Despatch from Lieutenant Governor Arthur Gordon to Right Hon. Edward Cardwell, No. 44 (4 June 1866)

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Date: 1866-06-04
By: Arthur Gordon
Citation: Despatch from Lieutenant Governor Arthur Gordon to Right Hon. Edward Cardwell, No. 44 (4 June 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. 24.

COPY of a DESPATCH from Lieut.-Governor the Hon. ARTHUR GORDON to the Right Hon. EDWARD CARDWELL, M.P.


Fredericton, June 4, 1866.
(Received June 18, 1866.)
(Answered, No.38, June 22, 1865, page 121.)


I HAVE the honour to enclose copies of two letters lately published by the Roman Catholic Bishop of Chatham in this Province. These letters have some interest from the fact that, up to this time, the Roman Catholic body has been generally opposed to the accomplishment of the Union of the British North American Provinces.

I have, &c.


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

Enclosure in No. 24.

LETTER to the Right Rec. Dr. ROGERS Bishop of Chatham, with Reply, giving his views on Confederation

Newcastle, New Brunswick, April 21, 1866.


WE are about entering upon a great political struggle on behalf of Confederation. You are aware that the House has been proprogued, and a new Government has been formed, with the avowed object of bringing about by […] and legitimate means, that most desirable object. I have received a position in the Government in the person of Solicitor-General.

My past political course will be a guarantee for future operations. I have, under the circumstances, respectfully to request your Lordship’s favour and assistance in the coming election, should you be satisfied with my past conduct. I have every reason to believe that you are favourable to a Union of these Provinces, and will, as such, support those who support that principle.

I have, &c.


The Right Rev. Dr. Rogers,
Bishop of Canada



MY absence from home, protracted longer than at first intended, prevented me from replying sooner to your favour, which reached me at Halifax.

It is hardly necessary for me to premise, that hitherto during my residence in New Brunswick i have abstained from taking any active part in politics, not because i did not feel an interest in everything pertaining to the welfare of the country, but because the numerous and pressing duties of my ministry had a prior claim, and absorbed all my time and attention. If, in replying to your letter on the present occasion, i deviated from my precious course by recording my strong convictions respecting the all-important question of a Union of the British North American Provinces, convictions which i have continued to entertain with increasing strength since that question became practically agitated during the past few years, it is because a combination of circumstance, and the importance of the present crisis in our country’s history, render it imperative for one in my position not to remain silent.

Among the reasons which convince me of the benefit of the proposed Union, there is one entirely independent of the intrinsic merits of the question ; it is, that this measure is earnestly recommended to us by the British Government — not by this or that particular statesman or party — but by the great statesmen of all parties, and that not only in their personal character as intelligent and far-seeing politicians, but officially through the ordinary and legitimate exponent of the Sovereign’s and of the nations wishes, viz, the Government of the day.

But is this a strong reason in its favour? Certainly. It is under present circumstances the strongest prima facie evidence of its benefit that could be produced — Why? Because these parties, from their stand-point of view, their information on the subject and interest in int, are in a position to be the very best judges of its merits. They are, as they have reason to be, deeply interested in the welfare of their Colonial Empire. England’s greatness hitherto has been caused by, nay, i might almost say consisted in, the extent and success of her Colonies. The territorial smallness and insular position of the mother country made it not a mere matter of choice, or simply good policy, but of stern necessity, to build and man, and keep in profitable employment the “Wooden walls of England,” both mercantile and war ships. Without her Colonies to people, protect, and trade with, her mercantile marine and Government navy would have been without an object, therefore without existence, and without their existence the history of Great Britain during the last two or three hundred years would not have been the history of the greatest, wealthises, and most powerful Empire that ever existed, but rather a continuation of England’s history during the wards of the Roses. The external field of congenial adventure for the young noble, as well as of cheerful and profitable employment for the peasant youth, which the shipping and foreign possession of the nation furnished, prevented the internal commotions which must inevitably exist in continental countries that have no such outlet for their surplus population, nor legitimate safety-value, so to speak, for the escape exuberant and discounted spirits that cannot be restrained at home, but are always busy in creating revolution or other civil mischief. British statesmen are not only thus interested in the welfare of the Colonies, but their opportunities and facilities for possessing the most extensive and accurate information bearing on the subject preclude the moral possibility of their judging without being duly informed, while their moderate but not too remote distance from us them to take a more broad, general view of our affairs, unbiased by local prejudice or predilections, and unaffected by the petty personal or sectional interests or jealousies which enter so largely into our Provincial politics.

When, therefore, a great measure calculated to develop and consolidate our Colonial prosperity as well as promote Imperial interests, is proposed and earnestly recommended by the parent State for our adoption, it is, in my opinion, one of the greatest arguments in its favour. Nay, I go further and say that considering the past and present relationship between us and the mother country, it is our duty to acquiesce. Do we owe nothing to the mother that […] us? That gave us territorial and political existence — whose sons fought and bled, whose statesmen laboured, and whose people taxed themselves to pay for the wars by which these Colonies were acquired and opened up for our forefather and ourselves whereby we came into the free easy possession of the property, prosperity, and liberty we enjoy in them? Is Great Britain to continue to tax her people in order to send out here not only money and munitions of war, but also her harvest sons the flower of the country in their armies and fleets, to fight for us, to protect and build us up, and we refuse to make the slightest concession of our opinions, or even interest, were it required, in compliance with her recommendation? At the very moment when we have but just been delivered from Fenian invasion by the prompt action of the British forces protecting us, are we, in return, to thwart and oppose British policy, to stickle for our opinions to prefer, not the wish of our protector, parent, and friend, but rather that of her and our enemies? While Great Britain wishes us to unite, the Fenians have avowed it to be their policy to prevent such Union. Which of these two should we try to please? Fas est ub hoste doceri. — Should we not do the opposite of what the enemy wishes?

But besides the argument which honour and duty to our benefactress furnish, that of self-interest, in the more rapid increase of material prosperity which must inevitably follow from the more frequent intercommunication, the building of railroads and other public works, the increase of population and general business, the opening up and settling of wilderness lands, &c. &c. &c. Would make it the most preposterous folly for us obstinately to persist in refusing to take part in the benefits of the proposed Union.

Need I say, then, in conclusion, that yourself and your colleagues who advocate this great measure, have my warmest sympathy and best wishes for your success.

With much esteem for yourself and entire approbation of your faithful and consistent parliamentary course, especially since the period of your last election.

I remain, &c.
Bishop of Chatham.

The Hon. Edward Williston.
Newcastle, New Brunswick.

Letter from the Right Reverend Dr. ROGERS, Bishop of Chatham to JOHN M. JOHNSON, Esq.

Newcastle, N.B., May 22, 1866.


I HAVE just read in the “Northern Post” of Saturday your speech delivered at the meeting in Mason Hall, Chatham, on Wednesday evening last. I cannot sufficiently express my admiration of your clear, concise, and yet comprehensive exposition in that speech of the constitutional question now at issue between the leading politicians of this Province. I have often heard allusions made by some of the most respectable R. C. clergymen in these parts to a noble speech once delivered by you in our place in Parliament, advocating equal rights and even-handed justice to all classes and […], which merited for you the grateful support of themselves and the Roman Catholics generally of this county ever since. I would say of the present speech, that it alone ought to be sufficient to make the fame of any colonial statesman, and deserves a place among the best papers ever written on the constitution of Great Britain and that of her Colonies.

I regard the British constitution as the most perfect form of civil government that can be devised in our present state of human affairs ; though I admit that it is not equally suited to all peoples and climates. It consists, as all know, of three different branches, Queen, Lords, and Commons, each distinct and separate from the others ; each of the two latter, when duly convened by the first, being competent to discuss, deliberate, and legislate independently of the other, but such legislation of any one branch cannot become law or take effect without the concurrence of the other two.

What is termed responsible government, as I understand it, consists in this, viz., that the Sovereign receive a select number of members from the party having the majority in both the other branches, to aid him by their opinions and advice, either in giving his consent to an act of legislation or in putting into execution a law that already exists. Hence these advisers are called “the Executive Council,” for as such Council they have no legislative power, their office being simply to counsel or advise the Sovereign, not to bind her ; otherwise they would be her rulers or governors, not councillors. But as she alone forms one independent branch of the Legislature, she is not bound to follow their advice, although she generally does so. But they, while they remain her councillors, must assume the responsibility of her political acts. If on any occasion she exercises her rights to act irrespective or, or in opposition to their advice, and they are unwilling to assume the responsibility of her act, there is no alternative for them but to resign. They cannot hold office and ignore its responsibility.

Hence in the recent difficulty between the Governor of our Province (who represents and exercises the delegated power of the Sovereign) and his late advisers, the ease appears to me quite clear, even from the statements published by themselves, that they, not be, violated the principle of responsible government by remaining in office while they refused to bring forward a measure of Union to which, by the Governor’s speech on opening Parliament, they as well as he had committed themselves. If in consenting to the speech they were acting in good faith, as I believe they were, but afterwards found it impossible to get support in the House to carry out the policy of the speech, such failure left them no alternative but to resign. But they retained office, trying to evade its responsibility, thereby violating responsible government in the false position they continued to hold. The Governor must have regarded such a state of things as worse than puerile, […] with the dignity of their and his respective positions, and the wonder to me is how he could […] even as long as he did. But the attempt to throw the obloquy on him is certainly beyond my comprehension. He in the very beginning, before the commencement of the session, informed the leader of the Government of his obligation and intention to fulfil the Queen’s instructions, by insisting that action be taken on the Union or Confederation question. The clause on that subject, in his speech on opening the session, is irrefragable testimony of this. Some four weeks after the delivery of that speech it is rather late to say that he did not consult them on the subject. If they, unwilling to resign office, though unable to fulfil its responsibility found themselves in a false position, it is certainly not only indelicate but unjust to try to put on the Queen’s representative the odinan of the position they occupied in violating responsible government. This state of the question you make very clear in your valuable speech, and I feel it a duty to lose not a moment in conveying to you my warmest thanks for it.

But it may be asked, why do i thus interest myself in a mere secular or political matter? I reply, because, independently of my interest in common with others in the integrity of our Government, the honour of its officers, and the general welfare of the country to promoted by its measures, the honour and interests of the Catholic body have become so affected by side issues and circumstances connected with the discussion of this question, as well as the other one of Confederation, during the last year or two, that i feel it due to my people and to myself to give public expression to my opinions on the present occasion.

One of the leading newspapers of this Province, which has commented with grave injustice on the conduct of the Governor in the issue between him and his late advisers, is published and edited by a Catholic. Although this gentleman is a layman and his paper a secular newspaper, nevertheless it has come to be very generally regarded as the exponent of the feeling of the Catholic body, both lay and elercial, of this Province. The personal virtues and accomplishments of Mr. Anglin — his love of his religion and of his native land, the integrity of his private life, his genial anniability in social intercours, his acknowledged ability as a writer and editor, combine to give a strength and effect to the influence of his newspaper, bears a special importance and influence derived from the fame of its author. Should such a one […] in the views he advocates, or the course he adopts — as sometimes happens to the best men — the injury he does is extensive, and can only be counteracted by extraordinary means. Now it is because i believe such extraordinary means to be necessary on the present occasion, that i feel it a sacred duty for the honour of the Catholic body to disclaim all approbation of or sympathy with the unjust and […] […] of the Governor which for some time back appeared in the “St. John Freeman.” Apart from the general respect which the representative of our most Gracious Queen claims from all classes in the Province, our present Governor, the Hon. A. H. Gordon deserves, not only common justice, but the undying gratitude of the Catholics of this Province for his prompt, effective, manly, and honourable defence of them in his speeches at St. Andrews and Woodstock when their loyalty was impugned. On this occasion, when the terror of Fenian invasion and Fenian sympathy spread over the Province, when so many of our Protestant neighbours in the panic of the moment yielded […] to the absurd reports in circulation that all Catholics were Fenians, ready to rise suddenly on their Protestant neighbours, his Excellency Governor Gordon, with a promptitude and energy characteristic of him, sprang to the scene of trouble, and by his personal influence and official authority […] the storm. It was owing to this well-timed act of gubernatorial justice, together with the happy influence exercised by the published letters of his Grace the Archbishop of Halifax, that this unfortunate bitter social presentation — mutual mistrust and mutual hatred — did not endminate to a melancholy point. If Mr. Auglin, by the general course he followed, both in politics and in his newspaper, did not contribute somewhat (though certainly unintentionally i admit) to excite this mutual bad feeling, he was in no small degree the occasion of it.

I thank you for the clear correct exposition of the true state of the constitutional question, by which you show his Excellency far from meriting the odium which Mr. ANglin would impose upon him. I regret exceedingly the public course this gentleman is pursuing in opposing so strenuously the policy of the British Government respecting these Colonies. His course is calculated to create and foster a spirit of discontent and disunion amongst our people and their neighbours ; and retard the accomplishment of the measure, already regarded as inevitable, and certainly in my opinion essential to our future political and commercial prosperity. Were it not that, for the reasons mentioned above, this gentleman’s influence amongst our people is so great to lead them into a wrong course where he […] himself, I would not think it necessary to make these allusions to him. But when, in addition to the influence he exerts in his paper, he now makes his first visit to Mirannichi to interfere with our elections and by his personal presence and agitation divert our Catholic people from the course advised them by their local friends and guides, I lose all patience with him.

Need i say, in conclusion, that you have my best wishes for your success at the approaching election, and that the Government now formed may be sustained throughout the Province in order that the great measure of Union, both by political, commercial, and railroad intercourse and institutions may soon become an accomplished fact.

I have the honour to remain, dear Sir,
Very sincerely your, &c.
+JAMES ROGERS, Bishop of Chatham.

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