Legislative Assembly, 26 June 1866, New Brunswick Confederation Debates



Hon. Mr. FISHER.—In bringing a resolution before the House I have generally found it necessary to offer some arguments why it should pass, but I feel on this occasion that very few observations are required. I do not feel disposed, at this hurried season of the year, to occupy the time of the House to convince them of what they are already convinced of, for this is not a new proposition. When we reflect upon the history of the past, we all know that this question has been discussed by the people of the country in all its bearings, and their representatives come here charged with their opinion upon this question. I do not intend to occupy the time of the House beyond two or three minutes. We know that the question of the Union of British North America has been in the minds of the people of this country for twenty-five or thirty years. About three years ago propositions were made for the Provinces to discuss this question, and a Scheme of Union was agreed upon. The Legislature of Ca nada, in both its departments, have passed upon this question, and it has been discussed in this Province. The general election has been held in order to test the minds of the people of the country upon the Union of British North America. I think it is gratifying to all of us that the people of this Province were so unanimous upon this question as they really were. The proposition which I have to make now is in the resolution, and I know that a large majority of the people are in favor of the measure. The Government are anxious that past differences should be forgotten. Much political strife and bitterness will arise in deciding a question of this kind, but we hope the result we have arrived at will advance the interest of all. The basis of any arrangement for the Union of these Provinces will be the Resolutions adopted at Quebec. That matter has been discussed throughout the Provinces, and objections have been made to different portions of it. What we propose to do is, to get as many improvements made to it as we possibly can. This resolution proposes that we should ask the Governor appoint Delegates to unite with Delegates from the other Provinces in arranging with the Imperial Government for the Union of British North America upon such terms as will secure the just rights and interests of New Brunswick, accompanied with provision for the immediate construction of the Inter-Colonial Railway—each Province to have an equal voice in such Delegation, Upper and Lower Canada to be considered as seperate Provinces. There are two principles in the resolutions adopted at Quebec, about which there will be very little discussion, that is the principle of Federation and the principle of representation by population. The finance arrangements, and the arrangements regarding the Legislative Council will be considered, and upon these points it will be the endeavor of the Government to secure as favorable terms as they possibly can. Another proposition in this resolution is, that not only our just rights and interests are to be secured, but there is a provision for the immediate construction of the InterColonial Railway. This proposition is conveyed in as strong language as can be written, and it lies at the bottom and forms the basis of any arrangement that may be made. I am not going to occupy the time dilating upon the advantages of Union. If we want arguments in favor of Union let us look at the neighboring country, and see the blood and treasure which they have spent in preserving their Union. Here we are in a sort of transition state ; we are now about to make arrangements to form a Union of the different North American Provinces under the care of the British Government. We are going to develop our national resources, consolidate our varied interests, and secure measures for our common and mutual defence. The country have declared themselves unmistakably in favor of Union, and it is our wish and determination to meet the objections of the smallest minority in every way in order that when this Union is consummated it will not only provide the greatest good for the greatest number, but that the smallest number will have no reason to complain.
Mr. SMITH—I suppose it is expected that I will make some observations. I believe I express the feeling of every hon. member on the floors of the House, and every man throughout the country, when he comes to know of the speech of the hon. mover of the Resolution on a subject so important, when I say I expected a more detailed explanation, of the policy of the Government. The object is to conceal what the Government intend to do. While I am prepared to admit that the people of the country have adopted the principle of Union, it has been done by agencies with which it is not necessary for me to deal. Fenianism is one of the agencies that has acted upon the public mind, and it has also been acted upon by the treacherous unconstitutional conduct of the Governor. By these means the Government have obtained a majority, and I bow, as I have always done, to the will of the people. I believe that unless this Scheme of Confederation is accomplished in a short time, the reaction upon this Scheme will be more powerful than it ever has been. Public opinion is very uncertain. I see many of my hon. friends here with whom I have sat side by side and contested many a political battle, but they have not been here continuously, but have been out and in according to the fluctuations of public opinion. I came here fourteen years ago, and I only see one hon. member (Mr. Kerr) who has been here continuously since that period except myself This proves the uncertainty of public opinion, and we cannot tell what another election may bring forth. As this question has now been determined by the people, we should endeavor, as far as practicable, to obtain for this country every possible confession promotive of its interest in this Confederation. I believed from the first that this Scheme was fraught with peril, and I relaxed no effort on my part to prevent its infliction upon the country. I do not regret the course I have taken, although my efforts have been unavailing. It this Union is pro DEBATES OF THE HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY FOR 1866. 21 ductive of good, I will share in it. If on the other hand, it is productive of evil. I shall be free from the responsibility of bringing it upon the country. I ask hon. members whether they are prepared to accept the Quebec Scheme. I believe a large majority of the people of the country are decidedly opposed to that Scheme. but i believe as firmly as I believe I live that if power is given to Delegates to act in conjunction with Delegates from the other Provinces, no material alterations will be made in the Scheme. it is a most extraordinary thing that the Government, in moving a resolution like this. will not condescend to inform the country of the basis upon which they intend to proceed. I believe the reason' is because they know the people of the country are opposed to the Quebec scheme. This question will affect this country for all time to come, and it is important that hon. members should bring their minds to consider this question free from prejudice, and not support a resolution for the more purpose of victory. I ask erery hon. member here if it was not the duty of the Government to give some information of whatthey intend to do? Is it enough to state that the Delegates will endeavor to obtain better terms if they can? Who will be the De egates that are to be clothed with this tremendous power to settle and determine for the people of this country what their constitution shall be for all time to come? Where, in the history of a free country. can you find that such powers have been given to any individuals to determine a Scheme of Union so important and so tremendous in its consequences as this must be to the people ot' this country. without any reference to the Legislature or people? Is it not right that any Scheme of Union to be carried out and consummated by an Act of the Imperial Parliament. I may, he entirely in error, and my judgement may be erroneous, but it does seem to me to be but reasonable that the people of this country should have some voice in the matter, because it hu net been said that the people of the muffin have affirmed the Quebec Scheme. I believe a large portion of the country are opposed to the Scheme in many ofita provisions and features. They have affirmned the principle of Union without reference to the Quebec Scheme, If then Delegates go home to England and am. in conjunction with Delegates from the other Provinces, is it not right that the people of this Province, who   are so seriouslyto be affected by it, should have some voics'as to whether the Scheme they had agreed upon was good or bad ? Should they not have a right to pass judgment'upon it? Therefore the Government have failed in the way in which they have put the matter before the House. l do not think they have treated the House and people right. The Attorney General does not say whether he' intends to have this matter referred to the people, or whether he intends to have those Delegate go to England and there act with other Delegates in forming a Scheme of Union which is to be imported upon us by an Act of Imperial Parliament. (Hon. Mr. Fisher. That is the why it is to be done.) That then is the power which is proposed to be given to the Delegates. I am not going to discuss the way in which the Government obtained power. but I believe it was by unfair means. I think the Governor did injustice to his late Council and to the country in consulting with members of he Opposition. When members of the Government went to the Government House to consult him. he left them and consulted a member of the Opposition, who was one of the most determined opponents oi the Government. These are the means by which the present Government obtained power, and the people have affirmed their position. They have declared against me and my late colleagues; and we await future developments to show whether we were right or wrong. That the late Government were not consuitcd'by the Governor is a fact admitted on all sides, but he has been sustained because the people were in a state of political intoxication; but when sober reason comes to exercise its away this decision will be reversed ; but in the meantime our constitution is gone. Hon. members may treat it with leiity. and think it a matter of little importance whether a man be anti-Confderate or Confederate, they ought not to think so lightly of it ; pevery. member ought to be impressed with the solemnity of this occasion, because it is a matter of infinite importance. If it were a matter affecting the country for but ten or twenty years, we might treat it with comparative indiference, but it is binding upon us for ever. It is the imperctive duty of every men who has a sense of his reponsibility to consider .this matter seriously, and not loan himself to this or that man when his country is in danger. If any men are animated by a desire for self-aggrandizement in this matter, let me apply to them the language of the poet—" Is there not some chosen curse, some hidden thunder stirs heaven red with uncommon wrath, to blight the man who owes his greatness to his country's ruin." It has flashed across my mind that the judgement of some of these men may be blinded by the prospect of a large arena where their ambition may be gratified. I see in this resolution some protection, there is still a hope left. In Nova Scotia the people have never passed upon this question. If Confederation should be carried and imposed upon the people of that Province without their being appealed to, a flagrant outrage will have been perpetrated upon them. I have more confidence inths British Government any Act of Union can be passed without the people of Nova Scotia being appealed to. I have been told by Joseph Howe, who is admitted to be the greatest statesman in the, whole of America, that he saw the elements of discord in this Union, and he would not support it if they gave him the Governorship of India. He has fought the battles of the people and obtained for them the recognition of all their rights under the constitution under which they live. He has moved Nova Scotia from its centre to its circumference. It has been promulgated throughout the country that Joseph Howe is imbecile or crazy. I have heard speeches about his mental imbecility, but I should like to hear them make one like I heard him make twelve months ago at Detroit. Then he was considered the pride of British America, but now, because he would not drop into those Confederation grooves, he is anathematizcd. abused, and contumely heaped upon his head. It seems the custom to abuse those who dare to raise their voice in favor of the institutions of their country. I have been most fearfully abused throughout this contest, because I have had the hardihood to stand up to preserve inviolate the institutions of the country. The Governor has charged me, and he has charged his late Council, with taking a paper from the file. This was an unwarrantable charge, for we had no access to the Council Chamber. He has put it torward over this country'that we were guilty of felony. because he says we abstracted from the files of the Council a paper which he says ought to have been there. That charge was totally unfounded. lnstead of accepting our resignation in the usual manner by asking us to retain office until our successors were appointed, he accepted them absolutely, and we ceased to be Executive Councillors. The paper was our paper, and it never was in our Executive Council Chamber. The Governor has charged me with telling untruths, and these, with other slanders, have gone forth to the country. He has appealed to his high name and lineage. He says the name of Gordon was ever a guarantee for truth. When a man is 22 DEBATES OF THE HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY FOR 1866. driven to appeal to his name as an argument to show why he is right and his adversary wrong, he must feel that his case is weak. I will show how frail his memory was. He said he addressed a letter to me, and before handing it to me, he put a date to it. The letter bears no date at all ! That shows he is liable to err. His memory has failed him often and often in many material points. I could say a great deal, but I forbear. I wish to speak respectfully of the representative of Her Majesty, but he is a man like ourselves, and we should have fair play and justice front him. In regard to this Delegation, I do not know when it is to be sent, but from indications which I see around, and from what I know of the necessities of Canada, I think it will not be long before it goes. I know the Government of Canada cannot last long as it is. The Legislature was not called together. Why ? It was not called tagether because Confederation was not passed in this Province, and that Government was like a rope of sand unless Confederation was carried. I speak, feeling that my voice will be entirely powerless ; still, I feel it my duty both to myself and country, to express my views. I know that the Legislature of Canada was postponed from time to time, and their Government undertook to dictate to us when our Legislature should meet. The necessity of Canada has given birth to the whole scheme, and I can prove this by her leading statesmen, Mr. McGee and others. This measure did not emanate from the British Government, but they have approved of the Scheme, and are committed to it.
When I examined this resolution to appoint delegates, I found in it what, to a certain extent, relieved my mind. I believe Prince Edward Island will not come into this scheme of Union, neither will Newfoundland. By the terms of this resolution, the delegates, unless met in London by other Delegates from all these Provinces, will have no power to make an arrangement. Unless this delegation be full they have no power to act. This is intended by the hon. mover. It is not necessary to argue that if you delegate men to act with other men representing other interests, their power ceases unless met by those they were appointed to meet. This Quebec Scheme was prepared upon the assumption that all these Lower Provinces are to come in. It has been said that the interests of these Lower Provinces are identical, and they would unite for the protection of the interests of the Maritime Provinces. If Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland are not embraced within this confederation, the arguments are weakened and fail, because the influence of the Maritime Provinces is reduced to that extent. Therefore I am glad the Government have said they are unwilling to go into confederation unless all the other Maritime Provinces enter into Union at the same time. That is the only interpretation that can be put upon the resolution. It is not necessary for me to argue that point, for any person will understand that if an agent is appointed to act with other agents, that agent can not act without the other agents acting with him. Unless the House restrain these delegates when they proceed to England, we will have the Quebec Scheme upon us. No doubt but it will be the authors of the scheme who will be sent, and these gentlemen have declared that if they get a better scheme they will take it, if not they will take the Quebec Scheme. As they have made this declaration before going there, do you suppose the Canadian politicians will give them a better when they know they will accept the present ? If you want to buy a farm you will not say to the owner, if you will not take £450 I will give you £500. The delegates have been telling the people, that under the Quebec Scheme the Lower Provinces have a decided advantage over the Canadas, how then can our delegates ask for better terms than the terms which they have said gave them such an advantage over the Canadas. If we are going to have confederation, we should do everything we can to obtain a scheme that will be an advantage to the Province and not a destruction to it. If this confederation is to be accomplished, I shall move a resolu ion restraining the power of these delegates, which, I think, will commend itself to the favorable consideration of a majority of the House. If the desire of the Government is to obtain a good scheme of Union, they will not object to receiving instruction from this House. If the delegates proceed to England with these instructions given by this House, and the Canadians find that the delegates have no power to consent to a Union, unless that scheme embraces certain provisions necessary for the country, they, rather than not have confederation—for I know their anxiety for it—will make those concessions. If our delegation goes home without those instructions, you agree to the scheme, believing it to be a good scheme, and you need not seek any amendment. Then, when this Union is brought about, how utterly this Parliament will fade away. It will not be worthy of the best minds of our country to come here, for this Assembly will dwindle down to a mere municipality. I trust I may be mistaken, and that the great interests of the country may be advanced ; but these are my views. I do not believe there are ten men here who will not resign their seats at once if confederation is carried. Whether I shall make any effort to go to Ottawa remains in the future. It has been no advantage to me to be a member of this House, but, on the contrary, it has been a pecuniary less. I have been a member of the House for fourteen years, and one-half of that time has been given to the public for which I have practically received nothing. There are others here who have given their time to the public without receiving an equivalent. My hon. friend Mr. Kerr has never received a dollar ; what object can he have in continuing a member of a Legislature which would have no more to do than the corporation of the City of St. John. He would not remain here an hour. I shall feel it necessary to express my views upon the action of the Legislative Council. I predicted from the beginning that this scheme was prepared with all the elements necessary to give it vitality. Out of the Legislative Council there are ten members to go to Ottawa. We all have our ambitious feelings ; if fifteen of the members of this House were to be provided with seats at Ottawa for life, do you not think it would have an influence upon the vote of this House ? We know that personal interest blinds the eyes and warps the judgment, and the person under its influence is not conscious of it. There is no doubt but that the deliberations of the Legislative Council have been influenced by the fact that ten of their number are to be appointed to seats in the Legislative Council at Ottawa for life. That makes ten vacancies for ten hon. members of this House, if those seats are worthy of their ambition. This is part of the machinery to facilitate the passage of the Scheme through the Legislature. It was agreed at the conference at Quebec that it was to be passed through the Legislature without any appeal to the people. (Cries of no, no.) Whether there was a positive agreement I know not, but there was an understanding that it was to be done if practicable. (No ; no.) Why then have they attempted to do so in Nova Scotia ? Why did not they proceed on the same principle there as here, instead of pressing it through the Legislature without any appeal to the people at all ? Did they enter into an agreement different from the line of action to be adopted by the Delegates in this Province ? You would suppose they would act unitedly in the means and agencies employed to work out their purpose. Therefore I consider that if they had thought it possible to put that measure through our Legislature they would have done so. I shall take the liberty DEBATES OF THE HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY FOR 1866. 23 calling the attention of the House to several provisions in the Quebec Scheme, and state my objections to them ; whether it will have any influence upon the Delegates I know not ; but first let us hear what are the opinion of Canadian statesmen on this Scheme, and how far the people of this country may expect concessions, and get better terms than those [?] the Scheme. Mr. D'Arcy M'Gee in describing the Scheme (Mr. Tilley, When) When the Parliament of Canada approved of the Scheme, and asked Her Majesty to bring it into effect by Imperial Legislation. (Mr. Smith then quoted from speeches delivered by Messrs. D'Arcy McGee and John McDonald, to show the Scheme was unalterable.) We have also the testimony of Mr. Brown, and Mr Galt that it cannot be altered. When Mr. Allan and I were in England Mr. Cardwell intimated that some altera ions might take place. We asked him could representation by population be altered ? No. Could the representation in the Legislative Council be altered ? No. Could the provision of eighty cents per head be altered ? No. Thus we found no material part of the Scheme could be changed, and any delegation which goes home will have to accept the Quebec Scheme in its entirety, unless they receive instructions from the people of the country. If they go there clothed with restrictive power, which says you may go to a certain extent and no farther ; then, when the Canadian Delegates know that they cannot deviate from the letter of their instructions, they may consent to some alterations.
The debate was then adjourned until to-morrow. Mr. Smith to resume at half- past nine.
The House then went into Committee on " A Bill relating to the administration of Justice in Equity," which created some discussion, when progress was reported and leave asked to sit again.
The House was then adjourned until 9 a. m. to-morrow.
T. P. D.


New Brunswick. Reports of the Debates of the House of Assembly. St. John: G.W. Day, 1865-1867. Microfilm copies provided by the Provincial Archives of New Brunswick.



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