“The Confederation Scheme. Interesting Despatches”, The Globe (17 November 1864)
By: The Globe
Citation: “The Confederation Scheme. Interesting Despatches”, The Globe [Toronto] (17 November 1864).
THE CONFEDERATION SCHEME.
The Holding of the Conference.
APPROVAL OF THAT IDEA BY THE COLONIAL OFFICE.
Halifax, N. S., 21st May, 1862.
MY LORD DUKE,—
Towards the close of this session of 1861, a resolution, a copy of which I enclose, was passed by the Assembly of this Province.
For various reasons my Government were of opinion that it would have been inexpedient to have acted upon this resolution during the last year, but they are now anxious that the subject should be brought under the consideration of your Grace, in order that you may sanction such consultation between the different Provinces, as we will enable the important subject of a union of the colonies to be considered in all its different branches, with a view of deciding upon its practicality, and the character of the union which would be most conducive to the permanent advancement and prosperity of the North American colonies.
As an abstract question, the union of the North American colonies has long received the support of many persons of weight and ability, but so far as I am aware, no political mode of carrying out this union has ever been proposed.
The question has assumed various shapes and proportions, some advocating a federal union of the whole of British North America, some a legislative union of the Lower Provinces. With all this diversity of opinion as to the charter which the union should assume, the feeling in favour of a union of some sort is decidedly on the increase in this Province.
Under these circumstances my Government are of opinion, that a meeting of the leading men of the different Provinces should take place, in the hope that after full deliberation and discussion, some practicable attention may be directed in the future consideration of the subject.
I have, &c.,
His Grace the Duke of Newcastle, &c, &c, &c.
DOWNING STREET, 6th July, 1862.
I have duty received your lordship’s despatch, No. 47, of the 21st of May, accompanied by a copy of a resolution which was passed in the House of Assembly on the 15th of April, 1861, relative to an amalgamation of part, or all, of the British Provinces in North America. The resolution points out that the question might be considered either of a distinct union of the Maritime Provinces, or of a general union of the Maritime Provinces, or of a general union of them with Canada, and suggests that it might be desirable, upon so important a subject, to ascertain the policy of Her Majesty’s Government, and so promote a consultation between the leading men of the colonies.
Your lordship explains that, for various reasons, your Government were of opinion that it would be inexpedient to act on this resolution last year, but that they now wish it to be brought under consideration.
No one can be insensible to the importance of the two measures which are alluded to, and I am far from considering that they do not form a very proper subject for calm deliberation. They are, however, of a nature which renders it essentially fit that if either of them be proposed for adoption, it should emanate in the first instance from the Provinces, and should be concurred in by all of them which it would affect, and should see no objection to any consultation on the subject amongst the leading members of the Governments concerned; but whatever the result of such consultation might be, the most satisfactory mode of testing the opinion of the people of British North America, would probably be by means of resolution or address, proposed in the Legislature of each Province by its own Government.
Beyond this expression of the views of Her Majesty’s Government as to the preliminary steps which might be taken towards the decision of this great question, I am not prepared to announce any course of policy upon an invitation proceeding from one one of the British North American Provinces, and contained in a resolution of so general and vague a character as that which you have transmitted to me. But if a union, either partial or complete, should hereafter be proposed, with the concurrence of all the Provinces be united, I am sure that the matter would be weighed in this country, both by the public, by Parliament, and by Her Majesty’s Government, with no other feeling that an anxiety to discern and promote any course which might the most conducive to the prosperity, the strength, and a harmony of all the British communities in North America.
I have the honour to be, &c.,
The Right Honourable
The Earl of Mulgrave, &c, &c, &c.
FEDERATION IN PRINCE EDWARD ISLAND
The Prince Edward Islanders:—
That everything that could [?eason] be conceded so as to make the contemplated Union acceptable to the different communities to whom it is proposed to give up their individual independence, to be merged in an association calculated for the greater security and mutual advantage of the whole, we never had a particle of doubt. We confess, however, that the mode of effecting this was a difficult problem, and of effecting this was a difficult problem, and one not easily solved by those who were not let into the secret of the views entertained by the different delegations. If we understand a[l]right the propositions enunciated in the letter of Mr. Whelan, it would seem—although it is not so stated— that the revenues of all the colonies are to be collected and paid into one common exchequer, out of which Prince Edward Island is to receive, for the support of its local administration, at the rate of 80c per head of the population, which, estimating the population at 81, 000, would yield annually $64 800— we take Mr. Whelan’s calculation as correct; this is equal to $20, 250, P.E. Island currency; so far we should be losers. But it is proposed, says Mr. Whelan, to allow each colony, for the redemption of its public debt, $25 per head, totally irrespective of what may be the actual public debt of each. This amounts, in the case of the Island, to $2, 025, 000, the interest of which, at 5 per cent.. is to be paid into the local treasury of the Island. This seems to be the most extraordinary part of the communication. Taking it for true, the result will be that the future annual revenue of the island will be, according to Mr. Whelan’s computation, $48,140,18s. 6d. But there is something behind; an we confess we do not see clearly how, under the Confederation, we are to have forty-eight thousand dollars more than we now depend for local affairs, unless it be that we shall be relieved of the costs of providing and sustaining light-houses, buoys, beacons, &c, and that the Federal Government will take upon itself the whole expense of the main roads, or at least a great trunk road from the East Point to the North and West Capes, dig a ship or schooner canal connecting Richmond Bay with Bedeque Bay, erect breakwaters on the north side of the Island, so that there may be harbours of refuge in cases of gales of wind; and if, in addition to all these, a communication by means of an inclined plane or canal is effected between the waters of the bay of Fundy and those of the Gulf of St. Lawrence, we do not hesitate to say that the Island will be the gain-er, and the Confederation be the commencement of a new era of prosperity. We must not forget, however, the two millions of dollars which are to be guaranteed for the purchase of our township lands. This, of itself, would go far to recommend the measure; and here we do not think that the proprietors would have much cause for alarm, as that sum would give at least ten shillings the acre for all the township lands now undisposed of.
It has been a matter of surprise with many that the tone of the members has been changed since their meetings in Charlottetown, Halifax and Quebec. We will do the honourable gentlemen the justice to believe that their judgements have not been warped by the good cheer and attention paid them, but that the advantages of the union, or confederation, having been fairly debated, their minds were disabused of the foregone conclusion at which they had previously arrived, by its having been shown that the premises on which it was based were erroneous; or rather that, like most foregone conclusions, it had no premises to rest upon, but was a mere crude idea adopted random, the result of prejudice rather than founded on knowledge. There are few men in the community for whom we have a greater respect than for the Hon. George Beer, a self-made man, who has risen by his own exertions to the honourable status he holds among us but he has been misled in his conclusions by adopting premises which have no foundation; in fact, he assumes that certain events will take place, and that if they do, the result will be disadvantageous to the interests of the Island. It would seem, however, that he has misconceived the views of the promoters of the confederation, and that the reverse of what he anticipated will likely be the case. It may seem derogatory to its dignity that the Island is to have so few members to represent it. We think nothing of this. Scotland had, at the time of the union, but forty-five Commoners and fifteen Peers, to represent the whole nation in Parliament. The smallness of the representation has had no injurious effect upon Scotland; nor do we apprehend the the rather slender number of five representatives will have any injurious effect upon the prosperity of the Island. It should always be remembered that if the confederation is effected, as proposed, there will be no longer any antagonism between the different members of it to contend with; the only bone of contention— the proportion of revenue for local purposes each is to have— is removed, and, according to Mr. Whelan, we shall be in that respect better off than ever. One great advantage the delegations and the conferences have [illegible] occasion to, is that each of the colonies has been made far better acquainted with the resources of the other, and a mutual feeling of respect has been engendered. This is, of itself, matter of congratulation, and independently of the confederation, will be ultimately of great benefit to all.
The following are extracts from Mr. Whelan’s letter to the Charlottetown Examiner:—
SATURDAY, Oct. 22.
The Conference sat from 12 noon until 6 p.m., to-day, and commenced the most valuable portion of their work— the arrangement of the financial affairs of the several Provinces. The Finance Minister of Canada 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 it will be confirmed, although it may be so newt 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. Bear, whose letter in the Protestant of the 15th instead I have only just now received and read. Some of my friends of the P.E Island over the absurd delusions into which Mr. Beer has allowed himself to be betrayed by and imagination which, to say the least, has been strange perplexed, but which has never been deemed to be one of a 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 for the construction of the great intercolonial railway, and for military defences. 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 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 those of the local legislatures, ordnance property, munitions of war, armouries, 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 $20 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— the interests of which, at 5 percent, will be $101, 250. 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— and we have a total of $166,050 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 or £48,140 12s 6d P.E. Island 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 general 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 eat at any time effect the purchase of our township lands 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 cover 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 the 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.