Newfoundland, House of Assembly, Debate on Confederation (27 January 1865)
By: Newfoundland House of Assembly, The Newfoundlander
Citation: “House of Assembly”, The Newfoundlander (2 February 1865) & “House of Assembly (Continued)”, The Newfoundlander (6 February 1865).
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St. John’s, Thursday, February 2, 1865.
HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY.
FRIDAY, Jan. 27.
The Speaker and Members met in the Assembly Hall shortly before two o’clock.
At two o’clock the Usher of the Black Rod delivered a message at the Bar from his Excelency [sic] the Governor, commanding the attendance of Mr. Speaker and the members in the Council Chamber.
Mr. Speaker and the members proceeded to the Council Chamber accordingly, and being returned.
The Speaker informed the House, that when in attendance on the Governor, his Excellency had been pleased to open the session with a speech, of which, for the sake of accuracy, he had obtained a copy, which he read to the House. (Published in Monday’s Newfoundlander.)
Mr. Wyatt rose to move the appointment of a select Committee to prepare the draft of an address in reply to the gracious speech with which his Excellency had been pleased to open the session. He (Mr. Wyatt) was sure they had all listened to the speech with particular attention, as he was satisfied there would be but one opinion respecting it in that house and throughout the colony. His Excellency had addressed the Legislature for the first time since his assumption of the Government; and they must all feel gratified with the deep interest he manifested for the improvement of the country. He (Mr. Wyatt) felt he was only expressing the feeling of the House when he said they would give the most careful attention to all the suggestions of his Excellency, especially as these suggestions were for the benefit of the people whose representatives they were. They felt, with his Excellency, for the suffering to which so many of the people were reduced, arising from the failure of the seal fishery, last spring, the short catch in the shore cod-fishery, and the partial failure of the Labrador fishery. Having, in numerous instances, secured nothing to sustain themselves and their families during the winter, a large number of the fishermen were in circumstances of deep distress, which the Government were doing all in their power to mitigate. The system of relief which had grown up of late years was one of which they all complained, and which was liable to many abuses; but still they must not suffer the people to starve.
It was necessary, however, that the attention of the House shall be given to the subject of poor relief, with the view of checking the growing evil of pauperism. His Excellency suggested that they should give encouragement to the Mackerel and Bank fisheries, which were a source of profitable employment to the fishermen of other countries. The Bank fishery had been neglected for years, and with the present high price of fish there was every prospect of its proving remunerative. The Mackerel and Salmon fisheries were of great importance, and should have every encouragement the Legislature could give them. His Excellency also directed their attention to the mineral resources of the Island, which there was reason to anticipate would furnish means of employment to a large number of our people, as well as a source of wealth to capitalists. He would now say a few words on a subject of the deepest importance to the country, the proposed federation of the British North American Colonies.
The Government had been invited last summer, to take part in a convention, at Quebec to take this important question into consideration, and had appointed the hon. the Speaker of that house, and the hon member for Placentia and St. Mary’s, Delegates from this colony to the Convention. Although the Report of the proceedings of that Conference was not yet laid before the House, it had been made public through the newspapers, and he was satisfied it had been read by every member of the House. They must all agree with his Excellency that the subject was one of the deepest interest to the whole community, and one which they ought to approach in a spirit of calm examination, with an earnest desire to come to such a conclusiod as would best promote the permanent interests of the colony. He (Mr. Wyatt) was aware that there was much difference of opinion it, this colony on the subject. Many considered the terms proposed for the admission of Newfoundland very favorable, while others were of a different opinion. It would be for the House, when the papers were laid before them, to weigh all that would be urged for and against the union.
If, upon full consideration, it should be the opinion of the House that the decision should be referred to their constituents, he trusted that the matter would be fairly placed before those they represented. It was not a matter into which they should hastily rush, for they ought to bear in mind that the union once effected, it would be impossible to undo it, should they not find it to their advantage. There were several other important subjects referred to in his Excellency’s speech, to which the attention of the House would be directed in the course of the session, and which he (Mr. Wyatt) was satisfied would receive that careful attention to which their importance entitled them. In conclusion, he (Mr. Wyatt) would join in his Excellency’s prayer that the Almighty Ruler of all events would bless their labors, and those of the whole community, and render them more productive, and the country more prosperous than for many years past. He moved that a Select Committee be appointed.
Mr. Whiteway had much pleasure in seconding the motion proposed by his honorable friend Mr. Wyatt. That gentleman had spoken truly when he said that the speech of his Excellency the Governor referred to many matters of great interest and importance, as regards this country. But there was one subject alluded to in that speech, of paramount importance—that of the proposed Confederation of the British North American colonies. No one who had listened to the speech of his Excellency could but have been deeply impressed with the eminently enlightened views it contained. The dignified tone, style and language of his Excellency represent him as one possessing all the characteristics essential in the Representative of Her most Gracious Majesty the Queen. His Excellency had been among us but a short time; but that period had been devoted to acquiring a thorough knowledge of the condition and requirements of the people. He had now given us the benefit of his inquiries. He had discovered evils, and he had not failed to suggest remedies. He had now discovered a great and growing evil which his predecessors had pointed at, but which no government had as yet had the hardihood to grapple with and eradicate, that abominable system as regards pauper relief, which existed in this country.
The remedy suggested by his Excellency was the only one which could be imployed [sic] to secure an economical administration of the paupar [sic] fund; that is the raising of that fund by direct taxation [sic], and casting upon the tax payers themselves, in every community, in duty of checking the expenditure; or, in others words, making each District support its own paupers. He (Mr. Whiteway) regretted that the Bill brought in by the government, during the last session, having this object in view, had been withdrawn. The enormous annual drain from the general revenue for poor relief had stayed public improvements; and public buildings were going into decay, our roads were scarcely passable, and their was no new work in operation. He (Mr. Whiteway) was gratified to learn that there was an intention on the part of the government to introduce some measure calculated to resuscitate the Bank Fishery.
It was much to be regretted that sufficient enterprise did not exist amongst us to induce an active competition with foreigners in this branch of the fisheries; and that we were satisfied to depend altogether upon our shore and Labrador fisheries. He believed that the people of this country would be much better off, if, instead of locating themselves upon the most extreme points of land, as they had done, upon the coast, and carrying on the fishery in small punts, as it were at their very doors, they had settled at the heads of the bays, where existed lands adapted for agricultural purposes. Then if they were provided with a larger class of fishing craft, large enough to proceed to the Banks, if necessary, one branch of the family might be employed in making agriculture an auxiliary to the fishery, during the absence of the fishermen, and upon their return, attend to the curing department. He (Mr. Whiteway) was glad to see a recommendation to encourage agriculture.
The best way, be behaved, to accomplish this, was to make good roads to the country. No sooner is a good road made through a piece of good land, than we at once see a tilt spring up, then a potato plot is cleared. Next follows a cottage, and a little farm. Give the people facilities for communication, free grants of land, and agriculture will advance. It requires no bounty. There is every reason to believe that sheep may be kept to an unlimited number upon our wild pasturage; but it seems to be the cry on all sides, that the dogs prove a great obstacle. He (Mr. Whiteway) regretted that, notwithstanding the strenuous efforts of one who had evinced a deep interest in agricultural improvement generally, and had accomplished much in that direction, Mr. Justice Robinson, his attempt to establish a joint stock company for the purpose of carrying out sheep farming on a large scale, had as yet come to nothing; not from lack of energy on the part of that gentleman, but because of the absence of that enterprising spirit among the people which induces a deviation from the old beaten track, and an embarking in new pursuits. The great and all-important subject of Education, it seemed, would be brought before the House during the present session. He (Mr. Whiteway) believed that in no colony of Great Britain was there so large an amount, in proportion to its population, appropriated oy the Government for educational purposes; but the benefits derived from it were not commensurate with the expenditure [sic].
However, he did not agree with those who asserted that the money was thrown away, for it much good had been accomplished, a desire from improvement had been created, a taste for knowledge, and the people of the smallest settlement are now anxious to have their children taught, and the closing of their school would be viewed as a great deprivation, The idea of establishing a normal training school for teachers was a good one, and, if carried out, would tend materially to improvement. The great want felt was for efficient teachers were obtained, they must be adequately paid, for men of attainments would not be satisfied with the small salaries which are now paid. In his (Mr. Whiteway’s) opinion, they had now arrived when the Government may fairly say to the people of every locality where a school is required, if you will subscribe or guarantee one half or one third, the government would provide the other half or two thirds of the teacher’s salary; and it might be depended upon that there are few places in which to secure a good teacher, the people would not willingly lend their aid, for they now are feeling the advantages of having good schools.
He (Mr. Whiteway) had frequently before, in his place in the house, spoken of the ruin which must ensue from the manner in which our salmon fisheries were prosecuted. In rivers heretofore prolific, scarce a salmon now was to be seen. He had seen a net stretched across a river from bank to bank, the salmon playing about below it, barred from getting into the river, and several salmon in the net, which had not been visited for two days. This, perhaps, was an isolated case, but those who had attended to the subject knew well that in prosecuting this fishery the most ruinous practices were followed. There is an excellent law upon our statute book relative to this subject, but it is nugatory, there being no police regulations to secure its being carried out. More and more it was becoming apparent how necessary was our establishment of some general supervision of the fisheries. The appointment of an able, educated and energetic man, as a general superintendent of the fisheries, with a handsome salary, to secure the services of an efficient person, having at his command a steamer, for the purpose of visiting every part of the Island, during the summer, and invested with magisterial authority, to enforce the laws relative to the fisheries, was the only way this could be effected, and looking to the all importance of the subject, it was that for which, no matter what it might cost, should be the first money appropriated from the revenue; for the country was woolly dependent on the fisheries.
The great question of Confederation was unquestionably the most important ever submitted to the Legislature of this country; and the view of being united to a country so rich in resources as Canada, New Brunswick add Nova Scotia, and forming the nucleus of a great nation, was peculiary fascinating and attractive. That country possessed every internal resource necessary to become great; and it required no prophetic spirit to foretel [sic] what she would be. Her unbounded forests, her vast mineral deposits as yet put partially developed, her rich plains, held for agricultural operation, her magnificent rivers intersecting every part of the county, and forming natural highways for the transport of her produce, the safe and capacious harbours of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, afforded the means which required only sufficient population to raise her to the first rank, as a dependency, and in the course of years, the equal of the parent state. Was there anything wanting that nature had not bestowed in that country? Still it had been said that Canada wanted to tax Newfoundland to sustain her resources. Rich Canada abstracting from the barren island of Newfoundland, with 100,000 inhabitants one-thirtieth part of the whole population, a something to sustain her resources. The view was too absurd to need comment. But it was a matter that required grave consideration.
When once we had embarked in confederation there was no return. We were bound for ever. It should not be disposed of hastily, but be approached in a spirit of calm deliberation and arnest [sic] enquiry. But when once a conclusion had been arrived at, […]
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[…] at, when hon. gentlemen had formed their opinions, he tructed [sic] that each would fearlessly act, on these opinions, guided by his conscience to do what he conceived to be the most advantageous, for the public good, present and future. His Excellency referred to the Geological Survey, in which some progress had been made, which was due to the efforts of the present administration; and by its results it had given us hopes that our mineral wealth was extensive. There were at present two copper mines in operation, which were affording employment and assistance to many, who, from the failure of the fisheries, and but for such timely aid, would be in great distress.
The enterprising capitalists who were working these mines should be encouraged. Everything should be done by this House to assist parties who had thus invested their capital, as these gentlemen had done. He (Mr. Whiteway) referred to this matter, because he believed these parties had not received that consideration from the government to which they were entitled. He said this with regard to the postal communication. They had been compelled to employ special messengers to carry their mails, to maintain their communication with England, and this ought not to be. If a small amount were given for that purpose it would be well expended. He (Mr. W.) thought that all must coincide in the hope expressed by his Excellency relative to the laying of the Atlantic Telegraph Cable. He (Mr. Whiteway) never could refer to this subject without thinking of one who was its pioneer in this country. He referred to Mr. F. N. Gisborne, who after connecting all the British North American Provinces, first conceived the idea of uniting this colony with the mother country by means of the Atlantic Telegraph Cable. Nothing gave that gentleman greater pleasure now than looking forward to its successful completion next summer. He (Mr. Whiteway) would not detain the House any longer at present, as each matter referred to by his Excellency would individually form a subject for discussion hereafter. He begged to second the motion for the appointment of a Select Committee.
Mr. Parsons—No person who had heard that speech but must agree that it was a masterly effort. It was the maiden speech of an able statesman who pandered to no party. There were suggestions in which he (Mr. Parsons) did not concur; but taken as a whole, it was the most practical opening speech to which the House had listened for a long time. It touched on many important subjects; and shadowed forth some things, which, if carried into effect, would be productive of incalculable benefit to the people of the country. His Excellency, during the short time he had been amongst us, appeared to have directed his attention to the wants of the country with an earnest desire to promote the best interests of the people over whom he had been appointed to rule. There were, however, suggestions in which he (Mr. Parsons) could not concur. His Excellency recommended that every district should be made to support its own poor. That appeared to be very reasonable; but when, from the failures of the fisheries, the people of many districts of the island were reduced to destitution, there were few or none in those districts who were in a condition to contribute any thing for the support of their neighbours. He (Mr. Parsons) thought if his Excellency had gone farther with the subject of agriculture he would have pointed out the only means of raising the people above want.
It was well known that the fisheries of the country were inadequate to sustain its increasing population, and that it was, their partial failure, for several yearr [sic] past, which had brought the people to their present state. No people were hardier or more energetic than the fishermen of this colony; but still, from unsuccessful fisheries, many of them were reduced to a state of absolute want. He (Mr. Parsons) had long urged upon successful governments the necessity of giving proper encouragement to agriculture, as the only means of giving the people something to rely on. He would remind them that the immense sum of £30,000 had been annually voted by the House, and expended by the government in relieving the poor. Wound it not have been more beneficial it that sum, or a large portion of it, had been employed in the encouragement of agriculture, which would have placed many of its recipients above the degradation of poor relief? What permanent good arose from that expenditure? Did the government act in that paternal manner to be expected from them, in expending such a large sum?
When public improvements were spoken of, we were told that the government had no money; and still we had this enormous pauper expenditure going on; and the only return we had was the making of a few bye roads and the repair of a few unimportant bridges. Could any person persuade the people that the money was properly expended? If that money was expended in the promotion of agriculture, or in stimulating the fisheries, would we not have a different result? Would the people be degraded, as now, by being compelled to come to the Chairman of the Board of Works and the Colonial Secretary to ask for pauper relief? When was it, until a few years ago, that the fishermen of the country came bowing to an official, sustained on the produce of the fishermen’s labour, begging for a crumb of bread? When was it that a fisherman had to come to a mushroom official to beg a pittance of that which his own labour had produced? Few knew the reduced condition of the people of the country, whose toil had enriched the land. Let the money of the Treasury be thrown broadcast to those who wanted it, for it was by their toil that it came into The Treasury. The speech referred to the mackerel fishery and the Bank fishery; but how were the fishermen to prosecute these fisheries without encouragement from the government?
Give them the means out of that money which was their own. But it was best if they were enabled to cultivate the land; but from unsuccessful fisheries they were so reduced that the land remained uncultivated. If the Government enabled them to cultivate it, they would be relieved from the necessity of giving poor relief. The government had some years ago offered land free, with assistance in cultivation, and in building a dwelling house, to any person who should settle upon it; and he (Mr. Parsons) had applied to the Surveyor-General to be informed how many had availed of the offer, when it was stated that only one or two bad done so. But he had been told that thirty or forty had applied; but that they were sent from one official to another, and nothing actually done for them, that they had given up the hope of getting anything. The offer was a perfect delusion. The hon. member opposite shadowed forth a measure which seemed to interest him. much, the proposed federation of the colonies, which was to produce such beneficial results. He (Mr. Parsons) hoped it would be made a government measure. He could not hear from hon. gentlemen favorable to it what these resuls [sic] were to be. They were content to live on generalities. It was a very great thing in prospective; but, at all events, hon. members were not in a position to deal with it this session. He wished to know who authorised these gentlemen to proceed to Quebec and sign the resolutions of the Conference on behalf of the people of this colony, without the authority of the people.
The hon. Premier forbore to take the constitutional course last session to obtain authority for sending delegates to the Charlottetown Convention, to confer about a Legislative union of the Maritime Provinces. But it never entered into the minds of the people to unite with Canada, a province so deeply sunk in debt, a union from which we could not derive any benefit. Canada was deeply sunk in debt, and wanted to be enabled to tax the people of the Maritime Provinces to improve their credit; and the Government came down very civilly to acquaint the House that a measure would pass the Imperial Parliament to give effect to the Resolutions of the Conference. He (Mr. Parsons protested against any proceeding in the matter this session, except to denounce it. They had experience in Ireland of the blighting effects of such unions. Such unions were productive of misery wherever they were carried into effect. The great O’Connell had been occupied half his life in the endeavour to effect a repeal of the union of Ireland with England; and since the death of that great leader, the people were making constant efforts to get rid of the union, which was such a drawback on the prosperity of Ireland.
He (Mr. Parsons) thought very few members of the house would consent to give up their country to Canada, to tax us as they pleased. They would take our fisheries, lands and minerals, and what would they give us in return? Nothing tangible. It was all a delusion. He (Mr. Parsons) trusted the address would not be a mere echo of the speech. He would strike out the paragraph about poor relief. He trusted, especially when they came to the paragraph about the Quebec Conference, that they would not compromise the interests of the people until they went to a new election and had the views of the people on the subject. He did not feel at liberty to dispose of the matter now, and could only express his own sentiments on the subject. He thought the proposed union was not at all calculated to benefit the people of this Colony, and so far as he was acquainted with their views, they were opposed to it.
What the people wanted was remunerative employment in their own country. The government had expended £30,000 a year in poor relief. Let that money be expended in enabling the fishermen to cultivate the soil, and there would be but little poverty. The greater number of fishermen in the eastern portions of the district were possessed of land, but they had not the means of cultivation it. Why, in place of degrading them by pauper relief, did not the Government assist them to cultivate this land? They might easily be enabled to raise from 100 to 200 barrels of potatoes each, which would readily sell in this market is preference to the inferior potatoes coming from Prince Edward Island, and put those that raised them above want, for the man who had 200 barrels of potatoes required no relief from the Government.
Mr. Casey.—His Excellency the Governor was certainly entitled to the thanks of this House for the admirable speech with which he had opened the present session. It was new and refreshing, and quite a contrast to what we had been accustomed to His Excellency was evidently desirous of carrying out everything that was beneficial to the interests of the country. He (Mr. Casey) was pleased with His Excellency’s reference to the road service; and agreed with him, that it should be a permanent institution in the country. The road grant was the only return which the people had for the heavy taxes they had to pay. Nothing tended so much to civilize a country as the opening of highways. Another subject of importance was the Bank fishery, it was a matter of great moment that something should be done to increase our fisheries. When the shore fishery was unsuccessful, poverty was the certain result. Any legislation tending to benefit our fisheries must be regarded as a great boom, and ought to be carefully attended to. He (Mr. Casey) had heard an old experienced fisherman, and one whose opinion on such matters should carry weight with it, assert that nothing tended so much to the injury of the fishery as the destruction of the roe of the fish. If such was the case, and we had reason to believe it was so, it was the duty of the Legislature to enact some law to prevent the destruction.
This country possessed great mineral resources, and it was high time that they were properly developed, and made the means of affording employment, and thus reducing the immense number of those who are recipients of pauper relief. He had been told that Mr. Bennett, the pioneer in all such matters, had lately entered largely and with considerable success into the working of mines to the Northward. No man deserved more the thanks of the people, for his liberality and enterprise in all matters tending to benefit this Colony, than Mr. Bennett. There was another subject, namely poor relief, which had been referred to by his Excellency. Last session a Bill on the subject had been introduced by the government, to asses the districts fer [sic] the support, of the poor, but after sometime, it was dropped. He thought too that it was rightly withdrawn, and anything that in any way tended to increase taxes should be resisted by this House. All that the country required was successful fisheries, and it would soon rise like a Phoenix from its ashes, into the enjoyment of prosperity. He felt convinced that, with good fisheries, poverty would cease, and there would be no necessity for the immense drain now made on the public purse. But the all absorbing topic of the day was confederaton; a subject on which naturally, the people felt a deep interest.
It was the duty of the Representatives of the people to let the public know what there opinions on the matter were. He considered that if we joined the Confederation, we would be doing this conotry [sic] a great wrong. We had already free institutions; and there was no Colony in which the principles of Governmental Responsibility had worked better than in this. There was nothing to prevent, our young men from attaining elevated positions here now; and the rewards to be obtained should satisfy their ambition. He felt that there would be a great deal of ability brought to bear upon this question, and that matters would be put before the public in a plausible light. It was idle to suppose that if we joined this Confederation, we should be exempt from an increase of taxes. How were an Army and Navy for the Confederation to be supported? In four or five years hence we would have as much increased taxation as we received from Canada. (Here the hon member read an article from a Nova Scotia newspaper against Confederation.)
Mr. A. Shea.—What paper is that?
Mr. Casey—A highly influential and respectable journal, the Bull Frog.—Mr. Casey continued—No doubt the lawyers took a warm interest in the matter, having before their eyes Judgeships, Governorships, and other lucrative appointments. It would, no doubt, be a fortunate thing for them, when they were pocketing their salaries; but what substantial benefit was to be conferred on Newfoundland, was to him (Mr. Casey,) a mystery. He felt convinced few men would support such a spoliation of the rights of the people of this colony. (To be continued.)
St. John’s, Monday, February 6, 1865.
HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY.
FRIDAY, Jan. 27.
Mr. Renouf.—Since the last session of the Assembly a change has taken place in the representative of the Crown, and the House now before them the opening speech of the talented statesman appointed by Her Majesty to succeed the late Governor of this Colony. In that gracious speech there were several suggestions of very great importance to the Colony. He (Mr. Renouf) must say, we had not, for years, listened to such a speech. It was altogether free from party views. It did not betray a bias for any party. He was especially gratified by the first paragraph. He believed the governor was perfectly sincere, and from the spirit which his Excellency evinced since his arrival amongst us, and his general deportment and affability of manner, he had produced a most favourable impression, towards him in the community.
His Excellency regarded, the failure of the fisheries with deep regret. It had reduced many of the fishermen to severe distress. The suggestion to afford encouragement to the Bank and Mackerel fisheries, was most judicious. These fisheries lay, as it were, at our doors, and had been neglected for years, while our neighbours in the United States came upwards of a thousand miles to prosecute them, and found them renumerative. These fisheries were entitled to the special attention of the government; and in place of allowing the fishermen to depend upon the Treasury for a miserable pittance in the shape of pauper relief, they should be encouraged to embark in those fisheries, which could not fail to prove renumerative. It was time they should do something to stimulate the energies of the people, and direct their industry into profitable channels, —He (Mr. Renouf) was happy to find that the new Governor differed from his Council. His advisers held that roads would not pay. They were a mere convenience. But his Excellency was so satisfied of the importance of roads, that he proposed to make permanent provision for them. His Excellency was satisfied they would pay, and that they were essential to civilization and progress.
With regard to education, he (Mr. Renouf) agreed with his Excellency. But he must have been misinformed respecting normal schools, for we had them already. Arrangements were made for training teachers at St. Bonaventure College, as well as at the Central School, and at the Church of England and Wesleyan Academies. But there was a necessity for making the schools throughout the colony more efficient; especially in the outports. But to secure this provision much be made for more adequate renumeration to the teachers.—For £25 a year, they could not get a teacher of ability and education, with permission to go six weeks to the fishery. If they expected to have competent teachers, they must provide them with sufficient emolument. Reference was made in his Excellency’s speech to the currency. He (Mr. Renouf) said there never was such a humbug as the present currency. It was a system most insuitable to the wants of our people. It was passed twelve months ago, and the copper currency had only been lately imported.
In place of cents the government, it appeared, sent to England for half-pence which were substituted for the base copper coin previously in circulation. They could compel the government departments to keep their accounts in dollars and cents; but the trade having declined to do so, the consequence to the working classes was the loss of four half pence on the shilling in their purchases They had to take these coppers at the rate of twenty to the shilling, and they would be received by retailers only at half pence; which. was a serious loss to the poor men; and he (Mr. Renouf) would like to know whether the officials of the Government were to make up the loss. The hon. member for Ferryland, Mr. Gen, introduced a Bill, some years ago, to regulate the currency, which, would not have effected any change in the rate at which the different coins passed current, and was all that was required to give us a sound currency. There was no desire in the community for the change effected by the present Act. There were no petitions from the Commercial body in support of it. His Excellency referred to the subject of poor relief.
The present, Government, had expended £80,000 in poor relief within the past four years; and there was no guarantee that the money had gone to the deserving poor. What evidence was there that it was not applied for the sustentation of political influence in the Northern districts. We were told there was some improvement in the revenue. But what benefit would the people derive from it, after the loss of £2,000 on bogus bonds, taken at the Custom-house by the Receiver General, from men of straw. But when improvement in the revenue was spoken of, why was there no mention of the Labrador? Was there no increase of revenue there? It was a subject of boasting last session, that some £1,300 had been collected on the coast of Labrador. He (Mr. Renouf) quite agreed with his Excellency; that encouragement should be given to the Bank and Mackerel fisheries. 5,000 expended in bounties to these fisheries would be far preferable to wasting it in poor relief. But would that be given?
No, the government would not spend a pound for the encouragement of the fishermen, from whom they derived all their means of support. Agriculture was referred to, which the government made loud professions of a desire to stimulate, and proposed to give free grants of land, and assist in its cultivation, but it resulted in nothing. Applicants were sent from one official to another, and nothing was done for them. His Excellency referred to the raising of sheep, which would be followed by most beneficial results. The wool would furnish employment to families in the manufacture of home pun. as was done in the neighbouring provinces. It was gratifying to learn that our mineral, resources, promised to prove highly remunerative. They should not be sold to the Canadians.
He (Mr. Renouf) was told by Mr. Bennett, the pioneer of mining enterprise in this Colony, before that gentleman left for England, that next year he would have a thousand men employed and would expend £50,000 in wages, which would be eminently beneficial to the Colony. It was said that if the Convention were carried out, the Canadians would work our minerals. But they did not work their own. The question of Confederation occupied an important position in his Excellency’s speech and he (Mr. Renouf) must say that his Excellency was entitled to the thanks of the community for the promptitude with which he published the dispatch of Mr. Cardwell. He received in the morning, and the same evening it was made public through the Royal Gazette. The communication from the Colonial Ministry seemed somewhat of an intimation that he wished the Confederation carried into effect, but, at the same time, he respected the opinion of the people of these colonies, and maintained, a desire to force it upon them.
His Excellency told them of his having received a despatch from the Governor General of Canada, intimating that his Government would move an address to the Queen, requesting that an Act of the Imperial Parliament might be passed to give effect to the resolutions of the Convention; “and he (Mr. Renouf) understood that information had been received here by telegraph, that the address had been passed by the Canadian House of Assembly by a large majority. But, at the same time, the members of this House, and the people out of doors, would have something to say in the matter. It must have been taken for granted, that the Delegates from the Maritime Provinces spoke of the views of the people, and, not merely their own. He (Mr. Renouf) did say that this House had no power to come to a decision [sic] on the matter. We should give no opinion on it this session. It was a new question to the House; and he did trust that no attempt would be made to bind this Colony until the people had time to give expression to their opinions on the subject. He did think it was well to send Delegates; but he must say that the resolutions adopted by the Delegates at the Conference were not such as he considered for the advantage of Newfoundland to accept. As be would have an opportunity of expressing his views more fully when the several matters referred to in the speech would be submitted for the sanction of the House, he would not occupy more time at present; but would again express his gratification at the enlightened views so ably set forth in his Excellency’s speech.
Mr. Prowse was afraid the hon, gentlemen opposite had mot been in the path of progress during the recess; especially the hon. member, Mr. Renouf, had been drifting down into the slough of toryism, . He was fast realizing that picture which a great wit had give nus of a Conservative, who would not look upon the new moon, out of respect to that ancient and venerable institution the old moon; now his hon. friend would not look upon the bright shining faces of the new bright bronze halpennies [sic] out of respect to the old, beaten out buttons and ship coppers, to all the bastard currency we rejoiced in before. No, hon gentlemen did not want progress; no Confederation for them, and one hon gentleman, Mr. Casey, used as an argument against the confederation scheme, as a proof, said he, how brilliantly Responsible Government has worked with us, and that we want no change.
One party remained in office during the whole of one Parliament, and when the next party came in, they did the same. No wind of popular opinion was ever found strong enough to blow them out of office, certainly a most extraordinary proof of our fitness for representative enlightened. He (Mr. Prowse) agreed with every word of praise which the hon gentlemen opposite had bestowed upon the able and eloquent speech just delivered by his Excellency; it was a matter of congratulation for the country, that Her Majesty had sent so able and distinguished a Representative. His Excellency had taken a very clear view of the evils we were labouring under; he comprehended all the dangers which the giant evils of pauper relief exposed us to, and he (Mr. Prowse) considered that the Government deserved the highest praise which we could bestow upon them, for the able way in which they had dealt with this question; the fact that in a year of unparalled destitution [sic], they had kept the poor expenditure within the estimate, was, he considered the highest proof of their merit as an Executive.
The excess of expenditure for shipwrecked crews they could not be blamed for it. It was the result of a fearful calamity, which they could not reasonably have calculated on, and if in this battle with our great political enemy, pauperism, they have been powerless to subdue it, which sets at naught the efforts of our Priests and Ministers, and all the exertions of our various charitable Societies, they certainly have done all that could be done in grappling with what an eminent Ecclesiastical Authority has designated as our only great political, question.—We had heard Confederation spoken against by hon gentlemen who are opposed to it on the ground of increased taxation? but he would like to ask what else is there for us in the dim vista of the future but increased taxation. Will one good seal fishery, or one good codfishery pull up all the leeway you have lost? No, even with the best prospects, there is nothing before us but increased taxation, and that without corresponding improvements. Now, Sir, this is not the proper time to go into the merits of this great question of Confederation, but I will take this opportunity of expressing my opinion on the question. The hon member, Mr. Renouf, tells us that we ought not to express our opinion upon this question; he must grievously misapprehend the position of a Representative here, when he says so.
What are we here for but to express our opinons [sic] on all questions, coming before this House? And the man is a coward and a miserable driveller, unfit for his position as a representative who shrinks from expressing his conscientious opinion on any question, who is frightened by the clamor of noisy politicians-outside, or who is crushed under the weight of the mercantile influence which is arrayed against this question, and dares not express his opinion. He (Mr. Prowse) would take this opportunity of expressing his thanks to the Delegates, who so ably managed our interests in the Conference at Quebec; no man can deny that they did well, and they have committed us to nothing. I should like to see a guarantee for direct and local stem, and I believe we will have it; and whilst, however, we are listening to all the reasons which must influence every one of us who is favorable to the scheme, I don’t think we will have to search very deep into the motives or speculate widely to find out the reasons for their opposition. One, well salaried official candidly says if Confederation will increase my salary of £500 to £600.
I am for Confederation. Every man who has anything to lose by the curtailed expenditure of our local Government and our local Legislature, all the best of official vampires and small fry of newspapers and reporters are dead against it, and so are all those whose interests as merchants will, as they fear, be affected, or whose trade will be turned into new; channels, or whose hatchets will be better ground now, but on the other hand, will any one believe that the six dollars a day for our Delegates and other leading gentlemen is sufficient inducement or bribe for them to sell their country; it is amusing to see the new born love which hon gentlemen have for Mr. C. F. Rennett; a few years ago he was in their opinion a narrow minded sectary, a one horse politician, but now he is an angel of light. I agree with everything they say in his praise as a gentleman and as as [sic] upright enterprising merchant, but I would be sorry to pin my faith to him as a politician, in this question.
Mr. Glen said that in his opinion the Delegates had done wrong in signing the report of the Conference. By doing so they had induced the British Government to suppose that Newfoundland was in favor of Confederation, and the consequence was that a copy of Mr. Sardwell’s despatch has been forwarded to His Excellency. By their unwise conduct our delegates had almost succeeded in binding us to the Confederation without our knowledge or consent. It would be charitable to suppose they did not know what they were doing; They were not sent there to sign this report, nor indeed to sign anything. They were sent merely to watch the proceedings, and report them to this House. They had not received any commission from the people, but only from the Government. In any case, it was the duty of the […]
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[…] Delegates, when they returned, to have given the public some information as to what had been done. They did not do so, however, and we have yet to learn what took place at that Conference: As for the benefits we were t receive by this Confederation, nothing could benefit the country so much as good fisheries and he (Mr. Glen) did not think the Confederation would bring the fish to, our shores. He must express his condemnation of the action of the Delegates in signing that report, which they had no business and were not authorised to do. Fortunately from the reading of the despatch, it was evident the British Government did not mean we should be coerced.
Mr. A. Shea, said that at this late hour when the House was necessarily wearied, he would not trespass on their time, as he had intended, with any elaborate observations on the subject which at the present moment naturally commanded the largest share of public attention. In the prominent place he held in relation. to this question, it would rationally be expected that he would be ready to go fully into the discussion; and the lateness of the hour alone induced him to forego their attention for the present. He must, however, express his regret that hon. gentlemen should have deemed it fitting to deal with the great question of Confederation as they had done in the remarks they offered to the House; for he had hoped that its magnitude and the great issues it involved would have secured for it that calm investigation of its real merits, which the welfare of the public so earnestly demands. This was not like the many ordinary subjects that came before them, and on which the course not very uncommon in that House, of unmeaning windy declamation, might do no great harm; but here, where the decision they might arrive at so deeply affected the whole interests of the country, it was of the last importance that reason and intelligence should guide their deliberations to their ultimate result. For these reasons he was sorry to hear observations made that day which involved gross misrepresentations of the case, and seemed addressed rather to the passions and prejudices of the people, than to their sober and dispassionate judgment. Nor was he less surprised at the character of some of the logic that had been employed in the discussion.
This colony was described as being in the lowest condition of pauperism, which caused an outlay of one-third of our revenue, and yet by those who thus painted our condition, we are told of the great eagerness of Canada to secure this prize, and of the great advantages we are to confer to our own detriment. Does not this mode of dealing with the subject show how little thought of reflection has been bestowed upon it by some who take upon themselves the task of instructing the mind of the public. The reasoning, public would demand some more thoughtful mode of inquiry in relation to this question. It should not be gone into hastily, and ample time must be given for its consideration, in order that no decision should be come to before the public were fully informed of its real nature, and its probable bearing upon our future interests:
Various cries had been unfairly resorted to to prejudice the public mind. It was put forward as a strong ground of objection that the Union of Ireland with England had led to great evils in the former country, and hence the efforts of O’Connell for so many years to repeal the Union. Such arguments betray a lamentable ignorance of the grounds on which that great man based his agitation for Repeal. O’Connell sought repeal because the connection with England was not a Union in its true sense, because there was no equality of rights and privileges between the two countries, and the whole history of his life shows that all he desired was union with England, on terms that would have made Ireland her equal in all the conditions of fair partnership. But he was not going into the question at that late hour. The subject of taxation and the other points that had been raised would be discussed at length when the matter was fairly before them, and when he had little doubt the many misrepresentations made on these subjects would be satisfactorily explained and disposed of.
Mr. Kent—It appeared to him that those hon. gentlemen who had spoken so favorably of the Governors speech were totally ignorant of the first principles of Responsible Government. They had praised the speech of the Governor without seeming to know at the same time that it was that of the leader of the government. All the rough edge of that speech had been so beautifully rubbed off that it showed his Excellency to be a most accomplished master of English. But he (Mr. Kent) would not indulge in the sycophantic praises which his learned colleagues had so constitutionally bestowed on the speech of the Ministry. These hon. gentlemen had worked themselves up into a parliamentary perspiration; and all in praise of the leader of the government. But for the reference that had been made to the Atlantic Telegraph Cable, he (Mr. Kent) would say that it was like a lady’s letter, the most important part of it was the postscript.
With reference to the question of pauper relief, he believed that it was an ulcer in our social condition. The Government could have done a great deal to remedy this. They might have employed the people on public works, and thus reduced the number of recipients from the pauper fund; and for this grave omission they could offer no excuse. Now that the fisheries were a failure, they were obliged to open the public purse and distribute the money among the people. The suggestion in the speech that all relief should not come out of the public funds, was a very important one. He thought it was obligatory on the public generally to assist in the support of the poor. He believed that local assessment was the only way in with this could be accomplished. If the Bank and mackerel fisheries were to be encouraged by bounties, why were not the cod fisheries to be cared for also? Gradually, but slowly, the principles of Free Trade were permeating through France; and were we to retrograde, and resort to bounties for the extension of our fisheries? Would not the proper appropriation of the public monies in bounties, be to take the £30,000 that was uselessly squandered in pauper relief, and with it encourage the rearing of sheep and other graminivorous animals? He would advise the hon. Attorney General that he was running a tilt in this matter of bounties, but, like a drowning man, he would grasp at a straw.
The suggestion in his Excellency’s speech on the subject of Agriculture was an excellent one. Surely our climate was not less genial than that of Iceland. He (Mr. Kent) could see no reason why we should not raise flax extensively in this country. The suggestion was creditable to the Ministry and to his Excellency, as the head of it. The reference to a permanent Road Act, however, was certainly an extraordinary one. He (Mr. Kent) would like to see any Premier attempt to bring in a permanent Road Bill, and make it a perennial spring of petty abstractions. If he (Mr. Kent) wanted to keep a party together he would not dare to propose such a thing. He might possibly, in carrying out its provisions, leave out some delightful little locality, rejoicing in some peculiarly efforesent name, and the result would be an entire overthrow of his ministry. His Excellency the Governor appeared, on this point, to be in a blissful state baptismal innocence. With reference to the question of Steam communication, he believed that it had been impossible for the Government to carry out their intentions by reason of the impoverished state of the Treasury. He trusted that something would be done respecting the Ellen Gisborne. There was one useful work which he (Mr. Kent) had to observe had been specially mentioned, and that was a breakwater at Portugal Cove. If that were accomplished it would be one of the greatest benefits that could be conferred upon the inhabitants of the district of Conception Bay.
The question of education was a very delicate one to deal with. He (Mr Kent) did not understand what was meant by normal schools. He had been in the Magistrates’ office the other day and he saw sixteen men sign there by making their mark. He considered that was a disgrace to the country, and hoped the youth of the country would endeavour to take advantage of the benefits of education which were afforded them, and in some measure ameliorate their condition. With reference to the volunteers, he thought the Executive were too frightened about arming the fishermen of the country. He (Mr Kent) deeply regretted these unfortunate distinctions. He was glad to hear that the revenue was a fair one, and hoped that when his hon colleague, Mr Renouf, looked into the public accounts he would find them satisfactory. He (Mr Kent) considered the question of Confederation was one of no ordinary importance. If we were going to be recalcitrant in this matter the Home Government might withdraw the troops and we would lose the great benefit we derived from the protection they afforded us as well as from the expenditure on their account by the Imperial Government among us.
He (Mr Kent) believed that if we kept on good terms with the Home Government they would extend to us for the next fifty years the aegis of their protection, Let us enter into the consideration of this matter calmly. Looking at the question in its commercial aspects, he (Mr Kent) considered that it must be of great advantage to this country. If we did not join in this confederation, Newfoundland might be met by a hostile tariff in every direction, for there was reason to apprehend that the Americans would terminate the reciprocity treaty. It might be said that we would still receive our flour and provisions from the United States; but if there was war between the United Kingdom and the United States, whence would we get them? How could they protect their fisheries if the British government were to tell them to set up for themselves? As to the cost of a navy, a navy was a very remote thing under this federation, because the British navy would, as now, give us all the naval protection we required. But if seamen were required for the British navy in time of war, it was evident we could supply them with men whose physical vigour and gallantry would reflect the highest credit on the service.
As to the military expenditure of the Confederation, we were already ledged to contribute towards the military expenditure incurred for our defence, but as yet we had not been called upon for anything. Politically considered, he (Mr Kent) regarded the Confederation, as fraught with important benefits to this colony. Although he had been himself a party to legislating for the existing representation in that House, still he must state his conviction that it was not such as was calculated to promote useful legislation or a feeling of harmony among the people of the colony. The representation was based on religious distinctions; and the two great religious denominations in the island being, so nearly balanced numerically, the consequence was that a slight advantage in one or two electoral districts gave a small numerical majority in that House to the representatives of one party or the other, and the effect of this was a constant struggle in that House for the possession of power, to the retarding of useful legislation, and leading to the estrangement of parties in private life, and producing that odium theologicum, which was the bitterest of all hatreds. Viewed socially, federation with the other provinces would be productive of great advantages.
There was an expansive benevolence and an enlargement of views generated by amalgamating with large and populous communities. Our isolation and contracted sphere of action was apt to operate injuriously in many respects, whereas union with the neighbouring provinces would produce increased intercourse, and an interchange of sentiments and hospitalities must result beneficially in many respects. He merely referred generally to these aspects of the question. When the subject was brought formally before the House he would be prepared to go more fully into its consideration. He was satisfied that great social, political and commercial advantages would accrue from it. He did say there was a great deal in the objection raised, that we ought to consult the constituencies. He was pleased with the manner in which the question was brought before the public in the other colonies, where the supporters and opponents of confederation appeared at public meetings and fully set forth their views without introducing any clap-trap into their speeches.
With respect to the Governor’s speech, he (Mr. Kent) was very glad the ministry had advised his Excellency to lay such an unexceptionable speech before the House. With the prospect of soon appearing before their constituents they have appeared to have acted in accordance with the remark, that politicians have four-years for sinning and one for repenting, previous to having to give an account of their conduct. He hoped they might so direct their legislation this session as to do something towards relieving the people from that deep despondency with which they are now pressed down.
Mr. Talbot felt great pleasure in expressing his satisfaction with the speech from the throne; not only with the style of that able document; but with the important practical suggestions it contained. He (Mr. Talbot) did not think it was the speech of the minis try. It was not in accordance with the sentiments they had expressed in the House in former sessions, It must have been written by the Governor himself; and was a speech which did him very great credit—And judging by it, we might anticipate that his Excellency would give great satisfaction in the administration of the Government of this Colony. There was one portion of it, that in reference to roads, recommending a permanent appropriation for their repair and extension, which was not in accordance with the sentiments of the ministry, for the Premier himself was opposed to roads.
He (Mr. Talbot) was informed, although he never heard him say it himself, that the Premier had said, in his place in the House, that roads were only a convenience, and would not pay for the outlay upon them. He (Mr. Talbot) thought a permanent Road Act would be very useful. They could prevent the roads from falling into decay, by a permanent Act. During the last year they might be said to have no road grant at all, for the roads, required such repairs, from the neglect of preceding years, and there were such large deductions for other purposes, that the whole grant in the St. John’s district was required for repairs, and no new roads could be opened. With respect to education, he thought it was necessary to provide suitable renumeration for the teachers, but no training school was required. His Excellency must have been in error when he penned that recommendation. There was a training School for Catholic teachers in connexion with St. Bonaventure College, and he (Mr. Talbot,) believed arrangements were made in connection with the Protestant Academies for the training of teachers for the Protestant elementary schools. He did not, therefore, see why the Colony should be put to the expense of a separate training institution. With respect to the new Currency Act, be thought the copper coinage introduced was not such as would give satisfaction to the country.
He considered its result to the poor man was the loss of two pence on the shilling. The labourer on the wharves, who received them in payment of his wages at the rate of twenty half pence to the shilling, had afterwards to give them for ten pence at the shops where he purchased necessaries, for his family. He had to comply with the old custom which their legislation could not change. He (Mr. Talbot) was very much gratified to learn that the report of Mr. Murray, the geologist, was so favourable respecting our mineral resources. It gave us reason to anticipate that valuable mines would be found which would furnish a source of employment, and prove remunerative to capitalists. The speech was unexceptionable, with the exception of the question of poor relief; and that was difficult one. We were so situated that, at present, we had no source of employment for any large portion of our people, except the fishery, and when that failed the people were reduced to want, and they had, no means in the outports of paying an assessment for their relief, for they were all dependent on the fishery. If the circumstances of the country were such that they could make each district support their own poor, it would be a most desirable course, but he (Mr. Talbot) did not see how it could be done here.
The next subject in the speech was Confederation. It was a subject of very great importance, and ought not to be treated as a party question. He did not think it could be disposed of by the bandying of terms. It was too solemn a question to be so treated. It was one of life or death to the country. He had given it a great deal of consideration too, and after all he could not make up his mind upon it. There might be something in the advantages pointed out by its supporters. He had regarded it in the light of history and experience, and it struck him to be a measure calculated to prove fatal to the liberties of the country. He would like to see in it a measure calculated for relieving the country from pauperism which at present pressed it down. But he did declare he could not see in it any practical benefit calculated to lift the people from that state of poverty into which so many of them were plunged. And he solemnly declared he could not give it his adhesion. He could see some advantage in extended territory and a population of so many millions under one Government; but the question of our liberty was involved; and for liberty people have been ready to sacrifice every thing. People regarded liberty, as dearer than life itself.
The proposed confederation appeared to him like people bartering away their liberty for a certain price. With respect to the Delegates appointed by the Government of this Colony, they were gentlemen of distinguished, talents, who he was satisfied, would do nothing which they considered to the prejudice of the Colony, or which would reflect discredit on themselves; but he could not concur in the resolutions to which they were parties; and with regard to any decision on the question this session, he did say that if they decided upon a measure of such importance without consulting public opinion outside they would act most unconstitutionally. He (Mr. Talbot) was under the strongest impression that they had not the power to pass a measure for giving effect to these resolutions. They had been struggling for twenty years to secure a free constitution for the country, and would they put their liberties in jeopardy, or give over to any country the power to trample upon them?
He did say that he could see no good in it. As to free trade, we could have free commercial intercourse with the other Colonies without giving them the power to control our legislation. And as to opening a field for the enterprise of our young men, they could now proceed to any of the colonies, and had free scope for their talents. Again, with respect to the manner in which these Delegates were sent, the question never had been brought before the House, and the proceeding was entirely that of the Government. After some further observations, the hon. member concluded by saying that he was decidedly opposed to the question of confederation being entertained this session.
The hon. Attorney General said he was much pleased with the manner, in which his Excellency’s speech had been received by both sides of the House. He fully concurred in the very marked expression of satisfaction expressed by hon. members with that speech, and with the opinions expressed as to the eminent qualifications possessed by his Excellency for the exalted and responsible position to which he had been appointed by Her Most Gracious Majesty. There was, however, as was to be anticipated, some difference of opinion on several of the subjects referred to in that speech. The hon. member for St. John’s East, Mr. Parsons, as was his usual practice, complained of the course followed by the Government, and expatiated in glowing terms on the results which would flow from a different policy shadowed forth by him, a policy of giving the public money to any who would receive it, to be expended in cultivating the soil, a policy of which the certain result would be to render all the recipients dependent upon government support. It was somewhat remarkable that although that hon. member had been upwards of twenty years in that House, and had been declaiming all that time about some comprehensive policy that would make abundance pervade the land, and banish want, and pauperism from our midst, yet he had never introduced a single measure to give effect to his own suggestions.
With respect to the poor expenditure the hon. member had given free scope to his in agnation, and asserted that it was far larger than it had actually been. The hon. member for St. John’s East, Mr. Kent, did object to some things in the speech, as was to be expected from the leader of the opposition; but he (hon. A. Gen) could not but admire the good humour and wit with which the hon, member spoke in the house; except when he got into bad humour, and then he said things which he (hon A. Gen.) was sure he did not mean. He must say however, that he could not agree with the hon, member in some matters. He objected to the encouragement suggested by his Excellency to the Bank, and mackeral fisheries. Now he (hon. A. Gen.) admitted that bounties, in the abstract, were objectionable. But in this case it was not proposed to give bounties to sustain an unprofitable branch of business, but to give temporary encouragement for the purpose of resuscitating a fishery which gave employment to the fishermen of other countries, but in which our fishermen did not at present engage; and which we had reason to believe would be, after a short time, not only self-sustaining, but a source of profitable employment to a large number of our fishermen. Our fishermen had for many years past engaged only in the shore, and Labrador cod fisheries, which, we all regretted, had not been so remunerative as could be wished. He did not think that there was any thing else to which his hon. friend had referred which required any observation.
There was another matter, however, on which a good deal had been said on both sides of the House, on which he (hon. A. Gen.) would make a few observations. He referred to the proposed Confederation of the British North American Colonies. It was a matter of great importance and one requiring the gravest attention. it was one which would require them to take into consideration, not only the present condition of the colony and its relation to the parent state and the neighbouring colonies; but also the circumstances that might be anticipated to affect these relations in future years. It was the subject on which a great deal might be said and written on both sides. He would not at present go into the consideration of the question. The government were invited by that of Canada to take part in the deliberations at Quebec, and considered it their duty to the country to accept the invitation. He concurred in the opinion expressed by hon. members as to the zeal and ability with which the Delegates had discharged their duty; and he would take that opportunity of expressing his approval of the terms as respected Newfoundland.
He differed from those who thought the Delegates should not have taken part in the discussions at the Conference. Their instructions were not to do anything to bind this colony, as the subject had not been before the Legislature, and these instructions bad been complied with. But the course they had followed resulted in arrangements which he (hon. Attorney General) considered it would be to our advantage to accept. He considered it was also their duty to sign the Report, by which the proceedings of the Conference were authenticated; and it must be gratifying to them all to learn the high opinion entertained at the Conference, and by leading gentlemen in Canada, of the Delegates and the manner in which they had acquitted themselves. He should be expected to state the course which the Government intended to take respecting that matter. He deprecated any discussion of the matter until all the papers were laid before the house, which, to save time, were now in the course of being printed, and would be laid on the table in a few days. Notice would be given of a day for taking the matter into consideration probably the 15th February, which would give hon. members three weeks to consider the documents on the subject, and the resolutions to be proposed by the Government. There was no desire to press the decision of the House on the question with undue haste. He thought ample time should be given for its consideration, and concurred with those who thought its importance entitled it to the gravest deliberation.
He did trust that hon. members, after full consideration of the whole question, would come prepared to consider the resolutions with a full sense of the responsibility which devolved upon them, and whether they confirmed the resolutions or decided that we remain as we are, that they would be actuated by no motive except an earnest desire to promote the permanent interests of the country in which they occupied the honourable and responsible position of the peoples’ representatives; and that their decision would be such as they could afterwards reflect upon with satisfaction.
Mr. Glen wished to know whether it was the intention of the Government to force the matter through the house this session?
Hon. Attorney General.—The Government never forced any matter through the House. They were always satisfied with submitting their views to the House, and accepting the decision of hon. members upon them.
Mr. Glen.—Was he to understand that the resolutions to be submitted by the Government would, as regards this Colony, affirm the report of the Conference?
Hon. Attorney General.—Certainly. Such would be the effect of the resolutions, if concurred in by the House.
Mr. Glen.—The constitution was granted, not to the House of Assembly, but to the people of Newfoundland, and he (Mr. Glen) considered the people were entitled to be consulted before we came to a decision on the subject.
Hon. Attorney General.—The question would be submitted to the House, and it would be for hon. members to decide what course should be adopted. The government, were prepared to acquiesce in the decision of the House.
After some observations by Mr. Kent and Mr. Talbot, the motion for the appointment of a Select Committee to prepare the draft of an address in reply to his Excellency’s speech was put and carried.
Ordered that Messrs. Wyatt, Whiteway, E. D. Shea, Winter, and Casey do form the committee.
The hon. Attorney General gave notice that on Wednesday, the 15th February next, he will move the House into Committee of the whole on the subject of a Confederation of the North American Provinces.
Mr. Renouf gave notice that on to-morrow he will ask the hon. the Acting Colonial Secretary to lay on the table of the House a copy of all correspondence between the Government and that of Canada on the subject of Colonial Conſederation; also copy, of Instructions furnished the Delegates, Messrs. Shea and Carter, to the Quebec Convention, and the Report of the said Delegates.
Also to ask the hon. Acting Colonial Secretary for copy of correspondence from Dr. Stabb, Manager of the Lunatic Asylum, to the Government, in December last, complaining of the visit of inspections made by the Representatives of St. John’s West to that Institution twelve months ago.
Mr. Talbot gave notice that on to-morrow he will ask the hon. Attorney General what arrangement has been made by the Government to provide Medical attendance for the St. John’s Hospital in place of the late Dr. Rochford.
The House then adjourned until Monday at three o’clock.