New Brunswick, House of Assembly, Debates of the House of Assembly [Resolutions on the Union Delegation] (4 July 1866)

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Date: 1866-07-04
By: New Brunswick (House of Assembly)
Citation: New Brunswick, House of Assembly, Reports of the Debates of The House of Assembly [1866] at 74-76.
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Wednesday, July 4.

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Mr. Lindsay said he thought it was not right that delegates should be bound down in their action by any restrictions laid upon them by this House

Mr. Smith rose to close the debate and said:

I had some anticipation that some amendment would be offered by the Government to the resolution I laid before this House, but I had no thought that they would have moved such an amendment as they did. I always thought we were a deliberative Assembly, sent here by the people to exercise our judgments and intellects on all matters pertaining to the well-being of the people of this Province. But it appears the Government do not entertain such an opinion. They talk as though all the blessings which they predicted Confederation was to bring, had already been experienced. Rather than the course they have pursued, I think they should have come before this House, and said “the country have determined to try the experiment of Union” and explained the course they intended to follow, so that hon. members might bring their powers of mind to bear upon the subject, and suggest such modifications and alterations as to them was deemed necessary. Instead of this they are shrouding their conduct in mystery and concealment. When I asked the Attorney General if it was the intention of the Government to confederate New Brunswick and Canada if Nova Scotia decided not to come in, the required information was concealed. They bring forward a resolution intimating that the Union is to include all the Provinces, yet refuse to say if they will agree to a Union of only two. The people of New Brunswick may be wiling to go into a Union with all the Provinces, while they would not agree that this Province should unite with Canada alone. I do not believe the Government are justified in pursuing such a mysterious course, nor that hon. members will do justice to their constituents if they vote for the amendment.

Mr. Smith then referred to a misunderstanding which had arisen with regard to the working of Hon. Mr. Fisher’s Amendment, and then proceeded:

In the Amendment made by the Government they make the declaration that hon. members of this House are not here to deliberate on the terms of Union, but simply to clothe with unlimited power the delegates who may be sent on this mission; that they will not admit of opinions being expressed by those whom the people have sent to speak for them. I ask the House if they are willing to ignore their functions, to shirk all the responsibility and place it on the shoulders of the Government? I repudiate any such doctrine that in a case like this, when the changing of the Constitution is contemplated, that the people’s representatives should take no responsibility. All the responsibility of the acts of the Government will rest upon them and the people. I think hon. members had better pause, for notwithstanding the doctrine here laid down by the Government, the result, if disastrous, will rest with them, and the people will call them to account for it. It does not seem to me that it is not possible there can be a majority of the members of this House willing to stultify themselves and ignore their functions, and do nothing more on this great question than to appoint delegates with power to change the Constitution of this Province without their having a voice in the matter. The hon. member for Northumberland ( Mr. Johnson) told us that Mr. Galt contemplated reducing the taxes in Canada. Does he? I’d show that he contemplates greatly increasing them Mr. Galt himself admitted in his speech in the Canadian Parliament that they are in such financial difficulty that he should call upon them to give the Government power to issue five million dollars of Treasury notes. The duties they now pay in Canada are much higher than with us, and although Mr. Galt says that that would probably be their last Session, yet before Confederation is accomplished, he is compelled to raise the duties on various articles to meet their present emergencies. I hold in my hand a report of Mr. Galt’s speech when presenting his financial statement, and I will read what he says, as also the remarks of Mr. Geo. Brown on the course pursued by the Government. The Provincial Secretary (Mr. Tillney) had told us that in Canada they had an excise duty of thirty cents a gallon on whiskey. Does he know that it is now intended to raise that to sixty cents, and under Confederation we will have to pay that amount. The people of Canada want more money than they have, and even now they are paying eight per cent. for it. Their finances are in a very bad state.

Mr. Galt says ( I shall merely read a few extracts from his speech):—

“This year the financial statement included the expense of the election of Legislative Councillors last fall, but it was not likely that this Parliament would ever have to provide means for another General Election.”

For Militia he would not ask for $50,000 as usual, but “he wished to be empowered to spend a sum no less than $1,500,000.” And then he goes on to specify the articles upon which a higher duty must be paid. “It would be his duty to increase the excise duty on spirits from thirty to sixty cents.””On Indian corn, coarse grains, &c., imported from the United States, there would be a duty of ten cents a bushel. On flour the duty would be fifty cents a barrel.” “On tea the Government proposed adding to the specific duty three cents a pound, making the duty on tea as nearly as possible twelve or twelve and a half cents a pound, instead of nine cents as heretofore.” There is also to be a change in the duty on molasses. It is put down at $1 per gallon, […]

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[…] but that I presume must be a mistake. I take it, it is meant to put a duty of $1 for every 100 pounds. So then we are to have a duty on flour, a charge which I have always resisted. This is intended to prevent our importing from the States and compel us to use the grain and flour of Canada. Free ports are to be abolished, and then twelve and a half cents is a pretty heavy duty to pay on a pound of tea. I ask if these changes are made when the Parliament of Canada are not expected to meet again, shall we pay less when we are united with her?

Hon. Mr. Tilley—Yes.

Mr. Smith—He says yes, but it is know that the expenses of the General Government will be very great, and that on this account the taxes must largely increase. The people here us more tea in proportion they do in Canada, and this item is but a forerunner of what must follow. Even with their present duty on molasses we should have to pay $10,000 more for the quantity we use than we do now, and even this is to be increased. And then at last he goes on to say the Government will issue $3,000,000 of legal tender notes to meet the immediate requirements of the country. And yet we are told that they have a surplus of funds. It is evident they are driven to the last extremity to met their liabilities. The power and influence of Canada is felt in this country even now. I felt it in the late Government. It seems incredible, yet it is a fact that they attempted to influence the time of the meeting of our Legislature, and I believe that the Secretary is under the influence which the Canadians wield.

Now hear what Mr. George Brown says:

“Hon. Mr. BROWN regretted that the hon. gentleman had made such a speech as he had done at the present juncture. This was certainly a very bad time to make such propositions as he had laid down in the Budget. He ventured t say that when that Scheme (that is the financial statement of Mr. Galt) went before the country it would produce the wildest commotion. He was greatly surprised at the magnitude of the expenditure. The hon. Finance Minister had stated that he would not have submitted the Scheme now had he thought it would throw and obstacles in the way of Confederation. He (Mr. Brown) certainly considered it most unfortunate that such a thing had been done on the eve of the consummation of the Union of the Provinces. The Scheme in many important particulars was bad. He considered that taking off a tax and putting on another was a way of robbing Peter to pay Paul. So far from mending matters they had been made worse. He (Mr. B.) intended to meet the proposition at length at another time. He held that the Scheme of the hon. Finance Minister would throw the country into political commotion which the Government had been formed to set at rest, and that putting forward such propositions at this time was little short of madness. By this, too, no one would say that the House would rise for months to come.”

Now these are the remarks of George Brown, one of the Quebec Schemers. You see he says that there is no knowing that the House will rise for months to come. At the opening of the present session the members of the Government were terribly anxious to bring on the business, and get the delegates appointed. I believe they intended to have sailed by the steamer that sails from Halifax tomorrow. But now there seems to be some hitch, they don’t seem to mind how long the session lasts.

Hon. Mr. Tilley.Our lives are not a burden to us at any rate.

Mr. Smith.Then they ought to be. I put it to him if he was not in collusion with the Governor, and assisted the backstairs Government in undermining the late administration. Mr. Speaker, at that time we were like a man surrounded by enemies, who did not know which way to move lest he should be endangering his life. We were surrounded by an unscrupulous Opposition, and by secret influences which were at work to overthrow us, and at that time I did feel that life was a burden. But I would ask the Provincial Secretary if he approves of the actions of the Governor? Last winter was spent by him in looking after politics; day after day he was in this House watching the proceedings, and he seemed to have little else to do. I say if he thinks the course pursued, the wily influences used by this backstair’s Government, this Talleyrandism, right, then his life ought to be a burden to him.

His Honor the Speaker asked Mr. Smith to confine his remarks to the subject before the House as much as possible.

Mr. Smith.It seems, Mr. Speaker, that hon. members of the Government may be allowed to go out of their way to make attacks on us, but I am to be strictly confined to the bare subject in hand.

His Honor the Speaker hoped the hon. member would not think that he would not act as justly and impartially with him as with any other member of the House.

Mr. Smith.I should be sorry to think, Mr. Speaker, that any such course would be adopted, but the hon. Attorney General was permitted to wander away into the action of the late Government, yet I am not to be allowed to reply to the charges he put forth.

Mr. Wetmore.I rise to a point of order. The hon. member for Westmorland has stated that the Opposition in the last House was unscrupulous. Now I was in the Opposition last session. I beg to say that my opposition to them was neither factious nor unscrupulous, but the fact was the Opposition had an unscrupulous Government to deal with.

Mr. Smith.There it is. The hon. member for St. John takes great umbrage at my speaking of the late Opposition as unscrupulous, but does not hesitate to speak of the late Government in the same terms.

Mr. Wetmore.You first made use of the expression, and I certainly had a right to return the compliment.

Mr. Smith.I have challenged the Secretary, and I do so again, to show that the late Government were unconstitutional in any of their acts, or that they were guilty of mal-practice or mal-administration. To return, I was reading the financial statement of Mr. Galt, to show that the fiscal condition of Canada is very bad. Now I will refer to the constitutional part of the question. The hon. member for Northumberland (Mr. Johnson) in his speech yesterday said, and he read largely from a book, to show that the people of the United States were not appealed to in the preparing of their Constitution. But let us look into the matter, and first see the care taken in the organization of a State. I shall quote from the same work as he did,

“When a new State is proposed to be organized, the people elect delegates to a Convention, for the purpose of framing a Constitution. After that instrument has been adopted in Convention, it is submitted to the vote of the people, and, on ballot, they declare ‘for the Constitution,’ or ‘against the Constitution.’ If the affirmative receive a majority of votes, it is adopted; if the majority vote for the negative, the Constitution is rejected. Whenever the people desire it, another Convention is called. In the old States it is difficult to effect a revision of that instrument.”

It is usual for the Legislature to pass a law to take the vote of the people whether or not a Convention shall be authorized to meet for the purpose of revising the Constitution. The people ballot directly upon the question“For a Convention,” “against a Convention.” If carried in the affirmative, the next Session of the Legislature passes a law authorizing a Convention to be convened, and its members to be elected. The delegates are then elected and the Convention assembles according to law, and proceed to revise the Constitution. This body sometimes continues in session several weeks. When the revised instrument has been completed the Convention orders its submission to the vote of the people, and then adjourns. The people cast their ballots either “for the Constitution” or “against the Constitution.” If adopted, a new Government is organised, but if rejected and the effort to change the Government has failed, the old Constitution is continued in force.

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These proceedings, namely, the passing of the Bill by the Legislature, and the taking of the vote of the people whether or not a Convention shall be convened; the passing of the Bill for the election of the delegates and the other formalities alluded to, occupy some four or five years.”

“The sovereign power of a State is derived from the people.” But here they take the ground that the General Government is the fountain of all power, and sends out her little streams to the local Legislature, thus reverting the idea of the United States. Now let me show you that they did appeal to the people to ratify what they had done in Convention. “The Convention continued in session four months, and on the 17th day of September, 1787, the following organic instrument was adopted.” Then follows the Constitution signed by George WashingtonThis Constitution was reported to the Congress; and from that body was sent to the respective States for ratification, in accordance with proceedings of the Convention.” The Resolution of Congress passed on the 28th September, 1787, was as follows:

Resolved unanimouslyThat the Report of the Convention be transmitted to the several Legislatures, in order to be submitted to a Convention of delegates chosen in each State by the people thereof, in conformity to the resolves of the Convention made and provided in that case.”

Here the Convention showed proper respect for the rights of the people. I have gone into the subject more than I intended at first. The House will probably vote for the Amendment, taking from us the right of expressing our opinions on the subject of Union. The Resolutions I submitted are surely reasonable. There is one point on which I think none can take exception to, and that is that these Lower Provinces shall have at least one member each in the Executive Council of the General Parliament, to secure the rights and interests of their own people for all time to come. This I hold should be put in the Scheme, for in a written Constitution it is necessary that every point should be well defined as the management of affairs will necessarily be in strict accordance with the letter of the Constitution. Canada will form the all-powerful part of the Confederation, and we ask for the appointment of one of our members to the Executive; and let it be as a right, as part of the great Magna Charter, and not be humiliated to ask it as a favour from Upper Canada. I think, too, that the Inter-colonial railway should be bona fide commenced before the General Government should have the right to tax us for its construction. No arrangement, I fear, will be made by which they will be able to proceed except by taxing us, unless their hand it stayed. I believe the first Session of the General Parliament we shall have the Stamp duties fixed upon us. We shall also have a tax put upon newspapers. 12 1/2 cents a pound on tea, a tax on flour, and a heavy export duty on our lumber. Then the only means to take to secure the building of the Inter-colonial railroad is by preventing these burdens being placed upon us till the work is underway. The putting in of this provision will not affect Confederation at all, it will only secure us if it is put in. Mr. Galt expresses the opinion that soon we shall be entirely separated from England. He expects to see us a great nationality on this Continent, friendly to England, but yielding her no allegiance. This is I am opposed to I want to see no separation from the Mother Country. I think the Resolutions I have offered deserve the support of this House. If hon. members are willing to yield up their right of opinion they will of course vote for the Amendment, but if not they must support the Resolutions.

The House then divided on the Amendment. AyesHon. Mr. Tilley, Hon. Mr. Fischer, Hon. Mr. Williston, Hon. Mr. McClellan, Hon. Mr. McMillan, Hon. Mr. Wilmot, Hon. Mr. Connell, Mr. Lindsay, Mr. Perley, Mr. McAdam, Mr. Ryan, Mr. Babbit, Mr. Ferris, Mr. J. Flewwelling, Mr. Glazier, Mr. Wetmore, Mr. Quinton, Mr. DesBrisay, Mr. Thompson, Mr. Beckwith, Mr. Chandler, Mr. Beveridge, Mr. Sutton, Mr. Kerr, Mr. DAvis, Mr. Stevens, Mr, Hibbard, Mr. Skinner, Mr. Johnson, and Dr. Dow30.

NaysMr. Smith, Mr. Young, Mr. Caie, Mr. Botsford, Mr. McQueen, Mr. Meehan, Mr. McInerny, and Mr. Landry8.

Messrs. W.P. Flewelling and Herbert were absent.

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