[Letter of Archbishop Connolly to Halifax Chronicle], Quebec Morning Chronicle (24 January 1865)
By: Thomas L. Connolly (Archbishop of Halifax)
Citation: Quebec Morning Chronicle (24 January 1865).
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Perhaps no document has yet appeared on the Confederation question to equal in gravity and weight the extract we give below from a recent letter of Archbishop Connolly to the Halifax Morning Chronicle. We omit from pressure, and partly because the subject of Fenianism is, of itself, so contemptible in every sense, the first part of the Archbishop’s letter, relating to that subject. But we give in extenso the paragraphs on Confederation, both on account of their instrinsic merit, which is great, and also of the dignified position of the Right Rev. writer. Dr. Connolly, before he was selected to fill the vacancy caused by the death of the late Archbishop Walsh, of Halifax, had, if we remember right, the episcopal charge of the whole of New Brunswick, and in both the adjoining colonies; few opinions will carry so great a weight as his. The following is the extract:—
If one half of what you say about Fenians and armed and hostile organizations in a neighboring country be true, which I do not contradict, some or many of our Catholic churches, with or without our consent, may be turned into drill-rooms—but if I know anything of the Catholic body in this country, I vouch for it, they will never be used for the purposes of pretended loyalists and sympathizers, or the foreign foe, and much less for the Fenian Brotherhood, on their quixotic expedition, unless, indeed, it be to help them in finding and filling up these much talked of and mysterious coffins from which, according to you, Mr. Editor, their muskets are to be supplied.
If half of what you say be true, (although I am no politician) on the strength of your own argument, I say the sooner we are confederated the better. If the maxim be universally admitted that union is strength, no time us to be lost, for in your hypothesis we will at once require all the elements of strength at our command, and (may a kind Providence forbid) perhaps more too.
To leave Upper and Lower Canada and New Brunswick to their fate, as you propose, and to fall back on the impregnable ramparts of Nova Scotia, with a militia of fifty thousand men, and a nucleus of a British army of thirty or forty thousand, is precisely what an American or our worst enemy would suggest if a war were to commence to-morrow. Wait until Upper and Lower Canada and New Brunswick be swallowed up one after another; wait until we shall have detached three millions of fellow subjects—good men and true—from their allegiance to Britain, and added them to the numberless hordes of the enemy already comprising the population of almost a whole continent; wait until we have two or three hundred thousand men, succeeded by as many more, if need be, on our frontier line, at Amherst, or perchance at the head of the Basin, or the Three Mile House, and then what you say about the advantages of Responsible Government and the blessings of isolation and the strength of a militia of fifty thousand , will be are never failing resource against every calamity.
Sir, either there is, or there is not, danger, or, in other words, either the nation on our borders has or has not the power to pull down our flag and destroy us as a people. If they have the power, then good intentions and inclinations are a matter of no importance whatever. We are, then, living only on sufferance, or mere toleration. Our lives and liberties, and the means of paying four dollars and ten cents taxes, and everything we hold most dear, are staked on a haphazard, or on which no man can calculate, and no nation can or ought to depend for a single week.
If there be fifty thousand men already prepared to invade this country, as you admit, instead of laboring to keep us in our present disjointed and defenseless position, you should rather call on all to unite or a single man cannot be dispensed with and gird on our armor for the rencontre. If responsible Government, which the great and good men of this country one for us, be a precious heirloom on the Lilliputian scale, on which we now find it, instead of bartering it away for nothing by Confederation, as you say, we shall rather, in my opinion, add to its luster and value, and ennoble and enrich it and make it boundlessly grander and more secure for ourselves and [illegible] are to come after us. We obtained Responsible Government from the Mother Country, in whose legislative halls we had not a single member to represent us. We are now, On the contrary, asked to transfer the rich and prizes deposit to a place which will be part only of a common country, where are voice must be heard, and where we will have a fuller and fairer representation then the City of London, or Liverpool, or Bristol, can boast of in their English House of Commons; And this is the great difference between obtaining from England what we had not and transferring what we now have, in order to make it more valuable and more available for our own purposes, and by far more secure. Confederation, therefore, instead of depriving us of the privileges of self-government, is the only practical and reliable guarantee of its continuance. We are too small to be warranted in the hope of being able to hold it always on the strength of our own resources, and England, if not two week, is certainly too prudent and too cautious to risk her last shilling and her last man to a country where, instead of a population of four millions, she will have scarcely one-tenth of that number to help her against the united power of a whole continent. To deny, therefore, the obvious advantages of Confederation, you must first prove that union is not strength—that England, under the Hierarchy, and France, under her feudal chains and Barons, were greater and stronger and happier than they are now as the two greatest nations of the world. You must prove that Lucerne, and Geneva, and Berne, and the Grisons would be equally strong and secure out of the Confederation of their sister cantons in Switzerland; and that Florida, and Texas, and Delaware and Little Rhode Island, in the neighboring States, would be stronger if detached from each other. You must prove that the petty and miserable Republics of Central America, with all their Responsible Government and entire exemption from foreign control, are in any way benefitted by their smallness and isolation, and their reluctance to coalesce and form one strong government as the only possible guarantee for the lives and liberties and happiness of all.
On the principle that the part is greater than the whole, you must prove that the smaller the state, the greater, the stronger, and the happier the people; And that on your own principle the repeal of the Union at the present moment would be a signal benefit to Cape Briton, and Yarmouth, and Shelburne, where they have far stronger local reasons for being dissatisfied with the central government in Halifax the Nova Scotia can ever have for being united, with Ottawa and its capital, and the boundless British territory beyond our borders. Prove all this if you can, and without referring to the financial and commercial views at all, which are completely beyond in beside the question, you will convert mean thousands like me in Nova Scotia to the policy of having a large and effective militia, and paying heavy taxes for the debt already contracted and the two contemplated railroads, and we shall contently settle down according to your scheme with no hope within our natural lifetime of having an Intercolonial Railroad or more frequent intercourse with our sister colonies and the vast country that extends for thousands of miles along their borders.
I yield to no man in my heartfelt appreciation for the blessings we all enjoy in this country, and I asked for nothing more but to be able to calculate their continuance—Sed hoc opus hic labor est. This is the difficulty, and I will say with all candor the only difficulty for me and all others who have everything to lose. No country situated as Nova Scotia now is, with a vast area and a sparse population, can reasonably hope to maintain its independence for any considerable period. Unless we are to be a single exception, and an anomaly in the history of nations, some change must come, and come soon. In a word, Mr. Editor, as you say, “something must be done.”
Instead of cursing like the boys in the upturned boat, and holding on until we are fairly on the brink of the cataract, we must at once began to pray in strike out for the shore by all means, before we get too far down on the current. We must at this most critical moment invoke the Arbiter of Nations for wisdom, and abandoning in time are perilous position, we must strike out boldly, and at some rest, for some rock on the nearest shore—some resting place of greater security. A cavalry raid visit from our Fenian friends on horseback, through the plains of Canada, and the fertile valleys of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, may cost more in a single week than confederation for the next fifty years; And if we are to believe you, where is the security even at the present moment against such a disaster. Without the whole power of the Mother-country by land and sea, and the concentration in a single hand of all the strength of British America, our condition is seen at a glance. Whenever the present difficulties will terminate—and who can tell the moment?—we will be at the mercy of our neighbors; And victorious or otherwise, they will be eminently a military people, and with all their apparent indifference about annexing this country, and all the friendly feelings that may be talked, they have the power to strike when they please, and this is precisely the kernel and the only touch-point of the whole question. No nation ever had the power of conquest that did not use it, or abuse it, at the very first favorable opportunity.
All that is said of the magnanimity and forbearance of mighty nations can be explained on the principle of sheer expediency, as the world knows. The whole face of Europe has changed, and the dynasties of many hundred years have been swept away within our time on the principle of might alone—the oldest, the strongest, and as some would have it, the most sacred of titles. The 13 original States of America, with all their professions of self-denial, have been all the time, by money-power and by war, and by negotiation, extending their frontier, until they more than quadrupled their territory within sixty years; And believe it hey, are they now of their own accord, to come to a full stop? No; as long as they have power, they must go onward, for it is the very nature of power to grip whatever is within its reach. It is not their hostile feelings, therefore, but it is their power, and only their power I dread, and I now state it has my solemn conviction, and it becomes the duty of every British subject in these provinces to control that power, not by the insane policy of attacking or weakening them, but by strengthening ourselves—rising, with the whole of Britain at our back, to their level; And so be prepared for any emergency. There is no sensible or unprejudiced man in the community who does not see that vigorous and timely preparation is the only possible means of saving us from the horrors of war such as the world has never seen.—To be fully prepared is the only practical argument that can have weight with a powerful enemy, and make him pause before hand and count the cost. And as the sort of preparation I speak of is utterly hopeless without the Union of the Provinces, so at a moment when public opinion is being forced on this vital point, and one deeply concerned, I feel it a duty to declare myself unequivocally in favor of Confederation as cheaply and as honorably obtained as possible, but Confederation at all hazards and all reasonable sacrifices.
After the most mature consideration, and all the arguments I have heard on both sides for the last month, these are my inmost convictions on the necessity and merits of a measure which alone, under Providence, can secure to us social order in peace, and rational liberty, and all the blessings we now enjoy under the mildest government and the hallowed institutions of the freest and happiest country in the world.
I have the honor to be,
Your obedient servant
THOMAS L. CONNOLLY,
Archbishop of Halifax,