The Dominion was to have a Federal Parliament with local, or what would be called in the American Republic, State Legislatures. The Federal or Central Parliament was to be made up of a Senate and a House of Commons. The constitution of the Senate led to some serious objection during the debates on the Bill, for the plan of the scheme was that the Senate should consist of seventy members nominated for life by the Governor-General on the part of the Crown. Much objection still prevails to this arrangement; and it is, perhaps, the weakest part of the scheme. Even if the House of Lords were altogether satisfactory in this country, which assuredly it is not, yet the conditions of the Canadian Dominion are not favourable to the idea of a second or Upper Chamber, removed altogether beyond the control of the Dominion populations. If the constitution of Great Britain and Ireland were now to be moulded for the first time, it is quite certain that nobody would think of setting up a second Chamber with the choice of whose members the electors had nothing to do. Of course the Dominion Senate is not a hereditary Chamber. Lord Carnarvon would have been the last man likely to adopt a project of that kind. But the essence of the principle on which the Canadian second Chamber is formed, is the Chamber's independence of popular control; and it would be no great rashness in prophecy to foretell that that principle cannot endure for very long. One effect of its existence already is to withdraw all public interest from the debates in the Dominion Senate, which represents nobody in Canada, and to fix it on the Representative Chamber. The Dominion House of Commons is composed by the people of the provinces, elected on a broad and liberal suffrage; and the period of five years is fixed for the duration of each Parliament. The Representative plan applied to the Canadian House of Commons is much the same as that which exists in the American Republic.
The Federal Parliament, the Dominion Parliament, manages all the affairs that are common to the provinces. Each province has its own local legislature, and makes its own local laws. The local laws vary according as the people of each province are influenced by their own local interests and local ideas. In some of the provinces the system of election is by ballot; in others the open vote still exists. The great underlying principle of the whole structure, however, is found in the fact that each province manages its own domestic affairs; and that the Parliament of the whole takes charge of the common interests. That is, indeed, the principle of federation; and it is a principle which seems likely to extend to other British Colonies as well as to those of North America. The idea did not begin with Lord Carnarvon, or even with Lord Durham himself; it had been suggested and urged from time to time by advanced thinkers and statesmen in the Colonies themselves. But it never assumed a definite form, never was more than a floating idea, until the Canadian Rebellion 'broke out, and Lord Durham was sent to report on the possibility of Canadian reconstruction. There was, in fact, but one course in three left for Canada. She must either remain completely under the control of the British Crown, in substance though not in exact form very much as what we call a Crown Colony now is; or she must become annexed to the United States; or she must start as an independent State on her own account. The first of these three courses proved itself at once to be completely out of the question, and does not now enter into the minds of any serious politician on either side of the Atlantic.
The second course, that of voluntary annexation to the United States, never has recommended itself much to the mind of Canada, although there was nothing in it which actually proclaimed itself an impossibility. When the United States were about to be formed into an independent Republic overtures were made to the Canadians to become a part of the great new Commonwealth, and provisions were arranged to keep the system open for the acceptance of the Canadian population. But there cannot be a doubt that there still is among the people of Canada a strong affection for the old country and the old flag, and the inclination to become a part of the American Republic seems to be diminishing rather than increasing with later years. It requires no great stretch of fancy to think of conditions which might force on the Canadian populations the desire to set up for themselves, and be free from the responsibilities and the burdens imposed on them by their connection with the British Crown. If, for example, England were to entangle herself in a series of foreign wars which might leave the shores of Canada open to the invasion of foreign enemies, in quarrels with which Canada had no manner of concern, it is quite within the compass of imagination to suppose that the colonists would at last grow impatient and would prefer to set up for themselves after the example of the United States. But then it is evident to the mind of every one that the policy of England during later generations has been to keep as far as possible out of entanglements with Continental quarrels. In the event of an aggressive policy being directed against England, as in the case of the French Empire under the first Napoleon, it is not likely that the Canadian colonists would shrink from their share of the risk, responsibility, and cost. Still, this consideration of Canada's possible entanglement in a war policy with which she had nothing to do, and in the control of which she had no share, has been thought serious enough to warrant various projects for a closer federation between the Colonies and the Mother Country which should give the Colonies some direct representation in the Imperial Parliament and allow them thus to share in the direction as well as in the responsibility. No scheme has yet been put forward which seems to carry satisfaction, or even much plausibility, with it; but the very fact that such schemes are in the air is enough to show the progress we are making on the way to a possible federation of a closer and more intimate kind than any which actual legislation has hitherto contemplated. All that can be said, so far, is that Lord Durham's system has proved the germ of the development we have seen expanding itself more and more with every year; and that has now grown to be an Australian as well as a Canadian question. Lord Durham was a man of great ideas, but even he could not have fully known how great was the idea which he was putting into form and action, when he laid the foundation of the Dominion of Canada.