Province of Canada, Legislative Assembly, Parliamentary Debates on the Subject of the Confederation of the British North America Provinces, 8th Parl, 3rd Sess, (2 March 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 544-584.
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THURSDAY, March 2, 1865.
Mr. Archambeault—In rising on this occasion, sir, my intention is not to occupy the attention of the House for a long time, nor to discuss the merits of the measure which is now before us. I intend merely to explain my own motives for the vote which I shall give, and this I shall do as briefly as possible. I am bound to acknowledge at once that when I arrived in Quebec, at the commencement of the session, I was opposed to the plan of Confederation, and so strongly opposed to it, that I was fully determined to vote against it.
But after a more serious consideration of the question, and after hearing the explanations which have been afforded to us of the scheme of the Government, I have arrived at the conviction that I had decided, if not wrongly, at least hastily, and that I ought not to aid in the rejection of the measure, merely because it did not quite coincide with all my opinions. After listening to the discussion, and the explanations of the members of the Administration, I perceived that the plan was one of compromise and could not, therefore, be adapted to suit all views, nor shaped even to meet those of the men who framed it.
I can understand that those persons who are opposed to any degree of Confederation, and who would rather have representation based on population or the annexation of Canada to the United States, may be opposed to the project of the Government, and reject it accordingly; but those who, like myself, are not opposed to it under any circumstances, and are capable of appreciating the necessity of it at the present conjuncture, together with the advantages it may produce to the country, ought not, cannot, I think, reject it, only because some of its details are not exactly to their mind.
It is our business first to enquire whether some constitutional changes are not necessary, and none I think will deny that they are. The political leaders of the two parties into which this House is divided, have acknowledged this as a necessity. It remains, therefore, only to consider what changes should be made. The members of the Government have decided this question, and proposed a Confederation of all the Provinces […]
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[…] of British North America. They have come to an understanding with the sister provinces, and now lay before you their scheme of a Confederation. We are not now to inquire whether all the details of the scheme perfectly agree in every point with our particular ideas, but whether the change is necessary, whether the proposed scheme is good and fit to be accepted as a whole; for, as the scheme is a compromise between different parties, whose interests are at variance with each other, the Government who now move its adoption must be held to be responsible for all its details.
Any amendment of the plan passed by this House would really be a vote of want of confidence in the Government, and you must therefore either adopt the plan as laid before you, or pass a vote of want of confidence in the present Administration. Now, I for my part am not prepared to vote a want of confidence in the men now in power. To induce me to do that, I must see in their opponents a better security for good government, and its advantages to the country, than they are able to show; I must hope to find in the latter something better than what I find in those whose measures they withstand.
So far, I do not find that they have offered, nor do I find that they now offer, such security or such hope. Far from it; if we are to judge them by their former acts, we must confess that we cannot give them our confidence, that they have displayed great want of capacity for the government and management of the affairs of the country. When they were in power, they had no decided policy, they were incapable of dealing with any important question: they lived from hand to mouth. Their acts in the Administration were stamped with a spirit of resentment and injustice towards their adversaries. They instituted commissions of inquiry, for instance, against public officers, in order to get a pretext for dismissing them and making room for their hungry partisans. Again, have they any bettor plan to propose to us than that of the Government? No! They might offer us, perhaps, representation based on population, or annexation to the United States; but I do not think such remedies would suit our taste.
In these circumstances, I have no hesitation in declaring that I shall vote for the scheme of Confederation, as presented to us by the Government, although it does not meet all my views, and does not promise all the guarantees which I should be glad to and in it, and although I do not consider it as likely, in its present form, to afford a sufficient safeguard for the interests of the different provinces, and to secure stability in the working of the proposed union. As I am not in a position to influence public opinion, so as to oblige the Government to modify their plan to suit my views, I take sides with the men who have always had my confidence, and with whom I have always acted, because I have confidence in their honesty and their patriotism. I cherish a belief that in this all-important question, which affects our best interests and our national existence and social welfare, they have been actuated by the same love for their country which has ever guided them in times past. (Cheers.)
Mr. Blanchet said—Mr. Speaker, as no one is disposed to take the floor just now, and it would seem as if all who intend to discuss this question are bent on having a large audience in the galleries, I shall take upon me to say a few words. Those who moved to have the speeches of this House printed in official form certainly did no good service to the country; for all are trying which shall make the longest speech, and I do not think it is altogether just to the public purse. Each one would speak at a particular hour, and to the ears of a certain audience; but the history of the Parliament of England shews that her great statesmen and orators did not concern themselves about that. The greatest and most important speeches were delivered in the House of Commons at a very late hour of the night; thus Fox delivered his great speech on the East India Bill at two o’clock in the morning; Pitt his on the abolition of the slave trade at four o’clock in the morning; and we should lose nothing by speaking before half-past seven in the evening. But as the honorable member for Montmorency (Hon. Mr. Cauchon) is to speak this evening, and I wish to explain my way of thinking on the question, I rise to do so.
This question of Confederation is not a new one. It has already agitated men’s minds and been a subject of debate for a great many years. Now public opinion is completely made up concerning it. I have no occasion to enter into details respecting the scheme which we have before us. It has been discussed with much more of knowledge and precision than I bring to the consideration of the subject, by the members of the Government and the honorable members on the opposite side of the House. I need not say […]
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[…] that the territory intended to be included in the Confederacy is nearly as large as all Europe, that it will contain four millions of souls, and that having confederation, we shall become the fourth power in the world in respect of merchant shipping. We have only to compare the statement of our present imports and exports with that of the United States a few years ago, and we shall find that our position is as good as theirs was. I hold in my hand a work lately written by Mr. Bigelow, at present chargé d’affaires from the American Government to the Tuileries, containing valuable statistics of the commerce, manufactures and resources of the United States, as well as of the war at present raging in that country. In the chapter devoted to commerce, he writes as follows:—
After the reorganization of the constitutional government in 1798, commerce speedily grew to vast proportions. The tonnage, which, in 1792,was 561,437 tons, had reached 1,032,019 in 1801; the imports valued in 1792 at 31,000,000 dollars (157,500,000 francs), were in 1801, 111,363,511 dollars (556,817,555 francs); the exports had in the same period risen from 20,753,098 dollars (1″3,765,490 francs) to 94,115,925 dollars (470, 579,625 francs). In 18 7 the tonnage was 1,268,548; the imports 138,500,000 dollars (692,500,000 francs); and the exports 108,343,150 dollars (541,715,7 0 francs). At that period, American commerce received a blow from which it did not recover for several years.
The measures of the English Parliament, followed by Napoleon’s decrees, issued from Berlin and Milan, and by the embargo of 1807, produced a deep stagnation in the commercial affairs of the Union, and although the amount of tonnage did not very perceptibly diminish during the fifteen following years, the imports fell in 1808 to 56,990,000 dollars (284,950,000 francs), and exports 22,430,960 dollars (112,154,000 francs). The war of 1812-16 gave employment to the shipping which would otherwise have rotted in the docks, and occasioned some clipper privateers to be built; but the trade of the country continued to decline, so that in 1814 the imports rose only to 12,965,000 dollars (64,825,000 francs), and the exports 6,927,441 dollars (34,6. 7,205 francs.) The ending of the war gave activity to commercial pursuits. In 1815 the imports reached 113,041,274 dollars (565,206,370 francs) and in 1816, 147, 103,000 dollars (735,515,000 francs); the exports of these same years were 52,557,753 dollars (262,788,765 francs; and 81,905,452 dollars (409,602,250 francs). This amount of imports, which was in excess of the requirements of the country at that time, fell the following year to 99,250,000 dollars (496,25,000 francs), and from that period to 1830, except the year 1818, the average amount of the imports did not exceed 78 millions of dollars (390 millions of francs), and the exports reached about the same amount.
Thus we find that the average amount of the imports and exports did not exceed $78,000,000 at that time. We are only a few years behind the United States in that respect. I said a moment ago that the question of a Confederation of all the Provinces of British North America was not a new one, and in fact we find that it was mooted at a somewhat remote period of the history of the country. In 1821, the leader of the Upper Canada Radicals, Mr. W. L. Mackenzie, declared that he wished with his whole heart that there could be a Confederation of the British Provinces. Ten years later the scheme became a special question of debate, and the discussion established it as a positive fact, as it will soon be an historical one. (Hear, hear.)
Other s besides the members on this side of the House are in favor of a Federal union; some incline to a Confederation of all the Provinces, others to a Federal union of the two Canadas only—all are well disposed to a Federal union of one kind or other. At the time of the crisis of 1858, the Brown-Dorion Government were to settle the difficulties then besetting us, and if I understood the meaning of one of the members of that Government, who went to meet his constituents in order that they might ratify his acceptance of a portfolio in that Administration, the remedy intended to be applied to the existing evils by that Cabinet was a Federal union of the two Canadas; but he said also that, although the policy of the Government to which he belonged was not yet clearly defined, he thought they would take up, at some future day, the question of a Confederation of all the Provinces of British North America.
That hon. member was the Hon. F. Lemieux, and he was returned by the county of Lévis immediately after making these declarations. Nearly about the same time Mr. J.C. Taché, at present Secretary of the Board of Agriculture, wrote a work which was almost prophetic of the question of a Confederation of the British North American Provinces. It is unnecessary to remark that that gentleman had acquired much experience in his travels, and much information by hard study and preserving labor, and was therefore perfectly qualified to form a judgment on the question. Mr. Taché has written a work of some length, in which he roughly sketches the scheme of a Confederation of the Provinces, […]
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[…] of which I trust the House will permit me to cite a few lines. These will show that his predictions are speedily to be realized:—
What hopes may we not be allowed to indulge respecting the material future of the immense country which includes the two Canadas, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland, Prince Edward Island, the Hudson’s Bay Territory and Vancouver’s Island, when we reflect on the wealth of a soil which is almost everywhere remarkably fertile, (except the extreme North,) on the resources which the forests have treasured up for the settler in the lapse of ages, on the immense fisheries in the Gulf, sufficient of themselves to feed the whole world with fish of the finest quality; when we consider that the whole of this vast continent offers to us, in its various geological formations mineral wealth of the most precious kinds, and that nature has arranged for us channels of intercommunication of incredible grandeur.
The fertile soil of these provinces intersected throughout their entire length by the rivers St. Lawrence and St. John, bathed by the waters of the Gulf and those of the Great Lakes, the superb forests through which flow the immense Ottawa, the St. Maurice and the Saguenay, the mines of copper bordering on lakes Superior and Huron, the iron mines of Canada, the coal measures of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, the seaports of Quebec, Halifax and St. John, the ores of all kinds dispersed throughout the provinces—all those form an aggregate of means which, if we suppose them to be turned to account by a competent population, governed by a political system based on true principles of order and liberty, justifies the most extravagant calculations of profit, the most extraordinary predictions of growth, as compared with the present state of things.
Thus spoke Mr. Taché at that period. Not satisfied, moreover, with sketching with a rapid pencil the general working of this mighty organization, he entered, in a subsequent part of his work, into details which, astonishing to say—although I have no doubt that the members of the Conference had read his work—exactly coincide with the plan now submitted to us. Accordingly, in the partition of powers between the General Government and the local governments, the scheme of the Conference is nearly word or word Mr. Taché’s work.
Hon. Mr. Dorion—The hon. member is mistaken, for Mr. Taché assigns the ascendancy and the highest powers to the local governments, whereas the Government plan assigns them to the Central Government.
Mr. Blanchet—This is what Mr. Taché says:—
These powers of the Federal Government are not, as we understand the matter, to be exercised, except as regards the following subjects, viz., Commerce, comprising purely commercial laws, such as laws respecting banks and other institutions of a general financial character, coinage, and weights and measures; Customs, including the establishment of a uniform tariff, and the collection of the revenue resulting therefrom; great Public Works and Navigation, such as canals, railways, telegraph lines, great seaport works and the lighting of the coast; Post Office arrangements, both in their entirety and in their internal and external details; the Militia in the entirety of its organization; Criminal justice, comprising all offences which do not come under the jurisdiction of the police courts and justices of the peace. Everything else connected with civil law, education, public charities, the settlement of public lands, agriculture, city and rural police, road works, in fact, with all matters relating to the family life, so to speak, of each province, will remain under the exclusive control of the respective Local Government of each one of them, as by inherent right; the powers of the Federal Government being looked upon as merely a concession of rights, which are specially designated.
I consider that under the present plan of Confederation the local legislatures are supreme in respect of the powers which are attributed to them, that is to say, in respect of local matters. In this respect it goes even further than the honorable member for Hochelaga [Hon. Mr. Dorion] himself was prepared to go in 1859, for he proposed to leave to the Federal Government the right of legislating upon the French civil laws, etc, of Lower Canada; but, as his Government was not very long-lived, I know that the honorable member for Hochelaga [Hon. Mr. Dorion] can deny all this.
Very nearly at the same time another Government addressed to the Imperial Government a memorial, in which it asked for the Confederation of the British North American Provinces; but the Imperial Government replied that it was not prepared to give a decided reply; and as there had been no agreement between the provinces, the matter remained in abeyance for the time. Thence forward no steps were taken in the matter until last year—until the crisis, with the circumstances connected with which every one is perfectly well acquainted. Different governments had been defeated, and the country was already weary of that state of affairs, when the honorable member for Hochelaga [Hon. Mr. Dorion] moved his vote of censure upon the Government in relation to the $100,000 affair, and the Government then finding itself in a minority, was compelled to seek a remedy for the existing state of affairs, and the result wan the Coalition, the Quebec Conference, […]
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[…] and finally the plan of Confederation, although he does not now choose to acknowledge his offspring. (Hear, hear.)
That conduct releases the latter from any debt of gratitude. (Hear.) It is not my intention to discuss the question of Confederation in a commercial point of view, nor in a financial point of view, nor in a political point of view, for in these several aspects it has been ably discussed by those who have preceded me. I shall confine myself to making a few remarks upon the question in respect of defence. Every one acknowledges that in order to defend a country effectually there must be unity of action, uniformity of system, and a combination of the means of defence. Without uniformity, without unity, it is impossible to make any serious attempt at defence in case of attack, and the divided country falls an easy prey to the enemy. So general is this rule that history shows us that weak nations have always united together, have always coalesced when they were attacked or were in fear of being attacked by a powerful enemy The North American colonies did so in 1775, when they wished to offer resistance to the Mother Country. They organized themselves into a Confederation, and it was in consequence of their so doing that they were able to resist what they considered as an act of oppression on the part of England. Had those colonies, instead of organizing themselves as they did, had each of them a different system of defence, and had there been no uniformity in their tactics, England would have had an easy bargain of them.
And is it to be supposed, if they had not banded themselves together, so as to possess a certain amount of strength, that they would have obtained the alliance and the assistance of France? When a feeble power is attacked by a powerful enemy, it should seek to ally itself with other states which have interests in common with it, in order that they may defend themselves in common. So far as we are concerned, if we are desirous of assisting the Mother Country in offering an effectual resistance to invasions by the American people, we ought to have unity of command, in order that we might be able to send the militia from the centre and cause them to extend towards the circumference.
In case of war with our neighbors, we should, of necessity, be compelled, by the very force of circumstances, to unite with the other provinces. That being the case, why not do so at once, in time of peace, while we have time to devote to it that calm and deliberate consideration which the importance o! the subject demands. Confederation is the sole means of offering resistance to attempts at invasion by our enemies. The Federal system is the normal condition of American populations; for there are very few American nations which have not a political system of that nature. The Federal system is a state of transition which allows the different races inhabiting the same part of the globe to unite, with the view of attaining national unity and homogeneousness. Spain, Belgium, France, and several other European countries were formerly peopled by different races, who constituted so many different communities; but they became united, they entered into confederations, and in the course of ages all the communities were consolidated into those which we now see—into everything that is held to be beautiful, noble and great throughout the whole world.
When the Federal system has been put in practice in an enlightened manner, it has always sufficed for the requirements of those who adopted it. The case of Greece has been cited by an hon. member of this House, to show the fatal nature of this system to the nations who adopted it; but he ought to know that the decadence of Greece only began from the moment when she abandoned the Federal system. The hon member for Lotbinière [Mr. Joly] sought to prove that confederations were the source of all sorts of disturbances; and in support of what he said, he read out to us the table of contents of the history of South America, in which he found a long list of échauffourées, movements, agitations, risings, civil wars and revolutions.
It is not my wish to deny the facts quoted by the honorable member, but I must say that his conclusions are not correct, and that it is not right to draw conclusions adverse to a system from merely perusing the table of contents of any work whatsoever. The history of all nations will afford tables of contents, which, if they were taken as indicating the normal and habitual condition of a people, would cause us to make strange mistakes and to draw strange historical conclusions. Even the present history of England, the history of the reign of Her Majesty Queen Victoria, might afford to a person, who was desirous of forming a judgment respecting it from the table of contents alone, some facts which might induce him to believe in the complete disorganization of […]
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[…] the British Empire; for in it he would find allusion made to the Chinese war, the several insurrections in India, the insurrectional movement in Ireland, the Russian war, the Sepoy rebellion, and a large number of other matters; but all tins would prove nothing against the prosperity of the empire under the rule of Her Majesty. (Hear, hear.)
But, without losing time over the reply which may be made to this style of reasoning, I say that it does not follow that the Federal system is impracticable, because it has not succeeded among certain people who were not in a sufficiently advanced condition for the application of the system. No constitution suits every people equally well; constitutions are made for the people, and not the people for the constitution. When a people is sufficiently enlightened and sufficiently educated and civilized, a constitution ensuring their liberty may be given them; but it is necessary to wait until they are able to appreciate and enjoy it, before giving it to them.
A free constitution entrusted to an unenlightened people is like an edged tool placed in the hands of a child; it is a dangerous instrument, with which it may chance to wound itself. Besides, certain forms of government are better suited to certain people than others. Thus, to endeavor to give the English Constitution to the French people would be to commit a great mistake, for the French people are not adapted to the working of the political institutions of England. Again, try to give the English people the French Constitution, and the English people will revolt. Before giving a constitution to a people, that people must be taught how to use it. It cannot be said that a table of contents is not history, but certainly one would not seek in that part of the volume for the philosophy of history.
Let us suppose that some one is desirous of reading the history of the Celestial Kingdom, and that on taking up the book he finds, in the table of contents, that at a certain period there was a terrible battle between the good and the wicked angels; if he shared the ideas of the hon. member for Lotbinière [Mr. Joly], he would say to himself: “This country cannot have a good government, and it is not advisable to live in it.” When a person draws historical conclusions from a table of contents, it shows that he has not derived much benefit from his who are now opposing Confederation are not agreed as to their mode of attack, any more than they are upon the means to be adopted to meet the difficulties of the position in which we are now placed. The hon. member for Hochelaga (Hon. Mr. Dorion) is in favor of Confederation of the two Canadas, and the hon. member for Lotbinière (Mr. Joly) is against any Confederation at all. They do not even agree as to their reasons for opposition.
Some are opposed to Confederation because it grants too much to Lower Canada, and others because it grants too much to Upper Canada. Yet Confederation cannot be disadvantageous to everybody, and, for my part, I am of opinion that everyone may find something good in it, if he is only reasonable in his expectations. If the hon. member for Hochelaga [Hon. Mr. Dorion] were called upon to arrange the difficulties in which the country is at present situated, I am satisfied that he would not bring forward any other plan than gome scheme of Confederation or other; and if he did not succeed with the scheme for the Confederation of the Canadas, he would try the more extended plan of a great Confederation of all the provinces. There is indeed, it is true, another remedy which would be more likely to meet the views of certain members—annexation to the United States; but I, for my part, am resolutely opposed to it, and am prepared to fight against it by every possible means, and to take up arms, if necessary, to resist it. If we are ever invaded by the United States, I shall ever be ready to take up arms to drive the invaders out of the country. (Hear, hear.)
A great outcry which is raised against Confederation is that about direct taxation. For my part, I consider that the honorable Minister of Finance (Hon. Mr. Galt) has proved clearly that we shall not require to have recourse to it. But even supposing that such should turn out to be the case, we should not be any worse off than we should be with the gentlemen on the other side of the House in power; for it is perfectly well known that the hon. member for Chateauguay’s [Hon. Mr. Holton] plan is to establish direct taxation. With them, therefore, we should not have to wait for Confederation before we got it.
The honorable members on the other side of the House have also taken occasion to find fault with the Speech from the Throne having contained an allusion to the peace and general prosperity of the country. “Why,” they say, “the Speech from the Throne states that trade is prospering, that the people are happy and contented, that the harvests have been magnificent, and that great contentment and great prosperity everywhere prevail; […]
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[…] and yet constitutional changes are proposed in order to soothe the discontent of the people and the agitation of the country.” Well! let us suppose that the gentlemen are right—for it is true that the year has not been a good one in respect of business, and it is natural that such should be the case, in view of the position of the crisis through which America is now passing, and but little else can be expected; the harvest has not been a very good one—however, allowing that these gentlemen are right, it is not the less true that we are relatively in a state of quietude and great prosperity, and it is just at the present time, when we are in a state of tranquillity and can do it in perfect liberty, that we should adopt means to settle our internal difficulties. It is not during a time of trouble or a civil war that we can do it, and therefore we ought to profit by the opportunity which is now offered us.
A Constitution will not last unless it is elaborated with the care, the deliberation and the calm consideration which can be devoted to it only in time of peace. We are now at peace with our neighbors, our friends are in a large majority, the question is known to the country and has been considered for several months past, and our duty is to do now in time of peace, what it is impossible to do in time of trouble.
We ought also to labor to enlighten public opinion on the subject of this plan of Confederation, not by appeals to its prejudices, but by free and open discussion, and by wise counsel based on that truth which should always be our guiding star. I am, therefore, disposed to vote in favor of the resolutions which are submitted to us. When I became aware that the Government were bringing forward this scheme of Confederation, I said to myself that we were about to be liberated from colonial leading-strings, and that we were about to become a people, and I expected the House would approach the question with due regard to its greatness; some hon. members have undoubtedly done so, but I regret that many others have not been able to raise themselves above the narrow considerations of party. The question has been discussed by statesmen on this side of the House at least; but on the other side it has been made a miserable question of party and of taxation. With these few remarks, I shall conclude by stating that it is my determination to vote in favor of the scheme submitted to us.—(Applause.)
Mr. Beaubien—Mr. Speaker, I do not rise to make a long speech, for I freely acknowledge that it is not in my power to do so; and besides, the question which is submitted to us has been so well discussed by those who have preceded me, and who are in a better position than myself to judge of the condition and requirements of the country, that the subject is almost exhausted. I only wish, by rising on this occasion, to record my presence at the debates which are in progress on this question, and to state in a few words what the reasons are which induce me to support this measure.
The peculiar position of the British North American colonies and their proximity to the United States, call upon them to unite together in order to form a stronger nation, and one more able to withstand the onslaught of an enemy, should it be necessary so to do, and to increase their prosperity in a material point of view. There is one fact which must not be forgotten, and which I must mention—it is that when France abandoned this country, and England took possession of it, from that moment French immigration entirely ceased and gave way to immigration of persons of foreign origin—of British origin.
From that period the English population increased from day to day in this country, and at the present time the French-Canadians are in a minority in United Canada. Under these circumstances, I am of opinion that it would be at once an act of imprudence and one characterized by a lack of generosity on our parts to wish to prevent the majority of the population of the country from displaying greater aspirations for our common country, and from desiring its advancement and more rapid progress in an onward direction, at the same time drawing closer the bonds which unite us to the Mother Country.
I have reflected on these matters, and although I am not disposed to submit to injustice to my country or my countrymen, yet I am ready to enter into a compromise with persons of other origins. I consider, moreover, that since we are satisfied with our position as English subjects, and with the Constitution which we are allowed freely to exercise, we should do all in our power to increase England’s interest in her colonies; and for my part, I consider that the means of so doing is to accept the Confederation which is proposed to us. Not long since discontent was manifested in England among a part of the commercial […]
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[…] class, in consequence of the liberty which we took of imposing high duties on English merchandize imported into this country; but the English Government did not share that discontent, I am happy to say, and did not choose to interfere. This fact, however, was of a nature to cast a chili upon the interest with which we were regarded in England; but when the news of Confederation reached England, that interest was revived, and has ever since continued to increase.
If we desire to interest England in our fate, we must draw closer the bonds that unite us to her, and we must do it by means of the Confederation now proposed to us. because that measure once carried out, she will undoubtedly put forth her whole strength for our defence if we should be attacked. Moreover, in view of the events which have recently occurred in the southern portion of this continent, if we reflect that it seems to be the policy of France and of England to establish a balance of power similar to what exists in Europe, if we consider that it is for this end that France has established an empire in Mexico, it is clear that England cannot but view with a favorable eye the movement now in progress here for the Confederation of all the British North American Provinces.
It is not at such a time as this, therefore, that England would be disposed to abandon her colonies, as it has been pretended by some. I stated, a moment ago, that we should not resist the just demands of the British population of this country, provided they do not ask anything involving injustice towards French-Canadians. If we were guilty of injustice towards them, they would complain, and propose a plan of constitution humiliating to the French-Canadians, and they would no longer entertain sentiments of esteem and consideration for us. I do not refer to this matter for the purpose of discouraging my own fellow countrymen, but because I believe it is necessary that they should take this view of the matter into account in the position in which we now find ourselves placed.
Today our position is an excellent one; we are strong as a party, we have statesmen at the head of the affairs of our country who are devoted to its interest—they have proved it again and again—and united together by the ties of interest and friendship; and above all, we have ever had confidence in those who prepared the project of a Constitution now submitted for our consideration; it is evident, then, that a more favorable opportunity could not possibly be found for effecting constitutional changes than the present circumstances afford. These men, who are surely possessed of as much diplomatic skill as the representatives of the other provinces can exhibit, will undoubtedly look after the interests of Lower Canada; and their opinion, based upon justice, will prevail with those to whom the preparation of our new Constitution is to be entrusted.
Moreover, what I have just stated is perfectly understood by every influential class in the country, by all men who help to form public opinion, who are the guides of the people, and who have hitherto managed to lead them aright, and to bring them into a safe harbor at the last. To-day these men and these influences are in favor of the present plan, and all are convinced of its necessity. But, on the other hand, what are the influences opposed to Confederation in Lower Canada? They are confined to a party which has existed for the past fifteen years in Lower Canada, and which has always been remarkable for its opposition to all measures demanded and supported by the party representing in this House the vast majority of the people of Lower Canada.
This persistent opposition to the measures of the Lower Canadian party savoured of revolution—for your revolutionist is by nature incapable of submitting to the majority; it is the same party which in other countries forms secret societies, by means of which society is thrown into disorder—and it is admitted that everywhere, in Europe as well as in America, these secret societies are composed of men who are invariably opposed to everything calculated to secure the peace and happiness of the people. Is it not true that in 1856 or 1857 a place in the Administration was offered to one of the leaders of that party by the present Attorney General [Hon. Mr. Cartier], and that an opening was repeatedly made for them, because it was thought that they were acting in good faith? Now, did they not invariably refuse the alliance offered them? And did they not even refuse to give a cordial support to the Macdonald-Sicotte Administration, which was composed of Liberal-Conservatives? And the reason was, that Administration was not exclusively composed of the democratic element.
Hon. Mr. Dorion—Who voted against that Administration, and who defeated it?
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Mr. Beaubien—It is true that the actual vote by which that government was upset was given by us, because there was in that Government an excess of the element I have just referred to, and for other reasons; but it was that party that betrayed and spurned those who had enabled them to carry their elections. (Hear, hear.)
Is that not the truth? Then, that persistent and constant opposition to everything, shows that the members of that party were inspired by passions, not to be found in the generality of men. The Conservative party has always opposed representation by population under the present union, because under this union we are face to face with the population of a country of which the products are different from ours, and of which the interests are not always identical with ours. This question was strongly agitated. The whole people of Lower Canada resisted that demand, and the whole Conservative party firmly refused to consent to it, while the other party—the Opposition party—held out hopes to those who demanded that measure, and allied themselves with them. This is a statement, the truth of which cannot be denied, for documents proving the facts exist, and have been laid before this House and the country.
This cause of dissension has always existed, and will always exist in Upper Canada, not because it is necessary to the support of such or such a party, but because it is the result of a provision of the Constitution, and because the interests of Upper Canada are not the same as ours. And if we do not affect a settlement of this question now, these dissensions will, ere long, be renewed and the difficulties increased. Here is an opportunity of removing these difficulties by uniting ourselves with the Lower Provinces; and I think Lower Canada would do well not to lose the opportunity. Under Confederation, the political parties into which the provinces will be divided will find it necessary to form alliances, and our alliance will be courted by all, so that we shall in reality hold the balance of power.
Moreover, I am quite convinced that we have no grounds for fear in that respect. I have always remarked that material interests are of great weight in the formation of parties, and the conduct of the French-Canadians, with reference to their religious institutions, never inspired any uneasiness or distrust in our fellow-countryman of a different origin from ours, when they found it their interest to form an alliance with us; and I am certain that we shall find, under like circumstances, the same disposition among the inhabitants of the Lower Provinces.
The plan proposed to us being based upon the principle of justice and equity to all, it is deserving of the support of all parties. It presents a remedy for the evils of which Upper Canada complains, at the same time that it affords guarantees for the protection of the interests of the other provinces; and inasmuch as it is founded on just bases, it will be found—more especially among a people such as that of this country, who are peaceable and well-disposed, who are, for the most part, owners of land, and have many interests to protect—it will be found, I say, that a sentiment of justice will prevail, and that everyone will do his best to promote the working of the new Constitution in such a manner as to give full satisfaction to all the parties interested.
Notwithstanding what the hon. member for Lotbinière [Mr. Joly] has said in the course of a speech, with which he himself seemed to be so intensely amused, the sound sense and judgment of the people of Lower Canada will satisfy them that they will find in the project which has been submitted to us, guarantees for all their interests and for everything they hold dear, and that the measure will meet all their wants; and on the other hand, the sound sense and judgment of the people of the other provinces will prevent them from committing any excess or any act of injustice towards Lower Canada, if the latter should happen to be in a minority, or if the alliance I have referred to should not be made.
And, moreover, as regards our being in a minority, are we not exposed to it under the present system? And I prefer facing the larger majority, since it will be less hostile to Lower Canada. As matters now stand, we should find ourselves at the mercy of the Upper Canada majority, if they wished to commie any injustice towards us; but, under the Confederation, I believe we shall have better guarantees than we now possess against any attempt at injustice on the part of the Federal Government, for the policy of England is to afford her colonies every possible reason for contentment. The hon. member for Richelieu [Mr. Perrault] has spoken of the events which occurred prior to 1837, to convince us that we have every reason to distrust the sentiments of the British population. Why refer to matters so long forgotten? The hon. member ought to know that the policy which circumstances have induced England to adopt, is no longer […]
- (p. 553)
[…] the policy which then prevailed.
Does any one believe that England would now encourage any section of the British population in doing an injustice to the inhabitants of Lower Canada? It will be said that the national life of Lower Canada is so deeply rooted, that it is impossible to destroy it; but, if we desire to secure its safety, we must accept the present scheme of Confederation, under which all the religious interests of Lower Canada, her educational institutions, her public lands, in fact everything that constitutes a people’s nationality, will find protection and safety. With the control of our public lands in our own hands, we can attract the tide of emigration, retain our own people in the country, and advance in prosperity as rapidly as the other provinces. And all this is secured to us under the plan of Confederation.
Every impartial man will admit that great care has been taken, in the drawing up of this project of Confederation, to protect all our interests. It may be true that it is not quite free from defect, but every one must acknowledge that it is the most perfect system that could possibly be obtained, and the system best calculated to afford us security. All the hon. gentlemen who have spoken on the Opposition side say that the expenses will be extraordinary, and that the revenue will not be sufficient to support the governments of the Confederation. But they base their calculations upon the revenue as it now stands, and they do not reflect that the present debt of the province has been contracted in carrying out the vast public works we now possess, and that these public works have not as yet produced a revenue, but will hereafter do so. These public works were essentially necessary for the development of our resources; and if at this moment the Minister of Finance [Hon. Mr. Galt] is able to present a budget showing a surplus of revenue over expenditure, we are justified in hoping that within a few years our revenue will be more than sufficient to enable us to meet all the expenses of the different governments, and to extinguish our present debt.
For my own part, I do not think that our expenses will be greater under Confederation than they are at present. If the Federal Government works well, our expenses will be less than they are at present, for we shall be rid of factious sectional jealousies, and the system of equivalents, which, have done so much injury to the country, and which have so greatly impeded the working of the Government in times past. It is ridiculous to fancy that the Government of Canada can continue to work and maintain itself with a majority of one or two votes in this House, as we have witnessed for some years past; for a government so placed is at the mercy of every member who has a local interest to serve, or a particular favor to obtain; and it is thus forced to grant favors which it would refuse if it were stronger. This was the cause of all the useless expenditure; and almost every one of our governments has been in that position. (Hear, hear.)
But under Confederation we may hope that the Federal Government will generally have the support of a large majority, and will consequently not be compelled to yield to the demands of a small number of members. The resources at the disposal of the local governments being limited, they will practise a degree of economy which will serve as an example to the Federal Government itself. Lower Canada, when left to herself, will become highly prosperous in a few years—and perhaps Upper Canada also—provided her expenses be kept within bounds; and I am convinced that her Local Government will be a model for the Federal Government; for men formed in the school of the Local Government, and who will be habituated to the practice of economy, will exert a salutary influence on the members of the Federal Legislature, to whom they will impart, and on whom they will impress, their ideas of economy and good government. (Hear, hear.)
It is well that the moans at the disposal of the local governments should be limited, but at the same time amply sufficient, for they must then feel that they cannot enter into too large expenditure, and they will adopt a perfect system of economy. (Hear, hear.) Before concluding I must pay a tribute of justice to the British population of Lower Canada. We have always gone along hand in hand like good friends, acknowledging each other’s rights, and each party invariably making it a rule to accede to the just claims of the other. This will be our safety also under the Federal Government.
For my part I should be sorry to see the present plan of Confederation, fail, at all events through any action of ours, for that would justly dissatisfy the British population of this country, who desire to see it carried out, and to whom we should not refuse it. We know that the British have always done everything in their power to promote the material prosperity of the country, and it is our duty to respect them and to accede to their just demands. With these few […]
- (p. 554)
[…] remarks, Mr. Speaker, I shall conclude by stating that I am in favor of the present plan of Confederation, not because I trust solely to the evidence of my own judgment, but because I see at the head of the movement the most enlightened men in the country, and because all the men of influence, all the men of property in the country, are in favor of the project. (Hear, hear.)
And I am convinced, notwithstanding all that may have been said, that the country is sufficiently familiar with the project, and that the people now know all they will ever know about it. In every parish there are men who are the leaders of public opinion, and we know that these men are in favor of this plan. We have all these influences with us, and for my part I attach but little importance to the opinion expressed at certain public meetings held to oppose Confederation, or to the petitions presented against the project, for it is always easy to obtain signatures to petitions. And, moreover, let anyone compare the signatures to these petitions with the poll-books kept at elections, and it will be found that they are the names of those who have always been opposed to everything proposed by the great national party, which has ever represented the interests of Lower Canada. (Applause.)
Mr. Dufresne (of Montcalm)—Mr. Speaker, I do not rise to speak on the question now before the House, but simply to express my surprise that after six weeks of discussion the Opposition pretend that we refuse them time to discuss the measure, and that nevertheless they refuse to discuss it during the afternoon sittings, and will only take it up in the evening. For my part, I am prepared to vote at once upon this matter, and I believe that the question is perfectly mastered and well understood by every member of this House. Why are the Opposition unwilling to speak during the afternoon sittings? Their object in speaking is to kill time, rather than to discuss the merits of the question. And why is this? Is it because they are waiting for a few more petitions, a few more names, in order to protest against Confederation? But we know the value of these petitions—we know what the Rouges are, and that they will sign any and every petition, provided it be against the Government and its policy.
The Opposition is like a sulky child; if you refuse him a plaything he cries for it, and then if you offer it to him he refuses to take it. The Confederation is in reality the plan of these gentlemen themselves, and yet today they will not hear of it; they reject it as something horrible. The country is watching them, and I hold the Opposition responsible for the loss of time we are now undergoing. If they have any reasons to advance, let them do so, but let us come to a vote. Their conduct will receive it? due reward at the hands of the people. (Hear, hear.)
[Editor’s Note: The Legislative Assembly stopped for recess.]
After the recess,—
Hon. Mr. Cauchon said—Mr. Speaker, when so many eloquent voices have spoken on the great question which occupies us so seriously, which stands preeminent over all others in the present situation, which pre-occupies all minds, which agitates to its farthest limits all British North America, which includes within its immense scope two oceans and nearly half a continent, and which is pregnant with the destinies of a great people and a great country—when the whole of the motives which can be advanced for and against the project have been so luminously discussed, when I myself have, elsewhere, at such considerable length and so completely developed, with the feeble abilities which Providence has conferred upon me, the considerations which militate for or against the entirety and the details of the work of the Quebec Conference, I might—perhaps I should—have remained a simple spectator of these solemn debates, while awaiting the hour at which I should be permitted to record my vote in accordance with my convictions.
I considered, however, that as one of the oldest representatives of the people, after having spoken elsewhere, I should speak again within the parliamentary precinct, in order to accomplish to the letter my trust, and in order to obey that voice which has a right to command me. I have therefore come this evening in order to bring my feeble tribute of ideas to the decisive ordeal which is being accomplished. For my part I should have wished for the bringing forward of fewer personal questions, fewer criminations and recriminations, fewer allusions to the past; in a word, I should have wished to see the debate rising at its very outset to the dignity of the question itself, so as to place us in a position to judge of it on its own merits, without considering the names or the antecedents of those who may defend or may oppose it; I should have wished to see the conscience of our public men in harmony with the public conscience, and that under such grave circumstances, men had forgotten that they were party men, in order to remember only their national character. (Hear, hear.) But several […]
- (p. 555)
[…] of the speakers have not appreciated the situation in this manner; they have not believed that was of such importance as to exact the development of great virtues and great sacrifices. One honorable gentleman amused himself by making jeux de mots of doubtful merit on the complexion of two pamphlets; another devoted a third of his long speech to the task of endeavoring to make his present position agree with his antecedents, and the other two-thirds almost entirely to an effort to make his opponents contradict themselves, without any regard to the question under discussion, imitating the Trojan hero of whom Virgil sings, and of whom Rousseau says:
“Pouvait-elle mieux attendre
De ce pieux voyageur,
Qui, fuyant sa ville en cendre,
Et le fer du Grec vengeur,
Quitta les murs de Pergame
Tenant son fils par la main,
Sans prendre garde à sa femme,
Qui se peidit en chemin? ”*
(Hear, hear, and laughter.) I scorn to defend here my past opinions on Confederation. I wrote from conviction in 1858, just as I have written from conviction in 1865. My two works are there—provoking discussion, and throwing down the gauntlet to those who may desire to take up. It will soon be a third of a century since I commenced to write, and if I had no other recommendation to public attention than that of being the oldest journalist in the country, appears to me that people ought, if they could, not to have allowed me to pass without asking me the reason of my present doctrines. How is it, then, that from the midst of the democratic and opposition press not a single voice has been heard against the long commentary of the Journal on the scheme of the Quebec Conference? (Hear, hear.)
Is it inability? Is that talent is wanting among this phalanx which believes itself to have been specially ushered into existence in order to enlighten and govern the country? Even if I had not written under a strong sense of duty, I should feel sufficiently strengthened by the high and disinterested approbation which greeted my humble work, to bear undisturbed the scratches and pin pricks of the honorable member for Lotbinière [Mr. Joly], and, all unworthy though maybe, I should not hesitate to place in the balance against, I will not say the episode, but the speech by which he seems to hope to arrive at the position of a statesman, to which he aspires. It is to be regretted also that the honorable member for Hochelaga [Hon. Mr. Dorion] kept himself almost constantly, during three hours and a half, in the lowest level of personal recriminations. Was he unable to raise himself to a more dignified ground, or is it the natural level of his talents and his habits?
It seems to me that the occasion required more serious debate, larger views, wiser appreciation drawn from more profound thoughts, a truer idea of the situation, greater truth in the statement of facts, greater exactness, more sequence, and more logic in the reasoning. But, instead of this, we have had a jumble of ideas and assertions, dates which give each other the lie, and a history sadly made and sadly told. The honorable gentleman challenged me, and I must accept this challenge before entering upon the consideration of the question which is now before us. The honorable gentleman (Hon. Mr. Dorion) said the other evening:—
This speech has been tortured and twisted in every possible sense. I have seen it quoted in order to prove that I was in favor of representation by population pure and simple; I have seen it quoted in order to prove that I was in favor of the Confederation of the provinces, and, in fact, to prove many other things, according to the necessities of the moment or of those who quoted it. (Hear, hear, and laughter.)
The first time the question was put to a practical test was in 1858. On the occasion of the resignation of the Macdonald-Cartier Government the Brown-Dorion Government was formed, and it was agreed between the members that the constitutional question should be met and settled, either by means of a Confederation of Upper and Lower Canada, or by means of representation by population, with checks and guarantees ensuring the religious faith, the laws, the language and the local institutions of each section of the country against any attack from the other. Pretended extracts from this document as of my speech have been given and falsified, in the press and elsewhere, to prove every kind of doctrine as being my views; but I can show clearly that the proposition which it contains is exactly the same as that which was made in 1858, that is to say, Confederation of the two provinces, with some joint authority for the management of affairs common to both. My speeches have been lately paraded in the ministerial journals; they have been distorted, ill translated, and even falsified, in order to induce the public to believe that I […]
* What conduct could she hope less flagrant
From this good, holy, pious vagrant,
Who, flying from his city’s sack,
The avenging Greek upon his track,
And leading by his hand his boy,
Fled from the walls of burning Troy?
To help his wife he would not stay:
So she was lost upon the way.
- (p. 556)
[…] formerly held opinions different from those which I now hold. A French journal has said “that I loudly called for a Confederation of the provinces.” But I shall say now, as I stated in 1856, and as I stated in 1861, that I have always been and am still opposed to Confederation. I find by the Mirror of Parliament, which contains a report of my speech, although an exceedingly bad report, that I stated in 1861—”A time may come when it will be necessary to have a Confederation of all the provinces; but the time has not yet come for such a scheme.” This was the speech which was misrepresented as meaning that I was calling loudly for Confederation, and that nothing would give me greater pleasure. And yet I explicitly stated on that occasion that although a time might come when Confederation would become necessary, it was not desirable under actual circumstances.
The honorable gentleman already admits two things with which he has been charged—representation on the basis of population, with checks, guarantees and assurances, and the Confederation of Upper and Lower Canada. We shall now see if, in extending the field of my investigations, I shall not find that the honorable member for Hochelaga [Hon. Mr. Dorion] has—to use a felicitous expression of the honorable member for Lotbinière [Mr. Joly]—occasionally enlarged the circle of his constitutional operations. Here is what the honorable gentleman stated on the 6th July, 1858; the extract is from the Globe, of which, at that period at least, he did not question the veracity:—
The honorable member for Brockville, the Honorable Postmaster General, the Speaker, and other members representing Lower Canadian counties in the present Parliament, have voted for representation by population. Before long, it will be impossible to resist the demands of Upper Canada in this respect. If representation by population is not granted now, it will infallibly obtain it at a later period, but then without any guarantees for the protection of the French-Canadians. The repeal of the union, a Federal union, representation based on population, or some other great change must in all necessity take place, and for my part I am disposed to consider the question of representation by population, in order to see if it may not be conceded with guarantees for the protection of the religion, the language, and the laws of Lower Canadians.
I am equally ready to take into consideration the project of a Confederation of the provinces, leaving to each section the administration of its local affairs, as for example the power of regulating its own civil, municipal and educational laws; and to the General Government the administration of the public works, the public lands, the post-office department, and commerce.
I now quote the Mirror, the orthodoxy and veracity of which are denied by the honorable member for Hochelaga [Hon. Mr. Dorion] and his organs. The date of the report in the Mirror is the 3rd May, 1860:—
I hope, nevertheless, that a day will come when it will be desirable for Canada to unite federally with the Lower Provinces; but the time is not yet ripe for such a project. And even if Canada should be favorable, the Maritime Provinces would not like to enter into it on account of our great debt. As to the joint authority, it ought to have the least authority. But those who are in favor of the Federal union of the provinces ought to see this Federation of Upper and Lower Canada is the best mode of creating a nucleus around which, at a later period, the Confederation of all the provinces might be formed.
Thus the honorable member for Hochelaga [Hon. Mr. Dorion] had all sorts of wares, just as the keeper of a “general store” possesses all sorts of merchandise, great and small, on his shelves. To some he sells lace and to others cutlery. (Laughter.)
Hon. Atty. Gen. Cartier—It is a pot pourri. (Laughter)
Hon. Mr. Cauchon—The honorable gentleman calls it a pot pourri. I think my comparison of It as a general store is much more accurate and characteristic.
A Member—Music is sold there. (Laughter.)
Hon. Mr. Cauchon—Yes, on his shelves loaded with all sorts of goods, even old music is to be found. (Laughter) Here there is a conflict of authorities as there is in relation to dogmatic questions between Protestant and Catholic writers; and the Pays expressed itself as follows with respect to the Mirror of Parliament:—
But here is the crowning of the edifice. The editor of the Journal finds strange things in the Mirror of Parliament, a publication which was never controlled by any committee of the House, and the authority of which is worth less than that of a solidly founded newspaper such as the Globe, the Herald, the Chronicle, or the Journal de Québec itself. It is notorious that the reporters for this Mirror were not over particular as to their correctness, and that but little importance was attached to their reports; so much so that thu sheet in question had only an ephemeral existence.
Without admitting the truth of the pretensions of this organ of the honorable member for Hochelaga [Hon. Mr. Dorion], I did not hesitate to follow the honorable gentleman on the ground which he himself has chosen, and I found the following in the Morning Chronicle of the 4th […]
- (p. 557)
[…] May, 1860, to which he referred me for a more exact and veracious report—it being the same speech of the third May, a report of which I have read from the Mirror of Parliament. [Here the honorable gentleman read a French translation of the Chronicle‘s report.] And in order that there may be no doubt as to the exactness of the translation, with the exception of a word which I shall explain after reading the extract, I shall now quote the English text as reported in the Chronicle, viz.:—
Mr. Dorion argued that when Lower Canada had the preponderance of population, complaints were of the inequality of the representation of that section. The union of Belgium and Holland, which was somewhat similar to that at present existing between Upper and Lower Canada was dissolved when it was found it did not work advantageously to both countries. He instanced a number of questions on which it was impossible for Upper and Lower Canada to agree; public feeling being quite dissimilar—subjects popular in one section being the reverse in the other.
He warned Lower Canada members, that when the time came that the whole of the representatives from the western portion of the province would be banded together on the question, they would obtain representation by population, and secure the assistance of the Eastern Township members in so doing. He regarded a Federal union of Upper and Lower Canada as a nucleus of the great Confederation of the North American Provinces to which all looked forward. He concluded by saying he would vote for the resolution, as the only mode by which the two sections of the province could get out of the difficulties in which they now are. He thought the union ought to be dissolved, and a Federal union of the provinces would in due time follow.
The translation into French says, “que j’appelle de mes voeux,” and the original text is “to which all looked forward.” Thus, instead of rendering the desire for a Confederation of the provinces, as his own he made it general. Instead of speaking for himself, be spoke for all, and as the whole comprises the part, in expressing the general thought he bad most naturally expressed his own thought. (Hear, hear.)
I take this opportunity of correcting this involuntary error of translation, and of saying that the honorable gentleman affirmed then that not only himself, but that all turned their eyes from the mountain top towards the promised land of Confederation of all the British North American Provinces. Did not the honorable member for Hochelaga [Hon. Mr. Dorion] say in his famous manifesto of the 7th Nov., 1864:—
The union which is proposed appears to me premature, and if it is not altogether incompatible with our colonial state, it is at least without precedent in the history of the colonies.
And the other day, in this House he stated:—
Necessarily, I do not mean to say that I shall always be opposed to Confederation. The population may extend itself, and cover the virgin forests which exist between Canada and the Maritime Provinces, and commercial relations may increase in such a manner as to render Confederation necessary.
It is, therefore, in every respect merely a question of time, and of expediency as between the majority of the House and the honorable member for Hochelaga [Hon. Mr. Dorion]. But he has not thought proper to tell us why Confederation of all the provinces of British North America is today a crime, an anti-national act, yet would have at one period, been good and acceptable to Lower Canada. In the same manner he has also preserved silence on the character which Confederation should possess, in order to merit the sanction of his word and his vote. Always to condemn, always to destroy, never to build up—this appears to be the motto of the honorable member for Hochelaga [Hon. Mr. Dorion], and those who follow his lead on the floor of this House. (Hear, hear.)
They always keep to themselves the easiest share of sacrifice and patriotism—the task of casting blame and censure upon others. (Hear, hear.) The honorable gentleman thinks that the union proposed to us, that is to say Confederation, is without precedent in Colonial history. He has, therefore, not read the Federal history, scarcely accomplished, of the colonies of Australia. But if it be true that the Confederation of the six colonies is without precedent in Colonial history, will the honorable gentleman at least tell us where he found his precedent for the Confederation of the two provinces? (Hear, hear, and laughter.)
In order to get out of the difficulty again this time, the honorable gentleman will hardly deny that which he affirmed so categorically only the other evening. It is evident that logic and a recollection of facts are not among the most prominent features of the honorable member’s eloquence. Since he desires so much to establish that he was at all times in favor of a Confederation of the two Canadas as an alternative for representation by population, it appears to me, and it ought to be evident to the House and to the country which we represent, that he should have stated the motives of such a deep and constant […]
- (p. 558)
[…] conviction. Why conceal from us the fruits of so many and such serious meditations? Why, setting aside the facile and convenient task of censor, does he not come forward as the architect of a political edifice capable of sheltering and protecting against tempest from without, our nationality and the institutions of which it is composed. It is because “if criticism is easy, art is difficult.” This truth enunciated by a poet, nearly two thousand years ago, evidently belongs to all ages, and it finds, to-day more particularly, its application in the person of the honorable member for Hochelaga [Hon. Mr. Dorion]. (Hear, hear.) Tempora mutantur et nos mutamur in illis—and behold, the honorable gentleman told us on the 16th February, 1865:—
Representation “based upon population was one of the least causes of this project. [And further on]: But, as soon as the Government found itself, after its defeat, obliged either to resign or to appeal to the people, gentlemen on the other side of the House, without there being the slightest agitation on this question, prepared to embrace their most violent adversaries, and said to themselves: “We are going to forget our past differences, provided we can preserve our portfolios.”
Had the honorable gentleman, therefore, forgotten that which he stated with so much emphasis and apparently with so much conviction in 1858:—
The honorable member for Brockville, the Postmaster General, the Speaker, and other members representing Lower Canadian counties, in the present Parliament, have already voted for representation by population. Before long, it will become impossible to resist the demand of Upper Canada in this respect. If representation by population be not granted now, it will infallibly obtain it later, but then without any guarantee for the protection of the French Canadians.
Had he changed his opinion in 1859 when he wrote conjointly with Hon. Messrs. Drummond, Dessaulles and McGee:—
It is with the settled conviction that an inevitable constitutional crisis imposed upon the Liberal party of Lower Canada duties proportionate with the gravity of the circumstances in which the affairs of the country were, that your Committee has undertaken the task with which it is charged. It has become evident to all those who, for several years back, have given their attention to daily events; and above all to those who have had to mingle actively with public affairs, that we are rapidly reaching a state of things which will necessitate modifications in the relations existing between Upper and Lower Canada; and a search for the means most likely to meet the difficulty, when it presents itself, has not failed to be the subject of the most serious consideration and frequent discussion in and out of Parliament.
* * * * * * *
The proposition for the formation of a Confederation of the two Canadas is not a new one. It has frequently been agitated in Parliament and in the press for several years past. The example of the neighboring states, in which the application of the Federal system has shown us how fitting it was to the government of an immense territory, inhabited by people of different origins, creeds, laws and customs, has no doubt suggested the idea; but it was only in 1856 that this proposition was enunciated before the Legislature by the Lower Canadian Opposition, as offering, in its opinion, the only effective remedy for the abuses produced by the present system.
* * * * * * *
Lower Canada wishes to maintain intact the present union of the provinces. If she will not consent to a dissolution nor to Confederation, it is difficult to conceive what plausible reasons she can advance for refusing representation by population. Up to the present time she has opposed it by alleging the danger which might result to some of the institutions which are most dear to her; but this reason would be no longer sustainable if it resisted a proposition the effect of which would be to leave to the inhabitants of Lower Canada the absolute control of those same institutions and to surround them with the most efficient protection which it is possible to imagine—that which would procure for them the formal dispositions of a written constitution, which could not be changed without their consent.
* * * * * * *
It appears therefore that the only alternative which now offers itself to the inhabitants of Lower Canada is a choice between dissolution pure and simple, or Confederation on one side, and representation by population on the other. And however opposed Lower Canada may be to representation by population, is there not imminent danger that it may be finally imposed upon it, if it resist all measures of reform, the object of which is to leave to the local authorities of each section the control of its own interests and institutions.
We should not forget that the same authority which imposed on us the Act of Union, or which altered it without our consent, by repealing the clause which required the concurrence of two thirds of the members of both Houses in order to change the representation respecting the two sections, may again intervene to impose upon us this new change.
* * * * * * *
The customs, postal matters, laws regulating currency, patents, copyrights, public lands, and those public works which are of common interest to all parts of the country, should be the principal if not the only subjects of which the Federal Government would have the control, while all that related to purely local improvements, to education, […]
- (p. 559)
[…] to the administration of justice, to militia, to laws of property and internal policy, should be left to the local governments, the powers of which, in a word, should extend to all those subjects which do not come within the domain of the General Government.
Your Committee believes that it is easy to prove that the expenses absolutely necessary for the support of the Federal Government and the several local governments ought not to exceed those of the present system, while the enormous indirect expenses occasioned by the latter system would be avoided by the new—both on account of the additional restrictions which the Constitution would place upon all public expenditure, and of the more immediate responsibility of the several officers of the Government towards the people who are interested in restraining them. The Federal Legislature having only to occupy itself with a limited number of affairs, might, in a short time every year, perform all necessary legislation; and, as the number of members would not be very great, the expenses of the Federal Government would not, therefore, be a fraction of the present expenses, which, added to the cost of the local governments, if they were on the plan of those of the United States, which are the best and the most economically administered, could not exceed the figure of the present budget.
The system proposed could not in any way diminish the importance of this colony, nor damage its credit, inasmuch as it offers the great advantage of being able to suit itself to any territorial extension which circumstances might, in future, render desirable, without troubling the general economy of the Confederation.
- T. Drummond,
- A. Dessaules,
- D. McGee.
Mr. Perreault—I rise to a question of order. We have listened with much pleasure to the excellent pamphlet which the honorable member has been reading out to us for half an hour past. I can understand that the honorable member having written a pamphlet in 1858 against Confederation, and another in 1865 in favor of Confederation, now feels the necessity of writing a third pamphlet to make the two others agree. But, as the honorable member for Montmorency [Hon. Mr. Cauchon] possesses great powers of improvisation, the House, I think, ought not to be more indulgent to him than to other members, who are compelled to speak under all the disadvantages of improvisation, which is always difficult. I have, therefore, to ask whether the honorable member for Montmorency [Hon. Mr. Cauchon] is in order in reading his magnificent speech from beginning to end?
Hon. Atty. Gen. Cartier—I see nothing extraordinary in this particular case. I see that my honorable friend the member for Montmorency [Hon. Mr. Cauchon] has notes before him to which he refers, but I do not see any speech. The honorable member for Richelieu [Mr. Perrault], with his eccentric genius, requires no notes when he makes those splendid speeches with which he regales us from time to time. I can easily understand that for such lucubrations no very lengthy preparation is necessary. (Laughter.)
Hon. Mr. Cauchon—Every one has not the genius of the honorable member for Richelieu [Mr. Perrault]. I know also that ho is one of those who can talk a long time, because they do not always know what they are saying. (Laughter.) The honorable member may talk as long as he likes, without being afraid of my interrupting him, for his speeches can do no harm except to the person who utters them. (Laughter.)
The Speaker said it was not exactly in order for an honorable member to read a speech quite through, but he might make use of notes.
Hon. Mr. Cauchon—From all these extracts one must conclude that either the honorable member for Hochelaga [Hon. Mr. Dorion] was ready to sacrifice everything in order to attain power in 1858, or else that in 1858, as in 1859, he was deeply convinced that nothing but representation by population or a Federal union of the two Canadas could prevent the storm then lowering on the horizon. We find therein, firstly, that we were rapidly reaching a state of things which would necessitate modifications in the relations between Upper and Lower Canada; secondly, that the proposal to form a Federation of the Canadas was not new; thirdly, that the example of the neighboring States, where the application of the Federal system showed how suitable it was to the government of an immense territory, inhabited by people of different origin, belief, laws and customs, had suggested the idea; fourthly, that Lower Canada would not have any legitimate motive to resist representation based upon population if refused a written Constitution, under which it would have protection for and control of its institutions; fifthly, that would be in imminent danger of seeing imposed upon it representation based upon population, if the Confederation of the two Canadas were obstinately resisted, and that those who imposed the Union Act upon us, and afterwards altered it to our detriment, could oblige us to accept the former; sixthly, that customs, currency, patents, copyrights, public lands, public works and things of common […]
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[…] interest should be among the attributes of the Federal Parliament; seventhly, that the expenses of the Federal and local governments should not exceed those of the present system. The following extract, taken from the same document, must be added to those already cited:—
Your committee has therefore become convinced, that whether we consider the present wants with regard to the future of this country, the substitution of a purely Federal Government for the present legislative union, presents the true solution of our difficulties, and that such substitution would free us from the inconveniences, while at the same time securing to us all the advantages which the present union may possess.(Hear, hear, and laughter.)
At the same period the Pays, with a conviction as profound as that of the honorable gentleman whose organ it is, thought that if we did not make some constitutional concessions we should not be able to resist the torrent of public opinion of Upper Canada, which threatened to break through the feeble barrier opposed to it by the Union Act of 1840. The honorable member for Hochelaga [Hon. Mr. Dorion] went on with his fears and his convictions to the time when, by an accident unfortunate for the country, he again came into power. (Hear, hear.) It is not then merely the holding of a ministerial portfolio which is cast up to us to-day. The time has then arrived when constitutional changes become necessary—the question of Confederation under any form is, therefore, not new. (Hear, hear.)
To take the United States, as the honorable member for Hochelaga [Hon. Mr. Dorion] has done, for example, I will say that the Federal system is suitable for the government of an immense territory, inhabited by people of different races, laws and customs, and consequently more suitable to the Confederation of the British North American Provinces than to the smaller one of Upper and Lower Canada. Lower Canada, “unless she wish representation based upon population, should not reject a written Constitution under which she has protection for and control of her peculiar institutions.” (Hear, hear.)
Finally, the expenses of the federal and local governments and legislatures will not exceed those of the present system. According to the Montreal manifesto of 1859, the Federal Government and Parliament, having very little to do, ought to cost but little, so as to leave more to be done by the local legislatures. According to the scheme of the Conference held at Quebec, the tables are turned, and it will be the local legislatures that, having but local affairs to attend to, will have to practise economy for the benefit of the General Government. It is therefore evident that the honorable member for Hochelaga [Hon. Mr. Dorion] is not more of a conjuror than others.
It is again still more evident that the honorable member would be less hostile to this project, had he been the author of it, or if he had been sitting on the right instead of on the left side of the House; for after all it is but a question of expediency, at least as regards principle. The honorable member for Hochelaga [Hon. Mr. Dorion] also told us:—
I would never have attempted to make a change in the Constitution of the country without being convinced that the population of that section of province which I represented was favorable to such a scheme. (Hear.)
I do not wish to doubt his sincerity, but has he not also said, “I know that the possession of power leads to despotism?” Did he not say, before the events of 1858, that were he in power, never, no never, would he consent to govern Lower Canada with the help of an Upper Canada majority, and yet how did he act in 1862? How did he act on coming into power in 1863, after having ejected in such a loyal and sympathising manner his illustrious predecessor and chief, Hon. Mr. Sicotte? (Hear, hear.)
It was not despotism, but thirst for power, which made him adopt means to attain that end, which I shall not designate by their proper name in this solemn debate. (Hear, hear.) How did he act? Forgetting his declarations of 1858, he governed Lower Canada with a weak minority of its representatives, and as, according to his ideas, “power led to despotism,” he ruled it with that rod of iron which the radicals alone know how to wield. But happily those days of painful memories are passed, and the level of the political soil, which had sunk down, from some of those secret causes known to Providence alone, again suddenly rose up to escape from the overflowing torrents of demagogue principles which threatened society at large. What the Opposition detest the most in the project of the Quebec Conference, is its monarchical character, as also those words found at the commencement of that remarkable work:—
The best interests and present and future prosperity of British North America will be promoted by a Federal union under the Crown of Great Britain, provided such union can be effected on principles just to the several provinces.
In the Federation of the British North American Provinces, the system of government best adapted, under existing circumstances, to protect the diversified interests of the several provinces, […]
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[…] and secure efficiency, harmony and permanency in the working of the union, would be a General Government, charged with matters of common interest to the whole country; and Local Governments for each of the Canadas, and for the Provinces of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island, charged with the control of local matters in their respective sections. Provision being made for the admission into the union, on equitable terms, of Newfoundland, the Northwest Territory, British Columbia, and Vancouver.
We move in a different circle of ideas from that in which the Opposition moves. We wish in America, as elsewhere, for a monarchy tempered by parliamentary system and ministerial responsibility, because, without interfering with liberty, it renders institutions more solid and secure. We have all seen British democracy holding its existence under the protection of the immutable aegis of Royal Majesty, and exercising over the destinies of the country that salutary control which has made Great Britain so rich, so powerful and so free. (Hear, hear.) We have also seen, not far from our own homes, that same democracy wrapped in the mantle of republicanism, moving at a rapid pace towards demagogy, and from demagogy to an intolerable despotism. (Hear, hear.)
We have seen military rule extending over the entire face of the great neighboring republic, lately so proud of its popular institutions. And we have also seen that people, so proud of their liberty, humbly bend their necks to the sword of the soldier, allow their press to be muzzled, after haying condemned the system of censorship legalized in Franco, and suffer their writers to be imprisoned without a protest. (Hear, hear.) M. De Tocqueville has lived too long; his admirable work on democracy in America produces upon our minds, at the present day, only the effect of an heroic poem; it is the Isle of Calypso, so admirably sung by Fenelon, but which fades away when you have closed Telemachus. (Laughter.)
Instead of those institutions, framed with such mathematical precision, and that mechanism so finished and so regular in its course, there is to be seen but violent and jerking motions, overturnings, and the collision and smashing of the component parts of the disconnected machinery of state; instead of peace and harmony we find civil war on a gigantic scale, universal desolation, formidable battles, and the blood of brothers mingling in streams on the soil of their common country. (Hear, hear.)
What has become of that race of giants who, after seven years of a glorious struggle, laid the foundation, in 1783, of the American republic? Disdaining to use the means employed by the smaller spirits of the age to grasp at the helm of the state, they have retired from the public arena, so as to live in an honorable and dignified manner in private retirement—for the genius of the American people is not dead, and the country which still produces great judges and learned jurists could also, under another order of things, and in a different moral condition, give birth to new Washingtons, Franklins, Hamiltons, Adams, and Madisons. (Hear, hear.)
They did not act wrongly then, those forty chosen men of British North America who came to Quebec to erect a new nation on the monarchical basis, and as much as possible on the principles of the Parliament of Great Britain. It seems to us that that authority was imposing enough to merit the respect of men of much less experience, and much less versed in the science of government. (Hear hear.)
And yet when the honorable member for Joliette [Mr. Hip. C. dit Grandchamp] asked with much reason of the honorable member for Lotbinière [Mr. Joly] why he did not speak of Confederation based upon monarchical principles, the latter gentleman answered that he could not speak of what did not exist, and of what was absurd. He was like the French savant who, in 1836, proved by arguments not to be refuted, that it was impossible to cross the ocean with steam as the motive power. But while he was thus floundering through his powerful and learned arguments, the Sirius was steaming majestically across the Atlantic as if to mock the wisdom of science. Facts are stubborn and positive things. (Hear, hear.)
We are not here, like Columbus, looking for an unknown world; yet the honorable member who went as far back as the heroic times of Greece to find arguments against all Confederations, who unfolded pompously to our gaze Roman history to prove to us that what was strong and durable was formed piece by piece, and that even what is actually strong must also perish, as the Roman Empire had ended by succumbing under the weight of its own power; who, bent on finding out Confederations in confusion, and in the midst of pronunciamentos, of movimentos and of échauffourées, travelled through without seeing them, those non-federative Spanish-American republics, so irritable and so agitated; who, to be faithful to this system, attributed the five hundred years’ existence of the Swiss Confederation to every other cause than to the stability of its principle, and to the conservative and national character of its […]
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[…] inhabitants; and who, in his enthusiasm for his doctrines, did not see that the European equilibrium would have been secure just as well by the existence of one or more distinct states as with a Confederation in the Helvetic Mountains—he failed to see not far from the native land of his ancestors, the noble Helvetia which conquered and maintained for five centuries its independence in the midst of the most terrible conflicts which shook the soil of Europe, which overturned thrones and transformed nations—he has not seen, in flesh and blood, a Confederation resting almost entirely on the monarchical principle—the Germanic Confederation—of which Austria is the head, and for which this latter power and Prussia alone can decide questions of peace and war. (Hear, hear.)
This was preceded by the Confederation of the Rhine, which had found like it its elements and its mode of being in the ancient empire founded by Charlemagne, ”the strongest hand that ever existed,” to use the splendid expression of Ozanam; the Germanic Empire, a true confederation of princes, becoming really independent in the course of centuries, and kings in their respective states under the Imperial suzerainty. The Golden Bull promulgated by the Emperor Charles IV., in 1356, gives us some useful information on this subject. I would refer the honorable member for Lotbinière [Mr. Joly] to it. (Hear, hear.)
But why should we ransack history to establish a fact which is as clear as day? Is it not sufficient to open the first dictionary at hand to know that the word “confederation” means simply “league,” union of states or sovereigns, of nations, or even of armies for a common object. (Hear, hear.) The honorable member has therefore ill-chosen his time to be witty at the expense of a man of sense. He declared himself by turns against the Federal principle and against legislative unity. Appealing alternately to every prejudice to attain his object, he said to the French-Canadian Catholics:—”Resist Confederation, because it will leave you without protection in the Federal Government and Parliament.” Then, turning towards English Protestants, and reading complacently to them an extract from Lord Durham’s report, he said:—”Do not vote for Confederation; you would be at the mercy of a French and Catholic majority in the Local Government and Parliament.” (Hear, hear.)
Although the direct reverse in every other respect of the honorable member for Hochelaga [Hon. Mr. Dorion], his conduct proves that he believes with that honorable gentleman “that power engenders despotism.” But, in his place, at the outset of my public career, full of youth and of the generous sentiments which it inspires, instead of setting the torch to such inflammable elements as national and religious prejudices, I should have imitated the example of the honorable member for Montreal Centre [Hon. Mr. Rose]; and in order to calm mutual distrust, I should have endeavored to fulfil my duty by recalling the eminently honorable, christian and civilising history of the last quarter of a century. (Cheers )
But the honorable gentleman was evidently incapable of so doing. He had just emerged terrified from amidst the pronunciamentos, the echauffourées and the movimentos of the very civilized Spanish Confederations of Central America, and full of feverish agitation, he launched himself on spreading opinions towards the rainbow and the aurora borealis. (Laughter.) We know what the rainbow is physically. It is composed of drops of water, which, placed at a certain angle facing the sun, refract and reflect its light with all the colors of which it is composed (Laughter.)
As to the aurora borealis, some attribute it to the reverberations of solar light on the snows of the North Pole, whither the honorable gentleman proceeded in order to find the vast territory with which he wishes us to form the Confederation domain But the opinion most generally accepted is that it is, in a manner, something imponderable and unsubstantial. (Laughter.) Our people, seeing them moving in all directions with the most prodigious rapidity, rising, falling, doubling backward and forward on each other with such inconceivable rapidity, have given them the true and picturesque name of dancing puppets (marionettes). (Hear! and laughter.)
It is, therefore, easily seen that if they hold in horror the prejudices which are productive of so much evil, their mind is at least not so torpid as the hon. member for Lotbinière [Mr. Joly] believes, and it is at least not necessary to arouse them in this manner (Hear, hear.) We know what invariably happens to all these luminous meteors. Jack o’ the Lanterns and Will o’ the Wisps having complacently expanded themselves on the confines of the infinite horizon, after having gambolled at their ease, become serious and solemn, they are seized with the ambition of ascending to the zenith. But as they have, “with the stature of a giant, but the strength of a […]
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[…] child,” they soon diminish and disappear, to be, in the words of Bossuet, “qu’un je ne sais quoi qui n’a plus de nom dans aucune langue (a thing which has no name in any tongue).” (Hear, hear.)
On close examination, however, it would be seen that the hon. member was not so sarcastic as might have been at first supposed, when he suggested the iris as the emblem of the new Confederation. The rainbow, from a figurative point of view, is the emblem of alliance, and consequently of strength and durability—it is the symbol of peace and calm after a long day of storm and tempest—it is the pledge of promise that, in future, the floodgates of demagoguery will no longer be opened on the country, to leave upon its surface that morbid sediment, the fetid odors of which still offend the moral sense of the people after their unwholesome waters have retired. (Cheers.) It is the unity of many-colored rays which, combined, produces light and heat and fecundity.
I should, therefore, advise those who will be charged at a future day with our new destinies to adopt the rainbow as our national emblem, and to give credit to the hon. member for Lotbinière [Mr. Joly], who will doubtless be astonished to find that he has been so wonderfully inspired, (Hear, hear, and laughter.) If there were never to be any mutual confidence among men; if we were forever destined to fear and suspect each other reciprocally, we would be obliged to renounce all idea of government as well as all the relations of social life The very laws which protect persons and property would be without value, because they are expounded by men. (Hear, hear.) Fortunately such is not the case, as our own history sufficiently proves. Before the union, the parliamentary majority in Lower Canada was Catholic, and although it was long involved in a struggle with power, was it ever guilty of an injustice towards the Protestant minority? (Hear, hear.)
On the contrary, did it not emancipate the latter, civilly and religiously, and did it not give that minority privileges which it had not hitherto possessed? If our people are inflexibly attached to our faith, it is also full of toleration, of good-will towards those who are not of the same belief. Since the union the parts have changed. Protestantism dominates in the government and in the legislature, and yet has not Catholicity been better treated, and has it not been better developed, with more liberty and more prosperity than under the regime of the Constitution of 1791. (Hear, hear.)
Living and laboring together we have learned to know, to respect, to esteem each other, and to make mutual concessions for the common weal. We Catholics have therefore no fear of the ill-will of a Protestant majority in the Federal Government and Legislature, and we are certain that the Protestants of Lower Canada need not fear for themselves in the local legislature. (Hear, hear, and cheers.) The hon. member for Hochelaga [Hon. Mr. Dorion] has declared that he was willing to accord to the Protestants the guarantees of protection which they sought for the education of their children; but in this he has been forestalled by the Quebec Conference and by the unanimous sentiment of the Catholic population of Lower Canada. If the present law be insufficient, let it be changed. Justice demands that the Protestant minority of Lower Canada shall be protected in the same manner as the Catholic minority of Upper Canada, and that the rights acquired by the one and the other shall not be assailed either by the Federal Parliament or the local legislatures. (Hear, hear.)
This is all I feel called upon to say, on this occasion, respecting a question which will again arise in the course of the debate. The hon. member for Lotbinière [Mr. Joly] has attacked the scheme as being too federal, and the hon. member for Hochelaga [Hon. Mr. Dorion] has condemned it as not being sufficiently federal, and as tending too much towards unity. Neither one nor the other is strictly accurate—it is not absolute unity, nor the federal principle in the American sense. In the American Confederation, supreme authority proceeded at the outset from the delegation of the states, which nevertheless divested themselves of it forever—at least according to the opinion of the Northern jurisconsults, who hold that no state is free to break the compact of 1788. In the scheme of the Quebec Conference there was no delegation of the supreme authority, either from above or below, inasmuch as the provinces, not being independent states, received, their political organizations from the Parliament of the Empire. There are only distinct attributes for the one and the others. (Hear, hear.)
Unity does not obtain in an absolute sense, because local interests and institutions required in the local constitutions, guarantees and protections which they feared they would not find in the united Parliament and Government. But it is as complete as possible, inasmuch as unity gives to institutions chances of duration, and an initiatory force which is not given, which […]
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[…] cannot be given, by confederacies in which authority is scattered, and where it is consequently without value and without real existence. Every constitutional mode of existence has its advantages; but assuredly that state of existence which gives permanence and stability to institutions should be preferred to others. Let us bear in mind that the Constitution of the United States has been but a compromise between state sovereignty and the need of a supreme authority to ensure the working of the state machinery, and that it was not perfect even in the opinion of its authors. In order to prove this statement, I shall call to my assistance words of greater weight than my own—those of Joseph Storey, probably the greatest constitutional authority of the United States:—
Any survey, however slight, of the Confederation will impress the mind with the intrinsic difficulties which attended the formation of its principal features. It is well known that upon three important points touching the common rights and interests of the several states, much diversity of opinion prevailed, and many animated discussions took place. The first was as to the mode of voting in Congress, whether it should be by states or according to wealth or population The second, as to the rule by which the expenses of the Union should be apportioned among the states. And the third, as has been already seen, relative to the disposal of the vacant and unappropriated lands in the western territory.
But that which strikes us with most force is the increasing jealousy and watchfulness everywhere betrayed in respect to the powers to be confided to the General Government. For this several causes may be assigned. The colonies had been long engaged in struggles against the superintending authority of the Crown, and had practically felt the inconveniences of the restrictive legislation of the parent country. These struggles had naturally led to a general feeling of resistance of all external authority, and these inconveniences to extreme doubts, if not to dread of any legislation, not exclusively originating in their domestic assemblies. They had, as yet, not felt the importance or necessity of union among themselves, having been hitherto connected with the British sovereignty in all their foreign relations.
What would be their fate, as separate and independent communities, how far their interests would coincide or vary from each other as such; what would be the effects of the union upon their domestic peace, their territorial interests, their external commerce, their political security, or their civil liberty, were points to them wholly of a speculative character, in regard to which various opinions might be entertained, and various and even opposite conjectures formed, upon grounds apparently of equal plausibility.
Notwithstanding the declaration of the articles, that the union of the states was to be perpetual, an examination of the powers confided to the General Government would easily satisfy us that they looked principally to the existing revolutionary state of things. The principal powers respected the operations of war, and would be dormant in times of peace. In short, Congress in peace was possessed of but a delusive and shadowy sovereignty, with little more than the empty pageantry of office. They were indeed clothed with the authority of sending and receiving ambassadors; of entering into treaties and alliances; of appointing courts for the trial of piracies and felonies on the high seas; of regulating the public coin; of fixing the standard of weights and measures; of regulating trade with Indians, of establishing post offices; of borrowing money and emitting bills on the credit of the United States; of ascertaining and appropriating the sums necessary for defraying the public expenses, and of disposing of the western territory.
And most of these powers required for their exercise the assent of nine states. But they possessed not the power to raise any revenue, to levy any tax, to enforce any law, to secure any right, to regulate any trade, or even the poor prerogative of commanding means to pay its own ministers at a foreign court. They could contract debts, but they were without means to discharge them. They could pledge the public faith, but they were incapable of redeeming it. They could enter into treaties, but every state in the union might disobey them with impunity. They could contract alliances, but could not command men or money to give them vigor. They could institute courts for piracies and felonies on the high seas, but they had no means to pay either the judges or the jurors. In short, all powers which did not execute themselves were at the mercy of the states, and might be trampled upon at will with impunity.
One of our leading writers addressed the following strong language to the public:—
By this political compact the United States in Congress have exclusive power for the following purposes, without being able to execute one of them: they may make and conclude treaties, but can only recommend the observance of them. They may appoint ambassadors, but cannot defray even the expenses of their tables. They may borrow money in their own name on the faith of the union, but cannot pay a dollar. They may coin money, but they cannot purchase an ounce of bullion. They may make war, and determine what number of troops are necessary, but cannot raise a single soldier. In short, they may declare everything, but do nothing.
Strong as this language may seem, it has no coloring beyond what the naked truth would justify. Washington himself, that patriot without stain or reproach, speaks, in 1785, […]
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[…] with unusual significance on the same subject. “In a word,” says he, “the Confederation appears to me to be little more than a shadow without the substance, and Congress a nugatory body, their ordinances being little attended to. “The same sentiments may be found in many public documents. One of the most humiliating proofs of the utter inability of Congress to enforce even the exclusive powers vested in it, is to be found in the argumentative circular addressed by to the several states, in April, 1787, entreating them in the most supplicating manner to repeal such of their laws as interfered with the treaties with foreign nations. “If in theory,” says the biographer of Washington, “the treaties formed by Congress were obligatory, yet it had been demonstrated that in practice that body was absolutely unable to carry them into execution.”—
In this state of things, the embarrassments of the country in its financial concerns, the general pecuniary distress among the people from the exhausting operations of the war, the total prostration of commerce and the languishing unthriftiness of agriculture, gave new impulses to the already marked political divisions in the Legislative Councils. Efforts were made on our side to relieve the pressure of the public calamities by a resort to the issue of paper money, to tender laws, and instalment and other laws, having for their object the postponement of the payment of private debt, and a diminution of the public taxes.
On the other side, public as well as private creditors became alarmed from the increased dangers to property, and the increased facility of perpetrating frauds, to the destruction of all private faith, and credit. And they insisted strenuously upon the establishment of a government and system of laws which should preserve the public faith and redeem the country from that ruin which always follows upon the violation of the principles of justice and the moral obligation of contracts. “At length,” we are told, “two great parties were formed in every state, which were distinctly marked and which pursued distinct objects with systematic arrangement.” The wonder indeed is, not under such circumstances, that the constitution should have encountered the most ardent opposition, but that it should ever have been adopted at all by the majority of the states.
In the convention itself which framed it, there was a great diversity of judgment, and upon some vital subjects an intense and irreconcilable hostility of opinion. It is understood that, at several periods the convention were upon the point of breaking up without accomplishing anything. On the other hand, if the votaries of the national government are fewer in number, they are likely to enlist in its favor men of ardent ambition, comprehensive views and powerful genius.
A love of the union, a sense of its importance—nay, of its necessity to secure permanence and safety to our political liberty; a consciousness that the powers of the national constitution are eminently calculated to preserve peace at home and dignity abroad, and to give value to property, and system and harmony to the great interests of agriculture, commerce and manufactures; a consciousness, too, that the restraints which it imposes upon the states are the only efficient means to preserve public and private justice, and to ensure tranquillity amidst the conflicting interests and rivalries of the states—these will doubtless combine many sober and reflecting minds in its support. If to this number we are to add those whom the larger rewards of fame or emolument or influence connected with a wider sphere of action may allure to the national councils, there is much reason to presume that the union will not be without resolute friends.
The events now occurring in the United States sufficiently prove, I think, that the fears of the illustrious founders of the Union were not without some foundation. The scheme of Constitution which is submitted to us is also a compromise, but a compromise in the best conditions of existence, and in those least dangerous to the stability and the strength of the nation to which is to give being. Unity moves more at ease, and the checks placed therein for the benefit of the sections are placed in such a manner as not to obstruct the general action. It is not so much against the Federal principle that the greater number of the arguments of the hon. member for Hochelaga [Hon. Mr. Dorion] are directed.
For him it is a party question which he puts to himself in this manner:—”How shall we find ourselves, my friends and myself, in this Confederation? Shall we be strong or weak? May we hope to regain power, or shall we be lost like so many drops of water in the ocean?” In order to convince the House that I have correctly appreciated the motive of the hon. gentleman’s (Hon. Mr. Dorion’s) opposition, I shall quote from his speech of the 16th:—
Hon. Mr. Dorion—But, sir, I may be asked, admitting all that—admitting that the scheme now submitted to us is not that which has been promised us, what difference will the immediate admission of the Provinces into the Confederation make? I will try to explain it. When the ministers consented to the votes in the Conference being taken by provinces, they gave a great advantage to the Maritime Provinces. This mode of procedure had for its result the most conservative measure that was ever submitted to the House. The members of the Upper House are no longer to be elected, but nominated—and by whom? By a Tory or Conservative Government for Canada, by a Conservative Government in Nova Scotia, by a Conservative Government in Prince Edward Island, and by a Conservative […]
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[…] Government in Newfoundland, the only Liberal Government concerned in the nomination of the Upper House being that of New Brunswick, where there is a Liberal Administration, whose fate depends on the result of the elections now taking place in that province.
A similar scheme would never have been adopted by the Liberal members from Upper Canada, the people of which section, to the number of 1,400,000, with those in the Lower Province, making in all 2,500,000, have been controlled by the 900,000 people of the Maritime Provinces. Have we not been told in set terms that it was the Lower Provinces which did not want an elective Legislative Council? If, instead of inviting to a Conference the delegates of the Lower Provinces, our Government had done what it engaged to do, namely—had itself prepared a Constitution, it would never have dared to draw up a proposal like this now laid before us; it would never have proposed a Legislative Council nominated for life, with a limited membership, and which has to be named by four Tory Governments.
Reckoning 15 to 20 years, as the average of the time each Legislative Councillor will hold his seat, a century would elapse before its composition could be entirely changed! We will have, thus, a Legislative Council lasting for ever—at least as regards this, and the next generation—controlled by the influence which to-day preponderates in our Government and in those of the Maritime Provinces; and are we going to believe, as the present document promises us, that a government like that which we possess now, will employ itself in getting the Opposition represented in the Legislative Council? (Hear, hear, and laughter.)
I thank the delegates for their solicitude as regards the Opposition, but I rely but little on their promises. Did we not hear the Honorable Attorney General West say the other day, turning towards his supporters: “If I had the recommending of the nominations, I would advise the choice of the most qualified—but of course, of my own party. (Hear, hear.) It would be done in this way, sir; and, if this precious scheme is put into operation, we shall have a Legislative Council divided in the following manner: for Upper Canada, we shall probably have Liberals in the proportion of 3 to 9, for I suppose that the honorable member for South Oxford (Honorable Mr. Brown) has made enough sacrifices to deserve at least this concession, and as his friends constitute a fourth of the Executive Council, I suppose we shall have also one-fourth of the Executive Councillors for Upper Canada, Liberals.
Hon. Attorney General Macdonald—Hear, hear.
Hon. Mr. Holton—Exactly 25 per cent.
Hon. Mr. Dorion—Yes; precisely 25 percent. Besides, we shall have for Nova Scotia ten Conservatives, from Prince Edward Island four more, and four from Newfoundland. Thus we are to have eighteen Conservatives from the Lower Provinces, who, added to the thirty-six from Canada, will make fifty-four Conservatives, against twenty-two Liberals, supposing that the ten Legislative Councillors from New Brunswick will all be Liberals. Now, supposing that the average of deaths amounted to three per cent, in a year, it would need a term of thirty years to bring about a change in the character of the majority of the Council, taking it for granted that the additions which might be made to it would be taken from the ranks of the Liberal party. Yet that would be scarcely possible. In some of the Lower Provinces there would be from time to time Conservative Governments, and there might be also a Conservative Government in Canada. (Hear, hear, and laughter.) And the present generation will have passed away before the opinions of the Liberal party will have any influence in the divisions of the Legislative Council.
Mr. Mackenzie—That makes no difference.
Hon. Mr. Dorion—The hon. member for Lambton says that makes no difference! The honorable member is ready to accept everything, but for those who are not so well disposed, the difference would be that we would be bound by this constitution which will permit the Legislative Council to throw obstacles in the way of all measures of reform wished for by the Liberal party. If the hon. member for Lambton thinks that that makes no difference, I will take the liberty of differing from him, and I think that the Liberal party generally will differ from him also. The Government told us that they were obliged to consent to the introduction of certain measures in the project of Confederation which did not altogether please them, so as to come to an understanding with the Lower Province delegates, and that they bound themselves to cause the scheme to be adopted by this House without amendment.
Does the hon. gentleman not see a difference now? If the two Canadas were the only interested parties, the majority would act as they pleased, would examine minutely the Constitution, and erase all measures which did not suit them, and a proposition such as that relative to the Legislative Council would have no chance of being adopted—it is too short a time ago since this House voted, by a crushing majority, the substitution of an elective Council for a Council nominated by the Crown. In fact, the Council named by the Crown had so fallen in public estimation—I do not say so on account of the men who composed it, but still such was the fact, that it exercised no influence; it was even difficult to assemble a quorum of members—a change had become absolutely necessary, and up to the present time the elective system has worked well—the elected members are equal in every respect to those nominated by the Crown. Well, it is just as public attention commences to be bestowed upon the proceedings of the Upper House, that we are to change its constitution to give it the place of the same one we so short a time ago condemned. I said same Constitution—I mistake, Mr. Speaker, we want to substitute for the present Constitution one much worse than the old one, and one for which it is impossible to find a precedent.
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Here, then, is the solution of the enigma; here, then, is the reason why Federal union is worthless—without us there is no country—it is no longer the doctrine: “Let the country perish rather than a principle be abandoned,” but “let the country perish rather than a political party should succumb.” It is less absurd, but at the same time less noble, and if it be not cynical in words, it is so undoubtedly in conception. (Hear, hear.) What! must we resist in future all progress, all strength and national greatness, solely because a party, which exhausted itself almost at its birth, thinks it cannot discern in the new order of things the stepping stones to power?
But is it our fault that the doctrines and the acts of that party are not in accordance with the feelings of the country, and that the country persists in discountenancing them? The hon. member for Hochelaga [Hon. Mr. Dorion] would hope more for his party in a Confederation of the two Canadas only; he has said to himself, no doubt, “In this last order of things the increase of the Upper Canadian representation would augment the Radical majority of Upper Canada, and that majority, added to the small minority I command, would have placed me in a position to rule Lower Canada as I have already done, against its will, and in spite of my former declarations.” Either he must think us very blind, or else he must expect that placing the question in a party point of view, he would rally around him only those who, leaving aside all national sentiments, follow him nevertheless. (Hear, hear.)
But the extract which I have just now read brings us naturally to the question of an elective Legislative Council, to which system the honorable member for Hochelaga [Hon. Mr. Dorion] grants a great degree of superiority over the nominative one. Just now he told us that the Council nominated by the Crown had fallen into imbecility, and had lost public respect. (Hear, hear.) Now, to prove how logical he is, he tells us:
It is true that the House of Lords, Conservative though it be, finds itself removed from all popular influence; but its numbers may be increased upon the recommendation of the responsible advisers of the Crown, if such a measure were to become necessary to obtain the concurrence of both Houses, or to prevent a collision between them. The position which its members occupy in it establishes a sort of compromise between the Crown and the popular element. But this new House, after Confederation, will be a perfectly independent body; its members will be nominated for life, and their number cannot be increased. How long will this system work without bringing about a collision between the two branches of the Legislature? Let us suppose the Lower House composed in a great part of Liberals, for how long a time would it submit to an Upper House named by Government?
Be kind enough to observe, Mr. Speaker, that under the old system, the Legislative Council possessed the same elements of existence as the House of Lords, and that the Crown could increase its numbers at need; it augmented it in 1849, as it threatened to augment the House of Lords in 1832. Observe, again, that it is precisely this control exercised by the Crown over the Upper House that the hon. gentleman found so fatal to legislation previous to 1856.
But there is a more rational manner of appreciating the part sustained by the House of Lords in the British Constitution. No one denies to the Sovereign the abstract right of increasing at will the House of Lords; but such right has never been exercised but for the purpose of rewarding men distinguished for great national services and when, in 1832, William IV. granted Earl Grey the tremendous power to swamp the representative body of the great landed nobility, it was because the country was moving with rapid strides towards revolution, and because there remained to the Sovereign but two alternatives, either to lessen the moral weight of the House of Lords, or to see his own throne knocked to pieces from under his feet. (Hear, hear.) To convince the House that I do not exaggerate, I will read an extract from Lingard’s History of England:—
It is known that justice and common sense were wounded by the electoral system of England, when such a rock, such a building, such a hamlet belonging to noble families sent representatives to Parliament, where cities of 100,000 inhabitants were not represented, where corporations of twenty or thirty individuals had a right to elect members for large cities, and so forth. All this was the consequence of a social order, founded on privilege, and in which property was the mistress of all power.
To reform the electoral system was then to make an attempt not only on the Constitution, but society. And the Tories offered a desperate resistance. Such was their attitude, that the Ministry proclaimed Parliament dissolved on the 11th May, 1831, a course which was joyfully welcomed by the people. New elections were had, and resulted in a ministerial majority. The Reform Bill was adopted by the Commons, but the House of Lords threw it out by a majority of forty-one votes. The intelligence of this result was received throughout the three kingdoms with the most lively agitation. […]
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[…] Petitions were sent in from all parts, praying for the upholding of the Ministry, and for a new creation of peers; reform associations were formed, and serious disturbances took place at London, Bristol, Nottingham &c. Parliament was prorogued, and at its re-assembling the Reform Bill was again presented with some alterations. The Commons accepted it; it passed a first and a second reading in the House of Lords, but the third reading was adjourned, and Wellington and seventy-four peers protested. Agitation became almost universal; societies met, petitions took a threatening character; everything was tending towards armed insurrection. England never before presented such a spectacle.
Meantime the Ministry had demanded of the king a new creation of peers to change the majority of the Upper Chamber. It was refused; they immediately resigned on the 9th May, 1832. The Duke of Wellington and his friends were then called in to form a Ministry; he tried it several days in vain. The nation was astir; whole armies were being created; riots broke opt everywhere; the lives of the principal Tories were threatened, and the House of Commons seemed disposed to support a measure which would have overturned both the Government and the aristocracy. The King called back the Grey Ministry, and the Bill was presented to the House of Lords for a third reading, on which the Tories, knowing that the Cabinet had decided to create an unlimited number of peers, so as to obtain a majority, abstained from attending the discussion, and the Bill passed by 106 votes against 22. The Parliament was immediately dissolved, and new elections took place according to the new electoral law, and on the 5th of February, 1833, the first Reformed Parliament was opened.
It must then have been a real revolution, this nomination of one hundred new peers, a revolution as real as that which menaced the Throne; and do we not feel persuaded that if one day our Federal Legislative Council were to place itself obstinately and systematically in opposition to popular will, matured and strengthened by ordeals, it would not be swept away by a revolutionary torrent such as threatened to sweep away the House of Lords in 1832? This Council, limited as to numbers, because the provinces insist on maintaining in it an equilibrium without which they would never have consented to a union, this Council, sprung from the people—having the same wants, hopes and even passions, would resist less the popular will in America, where it is so prompt and active, than could the House of Lords in England, where the masses are inert because they have not political rights; reason tells us thus because they would be a less powerful body socially or politically. The honorable member for Hochelaga [Hon. Mr. Dorion] has spoken to us of the elected senate of Belgium, which he says works admirably. But let us examine the manner of its construction and the reasons of its organization. We find in a note under the 53rd article of the Belgian Constitution, section 2 of the Senate in Havard’s Public and Administrative Law, vol. I:—
- Elected by the People.—Three principal opinions divided the Congress on the question of the senate. One wanted no kind of senate. Another wished the senate named with or without conditions, by the head of the state; and another wished for the senate but elected by the people. These two last opinions carried the existence of the Chamber to be admitted, but it was difficult to fix the majority on the mode of nominating the senators. Among the members who desire a senate, the greater number sustained nomination by the king, as being more in harmony with the nature of the institution; but those who wished only one Chamber directly elected being in despair, and in order to popularize an institution which they accused of not being sufficiently so, joined with those favoring senators elect, named without the intervention of the royal power, so that this opinion prevailed.
The senate and its mode of existence was not, therefore, the result either of the same opinion or of the same majority. The central section proposed, with a majority of sixteen against four, nomination by the king without presentation and in unlimited number. The question was discussed at the sitting of the 15th, 16th and 17th December. Nomination by the king was rejected by 96 against 77. Two leading opinions still divided the partisans of election. One would confide it to the ordinary electoral colleges, and others to the Provincial Councilor States. “We desire,” said M. Blagenies in proposing the last mode of election “a neutral power which can resist the dangers which might result from the preponderance of the head of the state or from an elective Chamber.
It is, therefore, necessary that this power should emanate neither from the same elements as the elective Chamber, nor from the chief of the state.” To confide election to a particular class, was said on the other side, is to create privileged electors with a double vote, and to introduce into our country all the inconveniences of the division of electors which has just been abolished in France. Provincial Councils should, moreover, be administrative bodies. The system of article 53 was adopted by 136 votes against 10. The opinion which was in favor of only one Chamber, and consequently only one mode of election, determined the majority.
Thus we find that the constitution of this senate is a compromise similar to that of the Federal Government of the United States. But let us go on a little further:—
In order to be elected and to continue to be a senator, one qualification, among others, is to […]
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[…] pay, in Belgium, at least one thousand florins of direct imposts, patents included.
Is not this last provision of the Belgian Constitution a hundred times more conservative than all the provisions of this scheme, which the honorable member condemns? What! no one can be a senator in Belgium without paying $500 direct taxes, over and above indirect taxes, municipal and local impositions of all sorts. And the honorable member for Hochelaga [Hon. Mr. Dorion] calls that a popular House! Who but men powerful and rich in titles and fortune can enter it? (Hear, hear.)
Hon. Mr. Dorion—What is the qualification of the electors of the Belgian House of Representatives? Is it not much higher than elsewhere?
Hon. Mr. Cauchon—It is the same for both Houses. And this is an argument against the honorable member; for if, in a country like Belgium, in which every fourth person you meet is a beggar, it has been found requisite to make the elective franchise and the electoral qualification of the senators so high, it is a proof that he has made a bad selection of examples; it is a proof that the tendencies of Belgium are conservative. Why, then, should we adopt another course in Canada, where there is not one beggar in a thousand inhabitants?
Hon. Mr. Evanturel—Will the honorable member for Montmorenci [Hon. Mr. Cauchon] allow me to interrupt him in his argument in relation to the qualifications and appointment of the legislative councillors. Like him, I am quite of opinion that the conservative element ought, of necessity, to be the basis of the Legislative Council, to counterbalance the popular element. This principle governed the constitution of the House of Lords in England, that of the Legislative Council in Belgium, and that of every well organized representative government. It is that element of conservatism which I desire to see introduced into the Constitution of the Confederation now before us; but the honorable member for Montmorency [Hon. Mr. Cauchon] will allow me to remark that the whole of his argument applies only to the antagonism which might arise between the two branches of the legislature, in a monarchical government like that of Belgium, which is not based on a Federative system like that now submitted to us by the Government.
But we have not only to avoid the differences which might arise between the conservative and the popular elements; we have also to protect the rights of the several provinces which are to form part of the proposed Confederation. That is the all important question we have to consider. We have accorded the principle of representation based upon population in the House of Commons of the Federal Government, and that is without doubt a great sacrifice; but we ought only to make so important a concession on the condition that we shall have equality of representation in the Legislative Council, and the right reserved to ourselves to appoint our twenty-four legislative councillors, in order that they may be responsible to the public opinion of the province and independent of the Federal Government.—Without this essential guarantee I affirm that the rights of Lower Canada are in danger.
For my part I am ready, on behalf of Lower Canada, to give up her right to elect directly her twenty-four legislative councillors, although the retention of the elective principle might perhaps be the surest means of preserving our institutions; but I am anxious that the new Constitution now proposed should give us adequate guarantees that the legislative councillors to be appointed for life should, at all events, be selected by the Local Government of Lower Canada, which would be responsible to the people. These not ill-grounded sources of anxiety I should like to see removed. I would bespeak the earnest attention of the honorable member for Montmorency [Hon. Mr. Cauchon] to this point, which is of the very highest importance to us Lower Canadians; and I hope that he will pardon me for having interrupted him, and that he will be in a position to give me such an answer as will dissipate the anxiety which I am aware has been evinced on this subject.
Hon. Mr. Cauchon—The honorable gentleman has not understood me; my object has not been to attack the representative system of Belgium as being too conservative; on the contrary I use it as an argument in my favor, because the qualification there is so high, that hardly one in six thousand can be found who can aspire to the post of senator. Parties having been unable to come to any understanding at the time of the revolution of 1830, and neither the hereditary peerage or the life peerage having been able to prevail, the most conservative principle next to these was adopted, viz., that of a large property qualification. All those who have drawn up constitutions, either theoretical or for practical purposes, have never omitted to provide counterpoises to prevent, on the one hand, too […]
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[…] precipitate and hasty legislation, and on the other hand the encroachment of the power of the executive.
In our Constitution it is the duty of the Legislative Council to exercise the conservative influence, and to modify the legislation too energetic and too full of outside effervescence, which is sent for their consideration from the House of Commons. But when public opinion gains vigor from the obstacles which it encounters, and the reforms demanded are rational and come before them in due course, there is no danger that the legislation which embodies them will be obstructed in its progress; for the people will rise in their majesty and in their sense of justice, as did the people of England in 1832, and the obstacles they might meet with on their way would be swept away as by a torrent. (Hear, hear.)
Hon. Mr. Dorion—That is exactly where the danger lies.
Hon. Mr. Cauchon—That is the danger which assailed the House of Lords in 1832, but no one would venture to confront to the last extremity a danger such as this. But the honorable member for Quebec tells us, if I understand him rightly, that we have not sufficient guarantees for Lower Canada in the appointment of the legislative councillors. The selection of legislative councillors has no bearing whatever on the question we are now considering, viz., whether the appointment by the Crown is or is not preferable to the elective principle. But in answer to him I will say, that the scheme before us seems to be quite clear. According to this plan the candidates for the Legislative Council will be recommended by the local governments and appointed by the General Government, and it is by this very division of powers that the selections are sure to be good, and made in conformity with the desire and sentiments of the provinces.
Hon. Mr. Dorion—Only the first nominations are to be made in this manner, not those which may be made afterwards.
Hon. Mr. Cauchon—The first nominations will be made by the present Governments, and the federal councillors will be taken from the present legislative councillors to the number prescribed, 24, provided so many can be found who will accept the post, and who possess the requisite property qualification. The Conference has engaged, by the terms of the scheme, to respect the rights of the Opposition, and any government who should fail to carry out so solemn an engagement would well deserve to lose the public confidence. (Hear, hear.) I repeat that the mode of appointing the councillors in no wise affects the conservative principle of nomination on which the constitution of the Legislative Council ought to be based.
Hon. Mr. Dorion—In the course of my observations the other night, I did not examine the question from the point of view from which the honorable member from Quebec [Hon. Mr. Evanturel] is now looking at it. That honorable member, if I have understood him rightly, affirms that in the proposed constitution of the Federal Legislative Council there is no conservative principle to guarantee that the provinces will be represented in that Council, and he does so with justice. If the honorable member for Montmorenci [Hon. Mr. Cauchon] will examine it attentively, he will see that the first nominations are to be made by the existing governments. Thus the Government of Canada, that of New Brunswick and that of Nova Scotia will appoint legislative councillors, but afterwards the Federal Government will make the appointments.
The honorable member for Quebec [Hon. Mr. Evanturel] can, with reason, draw the conclusion that there is no guarantee that the views of the provinces will be respected. I for my part have investigated the matter, more in connection with the power that will be vested in the legislative councillors. I asserted that by appointing them for life and limiting their number, an absolute authority would be created, which would be quite beyond the control of the people and even of the Executive; that the power of this body will be so great, that they will always be in a position to prevent every reform if they thought proper, and that a collision between the two branches would be inevitable and irremediable. The danger arising from the creating of such a power is exactly that of being obliged to destroy it if they resist too obstinately the popular demands. In England there is no necessity for breaking down the obstructions sometimes presented by the House of Lords, because the Crown having it in its power to appoint new peers, can overcome the difficulty. Here there will be no means of doing it, when the number of councillors is fixed.
Accordingly, I have looked at the question through the medium of the powers assigned to the councillors, whereas the honorable member for the county of Quebec [Hon. Mr. Evanturel] fears lest the Government should make choice of men who would not represent public opinion in the provinces; that they might appoint members all of French origin or all of English origin to represent Lower Canada, or take them all from among […]
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[…] a class of men who would not represent the province for which they are appointed, and who could give no pledge that they would maintain its institutions.
Hon. Atty. Gen. Cartier—It is evident that the honorable member for Hochelaga [Hon. Mr. Dorion] has not read the resolutions; but I have read them. Lower Canada is in a peculiar position. We have two races of people whose interests are distinct from each other in respect to origin, language and religion. In preparing the business of the Confederation at Quebec, we had to conciliate these two interests, and to give the country a Constitution which might reconcile the conservative with the democratic element; for the weak point in democratic institutions is the leaving of all power in the hands of the popular element. The history of the past proves that this is an evil.
In order that institutions may be stable and work harmoniously, there must be a power of resistance to oppose the democratic element. In the United States the power of resistance does not reside in the Senate, nor even in the President. The honorable member for Hochelaga [Hon. Mr. Dorion] says that the objection of the honorable member for the county of Quebec [Hon. Mr. Evanturel] is well founded, because the Federal Government may appoint all English or all French-Canadians as legislative councillors for Lower Canada. If the honorable member had read the resolutions, he would have found that the appointments of legislative councillors are to be made so as to accord with the electoral divisions now existing in the province. Well, I ask whether it is probable that the Executive of the Federal Government, which will have a chief or leader as it is now I ask whether it is very probable that he will recommend the appointment of a French-Canadian to represent divisions like Bedford or Wellington for instance?
Hon. J.S. Macdonald—You will be in a minority in the Federal Government.
Hon. Atty. Gen. Cartier—Am I not in a minority at present in appointing judges? And yet when I propose the appointment of a judge for Lower Canada, is he not appointed? Did the honorable member for Cornwall (Hon. J.S. Macdonald), when he was in the Government, ever attempt to interfere with the appointments recommended by the honorable member for Hochelaga [Hon. Mr. Dorion]? And now, when a chief justice or a puisne judge is to be appointed for Lower Canada, I find myself surrounded by colleagues, a majority of whom are English and Protestants; but do they presume to interfere with my recommendations? No, no more than we Lower Canadians interfere with the recommendations of my honorable friend the Attorney General for Upper Canada [Hon. J.A. Macdonald] in making appointments to office in Upper Canada. There will be in the Federal Government a leader for Lower Canada, and do you think that the other Ministers will presume to interfere and intermeddle with his recommendations? But I am told that I am in a minority. So I am now, so I have been for eight years—
Mr. Geoffrion—You have equality between the two provinces.
Hon. Atty. Gen. Cartier—Yes, we have equality, but not as a race, nor in respect of religion. When the leader for Lower Canada shall have sixty-five members belonging to his section to support him, and command a majority of the French-Canadians and of the British from Lower Canada, will he not be able to upset the Government if his colleagues interfere with his recommendations to office? That is our security. At present, if I found unreasonable opposition to my views, my remedy would be to break up the Government by retiring, and the same thing will happen in the Federal Government.
Hon. Mr. Dorion—The honorable member will be allowed to retire from the Government; as there will then be a sufficient number of English members to be able to do without him, he will be allowed to retire, and nobody will care.
Hon. Mr. Cauchon—The honorable member for Hochelaga [Hon. Mr. Dorion] put a question to me relative to the constitution of the Legislative Council, and said that he had not looked at the question, while speaking the other evening, in the same light as the honorable member for the county of Quebec [Hon. Mr. Evanturel]. He spoke of the conservatives as a party, and his fear was, not that the Upper House would not be conservative enough, but that it would be too much so.
Hon. Mr. Dorion—I looked at it both ways, both as it involved the interests of parties, and in regard to the power which that House would exercise from the nature of its constitution.
Hon. Mr. Cauchon—I did not see the two ways of looking at it. I saw but one. It is the same idea in a different form. He said that even if the Lower House were altogether liberal, the Upper House would remain composed of conservatives; this was his fear. He has been a long while trying to gain predominance for his democratic notions, but it is evident he will not succeed. I recur to the real medium through which the honorable member looks at the question, namely, his fears […]
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[…] that his party will sink out of sight. In the present day, parties disappear and become fused with others, while others arise from passing events. In New Brunswick, conservatives join the liberal government to carry Confederation, and we see no parties there but the partisans and the opponents of the union, as in 1788, in the United States, there were no parties but the adherents of royalty and those of Federal Government. We see the same thing in Nova Scotia. This is true patriotism and the real dignity of public men. It is unfortunate for us that we do not follow their example here.
Hon. Mr. Cauchon—The honorable member from Verchères [Mr. Geoffrion] says “Hear!” Is it not a fact that the Opposition vote as a party on the present question? If it is not so, will he name a single member of the Opposition who does not vote against Confederation?
Hon. J.S. Macdonald—Hear! hear!
Hon. Mr. Cauchon—The honorable member for Cornwall [Hon. J.S. Macdonald] says “Hear! hear!” He may well say so, he who never had a party. He came into power, nobody expected he would. He will never get it again, everybody expects that. (Continued laughter.) I am bound to show him respect because he is my senior in this House, my senior by three years. It is true he has not always represented the same county, his brother having fraternally driven him out of Glengarry, and obliged him to take refuge in the rotten borough of Cornwall [Hon. J.S. Macdonald]. (Laughter.) But although we have almost always been unlucky enough to do duty in different camps, we have not on that account ceased to be good friends. (Laughter.)
I will not look at this question in a party light, because parties expire, and we do not know whether in thirty years the present parties will exist. We ought to look at the question apart from party considerations, and on its own merits: that is to say, we ought to place in the Constitution a counterpoise to prevent any party legislation, and to moderate the precipitancy of any government which might be disposed to move too fast and go too far,—I mean a legislative body able to protect the people against itself and against the encroachments of power. (Hear, hear.)
In England, the Crown has never attempted to degrade the House of Peers by submerging it, because it knows well that the nobility are a bulwark against the aggressions of the democratic element. The House of Lords, by their power, their territorial possessions, and their enormous wealth, are a great defence against democratic invasion, greater than anything we can oppose to it in America. In Canada, as in the rest of North America, we have not the castes—classes of society—which are found in Europe, and the Federal Legislative Council, although immutable in respect of number, inasmuch as all the members belonging to it will come from the ranks of the people, without leaving them, as do the members of the House of Commons, will not be selected from a privileged class which have no existence. Here all men are alike, and are all equal; if a difference is to be found, it arises exclusively from the industry, the intelligence, and the superior education of those who have labored the most strenuously, or whom Providence has gifted with the highest faculties. (Hear, hear.)
Long ago the privileges of caste disappeared in this country. Most of our ancient nobility left the country at the conquest, and the greater number of those who remained have sunk out of sight by inaction. Accordingly, whom do we see in the highest offices of state? The sons of the poor who have felt the necessity of study, and who have risen by the aid of their intellect and hard work. (Hear, hear.) Everything is democratic with us, because everyone can attain to everything by the efforts of a noble ambition. The legislative councillors appointed by the Crown will not be, therefore, socially speaking, persons superior to the members of the House of Commons; they will owe their elevation only to their own merit. They will live as being of the people and among the people as we do. How can it happen, then, that having no advantage over us greater than that of not being elected, they will not be subject in a legitimate degree to the influence of public opinion?
There are some men who have enough patriotism to approve of everything done elsewhere, but to find fault with everything done at home—it is a pitiful crochet in the human mind. If there had been as much danger for the liberal party in this union as you say there was, would Hon. Mr. Tilley, the leader of the Liberal government of New Brunswick, a man of such foresight and judgment; would the honorable member for South Oxford [Hon. Mr. Brown], your former leader, whose talent and experience you will not deny, have accepted it? (Hear, hear.) But look rather at what is now passing in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia; what they have agreed to designate as the Federal electoral ticket is composed of six candidates for the town and […]
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[…] county of St. Johns, N.B.; and in Nova Scotia, Hon. Mr. Tupper, the leader of a Conservative government, and Messrs. Archibald and McCulley, two of the chiefs of the Liberal party, are working hand in hand for Confederation. (Hear, hear.)
One must be short-sighted not to see that this new order of things will produce new combinations similar to those produced by the American Constitution of 1788, when the citizens and public men divided into two camps, the camp of the supporters of national union and that of the friends of the state sovereignty. (Hear, hear.) Let us not then be anxious about the future of parties. What does it matter to this country what position the honorable member for Hochelaga [Hon. Mr. Dorion] or myself may occupy in this new Constitution? (Laughter.) What matters it to the country if we be above or below, the first or the last, the victors or the vanquished, so long as it is happy under the new rule, and finds happiness, greatness, power and prosperity in the free development of its resources and institutions? (Hear, hear.)
The opponents of Confederation do not desire the union of the provinces for the purpose of military defence; two and two will always make four, say they, and in uniting the populations of the different provinces, you will not give us more strength to resist the common enemy, unless, as facetiously remarked the honorable member for Lotbinière [Mr. Joly], we make a treaty with the enemy, which would bind him to attack us at but one place at a time, so as to allow us to oppose all our forces to the invasion.
Yes, two and two will always make four. You are right. War between England and the United States would expose us in our colonial position to the attacks of the enemy at all vulnerable points of the respective provinces. But, firstly, the union carries with it the construction of the Intercolonial Railway, and that railway which does not particularly please the two annexationist taaders of the Opposition, would allow England and the provinces to transport troops rapidly from the furthest limits of the country to the threatened points of the national territory. Without the aid of railways how could Napoleon III. have been able, in a fortnight, to throw two hundred thousand men on the plains of Italy, to defeat the Austrians at Magenta and Solferino, and to gain one of the bloodiest and most glorious victories of modern times?
But in the advanced condition of our civilization, our commerce and our manufactures—with so many elements of greatness, with so many prodigious sources of prosperity and wealth—with a population of nearly four millions already—should we have so little ambition as not to aspire to take our place one day in the rank of nations? (Hear, hear.) Shall we forever remain colonists? Does the history of the world afford examples of eternal subjection? (Hear, hear.)
It is not, for my part, because I do not feel myself proud and happy under the glorious flag which protects and shelters in safety one hundred and fifty millions of souls. It is not because I do not feel myself free as the bird of air in the midst of space, under the mighty aegis of the British Empire—a thousand times more free than I should be, with the name of citizen, in the grasp of the American Eagle. (Hear, hear, and cheers.)
But we must not conceal from ourselves the fact that we are attracted by two centres of attraction—the opposing ideas which are developed and which make war upon each other, even within these walls, sufficiently attest the fact. Everything tells us that the day of national emancipation or of annexation to the United States is approaching, and while the statesmen of all parties in the Empire warn us affectionately to prepare for the first, a few of our own public men drive us incessantly towards the second, by propagating republican ideas, and by endeavoring by all possible means to assimilate our institutions to those of the neighboring republic. (Hear, hear.)
If we remain isolated, what will happen at the moment of separation from the Mother Country; for that moment will come, whether we wish it or wish it not? Each province would form an independent state, and as to attack the one would no longer mean to attack all, inasmuch as we should have ceased to be the subjects of the same empire, the United States, if they covet them, would devour them one by one in their isolated position, following therein the able tactics of the Romans in Asia, Europe and Africa, of the English in India, and of Napoleon, the greatest warrior of modern times, in Europe. I understand that the annexationists insist on the status quo and on isolation; but others would be blind did they listen to them, inasmuch as reason commands them to organize, so as to be ready when danger comes. If we are four millions to-day, we shall probably be eight millions and over then,with proportionate means of defence, and the alliances which we would find in the necessity on the part of the European powers to keep within bounds the too extensive development of that nation which […]
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[…] is now struggling in the horrors of civil war. (Hear, hear.)
Honorable gentlemen do not desire Confederation, because there must be an outlay for its defence. But are those, who argue thus, logical? If two and two did not make more than four a moment ago, why would they make five now? If each province, standing in an isolated position, would be obliged to expend money to organize the defence of its territory, why would the combination of all these various outlays in Confederation amount to more than the total of these same expenses otherwise added up? Would this be the case because a single organization ought to be, necessarily, less expensive than six distinct commands? The honorable member for Hochelaga [Hon. Mr. Dorion] has exaggerated the expenses of the Confederation, as he has everything else; as he exaggerated and perverted, the other day, the words of the Hon. President of the Council [Hon. Mr. Brown].
Mr. Geoffrion—And besides this, the Maritime Provinces have to be paid to come into the Confederation.
Hon. Mr. Cauchon—That question will naturally come up in its turn. But it is not the less true that all the provinces come into the Confederation on an equal footing, as their debt is placed in equilibrium; and as, for the purposes of the union, the arrangement is strictly based on the total population of each of them. On a previous occasion, as I have elsewhere quoted, the honorable member for Hochelaga [Hon. Mr. Dorion] stated that the Maritime Provinces did not choose our alliance, because our debt was too great. Now he does not choose their alliance, because he is afraid we shall have to pay for them. Now that the debt is perfectly equal, in proportion to the total population, and the Conference has so equalized it in order to found Confederation on justice, the Atlantic Provinces consent to the union.
Hon. Mr. Dorion—What provinces are those?
Hon. Mr. Cauchon—I allude to New Brunswick and Newfoundland, and I am convinced that the decision of those two provinces will sufficiently influence Nova Scotia to cause her to resolve to come into the Confederation. The Nova Scotian newspapers, even those of them which are most hostile to the scheme, acknowledge that that province cannot remain isolated; and accordingly she awaits the result of the elections in New Brunswick before taking action. In the meantime the journals in question are making incredible exertions to prevail upon New Brunswick to refuse the great Confederation, because they wish for another and a smaller one, that of the Maritime Provinces alone.
Another motive which will induce Nova Scotia to accept the scheme of the Quebec Conference, if New Brunswick should declare herself in favor of it, is that the terminus of the Intercolonial Railway would be fixed at St. John instead of at Halifax; and what would become of Nova Scotia so isolated? She would not consent to it; her writers and her statesmen positively assert it. For our part, we require an outlet upon the Atlantic seaboard, and that we can only have by means of Confederation. (Hear, hear.)
To those who cherish different ideas, I can conceive that this matter is not one of equal importance, for they wish to fix their terminus at another point on the Atlantic seaboard. (Hear, hear.) I feel that I have already spoken at length, and I have yet some important points of the scheme to examine. I will not, then, enter into calculations of figures to prove the extravagance and absurdity of those of the hon. member for Hochelaga [Hon. Mr. Dorion], preferring, moreover, to leave them in the more skilful and powerful hands of the Hon. Minister of Finance [Hon. Mr. Galt].
I shall content myself with telling the hon. member for Hochelaga [Hon. Mr. Dorion]—and that will suffice for myself as well as for the House and the country—that I prefer Confederation with its prospects of expense, to annexation to the United States with an actual debt of close upon three thousand millions, and with an annual tax of five hundred millions of dollars. The 34th paragraph of the 29th clause of the scheme reads thus: “The establishment of a General Court of Appeal for the Federated Provinces.”
What is the object—what will be the character of the tribunal? These two questions will naturally present themselves to those who have given any attention to that part of the scheme which refers to the civil and criminal law, and the working of the judiciary. The whole of the clauses which refer to the latter are as complete as the most ardent supporters of union could desire, tempered by the lew exceptions by means of which the provinces have wished to shelter their local institutions from attack. (Cheers.) To convince the House of this, I need but read the following:—
- The General Parliament may also, from time to time, establish additional courts, and the General Government may appoint judges and officers thereof, when the same shall appear […]
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[…] necessary or for the public advantage, in order to the due execution of the laws of Parliament.
- All courts, judges and officers of the several provinces shall aid, assist and obey the General Government in the exercise of its rights and powers, and for such purposes shall be held to be courts, judges and officers of the General Government.
- The General Government shall appoint and pay the judges of the Superior Courts in each province, and of the County Courts in Upper Canada, and Parliament shall fix their salaries.
- The judges of the courts of Lower Canada shall be selected from the Bar of Lower Canada.
- The judges of the Superior Courts shall hold their offices during good behaviour, and shall be removable only on the address of both Houses of Parliament.
- In regard to all subjects over which jurisdiction belongs to both the General and Local Legislatures, the laws of the General Parliament shall control and supersede those made by the local legislature, and the latter shall be void so far as they are repugnant to, or inconsistent with the former.
- For each of the provinces there shall be an executive officer, styled the lieutenant-governor, who shall be appointed by the Governor General in Council, under the great seal of the Federated Provinces, during pleasure: such pleasure not to be exercised before the expiration of the first five years, except for cause: such cause to be communicated in writing to the Lieutenant-Governor immediately after the exercise of the pleasure as aforesaid, and also by message to both Houses of Parliament, within the first week of the first session afterwards.
- The lieutenant-governor of each province shall be paid by the General Government.
- Any bill of the General Parliament may be reserved in the usual manner for Her Majesty’s assent, and any bill of the local legislatures may, in like manner, be reserved for the consideration of the Governor General.
- Any bill passed by the General Parliament shall be subject to disallowance by Her Majesty within two years, as in the case of bills passed by the legislatures of the said provinces hitherto, and, in like manner, any bill passed by a local legislature shall be subject to disallowance by the Governor General within one year after the passing thereof.
The evident object of this organization is to reassure the Protestant minority of Lower Canada against any apprehension for the future; it is also perhaps in the interest of national unity, to prevent local parliaments and governments from infringing the attributes of the Central Parliament. The nomination of judges, the veto, the reservation and even certain directions to be found in the project itself, tend to the same end, and must necessarily attain it. I see nothing wrong in that, provided that this formidable engine in going out of its course does not crush the rights which we are bound to respect and maintain forever in their integrity. (Hear, hear.)
I am not of the same opinion as the hon. member for Brome [Mr. Dunkin], who pretends to see in those clauses that the judges would be under two masters at the same time. If they could possibly be controlled at all, it would be by the Federal Government, which alone will appoint them, pay them, and have the power of dismissing them in certain cases. There is no anomaly here, because one thing follows another; all are linked together and harmonize perfectly. If anything could possibly arise, it would be danger. However, so far as we can see, there will be no danger in the administration of justice—the question of veto, and reserve with regard to legislation, being a totally different thing, and suggesting considerations of a different nature.
But here is the point to which I wish to draw the attention of this House. Among all the things guaranteed to Lower Canada in the Constitution, and in fact to all the provinces, we find their own civil laws. Lower Canada has been so tenacious of its civil code, that it is laid down in the project before us that the Federal Parliament shall not even be able to suggest legislation by which it may be affected, as it will have the right to do for the other provinces—The reason is obvious; the civil laws of the other provinces are nearly similar; they breathe the same spirit and the same principles; they spring from the same source and the same ideas. But it is not so with regard to those of Lower Canada, with their origin from almost entirely Latin sources; and we hold to them as to a sacred legacy; we love them because they suit our customs, and we find under the protection for our property and our families. (Hear, hear.)
The Conference has understood and respected our ideas on this point. However, if a Court of Appeal should one day be placed over the judiciary tribunals of all the provinces, without the exception of those of Lower Canada, the result would be that those same laws would be explained by men who would not understand them, and who would, involuntarily perhaps, graft English jurisprudence upon a French code of laws.—(Hear, hear.) Such was the spectacle presented in Canada after the conquest, and no one, I am sure, would wish to see a repetition of the scene. (Hear, hear.) We have, it […]
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[…] is true, Her Majesty’s Privy Council as a last resort, but we owe it to necessity; we have not asked for it ourselves. At any rate it is composed of chosen men, all or nearly all of whom are well versed in Roman law—men who, when they have a doubt upon some point, avail themselves of the counsels and advice of the most eminent jurists of France. Nor does the proposed Constitution speak of doing away with this tribunal, which will dominate by its imperial character even over the Court of Appeal which the Federal Government has the power of creating. Here the Convention had national views; it foresaw evidently in the future the day of colonial emancipation. Nevertheless, whatever the intentions of the delegates, their project does not define the attributes of this Federal court; and as there is some apprehension on this point, I would wish to put the following question to the Government:—If this Court of Appeal be established, will it be a purely civil tribunal, or a constitutional one? Or will it be at the same time civil and constitutional? If it be a civil tribunal, will it have jurisdiction over Lower Canada? (Hear hear.)
Hon. Atty. Gen. Cartier—The question put by my hon. friend the member for Montmorency [Hon. Mr. Cauchon] is one which it is not easy for the Government to answer, inasmuch as the power conferred by that article is only that of creating a Court of Appeal at some future day, and the jurisdiction of that court will depend on the causes which lead to its creation. The hon. member has very justly remarked that it may become necessary at a future period to constitute such a tribunal.
At present the several provinces which are to form part of the Confederation have the same court of final appeal. As long as we keep up our connection with the Mother Country, we shall always have our court of final appeal in Her Majesty’s Privy Council. But when the British Provinces on this continent are united by the bond of Confederation, we shall have one uniform system, common to all, in regard to imports, bills of exchange and promissory notes, as well as universal jurisprudence.
Accordingly, when we have lived some years under the Federal regime, the urgent need of such a Court of Appeal with jurisdiction in such matters will be felt, and, if it is created, it will be fit that its jurisdiction should extend to civil causes which might arise in the several Confederate Provinces, because it will necessarily be composed of the most eminent judges in the different provinces, of the jurists whose reputation stands highest, of men, in short, profoundly skilled in the jurisprudence of each of the provinces which they will respectively represent. Well, if this court is called upon, for instance, to give final judgment on a judgment rendered by a Lower Canada court, there will be among the judges on the bench men perfectly versed in the knowledge of the laws of that section of the Confederation, who will be able to give the benefit of their lights to the other judges sitting with them.
I must observe to my hon. friend the member for Montmorency [Hon. Mr. Cauchon], that he disparages the civil law of Lower Canada in the estimate he makes of it; but he need be under no uneasiness on that head. He should not forget that if, at this day, the laws of Lower Canada are so remarkably well understood in Her Majesty’s Privy Council, it is because the code of equity, which is a subject of deep study and familiar knowledge among the members of the council, is based on Roman law, as our own code is. All the eminent judges, whether in England, in the Maritime Provinces or in Upper Canada, are profoundly versed in those principles of equity, which are identical with those of our civil code.
Now, as to my own personal opinion, respecting the creation of that tribunal, I think that it is important not to establish it until a certain number of years shall have elapsed from the establishment of Confederation, and to make it consist of judges from the several provinces; for this court would have to give final judgment in causes pronounced upon in the courts of all the sections. Neither can I tell what functions and powers might be assigned to it by the act establishing it. Time alone can tell us that; but I do hold, and the spirit of the conference at Quebec indicated, that, the appeal to the judicial committee of Her Majesty’s Privy Council must always exist, even if the court in question is established.
Hon. Mr. Evanturel—I acknowledge the frankness which the Hon. Attorney General for Lower Canada [Hon. Mr. Cartier] has evinced in giving the explanations to the House which we have just heard; and I trust that the honorable minister will permit me to ask him one question. Paragraph 32 gives the Federal Government the power of legislating on criminal law, except that of creating […]
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[…] courts of criminal jurisdiction, but including rules of procedure in criminal cases. If I am not mistaken, that paragraph signifies that the General Government may establish judicial tribunals in the several Confederate Provinces. I should much like to be enlightened on this head by the Hon. Attorney General for Lower Canada [Hon. Mr. Cartier].
Hon. Mr. Cartier—I am very glad that the honorable member for the County of Quebec [Hon. Mr. Evanturel] has put this question, which I shall answer as frankly as that of the hon. member for Montmorency [Hon. Mr. Cauchon]. My hon. friend will find, if he refers to the paragraph which he has cited, that it gives the General Government simply the power of providing for the execution of the laws of the Federal Government, not of those of the local governments.
Hon. Mr. Cauchon—I have listened to the explanations of my hon. friend the Attorney General for Lower Canada [Hon. Mr. Cartier], and I find them perfectly satisfactory, as they regard criminal law; for that is the same or nearly the same in all the provinces. For my own part, I infinitely prefer the criminal law of England to that of any other country. It affords more protection to the party accused, than, for instance the criminal code of France does. The civil laws of the latter, by the way, have my warm admiration, as have also their administrative talent and their aptness for civilizing influences. (Hear, hear.)
If the English criminal law gives the criminal too great a chance of escaping, it at least saves society the stigma of condemning the innocent. The accused is tried for the single act for which he is indicted, and is not questioned concerning his whole past life and conversation The laws of commerce are nearly the same in all countries, and those which rule the trade of two continents may be said to be founded on an ordinance of a king of France. Accordingly, there will be no inconvenience in bringing commercial causes, as well as others, for adjudication before the Court of Appeals mentioned in the scheme of Confederation. I am convinced that if ever that tribunal comes into existence, it will be composed of the most eminent men in the several provinces, who will devote their whole energies to the causes brought before them, but the majority of whom will have studied and practised a code different from ours; although the laws of Upper Canada, for instance, have a constant tendency to coincide with our civil code: Blackstone, with his national common law which he aimed at establishing, being no longer the great authority which he was in former days, and England, like Germany, drawing rather from the pure spring of Roman law, as the most perfectly rational code in existence.
We have not, however, yet come to this position of things in our provinces, and, up to the present hour, English law consists rather of precedents and decisions of eminent judges, like Lords Mansfield, Coke, and others; and as the scheme of a Constitution makes an exception in favor of our civil laws, it would be most prudent, in my opinion, to leave the decision of our causes to those judges who have studied and practised them. Nothing is as yet written in the Constitution concerning them, and nothing stands in the way of the desired exception. (Hear.)
I am aware that it may be attended with some inconveniences and that in this behalf concessions may have been, perforce, submitted to in order to obtain others; but I think that on reflection it will be found best for all concerned to have the laws enforced rather by those who understand them than by those who do not. (Hear, hear.)
I now come, Mr. Speaker, to the question of marriage and divorce. The word divorce has sounded strangely upon Catholic ears through the length and breadth of Lower Canada; for the Catholic, whether he live in Rome, in London, Paris, New York, Halifax or Quebec, does not recognize any authority on earth with power to sanction or legalize divorce. Such is what the Catholic believes, whether he be the Sovereign Pontiff, ruling spiritually over 200,000,000 souls, or the humblest or poorest of the faithful, with nothing to shelter him from the fury of the elements but the thatched roof of his cabin. (Hear, hear.)
That is what I believe, in common with all the Catholics of the world; but here, in this House, composed of Catholics and Protestants, I feel that I need, in order to be understood, to speak in another language, which will be understood by all, because it is based upon principles anterior to Christianity and universally admitted. What is marriage, considered as a natural contract? It is the social formula; it is, as I had occasion to write elsewhere, the natural mode of transmitting property, which is the fundamental base of society, and, to go farther, society itself in its constitution. (Hear, hear.) […]
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[…] If we cannot suppose a body without a form, so we cannot suppose society without its formula, and in destroying its formula you destroy society. That is the reason why the marriage tie should be indissoluble; it is it which constitutes the family, and in breaking that tie you destroy the family, in breaking that tie you strike a mortal blow at society, because family ties are its only base, its only foundation, Its only element of composition (Hear.) It is from those fundamental truths that spring the rights, duties and civil laws which prove their existence and at the same time protect them. (Hear.)
I have heard in another place than in this House, men who, forgetting the natural law and the principles of society, become affected at the recital of the domestic miseries of one of their fellow-beings, and even invoke the Divine word to justify them in granting a divorce for cause of adultery. Let us see if the language of the Saviour of the world, who taught here upon earth a social doctrine, by preserving the inviolability of domestic ties and surrounding them with duties which rendered them still more sacred, justifies such an interpretation:—”I say unto you, that he who putteth away his wife, except for adultery, and marrieth another, committeth adultery, and he who marrieth her who hath been put away also committeth adultery.” Are not these words as clear as day, and do they not expressly forbid divorce, since they declare an adulterer the man who shall marry the woman separated from her husband. (Hear, hear.)
These words permit the sending away, the separation of the body, but they expressly forbid divorce—that is, the rupture of family ties (Applause.) I have said that those Divine words had a social object; in fact what other object could they have but to preserve intact the social formula for the transmission of property; and if they surround that formula with a supernatural sanction, accompanied by a prospect of reward or punishment, it is to protect it still more. It is for this reason that, in Catholicism, marriage, a natural contract, is elevated to the dignity of a sacrament, but it was inviolable and indissoluble before that sanction. (Hear, hear.)
Now, if we drop the consideration of these great philosophical Christian ideas, we come to the region of material facts, and we are forcibly led to distinguish between force and right, between power and duty. The sovereign legislative authority, as a superior power everywhere, in spite of right and duty, has ruled with a high hand questions in the social order, among which may be found divorce; everywhere, in ancient Rome, in France, in England, in the United States, and in Canada, has this authority acted, and the judiciary was bound to execute its commands. (Hear, hear.) This power is inherent to Parliament, and is exercised without opposition. Our present Parliament possessed that power, as did those of ’74 and ’91, and several of us have had, at some time or other, to give our vote on a bill of divorce. Catholics invariably voted against those bills, denying the right, but unable to deny the power, of Parliament, thus reconciling their consciences with their principles. (Hear, hear. )
This scheme of the Conference does not ask us today to proclaim a principle, but simply the transposition of the exercise of a power which exists in spite of us. Now, in weighing the advantages and inconveniences” I, for my part, say—and I believe, in so speaking I express the general sentiment of Catholics—that, since the evil is a necessary one, and cannot be got rid of, I would rather see it where its consequences would be less serious, because they would be more cramped in their development, and consequently less demoralizing and less fatal in their influence. (Hear, hear.)
Marriage presents itself to us here under another aspect—that is, marriage with regard to its civil effects. This project attributes the civil laws and legislation as to property to the local legislatures. Now, marriage, considered as a civil contract, becomes necessarily a part of these laws, and, I might even say, it affects the entire civil code, containing in its broadest sense all the marriage acts, all the qualities and conditions required to allow marriage to be contracted, all the formalities relative to its celebration, all its nullifying causes, all its obligations, its dissolution, the separation of the body, its causes and effects; in a word, all the possible consequences that can result from marriage to the contracting parties, their children and their estates. (Hear, hear.)
If such had been the intention of the delegates, we might as well say that the civil laws will not be one of the attributes of our Local Legislature, and that these words, “Property and civil rights,” have been placed ironically in the fifteenth section of the forty-third clause of the scheme. But I was sure beforehand that such could not be the case, when the Honorable Solicitor General for Lower Canada [Hon. Mr. Langevin] declared the other day, in the […]
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[…] name of the Government, that the word marriage, inserted in the project of Confederation, expresses the intention to give to the Federal Parliament the power to declare that marriages contracted in any one of the provinces, according to its laws, should be considered as valid in all the others. Then am I to understand that that part of the Constitution relating to this question will be drafted in the sense expressed in the declaration of the Honorable Solicitor General [Hon. Mr. Langevin], and will be restricted to the case mentioned?
Hon. Sol. Gen. Langevin—I made, Mr. Speaker, the other day, in the name of the Government, the declaration now alluded to by the honorable member for Montmorency [Hon. Mr. Cauchon], relative to the question of marriage. The explanation then given by me exactly accords with that which was affixed to it at the Quebec Conference. It is undoubted that the resolutions laid before this honorable House contain in all things only the principles on which the bill or measure respecting Confederation will be based. I can assure the honorable member that the explanations I gave the other evening, relative to the question of marriage, are perfectly exact, and that the Imperial Act relating to it will be drawn up in accordance with the interpretation I put upon it.
Hon. Mr. Dorion—I thought I understood from someone, whom I had reason to consider well informed, that that article was intended to protect mixed marriages.
Hon. Sol. Gen. Langevin—In order that I may be better understood by the hon. member, I will read the written declaration which I communicated to the House the other evening. This declaration reads as follows:
The word marriage has been placed in the draft of the proposed Constitution to invest the Federal Parliament with the right of declaring what marriages shall be held and deemed to be valid throughout the whole extent of the Confederacy, without, however, interfering in any particular with the doctrines or rites of the religious creeds to which the contracting parties may belong.
The hon. member for Hochelaga [Hon. Mr. Dorion] will please to remark that I have been careful in reading this declaration; and in order that no doubt may exist respecting it, I have given to the reporters the very text of the declaration.
Hon. Mr. Dorion—I may have been mistaken; but the question on which I wish to be enlightened by the Hon. Solicitor General for Lower Canada [Hon. Mr. Langevin] is this: Will a Local Legislature have the right of declaring a marriage between parties not professing the same religious belief invalid?
Hon. Atty. Gen. Cartier—Has not the Legislature of Canada now the power of legislating on that matter, and yet has it ever thought of legislating in that way? (Hear, hear.)
Hon. Mr. Cauchon—If I understand the explanation of the Hon. Solicitor General for Lower Canada [Hon. Mr. Langevin] correctly, it will be nothing but the application between the provinces of public international law, namely, that a marriage lawfully contracted in one province should be equally binding in all the others. (Hear, hear.)
Hon. Mr. Dorion—In that case you have no need of that clause.
Hon. Mr. Cauchon—If the principle is just, I do not see what harm there can be in having it written in the Constitution, particularly as it is desired in the provinces, and we, for our part, are interested in knowing that marriages contracted in Lower Canada are valid in all parts of the Confederation. That declaration is satisfactory and reassuring. Some of the speakers, imbued with democratic-republican ideas, have gone so far as to deny one of the most essential and fundamental principles of the British Constitution, that is to say—that the Parliament may change the Constitution without special appeals to the electoral body, and without recourse to popular conventions. It is evident that they wish to lead us towards a social republic, government and legislation in full force. The Roman armies in the days of the decadence of the empire, made and unmade emperors; but it never occurred to them to make laws and administer affairs of state. This had to be reserved to our republicans, who are against Confederation because they desire annexation to the United States, and who raise all kinds of obstacles in order to attain their end. (Hear, hear.)
Here there are useless debates provoked in order to kill time; there, petitions covered with false signatures or names obtained under false pretences; and the forlorn hope of democracy, who in the streets threaten with riots and gibbets all who wish for the union of the provinces, and thereby, in its time, constitutional monarchy and parliamentary government. (Hear, hear.) But for those who, like myself, move in another circle of ideas, who have other aspirations, and who are unwilling to accept on any condition their share of a debt of three thousand millions, and of an annual burthen of five hundred millions […]
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[…] of dollars; for those the theory and practice of English constitutional law alone possess attractions. (Hear, hear.)
These convictions on my part are not of yesterday. When, in 1849, after a commercial crisis, which had everywhere caused discouragement, ruined merchants sighed for annexation, because they hoped to find in it a remedy for the ills and the fortune they had lost; they supplicated Great Britain to allow them to go over, arms and baggage, to the Washington Government; to them became immediately allied the republicans by inclination and principle, among whom were the honorable members for Chateauguay [Hon. Mr. Holton] and Hochelaga [Hon. Mr. Dorion]. (Hear, hear.) The prosperity which followed brought back the merchants to affection for British rule, but the others remained republicans and annexationists. Their leaders are here before us. Their acts betray them, and were it permitted to us to hear them in their familiar counsels, I am sure their words would also betray them. (Hear, hear.)
The annexation movement had scarcely commenced in Montreal, when the two similar classes of men began to agitate in Quebec, and called an annexationist meeting in the St. George’s Hotel, now occupied as the Executive Council Chamber. This meeting was inaugurated under evil auspices. It was presided over by a bankrupt merchant. It was evening, and the meeting was held by gas-light. An orator was chanting with stentorian lungs the praises annexation and republicanism, from which we were to derive prosperity and happiness. Respectable leading citizens, indignant at what they beheld, implored me to speak, and by a spontaneous movement I was borne towards the platform. The annexationist orator, losing his balance with the shock, in order to keep himself upright, seized the gas-burner above his head, but the frail support gave way. (Laughter.) The flames ascended in a threatening manner towards the ceiling, and the terrified hotel-keeper immediately ran to the cellar and put a stop to the sources of illumination—and thus annexation was quenched in utter darkness. (Cheers and continuous laughter.) The republican annexationists, their hearts bursting with rage, in order to avenge themselves, proceeded to break my windows.
This occurred nearly sixteen years ago, and time has only strengthened within me the opinion which guided my action then. It is neither hatred nor prejudice which has inspired me since I have been able to read and reflect. My opinion is the result of matured conviction. It is, therefore, in the parliamentary history of Great Britain, and not in that of American institutions, that I shall seek a rule of conduct to guide me under the circumstances. In 1717 the British soil was invaded by the Pretender. The tories, who were not in power, but who wanted to rise to it precisely like the honorable members in opposition whom I see before me, exclaimed, like them, that the church and religion of the country were in danger. Observe well the similarity. These tories wished to elevate a Catholic prince to the throne. (Laughter.)
The Whigs, who held the Government, and who saw in the approaching election the certainty of the downfall of the reigning dynasty, determined to prolong the existence of the Parliament for four years more without an appeal to the people. Their adversaries exclaimed, as do ours today, about violation of the Constitution, and accused them of evading, by violent means, an appeal to the people, to maintain themselves in power.
Mr. Geoffrion—In proportion to their numbers, there are more Protestants than Catholics in favor of Confederation.
Hon. Mr. Cauchon—In the first place, there are a great many more Protestants in the House than Catholics, Upper Canada being entirely Protestant with the exception of two votes, and the Opposition of Lower Canada pronouncing themselves, as a party, against Confederation, it is not to be wondered at that there should be proportionately more Protestants than Catholics in favor of Confederation. (Hear, hear, from the Opposition benches.) And this leads me to say that Catholic institutions have been much better maintained by Protestant votes than by certain Catholic votes in the Legislature. If Catholicism has been insulted, the insult has come from the Opposition newspapers. (Hear.)
Mr. Geoffrion—The Globe, the organ of the Honorable the President of the Council [Hon. Mr. Brown]!
Hon. Mr. Cauchon—Yes, the Globe has made attacks on Catholic institutions and the Catholic clergy—it was wrong, there is no doubt, and so was its proprietor. But at that time, and more particularly when the Honorable the President of the Council [Hon. Mr. Brown] accused Catholicism of demoralizing society, who was it who replied on the floor of this House, at great length, and I believe victoriously, in disproof of that assertion? (Sensation.)
I am then justified in saying that the Honorable the President of the Council [Hon. Mr. Brown] was wrong in speaking and writing as he did. He was unjust, but he was a Protestant, and he adhered to his opinions. What, however, has […]
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[…] he written in comparison with what has been written by certain newspapers of the Catholic opposition, among which the Avenir takes the highest place? They have ransacked the history of the world from the beginning of the Christian era in search of the calumnies of past ages, with the view of overwhelming, if it were possible, our bishops and priests. They have even gone so far as to cast their venom upon the august Pontiff who now rules over the Catholic Church; and what has not been done by the Institut Canadien of Montreal, which is patronized by the leaders of the Opposition? (Cheers. )
Hon. Mr. Cartier—And the Avenir, which asserted that the Pope ought to be a schoolmaster.
Hon. Mr. Cauchon—Ah! we now well know those who pretend to be the defenders of Catholicism, those former editors of the Avenir; we know what has been done by the Avenir, and the Pays also, in certain circumstances. (Hear, hear.) But here is what we find in a great constitutional authority, the value of which honorable gentlemen opposite will probably not contest “Hallam’s History of England”:—
Upon the prevalent disaffection and the general changes of the established government was founded that measure so frequently arraigned in later times, the substitution of septennial for triennial parliaments. The Ministry deemed it too perilous to their master, certainly for themselves, to encounter a general election in 1717; but the arguments adduced for the alteration, as if it was meant to be permanent, were drawn from its permanent expediency. Nothing can be more extravagant than what is sometimes confidently pretended by the ignorant, that the legislature exceeded its rights by this enactment; or if that cannot legally be advanced, that it at least violated the trust of the people, and broke in upon the ancient Constitution. That law for triennial parliaments was of little more than twenty years’ continuance. It was an experiment which, as was argued, had proved unsuccessful; it was subject, like every other law, to be repealed entirely, or to be modified at discretion.
As a question of constitutional expediency, the septennial bill was doubtless open at the time to one serious objection. Everyone admitted that a parliament subsisting indefinitely during a king’s life, but exposed at all times to be dissolved at his pleasure, would become far too little dependent on the people, and far too much so on the Crown. But if the period of its continuance should thus be extended from three to seven years, the natural course of encroachment of those in power, or some momentous circumstance like the present, might lead to fresh prolongations, and’ gradually to an entire repeal of what had been thought so important a safeguard of its purity. Time has happily put an end to apprehensions, which are not on that account to be reckoned unreasonable.
Against those who pretended that the Parliament of England could not effect, without an appeal to the people, a legislative union with Ireland, William Pitt, that other great constitutional authority, maintained that Parliament had the right to alter even the succession to the Throne, to incorporate with itself another legislature, to deprive of the franchise those who elected it, and to create for itself other electors. To be more exact I will quote from a speech made by the illustrious Sir Robert Peel, on the 27th March, 1846, on the Corn Law question. You will find there the opinion of Pitt, Fox and Peel himself, the most weighty English constitutional authority of this century. It is found in Hansards Parliamentary Debates, third series, vol. 85, pages 224, 225 and 226. Sir Robert Peel said:—
But my honorable friend says he did not object to it as impeding the formation of a protection government, but as preventing a dissolution; and my honorable friend and others have blamed me for not advising a dissolution of Parliament. In my opinion, it would have been utterly inconsistent with the duty of a Minister to advise a dissolution of Parliament under the particular circumstances in which this question of the Corn Law was placed. Why should it be so utterly impossible for this Parliament to deal with the present proposition? After its election in 1841, this Parliament passed the existing Corn Law, which diminished protection; this Parliament passed the tariff destroying altogether the system of prohibition with respect to food; this Parliament passed the Canada Corn Bill; why should it exceed the functions of this Parliament to entertain the present proposition? But upon much higher ground I would not consent to a dissolution. That, indeed, I think would have been a “dangerous precedent” for a Minister to admit that the existing Legislature was incompetent to the entertainment of any question; that is a precedent which I would not establish.
Whatever may have been the circumstances that may have taken place at an election, I never would sanction the view that any House of Commons is incompetent to entertain a measure that is necessary for the well-being of the community. If you were to admit that doctrine, you would shake the foundations on which many of the best laws are placed. Why, that doctrine was propounded at the time of the union between England and Ireland, as it had been previously at the time of the union between England and Scotland. It was maintained in Ireland very vehemently, but it was not maintained in this country by Mr. Fox. It was slightly adverted to by Mr. Sheridan at the time when the message with regard to the union […]
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[…] was delivered. Parliament had been elected without the slightest reason to believe it would resolve that its functions were to be fused and mixed with those of another Legislature, namely, the Irish Parliament; and Mr. Sheridan slightly hinted it as an objection to the competency of Parliament.
Mr. Pitt met that objection at the outset in the following manner. Mr. Pitt said:—
“The first objection is what I heard alluded to by the honorable gentleman opposite to me, when His Majesty’s message was brought down, namely, that the Parliament of Ireland is incompetent to entertain and discuss the question, or rather, to act upon the measure propose without having previously obtained the consent of the people of Ireland, their constituents. This point, sir, is of so much importance that I think I ought not to suffer the opportunity to pass without illustrating more fully what I mean. If this principle of the incompetence of Parliament to the decision of the measure be admitted, or if it be contended that Parliament has no legitimate authority to discuss and decide upon it, you will be driven to the necessity of recognizing a principle the most dangerous that ever was adopted in any civilized state, I mean the principle that Parliament cannot adopt any measure, whether in its nature and of great importance, without appealing to the constituent and delegating authority for direction. If that doctrine be true, look to what an extent it will carry you.
If such an argument could be get up and maintained, you acted without any legitimate authority when you created the representation of the Principality of Wales or of either of the counties palatine of England. Every law that Parliament ever made, without that appeal, either as to its own frame and constitution, as to the qualification of the electors or the elected, as to the great and fundamental point of the succession to the Crown, was a breach of treaty and an act of usurpation.”
Then, Mr. Pitt asked, “if they turned to Ireland herself, what would they say to the Protestant Parliament that destroyed the exclusive Protestant franchise, and admitted the Roman Catholics to vote without any fresh appeal?
Mr. Pitt went on:—
“What must be said by those who have at any time been friends to any plan of parliamentary reform, and particularly such as have been most recently brought forward, either in Great Britain or Ireland? Whatever may have been thought of the propriety of the measure, I never heard any doubt of the competency of Parliament to consider and discuss it. Yet I defy any man to maintain the principle of those plans without contending that, as a member of Parliament, he possesses a right to concur in disenfranchising those who sent him to Parliament, and to select others, by whom he was not elected, in their stead. I am sure that no sufficient distinction, in point of principle, can be successfully maintained for a single moment; nor should I deem it necessary to dwell on this point in the manner that I do, were I not convinced that it is connected in part with all those false and dangerous notions on the subject of Government which have lately become too prevalent in the world.”
Mr. Pitt contended, therefore, that Parliament had a right to alter the succession to the Throne, to incorporate with itself another legislature, to disfranchise its constituents, or associate others with them. Why, is it possible for a Minister now to advise the Crown to dissolve Parliament on the ground that it is incompetent to entertain the question what this country shall do with the Corn Law? There could not be a more dangerous example, a more purely democratic precedent, if I may so say, than that this Parliament should be dissolved, on ground of its incompetency to decide any question of this nature. I am open to the charge, therefore, if it be one, that I did advise Her Majesty to permit this measure to be brought forward in the present Parliament.
The principle which I hold is so firmly established, that at the time of the flight of James II. in 1688, the English Parliament, that is to say two branches of it only, declared the succession vacant and gave the Throne to a new dynasty.
Hon. Mr. Dorion—Hear! hear!
Hon. Mr. Cauchon—I wish to be well understood. I do not cite this example as an authority, because the Parliament was incomplete without its third legislative branch, but only for the purpose of shewing to what length the Parliament of Great Britain has carried the exercise of its great prerogative. During the illness of George III., as it had been impossible to foresee that such a misfortune would happen, and as without the action of the Sovereign, neither the administration of the government, which is conducted in the name of the king, nor legislation, which is only effectual after receiving the assent of the three branches of the legislature, were possible; under these unforeseen circumstances, the two Houses, at the suggestion of the Ministers created a mechanism to act during the illness of the king, and all that was done under its operation became law, and was regarded as such by the whole British nation and all those charged with the execution of the laws of Parliament.
But setting aside these extraordinary circumstances, which demanded extraordinary remedies, we assert that Parliament in its integrity has power to alter the Constitution and even the succession to the Throne. As to us, we do not propose to go so far; we simply ask the Imperial Parliament to give us a new Constitution, and even that Parliament will only with our consent make use of that power which it has a right to exercise without our consent. (Hear, hear.) Let it be observed, […]
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[…] Mr. Speaker, that I am only considering now the question of power and right; the question of what is fit and expedient is quite another matter. We might do well or we might do ill by taking this course, but as we act in our capacity of representatives of the people, it is for us to decide whether it is expedient or advantageous that an appeal should be had to the people under the circumstances. (Hear, hear.)
As regards the sentiments of Great Britain in relation to us, the events which have taken place since the union show that they are altogether changed. In 1840 we had a Constitution imposed upon us against our will, and by so doing Great Britain was guilty of injustice towards us. Now they await our decision before they act. In past days England looked upon the colonies as her own special markets, and fortified them by prohibitory duties against foreign trade. Now they are open to the whole world. Formerly we were under a despotic and oligarchical government, and since 1841 we have had that British Parliamentary Government which the great economist Turgot, more than sixty years before, had advised England to extend to her colonies. (Hear, hear.)
Thus the Parliament of Great Britain, which had just proclaimed the union with Ireland, incorporated into its legislature the representation of the latter, and constituted itself, by its own authority, the first Parliament of the United Kingdom of Great Britain, without recourse to a dissolution and new elections. At the meeting of the Houses they proceeded to the election of a new Speaker for the Commons, precisely as after a general election, and all the other formalities were observed which, according to custom, accompanied the opening of new parliaments. You will find those details in the Parliamentary History, vol. 35, page 857. Here is another authority which the republican-annexation adversaries of Confederation will hardly care to doubt. I find it in pages 164, 165, and 166 of Sedgwick on Statutory and Constitutional Law:—
…or are these merely speculative or abstract questions. We shall find them presenting themselves in a large class of cases which I am about to examine. The difficulty, generally, seems to have arisen from a want of accurate notions as to the boundary line which, under our system, divides the legislative and judicial powers.
I now turn to a more detailed consideration of the cases in this country, where these questions have been considered and which, so far as they go, tend to give a practical definition to the term law, and to define the boundaries which separate the legislative from the judicial power. And first, of causes where the legislature has sought to divest itself of real powers. Efforts have been made, in several cases, by the state legislatures to relieve themselves of the responsibility of their functions, by submitting statutes to the will of the people, in their primary capacity.
But these proceedings have been held, and very rightly, to be entirely unconstitutional and invalid. The duties of legislation are not to be exercised by the people at large. The majority governs, but only in the prescribed form; the introduction of practices of this kind would remove all checks on hasty and improvident legislation, and greatly diminish the benefits of representative government. So where an act to establish free schools was, by its terms, directed to be submitted to the electors of the state, to become a law only in case a majority of the votes were given in its favor, it was held, in New York, that the whole proceeding was entirely void. The Legislature, said the Court of Appeals, have no power to make such submission, nor had the people the power to bind each other by acting upon it. They voluntarily surrendered that power when they adopted the constitution.
The government of this state is democratic; but it is a representative democracy, and in passing general laws, the people act only through their representatives in the Legislature. And in Pennsylvania, in the case of an excise statute, the same stern and salutary doctrine has been applied. In some of the more recent state constitutions this rule has been made, a part of the fundamental law. So in Indiana, the principle is now framed into a constitutional provision which vests the legislative authority in a Senate and House of Representatives, and declares that no act “shall be passed, the taking effect of which shall be made to depend upon any authority except as provided in the Constitution.” And under these provisions it has been held that so much of an act as relates to its submission to the popular vote, was null and void.
Hon. Mr. Dorion—In England there are seven or eight acts of Parliament which were submitted to the popular vote before becoming law.
Hon. Mr. Cauchon—In England it is admitted that Parliament may do anything and even change the sexes if necessary, according to the doctrine of the honorable member for Brome [Mr. Dunkin]. (Laughter.) The honorable member for Hochelaga [Hon. Mr. Dorion] is an admirer of written constitutions; I am citing authorities to suit him, and which it is quite impossible for him to reject. (Hear, hear.) All these authorities establish, by incontestable evidence, the power of Parliament in regard to every question that may come before it. There only remains now the question of convenience and expediency, and that question can only be considered by Parliament. In 1717, 1800, […]
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[…] and 1846, the British Parliament decided it without appealing to the people. In 1832 it decided the question after an appeal to the people, acting in all those circumstances under the constitutional responsibility of its trust. That is what we shall do in the present difficult conjuncture, awaiting in the approaching elections the approval or condemnation of our initiative. But let the opponents of the scheme be well convinced that we understand, quite as well as themselves, the entire importance of the vote which we are going to give.
In closing, Mr. Speaker, I may be allowed to say to the House, that in a debate of such a solemn character, and when such great destinies as regards the future of the whole of British North America are at stake within these walls, let us have the courage to rise superior to passions, hatreds, personal enmities, and a miserable spirit of party, in order to allow our minds to soar more freely in the larger sphere of generous sentiments, and of great and noble national aspirations. We possess all that we want—all the necessary elements of greatness and prosperity to found an empire in America. Let us boldly set to work, sheltered by the flag and protected by the powerful aegis of the Empire which leads us on to undertake the task. (Prolonged applause.)
Hon. Mr. Dorion—Mr. Speaker, the honorable member for Montmorency [Hon. Mr. Cauchon], who has just sat down, having given it as his opinion that all those who are opposed to Confederation are annexationists and infidels, I must congratulate him upon having at last opened his eyes and escaped the danger of being drawn into the vortex of the American Union, and perhaps into something worse—(laughter)—as but a short time ago he was in the bad oompany of those who are opposed to Confederation.
He has even written a whole volume in opposition to the union of the British North American Provinces. (Hear, hear.) I suppose that at that time he did not look upon himself as an annexationist, and still less as an infidel, for the simple reason that he combated with all the power at his command, not only Confederation, but also union of any kind with the British American Provinces. (Hear, hear.) In that book, which I have just referred to, and which was written at the end of 1858, the honorable member, after having described the different systems under which the union might be projected, says:—”We do not desire it, because we do not want union in any form, inasmuch as the same object will always be attained, no matter under what form the union may be established.” That object, according to the hon. member, was the depriving Lower Canada of the small influence which she exercises on the legislation of the existing union.
It is true that the honorable gentleman has written another book lately. According to that book he no longer sees any other danger for Lower Canada than that of annexation, and invites everyone to turn round as he has done, and to follow him with the view of avoiding these dangers. (Hear, hear, and laughter.) Once more I congratulate him that he is now out of danger, and I will endeavor to follow him with his two books in his hand. As it is too late to-night, however, I will do it at the next sitting, and for that purpose I move that the debate be now adjourned.
Hon. Mr. Cauchon—The honorable member for Hochelaga [Hon. Mr. Dorion] alludes to the two pamphlets which I have written, one in 1858, and the other in 1865, on the subject of the Confederation of the provinces. The difference between the honorable member and me is simply this, that I do not deny what I have written, whilst in order that he may enjoy greater freedom of discussion, he has thought proper to deny his actions in the past. (Hear, hear.)
There is another contradiction which it is of importance to remark. After having asserted, up to 1861, that there was danger for Lower Canada in not granting to Upper Canada representation based upon population, or its substitute, the Confederation of the two Canadas, and that the danger was so menacing that it was more prudent to give way than to allow it to be forcibly taken by her—to-day he comes down and maintains that the horizon is quite serene; that there is no necessity for constitutional changes. Does he then so easily forget the days of 1858, ’59, ’60 and ’61? (Hear, hear.)
For my part, Mr. Speaker, I think we should be acting with more dignity, and would render more service to the country, if we devoted ourselves exclusively to the consideration of the question, setting aside those accusations of contradiction from which no one is ever exempt. (Hear, hear.)
Hon. Mr. Dorion moved the adjournment of the debate to the sitting tomorrow night at half-past seven.
Hon. Atty. Gen. Cartier moved in amendment that it be adjourned till half-past three tomorrow, to be then the first order of the day after routine business.
After some discussion, the amendment was carried, and the House adjourned.