Despatch from Anthony Musgrave to Right Hon. Edward Cardwell (23 February 1865)

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Date: 1865-02-23
By: Anthony Musgrave
Citation: Despatch from Anthony Musgrave to Right Hon. Edward Cardwell (23 February 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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No. 3.

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

(No. 27.)

Government House, Newfoundland, February 23, 1865.
(Received March 14, 1865.)
(Answered No. 15, March 17, 1865, page 154.)


I HAVE the honour to receive your Despatch No. 4,* of the 24th of January, in which you signify your approval of the modification in the constitution of the local Legislature that I had acquitted you is likely to be proposed as a consequence of the Union of the several Provinces and the establishment of one General Colonial Parliament ; and in which also you express the opinion that in the absence of any serious reason to the contrary it will be most desirable to obtain the decision of the Legislature upon the proposed Confederation without delay.

2. In my Despatch to which you refer I remarked that when forwarding to you the replies of the Legislative Bodies to the usual Address from the Governor on opening the legislative session I should be better able than at that time to report the official reception of the proposal of the Quebec Conference ; and I also in the last paragraph remarked that it was not unlikely a feeling would grow up that in view of the expiration of the existing House of Assembly after the present Session it would be most desirable to defer decision upon that proposal until the question should have been submitted to the constituencies.

3. On the debates in both the Council and Assembly on the Addresses in reply to the opening speech, and subsequently on the special subject of Confederation, it has become obvious that although no attempt is made to obtain a decision adverse to the proposition, the strongest disinclination exists, even on the part of some favourable to the Union of the Provinces, to pronounce any judgment upon the subject during the present session. It is urged, with some show of plausibility, that under any circumstances the matter is one which should be referred to the constituencies, and that in those actually existing it would be specially improper to attempt to force a hasty decision from the present Legislature, just on the eve of expiration.

4. I believe I am justified in stating that the project is gradually gaining ground in the estimation of the better informed members both of the Legislature and the community ; but a good deal of misapprehension prevails among a large number, which a little time for consideration and explanation would would go far to remove. I entertain scarcely any doubt of the final adoption of the proposals of the Quebec Conference ; but the circumstances of Newfoundland are somewhat different from those of the other Provinces, and the ultimate success of the scheme when put into action will depend very much upon its being established upon the good will of the people. I am advised, and it appears to myself that in the present state of public feeling it would be unwise to press for immediate decision against the almost unanimous desire, to defer it until the next session. Such a course would probably tail, and only have the effect of exciting factious hostility, which would retard the the eventual settlement of the Union ; and it is therefore now proposed by the Government to agree to the postponement of a decision until the first session of the new Legislature, when the question shall have been submitted to the constituencies of the Colony.

5. I trust that practically neither inconvenience nor delay will arise from this determination, as the information received through different sources from the other Provinces seems to render it doubtful whether all, if any of them, will so far have determined the questions submitted for consideration as to enable the preparation of a Bill for introduction in the Imperial Parliament during the present session.

6. I have communicated to Lord Monck by this mail the substance of the observations I have now made.

I have, &c.

(Signed) A. MUSGRAVE.

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

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