The Union of the British North American Provinces and the Hon. Joseph Howe (1866)

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Date: 1866
By: A Nova Scotian in Canada
Citation: A Nova Scotian in Canada, The Union of the British North American Provinces and the Hon. Joseph Howe (Montreal: Dawson Brothers, 1866).
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British North American Provinces



{From the Montreal Gazette.)






From tho earliest period of American his-
>jry no thought has more persistently occupied
the minds of American statesmen than that of
Union. The leading spirits in the okl i;>
colonies were ever dreaming of it, and when
their union was accomplished after the revolu
tion, it was not long before the loyal colonies
began to thirk that they also had a common
ground and bond of union.

For a long time these tendencies were dis-
couraged by the mother country. The foolish
policy which frowned on Franklin’s plan was
continued until the growing indiiference to all
colonies tooK root in England. The states-
men of the colonies still longed for organiza-
tion, but the statesmen of the mother country
followed the rule of dividing in order to govern,
while there never lacked in any small com-
munity ardent local “patriots” who saw
“tyranny and spoliation” in any comprehen-
sive scheme, and who would rather be chiefs
of their own villages than take their places,
according to their real abilities, in a larger

The iirat union of which we read is the con-
federacy of 16 to of the «’ United Colonies of
New England,” by which they entered into
” a firm and perpetual league” for defeuce
and for trade. This confederacy soon fell to
pieces, and in 1G96 another and more comore-
hensive scheme was decided on and laid before
the Board of Trade and Plantations, but was
there suppressed. In 17o4 a conv ntion was
held at Albany, and a plan of union devised
by Ur. Franklin was selected out of many
others, and, after a debate of 12 days,

adopted — Connecticut only dissenting. The
Board of Trade refused even to bring this
scheme under the notice of the King. The
manner in which union was at last achieved
is known to all.

Now it will be apparent to all who look
under the surface, that had the British Govern-
ment been able to communicate with a body
of more weight and unity of action than

the Provincial Assemblies

would not have occurred
North publicly asserted

the rupture
; for Lord
” that if the

*’ Americans would propose to Parliament
” any mode by which they would engage
” themselves to raise in their own way and by
” their own grants their share of contribution
” to their common defence the quarrel on the
” subject of taxation was at an end.” But
there was no common legislation, except that of
the Imperial Parliament. One colony would
grant and another would not — each was jea-
lous of giving more than another, and the in-
evitable village demagogues were ready to set
one against another and all against the Bri-
tish Government. Even after the Continental
Congress had met, the mattei would have been
arranged had the Government been able to re-
cognize it as Vi legal body. History is against
those who assert that a Confederation of Bri-
tish North American Colonies would tend to
separate them from the Crown — the rebellion
of the old colonies took place under their dis-
united legislatures.

But beyond all the men who ever made a
study of American politics the gaze of good
old Governor Pownall penetrated farthest

into the future. ” Let Great Britain,'”
he said, ** be no more considered as the king-
“dom of this isle only with mi-ny appenda<i;es ‘* of provinces, colonies, settlements, &c., ” but as a grand marine dominion consiating “of our possessions in the Atlantic and in ” America united into a one centre where the *’ Seat of Government is held. Such a plan *’ would buiki up this country to a degree of ” glory and prosperity beyond the example of ” any age that has yet passed.” Governor Pownall’s ideas were despised, and are now only to be found in old books, wliile the nuuies of Hancock and Adams are iu every mouth. They blasted the fair prospect of empire offered to our race. They and such as they split its power and arrayed brolhor against brother, and they receive the praises instead of the execrations of a large po’tion of the Anglo-Saxon race. Such a scheme is yet practicable if there were statesmen to carry it out, but public opinion in England tends so fast to desiute- gration of tha empire that it is hopeless to attempt to revive it. And it must also be re- membered that even now the time of the Imperial Parliament is too much occupied with local, almost municipal, ail’aiis. To in- troduce there a few colonial members would be to mock the colonies with unreal power, and to throw on it a burdfn of detail which could not be attended to. It is in a grand council of the empire that the colonies should have their representatives, and there that the external policy of the emriire be decided. But the orizanization ot the empire should not result in a polypus of merely a head and legs, but in a body duly k ‘t to^jeher in due subordination of organs. It should commence at the extremities ; and before the colonies can deinand of the mother country a share in Imperial (.,’ourcils, they must unite into groups of importance. Delegates from Can- ada or Prince Edward Islaiid, from New Zealand or Tasmania, from Jamaica or Ber- muda, separately, must not complain if they wail the convenience of Colonial Ministers. When the representatives of the American, the Australian, the Asian, the African, or the Pacific colonies go to England they will speak with a voice which will commend atten- tion. This dream of a united empire yet lives iu the Colonies. Governor Pownail would have had me colonies send members of parliament equal- ly with Durham and Chester. The burdens of the empire would be borne by all, and all could share its fflories. He even contem plated the time when, owing to the increase of population, the capital of our race would be fixed in America. But no one in England seems to entertain such a scheme. The Hon. Joseph Howe has advocated, with his usual ability, a plan of representation in the Impe- rial Parliament, but he has avoided the bur- dens of the empire by proposing to limit the whole colonial representation to ten members, who would be too insignificant in number to have any real power, but would sp ^ak on Co lonial questions. This would put both par- ties in a false position ; but failing this, the Union of the Colonies has no where met with so able an advocate as Mr Howe. His let- ters and speeches are published, and the idea of a union of the colonies breathes through- out them all. “If,” said he, referring to this plan, ” I saw no better scheme, I would say ” al once let us keep our local legislatures ” and have a President and Central Congress ” for the higher and external relations of the ” United Provinces.” And again : “Under ” Federal union we should form a large and ^ prosperous nation lying between the other ” two branches of the British family, and our ” duty would be to keep them at peace.” No one has ever pleaded the cause of the colonies more eloquently — no one has dwelt more on their resources and strength. Taught by him the youth of Nova Scotia learned to look to a wider career than that of Nova Scotia poli- tics, to a closer union of the colonies — to a permanent connection of the whole with Bri- tain. Those who, like the writer, have listened as boys to his eloquence — heard him descant on the importance and the wealth of Canada — who, as men have seen for themselves these re- sources — are amazed that he now exhausts his whole i’orce of vituperation on those provinces he formerly used to exalt. His recent pam- phlet has stultified his whole career, for he is not agains,t this scheme or that scheme, but is asraiiist Union with Canada on any terms whatever. It must be evident to Mr. Howe that no body of men in England, or in the Colonies, are ready to take up his scheme. The Colonies are now taking up that which he pointed out ?- as the next best scheme — a Federal Union. He speaks of it now as a tentative towards annexation and, strange contradiction, as a threat to the United vStates If it is the first step towards annexation how is it that every annexationist is opposed to It; that it is sneered at and denounced by the U. S. papers ; that the whole influence of the U. S. Consul’s party is against it? Now, to assert that Mr. Howe is not a loyal man would be a falsehood. I beb’eve him to be one of the most loyal men in the province, and more, that he is a most disinterested man in all matters of proj^erty. But in any mat- ter of political credit or ambition no man could be more grasping. Proud of his great natural gifts he is a disappointed man, and with rea- son. No mark of imperial favor has been be- stowed on him. The Commission of the Fish- eries was a local matter to the governorships betowed on men vastly his inferiors, like Daly and Hincks. Forty years of politics have done their work — years of canvassing-, of agi- tation, of quarrels .>ith governors and men in
authority. Aiming to be the ” people’s man,”
he has not overcome that wildness of statement
and fervour of imagination which so wp’;^h
with popular assemblies. This scheme bf
Federal Union was put before the public by a
body in which he, being Imperial Commis-
sioner, could have no seat, and in which a
seat had been refused to his mouthpiece, Mr.
Annand. The dream of his life is near being
realized, and he has had no hand in it. It is
not surprising then that it should meet with
his opposition.

Never, even in the hottest of Mr. Howe’s
diatribes, did the fervour of his eloquence lead
him into so many contradictions and rash state-
ments as now in his recent pamphlet. The
scheme of Confederation is misrepresented
from its inception. The English public
is asked to condemn it as one of ** spolia-
tion and robbery” — it is “Schles’vig-
Holstein,” “an oppression,” a scheme
“forced on an unv/il!ing people.” Yet it is
true that all the Canadians have done was to
go down to Charlottetown, where the Mari-
time Provinces were debating a smaller
union, and ask them to consider a union of
all British North America. Delegates then
met, appointed from both political parties
in all the colonies, the plan of union was
adopted, and all that has been done since has

been done by a majority of their various legis-
latures. The plan had come even in the very
way Mr. Howe ubed to desire, viz., ” the pro-
ject of union has como from theother colonies.”
He has now the assurance he so longed for—
” I should like of all things to be assured the
French-Canadians favoured a union.” Now
that Mr. Howe has another object, he system-
atically underrates the resources of Canada ;
but his language hitherto has invariably Iteen,
“that noble province,” “that magnifioent
provmce ” — ‘ one of the noblest countries it
has ever been my good fortune to behold.”
“Of vast proportions, boundless resources, and
surpassing beauty :” travelling through which
you feel ” that Canada must become a great
nation ;” and that in IS 39, when Canada was
an infant to what she is now. He makes the
most of a deficiency which, during the last
year, has been caused by preparations against
Fenian raids; excites English prejudice by al-
lusion to the Canadian tariff, which is now
very littl e higher than that of Nova Scotia ;
and finally settles our province by exulting
that she possesses no coal — forgetting to re-
mark that the unparalled water power of Ca-
piada affords facilities for manufacture unequal-
led in the world.

But, as Mr. Howe goes on, he is still more
contradictory. He draws a lively picture of a
Canadian “doad-lock,” am’ then speaks of
the Lower Provinces being s vallowed up in a
larger assemblage. Can he not see that, if
this be true, the Lower Provinces mus*^ hold
the balance of power ? and, moreover, would
Nova Scotia be as much swa’ owed up theia
as if she returned two members to the Impe-
rial Parliament? Listen to Mr. Howe, when
at Montreal, describing the rivalries of races :

” We Anglo Saxons, proud of our race,
” are too apt to forget how largely the Nor-
” man-French element entered into its compo-
” sition. Gradually the distinctions faded, and
” out of a common ancestry came that new
*’ race which has given laws and civilization to
” the world. So it will be here. Sprung from
” two of the foremost nations of the earth,
” speaking two noble languages, who doubts
” that a race will grow up in North America
” equal to the requirements of their country,
*’ andproud of the great families from which
” they sprung.”

Nothing strikes one more in parusing his
pamphlet than the stress laid on the loyalty

of the Maritime Provinces, and the insinua-
tions against the loyally of the Canadians. No
one questions the loyalty ot the Nova Sco-
tians, and we all remember that a natural cause
of discontent existing in all the colonies was
here fanned by demagogues into a very sniall
flame, but let him remember that alone, of
all the colonies, the Canadian people liave
given their lives for their sovereign.

From 1776 to is(it)— the defence of Que-
bec, to the afftiir of Ridgeway — Canadians of
both races have shed their blood freely in de-
fence of liritish connection. From the pro-
clamation of General Montgomery to that of
Sweeney, the burden has invariably been —
‘* We have no quarrel with Canadians,
but with Englishmen — share with ns the glo-
ries of the Republic — its equality, its wealth.”
Let Chippewa and Chateauguay tell the an-
swer. The descendants of the DeSalaberrys

and tht Robinsons have the same answer
ready now.

Walk the streets of the chief cities of Ca-
nada and you will see a stronger contrast to
United States manners and customs than in
any other of the American dependencies of
Great Britain, and “et we have lived in daily
intimate communication with our republican
neighbours along the whole length of our
frontier. We have separate traditions and
different aspirations. The family history of
Upper Canadians tells of a fundamental po-
litical antagonism in the past. But Mr.
Howe, after talking all his life of colonial
nationality and nation, is scandalised because
Lord Monck uses the word “nation”‘ in his
address to Parliament. In a previous quota-
tion is an example of Mr. Howe’s use of the
word. Until recently It was a pet word
of his own. He says in another speech :
” It is impossible to ^ancy you are in a pro-
vince — a colony. Yon feel at every step that
Canada mnst become a great nation.”‘ Even
the proposal of a monarchy is not new to
him, but he rejected it lest we might have a
dynasty of idiots or might give offence to the
United States. Nothing, however, can show
Mr. Howe’s inconsistf^ncy better than his ex-
aggerated picture ot” the defenceless position
of Canada, to her frost-bound shores
and extended frontier ; — while a little further
on he claims the Saskatchewan territory, and
urges its settlement as j crown colony. If
Canada be so helpless, how can Britain pro-

tect the Saskatchewan ? Why plant a colony
in the heart of the continent and induce an
emigration which she would shamefully have
to abandon ? If Canada be lost England
could not even communicate with the terri-
tory, much less settle or protect it. And
again on the American Union— -in one page
he speaks of its strength, in another of its
approaching dissolution, its vain hope of
union. If Mr. Howe believes that, which he
must, is there not a chance of our surviving
which he does not touch upon ?

This question of the defencelessness of Ca-
nada never comes up without bringing to
indignant recollection that shameful c’ebate
n the British House of Commons, when it
was proposed by “gallant” otlicers and listen-
ed to with patience, to leave all the British
North American Provinces to their fate, and
simply confine the action of Great Britain to
a naval war. Surely this is non-intervention
with a vengeance — enough to rouse the sleep-
ing hero population of Westminster Abbey.
No one hinted that it was the duty of the em-
pire to assist a colony ; no one said that Can-
ada had already borne the brunt of two wars
without a murmur ; no one said that as the
fields of Canada and blood of Canadians main-
ly were in question it might be just to con-
sider them. Well may the descendants of
the United Empire loyalists blush as they
think of it and ask — can these be the child-
ren of the men who fought Spain when she
was mistre’;c of the world; who withstood
Europe under Napoleon ; who fought and con-
quered at Plassey and at Agincourt? Why
talk any more of Armstrong guns and
breech-loaders. War to these arithmetical
statesmen is a matter of simple addition.
Wellington, at Waterloo, should have counted
his guns and saved useless bloodshed by sur-
render wheu he found himself outnumbered.
Englar ‘ no longer expects every man to do
his duty ; unless the duty be one which pays in
solid £ s . d. But listen to Mr. Howe’s for-
mer opinion : — ” Taking the population of the
” British North American colonies at 2^ mil-
” lions, every fifth person slould be able to
<* draw a trigger — giving 500,000 men capa-
” ble of bearing arms. Such a force would
<‘ be powerless as an invading army, but in
” defence of these provinces invincible by any
‘• force that could be sent from abroad. Put
” into these men the spiri; which animated

” the Greek, the Roman, the Dutchman, and
” the Swiss — let them feel that they are to
” protect their own hearthstones ; and, ray
” word for it, the heroic blood which beats in
” their veins will be true to its characteristics.
” How often have we heard that our republi-
” can neighbours were going to over-run the
” provinces. They have attempted it once
” or twice, but have always been beaten out;
” and I do not hesitate to say that the British-
*’ Americans, over whom the old flag flies, are
” able to defend every inch of their territory,
” even though her Majesty’s troops were
” withdrawn.” True, the times are some-
what changed now, but the population of the
colonies is greater, and we count on the assist-
ance of England. Moreover, the United
States have now a Poland in their borders,
which may be taken into account in the cal-

Repeatedly, in th’S pamphlet, does Mr Howe
urge the Canadians to cultivate ‘* amicable
relations with their neighbors” and the im-
pression is disingenuously conveyed that Ca-
nuda by this confederation (which he else-
where represents as tending toward annexa-
tion) seeks to assume ” an attitude of menace”
to the United States.

Canada, who would have to
the whole brunt of the attack,
to menace ! The thing is absurd,
cause of quarrel which has yet
is on English account— down to this last
Fenian raid, — but though damped by House
of Commons arithmetic, with the helplessness
of England to assist paraded before the world,
the Canadas have yet the courage to hope
for a successful defence, or at least an honor-
able resistance. It must be admitted that we
have done things we should not have done, in
the heat of our disputes. Montrealers
have egged a Governor, but the London-
ers have stoned a King. Mr. Howe
himself in the height of his dispute
with Lord Falkland, talked about out-
raged Nova Scotians ‘ hiring a negro to horse-
whip aLieut.-Governor through the streets of
Halifax ;’ even that pink of loyalty— Prince Ed-
ward Island required a detaclimeut of soldiers
to explain the propriety of submitting to the
‘ outrage and mdignity’ of paying rent to the
English land-owners who had received their
lands from the King. We have all sown our
wild oats, and if Canada has sown more than





others, remember her special temptations, and
as Mr. Howe would have said in old days
* her boundlnsH extent and capabilities. ‘ Rut
while we admit the disgrace of eg ernor Genera! escorted by dragoons, it is
too bad of Mr. Howe to add the crime of
insulting his lady to the long catalogue of our
sins. Lady Fjigin was never affronted in Ca-
nada but once ;— -at Toronto- -when Mr. Howe,
during a most eloquent speech, carried away
with the glorious vision of the union of the
coliinies, illuatrated the fact that their very
slight differences would only bind them the
closer, by a story, drawn from his inexhausti-
ble budget, which caused her ladyship to
withdraw from the gallery.

No one living in Europe can imagine the
extent to whi(;h party fef^^Iing is carried in
small communities. The smaller the commu-
nity if it has a full government staff the high-
er runs the excitement. p. E. Lslanil,
with a total population of 80,000, has the full
paraphernalia of government— her Governor,
her two Houses, her Ministry, and her minis-
terial crises. There the battle of religions is
fought, the education (juestion, the introduc-
tion of the bible into schools. The field is
small, but the combatants are lively, and, as
must be the case, when members of the same
family or traders in the same way of business
are contending for the honour of seats at Her
Majesty’s Council, the disputes are acrimo-
nious to a degree. There is a vigour and
heartiness in Colonial abuse to which the well-
bred cynical sneering of the « Saturday Re-
view,” or the ponderous denunciations of the
” Times” are gentle music. Canadians have
not had a monopoly of that style of abuse as
Mr. Howe very well knows. It is to avoid
this that .«o many of the quieter sort desire a
union of the Colonies, that our statesmen
may have a wider field for their energies, that
the fi-te of a ministry may not depend on the
making a road to a certain village, or t^e
building of a bridge where it is not wanted, to
balance the building of another where it is

The main difficulty of union has always
been with the smaller States and the smaller
politicians. As fur Mr Howe he is a man of
great abilities, and could never be ignored
(we have suffered enough already from trying
to ignore him), but behind him are the fouith-
rate politicians— those who are noisy on the

stump and quiet in the Council, who feel that
in a union of all the coloniea they at least
would be snulfed out. Here is the outrage —
the (I’^nressinn of the minority. Little Khode
Islanu refused to send a delegate to the con-
vention of 17^7 ; and did not accede to the
result for several years. When in 1S20 the
Province of Cape IJreton was annexeil to
Nova Scolia it was allowed to return two
members to the Nova Scotian Assembly.
Its population was eight thousand, only
one-tenth of Prince Kdward Island j but
a wail of sorrow and indignation went up to
the Imperial Legislature. The most dreadful
future was conjured up, and a petition was
forwarilod to England in the “tyranny and
oppression” vein which might answer as a
model for Mr. Howe’s. The hardhearted
Parliament would not listen to those poor is-
landers under the heel of Nova Scotia ; and
yet Cape Breton has not rebelled, and even
supports her hard fate with tranc^uility.

To read Mr. Howe’s book one would sup-
pose that the Canadians were invading Nova
Scotia, as the Germauo did Schleswig-Hol stein.
He tells us of the hard fate of those provinces
as apropos to the occasion. Fortunately, he
also proves that we have not, and never can
have, a fleet or army. Who could believe,
after all this, that the Confederatio resolu-
tions were passed by a two-third mu^r • of
the Nova Scotia popular chamber ?

On a matter of so much impoi he

most moderate statesman might well dillor in
detail ; but Mr. Howe now denounces the
whole scheme of union. He will have no
union with such a country as Canada on any
terms. His mission now is one of disorgani-
zation. The future he now prognosticates is
Canada and New Brunswick annexed tp the
United States, and Nova Scotia hanging on
to the empire, the neck of the peninsula for-
tified and the sea protected by British gun-
boats. All his glorious dreams have suddenly
faded, and the preservation of Nova Scotia to
the Crown is all that can be hoped for.
Messrs. Bolton and Webber would go a little
further in the same direction. They would
abandon not only Canada and New Bruna-
wick, but Prince Edward Island and New-
foundland. Even to their bold spirits Nova
Scotia appears defensible, and they would
have it held, for imperial purposes only, like
Aden, Malta, and Gibraltar. A residence

among the Nova Scotiana haa convinced
them of the unfitness of that people for aelf-
government, and they advocate a return to
the old system. They apeak with contempt
of the public men of the colony, and describe
incendiarism, infanticide and homicide as
rampant in Halifax, unchecked and unnoticed
owing to the lax administration of the laws
under responsible government. Dear, tran-
quil old Halifax ! Where ia your champion
of former days ? Fighting in the same boat
with these slanderous subalterns. WbU may
they confess having had ” misgivings in put-
ting forth their book.” The amazing won-
der is that Mr. Howe can refrain from falling
foul of them. If these anticipated battles of
theira are to be fought, the British lion would
do well not to sit quite so near the edge of
the continent.

Let the people of England not be deceived
by Mr. Howe or Messrs. Bolton and Webber.
It is not separation we want from England,
but a durable connection. We want to share
in the councils of the empire, but not by re-
turning three or ten members to an imperial
parliament of 60O. We know the respect
England has for force, and we want to aggre-
gate out forces. We want a united govern-
ment, so that when the British Government
has anything to say it will not have to concert
with five provincial parliaments, each with its
crotchetty man to call out “tyranny and op-
pression.” We want aome share of the sym-
pathy and blandishment so lavishly bestowed
on the United States, and we will give a bet-
ter return. Then, when those great outlying
portions of our race, which remain attached
to the parent stem, are themse .vea organized,
we may say to our common sovereign, We
share the dangers of the empire in war — its
profits in peace ; we have governed ourselves
well, we are worthy of your consideration j we
ask now for admission into those portions of
your councils which concern our common

But nothing can be said on that head
more appropriate than the words of Lord
Durham, the Queen’s High Commissioner :—
” I do not anticipate that a Colonial Legis-
“laturethus strong and thus self-governing
” would desire to abandon the counection
” with Great Britain, and I look to it as the
” only means of fostering such a national
” feeling throughout them as would effectual-



‘* ly counterbalance whatever tendencies may
** now exist towards separation. No large
” community of free and intelligent men will
” long feel contented with a political system
“which places them, because it places their
“country, in a position of inferiority to their
•* neighbours. The colonist of Great Hritian
” is linked, it is true, to a mighty empire, and
*< the glories of its history, the visible signs
” of its present power and the civilization of
” its people are calculated to raise and gratify
” his national pride. But he feels, also, that
” his link to that empire is one of remote de-

” pendence ; he catches but passing and in*
” adequate glimpses of its power and pros-
” perity ; he knows that in its government he
” and his own countrymen have no voice. If
*’ we wish to prevent the extension of this
‘* influence it can only be done by raising up
‘* for the North American colonist Mome na-
” tionality of his own ; by elevating these
” small and unimportant communities into a
” society having some objects of a national
” importance and thus giving their inhabitants
”a country which they will be unwilling to
” see absorbed into one more powerful.”

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