Prince Edward Island, House of Assembly, Debates and Proceedings: Union of the Colonies (25 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 45-50.
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THE PARLIAMENTARY REPORTER,
SATURDAY, March 25.
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Debate on the Union of the Colonies resumed.
Hon Col Gray.—Mr Speaker, It might reasonably be expected, and honorable members may consider that it would be more in accordance with the elevated character of a project, which, having engrossed the minds of the statesmen of British America for many years, has at length culminated in the phase in which it now attracts the attention of the people of not only these Provinces and Great Britain, but also of our neighbors in the Great Republic who are anxiously watching our proceedings, that I should elaborate the argument in support of my own views. But, Sir, I do not at present intend to enlarge upon the grander features of this great question—a Confederation of the varied and gigantic interests involved, the benefits which must inevitably accrue to all British America were we confederated in one strong and indissoluble bond of brotherhood from Newfoundland to Vancouver.
However desirous I might be, under a state of public opinion other than that which at present exists, to approach in a far more extended sense than one of mere local interest, the consideration of a measure which has for its object the consolidation of any hitherto isolated and disjointed fragments into a Confederation which will form a state as large as the entire Continent of Europe, yet it is not my present intention to do so; neither do I intend to offer any comments upon the resolutions which my hon friend, the leader of the Government, in accordance, doubtless, with the desires of a large majority of members of this House, has now submitted for our consideration, but I shall confine myself solely to a few observations on those points which apply more particularly to the immediate condition of the people of this Island separately, as evidencing the motives and reasons which actuated me in earnestly desiring that we may have the good fortune to be admitted within, and to become an integral part of, the proposed Confederation. Mr Speaker, we all know that our free trade with the United States is about to cease.
Already had notice for the abrogation of the Reciprocity Treaty been given by the American authorities, and, when this shall have been finally acted upon, we must look elsewhere for markets for our produce, or submit to a taxation on it in the ports of the United States which will be almost prohibitory; therefore, as we are peculiarly an agricultural people, the great object of our solicitude should be to look around and enquire where we may best secure ready markets, and as near to our own doors as possible; for it is obvious that if we can have easy access to markets in rich and populous cities in our midst, we will receive far better returns than if driven to have recourse to places remote, and only to be reached after long and tedious voyaging.
Sir, I believe that we may safely assume that in a very few years, when confederated, that Halifax and St. John alone will be ready to absorb all we can raise unless every acre in this Island be cultivated like a kitchen garden. Let us consider the future of these two cities, for, great as their natural advantages now are, all pales before the contemplation of what they are destined ultimately to become. Let me instance the rise and progress of two places somewhat similarly situated, in the past—Singapore and Chicago. When that eminent man, Sir Stamford Raffles, first suggested the idea of founding that famous emporium for the China trade, how the enemies of progress lifted up their eyes in amazement! how they ridiculed the idea! how great the ruin which must ensue from the adoption of the policy proposed! But what was the result? Soon he was enabled to write, (I quote from memory his own words), “From an insignificant fishing village, our town, in three years, has a population of ten thousand; our lands are rapidly rising in value, and we have every reason to expect, that, in a very few years, we shall have ten times our numbers.”
How truly the prognostics of this great man have been fulfilled, this wonderful mart of commerce, with its hundred thousands of population, bears, at this day, ample witness. Look again at Chicago. In the year 1833, it was a town of fifty inhabitants; twenty years after it had a population of eighty thousand. The tide of emigration must flow to British […]
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[…] America. Already Australia is overdone. Taxation in the United States has become so terribly oppressive that many thousands have, during the past year, left them to settle in Canada; and we may fairly assume, as certain, that the good time for these Provinces has at length come. The Intercolonial Railway will bring the whole trade of the West into Halifax and St. John. It is easy to foretell the rapidity with which they will increase in wealth and population; and how readily they will supply us with a market for our cattle, our pork, our oats and potatoes, at paying prices; and although I wish to confine my observations to what appears more particularly the desire of our people—immediate benefits—yet, I cannot pass this subject without asking hon members to take a prospective glance of what will be the future of these two cities. When the Intercolonial Railroad is finished, a third of the distance to Vancouver is completed.
Does any hon member imagine that the capitalists of Great Britain will rest satisfied until the remaining portion of this great highway of the nations is pushed on to the Pacific? Why, the opening up of the valley of the Saskatchewan will cause a rush of immigrants from Europe to occupy its millions of acres; its waters teeming with varieties of fish; its plains covered with myriads of buffalo; the beds of its streams abounding in gold; its land the finest arable, in fact, so vast, so inexhaustible are the resources of this favored region that it excites but little wonder to hear a distinguished British statesman, on his return from that locality, declaring it to be his firm conviction that the child is now born who will see us with a population of fifty millions. From Vancouver to Yeddo is thirteen days’ sail; to Shanghai three days more, and if, in addition, we allow seven days for the land transit, we will have the costly products from the banks of the Yangtsekiang, the mighty St. Lawrence of the East, deposited in the warehouses of Halifax and St. John in little over three weeks, instead of occupying, as they now do, from four to five months in the transmission, thereby causing considerable loss to the mercantile world, as well from the perishable nature of the articles themselves as from the slow returns of profits. Halifax and St. John having become the storehouses of Europe for the China and Japan trade, can any one have the temerity to take upon himself to prescribe the bounds of their prosperity?
A few days ago, my eye was attracted by the heading of an article in a newspaper which I shall read to the House:
“A PROSPEROUS CITY.—The City of Portland had, in 1844, a valuation of $4,365,788, which was increased to $26,963,939 in 1864. Her exports to foreign countries increased from $251,097 in 1845, to $4,396,142 in 1864; her imports from $339,791 in 1845, to $13,039,749 in 1864, showing not only growth of business, but an increase of wealth unexampled in any other city of New England during the same period. This great increase of wealth is wholly due to the trade with Canada by the Grand Trunk Railway.”
Such would be the increase of trade and prosperity in Halifax and St. John with a Union of the Provinces and the construction of the Intercolonial Railway. But the object of all others to be desired by every freeman should be the having a strong Government at his back to maintain his rights and secure him justice whenever demanded, and certainly, if ever there were a people needing this, it is ourselves. What a pitiful position we have ever occupied, when knocking at the doors of Downing Street! It is needless for me to particularize instances, too well is the fact known to us all; and I can now truly say, after a considerable experience as a member of this Government for six years, that I sincerely believe that the Acts of this Legislature weigh no more than a feather in the scale, compared with the influence possessed by a few private individuals of whose second-hand intermeddling we have lately had a pretty fair specimen. I believe, also, that so long as we occupy our present isolated position, we must bear patiently and submit with resignation to whatever befalls us; but I would ask, does any hon member in this House suppose that the legislative enactments of the representatives of four millions of people would ever be imperiled or set at naught any more than those of the Imperial Parliament of Great Britain?
Let us now consider the benefits which will accrue to such places as East Point, St. Peter’s, Cavendish and others when we come in for our share of Public Grants for harbors on the north side; for we may rest assured that our fisheries will be developed on a scale of considerable magnitude, and harbors will be a necessity for those interests. I was glad to notice that the Prime Minister of Canada, in his opening address in Parliament on the proposed Confederation, in reply to remarks which had fallen from another hon member, to the effect that these Provinces being very poor and unproductive, only sought Confederation for the purpose of being allied to a rich and powerful neighbor, particularly dwelt upon the immense value of our Gulf fisheries; and capital is all we require to enable us to turn them to account. Last month I received a letter from a gentleman in Boston, in which he writes: “I believe that, could the people of Charlottetown see something of the extent and value of the mackerel fisheries, as now prosecuted from this, they would very soon engage in them themselves. Massachusetts took, last season, three hundred thousand barrels, valued at not less than four millions of dollars.”
I also notice that the Commissioner of Public Works in Canada, referring to the establishment of harbors in various places where they were demanded, stated that the Government fully recognized this necessity, and would do all in their power to meet this want. We would have the General Government also securing to us unobstructed intercourse and communication with the Mainland by properly fitted Steam-propellers, making the passage from Georgetown and the Wood Islands in the winter season. A Canal has long been considered a necessity between Bay Verte and Cumberland Basin, and I have every reason for saying that it would be almost immediately undertaken by a Company ready to commence the work. This will bring St. John within a few hours’ sail of Summerside, and shorten the voyages for the Southern trade, and also, in all likelihood, would exercise a very important thermal influence upon the waters of Northumberland Straits.
I now refer to a subject which has, for long, proved a fertile source of discontent to our people, and I must regret to see the present dissatisfaction manifesting itself in the formation of Tenant Leagues, which the experience of all countries but proves eventually to be the means of bringing trouble and distress upon all parties. By the sixty-third resolution of the Report, we are secured a subsidy of nearly two millions of dollars, and I cannot help saying that, when, towards the close of the Conference, I found this would be the case, I hailed it as the harbinger of a bright era for this Island; because the Government will have it in its power to enter into such arrangements with the proprietors as must be satisfactory to all parties; for while we respect the rights of property, yet the best interests of this Island demand that Tenant Leagues and discontent be put an end to. We have often been told that a loan of one hundred thousand pounds would be all that would be necessary.
Such loan would have to be repaid, and any losses incurred must have fallen on one and all of us. Now, after putting aside an ample provision for our annual requirements, the Government will have a surplus of three hundred and eighty thousand pounds. Let this be applied to purchasing the lands, and if there be any loss it will harm none of us; and the proceeds arising from the resales to the tenantry can be applied to local wants, such as provision for old and infirm teachers of youth, hospitals, market houses or otherwise. But to shew the influences at work to keep the people in the dark, several of them, to whom I mentioned this matter, answered me, “But we are told it is of no use getting our lands free in this way, because if we go into the Union we will be taxed some five or six pounds a year—as much as our present rents—like the farmers of Upper Canada, some of whom have come away from thence, complaining of the excessive taxation there.” I believe this has been told the people with the express design of intimidating them.
Those who tell them that the taxation in Upper Canada can affect us to the amount of one farthing, either knowingly or ignorantly state what has not a shadow of foundation in truth. I have been told that, at different meetings in the country, the taxation in Upper Canada was brought forward as a reason against Union. It is one of the very strongest points which the advocates of Union can bring to bear in favor of it. Hon members are, doubtless, aware that this taxation is not laid on by the Government, but solely by the people themselves. Upper Canada is divided into forty-two Counties; these Counties are sub-divided into Townships, each ten miles square. The inhabitants of each Township elect annually five Councillors. These five elect […]
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[…] annually one of their number as presiding officer, who is designated by the title of Reeve. The Reeves and Deputy Reeves of the Townships form the County Councils. Each County Council levies its own taxes, pounds or pence, as the people may choose. The County Councils construct Roads and Bridges, Court Houses and Jails, Grammar Schools and Houses of Correction. They loan also sums of money for the improvement of the country; and, as I said before, they, and they alone tax the people. Now, I would ask, what has this taxation to do with us? It can never affect us to the extent of one farthing; and, surely, if the farmers of Upper Canada are willing to be taxed by their local boards, we, in this Island, are not going to begrudge their right to do so.
It will be a long time, I dare say, before we will follow their example, and tax ourselves for local works as they do; but I would observe, it must be very obvious to those who choose to understand, that if the people of Upper Canada have already heavily taxed themselves by their local boards, they are sure to send representatives into Parliament, pledged to economy, who will unite with the other Provinces to keep down any profuse expenditure of the public funds. The next point I would remark upon is our share in the Representation in the General Parliament, and the complaints of the objectors that we have too few members. When the revolted Provinces ordained and established their Constitution, it was provided that Representatives from any State might be sent to Parliament in the proportion of one member to every thirty thousand of the population.
The State of Delaware, large and influential, as well as that of Rhode Island, somewhat similar in extent to this Colony, did not think it against the interests of their people to enter their Union with one member each; this Island is invited to enter the proposed Confederation with five. We are also told that our four members in the Council will be no protection to our interests; and that the custom obtaining in the United States is far better. Now let us take this view of the question, and follow the United States’ system. Vancouver, Columbia, Red River, Upper Canada, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and Prince Edward Island, each sends two members to the Upper Chamber. If a question arose affecting our sectional rights, interests and privileges, do we imagine that our two members could carry the point against the other sixteen? But, I would ask, has a case ever occurred in which such injustice was attempted or even hinted at, as the opponents of Confederation are so grievously afraid of?
At the time of the Revolution, the white population of the whole thirteen States was less than that of Canada at this time. The population of Canada is now considerably more than thirty times that of this Island, and if we are to follow the plan of the United States to mete out even-handed justice, we must first portion out Canada into thirteen sections, approximating to what the United States were at the time of their Union, not what they now are. But, I would ask, is it necessary that we should go into this Confederation with our hearts and minds filled with suspicions? Is it a foregone conclusion with us that all the other Provinces will unite to do injustice to one particular section of their common country? Yet we have all these dark surmisings, and much more freely enunciated by all parties who oppose the Confederation “Where will the interests of Upper Canada be,” cries Mr. Cameron, “when the other Provinces hold a majority of thirty against her in the Lower, and fifty-two in the Upper Chamber?” Then M. Dorion cries out for poor Lower Canada. Then comes New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Prince. Edward Island. Let us say, “away with such unworthy suspicions, they should not be held by liberal and enlightened men.”
As I said before, such a case has never occurred in the history of nations, and is it not monstrous doctrine to pretend that it could ever occur with us in this age of reason? But the weapon which has been wielded, with greatest success in setting our people against Confederation has been the cry of taxation. “Oh,” say the opponents, “if we come under the Canada Tariff we shall be ruined.” It was but the other day my attention was called to speeches delivered at public meetings in this city, and published in the newspapers, where certain gentlemen broadly gave utterance to the assertion, “the advocates of Union admit a loss of £27,000 under Confederation.” What is the foundation for this statement? The Hon. Colonial Secretary published some tables of Tariffs, showing their bearing upon us while out of Confederation. The hon. gentleman stated that if, while we are out of a Union, the Canada Tariff was applied to our imports, the excess would be £27,000; but so far from this being the case, should we become united under the proposed Confederation, so far from there being excess of taxation, the taxation under the Canada Tariff would he even less than we now pay under our Island Tariff.
I know that, in some things set forth by the Hon. Colonial Secretary, although correctly stated, yet he somewhat fails in giving as clear an exposition of their bearing as would enable every one clearly to comprehend; but in this case, I would ask, can any excuse be offered, could any mistake exist in the minds of those, who, if they had read the Hon. Colonial Secretary’s statement would have seen that the exact words he used were: “I shall now give you my reasons for believing that should we become a portion of the Confederation, the taxes we should pay, assuming the Canada Tariff to remain at its present rate, would be less in amount than those now paid by the people of this Island. The foregoing table exhibits the amount of duties which the articles imported into this Island in 1863, would have paid, according to our Tariff for 1864, contrasted with the amount which the like articles, in the absence of Confederation, would have paid under the Canada Tariff of the same year. By this table it appears that while under the Island Tariff of 1864, the importations of 1863 would have paid a duty of £41,963; they, under the Canada Tariff, had they been imported from places beyond the limits of Confederation, would have been chargeable with £69,792.
The opponents of Confederation will, doubtless, exclaim, ‘Here is conclusive evidence that were we to enter the Confederation we should annually lose thereby to the extent of £27,829. I submit, with deference to these gentlemen, that it is evidence of no such thing.'” Here we have language so plain that it is sad to see with what a reckless disregard of truth we have had it paraded in the columns of some of our Island newspapers “the advocates of Union admit a loss of £27,000.” That this misstatement was made for a purpose can scarcely be doubted; for it has been the great capital upon which the opponents have traded to frighten and intimidate our people. I ask, what confidence can the people place in statements so unblushingly made by those from whom they ought to expect truthful information on such an important point? but I acquit those gentlemen who, at the public meetings, repeated this misstatement. I have no doubt they were led into the error from reading it in those of our Island newspapers, which have not hesitated to misquote the Hon. Colonial Secretary.
That the hon. gentleman’s statement was perfectly correct I will show as I proceed. I believe that many of our people do not rightly comprehend the meaning or bearing of the term Tariff. Some of them fancy that a Tariff is a direct tax, somewhat like our land tax, and quite as objectionable. Others again proclaim that if we go into the Union and the Tariff be increased five per cent., we must necessarily pay one-twentieth more for the articles of ordinary consumption than we now do. I will show the fallacy of this. We are not a rich people, but those among us who can afford to purchase expensive articles of foreign manufacture, such as English carriages, harness, saddlery, silks, velvets, jewelry, broadcloths, and expensive wines, surely they should not object to pay one shilling in the pound more for these articles than they now do. But it is the bulk of the people with whose interests I would deal, and I maintain that, under the Canadian Tariff, we can have the articles of ordinary consumption at as low a rate as they are now sold for in Charlottetown; but before proving this I will quote, as germane to the subject, a statement made in Halifax before a very large […]
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[…] meeting, at which numbers of the wealthiest merchants were present, and we know how strongly many of them are opposed to Union.
One of them alone, it is currently reported, has subscribed one thousand pounds to start a newspaper to help to write Confederation down! I am told that the mercantile establishment with which the gentleman referred to is connected, supplies many of the small dealers in this Island, and clears some sixteen or twenty thousand pounds a year by their transactions. No wonder such influences are brought to bear to deceive our people. I need not refer to the two great influences which we ourselves have had against us from the first—long before the result of the Quebec Conference was known—they were in the field to prejudice the people against any Union whatever, on any terms. But, as I was saying, not one one [sic] of these gentlemen could refute the statement made in reply to what we have so often read in some portions of our Island press, that “whereas the Tariff of Nova Scotia was ten per cent., and that of Canada twenty, of course the people would, if confederated, be taxed double.” Mr Adams Archibald, and I believe, Mr Speaker, you and every honorable member in this House, know him to be one of the most reliable of the men of Nova Scotia, proved from the public returns that, in the previous year, the duties collected in Nova Scotia on the six articles of ordinary consumption, viz., Tea and Coffee, Sugar and Molasses, Tobacco and Liquors, including all ardent Spirits and Wines, amounted to the sum of four hundred and twenty-three thousand dollars, while, if the Canada Tariff and system had been in force in Nova Scotia, this sum would have been only three hundred and ninety thousand dollars, not, so much by thirty-three thousand dollars as the people of Nova Scotia paid under their present Tariff.
To make this apparent, I need only mention that in the year 1863, the people of Canada consumed three millions seven hundred and sixty-seven thousand nine hundred and seventy-nine gallons of liquors, upon which they paid a duty of only three pence three farthings of our currency per gallon; that they also consumed eight millions sixty thousand one hundred and forty-nine pounds of manufactured tobacco, on which they did not pay one single farthing of duty. Yet, if we look at the newspapers in this Island, we will see how it has been paraded that the Canada Tariff on manufactured tobacco is thirty per cent. Yes, but our people had it not explained to them that this duty is only levied on foreign manufactured tobacco; the eight millions were manufactured in Canada, and we could have imported it, if in Confederation, duty free.
Let us see how far we would have been affected by this article. Our share would have been in round number’s two hundred and fifty thousand pound; the duty we would have paid, under the Canada Tariff, would have been not one farthing! Under our Island Tariff, of four pence per pound, it would have been four thousand one hundred and sixty-six pounds, thirteen shillings and four pence. Here we see a direct saving to the pockets of our people under the Canada Tariff, of four thousand pounds on one article alone. I may remark that, this year, an excise of some cents has been put upon it in Canada, the returns of which I have not seen, tobacco is sold to-day at a lower price with them than with us. In 1863 (I have not got returns for 1864) the people of Canada consumed thirty six millions pounds of sugar, besides which they manufactured sixteen millions pounds. One business firm in Toronto manufactures upwards of sixty thousand pairs of boots and shoes yearly. The manufactures of cotton and woollen goods are largely established, and so great has been the improvement in the manufacture of agricultural implements and machinery, that they are now next to independent of the United States.
Under their tariff they import eighty articles duty free. I said that, under the Canada Tariff, we can purchase the articles mostly consumed by our people, at as low a rate as under our present Island Tariff. I now give the proof. I hold in my hand the printed list of the Trade Prices in the months of December and February, for which these articles are sold in Canada. I give them all in Prince Edward Island currency: Hyson Twankay Tea, one shilling and ninepence per pound. Choice breakfast Congou, two shillings per pound. Souchong, choice family, two shillings and four pence per pound. West India Sugars, six pence per pound. Loaf and Crushed Sugars, ten pence per pound. Rice, two pence half penny per pound. Molasses, two shillings per gallon. Coffee, one shilling and four pence per pound. Tallow Candles, seven pence half penny per pound. Manufactured Tobacco, one shilling and five pence per pound. Whiskey, two shillings and six pence per gallon. Superfine, No. 1, Flour, four dollars per barrel. Superfine, No. 2, three dollars and a quarter per barrel.
If we compare these prices with those which we now pay in Charlottetown, and if our country friends say that these prices will ruin them, then I will admit that their ideas of union and those which I entertain are widely dissimilar. It was only a short time since that I was under the impression that, under the tariff of Canada, Tea and Sugar would be a trifle dearer than we now have them in Charlottetown, because these are some thousand miles further for the place of transit of these articles, but I find I was mistaken, and that they can be sold as low under the tariff of Canada as under our own; hence I maintain, if the people were truthfully informed, that they would see that it is clear as the sun at noonday, that if we become the consumers, duty free, of the various manufactures of four millions of people, possessing abundance of water-power, raw material and steadily increasing markets, the great bulk of the population of this Island could dispense with the consumption of dutiable articles, with the exception of tea, sugar, and molasses, the prices of which, I have shown, are not higher under the Canadian than our own tariff.
We should find also that, instead of the Revenue annually required to be raised being doubled, under Confederation, as the opponents of the measure scruple not to assert, it would not be one half of its present amount, and each year would witness its diminution proportionately to the increase of our population. The existing tariffs of all the Provinces would, this year, give a surplus of nearly one million over their aggregate expenditure, and it has been clearly shown that the elevation of the lowest to the level of the highest would produce more money than the requirements of the public service demand; and, therefore, it has been clearly understood that, should we go into Confederation, it will be proposed to reduce the present Tariff of Canada to a medium standard with those of the other Provinces.
A country starting, as it were, into life, with a surplus of a million, commences with happy auguries for the future. This sum would pay the interest of a loan of twenty-five millions, and we know that the Home Government would guarantee this at four per cent. It would pay for the Intercolonial Railroad, Canals whereever needed, and provide amply for the public defences; and, while mentioning the defences, I may remark that, not only would the people of this Island save several pounds per head, yearly, by the importation of so many articles, duty free, but they would save the expense of arms and material, and of annual maintenance of the militia. Mr Speaker, we may rest assured that, in Confederation, or out of Confederation, the people of Great Britain will take care that they will not, in future, pay more towards the defence of these Colonies than what recollection of their past, and anticipation of their future, may satisfy them is right and just; and, Sir, if we prefer to remain outside the proposed Confederation, we will be under the necessity which must, sooner or later arrive, of taxing ourselves pretty heavily for this object of defence.
The arms alone which we would require for the equipment of our sixteen […]
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[…] thousand men would cost some eighty thousand pounds sterling, and material many thousands additional. The annual five days’ drill of the Militia would be a heavy charge on the Treasury and individuals. Now, if we were in Confederation the General Government would furnish arms and material, and grant us an annual allowance for maintenance, &c. Again, all who are at all conversant with military matters know that there can be but one arm, one executive, as it were, to work where military matters are concerned; but, if our people prefer it, they will find out that it is no small matter. Yet it must be done in some shape. A few years ago we were in the presence of a neighbour with a standing army of eight thousand, now they have seven hundred thousand.
There are many other points to which I could advert, showing what would be the gain to this Island which would result from Confederation. I might dilate upon the good fortune of our young men, were so extended a field opened to their ambition; but I shall defer the consideration of that branch of the subject to another time; and I now gladly borrow from one of the most distinguished and venerable of the statesmen of British America, when he tells us that the choice offered to the Legislatures of these Provinces is, “on the one hand, Union under one government, giving to the British subjects in their confederate and growing strength, a nationality worthy of their origin, where, putting forth the energies of free men, they and their descendants may, under a Gracious Providence, have the opportunity of rising to degrees of political influence, material prosperity, intellectual and literary attainments, religious, educational and moral progress and refinement of taste and manners, which cannot be reached in small and contracted communities; or, on the other hand, the perpetuation of the present isolated condition of the Provinces, few in numbers, unequal to the development of our own resources, unable to furnish to our sons professional education, or to retain at home our enterprising youth. We have little prospect for the future beyond a dwarfed existence and ultimate absorption into the neighboring Republic. One of these must be chosen, the other rejected—there is no other alternative.”
Yes, Mr. Speaker, federation or annexation is what we must regard as our future. And I would ask, have we considered the alternative! Do we imagine that it is remote, something to be thought upon at a future day! Already the warning notes have been sounded, and what steps have these Provinces taken to meet the reality! We know that the feeling in England has been, until very lately, most strongly excited against us, but since this question of Confederation has been agitated a more kindly spirit has been evoked, because, in Confederation, the Mother Country sees at length aroused a disposition heretofore dormant, an awakening to a sense of the duty we owe to ourselves and our posterity, and a determination on our part to unite as one people against the coming storm: and in this case they have promised to stand by us, but I know very little of the people of England, if we do not, before many weeks, hear that the late action of the people of New Brunswick has revived all the old distrust.
If we are not, now true to ourselves, in this great crisis, we may rest assured that England will not send a man to help us in our hour of need. We will find, to our cost that, on the very first outbreak, the Stars and Stripes will wave over us; what then will be the position in which our folly will have placed us? Truly, in that hour it will not be a question of a few cents more or less in a tariff. Fancy every man among us, with five in family being under a yearly tax of forty-five dollars, and for what? The improvement of the country, the construction of railroads, or the erection of cities of palaces? No! but taxation incurred by another people, in sweeping with the besom of destruction, hundreds of thousands, (I believe the number exceeds two millions) of their fellow men intro eternity, and turning into a howling wilderness the fairest country the sun has ever shone upon; and this is the alternative the opponents of Confederation offer us. I am told that it is unpopular with us—that those who oppose Confederation have gained a vast amount of popularity by decrying it.
For myself, I may say, so far as rewards in this world weigh with me, I know none greater than the approval of my fellow men, but, to obtain even this, I cannot condemn what I truly believe to be for the best interests of us all; nor can I, for any amount of popular applause, give utterance with my lips, to what, in my heart, I disapprove. Probably, as times go, I, too, might have acquired some quasi popularity, if, on my return from Canada, I had denied and repudiated all I had ever said in favor of Union and joined the cry against it; but then I would have lost what I value far more highly than popular applause—self respect. The various details embodied in the Report of the Delegates speak for themselves. Hon members need not to be told that delegates from six Provinces, each representing a diversity of interests, could only be mutual concessions obtain such a united whole as we could all agree in supporting and submitting to the people. That we had arrived at such a result I never for one moment doubted until my return here from Canada.
Taken as a whole, I cannot come to any other conclusion than this, that the principles here set forth are well calculated to establish and consolidate a great nationality, and to be the means of elevating British America to a height of wealth, grandeur and prosperity, such as we can never in any other way attain to. And as far as this Island is concerned, as Confederation will bring prosperity to Halifax and St John, whose rise will be ours, as it will bring us an influx of capital to develop the mines of wealth we possess in our fisheries; as it will build up harbours where needed for the interest of that trade; as it will give us manufactories in our own midst with constant employ to our youth of both sexes, summer and winter; the means of banishing the discontent of the tenantry; a Government elected by four millions of people, which will be as formidable in its strength as ours ever has been impotent in its weakness; a Revenue amply sufficient for our local wants as heretofore; and instead of a Legislative Union, such as deprived Ireland of her separate Parliament, we are secured all the advantage of having our own Island Parliament for the management of our local affairs. Also the further representation of nine members in a General Parliament, and nine gentlemen should be able to represent this Island as efficiently as four times that number.
Also the hearty support of England with her fleet and army. And as all this can be obtained without any increase of taxation, but, on the contrary, with a great decrease in the amount now paid by the bulk of our people. Although the subject of Confederation has been made unpopular, because neither explained nor understood, yet I am glad to place on record my earnest and hearty advocacy of it, leaving my action to be judged by reflecting minds at a future day; being assured that neither you, Mr Speaker, nor any other hon member will do me the injustice to suppose that the few observations I have deemed it my duty to make on this momentous question, will be construed into anything approaching a desire to influence any hon member in the vote he may now record; because Mr Speaker, both yourself and hon members are aware what an overwhelming majority have made up their minds to oppose it. I can, then, but be fully conscious how futile would be such a desire on my part or on that of any of the advocates of Confederation, at this juncture.
I will not, therefore, say more, but conclude by burrowing again from my venerable friend, when I repeat that this is no small affair, the influence of which will die away with the excitement of its discussion; nothing of petty politics reaching no further than personal interests; no matter of party strife; our country and its destinies, our descendants […]
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[…] and their future are the subjects, and the consideration should be approached with an earnestness, and the decision made under a sense of responsibility not to be exceeded in the discharge of the most solemn religious duty.
Hon Mr Warburton.—Mr Speaker, I did not think that this question would be take up this evening. As, however, it has come up for discussion, and as it is expected that every member will give expression to his views on the question, I shall briefly state my opinions. I have always been opposed to this scheme. If we are to have a Union I would prefer a Legislative to a Federal one, under which this House would become a useless bauble, with no power save that of taxing the people. Last Session we sanctioned a delegation for a specified purpose—to confer on the subject of a Union of the Maritime Provinces. The Hon Colonial Secretary has stated that Union is strength It may be so; but a connection of the character recommended by the Report before us, would only be a Union of the Lion with the Lamb; we would be devoured by the Canadians. The hon member for Belfast told us that under the Union we would pay less taxes. I cannot see how they can be the result if we have to defray our proportion of the expenses of an army and navy, and of the fortifications necessary for the protection of Canada. The operation of the tenant system in this Island proves that our people cannot pay the rates imposed in that country.
The Act which passed this House last Session precludes the idea of any relief being afforded to the tenantry under Confederation, for a law once passed must be obeyed. I, for one, opposed its passage, and we have no reason to suppose that the United Government would abolish it; for, if they should do so there would be no security for any man’s property. I agree that we have no influences at the Colonial Office. While I believe that the tenantry would have a better chance of freeing themselves from the Rent Roll system under the stars and stripes. I myself will never consent to live under any other than the old flag of Britain, under which there are no people on this continent who enjoy as much freedom from taxation as ourselves.
In Canada it is well known that the taxation is heavy; we increased our Tariff, but the people do not feel the operation of it as they would that of a system of direct taxation, such as obtains in Canada. This system properly adjusted would, I admit, be found to be the cheapest; but the people cannot be persuaded to adopt that view. There is a great and insuperable dread of direct taxation. The principle of representation by population, as embodied in the resolutions of the Conference, I cannot agree to; for, under it in the Confederate Parliament we should have no influence. Sir, I believe that nine tenths of the people of the island are opposed to a Union either Federal or Legislative. I myself shall use all my endeavors against it inside these walls and throughout the country, and if my constituents disapprove of my conduct, they can readily get some one else to represent them. We have heard hon members enlarge upon the glory argument. It might be that I, by supporting the proposed Confederate Government, but considerations of that nature do not weigh with me. In conclusion, I repeat that I am opposed to a Union of any kind, but if we are to have any, I prefer a Legislative one to the mongrel scheme adopted at Quebec.
The Debate was then adjourned.
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