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Canada and the States By Sir E. W. Watkin Characters: 29845

Updated: 2017-11-29 00:04

"Uncertain Sounds"

I may illustrate the consequences of vacillation and delay in the vigorous government of the Hudson's Bay territory, and in all distant parts of the Empire, by giving a verbatim copy of a Bill ordered to be "printed and introduced" in July, 1866, into the "House of Representatives" of the United States, at Washington, providing for relieving the Queen of her sovereign rights in the British territories between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. The only excuse-an excuse far from valid for so monstrous a proposal-was that no one knew what the British Government were inclined to do; and at Washington no one believed that John Bull would "make a fight of it;" while everyone knew that if a similar Bill, with the object of enabling the Southern States to come under the dominion of the Queen, had been introduced into the British House of Commons, the United States Ambassador "to the Court of St. James'" would have been recalled-to begin with. The British Ambassador took no notice, made no remonstrance; but the advent of Mr. Disraeli to power discouraged such outrages, and led in the following year to the passing of the Act for Confederation. In printing this Bill, my object is to show the mischief, mischief which half-a-dozen times in my lifetime has placed before my countrymen the alternative of ignominious concessions or war between English-speaking people, of "uncertain sounds." It is essential to continued peace, trade and prosperity, that it should be known to all the world that the broad lands between the two great oceans are an integral part of the Empire; that they will never be parted with without a struggle, in which all our forces will be amply used; and that either invasion, or the insidious agitations which from time to time are hatched in the United States with an eye to rebellion, will be put down by force.

Here is this insulting document printed verbatim. I challenge the quotation of any similar outrage on the part of any civilized nation at peace with the Empire attacked:-

"[Printer's No., 266.


"H. R. 754.


"JULY 2, 1866.

"Read twice, referred to the Committee on Foreign Affairs, and ordered

to be printed.

"Mr. BANKS, on leave, introduced the following Bill:


"For the admission of the States of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Canada

East, and Canada West, and for the organization of the Territories of

Selkirk, Saskatchewan, and Columbia.

"Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That the President of the United States is hereby authorized and directed, whenever notice shall be deposited in the Department of State that the Governments of Great Britain and the Provinces of New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland, Canada, British Columbia, and Vancouver's Island have accepted the proposition hereinafter made by the United States, to publish by proclamation that, from the date thereof, the States of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Canada East, and Canada West, and the Territories of Selkirk, Saskatchewan, and Columbia, with limits and rights as by this Act defined, are constituted and admitted as States and Territories of the United States of America.

"SEC. 2. And be it further enacted, That the following articles are hereby proposed, and from the date of the proclamation of the President of the United States shall take effect, as irrevocable conditions of the admission of the States of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Canada East, and Canada West, and the future States of Selkirk, Saskatchewan, and Columbia, to wit:


"All public lands not sold or granted; canals, public harbors, light- houses, and piers; river and lake improvements, railway stocks, mortgages, and other debts due by railway companies to the provinces; custom-houses and post-offices, shall vest in the United States; but all other public works and property shall belong to the State governments respectively, hereby constituted, together with all sums due from purchasers or lessees of lands, mines, or minerals at the time of the union.


"In consideration of the public lands, works, and property vested as aforesaid in the United States, the United States will assume and discharge the funded debt and contingent liabilities of the late provinces, at rates of interest not exceeding five per centum, to the amount of eighty-five million seven hundred thousand dollars, apportioned as follows: to Canada West, thirty-six million five hundred thousand dollars; to Canada East, twenty-nine million dollars; to Nova Scotia, eight million dollars; to New Brunswick, seven million dollars; to Newfoundland, three million two hundred thousand dollars; and to Prince Edward Island, two million dollars; and in further consideration of the transfer by said provinces to the United States of the power to levy import and export duties, the United States will make an annual grant of one million six hundred and forty-six thousand dollars in aid of local expenditures, to be apportioned as follows: To Canada West, seven hundred thousand dollars; to Canada East, five hundred and fifty thousand dollars; to Nova Scotia, one hundred and sixty-five thousand dollars; to New Brunswick, one hundred and twenty-six thousand dollars; to Newfoundland, sixty-five thousand dollars; to Prince Edward Island, forty thousand dollars.


"For all purposes of State organization and representation in the Congress of the United States, Newfoundland shall be part of Canada East, and Prince Edward Island shall be part of Nova Scotia, except that each shall always be a separate representative district, and entitled to elect at least one member of the House of Representatives, and except, also, that the municipal authorities of Newfoundland and Prince Edward Island shall receive the indemnities agreed to be paid by the United States in Article II.


"Territorial divisions are established as follows:-(1) New Brunswick, with its present limits; (2) Nova Scotia, with the addition of Prince Edward Island; (3) Canada East, with the addition of Newfoundland and all territory east of longitude eighty degrees and south of Hudson's Strait; (4) Canada West, with the addition of territory south of Hudson's Bay and between longitude eighty degrees and ninety degrees; (5) Selkirk Territory, bounded east by longitude ninety degrees, south by the late boundary of the United States, west by longitude one hundred and five degrees, and north by the Arctic circle; (6) Saskatchewan Territory, bounded east by longitude one hundred and five degrees, south by latitude forty-nine degrees, west by the Rocky Mountains, and north by latitude seventy degrees; (7) Columbia Territory, including Vancouver's Island, and Queen Charlotte's Island, and bounded east and north by the Rocky Mountains, south by latitude forty-nine degrees, and west by the Pacific Ocean and Russian America. But Congress reserves the right of changing the limits and subdividing the areas of the western territories at discretion.


"Until the next decennial revision, representation in the House of

Representatives shall be as follows:-Canada West, twelve members;

Canada East, including Newfoundland, eleven members; New Brunswick, two

members; Nova Scotia, including Prince Edward Island, four members.


"The Congress of the United States shall enact, in favour of the proposed Territories of Selkirk, Saskatchewan, and Columbia, all the provisions of the Act organizing the Territory of Montana, so far as they can be made applicable.


"The United States, by the construction of new canals, or the enlargement of existing canals, and by the improvement of shoals, will so aid the navigation of the Saint Lawrence river and the great lakes that vessels of fifteen hundred tons burden shall pass from the Gulf of Saint Lawrence to Lakes Superior and Michigan: Provided, That the expenditure under this article shall not exceed fifty millions of dollars.


"The United States will appropriate and pay to 'The European and North American Railway Company of Maine' the sum of two millions of dollars upon the construction of a continuous line of railroad from Bangor, in Maine, to Saint John's, in New Brunswick: Provided, That said 'The European and North American Railway Company of Maine' shall release the Government of the United States from all claims held by it as assignee of the States of Maine and Massachusetts.


"To aid the construction of a railway from Truro, in Nova Scotia, to Riviere du Loup, in Canada East, and a railway from the city of Ottawa, by way of Sault Ste. Marie, Bayfield, and Superior, in Wisconsin, Pembina, and Fort Garry, on the Red River of the North, and the valley of the North Saskatchewan river, to some point on the Pacific Ocean north of latitude forty-nine degrees, the United States will grant lands along the lines of said roads to the amount of twenty sections, or twelve thousand eight hundred acres, per mile, to be selected and sold in the manner prescribed in the Act to aid the construction of the Northern Pacific Railroad, approved July two, eighteen hundred and sixty-two, and Acts amendatory thereof; and in addition to said grants of lands, the United States will further guarantee dividends of five per centum upon the stock of the Company or Companies which may be authorized by Congress to undertake the construction of said railways: Provided, That such guarantee of stock shall not exceed the sum of thirty thousand dollars per mile, and Congress shall regulate the securities for advances on account thereof.


"The public lands in the late provinces, as far as practicable, shall be surveyed according to the rectangular system of the General Land Office of the United States; and in the Territories west of longitude ninety degrees or the western boundary of Canada West, sections sixteen and thirty-six shall be granted for the encouragement of schools; and after the organization of the Territories into States, five per centum of the net proceeds of sales of public lands shall be paid into their treasuries as a fund for the improvement of roads and rivers.


"The United States will pay ten millions of dollars to the Hudson Bay

Company in full discharge of all claims to territory or jurisdiction in

North America, whether founded on the charter of the Company or any

treaty, law, or usage.


"It shall be devolved upon the Legislatures of New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Canada East, and Canada West, to conform the tenure of office and the local institutions of said States to the Constitution and laws of the United States, subject to revision by Congress.

"SEC. 3. And be it further enacted, That if Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland, or either of those provinces, shall decline union with the United States, and the remaining provinces, with the consent of Great Britain, shall accept the proposition of the United States, the foregoing stipulations in favour of Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland, or either of them, will be omitted; but in all other respects the United States will give full effect to the plan of union. If Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick shall decline the proposition, but Canada, British Columbia, and Vancouver Island shall, with the consent of Great Britain, accept the same, the construction of a railway from Truro to Riviere du Loup, with all stipulations relating to the maritime provinces, will form no part of the proposed plan of union, but the same will be consummated in all other respects. If Canada shall decline the proposition, then the stipulations in regard to the Saint Lawrence canals and a railway from Ottawa to Sault Ste. Marie, with the Canadian clause of debt and revenue indemnity, will be relinquished. If the plan of union shall only be accepted in regard to the north western territory and the Pacific Provinces, the United States will aid the construction, on the terms named, of a railway from the western extremity of Lake Superior, in the State of Minnesota, by way of Pembina, Fort Garry, and the valley of the Saskatchewan, to the Pacific coast, north of latitude forty-nine degrees, besides securing all the rights and privileges of an American territory to the proposed territories of Selkirk, Saskatchewan, and Columbia."

So much for an outrage of a character unheard of and unparalleled. It was the result of "uncertain sounds;" of "duffer" government.

Let me give some illustrations. Before we began the, finally successful, movement for the Intercolonial Railway, the confederation of the Provinces of North America, and the final completion of a railway binding the coasts of the Atlantic and Pacific together, the Right Hon. C. B. Adderley, M.P., wrote a "letter to the Right Hon. B. Disraeli, M.P., on the present relations of England with the Colonies." It was a skinflint document, and here are a couple of quotations:-

Page 57.-"I would have the Canadian Government, in the right time and manner, informed that after a. certain date, unless war were going on, they would have to provide for their own garrisons, as well as all their requisite peace establishments, as they might deem fit; and that they should be prepared to hold their own in case of foreign attack, at least till the forces of the Empire could come to their aid."

Page 50.-"Let Canada, however, by all means look to England in the hour of peril also; but if the sight of English red-coats, at all times, has become a needful support of Canadian confidence, and English pay has ceased to be resented as a symptom of dependence, we must bow humbly under the conviction that Canada is no longer inhabited by men like those who conquered her."

Then I must quote my revered friend, Mr. Cobden, who, addressing his relative, Colonel Cole (at one time administrator of New Brunswick), on the 20th March, 1865, only thirteen days before his ever-to-be-lamented death, wrote about Canada: "We are two peoples to all intents and purposes, and it is a perilous delusion to both parties to attempt to keep up a sham connection and dependence, which will snap asunder if it should ever be put to the strain of stem reality. It is all very well for our cockney newspapers to talk of defending Canada at all hazards. It would be just as possible for the United States to sustain Yorkshire in a war with England as for us to enable Canada to contend against the United States. It is simply an impossibility. We must not forget that the only serious danger of a quarrel between these two neighbours arises from the connection of Canada with this

country. In my opinion it is for the interest of both that we should, as speedily as possible, sever the political thread by which we are, as communities, connected, and leave the individuals on both sides to cultivate the relations of commerce and friendly intercourse as with other nations." … "There is, I think, an inherent weakness in the parody of our old English constitution, which is performed on the miniature scenes of the Colonial capitals, with their speeches from the throne, votes of confidence, appeals to the country, changes of ministry, &c., and all about such trumpery issues that the game at last becomes ridiculous in the eyes of both spectators and actors."

Speaking in the House of Commons on the second reading of the British North America Bill, in 1867, Mr. Bright said: "Is this new State-or this new nation, as I think Lord Monck described it-to be raised up under the authority of an Act of Parliament-is everything to be done for it? Is it intended to garrison its fortresses by English troops? At present there are, I believe, in the Province 12,000 or 15,000 men. There are persons in this country, and there are some also in the North American Provinces, who are ill-natured enough to say that not a little of the loyalty that is said to prevail in Canada has its price. I think it is natural and reasonable to hope that there is in that country a very strong attachment to this country. But if they are constantly to be applying to us for guarantees for railways, and for fortresses, and for works of defence; if everything is to be given to a nation independent in everything except Lord Monck and his successors, and except in the contributions we make for these public objects, then I think it would be far better for them, and for us-cheaper for us, and less demoralising for them-that they should become an independent State, and maintain their own fortresses, fight their own cause, and build up their own future, without relying upon us. And when we know, as everybody knows, that the population of Canada, family for family, is in a much better position as regards the comforts of home than family for family are in the great bulk of the population of this country-I say the time has come when it ought to be clearly understood that the taxes of England are no longer to go across the ocean to defray expenses of any kind within the confederation which is about to be formed. The Right Honorable gentleman the Under-Secretary of the Colonies (Mr. Adderley) has never been an advocate for great expenditure in the Colonies by the Mother Country. On the contrary, he has been one of the members of this House who have distinguished themselves by what I will call an honest system to the Mother Country, and what I believe is a wise system to the Colonies. But I think that when a measure of this kind is being passed, having such stupendous results upon the population of these great Colonies, we have a right to ask that there should be some consideration for the Revenue and for the taxpayers of this country."

In speaking on the Canada Railway Loan Bill in the House on the 28th March, 1867, Mr. Gladstone, alluding to Canada, said: "We have carried it to this point, that as far as regards the Administration, I believe it may be said that the only officer appointed by the Colonial Secretary is the Governor; and I believe there cannot be a doubt that if it were the well-ascertained desire of the Colonies to have the appointment of their own Governor, the Imperial Parliament would at once make over to them that power."

I may, perhaps without presumption, here add two short speeches of mine in the House of Commons: one, in reply to Mr. Bright in the discussion on the Confederation, or British North America Bill, on the 28th February, 1867; the other, in reply to Mr. Lowe, on the Canada Loan Bill, on the 28th March, 1867.

Language affecting the relations between the Mother Country and the Colonies, such as I have quoted, does infinite mischief-more mischief than those who do not mix with the people can understand. It is as bad in its consequences as the unfortunate policy of Mr. Gladstone: the "Majuba Hill" policy.

[Hansard, vol. 185, page 1187, Feb. 28, 1867.]

"Mr. Watkin said he fully concurred in the statement of the right hon. gentleman (Sir John Pakington), that the House of Representatives and the Senate of Nova Scotia had approved the scheme of Confederation. The representative body approved it in 1861-not 1862, as the right hon. gentleman the First Lord of the Admiralty had stated.

"There was a general election in 1863, and the Prime Minister (Mr. Tupper) went through the country preaching this Confederation of the Provinces. It was brought under the notice of the electors at every polling-booth, and at every hustings the issue was distinctly raised. Well, after that general election, the plan of the Government was sustained by an enormous majority in the House of Representatives, and delegates were sent to the Conference to carry out the plan. If there was any question on which the British North American Provinces not only had enjoyed an opportunity of expressing, but had actually expressed, opinion, it was on this very question of Confederation.

"Mention having been made of the name of Mr. Howe, whose acquaintance he had the honour of possessing, he might state his own conviction that a man of purer patriotism, or one who had rendered more able and distinguished service to the Crown of this country, did not exist. He remembered the speech delivered by Mr. Howe some years ago at Detroit on the question of whether the Reciprocity Treaty should be continued or not; and he believed it was in no small degree owing to that remarkable speech-one of the most eloquent ever heard-that the unanimous verdict in favour of continuing the treaty had been arrived at. It was matter of surprise and regret to him that the valuable and life-long services of Mr. Howe had not received recognition at the hands of either the late or the present Government.

"The hon. member for Birmingham seemed dissatisfied with the phrase used by Lord Monck respecting the establishment of a new nation. Now he (Mr. Watkin) supported the Confederation, not as the establishment of a new nation, but as the confirmation of an existing nation. It meant this, that the people of the confederated colonies were to remain under the British Crown-or it meant nothing. He joined issue with those who said, 'Let the Colonies stand by themselves.' He dissented from the view that they were to separate from the control of the British Crown the territory of this enormous Confederation. But there was a vast tract beyond Canada, extending to the Pacific; and the House should bear in mind that more than half of North America was under British dominion.

"Did the hon. member (Mr. Bright) think that it was best for civilization and for public liberty that this half of the Continent should be annexed to the United States? If that were the opinion of the hon. gentleman, he did not think it was the opinion of that House. Every man of common sense knew that these territories could not stand by themselves; they must either be British or American-under the Crown or under the Stars and Stripes. The hon. member for Birmingham (Mr. Bright) might think that we should be the better for losing all territorial connection with Canada; but he could not agree with that doctrine. Extent and variety were amongst the elements of Imperial greatness.

"Descending to the lowest and most material view of the subject, he did not believe that, as a mere money question, the separation would be for our interest.

"Take, again, the question of defence. Our North American possessions had a coast line of 1,000 miles on the east, and 800 on the west, and possessed some of the finest harbours on that Continent, and a mercantile marine entitling it to the third rank among maritime nations. The moment these advantages passed into the hands of the United States, that country would become the greatest naval power in the world. In preserving commercial relations with the United States, the Canadian frontier line of 3,000 miles was likewise extremely useful.

"As long as British power and enterprise extended along one side of this boundary line, and as long as the tariff of extremely light duties was kept up by us, and that imposed only for the purposes of revenue, it would be impossible for the United States to pursue what might be called a Japanese policy.

"If England, therefore, desired to maintain her trade, even apart from other considerations, it was desirable for her to maintain her North American possessions.

They had lately had to pass through a cotton famine, and they had been taught the inconvenience of the prohibition of the export of cotton by the American Government.

"A large proportion of the corn imported into this country was brought from America, and in what state would England find herself if all the food exports of North America were placed under the control of the Government of Washington? If the frontier line became the sea coast, what might be looked for then? Scarcely three years had elapsed since Mr. Cobden declared that if there had not been a plentiful harvest in America he did not know where food could have been procured for the people of this country.

"Now, the corn-growing fields of Upper Canada alone ranked fifth in point of productiveness. Did England not wish to preserve this vast storehouse? Suppose that Canada belonged to America: in the event of a quarrel with England there was nothing to prevent the United States from declaring that not an ounce of food should leave its territories, which would then extend from the Arctic regions to the Gulf of Mexico. He had hoped that upon this Bill, not only both sides of the House, but every section of the House, might have been found in unison.

"It was no use blinking the question. This would not be a decision affecting Canada merely. We had sympathies alike with Australia and the other Colonies. If it were seriously proposed that England should denude herself of her possessions-give up India, Australia, North America, and retire strictly within the confines of her own Islands, to make herself happy there,-the same result might be brought about much more easily by those who wished it. They might become citizens of some small country like Holland, and realize their ideas of happiness in a moment. But he hesitated to believe that the people of England did really favour any such policy.

"If any one were to hoist the motto, 'Severance of the Colonies from the Crown,' he did not believe that one per cent. of the people would adopt it. He believed that the people of England felt a deep attachment to their Empire, and that not a barren rock over which the flag of England had ever waved would be abandoned by them without a cogent and sufficient reason. Every argument used in support of the necessity of giving up the Provinces, which lay within eight days of our own shores, would apply with equal force in the case of Ireland, if the people of the United States chose to demand possession.

"Was this country prepared to give up Gibraltar, Malta, Heligoland, all its outlying stations, merely because some strong power took a fancy to them? He did not believe that the people of England would ever act in such a spirit.

"As to the argument of expense, if Canada chose to pick a quarrel on her own account, clearly she ought to pay the bill; but if she were involved in war on Imperial considerations, then he maintained that the Imperial revenues might properly be resorted to.

"The British Empire was one and indivisible, or it was nothing. And what was the principle upon which the United States acted? If any portion of the territory of the Union was touched, were there one of its citizens who would not be ready and forward to defend it? Should we then be less determined to maintain intact the greatness and the glory of the British Empire?

"He, for one, would not give up the opinion that Englishmen were

prepared to maintain, in its integrity, the greatness and glory of the

Empire; and that such a feeling would find a hearty response in that



"[March 28, 1867.]

"In reply to Mr. Lowe and others, "Mr. Watkin said that, in following the right hon. gentleman (Mr. Lowe), he felt very much as a quiet Roman citizen must have done on passing the chief gladiator in the street- inclined to pass over to the other side, and to have nothing to say to him, for fear of the consequences.

"But some years ago he was requested by the late Duke of Newcastle to make inquiries, which convinced him that the hobgoblin fears expressed that night in regard to the construction of this 375 miles of railway were unfounded.

"Let hon. members remember that Her Majesty's American dominions extended over an area equal to one-eighth of the habitable globe. This Railway gave us communication, not only with Canada and with 10,000 miles of American railways, but with the vast tract of British territory extending across to the Pacific. The consequence of making this Railway would be, that two days would be saved in going from England to the northern continent of America, including the great corn- growing district of the West.

"If the House had seen, as he had seen, the Canadian volunteers turn out in bitter winter to repel a threatened invasion, without a red-coat near them, they would think that the right hon. gentleman's taunts might have been spared.

"The British Provinces had taxed themselves 360,000_l_. a-year for the execution of these works, which Lord Durham had proposed in 1838, with the object of binding together, by the means of physical communication, the varied sections of the Queen's American dominions.

"The evidence of every military man, including Sir John Michell, the present Commander-in-Chief in Canada, was that this Railway was absolutely necessary for the military defence of the Colonies. It was, however, to be defended not only on that ground, but upon the ground of its great commercial advantages.

"There were now in the Government offices memorials from many of the large towns in the three kingdoms, concurring in the commercial necessity and advantages of the measure which the House was now asked to agree to. Therefore, originating as it did with Lord Durham,- sanctioned as it was by Lord Grey's proposals of 1851-adopted by the late and present Governments,-demanded for purposes of defence, as also for the more genial and generous objects of commerce and peace,- he hoped the House would support the construction of the Railway by a guarantee, which would not cost this country a shilling."

The motion for giving the guarantee was carried by 247 votes to 67-or by a majority of 180.

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