Province of Canada, Legislative Assembly, Scrapbook Debates, 8th Parl, 5th Sess, (14 August 1866)

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Date: 1866-08-14
By: Province of Canada (Parliament)
Citation: Province of Canada, Parliament, Scrapbook Debates, 8th Parl, 5th Sess, 1866 at 90-92.
Other formats: Click here to view the original document (PDF).
Note: All endnotes come from our recent publication, Charles Dumais & Michael Scott (ed.), The Confederation Debates in the Province of Canada (CCF, 2022).

Click here to view the rest of the Province of Canada’s Confederation Debates for 1866.


Tuesday, August 14, 1866

Luther Holton [Chateauguay] desired to ask the government regarding the deputation to England[1] to negotiate with the Imperial authority for the great constitutional change to which they all look forward. He did not expect the government to tell him or the country what they intended to do in the future, but merely whether anything had as yet been done—whether any decision had been arrived at—whether in deputation was to be sent, and at what time; if all these points had been already determined upon.

John A. Macdonald [Kingston, Attorney-General West and Minister of Militia]  desired him to put his questions separately, and he would answer him.

Luther Holton [Chateauguay]—Well—Has the question been taken into consideration, and has a decision been arrived at?

John A. Macdonald [Kingston, Attorney-General West and Minister of Militia] —The matter has been considered, and a decision has been arrived at.

Luther Holton [Chateauguay]—Has it been agreed to send a deputation to England?

John A. Macdonald [Kingston, Attorney-General West and Minister of Militia] —It has been decided that a deputation shall be sent to England, headed by His Excellency the Governor-General [Viscount Monck].

Luther Holton [Chateauguay]—Has the time of the departure of the deputation been fixed?

John A. Macdonald [Kingston, Attorney-General West and Minister of Militia]—The time of the departure of the deputation was a matter of arrangement between the Imperial and Canadian Governments. Correspondence was now going upon the subject[2].

John Sandfield Macdonald [Cornwall] expressed his entire satisfaction with the full, prompt and satisfactory replies which had been given by the Attorney-General West [John A. Macdonald], to these important questions.

Luther Holton [Chateauguay]—Hear, hear.

William McDougall [Lanark North, Provincial Secretary] desired to make a few remarks upon some points which had been charged against the government. He regretted the absence of the member for South Oxford [George Brown], as otherwise he might have taken the opportunity of going more fully into some matters of public interest; but on this occasion he would merely refer to the charges made in the house, and through the press, that the government had been remiss in calling the House together, that they had failed in their duty, in not dispatching the delegation to England to secure the passage of the Confederation Act at the present session of the Imperial Parliament.

In the first place the calling of Parliament was delayed by several important considerations, among others the Fenian movement[3] which had engaged a great share of attention during the early part of the year period with reference to the delay in sending a delegation to England, he might inform the House that before the Right Hon. Mr. Cardwell left the Colonial office, he had communicated his opinion to this government[4], that the measure could not be carried through the Imperial Parliament during the present session, and since the new Colonial Secretary [Earl of Carnarvon] had come into office, the Government had received a similar declaration from him[5]. It would therefore be seen that the delay in regard to the passing of the Confederation Act, was not chargeable upon the government, as he had said. There were other remarks which he intended to have made but in the absence of the member for South Oxford [George Brown], he would refrain from saying anything more upon this occasion.

Luther Holton [Chateauguay] thought that perhaps Mr. Cardwell’s despatch was in the nature of your approach to this Government for not having been ready sooner.

William McDougall [Lanark North, Provincial Secretary] — No! No! Not at all.

Luther Holton [Chateauguay], at all events, would like to see the despatch. It ought to be laid before the House.

At intervals during the foregoing debate, the House was in receipt of messages from the Legislative Council, relative to the passage of bills, concurrence in amendments, &c.

The House adjourned at a few minutes past one, to meet at 11 o’clock on Wednesday.


[1]      Delegates to the London Conference of December 1866. The delegates for Canada were [John A.] Macdonald, Cartier, Galt, McDougall, Howland, and Langevin. For Nova Scotia they were Tupper, Henry, Ritchie, McCully, and Archibald. Finally, for New Brunswick, they were Tilley, Johnson, Mitchell, Fisher, and Wilmot. See Joseph Pope, Confederation: Being a Series of Hitherto Unpublished Documents Bearing on the British North America Act (1895), p. 94.

[2]      See UK, Correspondence Respecting the Proposed Union of the British North American Provinces (1867). For discussions surrounding the Canadian deputation, see the correspondence in Aug. 1866.

[3]      The Fenian movement gained strength in North America when British antipathy in the United-States were raised after American politicians blamed “unneutral” British interference during the civil war after it concluded and raids on the Irish Republican Brotherhood in Ireland in the Fall of 1865 angered American immigrated Irish. In America, membership in the Fenian movement swelled late-1865 and it aimed at invading British North American to encourage rebellion and free Ireland from English subjugation. While the movement itself did attempt actual invasions of British North America, these were inefficient and unorganized – compared to “a crowd of seedy theatrical extras, hired by the hour for some battle scene in a play or a film.” The Fenians are mentioned once in the “Confederation Debates” of 1865 by T. D’Arcy McGee on Feb. 9,. 1865 when quoting a passage from Archbishop Connolly’s letter in favor of confederation published in the Halifax Morning Chronicle on Jan. 13, 1865. There Archbishop Connolly wrote:“A cavalry raid or a visit from our Fenian friends on horseback, through the plains of Canada and the fertile valleys of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, may cost more in a single week than Confederation for the next fifty years; and if we are to believe you, where is the security even at the present moment against such a disaster?”

[4]      Despatch from Edward Cardwell. Unconfirmed reference.

[5]      Despatch from the Earl of Carnarvon to Viscount Monck (Aug. 4, 1866). Supra footnote 2, p. 47.

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