Despatch from Lieutenant-Governor Fenwick Williams to the Earl of Carnarvon (8 November 1866)
By: Fenwick Williams
Citation: Despatch from Lieutenant-Governor Fenwick Williams to the Earl of Carnarvon (8 November 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. the Earl of CARNARVON.
Halifax, Nova Scotia, November 8, 1866.
IN transmitting the enclosed letter from the Lord Bishop of Nova Scotia I beg to refer you to the leading members of my administration now in London. I can […] public opinion on the matter in question, but at the same time i beg to […] my […] that it may receive a very careful consideration on the part of those Gentlemen, and that the result of their decision may secure future peace and contentment at the […] confederation which i trust is about to be established by the Imperial Parliament.
I have, &c.
(Signed) W.F. WILLIAMS.
The Right Hon. Edward Cardwell, M.P.,
&c. &c. &c.
Enclosure in No. 26
Halifax, November 8, 1866.
[…] I do not feel myself called upon to trouble you with my views respecting the scheme of Confederation now under your Lordship’s consideration, regarded generally there is one point upon which I venture to appeal to you as more immediately affecting those over whose interests I am specially bound to watch.
Your Lordship is aware that much trouble has been caused in Canada by dissension (arising from differences of creed) respecting education, and I fear if this be left an open question we may be involved in similar difficulties in this Province. I trust therefore that it may be found practicable to secure the rights of minorities in the constitution of the proposed Confederation.
I decidedly object to any division of our schools into the two classes of Roman Catholic and Protestant, and i believe the members of the Church of England in this discourse agree with me. For such a division provides for teaching at the public expense the tenets of one portion of the population while the other portion (containing several sets or denominations) is deprived of the privilege of inculcating in its schools any definite religious truth beyond the most elementary principles. Moreover i do not think that any general system of separate schools could be advantageously adopted in this Province, the population being so seattered that very few settlements can afford sufficient support for more than one. Nevertheless I do not believe there will ever be general satisfaction unless some facilities are afforded to those who may desire to have their own schools, and therefore I would suggest a clause to the following effect.
Whenever any number of heads of families declare in writing that they cannot conscientiously send their children to the common school of the section in which they reside they may establish another, and shall receive the portion of the public grant to which they may be entities according to the sealed applicable to the common schools. Such separate schools shall of course be subject in all other respect (except the amount and nature of the religious instruction to be imparted) to the regulations framed for the common schools, and the parties establishing them must pay the educational assessments.
When our present Education Act was under discussion I endeavoured to procure the insertion of a clause […] to the above effect but failed, the Provincial Government having considered that it would interfere with the efficiency of the one school for which they desired to secure the united support of each section. But surely it is far better to be content with a somewhat lower class of school that to incur the risk of awakening the feelings of dissatisfaction, the jealousies and heart burnings which must inevitably be caused by interference with many conscientious convictions respecting the education of their children : in most cases the knowledge that they can have a separate school will be sufficient, and as those who take advantage of the permission will subject themselves to much additional expense, there will probably be very few who will avail themselves of the privilege.
My desire is to have this important question so settled that it may no longer furnish occasion for […] and that the whole population of the Provinces to be confederated may be satisfied that they cannot hereafter be affected by objectionable influences, and that all men, whatever their sentiments may be, shall henceforth be at liberty to claim a fair proportion of the public grants towards the education of their children in accordance with their own belief.
I have, &c.
(Signed) H. NOVA SCOTIA.
The Right Hon. the Earl of Carnarvon,
&c. &c. &c.