Newfoundland, House of Assembly, Debate on Confederation (3 February 1865)
By: Newfoundland House of Assembly, The Newfoundlander
Citation: “House of Assembly”, The Newfoundlander (16 February 1865).
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St. John’s, Thursday, February 16, 1865.
HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY.
FRIDAY, Feb. 3.
The House met at 3 o’clock.
On motion of Mr. Wyatt, pursuant to order of the day, the House resolved itself into committee of the whole, on the further consideration of the address to his Excellency the Governor.
Mr. Parsons.—The question embraced in the section now under consideration, that if confederation. A day is, however, set a part for its consideration, and I would not now anticipate what I shall then have to say on the subject. I rise now merely to reply to an attack made upon me last evening by one of the Delegates to the Quebec convention, the hon member for Placentia and St. Mary’s, Mr. Shea. The hon gentleman charged me in the face of the country, with inconsistency, because a late issue of the Patriot newspaper contained some remarks, in favour of the union of the maritime provinces. And because I repudiate this confederation scheme concocted in secret at Quebec, the hon gentleman assumes that my course is inconsistent. I maintain that I am acting with perfect consistency. There is a marked difference between a Legislative union of the maritime provinces and this project of Confederation. He (Mr. Parsons) would like to be informed by the Premier and the Colonial Secretary by what authority they designated the hon member for Placentia and St. Mary’s, Mr. Shea, the leader of the opposition, which they did in their communications with the other provinces respecting the appointment of delegates. The liberal party did not recognise that hon member as their leader, especially in such a delegation.
In all those embassies in which he had taken part, the hon member had regarded his own interests more than those of the parties who sent him. How could we forget his self-denial in the matter of the Telegraph Company, of which he became the agent How could we forget his embassy in the matter of Free Trade, which had so much disappointed the expectations of the people? Who could forget his exertions in the matter of the Galway Company, so beneficial to so little advantage to the public, considering how many thousands of pounds it cost? The liberal party would be cautious in entrusting their interests in so vital to the welfare of the people to the hon member. And the result of the conference showed that the selection was not as it ought to be; for it was evident we were sold to the Canadians. A Union on fair terms might be advantageous; but such a one sided measure as that could never have the sanction of the people of Newfoundland; and he (Mr. Parsons) was satisfied it would be rejected by the house. The hon member had quoted from the Patriot his (Mr Parsons’) options respecting the conduct of the government in not taking action on the dispatch of the Duke of Newcastle transmitting the resolutions of the Nova Scotia House of Assembly on the subject of a legislative union of the maritime Provinces. Such a union might have something in it calculated to prove beneficial to this colony.
At all events, it was worth considering. But we had now before us the results arrived at by the Quebec conference, after sitting so many days with closed doors, and he (Mr. Parsons) said it ought to be rejected by the house, if they were Due to the interests of their constituents. I do not believe the people would be adverse to a Confederation based upon principles which would benefit them equally with Canada. But I am sure they will be opposed to the confederation now sought to be effected. What have we to hope from Canada? Has she anything to bestow upon us? Confederation may be all well enough for the neighbouring Provinces, but for us who are isolate from them having interests entirely different from theirs, what have we to expect. You talk of benefitting our sons. Has not Canada sons too, and will not they be the first to occupy vacant places? Tak [sic] of our mines. Canada has mines too, and will she not invest money in them in preference to ours, The fact is, Canada is a troublesome country. She is always in instine commotion. A great many years have not transpired since she was in rebellion against the British Government. Only the other day her Parliament House was burnt down, and now, day by day between Orangemen and Fenians, she is continually in trouble. She is besides very considerably in debt, with no hope of decreasing it. Her debentures cannot find buyers, save at a discount, and finding it necessary to get out of her financial difficulties she is endeavouring to ally herself to the other colonies, besides she knows this is the only way to prop up her falling credit. Already we find her people drafted and sent forward to protect her frontier. Already we find them in trouble with the United States, and likely to get into war with them. Should such a war come, will we not have to share it, if we are joined with her?
We do not want the protection of Canada. She has more than she can do to protect herself. We are safe from all aggression if we remain as we are. We have the shields of two nations over us—England and France. As for what the Speaker says about Canada having influenced Britain to withdraw from the French Convention. Canada was as much concerned in that as we were; and as to the bugbear of another Convention to give away our fisheries, we nave received the promise of great Britain that nothing of the sort should be done. I hope we have no paltry schemers among us willing to sell this country, having the fishermen’s interests on their lips, but their own interests in their hearts. The Speaker asks would he, a native, be likely to sell Newfoundland? Does he forget that a Sir John Smith sold Scotland, and a Castleragh sold Ireland. So a native might sell us. But the man who would attempt such a thing would be scouted and contemned by the people of the whole country. I would like to know what Mr. March would do with such a man.
Mr. March.—Hang him.
Mr. Parsons.—We must not forget the convention was held with closed doors, and we do not know what secret arrangement were made in reference to taxation and other important matters. As to Union being strength, our Union with Canada would be no Union, and therefore it would have no strength of the bundle of sticks, because we should be but one single stick at the end of the bundle. The Speaker dwelt largely upon the glorious future which he says is before us under Confederation. I don’t believe in that. At all events, we can afford to wait before joining it, that we see what the other Colonies will do, and it would be far better if we first allow them to enter, the Confederation and afterwards act upon their experience. The door will be open for us to enter it just as well by and bye as now. It is but now we are beginning to appreciate the value of Responsible Government, and are we going to give it up just as we understand its value? Look at the lesson set before us by the United States, and let us hesitate before binding ourselves to a similar Confederation of States.
The advantages set forth by the supporters of Confederation are more than counterbalanced by one year of war, such as that now going on in the United States. We are asked to give up our revenues, a portion of which only we shall receive in return. To make up the difference we must resort to direct taxation, and I appeal to those who have experienced the blessings of having the water tax gatherer at the doors, how they will like the idea of other tax gatherers calling upon them to pay a direct tax upon every necessary they use. Under the Confederation the people will have to pay double the amount of taxation they pay now. Canada is thousands upon thousands of pounds in debt, and this, is owing to the corruptness of her politicians. Her representatives are elected by the municipalities, and the members of the latter elect those who can pay the highest bribes.
Far better for us will it be to remain as we are. All we need is good fisheries. It is all fudge to say that Canada will supply us more cheaply with manufactures. She can only partially supply herself by an immense protective duty. Her object is plain enough. She is endeavouring to build up her manufactures, and looks to her sister Colonies for her markets, but until she is in a position to compete successfully with Britain, she cannot supply us more advantageously than we are now supplied. Will Canada take our fish and oil from us? No, because she can get enough elsewhere. I doubt very much whether Nova Scotia and New Brunswick will be disposed to join Canada. They will hesitate before allying themselves with so restless and discontented a people.
The letter of Archbishop Connolly has no application whatever to Newfoundland. It is intended only for Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, and does not affect us in any way. Give us good fisheries, and we shall be perfectly content as we are. We have no Orange or Fenian Societies to disturb us; or if we have them, they do not dare to show themselves; nor have we any other occasion for unhappiness. I trust this will continue to be the case, and that by the kind providence of God our country will yet rise from the ruin we are now in.
Mr. Renouf—If I consulted my own feelings I would say nothing upon Confederation till the day upon which the subject is to be discussed, but as the delegates have made long speeches, and put forth their arguments. I feel bound to reply to some of their points, I am grateful to find these gentlemen have at length found their tongues. We expected to have heard from them when they first returned, but not one word have they favored us with until yesterday. I would like to know from them why it was we received an invitation to attend the Conference only at the last hour. So late were Canadians in inviting us that they were at last obliged to do so by telegram. The Delegates met at Quebec, thirty-two of them, and there with closed doors and in secret session, they attempted to revolutionize the Constitution of the British North American Provinces. Our delegates were not authorized to sign those resolutions, But they had done so, and the results that Mr. Cardwell accepts their signatures as expressing the voice of this Colony, and forward his despatch to the Governor, Mr. Cardwell tells us we can affirm the resolutions now, and work out the details afterwards, and Mr. Brown of Toronto is now in England waiting the arrival of the other delegates to aid in passing a bill through Parliament, so that if we affirm those resolutions, our two delegates will go home immediately upon the rising of the House, and help to bind us permanently to Confederation.
That being the case, we must take care that we do not affirm the resolutions until we have gone back to the people and had a general election. Canada is troubled by two great difficulties, one being military, the other constitutional, Her military difficulty is that England threatens to withdraw her troops, and leave Canada to protect herself. This Canada is unable to do, and she wants the other Colonies to help her, either with men or money. Her constitutional difficulty is that Upper and Lower Canada have an equal number of representatives, the consequence of which is that they often come to a dead lock and are really unable to conduct a government through a single term. They want us to help them out of that difficulty also. The Speaker said that the taxation argument was mere claptrap. On the contrary, it is the very pith and marrow of the whole matter. There can be no doubt in the mind of any intelligent man that our taxes will be increased, and if so such a fact could not be regarded as claptrap. He talks about the long prices paid by the fishermen for their supplies, but if Canadian merchants came here to-morrow, would they supply our fishermen at lower rates?
Our supplying system is precisely similar to the lumbering system of Canada, but I speak knowingly when I say that the lumberers of Canada are charged much longer prices for their goods than our fishermen are. It is said again that Canada manufactures sufficient to supply our wants, If so why does she not do it? Are not our markets as open to her now as they can be under Confederation? If our trade could be carried on as well with Canada as with the United States, no doubt it would be so. But now, I would ask are we going to get a barrel of flour from Canada to-day. Is not Canada shut up all the winter, and how then can we be supplied by her? And during the summer season, will our merchants allow their vessels returing [sic] from Brazil to pass by New York, Boston and Portland, to go to Canada? Surely they will not, Confederation or no Confederation. Then is is said we shall have a line of steamers to Canada. But what guarantee have we for that, for I see nothing about it in the resolutions? A Company would no inducement to send their steamers here unless they were subsidized, and who is to pay that subsidy? It is Canada? No certainly not. We have had quite enough of steamship subsides already.
Now upon the question of tariff. We are told that a uniform race of fifteen per cent will be adopted. Yet even here Canada will be the gainer while we shall lose. When Dr. Tupper, one of the Nova Scotia delegates, returned to his constituents, what did he tell them? He told them not to deceive themselves, for taxation would be increased. Railroads were to be built, which could never be of any benefit to Newfoundland. Other improvements were also to be carried out, but these would not add to our comfort or prosperity. Taxation a claptrap, indeed? Just apply the Canadian tariff to our imports, and what will be the result? Why, that our taxes will be increased £40,000. I have the figures here, and I find that by the application of the Canadian tariff to our imports for the year 1863, it would give a total increase of taxation of £92,208. There would be a decrease on some articles of £11,700, so that the balance of increased taxation would be £40,508. This statement is taken directly from the Customs Returns, and must therefore be regarded as correct. What will our fishermen say when they hear that under the Confederation they will have pay £3,600 more for their molassess? On tea they will have to pay £2,000 more and over £200 on the single item of blacking alone. over £7,000 upon boots and shoes. Over 1,000 on their bread.—£1,200 on soap. On leather £2,400. On sealing guns, power and shot they will have to pay £500 more, and on manufactured goods £24,000. When the question comes up on the 15th I will be in a position to show that the General Government will have a deficiency of $2000,000, and this sum they will be compelled to make up by direct taxation. But it is said that Canada will open up a field for our young men, and perhaps for our hungry lawyers. But Canada is flooded with lawyers, briefless ones, who are glad to labor on the railroads for a living. It would be no great harm if some of our lawyers were employed in the same respectable way. Canada is as open to our young men now as it possibly can be under Confederation. But even supposing there were offices to be had in Canada, is it likely that our young men would get them in preference to Canadians? What a powerful voice our eight representatives would have among the 196 members in Parliament.
Oh, Sir, it cannot be doubted that our young men will have a great chance, backed by the influence of 8 members out of 196. My opinion is we should not burry this matter. Mr. Shea stated at the Conference that the Confederation could not do without Newfoundland. So I say here. And yet we are to be glad that Canada will make us a gift of £37,500 for our minerals and waste lands. What an idea? Canada, steeped in debt, make us a gift. Do we not give over to her our revenues, and lands, our Constitution, our all, Canada gives us no gift. I will prove to this House and to the country that we give Canada £140,000 a year, and in return we get from her £112,000. We are sold,—our revenues, our lands, our fisheries our constitution, our all—for £112,000 a year She gives us eighty cents per head on our population, but, she will give us no more when our population, is doubled, or when our wants are largely increased. The seat of Government is to be at Ottawa, a town further away from us than London, so that the inconvenience we shall have to submit to on this account will not be small.
By the 20th section it will be seen that Lower Canada can never have more than 65 members so that in thirty years Upper Canada, by emigration and increase of population, will have a larger representation than Lower Canada and all the maratime [sic] provinces combined. But we are told any change will be for the better. When you convince us that it is for the better, we’ll go for Confederation. Canada is now heavily in debt. At the Union they owed but £1,000, 00, now they owe £16,000,000. Last year they could not sell their debentures at twenty-five per cent discount, while our debentures are at a premium. We have the authority of Mr. Palmer, one of the delegates for saying that there was great difference of opinion at the Conference. The delegates could not get along with their work at all, until a message was sent down to them that the Lieut. Governors should be Colonial appointments. After that every thing went on smoothly. Then it is said there will be no occasion for an army and navy. But president Lincoln has told the British Government that he intends putting six steamships on the Lakes to check the Canada raiders. If he does then Canada must do the same.
Canada is a most indefensible country, She has 1400 miles of frontier, and needs troops to protect her from the United States. She looks to the other Colonies to find a portion of these troops for her. Our delegates tell us that a million of dollars is only set down for purposes of Canadian, defence. The New Brunswick delegates tell their people that two and a half millions will be required. Who are to be believed! It is said that we could not have a militia in this country, because our fishermen were generally absent. But we have a large resident population, who would be liable for militia duty. No one ever dreamt that a draft would have been made in the United States, yet it had been done, and may be done with us.—Let us keep out of the Confederation, and we shall be clear of any such contingency. The 67th section says that all engagements that may, before the Union be entered into with the Imperial Government for the defence of the country, shall be assumed by the General Government.” So that if Canada assumes a debt of five, ten or twenty millions for defensive purposes, Newfoundland will have to pay her share. I do say, that, before these resolutions can be affirmed, it is our bounded duty to go back to our constituents, and receive their consent to this measure.
Mr. Kent.—Did not intend now to enter upon the consideration of this subject. But he felt coerced to make a few observations on some of the remarks of which had fallen from the hon member for St. John’s west, Mr. Renouf. That hon, gentleman had imputed to him (Mr. Kent) an improper and selfish motive for his expression of opinion on this subject. He (Mr. Kent) thought that he would have been the last public man on whom such an importation would have been cast. If any man had made sacrifices in the sustainment of his political opinions he was the man. When he entered the Assembly he was a supporter of the liberal party, although all his interest was the other way, and when he was made Treasurer he recorded on the Journals of one Assembly his intention of not receiving a pension from the government; and when he was Colonial Secretary and premier of the late government he sacrificed his position on account of a disagreement which he had with the then Governor, the late Sir Alexander Bannerman. He (Mr. Kent) hoped that the hon member for St. John’s West, Mr. Renouf, would as fearlessly and honesty asserts the rights of the people as ne (Mr. Kent) had done.
With reference to this proposed Confederation were only called upon at present to affirm the principle. But we had actually been told that we were transferring the government into the hands of the Canadians. That was not the case. It would not be in the hands of the Canadian, but in those of the government. And was it to be supposed that we were going to ally ourselves with an enemy. Was it not a league with a parental government which would watch over our chief interests. He also states that any great public mark that may be undertaken would be entirely for the benefit of Canada, and could not confer any advantage upon us. If extensive Railroads were commenced in England were not the Irish navvies employed upon them; suppose a rail were made into Canada, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick, what fear had we, s long as we were at unity with Great Britain. The balance of power on the continent of America, would be preserved by this Confederation.
What does the leader of the Government say in this matter. He says there is to wish to press the question. He merely puts forward the resolutions, and then says after the question have been discussed we will go to the Country on one matter. The hon member, Mr. Parsons, had certainly used an extraordinary argument, and that was that we might rely for protection on the French. Were we to seek the protection of, and were we likely to receive it from a country against our whole encroachments on our shores and fisheries we were ever complaining, and to resist which we had to seek the aid of British men-of-war. He (Mr. Kent) had not intended to offer any observations on this question, and he would refrain from doing so now until the 15th, when the question was to be freely and amply discussed. He could not however, permit to pass unnoticed the improper and uncalled for importations or a political tyro whose seat in that Assembly was yet hardly warm. He (Mr. Kent) was influenced in this matter by a profound sense of duty, and by nothing else.
Mr. A. Shea.—It appears that we were having the field day in anticipation. Now nothing was more unfair and irregular than the way in which this debate had been conducted. The delegates had deemed it their duty […]
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[…] before the matter came to be fully discussed, to place it. before the public in a proper light so that no one might, be taken at a disadvantage. Was it right that hon gentlemen should endeavor to prejudice the public mind in the way in which they had tried to do. They come in here with garbled statements—statements entirely incorrect and in that not a shadow of foundation, for assertion, and omit to mention the all fishery materials, such as lines, twines, nets, &c., were admitted, duty free. They tell as that we should have called a public meeting. But there was no objection by them on their return, to go before the public. He (Mr. Shea) was responsible to no one but his constituency for his conduct; he was not appointed by the public, and he did not see how any injury could have resulted by reason of their not calling a public meeting. We had no desire to force, the matter thus; we wanted the fullest investigation and we rightly deemed that the proper place for that investigation was this House, where face to face, and before the public the matter could be carefully and boldly enquired into. The public had nothing to do with what the delegates said at the Conference. They had to do with their Acts and nothing more. He insisted that some hon members had been there to witness the proceedings of that Conference; it would have done them good, they would have witnessed an exhibition of high tones, feeling and patriotism, for which they would have been uttered unprepared. What other cause could have been adopted than the one pursued.
These Resolutions would have been only waste paper without the signatures of the Delegates to authenticate them. Then we were to receive no manufactures from Canada because Canada imported largely from England herself. The argument was a false and unfounded one, As well might you say that we cant import from England because England imports largely from France. He (Mr. Shea) knew of a manufactory at Toronto which actually imported chairs to England. Canada was great and rich in all the elements of material [sic] prosperity. It was a bad thing, to see money so easily obtained here. It was an evidence of the unfortunate state of the country. We had great accumulations of idle money and a deal of pauperism. When he (Mr. Shea) was in Canada he had been ashamed to be compelled to state that we spent £20,000 in poor relief. We know pauperism to be incident to all places, but it was not paid out of the public money as it was done here. Had we not the extreme wealth at one end pauperism at the other, and was a state things, which hon. genlemen [sic] would desire to perpetuate. The hon gentleman continued at great length, replying to each argument put forward by the hon member Mr. Renouf.
On motion of Mr. Wyatt, the Committee rose, and the Chairman reported progress. To sit again on Monday.
The House then adjourned until Monday at three o’clock.