Newfoundland Legislative Assembly, 29 January 1869, Newfoundland Debates over Confederation with Canada.




ON yesterday at two o'clock the Legislative Session was opened by His Excellency the Governor with the accustomed formalities and with the Speech which appears below.
Addresses in reply were moved, in the Council, by the Hon. Dr. Winter, seconded by the hon. Mr. Cliff; and in the Assembly moved by Mr. Godden, seconded by Mr. Barron.
Mr. Godden, the new member for Harbor Grace spoke eartinently upon the leading points of the Speech, endorsing specially its Confederation policy. He was assailed by Messrs. Renouf and Hogsett, both of whom decried Confederation, abused the Government for not having supplied seed Potatoes for the poor, and while appearing to approve of the Proclamation discontinuing able-bodied poor Relief, claimed for themselves the credit of having forced this step upon the Government. The Attorney- General replied, defending the course adopted by the Government on the potato supply matter, and showing that such aid would have been a mischievous waste of the public funds. He further showed that some members opposite, instead of having any claim to credit for the stopping of assistance to the able-bodied Poor, had done their utmost to force its continuance upon the Government. With regard to Confederation, he reiterated the favourable opinion he had always entertained upon the question, which however he would reserve for discussion at a more suitable time when Resolutions upon it would be submitted to the House. Mr. Prowse and Mr. Parsons also spoke, the former in favour, and the latter against the proposal of Confederation.
The House having chosen a Committee to draft a Reply, adjourned to Monday.
The following was His Excellency's Speech:—
Mr. President and Honourable Gentlemen of the Legislative Council.
Mr. Speaker and Gentlemen of the Honourable House of Assembly.
For the fifth time in my administration, of the Government I have the pleasure of meeting you to resume our Legislative duties; and I am happy to remember that nothing during this period has interrupted the harmony of our intercourse.
The past year has not been marked by any special occurence. A beneficent Providence has protected us from epidemic disease, nor have we had occasion to lament disaster such as that of the devastating gale on the coast of Labrador in 1867. But beyond exemption from misfortune, our gratitude is due for the good average result of the chief occupation of the people in the codfishery, both at Labrador and on the coast of Newfoundland. We have been favoured in the abundant yield of the Potato Crop, which is so important to the mass of our population, with less of blight than has been known for may previous years. And the price of provisions, which was unusually high in the early months of last year, has greatly declined, to the advautage of our community who must import the chief necessaries of his. All these circumstances have produced a consequent inproved condition for those who have practical industry and frugality.
The depression of Trade and the comparative failure of the Crops and Fisheries for several past years, had, notwithstanding all the guards at the Command of the Government, caused large and increasing expenditure, in sustaining the able-bodied poor thereby adding an annual aacumulaiton to the [?] Debt, for which no adequate return could be exacted.
The impossibility of year by year providing from our source of revenue for the [?] drafts was becoming more manifestly plain. They must necessarily lead to indrease of taxation to sustain the credit of the Colony, and bear very heavily on the truly industrious and frugal. There was left no alternative to the Government but to issue a notification that reliance must not in future be placed upon obtaining support from the Government. By the advice of my Council I published a Proclamation on the 9th June that relief would thereafter be confined to the sick and infirm, and to destitue widows and orphans; so that others who had been in the habit of trusting [?] Government for support might in time provide themselves with subsistence during the next winter. Timely warning was thus given with due publicity. Many have profited by it and made provision for their necessities, and all might more or less have done so. It has been providential that the resources at the command of the industrious operative during the past favorable season have enabled and justified the Executive in abiding by the Proclamation, and the provision for employment which in many cases resulted from the determination of the Government will doubtless be productive of vast benefit to all interested; and all are interested in the suppression of the gigantic evils which, in the words of the Proclamation, are shewn to have been produced by a periodical and gratuitous distribution of food, in the destruction of every feeling of self-reliance and of all motive for industrious effort.
Many have been added to the numbers of those availing themselves of the Act which was continued, during the last Session, for the reduction of pauperism by promoting the cultivation of the soil, but yet fewer than might have so aided their other means of livelihood. The additional means of subsistence thus afforded by land obtainable free of charge by those who are willing to labor, in every district of the Colony, of which the occupation is facilitated by the bounty offered and ready to be paid by the Government on the cultivation of the soil, whilst affording present compensation, would surely be most conducive to permanent independence.
Mr. Speaker and Gentlemen of the Honorable House of Assembly:
The usual annual Estimates and Accounts shall be laid before you without delay. The collections under the Revenue Act of 1868 have not been equal to the escimited amount, though larger than those afforded by that of 1867. I rely upon your making due provision for the public service.
Mr. President and Gentlenen of the Legislative Council:
Mr. Speaker and Gentlemen of the Honorable House of Assembly:
During a regent visit to England, I had opportunity for personal communication with Her Majesty's Secretary of State upon the questions connected with the 'French Shore.' to which your memorials of last Session referred. You will be glad to be assured that the subject is receiving the careful attention of Her Majesty's Government and that His Grace the Secretary of State had adopted measures to resume negotiations with the French Government for the purpose of arriving at such an amicable understanding as would give effect to the views embodied in the Report of the Joint Communittes of your Honourable Houses made during the Session of 1867 and adopted by you. I trust that it will not be long belore these negotiations are completed in an arrangetinent which will be advantageous to both parties, aud while ensuring the due observance of Fishery rights under treaties will remove all obstacles, to the application of capital to mining enterprises in any places on the coast where it may promise to be remunerative. In anticipation of the formal agreement which has been proposed to the French Government, I bave been acquained by His Grace, the late Secretary of State, that he approves of the policy indicated in Lord Carnarvon's despatch of the 7th Deceuber 1866, that no action should be taken which can in any way be construed into an interference with the French in the exercise of their Fishery rights, and is of opinion that this policy should be adhered to; but it appears to His Grace that the restriction placed has perhaps been construed more widely than is necessary. I am informed that His Grace sees no reason why grants should not be sanctioned in the interior of the Island. although near the Coast included in the French limits, provided that no right is granted which will enable buildings to be erected upon the Strand, or which would cause the French to apprehend any interruption to the full enjoyment by them of any of the privileges belonging to their Fishery rights.
There is an increasing number of applications for mining licenses of search, as well as for Timber Cutting, many of which I shall now consider myself authorised to entertain; and any works which may consequently be put into operation must necessarily involve the investment of capital and employment of labor. With reference to this subject I suggest to you that it will be expedient to make some new Statutory provisions in respect of Licenses or Grants for Timber cutting, with regard to which the existing law is insufficient.
In accordance with the provisions made during the last Session for the conveyance of the Mails between St. John's and Halifax. I have entered into a contract with the Liverpool, New York and Philadelphia Steam Ship Company for this service, for the period of three years, from the 15th of July last, at the rate of ÂŁ9,000 per annum, of which one half will be defrayed by the Imperial Government. The arrangement has received the approval of Her Majesty's Government. The performance of the service up to this time has been found to be generally satisfactory, and the vessels employed unexceptionable for the purpose. I shall cause copies of the Agreement with Messrs. Inman and Company to be laid before you.
The great question of the expediency of Union with the Dominion of Canada still remains for your judgment. Your decision upon the principle involved, and consideration of the terms under which such an arrangement will be desirable, can scarcely be longer deferred with advantage to the community with whose interests we are charged. I believe that public opinion has reached a stage which is ripe for dealing with this subject in a spirit of calm and deliberate investigation. Whatever may be the diversity of views entertained and promulgated by different parties, it cannot be disputed that the issue of this controversy must be one of signal importance to the future destinies of this community. I do not underrate the magnitude of the interests involved, but I have never concealed from you that my dispassionate consideration of the proposal induces me strongly to believe that those interests will be promoted by Union with the progressive communities which now form the Dominion. I have no reason to doubt what I have stated to you on former occasions that the Government of Canada is disposed to meet in a spirit of liberality, any suggestions which may ema [?] from you. The essence of any agreement which should be mutually advantageous must be its equity, and own self respect will prevent any demands being made by us which would place us in the position of an artificially protected dependency when desiring to form an integral part of a trans-atlantic portion of the British Empire daily increasing in wealth and importange.I recommended anew the whole subject to your careful thought, in confidence that it will receive your attention. The renewal of the Treaty of Reciprocal Trade with the United States is a matter sure to obtain the best efforts of the Government of the Dominion for its settlement on satisfactory terms at no distant date, but it is useless to disregard the fact that the present financial position of the Colony precludes any hope of our being able to avail ourselves of any such arrangement unless as forming part of the Dominion, and this circumstances alone shows the weighty character of the question you are called upon to decide. We cannot remain aloof from the Union without being compelled to impose much higher taxation upon the labouring classes for some years to come than any likely to be raised by the Parliament of the Dominion. Before any final arrangement can be completed opportunity will be afforded, for, its acceptance and ratification by the Constituencies. But it rests with you if you agree that Union is desirable, to devise the best means of arriving at satisfactory terms with the Government of the Dominion. When these are concerned, the Imperial Act provides the mode of admission to the Dominion by order of Her Majesty in council upon such terms as shall be expressed in Addresses from the Parliament of Canada and the Legislature of this Colony, and shall be approved by Her Majesty.
I will not detain you longer from the discharge of your duties. Conscious of their high importance, I pray that the Almighty Ruler of events may guide you in your deliberation.
His Excellency's speech is one of much more than ordinary importance, embracing, as it does, a distinct proposition to deal with the great question of the day, as well as for the satisfactory information contained in it regarding our laud rights on the French Shore. On the former matter, we have no doubt whatever that the proposition of Union on reasonable terms will be sustained in the Legislature by a sweeping majority. It has come to be admitted by all who reason on the subject that the exigencies of this country now demand some remedial measure from without—something too radical and comprehensive to lie within compass of any merely local expedient that can be devised. In Confederation alone are we offered this means of meeting the requirements of our condition; and we are therefore confident that the wise and practical suggestions of his Excelleney's speech will meet that response which sense and intelligence must dictate to a people whose vital interests are involved in the speedy settlement of this question.
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