“The Confederation Conference. Opinions of the English Press”, The Globe (27 October 1864)

Document Information

Date: 1864-10-27
By: The Globe
Citation: “The Confederation Conference. Opinions of the English Press”, The Globe [Toronto] (27 October 1864).
Other formats:

The Confederation Conference.






(From the London News, Oct. 12.)

Monday last, the 10th of October, is likely to prove an important date in the history of British North America. It was the day which the Governor General of Canada, acting under the authority of the Imperial Government, had appointed for a formal conference at Quebec of the Governments of Canada, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Prince Edward Island, for the purpose of considering and agreeing upon a complete scheme for embracing all those Provinces in a federal union.

It is proposed, then, to organize the confederation at first in three sections, of which Upper Canada will form one, Lower Canada another, and Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland united a third. The reason for separating the two Canadas will occur to every one who has followed the recent history of those Provinces. The scheme of confederation will admit of the subsequent accession of the Northwest territory, British Columbia and Vancouver Island, but the work immediately in hand is the federal union of the Provinces we have enumerated. It was felt by the delegates at Charlottetown that it would be a matter of the first importance so to mark out and separate in the constitution of the confederation the respective spheres of the local and general governments, and so to define the attributes of each as to preclude all such grounds of dispute as have vexed the great neighbouring Republic under the name of State rights. It is proposed that the Federal Government shall consist of the representative of the British Crown and an Upper and Lower Legislative House. The Lower House would be constituted on the principle of popular representation, according to numbers; but in the Upper House the several “sections” would meet as members of the confederation on a footing of equality. The mode of electing the members of the Upper House naturally offers many points of differences of opinion. Some desire to see its members chosen for a term of years by the people; others would vest the appointment in the local legislatures, and others again think that it would be an advantage if some of the members were appointed of the Crown. It is needless to say that the advisers of the Queen’s representative would be under the permanent necessity of securing a majority in the popular branch of the legislature. The federal authority would have the supreme control of all affairs common to the whole country, such as customs’ duties, navigation laws, currency, general taxation, and criminal law. It would, of course, provide for the military and naval defence of the country, public works, and the postal service. Happily the finances of the various province offer no insurmountable obstacle to the assumption of all their liabilities and assets by the federal government, inasmuch as the debts and annual burdens now borne by the people of the several provinces are pretty nearly equal, and the revenue of each is some what in excess of the expenditure. More difference of opinion exists as to the constitution of the local or sectional legislative assemblies. Some are for two chambers, while others prefer the simplicity of one only; some would make the local executive responsible to the legislature; others desire that the lieutenant-governor and other chief officers may be directly elected by the people. As, however, it is not absolutely necessary that, the several sections, in order to bear their part in the common system should be organized alike for local purposes, differences of opinion on these points will not seriously obstruct the formation of the general union. The first requisite in the constitution of the confederation is that the powers of government be so distributed between the federal and sectional authorities that each portion of the whole shall feel its local interests are safe in its own power, while the strength of all may be combined to promote the general prosperity.

We see no reason to doubt that the delegates now assembled at Quebec, will succeed in their great work, and having done so, they will have constituted, in the words, thrice repeated, of one of the ministers of Canada, “a great British American nation,” redeemed from provinciality, richly endowed and secure in the present, and able to look onward with confidence to the future.

(From the London Telegraph, Oct. 12)

Seldom has there been held a more important conference of statesmen than that which assembled recently at Halifax to consider the proposed federation of the British North American Provinces. On their deliberations depends to a very great extent the future of a country which possesses magnificent resources, and which assembled recently at Halifax to consider the proposed federation of the British North American Provinces. On their deliberations depends to a very great extent, the future of a country which possesses magnificent resources, and which contains within it the germs of a mighty empire. The statesmen of British North America have conceived the grand idea of a federation. They wish to build up a nation; but they also wish— and this is the true imperial justification of their scheme— to have this nation still linked by the closest ties to Great Britain. In other words, they have no notion of seceding; they wish rather, by increasing their own strength, to become worthier members of the central State. To this end their [no-] tables have met together, and so far is the movement from having any separatist tendency that it received, two years ago, official circumstance that the officials of the Provinces and the Admiral of the British fleet upon the American station joined in the recent proceedings, and it will at once be seen that the object is one in which the mother country can heartily co-operate with [text ineligible] thriving children across the Atlantic. It may be possible that a few Canadians would prefer incorporation with the Northern portion of the late United States; but the number of these is insignificant, and the disloyal faction would at once be overwhelmed and swept away by the creation of the new confederacy. We must not forget that, granted certain changes in American politics, the enforcement of the Monroe doctrine would be one of the first objects sough by our restless con sins; all the better will it be, by welding the British provinces into one compact nationality, to proclaim at once that we regard this famous doctrine as an insolent threat, which we hold ourselves prepared to resist by force of arms.

Firmly believing that the project will be immensely beneficial to the colonies, we are convinced that it will be equally acceptable to the home Government As the matter already stands, England is committed to the protection of every acre of her soil, be it on the Indus, the Murray, the St. Lawerence or the Thames Doubtless the responsibility is great; doubtless the work is arduous; but the duty exists. The best way, indeed, to lighten it is to call upon our colonies themselves to take measures for their own measures for their own defence, assuring them that whenever the odds are too heavily against them, whenever the danger becomes serious, we pledge the British Empire to their aid.

(From the London Star, Oct 10)

The important conferences which are being held in the colonies of British North America, and which are still far from having terminated their weighty labours, have under consideration perhaps the most momentous question which can stir the heart of a great community. They are endeavouring to welcomed together those scattered populations which have heretofore only been united in their allegiance to the mother country, and to lay the found of what will one day be both a nation and an empire. Up to the present moment these colonies have been divided— divided not less by rival interests and unfriendly tariffs than by geographical lines of demarcation. The time and energy of their public men have often been frittered away by petty controversies, instead of being concentrated on objects worth of the high destiny which lies before the inhabitants of a county that rivals the United States in the extent of its superficial area and the magnificence of its resources Now all this bids fair to terminate. Adopting for their motto the principle that union is strength, the best men of each Province and of all parties have combined together to establish a grand confederation of States, which shall combine in its ample folds the maritime colonies of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Newfoundland, and Prince Edward Island; the noble cities and the far-reaching settlements of the two Canadas; and the vast colonisable regions of the Hudson’s Bay Company which stretch westward to the Rocky Mountains Truly the scheme is a grand one, and as wise and practical in its objects as it is bold in conception. Happily, too, there is no consequent to be achieved; no blood to be shed; no native races to be exterminated; no Cortez required to plant his cruel banner in the halls of some western Montezuma. The new empire has long been occupied by Angle-Saxes communities who have carried with the British enterprise and the laws and institutions of the land from which they have sprung, and who now desire to build up a nationality which shall prove a source of strength not only to themselves but to the empire at large As we have before had occasion to remark, the object is one which must excite the deepest sympathy of every Englishman who prizes the greatness of his country and his race.

According to the last advices, the delegates to whom the delicate task of talking over the preliminaries of this important business had been entrusted, have held a highly satisfactory series of meetings at Halifax, Nova Scotia. The tediousness of their private deliberations has been agreeably relived by a public banquet given by the delegates of Nova Scotia in honour of their colleagues of the other Provinces. Whatever work John Bull, or that worthy individual’s numerous progeny, may have in hand, a dinner is always deemed indispensable to its efficient performance Whether the object be to found a charity or to create an empire, the cloth must be spread, a sumptuous entertainment provided and everybody’s health drunk in wines of the most approved quality. Halifax is famous for its hospitality; and, if we may judge from the published reports, the worthy citizens of this prosperous Atlantic port did full justice to its well-earned reputation Goodly cheer and genial social intercourse are eminently to promote unanimity where differences of opinion may chance to prevail. But we must not attribute the cordial agreement upon the grave questions which had brought together the leading statesmen of British America to influences of a convivial character. The banquet was rather the pledge of union than its cause. The statesmen had previously talked over their plans, and agreed at least in principle, if not in details. They had come to the unanimous conclusion that the great interests entrusted to their charge would be best secured by such a confederation as the leading politicians of Canada had proposed. Dr. Tupper, the Provincial Secretary of Nova Scotia, who presided, gracefully complimented the guests of the evening, and expressed his hearty concurrence in the project which they sought to realise. Sir Richard Graves McDonnell, the Lieutenant Governor, and Sir James Hope, the admiral of the station, both by their presence and their speeches may be said to have expressed the sympathy of the Home Government. The Hon. Mr. Tilley of New Brunswick and Col Grey of Prince Edward Island, represented the opinions for their colonies, while the Canadas had for their spokesmen men of the calibre and authority of Mr. Cartier, the Attorney-General of Canada East; Mr. George Brown, the President of the Council; Mr. J A Macdonald, the Attorney-General of Canada West; Mr. Galt, the Finance Minister, and Mr. McGee, the Minister of Agriculture—the ablest statesmen whom our greatest colony has produced. The meeting of so many political leaders formed in itself a new era in the history of the North American colonies- an era when the [text ineligible] of faction yields to a sense of public duty, and party differences are merged in the patriotic effort to form a national union. Upon the Hon, George Brown developed the task of demonstrating the wisdom of the proposals which the Government of which he is a member have submitted to the colonies generally for their approval and acceptance, and how well he fulfilled that duty will be best seen by a brief epitome of the leading faces of his speech. Mr. Brown showed that the aggregate population of the six provinces, allowing for the natural increase since the date of the last census, was nearly four millions; and that out of the forty-eight sovereign States of Europe, thirty-seven contained a less population, while three of the remaining eleven exhibited only a proportionately small numerical superiority. He stated that in these colonies there was an aggregate of 333, 604 farmers, and 160, 702 labourers, chiefly agricultural— a remarkable proof of the extent to which the cultivators of land become its owners. Nearly forty-six millions of acres are in the hands of private individuals, of which nearly thirteen millions are under profitable cultivation; while the value of the products of these fields and gardens amounted, in 1860, to thirty millions sterling Enormous tracts of land are still in the possession of the various Governments waiting for labourers, who may become both tillers and proprietors of the soil. Of sailors and fishermen there are 69, 256, who export two million pounds worth of fish per annum; and last year above six hundred and twenty-eight vessels, with a tonnage of 230, 312, were built to carry on the operations of a profitable and ever-increasing trade. Last year timber of the value of three millions sterling was exported; and any one who has seen a Canadian forest knows how indefinitely this branch of commerce may be extended United, the provinces would enjoy an export trade of thirteen million, and two thousand five hundred miles of railway. To this means of transit the intercolonial railroads, which would make Halifax one of the greatest emporiums of trade in the world, would, by the force of an irresistible necessity,  sown be added. Mr. Macdonald gladdened the hearts of the Nova Scotians by the not unreasonable expectation that when this projected line was completed the products of the great West would find an outlet in their chief port; and Mr. Galt, the Gladstone of America, gave the last touch to the picture by descanting on the benefits which would flow from perfect free trade between the various Provinces. With a country so vast and fertile, and a policy so wise, “it would,” as Mr. Brown justly remarked. “be something to be the citizen of such a State,” and we earnestly hope that the vision may prove a reality.

Leave a Reply