Page images

resigned. This was a sad trial of Mr. Howe's patience, as at the moment he had on his table the draft of Mr. Hawes's letter, giving the sanction of the Imperial government to his policy, sent for his revision and acceptance, by Earl Grey. When the ministry retired, this draft could not, of course, be made official, or bind the incoming government. It was reasonable to expect that if Lord Derby came in, he would give to the Colonies the advantage of the generous sentiments he had uttered in the House of Peers; but nobody could tell what new combinations might be formed, and a dissolution of Parliament appeared frequently to be the only solution of the complications in which parties were involved by personal rivalries, or honest differences of opinion on important public questions. Great delay and anxieties long protracted appeared inevitable, whatever might happen; and it was not at all improbable that the hopes and interests of North America, might be wrecked amidst the storms and convulsions which she could neither avert nor control. The crisis lasted a fortnight. Everybody, at all presentable, was sent for and consulted, and at last, on the 3d of March, the Whigs went back to office. On the 7th, the draft of Mr. Hawes's letter was formally submitted to the Cabinet, and approved. It is dated the 10th, and reached Mr. Howe on the following day. We have included this dispatch in the railway correspondence, which appears in the proper place, together with the reports which, on the 13th of March and 4th of April, were addressed to the Provincial government.

On the 5th of April, Mr. Howe left England for Halifax, weary of labor and undivided responsibility, sated with the excitement and pleasures of society, and conscious that new toils and heavy responsibilities awaited him on his return. But, conscious also, of great triumphs achieved, of great services ren dered; and above all, of the possession of great powers, tested on the broad field of European competition, and strengthened and improved by six months of observation and of discipline in the metropolis of the civilized world.

Mr. Howe reached home on the 14th of April, and found a good deal of work on his hands from the moment of his arrival. His old friend Mr. Huntington had resigned, and Mr. Creelman's


appointment to the Financial Secretary's office, though securing the services of a most upright and faithful officer, had created some jealousies that required to be soothed. The old question of an Elective Council had been pressed, and some of the supporters of government giving way, a majority had sanctioned the principle. The franchise had been disturbed, and changed from a 40s. freehold to the payment of taxes. But the most perplexing matter that required immediate attention, was a serious difference between the Attorney General and Mr. G. R. Young, which compromised the Cabinet, and gave rise to general suspicions that its members were not united upon the great question of its railway policy. When Mr. Howe's letters, and the dispatches from Downing Street, were laid before the House, the members and supporters of the government, with one exception, expressed unbounded satisfaction. Even the warmest of his old political opponents, acknowledged the ability, tact, and moral courage displayed by the delegate; and however much some of them might disapprove of railways being made by governments, all admitted that Her Majesty's ministers had been won at last to an enlightened appreciation of the value of her North American Provinces, and were acting with a generous and sincere desire to promote their internal improvement. Mr. George R. Young professed to think otherwise, and in some speech which he had made, had given great offence to his colleagues, and to the public generally. Action had been taken upon this speech before Mr. Howe arrived. The Attorney General and Mr. Young had tendered their resignations, and could no longer act together. Vain efforts to harmonize these jarring elements having been exhausted, Mr. Young's resignation was accepted with all courtesy, on the 12th of May.

There were other causes for perplexity. The promoters of the Portland convention evidently did not look with a friendly eye upon Mr. Howe's policy and proceedings. They desired to make Portland the seaport of Canada, and to draw all the Provinces into friendly connection and ultimate political harmony with the United States. Mr. Howe desired to create a North American nation, watchful of republican America, even while pursuing common objects, but in perpetual friendship and al

liance with the British Islands. Mr. Howe was content to make the shore line through the maritime Provinces, either as part of a great scheme, or by itself; but he desired to keep that portion of the railway which ran through British territory, under British influence and control; and he had labored to give to the Provinces a great intercommunication between the Atlantic and the St. Lawrence, which, even if it could not compete for the traffic of western Canada with the Portland line, would in peace and war be of inestimable value to the empire, and ultimately secure to Eastern seaports the trade of all that noble country which lies between Quebec and Nova Scotia.

In New Brunswick, there were powerful interests opposed to the Northern line. As surveyed by Major Robinson and Captain Henderson, it did not touch Fredericton, the political capital, or St. John, the commercial metropolis of New Brunswick. Mr. Howe had foreseen that unless by combining the two roads in a general scheme, it was hopeless to expect the guarantee of the Imperial government for the road to Portland alone; and equally hopeless to anticipate that New Brunswick would expend her resources upon a national highway, which sacrificed to Imperial or intercolonial interests, the hopes and fair claims of her two most influential and important cities. Before he arrived in America, and before his policy was understood in that Province, the influences which dominated in the southern sections, combined with those which the Portland convention had created by the appointment of agents in New Brunswick, had placed the Legislature in a position of antagonism to the Northern road, and of course to the general policy propounded by Mr. Howe.

In this Province some of the agents appointed by the convention had been equally active, and a bill for incorporating a company to make the road to Portland alone, with the aid of large subsidies from the Provincial government, had been introduced into the Assembly, and was favored by those who, for various reasons, were opposed to the more comprehensive scheme. The bill had been deferred till Mr. Howe's success in England was apparent, and then was laid aside.

After a leisurely survey of the whole field of exertion, Mr.

[ocr errors]

Howe set to work with his usual energy and decision. The Cabinet was united and in earnest. The telegraph had assured him of the friendly feeling and coöperation of Canada. As a general election was to come off in the course of the summer, it was indispensable that public opinion should be prepared, and a friendly majority returned.

A public meeting of the citizens of Halifax was convened at Masons' Hall, on the 15th of May. Men of all ranks and shades of politics attended, and vied with each other in the enthusiastic reception given to Mr. Howe. It was here that he delivered that speech which Lord Grey informed him was "one the best that he had ever read." We copy it from the published report of the proceedings:

Mr. Mayor and Gentlemen, - This meeting has been called to ascertain whether the citizens of Halifax, after six months' deliberation and reflection, are as unanimous as they were in August last; whether they are still disposed to intrust to their government the task of constructing intercolonial railways; and whether they are prepared to accept the terms which have been offered to the Province in Mr. Hawes's letter of the 10th March. The position which the negotiations have assumed, render it necessary that efforts should be made to overcome difficulties that have arisen beyond our own frontier. The government contemplates sending a deputation to Canada, to confer with delegates from the neighboring Provinces, in the confident hope that those difficulties may be overcome, and that that unity of action and mutual harmony may be secured by which alone the great works contemplated can be rendered not only practicable but easy of accomplishment within a reasonable. time. To appoint men, however, to perform this service; to send them from amongst us to negotiate with the governments of Canada and New Brunswick, in ignorance of the state of public feeling at home, before they know whether the ground behind them is firm and stable, would be unwise, premature, and useless. They could not with confidence ask New Brunswickers or Canadians to give their sanction to any line of policy before they knew whether Nova Scotians were determined to sustain it. I am happy in the belief that the unanimity which presages success, the manly forbearance and generous rivalry which insure the perfection of large and comprehensive measures upon sound principles do exist among us; do pervade the community, actuating and animating the large and highly respectable body of our fellow citizens here assem

bled. So far as I have been enabled to gather the general sentiment since my return, from frequent communication with leading men representing great interests, and the opinions of large sections of our people, I believe that the resolutions which have been prepared for submission will meet the unanimous support of this assemblage.

The imperial government, with a magnanimity which does honor to the British people, sustained by that unanimity of sentiment among the great leaders of public opinion at home which promises a long continuance of the honorable relations existing between us, has offered to the three British North American Provinces seven millions of pounds sterling, at the lowest interest at which money can be obtained in the world. This money is offered for the purpose of enabling them to complete, in an incredibly short space of time, and with security and ease, great internal improvements which their advanced condition renders so desirable; which will bind them together into one prosperous community, animate them with new hopes and aspirations, and ultimately elevate them from the Colonial condition to that of a great and prosperous nation, in perpetual amity and friendship with those glorious islands to which we trace our origin, and to which, through this great boon, so much of our material prosperity will in all time to come be traced.

Halifax has been formed by nature, and selected by the dictates of sound policy, as a common terminus for these great intercolonial railways. Three hundred and thirty miles will connect us with Portland, and all the lines which interlace the American Republic and bind together the prosperous communities of the South and West. Six hundred and seventy miles more, opening up the central lands and settlements of New Brunswick, will not only connect us, as we originally contemplated, with Quebec and the St. Lawrence, but passing through one hundred and eighty miles of settlements on that noble river, will place us in communication with the populous city of Montreal, which will soon be in connection with Portland on the other side; the circle will be thus complete, and chains of intercommunication established, easily accessible, by shorter lines, to all the rising towns and settlements which that wide circuit will embrace.

But when Montreal is reached, shall we stop there? Who can believe it? Who can think so lightly of the enterprise of Western Canada as to apprehend that she will not continue this iron road, link by link, till it skirts the shores of Ontario and Erie, and draws its tributary streams of traffic from the prolific regions of Simcoe, Superior, and Huron? Already municipalities are organizing and companies are forming to extend this railway for six hundred miles above Montreal. Once completed to

« PreviousContinue »