Newfoundland, House of Assembly, Debate on Confederation (6 February 1865)
By: Newfoundland House of Assembly, The Newfoundlander
Citation: “House of Assembly”, The Newfoundlander (16 February 1865) & “House of Assembly (Continued)”, The Newfoundlander (20 February 1865).
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St. John’s, Thursday, February 16, 1865.
HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY.
MONDAY, Feb. 6.
The House met at three o’clock.
Mr. Wyatt presented a petition from George Bridle, Gaoler at Greenspond, which was received and read, praying for an increase of salary.
Mr. Wyatt, in moving that the petition lie on the table, would express a hope that its prayer would be favourably considered by the house. The petitioner’s salary was altogether inadequate.
The Surveyor General supported the prayer of the petition. It was gay a few years ago that he (Sur. Gen.) succeeded in securing the petitioner any salary as gaoler, although he had long discharged the duties. It was the smallest salary of any gaoler in the Island. He trusted he would be put on the same footing as the other outport gaolors.
Order that the petition lie on the table.
Mr. Parsons presented a petition from Jacob Bradbury, of Torbay, which was received and read, praying for compensation for damage done to his house by lightning in August last.
Mr. Parsons, in moving that the petition lie on the table, said the destruction of property by lightning was of rare occurrence in this country. In this instance the property, which the petitioner had accumulated by years of industry was suddenly destroyed by a visitation of providence. He (Mr. Parsons) trusted the house would make him some allowance, to enable him to retrieve his loss.
Ordered that the petition lie on the table.
Mr. Parsons also presented petitions from James Brown and others, of Torbay, and from Jacob Bradbury and others, of the same place, which were severally received and read, praying for grants to open and complete roads in these localities.
Ordered that these petitions lie on the table.
On motion of Mr. Wyatt, pursuant to order on the day, the house resolved itslf [sic] into Committee of the whole, on the further consideration of the address in reply to his Excellency’s speech, Mr. Knight in the chair.
Mr. E. D. Shea said he had listened with a good deal of attention to the observations of the gentlemen who differed from him on the subject of confederation, as he was desirous of discovering what their objections were, and whether they had any weight, that he might modify the opinions he had already formed, if he found himself in any degree mistaken. But he had heard nothing to induce him to modify his views. In saying that, he did not attribute to these hon. members any lack of zeal and energy in the discussion of that question. They had laboured hard to find arguments in support of their views, only it appeared to him that they expended so much labour in the endeavour to make the worse appear the better reason. He (Mr. Shea) believed the more that question was discussed, the more would public opinion be influenced in its favour. He had observed a good deal of inconsistency in the observations of hon members in opposition to that measure. They asserted at one time that Canada desired to get held of us that she might victimise us for her own ends, and then that Canada thought of us at the eleventh hour. If the latter assertion was the correct one, it showed how really indifferent Canada was whether we joined in the confederation or not.
Then it had been urged that the securities of Canada are depressed, while ours are at a premium, from which it was inferred Canada is not in a sound financial condition. But it did not follow, because money was in demand in a country, and the rate of interest high, that it was not in a prosperous condition. The very reverse was frequently the case. It by no means indicated a sound state of the money market, that the rate of interest was low. What was the present state of the labour market in this colony? Why 400 able bodied men were at present employed by the Board of Works at 6s a week, paid in provisions. Why was that? Because there was no demand for labour; and the same rule which applied to labour applied with equal force to the state of the money market. Then the hon. member for St. John’s East, Mr. Parsons, told us not to be anxious about our defence from foreign aggression, for England and France had such a deep interest in the protection of this, country, that they would see to our defence. He (Mr. Shea) did not see hoy we could have much confidence in the protection of France.
It seemed to him to be somewhat like the lamb relying on the wolf for protection. We paid a large sum annually for the protection of our fisheries against French encroachments, and why should we do this, if the French felt such a deep interest in us? And a few years ago we were in great excitement on account of a convention between England and France on the subject of our Fisheries, by which our interests were sacrificed to France; and now the hon. member told us to rely upon the protection of France. Again, it was said that while the supporters of confederation spoke of the openings in Canada for their children, they had no regard to the interests of the fishermen’s children. If we regarded the present state of our operative population, they would appear to have the deepest interest in that question. What had our legislation been for several years past, but unsuccessful efforts to raise the labouring classes from their depressed condition? And what had we accomplished but to join with the Receiver General in Jeremiads over the distressed state of the country, without being able to strike out anything to relieve the general distress? We have now come to such a state of depression that we can proceed no further, and it was our solemn duty to consider whether this proposed confederation offered any means of relieving the people. No matter that the feelings of those whose interests were involved in this discussion were excited against the measure, still it was our duty to enter earnestly into its consideration.
It looked to him as a providential interposition that these calamities had come upon us, as if to force us to look beyond precarious fisheries with the view of finding some means of relieving the general distress; and that federation seemed to meet the case. What was the state of the country at present? Why a third of our population are not half fed. What did we see in our streets? Those who once were in comfortable circumstances reduced to the deepest, penury, suffering from that want which blanches the cheek, palsies the limbs, and makes the young suddenly old. And we were told to rely upon our fisheries to remedy this. We had relied upon them from year to year, and our circumstances were becoming worse. Some years we had good fisheries, but the good was not so much to the fishermen as to the capitalists who realized fortunes out of the fisheries and then left the country. He (Mr. Shea) did not blame them for leaving a country in which there was such frequent and deep destitution. He merely referred to the fact and system, if system it might be called.
Our fisheries at their best were only sufficient to keep the heads of the labouring people over water for the season in which they were productive, experience had shown they left to the sons of toil no permanent fruit. Again, they had not kept pace with the progress of population, and that was the difficulty we had to meet. We want other employment for our people besides the fisheries. Would confederation give such employment? He (Mr. Shea) believed it would. One of its first results would be a line of weekly steamers between this port and one in Canada. These steamers must cause an increase of trade, which would give increased employment; and anything that gave increased employment must benefit the people generally. It would also put an end to our isolation, and with increased intercourse would come the opening up of new resources and an increase of our trade. It was said that we wished to drive the people from the country. No such thing. We wish to make the country worth their living in; to provide employment for the labouring classes, and so to promote their comfort as to make the country worth calling their home. What do we find now? That many of our best fishermen and mechanics are fleeing the country. The only part of the country from which we did not at present hear the wall of distress, was that where a in market was created by reciprocity with the United States; and in the prospect of the free trade treaty being abrogated, it behoved us to endeavour to secure a new vent for our exports in lieu of that trade. The only means by which we could see our pauperism put an end to was by providing increased employment for our people, and extended markets for our produce.
Could we retain our people permanently if they could better their circumstances by leaving the country? Large numbers were leaving, and many of those who renamed did so because they had not the means of going away. If the Government were to charter two or three vessels to carry emigrants to Canada or Nova Scotia, they would have applications from more than they could accommodate. Again, with regard to the educated classes. There was no field for many of them here; and under confederation they would find a fine field in such a growing community as that of Canada. But it was said why not go there now? They would be regarded only as aliens. But with confederation of the Provinces we would become one people, and with our representatives in both houses of the Federal Legislature, they would have influential friends whose aid they would be entitled to rely upon to forward their views. A further effect of confederation would be to allay those ascerbities of religious and political differences, which were the bane, of small communities. Our public men would have larger questions to grapple with, and in the choice of representatives to the federal parliament, talent and integrity would be regarded more than creed or faction. But it was said by hon. gentlemen beside him that confederation might suit the other colonies, but that it was unsuitable for us.
They say that Archbishop Connolly’s letter had no reference to our circumstances, and was unsuitable for Newfoundland, although it might be very well for Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. If these gentlemen were at liberty to quote Nova Scotia newspapers of little or no influence, got up merely to set forth the views of interested parties opposed to confederation, why might not we quote the opinions of so distinguished and talented a Prelate as Archbishop Connolly? And if confederation would benefit Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, why would it not also benefit us? But he (Mr. Shea) maintained it would benefit us still more. These countries were prosperous now, while we were the reverse. We had the same need of protection that they had, and we had the sad necessities of our people besides. And if the opinions of Archbishop Connolly were not to be quoted here, what would hon, gentlemen say to the opinions of Dr. Mullock? They could not say that they were not applicable to our circumstances, and he was most favourable to confederation.—
Mr. Casey—You have no right to introduce the name of the Rt. Rev. Dr. Mullock here.
Mr. Shea.—His opinion is already published, and he has no objection to his name being the continuance of the troops, for there was no desire on the part of the Imperial Government to withdraw them, if we only evinced a wish to adopt such measures as would aid in the defence of the country. Did we not know that the people of England, of all parties, looked favourably on confederation, as that which would raise us into national importance? It was a foregone conclusion with the Imperial Government, as was evident from Mr. Cardwell’s dispatch. What was the reception of Mr. Brown the other day, when he went home from Canada? He was visited and feted by the highest in the land, by many to whom he was previously unknown, and who would have been unacquainted with him for a long time to come, had he not represented the idea of Confederation.
Now he (Mr. Shea) would ask, what condition we should be in if we remain in our isolation, and a French convention were again to be entered into? Would we be in a condition to claim the assistance of the confederated provinces? Or could we unaided successfully oppose the influence of France with the Imperial Government? These were serious considerations. They were considerations which we could not afford lightly to dismiss. His (Mr. Shea’s) belief was that the question of Confederation would sooner or later be forced upon us. We might stave it off for a time. But the tendency of the age was for the union of small states into larger ones. It was said we proposed to give up our self government. We gave up nothing worth retaining.
Self-government was the best system we could have, but it would not make up for short fisheries and a starving population. We would still have self-government on a larger scale, for we were to have a voice in the General Government and Legislature of the union in proportion to our population, while, our local government for merely local affairs was to be as much our own as now. We were told that we gave up our fisheries to be legislated for by Canada. But the fisheries were still to be under local control, by a special stipulation, while their protection would be effectually carried out under the General Government. It was said we gave up our Crown lands and mines. We merely gave up the right of legislating for them, in return for a valuable consideration. We received £37,500 a year for them. Much had been said about out mineral wealth; but of what value were our mines, while they were not worked? And was it not well known that we had neither capital nor enterprise to work them? And when we were offered such a valuable consideration for them by parties who had both capital and enterprise, would it not be folly to decline such an advantageous offer?— Could it be doubted that the Federal Government, which proposed to pay such a price for our Crown lands and mines, would be induced to improve them, in order to have a return for their outlay?
Mr. Renouf.—We would not receive as much from the Federal government as we would be called upon to pay. Our Customs duties would amount to £140,000 a year, while we would only receive altogether £112,000.
Mr. E. D. Shea.—The hon member assumed that the present Canadian tariff would be retained by the Federal Government. Now we had the assurance of Lord Monck, as well as of Mr. Galt that the Canadian tariff would not be that of the Confederation, but a reduced tariff. Our present revenue, for years past, had been only from £90,000 to £100,000, and we were to receive £112,000. But supposing we should have the Canadian tariff, it did not follow that the revenue should increase in accordance with the increased duties levied.
Assuming that we are paying 13 per cent now, and that the duties should be raised to 15 per cent, what was that compared with what our people are suffering now? We were suffering taxation in its worst shape, the taxation of pauperism. As to an increase from 13 to 15 percent.. what was that, if the country were rendered sufficiently prosperous to bear it? Let us have another year or two of such fisheries as we have had for several years past, and no other resource opened up for the employment of our people, or for the enterprise of our merchants, and what taxation should we be able to pay? Taxation was a relative consideration—it will be heavy or otherwise, according to the ability of our people to endure it. We were now taxed over 13 percent upon the whole of our duty-paying imports, and what did we get out of it? Only the defraying of our civil expenditure and the support of our poor; and the poor were not half fed, and it could not be otherwise, while we had such inadequate means of relief.
And we had also to consider the deterioration, moral and physical, that must result from this perpetuated pauperism—transmitting not alone its inherent debasement and demoralization, but the worst bodily diseases that could afflict a people. We had not had a road grant worth naming for years past; but he must remind the house that under confederation we would have an annual road grant of from £12,000 to £15,000, which would be under the control of the local government and Legislature, and would not be liable as now to be given, withheld or reduced according as we had successful fisheries or the reverse. This itself would be a permanent source of employment for a number of our people, which would not be subject to curtailment at the time they would most require it. He (Mr. Shea) did not know that there would be any increase of taxation. He saw nothing to induce him to believe that there would be any necessity to have any material increase. Hon gentlemen anticipated that we would be under the necessity of having recourse to direct taxation on property in the island. But were not proprietors worse taxed now, in the deprivation of those rents which the depressed circumstances of many of our people rendered them unable to pay?
If we should have the Canadian tariff, under confederation, the area of taxation would be narrowed, because we would have a considerable importation of the manufactures of Canada, of woolens, leather and other articles which would come in duty free. Hon members might sneer at that, but we know that in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, where they knew the manufacturing capabilities of Canada better than we do, it was made an argument against Confederation that they would be flooded with Canadian manufactures, to the injury of their own.
To listen to the objections to confederation urged by some hon members, one would suppose that Newfoundland was urged to come into the confederation because we were so important that they could not get on without us. He (Mr Shea).did not depreciate our resources. Our fisheries were the most important, the position of the Island also, as the key to the Gulf and to the river St. Lawrence was of great value as a strategic position in the event of war. But the world could, however, get on without us —and so could the confederation. He had lately read some observations in a Canada newspaper, in which it was stated that Newfoundland had made an excellent bargain, but if we were dissatisfied with it, we might remain out of the Confederation. Hon gentlemen said they were dissatisfied with confederation; but if they rejected that, what would they suggest to better the condition of our people?
Mr. Casey—Better legislation than we had of late years.
Mr. E. D. Shea—Would any legislation of ours give food to the people or find then employment? He did not desire to press the final decision of the question this session. Let the constituents, by all means, be consulted; but before we call on them for their opinions, let hon members express their own ; and let the country give the final verdict upon them. He thought that was the right course, and that anything short of it would be a shirking of the question We were here to deliberate, and not as mere delegates. As to what was the duty of members to their constituents, he would quote the opinion of Burke, whose opinions on constitutional questions were admitted by, all parties to be entitled to the greatest weight, Here the hon member quoted from a speech by Burke to his constituents at Bristol, as follows:
“It ought to be the happiness and glory of a representative, to live in the strictest union, the closest correspondence, and the most unreserved communication with his constituents. Their wishes ought to have great weight with him, their opinions high respect, their business unremitting attention. It is his duty to sacrifice his repose, his pleasures, his satisfactions, to theirs; and above all, to prefer their interests to his own. But his unbiassed opinion, his mature judgment, his enlightened conscience, he ought not to sacrifice to any man, or to any set of men living. These he does not derive from your pleasure; no, nor from the law and the constitution. They are a trust from Providence, for the abuse of which he is deeply answerable. Your representative owes you, not his industry only, but his judgment, and he betrays, instead of serving you, if he sacrifices it to your opinion.”
It was our duty as representatives to give our Constituents the benefit of our judgment; and they would afterwards exercise their judgment upon their representatives, and reject us, if they were not satisfied with our conduct. The question was prejudged by some hon. members, and it was our duty to express our deliberate opinion upon it, after that cool and calm consideration which its importance to the country, to its people, and to those who would come after us imperatively demanded. Let no hon. member shrink from the responsibility of his position. Let all speak out in the face of the country and let the constituencies afterwards say whether they will accept or reject the terms of the proposed Confederation.
(To be continued.)
St. John’s, Monday, February 20, 1865.
HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY.
MONDAY, Feb. 6.
Mr. Prowse—I must congratulate the House, Sir, on the calm and impartial spirit in which this great question of Confederation has been discussed here already. The mere debate of the question has produced some beneficial results; already the old land marks of party have been destroyed by it.—The lion and the lamb have learnt to lie down together. We find the hon member, Mr. Glen, in double harness with Mr. C. F. Bennett, the Ledger and the Patriot, newspapers hand in hand; and a still more wonderful and affecting sight, the merchants, whom hon gentlemen opposite have spent their life time in denouncing as the grinders and oppressors of the poor, have now formed a solemn league and covenant with their natural enemies the radicals. Is there not something suspicious in the fact that for once, at least, the merchants have united as one man on this question?
It has been said that we have no right to quote the opinion of the Right Rev. Dr. Connolly or of his Lordship Dr. Mullock; but I tell hon gentleman that when every sort of misrepresentation has gone forth to the world, when people who ought to have known better; talk outside doors of a thousand a year to Councillors and Members of Parliament, when such villainous perversions of facts as the bones of our militia bleaching on the borders of Canada, have been promulgated far and wide, we have a right to tell the mass of the people, who won’t trouble themselves to investigate the question, or who possibly cannot understand it in all its various bearings, that their spiritual teachers, in whom they have the most implicit confidence, are favorable to this great project.
And I think, sir, when the people knew this, it will take all the demagogues and all the stump orators both inside this House and out of it, to make the people believe that men of such, character and such acknowledged ability as Dr. Mullock and Dr. Connolly, went to sell either this country or Nova Scotia to these Dutch Canadians, as the hon member Mr. March; has called them, Great political capital is expected to be made out of that we are selling the country to Canada, that we want to separate Newfoundland from the mother country. Now the hon member Mr. March, and every one else who make such statements, must know that they are false. One of the leading principles of the scheme of Confederation is to bind the Colonies more closely to Great Britain; and I believe this was one of the primary objects which animated every delegate at that Conference. We shall certainly be joined to England in a different way, if their great idea is carried out. We shall no longer be so many straggling helpless dependencies.
We shall be joined as one strong united country, an enlightened British Statesmen with us to be. Like all other great political questions, this is one which in its very nature is theoretical and to a certain extent problematical in its effects. You cannot, by any means at your disposal, reduce it to a matter of pounds, shillings and pence. You cannot guage [sic] and assay all its advantages and disadvantages, by any array of figures, or the most elaborate statement of hard facts. You must reason on it from the established rules of political philosophy. You must bring to bear upon it the light of that experience which history teaches us in the annals of other countries; or are we so peculiarly situated, so singular in our character as a civilized country, that the political principles which have produced certain results in other lands will not do so here?
The union of England and Scotland in 1707, was as much opposed as this one we are now discussing. What arguments could be used than to shew an Orkney man; or an inhabitant of the Western Islands, that the union would benefit them? How could the railways in the South of Scotland, or its increased wealth be of any advantage to a poor island separated so many miles of sea from the main land; but, I ask, has not the union done so? Is there an island belonging to the two kingdoms, however barren or remote, that has not benefitted in an amazing degree by the connection between England and Scotland? Look at the union of Upper and Lower Canada. We have not the repelling circumstances of race and language to contend with. We have none of those strong arguments of diversity of religion, language and nationality, which were used against that union. But what has been the result, both in Upper and lower Canada ? Twenty-three years ago Montreal contained 41,000 inhabitants.
Now, when its suburbs, it numbers 108,000. Last year upwards of 2000 new houses were built there. Everywhere, sir, both in Europe and America, the same invariable results have flown from union; but perhaps the strongest arguments we can deduce from history in favor of union, is the result of disunion as shown by its effects on Spain. Does any one who reads history believe that Spain would now be a second rate power in Europe, if Philip the Second had planted his capital on the banks of the magnificent Tagus, instead of on that wretched ghost of a river, the Manzanares. But, say hon gentlemen, tells us what benefits we are to derive from Confederation, and we will give in out adherence to it. These gentlemen can find no arguments, no reason whatever in the able and logical speeches of both the Speaker and the hon Mr. Shea. No, sir, the logic and the eloquence of Gladstone would be wholly unavailing with such men. Local prejudice, local obstinacy, and local stupidity have always been the greatest obstacles in the way of progress. It has always been so. Wit, indignation, eloquence, the most forcible logic sustained by a long train of unanswerable arguments, are wholly unavailing to penetrate the wooden headed obstinacy of the local mind. Logic and arguments all fall back like blunted arrows, from the impenetrable walls of obstinate ignorance.
But, sir, in considering this question we ought to take into account the present Colonial policy of Great Britain. Now, sir, this policy is settled and fixed. It is not confined to any one Ministry, or one party. From the extreme opinion of Professor Godwin Smith, to the conservative views of Lord Stanley, all point in the same direction. All enlightened British statesmen tell you, in the plainest terms, that English tax-payers won’t submit much longer to bear burdens for the Colonies, which the Colonists ought to bear themselves. And what do they tell you in the matter? Why, in plain terms, it is just this—” Gentlemen, we approve of this scheme of Confederation. We want you to get strong. We want you to be united. We won’t cast you off. We feel bound; in honor, to protect you.” But supposing you don’t take this advice, and you prefer remaining out in the cold, do you suppose that England, with her colonies all over the world, will still hug you to her heart, as the brightest jewel in the Crown? Does any sensible man believe she will? No, you will be left to shut for yourselves, and a miserable shift it will be. And do you also believe, if you remain out of the Confederation, and the Reciprocity Treaty is rescinded, that the other Colonies, who are competitors with you in the fisheries, will not tax your produce? The great obstacle [sic], however, to this measure, is increased taxation.
The Canadian tariff, as we are told, will be much heavier than our own, and that though the £112,000 given us by the Confederate Government is a good sum, the Canadian tariff will give us a revenue of £140,000 or even a great deal more. Now, sir, we have the statement of Lord Monck and also of Mr. Galt, that the Federal tariff will be lowered instead of raised; and as every one acquainted with political economy knows, in increased tariff does not…necessarily mean increased revenue, but in many cases has quite the contrary effect. But, sir, I contend that we will have more than £112,000. Local, direct, and intercolonial steam is virtually promised to us, and that is at least £10,000 more. One of the first effects of Confederation will be the reduction of your Legislative contingencies. These are now £7000, and, at least, we ought to save £3000 a year; here, when the Assembly is reduced to half, and the Council abolished. But over and above the money saved, I consider that if Confederation will only put an end to the sectarian and political differences which are such a bane to our community; if it will only put down the small fry of newspapers and petty politicians, who help to fan the flames of religious strife, and who fatten like political vultures upon our local sectarian differences, if Confederation will only do this, as I trust, in time, that it will, I, for one, will hail it as the greatest boon that could ever be conferred upon this Colony.
As regards the giving away of our wild lands, I look upon the $37,000 a year as a gift; and, sir, I consider that the money is the least part of the benefit. The General Government must do something to meet the opposition, when enquiries are made as to what the Government has done to develop these lands in Newfoundland, for which they pay such a tremendous price. And this must eventually be of the greatest benefit to us. It must bring capital to our shores, and that capital should be welcomed amongst us, no matter where it comes from, whether it is French or American, aye or even Turkish capital, Sir, I have no desire to press this matter through the House with undue haste. The longer the question is discussed the greater will be the number of adherents to Confederation. Let us have the voice of the country upon this question Let each member declare his honest opinion up in it, openly and candidly; and then let our constituencies deal with us as they think proper. On such a momentous topic, sir, no member of this House should be silent; none should meanly shirk a question involving such tremendous consequences; none should give a silent vote.
My own honest conviction is, that with local and direct steam assured to us, and such other more favourable terms, as of course we must try to get, Confederation with the British North American Provinces, under ail the circumstances of our present condition, would be highly beneficial to this colony. I am still open to conviction that my conclusions are wrong; but I have heard nothing as yet from the opponents of the scheme which would induce me to change my opinion, I want to know from them how they intend to deal with pauperism. I must confess, with all respect for their ability and sincerity; that I vainly believe they would not grapple with this giant evil half so efficiently as the present leader of the government has done. There is scarcely another politician in the country who has more strenously [sic] endeavoured to put it down; and yet he has failed, and even with good fisheries, failures in this respect will be the lot of every party that rules in this Colony; unless some radical change takes place in its condition. I must congratulate this House, sir, that at last we have a topic to discuss which will raise us to above the low dead level of our petty local squabbles, and, I trust, sir, that we will discuss it in a spirit worthy of its vast importance to ourselves and to our children.
Mr. Wyatt desired to make a few observations before this question was put. The Address in reply to the speech of his Excellency the Governor had now been before the house tor a week. He deeply regretted that the debate on this question of confederation had been so premature, as a day had been set apart for its full discussion. Now he would ask hon gentleman if they had approached this subject in that spirit of calm enquiry which had been recommended by his Excellency? Had they not gone so far as to impute personal motives to the hon delegates, for the manner in which they supported the question. He (Mr. Wyatt) believed the delegates had done their duty fairly and honestly. They reflected credit on Newfoundland; and were in his opinion, entitled to the fullest consideration from this house.—They had not departed from their interactions, and had in no way pledged the country.
The question now came before the representatives of the people to confirm or reject, as they deemed proper. It was one of grave responsibility, and should be referred to the people, who had the greatest interest in the matter. He was sorry to hear the hon the Speaker’s attack upon the merchants, because he (Mr. Wyatt) believed that we had nothing to consider on the subject except that which would promote the prosperity of the fishermen and what conduced to the prosperity of one, necessarily did the same with the other. He believed that the merchants did everything in their power to benefit the fishermen of the country, and there could be no doubt that ultimately they would reap the benefit. Of course, the merchants required a fair return for their capital. He thought, therefore, that the remarks of the hon the Speaker were uncalled for. He (Mr. Wyatt) knew that it is the settled determination of the merchants not to let this matter pass too hastily. He thoroughly appreciated the praises which were given to the merchants by some hon members opposite. These praises, at this time, accorded very well with their past conduct. Who was it that always raised the cry against the merchants, about taken the life-blood from the people? Not hon members opposite. He could assure these hon members that the merchants perfectly understood them, the hon member for Burgeo and LaPoile, Mr. Prowse must have a fling at the merchants. Now he (Mr. Wyatt) would ask him who was it that gave him a seat in this house? Was it not entirely owing to mercantile influences? He (Mr. Wyatt) would simply suggest that the question of confederation should not be further gone into at present, until the 15th, when every hon member of this house would no doubt, be fully prepared to discuss it.
The Speaker had already spoken on this matter, and did not now intend to occupy the time of the house in again going into it. But as one hon member for Bonavista, Mr. Wyatt, had made some allusion to the position which, he had taken on this question he felt it his duty to reply to him. Like Corporal Trim, the hon member felt compelled to stand up for his company. He (the Speaker) came into that house as an independent member, and he would now express independently his opinions, uninfluenced by any man or any set of men. But when in private and privileged places, personal motives were attributed to him, he could not be banned if [text missing] privilege, though not private peace, he should endeavour somewhat to return the compliment. He (the Speaker) did not intend to make any personal attack upon the merchants Had he ever done anything to injure the capital of the country? Had he ever supported them, and among the members of the commercial body he knew none that were not his personal friends.
But he (the Speaker must give it as his deliberate opinion, that the supplying system was ruinous to the best interests of the country. It was a reckless system, and tended to throw great numbers upon the Government for support during the winter? It tended generally to demoralize the fishermen. It was well known that the outharbour merchants and planters were made a prey, of by the piratical boats that went from St. John’s, and obtained from the fishermen, frequently, in the night time, the fish that they should have turned in to their supplying merchant. It was this want of mutual confidence between the merchant and fisherman that occasioned, in a great degree, such improper proceedings, Then we saw that our leading merchants engaged in a branch of trade which should be left in the hands of the middle classes. If you went up Water Street, you would find them selling hairbrushes, lavender water, groceries, and such articles. He thought these things should be imported by the merchants, and sold to the retail shopkeepers, who would be enabled to do a very good business by such a course of dealing. But how could these hope to prosper, when the merchant, who was the importer, was also the retailer? These were his (the Speaker’s) true sentiments, and he would always utter them.
Now the merchants, as a general rule, were seldom united. But on this question of confederation they seemed to stand wonderfully together. What is the necessary inference to be drawn from this? If the people found a number of lawyers putting their heads together and particularly anxious for the carrying of any measure, what would be said? “What’s up now I wonder?” Every man, whether planter, merchant or fisherman, would naturally have his own opinion on the subject, and so long as that opinion was maintained without ascribing personal interest or motive -o those who thought differently, so long would he (the Speaker) respect such opinions, so held.
Mr. Glen.—There had been a great deal said about the distress and misery of the people; but there was not a single argument put forward to shew us how confederation would ameliorate our condition, or in any way confer any substantial benefit upon us. It was well known that we lived entirely by our fisheries, and how confederation was going to benefit them he Mr. Glen was utterly at a loss to conceive. Not being able to convince us on this point, hon gentleman had resorted to threats, and have told us that unless we join in this confederation, Great Britain will withdraw her protection from us, leave us to our own resources, and to the mercy of two powerful neighbours. He (Mr. Glen) did not believe a word of it. It was simply absurd, and resorting to such an argument only shewed how weak was the cause which hon gentlemen advocated. No disappointment could possibly have come of it, if that Report had not been signed by the delegates. It was well know that the British Navy had been supplied with men from our shores, and it was these hardy fishermen who had won for Britain the supremacy of the ocean. Could we not appeal then on that point? Did hon gentlemen remember what the Earl of Chatham said about Newfoundland? He said sooner than a rock should be taken from Newfoundland by a foreign power, he would, make it the cause of war with the whole world. He (Mr. Glen) believed that England would do so now.
It was said that we were to have direct steam. That certainty would be a benefit. But he (Mr. Glen) did not see that stipulated for in the Report of the Conference. It we were to have it, it should be there. But the General Government would not give us enough to pay our working expenses. What a miserable position we were placed in. They tell us that we are to receive £10,000 for steam. They might just as well say £20,000. One would be just as visionary as the other.—It looked very much like the story of the Frenchman whose book-keeper told him that he was worth £20,000, but when he put his hand in his pocket he found he was not worth a cent. The hon member for Burgeo and La Poile had used as an argument the union between England and Scotland. No one doubted that that was beneficial, though it had been obtained through treachery. Scotland after the union was enabled to trade with England’s Colonies, and had the protection of the English fleet wherever she went. Could Canada do that for Newfoundland? She could do neither the one nor the other. In his (Mr. Glen’s) opinion, she would have hard work enough to protect herself in a few years, without thinking of us. He would say nothing further on the matter now, but leave it until the 15th, when it would be more fully discussed.
Mr. E. D. Shea.—The hon member, Mr. Glen, had entirely mistaken what he (Mr. Shea) had said. When he spoke of the numbers of people likely to go to Canada and seek employment there, he meant our unfortunate poor, not our mechanics and other trades people, who are, comparatively speaking, better off. But the hon member, Mr. Glen, was determined not to believe any thing, he (Mr. Shea) was fully convinced that if confederation was carried out and all the benefits which were spoken of were fully realized, the hon member, Mr. Glen, would still adhere to his state of unbelief. He says ” can you guarantee the benefits which you say confederation will counter?” He (Mr. Shea) could as much guarantee them as the hon member, Mr. Glen, could guarantee good fisheries. He (Mr. Shea) thought that it was a great mistake, that the people should be so entirely confined to the fisheries. They relied too exclusively upon them, and that was the bane of the country.
The great mistake was that hon gentlemen supposed we were dealing, in this matter, with a government opposed to us. Did they really apprehend that, the people of Canada were opposed to us? If they entertained such views they must reject common sense and reason. He (Mr. Shea) argued on the presumption that we were to have steam. That should be secured to us, and it it were not sufficiently secured at present, let it be made so before the bargain is concluded. As hon member, had referred to the letter of His Lordship Dr. Mullock. He (Mr. Shea) must say that the only inference to be drawn from that letter was that his Lordship was in favour of confederation. Could it be thought by any reasoning being that confederation would be beneficial to the educated, and injurious to the lower orders? Had his Lordship been opposed to confederation would he not have given his opinion upon it? He showed by his letter that he was heart and soul for it; but simply abstains from offering an opinion upon its commercial results. We have been told that we had no right to deal with the question now.
We had a perfect right to do so, and the country demanded it of us. We would be shrinking from our duty if we did not do it. Let us send the matter before the country, not without our expression of opinion upon it. He (Mr. Shea) saw no other course that could be properly pursued. He was opposed to the carrying of the measure at present. Let all the people he fairly and properly consulted. The hon member, Mr. Casey, said that if we entered this confederation, Canada would be sure to tax us. He (Mr. Shea) thought far differently. Canada would be more […]
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[…] likely to treat us with greater consideration, when she found that our interests were identical with her own; and that we were prepared to share their burdens. It was desirable that the public mind should be thoroughly informed on this great question, at the earliest opportunity, and he (Mr. Shea) therefore did not agree with hon gentlemen when they said that this debate was premature. It was the duty of the Legislature to take up the matter as early as possible. He did not grudge the time that had been spent in its discussion, as he believed it had been turned to very useful account.
Mr. Casey.—No person who had listened attentively to the observations of hon members, who had addressed the house on that subject could fail to notice the anxiety of the supporters of the Confederation to carry that question through the house, notwithstanding the very general feeling against it. They had failed, however, to convince him (Mr. Casey) that the Confederation would be of the slightest benefit to the inhabitants of Newfoundland. He saw nothing whatever staring us in the face but taxation and ruin, if we consented to that proposal. What similarity was there between our pursuits and those of Canada? None whatever. Here we were a little kingdom in ourselves, and if war should arise, we would be protected by the army and navy of Great Brftain [sic]. Did not Mr. Brown of Toronto state that one of the first objects of the Confederation would be to provide for the military defence of Canada? And did not the delegates, before the conference broke up, consent to the expenditure necessary [sic] for that purpose? Where was the means for that?
Newfoundland had until lately sufficient to meet her own expenditure, but could not furnish the means of paying troops for the defence of Canada. But we were stricken down, for the time, by bad fisheries. He trusted, however, that Providence would again smile upon us; and with the return of prosperity we would have sufficient revenue for our requirements, and the people themselves would frown down pauperism. After the introduction of Responsible Government, a determined effort should have been made to put down the demoralisation of pauperism. He did not see why so much had been expended of late years. It certainly was not because the people could not do without it. The present Government sent poor relief east, west, north and south, and demoralized the people by their lavish expenditure. Under pretence of relieving the poor, they sent a large quantity of Indian meal to Harbor Grace, where it was not required. Something was said by the hon member for Ferryland, Mr. Shea, about a large sum being expended for the protection of the fisheries. He Mr. Casey had read carefully the reports of the persons sent to protect the fisheries, and he could see nothing in them to satisfy him that their services were necessary. But he would like to know, if we were to enter into this confederation, how the Canadian navy was to give us protection? It would take time to form such a navy as would protect the maritime provinces; and where was the money to come from? It was from the navy of Britain that we were to look for protection. The hon member said also that our operative population would benefit by the union. He (Mr. Casey) did not see that.
When the question of Free Trade was agitated, the people expected that they would get bread and flour for nothing. But it was found that bread and flour were as dear as before we had the treaty. We were told that when confederation was carried out we were to have a line of steamers from this port to Toronto. He had looked carefully over the papers, and he could see nothing about these steamers. He would like to have something more than mere rumour on that matter. He granted the steamers would be a benefit, if we got them. We were told that the educated youth of the country had not a field here; but that they would have a fine field in Canada after confederation was carried out. But did not our youth proceed to Canada and Australia now, and did not many of them do well in these countries, without confederation? The brothers of the hon the Speaker had done so, and he (Mr. Casey) was happy to learn that they had prospered. If the youth of the country could not find employment in their native land to their long, and had the enterprise to go elsewhere, he (Mr. Casey) would admire them for it. But they certainly did not require confederation to secure success.
A great deal of stress was laid upon the letter of Archbishop Connolly. Certainly no person who knew that distinguished prelate, either personally or by reputation, but would pay the greatest attention to his opinions. But it did not follow, because he considered that confederation would benefit Nova Scotia, that it would prove beneficial to Newfoundland. The opinion of the Right Revd. Dr. Mullock was also referred to. He (Mr. Casey) did not know what Dr. Mullock’s opinions were on the question of confederation, but he did know that hon members were not always so ready to quote the opinions of that gifted prelate in support of their views. Reference had been made to the reception given to Mr. Brown in England. But Garibaldi was also feted in England; and the Duke of Sutherland seat his yacht for him. But the sensible people of England made the country too hot for him, and he had to retire without the ovation he had anticipated. We were told the local Legislature would still be retained for the management of our local affairs; but would any person tell him that the tendency would not be to do away with the local Legislature altogether?
Ten years hence we would have no local legislature in the maritime provinces, if confederation was carried. Then we were told that we would receive $150,000 a year for our Crown lands and minerals; and ten years hence it might be found that our mineral resources were worth a great deal more. It was not when a geological survey of the country was undertaken, which promised in the opinion of the geologist employed, to show that we had valuable minerals, that we should thus give away our Crown lands and mines, for what, after all, was our own money, for we should not receive by any means as much in the whole as we would be taxed under the tariff of Canada. It was not fair that we should come to any decision on that question this session. The members of the present house were not elected for any such purpose. Confederation was not thought of when they were elected. Let them go to the country, which he (Mr. Casey) hoped would not be until the fall, and let the people say whether they wished for confederation or not.
Reference had been made to the sympathy of the other Colonies when the French convention of 1847 came out, and it was stated that the convention was in a great measure detested through that sympathy. He admitted that we ought to be forever grateful for the sympathy we then experienced; but that was no reason why we should now enter into another convention against our interests. It was said also that such was the anxiety on that question that property was very much depreciated; but property was never so much depreciated as now, owing to a succession of bad fisheries. He (Mr.Casey) denied that the delegates were justified in signing the resolutions drawn up by the Conference. He (Mr. Casey) found that the Daily Telegraph, a good authority, charged the Delegates with acting illegally in that proceeding. That journal said those who formed the Conference at Quebec for the purpose of arranging the terms of a Convention, had no authority for what they did.—The union between England and Ireland had been referred to, and it was stated that Scotchmen went up to England and obtained situations, and that Irishmen went also. But did not history tell us that the Irishmen who did so sold themselves, body and soul, to the British Government?
The result of the union between England and Ireland was most disastrous to Ireland, and such would be the effect with regard to that Confederation, if carried into effect, Newfoundlanders not yet in being would curse the day that their country was made over to Canada. —Need he (Mr. Casey) go one step further to show the results of this Confederation, if entered into? In the other provinces, where there might be some benefft [sic] derived from Confederation, there was much opposition by many, and by some of the most influential of the newspapers. (Here the hon member read several extracts from Canada and Nova Scotia newspapers.) These were the organs of public opinion in the neighbouring provinces, and they showed any thing but unanimity of sentiment in favour of the proposed union. Many of the leading citizens of Halifax were also opposed to it, although if any city would benefit by it. It must be Halifax, which was to be the colonial terminus of the Grand Trunk Railway. He (Mr. Casey) would say again that it was not competent for the present House of Assembly to dispose of that question, and hon members ought not to consent to it, if they had the interest of the country at heart.
Mr. Renouf.—Hon members stated that we would have a larger revenue under confederation than we have now. But we would also have much heavier taxation. By a return prepared at the Custom-house, and of which, therefore, the accuracy would not be questioned, it was shown that the Canadian tariff, applied to our imports, would give a revenue of £140,000 a year, while all we would receive under confederation was £132,000, and no increase for the future, whatever, the increase of our population might be. And for this we would be required to give them our Custom-houses, Government house, our Crown lands, with all our valuable mineral resources, and the power to make laws, for the Governor General could disallow any Act passed here. Now, he (Mr. Renouf) would ask hon members, were we to sell our country for £132,000 a year? For his part he would not do so, We could wait and see what Providence would do for us. We did not yet know what our resources are. Our minerals are not yet developed. He regretted that the late government did not institute a geological survey when they had an abundant revenue. Could Canada do more to settle our Crown lands and develop our mineral resources than Newfoundland could do?
We could have a thorough geological survey, if we should borrow the money for the purpose, and if valuable minerals were discovered, there would be no difficulty in forming a Company prepared to work them. Mines must be worked by private enterprise and private capital. Government could not do it to advantage no matter what their means might be. We were told that Mr. Galt had no desire to raise the tariff; and who was Mr. Galt?. He was but one man, and he could not speak for a central government not yet in existence. He might promise that it would not be increased. But promises made under such circumstances were not reliable. We know it was promised to Ireland, when the union was carried, that Catholic emancipation would follow, and it was not until twenty eight years after, that it was carried in the Imperial Parliament. Could we have any confidence, considering what the expenditure of the Federal Government must inevitably, be that Mr. Galt’s promises would be better kept? He (Mr. Renouf) hoped every hon. member of that, house would exercise his unbiassed judgment in that matter, and not suffer himself to be influenced by the supporters of Confederation on either side of the house, to believe that the cry of taxation was a shadow.
The question of taxation was no shadow, but was a substance, and one which would come home to every elector in the Colony. The people of Newfoundland were not less intelligent than those of others countries, and were not to be misled by mere professions of economy, which the slightest reflection must show them could not be realized. Then we we [sic] were told that we would not be called upon to furnish a militia. The object of the conference at Quebec was a military convention, and not commercial; and if Federation were carried out, England would say—”You have now the resources of a great country ; provide for your own defence. So long as you were struggling colonies we defended you, but now you are able to do for yourselves.” Now the existing tariff of Canada would all £40,507 to our Customs revenue. But that tariff would only allow a million of dollars for military, and nothing for naval expenditure. He (Mr Renouf) would be prepared to show, when the question came up for discussion on the 15th, that the Federal government would require two millions of dollars more than the Canadian tariff would produce. And how was that to be raised ? Why by raising the tariff; by imposing additional burdens upon the people. He did not desire to see the matter passed so hastily. He saw no occasion to force this question, as it was of the utmost importance that, the matter should be fully investigated, and placed in all its aspects before the country. He (Mr. Renouf) disclaimed saying anything against the merchants of Newfoundland. He always had the greatest respect for them, and considered their interest identical with those of the fishermen. So, it would appear that our joining in this Confederation was entirely to be attributed to the Hon the Attorney General, and that it was through his influence that we were not left out in the cold.
But what right had the hon the Attorney General to take upon himself so great a responsibility! Where, he (Mr. Renouf) would ask, was the official dispatch to the Governor General of Canada? Had that been burked? It seemed to him that our delegates had received a piper’s invitation, for there had evidently been no desire or intention to ask Newfoundland at first. Our delegates say that they did not commit us. He (Mr. Renouf) agreed with the opinion of the hon member, Mr. Glen, that they had. They signed that Report on behalf of this country, and had it been possible for them to have bound us they would have done so. And yet they were invested with no authority from this Legislature. They were not the delegates of the people, and did not represent their wishes or ours, nor aid they even conserve the interest of this Colony. The wily Canadians were too much for them. They saw what a capital opportunity it was for them to get hold of us, and endeavour to relieve themselves of the difficulties that were pressing them down. It was taken for granted in Canada that our delegates represented the feelings of the people of this Island. But they say, they only bound themselves. Who, he (Mr. Renouf) would ask, would have to pay their expenses? He presumed the country would pay the piper, and that we should very soon hear something about it in this House.
Our position was very different from that of the other provinces. We had no large body of agricultural settlers here as they had. In the other Colonies gentlemen sold out of the Army and Navy; purchased estates and settled down to the cultivation of the soil; and thus a good society was formed. Here it was far different. The merchant, as soon as he had made a fortune, left the country and enjoyed his wealth elsewhere. Our isolation was complete, and if we entered this Confederation it would be just the same. Besides, would not Canada have the benefit of our taxation? And what good were we to receive in return? Could we receive our flour and provisions from Canada? During six months of the year the navigation of the St. Lawrence was stopped by a barrier of ice that could never be removed. Would there be a cheaper mode of conveyance after we were confederated than now? Then it had been said that our tradespeople and operatives could go to Canada and during a great part of the year receive large wages, and return here in comfort to their families. This was certainly very nice in theory, but he doubted if it could be practically realised. Would not these people have to pay their passages, and would not that swallow up the greater part of their earnings? Besides, were the operative population better paid in Canada than they are here? Certainly not.
As regarded the cod fishery, Canada has her own, and could supply her own wants; and therefore there would be no market for our fish there. What increased population could Confederation bestow upon the people of this Colony If Canada possesses such great resources, how was it that in the great exodus that took place here lately, not one in every hundred went to, Canada? If she offered so fine a field for our educated young men, how was it that none of them faced there? But if this Confederation were passed, he (Mr. Renouf) supposed that all the Canadian offices would be filled by Newfoundlanders. Did hon gentlemen really desire to impose upon this house and the country by such clap-trap. But after all, supposing that the sons of our wealthy people were really benefitted, what was to become of the sons of the fishermen and the tradesmen? But these delegates well knew that, if this question was passed this session they would be well rewarded for it. Most likely they would have an audience of Her Most Gracious Majesty, and then it would be—”Rise, Sir Frederick B. T. Carter—Rise, Sir Ambrose Shea.” This would be the result. But this question should not be affirmed this session. The people were the judges, and to them it should be submitted.
The question that the section be adopted was then put and carried.
The remaining sections of the address were then read seriatim and adopted, and the Committee rose and the Chairman reported the address without amendment.
On motion of Mr. Wyatt the address was then read a third time and passed—to be presented to his Excellency the Governor by Mr. Speaker and the whole house.
The Speaker informed the House that his Excellency would receive the address at three o’clock tomorrow.
The hon Attorney General gave notice that on to-morrow he would move for leave to bring in Bills for the Registration of Births, Marriages and Deaths in this Colony—For regulating the appointment of Coroners—For the banishment of Criminal Offenders—For the maintenance of deserted wives and children—For the recovery of forfeited recognizances, and for the amendment of the law of Interpleader.
The House then adjourned until three o’clock; tomorrow.