Joseph Edmund Collins.

Life and times of the Right Honourable Sir John A. Macdonald, premier of the Dominion of Canada online

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ada more than any colony which Great Britain had ever had under her




After the union delegates had ended their visit at Charlottetown, they
proceeded to Halifax, ahd at a meuing held in the dining hall of the
* Halifax Hotel/' Hon. Dr. Tupper in the chair, Hon. .lohn A. Macdonald,
in reply to the toast, " Colonial Tnion," rose and said: —

My friends and colleagues, Messrs. Cartier and Brown, have returned
their thanks on behalf of the Canadians for the kindness bestowed upo.i
us, and I shall therefore not say one word on that subject, but shall ap-
proach the question more immediately batOtf us. I must confess to you,
air, and to you, gentlemen, that I app ro a c h it with the deepest emotion.
The question of " Colonial Union " is one of such magnitude that it dwarfs
overy other question on this portion of the continent. It absorbs every
idea as far as I am concerned. Y or twenty long years I have been drag-
ging myself through the dreary waste of colonial politics. I thought t.iere
was no end, nothing worthy of ambition; but now I see something which
is well worthy of all I have suffered in the cause of my little country. This
question has now assumed a position that demands and commands the
attention of all the colonies of British America. There may be obstruc-
tions, local difficulties may arise, disputes may occur, local jealousies may
intervene, but it matters not — the wheel is now revolving, and we are only
the fly on the wheel, we cannot delay it — the union of the colonies of Bri-
tish America, under one sovereign, is a fixed fact. (Cheers.) Sir, this
meeting in Halifax will be ever remembered in the history of British
America, for here the delegates from the several provinces had the firs!
opportunity of expressing their sentiments. We have been unable to an
rtounce them before ; but now let me say that we have arrived unanimously
at the opinion that the union of the provinces is for the advantage of all,
and that the only question that remains to be settled is, whether th&i
union can be arranged with a due regard to sectional and local interests
I have no doubt that such an arrangement can be effected, that every
•difficulty will be found susceptible of solution, and that the great projeov
will be successfully and happily realized. What were we before thi*
question was brought before the public mind 1 Here we were in th*
neighbourhood of a large nation— of one that has developed its mill
tary power in a most marvellous degree — connected by one tie only,


that of common allegiance. True it was we were states of one sovereign,
we all paid allegiance to the great central authority; but as far as ourselves
were concerned there was no political connection, and we were as wide
apart as British America is from Australia. We had only the mere senti-
ment of a common allegiance, and we were liable, in case England and the
United S'ates were pleased to differ, to be cut off, one by one, not having
any common means of defence. I beb'eve we shall have at length an or-
ition that will enable us to be a nation and protect ourselves as we
should. Look at the gallant defence that is being made by the Southern
Republic — at this moment they have not much more than four millions of
men — not much exceeding our own numbers — yet what a brave fight they
have made, notwithstanding the stern bravery of the Now Hnglander, Of the
of the Irishman. (Cheers.) We are DOW, 1 say, nearly four mil-
lions »f inhabitants, and in the next decennial period of taking the census,
perhaps we shall have eight millions of people, able to defend their coun-
try against all comers. (Cheers.) But we must have one common organ-
n — one political government. It has been said that the United
States government H a failure. I don't go so far. On the contrary, I
consider it a marvellous exhibition of human wisdom. It was as perfect
as human >uld make it, and under it the American States greatly

prospered until very recently; but being the work of men it had its defects,
r u to take advantage by experience, and endeavour to see if
we cannot arrive by careful study at such a plan as will avoid the mistakes
of our neighbours. In the first place, we know that every individual state
was an individual sovereignty — that each had its own army and navy and
political organization — and when they formed themselves into a confeder-
D they only gave the central authority certain specific powers, reserv-
individual states all the other rights appertaining to sovereign
powers. The dangers that have arisen from this system we will avoid if
we can agree upon forming a strong central government — a great central
legislature — a c< institution for a union which will have all the rights of
sovereignty except those that are given to the local governments. Then
we shall have taken a great step in advance of the American republic. If
we can only attain that object — a vigorous general government — we shall
not be New Brunswickers, nor Nova Scotians, nor Canadians, but British
Americans, under the sway of the British sovereign. In discussing the
question of colonial union, we must consider what is desirable and prac-
ticable; we must consult local prejudices and aspirations. It is our desire
t< > do so. I hope that we will be enabled to work out a constitution that
will have a strong central government, able to offer a powerful resistance
to fcny foe whatever, and at the same time will preserve for each province


its own identity- and will protect every local ambition ; and if we cannot
do this, we shall not be able to carry out the object we have now in view.
Jti the conference we have had, we have been united as one man — there
was no difference of feeling — no sectional prejudices or selfishness exhib-
ited by any one: — we all approached the subject feeling its importance —
feeling that in our hands wvre the destinies of a nation ; and that great
would be our sin and shame if any different motives had intervened to
prevent us carrying out the noble object of founding a great British mon-
archy, in connection with the British empire, and trader the British Q.ieen.
(Cheers.) That there are difficulties in the way would be folly for me to
deny; that there are important questions to be settled before tho project
can be consummated is obvious; but what great subject that has evsr at-
tracted the attention of mankind has not been fraught with diMiculties 1
We would ii"t be worthy of the position in which we have been placed by
the people, if we did not meet and overcome these obstacles. I will not
continue to detain you at this late perk) 1 of the evening, but will merely
say that we are desirous of a union with the maritime provinces on a fair
and equitable basis: that we desire no advantage of any kind, that we be-
lieve the object in view will be as much in favour as against these maritime
colonies. We are ready to come at once into the most intimate connection
with you. This cannot be fully procured, I admit, by political union sim-
ply. I don't hesitate to say that with respect to the Intercolonial railway,
it is understood by the people of Canada that it can only be built as a
means of political union for the colonies. It cannot be denied that the
railway, as a commercial enterprise, would be of comparatively little com-
mercial advantage to the people of Canada. Whilst we have the St.
Lawrence in summer, and the American ports in time of peace, we have
all that is requisite for our purposes. We rocognise, however, the fact
that peace may not always exist, and that we must have some other means
of outlet if we do not wish to be cut off from the ocean for some months
in the year. We wish to feel greater security — to know that we can have as-
sistance readily in the hour of danger. In the case of a union, this railway
must be a national work, and Canada will cheerfully contribute to the ut-
most extent in order to make that important link without which no poli-
tical connection can be complete. What will be the consequence to this
city, prosperous as it is, from that communication ? Montreal is at this
moment competing with New York for the trade of the great West. Build
the road and Halifax will soon become one of the great emporiums of the
world. All the great resources of the West will come over the immense
railways of Canada to the bosom of your«harbour. But there are even
greater advantages for us all in view. We will become a great nation, and


God forbid that it should be one separate from the united kingdom of
Great Britain and Ireland. (Cheers.) There has been a feeling that be-
cause the old colonies were lost by the misrule of the British government,
every colony must be lost when it assumes the reins of self-government. 1
believe, however, as stated by the gallant admiral,* that England will
hold her position in every colony — she will not enforce an unwilling obe-
dience by her arms ; but as long as British Americans shall retain that
same allegiance which they feel now, England will spend her last shilling,
and spill her best blood like wine in their defence. (Cheers.) In 1812
there was an American war because England impressed American seamen.
Canadians had nothing to do with the cause of the quarrel, yet their mil-
itia came out bravely and did all they could for the cause of England.
Again, we have had the Oregon question, the Trent difficulty — question
after question in vhioh the ooloniafl had no interest — yet pa were ready
to shoulder the musket and fight for the honour of the mother country.
It has been laid that England wishes to throw us off. There may be a
few d E it, bat it is not the feeling of the people of

iiid. Their feeling is this — that we have not been true to ourselves,
thai we have not put ourselves in an attitude of defence, that we have not
inada as t! i have done at home. It is a mistake: Can-

ada is ready to do h She is organizing a militia; she is expending

an enormous amount of money for the purpose of doing her best for self-
q>py t<> know that the militia of Nova Scotia occupies
: rink; I understand by a judicious administration you have formed

a large and efficient volunteer and militia organization. Wo are fol-

ig your example and are forming an effective body of militia, so that
we shall be able to say to England, that if she should send her arms to
our rescue at a time of peril, she would be assisted by a well disciplined
body of men. Everything, gentlemen, is to be gained by union, and

y thing to be lost by disunion. Everybody admits that union must
take place some time. I say now is the time. Here we are now, in a
state of peace and prosperity — now we can sit down without any danger
threatening us, and consider and frame a scheme advantageous to each of
these colonies. If we allow so favourable an opportunity to pass, it may

:• come again; but I believe we have arrived at such a conclusion in
our deliberations that I may state without any breach of confidence — that
we all unitedly agree that such a measure is a matter of the first necessity,
and that only a few (imaginary, I believe) obstacles stand in the way of ita
consummation. I will feel that I shall not have served in public life with-

* Sir James Hope, vice-admiral on the North American station, and then in Halifax.



out • reward, if before I enter into private life. I am a subject of a great
British American nation, under the government of her majesty, and in

connection with the empire of Great Britain and Ireland. (Loud cheers.)



The following is the full text of Sir John A. Macdonald's speech in de-
fence of his own and the government's course in relation to the Washing-
ton treaty, as taken from the Toronto daily J/e tf, and delivered in the Cana-
dian commons, May 3rd, 1879

M I 9 n, — I move for leave to bring in a bill to carry into effect

certain clauses of the treaty negotiated between the United States and
A Britain in 1871. The object of the bill is stated in the title. It is
to give validity, so far as Canada is concerned, to the treaty which was
framed last year in the manner so well known to the house and country.
The bill I proposed to introduce the other day was simply a bill to suspend
those clauses of the fishery acts which prevent fishermen of the United
M from fishing in the in-shore waters of Canada, such suspension to
continue during the existence of the treaty. I confined it to that object
at that time, because the question really before this house was whether the
fishery articles of the treaty should receive the sanction of Parliament or
not As, however, a desire was expressed on the other side that I should
enter into the subject fully on asking leave to bring in the bill, and as, on
examining the cognate act which has been laid before congress at Wash-
ington, I find that all the subjects — even those subjects which do not re-
quire legislation — have been repeated in that act, in order, one would sup-
pose, to make the act of the nature of a contract, and obligatory during
the existence of the treaty, so that in good faith it could not be repealed
during that time, I propose to follow the same course. The act I ask
leave to bring in, provides in the first clause, for the suspension of the
fishery laws of Canada, so far as they prevent citizens of the United States
from fishing in our in-shore waters. The bill also provides that during
the existence of the treaty, fish and fish oil (except fish of the inland lakes


of the Tinted States and of the rivers emptying into those lakes, ami fifth
preserved in oil), being the produce of fisheries of the United States, shall
he admitted into Canada free <>f duty. The third clause provides for the
^nuance of the bonding system during the twelve years or longer pe-
riod provided by the treaty; and the fourth clause provides that the right
of transhipment contained in the 30th clause of the treaty shall, in like
manner, be secured t<> the citizens of the United States during the exist-
ence of the treaty. The last clause of the bill provides that it shall come
effect whenever, upon an order-in-coumil, a proclamation of the
governor-general is issued giving effect to the act. In submitting the bill
in this form, 1 am aware that objection might be taken to some of the
clauses, on the ground that having relation to the questions of trade and
moi>. ihonld be commenced by resolution adopted in committee ol

the whole. That objection d 'IT'y to the whole of the bill — to

those clauses which suspend the action of our fishery act. lint it would

i] principle, Uu irhich provides that

shall be DO duty on fish ;md fish oil, and also the clans, s respecting

the bonding system ami transhipment. I do not, however, anticipate that

that objection will D4 I ing thebill in this form 1 have

followed the pi mi ls.Yl, when t. -the

ktjwaeintl D parliament, it \\; is then held that the

,' been introduced as based up . irhich was submitted by

Magi froii. of publio and general policy,

and oeaeed bo be merely a matter of trade: and although those hon. gen*-
tlemen who int unitary and political matters

at that date will remember that the act which was introduced by the at-

for Lower Panada in L864 Mr. Drnmmond) was simply an
act d> irioni articles, being the prodnoe of the Unit

should, during the existence o y, be received free into Canada,

and that the act repealed the tariff }>ro ktttfo, it Has not introduced by
resolution, but after the treaty had been submitted and laid on the table,
and a nal message had been brought down by Mr. Moris, the

r of the govt rum. nt in the house, to the effect that the bill was in-
n -f the governor-general. I do not, there!

pate that will bo taken by any hon. member, and 1 sup-

pose the precedent so solemnly laid down at that time will be held to be
binding now. Should objection, however, be taken, the clauses of the
bill respecting the suspension of the fishery actand transhipment are sulli-
cient to be proceeded with in this manner; the other portions may be
printed in italics, and can be brought up as parts of the bill or separately
as resolutions, as may be thought best. The journals of the house state


that on the 21st Sept., 1>.~>4, Mr. Chauveau submitted a copy of the treaty
which was set out on the face of the journals. On the same day Mr.
Drummond asked leave to bring in a bill t<- give effoot to a certain treaty
between her majesty and the United Stat s of America, and on the 22nd,
OH the order of the day for the second reading of the bill, Mr. Morin, by
command, brought down a meeeage from the governor-general, signifying
that it was by his excellency's sanction it had been introduced, whereupon
the house proceeded t<> the second reading. That bill was simp 1 )' one de-
claring that various articles mentioned in the treaty should, during the
of the treaty, be admitted into this c >untry free of duty. The

ie now, Mr. Speaker, if they give leave that this bill shall be intro-
duced and read a first time, will be in possession of all those portions of
the t: A ashington that in any way come within the action of the

legislature. Although the debate upon this subject will, as a matter of
course, take a wide range, and will properly include all the subjects con-
nected with the treaty in which Canada has any interest, yet it must not
be forgotten that the treaty as a whole is in force, with the particular ex-
ceptions I have mentioned, and the decision of this house will, after all,
be simply whether the articles of the treaty extending from the 18th to the
shall receive the sanction of Parliament, or whether these portions
of the treaty shall be a dead letter. This subject has excited a great deal
of interest, as was natural, in Canada ever since the 8th of May, 1871,
svhen the treaty was signed at Washington. It has been largely discussed
in the public prints, and opinions of various kinds have been expressed
upon it — some altogether favourable, some altogether opposed, and many

ci of intermediate shades of opinion. And among other parts of the
discussion has not been forgotten the personal question — relating to my-
self — the position I hold and held as a member of this government, and
as one of the high commissioners at Washington. Upon that question I
shall have to speak by-and-by ; but it is one that has lost much of its in-
terest, from the fact that by the introduction of this bill the house and
country will see that the policy of the government of which I am a mem-
ber is to carry out, or to try to carry out, the treaty which I signed as a
plenipotentiary of her majesty. Under the reservation made in the treaty,
this house and the legislature of Prince Edward Island have full power to
accept the fishery articles or reject them. In that matter this house and
parliament have full and complete control. (Hear, hear.) No matter
what may be the consequences of the action of this parliament; no matter
what may be the consequences with respect to future relations between
Canada and England, or between Canada and the United States, or
between England and the United States ; no matter what may be the


consequences as to the existence of the present government of Canada,
it must not be forgotten that this house has full power to reject these
clauses of the treaty if they please, and maintain the right of Canada
to exclude Americans from our in-shore fisheries, as if the treaty had
never been made. (Hear, hear.) That reservation was fully provided
in the treaty. It was made a portion of it — an essential portion — and if
it had not been so Bade, the name of the minister of justice of Canada
would not have been attached to it as a plenipotentiary of England.

r, hear.) That right has been reserved, and this parliament has full
power to deal with the whole question. I will by-and-by speak more at

h as to the part I took in the negotiations, but I feel that that reser-
vation having been made I only performed a duty — a grave and serious
duty, but still my duty — in attaching my signature to the treaty as one of
her majesty's representatives and servants. (Hear, hear.) Now, sir, let
me enter into a short retrospect of the occurrences which transpired some
years before arrangements were entered into for negotiating the treaty.
The reciprocity treaty with the United States existed from 1854 to 1"
in which \ tioni wnv made l>y the gov-

ernment of Canada, and a great desire was expressed by the parliament
and ; Canada fof a renewal of that treaty. It was fell to have

worked very beneficially I fell to have worked also to

the advantage of the In: re was a desire and a feeling

that i ■ sts which had been constantly developing and

Ming then : ing the existence of the -uld be gtt

aided if it were renewed and continued. 1 was a member of the govern-

at that time, with some of my ban. fiiendl win* ire still my col-
leagues; and we took every step in our | effort, we left

D that object. The house will remem-

hat for tlie purpose of either effecting a renewal of the treaty, or, if
we could not obtain that, of arriving at the same object by means of con-

iiend, the inember f or Sherbrooke (Hon. Sir

\. 1. Qalt)t at that time iinance minister, and the present lieutenant -

governor of Ontario, Washington on behalf of the government of

wla. It is a matter of history that all their exertions failed; and aftel
their failure, by general consent— a consent in which I believe the people

uiada were as one man — we came to the conclusion that it would be
humiliating to Canada to make any further exertion* at Washington, or
to do anything more n the way of pressing for a renewal of that instru-

t ; and the people of this country with great energy addressed them-
Bnd other channels of trade, other means of developing and sus-
taining our various industries, in which I am happy to say they have been


com; ir, hear.) Immediately on the expiration

of the treaty, our right to the exclusive use of the in-shore fisheries
returned to us, and it will be in the remembrance of the house that her
majt- rumen! denied us not to resume that right, at least for a

year, to the exclusion ol American fishermen, and that the prohibition of
Americans fishing in those waters should not be put in force either by
dl Off the maritime provinces. All the provinces, I believe, declined
to accede to the suggestion, and it was pressed strongly on behalf of tho
late province of Canada that it would be against OUT interests if for a mo-
ment after the treaty ceased we allowed it to be supposed that American
fishermen had • right to come into ,,ur waters as before; and it was only
because of the pressure of her majesty's government, and our desire to
be in accord with that government, as well as because of our desire to

} with us the moral support of Qretl Britain, ami the material assist-
ance of her fleet, that we assented, with great reluctance, to the introduction
of a system of licenses foe one year, at a nominal fee or rate. This was
done avowedly by us for the purpose of asserting our right. No greater or
stronger mode of asserting a right and obtaining the acknowledgment of it

h '8e who desired to enter our waters for the purpose of fishing could
be devise 1, thau by exacting payment for the permission, and therefore it
was that we assented to the licensing system. (Hear, hear.) Although
in 1866 that system was commenced, it did not come immediately into
We had not then fitted out a marine police force, for we were not
altogether without expectation that the mind of the government of the
United States might take a different direction, and that there was a pro-
babil: nations being renewed respecting the revival of the reci-

procity treaty; and therefore, although the system was established, it was
not rigidly put into force, and no great exertion was made to seize tres-
passers who had not taken out licenses. In the first year, however, a great
number of licenses were taken out ; but when the fee was increased so as
to render it a substantial recognition of our rights, the payments became
fewer and fewer, until at last it was found that the vessels which took out
licenses were the exception, and that the great bulk of the fishermen who
entered our waters wore trespassers. In addition to the fact that our

Online LibraryJoseph Edmund CollinsLife and times of the Right Honourable Sir John A. Macdonald, premier of the Dominion of Canada → online text (page 44 of 57)