Despatch from the Duke of Newcastle to Viscount Monck (12 April 1862)

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Date: 1862-04-12
By: Duke of Newcastle
Citation: Despatch from the Duke of Newcastle to Viscount Monck (12 April 1862) in UK, HC, Return to an Address of the Honourable The House of Commons, dated 30 June 1864; for Copy of Correspondence between any of the North American Provinces and the Imperial Government, relating to their Application for Assistance in raising a Loan for an International Railway (1864).
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Downing-street, 12 April 1862.

My Lord,

You are aware that I duly received your Despatch, No. 4,* of the 31st October last, reporting that at a meeting in the Council Chamber at Quebec of Members of the Councils of Canada, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick, it was resolved that those three Governments should renew the offer made to the Imperial Government on the 26th October 1858, to aid in the construction of an Intercolonial Railway between Halifax and Quebec, and that a delegation from the Provinces should proceed to England with the view of promoting this object.
You reported to me that the Honourable Philip Vankoughnet was appointed to represent Canada, and not long afterwards this gentleman, associated with the Honourable Joseph Howe from Nova Scotia, and the Honourable Samuel Tilley from New Brunswick, arrived in England.

I had several interviews with these gentlemen, who urged with great ability the project committed to their charge, and eventually embodied their views in a Memorandum communicated to me in a letter dated the 2d December 1861. But owing to the urgency of business connected with the threatening aspect of affairs in the United States, I was unable to bring the subject under the consideration of Her Majesty’s Government before the deputies were obliged to return to their homes, and other urgent matters have hitherto prevented the adoption of a decision. The subject has now been before Her Majesty’s Government, and I need scarcely assure you that they have examined it with the care due to the importance of the question, to the high authorities from whom it has emanated in the Provinces, and to the character and position of the delegates by whom it has been so powerfully presented to notice in this country.

The length of railway necessary to complete the communication between Halifax and Quebec is estimated at 350 miles, and the cost, after deducting the right of way which the Provinces will provide, is estimated at three millions sterling. Such being the data supplied by the deputation, the project is that the Imperial Government should join the three Provinces in a guarantee of four per cent. upon 3,000,000 l., in which case the Provinces are ready to pass bills of supply for 60,000 l. a year (20,000 l. in each Province) if the Imperial Government will do the same. The selection of the route is left solely to the British Government.

Should the sum of three millions be found insufficient, nothing very definite is said on the essential point of the provision to be made for the completion of the railway.

I much regret to inform you that, after giving the subject their best consideration, Her Majesty’s Government have not felt themselves at liberty to concur in this mode of assistance. Anxious, however, to promote as far as they can the important object of completing the great line of railway communication on British ground, between the Atlantic and the westernmost parts of Canada, and to assist the Provinces in a scheme which would so materially promote their interests, Her Majesty’s Government are willing to offer to the Provincial Governments an Imperial guarantee of interest, towards enabling them to raise by public loan, if they should desire it, at a moderate rate, the requisite funds for constructing the railway. This was the mode of action contemplated by Earl Grey in the year 1851, and is the same method which was adopted by Parliament in the Act of 1842, in order to afford to Canada the benefit of British credit in raising the money with which she has completed her great system of internal water communications. The nature and extent of the guarantee which Her Majesty’s Government could undertake to recommend to Parliament, must be determined by the particulars of any scheme which the Provincial Governments may be disposed to found on the present proposal, and on the kind of security which they would offer.

I fear that this course will not be so acceptable to the Provincial Governments as that which the delegates were authorised to propose for consideration. It is, however, the only one in which Her Majesty’s Government, after anxious deliberation, feel that they would be at liberty to participate. I trust that the proposal will at all events be received as a proof of their earnest wish to find some method in which they can co-operate with the Provinces in their laudable desire to complete a perfect intercolonial communication over British territory, And it will be a source of sincere pleasure to me if, adverting to all the different bearings of the subject, and to the condition of their respective finances, the Provincial Governments should end by finding it in their power to make use of the present offer, and to propound some practicable scheme for applying it to the attainment of the desired object.

I have addressed a similar Despatch to the Lieutenant Governors of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, and I must now leave the subject in the hands of the several Provincial Governments, who will best know, in case they prosecute he subject further, how to provide for the requisite mutual consultations.

I have, &c.
(signed) Newcastle.

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