Province of Canada, Legislative Council, 8th Parl, 4th Sess (23 August 1865)

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Date: 1865-08-23
By: Province of Canada (Parliament), The Quebec Daily Mercury
Citation: “Provincial “Parliament. Legislative Council. The Quebec Daily Mercury (25 August 1865).
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).


Wednesday, August 23, 1865[1] 

Ontario and Georgian Bay Canal

David Macpherson [Saugeen, elected 1864] moved,

“That an humble addresses be presented to His Excellency the Governor General, praying that His Excellency will be pleased to cause a Survey to be made of the Isthmus between Lake Ontario and the Georgian Bay, with the view of ascertaining the practicability and cost of instructing a Ship Canal to connect these waters so as to afford an additional channel for the rapidly increasing Trade of the vast and fertile Territories bordering on the Great Lakes Huron, Michigan and Superior.”

In rising to offer this motion, the hon. member said he desired to say a few words in explanation. The necessity of increased water communications through Canada to the great and fast growing western country was now universally admitted and he believed that enlargement of our canals was accordingly a recognized policy of the Canadian Government. Nothing indeed but ship canals properly so called could satisfy this and the neighbouring country or meet the wants of the great and constantly increasing trade and such enlargement should be accomplished in the most judicious and advantageous manner.

The St. Lawrence and Welland Canals were of but moderate size and to serve the interests of the trade which was offering and would continue to press for accommodation, it would be necessity to construct others. He had not a word to say against the Welland Canal, which according to its capacity, had rendered the greatest service to the Western trade and which must ever continue to subserve that of Lake Erie. At the time of its construction, Detroit was understood as the West, and no trade of any consequence came from beyond, but now there was a trade to provide for of enormous proportions coming from the territories extending from the shores of Lakes Michigan and Superior, even to the Rocky Mountains.

For all the productions that vast country, including our own North West, must find an outlet for its productions by these Lakes. To meet the wants to this trade, new water communications must be constructed, and it was of the utmost importance that in providing such facilities the best possible route should be selected. The trade, as he had said, needing these increased facilities was absolutely enormous, and before long would be almost boundless.

In proof of this, he would now read some extracts from a Prize Essay on the Reciprocity Treaty, and its advantages to the United States and Canada, by Mr. Arthur Harvey[2], of the Minister of Finance’s Department, and in doing so could not but express his admiration of the able manner in which that gentleman had treated the subject. […][3]

In my opinion reciprocity in the past was fair and just to both parties, but no one can fail to see that the construction of the Georgian Bay Canal and opening it to our neighbours would be more than an equivalent for anything we can receive or ask under reciprocity. There were now present in the House several hon. member, who took a part—and a distinguished part—in the recent Commercial Convention at Detroit[4], but before they proceeded thither they had met the other Canadian Delegates at Toronto[5]; and there they had all arrived at the conclusion that it was necessary our existing canals should be enlarged and new ones constructed. He had no doubt he would have their support to the motion he had now submitted to the House, for he repeated that nothing we could possible do would have so powerful an effect upon the American mind in favour of a Reciprocity Treaty[6] as the construction of this great work. If it were undertaken and proceeded with vigorously he was persuaded we should never hear another word about the projected canal around the Falls of Niagara. It was the only route which would serve both countries equally well. […][7]

It would also be an important means of contributing to the opening up and settlement of our own North Western Territory. Well informed persons are of opinion that the North-west territories on both sides of the line will become the great wheat producing region of the continent. He had been told by an eminent American gentleman whose experience entitled his opinion to weight, that the conviction was growing that in the course of time a larger quantity of wheat would find an outlet through Lake Superior than from lake Michigan. He would not longer detain the House as he thought he had said enough to satisfy hon. members that he had not exaggerated the importance of the route.

He had shown that it was highly approved of by the most intelligent Americans in the West, and he believed it was the opinion of all well informed men that in course of time the work must be constructed. It would then be the great outlet for the amazingly large and ever increasing products of the West, and its effects upon our own prosperity could not be over-rated. His object was to obtain a Government survey such as he had described, and if it were found a practical enterprise he had confidence that it would be undertaken and accomplished, and would prove our most valuable public work. He wanted the Survey now and thought it might yet be accomplished this season for the extent of ground to be gone over was not great. If it were an eligible enterprize it should be made known early as the results would be most beneficial. The Ottawa Canal had been surveyed at the public expense and why not this? The post would not be as many dollars as that had been pounds, and he trusted the Government would see the propriety of acceding to his motion.

Some Hon. Members—Hear, hear.

David Macpherson [Saugeen, elected 1864]—Before sitting down he begged to call attention to a most useful work, giving a history of all the Canadian Canals, with full statistics as to their cost, capacity, &c. It had been prepared by Mr. Kingsford[8], Civil Engineer of Toronto. He had the more pleasure in saying this as he did not concur in some of the opinions of the author touching our future canal policy.

James Skead [Rideau, elected 1862] said that the manner in which the hon. member for Saugeen [David Macpherson] had presented this subject did him a great deal of credit, and it was evident that he was disposed to do all in his power to serve his constituents, but nevertheless he (Mr. Skead) must take exception to his conclusions. The Georgian Bay would require excavations such as had never before been made, no less in fact than 175 feet.

An Hon. Member— 300 feet.

James Skead [Rideau, elected 1862]—The hon. member did not allege that the plan was practicable, all he stated was that if the Canal were to be constructed it would be all that could possible be required. But there was a little placed called Ottawa which took an interest in the matter, and some one there anticipating that the subject would come up, had sent him map which he had just received, showing the superiority of the route by way of that small place. He could not now invite the attention of hon. members to the points which that map made quite clear, but he would put it in the Committee room where hon. members could examine it at their leisure. The Ottawa Canal, as he conceived, could have no competitor, and then as to the question of defence, which after all is of some importance, why that route offered advantages entirely its own.

Luc Letellier de Saint Just [Grandville, elected 1860]—Oh, the question of defence is postponed.

Some Hon. MembersLaughter.

James Skead [Rideau, elected 1862]—The estimate for the Ottawa Canal was 20 or 25 millions of dollars, but when the advantages were compared with the outlawed, the sum would be found small. There were millions of acres of valuable lands in the direct route to the West along the Canal which would be brought under cultivation. For his part he had no objection to the proposed survey, as he believed that a thorough investigation would set the Georgian Bay Canal project at rest for ever, but he wanted the matter placed in disinterested bands so that a reliable report might be had. With this view he was prepared to vote for the motion even though the survey should cost $20,000, and he was persuaded that when the thing had been well tested the work would be given up us impracticable.

The Ottawa Canal would be built some day, and the very quotations of the hon. member went to prove its superiority over all other routes. The Georgian Bay Canal would go through an already settled country, and consequently would be of no use in bringing our wild lands under settlement. Then it was said there would be no water to feed upper locks. As to ship canals they were not wanted in Canada. The harbours on the Lakes had not more than 10 or 12 feet of water, and it was therefore useless to have canals that would float vessels of a larger draft. Let us have canals of equal depth, and with barges and strain we could do all that was wanted for the trade of the great West.

He was prepared to vote for a reasonable appropriation provided, as he had said, that the survey was conducted by persons totally disinterested and who would render such a report as could be fully depended upon. All that the hon. member claimed for the Georgian Bay Canal, he (Mr. Skead) claimed for the Ottawa Canal with many other and great advantages in with many other and great advantages in addition. By the Ottawa Canal, gunboats could be taken to Lake Huron, but how would it be if the Georgian Bay Canal were built, and the fortifications at Kingston were blown to atoms? How then would the gunboats go up? How would nevertheless support the motion.

William McMaster [Midland, elected 1862] said that very great credit was due to the hon. member for Saugeen [David Macpherson] for the very able manner in which he had placed before the House the important subject which his motion referred. Every person who had given the subject a proper attention was prepared to admit that many and very great advantages would result to the province generally, from the proposed connection of the waters of the Georgian Bay by means of a ship Canal with Lake Ontario.

This route notwithstanding anything that might be said, was confessedly the most direct of any yet projected between the Upper Lakes and New York, and gentlemen of the highest standing and eminence in the civil engineering profession had given it as their opinion that it judged of or measured, by sailing time, it was also the shortest by a great deal.

The one formidable obstacle in the way was met at the high ridge, a few miles north of Toronto, and until the question was decided by competent authority as to whether or not that obstacle could be over come by engineering skill. the people of Western Canada would not concur in or consent to the adoption of any other route. Nearly 880,000 had been expended in an exploration and survey of the Ottawa route, and in view of the fact that less than one quarter of that sum would be needed to make the proposed survey of the Georgian Bay and Ontario route, he did hope the Government would view the matter favourably and be induced to take such steps as would be necessary to test thoroughly the practicability of that project. Holding these views it afforded him great pleasure to second the motion of the hon. member for Saugeen [David Macpherson].

James Currie [Niagara, elected 1862] said he had been struck with the difference which residence in different localities had made in the opinions of the hon. members who had spoken on this subject. There were the members from Toronto on one side in favour of the small canals to connect Huron and Ontario, and the gentleman from Ottawa [James Skead] who insisted that the canal by way of his city must be built. They of course represented their respective localities and it could not therefore be out of the way for him to say something about the Welland.

Some Hon. Members—Hear, hear.

James Currie [Niagara, elected 1862]—Now, that canal was the only public work in Canada, and therefore entitled to some little consideration. It was said that it was the policy of the Government to enlarge and improve the canals and he earnest wished it was. Were it so it would do infinitely more good than any amount of constitution-making they might undertake. If it was the policy of the Government to enlarge the canals he hoped, if they remained in office that it would be carried out at an early day. With respect to the motion he felt it his duty to oppose it for he did not believe that a time of financial depression like the present was the time proper to make costly surveys.

Only yesterday a report of another survey which would cost some $50,000 or $60,000 was laid on the table and if the work to which it related was undertaken there would be another expenditure of $28,000,000. Surely, under the circumstances of the country and in view of such a work as the projected Intercolonial Railway it was hardly judicious to contemplate another which would cost a hundred millions.

He feared however that notwithstanding the allegation it was not the policy of the Government to enlarge the existing canals; but he could tell them it was the settled policy of the commercial men of the country; the best defences we could have would be 16 feet of water in the canals. At the late gathering of delegates in Toronto, where the hon. gentlemen reside who urge a claim for this survey it was decided that the true policy of the country would be an enlargement of the Welland and the other canals, and the opening of others as soon as practicable. First then the Welland was to be enlarged, secondly the St. Lawrence canals, and lastly the construction of the Georgian Bay or some other—of the Georgian Bay with its excavations of 300 feet in depth were found upon survey not to be absolutely impracticable.

The hon. member for Saugeen [David Macpherson] had said substantially that the enlargement of the Welland meant a new canal, but that gentleman knew very well that the improvement could be effected with out stepping the traffic more than a week. Surveys of a lateral cut from Thorold to Ontario and of another loop below St. Catherines had been made which showed this to be practicable.

John Ross [Canada West, appointed 1848] Very much like new canals.

James Currie [Niagara, elected 1862]—Yes, of four miles which was less than a new canal of 100 miles, with lockage of 600 feet, and a cutting of 300 feet. The Welland which would accommodate the same trade could be enlarged for four or five millions, while the Georgian Bay would cost 100 millions.

David Macpherson [Saugeen, elected 1864]—No, no, but we want to ascertain what the cost will be.

James Currie [Niagara, elected 1862]—Mr. Tully had given the cost as $22,000,000.

David Macpherson [Saugeen, elected 1864]—No, dollars.

James Currie [Niagara, elected 1862]—Well, dollars. He hoped the Government would pursue their avowed policy of enlarging and improving the facilities for water communication, and he cured not where they commenced, whether at Anticosti, or the St. Clair Flats, so long as they went on steadily so as to draw the trade of the great West by Montreal and Quebec. Some persons held that the Georgian Bay Canal would be the best route, but he believed that that that which was nearest to the St. Lawrence was preferable. Mr. Keeler had once said that if you took a piece of cord and fastened one end over a globe, on Milwaukee or Toledo, and the other end at Liverpool, the great market of the world, that no part of that cord would deviate more than 50 or 60 from the line of the St. Lawrence or the Lakes, whereas if made to pass over New York, it would show a deviation of hundreds of miles. We should not aim to construct works to bring trade to Montreal or Oswego only, but down the St. Lawrence.

Some Hon. Members—Hear, hear.

James Currie [Niagara, elected 1862]—Wheat was not in the greater quantity at New York, but in Europe; and it should be our purpose to afford facilities for sending it there through our own channels. But he feared the present policy of the Government was not after all to improve the public works, but to build stone walls instead of canal locks. He trusted, however, that this policy would yet change, and that they would discover the best way was to draw closer our commercial relations. If we wanted to make a good bargain with them, we must give them good water communications; for there was a very strong desire at the West to have easy and direct intercourse with the sea. Let this be our object, and let it be made apparent to them that it is so, and the results cannot fail to be most beneficial.

Some Hon. Members—Hear, hear.

George Allan [York, elected 1858] said the House was greatly indebted to the hon. member for Saugeen [David Macpherson] for having introduced this subject and for having done it so well. The matter was not a new one for it had excited great interest in Toronto and the Western States, some years ago and if it had not been for the commercial depression consequent upon a series of bad crops and afterwards for the war, an appeal like the present would doubtless have been made long ago to the Government.

In the Western States the greatest interest was felt in his project for they were most anxious to obtain the shortest possible route to the ocean, and he was satisfied they were ready to co-operate with us in forwarding the enterprise. This was not a question of local interest only, but of interest to the Province generally. It was not Saugeen or Toronto that were to be benefitted, but Quebec and Montreal, and in fact all Canada, and undoubtedly if found feasible it would be attended with immense advantages.

Objection was made to the great cost of the proposed work, but that was not the question today. All that was asked was a moderate sum to make a survey in order to ascertain if the scheme was practicable. He did not deem it necessary to produce statistics showing the extent of the trade which offered for we all knew the extremely rapid increase in the population and products of the Western States. They had received a check by the war but now that peace was re-established they will start again upon the race of progress with great vigour. Under these circumstances it would be the wisdom of Canada to make herself the highway to the ocean for the trade of the Great West as she could well do.

Then, objection was also made to the height of land between Toronto and Georgian Bay but that was begging the question. It remained to be ascertained whether there were not openings in the ridges which would admit of passing the canal through at a reasonable cost, and he thought it was not too much to ask that this point should be determined. It had been though that a communication could be had by the Humber and Holland Rivers, but he was not aware that any survey had been made to determine the matter.

The canal would be an expensive undertaking under any circumstances but when once accomplished it could not fail to make sample returns and if the Government should grant the request it will not interfere with the enlargement of the Welland or St. Lawrence canals should it be resolved to do so. With the present aspect of things and an abundant harvest it might be anticipated that the country would begin again to progress fast and that a new era of prosperity would set in. He was of opinion, that even were this canal built, there would be trade enough to occupy it and all the others too. The hon. member from Ottawa [James Skead] had convinced a good spirit in this matter and showed an example which he hoped the hon. member from St. Catherine’s [James Currie] would be disposed to initiate by withdrawing his opposition to the motion.

Luc Letellier de Saint Just [Grandville, elected 1860] said that the country was not in a position to undertake such a work, and that even though the Survey should prove it to be practicable, it would be a long time before it could be constructed. But a survey of the ground had already been made which showed that there would be cuttings necessary six miles in length and between 200 and 300 feet in depth. Such works might enter into the minds of the people of such countries as France which had no internal water communications, but Canada was not in that condition. Then we were so poor that we did not know when to get the money for current expenses, and such being the case, we had none to devote to surveys which could have no present or proximate result.

If it was true that we could not undertake the work, it would be better to defer the survey, for surely it was not for the mere pleasure of having a survey that it was advocated. We had now a canal which had answered in the past and which only needed enlargement to serve for a long time to come. In his opinion the proposal was quite unseasonable, and besides he thought that measures of this kind ought not to originate with private members, but with the Government.

Jacques-Olivier Bureau [De Lormier, elected 1862] thought the motion contrary to the Rules of the House, for it proposed the expenditure of money, and such measures should originate with a message of His Excellency [Viscount Monck]. He had once made a motion somewhat analogous in the other House and it had been ruled out of order.

Alexander Campbell [Cataraqui, elected 1858, Commissioner of Crown Lands] said he concurred with the hon. member for Saugeen [David Macpherson] in regarding the subject he had presented to the House as one of the greatest importance. He also congratulated the hon. member on the clearness and force with which he had exhibited the necessity of exploring the route of the proposed canal. That hon. member had rendered a great service to the country at large as well as to his constituents, and he (Mr. Campbell) agreed with the hon. member when he had described the great benefits which would result from the opening of such a water communication. It was not his (Mr. Campbell’s) duty nor the duty of the Government, to say which was the route that would yield the greatest advantages, but he hoped the advantages accusing from one or more of them would be realized in due course.

The hon. member from St. Catherines [James Currie] might, he thought, have spared his fling at the Government for having given their attention to “constitution making,” instead of proceeding with the enlargement of the canals. The way to do this was first to create facilities for raising money, for it was not possible to undertake great public works unless money could be secured on favourable terms: the hon. member had not lent much aid to the Government in doing this.

He had not assisted in inspiring confidence in our ability to meet our obligations in England—the great money market. If we are to proceed with great public improvements we must in the first place continue and increase the confidence in the future of Canada which after a period of doubt and distrust, is again being entertained is the mother country, and he (Mr. Campbell) hoped and believed that the accomplishment of the Confederation project would have that effect. If the hon. member have given his aid towards this object he would have taken the first step towards accomplishing the needed improvements. It was by such means, embracing as they did the moderate system of defence which the hon. member had desired, that confidence would be restored, and that we would become able to take the steps needed for promoting the great improvements contemplated in our water communications. Till then we were not in the position to undertake such expensive works.

He agreed with the hon. member for Grandville [Luc Letellier de Saint Just], that we could not proceed with this undertaking at present for want of means. The hon. member for Saugeen [David Macpherson] by his able speech bad done all that could be done, and need to be done, to call attention to the subject, and in so doing had rendered the country a great service but as an hon. member (Hon. Mr. Bureau) had said, this was hardly a motion which should originate in this House, but in the other Branch which could give effect to its recommendations by pledging itself to make good the expose necessary in carrying out.

Under the circumstances he hoped the hon. member for Saugeen [David Macpherson] would withdraw the motion, but at the same time he could assure him that these great subjects have received and will continue to receive the earnest attention of the Government, and that whether by an enlargement of Welland Canal or by the construction of the Georgian Bay or the Ottawa Canals the necessary improvements in our water communications would be undertaken at the earliest practicable day. And of this he would further assure him that before either of the others were undertaken, the Georgian Bay route which he had advocated would be thoroughly surveyed under their auspices, so that they might be in the position to come to a safe judgment on the subject. With these assurances he hoped the hon. member would be satisfied.

A.J. Fergusson Blair [Brock, elected 1860] said he could not quite agree with the hon. members who held that we could not constitutionally entertain a motion such as the one before the House, for the expense it contemplated was merely incidental, and it should be judged from a general point of view. But the strong objection to the motion was, that the measure contemplated was one which ought to originate with the Government whose business it was to take the responsibility. The Government in such cases ought not to request the motion to be withdrawn but should accept or oppose it, and at any rate it should not be left to private members to deal with such subjects.

James Currie [Niagara, elected 1862] said he was sorry to learn that this was not the time to enter upon the improvement of our water channels. The Welland Canal was one in which New York was largely interested, and unless it were soon enlarged one would be constructed by that State and then the grass would grown on the banks of our own. The hon. Commissioner of Crown Lands [Alexander Campbell] alleged that our credit was not such as to permit us to raise the money, and how long were we to wait? Here was a work the mere promise of the enlargement of which at an early day would have a greater effect in assuring us the renewal of the Reciprocity Treaty[9]; but we had no money. Was it possible that the Province was not good for the four or five millions which would be required? Why the contractor would take debentures in payment based upon the earnings of the canal itself.

David Macpherson [Saugeen, elected 1864] desired to know whether the hon. Commissioner of Crown Lands [Alexander Campbell] could not, in addition to what he had stated, indicate some particular time for making the survey of the Georgian Bay and Huron Canal route. This was especially important in view of its bearings on the Reciprocity question. The greatest importance was attached in the Western States to this work, and he held that the greatest possible inducement we could offer them for the renewal of the Treaty would be a specific promise to the effect that the survey would be early made.

He had heard the remarks of the hon. member for Grandville [Luc Letellier de Sainst Just] with regret. This was no doubt a time for economy, but he held that in informing ourselves as to the practicability of the route proposed, we would be practicing the wisest economy possible. If the Hon. Commissioner of Crown Lands [Alexander Campbell] could not go further he would accept what he had said, and ask leave to withdraw the motion, but he thought it strange indeed if a private member could not call the attention of the Government to a greatly needed improvement. In his opinion it was for purposes of this very nature that hon. members were sent to the House. He would again enquire from the Hon. Commissioner [Alexander Campbell] whether he could not say that the survey would be undertaken before the commencement of next session.

Alexander Campbell [Cataraqui, elected 1858, Commissioner of Crown Lands] said he was not in a position to make such a statement, but he repeated that so soon as the Government was able to commence the enlargement of our canal communications, a survey of the Georgian Bay route would been made as a preliminary measure.

Philip Moore [Canada East, appointed 1841]—The Government seemed to think that they could not enter upon any large expenditure until the scheme of Confederation was carried out.

Alexander Campbell [Cataraqui, elected 1858, Commissioner of Crown Lands]—I did not say that, but there can be no doubt that the accomplishment of the Confederation would place us in the position more favorably to consider these subjects.

Philip Moore [Canada East, appointed 1841] said he believed it was the policy of the Government not to undertake any great public work until Confederation was accomplished, and in his view of the case this was putting them off to a very remote period, for it might be several years before this came to pass. The most recent intelligence from the Maritime Provinces[10] showed that there were no indications of a better disposition towards that project than at any former time.

The hon. member then went on to argue that the Government had upon a former occasion sanctioned a motion analogous to the one before the House, a position which was controverted by Hon. Mr. Campbell, and which after some manifestation of impatience on the part of other members, who declared the discussion irrelevant, were dropped. With regard to the constitutionality of the proceeding an appeal was made to the Speaker, who ruled that the motion was in order and gave the authority of play in support.

Thomas Ryan [Victoria, elected 1863] said that before the motion was withdrawn he proposed to make a few brief remarks. If it should go forth to the world that we had no immediate intention or ability to proceed with the enlargement of the canals or the creation of other routes, he feared the effect would be to disappoint the sanguine hopes of our American friends at the West, and to prejudice very materially the prospect of a renewal of the Reciprocity treaty[11]. And before the debate was closed he yet hoped to hear an earnest expression that no time would be lost in proceeding with the improvements so imperatively required. If there was an evident hesitation to proceed at an early day—

Alexander Campbell [Cataraqui, elected 1858, Commissioner of Crown Lands]—What does the hon. member consider an early day?

Thomas Ryan [Victoria, elected 1863]—Next spring; and the Government might be sure that when negotiating for a renewal of the Treaty the American Government would not inquire into our ability, but would say “we place a high value upon these waters communications, and to serve our purposes, they must be improved by a certain time.” And he would say further from what he had seen and heard at the Detroit Convention[12] that the feeling was pretty much in accordance with the second resolution adopted at the Preliminary meeting of the Canadian Delegates at Toronto[13] which was to the following effect:—

Resolved,—That this Committee will urge upon the Government of Canada the importance of immediately enlarging the Welland and deepening the St. Lawrence canals; and it will favour the construction of such new routes through Canada for the transportation of Western produce to the seaboard, as may be found requisite for the wants of that extensive traffic, and not inconsistent with the financial position of the country.[14]

He had concluded from what he had observed at Detroit that the greater part of the American Delegates interested in the trade of the great West, depended very largely upon the improvement of the Welland and the St. Lawrence Canals, but were not acquainted with our ability to provide a much shorter route to the ocean. They could not, however, wait until such a route was opened, and they would, therefore, require the Welland meanwhile to be enlarged.

For his part, he did not entertain any dread of the construction of a Canal around the Falls of Niagara, but it would be well to stop the mouths of those who want it by a declaration that the Welland would be enlarged. He did not think the Welland the best route on the whole, but then it was the readiest. When it was constructed there was to say no country beyond Lake Erie and the extent now occupied beyond showed what immense progress had been made.

The Welland suited the Erie county admirably, but when we came to Michigan, Huron and other States, the necessity for a more direct route became quite apparent. Now the best possible route when a new one was determined upon, should of course, be chosen; and while the Canadian Delegates were assembled at Toronto, they agreed to do all they could to explain to the gentlemen from those farther Western States the great facilities that Canada could create by the development of these shorter routes. They might have debated the relative merits of the different routes proposed, but they agreed not to embarrass the question with any such opinions, and accordingly when at Detroit[15], they had directed their efforts towards showing that such routes could be opened and the effects had been good.

He was sorry to find that in another place the efforts of the Canadian Delegates had been depreciated, but the reflections which had been thrown upon him (Mr. Ryan) personally affected his co delegates equally for they had all agreed us one man upon the course to be pursued, and nothing had been put forward, which had not the sanction of the large majority. He regretted that the hon. member to whom he alluded, and who as that hon. member had named him (Mr. Ryan) he might say was the Hon. Mr. Holton should have thought proper to lecture him for indiscretion and injuriousness.

Some Hon. MembersSeveral members here called Mr. Ryan to order for having named Mr. Holton, as being contrary to rule.

Thomas Ryan [Victoria, elected 1863] presumed that the same rule existed in the other Chamber, and he was not aware that Mr. Holton had been called to order.

An Hon. Member—They have no rules in that House.

Some Hon. MembersLaughter.

Thomas Ryan [Victoria, elected 1863]—That hon. gentleman had been invited to attend the Convention, but did not do so, and he (Mr. Ryan) thought it would have been more consistent with his duty as a public man who professed to have the good of his country alone at heart, to be present. But one advantage of his absence was that a certain correspondence between two of his must intimate connections, which all hon. members had read, had seen the light.

Some Hon. Members—Order, order.

Luc Letellier de Saint Just [Grandville, elected 1860] rose to a question of order, and appealed to the Speaker.

The Speaker—It was not in order to speak of the members of the other Chamber in the House.

Thomas Ryan [Victoria, elected 1863] said he was sorry if he were out of order, but he thought it concerned the dignity of the House that one of its members should be assailed by a member of the other. He might, however, suggest to that hon. gentleman when tempted to make remarks about embers of this House, the old adage, “Not to halon, before he was out of the Wood.”

Some Hon. MembersLaughter.


By permission of the House, David Macpherson’s [Saugeen, elected 1864] motion was then withdrawn.

[1]      Source: “Provincial Parliament,” [Quebec] Morning Chronicle (Aug. 25 1865).

[2]      Arthur Harvey, The Reciprocity Treaty: Its Advantages to the United States and to Canada (1865).

[3]      Non-relevant material has been left out. To view the entire original document, see

[4]      The commercial convention held in Detroit (Jul. 11-14, 1865) was attended by the Boards of Trades and Chambers of Commerce from across the United States and British North America. It was one of the measures meant to save the Reciprocity Treaty in 1865. The most impactful speech was given by Nova Scotian delegate Joseph Howe on Jul. 14, 1865. For the proceedings of this convention see Proceedings of the Commercial Convention, Held in Detroit, July 11th, 12th, 13th and 14th, 1865 (1865).

[5]      The Canadian delegates to the Detroit Convention (Supra footnote 4) first met at Toronto on Jun. 21-22 to discuss the issues and plans for addressing them with their American counterparts. A series of resolutions were passed unanimously. Unfortunately, as The Globe reports, “It was thought advisable that publicity should not be given to the proceedings…” See “The Commercial Delegation: Banquet at the Queen’s,” The Globe (Jun. 23, 1865). See also “Preliminary Meeting of the Provincial Delegates to the Detroit Convention,” The Globe (Jun. 22, 1865).

[6]      Canadian-American Reciprocity Treaty of 1854 (Elgin-Marcy Treaty). The United States passed a Joint Resolution abrogating the treaty in Jan. 1865. It was formally terminated on Mar. 17, 1866.

[7]      Non-relevant material has been left out. To view the entire original document, see

[8]      William Kingsford, The Canadian Canals: Their History and Cost… (1865).

[9]      Canadian-American Reciprocity Treaty of 1854 (Elgin-Marcy Treaty). Supra footnote 6.

[10]    Facing considerable suspicion and fierce hostility to the Quebec Scheme in New Brunswick, Tilley did not submit the scheme to the provincial parliament and a general election on its adoption was inevitable. The legislature was dissolved on February 9th 1865, and writs were issued for a general election be returned in March 1865. Tilley’s Ministry was soundly defeated, with the Premier himself losing his seat in the legislature, and an anti-confederationist ministry led by Albert Smith was brought into power, taking 35 of 41 seats in the Legislature. Fears of higher tariffs and debt, in addition to lack of clarity on the intercolonial project, and a competing railway project to the United States, raised distrust in the confederation project.


Facing similar discontent, Nova Scotia Premier Charles Tupper delayed introducing the Quebec resolutions to the legislature. Instead, Tupper introduced a resolution in the Assembly, on April 10th, 1865, signaling a return to the safer topic of a Maritime union. While those resolutions spoke of a union of New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island, it was believed to be a strategic move merely to bide for more time. Prince Edward Island quickly rejected the Quebec scheme and prorogued the legislature on April 3rd.

[11]    Canadian-American Reciprocity Treaty of 1854 (Elgin-Marcy Treaty). Supra footnote 6.

[12]    Supra footnote 4.

[13]    Supra footnote 5.

[14]    While none of the Toronto resolutions appear to be published, this one was quoted in full by Mr. Ryan, a Canadian delegate at the Detroit Convention. Proceedings of the Commercial Convention, p. 226.

[15]    Supra footnotes 4 and 5.

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