Nova Scotia Constitutional Timeline

An expanded version of what’s put forth by the Nova Scotia legislature.

1493 – May 4, Alexander VI, Pope of Rome, issued a bull, granting the New World. Spain laid claim to the entire North American Coast from Cape Florida to Cape Breton, as part of its territory of Bacalaos.

1496 – March 5, Henry VII, King of England issued a commission to John Cabot and his sons to search for an unknown land

1498 – March 5,  Letters Patents of King Henry the Seventh Granted unto John Cabot and his Three Sonnes, Lewis, Sebastian and Sancius for the “Discouerie of New and Unknowen Lands”

1502 – Henry VII commissioned Hugh Eliot and Thomas Ashurst to discover and take possession of the islands and continents in America; “and in his name and for his use, as his vassals, to enter upon, doss, conquer, govern, and hold any Mainland or Islands by them discovered.”

1524 – Francis I, King of France, said that he should like to see the clause in Adam’s will, which made the American continent the exclusive possession of his brothers of Spain and Portugal, is said to have sent out Verrazzano, a Florentine corsair, who, as has generally been believed, explored the entire coast from 30° to 50° North Latitude, and named the whole region New France.

1534 – King Francis commissioned Jacques Cartier to discover and take possession of Canada; “his successive voyages, within the six years following, opened the whole region of St. Lawrence and laid the foundation of French dominion on this continent.”

1578 – June 11, Letters patent granted by Elizabeth, Queen of England to Sir Humphrey Gilbert, knight, for “the inhabiting and planting of our people in America”.

1584 – March 25, Queen Elizabeth renewed Gilbert’s grant to Sir Walter Raleigh, his half-brother. Under this commission, Raleigh made an unsuccessful attempt to plant an English colony in Virginia, a name afterwards extended to the whole North Coast of America in honor of the “Virgin” Queen.

1603 – November 8, Henry IV, King of France, granted Sieur de Monts a royal patent conferring the possession of and sovereignty of the country between latitudes 40° and 46° (from Philadelphia as far north as Katahdin and Montreal). Samuel Champlain, geographer to the King, accompanied De Monts on his voyage, landing at the site of Liverpool, N.S., a region already known as “Acadia.”

1606 – April 10, King James claimed the whole of North America between 34° and 45° North latitude, granting it to the Plymouth and London Companies. This entire territory was placed under the management of one council, the Royal Council for Virginia. The Northern Colony encompassed the area from 38° to 45° North latitude.

1620 – November 3, Reorganization of the Plymouth Company in 1620 as the Council of Plymouth for New England, encompassing from 40° to 48° North latitude.

1621 – September 29, Charter granted to Sir William Alexander for Nova Scotia

1625 – July 12, A grant of the soil, barony, and domains of Nova Scotia to Sir Wm. Alexander of Minstrie

1630 – April 30, Conveyance of Nova-Scotia (Port-royal excepted) by Sir William Alexander to Sir Claude St. Etienne Lord of la Tour and of Uarre and to his son Sir Charles de St. Etienne Lord of St. Denniscourt, on condition that they continue subjects to the king of Scotland under the great seal of Scotland.

1632 – March 29, Treaty of Saint-Germain-en-Laye, between King Louis XIII. and Charles King of England for the restitution of the New France, Cadia and Canada and ships and goods taken from both sides.

1632 – May 14/24 – Concession of the River and Bay of St. Croix to Commander Razilly, by the Company of New France

1635/6 – January 15/25 – Concession of Acadia to Sir Charles La Tour, By The Company of New France.

1638 Grant to Charnesay and La Tour

1647 – February – Commission To Lord D’Aulney Charnizay, By Louis XIV of France.

1651/2 – February 25th,March 7th – Letters Patent Confirming Sir Charles La Tour In Acadia, By Louis XIV. Of France.

1654 – August 16, Capitulation of Port-Royal

1656 – August 9/19, The Grant of Acadia, By Oliver Cromwell

1656 – September 17/27 – Commission to Colonel Temple, By Oliver Cromwell

1667 – July 31, The treaty of peace and alliance between England and the United Provinces made at Breda

1668 – February 17, Act of cession of Acadia to the King of France

1689 – English Bill of Rights enacted

1691, October 7, A charter granted by King William and Queen Mary to the inhabitants of the province of Massachusetts Bay, in New England

1713 – March 31, Treaty of peace and friendship between Louis XIV. King of France, and Anne, Queen of Great Britain, made in Utrecht

1713 – April 11, Treaty of navigation and commerce between Louis XIV, king of France, and Anne, Queen of Great Britain

1719 – June 19, Commission to Richard Philips to be Governor (including a copy of the 1715 Instructions given to the Governor of Virginia, by which he was to conduct himself)

1725 – August 26, Explanatory Charter of Massachusetts Bay

1725 – December 15, A treaty with the Indians (Peace and Friendship Treaty, ratification at Annapolis)

1727 – July 25, Ratification at Casco Bay of the Peace and Friendship Treaty of 1725

1728 – May 13, Ratification at Annapolis Royal of the Peace and Friendship Treaty of 1725

1748, October 7–18, The general and definitive treaty of peace concluded at Aix-la-Chapelle

1749 – September 4, Renewal of the Peace and Friendship treaty of 1725

1752 – November 22, Treaty between Thomas Hopson, Governor in Chief in and over His Majesty’s Province of Nova Scotia and Major Jean Baptiste Cope, Chief Sachem of the Tribe of the MickMack Indians inhabiting the Eastern Coast…

1758 – Nova Scotia Legislature established (consisting of the Lieutenant Governor, his Council and the newly established, elected legislative assembly called the House of Assembly)

1760 – March, Treaty of Peace and Friendship concluded by the Governor of Nova Scotia with Paul Laurent, Chief of the La Heve tribe of Indians

1761 – November 9, Treaty of Peace and Friendship between Jonathon Belcher and Francis Muis

1763 – February 10, France ceded, for the last time, the rest of Acadia, including Cape Breton Island (‘île Royale), the future New Brunswick and St John’s Island (later re-named Prince Edward Island), to the British (Treaty of Paris) and it was joined to Nova Scotia

1763 – October 7, Royal Proclamation

1769 – Prince Edward Island established as a colony separate from Nova Scotia

1779 – September 22, Treaty signed at Windsor between John Julien, Chief and Michael Francklin, representing the Government of Nova Scotia

1784 – Cape Breton Island and New Brunswick established as colonies separate from Nova Scotia

1820 – Cape Breton Island re-joined to Nova Scotia

1838 – Separate Executive Council and Legislative Council established

1848 – Responsible government was established in Nova Scotia (Members of the Legislature appointed a majority of those in the Legislative Council)

1867 – “Union” of provinces of Canada, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia as the “self-governing” federal colony of the Dominion of Canada (British North America Act, 1867 — now known in Canada as Constitution Act, 1867) & the Parliament of Canada established (consisting of the Queen, the Senate and the House of Commons)

1928 – Abolition of the Legislative Council (leaving the Legislature consisting of the Lieutenant Governor and the House of Assembly)

1931 – Canadian “independence” legally recognized (Statute of Westminster, 1931)

1960 – Canadian Bill of Rights enacted

1982 – “Patriation” of the amendment of the Constitution of Canada & adoption of the Constitution Act, 1982, including the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms (Canada Act 1982)

Jefferson, Thomas. Notes on the State of Virginia. J. Stockdale, 1787. https://tile.loc.gov/storage-services/service/gdc/lhbcb/04902/04902.pdf

Legislature of the State of Maine. “The Revised Statutes of the State of Maine, Passed August 29, 1883, and Taking Effect January 1,1884.”, Portland, Loring, Short & Harmon and William M. Marks. 1884. https://lldc.mainelegislature.org/Open/RS/RS1883/RS1883_f0005-0017_Land_Titles.pdf

Farnham, Miss Mary Frances. “Documentary History of the State of Maine: Volume VII Containing The Farnham Papers 1603-1688”. Maine Historical Society. Portland. 1901. https://archive.org/details/documentaryhisto07main, https://tile.loc.gov/storage-services/public/gdcmassbookdig/farnhampapers01farn/farnhampapers01farn.pdf

Kennedy, William P. Statutes, Treaties and Documents of the Canadian Constitution: 1713-1929. Oxford Univ. Pr., 1930. https://www.canadiana.ca/view/oocihm.9_03428

Harvard Law School Library. “Description Legislative history regarding treaties of commerce with France, Spain relating to New Foundland, Nova Scotia, and Cape Breton,” ca. 1715? Small Manuscript Collection, Harvard Law School Library. https://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HLS.LIBR:19686447, Accessed 07 June 2021

Thorpe, Francis Newton. “The Federal and State constitutions: colonial charters, and other organic laws of the States, territories, and Colonies, now or heretofore forming the United States of America” Washington : Govt. Print. Off. 1909. https://archive.org/details/federalstatecons07thor/page/n5/mode/2up

Murdoch, Beamish. “Epitome of the laws of Nova-Scotia” [Halifax, N.S.? : s.n.], 1832 (Halifax, N.S. : J. Howe) Volume One: https://www.canadiana.ca/view/oocihm.59437, Volume Two: https://www.canadiana.ca/view/oocihm.59438, Volume Three: https://www.canadiana.ca/view/oocihm.59439, Volume Four: https://www.canadiana.ca/view/oocihm.59440

Marshall, John G. “The justice of the peace, and county and township officer in the province of Nova Scotia : being a guide to such justice and officers in the discharge of their official duties” [Halifax, N.S.? : s.n.], 1837 (Halifax [N.S.] : Gossip & Coade) https://www.canadiana.ca/view/oocihm.36869, Second Edition: https://www.canadiana.ca/view/oocihm.38224

Livingston, Walter Ross. Responsible Government In Nova Scotia: a Study of the Constitutional Beginnings of the British Commonwealth. Iowa City: The University, 1930. https://hdl.handle.net/2027/wu.89080043730https://archive.org/details/responsiblegover0000livi

Bourinot, John George. “The constitution of the Legislative Council of Nova Scotia” [S.l. : s.n., 1896?] https://archive.org/details/cihm_10453/page/141, https://www.canadiana.ca/view/oocihm.10453/14?r=0&s=1

Laing, David, editor. “Royal letters, charters, and tracts, relating to the colonization of New Scotland, and the institution of the Order of knight baronets of Nova Scotia. -1638“. [Edinburgh Printed by G. Robb, 1867] https://archive.org/details/royallettersc11400lainuoft

Labaree, Leonard Woods. “Royal Instructions to British Colonial Governors 1670–1776“. Vol. I and Vol. II. The American Historical Association. (New York : D. Appleton-Century Company, 1935) https://archive.org/details/royalinstruction0001laba, https://archive.org/details/royalinstruction0002laba

Beamish Murdoch, “On the origin and sources of the Law of Nova Scotia” (An essay on the Origin and Sources of the Law of Nova Scotia read before the Law Students Society, Halifax, N.S., 29 August 1863), (1984) 8:3 DLJ 197. https://digitalcommons.schulichlaw.dal.ca/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1399&context=dlj

Shirley B. Elliott, “An Historical Review of Nova Scotia Legal Literature: a select bibliography”, Comment, (1984) 8:3 DLJ 197. https://digitalcommons.schulichlaw.dal.ca/dlj/vol8/iss3/12/

Legitimacy, or otherwise, of the BNA

Is the BNA illegitimate? Let these facts speak for themselves.

  1. The members of the Legislative Assembly elected in 1863 were only authorized to legislate under the Colonial Constitution and had no authority to make significant changes to it without first obtaining the people’s consent through a vote.
  2. The resolution of April 10, 1867, which preceded the enactment of the British North America Act, was the only authority possessed by the delegates who procured the Act, and it did not empower them to arrange a federal union without including Newfoundland and Prince Edward Island.
  3. The delegation was not legally constituted, as it did not have equal representation from each colony as required by the resolution.
  4. The delegates did not ensure just provision for the rights and interests of Nova Scotia, as mandated by the resolution, and the proposed union would deprive Nova Scotians of their rights, liberty, and independence, furthermore it would expose them to arbitrary and excessive taxation, by a Legislature over which they can have no adequate control.
  5. The scheme of confederation was never submitted to the people of Nova Scotia for their approval before it came into effect, which the resolutions argue is essential for its constitutionality.
  6. The resolutions express dissatisfaction with the way Confederation was forced upon Nova Scotia without their consent and against their will.
  7. The people of Nova Scotia expressed loyalty to the Queen and her government but requested the repeal of the British North America Act as it pertains to Nova Scotia and asked for the revocation of the Queen’s Proclamation regarding Confederation.

Wilkins examines the unique constitutional situation of Nova Scotia, which was granted a constitution by King George II, further developed by his successors on the English throne. Despite its effectiveness, the constitution had some deficiencies, notably the lack of a court for impeaching and punishing political offenders.

He expresses a preference for Nova Scotia’s constitution, molded after British monarchy, which he sees as superior despite acknowledging the United States’ constitutional craftsmanship. The speaker then shifts focus to contrasting Confederation with Canada, which he finds “hateful and detestable”. He argues that joining the United States would afford Nova Scotia more freedom and self-governance than being part of Canada’s oligarchical system.

He highlights the loss of Nova Scotia’s freedom under the British North America Act, which gives Canada extensive power to tax Nova Scotia arbitrarily. He criticizes the lack of control Nova Scotia has over Canada’s legislature, with only 19 out of 253 members representing Nova Scotia at the time, since dwindling to 11 out of 338 members.

He concludes by asserting Nova Scotia’s right to preserve its own constitution, which he claims belongs to the people of Nova Scotia and cannot be taken away by the Parliament of England. He argues that Nova Scotia has never been legally confederated with Canada and asserts that it is up to Nova Scotia to decide its future regarding Confederation.

Speeches delivered by Hon. Martin I. Wilkins, (attorney general) in the House of Assembly of Nova Scotia, session 1868, on resolutions relative to repeal of the “British North America Act, 1867”. Wilkins, Martin I. (Martin Isaac), 1804-1881. https://archive.org/details/cihm_23507

On the Nature of a Colonial Constitution

What was Nova Scotia’s colonial constitution?

According to Hon. Martin I. Wilkins, attorney general at the time of the imposition of the BNA, Nova Scotia possessed a chartered constitution, irrevocable except through force. Nova Scotia, once known as Acadia, was possessed by both the French and English, ultimately becoming British territory after a conquest and subsequent cession by Louis XIV to Queen Anne in 1713.

The treaty of Utrecht solidified Nova Scotia’s status as belonging to the British Crown “forever.” This grant to Queen Anne is emphasized as absolute ownership, surpassing typical property titles. Wilkins argues that neither the people nor the Parliament of England had jurisdiction over Nova Scotia at that time; it belonged solely to the Queen and her heirs.

In 1747, under George II, a patent was issued to Lord Cornwallis, granting Nova Scotia a constitution. This constitution mimicked Britain’s, establishing a Governor, Council (Senate), and House of Assembly. Wilkins highlights the power vested in Cornwallis to summon general assemblies and enact laws for the province’s welfare, emphasizing the constitution’s permanence.

However, subsequent governors delayed convening the Legislative Assembly, preferring to govern through the Council. In 1755, Nova Scotians protested, arguing that only the House of Assembly could enact laws under the granted charter. The matter was referred to England, where Attorney and Solicitor Generals affirmed that the Governor and Council alone lacked authority to make laws for the colony.

The irrevocability of the charter is underscored, with a comparison drawn to a similar case in Grenada (now known as Cambell v Hall). After issuing a commission similar to Cornwallis’, the King attempted to impose taxes on Grenada, leading to a legal challenge. The Court of King’s Bench, led by Lord Mansfield, ruled that the King had relinquished legislative authority over Grenada upon issuing the commission, thus invalidating the taxes.

Wilkins asserts that Nova Scotia’s charter is binding and immutable, having been granted by the Crown. The legal precedents cited affirm that once such charters are granted, the Crown relinquishes legislative authority, making any subsequent attempts to impose laws or taxes illegitimate.

Speeches delivered by Hon. Martin I. Wilkins, (attorney general) in the House of Assembly of Nova Scotia, session 1868, on resolutions relative to repeal of the “British North America Act, 1867”. Wilkins, Martin I. (Martin Isaac), 1804-1881. https://archive.org/details/cihm_23507

Letter of Hon. Robt. J. Walker, on the annexation of Nova Scotia and British America

Letter of Hon. Robt. J. Walker, on the annexation of Nova Scotia and British America

“But, in 1774, our people had been most loyal, and at a time when loyalty to kings was a sentiment; much deeper and more universal than it ever has been since the whole system has been rocking on its base under the teachings and results of the American Revolution.

Our complaint was taxation without representation; but, although this was a great grievance, it does not compare in atrocity with the attempt against your will and protest to transfer you as slaves to a foreign Dominion. Who wonders that you resist and denounce the effort?

As Lord Chatham said of us in the war of the Revolution, “You would be fit to be slaves if you did not resist.” Rest assured, England will never attempt to drive you by force into the Canadian Dominion, continue to endeavor to obtain for Nova Scotia a repeal of the Union.

But if, after one more effort, this should fail, or even if now you should regard the case as hopeless, then you should commence immediately a most earnest effort for annexation to the United States. In hoc signo vinces.

Appeal to the masses of the people everywhere, organize your committees in every county and district. Speak through the press, through public oral addresses, through lectures and social intercourse. Let there be no thought of war nor of any collision, except of argument and intellect. Do this, and your success is certain.”

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Hon. Robt. J. Walker. “Letter of Hon. Robt. J. Walker, on the annexation of Nova Scotia and British America”, Washington Chronicle. April 23, 1860. https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=aeu.ark:/13960/t2988tm5b&seq=6

Idea of continental union: agitation for the annexation of Canada to the United States, 1849-1893

“To the east, Nova Scotia; seemed to offer promise to the Revolutionaries. Three-quarters of its population had come from New England and showed a lively sympathy for the rebellion. Geography and the British navy, however, overruled sentiment and kept Nova Scotia; in the Empire. The distances and the wilderness which intervened between the scattered settlements. of the colony made it impossible for American sympathizers there to organize an effective force and to attain the unity of plan and of action necessary to military success. Washington refused to send an army north to capture “New England’s outpost”. He knew that an invasion must go by sea and that the British fleet could intercept supplies and reinforcements sent from the south. The invaders, cut off from succor or retreat and trapped between the Royal Navy and the wilderness and bogs of the interior , would fall an easy prey to the redcoats.

At the peace negotiations the wily Ben Franklin tried to gain by diplomacy what American arms had failed to take. He urged the British to cede Quebec to allay the rancors of war and to avoid future friction. This bold proposal did not convince the British, and Canada remained in the Empire. It is significant to note that the American plenipotentiaries showed little interest in the acquisition of Nova Scotia. Geography made Quebec a potential threat to the new nation, but Nova Scotia; gave them little concern.”

“The development of a “commerce of convenience” helped to increase Canadian-American trade. For example, Canada West purchased its coal from nearby Pennsylvania, while New England bought its fuel from Nova Scotia;. This type of trade was developing prior to 1854; the (Reciporocity Treaty of 1854) stimulated it, but did not cause it.”

“At the beginning of the Civil War, the assembly of Nova Scotia; asked the home government to state its attitude toward the union of British North America. The colonial secretary replied that the cabinet would give serious consideration to any such proposal from the colonies. The governments of the other provinces, however, considered the suggestion premature.44 But growing fear of American military force or economic pressure rapidly ripened their desire for closer unity. In the waning summer of 1864, the governments of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Prince Edward Island called a conference at Charlottetown to consider the formation of a Maritime federation. A delegation from Canada appeared before this meeting and convinced it that the wider latitude of a union of all British North American colonies was possible and necessary.”

“Hostilities in the Maritimes, however, doomed the drive for a speedy confederation. Their people had initiated the movement for union and expected that leadership would be the reward of authorship. Instead, it was painfully apparent that Canada would assume the dominant position in the federation and the Maritimes would be a minority with particular interests which might be subverted by the majority.48 A psychological factor complicated the situation: particularism was a salient characteristic of political thinking in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Prince Edward Island. The people of these colonies lived in their own world, geographically separated from the St. Lawrence Valley and with little desire to be politically coupled to it; they lived by and from the sea and tended to look out upon it and not toward the heart of the continent.”

“The Maritimes had been wedded to free trade, for they depended upon lumbering and fishing for their livelihood and had to import much of what they consumed. Canada, on the other hand, dreamed of industrialization and would surely girdle the new union with its tariff wall.49 Nova Scotia particularly disliked the financial terms which would compel her to surrender most of her sources of revenue to the central government, receiving in return an annual per capita subvention of eighty cents. Such a bargain would beggar them. The income of the provincial government which had been $1,500,000 in 1865 would shrink to $750,000 under confederation. Besides, the province would have to contribute $640,000 annually to the upkeep of the new government, leaving little to support such necessities as education and public works.50

These were the reasons sufficient to impel the people of the Maritimes to resist adoption of the Quebec resolutions. The governments of Newfoundland and Prince Edward Island rejected the scheme out of hand, but they were small and peripheral colonies whose adherence was not considered essential. It was quite otherwise with Nova Scotia; and New Brunswick; the completion of the union depended upon their acceptance. When S. L. Tilley, the confederationist premier of New Brunswick dissolved his assembly and held an election on the question of confederation, he was roundly beaten.52 Dr. Charles Tupper, leader of the Nova;Scotian government and likewise a confederationist, learned wisdom from this example and did not make an issue of union in his colony. But the damage was done.”


“New Brunswick was the geographic pivot of the proposed federation, and its rejection of the scheme seemed a fatal wound. Fortunately, this was the darkness before dawn, and other forces were soon at work moving the recalcitrant province. The British government put its overwhelming pressure upon New Brunswick to accept the Quebec Resolutions. Lieutenant Governor Sir Arthur H. Gordon, who had sympathized with the anti-confederationists, was a hasty convert to the “true faith” upon receipt of a sharp admonition from the colonial secretary.53

The voting public lacked such clarifying revelations, but found the same conclusion in other experiences. They were deeply disappointed by the failure of attempts to renew reciprocity, upon which they had counted heavily. Talk of annexation in the United States, in Canada, and in New Brunswick itself gave them concern, and the Fenian raids frightened them.54 The chastened Gordon virtually forced a new election on his anti-confederationist government in 1866, and the results of the previous year were reversed. Nova Scotia also found the ways of righteousness, though through an iniquitous bypath. The wily Tupper, who had declined to challenge the federation question by making it an election issue, coaxed from his assembly a
resolution providing for the renewal of negotiations for union. Using this as a virtual carte blanche, he dispatched a delegation to London, where they joined representatives of the other two colonies. The upshot was the enactment of confederation by the British Parliament in the form of the British North America Act.


The anticonfederationists fumed and sputtered at this trick which Tupper had played upon them, and none more than their leader, Joseph Howe, a great and yet a pathetic figure in the history of British North America. He had had his day of glory when he led, and won, the struggle for responsible government in his colony. His interminable journeyings and campaigns throughout Nova Scotia had added to the fame which this victory had given him. There was scarcely an inhabitant of that province who had not seen and heard the gregarious “Joe” and shaken his hand-or been kissed by him if the subject were female, young, and pretty. Yet Howe’s stature had diminished by 1860. He had never duplicated his great triumph, and he had cheapened himself by his constant petitions to the British government for office. Charles Tupper, less flamboyant but a stumper of rare and rude power, was coming to dominate Nova Scotia. Howe needed again to lead a popular cause to restore his ancient glory. It is understandable that he should seek to retrieve fame by opposing confederation, for most Nova Scotians would follow him in this. Jealousy also dressed him for the role;
it is legend in Nova Scotia that when asked why he opposed union, Howe candidly replied that he refused “to play second fiddle to that damned Tupper.” There were more honorable reasons. Howe sincerely believed that the terms of the Quebec Resolutions were a bad bargain for his province, and he resented the trick by which Tupper had sent a delegation to London.


The “antis,” as the opponents of union were called, fought to block confederation in the British Parliament. They formed the League of the Maritime Provinces and sent Howe and others to London under instructions to point out to the Colonial Office that there were “propositions . . . made . . . in the Congress of the United States [which is] publicly entering the field in competition with Canada for the possession of the Provinces.”55 Howe was also to hint that if the Imperial government accepted the federation scheme, there would be “changes which none of us desire to contemplate and all of us deplore.”56


The Nova Scotian delegation was obviously shaking an annexation stick at the British. Howe continued in the same vein by pointing out to the Imperial government the “range of temptation” which political union with the United States offered to the people of the Maritimes: they would have free trade with a market of 34,000,000 people, access to American capital, and the benefit of American fishing bounties.57 But the Colonial
Office was unmoved by intimidation and gave Howe and his delegation no encouragement. He then sought to influence the public and political climate by showering the newspapers and leading men with pamphlets stating Nova Scotia’s case.58
Persuasion was no more successful than threats. The British were inexorably committed to confederation, and talk of annexation entrenched their convictions. Despite the efforts of John Bright and a few others whom Howe had converted, the government pushed the British North America Act through Parliament after a debate less lively than that on a dog tax bill which followed.
But the British had no more succeeded in convincing Howe and his party in Nova Scotia of the sapiency of Imperial policy than he had convinced them of its folly. These opponents of confederation would be heard again, and in unmistakable tones.”

“The opposition to the union in the United States was mildcompared to the distaste with which many in Canada regarded their new country and government. This antagonism, with its accompanying danger to the British connection, was present in Quebec and Ontario, but reached its greatest pitch in Nova Scotia. Here the anticonfederationist leader Howe had warned that his province might seek annexation to the United States if the Imperial government insisted on forcing it into the union. Nova Scotians showed no signs of accepting the Dominion as a fait accompli even after July 1, 1867, when their province became part of the federation. They stubbornly asserted that they would not remain in the union; the equally obstinate British government refused to heed their demands for release from it. A crisis was mounting and a small annexation movement had already made its appearance in the disaffected province.11 Confederation was inducing what it had been designed to prevent, rather than acting as an antidote to it.”


“It is not surprising that the resentment and protest was most acute in Nova Scotia. As already noted, the people of that province had carried their opposition to union to the Crown, only to be spurned. When Joe Howe returned from his fruitless mission to London, he found his province tottering on the brink of disloyalty. He had set a dangerous precedent and course when, in his correspondence with the Colonial Office, he had listed the temptations which annexation offered to his people. The antis of Nova Scotia continued in this direction. Newspapers and public speakers vied with each other in skipping along the verge of treason. Although many of their hints of annexation were attempts to frighten the British government into permitting the secession of the province, some of them were sincere. 17

This incipient annexation movement, however, soon received a check. Most of the antis still looked upon political union with the United States as a last resort and hoped to relieve their distress by other means. These soon seemed to offer. At the first provincial election under the new Dominion, the opponents of confederation achieved a smashing victory. Thirty-six of the thirty-eight members of the provincial assembly were antis, and Tupper was the only unionist among the nineteen members of the federal House of Commons returned from Nova Scotia. This was no victory for annexation. The repealers were confident that their startling success would compel the British government to heed their wishes, and the majority of Nova Scotians still believed that their problems could be solved within the Empire by a return to the status of a separate and self-governing colony. They could restore their old revenue tariff, the income of their government would rise, and no Canadian majority could trample their interests. They also believed that the United States would renew the treaty of 1854 with Nova Scotia alone. This questionable conclusion arose from the dubious assumption that Americans regarded the Canadian economy as competitive with their own, but the Nova Scotian economy as its complement.

So the anti triumph in the election of 1867 convinced Nova Scotians that annexation was unnecessary; they would soon escape the Dominion and return to reciprocity and prosperity. Since secession from Canada was the key which would unlock the door to this pleasant future, the repealers sought to gain it. The provincial assembly passed resolutions requesting the British government to release Nova Scotia from the Dominion, sent
Howe to London bearing this appeal, and awaited confidently for news of their deliverance from the Canadian yoke.
Howe did not share their optimism. His previous mission had taught him that the home government was committed to confederation as the only preventive for annexation.18 If Nova Scotia seceded, New Brunswick would probably follow, and the Dominion would collapse. The Governor General, Lord Monck, had reached the same conclusion. He pressed the colonial secretary to refuse Howe’s request graciously but firmly; if the union broke up, wrote Monck, “I have no hesitation in expressing my opinion . . . that the maintenance of British power or the existence of British institutions in America will soon become impossible.”19 This advice from the man on the spot fortified the determination of the British government to deny the repeal of confederation. As further insurance, the Dominion government sent Charles Tupper to London to counteract the eloquence of his anti rival.
The colonial secretary proved to be courteous in hearing the complaints of Nova Scotia but adamant in refusing to permit its secession.

Early in June, 1868, he informed Monck that the Imperial government could not consider any request for secession; all provincial grievances must and could be redressed within the framework of the Dominion.20 The publication of this dispatch, frustrating their highest hopes, was a terrible shock to the antis. They rained sorrowful and angry denunciations down upon the Canadian and Imperial governments. Many went beyond philippics and vowed that their loyalty was gone. A member of the Dominion Parliament and a former chief justice of Nova Scotia were enthusiastically applauded when they spoke for political union with the United States at a meeting in New Glasgow.21 Other town meetings became forums on annexation.22 The leading paper in the province, the Halifax Morning Chronicle, asserted that “with 30,000,000 of freemen alongside of us, Britain and Canada well
know that they cannot crush Nova Scotia, or force it into a hateful connection.”23 The annexation movement in the province, it was obvious, was waxing as repealers joined its ranks. This sedition was a startling contrast with the past. Nova Scotia had been a devoted colony. The Loyalists who flooded into it after the American Revolution brought with them love of mother country and antipathy to the United States. The Nova Scotians considered themselves a chosen people, and their demonstrations of attachment to the Crown seemed to outdo those of the English themselves. Extreme devotion was followed by immoderate reaction.”

44 Reginald G. Trotter, Canadian Federation, Its Origins and Achievements, (Toronto, 1924), 39-42.

48 These provinces were afraid that Canada would not consent to providing an adequate protection for their fisheries. Moreover, the total population of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Prince Edward Island. was not equal to that of either Ontario or Quebec.

49 The Canadian tariff averaged 20 percent; that of Nova Scotia, levied principally on luxuries, averaged 10 percent. Joseph Howe Papers, 26, pt I, Miscellaneous Papers on Confederation (Public Archives of Canada, Ottawa).

50 Yarmouth Tribune, June 27, 1866.

54 The American consul at St. John reported that a quarter of the people of the province favored annexation. James Howard to Seward, May 14, 1866, Consular Despatches, St. John, VI, 159.
Curiously, the Fenian raids seem to have promoted the cause of annexation as well as the cause of confederation, for many Canadians who felt that their country was defenseless were ready for “peace at any price.” Monck to Henry Herbert, Earl of Carnarvon, September 28, 1866, G 180 B, Secret and Confidential Despatches, 1856-1866.

55 This is an obvious reference to the Banks bill, described in the next chapter.
56 Instructions to Howe from the League of the Maritime Provinces,
Howe Papers, IV, Letters to Howe, 1864-1873.
57 British Parliament, Accounts and Papers, 1867, XLVIII, 14-15.
58 Howe Papers, IV, 159-86.

11 There were many instances of annexationist activities in Nova Scotia. C. D. Randall to Macdonald, January 7, February 25, 1868, Macdonald Papers, Nova Scotia Affairs, III; Yarmouth Herald, July 18, 1867. Much of the annexationist materials described in this section on Nova Scotia has previously appeared in the author’s article, “The Post-Confederation Annexation Movement in Nova Scotia,” Canadian Historical Review, XXVIII (June, 1947), 156-65. I wish to express thanks to the editor, John T. Saywell, for permission to use the material in this study.

17 Some annexationists were even appealing to the Department of State for assistance in their projects. J. B. Cossitt to Seward, June 20, 1867, Stephen Howard to Seward, March 26, 1867, A. McLean to Seward, June 29, 1867, Miscellaneous Letters to the Department of State, 1867, March II, and June, II.

18 Though outwardly confident, Howe had written gloomy letters to his friends before departing for London. Archbishop T. L. Connolly to Macdonald, October 26, 1867, Macdonald Papers, Nova Scotia Affairs, III; Howe to A. Musgrave, January 17, 1868, Howe Papers, XXXVII, Howe Letter Book.
19 Monck to Richard Campbell Grenville, Duke of Buckingham, February 13, 1868, G 573 A, Secret and Confidential Despatches, 1867- 1869.

20 Buckingham to Monck, June 4, 1868, Macdonald Papers, Nova Scotia Affairs, III. Attempts by John Bright to set up a royal commission of inquiry were defeated, good sign that Howe’s cause was hopeless. Creighton, Macdonald, 17.
21 Yarmouth Herald, August 13, 1868.
22 Connolly to Macdonald, September 16, 1868, Macdonald Papers,
Nova Scotia Affairs, III.
23 Halifax Morning Chronicle, July 11, 1868.

Warner, Donald F. (Donald Frederick). Idea of Continental Union: Agitation for the Annexation of Canada to the United States, 1849-1893. Lexington: Published for the Mississippi Valley Historical Association by the University of Kentucky Press, 1960. https://hdl.handle.net/2027/uva.x000278662

On Resolutions Relative to Repeal of the “British North America Act, 1867”

RESOLUTIONS LAID ON THE TABLE OF THE HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY OF NOVA SCOTIA, BY THE HON. ATTORNEY GENERAL, ON THE 5th FEBRUARY, 1868.

  1. That the Members of the Legislative Assembly of this Province, elected in 1863, simply to legislate under the Colonial Constitution, had no authority to make, or consent to, any material change of such Constitution, without first submitting the same to the people at the Polls:
  2. That the Resolution of the 10th April, which preceded the enactment of the British North America Act, and is as follows : “Whereas, in the opinion of this House, it is desirable that a Confederation of the British North American Provinces should take place; Resolved therefore, That His Excellency the Lieutenant-Governor be authorized to appoint delegates to arrange with the Imperial Government a scheme of Union which will effectually ensure just provision for the rights and interests of this Province — each Province to have an equal voice in such delegation. Upper and Lower Canada being, for this purpose, considered as separate Provinces,” was the only authority possessed by the delegates, who procured the enactment of the “Act for the Union of Canada, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick;
  3. That even if the House of Assembly had the constitutional power to authorize such delegation, which is by no means admitted, the foregoing resolution did not empower the delegates to arrange a federal union of Canada, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick, without including, in such confederation, the Colonies of Newfoundland and Prince Edward Island;
  4. That no delegates from the two last named Colonies having attended, and an unequal number from each of the others being present, the delegation was not legally constituted, and had no authority to act under the said resolution — which expressly required each of the Colonies tr be represented by an equal number of delegates;
  5. That the delegates did not “ensure just provision for the rights and interests of this Province,” as they were, by the express terms of such resolution, bound to do, in arranging a scheme of Union, but, on the contrary, they entirely disregarded those rights and interests, and the scheme by them consented to would, if finally confirmed, deprive the people of this Province of their rights, liberty, and independence, — rob them of their revenues, — take from them the regulation of their trade, commerce, and taxes, the management of their railroads and other public properly, —expose them to arbitrary and excessive taxation, by a Legislature over which they can have no adequate control, and reduce this hitherto free, happy, and self-governed Province to the degraded condition of a dependency of Canada;
  6. That no fundamental or material change of the constitution of the Province can be made, in any other constitutional manner than by a statute of the Provincial Legislature, sanctioned by the people after the subject matter of the same had been referred to them at the Polls, the Legislature of a Colonial Dependency having no power or authority, implied from their relation to the people, as their legislative representatives, to overthrow the constitution under which they were elected;
  7. That the scheme of confederating Canada, New Brunswick, and Nora Scotia, was never submitted to the people of this Province, at the Polls, before the 18th day of September last, upwards of two and a half months after the British North America Act was, by the Queen’s Proclamation, declared to be in force, when the people were thereby informed that they had been subjected, without their consent to the absolute dominion of more populous and more powerful Colonies, and had lost their liberty;
  8. That there being no statute of the Provincial Legislature, confirming or ratifying the British North America Act, and the same never having been consented to, or authorized, by the people at the Polls, nor the consent of this Province in any other manner testified, the preamble of the Act. reciting that this Province had expressed a desire to be confederated with Canada and New Brunswick, is untrue ; and when the Queen and the Imperial Legislature, were led to believe that this Province had expressed such a desire, a fraud and imposition were practiced upon them :
  9. That the truth of the preamble of the British North America Act, reciting the desire of Nova Scotia to be Confederated, is essential to the constitutionality of the statute ; and if the same is false, the statute is defective, because a statute cannot be rendered constitutional, by falsely assuming as true the condition which is indispensable to its constitutionality;
  10. That from the time the scheme of Confederation was first devised in Canada, until it was consummated by the Imperial Act in London, it was systematically kept from the consideration of the people of Nova Scotia at the Polls ; and the Executive Council and Legislature, in defiance of petitions signed by many thousands of the electors of this Province, persistently and perseveringly prevented the same from being presented to the people;
  11. That at the recent Election, the question of Confederation, exclusively occupied the attention of the people, who were then, for the first time, enabled to express their will on a subject of the most vital importance to their happiness; and the result has proved, that this Province does not desire to be annexed to Canada, and that the people of Nova Scotia repudiate the enforced provisions of the British North America Act, which, for the reasons set forth in the foregoing Resolutions, they believe to be unconstitutional, and in no manner binding upon them;
  12. That the Quebec Scheme, which is embodied in the British North America Act, imprudently attempted to be forced on the people of Nova Scotia, not only without their consent, but against their will, has already created wide-spread irritation and discontent; and unless the same be withdrawn, will, we fear, be attended with the most disastrous consequence”, as the loyal people of this Province, are fully conscious of their rights as British subjects, set an inestimable value upon their free institutions, and will not willingly consent to an invasion of those rights, or to be subjected to the dominion of any other power, than their lawful and beloved Queen;
  13. That the Colonies were politically allied to each other, by their common relationship to the Queen and her Empire, in a more peaceable and less dangerous Connexion, than under any scheme of Colonial Confederation that could be devised, even on the fairest, wisest, and most judici9U8, principles;
  14. That the people of Nova Scotia do not impute to Her Majesty the Queen, and her Government, any intentional injustice, as they are well aware, that fraud and deception were practiced upon them, by those who misrepresented the public sentiment of this country’, and who, for reasons which we will not venture to assign, desired that confederation might be forced upon this Province, without the consent and against the will of the people;
  15. That an humble address be presented to the Queen, embodying the substance of the foregoing resolutions, informing Her Majesty, that her loyal people of Nova Scotia, do not desire to be in any manner confederated with Canada, and praying Her Majesty to revoke her Proclamation, and to cause the British North America Act to be repealed, as far as it affects the Province of Nova Scotia.

HON. ATTORNEY GENERAL’S SPEECH, ON MOVING THE REPEAL RESOLUTION IN THE HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY ON MONDAY, 10th FEBRUARY, 1868.

Hon. Attorney General addressed the House as follows: I regret proceeding to the debate on these resolutions in the absence of the hon. member for Inverness, but having been informed that lie is not likely to be in his place for some days, I find it necessary to go on with the discussion. I do so with the less regret because I know that this debate will be reported with accuracy, and that consequently that learned and honorable gentleman will be put in possession of the arguments which I and my friends on this side of the House intend to use. I am about to lay before the members of the House, before the people of this country, and probably before the people of England, the facts of one of the most important political cases that ever arose in the Colonies, and in order to do so satisfactorily, I shall endeavor to shew the true condition in which this country was placed before certain political changes took place in its constitution.

I shall endeavor in the first place to show that Nova Scotia was a well-governed and law-respecting, a contented and happy country. She was well-governed, because her institutions were constructed in miniature on the model of the British constitution, which is the finest political system by which any nation was ever governed — a system calculated to maintain order and harmony among all orders of people — a system under which obedience to law, and the necessary result of obedience to law, liberty, have been better maintained than in any other country; for, sir, however paradoxical it may seem, it is a literal truth that the highest degree of freedom consists in obedience to law. It is obedience to law which preserves to me my rights and liberties, my property and my life: and therefore, however inconsistent it may seem, it is a literal truth that the highest degree of freedom consists in obedience to law; and that country which possesses institutions calculated to produce that result in perfection must be the happiest nation on the earth. Now the constitution of Nova Scotia was based upon the principles of the British Constitution — those principles which best suit the genius of the people.

Its whole condition was different from those of any other country on the Continent of America, and the constitution which was granted to the people of this province by King George II, and which hid been enlarged and greatly improved by his successors on the throne of England, was a well-working constitution. It was as much like the British constitution as it was possible to make things which are different in their nature. There were some defects in it, among which the greatest certainly was the want of a court for the impeachment and punishment of political offenders. That was a deficiency in our system,— without it no system of Responsible Government can be perfect, and it is certainly curious, but by no means very remarkable, that the great statesmen who have originated this splendid constitution for the confederation of Canada have taken precious good care in its manufacture, — whilst they have established courts for the administration of ordinary justice, as well as courts of appeal — to leave out the court of impeachment, which, considering the nature of the men who formed that constitution, and who are likely to be instrumental in carrying it out, would be the most desirable court of all.

When we compare our constitution in Nova Scotia with that of the Great Republic, the contrast must be favorable to this province. We admire the people of that country, we have sincerely sympathized with them in their recent distress and troubles. We feel towards them all the emotions of fraternal affection, but we do not approve of their constitution. We consider that their institutions are possessed of two fatal defects — the one is democracy, the other confederation. We consider that having our little constitution moulded upon the monarchical institutions of England makes it infinitely superior to that of the United States, although the latter is a master work of human hands, and the finest piece of composition ever prepared by men for political purposes. It was manufactured by men who were really statesmen — by men who loved their country — by men who had been educated in an English school— by men who had sense enough to perceive the beauties of the British constitution — by men who endeavored with the utmost imaginable pains and skill to apply the principles of the British constitution to a democratic system and form of government; but the people of the United States were unfortunate, after having separated from England in 1783, in the political system which they instituted.

Had they combined in a legislative union — had they incorporated all the States under one Legislature, having one set of laws and revenues, they would undoubtedly, at this time, be the greatest nation upon the earth. They certainly would not have been second to any other; but, unfortunately, they chose Confederation, and that Confederation has resulted as every Confederation must result, for it is impossible so to adjust the rival and discordant interests of different countries under a confederation as to maintain permanent harmony. It is not in the nature of things that they should continue as separate and individual countries, having separate legislatures and individualities, without clashing with one another at some time or other. We have seen, notwithstanding the skill with which that famous constitution of the United States was made — notwithstanding the intelligence of that people, that great evils have made their appearance already. The Confederation was broken, an internecine civil war deluged their land with blood, and they expended in three years more than probably three times the amount of the national debt of England, in money, and the destruction of their property ; and, sir, at this moment there is no man on earth who is able to say what is to be the result of the political affairs of that great country. An earthquake is growling under their feet, and no man can tell when and where the volcano is to burst, bringing with it destruction and ruin. I make these observations with the greatest possible regret, for I believe that every man in Nova Scotia wishes well to the people of the United States, although the people of this province have no desire to be connected with them. They are too wise, too sensible to desire for a moment to part with their own well-working public institutions, and enter into union with the States.

I shall now turn your attention to another Confederation — the Confederation of Canada — and contrast it with the United States, and show you that if it be not desirable to enter into Union with the United States, Confederation with Canada is absolutely hateful and detestable to the people of this country. We object to a union with the American States, because we disapprove of Democracy and Confederation, but there is a worse political combination, that is Oligarchy and Confederation. If we dislike the constitution of the United States we are bound to hate and detest the constitution which the Confederation act has prepared for the people of these fine colonies. If we were to join the United States, Nova Scotia would possess all the freedom that every State in the Union possesses. We would have the choice of our own Governors, of our Senators, of our Legislators; we would have the power of self-taxation and self-government in the highest degree; but what would be our position if we suffered ourselves to be dragged into this hateful union with Canada, where would Nova Scotia’s freedom be?

Before the British America Act was imposed upon us Nova Scotia was as free as the air. How could the people of this country be taxed? There was no power to tax them except this House, their own servants, whom they commissioned to tax them. Is that the state of things now? Have we any power over the taxation of this country? Does not the Act in question confer upon Canada the fullest power of taxing all the property of Nova Scotia at their arbitrary will? What is our control over that Legislature? We have but a paltry voice of 19 members in the popular branch, not a single one in the other. We have, therefore, to protect the rights of this country from spoliation, only 19 members out of 253. If we should continue in Confederation we should not be governed by the people, as is the case in the United States, but by a little knot of Executive Councillors in Canada. Therefore we have no disposition to unite with one or the other — neither with the United States nor with Canada; and, sir, if we were driven to the necessity of making a choice between the two calamities, we would be bound to choose the least, and that would be, to join the United States of America, and participate in their liberty and prosperity rather than submit to the tyranny of Canada. We would have to prefer the democratic tyranny of the one country to the oligarchical tyranny of the other, and there would be no difficulty in making a choice; but thank heaven we are not called upon to choose between them. We have a constitution of our own, and that belongs to the people of Nova Scotia; and I am going to show you that the constitution they enjoy is their own property — that the Parliament of England had no power to take it away from them — that the British North America Act is entirely unconstitutional — that Nova Scotia has never been legally confederated with Canada — and it rests with her to say whether she will ever be so or not.

Before I come to look at the constitution of this country, I must make a few remarks with regard to England. We intend to send to the mother country certain gentlemen authorized to present to the Queen our humble address, praying Her Majesty to relieve us from this Confederation with Canada. We go in the most perfect confidence that our prayer will be heard. We know to whom we are going to appeal. We are not placed in the condition that the old thirteen colonies were in under King George III. We have a very different person to deal with in Queen Victoria. We have to approach ministers very different from those of the last century. We have no stubborn King George III.; we have no prejudices of the royal mind to counteract; we have not the infatuation of his ministers to meet. We have the greatest princess that ever adorned a human throne, a most virtuous Queen, who, when she accepted the sceptre, took an oath that she would rule the country according to the laws, customs and statutes of the realm. She has most nobly fulfilled her obligations, and, in answer to the prayers of her own church, ” has been most plenteously endued with heavenly gifts.” In her person she is an example of every virtue; her obedience to the laws exalts her above all other monarchs. Her personal virtues are brighter than all the gems which adorn her Imperial diadem. It is to a Queen like this that the people appeal.

Have the people no right to present themselves before their Sovereign? Has not this ever been the most loyal portion of her dominions? Did not our forefathers flee from their country because they would not participate in rebellion? Did they not leave their property for their king’s sake? I have seen a resolution passed by the Legislature of Nova Scotia at the time the thirteen colonies rebelled actually petitioning the King to impose taxes upon the Province to assist the Empire in its extremity. From that time to this the people of Nova Scotia have been the most loyal that ever dwelt in any part of Her Majesty’s dominions. They will have confidence in presenting themselves before the Queen, and asking to be restored— to what? To any thing that they have no right to demand? Simply to their own. Can any man suppose for a moment that they will be rejected by a Sovereign like ours? We need be under no apprehension. We are pursuing the proper course to obtain a legitimate end, and there is no power on earth that can prevent the people from being restored to their rights but downright tyranny, and that we cannot expect from the hands of the Queen and her Government.

Do not let the loyalty of Nova Scotia be suspected. Has any one a right to suspect it! Look at the injuries done to the people of this Province within the last six months. See their liberties taken away; see them taxed by a foreign and alien Legislature; see their property taken from them; all their customs handed over to others, collected by strangers before their very eyes. See stamp duties and tea duties imposed upon them. Those very acts which forced the old thirteen colonies to rebellion have been imposed upon Nova Scotia with the same extraordinary fatuity. And yet have the people rebelled? I have heard of no movement of agitation on the part of the people beyond the simple burning in effigy of one of the delegates. If that delegate had belonged to the United States, instead of being burned in effigy, he would have been burned in reality. If men commissioned by any State in the American Union to negotiate any arrangement affecting the constitution returned with such a bargain as those men returned with, they would not have been permitted to live. The slow process of justice would not have been extended to them, but that has not been the case in Nova Scotia. This law-respecting people have made no movement, but they are going to submit no longer.

The time for forbearance is at an end. They had no means of constitutionally speaking until now, and they intend to make use of it. If it should be unsuccessful, I may be asked what will be the consequence? I am hardly going to anticipate that the appeal of the people can be unsuccessful. I deny the possibility of failure, but then I assert on the behalf of the people as long as the Queen of England extends to the people of Nova Scotia her protection so long will the people refuse to withdraw their allegiance. So long as they are protected they will be loyal and faithful; and, sir, let it happen that the Queen of England and her ministers in Parliament, regardless of the past, regardless of the loss of the old colonies, shall determine to trample on the rights and liberties of this country ; if they should do so, then it will indeed be a dark and gloomy hour. Sir, when by the decrees of inexorable fate the flag of England and the name of Englishmen shall be taken away from the people of Nova Scotia, and the flag and name of any other country substituted, then I prophesy that this Province will be turned into a house of mourning, and every eye will shed hot burning tears of bitter regret and inexpressible woe.

Now, having made these preliminary remarks, I shall call your attention to the history of our Constitution. I have heard men assert that we have no valid constitution — that it is made up of despatches. I have been at the pains of examining into this question, and can show you that Nova Scotia has had a chartered constitution, an irrevocable constitution — one that no power on earth can take away except by force or violence. Neither the Queen nor Parliament of England has any right to touch or abrogate that constitution. This country was originally known by the name of Acadia, and was in the possession of the French at one time, and in that of the English at another — was long, in fact, debatable ground. The French at last made the settlement of Port Royal, at present called Annapolis, They fortified it in the early part of the 18th century; but an expedition was fitted out by a person of the name of Nicholson, from Boston, who came over and forced the French garrison to capitulate. Consequently the Province was at this time conquered by the British. In 1713, soon after the conquest, by the treaty of Utrecht, Louis XIV. assigned Acadia to Queen Anne of England, and her heirs forever.

I have before me the language or this treaty; it is striking and plain: ” Yielded and made over to the Queen of Great Britain and to her heirs forever.” From that time to this Nova Scotia has continued to belong to the British Crown, and the first inquiry we meet is this, What was the effect of that conquest and subsequent cession by Louis XIV to Queen Anne? What was her title?

Her title was absolute, in fee simple — higher than the title any man in England or America possesses to his estate — higher than the title possessed by the Prince of Wales when he purchased, the other day, a hunting-ground in England. The Prince of Wales holds his estate from the Queen, who is the lady paramount of all the lands in the country, and he may forfeit it to Her Majesty; but that was not the case with the gift to Queen Anne. She became the absolute owner of Nova Scotia. It did not belong to the people or Parliament of England, who had no more to do with it than the people of Turkey. It was properly transferred, and belonged absolutely to Anne, the Queen of England, and her heirs forever.

For thirty-four years after this cession it remained the property of the Queen and her heirs, and she could do with it just as she pleased — just as any man in this House might do with an estate belonging to him. She might put a tenant on it, and regulate the covenants under which the tenant should hold it. In 1747 it came into the hands of George II., and he, being desirous of having it settled by English subjects, promised the people of England who would undertake the settlement of the country that he would give them the British Constitution in miniature. Accordingly he ordered a patent to be drawn up, with the Great Seal — a seal larger than the crown of a hat — for Lord Cornwallis, by which he granted to the people of Nova Scotia the constitution they were to possess. I shall call your attention briefly to the words of that part of the patent which refers to the establishment of a Legislative Assembly in the Province. He established by this patent a Governor in the place of King, a Council in the place of Lords, and a House of Assembly in the place of Commons, and made the constitution of the colony as nearly like that of Great Britain as he could.

“And we do hereby (this Charter is dated 6th May, 1747,) give and grant unto you (Edward Cornwallis) full power and authority, with the advice and consent of our said Council, from time to time, as need shall require, to summon and call general assemblies of the freeholders and planters within your jurisdiction, according to the usage of the rest of our plantations in America, and that you, the said Edward Cornwallis, with the advice and consent of our House of Assembly or the major part of it, shall have full power and authority to make and ordain (here is power given to the Legislature) laws, statutes, and ordinances for the public peace and welfare and good government of our said Province, and of the people and inhabitants thereof, and such measures as shall tend to the benefit of us and our successors, which said laws and ordinances are not to be repugnant, but as nearly agreeable as possible to the statutes of this our said Kingdom of England.”

This solemn deed and covenant cannot be repudiated. After Cornwallis obtained this patent in 1747, he and the other governors who succeeded him were very slow in calling together the freeholders in order to give the people the benefit of this Assembly, and accordingly in 1767, or ten years after the granting of the patent, a correspondence took place between the ministers of George II. and Governor Lawrence, in which the ministers called upon the latter to execute that deed, and give to the people their Legislative Assembly. Mr. Lawrence thought he could make as good laws as any Assembly, and he and his Council persisted in passing laws. From the time the constitution was given, instead of calling the Legislature together, he summoned the Council, and with them made laws for the government of the Province.

In 1755 the subject was brought to the notice of the Crown Officers of England, for the people of Nova Scotia complained that their charter had not been carried into effect, and some of them refused obedience to the orders in Council, on the ground that no rules and regulations could be made lor the government of the people except through the House of Assembly, after that charter had been given. The matter was referred to William Murray and Richard Lloyd, the Attorney and Solicitor Generals of England, the former of whom subsequently became Lord Mansfield, one of the most eminent of English jurists. And here is their opinion : “We have taken the said observations into our consideration, and we are humbly of opinion that the Governor and Council alone are not authorized by His Majesty to make laws.” Here is the opinion of these distinguished jurists, that the king could not make laws for the Colony. The king having given the charter in question, had no power to make laws. Where or a country is conquered, the conqueror to whom it is ceded has power to do as he o she pleases in its management. He may, if he chooses, allow the inhabitants of that country to make their own laws, or put them all to death, or he may send them a code of laws made by himself, and allow his Governors to execute them within the country. But if he confers upon the country any privileges, the deed is obligatory upon himself and heirs, and he cannot annulled; he is bound to submit to it. It is just the same with an individual: as soon as he signs and seals a deed for a piece of land to his neighbor, neither he nor his heir can afterwards dispute the seal.

The day the king signed that deed, and appended the seal to the commission of the Governor, he conceded the power to make laws. Both his Attorney and Solicitor Generals tell him, we have looked at Lord Cornwallis’ patent, and you have not the power to make such laws. No law can be binding upon the people of Nova Scotia, except such as are passed in accordance with that charter.

To show how completely irrevocable these charters are, I will briefly call your attention to a case which arose many years after, in 1774. Lord Mansfield then delivered the opinion of the Court of King’s Bench upon a case which had been a number of times solemnly argued. After the conquest of Grenada, the King of England gave a commission to a gentleman of the name of Melville, almost identically the same as that he gave to Cornwallis. This deed was signed in the month of April, 1764, but Governor Melville did not proceed to take charge until the following December. In the meantime the King issued letters patent under the great seal, on the 20th July, 1764, laying a tax upon the people of Grenada— performing in fact an act of legislation. The case was brought up for argument ; the merchant who had paid the tax having come over to England, and having been allowed to try it by the Attorney General. The judgment of the Court was that the tax was illegal, because the King, when he signed that Commission to Melville, ceased to have any power over Grenada. Here are some of the observations made by Lord Mansfield:

“After full consideration, we are of opinion that before the letters patent of the 20th July, 1764, the King had precluded himself from the exercise of the legislative authority over the island of Grenada.” Again he said: “We therefore think that after the two Proclamations, and the Commission of Governor Melville, the king had immediately and irrecoverably granted to all who are or shall become inhabitants of Grenada, the right of having their legislation exercised by an Assembly and a Governor in Council.”

Now, Mr. Speaker, I shall endeavor to bring this argument to a close by inviting the attention of the House, and of the people of England, to whom I am speaking at this moment, to the great importance of Nova Scotia to the British Empire. This is a subject which has never been well considered. The old colonies are the most valuable portion of the earth — by the stubbornness of a British King, and the stupidity of his Ministers, they were lost to the Empire; and that dismemberment was the most serious that ever befell the British nation. Lord Chatham actually died protesting against it. Nova Scotia stands in the front of the American continent, just as England does in that of Europe. She possesses great mineral wealth, the source of England’s greatness. Her coal and iron, with the energy of her people, have brought the mother country to her present proud condition. We possess the same advantages — we, too, are almost an island. If Nova Scotia were lost to England she might bid adieu to New Brunswick, to Prince Edward Island, and to Newfoundland. These four Maritime Provinces together have a territory similarly situated to the British Isles, and are capable of sustaining a population equal to theirs. Now Great Britain has been to Nova Scotia a very affectionate parent. She has been most kind to us, but we sometimes hear the statesmen of England grumbling a little about the expense incurred in defending these colonies. I must confess I cannot see what that expense is. Great Britain is a maritime nation and a military power. She must have the best navies on the ocean, and one of the strongest’; armies in the field. Where could she maintain her troops and navy more economically than in these Colonies? The climate is a very healthy one; the statistics show that the mortality here is less than in any other part of the world. The people of England would never consent to a standing army remaining in their own country. Therefore the scattering of the troops through these Colonies has been a kind of necessity, and so far from these Colonies costing England anything, they are little or no expense to her.

She was always a kind mother, although not a wise one at times. When she adopted her trade policy in 1848 she left these colonies entirely unprotected. She left the trade of Nova Scotia to be managed by people who knew nothing about it. She had up to that time managed our trade herself; she withdrew her fostering care, and left us to walk alone. — We have managed to live very happy and contentedly, but she did not act wisely towards these colonies. Since 1848 no less than six millions of people have left England, Ireland and Scotland; where have they gone to? They have gone directly past us into the United States- If England had been a judicious foster-mother she would have diverted the emigration into these colonies, if she had encouraged the commercial advantages of Nova Scotia, and the agricultural capabilities of Canada, we would now be a strong nation, instead of having only four millions of souls in our midst. We would have a population of nine or ten millions, and instead of being afraid of invasion, the people of the United States would be pleased to think, during their internecine war, that such was the peaceful character and orderly disposition of Her Majesty’s Colonies in America that, there was no danger to be apprehended from them.

I believe there is no time that a parent knows the value of the child he loves until he hears the cold earth falling upon the coffin, and the sad words, “earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust.” Let England transfer this little province to the United States, and she will, after a few years’ time, wake up to the loss she has sustained. If the people of the United States succeed in restoring the union, in healing the difference between the North and the South, and in concentrating their tremendous energies, she; must become one of the greatest powers of the world. She is now a great naval power, but give her the harbour of Halifax, — which in her hands could be made just as impregnable as Gibraltar. Give her the coal, iron, and fisheries of Nova Scotia, and her power will be largely increased, arid millions of people will pour into this country. The fisheries alone of these provinces would be to the United States a nursery for a million or a million and a half of seamen. How long would England then boast of her maritime supremacy? When the Americans had only a few miserable ships they brought more disgrace upon the British flag than any other nation ever succeeded in doing. What would they be if, when challenged to the test by Great Britain, they had possession of the Colonies in addition to their ordinary strength? Suppose in the order of things France, another great naval power, should combine her energies with the United States, against England, in what position would the mother country be? How could she contend with such maritime nations as these? Therefore the loss of these colonies might lead to the degradation of England, and instead of standing at the head of nations she might be lowered to the condition of a secondary state, if indeed she were not converted into a province of France.

I shall now very briefly call the attention of the House to the resolutions before it. They develop the arguments on which we ask for a repeal of the Union. The first clause contends that the Legislative Assembly of Nova Scotia had no power to change the constitution; they had none except what was given them in the charter. Parliament had no power over this country — it never had any. This country belonged to the Queen of England, and our Assembly had no constitutional right to consent to or make the slightest alteration in the constitution under which they were elected to make laws. That is the position which we take, and I would like to see the British constitutional authorities examine this subject, for I am convinced they will acknowledge that I am correct. The second resolution is to the effect that the only authority which the Delegates had thus derived from the Assembly, who had no power to give any such authority at all. Even this authority, however, they disregarded. Their authority simply extended to the negotiation of the terms of a Federal union between all the British North American Colonies. They had no power to select three provinces and confederate them, and therefore in that respect they did not act up to their authority. Then, sir, their delegation was not legally constituted.

If I gave a power of Attorney to A. B. and C. to transact business for me, A. and B. cannot do it without C, unless I make it optional for them to do it jointly or revorally ; but if I authorize three men jointly to execute a deed for me, or do any other act, any two of them cannot legally perform the duty. If the House of Assembly authorized a delegation to be constituted, consisting of an equal number of men from Upper and Lower Canada, New Brunswick, Prince Edward’s Island, Newfoundland, and Nova Scotia, the delegates had no power to act unless this stipulation was carried out. No constituent assembly was constituted — it could make no constitution, or do any act until all the delegates were present. If there were 5 from one province and 6 from another, the whole proceeding was a nullity, because the delegation was not constituted according to their instructions. Then again they were told that they were to make just provision for the rights and interests of Nova Scotia. How did they do that? They gave the whole province away. We had a well-working constitution ; we made our own laws, raised our own revenues, and taxed ourselves. We owned railways, fisheries and other public property but, they gave them all away for nothing. We can at any moment be taxed to any extent arbitrarily by an oligarchy in Canada.

The sixth resolution states that no change can be made without an appeal to the people. Here is a self-evident proposition. The constitution belongs to whom The House of Assembly? No. To the Legislative Council! No. It is the property of the people of Nova Scotia — every man, woman and child are the owner, and it cannot be taken away from them without their consent. Even the arbitrary monarchies of Europe admit that principle. When Napoleon seized upon the Empire what did it do? At all events lie went through the ceremony of sending around the ballot box, and asking the people whether they were willing to change their constitution. The other day two States of Italy, Nice and Savoy, were transferred after the Austrian campaign, and what was done ? Did one king sit down and cede the country to the other? No; the people were called upon to decide whether they were prepared to accept the change of constitution or not. No constitution can be lawfully and constitutionally taken away without consulting the people who own the constitution. This is a self-evident proposition— just as evident as the fact that no man can have his farm taken away from him without his consent.

These resolutions go on to argue that the people of Nova Scotia were never consulted until the 18th September, 1867, after the British North America Act had passed the Parliament, and the Queen had given it force by her proclamation. They were then for the first time asked whether they were willing to accept the change of constitution. Then did the people answer emphatically that they would have nothing to do with it. These resolutions state that the preamble of the Imperial Statute is false, and I believe that when the Quebec scheme went home no such words were in it. But no sooner did the crown officers cast their eyes over it than they, knowing the constitutional course in all such matters, perceived that it was impossible for the Imperial Government to legislate upon the question without the consent or request of the people of these colonies.

Accordingly they added the preamble declaring that ” whereas the people of Canada. Nova Scotia and New Brunswick desire to be federally united, &c.” That statute could not have been placed before the Imperial Parliament unless it had these words in it, for it would be unconstitutional unless the people of these colonies had testified their assent to it. Therefore the preamble being false, the statute is unconstitutional and falls to the ground.

The resolutions go on to say that the people were not only not consulted, but that they were purposely and designedly prevented from being consulted. Is not that a true statement ? What did the House of Assembly, who recently set upon these benches, with no great credit to them, do in the month of March last? When it was moved that the people of Nova Scotia had a right to be consulted at the polls, whether they would consent to be confederated or not. that resolution was negatived by 32 against 10 representatives of the people. Whose servants were these 32 persons ? The servants of the Executive Council ; they ignored the authority of the people, and said that the constitution of Nova Scotia belonged to Dr. Tupper and a few others. Then I think we have asserted strictly in accordance with the fact that the people of Nova Scotia were systematically and perseveringly kept from passing upon the subject of confederation.

We have also stated with truth that the last election turned entirely upon confederation. I have heard men venture to assert that other issues entered into that election, but men who say this will state anything. No man living before or during the election, can venture to deny the fact that confederation was the great question which excited the people from one end of the province to the other. Now there is another clause which tells us that these colonies were, in the opinion of the people of Nova Scotia, united to each other by a connection better and superior to that of any confederation that could be devised even upon the fairest and wisest terms. I believe that to be literally true. It is a matter of political opinion. I have always thought that the system of confederation was the worst by which we could be united. It is impossible so to regulate the conflicting interests of the different countries in a manner that will prevent conflicts and difficulties arising. If you leave to the several countries their individuality and allow them to retain their local legislatures whilst you attempt to combine them at the same time under one general head, the experiment will be fatal — in time it must and will end in civil war and the shedding of blood. I believe that has been the experience of the world with respect to confederation. The provinces have now five governments instead of three. If they were really united they would be stronger, inasmuch as the whole is stronger than the parts, they would have one head, one legislature, one revenue, one set of laws, one tariff. On the other hand, for the reasons I have previously given the system of confederation is, in reality, the worst that could be devised for these Colonies, if the wish is to promote harmony and prosperity among them. ‘

We shall pass these resolutions, and we may, if necessary, add one or two more; and when we have done so, it is the design of the Government and House to send Delegates to England as soon as we can, to submit to the Queen an humble Address, embracing the substance of these resolutions ; and I have much pleasure in announcing, so far as I am able to judge, my belief and conviction that the Delegation cannot possibly fail of success.


“Speeches delivered by Hon. Martin I. Wilkins, (attorney general) in the House of Assembly of Nova Scotia, session 1868, on resolutions relative to repeal of the “British North America Act, 1867”. Wilkins, Martin I. (Martin Isaac), 1804-1881. https://archive.org/details/cihm_23507

A Plan for the Union of British North America and the United States

“An act for the admission of the states of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Canada East, and Canada West, and for the organization of the territories of Selkirk, Saskatchewan, and Columbia” …provided that as soon as the governments of Great Britain and of the provinces indicated their acceptance, the states and territories should be admitted.

The conditions of admission were set forth in twelve articles. In the first two, provision was made for the taking over of public works, and the assumption of the funded debt and liabilities of the provinces.

In the apportionment of the latter, about one half of the total amount suggested is offered to Canada West – a key to the whole curious proposal.

Articles three to six made provision for organization, representation, and territorial divisions of the proposed states and territories. The next article proposed the assumption of the expenditure of $50,000,000 to improve the navigation of the St. Laurence and the great lakes.

Land grants of twenty sections per mile were next suggested, to aid in the construction of a railroad from Truro, Nova Scotia, to some point on the Pacific coast north of 49 degrees, by way of Riviere du Loup, Ottawa, Sault Ste Marie, Bayfield, Superior, Pembina, Fort Garry, and the valley of the North Saskatchewan.

An offer of ten million dollars was proposed to be made to the Hudson’s bay company for all their rights in North America.

The last section of the plan ingeniously provided that if Prince Edward Island declined to enter, the benefits offered it should be omitted, but for the others all the provisions would be retained.

Similar omissions were to be made in case Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, New Brunswickwick, and Canada declined to accept. There remained then the northwest territory and the Pacific provinces, to which were ofdered aid in the construction of a railway from the western extremity of Superior, to the Pacific coast, by way of Pembina, Fort Garry, and the valley of the Saskatchewan and this was the heart of the proposition.

General N. P. Banks introduced this bill, exactly as drafted by Taylor, into the house of representatives on July 2, 1866, and after a second reading it was referred to the committee on foreign affairs, of which Banks himself was chairman. No definite action on this bill resulted, yet it precipitated a large amount of newspaper discussion, particularly in relation to the question of reciprocity, and thus served as a means, of testing opinion on the whole subject of annexation, though the real purpose of the measure in connection with the northwest provinces was little understood.

As a result of its abrogation by the United States, the Elgin-Marcy reciprocity treaty came to an end on March 17, 1866. The precise reasons for its abrogation have been the subject of considerable discussion.

In a budget speech A. T. Galt declared, “If there was one thing more than another, apart from the irritation growing out of the events which happened during the late war, which instigated them in abrogating the reciprocity treit was the belief that they could compel us into a closer political alliance with them.”

Sir John G. Bourinot writes, “The commercial classes in the eastern and western states were, on the whole, favourable to an enlargement of the treaty, but the real cause of its repeal was the prejudice in the northern states against Canada on account of its supposed sympathy for the confederate states during the Secession war. A large body of men in the north believed that the repeal of the treaty would sooner or later force Canada to join the republic. . .

There was a general feeling in the United States that the advantages accruing to Canada under the treaty were far greater than those to the United States. American manufactured goods were rather highly taxed, and it was felt that Canadian legislation was damaging the trade of American carriers.

There seems to be no actual proof that the abrogation was brought about with the hope of securing annexation, but in Canada the belief was general that such was the motive. Mr. Robinson shows that in the debates on confederation at Quebec from February 3 to March 14, 1865, there was but one opinion, namely, that “the abrogation of the treaty was a lever to force Canada from her allegiance to England and into the United States.”


39TH CONGRESS, 1ST SESSION

H.R. 754.

IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

JULY 2, 1866.

Read twice, refered to the Committee on Foreign Affairs, and ordered to be printed.


Mr Banks, on leave, introduced the following bill:


A Bill for the admission of the States of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Canada East, and Canada West, and for the organization of the Territories of Selkirk, Saskatchewan, and Columbia


Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That the President of the United States is hereby authorized and directed, whenever notice shall be deposited in the Department of State that the governments of Great Britain and the provinces of New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland, Canada, British Columbia, and Vancouver’s Island have accepted the proposition hereinafter made by the United States, to publish by proclamation that, from the date thereof, the States of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Canada East, and Canada West, and the Territories of Selkirk, Saskatchewan, and Columbia, with limits and rights as by the act defined, are constituted and admitted as States and Territories of the United States of America.

SEC. 2. And be it further enacted, That the following articles are hereby proposed, and from the date of the proclamation of the President of the United States shall take effect, as irrevocable conditions of the admission of the States of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Canada East, and Canada West, and the future States of Selkirk, Saskatchewan, and Columbia, to wit:

ARTICLE I

All public lands not sold or granted; canals, public harbors, light-houses, and piers; river and lake improvements; railway stocks, mortgages, and other debts due by railway companies to the provinces; custom-houses and post offices, shall vest in the United States; but all other public works and property shall belong to the State governments respectively, hereby constituted, together with all sums due from purchasers or lessees of lands, mines, or minerals at the time of the union.

ARTICLE II

In consideration of the public lands, works, and property vested as aforesaid in the United States, the United States will assume and discharge the funded debt and contingent liabilities of the late provinces, at rates of interest not exceeding five per centum, to the amount of eighty-five million seven hundred thousand dollars, apportioned as follows: To Canada West, thirty-six million five hundred thousand dollars; to Canada East, twenty-nine million dollars; to Nova Scotia, eight million dollars; to New Brunswick, seven million dollars; to Newfoundland, three million two hundred thousand dollars; and to Prince Edward Island, two million dollars; and in further consideration of the transfer by said provinces to the United States of the power to levy import and export duties, the United States will make an annual grant of one million six hundred and forty-six thousand dollars in aid of local expenditures, to be apportioned as follows: To Canada West, seven hundred thousand dollars; to Canada East, five hundred and fifty thousand dollars; to Nova Scotia, one hundred and sixty-five thousand dollars; to New Brunswick, one hundred and twenty-six thousand dollars; to Newfoundland, sixty-five thousand dollars; to Prince Edward Island, forty thousand dollars.

ARTICLE III

For all purposes of State organization and representation in the Congress of the United States, Newfoundland shall be part of Canada East, and Prince Edward Island shall be part of Nova Scotia, except that each shall always be a separate representative district, and entitled to elect at least one member of the House of Representatives, and except, also, that the municipal authorities of Newfoundland and Prince Edward Island shall receive the indemnities agreed to be paid by the United States in Article II.

ARTICLE IV

Territorial divisions are established as follows: (1) New Brunswick, with its present limits; (2) Nova Scotia, with the addition of Prince Edward Island; (3) Canada East, with the addition of Newfoundland and all territory east of longitude eighty degrees and south of Hudson’s strait; (4) Canada West, with the addition of territory south of Hudson’s bay and between longitude eighty degrees longitude ninety degrees; (5) Selkirk Territory, bounded east by longitude ninety degrees, south by the late boundary of the United States, west by longitude one hundred and five degrees, and north by the Arctic circle; (6) Saskatchewan Territory, bounded east by longitude one hundred and five degrees, south by latitude forty-nine degrees, west by the Rocky mountains, and north by latitude seventy degrees; (7) Columbia Territory, including Vancouver’s Island, and Queen Charlotte’s island, and bounded east and north by the Rocky mountains, south by latitude forty-nine degrees, and west by the Pacific ocean and Russian America. But Congress reserves the right of changing the limits and subdividing the areas of the western territories at discretion.

ARTICLE V

Until the next decennial revision, representation in the House of Representatives shall be as follows: Canada West, twelve members; Canada East, including Newfoundland, eleven members; New Brunswick, two members; Nova Scotia, including Prince Edward Island, four members.

ARTICLE VI

The Congress of the United States shall enact, in favor of the proposed Territories of Selkirk, Saskatchewan, and Columbia, all the provisions of the act organizing the Territory of Montana, so far as they can be made applicable.

ARTICLE VII

The United States, by the construction of new canals, or the enlargement of existing canals, and by the improvement of shoals, will so aid the navigation of the Saint Lawrence river and the great lakes that vessels of fifteen hundred tons burden shall pass from the Gulf of Saint Lawrence to Lakes Superior and Michigan: Provided, That the expenditure under this article shall not exceed fifty millions of dollars.

ARTICLE VIII

The United States will appropriate and pay to “The European and North American Railway Company of Maine” the sum of two millions of dollars upon the construction of a continuous line of railroad from Bangor, in Maine, to Saint John’s, in New Brunswick: Provided, That said “The European and North American Railway Company of Maine” shall release the government of the United States from all claims held by it as assignee of the States of Maine and Massachusetts.

ARTICLE IX

To aid the construction of a railway from Truro, in Nova Scotia, to Riviere du Loup, in Canada East, and a railway from the city of Ottawa, by way of Sault Ste. Marie, Bayfield, and Superior, in Wisconsin, Pembina, and Fort Garry, on the Red River of the North, and the valley of the North Saskatchewan river to some point on the Pacific ocean north of latitude forty-nine degrees, the United States will grant lands along the lines of said roads to the amount of twenty sections, or twelve thousand eight hundred acres, per mile, to be selected and sold in the manner prescribed in the act to aid the construction of the Northern Pacific railroad, approved July two, eighteen hundred and sixty-two, and acts amendatory thereof; and in addition to said grants of lands, the United States will further guarantee dividends of five per centum upon the stock of the company or companies which may be authorized by Congress to undertake the construction of said railways: Provided, That such guarantee of stock shall not exceed the sum of thirty thousand dollars per mile, and Congress shall regulate the securities for advances on account thereof.

ARTICLE X

The public lands in the late provinces, as far as practicable, shall be surveyed according to the rectangular system of the General Land office of the United States; and in the Territories west of longitude ninety degrees, or the western boundary of Canada West, sections sixteen and thirty-six shall be granted for the encouragement of schools, and after the organization of the Territories into States, five per centum of the net proceeds of sales of public lands shall be paid into their treasuries as a fund for the improvement of roads and rivers.

ARTICLE XI

The United States will pay ten millions of dollars to the Hudson Bay Company in full discharge of all claims to territory or jurisdiction in North America, whether founded on the charter of the company or any treaty, law, or usage.

ARTICLE XII

It shall be devolved upon the legislatures of New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Canada East, and Canada West, to conform the tenure of office and the local institutions of said States to the Constitution and laws of the United States, subject to revision by Congress.

SEC 3. And be it further enacted, That if Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland, or either of those provinces, shall decline union with the United States, and the remaining provinces, with the consent of Great Britain, shall accept the proposition of the United States, the foregoing stipulations in favor of Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland, or either of them, will be omitted; but in all other respects the United States will give full effect to the plan of union. If Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick shall decline the proposition, but Canada, British Columbia, and Vancouver island shall, with the consent of Great Britain, accept the same, the construction of a railway from Truro to Riviere du Loup, with all stipulations relating to the maritime provinces, will form no part of the proposed plan of union, but the same will be consummated in all other respects. If Canada shall decline the proposition, then the stipulations in regard to the Saint Lawrence canals and a railway from Ottawa to Sault Ste. Marie, with the Canadian clause of debt and revenue indemnity, will be relinquished. If the plan of union shall only be accepted in regard to the northwestern territory and the Pacific provinces, the United States will aid the construction, on the terms named, of a railway from the western extremity of Lake Superior, in the State of Minnesota, by way of Pembina, Fort Garry, and the valley of the Saskatchewan, to the Pacific coast, north of latitude forty-nine degrees, besides securing all the rights and privileges of an American territory to the proposed Territories of Selkirk, Saskatchewan, and Columbia.

AnnexationBill1866

Blegen, T. C. (1918). A Plan for the Union of British North America and the United States, 1866. The Mississippi Valley Historical Review4(4), 470–483. https://doi.org/10.2307/1896039, https://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Annexation_Bill_of_1866

Dominion Disallowance of Provincial Legislation in Canada

Federal disallowance of Provincial Legislation has been a significant aspect of the Canada’s system of “federalism”, allowing the central government to nullify provincial acts deemed contrary to federal interests. This power, unique to Canada, contrasts with the American federal system, reflecting a “differing approach” to federalism. From 1867 to 1935, the Dominion government disallowed at least 114 provincial acts and territorial ordinances, highlighting its considerable powers over provincial legislation.

The process of disallowance involved the submission of provincial acts to the governor-general, with the governor-general in council having the authority to disallow them, typically based on recommendations from the Ministry of Justice, in the same way colonies previous to Confederation would submit their legislation through Lieutenant Governors to the Crown. Disallowance had to occur within one year of receiving the act. While the British government couldn’t directly interfere with provincial acts after confederation, it could express its concerns to the Dominion government instead, as could other foreign governments.

The reasons for disallowance varied widely, including conflicts with federal legislation, exceeding provincial powers outlined in the British North America Act, violation of treaty rights, or infringement on individual rights and property. The subjects of disallowed acts ranged from immigration and banking to mining and liquor regulation, indicating the Dominion’s broad oversight.

Historically, the frequency of disallowance fluctuated, with peaks in the late 19th and early 20th centuries followed by a decline in recent years. Initially, the crown and its Federal government, themselves involved in a parent-child relationship, viewed a strong central government as necessary, akin to a parent-child relationship with provinces. Where that leaves “the people” is clear.

Evolving interpretations of “Canadian federalism” have more recently emphasized provincial rights and autonomy, more in keeping with the American meaning of the term. Decisions by the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council and advocacy for provincial rights led to a shift in attitudes toward disallowance. Provinces began to assert their legislative independence, advocating for minimal federal interference. By the early 20th century, calls for disallowance were expected to be justified by clear attempts to infringe on federal jurisdiction. Whether this power is still exercised today, on the down low, with the only outward evidence of such actions being a bill dying on the order paper, is unclear.


“Although there is a federal form of government in both the Dominion of Canada. and the United States, there are striking differences in the two types of federalism. Some of these differences are to be found in fundamentals, such as the basis upon which the powers of government are divided in the two countries. Less striking, but nevertheless significant, are still other points of variance. Among these is the power which the dominion government has to disallow legislative acts of the provinces. Just why the fathers of the Canadian federation thought this power should be given to the central government is not clear. The fact remains, however, that in the years from 1867 to 1935, at least 114 provincial acts and territorial ordinances were set aside. It is important to note that these acts were dis- allowed by executive officers of the dominion government. Executive officers of the national government in the United States do not possess similar powers where state legislation is concerned.”

“A survey of the law-making efforts of provincial legislatures which have been set aside by the dominion government indicates that the central government has interfered with some of the most important fields in which provincial legislation might be enacted.”

“The frequency with which the dominion’s power of disallowance has been used has varied considerably at different periods in Canada’s history. In the years from 1867 through 1895, no less than 72 acts and ordinances were set aside. In the years from 1896 through 1920, a period of almost equal length, 37 provincial acts and ordinances were annulled. From 1920 to 1935, only five acts passed by provincial legislatures fell before the disapproval of the dominion government. In the first period mentioned, the greatest number of acts to be disallowed in one province was 26, in Manitoba. British Columbia, with 20, was a close second. Seven ordinances (as distinct from legislative acts) were set aside in the Northwest Territory, while in Ontario and Nova Scotia six acts in each province were disallowed. The remainder of the 72 can be accounted for by the disallowance of four statutes in Quebec, two in Prince Edward Island, and one in New Brunswick. In the second period, British Columbia headed the list with 22, while Manitoba and Saskatchewan had three each. Ontario and Quebec each had one act annulled. Seven ordinances were set aside, five in the Yukon Territory and two in the Northwest Territory. Since 1920, legislative acts in only three provinces have been disallowed. Three were annulled in Nova Scotia and one each in Alberta and British Columbia.”

“To many Americans, it is, of course, striking that the central government in a federation should possess this degree of control over certain types of legislation enacted by the member units in that federal organization. In the Canada of 1864-66, however, there were many who, like J. A. Macdonald, wished to see a strong central government created. They believed that the war between the states to the south of them was due, in part, to weakness at the center. That the dominion government should be able to disallow provincial legislation did not seem strange to them.”

Heneman, H. J. (1937). Dominion Disallowance of Provincial Legislation in Canada. The American Political Science Review, 31(1), 92–96. https://doi.org/10.2307/1948049

Petition of the inhabitants of Nova Scotia

The Petition of the Inhabitants of Nova Scotia Humbly Sheweth:

That the Province of Nova Scotia is one of the oldest Colonies of Great Britain, and one of the nearest to the Mother Country. That when the American Revolution separated thirteen English Colonies from the Crown, Nova Scotia stood true to her allegiance, and furnished a home for the Loyalists who sacrificed their property and their prospects in the American States’ for the sake of British connection. That, ever since, during the political agitations which have disturbed this Continent,— especially during the War of 1812, and the Canadian Rebellions of 1837-8,— Nova Scotia has been steadfast in her loyalty; and that when the neighbouring Province of New Brunswick was menaced from the American side in 1839. the Legislature of Nova Scotia unanimously placed the whole revenues and resources of the country at the disposal of the Lieutenant-Governor for the defense of the British flag upon the frontier. That this people have discharged, in other respects, the duties of British subjects to the satisfaction of the Crown.

They have sent representatives to the Provincial Parliament since 1758, for a quarter of a century have enjoyed Responsible Government in as full and ample a measure as have their fellow-subjects in the most favoured parts of the Empire, and have preserved from degeneracy and abuse their Constitutional rights and free institutions. That the people of this Province, from their Maritime position, have developed the pursuits of Shipbuilding, Navigation, Commerce, and Fishing, into prosperous activity. Their agricultural resources are rich and varied, while the vast mineral wealth which underlies the whole area of the country is a special guarantee of its future prosperity under favourable political conditions. The gold mines of Nova Scotia, without rising to the character of dazzling lotteries to attract a promiscuous or disorderly population from abroad, have proved steadily remunerative of a regular department of native industry, and a profitable investment for foreign capital. The great iron mines, already discovered, give earnest, in connection with its coal fields, of manufacturing capabilities not inferior to those of any country of similar extent. It has the thickest coal seams in the world, and their area is extensive, affording fairground for the presumption, that for the purposes of peace or way Nova Scotia’s continued connection with Great Britain would prove of mutual advantage.

Possessed of these resources, the people desire closer relations with the Mother Country, in order to be able to enjoy more largely the benefits, as well as share more fully the responsibilities, of the Empire; and already the Province has enrolled 60,000 efficient Militia and Volunteers to assist in the maintenance of British power on this Continent, and sends to sea 440,000 tons of shipping, built and owned within the Province, bearing the flag of England, and manned by more than 20,000 seamen. That Nova Scotia has no controversies with the Mother Country, the other Provinces, or with the population of the neighboring United States; and highly prizes the privileges, so long enjoyed, of regulating her own Tariffs, and conducting trade, but lightly burthened, with the British Islands and Colonies in all parts of the world and with Foreign Countries.

That the people of Nova Scotia are prepared to entertain any propositions by which (preserving to them the Institutions they now have, and the privileges they enjoy) greater facilities tor commercial and social intercourse with other States and Provinces may be secured, and they are willing, whenever their own coasts and harbors are safe, to aid Her Majesty’s forces to preserve from aggression the Provinces in the rear.

That they view with profound distrust and apprehension schemes, recently propounded, by which it is proposed to transfer to the people of Canada the control of the Government, Legislation and Revenues, of this loyal and happy Province, and they venture respectfully to crave from your honorable House justice and protection.

That the Province of Canada lies as far from Nova Scotia as Austria docs from England, and there exists no reason why a people who live at such a distance, with whom we have but little commerce, who have invested no capital in our country, who are unable to protect it, and are themselves shut off from ocean navigation by frost for five months of the year, should control our Legislation and Government.

That in 1864 the Government of Nova Scotia, without any authority from the Legislature, and without any evidence of the consent of the people, sent delegates to Canada to arrange in secret conference at Quebec a political union between the various Provinces, That these delegates concealed the result of their conference from the people until it became incidentally made public in another Province, and that, to this hour, they have never unfolded portions of the Scheme, having the most essential relation to the peculiar interests and local government of Nova Scotia subsequent to Confederation.

That the scheme, when at last made public, was received with great dissatisfaction in Nova Scotia, that the opposition to it has been constantly on the increase, and has been intensified by the conduct of the government and the delegates, who now propose to call in the aid of Your Honorable House, to assist them to overthrow, by an arbitrary exercise of power, free Institutions enjoyed for a century, and never abused.

That the objections of the people to the proposed Confederation Scheme affect not merely minor local details but the radical principles of the plan. The people cannot recognize the necessity for change in their present tranquil, prosperous and free condition. They cannot believe that the proposed Confederation with the distant Colony of Canada will prove of any practical benefit, either for defense or trade; while, from the past history of that country, its sectional troubles, and its eccentric political management and financial embarrassments, they have great reason to fear that Confederation would be to them a most disastrous change, retarding their progress, and rendering their prolonged connection with the Crown precarious if not impossible. Forming, as she does now, a portion of the Empire, Nova Scotia is already Confederated with fifty other States and Provinces, enjoys free trade with two hundred and fifty millions of people, living under one flag, and owning the authority of one Sovereign. She has no desire to part with her self-control, or to narrow her commercial privileges by placing herself under the dominion of a sister Colony, with an exposed frontier, frost-bound for a third of the year, and with no Navy to defend the Maritime Provinces when her ports are open.

The Scheme of Government framed at Quebec is unlike any other that History shows to have been successful. It secures neither the consolidation, dignity and independent power of Monarchy, nor the checks and guards which ensure to the smaller states self-government, and controlling influence over the Federal authorities, in the neighboring Republic. By adopting the Federal principle sectionalism in the five Provinces is perpetuated; by the timid and imperfect mode in which that principle is applied, the people, whose minds have been unsettled by this crude experiment, may be driven to draw contrasts, and nourish aspirations of which adventurous and powerful neighbors will not be slow to take advantage ; and the people of Nova Scotia have no desire to peril the integrity of the Empire, with the blessings they now enjoy, or to try now experiments, which may complicate foreign relations, and yet add no real strength to the Provinces it is proposed to combine.

The people object also to the financial arrangements as especially burthensome and unfair to this Province. Having long enjoyed the control and benefitted by the expenditure of their own revenues, they cannot approve a scheme that will wrest the greater part of these from their hands, to keep up costly and cumbrous Federal machinery, and to meet the liabilities of Canada.

For many years the commercial policy of Nova Scotia has been essentially different from that of Canada. The latter country, partly from necessity arising out of financial embarrassments, and partly as an indirect premium on her own manufactures, has adopted a tariff varying from 20 to 30%, on imported goods. Almost surrounded as Nova Scotia is by the ocean, her people are favourably situated for enjoying free commercial intercourse with every section of the British Empire, and with those foreign countries open to her commerce by the enlightened [)policy of the Parent State; of this privilege she has availed herself, by imitating, as far as local circumstances would permit, the liberal and free trade policy of the Mother Country — 10%, being the ad valorem duty collected under the Nova Scotia tariff on goods imported into the Province. The proposed scheme of union will give Canada, by her large preponderance in the Legislature, the power to shape the tariff for the whole Confederacy according to her inland ideas and necessities, so as to levy the same onerous duties on British goods imparted into Nova Scotia as are now exacted by Canada.

That since the Confederation scheme has been announced, there have been special parliamentary elections in three out of the eighteen counties of this Province, and in all three it has been condemned at the polls.

That in 1865 the scheme was condemned at nearly every public meeting hold by the delegates to discuss it, and numerous petitions against its adoption were presented to the Provincial Parliament, and only one in its favor, until the leader of the government declared the measure to be “impracticable”.

That at the opening of the late Session no reference to Confederation was made in the speech of the Lieutenant Governor, and down to a late period the people of Nova Scotia were led to believe that the scheme had been abandoned. A Resolution was introduced toward the close of the Session, clothing the government with power to appoint Delegates, who, in connection with Delegates from the other Provinces, are to frame a scheme of Government, to which it is proposed to ask the sanction of your Honorable House before it has been submitted to the Legislature that it may annihilate, or to the people, whose legal and constitutional rights and powers it may transfer or circumscribe.

The undersigned, menaced by a measure that may be revolutionary repose implicit confidence in the protection of the Imperial Parliament. They deny the authority of their own Legislature, invested with limited powers for a definite term, to deprive them of rights earned by their ancestry by the most painful sacrifices, wisely exercised and never abused for more than a century, and which they had no legitimate authority to alienate or break down. They believe that any scheme of Government, framed by a Committee of Delegates and forced upon the Provinces without their revision or approval, would generate widespread dissatisfaction among a loyal and contented people; who will not fail to reflect, that no change can be made in the constitution of any of the neighboring States which has not first been approved by the electors; and that important measures, affecting Imperial policy or institutions, are rarely attempted till they have been submitted for acceptance or rejection by the people whose interests they are to affect.

Your petitioners therefore pray that Your Right Honorable House will be pleased to defer all action in favour of Confederation in the Imperial Parliament until the people of Nova Scotia shall have exercised and enjoyed their Constitutional privilege to express their opinions at the polls, or that Your Honorable House may be pleased to direct that a Special Committee shall inquire into all the features of the proposed scheme of Confederation, as it is likely to affect the several Provinces in their relations to each other and to the Mother Country; or that the people of Nova Scotia be permitted to appear by counsel at the Bar of Your Honorable House to defend their interests and Institutions. And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray, &c.

The Petition of the Inhabitants of Nova Scotia Humbly Sheweth: That the Province of Nova Scotia Is One of the Oldest Colonies of Great Britain .. [S.l.: s.n., 1865?] https://hdl.handle.net/2027/aeu.ark:/13960/t6tx4hq48

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