“The Proposed Confederation of the British Provinces” Chicago Tribune (8 October 1864)
By: Chicago Tribune
Citation: “The Proposed Confederation of the British Provinces”, Chicago Tribune (8 October 1864).
The Proposed Confederation of the British Provinces
MONTREAL, Sept. 26, 1864.
The delegates who went form the Canadas to join in the conference which took place at Charlottetown, on the 1st of September have returned. Those from the provinces of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island met at that pace to consider the propriety of a union among themselves under one government and legislature, and the Canadian administration asked permission, and obtained it, to attend in order to introduce their special plan of a confederation, to include all the provinces. There were admitted; but no delegates from Newfoundland were present, though the good wishes of that colony were formally communicated. After discussed at some length, and adjournment of the meeting took place, to be re-assembled at Halifax on the 10th. The sittings were continued in that place, all with closed doors. Subsequently at St. John, the capital by the citizens to the delegates, the result of the conference was made known. The principal facts disclosed were that there were that there were no serious obstacles apparent in the way of the proposed confederation, and the Governor General has accordingly summoned all the governments respectively to a grand conference, to be held at Quebec on the 10th of October next to arrange the details of the scheme.
As far as anything can be learned on the subject, it appears that at present the confederacy is to be composed of the Canadas and the maritime provinces, these coming into it collectively or separately, with a provision admitting the Northwest Territory, British Columbia and Vancouver [sic] on equitable terms, the whole to bear the name of Canada or Acadia. It was also proposed that each province should have a local legislature, charged with the local government, and that a general legislature and an executive should be supreme overall. The basis of representation in the lower branch of this legislature to be provinces. The mode of selecting the members of the latter was not agreed upon, some preferring an election by the people, and others an appointment for life by the crown, upon the advice of the ministry for the time being. The executive it was almost unanimously agreed should be also an appointment by the crown on similar advice.
To the federal authority thus composed would be entrusted the subjects of trade, navigation, banking, currency, taxation, bankruptcy and criminal law, the militia and the defenses, coinage, weighs and measures, sea fisheries, patent and copy rights, naturalization, the census, postal service, emigration and public works.
The local legislature, it was proposed by some of the delegates, should consist of two houses, and by others of one. There were those who wished to have the Lieutenant Governors and other principal officials elected by the people. Others proposed they should be chosen by the Legislatures, and be held responsible to them.
What were to be the chief powers and duties of the local governments was also much discussed, and principally with an eye to Lower Canada; and this point remains yet to be settled. Nothing definitely this respect was arrived at. The question of wild lands, [sic], prisons, charities and agriculture loomed up largely before the eyes of the respective delegations, and are delicate questions withal. The difficulty was [sic] at once [sic] for these local purposes local resources must be [sic], and increased taxation was not a pleasant subject for contemplation. All the existing debts of the provinces are to be consolidated and assumed by the Federal government.
It is not to be disputed that the scheme finds favor here as well as in the other provinces to a great extent, and it is to be observed that the speakers advocating it in public at the [sic] given in honor of the delegates made large use of the example of the United States in its favor.
But while all this was going on, there was a speck visible on the horizon of this province, which is rapidly becoming a cloud.
The Union Nationale, of this city, has set itself deliberately against the project. Articles of the threatening character have appeared in its columns and last evening a second meeting under its inspiration was held in this city to remonstrate against the measure, at which there were present about a thousand persons. After a warm debate, the following resolution was unanimously adopted, and it shows exactly what the feeling of the meeting was:
Resolved, That, in the opinion of this meeting, a confederation of all the provinces of British North America would tend to extinguish French Canadian Nationality, and impose upon it a system of direct taxation which it could not well meet: and this: this meeting formally expresses its expresses its disapprobation of all ministerial schemes of Constitutional changes, which schemes, if they were carried into effect without being first submitted to the direct approval or disapproval of the people this province by means of general elections, held exclusively to judge and appreciate them, and without the application of the principle – the double majority, would be the greatest blow which has ever been leveled against the immunities and the rights of the people of the province.
Other meetings are to follow, and the agitation has fairly begun. Loud threatenings of civil war are heard and the bayonet is appealed to in very plain language.