Newfoundland Legislative Assembly, 31 January 1865, Newfoundland Debates over Confederation with Canada.

THE NEWFOUNDLANDER St. John's, Thursday, February 9, 1865 1
TUESDAY, Jan. 31.
The house met at three o'clock.
Mr. GLEN presented a petition from Gregory Morris and other inhabitants of Witless Bay, which was received and read, praying that a certain cove in Witless Bay Âş be reserved as a place of 'refuge for their fishing craft.
Mr. GLEN, in moving that the petition lie on the table, would observe that Witless Bay was much exposed to easterly gales, which proved very destructive to fishing craft; and the cove in question was the only place where they could take shelter. It was, therefore, of great importance to the people that it should be reserved for their use. An endeavour was now made to claim it as private property, and he thought it was the duty of the government to interfere for the public interest.
Hon ATTORNEY GENERAL, in seconding the motion for the petition lying on the table, would state that the hom member showed him the petition previous to the presenting it to the House; and had pointed out to him the proper course in the matter. It was not a matter for the Government to interfere. Let the petitioners prefer an indictment at the Quarter Sessions for the district. There was a number of them, and the expense would be trifling. They could then have it tried whether any private party had any right of property in that cove.
Mr. KENT.-Fishery rights throughout the colony should be preserved inviolate. It was obviously of the utmost importance to the petitioners, for the safety of their fishing craft, the cove in question should not pass into private hands. What were the Attorney General and Surveyor General paid such magnificent salaries for, if they were not to look after the public interests?
Ordered that the petition lie on the table. on motion of Mr. WYATT, pursuant to order of the day, the address in reply to the Governor's speech was read a second time.
Mr. WYATT moved, pursuant to notice, that the rules of the house oe suspended in reference to the address.
Mr. KENT—The address embraced matters of great importance It would be well to proceed in the regular course, and not have it committed until to-morrow.
Hon ATTORNEY GENERAL-The address being an echo of the speech, as was usual with such documents, there were several paragra hs on which there would be no difference of opinion. They might proceed with these, and let that on which hon members might wish, for discussion lie over until to-morrow.
The motion was put and carried.
On motion of Mr. WYATT, the House resolved itself into Committee of the whole on the address, Mr. KNIGHT in the chair.
The first and second sections of the address were read seriatim and adopted. Ine third section was read referring to the subject of poor relief.
Mr. WYATT moved that the section be adopted.
Mr. E. D. SHEA said that paragraph was not in accordance with the speech, which recommended assessment in the several districts for the support of the poor. In the reply the Government swallowed their own words and deprecated his Excellency's suggestion. They said there were difficulties in the way of its adoption. He (Mr. Shea) congratulated the Government on their conversion to the views of the opposition on that question. The matter was fully discussed last session. The soundness of the principle was admitted on this side, but we said it was not applicable to the circumstances of this colony; and that paragraph of the address virtually said the same thing. A Bill was brought in last session providing for assessment in certain districts, Hon members on this side expressed their views fully on the subject, in opposition to that measure, and some members on the Government side of the House coincided with them, and the Bill was consequently withdrawn. And now, while the Governor was advised to recommend having recourse to assessment, the Government tell him that such a course is impracticable in this Colony. He (Mr. Shea) did say that paragraph was a distinct and clear and unmistakaable amendment on the Governor's speech, proceeding from the Government, or at all events, from members possessing the confidence of the Government.
Mr. KENT.—The centripetal and the centrifugal forces of the Government had in this matter been acting in direct opposition to each other. The hon the leader of the Government had last year endeavoured to force the Poor Law Bill down the throats of his supporters, but they were reluctant to swallow the pill. He was realizing the position of all leaders. His supporters were restive, They were kicking in harness, and the hon gentlemen experienced the difficulty of driving four in hand-Could anything be more strong or more emphatic than the advice given them from the throne on this subject, advice sanctioned by the leader of the Government and the Executive? What did it mean? That the present system should be discontinued, as it, led to imposition and corruption in its worst forms. At present it was a boon, a premium, instead of a relief. This was no new matter. Last year the Government introduced their Poor Law Bill and held it aloft, as high as Caesar ever held his Commentaries; and were to stand or fall by it. But the supporters of the Ministry, would not sustain them in passing it, and it was withdrawn. The same proposition was now a second time laid before the Legislature, a committee was appointed to prepare an address in accordance with the views of the Executive; and they actually give that proposition a direct negative. They say that though the principle is a perfectly sound one, we are not in a position at present to apply it. They acknowledge the pauper relief is an ulcer in our social system, and yet they would not vote for any measure that would tend to alleviate it, and improve our condition. Was the learned Doctor aware that when he signed that Report he was passing a direct censure upon the Government He (Mr. Kent) would ask hon gentlemen opposite whether they intended to support that address? Were they to have two sets of opinions, if this were an ordinary case, he (Mr. Kent) would not mind it. But it was a matter that plunged the country deeper in debt, year after year. It was sapping, the vital energies of the country; and never was this House so strongly called upon to renunciate its opinions as at present. But the committee had given the question the go-bye, and the Ministry sat in a state of coma, whilst a direct negative was given to the proposition of the Exectuive. What did the Executive members say to it?. Were they satisfied with the menace- "Eat thy pudding slave and hold thy tongue."? If they were desirous of playing the part of spirit rappers, let them sehd for the Davenport brothers, to relieve them from their present state of embarrasment. They certainly were in an unenviable position, and he would let them enjoy ther fame. He (Mr. Kent) did not begrudge it to them.
Mr. TALBOT-That paragraph required some attention. He must observe that it was not at all what he would expect to be the language emploved in addressing the Governor. The address was in perfect contrast to the elegant and classical language of his Excellency's speech. With respect to that paragraph, he might observe that it was not respectful towards his Excellency for the Govvernment to address him in that manner, after advising him to recommend assessment for relieving the able- bodied poor. But the address altogether was not such as should have emanated from the Select Committee acting in unison with the Government. He (Mr. Talbot) would take a fisherman from the streets, and he would draw up a more suitable reply than that address. One of those fishermen whom the members of the government would trample upon, would produce a document couched in a style superior to that address. And as to the Government already departing from the course announced the other day in his Excellency's speech; it was to him (Mr. Talbot) no matter of surprise; for, it was well known that their chief object was to preserve their places; and if they found their supporters would not sustain them in the matter of assessment, they were ready to abandon it, as they did the poor Bill last session. The Government were becoming more infatuated every year. If they differed in opinion from the Governor, it was their duty to resign, and make room for others who would give his Excellency reliable advice respecting the actual wants and circumstances of the Colony, The sound principle was to assess the districts for the support of the poor, but he (Mr.Talbot) had no hope that the present, government would have the manliness to grapple with the growing evil of pauperism, and bring in a measure in opposition to the wishes of some of their influential supporters.
Mr. Prowse was delighted to find that the hon member who had just sat down, had became a convert to his Excellency's views on the subject of poor relief. But he (Mr. Prowse) would like to see the hon member set forth these views to his constituents. They were sound and correct views; and he (Mr. Prowse) rejoiced to see them enunciated by his Excellency. He (Mr. Prowse) expressed these views last year, and he held them still, whatever difficulty there might be in giving, effect to them in this Colony. He (Mr. Prowse) would like to hear every hon member of that House who had opinions, express them openly. He recollected that in conversation with the hon member, a few days ago, he expressed, in glowing language, his admiration of Confederation But because certain parties out of doors were opposed to it, he dared not give it his support in that House. The fisherman would find by-and bye who were there friends. They would not be misled by interested parties to believe that their interests would be sacrificed by confederation, and that the object of its supporters was to sell Newfoundland. There was a certain amount of clamour raised amongst a class of the population on the subject of pauper relief; and, in consequence, the hon member dared not express his views on that question. He (Mr. Prowse) must say the he had great respect for the hon members's ability, but he had very little respect for his courage.
Hon. ATTORNEY GENERAL did not think that hon gentleman distinctly understood the meaning of the passage in either the speech or the reply. They had certainly not expressed themselves as if they understood them. When the Poor Law Bill was introduced last session, these two hon gentlemen opposed, it with all their might. The Bill was withdrawn for further consideration, and up to the present time the opinions of the hon gentlemen were thought to be the same as they expressed last session. He was glad that such a happy charge had come over the spirit of their dream. It would appear, from the observations of these hon gentlemen, that however distaseful a measure might be during the administration of one Governor, it was a highly desirable and beneficial one under another. Here we had actually a formal recantation of the heterodox principles expressed by hon members last session. The honorable member, Mr. Kent, openly avowed that he had been mistaken. He believed now that the only way to remedy the existing evils of the system of pauper relief was by assessment. He (hon Attorney General) was pleased to see the hon gentleman in such a frank and manly way, acknowledged his mistake. The hon members object to the address because they say it does not go so far as the speech. He (Attorney General) did not think it was open to any such aspersion. Undoubtedly there were obstacles to every useful measure, even to Confederation.—There was not one act, unless it might be some measure of a common place character, that conduced to the remedying of any evils, or aimed at any important improvement, that did not a first present difficulties to its being carried out. But when difficulties were in the way of any measure, the benefits of which were in the future, no doubt it was impossible for small mind, to comprehend how they were to be overcome. The address said simply that we entirely assented to the principle, but that there were certain difficulties in, the way of its successful application, which we would endeavour by careful consideration to overcome, and confer upon the country so desirable a boon. If the address had said there were insuperable difficulties in the way, then it would have been open to the construction put, upon it by hon members opposite. It was all very well for hon gentlemen to endeavour to mistify and confuse. The thing was perfectly understood. Difficultles did exist, and this House could not shut their eyes to their existence. He was glad, however, to see so many hon. gentlemen now in favour of the measure, and he felt satisfied that the paragraph in question would be adopted as it stood in the address.
The motion for the adoption of the section, was then put and carried.
Committee then rose and the Chairman reported progress. To sit again to-morrow.
The House tnen adjourned until Wednesday at 3 o'clock.


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