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THE CANADIAN CONFEDERACY. *
The probable fate of the British NorthAinerican colonies has, for many years, afforded wide scope for speculation. Both in this country and America the chances have been weighed as passing events offered themselves for analysis. It has been regarded from various points of view; the result being, conclusions as widely different as such topics of discussion usually lead to. Argument resting upon a speculative basis is always unsteady, and kaleidoscopic glances at the present yield very unsatisfactory data from which to decipher the future. Hence it is that America and American affairs have so frequently belied prophecy. The conjectures evoked by the dealings between England and her North American colonies have in many instances proved erroneous, and we are not now
* Resolutions relative to the Proposed Union of the British Noith-Americau Provinces. Quebec. January 19, 1865.
New Semes—Vol. H., No. 2.
so liable to be led astray by the oracular utterances of nervousness and timidity. AVe were assured that Canada was incapable of self-control, but we find that political strife carried to the extreme has not been able to weaken the springs of government, or to disregard the promptings of patriotism. Recriminations and jealousies which formerly found vent in the Colonial Office, have been smothered where their origin could be soonest detected and their object most easily frustrated. The consequence of transferring responsibility from the shoulders of the Imperial Government to those of the colonists themselves, is that the shafts of temper no longer spend their force on an imperial target, while a spirit of loyalty and affection has taken the place of an ungracious allegiance. It has also been asserted that the democratic tendencies of these American colonies would have the effect of weakening if not terminating the relations between them and the mother country; that the grant of freedom from imperial dictation naturally handed over to republicanism the keys of a British stronghold. Neither has this proved true, although the anticipation harmonizes well with the expressed wishes of the United States. So long ago as 177.5, when delegates from the American States assembled in convention at Philadelphia to agree upon the terms of an union, they evidently accepted as a foregone conclusion the immediate entrance of Canada, at least, into the federal compact, for Section XI. of their Articles of Agreement provided that "Canada, acceding to the confederation and joining in the measures of the United States, shall be admitted into and be entitled to the advantages of the Union." Every inducement to revolt was held out to all the British provinces; but neither open temptation nor secret intrigue was sufficiently powerful to allure them from their allegiance. Lower Canada was appealed to in terms that recognized its peculiar position as regards race, language, religion, and laws, and included a guarantee for their security and permanence. But the French inhabitants, besides having the recollection of past wrongs to prompt a rejection, were nSoved by a deep-rooted antipathy to republicanism to meet with disdain overtures thus insidiously made to them. .In after years, the employment of force ;had as little effect in changing the determination of these stubborn colonists to remain a portion of the empire; and the several provinces not only fought nobly against the common enemy; but even Kent assistance to the more sorely pressed. Notwithstanding this, it has been an article of political faith with American statesmen and politicians that the "manifest destiny" of their republic would, in its own good time, lead to the absorption of some, if not all, of the adjacent British provinces. To embrace these is their traditionary policy, having lin its list of founders and supporters such -.names as Washington, Franklin, Monroe, and Seward. Mr. Seward's views pointed to a peaceable rather than a forcible annexation; and both in England and in British America the idea has been entertained that Canada, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia, but more especially the first-named, must sooner or later cast in their lot with the powerful
1 nation at their side, impelled by sheer force of political attraction. Nor is this theory incapable of support, though formerly the reasons in its favor were much more numerous than they now are. A glance at the position occupied by Canada a few years ago will be found to justify in some degree the Montreal annexation movement of 1849. It was a dependency shut in from the seaboard for five months of the year, at an enormous distance from the imperial metrop
iOlis; separated from those of kindred sympathies and acknowledging a like allegiance, by an almost uritraversable tract of country; exposed to attack at every point along a frontier of a thousand miles; gazing at the prosperity of a nation which held out every inducement to nnitc with it; without manufactures, coal, or capital, yet witnessing a stream of British wealth pouring into the lap of its rival; thinly populated, and outbid in attracting emigration: with the hope of union between itself and the other British colonies uncertain, although having all the elements of prosperity ready to be combined, but suffering them, from various causes, to lie unimproved and unprofitable. Taking every circumstance into consideration, it can not be denied that the prospects of a long-continued existence of such a de
% pendency as a separate and distinct political organism were dim and dubious. The maritime provinces had not such influences to contend against; but the temptations brought to bear upon Canada, and her successful resistance to them, naturally beget surprise at the nature of the causes to which she owed her preservation from a loss of identity in the nation at her side. But it is unnecessary for present purposes to do more than notice the fact, as it serves to show the bent of her inclination. Changed times have suggested new fields for debate, and prophecy has been driven to seek out new channels. A rapid advance in material prosperity brought with it considerations left out in previous forecasts; while, on the other hand, the American Republic presents to its admirers fewer attractions than formerly. The effect is
'seen in the almost total obliteration of annexation sentiment in the colonies, and in the strength and encouragement afforded to those in England who looked forward to the establishment of a British nationality in America that would not only rival the great republic, but would prove a faithful ally to the mother land. When we yielded to these colonies the right of self-government, we gave up the right to dictate, whether we reserved the privilege of guiding or not. This abandonment of control carried with it, eaid some, the last link in the chain that bound our British American colonies to the empire; but this hasty assertion has been thus far falsified. Confident in their capacity for self-government, we committed their fortunes to their own keeping, as a faithful guardian unburdens himself of his trust on the attainment of majority by his ward. Had we conceived that this transfer involved a mere change of masters, we should have unquestionably hesitated to sacrifice our interests to those of a foreign power. But faith in their future was no less strong with our statesmen than it was in the colonists themselves. That selfreliance, that innate vigor, which defies misfortune and begets self-confidence, is a characteristic of our race and, when grafted in other lands, reproduces its inherent qualities with the characteristics of the parent stock. We had confidence in our kindred and in the virtue of our institutions; and a colonial policy based upon this has proved successful, and in its success its wisdom. A complex relationship has been begotten, but the machinery has worked well. The evidences of stability exhibited by these self-governed colonies, the variety of resources at their command, and the vast progress they have made in utilizing the advantages placed by nature within their reach, have not been lost sight of by that school of politicians which re-! gards the relations between us and states dependent but in name as presenting some unsatisfactory features. Nor has the change in circumstances been passed over heedlessly by the colonists themselves. They, too, have begun to reflect on the chances of the future. Everlasting youth is denied to nations as well as to .individuals, and impulses from within combine with influences from without to urge a consideration of the bent means for ensuring a lusty man
hood. It is with no little pride, therefore, that we see them enter upon the discussion of a subject of such vital importance as a confederation among themselves with calmness and deliberation indicating a knowledge of the responsibility devolving upon them, and a determination to probe to the bottom the secret of national greatness. It is a complete vindication of our modern policy in permitting them to think and act for themselves. It is of importance, therefore, to know what they propose to do, the basis of the contemplated changes, and their effect. To arrive at a proper understanding, it is necessary to go back a little in their history.
It must not be supposed that the scheme of confederation is the offspring of fear. Its origin can be traced much farther back than the civil war in the United States, however much a shock so terrible may have contributed to its maturity; nor can colonial emancipators, should their anticipation be realized, lay claim to its inception, however entitled to the credit of supplying a reason for its adop' tion.
It is stated that as early as 1810 a union of all the British American provinces was suggested by one of the colonists, and at various times afterwards the attention of the imperial authorities was directed to the subject by leading colonial politicians. Chief Justice Sewell of Quebec, in 1814, laid before the late Duke of Kent a comprehensive plan, which met with the approval of His Royal Highness. In 1827, resolutions were introduced into the Legislative Assembly of Upper Canada, directed more especially to a union of the two provinces of Upper and Lower C:mada; but proposing, as an alternative, "what would be more politic, wise, and generally advantageous,—viz. an union of the whole four provinces of North America under a vice-royalty, with a facsimile of that great and glorious fabric— the best monument of human wisdom— the British Conslitution."
Lord Durham, in his report on the affairs of British North America (1839), discusses the subject at considerable length, anticipating nearly all the arguments that can now be urged in its favor. In 1853, resolutions were brought forward in the Nova Scotia Legislature which indicated a strong desire to pro-' mote a closer connection of the different provinces; and in 18.57, the subject was pressed upon Mr. Labouchere, then Secretary of State for the Colonies, by delegates from that province; but he felt disposed to leave it to the colonists themselves to take action in the matter. In 1858, the Canadian Government announced as part of their policy that the expediency of a federal union of the British North American provinces would be anxiously considered, and that communications would be entered into with the other provinces and the Imperial Government to secure adhesion to the projectIn accordance with this announcement, delegates were sent from Canada, and the sanction of the Imperial Government was asked to the scheme; but the hesitation exhibited by the other provinces rendered the effort thus made fruitless. The Government of Nova Scotia made the next move, but the policy adopted by them had reference to a legislative union of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Prince Edward Island. In 18G3 both Houses of the Nova Scotia Legislature passed, unanimously, resolutions authorizing the appointment of delegates to confer upon that subject with delegates from the other maritime provinces. Similar resolutions were adopted in the Parliaments of New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island. A meeting of delegates was accordingly called to sit at Charlotte Town, Prince Edward Island, in September of. 1863.
Meanwhile, events in Canada were rapidly tending to render some change i in its political condition an absolute necessity. One government after another was forced to confess itself unable to con- j trol parliament; and resignation followed | resignation, and election succeeded elec-! tion, with no other effect than to increase; the embarrassment. The result was that sectional majorities, firmly united, impeded legislation, and assailed each other with every weapon that strong sectional differences place at the disposal of political factions. Lower Canadian representa-', tives united to resist the demands of their compeers from the Upper Province, and Upper Canadian members were as resolute in enforcing what they consid-1 ered to be just claims. In fact, Upper j
and Lower Canada were arrayed against eacli other, each determined not to yield an inch of ground. This state of things!, it was evident, could not long continue without leading to very serious results. The nature of the questions on which the two were divided admitted of no immediate satisfactory compromise, considering the relative position of the disputants. Upper Canadian members alleged that the population of their section of the province exceeded that of the other by 400,000; and as each had an equality of representation, the result was the practical disenfranchizement of these 400,000. It was also contended that the proportion of taxation raised by the respective sections showed a large excess in favor of Upper Canada, as that portion paid twothirds of the taxation of the country, while the relative expenditure exhibited a gross injustice. In answer to this, the Lower Canadians contended that, at the time of the union of the provinces, their section had a majority of 175,000; and it was not till 1850 that the scale was turned against them, by reason of a large immigration; and that they (comparatively rich) had borne the heavier part of the burthen of a debt contracted by the Upper Province, which, at the time, was staggering under the load; that any increase in the representation in Parliament would naturally place them (being a minority) at the mercy of a people dissimilar in race, character, religion, language, and laws. This quarrel culminated on the floor of Parliament, as we have already mentioned, in arraying sections against each other; the one bold in pressing for increased representation, and the other defiant in resisting it. The union effected between the provinces of Upper and Lower Canada in 1840 was, alter all, but a nominal one; each section preserved its identity, and the line between them remained in all its distinctness. The government has been administered by a ministry made up of an equal number from both sections, with, in most instances, a distinct staff of crown officers. It was, of course, to be expected that local politicians would keep alive sectional prejudices with such material as they had to work upon. Each half of the provincial cabinet has been expected to command the support of a majority from
the section it represented, so that a ministry having a majority of the whole Houses of Parliament would be compelled to.disband by reason of not having a majority within a majority. This policy could have but one effect, and it may be seen that the secret of frequent political crises lies, therefore, on the surface of Canadian politics. No government could be expected to stand out for any great length of time against a vigilant opposition, with so many conflicting interests to appease as the circumstances and extent of that country created. Party strife loses none of its violence by reason of the smallness of the community in which it is developed; and in its choice of weapons loses no advantage through courtesy. The check given to public business brought both political parties to their senses ; and returning reason suggested the necessity for a remedy by which responsible government would be saved from degenerating into a series of faction fights. It was apparent that constitutional difficulties lay at the bottom of this sectional strife. Both parties accepted the omen; the political leaders avowed their willingness to throw aside party ties and even personal feeling : and a coalition was formed pledged to cooperate in searching out a practical remedy for the evils which had become' intolerable. The result is embraced in the following memorandum, which expressed the policy of the coalition government:
• "Tl* Government are prepared to pledge themselves to bring in a me;isure, next session, for the purpose of removing existing difficulties, by introducing the federal principle into Canada, coupled with such provisions as will permit the Maritime Provinces and the Northwest Territory to be incorporated with the same system of government; and the Government will seek, by sending representatives to the Lower Provinces and to England, to secure the assent of those interests that are beyond the control of our Legislature, to be united under a general Legislature based upon the federal principle."*
This coalition of parties (being accepted as a guarantee for the cessation of that species of political contention which had proved a source of constant annoyance and irritation) met with the unanimous
approbation of both Houses of Parliament, and gave satisfaction to the people and press of the country; while the policy announced afforded a gleam of hope to those who had begun to despair of an adjustment of difficulties hitherto seemingly incapable of settlement. After the prorogation of the Canadian Parliament, an invitation was extended by the Chamber of Commerce of St. John, New Brunswick, to the members of the Canadian Legislature, to pay a visit to the Maritime Provinces. This was accepted by a large number of Canadians, and the principal citizens of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia gave a hearty welcome to their fellow colonists. Their fraternal meetings went far to pave the way for au union, as public attention was at once turned towards the mutual advantage to be gained by a closer connection. Such an incident may, at first glance, seetn of little importance; but when we consider that up to this time public opinion had not kept pace with the dreams of the colonial statesmen (although individuals in all the provinces had agreed on what ought to be done rather than on what could be done), we are inclined to give it due weight. Shortly afterwards, the convention appointed to consider the subject of an union of the Maritime Provinces, met at Charlotte Town, Prince Edward Island; and members of the Canadian Government attended and proposed to merge in the higher plan of a confederation of all the provinces,—that of a legislative union among the Maritime Provinces. The subject was discussed, and such progress made that it was thought desirable by the Conference that the subject should be resumed in an official manner under the authority of the governments of the several proviuces-t The Governor-General of Canada communicated to the Secretary of State for the Colonies the suggestions of the Conference, stating in his dispatch that "the desire for a closer union amongst the colonies than has hitherto existed appears to be generally felt both in Canada and the Lower Provinces;" and, further, "it appears to me that the mode of proceeding suggested is the only one in which the views entertained by the leadStatement by Hon. J. A. Mncdonald in Ca- tlteport of Committee of Executive Council of naJian House of Assembly, June 21, 1864. | Canada, September 23, 18C4.