Newfoundland, House of Assembly, Debate on Confederation (22 February 1865)
By: Newfoundland House of Assembly, The Newfoundlander
Citation: “House of Assembly”, The Newfoundlander (20 March 1865) & “House of Assembly (Continued)”, The Newfoundlander (23 March 1865).
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St. John’s, Monday, March 20, 1865.
HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY.
WEDNESDAY, Feb. 22
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.
Mr. Glen rose to say a few words on this important question, though, he felt much diffidence in saying so, after the very able speeches of the hon members, Mr. A Shea and the hon Attorney General. He would say those speeches would have been listened to with satisfaction, even if they had beer, delivered within the walls of the Imperial Parliament. He differed with them, however, on many points, and as he could not attempt to follow them in their aerial flights, so visionary and so speculative, he would address the house in a more practical, and he believed, more trustworthy manner. With regard to the Report of our Delegates, as to the amount of money we are to receive, he would say that it was not correct. He told them so at an early stage of the proceedings; but they paid no attention to it. When, therefore an important document of that kind was placed before the house and found incorrect, parties would, he thought, be cautious in putting much faith in any of their future statemen’s,
There were errors in the documents. He would only point out two of them, one of £500 for the Receiver General, which sum was already provided for in the appropriation for the Customs Department. So with the Post Office Department, they put down the whole expenditure, say £3.281, but gave no credit for £1000 revenue received by that department. After examining the financial details submitted by the Delegates I confess I am far from being satisfied with them. The tariff that will be introduced into Newfoundland will be the Canadian one, in my opinion a most oppressive tariff, 25 per cent on all wearing appareal [sic], boots, shoes, &c., and 20 per cent on all woollens, cottons, linen, leather, cordage, &c., in short, a high protective tariff, to shut out, if possible, the cheap manufactures of Great Britain, in order to encourage their own manufactures. We want no protective tariff; what we require is to purchase our fishery supplies whereever we can procure them at the cheapest rate, but Canada will not permit us to do so, if she can prevent it. Her high protective tariff, she expects, will keep out the cheap manufactures of Great Britain. Such an attempt I protest against as injurious to the interests of our fishing population, and of our fisheries.
It is said the Canadian tariff will be reduced. Will any one believe it will be reduced after the confederation of the Provinces? In my opinion the tariff of duties must be raised higher, to provide for their vast expenditure, they must Support a large militia force, build fortifications, in fact the country must be put in a complete state of defence, costing millions. Then their inter-colonial railroad, reconstructing their canals, costing more millions, besides providing for their future army, and navy. Taxation must, therefore, be increased as they must have a much larger revenue to meet their enormous expenditure. In fact the Canadian tariff of duties, was increased only last year, which does not look much like reducing their tariff. We will have to pay our proportion of all that vast outlay, but we’ll receive no benefit whatever from it, and as the Canadian Government will, after the confederation, have the power of taxing Newfoundland by all the other modes and systems of taxation, I much fear, looking at their future vast expenditure, that Newfoundland will be made to feel the power the General Government will have after the union of taxing us for ever. The power of taxing Newfoundland for ever, by all methods and systems, is in my opinion too great a power to give the Canadian Government.
It has been said that manufactured goods will be imported into Newfoundland from Canada, and be sold cheaper than British goods as Canadian manufactures will be imported here free of duty. I do not believe it, for this reason, that British manufactures are imported largely ($16,000,000 last year) into Canada, notwithstanding their high productive tariff of 25 and 20 per cent, and can undersell them in their own market. Now if they cannot compete with British manufactures, how can British goods be kept out of Newfoundland, when Canadian manufactures will be subject to the additional expense of freight, insurance, commission, &c. It is evident that British goods will be better able to compete with Canadian goods in Newfoundland; and as British manufactures are sold cheaper than those of Canada in their own market, it follows they will also be sold cheaper in Newfoundland, notwithstanding the high protective duty of 25 and 20 per cent. It is also clear that we will have to pay those oppressive taxes; and the misfortune is, the increased revenue will go for Canadian improvements. I do not like the idea of being a party to a protective and hostile tarif [sic] against Great Britain, our best friends, and certainly our only protectors. It does not look well. It may be all very well for Americans and Canadians to do so, but for Newfoundlanders to act in that manner would be most ungrateful.
Besides there is the ridicule of the thing, that of submitting to a tariff at the command of Canada, not only hostile to Great Britain, but a protective tariff, “with nothing to protect.” I would rather have a hostile tariff against Canada than against Great Britain. As I said before, we know them as our best friends, and our only protectors, in the hour of danger. What does Mr. Gladstone say about these protective tariffs? He says, “We have given to our colonies practical freedom. I am not prepared to say that we have not something to rectify on the other side of the account. We observe a disposition on the part of some colonies calling themselves our own, to set up against the industry and productions of England, the mischiefs and obstructions of an exploded productive system.” Now, I say again, I object to being a party to the mischiefs and obstructions of an exploded protective system, Newfoundland having nothing to protect, our annual expenditure, taking the average of the last eight years, is £113000 stg. The General Government of Canada give us £112,000 stg., so that we nave less by £1,000 than the amount required to pay our average expenditure. What a miserable bargain for Newfoundland; and for any improvements we may require in future, we must get them by direct taxation, as the General Government have told us that they will give us no further assistance, beyond the £112,000.
Now is it fair that we should only receive £112,990 stg. whilst they would collect from us, under the Canadian tariff, at a very moderate calculation, £145,000 stg? (The actual amount by the Customs Returns is £160,000 stg.) —We would send them annually £33,000, and in ten years they would receive from us the large amount of £330,000 stg. What improvements we could make in Newfoundland with such a revenue. The road and education grants we could then give would benefit our country to a great extent; and every one that wished would get constant employment. But, unfortunately, all that large revenue abstracted from us, will be sent off to Canada, and Newfoundland would be left lamenting over such a bargain. The principal question after all is what effect the Confederation will have on our fisheries and fishermen, for the very existence of every one in Newfoundland, from the highest to the lowest, depends, on our fisheries.
It is true, our fisheries have been unsuccessful of late years, and great distress prevails amongst our fishermen and others throughout the Colony. But it has not yet been shown by any one how joining the Confederation will benefit our fisheries, or how it will relieve our fishermen from their distressed condition. In my opinion, joining the Confederation on the terms proposed, will add to thei distress, by the great increase of taxation, particularly as they will derive no benefit whatever from the additional taxes imposed upon them, as the revenue received from these taxes will all be sent off to Canada. I have no objections to taxation if the revenue was spent in Newfoundland, for the benefit of our own people, but I have every objection when the revenue will be carried away, for the benefit of the Canadians. I notice by the Canadian tariff, that French fish will be admitted free into Newfoundland.
Our fishermen cannot compete with the bounty-protected fishermen of France. For every quintal of fish they will sand into our market they will receive a large bounty of eight or nine shillings per quintal. Our fishermen receive no bounty. They will therefore be undersold in their own market; and I believe this will complete the ruin of our fishing population. This was guarded against, as the Hon Attorney General is aware of, by placing a duty of five shillings per quintal on foreign salted fish. The reason for doing so was that we could not compete with French fish, unless the French Government gave up their system of bounties. They will not give up the bounty on fish, therefore we put on a duty of five shillings per quintal to protect our fishermen. The Canadian tariff will leave our fishermen unprotected. Such will be the effect to Newfoundland, if she joins the union. And will any one favorable to the Confederation say we ought not to have better terms than are now offered us, and perfect security for all our reasonable demands before we think at all of joining the Confederation? What a mess we would have been placed in had the Legislature affirmed the Resolutions of the Quebec Delegates, as was contemplated by some of our Representatives. We must have better terms; and every reasonable security we ought to have.
No promise of what the General Government intend to do should satisfy us.—Every thing should be put in the New Constitution. No pledge, no promise, should be taken on such a subject as this. Scotland made terms before entering into the Union with England, and was benefitted by it. Ireland made terms, but took the word of the Government, that, if she joined the Union, Catholic emancipation would at the same time be granted. Ireland was deceived; she joined the Union, but Catholic emancipation was refused although the English Government had pledged themselves to grant it. So much for trusting to promises, and it was only through the exertions, many years afterwards, of Daniel O’Connell, that Catholic emancipation was granted to Ireland, from fear of a rebellion- what was refused to the justice of the case. If Newfoundland trusts to promises and fine speeches, we will be looking, in a few years, for another Daniel O’Connell. What do we actually receive from the General Government by the resolutions agreed to at the Conference of Delegates at Quebec, forming the bases of the proposed Confederation? All Newfoundland is to receive is £112,000 stg. Nothing more. And what does Newfoundland actually give up to the General Government? 1st. She gives up her revenue under the Canadian tariff of £145,000 to £160,000 stg. 2-yd. She gives up all her ungranted Lands, Mines and Minerals.-3rd. She gives up to the General Government of Canada, the power of making laws for us. —4th. She gives the General Government of Canada the power to regulate our fisheries.—5th. She gives the General Government the power of taxing our fish and oil.–6th. She gives them the power of raising money in Newfoundland by all modes and system of taxation,-7th. French fish, with eight shillings bounty, will be admitted free into Newfoundland, to the injury of our fishermen.
Will any one in Newfoundland say, we ought to join the Confederation on such terms as these? I should think not. We must, in my opinion, have better terms, not only as to money matters, as we receive nothing in comparison to the amount they will get from us; we should also have the sole control of our fisheries, without any reference the Canadian Government. We should allow no taxes to be imposed on us whatever in Newfoundland. The tax on imports we cannot avoid, if we join the union, as there must, of course, be a general tariff of import duties for the whole Confederation. But we pay “double per head in Newfoundland” to want they do in Canada of import duties. Why should Newfoundland, a poor country, pay double import duties, as compared with Canada, which is said to be a rich country, and receive no fair equivalent? This is not just or fair. To enter the Confederation on the resolutions agreed to at the Quebec conference, would, in my opinion, be ruinous to Newfoundland, and I hope it will not be agreed to. Let us at least have fair terms, without perfect security I think we should not enter the union.
No one in Newfoundland would, I think for a moment agree to join the Confederation, on the ruinous terms proposed by the Delegates at the conference at Quebec, on the 10th October, 1864. The hon member, Mr. Shea, based his calculations on the tariff of 1863, because it, answered his purpose, as the revenue that year was only £94,000, instead of taking the year 1864, which was a fair average of our revenue for the last 9 years, being a little over £100,030. His friend Mr. Galt, of Canada, acted differently. He does not like to take 1863 for the basis of his calculations, as there was a deficiency in the account of amount a million of dollars. So 1893 would dot do for him; he likes 1864 better, as he had a surplus that year for the first time. So you see how cunningly the two great financers, manage with the years 1863 and 1864. Mr. Galt says let us take 1864 for the basis of our calculations, as I have a Surplus revenue that year for the first time, and it will look better than taking 1863, when there was a deficiency.
It may answer you to take 1864 for your basis of calculations, but it will not answer me, says the hon member, Mr. A. Shea; for if I take 1864 for my basis I will snow an increase of duties of £60,000 stg. No I must take 1863, to show a less amount of taxation. The hon member puts down £10,000, as an asset for steam communication from Canada to Great Britain, (calling at Newfoundland.) There is no […]
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[…] guarantee in the Quebec resolutions for anything of the kind, he has assumed £10,000 as an asset, on a mere promise, which is really absurd; and shows he is unable to make a statement that would be satisfactory to this house. He therefore, is obliged to have recourse to the delusion of making the £10,000 appear as an asset, and on the simple promise of so me one (of course of high standing,) in Canada. I say nothing is to whether the steam communication, when we get it, would be really worth £10,000 to this country. So we might think £10,000 could be better appropriated. I merely wish to state that putting down in his statement £10,000 as an asset, on a promise that steam communication may be granted us by Canada, is a delusion of a kind that I really think will not take in any one. The hon member says, the amount of duty (£7004) that would be collected on Bread under the Canadian tariff, is a mistake, as he has Mr. Galt’s word that bread will be put down in the next tariff in the free list.
I can only say that by the present Canadian tariff, bread is subject to a duty of 20 per cent. Mr. Galt also informs the house member by telegraph that the Canadian tariff will be revised to the satisfaction of the Lower Provinces. These fine promises do not suit us. I have no doubt they were thought sufficient by Mr. Galt to make us jump into the union at once. When all the fine promises and persuasive speeches failed to make us see the beauties of the confederation, on the terms agreed to at the Quebec conference, the hon member threatened us with the high displeasure of the British Government, that we would be left without any protection, and of course, be a prey to any power that might wish to take possession of our country. I do not believe that Great Britain will refuse to continue her protection to Newfound and. She will not feel insulted at our desire to obtain better terms before entering the confederation. ” In all probability Newfoundland will be the last place of America, where the British flag will wave.” Such is my opinion, I will now read the following statement:—
Statement of our Financial Affairs, if Newfoundland joins the Confederation.
|The annual expenditure of our Government, taking the average of the past eight years, is||£113,000 stg.|
|Charges payable by the general government of Canada, as per statement of the Delegates||£32,000.|
|Assets applicable for the purposes of our Government, as per statement of the Delegates||£80,000.||£112,000 stg,|
|Balance against the Colony||£1,000.|
|Such is the bargain made of our momentary affairs. Say £1,000 less than our average expenditure. No future improvements can therefore be made but by direct taxation. It is said we would receive from the general government more than our average revenue. This assertion is mere delusion, for ou revenue under the Canadian tariff, at a very moderate estimate, would yield at least||£140,000.|
|Canada gives us only||£112,000.|
|Newfoundland will send to Canada yearly||£33,000 stg.|
|The General Government would receive from us, in one year £33,000 stg., which in ten years, would amount to £330,000.|
Why should Newfoundland accept so small a sum as £112,000 stg., and the Canadian government take from us the large amount of £145,000 stg. to £160,000 and that we should give then also all our ungranted lands, our mines and minerals, the power of making for us what laws they like, the power of regulating our fisheries, the uncontrolled power, for all future time, of taxing us as they please, and the power of raising money by all the other modes and systems of taxation, so well known to the Canadian Government, and admitting French, bounty fish free. (8s. bounty.)
Before thinking of entering the Confederation we must have better terms, and everything guaranteed to us in the new constitution. If we cannot get better terms, we should remain as we are.
The general government of Canada leave us our local revenues of £2,000 a year, but they take care to carry off £2,000 a year of our Savings’ Bank profits, and £1000 a year of our Postal revenue to repay themselves.
Hon. Solicitor General—The Resolution before the chair was one which, he was happy to say, no hon. member could find fault with; and much credit was due to the hon Attorney General for the course he had adopted in the matter now before the chair. When the scheme of confederation was first spoken of, he (S. Gen) regarded it with a great deal of distrust, and considered that we ought to be very guarded in the course we should adopt in respect to it. He was then opposed to confederation; and had listened with great interest to the arguments of its supporters, if they could show that the country could benefit by the scheme. The Government appointed two delegates to the Conference held at Quebec on this question; and be must say that they did their work well there, and represented the country efficiently , and both the hon members, Mr. Shea and the hon Attorney General, made excellent speeches in support of the measure.
He regretted the course which was rendered necessary for him to adopt, as he differed entirely from these hon gentlemen. It was for the supporters of confederation to show what were its advantages, and it was for us, who differ in opinion from them to show the fallacy of their reasoning. The hon member, Mr. Shea, had endeavoured to prove that we would derive great benefit f on the proposed connexion with the confederate provinces; and the supporters of the proposition, who appear to be in extacies [sic] with what they call a grand idea, would induce us to believe that, by its adoption, this country would be largely benefitted.
One would suppose, from the picture painted by them, that a howling wilderness would be turned into a garden of Eden—a Paradise, but he thought it would be a Paradise lost—that we would have a little Heaven here below; and be, in all times to come in a perfect state of beatification. But he (S. Gen.) could not see all these good things in the same light as some hon gentlemen did, but regarded the scheme as one calculated to do much injury to the country, and now proposed to argue his side of the case with hon gentlemen. No doubt the connexion would be beneficial to New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, which were contiguous to Canada; but our condition is very different, and the rule , which may apply to them may be most prejudicial to us. If we were connected with Canada by land, we could avail ourselves of the advantages which would result to us from her railways, her manufactures, and her public institutions, but being isolated as we are, and in effect, farther from Canada than from England; the case is very different.
It is a fact that we can go to England almost every day, whilst, for at least, four months of the year Canada is inaccessible to us except through the United States; and in summer we have very little intercourse or business with that country, compared with what we have with England. We are at present connected with Britain by the most tender ties—we are her sons— she is the home of our forefathers—we are one of her oldest and most loyal colonies; and he (S. Gen.) would not be one of those who would adopt a course calculated evidently to make us independent of that great nation, and estrange her maternal affections from us.
A great deal had been said about the existing distress of this colony—that we have resources not availed of, which might be developed, and which would afford employment to our people; and this has been urged as a reason for our entering into the union. But whilst he admitted that there was much distress at present, and that the country was not in that prosperous and wholesome condition, that might be desired, yet the supporters of Confederation had failed to show how the proposed scheme world remedy these evils, how annexation to Canada would make the country more prosperous, while notoriously great evils would result from the connection. There must be a great increase of taxation, to defray the necessary expenditure of the confederation; but how we should receive commensurate benefit from our connection with Canada, had not been shown to his satisfaction. Hon. gentlemen say—” Our people are poor and in distress. Allow us to tax them some £50 or £60,000 per annum more than at present—to abolish our Legislature—to hand over the right of universal taxation to Canada—in fact, to yield up ourselves and our country, and that will be a panacea for all our ills. He (S. Gen.) did not see how the poverty of our people would be lessened by further taxation, or now we were to improve by yielding up our birthright.
We are told that factories would rise and that sources of employment for our people would be opened up; but it was only assumption, that by going into Confederation we would possess these institutions, whilst it is a fact, that if we dared, in our Legislature, to tax the people to the extent proposed by the Confederation, we would ourselves have the means of fostering and encouraging all those institutions which would give employment to the labouring classes, at that season of the year when such is required. The hon, member, Mr. Shea, said that entering into the Confederation we would have a line of steamers to Montreal, or some other Canadian port; and that the Canadian steamers, to and from England, would call here; but he (s. Gen.) did not see that in the Resolutions of the Conference. This too was assumption.—
Another great benefit to flow from Confederation was, that we were to have eight members in the Federal House of Commons, and all our young men who could not find employment here to their satisfaction, could go to them, and they would procure situations for them in Canada, and that our people would find employment on the railroad which was to connect Canada and New Brunswick with the port of Halifax. If it could be shown that manufacturing capitalists would come amongst us and establish factories—that new resources would be opened to us in our own country which would give employment to our increasing population, it would be something; but to say that we would by benefited by our people leaving us, and the country being depopulated, was to him inexplicable, and an argument which he did not understand.
We were told by the advocates of Confederation of these advantages, but he could not see them whilst its disadvantages were certain. This House is the guardian of our public rights. Let us go into confederation, and what would we have to look to? The privilege of governing ourselves would be transferred into other hands, and gone from us. He (Sol. Gen) believed this discussion about Confederation had inspired the people with more confidence in the House of Assembly, as the guardian of their rights, his House was looked to to maintain the rights of the people of Newfoundland. If we entered into, the proposed Confederation, they would be gone. We would have no independent Legislature; and what could eight men sent to Canada do to protect our interests? We had thirty members in this Assembly, of whom seven were residents in the outposts; and what influence had they? They had been urging morning meetings of the house, so as to get though with the public business to a reasonable time, that they might go home to attend o their own private affairs; but they could not carry it.
The St. John’s men were too powerful for them. They attended to their business during the day, and came to the house after dinner; and it any member had anything of interest to attract him in the evening, there was an early adjournment, and the outport members had to submit. if the voice of 7 members in 30 has such slight effect, what influence would 8 members have in a House of 194, to protect our interest in Canada? If confederation, was carried out, this House would become a nudity, and we would have the representatives of Canada, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia legislating for us and making us at their will, for our 8 members could only offer a feeble resistance to what they might disapprove of. At present we are legislating in the face of our constituents, having an election every four years; and if we oppress them or overtax them they can supply our places wish those men worthy of their confidence. But it we united with Canada we would have no redress, for Canada would make our laws and do with us as she pleased. What influence would 8 men have to prevent our taxation being doubled? At present our import duties are about 13 per cent in the aggregate. The duties in Canada are 20 per cent; and when Confederation is carried out there will be an assimilation of tariffs, as is admitted, and that would add 50 per cent, to our present taxation, as had been shown by the hon member Mr Glen.
What was the object of England in recommending Confederation for Canada? Was it not that she might be relieved from the expense of defending that province, which involved a heavy expenditure? And would not the military protection of Newfoundland be discontinued by England, if we entered into the union? And would they not have an army and a navy to provide for the protection of the confederated Colonies? And still, we are told of a reduction to be effected in the existing tariff of Canada. In place of reduction, that taxation must be raised 100 per cent. And how will it be raised? The Quebec Resolutions answer that question. They give unlimited powers of taxation to the federal government and legislature. They could tax our fish, our oil, our houses, lands, horses and carts, and all other property, and we could not resist.
Besides, they are to have full control over our fisheries. How would our fishermen and planters like that? But then we were to give up to the federal Government all our ungranted Crown lands, with our mines and minerals, and we had a gentleman from Canada last summer examining our mineral resources. We did not well know what they were; but Canada seemed to know well, for part of the bargain was that we were to give up our mines and minerals to then. He (S. Gen) spoke of these matters as he believed them. This was his native country; and if he thought it would be benefited by confederation he would go into it. He had a large family, and it he thought it would promote their welfare he would gladly embrace it. But he could not see that the proposed union would benefit this country, but the reverse. There was another matter. It was said that England would continue to extend to this country a helping hand. There may be no doubt of that. Still there would be a disruption of those maternal ties that bind Great Britain to this her most ancient Colony.
At present we have England and her army to protect us. who are her children, and if a foreign foe touched a rock of Newfoundland, England would immediately demand reparation for it. It might be said that we will still have her protection; yet if so, she would be removed from us in feeling, and in course of time, she may be altogether estranged from us. It was said that the people of England complained of the cost of protecting the colonies, and that they must get rid of the burden; that Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and all the other colonies must provide for their own defence, or pay for the troops employed in their protection. Well, he did not say that it was unreasonable that we should pay our proportion of the military defence of the empire, if required, including, of course, the colonies. He did not suppose our share of it, according to population, would exceed £5,000 a year; but if it were twice that amount, he would rather pay it than incur the burthen that would be entailed on us by Confederation.
And besides, Canada and the United States are contiguous; and we do no know the moment when there may be war with the United States or some other power when we would have to bear our proportion of the cost of the war, whatever it might come too; and if troops were called for, for the protection of the Canadian frontier, we would have to proceed to its defence, as was the case now in the United States, where the citizens throughout the union were drafted, and had to join the army. If we united with Canada, and there should be war with the United States or any other power, we would be subjected to the draft tor the defence of Canada, and go we must. Hon. gentlemen had stated that we must enter into the Confederation, whether we would or not. He did not see anything in the correspondence to shew that there would be any compulsion. England did not desire that we should join, if we did not wish it.
The other Provinces took up the question, and were about to hold a conference, which we were invited to join; and the Attorney General said we should send Delegates to see what was going on, and instructed them to da nothing binding on this colony. We have now their report; and it is quite another matter to become parties to its terms. We were never requested by the British Government to take part in these proceedings, nor by the colonies, until we invited ourselves. And because Canada and New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, which are contiguous to each other, are about to confederate, ought we, who are 600 miles distant from the nearest point, to join the union, if we do not consider it for our interest to do so? If he (S. Gen.) were a representative of Nova Scotia he would go for the union. But although Nova Scotia would be benefited, still he found by the newspapers of that Province that there was much difference of opinion on the question, and that New Brunswick was also against it.
Mr. Shea—The hon gentleman should be careful as to the accuracy of his statements. Mr. Tilly, the premier of New Brunswick, was confident there would be a large majority in the Assembly of that Province for confederation.
The Solicitor General—One thing was certain, if New Brunswick was not against it, at all events she was not for it; and Prince Edward Island was decidedly against it, while that island was much nearer the other provinces than Newfoundland; and as to this colony it was evident that with the exception of a few who expected to benefit by it, confederation was unfavourably regarded. So far as his vote went he was inclined to remain as we are at present, for he did not think confederation with Canada would improve our circumstances, but on the contrary would be the cause of oppressing our people with heavy burthens. He would rather be the tail of England than the tail of Canada; and living been born under the flag which had braved for a thousand years the battle and the breeze, he hoped to live and die under it.
Mr. March must congratulate this House and the country on the Resolution proposed by the hon Attorney General, complying as it did with the unanimous voice of the people. The people had been called wooden heads and chowder heads by an hon member of this house, as if they were not capable of giving an opinion on a great question like this. If they felt no interest in it, who did? They were bound to this country by the strongest of ties. Their fathers had died to establish its liberty, and he (Mr March) would never consent, while a drop of British blood ran in his veins, to yield up this country. which was one day bound to be the most flourishing on the ocean, to a parcel of Johnny Crapeaus or Dutch Canadians. We were now part of the glorious British Empire; we lived under the sway of our beloved sovereign Queen Victoria, upon whose dominions the sun never sets.
Were we to leave the flag that had braved a thousand years the battle and the breeze; be separated from the glorious Empire of Britain, and place on a sandy, muddy, rickety foundation? He (Mr March) indignantly protested against any such spoliation of our liberties. Hon gentlemen call this clap-trap. It was no clap-trap—it was as true as Holy Writ. He had a duty to discharge to his country, and he would fearlessly and honesty discharge it. He would defy any man to say he was wrong. He endorsed every word that had fallen from the hon members, Mr Glen and Mr Hayward.—Although they had not spoken three hours, they had thrown a deal of light on the subject, and had taken the part of honest man who had the welfare of their country at heart. He knew very well that if the delegates had not been , feasted and gormandized in Canada, they would have never signed that Report. Why, if any of us got muddled, we would not know what we were about. Who will deny that? None of us was infallible. Human nature was frail. One great man might be deceived. Aye, even two of them. What would become of the country if the wooden heads did not brave the dangers of the deep—if they did not run out, like so many squirrels, over the rotten ice, and bring in their big loads of fat? —He regretted that any disparagement had been thrown on them.
This is a question we would all differ on. Honour to the Attorney General, the star of this country;—The bench shall be honoured by him. If we went into this Confederation and a war took place with America, our best men would have to fight their battles. He well knew that Canada had been a nightmare to the British Government, and a drain on her treasury. They say that the time had come when she should bear part of the cost of her military defence. Look at the immense sum of money it would take to fortify Canada; and how could she defend herself without means? She was now almost insolvent, and wanted to pounce on Newfoundland like a hungry cat, and seize her teeming wealth—her millions of money, which were annually drawn from her waters, and replenish her own exhausted treasury with it. Was this country to be bartered away for a mess of pottage? When the old Government had their seven years of plenty, what did they do with it? Did they, like Joseph in Egypt, lay it up? Look at our great Northern Route; why, there is land there equal to any in the world; and if the dogs were destroyed, and the people encouraged to rear sheep, we would have our woolen manufactories scattered throughout the land, giving employment to the people, and providing them with cheap raiment.
Our country could rise like a Phoenix from its ashes, and amid wealth, happiness and prosperity, blossom like the rose. He had this from Mr. Howe’s lips himself, the greatest statesman on this side of the Atlantic. Look at the Scotch farmers who had left Nova Scotia, and settled at the Bay of Islands, were there was fine land, with immense timber, no dogs to worry the cattle or destroy the sheep. And was this country to be sacrificed for a paltry £112,000 a year? Never, the people would go to the cannon’s mouth before they submitted to such a think. What good were we to derive from railroads, their canals, &c? The country was not asleep to these things. There was no use thus to throw dust into the eyes of the public. We wanted no hungry lawyers to guide us in this matter. Common sense and honesty was all that was required to carry on the Government.
We had our old mother England to protect us, with the milk of human kindness in her heart. Did she ever make serfs of us? No, her glory was to watch over and protect us. He (Mr. March) would settle this matter, supposing he had to go to London at once. —Two or three years ago it was stated by men who now make speeches of two or three hours in length, that if we had only steam communication with Britain, this country would be turned into a land of Goshen at once. Well, we had the Galway line, and what good resulted from it? What had we to pay for it? No less than £8,000 a year. They brought the scum of society into this country, who, with their bag pipes, danced their horn-pipes on the water pipes, and we had to pay the piper.
Facts are stubborn things, and under this Confederation, if we had steam communication, we would have to pay for it. Do you think that if we have this confederation, capitalists will come here and spread their money broad cast over the country? It was a delusion, a mockery and a humbug. If rich men wanted to come here, they could come now; and Confederation was not going to bring them. What object under heaven had he (Mr. March) but what would tend to benefit his native country? He remembered when 800 men were sent from this to Canada; to fight , and how many returned; Why poor old Billy Boggs and Johnny Martin. It was well for us to ponder what was in store for us. He would tell the house what would raise the country out of its present depressed condition. Let us pass an Act to prevent the sale of bait to the French. That was what ruined our fisheries. If they could get no bait from us, they would be unable to prevent the fish from coming in upon our shores. He (Mr. March) heartily concurred in the Resolution before the house.
(To be continued.)
St. John’s, Thursday, March 23, 1865.
HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY.
WEDNESDAY, Feb. 22
Mr. Prowse.—No man in this house enjoyed an exhibition of this kind more than he (Mr Prowse); ever, when the laugh was against himself, as it was this evening, he had no objection to the serio-comic performance; but he thought it would be very much better suited for other scenes. If the hon member, Mr March, would only act it elsewhere, for the benefit of the poor, he would do a great service, these bad times. Here it was out of place, and in the discussion of a great subject like the one now before us, most unseemly and improper. The hon member says all we want in the discussion of this question is common, sense and honesty; “we want no hungry lawyers.”
Now he (Mr. P.) quite agreed with the hon gentleman, that all he (Mr March) wanted was common sense and honesty. He might have those qualities separately, but after this last speech, he certainly could not have them in combination. If he had no common sense, he might honestly believe what he and the Solicitor General said about our being separated from England and joined to Canada alone; but if he has any common understanding, he must see that one of the primary objects of the Conference was to connect us more closely with Great Britain; and that, under confederation, we will be as much an integral portion of the British Empire, or even more so, than we are now. Confederation is a great thing; it has made the Solicitor General speak, and the great argument that he relies upon is the little influence our eight men: would have in the general Parliament. See, says the Solicitor General, how little influence the seven out harbor members have in this house.
Why they cannot get the St John’s members to attend to business, and they cannot prevent them adjourning to go to dinners. He (Mr Prowse) would like to know if there had ever been any complaint made by the Solicitor General on this score, and whether he was not always the first to go to a dinner party himself? What can eight members do? The hon and learned gentlemen forgets all the influence Sir William Molesworth and the philosophical radicals exercised in the British House of Commons, though only numbering about a score of gentlemen? But is it more of the results of confederation that small states, like Rhode Island, for instance, are crushed and tyrannized over by large states like New York? Has the smallest Swiss canton the smallest complaint against the larger cantons? And why should we be afraid that Canada, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and P. E. Island, should all combine to treat us unfairly?
It was very amusing to listen to some of the arguments of hon gentlemen on this question, The hon member, (Mr. March) and the learned Solicitor General describe the wealth and prosperity of this country in the most glowing terms. She is like some fair and beauteous damsel, rich with the spoils of the ocean, with no unseemly rents of pauperism in her bridal attire, her wealth and her beauty have attracted the covetous eyes of that old brokendown, ruined, spendthrift [sic] Canada, who wants to inveigle her into Confederation, and then ravish her of all her wealth. Do hon gentlemen know anything about that ruined country, Canada? Why, Sir, these beggarly Canadians have only 18 million dollars worth of agricultural implements, 79 millions dollars of live stock, and over 60 millions invested in railways and canals. Any one hearing these hon gentlemen argue this question, would think that the whole aim and desire of Canada was to squeeze the last drop of blood out of us, and that she was to recruit her ruined finances by grinding us down by oppressive taxation.
Now, sir, this is a most unfair way of discussing this question. Canada is not going to tax us. Whatever is done in that way will be done by the General Parliament of the United British North American Provinces. But whatever hon gentlemen say about the Delegates and Canadian politicians, the Delegates had at least the satisfaction of knowing that their report and the Proceedings of the conference had the high approval of enlightened British statesmen, of the London Times, which is quite as high an authority on political questions as any of our intelligent newspapers. That conference at Quebec, consisting of some of the ablest men from each of the colonies, acted all through this matter in the most able manner, and thoroughly in the spirit of our constitution. The Delegates first prepared a draft of the new constitution. This draft, contained in their report, was then submitted to the different local Legislatures, where, under the system of party government, it would receive the fullest ventilation; and each colony would discover how its particular interest lay with regard to it.
And finally there was the last reference to the Imperial Parliament, where the claims of each colony would be considered, and the reasonableness and justice of such claims decided upon by the enlightened statesmen of England. He (Mr Prowse) considered that it was a matter of the greatest importance to us that our reasonable and moderate demands were to be decided upon by enlightened statesmen such as England now possesses, by such men as Lord Palmerston, Earl Russell, and Mr. Gladstone, men whose impartiality was above suspicion, and whose political sagacity and forethought was above all praise. One of the great difficulties in answering the objections of the opponents of this great, measure was the great diversity and the conflicting character of the arguments they used. One enlightened merchant, an opponent of confederation, says we will be flooded with Canadian manufactures. So also say the opponents of the confederation in Nova Scotia; but the great Nestor of the anticonfederates in this house, Mr Glen, says go. Canada is a large importer of British goods, and this shows she cannot manufacture enough for herself; and how, then, will she be able to export manufactured goods to us? Now if the hon gentleman’s argument were of any weight, any country that imported largely of manufactures could not export them. But unfortunately for his position, England, which exports the largest amount of manufactured articles in the world, also imports manufactures to an enormous extent. France, the largest exporter of light wines, actually imports large quantities of light wines from Hungary and Germany. Don’t we ourselves import dried codfish?
But the facts as well as the arguments are against hon members. The hon member for Carbonear, Mr. Rorke, has samples of Canadian leather as low in price as American, and superior in quality. The produce of the tanneries of Canada now amounts to more than two millions and one half of dollars worth a year. Canada also manufactures over a million yards of woolen cloths, valued at less than one dollar a yard. She has large iron founderies whose produce is two and a half million dollars worth. Then she exports furniture and boots and shoes to England. She has large manufactures of carriages. Canada has thus been shown to be in a position to export many kinds of manufactures to us to a considerable extent; and whilst labour is so dear there, it will pay them better to end down the leather and woolens not made up, and thus afford a good deal of employment to our un: fortunate tailors and shoemakers, so many of whom are now suffering great distress.
But it makes no difference how fallacious the arguments of those opposed to confederation may be shown to be, the ready answer to all reasoning is—”Oh, all you shew us in four of confederation is purely speculative, wholly theoretical.” These gentlemen are not satisfied unless they can clutch futurity in their fists and put it into their breeches pockets… No political philosophy has any reference to us… We have nothing to do with the arguments and political economy of John Stuart Mill. The experience we derived from the study of history does not teach us, and he (Mr. Prowse) would ask them,-where are we to go then for a parallel? Are we to be guided by the political experience of the King of Dahomey, or to follow the model of the King question is theoretical; and must be to a great extent speculative in its character. What other arguments were used to prove the benefit that would result from the Reciprocity Treaty, or from the introduction of Responsible Government? It is singular, but true, that precisely the same position which is now taken up by the opponents of confederation was the one assumed by those who opposed the union of England and Scotland.
But, says the hon member, Mr. Glen, there is no similarity between that union and the com: federation. To his (Mr Prowse’s) mind, there was a remarkable similarity. The pauperism of Scotland was something frightful in 1707. Are not we in the same condition? And what is her present position? She has fewer paupers than any other portion of the three kingdoms. She has whole counties with hardly a single parish pauper. The union has accomplished tenfold greater results, material, social and political, than the wildest anticipations of those who labored to promote it. But then we are told there is increased taxation. This weighs down every advantage in hon. gentlemens’ minds; but he (Mr Prowse) would like to know whether civilization, the moral and intellectual elevation of the people, are not of far more importance than an extra penny or twopence on tea, or any question of tariffs? What is the present situation of this country as regards education and enlightenment? We are like a lot of little boys in the lowest class of a country school. We have been using our well-thumbed horn books so long that we have got to think of nothing beyond them. But let us come in contact with people who have a splendid system of education, who are enjoying the advantages of railways and steamers, and who are in a higher state of civilization than we are; does any one suppose that it we formed part of the confederation, we would have been so long trembling on the brink of a great public work like, Toad’s Cove Breakwater or Flower Hill Firebreak? Do you think we should have remained go long satisfied with that wretched tub the Ellen Gisborne, or with the imperfect manner in which local steam is at present carried out, or our present miserable postal system? No. we cannot remain as we are.
Increased intercourse with or fellow, colonists, especially Canada, will have the same effect on to that it has everywhere else. We must improve. We never can go back in the path of progress. No government how dare do away with local steam. The whole country would cry out against the infliction of such an injustice on the outports. But, say hon gentlemen, this theory may be all correct; however, there is no community of interest between this country and Canada. She wants protection and we want free trade, she must have a protective tariff. Now he (Mr. Prowse) denied that the present Canadian tariff is protective. It was put on entirely for the purpose of revenue. It would not suit her agricultural population to have a protective tariff on manufactures; nor would it suit her best interests to place a duty on foreign grain, a duty of a shilling a barrel on flour, or sixpence a bushel on wheat from the States, would make grass grow in the streets of Montreal. It would render Canada’s great canals and railways, useless for the great design which they were intended, namely, as the best and cheapest outlet of the produce of the Western States to the Atlantic. Besides, it does not at all follow that the interests of the majority of any country should guide its fiscal policy. In England the majority, both in wealth and population, are agricultural; yet England’s policy and England’s interests have been found to lie in free trade in grain; and it has been found, too, that her agricultural interests are best served by this polity.
We will have besides in our favour the fact that the interests of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick are identical with our own. Neither of them produce their own food entirely. They are both large importers of foreign flour and foreign manufactures; and over and above all this, we have the wood of Mr. Galt, that the present Canadian tariff will be reduced, in order to accommodate it to the interests of the whole Confederacy. Mr. Galt has given us this pledge, in the most solemn manner, through Lord Monk and our own Governor. It may be all very well for hon gentlemen to sneer at Mr. Galt and his promises, but it only betrays the lamentable ignorance of the history of colonial politics. Mr. Galt has shown himself an enlightened patriotic statesman; and his reputation as a financier stands as high in England as it does in Canada; and he (Mr. P.) would as soon expect men like George Brown, L. A. McDonald, and Mr. Galt, to return to the exploded theory of protection as he would expect them to defend the Canadian frontier with bows and arrows.
Hon. gentlemen may say, of course, it they choose, that Mr. Galt’s statement, made through Lord Monk, is a lie; but he (Mr. Prowse) thought they would find very few to believe them. Any one who has read Mr. Galt’s pamphlet or this question of Confederation must have been struck with the clear. honest and candid statement of facts it contained. He made no attempt to conceal the Canadian difficulties, out of which this idea of union originated. And what stronger argument can there be in favour of Confederation than the desire of these enlightened statesmen to retain this union of Upper and Lower Canada, at any cost? These loading statesmen of two powerful Colonies, like the Canadas, actually forced themselves upon the Charlottetown Conference of the smaller colonies, in order to sustain a union which was an on air one in its commencement, which was forced upon Lower Canada by the British Government, and which is most unfair at present to Upper Canada, a large majority, of whose population is unrepresented. But unfair and unequal as that union now is, still it has been productive of such beneficial results to both colonies, that they would submit to almost, any inconvenience sooner then again be separated. Another argument, which hon gentlemen who oppose Confederation have relied upon is, that as the general Parliament has the power to tax our exports, they will lay a duty on the exports of our fish and oil. He (Mr. Prowse) admitted that if such a thing were attempted it would be a serious loss to this colony. But the very idea of such a thing was absurd. The fisheries of colonies are equal to three-fourths of ours; and their fishing interest; are more nourished and protected than our own.
The leading statesmen of Nova Scotia declared they would protect every hook and line, bob and sinker, which Nova Scotia threw into the water. Canada too expends a large amount every year in protecting and encouraging her fisheries; and an export tax would be almost the ruination of the fishing interests of those colonies, which had to be so cherished, and nurtured in order to raise up a maritime population, which Nova Scotia, and especially Canada, considered so necessary for their Colonial prosperity. If the provinces comprised in the proposed Confederation were the only exporters of codfish, if they had no rivals to compete with in foreign markets, he (Mr. Prowse) would consider an export duty on fish and oil might possibly be imposed, and it would not be so wholly unfair. But when our fish was being driven out of Spain by the fish from Norway, Sweden and Iceland, when, at the present time, our export to Spain alone had dwindled down to less than one-third of the whole consumption of the Peninsula, where, less than thirty years ago, Spain and Portugal, did not receive ten thousand quintals from any other country but Newfoundland; when we had such rivals as the French and others driving us out of the Foreign fish markets, it would be a suicidal policy thus to destroy, at, one fell blow, these great maritime interests which Colonial statesmen had laboured so long and energetically to promote.
In the present day an export is an exploded fallacy in political economy; but he (Mr. Prowse) felt sure that, as the interests of the Canadas and the maritime Provinces were identical with our own in that respect, it would be very easy to obtain the same guarantees with respect to our fish and oil, which was given for the coal of Nova Scotia and the lumber of New Brunswick. As regards the financial view of the question, he (Mr Prowse) considered that the figures by which his hon friend the member for Placentia, Mr. Shea, had shown what would be the result of the Canadian tariff of 1863 as applied to this country, were unanswerable. He would not dwell up on this point, which was so ably discussed by that hon gentleman. He (Mr. Prowse) had heard many intelligent influential gentlemen who were opposed to confederation say that Mr. Shea’s statement was under the mark, rather than over it. One argument, however, was used until it became stale, nauseating [sic], that is, that in the event of the other colonies joining the confederation without us, Great Britain would make us her pet colony, that she would hug us to her heart as their most cherished offspring. He (Mr. Prowse) would like to know if this was the usual course in human affairs. Do we generally reward those most who give us most slaps in the face; and after you have given the Right Hon. Edward Cardwell a moral kick, spurned the advice of Her Majesty’s government, which is tantamount to a command, the Imperial authorities will be so delegated with your conduct in this respect, that they will pass over all the other colonies who have followed their advice, and single you out for all their favors. Does any hon member of this house believe that this will be made a Naval port by Great Britain, if we refuse to go into confederation, or that England will do anything at all for us?
If any hon gentlemen does believe such a thing, all he (Mr. Prowse) could say was that he envied their faith. Hon gentlemen who argue thus against Confederation, would try and make us believe that we are being separated from Great Britain, and in the event of war, our men would be drafted to defend the Canadian frontier. Now they must know that in the event of war, the moment Canada was attacked, we would be attacked too, no matter whether we were in confederation or out of it. Talk about the defenceless position of Canada, there was no country so open to attack as this colony; not a man could be spared from here to defend any other part of the union. Picture to yourselves what one federal Monitor would do, if she opened her guns on the capital. Look at the position your Banks and all your institutions would be in.
He (Mr. Prowse), would remind hon gentlemen that they had a little account to settle with the British Government with reference to payment of their share of the thirty thousand pounds stg., which the troops cost here. This would doubtless be presented immeediately [sic] they refused to enter confederation; and he would remind them they had made a promise on this matter, which they would have to keep. He (Mr. Prowse) considered we were bound by every tie of gratitude for the countless favors which we have received from the mother country, to consider her wishes in this matter, and to give them the most serious consideration. As regards England’s position with the confederation, he (Mr. Prowse) considered that every province in that confederation was bound to afford assistance to the mother country, whenever their services were required, and England was also bound in honor to support the Confederacy when attacked. He (Mr. Prowse) felt the importance of this great, subject. He felt there was a tremendous responsibility cast upon every representative who had to decide upon a measure involving such tremendous consequences to the present and future welfare of this colony. It was quite possible that many of the theories and anticipations put forth on this subject would not be realised; and he (Mr. Prowse) believed for himself, that the beneficial results would far exceed their most sanguine anticipations; perhaps they would not do so in the way hon gentlemen had predicted.
He felt very strongly on this subject of confederation, and he regretted that in the heat of debate he had perhaps been too personal; but however strong in his opinions, he would not accept confederation on its present basis, without a guarantee for local, direct, and intercolonial steam. If our other demands were moderate and reasonable, he (Mr. Prowse) considered that we would obtain them; and he thought that, on those terms, our union with the British North American Provinces would be the greatest boon, that could be conferred on this colony. It would be the proudest event in the life of every man who had helped to secure that union on a fair and impartial basis.
He (Mr. Prowse) for one would never regret the curtailment of the power of this house, however much hon gentlemen might talk about the value which the country set upon it. If they did so it must have lately come to them. But a few years before, the Solicitor General said he was out, it an unseasonable hour, at a fire, and when the burning house tumbled in, an independent voter in the crowd said he wished ” them blackguards of the Assembly were under it.” Has there been such a complete revulsion of public feeling since that the public are now delighted with the Assembly and the council, together spending nearly as much as the whole education grant The public indeed. They wouldn’t care a straw, if your whole paraphernalia of Speaker and Sergeant-at-Arms, Clerks and Messengers, Mace and Members, were swept away to-morrow. There would neither be lamentation nor weeping nor great mourning, except, perhaps, on the part of the few small politicians who suffered by the change. He (Mr. Prowse) trusted there would be no silent votes on this question; but that every member would state the reasons which influenced his views, so that our constituencies will know now to deal with each one of us at the next general election.
The house then adjourned until 8 o’clock to-morrow.