Despatch from Lieutenant Governor Arthur Gordon to Right Hon. Edward Cardwell (15 July 1865)
By: Arthur Gordon
Citation: Despatch from Lieutenant Governor Arthur Gordon to Right Hon. Edward Cardwell (15 July 1865) in Journal of the Legislative Council of the Province of New Brunswick (1866).
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Fredericton, 15th July, 1865.
SIR,—I received by last Mail your Despatch of the 24th June. I thought it desirable that its contents should immediately be made public, and I accordingly directed it to be printed in the last issue of the Royal Gazette.
I of course lost no time in communicating a copy of the Despatch and its enclosures to my Executive Council, and I have now the honor to transmit to you the copy of a Minute of that body with reference thereto.
I have, &c. (Signed) ARTHUR H. GORDON.
His Excellency The Honorable ARTHUR HAMILTON GORDON, C.M.G., Lieutenant Governor and Commander in Chief of the Province of New Brunswick.
MAY IT PLEASE YOUR EXCELLENCY,—
The Executive Council in Committee have had under consideration a Despatch from the Secretary of State for the Colonies, dated 24th June, lately communicated to then by Your Excellency.
From the language of this Despatch, it would be natural to infer that it related to some scheme for effecting an entire Legislative and Administrative Union of the British North American Provinces, which has not yet been made public ; but words used in the concluding paragraph, taken in connection with various other circumstances, lead the Committee to conclude that it is intended to refer to the Resolutions in favor of a Federation of the various Provinces of British North America, agreed to by the Canadian Parliament at its last Session. These Resolutions have already been submitted to the people of New Brunswick, at the titre and in the manner which the advocates of the scheme themselves selected. The Legislature was dissolved, and the people were enabled to pronounce their decision on this most important subject in the regular constitutional r’ode; and after ample consideration, refused by an overwhelming majority to adopt the scheme ; not because it was novel, as Mr. Cardwell has been led to suppose, but because they were unable to discover anything in it that gave promise of either moral or material advantage to the Empire, or to themselves ; or that afforded a prospect of improved administration or increased prosperity.
The spirit of loyalty which has always animated the people of New Brunswick, and of which they have on many occasions given proof, is still as ardent as ever; and whenever it becomes necessary they are prepared to place all their means and resources at the absolute disposal of the Imperial Government ; but they cannot believe that the contemplated confederation would either increase their strength or render it more available.
A large majority of the people of this Province are opposed to any closer political connection with Canada than that afforded by the tie of a common allegiance to the British Crown, and consider that such a union would have a decided tendency to weaken that dependence on the British Empire which they so highly prize, and would lead to the neglect and injury of their local interests; in which opinion the Committee believe that the people of the other Maritime Provinces fully concur ; but even those who desire a union must fail to discover in the Resolutions adopted at Quebec, any provision whatever for the accomplishment of a fusion which, in the words of Mr. Cardwell’s Despatch, would unite in one Government all the British North American Provinces, and form a Province uniting in itself all the population and all the resources of the whole.
The Committee, of course, cannot suppose that the British Government share the ignorance with regard to the history and character of the Federal scheme which appears to prevail among the British public, and which induces the ” Times” newspaper of 20th June to observe that ” the two Canadas have put aside their ancient jealousies, and are ready to meet in a common Legislature,” in apparent forgetfulness of the fact that they have. so met for the last five and twenty years, and very probably without any consciousness on the part of the writer of the article that the jealousies between the Canadas, said to have been put aside, are avowedly the cause of the late proposal; and that its authors, in the event of’ its failure, are pledged to restore to Upper and Lower Canada a great measure of the local independence surrendered by them in 1840.
The Resolutions agreed to by the leading Canadian politicians in the month of June 1864, as the basis of the formation of the existing Cabinet, and adopted solely under the pressure of local exigencies, contain the statement that “on consideration of the steps most advisable for the final settlement of sectional difficulties, the remedy must be sought in the adoption of the federal principle,” and provide that if such negotiations were unsuccessful, they would be “prepared to pledge themselves to legislation during the next Session of Parliament, for the purpose of remedying existing difficulties, by introducing the federal principle for Canada alone.”
It is perfectly clear that “the existing difficulties” were the motive and groundwork of the scheme, and that the federal union was only sought as a means of separating the Canadas–a separation which the Canadian Government are pledged in all events immediately to effect–a fact which perhaps sufficiently accounts for the eagerness with which they seek to force its immediate adoption upon unwilling communities; for they are well aware that did the plan avowedly contemplate only the separation of the Canadas, it would be impossible even speciously to present it to the Imperial Government as in any mar a scheme of union.
Mr. Cardwell is perfectly right in supposing that the views and wishes of Great Britain are entitled to great weight; and they will ever be received with respectful attention in this Province ; but the Committee feel certain that if there be one view with regard to the Colonies which is more clearly and distinctly held than another, by Her Majesty’s Government and the people of England; if there be one wish on their part with respect to which there can be neither hesitation nor doubt, it is that the people of this Province, and of others enjoying through the wise liberality of England, Parliamentary institutions and free self-government, should act in reference to their own affairs as seems to themselves most consistent with their duty to their Sovereign and most conducive to their own interests.
To confer on this Province a right of self-government would have been mockery, if, in consequence of its claims to deference as a protector, the wish of the Mother Country was in all cases to be followed whenever expressed, whatever the opinion of those to whom the power of judging has been solemnly entrusted by the Sovereign and Legislature of Great Britain, and who, being on the spot and fully conversant with the subject, considered themselves not unable to judge with respect to their own affairs. When a wish is expressed by Her Majesty’s Government, it will be received with that deference which is due to suggestions emanating from so high a source, and will be considered with an anxious desire to meet the views of Her Majesty’s advisers ; but if such views should unfortunately not coincide with the views of those on whom alone the responsibility of action in the Provinces falls, the Committee feel assured that Her Majesty’s Government will expect and desire that the Government of this Province should act according to, their own convictions of right, and in conformity with the sentiments of the people they represent.
(Signed) R.D. WILMOT,
GEORGE L. HATHEWAY,
A.H. GILLMOR, JR.
Council Chamber, Fredericton, July 12, 1865