House of Commons, 14 November 1867, Canadian Confederation with Newfoundland

74 COMMONS DEBATES November 14, 1867
Mr. McGee (Montreal West) [...]lar declaratory clauses are found in the Quebec Act, and the Union Act of 1840, they were both statutes framed in England exclusively, while the clauses, and all the remainder, were drafted and proposed by Colonists only. It is remarkable that a hundred years after the Stamp Act and Tea Tax; ninety years after the Declaration of Independence; nearly half a century after the promulgation of "the Monroe Doctrine"; the representatives of these Provinces should have taken upon themselves, so solemnly to re-assert as fundamental constitutional propositions, the sovereignty of the English Crown, over all our territory. (Applause.) What was done in this way in 1840, and in 1799, was done by others; but these declaratory clauses are our own work. I do not say that we are free to take any other course; I do not pretend that we could have raised, even if we would, the question of Sovereignty, in 1864 or in 1867; I only speak of the cardinal fact as I find it, that we have here, by our own act, selected the monarchical form of Government for ourselves and for our children; that for them and for ourselves, we have entered into this solemn compart to uphold the constitutional monarchy in this country; and that the Queen, and her Imperial Parliament and Government, have, on their part, by the passage of this Bill with these provisions, with equal solemnity, constituted themselves parties to this compact and agreement. (Hear, hear.) I do not desire, sir, to dwell at present, on all the corrollaries and consequences likely to flow from this formal and solemn establishment of monarchy on this Continent, by the voluntary act of four millions of its inhabitants, but this is the path which by this Act, we have voluntarily chosen to enter—by this path, if we are not to abandon it, we are to journey on into the future, and whither it leads there we must follow. Sir, for one, I can truly say, that I saw and felt all along the solemnity of the selection we were called upon to make, but I never doubted, no not for one instant, that we had decided well in choosing to affirm so unmistakably as we have done the principles of Constitutional and responsible monarchy, for these Provinces. I am fully aware of the intense propagandist force which resides in the democratic idea. I know there are democratic fanatics who damn all other sects in politics, but their own; but looking back to the venerable centuries of Christian civilization which have preceded us, I am not taught, that it is best for the people, that the headship of the State should be frequently elective. Our Republican neighbours may prefer their own institutions as much as pleases them; but at all events, they must allow us to have a preference also, even though it should not quite coincide with their own. (Hear, hear.) We can honour and reverence their illustrious Martyr President, who fell a victim to his duties; but they must permit us also, to reserve some of our admiration and sympathy, for the Martyr of Queretaro, as well as the Martyr of Mexico: for that gallant gentleman, a true Prince, the worthiest to rule that Mexico had ever seen, but of whom Mexico was not worthy: that cruelly murdered Prince, whose effigy the House of Hapsburg may be proud to raise in long procession of the Illustrious Princes, his ancestors! Sir, I certainly cannot agree with the honourable member (Mr. Howe) that the time or the means chosen, ought to subject us to the displeasure of our Republican neighbours. This Union project is a very old one—as old as the country, and though hastened by recent events among them and among ourselves, it certainly dates long beyond the firing by Beauregard on Fort Sumter. No question of Sovereignty was raised by us; we merely embodied and reaffirmed a power that already existed, and which the Republic always recognized as existing in North America. If we had sought to plant a despotism by their side—without representative institutions—without securing the common rights of free men, sprung from the same source as their own; then, indeed, they might have cause for suspicion and displeasure. As it is I deny that we have given them any such cause, and I submit that such an argument, or assertion ought not to be advanced on the floor of a Canadian Parliament. (Hear, hear.) The honourable member opposite (Mr. Howe) also bestowed a good deal of his ready ridicule on the expression so often used in His Excellency's Speech—of "a new nationality." He was not precise in stating his objections to the use of that expression; but I inferred that he thought it premature as to time, and inconsistent with the continuance of the Imperial connection. He talked of walking upon stilts, and having "the stilts knocked from under us," as if our increased stature as a people in 1867, was a forced and artificial increase. I need not surely remind the honourable member, that in the year 1800 including Newfoundland and Prince Edward Island, with the British mainland we were less than 400,000 souls altogether; and when the Sydenham Union was carried, about two millions, While we are now, including the same Provinces, fully 4,000,000. (Hear, November 14, 1867 COMMONS DEBATES 75 hear.) These living millions are stilts, and we are vain enough to think we can stand on them. In 1790, the United States commenced with a total population of 3,900,000 souls, but they had, it is true, no gigantic native neighbours on their flanks; still they had the power of England on this side, of Spain in the Floridas, and of France in Louisiana. They began modestly and moderately, and they have advanced by degrees, in their "new nationality". I ask the honourable gentleman this question—if he does not look forward to a new nationality here, in these Provinces, to what does he look forward? Surely he must see that a population which increased in sixty years, a hundred fold, cannot be reckoned upon as a stationary quantity? With some nations the best ambition is to keep what they have got; but these are nations of fixed population and full boundaries. Extending as we are in space—increasing in number—improving in intercourse—we cannot stand still politically, even if we tried. (Hear, hear.) But the honourable member and his followers seem to have some confused notion in their heads, that a new nation cannot exist within the Empire, consistently with the Imperial connection. Sir, I don't know where they got such a notion, but it is a very childish one, and contrary to all experience. The Federal principle is precisely adopted to meet a difficulty of that kind, and has for many centuries met it successfully. In the German Empire there never was any difficulty as to the simple existence of separate nationalities and kingdoms; in the Spanish Empire, so long as its sovereigns respected the rights and liberties of the component parts, there was no difficulty of holding together the kingdoms of the Netherlands, of Aragon, and Naples; in the Austrian Empire, when the rights of the ancient kingdom of Hungary were respected the kingdom was in fact, the mainstay of the Empire. In our own day, we have in Hindostan an Empire within an Empire, so constituted expressly on the ground of strengthening the Imperial connection by the wisest statesmen, our contemporaries. So far, therefore, as to that childish and foolish notion of incompatibility. But the honourable member will not allow, that even With our four millions, we have men enough to start in the onerous career of a new nationality. What amount of population does he suppose then to be necessary to such a start? For colonies, as colonies, to get together and keep together, four millions of inhabitants is no small achievement, and if we have not increased more largely by immigration of late years than we have—if our present population is 80 per cent native born to 20 per cent born abroad—I will tell the honourable member why we have not attracted and retained more people, from the other side of the Atlantic. We have not attracted more people, because we have not made our country attractive; because we are not known as a nation abroad; because these isolated Provinces did not impress the imagination of the emigrating classes. Who in the byeways of Germany, or even of Britain, knew anything of Canada, up to the other day? In those hives of human labour, they knew only one country—America—and One seaport—New York. But once give your Provinces united the aspect of Empire, make them a power and a name, and the reputation and credit of the Dominion will be our best immigration agents abroad. (Hear, hear.) As to our inability to stand alone, with the numbers we have, I beg to observe, sir, that in my opinion, it depends very much on our unanimity or division. No power on earth can take forcible possession of this country, if we are united as one man, in its defence. (Applause.) No population that can be stirred up against us, can put a hostile four millions, face to face with us on our own soil. If every man, woman and child in Canada, is imbued with the spirit which enabled Switzerland to hold her own against the Austrian Empire, and Spain in her decline to cast out Napoleon in his vigour, we will be safe enough, within our rivers and rapids in summer, and our snowed up roads and freezing skies in winter. (Hear, hear.) We complain sometimes of our rigorous winters, but there is this compensation at least, that no invading force that bivouacked out for one genuine Canadian night, would ever answer to the call of the long roll again. (Hear, hear.) My own views on the subject of defence are pretty well known, and when my honourable friend (Mr. Cartier) brings down his measure, if the House desires to hear them, I shall be happy to meet its wishes: but I will now only say this, that I hope to see the military spirit of our population encouraged in every way; that I hope to see rifle matches and tournaments become as familiar municipal institutions as town meetings, of county agricultural fairs. (Applause.) I cannot, for one, agree that the best way to make ourselves respected abroad, to secure impunity from attack, is to depreciate the sources of our strength; but rather to rely upon and make the most of what Lord Bacon, in his "true greatness of Britain," considers a main element of a nation's strength, "its [...]


Canada. House of Commons Debates, 1867-1868. Edited by P.B. Waite. Ottawa: Queen's Printer, 1967. Original scans accessible at: http://parl.canadiana.ca/.



Selection of input documents and completion of metadata: Gordon Lyall.

Personnes participantes: