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Imperial Parliament

The Illustrated London News, vol. 46, no. 1307, p. 278.

March 25, 1865


...Our Coast Defences.--Mr. H. Berkeley called attention to the probability of a war with America, and urged that our harbours and dockyards were in an almost defenceless condition.--Mr. Peacocke and Mr. Baillie followed in a similar strain, while Sir H. Willoughby and Mr. Forster condemned the use of irritating language towards the United States.--Lord Hartington said our forts were armed with 110-pounder Armstrong and the old 68-pounder guns, which could resist the attack of a wooden fleet. As regarded iron-plated ships, our own ironclads could look after them, if it became necessary to do so, and next year the Government hoped to be in a better position for deciding upon the gun to be adopted for general use.--Sir F. Smith said the plans for the fortification of Quebec and Montreal were very simple and very complete, but he must urge the Admiralty to place a flotilla of gun-boats on the Canadian lakes.--After some further conversation the subject dropped.

...HOUSE OF LORDS.--Thursday.

America.--Earl Russell laid upon the table of the House a letter, with an inclosure from Mr. Adams, the representative of the United States, declaring that he was commanded by the President to deliver a notice in the month of March of the desire of the Government of the United States that the reciprocity treaty between this country and the United States should terminate, and that accordingly the treaty would terminate in twelve months from the date of the delivery of the notice. The inclosure was merely a vote of the Congress, and consented to by the President, declaring that it was no longer to the interest of the United States that the treaty should be continued. The noble Earl said that the act of violence perpetrated by the so-called Confederate States on the lakes completely justified the United States in giving notice of the termination of the convention, for it was not to be expected that the United States would permit such acts of violence to be repeated, nor was it to be expected that the United States should submit passively to such acts of violence without means of retaliation. He entertained hopes, with regard to the reciprocity treaty, that a renewal of it could be arranged with modifications, which would be more advantageous to the United States, and which they might consider more just to themselves. Mr. Adams had informed him of the result of the negotiations which had taken place between the President and the so-called Confederates. The noble Earl then expressed a hope that when he should present to him a notice of the termination of the reciprocity treaty he should find that the President and the Government of the United States were ready to consider a proposition by which a small and limited armament might be kept upon the lakes for the purpose of the police on both sides, and also of a renewal of the reciprocity treaty on terms which should be agreed to by both parties, and which might be negotiated during the twelve months which would elapse before the treaty would cease to be in operation. Of course, Mr. Adams did not offer to give any assurance upon the subject, but the words which he used induced the noble Earl to trust that such would be the case. He should be extremely sorry if anything should occur in this country to bring about an opposite result. He therefore much regretted some expressions that had been used and some speeches that had been made tending to excite in the United States a disposition unfavourable to this country. He believed that in this respect this country had behaved wrongfully to the United States, and had given them just cause to complain of the unfriendly spirit shown in this country towards them. Her Majesty's Government intended to pursue the same course with regard to the United States as heretofore. A new Minister would leave London to-morrow to represent her Majesty at Washington. The noble Earl concluded by passing an encomium upon Lord Lyons, the Minister of the past, and Sir Frederick Bruce, the Minister of the future. The noble Earl then took a review of the policy pursued by her Majesty's Government, towards America, and maintained that the course they had adopted was the wise and prudent one. They had appointed a new Minister from England to Washington, and had instructed him to carry out the same policy which Lord Lyons had followed with such satisfaction to both countries.

The Defences Of Canada.

The House went into Committee of Supply, when

The Marquis of Hartington moved the vote of £50,000 for the Canadian defences, and entered into a most elaborate statement of our relations with Canada and the defenceless state of the colony[.] He stated that the Canadians were quite prepared to bear their share of the expense of keeping those fortifications in an efficient condition.

Mr. Bentinck thought it was a useless expenditure, and capable of doing more harm than good; and he therefore moved that the sum of £50,000 be omitted from the votes. If we should have a war with the United States that sum would be totally inefficient for the defence of the Canadian provinces. He objected to the vote in in toto, because it would be likely to draw on the evil which we were anxious to avoid; and to erect forts would be holding out a challenge to the United States which they might be induced to accept.

General Peel considered that England was bound to protect her colonies, and, with regard to Canada, we must defend it with the whole strength of the country. He would not go into the question of whether the grant was enough or not, but the value he attached to it was, that it would convince the colony and America that we would protect Canada to the last.

Mr. Butler-Johnstone objected to the smallness of the vote.

Major Anson thought it would be impossible for us to hold Canada if the Americans thought proper to seize it; but there was no reason to suppose that any such attempt would ever be made by the Americans.

Mr. Adderley gave his assent to the vote.

Lord Bury thought it would be necessary to form earthworks at certain points in Canada, by which an invading army must come, and by that means a comparatively small force would be able to hold at bay a numerically much stronger force.

After a discussion, in which Mr. Watkin, Mr. Haliburton, Mr. S. Lefevre, and Lord R. Montagu took part,

Mr. C. Fortescue, on the part of the Government, admitted that they were bound to support the independence of the Canadians; but at the same time the Government felt that the colony ought to make some effort to defend itself.

Sir F. Smith expressed his opinion that Canada could be defended.

Mr. Lowe replied to the arguments that had been used in favour of defending Canada. He denied that the Americans would be compelled to go by any particular route to invade Canada, because they could enter it by at least four or five different points. The Americans had now the largest army and the most experienced one in the world, and one that we could not oppose with any chance of success. We ought therefore to deal candidly with Canada, and let her know that, although she would find England a warm friend and ally, who would defend her to the utmost of her power, yet that she must be prepared to defend herself, for that we could not be supposed to undertake a defence that would be perfectly hopeless. He deprecated the Government of this country stirring up the Canadians to a defence that would be entirely hopeless. Nevertheless, he was not prepared to take upon himself the responsibility of refusing the vote. It was only a trifle, and the Government asked for it on its own responsibility, and he was willing to support the vote, although he still entertained the same opinion that he had previously expressed.

Mr. Disraeli supported the vote, because to refuse it would discourage the Canadians at a most critical moment. He scouted the idea of Mr. Lowe that England should allow America quietly to take possession of Canada without a struggle because it was possible that the defence might not be successful. If it should happen that America should go to war with England, that war would be carried on in every part of the world, so as to make their victory as expensive and as difficult as possible. It was preposterous to lay down a principle that an extensive line of frontier in our own colonies should not be defended, for it was our duty to defend them to the last.

Mr. Cardwell said that he had been informed by the American Government that the notice for the termination of the Reciprocity Treaty would be withdrawn, and that the passport system would be abolished. He defended the policy of the Government, and contended that, if necessary, we could defend Canada.

Mr. Bright said there was no one in the country who would attempt effectually to defend Canada against the whole power of the United States. There was no safety for Canada in the event of a war between England and America but in the neutrality of that colony. The sum to be voted was not much for this country, but he objected to the vote on principle. It had been said that Canada was to bear the greatest portion of the expenditure, but on what ground could she be asked to do it? There was no chance of a war between Canada and America, and if we were to go to war with America the battle-field would be Canada. On what ground, then, could we ask her to bear any portion of the expenses? He objected to the vote, not because it was throwing so much money away, but because it was inaugurating a policy which we should be compelled to abandon or else that would lead to the separation of Canada from this country. He did not object to that colony separating itself from this country, but he did object to the severance taking place after a feeling of irritation. He charged the Opposition with being in collusion with the Government, and called upon the House to take the matter out of the hands of the Executive Government, and not force upon Canada a burden it could not long bear.

Lord Palmerston regretted he could not have the vote of the hon. gentleman, but it was clear that the vote met with the approval of the large majority of the members of the House. This was not a Canadian but an Imperial question, and he regretted that it should go forth to the world that there was a difference of opinion upon it. He denied that this defence was proposed from an anticipation of war, it was simply a matter of precaution, which every country with a large frontier adopted. He appealed to the hon. member (Mr. Bentinck) not to divide the Committee, as it would weaken the effect of the vote.

Mr. Bentinck expressed his willingness to withdraw his amendment, but the Committee would not allow him.

The Committee then divided, when the amendment was negatived by a majority of 275 to 40.

The veto was therefore agreed to.

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