Prince Edward Island, House of Assembly, Debates and Proceedings: Union of the Colonies (24 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 39-45.
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THE PARLIAMENTARY REPORTER,
FRIDAY, March 24.
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UNION OF THE COLONIES.
On motion of the Hon. Colonial Secretary, the House went into the order of the day, viz: the consideration of the Report of the Quebec Conference, and the Despatches and papers relating thereto. The question, it was agreed, should be discussed with the Speaker in the chair; and the rule was suspended which prevents a Member from addressing the House more than once on the same resolution.
The Colonial Secretary.—Mr. Speaker: with your permission I shall initiate the discussion of the important subject which is this evening to engage the attention of this House, by submitting the following Resolutions:—
- Resolved, That the best interests, and present and future prosperity of British North America, would be promoted by a Federal Union, under the Crown of Great Britain, provided such Union could be effected on principles just to the several Provinces and Colonies.
- Resolved, That the existence of immense Military and Naval forces in the neighbouring Republic, renders it specially incumbent on the people of British North America to take the most efficient precautionary measures by which their independence against Foreign aggression may be secured.
- Resolved, That a Union, such as in times of extraordinary danger would place the Militia, the Revenues, and the Resources of the several Provinces, at the disposal of a General Parliament, is necessary in order to maintain the independence of British North America against Foreign aggression, and to perpetuate our connection with the Mother Country.
- Resolved, That a Federal Union of British North America, based upon the Resolutions adopted at the Conference of Delegates from the Provinces of Canada, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, and the Colonies of Newfoundland and Prince Edward Island, held at the City of Quebec, 10th October, 1864, as the basis of a proposed Confederation of those Provinces and Colonies, would, among other advantages, promote the development of the trade and manufacturing capabilities of these Provinces and Colonies, and advance the general prosperity, by inducing the substitution of a customs tariff, uniform and common to the Confederation, in lieu of the various tariffs now in force in the several Provinces and Colonies.
- 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 princlples—as the basis of a Federal Union—which this House considers just to the several Provinces and Colonies.
- Resolved, That this House, believing it is only by mutual concessions and compromises the several British North American Provinces and Colonies can ever agree upon those principles which shall form the basis of a Union, orders that the report of the Conference of Delegates from these several Provinces and Colonies held at Quebec in October last, be published throughout this Colony for the deliberate consideration of the people, on whom will devolve the acceptance or rejection of the proposed Union.
- Resolved, That until the larger Maritime Provinces and Canada shall have mutually agreed upon terms of Union, it is inexpedient that the people of Prince Edward Island should be called upon to decide on the question.
- Resolved, That in case the Provinces of New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Canada, should at any time mutually agree upon the basis of a Union, the question be then forthwith submitted to the decision of the people of this Island.
I have submitted these resolutions together, in order that honorable members may at once be made aware of the views which the advocates of Confederation, upon the terms proposed in the Report of the Quebec Conference, intend to submit by resolution to this House. Although I have submitted these resolutions together, my intention is, to take the opinion of the House upon each.
Hon. J. C. Pope.—Mr. Speaker, I wish to state that the Colonial Secretary is somewhat out of order, as I gave notice yesterday that I would propose a resolution on the subject. Pursuing the course that he has done, he ought at least to have intimated that this was an open question, and that a free expression of opinion was expected upon it from hon. members on both sides of the House. I do not desire to obstruct the Colonial Secretary in his speech now since he has commenced, but merely to inform the House that the resolutions which he has submitted do not express the views of the Government.
Colonial Secretary.—Mr. Speaker, I am satisfied that I am in order. I did not deem it necessary formally to declare to this House that the resolutions just submitted do not express the views of the Government. It is well known, Sir, not only in this House, but from one end of […]
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[…] the Island to the other, that the members of the Government, with two exceptions, are hostile to the proposed Confederation. The Report of the resolutions of the Quebec Conference does not come before this House as a Government measure. Confederation is an open question, and in this discussion I recognize but two parties-the one composed of the four or five members who are favourable to Confederation, and the other consisting of the six and twenty members who I believe to be opposed to Confederation. Mr. Speaker, I enter upon the discussion of the questions involved in the Report of the Quebec Conference, deeply sensible of their magnitude and importance, and of my utter incompetency to do them justice; but, Sir, in this House the number of those who advocate Confederation, which this Report contemplates, is so very small-consisting of some four or five only-that we cannot afford that even one should remain silent. In taking the lead in the discussion of this subject, I am encouraged by the consciousness that the gentlemen who will follow me, in support of these resolutions, are abler than I am to do justice to the great question in which they relate.
It is generally known, Sir, that the Quebec Conference had its origin in the resolutions which, last Session, were passed by the Legislatures of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island, authorizing a convention of Delegates for the purpose of conferring upon the subject of a Legislative Union of these Provinces. When the resolution assenting to the Convention, of which I have spoken, was before this House last Session, I declared myself in favor of the Legislative Union which it contemplated, and at the same time expressed regret that the Legislatures of the neighboring Provinces had not proposed the larger scheme of Union, which should include all the British possessions in North America. Of the thirty members of which this House is composed, but two declared themselves in favor of a Legislative Union of these three Maritime Provinces, although several hon members expressed themselves as not averse to a Federal Union of all the Provinces.
In due time Delegates from Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Prince Edward Island, assembled in Conference in this Building. The Government of Canada had been sent to this Island a deputation composed of the leading statesmen of that Province. These gentlemen were admitted to the Conference shortly after its proceedings were opened, and at their instance the Conference postponed the further discussion of the question of the proposed Legislative Union, in order to allow the Canadian Government to submit a scheme for a general Confederation of the Provinces of British North America. After a tour through the Lower Provinces the Canadians returned to Quebec. With the sanction of the Crown, and at the request of His Lordship the Governor General, the Governments of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Prince Edward Island, sent Delegates to Quebec, for the purpose of discussing with the Government of Canada, the practicability of a Federal Union of the Provinces of British North America under the Crown of Great Britain.
I have heard a great deal said against the Government of this Island for acceding to the request of the Governor General. I need not inform this House that the request of the Governor General, that Delegates should be sent to represent this Island at the proposed Conference, was one which the Government would not have been justified in refusing. Exception has also been taken to the constitution of the delegation. It was understood by the members of the respective Governments represented at Charlottetown, that the gentlemen who had composed that Conference should be members of the Conference to be held at Quebec. The Government of the Island considered it very desirable that the Quebec Conference all political parties should be fairly and fully represented. I admit Mr. Speaker, that at the time of the appointment of Delegates to proceed to Quebec, I unanimously agree to recommend to the Legislature and people of this Island the adoption of the resolutions of the Conference, such resolutions, being so recommended, would be accepted alike by the Legislature and the people. At the Charlottetown Conference this Island was represented by five Delegates.
The party in opposition to the Government, in each branch of the Legislature, was represented by one member-by the Hon Mr Coles of the Assembly, and the Hon A. A. McDonald of the Legislative Council. This Delegation, it was considered, did not sufficiently represent the Opposition in this House; therefore the Hon Edward Whelan, whose abilities and long parliamentary experiences render him eminently a representative man of his party, was requested to join the Delegation to Quebec. The present Solicitor General was also requested to give us the aid of his knowledge and experiences. Prince Edward Island, it will be seen, was fully represented at the Quebec Conference; and although the seven gentlemen who composed the Delegation declared, in Canada, the report of the Conference such as they could recommend for the adoption of the Legislature and people of this Island, I regret to say, Sir, that very few, either in the Legislature or among the people, are at present disposed to adopt the resolutions of the Conference. the Conference assembled at Quebec, and the important subject, for the consideration of which the leading public men of five Provinces and Colonies had met together, was entered upon, in a spirit of patriotism, by gentlemen deeply impressed with the magnitude, and with the difficulties of the task which lay before them-the devising a constitution which should unite, under one general government, the Provinces of Canada, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and the Colonies of Newfoundland and Prince Edward Island, in each of which is maintained a distinct and different tariff—a different currency—in short an entirely distinct government—and which contained in the aggregate a population approaching four millions.
The Report now under consideration is the result of their labors. In all their deliberations, the Delegates kept in mind that it was absolutely necessary that mutual concessions should be made. The many difficulties with which they had to contend, could only have been surrounded by mutual deference and concession. The resolutions passed by the Conference were not, in any particular, in accordance with the views of the Representatives of each Province and Colony. Taken together, they embodied a constitution which, as I considered, received the unanimous support of the members of the Conference. Gentlemen with whom I was associated in the Delegation representing this Island, have, I am aware, since their return to the Island, denounced that which in Canada they approved. It is not my intention, Mr. Speaker, on the present occasion to call in question the right of these gentlemen to change their views; nor shall I charge them with inconsistency.
I do not feel myself at liberty to allude to the course pursued by hon gentlemen at the Conference, nor to quote from their speeches delivered there. There is one very strong reason why the expressions of members, while at the Conference, should not be quoted. It is this. It was understood that the deliberations should be considered private. There is no record to which to appeal in the events of the correctness of statements attributed to hon members being called in question. I shall endeavor to deal with the resolutions as reported from the Conference, and not with the suggestions or amendments of any hon member made at the Conference previously to the passing of these resolutions. It has been objected that the deliberations of the Conference were conducted with closed doors. The reasons for such an arrangement are obvious. The admission of the public would, for some extent, have prevented that free and full discussion which was so desirable, while the daily publication of the expressions of members would have prevented unanimous conclusions.
It has been urged against the Confederation of the Colonies, proposed in the Report of the Quebec Conference, that the scheme had its origin in the local difficulties of the Canadians. It is true that the sectional difficulties of Canada during the last year […]
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[…] occasioned a “dead lock.” I cannot, however, discover any force in this objection. This crisis in the political affairs of Canada led the statesmen of that Province to consider their position, with view to remedy evils which were such as to render impracticable the further government of the Province under the existing constitution. I need not enumerate the many reasons which induced those statesmen to propose a Confederation of all the Provinces. They realized, among other things, the position in which these Provinces stand in relation to the neighboring Republic, which, within the short space of four years, from being a purely commercial and agricultural people had become one of the greatest military and naval powers in existence. They had also received an intimation from the Imperial Government to the effect that the people of the Colonies would be required to contribute largely to the cost of Fortifications, and other means of defence, as a condition of England’s undertaking to cooperate in their defence.
The Colonies have heretofore left it to England to provide and maintain fleets and armies for the security of their country at the cost of the taxpayers of Great Britain; and, Sir, I can see nothing unreasonable in the people of the Colonies being, at this day, called upon to contribute of their ability, to the cost of their defence. As subjects of the Crown of Great Britain, we have a right to demand the protection of the Mother Country; but if we have this right, we are most certainly under the obligation to contribute of our ability to the maintenance of those fleets and armies which are necessary for the defence of the Empire of which we form a part. If, Sir, the existence upon our borders of a vast military and naval power, rendering it prudent for the Colonies to prepare means for their defence, together with other reasons, can be adduced to prove that Confederation is essential to the maintenance of our institutions, and that it will promote our common prosperity, it matters not what were the peculiar circumstances in which the project of Confederation had its origin; whether it arose out of the political dissentions between Upper and Lower Canada, or resulted from less important causes.
The first of the Resolutions just submitted reads as follows:—
- Resolved, That the best interests, and present and future prosperity of British North America, would be promoted by a Federal Union, under the Crown of Great Britain, provided such Union could be effected on principles just to the several Provinces and Colonies.
I would willingly have advocated a Legislative Union of all these Provinces, but such a Union was believed to be unattainable. The resolution just read, is identical with the resolution of the Quebec Conference, and will, I believe, be supported by a large majority of this House The leader of the Opposition—the Hon Mr Coles—will certainly support me, so far as this resolution is concerned, seeing that the sentiment which it expresses was received by the Conference with acclamation. Union is strength, and strength in British America is certainly desirable. The second and third Resolutions are as follow:—
- Resolved, That the existence of immense Military and Naval forces in the neighbouring Republic, renders it specially incumbent on the people of British North America to take the most efficient precautionary measures by which their independence against foreign aggression may be secured
- Resolved, That a Union, such as in times of extraordinary danger would place the Militia, the Revenues, and the Resources of the several Provinces, at the disposal of a General Parliament, is necessary, in order to maintain the independence of British North America against foreign aggression, and to perpetuate our connection with the Mother Country.
To these, I apprehend, there will be no objection on the part of any honorable member. To defend our hearths and homes is, I trust, regarded by all as a sacred duty. It will, I assume, be generally admitted that the people of the British North American Colonies cannot defend themselves against the power of the Great Republic upon our borders, should that warlike nation resolve to “gobble us up.” Our safety, therefore, can only be secured by the powerful protection of the Mother Country; and in the event of a war with the United States of America, the resources of Britain, great as they are, would be taxed to the utmost, in order to save the Colonies from subjugation. England well knows this, and we may depend upon it that her statesmen are too wise, too mindful of the national honor to send out a few regiments, or a small fleet to suffer defeat. If we neglect to discharge our duty in providing for our safety, we may reasonably expect that England will withdraw her military and naval forces, and leave us to our fate. But on the other hand, if we show ourselves anxious to maintain our connection with England, and do that which is reasonably required of us, England will defend us to the utmost.
It is to my mind very evident that we must choose between consolidation of the different Provinces and Colonies, and absorption into the American Republic. Consolidation,—the placing the revenues and the men of the several Provinces under the control of a central power would, in the event of a war, be absolutely necessary in order to the efficient organization of our colonial resources. In Britain as well as in the Colonies, the opinion is widely entertained, that our absorption into the Great Republic is inevitable. In the event of a war between England and the United States of America, the battle ground would be the British Provinces. It has therefore been contended by some that in order to avert so great a calamity, the connection between the Provinces and the Mother Country should be severed by mutual consent, and that we should become an independent nation. Others, Sir, consider that it would be more to our interest to retain our connection with England, and to endure, if necessary, the horrors of war—that we should remain a portion of the Great Empire of Britain, continue to live under the glorious old flag, and our Monarchical institutions. The latter is the prevailing opinion.
There is an influential party in England who, I believe, desire to get rid of these Colonies on the ground that they are an expense to the Empire; and because colonists do not accommodate their Customs Tariff to suit the manufacturers of Sheffield and Manchester. I have yet to learn, Sir, that the people of this Island have not a right to enjoy all the privileges of Englishmen to an equal extent with either Mr Cobden, Mr Bright, or Professor Goldwin Smith. Our right to these privileges, I consider, exists in virtue of our allegiance, and cannot be affected by our neglect to patronize or encourage the manufacturers of Sheffield or Manchester. I have said, Sir, that as British subjects, we have our rights; but let it not be forgotten, Sir, that we have our obligations; and that chief among these obligations is that which demands that we shall contribute our full share to the cost of defending the Empire. With the strength of England available for our defence, I fear not the subjugation of the Provinces, so long as the inhabitants remain loyal. The inevitable result of a war with the United States of America would be the occupation of large portions of our territory by hostile soldiery; but the strongholds open to the sea would be held even against the gigantic power of the United States.
If we once separate from Great Britain, we need not depend upon England’s assistance should we ever be so unfortunate as to become embroiled with our neighbours. The manner in which the English Government recently acted towards Denmark is calculated to teach us a valuable lesson. Under a general organization the four millions of inhabitants in the Provinces could supply a formidable military force. Without such organization—which would be the result of Confederation—the Provinces separately can do little or nothing. We have recently had a discussion in this House on the subject of our Militia. To train the Militia of this Island would require an annual outlay nearly equal to our entire Revenue; and were our Militia to be […]
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[…] rendered efficient, of what service would they be unless they were available for the defence of the frontiers of Canada or of New Brunswick? That our sons would be required to shoulder arms and march to the frontiers of Canada has been urged as an argument against Confederation.
This Island is of no importance in a military point of view. It will never be a battlefield. A Gunboat or a Privateer might enter into any one of our numerous harbors do a great deal of mischief, and depart before our defenders could be mustered. Unless under a general organization our Militia will necessarily be useless. I am not aware, Sir, that I am the most inefficient officer in the service, although I have held a commission for a quarter of a century, and have never seen the company to which I am supposed to be attached. Although opposed to spending money uselessly upon our Militia, I am in favor of training every man in the Provinces capable of bearing arms, provided such training be conducted under a general organization, believing that readiness on our part for defence, would be our best protection against invasion. The fourth resolution reads thus:—
- Resolved, That a Federal Union of British North America, based upon the Resolutions adopted at the Conference of Delegates from the Provinces of Canada, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, and the Colonies of Newfoundland and Prince Edward Island, held at the City of Quebec, 10th October, 1864, as the basis of a proposed Confederation of those Provinces and Colonies, would among other advantages, promote the development of the trade and manufacturing capabilities of these Provinces and Colonies, and advance the general prosperity, by inducing the substitution of a Customs Tariff, uniform and common to the Confederation, in lieu of the various Tariffs now in force in the several Provinces and Colonies.
The most effectual means of advancing our prosperity would be found in a Union, such as is proposed in the Report of the Quebec Conference. A great deal has been said and written on the subject of the proposed Confederation by our Island statesmen, who have told the people of the disastrous effects the Union would exert upon our trade and manufactures. If the gentlemen, to whom I allude, have not instructed, they have, at least, amused the more intelligent of their hearers and readers. It is true, Sir, that our trade is chiefly in agricultural produce, that our manufactures are few, and that there are physical disabilities which will prevent us from becoming a great manufacturing country. For five months in the year we are cut off from communication with our neighbors, yet, Sir, our manufactures are capable of expansion, and under Union they would expand. At present the manufacturers of Leather and of Cloth are obliged to limit their operations. If they manufacture more than they can sell in this little Island they have to export, subject to a heavy duty. Yet even in the face of this duty we now export Island Manufactured Leather to New Brunswick.
But, Sir, Union would develop the enormous manufacturing capabilities of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. Great, Prince Edward Island never can become, her geographical position, her limited area, her small population, and the absence of all mineral deposits, preclude us from becoming a great country; but, Sir, the Provinces with which it is proposed that we should unite, contain every element of greatness; there is no reason, then, why they should not become a great and prosperous country, or why we should not share their greatness. It is argued that the Canadian Tariff would follow Union, and that the people of Prince Edward Island would, under its operation, be necessitated to pay an increased amount of duties. I do not believe such would be the case.
It is true that the Canadian Tariff is very much higher than the Tariff of this Island. Tea and Sugar, imported under the Canadian Tariff, would probably cost higher than they cost at present; but, it is equally true that a variety of articles on which we now pay duty, would then, as the manufactures of the Confederation come to us duty free, and the saving which we should effect on these articles of Home Manufacture, would very materially exceed the excess of duty which we should pay upon foreign importations. It has been urged, that under Confederation, although we might obtain from within the Confederation many articles, the manufactures of Canada, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, the Canadian Tariff would prevent such articles from being imported from Britain and the United States.
But, Sir, if, under Confederation, the people of Prince Edward Island should be able to procure British Colonial Manufactures cheaper than they can now procure similar articles from the United States or Britain, they would evidently be gainers by Confederation. The great wealth and prosperity of Britain are mainly attributable to the coal and iron which she possesses. The importance of the possession of iron was recognized many ages ago. When Croesus exhibited to Solon his treasures of gold and silver, the Philosopher is said to have remarked to the King, “that whensoever another should come who had better iron than he, he would be master of all his gold and silver.” Coal and iron have caused Britain to become the workship of the world. Where is there, on the face of the earth, a country that possesses more valuable deposits of iron and of coal than Nova Scotia? She has an inexhaustible supply of the most valuable iron, coal, and limestone, in close proximity to each other and to navigable harbors, and in addition has an abundance of fertile land. Sir, Nova Scotia with all these advantages must become a great country. (Hear, hear.)
Why, I would ask, as a British American, do we not make an effort to develope our boundless manufacturing capabilities? Were you, Sir, to go to the enterprising people of the neighboring republic, and to enter their manufactories, you would there learn the fact that a large number of their most skilful mechanics are men from these British Provinces; this Island has contributed her proportion of these valuable men; they year after year leave their native country and never return to it, because, Sir, there is, at home, no employment for them. (Hear, hear.)
The sooner the Colonists set to work to establish manufactories, the better will it be for all of us. But, Sir, to this, Confederation is requisite. Tariffs between the Provinces must be abolished. The population of Nova Scotia is too limited to support extensive manufactures, and the same thing may be said of New Brunswick. In illustration. I may be permitted to state that the latter Province is capable of producing an unlimited supply of very valuable coal oil—an article on which we last year paid in duty nearly £1,000.—The proprietors of the coal oil works produce the article only in limited quantity. They cannot send their oil to Nova Scotia or to this Island, by reason of the duty which, in each of the Provinces, is imposed upon its importation, and therefore their mines are only partially worked. Unite the several Provinces, as proposed in the Report of the Quebec Conference, give to Nova Scotia to New Brunswick, to Prince Edward Island four millions of customers.
If this should be done, our young men, who have become skilful artizans in the workshops of the United States, would find employment in their native Provinces. Sir, it is impossible to over estimate the manufacturing greatness which Nova Scotia is capable of attaining. The iron and coal of that Province are now exported to Europe and to the United States where they are employed in the manufactures of articles which we now import from these countries. The time is propitious for Confederation. We may reasonably hope for the restoration of peace in the United States. Intercolonial free trade would in the words of the resolution promote the development of the trade and manufacturing capabilities of the Colonies and advance the great prosperity, but intercolonial free trade is impracticable without Confederation.
The proceedings of the Conference at Charlottetown and Quebec were watched with interest by the civilized world. The people of those countries of Europe which send emigrants to America have had their attention directed to the British Provinces. Let these Provinces become consolidated, and then emigrants to come from Europe, as well as many now in the Republic, will seek the British Provinces as a home instead of the United States, now so heavily taxed. I come now, Sir, to the 5th and 6th Resolutions:—
“5. 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.”
“6. Resolved, That this House, believing it is only by mutual concessions and compromises the several British North American Provinces and Colonies can ever agree upon those principles which shall form the basis of a Union, orders that the report of the Conference of Delegates from these several Provinces and Colonies held at Quebec in October last, be published throughout this colony for the deliberate consideration of the people, on whom will devolve the acceptance or rejection of the proposed Union.”
I am sorry to say, Sir, that I have no hope of carrying a majority in favor of the declaration, that the principles of Union contained […]
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[…] in the Report of the Quebec Conference are just to this Island. I believe them to be so. I declare I myself in favor of this Report, while at the Conference, because I so believed, and, Sir, I trust I have too high a respect for myself to say now, that the principles of Union therein laid down are not just to this Island, because the great majority of the people regard them as unjust.
The resolutions which form the Report, as I have already stated are the results of mutual deference and concession, and in my humble judgment are such as we should eagerly accept. I have been told, Sir, that by advocating the adoption of the principle of the Quebec Report, I am placing myself in antagonism to the people of this Island, and especially to my own constituents. I, Sir, should consider myself unworthy of the confidence reposed on me, as a Representative of the people, were I to shrink from the full expression of my opinion upon a great subject deeply affecting the interests of the Colony, simply because my constituents, or the people of the Colony, are supposed to entertain any question, can, in themselves, have no influence upon my opinion. In the present instance, I believe Confederation would promote the best interests of the Island. I may be aware that my constituents think otherwise, and are opposed to Confederation.
My individual opinion may remain unchanged, but a knowledge of the views and wishes of my constituents, would most materially influence my conduct. Popular opinion is proverbially changeable [sic], and I expect ere long to hear many of those who now denounce the Report of the Quebec Conference admit that after mature deliberation, they have come to the conclusion that its principles are just. I regard the terms of the Report of the Quebec Conference—so far as they relate to Prince Edward Island—to be, in a financial aspect, just and even liberal. The average indebtedness of the Provinces generally, is equal to $25 per head of the population. The debt of Prince Edward Island is, in reality, but little in excess of $2 per head. By the terms of the Report we should receive annually from the General Government the interest of an amount equivalent to $25 per head of our population—less the interest of our actual indebtedness—or in other words we should receive annually £30,000 currency from the General Government, over and above the interest upon our public debt. I shall, doubtless, be told that under Confederation our Tariff would be raised so as to yield a revenue equivalent to $25 per head of the aggregate population of the Provinces, and that therefore we should pay annually, in extra taxation, a sum exceeding £30,000.
I, Sir, contend that, under Confederation, we should, for reasons which I have already stated, pay less in duties than we pay at present, notwithstanding the higher Tariff. If I am correct in this view of the matter, it is clear that the £30,000 a year would be gained, as a consequence of Confederation. This £30,000 a year, together with the annual allowance of 80 cents per head of our population, estimated according to the census of 1861, and a few other items, would be sufficient for our requirements. (Laughter.) But, say the opponents of Confederation, “our population will, in a few years, be double what it now is, while our income from the General Government will not increase.” I think I am justified in asserting that the expense of maintaining our Government would not be materially increased, although our population should be doubled. The allowance of 80 cents per head is fixed alike to all the Provinces. When the population of Canada, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Newfoundland, shall be increased to 7,000,000 or 8,000,000, those Provinces will receive no more than 80 cents per head of [t]heir population in 1861.
In all the British North American Provinces, Revenue is derived chiefly, from Customs and Excise. When the population of the Confederation shall be double what it now is, the consumption of articles paying duty will be vastly increased, and the revenue proportionally augmented. Reduction of taxation would follow, as a matter of course. The great Public Works of Canada will by-and-bye by completed, her Strongholds fortified, her Canals widened and completed, and her Lakes and Rivers rendered navigable; and, Sir, I consider myself fully justified in assuming that the increase of population throughout the Confederation, and more especially in Canada, will be so rapid, the consumption of duty paying articles so great, that at no distant day the rate of taxation per head, required for the maintenance of the General Government, will be less than is now paid in Prince Edward Island, the least taxed of the Provinces.
In Canada, Roads, Bridges, and other local works are not provided for from the general Revenue, as in Prince Edward Island. The alleged excessive local taxation in some of the municipalities of Upper Canada has been adduced, in order to terrify the people of this Island, and cause them to oppose Confederation. The people of Prince Edward Island would not be, in any degree, affected by the local or municipal taxation in Upper Canada. If taxation for local or municipal purposes be excessive in Canada, does not this fact warrant the assumption that the people of Upper Canada would be our allies in the work of keeping, as low as possible, the general taxation, by which alone we should be affected. Mr Speaker, let it be assumed that there are disadvantages to which Confederation would subject us. Assume, Sir, that we should have to pay for our Tea and Sugar one penny per pound more than we pay at present, and a halfpenny a yard more for Calico. Do not such disadvantages fade into insignificance when contrasted with the benefits which would result from Confederation?
The old Colonies—now included in the United States of America—in little more than half a century, under Confederation, became one of the most prosperous nations on the face of the earth. Those Colonies entered upon their Confederate existence possessing fewer advantages than we now enjoy. Why should not we emulate their example? Why shall we not unite our resources, and enter upon the career of prosperity which is clearly open to us? What Confederation did for the older Colonies, it would do for us. We have Railways, and Steamboats, and machinery which they had not. We have a country in many respects equal to theirs. Are we prepared to admit that our people are inferior to the old Colonists, or to the Americans of the present day? We have hitherto imported tabs, and buckets, and wooden wares, from the United States. Have we not wood wherewith to manufacture these articles? Why should we send to the United States, or across the broad Atlantic for the simplest iron castings, seeing that we export from Nova Scotia to those countries, both coal and iron?
Confederation would prove our best security against foreign invasion, and preserve to us our Monarchical Institutions. I feel, Sir, that I am approaching what my eloquent friend, the member for Charlottetown, Mr Brecken, is pleased facetiously to designate the “glory argument.” I attach great importance to this glory argument. I desire to live under Monarchical Institutions, and the glorious flag of old England. Sir, there are in this House honorable members who smile when the glory argument is mentioned. Their fathers made great sacrifices in order that they might enjoy those privileges which are the inheritance of British subjects. In the Maritime Provinces are now to be found the descendants of men who left the United States upon the declaration of Independence, abandoning their property and the homes in which their children had been born, impelled to do so by the “glory argument.” The American loyalists were attached to Monarchical Institutions. They valued their privileges as British subjects; and rather than become Republicans they made the greatest sacrifices, and sought new homes on British soil, in the wilderness in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island.
But, Sir, to return to the commercial argument. Confederation would give us better markets than we now have for our agricultural produce. Halifax, Boston and St John would become great and populous cities, the emporiums of trade and manufactures; and, with these capitals we have, even now, daily communication. In these cities we should find ready and greatly increased markets for our produce, and consequently should be better able to bear increased taxation, than we are at present to also give us the Inter-colonial Railway, with its many advantages. But, Sir, one at least of the opponents of Confederation—a gentleman high in position in this Island—has argued as a reason why we should not accept Confederation, that the Inter-colonial Railway would injure the people of this Colony. It would, says the gentleman to whom I allude, be the means of bringing under cultivation large tracts of wilderness land in New Brunswick, the produce of which would compete with the productions of this Island. The Inter-colonial Railway, argues the same authority, “word afford great facilities for supplying the St John and Halifax markets with grain and other agricultural produce to be bought from Upper Canada.”
These, Sir, are specimens of the arguments which have caused the people of this Island to regard Confederation as a project which would ruin them. Imagine, Mr Speaker, the farmers of the far West, by means of this railway supplying the markets of St John and Halifax with “grain and other agricultural produce”—potatoes?—to the prejudice of the people of Prince Edward Island. In the markets of Upper Canada the prices of grain, and other agricultural products […]
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[…] are usually higher than in Prince Edward Island, and the nearest of those markets, is at least one thousand miles further from St John or Halifax, than is any portion of Prince Edward Island.
- Resolved. That until the larger Maritime Provinces and Canada shall have mutually agreed upon terms of Union, it is inexpedient that the people of Prince Edward Island should be called upon to decide on the question.
Prince Edward Island is the smallest of the Provinces or Colonies, and no action which this Legislature may take, will, in the smallest degree, affect the great question of Confederation. If New Brunswick and Nova Scotia reject Confederation, we shall not be allowed to avail ourselves of the privileges which Confederation would confer upon us; on the other hand, should New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Newfoundland adopt the resolutions of the Quebec Conference, the Opposition of Prince Edward Island would be of no importance, we should in the latter case be obliged to enter the Confederation. It must, therefore, be evident that, until the larger Provinces agree to Confederation, it will be inexpedient to appeal to the people of this Island upon the question. The concluding resolution proposes:—
- Resolved, That in case the Provinces of New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Canada, should at any time mutually agree upon the basis of a Union, the question be then forthwith submitted to the decision of the People of this Island.
I, this afternoon, observed that the countenances of several of my colleagues in the Government, wore a more than usually pleasing expression. The occasion of this happiness was a telegram which had been received, announcing the defeat of the Hon Mr Tilley the leader of the government of New Brunswick, and of several of his colleagues. This, my friends, regard as the defeat of the Confederation scheme in that Province, and they are happy. I, Sir, deeply regret the result of the recent elections in New Brunswick. I dread the consequences. My honorable friend, Mr Tilley, informs me that, although “beaten,” he is not “conquered.” I, Sir, would much prefer to share defeat with that gentleman, in the great cause in the advocacy of which he has fallen, than participate in the victory which his opponents imagine they have gained. No honorable member should, in my opinion, object to the resolution just read. I hold, Mr Speaker, that, circumstanced as we are, and knowing as we do that nine-tenths of the Electors of this Island are opposed to confederation, it would be improper in us to pledge our constituents to the scheme of Confederation.
On the other hand, Sir, I contend that this House, acknowledging, that the people should be consulted, before any such proposition shall be accepted, is not justified in declaring that the people will accept Confederation. The subject will, hereafter, receive more deliberate consideration than has heretofore been given to it, and I confidently look forward to a great change in public opinion. There are several subjects in the Report upon which I have not remarked. There will be dealt with by the gentleman who will follow me, and at the close of the debate, I shall endeavor to reply to some of the many objections, which I believe will be urged against Confederation.
Hon J. C. Pope.—Mr Speaker, I submit that the Hon Colonial Secretary, in moving the House into the consideration of the subject now before you, has manifested a very great want of courtesy towards myself, as a member of this House. It is a well observed rule that any member having given notice of his intention to move in any matter, shall, as a matter of course, have the privilege of introducing the subject of which he has given the notice, and of opening the debate; and it is not expected that any other member shall, as the Colonial Secretary has done, watch an opportunity of moving in it; but having done so, it was his duty, as a member of the Government, to have explained to the House that it was not a Government party question, and one on which the Government generally took a very different view from that entertained by himself.
The conduct of the Colonial Secretary is calculated to place the Government, of which he is a member, in a false position, and looks to me as if he wished to put himself right, as a delegate, with the people of Canada. Knowing well the strong feelings entertained by all the members of the Government except two, and by the people of this Island generally against a Federal Union of the Provinces, he should, I think, have pursued a different course. He has, to say the least of it, acted most uncourteously, and I must now return the compliment by moving that the whole of the Resolutions submitted by him be struck out and the following submitted:—
“1. Resolved, That Prince Edward Island, being entirely dependant on its Agriculture and Fisheries, has nothing to export for which Canada can furnish a market. That while such is, and ever must be the relative commercial position of this Island and Canada, the products of our soil and Fisheries find in the extensive markets of our parent country, the United States and the West Indies, ready and profitable customers. The proposed Union, while admitting the produce and manufactures of Canada into this Island free, would by assimilation of taxes enormously increase the duty to which those of Great Britain and the United States are at present subject, thereby compelling this Island to take a large portion of its imports from Canada, making payment therefor in money instead of procuring them from countries which would receive our produce in exchange,—an arrangement so inconsistent with the fundamental principles of commerce must greatly curtail our commercial intercourses with the United States, and would, in the opinion of this House, materially diminish our Exports to that country, and prove most injurious to the agricultural and commercial interests of this Island.
“2. That if the relative circumstances of Canada and this Island rendered a Union practicable, the evident injustice of the terms agreed to by the Quebec Convention would prevent their being ratified by the Legislature of this Island. Without alluding to all, it is proper to notice some of the objectionable features of the Report. Without admitting the principle of Representation according to Population under all circumstances to be sound, it is, in the opinion of this House, particularly objectionable as applied to this Island in connexion with Canada, taking into consideration that the number of our inhabitants is, and must continue comparatively small, owing to the fact that we have no Crown Lands, mines, minerals, or other resources sufficient to induce immigrants to settle here, and that we never can expect to become to any extent a manufacturing people, in consequence of our navigation being close for nearly half the year, and all trade and communication with other countries stopped. Under this principle, the City of Montreal alone would, at the present time, have a representation greater than the whole Province of Prince Edward Island, and under the provisions of the Convention which regulate the mode of readjusting the relative representation of the various Provinces at each decennial census, looking at the rapid increase of the population of Upper and Lower Canada heretofore—particularly the former,—and the certainty of a still greater increase therein in the future, over that of the population of this Island, it follows as a certain and inevitable consequence, if a Federation of the Provinces were consummated upon the basis of the said Convention, that the number of our Representatives would, in the course of a comparatively short number of years, be diminished to a still smaller number than that allotted at the outset to us.
“3. That the old Imperial error in granting all the lands in large tracts to absentees, which deprives this Island of the Revenue drawn by the sister Colonies from these sources, our insular position and numerous harbors, furnishing cheap and convenient water communication which render expensive Public Works here unnecessary, the Revenue to be drawn by the proposed Federal Government from this Island, and expended among the people of Canada and the other Colonies in constructing Railways and other Public Works, thereby creating a trade which would build up cities and enhance the value of property in various localities there—advantages in which this Island could enjoy a very small participation. Our complete isolation during five months of the year, when ice interrupts our trade and communication with the Mainland, and during which period the Island could derive no possible benefit from the Railroads and other Public Works which they would be (equally with the people of those Colonies) taxed to construct; these and many other considerations, but which seem to have been entirely ignored, ought, in the opinion of this House, to have produced an offer of a financial arrangement for this Island very different in its terms from that contained in the Report of the Convention.
“4. That while this House recognizes the duty of this Colony to use every means, to the extent of its limited resources, to defend its inhabitants from foreign invasion, it cannot recognize the necessity of uniting in a Confederation with Canada for the purpose of defence upon terms which, […]
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[…] in other respects, are, in the opinion of this House, so unfair to the people of Prince Edward Island; thus sacrificing our commercial and financial interests for the sake of securing the co-operation of Canada in a military point of view, feeling assured that so long as we remain a loyal and attached Colony of Great Britain. the powerful aid of that great country will continue, as heretofore, to be extended to us, in common with the other North American Dependencies of the British Crown.
“Lastly, Resolved, That this House disagrees to the recommendations of the Quebec Convention, and, on the part of Prince Edward Island, emphatically declines a Union which, after a serious and careful consideration, it believes would prove politically, commercially and financially disastrous to the rights and interests of its people.”
Hon Colonial Secretary—I submit to you, Mr Speaker, for your judgment, the question whether the leader of the Government having given notice of his intention to move the House on this matter, it was not competent for me or any other member to propose other resolutions for the approval of the House. The subject comes before us as an avowedly open question, and therefore I assert that my action evinces no want of courtesy to the leader, or any member, of the Government.
Hon Mr Pope—The question, Mr Speaker, which forms the subject of both sets of resolutions, is the most important which has ever occupied the attention of the Legislature of this Colony; and approving of the abstract principle of the proposed Union, regret that I must oppose the measure, for the reason that the details, as adopted by the Quebec Conference, do not offer, in my opinion, fair terms to the people of the Island. It must be remembered, in the discussion of this question, that our insular position, the absence from our soil of minerals, and the difficulty, I might almost say, impossibility, of communication with our sister Colonies during half the year, place us, in dealing with this question, in a position totally different from that of Nova Scotia or New Brunswick. These Provinces are geographically connected with Canada, and have, within themselves, the materials requisite to constitute them manufacturing countries.
As to the argument that our trade would be increased by the Union with Canada, I cannot recognize its force, for we produce the same description of articles as that country can or could supply us with. Our trade must naturally be with Great Britain, the United States, and the West Indies, the products and manufactures of which we require. The high tariff of Canada would raise the cost to the consumer of goods from those countries much higher than it is at present on the Island, and firmly believing that the true principle of trade is to buy in the cheapest, and sell in the dearest, market, I should be doing violence to my own convictions, if I affirmed by my vote any other rule. I have said, Sir, that I entertained objections to the details of the scheme. Among these objections I may mention the principle of representation by population. A very simple calculation will show that the adoption of this as a standard would entitle the city of London to send to the British House of Commons no less than seventy representatives, and the city of Montreal in the Confederate Parliament would have a representation greater than that of this whole Island. Its statistics warrant the belief that in a few years the population will be so increased by the influx of the tide of immigration that the Island would lose in the halls of legislation even the small voice which she might raise at her entrance into the Union. It is not to be supposed that the increased taxation which, it is not denied, the Canadian tariff imposes, will have any other effect than that of driving from our shores those who would naturally seek in enlarged fields of action more ample returns for their labor, and greater means of meeting the liabilities imposed upon them.
The military phase of the question is not worthy of much consideration, for if an invasion of Canada by the people of the United States should take place, it would involve, as a matter of course, the necessity of retaining all available strength in each of the other Provinces for the defence of their respective territories. While I admit, as cordially as any, that it is the duty of every man to contribute, as far as in him lies, to the defence of the country in which he lives, and that it is not fair to the taxpayers of Britain that they should be at the exclusive cost of our protection, I am willing to trust a reasonable portion of that duty to the Mother Country, the army and navy of which must be kept somewhere; and her experience shows that nowhere can they be maintained as cheaply as in the Colonies. In conclusion, I may state that while I give the delegates credit for sincerity in their proceedings, my opinion is that they went further than they were authorised or justified to go.
In accordance with a suggestion of Hon Mr Whelan, the discussion was postponed until the papers connected with the subject should be printed.