Fathers of Confederation

[Ed.: Arguing that a Confederation of all the provinces is still far off, Tupper moves the resolution that led to the Charlottetown Conference of 1864, authorizing the appointment of provincial delegates to consider Maritime Union – the union of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island under one government.

Tupper sees union of the Maritime Provinces as desirable in itself, and a step to a wider union with Canada. Their interests are identical. United, their lands, population and resources will earn respect, secure industrial development, and raise the province’s credit in the markets. Divided, they remain threatened by invasion, whatever should prove the outcome of the US Civil War. Separate and apart, tariff walls and even different currencies impede trade. These arguments applied even more forcefully to Union with Canada – and by this speech Tupper set in motion events which would secure the wider allegiance he then thought beyond reach.

Tupper devotes a large part of his address to the sectional conflict between English and French then paralyzing politics in Canada, which he blames for preventing union of all British North America. But like many Canadians after him, Tupper believes a wider union can release these seething communal tensions. Like Alexander Galt, like George-Etienne Cartier, we hear Tupper arguing that joining the Maritime Provinces to Canada will solve Canada’s sectional conflict, and that the union of wider interests and a broader stage for politics will be the solution to Canada’s intestine troubles:

“They would find in the Maritime Provinces that which they seek for in vain in their own country – that is, a united people – divided by no sectional antagonism and embarrassing by no separate system of jurisprudence.  They would find a country in which civil and religious liberty is enjoyed by all, and in which I am happy to know there exists no hostility between different races or religions.  We would present a country to their view that might be united on a common bond of Union with Canada – a union which is essential to the solution of the difficulties that now divide the two great sections of that Province.”  ]

TUPPER said: I would shrink very much sir, from the task which has been imposed upon me of moving the resolution which it is the intention of the government to submit to this House, respecting the union of the maritime Colonies, if it were not that I am aware of the enlightened and patriotic spirit in which that question has up to the present time been entertained, I am happy to say, not only in this Province but in all the Provinces interested. Notwithstanding it has been our misfortune in these Colonies to have party spirit animating perhaps in an undue degree the public sentiment of the country on various questions of material importance to the Province, the question of a union of the Colonies is one that I am proud to know has been kept separate and distinct from party controversy.  It has been dealt with from time to time by gentlemen identified with and forming portions of both the great parties into which this Province has been divided, and I believe on every occasion it has met with the generous co-operation of whoever formed the opposition, who have invariably united with the government of the day in dealing with this as a question of such magnitude and importance as required that it should not be allowed to mix up in any party conflict that might be on other matters occupying the public mind.

I do not rise for the purpose of bringing before you the subject of the Union of the Maritime Provinces, but rather to propose to you their reunion.  It is well known, sir, that in the year 1763, the Province of Prince Edward Island was annexed to Nova Scotia, which therefore comprised not only that which now belongs to it, but also embraced within its limits the Province of New Brunswick, so that at that period, and down to 1771, when the island of St. John or Prince Edward became a separate and distinct government, these three Provinces formed one Government and one Province.  In 1784, the Province of New Brunswick was separated from this Province, and from that period down to the present time, we have formed three distinct governments.

Now, the inquiry will naturally present itself to this House why once united in a compact whole that separation should have taken place.  It may naturally be supposed that the reasons which involved that separation exist at the present day, and indicate the impropriety of again attempting the reunion.  But I believe at the time the separation took place between the Provinces of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, [and] the latter became a separate and distinct government, the reasons were distinctly set forth as arising from the great difficulty of inter-communication between the different separations of the country.  With the present improved means of intercourse, with the introduction of steamers and railways, and other facilities that now exist for speedy communication, this difficulty has been entirely removed; and the most remote part of New Brunswick can communicate with the most distant portion of Nova Scotia with much greater facility than at the time this separation took place, [and] the different sections of these two provinces could communicate with any central point.  It is very well known that in the Province of Canada, where there is an area of 331,000 square miles, no difficulty whatever is found in communicating with the seat of government, wherever it may be.

The House is also well aware that from time to time many reasons have exhibited themselves as pointing to the necessity of an Intercolonial Union.  The subject is not a new one; it has engaged before I had the honour of a seat in the House, the attention and deliberation of this body.  It has been discussed in Canada, and, more or less, as a public question in New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island.  The proposal which was made and advocated with such singular ability by my honourable friend the leader of the present Government several years ago, in this Legislature, was for a Legislative Union of the whole British American Provinces, that is, uniting the Canadas with these Maritime Provinces.  On that occasion the whole subject of a Union of the Colonies was so fully and ably discussed by the leading minds of both sides in this Legislature as to render it unnecessary that any great amount of attention or time should be occupied in going over the grounds which have been already so ably detailed.

But difficulties have been found – and I may say inseparable difficulties – in grappling with that which so many of the ablest minds in this country have advocated in connection with this subject.  The union of the Maritime Provinces with Canada has hitherto presented insurmountable obstacles.  I had the pleasure during the past year of visiting Canada, and conferring frequently and at considerable length upon the question with public men from all parts of that Province, and gathering to a large extent views not only of its public men, but of its people.  I may state to the House that the result of these conversations and of the information which I was enabled to obtain has convinced me that for many years it would be quite impracticable to obtain the larger union.  In Upper Canada, there is a decided disinclination to a Union with the Maritime Provinces, in consequence of the rivalry which exists between the two sections in which that colony is divided.

At the time the union between Upper and Lower Canada was consummated, I believe that which has since proved a serious, if not fatal, mistake in the arrangement then made, took place.  At that time, Lower Canada largely outnumbered in population Upper Canada; and in order to meet the difficulties that presented themselves in the way of the Union, it was agreed that both these Provinces, then independent and distinct governments should be united upon the basis that although they differed largely in point of population, yet each Province should send an equal number of representatives to the United Parliament.  That has been found, I believe, a most serious, if not fatal difficulty, in the government of Canada.  The Upper Province has increased in its population in a much greater ratio than the lower section, until it now outnumbers it very considerably, and being numerically stronger now, demands in the most determined manner that Canada West shall have a representation in proportion to the population which it contains.  This proposal is resented on the other hand as a breach of the contract on which they were united.  It is contended that as Lower Canada yielded the increased representation to which she was entitled at the time of the union.  Upper Canada cannot now lay claim to the adoption of the principle she advocates.

Every person knows that other difficulties have prevented the union of the Canadas being attended with the beneficial results which otherwise might have resulted from it.  These two countries, now united under one government, are not only in antagonism upon this question of “Representation by Population” but it has been found impossible to blend them as they could have been blended, had they not been separated as they are by race language, laws and religion.  The consequence has been, as this House very wells knows, that government has become almost impossible in Canada in consequence of the jealousy and rivalry existing between the two sections, united as they are under one government but separated by those separate and different institutions which obtain in the two Provinces.

Under these circumstances Upper Canada looks with jealousy and distrust upon any union with the Maritime Provinces as one which would place in connection with the Lower Canadian influence in the government of the Province a large section of country which would be identified in interest with the Lower Province in consequence of its geographical position.  On the other hand, the inhabitants of Lower Canada look with equal distrust upon a union with the Maritime Provinces as one which would throw a large population homogeneous with that of Western Canada to a very great extent into the scale, and perhaps render the influences which operate so largely in Canada East less potent than they now are.  There is consequently, I am satisfied, such a disinclination on the part of these two great sections in which the government of Canada is divided as to render it quite impracticable to discuss, except as a theory for the future, a union of Canada with the Maritime Provinces.

But, I am satisfied that whilst the financial condition of affairs has been such as it has been for years in Canada – the deficit now between the Expenditure and Revenue being more than a million of dollars – these Maritime Provinces would look very doubtfully upon a proposal which was to unite them with a country that is placed in a position of such financial embarrassment.

I think therefore we may put aside, for the present at all events, the greater question which has engaged the attention of public men in this and the other Provinces in British America in connection with this subject.  Whilst I believe that the Union of the Maritime Provinces and Canada – of all British North America – under one Government, would be desirable if it were practicable, I believe that to be a question which far transcends in its difficulties the power of any human advocacy to accomplish.

I am not insensible to the feeling that the time may not be far distant when events which are far more powerful than any human advocacy may place British America in a position to render a union into one compact whole – may not only render such a union practicable but absolutely necessary.  I need hardly tell you that continuous to use there is a great Power, with whom the prevailing sentiment has long been: -

No pent up Utica contracts our powers,

For the whole boundless continent is ours

This has long been the fundamental principle which has animated the Republic of America.  I believe whilst that sentiment of extended dominion has animated the minds of the statesmen and a large proportion of the population of the United States, they have been, owing to the peculiar condition of that country, prevented from giving that scope and development to that principle which otherwise might have been attempted.  Every person knows that the republic of America has been divided into two great sections – a slave holding and an anti-slavery country; and we know that for many ears the most extreme rivalry and jealousy existed between these two sections.

Now, I consider the reason why no attempt up to the present day has been made to acquire possession of British North America on the part of the United States is to a large extent dependent upon the fact that whilst the Northern States would have been glad to have had a population to a large extent homogeneous with their own and holding sentiments identical with theirs on the slavery question, yet they have been prevented from taking any step towards their acquisition in consequence of the opposition that would be given by the Southern States, which have wielded a large and influential power in the government.  The South naturally would never have consented to see the anti-slavery element increased and rendered so powerful as it must have been by the connection of British North America with the States.

But now we know a great internal convulsion is going on in that country and we would be blind to our own interests if we concealed from ourselves the consideration of questions which may be involved in the issue of that struggle.  Every person knows that from one cause and another the feeling of the Northern States is antagonistic to a very extended degree, if not hostile, to British interests.  In consequence of the attitude which Great Britain has assumed, the Southern States also feel themselves aggrieved; and therefore I believe the conflict that is now going on has produced a feeling on the part of both North and South which must be necessarily fraught with danger to the peace of British North America.

Let the issue of this great struggle – and it is not for me to intimate or to express an opinion as to what it may be – terminate in the reunion of North and South, what will be the result upon ourselves?  We shall see the North excited and exasperated by the hostile sentiments so generally expressed by the Press of British America – united to the South [who] would themselves [be] deeply injured by the refusal of the British Government to recognize them, and by the beliefs that they are compelled in consequence not only to grapple with the North but to engage as it were in a contest against the world in defence of what they believe to be their liberties.

It must be apparent that if this war were to terminate tomorrow in peace, their normal condition is entirely changed since its commencement.  Whilst they had comparatively no standing army formerly, they would come out of this war with a force of the greatest magnitude, and a body which it is difficult to dispose of satisfactorily after their attention has been turned to warlike pursuits.  Assuming that the extinction of slavery were the result, and the re-union take place, it is not unlikely that those arms which are being fiercely directed in hostile conflict against each other, would then be combined with a view to the attainment of universal dominion on this continent.

On the other hand, let the issue of this great struggle be the independence of the Southern States, and what will be the result?  The Northern States will remain a great and formidable power, possessing an immense army – and we will find the sentiment of that country embittered by the feelings that have been exhibited by British North America, whilst she would be relieved from the difficulty that has hitherto prevented her from making any attempt to acquire these Colonies.  Relieved from the Southern States her attention would be naturally turned to this country where the territory she had lost in the South might to some extent be made up – a country possessing extent of resources, which would render it an acquisition of greatest importance and restore the Northern States, if acquired, largely to the position they occupied before the separation occurred.

The House will see that if the subject of a union with Canada were even in contemplation, no wiser step could take place than the union of the Maritime Provinces in the first instance.  Hostile as I believe the sentiment of Canada is at the present time to a union with the Maritime Provinces, the day is not far distant when it will be for the interest of both to unite, and Canada will, I have no doubt, see in that union the solution of those difficulties that are now found insuperable in the government of the country.

These Provinces, I am proud to know, would present a sufficient area, population and resources to exercise no small amount of influence in the scale between the two sections in which Canada is divided.  They would find in the Maritime Provinces that which they seek for in vain in their own country – that is, a united people – divided by no sectional antagonism and embarrassing by no separate system of jurisprudence.  They would find a country in which civil and religious liberty is enjoyed by all, and in which I am happy to know there exists no hostility between different races or religions.  We would present a country to their view that might be united on a common bond of Union with Canada – a union which is essential to the solution of the difficulties that now divide the two great sections of that Province.  This union when required will be, as I have said, more easy of accomplishment when these Maritime Provinces are united than at present.

Looking, then, at the position which this question occupies, I think it is not unlikely that the time may not be remote when circumstances may accomplish that which, as I said before, apart from the influence of powerful events, no human advocacy at the present time may be able to grapple with.  But, in the meantime, public attention has been turned away rather from the greater, or union of British North America, and a union of the Maritime Provinces under one Legislature demands our consideration.

The attention of these Maritime Provinces, not of one party, not of the public men simply, but of the people of these colonies, has been turned to the practical question whether the time has not arrived when they ought to consider the propriety of uniting under one legislature and one government.  This question has been submitted to the British Government, and they have expressed their acquiescence in this matter being dealt with in such a manner as well meet the views and suit the public interests of the Provinces themselves.  Being, therefore, in an attitude to deal with it, the Government thought it proper to take action in the matter, and proposed to the Governments of New Brunswick and Prince Edward’s Island that the subject should be brought under the purview of their Legislatures.

I am happy to be able to say that the sentiment of the Government of New Brunswick entirely concurs with that of the Government of this province, as I believe the sentiment of her public men and people generally coincided with that of our people; and I expect that at this very hour a resolution couched in precisely the same terms as the one which I am about to move, will be laid before the Legislatures of the adjoining Province for their consideration, and I trust with a satisfactory result.  We have not heard definitely from the Government of Prince Edward Island, but in the speech delivered by His Excellency at the opening of the Legislature on the 16th inst., he communicated to the House that he was in correspondence with the Government of this Province, and that it should be laid before them; and from interview which I have had the pleasure of enjoying with several leading men connected with the Government of the Island, I am not without hope that the same consideration which that measure will obtain in this house, and the same result will be arrived at in common with the Legislature of New Brunswick.

This subject has been so ably dealt with by the Press of this and the adjoining Province and the public mind seems to have been so well formed on this question, as to render it unnecessary to detain the House with any lengthened remarks on the advantages of this Union; but I may glance briefly at a few features that are worthy of passing comment.

In the first place, it is known that the three Provinces whose interests are identical, whose commerce is of the same description, whose climate and population and resources are of the same character, owing their fealty to the same head, governed by the same institutions, are in antagonism to each other on a number of questions upon which it is impossible each antagonism could exist without a very great injury to each other.  We are divided by hostile tariffs – we have each our custom houses erected as barriers against intercourse with each other.  In the second place, it is known that our currencies are as diverse as it is possible they can be.  Our Post Office affairs are regulated by distinct heads; and thus, the very channels of free intercourse between the different Provinces are subject to different arrangements.

Then there is … education [in] these Provinces.  Who can doubt that if these three Provinces are united it would give an impulse to the great question of education which must be attended with the most satisfactory results?

It is known that all attempts to establish free trade between these Provinces have entirely failed for the want of this Union.  The most determined efforts were made by the late government as well as their predecessors to establish the principle of free trade and commercial intercourse between the three Provinces as well as Canada, but an insuperable barrier at once presented itself.  The British Government have decided that this principle cannot be carried out except between Provinces which possess a common tariff; and the efforts which were made by the late government in common with that of New Brunswick, for the purpose of accomplishing a uniform tariff, entirely failed for this reason – that the principle upon which tariffs are formed is to meet the existing necessities of the country.  If you have two governments, you have two systems to meet, and what is the necessity of one may not be that of the other.  The tariff requires to be proportioned to the expenditure of the country; and therefore, when it was attempted to assimilate the tariffs, it necessarily failed because the expenditure differed.

I need hardly tell the House that the credit of the country must be largely raised by the union.  You would then have a country possessing an area, a population and a revenue, that would attract attention abroad.  Instead of being absorbed in the consideration of the world with Canada, these Provinces would be looked upon as a distinct country.  The area of Nova Scotia is but 18,000 square miles, New Brunswick 27,000, Prince Edward Island a little over 2,000; but united they would present an area of something like 50,000 square miles – an extent of territory which when presented to the eye of European statesmen who are familiar with the limited extent of many states in Europe, would attract a degree of consideration and attention which it is impossible for these Provinces, in their present isolated state, to command.

The honourable gentleman then gave other statistics on the subject.  He showed that united the Provinces would present a population of over half a million; with a revenue of something like two and a quarter millions of dollars.  The hon. gentleman then called attention to the returns of Shipping belonging to these Provinces.  The whole of these Provinces, with a rapidly increasing population of nearly 700,000, would possess over half a million tons of shipping.  The exports would amount in the aggregate to $1,316,456, whilst the imports would reach to $17,715.716.  He then continued.

I have called attention, Sir, to these figures to show that these Provinces would possess an area, population and resources that must command respect abroad which it is impossible to expect whilst we remain disunited as at present.  Every person knows that we are all borrowers in the money market of England, and the advantage of this union upon the credit of the whole cannot fail to be perceived by this House.

I am satisfied that looking to Emigration, to the elevation of public credit, to the elevation of public sentiment which must arise from enlarging the sphere of action, the interests of these provinces require that they should be united under one Government and Legislature.  It would tend to decrease the personal element in our political discussions, and to rest the claims of our public men more upon the advocacy of public questions than is possible at the present moment whilst these colonies are so limited in extent.  We have only to look to Prince Edward island, to find that political differences are expanded, political acrimony engendered, and the difficulty of government increased, just in an inverse ratio to the size of the country, and that when you increase the area of the country you decrease the political acrimony and difference of opinion that are calculated to place one section in such antagonism to the other as to render it impossible to advance measures of public improvement.

I am happy to know, Sir, that there was never a time in our political history when the feeling of public men in regard to great questions was more harmonious than at present, and I am unwilling to admit that this is owing less to the large preponderance of public sentiment exhibited by the people than to the moderation and candour that the leading gentlemen composing the Opposition have exhibited in the discussion of public questions.

There is also the question of common defence, which must be manifestly advanced by the union that is proposed.  Here we would be placed in a position to take measures for our common defence far in advance of anything that we can do whilst separate and distinct – measures which may be necessary in order to preserve not only our hearthstones and our homes, but also that connection with the parent state which we all believe it is for our advantage, as it is our pride, should be continued.

The hon. gentleman then turned to the Expenditures of the Provinces, and showed that it would be largely decreased by a union.  The total number of members of assembly was 121, whilst the whole province of Canada, with a population of two and a half millions, had but 130.  The Legislative Council of these Provinces presented an aggregate of 51, whilst Canada had but 70.

I am not aware, sir, of any difficulties that would arise from the consummation of this union.  I do not believe, looking at the character of the two Provinces, any antagonism would arise such as has arisen in Canada.  We have mainly one language – one race, and fortunately we are not divided to any extent by religious antagonism; and therefore, all those elements of discord that obtain in Canada, together with the question of “Representation by Population” would be entirely absent.  But it would be premature in me to undertake to consider the difficulties that might arise in the consummation of this union on the present occasion, for I feel that is a question which would, under the Resolution I am about to move, fall under the purview of the Delegates and the several Legislatures that would be called to pass upon the subject.

Something has been said about the jealousy existing between Halifax and St John.  I believe nature has given advantages and of such a diverse character to St. John and Halifax respectively as to prevent any such antagonism arising.  There is no legislation that could ever pass this House or the Parliament of the whole of these Provinces, if reunited, that could take away from the harbour of Halifax the position which it enjoys as being the great point of communication between the old and the new world.  There is, on the other hand, no legislation that could ever pass the United Parliament, or the Legislature of any one, that could take from St. John the advantage of being the outlet of the magnificent river St. John, forming a great inland artery of communication for three hundred miles.

I had the satisfaction during the past season of visiting that splendid country, and I had no conception until I travelled over it of the splendid country through which the traveller passes from the time he leaves St. John until he reaches the boundary between New Brunswick and Canada.  These advantages are great.  They have been placed upon the face of the country by the hand of nature, and no legislation can take them away, though a common legislation could give the inhabitants of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia an equal interest in the prosperity of both.

Whilst New Brunswick may not possess the magnificent mineral resources which have been scattered in such profusion through the length and breadth of Nova Scotia; on the other hand, we do not possess today a tithe of the ungranted lands that are in our sister Province, to attract the emigrant from abroad.  Therefore, whilst it is the interest of New Brunswick to become a partner in the magnificent mineral treasures of Nova Scotia, it is equally for our own advantage to participate in the benefits she can afford us.

No person can examine the resources of these Provinces without being convinced of the fact that nature intended them for a great manufacturing country.  If you look at our position standing out on the western continent as England does on the eastern continent, at our maritime resources which are similar to those of Great Britain, – if you examine the very structure of the country and find the coal, limestone, and iron abounding in close proximity, you cannot fail to perceive that we have all the elements in this county – that these Provinces have all the requisites that are calculated, if judiciously fostered, to make them occupy in America the same position that the parent State holds in Europe, and become a great manufacturing country.

With this country united in common bonds, associated together by a common interest, thus rendered more important in every requisite particular, we shall attract to our shores such an amount of capital, population and skill as will speedily advance this country to the influential position which it is evident God and nature intended she should occupy.  I do not intend, however, to occupy the time of this House any further, but shall conclude these comparatively brief and imperfect observations by moving the following resolution which is identical with that agreed upon by the Government of New Brunswick:

Resolved, that His Excellency, the Administrator of the Government be requested to appoint delegates (not to exceed five) who may be appointed by the governments of New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island for the purpose of arranging a preliminary plan for the union of the three provinces under one government and legislature, such union to take effect when confirmed by the legislative enactments of the various Provinces interested and approved by Her Majesty the Queen.”

MLI would not exist without the support of its donors. Please consider making a small contribution today.