Province of Canada, Legislative Council, Parliamentary Debates on the Subject of the Confederation of the British North America Provinces, 8th Parl, 3rd Sess, (8 February 1865)
By: Province of Canada (Parliament)
Citation: Province of Canada, Parliament, Parliamentary Debates on the Subject of the Confederation of the British North America Provinces, 8th Parl, 3rd Sess, 1865 at 71-83.
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WEDNESDAY, February 8, 1865.
John Ross [Canada West, appointed 1848] continued the debate as follows:
Honourable gentlemen will remember that I yesterday moved the adjournment with the intention of replying to the remarks of the Hon. member from Niagara Division (Hon. Mr. Currie), who engaged the attention of the House during most of its sitting. From its commencement to its conclusion, the speech of that honourable gentleman was of a most remarkable character.
At its very outset he took the opportunity of quoting some parts of the first speech he made in this chamber, two years ago, in which he strongly approved of the principle of a Confederation between Canada and the Lower Provinces, and in some portions of his yesterday’s speech he reiterated in a very decided manner his approval of such a scheme.
But other parts of his speech were of such a character that if any of the promoters of Confederation had been at first inclined to number him among the friends of […]
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[…] Intercolonial Union, they might afterwards have said “save us from our friends.” (Hear.)
He took the very singular course of first decrying the credit of the Lower Provinces, and then decrying that of Canada itself, endeavouring to show first that we were making a very bad bargain in uniting our destiny with such poor provinces as they were, and afterwards that such was our state of bankruptcy that they would be very foolish indeed in joining their fate with ours. (Laughter.)
It would, indeed, be almost a sufficient answer to the honourable member to take his speech in separate paragraphs and to place certain of them opposite to others as the reply, for a more illogical and inconsequential address I hardly over heard. Nor was he content with dealing in what he thought was irony or sarcasm, but ventured to attack important statements of fact made by the public men of this and the other provinces.
Now, if we are to have a Confederation at all, I think we should be careful what language we use with respect to such men, and what statements we place before the public. If language such as the Hon. member permitted himself to use be encouraged, it will be impossible to secure the good feeling and harmony which are indispensably necessary to the well-working of the contemplated union. I am, however, satisfied that the sober sense of the House will condemn such language, not only when it comes from the Hon. member for Niagara [James Currie], but when falling from any other Hon. member. (Hear, hear.)
The Hon. member commenced his attacks upon the public men of the provinces by quoting from a speech of Mr. Lynch, recently delivered at Halifax, and did his best to turn it into ridicule, as well as to excite contemptuous laughter at the expense of that gentleman.
Now the statements Mr. Lynch made are facts, not foolish inventions, as the Hon. member pretended. That gentleman spoke by the book, and relied for his information upon the official report of one of our public departments, and if the Hon. member will turn to the census of 1852, he will find, at page 32, a table comparing the produce of Canada and the United States, from which it appears that, while that of the latter increased 48 per cent., that of Canada increased 400 per cent, during the previous decade. This is what Mr. Lynch stated, and what the Hon. member for Niagara [James Currie] asserted to be untrue.
James Currie [Niagara, elected 1862]—That was between the years 1841 and 1851, while the remarks of Mr. Lynch had reference to the subsequent decade.
John Ross [Canada West, appointed 1848]—It is not so; Mr. Lynch spoke of an increase of ten years; he read from our official records in proof, and read correctly. The Hon. member probably derived his information from some newspaper, and the error he has committed should teach him to be more cautious how he assails public men on such evidence. (Hear, hear.)
He then turned from Mr. Lynch to the Premier of New Brunswick, a gentleman of the highest character and ability, who is so strong in the esteem and confidence of the people of that province that it seems impossible to displace him. Now I maintain that, to say the least it is in extremely bad taste to attack high-placed public men, especially those of other countries, and more especially those of the sister colonies, as the Hon. member has done.
James Currie [Niagara, elected 1862]—I did not attack them.
John Ross [Canada West, appointed 1848]—The Hon. member has attacked their veracity; he has denied the correctness of the statements they made openly as public men. The Hon. Mr. Tilley quoted the figures of our own Minister of Finance [Alexander T. Galt], and the Hon. member represented him as not speaking the truth, but as, in effect, attempting to deceive those whom he addressed.
James Currie [Niagara, elected 1862]—I beg to know when the Finance Minister of Canada [Alexander T. Galt] stated that the average duties collected in Canada were 11 per cent. The figures—
John Ross [Canada West, appointed 1848]—The honourable member will find it in the Finance Minister’s [Alexander T. Galt] speech, and while I do not think it proper in him to interrupt me for the purpose of going into calculations just at this moment, I maintain that by taking all the imports, including those free of duty, the honourable member will find that the rate stated is exactly correct.
The imports in 1863 amounted to $45,964,493, and the duty collected was $5,169,173, which is just 11 per cent, of the whole. I repeat, honourable gentlemen: that, instead of making such attacks on great public men, I conceive it to be more properly our duty to defend them. (Hear.)
Having thus disposed of the remarks the honourable member made on the veracity of Mr. Lynch and Hon. Mr. Tilley, I will now advert to that portion of his remarks in which he endeavoured to show that Hon. Mr. Galt’s statements were incorrect.
He referred to the figures respecting the tonnage of the proposed Confederation, as quoted by Hon. Mr. Galt, and pooh poohed his remarks in a way which was no doubt intended to be very amusing. The Minister of Finance [Alexander T. Galt] declared that when the Union was effected, we should be, he believed, […]
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[…] the third largest country in the world, as regards the tonnage of our commercial marine, though possibly France might be about on an equality with us. England, he said, was the first, the United States the second, and either France or the contemplated Confederation would be the third; and this is true.
I will read the statement of that honourable gentleman:—
The sea-going tonnage of Canada, including that of the inland lakes, amounts to about nine million tons, a great portion of which, however, represents the tonnage of vessels performing the coasting service, many of which frequently clear and arrive in the course of one day.
It is gratifying to know that the trade between Canada and the States on the other side of the lakes is of a nature to give employment to a large portion of this lake tonnage—amounting to 6,907,000 tons. I cannot class that in the same category as the tonnage arriving at Quebec and Montreal which, in most cases, can only make two or three trips per annum.
The seagoing tonnage of Canada amounts to 2,133,000 tons; of New Brunswick, 1,386,000 tons; of Nova Scotia, 1,432,000 tons. Consequently the amount of sea-going tonnage, subject only to a small deduction, is actually about five million tons.
The way the honourable Minister of Finance [Alexander T. Galt] made up his statement was exactly similar to that in which the same kind of statistical statements were made up in England, the United States, and other great maritime countries, the object being to show the actual amount of tonnage employed during each year in the carrying trade. It does not matter whether a vessel is engaged in long or short voyages; if it be employed merely as a ferry, the fact of its being so employed in carrying goods inwards or outwards is a proof that its tonnage capacity is required by the trade of the countries to and from which it plies. (Hear.)
But the honourable member made it appear untruly that the statement of the honourable Minister of Finance [Alexander T. Galt] with respect to the tonnage employed on the Canadian lakes was put forth for the purpose of misleading the public and inducing them erroneously to believe that the Confederation will have a prominent place among the great maritime nations by reason of the tonnage employed in its trade. Mr. Galt’s statement was that the sea-going tonnage of the proposed Confederation would be the third largest employed in the trade of the world, and the statistics regarding the tonnage of the inland waters of Canada were superadded to those of the seagoing tonnage of the Union. The two statements were made perfectly distinct, in every table and every speech emanating from the Minister of Finance [Alexander T. Galt] or his department. It is thus the honourable member has availed himself of his position for the purpose of trying to throw dirt upon our leading statesmen, of endeavouring to asperse the characters of our most distinguished public men, and I repeat, for I cannot too strongly urge it upon the House, that we ought to discountenance such attempts, for we should consider the character of our public men as public property, not to be lightly attacked and damaged. If we are to enter into this scheme, we should at least do so unassailed by our own people, and with as good a public reputation as we deserve. (Hear, hear.)
The honourable member next proceeded to read extracts from old Globes and other newspapers, in which, with the characteristic features and bitter feelings of the times in which they were written, certain things were stated not specially commendatory of some of the Canadian ministers now concerned in the preparation of the Confederation scheme. I am not here to defend these gentlemen—the Hon. Messrs. Brown and McDougall, his own party leaders, whom he attacked—nor do I intend to make remarks upon past events, but this I will say, that the parties alluded to have entered upon their present work with the sincere intention, I believe, of putting an end to the grave difficulties which have so long distracted the country.
This they have done with the full concurrence and approbation of their political friends, whose advice they sought before entering the Administration; and I think that, under the circumstances, instead of being reproached and held up to public censure, they ought to be treated with confidence and generosity. I have hitherto always listened to the honourable member with pleasure, even when I could not agree with him, and even in certain parts of the speech to which I am now referring, the honourable member exhibited considerable ability; but I do think, considering it as a whole, that a more illogical, self-contradictory, and generally objectionable address has seldom been made in the Canadian Legislature. Upon reviewing the general effect of this remarkable effort, I can only compare it with the performances of the Parrott guns
against Fort Fisher, six of which, we have been told, slightly wounded two of the enemy, but killed and disabled about fifty of the men who served them. I take it that Hon. Messrs. Tilley and Lynch have got off with very slight wounds indeed, and that […]
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[…] any damage done is to the honourable member’s own friends. (Hear, hear, and laughter.)
I will now come more closely to the subject under debate, the proposed Confederation of Canada and the other British North American colonies, and in doing so I feel I am dealing with a matter in which is bound up the happiness and prosperity of the country, not for the present only, but for a long course of years to come. I only wish the honourable member for the Niagara Division [James Currie] had read the debates which preceded the establishment of the American Constitution after the United States had gained their independence. I especially advert to the debates in the Councils of Virginia, which at that time, by reason of its wealth and population, bore a similar relation to the other colonies to that which Canada now bears to the Lower Provinces.
If he had read the speeches of the Madisons, the Marshalls, the Randolphs, the Henrys, the Lees and others, he would have found no passage in keeping with the sentiments he uttered yesterday. Those great patriots evidently met under a deep sense of the responsibilities of their work, and instead of bringing into the debates the small village feelings and animosities tending to embarrass and to destroy harmony, they acted like great men, true and noble men as they were, and applied themselves to their task with the purpose of bringing it to a successful issue. The confederation which they first established, in the year 1781, did not work well. It remained poor, without respect abroad, or prosperity at home, and so in 1789 they abandoned that condition of existence and adopted the Constitution which lasted until the commencement of the present unfortunate war, and now governs the North.
In speaking of the Constitution prepared by our delegates, the honourable member for Niagara [James Currie] said it was neither one thing nor another, it was neither legislative nor federative, but a mongrel nondescript scheme between the two; a Constitution for which there was no precedent in all the world’s history. Such, at least, was the effect of the words he used. It happens, however, to be a fact, that in opposition to the profound and enlightened opinion of the honourable member, the work of the delegates has received the approbation of some of the most eminent statesmen of England, as well as that of the most distinguished and able writers for the press of that country, which is at any rate some small consolation. I will say that if the delegates who met at Quebec and prepared that instrument were incompetent for the task, I do not know where others can be found to do it better; and, after all, I think that, notwithstanding the remarks of the honourable member, the disinterested testimonies to the value of the work done, coming from the quarters I have indicated, will be considered in Canada as having some weight. (Hear, hear.)
But since the honourable member regards this as a mongrel constitution, unworthy of acceptance, ought he not to have been ready to suggest something better? Should he not as a patriot have given the country the benefit of his superior wisdom? It is of no use to look for a better form to the constitution of the ancient republics which have passed away, their having ceased to exist being of itself proof enough of their not being adapted to our wants. The honourable member might perhaps have cited the Swiss and Dutch republics, or the constitutions of the United States of 1781 and 1789, and if he had, the House would perhaps have been able to compare them with that now proposed, and arrive at some definite conclusion which might after all have been that ours, as now proposed, is that which promises best to secure freedom to those who are to live under it, and stability for the political condition of our country.
With respect to the Swiss Confederation, however well it may be considered to have worked, it is a fact that within our own time a civil war has existed among the cantons, and that republic has been upon the brink of destruction. As regards the Dutch republic, it is a matter of history how it fell. During the whole of its struggle against Philip II., the provinces comprising it never had that centralized power which is necessary to the stability of a government, especially one assailed by enemies from without, for two provinces, Guelderland and Overyssel, contributed nothing all that contest through, each standing upon its state rights, while among the remaining five, by far the largest proportion was contributed by the one Province of Holland.
The natural result was that the republic fell, and became a monarchy. The same evil lay at the root of the American Constitution of 1781, and after it had been adopted, so ill concerted and disunited were the efforts of the thirteen states, that the arrangement would not work at all, so that General Washington was obliged to ask for and actually obtained dictatorial powers, to enable him to carry on the contest against Great Britain. The difficulties between the North and the South which now prevail, arose wholly upon the question of state rights, and had provisions existed, in the Constitution of the American […]
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[…] Union, similar to those which, it is proposed to introduce into ours, the probability is the States would have remained united. (Hear, hear.)
But the Hon. member said further that the scheme has taken the country by surprise. Now, I really beg to ask whether there is any foundation for such a statement? I most deliberately say that there is not. It must be well known to Hon. members that the late Chief Justice Sewell, who enjoyed the friendship of the Duke of Kent, the father of Her Majesty the Queen, so far back as 1814, addressed a letter to the noble Duke, recommending an union, for this fact is adverted to in Lord Durham’s report on the affairs of the British North American Provinces.
Some ten or twelve years before even that, the Hon. Mr. Uniacke, of Nova Scotia, had made a similar suggestion, and from time to time, since then, the importance and desirability of the project has been openly advocated by leading public men in all the colonies. Amongst others, I may mention Archdeacon Strachan, the present venerable and Right Reverend Bishop of Toronto, whose enlightened opinions upon great public questions, have always commanded the utmost respect, and who, writing to Mr. Charles Bulwer, the able Secretary of Lord Durham, in 1838, expressed himself as follows:—
I have only to add that it will be a pleasure to me to contribute everything in my power to the prosperous issue of Lord Durham’s Administration; and if Mr. Pitt considered the Constitution which he conferred upon the Canadas one of the glories of his life, what glory must rebound to the statesmen who give a free Constitution to the British North American colonies, and by consolidating them into one territory or kingdom, exalts them to a nation acting in unity, and under the protection of the British Government; and thus not only ensuring their happiness, but preventing forever the sad consequences that might arise from a rival power getting possession of their shores.
Then it was formally presented and recommended in Lord Durham’s remarkable report on Canada and British North America generally, so often quoted as a high authority, and only yesterday by the honourable member himself. Well, what did that distinguished nobleman say on the subject. He said:—
How inseparably connected I found the interests of Your Majesty’s Provinces in North America, to what degree I met with common disorders, requiring common remedies, is an important topic, which it will be my duty to discuss very fully before closing this report.
Again—on my first arrival in Canada, I was strongly inclined to the project of a Federal union, and it was with such a plan in view that I discussed a general measure for the government of the colonies with the deputations from the Lower Provinces, and with various leading individuals and public bodies in both the Canadas.
But I had still more strongly impressed on me the great advantage of an united government, and I was gratified by finding the leading minds of the various colonies strongly and generally inclined to a scheme that would elevate their countries into something like a national existence.
Lord Durham, after expressing his opinion in the report as on the whole in favour of the Legislative Union, and referring to the influence of the United States as surrounding us on every side, goes on to say:—
If we wish to prevent the extension of this influence, it can only he done by raising up for the North American Colonist some nationality of his own, by elevating these small and unimportant communities into a society having some objects of a national importance, and by thus giving their inhabitants a country which they will be unwilling to see absorbed even into one more powerful.
An union for common defence against foreign enemies is the natural bond of connection that holds together the great communities of the world, and between no parts of any kingdom or state is the necessity for such an union more obvious than between the whole of these colonies.
The whole of this branch of this remarkable report on the subject of an union of the British American Provinces should be read by every man in the several provinces, the arguments in its favour are so able and so unanswerable. (Hear, hear.)
I will honestly say, as many others have said before me, that if it could have been attained, I would have preferred a Legislative Union, but it is well understood that Lower Canada would never have agreed to it.
Étienne Pascal Taché [Canada East, appointed 1848, Premier, Minister of Militia, and Receiver General]—Nor the Lower Provinces.
John Ross [Canada West, appointed 1848]—Nor, as my honourable and gallant friend the Premier [Étienne Pascal Taché] states, would the Lower Provinces have consented to it. He may well be supposed to know, for he was in the Conference, presiding over its deliberations, and had the very best opportunity of ascertaining the opinions of the delegates. (Hear.)
But coming down to later times—the times so well described by the Hon. Premier in his excellent speech—when difficulties between Upper and Lower Canada began to thicken, the Hon. Mr. Galt brought up the scheme of Colonial Federation as the best mode of overcoming those difficulties, and made a most able speech on the subject in his place in Parliament. Subsequently, in […]
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[…] 1858, that honourable minister entered the Government with the express understanding that the question would be dealt with. It is well known that he carried his point so far, that the subject was alluded to at the close of the session of 1858, in the Speech of Sir E. Head, the Governor General, and communication with the Imperial Government for permission to negotiate with the Lower Provinces on the subject was then undertaken. Shortly after this, three members of the Government, viz., Hon. Messrs. Cartier, Galt, and myself, went to England, and on the 25th of October, 1858, we laid our request before the Secretary of State for the Colonies, Sir E. B. Lytton, but difficulties, not of our creation, intervened and caused delay—Lord Derby’s Government was defeated, and the matter continued in abeyance.
To say, in the face of the facts I have stated, that the project is unknown and has taken the country by surprise, is to say what is not the case. Even last year it was distinctly referred to in His Excellency’s Speech at the close of the Session, and Hon. Messrs. Brown, McDougall and Mowat entered the Government with the express understanding that negotiations were to ensue to bring about the proposed Federation. Hon. Messrs. Brown and Mowat went back to their constituents and were re-elected by acclamation, and although Hon. Mr. McDougall was defeated, he too was subsequently elected for another constituency by acclamation. These gentlemen, instead of being decried and assailed for the part they have acted, should be honoured for their patriotism.
There has been no such thing as surprise. The resolutions were sent to all the members of the Legislature shortly after they were fully settled upon, and even before that the plan was published in all the newspapers of the province, and I am at a loss to know how it could have been made more public. It is true the Opposition have not held public meetings to consider or object to the scheme, but the reason of this is, that the majority in its favour is so enormously large that they did not venture to do so. (Hear.)
The next piece of disingenuousness on the part of the honourable member was in stating the military power of the Lower Provinces at 65,000 fighting men, or in limiting to that number the men competent for military service—
James Currie [Niagara, elected 1862]—No; I said 128,000, of whom 65,000 only were available, the rest being engaged on the water.
John Ross [Canada West, appointed 1848]—Why did not the honourable member candidly state their census population, which at this time cannot be much short of a million souls?
Étienne Pascal Taché [Canada East, appointed 1848, Premier, Minister of Militia, and Receiver General]—With the permission of the honorable member I will state the result of my experience in this matter. I have been for some time attached to the Adjutant General’s office, where I had the opportunity of examining the particularly correct returns of the Militia for Lower Canada, and it always appears that out of a given population of both sexes the one-fifth pop. is the exact number of men, between the ages of 18 and 60, fit for military duty. This is the case all the world over. The law is as uniform as that which determines the relative numbers of the two sexes; in all Christian countries the males being 21 and a fraction to 20 females, while in countries where polygamy exists the case is exactly reversed, the females being 21 and a fraction, and the males 20. I hare verified the fact that one-fifth of our population shows the correct number of militiamen, and if the honourable member (Hon. Mr. Currie) will apply to the Adjutant General he will find it was so.
James Currie [Niagara, elected 1862]—I have taken the figures as furnished by a colleague of the honourable member.
Étienne Pascal Taché [Canada East, appointed 1848, Premier, Minister of Militia, and Receiver General]—Then my colleague must be in contradiction with myself. The number of militia-men in Upper Canada, by the last census, was 280,000, which, multiplied by 5, gives the population, with a few to spare.
John Ross [Canada West, appointed 1848]—I think it is now unnecessary for me to say anything else on this subject, as the honourable member has been fully answered by my honourable friend the Premier. All that I need add is that according to the rule now stated, the million of souls in the Lower Provinces would produce 200,000 instead of 65,000 men, all capable of bearing arms, those employed on the water being as liable to serve as those employed on the land. I trust we shall never require to muster our fighting men from any part of the proposed Confederation; but the best preventative of danger is preparedness to meet it. (Hear.)
The honourable member next came to the question of the Intercolonial Railway, which after all seems to be his great peculiar horror—the great pillar which overshadows and oppresses him. Well, I will turn again to Lord Durham’s report, in which the following passage, remarkably apposite to the subject, appears:—
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The completion of any satisfactory communication between Halifax and Quebec would, in fact, produce relations between these provinces that would render a general union absolutely necessary. Several surveys proved that a railway would be perfectly practicable the whole way. * * * * * *
The formation of a railroad from Halifax to Quebec would entirely alter some of the distinguishing characteristics of the Canadas. Instead of being shut out from all direct intercourse with England during half the year, they would possess a far more certain and speedy communication throughout the winter than they now possess in summer.
This passage greatly impressed the public men of the day—the Lafontaine-Baldwin Administration—in which Mr. Hincks and the honourable Premier each had a place. It was under them that the railway legislation of the province received its first impulse, and last session I remember to have had occasion to quote the preamble of an act passed in 1851, which recites:—
That, whereas it is of the highest importance to the progress and welfare of this province, that a Main Trunk line of railway should be made throughout the length thereof, and from the eastern frontier thereof through the provinces of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia to the city and port of Halifax; and it is therefore expedient that every effort should be made to ensure the construction of such railway.
Authorizes the Government, for the time being, to negotiate with the Imperial Government and New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, for the construction of the line, and to bargain therefore; the funds to be obtained under Imperial guarantee.
This act, honourable gentlemen, is still in force, and from the time of its passing there has always been an anxiety among the public men of Canada to accomplish the construction of a railway to Halifax. All our governments, without exception, have felt in the same way, and the Macdonald-Sicotte Administration took steps towards such an end. But the difficulties which followed stopped further progress, and, in fact, had almost stopped legislation altogether.
Now, however, the Hon. Mr. Brown himself has made the construction of this railway a part of the proposed Constitution, and has said, at a great meeting in Toronto, that if the project contained half-a-dozen intercolonial railways he would go for them all. (Hear, hear.)
I feel morally certain that if the subject were fairly discussed in every town in Upper Canada, nine-tenths of the people would go heartily for it. Indeed, the railway is absolutely necessary and we cannot do without it. Upper Canada alone, not to speak of Lower Canada at all, requires it, and so well is this understood in the Lower Provinces that an opponent of the Hon. Mr. Tilley—Hon. Mr. Smith—has lately said it was quite unnecessary for New Brunswick to spend any money on the work, as Upper Canada must build it for its own sake.
As to the cost of this road, which has been so greatly exaggerated, Mr. Brydges, who must be supposed to know something about the matter, has offered, on behalf of an English company, to undertake the construction of the line for £3,500,000 sterling. Everybody knows how much that is, and when reciprocity is gone, Upper Canada will do well to build the road on its own account, if all the other provinces refuse. They will however not refuse, for the line is equally necessary for Lower Canada and the other provinces, and it is a great advantage to all parties that it should be so. New Brunswick requires it to open up its rich interior country which contains, as I have learned from advance reports of subordinate surveying engineers, some of the finest lands in the world. Halifax wants it, in order to bring freight to her great seaport when those of Quebec and Montreal are closed. It should have been commenced three years ago, and if it had it would now be built, and we should have heard nothing about the abolition of the Reciprocity Treaty. (Hear, hear.)
The honourable member then asked why, since there was to be a dissolution and an appeal to the people of New Brunswick on the subject, there should not be one in Canada? The answer to that has already been given. The term of Parliament would have expired in that province on the 1st of June, and as the members would then have had to go to their constituents to give an account of their conduct during the previous four years, it was thought better to anticipate the time of its dissolution by three or four months. In Nova Scotia and Newfoundland, however, where the elections were more recent, there are to be no elections. I will add that this mode of appealing to the people is not British but American, as under the British system the representatives of the people in Parliament are presumed to be competent to decide all the public questions submitted to them. When the unions between England and Scotland, and between England and Ireland were effected, there were no appeals to the people, it being assumed that the people’s chosen representatives were quite competent to judge of the measures. (Hear, hear.)
Yet the members who have recently gone to the country have found public opinion to be decidedly […]
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[…] in favour of the project. One honourable member (Hon. Mr. Macpherson) who represents 130,000 souls, has told the House that he has held meetings all over the vast Division for which he sits, and that in every case he has explained the subject to them without finding a single person to oppose it. (Hear.)
The honourable member for Niagara [James Currie] also said, that the project has been unfairly brought down. Now, I contend that it was brought down in the only way in which it could be submitted to us or to the people. Such a censure as this is beyond my comprehension, and it has certainly not been shown to my satisfaction, nor I should imagine, to that of anybody else, in what the unfairness consists. (Hear.)
Next the honourable member attacked the financial terms of the scheme, and rolled up a mass of figures which I strongly suspected the honourable member himself did not understand. (Hear, and laughter.) The Minister of Finance [Alexander T. Galt] fully and lucidly stated the case last evening, and I will read part of his speech to show how satisfactorily the matter was explained. Hon. Mr. Galt said:
With reference to the trade of this country, he had taken the returns of 1863. The returns of the trade of Canada, in that year, taking exports and imports conjointly, showed an aggregate of $87,795,000. Taking the census of 1861, this trade represented thirty-five dollars per head of the population. The value of the import and export trade of New Brunswick, for the same year, reached $16,729,680, amounting to sixty-six dollars per head of its population.
The aggregate trade of Nova Scotia, for the same period, amounted to $18,622,359, or fifty-six dollars per head of its people. And in the case of Prince Edward Island, the import and export trade amounted to $3,055,568, representing thirty-seven dollars per head of the population of that colony. The value of the total trade of Newfoundland was $1,245,032, or eighty-six dollars per head. The whole of these figures represented an aggregate trade of all the provinces, amounting to $137,447,567.
With respect to the revenue and expenditure of the provinces, I find a succinct statement in the speech delivered by Mr. Galt, at Sherbrooke, as follows:—
|Prince Edward Island||197,384||171,718|
The Hon. Minister of Finance [Alexander T. Galt] made some admirable remarks, at Sherbrooke, with reference to the indebtedness of the colonies, where he gave to a public meeting the following table:
|Prince Edward Island||240,673|
Reasoning from these figures, Mr. Galt stated that the debt of Canada amounts at the present time to about $27 per head, and that to enter into an equitable arrangement with the other provinces where the debts were about $25 per head either ours had to be reduced or theirs increased; that is, when made chargeable to the Confederation, and as the former is the preferable course, the surplus or excess of ours over $25 per head has to be locally assumed by Canada. He also explained that the debts of Prince Edward Island and of Newfoundland being less than $25 per head, an allowance had to be made to them to place them on an equal footing with the rest of the colonies.
I will add, for the information of the honourable member for Niagara [James Currie], the following official figures, which are instructive as showing that the people of the Maritime Provinces are a people who contribute, under their present tariffs, a considerable sum to their respective treasuries:
|Duty on Imports Per Head||(1863)|
|Prince Edward Island||1.69|
Looking at all these facts together, the conclusion appears to me irresistible that the arrangement proposed is in every respect an equitable one, and that it has been made with a view to give to each province as nearly as possible what is right and fair, as far as what is right could be discovered. No honourable member could wish that Canada should have undue advantages over the other parties to the compact. The spirit in which the deliberations of the Conference were conducted was the correct one, and had its members tried to overreach each other, had they not been impressed with the necessity of mutual concessions for the common good, no result could ever have been arrived at. (Hear, hear.)
The next point the honourable member touched was the […]
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[…] assets of the Lower Provinces, and he asked very emphatically what they had to bring into the partnership. He said we had our valuable canals, but what had they? Well, they have their own railways, built with provincial money. New Brunswick has 200 miles, equal in value to eight millions of dollars; and Nova Scotia 150 miles or thereabouts, equal to about six millions of dollars, though I am not sure of the exact extent.
James Currie [Niagara, elected 1862]—What do they pay?
John Ross [Canada West, appointed 1848]—What do our canals pay? That, however, is not the question; our canals are assets and valuable assets too, even though they do not pay much directly, for they cheapen transport to an extraordinary extent. I remember the time when the freight of a barrel of flour from Toronto to Montreal cost one dollar, and now it is 10d; and one cwt. of merchandize brought back also cost one dollar then, but now only 1s. It is in this way that great public works are valuable to a country. As to the earnings of the Lower Province railways, the net profits—not the gross receipts—are stated, I believe, at $140,000; $70,000 in New Brunswick, and $70,000 in Nova Scotia, which, at any rate, is something. The Welland Canal, of which the honourable gentleman spoke so much, did not pay even the interest on its cost; and if the canal on the American side of the Niagara is constructed, as we learn from the American press it is to be, the chief source of its revenue will be cut off, and so far from being the best of the canals in a paying point of view, it will be the worst of all those connected with the St. Lawrence navigation.
Let me not be understood, however, as depreciating the value of the Welland Canal. None is more ready than I am to admit that its construction was wise, and that it has proved and will continue to prove beneficial in the highest degree. (Hear.) The honourable member, living as he does on the very banks of the Welland Canal, very naturally asked how the canals are to be enlarged? Well, they will be the property of the General Government, and when the trade requires it, that Government will, no doubt, appropriate money for the work. (Hear.) As to local taxation, all the provinces will be put upon the same footing, and nothing can be fairer. If Upper Canada, which it is asserted is so much wealthier than the other portions of the Confederation, requires more than the eighty cents per head allowed to all the provinces, its greater wealth will cause it to feel the taxation so much the less. (Hear.)
The honourable member next attacked the proposed constitution of the Legislative Council, and insisted not only that it should have remained elective, but that the principle of representation according to population should also have prevailed. But who ever heard that in a Federal Constitution the Upper House should be arranged on that principle? If that view be the sound one, the better way would be to have but one House, for the only effect of having two Houses, both elected on the basis of population, would be that one would constantly be combating the other, and the wheels of government would unavoidably be brought to a stand-still. In such a case the more powerful members of the Confederacy would be wholly unrestrained, and would completely overwhelm the weaker. This was fully considered on the adoption of a Constitution for the United States, according to which it is well known that the smaller States are represented in the Senate by the same number of senators as the larger ones—there being two members for each. The same principle has been adopted in arranging the terms of this proposed union, and for the same reason; viz., to protect the weaker parties to the compact. (Hear.)
The next point referred to by the honourable member related to the Common Schools and the fund proposed to be created by the Act of 1849, but as the honourable member has been informed one of its provisions, that relating to this fund, has never been carried out; with respect to the other, my honourable friend the Commissioner of Crown Lands [Alexander Campbell] has already explained that the million of acres have been set apart and a fund year by year created, while Parliament has annually set apart about $100,000 for the support of the schools. Upper Canada then has suffered no injustice in this. (Hear.)
The honourable member at last concluded his remarks by drawing a sorry picture of the condition of Canada. According to him, it was about bankrupt when a number of self-appointed delegates met and devised this scheme for its further embarrassment. So far from this being the case, it is a matter of history that the Government was formed expressly for the purpose of considering and framing this very scheme, and getting rid of the dead-locks which have so injuriously affected the legislation of the country. It appeared that by the time the honourable member came to this part of his speech he became so excited that he hardly knew what he was saying. (Hear, hear.)
I will conclude by reading an extract from a remarkable speech delivered by His Honour the Speaker (the Honourable U. J. […]
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[…] Tessier) at a public meeting held in Quebec in 1858, when the three delegates were in England pressing for Confederation. It is as follows:—
In 1849 and 1852 there were passed acts of our Provincial parliament to give some kind of guarantee for the construction of this (the Intercolonial) Railway. As a member of the Canadian Legislature, I pledge my best support to help this enterprise, and as to the Canadian nationality, distinct from the English or French nationality, composed of the best qualities of both, to which allusion has been made, I share in this sentiment, and I hope to see growing a Canadian Empire in North America, formed by a Federal Union of all the colonies connected and linked together by this Intercolonial Railway, that may hold a position able to counterbalance the grasping power of the United States on this continent.
I refer to this able speech to show the enlightened views which that honourable member held on the subject, in common with many other distinguished public men. I have now done with the speech of the honourable member for Niagara [James Currie], and will only say further that I hope the important subject before the House will be fully and completely discussed, so that the fine merits of the scheme may be thoroughly understood. I know it will be discussed calmly, with mutual forbearance and kindness, and with the excellent dispositions which honourable gentlemen usually bring to the consideration of the matters submitted for their judgment. (Hear, hear, and applause.)
I feel satisfied that after such discussion the House will complete its share of this great work by assenting to the resolutions submitted for its approval. (Hear, hear.)
George Alexander [Gore, elected 1858] said—I am sure that the members of the Government desire that this great question should be freely and fully discussed—I am sure they will be glad to see any members of this House frankly state wherein they conceived any of its details to be defective—I am sure that the suggestions by the honourable gentlemen who represent the divisions of Victoria [Thomas Ryan] and Wellington [John Sanborn] will be duly weighed by the present Administration, as any other suggestions made in the spirit to accomplish good.
But some members in both branches of the Legislature appear to be opposed to the Confederation scheme in toto.—They hold that the constitutional changes proposed are unwise, and are fraught with great evil. The honourable member for Niagara Division (Hon. Mr. Currie) appears to be of that number, from the very strong appeal which he has made to this House against the whole measure, and I desire to reply to some of the arguments which he pressed, no doubt with very great force and ability, upon our attention.
He objects to the whole manner in which the Convention was formed; he has no faith whatever in the result of their deliberations. He maintains, in the boldest manner, that the proposed union will be found disadvantageous and burdensome to all the provinces uniting. He produced figures, prepared beforehand, to show that our burdens will be increased to the extent of at least $3,000,000 per annum—an increase which will be found oppressive to the industry of the province of Canada.
I cannot understand from what source he has obtained his figures to arrive at such a conclusion. There is no difficulty in our being able to form a reliable idea as to the future financial position of the proposed federal and local governments.
If we make an estimate of the whole revenue of those provinces from their financial returns, taking the basis of 1863, we find that there will be a net revenue, available for the purposes of the General Government, after paying the subsidy of eighty cents per head to the local governments, amounting to the sum of $9,643,108, while we are justified in assuming that the ordinary expenditure of the General Government will not exceed $9,000,000. But, of course, there are always certain grants which are not classed under ordinary expenditure, and we shall have to provide for the Intercolonial Railway, and the widening and deepening of the St. Lawrence canals; and suppose that we allow the very liberal item of $25,000,000 for those great objects, it will be admitted on all sides that we shall be enabled to obtain this amount under the Imperial Guarantee at four per cent., thus throwing upon the federal treasury the additional annual burden or charge of $1,000,000, which we may, with perfect right, say will be met in the following manner.
It can be clearly shown that it rests entirely with ourselves, whether we cannot meet all the claims of ordinary expenditure and interest on the federal debt with the amount, already named, of $9,643,108; while I am sure that most commercial men will allow that, with the power which we shall have of imposing uniform tariff and excise duties throughout the whole united territory of these united provinces, we shall raise sufficient additional revenue to meet this large item.
But as I have, on a former occasion, said, we must inaugurate the dawn of our infant national career with the utmost care and prudence. All jobbery and lavish expenditure must be carefully avoided; and if we do so, I venture to […]
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[…] prophesy that the anticipations of my honourable friend from Niagara [James Currie] will never be realized. I venture to say, in the face of all his evil forebodings of increased burdens and debt, that we shall find our position greatly improved. He appeared in the delivery of his able and powerful speech, very desirous to make out the strongest possible case, raking up even the public condemnation of the Provincial Secretary [William McDougall] at the famous Harrington meeting. I was one of those who voted against Mr. Scott’s Separate School Bill, valuing, in common with the earnest electors at Harrington, our noble school system of Upper Canada, which carries the blessings of education throughout the width and breadth of the land; but the people generally are not prepared to reject the proposed Confederation, because of the position of that question, although there are individual electors who have strong convictions on the subject.
My honorable friend also dwells upon the amount which will require to be appropriated for the militia. He appears to think that soldiers can be formed by magical influence in a day, and to effect a small saving he would elect to leave this magnificent territory, with its valuable homesteads, exposed to be swept at any moment by a ruthless aggressor; or should not mind that our Canadian people should run the risk of being subjected to share the liability of three thousand millions of debt, in addition to their own burdens. The great body of the people of Upper Canada have great faith in the expansion and growth of a young country such as this. (Hear, hear.)
They do not forget the remarkable fact, that after experiencing a large deficiency in the revenue of the country for several years, with also, in addition, two very indifferent harvests, we are in a position to announce a considerable surplus of revenue at this moment; and we look forward to this consolidation of other great interests, full of hope, that it will give us a higher standing in the world; that it will give a great impetus to the growth of our population, our commerce and our revenue; and if the expenditure to be made on those great public improvements should swell the debt, we shall find ourselves in a condition of such prosperity that it will fall lightly upon us.
There are so many conspiring circumstances to make us regard this great scheme with favour, the offspring, as it is presented to us, of the large experience and matured judgment of the political leaders of all these provinces. (Hear, hear.)
“We may venture to accept it and give it a fair trial as the best solution of the difficulties we have experienced in working out our present Legislative Union. It is very true that we have all opposed until now the construction of the Intercolonial Railway, because we have had grave doubts as to the commercial value of that work, and the prospect of its being self-sustaining; but it certainly cannot be denied that the unfriendly attitude assumed towards us by the neighbouring republic in respect to the trade relations between the two countries, makes it more prudential for us thus to secure a winter road to the great highway of the world’s commerce—(hear, hear)—and it will certainly place us in a stronger position to negotiate fair and just terms in a renewal or modification of the Reciprocity Treaty. Whilst that public work is accepted as an indispensable part of the scheme, we are glad to be assured by the members of the Government, that the deepening and widening of the St. Lawrence canals will be carried out simultaneously. Good cannot fail to flow from the union if justice is thus done to all its component parts.
As regards the question of finance, the proposition to assume the debts upon a certain basis on the one hand, and to impose a uniform tariff on the other, with certain reasonable stipulations, is perhaps the nearest approximation to dealing out common justice to all, which could be arrived at, with so many varied interests there represented. We know that our own delegates contended, as we now contend, that it would only have been fair and just that the future subsidy to be paid to each province of eighty cents per head should be based upon the census returns to be made every ten years. But this is not the moment to enlarge upon this point, or upon those details, to which, as I have before stated, the great body of my constituents take exception, and I will reserve myself, therefore, until we discuss the details per item.
I would only, in conclusion, observe, that our most enlightened citizens see nothing but weakness and insecurity in our present fragmentary position, while they regard the proposed union as calculated in every way to give us importance, standing and strength—improve our credit—inspire a feeling of confidence in our future, and bring emigration to our shores. If we can look back with just pride to our giant growth during the last quarter of a century, so may we enter upon the extended relations now proposed full of hope, that with an accession of territory, population and power—commencing our career with a volume of trade exceeding $137,000,000, with such boundless resources to develop, and a country capable of sustaining […]
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[…] any extent of population, there is no barrier to our extension and material progress. (Hear, hear.)
We must feel that such a field or human enterprise and such a position is calculated to give our people higher aspirations, and to make them cherish what may at the present moment be pronounced at this stage of our infancy but a dream; that just as the Russian Empire extends its powerful sway from the Black Sea to the polar regions, so may the people of British North America aspire to raise up a great Northern Power upon this continent, which shall be distinguished for the wisdom and stability of its institutions, which shall emulate the parent countries from which its races have sprung, in developing their manly virtues, and in diffusing the blessings of a higher civilization, wherever its population may flow. (Cheers.)
Alexander Vidal [St. Clair, elected 1863] said he cordially agreed with the honourable gentleman who had spoken in desiring a union of the provinces, and with the Honourable Premier in believing that if such union could be arranged to the satisfaction of all the parties concerned, it ought to be effected. Without exactly committing himself to the opinion of the Honourable Premier that this country was upon an inclined plane which, if the proposed scheme of Confederation were rejected, would land us in the United States, he nevertheless thought that the arguments which he had advanced to demonstrate the necessity of some change which would secure our future exemption from the difficulties by which we were now beset were unanswered and unanswerable. Yet he was obliged to express his disapproval of the manner in which the scheme had been submitted to Parliament, as the course adopted entirely precluded the Legislature from suggesting any improvement or modification of its details. He felt, in common with all other honourable members, that the subject was one of vast importance; that we were not legislating for the mere purpose of escaping from unpleasant party political difficulties, but for the safety and prosperity of our country and the welfare of our children and descendants, and therefore could not agree with the honourable member for Brock (Hon. Mr. Blair), that immediate action was necessary and that any delay was dangerous.
Notwithstanding all that had been said of this country being acquainted with the scheme and prepared to adopt it, he did not and could not believe that such was the case; in arranging its details no advice or assistance had been sought from the representatives of the people, and the people themselves were to have no voice in the matter. The scheme was assumed to be perfect, and being perfect, must be adopted by the House without change or modification of any kind. It was said that nine-tenths of the people were in its favour; he believed that a very large majority approved of the general principle of union, but there were details of the plan which did not pass unchallenged. It was much to be regretted that the resolutions had not been introduced in such a way as would have permitted the House to place upon record its views in respect to any part of them which might be unacceptable, and to suggest to the Imperial authorities who might frame the bill, such amendments as it considered desirable.
He thought the honourable member for Wellington (Hon. Mr. Sanborn) was in error in proposing the amendments of which he had given notice,—the resolutions before them were not, properly speaking, resolutions of the House, they must be regarded as a mere statement of certain agreements entered into by other parties and communicated to us for our information, and consequently could not in any way be altered or amended. Honourable members were thus placed in an anomalous position—invited to discuss the whole subject freely and their assistance requested, and at the same time informed that no change would be effected—that in fact the only assistance wanted was the voting for the adoption of the scheme as a whole.
Whatever doubts may exist as to the change the proposed union might effect either for good or for ill, he thought there was no doubt that there would necessarily be a vast increase of expense in carrying on the Government: without mentioning specific sums, it must be obvious that Canada would have to maintain two local legislatures with all their appurtenances, in addition to her share of the expense of the Federal Legislature, which latter could scarcely be expected to be less than at present.
With regard to the proposed change in the constitution of the Legislative Council, he was far from considering it a wise step; like the honourable member for Niagara (Hon. Mr. Currie), he had great regard for the right of the franchise as now enjoyed by the people, and felt that it would be improper to vote away that privilege of his constituents without their authority or assent. He had been sent here by them to assist in legislating under the Constitution we now have, and not to change it. It was admitted by all that the elective system had operated advantageously, and why then should it be abandoned?—why initiate a retrograde movement […]
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[…] unsought for by the country?
Much had been said about the risk of collision between two elective Houses, that legislation might come to a dead-lock; now it was a remarkable fact that under the present system there had been no such difficulties, while both in England and in Canada, previous to the introduction of the elective system, they had occurred, and on several occasions the power of the Crown had been called in to overcome them by appointing additional members. What would be the position of the House under the new scheme?
It would be the most irresponsible body in the world; and if a dead-lock should occur there would be no way of overcoming it, for the casualties of death, resignation or acceptance of office, which had been so strongly insisted upon as sufficiently numerous to enable the Government of the day to modify the character of the House, would not in his opinion be adequate to meet such an exigency. Such was apparently the view of the Colonial Secretary; and it would in all probability be found necessary to leave the Crown unfettered in the exercise of its prerogative of appointment. The honourable gentleman concluded by saying that he would not now comment upon any other details of the scheme, as he understood the resolutions were to be discussed seriatim, but he did not very clearly see the advantage of such a discussion when it was so distinctly stated that the only question for the House to determine was whether the scheme as now submitted, unchanged and unchangeable, should be rejected or adopted. (Hear, hear.)
Étienne Pascal Taché [Canada East, appointed 1848, Premier, Minister of Militia, and Receiver General] said the scheme, it was true, must be taken as a whole, or rejected, since it was not the property of the Government of Canada alone, but of all the other provinces as well. But it did not therefore follow that honourable members who might dissent from some parts of it might not inscribe that dissent on the journals. If the amendments proposed were passed, the motion for an Address would not be pressed; but, if they did not carry, then the votes of the honourable members who had supported them would be on record. In former days, before the yeas and nays were taken, it was the practice for members who objected to any particular measure, in conformity with the practice of the House of Lords, to enter a protest on the journals exhibiting their reasons for dissent, and he knew of no rule which would prevent such a course from being pursued on the present occasion. It was quite in the power of honourable members, if they chose, to propose amendments, and so secure the advantage of placing their views before the country.
Cries of “adjourn! adjourn!”
Philip Moore [Canada East, appointed 1841] said, as there was an evident desire for an adjournment, he would not occupy the time of the House for more than a few minutes, his intention being merely to refer to a portion of the remarks made by the honourable gentleman (Hon. Mr. Vidal) who had just sat down. Though he generally agreed in what had been said by that honourable member, there was one particular in which he (Hon. Mr. Moore) thought he was in error. He (Hon. Mr. Vidal) seemed to have become impressed with the idea that it was not competent for the House to amend the resolutions, but that they should either be adopted or rejected as a whole. It was true the Government had so laid it down, but he (Hon. Mr. Moore) held that the question could be dealt with in the same manner as any other that might come before the House.
His honourable friend was also of opinion that, if no suggestions or amendments were to be adopted, it was wasting time to discuss the scheme. In this respect he (Hon. Mr. Moore) begged to differ with the honourable gentleman, holding that it was not only useful, but essentially necessary that the details of a measure fraught with such grave and momentous importance to the country should be thoroughly discussed. A calm and considerate discussion—and every latitude for discussion—were necessary, and he hoped the Government would not press the measure with any unseemly haste, for they not only owed it to the Legislature, but to the country, that ample opportunity for consideration of the project should be afforded to the people’s representatives.
He also considered it important that members should have an opportunity to confer with their constituents on the subject, in order to vote advisedly when the time came; and he trusted the Government would not press the matter, nor hinder the expression of views, even if those views extended to amendment in certain particulars.
The honourable gentleman then sat down, repeating that he thought the House might deal with the question as with any other that might come before it.
The debate was then adjourned until the morrow.
 Letter from Archdeacon Strachan to Charles Bulwer (1838). Unconfirmed reference.
 Ibid., p. 98.
 Ibid., p. 100.
 Ibid., p. 101.
 Canadian–American Reciprocity Treaty of 1854 (Elgin-Marcy Treaty). The treaty expired in 1866.
 The three being Galt, Cartier, and [John] Ross.
 An Act to provide for affording the Guarantee of the Province to the Bonds of Rail-way Companies on certain conditions, and for rendering assistance in the construction in the Halifax and Quebec Rail-way, 1849 (Province of Canada).
 U.J. Tessier’s speech probably took place in October 1858 when Galt, Cartier, and Ross went to London. Uncomfirmed reference.
 Canadian–American Reciprocity Treaty of 1854 (Elgin-Marcy Treaty). The treaty expired in 1866.