Despatch from Anthony Musgrave to Right Hon. Edward Cardwell (19 August 1865)
By: Anthony Musgrave
Citation: Despatch from Anthony Musgrave to Right Hon. Edward Cardwell (19 August 1865) 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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Copy of a DESPATCH from Governor MUSGRAVE to the Right Hon. EDWARD CARDWELL., M.P.
Government House, Newfoundland, August 19, 1865.
(Received September 11, 1865.)
(Answered No. 12, September 30, 1865, page 156.)
I HAVE had the honour to forward for your information a copy of the last Annual Report from the Chamber of Commerce to the Commercial Society. This document is interesting as containing an exposition of the views of the mercantile community upon the subject of the proposed Confederation of the North American Provinces. It will be seen that the feeling disclosed is adverse to Confederation, while there may be detected at the same time an indication of a latent condition that if the Union is accomplished between the other Provinces Newfoundland will be included. Jealousy of being used as a means of settling Canadian political difficulties, and fear of the cession of a power to tax which it is thought may be made to operate injuriously upon this community for the benefit of others, are the leading causes of objection. I need not trouble you with the answers which I believe may fairly be given to them, as the subject has already been fully discussed, and is not likely to be further elucidated by observations of mine. However unlikely it may be that the other Colonies should combine to impose a tariff on themselves that would be oppressive to Newfoundland, the difficulty lies in the absence of such an assurance as the suspicious commercial body will regard as an efficient protection against what they dread.
I have, &c.
(Signed) A. MUSGRAVE.
The Right Hon. Edward Cardwell, M.P.,
&c. &c. &c.
Enclosure in No. 7.
Many subjects of importance to the trade and commerce of the Colony have engaged the attention of the Chamber during their year of office, but by far the most prominent among these was the project entertained of communicating the Colony to a Confederation with the British North American Provinces under the terms of certain resolutions adopted at a meeting of delegates form these Provinces, held at Quebec in the month of October last, which were published in our local papers.
Notice having been given buy the Honourable Attorney-General in the House of assembly that he would move the House into committee of the whole on this subject, the Chamber, […] how deeply the interests of those engaged in the trade and commerce of the Colony would be affected by the proposed Confederation, lost no time in conveying a meeting of the Commercial Society with the view of ascertaining the opine of the society of this momentous question, and of determining the most advisable means for carrying it into effect. In conformity with resolutions unanimously adopted at that meeting a petition was prepared and presented to both Houses of the Legislature, praying that no action should be taken to bind this Colony to the preposed union until an opportunity had been afforded of consulting the several constituencies of the Colony on the measure.
A petition of similar purport emanating from a public meeting held in this town, having also been presented to the Legislature, and it becoming apparent that the general feeling of the Colony was adverse to the principle of Confederation on the terms proposed, the session was closed without any action being taken thereof. At the same time it was […] that the future course of the Government would be guided by the expression of public opinion, as elicited at the forthcoming general election.
The measure having been rejected by Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Prince Edward Island, it is evident that some time must elapse before the proposed Confederation cannot be carried out ; but as it is equally evident that should the terms of a Union between those Provinces and the Canadas be at any time equitably and satisfactorily settled, every effort will be exerted to include this Colony in it, the Chamber conceive that it is the duty of this society, as well as of all who are engaged in the trade and commerce of the Colony (whose interests, equally with those of all other classes of the population, will be affected by the Union), seriously to consider the results that would ensue from it, and to give effect to their opinion by every legitimate means.
So far as this Chamber is aware, the project of a Confederation of the Provinces was devised as a means of relieving Canada from the political difficulties which have for some time past embarrassed the action of the Legislature, and also of affording more available resources for repelling any act of aggression upon that Province on the part of the adjoining Republic, and of providing access tot he Atlantic seaboard at all seasons of the year for its products through territory under its own Government. These are undoubtably objects well worthy of the zealous efforts of Canadian statement ; and the latter, two of which would apparently confer proportionate advantages on the Provinces of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, but it is difficult to see what interest this Colony can have in any one of those objects to justify the sacrifice of its independent legislative position and the assumption of a share of the enormous expenditure that must be incurred for the support of the general government ; for the erection of efficient defensive works along the frontier of Canada and New Brunswick ; for the maintenance of a military and naval force adequate to the defence of the Provinces ; and in all probability for the construction of many public works of advantage to the Provinces only.
These expenditures, and that required by the various local governments, would necessitate the imposition of a very high tariff of import duties, which would press with peculiar and unequal severity on this Colony, which possess but few manufactures or products of its own beyond those of its fisheries, and has to supply all its wants by imports from abroad.
It is, moreover, to be apprehended that the operation of such a tariff would divert much of our commerce from its accustomed and most convenient and advantageous channels, by compelling our importers to have recourse, not to the cheapest markets, as at present, but to the confederated Provinces, whence, in consequence of the protection that will be afforded by the tariff to their products, many of our requirements will have to be procured, even though inferior in quality and higher in price.
The Chamber is aware of no advantage likely to result from the proposed Confederation that will at all compensate for these disadvantageous attending it.
It can open no new or more extensive market for the products of our fisheries, nor does it hold out a prospect of developing new resources within the Colony or of extending those we now possess.