“The Confederation of British America” New York Times (28 September 1864)

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Date: 1864-09-28
By: New York Times
Citation: “The Confederation of British America”, New York Times (28 September 1864).
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The Confederation of British America.

The preliminary conference of the delegates appointed to discuss the question of a Federative Union of the provinces, have closed. Meetings of a more or less formal character have been held at the capital town of the three Maritime Colonies, and the leading delegates who have been entertained at a public banquet in Halifax have partially broken the seal of silence heretofore imposed upon their deliberations. The sum of the revelation then is, that the scheme of Union, so far as it has been canvassed, is found to be practicable. The members present at the various conferences are united in their opinion as to the desirability of a Union, which, while it shall leave each Province a certain control in all matters of local concern, shall yet subordinate the whole to a strong central governing body. The general feeling is in favor of a federal system which shall designate the specific powers, functions and responsibilities of the local governing bodies; leaving all else to the absolute control of the central body — our system inverted, as it were, in this essential feature. The whole scheme, however, is only yet conceived in the crudest form. Another meeting of the delegates will be held at Quebec, to consider something like a common basis of action for reference to the Legislature of each separate Province as they now stand. During the coming sessions of the Colonial Parliaments, the business of Federation will be dealt with in detail; and probably several sessions will be consumed in its discussion, before a final decision is reached.

The important announcement has been made by Sir RICHARD GRAVES MACDONNELL, the Lieutenant-Governor of Nova Scotia, that he has instructions from the Imperial authorities in England to give all the official aid and encouragement in his power to the proposed scheme of federation. And we find that at the Halifax banquet Admiral Sir JAMES HOPE, speaking, as he said, from an intimate knowledge of the state of public feeling in England is thus reported, on the question of ultimate independence for the confederated Colonies: “Rest well assured that your aspirations for nationality will find nothing else than a cordial response among us.”

It is not a matter of minor interest to call to mind what this great section of British America is to-day in its industrial aspect. It holds a community of 3,800,000 souls, of whom 700,000 are males between the ages of 20 and 60 — more than half a million being of the ordinary military age. At its present rate of improvement, in five years it will outnumber in population Belgium and Bavaria; and in ten years, Sweden and Norway. Of its lands, over forty-five million acres are in private hands, and over thirteen millions acres are cultivated. Four years ago, the annual products of its fields and gardens were valued at $150,000,000, and the assessed value of its farms was $550,000,000.

Eastern British America, as a maritime State, already holds high rank. Its sailors and fishermen number to-day over 70,000. In 1863 it built 628 vessels, of an aggregate tonnage of 230,312 tons. It exported $15,000,000 worth of timber and $10,000,000 worth of fish, and its total exports are over $65,000,000 annually.

Such is the community to which, in its political organizations, it is proposed to apply the federal system of government under new conditions. The experiment must be watched with interest. That its logical result ultimately is separation from the parent State every one must see. And yet, nine-tenths of those whose votes will finally settle the question, cherish an indistinct notion that a Confederation on the plan proposed is not in compatible with the colonial relationship. The delusion is one which a few years practical experience will effectually uproot. English statesmen see the matter in a more common-sense light. And hence, Sir JAMES HOPE is frank enough to tell the assembled delegates that their aspirations for a nationality will not be highlighted by any opposition from Imperial quarters. In short, they are civilly assured that they may go — as soon as they have summoned up sufficient courage.

And it is this question of ultimately cutting loose from the monarchical system that will be found to be the great source of sectional division and strife. The purest monarchists in this hemisphere today are the descendants of the French noblesse of Lower Canada. All their traditions go back beyond the imperial and revolutionary era. The edicts of the Kings of France are their law; the customs of the monarchical era are still their rule. And from these it will be an almost hopeless task to undertake to wean them by any specious promise of independence.

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