Despatch from Anthony Musgrave to Right Hon. Edward Cardwell (10 July 1866)

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Date: 1866-07-10
By: Anthony Musgrave
Citation: Despatch from Anthony Musgrave to Right Hon. Edward Cardwell (10 July 1866) in UK, Parliament, Correspondence respecting the Proposed Union of the British North American Provinces (London: George Edward Eyre and William Spottiswoode, 1867).
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No. 12.

EXTRACT from a DESPATCH from Governor MUSGRAVE to the Right Hon. EDWARD CARDWELL, M.P., dated Newfoundland, July 10, 1866.

(No. 115.)

(Received, July 28, 1866.)

“I HAVE the honour to forward for your information copy of a Despatch which I have addressed bu the present mail to Lord Monck.

“2. The first of these enclosures will explain why this Government does not join in the action of the other Colonies by sending Delegates on the question of Confederation, as without the authority of the Legislature they could not be armed with any powers for the settlement of the terms of the union; and I have also therein stated the reasons which cause it to be regarded as inexpedient to convene the Legislature at this time for further discussion of the question. I have, therefore, little to add beyond enclosing a copy of the Minute of Executive Council upon the subject.

“3. I do, however, cherish a strong hope, notwithstanding the present inability of pressing the Legislature for an assent to union, that before their next meeting in January the progress of events will exercise an important influence upon their options. And I am confident that, if Her Majesty’s Government should attach any importance to including Newfoundland in the projected arrangement, a strong expression of your views and of the consequences which may be expected to flow to this particular Colony from an ignorant persistence in the policy of isolation, and in opposition to the wishes of Her Majesty’s Government, would have great upon the determination of the Legislature. An effect so great indeed that I think it would probably accomplish the end in view. I am indeed to believe this by my knowledge of the statements which are circulated that Her Majesty’s Government care little, if at all, for the connexion of Newfoundland with the other Colonies, and that this Colony has nothing to lose by resining in her detached position. The particular or immediate advantages to be obtained by entering the Confederation it is not easy to demonstrate, however well convinced may be the advocates of union of the ultimate benefit of the arrangement. And it would be cogent argument in favour of the proposal if it can be shown that it cannot be refused without the loss of advantages at present enjoyed, and which it is too readily assumed are to be retained at the cost of the Imperial Government.”

(No. 146.)

Enclosure 1 in No. 12.

Government House, Newfoundland, 10th July 1866.


I HAVE received a Despatch from the Lieutenant-Governor of Nova Scotia, in which he communicated to me at your request that it is the intention of the Governments of Canada, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia to send Delegates forthwith to England on the subject of the Confederation of the British North American Provinces, and he stated that it was your Lordship’s hope that I would be enabled to call my Legislature together in time to avail myself of the action which it is hoped may be taken by the Imperial Parliament before its prorogation in passing the necessary Act for this purpose.

2. It would afford me the greatest satisfaction to be able to carry out your Lordship’s wishes, and obtain the assent of the Legislature at once to the completion of the arrangement. But I regret to say that on consultation with my Council I am advised by them that there is no reasonable ground at present for anticipating other than an adverse decision from the Legislature if the question of Union should now again be pressed upon them; nor does it seem probable that a dissolution would at this time affect the result, and no change of administration would be of any service, as it is well known that the Opposition all hold anti-confederate opinions. When the Legislature is induced to assent to the proposed union, as I yet hope will be the case, the sent must be accomplished through modification of the views of members who on all other matters are supporters of my present Government, and I believe some little time is necessary for this purpose. Undue haste might, and I fear probably would, only have the effect of entailing upon the Colony an expense of some 7,000/. for a special session, complicate future proceedings by a decidedly adverse vote, and compel a dissolution, causing much outlay to the advocates of the project, which may induce some to withdraw from the conflict, and ultimately produce no good result.

3. Reluctant as I am to be forced to this conclusion, I am constrained by the circumstances to agree with the Council that it will be best to wait for the re-assembling of the Legislature in due course in January, by which time the action of the Imperial Parliament, if any should be taken during this session, will exercise important influence on public feeling. But as yet great doubt is entertained, in which I admit that I share, whether time will be afforded for the passing of any measure during the present session, and still more whether it will be regarded by the Imperial Government as possible to do so on indefinite resolutions without previous reference to the local Legislatures for ratification of the terms of the agreement, the re-arrangement of electoral districts, and the numerous details which must be adjusted touching the local constitutions under the new system, none of which have yet been agreed upon, and all of which can scarcely be settled by an Act of the Imperial Parliament.

4. I shall transmit to the Secretary of State a copy of this Despatch.

I have, &c.

(Signed) A. MUSGRAVE.

His Excellency the Right Hon. Viscount Monck.

Enclosure 2 in No. 12.

GOVERNMENT HOUSE, 10th July 1866.

At a Meeting of Council held this day,

Present: All the Members except Solicitor-General.

THE Governor stated that he had directed a meeting of the Council to be convened for the purpose of submitting to them the following Despatch from Sir F. Williams, and that he desired to ascertain from the Council their opinions as to the propriety of acting upon the suggestions of Lord Monck and calling the Legislature together for the purpose of some action on the question of Confederation, now that New Brunswick and Nova Scotia had both declared decidedly in favour of union, and that Delegates are about to proceed to England from those Provinces and Canada for the purpose of carrying the arrangement into effect.


The Council were of opinion that it was not practicable at the present time to give effect to the desire expressed in that communication. When our Legislature was in session, new Brunswick had not affirmed the principle of union, and there being no practical necessity for coming to a conclusion in this Colony, the matter was left open for future consideration.

The Council are of opinion that the Assembly at the present time would not adopt the measure of Confederation, public opinion not having yet been so changed by the action of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick as to warrant the expectation that it could now be submitted either to the Legislature or the constituencies with a reasonable hope of success.

(Signed) J. BEMISTER,
Colonial Secretary.

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