Newfoundland, House of Assembly, Debate on Confederation (2 March 1865)
By: Newfoundland House of Assembly, The Newfoundlander
Citation: “House of Assembly”, The Newfoundlander (17 April 1865) & “House of Assembly (Continued)”, The Newfoundlander (27 April 1865) & “House of Assembly”, The Newfoundlander (1 May 1865).
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St. John’s, Monday, April 17, 1865.
HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY.
THURSDAY, March 2.
The house met at 3 o’clock.
Mr Kent presented a petition from Michael Barry and others, of the Major’s Path, which was received and read, praying for a grant to complete that road.
Ordered that the petition lie on the table.
Dr. Winter presented a petition from John Tilley and others, of Shoal Harbor, Random Sound, which was received and read, praying for a grant to make a road down the North side of the harbor.
Ordered that the petition lie on the table.
Mr. Kavanagh presented petitions from Patrick McDonald and others, of Outer Cove, from John Pounder an
d others, of Gallows Cove, from Robert Firm and others, of the same place, from James Kelly and others, of Outer Cove, and from Thomas Power and others, of Shoe Cove, which were severally received and read, praying for grants to open and repair roads in these settlements.
Ordered that these petitions lie on the table.
On motion of the hon. Attorney General, pursuant to order of the day, the house resolved itself into committee of the whole on the further consideration of the Confederation of the British North American Colonies,—Mr. Knight in the chair.
Dr. Winter—The critical remarks of the hon and learned member for Fogo, Mr. Whiteway, on the decrease of the representation of Newfoundland in 1871, under Confederation, required reply, as they were specially directed against his (Dr Winter’s) views of the operation of the 21st Resolution of the Quebec Conference. The hon and learned member, Mr. Whiteway, said that he “must confess that he failed to comprehend the hon gentleman’s long array of figures.” The resolution in the Report of he Delegates on this subject appeared very simple. It was this:– “No reduction small be made in the number of members returned by any section, unless its population shall have decreased relatively to the population of the whole union, to the extent of 5 per centum.”
Now, (said Mr. W ), to illustrate the case, assuming the whole population to be 4,000,000, (which was near the present number) 5 per cent on this would be 200,000. Our present population was only 130,000. Therefore the island must be depopulated before we could lose a representative. But he (Mr. W.) would read what Mr. Galt said on the subject, when addressing his constituents at Sherbrooke, C. E., and surely his was an opinion, on the construction of the Resolution, which the hon and learned member for Trinity would respect. He said —”The House would never have less than 194 members; but it would increase at a very slow rate.” This latter remark applied truly to Lower Canada and the other Maritime Provinces, and fully bore out his (Dr Winter’s) argument, that whilst the representation of the whole union would appear to increase “at a very slow rate,” the upper section—Canada West —would, in 36 years, have an unjustly preponderating majority over Lower Canada and the other Maritime Provinces, although these latter will have a majority of 23 on entering the union.
But Mr. Galt gave no opinion on the constitution of the 21st Resolution, which runs thus:– “No reduction shall be made in the number of members returned by any section, unless its population shall have decreased relatively to the population of the whole union, to the extent of five per centum.” Mr. Galt comprehends the effect of the 21st Resolution, as well as its construction; and certainly would not commit himself to an absurdity, by telling his constituents at Sherbrooke, Canada East, that the population of Upper Canada, Newfoundland, or any other section of the union must decrease 200,000, being 5 per cent on 4’000,000, before any reduction shall be made in the number of members returned by that section of the Confederation. So much for the authority quoted by the hon and learned member for Fogo, Mr. Whiteway, to illustrate the case submitted by him to the House and the country. Now to illustrate his (Dr. Winter’s) view, 5 per cert on 4,000,000—the whole population—is 200,000, which divided by the total number of members (194) gives 1,003, as per cent for each member. This multiplied by the number of members for each section or Province will show the relative amount of decrease of population required by the 21st Resolution before any of them will lose a member: as shown in the following tabular statement.
Now Newfoundland will, in 1871, have increased from 130,000 to 155,740; but as the ratio of Lower Canada will give 21,495 for each of her 65 members, Newfoundland will require 8 times 21,495, or 171,960, to enable her to return 8 members. But having decreased 16,221—more than double the amount of 5 per cent, or 8,024, relatively to the proportion of the whole union, consequently will lose a member, and will retain 7, in place of 8. Such was his (Dr. Winter’s) view of the matter, to which he would adhere until some sound and logical reasons were given to convince him to the contrary.
Mr. Whiteway—What he had stated was that it might possibly have been from his (Mr. W.’s) obtuseness, but he could not understand the hon and learned member’s long array of figures or his mode of calculation. Now his (Mr. W.) figures were very simple. If the hon gentleman would only take 4,000,000, the present estimated population of the Confederacy, at 5 per cent, he would find that to constitute a reduction sufficient to deprive us of a member, we would lose exactly 200,000, or in other words, the colony must be entirely depopulated before we could lose a member. He (Mr. W.) was confirmed in this view of the matter by the opinion of Mr. Galt, who said that the house would never have less than 134 members, but it would increase at a very slow rate. Now fortified by such an opinion as that, he (Mr. W) must adhere to what he before stated, that he could not understand the learned Doctor’s figures on the mode of calculation.
St. John’s, Thursday, April 27, 1865.
HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY.
THURSDAY, March 2.
(To be continued.)
Mr. Casey had, on a former occasion, given his opinions on that important question; and although he had since listened attentively to the very able speeches of the supporters of Confederation, he had heard nothing to change his views. The Attorney General had gone into a historical and constitutional review of the results of the union of small states into large confederacies. He (Mr. Casey) believed the hon gentleman was honest in his advocacy of union, but he had failed to convince him (Mr. Casey) hat it would be for our interest to join it. He said, if our people were in distress, we could apply to the general government for relief. He (Mr. Casey) very much doubted the success of the application,—They gave us a certain sum by the Quebec Resolutions, which was to be in full for all claims; and if we should be in distress, and applied to the General Government, we would probably be told to borrow on security of the annual allowance made to us.
It was stated that notwithstanding the high tariff of Canada we would not pay more to the revenue than we do now, on account of the large quantity of Canadian manufacture that would come into this Colony duty free. It appeared the Canadians were themselves large consumers of British goods, and when they could not supply their own wants, how were they to supply ours? The hon member for Carbonear, Mr. Rorke, spoke of samples of Canadian boots and leatherware, harness, &c., received by him last fall, but there was a large importation of English leather, as well as of boots and shoes, into Canada, notwithstanding the heavy import duties of that Province,—He (Mr. Casey) regretted to say that of late years, much extravagance, in the way of dress, had crept in amongst us. He recollected the time when the operative classes and the fishermen were comfortably clad in a much less expensive fashion than now. Guernsey frocks and coating, jackets and trowsers, of a very superior description, and other useful article of clothing, were imported by West of England houses, and sold at a moderate price. But latterly, he (Mr. Casey) regretted to say, a large quantity of more expensive, and comparatively useless articles had been imported. He fully concurred in the observations of the hon member, Mr. Rorke, about the importance of checking all extravagance.
He (Mr. Casey) thought, so far as regarded boots and shoes, their manufacture here ought to be encouraged, which would furnish a good deal of employment to our own people. He was glad to learn that a tannery was about to be established here; and if its proprietors succeeded in making as good leather as its imported, they would have a ready demand for all they could manufacture, while they would give a good deal of employment to shoemakers, as well as to operative tanners and curriers. He looked to greater benefit being conferred on our people by encouraging local industry than by Confederation, for he must say that he did not relish this confederation business at all, more particularly on the terms of the Quebec Resolutions. It was stated that we would get our provisions as cheaply from Canada as from the United States. We might, in the summer months, but the navigation of the St. Lawrence closed early, and it might be a question where we should get our supplies during the six winter months. He did not think, however, that Confederation would change the course of trade.
Mr. Rorke.—The completion of the Grand Trunk Railway would throw the Canadian market open to us during the whole year.
Mr. Casey.—The completion of the Grand Trunk railroad would do good; but not so much as was maintained by the supporters of Confederation. Another matter—we were toid that under Confederation we would have a large dock here for the repair of vessels that might be disabled in passing our coast. No doubt such a dock would furnish a good deal of employment, which would be of great advantage to ship carpenters and others; but, if there was sufficient employment to render it profitable, it would be established, Confederation or no Confederation. But he (Mr. Casey) set very little value of these sort of speculative promises. He remembered, some time ago, that Mr. Maguire, the Mays or of Cork, and many other leading men of that city, applied to the British Government for a similar establishment at Queenstown, which is a place of resort for all disabled ships crossing the Atlantic for British ports. One of her Majesty’s ships had put in there, in a damaged state, on one occasion; and although she might have been repaired there, steamers were sent to tow her to an English Dockyard for repairs. And so it would be here. As England turned a deaf ear to the deputation from Cork, so would the general government refuse to listen to us. If Dockyards were wanted, they would have them built elsewhere, even although this port might be the most suitable place. It had been urged that we have now an expenditure of £100,000 a year, from which the people derive little or no benefit.
He must agree with that remark, to some extent, unfortunately, for some years past, far too much money was expended in pauper relief. We ought to have had a road grant of £20,000 a year, which would have opened up the country, and would, at the same time have furnished employment to those men who were unsuccessful at the fisheries and prevented their being degraded by applying for pauper relief. He (Mr. Casey) condemned the present system of pauper relief in toto. Even those who received it derived very little advantage from it. It ought to be reduced to one half or one third of its present amount, and the saving added to the Road Grant. The Solicitor General said increased taxation was his principal reason for opposing Confederation. The people of Newfoundland could not afford to pay more than they now pay end if there was any increase, the consequence would be that they would be unable to pay.
The hon member, Mr. Moore, said Responsible Government was too expensive for this Colony. Why, since the establishment of Responsible Government, there had been a reduction of official salaries; and it could not be said that it had not worked as well in this Colony as in any other; and the manner in which our operative population had conducted themselves during a period of deep distress, was highly creditable to them. And would our constituencies give up their independent position, which was gained by a severe and protracted struggle? And for what were they called upon to make such a sacrifice? Why, for the honor and glory of sending eight members to the Confederate Parliament, where they would have no influence whatever.
Then the sum proposed to be given us, in lieu of what we are called upon to surrender to the General Government, would be barely sufficient to meet our current expenditure, and would afford very little, if anything, or carrying out improvements, or developing our resources. We were to receive only £80,000 a year, and to have £32,000 of our present expenditure assumed by the General Government. After meeting our current expenditure, we would hardly have a shilling for roads, out of this sum. We were also told that Confederation is necessary for purposes of defence, that we will be called upon to defend ourselves; and that the British North American Colonies must combine for that purpose. But how could a union with the other colonies do anything for the protection of such a colony as this? In the event of war, this Island must be defended by the British navy.
We are told that for many years to come the Confederation will have no navy and all would admit that an army alone would not be sufficient for our defence, for a naval squadron having the command of our coast would starve us into submission in a few months. Even if the other Provinces had troops to spare for our protection, in place of looking to us, as we might anticipate, for assistance, they could not hold this Island against an enemy superior to them on them on the sea. No doubt, in case of invasion, our people would be ready to defend themselves; and if the Volunteer movement were extended, he believed it would be a proceeding in the right direction. But he (Mr Casey) did not believe the Imperial Government intended to withdraw the protection of the British navy and of the troops from the colonies. Such a course would be in opposition to the views of the most distinguished British and Colonial statesmen. He (Mr. Casey) would read from the Edinburgh Review on the Report of the Select Committee of the House of Commons on Colonial military expenditure, printed by the order of the House, July 11, 1864—
“The Duke of Newcastle, who speaks with official authority on the subject, thus expresses himself, on the case of Canada,—’I think one of the duties which devolve upon the mother country is the defence of a colony. I do hot know what advantage a colony would find in its relative position, if the mother country did not protect it. Just on account of the peculiar position of Canada, I think the Imperial Government is bound to keep up a certain amount of force in time of peace, and a much larger force in the event of war. With those parties who would be aggressive, Canada stands in a different position from any other colony, we have. Take, for instance, Austrialia [sic]. The real defence of Australia must be by our fleet; but the fleet can do little to assist Canada, except it be by sending small vessels up the St. Lawrence; and nearly the whole assistance to be rendered by this country to Canada must be by a land force.'”—Report, No. 2992.
Such was the deliberate opinion of a late lamented statesman, whose experience as Secretary of State for the Colonies gave peculiar importance to his views. He (Mr. Casey) would also quote the opinion of a distinguished colonist to the same effect. The Edinburgh Review, in quoting this gentleman’s evidence before the Committee of the House of Commons, observes:—
“Sir Stewart Donaldson, who has held the office of Colonial Secretary, and Colonial Treasurer in New South Wales, and was a member of the Colonial Legislature for upwards of eleven years, testifies to the Colonial opinion, that the mother country ought to protect the colony against dangers which flow from her own foreign policy.
“Chairman.—Do you say that the claim of those colonies in respect of their defences mainly rests upon the points in which they may be involved by the conflicts of England with foreign powers?—
“Yes,—I think that principle is very generally accepted in the Colonies, that, as they are not free agents with regard to European complications, they ought not to be left in a state undefence in case some enemy of the mother country should take advautage [sic] of their defenceless situation and invade them, or combard [sic] their towns; and that so long as the mother country is liable to be involved in European wars, and so long as enemies from without may do damage to the colonial interests, it is felt that England is bound to protect the colonies, at all events, on the seaboard, &c.—(Report, No. 2653.)
But the Delegates, before they separated at Quebec, pledged themselves to the maintenance of an army and a navy. Now he (Mr. Casey) would ask, was Newfoundland in a position to meet such an expenditure as this would involve? It was stated that a million of dollars annually would meet the required expenditure. It was absurd to suppose that this sum would go any length towards the raising and maintenance of an army alone; and as for a navy, it would not build; much less maintain the mere semblance of a naval armament. He (Mr. Casey) would quote from a speech by Mr. Millar at a public meeting at Halifax, on the military expenditure necessary for the defence of the provinces. That gentleman said:—
“With the knowledge that the British Government has been urging Canada to fortify her frontier let we turn your attention to section 67, which says:—”All engagements that may, before the union, be entered into with the imperial government for the defence of the country shall be assumed by the General Government—So if Canada has assumed liabilities to the extent of five, ten or twenty millions of dollars, we must contribute to their payment, gentlemen on both sides are particular in their figures about comparatively small matters, but here is one item alone that may swell to millions, about which we are perfectly in the dark. It should stagger the friends of the measure. I have said sir, the British Government at the present time is prepared to defend us for imperial interest’s; let us become part of the contemplated Confederation, and our position will be changed. If we become part of a great Empire, we must be prepared to assume our share of its responsibilities. It is boasted, that the English press and Government are favourable to the change, but would it not be strange if it were otherwise? They expect we are going to take a great burden off their shoulders and place it on our own. They expend over $6,000,000 yearly on these Colonies that they expect to save by Confederation. Sir, in our eagerness to become an empire we appear to forget the cost its glitter and magnificance [sic] will entail. Suppose this union be brought about. Suppose we agree to yield up the immunities of our present situation what will then be our position?
Beside us we will have a formidable and aggressive nation, who at all times, hereafter will possess a standing army of 200,000, in addition to a large population inured to the privations, the dangers, and the discipline of war; with this pleasant neighbour, entertaining no kindly feelings towards us, our great Empire will require a better standing army of its own. I am going to be very economical, and although twenty regiments under such circumstances would be a small provision, I am only going to reckon this cost. I will take the cost of the Canadian Rifles, (1350 men) for my basis, every man of whom, it is estimated, when drilled and equipped &c. stood Great Britain £100 Stg a head. At this rate the “raising” of twenty Regiments would amount to the neat sum of $13,500,000. The “pay” of the Canadian Rifles, when according to the army Estimates, is £41,575, 14 Stg. not including clothing, arms, &c. for twenty regiments would give us an annual disoursement [sic] of $154,525, for this service without outfits or incidental charges, we will also require at the lowest calculation a dozen brigades of Artillery, the expense of equipping which I am not able to give but it must be something startling; the yearly pay alone of a brigade of Artillery is £24,500 sterling. These are some of the pleasant burthens in store for us when we become “a Great Empire.” (Cheers)
These are items that have entered into the figures of no gentlemen, because, like the clause providing for the defence of Canada they have wisely been left in doubt and undefined, it requires, however no great prescience to foretell that our burdens under this Confederation, instead of $12,000,000 annually, before five years will double that sum. The doubling of our taxation must follow, in place of even $4.00 per head may be $8,00. But it may be asked if the dangers of attack from a hostile neighbour will be great in case of union, will they not be more so, if we remain as we are? So far as Nova Scotia is concerned, I answer—no. Canada is the weak joint in these Colonies. It is to defend Canada not the whole Provinces, union is wanted. If Canada desires to remain as she is she must assume all the burthens her situation demands, we are not to the same extent under any such necessity.” (Cheers.)
Now would the supporters of Confederation say how such an expenditure could be met from Colonial finds, without such excessive taxation as it would be impossible for us to pay? Let hon members state what amount of taxation would be inevitable. If they complained in Nova Scotia, where they would have the benefit of the Grand Trunk railway, bringing to their doors a large amount of Western trade, the profits of which would go far to enable them to meet the increased taxation that would result from the union and its consequences, why should we, who have no such prospects, render ourselves liable to such taxation? But besides the heavy taxation, and the giving over to the General Government of our mines and minerals, and of the power to legislate for our fisheries, the patronage of all the offices in our Customs. Post Office and Lighthouses, as well as in our Courts of Justice, would be vested in the General Government.
They would appoint our Judges, our Posmaster [sic] General, and all his subordinates, and also the whole of the Customs’ staff, throughout the Colony, and pay them out of the taxes levied upon us. There offices might be filled by Canadians, Nova Scotians, or New Brunswickers; but there would be very little probability of the patronage being conferred on Newfoundlanders. At present, under Responsible government, all offices in this Colony, from the highest to the lowest, with the exception of that of governor, were given to our own people; but what influence would our eight members in the Federal House of Commons have to secure offices for Newfoundland, when opposed by the influence of Canada, New Brunswick or Nova Scotia?
The Attorney General and other supporters of Confederation had told us of the prospect of our educated young men under confederation—that they could go to Canada, where there would be a field for their exertions. He (Mr. Casey) believed that Canada had young men for all the appointments that would be in the gift of the General Government, while New Brunswickers and Nova Scotians would also be looking for a share of them; and that, so far from our young men participating in its patronage in Canada, all our own offices worth accepting would be bestowed by the general government upon the friends of their supporters in the other provinces, what influence would our eight members have in a House of Commons— consisting of 194, all eager to benefit their own friends and supporters? He (Mr. Casey) would repeat, that he could see no real tangible benefit to the people of Newfoundland to be derived from this proposed Confederation of the British North American Colonies, and therefore he opposed it.
If he saw that it would benefit his native country, he would give it his hearty support; but after giving the matter the fullest consideration, it was his deliberate opinion that it was calculated to prove ruinous to this country. He cordially approved of the Resolution before the chair. Let the matter go to the constituencies and let them pronounce upon it. He had every confidence as to the decision they would come to. Confederation might be some benefit to Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, although it was strongly opposed in both provinces. But for his part, he did not see of what advantage it would be to Newfoundland, and he certainly did see many powerful reasons why we should reject it.
Mr. Nowlan wished to make a few observations on that important subject. He felt it his duty to express his opinions upon it, so that his constieuents [sic] might know his sentiments; for he conceived it the duty, of every hon member of the house to state his views fully and unequivocally upon such an important subject as that, involving the most momentous consequences to the present and future generations. After the long and able speeches of hon gentlemen who had preceded him, he (Mr. Nowlan) did not intend to enter into the subject at any great length. No question of equal importance had come before the legislature of this colony on any former occasion, and although the house was not now called upon to pronounce any decision upon it, still it had been very properly taken up by hon members on its merits; and they had all themselves addressed to the consideration of whether it would not be for, the advantage of this colony to enter into a Confederation with the other British North American Colonies, on the terms and conditions embodied in the Resolutions adopted at the Quebec Conference.
In considering such a subject as that, he was of opinion that it should be regarded entirely on its own merits, and he could say for himself that he came to the consideration with an unbiassed mind. He would admit that he would not be opposed to a union of this Colony with the other British North American Colonies, provided we could enter that union on fair and equitable terms. He had given the subject a great deal of consideration, and had endeavoured to make himself acquainted with the matter in all its bearing on this Island; and the more he looked into it, the more he was convinced that it would not be for the interests of Newfoundland to enter into the proposed union on the terms laid down in the resolutions. At the same time, he must say his leanings were in favour of a union upon most satisfactory terms.
He did not think, however, that the terms proposed were such as it would be for the interests of this Colony to accept. He would be disposed to vote for it, if he could say that it was calculated to confer any permanent or substantial benefit on the country. But so far from that, he feared that if we rushed hastily into this confederation scheme, we might soon have much cause to regret it. If we looked at this mater in a financial point of view, it would be seen that this Colony would be subjected to a severe loss. The hon member for Ferryland, Mr. Glen who was looked upon as a sound and cautious financier, had very plainly shewn that we would lose annually by accepting this project, no less than from Forty to Fifty thousand pounds. That was a very serious consideration and ought not to be lightly passed over. Our revenue under the existing tariff, was, on an average of years £100,000, and taxing our population at 120,000, our taxation in the shape of Custom’s duties is 16s, 8d. stg, per head; and we have always been able to raise sufficient money under this tariff, for the requirements of the country. But if we should go into this Confederation, and the Canadian tariff applied to our imports, what would be the result
The Customs returns laid upon the table show that the revenue collected in this Island would be increased to £157,000 a year, or 25s per head of our population, an audition of 50 per cent upon our present rate of taxation, being an enormous addition to the present heavy burden, upon our people; and the worst feature in the affair is the fact that the people of this country would not receive any benefit from the enormous increase of taxation. If our revenue under the Canadian tariff should amount to this large sum, the whole surplus would go to Canada, after paying our subsidy of £112,000 and we would love annually the sum of £45,000, being the difference between these amounts; which would be handed over to the General Government, to be expended in improvements in the other colonies, in any way the Federal House of Commons should chose to sanction, such railways, canals, and of her public works, in the advantages of which this […]
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[…] country would participate to a very small extent. It appeared to him (Mr. Nowlan) that the sacrifices we were called upon to make were greater than those proposed for any of the other colonies, while they were without any corresponding advantages.
Under the Resolutions agreed to at Quebec, we were called upon to give up, to a certain extent, our Legislative independence, to surrender our mines and minerals and our waste lands, and certain of our public buildings, and a sum of £45,000 annually, of our public revenue, which would be applied towards the completion of such works as the Grand Trunk Railway and the Canals of Canada, and to the military defence of that Province, and no hon. member would contend that our interest in these was equal to that of the other colonies, or that we would not be much benefited by an expenditure of equal amount on public works in this Island. Besides, we were called upon to give the General Government and Legislature, in which we would have but a very limited influence, the power of taxing us to any extent they might hereafter think necessary. These were some of the sacrifices we would have to make if we joined the Confederation; and he (Mr. Nowlan) did not think the country would, under these circumstances, enter into the proposed union on the terms of the Quebec Resolutions. We ought to pause before voluntarily committing ourselves to this scheme for ever.
And what were we to receive in for all these sacrifices. Only the small sum of £112,000 a year, with the control of only £80,000 of that amount. That was all we were to have to provide for our civil expenditure, our Road service, and for Education. This is not sufficient, at present, for the public requirements. But if we are to have all the good things which the supporters of Confederation tell us will flow from it—if in the course of twenty or thirty years the resources of the country are to be so much developed, our mines and minerals profitably worked by Canadian capitalists, the waste lands of the country settled and cultivated, manufactories put in profitable operation, and, as a consequence, our population more than doubled, what would the Custom’s revenue of this Island then amount to? Would it be short of £300,000 per annum, while all of it at our own disposal would still be only £80,000? Then how could we find means to provide for our local requirements?
We must necessarily resort to direct taxation, so distasteful to all classes in this community; and which he (Mr. Nowlan) believed could not be carried out. But, however reluctant we might be to resort to direct taxation to meet our own wants, the General Government would have the power to do so, to meet theirs. They would have the power to tax our lands, our houses, horses, carriages, vessels and fishing stages, as well as to impose an export duty upon our fish and oil. These were matters requiring serious consideration, and which ought not to be hastily disposed of. We were told by the advocates of Confederation, that if we entered it we should have direct steam communication with Canada and with Great Britain, and have our coastal steam communication improved. But there was no guarantee for this being done.
There was not one word of the subject in the Quebec Resolutions, notwithstanding that so much of our revenue would have to go towards the construction of the Grand Trunk Railway, which was expressly provided for in the Quebec Resolutions, as well as the enlargement of the canals of Canada. He (Mr. Nowlan) said the matter of steam communication ought to be definitely settled previous to the question of Confederation being entertained. The hon. member for Placentia, Mr. Shea, stated that the people of Canada paid less taxation per head, under their high tariff, than we pay in this Colony. That was admitted; and it was one of the disadvantages which he (Mr. Nowlan) saw in the proposal for union. The Canadians, under their high tariff, paid in Customs and Excise duties about 14s. per head, while we, in Newfoundland, would have to pay, if the same tariff should be put in force here, no less than 25s per head.
It would, therefore, be seen how very unfairly that tariff would operate upon us. If we looked at it in another light, we would find that a population of 120,000 in this Colony, would pay under that tariff £157,000 a year, or 25s per head, while 120,000 of Canada, would pay only £84,000, or 14s. per head thus showing that we would pay annually in Customs’ duties £73,000 more than an equal population in Canada, or that we would be subjected to nearly double the rate of taxation of Canada. Would any intelligent person say such inequality of burdens was fair, or that it would ever be voluntarily submitted to? Any one who took the trouble to look into those could not fail to see the very unequal taxation to which this country would be subjected; while the advantages we could derive from Confederation would be much less than the other colonies would enjoy.
If we entered into the Confederation on the proposed terms, this rate of taxation would be inevitable. But it might be asked how the Canadian tariff would operate so unfairly upon us? Simply in this way, that the people of Canada are largely engaged in agricultural and manufacturing pursuits; and in a position to supply themselves with domestic and home manufactures to a large extent, while we import all woollens and all the cottons, as well as all the leatherware we consume. We are entirely a consuming population, producing but a small portion of our food, and scarcely any of the materials of wearing apparel. We thus consume nearly double the quantity of dutiable goods per head that is consumed by the Canadians, who are large producers themselves. In this statement, he (Mr. Nowlan) was borne out by Mr. Galt, the finance Minister of Canada, who in his speech to the constituents at Sherbrooke, said on the subject of the tariff— ” Newfoundland, being a fishing population, the amount of dutiable articles which they consume was about double, per head, what it was here in Canada.
They would, therefore, in the shape of Customs duties, be contributing to the Confederation a larger proportion than properly belonged to them.” We could not have a better authority on this subject than Mr. Galt, a gentleman who, from his position, no doubt understood the difference in the working of the Canadian tariff here and in Canada. It had been stated by some of the advocates of Confederation that the Canadian tariff would not be adopted by the Federal Legislature.—But any person who took the trouble to look into the matter must see that a lower tariff than that of Canada, for the Confederated Colonies, would not produce sufficient revenue to meet the requirements of the Federal Government. It was admitted that at least a Customs revenue of 12 millions of dollars would be required and he (Mr. Nowlan) could not see how that amount could be raised with a lower tariff. The following statesmen would show the population of each Province, and the probable amount per head that each would have to pay in Customs and Excise duties under the present Canadian tariff:—
|Estimated proceeds of Public Works, &c.||1,000,000|
This amount of revenue is less than the estimate; which is sufficient to show that a lower tariff would not be adequate to meet the mere annual requirement of the General Government, not to speak of the cost of an army and a navy, and the outlay to put the country in a state of defence; and also for the completion of the grand Trunk Railway and the enlargement of the canals, and for the other public works to be carried out under Confederation. These were matters which ought to be seriously considered and satisfactorily arranged previous to entering into the union. We had been told that if we declined entering the union upon these unequal terms, we would not obtain such good terms afterwards. He (Mr Nowlan) felt very little anxiety upon that point. It, as had been stated, it is the policy of the British government to carry out a Federal union of the British North American provinces, their influence would be sufficient to procure our admission at any time they might deem expedient, as well as to secure us equable terms. He (Mr Nowlan) believed it was the wish of the parent State that the other Colonies should be united; and it was only natural that such a union should be effected. They were situated on the same continent, contiguous to each other, divided only by imaginary lines. The habits, the sympathies and the callings of the people are similar, and they have much and frequent intercourse with each other. But we are very differently circumstanced. Our interests are not identical with theirs.
We are entirely a fishing population, and this Island is separated from them by hundreds of miles of sea. Besides, it is evident, from the information we possess, through the papers laid before the House, that there was at first no intention of including Newfoundland in the proposed union. It was by a mere accident that we were invited to send Delegates at the Conference held at Quebec. The hon the Attorney General happened to be at Halifax on private business when the Charlottetown Conference was about being held; and in an interview with the Provincial Secretary of Nova Scotia, he impressed that gentleman with his own views, that Newfoundland should participate in any advantages derivable from the union to be then considered—the Legislative union of the maritime Provinces—Subsequently, the Government of this Colony were invited to send Delegates to a Conference at Quebec, to consider the proposal of a Federal union of all the British North American Colonies; and the invitation was complied with; but the Delegates were merely to watch the proceedings, and without authority to bind this colony to anything. That was the origin of our connection with this matter; and judging from these facts, was it reasonable to suppose that the British Government would force us into this union against our consent? He (Mr. Nowlan) thought not. With respect to the military aspect of the question, our people, it is clear, are a fishing and seafaring people, and would, most probably, always be so.
But if a necessity should arise in the event of a war, no doubt they would be required to contribute their share of troops for the defence of the Confederated Colonies. It had been stated that the aggregate amount of our import duties would not be increased, even if the present Canadian tariff were supplied—that we would import largely of manufactured goods from Canada. But he (Mr Nowlan) did not consider that our importations from Canada would be much more than they are at present. The manufactures of Canada are not so well suited to the tastes of our people as British manufactured goods, and he believed it would be no easy matter to change the tastes and habits of our people in this respect; and he could not see any great advantage that would accrue to us even if we were to purchase our goods in Canada. If be thought that manufactures would spring up here amongst ourselves to any extent, as one of the results of Confederation, and thus give employment to our people, be might be disposed to regard the matter in a somewhat more favourable light; but he saw very little chance of such taking place. Some hon members had stated that the debt of Canada is represented by great Public Works, and that the province is in a flourishing condition, whilst Newfoundland was represented as a poor, pauperised country, without position or influence.
It must be admitted that this colony, as at present, is in a depressed condition, owing to successive bed fisheries. But he (Mr Nowlan) would like to know if confederation would remove our pauperism. He did not believe that it would; but if we had a few seasons of good fisheries, pauperism would disappear, whether we have Confederation or not. Our revenue is at present sufficient for our requirements, and our debt is only 8 dollars a head for our population. But what is the financial condition of Canada, the country we are asked to join? Her debt is 25 dollars per head, and it would be seen by reference to the public accounts of that country, that for the last eight or ten years preceding 1864 the revenue was not equal to the expenditure, and the political state of the country was such, owing to differences of race and religion, that they had frequent changes of government, and that latterly no party could carry on the government, longer than for a few months. They had been running into debt at a frightful rate, about one-fourth of their present debt having resulted from deficiencies in the annual revenue. Bad as our condition is, it is not so bad as this.
So it appears that Canada is not after all in such a flourishing condition as the supporters of Confederation would have us believe. Our delegates, no doubt, had made the best bargain they could for us under the circumstances, but he (Mr Nowlan) could not vote for the union on the terms which they had agreed upon. He could not see any substantial advantage to be derived from it. The hon member for Placentia, Mr. Shea, said we are to have a Dock established here for the repair of large vessels disabled on their voyage between the other North American Colonies and the United Kingdom, that we are to have transatlantic steam communication, and a line of Steamers to Canada, and the local postal service improved. But not one of these matters was guaranteed by the Quebec Resolutions. It was not a little remarkable that when some of those who are now such strenuous advocates for Confederation were contending for Responsible government and Free Trade, we were told of the improvements which would result from these concessions, improvements which had not all been realised; and these same parties now tell us that even with Responsible Government, a small Legislature such as ours is powerless to do the country much good, and that the remedy for our poverty and misfortunes is confederation, which will give us a Federal Legislature at Ottawa, to etre all our ills. He (Mr Nowlan) thought we ought to be cautious, and to hesitate about adopting the views of these hon members on this question of Confederation.
They may be just as much in error now as by their own admission they were ten years ago on Responsible Government. There was another matter which he (Mr Nowlan) could not help referring to—the difference of opinion among the [text missing] of this measure. One hon member was entirely in favour of this union; but he objected to our giving Mines, Minerals and Crown Lands. Another was of the opinion that Confederation would be most beneficial if we had steam communication with Britain and Canada, and the hon and learned Doctor took exception to the basis of representation and shewed by figures that in 36 years hence we would lose two of our eight members—while Upper Canada also would have more members than all the Confederation besides. If these hon members were sincere, they should have opposed Confederation until the causes of their objections were removed. And the constituencies would have some difficulty in giving their support to parties who were partly for, and partly against confederation.
The hon member for Port de Grave, Mr. Leamon, was candid and home t. He spoke in favour of Confederation. and would have gone immediately into the discussions of the resolutions. It was urged that the British Government would withdraw the troops if we refused to enter the union. He (Mr. Nowlan) believed the British Government would always afford us that military and naval protection that we had hitherto received. The most important interest we have to protect is our fisheries; and the encroachments most complained of were those of the French on the Labrador and at other points; and he was satisfied that a ship-of-war would be sent every summer to protect our fisheries, and that the detachment of troops stationed here would not be withdrawn. The other Colonies are as much interested in the protection of the Labrador fisheries as we are, and, they would have the same interest in them after Confederation as now, and whether we should go into Confederation or not, our interest would receive the same protection as those of the other Colonies.
These were his sentiments on that important question. He was opposed to Confederation on the terms laid down in the Quebec Resolutions; and he was glad that the matter was not to be disposed of hastily. It was of too much importance to be decided without reference to the constituencies. The constitution under which hon members held their seats was not given to that House, but to the people of the country, and they alone had the right to consent to such an important change as Confederation would effect upon it. He had much pleasure, therefore, in supporting the Resolution before the chair. He was glad the hon leader of the Government had laid such a temperate Resolution on the table. It met the views both of the supporters and the opponents of Confederation, as it postponed the decision of the question until after the constituencies shall have pronounced upon it. He thought it should be made the platform at the approaching General Election. He (Mr. Nowlan) was prepared to go before his constituents on the views he had now expressed, and if they should not return him, he was prepared to bow to their decision, however much he might value a seat in that House. But he would never be a party to ceding away the rights and privileges of the people. With these remarks he would support the Resolution before the chair, and let the matter be decided by the Constituencies at the approaching General Election.
St. John’s, Monday, May 1, 1865.
HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY.
THURSDAY, March 2.
Mr. Evans did not know that he could say much on this important question which had not been said by hon members who had already addressed the House on the subject. Still he considered it his duty to state his opinions upon a question of such deep importance, involving as it did the present and future destinies of the country. He fully concurred in the course proposed in the resolution before the chair.
The question ought to be fully considered by the constituencies previous to any decision being come to upon it in that House; and he cordially concurred in the views of the hon leader of the Government in that respect. The interests of this Island, in all time coming, were involved in the decision that would be come to, and therefore too much consideration could be given to the question. After the most careful consideration of all that had been advanced on both sides in that debate, he must say that the opinions he had previously formed were strengthened—that the weight of evidence and arguments was in favour of Confederation. So far from believing that Confederation would weaken the ties which bind us to the parent state, he considered that these ties would thereby be strengthened. He (Mr. Evans) would be no party to any proceedings which he believed calculated to separate this Colony from Great Britain; but he believed that in supporting Confederation he was prolonging, if not perpetrating the connection.
The Confederacy would at once become a powerful state, while its progress in population and the development of material resources, judging by the past, must be such as, in half a century hence, would place us in the very first position on this side of the Atlantic. At the same time, with the generous assistance of the mother country, and the protection which her navy would afford to our fisheries and commerce, we would have no cause for anxiety as to the aggression of any foreign power, either in Europe or America.
As to the ability of the Confederation to repel invasion, should it be attempted, he need only refer to the history of the revolutionary war of the United States. The thirteen United Colonies, with a population under the present population of British North America, and with fewer material resources, successfully resisted all the efforts of the mother country to retain them under her dominion; and if they could do that, notwithstanding that at the commencement of the struggle England held military possession of the country, would we not be sufficiently powerful to repel foreign aggression, when we had the military and naval protection of Great Britain combined with our own efforts? But what could the isolated Provinces of British North America do for their own defence, were they to be now attacked by an enemy?
Would it be possible for them to combine for the purpose? It was well known that such combination, without union, would be impracticable. What could our population of 130,000, scattered along such an extent of coast, do for their own protection? We have neither the influence nor the power to command that respect which we would enjoy as a component portion of a Confederacy numbering four millions, and which a few years would raise to four times that number, with a territory stretching from the Atlantic to the Pacific. And as to the means of defraying our civil expenditure, and promoting education and the extension of roads, our means under Confederation would be fully as ample as now; while, if we gave up a certain portion of our independent legislation, we would be admitted to legislate to the same extent, for the Confederacy, through our representatives in the Federal House of Commons. We did not so much part with our power of legislation as we combined with the other British Colonies to legislate in common for objects of common interest. He certainly felt somewhat alarmed at the learned Doctor’s long array of figures; and if he thought there was any danger of a reduction in the number of members allotted to us, he would say, that it would be well to guard by an express stipulation against such a contingency. But he did not think we should object to the number of members assigned to us.
We were fairly considered, on the basis of population, and considering the ability and success with which our Delegates sustained our interests at the Conference at Quebec, he felt no anxiety as to our interest being properly attended to in the Federal Parliament, provided the constituencies exercise proper judgment in the selection of representatives; and any increase in their number would certainly not facilitate the selection of suitable representatives. Besides, as had been remarked by the hon and learned member for Fogo, Mr. Whiteway, the other provinces are interested in the fisheries, in common with ourselves, and Canada especially had for some time past bestowed great attention upon her fisheries, although of minor importance compared with ours. He did not apprehend that it would be disadvantageous to us to surrender our ungranted Crown Lands without mines and minerals to the General Government.
He was of opinion that the apprehensions of hon members on that subject were groundless. The General Government would have no interest except to render our Crown lands available for the public benefit; and they would be as open to us for settlement as they are now. If our mineral resources are as valuable as they are represented, it was only necessary that they should be known to secure abundance of capital to work them; and it would not be denied that a thorough geological survey of the Island would be more effectively carried out by the General Government than by our own unaided efforts. With respect to the question of the tariff, he did see some difficulty, but he considered it by no means insurmountable; and considering the liberal manner in which the representation of our Delegates were met at the Conference, he was satisfied every consideration would be extended to us. If the existing Canadian tariff were applied to our imports, we might at first be more highly taxed than now.
But the hon member, for Placentia and St. Mary’s Mr. Shea, had shown that we would soon have an importation of Canadian goods, which of course would come in duty free; and from what the hon member for Carbonear, Mr. Rorke stated as to the quality and prices of the samples of Canadian leather, boots, shoes, and other articles he had from Quebec, last fall, there was no reason to doubt that we would find it for our advantage to import Canada manufactured leather to a considerable extent; and he agreed with hon members who anticipated that we would also import Canadian woollens, to some extent. He was also satisfied that the union would lead to the establishment of local manufactures. But these changes would be only of gradual introduction; and in the meantime, it ought to be arranged that we should not be required to contribute more to the general revenue, according to population, than the other colonies.
The hon member for Ferryland, Mr. Glen, objected that there were no stipulations in the Resolutions against an export duty upon fish and oil. He (Mr. Evans) did not think any such stipulations necessary, for he was perfectly satisfied that the General Government would not attempt it. There was no export duty on fish and oil from any of the British North American Colonies now; but there was an export duty on timber from New Brunswick, in lieu of stumpage, and upon Coal and other minerals in Nova Scotia, in lieu of Royalty; and the stipulation in the Resolutions, that there should be no export duty on these, was simply because, as a portion of the Crown lands revenue, they belonged to Nova Scotia and New Brunswick respectively, and they found it most convenient in these provinces to collect the revenue upon them by an export duty. But he (Mr. Evans) did not believe the General Government would attempt to impose any export duties, which was contrary to the enlightened spirit of modern commercial legislation.
The hon member also complained of the Canadian tariff as protective while our interests lay in the direction of Free Trade; and also that French caught fish was admitted into Canada, duty free, and would also come in here under the Canadian tariff. But the Canadian tariff would not be adopted by the Federal Legislature without modification, even if the existing import duties under it should be retained. The Federal tariff would, of course, be adapted to the local requirements of the several Colonies. He did not look upon the proposed Confederation as the submission of this Colony to a hostile country which would pay little regard to our interests, but an alliance with sister Colonies, for the promotion of our mutual interests, which could only be done by the general Legislature carefully considering the wants and wishes of the several Confederated Colonies.—Of course steam communication with the United Kingdom and with Canada, was indispensible to the beneficial operation of the union.
The steamers for Canada should call at some of the ports of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick on the Gulf of St. Lawrence. This would open up a valuable trade with these Colonies; and in return for our imports from them, they would be good customers for our herrings and other fishery products. He hoped the Government would erect an additional number of Lighthouses on our south western Coast, along what was the highway to the Gulf of the river St. Lawrence. Confederation would give us a uniform currency, as well as a uniform tariff, and it could not be denied that both would prove advantageous in our business relations with the other colonies. It has been urged that our commercial intercourse with the other Colonies is limited. But the commerce of British North America, though extensive now, can only be said to be in its infancy; and as population increased, the demands for the products of our fisheries in the other colonies would increase still more rapidly, for Agriculture and other pursuits would, no doubt occupy the attention of their people to a large extent; and we might anticipate supplying them to a much greater extent than now with the produce of our fisheries.
It had been objected that there is no uniformity of interests between Canada and this Colony, that we are a fishing community, while Canada is an agricultural, lumbering and manufacturing country. But for that very reason he considered that we would be of the greater advantage to each other. We would be good customers for the flour, pork and butter of Canada, and also, he believed for Canadian manufactures, while Canada would afford us an extensive market for our herrings and some other articles of which we had an unlimited supply of very superior quality; and he had not the least doubt that as population increased in Canada and the North Western territory, the demand for the products of our fisheries for these markets would exceed any thing at present anticipated. With the modifications in the resolutions to which he had referred, he was of opinion that the proposed union would operate beneficially for Newfoundland.
The present condition of a large portion of our operative population was most distressing; and it was our bounden duty to devise some means for their relief. Hitherto they had derived but little benefit from the immense treasures drawn from our waters. In years of prosperous fisheries they were comfortable; but when the catch was short, partly, no doubt, from improvidence, but chiefly from the precarious nature of their occupation, large numbers were reduced to destitution. It was admitted on all hands that other occupations besides the fisheries, must be provided for a considerable number of our people, or that they must emigrate; and as this proposal of union appeared to open up to us a prospect beneficial to our operative population, as calculated to provide them with increased employment, he thought we would be recreant to our duty to the country if we did not take it into serious consideration.
The hon. member for Bonavesta, Mr. Wyatt, said our interests would be attended to on the other side of the water, better than by any delegation from this Colony; but he (Mr. Evans) did mean to disparage the efforts of gentlemen in England interested in this Colony, when he said he would be sorry to see the protection of our constitutional rights entrusted to any person not responsible to the people of the country, and he did think that in a matter of such vital importance it was essential to the protection of our interests that we should be represented at the final passing of the Imperial Act, by Delegates thoroughly informed as to our interests, and the wants and wishes of the constituencies of the colony.
It would appear, however, that a final conclusion will not be come to on the subject by some of the other colonies, and therefore the members returned to the next House of Assembly would have an opportunity of considering the whole question, with the great advantage of being furnished with the views of the constituencies upon it, and being fully informed as to the course, taken by the Legislatures of the other colonies. He (Mr. Evans) would not longer occupy the time of the house. He looked upon Confederation, on fair terms, as calculated to be eminently beneficial to this Colony. With the two or three modifications of the resolutions, to which he had referred, and which, he believed, could be easily accomplished, he considered it would result beneficially to the country, and would greatly promote the progress of its people, socially commercially and politically.
On motion of hon Attorney General, the committee then rose, and the Chairman reported progress. To sit again to-morrow.
Mr. Parsons gave notice that, on Thursday next, he would ask leave to bring in a Bill to provide for the election of a Light-house on Cape St. Francis.
Mr. Renouf gave notice that, on to-morrow, he would ask the Acting Colonial Secretary what action has been taken by the Government to furnish the British North American Association of London, with Parliamentary, statistical and other documentary information relating to this Island, the character of such documents, if any, sent since the reception by the Government of the circular and rules of the said Association, dated 1st March, 1862. Also, for a statement, showing the localities of the Pillar letter boxes in this town, how often they are emptied [sic] of their contents, the number of newspapers and letters deposited in these boxes for town and outport delivery, the British North American Provinces, Great Britain and Ireland, and foreign Countries, with, the amount of revenue drawn from the said Pillar boxes, from date of establishment to the end of February last.
The House then adjourned until to-morrow at three o’clock.
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