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An Abridged History of Canada
Chapter XXXVII.—Confederation Accomplished To 1868


The British North America Act passes the Imperial Parliament, March 28th—Provisions of the New Constitution—Inauguration of the New Dominion, July 1st -1867. Sir John Young, Governor-General vice Lord Monck—Anti-Confederation Agitation in Nova Scotia— "Better Terms" granted -1868.

In the maritime provinces the tide of popular feeling had now turned strongly in favour of confederation. In New Brunswick the anti-confederation Government was compelled to resign, and a new Parliament, elected with express reference to this question, declared decidedly for it. In Nova Scotia, Mr. Howe's eloquence in condemnation of the scheme lost its spell, and his opposition in the lobbies of the Imperial Parliament proved equally futile. The Canadian and maritime delegates met in London, and slightly modified the provisions of the Quebec Resolutions, chiefly in the direction of increasing the subsidies to the local governments.

On the 7th of February, the Earl of Carnarvon, the Colonial Secretary, introduced the British North America Act into the House of Lords. After slight modification in the House of Commons, it successfully passed through its different stages, and received the royal assent and became the law of the empir6. The Canada Railway Loan Act empowered the Imperial Government to guarantee a loan of three million pounds sterling for the construction of the Intercolonial Railway, now become a political, as well as a commercial and military necessity for the prosperity of the new nationality.

The Act of Union provided that the Dominion of Canada, as the new nation was named, should consist of the provinces of Upper and Lower Canada (designated respectively Ontario and Quebec), and New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. Provision was also made for the future admission of Prince Edward Island, the Hudson's Bay Territory, British Columbia, and Newfoundland with its dependency, Labrador.

The following are the chief provisions of the new constitution:

The executive authority is vested in the Queen, in whose name run all legislative Acts, civil processes, and naval and military proclamations.

The Queen's representative in Canada is the Governor-General, who is advised and aided by a Privy Council of thirteen members, constituting the ministry, who must be sustained by a parliamentary majority.

The Parliament consists of two chambers, the Senate and the House of Commons.

The Senate was at first to be composed of 72 members— 24 for each of the three divisions, Ontario, Quebec, and New Brunswick and Nova Scotia.

The House of Commons, as first constituted, consisted of 181 members; 82 for Ontario, 65 for Quebec, 19 for Nova Scotia, and 16 for New Brunswick.

The. House of Commons is elected for five years unless sooner dissolved. It elects its own Speaker, who can vote only when the House is equally divided. All bills affecting taxation or revenue must originate in the House of Commons, and must be recommended by a message from the Governor-General.

The jurisdiction of the Dominion Parliament extends over the public debt, expenditure and public loans; treaties; customs and excise duties; trade and commerce; navigation, shipping and fisheries; lighthouses and harbours; the postal, naval and military services; public statistics; monetary institutions, banks, banking, currency, coining, and insolvency; criminal law, marriage and divorce; public works, railways and canals.

The appointment and maintenance of the Judges of the Superior, District, and County Courts of the several provinces, is the prerogative and duty of the Governor in Council.

The chief executive officer of the several provinces is the Lieutenant-Governor, who is appointed by the Governor-General in Council, acting for the Crown, for the term of five years. The local legislatures were granted constitutions agreeable to the wishes of the respective provinces.

The legislature of Ontario consists of only one chamber, the Legislative Assembly. It was constituted at first with eighty-two members, which number was afterwards increased to ninety, who are elected for four years.

The other local legislatures consist of two chambers, a Legislative Council and Legislative Assembly. The Acts of the local legislatures may be disallowed by the Governor-General, for sufficient reason, within a year after they have passed.

The local legislatures have jurisdiction over direct taxation; provincial loans; the appointment and maintenance of provincial officers; the management of provincial lands, prisons, hospitals and asylums; municipal institutions; local improvements; education; and matters affecting property and civil rights.

On the 1st of July, 1867, the Act of Confederation came into force, and the Dominion of Canada set forth on its high career. Lord Monck was sworn in as the Governor-General of the confederated provinces. Sir N. F. Belleau became Lieutenant-Governor of Quebec, and Major-General Doyle, Lieutenant-Governor of Nova Scotia. In July, 1868, the Hon. L. A. Wilmot was appoin ted Lieutenant-Governor of New Brunswick, and the Hon. W. P. Hftwland, Lieutenant-Governor of Ontario.

The elections for the Dominion Parliament and for the several local legislatures took place during the summer. The Dominion Parliament met at Ottawa for the transaction of business on the 7th of November.

In the following November, Lord Monck, having witnessed the successful inauguration of the new constitution of the confederated provinces, was succeeded in office by Sir John Young.

Considerable dissatisfaction with the terms of'union soon began to be manifested in the province of Nova Scotia. The annual subsidy from the Dominion Government was found inadequate for the civil expenses of the government. A strong anti-confederation agitation was therefore kept up, and a petition was forwarded to the British Parliament requesting the repeal of the British North America Act so far as it concerned Nova Scotia. The Imperial Parliament refused to entertain the proposition of a repeal of the union, but counselled a compromise with the recalcitrant province.

The Dominion Government offered a liberal readjustment of terms with Nova Scotia, and an additional annual subsidy was granted. Mr. Howe withdrew his opposition and accepted office in the Dominion Government as President of the Executive Council.

During this year the Abyssinian war, which had been conducted with, great skill and success by General Napier, was brought to a close by the fall of Magdala and death of King Theodore, on the 13th of April.

Hon. H. S. Langevin, Secretary of'State; Hon. A. T. Gait, Minister of Finance; Hon. W. Macdougall, Minister of Public Works; Hon. Alex. Campbell, Postmaster-General; Hon. J. C. Chapais, Minister of Agriculture; Hon. E. Kenny, Receiver-General ; Hon. Sir George E. Cartier, Minister of Militia; Hon S. L. Tilley, Minister of Customs; Hon. W. P. How land, Minister of Inland Revenue; Hon. P. Mitchell, Minister of Marine and Fisheries; Hon. A. G. Archibald, Secretary of State for Provinces.


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