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Bill 225 Second Reading

Volume 203: debated on Friday 29 July 1870

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Order for Second Reading read.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."

said, he denied the expediency of guaranteeing such loans, except under circumstances which did not exist in the case of Canada, which surely "came of age" long ago. Travellers who passed from the States into Canada were struck by the signs of its retrogression. We were helping it to build legislative halls in the backwoods, to construct railroads which were not likely to pay their working expenses, and to construct fortifications which would be a futile menace, for the people of the United States expected some day to add Canada to their number, and to do it peaceably, and would pay any reasonable sum for its acquisition, and they had no idea of invading it by force, although they knew that the Canadians, with or without fortifications, were practically defenceless. Our own experience of fortifications elsewhere was not encouraging. It might be said we enabled the Canadians to borrow money at 4 per cent instead of 6 per cent, but in proportion as we raised their credit we depressed our own. Believing that the general system of colonial guarantees was pernicious and dangerous, if not futile, he begged to move that the Bill be read a second time upon that day three months.

Amendment proposed, to leave out the word "now," and at the end of the Question to add the words "upon this day three months."—( Sir David Wedderburn.)

said, that the best answer he could give to his hon. Friend was to state that the Bill was introduced in fulfilment of an agreement binding on the honour of this country. In 1865 four Canadian Ministers visited this country, and the two principal subjects discussed by them and the authorities in this country were the Confederation of the North American Provinces and the defences of Canada. The understanding come to was that if the Provinces undertook the work of defence Her Majesty's Government would apply to Parliament for the amount of the present loan. In 1868 the Legislature of Canada passed an Act authorizing the raising of a loan of £1,100,000 under Imperial guarantee for the erection of fortifications in Canada, and had, therefore, fulfilled her part of the agreement.

said, as that agreement had not received the sanction of Parliament he contended it was not binding on that House. He found on the back of the Bill the name of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who, in 1867, objected to a measure identical with the present Bill. The right hon. Gentleman then said—

"I do not see why, because we are assenting to the Colonies adopting any form of government they may choose, we are to take upon ourselves to find the money for them to undertake this scheme. I think that by bribing them to enter into this Confederation by guaranteeing this sum, we are taking upon ourselves a responsibility which we shall one day deeply rue.…. This plan of inducing the Colonies by persuasion and by the influence of a loan of public money, to enter into a particular form of government is fraught with this evil, that we represent ourselves to them and to the world as taking a peculiar interest in the manner in which they choose to regulate their internal affairs and their relations with the United States. Now that we have given them self-government, let them manage their affairs their own way, and do not let us make ourselves responsible for the manner in which they regulate their internal or foreign relations. The management of our own affairs is quite sufficient for us without our mixing ourselves up in matters with which we have no concern, and over which we do not for a moment profess to exercise the slightest control."—[3 Hansard, clxxxvi. 760–1.]
He should be glad to hear what the Chancellor of the Exchequer had to say with regard to the Bill now before the House.

rose. [Cries of "The Chancellor of the Exchequer."] He said that it was contrary to the rules of the House that a Member should speak twice on the same Motion, and, in consequence of the lengthy extract just read by the hon. Member, the Chancellor of the Exchequer might be taken to have already spoken once. He thought that the doctrine of the Chancellor of the Exchequer was in respect to the particular point in dispute when his speech was delivered a very sound doctrine, and with regard to the present Bill he admitted that the House was free to consider the agreement come to with Canada as one merely of the Executive Government, and not of itself binding on the House. He maintained, however, that the House had, to a considerable extent, bound itself by its own act. The engagement made was that this country should bear the expense of the fortifications of Quebec, and Canada should bear the greater portion of the expense of the fortifications of Montreal. The scheme for the fortifications of Quebec and Montreal was one scheme; and when Parliament voted for the fortifications of Quebec it substantially approved the entire scheme, and so far promised the loan under consideration. The measure was no menace to the United States, as some had urged. The disparity between the resources and population of the two countries would not permit this idea to be encouraged, any more than the Belgian fortresses could be construed into a menace to France. This guarantee was a part of the price England paid for being relieved of the obligation to protect Canada by military. England had now arrived at that state of things in which Canada was to undertake almost entirely its own defence, and the pernicious system of the past was no longer to be encouraged. Canada would be relieved, in a great measure, from all control, and England would be relieved from demands upon her Exchequer on account of Canada. The impression that the construction of this fortress was being forced on Canada had no foundation. It was from no pressure on England's part, real or supposed, that Canada built these fortifications; it was her own spontaneous wish that they should be constructed, and that England should fulfil her engagements respecting them. England had undertaken to make the guarantee, and he would urge the acceptance of the Bill as a means of getting rid of that demoralizing system, the burden of supporting troops in our Colonies.

said, he must express his surprise that a large crop of loans should be brought forward at a period of the Session when they could not be fully discussed. The same thing occurred last year and the year before; and no one had expressed himself more strongly against such loans than the Prime Minister, unless it were the Chancellor of the Exchequer. As to the supposed pledge, the sums granted to Quebec were a free gift voted in Committee of Supply. The present Government had undertaken to carry out a pledge given by his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for War in 1865, but it certainly was not the opinion of the late Government that any pledge had been given to Canada that the loan should be guaranteed; and, in proof of the latter assertion, he might mention a speech delivered by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for North Staffordshire (Sir Charles Adderley) when Colonial Secretary. He should cordially support the Amendment of the Member for Ayrshire (Sir David Wedderburn).

Question put, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."

The House divided:—Ayes 65; Noes 17: Majority 48.

Main Question put, and agreed to.

Bill read a second time, and committed for Monday next.