The Canadian Historical Review, Edward Whelan Reports from the Quebec Conference
*N.B. Footnotes have been turned into Endnotes for the HTML version.*
The Review of Historical Publications
Relating to Canada
Founded at the University of Toronto in 1896
Edited by John T. Saywell
VOLUME XLII, 1961
PUBLISHED BY UNIVERSITY OF TORONTO PRESS
Edward Whelan Reports from
the Quebec Conference
P. B. WAITE
EDWARD PALMER, the Attorney General of Prince Edward Island’s Conservative government, was considerably annoyed, not only with his own colleagues but also with the Liberal Charlottetown Examiner and its editor, Edward Whelan. On December 5th, 1864, Edward Palmer wrote to Whelan: “That you did not hear me, is very probable: the little interest you took on behalf of the Island while sitting at the [Quebec Conference] Board may well account for that. You were, in fact, nearly the whole time occupied in writing something, which I suspect more immediately concerned yourself, or your Paper.”1 The causes of Edward Palmer’s annoyance were many and they are not of immediate concern here. What is interesting is that Whelan admitted the truth of Palmer’s charge. Whelan admitted that he was taking “notes of the proceedings” in the Quebec Conference, and, as if to obviate the criticism, added that he wrote scarcely a line for his paper in the Conference Room.2
Whelan’s notes of the proceedings, if they existed, were never found. Probably they were burnt with all his papers in the fire that destroyed his home in Charlottetown in 1876, nine years after his death But the reports that he wrote for his paper have survived. Whelan mailed them regularly from Quebec, and they were duly published in the Charlottetown Examiner, October 17th to November 7th, 1864.3 Unlike the notes of Hewitt Bernard4 and A.A. Macdonald,5 Whelan reports to the
Examiner are not a detailed description, resolution by resolution, of the business of the Conference. They are more general, reflections about the Conference as well as a desicription of its proceedings. Nor did Whelan confine himself to the conference room; he tells of people and events around the periphery of the central drama in the Parliament buildings. Not a little of what Whelan writes is gossip, but it is informed gossip, and this is generally lacking in the spare reports of Conference proceedings and the verbatim accounts of public speeches that appeared in the newspapers.
Whelan was forty years of age when he went to Quebec. He had been owner and editor of the Examiner since its founding in 1847, and he had made it the principal Liberal, Catholic paper in Charlottetown. Before coming to the Island in 1843 he had worked with Joseph Howe on the Halifax Nova Scotian, and acquired with the typesetting and smudges of printer’s ink something of Howe’s turn of Liberalism. Like Howe, Whelan was a good journalist, having an observant eye and a ready pen; and like Howe he had nimbleness of speech and not a little wit. To these qualities he joined a warm affection and a tolerant nature. Perhaps it was unfortunate for Whelan that he chose to go to Charlottetown, for his tolerance and geniality were fractured in an atmosphere which, as D. C. Harvey put it, “had been contaminated by faction”6; and in the long run the results turned out to be tragic. He took up the cause of the tenantry; but he never followed them through their more extreme motions, and his dislike of the Tenant League and its methods was partly the cause of his unhappy electoral defeat in 1867. But the main cause of his defeat in 1867 was Confederation.
Whelan’s interest in the subject began cautiously enough. When Maritime union was proposed to the Island legislature in April, 1864, it was quickly repudiated, and all the legislature would agree to consider was the appointment of delegates to discuss the “expediency” of union.7 George Coles, the leader of the Liberal opposition, was interested in the “higher ground” of British North American union. Whelan’s view was not dissimilar, but Whelan believed in April, 1864, that any such union would be absurd “while we remain tied to the apron—strings” of Great Britain.8 As for the Examiner, it expressed little interest in any kind of union, Maritime or otherwise; a conference would cost little and might have incidental advantages, but a legislative union of the Maritime provinces was certainly out of the question.9 And no delegates were appointed by the Island or by Nova Scotia or
New Brunswick; no date for a conference had been proposed; and in fact nothing whatsoever was done. It was thus perfectly understandable that on July 11, in the soporific quiet of a warm Island summer, the Examiner should remark, a little wearily, “local politics are at a dead stand at present.”10
It is well known that the Canadian request to attend the Maritime union conference set the whole machinery in motion. By the end of July a date and a place for the Conference had been set and delegates were being appointed. Under these new circumstances Whelan took up the question of British North America union with much more interest. His hesitations of the spring still remained but there was a new ring in the editorials of the Examiner:
Shall we, then, think seriously about a Federal Union? We believe we ought. Great Britain is constantly urging upon our attention a Union of some kind. The only kind of Union we can have is a Federal one. That means little or nothing short of separation from Great Britain. . . . If we make up our minds for an Independent Federation, such as Mr. Coles briefly sketched in his letter,11 we must prepare to bid good-bye to old Mother England, and to lay on the shelf with other rubbish those antiquated notions of loyalty for which she herself has not now that sentimental regard. . . .12
Whelan was not a delegate to the Charlottetown Conference and perhaps he resented the fact. In any case the Examiner expressed suspicion of the “secret conference” with its “awful and pompous air of mystery,” and said that the Island delegates were looked upon by the Charlottetown public as if they were conspirators “plotting the destruction of their country’s liberties.”13 Perhaps this was the reason that prompted Whelan’s appointment to the Quebec Conference;14 if so it was sound, for at Quebec Whelan came gradually to recognize the value of secrecy and even the necessity for it. But his definition of it was flexible; the result was that the information published in the Charlottetown Examiner about the Quebec Conference was by far the most comprehensive of any published at the time, or, indeed, for a long time to come.15
At Quebec Whelan was completely won over to Confederation. His Liberal colleagues, George Coles and A. A. Macdonald, the former of whom had at first favoured a federation, found the Canadian recipe not at all to their taste. Whelan, on the other hand, was largely satisfied with the Quebec proposals. He was not a profound political analyst, and he had no reason to be other than satisfied with an arrangement which appeared to him to leave the Island legislature intact, and, at the same time, give it more revenue than it had ever had before. But the cause of Whelan’s conversion was not merely these practical considerations. He was too Irish for that. Like McGee he was caught up in the dream of a nationality, in the prospect of a British American nation. Suddenly Prince Edward Island politics seemed very small and parochial. Whelan had started out for Quebec saying that he would be bound “by a strict regard for the. interest of my adopted country”16; a month after his return to his adopted country he was already referring to it as “this patch of sand bank in the St. Lawrence,”17 and a little later to Charlottetown as a perennial “obstacle in the path of prorgress.”18
In the end Whelan was left as virtually the sole supporter of Confederation in the Liberal ranks in the Island House. In the Liberal victory in the Prince Edward Island elections of February, 1867, Whelan was returned to the Assembly. But he was not allowed to go unpunished for his convictions; on being made Queen’s Printer he returned for his bye-election, and was then defeated by Edward Reilly, the editor of the rival Liberal, Catholic paper, the Charlottetown Herald. Whelan felt this defeat acutely; his health failed rapidly in the summer of 1867, and he died at Charlottetown on December 10.
Something of Whelan’s liveliness of temper and infectiousness of spirit appears in the reports that follow. He began them with high ambitions; in addition to his intention to give a comprehensive account of Conference affairs, he also promised his readers a description of his voyage up to Quebec in the Queen Victoria, his impressions of Quebec, a brief study of Canadian politics, and a final work on the Conference in a while. But the press of Conference business and the ferocious pace of entertainment were too much for him; the promised information never came. His description of the last few days of the Conference was, for example, coinpressed into a few sentences. And after the Conference Whelan was too busy with Confederation and Island politics to do more than put together the newspaper accounts of speeches and banquets as The Union of the British Provinces.19
Regrettably Whelan’s style bears all the earmarks of his haste. He was always rushing to finish something for the mail, always promising more than he could do. His punctuation and references are slipshod, and occasionally misleading. He was doubtless often tired, and one suspects that at least once he wrote well—primed with the vinous splendours of a late party. His preoccupation with the distaff side is sometimes amusing, often tiresome, and many of his comparisons lack both skill and taste. He could not or would not take sufficient time. But many of his observations have point, and the crisis of Friday, October 14, when it looked as if the Conference would break up, comes out clearly. As for the less formal side of the Conference, Whelan gives the only full account of any of the delegates. Here he clearly enjoyed himself; and his reference to the political ramifications of the Canadian cabinet ministers’ dancing suggests the rumour current in the Maritimes a month or two later that Confederation was engineered in the wiles of the dance and floated through on champagne. There is much in Whelan’s reports to justify such a ‘rumour. Perhaps Whelan. is best remembered in a similar context, at the Montreal déjeuner of October 29, 1864, apologizing for the secrecy of the Conference, hoping that political absolution would be given to the delegates for their long silence, and tapping the glass of champagne in front of him to show “how earnestly we are all doing penance.”20 He was soon enough to do penance more earnestly than that.
ISSUE OF OCTOBER 10, 1864
TO THE READERS OF THE Examiner
Being on my way to Canada to cooperate with my friends, Messrs. Coles and Macdonald, as Delegates to the Inter—Colonial Convention, with the view of humbly representing the opinions of the Liberal Party, so far as we may presume to do so—I must humbly bespeak your indulgence if you miss from the editorial columns of the Examiner, for a sort time, the old familiar hand. One or two gentlemen of experience. have, however, kindly promised to act in my behalf, and so confident am I in their ability, that the readers of the Examiner will, no doubt, congratulate themselves on the temporary transfer of its management.
One word more. While engaged in the discharge of a public duty, I will not cease to remember with the most pleasant feelings the long, and perhaps not unuseful intercourse which subsisted between myself and my readers. In acting with my brother delegates, I will earnestly labour to be guided by a strict regard for the interest of my adopted country—which they, after twenty—one years’ residence in it, have a right to claim at my hands. Whatever may be the basis of the Report to be agreed upon by the Delegates at the Quebec Convention, I will venture to say, in no boasting or egotistical spirit, that my hand will never
be put to any document calculated to endanger her interests in the slightest degree. But I sincerely believe that all the delegates from the Island, those from the Government side as well as those on the. Opposition, will so represent the land of their birth and adoption as to remove many, if not all the prejudices which have unfortunately taken possession of the public mind of the Island in regard to the great question of Inter-Colonial Union.
On board the Steam Yacht Queen Victoria, at Shediac, Friday morning, Oct. 7.21
ISSUE OF OCTOBER 17, 1864
THE INTER-COLONIAL CONFERENCE IN CANADA
QUEBEC, MONDAY, OCT. 10, 1864
In obedience to the summons from His Excellency the Governor General, Delegates from the Maritime Provinces arrived in Quebec, and met, in the Parliament Buildings, in Conference today. The whole Canadian Ministry were present, and the Premier, Sir Etienne P. Taché [sic], was unanimously chosen President. Sir Etienne is a very venerable French gentleman, of perhaps more than 70 years—of most pleasing manners—of great business habits, and evidently of considerable ability. His colleagues in the Government are gentlemen, on the whole, distinguished, but especially Messrs. J. A. McDonald, Cartier, McGee and Brown. The Delegates from all the Provinces are as follows. . . .
This day was chiefly occupied in making the necessary preliminary arrangements for the due management of the Conference. Several speeches were made. and amongst the rest, two very excellent ones by the Newfoundland Delegates, in which they gave their unqualified adhesion to the principle of Federation. The Hon. Mr. Cartier, Attorney General East, spoke very eloquently and at considerable length, on the same subject, of course in favour of the principle. Mr. Cartier’s speech was in support of a resolution submitted by the Attorney General for Upper Canada, declaring that a Union of all the Colonies, under the British Crown, would promote their best interests, it established upon principles just to all the Provinces. The Attorney General from Upper Canada will speak in support of this resolution tomorrow, and define what he believes should be the basis of the Federal Constitution.22
The Delegates from the Maritime Provinces are to dine with the Canadian Ministry this evening, at the Stadacona Club. This is a Political Society, of great influence, conducted in the best manner, on the European plan, where members of all parties, I believe, associate together, and enjoy themselves with the feast of
reason and the feast of something else, and the How of bowl as well as the flow of soul. I have had the honor of being elected an Honorary Member of the Club, and indeed all the Delegates from the Lower Provinces have had the like honor conferred upon them. I will give the readers of the Examiner a further and fuller account of the Club in a subsequent Letter; and I will also give, although it will not be in regular chronological order, an account of my very pleasant voyage along the glorious old St. Lawrence.23
TUESDAY, OCT. 11, 1864.
The Conference met at 11 o’clock precisely. The venerable President announced, on taking the Chair, that he had received a telegram from the Mayor of Toronto, inviting the Delegates from the Lower Provinces to a Public Entertainment in that City, on any day to be named by themselves. I believe the invitation will be accepted. Montreal, I understand, is preparing to give them a grand reception. They are to dine at the Vice-regal Palace, at Spencer Wood, on Thursday next. The Dinner at the Stadacona Club, last night, was a very brilliant and sumptuous affair. If the Delegates will survive the lavish hospitality of this great country, they will have good constitutions—perhaps better than the one they are manufactoring for the Confederation.
Mr. Attorney General McDonald made an able speech today, in Conference, on Federal Union. As all the deliberations are conducted with closed doors, the same as at Charlottetown, Halifax and Frederickton, I did not take notes of it.24 It was, I may say, without violating confidence, an argumentative and statesmanlike exposition of the views of the Canadian Ministry on the Consolidation of the British American Provinces under the Crown of England. The Hon. gentleman referred, in his speech, to a printed statement of the views of the Canadian Government, which had been circulated semi-officially, and which, having read it, I find coincides with the views enunciated by Mr. McDonald. It was prepared by one of the Canadian Ministers from Upper Canada.25 The following is the principal passage which bears upon the question:—
“The Canadian Delegates were deeply impressed by the great material resources and the gratifying industrial prosperity of the Maratime [sic] Provinces. There is not one of them who does not subscribe heartily to the conclusion arrived at by the [Charlottetown] Conference, that a federation of all the Provinces would be highly advantageous.
“Thus far nothing definite as to the details of the scheme has been agreed upon; notwithstanding the discussions of the last three weeks [Sept 1-21], every point will be open to unfettered inquiry by the Quebec Conference. No one, however, could have failed to gather from the newspapers of the Lower Provinces, the general outlines of the scheme under consideration at Charlottetown.
“It appears to have been suggested that the Confederation might consist for
the present of three sections—namely: Upper Canada; Lower Canada; and the Maritime Provinces, coming into the union either collectively or separately; and that provision might be made for the admission into the Union hereafter on equitable terms of the North-West Territory, British Columbia and Vancouver. The whole country might have one name, say Canada or Acadia.
“It appears to have been suggested that each of the Provinces should have a Local Legislature and Executive, charged with the control of all local matters; and that in a General Legislature and Executive should be vested the control of affairs common to the whole country. It seems to have been held as indisputable that the functions of the General and Local Governments, and the subjects delegated to each, must be clearly defined in the Constitution so as to prevent collision and give security for local interests–the whole to be embodied in an Age of the Imperial Parliament.
“In regard to the constitution of the General or Federal Legislature, the representation in the Lower House must be based on population, and that of the Upper House on sectional equality. The mode of selecting the members of the Upper House is a fertile subject of discussion. Some favour election for a term of years by the people; others prefer to have their election vested in the Local Legislatures; while others again advocate their appointment for life by the Crown, upon the advice of the Ministry of the day. The solution may be found in a compromise of these views.
“The Federal Government would be constituted as now—The Representative of the Crown being advised by an administration possessing the confidence of Parliament.
“To the Federal authority thus constituted would obviously be committed all questions of Trade, Navigation, Currency, Banking, General Taxation. Bankruptcy and Criminal Law. It would have control of the Militia and Denfence, of Coinage, Weights and Measures, Light-Houses, Sea-Fisheries, Letters Patent and Copyright, Naturalization, the Census, the Postal Service, Immigration, Inter-colonial Works, Etc.
“The manner in which the Local Legislatures should be constructed, affords scope for debate. There are those who advocate for each section two Legislative Chambers, while others prefer one Chamber. Some are for an Executive Government responsible, as at present, to the Legislature; while others are in favour of the Lieutenant Governors and other Chief Officials being elected by the people It would, of course be desirable that all the Local Governments should be constituted on some uniform plan; but this does not seem absolutely essential, in the event of serious variance of opinion arising.
“As to the powers and duties to be committed to the Local Governments, there is also room for much discussion. Manifestly, however, Lower Canada will insist that all judicial and legal maters—in fact the whole body of Civil and Municipal Law, with the exception of Criminal Law—must be vested in the Local Legislatures. It is equally clear that Upper Canada and New Brunswick will contend that the wild lands of the several sections should be vested in the Local Governments. The control of Roads, Bridges and Harbours—with the exception of International Works—of Inland Fisheries, of Education, of Prisons, Hospitals and Charities, of Agriculture, and all other local matters, would naturally be committed to the Local Bodies. It has been suggested that provision should be made for the educational interests of the minority in each section.
“A difficulty would manifestly arise in committing these duties to the Local Legislatures, from the absence of local revenues to meet the necessary expendi-
tures. It has been suggested that an allowance from the Public Revenue might be distributed for Local purposes according to the population, inasmuch as the General Government will, by the federative arrangement, be relieved from charges now borne by each province, and will have absorbed all the sources of Revenue from which they are now defrayed.
“It is very fortunate that; little or no difficulty seems to present itself on the subject of Federal Finances. On the consummation of the union, all the debts and assets of the several Provinces would of course be assumed by the Federal Government; and a close examination of the Financial position of each Province shows that no injustice would be inflicted by this arrangement. The debt and the annual burden now borne by the people of thc several Provinces are pretty nearly equal, and the Public Exchequer of all of them show a surplus.”
The Hon. Mr. Galt is now addressing the Conference, on Financial affairs generally. He is certainly thoroughly at home on dry matters of fact of this description. But we have not yet the information we desire respecting the financial affairs of Canada. Mr. [W. H. Pope] (who, I should have stated, is Honorary Secretary to the Conference in conjunction With the Provincial Secretaries of Canada, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick), has applied for this important information, and which I will communicate to the Examiner when I have an opportunity of doing so.
The reason for conducting the deliberations confidentially is simply this: The Conference are unanimous, I believe, regarding the desirability of the Federation; but there is great diversity of opinion touching the details; and so many absurd reports are abroad concerning these details, that the Conference deemed it best to have them settled in private, and to make the result known to the public afterwards as soon as practicable. Without presuming to violate a particle of the confidence deemed so essential to the success of the deliberations of the Convention, I will endeavour to get all the information I can for the public on the general question. In the meantime, I must say that the prospects of the future of British America are of the most encouraging description, that thc destinies of all the Provinces are in safe hands; and so far as human ingenuity and human wisdom can mould [sic] them, I believe their very best interests will be promoted by the contemplated change in our Constitution.
I must close for the day. The Mail is about doing the same; and the Conference ditto.26 We go to a grand reception or Levee at the Parliament Buildings tonight, and let me hope that “Natures sweet restorer, balmy sleep,” will thereafter soon close one of the very few busy days yet spent in Quebec by
My impressions of this ancient and historic city will be duly recorded, when I have a chance of seeing it, which I have not had yet, and when I learn to thread with some degree of accuracy its mazy, crooked, narrow and bewildering streets.27
ISSUE OF OCTOBER 24, 1864
INTER-COLONIAL CONFERENCE AT QUEBEC
QUEBEC, OCT. 11, 1864
Resuming my narrative at the place I left off when the last Mail for the Lower Provinces was about closing, there is only one fact to notice connected with the proceedings of the Conference today. The resolution declaratory of a desire for a Federal Union was put to the vote, and carried by acclamation, amid loud cheering. Two members were absent—Mr. Carter, of Newfoundland, owing to illness, and Mr. Whelan, of P. E. Island, preparing his letters for the Mails. The Conference adjourned shortly after the vote was taken, no other business having been done.
A grand Drawing Room and Levee were held at the Parliament Buildings this evening by His Excellency the Governor General, in honor, it was understood, of the Delegates from the Maritime Provinces. There were about six hundred ladies and gentlemen presented. The whole building was brilliantly lighted up the Assembly Room and Council Chamber being quite gorgeous in that respect. The reception took place in the latter Chamber. His Excellency arrived at half past eight o’clock, attended by members of his suit [sic]. The members of the Executive Council, the Lieut. Governor of Nova Scotia and his Lady, and the Delegates were the first presented. It never before occurred in any Provincial City, I think, to see so many public men assembled in one place. Whether the event will be worthy of remembrance, depends very much on the result of the Conference.
I noticed that the etiquette observed at this brilliant presentation differed from similar displays in Charlottetown, in so far as no name was announced when the person was presented. The Card of each was handed to the Aide-de-Camp in waiting—the bow was given and returned, and the party passed to one side of the Chamber. The Governor General shook hands with all whom he knew, and with all the Delegates, I believe. I felt apprehensive that the worthy gentleman would feel something like a kink in his neck the next morning from the great number of bows he had to make.
It will be expected, perhaps, that I should say something regarding the personnel of the Levee—of the ladies more particularly. Well, I was in a good place to see everything, and to note every countenance, and I availed myself of the position. Amongst a collection of, say, three hundred women—for fully half those presented were of the gentler sex—one would suppose there ought to be many beautiful ones; but I am inclined to think the majority were not entitled to that designation. I have seen more pretty girls at a Government House Ball in Charlottetown—more at the late Banquet in the Province Building there—than I witnessed at the great Drawing Room. I have certainly seen a larger number of beauties in Granville or Hollis Street, Halifax, or in Prince William Street, St. John, than I was able to see among the gorgeously dressed belles of Quebec. But, perhaps, I shall be able to form a different opinion of this fair City’s animated loveliness after or at the stunning Ball which is to come off at the Parliament Buildings on Friday next. [Oct. 14.]28
One remarkable feature about the Quebec ladies is the almost universal tendency to corpulency. For one of the lean kind, I think it would be easy to count ten “fat, fair,” and under as well as over “forty:” and there appears to be no compromise between rotundity and height; rotundity appears to have the matter
all its own way. Of course I speak of those only whom I saw at the Drawing Room: and I shall not easily forget the cheerful , pleasant, “jolly” expression of countenance which characterized them all—the easy, well—bred manners which marked their intercourse with strangers, and which went very far to compensate for the want of that delicacy (not of manner, but of blood and muscle), effeminacy, regularity of feature, and symmet of body , which we, in the Lower Provinces, are too apt to suppose to be the chief attributes of beauty. In short, the Quebec ladies—and particularly those of French origin—appear to be the most healthy, vigorous and good natured daughters of Eve whom I have ever had the pleasure to meet. As for their modes of dress, it appeared to be eminently graceful, so far as I may be permitted to form an opinion on such a topic—silks and satins blazed with jewels and precious gems; and gave one the idea that the husbands and fathers of the fair wearers were as substantial in their pecuniary means as the solid fatness to which millinery and the jeweller’s art had lent so many attractions. But I must not extend this account of the Drawing Room, lest I should lead my fair readers in the Island to suppose that I am hopelessly smitten by the fair dames of Quebec, notwithstanding the small drawback to their beauty at which I have briefly hinted. I return to my Hotel with an enhanced appreciation of my humble Island home, and with a keen recollection of its attractions made all the more softening in its influence by the comparison.
WEDNESDAY, OCT. 12, 1864
The Convention met at 11 o’clock—all the members being present—Messrs. Carter, of Newfoundland, and Mr. Whelan, of Prince Edward Island, briefly addressed the Conference, accounting for their absence at the taking of the vote yesterday, in favour of a general Confederation. Both those Delegates gave their adhesion to the principle, and wished to be considered as having voted for it. A record was made on the Minutes to that effect.
The forenoon was occupied in discussing, or rather adverting to, a mere skeleton outline of the Federal constitution, which the Attorney General for Canada West briefly indicated. It was agreed that the Canadian Government would submit their views tomorrow in the form of resolutions, and the Conference adjourned early to enable them to prepare them. The Delegates from the Lower Provinces had then a long discussion amongst themselves as to the amount of representation in the Federal Parliament which each Province was entitled to from its area, trade and population. But the discussion was informal, and no conclusion was arrived at.
THURSDAY, OCT. 13
On the assembling of the Conference, a resolution was submitted by one of the New Brunswick Delegates, declaring that all the proceedings of the Convention, and the new Constitution to be framed for the local as well as for the general Government, were done with the view of perpetuating the connection with Great Britain. I do not pretend to give my readers the words of any resolution submitted. Indeed, I could not, for I have no access to the Minutes. The information I communicate to the Examiner is only such as might be gathered by an person in Quebec of an inquiring mind, but it is nevertheless quite correct. The resolution above noticed was strongl objected to, on the ground that no one in the Conference ever contemplated, separation from the Mother Country—that the connection was pre-eminently desirable; but that in framing a Constitution for the Federation, the action of the Conference ought not to
be trammelled by too close an adherence to the forms of the British Constitution. The debate lasted for a long time—was characterized by much warmth, and ended in the adoption of a resolution, somewhat the same in spirit as the one first proposed—being a declaration, to the effect, that the Constitution of the General Government should be formed on the model of the British Constitution, as far as is compatible with our Colonial condition, and so framed, likewise, as to maintain British connection.
The remainder of the day was devoted to the discussion of a resolution which proposed to define the number of representatives which each Province should send to the Upper House of the Federal Parliament. The numbers are yet blank, and the discussion has been postponed until tomorrow. It has been agreed that Canada shall be regarded as two Provinces—Upper and Lower—and the number of representatives which she claims is greater than that which all the Lower Provinces would have. Well, her population is more than double that of the whole of them put together; and the claim does not appear to be unreasonable. But the incomplete state in which this part of the questions rests for the present, prevents me from saying anything more about it.
I have just returned (11 o’clock, p.m.) from dining at Spencer Wood, the residence of the Governor General. It is harsly necessary to say that the dinner was a superb one—lacking nothing in the departments of cuisine and vintage; but rendered especially charming by the case, affability and good humour which characterized the intercourse of the numerous guests; which included many of the Delegates, several of the Canadian Ministry; and last, but not least, several of the fair daughters of different parts of Canada, one or two of whom I should like to particularize, but dare not.—The Governor General is very easy and accessible in his manners—is not past middle life—is good-loking, well built, middle height, neither too stout nor too thin, wears large bushy whiskers of the same cut and colour as those which adorn the physiognomy of our friend Major McGill;29 and his Lordship might, indeed, be regarded as an improved likeness of our friend the Major. He has a keen relish for hunour, and converses in a free and easy matter-of-fact style, same as any sensible man would; so that if his companion in conversation is not a born fool, he need not be oppressed by any of that stupid awe which fools sometimes feel in the presence of a live Lord. So much for the present. I hope I know more of Lord Monck before I leave Canada, and I have no doubt my appreciation of his character will be strengthened and intensified.
FRIDAY, 4 P.M., OCT 14
The Conference has just closed, and as the Mail for the Eastern Provinces will also close in a very short time, I may as well tell the readers of the Examiner some of the talk about town in regard to its deliberations. It is understood that the resolution regarding representation in the Upper House of the Confederate Parliament was debated all day with considerable warmth and ability, but no agreement come to. Lower Canada complains that in the number proposed for her—24—she would not be fairly represented—it being proposed that Upper Canada (against whom there is great jealousy) should have the same number, while the Maritime Provinces, it was proposed, should have thirty-two members. New Brunswick and Nova Scotia claim 22 members out of the 32, while Newfoundland and Prince Edward Island, it is supposed, will not be allowed to have more than 10 between them, which the representatives from those Islands
will not agree to. And with so much diversity of opinion, it is very diflicult to say whether the Convention will not be compelled to break up prematurely. Matters do not certainly look very promising for a completion of the deliberations. I hope there may be concession and reconciliation, but I have very grave doubts respecting a satisfactory result. The mail is just about closing. I hope to be able to give more cheering accounts in my next letter.
ST. LOUIS HOTEL, QUEBEC,
FRIDAY, OCT. 14, 1864
“There was a sound of revelry by night,
And CAN’DA’s capital had gathered then
Her beauty and her chivalry, and bright
The camps [sic] shone o’er fair women and brave men.
A thousand hearts beat happily, and when
Music arose with its voluptuous swell
Soft eyes looked love to eyes which spake again,
And all went merry as a marriage bell.”
The great Government Ball, for which the most extensive preparations had been in progress long before the arrival of the Delegates from the Lower Provinces, was given to-night in the Parliament Buildings. There was evidently no expense spared—nearly every room in the buildings appeared to be filled, and every room was well prepared for the reception of the guests, who commenced to assemble about 9 o’clock—Lord Monck, the Governor General, and Sir R. G. McDonnell, Lieut. Governor of Nova Scotia, and his Lady, being amongst the guests. Invitations, I understand, were issued for about 1200, but not more than between 700 and 800 were present[.] The Dancing was of the same character as you find in every fashionable Ball Room: Lancers, Quadrilles, Polkas, and Waltzes; and I assure you that the string and brass bands of the two Regiments stationed here were not allowed to have any idle time upon their hands. Grave and venerable Ministers of State contended with the youngest and gayest votaries of fashion for the possession of the floor; ancient matrons, who have long since passed the autumn of their lives, and cast their sere and yellow leaves along the high ways of Time—were not insensible to the seductive pleasures of the dance.
I will not pretend to give a minute description of the Ball. I cannot do so. The bewildering scene baffles all my descriptive powers. The patient reader who peruses this veracious diary of mine, must appeal to his own imagination for a description. Let him fancy that he is elbowing his way from the House of Assembly to the Council Chamber, with all its rich paintings, portraits of the different Speakers—he sees the two floors occupied incessantly from 9 until 4 o’clock in the morning,—beautiful women, (and indeed they are beautiful here, and appeared to my view ten times more attractive than they did at the Drawing Room, which I noticed in a former letter), are floating past you everywhere in all the rich trappings of fashion—numerous gay officers in uniform, some exhibiting on their breasts Royal decorations given for distinguished merit,—here is
grace, loveliness and politeness at every step you take. The charm of the scene is immeasurably enhanced by the admixture of the various nationalities. There is no fun in seeing two persons from the same country in conversation with each other; but to see those who are foreigners in language and race striving to com- municate their thoughts to each other, is an incident peculiarly charming. Here is the gay, garrulous, and polite Frenchman, (or French landy, if you will,) gesticulating with hands and head, striving to make the Englishman, or Irishman, or Scotchman, (who does not know a word of French any more than he knows Sanscrit), comprehend a strange jumble of French and excessively bad English. The French ladies here give a delightful tone to society,—though lusty in flesh, they are quite as effeminate, if not more so, than their sisters of British origin. There is infinite grace of manner and faultless politeness in their intercourse with strangers. They make no difficulty about falling in love—or appearing to do it— with a dozen gentlemen at a time; and the gentlemen, I have no doubt—(of course I don’t write from experience)—must find it hard to resist their attractions. But it is time to close this notice of the Ministerial Ball. It was a stunning and crushing affair as regards numbers, gorgeous dress, lavish expenditure on the part of the Government: and, indeed, everything that was calculated to make a sensational sacrifice at the shrine of pleasure. I do not think the arrangements were quite so good and regular as they were at our small Ball in Charlottetown when the Delegates met there. There, the Delegates from the other Provinces were introduced to our Society, such as it is, by persons appointed for the purpose. Here, the Delegates from the Maritime Provinces—(and I speak of the whole of introduction to the Quebec belles and gentlemen, Those who brought ladies from the Lower Provinces had to do, for the most part, the cicerone business themselves: and it was not pleasant to see the lady of the Provincial Secretary of Nova Scotia [Mrs. Charles Tupper]—a very fine and handsome woman—led to the Supper Room by an antiquated, grey-headed Cockney top, without influence or position, and who seems to be dogging the steps of the Delegation through the Provinces.30 However, I will say nothing more upon this point. The Canadian Ministry, I am sure, were desirous of making the entertainment as agreeable as possible to their guests: and if any error were committed, it was not of the heart but of the head.
SATURDAY, OCT. 15, 1864
The Convention met at the appointed hour (11 o’clock), and discussed until 1 o’clock the question of representation of the Maritime Provinces in the Upper House of the Confederate Parliament. The French Canadians seem to apprehend that they will be swamped in the Upper House, and desire a larger representation than the Maritime Provinces ask for, so that they may not be overpowered by the British element. The admission of Newfoundland into the Conference perplexes the arrangement, as the agreement was, at Charlottetown, to give equality of representation to the Maritime Provinces of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and P. E. Island, with Upper and Lower Canada. This balance is disturbed by the admission of Newfoundland. What solution will he arrived at, it is not at present possible for me to say. The debate, which is conducted with great ability, stands adjourned until Monday.
Invitations, both public and private, are being poured in upon the Delegates from all quarters. They are invited to visit the principal cities of Lower and Upper Canada, to be entertained by the several Corporations, and special trains on the two great lines of Railway in the Province are placed at their service. To-night the Delegates were entertained at a superb dinner by the Board of Trade of Quebec. I have not time to give a description of it. The company who sat down numbered one hundred and twenty-five, embracing representatives of the commercial wealth of this great and ancient City, besides the representatives from the Maritime Provinces and the two Canadas. The national flag of England covered in graceful folds the spacious dining hal [sic] of Russell’s Hotel—one of the best in the City, and owned by the proprietors of the St. Louis, in which I take “mine ease”—and each Province was distinctly designated by name and by appropriate mottos. The table arrangements were on the grandest scale. In short it was a “great spread,” such as a wealthy Corporation like the Board of Trade might be expected to give. There were only five or six toasts given altogether—the one to the Delegates from the Maritime Provinces was that which called forth most eloquence. In responding to this toast, none but the Leaders of the several Provincial Governments spoke, on behalf of their several Provinces— there being no time for others to indulge in the flow of words. The best speech made, in my opinion, was that of Sir E. P. Tache [sic]—the Premier of the Canadian Government—for though a Frenchman, and apparently labouring under difficulty to express himself in English, he certainly seemed to give utterance to more genuine common sense views, and more good humour than any of the Maritime Delegates. Of course the speeches were non-committal, and of the same general character as those delivered at Charlottetown and elsewhere by the Delegates. But I must close the brief and hasty record for this day. The cosey [sic] bed before me invites me to repose; and the excitement which one experiences in this fast city,31 together with the gushing and overwhelming hospitalities of its generous—hearted people, render repose absolutely necessary.
SUNDAY, OCT. 16, 1864
A quiet day. No invitations, for which I heartily console myself. An hour spent in humble devotions at St. Patrick’s Cathedral,—a visit to the historic monument to Wolfe and Montcalm, in the Governor’s garden,—a walk on the Esplanade,—a cursory view of some of the great battlefields of the last century; and a return to my quiet room in the Hotel for the remainder of the evening, to think and dream about home, and all its endearing associations. The above noticed and other objects of interest about Quebec, will be more particularly referred to hereafter.32
MONDAY, OCT. 17, 1864
I understand that the debate on the question of representation in the Upper House was resumed to-day in the Parliament Buildings; and the Delegates from the Lower Provinces adhered, by an almost unanimous vote, to their claim for equal representation with the two sections of Canada; providing for a separate representation for Newfoundland, the North West Territory, British Columbia, and Vancouver’s [sic] Island. The Canadian Ministry retired from the Conference, I am informed, to consider this ultimatum; and in an hour returned,
conceding all that the Lower Provinces demanded.33 The representation in the Upper House will be as follows, if the scheme should be approved of by the Imperial and Local Parliaments;—Lower Canada,24; Upper Canada,24; Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and P.E. Island, 24; the maritime Provinces to be represented as follows: Nova Scotia and New Brunswick 10 each; P.E. Island, 4; and Newfoundland, as an addition to the general arrangement, 4. I give the readers of the Examiner the above information, as the subject of current report about Quebec. I will not vouch for its accuracy, but I think it is very near the truth.
The Conference, I am informed, next proceeds to consider the question, whether the Upper House should be nominated by the Crown, or elected by the people, or by the several local Legislatures. Each view was ably supported, and I regret I am not at liberty to give the arguments or the names of the different speakers. The debate was kept up until 12 o’clock to-night, and then adjourned. The Conference now meets at 10 a.m., adjourn[s] at 2, reassemble[s] at half past seven p.m.; and propose[s] to carry their deliberations far into the night.
TUESDAY, OCT. 18
Conference met at 10 a.m. Debate on the mode of constituting the Council for the Confederate Parliament resumed. I am informed that nomination by the Crown was the mode which met with the approval of a large majority of the Delegates when the vote was taken at the 2 o’clock adjournment. The age and property qualifications of Legislative Councillors were the next points discussed. The age was settled, I understand, at 30 years—none but British-born or naturalized British subjects to be eligible for nomination; and as for the property qualification, I believe that is an open question at the time I write, (Tuesday, 4 p.m.), but I am inclined to think the qualification will not be less than four thousand dollars in real estate, above debts and incumbrances, and may be more. All these points afford an immense field for speculation; but as my readers will understand that my information comes to me in the most incomplete and unofficial form, it would be profitless to indulge in speculation at this stage of the proceedings of the Conference. I shall continue to write down, from day to day, the result of my observations, and communicate such items of information as I think I may do without any breach of propriety.
I am yet nearly a stranger to the historic places in this old City, as well as to the great monuments of skill, industry, art, and enterprise, which abound in every street; but I hope to get time to form an acquaintance with all these things; and I hope, also, that my good friends, the readers of the Examiner, will not consider my remarks concerning them unworthy of their perusal.
ISSUE OF OCTOBER 31, 1864
QUEBEC, OCT. 18, 1864
When I closed my last letter at this date, I understand [sic] that the debate in Conference was then in progress touching the constitution of the Upper House under the Federal Government, as intimated in my last. I believe this principle
was agreed to: that in choosing Councillors, the choice should be confined to the several Legislative Councils in existence in the respective Provinces at the time the Union was to take effect, excepting Prince Edward Island. That favoured place was to have the whole Island for a choice. Whether this may be deemed complimentary to the Island, or whether it was supposed that the present Legislative Council there does not, or is not likel to afford suitable materials for a selection, are points which I am not prepared to discuss[.] But certain it is, the principle, as I have stated it, was carried.
WEDNESDAY, OCT. 19
The most important feature in the whole fabric of the Federal Constitution engaged the deliberations of the Conference for the whole of this day, that is— Representation of the several Provinces in the Lower House, or House of Commons as it is to be styled. The principle agreed upon at the Charlottetown Convention was, as I am informed, that population should be the basis of representation. This principle did not appear to be acceptable to the P. E. Island Delegates, owing to the scantiness of population of the Island, and they laboured strenuously and unanimously, I understand, to have their case made an exceptional one. But it was argued that if the principle were departed from in one case, it would afford serious ground for discontent if rigidly enforced with regard to all the rest of the Provinces. I cannot new review the arguments on both sides with which I have been made acquainted, but this I hope to do when the whole framework of the Constitution is ready to be presented to the public,34 which it is the intention, I believe, of the Conference to do. I can only state now a few bald facts such as come to my knowledge, the same as they do to any other person in Quebec, and such as I find noticed in the Toronto journals. The following has been agreed upon as the scale of representation in the House of Commons. Canada, Upper and Lower, to have 147 members;35 Nova Scotia, 19; New Brunswick, 15; Newfoundland, 8; and P. E. Island, 5. The Island Delegates wanted to get six representatives; but as a concession to this would disturb the whole principle on which representation was to be based, the Conference did not feel at liberty to agree to it; and the Island Delegates had to content themselves, I understand, with voting against that part of the arrangement. Indeed, I do not see that six would be any more service to them than five in so large a Parliament. But my opinions on this point, with some additional information as to population, &c., will be given in a subsequent letter, when the whole business shall be completed.36
A grand Ball was given this evening, expressly in honour of the Delegates, at the splendid residence of Mons. and Madame Tessier. The worthy host is President of the Legislative Council,37 is a Lawyer of high standing, and is one of the Professors of Law in the Laval University. The party was chiefly French—indeed the only ones of British and Irish origin present were those from the Maritime Provinces. Bad and broken English was much in vogue during the evening when conversation was carried on with the English and Irish, who have all determined
upon studying French forthwith. Indeed, the venders of French Dictionaries and Grammars are beginning to find a considerable number of customers amongst the people from the Lower Provinces. I am afraid some of them will go back to their Down East homes, forgetting much of their mother tongue, and talking a strange conglomeration of English and excessively bad French. But one word for Madame Tessier’s gay and brilliant party—the crowd was excessive, I could not compute the number present; but they all seemed to enjoy themselves—the spread in the Supper Room was superb, and the party did not separate until about 3 o’clock on the following morning. I think it would be advisable to be somewhat reticent hereafter regarding the social parties in which the Delegates engage in this stupendously hospitable City, lest it should be supposed they do nothing else but frolic. I will try to do it; but I am afraid I will not succeed.
THURSDAY AND FRIDAY, OCT. 20 AND 21
The Convention has been engaged most diligently these two days in defining the powers of the House of Commons—its duration—mode of election—qualification of members, and particularly the subjects which are to come within the scope of its control. The term of its existence has been fixed, I understand, at five years—the qualification of members to be the same for each Province as that which now obtains in each; and the election laws now existing in each to apply to the election of members for each.
The powers and jurisdiction of the House of Commons refer to thirty-two great general questions; but as these are in the progress of discussion, and my information touching them is incomplete, I must defer further reference to them until my next Letter.
A splendid official reception was given to the Delegates from the Maritime Provinces yesterday (Thursday) at the Laval University, when an Address was presented to them by the Very Reverend Superior of that Institution, and an Answer given in return. The great number of learned Doctors and Professors, in their gorgeous academic robes, was, of itself, a sight worth seeing; but all the wonders of the University, and of the Colleges and Seminary attached, were fully disclosed to the astonished eyes of the Delegates—the Right Reverend Bishops of Quebec, Kingston and Hamilton, who honoured the occasion by their presence, acting, in conjunction with the Doctors of Divinity and other Professors, as cicerones to the Delegates. As the Mail is just about closing, I must reserve for another occasion further observations concerning the Seminary, Colleges, and University. I herewith enclose copies of the address and answer presented yesterday. . . .
THE INTERCOLONIAL CONVENTION AT QUEBEC
QUEBEC, FRIDAY, OCT. 21
It would seem to he the settled conviction of the good people of this gay, ancient. and fascinating City, that the chief end of existence is Pleasure. I am informed, however, that the season for paying particular devotion to this most
exacting deity has not yet arrived—that winter, when the mighty river which pours its countless treasures into Lower Canada, is locked in the embrace of the Frost King—witnesses scenes of gaiety and festivity here to which those in which I have been a participator bear no comparison—at least for frequency of occurrence. May the good prayers of all our friends at home be copiously offered for us, to the end that we may be removed from this dear, charming, abominable, killing, pleasure ridden City, before the winter shall have set in, otherwise the probability is that the undertaker will effect our removal for us without our own volition.
The Bachelors of Quebec gave a splendid Ball this evening, in honour of the Delegates, at the Parliament Buildings. It was, in all essential features, a reproduction of the Ministerial Ball, at the same Buildings, shortly after the arrival of the Delegates. The same Society was there—French again predominating. The Governor-General and suite were present—the Cabinet Ministers, and indeed all the civil dignitaries of the land likewise honoured the occasion. But the crowd was not near so great as at the Ministerial Ball, while the arrangements as to music, refreshments and supper, were on the same excellent style. The same smiling, pretty, chattering French belles were to be seen, only in different attire. Apropos of Ladies’ dress in this City—at least in the Upper Town, so called: it has frequently occurred to me that it would, and must, require a small fortune, on the part of husbands and fathers, to furnish out a lady’s wardrobe, judging from the expensive style of dress to which they accustom themselves. I will not attempt to describe the Ball-room dresses, all made of the richest materials, and different on every occasion; but there is scarcely a lady to be met in the streets, at any time of the day, who does not wear a dress of the richest black silk; and the gentlemen are equally fastidious and expensive in their attire. In the Lower Town, where the Shipping and Lumbering interests are concentrated, and where mercantile pursuits of a rough and course [sic] character prevail, elegance of dress is not, by any means, the predominant characteristic.
I shall not say anything more about the Ball. It was a brilliant affair throughout—eminently successful—(I believe that is the phrase used to describe a stunning jollification)—and Everybody and his Wife were hugely delighted with it. One word more: the Cabinet Ministers—the leading ones especially—are the most inveterate dancers I have ever seen; they do not seem to miss a dance during the live-long night. They are cunning fellows; and there’s no doubt it is all done for a political purpose; they know that if they can dance themselves into the affections of the wives and daughters of the country, the men will certainly become an easy conquest.
SATURDAY, OCT. 22
The Conference sat from 12 noon until six p.m. today,38 and commenced the most valuable portion of their work—the arrangement of the financial affairs of the several Provinces. The Finance Minister of Canada [A. T. Galt] made a most able and elaborate exposition of the views of the Canadian Government, which, at the close of his speech, he presented in the form of a resolution. I am not at liberty to give you the resolution, although I should very much like to do so. Indeed, at the time I write, the resolution has not been confirmed by the Conference, but I have every reason to believe that it will be confirmed, although it may be somewhat modified in its details. In general terms, I may say that it is
eminently calculated to place the Island in an admirable position as regards its financial affairs. That position will be vastly different from the one conjured up by my friend Mr. Beer, whose letter in the Protestant of the 15th instant, I have only just now received and read.39 Some of my friends on the P.E. Island Delegation have carried away the paper to laugh over the absurd delusions into which Mr. Beer has allowed himself to be betrayed by an imagination which, to say the least, has been strangely perplexed, but which has never been deemed to be one of the fervid and excitable character. Mr. Beer assumes that our Island people will be taxed to make up a proportion of the Canadian debt, which he has correctly enough stated at sixty-two millions and odd dollars—that the Island will have to bear a proportion of the Nova Scotia and New Brunswick debts, and to help to provide the construction of the great inter-colonial Railway, and for military deferences. Never was there a greater mistake. Canada proposes to deal with the Maritime Provinces in the most broad and liberal spirit. She emphatically declares that the burden of her debt shall fall upon Upper and Lower Canada—and upon Upper and Lower Canada alone. it is proposed to consolidate the debts of the several Provinces, the Confederation assuming their liability in consideration of the transfer of all provincial property of a public character—such as canals, public harbours, light houses, steamboats, dredges, and public vessels, river and lake improvements, railways, military, roads, public buildings, custom houses, and post offices, except such as may be set aside for the use of the local Legislatures; ordnance property, munitions of war, armories, and lands set apart for public purposes. The Confederation then proposes to place to the credit of each Province, to meet its debt. $25 per head of the population. If the debt of any one does not amount to that sum, that particular one can draw for the interest semi-annually. The debt of Canada is such that she will have nothing to draw—Nova Scotia and New Brunswick not much each—Newfoundland and Prince Edward Island will have a large balance in their favour. The debt of the Island represents about three dollars per head—that leaves twenty dollars per head to its credit, the interest of which can be drawn semi-annually for local improvements. By this arrangement, the debt of P.E. Island will be guaranteed to the extent of $2,025,000.00—the interest on which, at 5 per cent, will be $101,250.00. Add to this, the proportion which the Confederation proposes to give to each Province for the support of its local administration, at the rate of 80 cents per head, making for the population of P.E. Island (say 81,000) $64,800.00—and we have a total of $166,050.00, which P.E. Island will annually receive. Deduct from the latter sum $12,000, interest at 5 per cent on our debt of £75,000 currency, or $240,000, and the balance in our favour will be $154,050.00 or £48,140 12s 6d, P.E.I currency, which will be, under the Confederation, nearly forty-eight thousand dollars more than we now spend for local affairs the Federal Government assuming the cost of certain affairs, to which I shall hereafter refer. And this is, besides having the guarantee of the Federal Government for more than two millions of dollars, equal to about £400,000 by which we could, at any time, effect the purchase of our Township lands.40 And I have every reason to
believe that these golden prospects may be brought home to us without much, if any, additional taxation. So that the alarmists in the Island need not work themselves up into a fever of excitement, touching the financial aspect of the Union question. The only persons who have the least cause for alarm are the proprietors, for if that question be consummated, their oppressive and antiquated tenure will speedily cease.
I have many interesting notes to extend, but I must close in order to be in time for the Mail.
ISSUE OF NOVEMBER 7, 1864
THE INTER—COLONIAL CONVENTION AT QUEBEC
QUEBEC, OCT. 27, 1864
Since the date of my last letter, Saturday, 22d, the Convention has been occupied with the financial matters then under its consideration, and which I then described as well as my time enabled me to do it; besides, other matters relating to the powers and jurisdictions of the General and Local Governments, have been under consideration, and have led to the most wearisome discussions, so much so that the debates have been protracted until one or two hours after midnight. To attempt to give my readers now an account of the results of the discussions, owing to the imperfect state in which the Minutes of the Conference appear, would not only be highly improper; but impossible. A digest of the proceedings will, I hope, be prepared for publication; and then will be the proper time to arrive at a safe and dispassiomite conclusion touching the merits of the whole scheme of intencolonial Union.—As it now appears to my mind, I have no reason, as far as the interests of the Island are concerned, to be dissatisfied with the arrangements proposed. Canada has, I think, shown a very honest and generous disposition so far; and should the Union be consummated, Lower Canada will, most especially, be the firm and fast friend of the Maritime Provinces. The desire of her public men is, apparently, to secure the aid of the Eastern Provinces for the purpose of curbing the grasping ambition of Upper or Western Canada, which now threatens to overshadow the Lower Province. The French desire most ardently to be left to the undisturbed enjoyment of their ancient privileges—their French institutions, civil law, literature and language. It is utterly impossible to Anglicise them—the attempt to do it, would outrage their most deeply rooted prejudices and lead to insurrection. As Sir Etienne Tache [sic] said to me today, (and he is a shrewd observer of events), the time will come—not, indeed, in the present generation, nor, perhaps, in the next—when the French element will be absorbed into the English one; but that result must be brought about by time, and not by the violent action of politicians. Leave to the French their old traditions, customs and institutions, and they will be found to be the most easily managed race in Canada under the British power. There is a party amongst them called the Clear Grit [I] or Rouge Party, of which Papineau was formerly the
Leader, (and I may observe, en passant, that this gentleman now lives at Montreal in the enjoyment of a vigorous old age, and an ample fortune), but they are numerically small, both in and out of the Legislature, and scarcely represented at all in the Government of the Country. The predominant feeling of the French members of the Canadian Ministry—(and I have no doubt they represent the general sentiment of their countrymen pretty fairly on this point)—is that of devoted and chivalrous loyalty to the British Crown. They appear to detest Democracy in any and every shape; and, therefore, they would rather lean upon the Maritime Provinces for aid and sympathy, and reciprocate with them in the same way, than trust to Upper Canada, which they believe is fast tending to Democracy. The feelings and prejudices of such a people are not only entitled to respect, but it would be fatal to offend them.
But I forget that, in commencing this letter, it was not my purpose to write a disquisition on Canadian politics. I hope I shall have a better opportunity, with fuller information, for doing that hereafter. The Conference is about closing its labours here, and may have one brief sitting at Montreal, to which place we are to go this evening. Several of the Delegates, with the ladies of the party, left for that city this afternoon. The remaining Delegates will arrive there by the Grand Trunk Railway a little before daylight to-morrow morning. They [sic] day is to be set apart as a holiday—a Review of Troops and Militia is to be held under General Sir Fenwick Williams,41 for which, I understand, the most elaborate preparations are being made42—a Ball is to be given by the Municipal authorities in the evening; and a Dejeuner, at which there will be a general outpouring of eloquence, will occupy the following day. The Delegates will then visit Ottawa, the seat of the future government, at which place the like festivities will be shown them, and from thence to Kingston, Hamilton, Toronto, Niagara Falls, some cities in the Far West of the United States, and home by New York, Boston, Portland and St. John.
ISSUE OF NOVEMBER 14, 1864
THE BASIS OF COLONIAL UNION
The Inter-Colonial Convention closed their labours at Quebec on Thursday, the 27th ult. For ten days previous to the close, they continued their sittings late into each night, in order to dispose of the many important questions pressing upon them, and to meet the engagements entered into on their behalf in the Cities of Montreal, Ottawa and Toronto. On the afternoon and evening of Thursday all the Maritime Delegates left Quebec for Montreal, in Special Trains provided for their use by the obliging and gentlemanly Managing Director of the Grand Trunk Railway, C.J. Brydges, Esqr….
On Saturday morning, the Delegates held an informal meeting—Hon. Mr. Cartier presiding—for the purpose of revising the Minutes of Conference. These minutes had come to Montreal from Quebec in printed slips. They were corrected at the informal meeting above referred to; and, with the exception of a few verbal but unimportant alterations, they are substantially as appear below. The minutes here given contain most of the alterations made at Montreal.
Lest it should be supposed that there is a breach of confidence on the part of the editor of this paper in thus giving undisguised publicity to the proceedings of the Convention, we deem it our duty to state that Mr. Whelan took the advice of the Canadian Ministers on this subject. Mr. Calt, the Finance Minister, was clearly of opinion that the earliest publicity should be given to the result of their deliberations. Mr. Cartier, Attorney General of Canada East, in his admirable speech at Montreal, disclosed as many of the so-called secrets of the convention as he could think of;43 and Mr. Brown, President of the Council of Canada, “let the cat” more thoroughly “out of the bag” in his speech at the Toronto dinner.44 The New Brunswick Delegates are just on the eve of doing the same before public meetings of their own constituencies;45 and, in short, from the publicity which has been given to the proceedings of the Convention, in a hundred different forms, it is now absurd to talk about “secrecy.” Indeed, the less secrecy that is practised, the more likelihood there is of gaining public opinion in favour of the great Confederation scheme. We, therefore give, without hesitation, the rough draught [sic] of the report of the Conference which is to be submitted to the several local Legislatures. A corrected copy of this report has, ere this, been placed in the hands of the Governor General for transmission to the Queen. Each member of the Conference will also be furnished with a lithographed copy, containing the latest corrections, and the signatures of all the Delegates as soon as the work can be prepared and sent from Canada. This extended publicity both present and proximate, puts an end to all secrecy; and the readers of the EXAMINER may rely upon getting the most full and correct information touching every detail of the Convention. We shall now give our readers the Report of the Conference as corrected at Montreal . . . .46
1 Palmer to Whelan, Dec. 5, 1864, in Charlottetown Examiner, Dec. 12, 1864.
2 Ibid., Dec. 12, 1864
3 At least two files of the Examiner exist for this period, one in the Charlottetown Public Library, the other in the British Museum.
4 In J. Pope, Confederation: Being a Series of Hitherto Unpublished Documents… (Toronto, 1895).
5 A.G. Doughty, ed., “Notes on the Quebec Conference, 1864,” C.H.R. (March, 1920), I (I), 26-47.
6 D.C. Harvey, The Centenary of Edward Whelan (Charlottetown, 1926),20.
7 Prince Edward Island, Assembly, Journals, 1864, 64-5.
8 Ibid., Debates, 1864, 41.
9 Examiner, July 4, 1864.
10 Ibid., July 11, 1864.
11 Coles sent two letters to the Examiner sketching out a plan for a decentralized federation, Ibid., Aug. 22, 29, 1864.
12 Ibid., Aug. 22, 1864, “Union question, No.1.”
13 Ibid., Sept. 19, 1864. The Saint John Morning Telegraph’s Charlottetown correspondent reported the following remark overheard as some of the Island delegation passed along the street: “there go the men who would sell their country.” Morning Telegraph, Sept. 12, 1864, report from Charlottetown of Sept. 8.
14 The Island delegation was increased from five to seven for the Quebec Conference. The appointment of T. H. Haviland, a Conservative, balanced Whelan’s.
15 Pope’s Confederation in 1895 was the next work on the Quebec Conference. Parts Of Whelan’s reports were reprinted by the Saint John papers (Morning Telegraph, Oct. 31, 1864, and Morning News, Oct. 31, 1864).
16 Examiner, Oct. 10, 1864, and infra, 27.
17 Ibid., Dec. 26, 1864.
18 Ibid., Feb. 20, 1865.
19 Published in Charlottetown, 1865.
20 Whelan, Union of the Provinces, 112.
21 The Queen Victoria, the Canadian government steamer, was sent from Quebec to fetch the Maritime delegates. On Wednesday, October 5 it arrived at Pictou, N.S., where it picked up the Nova Scotian delegates, Lieutenant Governor Sir Richard Macdonnell, as well as a number of ladies including Lady Macdonnell, Mrs. and Miss Tupper. On Thursday, October 6 it arrived in Charlottetown. The passengers went ashore to be entertained at luncheon at Inkerman House, the home of the Premier, Col. H. Gray. The Queen Victoria sailed that same afternoon for Shediac, N.B. where the New Brunswick delegates were taken aboard, and left for Quebec the next day, Friday, October 7.
22 A. A. Macdonald’s notes give a full account of these speeches. See footnote 5.
23 This is the first of many promises that Whelan did not fulfil. A brief account appears in Whelan, Union of the British Provinces, 58.
24 This has to be set against Whelan’s admission that he did take notes, supra, 23. These disclaimers were in fact largely pro forma.
25 This is an interesting resume of the work of the Charlottetown Conference. probably compiled by George Brown. It appeared first in Le Courrier du Canada of Quebec, in French, and in the Montreal Gazette, in English, on September 26, 1864. The Globe followed on Sept. 27.
26 Whelan left the Conference early to despatch material to the Examiner and missed the vote on Resolution 1, for which he duly apologized on October 12.
27 Whelan never did manage to record his impressions of Quebec. There are two other brief descriptions, one in the Saint John Morning News, Sept. 30, 1864, the other in the Halifax Morning Chronicle, Sept. 24, 1864, but the most useful one is that in the Montreal Gazette, October 28, 1864.
28 Whelan did change his mind. See Oct. 14th, 24-25.
29 This reference is not known.
30 Probably this gentleman was Mr. Levesy, who was looking for railway contracts from Tupper and from Tilley for the International Contract Company, and who had also been at Charlottetown.
31 The same adjective Whelan applied to Saint John, New Brunswick, not a month before. (Examiner, Sept. 19, 1864.)
32 See supra, footnote 27.
33 A.A. Macdonald says, however, that the Prince Edward Island delegation retired and returned to reject the arrangement. Pope mentions only a discussion on giving four representatives to Newfoundland.
34 In the catalogue of promises only.
35 That is, Upper Canada, 82; Lower Canada, 65.
36 See supra, footnote 34.
37 Ulrich Tessier, an elected member of the Legislative Council for Gulf district.
38 A variation due doubtless to the rigours of the ball of the previous evening.
39 Beer’s letter is quoted and discussed in the Examiner of October 24 by one of the locum tenens editors.
40 As to this there was disagreement. It was claimed (and never denied) that at Charlottetown the Canadian proposed that £200,000 (or the annual interest thereof) would be given to Prince Edward Island to buy out the absentee land proprietors. George Coles proposed this at Quebec only to have it rejected, much to his disgust. Coles said later that he told the Conference if this were not granted, “they might as well strike Prince Edward Island out of the constitution altogether.” (Prince Edward Island, Assembly, Debates, 1865, 5-9, 65-8.) The proposal turned up again in 1866, this time put forward by Tupper and Tilley in London. A similar resolution was included in the terms of union of 1873. Whclan has however doubled the figure, on what authority it seems impossible to determine.
41 Sir Fenwick Williams was to become Lieutenant Governor of Nova Scotia in 1865.
42 Pouring rain on October 28 caused the whole review to be abandoned.
43 Cartier’s speech is in Whelan, Union of the British Provinces, 116-122. The Montreal Gazette however said, “We have already published much more in these columns than any delegate felt fit to announce.” (Oct. 31, 1864.)
44 Whelan, Union of the British Provinces, 185-205.
45 Tilley and Gray had their first public meeting in Saint John on November 17.
46 There were two versions of the Quebec Resolutions, one before, the other after, the revisions in Montreal. Sec W. M. Whitelaw, The Maritimes and Canada before Confederation (Toronto, 1934) 265.