Edward Whelan, [Quebec Conference] (14 October 1864)
By: Edward Whelan, The Examiner (Charlottetown), Quebec Conference
Citation: Edward Whelan, “The Inter-Colonial Conference in Canada” & “Inter-Colonial Union,”The Examiner (24 October 1864).
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Note: Any endnotes come from our recent publication, Charles Dumais, The Quebec Resolutions: Including Several Never-Published Preliminary Drafts by George Brown and John A. Macdonald, and a Collection of all Previously-Published Primary Documents Relating to the Conference (CCF, 2021).
THE INTER-COLONIAL CONFERENCE IN CANADA
FRIDAY, 4p.m., Oct. 14.
The Conference has just closed, and as the Mail for the Eastern Provinces will also close in a very short time, I may as well tell the readers of the Examiner some of the talk about town in regard to its deliberations. It is understood that the resolution regarding representation in the Upper House of the Confederate Parliament was debated all day with considerable warmth and ability, but no agreement come to. Lower Canada complains that in the number proposed for her—24—she would not be fairly represented—it being proposed that Upper Canada (against whom there is great jealousy) should have the same number, while the Maritime Provinces, it was proposed, should have thirty-two members. New Brunswick and Nova Scotia claim 22 members out of the 32, while Newfoundland and Prince Edward Island, it is supposed, will not be allowed to have more than 10 between them, which the representatives from those Islands will not agree to. And with so much diversity of opinion, it is very difficult to say whether the Convention will not be compelled to break up prematurely. Matters do not certainly look very promising for a completion of the deliberations. I hope there may be concession and reconciliation, but I have very grave doubts respecting a satisfactory result. The mail is just about closing. I hope to be able to give more cheering accounts in my next letter.
ST. LOUIS HOTEL, QUEBEC,
FRIDAY, Oct. 14, 1864.
There was a sound of revelry by night,
And [CANADA]’s capital had gathered then
Her beauty and her chivalry, and bright
The camps shone o’er fair women and brave men.
A thousand hearts beat happily, and when
Music arose with its voluptuous swell
Soft eyes looked love to eyes which spake again,
And all went merry as a marriage bell.
The great Government Ball, for which the most extensive preparations had been in progress long before the arrival of the Delegates from the Lower Provinces, was given tonight in the Parliament Buildings. There was evidently no expense spared—nearly every room in the buildings appeared to be filled, and every room was well prepared for the reception of the guests, who commenced to assemble about 9 o’clock—Lord Monck, the Governor General, and Sir R. G. McDonnell, Lieut. Governor of Nova Scotia, and his Lady, being amongst the guests. Invitations, I understand, were issued for about 1200, but not more than between 700 and 800 were present. The Dancing was of the same character as you find in every fashionable Ball Room: Lancers, Quadrilles, Polkas, and Waltzes; and I assure you that the string and brass bands of the two Regiments stationed here were not allowed to have any idle time upon their hands. Grave and venerable Ministers of State contended with the youngest and gayest votaries of fashion for the possession of the floor; ancient matrons, who have long since passed the autumn of their lives, and cast their sere and yellow leaves along the high ways of Time—were not insensible to the seductive pleasures of the dance.
I will not pretend to give a minute description of the Ball. I cannot do so. The bewildering scene baffles all my descriptive powers. The patient reader who peruses this veracious diary of mine, must appeal to his own imagination for a description. Let him fancy that he is elbowing his way from the House of Assembly to the Council Chamber, with all its rich paintings, portraits of the different Speakers—he sees the two floors occupied incessantly from 9 until 4 o’clock in the morning,—beautiful women, (and indeed they are beautiful here, and appeared to my view ten times more attractive than they did at the Drawing Room, which I noticed in a former letter), are floating past you everywhere in all the rich trappings of fashion—numerous gay officers in uniform, some exhibiting on their breasts Royal decorations given for distinguished merit,—here is grace, loveliness and politeness at every step you take. The charm of the scene is immeasurably enhanced by the admixture of the various nationalities. There is no fun in seeing two persons from the same country in conversation with each other; but to see those who are foreigners in language and race striving to communicate their thoughts to each other, is an incident peculiarly charming. Here is the gay, garrulous, and polite Frenchman, (or French lady, if you will,) gesticulating with hands and head, striving to make the Englishman, or Irishman, or Scotchman, (who does not know a word of French any more than he knows Sanscrit), comprehend a strange jumble of French and excessively bad English. The French ladies here give a delightful tone to society,—though lusty in flesh, they are quite as effeminate, if not more so, than their sisters of British origin. There is infinite grace of manner and faultless politeness in their intercourse with strangers. They make no difficulty about falling in love—or appearing to do it— with a dozen gentlemen at a time; and the gentlemen, I have no doubt—(of course I don’t write from experience)—must find it hard to resist their attractions. But it is time to close this notice of the Ministerial Ball. It was a stunning and crushing affair as regards numbers, gorgeous dress, lavish expenditure on the part of the Government; and, indeed, everything that was calculated to make a sensational sacrifice at the shrine of pleasure. I do not think the arrangements were quite so good and regular as they were at our small Ball in Charlottetown when the Delegates met there. There, the Delegates from the other Provinces were introduced to our Society, such as it is, by persons appointed for the purpose. Here, the Delegates from the Maritime Provinces—(and I speak of the whole of them without exception) – had to trust to their own natural impudence for an introduction to the Quebec belles and gentlemen. Those who brought ladies from the Lower Provinces had to do, for the most part, the cicerone business themselves; and it was not pleasant to see the lady of the Provincial Secretary of Nova Scotia—a very fine and handsome woman—led to the Supper Room by an antiquated, grey-headed Cockney top, without influence or position, and who seems to be dogging the steps of the Delegation through the Provinces. However, I will say nothing more upon this point. The Canadian Ministry, I am sure, were desirous of making the entertainment as agreeable as possible to their guests; and if any error were committed, it was not of the heart but of the head.