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Apr 26 1902


The Montreal Herald, Saturday, April 26, 1903

The British Tariff

The new British tariff is giving the Conservative papers of Canada a great deal of satisfaction for they have been clamouring for preferential trade, and now that it has not been granted, they think they will be able to fix all the blame on the Government of Canada, and especially on Sir Wilfrid Laurier. Perhaps these people will be next telling us that if the Government of Canada had asked for a free entry of Canadian breadstuffs into Great Britain, while a duty was imposed on the foreign product, it would have been granted; but if they did, few people could be got to believe this fable.

Preferential trade may come in time, as a result of the changed tariff policy of Great Britain, but it is not in the air at present. What is much more likely to come is the defeat of the present Conservative Government by the British workingman, who objects to a tax on his bread, and declines to believe that any duty, however small, on breadstuffs will not have to be paid by somebody.

The Old Duties

The Provinces of British North America which now form the Dominion of Canada at one time enjoyed preferential trade with Great Britain, but it certainly cannot be claimed that they were then more prosperous than they are at present. Looking at the advantages they had in the British markets in respect to duties it would seem as if these Provinces ought to have grown rich, but the result was otherwise. Towards the close of the eighteenth century, when the timber trade of the Canadian Provinces began to be important, the British duty on Baltic timber was only 6s 8d, or about $1.60 per load of fifty cubic feet, while the colonial timber was admitted free. The duty was gradually increased until, in 1812, it amounted to the large sum of 2 pounds 14s 8d per load, equal to $13.25 of the money of the present day. In 1820 the duty was 3 pounds 5s per load; but in 1821 it was reduced to 2 pounds 15s and then for the first time a duty was placed on colonial timber. This duty was small, only 10s per load, and it still left the colonies a preference of 2 pounds 5s. The duties remained on this basis for many years, until 1842, when Sir Robert Peel introduced his new scale of timber duties. He proposed to reduce the duty on foreign wood to 30s on squared timber and 35s per load on deals, and after one year to make a farther reduction to 25s and 30s respectively, and to levy 1s a load on colonial timber and 2s a load on colonial deals. These changes were regarded with great disfavour in all the British North American colonies, and petitions and remonstrances were forwarded to the British Government on the subject. The scale of duties as finally adjusted was 38s per load of fifty cubic feet on foreign deals and 2s on colonial, the timber duties remaining at the rates proposed originally by Sir. Robert Peel. This change in the rates of duty had no injurious effect on the timber trade of British North America, but rather seemed to stimulate it than otherwise.

The Preference Removed

A few years later the preference given to the colonies was wholly removed and then the ruin of the timber trade was confidently predicted. But no such result followed. For more than half a century the colonies have had no advantage over foreign markets, yet the trade of Canada has never ceased to grow in every line. Yet the change then made was deeply resented at the time, and was the cause of the famous Montreal annexation manifesto, which obtained the signature of so many prominent Tories. There is one member of the Canadian Parliament still living and in public life who took part in the protests that were then made against the changes in the navigation laws and the timber duties, and no doubt he will be prepared to admit that the fears he then felt and expressed were not well founded. In March, 1850, Senator Wark, then a member of the House of Assembly of New Brunswick, introduced a series of resolutions in that body expressing the fear that if the new British trade policy was persisted in, unless some timely remedy was applied, it must produce such feelings of dissatisfaction as must inevitably lead to a separation from the Mother Country. These strong resolutions, which expressed the views of many good men who had always been noted for their loyalty, show how deeply the Canadian Provinces were stirred by the new policy of Sir Robert Peel and those who succeeded him in the same position.

A Restrictive System

Mr. Wark, in his resolutions, complained of the restrictions that were placed on colonial trade, and especially of the manner in which the colonial legislatures were hampered in their efforts to develop it. A British Province could not grant a bounty for the cultivation of hemp or of its fisheries or grant a preference of any kind to a country with which it desired to trade. The wise men of Downing Street undertook to regulate everything, although it must be confessed that the wisdom of their management was not always apparent. Even at this late day it seems that Downing Street must have something to say in regard to matters which it would seem relate to Canada alone.

Helping the Tailor

It may be known to many readers of The Herald that the Governors of our Canadian Provinces, when appointed, receive a book of regulations which practically compels them to pay tribute to a British tailor to the amount of about $1,500 for a proper uniform in which to appear when opening or closing the Legislature or at any important function. In this book of instructions, I am told that a certain London tailor is recommended as a proper person to make the costumes which some of our Governors wear. This is a great thing for the tailor, but it comes rather hard on the Lieutenant-Governor, who may be of a frugal turn of mind and might like to keep the 300 pounds he has to give the tailor in his own pocket. I presume that no person who has been born and brought up in Canada, and who is sufficiently well thought of to be made a Governor, has any desire to appear in those Old World costumes which are so advantageous to the court tailors. Not long ago I saw a Lieutenant-Governor arrayed in the so-called Windsor uniform, with white satin breeches all complete, and I must confess that the sight produced a painful impression, not only on me, but on many others who were present. Here was a man who had all his life dressed in the ordinary attire of a citizen, and whom we had been accustomed to see in that garb, transformed into something that seemed to belong to a fancy dress ball or a carnival. I am sure that the victim of all this sacrifice to the exigencies of court costume must have felt the awkwardness of his position, and his friends did also.

Pomp and Pageantry

The military display which takes place at the opening of the Parliament of Canada, and the other ceremonies which attend to that function may be all right and proper, but why should we have them repeated at the opening of a Provincial Legislature? The individual who opens the Legislature as Lieutenant-Governor is not the representative of the King, but of the Government of Canada. The Legislature has nothing to do with military matters, its functions are purely civil and it seems an absurdity to have a lot of military men, with clanking swords, following in the wake of the Governor when he enters. No doubt the ceremonies which now attend the openings of Canadian Legislatures are a survival of those which prevailed before Confederation, when the Governors of the Provinces were generally military men. Their residences were guarded by soldiers, and sentries paced the platforms in front of their doors. But all this is now changed, and have Lieutenant-Governors who are of our own people; who understand our needs and who are in sympathy with our aspirations. They do not require military guards to win them respect or to enforce obedience, for our people are willing to yield them both.

Colonials in Service

There are rumours abroad that the Canadian officers who have obtained commissions in the British army as a reward for their services in the field are not being very well treated by the officers in the same regiments who were born in the British Islands. It is said that they are subjected to a species of ostracism which can be practiced without any breach of the army regulations but which is none the less effective. I am unwilling to believe this story without very clear evidence for it would be very unfortunate if the result of this war would be to create ill-feeling between British officers and the people of Canada. Yet I do not know of any way in which this result would be more readily brought about than by any attempt on the part of the British officer to place our own men in a position of inferiority. The British officer usually claims to be a gentleman, and his gentlemanlike instincts should not forsake him when brought into contact with colonial officers. A Canadian officer of high rank with whom I discussed this subject, tells me that there are two sides to this question, and that while it may be true that Canadian officers have in some instances been sent to Coventry by their British messmates, this has, in most cases, been the result of men having received commissions whose manners were not good, and who were not fit associates for gentlemen. I do not pretend to judge as to the truth of any of these statements. A Canadian officer, like any other man, must stand on his own merits, and if his conduct is not such as to accord with those social usages which gentlemen follow, he must take the consequences. What the people of Canada would object to most would be any attempt to place Canadian officers in a position of inferiority, simply because they were colonists. If this has been done it will have to be amended, and that very speedily.

Should Canadians Seek Commissions

It is to be hoped, however that no large number of Canadians will desire to enter the Imperial service as officers under existing conditions, for I cannot conceive of any career less attractive to a young man of ability. The opportunities for advancement are so few and the disadvantages of such a career are so numerous that there does not seem to be any good reason why many Canadians should desire commissions. It is, I believe, a fact that no British officer under the rank of a major can live on his pay, and if this is so, no Canadian without considerable private means can, or should, enter the army as an officer. Perhaps in time this evil may be remedied, but there are no signs of such a result at present. It looks as if the British army authorities, instead of going in for a thorough reform, will only do enough to quiet the clamour of the moment, hoping that the good-natured British public, when the war is over, will forget all about the evils which now affect the efficiency of the army. And army should be regarded as a fighting machine, and all the efforts of those who govern it should be directed to the object of increasing its efficiency in that respect. But this subject is too large a one to be dealt with at the end of a paragraph. What I desire to impress upon the readers of The Herald is the fact that the British army at present does not offer a very satisfactory career for a young Canadian.

Maritime Union

None of the Legislatures of the Maritime Provinces dealt with the question of Maritime Union, but both at the recent session and the previous one matters were dealt with which look towards that end. For instance, the legislation has been passed for the establishment of an agricultural school by the Provinces of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, it being thought that the cost of such a school would be beyond the means of either Province, but quite within the means of both if united. Another work in which the three Maritime Provinces are co-operating is the holding of an annual fat stock show. This is to be held at Amherst, N.S., every autumn, and extensive buildings are being erected for its accommodation. It is to be a show, a market and a school all in one, the object being not to display good cattle, but to teach farmers the points which are of the most importance in breeding stock. This show receives a grant from each of the three Maritime Provinces, and will be continued from year to year. It affords a striking illustration of the importance of union and the value of co-operation in many matters which affect the industries of the Maritime Provinces, and if union is desirable in such matters, why not in a political sense? The question of Maritime Union sleeps, but it is not dead by any means.


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