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is at liberty to shoot what game he sees? What harm would the poacher do us, if, after making half a mile of railroad, he got a bit of land beside it, and reared a race of "mighty hunters,” to pay us revenue in peace, and to defend our frontiers in war? In Ireland there were, until very recently, forty-four thousand families, each living on one acre of land. One acre of land! While a farmer in Nova Scotia is half smothered if he has less than one hundred. In seven years, eight hundred thousand families were “evicted” from these small holdings. How many convicts did this process make? Fancy that either of you, with a large family, occupied a poor cabin on one acre of ground. That you had toiled and struggled to pay the rent and could not; and that the house was pulled down over your head, and your furniture and children, and sick wife, perhaps, were flung into the road. Who is there in all this audience, who, when night closed above him amidst such scenery and such temptations, might not be a convict? If I were not, I would say of myself as an English martyr said when he saw a man going to be hanged, “ There goes John Bradford but for the grace of God.”
Let me sketch another picture. I was returning at midnight from the Mansion House, where the abounding wealth of London was fitly represented at the Lord Mayor's hospitable board; where the luxuries of every clime tempted the palate, amidst the appliances of almost barbaric splendor. As I rode through the streets, shadows occasionally darkened the door-ways; poor wretches appeared to be crouching for shelter from the rain. At last I got out of the cab, and found a group of three children, the eldest a girl of seven, the others about three and four years old, sitting on the steps of a closed shop, with the winter rain beating in their little faces, at one o'clock in the morning. I asked why they did not go home? They said they had no home; their mother was dead; their father seeking work somewhere, and the elder girl was vainly endeavoring to spread the ends of a threadbare shawl over the little brother and sister who cowered beside her. My first impulse was to bundle the creatures into the cab and take them to my lodgings; but I compromised with my conscience, gave them some money, and went home to bed, not to sleep, but to reflect. Suppose your children or mine were seated in that door-way, growing day by day in destitution and misery, amidst the temptations of a great city, and nightly exposed to the contact of all that was vicious by impulse, and resistless from organization. What might our children be? Such as these become, thieves and prostitutes first, and convicts afterwards, almost as a matter of course. The question naturally arises then, can we do any thing in this matter? I think we can. By taking the older children and making
good farmers, and fishermen, and sailors, of them; we can create a vent to relieve the asylums, and then the streets may be cleared. By furnishing land and employment for industrious adults, “evictions” will cease, and agrarian outrages diminish in number ; but we may single experiment, which I am anxious to try, succeeds, and it can be shown that convicts, disciplined and guarded, can be worked in the woods. This idea originated with Major Robert Carmichael Smyth, than whom, I may say, the North American Provinces have not a more fervent admirer, nor a more zealous and devoted friend. To his brother, Sir J. C. Smyth, we owe the admirable military survey and report which have strengthened our defences; and if my friend's experiment can be fairly tried, to him we may owe the extension of these railroads, and the opening of the route to the Pacific. In view of such vast advantages I would not hesitate an instant to turn him in upon the lines with a regiment of convicts, who would be maintained and guarded without any expense to us. If he fails, we have tried a benevolent experiment; if he succeeds, in five years our roads are done, and these pioneers will be far beyond the western frontiers of Canada, opening up the magnificent country behind to settlement and civilization.
With one word of personal explanation, I shall move the first resolution. While in England some of my friends sent me a New Brunswick paper, in which it was more than insinuated, that I had gone to seek, not the railroad but the government of Prince Edward Island. That government was vacant for months after I reached England, but it was never named by me, nor was that or any other personal favor ever asked of the Colonial Secretary. Sir, from first to last, I felt that nothing would so lower and degrade my country, so injure her cause, or evince greater unworthiness of the confidence she had reposed, than for me to solicit any personal favor. I felt that I was charged with your interests, not my own; that I had the honor of my country in my hands, and was bound to protect it. This I may say perhaps, that the noble secretary for the Colonies would not have withheld from me any personal favor that I could have fairly asked ; that he would gladly have improved my fortunes if I could have suggested the mode. But His Lordship did not pay me the poor compliment to suppose that I could abandon the field of honorable exertion which lies before me. To that he knew, as you know, my energies must be devoted till these great works are completed; until these experiments of philanthropy and moral obligation are fairly tried. To labor with you and for you, that we may work out the prosperity and happiness of our common country, is for me suflicient distinction; and let me say, in conclusion, though my eye has rested during my absence upon many noble objects and many beautiful scenes, for them all I would not exchange the warm hearts that are beating around me here.
The following resolution was carried by acclamation at this meeting:
Resolved, That the citizens of Halifax have read, with unmingled satisfaction, the letter addressed on the 10th of March, to the Hon. Joseph Howe, by Benjamin Hawes, Esquire, acting under the directions of Earl Grey, and by which funds to the extent of seven million pounds, to be expended in the construction of intercolonial railways through the North American Provinces, are tendered to the governments of Canada, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick, on terms which secure the completion of those works at a little more than one-half of what they would cost without the direct interposition of Imperial credit.
Replying to a vote of thanks moved at this meeting, Mr. Howe observed :
You know, my fellow townsmen, all that I feel on this occasion, and I appreciate all that you would express. If I am good for any thing, if I have fittingly discharged the duties of this mission, I owe it to the opportunities you have afforded me to ripen and discipline the powers of my mind. I have done my best, and I did it with the consciousness that you would have been satisfied on that score even had I failed. Perhaps I may have had my moments of depression. When I steamed up Liverpool harbor, and saw the noble docks stretching for miles along the shore, ships gliding past every instant like birds upon the wing, and all the evidences of the dense population and restless activity of a great commercial emporium, I may have doubted the possibility of an unknown Colonist obtaining a hearing upon any subject. And I must confess, that when I found myself in the heart of England's great metropolis, with its two millions of people around me, of whom I knew not ten, I sometimes felt that if I ventured to raise my voice at all, amidst its aggregate industry, and high domestic excitement, I would probably resemble the man howling in the wilderness. But the light that led to other victories led to this. It flashes into my mind, I know not whence, and I have been accustomed to follow it wheresoever it leads. My heart is ever strengthened when my country has work to do; and ideas, which books supply not, crowd upon me. I toil till it is done, and your cheerful faces are my best reward. Of one thing I am proud to-day; of the unanimity and ardent attachment to the home of our fathers, which have characterized this meeting. In the generous offer of the government and people of England, we have felt John Bull's heart beating against our own. When the news of the great demonstration at Quebec, and of this, cross the sea, he will hear the throb of ours too audibly to doubt the sincerity of our attachment. And why should it be otherwise. Until the time arrives when North America shall rise into a nation, nothing can be more honorable than our connection with the parent state. We must have a metropolis, an Imperial centre somewhere, and I do not hesitate to acknowledge that I prefer London, with her magnificent proportions, to Washington, with her “magnificent distances.”
Give me London, the metropolis of the world, with her time honored structures, in which the mighty dead repose; with all her faults, it may be, but with her abounding wealth, her high art, science, and refinement; but above all, and before all, the freedom of speech and personal liberty by which no other city that ever I saw is more honorably distinguished. I do not disguise from you that I look hopefully forward to the period when these splendid Provinces, with the population, the resources, and the intelligence of a nation, will assume a national character. Until that day comes, we are safe beneath the shield of England; and when it comes, we shall stand between the two great nations whose blood we share, to moderate their counsels, and preserve them in the bonds of peace.
United action, on the part of the three Provinces, being indispensable to success, it was desirable that delegates should proceed to Toronto and confer with the Governor General and his Council. Mr. Howe was selected for this service, and shortly after, Sir John Harvey, who had lost his amiable lady during the winter, went home on leave.
It was very important that two objects should be accomplished before the conference at Toronto was held, that the agents of the mere Portland scheme should be left without footing in Nova Scotia, and that the tone of public opinion in New Brunswick should be changed. As the promoter of the bill for incorporating the Portland Company resided at Amherst, Mr. Howe determined to attend a meeting at that place, and give the people of Cumberland an opportunity to hear both sides of the question. On the 2nd of June, he addressed them in a speech of which no record remains, but which car. ried the audience with him, en masse, and made such an impression on the county that its leading men came forward and asked Mr. Howe to become its representative, an honor which he accepted a few months afterwards.
From Amherst, Mr. Howe passed into the Province of New Brunswick, and addressed public meetings at Dorchester, at the Bend of Peticodiac, at St. John, and at St. Andrews, taking Fredericton on his route that he might confer with the Lieutenant Governor. At all these meetings he produced a most favorable impression. Mr. Howe, having convinced the Hon. Edward Chandler that the decision of the New Brunswick Legislature had been hasty, and that his own policy was entitled to support, that gentleman thenceforward zealously coöperated with him; spoke at the public meetings in favor of the combined scheme, went with him as a delegate to Toronto, and returning to Cumberland paid, in presence of the electors, the highest compliment which perhaps he ever received.
Of the four speeches delivered by Mr. Howe in New Brunswick, but one was reported, — that made at the Temperance Hall at St. John, when he was suffering from severe cold caught on the journey. It was plain and practical. It had been urged that the government of Nova Scotia had broken faith with the Portland convention. This was denied. The government had declined to send a delegate to that convention. Though a member of it had attended as a representative of the city of Halifax, he had only expressed there his own opinions, the Cabinet being free to act on the new condition of things presented by that convention. It had acted in good faith to all the parties concerned. Finding that no feasible plan had been arranged by which the funds required could be commanded, and being assured that they could not be raised within the Provinces themselves, they had sent a delegate to England empowered to pledge the public revenues, and to raise all the money required to make that portion of the line which lay within their territory. Finding that the Imperial government would not give the guarantee without provision was made for the intercolonial line, a scheme had been arranged by which both lines could be constructed without loss to the mother country, without burthening too heavily the resources of the Provinces, and without any necessity for calling upon the State of Maine