Page images
PDF
EPUB

pledged?” The people will hereafter require public measures of public men; and, next to the care of their liberties and political interests, they will look for the development of their resources, and the advancement of their condition. Men acting upon the public stage, should move forward in advance of the times, and not trust too much to the position which they have acquired by past services.

There are but few in the capital aware of the fertility of the land in some of our western counties. I may not have seen the most productive portions of the globe, but I have surveyed the plains of Belgium and of Mayo; I have seen the Lothians of Scotland, and some of the finest agricultural districts in England and in the United States; and I unhesitatingly declare that the country lying between the foot of the Ardoise hills and Digby Gut is equal in natural fertility to any that my eye ever beheld. From Parrsborough to Truro stretches one continuous village, with fine uplands in the rear, rich mines in the centre, and marshes in the front. From the Shubenacadie, down the whole sweep of the bay to Windsor, lie fine uplands, timber and marsh lands. This is the country, sir, which we desire to connect with the southern seaboard. [Of this and its resources Mr. Howe gave a rapid sketch.]

Mr. Martell. You have forgotten Arichat.
Mr. Howe. No!

No! I shall never forget Arichat, its cheery population, enterprising mariners, warm-hearted politicians, to say nothing of the pretty French girls, who dance with such sprightliness and grace; these are characteristics which indelibly stamp it upon the mind.

But, sir, let me now show to the committee, that if this railroad were made tomorrow, and did not return one shilling of interest, Nova Scotia, as a community, would still largely gain by the enterprise. Thirty-two thousand seven hundred and forty-eight persons, by Sentell's returns, passed the Sackville bridge, going and returning, in 1848. Suppose all to have gone to or come from Windsor, the average cost of the journey, even by stage, is 10s. each, while six hours is the shortest time spent on the road; with heavy teams it is often two days. If these people could have been transported to and fro at 5s. each in an hour and a half, the amount saved in money and time would nearly have equalled the whole amount of interest on the outlay. I made a journey to Windsor in the autumn of 1849, and was surprised to hear a gentleman, at dinner, remark that he had counted ninety wagons and teams on the road as he went up. I counted the same number the next day as I came down. With such a traffic already on the road, can any man believe that this speculation will fail? But, again, take the cost of freight. It is now 40s. per ton; by the railway it will be 158.; so that here again

we shall have a saving of 25s. per ton, or about £8,400 on our present traffic. The saving of time will be immense. But these savings will be vastly increased when the railway has done for Nova Scotia what it has done for every other country, — increased twofold the traffic and travel upon the route. My calculations are based upon the report of Mr. George Wightman, who, rough in his manners though he be, selftaught though he be, is a Nova Scotian of whom we may be justly proud. Ile has never been sent to lay out a line of level road in Nova Scotia, but, traversing the country with the eye of an Indian, and the science of a civil engineer, he has selected the right track. Experience has always shown his lines to be the best, and in so far as he has pledged his professional reputation, I place the utmost reliance upon his report. Mr. Chesborough, who traversed his line and checked his calculations, is also a gentleman of high standing and character. His testimonials show that he has been employed on the American railways since he was fifteen years of age, under the most distinguished engineers.

We may be told that we cannot expect to borrow this money, as we may repudiate. Sir, I have never known, and hope I shall never know, this Legislature to repudiate an honorable obligation ; but by the proposition which I have made, though this difficulty existed, it would be obviated, for I propose to go further, and ask for the Imperial guarantee besides, and that I have no doubt but the British ministry would, for such a purpose as this, cheerfully give us. We may be asked in Eng- i land if it will pay. I should not hesitate to answer that there is every prospect of its so doing. We may be asked if it is defensible. Point to the map, and a statesman or a soldier would see in an instant that it is. I am wedded to no particular line, although I have great reason to believe the one selected to be a good one. It follows the water lines of two rivers all the way. It cannot go farther to the westward, because the four rivers which empty into Margaret's bay, with their chains of lakes and deep ravines, lie in the way; and while the Ardoise rises as you go west, the descent into the vale of Windsor is too precipitate. The eastern side Wightman thoroughly examined. Easier grades may be got there, but by great increase in distance. For these reasons, then, I believe that we have got the very best line; that fact will be determined before the work commences. But let us look at this question in its worst aspect. Suppose the road built, and the House called upon to vote £10,000 or £12,000 a year. We already pay £1,000 a year to sustain the post road, and £500 for the transportation of our mails over it. If we had to pay the larger sum -£12,000 for two or three years the credit and resources of Nova Scotia would be equal to the

strain, and in a few years the line is sure to pay. But suppose it to succeed, link by link we would have it stretching all along our western villages, with steamboats to Windsor from Parrsborough, Londonderry, Horton, the Noel Shore, and St. John. Let this railway be built, and Windsor will become a city, and Halifax will double in size and population, before five years have passed away.

A word or two more, sir, and I have done. Turning over the old Council minutes the other day, I met with the following entry : “ 20th December, 1764— A large tract of country upon the southeast side of Pesiquid river, erected into a township, called Windsor, and included within the county of Halifax." The Governor's speech in 1759, recommending that a road be opened to Windsor, I hold in my hand. To open that road, at that period, was a greater undertaking for our forefathers than this railroad is now for us.

When I look back to the time in which those old men lived and labored; when I see this building in which we stand, and all the improvements which they have bequeathed to us in a cheerful and hopeful spirit, I feel that we should not be doing our duty if we paused or hesitated to advance in the construction of such a work as this. At this late period of the session and hour of the night it would be unwise in me to detain the committee longer. I have paid no man the poor compliment to canvass him for his vote. I have sought to bring no pressure from without to bear upon this Assembly. I present this measure to you as one in which I take a deep interest, and in the wisdom and practicability of which I sincerely believe. Let it be sustained upon its own intrinsic merits. Unless this measure can bear the test of patient inquiry and calm consideration, and can be sustained by its friends in fair, manly, and honorable debate - unless it can commend itself to the deliberate judgment of this House, it should not pass. But my firm convictions are that it can, and that the representatives of the people should at once assume a responsibility, from which a noble achievement must result, and upon which they will reflect with pride in all time to come.

This proposition received a fair amount of support, but it encountered just enough of opposition to delay the commencement of the work for four years. There were those who only believed in the old mode of making railroads by companies, with or without subsidies, but who conscientiously feared to intrust the power to government. There were some who apprehended that if the Windsor road was commenced it might impede the construction of the Trunk Line, and there were a few who did not believe that railroads were required in this country, or would be productive of any advantage if they were made. After a hard struggle to obtain an appropriation of the whole amount required, Mr. Howe was induced to accept onehalf, with the assurance that the other half would be easily raised by a company. Without surrendering his own belief in the policy that ought to be pursued, he accepted the only grant he could get upon the terms prescribed, and set about trying the experiment demanded by the opposition, with but little hope of success. Meetings were held in Halifax and Windsor, but although sufficient enthusiasm was displayed in both places, the summer was passing rapidly away without any demonstrations to warrant the belief that the other half of the capital required would be raised by private subscriptions.

In July, the excitement upon the subject of railroads was heightened by two causes. A short dispatch was received from Earl Grey, in which, acknowledging the receipt of an address i from the Legislative Council, His Lordship informed Sir John Harvey that Her Majesty's government " was not prepared to submit to Parliament any measure for raising the funds necessary for the construction” of the railroad to Quebec. This dispatch, short and decisive, apparently closed the door to all negotiation with the Imperial government — to all hope of aid from home.

Almost simultaneously with its publication came an invitation for delegates to attend a railway convention, to be held at Portland, on the 31st of July, to consider of the best means by which that city could be united to Halifax by a railroad running eastward through the Province of New Brunswick. The invitations were accepted, and a numerous and highly respectable delegation was sent from New Brunswick. One less numerous, but combining a great deal of weight and talent, went forward from Nova Scotia.

It included the Attorney General, the Hon. Mr. Johnston, the leader of the political opposition, and Mr. Fraser, of Windsor, who represented the Western Railroad Committee. Besides these, there were some other gentlemen from Halifax and the eastern and western counties.

This convention was, on many accounts, extremely interesting. The sons of the Loyalists, and those of their ancient enemies, met for the first time since the Revolution, on common ground, and for the promotion of a common object. The city of Portland, beautifully situated, was rendered doubly attractive by the courtesy and hospitality of its inhabitants, of both sexes. Eloquent speeches were delivered; the flags of the two nations were interwoven; it was determined that a company should be formed to carry out the enterprise forthwith; and the meeting broke up after exhibiting a very fraternal spirit and a good deal of pardonable enthusiasm.

On the 26th of August, a public meeting was convened in the Temperance Hall, at Halifax, to receive the reports from the delegates who had attended the convention at Portland, and to take such steps as might appear judicious in furtherance of the great enterprise there suggested.

At this meeting, reports were read and eloquent speeches made, but nobody could show how the money required ($12,000,000) was to be raised. It was apparent that while a million currency would be required to construct that part of the road which was to pass over Nova Scotia (one hundred and thirty miles), a much larger sum would be wanted to make two hundred miles through New Brunswick. It was admitted on all hands that the State of Maine and the city of Portland had exhausted their resources in pushing forward the roads which connected or were to connect Portland with Boston on the one side, and Montreal upon the other. Mr. Fraser, in his report, stated that he “had sought for distinct information as to the modes in which it was expected to obtain the money requisite,” but could obtain “no precise information." gentlemen in Maine did not hesitate to admit their present inability to raise the funds in that State to build their line within their own territory."

Resolutions were passed at this meeting, thanking the delegates, adopting the line proposed, and recommending Halifax as the terminus. A resolution was before the meeting, appointing a large committee to coöperate with the people of Portland. At this stage of the proceedings, Mr. Howe for the

“ The

« PreviousContinue »