Legislative Assembly of Prince Edward Island, 27 March 1865, Prince Edward Island Confederation with Canada.


MONDAY, March 27.

House resumed consideration of the papers relating to the Union of the Colonies.
Hon. MR HENSLEY, Mr Speaker, I have heard it stated that all the talent in this House was enlisted on the side of the Union ; assuming such to be the case, as I am not in the habit of making long speeches, which, under such a state of fact, must, of neces sity, be productive of no benefit, I am happy to console myself by the reflection, that we have, at least, a numerical superiority, as there are some 25 or 26 members who are opposed to "all the talent" on this question. A question of this magnitude should be approached free from political or party bias. When the matter of Confederation was under discussion last Session the idea was expressed, and very generally acquiesced in, that united with only the Maritime Provinces, we would be absorbed, and quotations from speeches of the Provincial Secretary of Nova Scotia, and others, as to the absorption of that Province in case of Union with Canada were adduced to warrant the opinion. Well, Sir, if such would probably be the effect of our connection with Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, I can only come to the conclusion that we would be entirely swamped if we cast in our lot with Canada. No doubt the idea of forming part of a great country is very captivating, if we really were a separate and solitary people ; but, I cannot recognise its force in our case when I call to mind that we are part and parcel of the great British Empire. The important question for our consideration is whether we are bound by the action of the Quebec Convention. It is quite clear that we are not. That Convention was held without any authority from this House, and the Delegates had no power to agree to any conclusions on the subject, but at the utmost, merely to report to this House. I regret that they agreed to so formal a document as the one before us, as it seems to convey the idea to the world that they possessed powers to treat and make a binding arrangement. It has been said and written that we shall be driven into this Confederacy. I would ask what foundation exists for such an assertion ? Whence does it arise ? We have no despatches before us indicating such an eventuality ; in fact the documents submitted to us lead to the belief in my mind that we shall be allowed to deal with this matter as we please. I believe that the fact is that the Canadians finding a general Union of the Colonies would be of service to themselves, sent Delegates here with the view of commending their project to the favorable consideration of the Legislatures of the Lower Provinces, and I do not blame them for doing so. The terms of the Report before us are, in my opinion, very unfavorable to this Island. On the scale of representation proposed, we would be without the slightest influence in the United Parliament. It is true that, if we went into the proposed Union, we would have no right to expect as large a number of representatives as either of the Lower Provinces, but then, if, or why should we throw away our independence which we now enjoy ? There would, of necessity, be an increased tariff under the Union, and before I can admit the force of the argument that Canada and New Brunswick will supply us with boots, shoes, spirits and other articles of manufacture and at a lower rate than we can get them at present, I should like to be satisfied, as to their present ability, to supply themselves with those articles. Such returns of importations into these two Provinces, for the year 1863, as we have before us, seem to me rather to indicate an entirely different state of things in that respect. Now, Mr. Speaker, if the people of those two Colonies cannot, with a high protective tariff, furnish the articles I have specified in quantities sufficient for their own requirements, it is not to be supposed that they can supply them to us. Our chief, because most advantageous, trade is with the United States and Great Britain, and as long as we shall find it to our advantage that it should be so, it will naturally seek these channels ; and if we come under the influence of a highest Tariff we shall be taxing our best customers and crippling our most profitable channels for commercial interchange. I cannot think that Great Britain will look favorably on a scheme which, so far as these Lower Colonies are concerned, will have the effect of placing heavier duties on the importation of her manufactured goods.
Hon Mr DAVIES.—This question, Mr Speaker, is, in my opinion, forced upon us. If the States were now in the same position as they were before the outbreak of the Civil War, I would oppose any measure of the sort, but they have now become a great military country, whose boast it has long been to carry out the Monroe doctrine, and to spread the principles of Republicanism over the whole Continent. The Imperial Government has expressed its willingness to aid us. It has said, "Do all that you can towards your own defence, and we will supplement your efforts." We are too small a people for separate and independent action, and that the termination of the present Civil War is at hand may be inferred from the fact that the captain of a blockade-runner told me during the last winter that the game was up ; and we are all aware of the state of feeling which exists in the Northern States and Great Britain, which will most likely find expression in an attempt to realize their oft-repeated vaunt—
No boundless Utica confines our powers, But the whole boundless continent is ours.
Frequent allusion has been made to the debt of Canada, but that debt has been principally incurred in the construction of public works of great value and utility. If we should be absorbed into the United States we would be compelled to assume far greater burdens than those to which we would be liable if united to Canada. I agree that Confederation would exercise a certain moral   influence in our favor, but would prefer to remain as long as we PARLIAMENTARY REPORTER. 51 can in our present state of freedom from taxation. Reference has been made to the unsuccessful attempt made at the Quebec Conference to get an additional member for the Island in the Lower House. I cannot perceive that the additional representation would have, in any appreciable degree, increased our influence in that body. I am not, however, equally satisfied with the proposed Constitution of the Union House. The prices in Canada of tea, sugar, &c., quoted by the hon member for Belfast, do not prove that Confederation would enable the people of this Island to purchase them at the same rates ; for in Canada a merchant can afford to sell at low rates, in consequence of disposing of large quantities at a time. The excise duty must be added to the cost of tobacco. The truth is, Sir, that Halifax must regulate the prices of West India produce in this Colonies. I would be glad to have the continued protection of Great Britain ; but it is well known that these Colonies were to be educated up to a sense of the duties of a nationality. It is but natural that John Bull should at length say, " If they will not defend themselves, let them go?" As I said before, this question is forced on us and face it we must. We cannot doubt that the Americans look with greedy eyes upon the coal fields of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, the acquisition of which would be of incalculable advantage to them not only in times of peace, but also in case of a war with Britain or France, or any of the other European powers.


The Parliamentary Reporter of Debates and Proceedings of the House of Assembly. Charlottetown: The Protestant, 1864-1865. Microfilm copies provided by the Prince Edward Island Libraries and Archives.



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