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Evolution of the Dominion of Canada; its government and its politics online

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tated transport by the railways and on the
Great Lakes.

There was, moreover, the isolation of British isolation
Columbia, and its partial dependence for transport B ritish
facilities on San Francisco; and there was the Columbia
danger, which has already been alluded to, that
American settlers in the northwestern states
might look with covetous eyes on the splendid

1 Cf. Buckle, "The Life of Benjamin Disraeli, Earl of
Beaconsfield," IV, 475.



grain-growing and ranching country in the
territory between the Lake of the Woods and the
eastern foothills of the Rocky Mountains.
Hudson The only governing power until 1869 in the
Bay Com- t err i torv O ut of which since 1871 there have
tenure of been organized the provinces of Manitoba,
power Saskatchewan, and Alberta was the Hudson
Bay Company. Its tenure of authority had
long been wearing thin. The British govern-
ment dreaded any large inroad of Americans
into the country before it should be taken over
by a Canadian government, and adequately
organized for defense and civil administration.
Conditions Upper Canada had no practical concern over
the isolation of British Columbia. That was an


ail unfortunate condition that troubled only the

provinces E n gii s h settlers in the Pacific coast province
and the colonial office at Westminster. But
Upper Canada was greatly interested in the
almost uninhabited regions beyond its western
boundary line. It was also practically interested
in the bonding question; and Upper Canada,
Lower Canada, and the Maritime Provinces
were directly interested in the defense of the
British North American provinces, and in the
disturbing economic changes that would result
from the denunciation by the United States of
the Elgin-Marcy treaty.

Deadlock All these conditions, as well as the movement
in united ^ Maritime Provinces in the early sixties


for a legislative union, made for Confederation.


But it was the deadlock in the United Provinces,
resulting from the inadequate representation of
Upper Canada and the instability of govern-
ments based on double majorities and double-
headed cabinets, 1 that forced the question to the
front, and from 1858 made a federal union of
Upper and Lower Canada, or a union including
all the British North American provinces, the
dominant issue in Canadian politics.

There were many fathers of Confederation. 2 Gait
Thirty-three statesmen of the United Provinces, J^*J
the Maritime Provinces, and Newfoundland eration
were of the constitutional conventions at Char- ! th . e


lottetown and Quebec in 1864 at which the Do-
minion was created. But it was Alexander Tulloch
Gait Gait of the epoch-making correspondence
with Newcastle over the tariffs of 1858 and
1859 who first pushed the idea of Confederation
into the realm of practical politics at Toronto
and Quebec and also at Westminster.

In the session of 1858, before he succeeded His fear
Cayley as minister of finance, Gait outlined a ^
plan for federal union in a speech in the legislative tionof


1 Cf. Francis J. Audet, "Canadian Dates and Events by
1492-1915," 105. United

* "Confederation will stand for all time as the monument v
of the work accomplished by the devotion, the unselfishness,
and the far-sighted vision of those men whom we are all proud
to call the fathers of federation. To these men and their
work we owe a (debt which we can never repay." The Duke
of Devonshire, governor-general of Canada, at the dedication
of the new parliament house, at Ottawa, July 2, 1917.



assembly a speech in which he declared, with
characteristic outspokenness, that unless such a
union were effected, the British North American
provinces would ultimately drift into the United
States. 1

Attitude Edmund Walker Head, Elgin's successor as
im rial g vernor -g enera l> did all in his power to forward
govern- the scheme Gait had outlined on July 6, 1858;
and the first intimation to the world at large
that the imperial government was coming into
the discussion of Confederation was an announce-
ment in the speech from the throne in the legisla-
tive council of the United Provinces, at the end
of the session of 1858, that the Maritime
Provinces and the imperial government, were
about to be invited to discuss, with representatives
of the United Provinces, the principles on which
a "bond of a federal character, uniting the
provinces of British North America, may perhaps
hereafter be practicable." 2

IV. An Appeal to Whitehall

Confed- In the interval between the end of the session
qu^tton of l8 5 8 and tne beginning of that of 1859, Gait
for and Cartier were at Whitehall in the interest

provinces Q f tne new movem ent. Representatives of the


selves Maritime Provinces had been at the colonial
office in the previous year, in the interest of a
union of these provinces. They had been told
by Labouchere, secretary for the colonies in the

1 Cf. Boyd, 174. 2 Ibid., 175.



Palmerston administration of 1855-1858, that
union was a question for the provinces them-
selves, and that no obstacles would be thrown in
their way by the imperial government.

In October, 1858, when Gait and Cartier were Buiwer
in London, the Derby administration of 1858- Jjj" 011
1859 was in power, with Buiwer Lytton as colonial
colonial secretary. It was Buiwer Lytton who
piloted the act creating representative govern-
ment for British Columbia through the house of
commons. It was Buiwer Lytton also who was
responsible for the paragraph in the Queen's
speech at the end of the session of 1858 expressing
the hope that the new colony on the Pacific
coast would be but one step in the process by
which the British dominions in North America
might be peopled in an unbroken chain from the
Atlantic to the Pacific by a loyal population of
subjects of the British crown.

Gait and Cartier laid the case for Confederation Case for
before Buiwer Lytton in a memorandum dated
October 23, 1858 one of the really important
documents in the constitutional history of the
Dominion. The act of union of 1840 and its
provisions regarding representation in the legisla-
tive assembly were recalled. The colonial secre-
tary was reminded that in 1840 Lower Canada
possessed a much larger population than Upper
Canada, and that in the first decade of the union
representation as determined by the act had led
to no difficulties.


Conflict But since that period continued the memorandum

between the growth of population has been more rapid in the west-
ern section in Upper Canada and claims are now made on
Canada behalf of its inhabitants for giving them representation in
the legislature in proportion to their numbers. These claims,
involving, it is believed, a most serious interference with the
principles on which union was based, have been and are
being strenuously resisted by Lower Canada. The result is
shown by an agitation fraught with great danger to the
peaceful and harmonious working of our constitutional
system, and consequently detrimental to the progress of the

Only one The necessity of providing a remedy for a state of things
remedy tna t is yearly becoming worse, and of allaying feelings that
are being daily aggravated by the contentions of political
parties continued the memorandum has impressed the
advisers of her majesty's representative in Canada with
the importance of seeking for such a mode of dealing with these
difficulties as may forever remove them. In this view it has
appeared to them advisable to consider how far the union of
Lower with Upper Canada could be rendered essentially
federative in combination with the provinces of New Bruns-
wick, Nova Scotia, and Prince Edward Island, together with
such other territories as it may be desirable to incorporate
with confederation from the possessions of the crown in
British North America. 1

Relations The interests that the Maritime Provinces

Maritime t ^ ien shared with the United Provinces were only

Provinces those that arose out of the fact that all five prov-

JJ^ ted inces were on the same continent, and were

Provinces under the same crown. Otherwise the United

Provinces and the "provinces down by the

sea" stood to each other almost in the relation

of foreign states.

1 Boyd, 176.



Hostile customs houses guarded their frontiers. Tariffs
Tariffs for protection in the United Provinces, and

. currency

and tariffs for revenue in New Brunswick, Nova
Scotia, Prince Edward Island, and Newfound-
land, choked the channels of intercolonial trade.
There was no uniformity in banking. There
was no common system of weights and measures;
and there was no identity of postal service.
The currency differed. The sovereign and the
American dollar were legal tender in the United
Provinces. British and American coins were
also current in New Brunswick. In Nova
Scotia, Peruvian, Mexican, and Columbian dollars
were legal tender; while in Prince Edward Island
the complexity of current moneys and of their
relative values was even greater. 1

In the Gait and Cartier memorial, Bulwer Progress
Lytton, the colonial secretary, was reminded of f
these conditions. He was reminded that each North
colony was distinct in government, customs, ^.^d
industries, and legislation.

To each other continued the memorandum no greater
facilities are extended than to any foreign state, and the
only common tie is that which binds all to the British crown.
This state of things is considered neither promotive of the
physical prosperity of all, nor of that moral union which
ought to be possessed in the presence of the powerful con-
federation of the United States.

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

[ 193 ]


V. Dread of Annexation by the United

Attitude Gait, in his speech in the legislative assembly

^^ alt in 1858, had urged confederation to ward off

Cartier annexation. Cartier had no admiration of Ameri-

towards can p O ii t ; ca i institutions. He never concealed


states his dislike of them; l and the attitude of Gait
and Cartier towards the United States is ex-
pressed in the memorandum of October 13. "It
is in the power of the imperial government by
sanctioning a confederation of these provinces,"
they wrote, "to constitute a dependency of the
empire, valuable in time of peace and powerful
in the event of war, forever removing the fear
that these colonies may ultimately serve to
swell the power of another nation." 2

A con- The request to the colonial secretary was that

mtion t jj e British government would authorize a con-
vention of delegates from the Maritime Provinces
and the United Provinces to consider a federative
union the convention to report on the prin-
ciples on which such a union might properly be

New Only Nova Scotia and Newfoundland had

wickand snown anv active interest in the movement in
Prince 1857 for a union of the Maritime Provinces.
SunT 1 Bulwer Lytton communicated this fact to the
hold aloof representatives of the United Provinces. "We
think," he added, "that we should be wanting in

i Cf. Boyd, 356-357- a IK*-, 177-

C 194]


proper consideration for those governments if
we were to authorize, without previous knowledge
of their views, a meeting of delegates from the
executive councils, and thus commit them to
preliminary steps towards the settlement of a
momentous question of which they have not yet
signified their assent to the principle."

The colonial secretary communicated the views Govem-
of the United Provinces to the governments at ^ld f
Fredericton, Halifax, Charlottetown, and St. Provinces
John's; and when Gait and Cartier returned to ^ es
Quebec in the winter of 1858, the cabinet of the move
United Provinces also put itself in communication
with these governments, and invited them to
take such action as they deemed expedient.
Nothing immediate resulted from these com-
munications; but they gave an impetus to the
movement, and they were the first practical steps
in the direction of Confederation.

The next year, 1859, the Liberals of Upper A less
Canada held a convention at Toronto which was f^"


attended by 570 delegates. Confederation was scheme
discussed; but the outlook for a comprehensive ^^ ed _
scheme was then so unpromising that the con- eration
vention decided that the most practical and
immediate remedy for the constitutional griev-
ances of Upper Canada was the organization of
two local governments, and the creation of a
joint authority to control interests common to
Upper and Lower Canada.

Brown, the leader of the Liberals of Upper



Canada, 1 formulated this plan in the session of
the legislature of 1860. He submitted two reso-
lutions. One declared that the union of 1840
was a failure, that it had resulted in great politi-
cal abuses and universal dissatisfaction. The
other called for an end to the legislative union,
and the organization of the two provinces on the
lines urged at the Toronto convention of Sep-
tember, 1859. Both resolutions were defeated
by large majorities, and in 1860 no progress
towards confederation or towards redress of the
grievances of Upper Canada was apparent.

1 "George Brown was loved by many people who never
saw his face, nor heard his voice. Back in the townships,
where the Globe carried its weekly message, he had the
authority of a prophet. He created the Liberal party of
Upper Canada, as Sir Wilfred Laurier has fashioned the
Liberal party of to-day." Sir John Willison, " Some Politi-
cal Leaders in the Canadian Federation," in "The Federa-
tion of Canada 1867-1917," p. 54.




THERE was a general election in the United A
Provinces in 1861. It resulted in the

overthrow of the Cartier-Macdonald government, ment
But in the years from 1861 to 1864 there was ed ed
instability of political conditions in the United Confed-
Provinces that was without precedent in the eration
English-speaking world. There were three gov-
ernments in this short period; and in June,
1864, a deadlock would have ensued had not
Brown x and the Liberals supported the Tache-
Macdonald administration in return for a guar-
antee for the settlement of the constitutional

1 " Brown was leader of the Clear Grit party, and second
to Macdonald (if to him) in personal influence." Riddell,
"Constitution of Canada," Note xxii, 49. "Dunkin, a
member of the legislature from Broome, said that the attempt
to overcome the deadlock by the scheme of Confederation
reminded him of the two boys who upset the canoe. Tom
said, 'Bill, can you pray?' Bill admitted that he could not
think of any prayer that was suitable to the occasion.
Tom's rejoinder, according to Dunkin, was earnest, but not
parliamentary. He said, 'Well, something has to be done,
and that soon. '" Willison, "Some Political Leaders in
the Canadian Federation," 51.



Or end A coalition government was formed, with
legislative B rown an( j two o f his colleagues of the Liberal


of 1840 party as members of the cabinet. It was a
coalition based on a written agreement that
(i) the government would address themselves to
the negotiations for a confederation of the British
North American provinces; and (2) in the event
of failure in this undertaking, they would intro-
duce, in the next legislative session, the federal
principle for the United Provinces alone, "coupled
with such provisions as would permit the Mari-
time Provinces to be hereafter incorporated into
the Canadian system." x

It was in June, 1864, that this great forward
step was taken. Earlier in the year the pro-



Maritime posals of 1857 for a legislative union of the
Provinces Maritime Provinces had been revived. The
legislatures of New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and
Prince Edward Island passed resolutions authoriz-
ing their governments to send representatives to
a convention to be held at Charlottetown in
September, 1864. Charles Tupper, at this time
a doctor at Amherst, Nova Scotia, but from
1864 to 1901 one of the foremost Canadian
statesmen, was the leading spirit in the union
movement in the Maritime Provinces. 2

1 Mackenzie, 90.

2 "Tupper was bold, confident, dominant. He never
knew the call to retreat. He had courage for any combat
and resource for any emergency. History will find and
point out blemishes in the public career of Sir Charles



The Charlottetown convention met on Sep- Char-
tember I. The government of the United ^ tow
Provinces, without waiting for an invitation, ventum
sent a delegation to Charlottetown to urge a
confederation of all the British provinces. The
delegation was cordially received, and the result
was a second convention held at Quebec in

All the provinces, including Newfoundland, Quebec
were represented at Quebec. The convention ^ t " ion
was in session behind closed doors from October
10 to October 28. 1 It agreed on a federal as
distinct from a legislative union; and from the
historic Quebec convention, the first constitu-
tional convention in the history of the British
Empire, with the exception of the conventions
that preceded the union of England and Scotland
in 1707, were issued the famous seventy-four
confederation resolutions.

Tupper, but he gave the state physical vigour, intellectual
power, and constructive energy. As for the rest, 'his great-
ness, not his littleness, concerns mankind.'" Willison,
"Some Political Leaders in the Canadian Federation," 59.

1 Correspondents representing Canadian, British and
American newspapers assembled at Quebec to report the
proceedings of the convention. In answer to a memorial
for facilities for reporting the correspondents were told,
in a letter from the secretary, H. Bernard, that no com-
munications of the proceedings of the convention could be
made until the delegates were enabled definitely to report
the issue of their deliberations to the governments of the
respective provinces. Joseph Pope, " Confederation Docu-
ments," ii.



British These resolutions having been adopted by the

America legislatures of the United Provinces, Nova
act Scotia, and New Brunswick, 1 they were embodied

in the British North America act which was
passed by the imperial parliament. The act
received the royal assent on March 29, and the
Dominion came into existence on July i, 1867.
Kingdom There are 145 sections and five schedules in
Dominion t ^ e British North America act. The act was
the creation of the statesmen of the British
North American provinces, with few suggestions
and little help from the colonial office or the
imperial parliament. There were statesmen in
British North America John Alexander Mac-
donald, in particular who would have liked
to give to the new confederation the title of the
Kingdom of Canada. But Lord Derby, who was
premier of the Conservative administration of
1866-1868 that carried the act through parlia-
ment, was careful of the susceptibilities of the
United States, and suggested Dominion instead
of Kingdom.

I. American Opposition to Confederation

opposi- In 1866-67 the acutely disturbing contention
United ^ over tne com P en sation demanded by the United
states States from Great Britain for the losses sustained

to Con-

federa- i Newfoundland and Prince Edward Island withdrew from

the negotiations after the Quebec conference, although
Prince Edward Island came into confederation in 1873.



by American shipping and trade from the
depredations of the Alabama, a cruiser built at
Birkenhead, for the government of the confed-
erate states, had not been settled. There was,
moreover, some opposition to Confederation in
the United States, particularly at Augusta, the
capital of Maine, and also in the senate and
house of representatives at Washington.

The legislature of Maine adopted, and trans- Alarm
mitted to Washington, resolutions originating Jjj^^
with the federal relations committee of the Maine
assembly, in which Confederation was condemned
on the ground that it would establish monarchi-
cal government on the North American con-
tinent. In its alarm the legislature at Augusta
overlooked the fact that a legislature, organized
under the monarchical system, had existed in
Nova Scotia for more than a century before the
Charlottetown and Quebec conventions of 1864;
and that in 1867 there were no fewer than five
legislatures on the North American continent
that were opened and closed with speeches
from the throne.

The preamble to the Augusta resolutions Repubii-
disclaimed any desire to accelerate the progress
of republican principles in the British North and
American provinces. The conviction was ex-
pressed that "republican institutions should
never be assumed by any people until the whole
population has been inured to habits of self-
government, and thoroughly imbued with the



to mo-


ton sug-

Banks, of

principle of implicit obedience to law, whenever
that law is the declared will of a majority."

The first resolution declared that "any at-
tempt on the part of the imperial government
of Great Britain to establish monarchical govern-
ment in North America, or to place a vice-
royalty, by act of parliament, over her several
North American provinces, would be an implied
infraction of those principles of government
which this nation has assumed to maintain upon
this continent."

By the second of these resolutions the people
of Maine, "deeply interested in the preservation
of peace, and of friendly relations with the people
of British North America," respectfully ap-
pealed to the United States government "to
interpose its legitimate influence, in friendly
and earnest remonstrance with the British
government, against establishing any system
of government in North America the influence
of which would endanger the friendly relations of
the people of the British provinces with the
people of the United States."

Copies of the resolutions were transmitted
by the governor of Maine to President Johnson,
and to each house of congress. In the house
of representatives, 1 Banks, of Massachusetts, a
former chairman of the committee on foreign
affairs, and a soldier of much distinction in the
civil war, called attention to the resolutions, and
1 March 8, 1867.



made a motion demanding the immediate ap-
pointment, by the speaker, of the standing com-
mittee on foreign affairs. Urgency was pleaded
"in view of events transpiring on the northern
frontier," and the need for "considering the for-
eign relations of the United States."

"It is not intended," said Banks, in asking A com-
the house to adopt his motion, "to present at ? lt * ee .

... >>, ,. . desired

this time any protest against Confederation of
the British provinces. The resolutions which I
have read, from the state of Maine, were read
merely for information. All I ask is that a
committee shall be appointed, to which any
instructions, in reference to this matter, may be
given by the house."

Blaine, of Maine James Gillespie Blaine, "A
afterwards secretary of state and candidate of * es P ect -

* ful pro-

the Republican party for the presidency in test"
1884 deprecated any action by congress,
and reminded Banks that the matter "certainly
could not go beyond a mere protest." "The
resolutions of the state of Maine," Blaine added,
"do not contemplate any positive action. They
contemplate merely a respectful protest."

Banks, however, was persistent. His object The per-
was the immediate appointment of the com-
mittee on foreign affairs, with an instruction
to consider the resolutions from Augusta, and
report to the house. "This question of Con-
federation," he said, in answer to Blaine, "affects
not alone the interests of the British provinces.



It affects our interests also; and it is certainly

Online LibraryEdward PorrittEvolution of the Dominion of Canada; its government and its politics → online text (page 13 of 34)