New Brunswick, House of Assembly, Debates of the House of Assembly [Mr. Fisher’s Amendment] (4 April 1866)
By: New Brunswick (House of Assembly)
Citation: New Brunswick, House of Assembly, Reports of the Debates of The House of Assembly  at 90-93.
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HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY.
Wednesday, April 4.
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ADJOURNED DEBATE ON MR. FISHER’S AMENDMENT.
Mr. Sutton said that as every member of the House was expected to speak on this question, he would have to say a few words. He felt rather abashed in rising to address them, after the eloquent speech which they had listened to for three days. In regard to the debate being delayed, he did not blame either the Government or the Opposition. He would not delay it by making a long speech. When he come forward as a candidate for a seat in this House, he (Mr. S.) and two of his colleagues declared themselves in favor of Confederation. The County which he represented had never changed their opinion on this question, and he represented their interest in that great Scheme. To go into an argument to show how we would be benefitted by it, would take up too much time. This great question had been made a party question, and no person could get office under the Government unless he was opposed to the policy of union. He would offer no factious opposition to any measure which would be a benefit to the country. He did not believe that the North Shore had a sufficient number of members in the Government, for at the present there was not a single individual to represent them, as the Hon. Mr. Hutchison was absent.
Mr. Perkins did not think it necessary to make a long speech. He was fully prepared to support the Government in the stand they had taken against Confederation, believing, as he did, that the Quebec scheme would be ruinous to the best interests and liberties of the people of this Province. The present Government have conducted the general business of the country in a satisfactory manner, under great disadvantage, for they had a great pressure brought against them; especially by a few disappointed politicians. He would vote against the amendment.
Mr. Landry said it would appear that he had been sent into the market when he came into the Legislature, and he would like to know whether he was going to be sold by wholesale or retail. He thought he was worth more than they were disposed to give him; if he could not get more, he would not sell himself. He would not say whether this Government had done right or wrong, as he did not consider that this was the question. The real question before the House was Confederation, and he was sent here to sustain the Government on that question. If he went back to his constituents, and they were in favor of Confederation, he would go for it, but he did not think they had changed their mind on the question. He had often been asked why he was not anxious to unite with the French people of Canada. He would like to unite with the French, but there were people there worse than the French, with whom he did not wish to have my thing to do. Though he would vote with the Government on this question, as it involved Confederation, they need not expect him to vote with them on my other question. As an example of the speeches that would be delivered in Confederate Parliament, he finished his speech in French.
By the amendment to the reply to the speech, which to now under discussion in this Assembly, we are called upon to pass sentence upon the acts of this Government during the past year. They are arranged by this amendment as being unworthy of the confidence of this House and of the people of this Province.
This Assembly is the jury before whom this cause is to be tried in the first instance, and from our decision lies, sooner or later, the appeal to the Supreme Court of the people.
It is for us to examine the counts of this indictment and decide upon them.
For the motives of our decision, we are responsible to our own consciences. For the wisdom. of that decision, we are responsible to our constituents. I have heard something said to and fro in this debate about men being held personally responsible for what they said.
Beyond that which I have before mentioned, I acknowledge responsibility to no men or set of men. I propose to take up the different charges against the Government so far as I can remember them, and examine whether, singly or collectively, they furnish sufficient grounds for their condemnation.
In the first piece they did not call the House together soon enough. I did not understand the hon. mover of the amendment to say that this was a cause of loss to the country at large, but rather a source of inconvenience to the members of the House, by keeping these from the rural districts from their farming labors. Now if the hon. mover and his supporters will unite in expediting the business of the session, and abstain from all factious opposition, I think this inconvenience may be in a great degree remedied. Besides, I think that this charge comes with ill-grace from the hon. member, acting in concert with the members of the late Government, who dissolved the late House, brought on an election in this very month, and forced the Legislature to be called together at is much later season than the present session was called. The intermission has been two months shorter than is ordinarily the case.
In Nova Scotia, which is much more exclusively a farming country, the session has but commenced; and in Canada, where they do rather more farming than in New Brunswick, the session will be still a month later.
But I presume that the hon. mover seen this matter in a very different light, when applied to his friends the Hon. Messrs. Galt and Tupper, from its application to the Hon. Mr. Smith.
But they have not filled up the offices of Solicitor General and Auditor General. I am perfectly willing that they shall leave the offices of Solicitor General unfilled for ever. I do not think the country will suffer any less in money or otherwise by this course, and I have always been of the opinion that in this small Province, with a Legislature of but forty-one members, we have entirely too many departmental officers on the floor of this House.
But the hon. members say the office of Auditor General is a part of our Constitution. It does not seem to be a very important part. According to the account of the hon. member, we are indebted for its introduction into our Constitution to a despatch of Lord Glenelg in 1837. Nevertheless, the suggestions of that despatch were not carried off until the appointment of Mr. Partelow in 1854.
Where was the great constitutional leader of the Opposition during all these seventeen years. When the office was filled, was it not notorious that it was done almost solely for the purpose of making provision for the gentleman who received the appointment.
During the last four years, when through blindness and other afflictions, that gentlemen was incapacitated from attending to its duties, where was our great constitutionalist? Should sympathy stand in the way of great constitutional principles and the pecuniary safety of the Province, which the hon. mover says are all involved in the appointment of a suitable man to fill this office.
I believe that the great constitutional part of this subject is great political humbug and clap-trap. I think that the auditing of the accounts can be as well and as safely done by the gentleman now occupying the Audit Office, or in connection with the Secretary’s Office, as by the appointment of an Auditor General. At all events, I am willing to leave the decision of this matter to the gentlemen composing the Government of the country, satisfied that if the interests of the country require the office to be filled up, it will not be left vacant.
With regard to the land sales, that point has been made a political canvass of outside of the walls of this House, but has been dwelt upon much more lightly here. The standing tirades of the newspapers would scarcely bear transplanting to this Assembly.
For my own part, I am satisfied the Province could well afford to make Mr. Gibson a present of that land, rather than not have his great business carried on—a business which is supplying from that single stream one-sixth of the lumber shipped from the River St. John—a business which has caused a permanent investment of $100,000, and which has given employment to nearly a thousand men and five hundred horses during the past winter. I may here narrate an incident, showing how the investment of capital is encouraged in the State of Maine. A company wished to build a factory It a small village called Lisbon, in the State of Maine. They applied to the Legislature for exemption from taxes for a term of ten or twenty years. The Legislature passed the Bill, and where a year ago an alder swamp stood by the side of a brook, now stands a factory and boarding houses built at an expense of $100,000, giving employment to 200 operatives, and turning out $600,000 worth of manufactured goods. Was it not better for Maine by granting this privilege, to secure so much […]
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[…] employment for her people and additional wealth to the State? My own opinion is that it would be for the interest of New Brunswick to sell her timber lands to all who may wish to purchase them: and I am ready, at any future time, to go into this matter at length, but it has not a direct bearing upon the present subject of debate sufficient to require me to dwell upon it now.
The lapse of the export duty was undoubtedly an omission, and one for which the Government must he held responsible. It was the duty of the late Attorney General, Mr. Allen, to examine the laws to see what renewals may be necessary, and although we know that he was a most careful and painstaking man, by some oversight this escaped him. For this we can scarcely blame the Hon. Mr. Smith or the Hon. Mr. Gillmor very severely, nor yet any member of the present Government and I do not feel that it affords sufficient grounds to justify a vote of Want of Confidence. I was a little surprised at one statement made by the hon. member from York (Mr. Fisher), that if the British troops were sent to guard the frontier, they would all desert.
It appears to me that it ill becomes that ultra loyal member to make so sweeping a charge against the soldiers of his country.
I am aware that this expression does not amount to much, but if it had been made by a supporter of the Government how it would have been heralded through the newspapers as an evidence of our disloyalty and sympathy with treason and Fenianism.
Again, the charge is made that the Government introduced politics into the Bench. Not until the Bench had introduced politics into the Court Room, the public resort and the polling booth. Could Judge Wilmot expect preferment from the hands of a Government whom be continually denounced? From the leaders of a party whose principles he professed to despise and abhor? I do not pretend to set in judgment upon his course of action—I do not pretend to decide upon his legal or moral right to set as an advocate of this scheme—as an opponent of this Government. But, I presume, that when he took his course he was willing to take also its responsibility. That he expected no preferment from this Government, and when he received none, I presume he made no complaint. And it appears to me that it is most undignified in the political friends of that gentleman to now come whining an complaining over the natural consequences of his own course of action.
The hon. member from York (Mr. Fisher) said that be was not ashamed of the way in which he got here. I presume that he thinks he obtained his seat for the County of York by straightforward and honorable means. If, on the platform and through the press a most unscrupulous misrepresentation of your opponents—if taking advantage of the Fenian cry to excite religious dissention and strife—if appeals to every sentiment of religious bigotry and prejudice—if the free use of money to corrupt the electors of the County—if all these are honorable means then his claim is a just one.
It is said that confederation has nothing to do with the subject of this debate; that there is no confederation in this amendment. Yes, Mr. Speaker, but there is much confederation under it.
This motion—this attack upon the Government is but a part and a continuation of the plan of action for upsetting this Government and carrying the Quebec Scheme, which has been is operation since the close of last session. And none know this better than the hon. members, who, elected as anti-Confederates, are now playing into the hands of the Opposition. False to their principles, recreant to their professions, professions, they now seek to stab the very party upon whose shoulders they were borne into power as members of this Legislature.
The hon. member from York said that this Government were as low in public estimation as it was possible for men to become. If this is not true, as I hold it is not; it is not owing to any want of effort on the part of the party-to which that gentleman belongs. And what means have they used? Means the most unfair and dishonorable. But here I wish to make exception of many members of the Confederate party. Both on the floor of this House and throughout the country, there are many who are honorable men, and who would seek ro carry their views by fair and honorable means alone. Such men we honor and respect though we differ from them. If they can carry confederation on the Quebec Scheme, or any other, in this Province by fair arguments, we shall have no right to complain. The minority must submit to the majority.
Reference has been made to the lectures of the Hon. Mr. Tilley throughout the country. I can only say that I heard him in my own place, and that his address there was in perfect good taste. He confined himself entirely to the subject of Confederation, and made no allusion whatever to the Government or any of its members. I conceive Mr. Tilley has a perfect right to present his views to the country in this manner; and were these the means adopted by the advocates of the Confederation—fair argument on the platform and through the press—it would be for us to meet them in like manner, and, if beaten before the people, to submit like men to the inevitable. But such have not been the only means. This Government has not been the best but the worst abused Government that this Province has ever seen. Through the columns of a most unscrupulous press, the people have been told that they were traitors to their country, insulters of their Queen; that they were dishonorable, incapable and ignorant. The whole vocabulary of Billingsgate has been heaped upon their heads. Articles most unfair, most disgraceful, most indecent, have been scattered broadcast through the country. I have said this attack upon the Government is but one part of the campaign. The course of the newspapers, the agencies employed to carry the York election, the lectures of Mr. Tilley, this want of confidence motion, are but continuous parts of the plan to upset this Government and carry the Quebec Scheme. If the present motion should succeed, what would be the result? Either the control of the Government will pass into the hands of the Opposition, and this scheme of Confederation rejected by the people, would be by some policy forced upon us, or a dissolution of this House would be brought to pass, and the scheme, unchanged, would again be urged upon the people. What the result of this would be we know not; what means would be used, what agencies employed, we can judge from the past. The attention of the people would be diverted from the main point by all kinds of side issues. Every set of this Government, of omission or of the commission, would be magnified, distorted, misrepresented; every engine of falsification and abuse would be employed. Again the religious cry would be raised; every sentiment of bigotry and intolerance would be appealed to. Where these means would not suffice, bribery would seek to buy up the people like sheep. More people have been cheated out of their liberties than ever lost them by violence. And supposing Confederation carried by such means, what would be the result? A large minority left with the most bitter feelings of indignation and wrong. A great body of the people, who, when the excitement of passion had passed away, would feel that they have been misled and deceived. Many of the now warmest advocates of Confederation, who would think that they were cheated, either by the promised Railway not being built, or by its being built elsewhere than where they expected. What would there be among all these but the seeds of future agitation and political strife?
I appeal to the honorable men in the Confederate party both here and throughout the country, if they are willing to have this scheme pressed upon the people by such means as have been hitherto adopted? Will they say that the end justifies the means? I quote from one of the first, writers of England:
“Let no man turn aside ever so slightly from the broad paths of honor on the plausible pretence that he is justified by the goodness of his end. All good ends can be worked out by good means. Those that cannot are bad, and may be counted so at once and left alone.”
It is said that we should accept confederation because it is the wish of the British Government. Now, while we would pay every deference to the opinion of the British Government, we may justly claim for ourselves, as a free people, living under free institutions, the right to decide for ourselves upon a question affecting our own interests and interests of our Province for all time to come. This country belongs to its own people—it is they who have cleared its farms and built its villagers and towns—and it is they and their children who are to be affected for weal or woe by any great political change. We are told that we should not resist confederation, because three-fourths of British America are in favor of it. As well may France say to Belgium, we are lying side by side, and our interests requires your annexation, you may be opposed to it, but all France is in favor of it, and we have more than three-fourths of the united population. As well may the United States say to the British Colonies, we have thirty millions of people unanimously desire you annexation, though you are all against it, nine-tenths of all North America are in favor of it, and you must come in. I have not considered the question of confederation, or the merits or demerits of the Quebec Scheme as directly involved in the present question. And I have only touched upon the means adopted to bring it about, inasmuch as the present attack upon the Government is one of those means.
The weakness of the points of attack and charges against the Government is […]
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[…] shown by the speech of the hon. member from Albert (Mr. McClellan). For that gentleman, with his clear head and great ability, has utterly failed to show any substantial grounds of complaint against them.
He has taken up the time of the House by talking about mere rumors—by reading handbills of the York election of six months ago—by talking about the removal of officials on account of their political opinions, a charge which he knows in his heart to be utterly unfounded—by reading trash from a newspaper about a Dorchester Scheme, which he knows to have never had an existence except in the brain of some of his fellow Confederates: and finally coming to the land matter, he makes the 15,000 acres dwindle down to a paltry twenty-seven acres, and then acknowledges that there is no point in that.
It is charged that the members of the Government have been actuated by a desire to obtain and retain their offices. I well remember how unwilling the Secretary was to accept his present office. I know that nothing but his strong desire to strengthen the hands of that party, in whose success he believed the best interests of the country involved, could have induced him to leave a business of far more value to him than any Government office—to sacrifice his own private interest and become a target for misrepresentation, ridicule and abuse.
And what politician of this country can point to so proud a record as the Hon. Attorney General. Twice he has refused the highest offices in the land. The offices of Judge and of Chief Justice. Offices which every man of his profession looks forward to as the highest objects of their ambition. And he has refused them because he would not sacrifice the best interests of his country to his own private advancement. And no man in this Province to-day stands so high in the esteem and affections of the people as does the Hon. Albert J. Smith.
This debate has been prolonged until it has become wearisome, and the life is out of it, and I will not take up the time of the House longer.
But from what I have said it may easily be inferred that I shall vote against the amendment.
Mr. Wetmore.—I was elected an anti-Confederate, and I am free to state that I consider it my bounden duty to vote against Confederation in all its moods and tenses. I am also in duty bound to vote against a class of men who, without venturing to state what propositions they intend to bring down, tamper with the best interests of the country. When I find them submitting to some power and influence which they dare not resist; when I hear rumors of resignations; when I hear of arguments and inducements held out to prevent the insertion of certain measures in the Speech, and then quietly submit to it; when they will not give information in regard to the views they entertain, I ask if it is not the duty of those gentlemen to tell the people of the country what is the meaning of that paragraph concerning Confederation in the Speech. I think if we sustain the Government on the present occasion, the people and the House will find they will have the Quebec Scheme upon them in all its horrors. My hon. friend (Mr. Smith) may laugh; how comes it then in that speech. It may be that the Government will screen themselves, and say they are not responsible. I hold that constitutionally what ever is put in the Speech the Government have to take the responsibility of, and not one word should be introduced into it which they are not fully prepared to explain. Was it anything unreasonable to put a question to the Attorney General, and was it fair to the people of the country that information should be withheld? Far be it from me to take any step which would bring Confederation upon the country at the present time. I consider it my duty to vote against it. I believe we are nearer Confederation under the present Speech than you think of. If that was not so, why do they withhold information. The Government are in an unpleasant position, for they dare not fill their offices or open a constituency. When the people, in the exercise of their discretion upon Confederation, gave a judgment, showing no disposition to accept the Scheme. I think they wanted no paltry saving of a few pounds when they armed those anti-Confederates with power to form a Government that would have been respected in the country, the adjoining Colonies and the United States. What did they do? The Attorney General said he wanted no office, but the first thing he did was to create an office of dignity for himself. Some men like money, and some like dignity. “Some like apples and some like onions.” At the time the Government was formed, it was known that Mr. Allen was to be appointed Judge, and that Sir James Carter, who was then in office, was going to resign. Where then was the need of Mr. Allen’s running an election to fill that office, if there was not a design of keeping it for some other person. The present Attorney General had re fused to take office on the platform in St. John, and just at that time it was a very convenient thing for a man to have an enormous amount of patriotism and a disinclination to accept honor or money, but when the game is well played, and there is a chance for office, the great disinclination that existed before ceases to exist. It may be that it was a very convenient thing for my hon. friend (Mr. S.) that Mr. Allan should take the office for a little while, and put the country to the expense of holding an election, in order to reserve that office for him. He had already created an office for himself, which was the next highest to the Governor, and when the office of Attorney General became vacant, he was very quietly installed into it. He said he would never take an office unless the political exigencies of the country required it. (Mr. Smith.—I said unless the political exigencies of the party required it.)
In reference to forming the Government, I think this country did not want any small business about it. The office of Solicitor General should have been filled up. According to the Constitution of the country, there are nine members of the Government. Of those members the Attorney General is one, and the Solicitor General is another. Why was not this office filled up? There was no lack of strength or support at the last election. They say it is a saving. How much will they save when they get their bills paid up? It may be very convenient to chuck a bone to this one and that one, but is that a dignified way to conduct a public office? Will the people of this country be disposed to sustain this system of bribery and corruption? I am satisfied they will not, when they get an opportunity of expressing their opinion. They dare not open a constituency in St. John, where, at the last election, a most popular man was defeated. I refer to the leader of the former Government, a man of great strength, undoubted talent, and unquestionable integrity. The hon. member from St. John (Mr. Wilmot) would not take an office because he was not going into a one-man Government, who was politically inferior in every point of view. He was not disposed to go there unless armed with strength and position, which would give him influence in the councils of his country to which his standing entitled him. It has been said that they were afraid to open a constituency, when they had an enormous majority of the people of the country to sustain them. If that is the case, are they the men to conduct the affairs of this country in the present perilous time. I am satisfied the people of this country do not want political cowards to look after their interests. They want men of strength who are not afraid to express their views or appeal to the people. It was stated last session that it was necessary to send a delegation home, because an influence was brought to bear from Downing Street directly opposed to our views on Confederation. I voted for that delegation, but I could not have been induced to vote for it, had I known of the dispatch which was in possession of the Government. Was it fair to ask us to send that delegation home without giving us that dispatch? It was told us that the House was going to be dissolved, and we were going to have Confederation crammed down our throats, and it was necessary to send a delegation home immediately. Not many years ago, there was an outcry raised because mutilated dispatches were sent down to the House. The Government said they had sent back such parts as contained state secrets No man at that time raised his voice more patriotically than my hon. friend (Mr. S.) did on that occasion. Now he withholds a dispatch that would have obviated the necessity of sending a delegation home to England. The matter of that dispatch should have been before the House of Assembly, and a respectful address should have been sent, instead of one or two persons. Their views might have altered to a certain extent, were they to express the opinions of my constituents. What did that delegation do in England? They have not informed us. My own impression is, by the way they conducted themselves since their return home, that it was an abortion. What authority had they to send two delegates home? If they had sent but one they would have saved a large amount of money to the country quite as much as they profess to have saved through the non-appointment of a Solicitor General. It has been said that they entered into a railway contract with the “International Contract Company,” but it has been assented that no delegation was required for this purpose as a paper had been filed in the Provincial Secretary’s office, showing that a proposition had been made by the International Contract Company to build the road under the existing Subsidy Act, an answer was given them, and they were prepared to build the road, provided an arrangement was made to build the Nova Scotia line. The delegates were not sent home to make any arrangements concerning this matter at all. What authority had he to pledge the credit of the country to pay all land damages where they exceeded £50 a mile, or are they going to bring another ex post facto law to legalise it. These land damages, for which the […]
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[…] credit of this country is pledged, may be £500 a mile. Is that the way the business of this country is to be conducted? By what authority does he take charge of the revenues of this country? Suppose you sent home an agent and he pledged your credit without your authority, would you have confidence in him? How then can you have confidence in a Government which has acted in the same way. There is another matter in reference to the Governor’s salary. An outcry was raised in 1864 and a resolution was moved by the present Attorney General, fixing the Governor’s salary at a certain amount. On this question he exerted all his energies to defeat the Government. He must have cared for his office then, for he could have had no object in reducing the Governor’s salary. as he allows the same amount to be drawn as heretofore. ( Mr. Smith—it is paid back.) he should have taken a manly position, and told the Governor that this money should not be drawn. If it was he would resign his situation. Instead of this it has been a continual giving in. First they swallow one thing and then another, and the next thing they will swallow will be confederation.
Hon. Mr. Smith made some explanation regarding the Governor’s salary, after which the debate was adjourned.
Mr. Wetmore to resume at 11 o’clock tomorrow.
The House was adjourned until the usual hour.