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two of his new colleagues, Macdonald and Gait,
Brown entertained feelings far from cordial.
Cautious advisers like Alexander Mackenzie
and Oliver Mowat counselled against a coali-
tion, suggesting that the party should support
the government, but should not take a share
in it. All this had to be weighed and a de-
cision reached quickly. But Brown had put
his hand to the plough and would not turn
back. With the dash and determination that
distinguished him, he accepted the proposal,
became president of the Executive Council,
with Sir Etienne Tach6 as prime minister, and
selected William M"=Dougall and Oliver Mowat
as his Liberal colleagues. Amazement and


consternation ran like wildfire throughout
Upper Canada when the news arrived from
Quebec that Brown and Macdonald were
members of the same government. At the
outset Brown had feared that ' the public
mind would be shocked,' and he was not
wrong. But the sober second thought of the
country in both parties applauded the act, and
the desire for union found free vent. Posterity
has endorsed the course taken by Brown and
justly honours his memory for having, at the
critical hour and on terms that would have
made the ordinary politician quail, rendered
Confederation possible. There is evidence that
the Conservative members of the coalition
played the game fairly and redeemed their
promise to put union in the forefront of their
policy. On this issue complete concord reigned
in the Cabinet. The natural divergences of
opinion on minor points in the scheme were
arranged without internal discord. This was
fortunate, because grave obstacles were soon
to be encountered.

If George Brown of Upper Canada was the
hero of the hour, George Cartier of Lower
Canada played a role equally courageous and
honourable. The hostile forces to be en-
countered by the French- Canadian leader were


formidable. Able men of his own race, like
Dorion, Letellier, and Fournier, prepared to
fight tooth and nail. The Rouges, as the
Liberals there were termed, opposed him to a
man. The idea of British American union
had in the past been almost invariably put
forward as a means of destroying the influ-
ence of the French. Influential representa-
tives, too, of the English minority in Lower
Canada, like Dunkin, Holton, and Huntington,
opposed it. Joly de Lotbiniere, the French
Protestant, warned the Catholics and the
French that federation would endanger their
rights. The Rouge resistance was not a
passive parliamentary resistance only, be-
cause, later on, the earnest protests of the
dissentients were carried to the foot of the
throne. But all these influences the intrepid
Cartier faced undismayed ; and Brown, in
announcing his intention to enter the coalition,
paid a warm tribute to Cartier for his frank
and manly attitude. This was the burial of
another hatchet, and the amusing incident re-
lated by Cartwright illustrates how it was

In that memorable afternoon when Mr
Brown, not without emotion, made his

From a painting in tlie C"liateau ck- Ramezay


statement to a hushed and expectant
House, and declared that he was about to
ally himself with Sir George Cartier and
his friends, for the purpose of carrying out
Confederation, I saw an excitable, elderly
little French member rush across the floor,
climb up on Mr Brown, who, as you re-
member, was of a stature approaching the
gigantic, fling his arms about his neck, and
hang several seconds there suspended, to
the visible consternation of Mr Brown and
to the infinite joy of all beholders, pit,
box, and gallery included.

At last statesmanship had taken the place of
party bickering, and, as James Ferrier of
Montreal, a member of the Legislative Council,
remarked in the debates of 1865, the legis-
lators ' all thought, in fact, that a political
millennium had arrived.'



Not an instant too soon ha'd unity come in
Canada. The coalition ministry, having ad-
journed parliament, found itself faced with
a situation in the Maritime Provinces which
called for speedy action.

Nova Scotia, the ancient province by the
sea, discouraged by the vacillation of Canada
in relation to federation and the construction
of the Intercolonial Railway, was bent upon
joining forces with New Brunswick and Prince
Edward Island. The proposal was in the
nature of a reunion, for, when constitutional
government had been first set up in Nova
Scotia in 1758, the British possessions along
the Atlantic coast, save Newfoundland, were
all governed as one province from Halifax.
But the policy in early days of splitting up the
colonies into smaller areas, for convenience of
administration, was here faithfully carried out.
In 1770 a separate government was conferred


upon Prince Edward Island.. In 1784 New
Brunswick was formed. In the same year
the island of Cape Breton was given a governor
and council of its own. Cape Breton was re-
united to the parent colony of Nova Scotia in
1820, but three separate provinces remained,
each developing apart from the others, thus
complicating and making more difficult the
whole problem of union when men with fore-
sight and boldness essayed to solve it. Nova
Scotia had kept alive the tradition of leader-
ship. The province which has supplied three
prime ministers to the Canadian Dominion
never lacked statesmen with the imagination to
perceive the advantages which would flow from
the consolidation of British poWer in America.

In 1864, a few weeks before George Brown
in the Canadian House had moved for his
select committee on federal union, Dr Charles
Tupper proposed, in the legislature of Nova
Scotia, a legislative union of the Maritime
Provinces. The seal of Imperial authority
had been set upon this movejnent by the dis-
patch, already quoted, from tlie Duke of New-
castle to Lord Mulgrave in 1862.

A word concerning the services of Charles
Tupper to the cause of union will be in order
here. None of the Fathers of Confederation


fought a more strenuous battle. None faced
political obstacles of so overwhelming a char-
acter. None evinced a more unselfish patriot-
ism. The overturn of Tilley in New Brunswick,
of which we shall hear presently, was a mis-
fortune quickly repaired. The junction of
Brown, Cartier, and Macdonald in Canada
ensured for them comparatively plain sailing.
But the Nova Scotian leader was pitted against
a redoubtable foe in Joseph Howe ; for five
years he faced an angry and rebellious pro-
vince ; he gallantly gave up his place in the
first Dominion ministry in order that another
might have it ; and at every turn he displayed
those qualities of pluck, endurance, and dex-
terity which compel admiration. The Tuppers
were of Puritan stock.^ The future prime
minister, a practising physician, had scored
his first political victory at the age of thirty-
four by defeating Howe in Cumberland county.
Throughout his long and notable career, a
superabundance of energy, and a character-
istic which may be defined in a favourable
sense as audacity, never failed him.

^ See Reoolleetions of Sixty Years in Canada, p. 2. The

original Tupper in America came out from England in 1635.

Sir Charles Tupper's great-grandfather migrated from Con-
necticut to Nova Scotia in 1763.


When the motion was presented to appoint
delegates to a conference at Charlottetown, to
consider a legislative union for the three mari-
time provinces, the skies were serene. The
idea met with a general, if rather languid,
approval. There was not even a flavour of
partisanship about the proceedings, and the
delegates were impartially selected from both
sides. The great Howe regarded the project
with a benignant eye. At this time he was
the Imperial fishery commissioner, and it
was his duty to inspect the deep-sea fishing
grounds each summer in a vessel of the
Imperial Navy. He was invited to go to
Charlottetown as a delegate, and declined in
the following terms :

I am sorry for many reasons to be com-
pelled to decline participation in the con-
ference at Charlottetown. The season is
so far advanced that I find my summer's
work would be so seriously deranged by
the visit to Prince Edward Island that,
without permission from the Foreign Office,
I would scarcely be justified in consulting
my own feelings at the expense of the
public service. I shall be home in October,
and will be very happy to co-operate in


carrying out any measure upon which the
conference shall agree.

A more striking evidence of his mood at this
juncture is afforded by a speech which he de-
livered at Halifax in August, when a party of
visitors from Canada were being entertained
at dinner.

I am not one of those who thank God
that I am a Nova Scotian merely, for I am
a Canadian as well. I have never thought
I was a Nova Scotian, but I have looked
across the broad continent as the great
territory which the Almighty has given us
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 floats
over the soil.^

In the time close at hand Howe was to find
these words quoted against him. Meanwhile
they were a sure warrant for peace and

In addressing the Assembly Tupper stated
that his visit to Canada during the previous

^ The Speeches and Public Letters of Joseph Howe, edited by
J. A. Chisholm, vol. ii, p. 433. Halifax, 1909.


year had convinced him that for some time
the larger union was impracticable. He had
found in Upper Canada a disinclination to
unite with the Maritime Provinces because,
from their identity of interest and geographical
position, they would strengthen Lower Canada.
Lower Canada was equally averse from union
through fear that it would increase the English
influence in a common legislature. Tupper
favoured the larger scheme, and looked for-
ward to its future realization, which would be
helped, not hindered, by the union of the
Maritime Provinces as a first step. Other
speakers openly declared for a general union,
and consented to the Charlottetown gathering
as a convenient preliminary. The resolution
passed without a division ; and, though the
members expressed a variety of opinion on
details, there was no hint of a coming storm.
The conference opened at Charlottetown on
September i, the following delegates being
present : from Nova Scotia, Charles Tupper,
William A. Henry, Robert B. Dickey, Jonathan
M=Cully, Adams G. Archibald; from New
Brunswick, S. L. Tilley, John M. Johnston,
John Hamilton Gray, Edward B. Chandler,
W. H. Steeves ; from Prince Edward Island,
J. H. Gray, Edward Palmer, W. H. Pope,

F.O.C. D


George Coles, A. A. Macdonald. Newfound-
land, having no part in the movement,
sent no representatives. Meanwhile Lord
Monck, at the request of his ministers, had
communicated with the lieutenant-governors
asking that a delegation of the Canadian
Cabinet might attend the meeting and lay
their own plans before it. This was readily
accorded. The visitors from Canada arrived
from Quebec by steamer. They were George
Brown, John A. Macdonald, Alexander T.
Gait, George E. Cartier, Hector L. Langevin,
William M^Dougall, D'Arcy M'Gee, and Alex-
ander Campbell. No official report of the
proceedings ever appeared. It is improb-
able that any exists, but we know from many
subsequent references nearly everything of
importance that took place. On the arrival
of the Canadians they were invited to address
the convention at once. The delegates from
the Maritime Provinces took the ground that
their own plan might, if adopted, be a bar to
the larger proposal, and accordingly suggested
that the visitors should be heard first. The
Canadians, however, saw no reason to fear
the smaller union. They believed that Con-
federation would gain if the three provinces
by the sea could be treated as a single unit.


But, being requested to state their case, they
naturally had no hesitation in doing so. During
the previous two months the members of the
coalition must have applied themselves dili-
gently to all the chief points in the project. It
may be supposed that Gait, Brown, and Mac-
donald made a strong impression at Charlotte-
town. They spoke respectively on the finance,
the general parliament, and the constitutional
structure of the proposed federation. These
subjects contained the germs of nearly all the
difficulties. When the delegates reassembled
a month later at Quebec, it is clear, from the
allusions made in the scanty reports that have
come down to us, that the leading phases of
the question had already been frankly debated.
Having heard the proposals of Canada, the
delegates of the Maritime Provinces met sepa-
rately to debate the question that had brought
them together. Obstacles at once arose. Only
Nova Scotia was found to be in favour of the
smaller union. New Brunswick was doubtful,
and Prince Edward Island positively refused
to give up her own legislature and executive.
The federation project involved no such sacri-
fice ; and, as Aaron's rod swallowed up all the
others, the dazzling prospects held out by
Canada eclipsed the other proposal, since they


provided a strong central government without
destroying the identity of the component parts.
The conference decided to adjourn to Halifax,
where, at the public dinner given to the visitors,
Macdonald made the formal announcement
that the delegates were unanimous in thinking
that a federal union could be effected. The
members, however, kept the secrets of the
convention with some skill. The speeches at
Halifax, and later on at St John, whither the
party repaired, abounded in glowing passages
descriptive of future expansion, but were
sparing of intimate detail. A passage in
Brown's speech at Halifax created favourable
comment on both sides of the ocean.

In these colonies as heretofore governed
[he said] we have enjoyed great advantages
under the protecting shield of the mother
country. We have had no army or navy
to sustain, no foreign diplomacy to sustain,
— our whole resources have gone to our
internal improvement, — and notwithstand-
ing our occasional strifes with the Colonial
Office, we have enjoyed a degree of self-
government and generous consideration
such as no colonies in ancient or modern
history ever enjoyed at the hands of a


parent state. Is it any wonder that
thoughtful men should hesitate to counte-
nance a step that might change the happy
and advantageous relations we have occu-
pied towards the mother country ? I am
persuaded there never was a moment in the
history of these colonies when the hearts
of our people were so firmly attached to
the parent state by the ties of gratitude
and affection as at this moment, and for
one I hesitate not to say that did this move-
ment for colonial union endanger the con-
nection that has so long and so happily
existed, it would have my firm opposition.

These and other utterances, equally forceful
and appealing directly to the pride and ambi-
tion of the country, were not without effect in
moulding public opinion. The tour was a
campaign of education. By avoiding the con-
stitutional issues the delegates gave little in-
formation which could afford carping critics
an opportunity to assail the movement pre-
maturely. It is true, some sarcastic comments
were made upon the manner in which the
Canadians had walked into the convention and
taken possession. At the Halifax dinner the
governor of Nova Scotia, Sir Richard Graves


Macdonnell, dropped an ironical remark on the
' disinterested ' course of Canada, which plainly
betrayed his own attitude. But the gather-
ing was, in the main, highly successful and
augured well for the movement.

The Charlottetown Conference was there-
fore an essential part of the proceedings which
culminated at Quebec. The ground had been
broken. The leaders in the various provinces
had formed ties of intimacy and friendship
and favourably impressed each other. At this
time were laid the foundations of the alliance
between Macdonald and Tilley, the Liberal
leader in New Brunswick, which made it pos-
sible to construct the first federal ministry
on a non-party basis and which enlisted in the
national service a devoted and trustworthy
public man. Tilley's career had few blemishes
from its beginning to its end. He was a
direct descendant of John Tilley, one of the
English emigrants to Massachusetts in the
Mayflower, and a great-grandson of Samuel
Tilley, one of the Loyalists who removed to
New Brunswick after the War of Independ-
ence. He had been drawn into politics against
his wishes by the esteem and confidence of his
fellow-citizens. A nominating convention at
which he was not present had selected him for


the legislature, and his first election had taken
place during his absence from the country.
Yet he had risen to be prime minister of his
province ; and his was the guiding hand which
brought New Brunswick into the union. His
defeat at first and the speedy reversal of the
verdict against Confederation form one of the
most diverting episodes in the history of the

The ominous feature of the Charlottetown
Conference was the absence of Joseph Howe,
the most popular leader in Nova Scotia. This
was one of the accidents which so often disturb
the calculations of statesmen. When the dele-
gates resumed their labours at Quebec he was
in Newfoundland, and he returned home to
find that a plan had been agreed upon without
his aid. From him, as well as from the gover-
nors of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, the
cause of federation was to receive its next
serious check.



The Quebec Conference began its sessions on
the loth of October 1864. It was now the
task of the delegates to challenge and over-
come the separatist tendencies that had
dominated British America since the dismem-
berment of the Empire eighty years before.
They were to prove that a new nationality
could be created, which should retain intact the
connection with the mother country. For
an event of such historic importance no better
setting could have been chosen than the
Ancient Capital, with its striking situation and
its hallowed memories of bygone days. The
delegates were practical and experienced men
of affairs, but they lacked neither poetic and
imaginative sense nor knowledge of the past ;
and it may well be that their labours were in-
spired and their deliberations influenced by
the historic associations of the place.

The gathering was remarkable for the varied


talents and forceful character of its principal
members. And here it may be noted that the
constitution was not chiefly the product of
legal minds. Brown, Tilley, Gait, Tupper, and
others who shared largely in the work of con-
struction were not lawyers. The conference
represented fairly the different interests and
occupations of a young country. It is to be
recorded, too, that the conclusions reached
were criticized as the product of men in a
hurry. Edward Goff Penny, editor of the
Montreal Herald, a keen critic, and afterwards
a senator, complained that the actual working
period of the conference was limited to four-
teen days. Joseph Howe poured scorn upon
Ottawa as the capital, stating that he preferred
London, the seat of empire, where there were
preserved * the archives of a nationality not
created in a fortnight.' Still more vigorous
were the protests against the secrecy of the
discussions. A number of distinguished jour-
nalists, including several English correspon-
dents who had come across the ocean to
write about the Civil War, were in Quebec,
and they were disposed to find fault with
the precautions taken to guard against pub-
licity. The following memorial was presented
to the delegates :


The undersigned, representatives of
English and Canadian newspapers, find
that it would be impossible for them satis-
factorily to discharge their duties if an in-
junction of secrecy be imposed on the con-
ference and stringently carried into effect.
They, therefore, beg leave to suggest
whether, while the remarks of individual
members of your body are kept secret, the
propositions made and the treatment they
meet with, might not advantageously be
made public, and whether such a course
would not best accord with the real inte-
rests committed to the conference. Such
a kind of compromise between absolute
secrecy and unlimited publicity is usually,
we believe, observed in cases where an
European congress holds the peace of the
world and the fate of nations in its hands.
And we have thought that the British
American Conference might perhaps con-
sider the precedent not inapplicable to the
present case. Such a course would have
the further advantage of preventing ill-
founded and mischievous rumours regard-
ing the proceedings from obtaining cur-

' Pope's Confederation Documents.


This ingenious appeal was signed by S. Phillips
Day, of the London Morning Herald, by
Charles Lindsey of the Toronto Leader, and by
Brown Chamberlain of the Montreal Gazette.
Among the other writers of distinction in
attendance were George Augustus Sala of the
London Daily Telegraph, Charles Mackay of
The Times, Livesy of Punch, and George Brega
of the New York Herald. But the conference
stood firm, and the impatient correspondents
were denied even the mournful satisfaction of
brief daily protocols. They were forced to be
content with overhearing the burst of cheer-
ing from the delegates when Macdonald's
motion proposing federation was unanimously
adopted. The reasons for maintaining strict
secrecy were thus stated by John Hamilton
Gray,^ a delegate from New Brunswick, who
afterwards became the historian of the Con-
federation movement :

After much consideration it was deter-
mined, as in Prince Edward Island, that
the convention should hold its delibera-

^ There were two delegates named John Hamilton Gray, one
whose views are quoted here, the other the prime minister of
Prince Edward Island. Only one volume of Gray's work on
Confederation ever appeared, the second volume, it is said, being
unfinished when the author died in British Columbia.


tions with closed doors. In addition to
the reasons which had governed the con-
vention at Charlottetown, it was further
urged, that theviewsof individual members,
after a first expression, might be changed
by the discussion of new points, differing
essentially from the ordinary current of
subjects that came under their considera-
tion in the more limited range of the Pro-
vincial Legislatures ; and it was held that
no man ought to be prejudiced, or be liable
to the charge in public that he had on some
other occasion advocated this or that doc-
trine, or this or that principle, inconsistent
with the one that might then be deemed
best, in view of the future union to be
adopted. . . . Liberals and Conservatives
had there met to determine what was best
for the future guidance of half a continent,
not to fight old party battles, or stand by
old party cries, and candour was sought
for more than mere personal triumph. The
conclusion arrived at, it is thought, was
judicious. It ensured the utmost free-
dom of debate ; the more so, inasmuch as
the result would be in no way binding
upon those whose interests were to be
affected until and unless adopted after the


greatest publicity and the fullest public

That the conference decided wisely admits of
no doubt. The provincial secretaries of the
several provinces were appointed joint secre-
taries, and Hewitt Bernard, chief clerk of the
department of the attorney-general for Upper
Canada, was named executive secretary. In
his longhand notes, found among the papers
of Sir John Macdonald, and made public thirty
years later by Sir Joseph Pope, we have the
only official record of the resolutions and de-
bates of the conference. Posterity has reason
to be grateful for even this limited revelation
of the proceedings from day to day. It enables

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Online LibraryA. H. U. (Arthur Hugh Urquhart) ColquhounThe fathers of confederation; a chronicle of the birth of the Dominion → online text (page 3 of 11)