Copyright
John George Bourinot.

Canada under British rule, 1760-1905 online

. (page 18 of 30)
Online LibraryJohn George BourinotCanada under British rule, 1760-1905 → online text (page 18 of 30)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


Macdonald appreciated at their full value his statesmanlike
qualities, and succeeded in winning his sympathetic and faith-
ful co-operation during the many years they acted together in
opposition to the war of nationalities which would have been
the eventual consequence of Mr Brown's determined agitation
if it had been carried to its logical and natural conclusion
a conclusion happily averted by the wise stand taken by
Mr Brown himself with respect to the settlement of provincial
troubles. In the settlement of the terms of union, we can see



2O2 Canada under British Rule. [CHAP.

not only the master hand of Sir John Macdonald in the British
framework of the system, but also the successful effort of
Sir George Cartier to preserve intact the peculiar institutions
of his native province.

All those who have studied Mr Brown's career know some-
thing of his independent and uncompromising character ; but
for some time after he entered the coalition government his
speeches in favour of federation assumed a dignified style and
a breadth of view which stand out in great contrast with his
bitter arguments as leader of the Clear Grits. In the framing
of the Quebec resolutions his part was chiefly in arranging
the financial terms with a regard to the interests of his own
province.

Another influential member of the Canadian delegation was
Mr, afterwards Sir, Alexander Gait, the son of the creator of that
original character in fiction, Laurie Todd, who had been a resi-
dent for many years in Western Canada, where a pretty city per-
petuates his name. His able son had been for a long time a prom-
inent figure in Canadian politics, and was distinguished for his
intelligent advocacy of railway construction and political union
as measures essential to the material and political development
of the provinces. His earnest and eloquent exposition of the
necessity of union had no doubt much to do with creating a
wide-spread public sentiment in its favour, and with preparing
the way for the formation of the coalition government of 1864,
on the basis of such a political measure. His knowledge of
financial and commercial questions was found to be invaluable
in the settlement of the financial basis of the union, while his
recognised position as a representative of the Protestant English-
speaking people in French Canada gave him much weight
when it was a question of securing their rights and interests
in the Quebec resolutions.

The other members of the Canadian delegation were men
of varied accomplishments, some of whom played an important
part in the working out of the federal system, the foundations



VIII.] T/ie Evolution of Confederation. 203

of which they laid. There was a brilliant Irishman, Thomas
D'Arcy McGee, poet, historian and orator, who had been in his
rash youth obliged to fly from Ireland to the United States on
account of his connection with the rebellious party known as
Young Ireland during the troubles of 1848. When he removed
from the United States in 1857 he advocated with much force
a union of the provinces in the New Era> of which he was
editor during its short existence. He was elected to parliament
in 1858, and became a notable figure in Canadian politics on
account of his eloquence and bonhomie. His most elaborate
addresses had never the easy flow of Joseph Howe's speeches,
but were laboured essays, showing too obviously the results of
careful compilation in libraries, while brightened by touches of
natural humour. He had been president of the council in the
Sandfield Macdonald government of 1862 a moderate Reform
ministry but later he joined the Liberal-Conservative party as
less sectional in its aspirations and more generous in its general
policy than the one led by Mr Brown. Mr McGee was during
his residence in Canada a firm friend of the British connection,
having observed the beneficent character of British rule in his
new Canadian home, with whose interests he so thoroughly
identified himself.

Mr William McDougall, the descendant of a Loyalist, had
been long connected with the advocacy of Reform principles
in the press and on the floor of parliament, and was dis-
tinguished for his clear, incisive style of debating. He had
been for years a firm believer in the advantages of union,
which he had been the first to urge at the Reform convention
of 1859. Mr, afterwards Sir, Alexander Campbell, who had
been for some years a legal partner of Sir John Macdonald,
was gifted with a remarkably clear intellect, great common
sense, and business capacity, which he displayed later as leader
of the senate and as minister of the crown. Mr, afterwards
Sir, Oliver Mowat, who had been a student of law in Sir John
Macdonald's office at Kingston, brought to the discharge of



2O4 Canada under British Rule. [CHAP.

the important positions he held in later times as minister,
vice-chancellor, and premier of the province of Ontario,
great legal learning, and admirable judgment. The late Sir
Hector Langevin was considered a man of promise, likely to
exercise in the future much influence among his countrymen.
For some years after the establishment of the new Dominion
he occupied important positions in the government of the
country, and led the French Conservative party after the death
of Sir George Cartier. Mr James Cockburn was an excellent
lawyer, who three years later was chosen speaker of the
first house of commons of the federal parliament a position
which his sound judgment, knowledge of parliamentary law,
and dignity of manner enabled him to discharge with signal
ability. Mr J. C. Chapais was a man of sound judgment, which
made him equal to the administrative duties entrusted to him
from time to time.

Of the five men sent by Nova Scotia, the two ablest
were Dr, now Sir, Charles Tupper, who was first minister
of the Conservative government, and Mr, later Sir, Adams
G. Archibald, who was leader of the Liberal opposition in the
assembly. The former was then as now distinguished for his
great power as a debater and for the forcible expression of his
opinions on the public questions on which he had made up his
mind. When he had a great end in view he followed it with a
tenacity of purpose that generally gave him success. Ever
since he entered public life as an opponent of Mr Howe, he
has been a dominant force in the politics of Nova Scotia.
While Conservative in name he entertained broad Liberal views
which found expression in the improvement of the school
system, at a very low ebb when he came into office, and in the
readiness and energy with which he identified himself with the
cause of the union of the provinces. Mr Archibald was noted
for his dignified demeanour, sound legal attainments, and clear
plausible style of oratory, well calculated to instruct a learned
audience. Mr William A. Henry was a lawyer of considerable



VIII.] TJte Evolution of Confederation. 205

ability, who was at a later time elevated to the bench of the
supreme court of Canada. Mr Jonathan J. McCully, after-
wards a judge in Nova Scotia, had never sat in the assembly,
but he exercised influence in the legislative council on the
Liberal side and was an editorial writer of no mean ability.
Mr Dickey was a leader of the Conservatives in the upper
house and distinguished for his general culture and legal
knowledge.

New Brunswick sent seven delegates, drawn from the
government and opposition. The Loyalists who founded this
province were represented by four of the most prominent
members of the delegation, Tilley, Chandler, Gray, and Fisher.
Mr, afterwards Sir, Samuel Leonard Tilley had been long
engaged in public life and possessed admirable ability as an
administrator. He had for years taken a deep interest in
questions of intercolonial trade, railway intercourse and political
union. He was a Reformer of pronounced opinions, most
earnest in the advocacy of temperance, possessed of great tact
and respected for his high character in all the relations of life.
In later times he became finance minister of the Dominion and
lieutenant-governor of his native province.

Mr John Hamilton Gray, later a judge in British Columbia,
was one of the most eloquent and accomplished men in the
convention, and brought to the consideration of legal and
constitutional questions much knowledge and experience.
Mr Fisher, afterwards a judge in his province, was also a
well equipped lawyer and speaker who displayed a cultured
mind. Like all the delegates from New Brunswick he was
animated by a great love for British connection and institu-
tions. Mr Peter Mitchell was a Liberal, conspicuous for the
energy he brought to the administration of public affairs, both
in his own province and at a later time in the new Dominion
as a minister of the crown. Mr Edward Barron Chandler had
long been a notable figure in the politics of New Brunswick,
and was universally respected for his probity and worth. He



206 Canada under British Rule. [CHAP.

had the honour of being at a later time the lieutenant-governor
of the province with which he had been so long and honour-
ably associated. Mr John Johnson and Mr William H. Steeves
were also fully qualified to deal intelligently with the questions
submitted to the convention.

Of the seven members of the Prince Edward Island dele-
gation, four were members of the government and the rest were
prominent men in one or other branch of the legislature.
Colonel Gray a descendant of a Virginia Loyalist was prime
minister of the island. Mr George Coles was one of the fathers
of responsible government in the island, and long associated
with the advocacy and passage of many progressive measures, in-
cluding the improvement of the educational system. Mr Edward
Whelan was a journalist, an Irishman by birth, and endowed,
like so many of his countrymen, with a natural gift of eloquence.
Mr Thomas Heath Haviland, afterwards lieutenant-governor of
the island, was a man of culture, and Mr Edward Palmer was
a lawyer of good reputation. Mr William H. Pope and
Mr Andrew Archibald Macdonald were also thoroughly capable
of watching over the special interests of the island.

Newfoundland had the advantage of being represented by
Mr Frederick B. T. Carter, then speaker of the house of
assembly, and by Mr Ambrose Shea, also a distinguished poli-
tician of the great island. Both were knighted at later times ;
the former became chief justice of his own province, and the
latter governor of the Bahamas.



SECTION 3. Confederation accomplished.

The Quebec convention sat with closed doors for eighteen
days, and agreed to seventy-two resolutions, which form the
basis of the Act of Union, subsequently passed by the im-
perial parliament. These resolutions set forth at the outset



viii.] The Evolution of Confederation. 207

that in a federation of the British American provinces "the
system of government best adapted under existing circum-
stances to protect the diversified interests of the several pro-
vinces, and secure harmony and permanency in the working
of the union, would be a general government charged with
matters of common interest to the whole country, and local
governments for each of the Canadas, and for the provinces of
Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Prince Edward Island,
charged with the control of local matters in their respective
sections." In another paragraph the resolutions declared that
" in forming a constitution for a general government, the con-
ference, with a view to the perpetuation of our connection with
the mother-country, and the promotion of the best interests of
the people of these provinces, desire to follow the model of
the British constitution so far as our circumstances permit."
In a subsequent paragraph it was set forth: "the executive
authority or government shall be vested in the sovereign of the
United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, and be ad-
ministered according to the well-understood principles of the
British constitution, by a sovereign personally, or by the re-
presentative of the sovereign duly authorised."

In these three paragraphs of the Quebec resolutions we
see clearly expressed the leading principles on which the
Canadian federation rests a federation, with a central govern-
ment having jurisdiction over matters of common interest to
the whole country comprised in the union, and a number of
provincial governments having the conteoj_andjmanagement of
certain local matters naturally and conveniently belonging to
them, each government being administered in accordance with
the well-understood principles of the British system of parlia-
mentary institutions.

The resolutions also defined in express terms the respective
povverg_Qf the central and provincial governments. Any subject
that did not fall within the enumerated powers of the provin-
cial legislatures was placed under the control of the general



208 Canada ^inder British Rule. [CHAP.

parliament. The convention recognised the necessity of pre-
venting, as far as possible, the difficulties that had arisen in the
working of the constitution of the United States, where the
residuary power of legislation is given to the people of the
respective states and not to the federal government. In a
subsequent chapter I give a brief summary of these and other
details of the^ systemjrfjrovernment, generally laid down in the
Quebec resolutions and practically embodied in an imperial
statute three years later.

Although we have no official report of the discussions of
the Quebec convention, we know on good authority that the
question of providing revenuesjor the provinces was one that
gave the delegates the greatest difficulty. In all the provinces
the sources of revenue were chiefly customs and excise-duties
which had to be set apart for the general government of the
federation. Some of the delegates from Ontario, where there
had existed for many years an admirable system of municipal
government, which provided funds for education and local
improvements, recognised the advantages of direct taxation;
but the representatives of the other provinces would not con-
sent to such a system, especially in the case of Nova Scotia,
New Brunswick, and Prince Edward Island, where there were
no municipal institutions, and the people depended almost
exclusively on the annual votes of the legislature for the means
to meet their local necessities. All of the delegates, in fact,
felt that to force the maritime provinces to resort to direct
taxes as the only method of carrying on their government,
would be probably fatal to the success of the scheme, and it
was finally decided that the central_government should grant
annual subsidies, based on ^population, relative debts, financial
position, and such other facts as should be fairly brought into
the consideration of the case.

It is unfortunate that we have no full report of the delibera-
tions and debates of this great conference. We have only a
fragmentary record from which it is difficult to form any



VIII.] Tke Evolution of Confederation. 209

adequate conclusions as to the part taken by the several dele-
gates in the numerous questions which necessarily came under
their purview 1 . Under these circumstances, a careful writer
hesitates to form any positive opinion based upon these reports
of the discussions, but no one can doubt that the directing
spirit of the conference was Sir John Macdonald. Meagre as
is the record of what he said, we can yet see that his words
were those of a man who rose above the level of the mere
politician, and grasped the magnitude of the questions involved.
What he aimed at especially was to follow as closely as possible
the fundamental principles of English parliamentary govern-
ment, and to engraft them upon the general system of federal
union. Mr George Brown took a prominent part in the
deliberations. His opinions read curiously now. He was in
favour of having the lieutenant-governors appointed by the
general government, and he was willing to give them an effec-
tive veto over provincial legislation. He advocated the election
of a legislative chamber on a fixed day every third year, not
subject to a dissolution during its term also an adaptation of
the American system. He went so far as to urge the advisa-
bility of having the executive council elected for three years
by the assembly, we may assume, though the imperfect report
before us does not state so and also of giving the lieutenant-
governor the right of dismissing any of its members when the
house was not sitting. Mr Brown consequently appears to
have been the advocate, so far as the provinces were con-
cerned, of principles that prevail in the federal republic
across the border. He opposed the introduction of respon-
sible government, as it now obtains, in all the provinces of

1 Mr Joseph Pope, for years the able confidential secretary of Sir John
Macdonald, has edited and published all the official documents bearing on
the origin and evolution of the British North America Act of 1867 ; but
despite all the ability and fidelity he has devoted to the task the result is
most imperfect and unsatisfactory on account of the absence of any full or
exact original report of proceedings.

B. C. 14



2io Canada under British Rule. [CHAP.

the Dominion, while conceding its necessity for the central
government

We gather from the report of discussions that the Prince
Edward Island delegates hesitated from the beginning to enter
a union where their province would necessarily have so small a
numerical representation one of the main objections which
subsequently operated against the island coming into the
confederation. With respect to education we see that it was
Mr, afterwards Sir, Alexander Gait, who was responsible for
the provision in the constitution which gives the general
government and parliament a certain control over provincial
legislation in case the rights of a Protestant or a Roman
Catholic minority are prejudicially affected. The minutes on
this point are defective, but we have the original motion on
the subject, and a note of Sir John Macdonald himself that it
was passed, with the assent of all the provinces, at the sub-
sequent London conference in 1867. The majority of the
delegates appear from the outset to have supported strenuously
the principle which lies at the basis of the confederation, that
all powers not expressly reserved to the provinces should
appertain to the general government, as against the opposite
principle, which, as Sir John Macdonald pointed out, had led
to great difficulties in the working of the federal system in
the United States. Sir John Macdonald also, with his usual
sagacity, showed that, in all cases of conflict of jurisdiction,
recourse would be necessarily made to the courts, as was the
practice even then whenever there was a conflict between
imperial and Canadian statutes.

Addresses to the Queen embodying the Quebec resolutions
were submitted to the legislature of Canada during the winter
of 1865, and passed in both houses by large majorities after a
very full discussion of the merits of the scheme. The opposi-
tion in the assembly came chiefly from Mr Antoine A. Dorion,
Mr Luther H. Holton, Mr Dunkin, Mr Lucius Seth Huntington,
Mr John Sandfield Macdonald, and other able Liberals who



VIIL] The Evolution of Confederation. 211

were not disposed to follow Mr Brown and his two colleagues
in their patriotic abandonment of "partyism."

The vote on the address was, in the council Contents
45, Non-contents 15. In the assembly it stood Yeas 91,
Nays 33. The minority in the assembly comprised 25 out
of 65 representatives of French Canada, and only 8 out of the
65 from Upper Canada. With the speaker in the chair there
were only 5 members absent on the taking of the final vote.

Efforts were made both in the council and assembly to
obtain an unequivocal expression of public opinion at the
polls before the address was submitted to the imperial govern-
ment for final action. It was argued with much force that
the legislature had had no special mandate from the people
to carry out so vital a change in the political condition of
the provinces ; but this argument had relatively little weight
in either house in view of the dominant public sentiment
which, as it was obvious to the most superficial observer,
existed in the valley of the St Lawrence in favour of a scheme
which seemed certain to settle the difficulties so long in the way
of stable government, and offered so many auspicious auguries
for the development of the provinces embraced in federation.

Soon after the close of the session Messrs Macdonald,
Gait, Cartier, and Brown went to England to confer with the
imperial authorities on various matters of grave public import.
The British government agreed to guarantee a loan for the
construction of the Intercolonial Railway and gave additional
assurances of their deep interest in the proposed confederation.
An understanding was reached with respect to the mutual
obligations of the parent state and the dependency to provide
for the defences of the country. Preliminary steps were taken
in the direction of acquiring the north-west from the Hudson's
Bay Company on equitable terms whenever their exact legal
rights were ascertained. The report of the delegates was laid
before the Canadian parliament during a very short session
held in August and September of 1865. It was then that

142



212 Canada under British Rule. [CHAP.

parliament formally ratified the Civil Code of Lower Canada,
with which must be always honourably associated the name of
Mr Cartier.

In the maritime provinces, however, the prospect for some
months was far from encouraging. Much dissatisfaction was
expressed with the financial terms, and the haste with which
the maritime delegates had yielded to the propositions of the
Canadian government and given their adhesion to the larger
scheme, when they were only authorised in the first instance by
their respective legislatures to consider the feasibility of a
union of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Prince Edward
Island. In New Brunswick Mr Tilley found himself in a
minority as a result of an appeal to the people on the ques-
tion in 1865, but his successor Mr, afterwards Sir, Albert
Smith, minister of marine in the Mackenzie government of
1873-78, was forced to resign a year later on some question
purposely raised by Lieutenant-Go vernor Hamilton Gordon,
then very anxious to carry the union before he left the province.
A new government was immediately formed by Mr Peter
Mitchell, a very energetic Liberal politician the first minister
of marine in the first Dominion ministry who had notoriously
influenced the lieutenant-governor in his arbitrary action of
practically dismissing the Smith cabinet. On an appeal to the
people Mr Mitchell was sustained, and the new legislature gave
its approval to the union by a large majority. The opinion
then generally prevailed in New Brunswick that a federation
was essential to the security of the provinces, then threatened
by the Fenians, and would strengthen the hands of the parent
state on the American continent. In Nova Scotia the situation
was aggravated by the fact that the opposition was led by
Mr Howe, who had always been the idol of a large party in the
country, and an earnest and consistent supporter of the right
of the people to be first consulted on every measure immediately
affecting their interests. He succeeded in creating a powerful
sentiment against the terms of the measure especially the



VIII.] The Evolution of Confederation. 213

financial conditions and it was not possible during 1865 to
carry it in the legislature. It was not attempted to submit the
question to the polls, as was done in New Brunswick ; indeed
such a course would have been fatal to its progress ; but it was
eventually sanctioned by a large vote of the two houses. A
strong influence was exerted by the fact that confederation was
approved by the imperial government, which sent out Sir Fen-
wick Williams of Kars as lieutenant-governor with special in-
structions that, both Canada and New Brunswick having given
their consent, it was proposed to make such changes in the
financial terms as would be more favourable to the maritime
provinces. In Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland it
was not possible for the advocates of federation to move suc-
cessfully in the matter. The opposition to the scheme of
union, as proposed at Quebec, was so bitter in these two
provinces that the delegates found it useless to press the matter
in their legislatures.

In the meantime, while confederation was on the eve of



Online LibraryJohn George BourinotCanada under British rule, 1760-1905 → online text (page 18 of 30)