(To the Editor of the Star).
SIR,-Although I have not yet seen the pamphlet published by Mr. Howe, in opposition to the proposed confederation of the British North American Provinces, you will, I hope, permit me to correct several misstatements of facts into which you have inadvertently been betrayed, by the perusal of Mr. Howe’s brochure, in your article in the “Star” of the 21st inst., upon a question involving the most important consequences, both to British North America and the Parent State.
A scheme of confederation, providing for the Union of the British North American provinces under one Government and Legislature, was arranged at Quebec in 1864, by delegates representing all sections and parties in the Colonies, appointed by the Governor-General and the Lieutenant-Governors of the Provinces. Both Houses of the Parliament of Canada carried by very large majorities an address to Her Majesty the Queen, praying that an Act of the Imperial Parliament might be passed by which the proposed union should be consumated.
The Legislators of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick have also authorized the Lieutenant-Governors of those provinces to appoint delegates, clothed with plenary powers, to arrange with delegates from Canada and with Her Majesty’s Government here a plan of union to be submitted to the Imperial Parliament. The co-operation of the Island of Newfoundland and Prince Edward, although desirable, is by no means essential as to render the Union of Upper and Lower Canada, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick – possessing an area of 400,000 square miles, and a population of nearly four millions under a United Government “a lame and impotent conclusion.”
You will, I think, scarcely regard the statement as accurate that “by extreme pressure on the part of the Executive the Legislatures of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick agreed to send delegates to a conference to be held in London,” when the fact is stated that in New Brunswick an appeal to the electors upon this question resulted in the return of thirty-three members, pledged to support Confederation, while but eight members opposed to that policy could obtain seats in the Legislative Assembly; that in the Legislative Council in that province the Confederation Policy was affirmed by a majority of thirteen to five, and that in Nova Scotia the motion to authorize the appointment of delegates with plenary powers to settle the question of union was carried by a majority of thirty to eighteen and in the Legislative Council by a majority of thirteen to five.
As the leader of the Government of Nova Scotia I can confidently assert that no executive pressure was attempted, and that both branches of the legislature will represent the education, intelligence, property and industry of the colony. The statement that the Hon. Joseph Howe is “a distinguished member of the Legislature of Nova Scotia” is inaccurate. Mr. Howe, as leader of the Government, sustained an overwhelming defeat at the last general election in that Province in 1863. But thirteen members out of a house of fifty-five were returned to support his Government. The constituency to whom he offered his services rejected him by a majority of over five hundred. And Mr. Howe has not since obtained a seat in the Legislature.
The readers of the “star” will be surprised to learn that Mr. Howe denies the right of the Legislature of the colony to change the constitution of the country with the concurrence of the Imperial Government, when they are told that the last act of the Government was to introduce a measure to disenfranchise more than one quarter of the electors who had elected the Parliament in which he was then sitting. You will probably be equally astonished when you are informed that “serious are are the geographical difficulties of a Confederation as put by Mr. Howe,” and “certain to infuse new elements of discord into the already seething chaos of Canadian politics,” as he now asserts, that gentleman, when leader of the Government of Nova Scotia in 1861, proposed to the Legislature a resolution, which was carried unanimously, declaring that “many advantages may be secured by such a union” of the British North American provinces, and authorizing the appointment of delegates to promote that object.
Notwithstanding the inaccuracies in your leader to which I have ventured to call your attention I do not know that I would have troubled you with any remarks but the following passage:-“The intimacy and inclination of the maritime provinces is not towards Canada, but towards Maine and Massachusetts; and though the men of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia are proud of their independence they would probably prefer annexation to the United States if it could be peaceably effected to any Confederation scheme”.
Although I am quite ready to admit that a number of interested bankers and political agitators have excited a great deal of prejudice against the proposed Confederation, I am bold to assert that a more unfounded imputation upon the loyalty of the people of the maritime provinces of all classes could not be published than is contained in the paragraph just quoted. That there are individual traitors in the pay and interest of American annexationists, endeavoring to subvert British institutions in the maritime provinces, is quite possible; but that even an insignificant portion of any class of the people could be induced to prefer connection to the United States to a union of British America I most emphatically deny.
The mischievous influence of such a misconception of the sentiments of the British colonists at the present moment cannot be overrated. The annexationists in the United States who are endeavoring to accomplish the acquisition of British America by political means are stimulated by such statements to persevere in the policy which has already caused the abrogation of the Reciprocity Treaty, while to the same cause may be traced the mad designs of the Fenians upon the British Provinces. Can you then, sir, wonder that I should feel indignant at the publication of an unfounded imputation upon the loyalty of my countrymen, especially when it is calculated to encourage the ravages of invasion and waste the blood and treasure both of British America and the parent State?
Feeling assured that you will willingly give insertion to these corrections of statements calculated to produce very erroneous impressions upon an important question, I remain, sir, your obedient servant,
Prime Minister of Nova Scotia
Alexandria Hotel, Sept. 22