Province of Canada, Legislative Assembly, Parliamentary Debates on the Subject of the Confederation of the British North America Provinces, 8th Parl, 3rd Sess, (3 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 585-648.
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FRIDAY, March 3, 1865.
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Mr. Perrault—Mr. Speaker, it is not without a degree of hesitation easy to be understood that I venture to give my reasons for my vote on the question of the Confederation of the Provinces of British North America. I hesitate, because I am conscious how much I fall short in respect of solid information and political experience to enable me to form a healthy and reliable judgment of the various reasons to be alleged on both sides of that vast question, the decision of which is pregnant with such serious consequences to the future welfare of the country.
A further cause of my hesitation, Mr. Speaker, is that I see on the Ministerial benches men grown old in political warfare—men who for many years have been the leaders and guides of the majorities in the two Canadas—supporting the scheme now submitted to us, and assuring us that it is the only remedy for all the difficulties of our present position. Still another cause of my hesitation is that I am aware of the great severity with which the Ministerial press visits all the adversaries of the plan of Confederation, and of the small measure of justice which it metes out in estimating the motives of those who oppose this constitutional scheme, however upright their characters or honest the motives which actuate them.
But I should consider myself wanting in my duty as a member if, swayed by these misgivings, I did not state my motives in this House for my opposition to the project of Confederation. On so important a question it is a duty to my constituents, it is a duty which I owe to myself, that I should justify the responsibility which I take upon myself in resisting a measure which is so strongly supported in this House, and I should think I failed in my duty and was unworthy of the seat which I fill in it, if I did not add force to my opposition by citing the history of the past, by portraying the prosperity of the present, and by pointing out the dangers to be feared in the future which is preparing for us.
I have been long studying the general question of a Confederation, and I am of opinion that the Provinces of British North America are destined to form, at some future time which may be more or less remote, a vast Confederation, in which the two races of French and English origin will be seen struggling in the career of progress for the common prosperity of both; and for the better convenience of studying the question, I visited the Lower Provinces in 1863, by way of the Gulf, and in 1864 by the Bay of Fundy. I am bound to say that I found the people everywhere in caring circumstances, and intelligent, and doing honor to that part of the country. I was then enabled to appreciate the advantages and the inconveniences attending on the decision of the question of Confederation generally.
On my return from my last journey, which I made in the month of August, 1864, in company with a certain number of the members of both Houses, it was said by the press that I had in several companies declared myself favorable to the plan of a Confederation of all the provinces. At that time the Conference at Charlottetown had not taken place, and public opinion had already busied itself with classifying the members of this House as favorers or opponents of Confederation. I had already, at that time, publicly expressed my opinion on the question through the press, in order that I might bring it under the notice of my constituents, and I must declare that the opinion which I then expressed coincides with the line of conduct to which I still adhere, and that I have not found it necessary to alter my position in any one point from what it then was.
In order that I may show this in the clearest manner, I shall read what I wrote in the month of August last, as perfectly explanatory of what I always thought of the scheme of confederating the Provinces of British North America. Here is what I wrote:—
This question of serious import, on which the minds of all our political world are so busy, in the present crisis, is so difficult of solution, that it would be an act of presumption in me to attempt even to discuss it, while our public men of the highest mark are still doubtful whether to favor it or not. As the Minerve, however, in its last number, claims me as one of the new converts to the great scheme of Confederation, I should think myself wanting to my duty and my convictions if I failed to let the world know my impressions of the present position, as I understand it. Those who consider the inexhaustible resources of the Provinces of British North America have no doubt that we possess all the elements of a great power. In territory we have a tenth part of the habitable globe, capable of supporting a population of 100,000,000 of persons Bounded on the east by the Atlantic, on the west by the Pacific, our territory is further accessible by the navigation of the internal seas, which bound it on the south. Our rivers complete the incomparable net-work of communication […]
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[…] by water, and, like vivifying arteries, bear on their bosom to the ocean and the markets of the world the heavy produce of the western plains, the lofty pines of our forests, our ores of gold and copper, our furs collected in our hunting grounds, and the produce of our fisheries in the gulf. In this vast field of productiveness, where all the materials of immense wealth exist, we need a moving power, and the inexhaustible coal fields of Nova Scotia are at hand to furnish it.
British North America, therefore, looms in the future with gigantic proportions, and it depends only on ourselves to decide whether the French element shall have a large share of the power which is to grow up within its limits. With energy and union, we shall keep the ground we have gained in a struggle of a hundred years. The past is a warranty of success in the future. Yet must we not hurry matters, nor overrun the natural progress of events. While we are still too few to take the offensive, our policy should be one of resistance. Accordingly, before pledging myself to the support of Confederation, which is a total change of the basis of our present Constitution, I would be perfectly sure that we shall not lose an inch of ground. More than this; I would permit no change to be made in our present Constitution, except in as far as it would ensure a larger measure of prosperity for our country, more powerful protection for our institutions, and the absolute inviolability of our rights. For I have not deviated in the smallest degree from the terms of my address to the electors of Richelieu, when I had the honor to solicit their votes as their representative in the Legislative Assembly. In that address, I declared myself opposed to any concession whatever to Upper Canada.
Accordingly, if it should appear that the scheme of Confederation, which is to be laid before the Provincial Parliament in its next session, would assure to French-Canadians greater advantages than they enjoy under the present Constitution, I should, as a thing of course, be in favor of Confederation. But if it should be otherwise; if, in however small a degree, Confederation should appear to be a concession to Upper Canada, to the detriment of our institutions, our language or our laws, I shall to the utmost extent of my power oppose any change whatever in the present Constitution.
Of course I am not one of those who would bound our political horizon and place limits to our greatness as a people; on the contrary, nothing would render me happier than the creation of a vast political organization, spread over an immense territory. The heart-burnings between localities and individuals would thenceforward cease and die out from mere insignificance, as compared with the great interests which would be confided to the watchful guardianship of our statesmen, and become the subject of their deliberations in the councils of the nation. Then the laudable ambition of achieving a great name in a great country would produce a race of great men, of whom we might be justly proud. But if this glorious future is to be purchased only at the price of our absorption, of our language, and all that is dear to us as Frenchmen, I for one could not hesitate between what we may hope for while still remaining what we are, and the bastardizing of our race paid as the price of advantages to come.
To sum up all, therefore, I declare for the Constitution such as it is, which, so far, has yielded us a greater amount of advantage than all the proposed changes would; and such, I venture to say, is the opinion of the majority of our Legislative Assembly. But if the projected scheme secures to us in the convention all the privileges which the French-Canadians now enjoy in the present Parliament, and if. in the whole and in every part, it secures to us greater advantages than those which are guaranteed to us by the Constitution, I shall prefer Confederation to all other changes.
I am bound to declare that this way of looking at the question, in the month of August last, has undergone no change in my mind, since I heard the explanations given by the members of the Administration. The skill which they have evinced certainly does them great honor, but neither the argument s of Ministers, nor those of the members of the House who support the scheme, have convinced me; and I rely on being able to show in my remarks what are the grounds of my opposition, and to justify, according to my way of looking at it, the responsibility which I undertake in opposing a project which has found such powerful supporters in this House. I trust I shall be able to show, first, the inexpediency of a constitutional change; second, the hostile object of Confederation; third, the disastrous consequences of the adoption of the project of Confederation. The inexpediency of a constitutional change must be perfectly evident to any one who considers for a moment the present prosperity of Canada, and who takes the trouble to examine the progress made by United Canada since 1840.
The Hon. Attorney General East [Hon. Mr. Cartier] says that “the union has done its work.” But is that quite certain? When we compare the past with the present, have we not reason to be proud of our growth since 1840, and of the fact that within the past twenty-five years, our progress, both social and material, has kept pace with that of the first nations in the world? During the past twenty-five years we have progressed politically in a manner unprecedented in colonial history; and Canada has furnished a magnificent instance of the good result of responsible government in an English colony, notwithstanding diversity of races and religions.
In 1840, we had just terminated a glorious struggle, during which, unfortunately, many lives had been lost—[…]
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[…] a struggle undertaken in order to secure responsible government, which had, up to that time, been refused, and which was then accorded us as the reward of the struggle. At that period Lower Canada was united as one man; she had forwarded to England petitions, bearing 60,000 signatures, asking for responsible government. We then had in our ranks men who did not shrink from the struggle, men accustomed to resist oppression, men who had grown up in the midst of a strife with an arrogant minority, which sought to overrule the majority; and these were the great men who secured the triumph of our nationality, and upheld the rights of Lower Canada, by securing responsible government at the same time that the union was forced upon us. Let us now see the result of their labors.
Is it true that we have progressed both socially and materially since that period? Any one who reflects on what Canada was in 1840, and what it is in 1865, cannot but admit that we have progressed in a degree almost unprecedented in the history of the prosperity of nations; that we have immensely extended our territory, by clearing away the forest; that our population has increased in a wonderful manner, that that population is prosperous and contented, and that we have progressed materially and socially in a manner heretofore unprecedented under the colonial system. In the social order, let us examine, first, our legislation and system in municipal matters. Can a more perfect system be found anywhere? Has not every locality the powers necessary for effecting all improvements of real necessity? It is since the union that we have perfected this system, and that we have endowed our rural districts with the means of effecting all improvements they may desire, and particularly as regards road matters and the making of new roads, in order to facilitate the transport of farm produce to market. (Hear, hear.)
But I need not dwell on the progress we have made and the reforms we have carried out, as regards legislation. That which had chiefly contributed, from the first establishment of English rule, to arrest our progress in this respect was the Legislative Council of the former Legislature, and that which existed from the union up to 1856. Since that period have we not obtained an elective Legislative Council, and must not our greatest reforms be considered the consequence? With the union and responsible government, did we not also secure the right of being represented by French-Canadian fellow-countrymen in the Executive Council? And since then have we not enjoyed all the advantage of a system of government under which the people can, not only express their wants, but enforce their wishes?
These are reforms of the highest importance, but we have obtained yet more. When, in 1840, the union of the Canadas took place, landed property in Lower Canada was subjected to the feudal system, which had been introduced with all its features derogatory to the dignity of man, with all its charges upon property, and all its vexations for the censitaire, tinder that system no property whatever could change hands without being submitted to a heavy charge in the form of lods et ventes for the benefit of the seignior, and to cens et rentes which considerably reduced its value. With the political rights conferred on us by the union, the seigneurial system of necessity disappeared, giving us property in freehold, the same as in the neighbouring States and in all civilized nations.
It is also since the union that we have consolidated our laws; that we have created a system of public instruction which imparts the blessings of education to the most remote parts of the province. At the present moment we have a school system which does honor to the country, and the intelligent, however poor they may be, can, almost without charge, acquire an education. Now, each village, each concession has its school, and the child of the backwoodsman dwelling in the midst of the forest, can there obtain a degree of elementary instruction sufficient to enable him to enter upon a career of honor and fortune, should his talents, his industry and his energy fit him for playing a part in politics, in the sciences, in the arts or in the ranks of the clergy of his country.
It is a remarkable fact, Mr. Speaker, and one which I deem it right to mention, that the majority of the notable men who have attained seats on the judicial bench, in the Ministry and even in the Episcopal chair, came forth from our humble country homes, and qualified themselves in our educational institutions, where instruction is afforded all but gratuitously, by dint of talent, perseverance, study and industry. It was the pressure of want in the family homestead that in many eases created in the breasts of our most eminent public men, the eager desire of attaining a high position by means of study and labor. Since the union our system and means of public […]
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[…] instruction have made immense progress. Before the union we had no Catholic university in the country. Young men intending to enter the liberal professions wore compelled, instead of following a regular course, to content themselves with what they could acquire in the office of their patrons, who were not in all cases competent for the task they undertook, or else to go abroad at great expense for many years, in order to obtain in England or France a certificate of qualification.
Today we have in Lower and in Upper Canada universities rivalling European universities of the same class, and we have also a body of young students, who, fifteen or twenty years hence, will give proof of the excellence of our university system, and of the high curriculum of studies these institutions have now rendered universal. Now, in face of the degree of progress I have just referred to, in the social order, can it be truly said that the union has run its day, when all these marvels are its creation? When we are stronger and better educated than we were twenty years ago; when we have new political rights; when we have a free right to the soil, and when we have created a system of public instruction such as we now enjoy, can it be said that the union has done its work, and that it must be broken up?
For my part, Mr. Speaker, I am not prepared to support that assertion. The union has been for us a great means of progress, since it has enabled us to secure all these results in the social order. The Hon. Attorney General East [Hon. Mr. Cartier] has told us that Confederation will procure us material advantages still greater, and that that is all we want. I deny, Mr. Speaker, that material interests form the sole ambition of the French-Canadian population. We attach a far higher importance to the preservation of our own institutions. But even as regards material interests, apart from the advantages, in the social order, derived from the union, we have still a vast field before us as regards the progress we have made since 1840.
In order to see what the union has done in this respect, it is sufficient to look at our system of railroads, and above all, at the great Grand Trunk line from Sarnia to Rivière du Loup, which has increased our commerce tenfold, opened our dense forests to colonization, and multiplied our resources to an incalculable extent; it is sufficient to look at our ports of Montreal and Quebec during the season of navigation, filled with vast forests of shipping, to see our transatlantic steamers bearing off weekly the products of our country to the most distant European markets, in exchange for the articles of import we require. And if we ascend our great River St. Lawrence, what do we see? We find canals, which in their dimensions, the materials of which they are constructed, and in their extent, are unsurpassed in any part of the world.
I maintain, Mr. Speaker, that there is nothing to be found in Europe to compare with our artificial water communications. In England, for instance, the canals are only miserable gutters, and the little boys, in rowing their boats, can touch both sides at once with the ends of their oars. Here our canals pass through the whole country, and connect the most remote parts of it with the markets of Europe. And, in fact, a ship of tour hundred tons burden can now sail from Chicago, cross the ocean, and discharge her cargo in the docks at Liverpool. The union which has given us such canals, such railways, has not run its day, has not done its work, as the Hon. Attorney General East [Hon. Mr. Cartier] pretends.
On the contrary, with such means as these, we are justified in anticipating from the union still greater results in the future. If we look at our colonization, we behold the forest receding before the axe of the settler, the products of our land increased tenfold, and our settlers locating in advance of the surveyor on our wild lands. What the union has already done for us is certainly great, but the advantages it has in store for us are still greater, if we know how to avail ourselves of the means it places at our command. Therefore it is that I do not think the union has done its work, but that, on the contrary, it will yet secure our prosperity. And hence it is that I wish to preserve the union and remain under allegiance to Her Most Gracious Majesty the Queen of England, and refuse to accept constitutional changes which must of necessity imperil our future as a nation. (Hear, hear.)
It has often been said that Lower Canada was a drag on Upper Canada, retarding her advancement in the march of progress, and that a new Constitution was necessary. I deny the justice of the accusation, and I maintain that such a charge could only emanate from Upper Canadian fanaticism. True, the French-Canadian race has been characterized at Toronto by a Governor General as an “inferior race,” but the insult thus offered to Lower Canada has not a single fact to bear it out. Moreover, […]
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[…] I am happy to bring forward the testimony of the Hon. Finance Minister (Hon. Mr. Galt) to refute these assertions, to answer these insults, and to prove that the prosperity of Canada is due to the active co-operation of the French-Canadians—not only in the Executive, but in the Legislative Assembly. In a letter written from London in 1860, the Hon. Minister of Finance [Hon. Mr. Galt] says:
From 1849 up to this day, the French Canadian majority has been fairly represented in the Ministry, and it is with its powerful co-operation and the part it has taken in initiating every measure, and the support of its votes in Parliament, that all great reforms have been realized.
Well, if it be true that the French-Canadian members of the Government, since 1849, have, by their unceasing efforts, obtained the realization of these reforms, why is it now sought to destroy the Constitution under which they were obtained, and to create a new state of things which will diminish that influence which we now enjoy? It is because, notwithstanding our material prosperity, the old aggression of race against race, the former state of antagonism and ill-will, has not disappeared. The end proposed to be attained by the Government in making these changes is a vast and noble end, I admit. It is the creation of an immense Empire, which will redound to our glory and to that of England. But it seems to me that this will not be the necessary result of the mean? which are being taken to attain it. (Hear, hear.)
Whenever the great measures of reform to which I have already referred have been submitted to Parliament, we have seen public men devote themselves exclusively to these measures, and labor for their realization. We have seen parties arrayed for or against these great questions—the abolition of the Seigniorial Tenure, the election of the members of the Legislative Council, the construction of our railways and canals, etc. In view of these great questions, there was no room for the contemptible personal considerations, and the miserable wrangling of the church door; but as soon as these great reforms were obtained, there was no longer any ground for opposition to the Government on these subjects; yet subjects for the exhibition of discontent and opposition had to be devised, with the view of attaining power, and of satisfying individual ambition.
They then addressed themselves to the prejudices of race and religion. A cry was raised in Upper Canada that French-Canadian domination could no longer be endured, and that an end must be put to it. No heed was taken of the progress that had yet to be made, but it seemed as though nothing required to be done in order to attain success?, but to destroy the national character of a large section of Canada. They complained of French domination, the influence of the clergy, and of the great number of religious institutions in Canada; and what was the remedy proposed to put an end to all these evils which Upper Canada could no longer tolerate? The hon. member for South Oxford (Hon. Mr. Brown) was imported, and brought out here from Scotland, to cast the flaming torch of discord between the two populations, and to inflame them one against the other.
I imagine that since that time the Hon. Mr. Buchanan must have more than once regretted this importation, which was not quite in the regular line of his commercial operations. And when this gentleman had been imported, who has been the cause of all our dissensions up to the present time, parties were organized under his command as they are this day. To diminish or destroy the influence of the French-Canadians in Parliament, the hon. member for South Oxford [Hon. Mr. Brown] raised a clamour for representation based upon population, which was re-echoed from One end of Upper Canada to the other.
Those cries, the offspring of fanaticism, were rejected by Lower Canada with unanimity on the part of our public men. The hon. member for South Oxford [Hon. Mr. Brown], finding that this cry for representation based on population was a magnificent war-horse, made use of it to form a party. Since that period he has allowed nothing to stand in his way. He has calumniated every public man and all the institutions which were held in respect by the inhabitants of Lower Canada; he has attacked, with the greatest fury, all that was dear to us as Frenchmen and Catholics; and by this means he gained his object; and we have seen all the western farmers, all the inhabitants of Canada West, cry out that here we were all under the domination of the clergy, and that the English and Protestant population ought not to submit to so heavy a yoke. He knew that the English element was fanatic and aggressive, and by means of this cry the then leader of the Opposition in Upper Canada succeeded in forming a phalanx so strong, that Lower Canada has been compelled to yield some portion of the […]
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[…] ground which she had conquered in her struggles of former days.
I do not believe that there is a single member for Lower Canada who would wish to change our present Constitution in the manner now proposed, were he not forced to it by Upper Canada. We are, then, about to give up some of our franchises and our rights in this new struggle against the spirit of encroachment and domination manifested by the English race. Hon. members who support the measure will tell you that they are giving up a part of our rights, in order that what remains may be saved from destruction, and that they may not lose all they now enjoy, before any lengthened period shall have elapsed. But was this clamor in favor of representation based upon population sincere on the part of those who used it as a means of attacking us? Was it in reality a remedy for the evils of which they complained? No, Mr. Speaker, I do not think it was. It was simply an electoral platform, by which to attain power and consummate the encroachment upon our rights contemplated by the leaders of the movement.
I do not deem it necessary to repeat here all the arguments brought to bear against the demand for representation by population, in eighty speeches delivered in 1860, during the discussion of that exciting question; but I remember that debate with all the more pleasure, that the French-Canadians shewed that they retained some vestiges of firmness in the day of battle, and of perseverance in the maintenance of our rights, which our fathers had so often manifested. On that occasion the Hon. Attorney General East (Hon. Mr. Cartier) deserved the approbation of his country for the resistance he made to that unjust demand on the part of Upper Canada, with that energy and tenacity he is so well known to display; he was the champion of our rights.
Why, then, does he today come down and propose a compromise with his opponents of those days? Is it just at the moment when the leaders of the Upper Canadian Opposition had, by entering the Macdonald-Sicotte Government, absolutely rejected the principle of representation based upon population, that he should abandon the struggle? Is it at the moment the Macdonald-Sicotte Government had obtained separate schools for the Catholics of Upper Canada, that the party led by the honorable member for South Oxford [Hon. Mr. Brown] was to be dreaded? Is it at the moment when the law providing separate schools for the Catholics of Upper Canada was the subject of a triumph, which the Hon. Attorney General [Hon. Mr. Cartier] had never succeeded in obtaining during the whole time he has been in power, that the Hon. Attorney General [Hon. Mr. Cartier] should cease from further efforts, throw down his arms, and declare as a French-Canadian that we could no longer hold the breach, and that we must make concessions to Upper Canada? Did not the Macdonald-Sicotte Administration make a close question of representation by population? Were not all the members of that Government bound to oppose it?
Yes, Mr. Speaker, the Hon. Attorney-General East [Hon. Mr. Cartier] was guilty of a grievous wrong, when he defeated that Government by a hostile majority composed of French-Canadians. It was after that hostile vote that Upper Canada insisted on her right to renew her claims to representation based on population, and that we are compelled to-day to make concessions. For my part, Mr. Speaker, I have never been convinced of the sincerity of those who made use of the cry for representation based on population, for I have never seen any other means employed to obtain the aid of the western farmers in securing more easily the reins of power. Has the principle of representation based on population ever served as the basis of a government having monarchical ideas, like those which actuate the existing Government? Now we are seeking for a Confederation for which there is no precedent—not a Confederation like those to be found in other countries which have adopted that form of government, but a monarchical Confederation. (Hear, hear.)
It is sought to retain the English Constitution, and yet it is asserted that representation by population is a just principle, and that it must be extended to Upper Canada. Does not the Honorable Attorney General East (Hon. Mr. Cartier) remember the arguments he urged in 1860 against this principle? Did he not then declare with the view of showing that the principle was neither a just one nor one recognized in the British Constitution, that if it were applied to the British Parliament the city of London alone would have thirty members instead of sixteen, and that Scotland would send many more members to Parliament than she does now? Did he not assert that rotten boroughs, containing only a few hundred inhabitants, had one representative, and that counties containing 100,000 inhabitants had no more? Have these arguments, […]
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[…] then so full of power, lost all their force and value today? Have they become futile since the alliance of the Honorable Attorney General East [Hon. Mr. Cartier] and the hon. member for South Oxford [Hon. Mr. Brown]? Can they no longer be used to save our Constitution and our liberties? How can the party which has so long been kept together by its opposition to the principle of representation by population, say today that it is a just principle, and that it must be conceded?
I confess, Mr. Speaker, that I cannot understand why we should concede today what we refused in 1860. It is true that I do not possess the experience of the hon. gentlemen who now occupy the Ministerial benches, and that, perhaps, it may be wiser to bend today than to be broken tomorrow; but when I study the history of the past, when I look at things as they are, and look forward to the future which is now proposed for us, I only see in the scheme of Confederation a remedy which is more violent than the disease, and which, instead of removing the difficulties it is proposed to eradicate, will only have the effect of producing results the most unfavorable to the peace and prosperity of our country.
I state then, Mr. Speaker, that the question of representation by population, which has been the principal cause of the Confederation scheme, was excluded from the political programme of the Macdonald-Sicotte Government, and that the Upper Canada majority, the leaders of which, throughout their whole political career, had so loudly demanded this concession in favor of Upper Canada, had bound itself not to raise that exciting question within the halls of the Legislature, at least during the existence of the Macdonald-Sicotte Ministry. (Hear, hear.)
I stated that, thanks to the patriotic firmness of that Administration, Lower Canada was enabled for two years to live in peace and enjoy the fruits of a tranquillity unknown for ten years previous, and during two sessions the question of representation based on numbers ceased to be a subject of strife and fanatical attack on the part of Upper Canada. (Hear, hear.) It was at that period that the honorable member for South Oxford [Hon. Mr. Brown] asked for a committee to enquire as to the means of settling the sectional difficulties, by effecting a change in the basis of the present Constitution. (Hear, hear.)
Well, Mr. Speaker, what took place then? We saw that able speaker, that indefatigable and powerful advocate of the claims of Upper Canada against the Lower Canada section, unable to find in this House more than forty men prepared to support him in his unjust demand for a constitutional change which the present Administration are about to grant. (Hear, hear.)
We saw that powerful politician humbled, and giving up in despair all hopes of succeeding with the House—and, for my part, Mr. Speaker, I must say that I felt pained at his position—asking a leave of absence in order to avoid a humiliating defeat, and returning to his home to lament his fall and the loss of an influence based solely on fanaticism and prejudice. (Hear, hear.)
Subsequently, Mr. Speaker, the House witnessed an act which I do not desire to characterise now; we saw the Administration which had the courage to chain down the monster of representation by population, overthrown by a French-Canadian majority! (Hear, hear.) Yes, Mr. Speaker, that Liberal government, which had afforded so much security to our institutions by maintaining intact our present Constitution, was defeated by a French-Canadian majority of this House. I do not intend, when I say this, to attack my fellow-countrymen, far from it; but I wish to trace the parliamentary history of our country, and I do not hesitate to assert that that vote gave a fatal blow to our influence as French-Canadians, and that posterity will record that vote, which is now a matter of history, as a fatal act by which our public men sacrificed to party spirit the dearest of our interests. (Hear, hear.)
I fearlessly assert, Mr. Speaker, that for fifteen years our affairs had not been administered by men more sincerely devoted to our interests and better able to protect the political liberties, the interests and the institutions of Lower Canada. What have we seen, during the past fifteen years in this House? We have witnessed party appeals to prejudices and the most insulting personalities; and, in fact, the lowering of the moral status of our national representatives, as the natural result. We have seen the men best qualified to enforce, on the floor of this House, the rights of the people, refusing to come forward at elections, because they saw that the position of a member of Parliament no longer conferred that degree of dignity and position which made it an object of ambition in better times. We have seen men of eminence, who had labored in behalf of the interests of their constituents for many long years, abandoning their political […]
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[…] career in disgust, and retiring to the seclusion of their homes. Then it was that we saw a French-Canadian majority voting down a Ministry whose political programme afforded more effectual guarantees for Lower Canada interests than that of any previous government. (Hear, hear.) But a blind and paltry party spirit induced them to sacrifice, for a momentary triumph, the general interests of their country; and the majority, by its vote, decreed our national downfall. (Hear, hear.)
Well, Mr. Speaker, under the new Government we found representation by population again made a subject of discussion in our Legislature; and now, there is no denying it, that unfortunate concession, which places us at the mercy of Upper Canada, has become an accomplished fact. (Hear, hear.)
I stated, just now, Mr. Speaker, that the hon. member for South Oxford [Hon. Mr. Brown] was unable to obtain his committee under the Macdonald-Sicotte Administration, an essentially liberal one. (Hear, hear.) On reference to the Journals of this House of that period, what do we find? The Ministry which succeeded that Government had hardly taken possession of the Treasury benches, when the Hon. Mr. Brown again came before the House asking for a committee, and in that instance with more success. I had the honor to propose an amendment to his motion, but my amendment was rejected, and amongst the members who figure in that unfortunate division, I find the names of the Hon. Minister of Public Works [Hon. Mr. Chapais], the Hon. Provincial Secretary [Hon. Mr. McDougall], and the Hon. Attorney General East [Hon. Mr. Cartier].
Mr. Speaker, this is a very significant fact, and one extremely deserving of attention at the present moment. In pressing that motion upon the House, I maintained that our policy was to act on the offensive, instead of merely defending ourselves, as we had up to that time done; that we ought to unite as one man to obtain the re-enactment of the proviso to the 26th clause of the Act of Union, which had been shamefully struck out in 1856, when we obtained an elective Legislative Council (Hear, hear.) Now, on this point, which was perfectly clear, we found these same Ministers voting for the rejection of the amendment, which asserted aright sacred to French-Canadians. Did not this vote imply that those who made this cowardly concession were prepared to yield again in the proposed constitutional changes?
Yes, Mr. Speaker, I do not hesitate to assert, that from that moment, Upper Canada understood that our political leaders, who, up to that time, had shown an unyielding front, were about to give way. And when the Hon. Mr. Brown submitted his proposition to the House, all the English members united in an overwhelming majority, and he carried his point successfully, notwithstanding that all the French-Canadian members voted against it, except the hon. member for Rouville (Mr. Poulin), who displayed the questionable courage of thus committing an act I shall not attempt to qualify. (Hear, hear.)
I need not dwell upon the consequences of that vote, for they are now patent to the whole country, and the hon. member for South Oxford [Hon. Mr. Brown] himself has told us in this House that the scheme of Confederation was the creation of his constitutional committee; that the appointment of that committee was the first step in the direction of the object for which he had struggled during his whole political career, and that the scheme of Confederation now before the House was an ample reward for his unremitting efforts, and a complete justification of the principles he has supported in the struggle between Upper Canada and Lower Canada. Subsequently, Mr. Speaker, the Taché-Macdonald Government succumbed on a question of finance, and, finding that they could not sustain themselves without the assistance of the Opposition, that same Government called into the Cabinet the man who had proved most hostile to Lower Canadian interests, and with whom they had ever lived in unexampled antagonism.
From that alliance resulted the scheme of Confederation which is now submitted to us, and which concedes the principle of representation based on population. Ought the Lower Canadian party to have made so important a concession to Upper Canada? I am prepared to establish by figures that that question contained within itself its own remedy; and those who voted in favor of its concession are in no way justifiable, looking at the question in any point of view whatsoever. The future held out to us a positive assurance that the grounds of this demand would no longer exist at a period which is close at hand! When we look into the question of the respective populations of the two Canadas, we shall observe at a glance that that of Upper Canada is in great part English and Protestant, and, by reference to the last census, we I shall find that a very large proportion of the […]
- (p. 593)
[…] annual increase in that section is the result of emigration. From 90,000, which was the total amount during the single year 1847, immigration gradually fell to 10,000 in the year 1860.
But there is another important fact which it would be well to bear in mind; it is that Lower Canada, which increased slowly at first, because her material and moral development was impeded by the political institutions under which she was governed, and because she had no colonization roads through her forests, still beheld her sturdy children emigrating from their native soil to the United States in search of daily bread and liberty. The increase in the population of Lower Canada was slow and small then; but as railways were built and highways were opened, the population was found to increase in nearly the same proportion as the diminution was observed to be going on, in respect of annual increase, in Upper Canada.
I maintain further, Mr. Speaker, that the census of 1861 is no basis from which to estimate exactly the total population of the two sections; that census is merely a tissue of errors of a serious nature, which demonstrate the inaccuracy of the whole. Thus when we find it stated that at Three Rivers there is not a single Catholic church; that at Hamilton there is but one; that in the year 1861 there were but three vessels built in Lower Canada, while we know that at Quebec alone more than sixty were constructed, we may with perfect safety assert that similar inaccuracies must needs have occurred in the totals of the populations of the two sections. We know that in Upper Canada the true total of the population has been greatly exaggerated. Did not all their journals declare that the census of 1861 must indicate a very large total population in favor of Upper Canada over Lower Canada? And, accordingly, the result showed a majority of nearly 300,000 souls in favor of that province. To such an extent was the number of the living increased, and the number of the dead diminished, that the total number of living children under one year old was 8,000 more than the total number of births in the year. (Hear, hear.)
I am quite willing to admit that the climate of Upper Canada is most salubrious and highly favorable to the development of that part of the population of a less age than one year, but even then there is some difficulty in understanding how it is that in twelve months some of them do not die, and how there can be 8,000 more of less than a year old than were born during the preceding twelve months. (Hear, hear, and laughter.)
When I observe such results accruing from our official census, I am compelled to believe that it is inaccurate, and that it may be quite as erroneous in respect of the general population. But if in the census the population of Upper Canada was exaggerated, in the case of Lower Canada, on the contrary, it has been considerably diminished. Here our farmers have always stood in dread of the census, because they have a suspicion that it is taken with the sole object of imposing some tax, or of making some draft of men for the defence of the country. Under these circumstances, I consider that the difference between the totals of the population of Upper and Lower Canada is not so well proved as it is wished to have us believe that it is. I maintain that it is less in reality than it is in appearance, and that the figures of the census are not sufficiently accurate to allow of our taking them as the basis of a demand for constitutional changes of so important a character.
But if we study the increase of the French-Canadian population in America, we shall find the increase of the French-Canadians to have been 1,700,000 between the years 1700 and 1860, the total having increased tenfold two and a half times in that period, and this is equivalent to 3.40 percent, per annum, or a doubling of the population in twenty-one years; otherwise an increase of twenty-five times their number in one hundred years. The increase, since 1860, having been 3.60 per cent, in Lower Canada, these figures shew that the natural increase in the Lower Canadian population is greater than it is anywhere else. In Upper Canada the average of births has been 3.40 per cent, per annum, and in Lower Canada it has been 4.10 per cent, per annum; this is equivalent to a greater relative increase of 20 per cent, in favor of Lower Canada over Upper Canada. If a calculation is made of the progressive increase of the French population in Lower Canada, from 1781 to 1851, the following results will be arrived at:—
|Per ct.||per ann.|
|From||1784 to 1831||the increase||was equal||to||2.60|
|do.||1831 to 1844||do.||do.||to||3.20|
|do.||1844 to 1851||do.||do.||to||4.25|
But the growth of population that would have resulted from this increase has been […]
- (p. 594)
[…] diminished by emigration to the United States. The difficulties between the sections of the province have, during long years, driven our youth to foreign countries, and that is why that considerable increase does not appear, by the census, so great as in reality it has been.
Thus the total number of French-Canadian emigrants to the United States amounted, in 1841, to 31,000; from 1844 to 1850 the total amounted to 30,000; making, in 1850, a grand total of 64,000 of our countrymen who had passed into foreign lands. With such an emigration going on, it is clear that our population could not increase with rapidity; but now, fortunately, the movement of our population has assumed a contrary direction Many families have already returned to us, whilst many others are only awaiting a favorable opportunity to return to the country, which they ought never to have left.
The French-Canadian population in the United States is still very considerable, as the following figures will show: in the State of Vermont there are 14,000 French-Canadians; in the State of New York 20,000; in Ohio and Pennsylvania, 6,000; in Michigan, 30,000; in Illinois, 20,000; in Wisconsin, 12,000; in Indiana, 5,000; in Minnesota, 15,000, without taking into consideration the fact that nearly 35,000 of our young men, besides, are enrolled in the army of the United States. What took place in Canada also took place in Acadia, where the French population also increased in a manner which was truly astonishing. From 1707 to 1737 this increase amounted to a proportion of 6 percent, per annum; in thirty years the total had increased fivefold. It continued to increase in nearly a like proportion up to 1755, the memorable date of the deportation of the Acadians, From 1755 to 1855 the Acadians increased tenfold by themselves, and now the French-Acadian population in the Maritime Provinces and in the State of Maine is distributed as follows:—
|Prince Edward Island||15,000|
|State of Maine||5,000|
|Giving a total of||98,000|
Let us now enquire, Mr. Speaker, what the annual increase has been in Upper Canada. This consideration is an important one, for it goes to prove that in ten years the total population of Upper and Lower Canada will be equal, and that, consequently, the constitutional changes resulting from the question of representation based on population are not called for:—
|In||1830||that increase was||10 per ct.||per annum|
|”||1865||it will probably be||3.00||do.|
This amounts to saying that in thirty years the proportion of increase has diminished by more than 50 percent, and that diminution of annual increase has been consequent upon the diminution of immigration. The following figures, which shew the number of immigrants who have come into Upper Canada since the year 1829, shew this clearly:—
|1829 to 1833||167,697|
|1834 to 1838||96,351|
|1839 to 1843||123,860|
In 1854 we had no railways as we have today, and consequently the European emigration which was directed to the United States did not pass through Canada, as it does now, towards the Western States. In 1854 the immigration was 53,000, and all who landed in Canada settled there at once; but in 1864 the immigration fell to 19,000, of whom not more than one half remained in the country; the remainder went on to the Western States.
Thus it may be said that the immigration, which numbered more than 53,000 souls in […]
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[…] 1854, has fallen in ten years to 8,000 only for Upper Canada, whilst in Lower Canada we have increased, by natural progress, in the proportion of from 2.20 percent, to 2.60 percent, during the same period. And it is just at the time that our population is increasing in this proportion that it is proposed to grant to Upper Canada representation based on population. Why do we not still resist? We are told that if we wait longer the disproportion will be increased.
I maintain, according to the above calculations, and in view of other considerations that I shall by and by have the honor to submit to this House, that we can only be the gainers in this matter, because the proportion of our natural increase is increasing, while that of immigration is diminishing. In thirty years, from 1829 to 1860, 942,735 immigrants landed on our shores, nearly all of whom settled in Upper Canada. And there is another fact to which I beg to call the attention of the House, and that is, that the Irish emigration, which amounted in 1851 to 22,381, diminished during the ten following years to 376 in 1861, and it is a well known fact that it was this wholesale deportation from the Emerald Isle which has made the population of Upper Canada what it is today.
But it is not necessary to consult the census to arrive at the conclusion that the proportionate difference in the increase of the populations of the two sections of the province is only due to the arrival in the country of this million of immigrants. If we study the proportion of births, or of the natural increase, we shall see that Lower Canada has increased its population more rapidly than Upper Canada, and that there are more births in proportion in our section of the province. As these artificial sources of increase diminish in Upper Canada, we may be certain that the equilibrium will be established between the two populations.
There is yet another cause which must contribute to reestablish this equilibrium, and I find it in an official report written by the present Honorable Provincial Secretary (Hon. Mr. McDougall) when he was Commissioner of Crown Lands [Hon. Mr. Campbell]. The cause of colonization has attracted, for several years past, the special attention of our clergy and of the influential inhabitants of the country, so soon as it became generally known that the increase of the population in Upper Canada would lead very soon to constitutional changes, having for their object representation based upon population, with all its disastrous results for the minority. Since that period new colonization roads have been opened for the surplus population of the old counties, and our youth, instead of expatriating themselves, plunge into the forests to clear the land, and thus to increase the strength of the French element.
The cause of the diminution in the increase of Upper Canada, of which I have just spoken, may be found in the important fact that the best disposable lands are nearly exhausted—I do not mean to say that they have lost their fertility, but that they are nearly all occupied. We require no better proof of my assertion than the report of the Honorable Commissioner of Crown Lands [Hon. Mr. Campbell] for 1862, from which I ask permission to cite the following paragraph:—
It will be observed that the whole quantity of land sold dining the past year is less by 252,471 acres than in 1861. The falling off is equal to about 38 1/2 per cent. The fact is significant, and suggests enquiry as to the cause. It may, I think, be attributed to the commercial and monetary derangements resulting from the civil war in the neighboring country; to the retarding influence of that war upon immigration, and to the diminished means of purchasers within the country by reason of the generally deficient harvest of 1862.
Another cause may be mentioned, which, in an official view, is more important than either of these, because its influence is not accidental or temporary. It is the fact that the best lands of the Crown in both sections of the province hare already been sold. The quantity of really good land now open for sale is, notwithstanding recent surveys, much less than formerly, and is rapidly diminishing. The new surveys in Upper Canada have added, during the last five years, no less than 2,808,172 acres to the land roll of the department. The addition during the same period, in Lower Canada, was 1,968,168 acres. Yet it may be doubted if there are today as many acres of wild land of the first quality at the disposal of the department as there were in 1857.
The clergy, school and Crown lands of the western peninsula, the most desirable, both as to quality and situation, of all the public lands of the province, are mostly sold; the few lots that remain are generally of inferior quality. The new township between the Ottawa and Lake Huron contain much good land, but they are separated from the settled townships on the St. Lawrence and north shore of Lake Ontario by a rocky, barren tract, which varies in width from ten to twenty miles, and presents a serious obstruction to the influx of settlers. Moreover, the good land in these new townships is composed of small tracts, here and there, separated from each other by rocky ridges, swamps and lakes, which render difficult the construction of roads, and interrupt the continuity of settlement. These unfavorable circumstances have induced the better class of settlers in Upper Canada to seek, at the hands of private owners, for lands of a better quality and more desirable […]
- (p. 596)
[…] location, though the price and terms of sale are more onerous than for the lands of the Crown.
I think that this official report contains a statement of great importance to Lower Canada, and which it is desirable should be clearly demonstrated before we decide whether we ought to change the present Constitution. As the population of Upper Canada is no longer sensibly increased by immigration, and as the natural increase of the population of Lower Canada is more rapid than that of Upper Canada; as the emigration of our countrymen to the United States is ceasing, and as the best lands in Upper Canada are occupied, whilst the territory of Lower Canada is only just beginning to be opened up for settlement, I see no reason why we should make such haste to give up the struggle we have so successfully maintained up to the present time, and, without any just reason, grant representation by population. This is what is said in the same report by the present Hon. Provincial Secretary [Hon. Mr. McDougall], and his words agree exactly with my statements:—
In Lower Canada the sales in 1862 reached a little more than double the quantity sold in Upper Canada. The discovery of copper and other minerals in the Eastern Townships and the opening of better means of communication have caused a considerable influx of population into that part of Lower Canada, and a corresponding increase in the demand for unsold public lands. The new surveys on the southern slope of the high land, which border the St. Lawrence between Quebec and Montreal, have developed a very considerable quantity of good land, which is being rapidly taken up.
And what is the consequence of this fact pointed out by the Hon. Commissioner of Crown Lands [Hon. Mr. Campbell]? It is that if the public lands are sold only to settlers, so soon as it is established that the quantity of lands sold in Lower Canada is double that sold in Upper Canada, I am justified in concluding that the extent cleared is also double, and as a necessary consequence, that the population must be increasing in the same proportion. Thence I conclude that the question of representation based upon population tends every day to its own solution. Thus we have a man, who certainly cannot be accused of partiality to Lower Canada, and whose extensive knowledge no one will deny, declaring officially that we are increasing in a much greater proportion than Upper Canada.
And it is at the very moment that we are on the point of turning the scale of victory, that we are about to give way and cease from further effort. Our rising generations were emigrating to the United States a few years ago, because we had no colonization roads to give them access to the forests of Lower Canada, as we have now; and why had we them not? Because until quite recently, the Hon. Minister of the Department of the Crown Lands, as well as the Hon. Minister of the Department of Agriculture and Emigration, were always Upper Canadians. Upper Canada always understood the importance of those departments as regards the material development of that section of the province. Accordingly, all the measures of improvement were in favor of the western section, and all the immigration was carefully directed thither.
Now that we have found out the results of that cleverly devised policy, the Lower Canadian party are more attentive to the colonization of our wild lands, and we find the clergy and all our political and influential men seconding their efforts. We have colonization societies in every quarter, and the result of their labors is the settlement and occupation of our public lands as soon as they are surveyed. Frequently we even see the settlers getting ahead of the parties employed in opening the roads through the forests. These facts are important enough to deserve our serious consideration, more especially as the report of the Hon. Provincial Secretary [Hon. Mr. McDougall] confirms my statements in every particular.
The Canadian families now in the United States are glad to return among us to aid in developing the resources of our country, and if the Government, instead of making changes in the Constitution, were to establish a vast system of colonization, to draw hither our fellow-countrymen from the United States, and an immigration from Europe of those who own a common origin with ourselves, we should hive no need to trouble ourselves about the political changes now proposed to us, of which the object is evidently to destroy our influence in America. (Hear, hear.)
The intention of the Confederation scheme, we are told by the Ministry, is the formation of a vast Empire, bounded by the Pacific ocean on one bide, on the other by the Atlantic ocean, and on the south by the American Union, while on the north it would extend to the Pole, leaving Russian America on the west. No doubt the scheme is a grand one, magnificent in conception, and likely to take with the ambitious minds of the most aspiring men in British North America. The Opposition perfectly understands the noble object of the promoters of the Confederation, which it is proposed to establish on a monarchical basis, in opposition to the American Union, […]
- (p. 597)
[…] based on the democratic and republican principle; but the Opposition is also aware that this creation of an Empire presents difficulties of an important character, not only because it is starting into existence in opposition to the neighboring powerful republic, which is essentially opposed to monarchical institutions, but also because the differences of nationality, religion and sectional interests are so many stumbling blocks with which the principal provisions of the scheme of Confederation will come in contact.
It must not be believed that the Opposition only oppose the scheme because they do not understand its import. On the contrary they do understand it, and see in it nothing but provisions of a nature hostile to them. At the present day, with sectional equality, Canada constitutes but a single people, who have tendencies and aspirations in common; but under Confederation such will no longer be the case; we shall have a minority opposed to a majority, the aggressive tendencies of which have always manifested themselves whenever the power of numbers was in their favor. If the populations of all the provinces were homogeneous; if their interests, their ideas, their belief and their nationality were identical, we might perhaps be more disposed to accept the by no means judicious provisions of the scheme which is submitted to us. But as none of these are identical, we consider that we should be in danger if we did accept them.
Formerly France possessed all this part of the continent; the settlers of that period, the farmers, fishermen, hunters and trappers travelled over the whole extent of those immense possessions which were known by the name of New France. At this moment what remains to her of a territory that was equal in extent to Europe itself? A wretched little island at the entrance of the Gulf, a foothold for her fisheries, and a few acres of beach on the coast of Newfoundland. When we consider that fact, when we see French power completely destroyed on this continent, are we not justified in looking closely into the project of Constitution now submitted to us, which has for its object, I repeat, simply to complete the destruction of the influence of the French race on this continent?
Has not the past taught us to dread the future? Yes, Mr. Speaker, the policy of England has ever been aggressive, and its object has always been to annihilate us as a people. And this scheme of Confederation is but the continued application of that policy on this continent; its real object is nothing but the annihilation of French influence in Canada. If we examine history in order to ascertain whether a precedent is to be found for the course of action adopted today, we shall derive a valuable lesson from the experience of the past.
There was a period, after the conquest of England by the Normans, when the French language was the general and official language of that country, but subsequently the conquerors were compelled to adopt the language of the vanquished. The history of the Parliament of England shows that up to 1425, every bill introduced in the Legislature, without a single exception, was in the French language. But at that date the first English bill was presented to Parliament; and twenty-five years later, in 1450, the last French bill was presented in the English Parliament. After that date we no longer find a trace of the French language in Parliament; twenty-five years had sufficed to do away with it completely. There is another historical fact connected with the political existence of a people, which it is right to recall. We know how long Scotland and Ireland resisted the encroachments of England The struggle was protracted and obstinate. But these two nations were compelled to succumb to political encroachment, under the pressure of the powerful assimilating tendencies of the English nation.
But let us see what means England used to attain her ends. Impartial history tells us, as it will tell of the means employed today to annihilate our race on this continent. History records, in letters of gold, the names of those who have bravely struggled for the lives and liberties of nations, but it also holds up to execration the memory of those who barter those liberties and those rights for titles, honor, power, or gold. We now enjoy responsible government, dearly earned by a century of heroic struggles, and before yielding an inch of the ground we have conquered, we should see what we are likely to gain by the proposed constitutional changes. Let us profit by the experience of the countries we now see lamenting the loss of their political rights resulting from constitutional changes similar to those now proposed to Lower Canada. I find the following with reference to the union of Scotland with England in 1706:—
Queen Anne carried out, in 1706, a project vainly attempted by William III., the union of England and Scotland into a single kingdom, under the dominion of Great Britain. The uncontrollable character of the Scotch, the mutual antipathy of the two people, and the constantly recurring difficulties resulting from these principles, […]
- (p. 598)
[…] rendered the measure highly useful at the same time that they increased the obstacles.
Thus, it is clear that the antipathies between the two races produced many obstacles to the English project, and, in order to remove these obstacles, England had recourse to means precisely similar to those adopted here as a preparation for Confederation, namely, the appointment of a conference of commissioners charged with the preparation of the Act of Union. Says M. Emile de Bonnechose:
These commissioners agreed on the general question, but differences arose as regards the manner in which the English proposed to constitute the new Parliament of the United Kingdom, and while the population of Scotland amounted to a sixth of the population of England, they allowed that kingdom but forty-six members in the Commons, or a thirteenth of the total representation. Sixteen peers only, out of the whole peerage of Scotland, were to be chosen by election, to sit in the English House of Lords. The stringency of these latter clauses, by which the people of Scotland felt themselves aggrieved, excited universal discontent; it was to be expected, particularly at the outset, from a treaty of union between the two nations, that there would be a clashing of material interests prejudicial to the welfare of very many persons, as occurs at the outset in every important political connection. The wounding of their national self-love would of itself have been sufficient to render the people of Scotland insensible to the remote advantages of the compact, and all parties—Whigs and Tories, Jacobites and Williamites, Presbyterians, Episcopalians and Cameronians, combined to defeat it.
Thus we have nearly the whole people uniting to oppose the union it was sought to impose upon them, and yet in face of the all but unanimous opposition of the people of Scotland, England succeeded in forcing them into the union by the use of means she never hesitates to adopt:—
The commissioners of the Government were insulted by the populace, who destroyed the dwellings of many state officials favorable to the union, while they were loud in praise of the Duke of Hamilton, one of the chief opponents of the measure. The Dukes of Queensberry and Argyle, Earls of Montrose, Stair, Roxburgh and Marchmont strove in vain to allay by argument and reasoning, the explosion of patriotic feeling and national fury, and what the best arguments could not obtain was carried by corruption. A portion of the gold promised by the English Commissioners as a compensation for the fresh burdens about to be imposed upon the sister kingdom, was divided amongst their Scotch colleagues and many influential members of the Parliament sitting in Edinburgh; thenceforward all obstacles were removed; the treaty of union, which the Scotch people looked upon as an act of suicide, and which the purest and best men would not have sanctioned, received the assent of a venal majority. In fine, that famous compact, which was denounced as a dishonor to Scotland, which that country looked upon as the yielding up of her interests and her glory, and which was destined to open for her, in subsequent times, an era of unparalleled peace and prosperity, was signed on the 1st May, 1707, and was considered a great triumph by the people of England, already at that time intoxicated with joy at the success of their arms on the continent.
There, Mr. Speaker, is an instance of the manner in which the policy of England can overcome even the most justifiable resistance, supported by the unanimous wishes of a people. Scotland looked upon a union with England as an act of suicide, and yet the union was carried by a majority in the Parliament of Edinburgh. I need not dwell at length upon these facts; they speak eloquently for themselves. (Hear, hear.) There is another fact in this parliamentary history of England, of which it is well to remind the House—I mean the abolition of the Irish Parliament. The Honorable Minister of Agriculture (Hon. Mr. McGee) has told us, in that flowery language which characterises the children of his native soil, that he himself, when scarce twenty years of age, struggled to emancipate his country from the tyranny of England, and not succeeding in his noble undertaking, preferred to exile himself to American soil rather than remain to be a daily spectator of the misfortunes and sufferings of his native land. And yet, what is he now doing? He is trying, with the help of a hostile majority, to thrust upon Lower Canada, his adopted country, a union which is repugnant to her, and to revive here the system of oppression over which he wept in Ireland. (Hear, hear.)
Let us see what the means were which were employed to impose upon Ireland that union which was destined to entail the wholesale exodus of her population:—
In the case of Ireland, the contest was a longer one, but England was ultimately triumphant. After the crisis of 1798, (says M. Gustave de Beaumont,) England, holding down rebellious and vanquished Ireland, chastised her unrelentingly and pitilessly. Twenty years previously Ireland again came into possession of her political liberties; England preserved a bitter recollection of this success of Ireland, and took advantage of the depression of the latter to replace her under an absolute yoke. The Irish Parliament, after recovering its independence, became troublesome […]
- (p. 599)
[…] to England; it was necessary, in order to master it, to take great pains in corruption, in spite of which great resistance on the pait of the Irish Parliament was met with; the opportunity was favorable to suppress it, and in consequence the English Government abolished it.
On the reception of this news, poor Ireland was in an instant in agitation, just as a body which has just been deprived of life stirs again under the steel which mutilates and rends it. Of thirty-two counties, twenty-one loudly exclaimed against the destruction of the Irish Parliament. That Parliament, from whom an act of suicide had necessarily to be asked, refused to consummate it, and by its vote maintained its constitutional existence.
Indignant at the servility which it was dared to ask for from the body of which he formed part, Grattan vehemently opposed the Ministerial scheme. But all this resistance was in vain. The only resistance which definitively opposed a serious obstacle to the views of England, was that of the Irish Parliament, which would not vote its own abolition. Hitherto its acts had been bought, and now its death was in like manner purchased. Corruption was at once made use of on an enormous scale; places, pensions and favors of all kinds were lavished in every direction, and the same men who, in 1799, rejected the scheme of union, adopted it on the 26th May, 1800, by a majority of a hundred and eighteen votes against seventy-three, and that majority consisted of either state pensioners or public functionaries. And so, through violence, aided by corruption, was accomplished the destructive act of the Irish Parliament, not without stirring up in Ireland all that remained of national passion and feelings of patriotism.
Mr. Speaker, when we have such acts as these from which to form an opinion of the politics of England, it is reasonable that those who have not the same reasons for desiring constitutional changes as the hon. members who sit on the Ministerial benches, should, at least, have an opportunity of carefully studying all the details of the measure which is submitted to us. For my part, I am satisfied with the present Constitution, and am ready to defend it against every enemy which may come forward to attack our territory. But I am bound to declare that if that Constitution is changed despite the will of the people, we shall no longer find among the Lower Canadians that impulse for which they have always been distinguished in days gone by, and which enabled them to vanquish a hostile force of double their number. (Hear, hear.)
There would appear to have been no reason why the antagonism between the English and French races, to which I alluded as existing in Europe, should have been carried into America; and yet the strife was continued in the New World, after it had arisen in the old hemisphere. At the present day that strife continues, and despite the protestations of sincere friendship interchanged between Paris and London, we see France and England continually facing each other, sword in hand, feeling for each other that respect which mutual fear alone can inspire. And could it be expected that those feelings of rivalry and antagonism which have always existed, and which still exist at the present day, between the two races, would be effaced from among their Canadian descendants, that we may be fused into one nation? It is an impossibility! Do what you may, the same feelings will always exist. They are blameable, perhaps, but the fact remains—they exist, and form part of the very nature of the two races.
The language, the religion, the institutions and the customs of a people are so many obstacles to its union with another people, whose language, religion, institutions and customs are different from theirs. And is it supposed that these feelings of rivalry and these causes of estrangement will be removed on the adoption of the scheme of Confederation which is proposed to us? For my part, I would wish in Canada to see the two nationalities rival each other in progress in the useful works of peace. This rivalry, not of strife hand to hand, but a rivalry in the laudable ambition which has for its object the realizing of the greatest prosperity known, the attaining of the highest excellence in the sciences, and of the most profound secrets of art, would confer upon our country a degree of power equal to what has resulted from the combined strength of England and France, which has, up to the present, been employed to impel the world towards the prodigies which have been realized in the nineteenth century.
With equality of numbers, and of sectional representation, the two nationalities cannot fall foul of each other; but with Confederation, as we shall be in a great minority in the General Parliament, which has all the important powers in relation to legislation, we shall have to carry on a constant contest for the defence and preservation of our political rights and of our liberty. Under the union the French Canadians are divided in this House into two camps, opposed the one to the other, because they have nothing to fear in regard to their national interests; but under Confederation, as we shall have but forty-eight […]
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[…] French members against one hundred and forty-six in the Federal Legislature, those members will have to go together like one man to maintain their influence, and the simple fact of that union of the French-Canadians into a solid phalanx will cause the English element to unite on its side to crush and vanquish it.
It is because I fear such a strife that I cannot approve of a Constitution which does not secure our political rights, and the working of which will necessarily entail disastrous consequences to our race. (Hear, hear.) The strife of nationalities which has been too long maintained in Europe appeared to have no cause of existence in America. It appeared that there was on this continent room enough and prospects enough to allow everybody, of all principles and of all nationalities, to live in peace upon it, without jostling and falling foul of each other. It appeared that those who had emigrated from the old world should have at heart the formation of powerful nations on this continent, without introducing the religious and national hat red which had for so long a time divided Europe, and deluged her in blood.
And yet what do we see here? We have seen France, who first of all despatched the apostles of Christianity into the vast solitudes of North America—France, who first planted her noble flag on the Island of Montreal and the heights of Quebec—we have seen France deprived of the last inch of the soil which she had conquered on this continent, bequeathing to her children, abandoned in Canada, but a future of struggles and contests against the encroaching spirit of her powerful rival. (Hear, hear.)
From the commencement of the French domination in America, we have seen reproduced here the strifes which divided the European continent. Towns and villages were destroyed as though there was not room enough in this new world for the few handfuls of men who came to inhabit it. The first scene of this inexcusable description occurred in Acadia, in 1613. Garneau makes the following remarks on this subject:—
In 1612 La Saussaye began, on the left bank of the Penobscot river, a settlement which he failed St. Sauveur. All went well at first, and flattering hopes were entertained at once of success beyond all expectation, when an unlooked for storm burst over the colony and stifled it in its cradle.
England claimed the country as far as the 45th degree of north latitude—that is to say, all the continent to the northward as far as the heart of Acadia. France, on the other hand, maintained that her boundary ran southward as far as the 40th degree. From this dispute it resulted that, while La Saussaye thought himself within the boundary of New France at St. Sauveur, the English declared that he was deep in their territory. To maintain the claim, Captain Argall of Virginia resolved to go and dislodge him, incited by the hope of obtaining a rich booty, and by his prejudices against Catholics, who had been the cause of the ruin of Poutrincourt.
Thus in 1612, in other words only two or three years after the founding of Quebec, we already find religious and national strife beginning their work of exclusiveness on our continent, and that strife we shall again have to engage in, disagreeable as it may be. I proceed:—
He appeared suddenly before it. Sauveur with a vessel mounting 14 guns, and spread dismay among the defenceless inhabitants, who took him at first for a pirate. Father Gilbert Du Thet vainly endeavored to offer a slight resistance; he was killed, and the settlement given up to pillage. Everything was carried off or sacked, Argall himself setting the example.
To legalize this act of piracy (for such it was), he stole La Saussaye’s commission, and pretended to look upon him and his people as unaccredited adventurers. Gradually, however, he seemed to soften, and proposed to those who had trades to follow him to Jamestown, from whence, after having worked for one year, they should be sent back to their native land. The oiler was accepted by a dozen of them. The remainder, with La Saussaye and Father Masse, preferred to risk themselves in a trail vessel with the object of reaching La Hève, where they found a vessel of St. Malo, which conveyed them to France.
Those who trusted Argall’s word were greatly surprised, on their arrival at Jamestown, to find that they were thrown into prison and treated as pirates. In vain they claimed the fulfilment of the treaty which they had made with him; they were condemned to death. Argall, who had not supposed that the abstraction of La Saussaye’s commission would have such serious íesults, did not think that he ought to carry dissimulation any further, and gave up the commission to the Governor, Sir Thomas Dale, and confessed all. That document, and information which was obtained in the course of the enquiry into the matter, caused the government of Virginia to resolve to drive the French from all the places occupied by them to the south of the line 45. A squadron of three vessels was placed under the command of the same man, Argall, in order to put that resolution in execution.
The fleet began by destroying all that remained of the old habitation of Ste. Croix—a useless vengeance, as it had been abandoned for several years; its course was then directed towards Port […]
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[…] Royal, where nobody was found (all the people being in the fields, two leagues away), and in less than two hours all the houses, together with the fort, were reduced to ashes.
Well, Mr. Speaker, this scene of devastating vandalism on our continent, which at that period contained hardly a thousand white inhabitants, gives the clue to all the events which followed from that date up to the conquest of Canada by the English. This fact is a corroboration of the principle that provides that the stronger nation shall oppress the weaker, unless by special circumstances the one is protected against the other. This is the proof that the sectional equality secured by the system of government which we now possess has alone been effective in Canada to enable different nationalities to live together on terms of equality, and to labor successfully for the advancement of the common prosperity. (Hear, hear.)
But the strife which began in 1613, between France and England, became more deadly after a century and a half of occupation; it spread along the whole frontier of New France. At the instigation of the rival race, Indian tribes fell upon all the French settlements in the country, and an incessant and vindictive war was kept up with the sole object of driving the French off the continent. We know at the present day what the result of that contest was. We are told that we have no reason to complain of the system of government which we now have. That is true. But if we have that government it is because, ever since the conquest, the remnant of the French nation which remained in the land have striven bravely to obtain it. Had it not been for the American revolution, we too would have bad our large share of suffering and humiliation, similar to that which the Acadians were made to undergo.
The treatment to which they were subjected by England is an example of what might have happened to us, but for our number, and, subsequently, but for the vicinity to us of the American Republic. There was in Acadia a nucleus of French people, who lived peaceably and happily, and who had submitted to English domination without a murmur; and yet, because they were weak and had no longer the arm of France to protect them, they were transported, like negroes on the coast of Africa, by philanthropic England. This is an important historical fact which must not be forgotten, and the details of which it is well to set before the eyes of our population, at a time when the English element is pursuing,with a persistence worthy of a better cause, the aggressive and encroaching policy concealed under the scheme of Confederation which is submitted to us.
The hon. member for South Lanark (Mr. Morris) told us the other day that we ought to thank England, and be most grateful to her for the system of government which we received from her. But to whom do we owe that system? Do we owe it to the liberality of England? Did we not obtain our political rights only at the time when she could no longer refuse them to us with safety? No, Mr. Speaker, our gratitude and our thanks are only due to those fellow-countrymen of ours who at all times bravely strove to obtain them.
When we see French colonies which still groan under the English colonial system, and which complain to Europe of the treatment to which they are subjected, the conclusion must be come to that we owe nothing to England, but that on the contrary we owe all to those who, after an age of strife, obtained for us that governmental reform which we enjoy. In order that our people may form a correct opinion of that liberality which is so highly vaunted to us, allow me here, Mr. Speaker, to quote a few pages of the history of the Acadian people:—
The war of 1774 began their misfortunes; that of the seven years completed its total ruin. For some time the English agents acted with the greatest severity; the courts, by the most flagrant violation of the law, by systematic denial of justice, had become to the poor inhabitants an object at once of terror and of hatred. The most subordinate official insisted on obedience to his will. “If you do not supply wood to my troops,” said a certain Captain Murray, “I will tear down your houses and use them for fuel.” “If you will not take the oath of fidelity,” added Governor Hopson, “I will turn my cannon against your villages.”
Nothing could induce these honorable men to do an act against which their consciences exclaimed, and which, in the opinion of many people, England had no right to demand from them. “The Acadians,” observes Mr. Haliburton, “were not British subjects, as they had not taken the oath of allegiance, and they could not, therefore, be considered rebels; nor were they to be looked upon as prisoners of war. nor to be sent to France, as for nearly half a century they had been allowed to retain their possessions, on the simple condition of remaining neutral.” But many schemers and adventurers looked at their fine farms with an envious eye. What fine inheritances, and, consequently, what a bait! It was not difficult for them to find political reasons to justify the expulsion of the Acadians. By far the […]
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[…] greater number had committed no act whatever inconsistent with nativity, but, in the great catastrophe which was impending, the innocent were to be placed in the same category with the guilty. Not one inhabitant had been deserving of mercy Their fate was decided in Governor Lawrence’s Council, at which were present Admirals Boscawen and Mostyn, whose fleets were cruising on the coast It was resolved to disperse through the English colonies the remnant of this unfortunate people; and in order that none might escape, the most profound secrecy was enjoined up to the moment fixed for the removal, which was to take place on the same day and at the same hour in all parts of Acadia at once. It was decided also, in order to make the success more complete, to bung together the inhabitants of the principal places Proclamations, prepared with perfidious skill, muted them to meet in certain places under the most severe penalties.
Four hundred and eighteen heads of families, relying on the British faith, so assembled on the 5th of September in the Church of Grand Pré Colonel Winslow went thither with a large attendance. There he showed them the commission which he held from the Governor, and informed them that they had been called together to hear the final decision of the King with respect to them He declared to them that, although the duty which he had to perform was a most painful one to him, he was compelled, in obedience to his orders, to inform them “that their lands and their cattle, of all kinds, were confiscated to the Crown, together with all their other property, except then money and their clothing, and that they themselves were to be deported from the province.”
No motive was assigned for this decision, and none could be assigned. In full civilization and in a time of political and religious quiet, such an act of spoliation was inexcusable, and, like the usurer, had to conceal its criminality by silence. A body of troops which had been kept concealed up to that point, emerged from their ambush and surrounded the church. The inhabitants, taken by surprise and unarmed, offered no resistance. The soldiers collected the women and children, 1,023 men, women and children were collected at Grand-Pré alone. Their cattle consisted of 1,269 oxen, l,057 cows, 5,007 calves, 493 horses, 3,090 sheep, and 4, 197 swine A few Acadians having escaped into the woods, the country was devastated to prevent their obtaining subsistence. At Les Mines, 276 barns, 155 other small buildings, 12 mills and one church were burned. Those who had rendered the greatest services to the Government, such as the old notary Le Blanc, who died at Philadelphia of grief and misery, while seeking his sons scattered through the English provinces, were no better treated than those who had favored the French.
No distinction was made. The men included in both classes were allowed, and it was the only consolation allowed them, before their embarkation to visit, in parties of ten, their families, and to gaze for the last time on that country which was once so calm and happy, in which they were born, and which they were never to see again The 10th was the day fixed for their embarkation A calm resignation had succeeded to their first despair But when the time came for them to bid a last adieu to their country, to go and live dispersed in the midst of a people foreign language, in customs, in manners and in religion, the courage of these unfortunate people gave way, and they gave themselves up to the most profound grief. In violation of the promise which had been made them, and by an unexampled refinement of barbarity, families were separated and dispersed throughout different vessels. In order to put them on board, the prisoners were arranged in sixes, with the young people in front, these having refused to march, and having claimed the fulfilment of the promise made them, that they should be put on board with their relatives, they were replied to by the advance of soldiers with their bayonets crossed.
The road from the Grand-Pré chapel to the river Gaspereaux was a mile in length, it was lined on both sides by women and children, who, on their knees and bathed in tears, encouraged them by calling down blessings on their heads. The sad procession moved slowly along, praying, and singing hymns. The heads of families walked after the youth; at last the procession reached the shore, the men were put into some vessels and the women and children into others, pell mell, without any regard whatever for their comfort.
Governments have committed acts of cruelty under the impulse of unreflecting anger, but they had been provoked and irritated by aggression and repeated attacks There is no example in modern days of chastisement inflicted on a peaceable and inoffensive people with so much premeditation, barbarity and coolness as that to which allusion is now being made On the same day and at the same hour, all the other Acadian settlements presented the same spectacle of desolation. The vessels, laden with the numerous victims, sailed for the different provinces where they were to be dispersed. They were thrust ashore on the coast between Boston and Carolina, without bread and without protection, and were left to the charity of the inhabitants of the country in which they might happen to be. For many days after their departure, their cattle might be seen collecting around the ruins of their dwellings, and their dogs passed the nights in pitiful howlings at the absence of then masters Happy even in their grief, they did not know to what extremes avarice and ambition can impel mankind.
Well, Mr. Speaker, these are facts which it is important to remember. Here is a French colony, situated a few hundred leagues from Canada, deported in a body, and the remnant of which long after returned to the same territory. Still more, it is with the descendents of a small part of these exiles that is now proposed to unite us. But a few months ago, I went among those people, and when I saw the magnificent […]
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[…] properties of which they had been so brutally despoiled, in order that they might be conferred upon their executioners, in spite of myself, I remembered their moving history, and that sight, I must say, did not tend to induce me to accept the scheme of Confederation without carefully considering all its details. I repeat, Mr. Speaker these are facts which must not be forgotten. (Laughter, and whispering on the right.)
To see the manner, Mr. Speaker, in which certain members of this House receive the account contained in one of the saddest pages of the history of New France, one would really believe that the facts which I have cited never occurred, and do not convey any instruction for the future. However, I am not surprised at such conduct on their part, when they can approve of a plan of a Constitution which contains a clause by which the Imperial Government is enabled even to change our name of Canadians to give us any one they may think proper. The recollection of our struggles cannot be very vivid in their memory, and the love of their nationality must be very weakly rooted in their hearts, to allow of their consenting to lose, with the name of Canadians, the memory of an heroic past. (Hear, hear.)
Under Confederation, Canada will be no longer a country possessing a distinct individuality, and her own history and customs, but she will be a state in the Confederacy, the general name of which will cause the special name of each province of which it is composed to disappear. Look at the states of the American Union; the name of the United States does away with that of the individual states. So with Canada; the name of the Confederacy will be that by which we shall be known in foreign lands. For my part, I am proud of our history and of my designation of Canadian, and I wish to keep it. I am not one of those who can listen without interest to the recital of the heroic struggles of the French race in America, as the hon. member for Rouville (Mr. Poulin) can do; for I am of the opinion that considerations of nationality, of family, of language, and of origin ought to be most dear to a people, although they would appear to possess no importance or interest whatever in the eyes of the hon. member. (Hear, hear.)
[Original Editor’s Note: It being six o’clock, the House rose, to resume at half-past seven, P.M. At that hour Mr. Perrault continued.]
[Mr. Perrault]: Mr. Speaker, at the time when I broke off in my observations in consequence of the adjournment at six o’clock, I was engaged in showing what was the spirit of antagonism and strife which prevailed on the American continent up to 1755 We saw Acadia made a prey to the attacks of New England, and lastly, we saw her population dispersed over the inhospitable shores of this continent which border on the Atlantic ocean. New France had thus lost the greater part of her territory in America. The seven years’ war advanced with the strides of a giant, and every day saw the French element confined within narrower boundaries. After a prolonged contest, during which handfuls of men struggled with armies of ten times their number, when they were without bread, without munitions of war and almost without hope, the battle of the Plains of Abraham struck the last blow to the French power in America.
In the following year the battle of Ste. Foye. which took place on the 28th April, 1760, soon compelled the Canadians to capitulate, although they were the victors in that battle, and the English were compelled to take shelter behind the walls of Quebec. In the treaty of capitulation, England guaranteed to the French-Canadians the free exercise of their form of worship, the preservation of their institutions, the use of their language and the maintenance of their laws. After this struggle on the field of honor, which called down upon the French-Canadians a most magnificent tribute of praise from their Governor, we shall find them engaged in a new struggle, a political struggle, yet more glorious than that which had preceded the cession of Canada to England.
But permit me here, Mr. Speaker, to quote the eulogium pronounced on the Canadians by Governor Vaudreuil in a letter which he wrote to the ministers of Louis XIV.:—”With this beautiful and extensive country France loses 70,000 souls, who are of a nature so seldom found, that never yet were people so docile, so brave, and so attached to their prince.” These qualities, for which the French-Canadians were distinguished at that period, still exist in the hearts of the population at the present day. At the present day still they are loyal, brave and attached to monarchical institutions; they love firmly-established institutions, and the guarantees of peace accorded by a great power, and the struggles through which they have had to pass under English domination have been the best proofs of their loyalty. If we study the history of our struggles since the cession of Canada, we […]
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[…] shall find that our public men were always attached to the Crown of England up to the time when they were compelled by the arbitrary and unjust conduct of the Imperial Government to have recourse to arms to obtain respect for our political rights and our liberties; and it was thus in 1837 that we gained responsible government. (Hear, hear.)
But in order to hold up to view the spirit of aggression and encroachment which has always characterised the English population in America, I shall give an historical sketch of the struggles through which we had to pass, in the course of a century, to attain at last our present Constitution, which it is my wish to preserve, but which our Ministers wish to destroy in order to substitute for it the scheme of Confederation.
This historical sketch will demonstrate to us that we owe no gratitude to England for those political reforms which were obtained for us only through the unyielding patriotism of our great men, who, with intelligence, energy and perseverance, valiantly strove for the constant defence of our rights. We shall also see that, if they obtained the system of government and the political liberty for which they struggled, it was because we had for our neighbors the states of the American Union, and that side by side with the evil was its remedy. We shall see that whenever England stood in need of us to defend her power, she made concessions to us; but that when the danger was once over, colonial fanaticism always attempted to withdraw those concessions and to destroy the influence and the liberties of the French race. Each page of the parliamentary history of our country offers a fresh proof of this. But we then had men who knew how to struggle for a noble cause, and who did not shrink from the danger which that struggle entailed.
I hope, Mr. Speaker, that we have still some of those men without fear and without reproach in Lower Canada; I hope the present Ministry are sincere at the moment when they are giving up the guarantees of the existing Constitution. If they can arrive at a happy conclusion with their scheme of Confederation, I shall be the first to congratulate them, and posterity will thank them for having had the hardihood to propose so vast a scheme. But I must say that there are men as intelligent and as devoted to the dearest interests of our country as the hon. gentlemen who are sitting on the Ministerial benches, who are convinced that this scheme, far from being a remedy for existing difficulties, is but a new engine prepared by our natural adversaries more easily to destroy the influence of the French race in America, an influence for the preservation of which we have had to fight step by step ever since the commencement of English domination in Canada. (Hear, hear.)
The first political struggle between the French and the English elements in the country occurred only a few years after the treaty of capitulation had been signed. The general then commanding in Canada established a system of military government. There may have been ground for such a system after so long and bloody a war as that which was just over, and which had loft behind it so much legitimate animosity in the hearts of the conqueror and the conquered. However, the treaty of capitulation declared that the Canadians should be “subjects of the king,” and as such they were entitled to representative government. The faith of treaty was therefore violated from the commencement of the English domination in Canada, and as I shall have the honor of shewing, this was but the first link in the long chain of arbitrary acts to which we have been subjected since that period. The following, Mr. Speaker, is the first aggressive act that I shall cite in support of my statement:—
In 1764 General Murray, in accordance with his instructions, formed anew council, uniting the executive, legislative and judicial power, and composed of the lieutenant-governors of Montreal and Three Rivers, the chief justice, the inspector of customs, and eight influential persons. But one obscure man of the country was taken to make up the number.
This was the first act that had to be complained of—
It was proposed to take possession of the bishopric of Quebec, together with the property attached to it, and to confer it on the Bishop of London, and to grant to the Catholics only limited toleration, to exact from them the oath of allegiance, and to declare them incapable, as Catholics, of holding any public office. Justice was administered by men ignorant of the laws of the country, and in a language with which the Canadians were unacquainted.
It is unnecessary to make any lengthened comments on the entirely unjust manner in which the Canadians were thus treated, and on the flagrant violations of the conditions of the treaty of capitulation of Montreal. […]
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[…] But we shall soon see that the fear of impending danger was alone effective to obtain for us political liberty, for at that time the French element alone could sustain the English power in America:—
The English partisans assembled at Quebec in October, 1773, to prepare an address with the view of obtaining a House of Assembly.
And this was the reply made to them by the Imperial Government through one of the Ministry:—
As to an Assembly of Protestants only, I see no objection to the establishment of one; but the danger of disobliging the Catholics of the Province, who are so much superior in number.
This was the sole consideration which was effective to prevent the carrying out of the proposition of 1773, to establish a Canadian House of Assembly composed of Protestants only, and yet out of a population of 80,000 souls, 500 families only were at the time English and Protestants. What greater injustice could be done us? But the English element made yet other propositions to the Imperial Government:—
Six different suggestions were made in relation to the new forms of government which it was wished to introduce:
1st—The establishment of a House of Assembly composed exclusively of Protestants, as the English understood the proclamation of the month of October, 1873, to provide, was asked for.
2nd—An Assembly composed of equal numbers of Catholics and Protestants.
3rd—An Assembly composed almost entirely of Protestants, with a limited number of Catholics.
4th—To delegate to the Governor and his council sufficient power to control the province by increasing the number of the members who should be all Protestants; or,
5th—Protestants and Catholics.
6th—Or again, Protestants with a restricted and limited number of Catholics.
Thus, from the very first attempt made to give to French Canada a political organization, we find the most shameless exclusiveness forming the basis of the propositions suggested. There were hardly 3,000 English colonists against 75,000 French, and already we were denied any representation in the Governor’s Council, there to set forth the requirements of the country and to watch over the defence of our rights.—
The Cursitor Baron (Maseres) prepared a bill by which he suggested the raising of the number of the members of the Council to thirty-one; that the latter should be independent of the governor, instead of being subject to suspension; that the quorum should be fixed at seventeen; and further that it should not have the power of imposing taxes; that it should be appointed for seven years, and should be composed of Protestants; provisions which were calculated to exclude from the management of affairs and from office the French and Catholic element.
Always exclusion of Catholics, and consequently of the French element. But what resulted? Did the French remain unmoved in view of the danger which was impending over them? No! On the receipt of the news they signed petitions, and obtained from England the justice which was refused to them here:—
Our unfortunate ancestors, however, did not remain idle under the threats and injustice of their adversaries—the colonies were possessed of men capable of judging and of foreseeing events. Petitions were prepared and signed, in the month of December, 1773, of which the tenor was as follows: ” In the year 1764 Your Majesty was pleased to terminate the military government in this colony and to introduce civil government into it, and from the date of those changes we began to be aware of thp inconveniences resulting from the British laws, which up to that time had been unknown to us. Our old citizens who bad, without cost, settled our difficulties, were thanked; that militia, which considered it glorious to bear that great name, was suppressed. We were, indeed, allowed the right of being jurors, but at the same time we were shewn that there were obstacles to our holding office.
The introduction of the laws of England was talked of—laws which are infinitely wise and useful for the Mother Country, but which could not be made to coincide with our customs without overturning our fortunes and entirely destroying our possessions.
Reign, illustrious and gracious Sovereign, to remove these fears by granting us our ancient laws, privileges and customs, with the limits of Canada such as they used to be * * * Deign to distribute equally your benefits to all your subjects, without distinction * * * And to grant us in common with the rest, the rights and privileges of English citizens; then * * * we shall be always ready to sacrifice them for the glory of our prince and the well-being of our country.”
And such has always been the sentiment of the French population in America; it has always been loyal to authority, from the moment of obtaining that protection to which it was entitled. In view of the difficult position in which England was placed, the requests of the Canadians having been favorably received, constituted the basis of the Act of 1774. Circumstances were indeed difficult. The policy of the Mother Country had alienated her subjects in New England. The idea of taxing the colonies to provide […]
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[…] for the requirements of the Imperial Treasury had given rise to deep indignation on this side of the Atlantic. And that ill-advised colonial policy it was that lost to England her American colonies.
Taught by this revolt, England perceived that she must grant greater political liberties to her French colonists in Canada. They would not withdraw themselves from English domination; on the contrary, they wished to remain under her flag, for they feared being drawn into the neighboring republic, the future greatness of which was not at the time foreseen. Impelled by the dread of losing what possessions remained to her in America, England had to yield the concessions which Canada asked for from her at a time when the war of independence called for the cooperation of the French element. Garneau says:—
When war with the English colonies in America was apprehended, prejudice was overcome in order to make the Canadians favorably disposed, by granting them the Act of 1774, known as the “Act of Quebec.” This imperial statute, establishing a Legislative Council, entrusted, together with the Governor, with the duty of making laws, again guaranteed to us the free exercise of our religion, maintained our laws and our customs, and released the Catholics from the necessity, in order to become members of the Council, of taking an oath contrary to their religion.
This was what the war of the independence of the United States was worth to us. England saw that if she dissatisfied the Canadians there would be an end to her power in America, and then only did she grant to French Canada the Quebec Act, which was a step towards the obtaining of greater liberties.
The other day, the Hon. Attorney General for Lower Canada [Hon. Mr. Cartier] read us several passages from our history, to prove to us that French-Canadian hands had alone prevented the annihilation of English domination on this continent. But he did not draw all the conclusions which he might have derived from the premises which he adduced, and the facts which he cited. He ought to have told us whether, in the face of those services valiantly rendered, it is just that the English element, supported by its number, should to-day impose upon us representation based on population; ought the English element, by this aggressive measure, to shake our loyalty to England by creating a system of government which is repugnant to us, and in which the French element will lose its just share of influence in the administration of the affairs of our country?
At this period it was that an address was sent to the Canadians by the American Congress, calling upon them to unite with them in the insurrection against the Mother Country:—“Seize,” said the Congress, “seize the opportunity which Providence itself affords you; if you act in such way as to preserve your liberty, you will be effectually free.”
Mr. Speaker, everyone knows the reply made by the Canadians to this appeal. Armies invaded our territory, and took possession of a part of the country. Quebec alone held out, thanks to a garrison composed in part of French-Canadians. And if we are now sheltered beneath the folds of the British flag, it is to French-Canadians that we owe it, and it is them that England ought to thank.
But if it is proposed now to thrust upon us a political system, the sole object of which is to submerge us in a hostile majority, we have to thank the English for it—the English for whom our fathers saved the country in 1775. After the defeat of the Americans before Quebec, Congress did not lose courage. A second manifesto was despatched to Canada, promising fresh reinforcements; eminent men even came into the country; Franklin, Chase and Carroll in vain solicited the Canadians to unite with them. Dr. Carroll, who died in 1815 Bishop of Baltimore, was sent among the Canadian clergy with no better success, and all hope of obtaining possession of this important colony had at last to be relinquished. These facts necessarily tended to enlighten public opinion, and England perceived that it would be better for her to comply with the just demands of the Canadian people, in order that reliance might, be placed upon them in the day of danger, and that they might be used as a rampart against the United States. Then it was that a more liberal Constitution was granted to us, that of 1791:—
Pitt, taught by the former faults of England in the administration of the United States, and by the great example of his father, Lord Chatham, presented to the House of Commons a bill for granting to Canada a new Constitution, sanctioning the elective principle and dividing the colony into two distinct provinces, Upper and Lower Canada. The bill, after undergoing some amendments (one of which was to increase the representation from thirty to fifty members), passed on a division in both Houses. The celebrated statesman Burke, when giving in his assent to the bill, […]
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[…] said: “To attempt to unite people who differ in language, in laws and in manners, is very absurd. To do so is to sow the seeds of discord, a thing most undoubtedly fatal to the establishment of a new government. Let their Constitution be adapted to their nature, the only solid basis of every government.” The no less celebrated leader of the Whig party, Fox, opposed to the division of the provinces, spoke to obtain an elective Legislative Council for Canada. “With such a colony as this,” observed that orator, “which is susceptible of progress, it is important that no ground should be given her to envy her neighbors. Canada ought to remain attached to Great Britain by the choice of her inhabitants; it cannot be preserved in any other way. But that this may be so, the inhabitants must feel that their situation is not worse than that of the Americans.”
This Constitution of 1791 was a great concession to Lower Canada. At last it had an elective chamber, in which the people might express their views, and through which they could convey their wishes to the foot of the Throne. And also at once was seen a generation of eminent men, of whom history will honorably preserve the sainted names, representing the interests which were entrusted to them with wonderful skill and most uncommon success:—
The elections were fixed for the month of July, and the meeting of the Houses for the month of December. Of the fifty members elected sixteen were English, notwithstanding the constant opposition which these latter had displayed to French-Canadian interests.
Thus on the organizing of the first elective chamber, and in spite of all the opposition which the French-Canadian party had met with from the English party, we find sixteen English members elected in great part by the votes of individuals of our nationality. In this House, some days since, we heard Upper Canadian members, praising our liberality, and acknowledging that never had national or religious fanaticism been displayed by us.
That is true; we are essentially liberal and tolerant, and a sufficient proof of it, is given in the most striking manner, by the number of members of this House who, although of religion and origin differ from ours, yet represent counties in great part or exclusively French and Catholic. This is a subject of pride for us. Unfortunately we have no return in kind made to us, and we do not meet with the like liberality from the English population. Whenever it is in a majority, it closes to us the door of honors and of office; it excludes us everywhere, where it is powerful enough to do so.
From the very first Parliament of Lower Canada, the English, although in an insignificant minority, endeavored to proscribe the use of the French language, and from that day began between the two races the same contests of which we are today witnesses. We are told that times have changed; it is true, but if the attempts at oppression are less barefaced, if they are concealed under an exterior better calculated to deceive us, it is only because we are more numerous now than we were then, and that greater dread than ever is entertained of the vicinity of the American Union, in which, now more than ever, it would be easy for our population to find a powerful remedy for the evils of which it might have to complain.
But let us see, Mr. Speaker, what occurred at the opening of our first House of Assembly. I quote an author who has always supported the party of the Honorable Attorney General East [Hon. Mr. Cartier]:—
Parliament opened on the 17th December, in the Episcopal Palace, which had been occupied by the Government since the conquest. A Speaker had to be chosen, and Mr. J. Panet was proposed. Then it was that the English members were found to renew their attempts to obtain the supremacy and to slight the interests of those by whom they had been elected. Without the least delicacy and in spite of their being in a minority, they proposed in opposition to Mr. Panet, Messrs. Grant, McGill and Jordan Mr. Panet’s election was carried by a majority of 28 to 18, two Canadians having voted against him.
The hatred which the English party bore to the name of Canadian manifested itself again when a proposition was made that the minutes of the proceedings of the House should be prepared in both languages. A lively and animated debate arose between the two opposite parties, and this very reasonable demand was treated as a species of rebellion against the Mother Country. The French members were accused of insubordination; the motives which induced the act seemed to be misunderstood, and attempts were even made to intimidate them; but it was in vain. The unassailable arguments upon which the Canadians rested their claim, and their words, like their eloquence, bearing the stamp of dignity, finally triumphed over the attacks of their fanatical opponents.
Thus the French element demanded the preparation of the proceedings of the House in its own language, but we find that the English element opposed it with all the power at its command. This was regarded as rebellion against the Mother Country! It can hardly be believed. Here was a legislative body almost entirely French in its composition, […]
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[…] and at the very first sitting the few English members which it contained, after having attempted to force on the very great majority a Speaker of their own origin, subsequently refused to nine-tenths of the population of the country the imprescriptible right to their language as the official language. But they were counting without taking into consideration the resolute firmness of which the Canadians of old so often gave proof in the defence of their rights; and I can convey to the honorable members of this House no higher opinion of the lofty sentiments of these great patriots of the olden time, than by quoting the remarks made by one of the members, Mr. DeLotbinière, during the debate in question:—
The second reason, which is to assimilate and attach more promptly the Canadian race to the Mother Country, ought to set aside every other consideration, if we were not certain of the fidelity of the people of this province; but let us do justice to their conduct at all times, and especially let us remember the year 1775. These Canadians, who spoke nothing but French, showed their attachment to their sovereign in a manner which admitted of no doubt being cast upon it. They assisted in the defence of the province. This city, these walls, this very House in which I have the honor to raise my voice, were, in part, saved by their zeal and their courage.
We saw them unite with the faithful subjects of His Majesty and repulse the attacks made by people who spoke very good English, upon this town. It is not uniformity of language, therefore, Mr. Speaker, that makes people more faithful or more united among themselves. To convince ourselves of this, let us glance at France at this moment and at all the kingdoms of Europe. No, I repeat, it is not uniformity of language that maintains and ensures the fidelity of a people; it is the certainty of its present good fortune, and of this our people are at present perfectly convinced. They know that they have a good king, the best of kings. They know that they are under a just and liberal government; and, lastly, they know that a change or a revolution would entail certain loss upon them, and they will ever be prepared to oppose any such proceeding with vigor and courage.
Mr. Dufresne (Montcalm)—Mr. Speaker, I hope the honorable member for Richelieu [Mr. Perrault] will excuse my interrupting him for a moment. I wish to ask a simple question. Will the hon. member inform me what difference there is between a member who reads his speech and another who reads the history of Canada to the House?
Mr. Perrault—I reply to the hon. member for Montcalm [Mr. Joseph Dufresne], that the speech read to us by the hon. member for Montmorency [Hon. Mr. Cauchon], the other evening, was written out from the first line to the last. Not only did he read to us the passages which he took from history or the quotations which he made from the speeches of other members of this House, but also his own remarks on those extracts. I only read here quotations from authors, which serve as vouchers upon which to base my arguments. If I did not read them, it might be supposed that I only expressed my own private opinions, whereas they are those of a friend of the present Government. Although I coincide in the ideas and opinions which I quote, yet I do not choose to appropriate them as my own, but wish to leave all the merit and the responsibility of them to the author of them.
Mr. Dufresne (Montcalm)—The only difference I can discover between the hon. member for Montmorency [Hon. Mr. Cauchon] and the hon. member for Richelieu [Mr. Perrault], is that the former read his own work, and that the latter is rendering himself guilty of plagiarism. (Hear, hear, and laughter.)
Mr. Perrault—Everyone knows, Mr. Speaker, that the hon. member for Montcalm [Mr. Joseph Dufresne] has no reason to fear a similar accusation, for the excellent reason that his writings and his speeches are nowhere to be found. At the time when the member for Montcalm [Mr. Joseph Dufresne] interrupted me so very inoffensively, Mr. Speaker, I was quoting a passage from M. De Lotbinière’s speech on the subject of the opposition offered to the publication of the proceedings of the House of Assembly in 1791 in French, in order to demonstrate the spirit of exclusiveness which animated the English element from the commencement of our parliamentary system, notwithstanding the insignificant minority in which they were at the time. But that barefaced attempt was unsuccessful, and the amendment proposed, having for its object the proscription of the French language, was refused by two-thirds of the House. It was finally resolved that the minutes of the proceedings of the House should be in both languages, and that the English or the French version should be the text of the Legislative acts according as they related to the English or the French laws.
Thus opposition to the French element manifested itself from the commencement of our parliamentary system in this country, by the refusal to adopt the French as the official language. But, thanks to our sturdy resistance, the use of that language has always been one of our privileges, a privilege which has […]
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[…] always been preserved in all its integrity until its introduction into the scheme of Confederation which is proposed to us.
Had it not been for the courage and energy displayed by the men of those days, the French element would have lost ground, and its importance would have diminished, so that at last it would have been assimilated by the English element. At that time, our public men already wished for responsible government, and we shall see that the struggle which they carried on for half a century in order to obtain it, was productive of no important result, until they had recourse to rebellion; and it is since that gloomy period of our history that we have our present Constitution and responsible government.
Now that we have obtained our most sacred political rights after passing through a century of persecution and through rivers of blood, shed on honorable fields of battle and on the scaffold, are we going to relinquish them in order to accept a new Constitution, the evident object of which is to do away with our influence as a race in this country? Has not the French majority, for fifteen years, always carried its point in the Executive and in the Legislature, thanks to sectional equality in the representation? Why should we then relinquish the advantages conferred upon us by our present Constitution, for a scheme of Confederation in which we shall be in a minority, and which is fraught with danger to us and to our institutions?
The responsibility assumed by the French section of the Ministry in uniting the whole of Upper Canada with the English minority of Lower Canada is enormous. And now, at this very time, should that section wish to withdraw from the struggle, perceiving the danger for the future, it could not do so; it would be carried away by the torrent of the English element. It is to show the danger that exists for the future, Mr. Speaker, that I am now presenting a sketch of the struggles of the past. The circumstances which gave rise to them still exist, and will entail the same attempts at aggression; I must say this to stay my countrymen, while there is yet time, on the verge of the abyss towards which they are allowing themselves to be drawn. From 1809 Le Canadien discussed, in an animated manner, the question of responsible government, and took to heart the interests of its fellow-countrymen. A cry of violence and treason was raised. But, says Garneau the historian:—
We have carefully perused the journal in question, page by page, up to the time of its seizure by the authorities, and we found combined with a demand for rights which were perfectly constitutional, an ever-recurring expression of the most unbounded loyalty and attachment to the English monarchy.
The important question of the voting of the supplies was also the subject of the most violent debates. Mr. Bédard insisted on this imprescriptible right of every legislative body under the Crown of England. But it was constantly refused by the English minority in the House and by the Mother Country. Led with greater strength by Mr. Bédard, the House by a large majority declared itself in favor of the voting of the supplies by the representatives of the people. In the division which was taken, we find the English element on one side, and the French element on the other.
I ask you, Mr. Speaker, what rights are left to the British subject if that of voting the supplies is taken from him; if he has not the control of the funds levied from the people for the administration of the affairs of state—if he is thus deprived of the most important of the privileges which are secured by constitutional government? Is this great injustice to be consummated? Shall the most precious of their rights be refused to the representatives of the people?
Yes, Mr. Speaker, there will be no shrinking from this infamous proceeding. Our most eminent patriots, those whose eloquent voice on every occasion demanded our threatened liberties, were the first to be accused of treason for having made such a demand, and then confined for fourteen months in the gloomy cells of a prison, regardless of the articles of the capitulation of Montreal, which guaranteed to us the rights and liberties of British subjects. That proposal to vote our public expenditure, which now appears to us so simple, then raised throughout the country a violent tempest, which was never entirely allayed until the annihilation of the existing Constitution. In spite of the rage and calumny which was displayed, Mr. Bédard’s proposition was carried, and the following is the division upon it:—
IN FAVOR.—Messrs. Bédard, Durocher. T. L. Papineau, Lee, Borgia, Meunier, Taschereau, Viger, Drapeau, Bernier, St. Julien, Hébert, Duclos, Robitaille, Huot, Caron, C. Panet, Le Roi, Blanchet, Debartzch, and Beauchamp—21.
AGAINST.—Messrs McCord, Bowen, Mure, Bell, Denechaud, Jones of Bedford, Blackwood, Gugy, and Ross Cuthbert—9.
A single English name, that of Mr. Lee, […]
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[…] appears among the French-Canadian phalanx, but in compensation we find a French-Canadian name in the list of those who voted for that inexcusable denial of a right which we were to purchase so dearly.
It is not my desire, Mr. Speaker, to null any comments on this division, but I cannot refrain from observing that it demonstrates that on every occasion we have had to struggle against the encroachments and antagonism of the English element in Canada. Yet there was no cessation in the demand for the voting of the supplies so long as it was not obtained, and it is a remarkable fact that during the whole time that the French-Canadians were in a majority in our country England systematically refused us our most just demands and the control of the general administration.
Still more, the most arbitrary acts were thrust upon us by the Mother Country, aided in every way, moreover, by colonial English fanaticism, which lost no opportunity of turning its well-known exclusiveness to our disadvantage. But so soon as their countrymen exceeded us in number, so soon as the English element obtained a preponderance in the House of Assembly by means of the union of 1840, the English authorities granted us all the political rights for which we had asked in vain for a century. They perfectly well knew that those rights would be controlled, and in case of need utilised against us by an essentially hostile representative majority.
But, thanks to the patriotism of our men of that day, we succeeded in baffling the schemes of the British Government. Up to the union those men had had to keep up a constant struggle, marked by a degree of heroism worthy of the cause which they served, against the English autocracy, which was banded together against our countrymen. We, their descendants, are ready to recommence the same struggle with the same energy, to maintain our rights so dearly purchased, and to proserve the inheritance which we have received and which it is our wish to transmit intact to the children of the soil. (Hear, heir.)
Let us now see what was the condition of the liberty of the press and of the liberty of the subject at this gloomy period of our parliamentary history. The Canadien having dared to ask for responsible government, and Mr. Bédard having obtained in the House a majority of twenty-one against nine in favor of the voting of the supplies, the Executive Council resolved at any cost to injure the influence of the Canadian, and to paralyze the efforts of the Canadian leaders. It kept a watch on the Canadien to find grounds of accusation, and on the deposition of two individuals, caused the printing office to be seized by a squad of soldiers, its contents to be conveyed to the vaults of the court, and Mr. Bédard to be imprisoned on a charge of treasonable practices. And this act of tyranny was grounded on the fact that these political martyrs had had the courage to demand for Canada the right of voting the supplies! The Canadien gave an account of this atrocious imprisonment in the following paragraph:—
The infamous conduct of the Council did not end here. The latter, with the view of striking terror into the great national party, caused Messrs. Laforce, Papineau (of Chambly), Cobreil, Taschereau and Blatchet to be imprisoned.
Thus, Mr. Speaker, at this period a representative of the people was cast into prison for having asked for the granting of a right which was unjustly withheld, and to crown the act of tyranny, he was left to rot in his cell for fourteen months, and was refused a trial before the courts in which he could have easily justified himself, and proved that he had acted in a constitutional manner. I cannot pass over this page of our parliamentary history without quoting it:—
The leaders, however, who had been basely imprisoned, did not stoop before the storm, Mr. Bédard, from the depths of his cell, braved the fury of the enemies of his country; his great soul remained calm and undisturbed, and he did not give way to despair. Proud of his rights and confident of the justice of his cause, he in vain demanded from his persecutors a justification of their conduct The ears of his jailers were deaf to his demand, and refusing the liberty which they wished to grant him, he even insisted on being brought to trial. The new elections caused no change in the national representation. The Governor, in his speech, made no allusion to the severe measures which he had taken with respect to Mr. Bédard and his companions, and the session passed over without the noble prisoner having been liberated. It was not until after a captivity of thirteen months, and after having contracted a mortal disease, that this great man left the prison to go and rejoin a beloved family, who were deprived of their all and who were indebted for their means of existence to the honorable generosity of the citizens of Quebec.
Notwithstanding these crying injustices, Mr. Bédard did not complain; he considered that it was not too high a price to pay for the liberties of the people, and that a few months’ imprisonment was a mere nothing in view of […]
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[…] the great liberties for which he struggled and suffered. Listen to the noble utterances of that great patriot, in presence of his electors, after regaining his liberty:—
The past must not discourage us, or diminish our veneration for our Constitution. Any other form of government would be subject to the same drawback, and in fact to drawbacks far greater; the peculiarity of our present system is, that it furnishes the means of remedying its own defects. [And he added]: We must, moreover, be prepared to make some sacrifices for the securing of these great advantages.”
Such was the language of that great patriot; not a word of bitterness, complaint, or recrimination, but dignity of expression and a sincere conviction of the advantages of the Constitution. What a contrast, alas! between those days of devotedness and civic courage, and the egotism and frigid indifference of our own, in which self-interest overrides everything, and patriotism has ceased to exist.
The page of our history I have just read, is one which certainly should not remain unnoticed; it is a page which our legislators would do well to consult. They would there find an example of patriotism well deserving of imitation. It is well to contemplate and study the great struggles of our forefathers, to see how victory crowned the efforts of those noble patriots—a victory dearly purchased, and of which we have up to our own day preserved the precious fruits. (Hear, hear.)
But the war of 1812 broke out and England—who has never granted us any liberties or privileges except when she needed us for her own defence on this continent—changed her tactics. She trembled for her supremacy in these British provinces, and immediately she deemed it prudent to secure our good-will, and cooperation in the struggle then about to commence—in the first place, by calling Mr. Bédard to a seat on the judicial bench. She understood clearly that she could do nothing against the United States without the assistance of the French-Canadian element. And the Imperial Government also hoped to recover the control of the influence and the services of the race it had treated so tyrannically.
Thus it was that the man who had been cast into prison, and whom the Government had accused of treason, became the judge of the highest court in the country. The adoption of every base means of gaining adherents constituted the tactics of the Government at that period. They hoped that by thus giving a place to the man who had been the most valiant defender of our right and of our nationality, they would secure the adherence of the children of the soil, and they were not mistaken. In adopting that means, Mr. Speaker, the Imperial Government showed that they understood the character of the nation they thus sought to gain over to their cause.
For it must be admitted—and it is perhaps our misfortune—that it is the peculiar characteristic of the French element, that they very often too soon forget the persecutions of which they have been the victims, and which ought to inspire them with an honest indignation when they reflect on the past. Over-confident of the sincere good will of our adversaries, we are always taken unawares at each new attempt at aggression. And even now, a few years of prosperity has been enough to dazzle us and make us anticipate a brilliant prospect in a measure which involves nothing short of the annihilation of our influence as a race, which is in fact decreed in the scheme of Confederation now sought to be forced upon the people. (Hear, hear.)
But the American army threatened the frontier, and it was necessary to think of defence. With a view of being prepared for an attack, the Governor assembled Parliament twice in 1812, and measures were taken for arming the militia and voting the sums required for the organization and defence of the province. Sir George Prévost, at the opening of Parliament in 1813, complimented the people for their courage and energy, and the proceedings were less stormy than usual; fresh supplies were voted for the war, and a good understanding subsisted between the Government and the two Houses during the session. At that heroic period of our history, we find our French-Canadian fellow-countrymen, to whom fresh concessions had been made, obedient to the voice of their chiefs, rushing to the frontier and driving back the invader.
But in 1812, as in 1775, the devotedness and patriotism of our people were destined soon to be forgotten. The moment of danger had scarcely passed away when those who had saved the power of England in America, at the price of their blood, were once more made the object of incessant attacks on the part of the English oligarchy, as I shall shortly shew. Garneau gives the following graphic sketch of the conduct of his countrymen at that critical period of our history:—
A second time was Canada preserved for England by the very people whom it was sought to annihilate; by their bravery the colony was preserved […]
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[…] from the inevitable woes of a frightful war. For a moment the hatred entertained towards the Canadian name was stifled; the Colonial Office, sensible of the difficulties of the moment, silenced the fanatical yells of its transatlantic minions; but once the danger over and Canada safe, the old antipathies were soon again to burst forth, the war upon our language, our institutions and our laws to recommence, and ingratitude to take the place of gratitude in the hearts of the children of Albion.
Forbearance, it was evident, had been thus used solely because circumstances rendered it impossible to give grounds of discontent to so important a portion of the population, by whom alone the country could be saved. England has never been liberal except in presence of danger. At this moment she is endeavoring to attain the same end by attempting to destroy our nationality by means of the Federation scheme submitted to us. But she finds at her back now an element of strength which she did not possess before, to aid her in the task—the support of a French-Canadian majority. (Hear, hear.)
In the following year occurred the glorious battle of Chateauguay [Hon. Mr. Holton]. On that memorable day a handful of brave men, commanded by Desalaberry, confronted an enemy thirty times superior in number to themselves, arrested the advance of the invader, and by their devotedness and bravery saved this rich province for the Crown of England. Now, Mr. Speaker, what the French-Canadians did in the war of 1812, that they are once more prepared to do under the Constitution as it is at this moment. It was because they felt at that time that they had something more precious to defend than a Confederation which can afford no better protection to their material interests than to their institutions, their language, their laws, and their nationality, that they took no account of the numbers of the enemy, but fought valiantly when they were outnumbered in the proportion of ten to one. And now again, in defending the Constitution as it is, with the rights and privileges it guarantees to us, the Canadians will not hesitate a moment to sacrifice themselves for the safety of the precious deposit entrusted to their keeping.
Surely, Mr. Speaker, it is not necessary to go far back into our history for an instance of this. In 1862, at the time of the affair of the Trent, when a rupture with our neighbors seemed imminent, the French-Canadians rushed to arms with the eagerness and irresistible impulse of the heroes of New France. It is not, Mr. Speaker, that the French-Canadian desires war, but he loves to nerve his arm by calling to mind the battle-fields of former days; and if the present generation were called upon to meet the enemy, they would show the whole world that their blood has not degenerated, and that they are worthy in every respect of their heroic ancestors. (Hear, hear.)
After the war of 1812, which had so greatly imperilled the possessions of England on this continent, the same attempts at aggression were renewed without delay; so true is it that danger alone could interrupt them. The troops having gone into winter quarters, the Governor, Sir G. Prévost, went down to Quebec to open Parliament, and the disagreements between the popular branch and the Legislative Council soon broke forth again little by little. Stuart again brought up the question of the rules of practice, and made the most serious accusations against Judge Sewell—charging him, for instance, with having attempted to enforce his rules of practice without the authority of Parliament; with having dismissed the Solicitor General [Hon. Mr. Langevin] from his place in order to instal therein his own brother, E. Sewell; with having violated the liberty of the press, by causing the Canadien to be seized without any plausible grounds; and the liberty of Parliament, by imprisoning several of its members. These accusations, some of which were true, were transmitted to England, but Stuart having been unable to cross the sea in order to follow them up, Sewell got rid of the charges. The same occurred as regards Judge Monk, who was accused at the same time of sundry malversations; and, as Mr. F. X. Garneau remarks, Judge Sewell determined that the best revenge he could take for the accusations brought against him was to suggest to the Prince Regent the union of all the British provinces, with a view to compass the destruction of French-Canadian nationality.
Such, Mr. Speaker, were the circumstances under which the scheme of Confederation was first proposed. And it must be admitted that, bearing in mind the recommendation of Mr. Sewell, it ought to excite many fears on the part of every true French-Canadian. Who was the first man to pronounce the word “Confederation”? A man who violated the liberty of the press and the liberty of Parliament! A man who had for years longed for the destruction of the French-Canadian race! At a subsequent period, after the revolution of 1837, Lord Durham proposed Confederation as the political organization best adapted for our annihilation. And at this moment our […]
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[…] fellow-countrymen in office submit, nay, propose, to the people this scheme of annihilation, specially prepared for our destruction, and which must destroy us, Mr. Speaker, if the people outside this House do not protest in every constitutional way against the political suicide of the French race in Canada. At the prorogation of Parliament in 1814, the Speaker, L.J. Papineau, addressed the Governor, Sir George Prevost, in the following words:—
The events of the late war have drawn closer the bonds of connection between Great Britain and Canada. These provinces have been preserved for England under circumstances of great difficulty.
These words are, in many respects, deserving of serious consideration; and I call the attention of honorable members of this House to this remarkable passage:—
When the war broke out—continued Mr. Papineau—this country had neither troops nor money, and Your Excellency commanded a people in whom, it was said, the habits acquired during more than half a century of peace had destroyed all military spirit. Despite these predictions, you succeeded in deriving from the devotedness of a brave and faithful, though calumniated people, sufficient resources to defeat the plans of conquest of an enemy great in numbers and full of confidence in his own strength. The blood of the children of Canada was shed, mingled with that of the brave men sent here to assist in our defence. The repeated proofs of the powerful protection of England and of the inviolable fidelity of her colonies, constitute for the latter fresh titles, in virtue of which they claim to enjoy the free exercise of all the rights and advantages guaranteed to them by the Constitution and the laws.
The Speaker of the Legislative Assembly, then twenty-six years of age, who struggled so heroically to secure our political rights and liberties, is the same whose name, during a recent sitting of this House, was ignominiously dragged forward by the hon. member for Montmorency [Hon. Mr. Cauchon] and the Honorable Attorney General East (Hon. Mr. Cartier) . His name, venerated by the entire country as that of its liberator, has been cast as an insult in the teeth of honorable members of this House, who deem it an honor to own his leadership, and who still continue to carry on his work—the protection of our political rights against the underhand plots of a hostile majority.
But, Mr. Speaker, that venerable old man, who has grown grey in the service of his country, is sheltered from base insinuations, which can as little penetrate his peaceful retirement as they can the hearts of the sincere friends of our country. In that quiet retreat the great patriot of our evil days, after having nobly fulfilled his task, enjoys in peace and with pride the esteem of those he successfully defended with his powerful voice in the darkest hour of our political history. Gross insults, shameless calumnies, when uttered against such a man, redound with double weight upon those who thus basely vilify a citizen justly admitted to be an honor to our country.
The name of the Hon. L. J. Papineau is surrounded with a luminous halo which malignant calumny can never succeed in tarnishing. His memory is safe from these envious assaults, for it is under the protection of the people whom he rescued from the systematic colonial oppression which I am attempting to describe. Really, Mr. Speaker, the cause of the Honorable Attorney General East [Hon. Mr. Cartier] must be in very great straits when he is compelled to resort to such means in order to save it. The Honorable Attorney General East [Hon. Mr. Cartier] must have very little confidence in the success of that cause, when he endeavors to excite the prejudices of his supporters by heaping insults on one of the greatest names in our history. Such language on the part of the Honorable Attorney General East [Hon. Mr. Cartier] is the more culpable in that he himself was one of the rebels of 1837-‘8, and one of the most zealous partisans of that great patriot whom he now insults. Did he not himself vote in favor of the ninety-two resolutions—that imperishable monument of Canadian rights?
Yes, Mr. Speaker, the man upon whose head a price was set, the man who was compelled to fly from his country and to seek from a neighboring country that right of asylum, which he refuses to-day to the Southern refugee, has the audacity, now that he is Attorney General [Hon. Mr. Cartier], to call that great statesman “Old Mr. Papineau, ” and the opposition in this House, “Old Mr. Papineau’s tail.” I do not hesitate to assert, Mr. Speaker, that such expressions are unworthy of this House, and unworthy of the position occupied by the Honorable Attorney General East [Hon. Mr. Cartier], who has had the questionable courage to pronounce them. (Hear, hear.)
Such expressions, if they are to be tolerated anywhere, find their proper place in the common streets, and the standard of this House must have fallen very low, when such language is permitted here. All sense of dignity must be lost, when the Hon. Attorney General [Hon. Mr. Cartier] is permitted to insult, on the floor of this House, the name of a man whom every true French […]
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[…] Canadian holds in veneration. Let the honorable gentleman not deceive himself—opinions and ideas tending to promote the happiness of the people, and the men who sustain and struggle for their interests, will ever be victorious over the assault of calumny and envy.
And what has been the aim of the Hon. Attorney General [Hon. Mr. Cartier] and the honorable member for Montmorency [Hon. Mr. Cauchon], in their attack upon the Hon. Mr. Papineau? Their object, in the first place, was to injure the Opposition, who represent him; and next, to elevate themselves, by dragging down to their own level one of the great men of our history, beside whom they are but pygmies. For there are two ways of being great: the first is by rendering to one’s country eminent services, and by exhibiting undeniable superiority; but inasmuch as the Hon. Attorney General [Hon. Mr. Cartier] and the honorable member for Montmorency [Hon. Mr. Cauchon] possess neither the material nor the superiority that go to make great men, they adopt the second mode of attaining greatness. It consists in depreciating and crushing all those who are superior to one’s self. Thus they hope to rise over the ruined reputation of those they enviously calumniate and unceasingly attack. They recklessly carry on their work of demolition; they are not arrested in their course even by the names that personify a whole epoch in our history, and when one of the great figures of the past confronts them in all its dignity, like a statue of glory, their sacrilegious hands are eagerly raised to mutilate it; then, standing alone upon its scattered fragments, they contemplate with pride the prostate victim of their vandal labors!
Such, Mr. Speaker, are the motives which explain the efforts made by those who thus attempt to injure one of the greatest men of our race, (Hear, hear, and cheers.) But we have not yet reached the termination of our struggles. At the opening of Parliament in 1816, a message was communicated to the House stating that the charges brought against Judges Sewell and Monk had been dismissed. The bitter words in which the message was couched greatly incensed the House, and a proper answer was just about to be adopted, when a dissolution was resorted to in order to prevent a manifestation of the feelings of the House. And what was the position taken by the Imperial Government with reference to those difficulties? We find it stated in the letter written by Lord Bathurst to Governor Sherbrooke, who pointed out to them the false step taken by the Colonial Office in oppressing our race:—
Hitherto the Government has found, on all ordinary occasions, an abiding resource in the firmness and disposition of the Legislative Council, and there is no reason to doubt that the Council will continue to counteract the most injudicious and violent measures of the Legislative Assembly.
In truth, the measures of the Legislative Assembly of that day were very injudicious, very violent! They demanded that the people should have a voice in the disposal of the moneys contributed by themselves! And hence it was that the Legislative Council counteracted all the measures demanded by the people. I continue the quotation:—
It is therefore in every way desirable that you should avail yourself of its assistance to counteract any measures of the Assembly you may deem objectionable, instead of placing your own authority or that of the Government in direct opposition to that of the House, and thus affording them a pretext for refusing the supplies necessary for the service of the colony.
Yes, Mr. Speaker, the nominative Legislative Council was always the stumbling-block in the way of the French-Canadians whenever they endeavored to carry any measure of reform. The elective House invariably met, on the part of that body, a systematic opposition to every measure desired by the people—an opposition it was impossible to overcome. It was in 1856 that we succeeded, after a constant struggle of fifty years, in introducing the elective principle into the Upper House. At this moment, despite the lessons of the past, recorded unfortunately in letters of blood, an attempt is made to return to the old system; we are about basely to abandon a privilege, a political right, which was the reward of so many struggles and so many woes.
Yes, Mr. Speaker, such is the scheme of the present Government; they intend that in the Confederation the members of the Legislative Council shall be appointed by the Crown, as in the darkest period of our history. Happily, the people thoroughly understand the value and bearing of life nominations. They know that the great majority of the men so appointed by a General Government, numerically hostile to our race, would ever be ready to reject measures the most favourable to our interests as a nation. The Legislative Council under Confederation will be what it was in the days of oppression, when Lord Bathurst, in pursuance of the instructions of the Imperial Government, said to Governor Sherbrooke;—”Be careful to make use of the Legislative Council to counteract the measures of the elective […]
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[…] body.” That is just it—they shield themselves behind a Legislative Council composed of their own creatures brought back to life, and then while lauding to the skies the colonial liberality of England, they pull the strings and make their puppets play the part of oppressors.
It is precisely the same political organization that is proposed in the scheme of Confederation. In a Legislative Council composed of life-members, we shall have men prepared invariably to refuse the people the measures they require, if such measures in any way affect the privileges of the aristocratic classes. However eager may be the efforts of the members of the elective body, it will be constitutionally impossible for us to obtain such measures. Moreover, these councillors, of whom the majority will be hostile to us, will do everything in their power to gratify the Imperial Government, by whom they are to be appointed—a Government which has ever liberally subsidised its creatures.
Such, Mr. Speaker, are the dangers in our path if we return to the old system of life-appointments proposed by the Government in the Confederation scheme. (Hear, hear.) But the first instructions given by Lord Bathurst to Governor Sherbrooke were not sufficiently explicit, apparently; for shortly afterwards he transmitted the following—”I strongly recommend you to see that the Legislative Assembly does not dispose of public moneys without the consent of the Legislative Council—”thus unscrupulously violating the very essence of the Constitution, evidently under the impulse of rabid national feelings. It is a principle of the Constitution of England that the popular House, which represents the opinions of the people, has alone the right of voting supplies for the administration of the government, and that moneys levied for that purpose from the people can be expended only with the consent of that House and not otherwise.
Well, Mr. Speaker, what do we find in this instance? We find the Imperial Government expressly instructing Her Majesty’s representative in Canada not to allow the supplies to be voted without the consent of the Legislative Council, appointed for life by the Crown, and whose constant efforts were directed to resisting the just demands of the French-Canadians. This question of the supplies, the chief cause of all the difficulties by which we have been beset, both previous to and since that period, was not to be thus disposed of. We then had men who were not to be baffled by difficulties or rebuffs. And thus it is that we find those noble champions of our rights and liberties coming forward, year after year, with the same demands; never disheartened by defeat, and struggling on until at last their legitimate claims were acceded to.
In January, 1819, the Houses were opened, and the first question which brought on an animated debate was, once more, the question of the finances. A discussion arose as to whether the Lower House, after having obtained the annual vote of supply, could moreover obtain a detailed civil list and vote on each item separately. The majority desired this in order to assure themselves of the integrity of the public officials, and to hold in check the members of the Executive Council, over whom they had no control. Others opposed it strongly, as a new principle and violating the rights of the Crown.
A committee, appointed to examine into the question, reported in favor of a reduction of the expenditure—which they declared to be far too great in proportion to the revenue—and the abolition of pensions, which tended to grave abuses. Adopting a middle course between the two extremes, some wished to vote the supplies under certain heads, giving a gross sum for each department. But the supporters of a detailed vote carried the day. The bill was passed, sent up to the Council, and, as was anticipated, rejected by that body in the following terms:—
That the mode adopted for the granting of the civil list was unconstitutional, unprecedented, and involved a direct violation of the rights and prerogatives of the Crown; that if the bill became law, it would not only give the Commons the privilege of voting supplies, but also of prescribing to the Crown the number and character of its servants, by regulating and rewarding their services as they thought proper, which would render them independent of their electors, and might lead to their rejecting the authority of the Crown, which their oath of allegiance bound them to sustain.
Thus, Mr. Speaker, the Council nominated for life rejected that eminently just measure—the voting, item by item, of the supplies by the Lower House; that is to say, the distribution of the moneys levied from the people—and even went the length of declaring the measure unconstitutional. Is it possible at this time to understand how servility could be carried to such an excess? At that period the population of Upper Canada had increased to a proportionately considerable extent, and the British population of Lower […]
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[…] Canada was sufficiently numerous to suggest the scheme of uniting the two Canadas under one government, and in 1823 the proposal was made in England. It was, therefore, at that period of trouble and agitation, and rivalry between the Houses, that a plot was entered into in England to annihilate at one blow French-Canadian nationality. The war only postponed the scheme for the union of the two provinces; for the assistance of the French-Canadian people was needed. Peace having been established, it was resolved to carry out the measure, and a bill for the purpose was presented to the Imperial Legislature, unknown to the parties whose fate was being decided, and without their being consulted, for it was known that they were opposed to that act of oppression.
Yes, without consulting the people of Lower Canada, it was sought to force upon them a Constitution under which they were to have a smaller representation than Upper Canada; moreover, Lower Canada was to be charged with the debt of the other province, which was a considerable debt, and the language of Lower Canada was to be banished from the Legislature. Happily, the scheme found opponents in the Imperial Parliament, and, despite all the intrigues and efforts of our enemies, the bill was thrown out At the second reading.
Then, as at the present day, those who aimed at our destruction were loud in favor of passing the bill, at any price, before the people had an opportunity of protesting. At the present moment, those who desire to force us into Confederation, in the face of the petitions against the scheme, tell us that we must accept the new Constitution before the people are made aware of its monstrous details. “I beg of you to pass this bill at once,” said Mr. Wilmott; “if you wait until next year you will receive so many petitions protesting against the measure, that it will be very difficult to adopt it; however useful it may be to those who oppose it through ignorance or through prejudice; moreover, it is essential to the removal of the difficulties existing between the Executive and the Assembly.” When the news of those unjust, but happily abortive, attempts reached Canada, the greatest agitation was produced, and the whole Canadian people felt indignant at such proceedings. Several meetings were held at Montreal and Quebec to protest against the bill, and petitions to the English Government were signed by 60,000 persons.
At that period, as in this instance, the union was to be carried without consulting the people, and the Imperial Parliament submitted to the Legislature a measure against which 60,000 French-Canadians protested.
Mr. Speaker, I have no hesitation in asserting it, the scheme of Confederation which it is now attempted to force upon the people is destined to be rejected, not by 60,000 French-Canadian signatures merely, but by 100,000. Yes, our people are waking up, and in this united and general protest we shall not lag behind those who showed us the example of an effective protest whenever it was sought to inflict injustice upon them. We will send to England thousands of signatures to protest against the Constitution we do not desire, and if justice is then refused, well “fiat justitia ruat coelum,” we shall have employed every constitutional means, and the responsibility for the consequences of that refusal of justice will fall on the heads of those who labor to bring about such a state of things. The Hon. Denis Benjamin Viger, one of the boldest champions of our rights, said of the bringing forward of the scheme of union in the Imperial Parliament, without consulting the people:—
After fifty years of peace and prosperity, when the generation that witnessed the conquest has passed away; when there remains hardly a living witness of that event among the present generation; when the memory and the impression of it has died out in the breast of French-Canadians; when, in fine, there no longer remains in the Province any but British born subjects, enjoying all their rights in that capacity alone—now it is that a scheme is concocted under which we are to be treated—I will not say as a conquered people, for the public laws of civilized nations no longer permit the vanquished to be robbed of their institutions and laws, any more than of their property—but like a barbarous race to whom the enlightenment and the arts, the principles and the duties of social life, are unknown.
And in truth, Mr. Speaker, those words were not too strong to qualify justly the conduct of the Imperial Government at that period. Blood had to be shed at St. Denis and St. Charles, and heads to fall by the axe of the executioner, before justice could be obtained. It was only then, when it was found that the people did not hesitate to sacrifice the lives of their noblest children, in order to secure their political rights and liberties, that we received responsible government as we now enjoy it and as we desire to preserve it. At the opening of the ensuing Session it was expected that the debate on the finances would be resumed; but the Governor having separated, in the estimates, the civil list from the other expenses, the supplies were voted. […]
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[…] Thus it was that whenever the struggle for rights was persevered in, the result was success; and why is it, I ask, that our statesman who have struggled since the union to preserve the Constitution as it is, with such signal success, now give way to the demands of Upper Canada? Let us, then, maintain our present position, the most fruitful in advantages to French-Canadians. The question of finance had been for some time looked upon as disposed of, but on Dalhousie’s return the question arose again in a more threatening form than ever, and the supplies were refused (1827). The Governor on the following day prorogued Parliament, insulting the dignity of the Commons and eulogizing the Legislative Council. This act of tyranny caused great excitement amongst the people. The press attacked the Government, and in order to show the exasperation of men’s minds at the time, I quote an extract from one of the newspapers of that period:—
Canadians, chains are being forged to bind you; it would seem that we are to be annihilated or ruled with a rod of iron. Our liberties are invaded, our rights violated, our privileges abolished, our complaints despised, our political existence menaced with utter and complete ruin. The time has now come to put forth all your resources and to display all your energy, so as to convince the Mother Country and the horde who for half a century have tyrannized over you in your own homes, that if you are subjects you are not slaves.
The elections resulted favorably for the popular party. At the meeting of Parliament, Mr. Papineau was elected Speaker, but the Governor refused to sanction the choice, and told the Legislative Assembly to elect another. What was the proper course for the House of Assembly to pursue in the face of such conduct? To give way? No, Mr. Speaker; there were at that time men in our House of Assembly, men who did not shrink from their duty, nor from the responsibility of their just opposition.
On motion of Mr. Cuvillier, it was resolved that the election of the Speaker must be made freely and independently of the Governor; that Mr. Papineau had been so elected; that under the law, no confirmation was needed, the latter being, like the presentation, a simple matter of form and usage. Mr. Papineau having been reinstated in the chair, the Governor refused to approve the selection made, and the same evening Parliament was dissolved.
Thus, Mr. Speaker, Parliament existed but one day, because the Speaker was a man who valued his independence too highly to submit to the dictates of an ill-advised government. In truth, if these are the liberties we owe to the colonial system, I need not stop to prove their utter hollowness. The people understood the position in which it was sought to place them, and took steps to repel these fresh attempts at aggression. The question created increased agitation; public meetings were held in city, town and country; the speeches made betokened the disturbed state of the public mind; proceedings were taken against the press, and Mr. Waller, editor of the Spectateur, of Montreal, was arrested for the second time. Addresses, bearing over 80,000 signatures, were forwarded to England in the hands of Messrs. Nelson, Cuvillier and D. B. Viger. Mr. Gale took the petition of the partisans of the oligarchy. A great meeting of the inhabitants of the counties of Verchères, Chambly, Rouville and St. Hyacinthe was held at St. Charles; the people protested energetically against the existing state of things, and in fact it was broadly declared that the natural consequences must be expected to follow upon so flagrant a violation of the most sacred rights of the French-Canadians.
Mr. Speaker, the Canadian people, in the person of their leaders, at that period traversed the ocean in order to obtain justice from the British Government, and laid at the foot of the Throne the protest of 80,000 of our fellow-countrymen, a people who, in the trying days of our history, had not hesitated to sacrifice their lives to maintain British power on this continent; and once more, in this instance, when an attempt is made to force upon us a Constitution we have never asked for and which the people of Lower Canada energetically condemn, the same means of protesting is open to us, and the Government may rely upon it that we shall be as firm in defence of our political rights and liberties as were the representatives of the people in former days. Our protest will be, if anything, still more energetic against the proposed scheme of Confederation which it is sought to impose on us.
The Houses met in 1831, and the Governor, in the course of the session, communicated to Parliament the reply from England relative to the question of the supplies. The Imperial Government gave to the representatives of the people the control of the revenue, with the exception of the casual and territorial items, consisting of the Jesuits’ Estates, the King’s Posts, the droit du quint, the lods et ventes, woods and forests, etc, for a civil list of £19,000 voted for the lifetime of the king.
In 1831 power was granted for voting, item by […]
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[…] item, a part only of the supplies. The restriction was not consented to by those who represented the people in the Legislative Assembly. Such a state of things could not continue without leading to a collision; and the events of 1837 justified the apprehension of those who had all along warned the Government that it was impossible for the people any longer to endure so flagrant a violation of their rights, and that there was imminent danger of exhausting their patience. Events followed each other rapidly, and the clergy then, as at this time, were opposed to any energetic demonstrations. Monseigneur Lartigue, Bishop of Montreal, published a pastoral letter, in which he said: “Who will dare assert that the whole people of this country desire the destruction of the Government?”
Mr. Speaker, no one desired it; but the minority at that period, like the minority at present, complained of the injustice they suffered, and the clergy were opposed to them. The minority of that day struggled for the political rights of the people as they are struggling now, and they found arrayed against them every powerful influence and all established authorities. This contrast points to a fact deserving of notice. Today the Government constantly insult us by crying out: “You represent nothing in this House; public opinion is against you! ”
Well, Mr. Speaker, I ask the Hon. Attorney General for Lower Canada [Hon. Mr. Cartier] whether he himself and his honorable colleague the Prime Minister [Hon. Sir Etienne Pascal Taché], had the majority of the Lower Canada people and clergy with them when, in 1837, they protested energetically against the injustice done to their fellow-countrymen? No, Mr. Speaker, at that time they formed part of the little phalanx who went so far as to raise the standard of rebellion on the plains of St. Denis and St. Charles! How times are changed!
At the present moment the same men, the revolutionists of former days, strain every nerve to deprive the people of the right of pronouncing for or against the constitutional changes sought to be forced upon them So complete a forgetfulness of their own past is extremely deplorable. Mr. Speaker, for weighty reasons, I do not desire to dwell on the events of 1837. In 1838 there remained to be brought on the trials of those who had been implicated in the troubles. Lord Durham found himself placed in an embarrassing position, for it is always difficult for a government to carry on political prosecutions; by such a course it frequently loses its strength and its popularity.
To escape from the difficulties of the moment, the Governor resolved to adopt a great measure. On the day of the coronation of Queen Victoria he proclaimed a general amnesty, and granted pardon to all the Canadians, except twenty-four of the most earnest of the revolutionary party. It is important, Mr. Speaker, to know who were the twenty-four daring revolutionists against whom the British Government displayed so much severity, and against whom the clergy had pronounced so strongly. These men were Messrs. Wolfred Nelson, R. S. M. Bouchette, Bonaventure Viger, Simon Marchessault, H. A. Gauvin, T. H. Godin, Rod. Desrivières, L. H. Masson, Louis J . Papineau, C. H. Coté, Julien Gagnon, Robert Nelson, E. B. O’Callaghan, Ed. Et. Rodier, T. S. Brown, Ludger Duvernat, Ed. Chartier, Ptre., G. E T . Cartier, J. Ryan, Jr., Ls. Perrault, P. L. Demaray, J . F. Davignon, and Ls. Gauthier. Thus, Mr. Speaker, among those sanguinary men I find the Honorable Attorney General for Lower Canada (Hon. Mr. Cartier). (Hear! hear!)
Far be from me the thought of reproaching him with his conduct at that period. I have always looked upon it as that of a patriot and of a true friend of his country. Besides, that honorable member has declared to us on many occasions that he did not regret the struggles which he had formerly maintained in order to claim the political liberties of his country, and I can perfectly understand that he does not waver in those sentiments, for it is now an historical fact that all those who took part in those struggles nobly staked their lives for their convictions, and the minority then, like the present minority, could expect nothing but misinterpretation of their opposition to power. It is not for me to decide how far this insurrectionary movement was excited by the deplorable circumstances of the time, but I am perfectly satisfied that those who were at the head of it were impelled by sentiments of patriotism, by the generous desire of obtaining for their fellow-countrymen the political liberties which were refused them. They have therefore laid their country under a great debt of gratitude for the sacrifices which they made.
Now see, Mr. Speaker; the men who, twenty years ago, constituted a revolutionary minority, braved the clergy and raised the standard of revolt against Great Britain, are to-day in a majority and supported by the powerful influence of England and of the clergy, whose entire confidence they possess. They have their […]
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[…] little entries to Windsor, they fill the highest and most lucrative offices in our country, and are even decorated with the titles with which Her Majesty is used to reward Her most loyal subjects. Today, as in 1837, the minority do not wish to have recourse to the means furnished by revolutions, after having exhausted those which the Constitution affords, but they have an inward conviction that in twenty years, when the people have succeeded in appreciating what that minority is doing for them today, they will feel for the opposition to which it is devoting itself, a sentiment of gratitude, the result of which will be, that on it they will confer their entire confidence, after having refused it in the day of trial.
Yes, Mr. Speaker, as the minority of 1837 constitutes the majority of today, so will the present minority constitute the majority at some day which is more or less near. I will not, Mr. Speaker, follow the victims of that melancholy period of our history to the scaffold. With their lives they paid the price of their devotion to the cause of their country, and if, to make a people deserving of the rights of existence, life’s blood and devotion are necessary, we have theirs to show that French Canada freely and nobly sacrificed her noblest descendants to the genius of Liberty. (Hear! hear!)
But before concluding this sketch of our struggles, from the conquest to the melancholy occurrences of 1837-38, it is important to show that it is to our heroic resistance in the Parliament and to force of arms that we owe the political liberties which are secured to us by the present Constitution. I am unwilling to leave this review of the colonial system of England in Canada without destroying the false impression which exists, that that colonial system was sensibly improved by the liberality of the views of the statesmen of Great Britain, that the struggles through which we passed were owing to the ideas of other days, and that now all the liberties which we enjoy extend to all the English colonies, to which the colonial system of our day secures the advantages and the benefits of responsible government.
I believe, Mr. Speaker, that I shall be able easily to controvert these erroneous arguments, and to do so I have only to consider the colonial system of England at the Mauritius. That French colony, which is not of such old standing as ours, and which became a conquest of England, fell under the yoke of Great Britain in 1810. It was then the Isle of France; since the conquest its name has been changed to the Island of Mauritius. It contains a population which is almost entirely French, but unfortunately for their political rights it has not, as we have, the advantage of living in the immediate vicinity of a great republic, like the United States, serving, so to say, as a guarantee for the protection of its liberties. The Isle of France, in consequence of its isolated position, is precisely in circumstances which allow of our forming an opinion of what the pretended liberties of the colonial system are worth when there is nothing to fear from the weakness of the colonists or the intervention of a neighboring power in favor of the oppressed.
Thus, Mr. Speaker, we have a splendid opportunity of judging whether the colonial system, applied under such circumstances, possesses that liberal character which is attributed to it. Well, I say it with regret, we see there, as we saw in Canada, the same aggressive and tyrannical policy against which we had to strive for a whole century. The colonial system gave rise here to deep dissatisfaction. I shall enumerate the grievances which are complained of, grievances for which there is but too great foundation. When the Isle of France was ceded to England, it was stipulated, as in the case of Canada, that the French population should retain the use of their language and their religious institutions, together with the laws under which they had up to that time been governed, three liberties of great value to the descendants of old France.
Well, Mr. Speaker, we shall now see whether England respected these three articles of the treaty. I hold in my hand a correspondence of no older date than the 6th May, 1862. It is written by a French colonist in the Mauritius, and contains an account of the colonial system under which his countrymen are governed. Before reading this correspondence, I must premise that the population of the island consists of two hundred thousand souls; that population is governed by an Executive Council and a Legislative Council appointed for life, consisting of eighteen members, eight of whom are public officers appointed and paid by the Government of the colony. The other ten are nearly all of English origin. Thus the French element in the Legislative Council of the Mauritius is in the proportion of about one to five, although the population is nearly entirely French:—
To the Editor of the Economiste Français.
You promise to the ancient colonies of France aid and protection in your columns; it is therefore natural, that relying on that promise, I should apply to hold up to the view of your readers, and to lay before an intelligent public, […]
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[…] before impartial judges, the acts of a government which, since 1810, has exercised the most absolute despotism over us, concealed under the great name of liberty. We have indeed the liberty of the press, but it is not listened to. Vain are all cries; the Government “stop their ears and let us cry.” Then they tell us that we shall never have a more wise, a more paternal, a more liberal government. “What would you have more than the liberty of thinking and writing?” they ask.
What we would have is that the liberty of the press should be of some use to us; that the Government should listen to the mouthpieces of public opinion; that they should not waste our funds in spite of the protestations of the press;* that they should cause the laws, as they were made, to be observed, and by all alike; that among other laws, that of quarantine should be faithfully observed, and that no exception should be made in favor of H. B. M.’s ships of war and transports with troops; that more attention should be paid to the subject of communication with the ships arriving from India; that we should be more effectually protected from the epidemics which decimate our population; that the cholera should be prevented from becoming endemic in the country, so that the French and Creole population of the Mauritius may be preserved; that enquiry should be made as to the causes which may have brought the cholera upon us; that insufficient laws may be revised; that our reserves should be kept at home instead of being lent to the Mother Country or to other colonies; that our treaty of capitulation should be respected; that no attempt should be made to introduce here English laws, when it is agreed that by the French codes only are we to be governed; that the use of the French language, of which we have been deprived in defiance of sworn faith, should be restored to us; that no flagrant injustice should be committed in favor of the English and to the detriment of the Creoles; that the latter may be appointed to the different offices, and that these should not be conferred on incapable favorites; we would have the Legislative Council and self-government, etc, etc. This is what we would have. You see that we wish for a great many things. But are they not all just and reasonable?
Let us now proceed to the enumeration of some of them, and, in chronological order, let us begin with the French language. The deed of capitulation, signed in 1810 by the representatives of France and England, contained the following articles, which we, the conquered people, imposed on our conquerors:—
1st. Respect for our religion.
2nd. The maintenance of our laws.
3rd. The guarantee that we should be allowed to speak French.
Well, of these three principal articles (inscribed in large characters in our deed of capitulation, accepted and promised under the faith of an oath, signed and approved by England), one has been already violated, and the work of undermining another is going on! Setting at naught all scruples, the English Government first robbed us of the use of the French language before the high courts of justice.
We have expressed our claims, but a deaf ear has been turned to them. This first step taken, what bounds will be set to this great work of destruction of all that we hold from France? On the application of a few English, the revisal of our code is already being considered; and when the whole population apply to the Mother Country for the revocation of an order which renders the transaction of business impossible, without the very costly intervention of legal men and translators, and which, moreover, inflicts a deep wound on the Creole heart, they are told to hold their tongues! When they loudly call for the revision of insufficient laws which facilitate the propagation of mephitic miasmata they are not listened to! When they demand an enquiry into the circumstances which have caused the introduction into their midst of the cruel epidemic, which for more than four months has carried death into their ranks, they are told that they are indulging in idle fancies!
At the same time, and as though to turn the public mind from this fixed idea, there is a semblance of bringing up a question already decided upon and voted—that relating to railways! Another grievance. Whilst the epidemic is raging among us, and whilst our municipality stands in need of money for the relief of the poor classes, the Government has none to lend, because the financial reserves of the colony are lent to the Cape, to India, to Ceylon, and to the Mother Country itself.
Thus, Mr. Speaker, the Mauritius, which, by the terms of her treaty of capitulation, was to have preserved to her the use of her language, her peculiar institutions and her laws, has soon found herself deprived of the use of her language; her laws have been changed, and her institutions have been subjected to oppression. This, Mr. Speaker, is the sort of liberty which a French colony may enjoy under the colonial system of England, when the colony is weak and is not situated, as Canada is, in the vicinity of a powerful republic such as the United States.
I think, Mr Speaker, that I have now shown what has ever been the spirit of antagonism between the two races of English and French origin, on the two continents, and what has been the spirit of aggression of the English element against our population, from the founding of the colony up to our own time; we have seen colonial fanaticism attacking our institutions, our language and our laws, and we have seen that our annihilation as a race has been the evident […]
* This demand is in fact perfectly just, as of the five papers published in the Mauritius, four are French; but the single English journal on the island was always right, in opposition to the four French journals.
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[…] object of those constant efforts. Can we today believe that the case is otherwise; and ought not the unanimity of the English element in favor of Confederation to fill us with terror? Is not our loss concealed under this outward semblance of conciliation?
Yes, let us consult the history of our country before effecting so radical a change in our Constitution. Let us remember with terror the strife and antagonism which prevailed in days gone by, and let us endeavor to judge with certainty what will be the necessary consequences of a constitutional change of such serious importance as that which is proposed to us.
Let us now consider, Mr. Speaker, the disastrous consequences of the adoption of the scheme of Confederation. The members of the Government have told us that Confederation would constitute us a military power of the first class, and would enable us to resist the aggressions of the American Union. The defence of our frontier is certainly a question of the highest importance, for no one is unaware that our relations with our neighbors are in a position of extreme tension. They have established a passport system, the sole object of which is to hamper our trade. A resolution has been adopted by Congress, almost unanimously, for the repeal of the treaty of reciprocity which exists between the two countries. In a few months the waters of our lakes will be ploughed by vessels of war, the armaments of which can only be directed against Canada.
Such, Mr. Speaker, is the position of the United States with respect to us, and to meet this danger the Government proposes to form a Confederation which will, they tell us, constitute a first class power, able to maintain on this continent the supremacy of Great Britain. But will the object proposed be attained? Shall we be stronger under Confederation than we are now? Cannot the Governor General of the Provinces of British North America raise troops throughout the whole extent of the provinces placed under his jurisdiction? Is not the militia of all those provinces under his immediate command? We are told, Mr. Speaker, that Confederation will give us a more uniform military organization than that which we now possess. But there is nothing to prevent the formation of that organization under the present Constitution, and I have no hesitation in saying that under that Constitution the several provinces will defend themselves to better advantage than under Confederation. Is it not precisely by creating here a military power, hostile to the adjoining powerful republic, that we shall bring on war and its attendant calamities?
The moment the United States perceive in this Confederation an organization, the object of which is the establishing of the balance of power in America, they will not wait until our fortifications are constructed, or until the Intercolonial railway is built, but they will attack us at once. On another hand, we offer defiance to the American republic by creating here a political organization which is contrary to the principles of the democratic government which prevails there, and contrary to the famous Monroe doctrine, which, as is well known, is opposed to the establishment of monarchical governments on this continent.
The plan of the present Government is, therefore, to establish here a political system which is essentially hostile to the United States, as it will be essentially monarchical, and instead of proving to us a means of defence, it can entail nothing but war and the disastrous consequences attendant upon it. To promote the security and prosperity of our country, the Government, instead of bleeding the people as they propose to do, to erect here and there ruinously expensive, and after all insufficient fortifications, ought to apply the revenues of the treasury to the establishment of new industries, the improvement of our public highways, and the colonization of our wildlands. These inexhaustible sources of wealth, if wisely managed, would double our numbers, our revenue and our power, and would in that way confer upon us means of defence much more effective than those which we should receive from Confederation, which would crush the people under taxes imposed to meet the expense of imperfectly defending our frontier.
And is it supposed for a moment that when we have in so urgent a manner decreed the fortification of our frontier, the arming of our militia men, and the establishment of a fleet on our inland seas, that the United States will do the same and that they will follow the example set them of such ruinous folly? Is it supposed that the American statesmen will not immediately perceive, as we are desirous of raising ourselves up as an enemy on their frontier, and of entailing upon them an enormous outlay in order to hold us in check, that it will be for them a mere question of economy to attack us now and to take possession of the country, before it is in our power to oblige them to keep up that […]
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[…] ruinously expensive war footing? And what could we do against an invading army of two or three hundred thousand men, with our treasury exhausted by the fortifications, and with hardly any assistance from England, whose policy at this moment is anti-colonial? I cannot understand how, in face of the danger which is impending over us, and for which we are so little prepared, the Government can thus cast defiance in the teeth of the powerful nation who are adjacent to us, and whose armies now in the field could set at naught any resistance to immediate invasion.
I assert it positively, Mr. Speaker, the United States have not the least intention of attacking us, so long as we remain peaceable spectators of their fratricidal struggle, and so long as we continue to confine ourselves to peaceful occupations. But if, on the contrary, we create here a hostile military power, if we establish here the throne of a viceroy or of a foreign monarch, in defiance of the principles which form the groundwork upon which rests the political system of the United States, we may then rest assured that the neighbouring republic will sweep away that monarchical organization, established in rivalry to its own democratic system. (Hear, hear.)
Such, Mr. Speaker, is the question in its most serious aspect. I shall not enlarge upon the details of the scheme of Confederation, which have been so ably criticised by the hon. members who have preceded me; and besides I shall have an opportunity of discussing them when the amendments to the scheme are submitted to the House. But I may now say that those details cannot be accepted by the people. We have already received numerous petitions praying for the rejection of the measure, and those petitions continue to reach us every day.
Now, I ask you, Mr. Speaker, what the sentiments of the people will be if that scheme is adopted, and if in the course of two months it is returned to us from England, after having received the sanction of the Imperial Parliament, without its having been possible for us to alter the most trifling of its details? Is it supposed, after a Constitution shall have been forced on the French-Canadians, which they have opposed to the utmost, that they will be very enthusiastic in the defence of that Constitution which shall have deprived them of a part of the political rights which they enjoyed? And, it cannot be denied, by adopting the proposed Confederation, we yield up some of the privileges which we now enjoy have not our Ministers themselves told us that under the pressure of the demands of Upper Canada it was necessary to make concessions at the Quebec Conference, in order to ensure the adoption of the present scheme?
The hostile majority of Upper Canada have obtained representation based on population, against which Lower Canada has so energetically struggled for fifteen years, because she saw in that concession the annihilation of our influence as a race. Under these circumstances, Mr. Speaker, is it supposed that reliance is to be placed on the assistance of the French-Canadians, who were formerly so terrible in the attack, and who fought, without hesitation, one against ten, a proportion in which we shall again find ourselves opposed to the Americans in the probable event of a war? To hope that they will fight with the same impulse now, when they are being deprived of the surest guarantees of their natural existence and of their most sacred political lights, is greatly to deceive ourselves, and to betray ignorance of what has always been the cause of their heroism in the conflict.
Under the Constitution as it is, they would again fight with similar courage, regardless of numbers, because they love that Constitution which secures to them all that they hold most dear, and because they wish to preserve it. Under Confederation, on the contrary, we have nothing left to defend; our influence as a race is gone, and sooner than be absorbed in a Confederation, the existence of which will prove a source of constant strife without bringing with it compensating advantages, the people dissatisfied will seek other and more advantageous political and commercial alliances, and for this reason it is that I consider that the scheme of Confederation will lead us directly to annexation to the United States.
When the commissioners from the North and the South recently had an interview in order to decide the possible conditions of an honorable peace, one of the three propositions submitted by the North was to the effect that the two armies should not be disbanded after the cessation of hostilities, but should be united for the purpose of earning on a foreign war. Now, Mr. Speaker, what does the expression, “foreign war,” when used by the United States, mean, except war upon Canada? And what could the fifty battalions which England could send us do against the combined armies of the North and the South, the strength of which amounts to a million of […]
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[…] men? Situated at a distance of a thousand leagues from us, Great Britain, with all her material of war and our militia, could not defend Canada against so powerful an enemy, except at the cost of the greatest sacrifices.
It is not, therefore, at a time when we are placed in such great straits, that we should exclaim loudly that we do not fear the struggle, and that we are ready to measure our strength against that of the States of the American Union. It is equally absurd to give umbrage to their institutions by creating beside them a political organization to which they are fundamentally opposed. Is it believed that our monarchical pretensions and our threats are of a nature to intimidate the American statesmen? In their eyes we are but pygmies hurling threats at giants. Let the war come with the Constitution as it is, and we shall find a hundred thousand volunteers ready to defend our frontier. But if the Government impose on the French-Canadians the scheme of Confederation, from which they have so much fear, and which may prove to be productive of the most disastrous consequences to their institutions, their language and their laws, then, I am bound to say, there will be hesitation in our ranks at the time when every man will be marching towards almost certain death for the defence of a flag which will no longer confer upon our race the guarantees of protection which it today secures to us.
I say, then, that the time is ill-chosen to make such serious changes, and to lay the foundation of an Empire the existence of which, threatened both from the interior and from the exterior, will be of but a few days’ duration. For with dissatisfaction among the French-Canadians, deprived of their rights and privileges, it is impossible for England to maintain her power here against three hundred thousand men invading our territory at ten different points along our frontier. The wisest policy which we can pursue, at this critical moment, is therefore remain peaceable spectators of the struggle between our neighbors, to open our forests to colonization, to turn to account our mines and water-powers, to clear our wild lands, and to labor without ceasing to to recall our unfortunate countrymen who are now scattered over American soil.
Let us construct railways, let us double our manufacturing industry, let us enlarge our canals, let us extend our network of railways to the Maritime Provinces; and when we have attained great proportions as a people, when our prosperity shall have increased fivefold, and, above all, when the terrible hurricane which threatens to destroy everything in North America shall have terminated its work of ruin, and finally when we shall be strong enough to protect ourselves from external attacks, and the French-Canadians especially shall have obtained sufficient power to have nearly equality of representation in the General Parliament, it will be time enough to lay the foundation of a great Confederation of the British North American Provinces, based on the protective principle of the sovereignty of the states.
Under these circumstances Confederation will produce abundant fruits, and will be welcomed by the people of this country, and especially by the French-Canadians, who, having doubled in number in the interval, will be in a position to demand infinitely more advantageous conditions than those which are forced upon them today. We shall not then have our present political rights, which were so dearly obtained by the struggles of a century, replaced by local governments, which will be nothing more than municipal councils, vested with small and absurd powers, unworthy of a free people, which allow us at most the control of our roads, our schools and our lands; but we shall then obtain local governments based on the sovereignty of states, as is the case under the Constitution of the United States.
The fact is not to be denied: the American Constitution was created by great men in face of a crowd of considerable and opposite local interests, and it cost them several years of deep study to reconcile those various interests, and finally to build up that admirable Constitution which, as the hon. member for Brome [Mr. Dunkin] has so well said, defies the most severe criticism in relation to its most important bases. With a Constitution like that of the United States, based upon state sovereignty, Lower Canada would elect her own governor and her representatives in the Federal Parliament and Legislative Council, and also all the Executive Ministers.
Mr. Dufresne (Montcalm)—We should also appoint the judges.
Mr. Perrault—If the hon. member for Montcalm [Mr. Joseph Dufresne] had listened attentively to the remarkable speech of the hon. member for Brome [Mr. Dunkin], he would have learned that in the majority of the states composing the American Union, the judges are not appointed […]
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[…] by the people, but by the Executive branch of the local government, in precisely the same way as in Canada, and that they are in every respect as upright and as distinguished as our own judges. If our French-Canadian Ministers had not been in so powerless a minority in the Quebec Conference (four to thirty-two), they would certainly not have accepted a scheme of Confederation so fraught with danger to the French race as that which has been submitted to us. They would have obtained more favorable conditions than those which are imposed upon us. among which is the appointment for life of the legislative councillors, by the Executive branch of the General Legislature.
For my part, Mr. Speaker, I am not in favor of the appointment for life of men taken from the crowd to be converted into the instruments of oppression, and too often to serve to cast impediments in the way of the most important liberties and rights of the people. The appointment for life of the legislative councillors by a majority which is hostile to our race is as dangerous today as it was in the most evil days of our history, and to accept it is to place our most precious liberties at the mercy of the enemies of our race. With such provisions in the Constitution which it is proposed to force upon us, it is impossible that the French element should be protected in the Legislative Council. It is equally impossible that the aggressive tendencies, of which I gave an historical sketch in the first part of my remarks, will not produce their effect in the Federal Executive, when the question of the appointment of those members is being settled. We have been told, “The French Canadian section will resign if the Federal Executive attempt to practice injustice to the detriment of their fellow countrymen.”
Well, Mr. Speaker, I would willingly believe that they would resign, and that no successors could be found for them, which is still more improbable, and I should like to know to what such a resignation would lead, and what sort of a remedy it would provide for our humiliating position. We shall have forty-eight members in the Federal Parliament against one hundred and forty of English origin; in other words, we shall be in the proportion of one to four. What could so weak a minority do to obtain justice? Evidently the resignation of the French section would make it still more powerless, and it would have to accept the tyrannical dictates of its opponents. The French members of the present Government themselves give as the ground of the necessity of the proposed changes, the fact that the existing Constitution does not afford us sufficient guarantees.
But then, what sort of guarantees shall we have under the Confederation which it is proposed to force upon us and under which we shall be in a minority twice as great? Let us suppose the very probable contingency of a collision between our Local Legislature and the Federal Government, in consequence of the rejection of a measure passed by the Province of Lower Canada and thrown out by the General Parliament; in what position shall we be? Let us remember that the Federal Executive appoints the Legislative Council, presides over the criminal legislation of the country, and appoints the judges who administer it; in a word, that in the Federal Government are vested all sovereign powers, to the exclusion of the local governments.
Well, Mr. Speaker, I say without hesitation that in the case of a collision, we shall find ourselves completely at the mercy of the hostile Federal majority, and that it may oppress us, assimilate our laws; suspend our judges, arm the militia against us, and send us to the scaffold or into exile in any way they may think proper, notwithstanding our protestations and those of the French-Canadian minority in the Federal Parliament. Such has already been found to occur; the past is there to prove the fact, and everything leads us to believe that the same attempts at fanatical aggression will be renewed in our day, if the scheme of Confederation is adopted. (Hear, hear.)
The hon. member for Brome [Mr. Dunkin], whose loyalty will certainly not be called in question, himself declared in this House that this scheme would give rise to difficulties and entail deplorable collisions. Supposing, Mr. Speaker, that those collisions and difficulties arise, what shall we do? Will not all power be in the hands of the Federal Government and of a hostile majority? Is it not because the people understand it that they reject this measure with threats on their lips and in their eyes; that every day they send us numerous petitions in which they prophesy the most serious dissatisfaction? How long will the eyes and the ears of the members of this House remain closed, that they may not be cognisant of this protest of their alarmed fellow-countrymen? The Hon. Atty. Gen. East [Hon. Mr. Cartier] himself refuses to communicate to us a single one of the details of the scheme of […]
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[…] Confederation, and he would have us give up all the rights which the existing Constitution confers upon us, by voting in favor of a Local Legislature of which the powers will be naught, and of a General Parliament in which we shall be in the proportion of one to four.
Mr. Speaker, it is not surprising that the French-Canadian population of Lower Canada is unanimous in rejecting a Confederation which presents to us so gloomy a future—(hear, hear)—and I do not fear to declare that our Ministers are committing an act of very great imprudence in forcing upon the people constitutional changes of so serious a character, and so loudly denounced as an attack on their rights and their privileges. Never, at any period of our history, have there been seen such changes of constitution under such extraordinary circumstances.
And exactly at the moment when we are preparing to resist the invading army of a powerful neighbor, we are deprived of the liberties which we enjoy after having secured them by a century of struggles. But it seems to me that new guarantees of security ought rather to be given us, in order to induce us to fight with warlike antagonists ten times more numerous than ourselves, and whose political organization is perhaps less hostile to our race than the proposed Confederation. Have not the present Ministry taught us to look upon the semblance of local government, which they propose to us, as a sufficient protection for all that we hold most dear, and to accept the position of a powerless minority in the General Government, because commercial interests only will be brought in question there? If this proposition is a just one, the Constitution of the United States, with the recognized sovereignty of Lower Canada, affords much greater security for our institutions, our language and our laws. For the sovereignty of the state implies their preservation in the state, which yields up nothing to the General Government except a very restricted number of powers.
Yes, Mr. Speaker, in proposing a change of Constitution the Ministry have committed a serious fault, aud they have no right to endeavor to prevent the people of this province from examining the question of possible changes in all its bearings. Scarcely six months ago the French-Canadians lived happily, relying upon the security given them by the existing Constitution. Now such can hardly be the case, when the proposed changes threaten their existence as a race. Impose these changes upon them, and then let danger come, and England will find out, but too late, that her most loyal subjects are lost to her.
Our people will have learned that of two evils they must choose the least, and that on a comparison between Confederation and annexation, the least evil will not, unfortunately, be found to be Confederation. Before marching on to certain slaughter, the soldier will ask himself for what he is going to fight, and whether the Constitution which he is going to defend is worth the sacrifice of his life’s blood. The day upon which the French-Canadian soldier puts this question to himself, will be the last day of the English power in America. I hope I may be mistaken, Mr. Speaker, and I would wish to believe that the views of the Government are sounder than mine, at a time when they propose a measure so full of danger as that which is submitted to us. I would wish to believe, above all, that they have no intention of skilfully leading us into a collision with our neighbors, which would tend to carry us directly into annexation, and would strike a mortal blow at English domination on this continent.
I shall conclude, Mr. Speaker, by summing up my remarks. The union of the two Canadas has not yet done all its work. There is still room for progress under it, and it must be continued. The Hon. Attorney General for Lower Canada (Hon. Mr. Cartier) maintains on the contrary that it has no longer any grounds of existence, and that we must have a new political organization. Well, Mr. Speaker, I venture to hold an opinion different from that of the hon. member for Montreal East [Hon. Mr. Cartier], and I have no hesitation in saying that under the union we can yet double our prosperity and our numbers, if we introduce into the administration of affairs a little less party spirit and a little more patriotism. (Hear, hear.)
I say, further, that the demand for representation based on population has no cause of existence, that it was repudiated by Upper Canada, at first by the Conservative party, and afterwards by the Liberal party under the Macdonald-Sicotte Administration. When we have seen the most energetic and most sincere partisans of representation based on population abandon that principal basis of their politics, and make of it, in their government, a question against which they engaged to vote, I say that it is very wrong to use it as one of the reasons to compel us to accept the scheme of Confederation. That cry, raised by fanaticism […]
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[…] in the west, will naturally be stifled by the more rapid increase of the population of Lower Canada and the annual diminution of immigration. With the assistance of these two causes our population will, in ten years, equal that of Upper Canada.
I say, Mr. Speaker, that the scheme of Confederation is not expedient. But even if the scheme of Confederation was expedient, I maintain that the object of it is hostile. I gave an historical sketch of the encroaching spirit of the English race on the two continents. I pointed out the incessant antagonism existing between it and the French race. Our past recalled to us the constant struggle which we had to keep up in order to resist the aggression and the exclusiveness of the English element in Canada. It was only through heroic resistance and a happy combination of circumstances that we succeeded in obtaining the political rights which are secured to us by the present Constitution. The scheme of Confederation has no other object than to deprive us of the most precious of those rights, by substituting for them a political organization which is eminently hostile to us. The hostility of the scheme of Confederation being admitted, I maintain that its adoption will entail the most disastrous consequences. To impose upon the French-Canadians this new Constitution, which they do not want, is to tempt their anger and to expose ourselves to deplorable collisions. (Hear, hear.)
It must necessarily be submitted to them before it is adopted: if they accept it, then will be the time to send it to England to be sanctioned. But the Government, and especially the Hon. Attorney General East [Hon. Mr. Cartier], cannot ignore the petitions which are presented to us against the scheme, and especially so imposing a petition as that from the city of Montreal, which contains 6,000 French-Canadian signatures, and which is the most numerously signed petition which has ever been presented to our legislature by a city.
I say, further, that those who vote for the scheme of Confederation take the shortest way to lead us into annexation to the United States. I am not the first to express this opinion; several hon. members from Upper Canada have expressed it before me within the precincts of this House, and it is because those members from Upper Canada desire annexation to the United States that they vote in favor of the scheme of Confederation. The hon. members from the west, whose words are so loyal, will be the first to pass over to the enemy with arms and baggage, should an invading army ever appear on the frontier. Such, Mr. Speaker, is the position as it is. If His Excellency the Governor General thinks he ought to follow the advice of those who look to Washington, let him even do so; but I think it is high time to speak plainly here, and to warn him of the danger. (Hear, hear.)
Mr. Speaker, I am not an old man with one foot already in the grave, and on the verge of eternity, and I adopt my course in view of the future. Our Ministers, who, in the course of a long career, have exhausted the supply of honor and of dignity in our country, are perhaps tempted to risk the future of their country for titles, honors and larger salaries under Confederation, perhaps for the sake of being governor of one of the Federated Provinces. We know that England nobly and royally rewards those who serve her without scruple. Besides, the prospect of founding a vast empire is well worth the sacrifice of some months of a worn out career, at the risk of not succeeding entirely in so gigantic a project. (Hear, hear.)
But for my part, Mr. Speaker, I who belong to the coming generation, and who have twenty years of future before me, cannot approve, by my vote, of a scheme of Constitution which presents itself to us in such a gloomy perspective as regards our nationality, and all that we hold most dear as Frenchmen. If I am thus severe in my remarks, Mr. Speaker, I hope it will be understood that they proceed from profound conviction; and it is well known that those who have honey on their lips are not always the most sincere at heart. I know also that sometimes those who state boldly what they think pay very dearly for their boldness and independence, but no dread of this, Mr. Speaker, shall ever cause me to shrink from expressing my convictions, when I consider that my doing so may be of any use to my country. (Hear, hear, and prolonged Opposition cheers.) Cries of “Adjourn, adjourn!” from the Opposition.
Hon. Mr. Cartier—No, no! Call in the members.
Hon. A.A. Dorion said he had moved the adjournment of the debate last evening, to have an opportunity of replying to the honorable member for Montmorency (Hon. Mr. Cauchon). But as that honorable gentleman was not in his place in the afternoon, he […]
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[…] had yielded the floor to the honorable member for Richelieu (Mr. Perrault). The honorable member for Montmorency [Hon. Mr. Cauchon], he observed, was still out of the House, and he should like to defer his remarks till the honorable gentleman should be in his seat. (Cries of “Adjourn.” and “Go on.”)
Col. Haultain then rose to address the House. He said—If the House will permit me, I shall relieve the honorable member for Hochelaga (Hon. Mr. Dorion).
It is not surprising to me, Mr. Speaker, that there should be this hanging back on the part of honorable members with regard to expressing their views on this subject, as so much has been said about it, that it is now, I won’t say thoroughly, but very nearly worn out. And for my own part, in common, I suppose, with all who will have to speak at this stage of the debate, I feel reluctant to trespass on the time of the House. At the same time, I cannot properly call it a trespass, but must rather consider it a duty. On a matter of this very great importance, involving the interests of so large a portion of this continent, I think it behooves most of us to express our opinions with the best ability that we can bring to the subject. (Hear, hear.)
We have had this question discussed from so many points of view, and, I presume, by the ablest men who occupy public positions in Canada, that a humble individual like myself must feel great diffidence in saying another word on the subject. But it is no small encouragement to know—at any rate I feel it to be an encouragement in speaking in advocacy of the scheme—that I am in such good company, that the leading men in this province, the leading men in the British Provinces generally, and I may even say the leading men in the British Empire, are all agreed as to the desirableness of what is now proposed, and as to the wisdom which has been displayed in the framing of the scheme now submitted for our adoption.
I do not expect to say anything new, and the fear of repeating what has already been said makes me reluctant to say anything at all; and were I to consult my own feelings, I have no doubt I should be silent, and would rise only when you call on us, Mr. Speaker, to give our votes either for or against the resolutions in your hand. I think every honorable member who has spoken in this debate has expressed his sense of the responsibility resting upon him, when addressing the House and the country on a matter of such vast importance to us all. I feel equally with others how great is this responsibility, and have endeavoured to bring the best powers of my mind to the consideration of the question.
The more we consider it, the more we look into the future in connection with our present movement, the larger the importance, I believe, it must assume in our minds. It not only affects the interests of Canada, but of all the British Provinces of this continent. Its probable results will materially affect the future, both of the British Empire and of the neighbouring republic, and, therefore, more or less the future of the world at large. I do not think that I am using language at all exaggerated. From the best consideration I have been able to give to this subject, I believe there are underlying the question now before us principles of the greatest importance to the world. I believe there are principles involved in our present action that must very much determine the character of the institutions that will generally prevail. The impression upon my own mind is, that if successful, we shall give greater stability and a more permanent foothold to the principles that obtain in the British Constitution; but that failing in our present object, we shall see the decadence of these principles on this continent, and the advance of those principles which obtain in the neighbouring republic. (Hear, hear.)
The more I consider it, the stronger am I of the opinion, that at the present time the principles of democracy and of monarchism—if I may so express it—are at stake; and, considering it in this view, I look upon the scheme before us as calling for the most cordial and earnest support of every man who has learned to value the stability, the moderation, and the justice which have characterized the British nation as compared with any other nation that exists on the face of the globe. The great question before us is that of union—a practicable and attainable union—a union of provinces showing allegiance to the same Crown, possessing, generally, similar institutions, similar systems of government, the same language, the same laws, the same dangers, the same enemies.
Our institutions are generally similar, although, no doubt, from having been isolated for so great a length of time, and having had no intercourse one with the other to speak of, there is an idiosyncracy attached to each of the provinces as they now exist, and the longer we remain separate the greater the divergence must be, and the more difficult union between us will be of accomplishment. The advocates of this scheme propose the union of all these provinces. It is a trite […]
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[…] proverb that “union is strength, and division is weakness.” So universally accepted is this statement, that no man can venture to deny its correctness. And I feel, as an advocate of union, that our position is one which is unassailable, and the arguments must indeed be strong which would convince me that we are not going in the right direction when moving towards union and consolidation. (Hear, hear.)
Apart from the intrinsic force and power of union, which would be in itself sufficient to call us in that direction, Canada has special reasons for desiring that the British provinces should draw together more closely than they have yet done. By such a step we may remove one great cause of our own political difficulties. I do not think that this is at all a necessary part of the argument for our uniting together. But it so happens that by our union we hope to remove these difficulties, and that is an additional argument for union, although not at all necessary to induce the adoption of the scheme.
I believe that if we had no difficulties whatever in Canada, if we were perfectly satisfied with our political position, union would still be desirable on the broad ground of the advantages we would derive from it. But, in addition to those advantages, and the force and strength which union will give us, it will assist us in surmounting and removing those great difficulties under which we labor; and it is a most happy circumstance that, while we are carrying out a principle so excellent in itself, we are at the same time enabled to remove difficulties which might prove most disastrous to our prospects. And, in addition to these reasons, we have evidently the wishes of the Mother Country for the success of this scheme. (Hear, hear.)
No one can with reason question the reception which the scheme has met with from the press and from men of all shades of political opinion in the Mother Country. It has met with universal approbation there. (Hear, hear.) There has been no jealousy of it that I know of. There has not proceeded from any quarter one word of disapprobation or of doubt as to the prudence and the wisdom which have dictated our advances towards union. The good wishes of Great Britain are thoroughly with us. (Hear, hear.) An additional reason, I may say necessity, for union exists in the hostility of the United States so palpably manifested during the past few months.
In fact, sir, looking at all our interests—our interests socially and commercially—our interests of defence—our internal harmony—our very existence as an independent people—all bid us go forward in the direction of union. I shall allude but briefly to the political difficulties of Canada, as this part of the subject has been most ably handled by honorable gentlemen who have preceded me. Our difficulties, I had fancied, were palpable to all, and yet we have heard honorable gentlemen who are opposed to the scheme, almost ignoring their existence, or treating them as though they did not weigh in the scale of the arguments on this question at all.
I am sorry my hon. friend from Brome (Mr. Dunkin) is not here, as I will have to refer to some of his remarks. That honorable gentleman, as well as others, intimated to the House that our difficulties had disappeared; that since 1862 Upper Canada had been satisfied with her position; that agitation had been laid aside; that there was no more mention of any sense of injustice on the part of Upper Canada. This line of remark only shows me how ignorant those honorable gentlemen were of the subject on which they were speaking; how entirely they had remained in the dark as to the feelings which existed in the minds of the people of Upper Canada; manifesting a degree of ignorance on one very important feature of our position, that rendered them to a great degree incompetent to deal with this question.
From much that I have heard relative to the cause of the dissatisfaction known to prevail in Upper Canada, I think it well not to be altogether silent about it. We must look deeper than the displeasure felt and manifested at the passing of certain measures obnoxious to the majority of that section, or at the unjust principle of an equal distribution of the public revenues between the two sections. It is true that these tended to draw attention to, and make more prominent the real cause of discontent. It lay deep in the chafing of the minds of men whose national characteristic is impatience of intolerance and injustice. It dwelt in the abiding sense of the unfair position that the terms of the union of 1840 now imposed upon them, and obeying their national instincts, they could never cease to insist upon a representative reform. (Hear, hear.)
I suppose there are no people on the earth who feel more strongly or who will resist more determinedly the perpetration and continuance of any injustice. It was that sense of injustice, weighing heavily on the minds of the people of Upper Canada, that rendered our position one of difficulty and of danger so long as relief was denied them. I have been surprised, therefore, to hear the statement […]
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[…] which has been made by some hon. gentlemen in this House, that the feelings of dissatisfaction which existed in Upper Canada have disappeared. The formation of the Macdonald-Sicotte Government has been mentioned as a proof that we have become indifferent to the question of representation by population, which had been so repeatedly and so strongly urged, and that the people of Upper Canada were quite willing, for the sake of some small material advantages, to cast aside that for which they had been agitating for so many years.
In opposition to this, I must state that there was the strongest disapprobation felt and expressed throughout Upper Canada at the formation of that Government. The only excuse made for it was, that it was simply a provisional government, and that its formation was nothing more than a temporary measure. I would not hesitate or fear to appeal to any constituency in Upper Canada, where the question of representation by population had been agitated, and ask them to say whether they did not cherish the strongest feelings of disapprobation that that question should have been ignored at the time of the formation of that Government.
Mr. M.C. Cameron—North Ontario elected a member of that Government.
Hon. Mr. Holton—They were all elected.
Mr. M.C. Cameron—But in North Ontario a member of the Government came who had not been the member for that constituency before, and defeated one who was in favor of representation by population.
Col. Haultain—In alluding to this matter, I would wish to guard myself against rousing anything like party questions or party feelings. (Hear, hear.) I desire, in dealing with the important subject now under debate, to remember that the question before us now is not who was right or who was wrong in 1862 or 1863. The question is, are we right in advancing towards union, or are we making a great mistake; but where it is necessary for me to allude to the course pursued by either party, it is for the purpose of argument alone, and not in any way to raise the question who was right or who to blame. I stated, sir, that there was the strongest disapprobation, I might more correctly say disappointment, felt in Upper Canada that the question of representation by population should have been laid aside by the Macdonald-Sicotte Government.
I felt as strongly as any man could have done the unfortunate position in which we were then placed; but giving it the best consideration I could, and believing that a change of government was desirable under almost any circumstances, I most unwillingly consented. I believed nothing else could have been done at the time. It was the opinion of most, though not of all, with whom I then voted—we might have been wrong, that is not the question.
Believing, therefore, that we could not then secure the success of the measure for which we had been agitating and which we had been seeking, we thought it necessary to form and acknowledge and support a provisional government, for I do say that the Government then formed was in my estimation, and in the estimation of Upper Canada generally, a provisional government—nothing more; a Government which was simply tolerated, and which could not possibly exist for any length of time. It was a government formed for a certain purpose, and Upper Canada sanctioned it only because of that purpose, which was regarded at the time as of primary importance. He knows little of the mind of Upper Canada who sees in it any indifference to the question of parliamentary reform. It was a position that neither party has anything to boast of; the apparent inconsistency of the one resulted from the felt misgovernment of the other. It is no small pleasure to be able cordially and consistently to act with honorable gentlemen whom I strongly opposed before, and I so acted because I thought it my duty under the circumstances so to do.—(Hear, hear.)
Well, sir, how long did this provisional government last? Within one year it was defeated, and before it could show itself to Upper Canada, there was an entire reconstruction of the Cabinet—and why? Because the principal measure which Upper Canada had demanded was lost sight of.
Hon. Mr. Brown—Hear! Hear!
Col. Haultain—There can be no stronger evidence of this fact, than that it was necessary to bring into the Cabinet men who truly represented the views and wishes of Upper Canada, and men also in Lower Canada who were thought to be more friendly to Upper Canada demands. Had that government, without reconstruction, gone to Upper Canada, where would they have been? Had they gone to Upper Canada as they were, and without admitting other elements into the Cabinet, they would have met with a very general hostility. The Premier himself was made fully aware of this, and he wisely bowed […]
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[…] to the wishes of Upper Canada. There cannot, therefore, be a stronger evidence than this of the fact that the question of reform in the representation was not laid aside, neither had it lost one iota of its importance in the minds of the great majority of the western section. The Government that had ventured to lay it aside was virtually swept away, and another formed who made it an open question. This, sir, lies at the very foundation of our difficulties. It has been the source of our difficulties, and no doubt would have continued to be, had no remedy been provided.
I have said before on another occasion, and I repeat it, that the minds of men in Upper Canada were filled with foreboding as to the future. They feared that Lower Canada would resist their demands; they feared that Lower Canada would continue to deny to them what appeared to them to be palpably just and right, and what the end of it all would be they did not know. I confess that I shared this feeling in common with others; and it was a matter of common conversation that things could not continue as they were; that it was impossible for Upper Canada, with her superiority in numbers and in wealth, to consent to remain in the united Legislature in the inferior position she then occupied. If the attempt had been persisted in to deny to that section what was so reasonable and just, no man could have foretold the serious difficulties which might have followed.
Hon. gentlemen from Lower Canada, who have expressed an opinion that this question had ceased to be considered as of importance in the west, manifest a very great ignorance of the character, the feelings and the intentions of the men they had to deal with. My hon. friend from Brome [Mr. Dunkin] was one of those who wished to make light of our present difficulties. He said, towards the close of his speech, that it only needed a little patience, that very little was wanted to make everything quite smooth. But, sir, even he was obliged to admit that a slight measure of parliamentary reform was necessary in order to remove the difficulties by which we were surrounded, and he evidently intimated his willingness to concede it. And there have been hints thrown out by certain Liberal members from Lower Canada that it would not be such an impossible thing, if we would give up this scheme of union, for Upper Canada to obtain her right position, and what she has so justly claimed. But if this be their feeling, I ask them why they did not come boldly out before and avow it?
I would ask my hon. friend from Brome [Mr. Dunkin]—and I regret extremely that he is not in his place—why did he not, in 1862, speak of concessions to Upper Canada, instead of, by vote and by argument, do his best to convince us that we could expect no relief from him and from those acting with him, from the same section. Very different language is now used by Lower Canada members of all shades of opinion, to that we have been accustomed to hear. Those who now admit the justice of the demands of Upper Canada, and yet in time past have resisted them, ought to be the last to oppose this scheme, which settles the difficulty on a basis accepted by all.
The honorable member for Brome [Mr. Dunkin] and the British members from Lower Canada, who resisted the reform asked for, ought to be foremost in supporting the scheme before us; and I am sorry to find that my hon. friend appears to me to occupy a very inconsistent position. Had he always advocated parliamentary reform, he might with consistency have opposed the proposed union. In some such position, and even in a stronger point of view, do the French Liberal members appear to be. They were the professed allies of the Reform party in Upper Canada, and were, of course, aware that no reform government could stand that did not deal with the representation question. Now, it appears to me, sir, that the Liberal French party have been singularly untrue to their Upper Canada allies—
Hon. Mr. Holton (ironically)—Hear! hear!
Col. Haultain—I repeat, sir, that the Liberal French members have pursued a course that if continued in, could only have terminated as it has done. I speak of what has come under my own observation since 1862. A new Parliament had been convened. The question of representative reform had attained great prominence. The Reform party had spoken distinctly on that question. Had their Lower Canada allies contemplated a continuance of the alliance, we might suppose that they would have forborne raising unnecessary difficulties. But, sir, what was the course pursued?
It will be remembered that an amendment to the address was moved, asserting that the principle of equal representation was essential to the union. This was a gratuitous though most significant expression of the divergence that was inevitable. This was made more palpable […]
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[…] still, when, at the formation of the Macdonald-Sicotte Government, the Reform party were obliged to pay, as a price ior their alliance, the surrender of the principle most prominent in their political creed. An alliance based upon such terms could not possibly last. And what must we think when we hear hon, gentlemen intimating that this principle might now be conceded? Had the same principles been then enunciated, had a bold, straightforward course been adopted by the Liberal members of Lower Canada, they might now be occupying the position of settling our very serious difficulties.
I have alluded, sir, to the wishes of the Mother Country relative to the movement upon which we have entered, and I assert that the feeling there is one of universal approbation. Still, so much has been said relative to the opinions existing in the Mother Country as to the connection with her colonial dependencies, and especially with those in British America, that I think it right to remark on this branch of the subject rather more fully than I should otherwise have done, for I feel the great importance of it. I know of nothing that would so much tend to discourage the people of this country as that an impression should go abroad that the Mother Country was intending to cast us adrift—to sever the connection. I have no doubt myself, sir, that did such an opinion really exist in the Mother Country, and were it to be carried into effect at the present time, or within any short period of time, the only alternative—I fear, the only alternative—would be our annexation to the United States. (Hear, hear.)
Therefore, I feel it to be too great an importance that no doubt should exist in the minds of the people of this country relative to the feelings entertained towards us at home. My hon. friend the member for Brome [Mr. Dunkin] dwelt at considerable length on the subject. He expressed, and I am quite sure he entertains the strongest desire for the perpetuation of this connection; yet it did seem to me that he dwelt with peculiar satisfaction upon every word he could extract from speeches and pamphlets, which appeared to him to point to a desire to sever that connection, and I cannot but remember that he was frequently cheered with “Hear, hears” corresponding with the sentiments he expressed.
The remarks made by the hon. member from Brome [Mr. Dunkin] were, to my mind, most extraordinary. The deductions he drew from the speeches of certain noblemen and gentlemen in the Imperial Parliament, were so directly opposite to what appeared to me the design and tendency of those speeches, that I cannot account for it in any other way, than by presuming that my hon. friend was not in his usual health, and that his mind did not possess that degree of clearness which he generally brings to bear on every subject he investigates. (Hear, hear.)
It seemed to me that he looked at everything relating to this question through a distorted medium. I listened with the greatest pleasure to the dissection the hon. gentleman made of these resolutions, and to the microscopic analysis to which he subjected the smallest part of their provisions. It shewed the great acuteness of his observation, as well as the large and extended information of his mind. But I could not help feeling that he was looking at this subject through the discoloured lens of a powerfully microscopic mind. (Laughter.) I have no doubt whatever that this also was the impression made by his speech on other hon. gentlemen. His talents and his ability I fully recognize, and I have no doubt that every hon. gentleman listened, equally with myself, with pleasure to what I may call the excruciating dissection to which he submitted these important resolutions. (Hear, hear, and laughter.)
But I must at the same time say that the result of all his analysis, and the summing up of all his observations, only proved to me that the ground on which the advocates of this scheme stand is well nigh immovable and unassailable, and convinced me of the smallness of the objections which have yet been urged against it. Of course my hon. friend from Brome [Mr. Dunkin], considering the temperament of his mind, dwelt at length and with much force upon the article which lately appeared in the Edinburgh Review. I must acknowledge that in that article there are passages of extreme offensiveness, such as I regret to see in any British publication, and which were uncalled for and imprudent. If I thought that the article reflected the views of either of the parties now dividing the political world in Great Britain, I should indeed say that our connection with the Mother Country was precarious, and that it behooved us to ask with pertinacity what really was the intention of the statesmen and the people at home with regard to us. But, sir, we have happily the most conclusive evidence that could be afforded, that […]
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[…] article does not represent the views of either of the great parties in the British Parliament. It may be the mind of a few isolated individuals; it may represent what is called the Manchester School; and I am not surprised at all that they should utter sentiments of that character.
I believe that the Manchester School, being in a measure republican in their political tendencies, would not be sorry to see us joining the great republic to the south, and that it would not be a matter for much sorrow to them to see us forsaking our allegiance to the British Crown, and joining our fortunes with those of our neighbors. It behoves us to see if there are not some grounds of complaint—if there is not some reason why the Manchester School should wish to get rid of us. It has been well observed that the remarks made upon us by our enemies are generally more valuable than those emanating from our friends. We cannot very well afford to despise the opinions of our enemies, and we would do well to consider, if we desire to perpetuate the connection with the Mother Country whether we cannot consistently with our interest and honor conciliate every party in Great Britain.
Believing as I do that our independence and prosperity depend upon preserving the connection with the Mother Country, I would be willing to remove every just cause of complaint which may be found to exist, I believe, further, that no man should take part in the government of these provinces who is not alive to the importance of this question. And what is the ground of complaint made by those who hold loosely the connection of the colonies with the Crown?
The complaint is that they are taxed with our defence, while we tax the industry of the Mother Country, and go directly in opposition to the policy adopted by that country; and surely there is some force and truth in this complaint. There is no doubt that, as we are growing in wealth and numbers, these men feel it as an oppression that they should continue to be taxed as heavily in order to provide means for our defence, and especially as, in times past, we have done so little ourselves in that direction. As from year to year, or decade to decade, we grow in numbers and wealth, we ought to consider, if we value the connection, in what manner we can relieve the Mother Country of the expenses entailed upon her for our defence.
I also hold that, in so far as our financial position admits of it, we should seek to adapt and assimilate our financial policy to that of Great Britain. If we would continue an integral part of that country, we ought not to have high tariffs intervening as so many barriers to that commercial intercourse which should exist between the two countries, for these must be provocative of soreness and dissatisfaction. I am, however, well aware that there are circumstances which, at the present time, do not admit of such a commercial policy with the Mother Country. I merely say we ought constantly to keep the matter in view, and that those who desire to maintain the connection should consider it their duty to decrease the tariff as much as it can be done with justice to our own position, and thus remove the great cause of complaint on the part of the people at home. (Hear, hear.)
I have alluded, sir, to the Edinburgh Review and to the extreme offensiveness of some of its passages referring to the colonies. But at the same time, there are sentiments enunciated in the very same article, which seem to me to contradict the drift of the article itself. As we have heard so much of this article, and as it has been made the ground on which to base the supposition that there is a growing desire in England to bring to an end her connection with the colonies, I beg to call the attention of hon. gentlemen to this suggestive paragraph, as I find it in the same article:—
The people of England have no desire to snap asunder abruptly the slender links which still unite them with their transatlantic fellow-subjects, or to shorten by a single hour the duration of their common citizenship. On the contrary, by strengthening the ties which still remain, they would convert into a dignified alliance an undignified, because unreal, subserviency.
This is a remarkable passage to find in such an article, because, as I said before, the whole dritt of the article seems to imply a desire on the part of the writer to see the connection severed; and yet, while expressing this sentiment, he says there is no desire to shorten by a single hour the duration of our common citizenship! Why, this article which has been made so much of, which has been dwelt upon so forcibly, and which has been sent forth to the country as indicative of the future policy of England—I say this very article has strong language […]
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[…] manifesting a desire for the maintenance of the connection.
Hon. J.S. Macdonald—What does the concluding part of the article say?
Col. Haultain—That a stronger alliance is desired.
Hon. J.S. Macdonald—I mean the concluding part of the article altogether.
Col. Haultain—I do not mean to say that there is nothing in the latter part which contradicts the former. But the article points to a position the writer would desire to see us occupy.
Hon. J.S. Macdonald—A position of independence.
Col. Haultain—Of alliance, not independence.
Hon. J.S. Macdonald—No; the latter part of the article expresses the satisfaction felt by the writer at the prospect of our becoming independent.
Col. Haultain—I have not the Review by me, and it may be as my honorable friend says. But the general drift of the article is as I have stated it to be. I do not mean to say that there are not apparently contradictory sentiments therein expressed—sentiments which are absolutely and altogether contradictory. To resume my argument, it seems to me that if we evinced a desire to remove the existing causes of complaint, even the Manchester School, even such men as Goldwin Smith, would not be unwilling to see the connection between these provinces and the Mother Country continue.
My honorable friend the member for Brome [Mr. Dunkin], not only alluded to this article in the Edinburgh Review, but he thought there were speeches uttered by certain noblemen and gentlemen in their places in the British Parliament, from which, looking at them through his discolored lens, ho could extract sentiments of a similar character. The hon gentleman would admit nothing whatever in favor of this scheme, and seemed determined that England, whether she liked it or not, should cut the connection. He said the Mother Country eulogised the scheme, but—that Lord Granville approved, but—that Lord Derby spoke in favor of the connection, but—All the virtue to his mind was in the “buts.” Nothing would satisfy him, and nothing would satisfy England whatever was done, and the sooner she got rid of us as a tad bargain, the better she would be pleased. (Laughter.)
But what was really the tone of the speeches from which the hon. gentleman quoted? Lord Houghton in seconding the motion for the Address in the House of Lords, on the 7th of February, said, “He hoped and believed that these colonies would still recognize the value of the British connection, and that their amalgamation would render them more safe, without in any way weakening their fealty. (Cheers)” What language, I ask, could more clearly express the feelings of the person speaking than this, and, as the seconder of the Address, the desire also of the party connected with him, that “our fealty to the British Crown should in no manner be weakened.” And yet my honorable friend from Brome [Mr. Dunkin] thought, with that discolored view he took of it, that he detected some uncertainty—some “but” (Laughter ) Lord Derby was even more strong and emphatic in his language:—
If I saw in this Confederation a desire to separate from this country, I should consider that a matter of so much more doubtful policy; but I see it with satisfaction—perhaps, however, it is too soon to discuss resolutions which have not yet been finally adopted—but I hope I see, in the terms of this proposed Confederation, an earnest desire to retain the blessings of the connection with this country—an earnest feeling of loyalty, and a determined and deliberate preference for a monarchical form of government over republican institutions, and a desire to maintain, as long as it can be maintained peaceably—and no human being can wish to see it maintained longer—the amicable connection which at present exists between this country and the colonies. (Cheers.)
I notice that on both occasions when Lord Derby and Lord Houghton expressed these sentiments of attachment to the colonies, cheers were given in the House of Lords; and yet the hon. member for Brome [Mr. Dunkin], laboring under some extraordinary mental hallucination—(laughter)—thought he could detect evidences of a desire to abandon us to our fate—a willingness on the part of the two great parties represented in the House of Lords by Earl Granville and Earl Derby, that this connection should cease! When we consider the position Lord Derby occupies; when we consider that he spoke from his seat in Parliament—and we all know the significance attached to the utterances of even the men of least note, when they speak from their places in the Legislature, how their words will be noted down and become a matter of record to be referred to five or ten years hence perhaps, as I dare say has more than once been found to be the case with regard to honorable gentlemen […]
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[…] occupying seats on the floor of this House—when Lord Derby, I say, the leader of the greatest political party in Great Britain—and I do not hesitate to assert that it stands today the most numerous party—gives utterance in the strongest terms to his desire to see perpetuated the connection with the Mother Country, I hope we see in that an evidence, that so long as we discharge the duties properly devolving upon us, England will never fail us in our hour of need. (Cheers.) Lord Granville said:—
It was gratifying to see the good feeling which existed between this country and the North American colonies, which, while they strove to carry out their own wishes, desired to continue the connection with England.
Why, sir, if my hon. friend from Brome (Mr. Dunkin) was right, Earl Granville, so far from saying that he desired to see this connection perpetuated, should have expressed his regret that we were desiring to maintain this connection. Notwithstanding the strength of the language I have quoted, my hon. friend from Brome [Mr. Dunkin] was determined to see in it some desire in the minds of these noble lords that the connection should cease—some desire on the part of the people of England that they should no longer hold, as appendages of the British Crown, these valuable Provinces of British America. He said even, with reference to the language of Lord Derby, that his lordship “hoped” and “trusted” that so and so would be the case—and that the very fact of Lord Derby’s expressing a hope that we were not going to sever the connection, was in his mind tantamount to saying that a separation was inevitable. (Laughter.)
What would happen, sir, if my hon. friend were to carry out these extraordinary views in the common intercourse of life? It struck me, while he was speaking, that in his state of mind, there might be danger in the interchange of the casual civilities of social intercourse. He is unfortunately laboring under a severe cold. Suppose I were to meet him tomorrow morning, and in the exercise of that friendly regard that I cordially feel for my hon. friend, I were to express a hope that his malady was decreasing. If he were to interpret my “hope” in the same strange manner in which he has taken the “hope” of Lord Derby and others, he would very likely tell me that he was not so near his dissolution as I imagined, and that he had no intention yet of ordering his grave to be dug. For it must be evident, that acting under the mental delusion that has characterized his remarks on this subject, he would interpret my “hope” that he was better, to a persuasion on my part that ho had but a precarious tenure of his life. (Hear, hear, and laughter.)
And to illustrate farther how incapable his mind had become of dealing impartially and correctly with the important subject before us, I would call the attention of the House to the fact that when Lord Derby expressed “a hope,” he was not speaking at all of the feeling in England, but he was speaking of the feeling in this country. He said he hoped we should continue the connection. But when he spoke of the feeling in the old country, he did not even use the word “hope,” but spoke positively and with assurance, saying: “I am sure” that the aid of Great Britain will never fail them when they require it. (Hear, hear.)
We have had his remarks quoted to us before, but I make no apology at all for extending the discussion upon it, for I feel strongly how important it is that this country should understand what the feeling in England is with regard to us. We have also had quoted to us the words used in Her Majesty’s Speech, at the time that Columbia was formed into a British province. I will read it again:—
Her Majesty hopes that this new colony on the Pacific may be but one step in the career of steady progress by which Her Majesty’s dominions in North America may ultimately be peopled in an unbroken chain from the Atlantic to the Pacific, by a loyal and industrious population of subjects of the British Crown.
(Hear, hear.) These utterances from high official quarters, which are generally very reticent, are remarkable for their force, and for the unmistakable language in which they are couched But, if there was any doubt as to the feeling which existed among the leading men of the political parties of the Empire, ought not that doubt to be removed by the visit of His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales to this country? Was that a mere sham, a make-believe, on the part of England and the English Government, that Her Majesty desired to retain, and Her Government and the people of England desired to retain, the allegiance and the homage of Her people in the west? I do not believe it for a single instant. I have had recalled to my mind the language used by the Prince of Wales, which I remember struck me very forcibly […]
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[…] at the time. It occurred in his address to the Canadian regiment in the year 1858, or the beginning of 1859. After its arrival in England, colors were presented to that regiment by H.R. Highness. It was his first public act, after he had been appointed to a commission in the British army. I will read the words which fell from the lips of His Royal Highness on that occasion, and which made a most gratifying impression on my mind, having spent, as a British officer, previous to that time, many years of my life in these provinces. His Royal Highness, in presenting the colors to the regiment, used these words:—
The ceremonial on which we are now engaged possesses a peculiar significance and solemnity, because in confiding to you for the first time this emblem of military fidelity and valor, I not only recognize emphatically your enrollment into our national force, but celebrate an act which proclaims and strengthens the unity of the various parts of this vast empire under the sway of our common Sovereign.
While on this subject, I may refer to one or two of the answers which His Royal Highness made to the various addresses presented to him in passing through this country. One of the most gratifying to my own mind, and to the mind of every man who desires to see our connection with the Mother Country perpetuated, is his answer to the Address from the Legislative Council, in which he said:—”Most heartily do I respond to your desire that the ties which bind together the Sovereign and the Canadian people may be strong and enduring.” (Hear, hear.)
But it is not necessary for me to quote further from the answers made by His Royal Highness. The whole aspect of his visit to this country—the utterances of the leaders of the two great parties in the British Empire—the well-known wishes of our Sovereign and of the Heir-Apparent to the Throne—all these intimate (so far as acts and language can intimate anything) that there is still an unanimous desire on the part of the British people for the continuance of the connection of these provinces with the British Empire. And I believe it rests with us—altogether rests with us—whether that connection shall be perpetuated. (Hear, hear)
I have no doubt that this prevailing desire for the perpetuation of the connection is one main ground of the satisfaction with which the people of England view our movement towards union. They are well aware—not looking at it from the view of our sectional jealousies and party conflicts, but looking at it from a broader point of view—that our union must tend to the consolidation of our power and our strength, and to the development of our resources. I see no absolute necessity why, as we grow in strength, we should think, for many long years to come, of severing the connection; but as we increase in wealth and in numbers, we ought gradually, in the time of peace, to relieve the Mother Country of the expense to which we now put her for our defence. (Hear, hear.)
Another reason why we should earnestly desire a union of the British provinces, in order to develop our nationality, in order that we should become better acquainted, in order that new channels of commerce should be opened up, is because of the hostility of the United States, evidently manifested to this country during the past few months. What has been the policy of the United States towards Canada during that time? We have seen adopted the passport system—a remnant of despotism which even the despotic governments of the old world have abolished. We have seen that democratic people embarrassing and restricting the intercourse between us; they have given notice of the termination of the convention limiting the lake naval force; they have, I believe, given notice of the abrogation of the Reciprocity treaty; we have seen the committee of ways and means reporting a bill for putting the frontier defences in order, and recommending the expenditure of upwards of a million of dollars on those defences. They have given notice, or propose to give notice, of the abrogation of the Extradition treaty. They have proposed the construction of a ship canal around the Niagara Falls for gunboats and vessels of war. This is the policy of the United States towards Canada. (Hear, hear.)
And it makes us consider what steps they will take next. It must make every man consider the position of this country, should she be cut off from a communication with the ocean through the United States by the bonding system being suddenly terminated. It makes us feel the humiliating position we occupy, that our very national existence at the present time is in a great measure dependent—most humiliatingly dependent—upon a foreign and an unfriendly power. (Hear, hear.)
The people of the United States have recently manifested no good-will towards us, and the steps that have been taken to exhibit their ill-will are perhaps only a foretaste of what we may expect before long. But whether they take extreme measures or not at the present time, does our […]
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[…] present position offer any guarantee for independence, or for the continuance of our connection with England? Rather, do not the condition of this continent and the earnest advice of British statesmen call aloud upon us to be prepared, unless we intend to form part and parcel of the great republic? I can readily understand how men with annexation tendencies, and who are inclined towards republican institutions, would rejoice at our present position. I can understand how men who wish to see the whole continent converted into one great republic, are pleased at difficulties being created between the Empire and the provinces.
But those who entertain different views see plainly that some steps must be taken, that we must go to work earnestly to build up a nationality independent of the United States, though not in hostility to it, to counteract the tendency so evident on every hand to drive us into their arms. We know very well what must be the result of the stops which they are now taking—unless we ourselves take measures in another direction—unless we find another outlet to the ocean—unless we find some other channels for our trade and commerce, they know that we must inevitably fall into their arms.
That is another reason why I wish to see no delay in the union and in the amalgamation of the British provinces, in order that we may at once consolidate ourselves into one people, and at once endeavor to abolish those barriers which now exist between us, and develop the feeling that we have common interests, and that we are dependent the one upon the other, which can never be the case so long as division walls exist. It seems really astonishing to my mind that any man who really desires to see built up on this continent a nationality independent of the United States, should offer any opposition to the proposal now before us. (Hear, hear.)
So much has been said with regard to our financial and commercial position and prospects, that I think it is quite unnecessary for me to say anything further on the subject. I am quite sure that I could not place the matter before you as well as it has been submitted by those who have preceded me. But it is natural that each speaker should dwell upon that which most impresses his own mind. I am persuaded that in every point of view—in view of our dependence upon, and precarious relations with the United States, in view of a desired union with the British provinces; in view of our connection with the Empire—we should be culpably lacking in our duty, did we any longer delay to seek and to create new channels for our trade and commerce. It is well known that at the present time our productions are actually passing through the hands of the New York merchants before they reach the Maritime Provinces. These merchants are deriving all the benefits of that trade, which, with all our disadvantages, does exist to a considerable extent, and is evidently capable of an enormous extension.
It is only necessary to refer to the position and characteristics of the different provinces, to see at once how exactly they supply the wants and deficiencies of each other. Suffice it to say that we are agricultural and manufacturing, whilst they are, and must remain, principally a maritime population, requiring for consumption that with which we can supply them. I know it is said that these channels of commercial intercourse may be opened up without union. But we need to feel ourselves to be one people, with identical interests, dependent upon each other; and what can do this as well as a political union, bringing us together into one legislature and under one government? Perhaps it is not too much to say that our commercial interests would be furthered more in ten years under a political union, than it would be in thirty years without it. (Hear, hear.)
In connection with this subject, I am naturally reminded of the Intercolonial Railway. Now, sir, it appears to me, although the Intercolonial Railway has been dragged into this question—although the expense of that undertaking has been dwelt upon by the opponents of this scheme as if it were part of the scheme and of this scheme alone—I believe that whatever the event, whether there be a Confederation of the provinces or not, the Intercolonial Railway is an indispensable necessity. The expense of that railway is, therefore, a question altogether apart from this scheme, and cannot be allowed to enter into the arguments pro or con. I do not look upon the Intercolonial Railway, at the present time, in the light of a profitable commercial undertaking, neither, to any great extent, as a valuable military undertaking. (Opposition cries of “Hear, hear.”)
There is not the least doubt that when we are not actually engaged in hostilities, it would be of the greatest advantage in furnishing us with an outlet at all seasons of the year. Before actual hostilities, as in the Trent affair, we need it to secure our independence of the United States in bringing rapidly troops and munitions of war into the provinces. When actually at war, we are aware that railways are easily destroyed, and […]
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[…] rendered of little use, unless we have the means of protecting them. But as a great social and political engine, it seems to me absolutely necessary, if ever we are to have a union; and if a union does not come to-day, but is looked forward to ten years hence, I still hold that we ought at the present time, and without unnecessary delay, to commence its construction. Union, sir, is desirable, because undoubtedly it will add to our means of defence. It is true we shall not have any territory added to us which will increase our strength; neither shall we add to the number of battalions in the provinces generally. But it does not, I apprehend, require a military man, or a man with military experience or military education, to be aware that there is no combination which so much needs one head and one guiding mind as the management of military organizations, and the guidance of military operations.
What, I ask, would be our position in the event of war, should there be no union? We have at present five distinct provinces, with as many independent governments. The people are but little known the one to the other, and consequently have but the slightest possible interest in each other. In the event of war, circumstances might frequently occur where concerted action on the part of two or more of the provinces might be required. Immediate cooperation might be essential to the success of the proposed project. Should we not have the most serious difficulties thrown in the way of the undertaking, simply from the fact that so many independent governments must be consulted, each jealous of its own rights, and concerned only about its own safety. (Hear, hear.)
Such a state of things demands a change, were there no other argument in favor of it. If we are to remain independent of the United States, we must unite, in the most effective manner possible, our available means of defence. We must become acquainted with one another, and do all we can to call into existence a feeling of oneness, and of interest not only in one section or province, but in British America generally. Canadians should cease to think that they are interested alone in the defence of Canada, and Nova Scotians must learn to look beyond the limits of Nova Scotia. If we are to offer anything like a united resistance, we must have a common interest in the whole country. And how can we so surely effect this, how effect it at all, without union?
But let us carry out the scheme that is proposed for our adoption, and in course of time we shall all learn to feel interested in the integrity of every part of the Confederation. If we are united we shall find the people of the Maritime Provinces admirably suited for the work required to be done on the lakes—the key to the defence of Upper Canada. If, therefore, we can be united as one people, if we are brought under one head and one mind, we shall have Nova Scotians assisting in our defence, and very likely we shall assist in the defence of Nova Scotia. (Hear, hear.)
I cannot too strongly impress on the minds of those who hear me the strong convictions of my own mind with reference to the importance of immediate and thorough union. Our own interests demand it, the interests of the Empire require it, that we may be able to hold our own against the strong and energetic power to the south of us. For these important objects we must learn to throw aside all our sectional disputes, and to place ourselves in the hands of men who would have to guide us when the time of difficulty may arrive. No one more earnestly desires the continuance of the blessings of peace; but should the reverse come, we must all learn to obey orders with zeal and promptitude, to stand in readiness for service in any part of British America where our presence may be required. This can never be done so long as Nova Scotia is building up a nationality for herself, and New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Prince Edward Island are each remaining in a state of isolation, and Upper and Lower Canada are far removed in sentiment and feeling from either. So long as this is the case, we are diffusing our strength and are weakening ourselves.
From no point of view can union be more strongly urged as a necessity than in the case of our defence. The defence of Canada, although we have such an extended frontier, is not so difficult as might at first sight appear. There are a few prominent points which must be defended, and which we must make up our minds to hold. It is true we have an extensive frontier, but the frontier of the United States is not the less so. It is true also that we have many towns on the frontier, but they are not to be compared to the wealth and importance of those of the United States, and therefore we are not placed at so great a disadvantage in that respect. There are certain points which are the key or the gates to Canada, and which, if properly defended, we may reasonably hope to hold the country, without fear of any number that may be brought against us, and it is of the first importance that the people of Canada should […]
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[…] awake to the necessity of having these posts defended. If we are to remain independent, if we really desire a nationality apart from that of the United States, it is necessary that we should think of these things, and look them fully in the face, to consider it well, and to see the absolute necessity of coming to some arrangement with the Imperial Government as to the proportion we are mutually to bear. If we are really in earnest in our professed desire to maintain our independence, I believe we shall be willing to tax ourselves and submit to the necessary sacrifices.
The very fact that there is an uncertainty existing in the minds of many whether Canada will consent to be taxed for her defence, is one of the strongest grounds, to my mind, why we should lose no time in completing the union of the British American Provinces. I feel that so long as Canada is separated from the rest of British America, so long will she be without any feeling of nationality. She cannot exist here alone. We need to feel that there is a nationality on this continent to which we are attached; and I know of nothing more likely to extend our ideas and views, so as to embrace the whole of British America, than the present project.
We are likely to view a country such as the Confederation would include, as something worth struggling for and defending. All other countries of the world are satisfied to tax themselves for their defence, and we find countries not so numerous in population, and with revenues and commerce inferior to ourselves, maintaining comparatively large standing armies. And yet when we talk of our defences—when we speak of the taxation which will be necessary in order to erect and defend these works and to instruct the militia, we hear doubts expressed, uncertainties floating about, whether Canada will really consent to bear her share of it. It shows to me that there is among some a want of a deep-seated feeling of nationality, and that that necessary sentiment has yet to be called out and developed. Where this does exist the people do not hesitate to make any sacrifice necessary for the maintenance of their independence. Other countries have manifested their attachment to their nationality and their flag by the sacrifice of almost everything they possessed.
Sometimes, however, it is urged that when the time arrives Canada will show to the world that she is willing to spend her last drop of blood in defence of the soil. This is a very proper sentiment, and sounds exceedingly well, but I cannot help thinking that if those who give expression to it wish to shew that it can stand the test of trial, they would now urge the expenditure necessary to give effect to it. They would then be doing some real practical good, and not be so liable to be regarded as mere sentimentalists. The question is an eminently practical one, and the sentiment that has no practical issue may be regarded as spurious and useless. We may be sure of this, that if we are not willing to spend the money that is necessary for our defence, when the time comes there will be a great unwillingness to spend the blood. (Hear, hear.)
We ought to consider that it is not sufficient that we should be willing to spend our lives, for these alone cannot defend us. If we make no preparation, what will the destruction of life avail us? It is unreasonable and foolish to say that we will leave everything undone—the training of our men, and the strengthening of our positions—until the very time when our only chance must depend upon our having trained men and fortified positions ready to our hand. It would be as reasonable for a man to say, “I will learn to swim when I am drowning.”
Every reasonable man exposed to drowning would certainly take every means to learn to swim beforehand, so that when exposed to the danger he would be able to extricate himself. It seems to me quite as reasonable for us to say that when the time comes we will spend our lives in defence of the country, and neglect all precautionary measures beforehand. I have no sympathy with such a sentiment, and very little confidence in it. I should like rather to see a little practical sense manifested in a question of such vital importance. I have read with attention the report of Col. Jervois, who was sent out by the Imperial Government, and, I presume, most other hon. members of this House have also seen it. That officer points out certain places which must be defended, and he closes his report with this remark: “That unless these works are constructed, it is worse than useless to continue any British force in Canada.”
Mr. Perrault—Hear! hear!
Col. Haultain—The hon. gentleman says “Hear! hear!” Of course, sir, I cannot pronounce absolutely what may bo passing in his mind, but I have noticed this—the hon. gentleman will know whether it justly applies to himself or not—that when the expenses of our defence were mentioned by my hon. friend the member from North […]
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[…] Ontario (Mr. M.C. Cameron), in a manner deprecating the expenditure, there was a very significant “Hear! hear!” intimating a hearty concurrence in such sentiments. But, sir, when my hon. friend in his usual forcible manner, expressed his willingness, when the time arrived, to spend the last drop of his blood in the defence of this land, we heard no more of the responding and concurring “Hear! hear!” I alluded to. (Laughter.)
My hon. friend, if I understood him rightly, deprecated the idea that any expense should be entailed upon us for defensive works. But, sir, he spoke like a true Briton, and I am quite sure that he was in earnest, and did not utter a mere barren sentiment, when he said that he would spend his last drop of blood in the defence of his country. And I am sure he would do so. But I would put it to my hon. friend if it is more reasonable that he should spend this blood, or spend a few pounds? Who can tell the thousands, ay, the hundreds of thousands of human lives that may be spared by the judicious and timely expenditure now of a few hundreds of thousands of pounds?
I wish to impress upon my hon. friend what is the clear conviction of my own mind, that in every point of view it is economy—economy of treasure, and economy of useful lives, to spend some money now to place our country in a state of defence. I think a great change has taken place within the last few years in reference to this subject. The ventilation of the subject has drawn men’s minds towards it, and we are beginning to feel that here we are a people considerable in numbers and considerable in wealth, and it is incumbent upon us to do more than we have been doing in times past.
I would call attention to a very important work which can scarcely be overestimated. I allude to the Ottawa canal. I regret that the state of our finances will not permit us to think of its construction at the present time, but I refer to it that we may think of it; that the representatives of the people may think of it; that the statesmen of the country may think of it. In order to secure the future defence of the country, and especially the western section of it, and to maintain its independence, the Ottawa canal must be built. The Ottawa canal would be worth 50,000 men to us. With that canal, and the aid of the Mother Country, which we are assured will never be wanting when we require it, we will be able to maintain and hold our own on the lakes, and thus make our own territory secure, and threaten our opponents at many important points.
At the present time we are in a sad condition as regards our canal communication, looked at from a defensible point of view. Our St. Lawrence canals are almost entirely useless. I am glad to see that the American Government have given notice of their intention to terminate the convention for not keeping armed vessels on the lakes. I am glad to see that this is to be put an end to, for it was decidedly prejudicial to our interests, and I have no doubt we shall have gunboats on our lakes before the end of the present year. Had it continued otherwise, we might have been very much at the mercy of the United States. There is no question that, should they determine upon going to war with us before the opening of navigation, we might not be able to get a British gun-boat on our waters by the St. Lawrence canals, as they are so easily accessible to our opponents, and, without much difficulty, could be rendered useless for navigation. As regards the Rideau canal, how are we to get gun-boats through it? There is a certain class of gun-boats that might pass through it.
Mr. H. Mackenzie was understood to express doubt on this point.
Col. Haultain—Yes; the locks of the Rideau canal are, I believe, 130 feet long, and would admit a certain class of gunboats. But, as my hon. friend seems to remark, the Rideau canal would, nevertheless, be useless, because the only way by which we can reach it is through the Grenville canal, and the locks of the Grenville canal are only 70 feet long. Therefore, we should be entirely at the mercy of the United States, became, unless we held Lake Ontario, the Upper Province would be inevitably gene.
Well, sir, it appears to me that all our interests—commercial, political and defensive—and the peculiar circumstances in which we are placed, urgently call for the union of the British Provinces. The reasons are of that force and the interests of that magnitude, that it is surprising to me that any hon. gentleman, who really desires that these provinces should be independent of the United States, should hesitate for a single moment about adopting the scheme, not that it is perfect, but because it is the only one within our reach. (Hear, hear.) […]
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[…] I have now to make a few remarks on the character of Her Majesty’s loyal Opposition. The composition of that Opposition strikes me as somewhat remarkable. It is certainly heterogeneous. The great difference between the Opposition and the Government seems to me to be this, that while the Government are anxious to build up, to consolidate, to strengthen, the only object of the Opposition, the only object which keeps them together, appears to be to pull down, to weaken, to divide. (Hear, hear.)
Many of the remarks which which have fallen from the various members of the Opposition, they might have made with equal force against each other as against the Government. To use a military phrase, they seem to have been firing at one another, but as it is only a war of words and arguments, they may still fire away, although logically hors de combat. One says it is necessary we should have a change. Another says he desires no change, but wishes us to remain as we are. A third is against Confederation, because he thinks the Federal principle is one which in all time past has been proved to be weak and powerless Another member of the Opposition bases his hopes of the world’s future on the principles of Federalism. Another says he will have nothing but a legislative union; while, I believe, there are not a few of those with whom he acts who would threaten fire and sword if a legislative union were attempted to be carried. We have surely here an extraordinary display of anything but unanimity. As I said before, they present the spectacle of a most heterogeneous company, with power only to destroy.
Mr. T.C. Wallbridge—What sort of a spectacle do the Government present in that respect?
Col. Haultain—The members of the Government have a common object—they have come together, not to assail on a another with their opposite principles and views and opinions, but they have come together to combine, they have come together, like reasonable men, for the accomplishment of a great common object—and they have considered how best they can meet one another’s views by mutual concession, which is the law that binds society together, without which society would be at an end. They have united in this way and in this spirit to strengthen the position of these provinces, and the position of the Empire to which they belong.
But I do not hear one word of this, with regard to the hon. members forming the Opposition. I do not hear that they have met together, and are prepared to propose to the country some scheme that will be better than the one that is now offered for our adoption. I do not hear a word of anything of the kind, and this I do most seriously complain of. I maintain that the importance of this matter is such, that it is their duty not to avail themselves of what is ordinarily called the latitude of parliamentary opposition.—The circumstances of this country are too grave for us to trifle with such a question. If we present to the House and to the country something to meet the difficulties of our position, then I say that honorable gentlemen who oppose that scheme are wanting in their duty to their country, and are wanting in the appreciation they ought to have of those difficulties, if they do not on their part present something to us, and ask us to accept from them what they suppose better than is offered to them by us. I cannot but express my regret at the course they have pursued. (Hear.)
I will now allude, sir, to an opposition to this scheme, which has been very decidedly expressed by a certain section of the Protestant minority of Lower Canada. I am aware, from personal intercourse with many gentlemen belonging to that section of the community, that they do feel a very strong aversion to this scheme, because, as they say, it will place them at the mercy of the French-Canadians. On this point I desire to assure my honorable friends from Lower Canada, that whilst I consider that our present circumstances require us all to speak openly and honestly one to the other, it is and will be my earnest desire to speak with all kindliness of feeling towards them.
I feel compelled to say that there is no part of this scheme that I feel more doubt about, than the effect it will have upon the education and political interests of the Protestants of Lower Canada. It has been said that there is and always has been a spirit of toleration and generosity on the part of the French-Canadians towards their Protestant fellow-countrymen. I have heard it said that they have on every occasion furthered to the utmost of their ability, and in the fairest and most just manner, the educational interests of the Protestant minority. But on the other hand, gentlemen who have paid a great deal of attention to the subject, have […]
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[…] also said that, in time past, although there has not been an open hostility to the education of the Protestant minority, there has been a very decided under-hand obstructiveness. This is stated by gentlemen who have taken a particular interest in the matter, and who, I am confident, would not make such a statement if they did not think it to be the case.
And I must say, for my own part, that I do think the Protestant minority have some grounds for this fear. And this is my reason: the religious faith of the majority in Lower Canada is, as we know, Roman Catholic, and they receive from the head of the Romish Church their inspiration; they are guided by the principles that are laid down, and that are from time to time publicly promulgated by the head of that Church. Now, I do not think that my Roman Catholic fellow countrymen can be surprised—and I would ask their attention to what I am saying, I desire to speak honestly, but, of course, courteously—I do not think they can be surprised at these suspicions and fears of their Protestant brethren. And why? Because they must themselves be aware what are the principles of the Roman Catholic hierarchy.
Hon. Mr. Alleyn—What are they?
Col. Haultain—They are not tolerant. (Murmurs of disapprobation from various parts of the House.)
Hon. Mr. Alleyn—Are Presbyterians more tolerant? The hon. gentleman has stated that the principles of the Roman Catholic hierarchy are not tolerant. Will he explain whether he means that they are not tolerant with regard to civil liberty, or with regard to religious liberty. We wish to understand precisely what the honorable gentleman means.
Col. Haultain—And that is precisely my object. I believe that civil and religious liberty are so bound up that you cannot separate them.
Hon. Mr. Alleyn—You believe they are intolerant on both points?
Mr. Robitaille—It is not well to discuss such matters here.
Col. Haultain—I think I have only to refer to the letter recently issued from Rome, to find a complete and absolute answer to the question which the hon. member for Quebec [Hon. Mr. Alleyn] has put to me. I see in that letter, which is invested with all the gravity and authority that necessarily surround a message from the head of the Roman Catholic Church,—I see, amongst other things, that it is there stated as an error to be condemned, “that emigrants to Catholic countries should have freedom of worship.” (Hear, hear.)
I do not think there can be any one more anxious than myself to avoid anything like religious discussion in this House, or to avoid rousing anything like religious animosity. But when we are discussing a scheme of the greatest importance, involving the interests of various sections of the community, I do think it behoves every man to speak honestly. (Hear, hear.) I have said that the Protestant minority in Lower Canada fear lest they should not have full justice done to them. They know the great power of the Romish hierarchy in Lower Canada. They know how much everything is shaped according to the wishes of that body. They know that that hierarchy receives its inspiration from Rome, and within the last few weeks we find what is the character of that inspiration. (Renewed murmurs of disapprobation.)
Now I ask my Roman Catholic friends to consider this candidly. When there comes from the Pope, the head of the Roman Catholic Church, a letter clothed with all the authority that we know the French Canadians attribute to that source, and when we have it declared here that it is an error to say that in some countries called Catholic, emigrants should enjoy the free exercise of their own worship—(Hear! hear!)—I hear some of my honorable friends say “Hear, hear,” in rather a jeering tone. But I ask you to think honestly about it. Suppose it were possible for the Protestants of Canada to speak in a manner similar to that in which the head of the Romish Church has spoken, and that we were to declare it to be a principle that should guide us, that we ought not give to those who differed from us the freedom of religious worship, would not the Roman Catholics in Upper Canada have good reason to be alarmed?
Now, I ask you to do me the justice, my hon. friends, to think of it in a just light, and not in the light of an attack upon your religion. I ask you to think of it fairly, especially at such a time as this, when the Protestants of Lower Canada are called to put themselves into the power of the Roman Catholic hierarchy; for I believe it is simply tantamount to that. I ask you to think what must be their feelings when they read, as emanating from the head and ruler of the Romish hierarchy, such a […]
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[…] sentiment as that contained in the passage I have quoted.
Hon. Atty. Gen. Cartier—Will the hon. gentleman allow me to say a word? The Protestant minority of Lower Canada have always lived in harmony, not only with the Catholics, but with the Catholic clergy of Lower Canada. And I may say also, on behalf of the Protestants of Lower Canada—the majority of them at all events—that they are so convinced that there is true liberality in the hierarchy, in the Catholic clergy of Lower Canada, as well as in the great majority of the Roman Catholics of Lower Canada, that they have no such fears as the hon. gentleman entertains. (Hear, hear.)
Col. Haultain—Of course, it must be perfectly obvious, that in a matter of this kind, what emanates from my hon. friend the Hon. Attorney General East [Hon. Mr. Cartier] will have very little weight, in comparison with what emanates from the head of the Roman Catholic Church. Now, I do not accuse my French-Canadian fellow-subjects of anything like intolerance. But what I say is this, that there is ground for suspicion on the part of the Protestants of Lower Canada, knowing what is the position in which they will be placed, with regard to the Roman Catholic hierarchy, when they find emanating from the head, the very inspiration and fount of that hierarchy, the intolerant sentiments I have alluded to.
Why do I mention this? Is it with the view of raising any difficulty about the scheme now before us? Quite the reverse. I speak in time—I speak to assure my coreligionists in Lower Canada—to elicit the declaration of tolerant and generous sentiments on the part of Roman Catholic members; I speak in earnest warning now, that there may be no necessity for it hereafter. I need scarcely declare what are my own sentiments—those of every British Protestant; we grant cheerfully to our Roman Catholic fellow-countrymen that which we also demand, the freest liberty of conscience, the freest exercise of every political right. (Hear, hear.)
Hon. J.S. Macdonald—The Hon. Attorney General East [Hon. Mr. Cartier] rose and spoke for the Protestants of Lower Canada. My hon. friend from Peterborough (Col. Haultain) also speaks for them. How shall we decide between the two?
Hon. Mr. McGee—The hon. gentleman from Cornwall [Hon. J.S. Macdonald] is like the blank leaf between the Old and New Testaments, belonging neither to the one nor to the other. (Laughter.)
Hon. J.S. Macdonald—I really think this is a very important matter. The hon. member for Peterborough [Col. Haultain] speaks for the Protestants of Lower Canada, and the Hon. Attorney General East [Hon. Mr. Cartier] also says he speaks the feelings of the same class. What shall we say between them?
Hon. Atty. Gen. Cartier—I can say this. I have seen, as the hon. Mr. Tiber is aware, a considerable amount of political lifer and during all that time I have always stood by the cause, when it was attacked, of the Catholic hierarchy of Lower Canada; but at the same time I have always stood up on behalf of the rights of the Protestant minority, and it has been my lot always to have the confidence of that body.
Hon. J.S. Macdonald—Not as a body.
Hon. Mr. Alleyn—I propose that this part of the discussion be postponed till Sunday. (Laughter.)
Hon. J.S. Macdonald—And sing the doxology before we begin.
Col. Haultain—I think, sir, this is a matter too serious to be made the occasion of unmeaning jokes. I speak what I know when I say there is a feeling of distrust on the part of a great many of the Protestants of Lower Canada. And I speak what I know, when I say that what I have quoted as emanating from the head of the Roman Catholic Church, has tended to increase that distrust. It must be evident, that if we are in the future to progress amicably and well, it is better we should speak honestly before we enter into this compact, and that we should all strive to guard against any system being carried out, or any course pursued, that would tend to create difficulties in the future. What do my hon. friends from Lower Canada say with regard to what I have quoted? One hon. gentleman rises with a jeer about deferring this discussion till Sunday. (Hear, hear.)
I should like to know what the hon. gentleman thinks of the passage I have read Does he agree with it?
Hon. Mr. Alleyn—Upon my word, I have not read the whole letter.
Col. Haultain—Does he agree with the portion I have read?
Hon. Mr. Alleyn—I am in favor of liberty of conscience to the fullest extent.
Col. Haultain—I think, in justice to themselves, hon. gentlemen of the Roman […]
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[…] Catholic faith should make themselves acquainted with what has emanated from Home. I feel there is ground for the remarks I have made, and that I would have been failing in my duty to the Protestants of Lower Canada, had I not made them—had I not stated on their behalf the grounds of their fears for the future. I hope hon. gentlemen will make themselves acquainted with what I have alluded to. I do not know whether the long list of errors was read out in the Roman Catholic churches, but I do know that the Encyclical letter which accompanied it was communicated to those who attend church. I do not know whether my hon. friend is in the habit of going to church.
Hon. Mr. Alleyn—Oh!
Hon. J.S. Macdonald—I would like to know how my hon. friend from Peterborough [Col. Haultain] will satisfy those for whom he speaks, if he votes for this Confederation scheme.
Col. Haultain—I have sufficient confidence that my honorable friend the Attorney General East [Hon. Mr. Cartier] would oppose anything like an oppression of the Protestant population of Lower Canada. I am quite satisfied he will faithfully carry out the assurances he has given from his seat in Parliament, with reference to the amendments to the Education Act of Lower Canada.
Hon. Atty. Gen. Cartier—And I may say that my fulfilment of those pledges will be easily performed, because it has never entered the minds of the Catholic clergy in Lower Canada, or of the majority of the Catholics of Lower Canada, to oppress their fellow-subjects the Protestants. (Hear, hear.)
Mr. J. Dufresne—What happened before the union should be proof of that.
Col. Haultain—Well, after all that has been said to me, I ask honorable gentlemen of the Roman Catholic persuasion to look at what the head of their Church has written and published to the world, and then to say either the one thing or the other—either that they have no confidence in what the head of their Church says, or that they have confidence in it, and will act accordingly.
Hon. Mr. McGee—I hope the honorable gentleman will be found willing to extend to the Roman Catholic minority of Upper Canada the same privileges which we are ready to extend to the Protestant minority of Lower Canada.
Hon. J.S. Macdonald—The honorable member for Peterborough [Col. Haultain] admits that the intentions of the Hon. Attorney General East [Hon. Mr. Cartier] are sincere, and says he relies on them. But, on the other hand, he reads to this House an edict which supersedes any promises which the Hon. Attorney General [Hon. Mr. Cartier] can make. That is the difficulty in which the honorable gentleman is placed.
Hon. Atty. Gen. Cartier—I recommend the honorable member for Cornwall [Hon. J.S. Macdonald] to read the Encyclical letter.
Hon. J.S. Macdonald—I have read every word of it.
Mr. Bellerose—Then you didn’t understand it.
Hon. J.S. Macdonald—All I wished to say was, that I think the honorable member for Peterborough [Col. Haultain] has put the case very fairly.
Col. Haultain—Whether I put it fairly or not, or whether honorable gentlemen approve of what I have said or not, matters net in the least to me. I have simply discharged what I conceived a duty to my fellow-religionists in Lower Canada. I bring to the knowledge of honorable gentlemen of the Roman Catholic persuasion what many of them seem to have been ignorant of. And it is all nonsense to endeavor to ignore the fact that I have brought before them. We know that in some Roman Catholic countries absolute intolerance prevails. In Spain, for instance, not a Protestant church is allowed to be erected throughout the whole length and breadth of that country.
It is of no use, therefore, for honorable gentlemen to jeer at what I say; and when an edict of intolerance is again promulgated and sent out to the world, emanating from the very head of the Romish Church, is it surprising, when the Protestants of Lower Canada are in a small minority, and know that they will be at the mercy of the hierarchy entertaining those views, that they should feel some reluctance to be left in that position. I know this very well, that the generality of Roman Catholics in this country would avow, as they have done, their opposition to the sentiment I have quoted. I call upon them practically to disavow it, and I have confidence that they will do so. Whether they like the dilemma in which they are placed, or not, is another matter. (Hear, hear.)
Composed, as our society is, of those different elements, when we have to discuss matters similar to that before us, when we have to adopt a scheme involving the interests of minorities and sections, it is right that we should do so frankly and honestly one to the other, and face to face. I have spoken with every desire to avoid being […]
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[…] offensive, uncourteous and unkind, and I have done it, I trust, in a manner befitting the occasion and my own character.
Mr. Denis—Will the honorable member allow me to put to him a question? Since the honorable member has referred to this letter from the head of the Church, does he entertain the opinion that any honorable member has a right to come here and criticise in a similar way the mode of procedure of Protestant clergymen? If so, how are we to get along at all? The honorable member may have his own opinions in regard to this letter, but he ought not to state them on the floor of the House, for if he does so any other honorable member has the right to come here and criticise the conduct of respectable clergymen of the Free Church, of the Episcopal Church, or of any other Protestant Church, and make such comments as he thinks fit.
This ought not to be. Then, the honorable member said the letter ought to be looked upon with suspicion. Well, all I can say is, that if we go into a chapter on suspicions, every man ought to be suspicious. We might bring suspicions to bear upon everything, however respectable it may be, and in this way it would be impossible with frankness to deal with anything. My hon. friend uses the word “hierarchy.” Well, a word even does damage sometimes. My honorable friend may have his opinion upon these things, and that opinion ought to be respected, because I believe it to be an honest opinion; but if he has a right to speak of “Romish” and all that sort of thing in connection with our Church, we will have a right to speak in a disrespectful manner of ministers of the Free Church, of the High Church, of the Low Church, and of all the other kinds of churches, and bad feeling will be created to no purpose.
Col. Haultain—Mr. Speaker, whenever any one who has the right or authority to speak for Protestants enunciates such a doctrine as that which has emanated from the Pope of Rome, I am quite willing it should be thrown in my teeth on the floor of this House. I will tell my honorable friend who has just addressed me, what he ought to have been aware of, that there is no analogy whatever—no similarity whatever—between the Pope of the Church of Rome and any minister of any other body of Christians. I would dismiss this subject, sir, by simply stating that I have used terms ordinarily employed, and have been anxious to do so in no offensive manner. Some of the reasons given for the opposition which has been offered to the scheme now before the House are, that it is not perfect, and that it embraces principles which would endanger the working of the projected Constitution. Now, of course, sir, the scheme in one sense is not perfect.
Hon. Mr. Holton—Hear, hear.
Col. Haultain—Any Constitution drawn up to meet the circumstances under which the five, I may say the six, provinces were situated must necessarily present apparent inconsistencies. Concessions and mutual compromise must inevitably be consented to if we are to have union at all. It does not manifest any extraordinary degree of acuteness in order to be able to discover the possible difficulties that may arise from it. Honorable gentlemen who have spoken against it have magnified the dangers of collision, and especially has the honorable member for Brome [Mr. Dunkin] done so.
I am of opinion, sir, that if the same rigid and hostile analysis were made of any form of government, or of any constitution, monarchical or republican, originated for uniting separate and distinct peoples together, it would not be difficult to foresee dangers of collision as likely to flow therefrom. Were the British Constitution itself subjected to the same kind of dissection, flaws and compromises might be detected, and possible dangers be foretold. In the Constitution proposed for our adoption, as with all others, the successful working of it must mainly depend upon the characters and principles of the men who have to work it.
The honorable member for Brome [Mr. Dunkin] certainly attempted to make the worst of these resolutions, and endeavored to point out, in almost every feature, defects which he thought might endanger the interests of the people. He dwelt particularly upon the apparent facilities for the development of what is called in this country “log-rolling.” He said we might find the Maritime Provinces working with each other, and with Lower Canada against Upper Canada, and vice versa. Well, it must be obvious, sir, that the honorable gentleman’s objections in this respect applied with as much force to a Legislative union as to a Federal union, and yet my honorable friend is himself in favor of a legislative union.
Hon. Mr. Holton—I must set my hon. friend right. My honorable friend from Brome [Mr. Dunkin]—who is now absent—said he was opposed to any other union than that at present existing between the provinces; and his whole argument went to show that he was opposed to any other tie than that now existing.
Hon. Mr. McGee—If the honorable […]
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[…] gentleman will permit me, I may say that I followed the honorable member for Brome [Mr. Dunkin] very closely, and that according to my understanding he expressed himself in favor of Federation, but without a union such as that now proposed. His argument was that we should federate with the Imperial Government, and that there should be a Council in London.
Hon. Mr. Holton—That was another point.
Hon. Mr. McGee—No, it was this point: His proposal was—and he is the only member on the other side who has ventured to put forth a counter-proposition to that now before the House—that we should have a Council similar to that for the East Indies. I intend to reply to this proposition when the proper time comes. But my honorable friend from Peterborough [Col. Haultain] is quite right in what he has stated.
Col. Haultain—I am of opinion that the honorable member for Brome [Mr. Dunkin], if he did not desire it at the present time, at any rate expressed himself in favor of union at some future time.
Hon. Mr. Holton—A legislative union, if a union at all. But he really did not want any other than that now existing.
Col. Haultain—That is precisely what I said, and I maintain that the very same arguments which I have alluded to as used against a Federal union, might likewise be urged against a Legislative union—that there would be the same amount of “log rolling ” in the latter as in the former.
Hon. Mr. Brown—And a great deal more.
Col. Haultain—Certainly as much. I think my honorable friend from North Ontario (Mr. M.C. Cameron) used the same argument, and yet I believe he is in favor of a legislative union.
Mr. M.C. Cameron—I am.
Col. Haultain—But my honorable friend must see that this argument against the Federal union might be urged with equal cogency against any union at all.
Mr. M.C. Cameron—I may, perhaps, be allowed to say that my position is just this, that a legislative union would be preferable, because the people would enter into it with the design of working for the harmony and advantage of the people; whereas, if a Federal union were entered into, the local interests of each province would predominate over the interests of the whole.
Col. Haultain—I think in this point of view that argument is rather in favor of the Federal principle, which does remove some of the causes of the difficulty, in so far as local matters are removed from the jurisdiction of the General Government, and are left to that of the local governments. But looking at it in every point of view; considering the greater expense, the danger of collision between the governments, and the comparative division of sovereignty under the Federal system, I am decidedly in favor of the closer and more simple form of government secured by a legislative union. (Hear, hear.)
But I would remark to those who oppose the former because of their professed desire to see the adoption of the latter, that in attacking the Federal scheme in the manner alluded to, they are only putting arguments into the mouths of those who are opposed to any union at all. They should also take into consideration, that it is admitted on all sides that a legislative union is unattainable, and therefore, practically, we need not now discuss their comparative merits. It appears to me but a useless waste of time to advocate a certain system of union with others, and to make such advocacy the ground for opposing a practicable union, when those with whom we are to unite, and who are free to make their own choice, pronounce against it. (Hear.)
We have to consult the wishes of six independent provinces; and if five of them oppose a legislative union, what sense or justice is there in making our preference for it an argument against the only union that all will consent to, unless indeed it is urged that no union is better than a Federal one. In again referring to the remarks of the honorable member for Brome [Mr. Dunkin], I feel bound to say that I listened with great pleasure to the microscopic analysis to which he subjected the proposed scheme. He was, however, only satisfied with picturing all the possible dangers to which we might be exposed in the working of it. He dwelt with a certain kind of satisfaction on the succession of knaves and fools to whom might be committed our future destiny under it; the possibility that its very adoption would call into existence a race of public men devoid of all moral worth and ordinary intelligence.
But, sir, I wish to take a practical, common sense view of this question, and I think the country will be inclined to do the same. Were a similar dissection made of the provisions or institutions regulating human society in any of its diversified combinations, dangers and difficulties might be magnified, and all patriotism, virtue and justice consigned to the grave of the past; this would apply […]
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[…] equally to all associations, whether of a commercial, political or national character. Apply it to our own position at this moment.
We meet here to conduct the affairs of the country; the forms and rules laid down for our guidance are the result of the wisdom and experience of centuries, and yet half a dozen unprincipled men, if so determined, might obstruct all business and prevent the working of our system of government. The only practical conclusion I can draw from such an analysis would be to abolish all government and abandon all association. My honorable friend went too far; he strengthened the position of those it was his avowed object to assail. It was obvious to my own mind that every day experience, under approximately similar circumstances, swept away the array of dangers and disasters he conjured up, and happily gave us hope that men might arise equal to the occasion that in the future might arise. Our own political difficulties may be pointed to as the opposite to this experience.
The essential difference lies in this: Palpable injustice creates our present difficulties, whereas, with all the supposed defects of the scheme before us, palpable injustice to any section cannot be charged against it; and in our dilemma have we not had the men equal to the occasion? If we have men at the head of our affairs, desirous of acting justly and uprightly, there is nothing that I have heard from the honorable member for Brome [Mr. Dunkin], the chief opponent of the measure, to create apprehension for the future. It certainly is incumbent upon the Opposition, if they are dissatisfied with this scheme, considering all the circumstances of our position, to lay before the House and country some proposition in lieu of it.
Hon. Mr. Holton—What do you say to the maintenance of the status quo?
Col. Haultain—I need hardly remind my honorable friend, who is now one of the leaders of the Opposition, of his own admissions that it is neither just nor possible to remain in statu quo. He has before said that the union, as at present constituted between Upper and Lower Canada, could not continue. And he is quite right. We cannot remain as we are. So said also my honorable friend the member for Hochelaga (Hon. A.A. Dorion), the present leader of the Opposition. He has expressly stated that some change was necessary. So far we are agreed. A new political combination has been accordingly devised, and the advocates of it say to the Opposition that if they do not like the scheme, then they are bound on their own admission, as patriotic men, to submit something else. Then only will they have a sufficient excuse for rejecting what is proposed as a solution of our difficulties. (Hear, hear.)
The only honorable gentleman who has offered anything in substitution for Federal union is the honorable member for Brome [Mr. Dunkin]. I confess, sir, that it was with surprise and something akin to disappointment, that I heard the conclusion, the summing up, of my honorable friend’s very able speech. No one can deny to him acuteness of intellect and great analytic powers of mind, and it was without doubt an intellectual repast to which he for some hours treated us. But, sir, what a waste of mental energy, how fruitless his intellectual toil! What has his country profited by his exertions? Has he proposed something worthy the elaborate dissection we had listened to? Did he address himself to the difficulties in which his country is placed, and propound a Constitution harmonious and faultless? What did he, sir, propose for drawing together these isolated fragments of the British Empire, consolidating them into one, and thereby adding to their future strength and prosperity? To meet all those urgent wants and diversified interests, he proposes to appoint “a Colonial Council in London, something like the Indian Council, to which our Ministers from the various colonies might be sent to consult with Her Majesty on affairs concerning those provinces.” (Hear, hear.)
And what is this Indian Council that my honorable friend would prefer to the broad union we propose in order to bring those provinces together, which have been too long separated? What is the position of India, and what the object and composition of the Council of India? That vast country is a conquered appanage of the British Crown. It is governed by a Governor in Council, who acts under the orders of the Secretary of State, the president of the Indian Council in London. The revenue and expenditure of the Indian Empire are subjected to the control of the Secretary in Council, and no grant of such revenue can be made without the concurrence of a majority of the Council. Such, sir, is the Council that my honorable friend proposed for our consideration, and in the adoption of which “we would be taking the best means of developing our relations in a proper connection with the Mother Country.” He further says that “in the present […]
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[…] scheme there was no step of the kind contemplated.” And who, sir, in his sober senses would venture to propose such a step? It is difficult to conceive that my honorable friend was serious when recommending it for our adoption.
A more crude and ill-digested scheme (using his own words) could scarcely have emanated from his mind. What had become of all the acuteness and microscopic power he brought to bear upon the resolutions of the Quebec Conference? “A Colonial Council in London, something like the Indian Council!” Does he mean that we ought to have a Council in London which is to direct us as to our proceedings; which is to send out governors general to this province from time to time to dictate the course of our legislation, and instruct us in regard to the expenditure of our money?—because the Indian Council, under the presidency of a Secretary of State, has control of the whole expenditure of the means of the East India Company, and the Governor General of India acts under their direct supervision and command. I mention this to shew what position the opponents of the resolutions now before us are in, what they are reduced to in order to provide something as a substitute for what is proposed for their acceptance.
Hon. Mr. Holton—Surely my honorable friend does not wish to misrepresent the honorable member for Brome [Mr. Dunkin]—to say that he purposefully meant to substitute for our present governmental machinery a council similar to the India Council. My honorable friend surely does not want to impute to the honorable member for Brome [Mr. Dunkin], in his absence, such an idea as that.
Col. Haultain.—I find it difficult to impute anything at all. (Laughter) I have given his own words and their legitimate meaning. I could not understand what was passing in my honorable friend’s mind, which certainly appears to have been in a most extraordinary state. (Renewed laughter.) From beginning to end my honorable friend seemed to be labouring under some hallucination. (Laugher.) And I cannot help thinking that my honorable friend from Chateauguay (Hon. Mr. Holton) is also labouring under the same hallucination. (Laugher.)
Hon. Mr. Holton—I confess I cannot see the point of the joke.
Col. Haultain—In making these remarks I do not seriously wish to impute to the honorable member for Brome a desire that we should put ourselves into the hands of a Secretary of State and a council at home.I do not suppose that his mind had quite deserted him. But applying something of the same kind of analysis to the remarks of that honorable member, which he applied to the scheme now before the House, it would be quite legitimate and fair to conclude that such was his meaning. I do not think my honorable friend from Brome or the Opposition have any reason to pride themselves on the scheme he has suggested for our guidance. And it is most extraordinary that a man of his acuteness of mind, and of his extended information, should so far forget himself as seriously to propose for our acceptance, in his place in Parliament, after a labored, lengthened and able analysis of these resolutions, this animalcule which he announced as the result of his protracted incubation of eight hours’ duration. (Laughter.)
I am sorry my honorable friend is not here to listen to what I have thought proper to reply. I need not say that I have made these remarks in the most friendly spirit, befitting the friendliness and respect that I cordially entertain towards him. When, Mr. Speaker, I think of the smallness of the objections and of the greatness of the subjects involved, I cannot help seeing that it is much to the interest of the British Empire, as certainly it is altogether to our interest, that the scheme now before us should go forward to fruition. I should have liked, had time permitted, to have said a few words as to the remarkable concurrence of circumstances which has taken place in connection with the present movement, and to the no less remarkable unanimity which on the whole prevailed at the Conference.
At the time of the assembling of that body, we heard from all quarters of the extreme difficulty—the almost impossibility of getting so many men of widely different opinions, and representing so many diverse interests, to come to a mutual understanding. It could only have been accomplished by the unanimous desire that seemed to prevail to accomplish the object that brought them together. And now that we have secured a scheme, to which the leading men of all the provinces have assented, are we to throw it on one side, and adopt some such miserable thing in its stead as that proposed by my honorable friend the member for Brome [Mr. Dunkin]? We have yet to learn what other members of the Opposition may be able to produce; but I hope, for their own credit’s sake, they will submit something more suited to the gravity of our position. As between the two schemes yet suggested, I can have no difficulty in making, my selection. […]
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[…] Much has been said, and I believe felt also, about the uncertainty of our future. We are forcibly reminded that the future is not in our own hands; neither by any prudence or wisdom of our own, can we determine it. We are from day to day debating upon our present position, devising new arrangements for the future, and discussing the probabilities of their success or failure. It proclaims our own impotence and our absolute dependence upon a higher Power. I feel deeply, sir—and I make no apology for expressing it—that we ought to look above for Divine guidance; and I regret that our religious differences should so operate as to prevent our performing together a public act of invoking God’s blessing on our proceedings, without which all our deliberations will fail of success. (Cheers.)
Hon. Mr. Alleyn moved that the debate be adjourned.
Hon. Atty. Gen. Cartier moved in amendment, that the debate be adjourned, and be resumed immediately after routine business on Monday.
After discussion, the amendment was carried on a division.
The House then adjourned.