Prince Edward Island, House of Assembly, Debates and Proceedings: Confederation Question (7 May 1866)
By: Prince Edward Island (House of Assembly)
Citation: Prince Edward Island, House of Assembly, The Parliamentary Reporter; or, Debates and Proceedings of the House of Assembly of Prince Edward Island, For the Year 1866, 22nd Parl, 4th Sess, 1865 at 54, 100-110, 127.
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THE PARLIAMENTARY REPORTER,
MONDAY, May 7, 1866.
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A debate then ensued, and was kept up till a very late hour, on the subject of the Resolutions submitted by the Hon. Leader of the Government; in amendment to which, the Hon. Mr. Whelan submitted the following, viz:—
Resolved, as the opinion of this House, that the Confederation of Her Majesty’s American Colonial Possessions would be—while in conformity with Her Majesty’s frequently expressed desire—conducive to their welfare, individually and generally. And this House believes that a plan of Confederation might be so framed as not to involve the sacrifice of any material interesto n [sic] the part of any Province; but inasmuch as the people of Prince Edward Island do not appear to be prepared to regard with any favor the project of Confederation, it is unwise to press it upon public attention, as its discussion is only calculated to produce excitement and apprehension, without reasonable cause.
And further Resolved, as the opinion of this House, that there should be no vote passed by the Legislature of this Colony in favor of a Confederation of the Provinces until the people shall first be afforded an opportunity of pronouncing their judgment on the question at a general Election.
Progress was reported.
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House in Committee on various Despatches and Papers.
—Mr. John Yeo in the Chair.
Hon. the Leader of the Government (J.C Pope). With respect to the important questions of Confederation I do not at present intend to say much more than that I hold in my hand certain Resolutions in which are embodied my views concerning that question, and which are most decidedly adverse to the scheme of Union as propounded and agreed to at the Quebec Conference. To hon. members holding the same opinion as myself concerning that scheme, these Resolutions will I apprehend be accepted as a sufficiently full and satisfactory declaration of our sentiments concerning it. To some, however, whose repugnance to the proposed union may be little less than my own, they may probably be considered too strong; and perhaps, by others, not strong enough. I shall, however, submit them to this Committee in their present form and it will be for them to modify, abridge, enlarge, or accept them in their present form just as the majority in their wisdom may determine.
The great reason why we protest against anything in the shape of Union is our dream of being swamped by the Canadas. When the scheme was before this House in the session of 186, it was condemned by a majority on each side. As respects the Executive, one or two members of it are, I regret to say, favourable to it, but the majority are strenuously opposed to it. That, however, as respects the discussion of the question, is but of little consequence, for opposition to the scheme is not now to be offered as any part of the policy of the Cabinet, and all parties are quite free to discuss the question wholly upon its own merits, and quite untrammeled by political ties or connexions. Two members of the Cabinet were Delegates to the Quebec Convention and in the Conference held by that Convention, none expressed themselves more strongly in favor of the Scheme of Union projected by it than they did and, for their consistent adherence to the convictions concerning it which they then avowed surely even such amongst us who are the most opposed to the Union, can have no right whatever to censure or condemn them; and neither do I believe any one of us arrogates to himself or assumes such a right.
These gentlemen have, ever since the question arose, noted with respect to it, most honestly and consistently, and in perfect good faith. I speak more particularly of the Hon. the Solicitor General (Mr. Haviland) whose conduct with […]
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[…] reference to the projected Union, has, throughout, been so open, candid, and honorable, that honestly to impugn it, in any particular. I hold to be morally impossible on the part even of the most bitter opponent of the project. I have said that some hon. members, although in the main approving of the Resolutions, may think them too strong; it, therefore appears to me to be only right that, before we enter upon a discussion of them. I should explain the reason why they are so strongly worded. It is this: Great fears are entertained by the public mind that the Government, in pursuance of the same course which it seems, is about to be adopted by Canada and Nova Scotia, and, perhaps, by New Brunswick, may be induced to send delegates to London for the purpose of conferring with the Imperial Government on the Conference Scheme; and that, although such delegates, if sent by our Government, might be instructed to oppose our being included in the Scheme, and they themselves should be sincere in their intention to do so, yet, when associated in conference on the question with the British Cabinet, who are desirous that the Confederation should be accomplished, and with delegates from the other Provinces, whose mission will be to endeavour to induce the Imperial Government to frame, and carry through the British Parliament, a Bill to decree and establish the Confederation, they might be induced to change their views and assent to the scheme, as, perhaps, materially modified in compliance with the suggestions of the Imperial Government; and so eventually Prince Edward Island, even against the will of our people, might be made a member of the Confederate States, or Provinces of British America.
It is to prevent this that, warned by experience, the Resolutions are so strongly worded. What has taken place once may, under similar influences, take place again. The hon. gentleman then stated by what pressure the Legislature of Prince Edward Island had, in the Session of 1866, been induced to appoint His Excellency the Lieutenant Governor to appoint delegates to confer with delegates from Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, touching the expediency of a Union of the three Provinces of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Prince Edward Island, under one Government and Legislature, the Report of the said Delegates to be laid before our own Legislature. He then went on to state that its having been arranged that the Delegates so to be appointed by the Governments of these three Provinces should hold their Conference in Charlottetown, Canada—at that time engaged in considering the necessity of a change in its constitution—solicited permission to be present by Delegation at the Conference, and their request having been courteously complied with, the issue of the Conference—of which, however, no report has yet been given to the public—was, through the influence which the Canadian Delegation brought to bear upon the Conference, a resolution to hold a further Conference at Quebec, with the content of the Governments of the Lower Provinces, for considering the feasibility of a Union upon a larger basis than that originally contemplated by the Maritime Provinces.
That Conference was held accordingly; our Delegates, if not wholly yet in part, were induced to give their assent to the scheme of Confederation; and it is not only, with the intention of convincing the Imperial Government that the people of Prince Edward Island are most decidedly opposed to a Union with Canada upon any terms, but also to prevent the possibility of the Governments sending delegates to the London Conference without acting in the matter in direct opposition to the will of the people as declared through their parliamentary representatives, that the wording of the Resolutions are so strong and conclusive. I shall, said the hon. gentleman, say no more upon the matter at present, although, perhaps, when it has progressed a little, I may have some observations to make touching the merits and nature, as I apprehend them, of the Quebec Scheme of Confederation itself. I will now submit the Resolutions to the Committee—to be as I have before said, modified, softened, or strengthened according to the will and pleasure of the majority; and, to that end, I beg leave to suggest, Mr. Chairman, that, in the first place, it will be proper for you to read the whole of them at once to the Committee.
The Chairman then read the Resolutions as here below given:—
“This House having had under consideration the message of His Excellency the Lieut. Governor communicating a Despatch from the Right Hon. Edward Cardwell, Her Majesty’s Principal Secretary of State for the Colonial Department, upon the subject of a Federation of the British North American Provinces, and having most carefully and earnestly considered the project in all its bearings—
“RESOLVED, As the deliberate opinion of this House, that any Union of the British North America Colonies which would embrace Prince Edward Island, upon the terms and principles set forth in the Resolutions of the Conference of Quebec, held on the 10th October, 1864, would not only be unjust to the inhabitants of this Colony, but prove disastrous to their dearest and most cherished rights and interests as a free people, enjoying the blessings of a priceless constitution guaranteed to them by the Imperial Government of Great Britain.
“That, considering the isolated, peculiar and exceptional position of Prince Edward Island, as contrasted with the other British North American Provinces and Colonies, this House deems it to be its duty, as the Constitutional Representative of the people of Prince Edward Island, to re-affirm the decision so clearly and unequivocally declared by this House in the Resolutions passed by it, in its last Session, upon the subject of a Union of the British North American Colonies, and afterwards communicated by the joint Address of the Legislative Council and House of Assembly of this Colony to Her Majesty’s Imperial Government.
“RESOLVED FURTHER, That even if a Union of the Continental Provinces of British North America should have the effect of strengthening and binding more closely together those Provinces, or advancing their material and commercial interests, this House cannot admit that a Federal Union of the North American Provinces and Colonies, which would include Prince Edward Island, could ever be accomplished upon terms that would prove advantageous to the interests and well-being of the people of this Island. cut off and separated as it is, and must ever remain, from the neighboring Provinces, by an immovable barrier of ice for many months in the year; and this House deems it to be its sacred and imperative duty to declare and record its conviction, as it now does, that any Federal Union of’ the North American Colonies, that would embrace this Island, would be as hostile to the feelings and wishes, as it would be opposed to the best and most vital interests, of its people.
“RESOLVED FURTHER, That while this House cannot assent to a Federal Union of this Island with the other Colonies, they recognize it to bathe duty of this Colony to contribute, from its local revenues, towards its defence, in fair and just proportion to its means.”
Hon. Mr. Kelly. I approve of every word of these Resolutions; and I believe, the majority of the Committee will heartily agree to them. My determination is to adhere to every word of them; although, if they could be made stronger, I would wish that they were.
Mr. Sinclair. He was pleased to see Resolutions of this nature tabled by the Hon. Leader of the Government He believed that fears were entertained throughout the country as to the action of the Government on this question. The Governments of the other Provinces have acted so unconstitutionally, and seem so determined to force Confederation […]
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[…] upon the people, that it is no wonder the people of this Colony wait with anxiety the action of this Legislature. He was glad however, to find, by the Resolutions submitted, that no fears need be entertained that they will commit us in any way to the principle of Confederation. Indeed, if he had any objection to the Resolutions, it would be that the language in the last Resolution was rather too strong. It might imply that we were so obstinate that no terms could be given us which would induce this Colony to comply with the desire of the British Government. He believed terms could be given, but be firmly believed no terms would be given which would compensate us for the sacrifice we would make in going into Confederation.
We have this to consider in tabling our Resolutions to see that they are not such as to prevent some hon. members from supporting them, although much hon. members may be opposed to Confederation; the Resolutions against Confederation last Session were carried by a majority of twenty, and if our Resolutions this Session are carried by a much smaller majority, it might injure the cause by allowing the pro-Confederation to misrepresent the feelings both of the House and of the country, by arguing that it indicated a change of sentiment in favor of Confederation. He hoped this House would be united in supporting a Resolution which, whilst drawn up in courteous language, will yet firmly express our refusal to acknowledge the principle of Confederation.
Mr. Duncan. I protest against a Union of Prince Edward Island with the Canadas upon any terms. We could not possibly gain anything by it, but it would certainly be prejudical to us in every particular. We could not be benefited even by free and unrestricted commercial intercourse with them, Everything which could be exported from this Island, Canada produces; and therefore no trade of any importance can spring up between that Province and this Colony. If we were to send up oats to Canada, they would have to send them down again to Halifax for a market. As for fish, they can export enough to supply all North America. Our oysters are, perhaps, all that we could supply them with; and I would say if they want them, let them pay for them. Their railroads and canals would not benefit us. As for our sending delegates to London, with a view to the procuring of better terms, the idea was absurd in the extreme. What concessions for our benefit could our two delegates—were we to send them—obtain against the opposition and eloquence of the delegates of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and the Canadas—two for each of this Provinces, eight in all opposed to our two?
Besides Canada has declared that she will not admit of any alteration in the Quebec Scheme, and even threatened that if the Imperial Government should insist upon making any she would withdraw her allegiance to the British Crown, and declare herself independent. Nothing could be more unjust to Prince Edward Island than representation on the basis of population, as laid down by that scheme, according to which the Canadas would have 100 representatives in the House of Commons, more than the aggregate of all the Colonies, the number assigned to us being only 5. Representation on this basis might do very well for Canada; but as respects Prince Edward Island, it would be nothing but mere mockery. Again, by that scheme, in exchange for our revenue, now £67.000, we should receive only some £48,000 per annum. Even had Canada, in view of such a commutation on our part, agreed to give us £200,000 sterling to enable us to buy up the proprietary claims, we should still, in this point of view, be material sufferers.
In fact the whole scheme has been devised for the benefit of Canada, and were we to go into it, we would, as I have said before, be losers in every particular. We would have to yield up our position of independence—the power to make our own laws and to direct the application of our moneys—our local legislature would be little better than a town council; and should our local revenue become inadequate, we would have to submit to the burthen of direct taxation; and, in fact all our interests would be sacrificed for the benefit of Canada. The Resolutions are by not means too strong. If it were possible I would wish to have them made still stronger.
Hon. Mr. Warburton. If the determination of the great majority of the House was—as he believed it was—to declare against a Union of Prince Edward Island with Canada, upon any terms, that determination could not be expressed in language too strong. It was necessary to give the Home Government to understand that our resolution on that head was conclusive. Our representation by 5 members in the House of Commons would be of no service to us. The allowance to us of 80 cents per head of our population, as determined by the Census of 1861, in exchange for our revenue, and in full settlement of all future demands upon the General Government, would be a palpable injustice—£48,000 for a revenue already nearly double that amount!
Besides, according to the system of taxation which obtained in Canada, our taxation would be doubled. To give us any chance of justice at all, the Union, should we be forced to accept, it should be a Legislative Union. In a Federal Union we should have no power at all: our Local Legislature would avail us nothing; and, in that case, it would be as well that our Legislative Halls should be blown up in the air. If we were to be compelled to enter into a Union at all, he would prefer a Legislative one; but he believed scarcely one man in the Island, certainly not many, would consent to a Union of any kind. If we looked to history, we should find a warning against the Quebec scheme in the unequal and ill-assented Union of Ireland with England.
Hon. Mr. Longworth. Last Session, I supported the Resolutions submitted by the Hon. the Leader of the Government (Hon. J.C. Pope); and I did so because I believed that a Union of Prince Edward Island with Canada and the other British American Provinces upon the terms laid down in the Quebec Scheme, would be disastrous to her best interests. I conceive our position to be an exceptional one, and that, from its peculiarity, although we should be taxed equally with the peoples of the other Provinces for Railways, Canals and other Public Works in Canada, it was not in the nature of things that we could derive any direct benefit from them. During five months of the year, cut off as we are by an icy barrier from the continent, I considered that we could hold no commercial intercourse whatever with the other Federated Provinces; and that, therefore our Union with them, except upon terms very different from those contained in the Report of the Quebec Convention, would have been one of extreme hardship and injustice.
Another objection which I had to the Union was that according to the Scheme laid down in the Report, representation in the House of Commons is to be based upon population. Representation on that basis is as objectionable, as it respects New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, as it is with respect to Prince Edward Island. Upper Canada is a growing country and her population will rapidly increase; and as that increases, so, according to the Quebec scheme of representation, her representation in the Federal House of Commons would increase, whilst that of Prince Edward Island would decrease. And, in fact, if the increase in the population of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick does not, in the future, grow more rapidly than it has in the past, they will also, if the plan be strictly carried out, be losers, instead of gainers, as respects legislative representation. Thus, as respects representation on the basis of population, the scheme appeared to me to be unjust to us, and I was therefore prepared to go against it; and the result of our deliberations upon it in this House was its rejection […]
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[…] by a large majority. I, for one, am not changed. I entertain the same objections to the Scheme which I entertained then, and I am therefore glad to presume that the Resolutions just submitted by the Hon. the Leader of the Government harmonize with the views on that question of a majority on both sides. In respect to Prince Edward Island, the allowance of 80 cents per head of our population in exchange for our revenue, is quite insufficient.
What! only £48,000 a year for the relinquishment of our revenue of £70,000 a year, and that too to be in full settlement of all future demands upon the General Government. A most princely offer indeed! Why in the course of a few years, it will in all probability amount to £150,000 a year, and all that, together with our independent constitution, we would, according to the Quebec Scheme of Union, if we accede to it, have to surrender for an annual allowance of £48,000 for our local expenses, all of which, with the exception of the salaries of the Lieutenant Governor and the Judges we should have to defray ourselves out of that magnificent allowance; and, should it not be found sufficient, we would have to make up the deficiency by direct taxation. This is quite sufficient to convince us, I think, that if we were to enter into Confederation on the basis of the Quebec Report, justice could never be done to us.
This is the decided opinion of the people as a body, generally speaking, and through a majority of their parliamentary representatives they have already declared, and will now again declare, that the Quebec Scheme of Confederation will never be acceded to by them. That they are most decidedly opposed to a Union with Canada upon any terms, we know with certainty, and their decided objection to it, or rather rejection of it, is affirmed by a majority of their representatives in this House, last Session. It is now our duty to re-affirm. We must all admit that Nova Scotia and New Brunswick must be the best judges of their own affairs, and have a constitutional right to decide concerning them for themselves. But, when we see it asserted in their papers that if a Union, on the basis of the Quebec Scheme, take place at all, it must include Prince Edward Island; and, further, whilst admitting that possibly, if we exerted ourselves to procure them, better terms might be conceded to us, maintaining but we shall not be allowed to stand aloof; it behoves us most distinctly and peremptorily to declare that we were to admit that such terms could be conceded us as would make our union with the other Provinces beneficial to us, that would go a long way towards warranting an assumption on the part of the other Provinces, and even on that of the House Government, that, by a little skillful management on their part, and the promise of one or two flattering concessions, we might be induced to give a favorable ear to the Scheme; and, as respects proceedings on our part, the next step might be the appointment of delegates to the London Conference.
And, that step once taken, our delegates would decide; we could neither insist upon better terms, nor could we fall back upon our original resolution to reject the scheme. We would be completely trapped, and our heads drawn into the noose. Our best course. therefore, will be not to admit the possibility of such terms being accorded to us as would be acceptable and conducive to our interests. The first Resolution repudiates the idea that we can be embraced in any Union of the Provinces, upon the terms of the Quebec Scheme, in any way which would be beneficial or advantageous to us. The second is stronger; and one hon. member (Mr. Sinclair,) has said that it is too strong. But it only says that this House can not admit that a Federal Union of the North American Provinces and Colonies, which would include Prince Edward Island, could never be accomplished on terms that would prove advantageous to the interests and well-being of her people; and assigns a reason for that affirmation; but it does not say that, if Great Britain and the other Provinces would agree to it, a Legislative Union, which would allow us to retain our Revenue might not be made acceptable to us. It has been said that if Prince Edward Island remain out of the Union, she will either be left in a most undesirable isolated position, or be annexed to the United States.
As to the perils of isolation, the people, I feel certain, will be very willing to encounter them provided they are left in the enjoyment of all their present rights and privileges, And as to annexation to the United States, I believe that will never take place against their will; and, moreover, I believe that such annexation will never be sought by them, so long as Great Britain shall be willing to regard them as her children, and to watch over and protect them, with that truly parental care and solicitude for their well-being, which she has hitherto manifested towards them. The people of this Island will never consent to be annexed to a foreign power, unless great Britain shall herself cast them adrift. That, however, I believe she will never do; and our present happy connexion with her will, I trust, endure for so, ages to come. As long as Britain is willing that it shall be we will remain true in our allegiance to the British Crown. But the duties of Great Britain to us, and to her other subjects in these Provinces are great. It is her duty to protect us, by her fleets and armies, against any foreign foe. But, whilst we assert this, we freely admit that it is also equally our duty, in each of the Provinces, to contribute freely from our local revenues towards our defence; and cheerfully will we of Prince Edward Island fulfill that duty in fair and just proportion to our means.
I shall steadily resist anything like an acknowledgment of the principle of a Federal Union of these Provinces as asserted in the Quebec Report; for I believe that were we once to admit that principle, we would, inevitably, be driven into it. Our acknowledgement of the principle would be tantamount to our signing and sealing of the bond; and we, our children, and our children’s children would be bound by, it for all time to come. I know hon. gentlemen in this house will say that it is our duty to acquiesce in the Quebec Scheme of Confederation, because that scheme is not only approved of by Her Majesty the Queen and her Government, but also because it is their earning desire that it should forthwith be carried into effect. Now, with great deference to the opinion of those hon. gentlemen, I beg leave to say that, although in sentiments of loyalty and attachment to the British Crown, I in no way yield to them; yet, representing, in this House, a large independent and intelligent constituency, whose opinions concerning the projected Union of these Provinces fully coincide with my own, to these opinions it is my bounden duty firmly to adhere.
Now is the time for us to be cautious. These are my sentiments, and, in pursuance of them, I am ready to support the Resolutions now before us; but if they can be amended without an acknowledgment of the principle of Union, in such an amendment of them, I shall, most likely, be found quite willing to acquiesce. I will not trespass upon the attention of the House any longer, at present, further than by again saying that I am prepared not only to vote for the first Resolution, which says that it is “the deliberate opinion of this House, that any Union of the British North American Colonies which would embrace Prince Edward Island, upon the terms and principles set forth in the Resolutions of the Conference […]
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[…] of Quebec, would not only be unjust to the inhabitants of this Colony, but prove disastrous to their dearest and most cherished rights and interests as a free people, enjoying the blessings of a priceless Constitution, guaranteed to them by the Imperial Government of Great Britain”; and, as respects the second Resolution, which declares that “we cannot admit that a Federal Union of the North American Provinces and Colonies, which would include Prince Edward Island could ever be accomplished upon terms that would prove advantageous to the interests and well-being of the people of this Island,”—I am also prepared to vote for it in its full integrity; although, should it be found possible so to modify it—without any acknowledgement of the principles of Confederation set forth in the Report of the Quebec Conference—as to render it more acceptable to such hon. members as may think it rather too strong in its present form,—to such a modification of it I shall certainly offer no opposition.
Mr. Brecken. Having, at length, in the House, last Session, and subsequently, at public meetings, expressed his views concerning the projected Confederation of the British North American Provinces, he did not think it necessary that he should then enter into any thing like a full recapitulation of them. The Resolutions submitted to the Committee were certainly very strong: the last, in his opinion was too strong. However, it was to be remembered that in debating the question of Confederation, they were not debating a party question, nor one of only passing interest; but one, their determination of which might affect, advantageously or otherwise, the destinies of Prince Edward Island for generations to come. John Bull had always claimed, as one of his greatest privileges, the right to grumble, and to stand out, to the last moment, for whatever he thought himself fairly entitled to; and that privilege the people of this Colony had never been backward to claim and assert.
The Quebec Confederation Scheme was, it was well known, favourably viewed by the Imperial Government, and equally so, it was said, by Her Majesty the Queen; yet admitting all that—and he was not disposed to dispute it; for he could see no impropriety in its being so regarded at Home—he did not think, as some did, that we could fairly be subjected to the imputation of disloyalty because, so far as that Scheme was meant to apply to Prince Edward Island, we were adverse to it, and should express our aversion to it in the strongest language. He certainly did not, for one moment, imagine that the Imperial Government would ever consent to sanction any Scheme of Confederation, by which it was obvious to them that the interests of even the smallest and most feeble of the Colonies would be sacrificed for the promotion of those of the largest and most powerful.
The Imperial Government were, doubtless, bent upon carrying out the Confederation Scheme; but, in their determination to give it effect, they contemplated nothing but the general good of all the Provinces which it was intended to embrace. They could conceive nothing but the retardation of the individual interests and progress of these Provinces, and general feebleness, as the natural consequences of our governments, independent of each other, our diverse laws, our different currencies and hostile tariffs. This justly appeared to them a most anomalous state of things. A group of Provinces, lying closely together, and all paying allegiance to the same Sovereign, could not, or at least ought not, it seemed to them, to have separate and conflicting interests; and, therefore, it was, seeing that all of them were rapidly approaching to a state, the further expansion of which would require that, as respected all the relations of trade, commerce, laws, and government, they should, as it were, intertwine with and lean upon each other—that the Imperial Government thought the very best thing which could be divised for them, was such a Union as would consolidate their growing strength, and give to all an interest in, and a share of the individual or peculiar resources and privileges of each. And, to that end, it had doubtless appeared to them that no Scheme could be more happily framed than that of the Quebec Conference.
In that opinion, however, at least so far as it respected Prince Edward Island, they were certainly in error; and what had especially led to their mistake, with respect to us, was their ignorance—for it could not be forgetfulness—of our peculiar position, resources, and trade. They did not comprehend our exceptional position. That they should be ignorant on that head did not surprise him, for, at the Detroit Trade Convention, he found several of the Delegates to that Convention, although comparatively speaking our near neighbours almost as ignorant respecting our resources and trade, as must of necessity be the peoples of China and Japan. The Imperial Government thought that, if we went into the Confederation, our material interests would all receive an immediate and most sensible progressive impulse; and that, in fact, our prosperity would increase in every direction. As respected our representation in the Confederate House of Commons, small as the number was at which it was set down in the Report, on the basis of population, and decennial readjustments on that basis, at the expiration of the first ten years of the Union, our representation would be still further diminished. The allowance of £51,850, to be made to this Island, in consideration of the transfer of our revenue and of’ the powers of taxation to the General Parliament, was manifestly a very inadequate compensation for our relinquishment of our Revenue, now amounting to £70,000, and which, in a few years would, in all probability, amount to £100,000 per annum. That allowance would not suffice to defray our annual local expenditure; and, whenever it should be found necessary for us to undertake any large public work for our own local benefit, we would have to provide for the expense by extra direct local taxation.
As respected the direct benefits which, it was said by the advocates of Confederation, we would derive from the Canals and Railroads of the other Provinces, and towards the past and future cost of which we were to contribute, considering that we should be shut out from the use and advantage of them for five months of the year, it would be about just as reasonable to say that on account of the benefits which we might derive from the construction of public works in Kamtschatka [sic], we should contribute towards the expense incurred by it.—His greatest objection to the Confederation Scheme was based on his dread of the enormous taxation to which we would, in all probability, be subjected under it. The construction of fortifications, the creation of a Confederate army and navy to afford protection against the annexation proclivities of Brother Jonathan, the deepening and widening of the Canals of Upper Canada, and the construction of other public works, which would be required as the country became more and more opened up and improved, would necessitate such an outlay of public money as could not be raised independently of extraordinary taxation; and to prevent either that, or to check any extravagance on the part of the General Government, the small share which we should have in parliamentary representation, would render us powerless.
The hon. and learned member said he did not go quite so far as some anti-confederates; for he believed that, if the other Provinces went into the Union we should not be able to keep out. We were told that the British Government would not deprive us of a Constitution which they themselves had guaranteed to us. But we […]
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[…] ought to remember our great indebtedness to the Mother Country, and to take care that our refractoriness should not be the cause of some estrangement of feeling towards us on her part, and incline her to resent what she may deem our undutifulness towards her at the present juncture. Some again said that, if we refused to go into the Union, no course would be open to us but that of annexation to the United States; but annexation to the United States would not be our fate, even if we desired it. The Imperial Government, ignorant as they might be concerning our trade and resources, knew too well the importance of the geographical position of Prince Edward Island the key to the St. Lawrence—to allow us to annex ourselves to the United States. Some said it would be better for us, at first to go into Union as grumblers, than to be obliged to go in afterwards as beggars; there was nothing disreputable, they said, in grumbling—it was a British privilege; but begging was position degradation. That might all be very fine; but, he maintained, there would be nothing mean in going in by begging, even at the eleventh hour, if, by remaining our until then, we could obtain better terms than were offered to us by the Quebec Scheme. He said, with the hon. member for the Third District of Prince County, (Mr. Sinclair,) that to give us better terms was not impossible; but he believed that Canada would never, of herself, consent to give us better terms His (Mr. Brecken’s) opinion then was that our best policy would be to keep out until Canada, in her eagerness to include us in the Union, should offer to treat with us on fairer terms; and then, should we find that we were suffering by keeping out, self-interest might induce us to accept the best terms we could get. The second Resolution, he said again, was too strong.
To say that no terms of Union that would prove advantageous to our interests and well-being as a people, could be offered, was certainly saying too much and going too far; but, when he took into consideration the object to be attained by so wording the Resolution, which was the rendering it impossible for the Government to consent to the appointment of delegates to the projected London Convention—a course which, if adopted, would in all probability result in a repetition of the Quebec agreement—he was quite prepared to vote for it, too strong as, in its prima facie sense, he thought it. If Delegates were appointed, by our Government, to to attend the London Convention, even for the purpose of opposing the Quebec Scheme, and endeavouring to procure a modification of it for our benefit, he feared they might, as at Quebec, be won over to the opinions of the Canadian and Nova Scotia Delegates in favor of it. Still he would like that Resolution to be remodelled, if that could be done without an acknowledgment of the principle of a Union on the Quebec basis; for, as it stood, a position was assumed in it, from which possibly we might hereafter have to recede. It was the duty of the House, however, to speak out clearly, plainly and without ambiguity.
Hon. Mr. McEachen. He was happy to be able to endorse the Resolutions exactly they had been submitted by the Hon. the Leader of the Government. They were strong; but not too strong. he agreed with the hon members (Mr. Sinclair and Mr. Brecken) that were we to admit the principle as set forth in the Quebec Report, that was the possibility of its being made just to Prince Edward Island, we would have been drawn to it. If we allowed the small end of the wedge to be insinuated, it would soon be driven through. He was glad to hear the hon. and learned member for Charlottetown (Mr. Brecken) allude to the right claimed by John Bull to grumble and to be stubborn when called upon to resign any thing which he believed himself entitled to hold; and to hear the hon. member then base thereon an argument for the people of this Island being like John Bull, stubborn in the retention of their free constitution.
Such stubborness was certainly becoming in a free people; but although he would not deny that the sons of John Bull had an hereditary right to assert that privilege, yet yet would say it became them not—the descendants of the men who were conquered by the Normans and lost their liberty at the battle of Hastings—as well as it did the descendants of those men whose ancestors—the Caledonians of old—beat back from their mountain fastnesses of liberty the conquering eagles of Imperial Rome. He (Hon. Mr. McEachen) was a descendant of those unconquered heroes of the North; and he would never consent that, in asserting our right to preserve our free constitution, with all its rights, privileges, and immunities, we should adopt the cowardly, cringing tone in which it suited venality and corruption to plead for the attainment of the objects of their selfish designs. There was no reason to fear that we should be driven into the projected Confederation. The people of Prince Edward Island had a Constitution as well as Canada; and, if they did their duty, they would never lose it. Mr. Cardwell would, no doubt, be glad if he found us willing to agree to go into the Union on the terms of the Quebec Scheme; but, if he found we were not willing, he would not dare to force us into it.
If once, like the Hungarians and the Poles, we should be deprived of our Constitution, we would never be able to regain it. He would, therefore, support the Resolutions, both in the spirit and the letter. They were certainly strong; but they were not too strong for him. We know, said the hon. gentleman in conclusion, what we enjoy under our present free Constitution; but we know not what we should have to endure, were we, by a Union with Canada, on the terms of the Quebec Scheme of Confederation, to be deprived of it.
Hon. Mr. Hensley. As to the first Resolution, which went to reaffirm the decision of the House, in its last session, upon the question of a Union of the British North American Colonies, to the effect “that any Union of those Colonies which should embrace Prince Edward Island, upon the terms and principles set forth in the Resolutions of the Quebec Conference, would not only be unjust to the inhabitants of this Colony, but prove disastrous to their dearest and most cherished rights and interests as a free people, enjoying most blessings of a priceless Constitution guaranteed to them by the Imperial Government of Great Britain,”—having heartily concurred in that Resolution when it was first affirmed, it was not necessary, perhaps, for him to say more than that he still firmly adhered to the opinion then expressed by him of its propriety.
And neither did it appear to him to be necessary that he should, in his opposition to the Quebec Scheme, restate the arguments which, whilst speaking upon the first Resolution, had been so ably brought to bear against that Scheme by the hon and learned member for Charlottetown (Mr. Brecken) with every word of which he agreed. He would, therefore, proceed to give his views touching the propriety of the second Resolution, which declared that the House could not admit that a Federal Union of the North American Provinces and Colonies, which would include Prince Edward Island, could ever be accomplished upon terms that would prove advantageous to the interests and well-being of the people of the Island. He looked upon the declaration in that Resolution in much the same light in which it had been viewed by the hon. member for the Third District of Prince County (Mr. Sinclair) and the hon. and learned member for the Second […]
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[…] District of Queen’s County) Hon. Mr. Longworth). He was not exactly of opinion that it was quite impossible—as was affirmed by that Resolution—that any terms of Federal Union could be offered to the people of Prince Edward Island which would prove advantageous to their interests and well-being; but he believed that no such terms would be agreed to by the other Provinces; and he thought that, lest it should, in any way, be made to appear that we acknowledge the principle of the Quebec Scheme of Union, and should, in consequence of such assumed acknowledgment, be dragged into it, it was necessary to express ourselves in the strong, unequivocal, and decisive language used in the framing of that Resolution.
It had been said to the anti-Confederates, “If you object to the terms of the Quebec Scheme of Union, why do you not lay down such as you think it would be advantageous for the Island to accept.” He would reply, that we have no desire whatever to become a party in the projected Union of the Provinces; and it would be the height of absurdity in us to lay down terms for a compact which we are not only unwilling to enter into; but from which we are determined to stand aloof so long as we shall have the power to do so. These were the reasons why he was in favor of the second and third resolutions. Were we ones to admit the principle of the projected Federation, it would be impossible for us to keep out of it. He would go back to the inception of the scheme about three years ago.
When in the Session of 1863, the question was first brought before the Assembly, whether it would be better for Prince Edward Island to enter into the proposed Confederation of the Lower Provinces, or to remain as she was in her separate and independent position, there was not found one hon. member of the House to advocate her entering into such Confederation; on the contrary the whole House were of opinion that if Prince Edward Island entered into the Confederation, she would inevitably be swamped by the weight of the debts of the other Provinces—that she would forfeit the right of self-government, and would, besides, be crushed by the weight of excessive taxation. The hon. and learned gentleman then went pretty fully into the history of the Question of Confederation, from its inception up to the present time, for the purpose of shewing that neither had the Scheme ever been favourably entertained by the Legislature, nor bad Legislative Authority ever been given to our Island Delegates to enter into any consideration of it, either in Charlottetown, at Halifax, or at Quebec, with a view to our becoming a party to it.
Upon what grounds, then, he asked, would our Confederates say that the Report of the Quebec Conference was binding upon us, when even the appointment of Island Delegates by the Government had been made independently of Legislative sanction. We were, indeed, only a small Colony, but we were possessed of a free representative constitution; and we had quite as much right to retain it as had the English to retain theirs. He had, however, yet to learn that Great Britain would, so long as we continued true to ourselves and firm in our allegiance to the British Crown, ever seek to deprive us of it. Nova Scotia and New Brunswick might derive great advantages from their Union with Canada; but not so Prince Edward Island, separated as she is from those Provinces, by an immoveable barrier of ice for five months in the year. Mr. Brown in Canada, in his advocacy of the Confederation Scheme, had said they wanted an outlet to the sea; and that, independently of Confederation, they could not obtain without going through another country. That was true enough. But what had Prince Edward Island to do with it?
Canada’s obtaining that outlet, by means of Confederation, would confer no benefit upon us. It was all very fine to say we would, under Confederation, belong to a great country, and would consequently grow in wealth and importance; instead of being as we were, a little isolated insignificant Colony. We already, said the hon. and learned member, belong to a great country—the greatest in the world—and we have no desire to belong to any other. Great Britain will never cast us off so long as it shall be our wish to remain under the protection of her flag; and we are willing, as the third Resolution expresses it, to contribute, from our local revenues, towards our own defence, in fair and just proportion to our means. I do not see that our present isolated and independant [sic] position, even although the other Provinces should confederate, would, in any way, prove disadvantageous to us, unless Nova Scotia and New Brunswick should enact hostile tariffs against us; but that, I believe, Great Britain would not allow them to do.
Hon. Mr. Whelan then rose and moved that all after the word “Resolved” be struck out of the Resolutions submitted by the Hon. the Leader of the Government, and that the following be substituted:—
“As the opinion of this House, that the Confederation of Her Majesty’s American Colonial Possessions would be,—while in conformity with Her Majesty’s frequently expressed desire—conducive to their welfare, separately and collectively. And this House believes that a plan of Confederation might be so framed as not to involve the sacrifice of any material interests on the part of any Province; but inasmuch as the people of Prince Edward Island do not appear to be prepared to regard with any favor the project of Confederation, it is unwise to press it upon public attention, as its discussion is only calculated to produce excitement and apprehension, without reasonable cause.
“AND FURTHER RESOLVED, as the opinion of this House, than there should be no vote passed by the Legislature of this country in favor of a Confederation of the Provinces until the people shall first be afforded an opportunity of pronouncing their judgment on the question at a general Election.”
The hon. gentleman then proceeded to say that he thought the question should not be pressed upon the people before they were educated up to it, and their judgment matured respecting it. As he had said to his own constituents, he did not think it was the duty of the province of the Assembly either to pronounce in favor of Confederation, or to reject it, until the decision of the people should be fairly given, either for or against it, at the polls. With all due deference to the House, he begged leave to say, however, that he did not believe any decision, either for or against Confederation, on the part of Prince Edward Island, would materially affect the action or determination of the other Provinces concerning it; and that, if they were favorable to it, Prince Edward Island would be placing herself in a very absurd and ridiculous position by refusing to accede to it. But whilst the question appeared to be settled in Nova Scotia and Newfoundland, and to be in a transition state in New Brunswick, he thought our wisest course would be to leave it as it now stood, for the calm and deliberate consideration of the people, until time and events should throw new light upon it, and, perhaps, bring new influences to bear upon their minds concerning it.
He could not, however, for one moment, suppose, that provided the other Provinces were confederated, Great Britain would allow Prince Edward Island to remain out of the Union, to be a source of weakness and annoyance to the Federation, which, if she stood alone and aloof from it, she, most undoubtedly, would be. He would then merely ask the Chairman to submit the Resolution which he had proposed as an amendment to the Resolutions submitted by the Hon. the Leader of the Government, although it had been his intention to speak to some other points of the question. That intention he would then, however, forego; as another opportunity might, perhaps, be afforded him of carrying it into effect, and of repelling, at the same time, the unjust, the unmanly, the cowardly insinuations of bribery, corruption, and treachery, which had, by certain parties in the community, been thrown out, not only against him, but against other gentlemen, members of the Assembly, who had, in common with himself, and in pursuance of their honest convictions concerning the question, been the open […]
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[…] and candid advocates of such a Confederation of the North American Provinces as would include Prince Edward Island. Will any of those who stigmatize us produce proof for their assertions? I challenge them before the country to show proof. “Bribed traitors” forsooth! Are Her Majesty’s Ministers “bribed traitors?” Surely it cannot be thought that the Colonial Minister and Her Majesty’s Government, who have given a decided opinion in favor of Confederation, are “bribed traitors!” And let me ask these calumniators this question: Are the Catholic Hierarchy of Nova Scotia the Archbishop of Halifax, and the Bishop of Arichat, who have pronounced in favor of Confederation—are they “traitors?” Are they influenced by improper and corrupt motives in bringing this question favorably before their fellow Colonists?
I bring this question before you and ask it in it is your firm conviction that I, and others in a much higher position than myself, should be designated as traitors. It is false and dishonest in the highest degree to bring such an accusation against us in the face of the country. I do not ask you, Sir. I will not ask you, to believe that I am perfectly sincere in this matter; but I will ask you to allow me to use my own opinion, and because I do advocate this measure in accordance with my honest convictions—because I think this House should not place itself in a position hostile to the British Government, or antagonistic to the course pursued by the other Colonies—am I to be singled out for contumely? I never, in the course of my parliamentary experience of 20 years, was made the subject of so much calumny—so many false accusations, as n reference to this question. I do not, as the Resolution which I have submitted shows, force my opinion on the country. I have not done so since I returned from the Quebec Conference.
I may say that at that Conference we did not get as much as I, as one of the delegates, think we should have got; but we got what I think should be accepted as a compromise, and I say now, in the presence of this House, and of the country, that All the Delegates did agree to the terms there proposed, notwithstanding their disagreement afterwards as to matters of detail. When I returned from Quebec I was assailed because I stated this palpable truth, and many times since, in such language as it is impossible for me to characterize. But I will allow that to pass. I do not seek to press the question upon the people. I do not wish that without the most mature reflection, they should accede to Confederation; but I do wish that, before they decide either for or against it, they may be fully enlightened concerning it; and I will ask this House not to pledge itself to any course concerning it until the people shall have pronounced concerning it at the polls. It is my right—a right which God has given me—to form my own opinion on all public questions, and I will endeavour to exercise that right. But surely I and they who hold the same opinions as myself on the subject of Confederation ought not, on account of those opinions, to be subjected to insult and persecution, most vile and most unjust, on the part of any who hold different opinions on that subject.
I ask you, Mr. Chairman, most respectfully—I ask this honorable Committee—whether this system of persecution shall continue to be practised? I appeal to the good sense and love of fair play which characterizes the members of this community, whether a man shall be allowed to have an opinion of his own or not? I do not object to this House expressing its disapproval of Confederation, without reference to the Quebec Scheme, because that is thrown aside; but in regard to the general plan of Confederation, any opinion is that these Colonies would assume great importance—they would obtain stability and security against foreign aggression, and they would also obtain more efficient protection from Britain, were they confederated, than she could extend to them should they remain in their present isolated condition. I do not wish to trespass upon the attention of the House, but I rose to submit the Resolution which is now before you, and it is of that mild character that I do not think hon. members should vote against it.
But, however, if they do, I shall be enabled to place my opinion upon record, which is, that I am favourable to Confederation, provided it be based upon a plan just to the several Provinces, without sacrificing the interests of any, and also providing that the people be perfectly prepared to accept it. Anything more fair, I do not think, could be presented to the House. If you pass the other Resolutions, which are very strong, it will not affect the question one way or the other. Let me tell you that the decision of a Colony of only 80,000 inhabitants will have but very little effect in deciding the fate of three and a half millions of people, however much some gentlemen may be under the impression that the other Provinces may be confederated and Prince Edward Island remain “out in the cold.” The Confederacy of the United States took place under very peculiar circumstances, and Rhode Island, an isolated Province, as small nearly as we are, although at first refusing to enter it, was yet, before long, very glad to seek admission into it.
So, if a Federation of the British North American Provinces take place, and Prince Edward Island be left out, will she, in like manner, sue to be admitted into it. Would any one tell me—and I put the question plainly—would the United States, if no Confederacy had taken place, have been so powerful a nation as they are to-day? We are not seeking a separation from Great Britain, but to combine our strength, by which we may be able to resist aggression, whether from Fenianism or from any other quarter. Last year, we were told that the advocacy of this question was premature, because there was not the slightest probability of an interruption of the friendly relations existing between Great Britain and the United States on account of the Fenian organization; but now we know that the Fenian organization, contemptible as it is, has been such as to render it necessary, on the part of Her Majesty’s Government, to take extraordinary precautions against its aggressions. In England a law has been passed suspending the Habeas Corpus Act in Ireland, because the Fenian organization was supposed to have taken effect there.
In the Colonies, extraordinary preparations have been made for resistence to any possible attacks on the part of that lawless association. The resources of the several Colonies have been pledged for their individual defence. We were told, last year, that there was no necessity to prepare for defence; but what do we see here this year? A unanimous vote placing all the resources of the Colony at the disposal of the Government for the purpose of putting the Island in a position of defence. What does that indicate? Is it not that our liberties are threatened? Does it not indicate a feeling of insecurity—a feeling that Prince Edward Island is not safe while those marauders threaten the invasion of the other Provinces? A gentleman in the other branch of the Legislature said, on a former occasion, that in the event of Confederation, if Canada was to be threatened by hostile invasion, the young men of Prince Edward Island would have to go and fight for that Province. I ask you was there ever such intolerable nonsense uttered by any man in his senses! Does any man suppose that the young men of this Island would have to be sent to the borders of Canada?
No, Sir; it was nonsense sought to be imposed upon the people. The fact is that, for twelve months past Canada has been exercising […]
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[…] its great influence—spending its enormous resources—to ward off the foe, and has been a protection, not only to Prince Edward Island, but to the whole of the Lower Provinces. There have been no raids into these Provinces; and, if they were to be invaded, Canada surely would be, and that Province once lost to the British Crown, these Maritime Colonies would fall an easy prey, either to Fenians, or to some other foe. But I think, Mr. Chairman, that, in view of the hostile spirit manifested by the Government of the United States towards these Colonies, in a variety of ways, it is right that we should take counsel and set in accordance with the views of the British Government. It is scarcely necessary to observe that the United States have no love for Great Britain—no desire to see these Colonies remain a part of the British dominions.
And they would rather that they should remain separated and isolated, than be consolidated in power by Confederations, so that, one by one, they might fall an easy prey whenever they should choose to set about their absorption. Isolated, they could be—united, they could not, be absorbed, United, Great Britain would employ her whole power to defend them; isolated she would not. All I wish to say is that the subject having been so well debated last year, I am not disposed to trespass upon your patience, Sir, and that of the House, at present; but I ask that forbearance which is due to any person holding an opinion of his own on a great public question. The Resolution I have submitted is not offensive to those holding views opposed to mine.
It is that I believe Confederation would be conducive to the best interests of these Colonies; but I will not press it, but leave it to the people to decide; and I may express the hope and belief that, while hon. members have their own opinions, they will not use offensive expressions, or insinuate that any member is influenced by improper motives in advocating his own views of the great question now under our consideration. I am influenced by no such motives; and, if I be assailed on any such grounds I will take the earliest opportunity to retaliate. I do not bring any charge against those whose views upon the subject are adverse to my own, nor offer any offence to their sensibilities. They have a perfect right to believe that Confederation will not be conducive to the interests of the Colony. I believe it will; but I beg that we may be permitted to agree to differ. I leave the subject for the present; perhaps before the debate closes I may take an opportunity of offering a few more observations concerning it.
Mr. Howat. I must say this is a very moderate Resolution, Mr. Chairman, but there are two or three points in it in which I cannot concur. The hon. member, (Hon. Mr. Whelan) proposes to admit the principle of Confederation; and the Resolution would teach us that, while the hon. member himself would not force us into a union with the other Colonies, yet some other power would do so. Now the hon. member has not clearly explained what power that is by which we are to be forced, but I admit that some grounds for the argument may be drawn from the despatch of the Colonial Minister, who says it is the strong desire of the British Government that we should go into Confederation. But whether he thinks that despatch is to force us into the Union, or whether it is some power in the Colonies, I do not understand. Whatever power it is I do not know how we could respect a Government of which we stand in dread. Up to the present time we have been proud to look to the British flag, not in dread, or as a coercive, but as a protective power; and I do not think, therefore, that we have anything to fear in that direction. When the Governors of the different Colonies were at Downing Street, we have reason to believe that they were instructed to use their influence to carry Confederation; but I am at a loss to know why any force should be brought to bear upon us.
Hon. Mr. Whelan. Will the hon. member allow me to put him right? I did not suggest, either in my remarks, or by the Resolution which I have submitted, that any force was to be used. Then why should the hon. member dwell so long upon that word?
Mr. Howat. Well, I may have mistaken the tenor of the hon. member’s remarks, but that was the impression they left upon my mind; and I cannot believe that the British Government, which has always protected the Colonies, would now force us into Confederation. The amendment proposed by the hon. member (Mr. Whelan) is certainly very moderately worded; but it admits the principle of Confederation, and, therefore, I will oppose it. I do not think the Resolutions of the hon. the Leader of the Government are too strong; but I have a small objection to them, which was, that while they do not admit the principle of Confederation as applicable to this Island, yet I was afraid that they were admitting it in regard to the other Colonies.
However, as some hon. members think it will not bear that construction, I am willing to waive that objection, though I consider that there is a pressure brought to bear upon the other Colonies, which, in my opinion, is hardly constitutional. And I would regret, to the latest day of my life were I in any way to assist in strengthening that pressure, which might result in carrying Confederation. I believe the day has come when we must make a stand for the preservation of our independence; for, when we see a pressure brought to bear upon the other Colonies, we may be sure that our turn is coming. If the other Colonies go into Confederation, no doubt a pressure will be brought to bear upon us also; and then does it not remain for us to make a united effort to resist any attempt to take away our constitution, our revenue, and, I might almost say, everything else belonging to us? I was opposed to Confederation last year, for I saw there was danger even in admitting the principle of it, and I am just as much, or more, opposed to it now.
Suppose, for argument sake, we should even go into Confederation with terms with which we would be satisfied, would we be safe then? I should say no. Does not the British Government recognize the right to change the constitution? Now, if this is the case, though I do not profess to have any great knowledge in constitutional matters, I believe that, even if we should go into it with the most favourable terms, the Federal Government would have power to change the constitution, and therefore we would not be secure.
Hon. Sol. General: I would like to know what authority has laid down a constitutional law of that kind?
Mr. Howat: Well, it appears to me that the constitution of the United States is undergoing a change; and if we go to former times we will see that even the British Constitution has undergone a change. Surely then, if those constitutions have been changed, it is reasonable to suppose that an agreement of this kind might be changed also. And considering that we would be such a small portion of the Confederacy, our voice would not be heard in it. We would be the next thing to nothing. Indeed I would almost as soon be without any voice in it at all. We would be as small a minority as the hon. member on my right (Hon. Mr. Laird) and myself are in this House. Are we then going to surrender our rights and liberties? It is just a question of “self or no self.” Talk about a local Legislature! It would be a mere farce. We would not even have the control of our local affairs, for every trifling or petty bill would have to be sent to Ottawa for […]
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[…] the approval of the Federal Government. This House would be dwindled down to a level with the small municipal bodies throughout Canada for the management of local affairs.
Again I say that, for the good of the country, I will waive any objections I have to the Resolutions of his Honor the Leader of the Government, and will give them my hearty support; believing, as I do, that we require a united effort to resist any invasion of our rights and liberties. Taking away the constitution of a country is a serious affair. We have now the management of our own matters; and if one party does not please us, we can have another; but the moment we would go into Confederation we would cease to have any control even of matters which concern ourselves. The other colonies speak of us now with the greatest contempt, and then what chance would we have? All we would get would be by begging. Therefore, I will resist, to the utmost of my power, any attempt, either to drive or lead us into Confederation.
Hon. Mr. Davies: When this question came before us last year, there was a Resolution submitted by which the members who supported it would be pledged to support the Quebec Scheme; and as I was not in favour of that scheme, I opposed that Resolution, but still I am in favour of Confederation on fair terms. It has been argued by the hon. member for the East Point (Mr. Hensley) that, as attempts have been made to force it upon the people of New Brunswick, that, therefore, we should not admit even the principle. He believes we have a Constitution which cannot be taken away from us without the consent of the people. Well, then, if we have, how can an affirmation of the principle draw us into Confederation?
I shall support the Resolution of the hon member for St. Peter’s, (Mr. Whelan,) which states that no action is to be taken till after a general election; and I am glad to be able to now to express my opinion, so that, at the election the constituency I represent may return a member who is opposed to it if they desire to do so. I think it is better fairly and openly to state one’s opinion so that there may be no mistake or misconception about it. Attempts have been made to draw a parallel between the Union of the Colonies, and the Union of Ireland with Great Britain; but I cannot see any similarity between them. An agitation has been kept up in Ireland for many years, chiefly on account of religious disabilities, but which I believe will soon be done away with my objections to the Quebec Scheme were on a financial basis. Eighty cents a head, with the light duty adjusted on a fair basis, and, in view of the comparative smallness of our debt, would be entitled to the interest of something like a half a million of money. When we consider that for five or six months of the year we are bound up by ice, and the great tide of prosperity by the railroad would be rolling past us, I admit that, taking that peculiarity of our position into view, we should get a greater sum than 80 cents per head, which would only be about one third of our revenue. All they would pay for us would not amount to a great deal. I think the grant should be doubled; then there would not be so much objection to that scheme.
As to being swamped in the Legislature, I have no fear of being treated with injustice. We see what influence a few men bees of Ireland going into the British Parliament have, and it would be the same here. Even if they were disposed to treat us with injustice, they could not accomplish it. My colleague has said that our small population would become less in proportion to the other colonies; but I do not look upon it in that light. We have plenty of unoccupied land yet, which, together with the fisheries would absorb a large population. I am quite satisfied to remain as we are; but I do not think, with the hon. member from St. Peter’s, that whether we agree to have it or not will have little influence on this question. I think it is a proof that there is a pressure brought to bear upon the other Colonies that, while last year their [sic] was only a small minority in favour of Confederation, this year they passed Resolutions in favour of it, and yet it is pretty well known that a large majority of the people are opposed to it. Therefore, the inference is that if there is such a pressure on the large Colonies, we, of course, will have to follow.
From the time these Colonies were wrested from French, till the intro duction of Responsible Government, they were governed by the “old family compact” as it were called; but not Great Britain says “you are 3 1/2 millions of people, and it is time for you to unite und look forward to the period when you will become a great Monarchy, and one of the first Powers in the World.” These Provinces have almost every element of greatness, and they are peopled by a superior race of mankind. Great Britain also knows that we have a great and powerful neighbour on our borders, and we would be much more easily absorbed, it is stated, than if united. Many persons say they would rather be absorbed into the American Union than be Confederated with Canada; but they surely do not consider the enormous taxation to which annexation to the United States would subject us.
I think the Resolutions of the Hon. the Leader of the Government are very strong; and I do not believe with the hon. member from the East Point (Mr. Hensley) that our Constitution would not be taken away from us—that Great Britain would still protect us, if we rejected Confederation. It is too much to expect that she would do so. It is the policy of the British Government to unite the Colonies; and I think our duty is not to go flat in the face of the Despatch before us, and say we will not go into the Union on any terms. Great Britain will say we are sorry we cannot fall into your views; but your geographical position, is such that you must go into Confederation. But if our Constitution cannot be taken away without the consent of the people, I do not see how it can prejudice us to admit the principle.
Hon. Mr. Longworth: I would be glad if the hon. member would define his intention as to how far he would admit the principle. If we do not admit the principle we may have the right of submitting terms upon which we would enter the Union, and to which Her Majesty’s Government might accede; but the moment we admit the principle we must submit to the Imperial Government or a Board of Delegates, and I would ask what would be our fate if the question were submitted to either?
Hon. Mr. Davies: I do not see how, merely admitting the principle, would prejudice our interests. I do not wish to send Delegates to England on the question; but suppose we did do so, it does not follow that we are to go into Confederation on any terms that may be dictated to us, if our constitution cannot be taken away.
Hon. Mr. Longworth: If you do not admit the principle.
Hon. Mr. Davies: That does not follow. I believe that if we refuse to adopt the views of Great Britain on this question, she both can and will take away our Constitution. I think she has been preparing us for it.
Hon. Mr. Laird: I do not see that there is anything before us that would lead us to think that we will be deprived of our Constitution if we do not go into Confederation; neither do I think we have any reason to fear such a result; and why then should we be asked to surrender it voluntarily? For my part, I see nothing to induce us to go into a Union with Canada. If the Canadians take it into their heads to agitate a Union of the Colonies, that is no reason that we should do so too. It is for ourselves to say whether we will go into the Union or not. I have no inclination to go into the Union; for I do not see what we would gain by it. Our expenses and taxes would be increased, and our liberties would be curtailed.
As our time to represent the people has nearly expired, we should leave the Constitution of the country as we found it, and if the people desire a change it will be for them to say so at the next election. There was nothing about this question when we were elected; and I do not think there is any necessity to discuss it at such great length now, for it is pretty well understood in the country. The Resolutions […]
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[…] are strong; but, perhaps, it is necessary that they should be so. If the people wish for Confederation at the next election, well and good; but I would have nothing to do with it at present. We are not offered anything to induce us to go into the Union. We would get eighty cents per head, and never to increase. All the Colonies are progressing. and why should not this Island do so too. We need not, so far as I can see, expect fair play if we go into the Union, and I will, therefore, support the Resolutions introduced by the Hon. the Leader of the Government.
Mr. Howlan: It is very amusing to listen to the Confederationists. They are not in favour of Confederation on the terms of the Quebec report at all—not they. We are to propose our own terms—to say what we will do and what we will not do—but hear the Resolution which they introduced last year:—
“RESOLVED, That the Report of the Conference of Delegates from the British North American Provinces and Colonies held at Quebec, in October last, taken as a whole, contains a declaration of principles—as the basis of a Federal Union—which this House considers just to the several Provinces and Colonies.”
Hon. Mr. Whelan: That is not fair.
Mr. Howlan: It is quite fair; I have listened to the speech of the hon. member (Hon. Mr. Whelan) attentively, and I perceive that his views have undergone a change since last year. It is very gratifying to know that he has seen the error of his ways. The advocates of Union desire something more this year than we would get by the Quebec Scheme. Now, suppose that a change has taken place. and no basis is laid down with regard to the financial part of the Scheme, what would our position, or what would our influence be? I might refer to Rhode Island, but that. is an old story now. It would be said, “Who are you that attempt to raise your head? A little isolated place like Prince Edward Island attempting to raise your voice!” Some say now, “What! do you suppose that little Prince Edward Island will be allowed to stand in the way of this magnificent Union?” Then, why ask us to say yes or no? Why sit here discussing the question when members are so anxious to get home. It is said that we are only 80,000 people—that we are not able to protect ourselves—and, therefore, We must go into the Union.
And, say some hon. members, “If you do not go into the Union the Army and Navy of Great Britain will not protect you;” but I have higher authority for stating that the Army and Navy of Great Britain will protect us. Mr. Gladstone says that the Imperial Government pledges itself to protect, to the utmost of its power, every British subject in British North America. [Cries of—No! No!] I say Mr. Gladstone does say so; and he is a member of the House of Commons, and quite as good a statesman as any of the hon. members who say “No.” Is not this then sufficient authority for us to say that the British Government will protect us? Is any class in this Island tired of our Constitution? There is nothing respecting which we have not the right to petition, or which we have not the right to ask for why then should we be forced to give up our Constitution? I see gentlemen here who are older than my father, and who say we must go into Confederation. If the ruling statesmen of Canada and Nova Scotia, say that we must units, is that any reason why we should do so? If that is the right and privilege of British subjects. I am sorry I am one; but I believe that though I live on this little Island, I have as much liberty as if I lived in London; and I feel proud that the British Government is composed of men who pledge themselves to protect us with the whole resources of the Empire.
We are now told that we must unite—that the British flag will be swept from the seas unless we confederate;—I remember that an hon. member (Hon. Mr. Whelan) enunciated very different views a few years ago. I do not wish to misconstrue the hon. member’s sentiments—far front it—but there appears to be a sort of hallucination in about the subject; for, otherwise, his mind and those of some other hon. members, it is difficult to account for the change which their views have undergone concerning it. We are told that, whether we adopt the Quebec Report or not, we must confederate upon some terms; but I consider that we have just as much right to call upon the other Colonies to confederate as they have to call upon us. It is said that, if Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, go into the Union. we also must, for the purpose of mutual defence; but we have already placed the whole Revenue of the Colony at the disposal of the Government for putting the Island in a state of defence. and we are willing to pay our proportion for the general defence of the Colonies; but why should we be forced into Confederation against our will? If, after a general election, there should he a majority in favour of Confederation, the case would be different; but to say that we must unite with Canada is absurd.
If we were considered fit to govern ourselves, and if we have conducted the business of the Colony, properly for fifteen years, it does not appear reasonable to suppose that the British Government will now deprive us of our Constitution. I do not think the people of this Island are so much afraid of Confederation; but they object to being forced into it. We have, at present, as much right to tax ourselves as Canada has; but, in the event of Confederation, will we stand in the same relative position to the other Colonies as Rhode island does to the rest of the American Union? That island has the same representation in the United States Senate as New York. Rhode Island is the smallest part of the American Union, and I suppose we would remain for a long time the smallest part of British America; still, we have shown a disposition to do what we can to defend ourselves, and have thereby shown that we are not disloyal, but we wish to let it be seen that Confederation is not as applicable to us as to other portions of British America, and that. therefore, we are not disposed to go into a Union on the basis of the Quebec Report.
Progress reported and House adjourned at 10 minutes to 12.
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ERRATA in The Report of the Speech of the Hon. Mr. Longworth on the Confederation Question, as published in the Examiner of the 20th August, 1866:
In the sentence, “That they (the people) are most decidedly opposed to a Union with Canada upon any terms we know with certainty,” &c., the word “any” should be such, meaning such terms as are set forth in the Quebec Scheme.
The sentence, “Our best course, therefore, will be not to admit the possibility of such terms being accorded to us as would be acceptable and conducive to our interests,” should have been expunged from the Report.
In the sentence commencing “But it only says that this House cannot admit that a Federal Union of the North American Provinces and Colonies, which would include Prince Edward Island, could never be accomplished,” &c., the word “never” (a typographical error) should be ever; and the remainder of the sentence should have stood thus: “But it does not say that it is not in the power of the Mother Country and the other Colonies to concede to us terms that might prove advantageous to us—it does not deny the possibility of such a thing, but it expresses the conviction of this House that those terms cannot be obtained;” and then should have followed this short sentence, “This, it appears to me, is the only proper and safe course for us to adopt.”
In the sentence, “These are my sentiments, and, in pursuance of them, I am ready to support the Resolutions now before us; but if they can be amended without an acknowledgment of the principle of Union, in such an amendment of them I shall, most likely, be found quite willing to acquiesce,” the word “principle” should be principles; and after “of Union” should follow, “as set forth in the Quebec Scheme.”
Another error—a typographical one—has obscured the meaning of two consecutive sentences. In the sentence ending this, “and our present happy condition with her” (that is Great Britain) “will, I trust, endure for so, ages to come,” the word “so” and the comma, which belong to the next sentence, have been inserted through mistake on the part of the compositor. This word “so” and the comma being restored to their proper place, the following sentence will be read correctly thus: “As long as Great Britain is willing that it shall be so, we will remain true in our allegiance to the British Crown.”
R.B. Irving, Reporter.