Legislative Assembly of Prince Edward Island, 21 April 1868, Prince Edward Island Confederation with Canada.


TUESDAY, April 21.

Afternoon Session.
On motion of Hon. Leader of the Government, the House resolved itself into a committee of the whole on the consideration of certain despatches.
Mr. Reilly in the chair.
The Despatch was read relating to the Confederating of the Provinces of Canada, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia.
HON. LEADER OF THE GOVERNMENT.-This Despatch, Mr. Chairman, merely informs us of the fact that the provinces mentioned in it have been confederated. We might remark, however, that if we take notice of the working of the Dominion, which has lately been formed, we will find that not only has it lost one of its most talented statesmen as we have heard within the last few days, but that there is a great deal of dissatisfaction existing among its people In fact a delegation has been sent to England from one of the confederated provinces, (Nova Scotia) for the purpose of trying to get a repeal of the Act which unites that province with Canada. In the province of New Brunswick also, if we are to believe what appears in the newspapers, there is a great deal of dissatisfaction. Although we did not join the Union, we may be sorry that those who have done so should begin to complain before they have given the Government of the New Dominion a fair trial. As to whether Nova Scotia will succeed in her attempt, to withdraw from the Dominion or not, is a subject upon which I will not venture an opinion.
HON. ATTORNEY GENERAL.-Mr. Chairman, when in London last year I saw a great placard posted up containing the proclamation which is in that despatch, and I was not sorry to find that our little Island was not included in it. With the doubts we had on the subject, I think it was well to wait and ascertain how the system would work. And now we see that the people of one of the most important parts of the Dominon are very dis PARLIAMENTARY REPORTER. 217 satisfied, and I think with very good reason, for they were forced into the Union against their will ; and if justice is done to that colony I think that before many months we shall see a great change in the constitution of the Dominion. If Nova Scotia records in getting out of Confederation, New Brunswick will very likely follow, for she connected to enter the Union with the understanding that Nova Scotia was also to be a part of the Dominion. It has not worked as well as it promoters thought it would, and I think we may be satisfied that we are free from it.
Hon. Mr. MCAULAY.—There is scarcely an incident, Mr. Chairman, which passes before the eyes of a wine man which does not teach him a lesson, and I think we have learned a lesson from what has transpired in the neighboring provinces. I think we acted the wine part in refraining from joining the Union until we found out what effect Confederation would have on the other provinces. It is a satisfaction also to know that the most ardent unionist in this Island would not comment to join the Union without appealing to the people and obtaining their comment. So soon as it appears that a Union will be advantageous to us, it will be soon enough for us to think seriously of joining it. We have taken the safe course, and we are not affected with that disaffection which prevails in the other colonies. They acted the part of a child springing to grasp something which appeared bright, but the nature of which it did not understand. I hope, however, that the results will not be so disastrous to them as some persons anticipated. I cannot agree with my hon. friend the Attorney General that New Brunswick can free herself from the Union—for she entered it in of her own accord, and she must lie on the bad which she made for herself,
Hon. Mr. HENDERSON.—I think, Mr. Chairman, that no hon. member can think with indifference of the subject before the committee. It is true that the New Brunswickers entered the union with too great haste, and the fact that they are now dissatisfied with their position goes to confirm what you, Sir, and others have so often expressed as your convictions, that nothing would justify us in entertaining the question while we could avoid it. But while the people of New Brunswick entered the union those of Nova Scotia were dragged into it by a conspiracy, a conspiracy against the best interests of the whole colony, and a gross abuse to the constitutional power put into the hands of the people's representatives for a very different purpose. Now, Sir, I feel no pleasure at any confusions or disturbance in any portion of the North American Provinces, for whatever tends to distrub any portion, more or less tends to disturb the whole, and we being so closely connecting with the rest must sensibly feel the effects of any jarring elements at work within them. But, Sir, it is easy to contrast the first movements of the Dominion machinery with the glorious state of things which the admirers of union would fain have made us believe would be the result. I think that whatever may be said of the future prospects of the Dominion, every person who takes a fair survey of the question will come to the conclusion that for the present, at least, it will be better for Prince Edward Island to retain her isolated position,
Hon. LEADER OF THE GOVERNMENT.—About the time the Dominion Government was being formed, an offer of $800,000 was made to this Island, and it was thought by a great many that this would be sufficient to induce the people to go into Confederation, that it would be enough to buy out the proprietors claims. But it should be remembered that that was an offer of the Nova Scotia and New Brunswick Delegates, and was not confirmed by the Canadians, and if the people of this Island had joined the Union it is very doubtful if these promises would have been fulfilled. I believe the people of this Island are satisfied that they are better off in their present position than they would be if connected with Canada even had they obtained the $800,000. There was no guarantee that the Dominion Government would pass a compulsory measure to settle the land question, and from the Despatch from the Colonial Minister now before us, we may infer that such a measure would not be sanctioned by the British Government. If the proprietors were unwilling to sell, the Dominion Government although they had offered the $800,000, would not be called upon to pay it. If ever this Island does enter Confederation it will be when matters are going on more smoothly than at present.
Hon. Mr. DAVIES.—I wish, Mr. Chairman, to my a few words on this subject, chiefly to express my sympathy with the people of Nova Scotia who have been dragged into the Union against their wishes. A far as my knowledge goes, I believe the people of this Island are unwilling to join the Union on any terms. The $800,000 would nothing like compensate us for the disadvantages to which we would be subjected by enter confederation. I believe that if the grievances connected with the land tenure were far worse than they are, the people would submit to them rather than join themselves to Canada. We may, however, express our regret that the people of Nova Scotia have been forced into a union which they did not desire. There is a strong link connecting us with the people of Nova Scotia, and it is lamentable to contemplate the position they are in at present ; but I have no doubt but that they will yet be allowed to secede from the Dominion, and again assume the proud position they formerly occupied.
Mr. MCNEILL.—It is true, Mr. Chairman, that the people of the lower provinces entered the union without sufficiently considering the subject, and numbers of the people of this Island thought it would be a benefit. It was a new thing which the people did not understand; we had suffered a good deal from this rent system, and some were under the impression that confederation might be a panacea for that evil. About the time it was first brought to our notice, however, a great many public meetings were held through the country, (for what purpose it is not necessary now to state,) but this matter, among others, was thoroughly discussed. The people of this Island when they take a matter into consideration are quite capable of judging for themselves, and they declared against confederation for this reason, that if they joined it instead of having the management of their own affairs, they would have no control, and these taxes would be appropriated without their consent. There was another reason also, they watched the proceedings of the delegates who met at Quebec, and they found there was very little sympathy or respect for Prince Edward Island. Even the talented T. D'Arcy McGee, whose untimely death we have been lately deploring, could not refrain from indulging in a little burlesque on our Island by saying that they would send one of their PARLIAMENTARY REPORTER. 218 steamers and tow it up into one of their lakes. But while we rejoice that we have escaped the evils of confederation, we deplore the fact that our sister province Nova Scotia was not so fortunate. She was sold into confederation by her unprincipled representatives, but her brave and intelligent people unwilling tamely to submit to such treatment, are at present engaged in a great contest for the recovery of their former rights and privileges. They have just reason to rebel; and it is my opinion that they will eventually regain their constitution and forsake their undesirable alliance with Canada. The Americans were many years trying to gain their independence; and Nova Scotia may also be a considerable time before she gets free, and it is not improbable that another American war may be brought on before the question is settled. Nova Scotia is an injured province, she has been forced into union against the wishes of five-sixths of her inhabitants. The British Government may not however be blameable in this matter, for after the Quebec Conference the delegates went home and stated that all the people were in favor of Confederation. The Lieutenant Governor's of the different provinces received their instructions to carry out this matter, (I was going to say by fair means or foul,) and a pressure was brought to bear which should not have been in a free colony. I think it would be no more than right for this Legislature to pass a resolution sympathising with Nova Scotia in the struggle in which she is now engaged, and expressing a hope that she will succeed to her efforts, er if she can be forced into confederation against her will, we may be also. It appears that the New Brunswickers are also beginning to be dissatisfied with their condition, but as they voluntarily entered it they must put up with the consequence.


The Parliamentary Reporter of Debates and Proceedings of the House of Assembly. Charlottetown: The Examiner, 1868. Microfilm copies provided by the Prince Edward Island Libraries and Archives.



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