“The Progress of Confederation in Canada” New York Times (17 October 1864)

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Date: 1864-10-17
By: New York Times
Citation: “The Progress of Confederation in Canada”, New York Times (17 October 1864).
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The Progress of Confederation in Canada.

Our correspondent at Quebec, who has had special opportunity for studying the political situation in the Provinces, takes a less sanguine view of the progress of the federative scheme than the more ardent local sympathizers. The Conference has been a week in session. It has resolved by a formal vote, as everyone believed it would, that an union of the Provinces is desirable. Beyond this – nothing. The difficulties in the way of an agreement upon details, as we have always pointed out, are now found to be of the gravest kind. The Conference has sat thus far, and will continue to sit, with closed doors. But enough has already transpired to show that on the primary question of representation alone the barriers in the way of political communion between the Provinces, and the more advanced Western Province are all but insuperable.

Taking as the basis of a representative scheme, the liberal allowance of one delegate to the general Congress from each 25,000 of the population, what are the sectional results? The entire Congressional delegation would number 142. Of this the representative from Upper Canada would number 60, from Lower Canada, 40; from Nova Scotia, 14; form New-Brunswick, 10; from Newfoundland, 6; from Prince Edward Island, 4. Even if the maritime colonies were to form an interprovincial union among themselves, they would still have to come into the confederation under a heavy sectional disability. Their united delegation would number but 34 to the 40 representatives of Lower Canada and to the 60 from Upper Canada.

The ulterior results of such an Union as this we cannot perhaps fully foresee. But there is this broad fact before the colonists that the union between Upper and Lower Canada has come to a rupture solely on account of the inequitable distribution of representative power between the sections. And the progressive community of Upper Canada will never consent again to enter into a political union which will deprive them of a representation according to numbers in the popular branch of the Legislature. The Maritime Colonies, then, will either have to come in as dependent members of the federation, or not come at all. It would be impossible even to mend their position – so far we are able to estimate it – by giving them an equality of numbers with the larger Provinces in the second Elective Chambers. If they come into the Union as a United Province, they would still be but one against two in the Upper House. Or, again if it is hoped to overcome this difficulty by returning to the old system of nominating Legislative Councillors by mandamus from the Crown, instead of by popular election, then there is a way opened up again to the old troubles which brought Lower Canada twenty-five years ago to a state of rebellion. The nomination of Legislators by the Crown is not only an anomaly in itself in a country which has no hereditary aristocracy, but it is an abuse which the Gallo-Canadian section of the Province would to a man resist.

There seems to us to be but one part of this Union project immediately feasible – that is the removal of all the hostile tariffs which operate against intercolonial railroad. This would enable the colonists to become better acquainted, and might sooner or later, in spite of the difficulties in the way, lead to a political union.

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