HL Deb 11 April 1867 vol 186 cc1454-65

Order of the Day for the Third Reading read.


, in moving that the Bill be now read the third time, said, it was not a measure emanating from Her Majesty's present Government, but was for the completion of negotiations winch had been carried on with successive Governments for many years past. The proposal contained in the Bill was, that this country should guarantee the interest of a loan of £3,000,000 for the construction of the Intercolonial Railway. When the proposal first assumed a definite form, some six years ago, the contemplated arrangements were of a complicated character, owing to the necessity of dealing with three separate colonies, and determining as to what proportion of the loan was to be guaranteed by each Province, and as to the works to be undertaken by each Province. But the Act which had already passed through the Imperial Parliament, and received the Royal Assent that Session, had simplified that question by reducing the arrangement to one between the Imperial Government and the confederated Provinces. The guarantee had therefore taken the shape of a simple guarantee by this country to the one Dominion of Canada, and an engagement by Canada that, before that guarantee was given, the confederate Provinces would, by an Act of the new confederate Parliament, sanction and authorize the construction of a railway, the charge on the consolidated revenues of Canada of the interest of the loan, with a sinking fund which has been agreed at 1 per cent per annum on the total amount of the capital gua- ranteed; and also of the charge—which was one of considerable importance—upon the consolidated revenues of Canada, next after the charges of the interest and the sinking fund, of whatever sum might be necessary (beyond the £3,000,000 guaranteed), for the completion of the railway, without any Imperial guarantee. It was unnecessary at that stage to enter into the question of the merits or demerits of the particular scheme. Originating as it did in the first instance in the decision of the then Government of this country that it was essential that a line of communication should be constructed to connect Canada with a port under the control and dominion of the Imperial authorities, it had never ceased to be an object of solicitude on the part both of the Provinces and of the Imperial Government that the scheme should be brought to completion. That original project of a military road to be constructed at the sole cost of the Imperial Government had been gradually developed into the scheme which it was now proposed should be completed, of a railway communicating between the Canadian system of railways and the port of Halifax. Up to the time of the agreement for a confederation between our North-American Provinces it might have been very fairly argued that Canada had no such great interest in that scheme as would have induced her to complete it, because her commerce, if it passed over the proposed railway to the sea, would still have had to pass over a line and to a port which was not in her own hands. But the Confederation between the different Provinces now changed the position of Canada in that respect, and by the completion of the Intercolonial Railway, Canada would obtain a communication with the sea at Halifax, passing entirely through a country and to a port under her own control. Looking at the progress which Canada had made during the last thirty years, the importance to that colony of having a communication between her system of railways and a seaport under her own control could hardly be over-rated. It had been said that this railway, even if made, would pass through an inhospitable country, with a scanty population and few resources, and that it would be closed during many months of the year; but there had been no evidence of this. There might be times during which a railway in that country would be closed for a few days at the commencement of the snow, or at the break up of the frost; but all the experience of the results of the working of the Canadian and American railways showed that afterwards there was hardly any other stoppage of the traffic throughout the year. It was quite unfounded to assert that this guarantee was given as a bribe to Canada to enter into the Confederation of the Provinces. It had never been the policy of this country to enter into engagements of such a kind. The proposal for the Confederation was brought forward by the Provinces themselves with a view to develop the commerce and resources of the country, and they might fairly ask the assistance of the mother country to aid in a measure which would strengthen their means of self-defence. Ample security, in the ordinary sense of the word, had been offered that this loan should be repaid, and that no undue charge or heavy burden should fall on this country. It was impossible to give a guarantee without being liable to the extent of that guarantee; but those who brought forward the measure had satisfied themselves that it would not ultimately impose any burden on the taxpayers of this country. No one could doubt that this Intercolonial Railway would lead to such a development of the resources of the country, and to such an increase of the population, that it would enable the inhabitants of the colony to bear the taxation required to meet the guarantee almost without feeling it. A former guarantee of one-half the amount now asked for, but given at a time when the population and revenues of Canada were much smaller, and given, moreover, at a period of great depression, had been repaid in full a considerable period before it was really and strictly due, and had been repaid not with borrowed money, but out of the revenue of the colony. After the examination and scrutiny which this measure had undergone from the late Duke of Newcastle, and many of his predecessors, and also from the House of Commons, he felt confident that their Lordships would not refuse their assent to this measure; but would, by sanctioning the loan, enable the Provinces to commence, with the new system of Government, and with the establishment of the Confederation, a work which they and the Imperial Government had pronounced essential for the development of their resources, and which was necessary to give them the undivided control and power over that which would be to the sea through a great portion of the year their only access.

Moved, "That the Bill be now read 3a."—(The Duke of Buckingham.)


said, he did not intend to oppose the Bill, although he entertained strong objections to its principle. Coming as it did before their Lordships as a loan Bill, they were almost incapable of introducing any Amendments into it. The noble Duke had referred to the approval of this scheme by preceding Governments; but when Minister after Minister of both parties had proposed such schemes as the present, it behoved those who did not belong to either of those Ministries to look all the more sharply into similar proposals. It was idle to talk of a guarantee of this kind not involving any real burden; because, as had been said by one of our greatest financiers, if the Government went into the money-market and attempted to borrow money, after having given such a guarantee, they could not do so on such favourable terms as if no such guarantee had been given. The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Adderley) in introducing the Bill in the other House adopted an apologetic tone, admitting that such guarantees were objectionable, and that this was a deviation from the policy which had been pursued by successive statesmen, but arguing that the case was exceptional. He (Lord Lyveden) was at a loss, however, to discover any exceptional circumstances which were always suspicious. The preamble of the Bill stated that the railway would conduce to the welfare of Canada, and would promote the interests of the British Empire; it had not, however, yet even been decided what route should be adopted, and the lines which had been constructed as commercial speculations had not proved remunerative. He could only conclude, therefore, that what was meant was the defence of Canada. This was a difficult subject; but he believed the majority of military authorities—and he was speaking in the presence of an illustrious Duke who was the highest military authority—were of opinion that the proposed railway would not answer that purpose, and that the defence of such a line of frontier as that of Canada would be impossible without more fortifications and more men. Such a defence could only be directed against the United States. Now, he objected to this continual introduction of this question of defence; for though he did not believe the United States were inclined to attack Canada, he thought it was unwise to be thus continually holding up perpetual warnings to the United States of the defenceless state of our frontiers, and offering constant temptation to aggresion. Moreover, if we should ever be embroiled with the United States it would be very inexpedient to carry on war on the most disadvantageous ground that could be selected. The inhospitable nature of the country was really its best defence; whereas if this railway fell into the hands of the enemy it would become a useful instrument of aggression. He should like also to know why the cantemplated by the Bill themselves? We ought to let our colonies rest on their own responsibility. It was true that we ought to set them afloat; but after we had once set them going they ought to be able to take care of themselves without further help from the mother country. If this country went on lending money in this way whenever it was asked for, it was impossible that the Canadians would ever think of relying solely upon themselves. It was true that they offered a gallant resistance to the Fenian raids; but he understood that they had done little of nothing towards the fortification of Montreal, which it had been agreed should be undertaken by them, while we bore the cost of fortifying Quebec. The defence of the colony ought to rest on the public spirit of the people and on their determination to repel aggression from any quarter; but as long as we went on lending them money and guaranteeing their loans, it was hardly in human nature to expect that they would show any self-reliance. We had withdrawn our troops from New Zealand, and, according to Sir George Grey, the results had been most salutary; but a contrary policy towards Canada would incite the people to extort money from the mother country, for they would know that they had only to raise the bugbear of an American invasion in order to procure immediate assistance. As long as we let it be understood that war with Canada meant war with England, we offered a temptation to the United States to threaten our frontier, and encouraged the colonists to rely upon us instead of upon themselves.


My Lords, I heard my noble Friend who has just sat down say that it was very unwise to be constantly calling out that Canada was defenceless. I quite agree with my noble Friend; but, if that be so, I think your Lordships have reason to complain of my noble Friend's speech, which dwelt chiefly on that very theme. I confess I am apt to think that, though there may be difficulties in such a course, and that such a course may promise small advantages and great risk, yet we are bound, from a feeling of national honour, to support our colonists, who are subjects of our Queen, in carrying out their loyal views, and it is quite possible that the difficulties which stand in the way of our doing so may be overcome. It is not for me to say what may be the military defence of Canada. We all know that there is a very extensive frontier to be defended, and that the United States are very populous; and we have seen of late years that they can place on foot an immense and efficient army in a short time. All this is known to all the world; it does not require that we or the United States should proclaim it; and the passing of this Bill cannot be considered as the proclamation of any fact of which the Americans are not already cognizant. Still, we have seen that a country like this may be able to accomplish very difficult things. The defence of Canada would, no doubt, be very difficult; but it has often occurred to me that if our ancestors had acted upon the same timid views which some persons entertain, the state of things would now be very different. If, for instance, our statesmen about a century and a half ago thought it right to defend Portugal, a small country having a comparatively extensive frontier conterminous with Spain, and did it with success, the defence of a colony like Canada may not be so hopeless as my noble Friend supposes. Portugal was apparently at the mercy of Spain. But Spain was not the only country which Portugal had to dread. France was afterwards united with Spain by a family compact, and both those countries were able to throw a seemingly overwhelming force upon Portugal, which there was every likelihood of their beingable to overrun and conquer. Nevertheless, we kept to our treaty with Portugual, and we were always ready to give her assistance. It might be said that there were difficulties which both France and Spain had to encounter in carrying out their designs against Portugal. But there came a time when, the Sovereign of France was the greatest general of modern times, and had the largest armies at his disposal. You would think, then, that the case was quite hopeless, for here were 300,000 or 400,000 men who could be always sent under one of the great Marshals of the Empire against her, and Portugal must have been lost. But we, too, had a great general; but, above all, we had spirit and determination to defend Portugal, because she was our friend and ally, and that defence succeeded. There still remains the treaty; there still remains Portugal; and I defy you to say that the defence of Canada is a bit more difficult than the defence of Portugal at that time. I will not attempt to show the way in which we could defend Canada—that is a question for military authorities. But there is this great consideration—which affects all the Powers of the world—that a State, however great, has often a difficulty to encounter which may make her hesitate to go to war; because, although conquest may be apparently easy, it may lead to other wars, or may excite jealousy and hostility of other Powers. Therefore, a country which may be disposed to enter upon a war of aggression is often deterred from doing so. I do not know, for instance, that any one could say that Belgium would be able to resist the whole power of France if directed against her, or that Sweden could resist the power of Russia if turned against her. But there is a sense among great Powers that an unprincipled aggression solely for the sake of ambition may be the cause of very great misfortunes to the people that make it. These attempts, therefore, that seem so easy from a military point of view are not attempted. That appears to me to be something like the position of the United States in relation to Canada. My noble Friend has said that if we have any honour among us an unprincipled attack upon Canada would give rise to a war between us and the United States. That is a motive, and I trust long will be a motive, with the United States for refraining from such an attack. It is impossible not to see that the United States must be sensible that in a war with England they should have to take the chances which might occur—the chances of great loss, of immense cost—and, probably, at the end of the war, the United States might not be in possession of Canada, and might not have been in any sense gainers by the war. These are considerations which affect statesmen and rulers; and thus the safety of weaker States is secured, which otherwise would appear hopeless. My noble Friend says we must take away our troops from Canada, as we have done from New Zealand and other colonies. But it is to be observed with regard to New Zealand, the Cape, and every other colony of ours, that we have no great land frontier exposed to attack, and that no one of our colonies except Canada has a great State bordering on it. Therefore, it may be wise to keep troops in Canada even when we withdraw them from New Zealand. For my own part I think it wise, and great military authorities have been of the same opinion. I do not think it would be good policy to leave Canada without defence. Undoubtedly we expect that when these different colonies of North America enter into confederation, and comprise a population of 4,000,000 under one Government, they will furnish a sufficient army to defend themselves; but, at the same time, we must give them certain assistance and encouragement. There is no doubt that at the first blush it would appear a very difficult thing indeed if you were on unfriendly terms with the United States, to defend Canada from aggression. But, for my own part, it seems to me that, having the New World open to her, the United States are very likely to spread their colonization rather to the West and South than to the North. I do not expect, therefore, unless there be cause for it on other grounds, that the United States will attack Canada merely, as my noble Friend says, for the vexation of this country. I think the statesmen of the United States are generally very wise and far-seeing men, and I do not believe they are likely to go to war with England for any such purpose. It is true that even respectable newspapers in the United States are always declaiming against England; but I do not think her statesmen would think of attacking Canada for the mere purpose of annoyance. I do not think, therefore, that there is any such insuperable difficulty in point of policy as should induce us to do that which is dishonourable—for it would be dishonourable to desert the Queen's subjects, who look to you for protection—and therefore I heartily give my assent to the proposal contained in this Bill.


My Lords, as the defence of Canada has been much referred to in the course of this discussion, I wish to say a few words. I confess I rejoice that this measure for a Confederation has been brought forward, and that it has been accompanied by a project for the proposed railway, which in a military point of view cannot fail to be of the greatest importance. The defence of Canada without such a railway presents much difficulty. We have seen in late years the inconvenience which results from the fact that during a considerable period of the year we are deprived of any direct communication with the Upper Provinces. As your Lordships know, it is only during a portion of the year that the great river St. Lawrence can be navigated, and that in the winter months the Upper Provinces are to a great extent, for military purposes, cut off from communication with the mother country. This railway, if completed, will form a connecting link at all periods of the year between the mother country and the North-American Provinces. On that ground alone I believe it is of Imperial interest that this railway should be completed; and if the measure now before your Lordships produces that result, I think it would be of signal benefit. My noble Friend (Lord Lyveden) has dwelt strongly upon the difficulty of defending the Canadian frontier. But, though that operation may be one of considerable difficulty, it ought not to be treated as impossible. Indeed, I see no reason why, however arduous the task may seem, it may not be accomplished; because in war some of the greatest operations which appeared to be almost impossible, yet by talent, perseverance, energy, and courage have been carried out with entire success. As far as the Imperial Government are concerned, they have already shown their desire to do their part. The defences of Quebec have already been taken in hand, and I trust that Quebec will soon become a powerful and important fortress. Montreal also requires defence, and I trust that the delay which has taken place in providing for its defence has only been caused by the feeling that the question of the Confederation ought first to be considered and dealt with. I do hope that, seeing the anxiety of the mother country to support the object of the Confederation, the colonists will now think the time has come to put their shoulders to the wheel, and do all that in them lies for the protection of their extended frontier. The matter is one which depends in a great measure upon themselves, and I hope that the good feeling shown on our part will encourage them to do that which, as I know, they were certainly at one time disposed to do—look after the defence of their own territory. I am entirely of opinion that if the loyalty and devotion which have been hitherto displayed by the colonists should continue to increase, after the Confederation is established, as it has increased up to this time, Canada will before long, in men and material, be able to defend itself. I mean, of course, that she will do this as far as her power and means go, and not that she will be able to dispense with Imperial aid. As to the entire removal of the Imperial troops, that is out of the question. My noble Friend (Earl Russell) has pointed out that most of our colonies are so situated that they have no frontier to defend. Canada, on the contrary, has a most extended frontier, and it would be an absurdity to leave such a colony wholly denuded of Imperial troops, though, of course, the number of those troops ought to be as much reduced as can safely be done. All that is wanted is a small compact force as a nucleus round which the colonists may rally. It must give the greatest satisfaction to every Englishman to see how anxious the colonists are to maintain their connection with the mother country. Considering the changes which have taken place of late, and the manner in which they have been pressed to separate from this country, I think it redounds greatly to their credit that their loyalty and devotion to the mother country have remained unshaken, or, rather have increased in recent years. I do hope, therefore that the feeling which has been so nobly shown in Canada, and the gallantry with which the Militia and Volunteers have come forward on every occasion when their services were needed, will be appreciated here, and that we shall hold out the hand of friendship to the new Confederation which, I believe, will be of great advantage to the colonists, and, I hope, will also add to the security of the Empire. I repeat that we must not be led away by the notion that the colony is indefensible. I believe, on the contrary, there will be means to defend it; and I shall rejoice not only at the Confederation which this Bill is to ratify, but also at the military chain of defence which the Bill will complete, and which is so essential to the maintenance of our Empire in this large, valuable, and important possession.


said, that remarks had been made upon the absence of information respecting the line to be determined upon for the Intercolonial Railway, and a fear was expressed that it might be placed in too great proximity to the American frontier. His reason for not referring to any particular line was that it was far better for the colonists to lay down the railway along what appeared to be the most advantageous route, bearing in mind that it was not probable that any portion of the railway would pass in any nearer proximity to the frontier than the present Grand Trunk Railway terminus on the St. Lawrence. The noble Lord (Lord Lyveden) had remarked on the great advantages which would accrue from the withdrawal of the troops from Canada, instancing the progress made in New Zealand owing to that cause. But his illustration was not a happy one, for the troops had not been withdrawn from New Zealand at the date of the letter to which the noble Lord referred. The noble Lord had taken exception to the wording of the preamble of this Bill, and the use of the term "the welfare of this country." Surely, however, the criticism was not just; for if the proposed railway assisted to develop the trade and resources of the colony by bringing the maritime Provinces nearer to the upper Provinces, and thus connecting the colony more closely with the mother country, such a measure could not be otherwise than for the welfare of the latter. Then the noble Lord said that this guarantee was the price or the bribe we were paying to the colonists for Confederation. But it was not so, for before Confederation was so much as thought of an opinion had been pronounced by the Government of this country that the improvement of the means of communication between different parts of Canada was highly desirable. The noble Lord would find that the plan of water communication had been carried out by this country, and the reason why the scheme, first proposed, of a military road had not been carried out, was because the railway system had only just then been introduced into the colony. As early as 1852, the noble Lord, the then Secretary of State, proposed that guarantees should be given for the money to be raised for a work very similar to that now contemplated. In the papers and despatches referring to those proposals no allusion was to be found to the idea of Confederation; but the opinion of the Government of this country was there recorded as to the necessity of this work; and it was unfair to say, therefore, that this loan had been granted as the price of Confederation. The Confederation had been spontaneous on the part of the Canadians, and the loan was to enable them to complete a work which this country had, as far back as twenty years ago, pronounced to be essential to the development of the colony. We ought to assist Canada by giving her free communication with the sea; and, though in case of danger she must defend herself, yet we ought to give her the necessary means of carrying out that defence. It could not be expected that if we refused to give to Canada the means of defending herself, and also withdrew our troops from the colony, she could remain attached to the Empire; but if we gave her the aid on which she relied for developing her own resources, and utilizing them for her defence, she would remain loyal to this country; and then it would be found that in the event of Canada being exposed to danger the people of England would rally round the colony and defend it with all the power at the command of Great Britain.

In reply to Lord LYVEDEN.


said, that no progress had been made with the works at Montreal, because it was agreed by the late Government that the subject of Confederation should take precedence of the fortification question.

Motion agreed to: Bill read 3a accordingly, and passed.