HL Deb 20 February 1865 vol 177 cc416-40

in rising to ask Her Majesty's Ministers what they have done, or intend to do, upon the Report of Colonel Jervois on the Defences of Canada, said, he did so in the hope of eliciting some information from the noble Earl the Secretary for War, rather than thinking anything he could say himself would interest their Lordships; because it appeared to him that the Report which had been laid upon the table was, to a certain extent, an official indiscretion, as it disclosed a state of things which ought to have been kept from the public eye until some steps had been taken to remedy it. There might, perhaps, be a great number of persons, many of whom regarded this country with no friendly feelings, as well as others who were friendly to it, who were perfectly well acquainted with the state of the fortifications in Canada; but that was a very different thing from producing a document of this kind, published under official authority and presented by command of Her Majesty to both Houses of Parliament, setting forth the exact condition of those fortifications. The Report of Colonel Jervois was a sort of abstract of a more detailed Report such as was also made in 1864, which had very properly not been made public up to this time; but he should now ask, whether it was the intention of the Government to produce it for the information of the House? By this act of the Government he was at any rate acquitted of any indiscretion, in bringing the matter under their Lordships' notice. The Report of the gallant officer showed—not to use any equivocal expression—the utterly defenceless state of Canada. He had been sent out by Her Majesty's Government to inspect the state of the fortifications; and his Report stated, in unmistakable language, that the troops sent out from this country and the local troops together could not defend the colony. In fact, if it were attacked, there would be nothing for them but to retreat—he would not use a more offensive term—as fast as they could to our ships; and it would be lucky for them if they could gain them without destruction. Was that a state of things which was pleasant to contemplate? Some sanguine or philosophic persons might say there was no chance of an attack upon Canada—that the Americans had too much wisdom to imagine that Canada would be an acquisition to them—that any such addition to their already too extensive territory would only be a source of increased difficulty to the American Government. Four or five years ago one might have talked of American wisdom; but since what had occurred of late we must have seen that American institutions were quite as subject to fits and gusts of passion as were those of any other people. On this point he would quote from a despatch of his noble Friend the Secretary for Foreign Affairs, who ought to be well acquainted with the motives of the American nation. In a despatch of the 26th of November, his noble Friend stated— If Her Majesty's Government have not resisted more strenuously than they hitherto have done these illegal and unfriendly proceedings, the cause is to be found in their belief that the passions and excitement of the contest have for a time obscured the sense of justice and respect for law which usually distinguish the United States, and that with the close of the contest calm consideration will return, and a just view of these transactions will be taken. It was quite true that the passions and excitement of the contest had obscured their sense of justice and respect for law; but that being so, it might possibly happen that if a peace were patched up between the contending parties, passions and excitement might induce them to turn their arms against Canada and against this country. What was the lesson which recent reports taught us? Had we to learn that peace in the Union in America meant war against England? It appeared to him that we might infer as much from recent indications. It was only the other day that there was a report that peace had been patched up, and the telegram informed us that this peace was founded on what was known as the Monroe doctrine, which went, or might easily be pushed the length of affirming that no European country should hold any part of the North American continent. In the sober correspondence with his noble Friend the Foreign Secretary the Government of the United States seemed to be friendly with the Government of this country; but was the Government always able to control the people? Let their Lordships only reflect on what must have followed if the order of General Dix had been followed. In December that General gave the order for the crossing of the boundary; and yet so amiably disposed towards this country had he appeared to be that, writing on the 18th of October, Lord Lyons said— I should observe that General Dix spoke to me in a very frank and friendly manner, and expressed the most conciliatory intentions, and I should wish Mr. Seward to be informed that I feel much obliged to the General. Luckily, however, President Lincoln had the good sense to countermand General Dix' order, and nothing happened—but the same thing might occur immediately that the civil war ceased. He hoped the accounts were exaggerated which described American hostility to England as intense, but that such hostility did prevail to some extent he believed. It was true that we had preserved our neutrality as between the combatants; but neutrality was always odious, even those who remained neutral on political grounds were looked upon with distrust and dislike by both parties; and the amount of hostility said to prevail in America against this country might be chiefly owing to our neutrality. If this was the state of things in America, if the danger was imminent—and he was satisfied that it was imminent, because at any time that peace was patched up the arms of America might be turned against us—their Lordships would do well to consider what was the condition of affairs in Canada. Were the defences of that colony in a satisfactory state? It appeared that, acccording to the latest Returns, the number of volunteers in Canada was 21,700, and the latest reports stated that as soon as the Government could take the ballot the service militia, exclusive of officers, would number 88,245. With respect to the latter force one of the Questions he proposed to address to his noble Friend the Secretary for War would be, when would the Government be able to take the ballot—because even after that there would be a great deal to do. Two years ago he ventured to put a question to the late Duke of Newcastle on this very subject, and the answer of the noble Duke was a most unsatisfactory one; for he had to tell their Lordships that the Canadian Parliament was unwilling to bestir themselves, and that they regarded the proposal made to them by this country on the subject of their defences as unconstitutional and one which they ought not to have been called upon to adopt. Now, though he had no official information, he hoped that a better spirit had been manifested in Canada, and that the Parliament of that country had received the proposals made to them in a fair and becoming spirit in regard to their own defences. Colonel Jervois now reported— I have had no official intimation of the course which the Provincial Government propose to adopt with respect to the suggestions which I had the honour to submit to them; hut I have the best reason for stating that they concur generally in the whole of my proposals, and that they are ready to meet the mother-country in a fair and becoming spirit in carrying out the measures which are requisite for the defence of Canada. He should like to know what was meant by "a fair and becoming spirit," and how this disposition had been manifested. Had anything been done? Had any measures of defence been agreed upon, or were Canada and the mother-country still fencing with each other who should contribute least to the defences of the colony? Two years ago, certainly, he was one of those who would have ventured to give what some might consider to be a bold advice. He would have said that, if Canada persisted in refusing to provide for its own defence, we should leave Canada alone. It was perfectly clear that, in respect of mere emolument, Canada was of very little use to us; and as long as it would not defend itself, as long as it levied differential duties against this country, as long as it pursued a course which showed rather hostility than friendship towards England, we were justified in saying, "You may provide for yourself; we shall withdraw our troops." Leaving our troops there without proper defences meant not only the discomforture of those troops, but their destruction and the disgrace of this country. The state of affairs had, however, to a certain extent, changed since that time, because the important step of a Confederation of the British Provinces had been proposed. Some said that a Confederation led to separation. He hoped it did. He hoped that in the case of Canada it would lead to a happy and amicable separation, such as ought to exist between the mother-country and that colony. With countries it was the same as with the members of families—when the younger branches became sufficiently vigorous to do for themselves they would no longer depend upon the parent. But it was to the immediate defence of the North American Colonies, and not to their future destiny, we must now look; and he found that the gallant and distinguished officer who had reported on the defences of Canada, while stating the measures necessary for the future, did not tell us how the colony was to be defended in the meantime. Above all, he did not tell us what was to happen on the Lakes. They had lately heard that in November the American Government bad given notice that they intended to put an end to the Treaty of 1817, and to establish a force on the Lakes. Mr. Russell, in his able work on Canada, stated what every other writer on the subject had stated also—namely, that Lake Ontario was the only one of the Lakes that we could possibly undertake to defend. He wished to know, therefore, what measures had been taken for the defence of that Lake—whether preparations had been made for putting additional or any gunboats upon it? The questions he wished to put to the Government were, what interpretation they placed on the steps which had recently been taken with regard to Canada by the United States Government; what had been done with regard to the Lakes, and especially Lake Ontario; whether Canada would be able by any provision to impose any charge on the future Confederation in regard to any outlay they might incur for her defence; and what time it would take to complete the fortifications? He had no quarrel with anything the Government had done or omitted to do; but the time was certainly come when instructions must be sent out to Lord Monck to say at once to the Canadian Assembly in a peremptory and positive, but not by any means in a menacious manner, that they must undertake some proportion of the expenses of their own defence, and that whatever they did would be met by this country in a fair and liberal spirit. There were but two manly and vigorous courses of policy open to us in this matter. One was to say at once to the Canadians that we found it impossible to defend them, that we saw they did not mean to defend themselves, and we, therefore, should withdraw our troops whom we did not wish to see massacred on their soil; but that we should part with them of course in a friendly spirit, in the hope that when this was no longer an Imperial question, and when the sovereignty of England was withdrawn, the enmity of the United States, said to be based on these considerations, would be withdrawn. That would be a straightforward, and perhaps on the whole not a dishonourable course; but there was another course more fitting a gallant and high-spirited nation, and more in accordance with the courage of the British people. We might say to the Canadians, we consider you part of our Empire, and that your vast territory belongs to us, and we will not suffer your soil to he invaded. We will supply you with troops to scatter your enemies, and without delay will improve the fortifications by which your country is defended. For both these courses there might be much to be said; but the course for which there was nothing to be said, and which ought to be avoided by the Government, was, that intermediate policy which consisted in telling the Canadians that we would send them troops only in driblets—and that we would spend on their fortifications just as much as we could slip quietly into the Estimates each year. Thus, we should have been exposed to the danger of invasion, and possibly to the chance of a foreign occupation, and in the meantime we might be losing the choicest of our troops, consigning ourselves to eternal infamy as a nation, and be committed to the excessive difficulties of a war with the United States, waged on a field most disadvantageous to us, which could only result in misery to both nations, and could produce neither honour nor profit to either.


My Lords, I quite agree with the noble Lord who has just sat down, that this question is one of great importance. I also agree with him that it is a question surrounded with great difficulty. My noble Friend has said that Her Majesty's Government were guilty of an "official indiscretion" in having laid this Report upon the table of both Houses of Parliament Now, I will state the grounds upon which we took that step—observing, in the first instance, that if we are guilty of official indiscretion in the production of this Report, I think my noble Friend himself is open to the charge of "Parliamentary indiscretion;" inasmuch as in his speech he has 3poken in terms of the Government of the United States, and of the motives likely to actuate them in certain circumstances, which perhaps it would have been as well if he had not employed. And, moreover, he told us certain grounds upon which he imagines that the peace negotiations recently going on were based, which, as far as I know, had no foundation, except in the telegraphic reports which reach us from day to day from the United States, founded on the speculations of the American newspapers, and which are very frequently not confirmed. I shall not, therefore, notice the speech of my noble Friend, except so far as it is associated with the facts of the case. The Report of Colonel Jervois contains a statement—a statement, no doubt, serious, and worthy of grave consideration—of the real facts of the case; but I must tell your Lordships that there is nothing after all in this Report which was not already perfectly well known to those who had taken any interest in, or bad previously studied the subject. In public documents laid before other Assemblies, and speeches made in other countries, will be found all the principal facts broadly stated in this Report. It hardly contains anything but what was known before it was made; but, my Lords, the reason which induced Her Majesty's Government to produce such a report was this. We propose to ask the Parliament of this country, and the Legislative Assembly of Canada, to bear their respective shares of the expenditure necessary for the defence of that province, and when we were about to ask two Legislative Assemblies to vote money, we felt that it was necessary that we should lay before them the grounds on which we made the proposition. That is the reason why this Report has been laid before Parliament, to show the grounds on which the Government base their proposed action, and to enable the Canadian Government to do the same with their Legislature. Therefore, I must say I do not think that Her Majesty's Government are at all guilty of that portion of the indictment preferred against us by my noble Friend, which charges them with "official indiscretion." This brings me to reply to the Question which he has put. The Report touches principally upon two points—first, the works of defence to be erected in Canada, for the defence of that territory; and secondly, the measures to be taken to improve the organization and system of training of the Canadian militia. In regard to the first, my answer is that as soon as this Report came into my hands it received the immediate and serious consideration of Her Majesty's Government, and that we forthwith entered into communications with Lord Monck, based upon its recommendations. We informed him that we should, in the Estimates of the present year, propose to Parliament a sum of money for the improvement of the fortification of Quebec, and that we looked to the Canadian Government to take steps for the fortification of Montreal, and for the erection of any works that might be necessary to the westward of that important place.


What about Halifax?


I will speak of Halifax presently. I am now confining my remarks to my noble Friend's Question which related to Canada alone. The proposal is that we should undertake the expense of the necessary improvements in the defences of Quebec, which, as your Lordships are aware, has always been considered an Imperial fortress. In former days that fortress was strong and adequate to the times; but, like many other fortifications, it has grown unequal to the altered circumstances of warfare of the present day, and requires alterations and improvement. That work we take upon ourselves. We propose to the Canadian Government to undertake the expense of the fortifications of Montreal and the districts to the westward. The Canadian Government are well aware of the obligations that rest upon them, and I have reason to believe that they will place themselves in a position to meet the requirements of the case. With respect to the point adverted to by the noble Earl opposite (the Earl of Derby), there has been a Vote for the defences of Halifax for several years upon our Army Estimates, and there will be a larger sum in the Estimates for the present year. As regards the Canadian militia, it is no doubt true that some time ago the arrangements made in Canada with respect to the militia were by no means satisfactory; but my noble Friend must recollect that since the period of which he speaks, and since the statement made by the noble Duke, whose loss we all regret, a new Government has been formed in Canada, entertaining much wider views than its predecessor; and according to the information we have received, determined to turn their attention to this question, and to take measures for placing the militia in a state of efficiency. My noble Friend asked me a question with regard to the ballot; and I am enabled to inform him that not the mustering of the troops, but the first process of the ballot, has already taken place.


How many have been ballotted for?


I cannot exactly say at this moment. There is no doubt on my mind that the present Government in Canada are determined to do their duty as regards this question of the militia; and Her Majesty's Government, on their side, will be willing to afford them all the encouragement with respect to the formation of the training schools for militia officers, commissioned and non-commissioned, that may be required to put the force into an efficient state. The proposals contained in Colonel Jervois's Report with respect to the militia and volunteers have been communicated to Lord Monck. The details of the organization of that purely local force rest necessarily in the hands of the Canadian Government, but Colonel Jervois's suggestions appear to Her Majesty's Government well suited to the circumstances of Canada. In the peculiar circumstances of Canada the chief difficulty is with a sparse population to bring them together to centralized points, and to unite them for the purposes of drill for a few weeks or a month; but by the combination of the volunteer and militia systems as existing in this country, I think it possible to effect an efficient training of the militia force in Canada, without asking the men to submit to the sacrifice of leaving their own homes and going to long distances for a considerable period. I am not in a position now to enter more into details upon these questions. My noble Friend (Earl Granville) tells me that he has just ascertained that for 88,000 men the ballot has been taken, and I know the training of the officers is going on satisfactorily. Every Report I receive from the Commander-in-Chief in Canada (Sir Fen-wick Wililams) confirms that statement, and leads me to believe that the system of schools for militia officers will be a most useful and valuable one. The Canadian Government propose to extend it, and Her Majesty's Government, on their part, will afford every facility for so doing. Such, then, is the state of affairs. We think we have duties to perform in this matter, and that we are entitled to ask Parliament to incur certain expense for the defence of this portion of Her Majesty's dominions. But at the same time we do not think that this country should be called upon to undertake the whole of the cost. We think that the Canadian Government and people ought to take a large share of the expense upon themselves. We have reason to hope that they are alive to that necessity, and that in that, as in other respects, the North American Colonies have made a considerable stride within a short time. They are showing a spirit of loyalty, good sense, and the leading men of these provinces have exhibited a statesmanship which is very creditable to them and gratifying to the country, and to all who are interested in the welfare of the colonists. Upon these principles we are acting. We take a share of the expense upon ourselves. We ask them to take the larger share. We believe that they will readily respond to the call made upon them, and that in a short time Her Majesty's North American Colonies will be placed in a satisfactory state of defence.


My Lords, I feel the present state of our relations with the Federal States of America to be so critical that for my own part I should have been desirous of maintaining an absolute silence, and leave to Her Majesty's Government the responsibility of dealing with this difficult and delicate question, lest any interference on our part should tend to increase the difficulty of their task. Accordingly, on the occasion of the moving of the Address to the Crown, I contented myself with pointing out simply what I believe to be the threatening state of affairs in North America—not expressing any opinion whatever at to the course to be pursued, but leaving to Her Majesty's Government the responsibility of the position and the precautions to be adopted. But, my Lords, Her Majesty's Government have now taken a step which I think entirely justifies the question raised by the noble Lord opposite (Lord Lyveden). Because, when Her Majesty's Government have officially laid upon the table of this and the other House of Parliament a Report showing the defenceless state of one of our most important provinces, and thereby calling the attention of this kingdom and of foreign countries to that defenceless state, Her Majesty's Government themselves appear to invite a discussion upon that subject, and to ask the opinion of Parliament—I do not mean to say the opinion of Parlialent formally taken, but the expression of the opinion of individual Members as to the responsibility of that position. I cannot but think, however, that as it was the intention of Her Majesty's Government to enter upon this large and critical question, involving, as it does, the expenditure of large sums of money, and inaugurating a new course of policy altogether—I cannot but think that the subject was much more worthy of being noticed in the Speech from the Throne than any of those comparatively unimportant questions which formed the staple of that document. I will not pretend to say that the communication of this most unsatisfactory Report of Colonel Jervois is likely to afford to your Lordships, or to the American Government, any information which you were not already in possession of. At the same time I think it is humiliating to this country to set forth officially the utterly unprepared and defenceless state in which one of our most important possessions is kept, at a moment when the question of peace and war depends, not upon the calm consideration of friendly Governments, but very much upon the excited passions of popular assemblies of a nation which, whether rightly or wrongly, does entertain, to a very great extent, hostile feelings towards this country. I think Her Majesty's Government, in laying that paper before Parliament, have given to it a character far more important than if they had left the subject to the universal knowledge which exists in the state of affairs, and had contented themselves with silently and quietly taking the steps necessary to counteract the danger which it is too plain Her Majesty's Government now apprehend. I do not complain, and never have complained, of the course of neutrality which Her Majesty's Government have pursued between the two contending Powers of North America. But, looking as I do with the utmost horror to the possibility of a war between this country and the Federal States, or this country and the re-United States—if such a reunion be possible—I must say I think that Her Majesty's Government have been slow to take steps, with the symptoms of increasing dissatisfaction and discontent which have been brought to their notice, and of increasing menace on the part of the United States—I say I think they have been slow in making adequate preparations to meet the danger, which now they confess to be one of a real and substantial character. There is one point to which the noble Earl did to some extent advert, but which, I think, deserves more attention than he has given to it—I mean the state of our naval preparations on the Lakes. What is the state in regard to that? As your Lordships are aware, there has hitherto been an agreement by which an absolutely insignificant naval force should be maintained on either side. But just before the commencement of the season, when it would he impossible to take any decisive measures on our part to increase our force, steps were taken by the Federal authorities in absolute and direct violation of the conditions of the treaty. It is true that the American Government have declared that it is not their intention to violate the treaty beyond the period when they found it absolutely necessary for their own security. But they have taken upon themselves to violate the treaty without previous notice to Her Majesty's Government. They have, in violation of the treaty, placed a force upon the Lakes, which menace the security of Canada, and they have not given, so far as I am aware, any reasons which might seem to render necessary the infraction of the solemn conditions of the treaty. The American Government simply say that they do not intend that this suspension of the treaty should not last longer than the period of absolute necessity. But, at the same time, they take steps which will enable them to carry on that period of supposed necessity as long as they think fit, and after the period of six months from notice of the suspension they will be in a state of perfect liberty and of perfect rea- diness to place upon the Lakes any amount of force they please, and Her Majesty's Government, as far as we know, have taken no measures to place themselves in a proper and corresponding condition. I ask Her Majesty's Government, do they take credit for having made preparations to meet these difficulties? God forbid they should prove to be real difficulties! God forbid they should be confirmed in point of fact! But there are these threatening circumstances, these eventualities, to be provided against. Her Majesty's Government admit by the fact of coming down to Parliament at the eleventh hour to ask for the means of erecting fortifications to supply that which is an absolute necessity—they admit, I say, that they see the danger, and they say that that danger can only be successfully encountered by a large contribution on the part of the Canadian Government and that of other Provinces. But, as Colonel Jervois truly observes, men are not sufficient without fortifications, and that fortifications for Montreal and Quebec are objects of peremptory and pressing importance. Connected with this subject there is one point of great importance—namely, that the Americans should not, in the event of a rupture, be permitted to have, in the first instance, the command of the Lakes. You now ask a large amount of money for fortifications, which you now admit to be of urgent necessity; but I do not find that you turned your attention during the whole period that these unfortunate events have been going on, although you must have known that in certain events the amicable relations between this country and the United States would be interrupted. You have taken no steps up to the present moment to provide the fortifications of which you now speak; and even now, when we know there is a preponderating American force on the Lakes, I do not believe any measures have been adopted to place a force on the Lakes sufficient to meet that danger. Although a rupture might take place at any moment I am not aware that any steps have been taken to meet the danger by land, and none whatever have been adopted to meet the danger which threatens you by water, and which, as I say, may come upon you at any moment. As far as I understood the sketch which the noble Earl gave of the intentions of Her Majesty's Government it is intended to ask Parliament for the sum of £200,000. I believe that is the estimate for the defences of Quebec.


That is the whole amount, but it is intended to spend only £50,000 this year.


Only £50,000 this year! Then I want to know from the noble Earl when he thinks this danger threatens us? Is it imminent, or is it one which may be apprehended in three or four years? You ask this year for £50,000 to he expended on the fortifications of Quebec, and you say the whole will cost £200,000, and the Canadian Government are to expend £400,000 or £500,000 more on the fortifications of Montreal, which you say are more urgent and more pressing than Quebec. And then the noble Earl astonishes us by telling us that seeing this threatening aspect of affairs Her Majesty's Government are about to erect works which will cost £200,000, but that they are going to ask for only £50,000 this year. I do not know whether even £50,000 will be asked for; perhaps it may drop down to £20,000—so that in the course of ten years these fortifications, upon which the safety of the North American provinces depends, may possibly be constructed; whereas the danger, if danger there be, is one which may be realized not in the course of years but of months. My Lords, I deprecate as much as any man can do the utterance of language which could increase the exasperation or any ill-feeling which may, and, as I am afraid, does prevail on the part of the United States towards this country. But it is the part of common prudence to be prepared against a danger absolutely and imminently threatening, and I must say that neither in anything that Her Majesty's Government have done, or, as far as I understand, in what they propose to do, have they taken adequate steps to meet that which they consider to be a great urgent and imminent danger. I think it possible that, in a pecuniary sense, the western provinces of Canada are rather a drain upon our resources; but the incidence of this would not be felt if a large and powerful federation should be formed. If Canada were to manifest a desire to separate from this country and establish their independence, I do not think it would be desirable for the mother country—I do not think it would be for our honour or interests—to endeavour to retain her in unwilling and reluctant association with us. So long, however, as she is desirous of remaining in union with us we are bound, by the ties both of duty and of honour, to the utmost of our power, to second their efforts; because I differ from the noble Lord in his estimation of the value of our American possessions, because I think that the possession of the navigation of the St. Lawrence, and the occupation of New Brunswick and the rest of the seaboard of our American colonies is, to a maritime country like this, of the utmost importance, and is a question far too great to be considered merely as one of money and of economy. Therefore I do not think it unimportant whether this country remains connected with Canada or not, and I say it would be a lasting disgrace to this country—it would be an ignominy to which I trust we shall never submit—to allow that, upon any pretext whatever, these Provinces should be suddenly, while in a defenceless state, turned over to their own care, and exposed to the possible invasion of a foreign country, whose good-will we have endeavoured, however unsuccessfully, to propitiate, if not by strict neutrality, at any rate by a neutrality more favourable to the North than to the South. I say that, under such circumstances, to allow that colony to be wrested from us without putting forth the full strength of the Empire to repel every attempt at invasion, would be a gross and lasting disgrace and ignominy which I hope this country would never suffer.


My Lords, I feel that this is not only an important question, but one which must be approached with considerable delicacy. I cannot help thinking that the noble Earl following the noble Lord behind me (Lord Lyveden), in charging the Government with indiscretion in laying this Report before Parliament, has taken a very exaggerated view. I do not see how it was possible for Government to ask Parliament for money unless they placed before them some official information such as this Report on which to base their application. My noble Friend the Secretary for War stated, with great truth, that it was necessary to give some statement of this sort to enable the Government of Canada to make application to their own Legislature. The noble Earl opposite says that if this great and sudden change of policy was to be adopted by Her Majesty's Government it should have been announced in the Queen's Speech. I deny, however, that there has been any such change. This subject of the defence of Canada has been one of anxious inquiry for some time past. I am sure there is no Peer in this House who will deny that Canada is bound to take a part, and a considerable part, in providing the defence necessary to protect herself from the attacks of a hostile force. What has been the case? The Government of Canada at one time absolutely declined to bear any of the burden. It is only recently that we have had a Government there with which we could deal at all on this subject, and it was not till that Government came forward with commendable public spirit that we could bring the subject under the notice of Parliament, and ask them to grant money to a colony which formerly declined to put forth efforts to protect itself. This state of things has now been changed, and I rejoice in the proofs of the good feeling that now exists between the colony and the mother country. I do not know that any greater proof of the good will entertained towards us by the colony can be adduced than the following Resolution, which was adopted at a Conference of Delegates, held at Quebec in reference to the basis of the proposed Confederation:— All engagements that may before the union be entered into with the Imperial Government for the defence of the country shall be assumed by the general Government. Nothing can be more decisive as showing the honourable spirit by which our fellow-subjects in North America are actuated. With reference to the limited naval force to be maintained by the two Governments respectively on the Lakes between Canada and the States, there is no doubt it is a very difficult one; but it was not until November that we had any intimation from the American Government of their desire to put an end to that arrangement. The noble Earl says there has been a very great violation of the treaty. That was a very strong expression to use. The American Government may have gone further than they ought to have done in maintaining a revenue cutter upon the Lakes beyond the stipulated naval force; but they allege that they have committed no violation of the treaty. I am sure that in treating these questions the wisest and most patriotic course—one showing no unnatural alarm—is to treat them, in our discussions, with the greatest moderation and the greatest calmness. I believe this would not diminish our heartiness in lending aid to Canada in the possible but terrible alternative—which may God avert—of our being engaged in war with the United States. As long, however, as these strong feelings which animate both ourselves and our colonists of mutual attachment and affection exist, and while the colony is prepared to take her full share of the exertions and expenses which are necessary to her defence, I believe the mother country is bound to stand by her—I believe that a great country like England is bound to come forward in time of need to assist the efforts of such a dependency.


was understood to say that, from the complexion which events had recently assumed on the American Continent, it was evident that no time should be lost in putting Canada into a proper state of defence. The danger which threatened that country might be imminent, and he did not think it could be maintained that £200,000 was an extravagant sum for the mother country to contricute towards placing the fortifications of the province on a proper footing.


My Lords, if the Government really are in earnest with respect to these defences, it appears to me that the sum which is to be devoted to the defence of Quebec is really so trumpery as to assume the character of a farce. As I understand the matter, £200,000 are required from us for placing these fortifications on a proper footing; but, if this sum be necessary at all, it must be necessary very Boon. What, therefore, is the use of dividing this amount into four parts? I understand, too, that the army is to be reduced—not by any very large number of men, it is true, but still a reduction is to be made. Now, if any force can act efficiently in Canada, that force is infantry, and the Canadians ought to give us a guarantee to find an infantry army, whatever we may do with respect to ships and stores. It seems to me trifling with the question, if Quebec is to be fortified and improved, not at once to try and obtain the necessary £200,000 and finish those fortifications. I cannot help thinking that there is more than one reason for the delay, amounting almost to neglect, which the Government has exhibited during the last four years, when—I will not say everybody, but a great many persons, at all events—foresaw that Canada would be threatened, so soon as there should be an end—as there now seems likely to be—of the war which has raged for the last four years among the American States. There seems to have been an opinion widely prevalent that the war was founded on the slave question. That delusion must, I think, have disappeared from the mind of every one after what has occurred within the last three weeks. What is the only point of contest, according to the best information, between the two parties? It is independence on one side, and undivided dominion on the other. That is the apple of discord over which they have been fighting for the last four years; and to suppose that when the present war ends, the Americans will sit down quietly and disband their forces, and that there will then be no danger to ourselves in Canada, is a delusion which, if it ever existed, ought by this time to be dispelled. I sincerely hope that the Americans when they emerge from this contest will look back upon it with the same feelings of horror which it excites in us as it proceeds, and that they will not turn their eyes on other nations with a desire to continue their military career. It is apparent, however, from what has lately taken place, that a passion of dominion does prevail among the Americans; and whether it be directed to the north or the south, the east or the west, the existence of that passion ought not to be disregarded.


My Lords, I think it would be well if Her Majesty's Government would take into their consideration in what position the Confederates would now be had they acted on the principle on which the Government are about to proceed in regard to Canada. The Confederates immediately set about constructing fortifications at Charleston, Mobile, Wilmington, and other places. The whole country was at once covered with the works necessary to assist the operations of the army. If they had gone on the supposition that there was plenty of time, if they had endeavoured to do the thing by driblets, setting up a fort in one year, and one in another, the Confederate armies would long before now have been overwhelmed, and every one of the places they wished to preserve would have been lost. We are, as has been said, in this position—if the people of Canada are really desirous, as they appear to be, of continued connection with this country, and are willing to put themselves forward for their own defence, we are bound in honour to give them such assistance as we can. I deeply lament the position in which we are placed. I deprecate a war with America as fatal to the best interests of both countries, and incapable of producing, under any circumstances, the slightest benefit to either. But we may be compelled by honour to engage in these hostilities. But the Canadians must do more than merely express a desire to remain united to this kingdom; they must do more than merely pass Acts which may ultimately lead to the formation of a sufficient defensive force. Unless the Canadians are prepared to come forward as the Southerners have done, by the exertions of every man among them, to defend the soil which ought to be most dear to them, the property which they possess, and, above all, the safety of their families—unless, I say, they are prepared to go to that extent, although honour may oblige us to endeavour to assist them, any really useful efficient assistance, it will be impossible for us to afford. Canada must be defended by Canadians. If it be not, we shall sacrifice many of the gallant men sent to their assistance, and we shall lose the honour of the country through the destruction of the inadequate force provided for the defence of Canada. These are my feelings, and I hope they will also be the feelings of the Canadians. But this danger, remember, if it ever befall us, is one which may come at any moment. If the recent negotiations had succeeded, it might have been preparing at this hour: and when I feel that nothing we can possibly do can avert that danger, that there is not a man in the country who does not see it and measure its extent. I must say, it is to me almost incredible that the Government should be content with voting only £50,000 for the purpose of fortifying what must be the place of disembarcation of our troops if we should be compelled to go to war. This is not a new subject—at least as regards former Governments, although it may be so to the present. If the Ministers will look through the records of their offices they will find—I cannot tell exactly in which Department—some opinions of the late Duke of Wellington with regard to the state of the defences of Canada, ranging from 1828 to the period of his death. I can recollect communications on the subject from the Duke of Wellington as far back as 1828, and I know it was one on which he thought very deeply and strongly, and on which he entertained very decided opinions. I hope that when the Government are preparing measures for the defence of Canada they will not be satisfied with the Report of this Colonel which has been laid on the table, but will go to the opinions of the Duke of Wellington and consult his wisdom on the matter.


My Lords, I own I very much regret that my noble Friend (Lord Lyveden) has deemed it necessary to bring on this discussion. Her Majesty's Government are blamed for publishing a Report exposing the weakness of Canada. Now, the course which we have taken is this—having to provide a remedy for the weakness of Canada, we have presented a Report showing the defects to which the remedy was to be applied. It ought to be remembered that this is a question of a Vote of money—which may not, perhaps, be of a very considerable amount at first, but which may come to be very large in future years. In order to obtain the assent of the House of Commons to our proposal it is necessary to show both the need of a remedy and that the remedy proposed to be applied will be efficient. The noble Earl opposite (the Earl of Derby) has complained very much of the years which have elapsed during which nothing has been done. But, as has been justly remarked, there were two things to be proved—one was that Canada required improved fortifications, and the other that the Canadians were disposed to take part in protecting their soil from invasion, and to contribute largely for that object. If the Government had come forward three years ago and asked the House of Commons for a large Vote for the fortification of Canada, the great body of the House would have said, "Where is the proof that the people of Canada are disposed to defend themselves? Have they any militia?" The answer must have been—no, they have none. Have they made any preparation, are they disposed to make any preparation, to share the expenses we are asked to take upon ourselves? Again the answer must have been—no, they are not disposed to go to any expense to defend their soil. Under these circumstances could we—could any Government—expect to get a large sum of money from the House of Commons? The noble Earl opposite said we ought quietly and silently to have been going on with these works. What, spend £200,000 quietly and silently! I know not from what source the noble Earl, had he been first Lord of the Treasury, could have procured £200,000 quietly and silently without mentioning it to the House of Commons, keeping it a secret from all the world. It is not easy to see how fortifications could be erected in Canada at the expense of this country without a word being said about it. Therefore I hold that the charges which have been made are totally devoid of any solid foundation. It is said that we ought to have thought of these things before. So we did. When my lamented Friend Sir Geroge Cornewall Lewis was at the War Office he had the subject very much in his thoughts. The state and disposition of Canada appeared to him, as to all those who have held the office since the present Government was formed, to be material points for consideration. During the middle and end of the past year a different disposition has been manifested by Canada to what was formerly the case. Indifference gave place to a strong spirit of loyalty, and there is a great wish to form an extensive Confederation, a readiness to furnish the means of fortifying Canada and of establishing some 90,000 or 100,000 militia. When that disposition appeared the Government thought it was their duty to bring forward the question, having a strong case to place before the House of Commons, and reasons, which, I trust, will induce the House to vote freely the grant proposed. Complaint has also been made that only £50,000 is asked for now. But, my Lords, it is for the official persons in charge of the Vote in the other House to explain why this amount has been fixed on, and all those details upon which the proposal is based. These details cannot now be laid before this House, and the discussion of the question here must be abortive, as no Vote can be come to on it at present. I repeat that it is to be lamented that the discussion has been raised. There is, however, one point on which I am quite ready, as the subject has been referred to, to express my opinion. I am entirely of opinion with the noble Earl opposite (the Earl of Ellenborough) that if Canada is ready to stand by this country, this country is bound in honour to stand by Canada; and if they are disposed to grant their resources to defend their soil in connection with Great Britain, we ought to be ready to expend our resources in order to defend them. That is a point not only of interest, but of honour. The noble Earl opposite has said that we are perfectly deceived in considering this as a war for the destruction of slavery. For my part, I have always thought, and I stated the opinion at the commencement of the civil war, that on the part of the North it was a contest for empire; just as I believe our contest in 1776, which we continued till 1783, was a contest for empire and for nothing else. I believe, as we acted then, the United States have acted now; and had our position been similar to theirs, we should have acted much as the Northern States have done. I do not wish to say anything further with regard to questions which the noble Lord opposite seems to raise in no very impartial spirit, with regard to the attacks that are made from time to time in the American Legislature on this country. But this I will say—that whatever may be the intemperance shown by certain orators in the Senate and Congress of America, whatever may be the violence—the unjust and extreme violence—shown by the press of America, I cannot think the Government of the United States have been wanting in moderation in their communications with us. And when the American Minister says to me, as he does, "Suppose you were at war with any European Power, and vessels were to come constantly out of New York to attack your commerce and destroy your merchant ships on the high seas, do you believe that the English people would have borne it as quietly as our Government has done?" I own I think it somewhat difficult to answer that question. I think, while in point of law and reason they have nothing to say against us, yet in point of feeling and in point of impression it is very irritating and provoking to them to consider that a friendly Power, a neutral, has had ships fitted out and crews provided in their ports by which American commerce has suffered. I think, as America and England are apt to take their own view of what is right and wrong in this matter, it is but fair that we should now and then consider what would be our own conduct under similar circumstances, and that we should make some allowance for a people engaged in this most dreadful war, and I think it much better to avoid questions which, considering the nature of their country and the nature of this country, we could scarcely expect they would have altogether avoided. And now, with regard to slavery, while I quite admit the North has been fighting for empire and not for the abolition of slavery, yet I think, though you will give them no credit or praise for it, it is a thing to be thankful for that the Congress of the United States, by a majority of two-thirds, have agreed that from henceforth it shall be a part of the Constitution of the United States, that no slavery, no compulsory servitude, shall be admitted under it. I do not ask your Lordships to give them any praise or credit for that; but I do rejoice, for the sake of a cause in which this country, at least in former days, took a deep interest—for the sake of the abolition of slavery, which I believe concerns the best interests of mankind—I do rejoice that that law passed the Congress of the United States; and that whether they become again a united people, or whether they form a separate North American federation, there will be a great State a great Republic, on which the stain of slavery will not exist.


I have no right again to address your Lordships, and certainly I am not about to discuss the question whether the abolition of slavery is a result which may follow from this civil war—if so, I shall be sincerely glad to see it; but I wish to call the attention of the Government to an important point connected with the question put by the noble Lord opposite. I wish to know whether the Government have taken, are taking, or intend to take any steps in the face of the pressing and threatening danger of an absolute naval superiority of America on the Lakes?


said, that perhaps the noble Earl was aware that notice had reached this Government that those arrangements which had hitherto operated so happily in favour of peaceful relations between the two countries were about to be put an end to. That information arrived at the end of November last, and was to the effect that in six months from that time our relations would he so far changed, that the American Government would be enabled to put armed vessels upon the Lakes. Now, owing to the freezing of the canals and of the river St. Lawrence, it would have been quite impossible for Her Majesty's Government at that time to have taken any active steps. But he (the Duke of Somerset) had been in communication for two or three years past with naval officers of experience upon this subject, whose opinions wore being constantly brought before the Cabinet, and he should be prepared, when the proper time came, to state the course which Her Majesty's Government would take upon the matter.


said, there was a matter of importance connected with this subject which had not been mentioned by any speaker. He meant the opening up of the great main route from the Atlantic to the Pacific upon British territory. He was aware that this was a great project, requiring the expenditure of some £60,000 or £70,000 a year, hut it was not a new one, having been under the consideration of more than one Government. It was not, perhaps, necessary for him on that occasion to enlarge upon the advantages, civil or military, which would attend the carrying out of this great undertaking. He would observe, that whilst of British emigrants, during last year 170,000 had emigrated to the States and only 19,000 to British provinces, it must be remembered, that for the defence of Canada there were required strong hands and many, and it was highly desirable that we should encourage the stream of emigration to our own colonies, instead of to a foreign country, and bear in mind that we had possessions on the Pacific as well as on the Atlantic.


said, it appeared from the Report of Colonel Jervois that £1,340,000 would be required for the defences which he recommended. Now, with a surplus revenue of between £2,000,000 and £3,000,000 £50,000 was a very small sum to propose to vote during the present year for the defence of Canada.


desired to know whether this small sum of £50,000 was to be concentrated on the defences of Quebec, or was to be dribbled away by being scattered over the defences of the entire country. It seemed to him absurd to construct expensive fortifications at Quebec unless they erected sufficient earthworks at a proper distance from the St. Lawrence. He wished to know what Government intended to do with respect to earthworks, which were admitted to be more efficient than fortifications.


said, that as to the observation of the noble Lord who had just sat down, what he had suggested was exactly what the Government were going to do. They did not propose to expend their money for the defence in Canada in driblets here, there, and everywhere, but rather to concentrate it upon one spot, and that a most important position—namely, Quebec. He would not, however, enter into the nature of the works that would be executed there. With respect to the amount to be taken for them, it would be quite impossible, with the best intentions in the world, to spend £200,000 in the course of the present year. The working season in Canada, from the character of the climate, was necessarily short; and, moreover, at the commencement of such undertakings they could not spend the same amount upon them as they would be able to do when they had made some progress. Nothing could be done until Parliament had voted the money. Then they would have to buy the land and begin the works. The £50,000 included in the Estimates was the sum which the officers of the Fortification Department thought could be advantageously laid out during the ensuing season; but it would, of course, be possible, as always happened in these cases, to expend larger sums in subsequent years. It was the object of the Government to proceed with these works as rapidly as possible, consistently with the due solidity and permanence of the fortifications to be constructed, and they would each year ask Parliament to vote such sums for their execution as, guided by the professional advice they received, they should deem expedient.


said, he did not agree with the opinion expressed by the noble Earl the Secretary for Foreign Affairs upon the policy of originating the discussion which had arisen from his question. It was of importance to have elicited the views of the noble Lords who had taken part in it, and if the noble Earl had been in his (Lord Lyveden's) position it would have been exactly the kind of discussion which he would have been glad to provoke.

House adjourned at a quarter before Seven o'clock, till To-morrow, half past Ten o'clock.

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