New Brunswick, House of Assembly, Debates of the House of Assembly [Mr. Fisher’s Amendment] (31 March 1866)
By: New Brunswick (House of Assembly)
Citation: New Brunswick, House of Assembly, Reports of the Debates of The House of Assembly  at 78-81.
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HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY.
Saturday, March 31.
House went into Committee of the Whole on further consideration of a Bill to abolish the property qualification of members to serve in the General Assembly of the Province. After considerable discussion the question was taken, when the House divided—12 nays, 11 yeas. Mr. Costigan then moved the reconsideration of the question, on the ground that several members were absent, and that he was satisfied that the majority of members, from their expression of opinion, were in favor of the Bill. The motion to reconsider the question prevailed, and finally a motion to report progress was carried. A long discussion took place on the subject of Bills for placing roads on the great road establishment, and the question was raised whether they should be dealt with by the Government, or referred to the Chief Commissioner of the Board of Works. Mr. L. P. DesBrisay argued that the result of referring such Bills to the Chief Commissioner was that nothing was done for twelve months.
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It was suggested that when Bills were referred to the Chief Commissioner, he should be called upon to report upon them within a certain number of days, and ten days were thought to be proper limit of time. It was objected that the Chief Commissioner could not give his attention to such Bills during the session of the House. With regard to the House dealing with the Bills, it was held, that it would be in direct opposition to the principle of initiation of money grants by the Government. Besides to discuss such Bills would take up an immense deal of the time of the House. They ought to be referred to the Chief Commissioner. In placing roads on the great road establishments it was necessary to take into consideration all the roads of the Province, and the wants and claims of particular localities, and the smaller could only be dealt with by those who had a general knowledge of all the roads. Ten days, it was argued, was entirely too short a time to allow the Chief Commissioner to report upon Bills referred to him during the sitting of the House. Hon. members called attention to the roads in their Counties they wanted to be placed in the great road establishment. Mr. DesBrisay and Mr. Caie, hon. members of Kent, particularly drew attention to the most important roads in their County, one tapping the Buctouche and Cacaigne Rivers, and bringing Moncton within 23 miles of Richibucto instead of 70; the other, a road running to the Miramichi River. Mr. Costigan called attention to “a leak of six miles in the road from Grand Fall to Quebec.”
Finally, a resolution in amendment of a previous motion was carried, that all the Bills before the House to place roads on the great road establishment, be referred to the Chief Commissioner of the Board of Works, to report thereon within ten days.
THE ADJOURNED DEBATE ON MR. FISHER’S AMENDMENT.
The Adjourned Debate on the amendment to the fourth paragraph in the Address was then taken up. Some objection was urged by Mr. Needham against going on with the debate, but Mr. Beveridge said he would prefer speaking then, whereupon
Mr. Beveridge remarked that so much had been said on the question by honorable members, that it was useless further to take up the time of the House. But as it appeared to be understood that every hon. member should express an opinion, he would do so very shortly. It had given him great pleasure to listen to what had fallen from the member of Carleton as to the great resources of Canada, on the position of the Government on the question of Union, and on the importance to the interests of the country to have it settled. He had to express an opinion, as the Government were not in favor of Union, he would therefore vote against them. He was for Union; he thought that ought to be the policy of the country. He did not care what men or set of men brought about that object, so it was brought about. It had been remarked that it was undesirable that New Brunswick should be united more closely with Canada; but it appeared to him that such a union must benefit the Province immensely; it would be a similar case with a poor man joining in partnership with a rich one; and had they ever, he would ask, heard of a poor man being unwilling to unite in business with a man who was a great deal wealthier than himself; the benefits must be greatly on the side of the poor man. The great object they should all strive for should be to get Union; without Union taxes must increase in this province—what with its general increased expenditures and the construction of so many railroads, when he thought of all the branch railways now building, or for which Bills had been passed, of the Extensions—Western and Eastern—he wondered where all the money was to come from. It seemed to him that while the revenue was decreasing their expenditures were increasing, and he did not see how the country could go on under the present system supporting its burdens, and meet its liabilities without resorting to direct taxation. Had the Government submitted a Scheme of Union, he would have been willing to go for them. Let them look at the question as they liked, there was no use shutting their eyes to the fact that Union must come sooner or later, and to his mind the sooner it came the better. It was admitted that to join in with Canada, they would be united with a larger and richer people, and such a Union must be beneficial to them. He thought they should all unite to bring about that most desirable object. Had the Government, as he had said, come down with a measure, and shown what the objectionable features of the Quebec Scheme were, and explained where the proper check was to be put that would neutralize the undue influence that they said Upper Canada must have by the principle of representation by population, he would have been willing to go for them, but as they had said they had no intention to submit any Scheme, he must go against them, and vote for the amendment.
Mr. Needham said, it was not his intention to have occupied the attention of the House at this time, and he would have been better satisfied if he had been allowed to take his own way, and to have spoken when he felt inclined; but rather than it should be said that he was not disposed to go on with the debate, he would now proceed to offer some preliminary remarks.
It was a most important subject they were discussing—the most important that had ever been discussed in that Legislature, involving, as it did, the interests of the country; and according as it was settled, it would affect not only the destinies of the men who formed the Government of the Province, but, ultimately, the destinies of the Province itself. In dealing with the subject, he would observe no exact order, but take it up as it came to him. He would take up the remark of the hon. member for Victoria, Mr. Beveridge, who said that they had never heard of a poor man who was not willing to go into partnership with a rich man, applying this to the union of New Brunswick with Canada. No doubt there were great advantages to a poor man in a union of that kind; but the benefits of such a partnership were not so evident when the riches of the reputed wealthy man—and he applied this to Canada—were reported to be of a very doubtful character, and especially when entering into such a partnership, the poor man had to give up the control of his own effects and the general management of his own affairs.
With regard to the immediate question before the House, he had never, throughout all his experience of political matters, known a vote of want of confidence against a Government to be pursued on so slight a ground—on ground that took so much the character of clap-trap. A vote of want of confidence should be grounded on malfeasance on the part of the Government. The evidence of malfeasance and incapacity against them should be clear and manifest. One of the great charges against the Government was that the Legislature had been called together some three weeks later than was customary. It was all very well for the mover of the amendment to say that by delay the rights of the people had been sacrificed, their interests neglected. There was no truth whatever in that assertion. When they spoke of sacrificing the interests of the country, what was to be said of his hon. colleague, who, of his own motive, voluntarily brought in this vote of want of confidence, grounded, he (Mr. N.) held, on insufficient grounds, that had taken up more than three weeks of the time of the House, and that was still dragging along, delaying the business of the country, and that had already cost the country some $21,000? Some hon. member had said that if the money had been expended on the bye roads, it would have been much more profitable for the country, and so said he; but before he was done, he would show that that money was a mere drop in the bucket compared with the interests at stake by the agitation of this question. He thought he could show that the delaying the calling together of the Legislature was not a serious charge against the Government. He held the Government were quite right in not calling it together sooner. They were there met not for the purpose of legislating for Canada or Nova Scotia, but for themselves. This Legislature was not to be convened for the convenience of Lord Monck or to meet the views of Canadian politicians. Why was it that the Canadian Legislature was not yet in the Gazette called together for the despatch of business? Why did they make this delay? They did so for their own convenience, he believed, with a view to the action of this Legislature. The Government would have deserved a vote of want of confidence if they had played into the hands of the Canadian tricksters. If they had, he would have moved a vote of want of confidence against them himself. He would pursue the subject under discussion as it came to his mind, and if he was not so methodical as he might otherwise have been, the House must excuse him as he had been obliged to speak when he was not quite prepared. The hon. mover of the amendment had said that the Government deserved to be thrown out, that they knew the feeling in the country was against them, and they dared not fill up their offices, because they had not a constituency they could call their own. He dared his hon. colleague to resign his seat and run an election against him (Mr. N.) in their County. Let his hon. colleague run him if he dared, he was prepared to resign his seat and test the feeling of York on Confederation. It was most extraordinary the position some hon. members took on that question. They saw, they said, union foreshadowed in the speech; they were, they also asserted, elected to support Confederation. But they were insincere in their professions […]
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[…] if when they said that union was the Government policy they did not support it. For his own part he had come to the House an anti-Confederate, opposed to the Quebec Scheme, and he was as strongly opposed to that measure as ever he had been.
So much had been said about the York election during the course of this debate, that he did not intend to enter into it at great length. The result of that election had been loudly proclaimed to be a triumph of Confederation. He believed that those who most loudly claimed it as a triumph were insincere, and knew that what they said was untrue. At the last election in York, both candidates were opposed to Confederation. There was no doubt it. In speaking of what took place at that election, he did not intend to be personal. With regard to the remarks his hon. colleague, Mr. Fisher, had made about himself, (Mr. N.) he was willing to interpret them freely, and put them down to the elation of success. He had been accustomed to be freely spoken about, and he was one of those men with whom people took greater liberties than they did with others. No doubt, if he was in the Government, and had power and patronage at his disposal, they would speak differently of him. But he did not intend to retaliate on his colleague the personalities that gentleman had uttered regarding him. The people of York, unbought, uncorrupted, of their own free mind, had returned him at the last general election by an immense majority over his hon. colleague, and put him in the position he had now the honor to occupy, and he would not condescend to disgrace it by retorting personalities.
With regard to the late election, he had just a little to say. That election had decided something that he could not before understand. In reading the election law, there was something in it about bribery and corruption. He had always thought that bribery and corruption meant one and the same thing, and he never could understand why two terms meaning the same thing, should be used, when an incident at that election settled the question to him mind. Here he held an object in his hand (holding up a bank note), when he first saw it and gazed upon it, the words of Hamlet’s address to his Father’s Ghost came into his mind—
Angels and ministers of grace defend us!
Be though a spirit of health or goblin damned,
Bring with thee airs from Heaven or blasts from Hell,
Be thy intents wicked or charitable,
Thou comest in such a questionable shape,
That I will speak to thee.
But what, they would ask, was so very extraordinary about the object. It was a simple bank note. It appeared a very good rule, no doubt, when slipped into the hands of the free and independent elector by some one of the agents of hon. candidate. He would read its superscription—”St. Stephen Bank, May 1st, 1863, for value received pay the bearer $2—payable where? at New York. They bought their voter for $2, and paid him with Yankee money, and that was what he called fastening corruption on to bribery. With reference to that election, it decided nothing at all—or if it decided anything, it decided that his hon. colleague could not claim a Confederate triumph, for it was patent to all that it was the sensation got up about the Fenians that carried it. It was a clever and cunning dodge. When Fisher was safely returned Fenianism was entirely ignored; its work was done. But the alarm about Fenianism was not over, for its work had not been yet done. He never had believed in this Fenian alarm. And there were men in the States who had means of knowing who said that Fenianism was nothing but a trick—a sensation got up by Canadians politicians to carry Confederation. With regard to this vote of Want of Confidence, a greater anomaly had never been raised. When the Governor came down and asked the House for power and money to enable him to place the Province in a state of defence, did the opposition oppose the granting of that money and these powers. No. They went as strongly as the Government party to put all the resources of the Province in the hands of His Excellency, and this at the time when they were running a vote of Want of Confidence against the Government. Was that statesmanlike—was that the course they ought to have taken. No. They ought either to have ceased at once from their Want of confidence, or have stuck out to the last, and refused to vote the money away. That was what they ought to have done. Mr. Needham proceeded to say that he had once remarked that he took a broader view of these matters that came before the House than most members. He liked to look into the past and look forward to the future; when he looked back into the past of his colleague, Mr. Fisher, and contrasted his position with the positions he held in times past he must come to the conclusion—if the country had reason not to confide in the present Government, ten thousand times less had they reason to have confidence in Mr. Fisher. When he declared that the Government sent home a despatch to the Colonial Office; a despatch that he called insulting to Her Majesty, and said he felt so humiliated, he could not but remember that he had said as much when in 1856 he went home on the Railway delegation, and a long legged Yankee bearer of despatches in a blue bag got superior honor on board the steamboat, and his luggage before him when he arrived at Liverpool. He felt humiliated then for his country that greater honor should have been paid to this American than to himself. Now he was humiliated because this present Government had sent home a dispatch, one of the best and most independent documents that had ever emanated from a Colonial office. There was no man that withstood the scheme of Confederation but must endorse it. Humiliated! He would tell the House when he felt humiliated for his country. At the time the Conference took place in Canada, where Galt said to the delegates of the Province, “What is the least possible amount of money you can get on with?” With bent brows and after deep cogitation, they concluded that the least possible amount was$210,000. Think; after surrendering to Canada the entire revenue of the Province, to be asked what was the least possible amount they could get on with; after surrendering the glorious right of self-government, after giving up their political independence, after giving away all they could give away, to be asked by Galt “What is the least possible amount you can get on with?” He wished there had been a man there. He wished he had been there, and, his life for it, they would not have consented to such infamous terms, whether the meeting had taken place after dinner or before it
With regard to the dispatches from the Colonial Office, it was only now that his hon. friend, Mr. Fisher, had come to obey them. There was a time when his hon. friend had no such reverence for home dispatches. (Here the hon. member referred to the political primer.) With regard to the dispatch of March 23rd, 1865, from Mr. Cardwell, Mr. Fisher said if it had been laid before the House during the last session, there would have been no need of a delegation. He held that there would have been more need. If the House had had that dispatch before it, the vote for the delegation would have been passed without a division.
In reference to his own position with regard to the Government, he was independent. They did not hold him by a hair of his head. He had never had any instructions how to vote. He came to the Legislature to vote against Confederation and to support a Government who would prevent the Quebec Scheme from being inflicted upon the country.
If he should do anything contrary to the pledge he had given; if he should say or do anything that should prove him recreant to his trust, let them class him with Arnold, the greatest traitor known in American history.
With regard to the celebrated despatch of the Government, (of July) and the imputed disloyalty of the men who drew it up, he had a word to say. Loyalty was a very good thing, as religion was a very sacred thing; but there were no two words that had been more desecrated than religion and loyalty; they could be made to mean anything. The Confederate scedmers [sic] had made very free use of Her Majesty’s name in order to give force to their arguments. He had no hesitation in saying that they had no authority to bring Her Majesty’s name into this controversy at all. It was with Mr. Cardwell, the British Minister, with whom they had to do. Suppose the British Government attempted to coerce these Provinces into adopting the scheme against their will, and the same result followed, as followed for the coercive course of the British Government towards the twelve American colonies, he held that resistance to unjust authority was not disloyalty to Her Majesty. He has had as loyal affection to the Queen, and esteem for her many virtues as any of her subjects that breathed. But loyalty, as he understood the term, was not abject submission to tyranny and oppression, but it was the devotion of the heart, based on the honest conviction of the judgment. While there was a loyalty to the Queen, there was also a loyalty to themselves, a loyalty to the land of their birth. They all knew the lines:
Lives there a man with soul so dead,
Who never to himself hath said—
This is my own, my native land!
That was real absolute loyalty. When those two principles of loyalty came in contact loyalty to their country must take the way. He told the people of the country, if any Government should dare to coerce him into adopting a constitution against his will, that moment […]
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[…] they would sound a tocsin that would lead ultimately to independence. These were his honest sentiments.
Mr. Needham referred to Mr. Cardwell’s despatch, and asked if it was not a strong intimation that the Government desired Confederation under the Quebec Scheme. Looks at the position of the Government and then let them say if they could have answered that despatch in any other terms than they did. The Government were formed on an anti-Confederate basis, directly opposed to that scheme. When he went through the contest at the general election he was opposed to that Quebec Scheme, and had shewn up its defects to the best of his ability. But half of its iniquity had not been told. He would tell the House some things concerning it that would amaze them. If there was ever a sell perpetrated against any country it was that Quebec Scheme. He would not only show, but prove it, before he was done. Mr. Cardwell might be a very nice man, (so they were all very nice men) but he must not attempt to coerce this Province. He thought, perchance, that they were a small people here—only some 250,000 men and women—that to his mind might be a very small number, only the population of some third rate town in England. But he forgot there was a difference between man and man. But where would he find in England 250,000 that were equal to the 250,000 of New Brunswick. There could not be found in Europe or Asia, 250,000 with equal general intelligence, ability, and equal administrative talent. They in New Brunswick breathed from their birth the pure bracing air of freedom. They were accustomed to self-government, and would yield to none their civil and political rights. Every man born in New Brunswick felt himself to be a man, and every woman felt herself to be a woman. The mind was the standard of the man. When the British Government invested this country with the right of self-government had they any right to take it away again? (Here the hon. member at great length showed that it was the intention of the Canadians, and had settled at the Conference, that the scheme was to be put through the various legislatures without any appeal to the people. He had been present, he said, in Woodstock, when Mr. Fisher made the first grand development of the scheme; when he spoke of the Union of the Colonies, the founding of a grand nationality, as a theme demanding the power of a Demosthenes; when he compared the delegates who met at Quebec to the men of the first American Revolution who sealed the independence of the United States. Those latter where very great men. Mr. N. proceeded to say, they did not meet and finish up their constitution in seventeen days, and afterwards sign it on a Sunday; but they took years before they finished their work, and it was a constitution that had stood the political turmoil and the battle shock of seventy-four years, and would last for ages. When he heard his hon. colleague say, that the steamer that took the delegates to Quebec reminded him of the Mayflower freighted with the pious pilgrims who landed on Plymouth rock; he could not help thinking if the Mayflower, instead of being freighted with pious pilgrims, had such a band on board as those men who played such a part at the Conference at Quebec, she would have sunk before she got half way on her passage to this continent. With regard to the Quebec Scheme, its supporters said that it was the best scheme they had got, or would ever get. Why, while he was speaking he would check out a better and more honest measure. He would never consent that the scheme should be inflicted upon the country. He gave the Government a perfectly independent support. Let the Government tell the House if Needham had ever asked them for anything, or solicited any favor. He felt above that; true friendship was unbought, and friendship was best displayed when needed. What had the leadership of the Government said—”rather than submit to the Quebec Scheme he would go down with the ship.” So would he; he would stick to the ship and go down with it, if go down he must. It was said by several hon. members that Confederation was foreshadowed in the Speech, but he said it was not. With regard to the question of Union, he was not going to tell the House whether he was in favor of it or not. He was not going to tell his enemies his ideas concerning it, and give them the benefit of his brains.
Mr. Needham then said, that he would now come down to the despatches. His hon. colleague said that those despatches ought to have been published. Why did he not, when in Government in 1850, publish the dispatches of Sir Edmund Head. When they did come before the House it was in a mutilated form, rows of asterisks between gaping paragraphs. There was a great dissatisfaction, and a resolution was moved in the House calling on the Government to submit them whole. He would ask his hon colleague if any Government had ever published despatches before they were submitted to the House. Let hon. members judge how absurd it was for his colleague (Mr. F.) to charge this Government with not doing what his Government had not done.
(The hon. member here quoted from the “political primer” to show the inconsistency of Mr. Fisher, and contrasted the position he held when in the Government in 1850, with regard to the Colonial Office, and his disregard then for despatches emanating from the Colonial Office, and the position he took against the present Government on these points.
Mr. Needham then branched into a history of the struggle for Responsible Government. He knew all the men who had taken part in that great contest. He revered the memories of those who had passed away. Some were still upon the stage of life, and some had taken to themselves all the glory of the measure. Je though that the glory should be given to who the glory was due—the plume of victory to those who had really fought the battle. It had been said that Judge Wilmot and Mr. Fisher had fought the fight, and certainly they had enjoyed all the honor and credit of the victory. But who were the men who did the work—who went into the back settlements of the country and fought the battle side by side by night and by day—who were they? John Pickard and others, whose services have never been acknowledged. It was accident often that caused men to be he roes. If Wilmot and Fisher had not had such men as those fighting the hard fight, they would never have enjoyed the glory gave it to an opponent of Responsible Government had not been won for the people. Was it Wellington that won the victory of Waterloo, and freed Europe from the thraldom of Napoleon? Was it not rather the brave fellows who fought, bled and died without due meed of honor What he blamed Wilmot and Fisher for was, that they had not given equal credit, to those who had fought the battle with them. There was a man now living than whom no man had done more for the cause by his pen and his word. He referred to Dr. Livingstone of St. John—a man true, faithful, honest, sincere—a man of great sagacity and indomitable energy, who had done more to give the people Responsible Government than any man who had engaged in the contest—more than those who had gained all the honor had done combined, and how had he been rewarded for his services? And what did Wilmot and Fisher do? They, alarmed by the strength of a great principle, went into a coalition Government. When an appointment was made that would have been of some service to Dr. Livingstone—who they knew had worked so hard—they gave it to an opponent of Responsible Government. The proper place for the Doctor would have been in the Legislative Council. They ought to have put him in the Upper House, but though they had the opportunity, they neglected to give honor to whom honor was due. They were afraid to put him there, more shame to them. He thought they should not have been so anxious to get into Government. They would have done themselves more honor if they had waited. However, they had received pay for all they ever did. His friend got the Puisne Judgeship, and he left his (Mr. N) hon. colleague in the Government to fight the battles all alone.
He would wind up with a few words about the despatch—he meant the glorious despatch of 15th July. The hon. member of Albert (McClellan) called it the immortal despatch. The Attorney General said, when he read it in the Colonial Office in London, he was proud of it, and endorsed it every word. He had never had doubt about it himself, and he thought the people would endorse it also. He was delighted to have an opportunity to express his opinion upon it; when he first saw it and read it, his heart leapt for joy. He thought that it had made Mr. Cardwell understand, when he dealt with the people of New Brunswick, he dealt with a people who knew the right and privileges of Responsible Government, and were determined to maintain them.
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