Prince Edward Island, House of Assembly, Debates and Proceedings: Debate on the Address in Answer to His Excellency’s Speech (2 March 1865)


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Date: 1865-03-02
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 4-11.
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THE PARLIAMENTARY REPORTER,

SESSION, 1865.

THURSDAY, March 2.

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DEBATE ON THE ADDRESS IN ANSWER TO HIS EXCELLENCY’S SPEECH.

On motion of Mr. Brecken the House went into the order of the day, viz, Committee of the whole on the Draft Address in answer to His Excellency’s speech. Mr Yeo in the chair,

The Chairman first read the whole Draft Address, which is as follows:

To His Excellency George Dundas, Esquire, Lieutenant Governor and Commander-in-Chief in and over Her Majesty’s Island Prince Edward and the Territories thereunto belonging, Chancellor, Vice Admiral, and Ordinary of the same, &c., &c.

MAY IT PLEASE YOUR EXCELLENCY:—

  1.           We, Her Majesty’s faithful subjects, the House of Assembly, of Prince Edward Island, beg respectfully to tender our thanks for the Speech with which your Excellency was pleased to open the present Session.
  2.           The general prosperity of this Island, the abundant harvest, and the many blessings bestowed upon the people of this Colony during the past year, demand our grateful acknolwedgments [sic] to Almighty God.
  3.           We thank your Excellency for having, in compliance with the Resolution passed last Session, appointed Delegates to confer with Delegates appointed by the Governments of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, respectively, for the purpose of discussing the expediency of a Legislative Union of the Maritime Provinces, and we shall be happy to receive the Correspondence on this subject, together with the Report of the Delegates.
  4.           We shall be pleased to learn the origin of the second Conference held at Quebec to consider the wider question of general Union of the British North American Provinces, to attend which, your Excellency, on the invitation of the Governor General, appointed Delegates selected, as were the Delegates to the former Conference, from each of the political parties in the Legislature.
  5.           We beg to assure Your Excellency that we shall not fail to give your earnest consideration to the Resolutions adopted at the Quebec Conference, upon the momentous support of a General Union of the Provinces, and also to the Despatches from Her Majesty’s Principal Secretary of State or the Colonial Department, relative thereto.
  6.           It is gratifying to us to learn that the Volunteer movement which has arisen in this Colony has received the approbation of the Colonial Minister, and we will give our careful attention to any measure which may be proposed to us with the object of remedying the defects in the Law relating to the Militia of the Colony, characterized by Mr. Cardwell as having no parallel in British North America.
  7.           It is with pleasure we learn that the Revenue for the past year exceeds that of any previous year, and that it is considerably in excess of the Expenditure; and we thank Your Excellency for the assurance that the Public Accounts for the past year, and the Estimates for the present, will be laid before us.
  8.           The great importance to this Island of Agriculture, commends it especially to our notice, and we shall attentively consider the expediency of giving some further encouragement to the promotion of the scientific culture of the Soil, and to the improvement of Stock.

The first four paragraphs of the Address having been again read, were agreed to without discussion. When the adoption of the 5th paragraph was moved, Hon Mr Coles addressed the Committee to the following effect:—

There is no doubt. Mr Chairman, that this House will give due attention to the subject of the paragraph which has just been read and I wish that the Government had done likewise. They have received the Report of the Conference held at Quebec, and, that being the case, they should have met the Legislature with a decided declaration of opinion on the subject of the Union of the Colonies. On a question of such importance—the most momentous that ever was submitted to the consideration of the Legislature of the Island—a question involving the interests of all the North American Colonies—l assert that the Government should have given a decided expression of opinion, and l am sorry that they have not taken the responsibility of declaring their policy; instead of doing so, they have brought, the subject before us as bring non political.

While I admire the man who maintains an opinion of his own, and admit that in political parties, the several members must often yield their individual views, yet, when a great general principle is involved, as in the present question, the people have the right to know what are the opinions of the Government which they placed in power. When that supporter of the Conservative party in England, Sir Robert Peel differed from his colleagues on a great public question, he took his own ground, and was respected by men of all parties for his independent spirit. It may be said that under this scheme of Confederation, the principles of Responsible Government are maintained, but the people will view it with caution if not satisfied with the terms One gentleman has published the statement that a majority) of the Government is opposed to the Union; but if that be a faithful expression of opinion, their acts are inconsistent with it; no Government taken its opponents into its confidence. In New Brunswick a member of the Executive resigned his seat and office, rather than remain to listen to the plans of a policy he did not agree with.

We have a similar case nearer home and no man of honor will consent to act as a spy. Here we have the Government putting into the situation of their only legal adviser a red hot opponent. I mean to convey no imputation on that gentleman; but I blame the Government for professing one set of opinions and appointing to so important an […]

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[…] office a gentleman who entertains views entirely opposite. The Government are playing fast and loose, and are not agreed among themselves on this great question. The other day the leader had several teams employed in removing a building which they did by pulling together; but had he set them to work in opposite directions he would have failed in his object.

This is like the position of the Government, and this is what I disapprove of. If the members of Government are not a party entertaining the same political views, in what position are we placed? If the majority of the Council are opposed to this measure, they have to trust to their opponents in the House, the Colonial Secretary and the Solicitor General, if the latter be reelected, to carry out their views. I, for one, have no confidence in the non-departmental system, and these gentlemen are the only officials here. Last year the Government treated this subject very cautiously, the then Leader asserting that the duty of the delegates was but to report the proceedings of the Convention. I myself said that the Union would be no benefit to the people of the Island, and voted against the delegation. But the question now comes up in a new shape. We have a new constitution signed and approved of by members of the Government, and our position would have been very different if we had for consideration merely the report of what had been done.

The present position of the Government is such that it is our duty as representatives of the people, to express our opinion on their conduct. The fact that they have an Attorney General who is not a member of the Executive, and the recent appointment to that body of two gentlemen of opposite sentiments require that the expression of our opinions should accompany the paragraph before the Committee, before it goes forth to the public. We have had so many changes in the Government of late, that it is hard to say whether it is now a new Government, or merely the old one with a new head. Were it based on constitutional principles, it would have been reconstructed, every member going back to his constituents. It would have been better if the Government had waited for the opinion of the Legislature, before filling up the vacancies as they have done. So much has appeared through the press on the subject of Confederation, that I shall not occupy the time of the Committee by harping on it. I will put my opinions on record by moving a resolution which embodies my views on the policy of forming a Government, some members of which sanction one line of policy, and others the reverse. Whoever may be in power, it is but right that they should shew their colors. I now move the following amendment:—

“But we regret that your Excellency should have appointed, as one of your legal advisers, a gentleman, who, as a Delegate, has declared himself “a red-hot Unionist,” upon the terms agreed on at the Quebec Conference.”

Hon. Mr. Pope.—The hon. leader of the Opposition, Mr. Chairman, must be very eager to show his hostility to the Government when he would propose such an amendment to the Address as that which he has just submitted. It has nothing to do with the real subject before the committee; the paragraph under consideration does not express any opinion either in favor of or against a union of the Colonies. He seems to be in great haste to declare his opposition to the proposed Confederation, but if he would go and read his own speech delivered at Ottawa on the question it ought to bring the blush of shame to his face. He has moved a vote of want of confidence in the Government, and assigns as his reason for this procedure that he has heard certain members of the Executive state that they were in favor of Union.

When the Despatches and other papers on the subject are laid before the House, and the question comes up in due form, it will be fully dealt with. If the hon. member, however, wishes an assurance as to the course the Government will pursue, I can tell him that we have no intention to force this matter upon the House or people—that the Government is not in favor of the scheme, and therefore it was not submitted as a Government measure. When it comes up properly they will not hesitate to give an expression of opinion on the subject. The hon. leader of the Opposition may suppose that some of the supporters of the Government will not approve of the appointment of one who advocates Union to a seat in the Executive; but I can assure hon. members that there is no disposition on the part of the Government to take advantage of the country on the question. No decisive action in favor of Union will be taken until the opinion of the people is obtained at the polls.

Hon. Mr. Hensley.—This subject of a Union of the Colonies being one of the most momentous which has ever come up for consideration before this House, it does strike me as very irregular that it has not been made a Government question. They should, in view of the great interests which it involves, have come down with a decided policy, instead of a negative one as they have done. It is impossible to ascertain from the views of members of the Government expressed outside of this House, or from the Address before us, what course they intend to pursue. I have some objection to the resolution proposed by my friend the hon. leader of the Opposition; I consider it too personal. I have nothing against the gentleman alluded to in that resolution on personal grounds; on the contrary I have a very high respect for him. If persons are going to be particularly objected to for their views, I hold that the hon. member has almost as good a reason for opposing the Government because the Hon. Colonial Secretary, who is also an advocate of Union, is allowed to retain his seat at the Executive board. Before the discussion is over I may submit a resolution, with no personal allusions, to test the Government on the general question of the proposed Union of the Colonies.

Hon. Mr. Coles.—I have no personal objections to the gentleman who was the hon. member for Georgetown. I merely referred to him, because having declared himself so decidedly in favor of Union, his appointment might seem to indicate that the Government were disposed to support the scheme.

Hon. Mr. Davies.—It would have been rather a strange proceeding to have inserted in the address anything decided on the subject of Union. There is a great difference of opinion on the question, and it would certainly be premature to pronounce upon it until all the papers containing information on the subject are laid before the House. I, for one, am rather in favor of a Union of the Colonies; but I am opposed to the terms contained in the Report of the Quebec Conference. We ought to contribute towards our defence, and therefore I would not object to the expense of the proposed Union on this ground; but it would be unfair to burden us with the cost of constructing railways and making canals in Canada, from which we would derive little or no benefit. When the Despatches on the subject, however, come down will be the proper time to discuss the merits of the question. I cannot agree with the hon. leader of the Opposition that we should have appealed to the people if we could not construct a Government unanimously opposed to the United Scheme.

Hon. Mr. Longworth.—Before we come to a decision on the Union question, we should possess full information on the subject, and from whom can we obtain this information more satisfactorily than from the Delegates themselves who attended the Conference? These hon. gentlemen, however, at this stage of our proceedings, are not in a position to consistently enter into explanations on the subject of their deliberations. We therefore should wait and not come to a vote on this question until the Report of the Delegation and the correspondence relative thereto are laid before us. The hon. leader of the Opposition seems to be desirous of amusing himself, or perhaps feeling the pulse of his own party by his experimental and rather singular motion; for it is evident that he has not consulted his party. One of his supporters, the hon. and learned member for East Point, is dissatisfied with the resolution which he has proposed, and intends, it appears, to submit one himself, expressive of his own views. The hon. leader of the Opposition censures the Government because they have not defined their policy and assumed the responsibility of dictating to the people on this grave and momentous subject, which affects alike the interests and well being of all classes, races, and political parties in this Colony.

It would, in my judgement, be premature for the Government of this Island at this early stage of our proceedings, and before the other Provinces had given their voice on the subject, to anticipate the action and decision of those Provinces and to declare their opinion on the proposed scheme of Confederation. In Nova Scotia, where every member of the Government is in favor of the measure, they have not made it a Government question. If this was deemed a prudent course in Nova Scotia, certainly it would have been impolitic for the Government of a small Colony like this to have taken a more decided step. Our proper course is to make the matter an open question, and thereby allow all parties the opportunity of discussing the subject freely, and of recording their opinions upon it according to their unbiased judgement. I, for one, am determined to do no act to prejudice the constitutional right of the people to decide on this great question, as I conceive it to be our duty to return to the people intact the rights and the constitution with which we were entrusted, and which we were bound to uphold when we were elected to this House. This is […]

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[…] my view of the subject, and it has also been ably and well laid down by the hon leader of the Government, that the people ought to be consulted before a decision should be given in favor of the Union scheme.

We have now, however, as a House, no data to work upon, and therefore I repeat that it would be premature at present to enter upon a discussion of the subject, or come to any resolution bearing upon it.

Hon Mr Coles.—This is the very point at which I am aiming, namely, to draw out an expression of opinion from the Government. Should a dissolution of the House take place, how are the people to know what is submitted to them unless the Government says yea or nay. If I only knew their policy perhaps I would give them my support. It is evading the question to say that we are not informed on the subject, for almost every child between Ottawa and Charlottetown knows all about it—even to nice calculations on the cost of the Intercolonial Railway. The hon member who last spoke, has, I understand, declared his views on the Union scheme at a public meeting; and after expressing himself as decidedly opposed to it, I am astonished that he, as a member of the Government, should give his sanction to the appointment of a gentlemen to be one of his colleagues, who has announced himself to be a “red-hot Unionist.”

I contend that it was the duty of the Government to declare their principles, and then appeal to the people at once, and not to wait until the House was in Session some time before they agreed upon their policy—then perhaps only to put off the question. In Canada they deemed the matter of such importance as to grapple with it at the very opening of the Session. If we should delay giving a decision upon the question here until the House dies out, it will not be treating the Canadians fairly, who are desirous to have the measure carried immediately into effect. It was the duty of the Government, instead of acting as they have done, to have aimed at leading public opinion, and then taken the case to the polls. It is a very easy course for a Government to pursue, merely to slip along without advancing their views on questions of the greatest importance to the country. There is another subject occupying a share of public attention—a Union of a different description to that under consideration, which has been passed over in silence in His Excellency’s speech.

I allude to the Tenant Union, and I am partly disposed to censure the Government for not declaring their sentiments in reference to this organization, as its principles may have to be tested at the next general election. But I will not enter into that subject now. The Government of New Brunswick have taken decided action on the question of Union; Hon Mr Tilley has declared himself in its favor and appealed to the people. If Confederation be rejected in that Province at the polls, will he retain office? No, Mr Chairman, I believe he has too much principle to attempt anything so unconstitutional. Allusion has also been made to Nova Scotia; but from what I know of the gentlemen who is leader of the Government there, I think it is not at all probable that he will shirk the question.

It will come up in the Legislature, and if he is unable to carry it I believe he will appeal to the people. Several members of the Government of this Island have expressed sentiments at public meetings adverse to the proposed Union, but as the Hon. Colonial Secretary and the Hon Solicitor General are in favor of the measure, I suppose their colleagues have refrained from expression an opinion in the Address lest these gentlemen should be offended. But they are not so careful about wounding the feelings of some of their friends. The Hon Attorney General has been wedged out of the Executive Council on a difference connected with this question, and an effort made, at his expense, to smooth down matters for the return of the late leader of the Government to his former position.

Hon. Col. Gray.—Mr. Chairman, I am of opinion that the conclusion of the hon member’s remarks might have been spared. I would have preferred to have taken no part in this discussion, but when referred to and misrepresented, I cannot be silent. Perhaps the hon. member may not be acquainted with the merits of the case to which he has alluded. Let me, then, state that the difference between an hon gentleman, not a member of this House, and myself, was unconnected with the question of a Union of the Colonies. It was quite a different matter altogether. If the hon member who has introduced this unpleasant subject would refer to the files of some of the public journals, he would find the reasons which I assigned for resigning my position as president of the Executive Council and as a member thereof.

The case had nothing to do with a Union of the Colonies. It might have occured in any other circumstances. It affected myself personally, and also the interests and honor of the country apart from the question of Union. The hon leader of the Opposition has referred to two points which though at first dissevered he has since connected—the subject of a Union of the Colonies and a Government question respecting an appointment to office. I am at a loss to understand how the hon member for the East Point intends to propound his views on the subject; perhaps he will present his objections to the Address in a more connected form. Surely hon members cannot have so soon forgotten that the Government appointed delegates, according to the resolution of this House last session, to confer with other delegates, on the subject of a Union of the Maritime Provinces; and also at a later date on the invitation of His Lordship the Governor General, that delegates were appointed to consider the broader question of a Union of the whole of the Provinces.

This is a matter calculated to effect the interests and welfare of every subject in British America irrespective of party, race or faith; and consequently to divest it as much as possible from a party question, three members of the Government, three members of the Opposition, and one independent member of this House, were appointed to proceed to Quebec as delegates. This delegation was nominated on precisely the same grounds as the first was appointed. When the request came from Canada for this Colony to send delegates to confer on the question of a Union of the whole of the Provinces, surely it was not necessary to call the Legislature together to consider the propriety of acceding to the request. If this were the case of what use would the Executive be? It would, indeed, be a do-nothing Government.

There was no occasion to seek new powers from the Legislature; the two delegations were for precisely the same purpose, only the latter was to consider the subject on a grander scale. The one scheme was for uniting Provinces comparatively unimportant; the other was for consolidating the same Provinces into a confederation which would form a state as large as the entire Continent of Europe. If I had thought that this subject was to have been speaking, for the hon leader of the Opposition, or for the hon gentleman on his right, the member for St Peter’s—as well as another hon gentleman from the other end of the building who has generally been opposed to my views—that I should have appointed them on this delegation? My friendship for them on political grounds was not so great that I would have urged their appointment had I thought that the subject which the delegation met to consider was to be a question on which an effort would be made to defeat the Government. I encountered no little opposition in procuring the appointment of my political opponents; but if there be any blame attaching to it, I assume it all.

I believe, however, that there is not a member of this House who does not appreciate and approve of the motives which influenced the choice. But Sir, I have recently learned that there are three great commandments for politicians—of which I was entirely ignorant when I entered political life. This first of these is for the politician to take good care of himself and his pocket; the second is to crush his enemy; and the third is to attend to the good of the country. And, Sir, I fear that the third is sometimes wholly forgotten in the zeal to carry out the other two. (Applause.) Acting on these rules, therefore, it is fair game for the hon leader of the Opposition to endeavor to trip up the Government on any pretence whatever. I think, however, it would have been more prudent in him to have deferred bringing up this question until it came before the House in due form. The delegates appointed were required to report to the Legislature, which I as their chairman am prepared to do; but at this stage of the proceedings, until this Report can be laid before the House, it is premature to discuss the subject.

At Quebec I decide; when I returned here, however, I found the statement had gone forth—like many more which were untrue—that this question was to be carried without an appeal to the people. I immediately wrote a letter to the different newspapers in the Colony stating some of my views on the subject, and assuring the people that the measure could not be sanctioned without an appeal to them. The hon member has referred to the course pursued by the Government of Nova Scotia on the question. They have adopted there the plan which I thought we ought to follow out in this Colony. I understand it is the intention of the Government of Nova Scotia to submit the Report of the delegates to the House of Assembly, and if but a majority of that body were in favour of the scheme, that then there would be an appeal to the people. I have not consulted with the members of our Government—nor could it be expected that I should—as to what […]

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[…] course they purpose to adopt; but I consider that it is their duty to submit the Reports to the House, and then will be the time for this honorable body to deal with them on their merits.

The question has assumed such grave features of late on account of the action of the Home Government, that it may be necessary to deal with it in a practical manner. It is difficult to say what despatches from the Secretary of State for the Colonies may be laid before us in the course of a month. There are some hon. members here, doubtless, of far greater political sagacity than I can pretend to, who will probably enlighten this House on the best course to pursue in the case. There may be facts connected with it submitted to our notice of which we are at present uninformed; so it is impossible to determine what steps it may be imperative on us to take. If I mistake not His Excellency stated in his speech that the papers on the subject will be laid before the House. It will be time enough then to judge of the matter.

As chairman of the delegation I had my own share of the work to perform, and I do not desire to be called upon to enter into explanations until the question is brought up in proper shape. With reference to the appointment to which the hon leader of the Opposition objects, I will refrain from making any observations at present, for it would perhaps necessitate a reference to another gentleman to whom I do not now wish to allude. I dare say the Government were actuated by the best possible motives in making the selection which they did. It is no easy matter, as I can testify from my experience during the last two years, to procure able assistants. I suppose the Government would scarcely have ventured to offer the appointment to the hon member for East Point, with any hopes of receiving a favorable reply. (Laughter.) I regard the hon gentleman who has been appointed as every way well qualified for the situation he has been called upon to fill. I look upon him, Sir, as the father of this House—but in making this remark I am not certain that I am doing justice to the hon member for Cardigan.

Hon Mr Coles.—Nor to one or two others on this side of the House.

Hon Col Gray.—Well, I am right in saying that he has been longer a member than any on the Government side of the House. We are all here, I believe comparatively young members (laughter.) I am safe in saying, however, that the gentleman appointed is one well entitled to the confidence of the country I am not aware, at least, that the Government could have done better in the selection.

Hon Mr Coles.—I did not censure the Government for appointing delegates, but for saying that they are opposed to Confederation, and at the same time appointing a Unionist to a seat in the Executive.

Hon Mr Davies.—It is difficult to tell who is, and who is not a Unionist in this House. The hon member who last spoke has, I understand, expressed himself in favor of a Union of the Colonies. At Ottawa he certainly made a speech approving of the terms of the Quebec Conference. As this is a question on which the people have not made up their minds I do not see how the Government could be expected to lay down any definite policy in the matter. The hon member for Belfast has set the case very fairly before the Committee, by stating that the time to discuss the question is when the Report of the delegates and the papers connected therewith have been presented to the House.

Hon. Mr Coles.—I cannot allow the statement of the hon member for Charlottetown to pass uncontradicted, I defy him or any other person to show that I, in the Conference or any where else, said that I was in favor of the terms contained in the Report of the delegates. All I said at Ottawa in favor of the Report was, that it was creditable to so many men that they had agreed so well in drawing it up. Hon members may say that this is not a Government question; but I am determined to make it one, so that if it be taken the polls the people may have the matter fairly before them. Some may be disposed to say that the terms are not very favorable to this Colony; but they have confidence that the gentlemen at Ottawa will do what is fair.

Now, I am of opinion that the people of this Island would not be satisfied to leave the matter in this way. To have hon members acting like loose fish on such a question is dangerous. Had I been desirous to carry my resolution I would have put it in a different shape altogether. I do not wish them to vote against their declared principles. I believe the hon member on my right (hon Mr Whelan) and the late leader of the Government would vote to have the Report of the delegates confirmed by the Imperial Government. There are fewer old party ties to bind us now than formerly. The Land Question appears to be settled, as it is not referred to in His Excellency’s speech this Session—the first time which it has been omitted for years. I would perhaps have assisted the Government had they declared their principles. As it is at present, I do not understand their policy.

Mr Brecken.—I had hoped, Mr Chairman, that this question would have been met in the spirit of the third of the motives of politicians mentioned by the hon member for Belfast—that of the general interests of the country—but, Sir, I now despair of that, seeing that the hon the leader of the Opposition has expressed his determination to degrade this high theme to the level of a mere party question. Never since this Island had a Legislature, never since the sun of civilization shone upon it, has a matter of such momentous interest, wherein such great principles are involved, occupied the attention of its parliament. The hon leader of the Opposition has talked much about trimming sails to catch the varying breeze of popular favor, but I can tell him that the example is better than precept.

No one should regard a question of such magnitude in the light of his own personal interests or those of his party. Generations yet unborn are to be affected by the decision of this matter, and it is truly to be regretted that the hon member has not thought fit to follow the example adopted by the Legislatures of the other Colonies, where party spirit has been merged in the treatment of this subject. In Canada we find gentlemen who had long been bitter opponents now agreeing as we are told the lion and the lamb shall do. In Nova Scotia, the leader of the Government and of the Opposition in the Legislative Council, and in the Assembly the ex-Attorney General, view this subject only as it regards the general interests of their country, Such example would not be without its effect on the hon member.

My own opinion is opposed to the contemplated Union, as I believe that we should not be as advantageously situated under it as we are at present. But, Sir, this is not the time to discuss the question, for how can hon members from opinions on the matter until the information embodied in the correspondence shall be placed before them? I have not sought to know the course the Government may adopt on this question; but it is no imputation on their courage that they have not indicated their action in the address.—I think it would be more prudent to await the action of the other Colonies. I see by the debates in the Canadian Legislature that this Report of the Conference is regarded as a treaty. Perhaps that report may have been assented to by the hon member himself. There may be possible be another Conference; if such should be the case and the hon member should assist at it, I hope he will occupy a more comfortable position than I fear he does at present. As one of the seven representatives of this Island, he occupied at the Quebec Conference a high position, and he had a high and solemn duty to perform, and he should have discharged it untrammelled by considerations of mere party. If he was opposed to the Scheme, then was the time for him to have manifested his independence, and if he considered that the project would operate prejudicially to the interests of his country, he should have stated so.

Sir, he should have recollected that it devolved upon him as a prominent public man of the Island, delegated to the mission on which he went, on account of his position, to have asserted and illustrated the reputation of his country for straightforward honest conduct. If our Island home be limited in area, if its population be sparse and its people poor in comparison to our neighbors, these circumstances rendered more incumbent on those who represented us to show that we were disposed to act without deception, and not to subject the Colony of the imputation of a breach of faith with our neighbors. As to what has been said by the hon member with reference to the appointment of the Solicitor General it becomes not me, situated as I am, with reference to that gentleman, to discuss the subject as fully and freely as I might under other circumstances; but I do that the constituency of Georgetown which he has for years represented, and from whom he seeks a renewed expression of confidence, is, although comparatively small, as intelligent as any in the Island.

They have had ample opportunities of estimating his character for veracity, and when he openly avows his opinions in seeking their suffrages, they are best qualified to know what amount of credence is to be accorded to him. The hon leader of the Opposition finds that, the Land Question having been finally disposed of, no locus standi is left for him, and consequently he must lower the question of […]

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[…] the proposed Union to the lowest platform of party. There is no fear that the Imperial Government will constrain us to the positive adoption of the Union, and if I supposed that the Government of the Island would force this measure without the opinion of the people having been taken upon it, I would vote for their impeachment. This question involves our political existence, and the principles for which the oppressed nationalities of the world have been and are struggling. There is no necessity for haste, if the other Colonies, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, decline to enter into the compact there is an end of it; if they shall consent to it, and we be forced to cast in our lot with them, we shall at least have the satisfaction of knowing that we have done our duty to our country.

Hon. Mr. Coles.—If we are to wait for the action of the other Colonies, and to follow in their footsteps, we may as tell them to send to the Island copies of their proceedings and that we will adopt them. I repeat that this is a question on which the Government should declare their policy. In Canada and the other Colonies it is true that parties formerly opposed to each other have united on this matter, but it should be remembered, on the other hand that there has been a combination of men who formerly took different sides in politics, in opposition to the scheme.

In Canada M. Dorion is not found lying down beside his former colleague, Mr. Brown. When I say that this is a political question, I do not mean to assert that the same party ties which formerly existed must necessarily remain. I object to the Government expressing themselves as opposed to a question of such importance as this, and taking into their councils a gentleman who has expressed himself most warmly in favor of it.

Mr. Brecken.—I did not say that I would consent to any course which Nova Scotia or New Brunswick might adopt. I stated that it would be advisable to wait until we had ascertained their views; and surely the hon. member must admit that if those Provinces decline to unite their destinies with those of Canada, there is not much probability that the latter will force Prince Edward Island into a union with her. I agree with the hon. member that new political associations have arisen in the other Colonies on this question. In Canada, Mr. Brown sits beside his old opponents, Messrs. Cartier and McGee, and a similar fusion of parties may take place here. Public men have and do change their views on particular questions, and it may be that the hon. member himself shall, at some future day, find himself the leader of a Union party; and, Sir, such a position would imply no discredit to him, if additional information should dawn upon his mind.

Hon. Mr. Coles.—With reference to the appointment of the Solicitor General, my objection is, that if that gentleman be returned to this House, and the question of Confederation be brought up during the present Session, he must either vote on it, against his own convictions, or against the Government of which he is a member and paid official.

Mr. Brecken.—I repeat that if elected on his public assertion to his constituents that however strong may be the opinions he entertains on the subject of the contemplated Union, it is not the intention of the Government which he has joined to force it upon the people before they shall have had the opportunity of signifying their wishes on the subject, he can, without the slightest imputation of inconsistency, sit in the Executive Council and this House as Solicitor General of his party; and it is somewhat inconsistent with the character of a great liberal that he should advocate the principle of a representative of the people forcing his opinions upon those who differed from them.

Hon. Colonial Secretary.—Mr. Chairman, in the absence of all official information, this discussion is premature and irrelevant. When the proper time shall have arrived I will be prepared to discuss fully the appointment to which reference has been made, and the subject of the Conference at Quebec. The paragraph before us merely states that we will give due consideration to the correspondence when it shall have been submitted to us. When that shall have been done, we can, with propriety, discuss the matter, and not sooner.

Mr. Sinclair.—Mr. Chairman, I am of the opinion of those who believe that the interests of the people are not so safe in the keeping of a Government in favor of Union as of one opposed to it. When the hon. member for Charlottetown, Mr. Brecken, says that this question involves our very political existence, he necessarily implies that it is pre-eminently a question of a political nature—of such nature that the Government should express their opinion on it, and not adopt the hide-and-seek policy which they are pursuing. The people can form no estimate of the Government, the acts of which are in opposition to their expressed opinions. On a question of such momentous importance the people have the right to the fullest information; and, Sir, we, the representatives of that people, find ourselves in a position very different from that which we occupied last Session when this question of Union was before us.

We now find that instead of the cautious manner in which this matter was treated by the Government last year, that they consider themselves justified in acting without reference to the wishes or opinions of the House. The hon. leader of the Government ridicules the idea of consulting the popular branch of the legislature on the propriety or expediency of the second conference, while we all know that the opinion of the House last year was almost unanimous in opposition to the Union of even the Maritime Provinces. It is in the recollection of hon. members that the House dealt with the subject very cautiously; they were particular in limiting the authority of the delegates who might be appointed by the Government to the mere preparation and report of the preliminary details of such scheme as might meet the approval of the assembled representatives of the Lower Provinces. The following is the resolution submitted last year by the then leader of the Government:—

“Resolved, That His Excellency the Lieutenant Governor be authorized to appoint Delegates (not to exceed five) to confer with Delegates who may be appointed by the governments of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick for the purpose of discussing the expediency of a Union of the three provinces of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and P. E. Island under one government and Legislature—the Report of said Delegates to be laid before the Legislature of this Colony, before any further action shall be taken in regard to the proposed question.”

And in the speech which that hon. member made on that occasion he said:—

“Now, Sir, I cannot avoid expressing my opinion that our neighbors are proceeding too hastily in this matter. I think the first point to consider is, Shall there be “a preliminary plan?” Is it advisable to have a Union at all? In the resolution which I have submitted it is proposed to appoint Delegates, simply for the purpose of discussing the expediency of a union of the three Provinces of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and P. E. Island, under one Government and Legislature. This is as far as I deem to be prudent for us to proceed at present.”

Now, Sir, I assert that in the action they have taken the Government have exceeded their authority. They appointed another delegation having a very different object, and that delegation instead of merely agreeing to and reporting upon a preliminary plan, have subscribed and adopted the details of a constitution so definite as to have been viewed in the light of a treaty entered into by parties invested with full powers to bind the countries they represented; and we may be sure that we shall be reproached as having been guilty of a breach of faith, if we do not ratify their proceedings. Our legislative constitution will be a mere farce if the Government are allowed to do as they please irrespectively of the formally expressed opinions of this House.

If it is the privilege and the duty of this House to criticise and pass judgment upon the acts of the Government, what is the use of calling us together after our rights have been taken from us by the Government? The hon. member for Belfast (Hon. Col. Gray) took credit to himself for the composition of the Island delegation—that it embraced men of opposite opinions, gentlemen selected from each of the political parties in the legislature. That affords to my mind a very strong argument in favor of cautious deliberation, for there is always cause to fear that the prospect of honors and emoluments may be held out to induce unanimity of sentiment between parties who were previously opposed to each other.

Hon. Mr. Longworth.—Mr. Chairman, if the hon. member is of opinion that all the leading men of British North America have united to sell the rights of the people, he should shew that the arguments they have made use of are unsound.

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Mr. Sinclair.—I said that the people should view the proceedings with caution.

Hon. Mr. Longworth.—The inference to be drawn from the hon. member’s remarks is as I have stated, and the very argument he uses shows the propriety of putting the question before the people. If it were introduced here as a Government measure, that very fact would have a tendency to influence the opinions of some on a matter which should be divested of all party views and spirit. I have heard no arguments to change my opinion that this should not be made a Government question. If, recognizing its importance, all approach it resolved to view it calmly in all its bearings, we shall be doing justice to ourselves and the people to whom it is due that it should not be made the subject of party discussion. Full opportunity will be afforded for discussion when the correspondence shall be submitted, and the interests of the people will be better conserved by treating the subject irrespectively of party.

Hon. Mr. Pope.—As to the objection urged by the hon. member from Princetown that the Government were not justified in despatching delegates to Canada without the previous sanction of this House, I may inform him that His Excellency did so at the request of His Lordship the Governor General, who, as such, is Governor of this Island. With this request, of course, His Excellency the Lieut. Governor felt it to be his duty to comply. The Government, I consider, is the Executive Committee of this House when it is not in Session, and must carry on the public business of the country. The desire of the hon. leader of the Opposition to embarrass the Government by this irregular discussion is easily seen, and his motives are duly appreciated; but he may as well wait till the papers are laid before us.

Hon. Mr. Laird. It is hard to say when the proper time will be to consider this question As it has now come up in the Address, though there are no other papers before the House on the subject, I hold that this is a proper time to give a right vote upon it. I believe the pretty general opinion throughout the country is, that the Government were a little rash in appointing one to a seat in the Executive who had expressed himself so strongly in favor of Union. The Government are bound to act according to the well understood wishes of the people, and in this case they have failed, consequently I cannot give them my support. Supposing the Government be called upon to send delegates to England to assist in preparing a measure relating to the question for the Imperial Parliament, if the Executive be composed of men in favor of Confederation, they will probably send Home “red hot Unionists.” The Government have not consulted their own friends in regard to the appointment in question, and they have acted contrary to the wishes of the people, therefore I will oppose them.

Hon. Mr. Kelly.—Mr. Chairman, in the Session of 1863, when the subject of this contemplated Union was for the first time mooted here; and last year when the question of the appointment of delegates was before us, I expressed my decided opposition to the whole scheme, and I have seen nothing yet to induce a change of opinion. It may suit some gentlemen in the Island who can afford to remove to Canada to advocate the merging of our political institutions into those of that country. It has been said by some hon. members that the present is not the proper time to discuss the matter, as the paragraph in the address contains no expression of opinion upon it. Such may be the case, but I well recollect that when it was sought to effect the Union of my native country with Great Britain, the wily Lord Castlereagh used precisely the same arguments; and although at that time he was defeated by an overwhelming majority, the next Session of the Irish House of Commons found him with his plans matured. Bribery and corruption had time to do their work, and did it but too effectually. I trust that hon. members of this House will not follow his example, or meet the fate which overtook the betrayer of the rights of his country.

Mr. Howat.—I suppose this discussion has been brought pretty near to a close, but I wish to offer a few remarks. I have opposed this Union of the Colonies from the first. When the question of Union with the other Maritime Provinces came up last Session, I objected to the appointment of delegates, but was told that it was only a matter of courtesy, and that those appointed were not to agree to any scheme, but only to report. Now, however, the case has assumed a very different form. It has been said that this should be an open question; if so, I suppose I may be allowed to differ with those whom I generally support. If Confederation takes place it will effectually do away with parties, for our powers as a local Legislature will amount to little or nothing.

I wish to oppose Union in every phase and shape in which it can present itself; without considering the interests of my party, I must stand by the country. I believe the appointment which has been so often referred to was an injudicious one; however much I may respect the gentleman in question, I think it was imprudent to appoint him, considering that he has declared himself decidedly in favor of Union. If, however, I can be assured that he will not hereafter advocate Union I shall be satisfied; but not otherwise, for I wish the Government which I support to be entirely composed of anti-Union men. I am in favor of the amendment; though I regret that a case has arisen in which I should oppose my party, yet I feel that this time I must do it.

Mr. Duncan.—I wonder where we are to go to find an anti-Union party; it is not to the Opposition, for some on that side are strongly in favor of Union. I think it is quite out of place to discuss this question now, and for my part I will oppose the amendment. I shall not fail, however, at the proper time, to state my strong objections to the proposed scheme of Confederation.

Hon. Mr. Coles.—I did not expect that the hon. member for Murray Harbor would support my resolution—he could not be supposed to agree with any person of liberal principles. Perhaps we cannot get an Anti-Union party in this House; but let us take the matter to the country, and probably then the hon. member for New Glasgow, or the hon. member for Tryon may be called upon to form a Government. I am sorry that I had to differ with the late leader of the Government, since he exerted himself to procure my appointment on the delegation.

Hon. Col. Gray.—When did the hon. member differ with me, for I never heard him express any difference of opinion at the Conference?

Hon. Mr. Coles.—I stated at the Conference when they refused my proposition with respect to the Land Question of this Colony, that they might as well strike Prince Edward Island out of the constitution altogether.

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Hon. Col. Gray.—I never heard any such declaration from the hon. member in the Conference.

Hon. Mr. Coles.—The hon. member, then might have heard it, for not being very well pleased, I made the statement loud enough. I can tell him, also, of another point on which we differed, namely the constitution of the Upper branch of the proposed Federal Legislature.

Hon. Col. Gray.—I am unable to tell on what point we were not unanimous, for if there was one delegate at the Conference more ardently in favor of Union than myself, it was the hon. member. I was not aware that there was any difference of opinion which was not mutual to the Island delegates.

Hon. Mr. Coles.—I can positively state that the hon. member said in the Conference that in Prince Edward Island they were opposed to the principle contained in the resolution which I moved, viz., that the members of the Legislative Council should be appointed by the Local Legislatures.

Hon. Col. Gray.—But I positively state that this was not the case. How could I say that the people of Prince Edward Island were opposed to such a principle, when their opinion was not taken on the subject?

Hon. Mr. Coles.—By the majority of their delegates who were present.

Hon. Col. Gray.—The hon. member well knows that each Province had one vote at the Conference; and as the leader of the Government, it was my duty to vote for this Colony. When four of our delegates were opposed to any resolution, I was required to say that Prince Edward Island was against it, and the contrary, if the majority were in favor of the proposition. This was the way in which the question was put; and a majority being opposed to the hon. member’s resolution, I had to say Prince Edward Island was against it.

Hon. Mr. Coles.—It is admitted then that there was a difference of opinion on this point. On the financial vote Prince Edward Island was unanimous; but this is not the question now before the Committee. With reference to the remark of the hon. member for Murray Harbor that no Government could be formed on anti-Union principles.

Mr. Duncan.—What I stated was to the effect that no Government could be formed on that principle from the present parties, without dismissing some of their supporters. The Government is not a Union Government; if it were I would not support it.

Hon. Mr. Coles.—The hon. member apparently does not wish to censure the Government for what is has done in appointing a Unionist; but I think the case has been very well stated by the hon. member from New Glasgow, that it is dangerous to have so many Unionists in the Executive, for if delegates have to be sent Home, they may appoint those who are strongly disposed to favor the proposed Confederation, and therefore commit the country to the scheme. There are several acts of the Government during the past year to which I object; but the appointment under consideration is one of which I entirely disapprove. When the question of Union comes up again perhaps my hon. friend on the right, (Mr. Whelan) will place the Government in an awkward position by moving a resolution in favor of the scheme.

Hon. Mr. Whelan.—My hon. friend on the left (Hon. Mr. Coles) seems very anxious to draw me out on the present occasion. I, however, shall say only a very few words. This discussion I consider as altogether irrelevant, because the question of Confederation must come up again when the papers on the subject are laid before the House. I will not, therefore, enter into the merits of the scheme at present, though I am not at all disposed to evade any responsibility which attaches to me in the matter. I have no desire to act one part in Canada and another in Prince Edward Island. (Hear, from Hon. Col. Gray.)

Though the delegates from this Colony did not gain all they could wish, yet I was not disposed to throw aside a great question, and one which I shall be prepared by and by to show will be for the advantage of this Island. The amendment of my hon. friend on the left, was brought forward, I imagine, to show his opposition to the Union scheme at the earliest possible period; and perhaps to show that he is still in opposition to the Government. With respect to the latter, I will ever stand true to my party, when the local policy of the Government is opposed to my well-understood principles; but on the question of Confederation I cannot shut my eyes to the fact, which has presented itself to some of the greatest minds on the continent, that it is one of such momentous importance as to call upon us to act upon it without reference to old party predilections. Should the Government, then, be prepared to introduce a measure to give effect to the Report of the Quebec Conference, they shall have my hearty support.

One of the reasons assigned by my hon. friend for submitting the amendment before the Committee, was that he wished to show the people of the other Provinces that this House was not in favor of a Union of the Colonies. But I believe the course which he has taken will have the contrary effect to what he intended. He ought to have chosen another time to show his opposition to Union, for hon. members on the other side of the House cannot be expected to support his motion, although they may agree with him in his opposition to Confederation, consequently the division on his resolution will be such as to lead the people of the other Provinces to suppose that the Confederation scheme is not very unfavorably received by this House. It is not my place or my intention to defend the Government, but it appears to me to be a most injudicious proceeding on the part of my hon. friend to single out a particular appointment on which to censure the Administration. If we are to object to the policy of the Government, let us do it on general grounds.

For my part, I may state that I approve of the appointment of the Solicitor General—not that I say it ought to have been made at this particular time, for I hold that the Government should have had firmness enough to tell their principal Crown Officer to resign, and thus save them the necessity of resuscitating an office which has become obsolete and unnecessary. This is the course which I think they ought to have pursued. But to object to the appointment of the Hon. Solicitor General, because he has expressed himself in favor of Confederation, is a proceeding of which I cannot approve. I rather hold it as one reason why he should be appointed. This view is strengthened by the fact that the other gentleman appointed at the same time as the Solicitor General, is opposed to Union. With regard to the second appointment, I think the Government might have selected a person having stronger political claims on their party; but I will not censure them for the appointment on the ground of his opposition to Union.

This question of Confederation is one which should be viewed in all its future bearings; and the Government will doubtless make known their policy respecting it, when the papers on the subject come up for consideration. Since Her Majesty’s Secretary of State for the Colonies has recommended them to give the scheme effect, they […]

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[…] cannot well treat it with indifference, much less opposition. When the proper time arrives I will be prepared to enter into the merits of the whole question. I have had no opportunity, through indisposition, to express my opinions on the subject at any public meetings, except some held in my own district; and when it comes up here I shall regard it as my duty to assume all the responsibility which attaches to my conduct in the matter, as well as to deal with every feature of the question. I would be glad were my hon friend to withdraw his amendment, as I consider it to be too trifling a matter on which to divide this hon Committee.

Mr Conroy.—Mr Chairman, if party feeling has not been sunk on this question in this House, it has been pretty well laid aside in the country. At Tignish, a part of the district which I have the honor to represent, where the people are very much divided in their political opinions, my colleague and I lately attended a meeting, at which every one appeared to be opposed to the proposed Union. I never saw a time when newspapers were so much sought after, and the speeches delivered at public meetings so generally read. The speech of the hon Solicitor General was read in our part of the Island with great dissatisfaction; and his appointment to a seat in the Executive is considered, in consequence of his decided Union sentiments, to have been very injudicious on the part of the Government. I know that the country is dissatisfied with the appointment, therefore I have no hesitation in supporting the amendment proposed by the hon leader of the Opposition.

Hon Mr Hensley.—When I came into the house this afternoon, Mr Chairman, the resolution proposed by the hon leader of the Opposition was on the table. I would rather it had not been brought forward, or at least, that it had been put in another form; but as he appears desirous to press it, every member must say yea or nay. The question on which we are required to vote, is, Should the hon Solicitor General have been appointed to a seat in the Executive? Notwithstanding all the respect which I entertain for the hon gentleman alluded to, yet considering his extreme views in favor of Union, and the excited state of the country on the question, I consider the Government would have stood better with the people had his appointment not been made.

When I previously addressed you, Mr Chairman, I stated my intention to submit a resolution expressing regret that the Government had not declared its policy on the question of Confederation. Though I have abandoned the idea of proposing a motion to that effect, yet I must state, that as this subject is one of the most momentous which has ever come before the consideration of the Legislature, I think the Government ought, to have given some decided expression of opinion upon it. I believe there is sufficient information before the public to have warranted such an expression of opinion. It is all very well to say that a majority of the members of the Government have made speeches against Union; but they ought to have come out as a Government with some decided declaration in regard to the question. What information can be gathered from such speeches when we find them here contradicting each other as to the tendency of their remarks. Even some of the speeches given in Canada, we are told, are not to be understood in that sense which we would take to be their natural meaning.

I will vote for the amendment; but in so doing I disclaim any personal objections to the hon gentleman to whom it refers. I have, on the contrary, a very high respect for him. The hon member for Murray Harbor has stated that he will support the paragraph, and not the amendment. I have heard him express strong sentiments on the question of Union—stating that the man who supported the scheme must be almost a lunatic. If he is not sorry that a person of this description should be appointed to a seat in the Government, then I have nothing more to say. (Laughter.)

The question was then put to the Committee by the chairman:

For Mr Coles’ amendment—Honorables Coles, Kelly, Thornton, Warburton, Hensley, Laird; Messrs Sinclair, Conroy, Walker—9.

Against it—Hons J. C. Pope, Longworth, Col. Gray, Colonial Secretary, Davies, Kay, Speaker, Whelan; Messrs Ramsay, Brecken, Montgomery, Haslam, Green, McLennan, Duncan—15.

Progress was then reported, and the House adjourned till 10 o’clock to-morrow.

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