The following quotes from John Hamilton Gray are from “Prince Edward Island and Confederation 1863-1873“ by Reverend Francis W.P. Bolger, St. Dunstan`s University Press, 1964.
Speaking during discussion of Maritime union in the P.E.I. House of Assembly, April 18, 1864, Gray said: “If the Provinces of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick were to be annexed to Prince Edward Island, great benefits might result to our people; but if this Colony were to be annexed to these Provinces, the opposite might be the effect. …We are here to maintain our rights, and we shall never enter a Union which will deprive us of this birthright.”
Speaking at the final banquet of the Charlottetown Conference September 8, 1864, Gray was prophetic when he expressed the belief that the Charlottetown Conference “would serve as the harbinger of such a union of sentiment and interests among the three and a half millions of freemen who now inhabit British North America, as neither time nor change could forever destroy.”
Oct. 10, 1864 at the Quebec Conference, Gray said “When I spoke of establishing a nationality I only referred to what has been the dream of my life to be one day a citizen of a Great nation extending from the Great West to the Atlantic seaboard. I sincerely hope that the delegates from all the Provinces will unite to accomplish this great work. Prince Edward Island is but a small province but it could be to the other provinces all that the little state of Rhode Island is to the great American Union.”
At Ottawa following the Quebec Conference Gray concluded a glowing tribute to the proposed union with the hope that all the people “would soon have their territory washed by the Atlantic at Halifax and by the Pacific at Vancouver Island.”
On Nov.16, 1864 Gray addressed an appeal to the people of Prince Edward Island that was published in all the newspapers: “Shall we form part of a great nation extending from Halifax to Vancouver, as citizens of which our sons will reach distinction and carve out for themselves fame and fortune… It is a question of life or death to Prince Edward Island. I pray to the most high God to direct your decision.”
Gray speaking in the 1865 Assembly Debates: “We (PEI) have little prospect for the future beyond a dwarfed existence and ultimate absorption into the neighboring Republic. One of these must be chosen, the other rejected – there is no alternative. Yes, Mr. Speaker, federation or annexation is what we must regard as our future.”
In a letter to his close friend John A. Macdonald dated June 27, 1866, Gray said “I much regret that all the endeavours of the friends of Confederation in this Island have been unsuccessful, and I have little hope that our people will change, and if Imperial Authorities do not legislate for us Prince Edward Island is lost .”
As it turned out, the PEI government decided not to join New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Upper and Lower Canada in the new country of Canada in 1867, but PEI did join Confederation six years later in 1873 when the Government of Canada assumed the colony`s railway debts and agreed to finance a buy-out of the last of the colony’s absentee landlords.
Describing Gray, the author Bolger said: “Colonel Gray was a man of outstanding honor. He was universally respected on account of his integrity in the conduct of public affairs. He was deeply religious and served for many years as an Elder of the Presbyterian Church on the Island. His training as a soldier endowed him with an unusual amount of courage and tenacity. When convinced of the rightfulness of a policy, he would not consider compromise. When Confederation became the issue in Island politics, Colonel Gray unhesitatingly sacrificed political popularity and the emoluments of office in its furtherance.”