had not arisen to break up a union but lately so happy and so prosperous! Let us avail ourselves to the example of others, and of the auspicious circumstances which seem to have occurred expressly and opportunely for our benefit, and let us resolve to become a great empire.
Is it not asserted that, if a union of the provinces should be effected, we should be, at the least, the fourth maritime power in the world? Are there not kingdoms—confederations—in Europe which would be numerically inferior to us? Belgium has no more than 4,500,000 of inhabitants; Denmark, including the Duchies, no more than 2,500,000; the Kingdom of Bavaria, 4, 500, 000; the Kingdom of Greece, 1,000,000 the States of the Church, 3,000,000; Portugal, 3,500,000; Sweden, 3,500,000; Norway, 1,500,000; the Helvetic Confederation, 2,500,000; while the proposed Confederation will soon contain 5,000,000; and yet these provinces are but in their infancy, we may say. Anyone who has the slightest knowledge of the natural riches and the resources of the five provinces, and of the energy and love of labor which characterise the different races which people them, may safely predict a brilliant future for our new Confederacy. (Hear, hear.) Is there a single Canadian who does not know that Canada will always hold the first and most exalted position in the Confederacy?
Lower Canada, especially, will be the centre of the industrial arts and commerce, the point towards which all the rich produce of the west, and the oil, fish and coal of the east, will naturally be brought; Lower Canada, especially, which is so rich in mines, ores, and minerals. Do we not know that certain great capitalists have recently formed companies on a vast scale, to work the rich gold and silver mines of the district of because? Do not the geologists, who have explored that region, tell us that it contains copper, silver and gold, scattered in rich abundance over hundreds of square miles. (Cheers.)
Canada possesses a territory of about 360,000 square miles—160,000,000 of acres of land, of which 40,000,000 are conceded; 11,000,000 are under cultivation. Canada possesses above 2,000 miles of railway, which intersect the province in all directions; it has 4,500 miles of telegraph line; it possesses, moreover, 250 miles of canal, which carried, in 1863, 3,000,000 tours of freight, and gave a revenue to the Provincial Government of nearly $400,000. (Hear, hear.) There are hundreds of […]
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[…] rivers in Canada, three of which, with I their tributaries, water a surface of 150,000 square miles. Five or six of the lakes cover a surface of 84,000 square miles. The mails are carried over 15,000 miles of road, in which distance there are 2,000 post-offices, which annually distribute 11,000,000 of letters, besides newspapers. (Hear, hear.) The mineral wealth of Canada is almost fabulous, and awaits only the introduction of English and American capital to astonish the world. (Hear, hear.)
The Acton copper mine, in Lower Canada, is perhaps the richest existing. The copper mines of Lake Superior are already famous for their extent and the richness to the ore; and the iron mines of St. Maurice and Lake Superior are supposed to be inexhaustible According to Sir William Logan, our learned geologist, there are iron mines of great value in the seigniory of Vaudreuil and on the outskirts of the parish of St. Martha, in the county of Vaudreuil. The diggings in the auriferous river of the Chaudière and the Gilbert, in the Eastern Townships, have been very productive during the last two years. A new company has just been formed at New York, with a capital of five millions of dollars, to work on the Chaudière. The capital stock of the companies and private persons now engaged in this pursuit is reckoned by millions.
The Trade Returns show that the produce of the mine exported Iron Canada has been nearly nine hundred thousand dollars. The manufactures of Canada are extensive. Those of lumber occupy upwards of two thousand sawmills, which turn out annually nearly eight million let of timber. There are more than two hundred distilleries and breweries, which produced last year more than nine million gallons of spirituous or fermented liquors, yielding an excise duty of more than $700,000. (Hear, hear.)
These distilleries and breweries consume more than 1,500,000 bushels of grain and malt The county cautious at least 1,000 grist mills for the grinding of wheat and oats; 250 carriage factories, nearly 200 foundries, 200 carding mills, 180 cloth mills, and 500 tanneries. Other establishments of less account are innumerable. Canada produces annually between 20,000,000 and 30,000,000 bushels of wheat, 12,000,000 bushels of peas, 40,000,000 bushels to oats, more than 1,500,000 tons of hay, 18,000,000 bushels of buckwheat, 28,000,000 bushels of potatoes, and 10,000,000 bushels of turnips. Canada consumes 30,000,000 pounds of beef, shears 5,500,000 pounds of wool, and makes from 42,000,000 to 45,000,000 pounds of butter. The cattle, mulch cows, horses, sheep and pigs owned in Canada are above two millions in number.
The fisheries yield to the value of two million dollars annually. It appears that Lower Canada alone owns 2,500 fishing vessels. The Magdalen Islands, which belong to Canada, send out to the fisheries 270 boats. The capital Stock of the banks in Canada, which have a charter, amounts to $33,000,000. Here is real wealth, and yet our country is still in its infancy, if I may be allowed to use the expression; and the third part of this beautiful country is still uninhabited; what will it be when inhabited, cleared and settled in every direction? From all quarters men will come—some to obtain a nook of land which they can really call their own; others to escape from the horrors of civil war and the ruinous taxes which bow them down to the earth. Here we have peace and tranquillity—good air—room enough—a superabundance of land—and the virgin forest wooing the axe of the woodman, to be converted into fertile farms; here, above all, we have the “birth-right of man,” liberty in all its purity. (Hear, hear)
It is time, Canadians, that we should withdraw from the political dilemma in which we are involved. If we reject the plan of Confederation, we fall back into a species of status quo; now, for a new country like ours, to remain stationary is to retrograde! Let us not forget that British North America contains other provinces besides these of ours, namely, British Columbia, Vancouver, &c., which will hereafter form a part of the Confederation; that those vast countries are in extent as large as all Europe; that the soil in many places is of marvellous fertility; that the day will come when the greater part of all those countries and provinces will be inhabited; that there will be a net-work of railway connecting the extremities of all those possessions, and lines of steamboats connecting us, not with the Mother Country only, but with the whole of Europe, and that at all seasons of the year.
When we all, without exception, animated by the same spirit, struggling after the good, after the prosperity of our common country, shall see rising around us a vast empire under the protectorate of England, we shall then understand the political sagacity of those who, now steering the vessel […]
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[…] of State, have brought before us and carried through the scheme of Confederation proposed. There may be certain faults of detail in the system: I grant that there are. But does not every work of man bear the impress of imperfection? Is the celebrated Code Napoléon perfect? The most celebrated French lawyers do not think it so; and yet this production is a master-piece of legislation in many respects. Does not the Constitution of the United States contain faults?
And yet it is said to be a model work of its kind. I am of opinion that the plan of Confederation, taken as a whole, is the best we could desire or hope for, adapted, as it had to be, to the well-understood interests of the five provinces. To consider it from a purely sectional point of view, would be to misunderstand the position which a statesman should occupy. If however, Mr. Speaker, the unreasoning opponents of the proposed measure were able to suggest any means of meeting eventualities, and point out a way by which, while rejecting the scheme proposed, we might find some practical mode of escape from our difficulties, I should then be disposed to listen to them, and to compare their scheme with that which is now before us; but those gentlemen think it sufficient to blame and criticise.
The celebrated Mr. Rameau even (the author of La France aux Colonies), from his retirement in distant France, sends forth a cry of alarm at the dangers with which he thinks Confederation is pregnant, but not a word of good counsel or of a better remedy of his own. Others cry aloud from the house-tops that this scheme is not a “Federal union,” but a Legislative one in every point! If it were so, Mr. Speaker, I should be the first—and I proclaim it here before the whole country—I should be the first to scout and reject the scheme with all the power which Providence has given me; but as it is, on the contrary, a Federal union, in the full force of the term, having a Central Government invested with all the power necessary to obviate and remedy the weakness which characterises Federal Government in the American union, giving, in a special an inner, to each province the management of its own local affairs, and to its inhabitants full and unrestricted power to make its own laws, I cannot, for the interest of my constituents, for my country’s interest, help approving of a measure which, while it respects the rights and privileges of all, will have the effect of increasing the individual and collective strength of this five provinces, will secure to us the confidence of the Mother Country, and make of this section of British North America, under the powerful aegis of England, another imperium in imperio. (Cheers.)
I return to those whose cry is, “But our, nationality will be lost our language, our civil and religious institutions will disappear.” O ye who cry so loudly, and who find such charms in the neighboring republic, do you think that if we fell into theft whirl of divers nations and different religions composing the American Confederacy, which have no common traditions nor common history with us, French-Canadian nationality would long enjoy a separate existence, or that it would not speedily be lost amidst so many others? Answer if you can, and I will believe you. (Cheers.) Consider the fate of Louisiana, inhabited chiefly by French! Is not the English element in a majority in the Parliament of United Canada? And have I not, nevertheless, the honor to address you at this moment in French? In that beautiful language of our ancestors in which Jacques Cartier, in 1535, extolled the glories of our majestic St. Lawrence! (Cheers.)
Would you know one of the reasons assigned against General Frémont when he was an I candidate for the Presidency of the United States a few years ago? “Do not vote for Frémont,” was the cry on the hunting’s and in the papers of the day; “Frémont is a Frenchman”—”Frémont is a Catholic”—and Frémont lost his election accordingly. However, Frémont was not a Catholic! But they said he was, and it was a crime sufficient in their eyes to disqualify him in his candidateship for their confidence, notwithstanding that they proclaim “liberty of conscience!” (Hear, hear ) Do they reject a man in England because he is a Catholic? Does that fact debar him from enjoying the confidence of his Sovereign and his fellow citizens? Certainly it does not, and there are instances to prove it. Have we not often seen, in Canada, Catholics representing counties essentially Protestant? Was not the county of Vaudreuil, a county in which Catholics are a majority, lately represented by an English Protestant? Why should the English, under the Confederation, seek to destroy French-Canadian nationality? What interest could they serve in doing so? In […]
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[…] 1775, and in 1812, the French-Canadians, at the call of their clergy, rose as one man to defend the Crown of England. (Hear, hear.) What interest have the English to induce them to sweep away our religious institutions? In what school or college are youth educated with greater talent or greater success—where do they receive a more thorough classical education—than in our colleges? Where does a young man learn his duty to God, to himself, to his country and to his Sovereign better than in our Catholic colleges? (Cheeks.) I passed ten years of my life, Mr. Speaker, in a Catholic college, that of Montreal, and if I did not profit by the instruction I received, mine is the fault; in that house, I heard none but the counsels of wisdom, saw only examples of virtue in the venerable priests who were intrusted with the care of my youth. (Cheers.)
Where is better instruction in agriculture to be had—agriculture, the source of the prosperity of a country—than in two or three Catholic colleges in Lower Canada? Who has better appreciated the force of the maxim, “The soil is the country,” than the Catholic clergy? What are the model farms founded by the Government compared with the model farms of two or three of our colleges? (Hear, hear.) Is it the Catholic clergy themselves who would be endangered by the Confederation? There is not a single right-thinking Englishman in the land who will not stand up and testify to the virtues of our clergy and their usefulness in the country! Wherever there is an asylum to be built, or a house of refuge for the poor, the insane, the aged or the orphan, then and there you see the clergy foremost in the work, first to set the example, and often defraying all the cost! (Hear, hear.)
If the Queen of England desires to see a faithful subject, on this side of the Atlantic, She will assuredly find him in the ranks of the clergy! If the country calls for a zealous citizen, animated by the noblest patriotism, the call will first be answered unmistakably by a priest—by one of those men who seek no other toward for their actions than the approbation of their own conscience—by one of those who perfectly comprehend the maxim that “the poetry of life is the fulfilment of duty”—by one of those wise but modest men, as humble as they are pious, who, standing ever constant at the post which Providence has assigned to them, instruct the young, encourage the good, seek to bring back the sinner into the paths of virtue, obey the laws and teach that obedience to others, pray daily for the happiness and prosperity of ”Our Gracious Sovereign” and of the Mother Country, visit the poor in garret and cellar, soothe the sufferings, moral and physical, of the sick and dying, and finally point out the road to heaven—they themselves leading the way! (Prolonged cheers)
What have such men to fear from Confederation? Nothing. No, Mr. Speaker, such men have nothing to fear! England loves and reveres our cherry, and sees in them loyal and faithful subjects of the Queen. (Cheers.) Would you see an instance of what the Catholic clergy can do when the country wants a man of courage? All know that the country is in a political dilemma, that the machine of government is at a stand, that the sound of a mighty tempest is heard from afar; that the fate of the country is traced out in feeble and wavering lines in an uncertain future, overshadowed with threatening clouds filling a void of conjecture and doubt; hat the moment is come for the true friends of their country—for men of education—to declare their views on the course to be taken to save the country from the danger impending and the perils of actual events. Well, here too we have a member of the Catholic clergy boldly standing forth to give his opinion on the subject, and counsel us in this melancholy crisis! I will lead to you an extract of the letter of the Catholic Archbishop Connolly of Halifax, on the subject of Confederation:—
Instead of cursing, like the boys in the upturned boat and holding on until we are fairly on the brink of the cataract, we must at once begin to pray and strike out for the shore by all means, before we get too far down on the current. We must, at this most critical moment, invoke the Arbiter of nations for wisdom, and abandoning in time our perilous position, we must strike out boldly, and at some risk, for some rock on the nearest shore—some resting place of greater security.
A cavalry raid visit from our Finnian friends through the plains of Canada and the fertile valleys of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, may cost more in a single week than Confederation for the next fifty years; and if we are to believe you, where is the security, even at the present moment, against such a disaster? Without the whole power of the Mother Country by land and sea, and the concentration in a single hand of all the strength of British America, our condition is seen at a glance. Whenever the present difficulties will terminate – and who can […]
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[…] tell the moment?—we shall be at the mercy of our neighbors; and victorious or otherwise, they will be eminently a military people, and with all their apparent indifference about annexing this country, and all the friendly feelings that may be talked of, they will have the power to strike when they please, and this is precisely the kernel and the only touch-point of the whole question. No nation ever had the power of conquest that did not use it, or abuse it, at the very first favorable opportunity. All that is said of the magnanimity and forbearance of mighty nations can be explained on the principle of sheer expediency, as the world knows. The whole face of Europe has been changed, and the dynasties of many hundred years have been swept away within our own time, on the principle of might alone—the oldest, the strongest, and as some would have it, the most sacred of titles.
The thirteen original states of America, with all their professions of self-denial, have been all the time, by money power and by war, and by negotiation, extending their frontier until they more than quadrupled their territory within sixty years; and believe it who may, are they now of their own accord to come to a full stop? No; as long as they have the power, they must go onward: for it is the very nature of power to grip whatever is within its reach. It is not their hostile feelings, therefore, but it is their power, and only their power, I dread; and I now state it as my solemn conviction, that it becomes the duty of every British subject in these provinces to control that power, not by the insane policy of attacking or weakening them, but by strengthening ourselves—rising, with the whole of Britain at our back, to their level, and so be prepared for any emergency.
There is no sensible or unprejudiced man in the community who does not see that vigorous and timely preparation is the only possible means of saving us from the horrors of a war such as the world has never seen. To be fully prepared is the only practical argument that can have weight with a powerful enemy, and make him pause beforehand and count the cost. And as the sort of preparation I speak of is utterly hopeless without the union of the provinces, so at a moment when public opinion is being formed on this vital point, as one deeply concerned, I feel it a duty to declare myself unequivocally in favor of Confederation as cheaply and as honorably obtained as possible—but Confederation at all hazards and at all reasonable sacrifices.
After the most mature consideration, and all the arguments I have heard on both sides for the last month, these are my inmost convictions on the necessity and merits of a measure which alone, under Providence, can secure to, us social order, peace, and rational liberty, and all the blessings we now enjoy under the mildest Government and the hallowed institutions of the freest and happiest country in the world.
This letter is dated in January, 1865. The Catholic Bishop of the Island of Newfoundland, Monseigneur Mulloch, has also written a magnificent letter in favor of Confederation. Moreover, Mr. Speaker, when the time comes, our Catholic clergy—our Canadian clergy—will make their voices heard in favor of the proposed measure, and will show the whole world that now, as formerly, they can keep pace with the times—that they can distinguish the true from the false, and that their paternal eyes watch with the tenders solicitude over the destinies of their children. (“Loud cheers.) Now, Mr. Speaker, let us cast a glance over the English colonies in Australia.
They, like us, are desirous of taking steps to form a Confederation, to break from their state of isolation, stretching forth their arms to each other as beloved sister?, and making efforts to lay the foundation of a great empire out the distant shores of Oceania. (Hear, hear.) As to ourselves, let us show England that our hearts yearn to maintain our connection with her, and she will spend her last soldier and last shilling to keep and defend us against all the world, and to assist us to become a great and powerful nation back! Back! Those who think that England will cast us off, and leave us to our hard fate. Back! all those who, like Bright, Cobden, Goldwin Smith, and others of that school, weary the ear with crying that England loses more than she gains by her colonies! They are confronted by the logic of facts. England, we thought her colonies, would be a power of the second class. Let us hear what Mr. Laing, late Minister of Finance for India, said, in answer to Goldwin Smith and others:—
I would have you observe, said he that our foreign possessions are by far our best customers. Taken together, they make up nearly a third of our import trade, and a half of our export trade British India holds the first place on the list, and gives us nearly £50,000 000 sterling of imports, taking in return £20,000,000 of exports. In the present year these figures will be greatly exceeded, and the rate of progress is more distinctly marked: the imports having been, 10 years ago, £10,672,000 only, and the exports £9,920,000. We find in Australia still more astonishing results, if we consider the recent date of her establishment as a colony, and her limited population. Besides gold, she sends about £7,000,000 of imports, and takes from us £13,000, 00 of exports. The North American colonies, with a population also British, give us £8, 00,000 of imports, and take from us nearly £5,000,000 of exports. The small island of the Mauritius, which enjoys British Government and thrives with British capital, sends us nearly £2,000, 00 worth per year, and takes in return £5,000,000. These figures clearly show the advantages derived to commerce […]
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[…] from colonies, and confute the false theories of those men who would persuade us to abandon our distant possessions as useless.
Observe, Mr. Speaker, that these enormous amounts are not in dollars, but pounds sterling: each pound being worth nearly five dollars of our money. This is information for those who think that colonies are of no importance to England; that they add nothing to her grandeur, her power, or her commerce! Those who know anything at all of England, know perfectly well that she is an essentially commercial nation—perhaps the most commercial nation in the world—that “that nation of shop-keepers,” as it was called by Napoleon I., has always found in its commerce the chief element of its strength; for with commerce comes money, from money men to carry on its wars The ancient Romans knew how to conquer provinces, countries, kingdoms, because their genius was essentially warlike; but they did not know how to keep them, because they had not what chiefly distinguishes England—a genius for commerce.
Accordingly when the English make themselves masters of any territory, you immediately see a crowd of traders rush into it, build stores, find out the resources of the country, and next come a body of soldiers to second the authority of justice, and enforce respect for law and order. In a short space of time you see a nation, but lately barbarian, buried in sloth and inaction, shake off the slough of infancy, assume a different aspect, grow rich and prosperous, and in turn cooperate in adding to the greatness of the Mother Country. (Hear, hear.)
Yes, Mr Speaker, England is bound to keep us. Losing us, she would, at a future day, lose her West Indian possessions, and would enter on the first phase of an eclipse which she is too far-seeing not to anticipate and avoid. (Hear, hear.) England sees with pleasure the efforts which our Government is making to carry out the union of all the provinces, and looks upon our future union as a step in the right direction—the only practical means of increasing our resources and strengthening our power. One word, Mr. Speaker, on the appeal to the people. There are three classes of men in society: those who deceive, those who are deceived, and those who are neither deceivers nor deceived. I take my place advisedly among the last. I will not rank as a deceiver; and as I have promised my constituents that I would lay before them, and explain the scheme of Confederation, with all its details, before giving my vote finally, I am at all times ready to do so.
For the present, I shall vote purely and simply for the “resolutions,” because I am in favor of the principle of Confederation, and because, hereafter, when the Ministry shall have laid before us the plan for the local governments with its details, then will be the time to demand an appeal to the people, if my county requires it of me. To ask for it only with reference to the principle of Confederation, and to ask for it again when we shall have the plan and all the details relating to the local governments, would be an absurdity; for it would be a double appeal to the people on two parts of the same scheme of Confederation, and consequently two elections on the back of each other—a needless excess of expense and trouble, both for the country and the members. We must bear in mind that after the two elections constituting the double appeal to the people, we must have still more general elections to inaugurate the new Parliament, for the present session is the third of this Parliament. I would not be one of the deceived; and I should be so in a striking degree if I allowed myself to be cajoled by the gentle purring’s of the Opposition, who makes a show of agitation for the appeal to the people, only that they may have an opportunity, at any cost, of defeating the scheme of Confederation.
I maintain, Mr. Speaker, that the Opposition have not the slightest wish to go to the country; and why? because if the Opposition had really and truly wished for an appeal to the people, they would at any time, within this last fortnight at least, have made a motion in this House expressive of their desire–as a preliminary–for such an appeal! The House has been debating this measure three or four weeks, but the Opposition have not shown the least disposition to move for an appeal to the people; and, when it is too late, they will come forward with such a motion–(hear, hear)– and then, when they do not carry it, they would go crying throughout the land, in town and country, that if the people have had no voice in the business, it is no fault of theirs; that they moved heaven and earth –but such was the bull-headed obstinacy of the Ministry, it was not to be obtained; and the people will believe them; and we, who are the real, the best friends of the people, we shall be pointed at as the real […]
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[…] criminals! Poor people! why do you allow yourselves to be deceived? If the Ministers are desirous of pushing on the measure, it is because of the check which the Ministry of New Brunswick have just had, aud because it is for us to use all diligence to show the Mother Country that we do not hang fire, but are ready to do our part to carry out the treaty or compromise agreed on by the delegates at the Conference held at Quebec. It is time we should do something to improve our position; for the intended revocation of the treaty of reciprocity, the probable abolition of the “transit” system, and other tokens of ill-feeling with which President Lincoln’s Message of the present year is filled, are enough to warn us to prepare to meet the storm which is blowing up on the political horizon, that we ought immediately to look out for better shelter than we have at present. (Hear.)
If, hereafter, an appeal to the people, relative to the plan and details of the local governments, becomes necessary, I am convinced that a majority of the counties of both Canadas will understand their true interests, will be able to distinguish their real friends from those who aim at deceiving them by flattering their prejudices, and that we shall be sent back to this place with full powers to vote the final adoption of the scheme of Confederation. (Cheers.) But if I, for one, am civilly told that I must stay at home, I shall have the satisfaction of saying that I have fallen like a man who preferred his duty to a fleeting popularity; and although it may be an easy matter for the fair and intelligent county of Vaudreuil to send to this House, as its representative, a member more competent in many respects than I am, I venture to affirm that it will be difficult to find any one who has more at heart than I have the interests, the happiness and the prosperity of his country! (Continued others)
I have abundant reason to believe that the people will comprehend the position of the country, will see that a measure of this kind is necessary—nay, indispensable, and that when once the union of the five provinces of British North America has been perfectly settled, we shall enter on a new era, an era of progress in all things—industrial, manufacturing and commercial, and shall begin to take a prominent place among the nations of this vast continent; the people will understand, finally, that the vessel of the state has fallen into the hands of able pilots, well qualified to take it into port, notwithstanding the storms and rocks with which its course is beset. (Cheers.)
I for one, Mr. Speaker, have full confidence in our future in the bosom of Confederation. The day is, I think, not far distant when the “Good Genius” who rules over the future destiny of the new Empire of British North America will or aloud, with one foot on the shores of the Pacific while the other rests on that of the Atlantic—”All this is ours This wealth, these fair fields, those pretty hamlets, those vast cities, in which thousand? Of people enjoy the fruits of their toil, and live without fear under the English flag, belong to us! See those factories, those works of all kinds, those canals and railways crossing each other in every direction, fostering trade throughout the length and breadth of this vast domain! We are now a numerous and mighty people—our population has grown—Europe has contributed its contingent to brave and courageous hearts, who have been attracted hither by the hope of an amount of happiness and prosperity which their native country had denied them.” Then too. This “Good Genius,” turning his eyes in the direction to Great Britain, will say with truth—”Mother, behold your eldest-born, worthy of such a parent!” (Cheers.)
And posterity, glorying in their ancestors, will exclaim—”Behold the fruits of the conscientious and patriotic labors of that chosen band of thirty-three, who sat in high conference at Quebec, in October, 1864.” (Loud cheers.)
Hon. Atty. Gen. Cartier—After hearing the eloquent and talented speech which the hon. member for Vaudreuil [Mr. Harwood] has just delivered, I have one emotion of regret: it is, that the venerable ancestor of that gentleman (the Hon. Alain Chartier De Lotbinière), who was one of the first Speakers called to the Chair of the Legislative Assembly of Lower Canada, whose portrait adorns this House, has not, from the tomb, heard the accents—the well-considered, loyal and heart-felt expressions of his descendant. How justly would he have been proud of him! (Cheers.)
Hon. Mr. Laframboise—Mr. Speaker, the honorable member for Vaudreuil [Mr. Harwood] asked, a moment ago, what we French-Canadians had to fear under Confederation? Well, I will tell him at once, or rather when his friends have done congratulating him. The honorable gentleman read us a couple of letters from bishops of the Lower Provinces in order to convince us that all must be for the best under Confederation for our Catholic […]
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[…] population; with the permission of this honorable House, I will read for his benefit the letter of a Lower Canadian priest, who, having the advantage of a somewhat closer view of things than the bishops of the Maritime Provinces, is in a better position to judge whether our special institutions and our nationality will be sufficiently guaranteed under the Federal system now about to be imposed upon us. (Hear, hear.) This letter appeared in the Canadien:—
To the Editor of the Canadien.
Sir,—If the Confederation of the provinces may be considered a thing decided upon, there is nevertheless no denying fact that the minds of the people are filled with a fear and anxiety which nothing can remove. I have read the speeches of our representatives; I have heard their explanations; and far from being reassured, I am more uneasy than ever. The necessity of Confederation has indeed been demonstrated, but has there been any attempt to explain certain clauses of a dangerous character in a French-Canadian and Catholic point of view? Promises, eulogies, dazzling pictures of our future prospects, figures more or less successfully, all these we have had ad nauseam; but what I have looked for in vain is a satisfactory explanation as to our future liberty of action under Confederation. With your permission, sir, I will state as briefly as possible my objections to the scheme of Confederation, end the features which cause it to be dreaded so much by almost all those who have studied it. I leave aside the question of divorce; the ecclesiastical authorities being silent upon the matter, I do not pretend to be more Catholic than the Pope.
Let everyone bear his own responsibility. When, at some future day, Catholic Lower Canada will be dishonored by the presence of a divorce court, everyone will, no doubt hasten to wash his hands of the matter, and repudiate all responsibility for * * * * * the circumstances in which we are placed. My objections to Confederation as proposed, are—first, the dangerous centralization it establishes; second, the enormous expense it entails. Centralization! Behold the great danger of modern governments. In place of endeavoring to confer on each of our provinces the greatest measure of liberty compatible with a central power, one would fancy that our Ministers had done their best to leave us but the very smallest measure possible. In endeavoring to avoid the excess of power vested in the states of the American Confederation, they have given us a scheme tolerably closely copied from the Swiss Confederation.
They wished to avoid state independence, which caused the war between the North and the South, and they expose us to a new Sonderbund with all its disasters. Let us see what are the powers of the Central Government, and the rights of the provinces, and of Lower Canada in particular, under our Confederation. The Central Government will be composed of—first, an elective Chamber, based on population; second, a Senate; third, an Executive Council, and Responsible Ministers, and a Governor. The Lower House will be composed of 194 members. Of these 194 sixty-five will be Lower Canadians, and fifty French-Canadians. In the House of Representatives we shall therefore be one to three, or, if we count as French-Canadians, 1 to 4. How many Lower Canadians or French-Canadians are we to have in the Executive Council? One, perhaps; two at most.
Such is the measure of our influence in the Central Government. And this is the Government that is to appoint our senators after the first selection is made. It will appoint, or rather impose upon us, a governor. It will have the power of veto over all our local measures. It will also enjoy that power through the governor, its creature! Was there ever a more dangerous centralization? What liberty of action, then, is there left to our legislature? An Orangeman will perhaps be sent to govern us; and what can we say? Our senators will be selected, if it should please the central power, from the ranks of our enemies; to whom shall we apply for redress? All our most cherished local measures, our acts of incorporation, will be reserved or vetoed; and who will redress our grievances? But all these are mere imaginary dangers! Imaginary, forsooth! Heaven grant that they may be! But do we not know the Orangemen? Is not the example of Ireland before our eyes? But the Sonderbund war! Be quiet, we are told; men so well tried, as honorable as our leaders, would never propose the measure for our adoption if it could possibly be of a fatal character.
I do not desire, in any way, to accuse our statesmen or to question their motives. But have our statesmen always avoided contradiction—dangerous measures? Is it prudent to trust solely to men, without scrutinizing their measures? What of the experience of the past? What of the maxim, “Measures, not men?” “Fear not,” we are told again,”none of the dangers you fear can arise; the thing is impossible.” Impossible! Why, then, leave a possibility of danger in the law? Why so much haste with a measure of such importance? The authors of the Constitution of the United States labored for months and years at the draft of their Confederation, and after eighty years it is found defective.
Our statesmen elaborate a Constitution in a law days, in the midst of the noisy rejoicings of hospitality, and we are told that Constitution is perfect! “You must not touch it; you shall not amend it.”But, we say. It contains dangerous clauses, it gives our enemies power to annihilate us. The answer is: “Be silent! It is the creation of our Ministers, our leaders! Trust in their honor, in their talents.” Excellent reasons, no doubt! And yet, strange to say, people are still uneasy, still distrustful! But, are not the clergy, are not the people for Confederation? As to the clergy, no; they are not all for your Confederation as it is proposed. A great many of them, it is true, feel no uneasiness, and trust all to our statesmen; […]
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[…] but many of them, also, dread it, and would wish to see it amended. As to the people they know nothing about your scheme, and until the time comes when they shall undergo the ordeal of taxes and imposts, they will, I fancy, exhibit the utmost indifference. But let the Confederation be carried out, let the fabulous expenses be commenced connected with the defence of the country, the support of a militia, the creation of a marine, the construction of the Intercolonial Railway and other public works, and, as the proverb says, “Time will tell.” Yes, we shall then perceive the disastrous results of this measure, but it will be a little too late. I now come to my second objection to the scheme of Confederation. With your permission I shall treat it on a future occasion.
Quebec, March 6th, 1865.
Well, Mr. Speaker, if I am not mistaken, that reverend gentleman, a member of our clergy, seems to be somewhat less convinced than our Ministers and the honorable member for Vaudreuil [Mr. Harwood] of the safety of our religious interests, and of our nationality. Are not his expressions sufficiently energetic and significant?
But let us now see whether the reverend gentleman has grounds for his alarm, and whether he is not somewhat carried away by his zeal and patriotic anxiety for the welfare of his fellow-countrymen. Let us see whether, on the contrary, he does not appreciate more correctly than our Lower Canada Ministers the position in which we shall be placed by Confederation. I think we shall be enabled to judge from an article which appeared in a late number of the organ of the Honorable President of the Council [Hon. Mr. Brown]. The Toronto Globe of the 6th March inst.,—a paper which is now one of the principal organs of the present Government—publishes an article, written perhaps by the Honorable President of the Council [Hon. Mr. Brown] himself, in which I find the following kindly expression applied to our honored clergy:—
We trust that those well-meaning but mistaken friends of the Common School system of Upper Canada, who have been censuring the educational agreement in the Quebec resolutions, will now see something of its value. Bishop Lynch’s bold letter should be a warning to us all how utterly unsafe our schools are under the present Constitution. The Romesh Church is ever aggressive—getting to-day concessions with which it professes to be entirely satisfied, only to come back and demand new ones at the first opportunity. (Under our present parliamentary system, it is never safe to say that the Ramesh bishops in Canada cannot, with a little labor, get all they may ask. Under Confederation, while gladly “crying quits” and leaving them what they now have and can keep in spite of us, we should be placed in a position to refuse them anything more. But let our present Constitution last five years longer, and the chances are that the new demands of the hierarchy will be conceded.)
If the honorable gentleman is not satisfied now that the fears of the clergy are well founded, I really cannot see how he can possibly be convinced. (Hear, hear.) That honorable member gave us a splendid and perfectly just eulogium of the admirable merits and devotedness of our Lower Canadian clergy—an eulogium which expresses the thought of every man who has any feeling of admiration for deserving merit, wherever it may be found, and whatever may be his own nationality or religion—an eulogium which I endorse with my whole heart. (Hear, hear.) But, Mr. Speaker, I am not the less convinced that everything foreshadowed by the extract I have just read from the Globe is destined to occur one day, if we adopt the measure now before us. And what is the meaning of the petitions pouring in every day by thousands, why all these crosses affixed to these energetic and patriotic protests—crosses formed by rude hands guided by noble hearts? (Hear, hear.)
I will tell you, Mr. Speaker, why there are so many crosses; it is because, previous to the union of the Canadas, the Legislative Council was composed of enemies of the Lower Canadians, who refused, for a great number of years, to make even the paltriest grants for our Lower Canada schools. Thanks to this tyrannical proscription, the schools were closed by hundreds, and the children of our people were unable to obtain the benefits of education, of which they would most certainly have availed themselves. Hence it is that the petitions pouring in upon us from all quarters, to protest against the oppression about to be established, are in great part signed with crosses—crosses certainly of equal value with the magnificent signatures of certain honorable members of this House, who have attempted to turn into ridicule the signatures of these petitions.
At that period, Mr. Speaker, the Canadian clergy were, as they are to-day, the leaders of the education movement, and the British oligarchy did all in its power to contract the limits of their noble work—the education of the children of the soil. (Hear, hear.) But thanks to the constant and energetic protests of patriotic men—thanks to the struggles they maintained for many a long year—struggles which culminated at last in open rebellion against the authority of Great Britain—we gained the liberties we now enjoy. And with reference to the rebellion, I think […]
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[…] the Honorable Attorney General East [Hon. Mr. Cartier] must remember that he himself was one of those who raised the flag of freedom at St. Charles, and donned the cap of liberty. At that period, Mr. Speaker. the Honorable Attorney General East [Hon. Mr. Cartier] did not shrink from open rebellion against the Crown, in order to secure what he considered the legitimate liberties of his fellow-citizens; to-day he does not shrink from a baronetcy, the reward of the treason he is prepared to consummate against his same fellow-citizens. (Hear, hear.) I said a moment ago that French-Canadians had every reason to fear for the safety of their institutions under Confederation, and I will prove it by quoting a few passages from the celebrated report of Lord Durham—a report which has been used as a model by the Government in preparing their scheme of Confederation—in fact the latter is copied almost word for word from that able summary of the means to be adopted for the utter annihilation of French nationality in this country. (Hear, hear.)
To those who may feel inclined to consider my fears unfounded, I have but one thing to say: you may rest assured that the English members will not allow themselves to be led by the few French-Canadian members of the Federal Government, and that they will strive conscientiously, and in some sort naturally, to carry out the work initiated by Lord Durham, and carried on up to this day with a degree of skill and ability which, though defeated in some instances, was none the less calculated to produce the results foreseen and desired by Great Britain. I will read to the House an extract from the report in question; for it is good to remind the representatives of Lower Canada of these facts:—
Never again will the British population tolerate the authority of a House of Assembly in which the French shall possess, or even approximate to a majority.
Such, Mr. Speaker, are the expressions used by Lord Durham in his despatch to the English Government; and I will show how faithfully the plan has been carried out. It was begun by a union of the two Canadas, and it is to be continued by a Confederation of all the Provinces of British North America, and consummated at last by a legislative union, under which the French race will be absorbed and annihilated for ever. (Hear, hear.) An honorable member who addressed the House during yesterday’s sitting, told us that Confederation would be the beginning of the end, and the destruction of the Lower Canadians. It would have been impossible to describe more truly the position in which we shall find ourselves placed under Confederation. (Hear, hear.) The honorable member for Vaudreuil (Mr. Harwood) said there were as many Catholics in London as there were in Rome itself, the centre of Catholicity. Well, what is the value of that assertion?
Does it prove anything in favor of his argument? How many members are there in the English Parliament to represent the Catholics of Great Britain? If I am not mistaken, I think there are but two or three. Now I ask what influence the Catholic population can have in that Parliament, and what power have they to protect their institutions and their liberties. If the honorable member for Vaudreuil [Mr. Harwood] thinks he has brought forward an unanswerable argument, he is very much mistaken, for the argument turns entirely against him. (Hear, hear.) The honorable member for Vaudreuil [Mr. Harwood] also brought forward, in favor of Confederation, an argument which bears a certain appearance of plausibleness and weight. He said that if we adopt Confederation, Lower Canada will enjoy the rich coal mines of New Brunswick. Does the honorable member fancy that the coal is to be delivered to us free of all cost and charges, and without our having to give anything in exchange for it? (Hear, hear.)
Really, Mr. Speaker, it seems to me that when only such arguments as these are available in support of a case, it would be quite as well to say nothing about it. It may be that the praises profusely bestowed by the Honorable Attorney General East [Hon. Mr. Cartier] on the honorable member for Vaudreuil [Mr. Harwood] are well deserved. It may be that the Honorable Attorney General [Hon. Mr. Cartier] thinks so; but for my part—I say it in all sincerity—I consider that the style of eloquence displayed here by the hon. member for Vaudreuil [Mr. Harwood] was better calculated to win the applause of a parish meeting; the hollow tinsel of that style of eloquence may take with a certain class of men, but I do not hesitate to assert that it is hardly the kind of speech suited to this House. What is required here is a speech calculated to bring conviction to the minds of those who listen.
No doubt the hon. member for Vaudreuil [Mr. Harwood] turned many pretty and elegant phrases, but for all that, I cannot help thinking that the Honorable Attorney General’s [Hon. Mr. Cartier] compliments were somewhat extravagant, and that he only spoke as he did in order to remove the impression […]
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[…] of the contempt he affects to entertains for his fellow-countrymen holding seats in this House, who hold opinions different from his, and for all the French speeches delivered on this side of the House since he brought down his Confederation scheme.
After all, the Honorable Attorney General [Hon. Mr. Cartier] has a perfect right to pay compliments to any one he likes, and whenever he likes; and in making these remarks I do not complain of his having formed that opinion of the honorable member for Vaudreuil [Mr. Harwood]. The honorable member also told us that the Government had done everything in their power, and that they had examined the question of Confederation from the stand-point of the five parties to the contract.
I think so too, and I do not hesitate to say that if our French-Canadian Ministers present at the Conference had examined the question from a Lower Canadian point of view—since they were charged with the protection of our interests—it is highly probable that many things unfavorable to those interests, which the scheme now presents, would have been removed. But the honorable member for Vaudreuil [Mr. Harwood] must know that the Lower Canadian Ministers at the Conference ought to have gone there to represent the interests of their fellow-countrymen, and to defend those interests if necessary, in the same way that the representatives of the other nationalities went there to represent those of their fellow-countrymen; and the event shows but too clearly how strenuously the latter worked for their own interests. The scheme of Confederation shows clearly that the English race have in this, as in every other instance, been favored, to the detriment of the French element. They obtained everything, or nearly everything, they desired.
[Original Editor’s note: It being six o’clock, the Speaker left the chair.]
After the recess,
Hon. Mr. Laframboise resumed his remarks as follows—Mr. Speaker, as a prelude to the remarks I proposed making against Confederation during the first part of this sitting, I answered some of the arguments brought forward by the honorable member for Vaudreuil [Mr. Harwood], in support of the scheme as proposed for the consideration of this House. I shall now proceed to examine certain portions of the scheme, and show the absurdity of the arguments brought forward in support of it. It has been stated by honorable gentlemen opposite that Confederation is a compromise. Well, Mr. Speaker, what is the meaning of the word “compromise”? It means an understanding arrived at by means of mutual concessions; and in the ease now before us, I find concessions made only on one side and none whatever on the other.
I find that the concessions have all been made by Lower Canada to Upper Canada: the concession of representation based upon population, the concession to the Federal Parliament of the right to legislate on marriage and divorce. Not a single concession to Lower Canada. All the Lower Canadian members of the Administration have, in their turn, told us that Upper Canada has made concessions to Lower Canada, but not one of those honorable gentlemen have pointed out a single instance of the kind. In looking over a pamphlet which has become celebrated for many reasons which I need not enumerate—I mean the pamphlet of the honorable member for Montmorency [Hon. Mr. Cauchon]—I find that Upper Canada has made one concession to Lower Canada. The honorable gentleman says, with reference to the concession of representation based upon population:—
Every confederation is a compromise, and where would be the compromise if nothing wee conceded by both sides? The compromise made by Lower Canada is representation bused upon population in the Lower House, and the compromise on the part of Upper Canada is the concession of equality in the Upper House in exchange for represent action based upon population in the Assembly. The same compromise occurs between the two Canadas and the Maritime Provinces, and it is based upon the same principle.
Thus, Mr. Speaker, the only concession the honorable member for Montmorency [Hon. Mr. Cauchon] has succeeded in showing in favor of Lower Canada, notwithstanding the eminent talents we all admit he possesses, and his well-known zeal for the Ministerial scheme, is that which I have just mentioned, and in my opinion it is no concession at all, since Lower Canada had and still has the right to claim an equal representation in both Houses of the Legislature. Let us now see what is the nature of the concessions made by Lower Canada to Upper Canada. In the first place, I find this, the most important of all. And which by itself is worth all the rest—I mean the concession of representation based upon population. No one has forgotten the animated discussions which occurred, both in this House and elsewhere, relative to this question. What means were not employed and what efforts were not made by the Conservative party in order to make political capital out of that question, and what success have not this same party, […]
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[…] who now concede representation based upon population, obtained in Lower Canada by loudly proclaiming that the Liberal party, or rather the “Rouge party,” as they were pleased to style us, were ready to grant to the Honorable President of the Council [Hon. Mr. Brown] representation based upon population? Well, Mr. Speaker, the accusation made against the Liberal party, of being prepared to grant to the Honorable President of the Council [Hon. Mr. Brown] his cherished measure, I shall leave to that hon. gentleman himself the task of answering. We heard him declare in this House that he had offered the hon. member for Hochelaga [Hon. Mr. Dorion] to continue to work with him if he was willing; to concede the principle of representation based upon population, and that that gentleman having refused to comply with the demand, he had accepted the alliance of the Hon. Attorney General East [Hon. Mr. Cartier], who gave him all he asked. (Hear, hear.)
But, Mr. Speaker, there is something still more important than that. A few days ago, the Hon. President of the Council [Hon. Mr. Brown], addressing the hon. members for Hochelaga [Hon. Mr. Dorion] and Chateauguay [Hon. Mr. Holton], said, “I had long considered that you were the best friends of Upper Canada, but I can see today that you are not, and that our real friends are the Hon. Attorney General for Lower Canada [Hon. Mr. Cartier] and his Lower Canada colleagues.” (Hear, hear.) After having granted the favorite measure of the great Clear Grit chief, the Lower Canada delegates doubtless considered that that was not sufficient, since they also made another important concession to Upper Canada and to the Protestants of Lower Canada, by vesting in the Federal Government the power of legislating on marriage and divorce—(hear, hear)—two questions upon which the French-Canadians were united by the bonds of a common faith, and on which they could not tolerate any discussion; and the Ministers, therefore, ought not to have made those concessions, which are utterly opposed to the religious doctrines they themselves profess.
I say that power has been given to the Federal Government to legislate on divorce and to legalize it, and I am not mistaken in saying it, for the principle is adopted by the fact of giving to the Federal Legislature the right of legislating on this question. This power ought to have been granted to the local legislatures, and not to the Federal Legislature, as has been done; and I shall prove it in this way: the other day, the Hon. Solicitor General for Lower Canada (Hon. Mr. Langevin) told us. That as regards Lower Canada, there was no necessity for granting to its legislature the power of legislating on divorce, because, said he, “the religious authorities are recognized; but it was necessary and proper to grant that power to Upper Canada.” (Hear, hear.)
Now, I ask, if Lower Canada did not require that power of legislating, why has it been given to the Federal Legislature, which will be composed in great majority of Protestants, who do not hold the same opinion that we do on these questions, when it is evident that that Legislature will probably grant bills of divorce to all persons who apply for them, without considering whether the parties are Catholics or Protestants? If divorce is condemned by the Catholic religion, I maintain that it is wrong to grant that power to a Legislature which will be composed in great part of Protestant members, ready to legislate on divorce, and to grant divorces to those who bring forward what they may consider reasonable grounds, sufficient to entitle them to obtain divorce, without considering whether the religious faith of the parties permits or does not permit divorce. If divorce be condemned by the Catholic Church—and all the world knows that it is so condemned in the most formal manner—the power of the Legislature in this matter ought to have been restricted, and not made general, as it is proposed to make it in the scheme of Confederation submit ted to us.
Mr. Speaker, I have shown, I think, that Lower Canada has gained nothing, but that she has conceded everything in this compromise; true, in order to cover these guilty concessions, we are told, “But the protection of our institutions and the maintenance of our laws are fully and amply guaranteed to us by the new Constitution.” In the first place, under the Confederation, our institutions will not be protected—as it has vainly been attempted to demonstrate they will; but, even though it were the case, does not the Constitution under which we now live afford us infinitely better guarantees for all our dearest liberties? Let us examine, for a moment, what species of guarantee we have under the present system, and what guarantees we shall have under the Federal system The guarantee which the French-Canadians have under the present system, consists in the fact that out of 65 members, they count at least 51 of their own origin and faith, and that they […]
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[…] possess in the country and in the Legislature so powerful an influence, that the existence of any and every government depends on their good-will, and that no legislation can be carried on without their consent; whereas, under the new Constitution, the General Legislature will be composed of 194 members, Lower Canada having 65, of whom 14 at least will be English and Protestants, leaving thus 51 French-Canadian or Catholic members. Now, even if these 51 members act together as one man, they will have to struggle against 143 members of a different origin and a different faith from themselves.
Thus, Mr. Speaker, I am convinced that the guarantees we enjoy under our present Constitution—guarantees which are assured to us as long as we do not change our system of government—are infinitely superior to those offered to us by the new Constitution which it is sought to force upon the people. But we are told that the Federal Government will have the Catholic minority to deal with, and that the assistance of the latter will be absolutely necessary to carrying it on. Well, I ask, Mr. Speaker, what can a minority composed of 51 members do against a majority of 143; and what protection can it offer to our laws, our institutions and our language? No; it is evident that all these things which we hold so dear may, under the Federal system, disappear and be annihilated at any moment; they will be constantly at the mercy of our natural enemies. In order to secure Confederation, you have granted to Upper Canada representation based on population—a principle against which the people of Lower Canada have always voted as one man, and you have also granted everything that the Upper Canadian delegates desired to obtain for themselves and their co-religionists.
It is quite natural that the English members in Lower Canada should be nearly all in favor of the scheme, since they have a sure guarantee in the veto power of the Federal Legislature Thus the Local Legislature of Lower Canada cannot pass a single law without submitting it to the sanction of the Federal Legislature, which can, by its veto, amend, change or completely annul, if it thinks proper, any law or any measure so submitted to it But what guarantee will the Federal Legislature offer to the French-Canadian majority of Lower Canada, and to the Catholic minority of Upper Canada? None whatever. How can the great Conservative party which boasts so loudly of representing the interests of the Catholics of Lower Canada, which takes its stand as the natural protector of the religion and the faith of Catholics—(hear, hear)—very absurdly I must admit—how can that great party, I say, have forgotten, as it evidently has forgotten, that there are Catholics in Upper Canada who expected and are entitled to its protection? How will the Catholic minority in Upper Canada be protected in the Local Legislature of Upper Canada, composed of Englishmen and Protestants? Shall I tell you how, Mr. Speaker? Well, they will be protected by two members only, the hon. members for Cornwall and Glengarry (Hon. Mr. J.S. Macdonald and Mr. Donald A. McDonald).
The great Conservative party, which styles itself the protector of Catholicism, has simply handed over the Catholic minority of Upper Canada to the tender mercies of their enemies And to give an idea of the kind of protection they will enjoy under the new system, it is sufficient to state that a few days ago, Bishop Lynch, of Toronto, was forced to address himself publicly, through the press, to the citizens of Toronto, to protest against the insults offered in broad daylight, in the public streets of that city and elsewhere, to revered Sisters of Charity, and to ask protection for the venerable ladies of that community; and then look at the fanatical and intolerant writings, such as those I read to this Honorable House before the recess, from an article in the Globe of the 6th March—a paper which represents the opinions of the present Government, and which is the organ and property of the Hon. President of the Executive Council (Hon. Mr. Brown) . Can it be said that we have nothing to fear, that the religious institutions of Upper Canada will be perfectly safe under the system sought to be introduced into the country?
Does not the hon. Member for Montmorency [Hon. Mr. Cauchon] admit, in his famous pamphlet of 1865, that our religious institutions have many a time been insulted in this House? And has not the Bishop of Toronto just complained that Sisters of Charity have been insulted in the streets of the capital of Upper Canada, and that they have been turned into ridicule at masquerades and masked balls, frequented by the best society of that locality? And in order that every one may be convinced of the fact, I take the liberty of reading his letter, which is as follows:—
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To The Citizens of Toronto.
The Sisters of Charity have been from time to time grossly insulted in this city. Men have rudely seized hold of them in the public streets whilst going on their errand of charity; they have been pelted with stones and snow-balls. They have been called the most opprobrious and insulting nanes; their costume has been contumeliously exhibited in masquerades on a skating rink. We, confiding in the honor and justice of the gentlemen of Toronto, most respectfully ask protection in the premises.
Your obedient servant,
John Joseph Lynch,
Bishop of Toronto.
But even though many hon. members of this House doubted the truth of the statements made in that letter, is not the danger we shall incur, as Catholics, once we are placed at the mercy of our enemies, exemplified by facts which they cannot have forgotten? I mean the numberless injuries and insults offered by an honorable member of this House to everything Catholics hold dear. Have we forgotten the infamous charges uttered by one of the friends and warm supporters of the Hon. President of the Council (Hon. Mr. Brown) on the floor of this House? Well, I ask you now—you, the great Conservative party, the natural protectors of our religion and of its admirable institutions—what have you done to secure protection for the Catholics of Upper Canada in the new Confederation? Nothing whatever! (Hear, hear.)
But if Lower Canada has obtained no new concession, and if her position is no better under the new system than under the present one, why are we to have Confederation? I can answer the question, and, in fact, the answer is patent to every one: our Ministers had recourse to Confederation simply because it presented a pretext for clinging to office, and enjoying the sweets of power for a law years longer. That is the reason, and the one only reason, for their alliance with a man who despises them in his heart, and who joined them only because they advance his plans and ambitious designs. The Hon. Solicitor General for Lower Canada [Hon. Mr. Langevin] explained to us the other evening the intentions of the Government. It sounded very well, no doubt; but everyone knows that the intentions of a government are not unchangeable, that they may change them, and that they have, in fact, already done so. At the time of the formation of the present Ministry, did not the Lower Canada Ministers tell their friends in this House, and was it not repeated in every shape by their newspapers, “Don’t be uneasy, Confederation will not be carried out.”
The Hon. Commissioner of Public Works (Hon. Mr. Chapais) did not deny having stated to a priest of this district, “that he must be quiet; that there was nothing to fear; that Confederation would not be carried out; that the whole thing was done in order to entrap the great Clear Grit leader and to get rid of him for ever, and of the Lower Canada Liberal party.” (Hear, hear.) It seems that our Lower Canadian Ministers did not take into account the pressure of the Upper Canada members, nor that of the delegates from the Maritime Provinces, who, by combining together, obtained all the concessions they desired from the infinitesimal Lower Canadian minority representing us at the Conference of Quebec. They were told that Confederation must be carried out under such and such conditions; and these brave patriots, in order to avoid losing their cherished ministerial places, did not hesitate to sacrifice their fellow-countrymen. They accepted all the conditions of the Protestant delegates, and now they are striving to induce the House, and particularly the Lower Canadian members of it, to ratify their shameful concessions. Unhappily for Lower Canada, I year the House will vote for the destruction of French-Canadian nationality in this province.
There is one important point which must not be lost sight of, namely, that the great majority of the Upper Canadian members are in favor of Confederation, because everything in it is entirely to their advantage; but I cannot conceive how a majority of Lower Canadian members can be in favor of the measure. True, many of these members are repudiated by their counties, and do not represent the opinions of the majority of their constituents on this question, and it is certain that many of those who will vote for this scheme will never have an opportunity of voting for the project, if an appeal be made to the people. (Hear, hear.)
With reference to divorce, I say that if the doctrines of the Catholic religion tell us that it is wrong and criminal to grant it, and that Catholics cannot accept it, it was the duty of our Ministers at the Conference to do all in their potter to restrict it. True, it was not possible to prevent it in Upper Canada and in the Maritime Provinces, but it might have been done as regards Lower Canada; and if it was deemed right to grant the power of […]
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[…] legislating on this question, it ought to have been given to the local governments. But divorce was granted in this way because England had established a special tribunal for this matter, and England desired that divorce should be granted in Lower Canada as well as in every other province of British North America. Our Lower Canadian Ministers have simply yielded to the British influence which has been omnipotent in the Convention. (Hear, hear.)
They say “It is very true that the Catholic religion prohibits divorce, but vote in favor of its establishment; for if you do not, the Rouge party will return to power and destroy all your religious institutions, if you give them the control of the government of the country.” Well, gentlemen upholders of religion, ought you not to use every means to prevent these dreadful Rouges from making use of the law, which you yourselves are about to establish, which will enable them to obtain divorce whenever they please, and thus to insult the dogmas and doctrines of the Catholic Church? The Hon. Sol. Gen. East (Hon. Mr. Langevin) gave us, the other night, what he pretended were satisfactory explanations—satisfactory to him, perhaps—on the law of divorce. Well, Mr. Speaker, let us examine these wonderful explanations. That hon. gentleman told us that it was simply a law authorizing the declaration that a marriage contracted in any of the confederated provinces, in accordance with the laws of the province in which it was contracted, should be deemed to be valid in Lower Canada in case the husband and wife came to reside there.
Well, I ask you, Mr. Speaker, if there was any necessity for making this provision in the new Constitution? Would not a marriage, under the present Constitution, contracted under the circumstances referred to by the Hon. Solicitor General for Lower Canada [Hon. Mr. Langevin], be as valid as it would bounder the Confederation? Certainly it would! Then what do the Government mean? I am well aware that the Catholic members from Lower Canada will not admit it, and I know that they refused to believe me when I made the assertion, but I do not hesitate to repeat it here, that it is the intention of the Convention to legalize civil marriages.
The Lower Canadian section of the Ministry has not ventured to admit it, because they well knew that they would draw down upon themselves the disapprobation of the clergy of the country, and of all their fellow-countrymen. It the power conferred on the Federal Legislature in relation to this matter means anything at all, it is that and nothing else, and all the explanations given by the Hon. Solicitor General for Lower Canada [Hon. Mr. Langevin] and his colleagues are utterly valueless, and cannot be accepted by the Catholic members. Why say that divorce will be permitted? If the existing law authorizes divorce now, it was quite unnecessary to make a new law on the subject, and to make it an article of the new Constitution The Government takes every means in its power to conceal the real intentions of the Conference on this important point of the scheme, bull I am firmly convinced that their object is perfectly understood, and the future will prove whether or not I am mistaken when I assert that it is intended to make civil marriages legal in this country.
One of the reasons—and the only one which I have been able to discover—for which the present Government has granted power to the Federal Legislature to decree divorce, is that the Protestants of Lower Canada would never, but for that provision, have given their support to the Confederation measure proposed by our Ministers. I am well aware that there are certain Protestant denominations whose doctrines forbid divorce, but I do not hesitate to say that the only reason of the concession is the one I have just stated. Besides, in the pamphlet of the lion, member for Montmorency [Hon. Mr. Cauchon], I find a very strong admission:—
Catholic opinion urged that a question of such social importance should be left to the local governments, but let it be understood that in leaving it as regards Lower Canada to a Protestant majority, we only maintain the present condition of that important question. By so referring it to the Federal Government, we avoid many causes of contention and many violent complaints which might eventually be listened to by the Mother Country, where divorce is legalized and operates as a social institution.
Who can say that the Protestants—who are in great majority in our present Parliament, and who will constitute the two-thirds of the Confederation—would ever have consented to localize legislation on the subject of divorce?
The hon member for Montmorency [Hon. Mr. Cauchon] knows just as well as I do that the Protestants of Lower Canada would not have liked it, and that to obtain their support, it has been said to them, “Oh yes, let us concede that too; we have yielded representation by population, let us also give them divorce and anything else they like.”
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Hon. Sol. Gen. Langevin—Hear! hear!
Hon. Mr. Laframboise—The hon. member may exclaim “Hear, hear,” as loudly and as often as he likes, but those who heard him deliver the (I will not say eloquent, because that would not be true) speech which he made in opposition to the first reading of the Benning Divorce Bill, and who now behold him imposing on Catholics, who do not desire it, the consequences of a principle which we then refused to apply to Protestants who sought for it—those I say are justified in believing and in saying that the Hon. Solicitor General for Lower Canada [Hon. Mr. Langevin] has either renounced his former opinions on divorce, inasmuch as he authorizes the Federal Legislature to legislate on this subject, and to grant divorces either to Protestants or Catholics, and either to Upper or Lower Canada, or he could not have been very sincere in his opposition to the Benning Bill. (Hear, hear.)
There is one certain fact, and that is that the Protestants of Lower Canada have said to the Government, “Pass a measure which shall guarantee to us the stability and protection of our educational system and of our religious institutions, and we will support your scheme of Confederation; unless you do, we will never support you, because we do not wish to place ourselves at the mercy of a Local Legislature the three-fourths of the members of which will be Catholics.” They were perfectly justifiable in acting as they did, although it is generally admitted that we Catholics have much more liberality than the Protestants—and this is to a certain extent proved by the fact that several of our Lower Canadian counties are represented by Protestants. I do not, however, Mr. Speaker, I do not wish to reproach the Protestant minority of Lower Canada for having protected its own interests.
I admit that in doing this they have only done their duty; for who can say, after all, what ten years may bring forth? Ten years hence ideas may be changed upon this question, and if it be true, as stated by the Toronto Globe—and the Ministry cannot say that this journal does not speak the truth, as it is the organ of the present Government—if it be true that the Catholic clergy are an encroaching body, that they are never satisfied, and that they seek to take possession of all they see—if that be true, Mr. Speaker, who will say that in a few years the Lower Canadians will not be disposed to say to the Protestant minority, “We insist that all the schools should be Catholic,” as the majority in Upper Canada has said to the Catholic minority there, many and many a time, and as it will before long say again if Confederation takes place. (Hear, hear.)
I need not say that I do not believe that the Catholics of this section will ever push intolerance to that extent; but on the other hand, I cannot but approve of the determination of the Protestant minority to protect themselves from all eventualities of this nature; and for the same reason, I say that we also ought to take every precaution, and that we ought not to suffer our dearest interests to be at the mercy of a Protestant majority in the Federal Legislature. (Hear, hear.) We are not justified in asking for any concessions which we are not ourselves prepared to yield. (Hear, hear.)
Before the House rose at. Six o’clock, I slated, Mr. Speaker, that the plan of Confederation was, so to speak, traced word for word upon the famous report of Lord Durham. With the permission of the House, I will take the liberty of reading a few extracts from that report, in which the author, after having asserted a number of falsehoods in relation to our race, which I will not trouble the House with reading, declares that we ought to be merged into the English nationality. Observe how similar the ideas of the noble lord are to those which are expressed in the plan of Confederation. I cite for the second time the following paragraph:—
Never again will the British population tolerate the authority of a House of Assembly in which the French shall possess, or even approximate to, a majority.
Here, Mr. Speaker, we have a sentiment which shows that England has followed, step by step, the advice of Lord Durham. The hon. member for South Leeds [Mr. Ford Jones] said the other night that he hoped that we should soon attain to a legislative union. Well, a legislative union was also one of Lord Durham’s dreams I proceed to read another extract from his report:—
It will be acknowledged by everyone who has observed the progress of Anglo-Saxon colonization in America that sooner or later the English race was sure to predominate, even numerically, in Lower Canada, as they predominate already by their superior knowledge, energy, enterprise and wealth. The error, therefore, to which the present contest must be attributed, is the vain endeavor to preserve a French-Canadian nation-[…]
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[…] ality in the midst of Anglo-American colonies and states.
A little further, Mr. Speaker, I read as follows:—
These general pencils apply, however, only to those changes in the system of government which are required in order to rectify disorders common to all the North American colonies, but they do not, in any degree, go to remove those evils in the present state of Lower Canada, which require the most immediate remedy. The total feud to origin, which in the cause of the most extensive mischief, would be aggravated at the present moment by any change which should give the majesty more power than they have hitherto possessed A plan, by which it is proposed to insure the tranquil government to Lower Canada, must include in itself the means of putting an end to the agitation of national disputes in the Legislature by settling, at once and for ever, the national character of the province.
I entertain no doubts as to the national character which must be given to Lower Canada—it must be that of the British Empire—that of the majority of the population of British America—that of the great race which must, in no long period of time, be predominant over the whole North American continent Without effecting the change so rapidly or so roughly as to shock the feelings and trample on the welfare of the existing generation, it must henceforth be the first and steady purpose of the British Government to establish an English population, with English laws and language, in the province, and to trust its government to none but a decidedly English Legislature.
And further on find what follows:—
It may be said that this is a hard measure to a conquered people, that the French were originally the whole, and still are the bulk, of the population of Lower Canada, that the English are new comers, who have no light to demand the extinction of the nationality of a people, among whom commercial enterprise has drawn them It may be said that if the French are not so civilized, so energetic, or so money-making a race as that by which they are surrounded, they are an amiable, virtuous and a contented people, possessing all the essentials of material comfort, and not to be despised or ill-used because they seek to enjoy what they have without emulating the spirit of accumulation which influences their neighbors. Their nationality is, after all, an inheritance, and they must not be too severely punished because they have dreamed of maintaining, on the distant banks of the St. Lawrence, and transmitting to their posterity the language, the manners and the institutions of that great nation that, for two centuries, gave the tone of thought to the European continent. If the disputes of the two races are irreconcilable, it may be urged that justice demands that the minority should be compelled to acquiesce in the supremacy of the ancient and most numerous occupants of the province, and not pretend to force their own institutions and customs on the majority.
But before deciding which of the two races is now to be placed in the ascendant, it is but prudent to enquire which of them must ultimately prevail; for it is not wise to establish to-day that which must, after a hard struggle, be reversed tomorrow. The pretensions of the French-Canadians to the exclusive possession of Lower Canada would debar the yet larger English population of Upper Canada and the townships from access to the great natural channel of that trade which they alone have created and now carry on. The possession of the mouth of the St. Lawrence concerns not only those who happen to have made their settlements along the narrow line which borders it, but all who now dwell, or will hereafter dwell in the great basin of that river. For we must not look to the present alone. The question is, by what race is it likely that the wilderness which now covers the rich and ample regions surrounding the comparatively small and contracted districts in which the French-Canadians are located, is eventually to be converted into a settled and flourishing country?
If this is to be done in the British dominions as in the rest of North America, by some speedier process than the ordinary growth of population, it must be by immigration from the English Isles or from the United States–the countries which supply the only settlers that have entered, or will enter, the Canadas in any large numbers. This immigration can neither be debarred from a passage through Lower Canada, nor even be prevented from settling in that province. The whole interior of the British dominions must, ere long, be filled with an English population, every year rapidly increasing its numerical superiority over the French. Is it just that the prosperity of this great majority, and of this vast tract of country, should be forever, or even for a while, impeded by the artificial bar which the backward laws and civilization of a part, and a part only, of Lower Canada, would place between them and the ocean? Is it to be supposed that such an English population will ever submit to such a sacrifice of its interests?
The French-Canadians, on the other hand, are but the remains of an ancient colonization, and are and ever must be isolated in the midst of an Anglo-Saxon world.
And is this French-Canadian nationality one which, for the good merely of that people, we ought to strive to perpetuate, even if it were possible? I know of no national distinctions marking and continuing a more hopeless inferiority. The language, the laws, the character of the North American continent are English, and every race but the English (I apply this to all who speak the English language) appears there in a condition of inferiority. It is to elevate them from that inferiority. It is to elevate them from that inferiority that I desire to give to the Canadians our English character. There can hardly be conceived a nationality […]
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[…] more destitute of all that can invigorate and elevate a people than that which is exhibited by the descendants of the French in Lower Canada, owing to their retaining their peculiar language and manners. They are a people with no history and no literature. The literature of England is written in a language which is not theirs, and the only literature which their language renders familiar to them is that of a nation from which they have been separated by eighty years of a foreign rule, and still more by those changes which the revolution and its consequences have wrought in the whole political, moral and social state of France.
Well, Mr. Speaker, Sir Edmund Head, when he called us an inferior race, without our French-Canadian Ministers protesting in any way against this gross and foolish insult—drew his inspiration from the report from which I have just cited an extract, and which, from its first to its last page, breathes the most bitter hatred of all that bears the French name or stamp. A little further on Lord Durham continues as follows:—
In these circumstances I should be indeed surprised if the more reflecting part of the French-Canadians entertained at present any hope of continuing to preserve their nationality.
Probably, Mr. Speaker, Lord Durham was desirous of alluding to the members of the present Administration who to-day evince a disposition to sacrifice their nationality for the honors and titles which Lord Durham counselled the Imperial Government to bestow on those of our reflecting French-Canadians who would rot refuse to take the gilded bait which Great Britain might dangle before their eyes. I continue my citations:—
Lower Canada must be governed now, as it must be hereafter, by an English population; and thus the policy which the necessities of the moment force upon us, is in accordance with that suggested by a comprehensive view of the future and permanent improvement of the province.
A little further on Lord Durham proceeds as follows:—
It is proposed either to place the legislative authority in a governor, with a council formed of the heads of the British party, or to contrive some scheme of representation by which a minority, with the forms of representation, is to deprive a majority of all voice in the management of its own affairs.
The plan of Confederation now submitted for our adoption is exactly that dreamt of by Lord Durham. Our Ministers have copied it, so to speak, word for word. Lord Durham indicates all its essential points; and if I cite his report, it is with the view of proving that the real author of the Confederation, which it is sought to impose upon us, is, in fact, Lord Durham himself. (Hear, hear.) I quote again from his report:—
The only power that can be effectual at once in coercing the present disaffection and hereafter obliterating the nationality of the French-Canadians, is that of the numerical majority of loyal and English population; and the only stable government will be one more popular than any that has hitherto existed in the North American colonies. The influence of perfectly equal and popular institutions in effacing distinctions of race without disorder or oppression, and with little more than the ordinary animosities of party in a free country, is memorably exemplified in the history of the State of Louisiana, the laws and population of which were French at the time of its cession to the American union. And the eminent success of the policy adopted with regard to that state points out to us the means by which a similar result can be effected in Lower Canada.
Lord Durham was perfectly correct in suggesting the adoption of this policy. He did not wish to put his foot on our necks, but he advised that we should be made to disappear little by little under English influence, and when we should be weak enough to be no longer dangerous, then that we should have the coup de grace As in Louisiana, our nationality was to disappear under the influence of foreign elements.
Mr. Scoble—Will the hon. gentleman permit me to observe to him, that it is only justice to the memory of that great statesman to say, that he wrote his report having only in view a legislative union, and that circumstances have changed since that day? Now we are only discussing a Confederation, and consequently Lord Durham’s views do not apply to it.
Hon. Mr. Laframboise—I think that the plan conceived by Lord Durham was that of a legislative union and a Confederation of all the British North American Provinces. We are about to begin with Confederation, but we shall finish with a legislative union. Confederation, as has been well observed by that eminent statesman, is the first step to a legislative union. “Act with prudence,” he says in his famous report to the British Government; “we must not crush the French race too suddenly […]
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[…] in these colonies; they might resist and give trouble, but make use of diplomacy, lavish honors and titles on their leading men, and perhaps you will succeed.” I am convinced that we shall have a legislative union in a very few years if the plan of Confederation is adopted, and I am not the only one who says so, for the other night the hon. member for South Leeds [Mr. Ford Jones] stated in this House that in a short time we should have a legislative union and all its consequences. Well, Mr. Speaker, if we are threatened in this way, the hon. member for South Leeds ought not to be surprised that as a Lower Canadian I have something to say against the opinions expressed by Lord Durham in his report. I can perfectly understand that he could not possibly have the feelings of a Lower Canadian, and that he could not consequently feel as I can feel, the affront and the wrong which that statesman inflicted on my fellow-countrymen. (Hear, hear.) But neither, on the other hand, does he feel as I do that the plan of Confederation will bring the French-Canadian race to the social condition conceived and predicted by the noble lord whose report I have just cited.
That hon. member, as an Englishman and a Protestant, is in favor of a legislative union, in preference to any other system of government. He would behold with pleasure but one race—and that the British race—inhabiting these colonies of Great Britain. I do not blame him for these sentiments, which are perfectly justifiable when held by an Englishman; but, on the other hand, I am thoroughly convinced that he will not deem it a strange thing that a French-Canadian should entertain entirely different views on these points. (Hear, hear.) Thus, Mr. Speaker, that great statesman, Lord Durham, the rest dangerous enemy of French nationality, makes use of the following language in his famous report:—
If you are desirous of gaining over the political leaders of the Lower Canadians, act as follows:—Begin by giving them offices, titles and honors of very kind; flatter their vanity, give them a vast field in which to satisfy their ambition.
Lord Durham came into this country after the rebellion, and perceived that his predecessors in the government had been guilty of political errors which had alienated the French-Canadians from Great Britain, and he thought that he ought to leave behind him, to serve as a guide to his successors, that famous report in which he has collected together all the means that diplomacy could furnish him with, to crush out a nationality which he saw with regret living happily and contentedly on the soil of its birth, and from which it drew its sustenance. Lord Durham, like the hon. member for South Leeds [Mr. Ford Jones] would have preferred a legislative union of all the British Provinces to the union of the two Canadas; but the British Government considered it more prudent to begin with this partial union, knowing well that later it would easily find the means of accomplishing a legislative union. England reasoned in this way: if we give the English race time to develop itself, we can easily, at some future period, impose a legislative union on the French-Canadians.
Today the Canadian Government, accepting the views of Lord Durham, come down and ask us to take this first step towards annihilation by accepting Confederation, which they present to us in the most brilliant and tempting guise. (Hear, hear.) For want of argument, they say such things as these to excuse the culpable step which they are ready to take—”What is the use of resisting? We must have sooner or later the Confederation now proposed to you, and ultimately a legislative union?” Well, Mr. Speaker, I think, for my part, that we might easily escape this last danger to our nationality, if all the Catholics and French-Canadians in this House were to league themselves together to defeat the measure before us, which denies to the latter that legitimate influence which they ought to have in the Federal Government. Why not concede to us the guarantees and concessions which we have given to our fellow-countrymen of other origins?
The Lower Canadian Ministers, who have not insisted upon obtaining for us that protection, have rendered themselves highly culpable towards their fellow-countrymen. (Hear, hear.) Under the Federal union, Lower Canada can never have more than sixty-five members in the Federal Legislature, notwithstanding the explanations to the contrary made on this head by the Hon. Solicitor General East [Hon. Mr. Langevin]. All who have discussed the question in this House could not do otherwise than admit it. Well, not withstanding this injustice, and notwithstanding any increase that our population may attain under the Federal régime, our representation will always remain at the same figure, and we shall pay our share of the public debt in the ratio of the number of our population. […]
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[…] Well, Mr. Speaker, is there not injustice in this s provision? We have been told that we shall have the management of our public lands. I admit that this would be of great benefit to us, if we were in a position to assure those who might settle in our midst that they would have a voice in the councils of the nation. But no, Mr. Speaker; immigration to this country will always be impossible under the Confederation preparing for us, and it will be diverted towards the territories of Upper Canada, where the settlers can be represented in the Provincial Legislature, where the climate is more favorable and the soil more fertile. But from another point of view, can we consider advantageous to Lower Canada the possession and administration of its public domain under the circumstances in which we shall be placed by Confederation? Assuredly not, and for this reason: each province is to assume its public lands, with the debts due upon the lands.
On the public lands situated in Upper Canada, and which she is to assume, there is a debt of six millions of dollars due to the province, whilst on those in Lower Canada there is only a debt of one million, consequently Upper Canada will obtain from Lower Canada a claim for five millions of dollars in excess of that which she yields to Lower Canada. Here we have one of the few great advantages which have been pointed out to us since the beginning of the discussion; and I ask you, Mr. Speaker, whether it is advantageous to Lower Canada?
On the contrary, while highly advantageous to Upper Canada, it is grossly unjust to Lower Canada. Is it not evident that the Confederation is entirely for the benefit of Upper Canada? And is not a sufficient proof of it to be found in the fact that we find in this House but two or three members from that section of the province who are opposed to the scheme? If all the members from Upper Canada, to what party sever they may belong, unite to-day to support the scheme of the Government, it is because they perfectly under s tend that everything has been conceded to them, and that they have obtained all that they wished for—all (he concessions that they sought for, and for which they labored and struggled so energetically and so long. (Hear, hear.)
That is perfectly well understood. But if influences hostile to Lower Canada, which worked against us door in the preparation in England of the law respecting the change in the constitution of the Legislative Council, had not caused the removal from the Union Act of the clause requiring the assent of two-thirds of the members of the Legislature to effect a change in the basis of our representation—if those influences had not worked to remove that safeguard of our interests, Upper Canada would never have been so persistent in striving to obtain representation based on population. She would have seen the impossibility of obtaining it, and the in utility of asking for it, and would, in consequence, have abandoned it. But from the moment when that clause was removed from the Union Act, it was competent to the Legislature to enact a change in the Constitution by a mere majority; and it may consequently be said that through that influence which worked against us, Upper Canada now obtains representation based on population. (Hear, hear.)
The members from Upper Canada will observe that I do not maintain that the principle of representation based upon population is in itself an unjust principle; but I maintain that as they refused us the application of it when the population of Lower Canada was in a majority, it is unjust of them to demand it now because they are in a majority, and I cannot see by what right they wish to obtain it now. I say that if the application of that principle was unjust twenty years ago, it is also unjust to-day; and that if it is just to-day, it was equally just twenty years ago. (Hear, hear.)
A member considered it very extraordinary that the Rouge party—let us call it by that name, since it is the one by which the Liberal party is designated in this country, and we have no reason to take exception to it—since the Rouge party in Canada have washed away from that name all the stains with which the Rouge party in France had covered it, and that here the banner of that party is spotless—(Hear, hear.)–a member, I say, considered it extraordinary, and ridiculed the idea that the Rouge party should have constituted themselves the protectors and defenders of the religion, the nationality and the institutions of Lower Canada, during the discussion of the scheme of Confederation. But when we see at the head of the movement, hostile to that Confederation, a man like Mr. Cherrier of Montreal, who will certainly very favorably bear comparison with all the members of the Conservative party of Lower Canada in respect of devotion, honor, national feeling and ability—when we see, I repeat, a man […]
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[…] like Mr. Cherrier at the head of the movement hostile to Confederation, I say that it is wrong to cast ridicule on that movement, and to makea pretence of believing that the members of the Liberal party, or of the Rouge party, have no religious, national or patriotic feelings. I say that the Conservative party were greatly in the wrong in endeavoring to ridicule Mr. Cherrier, because he is a man who is too well known as a man of probity and of religious sentiments—and the same cannot be said of several of those who have attacked him; and I am convinced that that gentleman sincerely believes that the nationality, the institutions and the religion of Lower Canada are in danger. (Hear, hear.)
Besides, admitting, as the Ministerial party pretend, that the Rouge party were not authorized to speak for the clergy and to defend our religious and national rights, it does not follow that all that the members on this side of the House stated on this subject is not strictly true; and if it had been possible to reply to it, it would have been better to meet it by arguments of a serious character than by personal attacks, the latter means being only employed as a blind. And those who exclaim so loudly to-day against the Liberal parity, and who pretend to see in that party nothing but disloyalty and treason, did not always hold the monarchical and loyal ideas which they profess today; they were not always such ardent supporters of monarchical government as they are now. (Hear, hear.) Thus, all the world knows right well that the Hon. Attorney General for Lower Canada (Hon. Mr. Cartier) was at the head of the party which stirred up the troubles of 1837-38.
Mr. J.B.E. Dorion—No, no! He was at the tail of it! (Laughter.)
Hon. Mr. Laframboise—I do not know whether he was at the head or at the tail of it; but at any rate, he was in it He was at St. Denis a few minutes before the battle. (Laughter.) I do not know whether he remained there; but I know that it is reported that he was deputed by the rebel camp to go and fetch provisions, although they could not then have been in any great need of provisions, for the moment at least. (Laughter.) At any rate, he was in the rebel camp. But he has now corrected all his democratic errors; he has renounced all ideas of that nature, and has substituted monarchical ideas for them; he is now in favor of a great monarchical power on this continent, and would be prepared to accept the position of Royal Prince if it should be offered to him. (Hear, hear, and laughter.)
The Hon. Solicitor General for Lower Canada (Hon. Mr. Langevin) explained to us why he had so assumed monarchical ideas, when he told us that he would receive his reward. (Hear, hear.) After having assumed monarchical ideas, he is ready to assume their livery. (Hear.) But why should he be rewarded, as the Hon. Solicitor General [Hon. Mr. Langevin] has said he will be? He will be so, that gentleman says, because the Hon. Attorney General [Hon. Mr. Cartier] brought about the passing of a measure for the abolition of the seigniorial tenure—because the censitaires and the seignior? Brought their title-deeds to him, and he returned them a measure which was satisfactory both to the seigniors and to the censitaires. Now, I am really surprised that the Hon. Solicitor General [Hon. Mr. Langevin], who, in the position which he occupies, ought to be acquainted with the history of the laws of this country, is not aware that it was the Honorable Mr. Justice Drummond who prepared and brought about the passing of the law for the abolition of the seigniorial tenure, and not the Hon. Attorney General for Lower Canada [Hon. Mr. Cartier] at all. (Hear, hear.)
That is, therefore, no reason why he should deserve a reward. The Hon. Solicitor General [Hon. Mr. Langevin] also said that the Hon. Attorney General [Hon. Mr. Cartier] was entitled to the gratitude of his country, because he had brought about the passing of the law for judiciary decentralisation, and had thereby conduced to the interests of suitors, advocates, judges, and everyone in general. The Honorable Solicitor General [Hon. Mr. Langevin] is free to admire the laws of his chief, the Hon. Attorney General [Hon. Mr. Cartier]; but I may say, that if ever an Attorney General [Hon. Mr. Cartier] made crude, incomprehensible and impracticable laws, it was undoubtedly the present Hon. Attorney General for Lower Canada [Hon. Mr. Cartier]. He has never been able to make a single law which it has not been absolutely necessary to amend and touch up every session, and the worst in this respect is his judicature law. “But,” says the Hon. Solicitor General [Hon. Mr. Langevin], “he has passed a registration law.”
Well, his registration law contains similar defects, and proves his complete inability to prepare a passable law. And to so great a degree is this the case, that it has been impossible to put it in practice, and it has been necessary to amend it during five consecutive sessions, without that course having very greatly improved it. (Hear, hear.) Those two laws, then, do not entitle him to […]
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[…] a reward. The Hon. Solicitor General [Hon. Mr. Langevin] also says that the Hon. Attorney General [Hon. Mr. Cartier] deserves a reward for having introduced the French law of Lower Canada into the townships. But here again he awards him praise and reward which are not his due, for it was Hon. Judge Loranger who made that law, and had it passed and enacted by the House. For this law, then, also he is not deserving of reward. (Hear.) These are the three reasons for which the Hon. Solicitor General [Hon. Mr. Langevin] says that the Hon. Attorney General [Hon. Mr. Cartier] is entitled to a reward; but I consider that he hardly deserves any, as it was not he who brought about the passing of the first and the last of those laws, and the other two are so ill-made that he deserves anything but a reward bird having conferred them upon the country. (Hear, hear.)
Yet I must say that he deserves a reward, but from whom, and why? Ah! he deserves a reward from England for having done exactly what Lord Durham advised the doing of in relation to the Canadians, in his famous report on the means to be taken to cause us to disappear; he deserves a reward for having caused the setting aside of the French laws and the substitution for them of English laws; he deserves a reward for having done the will of England in every respect; and, lastly, he deserves a reward for having devised the present scheme of Confederation, and caused it to be accepted by a majority of this House. (Hear, hear.) While on this subject, and to show how he has deserved and received rewards, it will be well to read a passage from Lord Durham’s report, in which he points out the means to be adopted to corrupt the leaders and to get the mastery to the Lower Canadian people.
The following is the passage to which I allude:—
While I believe that the establishment of a comprehensive system of government, and of an effectual union between the different provinces, would produce this important effect on the general feelings of its inhabitants, I am inclined to attach very great importance to the influence which it would have in giving greater scope and satisfaction to the legit mate ambition of the most active and prominent persons to be found in them. As long as personal ambition is inherent in human nature, and as long as the morality of every free and civilized community encourages its aspirations, it is one great business of a wise government to provide for its legitimate development.
If, as is commonly asserted, the disorders of these colonies have, in great measure, been fomented by the influence of designing and ambitious individuals, this evil will be best remedied by allowing such a scope for the desires of such men as shall direct their ambition into the legitimate chance of furthering, and not of thwarting their government. By creating high prizes in a general and responsible government, we shall immediately afford the means of pacifying the turbulent ambitions, and of employing in worthy and noble occupations the talents which are now only exerted to foment disorder.
Lord Durham well knew what he was about when he recommended the bestowal of places and honors on the ambitious individuals who made a disturbance, and the Hon. Attorney General for Lower Canada [Hon. Mr. Cartier] made a great disturbance and stir in 1836 and 1837; he was present at the meeting of the five counties, when he donned the cap of liberty. (Hear, hear.) Lord Durham says, “Give places to the principal men, and you will see how they will sacrifice their countrymen and submit to England.” And indeed it is that course which has met with the greatest success; and it has been seen that all those who impeded the movement in Lower Canada against the union, and all those who exclaimed, “Hold your tongues; the union has saved us!” have been rewarded. Some have been knighted; on others, honors, places and power have been conferred; and the Hon. Attorney General for Lower Canada [Hon. Mr. Cartier] will receive his reward, as they did, and will be made a baronet, if he can succeed in carrying his measure of Confederation—a measure which England so ardently desires. (Hear, hear.) For my part, I do not envy him his reward; but I cannot witness with satisfaction the efforts he makes to obtain it by means of a measure of Confederation which I believe to be fatal to the interests of Lower Canada. I am determined, therefore, to do everything in my power to prevent the realization of his hopes. (Cheers.)
Mr. J.B.E. Dorion—before I proceed to examine the question which engages our attention, Mr. Speaker, I wish to premise that in any expression of my sentiments, I speak on behalf of no political party, but for myself only. In discussing a proposition which so intimately affects the destiny of Canada, and all that we value most, I would rise above personal and party considerations, in order that I may look at it from a vantage point removed from party influences. Why, Mr. Speaker, are we engaged this evening in discussing a Confederation of the Provinces of British North America? Because we had, last year, a Ministerial crisis, from which arose a proposal for the union of the two political parties who divided public opinion. […]
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[…] The Macdonald-Taché Ministry, who represented the Conservative party in the country, had just been defeated in the Legislative Assembly; they were obliged to resign. It will be recollected that the Government were beaten on a question of mal-administration of the public business. I allude to the advance of $100,000 made to the Grand Trunk Railway without authority of Parliament, for which act several members of the Cabinet were responsible. Could you inform me, Mr. Speaker, what has become of the $100,000 question? Alas! It disappeared in the Ministerial crisis, and left us the extraordinary Coalition which now governs us, composed of men who for ten years treated each other as men devoid of political principle! (Hear, hear.)
The Conservative party clung so tenaciously to power, that they were not appalled by the position to which they had brought the country. Any union or coalition between two political parties, of opposite principles, proves an abandonment of principle by one or the other. All coalitions are vicious in their very foundation: they have always been hold as proofs of political profligacy, in England as everywhere else; and they are the more dangerous that they are generally strong. To the present Coalition we are indebted for the scheme of the Confederation of the British Provinces in a tangible form. Had that Coalition never been formed, we should never have heard of the Quebec Conference, nor of the resolutions adopted at that meeting in October last, and now submitted to our consideration. Now, who authorised the holding of that Conference?
What right had that body to arrogate to itself the power of proposing a radical change in our political condition? How was Canada represented there? Three-fourths of the Canadian delegates were men under the ban of parliamentary condemnation. How the voting was carried on at that Convention? Was it not by provinces? Have not the four little provinces below had twice as many votes on each question as the two large provinces of Canada? These questions all occur naturally. If to each of them a categorical answer were rendered, we should be able to throw some light on the way in which the interests of the country have been neglected, overridden, and sacrificed. If we only think that to the last question no other answer could be rendered than an affirmative, there is no room for wonder that the Lower Provinces had all the advantage in the arrangements concluded at the Conference. Notwithstanding that the compromise was in their favor, the great number of the provinces concerned now repudiate its provisions, according to information which reaches us every day.
They seem to be afraid of us; and notwithstanding the offers of money made to them, they will have nothing to do with a union. Our reputation for extravagance must be very bad to frighten them to that degree; and, no doubt, when they saw us spend in the course of a month or two, for receptions, in traveling and in feasting, sums equalling in amount the whole of revenue of Prince Edward Island, they must have gone back with a sorry idea of our way of managing public business. (Hear, hear,) I do not mean to repeat what has been said during the debate; but before proceeding, I may be allowed to draw a contrast between our manner of acting and that of our neighbors in the United States when constitutional changes are in question. In the United States—that country which people take so much pains to represent as the hotbed of all political, social, moral and physical horrors—they do not play with the written constitutions of the several states, any more than with that of the American union.
There, whenever a constitution is to be amended, generally, it requires a vote of two-thirds of each of the two Houses. If it is the Constitution of the United States which is to be amended, the measure must also be sanctioned by a majority in each of the legislatures of the several states. If the amendment relates to a local constitution, besides a two-thirds vote of the two Houses, the amendment must be ratified by a convention of delegates from the different parties in the state, selected specially for the occasion. The United States are now occupied with the consideration of an amendment of their Constitution, the object of which is the abolition of slavery. The amendment has been adopted by the Congress and by the Senate of the American union, and must be ratified by a majority of the local legislatures, before it forms a part of the Constitution.
It will even be necessary to take into the account the states which are now in rebellion. We see at once the guarantees they are provided with, that no radical change shall be adopted without the consent of the people, who are allowed sufficient time to weigh all the considerations which may operate in favor of any projected change. This is the method of proceeding among our sagacious neighbors in matters of importance; and, as a thing of course, they have established a political status which leaves far behind it all that human […]
- (p. 858)
[…] wisdom had previously devised to secure the peace and prosperity of the nations of the New World. But in our dear Canada, with all the English precedents of which so much account is made, we do not require such precautions. It is quite enough that men should have been found guilty of misapplication of the public money, that they shall have abused each other as political robbers for ten years, to bring about a coalition of the combatants, to make them hug each other till all feeling of personal dignity is lost, and all regard for principle is forgotten. It is enough, I say, that we have a scandalous union—a state of political profligacy—like that perpetrated in 1864, to believe in our right to do what we please. (Hear, hear.) With a majority of thirty or forty votes, we hesitate at nothing. The Constitution, which hampers the curveting and printings of our leading chiefs too much, and rather curbs their personal ambition—which circumscribes in short the range of their speculative operations, is found to be inconvenient. It is assailed with relentless blows; it is to be thrown down without asking the leave of those most concerned; and in its place is to be set up a new order of things under which there is to be no more regard for political principles than for the rights and wants of the people.
A simple parliamentary majority of one will be sufficient with us to overthrow the entire political order of things, and we have no appeal from so important a decision, save an appeal to an authority three thousand miles off, which may add something to the scheme to make it less acceptable to us than it already is. (Hear, hear.) The people may hereafter condemn their representatives, but the mischief will be done! This is all the consolation we shall have. Is not the contrast between our stupid method of dainty things, and the prudent rational proceeding of our neighbors, a very striking one? And truly they are our superiors in all political respects.
Now, let me justify my opposition to the projected change. I am opposed to the scheme of Confederation, because the first resolution is nonsense and repugnant to truth; it is not a Federal union which is offered to us, but a Legislative union in disguise. Federalism is completely eliminated from this scheme, which centimes everything in the General Government. Federalism means the union of certain states, which retain their full sovereignty in everything that immediately concerns them, but submitting to the General Government questions of peace, of war, of foreign relations, foreign trade, customs and postal service.
Is that what is proposed to us? Not at all. In the scheme we are now examining, all is strength and power, in the Federal Government; all is weakness, insignificance, annihilation in the Local Government! I am opposed to the scheme of Confederation, because, far from removing the difficulties complained of between Upper Canada and Lower Canada, it must, if adopted, simply multiply them tenfold. There will be a constant conflict of authorities, particularly as to questions submitted to the double action of the local and general legislatures. I am opposed to the scheme of Confederation, because the Constitution in which it is to be embodied will be faulty in its very basis. We are told that the representation is to be based upon population in one House, and that the principle of equality is to prevail in the other; and to-day that principle is violated as regards Newfoundland, as it will be, no doubt, to morrow in favor of British Columbia and Vancouver Island, should those colonies think proper to enter into our proposed Confederation.
What is to prevent the smaller provinces forming a league together, and thus getting the upper hand of the larger but less numerous provinces, on purely local questions? That is one of the great defects of the Ministerial scheme, in my opinion. But, moreover, the autonomy of Lower Canada is menaced and placed at the mercy of a parliament of one hundred and ninety-four members, of whom forty-seven, or at most forty-eight only, will represent the views of the majority of its people. I am opposed to the scheme of Confederation, because it takes away from the people of this country political rights which they have won by many years of struggles; among others that of electing its representatives in the Legislative Council, as it does its representatives in the Assembly. Since 1856, we have enjoyed an elective Council. For more than half a century that reform had been asked for. Our claims were urged in the press, in public meetings, in petitions to Parliament and to the home Government, and in the form of direct motions in the House.
The Legislative Council, as constituted previous to the Act of 1856, had become highly unpopular; it had also fallen into a state of utter insignificance. By infusing into it the popular element by means of periodical elections, it was galvanised auto life and became quite another body in the estimation of the people. The electoral system completely restored its prestige, entitled it to […]
- (p. 859)
[…] the respect of the people, and gave it an importance it did not previously possess. Since the Council has been made elective, not a single complaint has appeared against its new constitution, in the press, or in the form of public meetings, petitions or motions in the House. Has it produced any evil effects in the administration of the affairs of the country? Has the Government suffered from it? Has the Mother Country found any bad results from it? Has the country been the worse for it? And in what respect? Answer, you who desire to deprive the people of the right to elect that House, though they have not asked you to do so, and though you yourselves hold your seats by their will?
The elective Legislative Council represents better the character, the wants and the aspirations of our Canadian society, than the Council appointed for life ever did. With regard to the talent of the country, it has represented it as well as it was represented under the old system. With regard to its moderation and its conservative spirit, experience has shown that it possessed these two qualities to a degree surpassing the expectation of all parties. I do not hesitate, therefore, to say that the change was a change for the better in every respect; that it satisfied and tranquillized public opinion, and that it secured to the country a more direct control over public affairs. Lower Canada has tested both systems of nomination, that by the Crown anal that by the people, and it does not ask to return to the former. We had a life-nominated Council for half a century in Canada.
Everyone knows that the acts of that very Council drove the people of Lower Canada into rebellion in 1837! One of the great arguments advanced in support of the proposed scheme is that the electoral divisions are very extensive, and that the rich alone, by means of their wealth, can attain a seat in that House. It costs so much now-a-days, it is said, to carry an election! If that argument were of any value as regards the Legislative Council, it should have equal weight as regards the House of Assembly.
To be consistent, you you should have asked also for the appointment of the métiers of the Assembly, in place of having them elected by the people! But that is not the true reason. And besides, let those who do not wish to spend money remain at home, if the people refuse to elect them without being paid. Let corruption cease; adopt vote by ballot, which will destroy corruption, and there will be no need of inventing imaginary grievances in order to restrict the liberties of the people. This Tory scheme will throw us back fifty years. It is nothing else than a plot! (Hear, hear.) I am opposed to this scheme of Confederation, because we are offered local parliaments which will be simply nonentities, with a mere semblance of power on questions of minor importance. When we shall have seen the Local Parliament in operation with its restricted powers (restricted except as regards expenditure, extravagance, and the power of taxing real property), it will soon be found, as it is in fact destined to become, a mere taxing machine. Nothing more, nothing less!
The expenditure of Lower Canada for justice, education, asylums, hospitals, courts, prisons, interest on the debt, &c, &c, added to the expense of a Local Government and Parliament, will exceed $2,000,000. The revenue will fall far short of that amount. Direct taxation would be a necessary consequence of the establishment of the new system, without any compensation for the fresh burthen which the people must bear. I have said enough to show the difference between the American federal system and that proposed for our adoption.
In the American union each state is sovereign over all that immediately concerns it. Here, everything would be submitted to the General Parliament. Lower Canada is opposed to free trade in money, and desires to limit the rate of interest; and yet this she could not do, inasmuch as that very ordinary question would be under the control of the General Parliament. Whether the principle be a sound one or not, it is admitted that nine-tenths of our people desire that the rate of interest should be fixed. Each state of the American union regulates questions of this kind as it chooses, without the intervention of neighboring states, or of the Washington Government.
Thus, the rate of interest varies in a great many of the states, and in others it is not fixed. In Vermont the rate is six per cent.; in New York, seven per cent.; in Ohio, and ten per cent.; in Illinois, thirty per cent.; and in the other states, trade in money is free. These are facts which prove that the real Federal system resembles in no sense that which we are asked to adopt. (Hear, hear.) I might give a host of facts of this kind in support of my position; but I shall confine myself to one. It is well known that the people of Lower Canada are almost unanimous in repudiating the principle of divorce. Nevertheless, under Confederation the Parliament of Lower Canada is not to have the right of regulating […]
- (p. 860)
[…] that question according to its wishes; but the Federal Parliament, sitting at Ottawa, will be empowered to force upon us principles utterly opposed to our own, and even to establish a Court of Divorce at Quebec. Under the Federal system, nothing so unjust, nothing so revolting to the feelings of the people could occur. In the American union there are some states in which divorce is permitted, and others in which it is not—another proof that sovereignty may be vested in each state, without detriment to the union. (Hear, hear.) I am opposed to the scheme of Confederation, because the courts of justice of Lower Canada will be under the control of the General Government.
We should have courts of justice in Lower Canada, but the judges who would sit in them would be appointed by the Government of the Confederation. It would be the same in the other provinces; but Lower Canada, with her laws, which are peculiar to her, ought especially to resist the interference of the General Government in the administration of justice. It will be said that the Conference endeavored to cause their intentions to be suspected, and it has already been urged that this arrangement is a stroke of the lawyers, who would prefer to see the nomination of the judges vested in the General Government, because they would receive higher salaries, rather than see them appointed by the local governments, who would be obliged to have recourse to direct taxation in order to pay their salaries. But setting aside this idea, I assert that the appointment of the judges in each province by the General Government appears to me an uncalled-for interference, an anomaly which cannot be too strongly opposed. (Hear, hear.)
I am opposed to the scheme of Confederation, because the local governors would only be tools in the hands of the General Government, who would interfere in the local matters by the continual pressure they would bring to bear on them whenever they desired to change the opinions of the local parliaments, elected by the people in each province, on any question which they might have to discuss. Why have the local governments, with the insignificant powers which it is proposed to confer upon them—why, I say, have they not been allowed to elect their respective governors? Would there be any more harm in this than results from the elections of mayors in our large towns? There was once a time when even the wardens were appointed by the Government. Has the election of mayors and wardens been productive of evil or discontent throughout the country? I am opposed to the scheme of Confederation, because by means of the right of veto vested in the Governor by the 51st resolution, local legislation will be nothing but a farce.
They may try to make us believe that this power would be but rarely exercised, and that it differs in nowise from that exercised by the present Governor when he reserves bills for the Royal assent; but all the country knows that it would not be so. From the moment that you bring the exercise of the right of veto more nearly within the reach of interested parties, you increase the number of opportunities for the exercise of the right—you open the door to intrigues. As, for instance, a party will oppose the passing of a law, and not succeeding in his opposition in Parliament, he will approach the Ministers and the Governor General, intriguing to obtain as a favor that the law may be disallowed. Take an example. I suppose your Confederation to be established; that a bill is passed for the protection of settlers, such as we have seen pass the House six times in ten years without becoming law, on account of the opposition to it in the Legislative Council by the councillors from Upper Canada; what would happen?
The few interested parties who were opposed to the measure would rush to the Governor General to induce him to disallow the law. By an appeal to the right of property, to the respect due to acquired rights, and to other sophistries, they would override the will of the people on a measure which is just in itself, and which is sought for and approved of by all legal men of Lower Canada in the present House. The people of Lower Canada will be prevented from obtaining a law similar to those now existing in thirteen different states of the American union, and which would in no way affect the principles of the existing law in Lower Canada. (Hear, hear.)
This is one instance out of a thousand, and will serve to illustrate the effect of this right of veto. I am opposed to the scheme of Confederation, because I cannot see why, on the one hand, it has been agreed to give all the public lands to the Government of each province, and on the other hand that the Government should purchase the lauds in the Island of Newfoundland. The General Government gives up the fertile lands of Upper and Lower Canada, but it purchases the barren lands of Newfoundland at the enormous price of $150,000 per annum, a sum representing a capital of $2,500,000. Is not this a grand […]
- (p. 861)
[…] speculation for the country? The Government at Ottawa will not possess a single inch of land in Canada, New Brunswick or Nova Scotia, but they will have a Land Department for the management of their superb possessions in Newfoundland? Is it imagined that if the public lands of that island had been of any value, they would have been given up to the General Government for any amount? No, the fact is that these lands are utterly useless for cultivation, that the whole island does not produce hay enough for the town of St. Johns, and that every year large quantities of it are imported. I know a farmer in Three Rivers who has sent cargoes of hay to Newfoundland, and who is now only waiting for the navigation to open to send more—and these are the lands which it is proposed to buy for a fabulous price, in order to induce that province to come into the Confederation. (Hear.)
But there is also another matter for consideration with respect to this arrangement regarding the public lands. I am of opinion that it is more advantageous to the progress of colonization of our wild lands that they should remain in the hands of the present Government, rather than come into the possession of a local government, which might, perhaps, be obliged to maintain itself by direct taxation; for in that case the very uttermost farthing due on these lands will have to be collected. In a country like Lower Canada, with its rigorous climate, colonization must be aided and encouraged if reasonable progress is demanded. In that view the Government have made free grants, and have remitted many claims for interest on the public lands.
Had they not done so, the population in certain sections would have been forced to leave the country. Remissions and free grants will disappear with the appearance of direct taxation. I am opposed to the scheme of Confederation, because it is most unjustly proposed to enrich the Lower Provinces with annuities and donations, to persuade and induce them to enter into a union which will be injurious to all the contracting parties. I am opposed to the scheme of Confederation, because the division of the public debts of the several provinces has been made in an unjust way, and because no portion of these debts ought to have been imposed on the local governments, which, in the event of the union, ought to have begun anew without being burthened with debt.
I am opposed to the Confederation, because I foresee difficulties without number in relation to the concurrent powers on several points conferred on the general and local governments, Collisions on these points will always be settled in favor of the stronger party, to the advantage of the General Government, and to the detriment of the often just claims of the different provinces. I am opposed to Confederation, because the premium offered to New Brunswick is of a most extraordinary character. It has been agreed to pay her $63,000 per annum for ten years. The sum to pay this will have to be borrowed every year. Interest will have to be paid upon it, so that at the expiration of ten years the Confederation will have paid to New Brunswick:
|Interest on capital||105,000.00|
And what will it have received in exchange? Nothing whatever! For the sum agreed to be paid to Newfoundland there is at least a semblance of direct compensation in the cession which it makes of its barren lands. But in the case of New Brunswick, there is nothing to be got from her for these $735,000, on which interest will have to be paid long after the ten years have expired. (Hear, hear.) And that is not all; we are to pay interest to New Brunswick, at the rate of five per cent., on $1,250,000, for the difference between her debt and that of Canada in proportion to their respective populations. (Hear, hear.)
I am opposed to the scheme of Confederation, because it has been agreed to construct the Halifax Railway without a notion of what it will cost, and at a time when we have already as much to pay as our resources can bear, without plunging into ruinous and unproductive enterprises of this kind. There is no exaggeration in the statement that at least $20,000,000 will be required for the execution of that enterprise. Of what use will it be? Doubly useless in a military and in a commercial point of view. We are not in a position to undertake it for the mere pleasure of having a road which will place us in direct communication with the sea over English territory. What would the Intercolonial Railway be worth in a commercial point of view? In summer we have the St. Lawrence, which affords means of communication much more economical in their nature than any railway.
In winter, without taking into account the difficulties caused by the vast quantity of snow which falls between Quebec and Halifax, is it supposed that there will be many travellers who will adopt that route, six hundred miles in length, to reach the seaboard at […]
- (p. 862)
[…] Halifax, when they may reach Portland by a railway not more than one-third as long as the proposed road? Does any suppose that a person having flour to export will send it to Halifax, when he can despatch it by Portland? There is no sentiment in trade; it takes the road which it finds to be the shortest and the most profitable, and all your Confederation will not change this immutable law of trade in all countries. (Hear, hear.) But, it is said, this road will be of great use in time of war as a military route. Have those who talk in this way ever thought of the trifling distance that separates that road from American territory in certain places? Have they ever thought how easy it would be, in a single night, to destroy enough of it to make it unserviceable for months together? Have they ever thought how many soldiers would be required to protect it and keep it in operation? The experience of the present American war teaches us that to keep a railway in operation, nearly as many soldiers are required as there are lineal feet to protect. (Hear, hear.)
I am opposed to the scheme of Confederation, because it is proposed to ensure, to guarantee the fulfilment of all engagements which shall have been entered into with the Imperial Government by all the piovinces up to the time of union on the subject of the defence of the couutiy, without the nature and extent of those engagements being known. There is perhaps no question in all the resolutions of the Conference of higher importance than this. Yet it is wished to make us ratify all these engagements with, our eyes shut. What do we know about the engagements which the Governments of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Prince Edward Island may have entered into on the subject of their respective defences? What do we know even of the engagements entered into by our own Government with the English Government in relation to the same question?
Nothing; we can know nothing of them. We are told that the correspondence on the subject of the defences cannot be submitted to Parliament under existing circumstances. Why then should we blindly vote on questions of such grave importance? I am opposed to Confederation, because it is wished to make us enter into a financial arrangement which it is frightful to consider, and one which is most diametrically opposed to the interests of Canada. Let us see what is proposed in this respect. The Confederation would have us to pay—
|For land in the Island of Newfoundland||$ 2,500,000|
|Indemnity to New Brunswick||735,840|
|For the Halifax Railway||20,000,000|
|Difference in the debt of the provinces:|
|Prince Edward Island||1,840,000|
|For fortifications in the six provinces||25,000,000|
|For the North-West road||5,000,000|
|For military expenditure||5,000,000|
|Add the public debt of Canada||873,000,000|
|Other unliquidated liabilities of Canada||5,000,000|
|Debt of Nova Scotia||8,000,000|
|Debt of New Brunswick||7,000,000|
|Debt of Prince Edward Island||244,673|
|Debt of Newfoundland||946,000|
Here we have a pretty balance-sheet, not one item of which is exaggerated, and which is offered to us by Confederation. All this is exclusive of the enormous expense of the general and local governments. Some of the sums just mentioned will not be payable at once, but nearly all of them will be so before five years have elapsed; sums as considerable will be payable at once, it may be said, if we enter in the account the expenses of the Confederation and its unforeseen enterprises. At the last census, all the provinces only contained 3,294,056 souls. Supposing them to contain 3,500,000 at the time of the union, the debt, with the foregoing liabilities, would amount to $45 for each man, woman and child, and of that debt we should have to pay the interest. (Hear, hear.)
I am opposed to Confederation, because I cannot see the use or the necessity of it in a commercial point of view. Countries yielding different products may gain considerably by uniting. What do the Lower Colonies produce? Do they not live in a climate similar to ours? Do they not produce similar grain to that grown in Canada? What trade could there be between two farmers who produced nothing but oats? Neither one nor the other would want for them. They might stand and stare at each other with their oats before them, without ever being able to trade together; they would require a third person—a purchaser. In such a position are we with regard to the adjacent […]
- (p. 863)
[…] colonies. Should we go for ice to the Lower Colonies? I think there is enough of it in Canada, especially at Quebec, and will be so long as sufficient spirit of enterprise is not displayed to export it to hot climates. They talk to us of fish—but those we have in our own waters—and of coal as a very great affair.
Mr. T.C. Wallbridge—The Lower Provinces have reserved the right of placing an export duty on their coal.
Mr. J.B.E. Dorion—My honorable friend reminds me that we shall not be able to obtain coal from the provinces which will form part of the Confederation, without paying them a tax. Is not that admirable? We are to constitute a single people, a single country, but there will be taxes to pay for trading with each other in certain articles. (Hear, hear.) I should understand the commercial advantages which we should gain if the English Provinces were situated in different climates, yielding every kind of produce, which should be freely exchanged. That which built up the commercial prosperity of the United States is their geographical position—their immense territory, in which is to be found every climate imaginable, from the north producing ice, to the south producing the most delicious fruits. An inhabitant of Maine may load a vessel with ice, proceed to New Orleans and barter his cargo of ice for rice, sugar, tobacco, &c, with which he may return home without paying a single farthing of customs duties.
It is this free and continual exchange of their various products from Maine to California which has placed the United States in the first rank of commercial nations in so short a time. (Hear, hear.) Let us not, therefore, be lulled with fancies of the great commercial advantages we shall derive from a Confederation of the provinces. We have wood, they produce it; we produce potash, and so do they. All that they would require would be a little flour, and that Upper Canada can supply to them now without paying any tax for doing so.
Again, our trade with them cannot be very considerable, because there are natural obstacles in the way to prevent its being so. Situated in the same degree as ourselves in respect of climate, they produce what we produce, and what we want they want—a foreign market wherein to dispose of their surplus products. Besides, the commercial advantages may all be obtained by a mere commercial union, apart from a political union. England concluded a commercial treaty with the United States, by means of which we trade freely with them in all products of the soil and of the fisheries. What objection could there be to the establishment of a system of free trade between the colonies, which are all subject to the same authority? They would then enjoy all the advantages that could result, without entering into a political union, the depths of which we are not able to fathom. (Hear, hear.)
I am opposed to Confederation, because instead of giving us strength to defend ourselves, it will prove to be a source of incalculable weakness. How can it be believed that by adding 700 miles to our long frontier, we shall strengthen ourselves against the enemy, when the territory to be added does not yet cmtain inhabitants enough to defend it? Is it supposed that if we had a war with the Americans, they would not attack the English Provinces at all points? They would attack Newfoundland, Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, as well as the two Canadas. A country without depth, like that which it is proposed to form here, has not its like under the sun. It would be vulnerable at all points along its frontier of 1,600 to 1,800 miles. In geographical form it would resemble an eel. Its length would be everything, its breath nothing. Nothing would be easier than to cut it into little pieces, and none of the parts so sliced off could send help to the others. The more of such country as the provinces which it is wished to unite to us that we have, the weaker shall we be, and the greater will be our difficulties in relation to military defend. (Hear, hear.)
I am opposed to the scheme of Confederation, because I consider that it is the result of a conspiracy against popular rights in Canada, and that the hope is to impel the people into a course fatal to their real interests, by causing to shine before their eyes all sorts of wonders which would be accomplished in the end to the prosperity of the country, if that country would only accept the new form of Government which it is proposed to force upon it. (Hear.)
I am opposed to the scheme of Confederation, because it is proposed to perpetuate, on a still greater scale, a state of things which is not suitable to the populations of America when they attain to years to discretion—a state of things which evidently was not intended for a country in which there are no castes, no privileged classes and no hereditary aristocracy—in which all are equal, socially and politically, by force of circumstances. I am opposed to the scheme of Confederation, because I am desirous that we should be as untrammelled as possible in […]
- (p. 864)
[…] the selection of the future form of Government for Canada, when we shall emerge from the colonial condition. I am free to admit that I do not participate in the illusions of certain persons in respect to the magnificent destinies of the empire to be founded by us in North America, and that I am far from believing that it would be to our advantage. I am opposed to the scheme of Confederation, because I deny that this House has power to change the political constitution of the country, as it is now proposed to do, without appealing to the people and obtaining their views on a matter of such importance. These are the principal reasons which induce me to oppose the scheme brought down by the Government. But these are not all; I have yet many other considerations to urge.
The gate of the future destinies of the country was opened when this scheme was laid before us, and I too am desirous of peent rating within its portals. I have said that the new organization which it is wished to establish here decks not suit either our resources or our wants. It would appear that we cannot attain in Canada a reasonable limit as regards the administration of public affairs. Our system is not found to be extravagant enough, and it is wished to substitute for it one still more costly. Our neighbors have established an economical political system, which is much more advantageous to them than ours would be to any country.
We pay here much more than is paid in the United States, although that people is infinitely richer than we are. If we prepare a list of the salaries paid to the governors of the states in the union, with a view of comparing it with the list of salaries which we pay here to our principal public employees, we shall be surprised at the difference which will be found to exist to our disadvantage. Here is a table of the salaries of the governors, together with the population of each state:—
There are also ton other states which were in rebellion at the beginning of the year 1864, the date of the table which I have given. It will be seen that Vermont pays only $1,000 a year to an elective governor. That is less than we pay here to the mayors of our great cities. The State of New York, which is by itself more rich and populous than the whole of Canada, only pays $4,000 a year to her Governor. I will not compare this salary with that of our Governor, amounting to $32,000; but by comparing it with that of our judges of the second-class, it will be found Thai the latter receive higher salaries than the Governor of the State of New York. (Hear, hear.)
The State of Ohio, richer and more populous than Canada, only pays $1,800 to her Governor. If the salaries are comparatively small in the United States, it is because it was understood there that good administration of public affairs might be obtained by the practice of a wise economy, without that display of luxury which is ruining us here. Another comparison, on a smaller scale, might be made between the State of New York and Canada, in respect of another matter. It is this:—The State of New York possesses magnificent canals, which cost her an enormous price; but the revenue produced by them has paid their cost, whilst here our canals, which also cost us very dear, do not even pay the interest of the debt which was contracted for their construction, and that is a point of difference by no means of small magnitude.
The State of New York contracted a further debt for the enlargement of her canals after the revenue produced by them had paid off that which had been contracted for their construction; and the revenue which they yield is sufficient not only to pay the interest of that debt, but also to create a sinking fund which will allow of its liquidation in five years from the present day. Last year the State of […]
- (p. 865)
[…] New York received from her canals the sum of $5,118,501.35; the expenses of management amounted to $111,503.78, and those of repairs to $659,378.74, forming a total of $770,882.52, which left a net revenue of $4,347,618 83, after paying all expenses of management and costs of maintenance. (Hear, hear.) Do you know what was done with that surplus? It was applied as follows:—
|Sinking||Fund under||1||Art. 1||$1,700,000|
|To the Treasury towards paying
the expenses of the state
Leaving a balance of $981,376.17 after having met all engagements in relation to the Sinking Fund, and paid a sum of $200,000 towards the cost of the government of the state. Here, when a school or sinking fund is created, it is expended, or borrowing has to be had recourse to in order to meet it. Let us then compare the management of our canals with that of the canals of New York. Here the tolls on certain of our canals are abolished with the view of favoring trade, instead of a reasonable revenue being levied from those great works! (Hear, hear.) The total debt of the State of New York on the 30th September, 1863, was as follows:—
|Consolidated debt||$6,505,654 37|
|Canal debt||23,268,310 25|
|Total recorded||$29,773,964 62|
In the course of the same year, $3,116,242 was paid into the sinking fund, and there remained still five and a half millions in hand produced by the canals, so that in less than ten years the canal debt and the special debt of the state will be entirely paid off. Shall we be able to say as much of our own debt in ten years time? (Hear, hear.) I repeat then, that the financial system of our neighbours is greatly superior to ours, and that they pay reasonable salaries to their public officers, while such payments here are on an extravagant scale. If I speak of all this, it is because I am opposed to the scheme, and because it is wished to establish a monarchy, a new kingdom on this continent, and because a desire is manifested to have a court, a nobility, a viceroy, tinsel, and so on I am alarmed at the position in which it is wished to place us, for from extravagance it is proposed, with all these absurd and ridiculous schemes, to pass to folly. (Hear, hear.)
The commercial crisis through which we passed in 1846, when England repealed the import duty on foreign grain brought to her markets, will be remembered. Before that period our grain and other produce were protected on the English markets in being admitted free of duty, while that from the Black Sea and the United States was subject to a duty which was high enough to afford great protection in favor of ours. This new policy in relation to the colonies was productive of disastrous consequences to Canadian trade. The exportation of grain to England was completely put a stop to. There was no longer an outlet for that produce. To get to the United States markets twenty per cent, had to be paid. Well, the long and terrible crisis which followed the abolition of this protection of our produce, and which raged during the years 1847,’48,’49, may be remembered. Beginning in 1847 there was a disastrous commercial crisis in Canada. Failures followed each other with rapidity, and difficulty was everywhere felt. Matters had not greatly improved in 1848. It was evident that a fresh outlet for the agricultural produce of Canada must be found in order to ensure to her satisfactory relief.
Discontent manifested itself, and agitation became apparent. Arguments and negotiations were had with the political men of England, but without any satisfactory result being attained. It was then thought that a solution of the commercial difficulties of the country was to be found in political changes. Hence followed the annexation movement of 1849. The abstention of a political change of this character would at once open to Canada all the markets of the United States, and would, without any doubt, have ensured the material prosperity of the country. The annexation movement met with considerable sympathy in the Northern States of the American union, but in the South it excited alarm. Fear was entertained of the influence which would have been conferred upon the North, by the accession of territory of south considerable extent as the two Canadas, at first, and subsequently of all the English Provinces.
The Government of the United States was in the hands of political men from the South. To avert the danger which threatened their influence, that Government showed themselves favorable to a commercial agreement with the […]
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[…] English Government. Both were interested in a commercial connection which left us nothing to envy in the lot of our neighbors. In the Canadian Parliament the question of commercial reciprocity with the United States was taken up. The Imperial Government approved of the steps taken by the Canadian Government, which tended to place their agriculturists on a footing of equality with the Americans on their markets. On the 16th March, 1855, the Reciprocity treaty entered into by the United States and England, came into force, after having been ratified by the Canadian Parliament. Lengthy debates took place in the American Congress upon the question, but southern influence carried the measure through. The Reciprocity treaty was to continue for ten years, from the 16th March, 1855, without its being possible to repeal it; but if one or the other of the contracting parties should think fit, after the expiration of the ten years, they might demand the abrogation of the treaty, by giving the other party one year’s notice.
The question of the repeal of that treaty has, therefore, for two or three years, been agitated in the American Congress with some warmth, by those who found their interests to suffer by it. The opponents of the Reciprocity treaty succeeded in Congress for two reasons: first, on account of a feeling of indignation raised up against Canada, by a part of our press, which displayed hostility to the Northern States; and second, because the rebellious Southern States were not represented in the American Government. On the 16th March next, the President is to give that notice, and on the 16th March, 1866, the markets of the United States will be closed to us. (Hear, hear.)
We have seen that at the time the American Government, which was then in the hands of politicians from the Southern States, was not favorable to the annexation of Canada to the United States, because those statesmen dreaded the influence which two new Free states in the union would bring to bear in relation to slavery. The ten years of the treaty consequently terminate on the 16th March in the present year, and thanks to the behavior of a very large portion of the Canadian press in relation to the Government of the United States, since the beginning of the war which now desolates the American Republic, the notice of the final abrogation of that treaty within a year is to be given to us.
It will have existed for eleven years, and its abrogation will certainly be a great misfortune to our country. It may be said that the treaty is as advantageous to the United States as it is to ourselves, and that its abrogation will do as much harm to them as to us; but the ill they will undergo in consequence will not remedy our evil, and will not prevent the United States markets from being closed to us, and our being subsequently compelled to pay a considerable duty for the privilege of carrying our produce thither, such as our oats, our horses, our horned cattle, our sheep, our wool, our butter, &c The 16th March, 1865, will be a day of mourning for Canada, but the 16th March, 1866, will be a day of much deeper mourning, for it will mark the commencement of a commercial crisis such as we have never perhaps undergone, and the disastrous results of which to the future of the country are beyond calculation. (Hear, hear.)
In order to understand the whole importance of this treaty to the prosperity of the country, it is necessary to know what passes in the country parts, as I myself am in a position to know through my constant relations with those parts. All the o it’s produced in the country from Trois Pistols to the upper extremity of the province are exported to the United States, where they find a ready market, because they are wanted there. This year persons went as far as Three Rivers for them by way of the Athabasca Railway. This branch of trade is now very considerable; but the very moment we have to pay an export duty of 25 per cent, upon our produce on entering the United States, we shall have a commercial crisis which will derange all business operations throughout the land.
When the Reciprocity treaty is declared at an end, our oats will be worth no more than 1s. Or 1s. 3d. as in former times, instead of 1s. 8d. or 2s. as at present; and it is clear to all that the farmer can derive no profit from growing them at that price. Formerly, before the treaty was made, the farmer could make something by selling his oats at that price, because food was cheaper and taxes less than they now are. The latter were no more than 2 1/2 per cent, and 5 per cent., whereas they are now 20 per cent., and will be increased rather than diminished, under Confederation, as certain members of this House have alleged (Hear, hear.; I am thoroughly acquainted with all that passes in the country parts; and when I think of the consequences of the repeal […]
- (p. 867)
[…] of the Reciprocity treaty, I say again, I am alarmed. What is going on at this present moment? We all know that for several years past there have been bad harvests; that of last year was not good, not in Lower Canada only, but also in Upper Canada; and since New Year’s day, half the country people in Lower Canada have been buying the flour necessary for their subsistence. All they spend in the purchase of flour, from this time till the harvest is gathered in, is capital which ought to be applied to the payment of their numerous debts. It is capital withdrawn from the working and improvement of their lands. Trade already feels the effects of it. The imports are more limited; a good deal of last year’s stock of goods in the cities remains unsold. The public revenue will be considerably affected by it, and the surplus of 1864 will in 1865 become a deficit. It is not necessary to be a prophet to augur so much. (Hear, hear.)
I say, then, that we are on the brink of a commercial crisis, and it is not such a scheme as that before us that will enable us to avoid it, when we need rather to practise the strictest economy in our public expenditure. There is a great movement in progress from Lower Canada to the United States, notwithstanding the war; that is to say, people are obliged to leave Canada for the United States in order to earn money to pay debts which they have been compelled to contract for the necessaries of life. In many country places people are shutting up their houses and setting off to the States; if any proof of this assertion is necessary, visit Acton—Acton which has become a small city since the discovery of the copper mines now worked there. Well, Mr. Speaker, half the houses in Acton are now shut up, although as lately as last year the village presented every appearance of the highest prosperity. This year the inhabitants are driven to leave home and country to support their families. (Hear, hear.)
I say that a movement of self-banishment like that which is now going on in the winter season, is alarming; for when half the country people are obliged to buy their flour as they now are, it proves that they must continue to buy it until next autumn, after the harvest is gathered in; and as many of them have not the means of waiting till then, they must leave the country to try to supply the wants of their families, by applying for work to our neighbors. (Hear, hear.) This movement is in progress among the rural population as well as among the mechanics, in the new townships as well as in the old. After the commencement of the war, a considerable number of Canadians, who had returned home to escape from its evils, brought with them a small capital; but seeing the situation of affairs in this country, and having spent what they had, they are going back to the United States, preferring rather to take their chance of the conscription for the army than to eke out a miserable existence here.
I repeat, then, Mr. Speaker, that a great many houses are shut up in the new settlements. I can specify them by the numbers of the range and lot in the counties which I represent. An unseen but very extensive influence is at work in all the country south of the St. Lawrence, above Nicolet and as far as the frontier. I shall explain it to you. In all that part of the country, a great many young men go to the United States to look for employment. These children of the people find there a wider field for their enterprising minds; in fact, they are forced to leave Canada in order to earn money. When one they are established in the United States, they correspond with their relatives whom they have left behind them. In all their letters they describe the treatment they receive, and boast of their position, the footing they are on in their social relations with the Americans, the good wages which they receive, and the state of prosperity at which they soon arrive.
Not only do they correspond, they visit Canada to see their families from time to time. On these occasions, Mr. Speaker, their communications are made with greater freedom; they relate all that they have seen, and heard, and all they have learned. Be sure of this, Mr. Speaker, these communications, these intimacies between Canadians established in the States and their home friends, have greater effect to produce favorable feelings towards the Americans in our country than all the newspapers in the world. It is a portion of the heart of the country removed into a strange land by the force of circumstances. The accounts they hear from their friends prove to them that the Americans are not such horrible monsters as they are said to be in certain quarters, and that their political institutions are far superior to ours; that every man is on a footing of equality with his neighbor, and that he possesses political rights of which he cannot be deprived. This influence of which I am speaking is very great, and certainly it is […]
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[…] not to be counteracted, nor the feeling of sympathy for the people and the institutions of the United States to be repressed in the minds of those who confess it, by such changes as those now proposed to be made. (Hear, hear.)
I say that the people of Lower Canada are alarmed at the scheme of Confederation, and the unknown changes which are on foot. I do not say that this feeling prevails in the district of Quebec, for in that locality everybody seems to be fast asleep; but it exists, beyond doubt, and very warmly, in that of Montreal, and even as far as Three Rivers, on both sides of the river. Nothing tends more to alienate the people from their government, and render them disaffected to England, that the attempts now made to impose on them a new Constitution without consulting them; for we must recollect that we are no longer in the same social state as in 1812; we no longer think in the same manner, and people would be greatly in error who should believe that the same feelings prevail which then prevailed. (Hear, hear.)
I will not say that the people are disloyal; far be it from me to express such an idea!—they are as loyal as those who accuse them of disloyalty, but they are inclined To form free opinions on the acts of their government and their own interests, and there is a great difference between being loyal to Great Britain and fighting for a system of government and a principle imposed on us and accepted regretfully. I maintain, then, that the people are affrighted at the expense proposed to be made to organize what is called the defences of the country, and naturally ask each other whether it is right to call upon them to bear a share of the burthen of such defences, in the event of a war between our neighbors and England, a war in which they could neither say anything to avoid it, nor in its progress take any other part than that of shedding their blood and paying their money.
They ask, moreover, whether it would not be better to remain in our present condition—whether it would not be better, even, to be smaller than to seek greatness—to try to compete with our neighbors in order that we may be the sooner crushed. They say, moreover, that a struggle between us and the United States would be a struggle between a dwarf and a giant; for no man in his senses will say that we could stand out against them. It is pretended that in case of a war with them, we should have assistance from England. That is very well; but to anybody who recollects the Crimean war, it will be very evident, that when England shall have sent us 30,000 soldiers, she will have given to the extreme limits of her power, and that she must resort to Spain, and France, and Germany and the whole continent of Europe to find soldiers. When we have 1,600 miles of frontier to defend, where should we be with our 30,000 English troops?
It would not be nineteen men to a mile. (Hear, hear.) No, we are not to imagine that a war with the United States now would be like that of 1812, and that a company of 60 men would put the American army to flight, as in the palmy days of Chateauguay [Hon. Mr. Holton]! (Hear, hear.) At this time, the army and navy of the United States are the strongest in the world, and the resources of the country inexhaustible. In four years they have built 600 vessels of war; and the number of their soldiers is told by hundreds of thousands. Now, peace will be made between the North and South, although it may happen not to please our politicians, who are friends to slavery, and have always despised and depreciated the Government of the United States; for the South cannot hold out long now that it has lost all the towns and cities through which it could receive assistance from abroad.
The American Constitution will come out triumphant from the trial which it is now undergoing. It will come out purified and refined, and stronger than ever in the affections of the people who live under it. It was not against the form of Republican Government that the rebellion was undertaken in the United States, seeing that the Rebel States adopted exactly the same system when they declared their independence. They too have a President, a Senate, Representatives, a Government and a Legislature for every state, just the same as under the American Republic. (Hear, hear.)
When peace is made between the North and South, should we be able to resist the combined forces of both sections of the United States of America? Should we be able to make a stand against their ships of war, which would overspread the ocean and the lakes—their guns which throw balls of several hundred pounds’ weight a distance of eight or ten miles—from one end of a parish to the other? The State of New York, with its four millions of soul, on turn out more soldiers than all the colonies of England together; and there are still thirty-four rich and populous states […]
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[…] besides, to help in case of war. (Hear, hear.)
No, we are not to imagine that a war at this time would be a war of 1812, and the people know it perfectly well. If a Confederation like this which is now proposed is imposed upon the people without consulting them, and even against their will—if they are forced to bear a burthen much heavier than they now bear—and if the treaty of reciprocity is not continued—if a commercial crisis should ensue, and if war should break out between England and the United States, you must not suppose that the people will fight as they fought in 1812, when you have driven them to discontent, and rendered their position harder than it now is. You may toll off the population into regiments, and they will not rebel, because they are loyal and submissive, but their hearts will not be in the cause, and they will assuredly not fight with the same spirit as they would show if they were defending a constitution and a state of things of their own choosing.
They will not fight with the same courage as the southern rebels have shown, for they were fighting to defend institutions—bad ones it is true, but which they were attached to, and which they were desirous of preserving. (Hear, hear.) In the event of a war with the United States, and being under a Confederation, the people would be called upon to defend a state of things which they dislike—a Constitution imposed upon them, to which they would not be attached—a Constitution in which they would have no interest. The war might result from a difficulty originating in China! They would be compelled to fight against a people whom they look upon not as enemies, but as friends, with whom they keep up daily relations; and, I repeat it, it would not be possible for them to fight as they did in the last war. (Hear, hear.)
But I return to the Reciprocity treaty, and I say that we shall feel its great value once it has been repealed. It is like a bridge over a river between two parishes; so long as the bridge stands, everyone takes advantage of it without a thought of its utility, but let the bridge be carried away or destroyed, and everyone feels what an advantage it was, and the people realize the loss they have suffered, when they are once more compelled to resort to the old system of flats and boats every time they require to cross the river. (Hear, hear.)
And if the Reciprocity treaty be repealed, it will be due to the conduct of several members of the Ministry, and to the papers that support them, and which they support in return; it will be due to the conduct of Tory politicians and journalists in Canada, who, since the beginning of the war, have constantly done everything in their power to irritate our neighbors and to embroil us with them, by displaying misplaced sympathy. (Hear, hear.) For my part, Mr. Speaker, I know that the people of Canada do not ask for annexation to the United States, for they are in the enjoyment of peace and contentment as things now stand.
The people do not desire any change; but if you wish to establish a new order of things, if you desire to create a new nationality, I fancy we have the right to say what we consider suited to us; and if you desire to establish a new kingdom on this continent, we surely are entitled to examine what it is to be, and the basis upon which it is to be erected. I say it would be a misfortune for us if we attempted to establish a system founded upon a political principle contrary to that of the United States—on the monarchical principle. If we must inaugurate a policy, let it not be a policy calculated to give umbrage, a policy of distrust and provocation. Let it rather be a policy of conciliation and peace. Let it not be a policy of armies, of useless walls and fortifications—a policy of ruin and desolation! What would be the use of all these fortifications, all these walls, if they load us with an unbearable burthen of taxation, restrict our commerce, paralyse our industry, shut us up within our own narrow limits, with our vast products cut off from a profitable market? (Hear, hear.)
Do you fancy that the people would then care much whether the flag floating over them bore a cross or a stripe? The people are satisfied to remain as they are; they do not wish for anything better now; but if you desire to change their political relations, they have the right to examine your scheme in all its phases. They have the right to ask themselves whether what you offer them is not a permanent state of war for themselves and their children. (Hear, hear.) The Constitution of the United States is certainly far superior to that proposed to us, and far better suited to our habits and the state of society amongst us. This scheme of Confederation, this scheme of an independent monarchy, can lead but to extravagance, ruin and anarchy! You may decry as much as you choose the democratic system, and laud the […]
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[…] monarchical system—the people will ever estimate them both at their proper value, and will ever know that which will suit them best. And when the farmers of Upper Canada are compelled to sell their wheat, after sending it to Montreal, ten cents a bushel lower than they now sell it at home, in consequence of the repeal of the Reciprocity treaty, there will be a general demand throughout the whole of Upper Canada, as well as of Lower Canada, for a change other than Confederation. And as to this point, here is what was said by a gentleman who, but a few months ago, held a seat on the Ministerial benches—I refer to the Hon. Mr. Buchanan. He said:—
The continuation of the Reciprocity treaty with the United States is favorable, not only to the farmers of Canada, and to all other claases through them, but also to the English Government; for, without the existence of that treaty, the Canadians are in a position to be greatly benefited, in an industrial and commercial sense, by the annexation of Canada to the United States, unless other industrial or intercolonial arrangements should take place.
Annexation is far preferable, in an industrial point of view, to our “free trade in raw products,” which is unaccompanied by protection for home industry.
“Those who speak the truth to the people in times of crises like the present, are really the most loyal men,” adds Hon. Mr. Buchanan; and he is right; therefore, it is that I take it upon myself to speak thus frankly and to tell the truth to the people. (Hear, hear.) “But,” it will be said, “annexation is national suicide, and the people will never consent to it! Look at Louisiana, which has lost itself in the American union!” The people of Lower Canada will reply, that Louisiana contained but 30,000 whites when it was sold to the United States for $14,000,000, and that Lower Canada counts more than 1,000,000 of inhabitants; that there is, therefore, no comparison between the position of Louisiana at that time and that we now occupy. Besides, those 30,000 whites in Louisiana were not all French; for thirty years previous to 1800, Louisiana had belonged to the Spaniards. No one can deny that. It was in 1803 that it was ceded by France to the United States, and yet its French population has not been absorbed and has not disappeared. (Hear, hear.)
Since it was ceded to the United States, Louisiana has always governed itself as it liked, and in its own way. It is true that the official use of the French language has been abolished in its Legislature, but why and by whom? It was abolished by the people of the country themselves, to mark their dissatisfaction at having been sold by France. But notwithstanding that fact, and the great influx of foreign population, the original population have remained French, their laws are published in French, the judges speak French, pleading is carried on before the tribunals in French, numerous journals are published in French; in a word, the country has remained as thoroughly French as it was under the domination of France. (Hear, hear.)
To those who tell our people that annexation would annihilate them as a people, and destroy their nationality and their religion, they will reply that there is no danger of their being transported like the inhabitants of Acadia, and that Lower Canada would be as independent as any of the other states of the union; that they would, therefore, manage their own affairs, and protect their interests as they thought proper, without fear of intervention on the part of the General Government or of the other states; for they would possess, like all the other states, full and entire sovereignty in all matters specially relating to their own interests. They would be obliged to submit to the Federal Government only as regards matters of general interest, such as pasta matters, the tariff, foreign relations, defence against enemies, &c, &c. With regard to local matters, they would be perfectly sovereign in their own country, and they could make all the laws they thought proper, provided such laws were not hostile to the other states.
Thus, as regards the question of divorce, they might legislate so that divorce could not be effected within their limits. At present some of the states have divorce laws, while others have not; divorce is not permitted everywhere. (Hear, hear.) In the same way as regards the militia; the people will tell you that they might do like Vermont, which has formed part of the American union since its foundation, and which never adopted a militia law until January, 1864, because the political organization of the United States never rendered it necessary for the American people to maintain armies in each state in time of peace, and each state is perfectly free as regards the organization of its militia, provided it furnishes the number of soldiers assigned to its population, in time of war. (Hear, hear.)
They do not ruin themselves in time of peace to organize the militia. A […]
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[…] great obstacle to the political progress of our country arises from the vast number of persons who arrive amongst us each year from the British Islands; they are here, bodily, it is true, but their minds wander over the sea between the two hemispheres, and they act as though they were in England, in Scotland, or in Ireland, without considering our position, our social and political relations; and they think they need only cry out “Loyalty, loyalty!” to make the people rush to arms; but I repeat again, that if it be attempted to force the people into a change such as is now proposed, the people of the rural districts will become hostile to those who force it upon them, and they will not fight in defence of such a Constitution, as they would fight in defence of a principle thev approved of, and of a political position with which they were satisfied. (Hear, hear)
I have but one word more to say on this subject, and it is this: it is all very well to say that the debt of the United States is enormous; that will not frighten the people, for, notwithstanding the war between the North and the South, if we consider the wealth and resources of the United States, that debt will not be by any means so formidable a matter to deal with as we have been told In January last, the receipts of the United States Treasury amounted to $31,000,000—one million a day; and notwithstanding that fact, despite the heavy taxes paid, and paid willingly, by the American people, commercial prosperity is far greater in that country than it is here, as those who now visit the country cannot fail to notice. On the first of December last, the close of the fiscal year, the debt of the United States was $1 740,690,480. With a population of 32,000,000 this debt does not, therefore, exceed $56 per head. I have already shown that under Confederation, our debt would be $40 per head in Canada.
Comparing our resources with those of the American union, we were much more deeply indebted than they were at the period of the last annual report of the Treasury. It is easier for them to collect two dollars than for us to collect one. But with their immense resources, their boundless commerce, their ever-increasing manufactures, if the war were to end tomorrow, the United States would pay off their debt in a few years, if the government continued to levy the same amount of taxes that they now do. A revenue of a million a day, $365,000,000 per annum, $3,650,000,000 in ten years!—double the amount of the national debt at the beginning of the year, notwithstanding the terrible four years’ war! If the Government were to reduce the present imposts by one-half, the debt would be paid off in ten years; whereas in ten years from now our own debt, which is proportionally considerable, will have doubled itself, or, it may be, increased in a much greater ratio, if we are to judge by present appearances. (Hear, hear.)
I repeat, I do not ask for the annexation of Canada to the United States, nor do the people desire it; but I assert that changes such as those proposed in our social and political condition, are the surest means of bringing it about, because they are of a nature to create serious discontent, and a constant conflict between us and our neighbors; and the people, far from being satisfied with that, will be but ill-inclined to defend such a state of things. I beg, in conclusion, to call the attention of hon. members to the fact, that while it is proposed to change our Constitution, the Government refuse to give us any details or explanations as to the proposed changes; and I assert that it is our duty not to vote for these changes blindly. With reference to what I have said, I have not said it without well weighing the bearing of my words; I am ready to abide the consequences that may follow. I am in a position to speak frankly, and I have done so; for I am not here to represent my own personal interests, nor the interests of any individual. I have spoken the language of facts, I have spoken as the people would speak throughout all the rural districts on the south side of the St. Lawrence, if they were frankly told how matters stand, and if the consequences of the violent changes sought to be effected in our political condition were explained to them. (Cheers.)
Mr. Denis—Mr. Speaker, for a few days past we have heard very extraordinary speeches from the honorable members of the Opposition, occupying seats on the other side of the House. Those honorable gentlemen have taken the interests of the country in hand, and undertaken to set them right by such speeches as we have just heard from the honorable member for Drummond and Athabasca (Mr. J B. E. Dorion).
Hon. Mr. Holton—Don’t crush him.
Mr. Denis—I do not wish to crush any one; but I must say conscientiously what I think of the extraordinary speech which he has just delivered. The honorable members of the Opposition have, since the commencement […]
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[…] of this debate, held one course—they have constantly appealed to the prejudices of a class who, for the protection of their interests, uniformly depend on those who represent them here, and who, in order to make sure of their allegiance and perpetuate it, work secretly and in the dark to obtain the signatures of unsuspecting parties to petitions which they send round the country, and use afterwards to ensnare the confidence of members of this House. (Hear, hear.) Fortunately, they have hitherto had but little success in their undertakings, and have made but small progress in their attempts to injure us. These gentlemen make a loud outcry against the resolutions introduced by the Government; but if they are as bad as they say they are, why do they not themselves prepare some remedy for the troubles and difficulties of the country, instead of limiting their exertions to cries and reproaches? But no. It is always the same thing with them. “Great cry, and little wool.” (Hear, hear.)
The Opposition have always had but one object in view, and that was, not the good of the country, but the attainment of power. This has been the aim of all their actions, and when they did actually, by an accident, acquire power, their conduct was far worse than that of which they accused their predecessors in office. Their intention is to frighten the people, as they did on the militia question, by enlisting prejudices of all kinds against the measure now under discussion—trying every petty subterfuge and shabby artifice to bring back the honorable member for Hochelaga (Hon. Mr. A.A. Dorion) to power. But it will not work—their little game will have no luck. To be sure, we cannot deny the honorable member for Drummond and Athabasca [Mr. J.B.E. Dorion], for his part, the credit of knowing how to work upon the people, or rather how to agitate them, while they, good souls, trust blindly to the integrity of the men who represent them here. It was in this spirit of truth that he stated in his strictures on the Militia Bill introduced by the Cartier-Macdonald Government that it was a measure which would entail a tax of $20 a head on every habitant, and it is in the same spirit that he now tells them Confederation will entail one of $40 a head.
One assertion is as true as the other—neither of them is worth much. How can the honorable member venture on such assertions, since he knows nothing of the details of the measure—that is, the measures of detail which are to come after? He can only talk on supposition, and his hypothesis is false and unfounded. He declares, for instance, t at the intention of the Government, in moving for Confederation, is to introduce monarchy into America, and to create princes, viceroys, and an aristocracy, and make the Honorable Attorney General for Lower Canada (Hon. Mr. Cartier) Governor of Lower Canada. Such ideas could never enter any head but those of men who are incapable of self-government, and who are good for nothing but to become demagogues. In good truth, they mean nothing but to agitate—to make trouble and sow discontent throughout the land, with relation to the great question which has for months been the subject of discussion. For this end, they get up little petitions, to be signed in the concessions, saying to the women,—”If you would not lose your husband, sign. He is sure to be drafted for the Confederation. Sign, if you would not have your children deprived of their religion!”(Hear, and laughter.)
It is by such means that they gain their little advantages. I have just been informed that these men, who have always cried out that the clergy ought not to interfere in politics, are doing all they can to enlist the clergy and swell the cry against Confederation, by proclaiming that the Church is in danger. But the clergy know them too well, and will let them shout. When I hear these hon. gentlemen of the Opposition pretend that the clergy are on their side, because two priests have written against Confederation in the newspapers, I cannot help laughing. They are now, forsooth, the saviours of religion and of the clergy, loving and respecting them above all things. They spoke another language when they insulted religion and the clergy in their journals; when they declared, in their Institut Canadien, that park sets ought to be forbidden to talk politics, and not to be allowed to vote at elections.
Let them recollect the famous parody on excommunication, published in the Pays, which never existed save in the narrow and diabolical mind which rules the Siècle. But now all this is to be forgotten; now they say,—”Give up your leaders—the traitors who intend to sell the country, betray your religion, and drag your nationality through the mire—and come, follow us!” You smile, because you know that all these protestations which you are making in favor of religion, of the clergy, and our nationality, are a fine piece of acting. The people know this, and will not believe you; they will remain true to their leaders and to those tried friends who have always served them well and faithfully. […]
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[…] Those who are now in power have on their side the people and the ecclesiastical authorities, whom you would use as a stalking horse in your campaign against Confederation. All your efforts, all your tricks, will not succeed in shaking the confidence of the people in their representatives. You talk of public meetings, of the people’s opinion, petitions, &c, but why did you not call these meetings when the members were at home in their counties, when they might have met you face to face? You waited, like cowards, till they had come here to attend their duties in this House, and set hireling agents to work to get up those meetings, expecting an easy victory. We know perfectly well, for we have proofs, that agents well paid by a political committee at Montreal, were sent to all the parishes to get up meetings against Confederation, at which they made use of the most contradictory arguments, varied as occasion required, to suit their object, which was to induce the people to declare against the scheme, and sign petitions accordingly. (Hear, hear.)
These petitions bear the names of children, and, in fact, of sucklings, as was proved the other day by the honorable member for Boucherville. (Hear, hear, and laughter.) And if that much is certain, we are justified in thinking that those agents must have done something still worse, with which we are not acquainted, for the purpose of prejudicing the people against the Government scheme. Now, I say that in view of all this—in view of all this underhand trickery and hypocrisy of the Opposition—all French-Canadians should unite together in support of a just, frank and straightforward measure, such as that now submitted to this House. Was it not stated, long before the meeting of Parliament, that the measure should receive a calm and fair consideration? And yet since the beginning of the discussion we have had nothing but appeals to prejudice made by the adversaries of the measure, in place of discussing it on its merits, as they ought to have done.
The honorable member for Richelieu (Mr. Perrault) has distinguished himself in the way of appealing to national and religious prejudices, and in order to attain his object he cited facts long past—drawn, in fact, from ancient histcry. We all know the facts he mentioned; but why cite them as he did in such a body as this? It is neither politic nor right. Our duty as members of this House is to make laws for the well-being and prosperity of the country and of all classes of the population, and not to excite the hatred and prejudices of one section of the community against another section. (Hear, hear.)
Then, again, what was the gist of the speech just made by the honorable member for Drummond and Arthabaska (Mr. J.B.E. Dorion)—who certainly, I must admit, possesses oratorical ability, as well as other gifts? It was just simply a comparison between our Goverment and that of the United States, and of course he gave the preference to the latter. The honorable member is never weary of looking to Washington with one eye. (Hear, hear.) Why does not the honorable member tell us frankly at once that he desires the annexation of Canada to the United States? For, if we are to believe his statements, the American Government is an extraordinary government, a model government, a government unequalled in the world! But no; instead of giving us the benefit of his real thoughts, he stops short at insinuations, and comparisons of the expenditure attending the two forms of government, in order to leave an impression on the minds of the people. (Hear, hear.)
Another hon. member of this House, who is not in the habit of appealing to the religious or national prejudices of the people—the hon. member for Bagot (Hon. Mr. Laframboise)—has thought proper, this evening, to join in the outcry of the Opposition on this subject. He cited an event which has just occurred at Toronto, and which everybody regrets, and used it as an argument against the scheme of Confederation submitted to us by the Government. Why drag that fact into the discussion of a great question, and at a solemn moment like this? I do think that it was hardly becoming in an honorable ex-minister of the Crown to say to this House,—”Two sisters of charity have been insulted in the streets of Toronto; ergo, sisters of charity will not be tolerated under Confederation; the clergy will be persecuted, and religion annihilated.”
But this style of argument is resorted to somewhat too tardily. These protestations of devotedness to religion and to the clergy come too late to be believed by the people of Lower Canada, or to make any impression, on them. (Hear, hear.) The hon. member for Richelieu [Mr. Perrault] also indulged in insinuations against, the Honorable President of the Council (Hon. Mr. Brown), and stated that he was still as great a fanatic as ever against our religion and our clergy. Certainly, the Honorable President of the Council [Hon. Mr. Brown] was wrong in speaking as he formerly did, […]
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[…] when he was in the ranks of the Opposition; but how much more culpable was it not in the Rouges to support him at that very time? The members of the Opposition reproach us to-day with supporting the Hon. President of the Council [Hon. Mr. Brown], and blame us for things we have not done. We blamed the Hon. President of the Council [Hon. Mr. Brown] for attacking our clergy and insulting what we respect most. We opposed him with all our strength, but at that very time the Opposition supported him, and approved of everything he said. The people know that perfectly well; they know and appreciate thoroughly the difference between our motives and yours, in opposing the hon. member for South Oxford [Hon. Mr. Brown], and you cannot deceive them. The people will say to you,—“Give us a proof of what you can do; and if you are better than these you attack, we will accept your leadership.”
What crime are we charged with to-day by the Opposition? After numberless fierce struggles, and two general elections, it had become impossible for any party to govern the country. The people were weary of the whole thing, and wished for a change. It was then that a coalition took place between the two parties who formed the majority in either section of the province. The Opposition should not condemn that alliance; on the contrary, they ought to continue to give their support to the honorable member for South Oxford (Hon. Mr. Brown), since he has formed an alliance with the Hon. Attorney General for Lower Canada [Hon. Mr. Cartier], in order to find some means of carrying on the Government, and of removing the difficulties by which we are surrounded. It has been stated that the delegates to the Quebec Conference were not empowered to prepare a scheme such as that now before us: but can it be said that the Government had not the right to do so? The Ministry have prepared a scheme which they now submit to us, and the question is not as to whether they were or were not empowered to prepare it, but whether the scheme is a good one, whether it is deserving of the approval of the people, and for the best interests of the province.
This it is for us to say, and it is all we have to say; but it is not right to accuse hon. Ministers, who have endeavored to discharge their duty and to relieve the country from its difficulties—it is not right to reproach them, after they have labored day and night at their task, and to tell them they had no right to do what they have done. We had a right to expect a serious discussion of the Government scheme; but no, we have had nothing of the kind; we have had nothing but personal attacks, appeals to prejudice, and underhand attempts out of doors against the scheme.
We have had a crop of suppositions and insinuations against this man and that man. It is “supposed” that the Honorable Attorney General for Lower Canada [Hon. Mr. Cartier] desires to become a governor; another is accused of desiring to be made a judge of a Federal court, and every hon. member of this House favorable to the Government scheme is accused of aiming at making money, obtaining a place or honors, by betraying and selling the cause of the people. This is certainly most unjust, and every one of these suppositions is utterly unwarranted. Those who indulge in them have not a shadow of proof to bring forward in support of their assertions, and they would, therefore, be much better employed in a calm and deliberate discussion of the measure itself. (Hear, hear.)
Other hon. members, with a view of opposing the Government scheme and depreciating it in the opinion of the people, have made use of the name of an honored citizen, now living in the retirement of private life. The honorable member for Bagot (Hon. Mr. Laframboise) told us that Mr. C. S. Cherrier, of Montreal, was strongly opposed to the scheme of Confederation, and that his opinion should have great weight, because he is a “devout” man. Now, I should like to know, Mr. Speaker, what connection there can possibly exist between religious devotion and a discussion such as this? I was really sorry to hear such language fall from the honorable member for Bagot [Hon. Mr. Laframboise], for he is not in the habit of making use of arguments of that kind. It is utterly astounding to see the party who wanted to shut up the priests in their vestries, and deny them the right to hold any political opinions, using Mr. Cherrier’s devotion as a weapon wherewith to combat Confederation. (Hear, hear.)
But what is the origin to the great agitation promoted by the hon. member for Hochelaga (Hon. Mr. Dorion), since the alliance of the Conservative party with the Hon. President of the Council [Hon. Mr. Brown]? Has he forgotten that he himself carried out implicitly the behests of that hon. gentleman all the time they worked together? And if not, how can he possibly make it a crime in others to work with him? Was he not aware that his own Government—the Government of the hon. member for Cornwall (Hon. J.S. Macdonald)—existed only at his will that the […]
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[…] Hon. President of the Council [Hon. Mr. Brown] chastised that Government for its most trifling backslidings; and that whenever he threatened, the Government quickly mended its ways? To-day you speak of the vast expenditure of the province; but you formed part of a Ministry which promised wonders to the country, and what did it do after all? The facts are there; and surely it ill-becomes you to speak of extravagant expenditure. Hon. gentlemen exclaim—”$40 per head!” They do not, it is true, tell us that the high price of molasses is due to Cartier and J . A. Macdonald—(laughter)—but they everywhere assert that these gentlemen want to ruin the people, increase the taxes, and plunge the country into an ocean of debt. And yet honorable gentlemen opposite have themselves been in power, and notwithstanding all their previous denunciations of taxation and extravagant expenditure, they were forced to admit the necessity of customs duties, and to work out responsible government; they found it necessary to retract all they had said in former speeches, when they themselves held the reins of power.
But they did not remain in office long enough to get rid of the old leaven completely, and now that they are out of power once more, we find them taking up their former cries. We have the honorable members for Chateauguay [Hon. Mr. Holton] and Hochelaga [Hon. Mr. Dorion], who once had a Confederation scheme of their own, opposing the scheme of the Government, simply because it did not originate with themselves, and opposing the adoption of any measure for the defence of the country. These honorable gentlemen stated, through their organ Le Pays, that if England desires to retain Canada, she should pay for its defences. This is not said so openly now, but the great wealth of the United States; the immense number of their guns, ships of war and armies, are used as arguments to show the uselessness of any attempt on our part to defend ourselves in case of attack, and also to lead the people to the conclusion that it is better for the country not to expend anything for defence.
When the Cartier-Macdonald Government was defeated on a question of loyalty towards the Imperial Government, the whole Opposition voted against the principle of organizing the militia for our defence. The leaders of the Opposition then voted unflinchingly against a Militia law; but three or four days after, when they had succeeded in taking the place of those whom they had defeated, they themselves voted, without scruple or hesitation, 1600,000 for the organization of the militia. They appointed instructors throughout the whole country, for they had learned that as British subjects they had duties towards the Imperial Government.
To-day they are acting as they then acted, and they desire once more to play a double game. They do not want Confederation, but they admit that there is need of a remedy for our sectional difficulties, of the existence of which there can be no question. Yet they refuse to say what remedy they propose for our difficulties. They keep it all to themselves, shut up in their own minds, as they did with the celebrated budget of the honorable member for Chateauguay [Hon. Mr. Holton], which was to be the cure for all our financial difficulties, but which never saw the light. Eighteen months of incubation did not suffice to bring forth the bantling. (Hear, hear, and laughter.)
If the Government should not succeed in inducing all the provinces to accept the scheme, they, at all events, will have kept their word and kept the faith which is due to a treaty solemnly contracted between the Provinces of British North America. The hon. member for Chateauguay (Hon. Mr. Holton) has told us that he had received a telegraphic despatch, by which he had positive information that the people of the Lower Provinces had rejected Confederation, and that they had pronounced against it in New Brunswick. But what does all that amount to?
Ought we on that account also to reject the scheme of the Government? Are we not bound to this scheme by the word of our Ministers? No, we hold to this great scheme of Confederation, and we want no little schemes such as are proposed by the honorable gentlemen on the other side of the House—schemes by which they would appoint little judges and divide Canada into little districts. The Opposition, it is true, have, created a certain amount of distrust in this scheme among the people, by harping on direct taxation, and declaring that Canada will be obliged to tax herself in order to purchase and defend the territory of the Lower Provinces. They hope by these means to gain the confidence of the people, and to return to power; but even if they succeeded, they would be obliged to do later what they have already done, what they now condemn, and what the men now in power are desirous of doing in the interest of the people; they would be obliged to organize the defences of the country, as the Government propose to do, and as the Imperial Government desire. At the present moment we have to choose one of two alternatives—either we must annex […]
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[…] ourselves to the United States, or we must respect the wishes of England and accept Confederation with the Maritime Provinces. If we do not desire either Confederation or annexation, we must remain as we are and continue to struggle with Upper Canada; and in the meantime the people will remain behind their plough, business will be at a stand-still, and the debt will be increased by millions. (Hear, hear.) For several days past, Mr. Speaker, we have listened to pompous speeches made by honorable members of the Opposition, appealing incessantly to the religious and national prejudices of the population of Lower Canada, with the view of defeating the Government scheme. These honorable gentlemen draw pictures which are really heartrending.
They tell the Protestants that under Confederation they will lose all their rights in Lower Canada in respect of the education of their children; and, on the other hand, they tell the Catholics that their religion is in danger, because the Federal Government will have the right of veto in respect of all the measures of the Local Government. But this right of veto must of necessity exist somewhere, in order that the minority may be protected from any injustice which the majority might attempt to do them. We cannot hope to have the majority in the Federal Parliament, when we French Lower Canadians and Catholics have never had it under the existing union. And yet we cannot but congratulate ourselves upon the relations which have always existed between us and our fellow-countrymen of other origins and religions. The Benning Divorce Bill affords a proof that we are in a minority in the present Legislature, for the Protestants all voted in favor of that measure, and the Catholics against it, and the bill was passed.
The Catholics, then, are wrong when they exclaim that we ought to unite and carry out our own religious views and secure the triumph of French-Canadian nationality; doing so will only have the effect of exciting the Protestants and the British-Canadians to do the same thing, and then we should fall into a state of anarchy. One night last week, about midnight, an honorable member of this House, an ex-Minister, the honorable member for Cornwall (Honorable J.S. Macdonald) forgot his position so far as to seek to excite religious jealousies and hatreds; but I am happy to see that he has not succeeded in his attempt, and that Catholics and Protestants have treated his fanatical appeals with contempt, and have made no response. After having heard this, can any one believe in the reality of all these anticipations of danger paraded in the newspapers, in the House, and throughout the country?
No, it is impossible to believe in it, and not to perceive that it is all hypocrisy, with the view of exciting the prejudices of the people. (Hear, hear.) It has been also said that the use of our language was in danger, and that the French laws would disappear when Confederation was accomplished. But is it not a well-known fact that we owe the protection of our French laws to the Hon. Attorney General for Lower Canada (Hon. Mr. Cartier), and is not the Code Civil, which he has just laid before us, a sufficient answer to all that can be asserted on this head?
The French laws will be maintained and respected in Lower Canada, and this we owe to the Hon. Attorney General (Hon. Mr. Cartier). We shall have a statute to assimilate the law of evidence in commercial matters in Lower Canada; but the French laws will not be abolished. If there is a man in the whole country who possesses real legal judgment, and who is perfectly acquainted with the laws and statutes of Lower Canada, it is certainly the Hon. Attorney General for Lower Canada [Hon. Mr. Cartier], Mr. George Etienne Cartier. No one will deny this, and there is not a man who can compete with him in this respect.. Why come here and tell us that our language is about to disappear, and that its use is to be abolished in the Federal Legislature? Is it because lies must be told in order to oppose the scheme of the Government, and real reasons for opposition cannot be found? A drowning man catches at a straw, and that is what the Opposition are doing to-day. But they ought to be just, and to admit that we shall have our code, which will guarantee to us the maintenance of our laws in Lower Canada, just as the Imperial Act will guarantee to us the use of our language. Why, too, should personal recrimination be indulged in in this discussion? “Cartier,” they say, “does this because he wants to be Governor.”
Mr. Geoffrion—Hear, hear.
Mr. Denis—The honorable member for Verchères [Mr. Geoffrion], who cries “Hear, hear,” is a man of too much talent and good sense to approve of such language, and especially to make use of such arguments. He ought to leave that to the honorable member for Richelieu (Mr. Perrault), who openly tells us in this House that the majority is venal and servile. Such language as this ought not to be made […]
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[…] use of here, out of respect for ourselves and for the French-Canadians in this House. It is a great mistake on the part of a beardless youth, with no more experience than the honorable member for Richelieu [Mr. Perrault], particularly when he is addressing men of the experience and capacity of the Honorable Attorney General for Lower Canada [Hon. Mr. Cartier]. All parties agree in saying that the Hon. Attorney General East [Hon. Mr. Cartier] is capable, honest, and of the highest integrity; but all do not approve of his policy, and that is perfectly legitimate. But that is no reason for attacking his private character, and putting in his mouth opinions which he has never uttered. They say he is honest and upright, and yet we read in the newspapers that he is willing to sell his country, his religion and his nationality for a tide or an appointment as Governor. This is very unfair. (Hear, hear.) The members of the Opposition demand an appeal to the people upon the question of Confederation. But if it were granted, you would see, Mr. Speaker, to what lengths they would go.
These demands for an appeal to the people are only made with the view of serving the purposes of a clique, who would say to those who desired to discuss frankly the question before the country—”Hold your tongues and vote against the Government!” This is what they have already attempted to do by means of meetings which they have caused to be held in different counties; but I must say that in mine they did not succeed in their designs. They sent three agents there, under different pretexts, who tried by every possible means to induce the people to pronounce against the Ministerial scheme; but they did not succeed; and yet I am the humblest member of this honorable House. But as I happened just at that time to be attending to the duties of my profession at the court of the district of Beauharnais, I observed that these agents had been sent by the Montreal committee, and I was enabled to defeat their little plans and their little games. They tried to make little speeches, and hold little meetings, but as I was on the spot they gained nothing by it.
But all this serves to indicate the means that have been employed by the partisans of the Opposition to excite the people against the measure of Confederation. I do not want to be too hard upon them, because they naturally were desirous of obtaining a triumph for their party, and they employed these means as they might have employed others, although they do not care a rush for the holy cause of nationality or religion. (Hear, hear.) I remember very well what used to be said and what used to be done in the Institut Canadien of Montreal, and I observe with satisfaction that the present conduct of the honorable members of the other side of the House who belonged to that Institut is a direct protest against what they did in the Institut, in which we have had Suisses coming and preaching religious toleration. Then it used to be said—”We must advance with the times,” and they used to read the Pucelle. (Hear, hear.) Now, the Government does not propose to establish the annual parliaments, that the hon. member for Hochelaga [Hon. Mr. Dorion] used to cry out for, but they are engaged in settling the difficulties of the country. They call upon every man of talent to aid them in this task, or to invert a better remedy for these difficulties, and to submit it to the country.
But if those who oppose the Government measure are contented with mere opposition, without proposing any better measure in its stead, what will the people say to them if they present themselves to their constituents, to ask them to pronounce between them and the Government? They will say—”What have you done; what have you to offer to compare with what the Ministers have done and offered to us?” They will ask them for their measure, but they will keep it hidden away with that famous budget of the honorable member for Chateauguay [Hon. Mr. Holton], which has not yet been hatched after eighteen months’ incubation. (Hear, hear.) We know perfectly well that the Government measure is not perfect, and that it has defects, as all plans made by men must have. For my part I admit it most willingly; but it must be remembered that it is a compromise, and this the gentlemen of the Opposition take good care not to allow for or to state. In public they say that the French-Canadians are going to be overwhelmed by the English element in the Confederation, and that they will lose their language.
But do they not know that in Upper Canada the French language has been preserved as pure and unalloyed as in Lower Canada, wherever there is the smallest nucleus of French inhabitants? The members on the other side propose giving us lessons in the art of preserving our language and our nationality—they, annexationists at heart and in their actions, who are always looking to Washington. I do not say that it is a crime to be an annexationist, but at least let them frankly admit what they are. Thus the honorable member for Chateauguay (Hon. Mr. Holton) is more of a Yankee than any one. He told us […]
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[…] to-day he did not like great undertakings, but it seems to me that certain great undertakings in which he has had a band, have not had the effect of emptying his purse. (Hear, hear.)
Why should the country be prevented from advancing in the way of progress; why prevent the construction of means of communication, which will have the effect of keeping our French-Canadians in the country? You seem to forget your words and deeds of yesterday. When he occupied a seat on the Treasury benches, the honorable member for Chateauguay [Hon. Mr. Holton] was constantly rising to tell us that we were a factious Opposition, a dreadful Opposition, because we did not allow the Government to do just what they liked. But he does not think his own opposition today factious, he who has risen fifty-five times in the course of this debate, and who cuts up every question like fresh butter. He says today that the Government wishes to choke off discussion and to prevent the members of the Opposition from speaking, and yet he has spoken fifty-five times!
The hon. member for Lotbinière (Mr. Joly) told us, the other day, that the people are in a condition of torpor, and that they must be awakened. If they are in a condition of torpor anywhere, they are certainly not so in Lower Canada; but if they were, they would undoubtedly be awakened by all the fine speeches delivered by honorable members on the other side of the House, and on observing the great resistance which they offer to divorce and their fervent energy in maintaining family ties unbroken. Those gentlemen loudly proclaim to us that we ought not to vote for divorce; but it is quite unnecessary for them to tell us so—all Catholics are perfectly well aware that it is their duty to vote against divorce. We know that the laws of Parliament cannot prevail over those of the Church. And we are not voting for divorce in voting for the scheme of Confederation; and the declamations of hon. members on’ the other side of the House, on this subject, cannot carry conviction into the minds of any one. Nobody asks us to enact a law to allow civil magistrates to celebrate marriages, and all that is said by the Opposition in relation to this question only amounts to a tempest in a tea-pot. At any rate we may congratulate ourselves upon the conversion of hon. members, and now they need only tell the truth for the future, and their past sins will be forgiven them.
However, although they constitute themselves the protectors of our religion and nationality, it is evident that the people do not yet very firmly believe in their conversion, and that they have not yet attained the confidence of the country; for otherwise the plan of the Government is sufficiently new and sufficiently little understood to allow of their having a chance of returning to power. (Hear.) The people, in view of all their fine declarations, will probably think that they are going to ally themselves with our friends; but if they do not do so, it will then be perceived that they are not sincere, and then so much the worse for them. In the meantime the people will consider the scheme which is submitted to us, and will judge it upon its merits, without allowing themselves to be led away by appeals to prejudices and insinuations made by honorable members on the other side of the House.
I shall, at a later period, speak upon the question itself, but I will not follow the example of the honorable member for Richelieu [Mr. Perrault], who gave us a long speech with the help of Garneau’s History of Canada, which he read out nearly from one end to the other. Nor will I utter threats either, and no one. of us will say, “If matters do not go on in this way, or in that, you will see.”, In a country like ours, we do not say “you will see!” To do so is to try to create useless excitement among the people, and all honest en should reprove such conduct. Besides, who is the man who has influence enough to raise the people at the present moment? Certainly not our worthy fellow-citizen, Mr. Cherrier, for he is too peaceable, too devout, and too good a Catholic to tell the Canadian people to rise and fight against the scheme of the Government by force of arms.
No, he will rather tell them to respect authority, and claim their rights if they consider themselves injured, because he is aware that it is better to respect one’s father than to fight against him. As to Hon. Mr. Papineau, that distinguished man has undergone mortification enough in his public life, and feels enough regret for his friends and fellow-countrymen who perished at St. Denis and elsewhere, to pievent his wishing to recommence playing that game. The honorable member for Bagot [Hon. Mr. Laframboise] reproached the Hon. Attorney General for Lower Canada [Hon. Mr. Cartier] with having been present at St. Denis, and with having returned from thence. Would he have preferred to have seen him lying amid the dead and mingling his ashes with those of the victims who perished there?
Hon. Mr. Laframboise—Oh! there was no danger.
Mr. Denis—You reproach him with […]
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[…] having done this when he was young, and yet you say that you would do the same if you were powerful enough to undertake it. That is no argument, and that is not what we ought to do. We ought to say to England that it is our wish to remain under the shadow of her noble flag; that we stand in fear of our neighbors, and are desirous of knowing what she can do to help us. It is in this way that our Ministers should approach the Imperial Government, and if the negotiations do not terminate in a satisfactory manner, then it will be time to separate and to seek another state of existence. The debate has taken too personal a turn, and we have listened to accusations and insinuations against this person and that person; but as the Opposition has nothing better to suggest to us than what is proposed to us by the present Government, they cannot hope that members on this side of the House will support them with the sole object of defeating the Administration.
Gentlemen on the Opposition benches call for the details, but their leaders may be called upon to say what they suggest to bring the country forth from the difficulties in which it is plunged. What they desire is the status quo. But let them propose something practical to us; let them say what they want and what they can do. Instead of this we hear from them nothing but recriminations and perpetual fault finding. They ask why the Government does not now state how the local governments are to be organised; but the reply to this question made by the Hon. Attorney General for Lower Canada [Hon. Mr. Cartier], was very just, when he told them that the Government wished first to know whether we were favorable to Confederation, and that then they would bring forward the details. This is perfectly fair, and we must not mix up the cards. (Hear, hear.)
I do not wish to speak at greater length at present; but I must allude, however, to the continual assertion of the honorable member for Hochelaga (Hon. Mr. Dorion) with respect to the enormous national debt which Confederation will entail. Why does he not take account of the reasons which induce the Lower Provinces to refuse Confederation? Is it because those reasons are fatal to his arguments? In fact the Lower Provinces declare that our Ministers wished to obtain too much for Canada, that the burthens to be laid upon them are too heavy, and that an alliance with us would ruin them; whilst honorable members on the other side of the House declare that they will none of this alliance, because we grant too much to the Lower Provinces.
Those provinces say that Confederation will not be advantageous to them, because they will be compelled to pay for the canals, the railways and other improvements in Canada, and because they would derive no advantage from an alliance with us. Besides, those provinces are now in the hands of agents of the United States, whose great object is to prevent the success of Confederation, because it would be fatal to their trade with the provinces. That is why they labored, and labored successfully, to prevent the election of the partisans of Confederation in New Brunswick, just as they would do all in their power to prevent our elections here, if an appeal to the people should be had on the question, for they would work in the interest of the United States. (Opposition laughter) I see the honorable member for Diamond and Athabasca [Mr. J.B.E. Dorion] laughing—
Mr. J.B.E. Dorion—I am laughing at the silly stuff you have been talking to us for the last hour.
Mr. Denis—If there is a man in this House who has talked silly stuff and holds narrow ideas, that man is undoubtedly the honorable member for Drum mood and Athabasca—he who has never done anything but stir up and foment the prejudices of race—he who writes little letters to get petitions against Confederation signed in his county by all the women and children in it. Although I have not, like the honorable member, at my command a little newspaper like the Défricheur, which never cleared (défriché) anything except when the honorable member for Hochelaga [Hon. Mr. Dorion] was Attorney General for Lower Canada [Hon. Mr. Cartier], and then the honorable member knew very well how to make clearings among Government jobs and advertisements—I am quite able to reply to the honorable member. It is truly laughable to hear a man like him talk of the “silly stuff” of others, when we think of his newspaper articles in which he said:—”Pay! wretched people—molasses and tea are dear”—and what he said about the Seigniorial bill and the Municipal bill—two measures which have called forth the admiration of the whole world—and about the Reciprocity treaty, which was, by his showing, to do all sorts of harm to the country, but which has done all sorts of […]
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[…] good. Ah! it is the same school all over. The instant a man holds a different opinion from those gentlemen, he is good for nothing, and all that he says is silly stuff. Truly, these are the foolish virgins who have no oil in their lamps.
Mr. J.B.E. Dorion—You are charming!
Mr. Denis—The honorable member told us, a short time since, that we were passing from extravagance to folly; with one stroke of the pen he sweeps away all the apices of the country, and declares that they are merely heaps of fools and simpletons; but I forgive him, for I believe that he is not compos mentis. As to those who set themselves up here as the defenders of religion, we shall, before believing them, wait for an expression of opinion on the part of those to whom is intrusted the duty of speaking on the subject; and as to the protection of our nationality, we shall hearken to the men to whom the people have delegated the duty of watching over and protecting it, and we shall not follow the leading of men like those who are opposed to the plan of Confederation. (Ministerial cheers, and ironical Opposition laughter . )
Mr. Pouliot said—Mr. Speaker, it was my intention, before recording my vote on the resolutions which are now before the House, to make some remarks respecting them at much greater length than I shall now do; for now we find that this new being, which was to be brought forth in order to save the country, has already perished while still in embryo, from the violent blow which it has received in New Brunswick; and if we still turn our attention to it, our doing so is certainly only in order to relieve the womb of its mother, whom it greatly inconveniences, and who would ultimately have been destroyed by it . There is, therefore, nothing left for us to do, Mr. Speaker, but to join in the libera and to chant requiescat in pace—(laughter)—and that, I think, this whole of Lower Canada will sing with a great deal of pleasure, giving, at the same t time, thanks to that Providence which, we love to think, watches with special care over our beloved Canada, for having preserved us from being plunged into the abyss, on the verge of which we were standing, and to charge the honorable gentlemen who sit on the other side of this House to go to England and deliver its funeral oration. (Hear, hear.)
Yet, though such is the case, Mr. Speaker, the exceptional position in which the county which I have the honor to represent here, and the position which an effort has been made to describe me as occupying in this House, by the assertion that I do not represent the opinions of my constituents in relation to this great question, compel me, before voting, to hold up to view the special situation of my county and to show that in voting as I propose to do, I shall be doing no more than carrying out and executing the wishes of the electors whom I represent. I should wish that several of the members who are going to vote on the opposite side may be able to show as good grounds in support of their votes. (Hear, hear.)
It is true that a meeting, called by myself in my double capacity as warden of the county and member representing it, was held in my county, and that at that meeting there was some disturbance which prevented an expression of opinion in relation to Confederation; but, Mr. Speaker, it is well to know that that meeting was held only two days before the balloting for the militia, and that in consequence great agitation had been got up among the young men, who are not even electors, in order to divert the attention of the meeting from the subject, to discuss Which it had been called together; and it is acknowledged, Mr. Speaker, that it is always easy to find a certain number of people, in any county whatever, who will be ever ready to create a disturbance if only they are provided with what is needful, and such is what took place on the occasion in question. Since then, however, several of the principal parishes have pronounced upon Confederation, as will be seen by the following resolutions, which I shall take the liberty of reading to the House:—
At a special meeting of the municipal council ot the parish of St. Arsine, in the county of Témiscouata, duly called by special and public notice, and held in the said parish of St. Arsine, in the public hall, on Monday, the thirteenth day of the month of February, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-five, in conformity with the provisions of the Municipal Act of Lower Canada of 1860, and at which meeting were present: J. Prime Roy, Esquire, Mayor, and Messieurs François Dubé, J . Bte. Pelletier, Hector Roy, Germain Terriault, Joseph Roy and Clovis, Berubé, members of the said Council and constituting a quorum; the said J. Prime Roy, Esquire, presiding as Mayor; and at which meeting was also present a large number of the principal inhabitants and electors of the said parish, Councillor François Dubé moved, seconded by Councillor Hector Roy:—
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That it be resolved that this Council being of opinion that the Scheme of Confederation of the British North American Provinces now before the Legislature, would be disadvantageous to Lower Canada, considers it their duty to request J. Bte. Pouliot, Esquire, member for the county, to do all in his power to prevent the adoption of the scheme in question, or at least to obtain the postponement of that adoption until after an appeal to the people shall have been had, in such way as the Legislature shall think most expedient.—Unanimously adopted.
Mr. Clovis Roy moved, seconded by Mr. Jos. Roy:—
That a copy of the foregoing resolution be at once transmitted to the said J. Bte. Pouliot, Esquire.—Unanimously adopted,
(Signed) J. Prime Roy, Mayor.
” Elie Mailloux, S.T.
I have also other resolutions, identical in character, adopted in several other parishes in the county, but I shall abstain from reading them. (Hear, hear.) Now, Mr. Speaker, in order to explain clearly to honorable members the peculiar position in which the county which I have the honor to represent is placed, I have to inform them that whatever line is adopted for the Intercolonial Railway, if it should be built—and I hope that it will be built without Confederation—it must, in any case, pass through the whole of the county—an extent of more than fifty miles—and subsequently be carried through a great extent of virgin forest, to which the inhabitants of my county are the most nearly situated.
The advantages reaped by the localities, Mr. Speaker, in which works of such magnitude are being carried out, both as regards their construction and their subsequent maintenance, and the other advantages accruing to settlements from the building of a railway, are well known. All this has been perfectly well understood by the inhabitants of my county; that is to say, that in respect of material interests. Confederation might be beneficial to us—an opinion which I also hold myself; but they have also, however, understood that as it is with individuals, so it is with nations—that the richest are not always the happiest. And believing that the French-Canadian nationality would be endangered if Confederation should be carried out, they did not hesitate for an instant to pronounce against the scheme, and charged me, as their representative, to oppose it here in their name; so that in acting as I am doing, Mr. Speaker, I am merely carrying out their wishes. (Hear, hear.)
I must say, Mr. Speaker, that I greatly regret that several of the gentlemen with whom I have worked and with whom I still work, should have so strongly based their objections to Confederation on the construction of the Intercolonial Railway. To listen to those gentlemen, one would really believe that Canada ends here at Quebec, or that the part which is situated below is not worth occupation. I invite those gentlemen to examine with a little more attention the map of the province as far as its lower extremity—the Bay of Chaleurs and Gaspé, and they will perceive that it contains a tolerably vast territory and good land adapted for colonization—a fact of which they may also convince themselves by glancing at the colonization reports.
They will perceive, I say, that if the Intercolonial Railway were made by the line called Major Robinson’s line, but not by New Brunswick, as recommended by the resolutions submitted to us, we should, before many years had elapsed, see an immense population settled on that territory, which is capable of containing more than 100,000 souls; and several of the gentlemen who oppose the construction of that road, and who reside in counties in which there is no room for the surplus population, might induce that surplus population to go and settle on the territory in question, and would have no reason to regret having done so. (Hear, hear.)
And, Mr. Speaker, besides the advantages which that road would bring to the trade of Canada in general, it would, if made to communicate with the Gulf of St. Lawrence by way of Ristigouche, have the immediate effect of imparting an impulse to the working of our fisheries, which are capable of giving employment to several thousand more persons than are now engaged in them. The effect of this would be to keep our young men at home, and even to bring them back from the United States, where many of them now are. I, therefore, invite the gentlemen who are opposed to the railway in question to join with us in hurrying the construction of it, for it will be one of the best means of restoring equality of population between the two provinces, and of stifling the cry which is so deafening to us Lower Canadians—the cry for representation by population. I willingly admit, Mr. Speaker, that public opinion below Quebec appeared at first to be favorable to Confederation, or at least that there was a disposition to submit to it, because […]
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[…] the public, had been made to believe that government was no longer possible, and that Confederation was the only weans of settling our difficulties; but I believe that that opinion has greatly changed since the Ministerial explanations have been made public; for everyone expected, and it was everywhere asserted, that amendments would be made, and that we should be informed as to the nature of the local governments, and as to the debt of Lower Canada. (Hear, hear.) With these few remarks, Mr. Speaker, I shall conclude by saying that I shall vote against the resolutions in order to carry out and to comply with the wishes of my constituents. (Cheers.)
Mr. J.J. Ross—I propose, Mr. Speaker, that the speech of the honorable member should be printed in pamphlet form, apart from the official debates, and that several thousand copies should be struck off to be distributed freely throughout the country. (Hear, hear, and laughter.)
Mr. Biggar—as the resolutions on the Confederation of the Provinces are looked to with a very great deal of interest by the country, I think it necessary to make a few remarks in explanation of the vote which I intend to give. But before doing so, I think it necessary for me to state, as briefly as possible, the position that I hold toward the present Government, as also the two governments that have preceded them. In my canvass in 1861, I most distinctly and unhesitatingly stated to my constituents that I had no confidence in the Cartier-Macdonald Government, who were then in power, as I considered that they had managed the finances of the country very badly, and had, by their extravagance, brought us to the eve of bankruptcy; and that if I were elected to the House as their representative, I should feel it my duty to vote want of confidence in that Government, if such a vote was proposed. In 1862 the Militia Bill was introduced by that Administration.
Believing that some legislation was necessary in that direction, and admitting the principle of the bill, I voted with the Government on it. Some of my political friends, with whom I was then acting, found fault with me for the course I then took and the vote I then gave; but I am happy to say that they have since been induced to take the same view of the matter that I did at that time, and they would now be willing to go a little farther in the same direction than I would perhaps feel it prudent to go with our great public debt. It is gratifying to me, however, to find that the course I took out that occasion has been approved of now by them. That Government was defeated on that vote; and when the new Government was formed, known as the Macdonald-Sicotte Administration, I was not satisfied with their policy. I had promised my constituents that I would support representation by population, and vote against separate schools; and as that Government proposed to make representation by population a close question, and to bring in a Separate School Bill, I felt that I should have to vote against them when representation by population would be moved as an amendment to the Address.
I accordingly voted for the amendment; and when Mr. Scott’s Separate School Bill was introduced, I felt it my duty to vote against it, in accordance with the pledges I had made to my constituents. That Government was defeated, and a new Govern.’ not was formed, in which I advised you, Mr. Speaker, and my friend the late Hon. Postmaster General, to take office. I stated to you, Mr. Speaker, and to the Hon. Mr. Mowat, that I would not advise you, as my friends, to take office, unless I would feel it to be my duty to support you; and that if the question of representation by population was again moved as an amendment to the Speech from the Throne, I would vote against the amendment, and that I would go before my constituents, as a general election was approaching, and state what I had done, and if they did not sustain me in what I had done, I was quite willing to remain at home.
I believe that Government did right in resigning when they found they could not carry on the business of chef country in a satisfactory manner; and when the Taché-Macdonald Administration was formed, I decided to give them a test-vote, but I was willing that they should proceed without any opposition from me, if they could control a majority of the House; but when the reconstruction took place, I felt that I could not be a party to a government of that kind—that the demoralizing influence of a coalition such as that Government contained would counteract all the good they could ever do, and that the alliance was an unhappy one. (Hear, hear.)
I was not willing, after having voted a want of confidence in them on the 14th of June last, for having misappropriated one hundred thousand dollars of the funds of the province, to come down to the House eight days after and say […]
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[…] that I would support them, now that they had promised to give the Hon. George Brown, on behalf of himself and two other members of the Liberal party, the selection of three seats in the Cabinet, when they had done no act to merit my confidence, but simply state that they would grant constitutional changes, which they might or might never do. I was not prepared, however, to give them any factious opposition, but was willing to support any good measures that they might bring forward. That Government met delegates from the Maritime Provinces, at a Conference in this city, and agreed upon the resolutions that are now submitted to this House. In them I find principles which do not harmonize with my pledges to the people, and without an appeal to the people I cannot support the measure now before the House. (Hear, hear.)
I will not here say anything of the merits of the resolutions, but simply state that they embrace principles which I cannot support on account of the promises that I have made to my constituents. The people of my county have been led by the Globe to believe that the Intercolonial Railway would be a very dangerous affair for the country, and that it would not be useful either as a military or commercial undertaking. Looking at it from a military point of view, it is well known that part of the proposed line would run within twenty-six miles of the American frontier, and that communication could be cut off at any moment by an American army; and that as a commercial undertaking it could never compete with the water route during the season of navigation; and in the winter it would be comparatively useless on account of the depth of snow. They have been told that it would never pay for the grease that would go on the axles. (Hear, hear.)
When I went before them and Stated that I would support the Macdonald-Dorion Government, they said that Government should be looked upon with suspicion, as tile had granted ten thousand dollars for the survey of the Intercolonial Railway; but I told them that the best guarantee that they could have that that work would not be proceeded with, was that the Hon. Mr. Dorion was in the Cabinet, and that he had previously resigned his seat as Provincial Secretary in the Macdonald-Sicotte Administration, rather than agree to the construction of that railway. Another question that I found a little embarrassing was that of separate schools. The present Hon. Solicitor General for Canada West [Hon. Mr. Cockburn] came into my riding and very ingeniously told the people that I was responsible for the Separate School Bill having been forced upon them, inasmuch as I had supported the general policy of the Government that had carried the bill, although I had voted with the hon. gentleman against the bill in all its stares from the beginning to the end.
They were satisfied, however, when I told them that I was prepared to vote to rescind the amendments to the Separate School Bill as introduced by Mr. Scott. Now, as these resolutions propose to perpetuate separate schools in Upper Canada for all time to come, I feel that they would conflict with the pledges that I have made to the people, and that I cannot support them. (Hear, hear.) I was a little surprised to find the Honorable President of the Council [Hon. Mr. Brown] get up and say that he did not fear any of the evil results that might proceed from the present Separate School Bill. Was that the language of the hon. gentleman in 1862? Was that the way the subject had been treated in the columns of the Globe when the bill was being discussed in 1862 and 1863?
Every member of this House will remember how the thirteen members, even spoken of in the Globe in 1862, for having had the courage to vote against the second reading of Mr. Scott’s Separate School Bill—when 95 members of the House were willing to vote for the second reading—and in 1863 when the bill was being passed into law by the Macdonald-Sicotte Government—how the members were warned to be true to their pledges, no matter what might become of the Government.
Even Dr. Ryerson, the Superintendent of Education for Upper Canada, who had devoted twenty years of the best of his life in perfecting a system of education, was denounced in the columns of the Globe as a deserter of the best interests of education in Upper Canada, for having consented to the amendments as proposed in Mr. Scott’s Separate School Bill. I cannot help referring to another remark made by the Hon. President of the Council [Hon. Mr. Brown]. He said—”Let any one vote against these resolutions and dare to go before the people.” Is he not prepared to allow others the same freedom of thought which he enjoys himself? (Hear, hear.) I can only say that I for one will not be coerced into anything of that kind. (Hear, hear.) I am not responsible to the Hon. President of the Council [Hon. Mr. Brown] for my votes. I am responsible to the people that sent me here, and to a higher power, and I […]
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[…] am not going to be coerced into giving a vote which I cannot approve. (Hear, hear.) I cannot say whether I will ever be called upon again to represent the county that I now have the honor to represent; whether I do or do not, it is a matter of no consequence to me; but I do say that I will not, under any circumstances, be coerced by the honorable gentleman.
He should not forget, however, that his influence in Northumberland is not what he might have anticipated, and that when he thought proper to come down from Toronto, in April last, to oppose the Hon. Solicitor General [Hon. Mr. Cockburn], when he was contesting the West Riding with a very respectable farmer, that notwithstanding the very powerful speeches of the Hon. President of the Council [Hon. Mr. Brown], the Hon. Solicitor General [Hon. Mr. Cockburn]was returned for that riding by a very large majority. I suppose that, had the Hon. President of the Council [Hon. Mr. Brown] anticipated that he was, within two months, to have had a seat in the same Cabinet with the Hon. Solicitor General [Hon. Mr. Cockburn], he would have acted differently.
I myself had a very strong invitation to go up to the West Riding to oppose the Hon. Solicitor General [Hon. Mr. Cockburn], but I was willing to act upon the principle of returning good for evil. I was quite willing to allow the electors of West Northumberland to choose for themselves whom they would elect for their representative in Parliament; and in regard to the Hon. Solicitor General [Hon. Mr. Cockburn], I must say that, as far as I can learn, he has discharged the duties of his office with satisfaction to the Government and the people that he represents, and with credit to himself. It is not my intention to give the Government any factious opposition. I will cheerfully support any good measures for the benefit of the country which they may bring forward for our adoption; but I wish the Government to understand, as I do not wish to occupy any doubtful position in this House, I am no supporter of theirs, and if a vote of want of confidence is at any time proposed, I am prepared to vote against them (Hear, hear.)
Mr. Jackson—I think it right to say a few words on this question before the vote is taken; but at this late hour, I will not detain the House very long. The subject has been discussed from various points of view. In the early part of the debate, one gentleman, the hon. member for Hochelaga (Hon. Mr. Dorion), objected to the scheme mainly on the ground that it approximated too closely to a legislative union, and that it would interfere with the privileges which the parties to the union exercise in their respective localities; and if I remember rightly, he said that the plan of the Government would have the effect of interfering with the language and religion of Lower Canadians. It occurred to me at tire time he was making his speech, that ho was taking untenable ground, and I felt grateful then, and I do so now, that that hon. gentleman is not in a position to exercise more power, at this crisis, than an ordinary member of the Legislature. I admire the ability of that honorable gentleman, and I consider it unfortunate that at this important juncture he did not rise above narrow and limited sectional views, and take more statesmanlike ground. (Hear, hear.)
Then the hon. member for North Ontario (Mr. M.C. Cameron) objected to Confederation from a different point of view, but he arrived at his conclusions from arguments of an entirely different character. Strange to say, he did not regard this with satisfaction, while a legislative union would meet with his approval. He professed to believe that the Maritime Provinces would combine with Lower Canada, and form a Union detrimental to the interests of Upper Canada, placing the people there in a worse position than that which they at present occupy with an equality of representation. As he made that remark, I asked him what difference it could make then, whether we had a Federal or a Legislative union, which he professes to admire, as it would have charge of all the important general interests. His answer convinced me that there was nothing to support his argument. It seemed to me that he took too much for granted in assuming that there would be a union between Lower Canada and the Maritime Provinces as against Upper Canada.
It is hardly to be conceived that gentlemen called together for the performance of certain high purposes would attempt to do an injury to one part of the country over another. (Hear, hear.) If such a sectional alliance was possible, it would be much more likely that the union would be formed with Upper Canada, inasmuch as that part of the proposed Confederacy has a much larger aggregate business than any or either of the other separate sections. But I will not dwell upon this, as it appears to me to carry with it its own refutation. This principal reason for opposing this scheme is. I think, founded on the fact that the hon. gentlemen now united together in […]
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[…] the Government do not possess his confidence. He referred to their antecedents, and spoke of their being opposed to each other before, and said that it was impossible for them to unite now for any good object.
I think, sir, it will scarcely be denied that in looking back upon the antecedents of our public men, there is hardly one of any note who has not, during some portion of his life, found himself in such a position as to render it necessary for him to abandon views which he had previously maintained, and that no government has been successful which has not been founded upon mutual concessions. It is necessary that public men on both sides should unite in great emergencies in order to promote the general welfare. We know very well that those who are open to conviction very frequently change their course, and it is no disgrace to any one that under the influence of increased knowledge he has shaped his conduct in accordance with the degree of light which has surrounded him. The honorable gentleman knows very well that we must judge the actions of individuals not merely by-their motives—for these we cannot often penetrate—but by the character and results of their actions. And so we must look upon the scheme now before us as it really is.
We must examine it for ourselves, and unless we see clear evidence to the contrary, we ought to give its promoters credit for honesty and sincerity. I have no sympathy with those who willingly attribute the actions of public men to the influence of unworthy motives, when they may fairly claim to originate in the higher qualities of the mind and heart. It is the duty, I think, of all right-minded men to give this Government the credit of acting from high-minded motives. But supposing, for the sake of argument, that these honorable gentlemen had united for dividing among themselves offices of profit and emolument. It is fortunate that the germs of evil seldom attain to their complete development. Professions of patriotism do not always betoken the absence of selfishness. He has read history to little purpose who has not discovered that political dishonesty has frequently been not only harmless, but has been practically the minister of public good.
The hon. member for North Ontario (Mr. M.C. Cameron) stated the other day, that under Confederation Upper Canada would contribute an unequally large proportion of the amount necessary to sustain the machinery of the Confederacy. He had a large array of figures before him; but as I took no notes of these figures, I am not prepared to dispute their correctness. But he forgot this, which is a matter of great importance to be considered, that under Confederation there will be a uniformity in the tariffs of the several provinces, and if the tariff of Canada is reduced so as to bring it into conformity with those of the Maritime Provinces, the disproportion will disappear.
An hon. gentleman who afterwards addressed the House, and who, I regret, is absent from the House by reason of indisposition—the hon. member for Brome (Mr. Dunkin)—I understood to say that nations and constitutions and governments owed their origin to that creative power to which all are indebted for existence and the means of perpetuating it. The idea is well expressed in the words of a celebrated writer:—”There is a Divinity that shapes our ends, rough hew them as we may.” He (Mr. Dunkin) then went on to question the honesty of the purpose of those gentlemen, Hon. Messrs. Ross, Galt and Cartier, who signed the despatch of 1858, which resulted in the Conference of last September. He described all the intermediate stages as “accidents,” and then found fault with every item of the conferential arrangement.
The hon. gentleman, on his own principles, should not criticise too severely the action of the Government. They might be only instruments in the hands of the Supreme Architect. The reasonable method would be to examine the arrangements or agreements of the Conference, and if the scheme is found to be based upon just and equitable principles, it must recommend itself to favorable consideration, and the inevitable conclusion is that it ought to be adopted. I confess I admire the arrangement, which has no doubt been arrived at after much cave and deliberation.
The commercial and financial parts of the scheme seem to me to be as just as, under the circumstances, they possibly could be. It is a very ordinary accomplishment to be able to find fault. It is much easier to destroy than to build up. We know that those so disposed might take up the best schemes ever devised by human ingenuity, and draw improper conclusions therefrom. In fact there is no form of government in the world but what, if badly administered, would be productive of evil. On the other hand, a scheme somewhat defective in itself, if placed in the hands of good and patriotic men, might be made to […]
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[…] conduce to the advantage of the country—”That which is best administered is best.” Mr. Speaker, no scheme can be entirely perfect. Indeed, it is scarcely desirable it should be so. There should be room for the exercise of political virtue, and scope for the exercise of that executive responsibility which attaches to our system of government There is a great deal of discretion left to our public men, and they are expected to use their powers for the general weal and welfare. I am disposed to place confidence in the Government, and believe that they will, so far as their ability goes, work out this scheme to a desirable result, and in this I hope and trust they will succeed The hon. member for Lennox and Addington (Mr. Cartwright), in his speech to-day, which, like all his other speeches, was of the most admirable kind, made some profound observations.
He had thought deeply upon the subject of which he was treating. He remarked that the Government were merely giving effect to a foregone conclusion. He, no doubt, recognized that the public sentiment and public opinion had attained a certain state—had arrived at such a point, that the Government were compelled to go with the stream, and endeavor to consummate that which the people had already brought into such a condition of forwardness.
And I thought, sir, that this was the proper and philosophical view to take of the matter. It is true, to my mind at all events—and I think that those who have made themselves acquainted with political history, and the political history of England in particular, must come to the conclusion that those governments act most wisely who take advantage of existing circumstances, and adapt legislation to the real wants and exigencies of the country. The question is not at all times what is best in the abstract, but what is most useful and advantageous to the people. My idea of a statesman is that he should be influenced to a large extent by motives of expediency. Abstract propositions can seldom be reduced to practice. It is foolish for gentlemen placed in the position of the Government to go against the popular stream, and they best manifest their prudence, their ability, and their adaptation to the discharge of their important duties, who make use of passing events for directing the vessel of state into a secure harbour.
The honorable member for Missisquoi (Mr. O’Halloran) said the other night that there was too much legislation—that the country was governed to death, and I admit that to a certain extent there is some propriety in his remarks; but they did not apply to the present subject. I presume we are not here for the purpose of discussing the past acts of the Government, but for the purpose of considering the scheme now before us, and it will be an evidence of our good sense and wisdom—it will show, too, our seriousness—if we give it our calm and impartial consideration without reference to extraneous matters. (Hear, hear ) I think, sir, we are now pasting out of the season of political childhood, and that we are being called upon, in the course of events, to enter upon the duties and responsibilities incidental to the period of youth. We are required to practise and inure ourselves to the discharge of important duties, which require discretion and self reliance. And as it is in nature, so it is in communities—there are various stages of progress through which we must pass before we can arrive at the position of manhood.
There are only two kinds of animals that attain to eminence—things that fly and things that creep. Thugs which fly are never secure—they are frequently brought down; whilst things which creep proceed firmly and cautiously, if slowly, and by degrees arrive at the topmost point. And so people who pass at a bound from a state of political childhood to a state of political manhood, violate the order and arrangement observed in nature. We have seen instances where people have disregarded the various stages of political existence; but in so doing they have deprived themselves of the advantages of that experience which is necessary to a vigorous manhood, and which previous training alone can secure. I trust we shall not make this mistake, but that we shall observe the order and gradations of nature, and pass through the various political stages of being, from childhood upwards, in such a way that we may learn to discharge the duties of our position in a spirit of self-reliance; that we shall have been taught how to make the best of our circumstances, and prove that the training we have received during our pupilage has been such as to fit us for a vigorous and prosperous future. (Hear.)
I think that this view of the subject is one of some importance—so much so, that it has been said the logical conclusion of it would be our independence. […]
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[…] Well, I do not think there is anything disloyal, that there is anything improper, in supposing that the time may come when this British North American territory shall be the abode of a great and independent people. I do not with to live to see it. But I know very well that when the time comes, there will be no interference on the part of Great Britain with that which seems to be a condition of the inevitable order of things; that the country with which we are now connected and allied—and it is not only apolitical alliance, but a social alliance, an attachment of affection and esteem—would not at all feel jealous if in the course of events the people inhabiting British North America should be prosperous enough and numerous enough to aspire to independence. (Hear, hear.)
Mr. Speaker, the circumstances which have brought about the contemplated measure—and I trust it will be a successful one—are such as have forced themselves on the consideration of the Government. I have already alluded to one of these, circumstances, and that is the fact that we are passing from the stage of childhood to a higher and more responsible position—that the Government of this country has for some time been in a state of transition, and that this is the only relief which ihe circumstances present to us, the only way in which an amelioration can be found. During a number of years, and especially since I have taken an active part in politics—in the course of my various election contests—I have invariably stated, that while I looked upon representation by population as a remedy for the political inequalities which existed as between the two sections of the province, a Federal union of the British North American Provinces seemed to me to be the only proper and legitimate conclusion to be ultimately arrived at. Therefore, in advocating this scheme and in giving my vote for it, as I shall do when the matter is brought to that stage which will enable a vote to be taken, I am only doing that which I have for a number of years looked forward to, and which I believe the exigencies of the country necessitate. (Hear.)
There are other circumstances besides that to which I have alluded, which render me favorable to the adoption of the resolutions now before the House. The war in the United States, and the, at one time, apparently imminent disintegration of that republic, strongly directed our attention to the necessity and desirability of uniting with our neighbors for defensive purposes. I do not say that the desire for a union of the provinces grew out of the war in the United States, nor am I going to give any opinion in reference to that war. We all regret its existence, and will all be grateful when it is brought to a close, and the blessings of peace shall again visit our oontinent. I hope that the commercial relations as between us and the United States will be continued; that we shall have the freest intercourse with that people, and that the passport system being removed, the time is not far distant when our relations with them shall be as friendly and as cordial as they have heretofore been. (Hear, hear.)
The threatened repeal of the Reciprocity treaty is another thing that has led to the strong feeling that has been aroused in favor of this scheme. We hope by this union to obtain a large number of customers for our products, intercourse with whom will not be subject to those interruptions that characterise trade with foreign nations. We shall have a large territory under our own government, trade with which and through which will secure to us mutual advantages. Having made these remarks, I would pass on to observe that the expressed desire on the part of the leading men, both of the Government and of the Opposition, in all the provinces, for a close connection, is another strong reason why we should at once take the necessary steps for enabling the union to be carried out. It is a most remarkable and most favorable circumstance that the best men, the ablest men, the wisest men and the most patriotic men in all the provinces—men whose integrity and abilities have raised them to the highest places in the regards of the people, and whose wisdom in the management of public affairs has sustained them for a long period in those high and honorable positions—met together and agreed upon a scheme of union without any dissension.
This agreement in forming a basis of a Constitution, and a foundation to what may become a great nation, I look upon as a most favorable omen indeed. I look upon this union of sentiment as another strong reason for our taking the necessary steps to carry out the union so happily inaugurated, as also a strong evidence of the propriety and wisdom which characterised the course of the hon. gentlemen who composed the respective delegations. The gentlemen representing the Lower Provinces gave […]
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[…] evidence of ability of a very high order, and I am sure the country will regret that any of the gentlemen who so well adorned the Conference, and who occupied such honorable positions in the government of their provinces, should have lost those positions through attachment to the scheme, for I had learned to look up to those men with a great deal of interest and hope for the future. (Hear, hear.) They are men of such a superior order, that they would grace any legislature in which they might be called upon to take part, and I trust they may be soon again placed in the positions of power and trust from which they have been so unhappily ejected. (Hear, hear.)
There are other reasons to which I might refer, that are pressing the subject upon our attention. I will first, however, briefly refer to one important point connected with the subject, about which a good deal has been said by those who have spoken against the resolutions, and it is a matter that will be made the utmost of among the electors of Upper Canada. I mean the question of referring the scheme to a vote of the people, at a general election or some other, way, to ascertain what their views are upon it before taking final action in this House. Previous to the opening of the present session, I took occasion to visit several townships in the county I have the honor to represent. I laid the whole matter as fully before them as I could well do, and I did not meet with a single individual who did not recognize it as the duty of the present House of Parliament to carry the measure into effect as speedily as possible, so far as it was in the power of our Legislature and Government to do.
At various meetings resolutions were voluntarily proposed by individuals in the audience, instructing me to support the measure, and further stating that they would consider it a calamity if a general election were resorted to for the mere purpose of obtaining the consent of the people on the subject, nine-tenths of whose press endorse it. So satisfied were my constituents of the fairness of the scheme on the whole, and of the importance of having it go into operation with the least delay possible, that I feel that I shall be sustained in the vote I am about to give, by the sentiment of those whom I represent in this House. For these reasons, then, I am prepared to vote for the proposed union of all the British American Provinces, as provided for in the resolutions now before the House. (Hear, hear.) Mr. Speaker, I trust the House will not regard me as desirous of assuming the office of a censor, if I express my belief that many of the speeches that have been made upon this question have contained a vast quantity of matter quite irrelevant to the question under discussion.
There may be parts of the arrangement proposed that are unsatisfactory to many hon. gentlemen, but it is utterly impossible to devise a scheme that will be acceptable to everybody, or that will not be open to the criticism of seeming to bear harder on one section of the country than on another. But it should not be judged in that manner, but by its general fairness and by its being calculated to promote the welfare of the entire country embraced and to be embraced in the Confederacy. It would be absurd to suppose that a scheme could be devised for the purpose that would please and satisfy every section. The scheme under consideration should not be treated and criticised in this narrow, contracted view. Some portions of the country may have to make concessions and sacrifices for the public good, but these should be cheerfully borne, if not of too aggravating a nature.
If Upper Canada is blessed with more wealth than any of the other provinces, it ought not to be forgotten that its accountability and its responsibility are greater—that they are in proportion to its riches—and while the people of that important section of the Confederacy may be called upon to concede some things that they have valued-very highly for the general welfare, yet it is not for a moment to be supposed—and no one who dispassionately examines the whole subject can come to that conclusion—that Upper Canada will not receive very important advantages in return, in other respects. There must be conciliation and compromise between the several conflicting interests found in so large and so varied a territory, and we never can have a union without meeting and accommodating ourselves to this difficulty. (Hear, hear.)
The question of our defences is another important consideration in connection with the subject; but I am not going to discuss that, because I am not a military man. I cannot, however, see how any hon. gentleman can deliberately stand up and express as his candid conviction, that the proposed union will not in any manner increase our defensive power. To me, such statements seem most extraordinary. But this portion of the question has already […]
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[…] been quite fully discussed; and not being, as I before remarked, a military man, I do not think anything I could say upon it would add much to the enlightenment of the House at this late stage of the debate. I will, therefore, Mr. Speaker, simply say that I look forward to the union with great hope for the future of our land. In the first place, the union will vastly enlarge our ideas of the greatness and ultimate destiny of these provinces, and give scope for higher aspirations. It will make the young men of this country feel that they have a better inheritance than they now feel to be theirs, and an opportunity of rising to higher points of distinction in this the land of their birth or adoption.
The same opportunities will also be open to the young men of the Lower Provinces, and in this connection I have no hesitation in saying, from what I know of them, that the inhabitants of the Lower Provinces, for enterprise, industry and general intelligence, will compare favorably with any other portion of the territory that will be embraced in the union. It will be an advantage to us to have their cooperation in working out the future of this country, and our connection with them will give birth and life to those ideas that lie at the foundation of a nation’s prosperity and happiness. (Hear, hear.)
And now, Mr. Speaker, having thus rapidly glanced at some of those important particulars that to my mind render the proposal under con side ration a wise and desirable one for our adoption, I shall conclude, because I do not desire to protract the debate, by stating, that for the reasons I have briefly adduced, and from the process of reasoning I have been led to adopt, it is my intention to support the motion for the adoption of the resolutions respecting Confederation, proposed by my friend the Hon. Attorney General West [Hon. J.A. Macdonald]. (Cheers.)
Mr. McConkey said—Mr. Speaker, at this late hour of the night I rise to address you with very great reluctance, but I feel that I would not be doing justice to myself and the people who sent me here, did I allow the vote on this momentous question to be taken without expressing my opinion upon it, however briefly. In doing so, Mr. Speaker, I shall not invoke the aid of history, or exhume old newspaper files to give the opinions of other men, but shall simply confine myself to stating a few of the ideas which have suggested themselves to my own mind in considering the subject. The task is the more difficult at this stage of the debate, as the arguments for and against the measure have been already so ably and lengthily elaborated by members of this honorable House. Mr. Speaker, we have had eventful times in Canada. The union of the Canadas was an important event in this country; and, sir, although latterly it has not worked satisfactorily, I am not one of those who are prepared to say that under that union we did not prosper. From a very small population, we have grown, under the union, to be a very considerable people, comprising a population of two millions and a-half. We have also grown in wealth, intelligence, and everything else that tends to national greatness.
But difficulties between the provinces have sprung up; Upper Canada rapidly increased in population and wealth over Lower Canada, and has for the last ten or twelve years demanded an increased representation on the floor of this House. She argued, and very properly, that her position was a degraded one—that with a population in excess of that of Lower Canada by 400,000 people, and contributing about three-fourths of the revenue of this country, she was entitled to such a constitutional arrangement as would place her on a perfect equality with the sister province, and that she would not be satisfied until that was conceded, as the demand was a just and honorable one. Sir, just although this was, Lower Canada, with, I have no doubt, just as much honesty and quite as much determination, resisted their demand.
Hence the terrific struggles which ensued between the sections for the last few years. Within the past three years we have had no fewer than three Ministerial crises. Neither the one party nor the other could govern, so evenly were parties balanced in this House and the country. The machinery of government was almost entirely stopped, and a chronic crisis had set in. Sir, it was apparent to every discerning mind that some solution of existing difficulties must be sought. The present state of things could not continue. Mr. Speaker, I well recollect the announcement of the Honorable Attorney General West [Hon. J.A. Macdonald]. After the defeat of his Government, in June last, that honorable gentleman manfully acknowledged the political difficulty in which this country was placed. He informed the House that His Excellency the Governor General had granted the Government carte blanche, […]
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[…] involving a dissolution of Parliament, if they chose, but that they, nevertheless, hesitated to exercise the power; that while individual changes might be made in the constituencies, the two great parties would come back nearly the same; and added, that he had had an interview with the hon. member for South. Oxford (Hon. Mr. Brown) of a most satisfactory nature, from which he thought he saw a solution of our difficulties, and asked an adjournment of the House. Subsequently, interviews were had between the members of the Government and the member for South Oxford [Hon. Mr. Brown], which resulted in the present Coalition Government.
Sir, after a full consideration of the subject in all its bearings, I decided to give the new Government my support, trusting they would be able, as I believed they desired, to put the affairs of this country on a more satisfactory and enduring basis. But, while I support this Government, I must not be understood as approving of coalitions generally. I hold that to a country enjoying representative institutions and responsible government, it is indeed a matter of very little consequence which, of the political parties are in power, so long as there is a strong party to scrutinise their acts, and exercise a general surveillance over them. When, however, the two great parties coalesce, and there is no strong party in the country to watch them, there is more or less danger of abuses and corruption creeping in. I do not, however, desire that the gentlemen on the Treasury benches should understand that I apply this remark to them.
They, sir, I believe, are not only pure, but, like Cesar’s wife, above suspicion. And, if even a necessity existed in any country to justify a coalition, it was in Canada; and I rejoice to know that we had statesmen among us who could rise above the petty political and personal squabbles, in which they had been unfortunately too long engaged, to grapple with a great national difficulty. (Cheers.) I think, too, it was most fortunate—providential, I might say—that this country had a strong, vigorous Government during the past season, when complications between us and the United States were gathering.
To the strength of the Government we owe the prompt manner in which raiders and others, desirous of creating a difficulty between England and America, were put down. (Hear, hear.) Mr. Speaker, I have read the resolutions of the Conference, now in your hands, carefully; and while, in my opinion, many of the details are objectionable, from an Upper Canadian point of view, I have, nevertheless, no doubt they were framed with a desire to do justice to all the provinces. No person can read those resolutions without coining to the conclusion that mutual concessions must have been made all round. They clearly bear the impress of compromise. No doubt, sir, much difficulty was experienced by the gentlemen composing the Conference, in fitting and dovetailing the heterogeneous parts or provinces into a homogeneous whole. I have listened attentively to the speeches of the Opposition, and have so far failed to hear of a better proposition than the one before us; and, indeed, I am not surprised that a better proposition should not have been presented to us, considering that this scheme was compiled by the master minds in British America. (Hear, hear.)
I stated, sir, that some of the details were objectionable, and I now repeat that had the Government permitted amendments to the resolutions, I certainly would have supported them; but in view of the very critical position in which this country stands, I will not assume the responsibility of opposing this scheme as a whole. (Hear, hear.) Although I admit the building of the Intercolonial Railroad to be just as necessary to the proposed Confederation as the spinal column to the human frame; nevertheless, in view of the jobbing and extravagance committed with the Grand Trunk, I have a dread of the amount its construction and working will cost this country. Sir, I am not as sanguine as some honorable gentlemen in this House in reference to this road. I have no faith in it as a commercial enterprise; I look upon it as a military necessity, and a bond of union between the Confederated Provinces. Sir, we have been told that the Imperial Government has been notified of the intention of the Government of the United States to abrogate the Reciprocity treaty.
To my mind this will be most unfortunate for Canada, and I sincerely trust that the members of the Government who will shortly visit England will urge the Imperial Government to secure a renewal of it, if it can be obtained on honorable terms. While hoping this treaty may be renewed, I do not participate in the feeling that its abrogation will drive us into the United States. (Hear, hear.) Sir, I regret to hear […]
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[…] gentlemen speak so glibly of annexation. One tells us that if Confederation is not consummated, annexation is the other alternative—that we are already on an “inclined plane”—and that the abrogation of the treaty and refusal to adopt the resolutions in your hands will certainly ”grease the ways.” Sir, I believe nothing of the kind. The assertion is a libel on the people of Canada, who, I believe, are truly loyal to the British Crown, and have no desire to change the state of their political existence. (Hear, hear.)
But while provision is made in these resolutions for the construction of the Intercolonial Railroad, I am sorry to see that no decisive provision is made for the western extension. And I would not be at all satisfied myself with the resolutions as they stand, were it not for the positive assurances if the Government that that matter would be attended to simultaneously with the construction of that road. For I hold it to be of essential importance that we should proceed, as soon as possible, with the opening up of the North-West country and the extension of our canal system. (Hear, hear.)
And while on this subject, I may be permitted to say that I hope, that in going on with the canals, the Government will not overlook the necessity which exists for the construction of the great Georgian Bay Canal. (Hear, hear.) I reside on the shores of the Georgian Bay, and am satisfied that that is the best feasible route by which we can hope to bring the trade of the Great West-through this country. (Hear, hear.) Idol hope the Government will seriously consider this when they are framing their canal scheme. I am glad to see the Hon. Attorney General West [Hon. J.A. Macdonald] listening closely to what I am saying on this subject, and I trust he will not overlook it.
Hon. Atty. Gen. Macdonald—Hear! Hear!
Mr. McConkey—I have no hesitation in expressing my desire that these resolutions as a whole may be carried into effect, and that the whole of the other provinces will come into the arrangement. I hope they will. I would be sorry to see the British Government attempt to coerce them against their will—but I trust that before many months they will see the propriety of coming in—and that before this time twelve months we shall have been formed into one great British American Confederation. (Hear, hear.) I have no doubt that the consummation of this union will give peace and contentment to the whole country. I have no hesitation in stating my own conviction that it will give peace and contentment to Upper Canada, by giving us the management of our own local affairs without let or hindrance, while Lower Canada in like manner will have the management of her own local affairs. It will also give Upper Canada, at least in the House of Commons, what we have so long contended for—representation according to our population. I am happy to find that this is fully conceded to us in the popular branch of the Legislature. (Hear, hear.)
I cannot do otherwise than approve of the proceedings of the Government the other day, on the intelligence reaching us of the result of the elections in one of the eastern provinces., When I heard that many of those elections in New Brunswick had gone against the scheme, I was at a loss to decide what would be the proper course—whether the scheme should still be pressed, or whether we should turn our attention to some other scheme. On full consideration of the subject, I have arrived at the conclusion that the Government have acted properly, and that they deserve every credit for the prompt action they have taken to get a speedy decision on this question. It is clear that the question of our defences, and that of our commercial relations with the United States, must be immediately looked to. Some steps must, as soon as possible, be taken to put the country in a proper state of defence. The season is approaching when we would be in a very unsatisfactory condition for meeting a hostile force, and it is the duty of the Government to take prompt action, that we may be prepared, should the hour of need arise. (Hear, hear.)
A good deal has been said during this discussion about the propriety of an appeal to the people. I hold that great revolutions of this kind ought to receive the .sanction of the people. But, in view of the fact that it is well known that ninety out of every hundred, in Upper Canada at least, are in favor of the scheme, I do not complain that it has not been considered advisable to submit it to a direct vote of the people. For my own part, being fully alive to the great responsibility I had to assume in voting upon these resolutions, I felt it my duty, before coming here, to hold meetings through my county, in order to consult my constituents. Those meetings were held all through the […]
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[…] riding, and at every one of them the people were unanimous in supporting the scheme. (Hear, hear.)
Some of the details were objected to, but the scheme as a whole was approved of. These meetings were attended by men of all parties, and the resolutions were moved and seconded in many cases by my political opponents. I did not find more than three gentlemen, at all of those meetings, who gave opposition to the measure. And I may say further, that, when an appeal to the people was mentioned, the expression of opinion was, that it was not at all desirable or necessary, as it was known that the measure was so generally approved of. The result was, that my constituents instructed me to support these resolutions, giving me authority at the same time to propose amendments to such details as I might disapprove of, if the Government would allow any amendments to be made. (Hear, hear.)
I find, from conversation with several hour. Members from the west that I differ from them with reference to the composition of the Legislative Council. I hardly approved of the preposition of the Government when an innovation was made on the constitution of the Legislative Council in 1855 I felt it was a wrong step, and fully sympathized with the opposition given to it at that time by the present Hon. President of the Council (Hon Mr. Brown) and the honorable member for Peel (Honorable J. H. Cameron). Had I then been in a position to give effect to my views, I should have joined those honorable gentlemen in protesting against that encroachment upon the Constitution. I approve entirely of the proposition contained in the resolutions now before the House, with reference to this matter. If a necessity exists at all for a check upon hasty and ill-digested legislation of the popular branch, that check should not derive its power from the same source, and in the same manner.
I have, however, for some time inclined to the opinion that the Legislative Council might, with safety, be abolished altogether, and that thereby there would be effected an immense saving to the country. In carrying out this scheme, very much, of course, will depend upon the character of the local constitutions. If such a system can be adopted as will render the working of the local governments simple and inexpensive, it will conduce very much to the prosperity of this whole Confederation. I must say, sir, that if I am permitted to have a voice in the framing of a Constitution for Upper Canada, I shall insist upon it being of the most inexpensive kind, dispensing with a great deal of the paraphernalia that we see so much of here. (Hear, hear.)
In bringing the new system into operation, and laying the foundations of the new nationality of British North America on a permanent and enduring basis, a weighty responsibility indeed devolves on the governments of these provinces, and the most rigid economy consistent with propriety ought to be, and I trust will be, a leading feature in their arrangements. (Hear, hear.) Mr. Speaker, I am no alarmist, but disguise it as we may, this country is at the present moment deeply depressed. I entirely dissent from sentiments enunciated by honorable gentlemen on the floor of this House as to the general prosperity of Canada; the actual state of matters is not as they represent it.
Through a failure of crops for a number of years back in Upper Canada, that section of the province is in a state of agricultural and commercial prostration; farmers and others are unable to meet their engagements to the merchant, who, in consequence, is unable to meet his liabilities to the wholesale dealers, and the result is that scores, I may say hundreds, are obliged to collapse and go into liquidation; bank agencies are being withdrawn from the country districts, and banking accommodation very much curtailed. Mr. Speaker, these are facts that cannot be gainsaid. Every branch of industry is almost paralyzed at the present moment, and a general gloom hangs like a pall over the land. Under these circumstances, it behoves the Government to do everything in their power to revive and foster industry in the country.
Sir, I will not say that this Government does so, but governments have been too much in the habit of borrowing from the banks that capital which ought to go into circulation for the benefit of the trade of the country. I hold that it is the duty of all governments to refrain from doing anything that will bear upon the people’s industry; and I implore this Government to turn their attention to the position of this country just now, and do all they can to better the condition of the people. While, sir, there are features in the proposition before you which, if they stood alone on their merits, I should certainly oppose, yet, as I stated before, I do not think them of sufficient importance to justify me in rejecting the scheme, which is certainly calculated to elevate us from the position of […]
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[…] mere colonists to that of citizens of a great British American nation, covering as it will half a continent, stretching from the mighty Atlantic on the east, to the golden shores of the Pacific on the west, bounded on the south by the great American Republic, and on the north by—sir, I was going to say the North Pole—with, not an intercolonial railroad merely, but an interoceanic communication, stretching from sea to sea. Mr. Speaker, I deeply feel the great responsibility that attaches to the vote I will shortly be called upon to give. I have weighed well this matter, and taking all things into account, I can arrive at no other conclusion than that it is my duty to vote for the resolutions in your hands, and I am now prepared to do so, believing that I am carrying out the views of the great bulk of my constituents. (Cheers.)
On motion of Mr. Taschereau, the debate was then adjourned.