Province of Canada, Legislative Assembly, Scrapbook Debates, 8th Parl, 2nd Sess, (10 March 1864)
By: Province of Canada (Parliament)
Citation: Province of Canada, Parliament, Scrapbook Debates, 8th Parl, 2nd Sess, 1864 at 78-81.
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THURSDAY, MARCH 10, 1864.
Hon. Mr. McGee moved for copies of all despatches, correspondence, and other official documents in possession of the Government in relation to the claims of Canada within, or the establishment of postal or commercial intercourse with, the North-West territory.
Hon. McGee said he feared that the Government had no settled policy on this subject, and that they had written to the Imperial authorities merely to procure a year’s a delay. Where was the ultimatum of the Government on this subject? Were they not aware that the boundaries of Canada must be where they were placed by the treaty of 1759? He was afraid that the mention of this subject in the Speech and in the Address was for the purpose of leading the country to believe they had a policy on this question, when they had no policy whatever. He hoped that the papers would show the House and the country whether or not the Government were sincere in this policy they had announced with regard to the North West.
Hon. J.S. Macdonald said that the hon. member for Montreal West, had made a strong effort to prejudge the Government on this question of the North West Territory. The language he had used was susceptible of no other construction. But what had the hon. gentleman himself done in the matter when he was a member of the Government?
What had the hon. member done for this land of his adoption, over which he extended his shield and protection? The hon. member had asked if the Government had an ultimatum. The Government had an ultimatum on the Reciprocity Treaty; but how was it to be enforced? We might say that we had such and such a boundary. How was this question to be settled? Would the hon. member for Montreal West be inclined to make this question such a one as had caused the Schleswig-Holstein difficulty? Would he go to war about it, and head his 300,000 followers in an invasion of the North-West country?
He would remind the House that attempt had been made by former Governments to settle that question, but it was overlaid with difficulties, and nothing had been effected. The question had been allowed to sleep till lately, when this territory passed over to a new company, under pledge to make all improvements, such as telegraph lines and roads. He would assure the hon. member for Montreal West that he would find the Government as mindful of Canada’s claims and as faithful guardians of her interests as he was with all his protestations.
He (Hon. Mr. Macdonald) must assert that the remarks of the hon. member for Montreal West were exceedingly unfair when asking for these papers. When the papers were brought down and laid before the House, the hon. member would see how the matter really stood; and if the House found fault with the way in which the matter had been conducted the Government was prepared to receive the expression of the opinion of the House.
The hon. gentleman, after making a speech for the purpose of prejudicing the Government, sat down, saying he was content to ask for the papers. But suppose that the Government had done all that hon. gentleman had desired, he would then content himself by saying he had made a mistake. In the meantime, however, his speech, reported and carefully revised, would go over the country before the Government had fair play allotted to them or time to be judged by what they had done and not by what they had not done.
Hon. McGee, in rising to move the motion, of which he had given notice the first day of the Session, for the production of papers in relation to the Intercolonial Railway and survey negotiations, said: I have already, Mr. Speaker, expressed my conviction—in the debate on the Address,–that the late negotiations as to the Intercolonial Railway and Survey, and I have now before me on this desk the most melancholy proofs that that conviction was well founded.
As the most frequent and sustained, and by far the ablest and most important correspondence that has ever arisen among these Provinces themselves, the whole series of papers, sent down to us last Session, and to the Nova Scotia and New Brunswick Houses now sitting, deserves the careful review of every member of the House. An article of the organ of the Administration of this day, denouncing the portion of that correspondence sustained by His Excellency Governor Gordon, as “petulant,” “ignorant,” “foolish,” and “absurdly untrue”—what I cannot but call an audacious article—setting a very bad example in the tone of speaking of persons in His Excellency’s position—a tone I should be very sorry to see adopted towards our own Governor General—gives a very immediate importance to this correspondence to which I now entreat the attention of the House.
It will be remembered that the date of the last paper in the return sent down to us last October, was September 8th.
(There was indeed another paper, the Canadian Memorandum of September 29th, read in this House, irregularly, and without due consideration, as I think, by the hon. Premier the very day of its adoption, but it is not yet formally before this House.)
Hon. J.S. Macdonald—It was sent that day by mail.
Hon. McGee—Sent by mail!
That is the way we treat our allied Colonies.
The Nova Scotia return includes the paper of Sept. 29th, however, and brings down the series to the Canadian Memorandum of Dec. 20th, while the New Brunswick return, which reached us only yesterday, gives us all the subsequent papers, down to the order in Council appointing Mr. Sandford Fleming on the 20th February,–the day after the meeting of Parliament observe to make the entire survey on Canada’s “own responsibility and at our sole expense”—and the acknowledgment of that step made by New Brunswick, under date Feb. 29th,–only ten days ago. Now, unless our Government has something behind, something which it has not communicated to the other Provinces—and the negotiation being in common, I presume, that all the important documents are in possession of all the parties alike,–we have thus, the hon. gentlemen on the Treasury Benches have in their hands, the means of refuting, or we of establishing, the most serious charge that can be made against any Government, that is, the wilful violation of its plighted, public faith.
I have read, Mr. Speaker, every line of these Intercolonial papers,–I have read some of them for the first time within the last 24 hours,–and although it is no pleasure to me to enjoy a merely personal or party triumph over the hon. gentlemen, I cannot for the sake of the great public interests at sake, refrain from respecting my full conviction that any part in the correspondence is not very creditable to Canada, nor such as to establish the good faith of our Government, in the entire transaction.
When in the Lower Provinces last vacation, I maintained, publicly and privately the good faith of the delegation to England, and the Government that sent them there; I maintain so still; but it does now seem to me, from a careful review of the whole series of these papers, that the new line adopted by the new Canadian Government,–in which one of those delegates and four of the former Government held seats,–was sufficient to throw a retrospective shadow of uncertainly over the entire good faith, even of the delegates themselves.
The other Provinces would naturally say when objections such as the sinking fund, peculiar to Canada, were started to the common project; when a survey to facilitate the project in its latest form was proposed, and when the survey was subsequently withheld unless the project itself was to be considered by all parties as obsolete and at an end, the other Provinces, seeing these windings and turnings taken within twelve months under the lead of the same Prime Minister, with several of the same colleagues would naturally say, “What faith can be placed on the stability, what reliance can be placed in the promises of the Government?”
I say that was a very natural conclusion for the other Provinces to arrive at, and that it has taken full possession of their minds, I need only refer to the most markedly able letters of Lieutenant Governor Gordon, to His Excellency Lord Monck, especially the letters of the 7th and 27th October last. These letters we learn from this New Brunswick return, “received the approval” of the Duke of Newcastle, and whenever they are read, I have no doubt they will be admired for their high spirited assertion of the obligations resting on all the Provincial Governments as to this negotiation, and the vigorous and admirable English in which they are expressed. If I particularize those, and some other papers, it is not I repeat, from any satisfaction I feel in the discussion; it is not to answer the insolvent aspersions of the Mercury of to-day; it is not to fasten conviction on the hon. gentlemen; but it is to turn the light of the past upon the present,–it is, with a hope, however extravagant, so to fasten public attention on this Intercolonial Diplomacy, that it may not be possible hereafter for any Canadian Administration, if any such could be found, to play the double game at Halifax or Frederickton, in the name of Canada, without being called to answer for it to the Parliament of Canada.
I must say a word here on behalf of a gentleman who has shown through these negotiations signal temper and ability. I mean my friend, Mr. Tilley of New Brunswick, on whom the organs of our Administration have endeavored to throw the entire responsibility of delaying the survey.
Now, the fact is, as these documents show beyond a shadow of doubt, none of the negotiators has been more anxious than Mr. Tilley—as certainly no one of the Provinces is more at stake than New Brunswick,–in this undertaking. The accidents of politics threw Mr. Howe out of public life for the moment in his own Province, soon after the return of the joint-delegation from England, and the Imperial Government (I am sure every British Americans will rejoice at it), having provided an honorable retreat for Mr. Howe, in the Imperial office of Fishery Commissioner,–this Nova Scotian revolution,–by which, whatever his programme may have been, I cannot but feel that our Provincial politics have lost one of their foremost exponents—this change, I say, naturally forced Mr. Tilley into the foreground, in the maintenance of the Quebec compact of September, 1862.
Mr. Tilley has performed his part, in my judgment, with great ability, and an extraordinary command of temper, and when the great project has succeeded—as succeed some good day it will—to no man can it ever again be more indebted than to Mr. Tilley, for having nursed it through the most critical period of existence.
Now, Sir, to return to this curious correspondence. The last document brought down to us was, the House remembers, the Memorandum of our Council read here, on the 29th September, the day of its adoption, in vindication of the Premier, by himself, and before it could be communicated to the other parties. That proceeding I then thought, and still think is regular and disorderly—but let that pass. The document, however, I may observe, en passant, is signed in these papers. (N.B. series page 18) “J.S. McD.”, and not as is our Canadian custom, by the Clerk of the Council. What that means,–if it means anything,–I am unable to say, but I call to it to the attention of the other hon. members of the Government now in the House.
- (p. 80)
Now, the first discovery, which the Lower Provinces seem to have made of the existence of a double influence in our council, finds expression in a despatch of Governor Gordon to the Duke of Newcastle, in August last, and is thus enlarged upon, in his subsequent despatch of the 28th September:
“The Provincial Secretary of this Province, Hon. Sir S.L. Tilley, together with the Provincial Secretary of Nova Scotia, were at that time on their way to Quebec for the purpose of arranging the details connected with the commencement of the Survey, and I felt that on their learning what was said to have fallen from Mr. Dorion, they might probably be disposed to abandon further negotiation. This is appeared to me would be exactly that which would be most desired by the Canadian Government, supposing them to be anxious to escape from their obligations; that I accordingly wrote to Mr. Tilley to the effect that, whilst I thought that if the Canadian Government as a body repudiated the engagements of September, 1862, or refused to bear five-twelfths of the expenses of the Survey, he would have no alternative but to refuse to take any further step, and should return here immediately; uet, on the other hand, I saw advantages in pledging the Canadian Cabinet to the practical adoption of the share of expenditure contemplated in the original agreement, and urged that the arrangements should proceed so long as it was possible to assume that the Government of Canada intended as a Government to respect the engagements into which it had entered.” (N.B. series page 14)
—This despatch, observe, was sent off to Downing street, after Mr. Tilley’s return from Quebec to Frederickton, while we were yet sitting here, and were assured that all His Excellency’s advisers were fully agreed on their Intercolonial policy.
Yet what do we find Governor Gordon officially stating to the Duke of Newcastle on Mr. Tilley’s report,–that he found some of the Canadian Ministers “absolutely repudiating and others hesitating to acknowledge the obligations of September, 1862,”—a very dubious position, as the Lower Province statesmen inevitably felt. The memorandum of the 29th September, read in this House by the Premier, intended to define the exact position, at that time, of the Canadian Cabinet, was communicated to New Brunswick, and drew from Governor Gordon the remarkable letter to Lord Monck, of October 7th, which formally inaugurated “the good faith” controversy—a controversy which seems ended only by Mr. Fleming’s appointment, ten days ago, and the gleam of sunshine which now seems to have fallen upon the path of the project—or, at least, upon the prospect of the survey. I shall not go into the particulars of the good faith discussion, in which we find His Excellency compelled by the exigencies of the case to defend his own honor, while endeavoring to justify his advisers; in which we find questions—amounting almost to questions of veracity—raised between these high officers administering these neighboring Governments; questions which never ought to have been raised, never could have been raised, if a week spirit, unable to wield, and unable to resign office, had not presided in the Executive Council, and led the deliberations of this House, with a pitiful salvage of one per cent of its members.
When our own return places in the hands of all the members of this House (the return for which I am now moving), I shall be prepared if necessary, to go into every detail of that ingenious series of expedients—the gain-time-at-any price policy, pursued by the present Administration towards the sister Provinces.
I shall content myself, to-day, in calling attention to one other fact involved in these Nova Scotia and New Brunswick documents. The House will remember the last year our Government would not go on with the survey, of which we were then to pay five-twelfths only, unless Nova Scotia and New Brunswick expressly renounced the Quebec compact of September 1862.
Well, what are we doing now? We are now going on with it at “our sole expense,” though neither of the Lower Provinces have made any act of renunciation. So far from it, that the last document of the series now before me, the Minute of the New Brunswick Council of the 29th of February, then days ago, transmitted the same day to our Government, expressly reserves to that Province the right to reject altogether the survey now so unconditionally undertaken by Canada. “The Committee,” says this Minute, “wish it to be distinctly understood that the Government of New Brunswick are not to be considered in any way necessarily committed to the conclusions at which Mr. Fleming may arrive. Any survey, to be binding upon them, must be conducted according to the terms of the Act passed at the last Session of the Legislature of New Brunswick, authorizing the construction of the Intercolonial Railway.”
So that we lost a year, and the Surveyor lost a session, in seeking for a renunciation which is now abandoned, and in higgling over our proportion of an expenditure of which we have at length undertaken the whole!
This is, in short, the sum and substance of the negociations of the last year and a-half, conducted on our part, under the auspices of the present head of the Administration.
It is, so far as Canada is concerned, divisible into two parts, that part maintained from September ’62 to May ’63, by the Macdonald-Sicotte Ministry, and that part since maintained by the Macdonald-Dorion Ministry. The question of good faith arises only with the latter, for although the delegation to England, was our work, I utterly deny that there was any understanding, tacit or explicit, that the basis of the Quebec compact was abandoned during our time. These papers bear me fully out in that denial. It was from an announcement made in his speech on the opening of this House, in August last, by the hon. Attorney General East (Mr. Dorion), as is shown by Governor Gordon’s despatch of the 29th of that month to the Duke of Newcastle, that the Lower Provinces took alarm, and that New Brunswick took up the gauntlet for plighted faith, and Intercolonial honor.
Nova Scotia has not been equally forward, because Nova Scotia has been under an Administration ad interim for several months, and her new Cabinet are busied about their new policy. But, so far as she has given it, the testimony of Nova Scotia, as to past transactions, is entirely with New Brunswick, and against us.
Hon. Mr. Brown—The best thing they ever did.
Hon. Mr. McGee—The best thing they ever did! I regret to hear the hon. member for South Oxford [George Brown], express so immoral, so degrading a sentiment—that the best thing a Government ever did was to meet in conference with the other Provinces to sign an agreement, and then violate that agreement without meeting Parliament or putting the question to a test.
Mr. Speaker, I fear, I deeply and sincerely fear, that the conduct of our Government has inflicted a blow on the vitals of this project, which even Mr. Fleming and his theodolite cannot cure. I received but yesterday—by the same mail that brought us these papers,–a letter from a valued friend, a member of the Nova Scotian Assembly, (not a Minister), a letter in which he says:–“The Intercolonial is as dead as a door-nail,–Canada killed it.”
I trust my good friend the writer, whom I have no objection to name—Mr. Tobin, member for Halifax—is mistaken, but I fear for the worst. I fear we have not only killed it, but that by our evil Ministry we have forced into existence a brood of local projects in both Provinces, which will devour their substance, for many a day to come.
I say here deliberately, and in possession of as full information from below as Ministers themselves have, if this chance of a Canadian outlet to the sea through Britain territory is for long, and forever, closed against us, an awful responsibility rests upon His Excellency’s present advisers.
Will despatching Mr. Fleming in rude haste to head-waters of the Restigouche, or the valley of the Tobique, restore the project to where it stood, in the list of possibilities, twelve months ago? I say it will not—it cannot. If our Government really means to restore the project to the region of reality, let them legislate. Let them introduce a bill authorizing either the Quebec terms, or a sum not exceeding a certain amount to be devoted to this enterprise, with a proviso concerning the result of the survey. This would look like business—this would look like good faith,–and for this action, and less will not save the project, there is still abundant time left, if our Ministers really desire to do some thing practical, to reassure and regain the place we have lost in the confidence of the maritime Provinces and the Home Government. There are, I shall never cease to repeat it, some 550,000 of our fellow-countrymen between us and the Atlantic—here is wanting an iron link of 350 to 400 miles to connect us with our countrymen, the Atlantic, and the rest of the empire. It is a great project, and never can be carried without courage and firmness on the part of the several Provinces.
Canada, the leading Province in every other respect, ought to be the leader in point of enterprize; and it is, therefore, that I urge upon Ministers—promising them my humble support for any such measure—to go a step beyond the mere appointment of a surveyor, and to give us, and all concerned in the result, a Parliamentary guarantee for our Provincial good faith in this undertaking. If you refuse some guarantee, after all that has happened, I repeat you will not remove, but confirm suspicion—you will not revive, but you will still more deeply bury your project;–you will remove it from the dead-house, only to lay it finally in its grave.
I have spoken of a brood of projects which have sprung up, in the Lower Provinces, on the fall of the Intercolonial—
“For many have sprung from the one lying low,
Like twigs from the fell’d forest tree”—
but I must except one project, which reflects the greatest credit on all the parties,–to which we, in Canada, cannot be indifferent. Laying aside all partizan and personal considerations, the leading spirits of the Lower Provinces, not fearing to venture into broader channels than their own internal politics afford,–have simultaneously proposed, to reunite Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and the Island of Prince Edward—into one great maritime community—with one tariff, one treasury, and one legislature.
It is impossible not to admire the superiority to mere sectionalism, exhibited in this proposal, and I, for one, humbly and sincerely pray to God, that for their own sakes and for our sake they may succeed, and the sooner the better.
I could have wished, as I have always advocated, that steps might, ere this, have been taken for the initiation of the larger union of all the Provinces; but if we are just now barren of the wise and generous spirit of compromise that seeks to restore the ancient Acadia to its old integrity, we can have at least the modest merit of admiring in others what we may not possess within ourselves.
This will be a union—unlike our union—brought about by the internal action of the sections themselves, with the sanction of the Crown; it will be a union unheralded by any great civil commotion,–and one, which it is not presumptuous to foretell, that will consecrate the memory of its authors to eternal remembrance.
I could not forbear, Mr. Speaker, since reading the respective speeches of the Governors of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, from expressing my heart admiration of the wise provision they exhibit in this recommendation, and in adding my humble hope, as a Canadian representative, that the auspicious union they now have proposed may go on to a most fortunate fruition.
The hon. gentleman concluded by moving for the returns of which he had given notice of the first day of the Session, and resumed his seat, warmly cheered.
When the motion was put—
Hon. Mr. Macdougall rose to reply; but had only made a few preliminary remarks, when—
It being six o’clock, the Speaker left the Chair.
After the recess—