Edward Whelan, [Quebec Conference] (27 October 1864)

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Date: 1864-10-27
By: Edward Whelan, The Examiner (Charlottetown), Quebec Conference
Citation: Edward Whelan, “Inter-Colonial Convention at Quebec,”The Examiner (7 November 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).


(No. 6)

QUEBEC, Oct. 27, 1864.

Since the date of my last letter, Saturday 22nd, the Convention has been occupied with the financial matters then under its consideration, and which I then described as well as my time enabled me to do it; besides, other matters relating to the powers and jurisdictions of the General and Local Governments, have been under consideration, and have led to the most wearisome discussions, so much so that the debates have been protracted until one or two hours after midnight. To attempt to give my readers now an account of the results of the discussions, owing to the imperfect state in which the Minutes of the Conference appear, would not only be highly improper; but impossible. A digest of the proceedings will, I hope, be prepared for publication; and then will be the proper time to arrive at a safe and dispassionate conclusion touching the merits of the whole scheme of intercolonial Union. As it now appears to my mind, I have no reason, as far as the interests of the Island are concerned, to be dissatisfied with the arrangements proposed. Canada has, I think, shown a very honest and generous disposition so far; and should the Union be consummated, Lower Canada will, most especially, be the firm and fast friend of the Maritime Provinces. The desire of her public men is, apparently, to secure the aid of the Eastern Provinces for the purpose of curbing the grasping ambition of Upper or Western Canada, which now threatens to overshadow the Lower Province. The French desire most ardently to be left to the undisturbed enjoyment of their ancient privileges—their French institutions, civil law, literature and language. It is utterly impossible to Anglicise them—the attempt to do it, would outrage their most deeply rooted prejudices and lead to insurrection. As Sir Etienne Taché said to me today, (and he is a shrewd observer of events), the time will come—not, indeed, in the present generation, nor, perhaps, in the next—when the French element will be absorbed into the English one; but that result must be brought about by time, and not by the violent action of politicians. Leave to the French their old traditions, customs and institutions, and they will be found to be the most easily managed race in Canada under the British power. There is a party amongst them called the Clear Grit or Rouge Party, of which Papineau was formerly the Leader, (and I may observe, en passant, that this gentleman now lives at Montreal in the enjoyment of a vigorous old age, and an ample fortune), but they are numerically small, both in and out of the Legislature, and scarcely represented at all in the Government of the Country. The predominant feeling of the French members of the Canadian Ministry—(and I have no doubt they represent the general sentiment of their countrymen pretty fairly on this point)—is that of devoted and chivalrous loyalty to the British Crown. They appear to detest Democracy in any and every shape; and, therefore, they would rather lean upon the Maritime Provinces for aid and sympathy, and reciprocate with them in the same way, than trust to Upper Canada, which they believe is fast tending to Democracy. The feelings and prejudices of such a people are not only entitled to respect, but it would be fatal to offend them.

But I forget that, in commencing this letter, it was not my purpose to write a disquisition on Canadian politics. I hope I shall have a better opportunity, with fuller information, for doing that hereafter. The Conference is about closing its labours here, and may have one brief sitting at Montreal, to which place we are to go this evening. Several of the Delegates, with the ladies of the party, left for that city this afternoon. The remaining Delegates will arrive there by the Grand Trunk Railway a little before daylight tomorrow morning. The day is to be set apart as a holiday—a Review of Troops and Militia is to be held under General Sir Fenwick Williams, for which, I understand, the most elaborate preparations are being made—a Ball is to be given by the Municipal authorities in the evening; and a Dejeuner, at which there will be a general outpouring of eloquence, will occupy the following day. The Delegates will then visit Ottawa, the seat of the future government, at which place the like festivities will be shown them, and from thence to Kingston, Hamilton, Toronto, Niagara Falls, some cities in the Far West of the United States, and home by New York, Boston, Portland and St. John.

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