Province of Canada, Legislative Council, [Morning Chronicle version], 8th Parl, 3rd Sess, (3 February 1865)
By: Province of Canada (Parliament), Montreal Gazette
Citation: [Quebec] Morning Chronicle (6 February 1865).
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In the Legislative Council, on Friday, Sir E.P. Tache introduced his motion for an Address to Her Majesty respecting Confederation, similar to that proposed by the Hon. Attorney General [John A. Macdonald] in the Assembly. The speech of the Premier was delivered in English, and was to the following effect:—
Étienne Pascal Taché [Canada East, appointed 1848, Premier, Minister of Militia, and Receiver General] moved
“That an humble address be presented to Her Majesty, praying that she may be graciously pleased to cause a measure to be submitted to the Imperial Parliament for the purpose of uniting the Colonies of Canada, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Prince Edward Island, in one Government, with provisions based on the following resolutions, which were adopted at, Conference of Delegates from the said Colonies held at the city of Quebec, on the 10th of October, 1864.
[Here follow the resolutions, which have already been published.]—
Étienne Pascal Taché [Canada East, appointed 1848, Premier, Minister of Militia, and Receiver General]—The hon. member said that in moving the resolution he felt it his duty first to make a few preliminary remarks, and to give fully and thoroughly the reasons which had induced him to assume the grave responsibility of laying this measure before the House and the country. The reasons were two-fold. They related first to the intrinsic merits of the scheme itself, divested of all other considerations, and next to the settlement of the domestic difficulties which for some years had distracted the country, and be means we might and ought to employ to restore good feeling, harmony and concord herein. He would, then, first address himself of what he considered the intrinsic merits of the scheme of Confederation, and he would therefore say that if we were anxious to continue our connection with the British Empire, and to preserve intact our institutions, our laws, and even our remembrances of the past, we must sustain the measure. If the opportunity which now presented itself were allowed to pass unimproved, whether we would or would not we would be forced into the American Union by violence, and if not by violence, would be placed upon an inclined plane which would carry us there insensibly. In either case, the result would be the same. In our present condition, we would not long continue to exist as a British colony. To sustain this position he thought it was only necessary to look at the present state of Canada, its extent, its agricultural and mineral resources, its internal means of communication, natural and artificial—its geographical position and its climate. The extent of the Canadian territory was, perhaps, not defined, but it was sufficiently well known to enable him to state that it was larger than the largest empire in Europe, larger than France or Austria. He knew that the portion cultivated was in respect of its superficial are only as the sea cost to the sea itself. We had vast forests not yet opened or occupied, and yet we had a population numbering over two and a half millions of souls. With such an extent of territory and so fertile a soil he had no doubt whatever that in less than half a century Canada would embrace a population equal to that of the large empires of the old world. Then with regard to our internal communications, natural and artificial, there was the noble St. Lawrence, which, with great propriety, might be called the father of rivers, for this stream in point of navigable extent was longer than any other river in the world. Some of its tributaries, which would help to people the interior, were larger than the first class rivers of Europe, and as to its lakes none such are to be found all the world over, especially in view of the facilities they afford to trade. Then the minerals of Canada, which were only now beginning to attract attention, were of the most valuable character, and as practical men asserted, much more valuable than the richest auriferous regions could be.
The hon. member then referred to the artificial communications of the country, viz: our canals, which he said were on a scale unequalled in America or indeed the world. Our railway system, too, in proportion to our means and population, was as extensive as could be found, anywhere else, yet with all these advantages, natural and acquired, he was bound to say we could not become a great nation. We labored under a drawback or disadvantage which would effectually prevent that, and he would defy any one to take a map of the world and point to any great nation which had not seaports of its own open at all times of the year. Canada did not possess those advantages, but was shut up in a prison as it were for five months of the year in fields of ice, which all the steam engineering apparatus of human ingenuity could not overcome, and so long as this state of things continued we must consent to be a small people, who could at any moment be assailed and invaded by a people better situated in that respect than we were. Canada was, in fact, just like a farmer who might stand upon an elevated spot on his property, from which he could look around upon fertile fields, meandering streams, wood and all else that was necessary to his domestic wants, but who had no outlet to the highway. To be sure he might have an easy, good natured neighbor who had such an outlet, and this neighbor might say to him, “Don’t be uneasy about that for I will allow you to pass on to the highway through my cross road and we shall both profit by the arrangement.” So long as this obliging neighbor was in good humor everything would go on pleasantly, but the very best natured people would sometimes get out of temper, or grow capricious, or circumstances might arise to cause irritation. And so it might come to pass that the excellent neighbor would get dissatisfied. For instance, he might be involved in a tedious and expensive law suit with some one else; it might be a serious affair—in fact an affair of life or death, and he might come to the isolated farmer and say to him “I understand that you and your family are all sympathising with my adversary, I don’t like it at all, and I am determined you shall find some other outlet to the highway than my cross-road, for henceforth my gate will be shut against you” In such a case what is the farmer to do? There is the air left, but until the aerostatic science is more practically developed he can hardly try ballooning without the risk of breaking his neck.
Some Hon. Member—Laughter.
Étienne Pascal Taché [Canada East, appointed 1848, Premier, Minister of Militia, and Receiver General]—Well, that was precisely our position in reference to the United States. Since the Atlantic and St. Lawrence Railway was opened we have had a very convenient outlet to the sea, and he, with the other hon. members now present, would remember the joyful jubilee which was held on the occasion of its opening at Boston in 1851 or ’52. For one he was perfectly delighted, as being a man of a different origin, to mark how the two branches of the Anglo-Saxon race fraternized. How they did shake hands to be sure! How they did compliment each other as possessing qualities superior to all other people!
Some Hon. Member—Laughter.
Étienne Pascal Taché [Canada East, appointed 1848, Premier, Minister of Militia, and Receiver General]—They were indeed very affectionate, and almost swore eternal friendship and fidelity, and he (Mr. Tache) had no doubt whatever of their perfect sincerity at the time. The consequences of this great work had no doubt been highly advantageous to both sides, for their commercial relations had enlarged very much, so much indeed that now the transactions with the United States were, as he believed, more extensive than those with Great Britain. If the advantages had been all on one side this increase would of course not have taken place. But how were we situated now? Difficulties had supervened, in which we were in no wise concerned, but which originated with themselves. It was North against South solely, yet these difficulties had effected the good feeling between them and this country. To be sure there had been no misunderstanding at all between our respective Governments, but the minds of the people on both sides had been considerably agitated. The people of the Northern States believed that Canadians sympathised with the South much more than they really did, and the consequences of this misapprehension were: first, that the transit system had been abolished, then the Reciprocity Treaty was to be discontinued, then a passport system was inaugurated, which was almost equivalent to a prohibition of intercourse, and the only thing which really remained to be done was to shut down the gate altogether and prevent passage through their territory. Would any one say that such a state of things was one desirable for Canada to be placed in? Will a great people in embryo, as he believed we were, cooly and tranquilly cross their arms and wait for what might come next. For his part he held that the time had now arrived when we should establish a union with the great Gulf Provinces. He called them great advisedly, for they had within themselves many of the elements which went to constitute greatness, and of some of which we were destitute. Canada was unquestionably wanting in several of these important elements, and he had been very sorry a few days ago to hear an hon. member of this House make comparisons unfavorable to those countries.
That hon. member had said the Lower Provinces were poor and needy, and that like all other poor people they would no doubt be glad to connect themselves with a wealthy partner. He had also said their product of wheat was very small, and that one of the inferior counties in Upper Canada yielded more than the whole of New Brunswick. Well, the allegations in respect of the produce of wheat might be true, but that did not necessarily constitute them poor Provinces. Let the hon. member look at Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island and New Hampshire, which, in respect of agricultural produce, might be said to be poor, so poor that an American had once told him (Mr. Tache) they did not even grow grass, and their inhabitants had to file the teeth of their sheep in the summer to enable them to ger a substance.
Some Hon. Member—Laughter.
Étienne Pascal Taché [Canada East, appointed 1848, Premier, Minister of Militia, and Receiver General]—Yet were these States poor? Had they no resources from their trade and manufactures? If they did not produce wealth in one way they certainly did in others, and so it was with New Brunswick. It did not produce wheat, it produced timber in immense quantities. It had a very extensive fishing coast, which was a source of great wealth. Some hon. gentlemen would perhaps remember what an eminent man from Nova Scotia, the Hon. Joseph Howe, had said at a dinner in this country in 1850; that he knew of a small granite rock upon which, at a single haul of the net, the fishermen had taken 500 barrels of mackerel. That was a great haul to doubt,
Some Hon. Member—Laughter.
Étienne Pascal Taché [Canada East, appointed 1848, Premier, Minister of Militia, and Receiver General]—but the hon. gentleman had not given the size of the barrels.
Some Hon. Member—Laughter.
Étienne Pascal Taché [Canada East, appointed 1848, Premier, Minister of Militia, and Receiver General]—Still no one could deny that the Gulf Provinces were of immense importance, if only in respect of their fisheries. Then they were rich in minerals. Their coal alone was an element of great wealth. It had been said that where coal was found the country was of more value than gold. Look at England, and what was the chief source of her wealth if not coal? Deprived of coal, she would at once sink to the rank of a second or third rate power. But Canada had no coal, and notwithstanding all her other elements of greatness she required that mineral in order to give her completeness. What she had not the Lower Provinces had, and what they had not Canada had. Then as to ship-building, it was an industry prosecuted with great vigor and success in those Provinces, especially in New Brunswick, and some of the finest vessels sailing under the British flag had been built in the port of St. John, which annually launched a considerable number of the largest class. They were not beggars, nor did they wish to come into the union as such; but as independent Provinces able to keep their credit, and provide for their own wants. They would bring in to the common stock a fair share of revenue, of property, and of every kind of industry.
As to their harbors, he (Mr. Tache) had the good fortune to visit them personally, and would say they could not be surpassed anywhere; in fact he believed they were unequalled in the world. He would especially refer to that of Halifax, and would ask hon. members to imagine an extensive roadstead, protected by several islands standing out in the sea, so as to break the waves and quiet the water in the worst of storms. This most beautiful harbor could accommodate, in perfect safety, more than 100 of the largest vessels; but this no all, for at the east end where it diminished into a gully, but with very deep water, you enter into a large natural basin, rounded as it were by the compass, and of an extent sufficient to take in all the navies of the world. The entrance to this magnificent inner harbor was rendered in accessible to any foe by the fortifications erected at the mouth, and the entrance could, more-over, be so barred that no hostile fleet could ever get through. He did not suppose the fleets of England would ever need to take refuge there
Some Hon. Member—Hear, hear.
Étienne Pascal Taché [Canada East, appointed 1848, Premier, Minister of Militia, and Receiver General]—although it had been loudly alleged that they could be blown out of the water in an incredibly short space of time
Some Hon. Member—Laughter.
Étienne Pascal Taché [Canada East, appointed 1848, Premier, Minister of Militia, and Receiver General]—but it might afford shelter to isolated vessels, in case they were hard pushed by superior numbers. Well, under the union, Canada would become a partner in these advantages, and, with the harbors of Halifax and Quebec, they might well feel proud of their country. On the whole, he thought that the confederation of all the Provinces had become an absolute necessity, and that it was for us a question of to be or not to be. If we desired to remain British and monarchical, and if we desired to pass to our children these advantages, this measure, he repeated, was a necessity. But there were other motives and other reasons which should induce us to agree to the scheme. Every hon. gentleman in the House knew the political position of the country, and were acquainted with the feelings of irritation which have prevailed for many years. They knew it happily, not be their experience in this House, but by the tone of the public press, and by the discussions in another place, where taunts and menaces were freely flung across the floor by contending parties. They knew what human passions were, and how, when bitter feelings continued for a long time, the distance between exasperation and actual conflict was not very great. They had now before their own eyes an example of the effects of such disagreements. It was persistently believed by many that the rival interests would never come to a rupture, but for three years they had been waging a conflict which had desolated and ruined the fairest portion of the country, and in the course of which acts of barbarity had been committed which were only equalled by the darkest ages. We in Canada were not more perfect, and the time had arrived when, as he believed, all the patriotic men in the country ought to unite in providing a remedy for the troubles we had to contend with. It might be said that the remedy proposed was not required, but he would like to know what other could be proposed. Legislation in Canada for the last two years had come almost to a stand still, and if any one would refer to the Statute Book since 1862, he would find that the only public measures there inscribed had been passed simply by the permission of the Opposition. This was the condition of things for two years, and if this were an evil there was another not less to be deplored; he referred to the administration of public affairs during the same period.
From the 21st May, 1862, to the end of June, 1864, there had been no less than five different governments in charge of the business of the country. The hon. member here have a history of the several changes until the Macdonald-Dorion Administration died, as he stated, of absolute weakness, falling under the weight they were unable to carry. Their successors were not more successful, and being defeated were thinking of appealing to the country, which they might have done with more or less success, gaining their constituency here, and perhaps losing another elsewhere. They had assumed the charge of affairs with the understanding that while they were consulting about it they received an intimation from the real chief of the Opposition, through one of their own friends, to the effect that he was desirous of making overtures to them, with the view of seeking to accommodate the difficulties. The hon. gentleman and some of his friends then came into contact with the leaders of the Government, and it was agreed between them to try to devise a scheme which would put an end to the misunderstandings, and at the same time secure for Canada and the other Provinces a position which would ensure their future safety and produce them the respect and confidence of other nations. They arranged a large scheme and a smaller one. If the larger failed, then they were to fall back upon the minor, which provided for a federation of the two sections of the Provinces. At the time these measures were resolved upon, the country was bordering on civil strife, and he would ask if it was not the duty of both sides to do all they could to prevent the unfortunate results which would have followed. An hon. member opposite (Hon. M. Letellier de St. Just) had said, a few days ago, that it would have been easy to have prevented the necessity for a confederation of all the Provinces by granting to Upper Canada the increased representation, or the demand of representation according to population, which they have been contending for.
Luc Letellier de Saint Just [Grandville, elected 1860] begged to say that the Hon. Premier must have misunderstood him. What he had said was that if the proposition had been made to the people whether they should have a confederation of all Provinces, or give Representation according to the Population to Upper Canada, they would have chosen the latter; and when he had alluded to some other mode of accommodating the difficulties, he meant that if the Government had applied to other parties in the Legislature than those they had associated with themselves, they might have succeeded without having recourse to confederation.
Étienne Pascal Taché [Canada East, appointed 1848, Premier, Minister of Militia, and Receiver General] said that he had not been alone in interpreting the hon. member as he had done, for two city journals had taken the same view of his remarks.
Luc Letellier de Saint Just [Grandville, elected 1860] said he was aware of it, but they were mistaken, for all that.
Étienne Pascal Taché [Canada East, appointed 1848, Premier, Minister of Militia, and Receiver General]—Well it did not much matter; but the hon. member should recollect that Lower Canada had constantly refused the demand of Upper Canada for Representation according to Population, and for the good reason, as the union between them was legislative, a preponderance to one of the sections would have placed the other at its mercy. It would not be so in a Federal union, for all questions of a general nature would be reserved for the Federal Government, and those of a local character to the Local Governments, who would have the power to manage their domestic affairs as they deemed best. If a Federal union were obtained it would be tantamount to a separation of the Provinces, and Lower Canada would thereby preserve its autonomy together with all the institutions it held so dear, and over which they could exercise the watchfulness and surveillance necessary to preserve them unimpaired.
[The hon. member repeated this portion of his speech in French for the express purpose of conveying his meaning in the clearest and most forcible manner to his fellow-members from Lower Canada, who might not have apprehended so well the English.]
But there might be a portion of the inhabitants of Lower Canada who might at first glance have greater reason to complain than the French Roman Catholics, and these were the English Protestants. And why? Because they were in a minority; but he thought that if they took the trouble fully to consider the subject, they would be reassured and satisfied with the scheme. First, a great event had taken place; the law of Lower Canada had been consolidated, and the English speaking people residing in that section had got reconciled to it, in fact they were well satisfied therewith. In this respect, then, they were secure. But they might say that the majority in the Local Legislature might hereafter be unjust to them, but he thought that, on looking at the past, their fears would be allayed. Before the union of the Provinces, when the large majority of members in the Legislature were French, the English inhabitants had never found cause of complaint against them. In no instance had injustice been attempted. The difficulty was that the minority wanted to rule and wanted to possess the whole power of the state in their hands. That the Lower Canada Legislature always acted towards the English with liberality was best exemplified by facts. Before the Union, while the constituencies were almost exclusively French, English Protestant gentlemen were frequently returned to Parliament, and he had now opposite to him an hon. member who had for 20 years represented an entirely French and Roman Catholic country. He doubted if in the course of those 20 years that the hon. member had ever been asked whether he were Scotch or Protestant. They took the man for his sterling worth. It was even a fact the French had elected members with extraordinary names, and as everybody knew, there was sometimes a good deal in a name.
Some Hon. Member—Hear, hear.
Étienne Pascal Taché [Canada East, appointed 1848, Premier, Minister of Militia, and Receiver General]—Now, if there was one name which French Canadians disliked more than another, it was that of Luther.
Some Hon. Member—Hear, hear and laughter.
Étienne Pascal Taché [Canada East, appointed 1848, Premier, Minister of Militia, and Receiver General]—Yet they had elected a gentlemen bearing that significant appellation. He was glad they had, and he had no doubt he had been elected because of his personal worth, but it unquestionably showed a great deal of liberal feeling on the part of the electors.
Some Hon. Member—Hear, hear.
Étienne Pascal Taché [Canada East, appointed 1848, Premier, Minister of Militia, and Receiver General]—But if an English Protestant was bad in the eyes of a French Canadian, a French Protestant was infinitely worse, and yet the county of Lotbiniere had elected a French Canadian Protestant without even questioning his religion. That gentleman was a most worthy, able and well educated person, and every way well qualified for the important trust. But again, quite lately, in a Division in Lower Canada, numbering over 50, 000 souls, of which only 1400 were English, an election for a member to this chamber had taken place, the candidates being a French Roman Catholic gentleman, long and well know, and an English Protestant—and with what result? Why, that the English Protestant had beaten the French Canadian Roman Catholic by 1,000 votes
Some Hon. Member—Hear.
Étienne Pascal Taché [Canada East, appointed 1848, Premier, Minister of Militia, and Receiver General]—Could any greater proof of a tolerant and liberal feeling be exhibited? These examples should show, as he thought, that the Protestants of Lower Canada were sure to meet with not justice simply, but with the largest toleration. It might perhaps be said that Mr. Price, who had been elected for the division of which he spoke, being a large merchant doing business in Chicoutimi, had used the influence which his position gave him over many electors who were in his debt to obtain success; but whatever might be said of Chicoutimi, it could not be said of the County of Charlevoix, where he had no such business relations, and yet he obtained a majority there too. The fact was, the result might be considered not only as a mark of confidence in Mr. Price, the son elected, but as a token of respect and of gratitude to Mr. Price, senior, who had by his business energy and enterprise opened up the Saguenay country, and who, in a certain sense, might be said to be the father of that region. Much had been said on the war of races, but that war was extinguished on the day the British Government granted Canada Responsible Government, by which all its inhabitants, without distinction of race or creed, were placed on a footing of equality.
Some Hon. Member—Hear, hear.
Étienne Pascal Taché [Canada East, appointed 1848, Premier, Minister of Militia, and Receiver General]—The war of races found its grave in the resolutions of the 3rd September, 1841, and he hoped never to hear of it again. We were so situated that there must needs be mutual forbearance. This life was one of compromise. Not only was forbearance needed in public life but in domestic life. If one member in a family insists upon having all his own way there will be trouble, and so through all possible relations of humanity. He believed the French Canadians would do all in their power to render justice to their fellow subjects of English origin, and it should not be forgotten that if the former were in a majority in Lower Canada, the English would be in a majority in the General Government, and that no act of real injustice could take place, even if there were a disposition to perpetrate it without its being reversed there. He had now given to the House the motives which had led him to take the responsibility of introducing this important measure, and he trusted they would be viewed as sufficient. When the proper time for the discussion of the details came he would be prepared to give such explanations as might seem requisite, and as to the mode and time of the discussion he would leave that to the decision of the House.
Some Hon. Member—Applause.