New Brunswick, House of Assembly, Debates of the House of Assembly [The Address in Answer to the Speech. Mr. Fisher’s Amendment] (14 March 1866)


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Date: 1866-03-14
By: New Brunswick (House of Assembly)
Citation: New Brunswick, House of Assembly, Reports of the Debates of The House of Assembly [1866] at 17-19.
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HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY.

Wednesday, March 14th.

[…]

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THE ADDRESS IN ANSWER TO THE SPEECH. MR FISHER’S AMENDMENT TO THE FOURTH PARAGRAPH.

Hon. Mr. Smith resumed—The House listened to me yesterday about an hour on this “Bill of Indictment.” I hope the indulgence of the House will be extended to me for a short time, for I will be as brief as the consideration of what is due to myself and the Government of which I am a member, will allow. The House, in passing the Bill which has just been passed, do nothing to justify the Government. They did not introduce that Bill in this hurried way to attempt to relieve themselves of that responsibility, that censure, if they were entitled to censure, that odium, if it ought to fall upon them for this unfortunate occurrence. We are prepared to take all the responsibility of our conduct. After we have offered an explanation to the House, we stand prepared to receive their decision. I hope I shall not fall into the same error which the hon. mover of the amendment did yesterday; that is, he simply gave a re-hash of what he said the day before. It is well known that the election which took place last winter was one of the most anxious active conflicts which has ever taken place in this country. The issue was of more importance than any other issue that has ever been brought before the people. I complain that the dissolution of the House upon the question of Confederation, last winter, was an act of tyranny perpetrated by the advisers of His Excellency. That question had never been brought forward for the consideration of the people—never been discussed before Parliament, and according to the Constitution thee people are here by their representatives. The whole country was convulsed by this election, which took place in midwinter, and involved in its results the independence, the rights and liberties of the people, which were to be surrendered up by the Government to the rule of men of Canada. The dissolution was an act of base injustice to the people, as many of them were engaged during the winter session in lumbering operations. In the County of Charlotte a considerable portion of the population were far away in the wilderness engaged in that employment, and it was impossible for these people to be at the polls. If the day had happened to have been stormy, the aged people won, by their industry, have made this country what it is, would have had no opportunity of going to the polls, as many of them had to travel twenty or thirty miles, and giving their vote upon this great question. At the election the people told the Government in a voice that could not be misunderstood, that they had forfeited the confidence of the people, and they had to tender their resignation to His Excellency, and a new Government was formed the 1st day of April, and then some of the members had to return to their constituents for re-election. Some of them were returned only one or two days before the House met, and they had scarcely met forty-eight hours before complaint were made that we had submitted no measures. I appealed to the justice of this House, and the reply was that we could not be expected to have measures prepared at so short a notice. We all know that the Provincial Secretary, though he had been for some time in political life, was experienced, and had no time to prepare to meet the Legislature, as he was only here two days before the House me, which gave him a very short time to prepare the estimates. We were compelled to call the House together at a time when it was inconvenient for the members to leave their homes, and were anxious to return. Those are the circumstances under which the Government was formed, and I think they justify us in calling for an indulgent consideration and sympathy in view of those circumstances. It was the duty of the Attorney General, now Judge Aller, to see what laws were expiring, but he was pressed very much by the duties which devolved upon him, and this Act escaped his notice. We have no desire to shrink from the responsibility, for we are all liable for whatever act is committed by any one member. We all know that it is human to err, but “it is divine to forgive.” I was surprised to see the malicious joy, the delight, which seemed to beam from the countenance of the learned mover of the amendment, when he stated this oversight. I do not imagine he embraces all the learning and policy in the country. I do not intend to use the language which he did, which I consider to be insulting. Was it right for him to evince a satisfaction yesterday when he thought this country would be thrown into confusion? He pretended he could not make up his mind regarding this law, retrospective in its operation, when he has known the circumstance for weeks. How different the conduct of the hon. member for Kent, (Mr. Caie.) He rose and said he had paid $1200 into the revenue, and he made up his mind at once in favor of the Bill, although the first he knew of it was last night. He was ready to render assistance that would preclude him from getting that money back. It is the privilege of any member to move a want of confidence in the Government; but I think it is the duty of every hon. member here to watch narrowly and look closely into the motives of the men who seek to oust the Government, and see whether they are animated by a spirit of patriotism or not; whether it is the good of the country they are seeking, or their own aggrandizement. When the hon. member boasts of the way in which he was returned to this House, without ever leaving his office, for the people rose omnipotent in their power to place him here, we know something of the agencies employed to bring him here. An attack was made upon me; it was represented to the people of the County of York that I was their enemy, that I was anxious to remove the seat of Government. In corroboration of that it was said, he has taken the Post Office away, and that is the first step towards removing the seat of Government. It was told them at the last general election, that by going for Confederation they would forever secure the seat of Government at Fredericton. I will ask whether, in debating a question of so much importance to the people, it was proper and right to bring forward this argument: “If you do not go into Confederation, the seat of Government is in peril.” This great question should be discussed on broad principles, and reasons given why a charge in our condition would be for our good. We find the advocates of the Quebec scheme saying, it is a beautiful scheme, there is no darkness upon it all, and there are no reasons in the world why you should not go into Confederation. We were told by the hon. mover of the Amendment that he made certain objections to this scheme of Confederation in Quebec—that there were exceptions to it which he thought was not right. Did they tell the people that there were exceptions to the scheme and they wanted to submit those exceptions to them? Did they say, do not go into this Union until you have fully considered it? No. Everything was said in favor of it. It seemed they entered upon this contest as paid lawyers advocating the interests of their clients all on one side without looking at the other at all. If the hon. mover of the Amendment was seeking the benefit of the country, he would give us fair play; that is all we ask. Give the Secretary an opportunity of presenting his accounts to the House and I do not hesitate to say they will be presented in a way that will give satisfaction to the House, for he has made an improvement in the way in which the public accounts are kept. He can now show that the revenues are in a prosperous condition, and in consideration of his having been in the Legislature twelve years, and never held a seat in the Government, it would be no more than right that he should come before the House and show his account of what he […]

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[…] has done. A majority of the Press, for some reasons, are against us, and abusing us. We have men of character going about the country as lecturers prejudicing the minds of the people against us. The Press is stating that this Government has been guilty of fraud, and is carrying abuse and slander to every hamlet. We challenge them to prove it; and we challenge this House to put their finger upon an act of fraud, or an act of mal-administration, if they dare. Let us bring in our accounts before this House. We shrink from no responsibility, and we are glad to acknowledge our accountability to this House. We are told by my hon. friend that the Surveyor General has been here but a few days. The reason is, that affection for an indisposed daughter has called him to his home. It may be well for my learned friend, who resides at Fredericton upon the uncertain tenure of an office in the Government. My hon. friend had better wait and see whether my colleague has done his duty in that office, and not condemn him before you know what he has done. It is an attribute of a just Judge, that he does not condemn a man before he is heard. The hon. mover stands in that position, and he professes to be entirely unselfish, but I charge him with wishing to prejudge the Government. The Commissioner of the Board of Works has occupied that position for many years and is ready, at any time, to resign the office up to the people, and has done it; and he is prepared to show that he has discharged his duty too. I think we have been treated unfairly. My hon. friend has said many offensive things to us, which I will not to him. When he talks about mean, low, and decency, I do not wish to set that gentleman up as a standard of decency, propriety, and honesty. His conduct and my conduct are before the people of the country, and let them judge, for it is not for us to sound our own trumpets. A great part of his speech is made up in setting forth that our Government had made a tremendous attack upon Her Majesty, the Queen. I cannot tell whether a tear dropped from his eye or not. Something had been said by the Government. insulting to Her Majesty. He spoke of Her Majesty’s Ministers as if they were superior to the men of this country. I respect a man occupying a high position; but we must not forget, in our admiration for a great name and high sounding titles, that the holders of those titles are but men. I have, by the kindness of the people, been in communication with these men, and, while I paid them every respect, I never forgot that I was a man myself. A man is not a man who forgets himself, and will fall down and worship any man. In regard to this Minute of Council which, he says, is insulting to the Queen. When a man stands up in his place and charges the Government with deliberately insulting the Queen, we throw it back upon him. I can speak more freely about this, because I was no party to it. The Attorney General and myself were in England, where we first saw it, and we approved of every line in it, and told, at the office of the Colonial Secretary, that it met our entire approbation. I am prepared to take the responsibility of it. Mr. Smith then read the document, which was an answer to a despatch received from England, and which he said he did not see until it was answered.

In regard to the charge made against us of not having published the despatch. We were commanded to communicate it to the Legislature at their next meeting. We did not wait for the next meeting of the Legislature before communicating it to the public. I was surprised to hear the hon. gentleman charge this Government will not having given information. I should like to have him point out to me how many despatches had been given to the public when he was a member of the Government before the Legislature assembled. Despatch after despatch was was [sic] never communicated to the people at all. This despatch was written on the 24th of June, and published in July. This despatch was the opinion of Her Majesty’s Government upon the Union of the Colonies, and it was our duty to respectfully consider any opinion or suggestion emanating from so high a source, but at the same time we must not forget that we have a country here whose interests are not identical with those of England. I told Mr. Cardwell that the people of this country felt they were better able to judge this question than the people of England; we felt, with all the deference we had for their opinion, that we ourselves were more competent to judge in regard to this matter, for our people had grown up with the country, and we knew best what would promote our welfare. There is not a member of the Cabinet of England that has ever been to this country, and it is no disrespect for the people here to say they understand their own interests beat. Mr. Cardwell said the people of England favored the Scheme; we replied we had only found two persons outside the Government that had ever read the Scheme; and we attribute a great deal of the feeling of the people of England to the fact that they assume that after Confederation is carried they will be relieved from some of their taxes; but Mr. Cardwell was not prepared to admit that was the only reason for their opinion. Intelligent men out of the Government supposed that a Legislative Union, pure and simple, was contemplated, and they expressed astonishment that men could agree to such a Scheme as the one proposed. Mr. Cardwell himself acknowledged that there were many objections to the scheme; but said it was the best scheme which could be got now. We said we did not think it right to accept a thing we did not want, because it is the best thing that could be got; we wanted to be let alone. No man denied that it originated in the necessities of Canada. The people of this country have no right to be made subservient to the political necessities of Canada. If we could get a scheme of union upon such terms as are fair, end equitable, such terms as would be promotive of the welfare land prosperity of this country. I would be in favor of it, but I will not consent to ignore the prosperity of my country for the sake of relieving the political necessities of Canada. Mr. Cardwell said the scheme emanated from us. We said no. A delegation went to Canada, but we gave them no authority; and the people hurled them from power and repudiated the act. They rejected the scheme, therefore, it could not be said that it emanated from them. My hon friend has a great opinion of the Canadian politicians; but I can recollect the time when I tried to defend and vindicate the honor of Canadian statesmen when the were assailed by him, and were charged with being guilty of a violation of public faith. The Government had no more right to go to Canada and agree upon a scheme to change the Constitution than the Government of Great Britain has to go to France and barter away their Government. The people decided that they had proved recreant to their trust, and hurled them from power. The hon. gentleman talks about silent grumbling. I thought grumbling was a noise and not silent. He says silent grumbling was going on, and increasing in power, and would hurl this Government to the ground. When he says this House could not be dissolved if the Government were ousted. I do not say it will be, but I think the Governor has a right to appeal to the people under the Constitution. We are prepared to go before the people of this country and let them decide whether our administration has not been in accordance with their interests: and if they decide against us we will resume our occupations. We will not circle this country and hold meetings in every school-house. We are not professional politicians, and if I may be allowed to give my opinion my judgment is that the less professional politicians we have in this country the better for its welfare. It is put forth in the Times that not only the Cabinet are in favor of the scheme, but the whole united body of England; and thus this eroneous [sic] information is disseminated to the people of England. They suppose that the two Canadas are now about to be united for the first time, forgetting that they had formerly been under one Legislature. We are charged with being a Government of traitors, with no spirit of loyalty, that we are willing to submit ourselves to a man who is a notorious traitor; these are the sentiments put forward in the Times, and I ask whether these sentiments receive your approbation.

We wish to draw closer the ties which bind us to the Mother Country, although we are charged with being disloyal by those who take a different view of things to what we do. That is one of the agencies employed against us throughout the country; but I trust the intelligence of the people will resist any such delusion as that we are disloyal and want to weaken the ties that bind us to the Mother Country. We are not sympathizers with the Fenians, we are ready ready [sic] to defend our country firesides and homes. We are assailed for not adopting sufficient precautionary measures for our defence. We are prepared to lay down every available dollar for the defence of this country, for we expect to live and die here. Why should this loyalty and love of country be peculiar to the gentlemen who occupy the other bunches. We are as ready and willing to defend our country as they are; and I ask, why is it that this hon. mover of the amendment—in view of the circumstances existing now when we are in hourly expectation of danger seeks to throw the country into utter confusion by leaving it without a Parliament at all. One of the charges made against us was, that the Legislature was called together too late, and there was a […]

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[…] great sympathy expressed for the members of the rural districts. I have not heard a single gentleman complain that the House was not called together soon enough. In Canada it is not called until the 10th of April. In Prince Edward’s Island the 9th of April; in Nova Scotia ten days or a fortnight ago. He said he thought one man had stopped the whole Legislative power of the country. I was sent to Washington by my colleagues. Mr. Cudlip was invited to meet the delegates, who expected to meet at New York, but he could not go. I went to St. John. Mr. Wilmot was not there, and the Government agreed that I should go to Washington to meet the other delegates. We did not expect to how to go into an elaborate discussion of the Reciprocity Treaty at all. We went with a view of obtaining from the United States an extension of the Treaty for one year. When we got there we found a Treaty could not be made at all, for all Treaties made between the United States and other Governments requires the affirmation of the Senate, and does not require to be sent to the House of Representatives, for if they have power to make a commercial treaty they ignore the functions of that body. In the interchange of commodities it was desirable to have some arrangement made of a permanent character. They said whatever arrangements were made should be carried out by future legislation in all good faith. We. entered into negociations with them; the proposition made by us and their answer, hove been published. We felt we could not agree to their terms, in justice to our own people, and we therefore closed our negotiations. I shall not say anything further upon this point, as I may have an opportunity of explaining exactly what took place while I was there. It has been said that the interests of the people of this Province are not safe in calling the Legislature together at so late a period. It is very desirable to call the House together rather, later, for we know when the House breaks up before the River opens it makes it difficult for some of us to get home. Was it ever said by a member of a deliberative assembly before, that a Government should be ousted from power because they called the Legislature three weeks later than usual. There is a good substantial reason why this Legislature should not be called earlier. It was known that Canada was anxious that our Session should be called. Why did they not call their own; they have not had a Session for the last fifteen months, except a short Session, which was called last Spring to authorise a loan and impose an additional tax. When treaty with the United States had to be made by Legislation, was it not sufficient to justify the House in not meeting at the usual period, because, if we had made an arrangement with the United States Government it would require to be legislated upon by this Legislature. It has been brought against us that we brought forward no measure s last Session except the Military Bill. Where is the Treasury Note Bill, or the Post Office Bill? which has been put forward as a first step towards the removal of the seat of Government, but which was not thought of at all, it being merely to abolish the head of a department. It was not expected under the circumstances, that measures would be brought forward last Session, when it was the desire at the Government and every member of the House, to shorten the Session and get home as soon as possible.

My hon. friend says, we are entitled to condemnation because we brought in a Bill to abolish the office of Postmaster General, but the hon. members, fresh from their constituents, supported it thirty to nine. There is a feeling throughout the country that the office might be abolished without detriment to the public service, and in connection with this, he would state that Mr. Odell had discharged the duties of the office as efficiently as any gentleman had, since its creation. When the hon. gentleman had told the people of York that they were to be destroyed, did he tell them that when Mr. Wilmot and myself formed the Government they had not forgotten the interests of York? In the formation of the Government, they had selected one-third of the members from that County, viz: the hon. Commissioner Board of Works, the Attorney General, and the Postmaster General, who, being a member of the Upper House, filled one of the most important offices in the country, and being interested in the prosperity of the County of York. How dare they say to the people of this country that this Government were not going to give York fair play? How could they expect the seat of Government could be removed with one-third of the entire Government from the Country of York? I believe it was the fear of this, together with the agitation about Fenianism, that had an influence in the election; for I believe the people of this country are as much against the Quebec Scheme as ever. If you get a scheme that will provide for the interests of the people, I will go for it; but it is not in the four corners of that scheme to do it. My hon. friend says, the Quebec Scheme is in the Speech. It is there because the Governor is commanded by the despatch to submit it to Parliament; but we are not bound by this. What does the Governor say in his Speech last Session? He says:—

“At the request of the Governor General of Canada, and with the approbation of the Queen, I also appointed Delegates to a Conference of Representatives of the British North American Colonies, held in Quebec in the month of October last, with a view of arranging the terms of a Federal Union of British North America. The resolutions agreed to by this Conference appeared to me to be so important in their character, and their adoption fraught with consequences so materially affecting the future condition and well-being of British America, that, in order to enable the people of New Brunswick to give expression to their wishes on the subject, I determined to dissolve the then existing House of Assembly. I now submit these Resolutions to your judgment.”

Did he then tell us that because he was going to submit those Resolutions and recommend them—an expression not used in this Speech—that we are committed to a scheme? I will relieve that hon. gentleman’s mind. I will inform this House that the Government are not prepared to submit any scheme to the House. These papers will be submitted to the House, as we said in the Speech, and we will consider them with that respect which is due to anything emanating from so high a source, at the same time not forgetting that it is our duty to consent to no scheme that does not contain within itself the elements of security for our people. If a scheme could be devised that would promote the interests of our people, I, for one, would go for it, and I think my colleagues in the Government, every member of the House, and every man in the country, would go for it too. Whether such a scheme is attainable, is a question for deliberation. 

Mr. Needham moved that the debate be adjourned until 2 P. M.

Home adjourned until 10 A. M.

 T.P.D.

 

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