Legislative Assembly of Prince Edward Island, 7 March 1870, Prince Edward Island Confederation with Canada.

Mr. BELL wished to reply to the remarks of the hon. Leader of the Opposition respecting Mr. I. C. Hall. The trade of this Island was crippled for want of a market for our produce, and since the abrogation of the Reciprocity Treaty, the duty of two dollars per barrel on mackerel, 10 cents per bush. on oats, and twenty-five cents per bush. on potatoes, had almost closed the American market against these articles altogether. The hon. Leader of the Opposition might be very loyal, as he had nothing to lose on account of this prohibitory tariff, but others felt the loss of the American market most keenly.
Hon. Mr. HAVILAND stated that he did not object to Mr. Hall trying to get a treaty, but to his saying that the majority of the people of this Island were disloyal.
Mr. BELL said it was the opinion of the greatest statesmen in the world that the whole continent of North America would eventually form one great nation. If Mr. Hall had stated that the majority of the people of this Island were in favor of Annexation, the hon. Leader of the Opposition could not say that it was untrue; he did not know the feelings of the people in the country. When a poor man had a large family to support, he would be very much inclined to pursue for his family without troubling himself much acout loyalty. If Mr. Hall succeeded in getting us a market for our produce, for which there was at present scarcely any demand, he deserved more praise from the people of this Island than those obstructionists, who were continually crying out that we must not do this or that on account of our loyalty.
Mr. BRECKEN remarked that the name of a gentleman had been brought up in this debate who was a high-minded, liberal man, and who, while carrying on a successful business in this Island, had done a great deal for large numbers of men whom he employed. That man had a large interest at stake, and he had a perfect right to go to Washington to negotiate a treaty, but he had no right to tamper with out political position, and say that the people of this Island were willing to annex themselves to the United States.
Mr. BELL asked if the hon. member (Mr. Brecken) could say that the majority of the people of this Island were not in favor of Annexation.
Mr. BRECKEN said that he had been born under the stars and stripes, he should have gloried in being a son of the Great Republic, for he believed the Americans were as far ahead of us as the white man was in advance of the indian, but his lot having been cast under the British flag, he believed in remaining true to it. If Confederation succeeded, the tie that bound us to the Mother Country would be drawn more closely, but if Confederation did not succeed, the next alternative would be Annexation.
The House then went into Committee on the Address in answer to His Honor's speech.
Hon. Mr. Kelly in the Chair.
On the first paragraph being read--
Mr. REILLY, in rising to move its adoption, admitted that the hon. Leader of the Opposition was right when he said PARLIAMENTARY REPORTER. 12 that he (Mr. R.) should have made a speech when moving the Address, but he had lately been reading May on Parliament, and had there learned that he should also have appeared in court dress, so be hoped that he might be excused for having neglected both. He felt certain that the paragraph just read, which expressed satisfaction that His Honor the Administrator enjoyed the confidence of Her Majesty, and continued to administer the Goverrnent of the Colony, would receive the cordial approval of this committee, for he believed that it enunciated not only the views of the house but of the whole country.
The second paragraph of the Address, that relating to the visit of Prince Arthur, was then read.
Hon. Mr. LAIRD said that the paragraph now before the committee expressed the belief that the auspicious event to which it referred would still further strengthen those feelings of loyalty and attachment to Her Majesty's person and throne, for which the people of this Islaud had ever been characterized. He had never heard in the country that there was any doubt entertained as to the loyalty of the Government, but from the remarks which had fallen from the hon. Leader of the Opposition it would appear that they were about to be put to the test on this question. That hon. member had, in effect, said, that opposition to Confederation was disloyalty. Now, he (Mr. L.) had lately read that a distinguished Canadian statesman had reamarked that independence and annexation were co-relative terms. The British Government, which might be called the government of governments, did not seem to object to independence, for an hon. gentleman of influence and position in the Dominion, who had declared that he looked forward to the time when Canada would become independent, was afterwards knighted by his sovereign. It was, therefore, evident that the free expression of such opinions was not regarded with disfavor by the Imperial authorities, and why, he would ask, should we be branded with disloyalty if we pre ferred remaining a part of the British empire to becoming a mere province of the Dominion of Canada? He (Mr. L.) did not, perhaps, attach as much importance to the Prince's visit as some persons, still he did not doubt that the presence amongst us of a son of our virtuous Queen tended to call forth feelings of respect for her person and loyalty to her government. In some quarters, he believed, the hope was expressed that a scion of the royal House of Britain would yet occupy the throne of the Dominion. If such was the expectation of the British Government he feared they would be disappointed. Residents in America generally were too much afraid of expense to think of a monarchy. One reason why independence was so much talked of now was because the present government in the mother country, which might be said to be largely influenced by the Manchester school of politicians, was attempting economy, in order to decrease taxation, and, therefore, the Colonies were looked upon as a burden. But he was of opinion that were the question put to the British people, a large majority would declare therselves opposed to the dismemberment of the empire. It was very evident that should the Dominion become independent, it would be a very expensive country to govern, as it was composed of merely a strip of habitable territory. If this Colony, then, refused to become incorporated with the Dominion, in order to save ourselves from its burdens, he did not think we should be charged with disloyalty, particularly as we wished to return our connection with Britain. We were no expense to the Mother Country. The Governor's salary itself was now paid out of the Island treasury. Even this paltry amount was refused us, though we have had to pay out of our own pockets for lands which the other Colonies received for nothing. Thousands upon thousands, too, were expended in supporting military establishments in the other Provinces, while, if troops were sent to this Island, we had to pay for them to the last shilling. But the state of the Dominion generally was not such as to invite us to become a part PARLIAMENTARY REPORTER. 13 of the confederacy. Her statesmen were accusing each other of corruption and dishonesty, words which, notwithstanding our sharp discussions, never disgraced our Legislature. Nova Scotia was not yet very contented, nor was the Red River trouble settled, therefore, taking all those things into consideration, he thought the people of this Island might very well shrink from entering the Dominion; and he had yet to learn that desiring to remain a separate dependency of the British empire could be called disloyalty, or that the wishes of the Imperial Government should deter us from declining to accept the proposals of Canada.
Mr. BRECKEN--This question was one to which, in the language of the address, we should give "our calm and deliberate attention." We were bound to return to the people the trust which we received from their hands; but every hon member ought to express his convictions on the subject under discussion, and not merely the sentiments which he thought would catch the popular breeze. The statesmen and the press of England seem disposed to allow the colonists to take the course which they consider most conducive to their interests, whether to retain their connection with the Mother Country, choose independence, or form an alliance with the great republic. The latter did not involve very great changes. We were really the same people, for we had the same origin, langauge and literature. A person taken blindfolded from these Colonies and set down in the United States, would scarcely distinguish that he had pased into a foreign country. But when we discussed the question of consolidation with the neighboring States, we should not make ourselves contemptible by talking of it as a step which this Colony could take alone. We would go into annexation, if it ever came, just as soon as the rest of British America, and not one day sooner. Though the people here were to meet Mr. I. C. Hall on his return, and literally bow down on their knees and worship him for what he had said and done in Washington, it would not make the slightest difference with respect to united this Island with the republic. The hon member from Bedeque had stated that some eminent Canadian statesman had said that independence and annexation meant the same thing, and that Hon. Mr. Galt, for he believed that was the statesman alluded to, looked forward to the time when Canada would become independent; hence the hon. member seemed to argue that our going into Confederation would only hasten these events. But Mr. Galt was a confederate, and he must believe that confederation would succeed first, else how could he expect that independence would come? If confederation could do this for the Provinces, make them populous, wealthy and prosperous, so that they could set up as an independent country, then confederation must be a good thing. Canada could not become independent with a sparse population engaged in clearing away the forests and driving out the foxes. She must induce the people from the crowded cities and districts of the Mother Country to come and occupy her lands and build up her manufacturing industries, and Mr. Galt's position was that confederation would do this for her, and, as a consequence, independence would follow. And he (Mr. B.), if he might be allowed to couple his name with such a talented and distinguished man, would say that he agreed with Mr. Galt. He might be told that this was putting a different aspect on the question from the no-terms resolutions, which he supported, though at the time he did so he objected to the wording of them. The case, however, was quite different now. Then Confederation was onlyy a theory, now, with the exception of Newfoundland, it was an accomplished fact. Mention had been made of the charges preferred by Canadian politicians against each other. He supposed the allusion had reference to Sir Francis Hincks; but was that an argument why we should not go into the Dominion? Did the hon member for Bedeque, who brought up this matter, though he paid a compliment to our legislature, think that the people of this Colony were all so moral that there would never arise the person here who would tamper with the PARLIAMENTARY REPORTER. 14 public funds? Were we so much better than our neighbours? Look at the United States. Where was the case of Andrew Johnson, the late President of that country, who was accused of almost every crime, and yet retained his position in spite of the House of Representatives? The hon member was also boastful about our position; we did not, he said, receive a shilling from the Home Government; the Governor's salary itself was paid by the Colony, and we were now ready for the fight. Well, all he (Mr. B.) could sayd was that a very different tone characterized the remarks of the Leader of the Government last session when he introduced the salary question. That gentleman, who was not now a member of this House, he highly esteemed in all the relations of life. Though he held an office which he (Mr. B.) would rather have seen given to another, yet his presence on the Bench never suggested to him that he had been a political opponent. He believed that the scales of justice were safe in his hands, and he could further say that all his business intercourse with him during his political career had been pleasant and agreeable. That hon gentleman, when he proposed the payment of the Governor's salary, argued that no course was open to the House but to submit to the desire of the Home Government as expressed in the despatch of the Colonial Minister. At first he (Mr. B.) thought the point might be perhaps as well be yielded without any further objection. But, on reflection, after the first day's discussion of the subject, he suggested that as we had a good claim on account of the manner in which our lands were disposed of by the British Government, it might be well to try another remonstrance. But he was met by the hon members of the Government with a declaration that such a step would be useless; that there was a threat in the despatch, and if we did not pay the Governor's salary, oh we would be forced into Confederation! The Opposition had a caucus on the question, the only one they held last session, and there Hon. Mr. Palmer, who was an anti-Confederate, expressed the opinion that there was no danger of being coerced into Union, though we declined to vote the salary, as the British American Act expressly declared that admission into the Dominion was to be by joint addresses of both branches of the Legislature. This provision in that Act was mentioned in the House, but it would not do, nothing would satisfy the Government but to go down on their knees and vote the Governor's salary. If the hon member for Bedeque was sincere then, when he voted away a paltry £2100, which he said he had no right to do, how was it he had become so bold now that he can afford to speak lightly of the earnest wishes of Her Majesty's Imperial Government?
Hon. Mr. LAIRD had been accustomed to look upon the hon. member for Charlottetown as a credit to the House, but to-night he had somewhat lost that favorable opinion. The hon member while talking about loyalty had remarked that Mr. Galt had said Confederation meant independence, and independence meant annexation, and, as the hon member agreed with Mr. Galt, he must be an annexationist.
Mr. BRECKEN would not be misunderstood. He was not in favor of annexation, but he looked upon isolation as played out. Either confederation or annexation must come, and he believed that confederation would carrry the day. British institutions were being put on their trial on this continent, and if they failed of success, he would admit he was wrong in advocating confederation. He, however, looked upon our entering the Dominion as a necessity.
Mr. HOWAT.--The hon. member for Charlottetown said there were only two courses before us, confederation or annexation. He (Mr. H.) did not think so. The Channel Islands, near Britian, had never been confederated with her, and yet he believed their inhabitants were loyal. The very way to make the people here disloyal would be to coerce them to join the Dominion. This fuss about loyalty did not amount to much, for the moment Canada became independent, were we connected with her, our allegiance to the British Crown could cease. He believed there was not a more loyal people anywhere than the inhabitants of PARLIAMENTARY REPORTER. 15 this Island, if they were only left alone. Unless the Imperial Government was mocking us, we were at perfect liberty to enter or remain out of Confederation. If Canada became independent, her expensese would be greatly increased. His opinion, therefore, was that we should stay out of the Dominion, remain loyal, and let the people of Canada, if they chose, become rebels as they were once before.
Mr. BRECKEN admitted there had been a rebellion in Canada, but he had heard old residents of the province say that Papineau and those who took part with him in that disturbance were right. There hd been wrongs and grievances in that country which required to be redressed, and the course which these men took, call them rebels if you will, resulted in obtaining for Canada the boon of responsible government. The British Government had admitted the justice of their cause when it came forward and indemnified them for their losses. Lafontaine, one of their leaders, was afterwards made Chief Justice of Lower Canada, another, for whose head a reward was offered, was made a baronet, and Sir George Cartier, who also took part in the rebellion, had been honored by his sovereign and privileged to dine at Buckingham Palace.
Hon. P. SINCLAIR thought there must be something wrong with either the head or the heart of the hon member for Charlottetown, when he said that a Canadian was made a baronet for resisting the laws of his country. He (Mr. S.) believed that the members of the Tenant League in this Island, so strongly condemned here from time to time, by some of the Opposition party, had a much more just and righteous cause of complaint than the Canadian rebels of 1837, and yet had not adopted so high-handed a course to seek redress. The hon. member for Charlottetown also said that the Government should have refused to pay the Governor's salary. Lst session, he was so indignant on this point, at last, that, notwithstanding the strong terms of the Coloninal Minister's despatch, he almost offered to go and plead the cause of the Colony at the bar of the House of Commons; but this year, simply because the British Governmnet expressed a wish that we should enter Confederation, he would give up the rights of the Colony at once, and comply with their desire.
Mr. BRECKEN presumed that the prin ciple on which the so-called rebels of Canada had been rewarded was because they had rendered a service to their country. By indemnifying them, the British Government had admitted that the grievances of which they complained should have been redressed before the rebellion occurred. The hon member for New London had dragged in the complaints of the Tenant League in comparison with those which caused the disturbance in Canada. It was tiem this smelt-fishing in politics was given up. No resemblance existed between the two cases; yes, there was one point in which they might be said to agree - one of the Canadian rebels had been made a baronet and the hon. member for Belfast, Colonial Secretary. But, in other respects, there was a wide difference, for no bill of indemnity had been passed for the benefit of these unfortunate members of the league who had suffered imprisonment.
Hon. COL. SECRETARY was amused to hear the utterances of the hon. member for Charlottetown in this debate. While the Liberal party were working out principles which that aristocrat had opposed, he had become republican in sentiment. The hon. member had also taken the position of justifying the Canadian rebellion; some of his remarks, in fact, were almost bordering on sedition.
Hon. Mr. HAVILAND contended that if the hon. member for Charlottetown had uttered seditious sentiments, it was his (Col. Secy's) place, as first officer of the Government, to have him prosecuted.
Mr. CAMERON thought the paragraph before the committee had been overlooked. The hon. member for Charlottetown had said that isolation was played out, which meant that we must become confederated with Canada, or annexed to a foreign power. There might be some persons in the country in favor of one or other of these changes, but the large majority of the people was opposed to them both. He (Mr. C.) had as yet heard no argument advanced to show that the British Government was going to coerce us into Confederation. The people had a perfect right, he thought, to act as they pleased in this matter; and as they believed that union with Canada would increase their expenses and bring to corresponding benefit to the country, they were generally opposed to it. He did not see why this Island should not remain an inde PARLIAMENTARY REPORTER. 16 pendent Colony as well as others. If the Colonies in all parts of the world were to be confederated, some more general arrangement would have to be made than any yet brought to our notice.
Hon. Mr. McAULAY read the paragraph in the Address referring to Confederation, which promised that the House would give the subject "calm and deliberate attention," and asked whether hon. members had forgotten it.
Mr. McNEILL had the misfortune during his short political life to lose two political leaders, and was now serving under the third or fourth, but he had learned to attach little importance to loud professions. It was generally a sign of a weak cause. When a mere lad, an old friend had warned him to beware of those who boasted of their honesty, as they rarely could be trusted. He thought he might apply the advice to the loud professions of loyalty on the part of some hon. members in this discussion. He was in Canada about the time of the rebellion there, and was aware that it resulted in good. Lafontaine got possession of the Government, and then those who were displaced from power memorialized the sovereign against those who had shed blood receiving the seals of office. But no attention was paid to their remonstrance. In process of time he had no doubt that the tenant leaguers would be looked upon pretty much in the same light as the Canadian rebels. He had yet to learn that those of them who were lodged in jail had been urged by any person to act as they had done, but this, he knew, that they did not want the sympathy of the hon. member for Charlottetown. But to turn to the question of union, that gentleman appeared to think that there were only two courses open to us, confederation or annexation. He (Mr. McN.) could not see this. Why should we be under the necessity of going into annexation now, more than we ever were? There might possibly be a few more people in its favor than formerly, but he believed we could remain out of annexation as long as Canada could. In his opinion, the time was not far distant when European rule must cease in America. Look at Cuba, where Spanish rule was struggling for an existence, and at the failure of France to uphold an empire in Mexico. He agreed with the remark once made by the Hon. Mr. Howe, that the best course for Canada to pursue was to remain quiet; if she did so, she might prosper. But if she went about setting up a kingdom, and provoked the United States to war, she might be overrun in one week. Why the Dominion Government was so anxious to get this Island, he (Mr. McN.) could not understand. They had already plenty of territory. Canada, he contended, lowered herself in making this offer to the Island, for it looked as if they thought we were setting ourselves up for sale.
Hon. MR. HAVILAND remarked that he did not intend to speak on confederation now. When the despatches and correspondence in possession of the Government, and the despatches that might come during the session, were before the House, he would be prepared to go into this great question. And he hoped when the discussion of this important subject came on. There would be nothing heard in this House about bibery and corruption, or Canadian gold. He believed that no person in this Island had received Canadian gold to advocate confederation, nor did he think that any person had received American gold to advocate annexation. Let us have none of these vile insinuations that had passed through the press. Some of the main arguments in favor of Confederation were, that we might have a central authority for the direction of troops, and a breaking down of those hostile tariffs which prevented a free interchange of commodities. The United States, which some hon. members in this House so much admired, would not have become so great had these tariffs between them not been swept away. But this was not the proper time to go into these questions.
Hon. MR. CALLBECK argued with the hon. Leader of the Opposition, that this was not the proper time to discuss the confederation question; but if we gave no expression upon it, it might be said that we were waiting for the current of public opinion. He believed it was our duty when proposals came from the Dominion Government to give them our calm consideration. It had been said by hon. members on the other side of the House, that, as we had to pay the Governor's salary, we would be under the same necessity to yield to the wishes of the British Government with respect to Confederation. He (Mr. C.) did not think so. We had no means of competing the home Government to pay the PARLIAMENTARY REPORTER. 17 Governor's salary, and now since we had voted it, we stood in a good position to give this question a deliberate consideration. When the proposals came, he took them home, and studied them over in his mind, and the conclusion at which he arrived was that they were not fair to this Island. He thought that while Canada continued in her present unsettled state, we might as well remain as we were. If, after a time, we saw that confederation was going to be an advantage, we might then enter the Dominion. He believed that when the United States were confederated, Rhode Island obtained as good terms when she entered the Union as those states which entered at first. The people of this Island would bear taxes sufficient for the wants of the Colony; but they would object to see their money taken away and expended on works in Canada which would yield them no benefit.
The debate was then adjourned.


The Parliamentary Reporter of Debates and Proceedings of the House of Assembly. Charlottetown: Partiot Book and Job Printing Rooms, 1870. Microfilm copies provided by the Prince Edward Island Libraries and Archives.



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