Newfoundland, House of Assembly, Debate on Confederation (21 February 1865)
By: Newfoundland House of Assembly, The Newfoundlander
Citation: “House of Assembly”, The Newfoundlander (20 March 1865) & “Mr. A Shea’s Speech on Confederation in the House of Assembly on Tuesday, 21st February”, The Newfoundlander (2 March 1865).
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St. John’s, Monday, March 20, 1865.
HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY.
TUESDAY, Feb. 21.
The house met at three o’clock.
The hon Receiver General, by command of his Excellency the Governor, presented to the house a return of the duties collected at Harbor Grace in the years 1862 ‘3 and ‘4.
Ordered that this document lie on the table.
Mr. Rorke presented a pretition [sic] from Wm. Burke and others, of Victoria Village, near Carbonear, which was received and read, praying for a grant to complete the road through that settlement.
Ordered that the petion [sic] lie on the table.
- Kavanagh presented a petition from Gregory Duggan and others, of Broad Cove, which was received and read, praying for a grant to complete the road joining the Portugal Cove road.
Ordered that the petition 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 Provinces. Mr. Knight in the chair.
Mr. Rorke said he rose to say a few words on this important subject of confederation. He regarded the subject in two aspects, political and commercial, Some of the supporters of the latter seemed to forget the former. All who had paid attention to the proceedings in the Imperial Parliament, and the progress of public opinion in England, of late years, must be aware that the question of the military expenditure in the colonies had received a good deal of attention, and was the cause of much complaint, and that Her Majesty’s Government were pressed to have recourse to every means of its reduction. That question of confederation, which was taken up in the neighbouring Provinces, and to which they were invited to become parties, offered an opportunity of effecting such reduction; and we saw, by the despatch of Mr. Cardwell, that it was strongly recommended to us by Her Majesty’s Government. We had therefore to consider it as a measure which the home government desired to see carried out. By the confederation of the colonies, they would form a powerful community, and the Imperial Government would be gradually relieved from a considerable, portion of the existing military expenditure.
It had been said that Great Britain would still continue our present protection to us, and that we might, therefore, remain out of the confederation. He (Mr. Rorke) did not consider the matter in that light. If we declined to accept the terms offered to us, he apprehended the British Government would not act towards us as they had hitherto done. It had been stated that the statesmen of Canada desired to have this Colony, and the other maritime Provinces, for the purpose of aiding in the defence of Canada. He did not concur in that. Canada was a populous and powerful and prosperous country, and better able to defend herself than we were. Then as to the commercial aspect of the question; many apprehended that we would be subjected to a much larger amount of taxation than we now paid; but when we come to consider the position we would be in, he did not see much to apprehend from increased taxation. People were apprehensive that the tariff of Canada would be adopted by the confederate Government and Legislature.
But supposing the tariff of Canada were applied to our imports, he did not consider that it would produce so much revenue as was supposed. By that tariff, books, lines, seines, nets, salt and canvas were admitted duty free, which were articles of large consumption in the fisheries. There were other articles which came in at a duty not exceeding our present tariff. A large quantity of goods were imported now which we had no business to use; and which had been the cause of three fourths of the poverty under which Newfoundland now suffered; and if increased duties would be the means of reducing the consumption of such goods, he (Mr. Rorke) would say that it would be a great benefit to the country. But respecting the increased duty on manufactured goods; so far as regarded our operative population, he did not apprehend the revenue would be increased by them.
Look at Canada. He found there manufactures of the articles we required, which, under confederation, would come in duty free. These manufactures had much increased of late years, and now manufactures from the United States were coming in, on account of the distracted state of the country, occasioned by the war, and its enormous taxation. They had extensive woollen manufactures, manufactures of boots and shoes, and the manufactures of leather were very extensive. Canada had long been noted for its superior saddlery, which was not, however, of extensive demand here. But Canada leather was a good article, and our consumption of leatherware was large. He (Mr. Rorke) had samples of boots and shoes, from Quebec, last fall, and he had compared them with our imports from England and other countries, and found them very much superior to what we were in the habit of receiving from America, and fully equal to the English, while the prices were moderate. Their leather and their castings were of as good a description as what came from England, and fully as cheap. He had no doubt that many other articles were produced in Canada that would suit us, and which would all come in duty free. We all knew that when people were put to it, they readily accommodated themselves to circumstances.
We need not, therefore, be apprehensive that there would be any great difficulty in substituting the Canadian manufacture for the British. He did not, therefore, apprehend that our taxation would, on the whole, be higher than now, and he believed that our fishermen would in many instances get better articles than they used now, and equally cheap. Flour and provisions were also abundant and cheap in Canada, and, when the Grand Trunk Railway was completed to Halifax, could be received by us all the year round. This was an age of change, and the confederation of small states into larger was occurring [sic] yearly, in Europe.
He thought, taking the whole matter into consideration, that Confederation would ultimately prove beneficial. He did not anticipate any immediate benefit, nor did he suppose we would suffer any detriment, for he believed we would find that the revenue on the articles we would receive duty free would balance the increase duty on the others; and then Canada offered an unlimited market for our pickled fish, while Confederation would secure us against the imposition of any duty upon it. We were also promised steam communication both with England and with Canada, and when that was accomplished, he believed it would work a greater benefit to this country than could, at present, be estimated. But some hon members were apprehensive that the federal parliament would tax our fish and oil.— That could easily be guarded against, and he believed if delegates were sent to England on the subject, we would get other concessions. We were not similar to the other provinces, and that would be taken into consideration. It was his firm belief that Confederation would ultimately be of great benefit. He did not desire to influence others, but it was his belief that it would work beneficially for this country, and, therefore, he had much pleasure in supporting the resolutions moved by the hon leader of the government.
(Here followed the speech of Mr. Shea which has been already published in this Journal)
St. John’s, Thursday, March 2, 1865.
Mr. A. SHEA’S SPEECH ON CONFEDERATION IN THE HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY ON TUESDAY, 21st FEBRUARY.
Mr. A. Shea said he did not intend to offer any practical objection to the resolution embodying as it did the views of the public generally on this important subject; but he felt, nevertheless, that in the interest of the public it was in its present shape open to some objection. His opinion was that the resolution the House should adopt was one affirming the principles contained in the Report of the Quebec Conference, but at the same time providing that their decision should be subject to the expression of public opinion at the next general election. He felt this was the course the House should adopt, because on such a resolution there would be a division, and every member of the House would then stand before the constituencies in an intelligible light, while the present Resolution being one on which no division can take place, the public are without that security at the next elections which a clear avowal of the opinions of members would afford and which may now be avoided by any who desire to return to the House under false pretences. He thought therefore for the protection of the public that it would have been desirable to submit a more definite proposition than was contained in the Resolution before them.
Before proceeding farther he would refer to a discussion that had been had in another place on this subject in which some very extraordinary assumptions were made the groundwork of the argument. The question had been dealt with as one by which it was designed to set up the Markets of Canada against those of the United States and to impose disabilities on our trade with the latter. He (Mr. Shea) was at a loss to know where the warrant had been found for such a conclusion, which only serves to show how little the subject was comprehended by those who can so express themselves. There was nothing in the proposed Confederations by which the ports of the United States would be rendered less open than at present to our commerce, and no one would deprecate more than he (Mr. Shea) any attempt by fiscal regulations to force trade from the channels in which it naturally flowed. Men of business should be left free to resort to those places in which their convenience or their interest was best consulted, and these sound principles were not contravened by any thing contemplated in the Report agreed to at Quebec. No doubt since the time when that Report was adopted, the United States Government have given notice for the repeal of the Reciprocity Treaty, and it may be imagined that the abrogation of that measure would induce a resort to a retaliatory policy by the Government of the Confederation.
Now it was believed in well-informed circles that the repeal of that Treaty was not a necessary consequence of the notice that had been given, and he Mr. Shea) was strongly disposed to share this opinion. The conclusion which that notice expresses was arrived at under the influence of irritation caused by the conduct of the St. Alban’s raiders who escaped into Canada, and were believed to have received sympathy there, and it is therefore not unreasonable to suppose that before the expiration of the twelve months to which the notice extends the public mind of America will view the subject in a calmer and more just light, and will see how little of legitimate connexion there is between the transaction at which they have taken unfounded umbrage, and a business treaty which has been an operation for some years past to the mutual advantage of the parties concerned. But should it be otherwise, and that the notice given in petulance is carried into effect by repealing the treaty, then he had authority for asserting that as far as Canada is concerned her leading men in accordance with the approved course of British legislation would deprecate, a recourse to a retaliatory policy.
It would be seen then how little grounds there were for the apprehensions that our free trade Colonial policy would be disturbed, or our present satisfactory relations be injuriously affected by the operations of the Government of the proposed Confederation. He had listened with much interest to the very able and logical speech of the learned Attorney General yesterday, but he did not entirely agree with his hon and learned friend as to the speculative character of the question they were considering. This measure of Confederation does not belong to the class of untried or novel experiments. All the principal countries of the world are the result of combinations of small states for purposes of defence, security, and common advancement. When we look at England up to the time of the Heptarchy and after the combination of these little kingdoms under one Crown, we have a signal illustration of the effects of Confederation in promoting the power, and general prosperity of a people.
In her early days weak, and disjointed, the several little States at war with each other, or harrassed or overrun by some foreign invader, they made but little progress. But since they became one under a settled Government the result of their combined suffrages, though England has known of those vicissitudes from which no nation can be exempt, her career has been one of steady advancement, culminating at the present day in the proud position she holds, foremost amongst the nations of the earth. Then we have her Union with Scotland from which both countries have derived such signal advantages. The Union of England and Ireland had been referred to as an example of the injurious effects of combinations, and efforts had been made to work on the traditional prejudice which that event had justly inspired, to create a hostile feeling to the present measure. They have read the history of that transaction to little purpose who assert that it has any features in common with the just terms on which the Confederation of these colonies is proposed to be formed.
At the time of that Union, Ireland was a conquered country, and force and fraud were employed to bring about the so-called Union. Nor were its conditions less unjust than the agencies by which it was effected. The representation given to Ireland in the British Parliament was about one-half of what she was entitled to on fair grounds, and from this representation the Catholics who formed five-sixths of the population were entirely excluded by the continuance of the Penal Laws. It were idle to enumerate the inequalities and injustice which marked this connexion which scarcely established any bond but that which exists between the taskmaster and the slave. Every one acquainted with the history of O’Connell’s life knows that his agitation for a Repeal of the Union was grounded on the fact that the conditions of a fair Union were not found in the relations between England and Ireland, and that it was not so much the Repeal of the Union he sought as the acquisition of equal rights and privileges, the concession of which he hoped to extort from the fears of the British Government which that agitation was more likely than any other to call up.
The whole tenor of his speeches shows that a Union with England based on terms of equality and general equity would have found him a willing supporter. What analagy then, said Mr. Shea, can be drawn between a Union such as I have correctly described, and the proposed combination of these British North American Provinces where the just rights of all are alike respected, and the conditions of honorable partnership upheld. And even as respects the Irish Union, reveal has now no advocates, for the policy of the British Government has of late years become less anti-social, and the efforts of the leading Irishmen is now being directed to the attainment of those practical reforms which would promote the social and material advancement of the country which there is a growing disposition in England to advance. In the history of France we have another example of the power of Confederation to further the greatness and prosperity of a country.
The vast Empire which existed in the days of Charlemagne fell to pieces under the rule of his feeble successors who divided the Empire, and granted provinces to the high nobility, completing the feudal system under which the country became so dismembered, that in one hundred years after the death of that great monarch the crown had but two provinces and some small districts remaining under its control. France ceased to be a real European Power until partly by marriages and treaties, and by the accession of the great Henry IV., those fiefs were again united to the central state, and under the policy of Richlieu and Mazarin was brought to be the leading Power of Europe during the reign of Louis XIV. Spain owed her greatness to the union of the several petty kingdoms and countries under the crowns of Arragon and Castile, which became themselves united by the marriage of Ferdinand and Isabella. From the time of this union Spain increased her power and wealth until she became the Empire of Philip II., which was the greatest and most powerful in the world. It was the dreams of Universal Empire on the part of Charles, followed by the mad ambition of his son Phillip; to dominate the seas, that involved the exhausting consequences which ultimately led to the decline of Spanish power and influence.
It would be tedious, and to no necessary purpose that I should pursue the history of these examples which shows that Confederation of weak States means security and progress, and the consequent advancement of the people whose interests they embrace. But if we turn to more recent times we find argument no less striking and instructive. We have but to look at the United States to see what Confederation has done there. The fact of the marvellous advancement of the people and the power of the country cannot be denied, nor can it be attributed to any other cause than the Confederation of the States; but then it is said see what the country has come to now, alleging that the civil war is a consequence of Confederation, No reasoning can be more fallacious, nor can we suppose it is offered in seriousness by men of competent judgment.
The civil war is a war of Slavery and was long since forboded as the inevitable issue of such an anomaly in a country where free Institutions prevail; and even though the North and South should be severed as the result of the civil war the fact will not militate against the principle of Confederation, but is simply an evidence of the incompatibility of Slavery with the working of free Institutions. To prove that combination has failed in the case of the United States it must be shown that the several States are anxious to return to their original separate condition of what is termed “independent” existence. This desire he apprehended it would be somewhat difficult to discover, though proofs of the opposite character were found in the history of that Country. The new communities that grow up in the outskirts of the States have their probationary stage, and become entitled to admission into the Union when that time has passed. Do we ever find them unwilling to enter when the time arrives? On the contrary they avail themselves of what they justly esteem the privilege of merging their weak existence into the strong power of which they then become a part, sharing in the prosperity and protection which the connexion ensures.
He (Mr. Shea) would now come to a more familiar case in which the blessings of Confederation had been strikingly exemplified. Since the Union of the Canadas about twenty years since they have more than doubled in wealth and population, they have established their railway system and their other great public works by which the country has been opened up to settlement and cultivation. That union was effected by the influence of the British Government against powerful sectional resistance in the colony, but the result triumphantly established the wisdom of the measure. The Union has no firmer supporters than those who most stoutly opposed its initiation, and who now frankly acknowledge the false views which influenced their course. They see a career of progress consequent on the Union which was impossible under their former divided state, and are desirous of extending the principle to the Maritime Provinces in order to enlarge its sphere of operations for the benefit of the whole. In all the cases he had quoted it must be remarked as the result of these several Confederations that nowhere was there a desire to return to the separate existence out of which they sprung.
Can any argument so strongly prove the value of the principle as this determination to uphold it, shown by all countries that have tasted its effects: —Now, if ever a country was so placed as to require the aid of others, it is this colony. With a population of but 130,000 scattered over many hundred miles of sea coast our condition manifestly points to the necessity of co-operation with others whose alliance will give as a status which in our isolated state we cannot attain. We have proved our want of power to effect any object above the ordinary routine. We have seen pauperism setting us at defiance, and all our necessarily feeble efforts have been futile for its correction. We have resources fully adequate to the support of the population, and they remain idle from our inability to place them within the reach of the people, whose condition so loudly calls for increased employment. In this position of affairs we present a strong case for the necessity of combination with those who have the power to aid as, and whose interest it would be to promote our prosperity. But it is said by those who cannot resist the principle in the abstract, and who yet would oppose this measure by any means, that the peculiarities of our circumstances and the want of identity of interest with the other provinces, and our different pursuits render the proposition inapplicable to us. It appeared to him that logically to carry out the views of those who so object that tailors and shoemakers, and all the other trades, should each form distinct and separate communities apart from those whose pursuits were different. To his mind the variety of pursuits formed the strongest reason why communities should confederate; because this caused the exchange of productions and supplying their mutual necessities, the interests of all were conceived by the association.
But when we look to other Confederations do we find no difference in their pursuits? what can be more diverse than the trades and avocations of the people in different parts of the United States? Have we not the manufacturing and the agricultural and various other interests in England, and even the fisheries of Scotland are combined with these under one Government and we have not found that the difference in the pursuits of the people have militated, against their common prosperity. John Stuart Mill, one of the profoundest thinkers of the day, in speaking of the conditions necessary for the beneficial Confederation of States says “the strongest of all is identity of political antecedents; the possession of a national history, and consequent community of recollections; collective pride and humiliation, pleasure and regret, connected with the same incidents in the past.” Have we not these essentials in strict accord with those Provinces with whom we propose to confederate, and when we consider the experience on which such views are founded, how small is the weight that should attach to objections that are thus so strikingly rebutted. From a fair and careful consideration of the case presented in the Quebec Resolutions, it would he thought be difficult to dispute their beneficial application to this Colony, more especially in the circumstances in which it, now stands, when almost any change must be an improvement to the labouring population. But a pregnant question now presents itself, have we the unqualified power to decide our own destiny in this respect. It would be idle to suppose that the meeting at Quebec was not inspired by the Imperial Government.
No one who has paid any degree of attention to the tone of British opinion regarding these Colonies for some years past, can have failed to see that a change in the relations they held to the Mother Country was surely coming about. It became a mere question of time when we obtained Responsible Government, and with it virtual independence in the Government of these Colonies. We acquired the right to legislate; so that our tariffs became hostile to the commercial interests of E gland, and with this exercise of independence it was not unnatural that the question should be asked, why should they be called on to sustain those whose legislation for their own selfish ends was marked by this unfriendly spirit. This feeling has been gaining strength for some time, but the events taking place in America for the past four years, seem to have brought it to the mind of the British Government, not only as a question of right, and justice, but in regard to the sterner consideration of the practicability of existing means for the defence of the British North American Provinces. Thy evidently see that so many disjointed States, with each its separated organization and right of independent action, could not offer the necessary effective resistance to attack from the American States which in the course of events might probably arise, and they have concluded that in order to the affective application of Imperial aid, these Provinces should combine and be one for purposes of defence, moved by one central authority under the direction of which their combined strength, backed by the influence of England, would present an imposing front, and induce an invader to pause in his aggressive designs.
The Government feel that the combination of these Provinces is the condition alone on which they can be upheld in connexion with the mother country, and in view of all the considerations that surround this grave question, shall we be told it must be dealt with by regard to its effects in adding a halfpenny a yard to the price of calico. Can we doubt that the proposed Confederation is the expression of the settled views of British policy, and we may be thankful that when its advent is inevitable, the arrangement itself is one that has the approving testimony of experience. But this is evidently but a part of a more extended application of the principles of Confederation which has forced itself on the attention cf the British Government. In the fall of 1863, a number of Russian ships were stationed at New York the mission of which was not then known. It has since come to light that as at that time the interference of England in Polish affairs was not thought improbable, these ships were held in readiness to proceed to Australia and destroy the principal towns of these colonies, if that interference took place.
The circumstance brings into strong light the necessity of giving to the outlying dependencies of the Crown a greater degree of inherent strength, and the measures now proposed for the B.N.A. Provinces will doubtless also be carried out for the Australian group, which are also warned of the danger of relying solely on England for their protection. But he had heard the strange argument advanced, that if we in this colony refuse to unite we shall become a pet Province and the seat of a Naval Station. We had not heard the reasoning by which this conclusion was arrived at, but it was somewhat novel to find reward waiting on those who pursued a course of senseless contumacy and resistance. Will our refusal to confederate make Halifax less eligible than before in point of geographical position? Will its harbor, at all times accessible, be then divested of its attractions in our favor? It was strange that such groundless assertions could receive any countenance amongst even the least enlightened, but they show the nature of the opposition got up against the proposal for Union.
We deceive ourselves in supposing that we have any value in the eyes of Great Britain that would induce a favorable exceptional policy in our case. It is not with us now as in times of old, when this colony was a nursery for seamen for the British navy, and when it was valuable on that account. England has now no need for us in that respect, and our people being resident, have no great desire to try their fortunes in the naval service of the country. But it is asserted that the British Government never intended that this island should form part of the Confederation and that our movements are entirely gratuitous. The evidence, however, is clear on this point against those who offer this objection. In 1862 when the other colonies passed Resolutions for the consideration of the question of Confederation, we had not moved in the matter at all, and yet a copy of these Resolutions was forwarded here by the Secretary of State, and our attention invited to them, showing clearly the intention of the Imperial Government that we should not remain outside of any plan that might be agreed on for the Union of these Colonies. Their intentions in this respect are therefore not left to conjecture, while it might easily have been supposed that a uniform policy for these Provinces would be insisted on. He hoped he had shown that the principle itself was desirable and tended to progress; that even if less desirable, it was in view of all fair reasoning, the inevitable destiny of the Provinces; and that it was the evident design of the Imperial Government that this colony should form part of the proposed Confederation. He would now go into the consideration of the leading objections urged against the scheme, and most prominent amongst these is the question of Taxation.
There is no word more vague in its signification than that of taxation. In the sense in which it is used by those who employ it to get up a hostile cry in the present case, it is an abstraction from the means of the people for which they receive no return. Against taxation of this character people naturally rebelled, and the Legislature should also set its face with equal resolution. But there was another kind of taxation which signified pot oppression, but progress and public advantage, and which nurtured and promoted the prosperity of the people. We see high rates of taxation in many prosperous countries, as in England for example, and in Canada, whose taxes had been so much spoken of there was to his mind no part of the administration of affairs in that country which spoke more highly of the statesmanlike sagacity of her public men than the system of taxation by which the resources of the country have been brought into life, and their value enhanced, giving to the people ten-fold means for paying the taxes imposed upon them.
As compared with our wretched system, under which but a fractional part is devoted to purposes of public usefulness, the taxation of Canada stands out in remarkable contrast. He would be but too glad to see the way clear for a very large increase of our present taxation. He regretted that there was no public undertaking similar to those on which public money had been expended in Canada —undertakings which opened up their resources and permanently enlarged the means for the employment of their industry. This fruitful expenditure was what we stood so much in need of and taxation for such a purpose instead of being the hated thing as it is often popularly and ignorantly regarded, would be beneficial and invigorating in its results. If the nature of our resources were such as would justify the application of fifty thousand pounds in this manner in the present year, an immediate stimulus would be given to the labour of the people besides bringing within reach permanent sources of employment which would make the payment of the consequent taxation a much lighter burthen then is now imposed. But there are many taxes applying to us at the present, time which we apparently treat with unconcern, and which are far more oppressive than those to which the hostility of some members of the house is directed.
Who can measure the taxes imposed by privation and want from which so many of our people are suffering, the waste of physical and mental vigour, and of the general corers of life, with the sure prospect of decrepitude and imbecility in the coming generation, if the settled physiological laws are not to be set aside in our case. The escape from such taxes might well engage the attention we bestow on our very minor and imaginary ills. We then have the taxes which poverty in our midst must necessarily entail on every one who has a shilling to spare for the relief of the distressed. We have the taxes which owners of property feel in times like the present, when empty houses and bad tenants are unfortunately too well known, operating far more severely than any taxation which Confederation could cause.
The Canadian Tariff is assumed to be that which would be applied to the future Confederation. He (Mr. Shea) would admit for the sake of argument that such was to be the case as far as its general provisions could apply; though those whose authority was better than his thought a reduced scale of duties would bring sufficient revenue for the wants of the new Government. In 1864 an increase had been made in the Canadian Tariff on certain articles, but as this had been done for special purposes, and as these new taxes would he remitted in the present Session; the Delegates had not dealt with this exceptional Tariff, but had adopted that of 1863 as a basis of calculation. The duties in Canada on ready made clothing, leatherware, &c.; are higher than those imposed by our Tariff. It would be remembered that two years ago a Petition was presented to the House under very imposing circumstances; calling attention. to the necessity of increasing the duties on these descriptions of goods for the protection, of our artizans. Very great stress was laid on the subject aid its importance urged by hon members of the House, as a proposal from which much public benefit must arise.
These hon. gentlemen had now the opportunity presented by the Canadian Tariff of giving effect to their views, and yet strangely enough they are now most loud in condemning the terms of that Tariff in this respect. Was it merely for some temporary purpose the views of the Petition were advocated, or how is it that we have the singular spectacle of men repudiating their own opinions on the first occasion that has offered of carrying then into effect? He (M. Shea) had no faith in the views on which that petition was based, nor did he believe that any legislation of the House could afford the petitioner the relief they sought for, and he referred to the circumstances only to show the inconsistency of hon members and the small amount of reliance that can be placed on those who do not act on fixed principles and settled habits of thought and action. But though duties on some articles are higher in Canada than here, the tariff of Canada is not protective in its objects as has been asserted. Mr. Howe in writing to Mr. Adderly, in Dec. 1862, says:—In none of the Provinces have protective or discriminating duties ever been imposed. It is true that the import duties of Canada are rather high, but it can be shown that all the duty raised is actually required to pay the interest on the debts of the Province, to carry out public improvements and to provide for its Civil List.”
Mr. Howe is an impartial authority, though the facts in themselves are plain enough and need no voucher. It had been already shown that the aggregate amount of the revenues of the several provinces, calculated by their present tariff, would be sufficient for the wants of the Confederation, and in assuming the Canadian Tariff of 1863 as a groundwork of calculation for the whole, it was evident that he was putting the case in its worst aspect for the purpose he had in view. This Canadian Tariff would give, in the first instance, a larger Revenue than we had at present, but a fair examination of it would show that we should receive a full equivalent for the increased amount. By our own Tariff in 1863 we received £94,413, and the imports of that year would give £135,000 if the Canadian Tariff were in force, being an increase of a little over £40,000. But from this amount there would be a considerable sum to deduct for account of goods that would come in free from Canada and the other Provinces if Confederation […]
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[…] took place. There was, for instance, the article of Bread, which, by the strict application of the Canadian Tariff, forms an item of Revenue to the amount of £7894, which is not exempted by that Tariff at present, merely because it is not an article of importation there, and consequently escaped their attention.
This, of course, would be free under the general Tariff, but supposing for the sake of argument that its retention were senselessly persisted in, the effect then would be to shut the article out, and oblige us to get our supplies from the local bakeries, which are quite capable of furnishing all we want. He put this, of course, as an extreme and most improbable case, but he would deprecate any such tax on Bread, for while our local bakeries did good service in breaking down the Hamburg monopoly, he would be sorry to see the monopoly placed in their hands. Then there was the article of Kerosene Oil which paid £120, which after Confederation would come free from Canada. Ale and Porter pay £507 by our Tariff, and by the Canadian they would pay £799. As considerable supplies would of course come from Canada under a free Tariff, he would assume the future duty under this head at £300, leaving £499 to go to the account of abatements. The article of leatherware was most important. By our tariff it paid in 1863 £5628, and by the Canadian it would have been £12791. The leather manufactures are amongst the most extensive in Canada, and as the articles can be got there, as appeared by the statement of the hon. member for Carbonear, on as good terms as from England, we should doubtless receive a considerable amount of our supply from Canada under the new arrangement.
He did not wish however to overstate the case in any way, but he did not think he was open to the charge when he estimated that two-fifths of the import would be from that country, which would be an abatement of £5000 from the sum the Canadian Tariff would produce from our import of this article. Soap gives £645 under our Tariff, and would pay £1760 by the Canadian. As soap is largely manufactured in the other Provinces he assumed that one-half our import would be from them, reducing the Revenue by the sum of £880. Candles pay £467, and by the Canadian Tariff £849, would be realised. Here he estimated that the revenue would remain as it is with us, leaving £382 to be deducted from the calculation of the Canadian Tariff. He confined himself to the articles on which he felt no question could be raised as to the justness of his estimate, rejecting all those which, though they will probably come into more or less extent under a free Tariff, cannot be purchased at the English price, and on which consequently, though no duty would be paid, the purchaser would have little or no advantage. He had not taken into account either, the article of Tobacco, which comes in now from Canada in competition with Tobacco from the United States, but as it it is subject to an excise, he felt he could not claim it as a free import, though doubtless this restriction will be removed to enable Canada to supply the Lower Provinces. The woollens and furniture and other Canadian goods, he had not taken into account, though these articles would, to some extent, advantageously find their way here; neither had he made any abatement for the short comings of Revenue, as compared with the pro rata increase of taxation which in cases like the present all experience shows to be necessary.
The sums he had estimated however amounted to £17182—which would make the Revenue actually payable in 1863 under the Canadian Tariff £118,000. That however was the result of account of one year only. He would now deal with an average of years, and though five years was the term usually employed in such cases; still as the last four had been unproductive Tariffs, he would in the present instance take the average of the past ten years as a fairer criterion for the present purpose. He found that this gave an average Revenue of £100,000, on which the Canadian Tariff would make an increase of £42857. Taking the estimates he had made for account of abatements by reason of the import of free goods from the other Provinces, it would give £18086, making the net Revenue £124,771 as the annual produce of the Canadian Tariff it applied to our Imports for the past ten years. Against this we had to set off the sum of £112,000 guaranteed by the Resolutions at Quebec. Then there was the Steam Communication between Newfoundland and England and Canada, which would be reasonably estimated at £10,000 a year. We had besides a second Postal Steamer which would cost £4000 a year, and the cost of the Minerelogical Survey £500, making £126 500 a year. He invited [sic] the most careful examination and scrutiny of his statements, and did not doubt, they would commend themselves to candid and dispassionate minds as being the result of a careful and reasonable consideration of the case.
He believed he had understated the probable import of free goods from the other Provinces, and he had little doubt that before the measure was five years in operation, owing to the increase of the free list, the revenue payable by this colony would be less than at the present time. Of the capabilities of Canada to supply a good part of our wants, we have evidence in the following statement of her manufactures, which are every day extending, and to which a great stimulus would be given by opening the trade of the lower Provinces for their free Import:—
“To commence with the manufacture of lumber. Canada contains over two thousand saw mills, and in one year cut nearly eight hundred million feet of lumber She has over two hundred distilleries and breweries, which last year produced over nine million gallons of spirits and malt liquors, yielding an excise duty of over seven hundred thousand dollars. These breweries and stills consumed over one million six hundred thousand bushels of grain and malt. There are at least one thousand flour, grist and oat mills in this country; two hundred and fifty carriage factories —perhaps more; quite two hundred foundries; one hundred and fifty carding mills; one hundred and thirty woollen factories, and five hundred tanneries. Other and less important factories are numberless. In speaking of the crops of Canada only millions can be used, Canada produces annually between twenty-five and thirty millions bushels of wheat; twelve millions bushels of pease [sic]; forty millions bushels of oats; over a million and a half tons of hay; thirteen million bushels of buckwheat; twenty-eight million bushels of potatoes; nearly twenty million bushels of turnips; kills thirty million pounds of beef; shears five and a half million pounds of wool; kills four million pounds of pork; and makes forty-two to forty-five million pounds of butter.”
It must be borne in mind. that though the Tariff of Canada may be upheld in its general features, it was framed for Canada alone, and cannot be expected to be closely adapted to the Lower Provinces, which were not in the view of its framers. It would therefore necessarily undergo revision, as stated to him by Mr. Galt, “in deference to the circumstances of the Lower Provinces.” But let us imagine the extreme case that Canada had the power, and forced on the Lower Provinces a measure of oppressive taxation, must we not see that such a course would defeat itself—that in a country like this with a long line of coast offering such facilities for illicit traffic, the Revenue would be but partially collected, and the law would be wanting in that mortal support on which all laws are dependant for their successful operation.
Can we rationally suppose that the Confederation would be governed by men so deficient in statesmanship as to legislate in disregard of the circumstances and feelings of the people their measures would affect. It requires but little reflection to satisfy a thinking mind of the groundless nature of such apprehensions and of the ample guarantees we have against the imposition of heavy taxation. The Provinces were not entering on this scheme with the idea that they would be so many distinct antagonisms, requiring each to guard themselves against the encroaching spirit of the rest; but on the contrary, they propose to come together for purposes of mutual co-operation which all stand in need of, and which can only be secured by a course of action in which the just rights of all are respected, and upheld. The common Interests of the Lower Provinces at least are acknowledged by all who speak on this subject, and their views on the question of taxation would necessarily be identical. If Canadian statesmen had the wish will any one assert that they would have the power to press taxation against the combined resistance of the Lower Provinces.
Experience gives as no warrant for assuming that an attempt could be made so hostile to the spirit and genius of representative combinations, but such strange argument had been used in relation to this question that ever, such remote and almost impossible contingencies it became necessary to examine and rebut. He had shown the utter fatility [sic] of such legislation if it were enacted, but in the case he had imagined the weight of public opinion throughout the confederacy would come to the support of those against whom oppression was directed and the influence would be such as no Government would be able to resist. But he would go further, and suppose such a measure accomplished we should still have the security that lies in an appeal to the Imperial Government to whom all the legislation of the Confederation must be sent for approval. He would now refer to the question of the General Expenditure to show that it would be sufficiently provided for by combining the present revenues of the Provinces; and the extended application of something like the scale of Canadian duties of 1863 would give a surplus sufficient to provide for the new requirements.
[Mr. Shea here read the statement as inserted below.]
Comparative Statement of Canadian and Newfoundland Tariff as applied to our Imports in 1863, and for the past ten years, with the equivalent offered under Confederation.
|Revenue by Canadian Tariff||£135,032||14||3|
|Do. Newfoundland Tariff,||94,513||19||2|
|Ale and Porter||499||0||0|
|Leather and Imitation||2,400||0||0|
|Nett Revenue 1863||£117,850||4||3|
|Average Revenue, 10 years||£100,000||0||0|
|Average increase under Canadian Tariff||42,857||0||0|
|Nett average produce Canadian Tariff||£124,771||0||0|
|Amount guaranteed by Resolutions, Conference||£112,000||0||0|
|Steam between Newfoundland and England and Canada||10,000||0||0|
|2nd Postal Steamer||4,000||0||0|
Financial position of Confederation.
|Interest on Debt||$4,137,000|
|Administration of Justice||800,000|
|Public Works, &c.||200,000|
The sum of one million of dollars was set down for purposes of defence. He knew many persons thought this an insufficient amount, but they were of a class who made that one of many objections. When this estimate was made in Canada an engineer officer was there sent out by the Imperial Government to report on this question, and he (Mr. Shea) presumed the Canadian Government knew something of that officer’s opinion when this sum was set down as sufficient. Besides the statements of men acting under a sense of the responsibility of their official position must assuredly be taken as better evidence than the notions of incompetent and irresponsible opponents of the whole scheme. It is constantly being asserted, with the air of unanswerable argument, that in the railways and public works of Canada we have no interest. The objection takes that special view that characterises so much of the argument offered against the whole measure.
In every improvement that facilitates trade and cheapens the means of transport in those countries we are connected with by commercial relations, we have an interest. We have an interest in the railways of Spain, which have improved the means of communication in that country, and which have done more than all other causes to sustain the high prices of our staple produce for the past few years. We have an interest in the railways in the United States, which lessen the cost of carriage from the interior to the seaboard, of those articles of commerce which we import from that country. The railways in Brazil are also of consequence to us in increasing the means of transporting our fish to parts of that country that were before inaccessible, and enhancing its consumption and value. But in the proposed Intercolonial Railway to Halifax we have interests of a more direct and significant kind.
The present state of our relations with America is not so satisfactory as to render a rupture with that country a very improbable contingency. It is most wise then for all circumstanced as we are to consider the position in which we should be placed in that event. At present we receive nearly all our supplies of food from the States, and for five months of the year the river of St. Lawrence is frozen. War with the States during this time when navigation is suspended would cut us off from all our ordinary supplies of food. It is in this view that the Railway to Halifax becomes so important and gives an answer to those who ask us what interest we have in its construction. It would be the means of saving us from want if England and the United States were at war, by establishing a communication between Canada and the seaboard through British Territory.
The people of this country might be starving, while the grannaries of Western Canada were full-stored with wheat, unless the Railway communication with Halifax were established. This is no new view of the subject, for it was urged by Mr. Howe, in 1862, when he said that “the Intercolonial Railway being finished, we shall not only control the telegraphic and postal communication of the Western States, but secure to the people of Great Britain at all seasons a steady supply of breadstuffs, should unhapily [sic] the ports of the United States, in war, be closed against them.” We have too another interest in the prosecution of these public works. They will give a great impetus to labour during their construction, and this cannot take place so near to ourselves without affecting its value in this country. He knew that on another point much stress had been laid for want he felt of a full consideration of the circumstances. It was objected that without regard to the future increase of our population and revenue, the amount of the contribution we are to receive from the General Revenue is fixed. It will be seen that such a stipulation as this was necessary in the interest of the smaller Provinces. They cannot be expected to grow in population so as to keep pace with the increase of the larger Provinces, especially Upper Canada, where population must grow rapidly not only from its inherent attractiveness, but from a great exodus from the States which has commenced, to escape ſrom the ruinous taxation which the war will impose on that country. It the question of local subsidies were left open, the Revenues would be absorbed by Canada, and increased taxation for general purposes would then become necessary.
No better check could have been devised to guard against excessive taxation, and while even should our population increase no material increase of our Local Expenditure for the immediate purposes of Government would become necessary. The larger sum would then be at the disposal of the General Government for general purposes for our fair proportion of which we should have our undoubted claim. The objection then that the amount for local purposes as limited may come with some reason from the larger and more growing provinces but the argument is strange here seeing that the arrangement conseves [sic] the interests of colonies such as this where no relative increase of population can reasonably be expected to take place. He felt that in any fair view of this subject the rate of taxation at the onset would be the maximum for many years to come, and until some great change of circumstances and relations should take place.
The rate of taxation per head in Canada is now Two dollars and forty cents, while in the United States in 1860, prior to the war, the rate was but One dollar and sixty-five cents, shewing that he wants of a country do not keep pace with a great increase of population, such as may be expected for the Confederation. He had heard the statement frequently made, that the advocates of this change had not been able to point out the specific ways in which this colony would be benefitted by Confederation. He did not think a specification of particular advantages necessary to establish their case. When they were able to refer to history and experience, and show by that testimony that such combinations have worked well, they were justified in the conclusion that we might safely adopt it. This was far better evidence to sustain their position than any opinions of anticipated benefits which were necessarily more or less speculative, and could more easily be disputed by men of adverse views.
But though he did not consider this course necessary, he still had no objection to offer to the Committee some opinions he had formed as to its probable developments. The establishment of Steam Communication would bring us into close contact with the other Provinces, especially Canada, making our people known to them and they to us, and thus creating those relations from which mutual advantages would assuredly result. We should become better acquainted with the circumstances of those Colonies, and with the means they afford for the extension of our trade, and our middle classes would thus have opportunities for business transactions which they never can acquire while confined to our local resources. It is the invariable consequence of Steam communication to promote trade, and create new means for its enlargement, and a slight consideration of our circumstances and those of the Sister Colonies, must show that we shall be no exception to this admitted rule.
Then we have often boasted, and justly too, of the commanding position of the harbor of St. John’s, and we have made great, but unsuccessful efforts to attract to it the attention to which we think it is entitled as a prominent Atlantic port. Is it at all unreasonable to suppose that when we become united to Canada, the advantages it offers as a half-way house for their ships, will not be recognised when brought to their notice by us, and the very probable result will be the establishment of a Dock capable of taking up ships of the largest size, which will not only make it, a port of refuge for the crippled. Canadian ships, but will caused to be generally visited by vessels in distress, much to their safely and convenience and the profit of our tradesmen and labourers? This project was brought before the house by Mr. Newman some two years since, and he [Mr. Shea] felt it had not received the attention it really deserved. Our Post Office arrangements being under the General Government our Post roads would claim their attention and then we might reasonably hope to see the roads to Trepassey and Placentia completed, and be freed from the reproach suggested in the petition of the Commercial Society that the question of Confederation now three months before the country has not yet been heard of by the great bulk of our outport population. There is also the great post road being opened to the Twilingate district which would be completed in a reasonable time, but if left to local means who can name a day sufficiently distant that will see it finished. We all believe the Bultow fishing on the Banks to be most injurious to our interest and it has often been contended that it was a mode of fishing repugnant to the terms of the treaty, and we have remonstrated on this point but in vain.
As a part of the Confederation the remonstrance would come from four millions of people and could not so easily be disregarded. So also with regard to any matter on, which we felt aggrieved, our representations would so longer be those of a weak uninfluential community, but the voice of a powerful state whose just complaints would command attention and redress. These he contended were advantages of no mean order, nor were they such as might not reasonably be expected. Then when he looked to the great growing agricultural population of Upper Canada, it seemed to him to that quarter we might confidently look for the means of bringing our Herring fishery into active development. To do this we must have unbroken communication by water with Western Canada, and here we are brought to see one of the advantages to this country from the improvement of the Canal system, in which in which it had been asserted we had no interest. It would hardly be credited elsewhere that we have on our coasts at certain seasons, herrings in illimitable quantities, and yet we have also a want of employment for the people and extensive pauperism.
There is evidently some grave defect in our economic arrangements, or these facts could not co-exist. It does not appear to suit the interest of our Merchants to prosecute this fishery, though the Americans carry on the trade to some extent in Fortune Bay to their profit, no doubt, and much to the advantage of our people in that locality. It is evident it will never, acquire the importance it should have but through the agency of strangers who in their own country may see the means of bringing this fish into extensive consumption, and he saw no more likely field of operations than amongst the great agricultural population of Upper Canada when our increased intercourse brought our capabilities in this respect more clearly before them. These seemed to him to be a few of the benefits that would arise, but when they looked at the result of the calculations often before made as to the operation of great changes, they would find even where general success attended those measures it has often been in ways that had not been predicted. It was so with the Railway system of England, and with the Commercial Treaty with France, both great and both satisfactory in other respects than had been foretold. He certainly augured much advantage to this country from the fact that Canada had a great interest in our prosperity, apart from the general principle that would lead her to promote the welfare of every member of the Confederation.
But from the circumstances that we produce so little in this colony, our imports of Canadian produce would probably be larger than those of any of the Lower Provinces and as good customers, her interest in our welfare is assured even on the most selfish grounds. On the question of the general powers of taxation of all kinds which are to be given to the general Government the fears of many persons had been excited, owing to their partial and imperfect consideration of this portion of the plan. The rights of levying Duties of Customs is given to the General Parliament, and Direct Taxation is reserved for the Local Legislatures. Over both these is given to the General Legislature a sort of sovereign right which must necessarily reside in a Body to which such large powers and responsibilities are confided, and which in this case can only be possessed by means of direct provision, the Constitution being a written one, and therefore conferring no authority but what is expressly given.
This power over us is held by the Imperial Government at the present time, and the Government of the United States possess the same right of taxation in regard to all the separate States. But it must be taken and construed in connexion with the special powers of taxation the are reserved, for it would be a mockery to give the Local Legislatures the right of Direct Taxation, if as in a general rule or in ordinary circumstances the right could be set aside by the controlling Body. No fair reading of these several stipulations can lead to any other conclusion than that the taxation of houses, and property of that kind, belongs as at present to the Local Government, and cannot be applied except by their agency, and that practically our position is not changed in this respect. None of the Provinces would give to the General Government an authority that could otherwise operate, for this power of direct taxation is an inherent right in the local bodies, and should not be aleniated. In case of great emergency or danger where the lives of the people and all they hold most dear were put in peril, then the general power would be exercised for the preservation of the interests at stake, and in view of such emergencies the wisdom and necessity of clothing the Government with full authority must be apparent. In the United States where this power exists, he (Mr. Shea) had not been able to find that it was ever exercised until the breaking out of the present war when necessity brought it into operation, and when that power had it not been provided, would have been exercised as were many others without any constitutional authority.
And so in the present case, if it were omitted in the propose constitution, and that at any future time an exigency arose demanding its exercise the General Government in the interests of the people would be compelled to usurp the authority as was done by President Lincoln, whose course was so fully justified by his recent election. How much wiser then to provide as is here proposed for all possible contingencies when the power is in the hands of a Responsible Government rather than leave the country exposed to a resort to authority unknown to the Constitution which involves dangers of a grave character. As regards the burthens the federation would entail, an army and navy are held out in prominent relief, and the alarm of tax payers is sought to be excited. He had already on a former occasion explained his views on this head, and they are not changed by farther consideration.
The Colonies are expected to assist themselves, but no intention exists of placing on them so great a burthen as an army and navy would create. While we are dependencies manifestly unable to sustain so great an obligation, its imposition would be opposed to all sense of justice, and the relation we hold to the mother country. No doubt the day will come when the Confederation will, from its increase of population and wealth, necessarily cease to be a Dependency and with the best wishes of the Mother Country from which these Colonies would never voluntarily separate, an independent national position will be assumed. When that time does arrive, an army and navy, and the other obligations of national existence will doubtless become necessary, and the Country will have the ability to sustain these burthens. But at present we have no need to deal with such considerations. Mr. Mill, the great writer he had already quoted, though belonging to the school that holds the Colonies of light value to England, yet admits, that “as the Mother Country claims the privilege, at her sole discretion, of taking measures or pursuing a policy which may expose them to attack, it is just that she should undertake a considerable portion of their Military Defence even in time of peace; the whole of it so far as it depends on a standing Army.” That this is the view entertained by H.M. present Government is evident from the following paragraph in Mr. Cardwell’s Despatch—
“A very important part of this subject is the expense which may attend the working of the Central and the Local Governments. Her Majesty’s Government cannot but express the earnest hope that the arrangements which may be adopted in this respect may not be of such a nature as to increase, at least in any considerable degree, the whole expenditure, or to make any material addition to the taxation, and thereby retard the internal industry, or tend to impose new burdens on the commerce of the country.”
These words would be an idle mockery if it were contemplated to impose on the Confederation the heavy obligation an Army and Navy would involve. We may therefore conclude that the just and equitable policy which leaves this charge for the present at least with the Imperial, Government is that it is proposed to follow, and that we need not indulge in any serious apprehensions on this account. The plan of the Confederation embraces little of what is new. Its promoters were alive to the wisdom of framing the measure by regard to the approved nature of the old foundations on which they designed that this superstructure should mainly test. The slight variance it presents to the British model are those alone which the circumstances rendered necessary, and its whole character is testified by the unanimous voice of the British nation. But in considering the question of its adaptation to our condition, it may not be amiss that we should further consider the results of our present system as regards taxation and expenditure. He had referred to the various kinds of taxation and shown that only was oppressive from which the people at large derived little or no benefit. When he reflected on the character of our expenditure the injustice of the present system of taxation became strikingly apparent. Of the sum of one hundred thousand pounds sterling we raise, the following is the appropriation:— Salaries, £23,539; Printing, &c., £2100; Poor Hospitals, &c., £17,454; Post-office, £3280; Pensions, £2,170; Ferries, £380; Steam, 5.150; Protection of Fisheries and sundries £2,500; Repairs of Buildings, £750; Supplies of Gaols, &c., £1,400; Education, £13,625; Interest on Debt, £10,210; Contingencies: of legislature, £6,000; Sundries, £2000; Roads, £10,000. It will he seen how small a portion of this Expenditure is for any purpose of improvement by which the condition of the people would be improved.
The Education Grant, from a variety of causes, gives no corresponding benefit, and the Road Grant which the people value most, is only made when all other services are provided for, and is not to be relied, on as an annual grant. Nor did he see that our existing Constitution was capable of working out much better results. He trusted all these various reflections would be dwelt on by the people in a calm and inquiring spirit, so that when the time came for final decision on this most important question they would be enabled to come to the conclusion most in accord with the progress of society and the conservation of the common interest of the people of this country.
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