Joseph Howe.

The speeches and public letters of Joseph Howe. (Based upon Mr. Annand's edition of 1858) (Volume 2) online

. (page 49 of 84)
Online LibraryJoseph HoweThe speeches and public letters of Joseph Howe. (Based upon Mr. Annand's edition of 1858) (Volume 2) → online text (page 49 of 84)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

if this country had assumed the task of defending the old colonial frontiers, of
beating off the French, and occasionally chastising the Indians, enormous sums
of money might have been saved. It is perhaps vain to speculate, at this
late period, as to what might have been the results of a different system. Had
timely concessions been made, had self-government been frankly conceded, had
the British soldier been presented to the colonial mind as the representative of
order and the friend of freedom, who can doubt that .the first American war
would never have occurred, that the second, which grew out of the bitter
feeling engendered by the first, might have been avoided ? Even had a period
arrived when political separation became a convenience or a necessity, it might
have been arranged by friendly negotiation; and an alliance, offensive and
defensive, between the two great branches of the Anglo-Saxon family, would
probably have ensured freedom of commerce and perpetual amity and good-
will. The British troops might have been withdrawn, marching to their places
of embarkation to the sound of merry music, and followed by the acclamations
of the self-reliant communities whose early struggles they had shared, whose
industrial development they had protected, whose liberties they had never
menaced, whose blood they had never shed. Though it may be too late to
speculate on what might have resulted from applying to the old thirteen
colonies the system which now obtains, no man can deny that the old one,
which you would substitute for the modern, bore nothing but bitter fruit and
is condemned by every page of our old colonial history.

Let us see, now, how the modern system works. Great Britain, to main-
tain her position as a first-rate European power, is compelled to keep up a
respectable standing army. While Russia maintains a standing army of


486,000 men and France, England's nearest neighbour, with a chief of un- CHAP, xxvm

rivalled enterprise, sagacity and soaring ambition at her head, can call into

the field in a few days 680,000 men could England, if she had not a colony

in the world, hold any but a very inferior European position with an army of

less than 100.000 in peaceful times? Could she defend her soil from intrusion

and insult, in case of war, with less ? If she could not, then the Army

Estimates would not be much reduced even if she threw off her colonies

to-morrow. The legions might come home, and the outlying portions of this

great empire might be left to drift into new alliances and hostile connections,

but the legions would be wanted to defend the British Islands, without the

moral support or material aid of millions of human beings, ruthlessly severed

from all active interest in their success, by being told that their friendship was

not worth preserving.

It is, then, folly to suppose that the Provinces, having no power to protect
their interests by diplomacy, and no voice in determining the policy out of
which hostilities may arise, would ever consent to keep up standing armies, to
waste their revenues, and to assume the burden of their own defence in any
wars that England might provoke. To enforce your policy would engender ill-
feeling and ultimate separation. The boy who is asked to do a man's work,
and is driven from the homestead because he lacks the strength, may still love
the scenery which charmed his eye, and the old trees that shaded the threshold
from which he has been driven, but to expect him to love very much the
brethren who expelled him, would be to hope rather more from human nature
than is warranted by our experience of the world. The Provinces once
separated upon such an issue, there would be an end of friendship, of mutual
sympathy and co-operation.

" To be wroth with those we love
Doth work like madness in the brain."

The greater the affection, the more intense the hatred. The colonies, whose
pride had been thus wounded whose birthright had been denied whose
friendship had been undervalued who had been cast, like Ishmael, without
the charmed circle of home thoughts and filial obligation would form new
ties, and contract Transatlantic, Asiatic or European alliances. Friends and
sympathisers enough, believe me, they would soon find; and they would
grow and flourish, but with their growth would grow also the root of bitter-
ness ; and at least one generation of Englishmen would have to die, perhaps
twenty, before this national eviction was forgotten or forgiven.

Take the group of Provinces which I know best. For a century their
inhabitants have lived under the Crown of England, but for only twenty years
of that long period have they had constitutional control over their internal
affairs. Over their relations to the rest of the world they have at this moment
no control. Though California, three thousand miles away, is represented at
Washington though Algeria is represented at Paris the noble North American


CHAP, xxvni Provinces, with their boundless territory and resources, and four millions of
people, have no representation in London. You admit us to representation in
your Industrial Exhibitions, but from that great arena of intellectual display,
on which the finer minds of North America and of all the colonies might
occasionally shed some lustre, you carefully exclude us. Our columns of gold
and our pyramids of timber may rise in your Crystal Palaces, but our statesmen
in the great councils of the empire, never.

Our courts may exhibit the boundless resources and advanced civilization of
the colonies, but the men they produce you regard as inferior at all times,
except when the empire is to be defended ; then they are to be tasked beyond
their strength and are expected to rise to the dignity of citizenship, from which
at all other times they are carefully excluded. Is this fair ? Is it just ?

You will not deny that Norway and Wiirtemberg, with their million and a
half of people Saxony, with its two millions even Oldenburg and Brunswick,
with their quarter of a million, are treated in England with a deference and
distinction never accorded in this country to the North American Provinces,
with their four millions. The people of these States are foreigners ; we are
only Englishmen on the wrong side of the Atlantic. Does it never occur to
you that you ought to elevate us to the full dignity of citizenship, before
you call upon us to assume all its burthens'? That before you ask us to
share with you all the perils and cost of empire, you should share with us
its honours and distinctions 1 In the simple French ballad, Jeanette expresses
her opinion :

" That those who make the war should be the men to fight. "

Whenever the war is made, Mr. Adderley makes it ; and Mr. Howe is called
upon to shoulder his rifle and do duty upon the frontier, where Mr. Adderley is
never seen. Is this fair 1 Yet, if I understand your argument, it is this :
Whenever war is declared by this country, the North Americans must defend
their own. Let us change places for a year, and your hasty judgment would
be corrected by your own feelings and experience.

But we are told the old colonies did this, and where is the hardship ? I
have already shown you what became of the old colonies, but will now show
you what, in all human probability, would become of the North American group
if your advice were to prevail.

The old thirteen colonies had to fight Indian tribes scattered through the
woods, and the French on the frontiers, without roads, and hundreds of miles
from the settlements. These wars were wars of outposts and excursions.
Their enemies brave and savage enough, I admit rarely made their ap-
pearance in any very large numbers. If the whole Six Nations, or Philip's
subjects, en masse, were paraded to-morrow, the State of Maine would crush
them all ; and the militia of Nova Scotia ought to be a match for all the
soldiers that New France could have mustered at any period in our old
Provincial history. But when you ask us to defend ourselves against thirty or


even against twenty millions of people of our own race, whose settlement and CHAP, xxvm
civilization precedes our own by a hundred years who, forty years ago, were
sufficiently numerous to maintain war on land and sea for three years against
the whole power of Great Britain you ask us to do that which is simply
unreasonable and unjust. If this be expected or asked, it is quite clear that the
Queen's Government abdicates dominion in North America. Shall it be said
that the diplomacy of England is to involve us in foreign quarrels, and that
the arms of England are not to be employed in our defence ? It is most unfair
to tell us that because the old thirteen colonies defended themselves against a
few thousand French and Indians, the five Provinces of British America are to
fight twenty or thirty States, with a population of thirty millions. The idea is
preposterous, and can never be seriously entertained by the Government and
Parliament of England.

Should the Northern and Southern States settle down under separate forms
of government to-morrow, it is clear that, though our danger may be diminished,
the odds will still be fearfully against us. We shall even then have twenty
millions of people, active, enterprising and sagacious, on our flank, with a navy
only inferior to that of Great Britain and France, and an army, familiar with
war, of at least two or three hundred thousand men.

I do not mean to say that, in a struggle for the sanctity of our soil and for
the freedom of our homesteads, we could not now make a gallant defence even
against this mighty power.

The people of the Southern States have taught us, even if we had not learnt
before in the history of Scotland, of Holland and of Switzerland, what may be
done by a high-spirited and determined people, fighting on their own soil,
against fearful odds and vastly superior numbers. If driven to do it, we could
fight and die in unequal combats on our frontiers. We could retire to our
river heads, thick forests, and mountain fastnesses, we could even fall back
upon our frozen regions ; and we might, if our arms were blessed by Providence,
in the end weary out the enemy and win an honourable peace and secure our
independence. But is it not apparent that what has happened to the Virginians
would happen to us 1 Our cities would be captured, our fields laid waste, our
bridges would be blown up, our railways destroyed. The women of British
North America, as remarkable for their beauty as for their purity of thought,
would become a prey to a soldiery largely drawn from the refuse of society in
the old world and the new. Our commerce would be destroyed, our improve-
ments stopped, our whole society disorganized. But, whatever its issue, when
the war was over, trust me that that portion of the British family who had
sought our subjugation, who had shed our blood, traversed our country and
outraged our women, would stand higher in our estimation than that other
branch of the family who, from craven fear or calculating selfishness, had left
us to contend with such fearful odds, false to the fraternal traditions of a
hundred years, to the glorious unity of our common history, to the dead
Englishmen and British Americans lying side by side at Chrystler's Farm and


OHAP. xxvni Chateaugay, at Bloody Creek and Queenston, false to the modern union of
hearts, not pens, ratified in the sight of Heaven in every large city of British
America, when Queen Victoria's son, the future Sovereign of this empire,
accepted the homage of our people, who hailed His Royal Highness as the
representative of our empire's unity, and who believed that protection and
allegiance were reciprocal obligations.

Far better would it be, if this were to be the result of the amended rela-
tions which you propose, that England should at once say to North America,
Assume the management of your own foreign relations. Send your own ministers
to London, to Washington, or wherever else you please. We will admit you
to the status of the most favoured nation, but we cannot longer burthen our
treasury with your defence, or hazard the contingencies of a more intimate
union. When this was said, of course no Englishman could confront the world
with the calm self-respect which marks his demeanour now. The Russian
woman who, to save her own life, flung her babes to the wolves, was slain by
her friends and neighbours. This people might escape the punishment, but
their turpitude would be none the less. On this point I speak strongly, but I
speak as I feel. My life has been spent in developing the principles and
policy by which this great empire may be kept together ; and, just when the
Provinces, content with well-regulated self-government and honourable im-
perial relations, are, perhaps for the first time in the world's history, proving
that British institutions as well as a British population may safely be trans-
planted, that an Englishman may go abroad anywhere and carry with him
veneration for his Sovereign, affection for his brethren, and love for his native
land, and yet enjoy all the privileges of self-government under the old flag, is it
not hard to see this magnificent system, of which the "Colonial Courts" and
the Lancashire subscriptions are but the first-fruits, rudely shaken by specu-
lative politicians, or perilled by such taunts and dissensions as have been of
late too rife in England ?

Talk of defending the colonies, I hope to live to see the day when the
outlying Provinces of the empire will as freely send their contingents for the
defence of these islands, as they have this year sent their treasures to your
Crystal Palace, and their cheerful contributions to your distressed manufactur-
ing towns. The anti-colonial feeling has been assumed to be strongest amongst
those who, in this country, are known as the Manchester School of politicians.
If this be so, and I do not assert that it is, then what a pregnant answer
may be drawn from the noble manifestations of national feeling, as contra-
distinguished from mere local obligation, by which our country's annals have
been illustrated within a month.

When Lancashire is invaded by the republicans, who, at a distance of three
thousand miles, have power to stop their looms and close their factories, when
gaunt famine stalks through her streets, when hunger makes wan faces and weak
frames which pestilence threatens to devour, does all England fold its arms and
say to the Lancastrians, Defend yourselves, protect yourselves ? Does Scotland


or Ireland say this ? Do the outlying Provinces say so ? No ! Thanks be to CHAP, xxvm

Almighty God that this has been nowhere said. The whole empire has rushed

to the relief of Lancashire, and that noble principality is saved. With such

an example before him, will any Manchester man, or any other Englishman,

say to three hundred and fifty thousand Nova Scotians or New Brunswickers,

or even to three millions of Canadians, Defend yourselves against twenty

millions of republicans, whenever our diplomacy, over which you have had no

control, fails to avert a war. No ! this will never be said, until the Britons of

the present hour are as abject as those whose " groans " for more Koman

soldiers provoke our laughter in the pages of ancient history. I grant you

that all England has assumed that Lancashire should help herself ; and I at

once concede that, to the full extent of their ability, any of the Provinces that

have, or are likely to become the seat of war, should to the utmost extent of

their means provide for their own defence.

I shall by-and-by show that whatever may have been done in other parts
of the empire, the British Americans have never flinched from the performance
of this duty ; but, before touching this branch of the subject, let me correct a
very prevalent error that seems to prevail in this country, that it is the interest
of North America that binds her to England. This is a popular error, and
may mislead a good many people if it is not corrected.

Suppose that your Scottish border was fifteen hundred miles long, and
that Scotland contained thirty millions of people, with a powerful army and
navy, and the second mercantile marine in the world. Suppose British
America to contain your population and England ours, would you not, under
such a condition of your relations, laugh at anybody who told you that it was to
your interest to adhere to us, at the risk of the hatred and hostility of Scotland ?
But such is our position, and yet we adhere to you. Why 1 Because it is a
question of honour and not of interest. Is it from any special regard we have
for the Manchester cotton-spinners, the cockneys of London, or even for the very
enlightened individuals who now wear the coronets of England or divide the
rhetorical distinctions of the House of Commons ? No ! By the beard of the
Prophet, no ; we have heard and seen you all, and we go back to our North
American homes, conscious that the race we are training there are worthy
to be classed as your equals. What then binds us to this country? Our
interest 1 God forbid ! Let Nova Scotia throw herself behind the Morrill tariff
to-morrow, and shut out the manufactures of England, there would be cotton
mills upon her magnificent water-powers in less than two years ; and the
whole consumption of thirty millions of people for her manufactures, as well
as for her raw products, would be open to her at once. Her fishermen would
immediately share the national bounties which are given by the republic to
foster a national marine. The coasting trade and the free navigation of the
rivers of the United States would be open to our vessels ; we could coast from
Maine to California. Every gubernatorial chair, every department, every
diplomatic office, on either continent, would be open to us ; and yet, with all


CHAP, xxvin these temptations to desert you, we still adhere to England. Why ? Because,
as I said before, it is a question of honour and affection and not of interest. Our
allegiance has never been divided, but has come down to us in an unbroken
stream, from the earliest records of the monarchy. We have never been any-
thing else but Britons. Why should we now ? Don't tempt us by unworthy
suspicions and political hypercriticism of our every act, to desire to be anything
else. Not only our blood but our thoughts have been mingled for centuries.
Our fathers fought on the same fields, died on the same scaffolds, burnt at the
same stakes, struggled for the same principles ; won the Great Charter, built
the great cathedrals and castles, cleared up the face of England and made her
what she is ; and shall you, because you happen to be left in possession of the
homestead, and because we have gone abroad to extend the territory of the
empire, to people the earth and to subdue it, to illustrate and reproduce our
civilization under new forms and in distant regions, shall we, I ask, forfeit
our inheritance, be deprived of our birthright, and hear our brethren plead
that their interest is no longer promoted by the connection ?

Why, you think little of your interest where your honour is concerned in
your transactions with foreign nations. You do not repudiate your treaty with
Portugal or your moral obligations to defend the Turk. Shall your own
brethren be treated worse than foreigners? When you violate your compact
with the descendants of those Englishmen whom Cornwallis led to Halifax,
with the descendants of the loyalists who stood by you when the old colonies
deserted, with those British and Irish emigrants who have gone to the Provinces
with their shamrocks in their bosoms and their thistles in their hats, fondly
believing that they were not going from home, when England does this, then
let the holders of the national scrip look out, for she may be expected to do
anything. When John Bull stoops to this humiliation, when he

" Grows so covetous,
To lock his rascal coffers from his friends,
Be ready, gods, with all your thunderbolts,
Dash him to pieces."

I have promised to prove to you that, upon all trying occasions, the North
American Provinces have not shrunk from the perils or the cost of war. When the
old colonies revolted, every effort was made to induce the Northern Provinces
to declare their independence. The few persons who were disaffected were
sufficiently active. A slight demonstration was made upon the Common of
Halifax, and the standard of rebellion was raised by a few thoughtless young
men in the county of Cumberland, but these disturbances were promptly put
down, and the Maritime Provinces remained firm to their allegiance.

In 1775 the British Government had but one weak battalion in Canada, 1
numbering not much more than 500 men. The republicans, under General

1 See Sir James Carmichael Smith's " Precis of the Wars in Canada," an admirable
work, just published by his son.


Montgomery, invaded Canada in the direction of Montreal, preceded by pro- CHAP, xxvm
clamations offering the most tempting inducements to shake the loyalty of
the inhabitants. The Canadian militia rallied to the support of the royal
authorities on every point of the frontier.

At Fort St. John, Chambly, Sorel, they did duty with the regulars, and
might have successfully defended this part of the Province, had not Sir Guy
Carleton's strategy been seriously at fault.

Arnold led a force of 1200 men up the Kennebec and down the Chaudiere ;
Montgomery, who had taken Montreal, joined him with the bulk of his force
at Quebec. " The garrison of that city consisted only of one company of
regulars, with some seamen and marines from a sloop of war lying in the St.
Lawrence." Of the 1600 bayonets that confronted this formidable American
invasion, 1400 at least must have been wielded by the strong arms of the
Canadian militia. Four simultaneous attacks were made by the combined
republican armies, gallantly led and directed by Arnold and Montgomery.
At every point the enemy was foiled and driven back by these 1600 men,
four-fifths of them being those raw Canadian militia, whom it seems to be
the fashion in this country just now to depreciate and undervalue.

This time, at all events, the Province was saved by the steady valour of the
Canadians, as it was impossible for the British Government to send any efficient
succour till the spring.

In 1776 Arnold, still encamped before Quebec, was reinforced by a strong
column of 3000 men, " with some heavy artillery." Four thousand republicans
occupied St. John, Chambly, and Montreal. Help came from England on the
6th of May, and the invading armies were compelled to evacuate the Province,
and in the following year the war was carried into the enemy's country, and
then followed that disastrous campaign which ended in the surrender of
Burgoyne's army at Saratoga.

The war of 1812-15 was neither sought nor provoked by the British
Americans. It grew out of the Continental wars, with which we certainly
had as little to do. Whether a Bourbon or a Bonaparte sat upon the throne
of France was a matter of perfect indifference to us. We were pursuing our
lawful avocations clearing up our country, opening roads into the wilderness,
bridging the streams, and organizing society as we best could, trading with our
neighbours, and wishing them no harm. In the meantime British cruisers were
visiting and searching American vessels on the sea. Then shots were fired ;
and, before we had time to recall our vessels engaged in foreign commerce, or
to make the slightest preparation for defence, our coasts were infested by
American cruisers and privateers, and our whole frontier was in a blaze.

You count the cost of war by the Army and Navy Estimates, but who can
ever count the cost of that war to us ? A war, let it be borne in mind, into
which we were precipitated without our knowledge or consent. Let the
coasts of England be invaded by powerful armies for three summers in suc-
cession ; let the whole Channel, from Falmouth to the Nore, be menaced ; let


CHAP, xxvui Southampton be taken and burnt ; let the Southdowns be swept from the Hamp-
shire hills, and the rich pastures of Devonshire supply fat beeves to the enemy
encamped in the western counties, or marching on Manchester and London ;
let the youth of England be drawn from profitable labour to defend these great
centres of industry, the extremities of the island being given up to rapine and

Online LibraryJoseph HoweThe speeches and public letters of Joseph Howe. (Based upon Mr. Annand's edition of 1858) (Volume 2) → online text (page 49 of 84)