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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fisheries were invaded, that we were receiving no compensation for the
liberty, and that our rights were invaded boldly and aggressively, it was
now stated by the American government, or members of the American
cabinet, that the renewal of the reciprocity treaty was not only inexpedi-
ent but unconstitutional, and that no such renewal could or would be
made. The government of Canada, then, in 1870, after conference with
the imperial governm2nt, and after receiving the promise of the imperial


government that we should have the support of their fleet in the protection
of our just rights, a promise which was faithfully carried out, prepared
and fitted out a sufficient force of marine police vessels to protect our
rights, and I am glad to believe that that policy was perfectly successful.
Great firmness was used, but at the same time great discretion. There
was no harshness, and no seizures were made of a doubtful character. No
desire to harass the foreign fishermen was evidenced, but on the contrary.
in any case in which there was doubt, the officers in command of the seiz-
ing vessels reported to the head of their department, and when the papers
were laid before the government, they, in all cases, gave the offending
parties the benefit of the doubt. Still, as it would be remembered, some
of the fishermen male complaints, which complaints, although unjust, I
am sorry to say were in some instances made and supported on oath, of
harshness on the part of the cruisers, and an attempt was made to agitate
the DabEe mind of Canada, and there was at that time a feeling 00 the pan
of a large portion of the peopl* i. which feeling, I am however

happy to say, has s; peered, that the action of Canada was un-

friendly. Her majesty's governm -ursc appealed to by the

tef on all these subjects, and complaints were
the other, and proved a 100106 of :
irritation. While this feeling was being raised in the Inn. there

was, on the other hand, fflg our fishermen that our right!

were, to a very gre a invaded. In order to avoid the possibility

of dispute — in order to avid an; appearance of harshness— in order, while
we were supporting our fishery rights, to prevent any case of collision be-
Q the imperial government and tin >tes, or between the

Canadian authorities and the United States, we avoided making seizures
within the bays, or in any way bringing up the headland question. This
was very unsatisfact use, as it was said by the fishermen, " if we

have these rights we should be protected in the exercise of them," and it
was t | all that that <|uestion should be settled at once and forever,

the question of headlands, a new one had arisen
of an exceedingly unpleasant i Bj the wording of the convention

-18, foreign fishermen were only allowed to enter our waters for the
puipoooi of procuring wood, water and shelter; but they claimed that they
had a right, although fishing vessels, to enter our ports for trading pur
poses; ami it was alleged by our own fishermen that, under pretence of
trading, American fishermen were in the habit of invading our fishing
grounds and fishing in our waters. The Canadian government thought it
therefore well to press, not only by correspondence, but by a delegate,
who was a member of the government, upon her majesty's government,


the propriety of having that question settled with the United States, and r
consequently, my friend and colleague, the postmaster-general, went to
England to deal with that subject. The results of his mission are before
parliament. At the same time that he dealt with the question I have just

mentioned] be (breed opon the consideration of her majesty's government
the propriety of England making on our behalf a demand on the United

i government for repent! >n lor the wrongi known as the "Fenian
England agr e ed to preei upon the Tinted States both these
matters, and to ask that all dies ttiona relating to the in-sh< . re

fisheries, under the convention of 1818, should be settled in some mode to-
be agreed upon between the two nations, and also to press upon the United
States the wrongs sustained by Canada at the hands of citizens of the

d States who had invade tttry. Befi re her majesty's gov-

ernment had actually, in OOmptianoa with their, made any repre-
sentation on these two ■abject! mHed States government, England
had been engaged on her own behalf in a con t rover sy of a very grave
character. The house is aware that what is commonly known as the
Alain m was a subject of dispute between the two countries, in-
volving the gravest consequences, and that hitherto the results had been
most unsatisfactory. An ett« mpt had been made to settle the question
by what was known as the Johnson-Clarendon treaty, but that treaty had
been rejected by the United States authorities. So long as this question
remained unsettled between the two nations there was no possibility of
the old friendly relations that had so long existed between them being
restored, and England felt that it was of the first importance to her that
these amicable relations should be restored. It was not only her desire
to be in the most friendly position towards a country which was so closely
associated with her by every tie, by common origin, by common interest,
by common language, but it was also her interest to have every cloud re-
moved between the two nations, because she had reason to feel that her
position with respect to the other great powers of the world was greatly
affected by the knowledge which those other nations had of the position
< f affairs between the United States and herself. The prestige of Great
Britain as a great power was affected most seriously by the absence of an

cte cordiale between the two nations. Two years ago England was, as
a matter of course, greatly interested in the great and serious questions
which were then convulsing Europe, and was in danger of being drawn by
some complication into the hostile relations of some of the conflicting
powers; and she felt — and I speak merely what must be obvious to every
hon. member in the house — that she could not press or assert her opinion
with the same freedom of action so long as she was aware, and so long a&


other nations were aware, that, in case she should be unfortunately placed
in a state of hostility with any nation whatever, the United States govern-
ment would be forced by the United States people to press, at the very
time when she might be engaged in mortal conflict with another nation,
for a settlement of those Alabama claims. Hence, Mr. Speaker, the great
desire of England, in my opinion, that thit great question should be set-
tled, and hence, also, the intermingling of the particular questions relating

nada with the larger imperial question*. And, sir, in my opinion,
it was of greater consequence to Canada than to England, at least as great
. that the question should be settled. (Cheers.)

Sir, England has pr 04, And we have all faith in that promise,

that in case of war the whole force of the empire shall be exerted in our
defence. (Cheers.) What would have been the position of England, and
what would have been the position of ( 'anada, if she had been called upon
to use her whole force to defend Q| when engaged in conflict elsewhere ?

da would, as i : course, in case of war between England and

tie ground. We should be the sufferers.

Our country would be devastated, our people slaughtered, and our pro-
perty 1; ami, w\ nid would, I believe, under all circum-
othfully perform her promise to the utmost (cheers), she would

be greatly impeded in parrying onf hex P engaged elsewhere. It

was therefore as much the interest of this Dominion as of England that

and all other questions that in any way threatened the
turbance of th- relations between the two eountries, should bo

settled and adjust.- re, although to a considerable extent I

agree with the remarks that fell from the minister of finance when he
made his budg king at the subject in a commercial

better in the interest of ( 'anada t hat
hould have been settled free and apart
from the imperial question, 1 am pleased, and I was pleased, that the fact
of Canada having asked England to make these demands on the United
)8 gave an opportunity for re-opening the negotiations with respect to
Alabama and other matters. It was fortunate that we made that de-
1, for England could not, with due self-respect, have initiated or re-
opened the A icstion. She had concluded a treaty in London
with the representative of the EJnited States, and that treaty, having been
ted by the supreme executive of the United States, England could
not herself have re opened negotiations on the subject. And, therefore,
us fortunate, I say, for the peace of the empire, and for the peace of
Canada, that we ask- nd to make these demands upon the United
tee, as it afforded the opportnnity of all these questions being made


again the subject of negotiation. The correspondence which is before the
house between the secretary of state of the United States and the British
ambassador, Sir Edward Thornton, has shown how that result was arrived
at. As the invitation was made by the British ambassador to consider
the fishery question, the United States government, 1 have no doubt,
though 1 do not know it as a matter of fact, by a quiet and friendly un-
derstanding between the two powers, replied, acceding to the request, on
condition that the larger and graver n dispute were also made

matters of negotiation. Hence it was. sir. that the arrangements were
made under which the I Washington was effected. Sir, 1 have

said that it was of the greate- to Canada, and to the future

peace and pros; Panada, thai every olond which threatened the

peace of England and the United & ild be dispelled. I was struck

with an expression that was used tome by a distinguished English states-
man, that those powers in 1 re not so friendly to England
heard with dismay that the - between the two nations was
to be renewed (hear, hear); ai have seen mentioned in the public
press the active exertions that were made by one power, or by the repre-
sentative of one power, for the purpose of preventing that happy result
(hear, hear); and although M. Catacazy has been disavowed by the gov-
ernment of Russia in the same way as poor Yicovieh was on a previous
occasion, when he was the organ of Russia in the East, I cannot but feel
that he was punished only because his zeal outran his discretion. I can
vouch for his active exertions for the purpose of preventing this treaty of
Washington recti ting the sanction of the senate of the United States.
(Hear, hear.) While England was strongly interested in the settlement
of these questions, both for herself and for Canada, the United States
were also interested, and made overtures in a most friendly spirit. I be-
lieve that there was a real desire among the people of the United States to
be friendly towards England. I believe that the feeling of irritation which
had been caused by the unhappy events of the war, and by the escape of
the Alabama, had almost entirely disappeared; and I hope and believe
that the people of the United States were then, and are now, strongly in
favour of establishing permanently a friendly feeling between the two
nations. Then, besides, they had a further interest in settling all matters
in dispute ; for so lonj> as the United States and England were not on
friendly terms — so long as they were standing aloof from each other — it
affected very considerably the credit of the United States securities in
Europe. Not only the funds of the United States as a whole, but the
securities of every state of the union, and of all American enterprises
seeking the markets of the world, were injuriously affected by the unsat-


isfactory relations between the two countries. They were, therefore,
prepared to meet each other in this negotiation. To proceed with the
history of the circumstances immediately preceding the formation of the
joint high commission at Washington, I will state that on the 1st of Feb-
ruary. 1871, a communication was made to me by his excellency the
governor-general, on behalf of her majesty's government, asking me, in
case there was going to be a joint commission to settle all questions be-
tween England and the United States, whether I would act as a member
of that commi- ive the <late because it has been asked for. The

Communication was verbal, ami founded upon a telegraphic communication
to his excelleney, whieh cannot be presented, and being of a nature which
the house can readily understated ought not properly to belaid before this
home. This communication was, in the first place, for myself alone. I

was not allowed to mention it fox the time to any one elan. My reply was
that I would be greatly embarraeeed by any injunction of secrecy as re-
gards my colleagues, and that under no circumstances would I accept the
. ithoiu tie ' it. I subsequently received permieeion to

communis hem, and [ r< I upon the

commission. Before accepting, howev< r, I took occasion, for my own in-
formation and satis'. bin excellency, what points of
agreement and of difference existed b. i rod Canada with
regard to the fisheries. The answer was a very short le, and it
was m ry to myself. It was extended in the despatch of the loth
1871. It shortly stated that of course it ana impossible for
her majesty's government to pledge themselves to any foregone com doaion;
it was a matter for negotiation, and it was of course out of the question
e part of either government t<> give oast-iron instructions to their re-
ves, because that would do away with every idea of a negotia-
The despatch went on to say that her majesty's government con-
sidered our right to the in-ahoM fiaheriee beyond dispute; that they also
belie. ir claims as to the headlands just, but that those claims
might properly be a matter of compromise. It went on further to

her majesty's government believed that, as a matter of strict right,

. le the American fishermen entering our ports for purposes

immeroe, and that they could only enter our waters, in the

language of the treaty, " for wood, water and shelter," but that this, in the

ii of her m i jesty's government, would be a harsh construction of

the treaty, and might properly be a subject for compromise. On reading

that despatch I could have no difficulty as a member of the Canadian

government in accepting the position to which my colleagues assented, of

plenipotentiary to Washington, because, as a matter of law, our view of


those three points was acknowledged to be correct, and the subject wan
ther< d of any embarrassment from the fact of Canadians letting

up pretensions which her majesty's government could not support. (Hear
hear.) When the proposition was first made to me, I felt consider
embarrassment and great reluctance to become a member of the eonimis-
1 pointed eat to my colleagues that 1 was to be one of five ; that I
•n of being overruled continually in our discussions, and
that I could not by any possibility bring due weight from my isolated po-
sition. 1 felt also that I would not receive from tllOM « ho weie politically

Md to me in Canada that support which an officer going abroad on

.f of his o I and had aright to expect. (Hear,

Lear. ) I knew fchei 1 would be made a mark of attack, and this house
at my anticipations have been verified. 1 knew that I
would not get felr play. (Hear, hear.) I knew that tie same policy that
had been carried out toward* me fur years and years would continue, ai d
toerefote it was ■ matter of grave consideration to myself whether to ac-
cept the ft] petition, sir, a sense of duty pre-

I cheers), and my colleagues pressed upon me also that I would be
treating in my duty to my c untry if 1 declim d the appointment — that if.
ii-. .in a fear of the consequences, from a fear that I would sacrifice the po-
sition I held in the opinion of the people of Canada, J should shiik the
duty, I would be in. I the confidence I had received so long from

a large portion of the people of Canada, i Cheers.) " What," said my
colleagues, "would be eaid, if, in consequence of your refusal, Canada
was not n ':, and her interest in these matters allowed to go by

defai gland, after having offered that position to the first minis-

ter, and it having been refused by him, would have been quite at liberty
to have proceeded with the commission and the settlement of all these
questions without Canada being represented on the commission, and those

men who attack me now for having been there, and taken a certain
course, would have been just as loud in their complaints and just as bitter
in their attacks, because I had neglected the interests of Canada, and re-
fused the responsibility of asserting the rights of Canada at Washington.
•(Cheers.; Sir, knowing, as I said before, what the consequences would be
to myself of accepting that office, and foreseeing the attacks that would be
made upon me, I addressed a letter to his excellency the governor-genera 1 r
informing him of the grave difficulties of my position, and that it was only
from a sense of duty that I accepted the position. On proceeding to Wash-
ington I found a general desire among the two branches into which the joint
high commission divided itself — an equal desire, I should say, on the part
of the United States commissioners as well as on that of the British com-


missioners — that all questions in dispute should be settled so far as the
two governments could do so. There was a special desire that there should
be a settlement of everything. It was very easy for the commissioners or
the government through their representatives to make a treaty, but in the
United States there is a power above and beyond the government : the

:e of the United States, which had to be considered. It was felt that
ion of a treaty would be most disastrous for the future of
both nations ; that it would be a solemn declaration that there was no
peaceable solution of the questions between the two nations. An Ameri-
can statesman said to me, "the rejection of the treaty now means war."

war to-morrow, or at any given period, but war win-never England
happens to be engaged in other troubles and attacked from other sources.

r, hear.) You may therefore imagine, Mr. Speaker, and this house
may well imagine, the solemn considerations prmsinfl upon my mind, as
well as upon the minds of my colleagues in Canada, with whom I was in
daily communication, if by any unwise course, or from any rigid or pre-
options, we should risk the destruction forever of all hope of a
i ile eolation of the difficulties between these kindred n at i ons , (Hear.)
Still, sir, I do not forget that I was their chosen representative. 1 oooid
. the fact that I was selected as a member of that oommiaaion
from my I ' anadian polities. I had continually before

ot only the imperial bul the mteream of the Dominion of

.vhich I was there specially to represent; and the difficulty of my

.u was that if I gave undue prominence to the interests of Canada,

1 might justly be held in England to be taking a purely colonial and sel-

regardless of the interests of the empire as a whole, and the

iada as a portion of the empire; and, on the other hand, if

I kept my eye solely on imperial considerations, I might beheld as

pedal duty towards my country of Canada. It was a diffi-

cult position, as the house will believe, a position that pressed upon me

With great weight and severity at the time, and it has not been diinin-

l in any way since I have returned, except by the cordial support of

olleagues, and I believe also of my friends in this house. (Cheers.)

In order to show thai 1 did not for a moment forget that I was ther

sts of Canada, I must ask you to look at the despatch
of tie >ruary, 1871, which reached me at Washington, a few days

I arrive. 1 there. It will be seen that Lord Kimberley used this ex-
lion: As at present advised, her majesty's government are of opinion
that the right of Canada to exclude Americans from fishing in the waters
within the linn i ne miles of the coast is beyond dispute, and

can only be ceded for an adequate consideration. Should this considera-


tion take the form of a money payment, it appears to her majesty's govern-
ment that such an arrangement would be more likely to work well than
if any eruditions were annexed to the exercise of the privilege of fisl
within the Canadian waters.'' Having read that despatch, and the
gestion that an arrangement might be made on the basis of a money
payment, and there being an absence of any statement that sneh an ar-
rangement oonld only be made with the consent of Canada, I thought it
well to communicate with my colleagues at Ottawa; and although we had

received again end again aaani m her majesty's government that

• rights would not be ati' D au iy Off - eded without our oon-

. it was thought advisable, in conse<pience of the omission of all refer-
y of Canada's assent being obtained to any monetary
arrangement, to communicate by cable that Camel I considered the Cana-
dian fisheries lo be her property, and they could not be disposed of without
hat consent. That communication was made by the Canadian government
OO the 10th of M d of that go\ eminent \ was so a member; and not

Only did that communication proceed from the Canadian government to

and, giving them fair notice that the Canadian government, of which
Ottld insist upon the right of dealing with her own

lies, but I ision to press upon the head of the British com-

ton, that my own individual opinion as representing
Panada, should be laid before her majesty's government. The answer
that came back at once by cable was extended in full in the despatch of
the 17th March. 1 >7 1 . .md it was most satisfactory, as it stated that her
maje inment had never any intention of advising her majesty

to part with those fisheries without the consent of Canada. Armed with
this, 1 felt that I was relieved of a considerable amount of embarrass-
I felt that, no matter what arrangements might be made, no matter
whether I was outvoted by my colleagues on the commission, or what in-
structions might be given by her majesty's government, the interests of
< anada were safe, because they were in her own hands, and reserved for
her own decision. Now, Mr. Speaker, it must not be supposed that this
was not a substantial concession on the part of her majesty's government.
It is true that Lord Kimberley stated, in his despatch of the 17th March,
that, when the reciprocity treaty was concluded, the acts of the Nova
Scotia and New Brunswick legislatures relating to the fisheries were sus-
pended by acts of those legislatures, and that the fishery rights of Canada
were now under the protection of a Canadian act of parliament, the repeal
of which would be necessary in case of the cession of those rights to any
foreign power. It is true in one sense of the word; but it is also true that
if her majesty, in the exercise of her powers, had chosen to make a treaty


with the United States, ceding not only those rights, but ceding the very
land over which those waters flow, the treaty between England and the
United States would have been obligatory and binding, and the United
States would have held England to it. No matter how unjust to Canada
after all her promises, still the treaty would be a valid and obligatory
treaty between England and the United States, and the latter would have
the right to enforce its provisions, over-ride any provincial laws or ordi-
nances, and take possession of our waters and rights. It would have been
a great wrong, **ut the consequence would have been the loss practically
of OUT rights forever ; and so it was satisfactory that it should be settled,
as it has been settle* 1 beyond a doubt, appearing upon tho records of the
conference at Washington. Now, the recognition of the proprietory right
of Canada in our fisheries forms a portion of the state papers of both coun-
tries. Now, the rights of Canada to those fisheries are beyond dispute,
and it is finally established that England cannot and will not, under any
circumstances whatever, cede those fisheries without the consent of Can-
ada ; so that, in any future arrangement between Canada and England,
or England and ti 1 States, the rights of Canada will be re-

- d, as it is conceded beyond dispute that England has n«>t the power

Online LibraryJoseph Edmund CollinsLife and times of the Right Honourable Sir John A. Macdonald, premier of the Dominion of Canada → online text (page 45 of 57)