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? ....