“Speech of Attorney General Henry at Ottawa”, The Globe (7 November 1864)
By: The Globe
Citation: “Speech of Attorney General Henry at Ottawa”, The Globe [Toronto] (7 November 1864).
Speech of Attorney General Henry, At Ottawa
The following is an extended report of the speech delivered at Ottawa in reply to the toast of “the delegates” by Attorney General Henry, which has been supplied by our reported, who was obliged to curtail it to ensure transmission by telegraph form that city.
Attorney General Henry of Nova Scotia, replied on behalf of that Province and said Our Hosts, ladies and gentlemen, By an arrangement among the delegates, the pleasing duty devolves upon [sic] of responding in that city on behalf of Nova Scotia, to the toast which has been so handsomely proposed and enthusiastically received. From the time of our first landing at Quebec we have been the recipients of universal kindness and social hospitality. We have had the pleasure of making the personal acquaintance of many of your public men on several previous occasions, when they have visited England and the Lower Provinces on occasion of general importance and we have recently had the pleasure of seeing many of your citizens during the excursion they made to the Maritime colonies last summer. We therefore felt that we were not coming here amongst strangers or to a terra incognita, but were coming among brothers, equally with us the descendants of English, French, Scotch and Irish parents. If anything were wanting to convince us of the hospitable intentions of you all, it would be afforded by the magnificent reception we last night received at your hands. (Cheers). We were, indeed received like conquerors, like warriors returning from a great victory, and indeed a great victory has been achieved at the Conference whose labours have just terminated. We have triumphed over personal jealousies and local party considerations, having sacrificed all these to the great object we had in view (hear.). The reception you have given us is all the more pleasing as it has taken place in Ottawa, a city selected by her Majesty the Queen to be the seat of government for Canada, and near a building the cornerstone of which was laid by His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales. I feel the extreme difficulty of speaking upon a subject about which a dozen speeches have already been made and borne, by the enterprising press which has reported them, to every hamlet in this Province – a difficulty arising from the fear of following in the same paths already so well trodden by others. I have, however, great pleasure in communicating for myself and my colleagues our warmest thanks to the contractors for the construction of these magnificent buildings, and for the very pleasing banquet they have so liberally provide. It is matter for additional congratulation to see present so many of the leading citizens of Ottawa, for it is an earnest of their hearty sympathy with us in our labours, and of the deep interest they take in the success of the great work in which they are engaged (cheers). The splendour of the entertainments we have received since we left our homes has abundantly convinced us of the hospitality of the people of Canada, and I can assure you that whenever a Canadian lands upon our shores he will at all time find the inhabitants of our Province ready to reciprocate these numerous kindnesses. Were no political consequences immediately to flow from our present efforts the intercommunication we have had with you will not be barren of results, for we shall have learned to know each other better, and have discovered the necessity and benefit of more frequent intercourse. The people of Nova Scotia entertain no mean or selfish views when they propose to enter into a confederation with the other colonies. They know that their position commands many advantages not equally enjoyed by the rest. They feel that their principal port, Halifax, is one of commanding importance. Situated as it is upon the most easterly peninsula of British North America, and of paramount importance to be retained by England while any portion of the West Indies remains connected with the British Empire, it will be the last spot of territory on this continent to be yielded up by the Parent State, and will always receive even more than other colonies the protection of the home government. The time, however, may come and may not be far distant when, with great political changes from which we cannot expect to be always exempt, the protection of the Parent State may be withdrawn, and if we wait till that unfortunate event arrives, it may be too late to form associations for our local defence. E feel that we may be likened to one of a number of rough, unhewn stones, which some political architect may hereafter appropriate, and if no measures are taken to secure to us a proper position, to secure that important place in a grand structure which we conceive to be our tight, we may by accident either occupy an elevated situation or form part of a mere pavement to be walked over and trampled on. (applause). We know that these colonies are made of the right material, and that the descendants of the countrymens of a Wellington and Napoleon, of a [sic] rough and a [sic] possess, when united, elements of immense and almost invulnerable strength for their defence, and will not be unworthy of their common ancestry. It is not improper for me in this connection speaking on behalf of Nova Scotia, and leaving the interests of the other colonies in this respect to other gentlemen, to refer to the heroes of [sic] and of [sic], both natives of our Province (cheers.). Having entertained for some time these general sentiments, the Legislature of Nova Scotia, by resolutions adopted last session, took measures for effecting a legislative union of the Provinces of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island. Similar resolutions having been adopted by the legislatures of the two other colonies a meeting of delegates appointed by each took place at Charlottetown in September last. We would have gladly included your Province in our invitation to join our nation, but were somewhat afraid of approaching and attacking the grand Province of Canada. (Laughter). We were induced to limit our plans for a union among the Lower Colonies. But it having been communicated to the Canadian Government that we were about to meet for the purpose mentioned, your Government sought and obtained admission to our preliminary conference. Without interfering with the more local object we had in view, the members of the Canadian Government who attended presented for our consideration more extended views of unions, when the consideration of the smaller scheme was postponed, and for the time thrown aside with the view of considering a larger measure. We were subsequently favoured with an invitation form the Canadian Government to meet in conference at Quebec, to consider how far a general confederation was practicable. The invitation was accepted by all the colonies, and the delegates were chosen, not exclusively from the several governments, but were selected from the ranks of parties representing all classes and interests in the several communities, in order that all party prejudices and sectional feeling might be laid aside in the contemplation of an object of such vast importance (applause). The importance of the matter was indeed so vast that it was not surprising the Hon. John A. MacDonald, weakened as he was by indisposition, had faltered in the task and [sic] before the responsibility of addressing the public upon it. (Applause). Public men, in addressing an audience at the present time laboured under unusual difficulties, and felt in a manner tongue-tied, as a certain reticence had to be observed, even although the desire to obtain detailed information as to the now constitution was so intense. Difficulties of a grave character had to be surmounted. Look at the sacrifices of opinion we had to make at the Conference. First, each individual forming part of a delegation entertained his own views upon every one of the infinite number of important questions to be solved, and drawn as they were from different classes of opposing politicians in the several Provinces, and the influence of party relations upon them, and the interest of each Province clashing to a certain extent with those of the others, while the delegates who represent them feel a natural obligation to conserve their interest, it required the greatest exercise of moderation and frequent modification of personal views to arrive at anything like a successful issue. (Hear, hear). None but those who have taken part in the Conference, or have deeply weighed the importance of the considerations involved, can have any idea of the difficult task of reconciling antagonistic views and interests, and nothing but the absorbing feeling of the importance of their mission and its results could have produced anything like a satisfactory conclusion. I have, however, the gratification of being able to announce, that, although on minor points differences arose and were decided, each individual member of the Conference is fully satisfied with its general results, and willingly pledged to bring to a favourable termination the results of our deliberations. (Hear). I will not trespass upon your time by referring to the items upon which the Conference deliberated, but there is one subject which I feel it is impossible for me to pass over. The time has now arrived when we ought to have direct communication between Halifax and Quebec by railway, on a line not subject to foreign control, so that the inhabitants of our country may be able to visit the inhabitants of your country without the necessity of going off British territory on their way. I have, therefore, the pleasure to announce, as other of the Conference, the determination to take immediate measures for the completion of the Intercolonial Railway. It is agreed to be one of the first objects of attention in the united Parliament. (hear, hear). It is impossible to over-estimate the commercial and local advantages of the great Intercolonial highway. Offering facilities on the one had for the interchange of the natural productions of each Province, and highly calculated to break down the barriers which perpetuate political and social distinctions, it will be a means to the great end we all have in view. It will be a glorious day when we can get into a railway car at Halifax, and in three days be at the capital in Ottawa. (Cheers). When the means of communication are provided, our people will avail themselves of them, and I shall glory in the day when the inhabitants of my country can put their foot on Canadian soil and say, this in my heritage too, while the Canadians to can visit the Maritime Provinces and feel [sic] interest in every inch of their soil. (Loud Cheers). In all unions there must be a compromise of feeling to a certain extent; and [sic] in the delicate union between the sexes there must always be a yielding of opinion to ensue happiness, so it is in all unions, and the [sic] the circle and the greater the object, so in proportion may concessions of opinion by made. [sic] contemplation of this great object the people [sic] every section must be prepared to yield a portion of their feelings and interests to the common stock, and in the contemplation as well as in the working out of the union this sentiment must not be forgotten. Having fulfilled our mission our work may be but half done. We must return to our constituents and impress them as far as we are able with our own views and sentiments. They have not seem as we have done; they have not learned, reflected and deliberated as we have, and we have still before us the important duty to instruct them. We all feel proudly the position we occupy in the performance of that duty, and would be glad to use our best endeavours to procure the acceptance of the measure. We hope and trust that the people to be affected by it may in their deliberations forget all old party interests, private prejudices and local affections, and that the opposite of these feelings reacting in and reflected by their several legislatures, a favourable issue to the appeal to be made to them will abundantly result. We hope to be able with the material at hand to raise a structure which, bound together with the cement of patriotism, will be a monument of the wisdom of the present generation, and a tower of strength capable of resisting as well the minor effects of domestic trials, as the attacks of the stoutest of foes from without. We will then feel we have a government as free as the would can exhibit, resting as it must for its support upon the continued love, confidence, and affection of a free and enlightened people, and under the fostering care of a gracious Queen, whose name is held dear in every quarter of the globe, and upon whose kingdom the sun never sets. (Loud Applause)