Prince Edward Island, House of Assembly, Debates and Proceedings: Confederation with Canada and the Lower Provinces (30 March 1865)
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 1865, 22nd Parl, 3rd Sess, 1865 at 62-65.
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THE PARLIAMENTARY REPORTER,
THURSDAY, March 30.
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Hon. Mr. Kelly.—Mr. Speaker; In rising to address you on this all important subject of Confederation with Canada and the Lower Provinces, I find few arguments adduced in favor of it which have not been ably confuted by hon members already. Sorry I am to see as its advocates hon members in this House of whose talents and position in any other cause our Island might justly feel proud. I wish, Sir, to record my determined opposition to Confederation with Canada or with the Lower Provinces in any shape or on any terms. I feel convinced that any change in our constitution of the nature contemplated, would not operate beneficially to us. We are told that unless we surrender our separate constitution and place ourselves under the protection of the Canadian Legislature and the general Confederacy of Canada, we shall be overrun by, or absorbed into, the United States.
I have no fear, Sir, that the Government of the Stars and Stripes will interfere with us if we do not interfere with them, of which there is little prospect. I am glad to hear that New Brunswick has condemned the scheme—that Nova Scotia does not wish it, and if report speaks truly, Newfoundland is not likely to adopt it—and it has been said that a majority of the people of Canada are themselves opposed to it. But I regret to hear some hon members of this House, while declaring their opposition to the measure, their willingness to adopt it, if more favorable terms could be obtained for the Island. I have no doubt, Sir, that the Canadian diplomatists having set their minds upon effecting their object, would, rather than fail in their pet scheme, yield whatever concessions might be required of them, knowing that their preponderance in the United Legislature would enable them to make whatever alterations in the terms they pleased, and that the mockery of a parliament then left us would render us powerless to prevent them, or even to complain.
The hon and gallant Colonel [Colonel Grey], the member for Belfast, told us a few evenings ago, that in agitating for a repeal of the Union between England and Ireland, O’Connell would have gladly accepted a restoration to College Green of an Irish Parliament similar in its constitution to that proposed for us at the Quebec Conference. The hon member labors under a sad mistake. Sorry would a great man have been to have accepted for his country a Legislature less independent than that which she possessed before it was traitorously sold from her by a pack of wretches elected to the last Parliament of that ill fated nation through the influence of Pitt, Cornwallis and Castlereagh. A few of the names of those men I will read to you from a list which I hold in my hand, and although the descendants of some of them may retain the titles so villainously obtained, their names and races will be held in execration by Irishmen over the world to the end of time. The present question forcibly reminds me of the lament of your gifted countryman, Mr Speaker, when he refers to the sad time
“When once beneath a monarch’s feet
Sat Legislation’s sovereign powers.”
We have, Sir, sovereign legislative powers, whereby we can make our own laws and direct the application of our own monies among our own people at our own pleasure, and I hope the day is far distant when this, our Parliament, shall be converted into a Barrack or a Bank, or ourselves deprived of the constitutional privileges which we have so long enjoyed under the guarantee of the Imperial Government. The following list contains the names of some of the parties who sold Ireland, and the prices at which they consented to barter away the constitution of their country:—Lord Shannon, £45,000. Lord Loftus, £45,000. John Bingham, a Peerage, (Lord Wallcourt.) James G. Blackwood, a Peerage, (Lord Dufferin.) Joesph Cuffe, a Peerage, (Lord Tyrawley.) Richard Hare, a Peerage, (Lord Ennismore.) John Hutchinson, a Peerage, and a Regt., (Lord Hutchinson.) Wm. Handcock, a Peerage, (Lord Athlone.) Charles Coote, a Peerage, (Lord Castlecoote, since extinct.) Lodge Morris, a Peerage. William Newcomen, a Peerage for his wife. John Blaquiere, a Peerage, (Lord DeBlaquiere.) G. Cradock, a Peerage, (Lord Howden) John Longfield, a Peerage, (Lord Longueville.) Wm. Sandford, a Peerage, (Lord Mt Sandford.) Richard French, a Peerage, (Lord Ashtown.) John Stewart, a Lawyer, a Peerage, and a Judgeship, (Lord Clonmel.) Arthur Galbraith, an Attorney, a Baronetcy. Herculus Langrishe, a Baronetcy and £15,000. George Jocelyn, his brother made a Bishop, (Clogher.) Henry Alexander, his brother made a Bishop. John Bagwell, his son made a Dean, John Fitzgibbon, son of an obscure Roman Catholic Lawyer, made Lord Chancellor and Earl of Clare, an arrogant, cruel and overbearing tyrant. Isaac Corry, Chancellor of the Exchequer. John Toler, made L.C. Justice and a Peer, (the brutal Norbury.) Luke Fox, a Judge of the Common Pleas. Charles Osborne, Judge of the King’s Bench. St. John Daly, Judge of the Common Pleas. Robert Johnston, Judge of the K. B. Wm. Johnston, a Baron of the Exchequer. James McClelland, Baron of the Exchequer. Wm. Smith of the Exchequer. R. Torrens, a Judge of the King’s Bench. W. Vandeleur, a Judge of the Common Pleas.
The lowest of the foregoing at a salary of £3,300 a year with over 20 country Judges at £600 a year. In addition to the foregoing I might give the names of over twenty-five of the Renegades who were made Colonels […]
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[…] in his Majesty’s service, among whom is the name of the aforesaid Charles Conte to a Regiment taken from Colonel Warburton, the grandfather, I believe, of our own hon member of that name from Lot 11, and who, to his lasting honor be it remembered, “Castlereagh” could not purchase.
Mr. Conroy.—Sir, I have considerable diffidence in addressing you on the subject before the House, on consequence of the very long and eloquent speeches we have listened to for the last three nights; but I believe every gentleman in the House is expected to state his opinions on the matter before us. I do not hesitate to say that I am decidedly opposed to the con templated Union. Two questions have occupied the most prominent part in the debate—Finance and Glory. I do not think that any person can be found so simple as to believe that the terms offered can be financially beneficial to us. We give up our present revenue for little more than half its amount. The sum we are to receive is not to increase with our increasing population.
While we give to strangers the power to raise our duties of impost and excise to any amount they choose, we have no guarantee but that in a few years, if we entered this famous Confederation, they would be raised to three times the amount they are at present. As the wants of the Confederacy would require, taxation would be increased. And what control or management are we to have in our affairs? Having but five representatives in a Parliament composed of one hundred and ninety-four members, we might as well have none at all. But it is said that we need not fear, that taxation will be uniform, and when they tax us they also tax themselves in like manner. But, Sir, when I observe how unwilling we have been to increase our tariff in a trifling way, for the purpose of raising an amount which we absolutely required, I cannot see how we can agree to place such a power in the hands of persons who are so reckless in matters of taxation affecting themselves; and as to the glory part of the scheme, as it is called, I have no sympathy with soldering unless it is required, nor would I agree to have our Militia sent to Canada; they had better stay at home and protect their own country; and if, as it is said, the battle must be fought in Canada, all the better for us.
With the protection and support of England we need not fear; but if England is to abandon us, as some say she will, and the United States should make war on us, the more quietly we submit the better. That we could, by entering into the proposed Confederation, success fully resist such a power is simply absurd. Sir, I have no fear that the Americans would come here to cut our throats or do us any serious injury. We have never done them wrong, they have no revenge to gratify; and when I say this I must be understood as not expressing disloyal sentiments, for have I not read of English statesmen, even in Parliament, stating that their protecting these Colonies cost more than they were worth, and the sooner we were left to ourselves the better, showing their loyalty to us to be a matter of pounds, shillings and pence? So that if we are to be abandoned by the Mother Country, we should be permitted to look for protection in the place most beneficial to ourselves.
And Sir, I have heard it discussed within the last few days by men of standing in this city, whether it would not now be more beneficial to this Island to enter into the great American Union than remain as she now is. And throughout the country—more particularly among the tenantry—the fear of American invasion is not as great as might be fancied. they say that whoever comes they cannot be worse off than they are at present, and, at all events, it will completely settle the Land Question. They say they have nothing to fight for, that they have little interest in the soil, that they have to procure a miserable livelihood by daily toil, that wherever they go they can earn a subsistence as easily as they do on this Island. And this being so, can you expect people so situated to risk their lives in defending the country?
I will now quote from a respectable newspaper published in Montreal, wherein, reviewing a speech of the Hon. T.D. McGee, made in fence of the Irish residing in Canada from the charge of Fenianism, the Editor goes on to say that he fully coincides with Mr McGee that Irish men in Canada have no sympathy with Fenianism, that they, beyond any other people, left their country on consequence of the land tenure, but in Canada they possessed all the advantages they sighed for in Ireland. The land they tilled was their own in freehold, and they would fight for its possession against all comers. This is what I want for our people; give them their land in freehold, give them an interest in the country, without which no man can be truly loyal, and you will not want for Volunteers or Militia here to resist invasion. I have read that the Canadian Delegates, in excusing themselves for agreeing to such on outlay as would be caused by building the intercolonial railroad, said that they had to do so, as the Delegates from Nova Scotia and New Brunswick would have nothing to do with them before they agreed to build that road. And had our Delegates no public work, the performance of which they might urge should be agreed on before we entered into any terms? Why did they not press the extinction of the rental system as a work of necessity, and insist on receiving the means necessary for abolishing it?
We have heard with what small courtesy the Leader of the Opposition was treated by the Delegates when he proposed a resolution asking for a sum to purchase the claims of the Proprietors. Some of the Canadian Delegates stated, I believe, when in Charlottetown, that the amount asked for by the Leader of the Opposition would be given, but the proposal was afterwards ridiculed. Sir, I want to say that the money could not have been better laid out; it would have relieved this Island from a difficulty, social and political, which has been the great grievance of this country for the last fifty years, and has kept the country periodically in a state bordering on rebellion up to the present time. The amount asked would be scarcely distinguishable in the gross total, for the debt of Canada is counted by millions, and this, if we enter into the proposed Confederation, we must assist in paying. But we will have nothing to do with this Union. We can, by increasing our taxation for a few years, make every man in the Island a freeholder. Nor do I think the country would be displeased at our doing so, as it would be for the general advantage. I have spoken much longer than I intended, and will conclude by stating that I will vote for the amendment.
Hon. Mr. Davies—Mr. Speaker; the hon member from Tignish (Mr Conroy) has stated that unless we continue to enjoy British protection we shall be absorbed into the United States. I would be sorry that we should become a part of a country, the public debt of which, created within about four years, is already no less than three billions, or, in other words, three thousand millions of dollars. I am not apprehensive of such an event, for the British Government, under the pressure of public opinion in Great Britain, has declared we are willing to do our share in assisting your reasonable efforts to defend yourselves. I agree with those hon members who have argued Confederation involves increased taxation. But, Sir, we cannot remain long in our present isolated condition. Confederation or absorption into the States are the two alternatives presented to us.
I should prefer to see this Island made, if possible, a free port, and thus, become a vast centre of commerce. As to the financial terms offered to us by the delegates at the Quebec Conference, I do not think that justice has been dealt out to us. We should receive half a million of dollars, for it must be borne in mind that for various reasons which have been referred to in this debate we will not receive benefits proportionate to those conferred on the other Colonies. In the present aspect of the matter, I would give a preference to a Federal Union with Great Britain to absorption or confederation. It has been objected by the hon members, Messrs. Sinclair and Howlan, that the delegation to Canada was unauthorized by the Legislature. Why, Sir, the Governments of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick did not convene their respective legislatures to sanction their delegations. As to the argument that the delegates exceeded their powers when they framed a constitution, they would be laughed at if they had not done so. We are not bound to accept it, and it is unfair to find fault with them on that account.
Mr Howlan.—The first delegation was authorized to discuss the subject of a Union of the Maritime Provinces. The Canadian delegation had an entirely different object.
Hon Solicitor General.—I cannot agree that under the system of Responsible Government the Executive had no power to send a delegation to confer with those sent from the other Provinces. The case would be different if the country were pledged to their proceedings.
Mr Sinclair.—I maintain that in adopting a constitution they exceeded their powers. This having been signed by three members of the Government, that body is, to a certain extent, pledged to it.
Mr Montgomery.—Mr Speaker; I have been informed and believe that the Report of the delegates is not approved by the people, and, in my own opinion, it would prove injurious […]
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[…] the best interests of the Island. It calls upon us to increase our tariff and surrender our revenues. We are required to surrender revenues for 80 cents per head of the population according to the census of 1861. We do not receive fair terms. We have no minerals or territorial revenues as the other Colonies. We have been told that we shall have free trade with all parts of the Confederacy. If so, we must raise whatever revenue we may require beyond the allowance accorded to us from the general Government, to which we ourselves contribute from our own resources. For myself and my constituents I shall oppose the scheme.
Mr. McLennan –I shall not detain you long, Mr. Speaker. It is but dull debating when all are on the same side. I shall not enter into the question of defence,–that I shall leave for the hon and gallant Colonel. the member for Belfast; that of finance to his colleague, the Hon Colonial Secretary. I am conscious that anything which I may say can have no effect in promoting or retarding the adoption of the measure. If that were not the case I would be inclined to enter more fully into the merits of this great question. Our action one way or the other can make little difference in the view of the opinion expressed by the people of New Brunswick at the hastings, and in Nova Scotia through the press. The protraction of this debate is, in my opinion, but a waste of public time and money. I would prefer that the vote were taken on the resolutions of the Hon Colonial Secretary seriatim. That would show the country how far their representatives would go in this matter. I am not prepared to go the extreme length of those who declare they are opposed to Confederation on any terms. I am of the same opinion as the hon member for the city, Mr. Davies, who believes that we are drifting into some kind of Union, that we should manfully grapple with the question, and, before any Union takes place, obtain the best terms possible. I believe that majority of the people of New Brunswick had not the subject fairly submitted to them in all its bearings when they voted against it; nor was it the bulk of the intelligence of that Province that decided it. For myself I would not assume the responsibility of voting in favour of Confederation without first submitting it to the people. I believe my constituents are satisfied that I am acting an independent part in the matter.
Hon. Mr. Whelan then addressed the House at considerable length, but he having mislaid the extract which he read, the Reporter is unable to give a connected report of his speech.
Mr. Duncan–I have a few words to say on this great scheme which is to make this a wonderful country, give us a market of three millions of people, and cheap tea all the way from China. All those who have been in this Colony heretofore, it appears, are but children in trade; let them, however, only go up to Canada a few weeks and they will come down perfectly prepared to argue out any question on trade and finance. We are told that Confederation would promote manufactures in this Colony. Now, in my opinion, this Island can never become a manufacturing country, and I will give my reasons for so thinking. Supposing a person were to start a manufactory here, and another a similar establishment at Pictou, the former would have every market closed against him during the winter except this Island, and the latter would have all the country open to him the whole year round except this Colony in the winter season. The Pictou manufacturer could always send off his stock to market immediately while his Island rival would require to store his up for five or six months until the opening of navigation in the spring. The Islander, besides requiring an immense capital, the interest of which would diminish his profits, would frequently suffer from a fall of prices, causing a loss which might have been obviated by an open market. I do not think that any place which is closed in as we are for a part of the year has ever become a great manufacturing country.
Then, again, the neighboring Province have other advantage over this Island for manufacturing. Canada has abundance of water power; so have Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, and those latter Provinces possess coal likewise. But this Colony has no coal, nor has it iron, another advantage which its neighbor possess. This being the case, I think few manufactures can be carried on successfully here. The tanners may have a little export for a few years; but the bank will soon be done, and then probably it will be better to export the hides and import leather. Our interest therefore, as we cannot manufacture, is to obtain our goods in the cheapest market. The other Provinces cannot compete with Britain in manufactures for many years; but if we enter Confederation we may be forced to purchase within its bounds, on account of the high tariff on European merchandize. This would prove a loss to the Island in the following way: Suppose an article which could be purchased in Britain for £100 were to cost in Canada £118; but on account of the duty on the British article, it might be found more advantageous to purchase that of Canadian manufacture, the consequence being the loss of just £18 to the Island.
This would be one of the benefits arising out of the boasted intercolonial free trade! By remaining as we are, the people of this Colony, generally speaking, will obtain their goods, even after paying a moderate duty to be expended among themselves, at a cheaper rate than they would under Confederation. But there are certain articles, such as tea, which can never be produced in these Provinces; and which, under the Canadian tariff, would cost the people here much more than at present. Again, we are told that if we enter Confederation our fisheries will be developed. People, it is said, will come here from Canada to fish. This is a strange argument, when it is known that the Canadians already export enough fish to supply all British America. Herrings we have not to spare; these will have to be procured at the Magdalen Islands, a place which, though it has been basking for a long time under the sunshine of the Canadian Government, does not show many signs of progress.
Everything which can be exported from this Island Canada produces, therefore no trade of any importance can spring up between this Colony and that Province. Notwithstanding this, I suppose we must contribute to build the Intercolonial Railway. The only article I see that we have got to send to Canada is oysters. Evidently, the Colonial Secretary has been very considerate in bringing in a Bill to encourage the planting of oysters, as it seems to me that we will have nothing else to send up to Canada on the Intercolonial Railway. Then, again, there is the matter of defence. It is stated that the police force which Canada has on the frontier this winter to prevent border raiding will cost a million of dollars.
We are now in the Union, our proportion of that sum, according to the population, would be £768. But the general defences of Canada, according to Colonel Jervois, are to cost$6,500,000. In Confederation this Island would have to bear its share of this expense, one which, in the present circumstances of our people, they are altogether unable to afford. Another objection which I have to the Quebec scheme is, that it would allow us only about £35,000 for local requirements, and this too a fixed sum, while our wants would yearly increase; perhaps the Canadians thought that under such a scheme they would decrease.(Laughter)
Our Revenue for last year was about £65,000, and deducting the sum to be received from this amount, shows that our loss under our own tariff would be £30,000. But besides this we would have to bear our proportion of building the Intercolonial railway, enlarging the canals, and furthering other public works, which would increase our taxation, and do us no good, but rather an injury by drawing away our people to labor upon them. Again, the “glory argument” is one which the advocates of Confederation never fail to bring forward. We are to become a great nation, but how this is to be affected the promoters of the scheme scarcely understand themselves. One of the advantages of it is, that our members of Parliament will go to live at Ottawa, and we will be left here to pay them! We are told also that our young men will rise to be chief justices in Canada. They need not deceive them selves, for none but those belonging to Canada will stand much chance of attaining to such distinction. The Local Legislature, which the Quebec Report contemplates to […]
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[…] leave us, would be little better than a town council; we would have this building here merely to look at. As to the General Legislature I consider the representation in it allowed to this Island unfair and unjust. I think the four Lower Provinces, at least, should have as many members in the Upper Branch as Canada. The five representatives allotted to us in the Lower House would not give this Colony much influence there; but as our population will not increase so rapidly as that of Canada, there is a prospect, through the operation of one clause in the Report, that our five representatives would dwindle down to three. Taking all these points into consideration, therefore, it is clear to me that we have nothing to gain but much to lose by adopting the Quebec scheme.