Nova Scotia, House of Assembly, Debates and Proceedings: Confederation (13 April 1865)
By: Nova Scotia (House of Assembly)
Citation: Nova Scotia, House of Assembly, Debates and Proceedings, 23rd Parl, 2nd Sess, 1865 at 238-245.
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DEBATES AND PROCEEDINGS OF THE HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY OF NOVA SCOTIA. 1865.
THURSDAY, April 13.
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Mr. Miller said that he wished to call the attention of the house to a subject of considerable importance at the present moment; and he regretted that in doing so he had not the advantage of the presence of the members of government, who ought to be in their places attending to the business of the country. He need not remind the house that one of the most momentous questions that ever agitated the public mind was then under discussion—the question of the union of the British North American Colonies. He thought that in view of the aspect that question had lately assumed- in view of the unmistakeable evidences of public opinion which had recently been given— there was but little room to doubt that nineteen-tenths of the people of Nova Scotia were opposed to the scheme propounded by the Canadian delegates. He believed that it must be admitted on all sides that almost the only spot in Nova Scotia where the subject received any favor, was the city of Halifax; and he was sorry to be obliged to say that some of the citizens of Halifax had acted in a manner insolent and overbearing to the rest of the inhabitants of the province. (Laughter from the members for Halifax.)
The hon. gentlemen laugh, but he (Mr. M.) would tell them that this was too grave a matter to he laughed at. He would tell them in the face of the house and the country that the people of Nova Scotia were not to be laughed at either by the citizens of Halifax or their representatives in that house. He trusted that before this discussion was finished they would be given to understand that there were other people in the province, whose views were entitled to respect, besides those who resided within the limits of the metropolis.—That morning, upon taking up the organ of the government he found a notice of a public demonstration that was to take place that evening in honor of the Canadian delegates, who were expected to arrive in the steamer, on their way to England to advocate the scheme of the Quebec conference. Notwithstanding. as he had said, that it was well known to those acquainted with public sentiment in this province t at nineteen-twentieths of the whole population were opposed to the scheme, he could not help looking on this demonstration as an attempt to misrepresent the state of feeling that existed in the minds of a great majority of our people—to mislead the delegates and the people of England touching our views of this great question, and to exasperate and insult the intelligence of this country.
Perhaps, however, he would not have felt it his duty to have called the attention of the house to the subject but for a circumstance connected with the demonstration, which was deserving of public notice. Be perceived a place assigned in the programme to the Volunteer Artillery, and the other volunteer companies. Now, he would ask, was it right or proper that the Volunteer force of this province, which had ever been kept aloof from party or political influences, should be asked to take part in a demonstration which was not only political in its character, but hostile to the feelings of a vast majority of the people of this country. He had no objections to the citizens of Halifax as citizens indulging in any demonstration they pleased, provided it would not misrepresent the whole province, but he thought that gentlemen on both sides would agree with him that this attempt to draw the Volunteer organization into the matter, was, to say the least of it, unwise and in— judicious in the extreme. It was well known that these gentlemen who were going across the water were going with no feelings of approval of the conduct of the people of the Maritime Provinces.
For aught that was known they were going charged with the duty of forcing upon this people a union hostile to their feelings and their interests. It was understood that in England and elsewhere Halifax would be considered to represent the public sentiment of Nova Scotia, and when the delegates go home they will be able to point to their reception in this city as a proof of our desire for confederation. He believed this was the object of the procession that would take place that night.
Was it not then the duty of every one who was opposed to the scheme publicly to denounce a demonstration got up in the capital for the purpose of influencing the public sentiment of the mother country, and of producing […]
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[…] the impression that the popular voice of the Province was in favor of a measure which had been almost universally condemned. Let these delegates go home, encouraged by all the cheers and plaudits they would receive through the streets of Halifax, but let the mind of these gentlemen and the public mind of England be disabused of the idea that this demonstration was in accordance with the feelings of the great majority of the people of Nova Scotia.—The hon. gentleman concluded by calling upon gentlemen opposed to the scheme to join with him in denouncing the attempt to misrepresent the opinion of the country upon the question.
Mr. Le Vesconte thought his colleague was perfectly right in bringing this matter to the notice of the house. As it was well known that nine-tenths of the people of the Province were opposed to the question of Union, he thought that this demonstration exhibited very bad taste,—independent altogether of the impropriety of bringing in the Volunteer force, which was organised for the defence of the country, and not to take part in political demonstrations of this kind.
He would conclude by a motion, so as to be in order. The hon. gentleman then read the following:—” Resolved that this House disapproves of the Volunteer organization (as such organization) taking part in any party demonstration.”
Mr. Tobin said he believed this was a free country, where everybody could enjoy his own opinions, and he thought that the citizens of Halifax had a perfect right to get up any demonstration they please upon any subject, provided they did not infringe the law. As regards the feelings of the citizens of Halifax, they differed upon this question of Confederation, as the people did everywhere else—there were some warm supporters of it, and some equally warm opponents.
He was happy to be able to say, that the conduct of the citizens of Halifax on all public occasions was temperate and orderly—they insulted nobody; and he did not see how this demonstration could be construed as an insult to this House, or the people of this Province. Sometimes they would show a little ebullition of feeling, when any thing distasteful to their feelings was said, as the hon. gentleman for Richmond had himself experienced on one occasion, and perhaps that was the cause of the temper; which be exhibited in introducing this subject.
As regards the question of Confederation, he did not hesitate to say that he was a most enthusiastic supporter of it. He considered it one of the grandest schemes ever offered to a free people; and, to his mind, it was matter of wonder that any one could wish that Nova Scotia should remain in her present position. What was there in this country, he would ask, to satisfy the ambition of her young men—or what scope did our limited means afford for the exercise of their talents? If honorable gentlemen were satisfied with this state of things, he, for one, was not; and he believed that when the people of this country came properly to understand it, instead of nine-tenths being against it, more than that number would declare in its favor. He did not intend to make a speech on Confederation; but but [sic] while upon the subject, he would read a letter he had recently received from one of Nova Scotia’s ablest sons-one whose career had reflected honor open himself and his native country, and whose portrait. he was happy to say, adorned the walls of the Council Chamber of that building. What does he say upon this great subject? The hon. gentleman here read an extract from a letter of General Williams, as follows:
MONTREAL, March 3rd. 1865.
My life has been spent in the service of the Empire, and I have had neither time nor opportunity to mix myself up in your politics; and while I respect every man’s opinions in relation to them, l do most sincerely hope that every Nova Scotian will cast away party ties and political aspirations, and embrace the present golden opportunity which passing events, both in Europe and America, now offer for the knitting together of these magnificent colonies into one great and loyal Confederation. We shall then have combined strength, instead of divided counsels and all its consequent evils. The position I hold under the Crown precludes the possibility of my taking an active part in your discussions; but if were once more in private life, I would zealously preach intercolonial, prompt intercolonial action, throughout the length and breadth of Nova Scotia.
This, he thought, was strong testimony from one who was uninfluenced by the feelings which might affect the judgment of others placed in different circumstances, and therefore was entitled to greater consideration. He hoped that hon. gentlemen would approach the discussion of this question in an enlightened spirit, and would not be influenced by party or local prejudices.
Mr. Locke said that the member for Richmond deserved the thanks of the House for bringing this subject forward, and he agreed with him that this demonstration was exasperating and insulting in the extreme to the people of this country. What was the purpose of this meeting tonight? Evidently to mislead the people of England as to the feeling of this country on the subject of Confederation. The steamer that takes these delegates home will also carry the account of this demonstration, and the impression which would naturally be conveyed would be that it reflected the feelings of the whole Province. This he denied most emphatically; and he thought it was the duty of every gentleman opposed to the measure thus publicly to denounce so unfair an attempt to produce a wrong impression. As regards the opinions of Gen. Williams, he would say that they all respected him; but it must be remembered that although a Nova Scotian by birth, he was thoroughy English in all his ideas, and he thought upon this subject as all Englishmen did.
Hon. Mr. Shannon was surprised at the remarks that had been made, and he could not understand what reference this demonstration had to the Legislature, or how it could be construed into an insult upon the people’s representatives. That time last year there was a demonstration of another character, in honor of Shakspeare, and the house adjourned to hear the oration that was then delivered—but this demonstration would not interfere with the public duties of any hon. gentleman. It was to take place at night—those who did not choose to attend could stay away—and he really did not see what right that house had to interfere with the citizens of Halifax in a matter of this kind. He could understand how some hon; gentlemen, who had been hissed down by a Halifax audience, should not entertain very friendly feelings towards the citizens; but he did not think the time of the house should be wasted on such matters.
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Mr. Killam supposed that the object of the demonstration was to produce the same impression upon the minds of the British people as had been produced upon Mr. Cardwell, viz: that the feeling of this country was in favor of Confederation. As that was at variance with the facts, it was right that the matter should be brought before the house, so that any erroneous impression might be removed.
Mr. Le Vesconte said that when some years ago a volunteer company took part in a demonstration in honor of the election of Lord Palmerston, attention was called to the fact in the House of Commons. The only excuse that was given on that occasion was that the affair had occurred through animadvertance. He contended that the volunteers, which were supported by the people’s money, had no right to take part in any political demonstration whatever. Particularly careful should they be to give their countenance to a scheme to which seven-eighths of the people were unfavorable.
Mr. Tobin called attention to the programme, and justified the action of the citizens. He thought if the hon. member was going to load his gun with patriotic powder he should try and aim at something more tangible than the present matter.
Hon. Pro. Sec. said that he rose for the purpose of moving that the house pass to the order of the day. He would not feel disposed to interfere with any desire of the hon. member for Richmond (Mr. Miller) to favor the house with those rhetorical outbursts of indignation with reference to the very contemptible character and position that Halifax occupied in the Province of Nova Scotia. That hon. member had rendered himself famous for such exhibitions, and it would be a pit to interfere in the slightest degree with any anxiety that he might have to place the city in antagonism to the country. It was not the most laudable ambition in the world for any one to endeavor on every possible occasion to excite unpleasant feelings between different sections of the country. The hon. member’s talents and exertions might be directed to a far worthier object. It might not be worth while, perhaps, noticing the hon. member’s attempts to show the people that he had take them under his patriotic care, and in fact to relieve their apprehensions of being trampled down by Halifax influence; but when a resolution was moved which, if passed would place the house in a false position, it was that he (Dr. T.) should briefly call attention to the real circumstances of the case. He would state, at the commencement, that the first time he had seen the programme was at eleven or twelve o’clock when he happened to take up one of the morning papers.
I was well known that there existed in this city an organization called the Union League. It was not of a secret character; its meetings were called by public notice in the newspapers, and every man favorable to the cause of union was invited to attend them. Most of the leading and influential and respectable citizens of Halifax were engaged in that organization for the purpose, as they believed, of promoting the best interests of the Province of British North America and of Nova Scotia especially. No one could deny that even if the sentiments they held were favorably entertained by only one-tenth of the people, yet they had a perfect right to use all legitimate means of inculcating their opinions without hindrance on the part of any one.
He would confess that he had read with some little surprises the fact that the Volunteer Companies were to take part in this demonstration. The question at issue, it was true, was one that perhaps more than any other, would warrant the Volunteers giving it their countenance. It was known that a delegation was on its way from Canada to England for the purpose of discussing with the Imperial Government the question of defence, the Reciprocity Treaty, and Confederation. Gentlemen who had the Union cause at heart, felt that they would be wanting in their duty if they did not show this delegation, on its arrival that night, that there was in the City of Halifax a large and influential body of citizens who were favorable to the Confederation of British North America. If it was possible that there could be an occasion when the Volunteer organisation would be entitled to turn out, it was when gentlemen were touching our shores on their way to the Imperial Government to provide for the defence and security of British North America. Divided, however, as public sentiment was in this country on this great question, he did not think it advisable that the Militia, or Volunteer, or Artillery organization, should turn out in their uniforms. Since this debate had commenced, without any communication on his own part, he had received an intimation from Captain Chearnley, who commanded the organization, that any members of that organization might attend the demonstration as citizens, but not as Volunteers.
It might be attempted to array the country against Halifax, but no one could prevent the fact being made known that in the political and commercial metropolis of the Province there was a deeply rooted public sentiment pervading the minds of the most leading and influential men of all classes, that the future prosperity of Nova Scotia, as well as of all the Provinces of British North America, depended on the success of the scheme of Confederation. When you read the programme for that evening’s celebration, you saw that not only the most highly educated and intelligent members of the mercantile community, but the bone and sinew of the city, the artizans and the working men, proposed to lend their aid in paying due honor to those who were laboring to promote the best interests of British North America at this critical period of the world’s history.
He could not understand why the feeling of some gentlemen were so excited on this subject.—Was there a man who would deny that an overwhelming body of the citizens of Halifax was in favor of Union. When the meetings in respect to that question were held in the city, Temperance Hall was densely packed, night after night. So strong was the current of public sympathy in favor of Union, that, at times, it was almost impossible for the friends of Confederation to proceed, so enthusiastic were the plaudits that met them. When it was also attempted to make the House believe that nine- tenths of the people of this country were against Union, a liberty was taken with the true facts that was unworthy of any public man. Although great exertions had been made, and large amounts of money expended all over the face of the country, only fifteen or sixteen thousand persons had been persuaded to sign the same, or get some one else to sign them—for very many are signed by a cross —to petitions […]
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[…] in reference to the question of Confederation. Let it be marked, too, that of this number only 3000 could be induced to express the opinion that they disapproved of the Confederation of British North America. The remaining number only said that they were not able to make up their minds on the subject—they wanted more information. Contrast the meagre results after the tremendous efforts that had been put forth, with those that had been attained, some years ago, by one party alone in this country. In the course of some three or four weeks, some 26,000 petitioners had approached the House asking for a dissolution on the ground that the men then in power did not possess the confidence of the country.
The time would come when the people could legitimately be called upon to give their opinion on the question—when they were fully informed, they would support it in the most convincing manner. He had had an opportunity of testing the feelings of the country already. He went up into the County of Hants, and at a large public meeting held in the town of Windsor, had conclusive proof that the sentiment there, at all events, was in favor of the scheme. Again, at a meeting held at Kentville—on that was called by the opponents of Confederation, in a County where the most deceptive and fallacious statements had been promulgated—after a lengthy discussion, a resolution to defer the consideration of the question was voted down at the close. Again, he had delivered a lecture on the subject in connection with the collegiate institution in that country, and on that occasion the demonstrations given were of the most satisfactory character. Then he had attended a meeting in Colchester, and he would ask gentlemen opposite whether the Southern district would not rise up to-morrow, almost to a man, in favor of a Union of British North America?
In Cumberland he travelled for a hundred miles—from Mill Village to Cornwallis—and found the public sentiment, not only of one, but of both political parties, in favour of the scheme. Then he went into Annapolis, and attended a meeting called at Bridgetown by the opponents of Confederation. He found he did not stand alone there, but was supported by some of the most highly educated, respectable and intelligent men that had opposed the Government. When the recently returned member (Mr. Ray) moved a resolution simply asking for delay, he (Dr. T.) called upon the meeting to vote it down, and not even give a semblance of opposition to a union of British North America. The hon. member then called upon the supporters of the resolution to follow him out, and when they had done so, they were hardly missed in that densely crowded house. Again, he went to Annapolis, and there the same hon. member, who acted with a great deal of tact, saw that, in the temper of his constituents, it was not wise to move a resolution similar to the one at Bridgetown.
Was it to be said, then, that nine-tenths of the people of this country were opposed to Confederation? He believed there were certain sections that had never hesitated to oppose it—some there were whose predilections were not so much in favour of British institutions, but whose feelings as well as commercial relations drew them largely towards the neighboring republic. But no large body of people were found actually hostile to this great question. Was it not known that the head of the Episcopal Church—one of the most highly educated and influential gentlemen in this country—one who stood aside from all political parties – whose great object was the advancement of his church and the common interests of the province in which he lives – was openly and unequivocally in favor of union.
Again, His Grace the Archbishop – a gentleman whom all creeds and classes respect – one of the most sagacious and far-seeing men in the country had come out boldly and fearlessly to vindicate union. That eminent man did not believe the scheme would sell us to Canada; on the contrary, that it would promote the security of Nova Scotia and preserve its present institutions and its connection with the mother country, and, at the same time, advance, in common with the rest of those of the people, the interests of which he is the ecclesiastical head. The organs of the Presbyterian church, (the Presbyterian Witness,) of the Methodist, (the Weleyan,) and of the Baptist, (the Christian Messenger,) were all known to support the Confederation of these provinces. Was it to be said, then, in the light of such facts as these that nine-tenths of the people were opposed to this great scheme?
Over in New Brunswick the opponents of confederation had had a very doubtful success. Notwithstanding all their exertions – all the misrepresentations of the opponents of confederation, they had only got in the whole of the province a bare majority of the votes of the people. So closely balances was the vote on either side that it was almost impossible to draw the line between them. In fact, the opponents of confederation having polled 500 votes more than the friends of the scheme. Yet the people of England was to be made to believe that not only nine-tenths of the people in Nova Scotia, but in New Brunswick as well, were opposed to the confederation of British America.
In the conclusion, he called upon the House to consider the position in which it would be placed if it passed the resolution. Would it elevate itself in the opinion of strangers, if it were to so far forget what was due to its position and dignity as to express unfriendly feelings on an occasion when some of the most eminent statesmen of British North America were touching our shores? He would recall the attention of gentlemen to the kindliness and generosity with which the people of Canada had greeted the Delegated from the Maritime Provinces. So far was the feeling in Quebec at the commencement from being cordial towards the object of the delegates, that the chairman of the Board of Trade, at the dinner, actually felt himself bound to say that that Association did not feel itself prepared to express any approval of Union.
The Delegates went to that dinner under the conviction that a large number of the most eminent merchants of Quebec were in a position of avowed hostility to the objects of the Conference. But they did not attempt to hiss the Delegates when they explained their position, – they behaved themselves like educated gentlemen, – they felt they could tender their hospitalities without compromising their own opinions. The feeling that prevailed all through Canada, wherever the Delegates went, was that the visit was an occasion for the display of inter-provincial courtesy. Political men of all shades of opinion vied with each […]
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[…] other how they might best testify their respect and regard which they had for the Province of Nova Scotia. At the dinner at Montreal there were scores of opponents of the scheme—Dorion and Holton for instance, who had fought against it to the death on the floors of Parliament. John Sandfield McDonald also treated the delegates with the same consideration. In what position, then, would this country be placed, if it were to display, through its Legislature, feelings of hostility to the statesmen of a country who had treated our own public men, irrespective of party, with so much courtesy and attention? He would only add, that he felt when he had made the observation that he did in reference to the volunteers, that he was making a reflection upon Canada, for one of the finest displays that met the eye of the Delegates had been the march of the splendid volunteer artillery past the hotel in Montreal.—One part of the reception. at Toronto that had been arranged, but prevented by the weather, was a grand display of all the volunteers that could he collected in the city.
Mr. Stewart Campbell said that the Provincial Secretary, a few days ago, had himself related an anecdote of a person who could always tell who had the worst of a controversy. Whenever one of the individuals engaged in the dispute showed a great deal of temper and excitement, then it was sure evidence that he was getting the worst of it. On the present occasion the Provincial Secretary had exhibited a great deal of unnecessary temper.
Hon. Prov. Sec.: I am quite ignorant of it, at all events.
Mr. Campbell: The hon. gentleman had reflected upon the course taken by the hon. member for Richmond in bringing this matter to the notice of the house. Now if there was any one in the house who was better justified than another in bringing it up, it was that same hon. member. Any one who was acquainted with the question through its various phases, must be aware that on a certain occasion at Temperance Hall, that gentleman was treated with an indignity which he did not deserve. It was felt to be an insult not to him alone, but to the people through the length and breadth of Nova Scotia. He (Mr. C.) was also one of those who felt that the City of Halifax was not the Province of Nova Scotia. It had been said that there were certain individuals about the streets who were underrating the position of members of the House who came from the rural districts. These individuals might have stock in the bank—real estate in this city and country,—but they had never appealed to any constituency in this Province and obtained the confidence of the people.
Therefore they had no right to talk in such disparaging terms of gentlemen who for years had represented the rural districts. He was one of those who objected to the demonstration—not because it was intended, as the Provincial Secretary would make the House believe, as a reception to gentlemen from a sister colony. He objected to it because he could see through the motive and design with which the demonstration was got up. The people of the parent country had all been misled upon the question, and the course now about to be taken was for the purpose of keeping up that deception. Now he wished the people of England to be informed, as far as the house could inform them, of the sense of the people of this country.
The delegates reported to Great Britain when there was no legislature in session, and they had it all their own way. They misled the government of England, and as to the feelings of the people of these colonies; and he therefore thought the house, being now in session, owed it to themselves and those they represented, to take care that nothing tool: place with the concurrence of the government that could have the slightest tendency in the same direction. It was the Hon. Provincial Secretary himself that was attempting to place the house in a false position. He wished to have the impression go abroad that the house sympathized with the sentiments of those gentlemen who were now taking part in the demonstration in question. The hon. gentleman had alluded to the Union League, and had not paid a very high compliment to many gentlemen who, in times past, has been his valuable and active supporters. He had instituted a comparison between the members of the League and those who were opposed to it. He had ventured to say that the—to use his own language—most leading, influential, respectable citizens of Halifax were members of the League. Then it may be a natural deduction that those who did not belong to this organization did not compare in point of respectability or position with its members.
The hon. Provincial Secretary had gone through the Province and expressed his opinion as to the feeling of the country from what took place at some meetings at which he was present. Now few gentlemen would be ready to accept his version of the results of those meetings. Now talk was all very good, but it would have been more satisfactory if they had the best evidence that could be given of the feeling of the country—the evidence obtained from the votes of the people themselves. He challenged the hon. gentleman to produce one petition that had been sent to the house, endorsing this scheme of Confederation. The hon. Provincial Secretary had stated that the majority of the petitioners before the house expressed no positive opinion with reference to the question. But these petitions said in effect to the Provincial Secretary: You have said that the people of this country are in favour of this measure—that if you don’t obtain the approval of the representatives of the people you will dissolve the house; now we call upon you to fulfill your promise, and dissolve the Legislature if you dare. Need the house he told that the hon. gentleman had paid some heed to the language of these petitions? He knew the feeling of the people and dared not test it.
The hon. Provincial Secretary had taken—a liberty with an eminent Divine in this country which it was difficult to believe he was justified in taking. Every one who knew the Lord Bishop of Nova Scotia, was aware that no one could charge him with having ever taken a part in any political demonstration, or even expressed any feeling in reference to party matters, in this country. It was very bad taste for the Provincial Secretary, under the circumstances, to bring the name of that dignitary, without his concurrence, before the house. Until he heard from another month than the Provincial Secretary’s that that gentleman is in favour of the measure, he would be disposed to doubt not only the authority that hon. member had for […]
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[…] bringing his name there, but also the existence of those opinions. His Grace the Archbishop had also been referred to—as every one was aware, that eminent gentleman, respected by all creeds and classes, had made his opinions known. These opinions had had their course through the country, and their effect would appear in due time. The Presbyterian clergymen had also been alluded to, but how long was it that the Provincial Secretary had placed such confidence in the ministry of that denomination. A very strange revulsion of feeling had taken place in that hon. gentleman. A few years ago he could not find anything, too coarse in the vocabulary of Billingsgate against Presbyterian clergymen, but he had changed his tone all at once.
The hon. member for Halifax (Mr. Shannon) had attempted to justify this demonstration by reference to what took place last year in connection with the illustrious name of Shakespere. No analogy could be drawn between the two demonstrations. That of last year was a national demonstration; not merely in Halifax and Nova Scotia, but in all portions of the British empire—wherever literature and civilization are prized. It was an honour to our common humanity—not an honour to any particular nationality, but one to the name of man. Therefore it was that men of every climate and every nation vied with each other in paying tribute to a name that will live as long as this world will last. Another individual had been mentioned as approving of the scheme of Confederation—General Williams. No man of Nova Scotia was prouder of the fame of that distinguished Nova Scotian than he himself, and it was a proud day when he sat in the Speaker’s chair and put the resolution by which the House paid him honour. He admired that illustrious gentleman’s talents, but upon this question the people of Nova Scotia and their representatives were as competent to form a sound and safe opinion as even the hero of Kars.
The hon. Provincial Secretary defended the demonstration on the ground that it was only right that we should return the courtesies paid to the delegates. There was no doubt that the various bodies in Canada did treat these gentlemen in the handsomest style. Although this province paid very handsomely for the visit they made, yet he rather believed that they travelled free—that all their expenses, even their washing bills were paid in Canada. No one could have the slightest objection to the hon. Provincial Secretary or the Attorney General cracking as many bottles of Champagne as they pleased as private individuals with these Canadian gentlemen, but it was not just or right that the government of this country should endorse the action of the city of Halifax in respect to this demonstration. Without dwelling further on the subject he would read the following resolution as expressing the views of himself, and as be believed, of a majority in the House:
Whereas a public demonstration is proposed to take place this evening in the city of Halifax for the purpose of giving a public reception to certain gentlemen who formed a portion of the late convention at Quebec.
And whereas by the programme of the demonstration, it appears that a portion of the Volunteers force are to take part in such demonstration.
Resolved, as the sense of the house of this demonstration, that it is not, and must not be, taken to evince the feeling of the majority of this house or of the people of this province as being favourable to the Union of British Colonies as settled by the Quebec conference, and further that in the event of the local forces taking part in such demonstration, such action would be highly derogatory to their true position and distasteful and displeasing to the house, and that the house entertaining these views cannot proceed to the order of the day without in the first place, in the present emergency, expressing the foregoing sentiments.
Mr. Killam said as the government had conceded the position, he did not see it was necessary to keep up the matter further.
Mr. Bourinot said that the Provincial Secretary, in the course of his second Confederation speech had stated that the petitions now on the table of the house did not show that the public opinion of Nova Scotia was opposed to this scheme of union devised at the Quebec Conference. Now he had the honour of representing one of the largest constituencies in the province; he had individually expressed no opinion against Confederation, but at the same time he could not help seeing that the public sentiment of the country was opposed to the scheme. As respects the resolution before the house, it would not have been presented at all if it had not been stated in the programme that the volunteers would form part of the contemplated procession. The Provincial Secretary had, however, stated that the volunteers were not to be present, and therefore the whole thing was at an end. He looked upon this demonstration in a different light to any member who had spoken upon the subject. Gentlemen would re-call the demonstrations that took place during the summer months. He was glad that our people had given the Canadian visitors a reception that did honour to Nova Scotia.
On this occasion, however, there was an expression of opinion given in favor of union. As far as the sentiment of Halifax audiences went, it was in support of union; but that feeling was not responded to by the country. The delegation representing Nova Scotia, thinking they were representing public opinion in this province, went to Canada and agreed to the scheme which was not before the people. Every one knew what a feeling of hostility existed in all the rural districts against this proposed Confederation, Now he looked upon this demonstration as one which the citizens of Halifax were at perfect liberty to make apart from any body of men such as the Volunteers, but why was this affair got up. It was intended to exhibit sympathy for those despondent men who were coming among a population who received them so heartily last year. Every thing that could soothe their disappointment at the failure of their grand scheme would be doubtless done that night. He trusted it would have a beneficial effect upon them, but despite all this, let it be remembered, that Confederation was not and would not be adopted.
Mr. Miller said that he rose chiefly to make a a few remarks in respect to the hon. member for Halifax, (Mr. Shannon), who had the bad taste to refer, in connection with the Union agitation, to some of the disgraceful scenes witnessed in Temperance Hall. He did so, because that gentleman […]
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[…] had on other occasions gone out of his way to attack him. He had been often amused at the manner in which the hon. member was in the habit of approaching the discussion of questions in the House. He (Mr. M.) had now been in the Legislature for two years, and previously had been frequently in the galleries, and he had yet to learn, from personal devotion or otherwise, that that hon. gentleman had distinguished himself for industry or ability in connection with the public business. Yet you saw this gentleman, when a question came up in which his feelings were enlisted, getting up and addressing the House with a patronizing air, and in that peculiar dilettanti style in which he delighted. He could tell that hon. gentleman it would have been more to his credit, and those with whom he apparently sympathized in the remarks he had just made, if he had endeavoured, instead of bringing the matter publicly before the House, to screen the conduct of those who mis behaved themselves on that occasion.
When that hon. gentleman stated that he had been hissed in Temperance Hall, he mentioned a fact of which he was prouder than anything else in his public life. He had never stood, and he never expected hereafter to stand in a prouder—a position more in sympathy with the feelings of the people—than when in response to to a very small portion of the audience in Temperance Hall, who attempted to interfere with freedom of speech, he told them their disgraceful proceedings would go to the country—that their attempt to stifle discussion would redound upon themselves, and that the little band with which he was associated would teach the contemptible little mob that disturbed the deliberations of that meeting that they were not the people of Nova Scotia. Well they had taught these worthies in the city that they could not stifle public discussion. The sentiments uttered that night even by one so humble as himself had reverberated in the valleys, and along the hill sides, and found its echo in the Legislature of this country. That pledge at least had been “nobly redeemed.” Who were those that hissed him for the utterance of these sentiments on that occasion ? Not the respectable citizens of Halifax?
No, he scouted the idea—he knew from personal communication with a large number of the citizens of Halifax that they condemned such conduct. Those who hissed him were a few government hirelings—a few claquers gathered from the street corners and bar-rooms—whose hostility he had the good fortune to have gained—men who would bring down every young man who endeavoured, by fair exertion, to satisfy a laudable ambition in this country. He was always willing to have the opposition of the crowd. But it was not for the hon. member for Halifax to taunt him in connexion with the subject of Confederation. If that hon. gentleman had occupied the same position he (Mr. M.) assumed he would have been more justified in the arrogance of the tone he had adopted.
Where was that hon gentleman when that question was admitted to the people of this country? Did he step to the front like others and declare his views —did he take the manly position of his hon. col league (Mr. Tobin)?—and determine if he must go down on the question, to fall like a man? No; during every demonstration that had taken place in Halifax you could not see the hon. gentleman face on the platform, and if you saw him at all it was in some obscure corner under the galleries watching the current of popular sympathy, in order to take advantage of it. This was the gentleman that came in at the eleventh hour when he thought his constituents had been won to the cause by the labour of others, and to show his zeal justified the disgraceful conduct of the rabble at Temperance Hall. He did not envy the hon. gentleman’s position, and the people would appreciate it. But he would tell the hon. member that he was not the man to taunt one, after skulking as he had at the proper time from his legitimate duty. He now came in when he imagined he could do so without personal danger, reminding them of one of those creatures that follow in the rear of armies to pick up prey that others win for them
He was not at all superized at the style in which the Provincial Secretary had referred to him. It was what he expected from the hon. gentleman. Since he had been in public life, he had the fortune of receiving these attentions more frequently than others. he had got more knocks than anything else, and which he always liked if possible to return, altho he as becoming indifferent to them by this time. They did him little harm and perhaps some good But he was quite prepared for the remarks of the hon. Prov. Secy— intended as they were for an unworthy purpose. He understood the policy of that hon. gentlemen as well as of others by whom he was surrounded, His object in this instance was to injure him in the estimation of the vast majority of the citizens with whom he was proud to say he stood on terms of which he needed never be ashamed. He had never, since be had the honour of a seat in the House, opened his mouth unfairly hostile towards the city of Halifax.
On the contrary, he could appeal to gentlemen all around if he had not, on every occasion, when the interests of Halifax were not at conflict with the legitimate interests of these he represented, endeavoured to retain their rights, and promote their wishes. He had been a member of the Committee on City Bills, for two years, and hardly say he did his best to advance the business before it, and guard the interests of the city. He knew that his exertions were fully appreciated. There was another portion of the remarks of the hon. Provincial Secretary, that deserved some observation. He was astonished at the powers of the face with which that hon. gentleman would stand up before the people’s representatives, and, knowing as he must the feelings of the country, state that a vast majority of the people were not opposed to Confederation. He did know whether to admire or condemn the indifference to public sentiment which that hon. gentleman exhibited He could not imagine anything more dangerous to public liberty, than to have a man occupying the position he did, prepared so to outrage the public sentiment of the country, and use the influence, […]
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[…] and power he possessed to carry out his object in definance of the people.
Holding the sentiments he did, there was great room to fear, that our rights and liberties were endangered ; and under such circumstances it was time gentlemen sitting around these benches, should put thel house in order. It should be recollected that the leader of the government had great powers in his hands—he could control the public patronage— he had command of the public funds. He might be induced to use all influences to promote a scheme of which he was so enthusiastic an advocate. It would be well for gentlemen to consider these things before it was too late. He did not intend to follow the hon. Provincial Secretary after the lengthy reply of the hon. member for Guysbro, and because a more suitable opportunity would offer to answer him. But he must denounce the assertion made for a purpose, that any large number of the people favored the scheme of the Quebec Conference. Such an assertion from any reliable source might do much harm. He did not, however, think any statements of the hon. member were entitled to much credit. There were few public men in the country who stood in a more unenviable position as respects their unreliability than the hon. Provincial Secretary.
He thought he was done with the hon. member for Halifax, but he found it was not the case; that hon. gentleman with his usual appropriateness of illustration, had referred to the demonstration given in honour of Shakespeare last spring, which was as far from the present case, as the hon. member himself was from the moon. It was true the House did adjourn, but it was more in compliment to the occasion, than to any living individual. What analogy was there between the two cases—between Shakespeare and the Delegates? But he (Mr. M.) might be wrong—perhaps he was unable to appreciate the great acuteness of the hon. member. There might be some point in the comparison. That the delegates dealt largely in fiction will not be denied, and if they put their claim to a demonstration on this ground he could understand them. When the records were examined it would be found that the works of fiction of some of these gentlemen were numerous indeed. If this would entitle them to such an ovation as had been accorded to the great dramatist, he would prefer it would be postponed till they were 300 years dead.
Mr. Miller concluded by saying that as the hon. Provincial Secretary had stated that the Volunteers were not to take any part in the demonstration of that evening his object was gained and it was unnecessary to move any resolution on the subject.
Hon. Atty. General said if he had ever witnessed a tempest in a teapot, it was during that afternoon. He could, however, easily understand [sic] how the gentlemen opposite would wish to make a demonstration which might have some effect [sic] across the water. They had stated that nine-tenths of the people were opposed to Confederation, and ought now to be satisfied. He doubted, however, the worth of the mere assertions they had made, and the value that would be put upon them in the mother country. It was obvious that if gentlemen had not some covert object in view, the whole subject would have been settled in five minutes.
If anyone had, at the outset, asked the question, whether the volunteers were to take part in the intended demonstration, he would have got an answer immediately. It was useless for gentlemen to try and persuade the House that actually nine-tenths of the people were opposed to Confederation. Only 3000 persons came before the House, stating that they were opposed to Confederation. He knew that a large number of the petitioners were induced to sign the petitions, through false representations that were made to them. Here Mr. Henry went on to refer to the fact that when the delegates were in Canada, the volunteers, on several occasions, took part in the celebration. He thought that some parties in this country had attempted to mix the question of Union with party considerations ever since the celebrated speech at Truro. It was party influences that originated the petitions that were got up on this question. What he desired, was that the people should have every opportunity of discussing the question in all its bearings.
The matter then dropped, and the House adjourned over Good Friday until Saturday, at 11 o’clock.