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England, which has fully proved the injurious effect of the
protective system, and the advantage of low duties upon
manufactures, should be lost sight of, and that such an act
as the present should have been passed. 1

1 Egerton and Grant, 348-349.




of the







of the



sible only
to the
people of

Gait, through the governor-general, then as
now the medium of communication between the
cabinet and the colonial office, replied to New-
castle on October 25, 1859. He replied in a
memorandum, approved by the cabinet at
Quebec, which among state papers of the nine-
teenth century concerning colonies that are now
of the dominions, ranks second only to Durham's
Report of 1838.

The paragraphs of importance in this study of
the evolution of the Dominion of Canada are
three in number. "Respect to the imperial
government," wrote Gait, in the first of these
paragraphs a paragraph in which he stated
what he conceived were the rights of the govern-
ment of the United Provinces under the written
and unwritten constitution of 1840

must always dictate the desire to satisfy them that the policy
of this country is neither hastily nor unwisely formed, and
that due regard is had to the interests of the mother country
as well as of the province. But the government of Canada,
acting for its legislature and people, cannot through those
feelings of deference which they owe to the imperial author-
ities, in any measure waive or diminish the right of the people
of Canada to decide for themselves both as to the mode and
extent to which taxation shall be imposed.

The provincial ministry Gait assured Newcastle are
at all times ready to afford explanations in regard to acts of
the legislature to which they are party, but subject to their
duty and allegiance to her majesty, their responsibility in all
general questions of policy must be to the provincial parlia-
ment, by whose confidence they administer the affairs of the
country. And in the imposition of taxation it is so plainly


necessary that the administration and the people be in accord,
that the former cannot admit responsibility or require approval
beyond that of the local legislature.

Self-government reads the second of these paragraphs Gait's
would be utterly annihilated if the views of the imperial concep-
government were to be preferred to those of the people of ti n
Canada. It is, therefore, the duty of the present government coi^ai
distinctly to affirm the right of the Canadian legislature to auton-
adjust the taxation of the people in the way they deem best m y
even if it should unfortunately happen to meet with the
disapproval of the imperial ministry. Her majesty cannot
be advised to disallow such acts unless her advisers are pre-
pared to assume the administration of the affairs of the
colony, irrespective of the views of its inhabitants.

The imperial government wrote Gait, in the third para- Re-
graph of his historic memorandum are not responsible l ations
for the debts and engagements of Canada. They do not .

maintain its judicial, educational, or civil services. They govern-
contribute nothing to the internal government of the country; ment
and the provincial legislature, acting through a ministry with the
directly responsible to it, has to make provision for all these ]
wants. They must necessarily claim and exercise the widest
latitude as to the nature and extent of the burdens to be
placed upon the industry of the people. The provincial
government believes that his grace must share their con-
viction on this important subject; but as serious evils would
have resulted had his grace taken a different course, it is
wiser to prevent future complications by distinctly stating
the position that must be maintained by every Canadian
administration. 1

After Great Britain had conceded responsible
government to all the British North American
provinces, and had also adopted free trade, there
were at least two instances in which the colonial

1 Egerton and Grant, 349-351.



Colonial office had interfered with the fiscal policies of
colonies with responsible government. The legis-
ference lature of New Brunswick in 1848 had passed a
wltil bill under which bounties were to be paid to
fiscal encourage the cultivation of hemp. At Charlotte-
policies town in 1852 the legislature of Prince Edward
Island passed a bill under which bounties were
to be paid to fishermen to offset the competition
the island fishermen were then meeting from the
bounty-aided fishermen of New England. Both
these laws were disallowed by the government at
Westminster. 1

Endan- It would have been possible, moreover, for

^^ Newcastle to have objected to the tariff of the

reciproc- United Provinces of 1859 on the ground that

j^ it endangered the treaty of reciprocity with the

with the United States, which was then in force, a treaty

for which the British government was responsible;

and also on the ground that it was injurious to

the empire at large.

injury The second of these objections could easily

empire have been lodged against the new tariff, because,

at large as will be recalled, after the conflict over the

rebellion losses bill of 1849 the principle adopted

at the colonial office in regard to colonies with

responsible government was that Great Britain

"has no interest whatever in exercising any

greater influence in the internal affairs of the

colonies than is indispensable, either for the

purpose of preventing any one colony from

1 Cf. Speech by Sir John Pakington, H. C., March 4, 1853.


adopting measures injurious to another, or to
the empire at large." 1

The New Brunswick and Prince Edward Prece-
Island precedents were, however, not pressed *^
into service by the colonial office at this crisis ignored
of 1859. The changes in the tariff adverse to
American manufacturing interests, changes which
had much to do with the denunciation of the
treaty in 1865 by the United States, 2 were ignored
in the correspondence between Westminster and
Quebec. Nor was there any attempt to enforce
the principle that a government at Whitehall had
the right to interfere when legislation was pending
in a colony that was injurious to other colonies
or to the empire at large.

The Cayley and Gait tariffs directly endangered interests
no interest of the maritime provinces, because, J^J^
except for a little coal from Sydney, Nova Scotia, provinces
none of the provinces "down by the sea" marketed
any of its products in Lower or Upper Canada.
But these tariffs of 1858-1859 did endanger the
reciprocity treaty, in which New Brunswick,
Nova Scotia, and Prince Edward Island had as
large an interest as the United Provinces.

The tariffs were also distinctly adverse to the
iron and steel, textile and leather industries of
the United Kingdom. They came, moreover,
as a shock to both British statesmen and British

1 Cf. Earl Grey, "The Colonial Policy of Lord John
Russell's Administration," I, 17.

1 Cf. Porritt, "Sixty Years of Protection in Canada,"



A shock commercial and manufacturing interests; for it
stafes- 8 kad never been conceived in England in 1846,
men and when protection and the old commercial policy of
the empire the protectionist tariff and the old
merciai navigation code were abandoned, that British
interests co i orn * es WO uld dream of imposing protective

duties on imports from the United Kingdom.
NO Newcastle and the Whig government at

native Westminster were confronted with the fact that
open to responsible government had been established in
the United Provinces for ten years, and that
Gait's memorandum left them no alternative,
unless they were prepared to establish military
rule in the United Provinces, and in the colonies
that followed the example of Canada.
Charter The royal assent, as Newcastle's dispatch to
the governor-general of August 13 had fore-
freedom shadowed, was not withheld. The tariff bill
of the became a law; and Gait's memorandum of


October 25, 1859, became the charter of fiscal
freedom of the colonies with responsible govern-
ment. It became, in fact, part of the unwritten
constitution of the oversea dominions,
other Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Prince Ed-

colonies war( j I s l an( l m t he years from 1859 to Confeder-

followthe . r 11 i i e i TT i

example ation did not follow the example of the United
Provinces. These provinces had then no manu-

Provinces facturing industries to protect. Newfoundland
has never had a protective tariff. But Victoria
adopted protection in 1864; New South Wales in
1865; British Columbia in 1867; New Zealand


in 1881; South Australia in 1882; and until the
British preference was embodied in the Canadian
tariff of 1897 not a single colony had enacted any
preference for imports from the United Kingdom
or for the sister colonies. Into all British colonies,
from 1846 to 1897, manufactures from the United
States were admitted on exactly the same terms
as manufactures from the United Kingdom.

The concession by Great Britain to the United Last
Provinces of the right to make their own tariffs c
was the last of a long series of concessions that con-
began in 1841, after responsible government had cessions
been established as the result of the liberal
policy of Sydenham and of the democratic spirit
in which he interpreted his instructions from the
colonial office.

XIV. A Nation Created out of Two Backwoods

Political conditions in the United Provinces were Political
at no time ideal. There was intense bitterness in ^"


the political life of Upper Canada until the clergy in the
reserves question was settled in 1854, and the ^^ ce
influence of the Family Compact was eradicated
in 1859-60. Corruption in connection with railway
legislation and railway subsidies and bonds was
abounding. 1 There was much friction and jealousy

1 A detailed description of some of thes'e conditions is
embodied in a report of 115 pages from a select committee of
the legislative council a committee that in 1855 investi-
gated charges made against Francis Hincks, premier of the
United Provinces from 1851 to 1854.



between Upper and Lower Canada over the de-
mand of Upper Canada for representation based
on population. There was, in fact, such friction,
and such instability of government arising from
the system of ministries with double heads and
double majorities, that a federal union instead of
the legislative union of 1840 had become inevitable
as early as 1856.

Comip- Elections to the legislative assembly were

Seal characterized by bribery, corruption, and most

heelers, of the artifices of the political boss. Speakers of

the assembly were sometimes partisan. Sharp

predatory J m f m

interests and discreditable manoeuvers in constitutional
practice were resorted to by at least one hard-
pressed ministry. The civil service was recruited
from political heelers, with little regard for
economy or efficiency; and special interests, intent
on using the constitutional machinery of taxation
for their own advantage, promptly entrenched
themselves in the tariffs enacted after 1858.

Develop- After the numerous amendments to the con-
stitution of 1840 made by the imperial parliament

local between 1847 and 1854, not one of these evils

conditions was mneren t J n the system of government in
the constitutional machinery created either by
parliament at Westminster or by the legislature
of the United Provinces. Nor were they due,
directly or indirectly, to any influence or control
exercised by the colonial office. They were all
developed by local as distinct from constitutional
conditions; and after the sweeping amendments


made at Westminster in 1854, it was easily
within the power of the legislature to remedy or
eradicate them all.

Despite the friction between Lower and Upper A demo-
Canada, and despite these blemishes, a political ^JjJ^
civilization extremely democratic in character dviiiza-
was created between 1840 and 1867. With the tion
political and constitutional opportunities that
were afforded by Great Britain to all the British
North American provinces in those years, the
legislature and the statesmen of the United
Provinces, aided by governors-general such as
Sydenham, Bagot, Elgin, Head, and Monck,
created a nation out of two backwoods provinces.

"You can mark during that period," said Agov-
Monck, 1 in his farewell address to the last legisla- e *~ &l , s
ture of the United Provinces, "the firm consolida- survey
tion of your institutions, both political and ^f e e ye _
municipal. You can mark the extended settle- ments of
ment of your country, the development of your J^~
internal resources and foreign trade, the improve-
ment and simplification of your laws, and above
all the education which the adoption of the
system of responsible government has afforded to
your statesmen in the well-tried ways of the
British constitution." 2

There was, it can be added, no exaggeration
or overstatement in these farewell words of the
last governor-general of the United Provinces.

1 Governor-general from 1861 to 1867.

2 Journals of the Legislative Council, August 15, 1866.





Canadian, T^QUR distinct and easily traceable in-
and ' r fluences worked to bring about Con-
American federation and the enactment of the British
North America act the constitution of the
Dominion by the imperial parliament in 1867.
Two of these influences were at work in
Canada. The first of them was operative in the
United Provinces; the second in the Maritime
Provinces. The third influence was potent at
Westminster; and the fourth, which affected
political conditions both in Canada and at
Westminster, but especially at Westminster, was

Example The American influence was developed partly
JfVr f <> ut of the example of the United States, and


states partly, it must be conceded, out of fear of the
United States. The example of the United
States the success of the federal system
stimulated the movement for confederation in
the United Provinces. 1 Apprehension in England
concerning the attitude of the United States
towards British North America, especially during
and at the close of the civil war of 1861-1865,
1 Cf. Mackenzie, 342.



greatly strengthened the influences at West-
minster that were favorable to any workable
plan for a union of all the provinces under British
rule from the Atlantic to the Pacific coast. 1

In the Maritime Provinces the influence that union of
worked for a confederation of the British North m "" ime

. . ,. . provinces

American provinces was the fact that in 1863- contem-
1864 the Maritime Provinces, which then had ta

many interests in common, and scarcely any ise*
that were antagonistic, were contemplating a
legislative union.

All these influences were at work from 1861 to Failure
1867. Two had been in existence and operating j^f 8 "
from 1858; for in that year it was shown un- union of
mistakably that the legislative union of Upper ^w**
and Lower Canada was a failure as far as Upper Lower
Canada was concerned; and there was also an Canada
intimation in the speech from the throne, in the
house of lords, at Westminster, that the imperial
government would welcome a union of all the
British North American provinces.

I. The Origin of the Confederation Idea

If Great Britain was to retain the half of the Con-
North American continent that remained to her f der ~


after the American revolution, Confederation sug-
was inevitable as soon as the peace of Versailles
was signed. It was urged, in fact, as early as

1 Cf. Debates on British North America Act, H. L., Febru-
ary 27, March 4, also Queen's speech at end of session, August
21, 1867.



1783 by Colonel Moore, a government engineer,
who under instructions from Guy Carleton,
governor of Quebec, reported on the resources
and defenses of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick.
A con- Moore recommended the union of the Mari-

S^adsT 1 time Provinces with the territory out of which
as a in 1791 Lower and Upper Canada were carved,
united* ^ e ur S ec * tnat by the establishment of uniform
states government and laws, intercourse and mutual
interests would be created; that "a great country
may yet be raised up in America "; and that
"only by union was there any likelihood of
saving what remained to Great Britain upon
the continent of America, and of building up a
formidable rival to the American states." 1
Credit All that is known of Moore is that he was a

toMoore m ^ a - r Y engineer, and that he wrote this report
in 1783; but Canadian historians credit him
with having been the first Englishman to con-
ceive of a great Canadian confederation, such as
came into being between Dominion Day, 1867,
and the great war.

Asug- A little more than half a century after Moore

from n dreamed his dream, the house of commons at
pariia- Westminster in 1837 adopted a resolution in
inTss? which was emphasized the need of some arrange-
ment between the Maritime Provinces and Lower
and Upper Canada for the joint regulation and
adjustment of interests that were common to all
the British North American provinces. 2

1 Cf. Boyd, 173. * Cf. Mackenzie, 339.



Durham in his report of 1838 recommended Durham's
that the bill for the union of Lower and Upper ^^ 8 e
Canada "should contain provisions by which
any or all of the other North American colonies
may, on application of the legislature, with the
consent of the two Canadas, or their united
legislature, be admitted into the union on such
terms as may be agreed on between them."

The idea of a union of all the British North An
American provinces was thus much older than JJJJJ^
the yoking of Lower and Upper Canada in 1840; plea for
and this union of two provinces, with nearly as ~ r
many interests which were sharply antagonistic ation
as interests which they had in common, had inl851
been in existence for only a single decade when
an Upper Canadian member of the legislative
assembly Merritt, of Lincoln asked the
house to agree to an address to the crown for a
constitutional convention to consider a federal
union. This was in 1851, before the under-repre-
sentation of Upper Canada in the legislative
assembly had become a grievance with Canadians
west of the Ottawa River, and only seven
members voted with Merritt.

II. Popular Dissatisfaction in Upper
Canada with the Union of 184.0

It was the census of 1851 that revealed that Census
Upper Canada was inadequately represented in of 1851
the legislative assembly. Experience of the
working of legislative union showed that through


indirect taxation by which the revenues were
raised, and also through the difference in social
habits and requirements of the people of Upper
Canada and of the habitants of the French
province, Upper Canada was paying three-fourths
of the expenditures of the United Provinces.
Upper With the revelation of these facts there began

demands t ^ ie movement of Upper Canada for a representa-
a larger tive system based on population. After the
sentation swee P m g anc ^ radical amendments made in 1854
at Westminster to the constitution of 1840, it
was within the power of the legislature to
remedy this grievance, and to increase the repre-
sentation of Upper Canada in the legislative

French French Canada was, however, well aware of

prevents two ^ acts m tne history of the act of union of
aredistri- 1840. It knew that the assigning to Upper
of U seats Canada of as many representatives in the legisla-
tive assembly and the legislative council as were
assigned to Lower Canada was done to give the
population of British origin in the United Prov-
inces a preponderating influence in the legislature
and the government. Canadians of British origin
were to have this ascendancy, although from
1830 to 1840 the population of Upper Canada
was much less than that of Lower Canada.
Safeguards French Canada also knew that the clause in
c r U da 6r ^ e act ^ umon making it impossible to vary the
that apportionment of members in the assembly,
became a exce p t by a two-thirds vote of both the assembly


and the council, was intended to safeguard the
representation as determined at the union.

The leaders of French-Canadians in the legis- Lower
lature could not gainsay the census statistics of Ca ada
1851. Nor could it be denied that the larger part claims
of the revenue was paid by Upper Canada. But ?
French-Canadians refused to concede the claim Canada
of Upper Canada for a larger representation in
the legislature; and nothing short of another
rebellion, and another intervention by the im-
perial government similar to that of 1837-1840,
could have remedied the grievance of Upper
Canada, had not French Canada, as time went
on, become willing to consider a federal union,
with a legislature for each province, charged
with the administration of exclusively provincial

No appeal for representation by population French
moved French Canada as long as the union Jjjjj^*
of 1840 continued. French-Canadian leaders, taking
moreover, were so determined that nothing
should endanger the position of their people in Bay
the legislature, that for some years they blocked
all proposals for taking over the territory of the
Hudson Bay Company by the government of
the United Provinces, lest its settlement and
development should add to the political power
of Upper Canada. 1

1 Cf. Mackenzie, 102.


III. Imperial Aspects of Confederation

An At this point the difficulties between Upper

imperial an( j L ower Canada on the question of representa-

interest ..,,., .

endan- tion in the legislature touched an important
gered imperial interest; for the imperial government at
this time was much concerned about the future
of the vast stretch of country lying between the
western boundary of Upper Canada and the
Rocky Mountains.

Population was pouring into the northwestern
states. Settlement was coming near the boundary
line that divides these states today from Mani-
toba and Saskatchewan; and Great Britain was
nervous lest American settlement might push
into the uninhabited prairie country of Canada,
and lest international complications might ensue. 1

If the United Provinces would not, or could
not, take over responsibility for the government
and settlement of the Hudson Bay Company's
territory, its settlement presented a new and
difficult problem for the colonial office; and it
was for this reason, among others, that in 1864-
1866 the government at Westminster extended
such a welcome hand to statesmen from Canada
with proposals for a confederation of the British
North American provinces.

Old as were the suggestions for confederation,
there were great difficulties to be overcome before

1 Cf. Speech by Earl of Carnarvon, H. L., February 19,



the dreams of Moore, Durham and Merritt civil
could be realized. Several decades might have !TJ t ^
passed before the Dominion of Canada came states
into being, had it not been for the failure in some
important aspects of the union of 1840, and for
the civil war in the United States.

The civil war, and the international difficulties End of
it developed, raised apprehensions at Toronto, 1 "J dpcoc "
Quebec, and Ottawa, and above all at West- treaty
minster, concerning the defense of the British
North American provinces. 1 Resulting from the
civil war there came threats from Washington
threats made good in 1865 of the denuncia-
tion of the reciprocity treaty of 1854. There
were also threats, which were not made good, of
abrogating the article in the convention of 1818
an article which Great Britain had rigidly
insisted on at the time the convention was
made which interdicted the maintenance of
vessels of war on the Great Lakes, and of ending
the bonding privileges which so greatly facili-

Online LibraryEdward PorrittEvolution of the Dominion of Canada; its government and its politics → online text (page 12 of 34)