Despatch from Lieutenant-Governor Fenwick Williams to Right Hon. Edward Cardwell, No. 32 (26 April 1866)

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Date: 1866-04-26
By: Fenwick Williams
Citation: Despatch from Lieutenant-Governor Fenwick Williams to Right Hon. Edward Cardwell, No. 32 (26 April 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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COPY of a DESPATCH from Lieut.-Governor Sir W. F. WILLIAMS, Bart., K.C.B., to the Right Hon.Edward Cardwell, M.P.


Halifax, Nova Scotia, April 26, 1866.
(Received May 8, 1866.)
(Answered No. 29. May 25, 1866. p. 81.)


IN compliance with the request of certain Members of the Legislative Council and Legislative Assembly, i have the honour to forward the accompanying Address. Without remarking on the unusual course adopted by these gentlemen, or the tone of their Address, I beg to express my concurrence in the accompanying minute of my Executive Council, which I have also the honour to enclose.

I have, &c.
(Signed) W.F. WILLIAMS.

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

Enclosure in No. 12.

To the Queen’s most Excellent Majesty.

The humble Address of the undersigned, Members of the Legislative Council and House of
Assembly of Nova Scotia.


The undersigned desire to approach the throne with the expression of their loyal attachment to Your Majesty’s person and Government.

For more than a century the Province of Nova Scotia has enjoyed the advantage of representative institutions testing on the confidence and respect of her own people, and since 1839 she has possessed entire control over her revenues, trade, appointments, and education, and generally exercised, in the subordination to Your Majesty’s just authority, all the powers of self-government.
Nor have these privileges been abused. The undersigned venture to assure Your Majesty with becoming pride, that in no part of Your Majesty’s widely extended empire have they been exercised with more justice and direction.

Our father, in the American revolutionary war, adhered to the side of England: during the war of 1812 15 the harbours of Nova Scotia formed the bases of operations, and her sons fought to defend the national flag by land and sea. In all the trials of the parent State the people of this Province sincerely sympathize ; and recently, when unquiet spirits sought to disturb the frontier, and when angry complications, growing out of national questions, threatened the peace of the Continent, the population of Nova Scotia were united in sentiment, and stood prepared to maintain their allegiance and to defend their country.

The priceless blessing of self-government makes the people content: while participation in the civilization, the commercial prosperity, and the glories of the empire, render them proud of their connexion with it, and indisposed to try rash experiments by which their control over their own affairs must be surrendered, and their connexion with the parent State may be ultimately broken.
The people of this country viewed with just alarm a scheme of Confederation, arranged by certain gentlemen at Quebec in […] without any authority from the Legislatures or people of the maritime Provinces, and sought to be forced upon them all with indecent haste, and without that deliberate review and general acceptance which can alone reconcile any free people to great constitutional changes. That scheme, rejected by the electors of two of the Maritime Provinces and by the Legislatures of them all, we fear has not been abandoned. By the free use and abuse of Your Majesty’s name and by threats that your protection would be withdrawn, a resolution has been carried through the Legislature of Nova Scotia, giving power to certain gentleman to be selected by the local Government to change, modify, or overturn the institutions of this Province at their pleasure, without any reference to the people who for a century have enjoyed them, and who we venture to assure Your Majesty would deeply resent such a violation of the trust reposed in their representatives, and (if measures thus prepared were sanctioned by Your Majesty’s Government) of the pledged faith and honour of the crown.

Our prayer to your Majesty therefore is, that no measure to effect grave changes in the constitution of this Province may be sanctioned by Your Majesty or submitted in Parliament, till it has been published in the Province, considered in the Legislature, and submitted to the deliberate acceptance or rejection of the people at the polls.

WILLIAM ANNAND, M.P.P., East Halifax.
THOMAS KILLAM, M.P.P., County Yarmouth.
DANIEL MOORE, M.P.P., South King’s
EDW. L. BROWN. M.P.P., South King’s
[…] CAMPBELL, M.P.P., Guysborough.
THOMAS […], M.P.P., Shelburne.
JOHN LOCKE, M.P.P., Shelburne.
WILLIAM ROSS, M.P.P., Victoria.
A.W. MCLELAN, M.P.P., North Colchester.
WM. H. TOWNSEND, M.P.PYarmouth.
WILLIAM BLACKWOOD, M.P.P., North Colchester.
HENRY […] M.P.P., Halifax.
WM. H, […], M.P.P., Annapolis.
JAMES W. KING, M.P.P., Hants.
A. […] M.P.P., Lunenburg.

Halifax, Nova Scotia, April 25, 1866.

Enclosure 2 in No. 12.

THE Executive council beg leave respectfully to offer the following observations upon the memorial to Her Majesty the Queen, signed by five members of the Legislative Council and eighteen members of the Assembly, upon the subject of the Confederation of British North America.

The Council fail to perceive how “the priceless blessing of self-government” which the memorialists profess so highly to value is to be maintained if the deliberate action of overwhelming majorities of both branches of the Legislature, taken after full discussion, is to be overruled by the Imperial Government, at the instance of the minority.

The Council cannot concur in the opinion that the control of the people of this Province over their own affairs will be surrendered by uniting the British North American Provinces under one Government, and they confidently expect this union, adopted after the earnest solicitation of the parent State, will […] and strengthen the bonds which now connect this Province with the mother country.

The statement that the Quebec Conference was held without any authority from the Legislature of this Province can scarecely be considered accurate, when the fact is state that all of the memorialists who were in Assembly in 1861 voted for the following resolution, submitted by a Government of which Messrs. Annand and Locke, two of them, were members, and which received the unanimous assent of the Legislature.

“Whereas the subject of a union of the North American Provinces, or of the Maritime Provinces, from time to time has been mooted and discussed in all the Colonies.

“And whereas, while many advantages may be secured by such a union, either of all these Provinces or a portion of them, many and serious obstacles are presented, which can only be overcome by mutual consultation of the leading men of the Colonies, and by free communication with the Imperial Government.

“Therefore, resolved that his Excellency the Lieutenant-Governor be respectfully requested to […] himself in communication with his Grace the Colonial Secretary and his Excellency the Governor-General, and the North American Colonies, in order to ascertain the policy of Her Majesty’s Government and the opinions of the other Colonies, with a view to the enlightened consideration of a question involving the highest interests, and upon which the public mind in all the Provinces ought to best […] rest.”

The charge of having passed this matter with “indecent haste” the Council cannot understand, […] more than a year was suffered to elapse after the proposal to unite these Provinces was submitted […] the Legislature before any action was invited thereon.

The council empathetically deny that any “use or abuse of Her Majesty’s name” has been resorted to in carrying this question, which has not been fully sanctioned by Her Majesty’s Ministers, who, the papers submitted to Parliament by Her Majesty’s command, declared that it was “the determination of Her Majesty’s Government to use every proper means of influence to carry into effect without delay the proposed Confederation.”

It is quite true that the Council have felt themselves justified in drawing the attention of the Legislature strongly to the following paragraph, in the Despatch of the Right Honourable the Secretary of State for the Colonies, and in urging upon them the duty of adopting the defensive measure thus emphatically brought to their attention, lest the disposition of the Imperial Government to protect the Province might be imperiled.

“But there is one consideration which her Majesty’s Government feel it more especially their duty to press upon the Legislature of Nova Scotia. Looking for the determination which this country has ever exhibited to regard the defense of the Colonies as a matter to Imperial concern, the Colonies must recognize a right and even acknowledge an obligation incumbent on the Home Government […] urge with earnestness and just authority the measures which they consider most expedient on the […] of the Colonists, with a view of their own defence. .

“Nor can it be doubtful that the Provinces of British North America are incapable, when separated and divided from each other, making those just and efficient preparations for national defense which would be easily undertaken by a Province uniting in itself all the population and all the resources of the whole.”

The statement that the action of the legislature gives power to “certain gentleman to be selected “by the local Government to change, modify, or overturn the institution of this Province at their “pleasure” is best refuted by the terms of the resolution itself, which are as follows : —

“Whereas in the opinion of the House it is desirable that a Confederation of the British North American Provinces should take place.

“Resolved therefore, this his Excellency the Lieutenant-Governor he authorized to appoint delegates to arrange with the Imperial Government a scheme of union which will effectually ensure just provision for the rights and interest of this Province, each Province to have an equal voice in such delegation, Upper and Lower Canada being, for thus purpose considered as separate Provinces.”

It is complained by the memorialists that this action is proposed to be taken “without any reference to the people”, and it is declared that they would resent […] a violation of the trust reposed in “their representatives” and it is asked “that nothing shall be done without having the measure first “submitted to the people at the polls.”

When the late Government, of which Messrs. Annand, and Locke were members, obtained authority to deal with the subject of a Union of the Colonies, they invited the action of the other Colonial Government as an official communication, signed by Mr. Howe, the then Provincial Secretary, of which the following is an extract :

“ You will perceive that the Colonial Governments are left free to invite all the leading men of all the Provinces concerned to a discussion for the question of union, either of all the Provinces or the Maritime Provinces only : and Her Majesty’s Government, it would appear, are disposed to give due weight and consideration to any resolution to which the Colonial Legislature may concur.

“It must be obvious that there can be not great progress made towards an adjustment of this question unless the resolutions to be submitted to the Colonial Legislatures are in substance the same, and in order that uniformity in spirit, and if possible, in language, may be secured.”

It does not seem to have been then considered necessary to refer the question to the people at the polls. The same Government also put on record on various other occasions their opinions as to the legitimate powers of the representative of the people, as may be seen by the following minute of Council, dated 1st November 1860:

“A vast majority of the people of England are not represented in Parliament at all ; yet the Executive Council used not inform your Excellency that a public man would be laughed at who claimed to seize the Government because he had their support. Forty counties in England, with a population in 1811 of […], had but 113 members, while 187 cities and boroughs, including but 5,879,327, had 323. Now, what would be thought of any statesman, with the county members at his back, if he claimed to rule […] or […] the Sovereign to dissolve, with the representatives of the cities and boroughs against him. What representative of the smallest consistency in Great Britain would yield to the members returned by the largest any more influence than he had himself to amidst, before a ministry was turned out, that it was necessary not only to count the members in the lobbies, but their constituents also […]. At this moment a majority of the people of the constituencies and their representatives support the Administration, and we have a larger […] majority to sustain us than Lord Palmerston had in the mother country. Under these circumstances we are not very much afraid of the interference of the Imperial Parliament.”
Minute of Council, dated January 29, 1861: —

“Mr. Hatfield and Mr. Campbell are the best judges of the soundness of their own views, and of the propriety of their conduct. They are not delegates, but Members of Parliament, and from the moment they were elected they were bound to represent not only Digby or Argyle, but the whole Province, whose great interests were committed to their care. This doctrine, laid down by Mr. Burke at Bristol in 1774, has never been questioned in the Imperial Parliament. Mr. Horsman, member for Stroud, though recently called on by his constituents to resign, has, asserting his rights and illustrating this sound British doctrine, positively refused. If members were to resign whenever for a mom they displeased their constituents, the calls would be frequent, personal independence would be rare, and questions would be decided by requisitions rather than by fair deliberation and manly debate. If Parliament were to be dissolved whenever a gentleman changed sides, or a discontented constituency petitioned, free institutions would become a source of endless distraction, and no man would ever dare to deliberate or run the risk of being convinced.”

On March 30, 1861, Lord Mulgrave, by the advice of the Government, of which […], Annand and Locke were members, said, in a Despatch to the Colonial Secretary :–

“It is undoubted principle of the British Constitution that a member once returned by a consistency has to consider what he believed to be the interested of the whole country and not the simple wishes of his own contingency. He is elected a representative and not a delegate, and the constituency have given up to him for the limited period fixed by law for the duration of Parliament the power which they possessed. They have a right to represent to him their views and to refuse to re-elect him at the end of the Parliament if they are dissatisfied with his conduct, but they have no right during the duration of Parliament to coerce his actions, still less have they the right to expect that the Royal Prerogative should be used because they are dissatisfied with the choice they have made.”

In conclusion, the Council may state that more than a year since they submitted the proceedings of the Quebec Conference to the Legislature, that the subject of a union of the British North American Colonies has been constantly discussed in this Province since that time. Yet the opponents of union were only able to obtain the signatures of 8,085 people out of a population of not less than 350,000 for presentation to the House during the present session, praying that it might be referred to the people at the polls. The foregoing resolution, after full deliberation and discussion, was carried in the Legislative Council by a vote of 13 to 5, and in the House of Assembly by 31 to 19. All the members of the present Government and four members of the late Government, of which Mr. Hower was the leader, united in sustaining the resolution, while but two voted against it.

Under these circumstances the Council believe they are fully warranted in the opinion that the public sentiment of this Province has been most emphatically expressed on this great question in the only manner recognized by the constitution of this Province or the practice of Great Britain.
All of which is respectfully submitted.

J. CREIGHTON, absent.

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