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lution of so much importance as that which I hold in my hand, at so late an hour and in a House so thin. I could have wished that every member had been present this evening, not on personal grounds, for I have outlived the poor vanity of speechmaking here, to be followed by no practical result; but because I sincerely desire that the proposition I am about to submit may be duly weighed and considered with an interest proportioned to its importance.
[Mr. IIowe read the resolution.]
Now, sir, in asking this Assembly to affirm that resolution, I should be wanting in all the attributes of a good citizen, if I did not feel the responsibility that ought to rest upon any man having the hardihood to propose it. If I bespeak the attention of gentlemen around me, it is because the subject is worthy; if I advocate the proposition earnestly, it is because I feel its importance; and if I seek to convince others, I do so because I have an abiding faith in the convictions of my own mind. While doing my best, befittingly, to discharge this public duty, it becomes me to crave indulgence, for I know my own defects. Though circumstances favor my advocacy of a measure which I have pondered for fifteen
years, I feel how many there are in this Assembly more able to do it justice. If I present it unskilfully, I trust the committee will not think less favorably of the enterprise itself.
I come not here as a member of the government to offer to you a measure in which the administration is united. I address you as a member for the county of Halifax, on a subject which deeply involves the interests of my constituents; as a representative of this Province, upon the prosperity of which the construction of this railroad will have a most inspiring influence. I could have wished that the government had assumed the responsibility and the credit of this measure. I believe it to be the high duty of all governments to take the lead in enterprises of this nature. But there were difficulties in the way. We felt, perhaps, that it would be unfair to gentlemen representing distant counties, who honor us with their political support, to call upon them to sustain a measure involving so large a pledge of the public credit; and besides, if this pledge were to be given, it would carry less weight at home and abroad if it rested on a mere party division, than if a majority of this Assembly, without distinction of party, gave it, after mature deliberation, uninfluenced by pressure from either side. To construct this railroad we shall require united action in the Legislature, in this city, along the line, and in the western counties. It will demand from us mutual coöperation ; it will task all our resources. Besides, as we may require the Imperial guarantee, we can go to Her Majesty's ministers and into the English money market with more confidence as an united than as a divided community. We can then ask the best terms, because we present the best security that the character of the Legislature and the resources of the Province afford. On questions of sufficient magnitude — the equalization of postage, the extension of general commerce, the defence of our national honor, the voice of faction is hushed in this Assembly, and forgetting our rivalries, we think only of our country. So let it be to-night ; in that spirit let us approach this question.
As early as the year 1835, I first suggested to my countrymen the practicability and importance of constructing a railway between Halifax and Windsor, and wrote a series of papers in the Nova Scotian recommending the project to public favor. For a time I was perhaps the only solitary individual who seriously entertained a hope that such an enterprize would be accomplished. The idea was suggested in my rambles around that beautiful bason which it is the object of this resolution to connect in the most intimate relations with the capital and with the southern seaboard. I was struck by the peculiar character of the Bason of Mines, the singular ebb and flow of whose tides (carrying vessels to and fro against the winds) form one of the most remarkable water powers in the world. I was struck with the seventeen rivers, bordered by rich marshes, inhabited by a thriving population, and carrying the products of their industry to its bosom. Those noble defences, the north and south mountains, which encompass and shelter from every wind that teeming valley of unsurpassed natural fertility, which stretches for a hundred miles from Blomidon to Digby; met my eye. From this rich region, steadily advancing in population and productive industry, and capable of sustaining a million of people, the capital of Nova Scotia was separated by a comparatively sterile tract of thirty miles. The shortest high road to New Brunswick, and to the United States, lay through that western valley. A railroad was the natural suggestion of the scenery and resources presented to the eye. Among the first who shared my. enthusiasm on this subject was Judge Haliburton, of Windsor, who was familiar with the western country, and who, long after I had convinced myself that the project was premature, gave it, in his popular works, a world-wide celebrity. Subsequently, Captain Moorsom, whose experience in railway engineering qualified him to judge of the practicability of the scheme, gave it his approbation. In 1845, the learned member for Pictou, being in England, in conjunction with certain parties there, issued the prospectus of a company for constructing a railway to Windsor.
With that proposal I had nothing to do, for although the subject was ever present to my mind, I had schooled myself to look at it without undue enthusiasm. In 1835, the railway experience of the mother country was not extensive, while few had been tried
upon the continent. As late as 1839 France and Belgium had but one or two short lines. In northern Europe there was scarcely one. The railway facts and experience of the United States have all accumulated within the last fifteen years. Prior to that, and long subsequently, no railroad paid that did not chiefly pay by passengers alone. Satisfied of this fact, I convir.ced myself that for some years a railroad to Windsor would be premature. I laid it aside till the arrival of a period when I could feel assured that it would be successful. What has taken place since 1835? England, Ireland, and Scotland have been intersected with railways, which now form a perfect network across ihe British island. It may be said that many of them do not pay. There are two reasons for this: first, because the government, surrendering the control which every government should exercise over the high roads of a country, rival lines were projected which were not required; and, secondly, because the expense lavished upon them in many instances was out of all proportion to the probable income. Mr. John Wilson, of St. Andrews, who visited England on railway business, assured me that in that country an average of £5,000 per mile had been spent in building station-houses alone, a sum nearly equal to the cost of railways in Nova Scotia.
Turning to the Continent, we see France, Belgium, Germany, Austria, and even Russia, intersected with railways, nearly all of them constructed since 1835. The tour of Europe may now be made in one fourth of the time, and at a fourth of the expense, which were formerly required. In the adjoining republic, nearly all their best and most remunerative lines have been constructed since 1835; among them, that which, running back from Boston, taps the commerce of the West, and that which, running up the Hudson, successfully competes with the splendid steamers by which that river is navigated. These, and many others, penetrating the wide extent of the Union, connecting not only the larger cities, but the most remote villages, and hamlets, are of modern date, and have already given an astonishing impulse to national industry, developing new resources, and creating trade in the most unproductive regions. The Windsor line, to which I now desire to call your attention, has been left in abeyance, while Europe and America were proving the utility of railways. We have now the advantage of their experience, and may safely rely upon the facts which they have accumulated. Our own country has largely increased in population and resources in the meantime. The western counties have advanced their cultivation and their numbers. Not only has the commerce of our seaboard towns vastly increased, but the Bason of Mines has now its fleet of ships and brigs, not only carrying its gypsum, grindstones and agricultural productions, but competing for its share of the foreign carrying trade. No man can ascend the Ardoise, or the North Mountain, and gaze down upon the scenery which they enclose, without perceiving the improvements which have been wrought within the last fifteen years. Hamlets have grown to villages, villages to towns, new streets and farms are perceptible everywhere. Continuous ranges of cultivation connect Windsor and Falmouth with Horton and Cornwallis, which are again connected by Aylesford, and Wilmot with Granville, Annapolis, and Digby. And no man can contemplate the fertility of the soil and the rapid development of its resources, without feeling assured that that whole region is destined to become a garden, filled with an active, inteligent and wealthy population. The internal commerce of that region already requires that we should give it vent by railway to the southern shores and capital of our country.
In other respects, the present time is favorable to this enterprise. For some years past, the changes which have been proposed in the commercial policy of the mother country, have deranged, from time to time, our Colonial industry. These are now at an end. Free trade will henceforth form the universal rule throughout the Empire, and the dispatch from Earl Grey, which I had the honor to lay on the table a few days ago (and which I regard as one of the most important ever communicated to this Legislature), gives to us the right to establish free ports and ports of entry wheresoever we please. Sir, I looked forward to the introduction of the present system of government with sanguine hopes of success. I fought for it, hoped for it, and prayed for it. But I never did expect to see the day when, by the abrogation of the old maternal policy, we should be left to open ports wherever we required, them, and to manage our own commercial affairs. So large a concession is calculated to awaken the brightest prestige of future prosperity and success. Now then is the time for us to give to our farmers the most approved facilities for transporting the products of their industry to the seaboard.
If any man doubted the agricultural capabilities of Nova Scotia, his doubts must have been dissipated by what we have lately witnessed. Scourged like other countries by a comparative failure of crops for four successive years; the “metal of our pastures” has been proven by the comparative ease with which our country has carried its population
through the trying dispensations of Providence; already we can descry indications above the horizon of dawning and brighter days.
Looking to the improved condition of our institutions, the time for embarking in this enterprise would seem to be no less favorable. Polit ical discussions have, until very recently, agitated the country. I do not deny that there are divisions still, but to a certain extent the political fervor has evaporated. Had we entered upon the consideration of this subject, during the past three or four years, the conflict and heat of party would have been more likely to mar the enterprise than at present. I would have shrunk, as a member of this Legislature, from conferring such a power as is sought for in this resolution upon any Executive, unless that body were responsible. No matter which party rules, they are responsible now, and should we require the imperial guarantee, almost every important question upon which there was controversy has been settled fairly between the imperial State and this Colony. I think then, sir, that the time is favorable, because of our improved commercial position; because we may look forward to the revival of our agriculture; because political discussions between the Province and the mother country have been brought to a close; and because the money market of England is abundantly supplied, our credit is good, and all that we require can be obtained on favorable terms. We may
be told that railroads are not matters in which government should interfere. I differ entirely with those who entertain such an opinion, and I do not hesitate to propound it as one of the guiding principles of policy which shall run through the whole course of my after life, that I shall, while in any Cabinet, press them to take the initiative in such works as this. It is the first duty of a government to take the front rank in every noble enterprise; to be in advance of the social, political, and industrial energies, which they have undertaken to lead. There are things they should not touch or attempt to control; but the great highways — the channels of intercommunication between large and wealthy sections of the country, should claim their especial consideration;
and when I am told that we should hand over, for all time to come, this great western railway to a private company, I have to such an assignment a serious objection. I may yield my opinion if overruled. All our roads in Nova Scotia, made by the industry and resources of the people, are free to the people at this hour. The toll bar is almost unknown, and this railroad, which will be the Queen's highway to the western counties in all time to come, should be the property of the Province and not of a private association. The roads, telegraphs, light