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WHILE the confederation of British North America in 1867 was sustained by both parties in England, there is reason to believe that many public men of both parties regarded it as a stepping-stone to getting rid of any responsibility connected with Canada. Now, after the lapse of years, it is very gratifying to know that at this moment an overwhelming change has taken place in the sentiments of their successors, and the time has come when all parties in Great Britain recognise the vital importance of maintaining the solidarity of the Empire.
I confess I cannot understand the recent difficulties encountered by the Unionist party in England in relation to the taxes on food. opinion the question was effectually disposed of by the proposal to limit the impost on foreign food-stuffs to two shillings a quarter. All the statistics available at Mark Lane established beyond controversy that no such impost on flour and wheat, while giving a preference to the Dominions and tending to stimulate settlement of agricultural areas and increase the production of bread-stuffs, would ever adversely affect the price of bread in Great Britain.
This preference would be of inestimable advan
tage to Canada in one other respect. I mean that it would remove any annexationist sentiment that might linger in the minds of the thousands of Americans who are pouring into Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta.
While it is impossible to say what the political result may be, when at no distant day the population of Canada is going to exceed that of the Mother Country, the movement toward the complete solidification of Great Britain and the great outlying Dominions will steadily increase. Looking at the climatic conditions, resources, and the geographical situation of Canada, I cannot but think that the future will show that the men of the north will be the dominating power on the American continent.
Coal is a great factor in national greatness. Unlike our neighbours, we have inexhaustible areas of it, not only on the Atlantic and Pacific, but inland in the western provinces, from the boundary line to the shores of the Arctic. We likewise have an abundance of natural gas and a wide distribution of the precious metals, with vast regions scarcely prospected.
In her fisheries Canada has also an unrivalled asset. We have a wheat-growing area which is being steadily extended north to the Mackenzie River basin, and a fertile soil adapted to the production of all other kinds of cereals and grains, as well as boundless forests. Our natural resources, in a relative sense, have scarcely been touched. Profiting by the experience of older nations, I am glad to see that conservation methods are being adopted.
Our water-powers are unsurpassed. They are being harnessed to operate our factories, street cars and railway systems, and in due time will drive all our industrial machinery.
The consolidation of the Empire on the basis of mutual preferential trade is coming sooner than most people imagine. A good start has already been made, and Canada will share in all those advantages.
The history of the movement is not uninteresting.
In 1879 a delegation, consisting of Sir John A. Macdonald, Sir Leonard Tilley, Minister of Customs, and myself, then Minister of Railways, visited England. On that occasion we submitted a proposition to Sir Michael Hicks-Beach, the Secretary of State for the Colonies, which concluded in these words: “The Government of Canada is prepared under arrangements with the Imperial Government, and with the assent of the Canadian Parliament, to give distinct trade advantages to Great Britain as against foreign countries, and they sought to do so in their arrangement of the present tariff to a limited extent; but, believing that the Imperial Government were not favourable to direct discriminating duties, the object in view was sought and obtained through a somewhat complex classification of imports.”
The policy of Canada against British manufactures is not, therefore, such as to exclude them from our markets, but points to an arrangement that, if adopted, might give us sufficient for revenue purposes, and at the same time be of infinite advantage to the Empire.
When the late Rt. Hon. W. E. Forster, the founder of the Imperial Federation League, called upon me to discuss the question of Imperial Federation in 1884, I told him that the most careful consideration I had been able to give to the subject led me to the conclusion that the means of drawing the Mother Country and the colonies more closely together for all time would have to be found in such fiscal arrangements as I was satisfied could be made, by which the outlying portions of the Empire would be treated by that great country on different footing from foreign countries. His reply was: “Well, I am a Free Trader, but I am not so fanatical a Free Trader that I should not be perfectly willing to adopt such a policy as that for the great and important work of binding this great Empire together.”
On January 19, 1888, Mr. Alexander McNeill, M.P. for North Bruce, made an eloquent speech in favour of a discriminatory tariff throughout the British Empire, and on February 1 the Toronto branch of the Imperial Federation League was organised.
In 1889 I was invited to express my opinion at the annual dinner of the Imperial Federation League, of which I was not a member. speech I said : “I am afraid that you will not be able to maintain public interest in the league much longer unless you propound some practical policy for promoting the union of the Empire, which is your avowed object. I therefore venture to suggest that a conference may be called by the Imperial Government of representatives of the self-govern
ing colonies to consider the best means of promoting the object, and I am inclined to the opinion that when a conference takes place it will be found that the adoption of a policy of mutual preferential trade between Great Britain and her colonies would provide the tie of mutual self-interest in addition to the purely sentimental bond which now exists."
I became a member of the league, and Lord Rosebery—who
then President-consulted with the Prime Minister on the subject. I may say that my suggestion in favour of preferential trade between Great Britain and the colonies met with unfriendly criticism in an unexpected quarter, as will be seen by the following correspondence :
Les Rochers, St. Patrick, Riviere du Loup,
August 14, 1889. MY DEAR TUPPER,–
Your speech on Federation has excited much attention in Canada and a good deal of dissatisfaction in Quebec.
The manner in which it has been treated by the English Press generally, which will insist that you have spoken the opinions of the Canadian Government, and as if by its authority, has aroused the suspicions of the French, and makes me look forward to some unpleasant discussions in our Parliament. The Opposition will oppose, of course, and they will attempt to make cause with the French, and may carry a vote against (1) Imperial Federation, and (2) a conference as proposed by you. It would be well, I think, for you to let it be known as widely as possible that you spoke your