Province of Canada, Legislative Council, Parliamentary Debates on the Subject of the Confederation of the British North America Provinces, 8th Parl, 3rd Sess, (7 February 1865)

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Date: 1865-02-07
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 45-53.
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Note: All endnotes come from our recent publication, Charles Dumais & Michael Scott (ed.), The Confederation Debates in the Province of Canada (CCF, 2022).

Click here to view the rest of the Confederation Debates.

Pursuant to the Order of the Day, the House resumed the adjourned Debate on the motion of Étienne Pascal Taché [Canada East, appointed 1848, Premier, Minister of Militia, and Receiver General],

For an Address to Her Majesty, praying that She may be graciously pleased to cause a measure to be submitted to the Imperial Parliament for the purpose of uniting the Colonies of Canada, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Newfoundland, and Prince Edward Island, in one Government, with provisions based on the Resolutions which were adopted at a Conference of Delegates from the said Colonies, held at the City of Quebec, on the 10th of October, 1864.[1]

Alexander Campbell [Cataraqui, elected 1858, Commissioner of Crown Lands] said that yesterday he had promised to give to the House today an explanation of the provision contained in the 14th resolution relating to the selection of members for the Legislative Council of the General Legislature. This resolution read as follows:—

14. The first selection of the Members of the Legislative Council shall be made, except as regards Prince Edward Island, from the Legislative Councils of the various Provinces, so far as a sufficient number be found qualified and willing to serve; such members shall be appointed by the Crown at the recommendation of the General Executive Government, upon the nomination of the respective Local Governments, and in such nomination due regard shall be had to the claims of the Members of the Legislative Council of the Opposition in each Province, so that all political parties may as nearly as possible be fairly represented.[2]

And under it the first recommendation for the appointment of Legislative Councillors from Canada would, should the Confederation scheme be adopted, come from the existing Government of this province. In making such recommendations, the spirit of the resolution would be carefully observed, and both sides in this House and as well life as elected members, be equally considered and fairly represented in the new Parliament.

Billa Flint [Trent, elected 1863] begged to inquire whether the resolutions before the House were in all respects the same as those sent to the members.

Alexander Campbell [Cataraqui, elected 1858, Commissioner of Crown Lands] said they were not in one particular precisely as first printed, there being a clause in those before the House to allow New Brunswick to impose a duty on timber and logs, and Nova Scotia on coal, which was not found in the first; as for the other provinces, the imposition of such duties was reserved to the General Legislature[3].

James Currie [Niagara, elected 1862]—Hear, hear.

Alexander Campbell [Cataraqui, elected 1858, Commissioner of Crown Lands] said he hoped that honourable members would rather aid in furthering the scheme than take pleasure in detecting the supposed causes of opposition.

Some Hon. Members—Hear.

James Currie [Niagara, elected 1862] asked whether the difference between the two sets of resolutions was merely a misprint.

Alexander Campbell [Cataraqui, elected 1858, Commissioner of Crown Lands] could not say whether it was owing to a misprint or to an error in the manuscript.

James Currie [Niagara, elected 1862] again asked whether the members of the Conference had not signed the instrument containing its resolutions

Alexander Campbell [Cataraqui, elected 1858, Commissioner of Crown Lands] could only say that the resolutions now before the House truly and expressly represented the conclusions the Conference had arrived at.

Some Hon. Members—Hear, hear.

Alexander Campbell [Cataraqui, elected 1858, Commissioner of Crown Lands]—Those conclusions had not been changed.

James Currie [Niagara, elected 1862] then rose and said that the measure now before the House was the most important one ever submitted to a Colonial Legislature, and he hoped to be able to approach it with entire freedom from party spirit, and without the purpose of finding out unnecessary objections. He hoped he would, at all times, be able to judge of the measures presented with the fairness and candour of a Canadian and a British subject.

At the outset he would, however, say, that the project now before the House had taken the country by surprise. The first time he had ever addressed the House he was reported to have spoken thus:—

That by a course of legislation, alike moderate, prudent and upright, it will yet be the lot of some present to live and see the day when Canada will be the centre of a noble British North American Confederacy extending from the Atlantic to the

  • (p. 46)

Pacific—a Confederacy not born in war, or baptized in blood, but a Confederacy united by the bonds of friendship, held together by the strong ties of friendly commerce and mutual interests, and cemented by a common allegiance to the throne of Great Britain.[4]

From this quotation it would be seen that then he was in favour of a Confederation of the several British North American Provinces, but he little thought then that within two short years such a scheme would be submitted to Parliament. He was still in favour of Confederation—

Some Hon. Members—Hear.

James Currie [Niagara, elected 1862]—but it must be a Confederation founded on a just and equitable basis, upon principles which would be alike advantageous to all parts and injurious to none. If any other kind of Confederation were agreed upon, it would contain within itself the seeds of decay and dissolution.

The project had been elaborately presented to the House by the gallant knight at the head of the Government [Étienne Pascal Taché] and by his able colleague, the Hon. Commissioner of Crown Lands [Alexander Campbell], and what reasons had they alleged in favour of it? He confessed he had been quite surprised at some of the arguments of the former. That hon. gentleman had stated that if the scheme were rejected, whether we would or would not, Canada would be forced by violence into the American Union, or placed upon an inclined plane which would carry us there.

Now when men occupying high positions like the hon. member, assumed the responsibility of giving utterance to such startling opinions, they ought to be prepared to support them with very cogent reasons.

Étienne Pascal Taché [Canada East, appointed 1848, Premier, Minister of Militia, and Receiver General]—I am quite ready to give them.

James Currie [Niagara, elected 1862]—If the case were as represented, it must be because we are quite defenceless, and that except in union with the Lower Provinces we were at the mercy of the United States. But what did the honourable member mean by the inclined plane? For his part he had not heard of any desire on the part of the people of this province to change their political institutions and turn from the glorious flag under which many of them had fought and bled. Had anything been heard from abroad, to the effect that unless we accepted this scheme, England would cast us off or let us slide down the inclined plane?

Some Hon. MembersLaughter.

James Currie [Niagara, elected 1862]—Yet these were the sole, or at least the chief, reasons alleged by that honourable member. Let us then ask ourselves whether the scheme provided a remedy for the threatened evils. Would Canada indeed be so physically strengthened sea-ward and land-ward by this alliance, that in the event of aggression on the part of the United States, we would be rendered quite safe? It was easy to say that union gave strength, but would this union really give us strength? He could understand that union with a people contiguous would do so, but union with provinces 1,500 miles apart at the extreme points, was a very different thing, and more likely to be a source of weakness.

In his mind it was like tying a small twine at the end of a large rope and saying it strengthened the whole line. When the honourable member said that Canada would be supported by all the military power of the Lower Provinces, we should not run away with the idea that this meant anything. What were the facts? Upon looking at the census of those provinces he found that the male population between the ages of 21 and 50—the extreme limits at which men bore arms—was 128,457, of which number 63,289 were chiefly employed on the water, that is, in the coasting trade and the fisheries, leaving 65,000 to assist in the defence of Canada.

Some Hon. Members—Hear, hear.

James Currie [Niagara, elected 1862]—Now, suppose a draft of one-third of these was made for military exigencies—and one-third would be a large proportion—we would have less than 22,000 men available for the service. Why, that would not be enough to defend their own frontier from aggression. Without referring to the causes which had led to the formation of the present Government, or to the extraordinary conduct of some of the public men composing it, he must nevertheless allude to the express objects they professed to have in view in coming together. And the principal object was a scheme of federation, but not the scheme now offered to the House. If he understood the matter at all, the Government was organized on the basis of a Confederation of Upper and Lower Canada first, in which Confederation the Lower Provinces might afterwards be admitted if they wished it.

Alexander Campbell [Cataraqui, elected 1858, Commissioner of Crown Lands]—Not so.

James Currie [Niagara, elected 1862]—He was not surprised at the dissent of the Honourable Commissioner of Crown Lands [Alexander Campbell], for the leaders in both Houses had placed the larger object, that is the organization of a general Confederation, as the primary one. But the basis of the organization had been reduced to writing, and he held in his hand the paper which recapitulated the conditions. They were as follows:—“The Government are prepared to pledge themselves to bring in a measure, next session, for the purpose of removing existing difficulties by introducing the Federal principle into Canada, coupled with such provision as will

  • (p. 47)

permit the Maritime Provinces and the North-West Territory to be incorporated into the same system of Government.”[5]

Alexander Campbell [Cataraqui, elected 1858, Commissioner of Crown Lands]—The resolutions on the table fulfilled that promise.

James Currie [Niagara, elected 1862]—Well, the honourable member’s colleague, the Provincial Secretary [William McDougall], did not mention the Lower Provinces otherwise than incidentally at the great meeting in South Oxford [George Brown], and the Intercolonial Railway not at all. If his position (Hon. Mr. Currie’s) was correct, that the Confederation of Canada alone was the basis of the coalition, then they had not carried out their pledge, and he pronounced the scheme now propounded as the authorized production of a number of self-appointed delegates, and not the measure the country expected.

Then he had been surprised to find that in the Conference Canada had so small a representation. He very willingly admitted that we had very able men there, but they were few compared with the whole number of the Conference, and did not fairly represent the population and wealth of the country. The Honourable Commissioner of Crown Lands [Alexander Campbell] had said, to be sure, that it did not make much difference as the votes were not taken by numbers but by the provinces; in other words, that Prince Edward Island, with its population of 80,000 souls, had as much to say as Canada with its millions.

Alexander Campbell [Cataraqui, elected 1858, Commissioner of Crown Lands]—The two sections of Canada voted separately.

James Currie [Niagara, elected 1862]—That was not much better, for it made Prince Edward Island equal to Upper Canada, with nearly 1,500,000 of population. But all this apart, he maintained the country was not prepared to pass judgment upon this momentous question. It was the greatest matter that had ever been presented for its consideration, and it should be the aim of all to have it perfectly understood and approved of before it was adopted. We should seek to frame a Constitution which would last for ages. If any portion of the country were seriously opposed to the project, and it were carried through in spite of them, a wrong would be inflicted which would perpetuate itself in all coming time. If passed against the sense of a majority of Upper or Lower Canada, the act might lead to an agitation such as had never been witnessed, and which might be fraught with the most disastrous consequences.

To prove that the country was not prepared for this sudden change, he would ask how many public meetings had been held in Upper Canada for the purpose of discussing it? He had heard of but one, and that not very influential, where both sides of the question were discussed. The people had in fact been waiting for the programme, and to this moment it had not been supplied—certainly not in all its details. In a matter of this momentous importance, upon which the well-being of millions in the future might so much depend, he sincerely trusted the country would not be hurried, but that full time for discussion would be given to enable it to arrive at a safe verdict.

Some Hon. Members—Hear.

James Currie [Niagara, elected 1862]—It was said that all the Governments interested were in favour of the project, and it was well known that there was to be a dissolution of Parliament in one of the provinces; if so, where was the necessity for haste in Canada, unless indeed it was for the purpose of unduly influencing the other provinces? When the union between Upper and Lower Canada was effected, there had been no such impatience of delay.

The Imperial Government had brought in a bill, copies of which were sent out, and submitted to the Parliament of Upper Canada—Lower Canada then had no Parliament to consult, and in its case there was less need of delay than now—the bill was sent home again and approved, though meetings held in Lower Canada strongly opposed the measure, and to this day it is said it was forced upon an unwilling people.[6]

Some Hon. Members—Hear, hear, from some of the French members.

James Currie [Niagara, elected 1862]—If time was then allowed, why should not time be allowed now, when a much more important union was in question?

Some Hon. Members—Hear, hear.

James Currie [Niagara, elected 1862]—Had the views of such eminent men as Lord Ellenborough and Lord Durham been duly appreciated in 1839, this Parliament would not now be met for the purpose of dissolving a union which had been unprofitable to one section, and unsatisfactory to the other.

Some Hon. Members—Hear, hear, derisively.

James Currie [Niagara, elected 1862]—He would now take the liberty to quote the views of Lord Durham, to which he had just alluded. They were as follows:

I am averse to every plan that has been proposed for giving an equal number of members to the two Provinces, in order to obtain the temporary end of out-numerating the French, because I think the same object will be obtained without any violation of the principles of representation, and without any such appearance of injustice in the scheme, as would set public opinion both in England and America strongly against it; and because, when emigration shall have increased the English population in the Upper Province, the adoption of such a principle would operate to defeat this very purpose it is intended to serve. It appears to me that any such elective arrangement founded on the present Provincial Divisions

  • (p. 48)

would tend to defeat the purpose of Union, and perpetuate the idea of disunion.[7]

He cited these pregnant words to indicate the danger of resorting to temporary expedients for the purpose of overcoming grave difficulties. If hon. members desired to establish a union under which the provinces would grow in wealth, power and importance, they must endeavour to make it as nearly infallible as fallible men could. He had already remarked that there had been but little discussion in Upper Canada on this subject, and he felt it ill became him, representing, as he did, a large constituency, to vote approbation before the people understood what the vote involved. In the Lower Provinces the people and the press seemed alive to the subject, for the latter teemed with articles for and against, all tending to give information which our population had not received.

But speaking of the Lower Provinces, he was really afraid that some public men down there were disposed to exaggerate the advantages of a union with Canada, just as some of ours seemed prone to magnify the riches of the Lower Provinces. If we were going into a partnership, which he hoped would last if entered into—

Some Hon. Members—Hear, hear.

James Currie [Niagara, elected 1862]—we should not attempt to deceive each other, for if the people found they had been deceived, the compact would be short-lived. To give honourable members some idea of the manner in which the subject was presented by leading men in the provinces, he would read them an extract from the speech of a Mr. Lynch, at a large meeting in Halifax, as reproduced by one of the organs of the Government there.

Alexander Campbell [Cataraqui, elected 1858, Commissioner of Crown Lands]—What organ?

James Currie [Niagara, elected 1862]—They had so many organs they did not seem to know them all.

Some Hon. MembersLaughter.

James Currie [Niagara, elected 1862]—He would now read from the speech in question:—

But we are told by others that we had better have nothing to do with Canada, because she is bankrupt. Canada bankrupt! I wish we were all such bankrupts. She it overflowing with wealth. This is now rapidly developing itself, and must eventually place her among the first nations of the earth. I have travelled over and examined that great country, and it would take more than all the time allotted to me to tell you of her wealth and resources. Her rivers are among the largest in the world, and her lakes are mighty inland oceans. I never had any idea of their extent until I stood on the shore of Lake Erie, saw before me a large square rigged ship, and was told that such was the class of vessels that navigated those waters.

Why, sir, 7,000,000 tons of shipping trade upon those mighty lakes. Again, look at the growth of the population. Sixty years ago it was 60,000, now it is 3,000,000. Upper Canada doubled her population in ten years, and Toronto, in the beginning of this century the abode of the red man of the forest, is now one of the finest cities of British America, with a population of 40,000.

The soil is of the richest description, indeed it is only too much so. In some places rich alluvial deposit is found to the depth of 50 feet, and in many instances lands have yielded their crops for years without the aid of a spadeful of manure. Canada has not only the greatest yield but the best wheat in America. It is a well-known fact that the people of the United States in exporting their best flour mix it to a large extent with Canadian wheat, and in order to give you an idea of the increased growth of it I would inform you that while in ten years the wheat crop increased in the States 50 per cent, (an immense increase), it in the same time in Canada increased 400 per cent. The average crop is equal to that of the best wheat growing countries in Europe, while some places have yielded the almost incredible quantity of 100 bushels to the acre. The yield of last year was 27,000.[8]

He only wished that this honorable gentleman alone had been mistaken, but even the Hon. Mr. Tilley, one of the most distinguished statesmen of New Brunswick, had made the statement that our tariff was in fact only an eleven per cent, tariff. But all the errors were not on that side, for they need but turn to a celebrated speech of one of our own leading men—a speech regarded almost as an important state paper—and there it was stated that the United Provinces would become the third maritime power in the world.

Some Hon. Members—Hear, hear.

James Currie [Niagara, elected 1862]—England, it said, was first, then the United States, and the speaker doubted if France could take the third rank before us. Our sea-going tonnage would be five million, and our lake tonnage seven million. These were vast figures, and it almost bewildered the mind to conceive their magnificent proportions.

Some Hon. MembersLaughter.

James Currie [Niagara, elected 1862]—Now supposing all these vessels were 500 tons each, it would require 14,000 to make up the sum, but unfortunately the census showed that we had but 808 sailors to navigate them—rather a small number it must be admitted for 14,000 ships.

Some Hon. MembersGreat laughter.

James Currie [Niagara, elected 1862]—The way the mistake—to use the mildest expression—was made, was simple enough. The vessels were entered at the Custom Houses every time they came in and left port, and as some of them came into port 200 times in the year, as at Toronto for instance, their tonnage was counted 200 times. It was easy in this way to run up our inland marine to seven millions of tons. But then if the products of Canada were as great as Mr. Lynch represented, why of course we would require

  • (p. 49)

all those ships to carry away all that wheat.

Some Hon. Members—Hear, hear, and laughter.

James Currie [Niagara, elected 1862]—He would be glad if he could tell as fine a story, but he could not do that and at the same time tell the truth. Then the Lower Provinces were told that our tariff averaged eleven per cent, but was it so?

[The honourable member was here quoting from a speech of Hon. Mr. Tilley, to which he had before alluded.]

John Ross [Canada West, appointed 1848]—Read on.

James Currie [Niagara, elected 1862], reading on, immediately came to a paragraph explaining the 11 per cent, to mean the average of duties on the value of all imported goods, a large proportion of which were duty free.

John Ross [Canada West, appointed 1848]—The statement was correct.

Some Hon. Members—Hear, hear.

James Currie [Niagara, elected 1862] then proceeded to show the truth in regard to the duties on staples and articles in domestic use in Canada. He said if honourable gentlemen would turn to the Trade and Navigation returns for 1864, they would find that in the first half of that year we imported and paid the following duties on eight kinds of commodities:

  Value. Duty.
Cottons $3,277,985 $644,381
Woolens 2,537,669 499,084
Tea, lbs.,


1,059,674 275,126
Iron and


776,225 151,422
Linen 421,543 84,136
Hats and Caps 281,197 55,546
Sugar 779,907 376,189
Sugar, refined 9,980 6,260
Coffee, green 89,016 20,449

Thus Hon. gentlemen would see we pay more than fifty per cent, on our sugar, nearly twenty-three per cent on coffee, while upon tea we pay about twenty-six per cent. He was afraid that if the present condition of Canada was calmly considered we would be found going into the union in a state far different from the glowing representations of Hon. Mr. Lynch. Let hon. members look at the trade of Canada for half of the year 1864, and they would find that the balance against us was $9,999,000. Then there was the interest upon the public debt; interest upon loans to private individuals; bank dividends payable abroad, for much of the stock of our banks was held out of the province; the interest to loan companies and others; all to be added to the debit balance, and the picture of wealth conjured up would present a very different aspect.

Indeed, he wondered how, with all these burdens, the country had borne up so well. In the next place, he objected to the manner in which the scheme had been brought down. Why, if the Government desired the House to vote favourably, did they not act and speak understandingly? Why did they not at once bring in the schemes for the local governments and the estimated cost of the Intercolonial Railway? He (Hon. Mr. Currie) did not object to the principle of Confederation.

Some Hon. Members—Hear, hear.

James Currie [Niagara, elected 1862]—No, and he believed there would be the most perfect unanimity on the subject, as there was among the delegates as to the principle of Confederation, but he asked to have, as part of the scheme, the cost of the railway, which seemed to be part and parcel of it.

We knew little of this project, where it was to commence and where to end, or how many ends it was to have. We heard there was to be one branch from Truro to Pictou; and then it was said again that the road must pass through the valley of the St. John, and end in that city. Were we to accept the project without information? Were we to have a road to Halifax? to purchase the Grand Trunk to Rivière du Loup and the link from Truro to Halifax, all of them to enter and form part of the national railway? Notwithstanding the admitted talent of the delegates, he extended that a manifest injustice had been done to Canada, and especially to Upper Canada, in the distribution of the subsidies to the local governments. Hon. gentlemen must bear in mind that the subsidies change not with population, but remain fixed. They were as follows:—

Upper Canada $1,116,873.00
Lower Canada 889,248.00
Nova Scotia 264,000.00


Prince Edward Island 64,035
Newfoundland 98,110

If a person was proposing to enter into a partnership he would naturally inquire into the assets of the other members of the intended firm. We knew what our assets were. We had the finest canals in the world, which had cost many millions.

John Ross [Canada West, appointed 1848]—And they pay.

James Currie [Niagara, elected 1862]—Place tolls on the St. Lawrence Canals and you will see what they pay. There was one canal that did pay, the Welland. In 1861 this work alone earned

  • (p. 50)

a net revenue of $184,289.50, over and above the costs of repair and management; and if you add to that amount the tolls unwisely refunded, $56,474.63, you have an amount equal to five per cent, on the total expenditure on the Welland Canal, as shown in the Report of the Commissioner of Public Works [Jean Chapais], up to the 1st January, 1862, and a margin of $7,436 to the credit of this work. Then we had the St. Lawrence Canals, and if they did not pay it was because of the extravagance of the management and the system of toll on those works.

Some Hon. Members—Hear.

James Currie [Niagara, elected 1862]—It was reported that some people believed if we could only get Confederation we would have enough to pay for both the general and local governments, and so much more to spare that we would not know what to do with our money. What would be the revenue of the Confederation? Taking the year 1863 as the basis, we find the revenues of the proposed Confederation for that year, from customs and excise, to be as follows:

Canada $5,999,320.98
Newfoundland $496,890
Prince Edward


Nova Scotia 861,989



We will now consider the burdens to be assumed by the Confederation. Interest on the debt of Canada, $3,812,514.01; interest on the debts of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, of $15,000,000, say $750,000; interest on the debt of Newfoundland, of $946,000, and the debt of Prince Edward Island, of $240,673—$59,333. Add to this the interest on the cost of constructing the Intercolonial Railway, not less than $1,000,000 yearly, supposing it were to cost us but $20,000,000, and the amount to be spent yearly for defensive purposes, $1,000,000. And assuming that civil government and the cost of legislation should be no more for the Confederation than for Canada, which is certainly a reasonable view, we have for civil government, $430,572.47; for legislation, $627,377.92; judges’ salaries, Lower Canada, $115,755.55; judges’ salaries,

Upper Canada, $157,690.33; emigration and quarantine, $57,406.32; ocean and river service, $511,356.40; lighthouses and coasts, $102,724.75; fisheries, $22,758 41; cost of collecting revenue and excise in Canada, $401,561.41; local subsidies to provinces, $3,056,849. Thus showing a balance against revenue of $3,825,781.89; and if the canals are to be enlarged, as promised, an additional debt must be created of $12,000,000 for such purpose,—another annual charge of $600,000,—or a total balance against revenue of $4,425,781.89. These gentlemen from the east were going to give us the Intercolonial Railway and enlarge our canals, but if to enlarge the canals, why were not the canals put in the Constitution?

Walter Dickson [Canada West, appointed 1855]—They did not want to throw cold water upon it.

Some Hon. MembersLaughter.

James Currie [Niagara, elected 1862]—Why not give a guarantee for their enlargement? He found that the desirable improvement would entail an expense of $12,000,000. As to the local subsidy, he regarded it as a farce, or as honey spread out to catch flies. As to the argument that the rejection of the scheme would injure our credit, he would ask whether the bondholders would not much prefer our present financial condition to one of fifteen millions of increased indebtedness, with nothing of value to show for it. If the people of England knew that Confederation and the Intercolonial Railway meant an increase of fifty par cent, on our tariff, they would not be so anxious for it.

As to the representation in the Confederated Legislative Council, it was proposed to give Upper Canada and Lower Canada twenty-four members each, and to the Lower Provinces twenty-eight. That is, the 780,000 souls in the Lower Provinces would have four members more than Upper Canada with its million and a half. This proved that though Canada had talented men in the Conference, they either forgot our interests or sat there powerless.

When the Legislative Council of Canada was made elective[9], his honourable friend near him (Hon. Mr. Christie) had stood up for the right of Upper Canada, as the Delegates should have done in the Conference. On the second reading of the bill to change the constitution of the Legislative Council, on the 14th March, 1856,—

Mr. Brown moved, seconded by Mr. Foley, That it be an instruction to the Committee to amend the bill, by providing that the members of the Legislative Council shall be elected for four years, one-half retiring every second year.[10]

Mr. Gould moved, seconded by Mr. Wright, That it be an instruction to the Committee to amend the bill by providing that  the constituencies shall be arranged according to population, without regard to the division line between Upper and Lower Canada.[11]

This amendment was supported by the Hon. Messrs. Atkins, Brown, Cameron, Christie, Foley, Freeman, Wilson, and many leading reformers in Upper Canada.

  • (p. 51)

And on the third reading of the bill on the 27th March,—

Mr. Hartman moved, seconded by Mr. Christie, That the bill be recommitted to a Committee of the whole House, with a view to arrange the electoral divisions so as to embrace within each, as nearly as practicable, an equal population, and without regard to a division line between Upper and Lower Canada.[12]

This amendment, although supported by Messrs. Brown, Christie, and twenty other Upper Canada members, was not carried. If representation by population were right in 1856, was it not equally right in 1865?

But it might be said that the union was to be a federal one, whereas it was no such thing. It was neither federal nor legislative, but a mongrel between both. If the representation had been properly arranged, there would have been no necessity for honourable members vacating their seats. In that case, Upper Canada would have had 30, Lower Canada 24, and the Lower Provinces 18.

Yesterday the Honourable Commissioner of Crown Lands [Alexander Campbell] had given reasons for abolishing the elective principle as applied to this House; but not over a year ago he had lauded the system, and he (Hon. Mr. Currie) had not heard the life members say a word in opposition. The system had got a fair trial of eight years, and had proved satisfactory, and would a few self-constituted delegates, with a dash of the pen, destroy that which had received the sanction of the country? He was never sent to this House to vote away its constitution—

Some Hon. Members—Hear, hear.

James Currie [Niagara, elected 1862]—and before endorsing any such proposition he would wish to go to his constituents, and if they said yes, he would not oppose—

Some Hon. Members—Hear, hear.

James Currie [Niagara, elected 1862]—but without that permission, he was not going to give a vote which might have the effect of giving him his seat for life.

Some Hon. Members—Hear, hear.

James Currie [Niagara, elected 1862]—He had heard of Lower Canada domination, but if this was the first taste of eastern domination, he wished no more of it.

Some Hon. Members—Hear, hear, and laughter.

Alexander Campbell [Cataraqui, elected 1858, Commissioner of Crown Lands]—It was not a peculiarity of Canada, but the judgment of the whole Conference.

Some Hon. Members—Hear.

James Currie [Niagara, elected 1862]—He then presumed it was not the proposition of the honourable member that the seat the people had given him should be given to the Crown; but it seemed he had passed under the domination of the Lower Provinces.

Some Hon. MembersLaughter.

James Currie [Niagara, elected 1862]In 1849, the Legislature had made provision for the support of common schools in Canada[13], and had set aside one million acres of the best lands for that noble purpose. The lands, all situated in Upper Canada, had been sold, and a fund of a million and a quarter accumulated, but with another stroke of the pen this, too, was to be scored out. In 1862, the Government of the day had brought down a bill to amend the Separate School Act of Upper Canada[14], and without expressing an opinion as to its merits, he might say it had produced a very strong feeling of indignation, A mass meeting was held in Toronto to condemn the bill, and the people were so exasperated that they had called upon certain members of the Government to resign. Other meetings were held, viz.:—

Meeting at Harrington, North Oxford, 25th March, 1863[15]:

Resolved,—That the Hon. W. MacDougall has betrayed the interests of his constituents for the sake of office.[16]

Meeting at East Nissouri, 6th April, 1863

Resolved,—That this meeting, while viewing the manner in which the Hon. Wm. MacDougall has betrayed the interests of his constituents in supporting Mr. Scott’s Separate School Bill, believes it to be his duty to resign his seat in the Provincial Parliament as member for the North Riding of Oxford.[17]

He had read these resolutions to show the feeling which then prevailed, and he might have quoted articles to prove that the measure was regarded as a most iniquitous one. He would give one or two from the Globe:—

We can hardly believe that a government based on the double majority, will permit an alteration in our common school system in defiance of the vote of an Upper Canadian majority.[18]

March 20th.—The prospects of Mr. Scott’s bill in the Upper House are not very bright. When it was brought up from the Assembly, nobody rose to move the first reading, and Sir Etienne Taché, who, it will be remembered, introduced this last Upper Canada Separate School Bill, which passed into law, was about to assume this responsibility, when Mr. McCrea, the newly elected Councillor for the Western Division, came to the rescue.

The Speaker then very improperly suggested Mr. Aikins as the seconder, an office which the member for the Home Division promptly declined. No one else appearing, Mr. Letellier, a French Canadian, seconded the motion. This is French domination with a vengeance. We are not astonished to find that there is a disposition to give the bill strong opposition, regardless of the consequences to the government. [19]

April 11.—The bill passed the second reading in the Legislative Council, 11 to 13 from Upper Canada.[20]

In spite of every temptation, Upper Canada stands true to her school system. The bill may pass as other infamies have passed our Legislature

  • (p. 52)

before, but it will not be by Upper Canada votes. If our school system is destroyed, Lower Canada must bear the shame of it.[21]

April 21st.—Although the bill has passed both Houses, and no number of meetings can stay its progress, it is well for the people of Upper Canada to pronounce upon its merits. They are deeply hurt and mortified by this treatment they have received from Lower Canadians and traitors among their own representatives. A sense of personal wrong and injury exists which we have never witnessed in so great a degree before. The iron of Lower Canada domination seems to have touched the soul of the people and the wound rankles. The word contempt does not express the feeling which is manifested. There is a spice of bitterness about it which takes it out of that category.[22]

But, notwithstanding these evidences of dissatisfaction, the act became law, and it remained for the present Government, by this scheme, to perpetuate the law. He was surprised that the Government, framed as it was, should become parties to such a scheme. They had not yet done with the school question. They proposed to protect the Protestant minority of Lower Canada, and a petition was on the table exhibiting what was desired. This was proof enough that the people were not satisfied; and whether or not the scheme of Confederation were adopted, the Government should bring in a measure to do the petitioners justice. Then from Upper Canada the Roman Catholics asked to be placed in a position precisely similar to that which the Protestants of Lower Canada were seeking, and if each of these minorities were suffering injustice, why should not their complaints be redressed before a Confederation took place?

Let these measures prelude Confederation, and let not Parliament be asked to proceed blindfold. He was satisfied that if the Intercolonial Railway project were taken out of the scheme, we would not hear much about it afterwards. Some leading men in Halifax had said, “the Railway first, and Confederation next.”

John Sanborn [Wellington, elected 1863]—Hon. Mr. Tilley had said that.

James Currie [Niagara, elected 1862]—Then it would be better to try the Confederation without the railway. It would, after all, be much easier for the members from the Lower Provinces to come to Ottawa than it used to be for the members from Sandwich to go to Montreal at the time of the union. The Grand Trunk Railway had cost the province a vast sum, but then it had been of vast service to the country. But where is the company that would keep the Intercolonial Railway running for its earnings, the road and the rolling stock being made over to them as a gift? Suppose a merchant from Montreal wants to go to England, which road will he prefer? Why, he would go by way of Portland. Would any produce be sent over such a road? How much wheat was there sent over the Grand Trunk, even in winter?

James Ferrier [Canada East, appointed 1847]—A great deal.

James Currie [Niagara, elected 1862]—How much from Montreal? And why did we hear complaints from Huron and Bruce?

Several Voices—They have no railway there.

Some Hon. MembersLaughter.

James Currie [Niagara, elected 1862]—Was there not the Buffalo and Lake Huron Railway passing through Huron? It was our duty to hesitate and not to press on at railway speed, but to act like prudent men. We were sent here to place a check upon hasty legislation. But was there ever such hasty legislation as this? Yet as the Government were strong in Parliament, they might attempt to press the measure without the consent of the people. If they do, however, pursue such a course, they will perhaps, receive a check in Nova Scotia or New Brunswick, for in these provinces they had no intention to pass the measure without a free and full discussion.

John Ross [Canada West, appointed 1848]—Why, if it was good for them as the hon. member said, they might be glad to do it.

Walter McCrea [Western, elected 1862]—If it was so unfavourable for Canada it must be in the same degree favourable to the Lower Provinces.

James Currie [Niagara, elected 1862]—Oh, that does not by any means follow; they are a frugal, industrious and intelligent people, and it may be considered inadvisable by them to join a people who, in the short term of ten years, by a course of extravagance and prodigality increased the expenses of their government nearly four hundred per cent, independent of the increase of the public debt. They might also call to mind the Grand Trunk swindles.

John Ross [Canada West, appointed 1848]—When the hon. member said that there had been Grand Trunk swindles, he said what was not correct.

James Currie [Niagara, elected 1862]—Perhaps he used a wrong term. He meant Grand Trunk frauds. Those people might hesitate about connecting themselves with a people that had almost brought themselves to the verge of national bankruptcy, and loaded themselves with such a heavy tariff, they might recall to mind the political dishonesty of our public men, men who had so maligned and blackened the public character of each other as to require a wider stage and a new audience to witness

  • (p. 53)

their future acts. They would also observe that all formerly connected with the Grand Trunk were urging this scheme forward. He then accused the Government of bad faith in bringing down these resolutions, instead of a measure simply for the Canadas; that the reform party only committed themselves to the latter scheme when Mr. Brown entered the Cabinet, but now it was only secondary. To bear this out he read the following resolution adopted by that party:—

Moved by Mr. Hope McKenzie, and seconded by Mr. McGiverin—That we approve of the course which has been pursued by Mr. Brown in the negotiations with the Government, and that we approve of the project of a Federal union of the Canadas, with provision for its extension to the Maritime Provinces and the North-Western territory, as one based on which the constitutional difficulties now existing should be settled.[23]

He was not personally opposed to Confederation in itself, but this measure was so defective that he could not support it, bearing, as it did, the seeds of decay apparent in its details. He heartily concurred in the views expressed recently at Halifax, by a distinguished Upper Canada Statesman—(Mr. Brown):—

“On a survey of the whole case, I do think that there is no doubt as to the high advantages that would result from a union of all the colonies, provided that terms of union could be found just to all the contracting parties, and so framed as to secure harmony in the future administration of affairs. But it were wrong to conceal for a moment that the whole merit of the scheme of union may be completely marred by the character of its details.”

He asked who would not say that the details of this measure did not so mar as to spoil the scheme. If we are to have a Confederation, let it be put upon a proper and permanent foundation, one that will be of advantage to this young and vigorous province, and he expressed the hope that only such a scheme would be sanctioned by Parliament.[24]

Some Hon. Members—Hear, hear, and applause.

It being nearly six o’clock, John Ross [Canada West, appointed 1848] moved

to adjourn the debate till the morrow,

which was carried.

The House then adjourned.


[1]      Journals of the Legislative Council of the Province of Canada (1865), p. 83. Added for completeness. The Hunter & Rose version begins with Campbell’s speech.

[2]      Quebec Resolution 14. Resolutions were presented to Legislative Council on Feb. 3, 1865, pp. 1-6.

[3]      There seems to have been circulating in the Legislative Assembly an earlier set of the Quebec Resolutions, different from both the text tabled in the Legislative Assembly on Feb. 3, 1865 by John A. Macdonald (p. 18) and the one tabled by Étienne Pascal Taché in the Legislative Council (pp. 1-6) on the same day. The texts printed in this volume, tabled on those dates are the final and corrected texts, and it is also the texts found in the Journals of the Province of Canada for the Legislative Council and those for the Legislative Assembly. It seems that some members were consulting an earlier set of the resolutions. These were marked “private” and circulated after the close of the Quebec Conference in certain business circles, sometime in November and December 1864, and were still in circulation well after that. These earlier sets not only had mistakes in resolutions nos. 29(3), and 43(1) (in regard to exceptions for New Brunswick and Nova Scotia) but also in resolution no. 24 (in regard to amending districts of local provinces, not the House of Commons). According to private correspondence between the Coalition Ministry and the Premiers of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, these were discovered and corrected well after the close of the Quebec Conference in October. It is likely that corrections were made in November and December 1864. For these correspondences, see For drafts and final text of the Quebec Resolutions, see Charles Dumais, The Quebec Resolutions: Including Several Never-Published Preliminary Drafts by George Brown and John A. Macdonald & a Collection of all Previously-Published Primary Documents Relating to the Conference (CCF, 2021).

[4]      James Currie, Legislative Council (Feb. 16, 1863). “Mr. Currie’s Speech on the Address,” The Globe (Feb. 20, 1863).

[5]      “Memorandum—Confidential,” Legislative Assembly (Jun. 22, 1864), pp. 205-206.

[6]      See The Union Act, 1840: Imperial Debate, Draft Bills and Correspondences, 1839-1840.

[7]      Earl of Durham, Report on the Affairs of British North America [Durham Report] (1839) p. 104.

[8]      “Union of the Colonies. Mr. Lynch’s Speech at Halifax,” Quebec Mercury (Jan. 26, 1865).

[9]      An Act to change the Constitution of the Legislative Council by rendering the same Elective (Province of Canada, 1856).

[10]    The whole amendment reads: “That’s the words ‘and that it be an Instruction to the Committee to amend the Bill, by providing that the Members of the Legislative Council shall be elected for four years, one-half retiring every second year; and that the Members of the Legislative Assembly shall be elected for two years’” Brown’s amendment was defeated 72-25. Journals of the Legislative Assembly of the Province of Canada (Mar. 14, 1856), pp. 146-147.

[11]    Gould’s amendment was defeated 75-23. ibid., p. 148.

[12]    Hartman’s amendment was defeated 71-22 on Mar. 27, 1856. Journals, pp. 193-194.

[13]    An Act to raise an Income of One Hundred Thousand Pounds out of the Public Lands of Canada, for Common School Education (Province of Canada, 1849).

[14]    Bill: An act to amend “An act respecting separate schools” in Upper Canada, in so far as the same relates to Roman Catholic Separate Schools (Province of Canada, 1862).

[15]    The meeting took place on Mar. 20, 1863, not the 25th, which was the date the article was published. See footnote below.

[16]    “Separate Schools in North Oxford. Meeting at Harrington,” The Globe (Mar. 25, 1863).

[17]    “Politics in North Oxford: Meeting in East Nissouri,” The Globe (Apr. 11, 1863).

[18]    “Separate Schools,” The Globe (Mar. 14, 1863).

[19]    “The School Bill in the Upper House,” The Globe (Mar. 20, 1863).

[20]    “The Separate School Bill in the Council,” The Globe (Apr. 16, 1863).

[21]    ibid.

[22]    “Separate Schools,” The Globe (Apr. 21, 1863).

[23]    “Latest from Quebec. Very Full Caucus of the Upper Canada Liberals. Negotiations with the Government Endorsed,” The Globe (Jun. 22, 1864).

[24]    George Brown’s speech at Halifax (1864). Edward Whelan, The Union of the British Provinces (1865), p. 37.


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