THE CANADIAN CONFEDERATION.
[To THE EDITOR OF THE "SPECTATOR."] Sin,—IT is natural that great political changes should stimulate opposition. Not only so, but it is desirable that all reasonable objections to proposed changes should be fairly heard and duly considered. Since the delegates from the British American Pro- vinces met in Quebec, with the sanction of the Imperial Govern- ment, and, after much mutual concession, agreed, upon a plan of union, its general features have been closely scanned by the colonists, and its details have been subjected to a careful scrutiny. Confederation has been the burden of their speeches, as well as the chief topic of discussion in the newspapers. The last elections in New Brunswick turned upon the all-absorbing question with a result unequivocally in its favour, to such a degree indeed that its opponents in the legislature of that province now number only eight persons. The Canadian Legislature adopted the conclusions of the delegates by a vote of 45 to 15 in the Upper House, and of 85 to 20 in the Lower Chamber, and the popular sentiment is so clear that any further endorsement is uncalled for. Prince Edward's Island has been coy, but, as it appears, is now ready to submit graciously, if indulged with a few extra favours. Newfoundland displays some lukewarmness in the matter of the partnership, though its legislature affirmed the principle of confederation by a considerable majority. In Nova Scotia the legislature gave a vote in favour of confederation of 43 to 23, after a full debate.
Until lately no one in England thought of casting obstacles in the way of the colonists who were striving to consolidate the government of their country, and, were it not that some of the colonists themselves have come forward to show the simple-minded people there what unsuspected dangers lie concealed in the scheme of confederation, and to lay bare the ingenious trap prepared by mercenary, designing, and disloyal Canadians for their too con- tiding fellow-subjects, I am coavinced that confederation would have received the sanction of Parliament without the dangers being dreamed of or the existence of the trap suspected. Mr. Howe, of Nova Scotia, formerly a member of the legislature of that province, and lately a Fishery Commissioner, has taken with him across the Atlantic a petition against con- federation, the edition of his "Speeches, in two volumes," and several skeleton pamphlets. Two artillery officers who resided for some months in Halifax (where Mr. Howe has his home) have written a book in which, it is said, they express their serious doubts as to the wisdom of uniting the provinces. The Canadian Parliamentary opposition, consisting of twenty members, have written a letter to the Secretary for the Colonies remon- strating against any rash proceedings. Were it not that some influential London journals have given Mr. Howe and his assistants some encouragement, it would hardly be deemed necea-
sary for me to devote much attention to the objections that have
been thus farurged. But a portion of Mr. Howe's counts peen look upon Mr. Howe as a very clever person, and stand rather in dread of him. In fact, they are much troubled that he was not allowed to have the chief seat in the Confederate Synagogue, and even now would cast at his feet all the honour of consummating the scheme of confederation, if they could feel quite sure that he would withdraw all opposition to it on such terms. They have heard his speeches, and read his pamphlets, and they fancy that Her Majesty's Government must succumb to his blazing periods, and yield at discretion to his copious extracts from universal history.
Before examining the grounds of objection urged by the oppo- nents of confederation, it may be as well to explain that the people of the British American Province do not contend that the fate of the Empire hangs on the success of their scheme for building up a Confederacy.' A few persons who presume to speak on their behalf, do certainly insinuate that a high degree of excitement on the part of the mother country would be proper and becoming at this juncture ; but one may take it for granted that on neither side of the ocean is there a very general nervousness on the subject, in so far as England's existence is concerned. Between Mr. Howe and his threatened national crisis I have no desire to interfere. If he thinks that England is about to be given up to immediate and total destruction, and that the famous New Zealander (a fellow-colonist, by the way) is already packing up his trunk preparatory to his prophesied visit, this anxious Nova Scotian is welcome to all the consolation derivable from an undisputed monopoly of the idea.
Mr. Howe's pamphlet discloses, after much sifting, some tan- gible objections to confederation, viz., that he, Mr. Howe, _ has always been and still is opposed to a union of the provinces ; that the proposed scheme is nothing but a trap designed by Canada, in which to catch its unselfish, trusting neighbours, for the purpose of lording it over them ; that Nova Scotia, Prince Edward's Island, and Newfoundland are unwilling to link fortunes with a province so disloyal, so grasping, so factious, so defenceless, so poverty- stricken as Canada ; that the scheme has not been thoroughly dis- cussed, and no direct popular vote has been taken upon it ; that the many conflicting interests it embraces do not warrant a union ; and that confederation will be the precursor of annexation to the United States. Dr. Tupper, the Prime Minister of Nova Scotia, has published a reply to Mr. Howe, in which he proves that the new opponent of a union between the British American Provinces was during a long series of years and up to a very late period the most prominent advocate of union. The evidence produced is Mr. Howe's own declarations and extracts from Mr. Howe's speeches and Mr. Howe's pamphlets, and thus the Mr. Howe of yesterday is made to answer the Mr. Howe of to-day. A few quotations will serve to show how gross inconsistency may be made to thwart itself :— In 1854 Mr. Howe said :—" By a Federal Union of the Colonies we should have something like the neighbouring republic, and if I saw nothing better I should say at once let us keep our local legislatures, and have a president and central congress for all the higher and ex- ternal relations of the United Provinces. Under a Federal Union we should form a large and prosperous nation, lying between the other two branches of the British family, and our duty would evidently be to keep them both at peace."
In 1862 he said :—" He looked hopefully forward to the time when the great provinces of Canada would be connected with the provinces below, and when a man would feel that to be a British American was to be the citizen of a country which included all these fertile lands, all these inexhaustible fisheries, all this immense marine,—carrying to all seas the flag of Old England, if she would lot us ; if not, the flag of British America."
In 1863 he said :—" He was for a Union of all the British North American Provinces, but he was for an Interoolonial Railroad first. Then the road would bring about the Union. He thought a Union should not be delayed till we had drifted into difficulties. How short- sighted were the English statesmen of old who lost them the Thirteen States, when the difficulty could have been arranged in a month, the horrors of the revolutionary war prevented, and all our race living at peace and harmony at present without the bickering and animosity which prevail in their midst. Talk of the fall of Quebec being a source of sorrow to the inhabitants of this province ! It would be more. If the St. Lawrence were in the hands of our enemies, we should be com- pelled to beg permission to tear down the British flag. What he wished for Nova Scotia was, that she may be the frontage of a mighty colony, upon which it may be truly said the sun never set."
In 1861 he said :—"He was not one of those who thanked God that he was a Nova Scotian merely, for he was Canadian as well. He had never thought he was a Nava Scotian, but he had looked across the broad continent, at the great territory which the Almighty had given I " If a union, either partial or complete, should be proposed with the concurrence of the provinces to be united, I am sure that the matter would be weighed in this country both by the public, by Parliament, and by Her Majesty's Government with no other feeling than an anxiety to discern and to promote any course which might be the most conducive to the prosperity, the strength, and the harmony of all the British communities in North Amenca."—Despatch from the Duke of Neweastk, July, 1862.
'You will at the same time express the a'rong and deliberate opinion of tier Majesty's Government that It is an object much to be desired, that all the British North American Colonies should agree to unite iu one Government."—Derpatch from Bight Hon, E. Cardwell to Lord Nowt, June, 1865. na for an inheritance, and studied the mode by which it could be consolidated, the mode by which it could be united, the mode by
which it could be made strong and vigorous, while the old flag still floated over the soil. He was delighted to see such a scene as this, which gave promise that that which was the dream of his boyhood would be realized before he died. Thank God the time had come when Her Majesty's subjects, whether English, French, Scotch, or Irish, might meet together under the old flag, and maintain common sentiments of unity, and look forward to the time when we should make a new England here ; not a new England with republican institutions, but a new England with monarchical institutions! He had always been in favour of the Intercolonial Railway. In conclusion, Mr. Howe said that he was pleased to think that the day was rapidly approaching when the Provinces would be united with one flag above their heads, one thought in all their bosoms, with one Sovereign and one Constitution."
Mr. Howe's other objections are disposed of one after another in a similar fashion, and the refutation is complete. Every argu- ment of the present has its counter-arguement in the past.
It may be hard for the people of England to understand why a person of Mr. Howe's astuteness should lay himself open un- necessarily, and without apology even, to charges of vacillation and unfair dealing. Surely, the opinions of mature manhood may be justly set off against the rash assertions of advanced years ! Surely, conclusions accepted by youth, endorsed by manhood, care- fully weighed, frequently reiterated, and stoutly supported are more worthy of reliance than sophisms of a mushroom growth ! I do not charge Mr. Howe with attempting to deceive the English people. His case presents, in all their nakedness, the worst features of American politics. It can be explained in no other way than that political warfare, as waged on the American side of the Atlantic, recognizes maxims of a questionable character, and that one brought up in the school of colonial politicians ac- customed to act under an elastic code, is trying the effect in England of political manoeuvres which may have proved success- ful elsewhere. But it is hardly complimentary for a colonist to presume on the credulity and ignorance of British statesmen, and an attempt of the kind when discovered must necessarily over- reach itself.
But leaving Mr. Howe and his vagaries out of sight, the objections raised by him and others can be fairly met. If the scheme of confederation be a Canadian measure of " spoliation " and "appropriation," Nova Scotia originated it. Nova Scotia nursed it until it came to maturity ; Nova Scotia tended it, cared for it, and not until 1864 did Canada recognize its claims, or express a willingness to share in its adoption. When it is said that the propositions for union have not been discussed or sub- mitted to a direct popular vote, the reply is that confederation has been before the people in a practical shape since September, 1864; that the Canadian Legislature discussed and adopted it ; that the New Brunswick Legislature discussed and adopted it ; that the Nova Scotia Legislature discussed and acquiesced in it ; that the Newfoundland Legislature affirmed the principle of union ; that Prince Edward's Island Legislature approves of the principle, but questions the details only ; that public opinion may be safely judged of from the action of its constitutional representatives in provinces where almost every man has a vote ; that the recent elections in New Brunswick almost extinguished the Anti-Con- federate party, and every election that has taken place in Canada since the Quebec Convention proved that the scheme found favour with the people ; and that the most prominent public men in all the provinces, from 1800 down to the present time, have advocated or approved of the principle involved, and the British Government during successive administrations has given every encouragement to the project.*
When it is urged that the many conflicting interests of race, religion, and language are obstacles to the harmonious working of Confederation, it should be remembered such an argument applies with equal force to every government on earth, every union of kingdoms, and every union of states. When Mr. Howe sneers at Canada and decries its social and political condition, he is met with the retort that the maritime provinces have no reason to boast of freedom from political contests and religions quarrels. If the Protestant and Roman Catholic are zealous in attacking each other in Canada, they are none the less so in Prince Edward's Island and Newfoundland. The population of Prince Edward's Island is half Protestant and half Roman Catholic, and that of Newfoundland is similarly divided. Politico-religious feuds in these provinces have been carried to far greater lengths than in Canada. But on this part of the question the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Nova Scotia may be considered an authority, and he sees no dreadful consequences in confederation such as Mr. Howe's vivid imagination has conjured up. Dr. Connelly closes a speech in supporting it with these words :— "I feel it a duty to declare myself unequivocally in favour of con- federation as cheaply and as honourably as possible—but confederation at all hazards and at all reasonable sacrifices. After the most mature consideration, and all the arguments I hare heard on both sides for the last month, these are my inmost convictions on the necessity and merits of a measure which alone, under Providence, can secure to us social order, and peace, and rational liberty, and all the blessings we now enjoy under the mildest government and the hallowed institutions of the freest and happiest country in the world."
With the internal politics of Canada I have little to do, but then, if Canadian politicians do abuse each other heartily, it is but another proof of the adage, "The smaller the pit, the more fiercely do the rats fight." I rather suspect, however, that their fellow-politicians in the other provinces would lose little by comparison even in this respect. Mr. Howe refers to the coalition between Herod and Pontius Pilate as the most fitting precedent for the reconcilement effected between two prominent Canadian politicians. Dr. Tupper rather gets the better of Mr. Howe when he asks whether that gentleman was not the Judas who betrayed the maritime provinces.
The charge that Confederation is the stepping-stone to annexa- tion to the American Republic seems to be baseless. I have no hesitation in saying that Confederation is the only possible safe- guard against annexation. New Brunswick is fast connecting itself with the State of Maine in business relations, and lines of railroad in process of construction will serve to draw both countries more closely together. Canada has pressing invitations to join the Republic. Unrestricted trade, freedom from Fenian raids, relief from doubts as to the future are held out as induce- ments, and the temptation is certainly strong. Should Canada accept the proffered terms, the Red River colony would soon follow in its wake, and who would then be found to guarantee the continued existence of a New Brunswick and Nova Scotia as isolated and distinct British provinces ?
But Mr. Howe, while opposing confederation, has a plan of his own for keeping the British flag now and for ever afloat on the American Continent. He wishes to "organize the Empire." He thinks that the security for peace is to be sought "in such an organization and armament of the whole Empire as will make the certainty of defeat a foregone conclusion to any foreigu power that may attempt to break it ;" and he proposes "to treat all thrt colonies which have legislatures, and where the system of responsible government is in operation, as having achieved a higher political status than Crown colonies or foreign dependencies, and to permit them to send to the House of Commons one, two, or three members of their Cabinets, according to their size, population, and relative importance." It is difficult to understand how the position of the American provinces would be bettered by "the organiza- tion of the Empire," if the organization of the colonies in one confederacy, such as is proposed, is, as Mr. Howe alleges, likely to bring about their destruction or absorption in the American Re- public. The fact of the Empire being organized would not shorten the Canadian frontier, diminish the power of the United States, or bring Nova Scotia one inch closer to Canada. The in- ducements he holds out to the Imperial Parliament are not irre- sistible. If Imperial legislators glanced at the certificates of character placed by Mr. Howe in the hands of Canadian public men, these alone would be sufficient to deter them from falling in love with "honourable friends "from abroad. Even the addition of Mr. Howe to the membership of the House of Commons, with his to-day assertions and to-morrow denials, with his readiness to take any side or all sides in debate, with his piles of letters and pamphlets, with his tempestuous loyalty, furious zeal, volcanic oratory, would scarcely reconcile these six hundred gentlemen to such company as he, by his own showing, would bring with hint from North America. It would be dangerous to admit within the bar men with ambition which "overleaps that of Bismarck or Louis Napoleon ;" whose notions of meum and taunt crop out in acts of "spoliation and appropriation ;" who are not inclined to do things by halves, if they concoct measures of spoliation and appropriation "on a more gigantic scale than any that has startled Europe;" and who betray cool impudence in asking Imperial sanction to a scheme "which has for two years convulsed society in British America:" The British Constitution would not be safe in the care of these ferocious Canadians. Even good society in England has reason to feel alarmed at Mr. Howe's ideas of organization. According to him, there is a lack of gentility in the colonies, good manners are at a discount, and were it not that these backwoodsmen have been furnished with "the glass of fashion and the mould of form" in the person of a Governor or Lieutenant-Governor, one fears to think to what a frightful state of vulgarity, if not of absolute barbarism, they might have sunk. An argument against Confederation is based upon this. Mr. Howe says :— " The single 'golden link,' as it is sometimes called, which binds us to the mother country, is to be rudely severed, and the only piece of patronage (?) reserved to the Crown in return for the protection which the 'new nationality' cannot do without, is to be wrenched from the Sovereign and dispensed from some bureau at Ottawa. The pretension is modest. Looking down the long line of Governors who have been sent to us from England, there may have been one or two not overwise, or who were indiscreet, but at all events they were gentlemen, and many brought with them ladies trained in the accomplishments and pure domestic life of this country. . . . The example set by such people and their families is to be traced in the social cultivation and gentle manners diffused from our capital to the shire towns and all over the country. But all this is to be changed. Of course no such people will be eligible under confederation. No nobleman or gentleman who has served his Sovereign by land or sea need apply. Even the Victoria Cross would be no recommendation."
However, I do hope that Mr. Howe will not give himself up to despair. Fashion plates, Court circulars, ball-room guides, and threepenny papers great on questions of etiquette will, in all likelihood, continue to find their way into the provinces when confederated, unless the baser sort of his fellow-politicians make a dead set upon them. Plush and spangles defy tariff, cocked hate and swords are more than a match for the fiercest democracy, and, like thistles, are indigenous to almost every soil. But apart from this, a re-perusal of his "Speeches, in two volumes," might be useful to Mr. Howe. The editor of these "Speeches, in two volumes," who is, by the way, with him in London, can refer him to the following passage in that useful work :— " Governors aro sent to them [the provinces of British America] of whom they never heard,—who are unknown to the higher walks of British Parliamentary life, science, literature, diplomacy, or war."
If Mr. Howe and his editor are both afraid to refresh their memory from the book itself, I tender them consolation in a short extract from a speech delivered by Mr. Howe in 1854.
"The time will come—nay, Sir, it has come—when these degrading distinctions must no longer peril our allegiance. Will any man say that North America does not produce men as fit to govern States and pro- vinces as those who rule over Maine or Massachusetts at this hour ? as most of those who are sent to govern the forty provinces of the Empire, as many that we have now sent to darken counsel and perplex us -in the West? How long will North America be content to see their sons systematically excluded from the gubernatorial claims, not only of the provinces that we occupy, but of every other in the Empire ? Not long. If monaichical institutions are to be preserved and the power of the Crown maintained, the leading spirits of the Empire must be chosen to govern the provinces, and the selection must not be confined to the circle of two small islands, to old officers, or broken-down mem- bers of Parliament."
But., perhaps, Mr. Howe sighs for a creation of mock peers and melodramatic lords, and his opposition to the Quebec scheme may spring from an apprehension that "no such people will be eligible under confederation."
After all, the question comes back in its original simplicity. Is it politic to unite these provinces in one Confederacy, and are the majority of the people to be immediately affected thereby in favour of such a union? The first part of this interrogatory is answered affirmatively by almost all the prominent colonists, and they are supported in this opinion by far-seeing British statesmen. The present welfare and future peace of British America seem to demand increased strength, united action, and more intimate relations ; the interests of the Empire join in pressing forward that which promises such results. The time is opportune. The wishes of the colonists appear from the singular unanimity with which the idea of Confederation has been received by them, from the temper in which the subject has been discussed, from the anxiety they have manifested in hastening conclusions, from their readiness to compromise where compromise was necessary, and from its adoption, when put in a practical shape, by overwhelm- ing majorities. The only objectors among them are defeated and disappointed politicians, miserable in number, inconsistent in' act and word, and weak in argument. As the Saturday Reviou forcibly remarked,
"Mr. Howe's pamphlet is valuable, as showing on how weak a basis of provincial prejudice and political cowardice the opposition to this large scheme of union has been built."
It remains for the Imperial Parliament to show that these im- portant provinces are esteemed at their true value, that the crisis is appreciated, and that an effort to mingle interests already allied shall not be rendered unsuccessful by discouragement proceeding from the mother country. The issues involved are too momentous to admit of trifling. A nation is struggling in its birth. The colonists feel, however much they may be misrepresented or maligned, that their expressed wishes are entitled, at the least, to respect. They do not sue is forma pauperis, nor are they inclined to ape the antics of the street mendicant. They know full well what they have at stake, and neither sink their self-respect nor trim their words to catch applause. They are too much in earnest to waste their energies in Quixotic contests. Their old men long to see the government they have fought for, established, the insti- tutions they have reared, made secure, and the noble provinces they have won from the wilderness grafted into each other so fully as to give hope of a future national existence. Their youth yearn for a country which shall be worthy of the name, which affection may clasp, and around which the tendrils of a hallowed patriotism may naturally entwine themselves. Their politicians are sick and tired of petty quarrels and divided counsels. They are only too willing to sink minor differences in a common effort to lift them- selves from obscurity, and give their country that position to which its resources, its extent, its importance justly entitles it. Ability looks with jealous eye across the lines, and demands an arena where prizes worth a struggle are fought for and won. The Republican has a wide and varied field for his talents and his energies. Every avenue to fame is open to him. Success brings to him a worthy reward. But separated from him by an imagi- nary dividing line is one who feels his energies cramped, his talents unappreciated, his aspirations tied down. Is it unnatural, then, for the British American to offer the right hand of fellow- ship to his neighbours who claim a common origin, who acknow- ledge a like allegiance, who guard similar institutions? Is it un- natural for the Canadian to say to the Nova Scotian, "My danger is your danger, my foes are your foes ;" or to the New Brunswicker, "For weal or woe, our destinies are bound up together ? Disunited, we are petty and insignificant ; our interests jar—our efforts are wasted. United we are the makings of a nation." And yet when, in spite of discouragenaents, in spite of obstacles seemingly in- superable, in spite of internal selfishness and external opposition, in spite of domestic torpor and foreign menace, these colonists have forced the public mind to reflect on the present, provide for the future, and stimulated lukewarmness into zeal, they are asked to renew the old struggles, to fight the self-same battles over again, and that, too, with men born amongst them, reared amongst them, par- takers of their prosperity, enriched by their toil, and made conspicu- ous by their industry. But those who moulded Confederation into shape have passed through an ordeal which is ample preparation for such attacks as are now made upon them. They do not shrink, nor are they likely to be frightened. Their loyalty may be sneered at, their exertions may be covered with derision, and flippant satire may exhaust its quiver. Disappointed ambition may make mouths, and personal pique may chaffer, but all we hold sacred condemns, every instinct of humanity revolts at, an attempt to gain prominence through the belittling of one's kindred, one's countrymen, one's home. Devil-may-care arguments may indi- cate cleverness and versatility, a collection of historical shavings may be proof of a quick eye and nimble fingers, but facility in the former and an undue flaunting of the latter oftentimes seek appreciation in vain. I am much mistaken, if Mr. Howe has not overshot his mark this time.—Believe me, yours faithfully, A BRITISH AbIBRICAN.