§ EARL GREY
said, that in rising to ask the question of which he had given notice on this subject, he must ask permission of their Lordships to say a few words previously in the way of explanation. Their Lordships would, perhaps, remember that several years ago much interest was excited by a proposal to construct a railway between Halifax and Quebec. Some years ago, when the noble Earl opposite (the Earl of Derby) was Secretary of State for the Colonies, he received an application from our North American Colonics, proposing the construction of such a railway; and, in consequence, he directed certain officers of the Engineers to explore the country, and to report upon the line of railway which seemed most practicable. The report of those officers was received in 1848, when it became his (Earl Grey's) duty to transmit it to the Colonics affected by it; and in the spring of 1849 the Earl of Elgin, the Governor of Canada, sent back to him a resolution of the Executive Council of that province, proposing the execution of that great work on certain terms. The proposal of the Executive Council was a very liberal one, and he had no doubt that the two other Colonies, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, would have concurred in it. But the adoption of it involved the expenditure of a large sum by this country; and at that time, looking at the state of the finances, it appeared not advisable that it should be accepted. With considerable reluctance it was therefore declined by Her Majesty's Government of that day. In the autumn of the next year, Sir John Harvey, the Lieutenant Governor of Nova Scotia, sent to this country Mr. Howe, a member of the Executive Council of that Colony, with whom he had several communications upon this matter. Mr. Howe proposed, on behalf of that Colony, that a loan of 800,000l. should be raised by the province, with the guarantee of this country, by which the colony would have been enabled to raise money at a lower rate of interest to execute the line on its own account. The assistance asked was the credit of England only, not an advance of her money. That proposal was considered by himself and his Colleagues in the Government as a reasonable proposal, and they 79 subsequently acceded to it. In the March of last year, a notification was made to Lord Elgin and to the Governors of the Provinces of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, that if those three colonies would provide among themselves a division of the expense, Her Majesty's Government would be prepared to recommend to Parliament the guarantee of a loan for that purpose. That guarantee would probably have saved the colonies 2½ per cent in the rate of interest. The provinces, if unassisted, would probably have had to raise the loan at an interest of 6 per cent, while with the guarantee of the British Government they would have been able to raise it at 3½ per cent. The despatches containing the decision of the Government were sent over in March, 1851. He ought to add, that in making that statement to the respective Governors of these three colonies, he had informed them that Her Majesty's Government would not insist that the line proposed by Major Robinson should be adopted; all that it would insist upon was that the line should pass entirely through the British territory, and that any deviation from what was recommended in the report should be submitted to the approval of Her Majesty's Government. Since that date various communications had taken place, between the British Government and the colonies; and, within a few days of his retiring from office, he received a communication informing him that the three provinces of Canada, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick had agreed to certain principles upon which the expense of constructing this great work should be divided among them; but that they required that a different line than that suggested by Major Robinson should be adopted. He was at the same time informed that Mr. Hincks, connected with the Council in Canada; Mr, Chandler, of New Brunswick; and Mr. Howe, of Nova Scotia; were about to be sent to this country to communicate with Her Majesty's Government, with a view to determine whether that course could be adopted. To this communication the answer returned by him (Earl Grey) was, that while he regretted that the line pointed out by Major Robinson had not been adopted by the Provinces, yet that Her Majesty's Government was quite prepared to consider how far the line then proposed by the local Legislatures could be sanctioned; and he certainly was very sanguine, from the information he then possessed, that the arrival of those gentleman in this country 80 would have led to an arrangement for the construction of that great national work. The advantages of a railway communication between the three Provinces within the British territory was an object of the very highest national importance. It was a matter of paramount importance to connect those three Provinces with each other; and it was his belief that, if such a plan of communication should be finally rejected, the permanent maintenance of the connexion between those Provinces and the mother country would be rendered much more difficult and indeed hardly to be depended upon. It was with extreme disappointment, therefore, that he learned the nature of the answer which was reported to have been given in the other House of Parliament, that the communication between Her Majesty's present advisers and the gentlemen who had come over from the colonies had not led to a satisfactory result; and that not only had the proposal been rejected, but in a manner, judging from a letter which had appeared lately in the Times newspaper, that had given rise to feelings of very great irritation, and which had led to arrangements that made it highly improbable that at any future period that line of communication would be carried out. Now, this undertaking being one of such great importance, and judging from the answer of the Secretary of State for the Colonies that these communications had been brought to an end, he hoped the noble Earl opposite, the Under Secretary of State for the Colonies (the Earl of De-sart), would be able to inform him whether the whole correspondence would be laid at an early date on their Lordships' table. It was a subject which deserved the attention of their Lordships, and he hoped it would be brought under discussion at the earliest possible moment.
§ The EARL of DERBY
Your Lordships and my noble Friend the Under Secretary for the Colonies will excuse me, as I have for many years taken considerable interest in the negotiations which have been carried on for making a line of railway through the British North American Provinces, if I rise to answer the question put by the noble Earl opposite; and which though addressed to my noble Friend, and belonging in some degree to his department of the Government, nevertheless involves matters, not only of colonial interest, but of interest to the Empire at large. The speech of the noble Earl contains what I may term two distinct charges against Her 81 Majesty's Government: the first with regard to the substance of the negotiations which have been broken off; the next as to the manner in which those negotiations have been broken off, and which, as the noble Earl implies, has been such as to cause unnecessary irritation, and has been highly offensive on the part of the Government. Now, I take the last part of the question first, because I certainly did read the letter to which the noble Earl has referred as appearing in the Times newspaper, the letter bearing date the 1st of Hay, from Mr. Hincks, and which was written immediately after an interview I had had with that gentleman. In that letter Mr. Hincks, the representative of the Canadian Government, complains of delay on the part of the Government, and that he was kept waiting for seven weeks without being able to get a definite answer upon the subject on which he was sent to this country to negotiate; that it was impossible for him to make much longer delay, and that he desired an answer by the 15th. With reference to the delay which occurred in arranging matters with the representatives of the Colonies, I have to state that it was made known to my right hon. Friend the Secretary for the Colonies, when Her Majesty's present Government came into office, that he would shortly have to receive a deputation from the North American provinces, consisting of Mr. Hincks, from Canada, Mr. Chandler, from New Brunswick, and Mr. Howe, from Nova Scotia, for the purpose of consulting the Government with regard to the arrangements agreed upon by the colonists for the formation of a line of railway connecting Halifax with New Brunswick. Mr. Hincks, the representative for Canada, arrived in this country on the 15th or 16th of March, and had frequent interviews with my right hon. Friend at the head of the Colonial Department. But Mr. Chandler, the representative of New Brunswick, had not then arrived, though he was expected by every successive packet; whilst Mr. Howe, the representative of Nova Scotia, had then not only not arrived, but he has not even now arrived, and it is very improbable that we shall see him at all. Mr. Chandler did not arrive until the 15th of April; but on the 20th of that month he had an interview—I am not sure that Mr. Hincks was with him—at the Colonial Office, with my noble Friend behind me—my right hon. Friend the Colonial Secretary not being able to see him on 82 that day; and my noble Friend, who had then only recently come into office, avowed, I believe, to him that he was not very well informed with regard to the details of the question. Between the 20th and the 26th of the month I received a letter from Mr. Hincks, stating what had passed at the Colonial Office, and requesting me to see him on an early day. The memorandum which I made upon the letter, by way of instruction to my private secretary, was—Give him an early appointment; the matter is one of very great importance. I wish, if possible, to see, together with Mr. Hincks, the representatives in this matter from New Brunswick and Nova Scotia.In consequence, I saw Mr. Hincks and Mr. Chandler on the 30th of April, my right hon. Friend the Colonial Secretary being also present. It was then for the first time announced that the Legislatures of the different colonics had come to an agreement among themselves on the subject of the construction of the railway. Even at that period, it was within twenty-four hours only that we had received the Bills which had been passed by the Legislatures of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick; for when Mr. Hincks and Mr. Chandler made their first application, these Bills had not reached the Colonial Department. However, on the 30th of April, I saw those gentlemen, and then for the first time I learned that the intention of the Colonial Legislatures was to deviate very materially from the line always contemplated as the most desirable to be taken—that they proposed to deviate from it to such an extent that, though technically and literally in every respect within the British territory, yet for all practical purposes it might as well have been in the territory of the United States. In his despatch of the 20th of February, just before his retirement from office, the noble Earl (Earl Grey) stated in strong terms his objections to any line varying from that of Major Robinson being adopted, and said that that would be a circumstance which must weigh very materially upon the decision which the Government might come to upon the subject. I was, therefore, a little surprised, having stated to Mr. Chandler and Mr. Hincks when I saw them on the 30th of April, that I would examine the papers myself, bring the whole question under the immediate attention of the Government, and take the earliest opportunity of communicating to them its decision upon the subject—I say I was a little sur- 83 prised at seeing in the paper that letter of Mr. Hincks to which the noble Earl adverts, and which was dated just twenty-four hours after that interview, May the 1st. In that letter Mr. Hicks says—At the interview with which the Hon. Mr. Chandler, of New Brunswick, and myself were yesterday honoured by the Earl of Derby, we were given to understand by his Lordship that he would examine the various plans on the subject of the British American Railway, and that he would see us again after the arrival of Mr. Howe, of Nova Scotia. I left his Lordship in the confident hope that I should receive an early communication.It was certainly my full intention that he should receive due intimation of the decision of the Government; but having had an interview with him on the 30th of April, at three o'clock in the afternoon, he could hardly suppose that I could give him such an intimation before the following morning, when this letter was written, complaining of delay:—Observing, then, "he goes on to say," by the report in the Times of this morning of a conversation which took place last evening in the House of Commons, that it is not the intention of Her Majesty's Government to come to any decision without communicating information to the House, and apprehending that much delay may yet be contemplated, I feel that it is my duty, on the part of the Province whose interests are intrusted to my care, to explain frankly, but most respectfully, to Her Majesty's Government, that it will be quite impossible for Canada to continue any longer a negotiation which has already involved her in much expense and trouble, and which has materially retarded other arrangements which can be made for securing the construction of the most important sections of a great Canada trunk line of railway.Now Mr. Hincks and Mr. Chandler left me at five o'clock on Thursday evening, in the confident expectation that they would receive an early communication from me, and that I would see them again together when Mr. Howe should have arrived; and that in the meantime I would go through the papers and communicate with my Colleagues upon the subject. Yet on the very following morning I received a letter in which these facts are stated, and these delays are complained of, and in which the declaration is made, that it is impossible longer to continue the negotiations. I ask your Lordships, then, to say, by which side you consider the obstructions to have been thrown in the way of these negotiations-—whether on the part of the representative of Canada, or on the part of Her Majesty's Government? Mr. Hincks goes on to say—I am anxious that Her Majesty's Government should understand most distinctly that I have not 84 been sent to England as a humble suitor on the part of Canada for Imperial aid. Canada was invited by the Imperial Government to aid in the great national work under consideration; and I must be permitted to say that she has generously and patriotically responded to the invitation. Much time has unfortunately been lost, although not from any fault on the part of the Legislature or Government of Canada, and I, therefore, trust that my present final appeal to Her Majesty's Government will not be attributed to impatience, but to an anxious desire to promote the interests of my country. It seems to me far from improbable that, on some ground or other, this negotiation will prove a failure. If so, it is of the very highest importance to Canada that the fact should be known as soon as possible. I have reason to believe that I can effect arrangements on the spot with eminent capitalists to construct all the railroads necessary for Canada with our own unaided credit. I have likewise reason to know that the European line from Halifax to the frontier of Maine can be constructed by the unaided credit of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. We cannot afford to lose the opportunity of effecting such an important object to us, which will afford communication between Halifax and the western frontier of Canada. I am convinced that Her Majesty's Government, if unable to meet our wishes by granting us the aid spontaneously offered by the late Government, would regret extremely that we should lose the opportunity of effecting other desirable arrangements; and that they will not deem me importunate or unreasonable in respectfully begging for an answer, after being delayed nearly seven weeks in England. I must leave this country by the steamer of the 22nd inst., and I cannot possibly effect the arrangements which must be carried out, whether the negotiation with Her Majesty's Government succeeds or fails, in less than a week. I therefore most respectfully request of you, Sir, that you may give me a final answer by the 15th inst.; and I must add, that if Her Majesty's Government are unable, either from want of time, or from the necessity of consulting Parliament, to come to a decision by that period, I must beg it to be understood that Canada withdraws from the present negotiation; and that I shall deem it my duty to enter into arrangements, which, if confirmed, as I believe they will be, by the Government and Legislature, will put it out of the power of the Province to negotiate on the present basis.Now, my Lords, I have every respect for the representatives of New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Canada; but I must say that when a gentleman for the first time communicates to me an important plan on the 30th of April—a plan involving a guarantee on the part of this country for seven millions of money to be expended on a colonial railway, it is somewhat too much that that gentleman should say in the tone used in this letter, that if Her Majesty's Government felt themselves under the necessity, on such a subject, of consulting Parliament, and were therefore unable to give a categorical answer in the course of fourteen days, Canada would withdraw 85 from an arrangement, from which Canada and the other British Provinces were to derive the greatest advantages at the risk of the expense falling on this country. Nevertheless, though I was surprised at the tone of this letter, I did not, on the part of the Government, defer for one moment the execution of the promise I had made to Mr. Hincks. I immediately went through the whole of the correspondence that had taken place upon the subject, and I certainly did, without delay, give it consideration with my Colleagues. The interview having taken place on the 30th of April, and having circulated the information amongst my Colleagues, I called a Cabinet meeting for the 8th of the following month, about a week after the interview with Mr. Hincks and Mr. Chandler, at which we fully and deliberately discussed the propositions which were put forward on the part of the Provincial Legislatures; and I must acknowledge, with great regret, though with a perfect conviction of the propriety of the course we took, that we did come to the conclusion that it was not for the advantage of this country that we should close with the proposition made by the Colonial Legislatures, inasmuch as they had in a great degree departed from and forgotten the principal and main advantages which led us in the first instance to consent to the measure. That decision was communicated to Mr. Hincks about the middle of the same month. After it was given, the Colonial Secretary found it necessary to write in the first place to the Governors of the different North American Provinces. He thought it the most respectful course to write despatches to them at first, and then to communicate the purport of those despatches to the agents whom they had sent to this country. In the meantime, namely, about the 12th of May, I received an application from a society which was desirous of engrafting a scheme of emigration upon the general railway for which it was known the colonial agents were negotiating with Her Majesty's Government. I received their letter on the 14th or 15th, and on the 10th I wrote an answer, and thought I was not premature in saying that, from recent communication, great doubts had arisen whether the negotiations pending between the Government and the Colonial Legislatures were likely to lead to the construction of the railway in question; and I believe it did so happen, that Mr. Hincks and Mr. Chandler received the first intimation of the final decision of the Government 86 in this circuitous way from the communication which was sent to the Emigration Society. Hence it is that those gentlemen think that they have been ill-treated. So far as personal disrespect is concerned, I am certain there was no intention of the sort on the part of my right him. Friend the Colonial Secretary. Nothing could have been more attentive or courteous than the conduct of my right hon. Friend to those gentlemen during their stay in this country. He received them in his own house; he obtained invitations for them to the Palace, at Her Majesty's hall; he invited them to official dinners; and they were received by him upon the same terms as the Secretary of State would have received any accredited Minister from a foreign State. So far as personal offence was conceived, therefore, none whatever was intended—nothing could be further from the wish of Her Majesty's Government than to show discourtesy or want of attention towards these gentlemen. With regard to the substance of the negotiations, it is necessary to say a few words in justification of the course which, with great regret, the Government have been compelled to pursue. I see a noble Friend opposite, who knows as well as I do, that he and I were not only most anxious to secure this railway communication, but that we pressed it with some importunity upon the late Government, and that we were exceedingly anxious to see established such a line of communication, not only for colonial, but for the sake of great Imperial interests. I cannot help saying that the first arrangement adverted to by the noble Earl, namely, that the construction of this great line of railway should be intrusted to a company who would undertake its formation upon receiving pecuniary help from the Colonies, together with a concession of the waste land on either side of the railway, to be formed for commercial and Government purposes—I cannot help saying that I think that that was a far more satisfactory basis upon which to conduct a negotiation, than leaving to the local legislatures the execution of the work, excluding the advantages of emigration, and substituting for a definite pecuniary liability an indefinite liability in the shape of a guarantee for 7,000,000l. I do not mean to say, or to insinuate, that I believe the Colonial Legislatures would not have punctually redeemed any guarantee which the Government might have given to them; or that they would not have exerted them- 87 selves to their utmost ability to pay duly and satisfactorily the interest upon any sum of money that might he advanced for this work. But I believe the sum that would have been required would have pressed very hardly upon the revenues of New Brunswick, though Nova Scotia and Canada would have no difficulty in paying their share of the indemnity. Up to this time, however, nothing like a definite calculation has been made, not even a definite survey of the line has been taken; but I believe the smallest amount calculated upon would have more than absorbed the whole of the surplus revenue of New Brunswick for the payment of the interest alone. However, it was thought right, on the part of the Colonial Office and the noble Earl opposite, to sanction another arrangement, and I was disposed to agree in the proposition—namely, to leave the construction of the railway in the hands of the local Legislatures, to give the guarantee of the British Government for such a sum of money as might be thought sufficient for the purpose, and as the Provinces might be enabled to pledge sufficient security for, provided the great objects for which the railway was contemplated were likely to be secured, and the advantageous results, not only to the Colonies, but to this country, were likely to be realised. The noble Earl laid great stress on the necessity for carrying the line exclusively and entirely through the British territory, and he did not hesitate to say, that unless the line could be so completed, exclusively through the British territory, he should not consider himself justified in asking Parliament to give its sanction to a guarantee for the advance of money now. The deviation comtemplated from the original line is by no means a trifling one. Undoubtedly it might have been perfectly easy to find a line through the province of New Brunswick, not very remote from, and following generally, the line of Major Robinson, and no question could have been raised as to the right of the Legislature to deal with another line. But that which was of the greatest importance, more particularly with regard to emigration from this country, was to open through the rich, fertile, unoccupied lands of New Brunswick a large district of country for purposes of settlement and emigration:—the object was to open and provide for the cultivation and settlement of that country, so admirably adapted for those purposes; first of all, in a district so far from the frontier as that it should not 88 be placed in danger in the event of friendly relations between the United States and this country not continuing to subsist; and next-—which is not an immaterial collateral advantage—a line of railway not so far from the eastern coast as to debar easy and frequent communication with the important fishing establishments existing around and along the eastern coast of New Brunswick. Now the line of railway through Nova Scotia in any case is precisely the same. The line runs nearly due north from Halifax, traverses the Province of Nova Scotia, and the narrow neck of land which separates it from the Province of New Brunswick; therefore this line through Nova Scotia is common to the two schemes. Upon entering the Province of New Brunswick, the line turns nearly due west, with some slight inclination southward, and is continued along the whole width of the Province of New Brunswick until it reaches the United States boundary, where it is continued on to a line in the same direction to Portland, in the United States, from which there is now a line of railway into Canada. This line of communication is, therefore, the only one now in existence that passes through the United States to Canada; and it is clearly desirable to substitute for that line a line through New Brunswick. But so far as Upper Canada is concerned, there is no doubt that the line by Nova Scotia, and the valley of the St. John, would form the easiest communication, and it is one which the people of Upper Canada, as far as their own immediate interests are concerned, are rather desirous should be carried out. The line contemplated by Major Robinson, and which in all previous discussions has been assumed as the line of inter-colonial communication, continues in the northern direction from Halifax until it enters the province of New Brunswick, passing at no great distance from the sea, and then makes a sort of circuit through the eastern and northern parts of New Brunswick, and then falls into the line of the valley of the St. Lawrence, and takes a westerly direction to Quebec. But the line that is now contemplated by the Colonial Legislatures follows due westward to the very margin of the province—the same line as is actually proposed as the line of communication with the United States. And from thence it turns at right angles, and follows the valley of the St. John in a northerly direction until it reaches the Canadian pro- 89 vinces. Instead of its making a circuit to the northern and eastern coast, it makes two right angles—one to the west, passing the border of Now Brunswick, and another passing to the north, along the valley of the St. John. It is true, no doubt, that by this line there would he a less extent of railway to be made than would be required by the former line; that is, if the line to the United States is to go on, of which there is no doubt, there would be a less extent of railway to be constructed, because a portion of the railway which would run along the southern side of the province of New Brunswick would be common to the two lines. But as to the whole length of the line—although no definite survey had been taken by the St. John line—I believe it will be found that that which we call the northern line, or Major Robinson's line, would not, in point of fact, involve a greater distance as between the cities of Halifax and Quebec, than the line passing up the valley of the St. John river. There can be no doubt but that, in a commercial point of view, there is a better prospect of greater advantage to be derived from the line which passes through the valley of the St. John; but, on the other hand, the very effect of passing along the line of the valley of the St. John would be to deprive us of the advantages of the former scheme, promoted by the railway company itself, of opening up new districts as has been proposed, for the cultivation of the land at either side, and to effect which not only the colonists themselves, but settlers from this country, would be invited—a cultivation that would add largely to the prosperity and improvement of the Provinces, and, combined with which, there would be that advantage already adverted to, namely, an easy communication with the coast, and the various fishery establishments on the coast of New Brunswick. Now, let us look to that line to which alone the representative of New Brunswick will consent, as the basis upon which this country is called upon to guarantee a large sum of money for its completion. That line of railway is, as I have stated, to pass along the valley of the St. John, and we must recollect that the whole length of the valley of the St. John runs within a few miles of the United States frontier. It is not pretended that any survey has been made by which it could be secured and promised to the country that the railway should pass even along the eastward or British side of the valley 90 of the St. John, and that it should not pass along the westward or American side. If that, then, be the case—if the communication be along an open and undefended frontier of the United States—the question naturally arises, in the event of hostilities could it form a safe and easy communication with your own provinces, with the intervention of the rapid and difficult river of St. John? I want to know how such a railway in time of war, so far as military communication is in question, would differ in the slightest degree from a railway carried through American, and not through British territory? Another point for our consideration is this—that it 'passes, as I have already said, immediately along the frontier, and consequently, so far as a railway tends to improve the cultivation of the land and to open up the resources of a country, it will improve and open up not so much the British Provinces as the adjoining side of the United States; we should have no communication whatever with it on one—the west side, and on the other it would be cut off by the torrent of the river of St. John. Under these circumstances, and with the most earnest desire to effect those great objects which were contemplated by this communication between Halifax and Quebec—namely, the encouragement of emigration to the British Provinces, and the maintenance of an uninterrupted communication between them, free from the possibility of hostile interruptions, by passing exclusively through the British territory, I did not conceive, and my Colleagues in the Government concurred with me, that the project put forward on the part of New Brunswick was such a compliance with that which has always been considered as the Imperial object and main principle to be aimed at in such an undertaking, as to induce us to lend it our sanction. It is not our wish, of course, to throw any impediment in the way of it if the works be undertaken by the Colonies themselves; but in our opinion the project is not of so important and desirable a character as to justify us in involving ourselves in a guarantee of 7,000,000l.—and according to the existing estimates the sum may be indefinitely extended—and thus to be compelled to tax the Provinces to the utmost for the repayment of the advances sanctioned by this country—for certainly considerations of not the most agreeable character would be involved as between the mother country 91 and the Colonies whenever the Colonies are made debtors to the mother country for the full amount they could command through the whole extent of their resources. I say, then, to undertake such a liability on the part of the Government without consulting Parliament, or communicating with it, or asking its assent to the proposition, and laying before it all the circumstances of the case, would he, in my judgment, most imprudent and impolitic. I think that this is a proposition which ought not to be assented to by Parliament, and will not be assented to, involving, as it does, our guarantee for the payment of so large a sum of money—a proposition, too, which comes before us deprived of those advantages which the original plan was calculated to hold out. I repeat, however, that much as I prefer the former scheme of a company undertaking this great railway, assisted with pecuniary aid from the Colonies, and applying the waste lands on each side of the line for the purpose of promoting immigration, I would not have hesitated to advise Parliament to sanction a guarantee for this large sum of money, provided the contemplated railway was likely to effect those objects which we are all so desirous of obtaining. But, conscientiously speaking, I do not think that those objects would be effected by the project that has been submitted to our consideration. I think, moreover, that the sanctioning of this line of railway, so far from promoting, would effectually prevent the completion of the other and more important object, and, perhaps, at no distant day; and consequently I did feel it my duty, in accordance with the opinions of my Colleagues in the Government, to acquaint the Governors of the North American Provinces that however reluctant I was—and it was with sincere reluctance that I interfered to prevent the arrangement being carried out—it was not possible for us to recommend to Parliament to sanction, or actively to assist, in the carrying out of that project which alone had been submitted to us, and in respect to which alone the representative of New Brunswick was prepared to enter into any communication with us. If in the course of making this communication, I have given any countenance to the idea that Her Majesty's Ministers are indifferent to or neglectful of the interests of the Provinces, no man would more sincerely regret it than myself; but we feel that we have a duty to perform—to see 92 that the revenues of the country are not imperilled in a matter which was not fairly confined to British interests; and believing that the undertaking in question was one of that character, I felt compelled to withhold so large a guarantee as that which we have been asked for. As for the production of the papers, I have to inform the noble Earl that we have nothing to conceal. The whole of the correspondence will be laid upon the table, without any Motion on the subject, or, if the noble Earl is so disposed, he can, if he pleases, move for an Address to the Crown on the subject, to which I shall offer no opposition on the part of the Government.
§ EARL GREY
wished to explain that he had not intended to bring any charge whatever against the Government. He had merely wished for information with respect to the grounds upon which the Government had rejected the plan proposed by the Provinces. He was utterly ignorant of what had passed between Her Majesty's Government and these gentlemen; but with respect to Mr. Hincks, he begged to say that, having had a great deal of communication with that gentleman, he had always found him a person singularly easy to communicate with, frank and straightforward in all his dealings, and with whom all his communications had been of the most satisfactory kind. He must also say that it was greatly to be regretted that, according to the noble Earl's own statement, two gentlemen occupying the station and possessing the weight with their fellow-countrymen which Mr. Hincks and Mr. Chandler did, should have learned the final decision of Government, not from the Government themselves, but from the officer of a private association—that person being, if he (Earl Grey) mistook not, a person very little entitled by his station in the commercial world to be the channel of communication between the Government and those gentlemen. If he was not mistaken, the person to whom he referred was a person against whom the Emigration Commissioners had felt it to be their duty two or three years ago to caution the public, to the effect that they should not listen to his schemes, as he had no adequate authority. He (Earl Grey) was quite aware that it could only have been by accident that this person had become the channel of communication; although it was greatly to be regretted that the communication had not been made to Mr. Hincks and Mr. Chandler by the Government 93 themselves. With respect to the question immediately before them, he certainly did not intend (seeing the papers had not yet been laid on the table of the House) to go into the general discussion of it; but this much he might be permitted to say, that it appeared to him that what was really important was that a line of communication should be established between the Provinces in the British territories. He entirely concurred with the noble Earl, that the plan of Major Robinson was infinitely to be preferred in many respects to the line now suggested; but, on the other hand, when the Provinces were called upon to undertake a line enterely at their own cost and charge, and with no other assistance than the credit of this country, it was, he thought, but natural that they should prefer the line which was commercially best. He was inclined to believe, too, that the adoption this line would in the end lead to the construction of the other. The noble Earl had said that with respect to New Brunswick, its portion of the expense would absorb all its surplus revenue. He admitted that if the line should prove unproductive, the surplus revenue of New Brunswick would be entirely absorbed in paying the interest of the loan; but it was impossible to believe that the line preferred by the Provinces on commercial grounds would be unproductive. On the contrary, he believed that the direct produce of the railway would go far to meet the cost; and, looking to the nature of the colony, and to the resources from which its revenue was chiefly derived, and the increase of revenue from the outlay of British capital taking place there, he was persuaded that, taken directly and indirectly, the returns from the railway would more than cover the interest the Province would have to pay. He, therefore, could not help greatly regretting the decision to which the Government had come on the subject; and be would also take the liberty of saying, that that opinion was not now formed for the first time; because, on referring to the copy of a private letter which he had sent to Lord Elgin, on the 20th of February last, he found that he stated, that although he had not been in a position to consult his Colleagues, his own opinion was, that although Major Robinson's line was the best, yet it was infinitely better to take the line which the Provinces had been brought to agree upon, than that there should be no line whatever. No doubt the line now proposed would be 94 far less secure in the event of a war, than Major Robinson's would he; and although with regard to any line which ran near the American frontier, there would, in time of war be considerable difficulty, still the line proposed by the Provinces would give them the advantage in the time of peace of an uncontrolled and unfettered communication both for their mails and troops, if they had occasion to send them, which was of some importance, without passing through a foreign territory; and he could only say he regretted that that object had not been attained. He begged to add that be did not intend to move an Address for the papers; but that be thought their Lordships would like to see them laid by command upon the table.
§ EARL FITZWILLIAM
regretted that the course taken by Her Majesty's Government would postpone, if not entirely prevent, the construction of such a railway as had been proposed to be made. In all enterprises of this kind the Federal Government of the United States gave every encouragement to the undertakings of a particular State; and it appeared to him to be a matter of the greatest importance that the inhabitants of the British North American provinces should not be enabled, by the conduct of the mother country, to draw disadvantageous comparisons between the conduct of Great Britain towards her Colonies and the conduct of the Federal Government of the United States with respect to the undertaking's of the several States. They must be aware that the question of the annexation of the British Provinces to the United States was now discussed in the British Provinces. He did not mean to say it was a question that was discussed in the Assembly of the Province, but it was a question on which private conversations took place; but whether it was discussed or not, it was desirable that the Government of this country should not afford an opportunity for the discussion of that question. He thought it was the best plan to adopt the line that was likely to promote the commerce of that country; for it was only by that means they could enlist the provincial authorities in favour of any line at all. He trusted that if any feeling of dissatisfaction had been excited in the minds of the deputies, the noble Earl would remove it, for they should be impressed with the conviction that it was really the desire of Her Majesty's Ministers to do everything they could do to establish those great lines of communication. He must say, that whether it was 95 thought desirable that the undertaking should be effected by the Provinces themselves, as practical unities, or by companies with a guarantee from the Provincial Legislatures, to be sanctioned by the ultimate guarantee of this country, it was most desirable that they should not create a debtor and creditor account between the mother country and the Colonies; but if there was to be such an account, it should be between the Government of those Provinces in the first instance and private companies, and afterwards between the mother country and private companies.
§ LORD MONTEAGLE
thought, considering the character of the deputation which had waited upon the Government, and that it possessed the confidence of the Colonial Governments and of the Colonial Legislatures, that the nature of the intercourse which had taken place, and the impression left with regard to it upon the deputies, was a matter of the very first importance in reference to their future transactions with these colonies. He trusted that the explanation which the noble Earl at the head of the Government had given so fully on the subject, would be, as he thought it ought to be, satisfactory to those gentlemen, and that it would completely remove from their minds any impression that might exist that disrespect or neglect of any kind had been intended towards them. He regretted deeply the tone of Mr. Hincks's letter. He thought that it was not warranted by the circumstances; and he trusted that that very able and excellent gentleman would see that it was inconsiderately and improperly written. With regard to the merits of the case, and to the advantages possessed by one route over the other, he believed that the deputation were as anxious as the noble Earl himself to preserve the integrity of the line by keeping it at as remote a distance from the American frontier as was consistent with engineering possibility—it was a question of degree, for do what they would they would still be exposed to the necessity of approaching the American frontier. So, at least, he had been informed, both by Mr. Chandler and Mr. Hincks. There was one part of the question which had not yet been alluded to, but which he regarded as of great interest and importance. Hitherto they had only discussed the question of the possible substitution of one of these lines for the other; but he believed that the effect of the determination of the Government would be, not to afford a chance of 96 the execution of Major Robinson's line, but to make certain the opening, without any great delay, of a line directly over the American frontier, which would make the communication with Canada West entirely dependent upon a foreign Power. He believed, he said, that the rejection of the line proposed by the deputies at this time, would have a tendency at once to give effect to that Anglo-American line, which would give a direct communication between Montreal and Quebec, crossing a great portion of the United States territory, and exposed in a tenfold degree to all the objections which had been stated by the noble Earl to the line of the valley of the St. John, which would cost much less, and which would be as injurious to the question of British connexion as it must be to the trade and prosperity of the city of Halifax. He deplored the decision which the Government had arrived at; for he looked upon it as nothing short of miraculous, that, under the circumstances in which these Colonies were placed, they should have concurred in one common object, important to them, important to us, and which had been recommended from the days of Sir J. Kemp by every Governor down to the present time.
The EARL of DESART
said, that when Her Majesty's Government were asked, not, indeed, for a loan, but for a guarantee upon seven millions of money, they felt that they had some right to inquire into the advantages which were expected to accrue not only to the Colonies, but to the Empire at large, from the carrying out of this railway. Looking first to the revenue of New Brunswick, they found that the whole surplus revenue of the province would be swallowed up in paying the interest of the loan. They felt bound to consider the various disadvantages which would be consequent upon the adoption of the line recommended as running along the valley of the St. John. Mr. Hincks had indeed endeavoured to obviate the objection which the Government had raised to this line in a military point of view; but he had never said it would be carried away from the American frontier, nor even that it might not be necessary to carry it along the west side of that river. Looking at these considerations, they felt it their duty to consider well the propriety of asking Parliament to come forward and give a guarantee to so large an amount on behalf of these capitalists. He thought it should also be remembered that at a meeting which was held in 1850 there was 97 an anxious feeling shown on the part of the gentlemen representing the Provinces of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia in favour of the Quebec and Halifax line, and that that meeting was held at Portland, in the State of Maine. The Governor of Nova Scotia wrote home, stating that the feeling was very strongly in favour of that line, and that he wished Her Majesty's Government to send out a guarantee for that line. The Government, in reply, stated the obstacles which prevented their recommending to Parliament the support of such a line; but Mr. Howe then came over, negotiations were entered into, and eventually an understanding was come to as to the terms on which the Government would support a line of railway; but those terms were afterwards rejected in New Brunswick. He did not think that the guarantee of England should be asked for a line which seemed equally calculated to advance the interests of the United States as of Canada. The Government felt that they could not ask the House of Commons to give a guarantee to this large amount, unless they were in a position to state distinctly the advantages which it would confer upon the Canadas and the other North American Colonies; nor, if they had made such a request, did he believe that the House of Commons would have acceded to it.
§ The EARL of POWIS
said, that so far as commercial advantages were concerned, a line through the United States had been proposed, which was better than either of the two which passed for the whole length through our own Colonies; and there could he no doubt that if one of these were not made, the colonists would no longer refuse to accede to those proposals from American capitalists which they had hitherto rejected, because they were unwilling to give American companies powers in Canada. The fact stated by the noble Earl (the Earl of Desart) that the interest alone of their share of the capital would absorb the whole surplus revenue of New Brunswick, showed that when the Colony assented to this line, they regarded the advantages to be derived from it as being very considerable. The Colonies in asking for a guarantee asked for the least possible assistance which would enable them to obtain their money at a reduced rate of interest. Though the noble Earl who spoke last had said that the United States would derive as much advantage as our own Colonies from the proposed line, he thought that would not be the case, for all the traffic, it 98 must he recollected, must come over our line and to our ports. Every one who considered the hundreds of miles of railway which were being opened in the United States every year, must feel that the reluctance of this country to undertake this great commercial railway through Canada, must be a great blow to the colonists, and must, as he had already remarked, tend to make them look to those American capitalists who had already proffered their money, which they had hitherto refused simply from Imperial motives, and from a desire to keep the communication in English hands. With regard to the observations from the noble Earl on the cross-benches (Earl Fitzwilliam), with respect, to the inexpediency of creating a debtor and creditor relation between ourselves and the colonists, he believed that the colonists would feel it a great boon to get an advantage of 2½ per cent on this guarantee, and that that would be quite equal to any sum that they could be asked to pay as a sinking fund to redeem their obligations. He hoped that at a future time we might be enabled to take steps in conjunction with these Colonies for the construction of a railway, and that it might not be thrown into the hands of a United States company.