“The Intercolonial Union” New York Times (6 November 1864)

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Date: 1864-11-06
By: New York Times
Citation: “The Intercolonial Union”, New York Times (6 November 1864).
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Monarchical Institutions to be the Basis of the New Scheme—The Name of the New Country to be Decided by Queen Victoria—Dinners, Balls, &c.

MONTREAL, Monday, Oct. 31, 1864.

Disappointment has befallen those who expected that the seal of secrecy which has hitherto been imposed upon the mouths of the delegates from the several provinces to the Quebec Conference would be broken at the Montreal banquet in their honor. With the exception of a few vague generalities, nothing has escaped the lips of those reticent statesmen; not a phrase has been uttered to inform an anxious public of the nature of the deliberations which are supposed to have decided their political fate. The excuse assigned for this silence is, that British practice requires political projects to be submitted to the governing powers before being laid before the governed people, so that the minutes of the conference must first be transmitted to the Governors of the Colonies and to the Colonial office in England, and only afterwards made known to those whom they most concern! The speeches of the delegates were, however, not without great interest; for under the genial influence of a good dinner and good wines, we are allowed to perceive at least the spirit with which the question of a union of the British Provinces has been discussed in the late Intercolonial Council.

The most noticeable speech was that of Hon. Mr. CARTER, the real leader of the Lower Canadian portion of the ministry. He laid down some remarkable propositions. First of all, he made a bold declaration that Canada could not long remain in her present position — shut out, for half the year, by the natural barriers of Winter, from access to the ocean save across the United States — but that unless she was so united to the maritime provinces as to have railroad communication with their always open harbors, she must inevitably fall into the arms of your Great Republic. He then proceeded to recount how, in 1774, Lower Canada had remained deaf to the appeal of Gen. GEORGE WASHINGTON himself, when asked to link her destinies with those of the other colonies of this continent, then adopting democratic institutions, and stated that her people were as adverse to purely democratic principles of government now as then. It is the duty of a faithful correspondent to inform you that the cheers which followed this declaration showed such to be the feeling, at least, of an influential portion of the people of Montreal. I have no doubt whatever that Mr. CARTER spoke the truth when he said that unless Canada could command harbors of her own for the whole year, she must eventually add another to the bright constellation of stars that adorn the American flag. I may add that unless the Intercolonial Railway proves to be a readier means of intercourse than many people imagine, a species of commercial gravitation will yet influence her future political relations with you. Perhaps Mr. SEWARD was thinking of this when, speaking of these colonies, he said he wished them every prosperity, and added these memorable words, “Go on, gentlemen, you will one day make fine States for our Union.” I have no doubt that the Imperial authorities, who certainly favor if they did not even suggest this scheme of intercolonial union, see the same truth, and that their perception of it, and their aversion ever to allow Canada to from a portion of the States, leads them to act silently but powerfully to form a new empire here, based on monarchical as distinguished from your democratic principles.

That this is the leading idea in the whole of the proceedings now occupying the public mind was made very clear by the singular unanimity with which every speaker, without a single exception, kept playing on this one phrase — “monarchical principles.” And I cannot but think that several of them were indiscreet in their way of putting the question forward. Col. HAVILAND, for example — a delegate from prince Edward’s Island — after expressing his belief that real freedom did not exist in a democracy, where the will of a tyrannical majority always ruled, said he was convinced that “the war for civil and religious freedom on this continent would have to be fought between Canada and the United States.” So perhaps it may; but need Col. HAVILAND have given the subject so martial an aspect as he proceeded to do? Must the war be a bloody one, fought with cannon and cavalry, and lead to desolation of regions as fair as were once the Valley of Shenandoah and the uplands of Georgia? May it not be a conflict harmless to life and prosperity, waged in platforms and in the press, and lead to the improvement either of the American democratic system or the Canadian monarchical one? Them Mr. McGee, in urging the propriety of arming a large militia for the colonies, need not have imitated the New-York Herald, which declares every few days that the instant the South is crushed the Northern army will be turned upon Canada. Mr. McGee need not have asserted that, unless we raised a force of a few thousand men, (which would be nothing in the face of one of your veteran armies,) you Yankees would be down upon us within a decade, like the Philistines upon one of the historical Jews of old. It would be far better not to alarm the community thus, but for your press and our public speakers to state the real sober truth, which is, that as long as Canada does her duty toward her neighbors, her neighbors will act fairly and honorably toward her. Was not the calmness of Mr. SEWARD a far preferable demeanor to the bluster of Col. HAVILAND or the declamation of Mr. McGEE.

Leaving these matters, however, to the politicians, on whom they may thrust themselves some day, before they are ready, let me give you a little news.

The name of the new Confederacy has been a matter of some difficulty in settlement. The Lower Province delegates offered the name “Arcadia,” that having been the old French name for an undefined district somewhere on the St. Lawrence Gulf and Atlantic shore. Some of the Canadians here wished to include the whole under the name of Canada. Diverse people have spoken up for “Cabptia,” “Nora Britannia,” “Columbia,” and other designations. How do you think the matter has been settled?

When the frogs wanted a king they applied to Jove. When the Canadians, in want of a fixed capital, could not agree upon the site to be selected, they referred the matter to the Queen, who, like Jove to the frogs, gave them a decision, which many heartily regret, selecting Ottawa. Well, unable to learn a lesson from fable or from very modern history, the conference has decided to leave the name to the choice of her Majesty. The delegates say this is the sincerest possible mark of loyalty. Perhaps it is; perhaps it may not be. It is assuredly rather flattering to ask any lady to stand god-mother to an infant nation, putting off its swaddling clothes with a population of nearly 4,000,000 souls. If the Sovereign would only follow the practice of god-parents generally, and make the god-child a cadean worth having!

The delegates have not yet concluded their long round of festivals, although they have finished their deliberations. They danced at a public bail here on Friday night they were feted at a dejeuner on Saturday, and danced at another ball at Mr. Ross, the member’s. They went to the Victoria Bridge on Sunday, and afterward, those who were not too punctilious about spiritual matters, attended a soiree at Mr. CARTIER’S who, a French Canadian and a Roman Catholic, thinks the better the day the better the deed. Today they proceeded to Ottawa, to see their future capital, and the public buildings there — and enjoy a ball. They will then go to Kingston, Toronto, and Hamilton, dancing and dining at each place, and by the time they return to their respective home, will, perhaps, find it harder to please their constituents than the hospitable Canadians.

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