« PrejšnjaNaprej »
of additional power to be given to wealth and population was met by enacting that in no case should the number of representatives exceed seven or be less than two; but, subject to this rule, that the number of members to be chosen for each Colony should depend upon the amount of its contribution to the general treasury. It is not very clear from a perusal of the plan what would have been the exact functions of the President-General and of the members of the Grand Council in the working out of the Constitution. But it must be remembered that colonial government, at any rate in New England, was, more and more, taking the form of government by means of Committees of the Assemblies, intruding upon the province of the Executive; so that a decorous reticence was necessary if the scheme was to have any chance of approval in England. Upon the whole, Franklin had good reason for his pride in his bantling. The different and contrary reasons of dislike to my plan', he wrote years afterwards, 'make me suspect that it was really the true medium; and I am still of opinion that it would have been happy for both sides if it had been adopted. The Colonies so united would have been sufficiently strong to have defended themselves. There would then have been no need of troops from England. Of course, the consequent pretext for taxing America and the bloody contest it occasioned would have been avoided. But such mistakes are not new; history is full of the errors of states and princes. Those who govern, having much business on their hands, do not generally like to take the trouble of considering and carrying into execution new projects. The best public measures are therefore seldom adopted from previous wisdom but forced by the occasion.'
Be this as it may, the old English colonial system, which received its deathblow by the loss of the American Colonies, never learnt to read the riddle of the Sphinx of federation. It remained to see whether the new empire,
which arose on the ruins of the old, would have more luck or more wisdom. At first, indeed, it seemed as though the lesson which the British Government had learnt from the loss of the American Colonies was a kindly rendering of the maxim, divide et impera. The Colonies were to be treated indulgently like favoured children; but anything in the nature of independent political life was to be, as far as possible, discouraged. Here and there voices were raised in favour of some kind of union of the British North American Provinces. Thus, at the time of the Constitutional Act of 1791, Chief-Justice Smith, a loyalist from New York, whose father had been a leading member of the Albany Congress, put forward an interesting scheme of federal union, which is not inserted in this volume, because it has been already printed in Canadian Constitutional Development, by Egerton and Grant, pp. 104-10, as well as in Shortt and Doughty, Constitutional Documents, 1759-91, p. 687. But, as will appear from the following summary of the history of British North America, the general tendency was in favour of the creation of separate and divided governments.
THE BRITISH NORTH AMERICA ACT.
The Dominion of Canada, including all British North America with the exception of Newfoundland,' was formed out of several separate Colonies, differing altogether in their origin and character. When, as in the case of Lower and Upper Canada, union had been in name effected, it had been of so questionable and superficial a character as to perpetuate fundamental distinctions. It may be said that to accomplish a real federal union between the two Canadas was a task of more difficulty than to weld into a single union the English communities in the east and in the west. The eldest of the British American Colonies was Nova Scotia. Under a shadowy claim, resting on paper charters, 1 If the Bermudas do not belong to the West Indies thog still less form a part of British North America.
New Scotland dated from Stuart times; but, at any rate, from the Peace of Utrecht, in 1713, Nova Scotia was a recognized British possession, though even then the question, what was meant by Nova Scotia, was not finally settled, and the French put forward the pretension that it only included the peninsula, or a part of the peninsula, of what is now Nova Scotia, and that the future Province of New Brunswick was not included within its area. But, whatever were its nominal boundaries, the actual hold of Great Britain on Nova Scotia was slight indeed. The mother country looked to Massachusetts to organize effective occupation, and Massachusetts, at bay with the French and Indian perils, was unable to respond to the call, so that the new possession remained for the most part a waste country, and the French Acadian inhabitants were left to find their own answer to the puzzle: When is a British subject not a subject? Great Britain standing idly by, till, by the deportation of the people in 1755, it sought in a panic to make up for past neglect. The birth of Nova Scotia as a living British Colony dates from the foundation of Halifax in 1749, one of the rare occasions on which Great Britain has organized systematic colonization for imperial purposes. So carelessly and loosely was Nova Scotia governed that it was suddenly discovered in 1755 that the practice of enacting laws by its Governor and Council without the institution of an Assembly, was illegal, and therefore, in 1758, a representative Assembly was set on foot. After the Peace of Paris of 1763, Cape Breton Island was annexed to Nova Scotia; but, in accordance with the general policy of the time, it was constituted a separate government in 1784. In 1820, however, it was again reannexed to Nova Scotia.
New Brunswick owed its existence as a separate colony to the same cause which brought into being Upper Canada. Great numbers of American loyalists sought a new home in this portion of Nova Scotia, which was therefore constituted
a new province in 1784, under the name of New Brunswick. The last of the Maritime Provinces, Prince Edward Island, originally named St. John's, was till 1770 a part of Nova Scotia, when, according to the prevailing policy of division, it was formed into a separate government. It was a significant commentary on the wisdom of this action that separatist influences proved so strong in this little island that, but for financial considerations, it would probably have remained for some time beyond 1873 outside the Confederation.
Still, whatever artificial distinctions may have been engendered, themselves largely the outcome of mistaken policy in England, the Maritime Provinces were a homogeneous community, destined in the long run to the enjoyment of a common life. Identity of race, of interests, and of policy, must in the end have brought about union, even though the negotiations at Charlottetown in 1864 had, for the time, proved abortive.
But the same causes which pointed to a union of the Maritime Provinces, were directly hostile to a greater union. Nova Scotia, with its face to the Eastern sea, saw little to attract in the vision of union with the interior Colony, of whose politics it had little understanding, and with whose population, so far as it was French, it had not a little racial antagonism. Lord Durham had gone out to effect a federation of British North America; but, if there were no other difficulties in the way, the indifference and isolation of the Maritime Provinces must in any case have wrecked the scheme. Nova Scotia was largely under the domination of Halifax, and Halifax as a commercial and social centre was jealous of anything that might diminish its comparative importance. Many retired officers of the British army and navy had found a home in Halifax, and these men, with those related to them by marriage or social connexions, formed a Conservative stronghold which distrusted absorption in a greater Canada. At the other
extreme the Radicals, with the great Nova Scotian orator, Joseph Howe, at their head, were in 1865 equally opposed to Confederation. Imperilled business interests barbed the opposition to Confederation, and Howe, apart from personal motives, saw in it the deathblow to his splendid ideal of an imperial federation. In this state of things the wonder is, not that complete union was not achieved, but that even a federation was at length accomplished. On the other hand, it may be argued that a.resolution in favour of the Confederation of British North America was passed by the Nova Scotian Assembly as early as 1854; but the subsequent history showed that this hardly reflected the settled opinion of the Colony.
In Canada, which, from her position and population, possessed the controlling voice in any scheme of closer union, the cause of Confederation was mainly won by two motives, themselves wholly separate, working in the same direction. In the first place there was the melancholy fact that party government in Canada had resulted in deadlock. In order to understand this state of things, it is necessary to review very briefly the constitutional history. The prolongation of the French system of paternal government, as recognized by the Quebec Act of 1774, came to an end in 1791, when the coming of loyal Americans into Upper Canada brought about the division of the province and the granting to both Upper and Lower Canada of a representative Assembly. Shrewd critics have doubted the wisdom of thus formally sanctioning the continuance of French separatism; but, if the French nationality and language were to continue-and there is no evidence that at that date, any more than at a later one, the province could have been successfully anglicized-it was surely wise for the British Government to yield with a good grace what might have been successfully extorted; especially as thereby the powerful weight of the Catholic Church was thrown into the scale on the side of the English predominance. The