Province of Canada, Legislative Assembly, Parliamentary Debates on the Subject of the Confederation of the British North America Provinces, 8th Parl, 3rd Sess, (21 February 1865)
By: Province of Canada (Parliament)
Citation: Province of Canada, Parliament, Parliamentary Debates on the Subject of the Confederation of the British North America Provinces, 8th Parl, 3rd Sess, 1865 at 362-393.
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TUESDAY, February 21, 1865.
Hon. Solicitor General Langevin—It is not without some degree of hesitation that I rise to address the House on this occasion; for I see before me the representatives of two millions and a half of people, who are called together to settle the most weighty matters which concern them, and more particularly to take into consideration a question involving the destiny, not only of the two Canadas, but also of all the Provinces of British North America. I must confess that I experience a strong feeling of hesitation and great diffidence of my own powers, when I consider the importance of the measure submitted to us for discussion, and the consequences which may result from […]
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[…] our decision, both to ourselves and our posterity. The measure is so vast in its bearings, the interests affected by it are so considerable, and that no one can be surprised at my diffidence and hesitation. This question of Confederation is bound up with the common interests of empires and the general policy of nations, for it is no unimportant matter for the great nations who bear sway among mankind, to know into what hinds the Provinces of British North America may fall. We need only look back into the pages of history to learn how greatly nations are moved by the creation of a new people; and on the present occasion, the thousand voices of though press proclaim the interest which the question of Confederation excites both in America and in Europe itself, and how closely the governments observe our proceedings; and this interest which they feel and proclaim is legitimate and natural, for the measure is destined to male us rank among the nations of the earth.
More than all, this question particularly concerns England and the United States, and in an equal degree with ourselves. England is interested in seeing these provinces well governed, prosperous, free, contented and happy She is interested in their having a good government, and that it should be so administered as to be no burthen to her as the Mother Country; that, on the contrary, they should become powerful and in a position to assist her in certain eventualities. On the other hand, the United States must feel a degree of satisfaction in seeing the Provinces of British North America become a powerful nation.
They will see it without a feeling allied to jealousy. They must wish us to be strong enough to maintain our neutrality, our good understanding with them, and those friendly relations which should ever subsist between neighboring nations. But if this question is interesting to England and the United States, it is still more so to ourselves—to us, whose destiny is at stake, to us whose position is a lofty one as compared with the ordinary lot of nations; for the faculty is not granted to all nations to choose their own lot in the full leisure of a time of peace, without the taint of a single drop of blood shed—to fix upon a Constitution which will set them at once on the high road of progress, and enable them to take such ground for their career as may seem good in their own eyes.
In 1840, when the union of the two Canadas was under consideration, we occupied no such position, for that union was imposed upon us in our own despite, and we were never consulted on the subject. It will be remembered that for a certain time our very language was proscribed, and our position rendered as unfortunate as it could be made.
True, we had an equal umber of representatives in this House, but as a people woo were manifestly held to be inferior. I grant that the attempt to fix the yoke permanently on our necks proved a failure, but this was no fault of those who imposed the union on us. We have won the position which we now occupy by our own energy and perseverance, assisted by some of the representatives of Upper Canada. At this day things are greatly changed. We are in the midst of a great revolution, but a revolution of which peace is the guiding spirit; we are free to deliberate whether we will change our position, and to dictate the terms on which the change is to be made. We are invited to shape out our future destiny, and we should not be true to ourselves, or to our constituents, if we refused this day to avail ourselves of the resolutions adopted at the Conference of Quebec. The hour. member for Hochelaga (Hon Mr. Dorion), whom I regret not to see in his place—
Hon. Mr. Holton—He will be here in a moment.
Hon. Sol. Gen. Langevin—The hon. member for Hochelaga [Hon. Mr. Dorion] told us the other day that the plan opt a Confederation was adopted and moved by the present Administration for the mere purpose of stifling the cry of representation by population. Well, and if it really were so, where does the hon. member find the harm in it? Is it not most important that we should stop that cry for representation based on population, in our present condition? Representation by population would have left us, Lower Canadians, in an inferior position relatively to that of Upper Canada—would have conferred on the latter the privilege of legislating for us, not only in general, but in local matters. The hon. member for Hochelaga [Hon. Mr. Dorion] ought to have been the last to reproach the present Government with having, by this measure of Confederation, stopped the cry for representation based on population.
In 1854, the hon. member admitted, as he himself acknowledges, that representation based on population was just in principle, and the consequence of that admission was fatal. The consequence was that the hon. member was compelled to keep in the same track until the formation of the Brown-Dorion Administration in […]
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[…] 1858—an Administration which had no very long existence. (Hear, hear.)
Hon. Mr. Holton—Unfortunately. (Laughter.)
Hon. Sol. Gen. Langevin—That Administration had no very long existence, and I rejoice that I did my part in upsetting it, for it is probable that, if it had stood, representation based on population would have been forced upon us, and we should not be now in our present position—in a position to make our own terms as freely as Upper Canada, and take part, on a footing of equality, in negotiating a treaty with the Lower Provinces. This is why I rejoice that I contributed to overthrow that government. The hon. member for Hochelaga [Hon. Mr. Dorion] told us the other evening that in 1856 he spoke as follows:—
In 1856, when Parliament was sitting at Toronto, I first suggested that one means of surmounting our difficulties would be the substitution of a Confederation of the two Canadas in place of a legislative union. By that arrangement local questions would be debated in the local legislatures, and the Central Government would have the control of commercial and other questions of general interest. I said that considering the differences of race, religion and laws now existing between the two sections of the country, it would be the best means of surmounting them. That is to say, I would leave to a central government questions regarding commerce, banking, the currency, public works of a general character, &c., and to the local legislatures all local questions. At the same time I said that if these views were not accepted, I should certainly be in favor at representation based on population, with conditions and guarantees which would secure the interests of Lower Canada, and preserve to Lower Canada the institutions which are so dear to her.
Well, we see that in 1856, the hon. member for Hochelaga [Hon. Mr. Dorion] was desirous of forming a new Constitution for the express purpose of stifling the cry for representation based on population. In 1858 he formed, together with the present Hon. President of the Council (Hon. Mr. Brown), the Brown-Dorion Government; and again, he stipulated that the question of representation based on population should be taken into consideration, and that the Government should consider the means of settling the difficulties which it involved. In 1859 he signed a document, which also bore the signatures of Hon. Mr. Drummond, Hon. Mr. Dessaulles, and Hon. Mr. McGee, in which he said with his colleagues, that a change in the Constitution of the country was necessary:—
If Lower Canada insists on maintaining the union intact; if she will neither consent to a dissolution of the union, nor consider the project of a Federation, it is difficult to conceive on what reasonable grounds the demand for representation according to population can be resisted. The plea for such resistance has hitherto been that danger might arise to some of her peculiar and most cherished institutions; but that ground will be no longer tenable if she rejects a proposition, the effect of which would be to leave to her own people the sole and absolute custody of those institutions, and to surround them by the most stringent of all possible safeguards, the provisions of the fundamental law of the land, unalterable save by the action of the people affected by them. The logical alternative now presented to the people of Lower Canada would, therefore, seem to be dissolution or federation on the one hand, and representation according to population on the other.
Here, again, he intended to stifle the cry of representation based on population, and intended to do it by founding a new Confederation. In 1861 it was just the same; he declared that he was desirous of settling that question of the representation; that it was not expedient that it should remain an open question; that it was a difficulty to be got rid of one way or another. In 1862, also, he went into the Government with the same object in view but how did he set about carrying it out? He made it a close question, and adopted, with his colleagues, the plan of the double majority. The hon. member doubtless had forgotten that in 1859, when he penned the manifesto which I have just quoted, he had condemned the double majority. Here is, in fact, what he said in that document:—
In each section there would still be minority and majority parties, and unless the principle of the double majority could be enacted as a fundamental law, we should be exposed to an endless round of the same complaints that we now hear, of one section ruling the other contrary to its well known public opinion, and to see reproduced in our politics the same passions, the same intrigues, the same corruption and insincerity. The enactment of the double majority is not advocated in any quarter. The impossibility of clearly defining the cases to which it should apply, and of distinguishing them from those to which it should not, is felt by all; but were it even possible, it would only lead to new phases of difficulty, by compelling majorities professing opinions and principles diametrically opposed to each other, to unite, and thereby effectually to extinguish the influence […]
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[…] Have one or the other minority, or have both. It is difficult to conceive one single legislature composed of two majorities and two minorities; these two majorities without any identity of principle, acting nevertheless together by common consent, so as to never trespass the one on the other, and so that each section of the province would always be governed by a majority of its representatives. On many questions this course could not be carried out without alternately forcing the majority of the representatives of each section of the province to abstain from voting, or to declare themselves in favor of measures which their judgment and their conscience would disavow. The complication’s of such a system amounting to nothing short of an application of the Federal principle to a single legislature, would render it impracticable.
Then the honorable member had changed his opinion on this subject! I do not say this as a reproach; but it proves that the always acted with the same object in view—that is to say, to stifle the cry for representation based on population. How, then, does it happen that he finds fault with the present Ministry for bringing forward a measure to put an end to these difficulties, and to prevent our being placed in a position of inferiority? But the object of the Confederation is not merely to do away with existing difficulties. It has become a necessity, because we have become sufficiently great,—because we have become strong, rich, and powerful enough,—because our products are numerous enough and considerable enough,—because our population has become large enough to allow of our aspiring to another position, and of our seeking to obtain an outlet through some seaport for our products. At the present day we stand in a position of vassalage to the United States, with respect to the exportation of our products to Europe; we are at their mercy. If we should have any difficulty with our neighbors to-morrow, they would close the Portland route to us, and we should find ourselves, during nearly seven months in the year, cut off from all communication with the seaboard, save by means of the usual long and difficult land journey.
This is not a tenable position, nor one worthy of a people such as that which inhabits the Provinces of British North America. It is a position which mus t be emerged from, for such is the interest of Canada, of the Lower Provinces, and of the Western States. The honorable member for Hochelaga [Hon. Mr. Dorion] told us that he was in favor of a plan which would settle existing difficulties, and would place Lower Canada in a suitable position; but he never told as what that plan was. The only thing he ever proposed was his plan of 1859 for the Confederation of the two Canadas; but that plan would only have settled one difficulty, and would have allowed others of the greatest importance to arise—and among others, that respecting our communication with the seaboard. That plan, for instance, would not have allowed us to construct the Intercolonial Railway; for it is almost impossible that so great an enterprise should succeed unless it is in the hands of a great central power, and if it is necessary to consult five or six governments before commencing it.
But the question of the Confederation of the two Canadas is not the only one which is presented as a means of escaping from our difficulties; there are different plans which I shall enumerate. Some propose, for instance, that we should remain in the position in which we now are; others wish for annexation to the United States; some would, perhaps, be in favor of complete independence; others would favor a Confederation of the two Canadas; and, lastly, the Confederation of all the British North American Provinces is proposed. Well, let us cursorily examine these various propositions. It may be that there are some members who are desirous that we should remain as we are. The honorable members for Hochelaga and Lotbinière (Hon. Mr. Dorion and Mr. Joly) consider our position an excellent one, and so, in their speeches, they have told us.
They consider that we are extremely prosperous, and that we have nothing to wish for. For my part, I consider that in our present position we are under a great disadvantage; it is that if we remain isolated and alone, we cannot communicate with the metropolis, except through the United States; if we remain alone we can aspire to no position, we can give rein to no ambition as a people. Again, we have at the present time as many systems of judicature as we have provinces; with Confederation, on the contrary, this defect will be removed, and there will be but two systems: one for Lower Canada, because our laws are different from those of the other provinces, because we are a separate people, and because we do not choose to have the laws of the other populations—and the other for the remainder of the Confederation. All the other provinces having the same laws, or their system of law being derived from one and the same source, may have one and the same system of judicature; and, in fact, a resolution of the Conference allows them to resolve that they will have one code and one […]
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[…] judicial system; but an exception is made in favor of Lower Canada and our laws. There are also as many different tariffs as there are different provinces, as many commercial and customs regulations as provinces. It is true that there are now many free goods, but it is also correct to say that there as many customs systems as there are provinces. And with respect to great colonial works, is it not true that it is impossible at the present day to undertake them, because the interests involved are too considerable, and because it is necessary to consult three or four legislatures?
By this it will be understood that it is almost impossible to reconcile so many different interests, except by uniting in one and the same legislature the representatives of those interests and of the people affected by them, and this object we cannot attain by remaining by ourselves. Currency and the interest of money are also regulated by different systems in the several provinces. There is one currency here, another in Newfoundland, another in Prince Edward Island, and so on. The shilling and pound of this province are different from the shilling and pound of Newfoundland and those of the other Maritime Provinces. But, with Confederation, all these matters would be placed under the control of our central legislature; the currency would become uniform throughout, and capital might be everywhere invested without obstacle. So also it will be with respect to the rights of authors, patents for mechanical inventions, &c. When speaking of the Intercolonial Railway, I made no mention of the Pacific Railway, because I consider that we ought to devote our attention to accomplishing the works of which we at present stand in used. At a later period, when our resources and our population shall have sufficiently increased, we may direct our attention to the Pacific Railway.
And should it become necessary, we can, with Confederation, hope to build it in less than ten years, whereas by remaining by ourselves as we are, we could not hope to have it for perhaps one hundred years. I think that I have now held up in a salient point of view the disadvantages of the status quo. The necessary consequence of what I have just demonstrated is that we cannot remain in the position in which we now are, whether we will or not. The question of representation based on population must be met; that question must be settled. To say that we will grant it is to wish to place us in a position of inferiority, and I, for my part, will never consent to place my section of the province in that position.
Then there is another alternative that is proposed—annexation to the United States. I do not believe, there is a single member in the House or out of the House who would consent to the annexation of Canada to the United States But it is a question which must be examined when discussing that of Confederation, because it is one of the alternatives offered to us, and out of which we have to make a selection. What then would be our position in case we were annexed to the United States? It is true that we should become an independent State in the American Confederation, but with the advantages accruing from such a state of affairs, we should likewise have the disadvantages. We should have to contribute towards the liquidation of the enormous debt which the United States have contracted in consequence of the war which is desolating one of the finest portions of the land; we should have to pay the interest, and subsequently the principal itself, for I do not suppose that the Americans have the slightest intention of repudiating their debt.
The debt would have to be paid, and to effect that, heavy imposts would have to be paid for a great number of years to provide the interest and sinking fund. Those who talk of the debt which is going to result from the Confederation should remember that it will be but a mere trifle compared with that for which we should become responsible under annexation. For one dollar that we shall have to pay under Confederation, we should have to pay six under annexation. It is said that the debt will be enormous, but it will only be as one dollar to four dollars in England, and six dollars in the United States. That is the financial aspect of annexation. But what would be the fate of the French-Canadians in the case of annexation to the United States? Let us profit by the example of the French race in the United States, and enquire what has been the fate of the French in Louisiana? What has become of them? What has become of their language, their customs, their manners and their institutions? After the war, hardly a trace will remain to show that the French race has passed that way.
So far as religion is concerned, we might not find ourselves so badly off; but we live in peace at the present day and are perfectly comfortable; Catholics and Protestants have the same rights and religious liberty, and they live as peacefully together […]
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[…] as if there was but one religion in the land.
Mr. Dufresne (Libreville)—We are well off, us remain so.
Hon. Sol. Gen. Langevin—Yes, but we cannot remain in the position in which we are. The hon. member for Hochelaga [Hon. Mr. Dorion] has said so for ten years past, and undertook to change it. He said the position was no longer tenable in 1854, and if it was not tenable then, it is still less so in 1865. I now come to the other alternative proposed to us—that of independence. Men may be found, both in the House and out of the House, who would be disposed to say that we had better have independence than Confederation. For my part, I believe that the independence of the British North American Provinces would be the greatest misfortune which could happen to them; it would be to leave us at the mercy of our neighbors, and to throw us into their arms. Independence would make us masters of our position, but at the same time we should be deprived of the protection of England, and without that it is by no means difficult to foresee what would become of us. The hon. member for Hochelaga [Hon. Mr. Dorion] may think it to our advantage to be weak, but in that opinion I do not coincide; I consider that it is better to be in a position to meet the enemy in case of his attacking us.
Let it be well understood that without the protection of England we can do nothing. And besides the outlay which would be entailed by our providing for our defence, there would also be enormous expenditure in order to keep up in a suitable manner our relations with foreign powers. With independence, and without the support and assistance of England, we should have to maintain an army and a very expensive government, we should have to keep up diplomatic relations with other countries, and provide means to defray a host of other expenses which we should not have to do under Confederation. Independence is, therefore, out of the question for the present. Lastly, we have the fourth alternative—the Confederation of the two Canadas, proposed by the honorable member for Hochelaga [Hon. Mr. Dorion]. In his manifesto of 1881 he told us in what position we should then be. The following passage is from the manifesto in question:—
It would have been easy at any time to satisfy Upper Canada, by giving her four or five members more than Lower Canada, preserving at the same time equality in the Legislative Council. To avoid the danger which this increase of members might entail, it is proposed to give Upper Canada seventeen members more than Lower Canada, and there are added besides forty-seven members more for the Maritime Provinces; in all sixty-four members are added to the British element besides the twenty-eight additional members which are given to the Legislative Council; and this is the way in which it is pretended tab the rights of Lower Canada are to be protected.
The hon. member for Hochelaga [Hon. Mr. Dorion] according to his own plan would have preferred–
Hon. Mr. Dorion—It is not a plan, it is an argument.
Hon. Sol. Gen. Langevin—Then it is a very bad argument—an argument by no means advantageous to Lower Canada. The hon. member says in that manifesto that it would be quite an easy matter to secure the silence of Upper Canada, by granting it four or five more members than Lower Canada. But the hon. member very well knows that if we were to grant representation based on population, it would not be four or five members we should have to give to Upper Canada, but the seventeen members which it is now proposed to give Upper Canada by the plan of Confederation. The increase would not be based on an imaginary number.
But even with four or five members more in the present union, Upper Canada could impose its decision on all questions which might come before the House The hon. member for Hochelaga [Hon. Mr. Dorion] has told us that under the proposed system Upper Canada will have seventeen members more than Lower Canada, and that the English element will be increased by the addition of all the members from the Lower Provinces, and that they will enter into a league against us Lower Canadians. I must say, I do not think the hon. member pays a very high compliment to his ex-colleague the Hon. Mr. Holton, when he says that because the members will be English, they will be against us French-Canadians.
So great was his confidence in the hon. member for Chateauguay [Hon. Mr. Holton], that he took him into his Government, and would take him again to-day if he had the opportunity; and yet the hon. member for Hochelaga [Hon. Mr. Dorion] speaks of the English as though they were our natural enemies. For my part, I do not think they are; moreover, the question before us is not the formation of a Local Government only. We are considering the establishment of a Confederacy—with a Central Parliament and local parliaments. The Central or Federal Parliament will have the control of all measures […]
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[…] of a general character, as provided by the Quebec Conference; but all matters of local interest, all that relates to the affairs and right s of the different sections of the Confederacy, will be reserved for the control of the local parliaments. The position in which Confederation will place us is very different from that which we should have occupied under the system proposed by the honorable member, inasmuch as the seventeen members, which Upper Canada will have more than Lower Canada, will have nothing to do with our local affairs, our religious questions or particular institutions, and the hon. member for Hochelaga [Hon. Mr. Dorion], by his scheme, would have entrusted all that to the good-will of the Upper Canadian majority; but for my part, I would rather entrust the management of these matters to my own people than to them.
As regards the seventeen additional members which Upper Canada will have in the Federal Parliament, I am not alarmed at their presence any more than at that of the members from the Lower Provinces, because in Parliament there will be no questions of race, nationality, religion or locality, as this Legislature will only be charged with the settlement of the great general questions which will interest alike the whole Confederacy and not one locality only.
Our position then is excellent, and all those who frankly give expression to their opinions must admit that the representatives of Lower Canada at the Quebec Conference have carefully guarded her interests. I may say that the basis of action adopted by the delegates, in preparing the resolutions, was to do justice to all—justice to all races, to all religions, to all nationalities, and to all interests. For this reason the Confederation will be accepted by all, in the Lower Provinces as well as here. Under Confederation there will no longer be domination of one race over another, and if one section should be desirous of committing an act of injustice against another section, all the others would unite together to prevent it.
But, supposing that an unjust measure was passed in the House of Commons opt the Federal Legislature, it would be stopped in the Legislative Council; for there we shall be represented equally with the other sections, and that is a guarantee that our interests will be amply protected.
In the Legislative Council we shall have 24 members like Upper Canada and the Lower Provinces. I assert, then, that there is a vast difference between the argument s of the hon. member for Hochelaga [Hon. Mr. Dorion] and the measure of the Government; the Legislative Council will protect our interests, and the measures of general interest will come under the jurisdiction of the Federal Parliament. When the matter under consideration is a great public enterprise, such as a railway, a canal or a telegraph line, our religious and national interests will not be endangered. It will be the duty of the Central Government to see that the country prospers, but it will not be its duty to attack our religion, our institutions or our nationality, which, moreover, as I have just proved, will be amply protected. While on this point, I will draw the attention of the honorable member for Hochelaga [Hon. Mr. Dorion] to the fact, that in 1859 he expressed himself as follows:—
Whatever may be the number of provinces or of subdivisions which it may hereafter be deemed necessary to adopt, the separating Hue between Upper and Lower Canada must be maintained. In defining the powers of the local and federal governments, those only must be delegated to the latter which would be absolutely necessary for the purposes of Confederation, and, as a necessary consequence, reserve to the subdivisions powers as ample and as varied as possible. The customs, the mail service, the laws respecting the currency, patents and copy-rights, the public lands, and such of the public works as possess an interest common to all parts of the country, ought to be the principal, if not the only objects which would be placed under the control of the Federal Government, whilst all that would relate to improvements purely local—to education, the administration of justice, the militia, the laws of property, and of internal police—would be under the control of the local governments, whose powers, in a word, would extend to all matters not specially delegated to the General Government.
Thus we see that the honorable member was willing to give up the control of the public lands to the Federal Government. He considered that it would be better to leave the control of colonization and the public lands to the Federal Government, in which, nevertheless, he was prepared to give a preponderance to Upper Canada. By the plan of Confederation brought down by the present Government, the control of these matters is given up to the local legislatures, and I earnestly hope that the honorable member will not endeavor to take them away and transfer them to the control of the Federal Government. If his plan or his argument had ever been put into operation, he […]
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[…] would have abandoned the control of our public lands to the British element, of which he now pretends to stand in mortal fear. I repeat the declaration that it is impossible for us to continue in our present position; that annexation to the United States would be the greatest disaster that could befal us; and that it is impossible, that it would be disastrous to think of the independence of the country; that the project for the Confederation of the two Canadas as proposed by the honorable member for Hochelaga [Hon. Mr. Dorion] is not desirable, and would not offer any guarantee for the institutions of Lower Canada, but that the Confederation of all the Provinces of British North America would be preferable, and is our only remedy.
The Confederation would have the effect of giving us more strength than we now possess; we should form but one nation, one country, for all general matters affecting our interests as a people. But when I speak of a great and powerful nation, far be it from me to wish that we should form an independent nation, and that we should abandon the protection of the British flag; on the contrary, I earnestly hope that we shall long remain under the protection of that flag. What I would say is, that with Confederation we shall be in a better position for self-defence, and to aid the Mother Country under certain exigencies, than we are at the present time. Having Confederation, the Central Government will be in a position to have its orders carried out over its whole territory; and when the question of defence comes up, it will not be obliged to consult four or five different legislatures, but it will be able to organize our defences immediately and without obstruction.
Besides, we shall have acquired a standing which we have not hitherto attained in our relations with other countries with which we have dealings. It is of no small importance for the inhabitants of a country to have a standing in foreign countries, and not to be treated as men of inferior position. When Canadians go to London or elsewhere out of their own country, they have no recognized position, because we are only a simple colony. But under the Confederation we shall be protected by England, and besides we shall have a position in foreign lands, the portion which every man enjoys who belongs to a great nation. On this very point a public writer wrote some few years ago in a London newspaper an article from which I will ask permission to read an extract to the House. The matter under consideration was the cession of the right of fishery on the Banks of Newfoundland by England to France. He says:—
Now, see the effect of this want of association and representation here. The basis of a treaty is agreed upon between Great Britain and France, by which Great Britain agreed to give to Prance the exclusive right of fishing upon a great portion of the coast of Newfoundland, a thing unjustified by any former treaty, Newfoundland no sooner heard of it than she remonstrated, and denied the right of Great Britain to sign away to a foreign nation the property of the people of Newfoundland; and, in fact, set at defiance the action of the Imperial Government. Now, this is not only derogatory to us as a nation, but it illustrates the danger which may arise to the colonies from the Imperial Government not being properly informed on such subjects. For, from a careful perusal of all the treaties on the subject in question, we cannot but believe that Newfoundland was right.
It is evident that, if the Confederation had existed at that period, England would not have acted without consulting us; but in those days they used to say, “They are Canadians, mere colonists, &c.;” and as we were then separated, of course we had to submit; our rights were not protected as they will be when we are united. Under Confederation, England will consult us in all matters which affect our interests, and we shall be able to make ourselves effectually heard in London. In proof of this I cite from the same writer:—
Here is another question which especially affects Canada. In the course of last year, the Imperial Government renewed the subsidy of £176,340 per annum, paid to the Cunard vessels plying between Liverpool and the United States, for a period of six years. Another postal subsidy of £78,000 was just being granted by the Imperial Government to a new line of steamers between Galway and the United States, in this case also without consulting the interests of British North America. This is a great injustice, particularly to Canada, for that province has expended large same in the opening of water communication in the valley of the River St. Lawrence, canals which have become valueless from having to compete with the United States routes, encouraged by a subsidy from the Imperial Government of nearly £300,000 per annum, while Canada on the other hand receives no aid whatever from the Imperial Government, but is compelled to subsidize a line of its own (to attract a feeble share of the trade) to the extent of £50,000 per annum.”
If all the Provinces of British North America had then been united under one […]
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[…] single government, we should have been informed that the Imperial Government intended to make that treaty, and our rights would have been respected; but as we were but a simple colony, and as there were many interests brought to bear, we could do nothing to protect ourselves. I do not desire to weary the House with quotations, but I trust I shall be allowed to cite another author, who in addition to showing how limited are the objects of ambition presented to the inhabitants of a colony, demonstrates that, though British subjects, we are almost on the footing of foreigners in England:—
Here again the contiguity of the colonies to the United States suggests disagreeable compare sons. In that great republic, the scope for individual exertion is immense; and although the rewards of success in the higher walks of life are not generally so great as under most monarchical governments, some of the “prizes open to all,” in that country, are of a very high order. Many a British North American has seen individuals upon the United States side of our boundary, whom he knew from personal acquaintance to be inferior to him in natural abilities, education, wealth, and social standing, raised in a short time to the presidency of that republic, a position which would entitle him to rank with the proudest monarchs of Europe. At the same time that British American could not reasonably aspire even to become the governor of his native province; and if he were to go to England, all the influence which he could command would probably not procure him a presentation to his Sovereign.
Does not that show that the position of a Canadian, or of any other inhabitant of the colonies, in England is a position of inferiority? We desire to remove that inferiority by adopting the plan of Confederation now submitted to the House. The honorable member for Hochelaga [Hon. Mr. Dorion] stated that the people had not asked for Confederation, but that it was adopted as the last resource of a falling party. He referred, of course, when he expressed that opinion, to the vote of censure he had proposed last year against the Taché-Macdonald Ministry. After all his efforts against that ministry, the honorable gentleman could do no more than reproach them with an act committed, or supposed to have been committed, five years before by another government; and by that means he had succeeded in overthrowing the ministry.
The result of the vote, brought about by the honorable member, was very different from what he expected; it resulted in the Coalition, and the project of Confederation now before the House. The honorable gentleman say that the people have not asked for it, but when the Government announced to the House that the basis upon which the new ministry had been formed was the Confederation of the provinces, the opposition did not declare that the measure was a bad one. On the contrary, the great majority of the members from Upper and from Lower Canada pronounced themselves in favor of the plan, and promised their support to the Government.
The honorable gentleman also asks, who empowered the delegates to meet and prepare a plan of Confederation, and submit it to this House? I answer, that the power was derived from the expressed sentiments of the House when it consented to the formation of the Government on that basis. The Government felt that they had a perfect right not only to assist at the Quebec Conference, but to bring it about. And even though there had been no other reason but the difficulties which had arisen in Canada some years before; even though there had been no other reason than the care of the interests of the country, we should have been justified thereby in assisting at the Charlottetown Conference, and in calling the Quebec Conference, at which the measure was adopted by the thirty-three delegates. The honorable gentleman let fall the accusation that we consented that Canada should have but one vote in the Conference. In making a charge against the Government, as leader of the Opposition, the honorable gentleman ought to have sought to base it on more correct information.
Hon. Mr. Dorion—I understood it to be so, from what the President of the Council [Hon. Mr. Brown] stated.
Hon. Sol. Gen. Langevin—Canada had more than one vote; and the President of the Council [Hon. Mr. Brown] never stated the contrary.
Hon. Mr. Dorion—How many were there? Two?
Hon. Sol. Gen. Langevin—Yes, two; one for Upper and one for Lower Canada. We could have had more, but that was not the question. We did not go to the Conference to discuss simple matters of form, nor did we go there to force our views upon others; we desired to come to an understanding with the Lower Provinces. It was not our object to frame a feeble and unjust Constitution, destined, from the very fact, to last but a day. Hence it would not have been right, and we did not desire to take advantage of our position, but we treated […]
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[…] with the provinces on a footing of equality, not wishing to force our views upon them, but anxious to come to an understanding, and to extend justice to all.
Hon. Mr. Dorion—The statement I made is not denied, that the votes were given by provinces.
Hon. Solicitor Gen. Langevin—It is true; the Lower Provinces had each one vote, as had Upper and Lower Canada, and it is for us a matter for congratulation. I may be permitted to remind the House, in connection with this matter, of the saying of the first Napoleon to one of his ambassadors, whom he sent to a prince who was feeble, poor, and without an army—that prince was the Pope: “Treat with him as if he had an army of two hundred thousand men at his back! ” Now, that is what we did; we treated Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and the other provinces as we desired to be treated ourselves, that is to say, with justice and consideration, and the result shews that we were right. The honorable gentleman ought to have confined himself to publishing, in his own way, the secrets of the Conference, and refrain from divulging those of the committee appointed last year with respect to constitutional difficulties. I understood that everything was to have remained secret in that committee, except the report made to the House.
Hon. Mr. Dorion—Does the hon. gentleman accuse me of divulging the secrets of that committee?
Hon. Sol. Gen. Langevin—The hon. gentleman stated that the Hon. Attorney General (Hon. J.A. Macdonald) had constantly acted and voted in that committee against the Confederation project, and that now he presents one himself; and I maintain that he ought not to have said that, for the action of the members of the committee was to have remained secret. If the deliberations of the committee were to have remained secret, the hon. gentleman must see that he is in a difficult position. The object of that secrecy is evident; it was the same object we had in view in preserving secrecy in the proceedings of the Quebec Conference; to give increased freedom of opinion to each member, and not, as has been said, to deprive the people of information to which they were entitled. We knew that if our proceedings were presented day by day to the people, through the press, we should not have enjoyed that liberty of action and of discussion which we required.
It is easy to understand, that during the deliberations, a member might one day pronounce against a resolution or some important point, and that the arguments of another member in a contrary sense might make him change his opinion; but that this might be, it was necessary to be free from all outside influence, and therefore it was that the Conference sat with closed doors.
Hon. Mr. Dorion—Will the hon. member allow me to say a few words? He has stated that I divulged the secrets of the committee on sectional difficulties. I assert that I never attended the sittings of that committee, that I merely went there on the first day to state that I would not take part in its proceedings, and that I then withdrew and did not again attend. I was opposed to the proceedings of that committee, and I did not attend it; but I learned that the Hon. Attorney General [Hon. J.A. Macdonald] voted, on the last day the committee sat, against Confederation; and that was all I stated. So that if the secrets of the committee have been revealed, it has nor been done by me.
Hon. Mr. Cauchon.—The hon. member for Hochelaga [Hon. Mr. Dorion] has quite forgotten what passed in the committee. He was present, with the hon. member for Chateauguay (Hon. Mr. Holton), at the commencement of the proceedings of the committee, when it was stated and agreed that everything that passed in the committee was to be kept secret. I admit that the hon. gentleman refused to take part in the proceedings of the committee, but at the same time he knew perfectly well that they were to be secret, and he was bound to respect that secrecy. He was aware that the representatives of the press had been excluded.
Hon. Mr. Dorion.—The hon. gentleman is entirely mistaken, for I was not present.
Hon. Sol. Gen. Langevin.—The hon. member for Hochelega must understand that not being myself a member of that committee, and knowing that he was a member of it, and that it had been stated in the House that the proceedings were to be secret, I was perfectly justified in blaming him for having spoken.
Hon. Mr. Dorion.—I never knew that the proceedings, of the committee were to be secret.
Hon. Sol. Gen. Langevin.—I knew it, and I feel that I was perfectly justified […]
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[…] in saying what I said; but after the explanations which the hon. gentleman has just given, I cannot accuse him of having done it otherwise than inadvertently. The honorable member for Hochelaga [Hon. Mr. Dorion] stated that the memorial submitted by the Government at the time of its formation spoke of a Confederation other than the one which it now proposes. It will be well to refer to the document in question in order to ascertain its contents. The memorial consists of two parts, of which the following is the first:—
The Government are prepared to state that immediately after the prorogation, they will address themselves, in the most earnest manner, to the negotiation for a Confederation of all the British North American Provinces.
That failing a successful issue to such negotiations, they are prepared to pledge themselves to legislation, during the next session of Parliament, for the purpose of remedying existing difficulties by introducing the Federal principle for Canada alone, coupled with such provisions as will permit the Maritime Provinces and the North-Western territory to he hereafter incorporated into the Canadian system.
In other words, the Government promises, in the first part of the memorial in question, to direct its attention to a Confederation of all the British North American Provinces; and, in the event of its not succeeding in carrying out that object, to turn its attention to a Confederation of the two Canadas. And now here are the contents of the second part:—
The Government are prepared to pledge themselves to bring in a measure, next session, for the purpose of removing existing difficulties, by introducing the Federal principle into Canada, coupled with such provision as will permit the Maritime Provinces and the North-West territory to be incorporated into the same system of government.
And the Government will seek, by sending representatives to the Lower Provinces and to England, to secure the assent of those interests which are beyond the control of our own legislation, to such a measure as may enable all British North America to be united under a General Legislature based upon the Federal principle.
Well, where is the contradiction between these promises and the present action of the Government? We begin with a plan of Confederation for the two Canadas, and subsequently, finding that the Maritime Provinces are ready to enter upon the consideration of a more extensive union, we have made arrangements to bring them at once into the Confederation. There is no contradiction in that, but it is the same measure and the same plan; the only difference is, that, instead of admitting them into the union some six or nine months hence, we have admitted them at once. When we approached the question, we found the Maritime Provinces in process of deliberating upon a union amongst themselves; but the Charlottetown delegates perceived that the Confederation which we proposed to them would be much more advantageous to all the provinces than that upon which they were engaged, and they at once consented to accept our proposition. Accordingly they came to Quebec, and the result of their visit was the plan which has been submitted to this House, The hon. member for Hochelaga [Hon. Mr. Dorion] has, therefore, no right to reproach us with having altered the plan promised to the House, since it is word for word that which we promised.
This measure, as I observed a short time ago, cannot last, unless it protects the interests of all. Now, we have different interests in Lower Canada, in which reside two populations differing in origin, differing in religion, and speaking different languages. On the other hand, Upper Canada has a homogeneous population, but one professing different religions, and so it is with respect to the several Maritime Provinces. In these latter provinces, also, we have more than one hundred thousand fellow countrymen of French origin. Well, Mr. Speaker, we have taken care to protect these different interests, and to preserve the rights of this population, by uniting them in the Confederation to a people numbering a million souls of the same origin as themselves. But we are told: “You wish to form a new nationality.” Let us come to an understanding on this word, Mr. Speaker. What we desire and wish, is to defend the general interests of a great country and of a powerful nation, by means of a central power. On the other hand, we do not wish to do away with our different customs, manners and laws; on the contrary, those are precisely what we are desirous of protecting in the most complete manner by means of Confederation. Under the new system there will be no more reason than at present to lose our character as French or English, under the pretext that we should all have the same general interests; and our interests n relation to race, religion and nationality will remain as they […]
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[…] are at the present time. But they will be better protected under the proposed system, and that again is one of the strongest reasons in favor of Confederation.
Not only indeed did we assure ourselves of that protection, but the provinces who were parties to the Confederation desired it also. All local interests will be submitted and left to the decision of the local legislatures. There will be other exceptions with respect to Lower Canada, and, in fact, all the exceptions in the scheme of Confederation are in favor of Lower Canada. These restrictions in favor of Lower Canada were obtained by the delegates from that province; but they seek no thanks for their conduct, as they consider that in so doing they only performed a duty—a duty incumbent on all true patriots and good citizens. All that they now come to this House and ask for, is its sanction to the measure which ensures these privleges to the populations which they represent. I may add that, under Confederation, all questions relating to the colonization of our wild lands, and the disposition and sale of those same lands, our civil laws and all measures of a local nature—in fact everything which concerns and affects those interests which are most dear to us as a people, will be reserved for the action of our local legislature; all our charitable and other institutions will be protected by the same authority. There is also the question of education.
Upon this question, as upon all others, the Lower Canadian delegates have seen to the preservation of certain privileges, and that question has been lift to our Local Legislature, so that the Federal Legislature shall not be able to interfere with it. It has been said that with respect to agriculture the power of legislation would be exercised concurrently by the Federal Legislature and the local legislatures. But the House is perfectly well aware for what reason that concurrent power was allowed. Everyone, indeed, is aware that certain general interests may arise respecting which the intervention of the Central Legislature may be necessary; but, Mr. Speaker, all interests relating to local agriculture, everything connected with our land will be left under the control of our Lower Canadian Legislature, and this is a point upon which we invariably insisted, and which was never denied us in the Conference.
It is thus clear that under Confederation as proposed, the inhabitants of distant parts of the Confederacy, having the privilege of laying their claims before their respective local legislatures, will not be put to the great trouble of betaking themselves to the central seat of government, when, for instance, they wish to obtain authority to build a bridge or open a road. I now come, Mr. Speaker, to the subject of the details of the measure, and I shall reply to the observation of the honor-able member for Hochelaga [Hon. Mr. Dorion] on that subject. That honorable gentleman objects to the appointment of the legislative councillors by the Central Government, and adds that those councillors will be appointed by a Tory government, and will necessarily be selected from among the Tories. In making that assertion the honorable member did not act with that frankness which we are entitled to expect from him. (Hear, hear.)
He hardly alluded, if he did so at all, to the clause in the resolutions by which the opposition, in the different parts of the Confederation, are protected. In that clause it is provided that the Central Parliament, in making the appointments in question, shall be careful to watch over the interests of the Opposition, as well as over those of the Ministerial party. Now, Mr. Speaker, when a government binds itself in this way, is it reasonable and fair to believe or to suppose that it will break its word which has been so solemnly pledged? For my part, I am convinced that the members of the present Government, should they form part of the Central Government, would fulfil what has been promised, and would watch over the rights of the Opposition as over those of the other part. The honorable member for Hochelaga also pretended that the Maritime Provinces had forced upon us the clause which provides that the legislative councillors in the General Parliament shall be appointed by the Crown.
Yet, the honorable member right well knows that the elective principle in our existing Legislative Council was merely an experiment, and that in Lower Canada we have become tired of the system, not because the councillors who have been elected by the people are unworthy of the position which they occupy, or because their selection was an unfortunate selection, but because the very nature of the system prevents a large number of men of talent, of men qualified in every respect and worthy to sit in the Legislative Council, from presenting themselves for the suffrages of the electors, in consequence of the trouble, the fatigue and enormous expense resulting from these electoral contests in enormous divisions. We know that the system has wearied Lower Canada, […]
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[…] and that that province will approve of our having inserted the clause in question in the resolutions. The vote which took place last night in another place, shews that I am not mistaken in what I assert on this subject. One of the greatest objections which the honorable member for Hochelaga [Hon. Mr. Dorion] raises to the appointment of the legislative councillors by the Crown, is that their number will be fixed, and that, by consequence, it will prove an obstacle to the decisions and legislation of the Commons House of the Federal Parliament. In a word, the honorable member declares that the Legislative Council, so constituted, will be, to use an English expression, a nuisance. The honorable member should glance back at the past to consider how many councillors appointed for life there were in the Legislative Council at the time of the concession of the elective principle, and how many of those said councillors remain at the present day. He would have ascertained that in eight years the number had diminished by one-half. Of the forty-two or forty-three members which there were then, there now remain but twenty-one or twenty-two. (Hear, hear.)
The honorable member for Hochelaga [Hon. Mr. Dorion] should also have admitted that in those eight years there had been such considerable changes among the elected councillors, that there was no danger of the Legislative Council not being at least accessible to the people. This diminution gives an average of three members a-year, and if we take the proportion between this diminution and that which would necessarily prevail among a larger number of councillors, we shall find that there will be at least five vacancies in each year. The honorable member must then perceive that, if it should happen that the Legislative Council should be so opposed to the views of the Lower House as systematically to reject the measures of the popular branch of the Legislature, at the end of a year or perhaps less, such changes would be effected by death or otherwise, that we should immediately have such an infusion of new blood, that any attempt of this kind could not be repeated for a long time. Besides, the Legislative Council will not constitute a separate class like the House of Lords in England.
The councillors will come from among the people, with whom they will have interests in common, and it is absurd to suppose that they will be induced to oppose systematically and constantly the measures which the Lower House may enact in favor of the people and at their instance. The hon. member for Hochelaga [Hon. Mr. Dorion], when on this subject, reproached the Attorney General for Upper Canada [Hon. J.A. Macdonald] with having stated in his opening speech, that if he had to preside over the selection of the legislative councillors, he would see that the best qualified men were appointed. Now, Mr. Speaker, I see nothing in that declaration which is not in the most perfect accordance with the interests of the country, and it is important that the best men from each section of the Confederacy should be called to sit in this important branch of our General Legislature. The honorable member has taken occasion to find fault with the clause of the resolutions which provides that the lieutenant-governors shall be appointed by the Central Government, and sees in it great danger, especially to Lower Canada. Mr. Speaker, I should very much like to know what protection the population of the different provinces derive from the fact that the governors of the British North American Provinces are sent out to us from England.
Under the existing system, our governor is responsible neither to the people nor to the House; he depends entirely upon the English Government, to which he is responsible. Under the system proposed the lieutenant-governors will be appointed by the Central Government, to which they will necessarily be responsible for their actions. And in that Government we shall have more than one vote; we shall be represented in it by our ministers, who will be there to cause every encroachment or arbitrary act which the lieutenant-governor may allow himself to commit, to be condemned. If the Central Government should refuse to do us this justice, and should persist in not recalling any lieutenant governor who should have so failed in his duty to the population which he governed, we should have our sixty-five representatives to protest and to vote at need against a government which should dare to act in such a way.
In that respect we should have much bettor guarantees than at present; and in very truth this is a new privilege that we have obtained, as the people will have a voice in these appointments, from the fact that we shall have our responsible ministers in the Central Government, who will be sustained and supported by the members from our section. In allusion to the appointment of the lieutenant governors, the honorable member for Hochelaga [Hon. Mr. Dorion] thought proper to make a violent attack upon the Conservative party. He asserted that that party continually sought to diminish the liberties and the privileges of the people, whilst the Liberal party labored to extend and ensure those same […]
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[…] liberties. Well, Mr. Speaker, I believe the people know their interests as well as the honorable member for Hochelaga [Hon. Mr. Dorion], and that they will not heap reproaches upon us for having given them a Constitution, the object of which is to protect their local and general rights in a much more effectual manner than they are protected under the present system. While thus attacking the Conservative party, the honorable member for Hochelaga [Hon. Mr. Dorion] did not neglect also to make a slight insinuation against the delegates to the Conference. In fact, he says:—
The Speaker of the Legislative Council will also be appointed by the Crown. This is another retrograde step, and a bit of patronage more for the Government. We have all heard talk of a speech delivered lately in the Island of Prince Edward or in New Brunswick—I forget which—in which the speaker enumerated the advantages which had been flashed in the eyes of the delegates, while they were here, in the shape of appointments which were to be looked for, as those of judges in the Court of Appeals, of Speaker of the Legislative Council, of local governorships, as one of the causes of the unanimity which prevailed among the members of the Conference.
The honorable member must have a very mean opinion of human nature, to suppose that public men, having such great interests entrusted to them, and their own and their country’s honor to guard and to keep pure and unsullied in the eyes of the world, would agree to betray and deliver up their country for the love of a poor appointment, even if it were the post of lieutenant-governor or of chief justice. I am willing to believe that that insinuation was a slip of the tongue, and that he is already sorry that it ever escaped from his lips. Another point on which the honorable member for Hochelaga [Hon. Mr. Dorion] enlarged, is the militia question and the defence of the country.
On this head, the honorable member declares that he cannot understand how the union of the provinces is to increase our strength. The experience of the honorable member for Hochelaga [Hon. Mr. Dorion] and the teachings of history ought, however, to have taught him that a disunited people, scattered over a vast extent of territory, must be an easier conquest than one which is united under a single strong and respected government. This brings me to speak of another observation made by the honorable member, who declared that our best policy, in order to avoid all difficulty with our neighbors, and escape the evils of a war, would be to remain quiet and sit with our arms across. The House will permit me to quote the very expressions of the honorable member on this subject:—
It would be a piece of folly for us to raise a standing army, by way of keeping off an invasion of our frontier. Our best plan is to remain quiet, and to give no pretext to our neighbors for making war on us. Let a healthy state of public opinion be our shield; let not the press violently assail the northern authorities; then if war comes without any fault of ours, it will be our duty to do our best to assist the Mother Country in the struggle which would ensue.
I think, as the honorable member does, that we ought not to give any just cause of dissatisfaction to our neighbors, and still less attack their frontier; and the present Government have given proof, on all occasions, that they are disposed to respect the rights and opinions of the American people. But, on the other hand, the honorable member is the first to inform us that the best means of defending ourselves is, not to be ready and accustomed to the use of arms, but to remain unarmed, with our arms across like men of peace—in plain terms, to give ourselves up, bound hand and foot. Now, I will ask him a plain question. If he were apprehensive of an attack from a neighbor of his, would he go to him and say, “Here I am, do what you please with me,” or would he not rather be prepared to meet an attack? I rather think that the honorable member would not be long in making up his mind as to which course he would take. Now, that which is wise and politic in an individual is equally wise and politic in the case of a nation. We are not desirous of assuming a threatening attitude towards our neighbors.
On the contrary, our wish is to live with them in peace and quietness. We are anxious not to do the least act which can be construed into a threat; but we should be lamentably blind if, with the enormous military armament of our neighbors before our eyes, we looked at this formidable military display with our arms across, and a careless disregard of its greatness in our hearts. Such an attitude would neither be patriotic nor worthy of a nation of free men.
The most certain way to avoid an attack and subjugation by our neighbors, to have our independence and our privileges respected, is to shew them that we are prepared to defend them at any cost. The honorable member for Hochelaga [Hon. Mr. Dorion] has declared that he is prepared to make some sacrifices to defend the country, but he has not told us how much he is ready to do in that behalf. Perhaps he will let us know at a future time, if we are called upon to spend money for the purpose. However that may be, I must animadvert on the remarks which he has made with regard to the volunteers. […]
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[…] Speaking of the expense which the Government were incurring for the defence of the frontier, he said that 30,000 militiamen would cost thirty millions of dollars! The honorable member has a singular way of calculating. The fact is, if we were under the necessity of raising an army of 30,000 men, we should not pay them at the rate of a dollar, nor even three-quarters of a dollar, a head.
The honorable member for Hochelaga [Hon. Mr. Dorion] knows as well as I do that the militia force now on foot and doing duty at the frontier, or in garrison in the interior, was called out in circumstances altogether exceptional, and that the Government were quite unable to control, to the extent they would perhaps have desired, the rate of pay which was to be allowed. The honorable member must likewise be aware that those brave militiamen gave the greatest proof of their love of country, and in many cases made very great sacrifices to the detriment of their own interest and that of their families. Many of them were employés in commercial houses, some in counting-houses, others in workshops, which gave them much higher remuneration than they are now receiving from the Government, and I consider it very bad taste indeed that any should grudge them their paltry pay, under the pretence that it will be a heavy item on the budget. (Hear, hear.)
They did not hesitate, when the country claimed their services, to risk their health and to give up the comforts and delights of home, and I am well assured that the people will not grudge them the miserable half crown which they receive in exchange, and will approve of what the Government has done under the circumstances. The honorable member for Hochehma reproaches the Government with another misdeed. The truth is that he finds something wrong, some short-comiug, in every action of the present Administration. Accordingly, alluding to the right of veto permitted to the General Government, the honorable member expresses himself in this manner: ”
Thus, if a measure were passed by a majority of a local legislature, and if, nevertheless, the majority of the section of the General Government representing that particular province were opposed to it, would not that section use all their influence in the General Government to throw out that measure?” Before answering the honorable member, Mr. Speaker, I think it will be well to refer to the two clauses which relate to that matter. In these clauses we find:—
- Any bill of the General Parliament may be reserved in the usual manner for Her Majesty’s assent, and any bill of the local legislatures may, in like manner, be reserved for the consideration of the Governor General.
- Any bill passed by the General Parliament shall be subject to disallowance by Her Majesty within two years, as in the case of bills passed by the legislatures of the said provinces hitherto; and, in like manner, any bill passed by a local legislature shall be subject to disallowance by the Governor General within one year after the passing thereof.
Well, I ask the House, what is wrong in those two clauses? At present, what is our position when a bill has passed the two Houses of our Legislature? It is this: the bill is submitted for the sanction of the Governor General, and in nearly all cases is sanctioned without being referred to the Imperial Government. But if, for instance, the bill relates to a divorce, or to any question which concerns the Imperial Government, or if again it is a measure affecting our relations with our neighbors or any other nation, it is then reserved for Her Majesty’s sanction. When a measure is thus reserved, does the honorable member for Hochelaga [Hon. Mr. Dorion] suppose that the members of the English Government meet to take it into consideration?
Not at all; there is in the Colonial Office a second or a third class clerk whose particular business it is, and who makes his report to the minister. This report decides either the sanction or the disallowance of the measure in question. If the measure is highly interesting to the country and is disallowed, we cannot blame any one and must submit, as the English ministry are not responsible to us. Under the Confederation this danger and inconvenience will no longer exist. In a case wherein the Local Government of Lower Canada should pass a law which the Lieutenant-Governor might think fit to reserve for the sanction of the Central Government, if the latter refused their sanction, although it was demanded by the people of the section, and there were no reason for this refusal, we should have our sixty-five members in the Central Parliament to protest against it, and who would unite and make combinations to turn out the ministry who should act in that manner.
And you are not to say that those sixty-five members would be powerless against the rest of the House. United in a compact phalanx, they would, without doubt, find support among the members of the other provinces, who would have every reason not to allow our rights and privileges to be infringed, lest they should one day experience the same treatment themselves in […]
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[…] regard to their own. On the other hand, Mr. Speaker, the disallowance of a measure sanctioned by the local governments is limited as to time, and must be declared within twelve months, whereas, under the present system, it can be done within two years. This is a restriction which has been granted in favor of Lower Canada and of all the other provinces of the Confederation; it is a restriction favorable to the people, but the honorable member will refuse, no doubt, to acknowledge that this concession to the people is our work. Moreover, why should we be afraid of this veto? In our Local Legislature we assuredly have no intention to be unjust towards a portion of the population, but propose to act towards them, as in times past, as towards equals; we intend, in short, to be as just to that part of the population as we were when they were a feeble clement in it. This has not prevented the honorable member for Hochelaga [Hon. Mr. Dorion] from telling the English members from Lower Canada that they must be on their guard and take care of themselves.
Well, Mr. Speaker, I shall not offer such an insult to the race to which I belong. The French-Canadians have always acted honorably towards the other races who live among them, and they will certainly not take advantage now, any more than they have done in times past, of the majority they may have in the Local Legislature to molest or persecute the minority. This is the reason why we have no fear nor misgiving relative to the right of veto. Moreover, we are not to suppose that the intention of the two clauses which I have already quoted, is that every bill passed in the local legislatures will be reserved for the sanction of the Central Government. That reservation will take place only in respect of such measures as are now reserved for Her Majesty’s sanction. So that the honorable member for Hochelaga [Hon. Mr. Dorion] is widely mistaken when he reproaches the present Government for having agreed to those two clauses. Another question on which the hon. member has also called us to account, relates to the export duties on timber and coals. In clause 29, which relates to the powers of the Federal Parliament, the third section reads as follows:
This imposition or regulation of duties of customs on imports or exports, except on exports of timber, logs, masts, spars, deals, and sawn lumber from New Brunswick, and of coal and other minerals from Nova Scotia.
The fact that this power has been conferred on the Government does not imply that it will be exercised. The power was granted simply because it might be necessary in certain cases mentioned. Now this is the reason for the second part of the clause which I have just read to the House, and which I cannot better explain than by citing some expressions of a speech by the Hon. the Minister of Finance [Hon. Mr. Galt] on the subject. Nevertheless, as there are several honorable members in the House who do not understand English, I think it will perhaps be better to explain them in French.
Here then was the thought of the Convention: as in New Brunswick the Government had found that it was a great disadvantage to collect the duties on timber according to the system formerly adopted, and they had substituted an export duty which superseded all other dues on that product, it was no more than right that this source of revenue should remain in New Brunswick, to which province it was an object of absolute necessity to defray its local expenses. In Canada we retain, under the new Constitution, our own method of collecting similar duties. As to New Brunswick, the duty on the article in question is their principal revenue, as coal is almost the sole revenue of Nova Scotia; and if they had been deprived of them, they would have peremptorily refused to join the Confederation. (Hear, hear.)
Their demand was perfectly just, and could not therefore be refused. Moreover, we have no right to complain, for they leave us all our mines and our lands, and we shall now, as heretofore, collect the proceeds for our own use and profit. The honorable member for Hochelaga [Hon. Mr. Dorion] says that it will be impossible to administer the affairs of the local legislatures without having recourse to direct taxation; but a man of his experience ought not to have made that assertion. Instead of attempting to trade on popular prejudice, he ought to have admitted at once that the right granted by the new Constitution of levying direct taxes, is the same that already exists in the present Constitution; it is the same right that all our municipalities possess.
It does not follow that the right will be exercised. But the honorable member knows well that the people are not in favor of direct taxation, and that they would be unwilling to adopt it as a system, in place of indirect taxes; hence his attempt to use it as a bug-bear in order to alarm the people of Lower Canada. “We must bear in mind that the proceeds of the local revenue of Lower Canada will be employed in defraying local expenses. The Hon. Minister of Finance [Hon. Mr. Galt] has stated that in Lower Canada the local revenue will be $557,000, besides the 80 cents per […]
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[…] head of the population to be paid each year, in half-yearly payments in advance, by the Federal Government. This subsidy will, therefore, amount to $888,000, making a total of $1,440,000 for the local requirements of Lower Canada. I am aware that the honorable member has cast a doubt upon the accuracy of the figures set down by the Hon. Minister of Finance [Hon. Mr. Galt], and attempted to show that the local revenue would not be as large; but the figures I shall give are taken from the Public Accounts, and I think it will be admitted that they must be considered to be correct. At all events, here are the figures I have gathered from an examination of the official documents:—
|Expenses other than those of the
legislature and of the local
debt of Lower Canada
|Cost of legislation||150,000|
|Interest on local debt||90,000|
Now the revenue of Lower Canada will be as follows, taking the present figures and without adding the probable increase:—
|Slide dues||$ 49,040|
|Quebec Fire Loan||294|
|Tax on judicial proceedings||91,731|
|Cullers’ fees, measuring timber||79,900|
|Interest on Municipal Loan Fund||114,889|
|Court houses, Lower Canada||25,392|
|Jury and building fund, L. C||29,710|
|L. C. municipal fund||38,752|
|Common school lands||128,340|
|Tavern licenses applied to L. C.
|80c per head of population||888,888|
|Less:—Interest on municipal loan
fund, and proceeds of school
|Leaving a net revenue of||$1,417,582|
Now it is evident that these figures agree with the calculations of the Honorable Finance Minister [Hon. Mr. Galt], less a difference of $20,000 to $25,000. Lower Canada will have a revenue of nearly $1,500,000, and the excess of its revenue over expenditure, according to the calculations of the Honorable the Finance Minister [Hon. Mr. Galt], will be $209,000.
Hon. Mr. Dorion—Why do you deduct the revenue from the Municipal Loan Fund? Is it because Lower Canada is to be charged with the payment of the Municipal Loan Fund debt?
Hon. Sol. Gen. Langevin—I strike out the item of revenue from the common school lands, because in the course of time the lands will become exhausted, and the revenue cannot be considered as permanent. Besides, the amount must be added to the Common School Fund, and cannot really be considered as an ordinary source of revenue. It is the same as regards the Municipal Loan Fund, which cannot be considered as permanent revenue, and I wish to count only the ordinary items of revenue. But, on the other hand, it must be seen that many of the items of revenue will increase in course of time, so that the surplus of revenue over expenditure in Lower Canada will always be considerable.
Hon. Mr. Dorion—The honorable member did not understand my question. I asked him whether Lower Canada will be compelled to pay the municipal debt, and he has not answered.
Hon. Sol. Gen. Langevin—I understood the honorable gentleman perfectly well, but I make it a rule never to allow myself to be turned aside by interruptions, and I shall not depart from that rule now. (Hear, hear.) The figures I have given are highly important, for they demonstrate that Lower Canada will have a real revenue under the new Constitution—a revenue which is not calculated upon the probable increase and prosperity of the country, but upon the present revenue—of nearly $1,500,000, to meet local expenses. And yet, in the face of these figures, which are based upon the most evident facts, honorable members talk ot direct taxes.
They simply want to frighten the country. But the people will see that there is no danger of direct taxation with the surplus revenue we shall have. Direct taxation must be resorted to if Lower Canada should give way to extravagance and spend more than her means, but not otherwise. Lower Canada will have a revenue sufficient to meet all its expenses, unless it follow the example of a person with an income of £400, who should expend £1,000. The total expenses of Lower Canada for all purposes, less the cost of legislation and the payment of interest on the local debt, will be $997,000, calculating the expenditure upon the present basis. But it is evident that Lower Canada will reduce its expenditure, such for instance as the expenditure connected with the Crown Lands department, and that economy will be practised […]
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[…] in order, at a future period, to meet the expenses of local works, without rendering it necessary to defer other necessary items of expenditure. The expenses of the local legislation of Lower Canada may be set down at $150,000, and that is a reasonable estimate if we remember that all questions of general interest are to be discussed and regulated by the Federal Parliament, and that the local legislatures will only have to deal with questions of local interest. It is clear that the sessions will be far shorter than they are at present, and far less expensive.
Every one will admit that under the present system long discussions do not take place in the House on private bills and measures of local interest, which are discussed in committees, but that such discussions occur on questions of a general interest, such as railways, taxation, the tariff, Confederation, and that these are the discussions which prolong the session. I say, moreover, that the interest on the portion of the public debt to be assigned to us will be about $90,000, and that our total yearly expenditure will reach $1,237,000, leaving us a surplus revenue of $209,000. I trust Lower Canada will have the prudence to set apart a large portion of the $209,000, in order to carry out hereafter local works and improvements without being compelled to touch its yearly revenue.
Mr. Dufresne (Libreville)—The surplus can be put out at interest! (Laughter.)
Hon. Sol. Gen. Langevin—The honorable member for Hochelaga [Hon. Mr. Dorion] feigns great uneasiness as to the position of Lower Canada in the Confederation, as well as to the matter of direct taxes. He spoke at great length as to the prosperous financial position of Lower Canada when she entered the union in 1841; but we must remember that before the union the revenue of Lower Canada was but $580,0,00, and that, nevertheless, she was compelled to provide for all local expenses and many items of general expense which, under the Confederation, will fall within the domain of the Federal Government, such, for instance, as the payment of the salaries of the judges, etc. Under the Confederation Lower Canada will have a surplus of over $200,000 on its local expenditure, even though the present expenditure should not be reduced.
The honorable member for Hochelaga [Hon. Mr. Dorion] also said that the share of the debt apportioned to Lower Canada, apart from the general debt, would be $4,500,000. He must have made serious errors in his calculations in order to arrive at such a result. The debt of the two Canadas at the present moment, deducting the Sinking Fund, is $67,263,000; comparing the calculation of the honorable member with that put forth by him in his address to his electors in 1863, I find he has arrived at a perfectly different result, and he has no right to accuse others of being in error. Thus, in his address he states that apart from the then debt, $16,000,000 would be required for the Intercolonial Railway, and yet he now asserts that it would take twenty millions.
Hon. Mr. Dorion—It was the President of the Council [Hon. Mr. Brown] who said it.
Hon. Sol. Gen. Langevin—The honorable member should not trust to the calculations of the President of the Council [Hon. Mr. Brown], since he himself has stated that nothing good can come from this side of the House. But the fact is the honorable member was anxious not to frighten the people at that time, and therefore it was that he spoke of sixteen millions, whereas now ho speaks of twenty. With regard to the amount of the public debt, the Hon. Minister of Finance [Hon. Mr. Galt] has given us figures taken from the most reliable sources, and I prefer adopting his figures to following those of the honorable member for Hochelaga [Hon. Mr. Dorion]. The Hon. Minister of Finance [Hon. Mr. Galt] told us that the total debt of the two Canadas, without counting the Sinking Fund, was $67,263,000, and that the Federal Government would undertake $62,500,000. There will therefore remain about $4,763,000 to be divided between Upper and Lower Canada, and if Lower Canada takes for its share $4,500,000 as the honorable member stated, there will only remain about $263,000 for Upper Canada! I do not see how the honorable gentleman has managed to arrive at such a result, for it is clearly erroneous.
Hon. Mr. Dorion—Let the Honorable Soliticitor General apply to the Honorable Minister of Finance [Hon. Mr. Galt], and he will get the explanation.
Hon. Solicitor General Langevin—It is evident that the honorable member for Hochelaga [Hon. Mr. Dorion], in his calculation of the apportionment of the residue of the debt between Upper and Lower Canada, has put a 4 in place of a 1 or 2, in the same way that he put 20 in place of 16 in the matter of the Intercolonial Railway. In his anxiety to find fault he sees double, and instead of seeing five millions to be divided, he s as nine. The debt devolving upon Lower Canada will not be $4,500,000. Lower Canada will have only its just share of the five millions to be divided.
Hon. Mr. Dorion—The honorable member has forgotten the explanations of the Honorable Minister of Finance [Hon. Mr. Galt], who stated […]
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[…] that the debt incurred for the redemption of the seigniorial tenure, which amounts to three millions, was not included in the general debt.
Hon. Solicitor General Langevin—The Minister of Finance [Hon. Mr. Galt] stated the whole debt, in his speech at Sherbrooke, at $67,263,994. The amount of the debt is $75,578,000; but it is necessary to deduct the Sinking Fund and cash in bank, $7,132,068, reducing it to $68,445,953; the Minister of Finance also deducted the Common School Fund, which amounts to $1,181,958, and he arrived at the result I have just given, that is to say, that the real debt of Canada is $67,263,994. I do not give all the items of the public debt, for I do not think it devolves upon me to prove that the calculations of the Finance Minister [Hon. Mr. Galt] are not correct; that is the task of those who accuse him of error; and the Public Accounts are there to show that the Finance Minister [Hon. Mr. Galt] has stated nothing but the truth. The honorable member for Hochelaga [Hon. Mr. Dorion] has manifested excessive anxiety respecting the financial position of the Confederation; but in this case also we have the same guarantees as for that of the local governments. He asserted, for instance, that Newfoundland was too poor to contribute to the revenue of the Confederation, and that, in place of receiving anything from that province, we shall be compelled to send down money to prevent the people of the island from perishing by cold.
The honorable gentleman is, nevertheless, well aware that Newfoundland has a large revenue, a revenue of $480,000, and that its expenses are less than its income. Newfoundland will receive its share from the Federal chest, but it will also contribute to the general revenue. While I am considering this portion of the honorable gentleman’s speech, I must admit that it is the strongest argument in behalf of Confederation, from the standpoint of the Lower Provinces, that could be brought forward; and, for my part, I desire to see thousands of copies of his speech sent to those provinces, for his object clearly is to shew that the measure would be entirely to their advantage. He has attempted to show that they will have a larger revenue than they have at present; but he omitted to state that Lower Canada would have $200,000 over and above her expenses. He knows perfectly well that the total revenue of the provinces forms a sum of $14,223,320, for 1864, and that the total expenditure amounted only to $13,350,832, so that there is a surplus of $872,488, apart from the revenue from increase of imports in 1864. The financial position is therefore highly favorable for the formation of a Confederation.
The honorable member for Hochelaga [Hon. Mr. Dorion] stated that New Brunswick would have a surplus of $34,000 over its expenditure, and he complains, upon that ground, of the subsidy of $63,000 it is proposed to pay that province during ten years. But every one is aware that the subsidy is to be paid because that province gives up all its revenues to the Federal Government, except that derived from its export duty on timber; that was the reason its delegates insisted on the payment of the subsidy during ten years, and they were right. The honorable member also stated that Prince Edward Island was to receive $48,000 more than its expenses. But how comes it then that Prince Edward Island has hitherto exhibited reluctance?
It must be that that province takes a different view from the honorable member. The truth, however, is that Prince Edward Island, like the other provinces, was treated with justice and equity by the Quebec Conference, that its local requirements were considered, and that a sufficient revenue to provide for them was awarded to it.
The honorable member for Hochelaga [Hon. Mr. Dorion], who spoke in English, took that opportunity to make a violent appeal to the members from Upper Canada, and told them that there would bo enormous imposts, and that two-thirds of the revenue and of the taxes would be paid by them. He did well to speak in English, for I am certain that he would not make the same assertion in French in the presence of the members from Lower Canada; he would make no appeal of that nature, and I regret it, for that would give us the best of reasons for entering into the Confederation; but I must acknowledge that that statement of the honorable member is not exactly correct, for the basis of the Confederation is justice to all. The honorable member for Hochelaga [Hon. Mr. Dorion] also said, in order to produce an effect upon the members from Upper Canada, that the extension of the Confederation westward was a farce, “an absurd affair,” because the western provinces do not even think of it, and because we have no communication with that territory.
Hon. Atty. Gen. Cartier—We must go round Cape Horn! (Laughter.)
Hon. Sol. Gen. Langevin—Since the question of Confederation has been raised, papers have arrived from Victoria (Vancouver’s Island) and from British Columbia, and they all agree in saying that it is to their […]
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[…] advantage to unite themselves with the provinces for all general business, reserving to themselves the management of their local affairs. I quote as follows from one of the journals in question:—
Whatever may be the result of the present attempts to form a Confederation of the North American Colonies, we may be certain of one thing, and that is, that but few years will pass away before the accomplishment of a plan of this nature. Half a dozen provinces lying adjacent to each other, and subject to one and the same power, having different tariffs, exhibit a state of affairs which, from its very nature, cannot continue long. However, setting aside this anomaly, we find North American Colonies for which a more vast political career must be provided.
The people have too long labored under the weight of disabilities which, by wounding their pride, have placed them in a humiliating position before the eyes of the whole world. With all the advantages of responsible government granted to him by the Imperial authorities, after years of strife and trials, the colonist hardly possesses one half the national privileges enjoyed by an Englishman. He is deprived of his share of patronage even in cases in which he is entitled to it and is eminently worthy of it. The position of Colonial Governor is seldom or never granted to him, and in many parts of Her Majesty’s dominions he is forbidden to practise his profession in the courts of justice. We therefore hail this initiative taken by the Canadian Government as the commencement of the regeneration of the colonists, who have hitherto remained in pupilage.
With a confederation of colonies extending from one ocean to the other, what limits shall we assign to our greatness, our material progress and our political aspirations? Instead of seeing the talent of our statesmen fettered, harassed and restrained within the narrow limits of local politics, we shall find its scope extended to a whole continent, while a more vast and natural field will be thrown open to the active and enterprising spirit of the North American Provinces. Want of space prevents our entering upon this question at greater length to day; but we hope that the movement will succeed, and will allow us at no distant day to emerge from the isolated and feeble position in which we now are, to become a part of the great British North American Confederation.
That is the language of one of the newspapers of those colonies. What has the hon. member to say to it? I hope I shall be forgiven for reading some more extracts from these journals, which we do not read here as much as we ought to do, al though they are of a nature to give us information respecting that part of British North America. Another paper says:—
There is then but one course left for the English colonies, and more especially the North American and Australian colonies. Before ten years have passed over our heads, the population of the colonies comprised between Vancouver’s Island and Newfoundland will be hardly less than six millions of souls, occupying a territory as large as that of the United States before the civil war, and in extent greater than three-fourths of the continent of Europe. With telegraphic communication and railways from one ocean to the other, with a Federal union, in which will be combined and concentrated all the talent of the colonies, and the object of which will be to represent the various interests of those colonies, what country has before it a more splendid future than this immense Confederation, with its innumerable and inexhaustible resources?
I shall not occupy any further time in quoting from these journals, but I wished to demonstrate that the plan of Confederation is not only a plan of political men in their extremity, as was said by the hon. member for Hochelaga [Hon. Mr. Dorion], but that the provinces give in their adherence to it, because they perceive that it will be advantageous to them. As to the facilities for communication, I shall quote an excellent authority—Professor Hind—to show that they are not so limited as the hon. member declares them to be. The following is from an essay by Professor Hind on the subject of the North-West Territory:—
The Canadian emigrant party assembled at Fort Garry, in June, 1862, travelling thither by Detroit, La Crosse, St. Paul, and Fort Abercrombie, by rail, stage and steamer. At Fort Garry they separated into two parties; the first division contained about one hundred emigrants, the second division, sixty-five persons. The first party took the northern route, by Carlton to Edmonton; the second, the southern trail. At Edmonton they all changed their carts for horses and oxen, and went thence in a straight line to the Leather Pass (lat. 54 °), through which they took 130 oxen, and about 70 horses.
They suddenly found themselves on the headwaters of the Fraser River, and so gentle was the ascent that the only means they had of knowing that they had passed the dividing ridge of the Rocky Mountains was by unexpectedly observing the waters of the rivers flowing to the westward. When in the mountains they killed a few oxen for provisions; others were sold to the Indians at Tête June Cache, on the Fraser River, and others were rafted down the Fraser to the forks of the Quesnelle. At Tête June Cache a portion of the party separated from the rest, and, with fourteen horses, went across the country by an old well-worn trail, to Thompson’s river, and thus succeeded in taking their horses from Fort Garry through the Rocky Mountains—through a supposed impassable part of British Columbia—to the wintering station on Thompson’s […]
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[…] river for the pack animals of the British Columbia gold-seekers. With this party of more than 150 people were a woman and three little children. The little children were well cared for, for the emigrants took a cow with them, and these infant travellers were supplied with milk all the way on their long journey to the Leather Pass in the Rocky Mountains. I look upon the successful journey of the Canadian emir grants in 1862, across the continent, as an event in the history of Central British America of unexampled importance. It cannot fail to open the eyes of all thinking men to the singular natural features of the country which formed the scene of this remarkable journey. Probably there is no other continuous stretch of country in the world, exceeding 1,000 miles in length, and wholly in a state of nature, which it would be possible for 100 people, including a woman and three children, to traverse during a single short season, and successfully, and indeed easily overcome such apparently formidable obstacles as the Rocky Mountains have been supposed to present.
On a review of what is now known of Central British America, the following facts cannot fail to arrest the attention and occupy the thoughts of those who think it worthwhile to consider its future, and its possible relation to us during the next and succeeding generations.
We find in the great basin of Lake Winnipeg an area of cultivable land equal to three times the area of this province, and equal to the available land for agricultural settlement in the province of Canada. It is watered by great lakes, as large as Lake Ontario; and by a vast river, which in summer is navigable to within sight of the Rocky Mountains. It contains inexhaustible supplies of iron, lignite, coal, salt, and much gold. It has a seaport within 350 miles, via the Nelson River, of Hudson Bay, which is accessible for three months in the year for steamers.
This great basin contains the only area left on the American continent where a new nation can spring into existence.
This is a complete refutation of the statement made by the hon. member for Hochelaga [Hon. Mr. Dorion], that communication with those colonies is impossible. In a part of the lecture from which I have just quoted, Professor Hind says that, between Lake Superior and the Lake of the Woods, the distance is only about 200 miles, and when once that is got over, an immense valley more than a thousand miles in length is attained—a magnificent valley, which may form part of the Confederacy and provide an outlet for our population.
The hon. member for Hochelaga [Hon. Mr. Dorion] also told us, that if we accepted Confederation we should subsequently be drawn into a legislative union; but he well knows that by the Constitution which is submitted to this House, the question of a Federal union only is mooted. If at a subsequent period our descendants should choose to have a legislative union, that will be their affair and not ours; if they do choose to have it, it will be because they will then be strong enough to have nothing to fear. Further, without entering into all the details relating to the position, as to religion, of Lower Canada in the Confederation, I must call attention to the fact that the total population of all the provinces, in 1861, was 3,300,000 souls, and of these the total number of Catholics amounted to 1,494,000.
Thus they will be numerous enough to protect their religious and other interests; and those interests will be in a position of safety in the local legislatures. We do not seek to be allowed privileges which others have not; we only wish that our rights may be respected as we respect those of others. French-Canadians are not, have never been, and will not become persecutors either in political or religious matters under the Confederation. I appeal to men belonging to other religions to say whether we have ever proved unjust or persecutors to them. That part of the population of Lower Canada which is of foreign origin will have nothing to fear under the Local Government, any more than we shall have anything to fear under the Federal Government. But in consideration of what has been said by the honorable members for Hochelaga [Hon. Mr. Dorion] and Lotbinière [Mr. Joly], and of the mistrust which they have endeavored to create in the minds of the French-Canadian and Catholic population of Lower Canada, I think the House will allow me to read an extract from a letter written by His Grace the Archbishop of Halifax, who is likely to understand the interests of the Catholic population quite as well as the two honorable members in question. This is the reply which he makes to those who pretended that we had reason to fear invasion of the country by the Fenians:—
If there be fifty thousand men already prepared to invade this country, as you admit, instead of labouring to keep us in our present disjointed and defenceless position, you should rather call on all to unite where a single man cannot be dispensed with, and gird on our armour for the reencounter. If responsible government, which the great and good men of this country won for us, be a precious heirloom on the Lilliputian scale on which we now find it, instead of bartering it away for nothing by Confederation, as you say, we shall rather, in my opinion, add to its lustre and value, and ennoble and enrich it, and make it boundlessly grander and more secure for ourselves and those who are to come after us. We obtained […]
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[…] responsible government from the Mother Country, in whose legislative halls we had not a single member to represent us. We are now, on the contrary, asking to transfer the rich and prized deposit to a place which will be a part only of our common country, where our voice must be heard, and where we will have a fuller and fairer representation than the city of London or Liverpool, or Bristol, can boast of in their English House of Commons; and this is the great difference between obtaining from England what we had not, and transferring what we now have, in order to make it more valuable and more available for our own purposes, and by far more secure.
Confederation, therefore, instead of depriving us of the privileges of self-government, is the only practical and reliable guarantee for its continuance. We are too small to be warranted in the hope of being able to hold it always on the strength of our own resources; and England, if not too weak, is certainly too prudent and too cautious to risk her last shilling and her last man in a country where, instead of a population of four millions, she will have scarcely one-tenth of that number to help her against the united power of a whole continent. To deny, therefore, the obvious advantages of Confederation, you must first prove that union is not strength—that England under the heptarch, and France under the feudal chief and barons, were greater and stronger and happier than they now are as the two greatest nations of the world.
Here, again, is what he says in answer to those who will have nothing to do with defence, under the pretext that we have nothing to fear from our neighbors:—
No nation ever had the power of conquest that did not use it, or abuse it, at the very first favorable opportunity.
All that is said of the magnanimity and forbearance of mighty nations, can be explained on the principle of sheer expediency, as the world knows. Take whole face of Europe has been changed, and the dynasties of many hundred years have been swept away within our own time, on the principle of might alone—the oldest, the strongest, and, as some would have it, the most sacred of all titles. The thirteen states of America, with all their professions of self-denial, have been all the time, by money-power, and by war, and by negotiation extending their frontier, until they more than quadrupled their territory within sixty years; and believe it who may, are they now, of their own accord, to come to a full stop? No; as long as they have the power they must go onward, for it is the very nature of power to grip whatever is within its reach. It is not their hostile feelings, therefore, but it is their power, and only their power I dread.
In reply to those who declare that the best defence we can have is no defence at all, he says:—
To be fully prepared is the only practical argument that can have weight with a powerful enemy, and make him pause beforehand and count the cost. And as the sort of preparation I speak of is utterly hopeless without the union of the provinces, so at a moment when public opinion is being formed on this vital point, as one deeply concerned, I feel it a duty to declare myself unequivocally in favour of Confederation as cheaply and as honourably obtained as possible, but Confederation at all hazards and at all reasonable sacrifices.
After the most mature consideration, and all the arguments I have heard on both sides for the last month, these are my inmost convictions on the necessity and the merits of a measure which alone, under Providence, can secure to us social order and peace, and rational liberty and all the blessings we now enjoy under the mildest government and the hallowed institutions of the freest and happiest country in the world.
I will now draw your attention to a short letter from the Roman Catholic Bishop of Newfoundland, which has not yet been read in the House, but which has just been published in the newspapers:—
St. Johns, Jan. 5th, 1865.
My Dear Sir,—In reply to your communication of this date, I beg to state that I took no notes of the observations I made at the last examination of the youth of St. Bonaventure’s College. I distinctly remember, however, that among other arguments I used to impress on parents and scholars the necessity of education, one was, that according to the tendency of the age, a union of all the British North American Provinces would take place, if not immediately, by the force of circumstances in a few years; and that such a union would have an extraordinary influence on the rising generation in Newfoundland. People were in the habit of saying that education of a high class was useless in this country, as the field was too limited.
I repudiated that idea altogether. Newfoundlanders were not confined to this island, the British Empire and the States were open to them. Wherever the English language was spoken, there was an opening for an educated Newfoundlander. But independently of that, the Confederation of the Provinces would open up a home-market for education and talent—a market increasing every year, and of which at present we can form no conception. The bar, for example, would be open to all; the Central Legislature would open up a great field for political ability; the highest offices of the law and the government would be open to Newfoundlanders as well as to Canadians or Nova Scotia’s; and I hope that they would be found perfectly qualified by education to take their places, side by side, with their fellow confederates, and compete for the prizes the Confederation would hold out to them, on terms of perfect equality. I sincerely believe that they could do so, as, from my experience, I considered that the youth of this country have as fine talents, […]
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[…] and as great an adaptability for learning, as I have seen in any part of the world; and that I never saw, in any part of Europe, boys acquitting themselves better (and in many eases not so well) than they did at the preparatory examinations and the present exhibition. This, so far as I recollect, was the substance of the remarks I made on the fact, immediate or prospective, of the Provincial Confederation.
Thus, whilst some honorable members seek to alarm Lower Canada by asserting that our religion and our nationality are in danger, here we have an Archbishop and a Bishop declaring them strongly in favor of Confederation, and who do not see in it any danger for their flocks. And it is well known, even here, that the whole of the estimable and most respected body of the clergy, from those of the highest rank down to the very humblest of their followers, are in favor of Confederation. But the honorable member for Hochelaga [Hon. Mr. Dorion], for the purpose of frightening Lower Canada, has told us that we should very soon have a legislative union, and that in that case the fifty French-Canadian members from Lower Canada would coalesce with the minority of the Federal Parliament, with the view of obstructing the working of the Government. Well, what better proof could we have that we have nothing to fear, and that we shall not be exposed to danger under Confederation?
History is before us to prove that there will always be an opposition, and that if an attempt is made to oppress any one section of the Confederation, its representatives would unite in a body with the minority, and having thereby constituted a majority, would prevent any injustice on the part of the Federal Government.
I beg to thank the hon. member for having, against his will, furnished me with so strong an argument in favor of Confederation. The hon. member then appealed to the national passions and the prejudices of race. He told us that the Protestant minority in Lower Canada would have to seek protection against the majority of that section. I repeat it, he made that assertion in English, and would not repeat it in French. But what treatment did the minority receive in Lower Canada when she had a separate Parliament? Did not the French-Canadian majority always exercise liberality towards our fellow-countrymen whose origin and religion was different from ours?
Thank God, our race is not a persecuting race; it has ever been liberal and tolerant. The hon. member for Lotbinière (Mr. Joly) has also appealed to the religious and national prejudices of the English minority of Lower Canada, but he ought to remember that there is no more danger for the English race in Lower Canada than for any other, and that he was the very last member of the House who ought to appeal to religious or national prejudices.
Mr. Joly—Mr. Speaker, I beg leave to correct the honorable member.
Hon. Sol. Gen. Langevin—The hon. gentleman can peak presently.
Mr. Joly—But any member may correct another when he has been made to say the very reverse of what he did say.
Hon. Sol. Gen. Langevin—Mr. . Speaker, I call the hon. gentleman to order. I have not found fault with his having spoken for three hours. I did not interrupt him whilst he spoke, and consequently I do not choose to be interrupted myself. I do not wish to put words into his mouth which he has not uttered, but I wish to have it understood that he made an appeal to the English of Lower Canada, calling upon them to reflect on the fate of their race and their religion, when he read an extract from the report of Lord Durham, the hon. gentleman took very good care to read it in English only—
Mr. Joly—I protest against the language of the hon. member, and I claim the right to explain.
Mr. J.B.E. Dorion—It is not so; the hon. member for Lotbinière [Mr. Joly] did not appeal to religious prejudices.
Mr. Joly—I desire to know, Mr. Speaker, whether the hon. member is to be allowed to assert that I said what I did not say?
Mr. Speaker—The hon. member for Lotbinière [Mr. Joly] is entitled to explain his language, or to correct the Solicitor General [Hon. Mr. Langevin] after he has finished speaking.
Hon. Sol. Gen. Langevin—I have the floor, and I claim to be heard without further interruption.
Mr. J.B.E. Dorion—Goon; but state correctly what a member may have said.
Hon. Sol. Gen. Langevin—The hon. gentleman is not pleased that an attack should be made on one of his friends, and yet he was by no means displeased at the language used by the hon. member for Lotbinière [Mr. Joly] last night when speaking of my colleague the Hon. Attorney General [Hon. Mr. Cartier]. At all events I will not be interrupted.
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Mr. J.B.E. Dorion—This is the sort of justice to be expected from the other side of the House.
Hon. Atty. Gen. Cartier—You may speak when you like; you can speak when your turn comes, but we shall not listen to you.
Hon. Sol. Gen. Langevin—I assert then that the hon. member for Lotbinière [Mr. Joly] has appealed to the passions, seeking to have it believed on the one hand that French Canadian nationality and the Catholic religion would be endangered by Confederation, and on the other hand that English nationality and the Protestant religion would be exposed to danger in Lower Canada under the local government. He cited in the English language the report of Lord Durham, to induce the belief that the English of Lower Canada would never consent to submit to a legislature, the majority of which would be French-Canadian; but for my part I am not of that opinion, and I think that they will submit to it, because they are sure that they will be treated with justice. It ill became that hon. gentleman to make this statement, when he is himself elected for a county exclusively Catholic, which has not hesitated to entrust him with its interests. He ought not to have made this appeal, as he himself is a living proof of the religious tolerance and liberality of our compatriots.
Neither did it become the hon. member for Hochelaga [Hon. Mr. Dorion] to speak as he did to the same effect, when we have seen a large and important electoral division—the division of Laurentides—reject a venerable gentleman who presented himself for re-election to the Legislative Council, a man who had been in political life for more than twenty-five years, to elect in his place an English Protestant, Mr. Price, although there were not 1,500 Protestants in the whole division, out of a population of 50,000 souls. The election of the member for the county of Megan tic (Mr. Irvine) is yet another evidence of the liberality of our fellow-countrymen, the majority of the residents in that county being French-Canadians and Catholics.
Mr. J.B.E. Dorion—It was not they who sent him here.
Hon. Sol. Gen. Langevin—On the contrary, but for their votes he would not have been returned to Parliament for that county. I may further say, Mr. Speaker, that the presence here of the hon. member for Shepherd (Hon. Mr. Huntington), that of the member for Chateauguay (Hon. Mr. Holton), and the presence of several other members afford abundant proof of the liberality of our fellow-countrymen, because those honorable members, although English and Protestant, represent counties the great majority of the population in each of which is French-Canadian and Catholic. The English have always been dealt with more liberally than the hon. member for Hochelaga [Hon. Mr. Dorion] himself would, perhaps, treat us were he in power. We did not require the aid of the hon. members for Hochelaga [Hon. Mr. Dorion] and Lotbinière [Mr. Joly] for the protection of the minorities in the Conference. We were the first to demand that justice should be extended to the Catholics of Upper Canada and the Protestants of Lower Canada, because we desired to establish a solid work, and not to build on the sand an edifice which would crumble to dust the next day.
The English of Lower Canada will not be excited by the appeals of the hon. members, because they know that whatever they can justly claim will be conceded to them without difficulty and with all good will. Mr. Speaker, although, it is with great regret that I have to ask the continued attention of the House, at this late period of the evening, yet such is the great importance of the question before us, that I venture to hope that the House will pardon me for presenting at such length my views on this matter. I may be permitted, I hope, to refute another assertion made by the honorable member for Hochelaga [Hon. Mr. Dorion]. That honorable member, who has found something to censure in every article of the scheme of Confederation, conceived that he produced an argument that would be irresistible by asserting that the distribution of the debt was unfair and burdensome to Lower Canada.
To give a greater force to this argument, he stated that Lower Canada entered into the union with a debt of $400,000, and that she would leave it with a burden of $30,000,000, after having only expended in the interval the sum of $12,000,000 for public works within her limits. This argument is most specious. Supposing that our debt was $400,000, and that to day it is $30,000,000, the honorable member must at all events admit that the circumstances also have very much changed. At the time of the union our population was only 630,000, and to day it is 1,250,000. The honorable member, too, must not forget that at the time of the union our territory only produced 21,000,000 […]
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[…] bushels of grain, whilst to day it produces more than 50,000,000 bushels. At the time of the union we had only 1,298 schools, and to day we have 3,600. At the time of the union only 39,000 children, whilst to day they are attended by more than 200,000 attended these schools. At the union the exportations from the ports of Quebec and Montreal amounted to $9,000,000; to day they exceed $18,000,000. At the union the number of vessels built annually in our shipyards were 48 only; now we have 88, and the tonnage is quadrupled. At the time of the union our importations amounted to $10,000,000, and to day they reach $45,000,000. At the time of the union our exportations and importations amounted to $16,000,000; to day they reach the enormous sum of $87,000,000.
And it is with such figures as these before us that we are to be told that we are leaving the union with a debt of $30,000,000! At the time of the union the revenue arising from the tax on bank-notes, which affords a fair indication of the extent of business done, amounted to $2,200; to-day it amounts to $15,800. At the time of the union the number of merchantmen arriving in Quebec every year was 1,000; now it is 1,660, and the number of vessels arriving at all the ports in Lower Canada is 2,463 At the time of the union the tonnage of these vessels was 295,000 tons, and now in the port of Quebec it is 807,000 tons, and for the whole of Lower Canada 1,041,000 tons. At the time of the union 25,000 sailors arrived here annually; now we have 35,000.
In 1839 the revenue of Lower Canada was $588,000; when we enter the Confederacy, although we are not called upon to pay any of the expenditure for general purposes, our revenue will be $1,446,000, that is to say that we shall have, under the Confederation, a revenue three times as large as it was at the time of the union; and instead of having, as we then had, an excess of expenditure amounting to about $80,000, the total expenditure of Lower Canada, under the Confederation, will be about $1,200,000, leaving a surplus of more than $200,000! If then our debt has increased, we have made most rapid progress, and we have received the full value for our money. Nor must it be forgotten that at the time of the union of Upper and Lower Canada the country had not a single railway, and now it is traversed from end to end by one of the finest railways on this continent; and ere long, let us hope in the interest of our commerce and our safety, that this iron band will connect the extreme west with the Atlantic ocean. (Hear, hear.) We entered the union when the Welland canal had hardly been begun; we leave it with one of the most magnificent canal systems the world has ever seen.
And then the telegraph lines. At the time of the union the only telegraph we had was that one with balls, which so many of us remember, and which used to connect the citadel with the Island of Orleans, and thence communicated with Grosse Isle by a telegraph of the as ne kind; now an immense network of telegraph wires places us in daily and immediate communication with the most remote districts in the different provinces. We leave the union with a debt greater than that with which we entered it, but we leave it with a most perfect system of lighthouses, wharves, piers, slides, in fact with a large number of other public works, which have mainly contributed to the settlement and the prosperity of the country, and which have more than doubled its resources since the union. The Grand Trunk Railway alone, for the sixteen millions which it has cost us, has contributed to increase the value of our lands by millions and millions of dollars, by enhancing the value of our agricultural productions, which are by its means brought with greater ease to the different markets, and has moreover entailed an expenditure in our midst of more than seventy millions of dollars for its construction alone.
Yes, Mr. Speaker, if we entered the union with a debt of four hundred thousand dollars, and if to-day we leave it with a debt of thirty millions of dollars, we can at all events show what we have done with the money, by the immense extent of territory, then nucleated, which is now covered with abundant crops, and which have served to keep in the country, not indeed all the children of our farmers, but at least a very great number of them, who but for these improvements would have emigrated en masse to the neighboring country. Under the Confederation we shall have the control of our lands, and we can settle them so as to retain in our midst all those of the rising generation of both origins who too often take to a foreign land their strong right arms, their energy and devotion. Our mineral lands, so rich and so productive, the opening up of which has […]
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[…] hardly been begun, will also be a source of enormous revenue to the country, and will largely contribute to increase the sum of our population, by keeping in Canada many men who would have gone in search of fortune elsewhere, and it inspires me with still greater confidence that Providence has been pleased to join to His other blessings conferred upon us, the possession of mines the richest and perhaps the most abundant in the world. As regards our fisheries, they were hardly opened up at the time of the union; and now, although much more may be done with them, it is, nevertheless, undeniable that every year they are more and more developed, and that they are destined, at no distant period, to be a source of immense revenue to he country. (Hear, hear.)
There are many other points of view, Mr. Speaker, from which we might examine the advantages we have derived from the union of the Canadas, in return for the sacrifice we have imposed upon ourselves. We might look at the political position we occupied at that period. We should see that we had just come out of a terrible crisis, during which blood had been spilt on battle-fields and elsewhere; our Constitution had been suspended, and the whole country had witnessed scenes such as its inhabitants, hitherto happy and prosperous, had never seen before. Now we enjoy responsible government, one of the most glorious of England’s institutions, and one that has stood the test of ages. This great constitutional guarantee we take with us into the Confederation, into which we are about to enter in a state of peace and prosperity, with happiness in our midst, and with the conviction that this peace, this prosperity and this happiness will be made more lasting than ever.
We enter it with the legitimate and patriotic aim of placing our country in a position more worthy of our population and of greater importance, and meriting higher consideration from foreign nations. The hon. member for Hochelaga [Hon. Mr. Dorion], not content with calling up past events, has also alluded to the constitution of the courts of law in Lower Canada under the Confederacy. He declared that he did not understand the meaning of that article of the resolutions which leaves to the Central Government the appointment of the judges, whilst by another article it is provided that the constitution and maintenance of the courts was entrusted to the Local Parliament. The honorable member should have observed that by the powers conferred on the local governments, Lower Canada retains all her civil rights, as prescribed by the 17th paragraph of article 43, as follows:—
The administration of justice, including the constitution, maintenance and organization of the courts, both of civil and criminal jurisdiction, and including also the procedure in civil matters.
This is a privilege which has been granted to us and which we shall retain, because our civil laws differ from those of the other provinces of the Confederation. This exception, like many others, has been expressly made for the protection of us Lower Canadians. It was our desire, as the representatives of Lower Canada at the Conference, that we should have under the control of our Local Legislature the constitution and organization of our courts of justice, both civil and criminal, so that our legislature might possess full power over our courts, and the right to establish or modify them if it thought expedient. But, on the other hand, the appointment of the judges of these courts had to be given, as it has been, to the Central Government, and the reason of this provision is at once simple, natural and just.
In the Confederacy we shall have a Central Parliament and local legislatures.—Well, I ask any reasonable man, any man of experience, does he think that, with the ambition which must naturally stimulate men of mark and talent to display their powers on the theatre most worthy of their talents, these men will consent to enter the local legislatures rather than the Federal Parliament? Is it not more likely and more reasonable to suppose that they would rather appear and shine on the largest stage, on that in which they can render the greatest service to their country, and where the rewards of their services will be the highest?
Yes, these men will prefer to go to the Central Parliament, and among them there will be doubtless many of our most distinguished members of the legal profession. The members of this profession are often accused of going into Parliament for the purpose of monopolizing the representation. If this be the case at the present time, is it not to be supposed that they will do the same thing under Confederation? Were the appointment of the judges left to the local legislatures, the local governments would be subjected to a pressure which might be brought to bear upon them by the first advocate who would attain influence in the Local Legislature. To get rid of an inconvenient member who might have three or four followers, the Local Government would have to take […]
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[…] this troublesome advocate of the second, third or fourth order of talent, and place him on the bench, whilst by leaving these appointments to the Central Government, we are satisfied that the selection will be made from men of the highest order of qualifications, that the external and local pressure will not be so great, and that the Government will be in a position to act more freely. It may be remarked, in passing, that in the proposed Constitution there is an article which provides that the judges of the courts of Lower Canada shall be appointed from the members of the bar of that section. This exception was only made in favor of Lower Canada, and it is a substantial guarantee for those who fear the proposed system. Besides, the honorable member for Hochelaga [Hon. Mr. Dorion], who fancies that he sees danger in the powers given to the Central Government, knows by experience, as having himself been a minister of the Crown, that in respect of every appointment of a judge the Cabinet always consults the ministers for the section in which the appointment is to be made, and accepts their choice.
The same practice would necessarily be followed by the Central Government, who would be forced to respect it, because behind the ministers from each section would be found the members from that section, and behind our ministers for Lower Canada will be found the sixty-five members whom we shall have sent to represent and protect our interests in the Federal Parliament. It is then advantageous, and there could be no danger in the provision that the judges should be appointed by the Central Government; indeed, it is for our interest, and the interest of all, that it should be so.
And although it may be looked upon as a secondary consideration, yet it may as well be mentioned now, that by leaving the appointment of our judges to the Central Government, we are the gainers by one hundred thousand dollars, which will have to be paid for their services by the central power. This consideration will perhaps have some weight with the honorable member for Hochelaga [Hon. Mr. Dorion], who makes such an outcry to alarm the people that we shall be obliged to have recourse to direct taxation to defray the expenses of our Local Legislature. Notwithstanding the advanced hour of the evening, I cannot pass over in silence another observation made by the honorable member, and I beg he will accord me his undivided attention at the present moment.
The honorable gentleman has asked the Government what meaning was to be attached to the word “marriage,” where it occurred in the Constitution. He desired to know whether the Government proposed to leave to the Central Government the right of deciding at what age, for example, marriage might be contracted. I will now answer the honorable gentleman as categorically as possible, for I am anxious to be understood, not only in this House, but also by all those who may hereafter read the report of our proceedings. And first of all I will prove that civil rights form part of those which, by article 43 (paragraph 15) of the resolutions, are guaranteed to Lower Canada. This paragraph reads as follows:—
- Property and civil rights, excepting those portions thereof assigned to the General Parliament.
Well, amongst these rights are all the civil laws of Lower Canada, and among these latter those which relate to marriage; now it was of the highest importance that it should be so under the proposed system, and therefore the members from Lower Canada at the Conference took great care to obtain the reservation to the Local Government of this important right, and in consenting to allow the word “marriage” after the word “divorce,” the delegates have not proposed to take away with one hand from the Local Legislature what they had reserved to it by the other. So that the word “marriage,” placed where it is among the powers of the Central Parliament, has not the extended signification which was sought to be given to it by the honorable member. With the view of being more explicit, I now propose to read how the word marriage is proposed to be understood:—
The word marriage has been placed in the draft of the proposed Constitution to invest the Federal Parliament with the right of declaring what marriages shall be held and deemed to be valid throughout the whole extent of the Confederacy, without, however, interfering in any particular with the doctrines or rites of the religious creeds to which the contracting parties may belong.
This is a point of great importance, and the French Canadian members ought to rejoice to see that their fellow-countrymen in the Government have not failed in their duty on a question of so serious a nature. On many other points many of them will doubtless claim that we have not thoroughly fufilled our duty, but as regards the matter in question there can be no difference of opinion, as I we have all a common rule to guide us; and I repeat that they ought to rejoice that their co-religionists in the Conference have not been found wanting on this occasion. The whole […]
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[…] may be summed up as follows:—The Central Parliament may decide that any marriage contracted in Upper Canada, or in any other of the Confederated Provinces, in accordance with the laws of the country in which it was contracted, although that law might be different from ours, should be deemed valid in Lower Canada in case the parties should come to reside there, and vice versa.
Hon. Mr. Dorion—There was no necessity for that provision.
Hon. Sol. Gen. Langevin—I have just proved that it was necessary.
Mr. Archambeault—I would ask of the Hon. Solicitor General [Hon. Mr. Langevin] if a marriage contracted in the United States, before a magistrate, and not according to canonical laws, would be deemed valid in Lower Canada?
Hon. Sol. Gen. Langevin—It would be so, from a civil point of view, if it were contracted in accordance with the laws of the state in which it was celebrated.
Mr. Geoffrion—If a marriage contracted in the United States is valid here, as a matter of course a marriage contracted in a British colony in conformity with the laws of the country must be valid; therefore the explanation of the Hon. Solicitor General [Hon. Mr. Langevin] is inadmissible, or the resolution is useless.
Hon. Sol. Gen. Langevin—The honorable member for Verchères [Mr. Geoffrion] does not choose to be convinced; so I will make no further attempt to convince him. The resolution in question signifies just what I have stated.
Hon. Mr. Dorion—That is to say, it means nothing at all.
Hon. Sol. Gen. Langevin—I beg your pardon, it means that a marriage contracted in no matter what part of the Confederacy, will be valid in Lower Canada, if contracted according to the laws of the country in which it takes place; but also, when a marriage is contracted in any province contrary to its laws, although in conformity with the laws of another province, it will not be considered valid. Let us now examine the question of divorce. We do not intend either to establish or to recognize a new right; we do not mean to admit a thing to which we have constantly refused to assent, but at the Conference the question arose, which legislature should exercise the different powers which already exist in the constitutions of the different provinces. Now, among these powers which have been already and frequently exercised de facto, is this of divorce. As a member of the Conference, without admitting or creating any new right in this behalf, and while declaring, as I now do, that as Catholics we acknowledge no power of divorce, I found that we were to decide in what legislative body the authority should be lodged which we found in our Constitutions.
After mature consideration, we resolved to leave it in the Central Legislature, thinking thereby to increase the difficulties of a procedure which is at present so easy. We thought then, as we still think, that in this we took the most prudent course. The following illustration will prove this still more forcibly. It is known to the House how zealous a partisan the honorable member for Brome (Mr. Dunkin) is of the cause of temperance. Well, we will suppose that the honorable gentleman were present as a member of a municipal council in which it was to be decided whether all the taverns in a very populous part of the parish, which could not be suppressed, should be banished to a remote corner of the parish, where they would no longer be a temptation and a stumbling-block; would he not vote for such a measure? Would he not send them to a place where they would be least accessible to the population, and would he not think he had done a meritorious act, an act worthy of a good friend of the temperance cause? Just so in a question of divorce; the case is exactly analogous. We found this power existing in the constitutions of the different provinces, and not being able to get rid of it, we wished to banish it as far from us as possible.
One thing it would be vain to deny, namely, that although we, as Catholics, do not admit the liberty of divorce, although we hold the marriage bond to be indissoluble, yet there are cases in which we both admit and require the annulling of the marriage tie—in cases, for instance, where a marriage has been contracted within the prohibited degrees without the necessary dispensations. An instance of this occurred very recently. A few months since, an individual belonging to my county, who had married a young girl of a neighboring parish, without being aware at the time of his marriage of the relationship which existed between him and his wife, found out several months afterwards that they were related in such a degree that they required a dispensation from the bishop. That dispensation had not been obtained.
He spoke of it to his wife, who refused to apply for a dispensation, as a step towards the legal celebration of their marriage. It became necessary, therefore, to have the marriage annulled. The affair was brought before the Ecclesiastical Court, and, after a minute investigation, the diocesan […]
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[…] bishop gave judgment, declaring the marriage null in a canonical sense. Regarded in a civil point of view, the marriage was still valid until it should have been declared null by a civil tribunal. It became necessary, therefore, to carry the cause before the Superior Court, and my honorable friend, the member for Because, who took the case in hand with his usual zeal and legal address, obtained from the court, after a suitable inquiry, a judgment declaring the marred null in a civil sense, and ordering that it should be registered as such in all places where it should be needful. If this affair had occurred in Upper Canada, what recourse would the parties have had? The parties being Catholics, the case would have been brought before the bishop, who would also have declared the marriage null after suitable inquiry; but the cause would not have had the same conclusion in the civil court, particularly had it depended on certain impediments which have force in Lower Canada, but none in Upper Canada.
It would have become necessary to go to Parliament to pray for an act, which, in a Catholic point of view, would be a mere decree of separation, but which the Parliament would have termed an act of divorce. This power to grant a separation is therefore necessarily vested in the Parliament, by whatever names such separation may be designated, and we are not to be reproached for the interpretation which others may give to such name, different from that which we assign to it. I thought it right to make myself understood on this point, because I do not choose that people should be able to say we are afraid of explaining our position with regard to the question of divorce and marriage, and I believe that I have shown that our position is consistent with our religious laws and our principles as Catholics. I regret that I have dwelt so long on the matters touched upon by the honorable member for Hochelaga [Hon. Mr. Dorion]; but after his speech, and considering the position he assumed, he must have expected an answer. And, having done with him, I come to the honorable member for Lotbinière (Mr. Joly).
That honorable member has endeavored to prove that all confederations die of consumption, and has cited, in support of his argument, the political condition of the Spanish republics of South America. Why did he say nothing of the Germanic Confederation? If he had mentioned that, he would have had to confess that it had proved a success. He would have said also that it is a monarchical confederation consisting of thirty-one states, the chiefs of which are almost all kings, princes, or electors. There are not more than four or five states which are not monarchical, and, nevertheless, that confederation works well.
Mr. Geoffrion—Are they sovereign states?
Hon. Sol. Gen. Langevin—Yes, but they have done what we are now about to do. In order to hold their own among the great powers, and not to be at the mercy of the first who might choose to assail their rights, they have united their strength because they conceived that “union is strength.” When the honorable member for Lotbiniere [Mr. Joly] was talking about the weakness inherent in confederations, he ought to have recollected late events in Italy, as they happened a few years ago. He should have called to mind the conquests of Garibaldi, and reflected that if he had succeeded in overcoming a number of petty states and even the kingdom of Naples for the benefit of the king of Sardinia, it was because the Italian States, being divided as he found them, were too weak to resist an invasion, and that, had they been confederated, neither Garibaldi nor Victor Emmanuel would ever have succeeded in getting the upper hand of them.
And what happened when the little states of Italy were banded together with Piedmont? This happened—when Garibaldi aimed at making conquests on his own account, he soon found out that the small states no longer existed, and that a large state had been formed out of their fragments, the consequence of which was that he was beaten at Aspramonte. The honorable member says that our connection with the Mother Country, under the Confederation, would be one of paper, and that the Upper Canadians would detest the Lower Canadians.
Mr. Geoffrion—He did not say that such things would be, but that such might be the effect of Confederation.
Hon. Sol. Gen. Langevin—Why should such be the effect of Confederation? No questions will be decided in the Federal Parliament but such as relate to general matters. Local matters will not be treated of, nor questions of race, of religion, or of institutions peculiar to the several provinces, and consequently there can be no collision of opinions on such questions. Such a fear, therefore, is quite unfounded. The honorable member says, moreover, that the Confederation would lead rather to divide than to unite us, that civil war would be the result, and that the Upper Canadians would rather be annexed to the United States than subjected to Lower […]
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[…] Canadian rule. For my part, I believe no such thing. I believe that the Upper Canadians are too loyal to wish to be annexed to the United States. They are quite disposed to trade with their neighbors, to keep up a good understanding with them, but they do not wish to be annexed. The honorable member for Lotbinière [Mr. Joly], getting over his fears and predictions and speaking of the sixty-five members from Lower Canada, put the following question—”Suppose the population in Lower Canada should in ten years increase thirty-four per cent., while that of the other provinces increases only thirty per cent., would it not be unjust to Lower Canada that the number of its representatives should remain the same, should still be sixty-five, while that of the other provinces will be increased; while in any case the number of representatives from the other provinces is not to be diminished unless their population should diminish five per cent?”
This point is very important, but we must observe that whatever the increase of the population in the other provinces, the part from Lower Canada is fixed and known. Thus, for instance, if the population of Upper Canada should increase more than that of Lower Canada, the latter will always have sixty-five members, the other provinces receiving such increased number of representatives as their increased population would entitle them to. But the resolutions do not prevent Lower Canada from having more than sixty-five representatives, if its population should increase faster than that of the other provinces.
The French translation of these resolutions is erroneous, for it says that “for the purpose of determining the number of representatives from each province at the end of every decennial census, Lower Canada shall never have either more or less than sixty-five representatives,” whereas the English version of the resolutions, which is the official version, says: “Lower Canada shall always be assigned sixty-five members.” This does not mean that Lower Canada can never have more than sixty-five members, but that it can not have less than sixty-five members. That is, I think, a categorical answer to the honorable member’s objection. If the honorable member for Lotbinière [Mr. Joly] were here, I would answer him on other points; but I will not attack him as he last night attacked the Honorable Attorney General [Hon. Mr. Cartier].
The honorable member compared the conduct of the Honorable Attorney General [Hon. Mr. Cartier], in moving the scheme of Confederation, to that of a man who, presiding over a savings bank in which every one came to deposit his savings, having confidence in his honesty, should some fine day turn defaulter, betray their confidence and ruin them. He said that the honesty of the Honorable Attorney General for Lower Canada [Hon. Mr. Cartier] had yielded to the temptation of honors, titles and places, and that he had forgotten all his obligations and duties and sold his fellow-citizens. I shall not retort on the honorable member, but I shall take upon me to continue the comparison made by him and tell him that the Honorable Attorney General [Hon. Mr. Cartier] has in fact opened a savings bank and has invited every one to deposit in it his title deeds and his savings. Accordingly we find one day the seigniors and the censitaires coming and dopositing in his keeping their title deeds, their lands and all they have.
These the Honorable Attorney General [Hon. Mr. Cartier] takes and deposits in his bank, and when he is called upon to restore them, when he is required to account for them, he pays as never man paid before him; to the censitaires, instead of their title deeds burthened with mortgages, lodes et vents, corvées and all sorts of services and duties, he restores their lands free from all burthens; while to the seigniors he tenders the full value of their seigniorial rights; and if this day there are seigniors holding a hundred thousand acres of land in full right of property, which they can safely estimate as worth eight dollars per acre, they may thank the Honorable the Attorney General for Lower Canada [Hon. Mr. Cartier] for it. The suitors in our courts come next; they were oppressed with enormous costs, which amounted almost to a denial of justice; they went and deposited their briefs, declarations and pleas in the Honorable Attorney General’s [Hon. Mr. Cartier] savings bank, and he returned them, giving them at the same time judicial decentralisation and diminished costs of suit. Thus it is that he has earned the respect and gratitude of his fellow-citizens.
It is the same as regards the inhabitants of the townships; in place of their ambiguous civil law, he gave them a civil law applying to the whole of Lower Canada, the townships as well as the seigniorial; and all are now unanimous in expressions of gratitude towards the Hon. Atty. General [Hon. Mr. Cartier] for extricating them from the judicial chaos in which they were involved. Pleaders, advocates, in fact the whole country, deposited their complaints in the Hon. Atty. General’s [Hon. Mr. Cartier] hands, and at the end of five years he has given them a civil code which will do honor to Lower Canada, honor to the three distinguished Codification Commissioners selected by the […]
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[…] Hon. Atty. General [Hon. Mr. Cartier], whose name it will transmit to posterity. Yes, his name is attached to that work, and the attacks of the honorable member for Lotbinière [Mr. Joly] will hardly prevent that name from going down to our descendants surrounded with the respect of all those who know the services he has rendered to his country. But the Hon. Attorney General for Lower Canada [Hon. Mr. Cartier] was not satisfied with these services. In the midst of a terrible crisis his country confided to him all its interests, all its rights, all its institutions, its nationality, its religion, in a word everything it held most dear. The Hon. Attorney General [Hon. Mr. Cartier] received the whole trust into his safe and faithful keeping, and when called upon to render an account, he exhibited all these interests, rights, institutions, our nationality and religion, in fact everything that the people held dear, and restored them guaranteed, protected and surrounded by every safeguard, in the Confederation of the British North American Provinces.
He has been a faithful banker, and has not betrayed the trust reposed in him, he has honestly paid his debt; rich and poor, seigniors and censitaires, advocates and pleaders, all have received their due, and the banker is blessed from one end of the province to the other. The honorable member says that the Hon. Attorney General [Hon. Mr. Cartier] will have his reward. He is right; my honorable colleague will have his reward—his day will come as did that of the late Sir Louis Hypolite Lafontaine. When that eminent citizen held the position occupied to day by the Hon. Attorney General [Hon. Mr. Cartier], the opposition heaped upon him the same reproaches, the same insults that are now offered to my honorable friend. He was accused of being a traitor to his country; it was broadly asserted that he was selling his fellow-citizens, and that he was the enemy of his race. Nevertheless, that defender of the rights and institutions of Lower Canada had but one ambition, namely, to secure for his fellowcountrymen the splendid position they have ever since occupied.
He let the disaffected continue to assail him, and before descending into the tomb, he had the happiness of seeing his patriotic efforts and the purity and nobleness of his intentions acknowledged; and when his mortal remains were carried to their last resting place, all classes of his fellow-citizens were eager in doing honor to that great man, and all united in blessing the memory of one who was no longer accused of being a traitor, but whose name was universally admitted to be deserving of a place among the very highest in parliamentary history. It will be the same as regards the present Hon. Attorney General for Lower Canada [Hon. Mr. Cartier]. He will have his reward; his day will come, not in the sense of the honorable member for Lotbinière [Mr. Joly], who makes use of the expression as a menace, but by retaining that confidence of his fellow-citizens which appears so completely incomprehensible to the honorable member for Lotbinière [Mr. Joly].
That he should enjoy the confidence of his fellow-citizens appears to me a thing perfectly natural, and not by any means difficult to understand. During his whole life, like Sir Louis Hypolite Lafontaine, the present Honorable Attorney General for Lower Canada [Hon. Mr. Cartier] has devoted himself to protecting and promoting the material and religious interests of his fellow-countrymen, and he has now crowned his gigantic labors by the important share he has had in the framing of the new Constitution, which is destined to govern one of the greatest empires in the world, a Constitution beneath which all races and all religions will find protection and respect.
He will have his reward, and like his predecessor, his name will go down to posterity as one of the greatest benefactors of his country. I regret, Mr. Speaker, having spoken at such great length, but the importance of the question must be my excuse for having, perhaps, wearied the House. After the long speeches delivered by the honorable member for Hochelaga [Hon. Mr. Dorion] and the honorable member for Lotbinière [Mr. Joly], it was impossible for me to curtail my remarks, when I had to refute and destroy all the hazardous assertions of the two honorable members. I think I have said enough to show that the honorable member for Hochelaga [Hon. Mr. Dorion] made a false prediction when he said that the day on which Confederation was accomplished would be an evil day for Lower Canada.
No, Mr. Speaker, the Confederation, I am perfectly convinced, will afford the best possible guarantee for our institutions, our language and all that we hold dearest in the world; under its protection we shall be strong against the common enemy, we shall advance rapidly in the way of prosperity, and when we withdraw from the arena it will be with the consolation of leaving to our descendants an inheritance worthy of a free people. (Cheers.)
Mr. Joly—While the Honorable Solicitor General [Hon. Mr. Langevin] was speaking, I twice asked permission to explain what I had stated, because I thought he had not understood me; but from the manner in which he has acted towards me, twice refusing me the opportunity of explaining myself, I am now convinced that he perfectly well understood what I wished to […]
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[…] say, and that he merely pretended not to understand it. I am not willing to bear the onus of the charge he has brought against me. I shall take the opportunity of setting him right, and of explaining what I said yesterday. I am quite ready to bear accusations of imprudence or ignorance, but I will not stand a charge of cowardice, and that is the accusation I find in the Journal de Québec of this day. The honorable member charges me with having appealed to the religious prejudices of the French-Canadians. I did not appeal to their religious prejudices; I made an appeal to their national prejudices. I look upon this measure of Confederation as fatal to the interests of Lower Canada, and I consider that that was the only means of breaking the bands by which the French-Canadians are bound, and of arousing them while it is yet time; that is what I have done and ever will do.
But I am not the man to appeal to the national prejudices of the English after my appeal to the French-Canadians, as the honorable member has stated. I shall now state the manner in which I explained the passage from Lord Durham’s report. I said it was impossible that both races should long continue to live in peace; that some day or other the two nationalities would come into collision; that judgment would be given by the Federal Parliament, in which the English were to have the majority, and from which the French-Canadians could not hope to obtain justice. I did not state that the French-Canadians would act unjustly towards the British; but I said that the latter might complain, and that the Federal Legislature would be called upon to decide as to whether injustice had been done; and that its sympathies must be distrusted. I added that the Federal Parliament being composed of a majority of English members, would be inclined to give ear to the English of Lower Canada rather than to the French-Canadians.
I then quoted Lord Durham’s report to prove that English-Canadians would never willingly submit to the majority in Lower Canada. And in citing the two extracts from Lord Durham’s report, I first read them in English and then translated them into French. How can it be asserted, therefore, that I made use of the English language in order to make an appeal to the prejudices of the Anglo-Canadians?
The charge is absurd. Far from desiring to influence them in that sense, I read the passages with hesitation, because I felt that the British ought to blush for them. There was no need of quoting the passages referred to in order to tell the English of Lower Canada what their sentiments were; I cited them in order to make them known to the French Canadians. With regard to the second passage, I could not cite it in order to attract the sympathies of the British, since it was an extract against them. How can it be shown that I cited that passage for the purpose of exciting the national prejudices of the English? I appealed neither to the religious prejudices of the Canadians, nor to the national prejudices of the English.
Hon. Mr. Cauchon—I did not say that the honorable member for Lotbinière [Mr. Joly] was a coward; I found fault with him for treating the question incompletely and putting it in a wrong light. With reference to the quotations, the honorable member did not translate into French that part in which it was stated that the English will never submit to a French Canadian majority.
Mr. Joly—I translated it word for word.
Hon. Mr. Cauchon—I did not hear it, but I am quite willing to take his word. The honorable member has said that he wished to excite the national prejudices of the French-Canadians, but that is quite as bad as exciting religious prejudices. All I said was, that he was wrong in exciting the prejudices of the one race against the other.
Hon. Sol. Gen. Langevin—After the explanations given by the honorable member for Lotbinière [Mr. Joly], and though he has stated in a moment of excitement that he felt convinced that when I made an accusation against him I knew it was not well founded, I must conclude that I was mistaken, and that he translated his quotations from Lord Durham’s report unknown to me. I take his word in the matter, but I am quite sure that if he had not been excited at the moment, he would not have charged me with wilfully misrepresenting him.
Mr. Joly—I am the more clear in my recollection of having translated the passage from Lord Durham’s report, from the fact that I had great difficulty in translating it, as the House will remember.
Mr. Dunkin—And in fact your translation was not quite correct, particularly as to the word British.
Mr. Joly—But since the Honorable Solicitor General [Hon. Mr. Langevin] has given explanations and has withdrawn what he had said against me, I feel it to be my duty to state that I regret to have expressed myself so strongly with reference to him.
The debate was then adjourned.