Fifty Years Ago.
In the last letter was noticed the political grandfathers or pioneer legislators of New Brunswick, with their sons, the second generation of Responsible Government notoriety.
The special mention of the Hon. Joseph Howe, of Nova Scotia, should never be omitted in any history of these times.
In this letter about the present generation if the views sound unjustly severe, perhaps some friend will point out in what way.
With very grave and necessary reforms storing our assemblymen to the face they spend their sessions in gobbling up the chief part of the capital while they sit peddling out small wares to the people, such as were usually left by their predecessors for leisure hours. It is pretty generally admitted that the enormous amount of money expended for the Government of the 750,000 people that make up the Maritime Provinces is out of all character. The Americans laugh and say "we are paying too dear for the whistle."
A union of the Maritime Provinces and one government for all is a question of reform worthy the consideration of men who pretend to be statesmen and who arc disposed to act in the interest of the people. Assemblymen pooh-pooh this matter and the people do not see what is coming.
The people will doubtless keep their eyes shut until the treasury and provincial credit is gone and an ordinary farmer will have to pay yearly out of his pocket 50, 60, or 70 dollars to keep up the roads and enormous bridges that are now provided for by the Local Government.
A farmer said to me, when that time comes the province must borrow money as the Dominion does. Yes! But the Dominion Government has control of the revenues and the interest of its debts are paid by indirect means, by duties on imported goods, &c, and these duties are paid largely by volunteers. Very poor people buy goods that pay heavy duties and so contribute to the payment of Dominion taxes. If the provinces borrow money to pay for superfluous legislation, for highways and bridges &c, the interest will be forced from land and other property holders by direct taxation. It is the Local Governments and Freetraders that the people owning lands and other property have to fear. Poor people dress about at well as the rich and so taxes are divided between the rich and the poor with the consent of the poor, I mean Dominion taxes, and all hands are satisfied and no jealousies or bad feeling engendered.
A member of the Assembly in conversation remarked that it would be useless to attempt a union in New Brunswick at present, as St. John's influence would be a unit against it. This we may well believe, knowing the conservative proclivities of the assemblymen of St John, but the people of St. John are surely standing in their own light in opposing a union and the removal of the seat of government to somewhere on the Isthmus of Chignecto. St. John River secures to St. John all the back country trade. St. John can only increase as the river counties advance in agriculture, unless they find other resources than they now enjoy. If St. John influence could be directed to the opening up of direct communication with P. E. Island and the Gulf fisheries by a hearty support of the contemplated marine railway, or a canal, or both as may seem necessary, there would be a chance of vastly extending their commercial relations, both foreign and colonial; as a schooner way to the Gulf would give them an advantage over Halifax in the fisheries, being nearer the American market.
The river county members, too, may unite in opposing union, but the day will soon come when the river county farmers and other property owners will see the nonsense of this extravagance in Legislation, and when direct taxation becomes intolerable as it will at no distant day, the selfish assemblymen will have to yield.
It only wants a few such men as effected Confederation to open people's eyes to the magnitude of the question now, but if they must await the miserable experience of insufferable taxation, so be it. The best receipt a man can have for the payment of an old debt is the sheriffs' endorsement on the back of an execution; a cheaper one would do. This letter is out short for want of space.