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Canada and the States By Sir E. W. Watkin Characters: 8310

Updated: 2017-11-29 00:04


Intended Route for a Pacific Railway in 1863.

The result of mature consideration, reasoning carefully upon all the facts I had collected, was, that, at that time, 1863, the best route for a Railway to the Pacific was, to commence at Halifax, to strike across to the Grand Trunk Railway at Riviere du Loup, 106 miles east of Quebec, then to follow the Grand Trunk system to Sarnia; to extend that system to Chicago; to use, under a treaty of neutralization, the United States lines from Chicago to St. Paul; to build a line from St. Paul to Fort Garry (Winnipeg) by English and American capital, and then to extend the line to the Tete Jaune Pass, there to meet a Railway through British Columbia starting from the Pacific. A large part of this route has been completed. For instance, an "Intercolonial" Railway- constructed so as to serve many local, but no grand through, purposes; constructed to satisfy local interests, or, probably, local political needs-has been built. The Grand Trunk extension from Detroit to Chicago, an excellent Railway, has been completed, thanks to the indomitable efforts of Mr. Hickson, the Managing Director of the Grand Trunk. A line from St. Paul to Winnipeg has also been opened; but the route of the line from Winnipeg to the Pacific has been deviated from, and, to save distance, the Kicking Horse and Beaver River Passes have been chosen. I think needless cost has been incurred, and that future maintenance will be greater than it need have been.

The British Columbian Railway has been constructed from Fort Moody to

Kamloops, and is now part of the Canadian Pacific.

It seemed to me, at that time, that the route of the Ottawa Valley, Lake Nipissing, and round by the head of Lake Superior, was a great project of the future; and that to accomplish so great a work, in such a country, the policy was to utilize existing outlays of capital, filling in vacant spaces rather than duplicating what we had got.

It seemed to me, also, that the use of existing railways in the United States was not only economical, but politic: and I knew that, at that time, the Government of the North would have made every reasonable advance to meet England in affairs of mutual interest. There was every desire, at that juncture, to work cordially with our Queen and her people. For example, the passing of the Slave Trade Bill, modelled on English legislation, in, I think, 1863, through both Houses of Congress at Washington, with hardly a hostile expression. Apropos of this Bill, Mr. Charles Sumner told me, in 1865, at his house at Boston, the following story. "The Bill for putting down the slave trade in association with England and the other anti-slave trade countries passed so quickly as to astonish its friends. Charles Sumner, on the final question being put, 'that the Bill do pass'-as we should put it at home-immediately ran across to Mr. Seward, opened the door of Mr. Seward's private office, without knocking, and found Mr. Seward asleep. He awoke him by calling out, 'Seward, Seward, the Bill is passed: the Bill is passed.' Seward gradually opened his eyes, stared under his bushy eyebrows, and said, 'Then what in -- has become of the "great democratic party?"'"

Again, it was the fault of our own Government at home that the Reciprocity Treaty, nearly expiring, was not renewed. Our Government did nothing. It was the "masterly inactivity" of Lord Granville, and other Whigs, which has done so much harm to the prestige and power of our Empire. Opportunities are everything-they are the statesman's chances. In this case the chance was lost. However, I had every reason to believe that Mr. Seward would have been willing to agree to the use of United States lines up to St. Paul (which he once predicted would become the centre, or "hub," of the United States) and through Minnesota to the boundary of the Hudson's Bay territory,-under a treaty of international neutralization. There were, it is true, difficulties at home. The authorities, at home, did not know what was to be the end of the Civil War. They did not know the country to be passed through. They doubted if there was any precede

nt. I quoted the treaty, of years before, between England, the United States, and other countries, for the neutralization of a railway, if made, across Honduras, and other analogous cases. But I failed to bring about any official action at that time. I think, in looking back for twenty-three years, I have nothing to modify as respects this. Had my proposals been carried out millions sterling would have been saved; throughout railway communication to the Pacific might have been secured fifteen years sooner; and a friendly agreement with the United States for a great common object would, no doubt, have led to many more equally friendly agreements.

As respects neutralization, I, unconsciously, put a spoke into my own wheel, and I was not aware of it until I had a conversation with Mr. Bright a good while afterwards. Had I known of the grievance at the time I would have gone right off to Washington and explained all about it. The facts were these:-

I was at Quebec in July, 1863. At that time, and previously, and after, there was a tall, long-legged, short-bodied, sallow-faced, sunken-eyed man, whose name, if he had reported it correctly, was Ogden. He was called "consul" for the United States at Quebec. He reported, I was told, direct to Mr. Seward at Washington. He was, in fact, the sort of diplomatist whose duties, as he apprehended them, were those of a spy. He was a person disagreeable to look at, as in his odd-coloured trousers, short waistcoat, and dark green dress-coat, with brass buttons, he went elbowing about amongst the ladies and gentlemen promenading the public walk, which commands so beautiful a view over the St. Lawrence, called the "Platform." Phrenology would have condemned him. Phrenology and Physiognomy combined, would have hung him, on the certain verdict of any intelligent jury.

One day, as I was preparing to go West, a deputation from the "Stadacona" Club of Quebec, of which I was a member, asked me to take the chair at a private dinner proposed to be given at the club to Mr. Vallandigham, the democratic leader of Ohio, who had come across country from Halifax, on his way homeward-through, free, Canada-after his seizure in bed, in Ohio, and deportation across the Northern frontier into the land of secession. It appeared that Mr. Vallandigham, not being a secessionist, merely desiring an honourable peace between North and South, which he had ably advocated, had gone on to Nassau, thence to Halifax, thence to Quebec: where he was.

I at first declined the honour. But I was much pressed. I was told that leading citizens of Quebec and members of the late Canadian Government would attend. That the dinner was merely hospitality to a refugee landed upon our shores in distress; and that my presidency would take away any suspicion that there was the slightest arriere-pensee in the matter. I concurred. The dinner took place. Not a word was said of the great pending contest, unless some words of Mr. Vallandigham, apologizing for the poverty of his dress, might be so construed. He said: "Mr. Chairman, I must apologize for my costume. I can only explain that I am standing in the clothes I was allowed to put on, after being taken out of my own bed, in my own house, without warning and without warrant, and I have not had the means to re-clothe myself."

The dinner was certainly about as non-political and as innocent as any such assembly could be. Mr. Vallandigham left for Niagara the same night. I saw him into the train. He declined a friendly loan; but he accepted a free passage to Niagara, where, later on, I spent two or three pleasant and interesting days in his society; our little party being Governor Dallas, of the Hudson's Bay Company, D'Arcy McGee, Dr. Mackay, who had acted as correspondent of the "Times," Professor Hind, my son, Mr. Watkin, and myself. The "consul" had, no doubt, misrepresented our proceedings.

Now this is the whole story. I never after this got any answers to letters to Mr. Seward; and, as stated above, I never knew of the grievance till spoken to by Mr. Bright, who had received a letter of complaint of me from somebody at Washington.

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