Thomas D’Arcy McGee, Speech on Confederation at Cookshire, Compton (22 December 1864)
By: Thomas D’Arcy McGee
Citation: Thomas D’Arcy McGee, Two Speeches on the Union of the Provinces (Quebec: Hunter, Rose, & Co., 1865) at 3-12.
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Hon. Mr. McGEE on rising, was received with cheering, and said:—
Mr. Chairman, Ladies and Gentlemen,—
I promised my respected friend, your county member, Mr. POPE, to meet him at the recent public dinner given to my colleague, Mr. GALT at Sherbrooke, and to come over here with him to Compton to speak to you on the subject of British American Union. I was, greatly to my regret, prevented, by a sudden and sharp illness, from being present at the Sherbrooke dinner; for there is no public man in Canada whose services to the Union deserve all honorable acknowledgment more than Mr. GALT—(cheers)—and there is no place in the country I had rather discuss this question than in “the Eastern Townships.” (Cheers.)
I am here to make good your member’s promise in my behalf, and I am deeply thankful that I am able to be here, and have still a voice to raise in behalf of this cause. (Cheers.)
This is a border country—it is a country actually undergoing its colonization—it is the home of a mixed people, various in origin, in language, and in creed—and, therefore, a very fit place to consider propositions which must interest men of all languages, origins, and creeds, which involve all our future relations among ourselves and with our neighbours, internal and external. So far as I can help it, gentlemen, I will not trouble you with what has been said before by my colleague in the Government at other meetings, but I will endeavour to give you my own views on the nature of the constitutional developments which have been projected by the late Colonial Conferences, to show on what principle the project stands, to illustrate by comparison and contrast the merits of our design, and to show, in closing, its special adaptability to our present situation as British American Provincial communities.
THE TIME FAVORABLE.
At the start I cannot but congratulate the people of all the Provinces on the fortunate conjunction of circumstances which makes this the best possible time for a searching examination and a thorough overhauling of our political system. When I was in the Eastern Provinces last summer—when the Conferences were still a thing to come— I appealed on behalf of the project to the press and the public there, that it should not be prejudged, and I must say I think a very great degree of forbearance and good feeling was manifested in this respect. But I should be sorry, speaking for myself, now that the stage of intelligent discussion has been reached, now that we have got something before us to discuss, that such a vast scheme should pass, if that were possible, sub silentio. So far from deprecating discussion now, I should welcome it, for there could not be, there never can be, a more propitious time for such a discussion than the present. (Cheers.)
Under the mild sway of a Sovereign, whose reign is coincident with responsible government in these colonies—a Sovereign whose personal virtues have rendered monarchical principles respectable even to those who prefer abstractedly the republican system—with peace and prosperity at present within our own borders—we are called on to consider what further constitutional safeguards we need to carry us on for the future in the same path of peaceable progression.
UNION, THE MOT D’ORDRE
And never, surely, gentlemen, did the wide field of American public life present so busy and so instructive a prospect to the thoughtful observer as in this same good year of grace, 1864. Overlooking all minor details, what do we find—the one prevailing and all but universal characteristic of American politics in those days? Is it not that “Union” is at this moment throughout the entire new world the mot d’ordre of States and statesmen? If we look to the far South, we perceive a Congress of Central American States endeavoring to recover their lost unity; if we draw down to Mexico, we perceive her new Emperor endeavoring to establish his throne upon the basis of union; if we come farther north, we find eleven States battling for a new Union, and twenty-five on the other side battling to restore the old Union. (Cheers)
The New World has evidently had new lights, and all its states and statesmen have at last discovered that liberty without unity is like rain in the desert, or rain upon granite—it produces nothing, it sustains nothing, it profiteth nothing. (Cheers.)
From the bitter experience of the past, the Confederate States have seen the wisdom, among other things, of giving their ministers seats in Congress, anil extending the tenure of executive office fifty per cent beyond the old United States period; from bitter experience, also, the most enlightened, and what we may consider the most patriotic among the Mexicans, desiring to establish the inviolability of their executive as the foundation of all stable government, have not hesitated to import, not “a little British Prince,” but an Austrian Archduke, a descendent of their ancient kings, as a tonic to their shattered constitution. Now, gentlemen, all this American experience, Northern, Southern and Central is as accessible to us as to the electors of Mr. Lincoln or Mr. Davis or the subjects of the Emperor MAXIMILLIAN; it lies before us, an open volume, and invites us to well read, mark and digest its contents. (Cheers.)
It was with a view to contribute my mite at the present stage of the discussion, that I accepted Mr. POPE’s kind invitation and am now here to offer you as clear a view as I can put into words, of the process of reasoning and observation by which those who composed the late Conferences arrived at the decisions at which they have arrived, in relation to the constitution and powers of the General and Local Governments in the future Confederation. (Hear, hear.)
You have probably all read in the newspapers what purported to be the text—and it was very near the text—of the conclusions arrived at. You have no doubt all read Mr. Brown’s explanations at Toronto, and Mr. GALT’s further explanations at Sherbrooke; you have probably also seen two other expressions of opinion, on the general question, in the journals of the day, one from the Honorable Mr. DORION, who is opposed to all union, except some sort of Federation of the Canadas; another from the Honorable Mr. HILLYARD CAMERON, who would much prefer a legislative to a federative union. I don’t say that if it could be had by common consent, I would not be prepared to agree with Mr. CAMERON; but a legislative union, under our circumstances, was simply out of the question. We might as well ask for the moon, and keep asking until we could get it. (Laughter.)
It was a question between some form of federative union or no union at all; and I am not at all prepared to say with Mr. DORION, and never was, that the greater union is not the most desirable, if conditions can be settled satisfactorily to all parties. (Cheers.)
It seems to me—and in saying so I intend no shadow of disrespect to the honorable member for Hochelaga—that the man who can seriously maintain that union is not strength, that five or six comparatively small communities, owning a common allegiance, existing side by side on the same continent, in the presence of much larger comuiunities owning another allegiance, would not be stronger and safer united than separate, that such a one puts himself out of the pile of all rational argument.
THE DEFENCE QUESTION.
I will take as an instance of the irrationality of such an argument—the particular question, the great test question remaining between Canada and England: the question of defence. (Hear, hear.)
The future General Government has reserved to itself, saving the sovereignty of England, the control of our militia and military expenditure. Every one can see that a war with England and the United States would be largely a naval war, and such a naval war as the ocean has never before seen—(hear, hear)—a war that would interest and stir the heart of England even beyond the pitch that made her staid merchants astonish Lloyd’s in 1813, with “three times three cheers,” when they heard that the “Shannon” had fought and captured, and carried the “Chesapeake” a prize into Halifax harbour. (Cheers.)
Suppose, then, in the event of an invasion of our soil, either in Upper Canada or Lower Canada—suppose that a flotilla was needed on the St. Lawrence, or on Lake Ontario; that England could spare the gunboats, but not the skilled seamen; would it be no advantage to Canada to have the 50,000 Atlantic sailors of the Lower Provinces, to call upon for their contingent to such a service? No doubt the empire could call on them now, but unless it restored the press-gang it could not make them come. But if by our union we gave that valuable class of men the feeling of common country; if by the intercourse and commerce which must follow on our union, that feeling grew to the strength of identity, we would have enough help of that description—drawn from what my colleague Hon. Mr. Cartier calls the maritime element—for the asking. (Cheers.)
The Imperial power, having conceeded to all the North American colonies responsible government, can only secure their co-operation, even in military measures, through those several separate governments, (Hear, hear.)
Every one can see at a glance how much the Imperial power, and we ourselves, would gain in any emergency—if there were but two governments instead of six to be consulted— how much in promptitude, in decision, in time, in unanimity, and in effectiveness. I need not enlarge, I am sure, on so self-evident a proposition as this; the man that will not see it, will not, that is all I need add on that score. (Laughter.)
It has, indeed, been asserted by the sceptics in our work that all our theories of a closer commercial interercourse are chimerical; and yet, oddly enough, these are the same people who think a commercial union would “secure all the benefits” of this chimerical prospect. (Laughter.)
Well, I will not meet assertion by assertion, but I will answer a conjecture by a fact. At the very time time the member for Hochelaga was issuing his rather inconsistent declaration against a political union as among other reasons, wholly unprofitable in a commercial point of view—and in favor of a commercial union as all that was to be desired in itself,—at that moment, the first steamship, laden with breadstuffs, direct from Montreal to Newfoundland, was dropping down the St. Lawrence, as a result of the partial and brief intercourse, brought about between the two communities, through our Conference at Quebec! That is a fact not very important in itself, perhaps, but very indicative of the possible usefulness of Union in a commercial point of a view! (Cheers.)
I may mention another fact: while we were lying in Charlottetown harbor last September, our attention was called to the arrival of a fine oceangoing steamship—one of a regular line between Boston and Prince Edward Island. The Boston people find the trade of that rich little island worth cultivating, and they do it; they know where there is produce and where there is a market, and they establish a line of steamers to run there; yet I am sure they sell nothing to the islanders which we, at third the distance, could not just as well supply them with from Quebec or Montreal. (Cheers.)
I repeat, however, I will not argue so plain a point as that with provinces like ours, union is strength, is reputation, is credit, is security. I will just give one other illustration on this last head, and then I will drop the topic where it is: the security for peace which a large political organization has over a small one, lies not only in its greater interests and disposable force, but in this other consideration, that the aggressor must risk or lose the benefit of much larger transactions, in attacking a larger than in assailing a smaller, state. If, for example, in our system of defence—in addition to all the Imperial Government could do for us,—if we could, by our joint representative action, be sure to shut up the River St. John upon the people of Maine—to exclude from the gulf the fishermen of Massachusetts—to withhold from the hearths and furnaces of New England the coal of Cape Breton— no man can question but that we would wield several additional means of defence, not now at the command of Canada. And so with the Lower Provinces; if their statesmen could wield our forces and our resources in addition to their own, does any sane man pretend that would not be an immense gain to them? (Hear, hear.)
I may be told again the Imperial Government can do all this for us, if they will; I repeat that the Imperial Government alone can neither do any of these things so promptly, so fully, nor with so little trespass on our responsible governments, as a united legislature could, through an united public force, with the aid of a Federal treasury. I really, gentlemen, ought to beg your pardon—and I do so—for dwelling so long on the truism that union is, in our case, strength; but as the first proposition to which we all agreed at the first Conference, I thought I would give some explanation why we had unanimously arrived at that result. (Cheers.)
FEDERALISM AND IMPERIALISM.
Another objector opposes our project because Colonial Union is inconsistent with Imperial connexion. Well, to that we might answer that we are quite willing to leave it to the statesmen of the empire themselves to decide that point. If England does not find it so, I think we may safely assume it is not so. And, in point of fact, the Imperial Parliament several years ago decided the question when they passed the New Zealand Constitutional Act, establishing six or seven local governments, under one general government, in that colony. (Cheers.)
Still another objector contends that the complement of Federalism is Republicanism, because most of the States with which we are familiar as Federal States, are also Republics. But this objection is by no means unanswerable. It is true Switzerland is a Republic in the sense of having no hereditary head, but the United Netherlands, when a Confederacy, were not a republic in that sense; it is true the United States and Mexico, and the Argentine Federations were all republican in basis and theory; but it is also true that the German Confederation is, and has always been, predominantly monarchical. There might be half as many varieties of federal governments as there are states or provinces in the world; there may be aristocratic federations— like the Venetian,—or monarchical, like the German—or democratic, like the United States: the only definition which really covers the whole species of governments of this description is, the political union of states of dissimilar size and resources, to secure external protection and internal tranquillity. (Cheers.)
These are the two main objects of all confederacies of states, on whatever principles governed, locally or unitedly; federalism is a political co-partnership, which may be, and has been formed by Monarchists, Aristocrats, and Democrats, Pagans and Christians, under the most various circumstances, and in all periods of human history. (Cheers.)
There may be almost as many varieties of confederation as of companies, in private and social life; we say, with propriety too, the company at the hotel, or the company who own the hotel, but the organization of each is widely different. Our Federation will be British; it will be of the fourth class of Lord COKE’s division, de mutui auxilli—for mutual aid. The only element in it not British is the sectional equality provided for in the Upper House, a principle which is known to be alike applicable to the democratic confederation next us, and the monarchical confederation of Germany. (Hear, hear.)
THE QUEBEC PLAN CONSERVATIVE.
One more objection which comes from an opposite quarter to the last, is that our plan is too stringently conservative. Well, gentlemen I can but say to that—if it be so—that it is a good fault, which we may safely leave to the popular elements of our state of society to correct in time. It was remarked long ago by Lord BOLINGBROKE and a greater than BOLINBROKE has called it “a profound remark” —that it is easier to graft anything of a republic on a monarchy, than anything of monarchy on a republic. It is always easy in our society to extend democratic influence and democratic authority; out it is not always possible, it is very seldom possible, ever to get anything back that is once yielded up to democracy. (Hear, hear.)
If, therefore, our plan should seem at first sight somewhat too conservative—I repeat my own opinion, that it is a good fault, and the remedy may safely be left to time. So much for what lawyers call the “general issue.”
BRITISH AMERICAN CONFEDERATION PECULIAR.
You will probably like me to define, gentlemen, that particular adaptation of the federal system, which has lately found such high favor in the eyes of our leading colonial politicians. Well, this definition has been, I think, pretty accurately given in the published text,—or what professes to be the text,—of the results arrived at at Quebec. Don’t be alarmed; I am not going to read you the whole seventy and odd propositions. (Laughter.)
It is, perhaps, sufficient for my purpose to give you, both by contrast and comparison, a broad, general view of what is, and what is not included in this constitutional charter. In the first place, I may say, gentlemen, to take the most familiar comparison, that we proceeded in almost an inverse ratio to the course taken in the United States, at the formation of their constitution. We began by dutifully acknowledging the sovereignty of the Crown, as they did by boldly declaring their total separation from their former Sovereign. Unlike our neighbors we have bad no questions of sovereignty to raise. (Hear, hear.)
We have been saved from all embarrassment on the subject of sovereignty, by simply recognising it as it already exists, in the Queen of Great Britain and Ireland. There, for us, the sovereign power of peace and war, life and death, receiving and sending ambassadors, still resides, so long as Her Majesty and her descendants retain the allegiance of the people of these Provinces. (Cheers.)
No doubt some inconvenience may arise from the habitual personal absence of the Sovereign; but even this difficulty—now that the Atlantic is an eight day ferry, is not insuperable. Next, we made the general, the supreme Government and the local derivative; while the Americans did just the reverse. (Cheers.)
THE CONTRAST WITH THE AMERICAN.
As to the merits and the consequences of this fundamental difference, I shall only say this, that merely to differ from another, and a sometime-established system, is, of course, no merit in itself; but yet, if we are to be a distinct people from our republican neighbors, we can only be so and remain so, by the assertion of distinct principles of government,—a far better boundary than the River St. Lawrence, or the ASHBURTON line. (Cheers.)
But suppose their fundamental politics to be right, would we then, for the sake of distinction, erect a falsehood at the North, to enable us to contend against a truth at the South? Would we establish monarchy merely out of a spirit of antagonism? No! Gentlemen, God forbid! I of course hold, not only that our plan of government is politic in itself, but also, that it is better than the American. I am prepared to maintain this at all times—against all comers: for if I had not myself faith in our work, I should scorn to inculcate its obligation on the public. (Cheers.)
We build, as I said the other day at Montreal, on the old foundations—though the result of our deliberations is popularly called “the new constitution.” I deny that the principles on which we proceeded, are novel or untried principles. These principles all exist, and for ages have existed in the British Constitution. Some of the contrivances and adaptations of principles are new —but the Royal authority, Ministerial responsibility, a nominative Upper House, the full and free representation of the Commons, and the independence of the Judges, are not inventions of our making. (Cheers.)
We offer you no political patent medicine warranted to cure everything, nor do we pretend that our work is a perfect work; but if we cannot make it perfect, we have at least left it capable of revision, by the concurrence of the parties to the present settlement, and the same supreme authority from which we seek the original sanction of our plan. (Cheers.)
Still it is to be hoped that the necessity for any revision will seldom occur, for, I am quite sure the people of these provinces will never wish to have it said of their constitution, what the French bookseller of the last century said so wittily, on being asked for the French Constitution—that he did not deal in periodical publications. (Cheers and laughter.)
We build on the old foundations, and I trust I may say, in the spirit of the ancient founders, as well. The matrix of the monarchical form of Government is humility, self-denial, obedience, and holy fear. I know these are not nineteenth century virtues—(laughter)—neither are they plants indigenous to the soil of the New World. Because it is a new world, as yet undisciplined, pride and self-assertion, and pretension, are more common, than the great family of humble virtues, whose names I have named. Pure democracy is very like pride—it is the “good-as-you” feeling carried into politics. (Laughter.)
It asserts an unreal equality between youth and age, subject and magistrate, the weak and the strong, the viscious and the virtuous. But the same virtues which feed and nourish filial affection, and conjugal peace in private life, are essential to uphold civil authority; and these are the virtues on which the monarchical form of Government alone can be maintained.
DISCUSSION RENDERED POSSIBLE BY RECENT EVENTS.
There was a time when such a doctrine as this, which I am now inculcating here, in Compton, could hardly get a patient hearing in any part of North America; but that time is fortunately past away: it is possible in our days, even for republican writers to admit the merits of the monarchical system, without being hooted into silence, as the elder ADAMS was when he published in Philadelphia, towards the end of the last century, his eloquent Discourses on Davila. His grandson and editor, the present able Minister at the Court of St. James, tells us how the printer was intimidated from proceeding with the publication, and that it was the great cause of his ancestor’s life long-unpopularity; and for what? Because he maintained, with BURKE, WASHINGTON, BOSSUET, and SHAKSPERE, the divine origin of society, as against the theory of its human origin, upheld by JEFFERSON, PAINE, ROUSSEAU, and JOHN LOCKE. JOHN ADAMS could be President of the United States, but he could not get a printer to publish a general treatise on government which admitted the merits of monarchy—which contended that there was “a natural aristocracy at Boston as well as at Madrid”—and the intolerant outcry then raised against him for the Discourses of Davila pursued him to the grave. (Hear.)
Another American, of even higher mental mark than President ADAMS—perhaps the very first intellect of all the authors of the American system- was on the same ground equally suspected, and equally abused; ALEXANDER HAMILTON, in his original plan of the American Constitution, offended in the same way as ADAMS by advocating “a solid and coercive Union” with “complete sovereignty in Congress”—and we all know how, down almost to yesterday, his memory was branded as that of an enemy of the country he did so much to bring into existence. No wonder political science has been at a stand-still for fifty years on this continent, when no man, however high his position, dared raise a negative to the prevailing democratic theories, without permission of the clamorous majority for the time being. (Cheers.)
At last—and almost simultaneously the negative has been raised at the extremes of North America—Mexico and Canada—and we, at least here, we have no fear that our printers will be bullied into silence like the printer of President ADAMS. (Cheers.)
We have not conceived our system in a spirit of antagonism to our next neighbors; we will still have enough in common with them constitutionally to obviate any very zealous propagandism on either part; but we will also have enough left of our ancestral system to distinguish permanently our people from their people—our institutions from their institutions—and our history (when we shall have a history) from their history. (Cheers.)
MEXICO AND CANADA.
I have referred, Mr. Chairman and gentlemen, to the assertion of somewhat similar principles to our own now being made io Mexico. It would be strange if Canada should reach, by deliberation and forethought, the same results which Mexico has grasped at out of the miserable depths of her long anarchy (Cheers.)
We are not yet informed whether the new Emperor designs to consolidate his provinces, or to leave them their local organizations; buy this I know, that with all the immense natural advantages of Mexico, I should, for my part, rather take my chance for the permanent establishment of a free monarchy in the North than in Mexico. (Cheers.)
We have already solved for ourselves one great problem—the legal relation of Church and State—which is still before the rulers of Mexico. If we have but half the population, we have three times the number of men of pure European race that Mexico has; and while I own that I wish every success to the Mexican Empire, under the auspices of France, I have, I confess, still stronger hopes for the successful establishment of the free kingdom of Canada, under the auspices of Great Britain. (Cheers.)
“For fiery, fierce and fickle is the South;
But loving, dark and tender is the North.”
BRITISH AMERICAN FEDERALISM ESSENTIALLY CONSERVATIVE.
We have also solved—so far as the late Conferences could do so, for these provinces—the relation of the Crown to the people,—the sphere of the prerogative, and the sphere of the suffrage. We have preserved every British principle now in use among us, and we have recovered one or two that were well nigh lost; we have been especially careful not to trench on the prerogative of the Crown, as to the powers, rank, or income of its future representative on this continent; as to the dignity of the office, or the style and title of the future kingdom or viceroyalty, or by whatever other name it may be Her Majesty’s pleasure to designate hereafter her dominions on this continent. (Cheers.)
Next to the United States, we have the most extended suffrage in the New World; some think quite too far extended; but in our state of society, I do not see how that is to be avoided, in the selection at least, of the tax-imposing House of Parliament. We have, besides, restored to the Crown one of its essential attributes when, as the fountain of honor, we leave to the Sovereign the confirmation of the second, the smaller and more Conservative Chamber; and we preserve for the Crown its other great attribute,—as the fountain of justice, by retaining its right to appoint the Judges,—of course upon the advice of the Constitutional Councillors of the Queen in this country, who are in turn responsible to Parliament and the people for their advice and appointments. (Cheers.)
We have provided also, in our new arrangements, that the tenure of all offices, shall be good behavior, in contradistinction to the “spoils principle” of our next neighbors. In all these respects we have built on the old foundations, in the spirit of the old wisdom—and we have faith, therefore, that our work will stand. (Loud cheers.)
DIFFICULTIES IN THE WAY.
Naturally, gentlemen, we cannot expect that our course will be all plain sailing. We shall have our difficulties, as all states have had; and this brings me to refer to the powers remaining in the possession of the local legislatures. The difference of language between the majority of Lower Canada, and the majority of the whole union is a difficulty; but it is a difficulty which almost every other nation has had and has solved: in Belgium they have at least two languages, in Switzerland they have three chief languages—German, French, and Italian; the Federal form of Government, the compromise between great states and small, seems peculiarly adapted to conciliate difficulties of this description, and to keep politically together men of different origins and languages. (Hear, hear.)
I confess, I have less anxiety on this score than I have on another—the proper protection of the minority in origin and religion in Upper and Lower Canada respectively. (Hear, hear.)
On this point there is no doubt a good deal of natural anxiety felt in the Townships, as there is among my own constituents in Montreal, and I have no doubt you would like me to enlarge upon it as the point most immediately interesting to yourselves.
RIGHTS OF MINORITIES.
I am, as you are, interested in the due protection of the rights of the minority, not only as an English-speaking member in Lower Canada, but as interested naturally and reasonably for my co-religionists, who form the minority in Upper Canada. (Hear, hear.)
I am persuaded as regards both minorities, that they can have abundant guarantees, sacred beyond the reach of sectarian or sectional domination—for all their rights, civil and religious. (Hear, hear and cheers.)
If we had failed to secure every possible constitutional guarantee for our minorities, east and west, I am sure the gentleman who may be considered your special representative at the Conference— (Hon. Mr. GALT)—and I am equally sure, that I myself, could have been no party, to the conclusions of the late Conference. (Loud cheers.)
But we both believed—and all our Canadian colleagues went with us in this belief—that in securing the power of disallowance, under circumstances which might warrant it, to the General Government, in giving the appointment of Judges and Local Governors to the General Government, and in expressly providing in the Constitution for the educational rights of the minority, we had taken every guarantee, legislative, judicial and educational, against the oppression of a sectional minority by the sectional majority. (Cheers.)
You will have for your guarantee the Queen’s name,—which I think the case of Ottawa has shown is not without power in Canada; you will have the subordination of the local to the general authority, provided in the constitutional charter itself, and you will have, besides, the great material guarantee, that in the General Government you will be two-thirds of the whole told by language, and a clear majority counted by creed; and if with these odds you cannot protect your own interests, it will be the first time you ever failed to do so. (Cheers.)
The Protestant minority in Lower Canada and the Catholic minority in Upper Canada may depend upon it the General Government will never see them oppressed—even if there were any disposition to oppress them—which I hope there is not in Upper Canada; which I am pretty sure there is not in Lower Canada. (Cheers.)
No General Government could stand for a single session under the new arrangements without Catholic as well as Protestant support; in fact, one great good to be expected from the larger interest with which that Government will have to deal will be, that local prejudices, and all other prejudices, will fall more and more into contempt, while our statesmen will rise more and more superior to such low and pitiful politics. (Loud cheers.)
What would be the effect of any set of men, in any subdivision of the Union, attempting for example, the religious ascendancy of any race or creed? Why, the direct effect would be to condemn themselves and their principles to insignificance in the General Government. Neither you here, nor the Catholic minority in Upper Canada will owe your local rights and liberties to the forbearance or good will of the neighboring majority; neither of you will tolerate being tolerated; but all your special institutions, religious and educational, as well as all your general and common franchises and rights, will be secured under the broad seal of the empire, which the strong arm of the General Government will suffer no bigot to break, and no province to lay its finger on, should any one be foolish enough to attempt it. (Cheers.)
THE SCHEME AS A WHOLE.
This is the frame of government we have to offer you, and to this system, when fully understood, I am certain you will give a cheerful and a hearty adherence. (Cheers.)
We offer the good people of these colonies jointly a system of government which will secure to them ample means of preserving external and internal peace; we offer to them the common profits of a trade, which was represented in 1863, by imports and exports, to the gross value of 137,000,000 of dollars, and by a sea-going and lake tonnage of 12,000,000 of tons! We offer to each other special advantages in detail. The Maritime Provinces give us a right of way and free outports for five months out of every year; we give them what they need, direct connexion with the great producing regions of the North-west all the year round. This connexion, if they do not get through Canada, they must ultimately get through Canada, they must ultimately get through the United States; and one reason why I, in season, and perhaps, out of season, have continued an advocate for an Intercolonial Railway was, that the first and closest and most lasting connection of those Lower Procvinces, with the continental trade system, might be established by, and through, and in union with, Canada. (Cheers.)
I do not pretend that, mere railway connexion will make trade between us and them, but I am quite sure we can have no considerable intercourse, no exchanges or accounts pro or con without such a connexion both for postal and travelling purposes. I rejoice, moreover, that we, men of insular origin, are about to recover one of our lost senses—the sense that comprehends the sea—(Cheers)—that we are not now about to subside into a character so foreign to all our antecedents, that of a mere inland people. The Union of the Provinces restores us to the ocean, takes us back to the Atlantic, and launches us once more on the modem Mediterranean, the true central sea of the western world. (Cheers.)
But it is not for its material advantages, by which we may enrich each other, nor its joint political action, by which we may protect each other, that the Union is only to be valued; it is because it will give, as it only can give, a distinct historical existence to British America. If it should be fortunately safely established and wisely upheld, mankind will find here, standing side by side, on this half-cleared continent, the British and American forms of free government; here we shall have the means of comparison and contrast in the greatest affairs; here we shall have principles tested to their last results, and maxims inspected and systems gauged, and schools of thought, as well as rules of state, reformed and revised, founded and refounded. (Cheers.)
All that wholesome stimulus of variety which was wanting to the intellect of Rome under the first emperors, will be abundantly supplied out of our own circumstances and those of our neighbours, so that no CICERO need ever, by personable considerations, enter into indefensible inconsistencies, and no TACITUS be forced to disguise his virtuous indignation at public corruption, under the thin veil of an outlandish allegory. (Cheers.)
I may be sanguine for the future of this country,—but if it be an error of judgment to expect great things of young countries, as of young people who are richly endowed by nature, and generously nurtured, then it is an error I never hope to amend. (Cheers.)
And here let me say, that it is for the young men of all the provinces we who labor to bring about, the Confederation are especially working: it is to give them a country wide enough and diversified enough to content, them all, that we labor; it is to erect, a standard worthy to engage their affections and ambit.ion; it is to frame a system which shall blend the best principles with the best manners, which shall infuse the spirit of honor into the pursuit of politics, that we have striven—and who can be more interested for our success than the young men of the Provinces, who are to carry on the country into another century? (Cheers.)
RELATIONS WITH UNITED STATES.
We in our time, hope to do our duty; not only in “lengthening the cords and strengthening the stakes” of our constitutional system, with a view to that future, but in guarding jealously in the perilous present, the honor and integrity of this province. I may say to you here, on the Eastern frontier, that the Government of the day are fully informed of all the machinations that have been set on foot, within and without our borders, to drive, or tempt, or trick Canada, out of that straightforward neutrality commanded by the Queen’s Proclamation four years ago. So far, we have been enabled to maintain that neutrality in the letter, as well as in the spirit, and trust we may be equally successful in doing so, so long as it may be required. (Cheers.)
I am well convinced there is no Canadian who would which his Government to make any base compliance—to overdo or overstrain any legal obligation—in order to buy for us the inestimable boon of peace; but I am equally convinced, and you will agree with me I feel confident, that all that can be done by way of prevention, however onerous or costly it may be to us a province, ought to be done to maintain friendly relations with our neighbors, so far as they will enable us to do so. The rest depends on them,—on the fairness of their statesmen and their military authorities; but come what may in the future, at all events we must see that Canada does its duty, and its whole duty, cheerfully, fully, and fearlessly. (Cheers.)
IS THE QUEBEC PLAN GENERALLY TO BE APPROVED?
Mr. Chairman and gentlemen, I beg your forgiveness for the great length to which these remarks have detained you. But our general plan having already found its way to the public, I was anxious to show our countrymen, here and at home, in a plain, popular way, the processes of reasoning and the guiding principles by which we arrived at the results at which we have arrived. I should blush for myself, and grieve for my colleagues, if we were any of us capable or picking up our principles in a panic, without inquiry or reflection, or examination. (Cheers.)
I need hardly assure you, gentlemen, that nothing was done or said at Quebec or Charlottetown without full deliberation, and very hard work. It would be invidious to name names in connection with what was regarded by all engaged as a confidential discussion; but while I cheerfully recognize in our countrymen of the Lower Provinces the noble qualities they exhibited throughout the whole of these transactions, I must say, I was proud of Canada’s part in them also. (Cheers.)
I was proud of the self-control, the ability, the acquirements, and the disinterested unanimity of our colleagues, from Upper as well as from Lower Canada. (Cheers.)
And, now, gentlemen, that the architects have completed their plan, it is for you to say shall the building be put up? It is for you, and for your representatives in Parliament,—for my friend Mr. POPE and the other Township members—for the people of the Maritime .P1ovinces and their representatives to say, whether this great work is to be carried, with all due diligence, to its completion. If the design should seem to you as wise and fit as it seems to us, then fling all misgivings far behind you and go ahead! Let no local prejudice impede, let no personal ambition obstruct, the great work. Why! The very Aborigines of the land might have instructed the sceptics among ourselves that union was strength. What was it gave at one time the balance of power on this soil to “the Six Nations,”—so that England, France and Holland all sought the alliance of the red-skinned statesmen of Onondago? What was it made the names of BRANT, and PONTIAC, and TECUMSETH so formidable in their day? Because they too had conceived the idea—an immense stride for the savage intellect to make—that union was strength. (Cheers.)
Let the personalities and partizanship of our times stand abashed in the presence of those forest-born Federalists, who rose superior to all mere tribal prejudices in endeavoring to save a whole people. (Loud cheers.)
And now, my friends or the County of Compton, once more receive my grateful thanks; have no fears for the rights of the minority, but be watchful as you ought to be, and as I am sure your worthy member (who is always at his post when your interests are at stake) will be. (Cheers.)
The Parliament of Canada is, as you are aware, called by His Excellency for dispatch of business at Quebec, on the 19th of January; it is an early call; and I am sure you all feel it will be an important session. I am, I do assure you, persuaded in my inmost mind, that these are the days of destiny for British America; that our opportunity to determine our own future, under the favor of Divine Providence is upon us; that there is a tide in the affairs of nations, as well as of men, and that we are now at the flood of that tide. (Loud cheers.)
Whether the men who have this great duty in charge may be found equal to the task, remains to be proved by their votes; but for my part, I am hopeful; for the early and mutually advantageous union of all the provinces; for the early and firm establishment of our monarchical Confederation on this continent. (Loud cheers—amid which the hon. gentleman resumed his seat.)