“The Canadian Confederation” New York Times (23 October 1864)

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Date: 1864-10-23
By: New York Times
Citation: “The Canadian Confederation”, New York Times (23 October 1864).
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Imperial Designs, England Wanting to Maintain a Large Force in Canada—Proposed Independence of
the Northern Confederation—Dinners and Balls to the Delegates to the Conference—Opinions of
the Leading Men of the Colonies.

Correspondence of the New-York Times.

Quebec, Monday, Oct. 17, 1884.

In a letter from Montreal, I expressed the conversion that Imperial influence would be exerted in favor of the confederature, in order that the United Colonies might support a larger army than they were disposed to fo while separate. I was rather surpassed at an editorial remark of the New-York Times, in which this was written of as a new idea. It may be news to the American public to learn that the British Government desire the Canadian to arm and drill from 80,000 to 100,000 men. It is not news to Canadians. Why, three years ago, Col. LYSON was sent out here expressly to frame a militia bill for Canada, which was to be, and really was, strongly pressed upon the Canadian Parliment. The Parliment, however, declined to pass it, not seeing the necessity tor raising an army of 100,000 troops, which the bill provided for. Several feeble attempts have since been made in the same direction, but equally in vain. To prove, however, that the idea is not abandoned, I take the opportunity of quoting a speech made on the 15th instant at the dinner given to the delegates to the Quebec Intercolonial Conference. Col. JERVOIS, responding to the toast of the Army, after the customary remarks about the excellency of the British force, proceeded as follows:
But while speaking of the army of the empire, he (Col. JERVOIS) might also say a word about that other army we might hope to see one day belonging to the United Provinces of British North America. Of course it was not to be expected that colonies like Nova Scotia, or New-Brunswick or Prince Edward Island should maintain armies in the footing of European States. But we could and did expect that each one would willingly put forth a portion of their strength for their safety and protection ; and he sincerely believed it was the wish and intention of those who had most influence in their councils that this should be done. [Cheers.]

This is the tone of every Imperial Officer, from the Governor-General downward. There is, however, not the slightest danger that the desires of the Imperial authorities will ever be fully carried out. The fate of Col. LYSON’S measure will be the fate of every similar plan, because the Canadians feel, firstly, that in equipping their 25,000 well-drilled volunteers, they have done so much as Great Britain ever did ; for, with ten times the population and fifty times the means, Britain never raised 250,000 equally well-trained militia ; and, secondly, that to train an unnecessarily large body of men, who would probably be commanded by Imperial officers, and subject to imperial influence, would be to needlessly menace their powerful and irascible neighbours, with whom it is their interest and desire to live on terms of continued amity. It should, however, be borne in mind that, although I deny that Canadian are so devoted to the “monarchical principles” on which it is ostentatiously said the new Federation is to be based, as to be willing to maintain an immense standing army in time of peace ; yet, at the first threat of war, they would raise a large force and do their best to defend their country against aggression.

In a previous letter I endeavoured to trace out a plan by which it would be possible to avoid the risk of quarrel with England and the United States as well. It was, that the States and England should jointly guarantee the independence of the Canadian Federation. Many of the best thinkers of this colony strongly favor this scheme, and several journals, especially the Free Press, a leading paper published at London, C. W., openly advocate it. The advantage to Canada is, I take it, quite obvious. The chief advantage to the United States would be the security of her northern frontier in the event of a European war, which would obviate the necessity for constructing costly defences along the St. Lawrence and the interior coastline, thus leaving the energies of the Federal Government free to meet the enemy in other quarters.

Since my last letter, the delegates to the conference have danced at a ball given by the members of the Cabinet, and eaten of a dinner given by the Quebec Board of Trade. They have, however, let the public know but little about their proceedings. At the dinner mentioned, all the delegates from all the colonies spoke strongly in favor of a union, if the details could be arranged. Hon. Mr. TUFFER, the chief delegate from Nova Scotia, said “all believe the time had come when it was desirable to choose a sounder and more judicious system for the British North American Provinces.” Hon. Mr. TILLEY, the leader of the New-Brunswick delegation, “hoped for the best ; and with the intelligence with which the conference was composed, he trusted they would overcome all difficulties ; and that they would soon meet in Quebec, Montreal, or Ottawa to consummate the union.” Hon. Mr. CARTER, the principal delegate from Newfoundland, “expressed the wish that we might one day be united in one common country under a scion of the Royal family ; and it was his belief now that the wished-for union was not far distant. [Cheers.] There were, of course many things to be arranged ; but he nevertheless hoped they would be in a position to announce a successful result to their respective constituencies.”

Hon. Col. GREY, of Prince Edward Island, spoke of the desire of that little colony “to be to the other provinces what Rhode Island was to the other States of the American Union.” But you will observe that no details are yet known.One newspaper, professing to have accurate information, is contradicted by another, which learns so and so from most authentic sources. The conference will certainly set another week, and I have little doubt that so great an extension of yh time originally thought of is caused by the series difficulties that have arisen.

You will at once see that we have two great difficulties to over come before we can form a satisfactory confederation. First, we have the difficulty arising from locality. These British Colonies stretch a thousand miles from east to west, but they are, in places, not a hundred in with. In one spot, indeed, about 200 miles below Quebec, Maine stretches up to within twenty miles of the St. Lawrence, and the United States thus have Canada as it were, by the throat. Enthusiastic Canadians never cease to blame Lord ASHBURTON for the treaty he made which settled thus their boundary line. Our position is thus similar to that which the United States would occupy if the South were to establish its independence and Pennsylvania to belong to the Confederate republic. No wonder you fight to prevent such a state of things. We only fight against this disadvantage.

Secondly, we have the difficulty arising from race. The French and English races are almost like oil and water. Here are a million of the French race, clinging like grim death to their mountains and their impoverished valleys, a million of British in the Maritime provinces, and another million of the Angio-Saxons located on the fertile lands of the west. The French are Roman Catholic, and the English, Protestant ; the French have one system of law, the English another. The French won’t move into the plains, or, if they fo, they are sure to comeback in their old age, burning their sheaves with them. The English, naturally enough, avoid the sublime but stingy mountains. The English want to improve the French from off the earth ; to unteach them their language and distinctive habits. The French, with the stubbornness of the older race—(older at least in Canada)—wonder what the deuce the English are about, and will have none of their ways. The geographical difficulty is great enough to daunt most people ; the genealogical problem is still harder to solve. It may not prove impossible, however, to unite these discordant elements, especially as, disconnected, all the provinces feel their weakness, and their sense of insecurity may prove, at least for some generations, a powerful band. At any rate, the chief men of all parties, in all the colonies, are taking the old adage for their motto :
“Concordia res parvae cressunt : magna discordia dilabuntur.”

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