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The Union scheme

The following article is from:
The Herald (Charlottetown) Wednesday, October 12, 1864

The Canadian Government steamer, Queen Victoria called at this Port on Thursday last, for the delegates appointed to represent this island in the Convention whose deliberations commenced at Quebec on the 10th instant. Our Delegates are Hon. Col. Grey, Hon. Edward Palmer, Hon. W. H. Pope, Hon. T. H. Haviland, Hon. Daniel Davies, Hon. George Coles, Hon. A. A. McDonald, Hon. Edward Whelan. Of this number of our Legislators, Mr. Pope is the only one who advocated an Union of the Colonies when the question of the appointment of delegates was under consideration of our Legislature last Session. All the other members of the Delegation, we believe, were then adverse to an Union, and nearly all of them made long speeches in opposition thereto. Messrs Haviland, Whelan and Coles were particularly loquacious on the subject; the former gentleman declared that he would not vote to have this island united with the other colonies on any consideration, and the two latter gentlemen voted against the appointment of the Delegation of whose number they now form a part. But alas for the firmness and consistency of our politicians, All our Delegates are now, we understand, professed Union advocates.

What the result of the Quebec Convention may be, is at present difficult to divine; but whatever may result there from, this much is certain, that the whole Delegation affair will cost this Island a very considerable sum of money. We learn that our Delegates receive eight dollars per day each as remuneration for their services, besides their travelling charges and other incidental expenses. And for what purpose is all this expense incurred? Simply for the consummation of an Union which must necessarily entail heavy taxation upon the already impoverished people of this Island.

The leading features of the contemplated Federation as shadowed forth by some of the Canadian journals in the confidence of the Canadian Ministry, are, that each of the Colonies should have a Local Legislature and Executive, charged with the control of all local matters; and that in a General Legislature and Executive should be vested the control of affairs common to the whole country. Over each of the Local Governments should preside a Governor, as at present; and the General Government should be subject to a Viceroy or Governor General. In the administration of their affairs, the Confederated Colonies would have no connection with the Mother Country, except in matters of legislation immediately concerning Imperial interests. Doubtless, if the Union be consummated at all, it will be something after this form. The minor details, such as the mode of electing members to serve in the different Local Legislatures and in the General Legislature, the matter of appointing the Local Governors and the Governor General, are matters which, of course, the public will not be permitted to know until the secret conference shall have closed its deliberations. Thus, it will be seen, that if this form of Union be carried out, the people of this Colony, besides having to support a Local Legislature and all the paraphernalia of a Local Government, as they do under the present state of things, will have to pay their own Governor and contribute their proportion towards the support of the General Government, the salary of the Governor General and a foreign diplomacy. All the revenue which is now annually collected would be placed at the disposal of the General Government. In order to show our readers what portion of the general revenue this island would receive, we shall quote from the Courrier du Canada of the 30th ultimo -- a Quebec paper which generally expresses the real sentiments of the Canadian Ministry. After observing upon some of the duties which would devolve upon the Local Legislature, the writer remarks; "In order to prevent the difficulties which would arise from the absence of local revenues to meet the expenditure which would be necessary in each Colony for the administration of its internal affairs, a part of the public revenue might be distributed to each Colony for this purpose, in proportion to its population."

From this it can readily be seen what share of the general revenue this island, with a population of about 80,000, would receive from the Federal Government, which would represent a population of nearly 4,000,000. Besides, if the Confederation would assume a defensive position -- and with a Government independent of the Mother County, it certainly should do so -- it will require to support a standing army and a navy. Over the army and navy, the General Government would of course, have sole-control, and each of the Colonies would have to provide its quota of men and ships. The least that could be expected of P. E. Island would be one ship of war and one regiment of soldiers, and probably much more would be required. -- To give our readers an idea of what the probable expense would be, we shall premise a few general observations. To build the smallest ship in the British navy cost the Imperial Government about £50,000 sterling, without guns or ammunitions of war, and when we add to this sum the pay of the officers and then add the cost of a complete naval [...], the expense of building, fitting out and supporting for [...] ship fit to cope with any of the ships now build in the States, could not be less than £100,000 sterling, and would probably be a great deal more that this sum. With reference to the army, the expense would be proportionably large. In densely populated countries, such as England, and most of the countries on the continent of Europe, where the rates of laborers' wages are low, persons enter the army and navy because of the comparatively high wages they receive in these services; but in the American Colonies, where labor always commands a high price, men could not be induced to enter the naval or the military service for less than three times the amount paid for a similar purpose in England. At the rate of three shillings per day, a regiment of soldiers would receive £54,750 sterling for a year; add to this-say £40,000 sterling -- for their military outfit, barracks, and "creature comforts," and we have £94,750 sterling as the cost of one regiment for the first year. It can be gleaned from this rough estimate -- and we are rather below than above the real cost -- that one ship of war and one regiment of soldiers would cost £194,740 sterling, for the first year, a sum equal to the annual revenue of this Colony for about four years. Of course, the expense would not be so much each succeeding year; but on an average, the expense of supporting one ship and one regiment of soldiers would not be less than £150,000 P. E. Island currency per annum.

We would advise the advocates for Union, before they proceed much farther with the scheme, to ask the poor tenantry of this Island whether they desire to enjoy the honor of equipping a ship of war and a regiment of soldiers at an expense of £292,125 currency for the first year, and £150,000 per annum "for ever afterwards." But say the sticklers for Union, "The Mother Country will not protect these Colonies much longer, and, therefore, it is necessary that we should be prepared to defend ourselves." Well, we say -- and we think the tenantry of this Island will say, too -- if the Mother Country will not defend the lands of the Proprietors in this Island against any marauding foe that may come along, let the Yankees take possession of them by all means: it is only what they could do against all the naval and military force the contemplated Confederation could support; we will certainly be no worse off then than we are now, and not half so badly off as we will be if this Island be united with her sister Colonies. We cannot help remarking that some of our Legislators are yearning a little too much for the blissful Colonial Union, which they fancy they see looming in the distance, but their constituents may be tempted to say to them by and bye as Lucretius said of the Roman law makers of his time: o miseras hominum mentes, o pectora caeca! -- and send them about their business.

We shall, at all events, keep our readers posted up with regard to the sayings and doings of the Delegates so far as we can acquire any information thereof.