Charles Bennett Objections, 1864-1865
Charles F. Bennett was a prominent St. John's merchant.
C. F. Bennett to The Newfoundlander, December 5, 1864.
... whilst I am prepared to admit that the proposed
confederation of the Continental Provinces, and with
them the Islands of Cape Breton and Prince Edward's,
is a most indispensable and wise measure ..., yet I
nevertheless more than doubt the wisdom of this colony
becoming a party to that measure, for the reason that our
interest and theirs are not identical. We are chiefly and
almost wholly by nature's laws a fishing population,
possessing rich resources in our fisheries, and, I believe,
in our minerals. Our agricultural capabilities must be
confessed by all to be very limited. The railways, canals
and great public works required in the Provinces, to say
nothing of the military works of defence involving an immense
amount of expense, cannot possibly be of any use to this
colony. The sending of Delegates to Canada, apart from the
proportional amount of revenue which we should have to
contribute towards the support of the Confederate Government,
would entail a very heavy expense, and not the least
disadvantage that we should suffer ... would be the sacrifice
of our independent legislation and the control of our own rich
colonial resources for the benefit of that nationality which,
so far as I can at present conceive, can confer but few and
trifling benefits on us.
C.F. Bennett to The Newfoundlander, January 12, 1865.
... For my part I believe that it [Union with Canada] will
interfere with our present intercourse with the United States
and other countries, and do our commerce incalculable injury.
And if we are to be supplied with Canadian manufactures free of
duty, higher import dues will necessarily have to be imposed upon
our imports from Great Britain and elsewhere, and a heavy tax to
be levied also upon the export of our fish, oil, and other produce.
In what respect I would ask are the cities, towns and villages -
the lands of Canada - their railroads - public offices - educational
colleges, or any other advantages which the Canadian or neighbouring
Provinces possess to be more open to the inhabitants of this Colony
under Union than they are at the present time? .... For my part I
know of none - on the contrary, I know of a great many persons who
have gone to Canada and the other Provinces with the view to benefit
themselves ....I ask again what hope could a youth in this Colony
rationally entertain that his interest through the four members of
the Council and the eight members of the General Parliament would
have against the political influence which the young men of Canada
could exercise in their 195 members, and the youth of the adjoining
Provinces over their members, to assure them an appointment to any
of those offices? My experience would tell them that they would have
very little, and I think none.... The Postal arrangements we shall
no doubt have if we consent to pay for them, as we could, on
the same terms, have them at the present moment.
... We require here simply wise laws to protect our Fisheries, to
resuscitate and make them what they have been in olden times, as
great a source of wealth and happiness to its industrial population
as the best of the lands of Canada or New Zealand, or any other country,
or the mineral stores of Peru, California, or Australia are to their
respective populations, to say nothing of the resources of the mineral
treasures which we have in Newfoundland, and that they are not
insignificant I can confidently state.
... One of my apprehensions is, that we shall be more than doubly taxed,
not for our own benefit, but for the benefit of the profligate Canadians,
whose finances are, with their present heavy taxation of 20 per cent on
their imports from Britain, and their own local taxation, inadequate to
meet their expenditures. With a debt of Sixty-two and a half million dollars !!! ...
I could speak of many disadvantages, ... I will ... enumerate
a few ... they are as follows:
The annihilation of our independent Legislature, and of self-legislation .....
The power of the Canadian Parliament to tax us without limit.
The severance of this Colony from a direct alliance and communication with the
Government of Great Britain, to an indirect alliance and communication.
To make our appellant cases from the Supreme Court to the Superior Courts of Canada,
before we can go ... [to] the Imperial Privy Council.
To vest the power in the Canadian Government to make thereafter all appointments to
office in this Colony.
To give them the entire control over our Fisheries, Lands and Minerals. And not
least among other calamities, the power to extract the youth, both married
and unmarried, of the able-bodied men of the Colony to shed their blood and
to leave their bones to bleach in a foreign 1and, in defence of the Canadian
line of boundary... And for what benefit to us in Newfoundland? ....
The advocates of the union in this Colony are very few. I doubt if they
exceed a score. Were they even more, I ask will they have the honesty to
oppose their feeble voice against the many? Will they attempt even the
introduction of the threatened resolution adopting the principle, before
the sense of the country is taken upon it? ....