Province of Canada, Legislative Assembly, Parliamentary Debates on the Subject of the Confederation of the British North America Provinces, 8th Parl, 3rd Sess, (27 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 482-512.
Other formats: Click here to view the original document (PDF).
MONDAY, February 27, 1865.
Christopher Dunkin [Brome] said—Mr. Speaker, almost every one who has yet spoken in this debate has begun with some expression of his feeling of embarrassment. For my own part, I should be glad it I could begin in some other way, but I confess that I cannot. For I certainly never did rise to address this House, or any other public body, under a feeling of such oppressive embarrassment as I experience at this moment. It is impossible for me, occupying the position in which I now stand, not to feel that I am opposed to powerful odds, and that there is a sort of foregone conclusion, here, against the views I desire to impress upon the House. It is impossible for me not to feel that the considerations to which I have to ask the attention of the House, are so many and so complex, that no sort of justice can possibly be done them within the limits of my capacity to speak, or of yours to listen.
The interests at stake, too, are so large—so much larger than ever were at stake in any question which has yet been brought under the notice of this House, and the difficulties arising out of the question are so formidable, owing in no small measure to what I must call the many reticence’s with which this scheme has been laid before us, and the ambiguities of expression which everywhere characterize it, as to tax seriously the courage of those who may attempt to discuss it.
I feel, besides, that I am entirely cut off from that description of remark which most of all tends to make one’s speech pleasant to listen to; for I cannot prophecy smooth things, or dilate on the marvels of progress to result from Confederation in the future. There is a character of hurry, too, impressed on the whole style of this debate; everybody eels so impatient, that one can scarcely hope to express his views fully, as he would wish and ought, on this vast scheme. I have even the feeling that my capacity for exertion is not up to its ordinary standard. I address the House in a state of health that renders me less capable than usual of physical exertions. I must, therefore, beg honorable members to make allowance for these circumstances surrounding my position; believing me that what I wish to do is to present as briefly as I can, and as truthfully as I can, my own deep seated convictions on the question now before the House. (Hear, hear.)
So strongly, Mr. Speaker, do I feel my inability to discuss this scheme as I could wish, that I almost must throw myself on the forbearance of hon. members—that I hardly can help saying I should be in danger of shrinking from the duty of addressing you, but for the recollection that time and again, I have known, in cases of contest almost or quite as discouraging as this, that “the race has not been to the swift nor the battle to the strong”—that time and again I have known those who went into such contests with the best hopes of success, disappointed in their expectations.
I do know, and I know that others know—I believe it to be the general conviction of those whom I address to-night, as regards this question, that whatever of popular leering there may stem to be in favor of the views I have to combat, is anything but the deliberate result of a well-considered examination of the whole subject—is a feeling of most sudden growth, and of most passing character. (Hear, hear.) Before I go further, I may be permitted distinctly to accept the challenge which has been more than once thrown out on the other side as to the manner in which this question ought to be discussed. I freely admit and sincerely maintain that it ought not to be discussed otherwise than as a great question, to be considered entirely on a large view of its […]
- (p. 483)
[…] merits. It is not a question of party, it is not a question of persons, it is not a question of merely local, or class, or passing interest, and it is not to be met by any of those passing appeals which are too often resorted to. It is not to be settled upon any ground of mere theory, or by any criticism of mere details. It requires indeed to be taken up at once as a question of principle, and also as a question of detail, involving a multitude of details; and there must necessarily be a careful criticism oil such details. The question really presented is this: on the whole, viewing them collectively, are the details involved in this great scheme such, as to commend the scheme itself to our approbation, or are they not? (Hear, hear.)
I pledge myself that I will discuss the question from that point of view. I will do my utmost to avoid mere passing or personal allusions. I will try to tread the dangerous ground before me without arousing dangerous feelings. I do not know that I can succeed, but at least I will make the effort. This, however, I am bound to repeat at the outset, that no one can do justice to a question like this, and start with the idea of at all ignoring details.
Here is a measure proposed for our acceptance, embodied in seventy-two resolutions, and which resolutions affirm a great many more than seventy-two propositions, connected with almost every principle known to have reference to the theory and practice of popular government. I say it is a scheme which is as complex and as vast as one can well imagine, and declamation about first principles can be of no real use in its discussion—can avail only to mislead in reference to it. We have to deal with no mere abstract question of a nationality, or of union or disunion, or of a Federal as opposed to a Legislative union. It is idle to talk vaguely about the maintenance of British connection, or to go into magnificent speculations about the probable results of independence, or blindly to urge this scheme as a sure preventative of annexation to the United States. These cheap and easy generalities are thoroughly unreliable. The only question is, how is this plan, in its entirety, going to work? And this question is one which is not easy to answer; it is one requiring much patience, and a close examination of details. It is the question which, if the House will lend me its attention, I will endeavor to discuss to the extent of my ability. (Hear, hear.) I may further take leave to say at starting, that I do not approach this question from any new point of view whatever.
Always I have been, and now I am, a unionist in the strictest and largest sense of the term. I desire to perpetuate the union between Upper and Lower Canada. I desire to see developed, the largest union that can possibly be developed (I care not by what name you call it) between all the colonies, provinces, and dependencies of the British Crown. I desire to maintain that intimate union which ought to subsist, but which unfortunately does not subsist as it ought, between the Imperial Government and all those dependencies.
I am a unionist, who especially does not desire to see the provinces of Upper and Lower Canada disunited To my mind, this scheme does not at all present itself as one of union; and if hon gentlemen opposite will admit the truth, they will acknowledge that, practically, it amounts to a disunion between Upper and Lower Canada. (Hear, hear.)
I confess that I am irreconcilably opposed to that portion of the scheme. I repeat I do not care to see Upper and Lower Canada more dissevered than they are; on the contrary, I wish to see them brought into closer union; and far from regarding this scheme as cementing more closely the connection of these provinces with the British Empire, I look upon it as tending rather towards a not distant disunion of these provinces from the British Empire. (Hear, hear.)
My position as regards this scheme is that of one who desires to see this union perpetuated, and not of one who would contemplate a state of disunion between any of the component parts of the British Empire.
I hold that proper means ought to be taken to prevent our disunion from the British Empire and absorption into the United States, and that this scheme by no means tends that way. I have no fancy for democratic or republican forms or institutions, or indeed for revolutionary or political nova ties of any sort. The phrase of “political creation” is no phrase of mine. I hold that the power to create is as much a higher attribute than belongs to man, in the political world, as in any other department of the universe. All we can do is to attend to and developed the ordinary growth of our institutions; and this growth, if it is to be healthy at all, must be slow. There must be the same slow, steady change in political matters, which answers to the growth visible in the […]
- (p. 484)
[…] physical world. I do believe in this gradual development of our institutions, but I do not believe in any of those violent and sudden changes which have for their object the creation of something entirely new. I fear this scheme is just of the character to prevent that slow, gradual, healthy development which I would wish to see steadily carried out. If I could be astonished at anything in politics, Mr. Speaker, I should be astonished at the attempt which has been made by some honorable gentlemen on the Treasury benches to represent the state of the public feeling on this subject as not having that mere sudden, sensational, unreliable character which I have ascribed to it. Long forgotten expressions of individual opinion; clauses said to have formed part of bills not to be found, and not known to have been even drawn; motions threatened but never made, the small party fe cings [sic] of past times, from before the days of the Canada Trade Act downwards, have been pressed into service to meet the exigencies of a hard case. Well, I shall not follow out that line of argument: it is not worth while.
We all know that, from the time of the union of Canada, at all events, until very lately indeed, nothing like serious discussion opt the propriety or impropriety of a Federal union, or of any union at all, of the aggregate of these British American Provinces, has ever so little occupied the public mind. I will here go back merely to 1858, when the sixth Parliament was elected, and from that time bring under review, as rapidly as I can such few points of our political history as are relevant to show that this is the fact; although, indeed, argument to establish it is scarcely necessary. At the election of 1857—’58, what really were the issues before the country?
They can be easily stated. I take the résumé, in tact, from the announcements of the Globe, the organ of the great popular party of Upper Canada at that time; mentioning not everything, but everything at all material. The great demand of the then Upper Canada Opposition, which gave the key-note to the whole political controversies of the time, was representation according to population, irrespectively of the dividing line between Upper and Lower Canada. That was urged as involving everything. It was urged for the sake of all the rest, and as sure to bring about all the rest, that wad demanded by the party.
It was to enable them to carry out their opposition to what were called sectarian grants, their opposition to the holding of land in mortmain for sectarian uses, their opposition to separate schools on a sectarian basis. It was urged for the avowed purpose opt obtaining uniform legislation in the future for the two sections of the province, and also what was spoken of as the assimilation of the existing institutions of the two sections of the province, but which was meant to be an assimilation of those of Lower Canada to those of Upper Canada much more than of those of Upper Canada to those of Lower Canada. (Hear, hear.)
It was urged with the view of obtaining what was called free-trade, that is, an anti-Lower Canadian commercial policy. It was urged with the view of obtaining the settlement of the North-West; in other words, the relative aggrandizement of Upper Canada. It was urged, also, no doubt, with the view of obtaining what was called administrative reform—the driving from power of a set of men who wore alleged, for various reasons, to be unworthy of holding it. But the great questions of measures above alluded to came first; those as to the mere men, second. (Hear, hear.)
The grand object was declared to be to obtain an Upper Canadian preponderance of representation on the floor of this House, in order to put an end to everything like sectarian grants, the holding of lands in mortmain and separate schools, to render uniform our legislation, to assimilate our institutions, to carry out an anti-Lower Canadian commercial policy, and to secure the North-West for the aggrandizement of Upper Canada. In this way the question of Upper Canada against Lower Canada was unmistakably raised What must have been, what could not fail to be, the result of an appeal of that kind? It was easy to foresee that there would be returned in Upper Canada a majority in favor of these demands, and in Lower Canada an overwhelming majority against them.
I do not go into this to raise the ghost of past animosities; I am merely showing what cannot be denied—that no one at that time spoke of or cared for this magnificent idea of the union of the provinces, by Confederation or otherwise. (Hear, hear.) The session commenced. Those who had the advantage or disadvantage of sitting in that Parliament that session will remember the tremendous contrast there was between all those debates which had reference […]
- (p. 485)
[…] to this class of subjects, and the one single debate which was attempted, but could not be made to take place, on the question of the Confederation of the Provinces. With all his ability—and there are few abler men than the hon. gentleman who undertook at that time to bring that question before the House—with all his ability, and the most earnest effort on his part to press it on the attention of the House, he could scarcely obtain a hearing. No one cared for the matter; and it was felt by every one that such was the case. Soon after, a ministerial crisis took place. A new government came in for a few hours, and started a policy. But that policy, again, was not this policy. It did not touch this question. (Hear, hear.)
It was proposed, indeed, to deal with that question of representation by population by applying some system of checks or guarantees, doing or trying to do something that might lessen the objection of Lower Canada to a change urged forward as that had been. But that was all. That government fell—fell instantly—and another was formed in its place. And the present Finance Minister [Alexander T. Galt], the honorable member for Sherbrooke [Alexander T. Galt], who, with all his ability, had not been able to obtain a serious hearing for his proposal of Confederation of the provinces, going into the new government, induced his colleagues to come before the House and the country, with that as a professed portion of their policy. I may be pardoned, perhaps, for a single word here of personal reference, for saying, en passant, that when that idea was thus broached (as it was by a Government of which I was as firm a supporter as any man in the House), I did not fail to make it known, that if ever it should be presented to the House as a practical measure by that Government, I should cease to be (so far as it was concerned) one of such supporters. (Hear, hear.)
That was not the first time I had thought of it. It had long before been a matter of study with me; and all the anxious reflection I have ever been able to give it, has only had the result of strengthening my convictions against it every day. But how was this idea then brought forward? Tentatively, and just to neutralize the scheme which the Brown-Dorion Administration had hinted to the country. The one fire was to burn out another’s burning. (Hear, hear.) The plan of that Government was to make propositions to the Imperial Government and to the governments of the Lower Provinces.
But how? If you want to gain an object, you put that object before those to whom you propose it in the way most likely to induce them to say yes. This scheme was suggested to the Imperial Government, and to the people and governments of the Lower Provinces, precisely in the way most calculated to induce them to say no. We went and told them, “We are in such a state of embarrassment, we have political questions which so trouble and bother us, that we do not know if we can get along at all, unless you will be so kind as to come into this union with us.” (Hear, hear.)
It was just as though I were in business, and went round to half a dozen capitalists, telling them, “I have got into debt; my business is gone to the dogs; I have no business capacity; help me by going into partnership with me, or I am ruined.” (Hear, hear)
If the object had been not to carry it, it does appear to me that those gentlemen could not have taken a better method of accomplishing that object. And we saw this—that just so soon as it was found that the Lower Provinces did not, as under the circumstances they could not, say yes to a proposal of this kind, and that the Imperial Government let the matter drop, our Administration let it drop too. We never heard another word about it The despatches were laid on our table in 1859, but nobody asked a question about them. The child was still-born, and no one troubled himself about its want of baptism. We went on with our old questions—representation by population; Upper Canada against Lower Canada; measures, to a great extent; men also, to a great and increasing extent. And we quarrelled and fought about almost everything, but did not waste a thought or word upon this gigantic question of the Confederation of these provinces. (Hear, hear.)
In a little while we drifted into another crisis—that of 1862. And from the time of that crisis, and the formation of the Macdonald-Sicotte Administration, down to the time when the present Administration was, last summer, brought into its present shape, the one prominent demand made upon political parties and political men everywhere was, to set aside the older questions of measures, and occupy ourselves very much more—not to say exclusively—with the question of men. (Hear, hear.)
I am not blaming […]
- (p. 486)
[…] honorable gentlemen; I am not raising the question whether they were right or wrong in taking that course. They may have been the purest patriots, the most farseeing statesmen the world has known, for ought I care. What I say is merely this, that whether for good or evil, whether wisely or unwisely, the fact is, that the public mind was not occupied in the least with this Confederation question. After having fought a long time, mainly about treasures, and secondarily about men, we were all suddenly called upon, in 1862, to consider nothing but the question of the men who were to do everything right, and to settle everything fairly and honestly, and go forth. Representation by population was unmistakably, for a time at least, laid upon the shelf, declared to be secondary, almost unimportant. It had been half shelved some time before; then, it was wholly shelved.
It was hardly taken down from the shelf in 1868 when the Macdonald-Dorion Government merely put it back to the same place, which it had long occupied to no purpose of a practical character under the Cartier-Macdonald Administration. (Hear, hear.)
Such, then, was the state of affairs—nobody thinking or caring about this great question, until last Session of Parliament, when the hon. member for South Oxford, the present President of the Council [George Brown], moved for and obtained a committee on the subject of constitutional changes generally. Certainly that hon. gentleman did a very clever thing, in embodying in his motion extracts from the unfortunate defunct dispatch of Messrs. Cartier, Galt and Ross.
George-Étienne Cartier [Montreal East, Attorney-General East]—It was a fortunate despatch—unfortunate for you, but fortunate for us.
Christopher Dunkin [Brome]—It is an old proverb that says “He laughs well who laughs last.”
George-Étienne Cartier [Montreal East, Attorney-General East]—I expect to laugh the last.
Christopher Dunkin [Brome]—No doubt. But I do not care to joke in a matter which I think of a very serious character; and, seriously speaking, I think the hon. gentleman is very wrong. We have yet to see, in the first place, whether the thing is done, and then, if it is done, whether it succeeds
Thomas D’Arcy McGee [Montreal West, Minister of Agriculture and Statistics]—”If ’twere done, ’twere well ‘there done quickly.”
Christopher Dunkin [Brome]—The Minister of Agriculture [Thomas D’Arcy McGee] is too good a Shakespearian to need to be reminded that the thing to be done in that case was a something very bad. The hon. gentleman is welcome to all he can make of his quotation,—”If there done when ’tis done, then ‘there well it were done quickly.” To return, however. It was clever, undoubtedly clever, in the hon. member for South Oxford [George Brown] to quote from the despatch of these hon. gentlemen—then, by the way, in opposition to the then Government, and to himself—an expression of opinion almost coinciding with his own. He carried his committee. No one made any great objection to it. I have been told that I am guilty of some sort of inconsistency, after having voted for that committee, in now opposing this measure.
The sequitur is hard to see. I did certainly speak and vote for it, but on the express ground that I believed it would do no sort of harm, and that, on the contrary, it might have the good effect of leading other hon. gentlemen to the sober conclusion at which I had long before arrived myself. I therefore had no objection to the committee, and I sat on it. I am not going to reveal what have been called the secrets of the committee. As in many other like cases, there was mighty little in them. Owing to accidents, wholly aside from this question of Confederation, the report of the committee was presented on the very night that vote happened to be given, indirectly adverse to the Taché-Macdonald Administration. The report itself was an accident. All the allusion there was in it to Federation of any sort, found its way there at the last moment and unexpectedly. It is no violation oil confidence to say that it was even voted against by the leader of this House, the Attorney General for Upper Canada [John A. Macdonald], the now leading advocate of the present scheme.
That fact is on the printed record. It was voted against, also, by the members for Cornwall [John Sandfield Macdonald] and West Elgin [John Scoble]. There were five other members, of whom I am sorry I was one, who were absent; had I been there, unquestionably my vote would have been against it. (Hear, hear.) And, Mr. Speaker, those who were in this House at the time that report was made, will remember pretty well the more than cool indifference with which it was here received, little or nothing, after all, as it amounted to. Well, this vote in the House thus following, the opportunity suddenly offered to honorable gentlemen opposite of starting on a tack which, up to that moment, I believe no two men in the House had ever thought of as […]
- (p. 487)
[…] possible. And from that day to this, a series of accidents, each one more extraordinary than its predecessor, has led to a state of things about as extraordinary as the accidents themselves were. (Laughter.)
George-Étienne Cartier [Montreal East, Attorney-General East]—It is said the world was made by a series of accidents.
Christopher Dunkin [Brome]—I dare say some people think so; and it may be so according to the theology of my hon. friend, but not according to mine. I repeat, what has happened since has been tolerably unexpected, even by the actors in those occurrences. I do not believe they were expected by anybody; and none, I fancy, have been more surprised at them than the very men who now take all the advantage possible of them, and even the credit of having brought them about. And how, Mr. Speaker, was this scheme presented to the public?
Piecemeal, and with reticence’s innumerable; in a way that made it hardly possible to criticise it in any of its parts. When, after several members of the Government of this province and several other members of the Conference had gone into long explanations of it publicly at Quebec, Montreal and Toronto, the honorable member for Hochelaga [Antoine-Aimé Dorion] came out with a criticism upon and a dissent from it. He was set upon with a clamour, to the effect that he ought not to have pronounced himself so soon, as the whole scheme was not yet developed! It was said he had misrepresented the scheme, and ought to have waited until its details were really known before attacking it.
Brought thus before the country, in piecemeal style, with some portions kept back, and others ambiguously and even contradictorily stated, no one could seriously take hold of it. After some time, it is true, a printed paper, purporting to set forth the resolutions of the Conference, was sent round to members, but with the word “Private” written on it, as much as to say that it was not officially communicated, and must be made no public use of. That private communication was not even perfectly accurate, is now perfectly well known; but that was of little consequence, as it could not be made use of publicly. Such is the way in which this matter was laid before the people. Every possible advantage was given to the people to praise it from every point of view, and nobody got a fair opportunity of saying that he did not like it. The praise was carefully prepared and published, and everything that could possibly be done to prepare the public mind for the scheme before it final announcement was skilfully done. And now what have we? Why, the cry that the whole thing must be passed, “now or never.” It will never pass, we are told, if it does not pass now! (Hear, hear.)
Was there ever a measure of this magnitude before, on which the heart of a country was set, the whole of which was so wise and good as this scheme is said to be—and yet, that had to be passed (the whole of it) at once, or never? (Hear, hear.) We are even told that it is a positive treaty—made however, by the way, by parties who were never authorized to make any treaty at all. I must say, for one, that I cannot but see in all this precipitancy the unmistakeable admission de facto, that the Government themselves know and feel that the feeling they have got up in favor of this scheme is a passing feeling of momentary duration, that they cannot themselves in the least rely upon. (Hear, hear.)
Mr. Speaker, it is rather curious that hon. gentlemen, in recommending this scheme of theirs, seem never to be tired of speaking of lies excellences in general, and of modestly eulogizing the wisdom, and foresight, and statesmanship of those who got it up. I cannot wonder that their judgment in this behalf should be a little led astray by their surprise at the success which has so far attended their project.
Their “officious” visit to Prince Edward Island took but a very few days, and it resulted in the scheme of a legislative union for the Lower Provinces being (as I think, unfortunately) laid aside; and then followed the Conference at Quebec, where these twelve honorable gentlemen representing Canada, and twenty-one other gentlemen representing the Lower Provinces, sat together for the long period of nineteen days—seventeen working days and two Sundays—and as the result of these seventeen days of but partial work by the way, we have from these thirty-three gentlemen a scheme of a Constitution which they vaunt of as being altogether better than that of the model republic of the United States, and even than that of the model kingdom of Great Britain. Neither the model republic nor yet the model kingdom of whose glorious traditions and associations we are all so proud, is for a moment to be compared with this work of theirs. (Hear, hear.)
So perfect do they seem to regard their pet measure, that they tell us we must not take time to discuss it. Even though Her Majesty’s Secretary of State has told us that there are features of it that require further consideration and […]
- (p. 488)
[…] must be revised, yet they tell us that we must not change a letter or line of it. (Hear, hear.) And yet, we are at the same time told that the details of this scheme, if examined at all, must be examined and viewed as those of a compromise. It is not, they freely admit, as satisfactory in its details as any of us would desire to have; but it is all we can get, and must be accepted or rejected as a whole. It must be examined in the very spirit of compromise, meaning that no serious fault shall be found with it, however unsatisfactory it may be I have heard of Paddy’s notion of a reciprocity that was all on one side.
Thomas D’Arcy McGee [Montreal West, Minister of Agriculture and Statistics]—Now let us have no national reflections. (Laughter.)
Christopher Dunkin [Brome]—Oh! I mean it as a national compliment. I would, however, ask hon. gentlemen opposite not to throw across the House these jokes; not that I object to an occasional interruption by way of question, but mere jokes thrown into the discussion of a serious subject do not help any man who desires to present his honest, sincere and serious views on a grave question. I must ask the two hon. members of the Government, who have several times, by means of interruptions of that nature, tried to throw me off the track, to desist from such course in future.
George-Étienne Cartier [Montreal East, Attorney-General East]—I am sure the hon. gentleman did not intend to disconcert you, nor had I any such purpose in view.
Christopher Dunkin [Brome]—I will not say it is done for that purpose; but I feel myself more than usually annoyed with interruptions tonight, because the subject is of a nature to require the closest attention. This measure, then, it is said, must be examined in this spirit of compromise, that is to say, not objecting to any of its provisions. One of the expressions used by the hon. gentleman was—that we should not require in the scheme “an impossible perfection.” Well, sir, I do not think there is any danger of our finding any impossible perfection in it, or anything relating to it, unless, indeed, in one particular direction; and in that direction I do not know but that there has been attained all possible perfection at least, if not an impossible perfection. I allude to that particular kind of wisdom and foresight which marks the astute official politician, as contradistinguished from the far-seeing statesman. (Hear, hear.)
There has been exhibited, in this one respect, an all but impossible perfection. Every feeling, every interest, every class, is bid for in the cleverest way imaginable. The seat of the Federal Government is to be at Ottawa, of course. The Governor General or other head of this magnificent future vice-royalty, or what not, will hold his court and parliament at Ottawa; but a handsome sop is thrown to Quebec and Toronto, also. They, too, are each to have a provincial court and legislature and governmental departments. Everything for everybody!
As to the state that is to be created, its style and rank are left in most delightful ambiguity. We may be honored with the dignity of a kingdom, or of a vice-royalty, or of we know not what. All we are assured of is, that it is to be a something better, higher and more grand than we now have. Perhaps the Sovereign herself will occasionally come over and exercise her authority in person; or, perhaps, a throne will be created for some member of the royal family; or, failing such dreams as these, we are told, at the least, in reference to the character of the representative who is to be sent here in place of the Sovereign—that is to say, the representative who is to administer the government during the ordinary absence of the Sovereign from this part of the British dominions—we are told, I say, by the leader of this House, that, in view of the functions to be entrusted to him, the high position he is to hold, the vice-regal state he will have to keep, it is possible we shall, at least, have sent out here in that capacity, hereafter, men of the class emphatically called statesmen.
I have no taste for paying what may be termed courtier compliments to the living; but, looking back only to the dead, of whom one may speak freely, without such fear, I must say that those who have been appointed to administer our government in the past are hardly of the class to be looked down upon—that the list in which we find the names of Durham, Sydenham, Metcalfe, and Elgin, is not precisely a list of moon inferior to the higher class of those whom we call statesmen; and I am not quite sure that even after this great Confederacy shall have been established, men of much higher mark than those we have already had will be appointed to rule over it. Be that as it may, however, the bait is thrown out that we are to have men much higher than we ever had before; that in all manner of ways our state is to be better, finer, grander, in fact, than our imagination can well conceive. (Laughter.)
We are, it seems, among other things, to […]
- (p. 489)
[…] get a little more than we now have of what is called a feature of the British Constitution, in the composition of the Legislative Council. It has been spoken of as an impropriety, almost treasonable, to hint at it as a bait thrown out to gentlemen who have been elected to the Legislative Council for a fixed period, that by voting for this scheme they may get themselves made legislative councillors for life. If in this scheme provision had been made, in regard to the members of this branch of the Legislature, that they should hold their seats, not for life, but say, for a mere period of five years, I rather think there would be few found here very mealy-mouthed on the subject; and when it is offered to men who, like ourselves, will have to go before their constituents within a few months, or years, at most, that they are to be made legislative councillors for life, the bait, I think, is not a very small one. (Hear, hear.)
We are told, too, on the face of this scheme, that the choice is to be made by the present governments of the several provinces; but of course with perfect fairness to the Opposition in each province! Most satisfactory! Each Opposition is to be treated with perfect fairness—”it is so nominated in the bond.” We hear of a minister of the Crown in one place, addressing his neighbors, and telling them they may depend on it, that when Her Majesty comes to make the selection, the utmost respect will be paid to the rights and privileges of the elected members, so that their elected member will have the fairest chance of becoming a life member of the Confederate Legislative Council.
In another place, on the other hand, we hear from another minister of the Crown that those gentlemen who hold patents of appointment for life may feel quite as safe, for certainly their claim to be retained in their present position is sure to have full weight.
Further, in Lower Canada, each locality is told that it may rest satisfied it will not be overlooked, for each is to be represented in the Legislative Council by a gentleman residing or holding property in it; and both origins and both creeds alike are thus to have representation and full protection. Another point upon which there has been a like pleasant sort of ambiguity kept up, is as to who are to make the future nominations to this Legislative Council. Viewing this part of the scheme as a matter of principle, one would have thought that these future nominations must be made on the Federal principle. It was not expressly so stated; it is not (as we are at last here told) it is not so meant; but till we were so told, everybody who thought one way said that the resolutions meant it to be that way, and all who thought the other way conveniently found the resolutions to justify their way of thinking.
Well, turning then to matters which affect this House, the same sort of thing is still observable. Representation by population is given to meet the grand demand of Upper Canada; but the people of Lower Canada are assured, in the same breath, that it will not hurt them; that their institutions and privileges are made perfectly safe; that they will even Lave as many members in the Lower House as before, and that they will, in a variety of ways, be really better off than ever.
A delightful ambiguity is found, too, upon the point as to who will make the future apportionments of the constituencies. The leader of the Government, in explaining the scheme the other night, admitted that the decennial revisions of our representation districts are really not to be left to the local legislatures, but are to be dealt with altogether by the Federal Legislature. Till then most people, I believe, had held the contrary; but all had admitted the text of the resolutions to be equivocal, and each party had of course interpreted them as it wished. The postponement of the local constitutions is of the same character.
Everyone is given to understand that the thing will be made to work to the satisfaction of all; each is promised that he shall have it as he wants. Those who hold to the principle of responsible government, as commonly understood, in the local administrations are, of course, told to expect a lieutenant-governor, with a cabinet, and, presumably, two branches of a local legislature. Those who would have two legislative bodies, without a responsible ministry, are told that very well it may be so. Whoever prefers one legislative body, hears that it is beyond a doubt there very well may only be one; and those again who, even with one House, do not wish to see responsible government in the provinces, are assured that the machinery is likely to be very simple; that each province will probably have a lieutenant-governor, with a few heads of needed departments, nod one House, and that so, no doubt, the affairs of each province can be managed most economically and […]
- (p. 490)
[…] to the entire satisfaction of all. The appointment of lieutenant-governors is again a bait, and perhaps not a small one for more than a few of our public men. The power of disallowance of local bills, and also that of reserving them for the sanction of the General Government, are on the one hand represented as realities—powers that will really be exercised by the General Government to restrain improper local legislation—to make everything safe for those who want a Legislative rather than a Federal union; but on the other hand, to those who do not want a legislative union, it is represented that they mean nothing at all, and will never be exercised. (Hear, hear.)
Uniformity of laws again is to be given to all the provinces, if they desire it, except Lower Canada; but by a peculiar provision of the Constitution, although nothing can be done by the General Parliament to render the laws uniform, without the consent of the provinces concerned, it is stipulated that it shall be impossible for Lower Canada, even though she should desire it, to have her laws uniform with those of the other provinces. So, too, with regard to education in Upper and Lower Canada; the provision is to be made, no one knows how, for everybody, and all are guaranteed some sort of satisfaction. It is true we are not told what the promised measures on this head are to be; whether they really will give increased facilities to the minorities in the two sections for the education of their youth in their own way or not; but we are to take the promise as all right, and everybody is required to be content. Turning to the financial features of the scheme, we find it roundly stated that all the debts and liabilities of each province are to be assumed by the General Government; but if we look again into details we find that—no, they are not.
There is a something here, too, beyond what appears on the face of things. Upper and Lower Canada are each to stay burthened with some unstated parts of the debt of Canada, and the other provinces are to have bonuses of unstated and variant amounts, not easy to be come at. The financial portion of the scheme, equally with every other, is presented to everybody in whatever light he would like to view it in. It will surely bring about economy, because the local governments will have so little to expend unless they resort to direct taxation; but yet, on the other hand, it is as surely to carry us through all sorts of wild expenditure—to give us new and exhaustless credit in England—to make possible vast defensive works throughout the country—to construct the Intercolonial Railway—to enlarge our canals westward—to create no one knows how vast a scheme of communication with the far North-West. Literally, it sounds at every turn as a promise of everything for everybody; and yet, when each comes to ask how much it promises, and how, and where, and when, the whole is to be found ambiguous, unsubstantial and unreal. (Hear, hear.)
I repeat, there is everywhere throughout this scheme a most amazing amount of that sort of cleverness which may characterize the astute politician, but which, I think, I shall be able to show is yet far from being the wisdom and foresight characteristic of the farseeing statesman. (Hear, hear.) The game of all things to all men is a game that cannot be played with success in the long run. It can, under any circumstances, be but temporary in its success. (Hear, hear.)
Seriously, then, Mr. Speaker, I pass on to examine this work in a constitutional point of view, clearing away, as best one may, these ambiguities that surround it, dealing with it as it is, and comparing it primarily with the Constitution of the United States, and secondarily with the Constitution of Great Britain.
I wish I could compare it primarily with that of Great Britain; but it is so much more like that of the United States, that I cannot. In pats only has it any resemblance to the British Constitution; and for this reason the order of comparison cannot be reversed. I must say, before I go further, that I am by no means an admirer of a great deal that I find in the Constitution of the United States. I have always preferred, decidedly preferred, and do now prefer, our own British Constitution. But this, at least, no one can deny, that the framers of the American Constitution were great men, wise men, far-seeing men; that their work was a great work; and that to compare anybody else’s work—especially a work such as this, of the few gentlemen, doubtless able gentlemen, who framed this Constitution—with it, is to submit that work to a very severe and trying test. (Hear, hear.)
The framers of the Constitution of the United States were, indeed, great men—living in, and the product of a great age, who had passed through a great ordeal and been brought up to the level of their work by great events in which they had been leading actors; and their work was a great work, which cost much time and much […]
- (p. 491)
[…] discussion, and underwent long and painstaking revision of all sorts, in all quarters, before it was finally adopted. (Hear, hear.)
Yet we are called upon to admit now, and to admit it without examination, that this work of thirty-three gentlemen, done in seventeen days, is a much better work than that; and not only so, but that it is even better for our people and situation, than the time-honoured Constitution of our Mother Land; that it combines essentially the advantages of both, with the disadvantages of neither. I do not think so. The Constitution of the United States, it must be borne in mind, at least lasted seventy years without fracture.
It has stood a good deal of straining, from events beyond the possible foresight or control of those who framed it; and it may yet stand many more years, notwithstanding this late strain upon it. If, indeed, Louisiana had not been purchased, if the cotton-gin had not been invented—the two unforeseen events which so encouraged the growth of cotton and therefore of slavery—if it had not been for these, what I may call extraneous events, which could not be expected to enter into the minds of the framers of that Constitution, it probably would not have received the shock that it has received; but we do not know yet that that shock will have a fatal effect, or that it will break up the wonderful fabric which they created.
Perhaps it may charge that fabric more or less in some of its parts; and after it shall have passed away, the fabric itself may not improbably endure for a very long time to come. But as to this proposed Constitution of ours, should it become the organic law of the land, how long will it last? How will it work, if it does last? And to or towards what, while working, will it tend? To these questions, I have now to call the earnest attention of this House. I begin, Mr. Speaker, with the future House of Commons—falsely so called. I shall not take up the different resolutions one after another, and criticize them in that manner; but I will take up the different leading features of the scheme consecutively, and endeavor not to misrepresent them. If I should do so, or at all misstate their character or probable effects, I give honorable gentlemen opposite full leave, if only they will do so without throwing jokes across the floor of the House, to correct me, and I will do my best to set myself right.
The House of Commons, then, incorrectly so called, to distinguish it from the other House that corresponds with, but is not named after the House of Lords, the Legislative Council, forms the leading feature of this project; and I take it up first, comparing it with the House of Representatives of the United States, and speaking hot re not so much of its powers as of its composition. I cannot, in this view, compare it with the Imperial House of Commons, because the principle of its construction is so entirely different. In that respect, it is simply copied from what I think the wrong model; and the copied parts correspond most faithfully and exactly with what I venture to call the least desirable features of the Constitution of the United States House of Representatives. (Hear, hear.)
The copy is not, I repeat, of a thing absolutely good, but only of a thing as good as the framers of the Constitution of the United States, circumstanced as they were, could make it; but the peculiarity of their system that I object to, was not at all necessary to ours. I think it was absolutely unnecessary; I think it even very much of an excrescence. It can hardly be denied, Mr. Speaker, that there is a good deal of practical objection to the plan of shifting representation districts, which is what this system adopts, and what the system of the United States adopted. Every ten years the representation from each province in the House of Commons is to be changed or readjusted by a rule which, for all practical purposes, is essentially the same as that of the United States. Of course we have not the little addition of the allowance for the three-fifths of the slave population which they have; but decennially we are to take the population of the several provinces, and by a rule in all essentials common to the two systems, we are to declare how many representation districts are to be allowed to each province.
Now, the result of that system must be that we can have no lasting constituencies for the future House of Commons. These representation districts cannot be kept to correspond with our municipal, business or registration districts, or with our districts for representation in our provincial legislatures. We are to have a set of special, shifting districts for the mere purpose of electing our Federal House of Commons. I must say that this principle is not, from a British point of view, a sound one. (Hear, hear.) What we ought to do is, to try to establish in this country of ours a set of representation […]
- (p. 492)
[…] districts as permanent and as closely coinciding with our territorial divisions existing for other purposes, as circumstances will allow us to have them; subdividing or otherwise altering them, or erecting new ones, only as occasion may be found to require.
George-Étienne Cartier [Montreal East, Attorney-General East]—We will do that for the local parliaments.
Christopher Dunkin [Brome]—Perhaps so, and perhaps not. That distinction, however, is just what I complain of. We are to change our districts for purposes of representation in the local parliaments, if we like, but not unless we like. These subdivisions of our provinces may thus, in the main, be permanent. But for representation in the Federal Parliament we are, at each of these decennial periods, to have a general readjustment of the whole country, so as to divide each province anew into its due number of aliquot parts. This is an innovation on our usages, greatly for the worse. It goes to destroy that character of reality, convenience and stability which—if our system, as a whole, is to have such character—had need be maintained to the utmost extent practicable, in respect of our constituencies and of our minor territorial delimitations generally. This changing every ten years brings together electors who have not been in the habit of acting with each other. In England they do nothing of this sort; they do not change their limits lightly. The several bodies of men who send representatives to the Imperial House of Commons have the habit oil so coming together, as bodies not likely to be broken up. We ought to keep this as an element of our Constitution, but it is carefully eliminated from it.
William McDougall [Lanark North, Provincial Secretary]—I am sure the honorable gentleman does not wish to build up an argument on a misconception of the resolutions for the purpose of misrepresentation. I am sure that he must have observed this fact, that it may, and probably will often happen, that there will be no change as to the number of members or electoral districts, and there certainly will be none if the increase of population in Lower Canada keeps pace with that in Upper Canada, and therefore the evil he complains of will not occur unless there be some different rule of increase from that which has prevailed heretofore.
Christopher Dunkin [Brome]—If any one imagines that the population of the different provinces is going to increase upon any thing like the same rule, then I differ from him. I believe there will be a very much more rapid rate of increase in some provinces than in others; a divergence between them in this respect, of the same kind, and perhaps, even to the same degree as in the case of the United States. There, in the old states, at every decennial revision, the number of representatives lessens, and in the new states it increases, and that rapidly. It is only in the comparatively few states which may be said to be neither old nor new that it remains about the same. The rule is one opt change, for the country everywhere. Any escape from change is the exception. And with us, those provinces which shall be found to increase faster than Lower Canada, as some certainly will be, will re-divide their whole territory every ten years, in order to increase their number of districts; and those which increase slower will do the same, in order to cut some of.
Even Lower Canada, to meet the varying rates of increase of its several parts, will be drawn into doing the same sort of thing. I shall be told, no doubt, that this need not be—that mere partial changes here and there may be made to answer the end; but I know that in the nature of things it will be, that such partial changes will not be made the rule. The sweeping rule is laid down, in the abstract, of basing representation on mere population; and that rule is sure to be followed out—not only as between the several provinces, but also as within each; and here again, not only as for Federal, but also as for provincial legislation. For all legislative purposes, we must look to have all our territorial divisions open to frequent, one might say perpetual, reconstruction; and this subject perpetually to the disturbing influences of the party warfare of the hour. The exigencies opt that warfare, we may be sure, will tell; and whatever the party in the ascendant, whether in the country at large or locally, will find means in this part of our machinery for advancing its ends—means not quite of the sort to commend themselves to one’s approval. (Hear, hear.)
It is claimed, I know, as a merit of this scheme, that it allows a five years’ term to our House of Commons, in place of the two years’ term fixed for the House of Representatives. Apart from these decennial revisions, I would be glad of this. But five is the half of ten, I think; and though our Houses of Commons may often not last their full term, there will yet seldom or never, in all probability, be more than either two or three general elections held between any two decennial revisions. A less […]
- (p. 493)
[…] satisfactory arrangement, if one is to think of our House of Commons at all treading in the footsteps of its great namesake, I confess I can hardly imagine. There everything favors that combined steadiness and variety of local influences upon the representative machinery which is at once characteristic of, and essential to, the British system, and without which neither public parties nor public men can act or last as it requires they should. Here everything is to be allowed to tend in precisely the opposite direction. Nor is this all.
At home, while the constituencies are wisely kept as lasting as they can be, the members they return are all held members of the one House of Commons, as little distinguished by the English, Scotch, Irish or Welsh location of their constituencies as they well can be. Here, again, this United States system which we are asked to copy, is the reverse, and the reverse of sound judgment. The House of Representatives is an aggregate of state delegations, and our mock House of Commons is to be an aggregate of provincial delegations. Each man is to come to it ticketed as an Upper or Lower Canadian, a New Brunswick, a Nova Scotia, Newfoundlander, a Prince Edward Islander, or what not. These distinctions, which, if we are to be a united people, we had better try to sink, we are to keep up and exaggerate.
The system will do that, and but too well. There is, however, one marked contrast as to this, between the system of the United States and that proposed here. In the United States, for the House of Representatives, the system is at least sure to work, whether for good or evil. Theirs is a true Federation. Its founders took care, when, with the foresight of statesmen, they arranged the details of their constitution, to frame it so as to work in all its important parts, and with that end they lilt it mainly to the several states to work out the arithmetical rule laid down for these decennial revisions, giving them such powers as to make sure that the thing intended would be really and punctually done. I thought when I read these resolutions first, that it was, of course, the intention of their framers to adopt that system here; but we are now authoritatively told that it is not so. The General Parliament is alone to do the whole work of these re-divisions of the constituencies throughout the provinces. But, suppose that for any cause, such as readily may suggest itself—under pretext of alleged incorrectness of a census, or without pretext—it should fail to discharge this duty promptly, or should discharge it in a questionable way, or not at all—what then?
Is the Imperial Parliament to reserve a right of interference in such case; or is the doctrine broached the other night by the Attorney General for Lower Canada [George-Étienne Cartier], as to its power to revoke our constitutional charters, to be acted on? I should fancy not. But why, then, pretend to ask the Imperial Parliament to do so weak a thing as to lay down for us a bad rule for all time to come, merely that we may follow it or not, as in our wisdom or wisdom we may please? Well, then, Mr. Speaker, I turn next to our Legislative Council—too little like the House of Lords, to bear even a moment’s comparison in that direction. It must be compared with the Senate of the United States; but the differences here are very wide. The framers of this Constitution have here contrived a system quite different from that; and when we are told (as it seems we are) that the Legislative Council is to represent especially the Federal element in our Constitution, I do not hesitate to affirm that there is not a particle of the Federal principle about it; that it is the merest sham that can be imagined. (Hear, hear.) To show the contrast. The Senate of the United States consists of just two senators, freely chosen by the Legislature of each State of the Union.
George-Étienne Cartier [Montreal East, Attorney-General East]—And sometimes by the Governor.
Christopher Dunkin [Brome]—That does not in the least touch what I am saying. I say that the Senate consists of just two senators from each state, who are freely selected by the legislature of each state. It is true that in case of any casual vacancy power is given to the Governor of the state to fill up such vacancy until the next meeting of the legislature of the state. But it is the legislatures of the several states who regularly elect these senators from each, for a stated term of six years, and subject to an arrangement lord their retiring in such rotation as never to leave any state unrepresented. Well, sir, the Senate of the United States, thus constituted of two picked men from each state, and presided over by the Vice-President or by one of themselves, freely chosen by themselves, have devolved upon them the important judicial function of impeachment. Even the President of the United States may be impeached before them for treason or […]
- (p. 494)
[…] malversation in office. They have a large share of executive power also; sitting in secret session upon all treaties and upon most appointments to office, that is to say, upon all appointments of the more important kind. There are appointments which the President may make without their concurrence; but as a rule, there are no important appointments which he can so make. Every treaty and every important appointment must go before them, and may be disallowed by them. They further exercise coordinate legislative functions, as to expenditure and taxation, with the House of Representatives. From all these circumstances combined, the Senate of the United States is, I believe, on the whole, the ablest deliberative body the world has ever known. As to men of third and fourth rate importance finding their way there, it is hardly possible. The members of the Senate, almost without exception, are first or second-rate men. There are no small men among them. (Cries of “Yes! yes!” ) Well, Mr. Speaker, there is certainly no proportion of small men, comparatively speaking.
George-Étienne Cartier [Montreal East, Attorney-General East]—It is a question at this moment as to the relative averages of the House of Representatives and of the Senate. I heard it discussed when I was in Washington.
Luther Holton [Chateauguay]—Hear! hear!! Looking to Washington. (Laughter.)
Christopher Dunkin [Brome]—What I say is, I believe, fully borne out by constitutional writers of the highest mark—by De Tocqueville, Chevalier, and others. They say that the peculiar constitution and attributes of the Senate of the United States have made it a deliberative body of the very highest mark. And even were it doubtful whether or not in this respect it is all I have called it, at least of this there can be no doubt at all. As intended for the Federal check in the system of the United States, it is a machine simply perfect. It is a very able, deliberative body, of moderate numbers, carefully chosen on the strictest principle of federation, changing constantly, and having, on every matter of importance, a voice and veto of the most efficient kind. For stopping everything, for bringing about a deadlock—all parts of their machinery viewed together—it affords no formidable facilities; whilst for preventing anything from being done which it may be to the public interest, or to that of any number of the states, to prevent, it is as perfect as can be. Look now on the other hand, Mr. Speaker, at the Legislative Council under the proposed Confederation; what is it? There is a sort of attempt to prevent its numbers from resting on a population basis; and this is about the only principle I can find in it. (Hear, hear.)
It would seem to have been thought, that as the branch of the legislature was to be shared between the provinces in the ratio of their population, there must be some other rule followed for the Upper Chamber. So we are to have twenty-four for Upper Canada, twenty-four for Lower Canada, twenty-four for the three Lower Provinces, and four for Newfoundland; simply, I suppose, because the populations of these equalized sections are not equal, and because four is not in proportion to the population of Newfoundland. (Hear, hear.) And these legislative councillors, thus limited in number, are to hold their seats for life. They are not to be even freely chosen, in the first instance, at least, from the principal men in each section of the country.
They are to be selected, as far as possible, from the small number of gentlemen holding seats in the present Legislative Council, either by the accident of their having been nominated to them some time ago, or by the chances of popular election since; and until that panel is exhausted, no other person in any province is to be taken; and hereafter, Mr. Speaker, as vacancies occur, they are to be filled as we are now told—and this is the strangest thing of all—not by the provincial legislatures, nor by any authority or under any avowed influence of the local kind, but possibly by the General Government. And forsooth, this is called the Federal feature of our system! (Hear, hear.)
The vacancies, to be sure, in Lower Canada are to be filled by selection of individuals having or holding property in Lower Canada,—and more than that, in particular territorial divisions of Lower Canada! But are these individuals to be ever so little chosen by the people of such territorial divisions, or even of Lower Canada, or with any necessary reference to their wishes in that behalf? Bless you, no! not at all. That would go towards making a Federal body of this House! (Hear, hear.)
It might then be something of a Federal check upon the General Government, and that would never do. But suppose this should happen—and honorable gentlemen opposite must admit that it may,—that in the Federal Executive Council some one province or other—Upper Canada, Lower Canada, or any other, no matter which—either is not represented, or is represented […]
- (p. 495)
[…] otherwise than as it would wish to be. While thus out in the cold, a vacancy arises in the Legislative Council, requiring to be filled as for such province. Where is the guarantee that it will be filled on any sort of Federal principle? (Hear, hear.)
And yet, what worse wrong or insult could be put upon a province, than would be involved in the kind of selection likely under such circumstances to be made for it? Surely, Mr. Speaker, this Legislative Council, constituted so differently from the Senate of the United States, presided over by a functionary to be nominated by the General Government; having no such functions of a judicial or executive character as attached to that body, and cut off from that minute oversight of the finances which attaches to the Senate of the United States; although it may be a first-rate deadlock; although it may be able to interpose an absolute veto, for no one can say how long, on all legislation, would be no Federal check at all. I believe it to boo a very near approach to the worst system which could be devised in legislation. While the Senate of the United States is nearly perfect in the one way, our Legislative Council is to be as nearly perfect in the other way. (Laughter.)
The Hon. Attorney General for Upper Canada [John A. Macdonald], the other night, devised and stated just the cleverest defence he could, of this constitution of the Legislative Council. But what did it amount to? Nothing. He undertook to tell us, that from the ordinary course of events, the deaths to be counted on in a body numbering its certain proportion of elderly men, and so forth, the personal composition of this Council would not change so slowly as many feared. He also urged that those who thus found their way into it would boo but men after all—perhaps politicians a little or more than a little given to complaisance—but at any rate men, who would know they had no great personal hold on public confidence; and so, that they might sometimes even yield to pressure too easily, in place of resisting it too much. Well, sir, I have heard it said that every government in the world is in a certain sense a constitutional government—a government, that is to say, tempered by check of some kind. The despotism of the Grand Turk has been said to have its constitutional check in a salutary fear of the bow-string; and there may prove to be something of the same sort here.
But I confess I do not like the quasi-despotism of this Legislative Council, even though so tempered. Representing no public opinion or real power of any kind, it may hurt the less; but it can never tend to good, and it can never last. It is satisfactory for one to find that in this view I do not stand alone. This plan is condemned, not simply by the Colonial Secretary, but by the Imperial Government, as one which cannot be carried out. The Imperial authorities cannot but see that a body appointed for life and limited in numbers, is just the worst body that could be contrived—ridiculously the worst.
George-Étienne Cartier [Montreal East, Attorney-General East]—Do they say it is the worst?
Christopher Dunkin [Brome]—I say it is the worst. They say it is bad. It is condemned by Her Majesty’s Government, in diplomatic terms it may be, but in sufficiently emphatic terms. I believe Her Majesty’s Government regard it as I do—as pretty nonsensical. I know it may be said that Her Majesty’s Government, perhaps, may apply a remedy by leaving out the provision about a limited number of members.
George-Étienne Cartier [Montreal East, Attorney-General East]—That is our security.
Christopher Dunkin [Brome]—Security it is none, but the very contrary. But, Mr. Speaker, even though this should be done, or though the Imperial Act should even not state the restrictions by which it is proposed to limit the Crown in its first choice of Legislative Councillors, such remedy would be the merest palliative imaginable. The restrictions on such choice would be maintained in practice all the same; and even the limitations as to number would remain as an understood rule, to be set aside for no cause, much less grave than might suffice to sweep away even a clause of an act of the Imperial Parliament. Before leaving this subject, Mr. Speaker, let me ask the attention of the House for a few moments to the past history of Canada in respect of our Legislative Council. (Hear, hear.)
Did it not happen, as matter of fact, that the first Legislative Council of Canada, not being limited in point of numbers, being like the House of Lords in that respect—the Crown, I say, having the full choice of its members, and full control over their number—did it not happen, I say, that its members were most of them, for some time, named from one side in politics? The gentlemen named by Lord Sydenham and his immediate successors, were, undoubtedly, most respectable. There was nothing out of common course that I see about these appointments; they were party, political appointments of the ordinary kind. And under this proposed scheme the same kind of thing would naturally happen again. […]
- (p. 496)
[…] But in 1848, with a change of government, it became necessary to carry through Parliament a measure or measures to which it was well known that a large majority of this Upper House were decidedly opposed. There had to be some talking about a swamping of the House—a similar step to what was threatened once in the constitutional history of Great Britain. It was not really done. It did not need to be done, or at least, it only needed to be done in part; the peculiarity of the position of honorable gentlemen, and the impossibility of their standing out beyond a certain point, made it unnecessary to carry out the threat to extremity. But it was carried far enough to destroy their self-respect, and the respect of the public for them. It was felt that they had no sufficient status in the country; they sank in public opinion, and sank and sank until every one quietly acquiesced in the change which was afterwards made in the Constitution of the Council. (Hear, hear.)
I do not overstate the truth when I say that the Legislative Council so sank in public opinion, because there was no machinery by which public opinion could act upon it, except that of a further creation of councillors by the Crown, and there being no other way of averting a deadlock, they had to be made to feel that in case of extremity their power would not be found equal to their will.
George-Étienne Cartier [Montreal East, Attorney-General East]—That is because the number was unlimited.
Christopher Dunkin [Brome]—If the Crown had not been able to increase the number, those honorable gentlemen might have stood out against the popular demand, until a revolution had swept them away, or they might have shrunk before the fear of it; as it was, they gave way under a milder pressure. (Hear, hear.)
George-Étienne Cartier [Montreal East, Attorney-General East]—There is a central power in all things. There is a centrifugal force and a centripetal force. Too much of either is dangerous, and what is true in the physical world, is true also in the political world.
Christopher Dunkin [Brome]—Certainly. But I do not see that that has much to do with the remarks I am just now offering. (Hear, hear.) I say the elective Legislative Council was rendered necessary, in the opinion of the country, by this unfortunate state of things, even though the system then in existence was not so bad as the system now offered for our acceptance. There was then the power constitutionally given to the Crown to augment the numbers of the Legislative Council, so that the gentlemen constituting that body could recede before the determined expression of the public will, as gracefully as did the House of Lords on the memorable occasion I have already alluded to. Had that House not yielded in those days of the Reform Bill, even the Crown of Great Britain might not have escaped the consequences of a bloody revolution. That House might have been constitutionally omnipotent, but its physical was not equal to its constitutional capacity. What is it that is proposed to be given to us here? A body not at all weighty in the influence of its members, and which, it is said, will have to shrink from the exercise of its prerogatives. I do not know whether it will or not.
But I had rather not give to a body of men limited in number—though even so little weighty in the community—an absolute veto on all legislation, for so long as the Almighty may be pleased to continue them in life. I think a much better system could be devised—nay, I am sure of it. At all events, here is this proposed body, which, we are told, is to be Federal, but which is not to be so. We are told it is to be a constitutional check, but it is not to be that either. It is rather, I take it, a cleverly devised piece of dead-lock machinery, and the best excuse made for it is, that it will not be strong enough to do near all the harm it seems meant to do. Her Majesty’s Government condemns it. It may not be necessary that we should say with very marked emphasis how we join in that condemnation. (Hear, hear.)
I have then shown, I think, Mr. Speaker, as regards our House of Commons, that we have not reached perfection; and that, as regards our House of Lords, we have not come near it. I pass on to the Executive. Here, too, there is to be a very wide difference between our proposed system and that of the United States. To begin, they have an elective president, chosen for a short term; with all the evils, therefore, of frequent presidential elections, aggravated by the president’s allowed capacity for reelection. No doubt, we avoid these; our Viceroy, or Governor General, is not to be elective. Nobody proposes that—I do not think anybody ever did propose it. And the authors of this project have, therefore, no great right to take credit for this, any more than for their unasked offer to continue Her Most Gracious Majesty upon the throne, or in other words, create her Queen of British North America, by the grace of the Quebec Conference! (Laughter.) This, however, Mr. Speaker, by the way. What is more important […]
- (p. 497)
[…] to notice in this connexion, is the marked distinction on which I have already touched, between the United States system, which devolves in part upon the Senate—and our system, which devolves not at all upon the Legislative Council, but wholly on the Executive Council, the duty of advising and aiding the head of the Government in the discharge of his executive functions. As I have said, in the United States the Senate has large executive functions.
George-Étienne Cartier [Montreal East, Attorney-General East]—Without responsibility for their advice. We have responsibility, and in that respect our system is better.
Christopher Dunkin [Brome]—My honorable friend says “without responsibility.” I rather think not. Take the case of a senator from Massachusetts or New York. I rather think he will feel himself very distinctly responsible to the state he represents. He is not responsible to the whole people of the United States, nor is the Senate, as a whole, collectively responsible. But each senator is particularly and personally responsible to his own state, and acts under a sense of that responsibility. (Hear, hear.) Take the case which occurred a number of years ago, when President Jackson named, as Minister to the British Court, Martin Van Buren, afterwards his successor in the presidential chair. A majority of the Senate disallowed that nomination. Did not the senators who voted for or against that nomination, do so under a weighty, practical responsibility? Every man of them did. They voted in the view and under the sanction of that responsibility; and some of them had to pay for the exercise of it. And so they do, all along. (Hear, hear.)
This, however, is a digression into which I have been led by the remark of my honorable friend. I return to the line of argument I was pursuing. What I am just now shewing is, that in respect of the constitution of the executive power, this scheme urged upon our acceptance differs toto coelo from the system in operation in the United States. I shall consider presently the question of its advantages or disadvantages. In the United States, as is admitted, the Senate does a certain part of what we undertake here to do by means of a Cabinet. The Federal check so exercised by the Senate renders unnecessary, for any Federal purpose, the existence of a Cabinet. Indeed they do not want a Cabinet for any purpose at all. It is not of their system. But here, with our chief magistrate not elected, we must have one. And yet, how are we to make it work, engrafted on a system which, in its essentials, is after all more American than British? This is what I have now come to. I have to ask honorable gentlemen opposite how they are going to organize their Cabinet, for these provinces, according to this so-called Federal scheme? (Hear, hear.)
I think I may defy them to show that the Cabinet can be formed on any other principle than that of a representation of the several provinces in that Cabinet. It is admitted that the provinces are not really represented to any Federal intent in the Legislative Council. The Cabinet here must discharge all that kind of function, which in the United States is performed, in the Federal sense, by the Senate. And precisely as in the United States, wherever a Federal check is needed, the Senate has to do Federal duty as an integral part of the Executive Government. So here, when that check cannot be so got, we must seek such substitute for it as we may, in a Federal composition of the Executive Council; that is to say, by making it distinctly representative of the provinces. Well, I must say that this sort of thing is utterly variant from, and inconsistent with British practice and British principle; with the constitutional system which makes the whole Cabinet responsible for every act of government. The British Cabinet is no Cabinet of sections, but a unit.
In illustration of the view which I am anxious to impress upon the judgment of the House, let me revert for a moment to our Canadian history. I can only look forward to the future by the lights given me by the past. The union of the Canadas, consummated in 1841, was a legislative union. There was nothing in it savouring ever so faintly of Federalism, unless it were the clause which declared, and quite unnecessarily declared, that there should be an equal representation in the Legislative Assembly of Upper and Lower Canada respectively. If the Union Act had merely distributed the constituencies in such a way as to give equality of representation to Upper and Cower Canada, it would have done for practical purposes all it did. But besides doing this, it quite uselessly added in terms that the numbers were to be equal—subject always, however, by a strange anomaly, to our declared power thereafter by legislation of our own to disturb that equality, if we pleased.
Well, sir, when an Executive Government had to be first organized for Canada, Lord Sydenham was obliged to call into his Cabinet certain officials whom he found in Upper and […]
- (p. 498)
[…] Lower Canada respectively, and he did so without observing any rule of equality as to their numbers. Indeed, until 1848, equality in the representation of the two sections of the province in the Cabinet was never seriously aimed at. In 1848, from considerations of a peculiar character—perhaps more personal than political—the usage was commenced, and it has since been persevered in, of having a Premier and a sub-Premier, and a Cabinet organized tinder them, respectively, in two sections—of course equal in numbers, or as nearly so as possible. And on this usage and in connection with it have developed themselves all those double majority and double ministry notions and practices which again of late have so constantly been leading us into all manner of constitutional difficulties. (Hear, hear.)
It has been found again and again impossible to constitute a satisfactory ministry of two sections; because one or other of the two sections, if they came together on any basis of real political agreement, was so very likely not to be able to command a majority of its sectional representation in this House. It was, practically, a division of the House, as well as of the Government, into two sections—practically, all but a government by two ministries and with two Houses. We did not quite admit, to be sure, that there were two ministries; although, by the way, at one time—I refer to the time of the first proposed vote of want of confidence in the Macdonald-Dorion ministry—a motion was on the point of being made—notice of it was given—which positively did speak of a Lower Canadian ministry as contradistinguished from an Upper Canadian ministry.
I go into this to show that already, in Canada, the force of circumstances has been one too many for us, and has inflicted upon us a system more complex—less workable—than obtains in England. With us, as at home, the Constitution makes the whole Ministry, collectively, responsible for all the acts it performs; but it is well known that here, for all practical purposes, we have for years had our Ministry acting by two sections—each section with a chief of its own, to a large extent a policy of its own, and the responsibility of leading and governing a section of this House of its own. (Hear, hear.)
We have been federalising our Constitution after a very new and anomalous fashion ever since 1848, and by that, more than by anything else, have been getting ourselves into that sort of difficulty in which we have latterly found ourselves. (Hear, hear.)
And now, Mr. Speaker, I just want to know how this proposed scheme is going to work in this respect? As we have seen, it starts with a principle, as to the election of the House of Commons, which must involve the arraying on the floor of that House, not of a set of members of Parliament coming there to judge and to act each for the whole of British North America, but of a certain fixed number of Upper Canadians, a certain fixed number of Lower Canadians, a certain fixed number of Nova Scotia’s, of New Brunswickers, of Prince Edward Islanders, of Newfoundlanders, of Red River men, of men from Vancouver’s Island, of British Columbia men, of Saskatchewan men—each to act therefor his own province. (Hear, hear.)
If we ever get all these territories laid out into provinces, we are to have just so many sections, numerically most unequal, upon the floor of this House, and the only abiding distinctions between members will be those represented by the territorial lines between their provinces. The Legislative Council, we have seen, will not be the check which these sections will require. The Executive Council has got to be that check, and in the Executive Council these sections will have to reproduce themselves. Apart from the provinces or vast territory to the west of us, we shall thus have our six such sections on the floor of the Commons House, with their six corresponding sections in the Executive Council, and six parliamentary majorities to be worked together, if possible, while hitherto we have found our two sections and two majorities one too many. Our constitutional difficulties, I repeat, are referable to that very practice, and so it is proposed that we should try a system three times—and more than three times—more complex still. (Hear, hear.)
That cleverest of politicians who, for two or three years running, under such a system, shall have managed to carry on his Cabinet, leading six or more sections in our Commons House, six or more sections in the Legislative Council, and, forsooth, six or more local parliaments and lieutenant-governors, and all the rest of it besides—that gaited man who shall have done this for two or three years running, had better be sent home to teach Lords Palmerston and Derby their political alphabet. The task will be infinitely more difficult than the task these English statesmen find it none too easy to undertake. (Hear, hear.)
George-Étienne Cartier [Montreal East, Attorney-General East]—There will be no difficulty.
Christopher Dunkin [Brome]—The hon. gentleman never sees a difficulty in anything he is going to do.
- (p. 499)
George-Étienne Cartier [Montreal East, Attorney-General East]—And I have been generally pretty correct in that. I have been pretty successful. (Hear, hear.)
Christopher Dunkin [Brome]—Pretty successful in some things—not so very successful in some others. The hon. gentleman has been a good deal favored by accident. But I am not quite certain that I believe in the absolute omniscience of anybody. (Hear, hear.)
But now, if this Executive Council is to have in it, as I am sure it must have, in order to work ft. all, a representation of the different provinces, all or nearly all of them, let us look for a moment at what will have tad be its number. There are two ways of calculating this—two sets of data on which to go. Either we must go upon what I may call the wants of the component parts, or we may start from the wants of the country as a whole. Suppose, then, we start from the wants o the different provinces. I take it that no section of the Confederation can well have less than one representative in the Cabinet. Prince Edward Island will want one; Newfoundland, one.
A difficulty presents itself with regard to Lower Canada. On just the same principle upon which Lower Canada wants, for Federal ends, to have a proper representation in the Executive Council, on that same principle the minority populations in Lower Canada will each want, and reasonably want, the same thing. We have three populations in Lower Canada—the French-Canadians, the Irish Catholics, and the British Protestants In other words, there are the Catholics, and the non-Catholics, and the English-speaking and the non English-speaking, and these two cross lines of division cut our people into the three divisions I have just indicated Well, if in a government of this Federal kind the different populations of Lower Canada are to feel that justice is done them, none of them are to be there ignored.
The consequences of ignoring them might not be very coo fordable. Heretofore, according to general usage, the normal amount of representation for Lower Canada in the Executive Council has been six seats out of twelve. Of those, four may be said legitimately to belong to the French-Canadians, one to the Irish Catholics, and one to the British Protestant class. Everyone is satisfied that that is about the fairest thing that can be done. There have been times when these proportions have varied. There have been exceptional times when the British Protestant population has had to put up with a Solicitor-General out of the Cabinet, and has done so with no very loud complaint. There has never been a time, I think, when there was not an Irish Catholic in the Cabinet. There have been times when the number of French-Canadians has been less than four, and there was then much complaint. Six members—four, one and one—are just about what you must give to please each section of Lower Canada.
Well, sir, if there are to be six for Lower Canada, there must be six or seven for Upper Canada, and you cannot very well leave less than three each for Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, and, as I have said, one each for Newfoundland and Prince Edward island; and thus you have an Executive Council of twenty or twenty-one members, besides all we might have to add for other provinces; and this, I rather think, is a little too many. The thing could not be done; for so large a Cabinet could never work. Suppose then, on the other hand, that we start with the idea of limiting the number of our Executive Council to meet what I may call the exigencies of the country as a whole. Eleven, twelve or thirteen—the latter, as an hon. member observes, is an unlucky number—will be as many as we can possibly allow. Of this number one, as before, will be wanted for Newfoundland and one for Prince Edward Island. If one is wanted for each of the little provinces, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia will be sorely discontented unless they get, at least, two apiece; and neither Lower Canada nor Upper Canada will be contented with the three left for each of them.
And for Lower Canada, in particular, how will anyone divide this intractable figure between her French, Irish and British? Shall we give them one apiece, and ask the French-Canadian element to be content with one voice in a cabinet of a dozen?—or, give that element two, without satisfying it—so leaving out either the Irish or the British, to its intense disgust?—or, give the preponderating element the whole, to the intense disgust of both the others? It will be none too easy a task, sir, I think, to form an Executive Council with its three members for Lower Canada, and satisfy the somewhat pressing exigencies of her creeds and races.
George-Étienne Cartier [Montreal East, Attorney-General East]—Hear! hear!
Christopher Dunkin [Brome]—The Hon. Attorney General East [George-Étienne Cartier] probably thinks he will be able to do it.
George-Étienne Cartier [Montreal East, Attorney-General East]—I have no doubt I can. (Laughter.)
- (p. 500)
Christopher Dunkin [Brome]—Well, I will say this, that if the hon. gentleman can please all parties in Lower Canada with only thieve members in the Executive Council, he will prove himself the cleverest statesman in Canada.
George-Étienne Cartier [Montreal East, Attorney-General East]—Upon whose authority does the hon. gentleman say there will be only three?
Christopher Dunkin [Brome]—The hon. gentleman has evidently not been listening to my line of argument, and I do not think that, to enlighten him, I am called upon to punish the House by going over it all again. (Hear, hear.) What I say is, that if the number of the Executive Council is fixed according to the wants of the country as a whole, and not to what I may call the local wants of the several provinces, there will be in all some eleven, twelve or thirteen members; and you will have a number so small in proportion to the various interests to be satisfied, that it will be extremely difficult to avoid serious trouble in the matter of its local distribution. On the other hand, if you give all the localities the number they had need have, on local grounds, the Council will be too large to work. It will be practically impossible to meet the needs of all the provinces; and yet, none can be left out in the cold, on pain of consequences. (Hear, hear.)
George-Étienne Cartier [Montreal East, Attorney-General East]—When the matter is brought to a test, the hon. gentleman will see that he has aggravated the difficulty.
Christopher Dunkin [Brome]—Sidney Smith once said of a leading Cabinet minister at home, that he would be willing at the shortest notice, either to undertake the duties of the Archbishop of Canterbury or to assume command of the Channel fleet. (Laughter.) We have some public men in this country who, in their own judgment, have ample capacity for assuming the responsibility and discharging the functions of those two high posts, and perhaps of a field marshal or commander-in-chief besides. (Renewed laughter.)
George-Étienne Cartier [Montreal East, Attorney-General East]—I would say, that although I do not feel equal to the task of commanding the Channel fleet or filling the office of Archbishop of Canterbury, I do feel equal to the work of forming an Executive Council that will be satisfactory to Upper and Lower Canada, as well as to the Lower Provinces. (Hear, hear, and laughter.)
Christopher Dunkin [Brome]—Well, it will require, in my opinion, something more than bold assertion, and capacity for a hearty laugh, to overcome the difficulty that will some day or other be presented. (Hear, hear.) And now. sir, I come to speak of the relations to subsist between this Federal power and the different provinces, as compared with those between the United States and the different states. Again, the comparison has to be made much more with the United States system than with that of Great Britain; although, unfortunately, perhaps, there is in this part of the scheme some confusion of inconsistent features of the two systems. Great Britain has not yet, in any true sense of the term, federated herself with any of her colonies. She just retains a nominal supremacy over them.
John Scoble [Elgin West]—It is a real supremacy.
Christopher Dunkin [Brome]—No; it is only nominal as regards its exercise. It is not real in the sense of amounting to a substantial, practical exercise of power over the colonies. For these nearly five and twenty years past, I call to mind no legislative act of ours disallowed by the Home Government.
An Hon. Member—Yes, there was one—Mr. Hincks’ Currency Act.
Christopher Dunkin [Brome]—Well, I believe that was. But in that case we got our own way in effect directly afterwards. I am referring more particularly, of course, to what may be called the conduct of our own domestic affairs. There is no mistake but we have had given to us by Great Britain a control practically unlimited over our own affairs; she lets us do what we like, while professing to retain a perfect nominal supremacy over us. She appoints our Governor General, but when he comes here, he does what we want, not what she may want. She can, if she likes, disallow all our statutes; but for all practical purposes she never does. She may, if she chooses, alter or repeal the Charter of our liberties which she granted to us, but she never thinks of doing such a thing, and we know she will not.
Well, here in this proposed Constitution—looking to the relations which are to subsist between the Federation and the provinces—in lieu of a real Federation, such as subsists between the United States and the different states, we find an attempt to adopt to a considerable extent the British system of a stated supremacy, not meant to be in fact the half of what it passes for in theory. But, however such a system may work as between Great […]
- (p. 501)
[…] Britain and her colonies, it by no means follows that it admits of extension to this ease. If the vaguely stated powers of our so-called Federation are to be merely nominal, they will be insufficient; if not nominal, they will be excessive. Either way, the United States idea of an attempted precise statement of the powers meant to be given and used, is the true one. What, then, is the system adopted in the United States, as regards these relations between the Federal power and the several states? There are two leading principles, and very sound principles, that pervade it.
In the first place the United States, by its Constitution, guarantees to every state in the union a republican form of government; by which is meant a Constitution, in the main, analogous to that of the United States—an elective executive, an elective second branch, an elective popular branch—the whole without what we here call responsible government. This is what everybody understands as the republican system. Accordingly, just the same sort of thing in principle and in all its great outlines as the Constitution of the United States, is the Constitution of each separate state of the union. And in the second place, along with this uniformity in principle and outlines between the Constitution of the United States and those of the different states, there is established a veil exact system of what I may call limited state autonomy. The state, within its certain range of subjects, does what it likes, and is as free to act as the United States; it has its own functions, and within the limits of those functions nobody controls it. The United States have their special functions also, and within the range of those functions can, in turn, control everything.
The respective judiciary systems of the state and of the United States, are further so contrived as to be the most perfect check that can well be imagined to secure the smooth and steady working of this Federal national machinery. It is a complex piece of machinery, if you will; there are many delicate parts in it, one depending nicely upon another; but, upon the whole, it has worked pretty well for many years, and may go on working pretty well for many more.
George-Étienne Cartier [Montreal East, Attorney-General East]—But the judges are elected.
Christopher Dunkin [Brome]—Does the hon. gentleman mean to tell this House that the principle of elective judges forms a part of the constitutional system of the United States? Why, sir, an elective judiciary is a mere excrescence of quite late growth, and has not fastened itself on the system of the United States at all. It is not even as yet adopted by nearly all the individual states, but only by some of them. It is an excrescence which the founders of the United States system never, I fancy, thought of, or in all human probability they would have expressly provided against it. (Hear, hear.) But now, sir, what is the system we are going to adopt according to these resolutions? What are the relations to be established between our general and local governments? We are told to take for granted that no clashing of interest or reeling need be feared; that the Federal union offered us in name will be a legislative union in reality. Yet, whoever dislikes the notion of a legislative union is assured it will be nothing of the sort.
Now, sir, I do not believe that you can have all the advantages of these two systems combined in one. (Hear, hear.) A Legislative union is one thing; a Federal union is another. The same system cannot be both at once. You cannot devise a system that shall have all the advantages of the one and of the other; but it is quite possible that you may devise one that will combine the chief disadvantages of both, and the it is, I fear, pretty much what this system does. (Hear, hear.) Let me first take one feature of the scheme, or, I might say, one absence of a feature from the scheme—the non-provision of anything like provincial constitutions. We are not told about them; they are kept back completely in the dark; it is part of the scheme that we are not to know what it means them to be. (Laughter.)
It is part of the scheme, too, from all appearance, that they may not be at all alike. For anything I can see, Nova Scotia will have a right under this scheme to devise a system of responsible government, with a cabinet and two branches of the legislature. New Brunswick, if it pleases, may have only one legislative body, with or without responsible government. So may the Prince Edward Island people have anything they like; and the people of Newfoundland may do what they like, and so may we in Canada. Lower Canada may even have a constitution of one kind, and Upper Canada one of a totally different kind. There may be no two of our six or more local constitutions framed on the same model. (Hear, hear.)
It seems to be meant that these constitutions shall be as varied as the people of the different provinces may see fit to make them; […]
- (p. 502)
[…] nay, there are even left to the people of the different provinces the same large powers for amending them afterwards. To be sure there is the grand power of disallowance by the Federal Government, which we are told, in one and the same breath, is to be possessed by it, but never exercised.
George-Étienne Cartier [Montreal East, Attorney-General East]—The presumption is, it will be exercised in case of unjust or unwise legislation.
Christopher Dunkin [Brome]—The hon. gentleman’s presumption reminds me of one, perhaps as conclusive, but which Dickens tells us failed to satisfy his Mr. Bumble. That henpecked beadle is said to have said, on hearing of the legal presumption that a man’s wife acts under his control:—”If the law presumes anything of the sort, the law’s a fool—a natural fool!” (Laughter.) If this permission of disallowance rests on a presumption that the legislation of our provinces is going to be unjust or unwise, it may be neared; but under that idea, one might have done better either not to allow, or else to restrict within narrower limits, such legislation. If the promised non-exercise of the power to disallow rests on a presumption that all will be done justly and wisely in the provincial legislatures, the legislative power is well given; but the there is no need, on the other hand, for the permission to disallow. (Hear, hear.)
I repeat, this system, or no-system, aims at nothing like uniformity between the general and local constitutions, or between the local constitutions themselves; and in this respect, it is essentially at variance witch the much wiser system adopted in the United States. It further allows of no real autonomy; in fact, the only trace of uniformity it can be said to have about it, consists in its disallowance of all autonomy to the provinces (Hear, hear.) Now, let me take up those few features that undoubtedly are given to us, as characterizing our provincial system. Wide as we have seen the latitude is which the provinces may take in framing their constitutions, there are a few matters as to which the system lays down an iron rule. There is the appointment of a lieutenant-governor which is to be vest end in the General Government.
It is not said in so many words that he is to be a colonist, but I think it may be taken for granted that he will be. It is not very likely that we shall get any right honorable gentleman or eminent statesman, from home, to come out here for an appointment of that kind; and I take for granted, therefore, that the General Government will always nominate Mr. Somebody or other, of local distinction, to this office of lieutenant governor. An hon. gentleman opposite, (I beg his pardon for noticing his gesture,) seems never to have had the thought cross his mind, that perhaps if he were named to it, there might be a doubt in some quarters as to his entire fitness for it. (Hear, hear.)
But seriously these lieutenant-governors thus selected, are all to hold office by a very peculiar tenure. They are not to he removable except by the Federal power; nor by it within the term of five years, except for cause, which cause must be stated in writing, and laid before both branches of the Federal Parliament. For five years, therefore, they may be said to hold office during good behaviour.
They are to be paid, too, by the Federal power. They are to exercise the reprieving and pardoning power, subject to such instructions as they may receive from the General Government from time to time. And they are to have the initiation, by message, of all money bills, and the power to reserve bills for approval of the Federal Government. They are to have these leading functions of the nominated lieutenant governors under our system, but with one most marked difference—the attribute of non-removability.
Beyond these few points, the resolutions leave us all at sea. Save as to these, they leave room, as we have seen, for the widest divergences of constitution. To be sure, I gather one hint mere, not from the resolutions themselves, but from the dispatch sent along with them to the Colonial Secretary, by the Governor General, and this is, that according to the view of our Canadian Government, the provincial legislatures had better be framed on the one chamber principle. I presume this will hardly be gainsayer by the honorable gentlemen who have laid the dispatch before us, and which supplies this feature that we cannot find in the resolutions themselves. Says the dispatch:—
For the purpose of local administration, it is proposed to have in each province an executive officer, to be appointed by the Governor, and removable by him for cause to be assigned, assisted by a legislative body, the constitution of which it is proposed to leave to the decision of the present local legislatures, subject to the approbation of the Imperial Government and Parliament.
But, sir, whether our local legislatures are to be of one house or two, or however otherwise […]
- (p. 503)
[…] any of our provinces may experiment, in the way of variation, in framing their constitutions, at least there must everywhere be some attempted approach, in principle, to one or other of the two great divergent systems—the British on the one hand, with its responsible Cabinet—the American, on the other, without. That you cannot work the problem on the former of these two plans, I will show presently. For the latter, Mr. Speaker, in the States, it is always carried on with two elective houses, never with one, and with an elective governor; and all are chosen for terms that are not long.
It could not be made to work otherwise. An appointed governor, holding independently, for a term not short, and above all, with only one House, is an experiment as new and unpromising as need be. For a moment, before going further, I revert to the principle on which the Federal Executive is to be constituted. We are promised there a cabinet, responsible after the British model, and strangely and anomalously as we have seen that it will have to be organized, in sections to represent our provinces, we must understand that the British principle of its joint responsibility is to be and will be carried out. But it is of the essence of responsible government, that with its responsibility such government should have power. No ministry can be answerable for the entire government of a country, unless it has the power to control in some way or other, and to the requisite extent, the course of affairs. If we are going to build up or suffer in the country any power too strong for it to deal with, it will cease to be responsible.
It must be able to overcome opposition, and that in a constitutional manner. Yet, according to this scheme, independently of and besides all the difficulties our section ally-organized Federal Cabinet will find in dealing with its sectionally-organized Federal Legislature, it is to have these provincial governments also, to embarrass it. Let these last be what you will, responsible or republican, or some of than the one and some the other, so soon as they begin to act for themselves, so soon you have gore powers in action that cannot long move together without clashing, and yet neither of whinier can overcome the other, unless by practically destroying it, or in other words, by revolution. (Hear, hear.) Whether we adopt one system or another, we must create the proper machinery for carrying out whatever system we adopt. And the plain truth is, that the Federal system is simply inconsistent with the first principles that must prevail in a properly organized British responsible central government. (Hear, hear.)
Indeed, aside even from Federalism, the British system and the republican are antagonist in principle; neither of them will work mixed up with the other. You must be content with one or other, and must not commit the folly of attempting any new, untried, mongrel system, or compound of the two—such as nobody can show to be capable of being worked at all. And now, Mr. Speaker, let us just follow out the course of our distinguished fellow-colonist who is trying to govern some one of our provinces under this proposed amalgamation of the two systems.
We will suppose him a most admirably fitted person for the post, the functions of which heist called upon to exercise; but he must necessarily have one or two causes of incapacitation, so to speak, for it.
When Her Majesty appoints a governor to come out to Canada, or any other colony, she is presumed by every one hers to have named somebody holding a good position at home, and somebody against whom no one in the colony can have any ground of dislike. He comes with a social rank and status presumably higher than that of the people whom he is here to meet with and govern. Every one is disposed to recognise in him the representative of Her Majesty; and he has every chance of maintaining himself in that pleasant attitude—that of administering his government to the satisfaction, so far as such a thing is possible, of all parties. In adopting the views of his constitutional advisers, he is not called upon to give up any views which he may himself be thought to entertain.
He can express to the people’s representatives the views of his Cabinet, whether they be conservative or reform, or even though they be conservative this session and reform the next, without any sacrifice of position, no matter what his own political views may have been in the Mother Country. But suppose any of our politicians, whether of this province or of any other in the Confederacy, say Canada, Newfoundland or Nova Scotia, to be assuming this rôle of lieutenant-governor in any of our provinces. He has this disadvantage to begin with; he has to that moment been passing through that ordeal of abuse under which every prominent public man in this country must have suffered before attaining any distinction whatever. […]
- (p. 504)
[…] (Hear, hear.)
When a politician, Mr. Speaker, in the United States, who is obnoxious to the ill-will of any large body of the people, is there elected to be Governor of his state, the halo of his election surrounds him with a something of political glory that throws into shade any stains on his political reputation. But if the governors of the several states of the American Union were appointed from Washington, do you think the people would put up with the results of such appointment, as they now do with those of their own choice; when they might feel that the man was even a despised, dishonest man, and his appointment as well an insult as a wrong? Who does not know that our chief public men of all parties have been so assailed, as to be held at this moment at a painfully low value by the large section of our people who have differed from their views?
I do not say that they have deserved this fate, but the fact is undeniable that they have met it. Let any one of our dozen or twenty most prominent Canadian politicians be named Lieutenant-Governor of Upper or of Lower Canada, would not a large and powerful class of the community in either case to be governed, be very likely to resent the nomination as an insult? Do not tell me that we are entering upon a new era, that all such things are passed away, that we are to have a political millennium, by virtue of this Confederation? Come what may, we are going to have pretty sharp contests for place and power in the future as in the past.
No matter over what colony appointed, or from what colony coming, a lieutenant-governor will have hard cards to play, and will have very much to put up with from the people over whom he is set, on this mere score of his past political exploits. And he will not find it easy, either, to get along without exciting a good deal of ill feeling, as he goes. He has been known as a politician, and will be held to be favorable or unfavorable to this or that party in the province he governs. He will have stepped into po it ion [sic] as a statesman of the Confederation.
No man so placed will be able to blot the record of his past, or deny his participation in this, that and the other proceeding, which his opponent may choose to brand as perhaps next to criminal; how then will has be able to hold that position of equilibrium between political parties, which, if he is not to fail utterly in his rôle of governor, he must maintain? He will be suspected, watched, attacked, vilified; must stick by friends and punish enemies; cannot win respect, esteem and sympathy, as a stranger might. Nor will he be free from another source of embarrassment. I incline to think there will be a sort of distinction between the two classes of politicians to grow up under our proposed Confederation.
There will be those who will aim at and get seats in the Federal Legislature, and who may be denominated the senior or higher class of our politicians. It will be from this class that men will get into the Federal Executive Council, into high-caste judgeships, lieutenant-governorships, and other high places of the new system—”the chief seats in the synagogue.” The lower seats, with their less tempting prizes, will be left to the junior or lower class of our politicians. But if anything ever so little like responsible government is to be carried out in the provinces, while the lieutenant-governors must be taken from the former of these two classes, the members of any cabinets or quasi-cabinets that they may have (not to say their provincial Premiers even, very likely), must be taken from the latter class. Do you mean to tell me that a governor chosen from among our politicians, of what I may call high caste, will put up with much of control from a lot of politicians of low caste, sitting at his sham council board or forming his sham legislature?
I fancy he will want to have—and will be held by his people to be wanting to have—a vast deal more of power than they will like, or than tiny system ever so little free can allow of. And meantime, what of the power behind, and nominally above him—the Federal Executive—with its Premier, sections, and what not? Once named, he is likely to feel every inch a governor; might perhaps run round to the Premier and Ministry that had named him, and tell them in effect, though probably not in so many words: “I am here and you are there. I shall be careful not to give you sufficient cause for so bold a step as my dismissal, but there is a good deal I can do. I am here for five years; and your tenure of office is less certain.”
How may be drawn into this attitude by differences growing up between himself and them. Or, the Federal Cabinet may so change its composition or policy as to force such attitude upon him. Why, Mr. Speaker, you may have a Lieutenant-Governor—say of Lower Canada—in open quarrel with the Premier who named him, or with a successor of such Premier; the two, may be, not speaking in the streets! He has […]
- (p. 505)
[…] his seat for five years, and the unfortunate Federal Premier, his supposed master, whose views do not agree with his, may—
A Member—Whistle! (Laughter.)
Christopher Dunkin [Brome]—Yes, may whistle—may find his Lieutenant-Governor counter-working him in Parliament, in the Provincial Legislature, everywhere; and perhaps, in the encounter, may catch a very ugly fall. (Laughter.)
Mr. Speaker, let me once again make reference to Canadian history. Just before the union of the Canadas, and after it, the late Lord Sydenham, who was certainly not a fool, thought he would try a political experiment. I believe he made no secret of its being, to his own mind, an experiment, nor yet of the fact that he did not suppose it would so far succeed as to last long. He was very anxious to introduce into Canada a municipal system. Well, he tried first to get such a system embodied in the Union Act; but he failed in that. He afterwards got his enactment passed as he wished, for Lower Canada, by the Special Council, and for Upper Canada by the Canadian Parliament at its first session.
That system had in it certain features of this scheme now proposed for our Confederation. Each municipal district was to have its warden appointed by the Governor General, and to have its elected district council, or little legislature of one chamber. The powers of that little legislature, or large municipal body, were well stated. There was no mistake as to just how far it could go. The power of disallowing by-laws passed by it, and also that of nominating the warden, were carefully reserved to Government. And, mind you, my Lord Sydenham did not make the blunder of letting his wardens hold otherwise than during pleasure. He kept in his own hands all needed control over them; and, by the way, he kept, too, what was most material, the power of dissolving any refractory council, in the hands of Government.
The whole thing was nicely arranged, and was meant to work, and Lord Sydenham probably thought it would work for some few years, and that then the districts would outgrow the system, and elect their own wardens and pass their by-laws freely. But, Mr. Speaker, the plan never did work at all, neither in Lower nor in Upper Canada; and the first thing done by the next Parliament was to sweep it all away—nominated wardens and power of disallowing by-laws together. Everybody saw and felt that it was a real power and not a sham, that was so reserved to Government. And so it will boo in this case. Your Lieutenant-Governor will be felt to have a real power, not a sham one. What your petty districts would not put up with five and twenty years ago, your provinces will not put up with now. Is a larger illustration wanted?
One comes readily to hand. The Imperial Government used once to try the experiment of sending out governors to colonies having representative institutions, without instructing them to pay due deference to those institutions, and it led to a most lamentable failure. (Hear, hear.) Are we going to try to work, in all these provinces, a worse system than that which, when, worked from the Colonial Office at home, resulted in what Lord Durham well called “constituted anarchy?” If we are, how long may we count on putting off the conflict of authority that shall end in a complete crash of the entire fabric? (Hear, hear.)
But, Mr. Speaker, I have not come to the crowning difficulties of this case, even yet. Not at all. Between the states of the United States, as I have already stated, while there is an essential identity of constitution, there is at the same time a carefully distinct aspiration of powers and functions. I do not say that the dividing line is drawn exactly where it should be, but that there is a distinct dividing line, no one can gainsay.
But how do we stand here, Mr. Speaker, as to the attributes of Our own provincial legislatures and government, on the one hand, and those of the Federal power on the other? Do we follow American example, and give so much to the union and the rest to the provinces; or so much to them, and the rest to it? Either rule would be plain; but this plan follows neither. It simply gives us a sort of special list for each; making much common to both, and as to much more, not showing what belongs to either. I cannot go now—it is impossible for me at this hour of the night to go—into detail on this head. I can give no more than some few specimens; and I take first the three subjects of the fisheries, agriculture, and immigration.
These three subjects are equally assigned to the General Legislature on the one hand, and the Provincial Legislature on the other. It is provided by the 45th resolution, that in all such cases, wherever any statutes of the general and local parliaments clash, those of the General Parliament shall override those of the local. So that in these matters of the fisheries, agriculture and immigration, either the local legislatures must not legislate at all, or if they do […]
- (p. 506)
[…] the General Legislature may at any time undo anything they may have done. One can easily foresee any amount of clashing of authority in such cases. Fishery regulations of all sorts—bounties perhaps; the thousand questions affecting agriculture. Or to take just one that suggests itself as to immigration; one province wishes, perhaps, to encourage immigration of a certain kind, say, for instance, from the continent of Europe. It is a legitimate wish; but the Federal Legislature may, perhaps, in the varying shifts of public opinion, adopt a different policy, and reverse all that the province may have done. To what end give powers to the local parliaments which may thus be taken away at any moment by the Federal Legislature? (Hear, hear.)
But, Mr. Speaker, there are a hundred other cases as to which I could satisfy the House, had I time for doing so, that more or less of this confusion arises. Take the subject of marriage and divorce for one—a subject on which there is a great deal of local prejudice and feeling, and into which even religious convictions largely enter. That matter is given to the General Legislature. But on the other hand the larger matter, civil rights—of which this of marriage and divorce, from one point of view, forms a mere part—is given to the local legislatures. I turn to another matter, haphazard—the subjects of railway legislation, of railway incorporation, and of railway amalgamation. What Legislature has power in these matters under this scheme? I am not sure that there are not here as nice a lot of pretty little questions as one would desire to see in a summer’s day. And I am not alone in the matter of this criticism. Her Majesty’s Colonial Secretary expresses an opinion, rather diplomatically, it is true, but still an opinion on this point; and what does the Colonial Secretary say?—
The point of principal importance to the practical well-working of the scheme, is the accurate determination of the limits between the authority of the central and that of the local legislatures in their relation to each other. It has not been possible to exclude from the resolutions some provisions which appear to be less consistent than might, perhaps, have been desired with the simplicity of he system.
But, upon the whole, it appears to Her Majesty’s Government that precautions have been taken which are obviously intended—[“intended;” he does not say “calculated”]—which are obviously intended to secure to the Central Government the means of effective action throughout the several provinces, and to guard against those evils which must inevitably arise if any doubt were permitted to exist as to the respective limits of central and local authority.
It is perfectly plain from this that Her Majesty’s Government could see that whatever may have been the intention, there has been a good deal of short-coming between it and the execution. (Hear, hear.) A thing is not done by being merely intended. I will take now a criticism on the same point from the London Times. In an article most eulogistic of these resolutions on the whole, the writer in the London Times says—”But the most important clause in the whole resolutions, and unfortunately by no means the easiest to understand, is the one which defines the powers of the Central Federal Legislature.” He then quotes the words of the resolutions, and goes on to say:—
It is exceedingly difficult to construe these provisions. First, general powers of legislation are given in the widest terms to the General Parliament; then a power is given especially to make laws on thirty-seven subjects, one of those being all matters of a general character not exclusively reserved to the local legislatures. Nothing is exclusively reserved to the local legislatures, and it would seem, therefore, that the effect of this clause is to cut the power of central legislation down to matters of a general character—a most vague and unsatisfactory definition, and one sure, if it be retained, to produce conflict and confusion. In the same way, what are matters of a private and local nature not assigned to the General Parliament?
We have failed to discover any matters of a private and local nature which are so assigned, and therefore the power will be limited by the words “private” and “local,” so that the effect of these clauses will be that, beyond the subjects attributed to each, the? Central Legislature will have jurisdiction over genial matters, whatever they are, and the Local Legislature over local matters, whatever they are; while it is in the highest degree doubtful what the courts would consider general and what local, and whether the Central Legislature has any consonant jurisdiction over private and local matters or no.
The writer in the Times goes on to say—and I have great respect for the opinions of these writers when they criticise what they understand, though I have none whatever for them whey they take it upon themselves to tell us what we know a good deal better than they:—
These inaccuracies are probably the result of a succession of compromises, and we can do no better service to the federative movement than by thus early pointing them out. The resolutions ask for the co-operation of the Local and imperial Parliaments for the purpose of giving them effect, and we have no doubt that before they assume the form of law they will have under […]
- (p. 507)
[…] gone consideration and scrutiny fully commensurate to their importance.
I rather think this writer had little idea of what we were to be asked to do! He little thought that there was not a word of alteration to be allowed; that these resolutions were to be laid before Parliament, and that Parliament would be required to swallow them at once, defects and all. (Hear, hear.)
Well, Mr. Speaker, I have stated what, in diplomatic phrase, are the views of Her Majesty’s Government, and I have a’s read those of the leading journal; and now I desire to quote a few expressions from the last number of the Edinburgh Review. The Edinburgh Review is about as good an authority as can be cited on a question of this kind, for its articles are never lightly written.
John Sandfield Macdonald [Cornwall]—It is the organ of the Liberal-Whig party in Great Britain.
Christopher Dunkin [Brome]—Certainly, it is a most important and influential publication; and there are a few words that I desire to quote from an article it contains on this subject. The article is in the last or January number of the Review, and purports to be in commendation of this scheme. After giving the words of the resolutions themselves on the subject, and especially their residuary legacy, if I may so call it, to the General Legislature, of all matters of a general character not specially and exclusively reserved for the local parliaments, this probably not undistinguished writer remarks—”Obviously very loosely expressed; for what are matters of a general character, and who is to decide whether a matter is of a general character or not? * * We should prefer to the foregoing enumeration of the powers of the Federal Parliament, a simple declaration that all powers are given to it except those expressly reserved to the several members of the Confederation.”
And in another part of the same article, reverting to the same subject, we have these words—”And although the distinction attempted to be drawn between general and local matters is in some respects scarcely traceable in the draft minutes of the Conference”—Yes, sir, so this writer calls them, their looseness of expression evidently leading him to take them for something far short of the solemnly drawn treaty they are now set up for,—though this distinction, says he, is hardly traceable in these draft minutes, “the object they had in view is sufficiently clear and intelligible.” Perhaps so; or perhaps that object was little more than to give people to understand that somehow or other the General Government and Parliament were to have great power, and the provincial governments and parliaments none too much. Any way, the idea is very like that of the Colonial Secretary’s despatch, and the two run rather to the tune of the left-handed compliment paid Slender, “I think my cousin meant well.”
John Sandfield Macdonald [Cornwall]—Quote the concluding part of the article.
Christopher Dunkin [Brome]—I shall do so before I sit down, if my strength allows me to complete my argument. I pass now to another matter, as to which further capacities for conflict are very well laid out for us. In the framing of the United States Constitution they did not forget to provide for a district of Columbia, for a territory within which the power of Congress and the General Government was to be perfectly and unmistakably supreme for all purposes. And they did not forget to declare that the powers, legislative and otherwise, of the Federal authority, were to boo complete over all the vast territories belonging to the nation, and over all its smaller properties, such as forts, arsenals, dockyards and the like. We have nothing of the kind here; and, at least as regards the seat of Government, this is not a mere forget. We find it stated that “The seat of Government of the Federated Provinces shall be Ottawa, subject to the royal prerogative.”
It is distinctly laid down as a part of our system that the royal prerogative, the right to change the seat of the Federal Government at will, is to be maintained. But I venture to say that the maintaining of that right is simply inconsistent with the practical working out of a Federal system. And this is a matter involving a good deal of anomaly, as honorable gentlemen will see when they begin to think of it. The Governor General or Viceroy, the all but king of this Confederacy, with his all but Imperial Government, and all but Imperial Legislature, constituted no matter how, resident within the territorial jurisdiction of a subordinate province!
The police of the Federal capital, not Federal but provincial! That thing won’t do. The framers of the Constitution of the United States knew it would not do, and therefore they were particular to give power to their General Government to acquire and hold and control and legislate for, in all respects, as they liked, a territory within which they could reign and rule and have no subordinate authority over them. We have not got to Ottawa yet, but suppose the seat of Government were in Ottawa—perhaps woo may yet get it there—it might so […]
- (p. 508)
[…] happen that some Honorable Premier of the Federal Administration may not be on speaking terms with the Lieutenant-Governor of Upper Canada; or at least, there may be between them the most decided, thorough, unmistakably proclaimed antagonism of views and feeling. It is easy to imagine that a Premier in that position, and a Lieutenant Governor in that position, could between them make a Viceroy very uncomfortable; and that the result might be the bringing up of a great many ticklish questions for adjudication by the various authorities. It is clear there is a defect here, which might lead to plenty of trouble. But it is said—”Oh I there won’t be any trouble; men are in the main sensible, and won’t try to make trouble.” Well, sir, if this is so, if there is this general disposition to be sensible, and make things work well, I just want to know how we come to have had lour crises in two years? (Hear, hear.)
There is another matter, intimately connected with this, to which also I must pass on. I said a little while ago, that the United States system was one of exceeding skill as regards the constitution of the judiciary. De Tocqueville, and every other writer who has treated of the United States, has awarded it this praise; and they are right. Each state has its own judiciary; and the United States have theirs; and the functions of the two are most carefully laid down, so that no serious trouble has ever arisen from their clashing. The judiciary of the United States is undoubtedly the most conservative and strongest bulwark of their whole system. (Hear, hear.)
What then are we going to do on this head? Just as we have forgotten all about difficulties where the seat of government is concerned, so here. We are not quite sure whether we are going to have any distinctively federal judiciary or n3t. There is a power given to have one—there may be one; but we are expressly told that perhaps there will not be. But what are we told on the other hand? Oh, there is no doubt whatever, according to the resolutions laid before us—no doubt whatever—that whether we have a Federal judiciary or not, the provincial judiciaries are to be a sort of joint institutions. And a very curious kind of co-partnership the Federal Government and the provincial governments—the Federal Legislature and the provincial legislatures—are thus to have in the judicial institutions of the country, generally. All the courts, judges, and other judicial officers of the provinces are to be, for all manner of federal purposes, servants of the Federal Government. There is an old saying, “No man can serve two masters.”
But all these unfortunate courts, and ash their officers, and specially all their judges, must serve two masters, whether they can or not. All the Superior Court judges—and, in Upper Canada, the judges of the County Courts—are to be named and paid by the Federal authority, and are only to be removable by the Federal authority, on a joint address of the two Houses of the Federal Parliament. But, on the other hand, the provinces are to constitute the courts—(hear, hear)—are to say what their functions shall be—what the number of the judges—how they are to perform their functions—are to give them more work or less—to make their work pleasant or disagreeable, high work or dirty work, as they like. (Hear, hear.)
In this way they can wrong a judge just as much as they please; the only check on them being the power of the Federal Government to disallow their legislation. The Federal Government, forsooth, names the judges, and pays them, and alone can remove them. Does that take away the power from the local parliaments and governments, the power to change the constitution of the court, to change it in. the way most distasteful to those judges, to legislate away the court altogether, to legislate down its functions in such a manner as may drive the judge to resign? And woo are told there will be no clashing! (Hear.)
I have no doubt the Hon. Attorney General East [George-Étienne Cartier] thinks he could manage courts on this system; could have one authority constituting the courts and another naming and removing the judges, and have the system work harmoniously. He may think so. I do not. I am satisfied if ever the scheme is tried, it will be found that it will not work. Human nature is human nature; and here is a first-rate lot of matters to quarrel over, and to quarrel over seriously. Why, there is even a special refinement of confusion as to criminal matters. Criminal procedure is to be federal; civil procedure, provincial; criminal legislation, proper, is to be federal; but with a most uncertain quantity of what one may call legislation about penalties, provincial; civil rights, in the main, provincial; but with no one can tell how much of federal interference and over-ruling, and all with courts provincial in constitution, but whose judges hold by federal tenure and under federal pay. I pity the poor man who is at once a criminal judge and a civil judge. Between the clashing of his masters and the clashing […]
- (p. 509)
[…] of his book authorities, he had better mind what he is about, with the painful doubt rising at every turn whether provincial legislation may not be overridden by federal legislation.
His province may well have legislated on what it holds a local matter, while the Federal Parliament may have legislated on it, thinking it a federal matter. Anywhere there may well be some bit of federal legislation contradicting something in a local statute. And do our resolutions gay that the federal statute shall always override the local statute? No, only in cases where there is concurrent jurisdiction. And yet our judge who is to decide these nice questions is paid by one power and removable by that power, and may have his functions taken away and be persecuted to the death by the other. He will have a bad time of it. Well, Mr. Speaker, I have so far been dealing with matters, nearly all of which may be said to be general to every part of this great Confederacy; but now I must ask the attention of the House for a few moments, to some sources of misunderstanding which may more particularly make trouble, unless human nature ceases to be human nature within this Canada of ours.
There are in Canada, and especially in Lower Canada, the two differences of language and faith; and there is no doubt that the real reasons which have rendered, or are supposed to have rendered necessary this plan of a sort of Federal Government, are referable to this fact. This machinery is devised, on purpose to meet a possible or probable clashing of races and creeds in Canada, and particularly in Lower Canada.
Now, in the United States, when their constitutional system was adopted, the framers of it must have foreseen, of course, that controversy would arise on the subjects of state rights and slavery. There was a jealousy between the small states and the large, and the commencement of a dissent between the Northern and the Southern States of the republic. There was undoubtedly a foreshadowing of trouble on the subject of slavery, though, by the way, slavery was to all appearance dying out rapidly in the Northern States, not so rapidly in the Southern.
How, then, did the framers of that Constitution undertake to deal with these foreseen troubles, these questions of state rights and slavery? Sir, they did all they possibly could to keep both out of sight—to bury them—that they might not rise up in the future to give trouble. It is true that in so doing they but buried the dragon’s teeth, and that these, all buried as they were, have yet since sprung up, armed men; but so far as they could, they kept them down, kept them from growing, prevented recognition of them at that time and for long after. Well, how are we going to carry out this scheme of ours? Are we burying, or are we of set choice sowing our dragon’s teeth? Are we trying to keep our difficulties out of the way, to bury them out of sight, that we may smooth our way for the future lessening of them? I think not. On the contrary, we are setting ourselves as deliberately as we well can to keep up the distinctions and the differences which exist among us, to hold them constantly in everybody’s sight—in the hope, I suppose, that while everybody is looking at them intently, somehow or other no one may see them at all. (Laughter.)
In the United States, be it remembered, they started with their states sovereign and independent. From that they went into their system of confederation, which was a great improvement; and from that they went on into their present federal-national constitution. At each step they were moving to limit state rights, and also, indirectly, the extent and influence of slavery. It is true they did not altogether succeed in this policy, but their want of success has been mainly owing to circumstances over which they could exercise no control. We in Canada, for the last twenty-five years, have been legislatively united, and we have worked that union in a federal spirit.
We complain that, as a result of this, the distinctions which exist among us have become so prominent—the truth being, that it is rather this proposed change which is suddenly bringing them into startling prominence—we have worked that union, however, I say, in a federal spirit, and it is said to have produced or aggravated a certain state of feud amongst us; and now, for the purpose of perpetuating this state of feud, we are going to effect a professedly Federal union which is even expressly recommended to us, or to many of us, as meant and calculated to be so worked as to amount, for all practical purposes, to disunion, Under it Lower Canada has all sorts of special exceptions made, as the phrase runs, in her favor.
The Legislative Council is to be named in a peculiar manner, so far as its members from Lower Canada are concerned. The other provinces may have their laws made uniform, but an exception in this respect is made for Lower Canada, and as if to make it apparent that Lower Canada is never to be like the rest of the Confederation, it is carefully provided that the General Parliament may make […]
- (p. 510)
[…] uniform the laws of the other provinces only—that is to say, provided those provinces consent to it, but by inference it cannot extend this uniformity to Lower Canada, not even if she should wish it. Supposing, even, that the other provinces were to desire to adopt our Lower Canadian system, according to the letter of this Constitution, one would say they cannot do it. They may become uniform among themselves, but Lower Canada, even though her people wore to wish it, must not be uniform with them. Again, as to education, exceptions of some sort are to be made in Lower Canada, and indeed in Upper Canada too, though no one can tell to what extent these exceptions are or are not to be carried. Thus, in one way and another. Lower Canada is to be placed on a separate and distinct footing from the other provinces, so that her interests and institutions may not be meddled with. I say this system, as a whole, and these peculiarities and exceptions in regard to Lower Canada, are adopted with a special view to remedy our Canadian difficulties of race and creed.
But, sir, this is no way at all of avoiding or lessening trouble from this cause. It is idle to pretend that by this system collision is going to be prevented. Under the legislative union of the Canadas, even worked as it has been, the tendency of the minorities in Upper and Lower Canada, respectively, has been towards the maintenance of the union—towards the avoidance of all intemperate language and prejudiced feelings—towards the pulling down of the feuds that before divided them and the respective majorities. And the result has been, that while just before the union the feud between the races in Lower Canada was at its highest and bitterest point, it has since then all but disappeared. The complaint of Upper Canadian politicians has been that they could not set the British and French races in Lower Canada by the ears, thrift they could not get the former, either as British or as Protestants, to join with them in a crusade against the Lower Canadian majority.
Alexander Mackenzie [Lambton]—Who made that complaint?
Christopher Dunkin [Brome]—I do not say that it has been said in words, but it has been in spirit.
Alexander Mackenzie [Lambton]—No, no. (Hear, hear.)
Christopher Dunkin [Brome]—Yes; the complaint has been made, perhaps not in that particular form, but certainly in that spirit. The British of Lower Canada have been again and again told they were worse than their French neighbors, for not casting in their lot with the people of Upper Canada. (Hear, hear.)
Well, Mr. Speaker, undoubtedly, before the union, Lower Canada, as I have said, was the place where the war of races was at its height; and that war of races did not nearly cease for a number of years after. But the strife did very gradually lessen, and a better and more friendly feeling has for some time prevailed, in both camps. Indeed, there has been a more tolerant state of keeling in both camps, than in any other community so divided as to race and creed, that I know of. But the moment you tell Lower Canada that the large-sounding powers of your General Government are going to be handed over to a British-American majority, decidedly not of the race and faith of her majority, that moment you wake up the old jealousies and hostility in their strongest form.
By the very provisions you talk of for the protection of the non-French and non-Catholic interests, you unfortunately countenance the idea that the French are going to be more unfair than I believe they wish to be. For that matter, what else can they well be? They will find themselves a minority in the General Legislature, and their power in the General Government will depend upon their power within their own province and over their provincial delegations in the Federal Parliament. They will thus be compelled to be practically aggressive, to secure and retain that power.
They may not, perhaps, wish to be; they may not, perhaps, be aggressive in the worst sense of the term.—I do not say that they certainly will be; but whether they are or not, there will certainly be in this system the very strongest tendencies to make them practically aggressive upon the rights of the minority in language and faith, and at the same time to make the minority most suspicious and resentful of aggression. The same sort of alienation, as between the two faiths, will be going on in Upper Canada. Note of warning is already given by this scheme, to both parties, that they prepare for fight; and the indications, I regret to say, are that such note of warning is not to be given in vain. (Hear, hear.) The prejudices of the two camps are once more stirred to their depths; and if this scheme goes into operation, they will separate more […]
- (p. 511)
[…] and more widely, and finally break out into open war, unless, indeed, it shall work very differently from what any one can now imagine. If provincial independence is to be crushed down by a General Government careless of local majorities, then you will have this war. Or, if our the other hand, the policy of the Federal Executive should be to give effect to the aggregate will of the several local majorities, at whatever sacrifice of principle, still then you will have this war. The local minorities—threatened with elimination, in their alarm and jealousy, will be simply desperate, ready for any outbreak of discontent at any moment.
Take a practical case. Suppose the rule adopted, of not having an Executive Council inconveniently large, Lower Canada, as we have seen, can then only have three members of it; and if all these three are French-Canadians—as they almost must be, because the French cannot put up with less than three out of twelve—how will not the Irish Catholics and the British Protestants feel themselves aggrieved? You cannot help it. They must in that case feel deeply aggrieved, and so feeling, they will cause troubles. The Irish Catholics will be told, I suppose, “Oh, you will have an Irish Catholic member of the Government to look to from Newfoundland;” and if so, they will have to guide themselves by some sort of Irish-Catholic Newfoundland rule of policy, and not by any rule ever so little savouring of a regard for larger or higher principle.
The British Protectants, in their turn, will be told: “You have a majority of your own tongue and faith from Upper Canada and the Lower Provinces; you must be content with that, and look to their members of the Government lord such care us you may need in the matter of your affairs.”“Oh, we must, must we?” will be the answer; “then we will square our conduct, not by any rule for British America or even Lower Canada, but by the shifting exigencies of prejudice or passion, whatever they may be, in Upper Canada and your Lower Provinces.” (Hear, hear.)
These discontented elements in Lower Canada, depend upon it, will create no small confusion; and among those thus driven into making trouble, there will be not a few whose preferences will even be American, and who will appeal to outside influences for protection. Such will be the legitimate effect, of this system; and if any one tells me that it will be conducive to the peace and good government of this country, I say he prophecies in a way that I cannot understand.
Thank God, Mr. Speaker, I do not need, as I stand here, to defend myself from any charge of bigotry as against any sect or party. There was a time in Canada when it was most difficult for any person who spoke my tongue to stand up and say that the French-Canadians ought not to be politically exterminated from the face of the earth. I stood out steadfastly against that doctrine then. I remember well the painful events of that sad time. I foresee but too distinctly the fearful probability there is of that time coming again, through the adoption of these resolutions. And I do not shrink from the danger of being misunderstood or misrepresented, when I now stand up here and warn the country of this danger. If trouble of this sort ever arises, it is one that will extend very rapidly over the whole Confederacy. In all parts of it, in every province, there are minorities that will boo acted upon by that kind of thing. In the Lower Provinces, and in Newfoundland, things are but too ripe for the outburst of hostilities of this description. Talk, indeed, in such a state of things, of your founding here by this means “a new nationality”—of your creating such a thing—of your whole people here rallying round its new Government at Ottawa. Mr. Speaker, is such a thing possible?
We have a large class whose national feelings turn towards London, whose very heart is there; another large class whose sympathies centre here at Quebec, or in a sentimental way may have some reference to Paris; another large class whose memories are of the Emerald Isle; and yet another whose comparisons are rather with Washington; but have we any class of people who are attached, or whose feelings are going to be directed with any earnestness, to the city of Ottawa, the centre of the new nationality that is to be created? In the times to come, when men shall begin to feel strongly our those questions that appeal to national preferences, prejudices and passions, all talk of your new nationality will sound but strangely. Some other older nationality will then be found to hold the first place in most people’s hearts. (Hear, fear.)
Mr. Speaker, it is only right that I should state to the House that I have not reached within a long distance of the point which I had hoped to reach before sitting down; but […]
- (p. 512)
[…] I feel compelled to ask the indulgence of the House, from my strength being insufficient to bear me through. (Cheers.)
The debate was then adjourned, Christopher Dunkin [Brome] having the floor again for tomorrow.
 Despatch from Right Hon. Edward Cardwell to Viscount Monck, Downing Street (3 December 1864) from “Correspondence relative to the Canadian Confederation” in The Annual Register (London: 1864), p. 299.
 The Times [of London]. Unknown reference.
 The Times [of London]. Unknown reference.