Canada, House of Commons Debates, “The Debate on the Address”, 1st Parl, 4th Sess (16 February 1871)

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Date: 1871-02-16
By: Canada (Parliament)
Citation: Canada, House of Commons Debates, 1st Parl, 4th Sess, 1871 at 7-11.
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Mr. LACERTE rose to propose the address in reply to His Excellency’s Speech from the Throne. Taking up the various paragraphs, he spoke briefly on each, as usual, expressing concurrence in the different views therein set forth, and complimenting the Government on its administrative policy. He referred particularly to the Fenian enterprise of last spring, and the wise and vigorous efforts put forth for its overthrow. He hoped the House would fully sustain the Administration in this matter by voting the additional expenditure it was compelled to incur. He was glad at the prospect of the settlement of the fishery dispute, and believed everything would be done to protect Canada’s interests. Fortunately the Red River trouble was ended, thanks to the judicious and conciliatory action of the Government, and to the exertions and bravery of the Volunteers. The Dominion was in a prosperous condition, largely owing to the wisdom of Ministers, who deserved the confidence of Parliament and the people. He had much pleasure in moving the Address.

Mr. KIRKPATRICK rose to second the motion. The topics of the speech well deserved the compliments paid them. Scarcely had the Parliament been prorogued last summer when hordes of miscreants from the United States suddenly assembled on our frontier to pillage and ravage our land. To add to the infamy and offensiveness of this outrage, those marauders chose for the time of their unwarranted operations, the day above all, dear to loyal British subjects, the Queen’s birthday. The hostile movement was, thanks to the bravery and loyalty of our volunteers and the troops of the Queen, hurled back in disgrace from our border. He hoped and doubted not the House would cheerfully vote the extra expenses entailed by this attempted Fenian invasion.

The next subject of the Speech was the Fisheries, and it was but truth to say that the action of the Canadian Government in regard to them had met with the approbation of the whole country. The reference of General Grant to the action of Canada exhibited both ignorance and prejudice. The Dominion had but acted within its right, and it was certain The next subject in the speech was that of Manitoba. No better Governor could have been chosen than him who is now de facto, if not de jure in power. The improvements already witnessed in Manitoba prove the judiciousness of the efforts made to suppress disorder and rebellion, and set up the authority of Canada. The brave Volunteers who had been instrumental in securing those happy results, deserved the thanks of the country. When disbanded he believed they were entitled to grants of land in Manitoba. No better settlers could be chosen, and in justice to them, and in the interests of the Province, everything should be done to retain them in the North West.

The proposed admission of British Columbia and Vancouver Island was a subject of satisfaction to us all. The great scheme of Confederation was being rapidly consummated. Those great territories, so rich in natural resources, would be a great acquisition to Canada, and everything possible should be done to unite them to her by a Pacific Railway, grants of land, and, if possible, pecuniary contributions, should be made in aid of such enterprises.

There is little doubt that in this way they could be achieved. Immigrants were necessary to development of the great resources of the Pacific colonies, and good, rapid communications were indispensable to the attraction of immigration. The next subject of the Speech was the Fisheries, and it was but truth to say that the action of the Canadian Government in regard to them had met with the approbation of the whole country. The reference of General Grant to the action of Canada exhibited both ignorance and prejudice. The Dominion had but acted within its right, and it was certain that action was justified by the approval of the Government of England also. However, a Joint Commission had been appointed to consider the Fishery question and that relating to events connected with the last war, and from it he thought Canada had nothing to fear. He hoped, however, that the injury done to Canada by repeated Fenian raids would form one of the subjects discussed, and that indemnity for our losses thereby would be as rigorously required as was indemnity for the losses from the Alabama.

The improvement of our coinage system and other proposals of the speech would be cordially received. The interests of the country demanded such ameliorations. The general administration of the affairs of the Dominion had been beneficial, as its progress and prosperity amply testified. He could but concur in the closing aspiration of the Speech from the Throne, upon which the future happiness and advancement of Canada would largely depend.

Mr. MACKENZIE said that it was important in opening the grant inquest of the nation, that they should review the administration of affairs and foreign events, while abstaining from unusual criticism. Tremendous events had taken place since the last session, including those of a gigantic and disastrous war. It was but right he should express his sympathy with the sacrifices and sufferings of that great nation, being the friend and ally of England. He did hope that France would not suffer much either in feeling or

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interest in the forthcoming treaty of peace. (Hear, hear.) Coming to the position of Canada, it was but right her relations towards the United States should receive attention. President Grant had spoken of it as a semi-independent position and there was truth in this view of it. Doubtless it was on this account that we had been continually and systematically subjected to offensive remarks and ill judged acts of administration from the people of the United States. The inhabitants of this country had reason for complaint on this head, but were not willing to submit to ill will or aversion with the object of forcing them from their present constitutional position. That policy he for one repudiated in the strongest possible terms, and he announced his strongest opposition to yielding any of our rights to an arrogant demand from them. (Hear, hear.) If we were to maintain an independent position on this continent we must cultivate that natural love of liberty which prevailed in our midst, and maintain our natural rights intact.

It was for this reason he desired to have the correspondence relating to this question brought down. He desired to know whether an attempt had been made by the Imperial Government to force negotiations upon us, with an object naturally hostile to our rights. The hon. member who seconded the address expressed a hope that the matter of the Fenian movement would be brought down before the Joint Commission. If it were to be discussed by them, he saw no indication of it. He had read all the information he could find relating to it, and no mention of our claims appeared in it. If it were so, the British Minister at Washington was much to blame. Nothing could be more arrogant and ridiculous than the claims put forward by the President of the United States to the free navigation of the St. Lawrence. The instances referred to by the President were all cases which were settled by treaty. He (Mr. Mackenzie) was disposed to giving all facilities to the commerce of our neighbours, but he was not disposed to concede to them as a right what was manifestly an unjust claim.

With regard to the fishery question, he believed that it was an unwise concession to give up for a moment our claim to the headland boundary line. He was not able to congratulate the House on the condition of affairs in Manitoba. If he were asked to congratulate them that the men who had rebelled against the Government of Canada were the very ones who had received offices and held power, that loyal men had been rigorously excluded from places of trust, and that the murderers of poor Scott were still at large, he might congratulate the House. He was not in favour of punishing the poor dupes of a few designing men, but he believed that the men who had been guilty of stirring up rebellion and executing an innocent man should not be allowed to go free of punishment. He would simply recall the past to say that these men should receive the punishment they deserved, and to say that the men who had been loyal to Canada should not be excluded from places of honour and trust.

He would now refer to the recent additions which had been made to the Cabinet. The hon. member for Cumberland had gone before his constituents and made some remarkable statements to them. He (Mr. Mackenzie) held in his hand a copy of the speech referred to, and he would just read a portion of it to the House. It would be noticed that the hon. gentleman with characteristic modesty had spoken of his own great services to the Government, and to the country at large. (Here Mr. Mackenzie read an extract from the speech, commenting on it humorously amid the laughter of the House.) The hon. member for Cumberland had boasted that he had secured an increase of his following. That he brought with him fifteen members to the support of the Government. He congratulated the hon. member on his increasing influence. He was pleased also to notice the friendship which had grown up between his hon. friend and the hon. member for Hants. Times had changed since the two hon. members were opposed to each other. He (Mr. Mackenzie) made these statements in order that the speech of the hon. member from Cumberland should receive the publicity it deserved. The Ministerial journals seemed to have slighted the hon. member in this matter. None of them published it. It was true the Ottawa Times in a short paragraph had remarked that it was too important to be passed over without notice. The speech, it was evident, was never intended to circulate outside of Cumberland.

After referring to the course which the Government pursued towards the hon. member for North Lanark, Mr. Mackenzie spoke at some length on the subject of the Intercolonial Railway, and the causes which led to the ultimate choice of the Northern Route. The hon. member for North Lanark had given a very full explanation in his pamphlet, recently published, of this matter. (Here Mr. Mackenzie read an extract from the pamphlet referring to it). While he (Mr. Mackenzie) looked with regret at the great loss to the country caused by the choice of the Northern Route, he was not sure that the Dominion had not derived some gain since certain members of the Government had been induced to acquiesce in the acquisition of the North-West Territory. He spoke at some length of the Fenian raid of last spring. He could not believe that the United States Government had exercised all their influence to prevent that raid. During last year, in Utah the Mormons organized a militia force and commenced to drill them openly. They were at once put down by the State authorities. Now, he contended that the municipal authorities on the frontier, if they had been disposed to deal with Canada in a friendly spirit, might have treated the Fenians in a similar manner. If they possessed the power in the one case, they certainly did in the other. The Government at Washington had certainly acted in the most prompt and friendly manner as soon as representations were made to them by the Canadian authorities.

In conclusion he would say that every member should recognize constituted authority and, in everything that related to the welfare of the country, the Government should have the earnest and cordial support of the Opposition. On the other hand, he should lose no opportunity, as he was bound to do in his position in the House, to point out the grievous results of the present administration on the interests of the country.


Hon. Sir JOHN A. MACDONALD said the hon. member for Lambton in his anxiety to fill up his half hour speech, as Leader of the Opposition found it necessary to take up the election speech of the hon. member for Cumberland and criticize it. If the hon. gentleman had had anything in his mind that he thought he could bring out against the Government, he would have done so; but the

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hon. gentleman was as mild as he possibly could be, and although the administrative policy of the Government was so disastrous, and although it was the duty of the hon. member to protest against that disastrous policy, yet he had not condescended to notice the facts he condemned, but he told them exactly that there had been a series of extraordinary statements made by the hon. member for Cumberland, and that to secure his return to this House, the hon. member had been obliged to bring up these statements. The Government considered this and he (Hon. Sir John A. Macdonald) accepted it as the judgment of his hon. friend in favour of the Government. (Laughter.) He could not as a consistent member of the Opposition approve of their course, and he could not condemn them, and so was silent. (Renewed Laughter.)

The hon. member admitted that the House had met in a season of prosperity, and under prosperous circumstances. It was true, the hon. gentleman remarked that it was so, but then, it was owing to the exertions of the people themselves, and in no degree attributable to the administration of the Government. He (Hon. Sir John A. Macdonald) would admit that it was so, and the Government congratulated themselves that Providence smiled on them while they were in power, and that they had a comfortable majority of the people’s representatives with them. He agreed with the hon. member that we all should feel sympathy for the ancient ally of England in her troubles; but he could not agree with the hon. member that this was the day of her greatest humiliation. There never was a time in the history of France when her future appeared brighter. She would rise renovated by her great trial to her old place, and be one of the first powers of Europe, if she had ever ceased to occupy that position; and he had no doubt that England and France would again and again act in concert as the foremost nations of modern civilization. (Hear, hear.)

With reference to the remarks of the hon. member respecting the fishery question, he would inform him that the Government were fully aware of their responsibility, and they were pleased to observe that their course in recent events had met with general approval throughout the country; and he would tell the hon. member that he need be under no apprehension, although he had expressed it, that England, our old Mother Land, would ever act the part the hon. member apprehended—to sacrifice our interests for the sake of any advantage to herself, or any desire to settle any question between the United States and herself. That was not the course that Mother England and the people of England would pursue. If any Government in England could sacrifice our interests for their own advantage, the people of England would reject them with scorn. He could assure his hon. friend that he would find that England was now, as she had always been, a fostering mother, careful of our interests and rights, and ready as she had always shown herself in the past, to protect us with all her force and might and power.


He would not make any remarks respecting the observations of his hon. friend on the Fenian invasion, and about the claims which Canada of right had in consequence of the outrages upon our border, and the losses and expenses brought upon our people by those invasions. The hon. member would find that in this, too, the Canadian Government had taken every step necessary to press our claims to a conclusion. He could only assure his hon. friend that if they were not settled it would not be the fault of this Government. He would not enter into a discussion of the matter just at present, as they had already arranged on the papers that this subject should be taken up hereafter.

His hon. friend had said that he would not join in the congratulations on the state of peace existing in Manitoba. He (Hon. Sir John A. Macdonald) thought that it was a matter of congratulation to every well-ordered mind to see peace, quiet, rule and law brought into a country where all these had been absent. He thought it was a greater matter of congratulation that the accession of that country to the Dominion of Canada had not been made at the sacrifice of a single drop of blood; that the march of the soldiers, both regular and militia, was a peaceable one; that the only difficulties were those offered by the wildness of the country through which they proceeded; and that they were received, as the House had hoped they would be, as friends, brothers, fellow citizens, persons whose advent would be welcomed, and not persons to be feared. It was a matter of great consolation that there had been no blood shed in the acquisition of the North West, and that although mistakes had been made, yet those errors led to no serious consequence, except, perhaps, the expenditure of a little money. The Union had been finally accomplished, and ere long the representatives from Manitoba would take their seats in this House. Granting all that had been said as to the mismanagement of the Canadian Government in consummating the union, to be correct, still it was a matter of congratulation that the union had taken place in harmony and peace, without the loss of one single life in the attempt to effect that union. The hon. member had remarked that he could not enter into congratulations that the murderers of a Canadian subject should have escaped justice. The hon. member was not asked for such congratulations. The Red River country was a British country at the time the crime was committed, although British law was for the time suspended. But British law and institutions existed there, and by the consent and voice of the people of Canada and their Parliament the people of the North West had now got a legislature and Government of their own, on whom were thrown the responsibility of the administration of the laws, and on whom was also thrown the establishment of courts of civil and criminal jurisdiction, and the protection of the life, liberty and property of the people, and the punishment of offenders against them.

He would ask his hon. friend why he had introduced this subject, or why he spoke of it all? Would he point out in what mode the Government of Canada, or the tribunals, or the constituted authorities of Canada could in any way have prevented the act? The hon. member knew that until the 15th of July last, when the act of Union was consummated, the North West was in no way connected with Canada except as a portion of the British Empire. Canada could no more have interfered in Manitoba than in any other colony of Great Britain. Canada had no control, no power, no authority. It was simply this, so long as that colony had its own Government, they were responsible for the protection of life and property, and for the administration of justice; and when that power was overthrown

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it was for Her Majesty only, in her Imperial capacity and with the Imperial authority in the tribunals of Great Britain, to bring any offenders to justice. The moment that the Province became united with the Dominion it had a local Government of its own, and on that local Government, by the act of this Parliament, was thrown the obligation of punishing offenders. The people of Manitoba must be left as free people to manage their own institutions and protect their own people. He did not see that his hon. friend was at all justified in obtruding this discussion on the House during this debate. It was their duty, instead of trying to arouse man against man, and to keep alive such matters, to throw oil in the troubled waters and suppress hostile feelings, which were natural enough, but much to be deplored. He believed the laws would be fairly administered in Manitoba, and that life and property would be held just as sacred and safe there as they were in the older and larger province of Ontario.

His hon. friend had spoken of the Intercolonial Railway, and promised that at an early day he would bring up that subject. Having promised so much, he (Hon. Sir John A. Macdonald) would promise another. He would promise that his hon. friends’ statements, whatever they might be, if they were against the action of the Government or any subordinate engaged on the line, that there would be a full, complete and satisfactory answer—if not satisfactory to his hon. friend, at least satisfactory to this House and to the country. (Hear, hear.)

He would make no reply to the remarks of his hon. friend, respecting the hon. member for Lanark. At the proper time, there would be a frank and free discussion of all that he had alluded to. He must protect against the course of the hon. member for Lambton with respect to a friend of his in this House. The hon. gentleman had mentioned a rumor reflecting on that gentleman. It was easy to get up a rumor. It might be done by inserting a paragraph in a newspaper, and many had been so created in order to give an hon. member an opportunity to say he saw such and such in a certain paper. There should be no quotation of rumors in this House, respecting the character or conduct of persons in public life. The British system should be followed—that no member of Parliament shall make statements that he cannot verify or does not honestly believe to be strictly true.

The House rose for recess at 6.10 p.m.



The debate on the address was resumed.

Mr. BOWN said that the Government deserved censure for the manner in which affairs had been managed in Manitoba since the organization of that Province. Loyal men had been allowed to go unrewarded, while those who had imprisoned and shot loyal men had been appointed to places of honour and trust. The conciliation policy pursued by the Lieutenant Governor was favourable to men who had acted in opposition to law, and compassion to such men was the greatest cruelty that could be inflicted on those who had stood up for Canada in her time of need. The Lieutenant-Governor had early shown where his sympathies lay by going to reside in the Hudson’s Bay Company’s fort and receiving hospitality there. It was evident from the manner in which he had acted in the matter of Scott’s death and in other circumstances, that his mind had been biased in favour of the late rebel party.

Dr. Bown criticised the conduct of the authorities in Manitoba in the inquiry respecting the death of Depoti, which was held with closed doors, the principal object seeming to be to fasten his death on the Canadians. The arrest of Riel had not been effected though he had been in the territory after the arrival of the Lieutenant- Governor. There was some secret cause for this, and it was evident that the Lieutenant-Governor’s mind had been biased. As to the elections which had been held in the new Province, seven or eight of the candidates who had been elected had been introduced from the Quebec Province. It might be said that Lieutenant-Governor Archibald had nothing to do with this, but, if so, why did he permit three of these men, not qualified by the Act, to take places in his cabinet? As to the murder of Mr. Scott, it would be far better to let it rest than that there should be a mere mockery of a trial. He hoped the Government would open up a way of communications to the North West without delay, for the present route would not be available for two years. He hoped the Government would make up the losses which loyal men had incurred in the new Province during the late rebellion.

Mr. MASSON (Terrebonne) agreed with the Hon. Premier that the Government had no jurisdiction in the matter of the murder of Mr. Scott. It should not be forgotten, however, that no less than six counties in Manitoba had offered to return Riel as their representative. Why did Mr. Bown attack the Government now, when he supported the Manitoba Bill last year?

Mr. BOWN said he did not know things would have turned out as they did.

Mr. MASSON (Terrebonne) said this was no excuse. As to Riel, it had been asserted that he had been in Manitoba since the entry of our troops, but he (Mr. Masson) had good authority for saying this was not a fact.

He referred to the relations existing between the Mother Country and the colonies, and said there was an uncertainty in the minds of the people, since the withdrawal of the troops, whether Britain proposed to sever the connection with Canada or not. Some even supposed that she would look to the colonies for help in time of trouble, instead of the latter looking to the former under circumstances of difficulty. We should learn from the Government whether the withdrawal of the troops indicates England’s desire to get rid of us, and whether, since we have formed a confederation, we shall be expected to help her in the time of her need. The Minister of Militia ought to enlighten the House on this important subject before the Militia estimates are brought down. There was discussion going on about independence, but would it not be better to know at once the intention of the Imperial Government, or to adopt such a position as in plain language would only cause us to

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fight in our own quarrels. In our present position the feeling in favour of independence was spreading.

Hon. Sir FRANCIS HINCKS [excitedly]: No, no.

Mr. MASSON (Terrebonne): Yes, yes. The feeling was spreading. He appealed to the Government if they wished to continue the connection with England, as he did to enlighten the House on the intention of the Imperial Government, for Mr. Cardwell, a member of that Government; had recently delivered a speech the argument of which was that the colonies should in future act for the defence of England, or be feeders and not suckers.

Mr. MILLS said the Federal system made it necessary that each Province should have an independent governmental existence. Such could not be given to any Province by this Parliament. He had called attention to this fact last year, and was glad the Minister of Justice had changed his views in this respect. (Hear, hear.) As to the murder of Scott, it was still competent for the Government of Canada to authorize the trial and punishment of Riel. The Minister of Justice had said that this Government had no power to cause the arrest of the murderers of Scott. This was not so. The Hudson’s Bay Company were bound by the Imperial Government to transfer to Canada, for trial and punishment, persons guilty of higher crimes than misdemeanour. It was still competent for the Government of Canada to authorize the trial and punishment of Riel, and it was also competent for the Lieutenant-Governor of Manitoba to ask for extradition.

The second paragraph of the address was agreed to.

Hon. Mr. DORION on the proposal of the adoption of the paragraph relating to the admission of British Columbia, protested that he knew nothing of the merits of the terms of this admission, and declared his unwillingness to express blindfold any concurrence in the Government’s Pacific Railway scheme. If it was to be one of the character of the Intercolonial Railway, he would give it his strenuous opposition. He could not approve of the wording of the paragraph.

Hon. Sir JOHN A. MACDONALD consented to a verbal alteration to meet the objection of the last speaker. The change was of a non-committal character, and thus modified, the clause was adopted.

The remaining paragraphs were read and concurred in without debate, and the address, being read a second time, was agreed to.

After the usual formal resolutions in regard to the address and its presentation, Hon. Sir JOHN A. MACDONALD gave notice of an address of congratulation to Lord Lisgar on the distinguished honour recently conferred upon him by Her Majesty.

The House adjourned at a quarter past nine.

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