New Brunswick, House of Assembly, Reports of the Debates (30 May 1865)
By: New Brunswick (House of Assembly)
Citation: New Brunswick, House of Assembly, Reports of the Debates of The House of Assembly of the Province of New Brunswick, During the Session of 1865 at 104-111.
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HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY.
TUESDAY, May 30, 1865.
THE CORRESPONDENCE CONCERNING THE PROPOSED INTERCOLONIAL UNION
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Mr. Cudlip.—I see by the last mail from England that this question, although decided by the people of this Province legitimately at the polls, is still being agitated in England. It has been boldly stated by various parties there, that the election In New Brunswick was not the true exponent of public opinion, and that there had been a reaction since the election had been held, and there Would now be a majority in favour of the Scheme, that taking out two constituencies the present position would have been reversed. The whole Government has been carried on by one or two constituencies, the late Government had a majority of four or five, and without the support of St. John they would not have been in existence ; therefore they had not the confidence of the country. We cannot have one rule to apply to one case and one to another.
It is said the question was tried on false issues: that many voted against the Scheme for the purpose of turning out those in power. The same argument can be used on the other side. I have known men who voted the anti- Confederate ticket in the County, yet in consideration of a feeling of regard for Mr. Tilley they voted in favour of the Scheme in the City ; and if ever there was a true exposition of public opinion, it was on that question. The Union between England and Scotland, and also between England and Ireland was carried by bribery. It is said false statements are circulated In England bv the Canadian delegation, to induce them to legislate for us in regard to this Intercolonial Union. If there is anything of that kind in contemplation, they had better pause before they attempt it, for we would resist coercion whether it was brought against us directly or indirectly. I think it would be a prudent course to send a delegation home to correct those false representations, and have therefore prepared the following resolutions, and will now move that they be adopted :—
“Whereas, the House in a Committee of the Whole had under consideration the resolutions of the Conference held at Quebec on the 10th day of October last, on subject of the proposed Confederation of the British North American Colonies.”
“And Whereas, it is the opinion of this House that the consummation of said Scheme would prove politically, commercially, and financially disastrous to the best interests and prosperity of this Province;”
“And Whereas, the loyalty and attachment of the people of this Province to the Throne and Government of Great Britain cannot be justly impunged, and they have always manifested a desire to maintain their connection with the Mother Country, and to remain a portion of the British Empire;”
“And Whereas, in the exercise of the right of internal self-Government enjoyed by this Province, its people are entitled to deliberate and decide upon all questions affecting their own local interests in such manner as to them may seem best calculated to promote their prosperity and welfare;”
“And Whereas, the General Assembly of this Province was, in the month of February last, dissolved by His Excellency the Lieutenant Governor avowedly to obtain the decision of the people upon the resolutions adopted at the Conference and now before this House;”
“And Whereas, at the elections consequently holden the people of this Province clearly and unequivocally pronounced a judgment adverse to the adoption of the said resolutions;”
“And Whereas, this House confidentially believes that Her Majesty’s Government will receive with due attention the expression of opinion of this Province so pronounced;”
“And Whereas, this House has reason to fear Her Majesty’s Government are but imperfectly aware of the true state of the feelings of the people of this Province on this subject;”
“Therefore Resolved, as the opinion of this House, that a delegation should at […]
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[…] once proceed to England for the purpose of making known to the Imperial Government the views and feelings of this House and the people of this Province on this important subject.”
Mr. McMillan —A resolution of so much importance should be fully explained by the members of the Government, as I imagine it was brought in with their cognizance. The first proposition say that is the opinion of this House that the consummation of this Union would prove politically, commercially and financially disastrous. I for one have strong feelings in favour of this Union, and entirely dissent from this proposition. Every one knows that political Union is strength. do not believe that to unite these British North American Colonies under one rule would be a political injury to them. neither do I believe the people of the country think so. I do not believe that the people are prepared to say that it will be commercially injurious to them to have a free intercourse in all articles and manufactures between the Provinces, setting aside the barriers of the Custom House. I should like to hear the hon. mover show us how it is going to be politically, financially and commercially disastrous, and how the country is going to suffer by it.
Mr. Cudlip.—I do not intend to shirk the question, for I want it to be thoroughly discussed, and I should like to see some of the leading members of the House take it up.
Hon. Mr. Smith —I thought the ex- Surveyor General would feel it his duty to justify the course he has taken on this Union, and would have been prepared to show wherein it would have been advantageous; having done that, I think he did find plenty of hon. members on the other side to meet any arguments which he may advance.
Mr. Costigan.—I have heard, and the people of this Province believe, that influences are at work to endeavour to force this Union upon us; that representations are made in England that we are a people disloyal, and do not wish to do our share of whatever is necessary to maintain the connection between them and the British Government. It is our duty to protect that character of loyalty by sending a delegation to correct those false representations. The ex-Surveyor General has stated that the first part of the resolution is not correct, in stating that this Union would be injurious to the people of this Province. There are many hon. gentlemen in this House better qualified to show wherein that Union would have been injurious, and the necessity for this resolution; but I wish to say a few words in order to show the disadvantages and ruin it would bring upon this Province. It does not require a masterly mind to see it.
It has been said that Union is strength, but it would not be so in this case. The more the people became acquainted with the Scheme, the more they opposed it The opponents of the Scheme had to contend with many disadvantages. I contend that when the people defeat a Scheme proposed by the Government in power, it is a sure sign that they have a two-third majority of the people of the country, because the Government by their position have an influence upon the country, and there is not a locality but what feels this influence, because there is a sympathy existing between the Government and the office holders in the country which leads them to adopt their measures when they otherwise would not ; many of those who advocated the Scheme of Confederation did not know what the conditions of the Scheme were, but because the Government proposed it they were bound to carry it out. I know this to be a fact, that many who took an active part against Confederation could not explain how it was to be carried out. We were three distinct people, but were to be governed by one general Government, and that was to be carried on by a majority vote; that majority was to rule the country and tax the people as they saw fit.
According to the construction of Government we would be represented by fifteen representatives, and these would have to fight against 145. Although I might have much respect for the ability of our representatives, yet I would not have much reason to expect that they would have much success in anything they undertook for the benefit of the Province. Then the question of the Intercolonial Railway was brought up, and it was said under Confederation we could have the Railway wherever we wished it ; but my opinion is, that if the people of Canada really desire the railway, the same facilities for building the road exist without Confederation as with it. There was no guarantee that we would have this railroad under Confederation; it might grow out of the Scheme, and it might not. I was said that the general revenues could not expended in the construction of the Canal system, as that was guarded against by a resolution of the Conference, which said that this work should be prosecuted so soon as the finances of the country permitted. Who was to decide when the state of the finances would permit it to be built?
The general Government of Canada ; and they would not object to have the work go on immediately if they had Confederation, because they would have an additional inducement to extend them when they drag in those three Lower Provinces to bear their proportion of this great work. This was one of the grand reasons which induced the Canadians to advocate Confederation. They were involved in difficulties in regard to the Union with Lower Canada and in regard to their finances, and they really required an additional field—not for public expenditure in improvements—but an additional field for taxation and revenue ; that was the reason why they were so anxious to secure the Union of these Colonies. The Canadians would have no reason to complain if they were taxed, because it would be expended and circulated among themselves, and would bear upon the people of this country, because they would have to pay this money which would never be returned again.
It was said that the Government to each Province should have a certain sum to expend for local purposes ; this was true enough, we had to provide for our own local expenditure, and so had the other Provinces except Canada, who had the additional advantage of having the general revenue expended on her public works, and it, therefore, became local expenditure, and we would have to pay for that from which we would derive no benefit. Now, in regard to representation by population. There is one Section of the Scheme which provides for the readjustment of the representation by population every ten years. In such readjustment Lower Canada is always to be assigned sixty-five members, and each of the other Provinces shall have the same number of members to which it will be entitled on the same ratio of representation as Lower Canada will then have.
According to that in a few years, taking the increase of population according to the past as the nearest criterion to judge by, the representatives of Upper Canada in seventeen years would out-vote the whole of the other Provinces. It has been argued that if we had Confederation it would make a great change, and we would become a great country for capitalists, and emigrants would be induced to come here. Would it change the course of our rivers and give more facilities to manufacturers ? The only change it would make would be to place at the disposal of the General Government in Canada the whole resources of the Colonies, and emigration would tend to that part of the Confederation, for we would be removed from any benefit arising from the construction of public works.
I believe that there is reason for making the assertion that influences are brought to bear abroad to place the people of this Province and the Government of the day in a wrong position. It is asserted by those who are very anxious about the Confederation scheme, that the Government of the day is merely called into its present position by accident. I contend that if those who are favourable to Confederation wish to see the present Government retire from their present position, they had better say nothing about Confederation, for so long as the people of the country are reminded of the Scheme, just so long will they rally round those who defeated it.
Mr. McMillan.—I should like to hear from the hon. mover of the Bill, as those resolutions for the appointment of Delegates was not named when it was proposed that this subject should be the order of the day; therefore, I think it would be unfair to decide this question at so short a notice. If the Government of the day are desirous to have this delegation appointed, they should take the responsibility of it, and not throw it upon the House. It will be recollected how some of the hon. members spoke of the delegations of the late Government, and now they are going to take the same course without taking the responsibility. (Hon. Mr. Smith.—Those delegations were unauthorized.) They had the Imperial despatch of 1862 to authorize them ? Did they do anything to bind the House in consulting upon a great question and submitting it to the country for their decision ? They never claimed any right to force it upon the people. I do not wish to go into the discussion to-day, as there has not been sufficient time given.
Mr. Cudlip.—I do not desire that this resolution should be carried without a discussion, because I wish to put upon record the opinion of the country as expressed through their representatives. I am bound to say that while I am opposed to those delegations as involving unnecessary expense, yet I now think it necessary, because this is a question affecting our whole political existence—affecting the constitution of our country. It is a question upon which every person in the country has a right to express his opinion, and the people of the country have done so, and expressed an opinion, and I think it now becomes the duty of their representatives to send a delegation to England to protect their rights.
The delegation which was appointed to confer on a Union of the Maritime Provinces took upou themselves other duties which the Legislature had not assigned to them, and to avoid falling into the same error, we wish this delegation to be appointed by the representatives of the people. It is not right that after the people of this country have expressed their opinion at the polls against Confederation, that this agitation should […]
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[…] be kept up directly or indirectly as it has been done. Statements have been put forth by the press that we will have to come into this Confederation, because it will be forced upon us We ought to express an opinion in this House, and endorse that by a delegation confirming that opinion that they never need hope to carry Confederation in New Brunswick, and I think we would save money in the end by so doing.
Mr. McMillan.—It is amusing to find the Anti-Confederate patty asking for this expensive delegation in order to set themselves right before the people of England. It shows that they are not satisfied with the position they hold in the eyes of the English people in reference to this question. What were the arguments put forth by the member of the Government, and the leading members of the Anti-Confederate party in reference to the appropriation of money for the Militia ? They said it would be a waste of money so far as defence was concerned, but they stood in an unfavorable position in the opinion of the British public, and to prove their loyalty they voted the people’s money for this purpose.
They are not satisfied with asserting that two thirds of the people are against Confederation, but it becomes necessary to appoint another delegation to make known the fact, for they feel they are not in a right position before the British public. The hon. member for Victoria (Mr. Costigan) said that the more the people discussed this question the more unpopular it would become. My experience is right the reverse of this ; the question came upon them so suddenly, and so few months elapsed before they were required to vote at the polls, that they had not time enough to form a correct opinion upon the subject, and the general tendency of the people, when they do not understand a question, is to vote against any change until they do understand it. If that question was submitted to the people to-morrow, and the people were required to deposit their votes in the ballot box, either for or against it, two thirds of the people in the Province of New Brunswick would vote in favor of it.
Mr. Needham.—The hon ex-Surveyor General wants to know how this scheme would ruin us, politically. What would we have been had Confederation taken place under this scheme ? Would we have been a Province? certainly not. O, it is said we can have a local legislature ; so we could, and its powers would be confined to making laws to prevent cows from running on the commons, providing that sheep shall wear bells, and to issue tavern licences. Hon. members may talk about their loyalty and disloyalty. I would like to ask some of the members of the late Government whether their idea was not this—that they would not have gone for Confederation if they had not believed that it was the first step towards the independence of New Brunswick.
(Mr. McMillan —it is not true.)
I have no hesitation in saying that thousands of men believed in Confederation, honestly and sincerely, but they do not seem willing to give us any credit for sincerity ; they think they have all the argument, all the honesty and all the loyalty. We have now a direct communication with the Home Government, as they appoint our Governor ; but if we go into Confederation our Governor would be appointed by the Governor General ; that would raise our dignity very much, to have a local Governor appointed by the Governor General ; would not that be derogatory to our political standing, both at home and abroad. I heard a Judge, in addressing a Grand Jury, in the County of York, strive to impress upon their minds the necessity for this ” Great British Nationality as he termed it. Great British Humbug! I should like to know where there is any nationality in this Confederation scheme that we have not got now.
We are “par excellence” Bluenoses ; those born in Ireland are Irishmen, in Bath Englishmen, in Wales Welshmen, but we are all British subjects. Are not we British subjects as much as if we were born ” Cockneys.” We have the real British nationality, and because we did not want any other we rejected the great Botheration or Confederation scheme, for it all amounts to the same thing ; thus it is that so far as politics are concerned we are not going to gain anything. I will now allow you that it will be financially disastrous. We will have to give up all our revenues to Canada, and they will only refund $201,000;.
(Mr. McMillan, will not they assume our debts.)
We are prepared to assume our own debts. Canada has to borrow money to pay the interest on her own debts, and then wants to assume ours. It is like a bankrupt wanting to assume the debts of a rich man. The General Government will give us $201,000 a year for all time to come. That is, financially, the position we are in. No matter how much the population may increase in twenty years, or how many new roads, bridges or schools may be required in that time, we can receive no more than that sum. If a man had a million dollars a year, and he owed the sum of five millions, and had plenty of friends to back him, do you suppose he would want to make arrangements with another man to take his debt and give him just enough to live on until he died. If he would do that he would he a fit subject for the Lunatic Asylum. It was enough to condemn the scheme, that this delegation assented to the proposition that whatever arrangements made between Canada and the Home Government from that time to the time Confederation went into operation should form part and parcel of the obligations to be assumed by the General Government. At that very time England had said to Canada—what are you prepared to do in reference to your own defence ? Did she say that to New Brunswick, Nova Scotia or Prince Edward island ? No !
Why ? Because she knew from the history of the past that these colonies would when the time arrived; they would be ready at a moment’s notice to gather round the British flag; but there was a time in the history of Canada when it was otherwise, and there was a necessity for asking the question of Canada. At that very time Canada sent home a delegation charged with a power to agree with the British Government. to expend a million of money for their defence, to be borne not only by Canada, but by all that Confederation. There would be a direct tax upon every man. woman and child in this Province, to pay their proportion of that money. When I saw that agreement I felt as every son of New Brunswick ought to feel, that if it cost me my life, my all. Confederation should never be carried if I could help it. It has not come. I do not say I stopped it, but if I was but one little entering wedge I am satisfied for the remainder of my life ; so far as that is concerned I have done my duty, and am sincere in my opposition, and it is a matter of moonshine whether they acknowledge it or not. Canada has sent home a delegation to influence the British people in favor of this Confederation.
I do not say that this scheme is going to be forced upon us, but they may pass a provisional Confederation Bill, but we do to not want that or any thing to look like it. Forty-eight thousand men in this Province have said we don’t want Confederation, and that should be an end of it. They have said this, notwithstanding all the influences that have been brought to bear by the Government, telling them the Inter- colonial railway was going past every man’s door, whether he lived at Fredericton. Sussex, or the North Shore. Statesmen in framing a scheme of this kind should look forward to future ages. In this scheme of Confederation, fifty years hence, Upper Canada would have a majority of thirty-five over all the other Provinces. This is the position We would be in, and we are called to pay homage to the statesmen who framed this scheme, as though they possessed all the wisdom in the world.
House adjourned until 9 A. M., tomorrow.