Newfoundland, House of Assembly, Debate on Confederation (28 February 1865)
By: Newfoundland House of Assembly, The Newfoundlander
Citation: “House of Assembly”, The Newfoundlander (10 April 1865) & “House of Assembly (Continued)”, The Newfoundlander (13 April 1865) & “House of Assembly (Continued)”, The Newfoundlander (17 April 1865) “House of Assembly (Continued)”, The Newfoundlander (20 April 1865) “Speech of Mr. Parsons”, The Newfoundlander (24 April 1865).
Other formats: Click here to view the original document (PDF).
St. John’s, Monday, April 10, 1865.
HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY.
TUESDAY, Feb. 28.
The house met at 3 o’clock.
On motion of the hon Attorney General, the house resolved itself into committee of the whole on the further consideration of the Confederation of the British North American Colonies, Mr Knight in the chair.
Dr. Winter.—That was a subject of the deepest importance to the county, and to which every hon. member should devote his greatest attention, and consider in all its bearings. He fully concurred in the testimony borne by the hon Attorney General to the manner in which the Delegates had discharged their duty at the Conference at Quebec. They did credit to themselves and the colony they represented, as well as to the government by whom they were appointed; and the part they took in the deliberations of the conference secured them the respect of the delegates from the other provinces. With regard to the Report of the conference, there was much difference of opinion respecting its details.
He (Dr Winter) would not enter into a review of the arguments of hon members who had spoken in opposition to the report, many of whose views were entitled to consideration. The hon member for Placentia, Mr Shea, assured the House that steam communication would be provided for us; but he (Dr. Winter) would like to have a guarantee for it before entering into the confederation; both for a second postal steamer, as for steamers to Canada, and steam communication with Great Britain. That was a matter which was too important to be left for future arrangement.
With respect to our representation in the Federal House of Commons, he must say that he did not see that our interests were sufficiently protected. We were to have only 8 members in the House of 189, Prince Edward Island, seeming to be decidedly hostile to Confederation, might be left out. The representation was to be adjusted every ten years, according to the census, population being taken as the basis. The other Provinces, especially Upper Canada, increased, much more rapidly in population than we did, so that we would lose members, while Upper Canada got an increase every ten years. Taking Lower Canada, under Confederation, as one of the maritime provinces, as that province is interested in the fisheries, he still found that, according to the ratio of increase between 1851 and 1861, Upper Canada would, at no very distant period, have a larger population, and consequently a larger number of members than all the maritime colonies reckoned together.
He looked upon Lower Canada as being a maritime Province; but still that was not sufficient to maintain the balance of power against the increasing numbers of Upper Canada. That province increased every ten years at the rate of 40 per cent., while the ratio for Lower Canada was under 26 per cent, for the same period. Now Lower Canada was always to have 65 members, and as the Upper Province progressed at the rate of 15 per cent for every ten years, over the Lower, it would receive an accession of members every ten years. When he came down to Newfoundland, he found that by reference to the increase of our population between the census of 1845 and that of 1857, the increase, reduced to a period of ten years, was slightly under 20 per cent.
Taking the relative population of the several colonies as at the census of 1861, and looking at Lower Canada as having fisheries and other interests identical with Newfoundland and the other maritime colonies. He at first considered that the combined influence of these colonies would be sufficient to protect them in the Federal Parliament; but looking to the future, he apprehended that would not be the case. The arrangement, so far as related to the representation given to Upper and Lower Canada, appeared just, but its application to the maritime colonies would have the effect of lessening their numerical as well as their relative representation, to such an extent, that in a short period, the majority of 25 over Upper Canada, given to Lower Canada and the Maritime Provinces, exclusive of Prince Edward Island, on entering the union, will soon become, “small and beautifully less,” until, in 36 years hence, Upper Canada will have a majority of 20 over all the other Provinces of the Confederation combined. This would be seen on reference to the tabular statement which he held in his hand, and which he would read to the house.
(Here the hon member read the subjoined tabular statement.)
Tabular Statement of the population of British North America, (P. E. Island not included) with the rule of increase, and apportionment of members by the Quebec Conference, with the future re adjustment of the representation, on the basis of 65 members for Lower Canada.
Ratio of increase in ten years, according to the last and preceding census.
|Upper Canada||39||7-10||per cent.|
|Population.||To each member.||No. of members.|
|New Brunswick||252,047||16 669||15|
|3 218 375||189|
|Population.||To each member.||No. of members.|
|Upper Canada||1,950,339||“||Gain 9-91|
|Nova Scotia||397,021||“||Loss 1-18|
|Population.||To each member.||No. of members.|
|Upper Canada||2 724 798||“||Gain 10-101|
|Nova Scotia||476 433||“||Loss 1-17|
|Population.||To each member.||No. of members.|
|Lower Canada||2 211 141||42,793||65|
|Upper Canada||3 806 419||“||Gain 11-112|
|Population.||To each member.||No. of members.|
|Lower Canada||2,781 615||42 794||65|
|Upper Canada||5,317,568||“||Gain 12-124|
|New Brunswick||724 309||“||1-17|
|Nova Scotia||685,065||“||Loss 1-16|
Increase for Upper Canada,
8,921,449, average 93.361–42 members.
Increase for Lower Canada and Maritime Provinces,
2.635,262, average 93,361—no members.
The above ratio of increase would give 28 members.
Loss of Representation by the Maritime Provinces, at the same average increase by which Upper Canada would gain 42 members,
Due Lower Canada and Maritime Provinces 28
No. given by Conference 107
Representation Upper Canada 124
That statement was based upon the census returns of the several Provinces, for 1851 and 1861, the latter of which was taken by the Conference as the basis on which they apportioned the representation of the several Provinces, the average population for each representative being about 17,000. In 1871, the average for all the Provinces, taking Lower Canada, with 65 members, as the basis, will be 21,495 for each member. In 1871, the total number of members will be 196, Upper Canada gaining 9 members and Nova Scotia and Newfoundland losing 1 member each; the total population being 4,226,949, five per cent. on which is 211,347, which divided by 196, the number of members, will give 1078 as the five per cent. to each member.
Newfoundland, to hold her 8 members, will require 8 times 21, 495, the basis of increase with 65 members for Lower Canada, or a population of 171,960; but as the population of Newfoundland will be only 154,227, which divided by 8, gives only 19,278, or a decrease of 2,217 for each member—whole decrease 17,733,—which being more than 10 per cent, or over double 1,078, “relatively to the population of the whole union;” consequently, by the operation of the 21st Resolution of the Conference, Newfoundland will lose one member, and Nova Scotia one, without taking into account the gradual loss of influence arising from the rapid increase of the Upper Canadian section of the union. He (Dr Winter) was inducted to go so much into detail, as there existed a difference of opinion as to the construction of the 21st resolution, more from a desire to elicit the logical opinions of hon members, than with the wish or intention of pronouncing dogmatically on the point.
However, in the multitude of counsel which surrounded him, it was not too much to expect that he would be more correctly advised, and that if his views were not tacitly assented to, they would be “let down” gently by those hon gentlemen who differed from him. By referring to the tabular statement, it would be seen that Upper Canada enters the confederation with 82 members, Lower Canada and the Maritime Provinces (not including Prince Edward Island), with a representation of 107, being a majority of 25 members over Upper Canada—total 189 members. In 36 years from, this time the additional increase of population in Upper Canada will be 3,921,477, which will give her 42 additional members, in all 124 being a majority of 20 over Lower Canada and the other one provinces whose increased population of 2,635,302 will have 3 members fewer than the number allowed to then (107) when they enter the Confederation, or, in other words, 4,567,644 in 36 years hence, will have 104 members, whilst in 1861 when their whole population amounted to only 1,822,384 they were allotted, on entering the Confederation, 107 members, there, giving Upper Canada a majority of 29 over Lower Canada and the other Maritime Provinces.
Surely if Upper Canada’s increase of 3,921,477 gives her 42 additional members, or 1 to 93,361 the increase of Lower Canada and the other maritime provinces, (not including Prince Edward Island,) of 2,635,362, ought to receive 28 members at the same rate of 1 member to 93,361, making a total of 124 for Upper Canada, and 135 for Lower Canada and the maritime provinces being 259 in all, 36 years hence. Even this would reduce the majority of Lower Canada and the maritime provinces from 25 to 11, and be a gain to Upper Canada of 14. With regard to the observations of some hon members, that Canada had to apprehend the hostility of the United States, and that thus we would be involved in a large expenditure, which we might avoid by keeping out of the Confederation, and that our young men would be drafted to defend the frontier of Canada, he did not attach any importance to that matter.
If there should be a war with the United States, of which he (Dr. Winter) was not apprehensive, it would be a war between England and the United States, in which we, as a Colony of England would, in any case, be involved. Confederation or no Confederation, it was our duty, as well as our interest, to aid in protecting ourselves. . He (Dr. Winter) felt convinced that the House would not adopt the Quebec Resolutions in their present shape; but he had no doubt they would be so modified as to meet the views of the Provinces generally. He had, therefore, much pleasure in supporting the resolution before the chair, that the matter be referred to the constituencies before any decision shall be had in the matter.
St. John’s, Thursday, April 13, 1865.
HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY.
TUESDAY, Feb. 28.
Mr. Whiteway had heard the remarks of the hon. and learned member for Trinity, who had just spoken with regard to a decrease of our representation, which he seemed to fear would take place in the course of time, in the lower branch of the proposed confederate parliament. He (Mr. W.) must confess that he failed to comprehend the hon gentleman’s long array of figures. The resolution in the report of the Delegates referring to this subject appeared very simple. It was this—”No reduction shall be made in the number of members returned by any section, unless its population shall have decreased relatively to the population of the whole Union, to the extent of five per centum.” Now, to illustrate the case, assuming the whole population of the Union to be 4,000,000, (which was near the present numbers) five per cent on this would be 200,000.
Our present population must therefore decrease 280,000 before we could be deprived of a member. Our population was now only 130,000, therefore the Island must be depopulated before we could lose a representive [sic]. But he (Mr. W.) would read what Mr. Galt said upon this subject, when addressing his constituents at Sherbrooke, C. E.; and surely his was an opinion on the construction of the resolutions which the hon member for Trinity would respect. He said, “The house would never have less than 194 members, but it would increase at a very slow rate, &c.” There was no ground for anticipating that our representation would ever be reduced below 8.
If he (Mr. W.) concurred in the resolution now before the house, he should probably at present offer no observations upon the subject inasmuch as it proposed to postpone the consideration of the question of confederation for a twelvemonth, until the next session of the Legislature, and as there appeared to be a majority of the house favourable to that view, he deemed it would be a wise policy to avail oneself of all the time thereby afforded, reserving his opinion until called for. But he differed from hon gentleman as to the advisability of adopting this resolution, for reasons which he would state presently, After the very ab e argumentative and eloquent speeches which he had heard within the last two or three days, from the hon the Attorney General and the hon member for Placentia and St. Mary’s, Mr. A. Shea, it would seem at first almost impossible for any one entertaining a favourable opinion of the proposed scheme for confederation, to discover any topic connected with the subject which had not been fully treated by these gentlemen. They had reviewed and discussed it by the light of history, political philosophy, and the laws which govern marked in their relations to each other individually, collectively and as nations.
Reference had been made to the solid advantages invariably derived from the union of petty states on fair and equitable terms under one firm and enlightened government. We had heard every union spoken of, from the days of the Saxon Heptarchy down to the union of the two Canadas. They had treated it in its moral, social, physicial [sic] financial and commercial aspects. But still, if every hon gentleman in the House had spoken upon the subject, it was one of such vast importance and so varied in its ramifications, that he (Mr. W.) ventured to say there would remain some point untouched.
He (Mr. W.) had heard the hon member for St. John’s West (Mr. Renouf) compare our position under the proproposed [sic] union to that of Poland and Hungary under Russia and Austria. Such a comparison needed no comment, and he could not believe the hon gentleman was sincere in comparing the union of free states on equal terms, with equitable representation, with that which was no union at all, but a compulsory binding of the oppressed to the despot. He (Mr. W.) gave the hon gentleman credit for sincerity in the determined opposition he had shewn, and for the zeal and industry which he had displayed; but in doing so he thought his remarks, as applied to the hon Attorney General and Mr. Shea, that “it must be a very bad cause which required to be advocated by such long speeches,” were peculiarly applicable to the honorable gentleman himself or he had occupied the time of the House for a longer period than either of them.
He (Mr. W.) believed that considerable advantage to this colony would result from the free intercommunication which would be brought about between the several Provinces now separated, and to a certain extent antagonistic. Free intercourse with our neighbours would tend to elevate our minds from those narrow and selfish views which invariably prevail with men living in an isolated condition. If it were calculated to do no more than to raise our thoughts above and draw them away from our present sectarian differences, and give us something to think about outside of ourselves and our petty disputes, it would be a benefit, and promote social happiness. If we looked around among those who had expressed opinions upon the subject, we should find but very few who were opposed to confederation in the abstract; the difficulty seemed to be altogether on matters of detail; and parties inside and outside this house appeared dissatisfied with the Quebec resolutions as the basis.
A little time and reflection would probably have the effect of doing away with many of these objections: a reaction, to a certain extent, already had taken place in the public mind. When the resolutions were placed on the table some gentlemen had rushed from the House, it may be actuated by political motives, and endeavoured to alarm the people and raise a popular clamour, saying that the government were about to force the adoption of these resolutions upon the House at once, that they were going to sell the country to Canada, to forsake the British flag for a Canadian, &c., &c. Great excitement prevailed for a day or two, and a public meeting was called, at which, however, (the agitation having been somewhat calmed) not a single objection was expressed as to the principle of Conderacy [sic] and it resulted in a petition in which time was asked for consideration of the subject, it being new and of such great importance to our future. This was a reasonable request.
Although he (Mr. W.) fully concurred in the principle of confederation; he was, like many others, not prepared to accept the report in its totality. He believed it was laid down as a consequence necessarily involved in the adoption of this report, that a uniform tariff would follow. If such was the case, he felt hostile to such a measure, for when we compared the condition of the Canadian peasants who consumed but few dutiable articles, with that of the fisherman of Newfoundland, who consumed little else but dutiable articles, a uniform tariff would at first operate unfairly upon our people. But whilst he entertained these views now he was free to confess that in the course of time, when Canadian manufactures found their way into our markets, and we had our local manufactures this objection would be overcome. Some parties had said that Canada could not manufacture enough for herself, and that it was absurd to suppose she could supply us. This certainly contrasted with the outcry raised in Nova Scotia by the anti confederates, where they seemed to be afraid of being flooded by Canadian manufactured goods.
We had, however, heard undeniable proof from the hon member for Carbonear, Mr. Rorke, of what Canada can do as regards leatherware. But why should not Newfoundland become a manufacturing country? We had all the facilities for it. We had good water power and cheap labour. Why should all our hides and seal skins be exported? Although for some time he (Mr. W) had been sceptical as to the bright prospects watch some entertained respecting the number of sheep which might be kept on the island, still after the returns which had recently been obtained, it must be evident that by the destruction of the dogs, the breeding of sheep could be raised to an important interest. Supposing, for instance, a million of sheep were kept, and this was a small estimate, we might calculate on between three and four millions pounds of wool.
Why then might not woollen factories be put in operation here to great advantage? And why not cotton factories. We could import, the raw material as cheaply as our neighbours. All we wanted was a market, and this confederation would give us. There were other portions of the report of the delegates which he (Mr. W.) could not assent to. First—it was resolved in the 66th sec. that Newfoundland should cede all her Crown lands, mines and minerals to the General Government, and receive in lieu therefore an annual allowance of $10,000 whilst Canada, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and P. E. Island retained theirs for the purpose of their local governments. Why was this distinction made? We were told that in the other provinces the Crown lands, mines and minerals were sources of revenue, which they could not give up, and that in each of these provinces there existed systems of direct taxation and municipal regulations, that the 80 cents per head mentioned in sec. 64, watch runs thus:
“64—In consideration of the transfer to the General Parliament of the powers of Taxation, an annual grant in aid of each Province, shall be made equal to 80 cents per head of the population, as established by the Census of 1861, the population of Newfoundland being estimated at 130,000. Such aid thall [sic] he in full settlement of all further demands upon the General Government for local purposes, and shall be paid half yearly in advance to each Province,”
was not enough for their local expenditure unless these provinces were allowed to retain these sources of revenue.
Now we had no direct taxation, and at present were deriving nothing from our mines; but all our expenses were defrayed out of the customs’ revenue, which we were to give up to the General Government. 80 cents per head for our population would therefore supply an amount insufficient, by $150,010, for the wants for our local, Government and it was proposed to raise this sum by transferring our Crown Lands, &c, to the Confederate Government. It appeared to him (Mr. W.) to involve the conclusion that we must submit to be taxed to the extent of $150,000, in order that we might enter the Confederacy, on an equal footing with the other Colonies, or, in other words, because we were taxed relatively $150,000 less than the other Colonies, we must give up our Crown Lands and mines; and henceforth we should be ever debarred from looking to them as a source of revenue, no matter what our requirements might be. This was manifestly unjust to Newfoundland which was made to suffer because not so heavily taxed as the sister Provinces at the time of Union.
It had been said that our Crown Lands, mines and minerals were worth nothing. If that was the case those gentlemen were correct, who said we gave nothing, and that the $150,000, was a gilt. But he (Mr. W.) differed from these hon gentlemen. He believed them to be of great value, and looked forward to the time when the mines of this Ireland would be one of its riches resources. It must be remembered that very lately attention had not been directed generally to the subject. It was only last year that the first money was voted by this House for a geological survey; and the report of Mr. Murray gave us reason to believe we had much mineral wealth. That very enterprising gentleman whom we all so highly esteemed, Mr. Bennett, was the only one, until within the last half dozen years who had done anything towards developing this resource; and he (Mr. W.) believed that Mr. Bennett, now had fair prospects for an ample return.
Again, those parts of the report which propose to define the powers of the General Government and those of the Local Governments, were not sufficiently clear and explicit. There seemed to be ample room for cailving [sic] upon this point, and for a conflict of opinion upon that which should be as clear an the light. He (Mr. W.) observed that the London Times had an article upon this subject, which we would take the liberty of reading.
“But the most important clause in the whole Resolutions, and, unfortunately, by no means the easiest to understand, is the one which defines the powers of the Central Federative Legislature. We have expressed the opinion, which we believe is generally held in the American Colonies, that while certain subjects should be delegated to the Local Legislatures, the Central Legislature should have full power of making laws on every thing relating to the Federation, in strict anology [sic] to the powers possessed by the Imperial Parliament; or that if there be any exception to those powers, it should be only with regard to those subjects which are especially delegated to the Local Legislatures. We are sorry to say that neither of these plans has been adopted. By Resolution 29, ‘the General Parliament shall have power to make laws for the peace, welfare, and good government of the Federated Provinces (saving the sovereignty of England) and especial laws respecting the following subjects.’ Then follow thirty-six heads of legislation, and a thirty-seventh, which is as follows:– ‘And generally respecting all matters of a general character, not specially and exclusively reserved for the Local Government, and Legislatures.”
We cannot find that the Local Legislatures have any exclusive power of legislation given them. They have power by the 43rd Resolution to make laws respecting seventeen subjects, the eighteen being—’And generally all matters of a private or local nature not assigned to the General Parliament.’ It is exceedingly difficult to construe these provisions. First, general powers of legislation are given in the widest terms to the General Parliament; then a power is given especially to make laws on thirty- seven subjects, one of those being all matters of a general character not exclusively reserved to the Local Legislatures. Nothing is exclusively reserved to the Local Legislatures, and it would seem, therefore, that the effect of this clause is to cut the power of central legislation down to matters of a general character—a most vague and unsatisfactory definition, and one sure, if it be retained, to produce conflict and confusion. In the same way, what are matters of a private and local nature not assigned to the General Parliament? We have failed to discover any matters of a private and local nature which are so assigned, and therefore the power will be limited by the words ‘private’ and ‘local;’ so that the effect of these clauses will be that, beyond the subjects attributed to each, the Central Legislature will have jurisdiction over general matters, whatever they are, and the Local Legislature over local matters, whatever they are; while it is in the highest degree doubtful what the Courts would consider general and what local, and whether the Central Legislature, has any concurrent jurisdiction over private and local matters or no.
“The inaccuracies are probably the result of a succession of compromises, and we can do ng better service to the Federative movement than by thus early pointing them out. The Resolutions ask for the cooperation of the Local and Imperial Parliaments for the purpose of giving them effect, and we have no doubt that, before they assume, the form of law, they will have undergone consideration and scrutiny fully commensurate to their importance. Of the wisdom of the principle involved, we have no doubt, and we have much pleasure in, giving our tribute to the ability with which, on the whole, that principle has been worked out, in spite of difficulties and constructions, of which our own negotiations for the union of Scotland and Ireland can furnish us only with a very faint idea.”
When, therefore, parties at a distance and disinterested are at a loss to understand parts of these, resolutions, framed by 32 of the leading politicians of the British North American Provinces, in which there should be no room for a doubt as to there meaning, our delegates must not be surprised that we whose interests are so vitally affected, should narrowly scrutinize every line of the report, and see that our rights were definitely protected and secured. It in must be remembered that the hon the Speaker and Mr. Shea, were delegated by our government to proceed on their mission to Quebec, he (Mr. W.) […]
- (p. 2)
[…] believed, at less than a week’s notices. The subject of Confederation was one which had not heretofore engaged much of the attention of the public men of this country, whilst it had been before the Legislatures of the adjoining provinces for years. These gentlemen, therefore, went under great disadvantages, but the ability which they had displayed at the conference reflected credit upon themselves and our Government, in their judicious selection. The Solicitor General had complained that our fisheries were to be under the control of the General Government. He (Mr. W.) considered it the best thing that could happen,
Then we might hope for some legislation which would result in their encouragement and protection. We had attempted legislation as regards our cod-fishery, and had done nothing. We had enacted laws respecting our salmon and herring fisheries, which were a dead letter upon our statute book, because we had no means to provide for sufficient superintendency and police regulations to carry these laws into execution; and the result is that our salmon fishery is all but destroyed, and our other fisheries are declining. How unfavourably did our action regarding our fisheries contrast with the policy adapted by Canada, notwithstanding that in Canada they were only a minor staple of industry, whilst in this country our fisheries were all we had at present to rely upon. A reference to the annual report for 1863 of the superintendents of the Canadian fisheries will show their watchful anxiety over this branch of industry. The report is in a pamphlet of some 76 pages, closely printed, containing much that is of deep interest to ourselves. Here we have from the pen of one of these Superintendent’s a scientific view—the full description of every fish found in Canadian waters, seas and rivers; accurate statistical information as to the general products, and as to each particular branch; vessels, boats and men, where and how engaged, and in fact most elaborate details of ail that is interesting concerning the subject.
We find that the whole produce of the Canadian fisheries in the Gulf and Lower St. Lawrence in 1863, including seal and whale oil, was $329,160, and that the amount expended in superintending, encouragement and protection, was $30,658 or over £6000 sterling, the amount paid by the Canadian Government in bounties, for one year, is over $9000. They have made Gaspe a free port, solely with a view to the encouragement of their fisheries; in fact, so fully alive do they seem to be to the advantages which must flow from a watchful care over this interest that nothing appeals left undone in order to develope [sic] it. He (Mr W.) would take the liberty of reading a paragraph from this report of Pierre Fortin, Esq., showing that although some in this country are under the impression that Canada can supply nothing for our fisheries, the French and others are of a different opinion.
“The port of Gaspé has had this year the visit of three foreign men-of-war. First the French steam corvette La Marceau, carrying 8 guns, Commander Vavin, came during the month of July, to take on board Mr. le Baron Gauldrèe Boilleau, French Consul, who was proceeding to study on the spot the resources of the country bordering the waters of the Gulf of St. Lawrence, with the intention of creating, or rather developing the trade with the French possessions of Newfoundland; and it is by making better known to the French merchants and outfitters the different kinds of produce supplied by Canada and the other British provinces, in order to supply the numerous wants of their immense fisheries, and establishing the articles the can give in exchange, that this desirable end can be attained in a safer manner. There is no doubt but that this trip of Mr. Boilleau, whose intelligence and capacity have been so well appreciated in Canada, will produce in a future period advantageous results to the trade of our country, as well as to that of France.
“The United States, armed schooner George Magnum, Commander Collins, (carrying 7 guns and a crew of 70 men), which, according to rumour, had cruised during a while in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, expecting to meet cruisers from the Confederate States, also came in the basin of Gaspe, but remained only a few days. This vessel was of nearly the same tonnage as La Canadienne.
Lastly, his Majesty Victor Emmanuel’s frigate, the San Giovanni, of 28 guns, Commander Count Fran di Bruno, with a crew of 360 men, stayed there from the middle of August till the end of September. The population welcomed this vessel with pleasure, for it was seen that her presence was a proof that the principal branch of trade of this part of Canada, that of codfish, had, since a few years, by its extensive development, dawn the attention of foreign countries, and especially Italy, where so great a quantity of our dried fish is consumed.
“Already an Italian consulate had been established last year at Gaspe Basin, and Mr. Horatio LeBoutillier had been chosen to fill this important post. To the advantageous information respecting our country furnished by this gentleman to the Italian Minister of Commerce, is mainly due the presence of the San Giovanni in our waters.
“The commander of the frigate understood at once the importance and wealth of our maritime fisheries, and he intends to make them known to his Government in a special report, in which he will show, amongst other things, the advantage for Italian vessels to come and purchase at our free port of Gaspe a part of the codfish they require, and bring us in exchange the products of their country, such as olive oil, dried and preserved fruits, and especially hemp, which is cultivated on a large scale in the centre of Italy, and of which we already make a considerable use in Canada since the establishment of cable factories.
“Mr. Horatio LeBoutillier had especially drawn the attention of the Italian Government to the advantage or the war vessels of their country, stationed on the shores of North America, to buy their provisions in our ports; this was done for the frigate San Giovanni, which bought at Gaspe or at Montreal, through the agency of the Italian Consul, provisions, and a good deal of other stores, for a six months’ cruise, amounting to $12,000; the good quality and cheapness of which was well appreciated by the commissariat on board. “The urbanity and politeness of the commander Count Fran di Bruno, and the steadiness of his crew, won the esteem and the respect of the whole population of Gaspe, and he, the commander, gave hopes that our maritime shores, and especially the port of Gaspe, would again, next year, be visited by one of his Majesty’s frigates; and no doubt that when the Route will be so well traced, merchant vessels from Italy will hasten to follow.”
The report concludes as follows:—
“I will conclude by stating that our fisheries are, compared to what they formerly were, in a state of properity, thanks to the liberal encouragement and effectual protection of the Government, and I hope that this encouragement, either in the shape of bounties, or free ports, will not fail, so that the fisheries may soon acquire a development which will cause them to be considered all over the country as one of the largest and most productive industries of Canada.”
The Canadians are fostering, in every way possible, their fisheries, whilst we are asleep and allowing our independence to be destroyed without an effort to sustain it. Compare this able report with the meagre documents which emanate from our friend who goes to the Labrador in his little cutter every summer; and the sum, apended by the Canadians, with the paltry £500 which is all we afford to lay cut in protecting this all important interest. If then, the Canadians now are so zealous in promoting their fisheries, was there not ample reason to believe that the same policy would dictate the action of the Confederate Government, particularly when we consider how deeply concerned in the same direction are the provinces of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia with their extensive fisheries.
But out of the Confederacy, what would be our condition in relation to foreign countries where existed our principal fish markets? Is it not likely that every effort would be made to benefit so important an interest in the adjoining provinces, when they would bring the powerful influence of a great Confederation, backed by Great Britain, to bear, in order to procure advantages; and is it at all probable that we should be admitted to share in those privileges whilst we remained separate and opposed to them? We were evidently impotent of ourselves, as to advancing this interest; and the sooner we had assistance, the sooner we should progress. It had been stated that this project of Confederation had its origin in a fear, on the part of Canada, of invasion from the United States. Whether this was true or not, it mattered little what was the immediate cause of the scheme. The time, he (Mr. W.) believed, had arrived, when these Colonies were bound to provide towards their defence. Nay more, there was a resolution on the Journals of the House, by which the country was pledged to do so.
But supposing Canada was attacked, should we not be bound at the call of Great Britain, to go to her assistance, whether united under Confederacy or not? Even, for our own safety, should we not be obliged to do so? If Canada became a prey to the United States, we may rest assured that we should soon follow; and certainly, should we now refuse to adopt a measure highly approved by the British Government, and prefer remaining in our selfish isolation, we could hardly expect that Great Britain would make such exertions to preserve our Island, as some gentlemen had said, “as a bright jewel in the Imperial Crown.”
We, no doubt thought a great deal of ourselves; but in reality, we were very small. Why, last year Great Britain had sent nearly double our population as emigrants to other countrys. In case of war between Great Britain and the United States now; from whence would we obtain our supplies of provisions? Some would say—from Europe, as we did in days gone by. But what would we have to pay for them? By confederacy we were building up within ourselves a grand emporium, from whence to supply our requirements, regardless of the tumults which might convulse other nations.
He [Mr W.] would take the liberty of reading articles from the Colonial Presbyterian and St. John N. B. Courier, interesting upon this subject. The former says—”In a political point of view, every one will admit that, other things being equal, union, unless physical and geographical considerations hinder, would be desirable. Now it cannot be denied, and no candid reasoner will deny, that in Federation we should have to contend with serious physical difficulties, but it might give the ability to help to ‘annihilate time and space,’ and make five Federated provinces ‘happy.’ Defence must gain by centralizition; it must gain by British cooperation with colonial spirit and manliness, and, if need, be, sacrifice.—We have a country which we should preserve from anarchy within, or aggression without; we have a noble free-hold domain, in which no hereditary burdens need crush the efforts, blight the hopes, or quench the aspirations of future freemen. This inheritance is worth the price of insurance, even if that should be high. The millennium has clearly not yet arrived, so we must insure, be the cost what it may.
We do not know that any power will ever attack us; we are not aesolutelp [sic] certain that we could, even with British aid, repel all attacks without tearful loss and damage to our cities and country, but it surely will not be found easy to smite down, and keep down millions of patriotic men, resolved to repel invasion, in a country walled with gunboats and ships of war, with an old, rich and powerful nation at their back, fighting in self-defence, for national existence. On our own account we should at least make the attempt, on account of old England we should do so.—Those who tell us that she is ready to part with her colonial prestige may represent a certain portion of English sentiment; but there is no reason to think they represent the views of the British Government. English statesmen are too wise not to recognise the fact that British America, shielded in its youth, might, as its millions increase to tens and twenties, and upwards, to be able to rally to the defence of the old flag, should the despots of Europe ever combine to trample it in the dust. Here the navies, the armies of England might find men and material resources, but if no spirit of self-sacrifice can now be evolved, we would be of little value to England, and do little credit to ourselves.”
The latter, a paper which has always been remarkable for the moderation of its tone in discussing public questions, and holding a high position among Colonial journals, says:—
“But why caval about a few cents per head in a question where so many important interests are involved, and where the results are calculated to affect so vitally the future of these North American Colonies? The matter should be regarded from a higher stand point than that of a few additional cents per head of indirect taxes. The signs of the times portend an early change in the position of these Provinces. What that change shall be is within the power of the people themselves to determine. Admitting, as all will, that we cannot much longer remain in our present isolated condition, on the confines of a warlike neighbor, with different tariffs, different laws, and different currency, there are but two alternatives open for us, one or the other of which we must choose at no distant day—we must either drift into ‘the maw of the great democracy,’ or we must become a consolidated government, acknowledging allegiance to the Sovereign of the British realm, whose virtues we so much revere, and to a government beneath whose aegis the rights and liberties of the subject, whether peer or peasant, are jealously guarded, So circumstanced, there is little doubt as to which of the two alternatives the people of these Provinces, whose loyalty is proverbial, and whose respect for British laws and British customs is unsurpassed, will make choice, and there can be little question as to which of the two conditions would be most to our advantage.
A few cents per head in addition to the amount we now have to pay, will be but a drop in the bucket compared with the weight of responsibility and bebt [sic] we would have to bear if annexed to the Republic. Having then signified our preference for Union among ourselves rather than ot [sic] onnexation [sic] to the States, the next point to consider is the kind of Union we should adopt. This is an important point, but it is one which the careful student of past history and the thoughtful observer of present realities will find little difficulty in deciding. A Federal Union such as is in operation in the States, where the powers oi the Central and the State Governments clash, and where there is no Executive [sic] responsibility, would not work harmoniously; nor would a Legislative Union operate satisfactorily over a wide extent of territory and among people whose interests are so diversified as those of the British Provinces.
What we require is a Union that will give to a Central Government the control in matters of general interest; and leave to the Local Legislatures the power of regulating matters of a purely local character; the former body to take cognizance of all new matters for which special provision has not been made. This appears to be the kind of Union which is developed in the Confederation scheme, and it is the one most likely to meet the approval of the whole people. There may be some defects in the details; there may be some inequalities which will require rectifying; but shall we neglect the scheme on that account? As yet the opponents of the sheme [sic] have not pointed on better or more equitable; whether a further sifting of the question will enable them to do so we leave time to determine.”
He (Mr W.) was surprised at the statement of the hon member for Ferryland, Mr Glen, that our expenditure for the last 8 or 10 years averaged £13,000. He (Mr. W.) believed that statement to be incorrect. The hon member had applied the present Canadian tariff to Newfoundland, and had told us that, under it, our revenue would be £145, whilst we should only receive from the Confederate Government £112,000. It was not fair to apply the Canadian tariff. He may just as well apply the tariff of New Brunswick or Nova Scotia, and tell us what our revenue under these would be. The Confederate tariff would be altogether a new one, adopted by the Confederate Parliament, having due regard to each part of the Union; and when we saw that Canada, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia produced within one-fourth as much fish as we did, and the desire evinced by Canada to promote her fisheries at present, we might fairly augur well for the protection of our fishery interest. Would not the prosperity of Newfoundland be the prosperity of Canada also.
Could it be supposed for one moment that a policy would be would be adopted mimical to the interest of any one province? Of what advantage would it be to the whole, to work an injury to any of its parts? Is not the prosperity of Burged and LaPoile, although far away from St. John’s, the prosperity of Newfoundland? It has been said that Newfoundland is too remote from the seat of Government to profit in any equal degree with the other Provinces; and hon gentlemen who are opposed to Newfoundland entering the union, say it would be of advantage for the other Provinces to do so, because they are on the main, but we are isolated. He (Mr. W.) believed that we were not nearly so much isolated from Quebec as the district of Twillingate and Fogo is from St. John’s. With Quebec we now have means of communication, and under confederation facilities would be afforded by a regular line of steamers in summer, and by steamers and railroads in winter.
But as regards Twillingate and Fogo, during the winter months we could not even convey a letter thither; and although he (Mr. W.) had been for the last four sessions urging upon the government the establishment of a system of couriers for the conveyance of mails through the country to these external districts, he had always been met by the cry of poverty and of inability from want of funds to carry out his views. A change of some whether it was confederation or something else, was devoutly [sic] to be wished for. It had been also stated that Canada wanted our revenue to enrich her impoverished exchequer. Nothing could be more ridiculous. Canada with her $60,000,000 of debt, was better off than we are with our small debt. There they have large public improvements to shew for it; while ours has been incurred in the relief of poverty, without a single vestige of improvement remaining to the country. Canada, in return for her debt, has 2000 miles of railway in operation, which have cost $100,000,000 —one bridge alone has cost £12,000,000; she has 4500 miles of telegraph wire, over which three quarters of a million of messages are annually sent; she has 250 miles of canal, which cost $16,000,000, and through which 3,000,000 tons of freight passed last year; she has 15,000 miles of mail routes, 2000 post offices, the income of which exceeds the expenditure. This is what Canada has to show for her debt.
What have we to show for ours? No one who has ever visited Canada but has been astonished at her immense resources, and the opportunity which is everywhere presented for the investment of money, Why is it that her debantures are at a discount? Simply because no one is desirous of investing money at 6 or 7 per cent. when there are opportunities in all directions for investing it at from 14 to 15, upon excellent security. Here the reverse was the case. We had no means of investing our money in any direction, and were glad of the opportunity of paying a premium of 4 to 5 per cent. for the privilege of investing it in 5 per cent. debentures. A party with a few hundred pounds here was afraid to lend on mortgage. Our landed property had become so frightfully depreciated, and there was no sign of improvement. Our public debt had increased, since 1855, from £111,000 to £213,000, and what public works had we to shew? One vast pile of pauperism. We had spent our reveaue in relieving the distressed, and now poverty had become an institution in the country; and this was all we had to shew for our debt. Could the hon. the Solicitor General, or other gentlemen who opposed the principle of confederation, point out a remedy for our difficulties? Each party had been in power during the last nine years, and he has been associated with both; yet he had failed to introduce any measure calculated to remedy the evils which exist.
Our middle class and our tradespeople are fast disappearing. He says we want good fisheries and factories; but can we expect large factories to be establishment when there is only a limited market? The difficulties which manufacturers have to contend with, was aptly illustrated in the case of Mr. Wall’s bakery at River-head. Such was the prejudice in favour of Hamburg bread, together with the limited market in which he could operate, that it took him years before he could convince the people that he could give them as good an article, at a cheaper rate, than they could import. None but a man of Mr. Wall’s indomitable perseverance would have overcome these obstacles. Now we have several bakeries established, and most of the bread used is made in the country. Had no benefit been derived therefrom? Had Mr. Wall at first a more extended sphere for action, his success would have been more rapid, or competition would have been produced, resulting to the public good.
Complaints were frequently heard that capital realized in this country was withdrawn from it, and expended elsewhere; and that as soon as a man had made a little money he always left us. Well, every man had a right to spend his money where he pleased; but if we could afford inducement for men of means to continue among us, by offering them opportunities for political advancement as our representatives in the Confederate Parliament, is it not probable that, in course of time, it would have the effect of retaining capitalists in the country? They would prefer such positions to retirement and private life on the banks of the Clyed [sic] in England. No doubt this scheme would be opposed by those who were desirous of perpetuating our present Local Legislature, in all ts little grandeur, for the sake of the small crumbs that might be picked up within the circle of its patronage; for under Confederation the business of expending the £79,000 we should get from the General Government, which was, after all, more than our present revenue, would be done by a much smaller body than our present very expensive Legislature; but it would be at less cost, and consequently there would be more money for public improvements.
It should be remembered that this subject did not come before us without authority. It had been approved of by the first s atesmen [sic] in the world, and strongly recommended; among whom he might name Lord Durham who was most eminently qualified to give an an opinion. He advised Union of the Provinces, and he (Mr. W.) might refer back as far as 1814, when the father of Her Majesty, the Duke of Kent, had, in a letter to Mr. Sewell, then Chief Justice of Lower Canada, highly approved of a similar proposition.— Again, the Duke of Newcastle urged the accomplishment of this grand idea. We also saw the leading Colonial politicians in each province, burying their party differences, and anxious to promote the general good, by carying [sic] the union into effect. We saw it among ourselves.
Our leading politicians, men generally opposed in their politicial [sic] views, and representing various interests in the country, were agreed upon this subject, and he (Mr. W.) thought that the opinion of men of this stamp, both out of the country and in it, would have a little more weight than those who raised the cry that the country was going to be sold to Canada. The project for confederation received his firm support; but not upon the terms of the Report of the Delegates. He (Mr. W.) thought better terms might be obtained, and he was opposed to a postponement of the consideration of the Report until next year. He thought we should now be engaged in discussing the details and the conditions upon which we were prepared to enter the union, and having come to an understanding upon these points, we should adopt resolutions expressing our views, and containing our reasons; and the Government should be authorised to take such steps as may be expedient for protection our interests, in the shape of a delegation to the Imperial Parliament or otherwise, as occasion required. Canada had already adopted the report; New Brunswick would in all probability do the same, and although Nova Scotia seemed to be hesitating, there was every reason to believe that it would be carried in the Legislature of that Province by a large majority. What, then, would be our position, should they go to the Imperial Parliament for an act to perfect the union during the present session, after this house had been dissolved?
Our interests would be neglected, and he (Mr. W.) thought we should be recreant to the interests of our constituents, if we did not arm our Government with power to act upon any emergency that might occur. He was sorry that in the discussion of this matter allusion had been made to the depressed condition of the Colony. It made us feel ashamed at our poverty; but it was absolutely necessary that facts should be stated. He trusted that we should embrace the opportunity now afforded us, of rising from our degraded and isolated condition, that we should extend the hand of friendship to our brethren [sic] in the sister Provinces, and unite in forming the nucleus of what, not long hence would be a great and powerful nation.
St. John’s, Monday, April 17, 1865.
HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY.
TUESDAY, Feb. 28.
Mr. Leamon.—That question had been debated with a great deal of ability, and very little was left for him to say upon the subject. Still , he would not give a silent vote upon it. In his opinion a union with the other colonies, on fair terms, would have a tendency to better our condition. We want other means of employing and sustaining our people besides the fisheries; and he (Mr. Leamon) concurred in the views of those who believed that Confederation would give us these means. Here we are with a small cod fishery, which if not declining, is certainly not improving, and with those, who are supported from it increasing in numbers. And notwithstanding all that had been said against it, and the discussion in that house and the evidence taken upon the subject, still they were hauling caplin for manure, which rendered the fishery still more precarious; and there was no legislation to prevent it. The caplin went into deep water, where the codfish were glutted with them, regaining there and not coming in on shore as formerly. If fish were as abundant as formerly, then our people might be supported comfortably by it; but now it was impossible.
It was the same with the seal fishery. Halt the men had not got berths this spring. There were not sufficient vessels to to [sic] take them; and if all the vessels going out came in loaded, what good, would that be to those who had remain a shore, many of whose families were in a condition of severe destitution? And how could the government carry out improvements, with a short revenue, and so much distress to mitigate? In his opinion we could not to better than enter the confederation, and he only regretted that, the resolutions were not, to be at once taken into consideration, that they might judge whether they would be accepted as they stand, or that some other stipulation should be insisted on; and then let them be sent to the constituencies for their decision upon them.
These were his opinions, and they were entirely based upon the present [sic] state of the colony, and the impossibility of our people going on much longer, as at present, while the other colonies were prosperous [sic]. Our able bodied people would leave us, and, we would have the aged and it firm to support. Better see if we could now improve the circumstances of all, so that there should not be inducements for any to go away. These were his sentiments. Let his constituents judge of them. He believed, as the question was more fully discussed and better understood, it would the more commend itself to the people of the country. For his (Mr. Leamon’s) part, he never indulged in clap-trap. He approved of confederation, and he did not hesitate to say so. Whenever small states had been united, on fair terms, it was found that general properity [sic] was the result; and why should it not be so in this instance?
Mr. E. D. Shea said that although on a former occasion he had expressed his views on the subject of Confederation, there were a few points that had come out in course of the discussion, on which he would now offer some observations. This Resolution of the Attorney General, postponing to next session any final decision of the question [sic], seemed to him (Mr. Shea) to have operated like a spell in the extraordinary effect it had produced on hon members. He was at a loss to understand how it was that the framer of this resolution had contrived to impart a magical influence to words which of themselves presented no unusal [sic] or striking characteristics. But the effect was plain, and not a little remarkable. Up to the time that this wonderful concoction made its appearance, we who were favourable to the scheme of confederation, were threatened by our opponents with the direst consequences if the question were continued to be pressed upon the public mind. It was declared to be a theme hateful to the people, because it bodied, nothing to this country but the most hateful results, and the annihilation of all those privliges [sic] and possessions which we most prize and cherish.
But the same hon gentlemen who uttered these wholesale sweeping condemnations, are now found joined hand in hand with us on the other side of the question in praying only for a little time to enable the people to consider the subject and pronounce their verdict upon it. The most unquiet spirits had suddenly been hushed to tranquility by a few scratches from the pen of the hon mover of this resolution; and the dread convulsion of of the country was marvelously [sic] averted. He (Mr. Shea) had heard of a quack who had advertised pills, which, he said, were good against earthquakes, and he was now reminded of him by this prescription that had saved us from the political earthquake which was to have been our punishment. Now if there was a particle of sincerity in the denunciations of hon members on Colonial union, how was it that they have so soon come round to the notion of making it a question of time and conditions?
He could clearly see why those who favoured the measure approved of the present resolution, because it only embodied the view they had expressed, since the opening of the Legislature. But how it had come to take the uncompromising opponents of the proposal from their very high ground of opposition was a problem yet to be explained. Was it because they had lost their guide, philosopher and friend of the Bullfrog, who, it was said, had become a unionist? Or was it that changes of opinion had taken place nearer home, and even amongst the constituencies [sic] of hon members in this town? Was it the influences of the late public meeting that was acting upon their minds—that meeting which, got up against Confederation, had resulted in making many converts to the measure?
It was notorious that the gentleman who advocated Confederation on that occasion had received the best and most attentive hearing from the audience; and so chagrined were some anti-confederation members who attended that meeting, at seeing that the feeling of the people was in accord with our view, and that they only asked time to think the matter over, that these hon members had actually allowed their friends of the meeting to fall into the absurd mistake of presenting a petition to the House which the house could only receive as the petition of the two persons who signed it though it was intended to be the petition of the citizens of St. John’s! It was well however, that the wholesome agency of public opinion had brought hon members into acquiescence [sic] in this reasonable proposition, and that they had been shown how far behind the views of their constituents were the stand still, do-nothing notions which they themselves entertained on this subject.
Much stress had been laid by some hon members on the motives and objects of Canada in deserving Confederation; but he (Mr. Shea) thought these were points which it did not at all concern us to consider. What we had to reflect upon was not whether it might suit Canada to further union, but whether it did really suit our own interests to enter into it, and to govern our decision by regard to our own peculiar case and circumstances; for though it might prove highly beneficial to Canada, it did not follow from this that it would be on object the less beneficial to us. But hon members, in endeavouring to bolster up their bad case, were driven to strange shifts and very glaring contradictions. Take, for example, their reference to the Delegates. They had all told us that the conduct of these Delegates in Canada had been must priseworthy [sic], that it had reflected the highest [sic] credit on their characters as public men and, indeed, that the country that sent them, might be proud of them. But scarcely had they exhausted the vocabulary of eulogium than they, one and all exhibited those same Delegates as betrayers and traitors who had done their worst to sell the country, and blight for ever the prospects of her people.
There was a sample of the consistency which marked the opinions of hon members on his subject, and which showed what weight ought to belong to their opinions in the judgment of the public. He (Mr. Shea) had been much suprised, by a statement put forward the other day, that our expenditure for the last eight years had been at the rate of £113,000 per year, and it was urged from this that we should gain nothing if we accepted the £112,000 proposed for us under Confederation, in lieu of our present revenue. He could not see how it was, if we had been spending this rate, that our debt on current account was not much more than £36,000. If we had only received, in that time, £100,000 a year of revenue, and had spent £113,000, we ought to be £104,000 in debt, instead of £36,000.
But assuming, for argument’s sake, that our expenditure had been as large as was stated, what then? It told strongly against the position it was intended to support. It was clear, on this supposition, that we had been annually spending a large sum of money which, was not our own, whereas if we accepted the terms now proposed to us, and received over £112,000, this together with more than £4,000 of revenue from local sources, which we should retain, would give us a surplus even over the assumed expenditure of which hon members had spoken. It had been said that the tariff of Canada was a protective one; but experience had shown that it was no such thing, that it was a tariff adjusted to revenue alone, and producing only a sufficiency of means for the demands of the public service. It was extraordinary that hon members conceived such, horror of this protective tariff, as they called it, and were so indiffernt [sic]about the danger of the really hostile tariff which stared us, in the face if we choose to stick to our present isolation, and forfeit all claim to consideration from the neighbouring provinces
We were told that the Canadian tariff of 1864 must necessarily be imposed upon our trade by the Confederated Legislature and this statement was repeated and repeated, for want of argument, in the teeth of the explanation that, had been given by the Delegates, who showed that the tariff of 1864 was an entirely exceptional one, that it had been so proved to them by the Canadian Finance Minister, who declared it to have been raised for special emergencies, and who also declared that it would be reduced in the coming session of the Legislature. It was on this account that the tariff of 1863 had been selected as the fairest basis for their calculations. But this basis did not suit the purpose of hon members opposed to the principle of Confederation, and they therefore refused to adopt it, But he (Mr. Shea) contended that it was a fallacy to assume that either of these scales of duty was to be outs under Confederation.
It was much more rational, much more in accordance with all we had seen and heard, to believe that the Confederation tariff would be a tariff revised and adjusted to the trade and circumstances of the colonies comprising the Confederacy, as a whole. This belief, he said, was what common sense affirmed; for what possible object could the Confederate Government have in maintaining a tariff injurious to us or to any other portion of the league? Would it not rather be its interest to accommodate its legislation to our peculiar requirements? But in all they had said on this, subject, hon gentlemen had chosen to forget that change in our trade under Confederation which would make it next to impossible that we could raise the revenue they spoke of even in the worst view of the case, it the Canadian tariff of 1864 were put in force here. […]
- (p. 2)
[…] They had ignored the fact that Canadian manufactures of woolens, leather, hardware, &c., would be imported here duty free, and that in proportion as we consumed these goods must the revenue from the same class of goods from England decrease. He thought we should be gainers by our free importation from Canada, not only in a fiscal point of view, but as affording employment to our women of the labouring classes in spinning, weaving and making up materials for clothing; and any arrangement which would provide suitable occupation for the female population ought to be welcomed by every one interested in our common prosperity.
It was impossible to believe hon members serious in their apprehension on the score of taxation in view of the necessary change of condition under Confederation, and bearing in mind the interest of the General Government in making as light as possible those burdens which it would have to share. The assurance given by the Secretary of State for the Colonies on this head, and the security we should have in the watchfulness of members representing the other maritime colonies, as well as of those who should be sent from Newfoundland, ought to satisfy hon members that there need be no anxiety as to excessive taxation. It was very remarkable how nervous hon. members became in mere anticipation of most improbable burdens, while they were willing to bear actual and heavy burdens of present taxation, in the shape of pauperism, depreciation of property, and other evils that prostrate the energies of the country. And they further seem to forget that, even if we take their advice and stay as we are, we must submit to further taxation, though only for the purpose of paying off our existing debt. It had been pretended that Canada was eagerly bent upon securing us to help to pay her debt. The idea seemed to him (Mr. Shea) to convey a bitter mockery of our financial position.
It should be first known that we could pay our own debts, before its being at all likely that we could excite the cupidity of other countries. And even if our condition in this respect were improved, why, to talk of Canada having designs upon us to help her out of any difficulties, was as reasonable as to suppose that our own Government should make a raid upon Quidi Vidi, or Goat’s Cove, to compel the inhabitants of those classical localities to discharge our present liabilities. Great alarm seemed to exist that we should part with the management of our fisheries; but a moment’s reflection would show that our fisheries were more likely to he better managed and protected by a powerful government interested as well as ourselves in their conservation, than by any small efforts of our own.
We should then have a chance of having our salmon and herring fisheries turned to good account; and this surely would be a vast improvement on the present plan of consigning these valuable resources to neglect. But the hollowness of some of those outside doors, who now made stock of this cry about the fisheries, was manifest when we remember that if these very people had their way, our fisheries would long since have been wrested from us by the French convention; for they had done their worst to oppose that self-government which alone gave us the power to resist the spoilation. The Solicitor General waxed pathetic over what he called the loss of our local Legislature, and told us the people had much more regard than formerly for our local institutions. The hon gentleman had related an instance of very hard things said years ago by some one he had met in the street at a very late hour of the night. It must have been on some very rare occasion indeed, to account for the Solicitor General having been at large at an unseasonable time. But he (Mr. Shea) much feared that if the people judged of the Legislature by the amount of good of a practical kind that we had since done for them, their opinion of us would not be found much more flattering than that which had greeted the ears of the Solicitor General on his nocturnal perambulations.
The same hon gentleman had also ridiculed the idea of our eight members being effective in the Confederate Legislature. Well, if they only exercised there anything like the influence brought to bear on our own Government by one member from Harbor Grace, we need never fear for the sustainment of our interests in the Confederate Parliament. Reference had been made to those political distractions in Canada which had caused such frequent changes of government; but the hon member who made this allusion should have seen that it only told against his own view, because these differences there would render the combined efforts of our eight members all the more powerful and available to the interests of the colony. We were threatened with losing the protection of England; but we had only to read the views of British statesmen and the British press to see that the union would cement and consolidate our connection with the parent state; and that it would be in rejecting it that we should run the risk of forfeiting our right to Imperial consideration. It was plain beyond any possible doubt that Great Britain earnestly desired this measure; and it was absurd to suppose that we were likely to conciliate her favour by flying in the face of her advice and admonitions.
The union with Ireland had been held up to scare us away from this proposition. But had the Irish union with England been a real and honest one, had Ireland only been governed as was Yorkshire, Lancashire, or any other county of England, the agitation for repeal would never have been raised. That agitation was the result of despair of a true union; and it was monstrous to pretend any parallel in the present case, where there were no causes existing, as in the instance of unhappy Ireland, to prevent fulfilment of the union which we were invited to enter. The horrors of the draft were also pictured to our imaginations by hon members; but they must be well aware that, in this respect, our position would not be in any degree changed by Confederation. The draft was never resorted to but in those extreme national emergencies which suspend even law itself.—Any such crisis as regarded us was highly improbable. But if it ever arose, even in our present relations with the mother country, Great Britain herself would have that power which we are now asked to believe could only be exercised by the Confederate Government.
This was but another of the scarecrows set up to alarm the people with imaginary dangers, and turn their minds from the real evils of their present condition. Hon members had argued that even though advantageous to the sister colonies, union could not benefit Newfoundland, so different were our circumstances from theirs. He (Mr. Shea) regretted to be obliged to agree with them, that our circumstances are indeed very different from those of New Brunswick or Nova Scotia; but this very difference, so far from being a reason against Confederation, was a strong one in its favour. These colonies were prosperous and progressing. Pauperism, as it is with us, was wholly unknown to them; and they could afford, it they thought fit, to go on, as they have shown themselves able to do, on their own account. Ours was a condition opposite of this—the Colony had been for years going down the hill; and the best of the labouring classes were fleeing its shores to seek bread. Our resources, though confessedly good, required an aid that we could not give them; and a reliable prospect of this and was afforded by our junction with older and was thier [sic] communities. If the measure suited the other Colonies, it appeared to him that it was all the more desirable for us, in proportion to our greater need of a helping hand.
We are told our isolation is a reason against it. It is, if we desire to perpetuate this isolation, which we all agree to consider so injurious to our interests. A poor man offered a means of living might as well say that while the offer might suit his better off neighbour, it was useless to him, because of his poverty. The steam communication to be provided for us by the Confederate government, some hon members regard as very uncertain. He (Mr. Shea) did not so consider it. It seemed to him to be a necessary consequence of the union; but on this view he certiny [sic] would not rely altogether; and ha would have steam secured by agreement, for he regarded this as an indispensable [sic] condition. It was supposed by some that we were not interested in the railroads, canals and such public works of the other provinces. But it must be evident, on a moment’s thought, that we had an important interest in whatever means tended to cheapen produce and enhance the value of labour.
Our mines and minerals, it was still said, would be lost to us; but hon members knew well that this statement was groundless, that these mines would be always just as free and open to our people as now, and with the greater probability, under Confederation, of being made practically open and valuable to them, instead of being useless, as they are now, from want of means or enterprise to work them. We were told of the all-sufficiency of our fisheries for the support of the people; but the wretchedness and want around us answered and refuted that grossest of fallacies. Confederation was considered by some a too speculative project for us to entertain. It was not to be denied that about all such changes there was something more or less speculative. None of us could pretend to guarantee the beneficial operation of the measure, no matter how just and strong were the grounds of our expectations.
It might as well have been objected that Responsible Government, Free Trade or any other change we have known, ought not to have been advocated, because no security could be given that it would realise its promises. In such cases we were compelled to rely upon certain principles the safety of which had been tested by the experience of other countries; and these had been shown to be conclusively in our favour on the subject under consideration. But he would remind those who cavilled about the point of a speculation, that not even this mush could be said in favour of the course they had recommended.—There was nothing, even speculative, about the results of their choice to remain as we are, for that plainly meant, to pass from bad to worse, even into the slough of Despond itself. That was a clear, inevitable certainly before us,—and yet it was preferred to the proposed change, because we could not guarantee that this change would work all the good we anticipated from it. We are admonished to trust to Providence; and far be it from him (Mr. Shea) to gainsay this proposition, under any and all circumstances, but let us well weigh its meaning. Providence provides us with sense and reason, and, in worldly affairs, manifestly intended these attributes to be our guides as far as they can reach our requirements.
If, then, we choose not to use these guides, and will run our heals against walls, can we complain that our trust in Providence has been misplaced, it our heads get the worse for the contact? To him (Mr. Shea) it seemed something worse than profane to talk of trust in Providence to avert from us the consequences of our own deliberate and designing folly. It was, however, most satisfactory to find in all the allegations put forward by the oppose its of union, how unsubstantial was all the material they could urge against it. The futility of their so-called arguments was so far useful, that the country would see how unassailable was our position by any stronger or more legitimate means. He (Mr. Shea) would now repeat the challenge to hon members opposed to him, to suggest something better themselves, if they were determined to resist the measure now offered to our acceptance.
It would not do to tell as we could stay as we were. It was an insult to the understanding of the public, and it was a cruel insult to the thousands of our labouring population and our tradesman of all sorts, now piling away for want of employment. But, if it turned out that hon members were only aloud objectors, and were incapable of proposing one single step of themselves to which the country might look with the faintest, hope, it would behove that country to decide whether, in view of the circumstances around us, it will accept the advice to do nothing but sink deeper and deeper in wretchedness and degradation, or whether, moved by manly energy and the progressive spirit of the day, it will put forth its best efforts to emancipate itself from the causes of desline [sic], and enjoy its place and share in the advanced civilization of British North America. He concluded by supporting the Resolution which committed this momentous question to the mature reflection of the country.
Mr. Moore.—A remark made by the hon member who had just sat down (Mr. E. D. Shea) was that Confederation would drive poverty from our shores, and raise our people from their present state of destitution to a state of prosperity. Now if these prophecies of the hon gentleman should prove to be not more correct than similar assertions made by him and others on the introduction of Responsible Government into this country, certainly Confederation will be any thing but the boon represented; and will fall far short of the sanguine expectations of those who are so much in favor of it. What has been the experience of the last ten years, since the establishment of Responsible Government? Why, we never before had such, destitution amongst our operative population, as during the latter half of that period. He (Mr. Moore) did not wish to infer that the same result would follow Confederation, if carried [sic] into effect, nor did he say that Responsible Government contributed much to the depressed circumstances of the country, although well known to be too expensive a machinery for so small a population as we are composed of. Neither did he think that any system of government would produce prosperity in the face of prevailing bad fisheries.
He (Mr. Moore) was not opposed to Confederation in the abstract. He believed it was a principal which must be established and brought about in the course of time. There were causes in operation which would necessarily lead to the burden of their defence being thrown on the North American Colonies, to a greater extent than hitherto. The British taxpayers are crying out for a reduction of taxation. The products of the British artizans’ labour have no longer protection in the markets of the more important Colonies; and they reasonably object to be taxed for the protection of those who deal with them only as far as it suits their convenience. And why should the British artizan be taxed for the benefit of the colonist, whose trade is entirely free, and who, besides, is rolling in comparative wealth, whilst many of the operative population in England, Scotland and Ireland are struggling for the bare means of subsistence?
The statesmen of England see the necessity of yielding to opposition raised against the military expenditure in the colonies. Besides, there is reason to believe that the expenditure has sometimes been largely increased by the colonists themselves, in order that they may profit by it; for instance, that the war in New Zealand was provoked by the colonists, contrary to the desire of the British Government were involved in it, and were in honour bound to support the colonists, whether they were right or wrong. But, for the future, it is evident, from the tone of leading statesmen, if these colonists involve themselves with the aborigines, or with any neighbouring nation or people, on imaginary or other causes, contrary to the policy of the British Government, they must defend themselves. The same, in effect, is now said to the North American Colonies. From the fact of the Canadians countenancing, to all appearance, the late raid across the United States’ border by Southern sympathizers, robbing the Banks and firing upon and mortally wounding citizens of St. Albans, Canada has now to turn out a portion of her militia and Volunteers for the protection of her frontier.
The British Government very properly said, if you conduct yourselves towards, your neighbours in such a manner as to excite their hostility, you must take the consequences. And there could be no doubt that, for the future, these large Provinces must make provision for their own defence; by making their militia efficient, and that they will also be called upon to contribute towards the maintenance of a regular army, and will have to provide themselves with a navy. He (M. Moore) did say that in the face of circumstances involving such an enormous expenditure as will inevitably be entailed upon Canada, it would be unwise to pledge this colony to join such an alliance on the basis proposed in the report of the Quebec Conference Neither did he believe that Newfoundland was originally included in the proposed scheme, or expected to join therein. Nor did he see that we would be benefited commercially by entering into Confederation on such terms.
The geographical position of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, contiguous to Canada, placed them in a very different and more favourable position in regard to Confederation than this Island; and still it was seen that these provinces hesitated about entering the union and taking upon themselves their share of the immense responsibility. And was not that enough to warrant us to keep back? It had been said that we are not so far advanced in population, wealth, or material improvement as the other colonies, and that the union would confer great benefit on Newfoundland, that we would derive great advantages from the railroads, canals, and other improvements of Canada. He admitted that we would, and will benefit, whether we enter confederation or not; in the same ratio as we have benefited, and will benefit by every improvement in other countries wherever our commerce extends. For instance, by the extension of railroads in Spain, which has tended to facilitate the transport of goals and merchandise required for the interior of that country, the article of codfish being largely consumed by the inhabitants. Hence the facilities afforded by these railroads have greatly tended to increase the demand, and enhance the price of that staple product. Canada had constructed her railroads and canals for her own advantage —for the conveyance of her produce to the seaports, and of the produce of other countries into the interior; also to induce customers from other countries to resort to her markets to purchase of the abundance of her products, in preference to that of the United Sates.
In this way Newfoundland will derive great benefit by these improvements, without being compelled to pay for them. We might, in the course of years, find it for our advantage to go into the Confederation; but would not now, under the constitution laid before us, unless some far more favourable terms are offered than the present. A great deal had been said about steam communication. It had been a great boon to every country; and he granted it would be good for us if established. One of the arguments put forward of the advantages of steam communication between this Island and Canada was what it would afford facilities for our operative population to proceed to Canada where there was a field for their labour. But he did not see how the prosperity of this country was to be promoted by the more energetic of our working classes leaving us, some of whom would no doubt prosper in Canada. But it was not a portion of the most energetic of our population going elsewhere and prospering that would restore the prosperity of this country. For the mater of any of our people proceeding to Canada, what is there to prevent them going now?
The general colonial policy is to induce people to settle in the respective colonies; but it would seem, by what some hon gentlemen have stated, that the policy of this unfortunate country should be to banish and send our people out of it as fast as they can go; and by their exertions in Canada we are to be raised from our present depressed state. If we require steam communication, it will be better for us to pay for it directly, and then we shall have it; but there is no guarantee in the Quebec resolutions that we would have it under Confederation. The tariff of Canada on which the calculations for the proposed union were based, is protective. It was denied by the hon member for Placentia, Mr Shea, that the Canadian tariff is protective, or that it should now be a matter of consideration, as a different tariff would be adopted by the Confederate Legislature. But he (Mr Moore) could not look upon the matter in that light. That tariff is protective; and he (Mr Moore) considered it a matter of vital importance to this Colony, that we should well consider and understand, before entering Confederation, the position we would be placed in with regard to it, and the affect it would have on the country.
A protective tariff would not be beneficial to Newfoundland at present. For example, our duty upon manufactured leatherware, at present, is 11 per cent; but under the Canadian tariff it is 25 per cent. Would not this difference of 14 per cent be a bounty to the Canadian manufacturers? It was idle to say that they would not take advantage of it. Another consideration—supposing the question of union had not been thought of, and that our government proposed a tariff similar to that of Canada, would it receive any support in this House? He believed no government in this colony would dare to introduce such a tariff; and, if not, why should we put it in the power of another government to do so? That tariff would produce at least £50,000 over the amount guaranteed to us by the Quebec resolutions. Why should we send £50,000 a year to Canada, and more than probable have to submit to a direct taxation of £20,000 a year besides to support our poor and for other purposes?
If Confederation would remove the barriers of ice that sometimes block our coast, regulates the winds, and give us more prosperous fisheries, then that would be an advantage. Newfoundland requires free trade; and can we have it to a greater extent by confederation than we have at present? The Canadian markets are as free to us now as we can desire. Some few articles of Canadian manufacture might suit us; but we cannot afford to shut ourselves out from the British or any other market for the purpose of fostering Canadian manufactures at our expense. It would be more for our advantage to continue our present relation with Great Britain, even if we should have to pay, according to our population, a small amount towards the maintenance of a military force for our defence. And when the British government saw the desire of the people of this Colony to establish Volunteer Companies, as they are doing with such spirit and ardour, to be ready to aid and assist in their own defence, they would not compel us to join the Confederation contrary to our expressed wishes and interests.
What the trade of Newfoundland requires is that we should be as free to go to the markets of the world as possible, and with as little taxation laid on out imports as practicable, and try to keep foreign markets open to our exports-to-endeavour to encourage the people to devote more of their attention to agriculture, which must prove more profitable to the country than Confederation. The prosperity of the country must depend upon the energies of the people, and the re sources within themselves, and not on the prosperity or resources of another country. It is patent that the fishermen generally have a reluctance to betake themselves to agriculture, from the very nature of its pursuits being so vastly different from the pursuit of the fisheries. But necessity would show and teach them that it is their best alternative; and from that and other resources he anticipated more effective and permanent relief for the present destitution of a portion of our operative population, than from a union with the other British North American Colonies.
On motion of the hon Attorney General the Committee then rose, and the Chairman reported progress. To sit again to-morrow.
The hon Receiver General, by command of his Excellency the Governor, presented to the House the following documents:—
Shipping returns for 1864.
Return of Imports and exports for 1864.
Ordered that these documents lie on the table.
The house then adjourned until Thursday at three o’clock.
St. John’s, Thursday, April 20, 1865.
HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY.
TUESDAY, Feb. 28.
Mr. Wyatt was sorry that he was not present when this Resolution was laid before the house, and that he had not heard the speeches of the Hon Attorney General and Mr. A Shea. He also regretted that he had not up to this time seen a report of the hon Attorney General’s speech. He (Mr. Wyatt), felt that on a matter involving such vital interests to the country, it was necessary for every representative to give the question his most serious consideration, to calmly weigh every particular, so that he might be enabled to arrive at a just conclusion. He saw that the hon member for Placentia and St Mary’s, Mr. Shea, found fault with the hon Attorney General for saying that the advantages which Confederation would bestow were entirely speculative. He (Mr. Wyatt) quite agreed with the opinion of the hon and learned Attorney General on this point, and thought that before we hastily entered into any great speculation of this kind, we should see whether its working would be practicable or not.
Now in the return which had been laid before the House, shewing the difference between the Canadian tariff and our own he believed there were some mistakes. During then he observed that no allowance had been made for the difference between the Imperial and Old English gallon, which would of itself produce a difference in the estimate of some £3,000. Now it was very clear that notwithstanding the advocacy that had been given to this project by hon members, they were not agreed among themselves as to the terms on which they would join this union. There were very few who would accept the report of the Conference as it stood, and there were many others who had particular objections to each paragraph in that Report. He (Mr. Wyatt) must say that he felt some diffidence in standing up to speak on so important a question as this, before gentlemen so accustomed to debate. It had been stated that when these Resolutions were laid before the House, some hon members were said to have rushed out and clamorously informed the people that the country, was to be sold to Canada, and the result was the public meeting which had lately been held in the town. He (Mr. Wyatt) believed that that meeting had only been called for the express purpose of petitioning for a postponement of a decision on this question. He had the honor of presenting a petition from the Commercial Society, that, simply prayed for a postponement. The hon the Speaker had the second time thrown down the gauntlet to the merchants, and had singled him (Mr. Wyatt) out as their champion. Now he (Mr. Wyatt) was not there in any such capacity, but merely as a representative of the people of Bonavista Bay.
As a junior member of this house, he had waited for his colleagues to first express their opinions on this question. He regretted that up to the present time the Surveyor General had not placed his opinions before the public. Now he (Mr. W.) could not perceive what the advantages were which were to be received by this country when we joined this Confederation. It appeared, however, that we were to be driven into it by threats. It was stated that if we did not join, we would be compelled to pay for our military defences. In the event of a war under this Confederation, would not Canada have quite enough to do to defend her own territory? Our share of the expense of the new nation would be more than we would be able to pay. He did not see, in the financial statements put forth, an adequate allowance for the maintenance of an army and navy for Canada. The hon member for Placentia and St. Mary’s, Mr. Shea, would lead us to believe that such would not be necessary. That hon member said—”As regards the burdens the confederation would entail, an army and a navy were held out in prominent relief, and the alarm of tax payers is sought to be excited. He had already on a former occasion explained his views on this head, and they are not changed by further consideration.
The colonies are expected to assist themselves, but no intention exists of placing on them so great a burthen as an army and navy would create. While we are dependencies, manifestly unable to sustain so great an obligation, its imposition would be imposed to all sense of justice, and the relation we hold to the mother country. No doubt the day will come when the Confederation will, from increase of population and wealth, necessarily cease to be a dependency, and with the best wishes of the mother country, from which these colonies will never voluntarily separate, an independent national position will be assumed. When that time does arrive, an army and a navy, and the other obligations of national existence will doubtless become necessary, and the country will have the ability to sustain these burdens. But at present we have no need to deal with such considerations. Mr. Mill, the great writer he had already quoted, though belonging to the school that holds the colonies of light value to England, yet admits that “as the mother country claims the privilege, at her sole discretion, of taking measures or pursuing a policy which may expose then to attack, it is just that she should undertake a considerable portion of their military defence, even in times of peace; the whole of it so far as it depends on a standing army.” That this is the view entertained by H. M. present Government is evident from the paragraph in Mr. Cardwell’s dispatch:—
“A very important part of this subject is the expense which may attend the working of the central and local governments. Her Majesty’s Government cannot but express the earnest hope that the arrangements which may be adopted in this respect may not be of such a nature as to increase, at least in any considerable degree, the whole expenditure, or to make any material addition to the taxation, and thereby retard the internal industry or tend to impose new burdens on the commerce of the country.’
“These words would be an idle mockery if it were contemplated to impose on the Confederation the heavy obligation an army and a navy would involve. We may therefore conclude that the just and equitable policy which leaves this charge for the present at least with the Imperial Government, is that which it is proposed to follow, and that we need not indulge in any serious objection on this account.” Now how did that agree with the statement in the speech of the hon George Brown? He (Mr. W.) would read an extract [text missing] New Brunswick [text missing] on this subject:
“In Mr. Tilley’s estimate of expense nothing had been allowed for the Army and Navy. The hon A. S. Smith puts down its cost at $2,500,000 per annum”. Mr. Smith, states that he had examined the resolution of the Conference carefully, and could find no such item provided for, and, during all the discussions of Conference, he never heard it proposed to establish an army, and construct a navy.”
“The Hon George Brown, at the dinner already referred to, at which the New Brunswick Delegates were present, said: ‘I cannot conclude without referring to some other things which have received the grave attention of the Conference. And the first point to which I desire to call attention is, the fact that the delegates have unanimously resolved that the United Provinces shall be placed at the earliest moment in a thorough state of defence. The attacks which have been made upon us have created the impression that those Provinces are in a weak and feeble state; if, then, we would do away with this false impression, and place ourselves on a firm and secure footing in the eyes of the world, our course must be to put our country in such a position of defence that we may fearlessly look our enemies in the face. It is a pleasure to me to state, and I am sure it must be a pleasure to all present to be informed, that the Conference at Quebec did not separate before entering into a pledge to put the Military and Naval defences of the united provinces in a most complete and satisfactory position.’
“To prove the correctness of Mr. Brown’s statement we have only to refer to the Published Scheme, Article 13 is as follows: “Militia—Military and Naval Service and Defence,” Mr. Smith then was fully justified in adding $2,500,000 for the Military and Naval Service.”
The military and naval defence of the confederation could not be provided for without very great expense, of keeping an Army and Navy would be very large; and we would have to pay our proportion of the cost. However grand the idea of Confederation might be, the true basis of the question was the pounds, shillings, and pence, no matter how much hon gentlemen might sneer at that view of the question. Every one had admitted that the expense of the new nation, at first, would be very great. He (Mr. W.) considered that we were going to obtain all our manufactures from Canada, was a purely speculative one. We certainly had the testimony of the hon member for Carbonear, Mr. Rorke, that leatherware could be imported at a cheaper rate from Canada than from England, and that the articles imported were as good as the home manufacture. But again we must not forget what had been universally admitted, that during at least six months of the year the Navigation of the St. Lawrence would be closed. And would hon gentlemen say that that would not tell against us
Again, it was held out to as an inducement to join the Confederation, that the Canadians would establish a dock here. He (Mr. W.) believed that if we had one, it would be of great advantage to us. He, however, thought that it was very questionable whether we would ever be indebted to the Canadians for one Again, he thought it would be years before Agriculture could be made anything more than a mere auxiliary to the fisheries.— And now, that the fisheries have been unproductive for years; and although large prices have been obtained for produce, those persons engaged in the fisheries who have been only partially successful are in absolute want. How would it be if we joined the confederation, and the fisheries were unproductive? would we be able to obtain a grant from the Federal Government for the relief of our poor? Or would we not be compelled to raise the means of relief by direct taxation? It had been admitted on all sides that the system of local assessment for the relief of the poor could now be carried out here. He was surprised to hear the hon. the Speaker say that the delegates had obtained as good terms for Newfoundland as could be expected. He (Mr. W.) must say that it these were the best terms that could be obtained for us, we should boldly state at once that we could not join the Confederation.
The question had been proposed to us at a very unfavourable time, when the country was to be at its lowest ebb. He would like to know whether the stamp tax which existed in Canada was to be applied here? And if so, in what shape or form? The people of this country could not bear direct taxation. See how difficult it was to collect the present water rates. Why, in many instances, the ground landlords were compelled to pay the rates, from the extreme poverty of the tenants. Then it must be remembered that we would also have to pay the sewerage rates, and further direct taxation was out of the question, even in the capital; and still less in the outports could direct taxation be resorted to. His own impressions, from the first, were decidedly favourable to Confederation, which he regarded as a very grand and imposing question. But the terms proposed in the Resolutions of the Conference at Quebec were not such as he considered for the advantage of Newfoundland to accept. So far he had seen nothing that could induce him to go into it. He would be sorry to deprive his constituents of any benefits which might flow from it, if really there would be any to counterbalance the disadvantages under these Resolutions. He was very glad indeed that the Resolution before the chair had been proposed, which provided that the question should be submitted to the constituencies previous to a final decision being come to upon it. He thought the administration of our affairs and resources would be much better in our own hands than in those of any eight gentlemen whom we might send to Canada.
A delegation to England on that question had been suggested. He was not in favour of sending home a delegation; because he thought the interests of the country were safe in the hands of the gentlemen interested in Newfoundland resident there, who had an intimate acquaintance with our circumstances and wants; and who were deeply interested in the prosperity of the country. They would bring much parliamentary influence to bear on the question, and would watch the progress of affairs. In the meantime, until we had more reliable information, and could obtain better terms, we had better abstain from any proceedings committing the country to any course. Holding these views, he had much pleasure in supporting the Resolution before the chair.
Mr. McGrath had listened with the greatest attention to the speeches of hon members on both sides of the House on the great and important question before the Confederation of the British North American Colonies. This was a vital and important subject to the future interests of Newfoundland, and one that he thought should be dealt with honestly by every hon. member of the House. The question has been so ably and full discussed that it was not his intention to go into it at any great length. After listening to the many lengthy, able and eloquent speeches of hon. members who had addressed the House, both for and against Confederation, he must say that, to his mind, the arguments in favor of Confederation were the more convincing. Still there were some modification which he thought were most necessary before we should agree to accept to terms of the Quebec Resolutions.
One most necessary condition he (Mr. McGrath) considered to be a guarantee for the establishment of steam communication, both with Canada and England. He believed hon. members were agreed that without steam communication with Canada, the Union could not be effectively or beneficially carried out. He fully concurred in the Resolution before the chair, that no decision become to on the question until after it is submitted to the constituencies. This would give the people ample time for the consideration of the question, which would thus be submitted to the whole country; and the House would be relieved from the great responsibility of deciding a question of such vital importance to the present and future generations. He, for one, could not have agreed to any other course; for he would not have taken the responsibility of voting for the union without its being previously sanctioned by his constituents.
There was no anticipation of so important a question coming before the House, when hon. members were returned by their constituents; and therefore the electors throughout the Colony should have the privilege of pronouncing upon the question, previous to a vote of that House being taken upon it. Looking at the present depressed condition of this colony, and contrasting it with the general prosperity prevalent in the other British North American Provinces, he (Mr. McGrath) anticipated a favorable result from the appeal to the people. He believed they would be most anxious for union. He must say that he could not see how otherwise this country was to be raised from its present state of depression.
The fisheries were from year to year becoming gradually less productive, the country was falling into debt, pauperism absorbing the revenue, and leaving no surplus to be applied to public improvements and the development of our resources. Taking these circumstances into consideration, one would imagine that almost any change for Newfoundland would be for the better. If we visited many harbors along our coast, we would find establishments, once flourishing, now falling into decay, the majority of the fishing population losing all energy, owing to bad fisheries, and no appearance, as in former years, of attention to agriculture or any other pursuit from which they could gain an independent livelihood. Considering all these matters, he thought a union with the other Provinces afforded the best prospect of elevating the condition of the people and promoting the best interests of this Colony. But, as he had already observed, the question was one for the decision of the people themselves, whether they would go into the union, or return a majority to the next House opposed to Confederation. He had, therefore, much pleasure in supporting the Resolution before the chair.
Mr. Kavanagh rose, not for the purpose of throwing any additional light on the great question now before the country, but merely to show his constituents how he felt in the matter; and it would be for them to judge of his conduct. Many and powerful arguments had been put forward, both for and against Confederation. He (Mr. K.) was glad to find that the people were alive to the question, in which their interests are so deeply involved. The public mind was much agitated upon it, and justly so, for if that question of Confederation was carried, it might entail great and permanent ruin on the country. He was glad, however, that the decision of the question, was to be referred to the people themselves. The whole country would thus have time for its consideration, and its discussion by the people would, no doubt, have the best results. They would have an opportunity of considering it deliberately and in all its totality. It would be well that they should consider how far it would be prudent on their part to transfer to strangers the power of enacting their laws and levying upon them any amount of taxation they pleased; also to consider how far it would be wise to give up to Canadians the control of the Crown lands, mines and minerals of this Island, and more than that, whether they would submit to additional taxation to meet the outlay for improvements in the other colonies, and for the military expenditure of the Confederation.
These improvements can be of little or no benefit to the people of this Colony, while many improvements are urgently required here, which would be of the greatest benefit to them. Would the people consent to their rights and privileges passing from them for ever? Should they consent to all this, they would deserve the blackest servitude. The British Government had, in their wisdom, conferred upon us a free constitution, fully satisfied that we were able to manage our own affairs. Were we, then, going to give up that great boon? He (Mr. K) said no, Let our heart’s blood flow to preserve our free constitution under the British flag. Much had been said on that great and important question. Some hon. members spoke of the great benefits conferred on Scotland by the union with England. No doubt Scotland was a great gainer by that union. But he would ask permission to turn to another question, and ask how Ireland has been under her union with England? Had she gained any benefits by that? How has it fated with that lovely land of the sun, which might be said, or its fertility, to be flowing with milk and honey—that land whose sons are brave, and its daughters virtuous, who sent forth saints and heroes to instruct man and combat tyrants–heroes who never struck their flag to an enemy, and the plains of Waterloo could bear testimony to that fact, in the person of the late distinguished Duke of Wellington, who was a son of that misruled Island. He (Mr. K.) would ask the question again.—Was Ireland benefited by the union?
On the contrary, she lost every thing that was dear to her people. Let any person take up Sir Jonah Barrington’s Rise and Fall of the Irish Nation, read it with care, and let him say what Ireland lost by her union with England. No country ever rose so quickly, in the short space of eighteen years—more that Ireland did, whilst she had the full control of her own affairs. But when she lost that she sank far below the level of a petty province; and is now steeped in misery and want; and her hardy and industrious race deserting her every day, and leaving her green fields a barren waste. All this must be attributed to her union with England. With this fact before our eyes, let us, in the name of everything that is good, retain that great book which the mother country bestowed upon us; and let us look to a kind Providence for better times.—Let the people stand firm together, and preserve the freedom and independence of their country: for this is not the work of party or of faction, but the united work of the country; and when a people become blended and inseparable, their power cannot be resisted, but must be acknowledged.
Then before Newfoundland is committed, he (Mr. K.) trusted that no man would shrink from his duty. In supporting the just claims, and doing justice to the people. And the man that would, let him be branded as one unfit for the confidence of any constituency, and let him be scorned from power at the next general election; for the man would willingly barter away the liberties of his country for a mess of pottage, should not be tolerated. Then with his whole heart and soul he (Mr. K) opposed confederation, until the people are fully convinced that by entering into the scheme their interests would be promoted. And in doing do he based his objections on the following reasons:—First, our seacoast and island fisheries are to pass away for ever from our hands, and must be entirely placed under the control of the Federal Government, which would tend to destroy the prospects of our people; and should it suit the whim of the Federal Government, they would place such restrictions on our fishing population as would entirely cripple our great staple trade; and having no guarantee to the contrary, such restrictions might be imposed. Secondly,–the General Government will have the power of taxing to any amount our imports and exports, even our houses, lands, cattle, and all other property we possess, in order to raise a revenue, which would press heavily upon the people.
The steam communication is named, but no guarantee is given for its being carried into effect. We have merely the promise of the existing government of Canada for its being carried out. The regulation of our trade and commerce would be under Federal control, and we knew full well, if the mercantile interests of this Island came in contact with those of Canada, that ours would have to give way. That, in itself, was a great objection which had to go into Confederation. Our Lighthouses, buoys and beacons would be under the control of the Commissioners of the Federal Government; in fact every institution now under our own sole management would pass into Federal hands; and over them we would not he allowed the smallest control. The paltry sum of £80,000, with £32,000 assumed on our account was all we were to receive annually, whatever amount of revenue might be collected at our ports; and with this sum of £80,000 a year we would have to defray the whole of our local expenditure, including the making and repairing of local roads and bridges. If this sum would prove inadequate, we must have recourse to direct taxation.
Then our Crown lands would pass from under our charge, with our mines and minerals. A Canadian Surveyor General would be sent down to take charge of the Crown lands department, who would receive his instructions from the Federal Government, and have a regard solely to their interests and wishes in the management and disposal of these lands as well as of mining licenses. Considering all this, was it a matter of surprise that there was such a strong public feeling against Confederation? There was no guarantee, on the other hand, that our circumstances would be in any respect improved under Confederation; but, on the contrary, he (Mr. K.) thought they would be much damaged. Therefore he considered that Confederation would not suit the country. But should the people think otherwise, with them the decision would lie. Let them declare at the approaching General Election in favour of union, taking the responsibility on themselves; and then no blame would attach to their representatives. But until his constitueots [sic] were satisfied that it would be for their benefit to enter into the Confederation, he (Mr. K.) was determined to oppose it.
Mr. Barron.—The subject of Confederation which has been so long before the house and so ably discussed on both sides, was now very nearly exhausted. He had listened with great attention to the arguments which had been adduced for and against the proposed union. But notwithstanding the able and eloquent speeches which had been made, he saw no reason to change the opinion which he had held for a long time, but had never publicly expressed, that Confederation must prove of substantial benefit and advantage to Newfoundland. The Resolutions of the Conference did certainly seem objectionable in some minor matters of detail. The most important subject which he considered it necessary to refer to, and without which, in his opinion, there could be no Confederation, because there would be no reciprocity of interest or equality of benefit, was steam communication. He saw that provision had been made for the intercolonial railway, which, in itself, would confer more advantages upon the sister Colonies than upon Newfoundland. He thought, therefore, that we were entitled to direct steam, and that a provision guaranteeing it to us should have been inserted in these resolutions He, however, did not see how it was possible for us to have direct steam with Toronto.
It must be evident to any reflecting mind regarding the present condition of the country, and comparing it with its progress and uncertain prosperity in the past, that if we are left to our own unaided resources, there can be no possible hope of our ever bettering our condition, but that with the ever increasing burden of pauperism, and consequent social demoralization, national insolvency must inevitably follow. We have nothing to depend upon but our fisheries, which are of the most precarious character; we have no other resource to employ the industry of the people; and when our fisheries failed, we had nothing to hope for. Hon. gentlemen had spoken about the good fisheries of the past; but any one acquainted with them must know that if they were good one year, they were bad the next. The history of the country, shewed a succession of good and bad fisheries; an he (Mr. B.) firmly believed that twenty years hence, we would be in the same state of poverty and degradation that we are in at present. The great cry that was raised against Confederation, was additional taxation. He (Mr. B.) believed that that was a bugbear, a species of political clap-trap, that was only resorted to, to mislead and deceive the people. He felt assured that our imports from Canada, coming in duty free, would more than counter-balance any increase in our tariff.
Hon. gentlemen who were opposed to this Confederation had taken the tariff of 1864, and roundly asserted that it would be applied to us. Did they not know that that tariff was an exceptional one, and that it was to be remodelled [sic]? Hon. gentlemen had also said that the Reciprocity Treaty would not be done away with. He (Mr. B.) knew that it would. He was as well informed on this point as any other hon, member—the notice for its abrogation had passed the United States Senate some time ago; and a settled determination existed not to continue it. From the time of its inception up to the present, the farmers of the United States had always been opposed to it; and now that the influence of the Western States was more powerful in the Senate than formerly, on account of the Southern Confederacy, there was no possibility of its continuance, And the raids from Canada had so incensed the people of the States, that they were desirous of hastening its abrogation.
The loss, therefore, of the Reciprocity treaty must be regarded as settled. It would be greatly felt by this Colony, which had derived great advantages from it. It was necessary therefore, that, in our present position, we should have something else to depend upon. He did not see that we could get terms much better than these offered to us. We are not in a position to dictate terms. Poverty and misery are rife among us, and unless we join in this Confederation, we could hope for no improvement in our social condition. He did no know much at out the value of our mines and minerals; but as General Government were giving us the large sum of £37,300 per annum for them, he certainly thought that we should not reject such an offer. These mines would then be worked, and as necessary consequence, a new branch of industry would be opened up for our laboring population, and great substantial benefit conferred on the country. Up to this period our mines had been in the hands of one [text missing] […]
- (p. 2)
[…] of the country had been given to him, and in many places the Agriculturist was precluded from settling on some of the finest lands in the country, because they were in the hands of a private individual, who had obtained possession of them. He perfectly coincided with the wisdom and prudence of this Resolution, which left the constituencies of the country to decide the question.
Already we found great change of opinion in the ranks of the anti-confederates. One gentleman, who at the first was opposed to the principle altogether, had now so modified his views as only to object to the details. He (Mr. Barron) would have voted against any Resolution that would have operated to bind the country without appealing to the people. He had only heard the closing remarks of the hon. member for Bonavista, Mr. Wyatt. That hon. gentleman had such an exalted idea of the power and in fluence of the mercantile body, that he believes that in fluence will be sufficiently strong to snuff out all those who have had the manly independance [sic] of fearlessly speaking their sentiments in opposition to the opinions of the merchants of St. John’s, who are not themselves agreed on the measure. That hon, member had indulged in similar remarks before, and he had been very properly snubbed for it. That should have taught him a lesson in modesty. With reference to the suggestion that it would be well to send delegates to England to watch proceedings there, he saw no necessity for it, he would oppose it. The Resolution before the house definitely settled the question until the next session; and he conceived nothing more was required. He had much pleasure in supporting the Resolution.
Mr. Parsons.—The subject of a Confederation of the British North American Colonies has now been tolerably well discussed by this House; and no doubt the effect of that discussion upon the public mind has been useful, in enabling indifferent persons to arrive at a satisfactory conclusion as to the advantages or disadvantages—the good, or evil—which might result to this country by forming a part of the proposed alliance. Before I proceed farther, however, I should like to inquire how this question has presented itself for our consideration. We are aware that the Legislatures of the neighbouring Provinces deputed each several of their members to attend a Convention held last year at Quebec, to deliberate on the expediency of uniting with the Canadas to form a Colonial Confederation. To this Convention the Executive Government of Newfoundland despatched two gentlemen as Delegates. The Assembly was no party to the appointment. The people, or the representatives of the people, knew nothing of the mission upon which they were sent. It appears, however, that a suite of Resolutions was drawn up as the basis of a constitution for the formation of a new nation to be created by a union of New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland with the Canadas. These Resolutions were passed in secret, that is, the public were not admitted to the deliberations of the conclave. The Executive Delegates from Newfoundland signed these Resolutions, several of which were only carried by a majority of one, and that one the casting vote of an instrument of Canada, thereby pledging the Government of Newfoundland, whose special plenipotentiaries the Delegates from this colony were, to all the stipulations contained in them.
Now, this being the case, how came these Resolutions before the House in the illegitimate shape in which they appear? The act of signing these Resolutions was certainly the act of the Government, whose commissioners the Delegates were, and the transaction should either have been rejected by the Government altogether, or have been laid upon the table of the House as a Government measure. Had the Resolutions at Quebec been agreed to by delegates duly appointed by this house, the matter would have been quite different; then their Report would have come before the house in a constitutional manner, and might be ratified as the act of Deputies rightfully appointed to do certain things on the part of the Assembly. As it is, it is well to disabuse the British Government of any impression it may entertain, that this house recognises, in any way, the proceedings of the Delegates, or that their signatures commit them, in the sightest particular to their views; that, therefore, the question is an open one, and that this Legislature is not in a position to come to a conclusion upon it.
With these views I heartily support the Resolution before the chair. As to the necessity or expediency of this Colony joining the proposed Confederacy, I am entirely opposed to it, on any plea. It has been urged that we ought to do so, on the score of self-protection. I deny that there is any fear whatever to be apprehended on that point. We have had in all the wars in which Great Britain has been engaged, ample protection from the mother land; and is her strength so decayed, that she cannot still throw the shield of her defence around us, as she has hitherto done? I do not believe it. I have that unswerving confidence in her naval superiority, as to believe that she is as able, and as willing now as ever she was, to protect us against her foes, no matter from what quarter they may come. Surrounded as our rock-girt coasts are by the broad Atlantic, our soil is secure against any invasion which could not be successfully met and rendered abortive by the navy of England. In the name of the people Newfoundland, I therefore repudiate the idea that we shall be more secure against aggression by entering the contemplated Union with Canada, than we are at the present moment, a colony with a millstone of forty millions of dollars of debt about her neck, whose credit is doubtful at home, and whose debentures are at a discount in the foreign market.
Let me now call the attention of the house to the moving causes which operated to induce the Canadians to devise a union with the Marine Colonies; and I shall quote from a writer seemingly well posted up in Colonial politics:—
“In Nova Scotia Legislature, last spring, resolutions were carried recommending that delegates be appointed to consider the subject of a Union of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island (but not Canada) to be under one Government and Legislature. Similar resolutions were passed in the Legislatures of New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island, and accordingly delegates were appointed by the Provinces named, who, in September, met at Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island. They were either, unable to agree, or did not desire to carry out the instructions of the different legislatures which authorised their appointment.—Previously, however, to the meeting of the delegates, a number of leading Canadians arrived at Halifax, upon the invitation of some of the people of that city, and being very well treated there, fell into such love towards that province as the crow is said to have for the carrion. A few Haligonians, who imagine that they can control the whole province, seemed ready to sell us for to promise of an intercolonial railroads.
The Upper Canadians, a shrewd and calculating people, saw at once that the intercolonial road would be vastly more beneficial to themselves, and, moreover, that if they could get Nova Scotia with New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island, under their control, they would materially help to prop up their tottering credit, and better still, enable them to surmount the troubles and difficulties which, for years, existed between Upper and Lower Canada, and which destroyed the stability of their several successive Governments. What that difficulty was it may not be out of place briefly to mention. In 1827 the population of Lower Canada, which was then and for some time after a separate province, numbered some 600,000. Of this number 525,000 were of French descent, and professed the Catholic religion. With upwards of five of French to one of British origin, the number of salaried offices held by Frenchmen was only 47, while the fraction (75,000) of British descent held 157 offices of emolument. This, with numerous other grievances, produced the irritation and discontent which resulted in the rebellion of 1837. In 1840, after the rebellion was put down, as if to avoid future difficulty, the two provinces of Upper and Lower Canada were united under one government and legislature, both sections having an equal number of representatives in the General Assembly.
The population of Lower Canada about the time (by the census of 1844) was 690,892, while that of Upper Canada (in 1842) was but 486 255, and it will be seen that if the principle of representation according to population were then adopted, Lower Canada would have a vast majority in the House of Assembly; but that right was conceded to Lower Canada. Upper Canada possessing an extensive and fertile territory unoccupied, soon attracted a considerable stream of emigration, and rapidly increased in population and wealth, so that now, the population of that part of the country is 1,395,222 against the 1,166,148 of Lower Canada. Upper Canada, therefore, now exceeds Lower Canada in point of population, as much as the latter exceeded the former at the time of the Union. No sooner did the Upper Canadians find themselves considerably stronger in point of numbers than they demanded representation according to population, in the hope that, having obtained that end, the institutions, laws, nationality, and religion of the Lower Canadians would be at their mercy and under their control. George Brown, the arch-bigot of Upper Canada, did not hesitate to declare publicly that this became a public necessity, for the reasons just mentioned, and by indulging in the grossest abuse of everything Catholic inflamed the minds of the people on the one side and the other.
The French and the other Catholics of Lower Canada very correctly answered the Upper Canadians to this effect:—’At the time of the Union our majority over you was over two hundred thousand, and hid the principle of representation by population, which you now seek to establish, been then conceded to us, we would long have had a large majority in the House of Assembly, and our political status would have now been better than it is. That privilege was denied us, and you entered the Union with the understanding that we were to continue to have an equal number of representatives. We both had to agree to it under an Imperial enactment, and it is now part of the constitution of our country. While we had a majority you claimed and received an equality of representation and the rule which was applied to you then should equally apply to us now. With your hereditary hatred of our laws, our institutions, and, what is dearer to us, our religion; with your strong, numerous, and well-organized body of Orangemen and others equally desirous to curtail our rights, if not trample us out of existence, we will not agree to give you the power which will enable you to do so while the constitution and the laws of the country and our own position in the Legislature protect us. We are tired of your company, as we have received nothing but injustice at your hands since the Union. If you are not prepared to carry out the arrangement upon which we became united, let us take steps to sever the connection.
Let us again become two separate provinces, each having its own Legislature and Government. We are both powerful, and we may be both prosperous and happy under separate Governments.’ It will be seen that, in this respect, Lower Canada had both right and justice on her side, but Upper Canada was not content to separate. Leading men continued to agitate the question of representation according to population. Several governments were form d within a limited number of years, but they were destined to rule the country but for brief periods. At last the danger was that no efficient government could be formed, and that Upper Canada would not get the system of representation which she desired. Mr George Brown, ever-watchful to effect the darling object of his life, saw that if the proposed union of New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia could be defeated, and a more comprehensive one could be effected, to include Canada, his mission would be complete. And that then Lower Canada as well as the other provinces would be very soon under the absolute control of Upper Canada and that his dear Orangemen would have it all their own way.
He came to Charlottetown where it appears that he met more than one sympathiser, and the only union which the delegates were authorized by the different Legislatures to effect was abandoned. Brown got our delegates to follow him to Canada, where they met with a continued ovation; and no doubt every glass of champagne which they swallowed brightened the prospects of Upper Canadian ascendancy, and assured the Toronto Orangemen that they may reasonably expect soon to occupy a position, not only to hiss and insult a Prince of Wales with impunity, but to beard the British Lion in his den if he decides to carry out their behests and trample on the religious feelings and rights of millions of loyal British subjects. To carry the scheme successfully into operation, it became necessary to declare Lower Canada, nominally, a separate province, with the expenses incident to a government and legislature, but without the power which legitimately belong to them; and Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island had to be thrown into the scale, just in such a manner as was necessary to effect the union and subserve Canadian interests.”
Thus it will be seen that this Confederation has been suggested purely for the benefit of Upper Canada. But lest the House should doubt the conclusions of the writer I have quoted, I will give hon members extracts from a Despatch transmitted to Nova Scotia by the Canadian Government, and which will be found recorded in the Journal of the Assembly of the former province for 1859. This Despatch is signed by G. E. Cartier, John Ross, and A. T. Galt, then in the Canadian Government.
St. John’s, Monday, April 24, 1865.
HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY.
TUESDAY, Feb. 28.
SPEECH OF Mr. PARSONS–(Continued.)
“We have the honor to submit, for the consideration of Her Majesty’s Government, that the Governor General of Canada, acting under the advice of his responsible advisers, has been pleased to recommend that the subject of a federative union of the Provinces of British North America should form the subject of discussion by delegates from each Province, to be appointed under the orders of Her Majesty’s Government; and we have been instructed to urge the importance of his step, as well upon grounds peculiar to Canada, as from considerations affecting the interests of the other colonies and of the whole Empire.
“It is our duty to state, that very grave difficulties now present themselves in conducting the government of Canada in such a manner as to shew due regard to the wishes of us numerous population. The union of Lower and Upper Canada was based upon a perfect equality being preserved between these Provinces, a condition the more necessary from the differences in their respective languages, laws, and religion—and although there is never a large English population in Lower Canada, still there differences exist which prevent any perfect and complete assimilation of the views of the two sections.
“At the time of the union act, Lower Canada possessed a much larger population than Upper Canada; but this produced no difficulty in the government of the united Provinces under that act; since that period, however, the progress of population has been more rapid in the western section, and claims are now, made on behalf of is inhabitants for giving them representation in the Legislature in proportions to their numbers— which claims, involving, it is believed, a most serious interference with the principle upon which the union was based, have been and are stennously [sic] resisted by Lower Canada. The result as shewn by an agitation, fraught with great danger to the peaceful and harmonious working of our Constitutional system, and consequently, detrimental to the progress of the Province.
“The necessity of providing a remedy for a state of things that is yearly becoming worse, and of allaying feelings that are being daily aggravated by the contention of political parties, has impressed the advisers of Her Majesty’s Representative in Canada with the importance of seeking for such a mode of dealing with their difficulties as may forever remove them. In this view, it has appeared to them advisable to consider how far the Union of Lower with Upper Canada could be rendered essentially federative, in combination with the Provinces of New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Newfound. land, and Prince Edward Island, together with such other territories as it may be hereafter desirable to incorporate with such Confederation, from the Possessions of the Crown in British North Amerca [sic].
“The undersigned are convinced that Her Majesty’s Government will be fully alive to the grave nature of the circumstances referred to, which, are stated by them under the full responsibility of their position as advisers of the Crown in Canada. They are satisfied that the time has arrived for a constitutional discussion of all means whereby the evils of internal dissensions may be avoided in such an important dependency of the Empire as Canada.”
These extracts let in a flood of light upon the Confederation scheme, and clearly show that the interests of the Maritime Colonies were to be made subservient to effect the ascendency of Upper over Lower Canada. If the people of Newfoundland were so besotted as to give up their independent position, and the government of their country to Canada, they must consent to be subjected to a state of taxation hitherto unknown in this Colony. We are already taxed at the rate of about five dollars a head. By one of the Quebec Resolutions, signed by the Newfoundland Delegates, the General, or Canadian Government, sitting at Ottawa, are empowered to levy taxes on the people in every shape and in every form, and upon property of every description, thus the fisherman’s craft and gear, and the farmer’s land and stock, as well es that of the tradesman, will all alike be subject to taxation;—nay the Canadian Government may even, if they like, impose an income tax, or an export tax; upon our fish and oil.
The supporters of the Confederate scheme, and particularly our so-called Delegates, affect to smile at our fears of taxation. If we are taxed at all; they say the impost will be so-light as to be almost imperceptible. I entirely disagree with them. Any tax on this colony, however light, could not be borne, in addition to the taxes under which the people already labour. Look at the hardship now felt and expressed in consequence of the water-rates; and if the comparatively small burden of the Water Company be almost unbearable, how will the enormous taxes which, as a member of the Confederation, this Colony must pay for the sustenation of the General Government, be endured? As to the extent of taxation to which we should undoubtedly be liable, let us hear what Judge Marshall says upon the subject. In a phamphlet on Confederation, Mr. Marshall says:—
“This rate, when so made, may look small, by an addition of 2 or 5 per cent; but it must be remembered that when it is so estimated,—it includes all in poor or destitute circumstances, even every pauper and begging child throughout the land. Deduct first, thousands of all those who pay nothing of the duty, as they are consumers of very little, if any, of the articles on which the duties are imposed. Then divide the rest of the population into families; and supposed each of these be composed of six persons—the usual estimate—the husband, wife, and four children, all dependent on the labour of the man. Apply this estimate to our population of about 340,000, and it will be seen that there are about 56,000 families; and according to the admitted estimate of $3,60c for each one of our population, the amount of duty on each head of a family, instead of $2,60c is $13. Then add 5 per cent to the 10 at present, making 15 per cent, and there will be $6 50c increase, either important addition to the expense of the small farmer, and tradesmen, and others of the working class, whose payment of duties, instead of $13, will thus be $19 50c. These are plain estimates and conclusions of facts, and which all may comprehend; and which none, by any sophistries or fallacies, can controvert or explain away.
And moreover, as Canada, from its embarrassed circumstances, cannot afford to reduce its taxation to 15 per cent, but must remain at 20, ours must be the same, which would make $6 60c more, making the whole tax on each head of a family, throughout our whole population, $26, or £6 10s. But when it is considered that there will inevitably be increased taxation for the inter-colonial railway—the expenses of the General Parliament and Government at Ottawa—for canal extensions and improvements—all in Canada—also for fortifications, many hundreds of miles along the great rivers and lakes of Canada—for a navy of some respectable, adequate number, on those lakes; and for a like adequate military force in each of the Province; besides for many miscellaneous and expensive services, the whole taxation on each head of a family—as already given—can scarcely be that $40 or £10. It is true, it will be paid by what is call indirect taxation, or increased prices of the articles on which duties are imposed; but the expense to the man is the same.— * *
We are told by the advocates for Confederation that we should think of our posterity and secure a heritage or our children. Well as this is right enough, to a certain extent; and it is right the living, acting persons of this generation, should look to their present interests. If, they neglect these, and suffer themselves to be placed at the mercy of extravagant Canadian politicians, who have brought their own country into deep embarrassment, and will bring themselves under heavy and appressive [sic] taxation, they will have but a poor heritage for their posterity, even that of the same or even greater burdens. There is also held forth, in support of Confedation [sic]; visions of what is called “prestige,” or a name of greatness for the country to which, by that change, we shall be said to belong. But these are but visions, and if realized, will be a sorry compensation for that heavy increase of taxation and other evils. Such visions, realized or not, will not answer in the place of bread and other necessaries for a family, or avert embarrassments or want. * *
The Canadian rulers, for a course of years, instead of increasing general taxation by duties on importations, and thereby so enlarging their revenue, as to come moderately near meeting their extravagant and often corrupt expenditures, have gone on borrowing money for those purposes, until, in that way, their debt became so ruinous as it now is, and almost ruined their credit, But, in the meantime, they kept their population tolerably quiet, as they were not feeling any burdensome weight of taxation,—partly through there being so many articles imported free of duty. This is a common expedient, and for a time a successful one, with corrupt or extravagant public ruler. By the proposed Confederation, the General Parliament and Government will have the power to borrow money to any extent for public purposes, and as they will require very large sums for the numerous service and objects already specified, and as their credit will be low, owing to their present enormous debt, they will, in order to raise funds for these objects, be obliged to resort to greatly increased taxation, indirect or direct, or both; and we shall have to pay our part of it, equally with Canada. They are to have, in addition to Customs, and Excise duties, the power of ‘raising money by all or any other modes or systems of taxation.’ They may, therefore, lay it upon the head, the farm, the house, the ship, the mill, the stock, the trade, or in any and every mode.”
Hon. Gentlemen in favor of Confederation, have ransacked even ancient English history as far back as the Heptarchy, to shew us the advantage States have derived from union; but I do not think they have been happy in their references. “It has been so long a common saying, and made applicable to every subject (save the writer whom I have before quoted) that union is strength; that it has come to be thought by most persons a maxim universally and invariably true. On the contrary, however, in many cases instead of being a cause of power, it is one of weakness, decay and ultimate dissolution; and partial or general injuries and unhappiness. This is especially, and, indeed, almost universally true, in instances of a national or political nature, where the elements or chief constituent parts of the Union are of an incongruous or dissimilar description, as to country; religion, pecuniary or other interests; and in the habits of life. This has been nearly the result of the Union between Upper and Lower Canada, and would undoubtedly be the case on a wider scale, if a Confederation of the Maritime Colonics was consummated.
It would lay the basis of strifes [sic] and contentions unknown to us at present; our sectional Legislatures—or state parliaments—would be in constant antagonism and general discontent would pervade [sic] the peoples of the maritime states, until, perhaps, as a remedy for the evil, the yoke of Canada would be thrown off, and annexation to the neighboring Republic preferred.” The reference to Scotland is equally as absurd as that of the Heptarchy—there is no possible similarity in the Canadian scheme and the union of Scotland with England—and even if there were, it is a question whether Scotland would not be better off to-day than she is, if she were governed by her own Legislature, without the interference of the General Government, “The case of Scotland (says a colonial writer) to which the advocates of Confederation are so fond of referring, differs very widely from ours. England. Scotland, and Wales do not form an unwidely, nor even a large country, taken altogether, and the inducements offered to the Scotch at the time of the Union were very much greater than any now offered to us. At that time the policy of England was almost the very reverse of what it now is. Not only did it not allow foreign nations to trade with its colonies and foreign possessions, but it would not allow Scotland, although a part of the empire, to share the trade. Scotland, eager for a Colonial trade, had essayed the work of colonization on its own behalf, sending costly expeditions to the Istmus of Darien. and, we believe, to the coast of Africa also, to found other colonies. These proved most disastrous failures.
The commercial community of Scotland had also engaged largely in some of the wild speculations of the period, and were much embarrassed in consequence. The Union offered them not merely the right to trade with England, where they could hope to sell little, but with all the English possessions. To a trading people this was a great temptation. Of the benefits to result from such an expansion of trade there could be no doubt. Swarms of the needy aristocracy of Scotland had followed James to the English Court, and learned to long for some better share in the wealth of that country than the favoritism of that Monarch, or his decendents, could give them. The Scotch aristocracy were, to a very great extent, in favor of the Union. Yet the people of Scotland—the vast majority of the people— were opposed to the measure, which was carried by bribery, corruption and fraud.
Amidst all these evil practices, however, the advocates of the Union preserved at least the semblance of constitutional action. The first step was to appoint through Parliament Commissioners to consider the terms of the Union, which were afterwards submitted to the Parliament for approval. Self-appointed delegates did not in that case undertake so great a work. But it is said we will do better than Scotland did; we will have representation according to population, which Scotland did not obtain. True; but Scotland was really no party to a measure of which almost the whole people disapproval, and which was carried by the most corrupt means. And it was specially provided that Scotland was to be taxed less than England. The elements of representation then taken into account were population, probable wealth and revenue. In our case if we go into Confederation we will pay more taxes then the people of Canada, and have only equal representation according to numbers; while the benefits offered to us are at best but small and doubtful when compared to those then offered to Scotland.
The only trade offered to us is a trade merely in domestic manufactures. But is the present condition of Scotland owing to the Act of Union? Would it not be as well off to-day, if not better off, were its own Parliament and Government sitting in Edinburgh? Those who refer to the state of Scotland look only at the busy factories and shipyards in the Clyde, and in a few other districts. They never speak of the depopulation of the Highlands, from which so many of the clans were driven, to make room for deer and grouse, for sheep. The Act of Union, which, in course of time, made men an incumbrance on these mountains, led directly to the conversion of that part of Scotland into a wilderness; but it would he hard to prove that the people of the Lowlands would be less active, less industrious, less enterprising than they now are, if they had their own Parliament as we have, and were at the same time at liberty to trade with all the world as we are. Scotland pays a larger amount of taxation.
Can any of the advocates of Confederation tell how much of that taxation is expended in Scotland, and how much is taken off to add to the wealth of England? Can any one tell where the Imperial dockyard, or foundry, or manufactory of arms is to be found in Scotland? The Imperial protection is, perhaps, an equivalent for the money taken from the country; but would we like to to see all the revenue raised in this province for all time to come transferred to the same way to Ottawa, and expended in Canada? The advocates of Confederation say it would stop the emigration of young men from the Provinces. Did the union stop the emigration from Scotland? Did it not rather give that emigration an impetus which it feel to this day, so that except Ireland—another country deprived of is Legislative independence—no country in Europe sends out so many emigrants in proportion to its population? The case of Scotland proves nothing in favor of Confederation”
- (p. 2)
If Scotland, proves nothing in favour of Union, what does the state of Ireland and the condition of her people prove? Has not the Union of Ireland with England proved the greatest curse that ever afflicted a noble and brave and generous people? Did not the great O’Connell wear out the best years of his life in his endeavours to obtain a repeal of that odious compact in view? Were not some of her most talented sons not many years sine —aye, even Mr. McGee himself—driven by law from the land of their birth as felons, for protesting against the injustice of her Confederate sister England, and ought not the social condition of that unfortunate country for the last century to stand out in bold relief as a warning to us to avoid this confederation scheme as fraught with untold dangers not only to the present generation, but to successive ones for all time to come.
That Union was brought about by duplicity, bribery, and treachery, and if ever these colonies are compelled to wear the Canadian chain, it will only be by similar means; and here I will take the liberty of presenting an extract in reference to the Union of Ireland with England from the pen (I think) of a Nova Scotia Statesman, rife in historic facts, couched in language far superior to any that I could use:—
“Was Ireland’s connexion with England voluntary? No. Strongbow partially conquered the island in 1169, and by slow degrees the country was overrun and mastered, till Henry the Eighth received from its Parliament the title of King of Ireland. How irksome an I hateful this domination was, is to be read in the whole dreary and bloody history of Ireland. The people were always ready to rise, and often did rise, to throw off the Saxon yoke. They were as often overpowered and trodden down. Then penal laws were enacted and enforced, under which every species of tyranny and injustice were perpetrated. Why need we dwell on the long and bloody record of mutual slaughter, perfidy, bigotry and confiscation? To be ruled by a people a long way off Mr. Tobin, must think a great luxury. Perhaps “distance lends enchantment to the view.” Cromwell’s Ottawa was only 330 miles away, yet he sold 20000 Irish as slaves in America, and drove 49,000 more into foreign service. What would he have done had the seat of his government been 500 miles further off?
“The Parliament of Ireland, like the powerless Legislature which we are to retain, served to amuse the conquered country. So long as it was subservient to that of England, it was permitted to exist. But as soon as it began to show a national spirit, it was bought up, overawed, and wiped out of existence, as ours will be, if it ever dares to maintain the rights of Nova Scotia, and ceases to be servile and trueulent [sic] to the Grand Parliament of Ottawa.
“But we are told that when the Union of the two countries became complete, Ireland began to prosper, and that we should be encouraged by her example. In the first place let us show that we are not pressed by the necessities which compelled Ireland to surrender her Legislature. George Brown is not Strongbow, or Oliver Cromwell, or William the Third. The Upper Canadians have never conquered us. We are therefore under no necessity to surrender to them our Legislative independence, if we desire to retain it, Castlereagh’s mode may be tried; but, if it is, let us hope there is virtue enough in Nova Scotia to resist the temptations. The Legislative Union, which we are asked to copy, was consummated in 1800. For 64 years Ireland has enjoyed the supreme felicity of having her affairs managed by by [sic] a Government and Parliament only 300 miles off—What have been the results? Read them in the history of the dominant Church, fastened upon the Irish majority by the English majority over the sea; read them in the tithe exactions, military enforcements of tithe, and murders of the proctors; read them in the hostile can[text missing]s o[text missing] of Orangemen and Ribbonmen—in the eternal divisions among the public men of the country that was sold, and by which the country that purchased has always been able to divide and rule Ireland at her good will and pleasure.
“We are told that the Canadas will quarrel among themselves, and that, we shall hold the balance of power. But let us take warning from history. How often have the Irish been able to do this? Only once in the whole dreary half century of their Union with the stronger country—when O’Connell, a man of a style of mind rarely matured oftener than once in a hundred years, by the labor of a life; and by a combination of popular qualities seldom controlled by a judgment so sagacious, succeeded in uniting his countrymen and dictating to the English Cabinet. But presently came divisions, and jealousies, and conceited pretenders, and the Liberator’s heart was broken; and since that time we have had Young Irelanders and premature insurrection; and then we have had brigades, and parliamentary combinations, broken or bought up almost as soon as formed; and now we have the Belfast riots and Fenians, and secret societies, foreign and domestic,—the vague yearning of the national heart being ever for the restoration of that self-government which a few corrupt legislators bartered away.
“If anybody wants to understand what Ireland I lost and how little she gained by the union, let him read her chequered stories of famines and fevers; of evictions and midnight murders; let him see her helpless minority struggling in Parliament, an her beggars wandering in the streets. Let him see her emigrants flooding by thousands and by millions from a country where patriotism brings no distinction, an I labor will bring no reward, and then let him come and ask Nova Scotians who have been thirty years struggling for self-government to go and follow her example.
“We have examined the Parliamentary returns from 37 counties in Ireland to see how much richer the people of that country have become by having all their clever men, and rich men, drawing their revenues from the soil, spending them in London, which they do for eight or ten months at least, of almost every year. The rate of wages is lowest in Tipperary, where men earn on an average throughout the year but 5s. 7d. per week, and highest in Roscommon, where they earn 10s. 2d. per week. For a short time in the spring, and for about a month in harvest, man can earn from 12s. to 15s. per week, the highest rates being not more than half a laborer’s wages in British America. The strong woman of Ireland can earn from 3s 6d to 5s. per week for field work. Children under sixteen years of age are hired at from 2s 6d to 3s 6d The common diet of the people is milk and potatoes.—They rarely eat meat or fish, and yet Ireland is naturally one of the most fertile, and is confessed one of the most beautiful countries in the world.
“Now how is it that Irishmen can prosper in every country but their own? How is it that London has grown to be more than half as populous as Ireland? How is it that this city increased within the last ten years 19 per cent, or 440,788, while Ireland not only did not increase at all, oat had a less population by 787,842, in 1861, than it had ten years before? The answer is not far to seek. The union draws every eminent and every ambitious man out of Ireland and up to London, for eight or ten months in the year; the wealthy and fashionable take the same road. Their routs and revenues go after then, so that there is a perpetual drain out of Ireland and into England, as there will be out of Nova Scotia and into Canada, so soon as like causes produce the state effects. The fox, when invited to the lion’s banquet, paused when he saw all the tracks of other animals leading into the den, and none of them conng back. Let us pause, there are millions of Irishmen’s tracks to guide us, all going one way, and bones enough, God knows, mouldering all over the world to show what has become of the victims.
“But we are told that the railroad would counteract and cure all this centralization. Would it? How many lines of fine railroads and steamers connect Ireland with England—but what then? Everything goes from the circumference to the centre, and not from the centre to the circumference. Don’t let us be gulled about the railroad, which would be a very useful thing to have on fair terms, but we have lived and prospered without it, and we would rather never see it built if we can only have it at the cost of our most sacred rights and cherished institutions.”
Our “isolated condition” is alleged as another reason why we should join the Confederation. There are few colonies in the world less isolated than this island. We have free communications with almost every part of the globe; a union with Canada could not possibly increase our facilities in this respect; we are already part and parcel of the United Kingdoms of Great Britain and Ireland, and wherever the “Meteor flag” of England flows, we have free access wind the fullest protection. The ships of oar merchants carry our produce. The “world is all before us, where to choose,” and any one among us, if he desire it, and can afford it, has opportunities to proceed to any part of the world that may suit his fancy.
How, in this respect, then, can a union with, Canada better our condition? It would open up a field, say its advocates, for our young men. The field for our young men. I say, is as much opened up now as it ever can be. They are as much at liberty to proceed to Canada now as they would be under Confederation; but I much doubt if our young men went to Canada to-morrow for the purpose of securing political offices, or governmental situations, they would be successful. I question very much whether if our eight members in the Canadian Parliament would possess sufficient influence to sway the General Government to bestow the most trivial appointment upon one of our young men, in preference to one of their own. It would be silly to imagine such a thing. The Canadians would look with a deal of jealousy upon a Newfoundlander who want to that country to usurp an of a which rightly belonged to themselves. We all vividly recollect the excitement that occurred here some few years ago when a gentleman was sent from London to fill the office of Clerk of the Supreme Court here. The entire Bar role as one man, and indignantly rose against the usurpation. would not the same feeling of justifiable jealousy be aroused in the bosoms of Canadians if a Newfoundlander presumed to occupy posts of honour and emolument in Canada? Assuredly it would; what nonsense to talk of Confederation opening up a more expansive field of employment, for our young men than they now possess. In whatever light I view that scheme of Union I can discover nothing advantageous in it. We surrender everything we posses; by these resolutions, and have nothing in return except a future of taxation and difficulties.
The benefits to be derived from our connection with Canada are well satirized in the following dialogue said to have occurred in Nova Scotia:—
Duncan.—Should the proposed Union take place, what will we Nova Scotians be obliged to give up to the Parliament of Ottawa?
Roderick.—All our revenue and public property, the right to directly tax us, the right to change, or present laws, and the right to make void the laws our local legislature may hereafter enact, the right to appoint our Governors and Judges, the right to establish additional Courts and appoint Judges and officers thereof, and generally to do with us whatever suits the interests of Canadians.
D.—If that be so, of what use will be a local legislature at Halifax, and what can it do independent of that at Ottawa?
R.—It can impose an export duty on our timber and coal, directly tax us for local purposes, make laws respecting tavern licenses, &c., and distribute for roads, bridges, education, &c., the sum of sixty-six thousand pounds to be annually received from Ottawa. You can judge yourself of its utility.
D.—Will not the sixty-six thousand Pounds you speak of be increased as our revenue and population increase?
R.–No; that sum is fixed, and is to be the price of Nova Scotia in a pecuniary point of view, and if not sufficient to support our Road, School, College, Legislative and other expenses, we must curtail the same in proportion as that sum becomes inadequate, or make up the deficiency as best we can.
D.—What would be the annual amount of our Revenue at the time the Union is to go into operation if, our tariff were raised to fifteen per cent?
R.—About our hundred thousand Pounds, which would increase in accordance with the increase of our population.
D.—What are we to receive beyond the sixty-six thousand Pounds you mentioned, in lieu of so great a sacrifice?
R.—Protection against Fenian raiders and Yankee invaders—the Inter-colonial Railroad—and the Delegates say most enormous, indescribable, social, political, commercial, agricultural, add manufacturing advantages, which cannot be comprehended by us narrow-minded and ignorant Nova Scotians, until after the Union takes place,—together with the honor of belonging to the great British North American Nation, and perhaps—
(Here Roderick paused and slightly grinned, then Duncan ejaculated “perhaps what,” and the old man proceeded)
Perhaps occasionally when the Empire’s line of Railways and Steamers are completed, we may have the pleasure of witnessing a curling match on Fraser’s River between the young men of Nova Scotia and the Gents of Vancouver’s Island; or of a week or two’s jollification with our intended friends and fellow countryman the Esquimaux of the North West Territory of British Columbia, which might lead to thousands of marriage unions between our sons and their daughters, the effect of which would virtually unite both ends of the Empire, largely improve our race, and produce a thorough British North American people, who would be a terror to the Fenians, a check upon the Yankees, and the means of ultimately rendering the British North American nation one of the most powerful, magnificent, and stupendous Empires the world ever produced.—On Duncan, how I regret that my knowledge of human nature, the history of the past, and the doctrine of cause and effect, preclude me from thoroughly appreciating those noble, disinterested, expansive, and patriotic views, which gave rise to that masterpiece of statesmanship—the Confederation Scheme.”
The debt of Canada at the present moment amounts to about seventy-five millions of Dollars; to which immense sums must be added the local debts of the several municipalities (not included in the general debt) amounting probably to sixteen millions more. In all about ninety-one millions of Dollars, or thirty-two for every man, woman and child in the country. This fact I gather from a letter written by the editor of the St. John, (N. B.) Telegraph from Quebec, who further states that the local debt bears heavily in certain sections. Some cities and towns in Upper Canada are fearfully embarrassed. Hamilton, in the Upper, Londan, Port Hope, and Quebec, in the Lower Province, with one or two other localities, are about bankrupt. In view of those difficulties, it would be absurd to imagine that she could afford us any aid in opening up our resources, or lend us any assistance to cultivate our waste lands. She is unable to open up her own, for it is a strange fact, that all the capital invested in her mines and oil springs belongs to the Americans.
I do not deem it necessary trespass longer upon the time of the House, and will conclude by reiterating my belief that we need no closer union with Canada than that we have already, that though we are now in no very cheering circumstances, yet that “’tis better to endure the ills we have, than flee to others that we know not of.” We have all the essentials within ourselves to make our people contented, peaceful and wealthy. Our waters teem with riches—superior to the mines of Mexico and Peru—our lands are fertile as any on this side of the Atlantic. With a prosperous seal fishery, followed by a successful cod fishery. I trust this mad dream of Confederation, this selling of ourselves and our country, this disposal of our birthright for less than a “mess of pottage” will be dissipated; and that we shall all labor under our own government, to progress without the assistance of Mr. Brown’s “general government” at Ottawa.
As to the signing of the Quebec Resolutions by the Newfoundland Delegates. I am not astonished that they should have been seduced to do so. They were outed and flattered to such an extent that they believed Canada to be a perfect elysium—and her wily statesmen angels of light; they were danced, and, I verily believe “drugged” into forgetfulness of their country, its freedom and its liberty;—from the time they landed in Canada till their departure, it was one continued ovation; and it therefore does not surprise me that they placed their signets to that document, and did not awake to the reality till the voice of their indignant countrymen aroused them. With these remarks, I beg to support the Resolution before the chair.