Despatch from Anthony Musgrave to Right Hon. Edward Cardwell (21 March 1866)

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Date: 1866-03-21
By: Anthony Musgrave
Citation: Despatch from Anthony Musgrave to Right Hon. Edward Cardwell (21 March 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. 10.

EXTRACT from a DESPATCH from Governor MUSGRAVE to the Right Hon. EDWARD CARDWELL, M.P.

(No. 97.)

Government House, Newfoundland, March 21, 1866.
(Received April 9, 1866.)
(Answered No. 13, April 14, 1866, page 157.)


A FEW days after the departure of the last mail, by which I forwarded my Despatch No. 91,* of the 20th ultimo, Mr. Hogsett, who assumes the position off leader of the opposition in the Assembly, gave notice of motion for ta committee of the whole House on the subject of the proposed Confederation of the North American Provinces, and of his intention to move the resolutions of whit I annex a copy ; and of which the adoption would involve the entire rejection of the proposal.

There is good reason to believe that the proceeding originated less in an honest opposition on Mr. Hogsett’s part to the principle of Confederation, to which indeed it is known that he had preciously expressed himself as favourable, than in a desire to embarrass the administration, and the hope, by pressing the subject, of dividing their usual supporters, among whom diverse opinions upon the question are entertained ; for I and my Council have always been of opinion that it would be undesirable to allow a subject so important to the welfare of all these Colonies to be forced into the position of a mere local party question, and so made to afford ground for the exercise of petty political manoeuvres, as Mr. Hogsett no doubt intended in the present instance.

If the matter had been riper for decision, and there were a prospect of obtaining a deliberate judgment at this stage favourable to Confederation, before the other Provinces have taken a decided course, the action of Mr. Hogsett would have been unimportant and probably would not have been attempted. But the great object of the advocates of Union in present circumstances is obviously to guard against an adverse vote, and for this purpose to leave the subject in such a position as will content the waverers in opinion, who otherwise would vote with the opposition as the safer course, and to keep it alive for consideration while preserving the Legislature from being committed to any judgment until the action of the other Provinces shall be known and we can more clearly see what would be our most judicious course.

When the motion of Mr. Hogsett came on for discussion, the Attorney General, therefore, moved the amendment on his resolutions which I also annex ; and after some debate, which nothing new was adduced in support of the arguments before used in opposition, the amendments were carried in the 8th March by a vote of eighteen against seven.

I see no reason to modify the opinions which I expressed in my former Despatch No. 91. The result here will, I still believe, depend upon the course of the other Provinces, and I think that public opinion has quite as much advanced towards the Union as in Nova Scotia or New Brunswick ; though I fear that some little check and temporary discouragement may have been given by the circumstance that the subject was passed over altogether without notice in the speech of the Lieutenant-Governor of Nova Scotia in opening the legislative session in that Province. This fact has attracted some attention, and it may be supposed that the omission has been caused by some weakness or division in the Government with regard to this special matter; but I have since learnt through a private note from Sir Fenwick Williams, that there is good hope for success in Nova Scotia when New Brunswick shall have done her part.

* * * * *

I have, &c.

(Signed) A. MUSGRAVE.

The Right Hon. Edward Cardwell, M.P.,
&c. &c. &c.

Enclosure 1 in No. 10.

RESOLUTIONS to be proposed in Committee of the whole on Confederation of the North American Provinces.

WHEREAS the question of Confederation has been brought before the people of this Colony and the Legislature thereof, by a Despatch from the Principal from the Principal Secretary of State for the Colonies, bearing date, Downing Street, 3rd December 1864, and by resolutions adopted by the Quebec Conference accompanying the same :

Resolved, That the circumstances of this Colony present insuperable difficulties to the adoption, by its people, of the proposed Confederation, and that the almost universal opinion of the inhabitants of Newfoundland is opposed to an union with Canada.

Resolved, That under the constitution at present enjoyed by the people of Newfoundland the principle of self-government has been fully conceded and recognized b y the parent State, and therefore this House cannot assent to the proposition contained in his Excellency’s reply to the address of this House, that “the minor objections of this Colony should, of necessity, give way before the pressure of the more weighty motives of national interest,” without the assent of the people of this Colony being first had thereto.

Resolved, That under any circumstances the conditions of the Quebec Resolutions, as regards this Colony, are for the most part inapplicable to its necessities, and are not calculated to carry out the objects proposed to be subserved by the said Resolutions.

Enclosure 2 in No. 10.

AMENDMENT on Resolutions proposed in Committee of the whole on Confederation of the North American Provinces.

WHEREAS this House has recently, in reply to the speech of his Excellency the Governor, on opening the present session, abstained from pronouncing any decision on the proposal for a Union of the Colonies, or on the details of that measure as regards this Colony, and considering the present uncertain state of public sentiment on this grave question, and being unadvised of the action thereon that may be taken or contemplated by the other Provinces, it is.

Resolved. That whilst duly regardful of the momentous character of this subject, and of the promise to his Excellency to give it attention, yet, as no information has been received demanding its immediate reconsideration, this House does not deem it expedient to enter upon its discussion with a view to any decision thereon.

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