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THE UNION OF THE MARITIME PROVINCES
My earliest political energies were devoted to securing the union of the Maritime Provinces, and to show the line of argument adopted and the conditions then existent in “ British North America," I cannot do better than give the following extract from the lecture I delivered at the opening of the Mechanics’ Institute, St. John, in 1860, on “The Political Condition of British North America”:
“Independently of the great Red River and Saskatchewan country lying between Canada and the Rocky Mountains, and the gold-bearing district of British Columbia between those mountains and the Pacific-an immense country now fast rising into importance—we find these five British North American provinces, with a population larger than the old colonies had at the time that the ignorance and injustice of the British Government lost them -the brightest gem of the Crown of England.
“The population of British North America exceeds that of Greece, Denmark, Hanover, the Kingdom of the Netherlands, Portugal, Saxony, Switzerland, or Würtemberg, and nearly equals that of Bavaria or Belgium. Her area is greater than that of all those countries put together, with Russia, England, Ireland and Scotland added.
Her exports are greater than were those of the United States in 1790, whose exports as recently as 1830 were not double what Canada now boasts.
“The revenue of British North America exceeds that of Greece, Saxony, or Switzerland, and is nearly as large as that of Denmark, while her tonnage surpasses that possessed by the United States in 1790.
“ In view of all these facts, it will not be considered strange that, looking to the future, conscious of the boundless expansion of which our country and our resources are capable, we should begin to inquire whether our political position is such as we are relatively entitled to among the communities of the earth.
The time best suited to the calm and rational investigation of such questions is previous to any imperative necessity arising for an immediate solution. The very nature of colonial institutions involves continual change to meet the altered circumstances which progress induces. The present comparatively free institutions which we enjoy would have been impracticable at the commencement of our history. When first brought under British rule, Canadians were content to have English laws enforced simply by proclamation. Then legislation by a governor and council, under the Constitution given them by the Quebec Bill, was all that was required for the seventeen years previous to 1791, when a Legislature was first constituted. It is worthy of remark that a large portion of the inhabitants then petitioned against this extension of their privileges, as unsuited to their condition. Even down to the union of the
Canadas in 1840, self-government was anything but conceded to that colony. Lord Sydenham wrote in December, 1839 :
“My Ministers vote against me. through the Opposition, who
who are truly Her Majesty's.'
“ It will thus be seen that the political institutions of a colony must vary with its changing condition. The system of government conceded by Lord John Russell, and hailed with such enthusiasm as a sovereign panacea for every political ill a few years since, has not given universal satisfaction or been unattended with difficulties. In Prince Edward Island the departmental system, as practised in the other provinces, has been abandoned, after a vain attempt to make it work satisfactorily. In Newfoundland it may be said to be almost impracticable. In Canada the talented leader of the Opposition, the Hon. George Brown, has declared the system of responsible government as practised in that colony to be 'a delusion and a snare,' while the Conservative Ministry, who are in power there, represented in a State paper to the British Government in 1858 that:
Very grave difficulties now present themselves in conducting the government of Canada in such a manner as to show due regard to the wishes of its numerous population,' and requested the parent State to authorise a meeting of delegates from the different provinces to discuss constitutional changes of the most extensive character. More need not be said to show that the discussion of questions relating to our political position is by no means premature.
" Let us, then, inquire whether our present political status is such as to meet our material progress and satisfy the natural and laudable ambition of free and intelligent minds.
“It must be evident to everyone in the least degree acquainted with our history, that at present we are without name or nationality-comparatively destitute of influence and of the means of occupying the position to which we may justly aspire. What is a British-American but a man regarded as a mere dependent upon an Empire which, however great and glorious, does not recognise him as entitled to any voice in her Senate, or possessing any interests worthy of Imperial regard. This may seem harsh, but the past is pregnant with illustrations of its truth. What voice or influence had New Brunswick when an English peer settled most amicably the dispute with an adjoining country by giving away a large and important slice of her territory to a foreign power ? Where were the interests of these Maritime Provinces when another English nobleman relieved England of the necessity of protecting our fisheries by giving them away to the same Republic, without obtaining any adequate consideration for a sacrifice so immense ?
“Mr. Lindsay, the able and enlightened advocate of the shipping interest of England, found that he had visited the United States on a bootless errand—that the only price for which they could be induced to surrender the enjoyment of their coasting trade to British vessels was the longcoveted permission to enjoy over five thousand miles of sea-coast in common with ourselves, and
reap a rich reward from our fishing grounds while they establish themselves as a leading maritime power.
“ It may be said that we were a party to the negotiation of that treaty, but it is not so. The very mode in which the colonies interested were invited to participate was simply an insult. They were permitted to concur, but not consulted in the arrangements.
“The Reciprocity Treaty has undoubtedly largely benefited both the provinces and our American neighbours, and with the concession to us of the right to register colonial-built vessels and enjoy the coasting trade would have been worthy of its name.
“The proposal to abrogate that treaty, although mooted in the States, is not very likely to be seriouly entertained by a country whose trade with the British North American colonies has under its influence more than trebled within four years, having risen from sixteen million in 1852 to fifty million in 1856, employing a tonnage of over three and a half millions of tons upon the lakes and the Atlantic coast, one half of which belonged to the States.
The evidence that these colonies are destitute of all influence with the Imperial Government lies around us in thick profusion. Never were the interests and feeling of subjects more trifled with than have been ours in a question of the most vital importance—the Inter-colonial Railway.
From the time that astute and far-seeing statesman, Earl Durham, proposed the statesmanlike project of connecting these colonies by rail, the various provinces have manifested the deepest