Despatch from Viscount Monck to Right Hon. Edward Cardwell (14 August 1865)

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Date: 1865-08-14
By: Viscount Monck
Citation: Despatch from Viscount Monck to Right Hon. Edward Cardwell (14 August 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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No. 12.

Copy of a DESPATCH from Viscount MONCK to the Right Hon. Edward CARDWELL, M.P.

(NO. 161.)

                                                                                                                                                                  Quebec, August 14, 1865.

                                                                                                                                                (Received, August 28, 1865.)

SIR,                                                                                                                                              (Answered, No. 137. September 6, 1865, p. 46.)

I HAVE the honour to transmit for your information, copies of the papers* submitted to the Provincial Parliament relating to the Conference lately held in London between Her Majesty’s Government and the Ministers of Canada.

I have, &c.

The Right Hon. Edward Cardwell, M.P.,                                                                                               (Signed)             MONCK.

&c.            &c.            &c

To his Excellency the Right Honourable Viscount MONCK, Governor-General of British North America, &c. &c.


THE undersigned having, by Order in Council of 24th March 1865, been appointed a committee of the Executive Council of Canada to proceed to England and confer with Her Majesty’s Government on certain subjects of importance to the Province, sailed for England in April last ; and having discharged the duty entrusted to the and returned to Canada, we now beg to submit for your Excellency’s information, a statement of our proceedings while in London.

The circumstances under which this mission became necessary are doubtless fresh in your Excellency’s recollection. For a considerable time past, in view of the civil war going on in the United States, and the impossibility of anticipating what international questions might at any moment arise, Her Majesty’s Government felt it their duty from time to time to direct the attention of the Government of Canada to the insecure position of the Province in the event of disturbed relations unhappily resulting, and to urge the adoption of protective measures. In these communications it was not concealed that Her Majesty’s Government expected the people of Canada to assume more onerous military duties than they had previously horne. Your Excellency’s advisors were always prepared frankly to consider these proposals, and to submit for the approval of Parliament such measures as might be found just and reasonable. But they felt at the same time that to secure the hearty assent of Parliament and the country for any important changes in the military relations between the patents state the Colony, an explanation on the whole subject first […] so that a clear understanding as to the share of defence to be borne by each might be arranged […] all ground of irritating and hurtful reproach for alleged neglect of duty by the Colony, […]. In view also of the anticipated early union of all the British North American Colonies […] calculated to simplify the system of defence — the Government of Canada deemed it highly desirable that the settlement of this important question should be reserved for the action of the Government and Legislature of the new Confederation. Her Majesty’s Government concurred in these views.

In early part this year, however, events occurred of affairs. The conference at Fortress Monroe for the cessation of hostilities, the disturbances on the Canadian frontier, the imposition of the passport system,  the notice given by the American Government for a termination of the conviction restricting the naval armament on the lakes, and other events, tended to revive and deepen the feeling of insecurity ; and Her Majesty’s Government urged the immediate erection of permanent works of defence at Quebec and Montreal —the cost of the former to be borne by the Imperial Treasury, and of the latter by the people of Canada. Your Excellency’s advisors were most anxious to meet the wishes of Her Majesty’s Government, but they could not feel it their dirt to propose to Parliament a vote for defensive workers at Montreal while the defence of Upper Canada, on land and on the lakes, was provided for. The position of affairs was further complicated by the result of the New Brunswick elections, which postponed, at least for a time, the Union of the Provinces, and by the formal notice but he American Government for the termination, in March next, of the Reciprocity Treaty. It became evident that the time had arrived and could no longer be postponed, for a full and frank explanation with Her Majesty’s Government on the whole state of affairs ; and with that view an immediate mission to England, with your Excellency’s assent, was resolved upon. The state of the case was forthwith communicated to the Legislative Council and Assembly, which were then in session; and Parliament was shortly after prorogued on the business of the session, so soon as the delegates returned from Great Britain.

On arriving in England we lost no time in placing ourselves in communication with Her Majesty’s Secretary of State for the Colonies ; and a committee f the Imperial Cabinet, consisting of his Grace the […] Somerset, the Right honourable the Earl De Grey and Ripon, the Right Honourable William […] Gladstone,a Dan the Right Honourable Edward Caldwell, having been appointed to confer with us, negotiations were opened and continued at frequent interviews, up to the close of our mission.

The subject to which we first invited the attention of the conference was the proposed Confederation of the British North American Colonies. We reminded the Imperial Ministers how largely all the questions, with the discussion of which we were charged — and especially those of defence, foreign commercial relations, an internal communication — would be affected by the Union, and how greatly their satisfactory settlement would be facilitated by it. We explained the reasons that existed for obtaining the assent of all the Colonies to the Union at an early date, and the promise to which the Government of Canada stood pledged to proceed without delay with constitutional reforms for Canada alone, in the event of the larger measure […] to be obtained. We received at once from the members of the Imperial Cabinet assurances of their hearty approval of the Confederation scheme, and of their anxious desire to promote its early accomplishment by all the legitimate influence of the Imperial Government. In the discussion of the means to be adopted for effecting Confederation, we trust it is unnecessary to assure your Excellency that the idea of coercing the maritime Provinces into the measure was not for a moment entertained. The end sought was to ascertain in what manner the question of Union in all its hearings could be best brought under the fall and fait consideration of our fellow Colonists, and the grave responsibility urged upon them, which they would assume by thwarting a measure so pregnant with future prosperity to British America, so anxiously desired by the great mass of the people to be affected by it, and which had been received with such marked satisfaction by our fellow subjects throughout the British Empire. We received assurances that her Majesty’s Government would adopt every legitimate means for securing the early assent of the Maritime Provinces to the Union. In the course of these discussions, the question of the Intercolonial Railway came up as a necessary accompaniment of Confederation, when we sought and obtained a renewal of the promised Imperial guarantee of a loan for the construction of that work.

The important question of the future military relations between the mother country and Canada received earnest and grave consideration. Before entering on the discussion of details, we referred t the recent debates in the Imperial Parliment on the subject of Canadian defences, ad especially to the assertions confidently made by certain members of the House of Commons that Canada was incapable of efficient protections against in case ion from her inland border. We explained the unjust such statements tended to produce, and the necessity of our ascertaining, as a preliminary step to our discussions, whether or not they were well founded. We asked that a report on the whole subject of the defence of Canada, with plans and estimates, might be obtained from the highest military and navel authorities of Great Britain. Such a report was brained and communicated to us confidentially ; and we rejoice to say that it was calculated to remove all doubt as to the security of our country, so long as the hearts of our people remain firmly attached to the British flag, and the power of England is wielded in our defence.

On the part of Canada we expressed the desire that this plan for the defence of all parts of the Province should be taken as the basis of arrangement ; and that a fall and candid discussion should be had as to share of the cost that ought be borne respectively by the Imperial and Provincial […]. We expressed the earnest wish of the people of Canada to perpetrate the happy existing connection with Great Britain, ad their entire willingness to contribute to the defence of the Empire their full quota, according to their ability, of men and money. But we pointed out that if war should ever unhappily arise between England and the United States, it could only be an Imperial war, on Imperial grounds — that our country alone would be exposed to the horrors of invasion — and that our exposed position, far from entailing on us unusual burdens, should on the contrary secure for us the special and generous consideration of the Imperial Government. We explained, moreover, that though Canada continued to progress steadily and rapidly, it was a vast country, sparsely populated — that the difficulties of first settlement were hardly yet overcome — that the profits of our annual industry were to be found not in gloating wealth, but in the increased value of our farms an mines — and that, at this moment especially, from the failure of successive crops, the effects of the American civil war on our commercial relations, and the feeling of insecurity as to our position (greatly aggravated by statements of the defencelessness of the country in the British Parliment and by portions of the British press)— Canada was labouring under a temporary but serious depression. We pointed out that, while fully recognizing the necessity and prepared to provide for such a system of defence as would restore confidence in our future at home and abroad, the […] defence for British America was to be found in the increase of her populations as rapidly as people, and the husbanding of our resources to that end ; and without claiming it as a right, we […] to suggest that by enabling us to throw open the north-western territories to free settlement, and by aiding us in enlarging our canals and prosecuting internal productive works, and by promoting an extensive plan of emigration from Europe into the unsettled portions of our domain — permanent security would be more quickly and surely and economically secured than by any other means. We did not fail to point out how this might be done without cost or risk to the British exchequer, and how greatly it would lighten the new burden of defence proposed to be assumed at a moment of depression by the people of Canada.

Much discussion ensued on all these points, and the result arrived at was, that if the people of Canada undertook the works of defence at and west of Montreal, and agreed to expend in training their militia, until the Union of all the Provinces was determined, a sum not less than is now expended annually for that service, Her Majesty’s Government would complete the fortifications at Quebec, provide the whole armament for all the works, guarantee a loan for the sum necessary to construct the works undertaken by Canada, and in the event of war undertake the defence of every portion of Canada with all the resources of the Empire.

The question having arisen as to the time and order in which these propositions should be submitted for the approval of the imperial and Provincial Legislature, it appeared that no action could be taken upon them during the present year ; ad it was therefore deemed inexpedient to complicate the Confederation question by changing the basis of the Quebec Conference resolutions, which might result from the present adoption of these propositions. The further consideration of the defensive works was accordingly deferred for the action of the Government and Legislature of the proposed British North American Confederation ; but the assurance of Her Majesty’s Government was at the same time given, that if circumstances arose to render an application would be received in the most friendly spirit.

On the subject of the American Reciprocity Treaty we entered into full explanations with the Imperial Ministers. We explained how advantageously the treaty had worked for Canada, and the desire of our people for its renewal ; but we showed at the same time how much more advantageously it had worked for American interests ; and we expressed our inability to believe that the United States Government seriously contemplated the abolition of an arrangement by which they had so greatly increased their foreign commerce, secured a vast and lucrative carrying trade, and obtained free access to the St. Lawrence and tot he invaluable fishing grounds of British America — and that on the sole ground that the Provinces has also profited by the treaty. We explained the immediate injury that would result to Canadian interests from the abrogation of the treaty ; but we pointed out at the same time the new and ultimately more profitable channels into which our foreign trade must, in that event, be turned and the necessity of preparing for the changes, and out readiness to discuss and favourably entertain any jus propositions that might be made for an extension on modification of its conditions ; we requested that the views of the American Government should be obtained at the earliest convenient date ; and that his Excellency Sir Fredrick Bruce should act in connect with the Canadian Government in the matter. The Imperial Government cordially ascended to our suggestions.

The important questions of opening up to settlement and cultivation the vast British territories on the north-west borders of Canada, next obtained the attention of the Conference. Your Excellency is aware that the desire of the Government of Canada for a satisfactory and final adjustment of this matter has been often formally expressed. In your Excellency’s Despatch of 19th January 1864, to the Colonial Secretary, the anxious desire of the Canadian Government was communicated “for some “speedy, inexpensive, and naturally satisfactory plan” for settling definitely “the north-western “boundary of Canada,” and the claim of Canada was asserted to “all that portion of Central British “America, which can be shown to have been in the possession of the French at the period f the “cession in 1763.”

In reply to this Despatch, Mr. Caldwell, on […] July 1864, requested to be informed whether the Government of Canada was prepared to assist in negotiations with the Hudson’s Bay Company, with the view of accepting any portion of the territory now claimed by that company, and providing the means of local administration therein ; and he suggested that if so prepared it would be desirable that some person daily authorized to communicate the views of the Canadian Government should be sent to England for that purpose.

On the 11th November 1864, a minute of Council was approved by your Excellency, in reply to Mr. Cardwell’s Despatch. It set forth that the Government of Canada was ready and anxious to co-operate with the Imperial Government, in securing the early settlement of the north-west territories, and the establishment of local government in it settled portions ; but that in its opinion the first step towards that end was the extinction of all claim by the Hudson’s Bay Company to proprietary rights in the soil and exclusive rights of trade. It suggested that it was for the Imperial Government, and not for the Government of Canada, to assume the duty of bringing to an end a monopoly originating in an English charter, and exercised so long under Imperial sanction ; but that when the negotiations were brought to a close, the Government of Canada would be ready to arrange with the Imperial Government for the annexation to Canada of such portions of the territory as might be available for settlement, as well as for the opening up of communications into the territory and providing means of local administration. Or should the Imperial Government prefer to erect the territory into a Crown Colony, the Canadian Government would gladly co-operate in the opening up of communication unto the territory, and the settlement of the country. The minute finally suggested that the Hon. President of the Council while in England would communicate more fully to Mr. Caldwell the views of the Canadian Government.

The negotiations that followed in this Despatch satisfied us of the impossibility of enforcing the end sought by Canada without long-protracted, vexations, and costly litigation. The Hudson’s bay Company were in possession, and that if time were their object, could protract the proceedings indefinitely ; and Her Majesty’s Government appeared unwilling to ignore pretentions that had frequently received […] recognition from Imperial authorities. Calling to mind, therefore, the vital importance to Canada of having that great fertile country opened up to Canadian enterprise, and the tide of emigration into it directed through Canadian channels — remembering also the danger of large grants of land passing into the country large masses of settlers unaccustomed to British institutions — we arrived at the conclusion that the quickest solution of the question would be the best for Canada. We accordingly proposed to the Imperial Ministers that the whole British territory east of the Rocky Mountains ad north of the American of Canadian lines should be made over to Canada, subject to such rights as the Hudson’s Bay Company might be Abe to establish ; and that the compensation to that company (if any were found to be due) should be met by a loan guaranteed by Great Britain. The Imperial Government consented to this, and a careful investigations guaranteed by Great Britain. The Imperial Government consented to this, and a careful investigation of the case satisfies us that the compensation to the Hudson’s Bay Company cannot, under any circumstances, be onerous. It is but two years since the present Hudson’s Bay Company purchased the entire property of the old company ; they paid 1,500,00/. for the entire property and assists,—in which were included in our arrangement, a very large claim against the United States Government under the Oregon Treaty—and ships, goods, pelts, and business premises in England and Canada valued at 1,023,569/. The value of the territorial rights of the company, therefore, in the estimation of the company itself, will be easily arrived at.

The results of our communications with the Committee of Her Majesty’s Government were placed, by Mr. Caldwell, in the form of a Despatch to your Excellency ; that document bears date the 17th June 1865, and has already reached your Excellency’s hands. It contains a correct statement of the result of the conference.

Although the subject was not specially referred to us, we did not fail to call the attention of the Colonial Minister to the anomalous position of foreigners who have settled in Canada and become naturalized subjects under our Provincial Statutes Mr. Cardwell at once admitted the hardship of the ease, and stated that it was the desire of her Law […] of the Crown for their opinions as to the best mode of doing so.

It will be gratifying to many devoted subjects of Her Majesty throughout British America, whose fears have been excited by the language too often heard of late years on the subject of Colonial connexion, that we received from Her Majesty’s Ministers the assurance that the British Government acknowledge the obligation of defending every portion of Canada with all the resources at its command.

Such, in brief, is the outline of our communications with Her Majesty’s Government, and we cannot conclude this report without gratefully acknowledging the distinguished consideration extended to us as the representatives of Canada, not only by the Minsters with whole we were brought more directly in contact, but by many eminent personages with whole we had the honour of conferring on the objects of our mission. To Mr. Cardwell we are especially indebted for unremitting kindness and attention. We are happy to believe that the result of our visit to England had been to inspire more just views as to the position and feelings of the Canadian people, and to draw closer the ties that have so long ad so happily attached our Province to the mother country.




Quebec 12th July 1865.                                                                                                                       A. T. GALT.

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