Despatch from Lieutenant-Governor Richard Graves Macdonnell to Right. Hon. Edward Cardwell (27 April 1865)

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Date: 1865-04-27
By: Richard Graves Macdonnell
Citation: Despatch from Lieutenant-Governor Richard Graves Macdonnell to Right. Hon. Edward Cardwell (27 April 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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COPY of a DESPATCH from Lient.-Governor Sir R. G. MACDONNELL, C.B., to the Right Hon.Edward Carwell, M.P.


Government House, Halifax, Nova Scotia, April 27, 1865.
(Received May 9, 1865.)


I HAVE the honour to report for your information that the following Resolution was possessed by the House of Assembly of the 24th instant:
“Resolved, that in the opinion of this House the negotiations for the Union of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Prince Edward Island should be renewed in accordance “with the Resolution passed at the last Session of the Legislature.

2. I need seareely tell you that my Ministry has been most anxious to give the fullest possible effect to the declared wishes of Her Majesty’s Government in favour of a general Confederation for the British North American Provinces. It is obvious, however, that they would jeopardise the final success of that project if, in a very divided state of public opinion, they had submitted it to the Legislature or the country at a time when the refusal of New Brunswick to form part of that Confederation had left such an enormous gap as the space occupied by that Province between Canada and Nova Scotia.

3. A decision given at such a time and under such discouraging circumstances would probably have greatly increased the difficult of procuring the adhesion of this Province to the larger Union at some favourable opportunity.

4. Opponent of the present Government have argued that they had incurred an obligation to stand or fall by the result of an appeal to the Legislature or the country on the larger question. I conceive there might be something more than plausible in such an argument, it urges as a duty on the Government of New Brunswick, in ease Nova Scotia had been the first to reject the proposal based on the Quebec Resolutions, because the non-adhesion of Nova Scotia could not separate New Brunswick from Canada, whereas the refusal of New Brunswick rendos the discussion of Nova Scotia’s adhesion so evidently fruitless and inconsequential for the time being as seriously to impair the chance of th question meeting a fair reception on its own merits. Whater the l after may be, it is obvious that opponents of Confederation would say that the general union having become impracticable for the time, all discussion of its merits was out of season.

5. To such an extent did this feeling prevail, that even the following preamble, which originally prefaced the Resolution just passed, had to be omitted, viz., “Whereas under “existing circumstances an immediate Union of the British American Provinces has “become impracticable ; and whereas a Legislative Union of the Maritime Provinces is “desirable, whether the largest Union be accomplished or not.”

6. The feeling of the Legislature and of the country appeared to be so unmistakably against discussion of the Quebec Resolutions without hope of any immediate practical result during the present attitude of New Brunswick, that even the innocuous allusion thereto in the above preamble was regarded as unreasonable ; it was therefore withdrawn and the resolution itself in favour of resuming negotiations for the legislative union of the Maritime Provinces was thereupon immediately carried without a division.

7. It may be as well to explain here that I have for some time been aware, and indeed this very day was off could […] by the Lieut.-Governor of Prince Edward Island, that his Ministry declines taking any part in the proposed negotiations, which must therefore be regarded as limited to the two more important Provinces of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia.

8. This Province may therefore be regarded as having placed on record no decision, and not even any opinion relative to the merits of the larger question. It has simply recorded its desire ‘ad interim’ to resume negotiations with a neighbouring Province for the purpose of effecting a Legislative Union between the two. The Legislature thereby affirms the expediency of throwing down barriers and distinctions between adjacent Province with nearly identical interests, and inhabited by the same race. That is in itself a matter of internal improvement and administrative economy, which apparently may be taken up without in the slightest degree impairing the prospect, of a plan intended to embrace all the Province, inasmuch as consolidation of two members of the proposed Confederation ought rather to give a firmer consistency to the whole.

9. I do not, however, wish to put forward any individual opinion of my own, but confess that I see much force in the concluding observations of Mr. A. G. Archibald on that subject ; and i take the liberty of transmitting his speech along with those of Mr. Arand and the Provincial Secretary, as good specimens of the debate. Mr. Archibald, who was himself a delegate at Quebec, winds up by observing that whether the Union shall end with the Lower Provinces or expand to Confederation it will be alike useful to us : and if the larger Union is ever to be consummated there must be an advantage in obliterating all narrow boundaries, whether legislative or territorial, over so extensive and important a portion of the proposed Confederation as that comprised in the area occupied by New Brunswick and Nova Scotia.

10. It only remains to observe that however favorable public opinion here may be to such intermediate and smaller union, I have no reason as yet for thinking that it will meet queal favour in New Brunswick. Possibly the latter may be as little disposed to form alliances of any kind as Prince Edward Island.

11. It is probably, however, that the views of Her Majesty’s Government on the subject, whether favourable, as formerly, to such an arrangement, or whether they may be induced to regard it as interfering unduly, though unintentionally, with the proposed general Confederation, would greatly influence the result of any negotiations for a Legislative Union of the Maritime Provinces.

I have, &c.


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

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