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To this letter Sir John Macdonald replied as follows :
Sept. 28, 1889. MY DEAR TUPPER,—I have your semi-official letter of the 13th inst. With respect to the Imperial Federation matter, you have taken the matter too much au sérieux, I thought it well to write, as Langevin became nervous, not so much by the remarks made in the Opposition papers here as by the quotations from the English Press, which were widely disseminated by the Opposition. These English papers expressly stated that although you declared that you did not speak for the Canadian Government, you would not have spoken unless from instructions. The Quebecers here have got it into their heads that your proposal that a general conference should be held involved the discussion of the expediency of altering the British North America Act. This, though unfounded, caused some alarm. I have read your letter in council, and discussed the whole question, and I think we shall not hear anything more about it.-Yours faithfully,
JOHN A. MACDONALD.
In reply to a deputation of the Imperial Federation League in June, 1891, Lord Salisbury said: “I think we are almost come to the time when schemes should be proposed. You have stated a problem.
I might almost call it an enigma. We are to invite the colonies to share in the responsibilities and privileges of the Empire in such a manner as not to disturb the constitution of this country, or that which is enjoyed by the colonies.
The solution of this problem does not lie on the face of it; it will require the labour of many able brains before a satisfactory solution is arrived at. The matter is one, not for vague and uncommitting sentiment, but for hard thinking and close examination, and for the utmost effort that the highest and strongest intellect of our times can give to a problem in which the Empire is concerned.”
It was in these circumstances that at a large meeting of the Imperial Federation League, held at the Westminster Palace Hotel on June 17, 1891, I made this motion, which was unanimously adopted : “That a certain carefully selected committee be appointed to submit to the council a scheme for the consideration of the organisations of the league throughout the Empire, by which the objects of Imperial Federation may be realised.”
I took up the question of the Belgian and German treaties with my colleagues representing in Britain the various self-governing colonies, and we sent the following communication to the Secretary of State for the Colonies :
“Nov. 20, 1890. “MY LORD,-We desire to thank your Lordship for the intimation conveyed us in Mr. Bramston's letter of the roth inst., that the committee appointed to consider the approaching expiry, etc. of various European commercial treaties have expressed their concurrence in the view that the colonies should have the opportunity of stating their views respecting the effect of the various European treaties.
"In accordance with your Lordship's request we take the opportunity of stating, for the information of the committee, that we are all of the opinion that the treaties with Belgium and Germany of 1862 and 1865 respectively should be terminated as soon as possible, in order that Great Britain may be in the position of being able at any time to make closer commercial arrangements with the colonies, or any of them, without being subject to the restrictions that are contained in those treaties. We venture to think that the importance of the matter is one that cannot be overrated, whether regarded from the Colonial standpoint or from that of Great Britain.
“We consider, also, that the principle should now be formally conceded by
conceded by Her Majesty's Government—which has been accepted in many cases in recent years—that no commercial treaty should in future be binding upon the colonies without their assent, but that every such treaty should contain a clause enabling the colonies to participate in its provisions, or not, as they may desire.'
The movement we thus launched did not obtain its objects until 1897.
In the meantime Colonel Sir Howard Vincent, M.P., had founded the United Empire Trade League in conjunction with the Rt. Hon. James Lowther, M.P., which worked energetically and indefatigably in favour of the development of trade between all parts of the British Empire upon a mutually advantageous basis. In 1889 a conference was held at Ottawa, where representatives from Australia and South Africa met the
Government of Canada at their invitation, and at which the Imperial Government was represented by the Earl of Jersey. At this conference a resolution was carried in favour of mutual preferential trade.
Immediately after assuming the office of Prime Minister, in 1896, I delivered an address before the Board of Trade and Chamber of Commerce at Montreal in favour of preferential trade, and made that policy a principal feature of my appeal to the country. The Toronto Globe, the organ of the Liberal party, came out in strong opposition to the preferential trade policy, but it aroused great enthusiasm in Ontario, and the leader of the Opposition—now Sir Wilfrid Laurier—finding the “heather on fire,” declared to the electors at London, Ontario, that he was as strongly in favour of that policy as myself, and pledged himself to do all in his power to carry it out; so it ceased to be an issue.
After my defeat in 1896, Sir Wilfrid and his majority, who had for eighteen years bitterly opposed our protective policy—knowing that they could not retain power if they did anything to weaken the protection of Canadian industries— enacted a clause giving reduction to any country whose tariff was as favourable to Canada as that of Canada to them. They maintained that such a reduction would only apply to Great Britain, but they found, as I told them in Parliament, that, owing to the Belgian and German treaties, England could not enjoy the proposed reduction while several other countries could.
When the Conference of 1897 took place Mr.
Chamberlain said that if the Premiers of all the colonies joined in asking the denunciation of those treaties it would be done. They passed a unanimous resolution, and the treaties in question were denounced. Canada then enacted a reduction in favour of Great Britain eo nomine. Subsequently, when Sir Michael Hicks-Beach re-enacted the Registration Duties, Sir Wilfrid Laurier and the Hon. Mr. Fielding informed the Imperial Government that if these and any similar duties were remitted to Canada they would increase the preference, and if this were not done they would consider themselves at liberty to withdraw the preference already given. Unfortunately, the Hon. Mr. Ritchie, the then Chancellor of the Exchequer, abolished these duties, although they had given the Treasury over £2,500,000 without increasing the price of bread.
On May 16, 1903, Mr. Chamberlain made a speech strongly favouring preferential treatment of the colonies, and a year later that distinguished and patriotic statesman resigned his high office and consecrated his unrivalled talents to the promotion of Tariff Reform and the consolidation of the Empire by preferential trade.