Province of Canada, Legislative Assembly, Parliamentary Debates on the Subject of the Confederation of the British North America Provinces, 8th Parl, 3rd Sess, (7 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 702-770.
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TUESDAY, March 7, 1865.
The Order of the Day being read for resuming the adjourned debate on Confederation,—
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John A. Macdonald [Kingston, Attorney-General West] said: Before the debate is resumed, I wish to say a few words. I would call the attention of the House to the telegram received today—which is rather confused in its terms—with reference to a debate in the House of Lords on the subject of the defences of Canada. According to this telegram. “Earl De Grey, Secretary of State for War, admitted the importance of the question, but regretted that any doubt should be expressed of the conciliatory intentions of the Americans. The Government would ask a vote of £50,000 for the Quebec defences, while the Canadians would undertake the defences of Montreal and westward.” The amount, according to another statement, is £30,000. The figures are apparently a mistake for £300,000.
My object in rising was to state that so far as we could gather from this confused summary of the debate, the Imperial Government were about to ask a certain amount for the defences of Quebec, while the Canadians would undertake the defence of Montreal and the country westward. I may state it is quite true that the Imperial Government made a proposition some time ago to the effect that they were willing and prepared to recommend to Parliament a vote for the defence of Quebec, as is here stated, provided this province undertook the defence of Montreal and points westward. Negotiations have been going on on this question between the Imperial Government and the Canadian Government ever since, and I think that there is every reason to believe that these negotiations will result most favorably, and that arrangements will be made in a manner such as to secure the defence of Canada, both east and west, in a manner such as to ensure the fullest protection to the country, and as at the same time will not press unduly on the energies of the people. (Hear.)
Sir, those negotiations are still proceeding—(they have not yet concluded)—and it must be obvious to every honorable member who has read this short synopsis of the debate in the Imperial Parliament, that it is of the greatest possible importance that Canada should not be unrepresented in England at the present time. (Cheers.) It must be evident to all that some of the leading members of the Administration should be in England at this juncture, for the purpose of attending to Canadian interests, and of concluding these negotiations without any loss of time whatever. (Hear, hear.)
It is desirable, as I stated yesterday, that the two questions of Federation and Defence should be discussed at the same moment, and that the opportunity should be taken of exactly ascertaining the position of British North America with respect to her degree of reliance on the Imperial Government in a political sense, as well as with regard to the question of defence. Therefore, there should not be any loss of time whatever, and with that view the Government would ask this House—as the discussion has already gone on to a considerable length, and a great many honorable gentlemen have spoken on the subject—that it will offer no undue delay in coming to a conclusion in this matter. Of course the Government would not attempt to shut down the floodgates against all discussion; but they would merely ask and invite the House to consider the importance of as early a vote as the house can properly allow to be taken upon this question.
It is for the House to determine whether the Federation scheme which has been proposed by the Government and laid before the House is one which, with all its faults, should be adopted, or whether we shall be thrown upon an uncertain future. In order that the House may at once come to an understanding in the matter, I shall, as I stated yesterday, take every possible step known to parliamentary usage to get a vote as soon as it can conveniently be got, and I have therefore now to move the previous question. (Ironical Opposition cheers and counter cheering.) I move, sir, that the main question be now put. (More cheering.)
Honorable gentlemen opposite know very well that my making this motion does not in any way stop the debut. (Hear, hear.) The House will be gratified to hear, and will still have an opportunity of hearing, from the honorable member from Chateauguay (Hon. Mr. Holton), who cries “Hear, hear,” an expression of opinion whether this scheme is so objectionable that the House would be wise in rejecting it, with nothing now offered as a substitute, and no future to look to. It will afford us all great pleasure to hear the honorable gentleman say whether we should adopt this scheme. There is an independent motion on the paper of my honorable friend from Peel (Hon. J.H. Cameron). My motion does not interfere with that. But if the House should consider that this scheme ought to be adopted, my honorable friend will then have an opportunity of proposing his motion. (Hear, hear.)
The Speaker—If honorable gentlemen desire it, I will read the rule of the House as to the previous question. The 35th rule of the House is as follows:—“The previous […]
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[…] question, until it is decided, shall preclude all amendments to the main question “—(ironical Opposition cheers)—” and shall be in the following word,—‘That this question be now put.’ If the previous question be resolved in the affirmative, the original question is put forthwith, without amendment or debate.” (Hear, hear.)
George-Étienne Cartier [Montreal East, Attorney-General East]—Mr. Speaker, I second the motion. (Derisive Opposition cheers.)
The Speaker—The motion is that this question be now put.
Luther Holton [Chateauguay]—I shall not on this occasion, sir, make any remarks as to the mode of proceeding adopted by the Honorable Attorney General West [John A. Macdonald], further than this, that a friend, an honorable member of this House, intimated to me yesterday that this course was likely to be pursued by the Government in order to crowd this measure through the House. I scouted the idea. I thought it was impossible that a government, numbering in its ranks public men who have played a prominent part in the parliamentary history of this country for some years, could resort to so base a trick—(cheers and counter cheers)—after having introduced this measure in the manner they have done, after having introduced it in a most unparliamentary and unconstitutional manner, and seeing that amendments would be made to several of the propositions contained in the resolutions adopted by the Conference which assembled in Quebec, they shut off all opportunity to amend the measure by moving the previous question. (Hear, hear.)
Why was it not stated by the Honorable Attorney General West [John A. Macdonald] himself that we would be able to get at the sense of the House upon every one of the propositions, by moving amendments? (Hear, hear.) In full confidence that that pledge would be kept, when my honorable friend who sits near me told me he had reason to believe that this very course was in contemplation, I repeat I scouted the idea. (Hear, hear.)
I shall not offer any further observations on this point at the present moment, beyond remarking that if the object be to curtail debate, as the honorable gentleman says it is,—if his real motive be in truth to arrive at an early vote upon this question—his own statement shows how utterly futile his motion is to accomplish that end. It was not at all necessary that the honorable gentleman should have told us that we may discuss the previous question. We are now, by a compact which I presume will not be violated—although I do not know what attempt will be made next—we are practically in Committee of the Whole, with liberty to speak as often as we please on this question.
Therefore, the object stated by the honorable gentleman cannot be attained—but another object can be and will be attained; they will take their followers, whom they have already led on to do things of which they will bitterly repent when they come face to face with their constituents, and drag them still further through the mire—(cheers and counter cheers)—by depriving them of the opportunity of putting on record their views, even in the inconvenient form of amendments, upon the various propositions which are proposed to be embodied in this Address to the Crown. (Hear, hear.)
Sir, the honorable gentleman says that the information received by telegraph in reference to the defences renders it necessary that an early decision should be come to in the matter of Federation. But what has been the course of the honorable gentlemen opposite, throughout this debate, when the subject of the defences has been referred to? When we have said—”Put us in possession of the necessary information to consider the subject of the defences, which must be discussed in connection with the scheme of Confederation,” what has been the reply? Why, that there was no natural or necessary connection between the two subjects. (Hear, hear.)
Thus, when the honorable gentlemen were asked to bring down the information in regard to the defences, they have maintained that there is no connection between the two questions; but when they have a purpose to serve by so doing, they reverse their position and say, “By all means rush this thing through with all possible speed, in order that the country may be placed in a position of defence.” I think, sir, we are entitled at this stage of the debate, and under these circumstances, to demand that all the information in possession of the Government in regard to the defences, should be laid before the House.
I believe there is no better recognized parliamentary rule than this, that when a Minister of the Crown rises in his place in Parliament and refers to despatches on matters of public importance, these despatches must be laid before the House. It is founded on the same rule which prevails in our courts, which requires that any paper referred to in evidence or argument, in order to be of use, must be in the possession of the court. I should like to ask the Hon. Attorney General West [John A. Macdonald] the question—and I pause for […]
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[…] an answer—whether it is the intention of the Government, before pressing this resolution to a vote, to place the House in possession of the information for which I am now seeking?
John A. Macdonald [Kingston, Attorney-General West]—It certainly is not, and for reasons of the best kind.
Luther Holton [Chateauguay]—The honorable gentleman says it certainly is not. And yet he asks us to give a vote, in view of information which he withholds, not merely on the question of the defences, but of Confederation as well. If the honorable gentleman had used the arguments for withholding information which he has put forth, if the proposition were simply a money vote to place the country in a state of defence, there might be some reason in it, but he is using them to induce us to vote for a political scheme embracing all sorts of things other than the question of defence.
The position the hon. gentleman now assumes is unconstitutional; but being unconstitutional, it is in perfect keeping with the whole course of this Administration since its formad in in June last, when it initiated its existence by pledging the Crown, in a written document, not to exercise the prerogative of dissolution until another session of this Parliament should have been held. (Hear, hear.)
I say that their course in this instance is in keeping with every step they have taken since their formation. Well, sir, I have put one question to the Hon. Attorney General West [John A. Macdonald], and I propose now, with the leave of my hon. friend the member for North Wellington [Thomas Parker], who is entitled to the floor, to.put another question He may answer it or not, as he thinks proper; but the country will draw its own inference from his reply. Yesterday, he stated that in consequence of the result of the New Brunswick elections, it had become tolerably apparent that this scheme had received its first check. In other words, he admitted plainly that the result of the New Brunswick elections was adverse to the scheme. I may add, that he knows very well a majority of the present Parliament of Nova Scotia is adverse to it.
George Brown [Oxford South, President Executive Council]—No! no!
Luther Holton [Chateauguay]—I say, yes; and in the Island of Prince Edward, there is no probability whatever of the scheme being accepted. Well, notwithstanding this, he says that he shall press this measure to a vote. A question was put yesterday, which was answered; but there is some misapprehension as to the purport of the answer, and I think it will be admitted to be a question in regard to which there should not be any misapprehension whatever.
John Sandfield Macdonald [Cornwall]—You could not understand it.
Luther Holton [Chateauguay]—Well, I admit the obtuseness of my understanding. The question I desire to ask the leader of the Government is this—Is it the intention of the Government to press for Imperial legislation, under the Address which they are now inviting the House to adopt, affecting the Lower Provinces, or any of them, without the concurrence of those provinces? That is the question I desire to ask the hon. gentleman.
John A. Macdonald [Kingston, Attorney-General West]—It is not the intention of the Canadian Government to press the Imperial Government to pass any act whatever.
Luther Holton [Chateauguay]—Then clearly the hon. gentleman was misunderstood yesterday. He then stated that it was of the highest possible importance this measure should pass without delay, in order that the Ministry might go home and consult with the Imperial Government in respect to the bill to be introduced to give effect to this Address.
George Brown [Oxford South, President Executive Council]—And that is correct.
Arthur Rankin [Essex]—The Government do not intend to “press” for Imperial legislation.
Luther Holton [Chateauguay]—I do not want to quibble about mere words. What I want to know is; whether, in pursuance of this Address, hon. gentlemen intend to ask, or have any reason to expect that the Imperial Government—(Hon. Mr. Brown—”Oh! oh!”)—or have any reason to expect that the Imperial Government will legislate without the concurrence of the Lower Provinces? Whether, in point of fact, if the concurrence of the Lower Provinces be withheld from the scheme of the Conference, he has reason to believe that legislation can be had thereon? I desire to know, first, whether he intends to ask for such legislation; and, second,whether he thinks it can be had?
John A. Macdonald [Kingston, Attorney-General West]—I think the House, and even the hon. gentleman himself, must see the unreasonableness of the question he asks, which is, whether I have any expectation that the British Government will exact some compulsory law against the will of the Lower Provinces […]
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[…] on the question of Federation. All that I can say is, that I have no better means of forming an opinion on the subject than the hon. gentleman himself.
What I stated yesterday I repeat today, that the Canadian Government, knowing that the opinion of the people of New Brunswick has been expressed against Federation, would embrace the earliest opportunity of discussing with the Imperial Government the position of British North America, especially with reference to the present state of affairs in Canada, containing a population of four-fifths oí the people of British North America, in favor of Federation, as against New Brunswick, with a population of two hundred odd thousand against it. In discussing the question with Her Majesty’s Imperial advisers, we shall probably enter into the consideration of the whole matter; but what the nature of these discussions may be, or what they will lead to or will not lead to, I cannot possibly say. They may lead to conclusions, but what those conclusions may be no mortal man can tell. We cannot say to what conclusions the Imperial Government may come. (Hear, hear.)
Luther Holton [Chateauguay]—I am obliged to the honorable gentleman for his courteous answer. I think it is, on the whole, a satisfactory answer, because the answer plainly implies this, that without the concurrence of the Lower Provinces this measure cannot go on. That is the plain implication. We know well that we shall not have the concurrence of the Lower Provinces, and therefore it is absurd to ask this House to vote a measure which the honorable gentlemen themselves, as they have risen one after another in the course of this debate, have declared to be an imperfect measure—a measure of compromise, not such a measure as they, in many respects, desired and advocated, but a measure which they had concurred in for the purpose of inducing the Lower Provinces to become parties to it.
Why, I ask, should this House be called upon to vote for the objectionable features of a scheme, when there is no longer any reason for such a vote, when it is admitted that the Lower Provinces, for whose sake these objectionable features were introduced, will not consent and cannot be coerced into it? (Hear, hear.)
The Hon. President of the Council [George Brown] told the people of Toronto, at the banquet recently held there, that he was entirely opposed to the new constitution of the Legislative Council, and that he opposed it in the Conference. We know also that that feature of the scheme is very objectionable to the whole of what might once have been called the Liberal party, but the Hon. President of the Council [George Brown] has destroyed that party, and it is not, perhaps, right to speak of it as the Liberal party any longer, they are only now to be known as those who once ranged themselves together, in Upper and Lower Canada, under the Liberal banner. The Hon. President of the Council [George Brown] stated, that as representing in the Conference the Liberal party of Upper Canada—the Liberal party of Lower Canada having no representation in the Conference at all, as representing the Liberal party of Upper Canada, the party from that section which is in a large majority in this House, the honorable gentleman stated that he was opposed to this feature of the scheme, a feature which is known to be as unpalatable to a large majority of this House as it is to the hon. gentleman himself.
I merely mention this to illustrate my argument. Why should hon. gentlemen, who were disposed to accept this scheme as a whole, notwithstanding these objectionable features, who were disposed to accept it, on the grounds set forth by their leaders, as a measure of compromise—why, I ask, should they now be called upon to vote in opposition to their convictions, merely to gratify the amour-propre of the hon. gentlemen on the Treasury benches, whose desire it is to carry through the House an Address which, by their own admission made to this House, must be of non-effect? (Hear, hear.)
John A. Macdonald [Kingston, Attorney-General West]—But that it will be the Constitution of this country, I am satisfied.
Luther Holton [Chateauguay]—The hon. gentleman boasts that it will be the Constitution of this country?
John A. Macdonald [Kingston, Attorney-General West]—What I meant was, of all British North America.
Luther Holton [Chateauguay]—The hon. gentleman said “of this country.” The hon. gentleman, therefore, admits that if he fails in procuring the concurrence of the Lower Provinces to the measure—that if they cannot be brought into the scheme for reconstructing their Governments—they are going to ask the Imperial Government to found a Constitution for the two Canadas upon these resolutions.
John A. Macdonald [Kingston, Attorney-General West]—The […]
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[…] hon. gentleman has drawn erroneous inferences from what I stated. When I said I had no doubt that the resolutions now before the House would be the Constitution of this country, I meant to say I had no more doubt than that I stand here that it would be adopted not only by Canada, but by the other provinces.
Luther Holton [Chateauguay]—Ah! The hon. gentleman has “no doubt.”
John A. Macdonald [Kingston, Attorney-General West]—You are trying to twist my words; but go on.
Luther Holton [Chateauguay]—I have not had the same training as the honorable gentleman in the way of word twisting. I take his words in their plain and literal sense. He says he has no doubt that these resolutions will form the Constitution of this country. Then, sir, why do not honorable gentlemen keep faith? Why does not the Hon. President of the Council [George Brown], in an especial manner, keep faith with his party, by giving us the scheme which he pledged himself, in the event of such a contingency as this, should be brought down during this session of Parliament? The honorable gentleman does not find it convenient to answer.
I confess I did not expect an answer; but nevertheless I thought it desirable to put the question to him. I, equally with other members of the House, can draw my inferences from his silence. He knows very well it is a violation of the programme under which he entered the Government; and well he knows that it is a departure from the avowal which constituted, I will not say his justification, but his sole excuse for occupying the seat which he now fills. The question is now asked whether it is intended by the Government to go to England and ask the Imperial Parliament to establish a Constitution for this country, the principles of which have never been considered, because we are considering now the scheme of Federation for the whole country?
John A. Macdonald [Kingston, Attorney-General West]—I stated that the first thing to be done by the Government, in the summer session, would be to submit a measure for fully carrying out the programme First, carry Confederation, and when we met again we would bring in a scheme for the local governments of Upper and Lower Canada.
Luther Holton [Chateauguay]—Yes, local governments. I am obliged to the honorable gentleman for reminding me of the local governments; but I was speaking of the General Government of Canada. (Hear! hear.)
I think it follows irresistibly from the admission of the hon. gentleman to-day, that it is their intention to seek a general Constitution for Canada under these resolutions, without ever having submitted that question to the House. Well, sir, there is another reason perhaps for the course taken by hon. gentlemen yesterday and pursued today. It has always been a theory of my own—perhaps it has not yet been demonstrated by facts—
John A. Macdonald [Kingston, Attorney-General West]—Hear, hear.
Luther Holton [Chateauguay]—I say it has always been a theory of my own, and facts are rapidly demonstrating the truth of that theory, that this Government was formed in consequence of the emergencies of certain gentlemen who were in office, and desired to retain office, and of certain other gentlemen who were out of office and who desired to come in. I believe that the whole constitutional
difficulties, or alleged constitutional difficulties, of this country arose from the personal or rather the political emergencies into which certain hon. gentlemen found themselves, from causes to which I shall not now advert. (Hear, hear.)
Well, sir, feeling that this scheme has failed—feeling that the pretext upon which they have held office for six or nine months is about to fail them, they devise other means, as a sort of lure to the country, whereby office may be kept for a further period. I admit the dexterity with which the thing is done—a dexterity for which the Hon. Attorney General West [John A. Macdonald] has long been famous in this country. His theory is: “Take care of today—when tomorrow comes we will see what can be done”—and by adhering to this maxim he has managed to lengthen out the term of his political existence. That, I believe, will be acknowledged to be the theory upon which the hon. gentleman acts.
John A. Macdonald [Kingston, Attorney-General West]—And a very sensible theory it is. (Laughter.)
Luther Holton [Chateauguay]—A sensible theory no doubt it is. I am glad to hear that the hon. gentleman does not deny the fact; but while admitting that he has achieved a considerable measure of success in this way, whether, after all that success, he has earned the highest kind of reward of a public life—whether there is anybody who speaks or thinks of the hon. gentleman as a statesman, may perhaps be doubted. It is admitted […]
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[…] hat [sic] he is an adroit manager—his management being based on the theory of doing today what must be done today, and of leaving till tomorrow whatever can be deferred. I doubt, however, after all, whether, when the hon. gentleman comes to review his career, he will be satisfied that that sort of policy brings with it the highest rewards of public life.
John A. Macdonald [Kingston, Attorney-General West]—I shall be quite satisfied to allow the hon. member for Chateauguay [Luther Holton] to be my biographer (Laughter.)
Luther Holton [Chateauguay]—But while that has been his theory and his practice, and a certain degree of success has attended it, I would like to ask the Hon. President of the Council [George Brown] whether he has heretofore acted upon that theory, and whether he can quite afford to act upon it now? Most of us remember, those of us who have been for a few years in public life in this country, must remember—a very striking speech delivered by the hon. member for South Oxford (Honorable Mr. Brown), in Toronto, in the session of 1856 or 1857—he has delivered many striking speeches in his time, but this was one of the most striking—in which he described the path of the Hon. Attorney General West [John A. Macdonald] as being studded all along by the gravestones of his slaughtered colleagues. (Hear, hear.)
Well, there are not wanting those who think they descry in the not very remote distance, a yawning grave waiting for the noblest victim of them all. (Laughter ) And I very much fear, that unless the hon. gentleman has the courage to assert his own original strength—and he has great strength—and to discard the blandishments and the sweets of office, and to plant himself where he stood formerly, in the affections and confidence of the people of this country, as the foremost defender of the rights of the people, as the foremost champion of the privileges of a free Parliament—unless he hastens to do that, I very much fear that he too may fall a victim—as I have said, the noblest victim of them all, to the arts, if not the arms, of the fell destroyer. (Laughter.)
I desire, as I am on my feet, and am not at all certain that I shall, under the new phase of things, trouble the House with any lengthened observations—I desire to say a few words on the merits of this question of defence. Of course I hold, as I presume every man in this country holds, that the people that will not defend themselves are unworthy of free institutions. I hold that we must defend ourselves against all aggressors, in the best way we can. I think the policy we have been pursuing for some years past, of enrolling our people and training them to the use of arms and in military exercise, and in the instructing of officers who might lead them, should necessity require—I think all that is sound policy.
I would even go somewhat further in that direction than we have gone heretofore. But if honorable gentlemen propose that; we should establish a standing army—that we should equip a navy—that we should go into a costly system of permanent fortifications, they are proposing what is beyond the strength of the country, they are proposing what will speedily bring financial ruin on the country—and by bringing financial ruin on the country, and by creating thereby dissatisfaction among the people, they will prepare the way to that very event which they profess so strongly to deprecate. I believe, if it has not that effect, it will certainly result in depopulating our country. Already the work of depopulation is going on.
George Brown [Oxford South, President Executive Council]—Oh! oh!
Luther Holton [Chateauguay]—Throughout the whole of the western counties of Canada, at the present moment, there is a greater amount of financial distress and of malaise than I have known for twenty-five years. I challenge the honorable gentlemen around me to contradict the statement. And I say we are not in a position to stand very great additional burdens on our resources. (Hear, hear.)
Then what is the condition of our finances? The honorable gentleman who presides over our finances did not venture the other day to dispute the statement I made, that every branch of the revenue was falling off, and that we had an inevitable deficit for this current year staring us in the face. Is it not so?
Alexander T. Galt [Sherbrooke, Minister of Finance]—The hon. gentleman may repeat his own statement, but he must not put it in my month.
Luther Holton [Chateauguay]—The hon. gentleman did not venture to deny it, and I thought the gravity of the statement was such that he would have denied it, if he could.
Alexander T. Galt [Sherbrooke, Minister of Finance]—Make your statement on your own responsibility, not mine
Luther Holton [Chateauguay]—Then, I say, on my own responsibility, that every branch of the revenue has been falling off since the […]
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[…] beginning of this year, except the comparatively small amount from bill stamps.
Alexander T. Galt [Sherbrooke, Minister of Finance]—Do you say every branch of the revenue, with the exception you mention?
Luther Holton [Chateauguay]—Yes.
Alexander T. Galt [Sherbrooke, Minister of Finance]—Then you will be shewn that it is not so, when you sit down. (Hear, hear.)
Luther Holton [Chateauguay]—Of course I shall be glad to hear it. That is the sort of information we want before we give hon. gentlemen a vote of credit, and allow them to go to England to do as they please for the next six months. It may be that the revenue has been brought up within the last few weeks from accidental causes. A rumor got abroad that the Hon. Finance Minister [Alexander T. Galt] intended to make a change in the duties, and in two or three of our large cities a rush was made to the bonding warehouses, in order to save the additional amount that would be exacted by the change in duties. This, no doubt, increased the receipts for the time being, and it is just possible that from that cause the revenue may have regained something of what it had lost during the earlier weeks of the present year.
Then, too, the state of our securities in England—which was so much improved, according to the statement of the Hon. President of the Council [George Brown], by the action of the Quebec Conference—is now anything indeed but satisfactory. I believe that with the exception of the point they touched at one time in October, or early in November, and which they touched then for a very brief space—they are lower now and have been lower for a longer time than they have been at any period before since the union I think, therefore, we are not in a position to impose heavy and unmeasured burdens upon our people, for the purpose of establishing a standing army, or for the purpose of constructing permanent fortifications. (Hear, hear.) But I have said more than I intended when I rose, and shall no longer deprive my hon. friend from North Wellington (Dr. Parker) of the floor.
George Brown [Oxford South, President Executive Council]—I shall detain the House but a very few minutes in replying to the hon. gentleman who has just taken his seat. As regards his statement that the revenue has fallen off to the extent of which he speaks, in every branch, it. is entirely erroneous. It will be shewn when the proper time comes, when the House is asked to grant supplies, that the revenue is very far from being in the hopeless position which the hon. gentleman has stated. And I apprehend his assertion with regard to the condition of the province is as greatly exaggerated as his other statement. It is very true that many portions of our country unfortunately labor at this moment under considerable depression; but no intelligent person, who considers the circumstances, will think that this is at all extraordinary.
We are alongside a country engaged in a fearful war. Our commercial relations with that country, with which we usually have immense transactions, are very greatly disturbed. Then we have had short crops for several years, and our banks are all very properly under close-reefed topsails. These and other causes have contributed to produce the stagnation that now exists, and a general disposition to curtail business operations. (Hear, hear.)
But with all this—notwithstanding the scarcity of money, and a good deal of embarrassment and suffering from its scarcity—I venture to affirm that the great branches of our national industry were never on a sounder basis; that business men have not for years owed less debt than at this moment; and when a better state of things sets in, the evils of which the hon. gentleman speaks will not be found to have been very deep-seated. (Hear, hear.)
The hon. gentleman is exceedingly anxious that I should fulfil the promises I made to the country at the time I entered this Administration. The hon. gentleman, I think, would show a little more discretion if he allowed me to judge for myself of the best way in which I should fulfil those promises. When, in the short space of six months, the Government have come down with a matured scheme, involving such important changes, and placed it before Parliament in the candid way in which they have submitted it, I think the country has no good cause to complain, either of time having been lost in the fulfilment of my promises, or in the manner of fulfilling them (Hear, hear.)
And I think it ill-becomes the hon. Gentleman, when he has heard it declared that, notwithstanding what has occurred in New Brunswick, we still adhere to the basis on which the Government was formed—that all we ask is time to ascertain how our scheme can best be carried into effect—and that in the brief period of a very few weeks we will be prepared to meet Parliament again, and declare the result of our enquiries—I do say it ill becomes an honorable gentleman, professing to be in favor of constitutional changes, to get up […]
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[…] here and endeavor to create an unfounded prejudice against those who are thus showing in every way their determination to discharge fully and promptly their duty to the country.
The honorable gentleman says I have broken up the Liberal party. He says there was a Liberal party in Upper Canada and a Liberal party in Lower Canada, who were acting cordially together, and that I have destroyed the harmony which existed between them. I shall not enter into that discussion now. The time will come when it can be fully gone into without danger to public interests, and I promise the honorable gentleman. to give him his answer.
But I have this to state in the meantime to the honorable gentleman, that I think it is not for him at least to throw such taunts across the table, when he recollects that in a speech he made in this House only last session, on the announcement of this Coalition, he stated that he could make no complaint as to the course I had taken; that under the circumstances I could only act as I had done. (Hear, hear.)
If he can find any act of mine in contradiction of the course I took then, he has a right to blame me. But so long as I am carrying out in good faith the pledges I gave to the country, to my supporters, and to this House, it is not from that honorable gentleman at all events that any charge against me should come. (Hear, hear.)
The honorable gentleman says that the proposal for a union of all the colonies has failed. I totally deny it. (Hear, hear.) I am not prepared to admit—I do not believe—that the representatives of New Brunswick, when the subject is fairly discussed in Parliament, and the proposition has been presented in all its lights, will reject it. When they do so, it will be time enough for the honorable gentleman to assert that the scheme has failed. Strange indeed would it have been had so large a scheme suffered no check in its progress—but stranger still would it be were the promoters of the measure to abandon it from such a check as this. (Cheers.)
The honorable member for Chateauguay [Luther Holton] is mistaken also when he asserts that the majority of the members of the Nova Scotia Legislature are against this measure of Confederation.
Luther Holton [Chateauguay]—I believe so.
George Brown [Oxford South, President Executive Council]—Having heard that the honorable member for Hochelaga [Antoine-Aimé Dorion] had made such a statement to this House—
Antoine-Aimé Dorion [Hochelaga]—On the best authority.
Alexander Mackenzie [Lambton]—Give us your authority.
George Brown [Oxford South, President Executive Council]—I think it better not to ask for the honorable gentleman’s authority, or to use any names in such a matter as this. But I wish to say that the moment I heard that the statement had been made, I telegraphed to a friend in the Nova Scotia Legislature, and received an answer entirely contradicting the statement which had been made.
Luther Holton [Chateauguay]—Why then don’t they go on with the question?
George Brown [Oxford South, President Executive Council]—I apprehend it is for them to decide when they shall go on—what is the right moment for them to go on—and not for the honorable member for Chateauguay [Luther Holton], who is entirely opposed to this measure.
Antoine-Aimé Dorion [Hochelaga]—There is strong presumptive evidence in favor of my authority against yours.
George Brown [Oxford South, President Executive Council]—That I must leave to the House to judge. The honorable member for Chateauguay [Luther Holton] says the motion made by the Hon. Attorney General West [John A. Macdonald] does not meet the point at which it is aimed, namely, to bring this debate to a speedy conclusion. He says it may cut off amendments, but that it will not stop debate. But that is an entire mistake. It is the only mode by which the debate can speedily be brought to an end.
Antoine-Aimé Dorion [Hochelaga]—Honorable gentlemen opposite want to stop the debate, besides stopping the amendments. That is the object.
George Brown [Oxford South, President Executive Council]—If the honorable member for Hochelaga [Antoine-Aimé Dorion] had waited till he had heard me out, he would have found I had no such meaning. With regard to the main proposition, honorable gentlemen may speak as long as they like. So long as the House does not come to the conclusion that the time has arrived for getting a vote upon that, they can talk.
John Sandfield Macdonald [Cornwall]—Thank you!
George Brown [Oxford South, President Executive Council]—Of course, no one can prevent them. And, so far as I am concerned, I can assure the honorable member for Cornwall [John Sandfield Macdonald] that I have no desire to prevent him or any one else from being heard to the fullest extent they desire. But, since the beginning of this debate, we have constantly seen incidental questions raised and the same members getting up night after night to make long speeches upon them and kill time, to a degree never witnessed before, I venture to assert, in this or in any other legislative body. And it is evident that if this motion were not put, we should have these debates continued on a variety of amendments, and […]
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[…] that this discussion would be kept up to an extent which would utterly frustrate the prompt accomplishment of those great purposes for which this Government was formed. (Hear, hear)
François Evanturel [Quebec County]—As one of the friends of the present Administration, I must say that I am surprised by the conduct of the Government and the extreme position in which they choose to place themselves. For my part, I am in favour of the principle of Confederation, and one of those who maintain that by means of that principle the rights and liberties of each of the contracting parties may be preserved; but, on the other hand, I am of opinion, and I do not disguise it from myself, that it may be so applied as to endanger and even destroy, or nearly so, the rights and privileges of a state which is a party to this Confederation. Everything, therefore, depends on the conditions of the contract.
As a friend of the Administration I can understand, as well as any one, that any Confederation and particularly such a one as this which is now laid before us, can only be brought about by means of a compromise; and, on this account, Mr. Speaker—and it is probably needless to proclaim it here—I am ready and disposed to go to as great a length as it is possible for any man to go. I am also one of those who, when we are called upon to unite, under the regis of a strong government, the different provinces of British North America, and when I see that the general interest calls for such a union, will give my cordial support to all who seek to establish such a government.
I shall always be prepared to meet them halfway; but when the question assumes a different shape, as it now does, and when, in consequence of the events announced to this House yesterday, the Constitution proposed to us seems to concern none but the provinces of Upper and Lower Canada, I say, Mr. Speaker, that the compromise between the different provinces no longer existing, we are no longer called upon to be so generous. I say that if we admit that New Brunswick, by its recent repudiation, and Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island are no longer parties to the contracts agreed on between the provinces, and we have now to ask of England to modify the Constitution only in relation to the two Canadas, I say that the conditions are no longer the same as they concern us—(hear, hear)—and that I am on that account much less disposed to allow the Government to proceed to present in England, as the basis of our future Constitution, the resolutions which we have been compelled to accept in very unfavorable circumstances.
I do not hesitate in saying that the position assumed by the Government is a very dangerous one for themselves, and for those who would gladly assist them to pass a good scheme of Confederation. If I understand aright, the intention of the Government, in moving the previous question, is to place their friends in the awkward position of not being able to move any modification of the plan. In our altered position we are going, therefore, to say to England that we were obliged to submit to such and such concessions in order to come to an understanding; that the other provinces have backed out of the bargain, notwithstanding these onerous concessions and the compromise which we were obliged to make, and which have not been accepted by the other parties; and that, in the face of all this, we come to pray that our Constitution may be altered so as to accord with those very same onerous conditions which we had accepted at the Quebec Conference. Why tie us down so strictly now?
Why should we not avail ourselves of the retrogression of the provinces to make alterations in the scheme which will be less onerous for us? I think it my duty to declare that the Government, in acting as they have done, place their friends in a very awkward position. For my part, Mr. Speaker, I am strongly in favor of Confederation, and am ready to support the Government in their efforts to release the chariot of the state from the position in which it now lies; but I wish, on the other hand—and I think it is but bare justice to say it—I wish that Ministers should place us in such a position before the country, that I and all others may be able to say that we have done our best to improve the situation. This is why I so deeply regret that the Government have thought fit to take their present arbitrary attitude. (Hear, hear.) I acknowledge, with the Administration, that time is precious; but we ought not, in avoiding one danger, to risk falling into another. I acknowledge also that the course of events which has taken place within a few days gives reason to apprehend that British rule in the provinces of British North America may cease altogether in a few years.
I admit all these dangers, Mr. Speaker; but on the other hand I do not conceal from myself that the extreme position in which we are placed does not tend to diminish them. On the contrary, I am greatly afraid that if public opinion be too deeply stirred by the imposition of a new […]
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[…] Constitution, without liberty on our part to amend it, the danger will be increased rather than diminished. So far, Lower Canada has sufficiently shown, by the voice of her leaders, that she is prepared to make all possible concessions; but after that, would it be prudent to render her dissatisfied by denying us the right of modifying the proposed plan in some degree.
We have been obliged, in order to satisfy the public mind, to allege, and truly, that the Ministry had been compelled to make some concessions to the provinces for the general satisfaction; but now that the contracting parties to the plan of Confederation retreat from their engagements, after having imposed on us compromises and exacted concessions, why should we, at a critical time like the present, proceed to submit our position to the Imperial Parliament, exactly as if the Provinces had been true to their pledges?
I am of opinion, Mr. Speaker, that this is asking too much of us, and that as the Lower provinces are evidently no longer in the mind to be united with us, we French-Canadians should be greatly in the wrong if we presented our case with the same conditions as we were led to accept, in compliance with the requirements of the sister colonies. I think that both Upper and Lower Canada are now entitled to present themselves much more favorably before the Imperial Parliament, and that they may say–“These are concessions which we had made, it is true, for the sake of the common good; but the Maritime Provinces have now gone back from their engagements, and their present desire is either to remain independent or to enter the American Republic!
We have done our duty, and we are still ready to remain faithful to our engagements, which we had entered into with the contracting parties; but as they gave us up, and the concessions which we made are not now held by them to be sufficient, we are come to plead our own cause before you, and to tell you that the interests of Lower Canada now require better guarantees than we had been obliged to accept from the Maritime Provinces, for the sake of coming to an amicable conclusion. We now come to request that England will be more favourable to us, and relieve us from our difficulties by making constitutional changes less disadvantageous to us.”
In such a case, I believe that the Imperial Government would not venture to impose a Constitution on us without our consent, but would be favourable to our wishes. That the French-Canadians are all loyal subjects of Her Britannic Majesty, no one will doubt; but it would be an act of folly on the part of English statesmen to impose on them a Constitution which they would reject or very strongly resist. I say this out of a feeling of loyalty, for I know that there are statesmen in England who understand that the loyalty of Upper and Lower Canadians most depend on their being satisfied with their new Constitution.
How would it benefit England to give us a Constitution which might suit her, as tending to perpetuate her rule in Lower Canada, but which would not be at the same time satisfactory to the majority in both Upper and Lower Canada? A spirit of discontent would be soon aroused which would cool our zed in defending our country. This is a self-evident truth, intelligible to all the world.
I trust, therefore, Mr. Speaker, that if the measure of Confederation is passed, it will not be forced upon us, without the present House having an opportunity of weighing its merits, and amending it. I am prepared, I confess, to go as far as any man, and to make the greatest concessions, to extricate the country from its difficulties, and come to a good understanding, that we may make sure of a Confederation with the immense advantages which it might bring with it; but I am bound to confess, when I am told, in presence of the events which have just passed, that we must submit to the conditions imposed on us by the contracting parties, who have, so soon after making it, refused to ratify it—I say that I think it wrong to tie down Lower Canada, absolutely to the first conditions.
I wish the extreme position which the Government have taken up in the face of the country may be productive of the greatest amount of good to it; but, for my part, Mr. Speaker, I cannot help thinking and confessing that I have very strong fears on that subject. It seems to me that in the present circumstances, the Government ought to have granted the fullest opportunity, both to Upper and to Lower Canada, to make such suggestions as they might think fit, and not to insist on the adoption of the scheme in its present form. By such a proceeding they would have afforded members who have amendments to move a fair and constitutional way of setting themselves right in the opinion of their fellow-countrymen, by recording them at least on the Journals of the House. The position in which we placed is tantamount in its effects to the cry of “all or nothing.” But, Mr. Speaker, I have always been averse to such a system; and if we look back to our past […]
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[…] history, we shall find that it has never produced aught but lamentable dissension. (Hear, hear.)
What is the present cry of the Opposition as regards the scheme of Confederation? It is this: you refuse an appeal to the people; you most unjustly hurry on the debate; you deny us all opportunity of moving amendments to the plan, or recording them on the journals of the House; and you are bent on imposing on us, without our consent, a Constitution no detail of which is made known to us, and of the general tenor of which our knowledge is also very imperfect.
Now, Mr. Speaker, I beg to ask Ministers whether it would not be infinitely better for them to quiet all these apprehensions, and silence all complaints? Why should they hurry on the debate, I do not say unconstitutionally, but I do say with dangerous precipitancy? Why should they bar the moving of any amendment to the scheme, particularly as there is nothing pressing in the occasion, and as the aspect of the question is in many respects altered from what it was previous to these late events? I shall probably be told that I am wrong in saying there is nothing pressing in the occasion; that, on the contrary, events render the immediate passing of the measure absolutely necessary; that the defence of our frontier is a question which must be settled at once—that there is not a moment to be lost.
Well, Mr. Speaker, I acknowledge, for my part, that if I vote in favor of the scheme of Confederation, it is not out of a feeling of the necessity of setting about our defence; for hitherto I have never had a thought that the Confederation of the provinces afforded any better means of defending the frontier than that which we have at present—(hear, hear)—inasmuch as we have already all opportunity of combined action to the fullest extent under the protecting arm of England, but this seems not to have entered the minds of the authors of the scheme.
But I go further than this, and assert that the discussion which is daily going on on the subject of the proposed constitutional changes is agitating the public mind very strongly. As at a former epoch of our history, such changes necessarily tend to disturb the minds of the many; and this very natural agitation is attended with its dangers, and affords another proof that constitutions are not the work of a day–that time, and even a great deal of time, is necessary to settle the foundation of the social and constitutional edifice of the best disposed of the nations The present Constitution of Great Britain is a proof of this. That is certainly well established, but it has taken ages to bring it to what it now is. I say, then, that we should not be in too great a hurry, so as to raise discontent among the people, but that we ought to proceed with the more care and deliberation now that, as the Ministers themselves acknowledge, we are in imminent danger of war. If we are so liable to have war, I say that we are not in the best condition to undergo a sudden change of our Constitution, and that far from placing ourselves in a good attitude of defence to meet the imminent danger, we are perhaps weakening our position, by acting too strongly or prematurely on public opinion.
I say then again, that those who would force our representatives to accept the measure without amendments, for the bare reason that we must prepare to defend ourselves in arms without loss of time, are acting without justifiable or sufficient reason. I regret deeply that the previous question has been moved, so as to reduce the friends of the Government to the necessity of voting on the measure before us without being able to move any amendment, and that in the face of a total change of circumstances I pray for the forgiveness of the House for having spoken on the subject, but I considered it a duty to protest at once against the proceeding of the Government which I had not foreseen. I shall vote therefore against the motion before us, because I am in favor of amending the scheme of the Constitution, laying on the Government the whole responsibility for their conduct if they persist in denying us an opportunity of making some modifications in the present plan of Confederation.
George-Étienne Cartier [Montreal East, Attorney-General East]—I am glad that the hon. member for the country of Quebec [François Evanturel] has, with his customary candor, communicated to us his apprehensions. I have listened to him with great attention, and I am certain that there is no difference between his views and ours. We are perfectly agreed. (Hear, hear, and laughter)
I knew perfectly well, Mr. Speaker, before I rose to give explanations to the hon. member for the county of Quebec [François Evanturel] and to the House, that the few words I have just uttered would excite the laughter of the Opposition; for the moment these hon. gentlemen see a member who is usually a supporter of the Government, rise in this House and speak with some degree of animation on any measure of the Government, they are ready to conclude, from his animation, that the hon. member is opposed to the measure. I say again, Mr. Speaker, […]
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[…] the Government is, in the present case, perfectly of the same mind as the hon. member for the county of Quebec [François Evanturel]. If they now request that the House would hasten their decision on the grand question of a Confederation of all the British Provinces of this continent (not of the two Canadas, as the hon. member for the county of Quebec [François Evanturel] terms it), it is because they are desirous, as the Hon. Attorney General for Upper Canada [John A. Macdonald] observed yesterday, to despatch delegates to England, to lay before the Imperial Parliament the resolutions adopted at the Conference. The Government wish to give effect to the compromise entered into between the Maritime Provinces and Canada, to enable the Imperial Government to offer their counsel to the governments of the provinces, who have backed out from their agreement, and show them that the document to which they would have their sanction is a compromise. They would prove to Great Britain that if one of the Maritime Provinces, or all of them, refuse to carry out the terms of the compromise after their solemn engagement with the Canadian Government to observe it—if, in short, they have failed to fulfil the terms of the treaty—Canada has been true to them, and desires its fulfilment.
The Constitution prayed for is not a Constitution for the two Canadas only, as the hon. member for Chateauguay [Luther Holton] said it was, putting a false construction on the explanations of my hon. colleague the Attorney General for Upper Canada [John A. Macdonald], but, on the contrary, a Constitution for all British North America. (Hear, hear.) If the Government now press the House for a decision, it is not to enable them to go to England and ask for a Constitution for the Canadas, under a pretext that the other contracting provinces have failed to fulfil the treaty into which they had entered. By no means, Mr. Speaker. I have always had the interests of Lower Canada at heart, and have guarded them more sedulously than the hon. member for Hochelaga [Antoine-Aimé Dorion] and his partisans have ever done.
A Member—A proof of that is your sending the seat of government to Ottawa!
George-Étienne Cartier [Montreal East, Attorney-General East]—Well, Mr. Speaker, I do not hesitate to maintain that that question of the seat of government was decided favorably for Lower Canada. I have always maintained this, and I will maintain it always and against all comers. I now come to the observations of the hon. member for the county of Quebec [François Evanturel]. This is what the Government propose to do: We shall represent to the Imperial Government that Canada consented to compromises and sacrifices, and that the Lower Provinces failed in the fulfilment of their part of the treaty at the last moment.
We shall entreat the imperial Government to offer their advice to the governments of those provinces, and we entertain a hope that the influence which England necessarily exercises over those colonies will have the effect of inducing them to reflect on their proceeding with reference to us. I pray the honorable member for the county of Quebec [François Evanturel] to lay aside his fears. I assure him that not a single member of the Government has the slightest intention of asking Great Britain to legislate on the Address which we are to present, and to pass a Constitution for the two Canadas. Our whole intention is to lay before the Government of the Mother Country our position, as it now is, in consequence of the breaking of the treaty by the Maritime Provinces, in order that they may bring some pressure to bear on them to bring about the Federal union which was designed. Even though the legislatures of those provinces should rue the part they took in the plan of Confederation, the adoption of it would be only a question of time; for probably within twelve months they will amend their decision and accept the compromise.
We say that as far as we are concerned, we can do neither more nor less than carry out the compromise; that we are desirous of acquitting ourselves of the duty we owe to the Imperial Government, as they thought fit to sanction it in the despatch laid before this House, as well as by the honorable mention made of it in Her Most Gracious Majesty’s Speech from the Throne. It is of consequence, I say, that we should show the Imperial Government that Canada, which contains more than three-fourths of the population of all the provinces on this continent, has not failed to fulfil her part in the compromise, but that the Maritime Provinces it is which have broken their sworn engagement, and that if the compromise is not to be carried into effect, English supremacy over the American colonies may at no distant day be endangered.
We trust that all these considerations may have a salutary effect, that they will dissipate the unfounded apprehensions of the Maritime Provinces, and that hereafter the Constitution, based on the compromise which we […]
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[…] shall submit to the Imperial Government, will bear sway over the several English provinces on this continent, united in one great Confederation. (Hear, hear.)
I can assure the hon. member for the county of Quebec [François Evanturel], therefore, that the only purpose of the Government of which I am a member, in urging forward the adoption of the scheme submitted to the House, is to despatch it to England in order that the Imperial Parliament may merely sanction the letter of the measure. The Government never had a thought of taking the House and the people by surprise. If we were to go to England and pray for a Constitution different from that which is mentioned in the Address, we should be branded with disgrace, and deservedly so, and should render ourselves unworthy of the position which we now fill.
These reasons are sufficient, I think, to show that there is not so much difference between the opinion of the Government and that of the hon. member for the county of Quebec [François Evanturel], as that hon. gentleman supposes. We are agreed on the point to which he takes exception; and as be has declared that he would vote in favor of the new Constitution if the Maritime Provinces continued to be parties to it, I have reason to trust that he will do so, as the Government will be in no way bound to abide by that Constitution, unless the other contracting parties shall accept it.
William Powell [Carleton]—I must express my deep regret, Mr. Speaker, that the leader of the House should have been induced to submit to the House a motion of the character of that which you hold in your hands. (Hear, hear.)
I distinctly avow myself a friend of the Administration, and as one anxious to assist them in carrying out the important scheme they have undertaken; and while according to them the fullest confidence, I must express my regret that their course in relation to this question, in this House, has certainly not been what I would have advised or been inclined to support. They selected their own mode, in the first place, as regards the manner in which this debate should be conducted, and from that mode they have departed. I did feel that when, as between the Opposition and the Government, there was something in the nature of a compact, that compact should be carried out. (Hear, hear.)
I think the Opposition has its rights and privileges, and is especially entitled to have these respected by the Government, who have so powerful a majority at their back. (Hear, hear.) When the Government departed from the understanding originally come to, as to the way in which the debate should be conducted, I believed that that departure was in the interests of the House and in the interests of the public. I do not hesitate to say it had my approbation, as far as my individual opinion was concerned. But, notwithstanding that it had my approbation, as tending to the convenience of the House and the advantage of the public, I did not feel that the Government were justified, so long as the Opposition were dissenting parties, in departing from the original understanding. That was my first ground of objection; and I think, in the present instance, the Government are taking a still more extraordinary course. I do not know whether a case can be found in the records of our own House, or of the English House of Commons, where the leader of the House has availed himself of technical rules to prevent a question being fairly presented.
Antoine-Aimé Dorion [Hochelaga]—To move the previous question to his own motion!
William Powell [Carleton]—I do not know if such a thing is usual, or if a precedent can be cited for it. All I can say is, that if a precedent can be cited, I regret extremely that such a course should be adopted on the present occasion. We are here engaged in the discussion of a great constitutional question, with regard to which the Administration have submitted to us the resolutions of the Conference—I do not say of self-constituted delegates, or that they acted without the sanction of the people—but certainly they have taken upon themselves a great responsibility, which I readily admit they have well fulfilled, and I am quite prepared to endorse their course, in the framing of this scheme, from beginning to end. They first of all adopt those resolutions at the Conference, and they then come down to this House and say: “Accept them in their entirety, without amendment, without variation, or the scheme falls to the ground.”
That may be all very well. It may be all very well to deny the right of an appeal to to the people. It may be all very well for us as a Legislature to arrogate to ourselves the right to change our whole constitutional system That may be all very well. But, by this motion of the Hon. Attorney General West [John A. Macdonald], they stop any gentlemen who I dissent from their views from putting their […]
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[…] opinions on record. (Hear, hear.) I think that is going a little too far, and it is as a friend of the Administration that I express that opinion.
John A. Macdonald [Kingston, Attorney-General West]—We do not require your advice.
William Powell [Carleton]—The hon. gentleman may accept it or not, as he pleases
John A. Macdonald [Kingston, Attorney-General West]—I do not accept it.
William Powell [Carleton]—Then he may take the other alternative. I think the House and the country have extended an enormous degree of consideration to this Government, but I tell the hon. gentlemen that if they continue the course they are now pursuing, a reaction will take place in the House and the country. (Hear, hear.)
I hope that this House is not to drop down into being the mere echo of the Executive—so that we shall not have opinions of our own at all, or be avowed to offer any advice whatever to the Executive. If the hon. gentleman accepts these remarks in a hostile spirit, he may do so. All I can say is that I do not mean them to be so received. But I consider the course taken by the Government this afternoon is a most extraordinary one. The reason assigned is, that hon. gentlemen opposite have been offering a factious opposition, and that they intend to continue it by moving motion after motion. But even if they do, I ask, can that involve above a couple of weeks more of discussion? And I say that it is not for the credit or the character of the Government, that to shorten the discussion they should take such a course as this. I believe they have undertaken the great work they have in hand in a most patriotic spirit.
I believe that my hon. Friend—though he rejects my advice—is animated in the course he is taking by a purely patriotic spirit. But,while I believe that, I think he ought to accord to me the right of expressing my opinion as to the mode in which this debate should be conducted. I do not know whether the friends of the Administration are to be gagged as well as its opponents—(laughter)—whether it is intended that we shall all be prevented from expressing our views. But I do trust the leader of the Government will withdraw this motion—(hear, hear)—which is unworthy of him, when he has in hand this grand and magnificent project. He has all the advantages he can wish on his side, and I would advise him to avail himself of those advantages, and not to give—by pursuing a course that is certainly unusual, extraordinary, and unprecedented—the enemies of this great scheme the opportunity of saving that it was forced down the throats of this Legislature and of the people of this country. (Hear, hear.)
I believe that he has the people at his back—that they endorse his scheme—that they are fully with him—and that the large majority of this House truly represent the feelings and wishes of the people in endorsing the scheme. (Hear, hear.) I say, therefore, that he can well afford to be magnanimous and liberal to the Opposition—who are feeble in numbers, though energetic in the stand they take—and that he can carry out this scheme without having to call to his aid the technical rules of the House. (Hear, hear.)
John Cameron [Peel]—I desire to inquire whether the motion for the “previous question” made by the Government, if carried, will throw any impediment in the way of the resolution of which I have given notice? Of course I know that it can be moved; but if a discussion arises upon it, I am afraid we shall not reach a vote upon it until the session is closed. I hope the word of promise is not to be kept to the ear and broken to the hope.
John A. Macdonald [Kingston, Attorney-General West]—I have no desire to choke off the honorable gentleman’s resolution in any way. He will have an opportunity of moving and pressing his motion after the resolutions have been adopted.
John Sandfield Macdonald [Cornwall]—But it is quite clear that the moving of the previous question shuts off all amendments.
John Cameron [Peel]—My motion is not proposed as an amendment. I propose to move it after a decision has been come to on the question now before the House. It is for the purpose of having an expression of the people’s will upon the Address, before it is sent to the Imperial authorities.
John Sandfield Macdonald [Cornwall]—Well, that is an amendment, but I will not argue the point just now.
Matthew Cameron [Ontario North]—I do not know that I can claim, like my honorable friend from Carleton (Mr. Powell), to be a friend of the Government, and so any advice that I may offer will not be considered as coming from a warm friend of theirs; but I apprehend that I do entertain that kind of friendly feeling for the Hon. Attorney General West [John A. Macdonald] that would induce me to advise him most strongly against the course he has been induced to adopt, had my advice been asked. I can scarcely think that that honorable […]
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[…] gentleman would have adopted the policy which he has become a party to, unless he had been urged on to it by his colleagues in the Government. I am very well aware that those who are in the habit of talking most loudly of the rights and liberties of the people, when they find themselves in places of position and power, may frequently forget those rights. (Hear, hear.)
I am quite satisfied that if the Honorable President of the Council [George Brown] had been in opposition just now, we would have heard the course that is now adopted by the Government called the grossest tyranny and worst kind of outrage that could have been perpetrated upon a free Parliament such as ours. (Hear, hear.)
And not only would we have heard such language on the floor of this House, but through that engine in Toronto which he moves with so much power, we should have had it sent throughout the whole country. There would not have been a man who voted for it who would not have been held up as the greatest foe to the rights and liberties of the people that could be imagined. (Hear, hear. )
And now we find that hon. gentleman endeavoring to stifle, not exactly the discussion of the question, for we cannot be deprived of the right of speech, but to stifle the expression of the opinion of the House with reference to the merits of this scheme in the only way it could be effective and valuable, and in a proper parliamentary manner. The motion now made prevents our taking the sense of the House as to whether some modification of the scheme might not be adopted, or some other plan of union agreed upon that would prove more advantageous. I have given notice of an amendment that I intended proposing in favor of a legislative union of the provinces, with provisions that the laws, the language, and the religion of Lower Canada should not be interfered with; that no legislation should take place for that section, unless that legislation was originated by a member from Lower Canada, and should not become law unless carried by a majority of the representatives from that section of the country.
I propose those provisions in order that the rights of Lower Canadians might be fully protected, and that their institutions should not be in danger of destruction, and that they might have no opportunity of saying that a change of this kind was desired for their injury rather than for their benefit, as well as for the best interests of the provinces at large. I had intended to take the sense of the House upon this proposition, mainly for the reason that a legislative union would be more economical and more stable. The commissioners who were sent out to Canada by the Imperial Government to ascertain what defences were required, and what they would cost, reported that £1,300,000 sterling would be sufficient for the purpose. I find the local governments to be created under this Federal scheme are to receive for their working expenses no less a sum than $3,981,914; so that in two years, if the expenses of these local governments were saved to the country, they would amount to a sufficient sum to construct all the defences that are said to be necessary for the protection of the country against attack from any quarter.
But we are not to have the opportunity, it seems, of taking the sense of this House as to whether that would be better than the scheme submitted for our adoption. And we are also prevented from ascertaining whether the people of Canada approve of the scheme or not. It would seem that the Honorable Attorney General West [John A. Macdonald], for whose ability I entertain a very high degree of respect, has forgotten the conservative character that he has heretofore so nobly maintained upon the floor of this House, and in forgetting that character, that he has also forgotten the rights and liberties of the people.
I am not surprised that those rights and liberties should have been forgotten and trampled upon by the Honorable President of the Council [George Brown] and the Honorable Provincial Secretary [William McDougall]. They have been too loud-mouthed in their pretended championship of those rights in times past to render them above suspicion of forsaking them now; but I am surprised that the Honorable Attorney General West [John A. Macdonald] should go with them in stifling the voice of the people. (Hear, hear.)
And I am very sorry to hear it stated that members of the Government are to go to England, there to appear carrying as it were from the people of this country to the Imperial Government, opinions favorable to Confederation. Now in truth they will not do so. They cannot do so in point of fact, because they have not taken the sense of the people, and have refused even to allow Parliament to say whether or not the scheme shall be referred to the people, or whether some other scheme would not be more acceptable, and much better in every way, than the one now under consideration. They find that the people of the Lower Provinces are strongly opposed to the scheme, and yet they propose to go homo and ask the Imperial Government to carry out the measure, though they well know it cannot […]
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[…] be enforced upon the people of the Lower Provinces.
If the great urgency which they profess to see for the carrying out of this scheme arises from a desire to have the defences made secure, why do not they ask Parliament for power to place the country in a proper position of defence? Why do not they ask for that if it is so urgently demanded, and leave this great Confederation question in abeyance until the people in all parts of the country have had fair opportunity of understanding it in every point of view. They have not yet had that opportunity, and I think the honorable gentlemen on the Treasury benches, in depriving them of that opportunity, and especially in doing it in the manner in which they are now doing, have taken a course which will redound to their own and to the country’s disadvantage. The people only require to be awakened to the course that is being pursued, to understand that these opinions and views are to be disregarded, or are of no consequence, to call forth that sentence of condemnation which will hurl honorable gentlemen on the Treasury benches from place and power, and cause names honored in the past, to sink into dishonored oblivion.
If the proper steps had been taken, gentlemen from Lower Canada would never have been able to say that representation by population could not be safely given to Upper Canada, and would have no grounds for fearing that their rights would not be protected, and that therefore they must reject it. If they refused to grant representation according to population when full provision is offered them for the protection of their institutions, it would be without other reason than that of the sulky woman or the spoiled child, and I do not believe that the representatives of the people of Lower Canada are made up of that kind of stuff. They only wish to be assured that their rights are not to be interfered with.
If they desired more, let them reflect that the hon. member for Montmorency (Hon. Mr. Cauchon) in addressing the House the other evening, instanced the position in which the English House of Lords stood when the country was in danger of being plunged into a revolution by their resistance to a just popular demand. He gave us to understand that that body might have been swept away before the indignation of the people, if it had not yielded to the pressure and allowed the Reform Bill to pass. If that was the case in reference to so strong and highly respected a body as the English House of Lords, let them reflect upon what might be the result of resisting a legislative union and forcing a scheme so expensive as the present one, so full of elements of contention and dissolution, upon the people of Canada.
If the people of Lower Canada, comparatively few in numbers, with the Government to aid them, continue to persist in refusing to give the people of Upper Canada that which is their right, and which can do no wrong to any other portion of the country, perhaps they will find that the people of these provinces will take the same stand that endangered the House of Lords, in England, and the same results follow, and then it will be too late to ask or offer terms. The Honorable Attorney General West [John A. Macdonald] ought not to have allowed a free expression of the views of the members of this House to be stifled in the way that it is now being done. The Government ought to have allowed the amendment to be put respecting which I have given notice, and also that providing for taking the sense of the people.
Perhaps it was thought that the motion to be made by the honorable member for Peel (Hon. Mr. Cameron) would answer the purpose as well; but it cannot do so, because it is not to be proposed until after this scheme has been carried. That amendment, to be of any service to the purpose I had in view, ought to be made before these resolutions are voted upon. After the House has expressed itself in favor of the resolutions, the representatives become leaders to the people. They should lead us, but we should then be leading them by seeming to pronounce our opinion on the subject beforehand in favor of Federal union, although I am satisfied that a majority, or at all events a very respectable minority of this House, is not in favor of the scheme now presented, and most of the honorable gentlemen who have spoken have declared a preference for legislative union.
If the scheme is forced through the House under this motion for the previous question, no amendments being allowed to be placed on record, it will not appear to the Imperial authorities that there is that great amount of dissatisfaction with the scheme which is well known to exist, nor will it appear to them that any other scheme might have proved more satisfactory to the people, giving, in their opinion, greater stability of government, economy in management, and a means of maintaining our connection with the British Crown by better and stronger bonds, than is likely to be the case with a Federal Government. For these reasons Mr. Speaker, I repeat that I sincerely regret that the Honorable Attorney General West [John A. Macdonald] has been led to make the motion […]
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[…] which has been placed in your hands. (Cheers.)
William McDougall [Lanark North, Provincial Secretary]—I am not surprised, Mr. Speaker, that honorable gentlemen who are opposed to the policy of the Government on this question, and desirous of overthrowing it, should feel a little disappointment at the course that has been announced to-day. But I cannot understand how honorable gentlemen who are friendly to that policy, and desire that it should prevail, should, at this stage of the discussion, find fault with the course of proceeding which we have felt it our duty to propose. Sir, we have been discussing this question now for nearly four weeks, and I am sure no honorable member will venture to deny that the discussion has, for the last ten days, dragged very heavily; that there has been a marked disinclination on the part of honorable gentlemen opposite to go on with it.
Antoine-Aimé Dorion [Hochelaga]—No, no.
William McDougall [Lanark North, Provincial Secretary]—The honorable gentleman says “No,” but the fact is that adjournments have been moved several times as early as half-past nine o’clock, because no honorable gentleman was ready or inclined to speak against the measure.
Antoine-Aimé Dorion [Hochelaga]—Only once, and that on account of the illness of the honorable member for Brome [Christopher Dunkin].
William McDougall [Lanark North, Provincial Secretary]—The honorable gentleman is mistaken.
On another occasion the honorable member for Hochelaga [Antoine Aimé Dorion] himself moved the adjournment at an early hour, because his friends were not ready to go on with the discussion, and hon. members who were in favor of the scheme have several times been obliged to speak, when they were not disposed to do so, in order to fill up the time and drag the discussion along. Well, sir, the Honorable Attorney General West [John A. Macdonald] stated to the House yesterday, in such terms that no one could have misunderstood him, that the Government felt it to be their duty to avail themselves of every parliamentary expedient for the purpose of ascertaining the opinion of this House upon the question as promptly as possible.
Today the announcement has been repeated, and good and sufficient reasons given for the adoption of this policy. The hon. members for Carleton [William Powell] and for North Ontario [Matthew Cameron] complain that there has been a departure from the usual practice of this House in making this motion, and charge us with stifling discussion; but these honorable gentlemen surely do not need to be informed that this motion does not stop the debate. The House can discuss the “previous question” to any extent. Strictly, perhaps, honorable members are limited to giving reasons why the question should not now be put, but among those reasons are all the arguments yet to be adduced, pro and con, on the main motion.
William Powell [Carleton]—Then what good will it do?
William McDougall [Lanark North, Provincial Secretary]—The good it will do is this: it will prevent factious and irrelevant amendments, and enable us to get a decisive expression of the opinion of the House upon the real question before it. (Hear, hear.) It is all very well for the honorable member for North Ontario [Matthew Cameron] to tell us that he wishes to propose his scheme of a legislative union, with local legislation controlled by the members of each province; but sir, it happens that he occupies a seat on that side of the House, and not on this. It is the duty of the Government, who are responsible to Parliament and to the people, to propose their measures, and if the honorable gentleman can convince the House that those measures are not adapted to the circumstances and interests of the country, we shall be obliged to leave this side of the House, and then the honorable gentleman from North Ontario [Matthew Cameron] can come over here and submit his scheme to Parliament. (Hear, hear.)
But as we are here, and have taken it upon us to submit these resolutions, we are determined to obtain as early as possible (without, however, preventing any honorable member from expressing his views upon them) a vote of this House. The outcry raised by gentlemen opposite against the propositions of the Government to facilitate the discussion by giving the whole time of the House to it, proves that delay is their real object. If they have any arguments to offer against the scheme, they have had ample opportunity to present them. They have thought proper to talk of everything but the merits or demerits of the scheme itself, until the patience of this House, and I think also of the country, is exhausted. I am happy to believe that a very considerable majority of the members of this House are ready and willing to vote yea on the question, and they ought not to be any longer detained from doing so, especially in view of circumstances that have arisen on this as well as on the other side of the Atlantic, to which my colleague the Hon. Attorney General [John A. Macdonald] has already directed the attention of the House.
François Evanturel [Quebec County]—I understood that the Government had stated that the question of Confederation was an open one. […]
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[…] I never understood that they had stated that amendments could not be proposed. It was to be treated not as a party question, but the fullest latitude was to be allowed, as if in committee of the whole; but now the Government shuts down upon friends as well as opponents. I think their course most illogical, and I would like to have the Hon. Provincial Secretary [William McDougall] explain it.
William McDougall [Lanark North, Provincial Secretary]—I apprehend there are few honorable gentlemen in the House whose impressions on the subject are similar to those of the honorable gentleman. (Hear, hear.)
It was fully understood by the House that the scheme was brought before Parliament as the result of the Conference of all the colonial governments, and as a Government measure. I think, sir, it was further distinctly stated that being in the nature of a treaty, it was absurd to suppose that it would be competent for any of the legislatures to amend the scheme, because the moment the door is thrown open to amendments in one legislature, the same privilege would be claimed by each of the others. What kind of a scheme would it ho after each legislature had tinkered it to suit its own views, and what length of time does the honorable gentleman think it would take to arrive at a common agreement if that course were pursued? In the very nature of things, whether this is the best or the worst scheme that could have been devised, we cannot get around the fact that it is of the nature of a treaty, and, therefore, must be voted upon by a simple yea and nay. (Hear, hear.)
It is in that view that the Government have submitted it to this House, and it is upon that view that the verdict of this House must be pronounced. As I have already stated, the determination to which the Government has come is to press the main motion, pure and simple, upon the attention of the House, and to use every legitimate parliamentary means to get a decision, and by that decision we are prepared to stand or fall.
I hope there will be no misunderstanding on the part of honorable members. It is not the intention of the Government, in any manner, to deprive honorable gentlemen of the opportunity—the fullest opportunity—of expressing their views on this scheme. But what we do intend to prevent, if we can, is the attempt to divert the attention of the House from the resolutions of the Conference to propositions like that of the honorable member for North Ontario [Matthew Cameron], who desires to submit another and a totally different scheme, which he knows well must be rejected by every member of the proposed Confederation. This proposition must he discussed, if discussed at all, in some other way than as an amendment to, or substitute for, the scheme of the Quebec Conference.
John Sandfield Macdonald [Cornwall]—I think, sir, that the large majority of the members of this House will agree with me that the proposition made by the leader of the Government to prevent amendments being submitted by moving “the previous question,” has taken us all by surprise. I think this House should hold this step to be a gross breach of the understanding which was entered into at the time it was agreed that the House should be considered as in committee of the whole, with you, sir, in the chair. For it was then fully understood that though no amendment would be allowed to be adopted, if the Government could prevent it, yet there would be no objection to their being moved in the ordinary way. It was therefore understood that this House was, for all practical purposes, in Committee of the Whole, and as “the previous question” could not be moved in Committee of the Whole, it was consequently out of order to move it now.
I would ask hon. gentlemen on the Treasury benches, if they did not solemnly enter into a compact of that nature with this House? If they committed an error in deciding to retain the Speaker in the chair on the conditions referred to, they are now taking advantage of their own wrong.
Sir, the Opposition proper have abstained from placing on the paper any notice of amendments. They found that several amendments which embraced their views were to be moved by gentlemen who were friendly to the Administration. Those gentlemen could not suppose for a moment that their motions were to be choked off, whatever might be the intention of the Government in relation to similar amendments if proposed from this side of the House. But “the previous question,” thus moved, applies ruthlessly to friends and foes. To quote the language of the honorable member for Carleton [William Powell]:—”It is now quite clear that they (the Government) are going to put the same gag on their friends that they devised for their opponents.” (Hear, hear.)
Let us enquire who are those who compose the Administration, and who, after violating their solemn agreement, now venture to trample upon the rights and privileges of the representatives of the people, in this House? I need only remark that nine members of this Government, and who were in the Administration before the Coalition […]
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[…] was formed, had a vote of want of confidence recorded against them by this same House, for acts of malfeasance, which must be fresh in the memory of honorable members, since which time they have evaded an appeal to the country in order to test whether their new and strange combination would be ratified by the people. And these gentlemen who have hatched up a coalition, by inviting three members of the then Opposition to join thein on the most monstrous terms ever known in any country, are at this moment proposing to ask this House for a vote of credit, and for plenipotentiary powers to authorize them in England to speak for the people of Canada.
My hon. friend from West York (Hon. Mr. Howland) stands in a different position from his two reform colleagues. He came generously to the aid of his friends who first joined the Coalition, but he stipulated that he must first go to his constituents. On a reference to his speech at the hustings, it will be found he said in effect, that the scheme of Confederation was now before the country—that he knew no more about it than they did themselves, and that he must say there were features in the scheme which he did not like. I acquit him of being in the same category with hon. gentlemen who have been voted down by this House, because he has obtained by his election a quasi authority to deal with this grave subject.
But what have the others attempted to do, Mr. Speaker? How different is their conduct and their practice to-day from what they promised would be their conduct towards the House at the commencement of the debate! And how widely have they strayed from the programme laid down at the time the Coalition was formed! I shall read for the information of the House what were the views of the hon. member for South Oxford [George Brown] in 1864, when he stampeded himself, and took with him a large portion of the reform party to the enemy’s camp so unexpectedly, and upon so short a notice:—
Mr. Brown asked what the Government proposed as a remedy for the injustice complained of by Upper Canada, and as a settlement of the sectional trouble. Mr. Macdonald and Mr. Galt replied that their remedy was a Federal union of all the British North American Provinces, local matters being committed to local bodies, and matters common to all, to a general legislature constituted on the well-understood principles of Federal Government.
Mr. Brown rejoined that this would not be acceptable to the people of Upper Canada as a remedy for existing evils; that he believed that Federation of all the Provinces ought to come, and would come about ere long, but it had not yet been thoroughly considered by the people—(hear, hear)—and even were this otherwise, there were so many parties to be consulted, that its adoption was uncertain and remote. (Hear, hear.)
George Brown [Oxford South, President Executive Council]—What is the date of that?
John Sandfield Macdonald [Cornwall]—The hon. gentleman knows very well that it is found in the ministerial explanations at the close of last session, little more than six months ago. Mark the words, Mr. Speaker, Mr. Brown then stated that Federation had not been considered by the people, and that its adoption was therefore uncertain and remote. Is it because he found a good opportunity of getting into power, and because he visited the Lower Provinces, and negotiated, and got explanations from them, that the period so remote six months ago must now be considered immediate? He substitutes the word “immediate”—for “remote” a most extraordinary perversion of words:—
Mr. Brown was then asked what his remedy was, when he stated that the measure acceptable to Upper Canada would be parliamentary reform based on population, without regard to a separating line between Upper and Lower Canada. To this both Mr. Macdonald and Mr. Galt stated that it was impossible for them to accede, or for any Government to carry such a measure, and that unless a basis could be found on the Federation principle suggested by the report of Mr. Brown’s committee, it did not appear to them likely that anything could be settled.
Mr. Brown accordingly waited on the Governor General, and on his return the memorandum approved by Council and by the Governor General was handed to him, and another interview appointed for 6 P.M., Mr. Brown stating that he did not feel at liberty either to accept or reject the proposal without consulting with his friends.
In that memorandum I find the following passages:—
The Government are prepared to state that immediately after the prorogation, they will address themselves, in the most earnest manner, to the negotiation for a Confederation of all the British North American Provinces.
That failing a successful issue to such negotiations, they are prepared to pledge themselves to legislation during the next session of Parliament—(hear, hear)—for the purpose of remedying existing difficulties by introducing the Federal principle for Canada alone, coupled with such provisions as will permit the Maritime Provinces and […]
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[…] the North Western Territory to be hereafter incorporated into the Canadian system.
Shortly after six o’clock the parties met at the same place, when Mr. Brown stated, that without communicating the contents of the confidential paper entrusted to him, he had seen a sufficient number of his friends to warrant him in expressing the belief that the bulk of his friends would, as a compromise, accept a measure for the Federative Union of Canada, with provision for the future admission of the Maritime Colonies and the Northwest Territory. To this it was replied that the Administration could not consent to waive the larger question; but after considerable discussion, an amendment to the original proposal was agreed to in the following terms, subject to the approval, on Monday, of the Cabinet and of His Excellency:—
“The Government are prepared to pledge themselves to bring in a measure, next session, for the purpose of removing existing difficulties, by introducing the Federal principle into Canada, coupled with such provision as will permit the Maritime Provinces and the Northwest Territory to be incorporated into the same system of Government.”
The language of these quotations cannot be misunderstood; for nothing can be cleaner than that the smaller scheme, that is, the scheme for the Federation of Upper and Lower Canada, was then promised and contemplated as the one which was to precede that now under consideration. Again I quote from a speech of the Premier made in the other House on the introduction of the resolutions now before us:—
The honorable member (Hon. Sir E.P. Taché) here gave a history of the several changes until the Macdonald-Dorion Administration died, as he stated, of absolute weakness, falling under the weight they were unable to carry. Their successors (the Taché-Macdonald Government) were not more successful, and being defeated, were thinking of appealing to the country, which they might have done with more or less success, gaining a constituency here and perhaps losing another elsewhere. They had assumed the charge of affairs with an understanding that they would have a right to this appeal, and while they were consulting about it, they received an intimation from the real chief of the Opposition (Mr. Brown), through one of their own friends, to the effect that he was desirous of making overtures to them with the view of seeking to accommodate the difficulties. The honorable gentleman and some of his friends then came into contact with the leaders of the Government, and it was agreed between them to try to devise a scheme which would put an end to the misunderstandings, and at the same time secure for Canada and the other provinces a position which would ensure their future safety, and procure them the respect and confidence of other nations. They arranged a large scheme and a smaller one. If the larger failed, then they were to fall back upon the minor, which provided for a Federation of the two sections of the province
Here is a recent declaration by the Premier that they had arranged a large scheme and a smaller one. Is it not important to us in Upper Canada to know what the nature of the latter scheme is? Assuredly, it is not too much to ask that the little scheme should be left with us—while they run away to Downing-street with the large one. We might be profitably employed in the meantime in digesting the various details which promise so much solace and contentment, and which for ever is to settle all sectional difficulties between Upper and Lower Canada.
I hope the supporters of the Administration will insist at once upon the smaller bantling being left with us,—this House agreeing to pay all expense of its care and protection during their absence. (Hear, hear, and laughter.) Instead, therefore, of fulfilling their promise they boldly propose to their reform followers the scheme which the hon. member for South Oxford [George Brown] had declared to be premature, and which six months ago he insisted must be postponed to a remote period. It is scarcely possible to find words sufficiently strong to characterize in proper terms so flagrant a breach of a compact as the one which I have been describing.
It was of course well known, last summer, that the several legislatures of New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island had contemplated a legislative union of their provinces, and a resolution was passed by each body authorizing delegates to be appointed from their respective governments to meet for that object. Charlottetown having been selected as the place of meeting, the several delegates assembled there. Instead of permitting that Convention quietly to arrange a scheme such as was contemplated by their legislatures, and permit reasonable time for its promulgation, or a declaration of its failure to be made, the gentlemen on the Treasury benches bethought themselves of a plan by which to scatter the Charlottetown delegates, caring nothing for the disappointment which such an attack must have necessarily created among the people of the sister provinces.
I blush to think that a fearful responsibility attaches to this Government for their interference with an arrangement which was to make the Maritime Provinces one people. But not satisfied with their visit to Charlottetown and breaking up the scheme which was […]
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[…] being discussed there, they now coolly ask us to give them authority to proceed to Downing-street to report the utter failure of their own grand scheme, which, as I remarked in a former debate, they yet hope to manufacture into a live constitution for these distracted provinces, through Downing-street influence. (Hear, hear.)
It is well known that our financial condition is truly alarming, and instead of proceeding with the legislation of the several measures now before the House, and submitting, according to custom, the Budget, so that the real condition of our affairs may be fully exhibited to the people, the gentlemen on the Treasury benches have suddenly come to the conclusion, not only to withhold this important information, but, forsooth, we are asked to pass a vote of credit to be accounted for at the next session. A prorogation is shortly to follow, and the country will be left in a state of uncertainty as to its future, until it shall please these gentlemen to return from their mission.
When we consider the effect which the blandishments of the Treasury benches but too frequently produce upon members sent to this House to carry out certain avowed principles and measures; when we see the class to which I allude violating the promises made to their constituents and going over “body and bones” to a Government they were elected specially to oppose, we need not he astonished shortly to learn that influences and blandishments in higher quarters will have the like effect on the gentlemen opposite when abroad, who will ever be ready to find a plausible excuse for any gross betrayal of the trusts reposed in them by pliant and subservient followers. The avowed object for the immediate prorogation of the session is the imminent danger which threatens this province, and yet we are kept in the dark as to the real cause for alarm.
We are told, however, that a large outlay, but the amount is not stated, is to be devoted to fortifying certain portions of Canada by the Home Government; and that we are to be asked to contribute an unknown sum of money towards the game object. But when we ask for more definite information, we are met by the assurance that it would not be for the public interest to afford further information just now. We are told to wait patiently and to be content with the fact that certain gentlemen on the Treasury benches are to proceed to England with the view of arranging the amount to be appropriated by Canada for its defence, and towards the maintenance of a more effective militia organization then we have heretofore been called upon to make.
I maintain, sir, that the understanding in respect to such contributions could be as well arrived at by means of dispatches and correspondence between this Government and the Colonial Office. (Hear, hear.)
I protest against the transference of the negotiations on these matters to Downing-street, before we obtain some more satisfactory replies to the questions we have addressed to the gentlemen on the Treasury benches. The representatives of a people overburdened with heavy taxes, have a right to insist on knowing the limit beyond which the gentlemen on the Treasury benches should not consent to make this province liable. We know that it is a difficult matter to obtain money in England at present and we are not even informed of the terms on which the Finance Minister [Alexander T. Galt] is now borrowing. We have had no information upon this question. We are kept in ignorance of the position in which we are to be placed.
Now, I think that the policy of the people of this country should be to vote what they think they can bear, and no more. There is no member of this House, there is no man in this country, I believe, who is unwilling to give his quota of taxes for the work of defence; but there must be a limit to everything. (Hear, hear.)
The principle laid down by three of the honorable gentlemen on the Treasury Benches whom I now see on the other side of the House, when with myself they were members of a former administration, is as sound now as it was then; and if the force of the American army two years ago was not such as to induce us to recommend, by way of guarding against danger from that quarter, large outlays for defence, I do not see why my old colleagues should now consent to entertain a proposal involving an enormous sum of money at the present time. Now, I shall read extracts from a Minute of Council, dated 28th October 1862, in reply to the Duke of Newcastle’s suggestion that we should raise fifty thousand volunteers:—
The proposal of His Grace to organize and drill not less than 50,000 men is not now for the first time presented to the province. The measure prepared by the late Government and rejected by the Legislature, contemplated the formation of a force to that extent, and Your Excellency’s advisers cannot disguise their opinion that the province is averse to the maintenance of a force which would seriously derange industry and tax its resource to a degree justifiable only in periods of imminent danger or actual war. The people […]
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[…] of Canada doing nothing to produce a rupture with the United States, and having no knowledge of any intention on the part of Her Majesty’s Government to pursue a policy from which so dire a calamity would proceed, are unwilling to impose upon themselves extraordinary burthens. They feel that, should war occur, it will be produced by no act of theirs, and they have no inclination to do anything that may seem to foreshadow, perhaps to provoke a state of things which would be disastrous to every interest of the province.
This was the opinion of the honorable gentlemen only two years ago. (Hear, hear.)
Luther Holton [Chateauguay]—How many of them are on the Treasury benches now?
John Sandfield Macdonald [Cornwall]—I have already said that there are three of those gentlemen there. (Hear, hear.) Well, to go on a little further, His Grace recommended direct taxation, to which we replied:—
Without entering into a discussion of the relative merits of direct or indirect taxation, Your Excellency’s advisers feel that it would not be prudent, suddenly or to any large extent, to impose direct taxation for military purposes. This is not the occasion for adopting a principle hitherto unknown in the fiscal policy of the province, and assuredly this is not the time for plunging into an experiment for which the people of the province are unprepared. No more serious mistake can be committed than to conduct an argument upon the supposition that the ability of the Canadian people to sustain taxation is greater than has hitherto been acknowledged in the fiscal arrangements of the Government.
And I may remark that the condition of the country at this moment is much more calamitous than when this report was made. When the hon. member for South Oxford (Hon. Mr. Brown) was on his feet a few minutes ago, he spoke of the prosperity of the merchants in Upper Canada, and said the condition of the country was not such as to justify the remarks of the hon. member for Chateauguay (Hon. Mr. Holton). Sir, he forgot to speak of the situation of the farmers, of which I shall speak presently more at length. This report goes on further to say:—
The wealth of the country is in its lands. If the people are in the enjoyment of comparative wealth, it is so invested as to be not readily available for the production of a large money income. Your Excellency’s advisers believe that no government could exist that would attempt to carry out the suggestion of His Grace for the purpose designed.
That was the language of our Government when asked to train fifty thousand men and to familiarize them to the use of arms. (Hear, hear.) I feel that the pressure which has been brought to bear upon the Imperial Government by the Goldwin Smith politicians—by the Manchester School—to get rid of the colonies, is having its effect. The telegram received today indicates that the burden of the defences is to be borne by the colonies, as the telegram now before me states:—
Earl Russell regretted the discussion, and stated that the Government declined to make any movement while the Canadians declined to take measures themselves; but as they now showed a different disposition, the Government comes forward to assist them.
Mr. Speaker, I ask this House, if the honorable gentlemen on the Treasury benches have made any proposals to the Home Government, whether we are not entitled to know what they are? I say that we ought not to leave this House till we have advised them in this matter—till the opinion of this House, representing the people of this country, has been elicited. (Hear, hear.)
We are the persons who ought to advise them in this matter; and without seeking that advice, they are taking a step in advance of their legitimate duty. (Hear, hear.)
The Duke of Newcastle asked us in the same despatch to place the money required for increased military organization in Canada beyond the domain of Parliament! Such a proposal was met in fitting terms, becoming a people enjoying British freedom. We could not submit it to Parliament, and we did not It was said in the same despatch that the credit of the country was endangered in the markets of Europe, and that if we were willing to show that we were prepared to defend ourselves, if we went to this vast outlay, we would materially assist in the maintenance of our credit abroad. Our reply to that was, that—
The maintenance of the provincial credit abroad is undoubtedly an object which the administrators of the affairs of the province should at any cost accomplish. Your Excellency’s advisers submit that their various measures demonstrate the sincerity with which they are striving to preserve the public credit unimpaired. They contend, however, that not the least important of the agencies to be employed to this end is the exhibition of a due regard to the means at the command of the province. They hold that they are more likely to retain the confidence of European capitalists by carefully adjusting expenditure to income, than by embarking in schemes, however […]
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[…] laudable in themselves, beyond the available resources of the Canadian people.
*[Original Editor’s Note: It being six o’clock, the Speaker left the chair before the honorable gentleman concluded his remarks.]
After the recess,
Luther Holton [Chateauguay] said—With the consent of my hon. friend from Cornwall [John Sandfield Macdonald], I desire, before the debate is renewed, to call the attention of the Hon. Attorney General West [John A. Macdonald] to the matter of the previous question which he has moved—to recall to his recollection the statements that were made when the agreement was come to that this debate should be conducted in all respects as if the House were in Committee of the Whole, and to appeal to his sense of justice to adhere to the letter and spirit of that agreement. It will be remembered that, on behalf of hon. gentlemen sitting on this side of the House, I objected very strongly to the proposition to consider these resolutions as a single resolution, and insisted that they were of a nature that required them to be considered in Committee of the Whole House.
The hon. the leader of the Government objected to that on this ground. He said that the resolutions were a treaty—I do not think the position sound, but I am not combating that just now—and that the Government were bound to bring all their influence to bear to pass them in their entirety; and in reply to some objection made by myself, he said hon. gentlemen would have no difficulty in putting their views upon record by amendments moved to the scheme. I thought at the time that that was placing us at a very great disadvantage, and that we were entitled to have the propositions considered separately and a vote taken, yea or nay, on the Several resolutions; but I was overruled and the agreement was come to, which you, sir, declared, rising in your place, to be that the debate should be conducted in all respects as in Committee of the Whole.
Well, I have two things to urge—first, that in Committee of the Whole the previous question cannot be moved; and second, that a distinct assurance was given by the Government that amendments could be moved to the resolution. These are the very words of the hon. gentleman as given in the official report, which has been this moment put into my hands:—
Hon. Atty. Gen. Macdonald said “no.” The proposition submitted to this House is—That an Address be submitted to Her Majesty, praying that a bill should be passed based on these resolutions. All amendments might be moved to that one resolution. It would be the same thing, in fact, as to move them upon each resolution separately.
Now, the hon. gentleman says that we may not move amendments, and none can be moved if he succeeds in getting the previous question affirmed by the House. I state—and I am sure I have only to state it to him to convince him of the justice of it—that a persistence in moving the previous question will be simply a violation of the assurance, the hon. gentleman gave to the House, and of the distinct understanding arrived at by the House at the opening of the debate, and stated by you, sir, from the chair. (Hear, hear.) Am I to understand that the hon. gentleman adheres to his motion?
John A. Macdonald [Kingston, Attorney-General West]—I certainly do adhere to it.
Luther Holton [Chateauguay]—And has the hon. gentleman nothing to say to my objections?
John A. Macdonald [Kingston, Attorney-General West]—To what?
Luther Holton [Chateauguay]—In reference to cutting off amendments by this motion.
John A. Macdonald [Kingston, Attorney-General West]—Why did not the hon. gentleman put them?
Luther Holton [Chateauguay]—We relied upon the assurance given by the hon. gentleman that there would be no attempt to cut short discussion, no attempt to prevent a full and free expression of the opinion of the House upon every feature of the scheme. I ask him now again if he intends to adhere to that declaration? (Hear, hear )
John A. Macdonald [Kingston, Attorney-General West]—I will, Mr. Speaker, on reflection, make a few remarks in answer to the hon. gentleman He speaks as if it was a great concession to the majority of this House and to the Government that the arrangement was made at the opening of the debate. Why, sir, it was no concession whatever to the Government or to the majority of the House. (Hear, hear.)
Acting on behalf of the Government, and with the full approbation of my colleagues, I made a motion that an Address should be presented to Her Majesty, praying Her sanction to the resolutions adopted at the Quebec Conference. That motion was quite parliamentary in its character, and there was no parliamentary reason whatever why it should be considered in Committee of the Whole. The hon. gentleman could not, by any rule known to […]
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[…]parliamentary practice, force us to go into committee or require us to discuss any one of these resolutions by itself. It was then quite open to me, according to the usage of the House, to make a motion for an Address to Her Majesty for the purpose stated, and it was not as a favor to the Government that the arrangement was made to discuss it as if the House were in Committee of the Whole.
On the contrary, it was a concession of the Government to the minority in the House; for I stated, of my own mere motion, that although I had a right to proceed in the ordinary manner with the Speaker in the chair, and to restrict honorable gentlemen to a single speech in accordance with the rules that govern debate—that although this was my undoubted right according to parliamentary practice, yet, for the purpose of allowing the fullest and freest discussion, I suggested that the same rule should obtain as if the House were in Committee of the Whole, when every member could speak twenty times if he felt so disposed, and present his views fully on all the points of the scheme. That was the proposition made by the Government; it was a fair, liberal, even generous one.
But how were we met by honorable gentlemen opposite? We were ready to proceed with the discussion at once, and to present the subject to the House without delay. But it was stated that that would be unfair—that the members of the Government should first make a statement, and allow it to go to the House and country, so that neither should be taken by surprise in a matter of so much importance, and that honorable gentlemen might have the fullest information upon which to make up their minds. We did make our statement, and when asked for a week’s delay in order that these speeches might be fully considered, we consented to it.
Supposing that after this postponement the debate would go on at once, we gave hon. gentlemen opposed to the scheme a whole week to consider our remarks, to prepare themselves for debate, to work out objections to our arguments, and pick out al1 the flaws they could find in the scheme itself. We did this because we thought it fair, and because we believed hon. gentlemen were sincere in their professed desire to have the fullest information upon the subject Well, the debate began, it has gone on now for three weeks since that postponement, and as my hon. colleague the Hon. Provincial Secretary [William McDougall] has said, it has dragged on wearily, with no prospect of an early termination. And how have we been met by hon. gentlemen opposite? Has it been in the same spirit that actuated the Government throughout the debate? We asked them to come forward, and honestly and fairly, in the presence of the House and country, to discuss the scheme; but instead of so doing, they have deliberately trifled with the question and wasted the time of the House. (Hear, hear.)
Luther Holton [Chateauguay]—No, no!
John A. Macdonald [Kingston, Attorney-General West]—The hon. gentleman as a man of honor cannot deny it, as a man of candor he cannot deny it; and if he should deny it, his character as a man of honor and candor would sink in the estimation of this House. (Hear, hear.) I say it distinctly that this was the plot of hon. gentlemen opposite, to delay the consideration of this subject. Their policy was to wait, like Micawber for “something to turn up,” to see what would happen favorable to them in New Brunswick, to learn what would be done in Nova Scotia, and to embrace every pretext of delay that presented itself. The hon. gentleman was playing, deliberately playing, a trick. He talked about a base trick having been played upon the Opposition, but was it not a base trick in him not to discuss this question, but to put it off upon every possible excuse, to interrupt hon. gentlemen when they discussed it, making innuendos, suggesting motives for delay, trying to disparage the scheme and ourselves in the estimation of the House and country, and getting others to say what he would not dare to say himself. (Hear, hear.)
That was the plan of the hon. gentleman. He complains of not being able to move an amendment, but the Opposition attempted to move none. It was friends of the Government who offered the only amendments yet presented. The policy of the Opposition was just this—they wished to spend the whole of March and the best part of April in the general discussion upon my motion; and then, when they could do nothing more to nauseate the House and disgust the country with the subject, when they had wearied the members and made the reporters sick with their talk—(laughter)—they were to spend the remainder of April, all May and June, and run the debate well into summer, upon the amendments they intended to propose […]
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[…] one after another. (Hear, hear, and laughter.)
It is because these honorable gentlemen have not endeavored honestly and candidly to discuss the question, but have played the game of prolonging the debate to midsummer and preventing the House coming to a final decision upon it, that the Government have taken the step now proposed, and have said to these hon. gentlemen: “Here, you have had a month to move amendments and make speeches. You have been allowed to sit here discussing the question every night during that time, and sometimes till one or two o’clock in the morning. You have not fairly discussed the scheme, nor moved any amendments to it.
You appear, on the contrary, determined to obstruct the measure by every means in your power. You have deliberately laid a plot to throw it back with the view of defeating it in this underhand manner. We are not going to allow that, nor should be worthy of the position we hold as a Government if we did allow it;” and, sir, I should be unworthy of the character the hon. gentleman (Hon. Mr. Holton) gives me of being a good parliamentary strategist, if I allowed this plot of preventing the House coming to a vote to succeed. (Hear, hear.)
Now, in resorting to measures to prevent the success of this game played by the Opposition, we have not taken hon. gentlemen opposite or the House by surprise. We gave them from the middle of winter almost to the beginning of spring, and the opening of navigation, to discuss the question and propose amendments; and when we saw they were determined to waste the time of the House and country indefinitely, I came down yesterday and, on behalf of the Government and with the full approbation of my colleagues, stated fairly and frankly that it was of the greatest consequence, the utmost consequence, to the best interests of this country, that this question should not be allowed to drag on before Parliament, but that a vote should be taken without delay, in order that we might be able to tell the sister provinces and inform Her Majesty that the contract we made with them, the arrangement we entered into with the governments of those provinces, had met the full approbation and consent of the Parliament and people of Canada. (Hear, hear.)
And I gave fair notice that the Government considered the recent political events in New Brunswick, and the state of affairs in that province, called not only for action, but prompt action by this House; and that every proper and legitimate means known to parliamentary practice would be taken by the Government for the purpose of getting (his House to come to a full and final decision upon the question. (Hear, hear.)
We have never taken hon. gentlemen by surprise. On the contrary, we have allowed them every latitude in this debate, and have given them fair notice all through of what we intended to do. But how have we been met by them? Have we been met in the same spirit of frankness and sincerity? No—and I say it without hesitation, we have been met throughout in a spirit of obstruction and hostility; and, instead of discussing the question fairly on its merits, hon. gentlemen opposite are dragging on the debate slowly for months, in order to tire out the patience of the House and country. (Hear, hear.)
I ask the House whether they will permit such a shabby, such a miserable game to be played successfully? Will they allow a question so closely identified with the best interests of Canada to be thrown across the floor of the House like a battledore between the hon. members for Cornwall [John Sandfield Macdonald] and Chateauguay [Luther Holton]? Will they allow these hon. gentlemen to trifle with it, not so much because they are opposed to the scheme itself or disapprove of its general principles, as because of those by whom it is presented for the adoption of the House. (Hear, hear.)
Sir, there has been some little misapprehension as to the effect of the motion I have proposed to the House, which it is as well should be removed. It has simply and only this effect—that it does not prevent hon. members expressing their views fully and freely upon the subject, but calls upon every hon gentleman to give—if I may use an Americanism—a straight and square vote upon the question, and to state plainly whether or not he approves of the scheme of Confederation as a whole. (Hear, hear.)
As I stated when I opened this debate upon my motion, and as has been over and over again stated by several of my colleagues, we agreed with the governments of the sister provinces upon a future Constitution for the whole of British North America, and we ask this House to approve or disapprove of that Constitution. We told the House that we had made this treaty with the sanction of Her Majesty and of the Imperial Government.
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Luther Holton [Chateauguay]—With some qualifications.
John A. Macdonald [Kingston, Attorney-General West]—No; we told the House that we had the previous sanction of Her Majesty and of Her Majesty’s representative to our meeting. The Conference met and sat under this authority, and we worked out a scheme for the Constitution of the provinces. That scheme may be a good or it may be a bad one; but whether it be good or bad, we have a right to ask this House to approve or disapprove of it, to accept or reject it. We had the sanction of Her Majesty and the Imperial Government to our meeting—because this House knows that the union of these colonies is a matter of great Imperial as well as of great local interest—and under that sanction we have worked out a Constitution and made a bargain with the other provinces.
We have pledged ourselves as a Government to come down to the Canadian Parliament and say:—”Here is a Constitution which we have agreed upon for the future government of these provinces. We have agreed to submit it to this House, just as the governments of the other provinces have agreed to submit it to their respective legislatures. We have a right to ask the members of this House whether in their judgment it is a scheme that, with all the faults and imperfections it may have, ought to be entered into by the Parliament of this country. We exercise this right, and ask you to declare by your votes, yes or no, whether we were right in framing this measure, and whether it is such an one as ought to be adopted by this House.” (Hear, hear.)
This, Mr. Speaker, is the position of the Government; and what though amendments should be carried—what though the amendment of which the honorable member for North Ontario [Matthew Cameron] has given notice should succeed, and the House should declare in favor of a Legislative instead of a Federal union (supposing the honorable gentleman did present and carry such a motion—what good could it possibly do? The contract that we entered into with the other provinces would be broken, this Legislature would be violating the solemn engagement under which we are to the other colonies, and we would have a Constitution drawn up which none of the other provinces would adopt. We know that they would reject it—we know that Lower Canada would go as one man against it. (Hear, hear.)
Luther Holton [Chateauguay]—Well, the other provinces go against this.
John A. Macdonald [Kingston, Attorney-General West]—At all events the governments of the other provinces will submit the question to their legislatures and take their opinion upon it, and we have a right to ask this House:—”Do you or do you not approve of it? If you disapprove of the scheme altogether because of its general principles, why vote it out. If you think that it ought to be a Legislative and not a Federal union, why vote it out. If you think it wrong to create a life peerage instead of an elective Legislative Council, why vote it out. Vote it out for any or all of these reasons if you like; but give us at once an honest, candid and fair vote one way or the other, and let the sister colonies know without delay whether you approve of the arrangement or not.” (Hear, hear.)
And, sir, amendments are a mere matter of folly and absurdity. (Hear, hear, and ironical cheers from the Opposition.) Honorable gentlemen opposite cry “Hear, hear.” I do not of course speak of the merits of any proposition in amendment for a legislative union, or an elective Legislative Council, or for any other change in the provisions of the scheme; but I state this in all earnestness, that for all practical purposes the carrying of any amendment to this scheme is merely to lose the only chance of union we can ever hope to have with the Lower Provinces for the sake of some fancied superior Constitution which we cannot get any of the colonies to agree to. (Hear, hear.)
All we ask this House to do is what the other branch of the Legislature has already candidly done, to discuss the matter fairly and honestly upon its merits, and then to come to a vote upon it. Those who think the Constitution likely to place the country in a worse position than it now occupies, will vote against it. Those who think, on the other hand, that it is an approximation at any rate to what is right, that it will bring the colonies together into closer communication, that it will form the basis of a powerful and enduring alliance with England, will vote for it with all its faults. (Hear, hear.)
Now, as to the consequences of this motion which I have proposed, this House ought to know that not a single speech can be cut off or shorn of its dimensions by it, and that every honorable gentleman can discuss the question of Confederation, giving, as fully as he desires, the reasons why he will vote for or against the scheme proposed. All the motion will do, all the Government wish to do, is to keep the question before the House; and the honorable member for North Ontario [Matthew Cameron] can speak as well to it as if he had […]
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[…] his amendment in his hand, and can, as he usually does, make as able a speech as if there were half-a-dozen amendments proposed to it. The whole scheme, in fact, is as much in the hands of the House, and as fully before it and open to discussion, as it was on the day I moved its adoption.
All this motion will do is to prevent honorable gentlemen opposite playing the trick which I have spoken of—drawing the discussion away from the main question before the House, getting up debates upon the powers of the General Government and of the local governments, upon an elective or an appointed Legislative Council, and upon all sorts of side issues upon which the changes would be rung night after night and week after week, through the spring and summer, till the House became weary with the surfeit of talk, and the country disgusted. (Hear, hear.)
That, sir, is the aim and object of honorable gentlemen opposite, but I hope this House will not be so foolish as to fall into the trap they have laid, and I know honorable members are fully aware of the designs of these honorable gentlemen. They cannot complain that they have not had an opportunity of moving amendments. They have had three weeks to do it, and they have not yet moved one or given notice of one. Then, sir, what will be the consequences, on the other hand, if the previous question is not carried? If it is rejected, and the main question is not put, Confederation is defeated. And I will at once inform the House that to vote that the main question be not put, will throw Confederation over forever, and forever destroy the last hopes of a friendly junction between the colonies of British North America. (Hear, hear.)
Luther Holton [Chateauguay]—Why the last hopes?
John A. Macdonald [Kingston, Attorney-General West]—Because if we reject now the agreement come to by all the governments of all the provinces, we can never expect to get them to meet again to make another.
Luther Holton [Chateauguay]—But one of these Governments has ceased to exist.
John A. Macdonald [Kingston, Attorney-General West]—The hon. gentleman knows perfectly well that the governments of all the provinces are pledged to the scheme, but that the legislatures have not yet expressed themselves upon it. If any of them appear now to be hostile to it, that feeling may disappear when it is fully explained to them. Even the Hon. Attorney General Palmer, of Prince Edward Island, may himself become convinced of its desirability, and vote for it. We cannot say how those legislatures will vote, but what we propose to do is to lay our action before the Imperial Government, and ask it to exercise its influence with the other colonies in securing the passage of the scheme.
And I have no doubt that if the Mother Country gives friendly advice to the sister colonies in that kindly spirit in which she always gives it, if she points out that in her view this scheme is calculated to serve, not only our interests, but the general interests, welfare and prosperity of the Empire, I am quite satisfied that the people of those colonies, whatever may be their local feelings, will listen at all events with respect, and perhaps with conviction, to the advice so given by the Imperial Government. I have no doubt, indeed I am satisfied, that if the Imperial Government gives that advice, it will be in the spirit of kindness and maternal love and forbearance, and that if England points out what is due to ourselves as well as to the Empire, and shows what she, in her experience and wisdom, believes to be best for the future interests of British North America, her advice will be accepted in the spirit in which it is offered, and sooner or later with conviction. (Cheers.)
For all these reasons I think the members of the Government would be wanting in their duty in this great strait, this great emergency in our affairs, if they did not press for the decision of this House as quickly as possible. (Hear, hear.) Why, there is the question of defence, which the honorable member for Cornwall [John Sandfield Macdonald] admits to be of the most pressing importance, that requires immediate attention and demands that further delay in dealing with this scheme should not be allowed.
Luther Holton [Chateauguay]—What has defence to do with this scheme of Confederation? The honorable gentleman has stated, over and over again, that it has nothing to do with it. (Hear, hear.)
John A. Macdonald [Kingston, Attorney-General West]—The honorable gentleman is mistaken. The two questions are intimately connected.
Luther Holton [Chateauguay]—Why, when we asked for information the other day as to what it is proposed to do in the matter of defence, the honorable gentleman said that that was a different subject from this altogether. (Hear, hear.)
John A. Macdonald [Kingston, Attorney-General West]—The honorable member for Hochelaga [Antoine-Aimé Dorion] certainly did move a series of resolutions asking for information upon this subject, which we refused, because they were offered for the purpose of […]
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[…] obstructing and delaying the debate on this scheme. (Hear, hear.)
When I say that there is an intimate connection between these two questions of defence and Confederation, I mean this: that the progress of recent events—events which have occurred since the commencement of this debate, has increased the necessity of immediate action, both with regard to defence and to this scheme. Honorable gentlemen opposite have been in the Government, they have been behind the scenes—and they know that the question of the defence of British North America is of great and pressing importance, and they know that the question of the defence of Canada cannot be separated from it. And honorable gentlemen have been informed, and will find by the scheme itself, that the subject was considered by the Conference, and that it was arranged that there should be one organized system of defence for the whole of the provinces and at the cost of the whole. Well, it is now of the greatest importance that some members of the Government should go home immediately, in order that England may know what the opinion of Canada is upon this question of Confederation, as well as upon the question of defence. (Hear, hear.)
John Sandfield Macdonald [Cornwall]—Is that what you want them to go for?
John A. Macdonald [Kingston, Attorney-General West]—Yes. The season is fast approaching when it will be necessary to commence these works—the only season during which they can be carried out at all; and that man is not true to his country, that man is not a true patriot, who, for the sake of a petty parliamentary triumph, for the sake of a little party annoyance—for the conduct of the Opposition amounts to nothing more—would endeavor to postpone some definite arrangement on this important question of defence. (Hear, hear.)
Yes, Mr. Speaker, this opposition is either one or the other of two things—it is either for the sake of party annoyance, or it is a deliberate desire to prevent anything being done to defend ourselves, in order that we may easily fall a prey to annexation. (Cheers.) I do not like to believe that honorable gentlemen opposite entertain any wish to become connected with the neighboring republic, and therefore I am forced to the conviction that they are actuated by the miserable motive of gaining a little parliamentary or party success. There are only two alternatives of belief, and one or the other of them must be correct. (Hear, hear.)
I believe the honorable member for Chateauguay [Luther Holton] is in his heart strongly in favor of a Federal union of these colonies; but because it is proposed by honorable gentlemen on this side of the House, he cannot and will not support it. (Hear, hear.) So long as my honorable friend the Hon. Finance Minister [Alexander T. Galt] sits here on these benches, so long as Mordecai sits at the King’s gate—(laughter)—and so. long as the honorable gentleman sits on the opposite instead of this side of the House, sot long will he find fault and object. Hit high: or hit low, like the flogged soldier, nothing, will please him. (Renewed laughter.)
But I believe the House will not sanction such, pitiful conduct as honorable gentlemen opposite exhibit. I believe we will have a large, an overwhelming majority, to sustain us. in the course we have adopted; and that we should be highly blameable were we to exhaust the patience not only of ourselves, but of our supporters, by allowing this conduct to be pursued much longer unchecked. These, sir, are my answers to the questions of the honorable member for Chateauguay [Luther Holton]. (Cheers.)
Luther Holton [Chateauguay]—I have the satisfaction of having provoked from the hon. gentleman altogether the best speech he has delivered during this debate. So much I freely admit, and I think his own followers will confess that this is the first time he has spoken with anything like his usual spirit and force during the whole debate. This was perhaps inevitable, because in his other speech, and notably in his introductory speech, he labored under the consciousness that the scheme was at variance with his own antecedents, and was not approved of by anybody. We had, therefore, at that time none of that vivacity, none of that strength of declamation, none of that humor with which his brief speech this evening has overflown.
But, sir, to return to the point to which I called your attention when you resumed the chair. To that point the hon. gentleman has not been pleased to speak. He has gone off on all sorts of subjects He has said he will not hold himself bound by the arrangements which he himself entered into at the opening of the debate. He says he does not consider himself so bound; and I must be allowed to say a word or two in reference to his excuse for his departure from that agreement. He says that I and other bon. gentlemen on this side have been instrumental in wasting the time of the House. Emphatically I deny that statement. (Hear, hear.) That we did resist the unfair attempts on the other side of the House to change the order of the debate […]
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[…] which was deliberately established, whereby the debate was to be resumed every evening at half-past seven, I do not deny. I frankly admit it, and claim that we were justified in so doing; at all events I am prepared to take the responsibility of having contributed my share to that result. But as to the debate on the main motion, I defy the Hon. Attorney General [John A. Macdonald] to indicate one hon. gentleman on this side who has wasted a single moment of the time of the House—who has spoken beside the question—and who has spoken in order to postpone the question and to protract the debate. And for proof of this assertion, I venture to say that when we get the extended reports of this debate, it will be found that the space occupied by the speeches of honorable gentlemen who support this measure is at least twice that which is occupied by the speeches of hon. gentlemen on this side of the House. (Hear, hear.)
George-Étienne Cartier [Montreal East, Attorney-General East]—That’s just the complaint made on this side, that you will not speak. (Laughter.)
Luther Holton [Chateauguay]—Oh, we are wasting time by not speaking—that’s the charge! (Laughter.) It is quite obvious that the honorable gentleman’s leader would never have made a blunder of that kind. We have wasted the time of the House by not speaking! Well, sir, it is a very novel way of talking against time, by holding our tongues! (Laughter.)
But, Mr. Speaker, I am not going into the general debate. I shall not proceed with this matter further. I rose for the purpose of appealing to the sense of justice and common fairness of hon. gentlemen. That appeal has been disregarded. They adhere to that unfair step of theirs, and of course we must meet it as we can. (Hear, hear.)
George-Étienne Cartier [Montreal East, Attorney-General East]—Mr. Speaker, the hon. gentleman found fault with what I stated just now. But what I said was quite correct; and that is, that we wanted to give as free scope to the debate as could be afforded on both sides of the House. When, however, hon. gentlemen on the other side had their opportunity to speak, they were never ready; and we all remember that on two occasions they actually moved the adjournment of the House, one night at nine o’clock, and again, when the hon. member for Brome (Mr. Dunkin) was unable to continue his speech, at ten o’clock. Some hon. gentlemen ou this side had promised to speak, and I well recollect that the hon. member for Lincoln (Mr. McGiverin) had to come to their relief, and filled up the space in the debate, in order to give the opportunity to the Opposition of being ready on the following day. (Hear, hear.)
Antoine-Aimé Dorion [Hochelaga]—I cannot allow the Hon. Attorney General West [John A. Macdonald] to run away from the question by one of those “artful dodges,” for which he is so well known in this House and the country. (Hear, hear.) The question put to him by my honorable friend the member for Chateauguay (Hon. Mr. Holton) was, whether he did not agree to the debate being continued on certain terms, and in such a way as that full opportunity should be given to hon. members to move their amendments.
It is very well for the Attorney General West [John A. Macdonald] to say that that arrangement was made, not for the benefit of the House, not for the advantage of the public, not for the convenience of honorable members, but out of mere courtesy by the Government. Sir, the proposition was his own. The hon. gentleman himself came to the House and stated the manner in which the debate should be conducted, actually proposing that the rule which prevented honorable members speaking more than once on the same question, with the Speaker in the chair, should be suspended, in order that every member should have the same freedom of discussion as though we were in Committee of the Whole.
That was the proposition of the Hon. Attorney General West [John A. Macdonald] himself, thinking it the most proper way to conduct the course of the debate. He went further, and stated it as his opinion that after the debate commenced, it should go on each day after half-past seven, leaving the afternoon sitting for the other business of the House. This was another of the hon. gentleman’s voluntary statements. Then, going on, what do we find? We find the Hon. Attorney General West [John A. Macdonald], immediately after, in answer to my hon. friend on my right (Hon. J.S. Macdonald), saying:—
His idea was that after the debate commenced, it should go on each day after half-past seven, leaving the afternoon sitting for other business.
The suspension of the rules he proposed was for the protection of the minority, by allowing each member to speak and state his objections as often as he pleased. * * * * * * * * * * * * * He agreed that Mr. Cameron proposition was a reasonable one. The […]
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[…] Government would, in the first instance, lay their case before the House, and through the press before the country, and then allow a reasonable time for the country to judge of the case as presented by the Government.
Although the Hon. Atty. Gen. had proposed that the discussion should continue day after day, he had not suggested for a moment that the vote should be hurried on; the debate at any period might be adjourned, if deemed necessary, to allow time for the expression of public opinion. There were 130 members, and almost every member would desire to speak on the question; and he thought clearly the proper course was to devote every day, after half-past seven, to the discussion, to allow all members on both sides to state their views, that they might go to the country and be fully considered.
This, then, was the manner in which the Government brought the proposition before the House—the matter was to be discussed without hurry, and the whole of the 130 members on the floor of the House were to be allowed to express their opinions fully, and their views were to go to the country to be fully weighed and considered. After that we heard the Hon. Atty. Gen. West [John A. Macdonald] saying:—
Of course it was competent to the House to vote against the Address as a whole, or to adopt amendments to it; but, if they did so, it would then be for the Government to consider whether they would press the scheme further on the attention of the House.
All amendments might be moved to that one resolution. It would be the same thing, in fact, as to move them upon each resolution separately.
This, Mr. Speaker, occurred during the preliminary discussion.
John A. Macdonald [Kingston, Attorney-General West]—That is right.
Luther Holton [Chateauguay]—But you back out of it now.
George-Étienne Cartier [Montreal East, Attorney-General East]—Why did you not move?
Antoine-Aimé Dorion [Hochelaga]—I was saying that this occurred in the preliminary discussion which took place on the floor of the House when the Hon. Atty. Gen. West [John A. Macdonald] himself brought in the resolution upon which the discussion of this measure should be based. We proposed that, as the best protection for the minority, we should go into Committee of the Whole; but the Hon. Atty. Gen. West [John A. Macdonald] said that we should have all the advantages, and more, too, than if we went into committee. He promised that we should be allowed to express our views as often as we pleased, while we would have the benefit of greater order being kept, with the Speaker in the chair, than would be possible in Committee of the Whole.
We relied upon this agreement being kept, and believed that not only would members be allowed to express their views without check, but that the public would have time to hold meetings and petition. We therefore consented at once to the eight days’ adjournment, which was suggested by the honorable member for Peel (Hon. J.H. Cameron), and which was considered by all a most reasonable proposition. Well, the Government took eight days to send their speeches to the country, and four days after the debate was resumed, we find the honorable member for Montreal Centre (Hon. Mr. Rose) putting a notice on the paper to do away with the solemn agreement which was entered into on the floor of Parliament between the honorable members on the ministerial side and the minority in opposition. (Hear, hear.)
The honorable gentlemen on the Treasury benches closed the exposition of their case on the 8th of February. On the 16th the debate was resumed, and on the 21st—Saturday and Sunday intervening—just two nights’ debating having taken place in the meantime—the honorable member for Montreal Centre [John Rose] went to every member to get a round robin signed for the purpose of breaking a solemn agreement, which had been entered into in good faith, between the Government and the minority. (Hear, hear.)
Having failed, after two nights’ discussion, to carry the resolution of which he had given notice, after, I say—the honorable member for Montreal Centre [John Rose] had been foiled in his attempt to carry that motion—the Hon. Atty. Gen. West [John A. Macdonald] put a notice on the paper to the same effect, thereby assuming the responsibility of all that had been done in this respect by the honorable member for Montreal Centre [John Rose]. And in the absence of the Hon. Atty. Gen. West [John A. Macdonald], the Hon. Atty. Gen. East [George-Étienne Cartier] moved that resolution for breaking the agreement which he and his colleagues had solemnly entered into. (Hear, hear.)
And, sir, not only did they attempt to break this agreement, so as to prevent discussion on the part of the minority, and to stifle the expression of public opinion, which was […]
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[…] manifesting itself at public meetings, which were being held everywhere throughout the country, and making itself known to this House through the right of petition; but we now find the hon. gentlemen taking advantage of every rule and technicality known to parliamentary practice to accomplish the same object. (Hear, hear.) And, forsooth, the hon. gentleman rises in his place and attempts to justify himself by calling the Opposition a factious opposition, and by charging it with wasting the time of the House. They are anxious to strangle the discussion after five or six days’ debate, when more time had been employed by hon. members on that side than by hon. members on our side, having already succeeded in forcing on the discussion at half-past three in the afternoon, instead of half-past seven, according to the agreement.
And now, sir, we are witnessing the extraordinary spectacle of a Government moving the “previous question” to their own motion. (Cheers.)
Well, indeed, might the hon. member for Carleton (Mr. Powell) ask if there could be found a precedent for such a course! Hon. gentlemen who can accomplish such a thing as the “double shuffle” can never be much embarrassed for the want of a precedent. They who have so long, by means of parliamentary tricks, succeeded in maintaining their position, are now inventing a new dodge in order to choke off discussion on this question.
Already, sir, have we seen, on one celebrated occasion—in the Corrigan case—the Hon. Attorney General West [John A. Macdonald] rising in his place and moving a resolution, and afterwards inviting his own followers to vote against it. (Cheers.)
And now, following a similar course, he is proposing the “previous question,” the object of which is, in ordinary parliamentary practice, to prevent a vote being taken on the main proposition. Whenever an hon. gentleman does not want to vote in favor of the question before the House, and dares not vote against it, he moves or gets a friend to move the “previous question,” which is that the question be now put, and votes against it. (Hear, hear.)
Such is the invariable practice in England, where parliamentary usage is better known than in this country, and we here find a government resorting to a similar dodge in reference to a measure of their own, and the most important measure that was ever brought before the country.
John Sandfield Macdonald [Cornwall]—And a strong government, too.
Antoine-Aimé Dorion [Hochelaga]—Yes, and a strong government, as my honorable friend says—a government which boasts of having an immense majority, and of having the power to carry such measures as it pleases. It is such a government as this, I say, which is dragging its supporters still deeper through the mire—which is saying to them: “You shall vote for the scheme without putting your views on record, and without giving the people an opportunity of expressing their opinion in the usual constitutional manner.” (Hear, hear.)
But what do they gain by such a course? They acknowledge it will not stop discussion. And thus they will not gain a single hour or a single minute in point of time. But this they will gain—if their supporters are blind enough to follow them, those who are pledged to their constituents not to vote for the scheme without, first submitting it to the people, will be forced into eating up all the promises that they have made while in the presence of their constituents. It may be possible that they will find some who will thus, following the example shown them by the Government, give the denial to their solemn promises, and turn their backs on the pledges they have given—they may find, I say, a few of their followers doing this; but I shall be much mistaken if the majority of the members of this House who have gone to public meetings in the country—who have met their constituents face to face, and who have faithfully pledged themselves to vote for an appeal to the people, will be dragged, as the honorable gentlemen on the other side attempt to drag them, into doing that which their own consciences and their promises to their constituents alike forbid. (Hear, hear.)
It will be discreditable to this House, should honorable members be found in such a position—if, by a more dodge of this kind, Ministers themselves can not only break their own promises, but compel their supporters to break their promises as well. I hope, for the honor of this House and the country, there will not be found one of those who have promised to vote for an appeal to the people, recording his vote for the question now before the Chair. Let it be clearly understood, that every honorable member who votes for the previous question declares against any amendment being moved to the main motion, […]
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[…] against any expression of opinion on the part of the members of this House being placed on record. In voting, too, for the “previous question,” he also votes to condone the breach of faith of which honorable gentlemen have been guilty towards this House. And, sir, honorable gentlemen must have sunk very low in the estimation of their own friends, when two or three of their warmest supporters have to rise, one after the other, to charge them, as was done this afternoon, with a breach of faith, and with not having kept their promises to this House and to the country. (Hear, hear.)
In my opinion, the honorable gentlemen would have shown a little more dignity and self-respect had they not thus exposed themselves to the taunts of their own friends. But I cannot believe that the House will consent to be led away by the dexterous management of the Hon. Attorney General West [John A. Macdonald]—by the fictitious indignation which he is always ready to summon to his assistance, and with which he has burst upon the House to-day. In respect to the factiousness of the Opposition, I repeat that I never witnessed in this House such a spectacle as that which has just been displayed by hon. gentlemen on the other side.
Never, in my life, did I hear a strong government rising in its place, and upon a question of this magnitude, involving the dearest interests of the country, exclaiming—”You shall accept the scheme as a whole; you shall not even have the opportunity of moving a single amendment.” The honorable gentleman, sir, treated as an absurd proposition that of the honorable member for North Ontario [Matthew Cameron]—which is also the desire of the Lower Provinces, for a legislative union, with guarantees for the laws, language and religion of the inhabitants of Lower Canada, instead of a Federal union.
But, sir, is it not the case that a great many members of this House, nay, some in the Administration, would prefer that to the proposed scheme of Federation? Is it not also the case that in Nova Scotia, Hon. Mr. Howe has set his face against Federation, and is a strong advocate of legislative union, which the honorable gentlemen opposite treat as an absurdity. Well, sir, whether it is an absurdity or not, every honorable member of this House ought to have an opportunity to put his views on record, and of saying: “I want a legislative union, and not a Federation; I want an elective, and not a nominative Council.” (Hear, Hear.)
Sir, the honorable gentlemen say that a legislative union is an absurdity, that an appeal to the people on this question is also an absurdity; but this is only in keeping with their whole course of conduct, which is to treat the people of this country with contempt, and altogether to disregard the wishes of their representatives in Parliament. (Hear, hear.)
Not only do they treat this side with contempt, but they treat with even greater contempt their own friends, whom they are trying to coerce into approval of their unconstitutional course of conduct. (Cheers.)
|Editors’ Note (2019): The Legislative Assembly stopped for dinner recess.|
John Sandfield Macdonald [Cornwall] resumed his speech, which was interrupted at the dinner recess, by saying:
Whatever other steps may be taken for the improved organization of the militia, it appears to Her Majesty’s Government to be of essential importance (hat its administration and the supply of funds for its support, should be exempt from the disturbing action of ordinary politics. Unless this be done, there can be no confidence that in the appointment of officers and in other matters of a purely military character, no other object than the efficiency of the force is kept in view. Were it not that it might fairly be considered too great an interference with the privileges of the representatives of the people, I should be inclined to suggest that the charge for the militia, or a certain fixed portion of it, should be defrayed from the Consolidated Fund of Canada, or voted for a period of three or five years.
I trust the House will bear with me while I read the opinion of the Canadian Government on this extraordinary proposition:
Another suggestion embraced in His Grace’s despatch is well calculated to excite surprise. Your Excellency’s advisers allude to that portion of the despatch in which His Grace proposes to remove the control of funds required for militia purposes from the domain of Parliament. His Grace is evidently aware that the proposition wears the aspect of “an interference with the privileges of the representatives of the people,” and it is certain that any measure liable to this construction never will be, and ought not to be entertained by a people inheriting the freedom guaranteed by British institutions. The Imperial Parliament guards with jealous care the means of maintaining the military and naval forces of the Empire. Its appropriations are annually voted, and not the most powerful minister has dared to propose to the House of Commons the abandonment of its controlling power for a period of five […]
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[…] years. If the disturbing action “of ordinary politics” is a reason for removing the final direction of military preparations from Parliament, it is in every sense as applicable in England as in Canada. What the House of Commons would not under any circumstances of danger entertain, is not likely to be entertained by the Legislature of Canada.
Whatever evils are incident to representative institutions, the people of a British province will not forget that they are trivial in comparison with those which are inseparable from arbitrary authority. Popular liberties are only safe when the action of the people retains and guides the policy of those who are invested with the power of directing the affairs of the country. They are safe against military despotism, wielded by a corrupt government, only when they have in their hands the means of controlling the supplies required for the maintenance of a military organization.
I will now quote one more extract from the same report, which will exhibit the opinion entertained at that time by us in relation to the political union of the provinces. What I am now about to read was written in answer to a proposition made from the Colonial Office that a fund should be raised by the British North American Colonies, and which should be expended under the direction of the Secretary of State for the common defence of the whole country. The extract here cited will place the House in a position to understand what was then intended to be done:—
A union for defence is proposed by His Grace the Secretary of State for the Colonies, a union of the British North American Provinces, for the formation and maintenance of one uniform system of military organization and training, having a common defensive fund, and approved by Her Majesty’s Government—a union, whose details would emanate from the Secretary of State, and whose management would be entirely independent of the several local legislatures. Your Excellency’s advisers have no hesitation in expressing the opinion that any alliance of this character cannot at present be entertained.
An Intercolonial Railway seems to be the first step towards any more intimate relations between the British North American Provinces than those which now exist. The construction even of this work is by no means certain; although this Government, looking at it mainly as a means of defence, has entertained the preliminaries, in common with delegates from the provinces of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. It is premature, just now, to speculate upon the possible political consequences which may never be consummated.
Certain it is, however, that there can be no closer intercolonial union of any kind until increased facilities for intercommunication are provided; and equally certain that the provinces, supposing them to be hereafter united, will never contribute to an expensive system of defence unless it be subject to their own control. Speaking for Canada, Your Excellency’s advisers are sure that this province will continue to claim the exclusive right of directing the expenditure of the public moneys.
Sir, these were the replies to the various propositions submitted by His Grace in relation to our contributions towards the defence of this country, and to the means for supplying the same. If different ground is now taken by honorable gentlemen on the Treasury benches, it seems to me that they abandon the rights which belong to a free people—the right of controlling the expenditure of our own money, the denial of which caused the revolt of the American colonies in 1776. In the observations I have made on the question of defence, and the willingness of the people of this country to contribute their share, I wish to be understood that the proportion asked of us shall be according to our ability.
What I say is that in the condition in which the country is at this moment, it would be idle for us to undertake an outlay which would hopelessly embarrass our exchequer. To organize a large force in connection with the outlay for fortifications, would require a large number of men, who would be withdrawn from the industry of the country—and, that industry being heavily taxed, without any return being expected; and the soil refusing perhaps to be as prolific as in other years, most serious embarrassments would overtake us in the attempt to defend ourselves in a war which we had done nothing to provoke. And, having no knowledge of the Imperial policy which might bring about such a war, I say it becomes the people of this country, before they undertake a large outlay for defence or military organisation, to consider what portion we can bear of the burdens sought to be imposed upon us. (Hear, hear.)
I say nothing of the sensational style of speaking which the Attorney General West [John A. Macdonald] gets up about other topics, in order to get away n om the point raised by my honorable friend Chateauguay [Luther Holton], who stated the case in a way that any one who desired might have met it fairly. When a plain answer is wanted to a pointed question, honorable gentlemen opposite invariably fly off to something else. I will not allude to the debate which incidentally followed after the recess this evening, and before I resumed my observations a little while ago, farther than to make a remark on the statement of the Attorney General West [John A. Macdonald], that I sneered at the question […]
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[…] of defence. The honorable gentleman stopped there, and I do not know what he intended to add. I suppose it was to be the same courteous and elegant language which he addressed to my honorable friend the member for Chateauguay [Luther Holton]—language which, as regards its audacity and vituperative character, no other member of this House would condescend to use. Complaints from this side of the conduct of the Government generally, the honorable gentleman meets by getting up in a dreadful fury, and singling out honorable gentlemen on this side for personal attack. Such conduct, I think, is unworthy of the leader of this House. (Hear, hear.)
I deny that I have ever sneered at the defence question. During my life, it has been more than a sentiment with me—it has been a principle that this country should be defended. I know it is a duty we owe to the Empire, as a self-governing colony, to contribute a fair proportion of our means for defence. And I am sure I speak the sentiments of every honorable member on this side, when I say that we are prepared, to the extent of our resources, to contribute all we can for that object. But it is not only that we are called upon to contribute means for our defence; we shall be called upon also, in the time of danger, to contribute men, to shed the best blood of the country, to see our fields devastated, our towns destroyed, our trade and commerce ruined. All these are consequences of a State of war, which must necessarily fall upon us, in the event of that calamity arising. We have all that to consider, and we have the consciousness also that, without a very large amount of Imperial aid, it would be impossible for us for a long time to resist an invasion of this country. But, while taking this ground, let us not be led away by this buncombe talk of loyalty—by the dragging in of the name of the Sovereign and the name of the Governor General by hon. gentlemen opposite. To over-awe and whip in their supporters, they say to them that they must do what they bid them, because the Queen has said this, and the Governor General has said that, and they constantly refer to “loyalty.”
For my own part, I never invoke the aid of that term—for I always take it for granted that men are loyal, until they prove by word or deed that they are disloyal. (Hear, hear.)
The imputations cast on our loyalty are a gratuitous insult offered to true Britons, who have proved in times past, and are ready to prove again, their loyalty and their valour; men, whose attachment to the soil on which they were born makes them still more anxious to keep their hearths and firesides free from the pollution of the invader. Those who have come here only yesterday cannot feel the strength of the ties which bind us to our native land; and yet they have the audacity to charge us with being annexationists.
So far from submitting to this imputation, I charge the gentlemen on the Treasury benches, by the course of legislation they have introduced—by the sudden manner in which they have changed their tactics, and proceeded to organise a Constitution which familiarises the people of this country more to American institutions than anything ever done here before—I charge them with having done much, to hasten annexation. I put it to honorable gentlemen whether the outside talk of annexation is not assuming a very alarming aspect. (Ironical cries of “Hear! hear” from the Ministerial benches.)
Yes, and I charge honorable gentlemen with the fatal consequence of placing the issue before the English public, the people of this country, and the people of the United States—that either this self-made, unauthorised Constitution must be supported, or else the rejection of it will be tantamount to annexation, and consequently that we are annexationists at heart who do not approve of this measure.
We, who raise our voices honestly against the scheme, being desirous really to perpetuate our connection with the Mother Country, and to defend this province with the means we have, are to be stigmatised as annexationists by the Minister of Agriculture [Thomas D’Arcy McGee], who sends it forth to the world, that there are annexationists not only here but down in the Lower Provinces. He, forsooth, is the man of all others to talk about loyalty! I have listened with disgust—(Oh! oh!)—with disgust, at the assumption with which the honorable gentleman passes judgment on those who will be found standing by the British flag when he will be nowhere. (Hear, hear.)
Yes; I can scarcely restrain my anger when I hear that honorable gentleman reading us a lecture on loyalty. It is “Satan reproving sin.” When he gets into a government with a number of superloyal gentleman, he forsooth must stigmatise as disloyal every one who will not go just his own way.
Thomas D’Arcy McGee [Montreal West, Minister of Agriculture and Statistics]—I had said all these things you refer to, before you took me into your government. (Laughter.)
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John Sandfield Macdonald [Cornwall]—Whilst the honorable gentleman was with us, we kept him as close as we could, and it was a hard task. (Laughter.) We managed, however, to keep him right, and he took his part in settling the principles which were laid down in the answer we gave to the Duke of Newcastle.
Thomas D’Arcy McGee [Montreal West, Minister of Agriculture and Statistics]—Some of the views laid down in that document are very good.
John Sandfield Macdonald [Cornwall]—And no doubt, when he disagrees with the gentlemen with whom he is now associated, and leaves them as he left us, he will have different views again.
Thomas D’Arcy McGee [Montreal West, Minister of Agriculture and Statistics]—I will never go back to you.
John Sandfield Macdonald [Cornwall]—The honorable gentleman was glad to come to us. It was the first lift he got in Canada.
Thomas D’Arcy McGee [Montreal West, Minister of Agriculture and Statistics]—I never sought you.
John Sandfield Macdonald [Cornwall]—I was led into this digression in consequence of the taunts and imputations cast upon us this evening by the leader of the House. We were obliged to him for saying, in his speech at the opening of this debate, that we are all loyal in this country; and yet the Attorney General East [George-Étienne Cartier] in his speech made on the following day, said there were annexationists here—there were the John Dougall party and the extreme democratic party. It is not for me to reconcile the statements of the two honorable gentlemen. One says there are no annexationists, the other says there are. The Hon. Attorney General East [George-Étienne Cartier] spoke of an annexation sentiment in Montreal. Whether he is right or not, we know that that city became notorious for its annexation proclivities at a former time.
With regard to the prosperity of the country, and its condition at this present time, I have some observations to make, and will leave the House to deduce therefrom how far the Administration will be justifiable in asking from this House authority to make the outlay which they may propose for purposes of defence. I have said that the cry of annexation has arisen from the attempt made by honorable gentlemen opposite to shape our Constitution after the American model. And there is nothing more natural than, when the commerce of the country is at a stand-still, when indebtedness presses hard and heavy upon the farmers and mechanics as well as merchants, and all branches of trade are depressed—nothing is more natural than that people should look somewhere for relief. This leads me to state that the desire for change—which it is said this proposed scheme it intended to meet—has not been produced so much by any sectional difficulties, as by the embarrassments which have overtaken the country. Make the institutions of this country analogous, except in some very trifling instances of difference, to those of the United States, and let us feel that our commerce is too limited, and embarrassments have overtaken us—and the result will be that the policy of honorable gentlemen opposite with regard to this question will make people look to the States, in spite of themselves.
I wish to show that the state of the country ten years ago was much more prosperous than it is now. The condition in which we found ourselves in 1852 and 1853 justified us to a great extent in going into a large indebtedness for the Grand Trunk. And probably the healthy condition of the farming interest and of every branch of trade at that time, justified to some extent the enactment of the Municipal Loan Fund Act, which enabled municipalities to borrow money for all sorts of improvements. Having referred to the state of prosperity which then prevailed, I shall next allude to the cause, which, in my judgment, more than anything else contributed to produce the disastrous difficulties which have since overtaken the country. I first quote from the despatch of Lord Elgin in 1852, to show what was our condition about that period, when transmitting to the Colonial Office the Canadian Blue Book for the previous year:—
I had the honor, with my despatch, No. 2, on the 9th September, to transmit two copies of “Tables of the Trade and Navigation of the Province of Canada for 1851,” and I now enclose the Blue Book, together with a printed copy of the “Accounts of the Province,” and of a Report by the Commissioner of Public Works for the same year. These documents furnish much gratifying evidence of the progress and prosperity of the colony, and justify the anticipations on this head expressed in my despatch, No. 94, of the 1st August, 1851, which accompanied the Blue Book of 1850.
That is the official statement made by the then Governor General to the Mother Country. And what does he say in the following year? In 1853, after going over a number of facts, showing the advancement of trade and commerce, and the general progress of the country, he says, in the last sentence but one of his despatch:—
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I enclose the supplement of a local newspaper, which contains copies of the addresses that were presented to me at various points in my progress up the Ottawa. Your Grace will observe with satisfaction the uniform testimony which they bear to the prosperity of the country and the contentment of the inhabitants. Reports which reach me from other parts of the province speak on this point the same language.
Canada has enjoyed seasons of prosperity before, but it is doubtful whether any previous period in the history of the colony can be cited at which there was so entire an absence of those bitter personal and party animosities which divert attention from material interests, and prevent co-operation for the public good.
I could quote also from the essays written at that time by the member for South Lanark (Mr. Morris), the Solicitor General East (Hon. Mr. Langevin), and the late John Sheridan Hogan, to shew the unprecedented progress which was being made by Canada at that time. And what was the first thing to mar that prosperity? I wish to call the attention of honorable gentlemen to the fact, that the first step in bringing about the embarrassment we are now laboring under, was the repeal of the Usury laws. In the first place, the bill of the honorable member for South Oxford (Hon. Mr. Brown) in 1853, took away the penalty attached to lending money at usurious rates. Money was then got freely—(farmers and others borrowed heavily—and we commenced our downward career. Afterwards all restrictions on the lending of money were taken off. At first people could get money at six per cent., but afterwards capital came in from abroad, and the country was flooded with money, but at unlimited interest.
I appeal to honorable gentlemen, who represent the farming portions of Upper Canada—I appeal to honorable members for Lower Canada, if they can rise in their places and say that the condition of this country at present is not deplorable; that there is not an amount of private indebtedness which is frightful to contemplate? And why is this? It is because so many are borrowing money on account of the facility of obtaining it at high rates; then, getting embarrassed, they borrow for three or four years more at 15 or 20 per cent; next they have to borrow at 80 or 40 per cent, and finally are stripped of their property and ruined.
Alexander Mackenzie [Lambton]—Does the honorable gentleman want an answer to the appeal he made a moment ago?
John Sandfield Macdonald [Cornwall]—Certainly.
Alexander Mackenzie [Lambton]—Well, I have to say for one, that while there is a considerable amount of money borrowed in the part of the country which I represent myself, there is an amount of accumulated wealth there tenfold what it was at the time, the honorable gentleman has referred to; and there is not anything like that amount borrowed now that there was at that time. (Hear, hear.)
David Stirton [Wellington South]—I have no hesitation in endorsing that statement, as applicable also to the part of the country which I represent.
Alexander Mackenzie [Lambton]—And I should have added that money can be borrowed at lower rates now than at the time referred to.
John Sandfield Macdonald [Cornwall]—Well, it appears that I have the testimony of two honorable gentlemen against me. As regards the statement of my honorable friend who comes from the Oil Springs, we can easily understand why money has flowed in there, where they sell a hundred acres for a million of dollars—and why, at the time his section of country has become rich, other parts of the country may remain poor. (Hear, hear.)
At the time the usury laws were repealed, I had the honor, Mr. Speaker, to be in the seat which you now occupy, and I have therefore no opportunity of urging my opposition to the bill then brought before the House by the honorable member for South Oxford (Hon. Mr. Brown) with all that energy and earnestness which characterises that honorable gentleman.
But whenever the attempt was subsequently made to restore the usury laws, or to reimpose the restrictions on the rate of interest, my vote will always be found to have been with those who were opposed to what is called free trade in money, and today I feel more satisfied than ever that it is the repeal of the usury laws which has brought about a large amount of the depression and the difficulties under which the country now suffers.
It is true that for two or three years after the repeal of the usury laws, the country was prosperous. Property was valued at enormous rates; large amounts were borrowed from the Municipal Loan Fund, and were spent on local improvements generally, yielding no return whatever. Then there were large sums borrowed from the different moneyed corporations that came into the country—such as the Canada Loan and Credit Company—the Trust and Loan Company—and the various insurance companies that are daily investing their surplus funds in valuable […]
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[…] property in this country. Where does that money go? It does not remain here. It is drained off in the dividends of the bank?, and of the various companies that are lending at usurious rates of interest. It is going out of the country. And what do we get in return? More facilities for borrowing.
And I ask honorable gentlemen from Upper Canada—I do not know how far this is applicable to Lower Canada—whether it is not true that an immense number of our youth, now in the armies of the United States, have gone away because the properties held by their fathers are so heavily mortgaged that they had no hope of retrieving them. Speaking for my own section, I can say that there is scarcely a young man who can now look forward, as was the rule ten or twelve years ago, to succeeding his father in the family homestead. I say then that this generally depressed state of the country, without any prospect of relief, causes a large amount of uneasiness in the public mind.
And there is no doubt that a good deal of the feeling in favor of the scheme which honorable gentleman take credit for, is influenced by the desire to look for some change, as a relief from the depression under which we labour. And I am not without authority for the statement I am now making. I shall read from an article published only a day or two ago by one, whose name I am sure is well known to the commercial community generally—who has contributed more than anyone else to the statistics of our trade and commerce by his labors in Toronto, and subsequently in Montreal—I allude to the Editor of the Trade Review. I shall read from that article, and shall then ask the House to say whether I have been exaggerating. I am now speaking more of the condition of our farmers, and those who have been induced to borrow on account of the facilities afforded for getting money; I shall come presently to speak of the trade and commerce of the country, and shall prove from the same source that the statistics of our trade show both to be in a deplorable condition. I do this to show that we should not blindly incur an immense liability in the matter of defence, when we have no means of meeting the outlay that may be imposed upon us.
When the Hon. Solicitor General (Hon. Mr. Langevin) and the member for St. John’s (Mr. Bourassa) had a race every year to see who would be foremost in bringing in his bill to reduce the rate of interest, the member for South Oxford (Hon. Mr. Brown) of course insisted on the maintenance of his pet scheme, which, in my opinion, has done more harm to the country than anything else. I regret that the House should have agreed so far with the honorable gentleman in maintaining that policy. As I said before, in a country like this, where our wealth is in our lands, where we own but little money—when our crops fail, how can we meet the extravagant demands made upon us by those from whom we borrow? But I will proceed to read what the Trade Review of February last says about our present laws on the subject of usury:—
The framers of these laws evidently intended them, we think, to protect the trader and the farmer from the extortions of money lenders, and, as such, they may have been suited for the time, when banking was solely in the hands of one or two corporations, which, of course, were monopolists. But competition has now fairly effaced all possibility of oppression from such a source. These laws, in fact, instead of guarding the interests they were intended to protect, only serve to drive their representatives into the enemy’s quarters, and leave them at the mercy of the oppressor.
Mercantile paper, which our banks are not willing to discount at seven percent, is handed by the needy trader—who is in want of money to meet the pressing demands of some creditor, or to retire some notes falling due—to a broker, by whom, perhaps, after getting a bond over part of the trader’s property, the paper is discounted at a rate more nearly assimilated to that at which respectable bankers are selling “current fund” drafts upon New York (say fifty per cent, discount) than a fair rate for commercial paper. This is the kind of protection our usury laws afford. Rather a rude nurse, we should call them, for our undeveloped “resources, and our infant manufactures.”
That is the language of the reviewer, one whose business it is to review, not only the monetary condition and the commerce of the country, but every branch of our industry and trade, and he seals with his judgment the statements which have been made as to the deplorable condition into which the existing usury laws, in this and in former years, have brought the country. That is one of the consequences of free trade in money. The honorable member for South Oxford [George Brown] in answer to a remark from this side, said this afternoon that the commercial interests of Upper Canada were in a most prosperous condition.
George Brown [Oxford South, President Executive Council]—I did not say “a most prosperous condition.” What I said was this; that the honorable member for Chateauguay [Luther Holton] had exaggerated the difficulties now existing in Upper Canada; that the […]
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[…] troubles in the United States, short crops and other causes had caused a depression in Upper Canada; but that this, I considered, was merely temporary, and that with one or two good crops all this would disappear.
John Sandfield Macdonald [Cornwall]—But these are hard truths which I have been reading. And I think it is better to tell frankly our condition, than to base our estimates on. a condition which we do not really enjoy. Let us not send out extravagant statements about our situation which will not stand the test of an impartial scrutiny. Let us rather make known here and in the Mother Country our real resources, than make false representations of a state of prosperity which does not exist. Then this is our prospect, as stated by the editor of the Trade Review, and honorable gentlemen must remember that our present prospects have a great deal to do with the course they should take in legislating on the future constitution of our government:—
A very general degree of anxiety is apparent among mercantile men as to the prospects of a healthy trade during the coming season. There are so many unfavourable circumstances combining to affect our commerce, that this anxiety is by no means without a cause. Excessive importations last year, implying large internal and foreign indebtedness; decreased exports, equally implying inability to readily reduce this indebtedness, are facts that in themselves are sufficient to create a marked change in the immediate condition of trade. There can be no doubt but that the grain crop throughout Western Canada falls short of even diminished expectation, the fine sleighing of the past two months having failed to induce deliveries to any large extent by farmers. Taking into account, however, that throughout the autumn the deliveries were insignificant, it was generally anticipated that during the winter the amount of produce to be brought out would be very large.
But unfortunately, notwithstanding a continuance of excellent roads, a very great pressure for money, and a fair demand at moderate rates, at no point in all the province have the receipts yet reached those of previous years. The only inference is, that the crop is not only a short one, but that the money being realized for it falls far short of general expectation. The result must be to materially lessen the debt-paying power of the people, and render them less likely to make new purchases. Not only will this be the internal effect, but when it is understood that one section of the province will require for consumption very nearly all the surplus produce of the other, the difficulty to discharge foreign indebtedness is intensified.”
Mr. Speaker, I again quote from the Trade Review. It tells us that the probable excess in Upper Canada will be more than swallowed up in Lower Canada. The article goes on to say:—
Another cause for anxiety is the general condition in which the retail trade of the country is found. The numerous failures that are daily occurring, and the wretched dividends which real estates are likely to pay, indicate a condition of things not at all desirable. Not only is there constantly apparent a manifest lack of capacity, but, as we remarked last week, a degree of rascality is being developed, which cannot fail to be highly injurious to general confidence. We do not now propose to enumerate the causes for these frequent casualties, or point out the policy of trade that has induced them: it is sufficient to say, that recent events make it more than usually incumbent upon importers to scan their credits very closely; to lessen large amounts in few hands; and to use every legitimate precaution for safety rather than profit.
We need hardly another cause to account for the anxiety of merchants as to the future. But another cause we have in the restricted policy which the banks will of necessity be compelled to pursue. All that we have been attempting to describe will act with far greater force upon the banks than upon individuals. A small movement of produce implies an equally small circulation of bills; any lack of confidence in the retail trade will hasten the policy which has been for some time evident, viz., the contraction into large cities of the means of the leading institutions. Even in the ordinary condition of affairs, the banks would not do other than contract in a year of short crops and low prices.
But another cause for contraction will be the contemplated withdrawal of Southern gold now in deposit. The passage of the Alien Bill may have one of two effects;
1st, it may cause the withdrawal of a considerable sum of gold held by the banks; or
2nd, it will certainly necessitate preparation for such a withdrawal, should it even never take place. Either consequence implies a conversion into bullion of some property not now in that shape. The banks now unitedly hold five and a-half millions of dollars in gold, against which there is a circulation of notes of over nine millions. This proportion will doubtless be maintained, and any considerable drafts for deposits will be met by bills of exchange on England, the banks either using their credit there, which they can do with interest at five per cent., or they can sell the securities in which their foreign deposits are invested.
Sir, there is the future, drawn only last month, of the condition of Upper Canada—short crops and nothing to export, and nothing staring us in the face but actual distress and actual want. Then, if that is imminent, does it not behove us to regard closely the conduct of the gentlemen on the Treasury benches? We ought to admonish them not to go heedlessly and needlessly […]
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[…] into extravagance which this country cannot bear. (Hear, hear.) The effect of this legislation, the unhinging of the public mind, and the high expectations formed of the advantages which are to result from the adoption of this scheme of a new Constitution—all these things have contributed to make the people unhappy and to drive the population out of the country. (Hear, hear.)
I put it to the House, whether the honorable gentlemen on the Treasury benches have not given, as the main excuse for pressing the Confederation scheme, the imminent danger which surrounds us. Does the emigrant choose that country where he cannot profitably invest his capital; where he cannot find profitable employment on his arrival, nor lands in convenient situations, which he can convert to immediate use, where extravagance has been induced by the facilities afforded for borrowing and for wild speculations; and above all, where he expects to be called upon to perform military duties in the face of a powerful enemy immediately on the borders of his new home? I think that if, in the face of all these circumstances, the gentlemen on the Treasury benches pledge themselves to an excessive outlay, we ought to be told now what are the prospects in store for the people of Canada. (Hear, hear.)
But, sir, they are silent on that point. We know this, however, from past experience—we know that it will be impossible for us to regulate the conduct of the honorable gentlemen on the Treasury benches, when they get to Downing Street, surrounded by the influences which will meet them there. Sir, we have occasion for alarm. We remember that when Hon. Mr. Hincks went to England in 1854, notwithstanding we had voted one million eight hundred sterling in 1852 for the Grand Trunk, he returned to Canada just in time to call Parliament within a day of the prescribed period appointed for its meeting, and proposed, as the important measure for that session, £900,000 stg. additional; and this vote was forced through Parliament during the following session, when it transpired, for the first time, that the agreement to advance this sum out of the public exchequer had been entered into by Mr. Hincks and Lord Elgin whilst in London. We are now called upon to give these gentlemen a vote of credit; to give them the control of a large sum of money, to spend as they think proper; to allow them to betake themselves to England to bind us to an agreement for all time to come. (Hear, hear.)
We see, sir, day after day, as I have said before, how gentlemen come to this House and disregard the pledges they have made their constituents. Once in their places here, they forget the vows by which they obtained them. I could give a long list, in my experience of a quarter of a century in this House, of members who have betrayed the confidence reposed in them by the people who elected them. (Hear, hear.) Is it vain to appeal to members now to control the power the Government are asking from us, after we have protested against this sort of thing year after year; when we are refused those explanations which should be given to this House; when the country is deeply embarrassed, I fear, beyond redemption? (Hear, hear.) I have to apologise to the House for the length of time during which I have occupied its attention. But I hope the House will believe this, that I am not actuated by any factious motives in this matter. (Hear, hear.)
I stand here as one who has no vote of his to recall; as one who has always maintained that, under our Constitution, as it is, prosperity and enjoyment might be secured, with all their concomitants, were we free from demagogue-ism, which has produced a very large proportion of the difficulties by which we are surrounded. (Hear, hear.) I think I have demonstrated that there is sufficient cause for alarm to make us anxious for the future. For all we know, we may find ourselves in a very awkward predicament when the question turns upon Confederation or annexation. I sincerely regret to notice the prevalence of this tone of annexation, and I say that, since the honorable gentlemen opposite got on the Treasury benches, this tone has been much more decided on this question than ever before. (Hear, hear.)
Sir, I need only refer to the declaration of the honorable Premier in the other House, who stated the other day that we were on an inclined plane towards annexation, but which the Confederation scheme was calculated to arrest. I regret also, as much as anyone, the position in which we are placed, and that, with such a large population, we are, like mendicants, knocking at the door of the Lower Provinces, imploring them against their will to step in to save us, forsooth, from destruction. (Hear.)
It is no wonder that the […]
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[…] people there refuse to cast their lot with ours, after hearing the opinion the honorable gentlemen on the Treasury benches have so frequently expressed of each other. And what will be the consequence if an attempt is made to coerce them? Why, they will be like the damsel who is forced to marry against her will, and who will, in the end, be most likely to elope with someone else. (Hear, hear, and laughter.)
With the tricks which the gentlemen on the Treasury benches know so well to play, we will only hasten the day when the Lower Provinces will perhaps endeavor to withdraw from the Mother Country and seek another alliance. I resume my seat, sir, regretting the manner in which the Government have tried to stifle the full and free discussion of this great question. (Cheers )
James Cowan [Waterloo South]—I cannot agree altogether, Mr. Speaker, with the honorable member for Cornwall [John Sandfield Macdonald] as to the causes which led to the prosperity of this country from 1854 to 1858, nor yet with the picture he draws of our present circumstances. That hon. gentleman attributes our prosperity to the repeal of the Usury laws. I do not doubt but that the repeal of the Usury laws had some effect, but there were other causes which had much more to do in producing that prosperity than the repeal of the Usury laws. In the first place we imported money by the million to build our railways, and in the second place, not only had we abundant harvests, but short crops in oilier countries gave us fabulous prices for everything we raised. Instead of eighty or ninety cents, wheat was worth two dollars a bushel and upwards, with millers scouring the country with teams to carry it from the bain to the mill.
Such a tide of prosperity, Mr. Speaker, never set in on any country; the result was that it unhinged the sober calculation of almost everybody, and we ran into debt individually, municipally, and provincially, as if pay-day had never been to come. Well-to-do farmers, with perhaps a thousand dollars or two in their pocket, thought they might purchase an adjoining farm, but it was well if they escaped with the loss of the money paid down. In many instances the homestead was sacrificed ere the new farm was paid for, while houses planned and built then have not yet received their furniture.
But, Mr. Speaker, if our prosperity was unprecedented, so were our reverses. The commercial crisis of 1858 came on us when we were almost without a crop. The disastrous frost of the 11th of June destroyed the one-half, if not three-fourths, of the fall wheat—Spring wheat—all except the Fife sort, then but sown, was so blighted as in many instances not to be worth the cutting. And many a farmer was not only destitute of potatoes to eat, but had even to purchase his next year’s seed. The only article from which numerous farmers got any return was surplus stock, which that season brought fair prices—lean as well as fat—in the American markets. But these reverses were not without a salutary effect. All speculation was instantly stopped. Farmers began to practice anew frugality and economy, and turned their attention to rearing stock as well as cereals. The consequence is that the country was in a great measure recovered from the shock of 1858, and, notwithstanding rather short crops and comparatively low prices, I cannot help thinking that the hon. member for Cornwall [John Sandfield Macdonald] takes altogether too gloomy a view of the state of the country.
But though I cannot coincide with the gloomy views of the member for Cornwall [John Sandfield Macdonald], neither can I accept the bright prospect of the member for South Wellington [David Stirton], as being descriptive of the agricultural interest, generally, throughout the province. It is all very well for my hon. friend, who resides in one of the most fertile counties in Canada, and whose farmers devote their attention to rearing stock—stock second to none in the province—to talk of agricultural prosperity. But in less favored sections it cannot be denied that there is much individual suffering, caused by the midge and the unprecedented drought of last bummer. (Hear, hear.)
Maurice Laframboise [Bagot] said—Mr. Speaker, when, a few nights ago, I had the honor to assert in this House that the Government would adopt every means to cause their scheme of Confederation to be passed without amendment, and would have recourse to motions of the nature of that which is engaging our attention at the present time, I certainly did not expect that my prediction would be so soon accomplished, and I acknowledge that I did not believe that it was so well founded as it has proved to be. What do we see Mr. Speaker? We see an example of the most deplorably restrictive action which can possibly be displayed by a government. After delivering, to satiety, speeches lasting several hours, speeches to […]
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[…] which we have listened with the greatest possible attention, the Administration, alarmed at the agitation which is arising everywhere throughout Lower Canada, and dreading reaction, takes every means to prevent discussion, and to cause the House to vote without allowing it an opportunity of proposing amendments to the informal scheme which it is desirous of imposing upon the country. (Hear, hear.)
Among those who were witnesses of the unworthy behavior of some of the honorable Ministers, who now sit on the opposite side of the House, at the time of the celebrated “Double Shuffle” of 1858; among those who saw those men record an oath at ten o’clock at night which they violated the very next day—among those, I say, the breach of faith, of which the Hon. Attorney General West [John A. Macdonald] has just given so sad an example to this House, will excite no surprise, for those gentlemen have long accustomed us to such unworthy actions on the part of a Ministry which has lost all sense of honor and of the respect which they owe to the House. (Hear, hear.)
It is evident, Mr. Speaker, that the Government is afraid of amendments which might be proposed by the Opposition to their scheme, and of the vote which would be taken on those amendments; discussion alarms them, and the Hon. Attorney General for Lower Canada [George-Étienne Cartier] dreads nothing so much as an appeal to the people, notwithstanding that he would appear to hold in contempt the protests which come to us in the shape of petitions from all the counties in the district of Montreal. (Hear, hear.) Yes, Mr. Speaker, these numerous petitions prove to us that several honorable members of this House do not represent here the opinion of their constituents in respect of the new Constitution which it is wished to impose upon us.
There are representatives here who are ready to vote in favor of the scheme of Confederation in spite of earnest protestations from the counties for which they were elected. I shall content myself with mentioning a single one—I allude to the honorable member for St. Hyacinthe [Rémi Raymond]. Well, Mr. Speaker, that honorable member has declared that he will vote against the appeal to the people, and in favor of Confederation, notwithstanding that out of two thousand inhabitants whom he represents, or rather does not represent, in this House, seventeen hundred have formally enjoined him, by a petition signed with their names, to adopt the contrary course. (Hear, hear.)
A Voice—How many of those are electors?
Maurice Laframboise [Bagot]—They are all electors; and if you like, you may convince yourself of the truth of what I state by examining the signatures, which are those of duly qualified electors who voted at the election of the honorable member for St. Hyacinthe [Rémi Raymond]. I say then, Mr. Speaker, that the imposing and significant movement which is now going on in Lower Canada alarms the Ministry, and that if the Lower Canadian representatives obey the popular voice, and do not disregard it as some of them appear disposed to do, they will vote against the motion proposed by the Honorable Attorney General for Upper Canada [John A. Macdonald]; for if those honorable members support this motion, they will simply declare that they do not wish for amendments to the scheme, that they are opposed to an appeal to the people and to any alteration whatever of the scheme.
The other night the honorable member for Montmorency [Joseph Cauchon] declared in this House that this signified nothing; that a representative was not bound to respect the wishes of his constituents, and that we were at perfect liberty to vote as we might think fit on any measure whatsoever, and especially on the scheme of Confederation. At all events, Mr. Speaker, I shall venture to hold a different opinion from that of the honorable member, and I say that every man who shews a proper respect for his position in this House cannot vote contrary to the expressed wishes of his constituents; it is a doctrine which was never called in question until the honorable member for Montmorency [Joseph Cauchon] considered that he might cast a doubt upon the correctness of it.
Well, a fact that none will venture to deny is, that several members promised their constituents that they would vote in favor of an appeal to the people; and, by compelling them to-day to accept the motion of the Honorable Attorney General for Upper Canada [John A. Macdonald], every chance of their doing so is taken away. Placed as they are in this dilemma, the members who made that promise, and who at the same time are in favor of the Government, ought not to hesitate as to the course to be pursued; they ought to throw out this motion, for, if it should be adopted, Confederation will at once become an accomplished fact, and the appeal to the people will have to be given up. (Hear, hear.)
The Honorable Attorney General for Lower Canada [George-Étienne Cartier] has reproached the Opposition with pressing the adjournment of the House at ten, and half-past ten o’clock at night; but let him remember that he himself pressed an adjournment at the same hour, in order to give his colleague, the honorable […]
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[…] member for Dorchester [Hector-Louis Langevin], an opportunity of speaking on the following evening.
George-Étienne Cartier [Montreal East, Attorney-General East]—I moved the adjournment at a later hour of the evening; the clock on your side marked a later hour than half-past ten.
Maurice Laframboise [Bagot]—Well, then say that the Ministerial clock showed the hour which I have mentioned, and the two clocks generally agree, better than we agree ourselves. (Hear, hear, and laughter.) In conclusion, Mr. Speaker, I have no hesitation in saying that our parliamentary history shows no precedent for so unworthy a proceeding as the present. I say that it is the intention of the Government to send their measure to England to receive the Imperial sanction before the people of this country have had time to judge of it, and before their representatives have had an opportunity of amending it in any way whatever. This measure, or this new Constitution, after it shall have so received the sanction of the Imperial Government, will have to be accepted by Lower Canada, whether it suits her or not. (Hear, hear.)
Mr. Speaker, I venture to hope that greater independence will be exhibited by our Lower Canadian representatives than our Ministers are willing to believe will be exhibited, and that our Lower Canadian members will not consent to allow themselves to be so led by the nose by their leaders. We were promised, at the commencement of this debate, that all the members should have an opportunity of expressing their views on the scheme, and of making amendments to it, should they think proper to do so; and now, treading all their promises under foot, the Ministry thus lays its ultimatum before us: you must adopt the scheme which we submit to you, without attempting to change a single iota. For my part, Mr. Speaker, I consider that I should be failing in the performance of my duty as a representative if I did not record my protest against such conduct, and such scandalous neglect of all the principles of responsible government. (Applause.)
Matthew Cameron [Ontario North]—I very much regret that I find it necessary to detain the House, even for a few moments, for a second time on the same day, on the same subject; but I desire to repel, in the strongest manner, the insinuation that the Hon. Attorney General West [John A. Macdonald] has cast on those hon. gentlemen who are opposed to the Confederation scheme—the charge that we are either actuated by feelings tending towards the annexation of Canada to the neighboring republic, or else that we desire to offer factious opposition, and that we have no good motive in seeking for delay with reference to the consideration of this question. Now, speaking for myself, I must say that I do not believe that there is an honorable gentleman on the floor of this House, or even within the length and breadth of British North America, who would less desire to see any change in the constitutional relations existing between these provinces and the Mother Country than myself. (Hear, hear.)
In my opposition to the scheme I am actuated by a feeling, that adopting it in the manner in which it is now proposed to be done will tend more to drive us towards that annexation, which is held up as such a bugbear, than anything that could be done by honorable gentlemen on the Treasury benches in half a century, if our Constitution were allowed to remain as it is. (Hear, hear.)
Then, as to our being called obstructionists, I would call your attention, Mr. Speaker, to the circumstances surrounding this debate. In the first instance, as has been represented by several honorable members, it was proposed that the matter should be considered as if in Committee of the Whole; but for purposes of preserving order and convenience for transacting other business, that the Speaker should remain in the chair. Though the Hon. Attorney General West [John A. Macdonald] does not consider that proposition in the same light as it was understood on this side of the House, and by myself, yet I am satisfied that the intention of hon. gentlemen in proposing it, was that the debate should go on in the same free and unrestrained manner, due order being preserved, as if the Speaker was not in the chair. (Hear, hear.)
Hon. gentlemen on the Treasury benches then proposed that they should have the opportunity of laying the scheme before the House and the country in as full and careful a manner as they pleased—that they were to take their own time to do this, and were to be allowed to speak without any interruption. That privilege was accorded to them most heartily and cordially by the Opposition. There was no interruption whatever from this side of the House during the whole of their five long speeches. (Hear, hear.) But the very moment they had accomplished their object, and we desired to have exactly the same opportunity—that of laying our views before the House and the country in the same manner, and letting then follow the speeches of the honorable gentlemen on the Treasury benches in proper order—they objected in the most arbitrary manner. The Hon. Attorney […]
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[…] General East [George-Étienne Cartier] claimed the right to reply at once to every speech delivered on this side of the House. (Hear, hear.)
Then again a motion was made by the Hon. Attorney General West [John A. Macdonald] that until disposed of, the consideration of this question should be taken up every evening at half-past seven o’clock, and that was at once concurred in on our part. In a very short time afterwards it was proposed, and the proposition was endorsed and pressed by the Government, that this solemn agreement should be broken up, and the whole business of the country on the floor of this House suspended until the debate should be brought to a close. In reference to that, I did oppose the course pursued, because I did not think it was for the interest of the country, or that it would facilitate the business of this House. We find that several days were occupied in discussing whether that resolution should be adopted from day to day or not. Who is responsible for that discussion and delay? Was it hon. gentlemen on this side of the House, who desired to carry out the arrangement proposed by the Government themselves, or was it the hon. gentlemen on the Treasury benches, who sought to break up the agreement that had been entered into, of which they themselves were the authors? (Hear, hear.)
I have also, Mr. Speaker, in this connection, to make my acknowledgments to the Hon. Attorney General West [John A. Macdonald] for the very elegant compliment he paid the honorable member for Peel [John Cameron] and myself, in characterising us as the “shanghais” from their, the Ministerial side of the House (hear, hear, and laughter)—but though he did give us the credit of being the only ones that had laid eggs that amounted to anything, the others being all addled, he might have reflected a little, and in doing so have found that the eggs that these “shanghais” had laid will produce birds that in all probability will cut the combs of honorable gentlemen on that side of the House. (Laughter.)
The hot haste with which those honorable gentlemen are proceeding with this measure is fostering and providing that heat that will bring into vitality and life those very eggs that they referred to; and when the country understands the character of the brood which is produced by those eggs, honorable gentlemen will find that they have been counting without their host in hatching them. (Hear, hear.)
Alexander T. Galt [Sherbrooke, Minister of Finance]—Counting their chickens before they are hatched. (Laughter.)
Matthew Cameron [Ontario North]—Exactly; counting the chickens before they are hatched. Honorable gentlemen parade before this House an indefinable something that they are careful to keep in the background, which they seem to intimate, if they were only to divulge, would bring almost every member of the House around to their view of the question at once. Mr. Speaker, if there is any information of that kind in their possession, we should know what it is. (Hear, hear.) If we have a herculean labor before us to meet some approaching difficulty, this House should know what that labor and that difficulty is, that we may prepare to meet it as speedily and as bravely as possible. (Hear, hear.)
I do not find that the honorable gentlemen are making any preparations for meeting the lack of defence under which they say the country exists, between the present time and the assembling of this House in the summer. And yet they bring the matter up to frighten the House into submission to their views. They have a puppet from which, by keeping it sufficiently behind the screens, they throw a distorted shadow upon the wall and tell us to look at the giant; but when the shadow is traced to its origin, it will be found, I apprehend, to be nothing but a puppet after all. If they were to come out boldly and give this House all the information of which they boast the possession, I am very much mistaken if the mystery would not turn out to be a mere scarecrow. They make a great cackling about the hawk, and then when the whole brood of chickens is gathered under their wings, it turns out that the source of their pretended fright is nothing but a harmless dove after all. (Laughter.)
Honorable gentlemen on the Treasury benches are constantly endeavoring to lead us to suppose that there is imminent danger of a war with the United States, and yet each honorable member, as he rises, declares that for himself he has no apprehension of anything of that kind. They ought to consider that if there is any ground for apprehension, if there is any danger of the United States attacking Canada and getting into a war with England, such a war will be upon us almost immediately. When the nation emerges from the strife in which it is at present engaged, they will have learned a costly lesson of the horrors of war and the financial burdens it imposes; and I am satisfied that so intelligent a people as they are universally admitted to be, will not rush into a contest with a power like that of England, unless they do so while smarting under wrongs they imagine they have suffered at the hands of England […]
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[…] in connection with the war in which they are now engaged. After they have had time to reflect and to sit down and count the cost of the strife through which they will have passed, in treasure and blood and intellect, and their national wounds have had time to stiffen, there will be little danger of their again rushing into another similarly disastrous contest.
I heard a gentleman describing this matter a short time ago, by an illustration which I will here repeat. His position was that the respective probabilities of a war with the United States, at an early or a remote period, might be learned from what is often seen when two men have been engaged in a round of fisticuffs. They pummell and bruise each other in the most shocking manner; and while the wounds they have received at each other’s hands are fresh, while their blood is up, and while they are smarting under their injuries, if a bystander interferes with either of them, even sometimes by a little wholesome, well meant advice, the wounded man will be ready to pitch into him at once, almost without thought of the odds that may exist against him. But after such an individual cools off and his wounds become stiff and sore, and he gets time for reflection, he has no desire whatever to enter into a contest.
And so, I apprehend, will it be with our neighbors on the other side of the line. When they get cooled down after the present contest, return to their almost desolated homes again, and see the vacancies that have been caused, and when their leaders count up the millions upon millions of dollars that their present war will have cost them, and the claims that will be made upon them for compensation, war losses, and numerous other matters, they will feel a very great aversion to entering upon hostilities which will bring down upon them the whole power of England.
Therefore I hold that if we are going to expend money in defences, it ought to be done without a day’s unnecessary delay. And yet hon. gentlemen propose to delay submitting a measure for the consideration of the House until another session. They will prorogue this session without making any appropriation for defence, and go home to England to push through a scheme which there is now no object in hurrying forward. (Hear, hear.) Hon. gentlemen on this side of the House are not actuated in their opposition to the scheme by any desire to occupy the place of any one of the hon. gentlemen on the Treasury benches, but their object is to protect the interests of the people, on whose behalf they have been sent to this House, and on their behalf to see that we have a government carried on upon economical principles, so that the people may be led to respect and sustain it. (Hear, hear.)
But if we have a government that is extravagant in their ideas, how can we expect the people to respect that government? And what is there so well calculated to place this country on the inclined plane to slide into the American Union—so graphically described by the head of the Government in the Upper House—as extravagance on the part of our Government? If we have to spend the sum that the commission has recommended in erecting works of defence, and then provide corresponding forces of men and equipments, the expense will be monstrous. And yet, forsooth, because we ask for information, and object to the coercion they have attempted, they charge us with being obstructionists. Do they mean to say that it is factious conduct for the representatives of the people to demand that they be consulted before their very Constitution is trampled upon and another forced upon them?
Canada is by far the most numerously populated, most wealthy and most important of all the colonies to be affected by the change, and yet the people of this province are the only people that are to have no opportunity of saying whether the change is acceptable or not, nor are their representatives in Parliament to have even the opportunity of moving a single amendment to it. (Hear, hear.) If opposition to that kind of thing entitles me to the epithet of obstructionist, then I glory in the name of an obstructionist. (Applause.)
I shall vote against the motion that has been made by my hon. friend the Hon. Atty. Gen. West [John A. Macdonald], and I again express my sincere regret that he should have been induced to bring in such a motion, calculated, as it is, to stifle the proper and ordinary expression of this House. To tell us that we may discuss the question as much as we please is most gratuitous, and is nothing but a sham, alongside of the fact that the motion shuts us off from bringing forward any amendments, or placing our views upon the subject upon the records of the House. How often have hon. gentlemen on that side of the House told us that if we were not prepared to accept the measure, we ought to be prepared to propose a better one? But no sooner do we give notice of what we consider a better one, than we are virtually gagged, and told that we shall not have the opportunity of even proposing them to the House. If that is the way that a free […]
- (p. 747)
[…] people is to be treated, hon. gentlemen will soon find out that they are on the wrong track; and when Parliament is again summoned, they will be met by a voice from the people that will show them that they have adopted a course that will consign names that have heretofore been honorable, to political oblivion, on account of this outrage upon the rights and liberties of a free people, and it will be an oblivion that will be richly merited (Loud cheers.)
Thomas Scatcherd [Middlesex West] said:—The resolutions under debate, involving as they do an entire change in the Constitution of this country, I regard as of greater importance than any question that has been debated before this House since the union. So sweeping a change seldom takes place except after war or insurrection. (Hear, hear.) But we have had neither war nor insurrection—(hear)—we have enjoyed a very long season of peace and quietness, and at no time has there been an agitation among the people for such a change as that now proposed. I believe this scheme to have been undertaken mainly because the leaders of the two political parties saw that they had no hope left of continuing in office on the one hand, or getting into office on the other, while they fought against each other.
I have heard it asserted in this House and out of this House, that so grave had become the position of public affairs, that all government had become impossible, and that the gravity of the occasion required that men of all parties should unite to find a solution of existing difficulties. I hope this was not a mere pretence, put forward by men in office to continue in office, and by men out of office to get into office. It is a fact well known, that so long as either party could govern without the assistance of the other, no advance was made toward a union between the leaders. The changing of two or three votes in this House would have indefinitely postponed the scheme now under consideration. That there was no necessity occasioned by a dead-lock in carrying on the Government must be apparent, when we consider that political parties, by a little forbearance, would have avoided the dead-lock.
Surely, if parties could unite as they did in June last, they could have united to prevent the difficulty complained of, and have put off the evil day perhaps forever, without entering upon a scheme to subvert the Constitution. If a dead-lock existed, it ought to be attributed rather to the contention of parties than to any defect in our form of government. (Hear, hear.)
The union between the Canadas took place in 1840; for some time afterwards each section was represented in the united Legislature by forty-two members. Upper Canada at the time of the union had a population of 486,000, and Lower Canada 661,000. After the union took place, from 1844 to 1848, the majority of the Government was a very narrow one. The Government was kept in power by two or three votes; yet during these years there was not a suggestion in favor of a change of Constitution for the purpose of increasing the majority. (Hear, hear.)
The same number of members continued to represent each section of the province until 1854, when the number from each section was increased to sixty-five, and has continued so to the present time. From the year 1854 until the present time, there has existed among the people of Upper Canada a strong agitation in favor of representation according to population. That principle was agitated by the Reform party at every election. It was the principal political topic, and members were required to pledge themselves to maintain it under all circumstances upon the floor of this House. And not only was the Reform party committed to that principle, but many Conservatives were forced to declare themselves in favor of it.
In 1858 some of the members of the Government sent an official letter to England, in which the difficulties of the country were graphically referred to, and the agitation was characterized as being fraught with great danger to the peaceful and harmonious working of our constitutional system, and consequently detrimental to the progress of the province. This document was laid before Parliament in February, 1859, and in November of the same year the Toronto Convention met, where the Reform party was represented by about 570 prominent gentlemen from all parts of Upper Canada. At that meeting the grievances of which Upper Canada complained were discussed in an able manner by gentlemen fully acquainted with them, and capable of setting them forth. Although the project of a Federal union of the provinces had been brought before Parliament and the country in February, and the Convention met in November, and ample time was given for its agitation, we find that the Convention did […]
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[…] not consider that it afforded a proper remedy for the evils that existed in Upper Canada. The resolutions passed by that Convention with respect to the grievances of Canada, and the proper remedy for them, were as follow:
No. 1.—Resolved, That the existing Legislative union of Upper and Lower Canada has failed to realize the anticipations of its promoters, has resulted in a heavy public debt, burdensome taxation, great political abuses, and universal dissatisfaction through Upper Canada, and it is the matured conviction of this assembly, from the antagonism developed, from difference of origin, local interests, and other causes, that the union in its present form can no longer be continued with advantage to the people.
So much for the grievances.
No. 5.—Resolved, That in the opinion of this assembly the best practical remedy for the evils now encountered in the government of Canada, is to be found in the formation of two or more local governments, to which shall be committed the control of all matters of a local and sectional character, and some joint authority charged with such matters as are necessary, common to both sections of the province.
Such was the remedy. The 4th resolution shows that the Federation of the provinces was not entertained as a remedy for the evils complained of by the Convention, for it resolved:—
That without entering on the discussion of other objections, this assembly is of opinion that the delay which must occur in obtaining the sanction of the Lower Provinces to a Federal union of all the British North American Colonies, places that measure beyond consideration as a remedy for present evils.
Now, if it had been the opinion of the people of Upper Canada, as represented in that Convention, that a Federal union with the Maritime Provinces would prove a remedy for the grievances they were laboring under, they would have taken it into consideration. Either it did not suit the leaders of the Reform party at that time to take up that plan as it was brought forward by men opposed to them, or else they did not believe it the true remedy. If they had believed it the proper remedy, there was nothing to prevent them uniting with the Government to carry it out, with the cooperation of the other provinces. The only drawback to the adoption of the scheme was the fact that its proposers were in office and likely to remain there. That to my mind is the only reason which can now be alleged for not taking it it [sic] up at that time.
One of the reasons assigned for calling that Convention together was, that although the population of Upper Canada was much larger than that of Lower Canada, and was constantly increasing, yet Upper Canada found itself without rower in the administration of the affairs of the province, (Hear, hear.)
Another principal grievance under which Upper Canada labored was the unjust levying and distribution of the public moneys. It was contended that seventy per cent, of the annual taxation was collected from Upper Canada, and only thirty percent, from Lower Canada; on the other hand, when the money came to be expended, for every dollar that was expended in Upper Canada, a dollar was also expended in Lower Canada. And that appears to have been the opinion of prominent members of both political parties; representation by population was demanded by the people of the western section as a cure for that state of things. They considered that if they were represented in this House according to numbers, they would be able to prevent the unjust distribution of the public revenues of the province.
Now, the great measure before this House has been considered by some as designed to create a nation, by others as a means of increasing largely the material and commercial interests of the country. I cannot see that the Federation of the provinces has anything of a national phase in it. For those who are dissatisfied with remaining as colonists of Great Britain, it may be very well to look forward to the creation of a nationality or state of national existence. When you speak of national existence, you speak of independence; and so long as we are colonists of Great Britain we can have no national existence. (Hear, hear.) In New Brunswick this question has been treated purely as a question of material interest to the people. (Hear, hear.)
In a work recently published by the Hon. Mr. Cauchon, I find the following statement of the way in which the question is treated in New Brunswick. The honorable gentleman says, page 26:—
The only point for them to consider in making a selection would be the material question of profit or loss; more or less of trade, more or less of taxes. The truth of this is clearly shown by the project of Confederation itself, in which it would be seen that the exceptions affect only Lower Canada, and in the speeches made by Mr. Tilley, in New Brunswick, in which he states frankly and unequivocally, that with that province there can be but one paramount question in the discussion of the scheme, namely, that of pecuniary interest. Will New Brunswick, under the union, pay more or less, receive more or less; will the taxes imposed, […]
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[…] under the union, be more or less than they now are? The question has been thus received by the press and public men of that province, and they have so discussed it, with a view to accept or reject it.
To my mind, that is the way in which the question ought to be treated in this province. As a national matter it ought not to be considered at all. The true question is, whether the people of this province will be called upon to pay more or less taxes, and enjoy more or less prosperity. (Hear, hear.)
The agitation in connection with representation by population has continued during the past ten years. Going back to the time of the defeat of the Cartier-Macdonald Administration, we find that that Administration had considered it an open question. The Macdonald-Sicotte Administration, which succeeded, resolved to treat it as a closed question.
They agreed to leave it in abeyance, but I never understood that their supporters from Upper Canada agreed to abandon it. It was stated distinctly at the time of the formation of that Government, that any abandonment of the question was a matter altogether with the Government, and was not binding upon their supporters. (Hear, hear)
That government adopted what was called the double-majority principle, but I never understood that a majority of their supporters from Upper Canada agreed to accept it as a basis, or a means of securing the settlement of the grievances of Upper Canada. What the Upper Canada Reform party agreed to was, that as there was great corruption and extravagance in the administration of the finances of this country, for the sake of securing administrative reform they would allow the question of representation by population to remain in abeyance for a time. However, the double majority principle would not work. (Hear, hear.)
The Macdonald-Sicotte Government were defeated, and the Macdonald-Dorion Government was formed. They treated the question in the same way as the Cartier-Macdonald did—left it an open question. While that government continued in office, there was no special agitation for representation according to population, although in the House it was very generally supported by members from Upper Canada. That government resigned, a new government was formed, and, during the period of that new government’s existence, the hon. member for South Oxford [George Brown] had his committee appointed to take into consideration the representation question. That committee, it appears, had the matter under consideration for a long time. They made a report the same day the Government was defeated, but came to no conclusion whatever, except in the general statement that most of its members looked in the direction of a Federal Government. (Hear, hear.)
This government was defeated on the question of the $100,000 paid to the city of Montreal. That vote took place on the 14th of June, the latter part of the resolution being as follows:—
And in view of the facts above recited, this House would be failing in its duty if it did not express its disapprobation of an unauthorized advance of a large amount of public money, and of the subsequent departure from the conditions of the Order in Council under which the advance was made.
There was never a vote aimed more distinctly than that at the Honorable the Minister of Finance [Alexander T. Galt]; it was declared by a majority of this House that he was the means of the loss of this $100,000 to the country. The majority voted in that way, and affirmed that resolution. The moment it was passed a Ministerial crisis occurred, and it was understood that the Ministry had the sanction of the Governor General to dissolve the House; within a few days, some of the very men who condemned the Minister of Finance [Alexander T. Galt] were willing to overlook his offence, to treat the vote of the House as of no consequence whatever, and to become colleagues of that honorable gentleman in the Government. (Hear.)
Thus the present Coalition was formed with its policy of Confederation I believe that the agitation for representation by population had been less active for three years preceding the formation of that government than at any time during the last ten years; but the mere fact of the Government being deflated seemed to be a sufficient excuse for these honorable gentlemen to join men to whom they had been opposed for years, and to come down to this House with a proposal for a Confederation of the provinces.
For my own part, I am not opposed to a Confederation of these provinces, on a proper basis, although I would rather have seen a legislative union of them preferred. I have no sympathy with those members in their opposition to the scheme, who, while opposing it, are equally opposed to legislative union and representation by population. I think, from the increase of population in […]
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[…] Upper Canada, that some change is necessary; and I cannot understand how hon. members, who are opposed to this scheme and also to a legislative union, and to any change in representation, can expect sympathy from Upper Canada’s members. It is not the principle of the scheme that I object to. My objections I will state. Part of the new Constitution proposes the construction of the Intercolonial Railway. Now, when that question was first brought up in 1862, I was opposed to it. When it was first announced as the intention of the Macdonald-Sicotte Government to undertake the building of that road, I expressed myself as decidedly in opposition to it, on the very first opportunity that offered, and I have never since seen any reason to change the position I then took.
In connection with this subject, I beg leave to cite the opinions of the hon. member for South Oxford [George Brown], as then expressed. I do not do so in order to show that he has changed his mind with regard to this road, for I believe he does not conceal the fact himself. I make this citation to show not only what his views were, but what were the views, I believe, of the majority of the people of Upper Canada at that time, views which in my opinion they still entertain. It is stated that the road ought to be built because it is necessary for the military defence of the country. It is stated that it ought to follow the longest route, because the shorter one will bring it too near the boundary line of the State of Maine. (Hear, hear.)
When it is considered that this road will unite with the Grand Trunk at Rivière du Loup, and that the Grand Trunk is at places within twenty-six miles of the boundary of Maine, I think that the amount it will contribute to the military defence is of very little value. It is ridiculous to suppose that the Americans would not be able to cut a railway only twenty-six miles from their territory. If we are not strong enough to hold and protect the road which runs through Maine, the Intercolonial would be of very little importance or use. The opinion expressed in the Globe about this railway as a work of military defence was this; I quote from the issue of the 18th September, 1862:—
But as our opinion of military matters may not be worth much, we are prepared to adduce corroborative testimony in its support. And then he cites the following from Blackwood’s Magazine—:
On the whole we are inclined to think that until our military frontier is rectified, the construction of a railway between St. John and the St. Lawrence would, as far as military operations are concerned, be money thrown away. If the Intercolonial Railway is to be built, let its friends justify it upon bona fide, grounds, and not upon the bogus plea that it is necessary for the military defence of the province.
That was the opinion, I believe, of the majority of the people of Upper Canada at that time, that as a military defence this road would be completely useless. But we find that the proposition to build the road is inserted in one of these resolutions, the 68th, in the following terms:—
The General Government shall secure, without delay, the completion of the Intercolonial Railway from Riviere du Loup through New Brunswick to Truro, in Nova Scotia.
The next resolution refers to the Northwest Territory, and is as follows:—
- The communication with the Northwest Territory and the improvements required for the development of the trade of the Great West with the seaboard are regarded by this Conference as subjects of the highest importance to the Federated Provinces, and shall be prosecuted at the earliest possible period that the state of the finances will permit.
According to these resolutions the construction of the Intercolonial Railway is made a part of the Constitution of the country, and the road will have to be built. On the other hand the enlargement of the canals and the opening up of the North-West will depend upon the contingency, whether the finances of the country will permit of the performance of these works. Now, the opening up of the North-West is a subject that has engaged the serious attention of many people in Upper Canada. By a large majority of the population it is considered as most important for the interest of of this country that that territory should be opened up to settlement. I find the Great North-West is thus referred to by the Hon. Mr. Cauchon, in his pamphlet on the Union of the Provinces of British North America, page 56:—
And what is Canada in extent compared to the Western prairies, the area and fertility of which can scarcely be appreciated or judged even with reports before us furnished by Mr. Dallas, Governor of the Hudson’s Bay Company, and Dr. Rae, an old factor, well known from his reputation as an astronomer, and as having discovered the remains of Franklin and his unfortunate companions. The latter, instructed to attempt the discovery of […]
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[…] a passage through the Rocky Mountains for the Transcontinental Telegraph Company, states that the river Saskatchewan is a great public highway, flowing through immense fertile valleys, in which wheat and barley might be grown in abundance.
The whole country is more or less adapted to colonization. Two years ago I rode on horseback in the month of August over the greater part of that country. We had to wade as it were knee deep through tares and fitch. I saw there horses and oxen as fat as any I ever found on the best pasturage grounds in England. Those animals had passed the winter in the open air, without a mouthful of hay; this will give a better idea of the climate here than if I were to furnish the variations of the thermometer.
I look upon this country as well adapted to settlement, and extraordinarily healthy. Everything seems to thrive here; the wheat crop is of course rather uncertain, but all other cereals and vegetables obtain the same perfection that they do in England. Towards the north we find an area of timber land, and undulating prairies, which extend over the whole country. The lakes and rivers abound in fish, and the prairies with every species of game, etc. 
Now, sir, that is a description of the country held forth to the people of Upper Canada as a kind of set-off against the Intercolonial Railway, to be opened up whenever the state of the finances will permit. I object to the scheme, for the reason that it makes the opening up of such a country a mere contingency; and to show the interest taken by the people of Upper Canada generally, I will refer to an article that appeared in the Globe about the time the Macdonald-Sicotte Government proposed to build the Intercolonial Railway, on the 19th of September, 1862. It said:—
|Per ct.||Per ct.||Per ct.||Per ct.||Per ct.||Per ct.||$||$|
|Coffee||8 ½||8 ½||10||10||15||23½||89,016||21,118|
|Sugar||27 ½||20||17 ½||21||30||47||779,967||373,963|
|Tea||11½||11 ½||11 ½||12 ½||15||26||1,089,674||275,126|
|Cotton Goods||12 ½||13 ½||15||15||20||20||3,277,985||664,381|
|Iron “||12 ½||13 ½||15||16||20||20||776,225||151,422|
|Silk “||12 ½||13 ½||15||17||20||20||430,773||85,845|
|Woollen “||12 ½||14||15||18||20||20||2,517,669||499,084|
We observe that Mr. Foley has the good sense to reject the suggestion of Mr. Howe that the Quebec and Halifax road is in fact an important link in the great Pacific Railway through British territory. Not a pound of freight nor a passenger which may come over the Pacific Railway, when it is built, will ever seek the port of Halifax. It is an absolute injury to the Pacific Railroad to represent that it is necessary to construct four hundred miles of an utterly unproductive line before commencing the greater work with one fifth of the sum per annum which is to be devoted by the ministerial scheme to the Intercolonial Railroad. We can open a practicable communication across the continent and annex to Canada half a continent of the richest land yet unoccupied by civilized man. Not a penny are we to receive for this purpose, but £50,000 per annum thrown away upon the rocks of Riviere du Loup.
That, sir, was the opinion expressed by the Globe newspaper so late as September, 1862, and I call the attention of the House to
the fact that as a very large proportion of the expense of building this railroad is to be borne by Upper Canada, would not the same sum, if so applied, open up this magnificent country? Are we not, in fact, deferring the opening of it up by spending a large sum of money in the opposite direction?
George Brown [Oxford South, President Executive Council]—Oh, no; quite incorrect.
Thomas Scatcherd [Middlesex West]—Then another complaint that has long been made in this country is, that we have a very large public debt; that the people are very highly taxed for the necessaries of life, and that in fact the chief articles consumed by the people can bear no more taxation. I think there can be no doubt that this complaint is true to quite as great an extent as has ever been urged. Let us look back and see what duties were paid upon the principal articles of consumption ten years ago, compared with the duties that they now bear. I hold in my hand a statement showing the rates of duty from 1855 to 1865, and also the values of the chief articles for consumption imported into this province for the half-year ended 30th June, 1864:—
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Well, sir, we find that some of these articles have been taxed to an amount equal to one half their value. The person who buys and pays 50 per cent, duty, gets in fact in value only one-half of the money paid. With the duty derived from these articles it is proposed by this scheme to do, what? Why to spend $20,000,000 on this railway, and that money will have to be raised some way or other out of the earnings of the people. I will cite another extract from the Globe with respect to the paying or supposed paying qualities of this road. On the 23rd of September, 1862, it said:—
The scheme of the Government for the construction of the Intercolonial Railway opens an account that never will be closed; every storm of snow in the inhospitable regions below Riviere du Loup will lay a new burden on the people of Upper Canada. The taxpayers will watch the passenger travel and freight traffic with the liveliest interest, as indicating the extent of the demands upon them for the year. The road will be run with a perfect consciousness that there is a prompt paymaster behind. With all the care that public companies can employ, the expenditures upon the small items connected with the running of a railroad is above all things difficult to control; but what sums will be spent when it is the Government that will manage and the people of the province that will pay?
It was bad enough when they consented that Canada should pay five-twelfths of the expenditure, when in fact it will not receive one-twelfth of the benefit. Who can fail to see the hand of the Grand Trunk in this? It is the dream of many persons in Nova Scotia that this Halifax and Quebec Railway will draw to their harbor the trade of the West, but it is a dream and nothing more. No passenger, no shipper of freight, will ever think of going or sending to Halifax when he can find shipping at Quebec or Portland. He will not add the cost of seven hundred miles of railroad to the expenses of transit to benefit the people of Halifax. As to freight, the thing is not to be spoken of. Neither freight nor passengers would such a line diaw from any point higher than Riviere du Loup. There is a refreshing coolness in the demand that Canada shall pay for the construction of a road which is professedly designed to draw away trade from its great estuary.
Is that not equally the case now as then? Who can fail to see the hand of the Grand Trunk in this Confederation scheme?—(Hear, hear, and laughter.) Again, with respect to this Intercolonial Railway, I find the following language used in the Globe on the 26th September, 1862:—
With Upper Canada decidedly opposed to the scheme, and Lower Canada divided, we are happy to say that we do not see any great danger of hasty action, We are only astonished that the Ministry should have committed themselves to a scheme which finds so little support in any part of the province. The Lower Province delegates humbugged them beautifully. It is evident that Blue Nose is a sharp fellow. He is rubbed bright on his rocks. We shall have to be careful in our dealings with him. If Lower Canada is afraid of him because he is British, we must learn to watch him because he is not very rich but very keen and shrewd.
Well, it was supposed when the members of the Macdonald-Sicotte Government were dealing with these men in 1862, that they were humbugged beautifully, but when we got the best men in the country, the ablest and most talented men, to deal with them, what kind of bargain did they make with these shrewd blue noses? (Hear, hear.)
Why, instead of Canada paying what was proposed by the Macdonald-Sicotte Government, the Lower Provinces made a much more favorable bargain with the cleverest men we have. (Hear, hear.)
I contend, sir, that this scheme, at one jump, proposes to increase the public debt twenty millions of dollars. And another thing stated is, that a sum necessary for the purpose will be expended for the defence of the country; and if we are to place any reliance upon the report of Col. Jervois, the sum of about six millions of dollars will have to be expended upon the defences. From the reports which reached us to-day by telegraph, it appears that the Imperial Government will expend for our defence only the sum of £50,000.
George Brown [Oxford South, President Executive Council]—The hon. gentleman is mistaken. The Hon. Attorney General West [John A. Macdonald] distinctly stated today that there was an error in the telegraphic report of the debate in the Imperial Parliament, and it is highly indecorous for the hon. gentleman to repeat these statements after they have been shown to be erroneous. And I am now in a position to state, that we have had an answer to a telegram sent specially to New York to ascertain the fact from the London papers, that the sum asked for by the Imperial Government for the defences of Quebec was £200,000, not £50,000 as stated by the hon. member.
Thomas Scatcherd [Middlesex West]—Before the hon. member makes charges, he ought to have ascertained that this telegram had been brought to my notice. I took the statement as it appeared in the published telegraphic reports. He has no right to charge me with repeating an incorrect statement. (Hear, hear.)
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George Brown [Oxford South, President Executive Council]—It was not to that that I particularly referred; but the hon. gentleman all through his speech has repeated things which my colleagues as well as myself have repeatedly declared, from personal knowledge, to be incorrect.
Luther Holton [Chateauguay]—If the papers were brought down there would be no misapprehension.
Thomas Scatcherd [Middlesex West]—What is the amount to be contributed by the Imperial Government altogether for our defence? Is it only £200,000?
George Brown [Oxford South, President Executive Council]—The hon. gentleman will see from the reports that that amount is intended simply for works at Quebec. The proportion to be contributed for the defences at Montreal and westward is not stated, nor yet settled.
Thomas Scatcherd [Middlesex West]—I have been told for the first time that the Imperial Government will contribute anything towards the western defences; for the telegraphic reports say that, if they undertake to fortify Quebec, the Canadian Government will have to undertake the works at Montreal and westward. Now, we are told that this scheme has reference both to local government and local defence, and as the cost of defensive works is stated by Col. Jervois to be six millions, I suppose we will have to pay that too.
George Brown [Oxford South, President Executive Council]—The cost may be a great deal more than six millions, possibly. We can say nothing at present as to the cost.
Thomas Scatcherd [Middlesex West]—A great deal more. Then immense sums of money are to melt away like snow upon these works, and, in fact, there will be no limit to the expenditure. (Hear, hear.) However, passing on from this point, I would like to ask, if Confederation is carried, in what position will the country stand in respect to the public debt? It appears that the population of the various provinces, in 1861, was as follows:
|Prince Edward Island||80,757|
If Confederation takes place, these provinces will be indebted as follows: the public debt of Canada, according to the Public Accounts, amounts to $67,263,000; Nova Scotia is to be allowed to increase its debt to $8,000,000; New Brunswick will be allowed to increase its debt to $7,000,000; the debt of Prince Edward Island is $240,000; and the debt of Newfoundland, $946,000, making, if the provinces are united, a grand total of $83,000,000 as the debt of the Federal Government. It may be said with respect to Canada, that she is going into the Confederation with a debt of only $62,500,000; although that may be true, she will nevertheless owe the whole amount I have stated, which, if not paid by the Federal Government, will have to be paid by the Governments of Upper and Lower Canada.
George Brown [Oxford South, President Executive Council]—My hon. friend will see that the debt of $5,000,000 that make up the $67,263,000 is due to ourselves, and that there are assets to meet it, which assets will be made over to the local governments. The reason it was taken from the $67,263,000 was because it was due upon local account, and because there were local funds to meet its payment. It was all together apart and distinct from the general debt of the province.
Thomas Scatcherd [Middlesex West]—What are the assets? Are they sufficient to pay the interest upon the amount?
George Brown [Oxford South, President Executive Council]—Yes, quite enough.
Thomas Scatcherd [Middlesex West]—This $5,000,000 is part of the debt of the province, which I have put down at $67,263,000.
George Brown [Oxford South, President Executive Council]—Yes; but my hon. friend must see that there are local funds to meet it, just in the same way as we deduct the Sinking Fund from the amount of the general debt.
Joseph Rymal [Wenworth South]—Two years ago the hon. gentleman taught us to believe, and I heard him say that the debt of the country was $78,000,000. (Laughter.)
Luther Holton [Chateauguay]—Was the amount of the Sinking Fund always deducted by the hon. member?
George Brown [Oxford South, President Executive Council]—Yes; I always deducted it from the debt; but I did not deduct these local funds that are now placed against the sum of $5,000,000 to be borne by the local governments.
Thomas Scatcherd [Middlesex West]—At the time Confederation takes place, there will be a debt weighing upon the provinces of $83,000,000, upon which interest will have to be paid, and the following additional debts, so far as we know, will be immediately contracted by the new Government: Intercolonial Railway, $20,000,000.
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George Brown [Oxford South, President Executive Council]—No! no! My hon. friend must surely see how wrong it is to make such a statement. It is quite uncertain what amount will be thrown upon the Federal Government for the construction of that road; but, if it is built in the way which has been suggested by the Lower Provinces, it will cost no such sum, nor anything like the sum, mentioned by the Hon. member for West Middlesex [Thomas Scatcherd]. Of course, no one can at present tell in what way the Federal Government may decide that it shall be done; but if it is done in the way of a bonus to be paid on the completion of the road, and on security being given that the road shall be kept open for a certain term of years, it will cost nothing like the sum mentioned by my hon. friend.
Luther Holton [Chateauguay]—We have no such proposition before us.
George Brown [Oxford South, President Executive Council]—But I believe the Lower Provinces have such a proposition before them for a large section of the road—a proposition for a bonus of $10,000 per mile, which would complete the whole road for a sum infinitely less than my hon. friend has mentioned. Therefore, my hon. friend leads the House quite astray when he dogmatically puts down the cost of the Intercolonial Railway at $20,000,000.
Luther Holton [Chateauguay]—Hon. Mr. Tilley says it will cost $12,000,000.
George Brown [Oxford South, President Executive Council]—Perhaps Hon. Mr. Tilley thinks that it may cost that sum, but there are other hon. gentlemen who are quite as well able to judge of the matter as my hon. friend, Mr. Tilley, who place it at $8,000,000; and the money that will be necessary for the purpose will be borrowed under the Imperial guarantee, at a rate, I presume, not exceeding 3 1/2 per cent.
Thomas Scatcherd [Middlesex West]—I would ask my hon. friend the President of the Council [George Brown] if he has not stated that the Intercolonial Railway would cost $16,000,000 or $18,000,000? (Hear, hear.)
George Brown [Oxford South, President Executive Council]—It is quite probable; my impression at one time was that it would cost $15,000,000; but then this was always based on the idea of its being built by the Government, and it was one of my strongest objections to the scheme that the honorable gentlemen who now constitute the Opposition intended to build it at the public cost, and run it at the public cost.
Luther Holton [Chateauguay]—Hon. gentlemen who now form the Opposition?
George Brown [Oxford South, President Executive Council]—I am not speaking of the hon. member for Chateauguay [Luther Holton], but of his leaders.
Luther Holton [Chateauguay]—Will the honorable gentleman please refer to those he means more specifically?
George Brown [Oxford South, President Executive Council]—The hon. gentleman who sits at his side is one of them.
Luther Holton [Chateauguay]—Surely the hon. gentleman does not refer to my hon. friend the member for Hochelaga (Hon. Mr. Dorion)?
George Brown [Oxford South, President Executive Council]—The hon. member for Bagot (Hon. Mr. Laframboise).
Luther Holton [Chateauguay]—No; the hon. member for Bagot [Maurice Laframboise] only joined the Government in 1863.
George Brown [Oxford South, President Executive Council]—The hon. member for Cornwall (Hon. J.S. Macdonald), is at any rate fully responsible.
Antoine-Aimé Dorion [Hochelaga]—The government of my honorable friend (Hon. J.S. Macdonald) had a proposition before it somewhat similar to this, and which was to build a railway; but it was not said by what means. You, however, have bound yourself to build a railway, and if you do not find a company to construct it, you will have to build it and keep it open at your own cost.
George Brown [Oxford South, President Executive Council]—Not exactly; and there is already a proposal to build a large portion of the line.
Thomas Scatcherd [Middlesex West]—I think the course which the debate has taken shows the absolute necessity that the Government should have brought down a statement of the expense of this road, so that members might have been able to form some opinion in regard to its cost. They might have called upon the engineer who surveyed the route to make some approximation of the probable outlay. When, in the absence of such information, I rise in my place and say that according to the best data at my command, it will cost $20,000,000, I am met by the Hon. President of the Council [George Brown] protesting against my making such a statement. But when I ask my honorable friend if he has not stated that it will cost $16,000,000 or $18,000,000, he replies that he might have said it would cost $15,000,000. So that, according to my hon. friend himself, it is safe to assume that for the Intercolonial Railway, the debt will be increased by $15,000,000. This, then, is one of the new debts the new Government will be called upon immediately to contract. Then another debt will he required for the defences of the country. I put this sum down at $6,000,000. […]
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[…] But the Hon. President of the Council [George Brown] says it is impossible to say what the defences will cost, and they may cost a great deal more.
George Brown [Oxford South, President Executive Council]—The hon. gentleman should state more carefully what I said. I did not speak of this country simply, but of the whole defences, those to be undertaken by the Imperial Government as well.
Thomas Scatcherd [Middlesex West]—I refer to the fortifications required for Quebec, Montreal, Kingston, Toronto and Hamilton. It is impossible for us to form any estimate of what defences may be required in St. John and Halifax, and other portions of the Lower Provinces, But certainly the sum which will be required for the defences and for the armament of those defences in Canada will not be less than $6,000,000. Add this and the sum required for the Intercolonial Railway to the debt already existing, and it will be found that, almost at the outset of its career, the Federation would labor under pressure of a debt amounting to about $110,000,000.
George Brown [Oxford South, President Executive Council]—Oh! no, no.
Thomas Scatcherd [Middlesex West]—The fact is undeniable. Almost from the first day of its existence, the new Government will be called upon to pay interest, on account of public debt, to the amount of $3,809,668 for Canada; $750,000 for Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, and $59,333 for Newfoundland and Prince Edward Island; then there is, over and above the subsidy of eighty cents per head, the sum of $115,200 to be paid yearly to Newfoundland, and $88,900 to be paid annually to Prince Edward Island.
To this must be added the interest on the outlay for the Intercolonial Railway. It has been stated that money for this purpose can be borrowed at three and a half per cent., but there is nothing to show that the arrangement proposed to be entered into by the Macdonald-Sicotte Government, some two or three years ago, in reference to the borrowing of money at three and a half percent., can now be carried out. We have no reason to believe that the proposed Federal Government will be able to borrow money on the same favourable terms; and, if the interest charged is at the rate of five percent, there will be nearly $1,000,000 to be paid annually as interest on the Intercolonial Railway debt alone.
George Brown [Oxford South, President Executive Council]—A million of dollars! Five per cent, interest on money borrowed on the credit of the Imperial Government!
Thomas Scatcherd [Middlesex West]—What has been shown us to the contrary?
George Brown [Oxford South, President Executive Council]—My hon. friend must have heard the statement of an arrangement being made with the Imperial Government for burrowing the necessary funds.
Thomas Scatcherd [Middlesex West]—I read in the pamphlet recently published by the hon. member for Montmorency (Hon. Mr. Cauchon), who is a warm supporter of the Government, and is supposed to be an authority on this subject, that:—
The population of Newfoundland being 130,000 $25 per head would establish its debt at $3,250,000, and it would thus be placed on a level with the population of Canada, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick with regard to their respective figures of population.
But as that province owes $946,000, we must deduct this amount from the $3,250,000; this would give a result of $2,304,000, on which the Federal Government will have to pay to Newfoundland an annual interest of five per centum, viz: $115,200.
But if the money can be obtained at three and a half percent, why is it proposed that the Federal Government shall pay interest at the rate of five per cent, to the Provinces of Newfoundland and Prince Edward Island?
George Brown [Oxford South, President Executive Council]—Does not my hon. friend see how this is, and how unfair his conclusions are? The reason why we are to pay these provinces five per cent, is, that we are about to throw upon them a large share of the burden of our public debt, upon which five per cent, interest is paid; if the people of Newfoundland and Prince Edward Island, who have little or no debt, assume debts of the other provinces, for which they have to pay five percent, interest, it is only fair and just that they should get their five per cent, back again.
Thomas Scatcherd [Middlesex West]—The Hon. President of the Council [George Brown] says that at present we pay five per cent, on our indebtedness, but that in future we shall not pay so high a rate.
George Brown [Oxford South, President Executive Council]—No one said so. What I said was that the Imperial Government would guarantee the interest on the money to build the Intercolonial Railway, and that we should have to pay interest according to the terms on which the Imperial Government would be able to borrow, which will be about 3 1/2 per cent.
Thomas Scatcherd [Middlesex West]—And supposing the money is obtained on these favorable terms, […]
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[…] the interest for the Intercolonial Railway debt will be half a million of dollars.
George Brown [Oxford South, President Executive Council]—$350,000.
Thomas Scatcherd [Middlesex West]—At the reduced rate of interest, the Federal Government will start with an annual burden, in the shape of interest, of at least $5,000,000. I had put the sum down at $6,158,851.
George Brown [Oxford South, President Executive Council]—How much does my hon. friend make the difference in the interest—$1,158,851?
Thomas Scatcherd [Middlesex West]—Yes.
George Brown [Oxford South, President Executive Council]—My hon. friend is entirely wrong in his calculations. But will my hon. friend answer this question: How much additional money shall we receive into the treasury in the shape of customs duties from the Lower Provinces?
Thomas Scatcherd [Middlesex West]—But we are given to understand that the customs duties, instead of being increased, will be decreased. If, however, the Lower Provinces, which now pay on an average, we will say 5 percent, shall be called upon to pay at least 20 percent, and up to 40 percent, they will never agree to Confederation.
George Brown [Oxford South, President Executive Council]—My hon. friend is all wrong in his figures, but that is really not the point. When he says that the interest will be increased, he should also state what we are to get back in the shape of customs duties from the Lower Provinces. What is the use of giving one side and not the other?
Thomas Scatcherd [Middlesex West]—I think that any person who will seriously contemplate this proposition of the Government, must come to the conclusion that this Confederation scheme is nothing more or less than a scheme to construct the Intercolonial Railway. (Hear, hear.) If it was not necessary for some parties that that road should be constructed, we should have had no Confederation scheme. Another objection, to my mind, on the face of these resolutions, has reference to the subsidy of 80 cents per head. The 64th resolution provides that the General Government shall pay 80 cents, per head of the population of 1861 to the several provinces for local purposes:—
|Prince Edward Island||64,505|
I think it will be admitted by every member from Upper Canada, that if the people of Upper Canada had representation by population, they would have no desire to change the present system of government. (Hear, hear.) We in Upper Canada contend that we pay seventy per cent, of the taxation, while Lower Canada pays only thirty per cent. Now, what will be the effect of the 64th resolution? Under that resolution, Upper Canada will receive a subsidy of $1,116,000, and on the principle which has always been contended for in Upper Canada, the proportion of that sum which Lower Canada will pay, as a member of the Confederation, will be thirty per cent., or say $335,000, while Upper Canada will pay seventy per cent., or $781,000.
We have been paying the larger proportion of the taxation, and Lower Canada the smaller proportion, and the object of going into this Confederation is, that the local governments should have the management of their own local affairs, and that we should raise the money necessary for our own local purposes, while Lower Canada should raise the money necessary for her local purposes. But iu this instance, the General Government will collect that money in Upper Canada in the large proportion which I have just stated; on the other hand, Lower Canada will get a subsidy of $888,000. Upper Canada, as a member of the Confederation, will pay $621,000 of that sum, according to the admitted ratio in which she contributes to the public exchequer, and Lower Canada will pay 30 per cent., or $267,000.
Hope Mackenzie [Oxford North]—The hon. gentleman is entirely mistaken in his argument.
Thomas Scatcherd [Middlesex West]—By this arrangement, then, Upper Canada, in comparison with Lower Canada, will pay to the General Government yearly, for all time to come, in excess of Lower Canada, $286,000 more than she would pay were these subsidies collected direct from each province.
George Brown [Oxford South, President Executive Council]—The calculation of my hon. friend is entirely incorrect. But I do not wish to interrupt him, unless he desires it.
Thomas Scatcherd [Middlesex West]—I have no objection. Is not the principle on which I have made the calculation correct?
George Brown [Oxford South, President Executive Council]—No, it is not correct. The hon. gentleman should remember that the relations between Upper and Lower Canada will be entirely changed when all these provinces are brought together.
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Thomas Scatcherd [Middlesex West]—If there is no change, the principle is correct.
George Brown [Oxford South, President Executive Council]—Of course, so far as Upper Canada and Lower Canada are concerned. But the hon. gentleman must see that by the introduction of the Maritime Provinces into the union, an entire change is made in the relations between Upper and Lower Canada. There will not only be a change in the way in which the taxes contributed by the people reach the treasury, but an immense change also in the way in which those moneys will be distributed, and by both Upper Canada will profit.
Thomas Scatcherd [Middlesex West]—The hon. gentleman admits that the principle is correct, and, unless as affected by altered circumstances, it will bring out the result I have stated.
George Brown [Oxford South, President Executive Council]—But we know what the circumstances will be. The honorable gentleman should take up the whole of the financial arrangements of the scheme. It is not fair to take up a mere portion of them. If he had looked at the commercial tables of all the provinces, he would have seen that his calculations were entirely erroneous.
Thomas Scatcherd [Middlesex West]—What I say is this, that if, instead of paying all the local governments this subsidy of 80 cents per head, Upper Canada had been left to collect from her own people her $1,116,000, and Lower Canada to collect from her people the $888,000 which she is to receive, that would have been what we have been contending for in Upper Canada.
George Brown [Oxford South, President Executive Council]—No doubt.
Thomas Scatcherd [Middlesex West]—Well, we have always contended that we were willing to collect the moneys required for our own local purposes in Upper Canada, and that Lower Canada should do the same. We are entitled, according to that principle, to $286,000 more than we shall receive; and the proposed arrangement, therefore, I say is unjust; otherwise we have been contending for what was incorrect for the last ten years. It should have been made part of the scheme, that whatever Upper Canada required for her local expenditure should be obtained by taxes levied on her people, and that whatever Lower Canada required for the like purposes should be levied in the same way. But that is not the scheme, so that we gain nothing with regard to our paying more than we receive, which has been our complaint hitherto.
George Brown [Oxford South, President Executive Council]—I am surprised that my honorable friend should go so far. I agree with him so far as my own judgment is concerned, that it would have been a desirable arrangement if we could have got each province to collect, by direct taxation, the moneys it required to meet its own local expenditure. But the honorable gentleman must not say that because we have not got that length, we leave the matter exactly as it was. There is a very great change, and the proposed system is much more just than that existing hitherto. (Hear, hear.)
Thomas Scatcherd [Middlesex West]—But will the hon. gentleman not say that it would have been desirable that these sums, instead of being collected by the General Government, should have been collected by each province?
George Brown [Oxford South, President Executive Council]—Certainly; that was what I contended for. But we had not the making of the whole of the bargain; and surely the honorable gentleman cannot contend that because we did not get everything our own way, we should therefore give up the whole scheme. I apprehend, however, it will be found, if this scheme goes into operation, that the burdens on the people of Upper Canada will be very different from what they have been in times past.
Thomas Scatcherd [Middlesex West]—Well, the honorable gentleman admits that Upper Canada will not get in this scheme all he contended for, and I say that if this scheme goes into operation, the position of Upper Canada will be no better than it was before. I give this as a glaring instance—there are others which cannot so readily be detected—of the way in which the just claims and interests of Upper Canada have been overlooked. I do not see how honorable gentlemen will be able to answer the charges brought against them by their constituents, that they have deliberately agreed, that for all time to come there shall be that advantage of one section over the other. If Upper Canada is to get no more benefit from the Confederation than I can find in these resolutions, I am at a loss to see how she is benefited by them.
The expense of an Intercolonial Railway is to be saddled on her farmers and her people generally—they are to pay the larger portion of that expense, and that, so far as I can see, is to be the grand effect of this scheme. (Hear, hear.)
Another objection I have to the project relates to the proposition with reference to the Constitution of the Legislative Council. I say it is a retrograde step to do away with the elective principle in the Legislative Council—(hear, hear—and a step that will be very unpalatable to the people of Upper Canada. I do not see why the large province […]
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[…] of Canada, containing a population of two and a half millions, should have been obliged at the Conference to give up a point involving so important a principle, to the small provinces containing a population of only 800,000. (Hear, hear.)
I say take those resolutions from first to last; there are seventy-two of them—let any man read them, and he cannot fail to come to the conclusion that from the first to the seventy-second, it is concession after concession on the part of Upper Canada to those Lower Provinces.
Frederick Haultain [Peterborough]—What does New Brunswick say?
Thomas Scatcherd [Middlesex West]—What I say is, that I cannot see why this large province should have been overruled at that Conference with reference to this question of the Legislative Council. What did it matter to New Brunswick if the people of Upper Canada desire to have their legislative councillors elected? If New Brunswick desires to have hers nominated by the Crown, let it be so; but why prevent Upper Canada from having hers elected by the people? (Hear, hear.) Then the 43rd resolution I consider objectionable. The first clause of that resolution authorizes New Brunswick to impose duties on the export of timber, logs, masts, spars, deals, and sawed lumber.
If this Intercolonial Railway is constructed, it will have very little passenger traffic during a large portion of the year, and I suppose it will do a large business in freight. Like other railways, it will be the means of conveying a large quantity of timber to the seaboard. It appears to me that any one interested in the timber business of this country must see that every stick of timber that will go on the Intercolonial Railway from Canada into New Brunswick will be liable to this export duty. I ask the Honorable President of the Council [George Brown] if that will not be the fact?
George Brown [Oxford South, President Executive Council]—I think the honorable gentleman could not have been present when the Honorable Finance Minister [Alexander T. Galt] explained this matter. This export duty is the same as is paid on timber in this country in the shape of stumpage.
Thomas Scatcherd [Middlesex West]—That is not the point; no timber can go out of New Brunswick without paying an export duty. Is not that the law at the present time?
George Brown [Oxford South, President Executive Council]—No timber can go from our forests without paying a duty of exactly the same kind.
Luther Holton [Chateauguay]—Exactly the game?
George Brown [Oxford South, President Executive Council]—What is the difference?
Luther Holton [Chateauguay]—Does the honorable gentleman say that this export duty and stumpage are exactly the same in their nature?
George Brown [Oxford South, President Executive Council]—I say exactly the same, with reference to the lumber from which the Government of New Brunswick now derives a revenue. There will be some instances in which it will not work in exactly the same way.
Luther Holton [Chateauguay]—Such as timber cut on private lands?
George Brown [Oxford South, President Executive Council]—There will be a difference as regards that. This was the way in which this arrangement arose. For myself, I regret it should be put in that shape, for I am opposed to all export duties. (Hear, hear.) Of course it was arranged that the Local Governments should have the lands, mines, minerals and Crown timber of their respective provinces. From our Crown timber here we receive a large revenue in the shape of stumpage, which is to go to Upper and Lower Canada respectively for their local purposes. But the New Brunswick delegates said—”We do not levy a stumpage duty on our Crown timber as you do; we find it better to levy it in the shape of an export duty ” and we complied with their desire that they should have their local revenue) in that shape as an offset to our stumpage duty.
Archibald McKellar [Kent]—I think the question raised on this point by the honorable member for West Middlesex [Thomas Scratcherd] is hardly worth discussing, because timber from Canada will never be carried over the Intercolonial road. It does not pay to carry it over our own roads, and it would certainly never be carried by railway all that distance. (Hear, hear.)
Thomas Wallbridge [Hastings North]—It is carried from Canada to Portland over the Grand Trunk for shipbuilding purposes. ( Cries of “No, no.”)
Thomas Scatcherd [Middlesex West]—My honorable friend from South Oxford [George Brown] has not come to the point, which is this, that it is not right for the people of New Brunswick to charge this duty on timber. What right have they to levy an export duty on our timber? Yet this resolution, it appears to me, would give them that right.
George Brown [Oxford South, President Executive Council]—My honorable friend will recollect that these resolutions are to be embodied in a statute, and the intention will be much more clearly stated in it. It was not by any means the intention that one province […]
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[…] should have the right to impose an export duty on the products of another.
Thomas Scatcherd [Middlesex West]—It seems to me, however that the meaning of that resolution is clearly as I have stated it. This scheme is objectionable on the face of it, because it will largely increase the public debt for the erection of defences and the construction of the Intercolonial Railway.
George Brown [Oxford South, President Executive Council]—What return will we get for that?
Thomas Scatcherd [Middlesex West]—Why, according to the extracts I have just read, we will get nothing at all.
George Brown [Oxford South, President Executive Council]—The hon. gentleman says that the construction of this railway to the Maritime Provinces will involve us in increased debt. Now, should he not let us, in all candor, know how much we are to get in the shape of revenue from those provinces, as an offset.
Thomas Scatcherd [Middlesex West]—It is generally admitted that we will receive no advantage from the construction of the Intercolonial Railway.
George Brown [Oxford South, President Executive Council]—Who admits it?
Thomas Scatcherd [Middlesex West]—I say that this road will have to be run at the expense of this province, and not only that, but it will be a piece of corruption from the time of the turning of the first shovelful of earth. All the officers of the road will be appointed by the Government, and it will be an everlasting expense. It could not have been better expressed than it was by the hon. member for South Oxford [George Brown] in his own paper, that every storm of snow would be watched with the liveliest anxiety by the people of Upper Canada. (Hear, hear.)
I know it is said that the Government will open up the North-West when the state of the finances permit; but how much better would it be to have the money taken, which is to be appropriated for this unprofitable railway, and expended at once in opening up that territory? It is doubtful whether there is any land in that part of the country through which the railway is to pass, fit for cultivation. Then, according to the view taken by my honorable friend from South Oxford [George Brown], the only products shipped on it will be those grown east of Rivière du Loup. (Hear, hear.)
The payment of subsidies from the General to the Local Governments, the doing away with the elective principle in the Legislative Council, and the construction of the Intercolonial Railway, are to my mind grave objections to the Confederation. I consider that such a measure ought not to become law until it has been submitted to and pronounced upon by the people. (Hear, hear.)
Yet it is the declared intention of the Government not to submit it to the people for their opinion. Now, I think the Government are not keeping faith with the people in this respect. At a dinner in Toronto, in November last, the honorable member for South Oxford [George Brown] is reported, by the Globe of Nov. 4th, to have said:—
Hon. Mr. Brown—A friend asks if the scheme is to go into operation without being submitted to the people. That is a matter for the different Parliaments to consider—whether it shall be done, or whether it shall not be done. It is not, I apprehend, for the Administration of this province, or any other province, to say that this measure shall or shall not be sent especially to the people. We are in the hands of the representatives of the people, and by their decision we are ready to abide.
How different is that declaration from the conduct of the Government now, when they come down and say they are going to use every means to carry the scheme through without submitting it to the people! (Hear, hear.)
At the same dinner there was another honorable member of the Government present, the Hon. Minister of Finance [Alexander T. Galt], and I will read to the House what he said on the question of appealing to the people:—
They would have desired to see a Central Government, extending its aegis over all interests. But there were difficulties which rendered this impossible, and in meeting these difficulties he trusted that the measure which would be submitted to the people, to the Imperial Parliament, and to the Provincial Parliaments, would be found to be one which protected local interests, while national interests had been reserved for the central power, which he hoped would manage them in a way to do honor to the race from which we had sprung. (Cheers.)
There is the express declaration of two Ministers of the Crown that this measure, before it would become law, should be submitted to the people. (Hear, hear.)
Now, is the course indicated that which has been adopted? Is the scheme to be submitted to the people? No; they bring down the scheme and say that it must be passed in its entirety, and so far from submitting it to the people, they move the previous question to prevent the possibility of an amendment to that effect being put. Some members who have preceded me contended that it would be unconstitutional to submit it to the people, and they cited cases in support of their argument. But in those cases, Parliament had full power to dispose of the question then before […]
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[…] it; this Parliament has no power to dispose finally of this question. The British Parliament can act with or without the consent of this Parliament; therefore, it appears to me that the cases cited are not applicable to our case, and I maintain that submitting the resolutions to the people would prevent irritation hereafter. (Hear.) How can it be pretended that if the measure is not passed now, the time will never occur again? So far as Upper Canada is concerned, I think she might hope to obtain such a scheme as this at any time—(hear, hear)—and I am willing to take the responsibility of voting against this Confederation scheme. (Hear, hear.)
John Macdonald [Toronto] said—Mr. Speaker, before recording my vote on this question, I desire plainly to state the position which I occupy in regard to it. I desire to say that I am in favor of Confederation. (Hear, hear.) The first resolution which was proposed at the Quebec Conference and agreed upon, namely, that a Confederation of all the British North America Provinces, on principles just to all, was desirable, I have no hesitation in saying, meets with my entire approval. We have been told that the Conference at Quebec exhibited one of the grandest spectacles which the world ever beheld. (Hear, hear.)
I may be wrong, but I fail to see it in that light. I am prepared to award to honorable gentlemen all the sincerity in meeting together to settle the sectional difficulties of this country to which they can possibly lay claim, and it is a matter of great regret to me that I find myself to-night compelled to record my vote against hon. gentlemen with whom it has been my pleasure to be associated ever since I entered political life. But, sir, it is with me a matter of conscientious conviction, and I am bound, whatever the consequences may be, to follow those convictions. (Hear, hear.)
Now, Mr. Speaker, I think that hon. gentlemen, in bringing this scheme down and saying that we must take it just as it is without making any amendment to it whatever, are asking too much. (Hear, hear.) That is assuming the document is perfect in every particular, or as nearly so as possible. If we are to undertake the discussion of this question, and yet not be allowed to alter it in any single particular so as to adapt it to the circumstances of the province, I really cannot conceive for what purpose this House has been called together. (Hear, hear.) We have heard a good deal said about the leading Opposition members in all the provinces having received invitations to enter the Conference for the free discussion of the question, but I would ask, sir, on what occasion the Opposition of Lower Canada were invited by the Government to take part in that Conference? (Hear, hear.)
I understood the hon. member for Montreal Centre (Hon. Mr. Rose) to say, that although he did not agree with some of the minute details, yet rather than jeopardize the adoption of the whole scheme, he was prepared to vote for it just as it stands. Now, I would ask if the question of our School law is a minute detail? I would ask if the appropriation of the debt between Upper and Lower Canada is a minute detail? I would ask if the question of the defences of the country is a minute detail? And yet we are asked to vote for this measure without having these particulars laid before us for our consideration. (Hear, hear.)
It is better, the hon. gentleman says, that we should vote upon it in ignorance of these things, and leave the result, if wrong, to be righted by future legislators. Well, the member may vote in ignorance if he prefers to do things in that way, but as I am constituted (it may be a fault of mine), I cannot do that. I will never record a vote in this House unless I know, or have tried my utmost to know what I am doing (Hear, hear.) The Hon. Minister of Finance [Alexander T. Galt], in the very able speech which he delivered at Sherbrooke, alluded to the great difficulties which surrounded the School question. He intimated that the question was one of such magnitude, that a great deal of time was required for its consideration, and then invited the cooperation of all intelligent men to the solution of that difficulty.
If then the smaller question is of so much importance, why should the larger one be forced upon this House with such haste? Does it require less time for consideration than the smaller one to which I have alluded? It seems to me very much like building a house first, and after it is built proceeding to examine the foundations. The hon. gentleman spoke of the improvement which this scheme had already secured in the value of our securities in England. Now, it does not require much thought to discover that it is an easy matter to affect the stock exchange either favorably or unfavorably. Securities go up to-day and down tomorrow. A man in business may get an […]
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[…] endorser which may for a short time improve his credit; so we seek to improve our credit by an alliance with the Maritime Provinces. Mr. Speaker, there are other and far better ways of improving our credit, the very best of which is living within our means, bringing our expenditure within our income, and establishing our financial operations on a sound and healthy basis. Rest assured, the monied men of England will attach much greater importance to such a course than any alliance we can possibly make with other provinces, for the purpose of improving our credit. (Hear, hear.)
Well, sir, we are told that this great scheme is to settle all our sectional difficulties. I may perhaps be very dull of comprehension, but I must confess that I cannot see that. We have difficulties among ourselves, as scenes that have transpired on the floor of this House have fully proved, and We seek to settle those difficulties by forming a union with provinces that are at loggerheads among themselves. (Hear, hear.)
Now, sir, we have long contended in Upper Canada for a just representation in Parliament, and we are told that, because we are going to get seventeen more members than Lower Canada in the Federal Legislature, all the difficulties for the settlement of which representation according to population was sought, are to be thereby remedied. I cannot see that that result will follow, because in the Upper House there is still to be an equality of votes, and I quote now from the pamphlet written by the Hon Mr. Cauchon to show that he is of opinion that any advantage which we gain in the Lower House will be completely paralyzed in the Upper Chamber. He says:—
The Constitution of 1840 only stipulated for equality in the Lower House. Let us suppose that the majority of the Legislative Council had chosen to adopt a project of law which would have been hostile to the interests of Lower Canada; as Upper and Lower Canada were equally represented in the Lower House, the bill adopted by the Upper House would have been certainly thrown out, and it is by the Lower House alone that we have, up to this time, been able to protect and save our institutions, taking into account also the good-will shown to us by Lower Canadian representatives of English descent.
Why has the Legislative Assembly always been the battlefield with respect to the struggle that has been going on for the last fourteen years between Upper and Lower Canada on the question of representation by population? It is because there alone equality has existed, and there alone could be found the means of solving the constitutional problem. If then, instead of the present Constitution, we substitute local legislatures, and over them the Federal Parliament, we shall see in that case precisely the inverse of that which we have always observed in our present legislature, that is to say, that on the occurrence of any local misunderstanding, the struggle will be carried from the Lower House to the Legislative Council, and precisely fo [sic] the reasons that we have adduced.
Mr. Speaker, we have here, in the language of one of the most determined opponents of the principle of representation according to population, very good reasons given for coming to the conclusion that the granting of increased representation in the Lower Legislature will amount to nothing, while the same just principle is denied in the constitution of the Legislative Council. I hope I may be incorrect, but I am of opinion that if this scheme goes into operation, we shall witness the difficulty alluded to on the floor of the Confederate Legislature in less than six months after its organization. (Hear, hear.)
And the unfair representation which Upper Canada will have in the Upper Chamber must exist throughout all time. Nor will she be able to add even one member, no matter how great may be the preponderance of her population over other parts of the Confederacy And this equality of votes between Upper Canada and Lower Canada will act, as Mr. Cauchon tells his Lower Canadian friends, as a perfect counterpoise to the legislation of the Lower House. In connection with this subject, there is another feature of the scheme which is painful to contemplate, in which we are, I think, about to advance backwards. The qualification of a Legislative Councillor is now $8,000; but it is proposed to reduce it to $4,000, which I regard as retrogressive. And in the case of Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland, the qualification may be personal property as well as real estate, in other words, the legislative councillors from those provinces may be peddlers of jewelry or any other commodity, whose stock in trade may be burned up while they are attending a session, rendering them unable longer to qualify. (Hear, hear.)
But there is a much worse feature than that: it will have the effect of introducing into the Upper Chamber a class of needy adventurers who in a crisis may be approached without very much difficulty, and who might plead their own circumstances as an ample apology in quieting their consciences for the votes they […]
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[…] might give. Now, Mr. Speaker, I object further to this scheme on the ground of the cumbrous and expensive machinery of the local governments. I know it has been asserted that it will not cost the country any more than under the present system, and I will entirely give up my position if any hon. gentleman can prove to me that a man will not go behind who doubles or even increases the number of his employés without at the same time increasing the capital and extent of his business. I see in this scheme the introduction and increase—the rapid increase—of a large number of consumers, without correspondingly increasing the producers of the country. If I err in this I err in good company, for I quote the words of the Secretary of State for the Colonies, Mr. Cardwell, who says on this point:—
A very important part of this subject is the expense which may attend the working of the Central and the Local Governments. Her Majesty’s Government cannot but express the earnest hope that the arrangements which may be adopted in this respect may not be of such a nature as to increase, at least in any considerable degree, the whole expenditure, or to make any material addition to the taxation and thereby retard the internal industry or tend to impose new burdens on the commerce of the country.
Now, sir, I object as a western man (and I will be pardoned if I allude to the sectional question) to the great injustice which will be done to the people of Upper Canada in the heavy burdens which she will have to bear in the carrying on of the General Government. In the able speech delivered by the Hon. the Minister of Finance [Alexander T. Galt] at Sherbrooke, he said that when the population of Canada should reach five millions (a larger population than that of the proposed Confederation at present), the revenue which would be derived for public purposes would not be a farthing more than now.
One hon. gentleman has said in this House that it is as cheap to govern three millions as five millions of people. That may be true, but one million of money will not go as far as five millions in making those local improvements which Upper Canada would require, and to which the people of Upper Canada would be justly and fairly entitled. Then I object further to the scheme, because while Upper Canada will contribute the largest amount to the general revenue, she will also have to bear the heavy share of defensive and other public works in the Maritime Provinces and Lower Canada. (Hear, hear.)
I object further to the indefinite postponement of the opening up of the North-West, the settlement of the valleys of the Saskatchewan and the improvement of our canal system. (Hear, hear.)
There is a very marked difference in the phraseology of two of the clauses of this scheme which must strike any one reading them as extraordinary. The one declares that the Intercolonial Railway shall be built. There can be no mistake about that, nor is there any possibility of doubt. The language is definite—it is to be built immediately. (Hear, hear.)
The communication with the North Western territory and the improvements required for the development of the trade of the Great West with the seaboard are regarded by this Conference as subjects of the highest importance to the Federated Provinces, and shall be prosecuted at the earliest possible period that the state of the finances will permit. (Hear, hear.)
This certainly is the most ambiguous language that could well be employed in reference to this great and desirable work. However, we are told that this is a mistake, and that the opening up of the North-West will go on simultaneously with the construction of the Intercolonial Railway; but we find Hon. Mr. Tilley asserting in the Lower Provinces that there was no serious intention of going on with this work at present, and that a large sum was to be spent at once in New Brunswick in improving its defences. If I may be allowed to give an illustration of the uncertain and evasive character of this provision of the scheme, I will quote from a cartoon in Punch, which I have here before me. It refers to a Russian State paper on Polish affairs. England, France and Austria examining it, thus explain it:—
England, “It seems to mean; Eh? H’m!”
France, “I think it means; Eh? Ha!”
Austria, “I suspect it means; Eh? Ho!”
Chorus, “And we don’t know what it means.”
Thomas D’Arcy McGee [Montreal West, Minister of Agriculture and Statistics]—That appears to be quite correct in your case.
John Macdonald [Toronto West]—Well, my ignorance is pardonable when there is so much ignorance of the scheme even among members of the Ministry. (Hear, hear.) I can fancy the question of the opening up of the North-West coming up in the first session of the Federal Legislature and the manner in which it will be received. […]
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[…] New Brunswick will say: “Oh we cannot go on with this work until the Intercolonial Railway is completed, and New Brunswick is put in a complete state of defence.” Nova Scotia will say: “When the finances permit we will proceed with it;” and all the provinces will unite in saying, when this provision of the Constitution is pointed out to them,” Oh, we don’t know what it means.” (Laughter.) I object to this scheme, sir, on account of the burdens it proposes to place on this country in the shape of defence (Hear, hear.)
We have had glowing accounts from the Hon. Minister of Agriculture [Thomas D’Arcy McGee] and others about the territory that will belong to this Confederation. We are told that it will extend for four thousand miles from ocean to ocean; and will it be believed that we in Upper and Lower Canada, with a population less than that of the city of London, will be called upon to defend such a frontier—a territory, we are told, as great as the continent of Europe? (Hear, hear.)
The thing is an anomaly that no country in the world presents except our own. I regard this addition of territory by Confederation as a source of weakness instead of strength; and to my mind the casting of the burden of defence upon this country is like investing a sovereign with all the outward semblance of royalty, and giving him a dollar per day to keep up the dignity of his court, or like expecting the engine of one of the small ferry steamers which ply on the river here to Point Levis, to propel the Great Eastern across the Atlantic. (Hear, hear.)
Sir, I am not unmindful of the fostering care of the British Island over all its colonies. I am not unmindful of all that England has done to guard and protect her colonies throughout the world, and to develop their resources. But when we see by the telegraphic reports of to-day that the Imperial Government is about to expend £50,000—or if you accept the correction of the Government, as stated this evening, £200,000, upon the defences of this country, I ask in all seriousness what is that amount for the protection of an exposed frontier such as ours?
George Brown [Oxford South, President Executive Council]—I do not wish to interrupt my hon. friend; but I must say that when he has heard it stated that this £200,000 is to be granted by the Imperial Government simply for the defence of the city of Quebec, I am amazed how he can get up here and charge the Imperial Government with the intention of giving only that amount for the defence of the whole country.
Antoine-Aimé Dorion [Hochelaga]—It is distinctly stated in the report of the debate in the House of Lords that that is all the Imperial Government intend to appropriate.
George Brown [Oxford South, President Executive Council]—I beg the hon. gentleman’s pardon, but it is not so stated. I think the hon. gentleman will find that there are now large works going on at Halifax and St. John; and that besides the appropriation for works at Quebec, the question of the amount to be contributed for the defence of Canada elsewhere is still under the consideration of the Imperial Government.
Antoine-Aimé Dorion [Hochelaga]—Oh, no; only the question of the naval defence.
George Brown [Oxford South, President Executive Council]—Well, the hon. gentleman may not accept the statement I make, but I am quite sure the hon. member for Toronto will, that the question of the defence of this province at Montreal and westward is still under the consideration of the Imperial Government, and at this moment is undecided.
John Macdonald [Toronto West]—Of course, I was aware that the £200,000 proposed to be appropriated were for works at Quebec.
George Brown [Oxford South, President Executive Council]—The hon. gentleman should not have stated, then, that they were for the defence of the whole of the province.
John Macdonald [Toronto West]—I am free to admit that this was a mistake, and that the amount was for the defences of Quebec.
George Brown [Oxford South, President Executive Council]—Well, it was very wrong to repeat it.
John Macdonald [Toronto West]—Well, I ask that if the Imperial Government will appropriate only this sum, where, at such a period of imminent danger as the present is said to be, and with every point of the frontier perfectly defenceless, is the money to come from to place all parts of the province in a position to resist aggression, and who is to provide it? The hon. member for Lambton [Alexander Mackenzie], the other night, in alluding to the ability of this country to raise and maintain a standing army for our protection, instanced the case of Denmark, which he said was able to support an army of 20,000 men. I certainly thought the allusion a most unhappy one, and one would have imagined that the recent history of that country would have prevented its being made. (Hear, hear.)
But in regard to all the features in this scheme objectionable to Upper Canada, and adverse to […]
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[…] its interest, Upper Canadian members in this House say, “Oh, let us have Confederation, and we will make all these things right by subsequent legislation.” Well, I say to every Upper Canadian that if he goes into this treaty with a view of violating its letter and spirit subsequently, he is unfaithful to the duty he owes to Upper Canada as well as to Lower Canada and the sister provinces. (Hear, hear )
I do not design to enter into a treaty with the object of escaping its obligations at some future time; and it is because I wish to do what is right, that I point out those things in the scheme that I believe to be wrong, and which, unless they are modified, I cannot support by my vote. (Hear, hear.)
It would be a breach of faith on the part of Upper Canada in a few years after this to say, “We want an increased representation; we want a larger amount for our local purposes,” when with their eyes open, her representatives accepted the document now before the House, and with a clear apprehension of what they were doing, made themselves parties to this treaty. Why, Mr. Speaker, is it that Lower Canada has so long resisted the cry for an increased representation to the western section of the province? Simply because the treaty of 1840 granted to both sections equality on the floor of this House. (Hear, hear.)
I regret exceedingly that the Government intend to force this measure upon the people without appealing to them on the question, and knowing whether it meets with their approval or not. (Hear, hear.)
In that same speech of the Hon. Minister of Finance [Alexander T. Galt] to which I have already made allusion, one of his strongest points was this, that the Union Act of 1840 was forced on the people of Lower Canada without their consent. (Hear.) Yet, Mr. Speaker, what do we find? We find the intelligent and enterprising people of New Brunswick have rejected this measure, and that it is not favored either by the people of Prince Edward Island or Nova Scotia. We find, further, petitions coming in every day against the measure from all parts of Lower Canada. (Hear, hear.)
And yet, in the face of all this opposition, the Government presume to force the measure upon the country. But then we are told that the rejection of the scheme by New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Prince Edward Island will make no difference, although they were treated with here on equal terms, Prince Edward Island having the same vote in the Conference as Upper or Lower Canada; they assisted in framing these articles, and it was to conciliate them that all these concessions were made. We are told that this is a document of concessions; but I declare that I have failed to see any concessions whatever that have been made to Upper Canada; they were all made to the Maritime Provinces. I repeat that the delegates who met in Quebec as the representatives of provinces, and who had equal weight in the Conference with Canada, are now to be treated as if they were of no account; that if the people of Canada, representing three-fourths of the whole population, decide upon it, it will be carried through. (Hear, hear)
Then we are told that the danger of war is very imminent. I fail to see that. The Government brought in an Alien Bill, and a large majority in the House voted for it, because they believed it necessary, at the time, to secure the peace of the country; and, in like manner they will be supported by this House in any measure which may be required for the purpose of adding to our security.
But I ask, sir, if these resolutions were carried tonight, how much they would add to our peace and security? What increased facilities of communication would they give us with the Lower Provinces, until it was possible to build the Intercolonial Railway? Very many years must necessarily elapse before that work could be completed; meanwhile, the whole question of union could be discussed; objections could be considered, and the people could be consulted. Thus, without hastily pressing on a measure which might eventuate in disappointment and misery, a sound and judicious measure might be devised, which would meet with the approval of the country, and whose principles might be perpetuated with the happiest results.
George-Étienne Cartier [Montreal East, Attorney-General East]—That’s a fact! (Laughter.)
John Macdonald [Toronto West]—Perhaps I differ with many in regard to the subject of the Intercolonial Railway. I am willing that the Intercolonial Railway should be built, and I am willing that it should be built at once. I will go farther than that, and say I am willing that this Parliament should grant as the share of this country an amount sufficient to justify sound commercial men in taking up that work, which I look upon in the light of a great commercial undertaking. That is the idea that I hold […]
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[…] in regard to the Intercolonial Railway. We should then know how much the road would cost, and how much money we had to spend, and by placing it under the management of sound, judicious commercial men, the best possible guarantee would be afforded us of its being properly worked. (Hear, hear.)
I do not, for my part, underrate the difficulties which beset the hon. gentlemen who now occupy the Treasury benches. However much others may be ready to charge hon. gentlemen with having lost confidence in them, I am free to admit that my confidence in hon. gentlemen with whom I have hitherto worked, is as strong as ever it was.
But sir, no matter whether that confidence were strong or feeble, I must vote on this question as I conscientiously believe it is my duty to vote. That course I have ever followed since I have had the honor of a seat in this House, and that course I intend to pursue so long as I continue in public life. Far be it from me to withhold from honorable gentlemen that full measure of credit to which they are justly entitled. I believe that they were perfectly sincere in then coming together to endeavour to bring about a solution of our constitutional difficulties, and I hope they may be successful in their efforts in that direction. And if in the end they shall accomplish that great object—if they shall succeed in banishing strife and discord from the floor of this House, and in bringing to our shores an increased measure of commercial prosperity, no man will be more willing to acknowledge his error than I shall, and no one will be more ready to join in giving them that full measure of a nation’s gratitude to which under those circumstances they will be so fully and fairly entitled. (Cheers).
Archibald McKellar [Kent]—It is very late in the evening, and I do not intend to speak at any great length. However, I think it is proper, in the interests of a considerable portion of the people of Upper Canada, that I should call the attention of the House to this fact, that a few weeks ago a very large and influential meeting of the citizens of Toronto was held in that city, most of them, I believe, being the constituents of the honorable gentleman who has just addressed us, and to which meeting that honorable gentleman was invited for the purpose of discussing that very measure. He did not, however, think proper to attend; but I myself was there; and I think he has treated his constituents not with that courtesy and attention which they had a right to expect at his hands. (Hear, hear.)
Why, sir, did he not attend that meeting, and throw on it that flood of light which he has shed abroad amongst us this evening? (Laughter.) Well, in the metropolis of Upper Canada, where many of the most influential men of that section of the province were assembled, on a motion being made for what the honorable gentleman now contends, an appeal to the people—that this measure should be submitted to the popular vote before being disposed of by this House—at a public meeting, I say, in the metropolis of Upper Canada, where there were hundreds of the leading men assembled, not a seconder could be found. (Hear, hear.) I say we must hold that honorable gentleman responsible for not going to that meeting and enlightening his constituents upon this very important subject.
An Hon. Member—Did you do so with your constituents?
Archibald McKellar [Kent]—Yes, the question was fully discussed by them. The honorable gentleman who sits in the Upper house as the representative of the two counties of Essex and Kent was elected by acclamation. And why? Because this Coalition had taken place, and this scheme of Federation was in progress, and that honorable gentleman came out, openly and above board, and declared in his speeches and in his address that he was prepared to do what he did the other day in the Upper House, vote for every paragraph of these resolutions. (Hear, hear.)
The honorable member for Toronto (Mr. John Macdonald), however, did not venture to go near his constituents, although they were assembled within some two hundred yards of where he resides; and in the face of that he comes here and tells us we must have an appeal to the people. If ever a subject was brought under the attention of this House, which met the almost unanimous approval of the people of the country, it is the scheme now under discussion. (Cheers and counter cheers.)
We have been told that because the press of the country support the scheme nearly without exception, the press has been subsidized, and yet, up to this moment, they have not been able to point to a single case in proof of their assertion. It is paying the conductors of the press of Canada a very poor compliment to say that they could be bought, even were such a thing to be attempted. (Hear, hear.)
The press of this country—the unbought press of the country—from one end to the other, are in favor of the scheme. We have […]
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[…] had, too, elections for thirty or forty constituencies in both sections since the scheme was brought forward.
John Sandfield Macdonald [Cornwall]—Does the honorable gentleman speak of municipal elections?
Archibald McKellar [Kent]—The honorable member alludes to those elections as being municipal elections, but I spoke not of the little municipality of Cornwall [John Sandfield Macdonald], and the hon. gentleman need not therefore be in any way alarmed. (Laughter.) Almost without exception, the elections which have since taken place have been in favor of this scheme of Federation. (Hear, hear.) It was my intention to have spoken at some length on the merits of this scheme.
Thomas Parker [Wellington North]—Move the adjournment.
George-Étienne Cartier [Montreal East, Attorney-General East]—No, no, no.
Archibald McKellar [Kent]—I am quite willing to drop the subject in the meantime. I may state that if it is thought desirable to proceed to a vote without discussion, for my part—
George-Étienne Cartier [Montreal East, Attorney-General East]—I must beg the honorable gentleman to understand what is our position on this subject. He stated just now that he had merely risen to answer some objections which were made by the honorable member for Toronto, and he appears indisposed to speak this evening. Well, the honorable gentleman may speak at another time. It is only half-past twelve, and we may very well sit till two—(oh, oh)—so there is plenty of time. And as we know very well that the honorable gentlemen belonging to the Opposition are desirous of discussing this question at greater length, we are willing to listen to what they have to say.
John Sandfield Macdonald [Cornwall]—I am willing to sit as much night work as any honorable member of this House, but it is a little too much to ask us to sit here after twelve, night after night. At no time have I ever seen any success attending legislation after midnight.
Archibald McKellar [Kent]—I simply rose at the present time to point out the extraordinary conduct of the honorable member for Toronto. I may or may not desire to trespass upon the attention of the House tomorrow. But if I do not then speak, it is because of the imminent danger which I believe we are in, that the debate should be brought to a speedy close.
In case I do not address the House again, I desire to take this opportunity of saying that I am entirely in favor of the resolutions, and that I shall support them cordially, and oppose any amendments which may be offered to them; and, in taking that course, I am confident that I am doing that which will be endorsed almost unanimously by my constituents, and which will commend itself to at least three-fourths of the people of Upper Canada. If I believed that this measure was opposed to the wishes of the people of Canada, I would be the last man to press for a vote upon it until it had been submitted to them; but believing, from the clearest evidence, that the scheme meets with the almost unanimous approval of the country, I think the sooner we bring it into operation the better. (Hear, hear.)
John Macdonald [Toronto West]—I may perhaps be allowed to state in explanation that the good people of Kent are doubtless favored with a representative of much clearer views and sounder judgment than he who represents the unfortunate people of Toronto. But I would just say to that hon. gentleman, that if he will only look after the interests of his own constituents, I will try to look after the interests of mine. There is this difference between the hon. gentleman and myself, that when the scheme was first announced, he took the whole thing down at once, while I thought it too weighty to be thus hastily disposed of, and required time for reflection.
And the debates which have taken place in this House—the diversity of opinion amongst Ministers themselves as to several points of the scheme—convince me that so far from its being understood by every man, woman and child in Upper Canada, as the hon. member for Kent [Archibald McKellar] stated, and as he would fain have us believe, it is far from being understood in the country. I am persuaded that the course I took was right. I can only say that, if the honorable gentleman leaves this House with skirts as clean as I intend mine shall be when I retire from Parliament, he will have no cause to reproach himself for anything he has done during his political career. (Hear, hear.)
William Howland [York West, Postmaster General]—I desire to say a few words in reply to what fell from my honorable friend the member for Cornwall (Hon. J.S. Macdonald), so that no misconception should exist on the part of the members of this House in regard to the course I thought proper to pursue when I went before my constituents, after having accepted the office which I have now the honor to hold in the Government. From the honorable gentleman’s remarks, I think it would be inferred that I had accepted office […]
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[…] subject to conditions, and had left it to be understood that amendments would be made to the scheme now before the House. At least such is my impression from what fell from my honorable friend. I feel extremely obliged to the honorable gentleman for the kind manner in which he has spoken of me, and I can assure him in return that I value his opinion and friendship most highly; at the same time, it is proper that I should say a word or two in reference to what he has stated, in order that no misconception may possibly exist on the subject. I placed before my constituents, fairly and fully, my views on this important question. I indicated to them that there were some parts of the scheme which, if I had been a delegate to the Convention, I should have opposed and endeavored to modify. At the same time, I stated that we had to accept it as it was, it being in the nature of a treaty, or reject it.
John Sandfield Macdonald [Cornwall]—I am sure my honorable friend will not accuse me of a desire wilfully to misrepresent his position in reference to this matter. What I meant to say, if I did not say it, was this, that the scheme, as a whole, is not such as the Hon. Postmaster General [William Howland] desires—that he himself told his constituents that he entertained objections to it; and on that I argued that if the scheme was so bad as to be unsatisfactory to the members of the Government themselves, it was not fair to deny to the Opposition, to whom it was still more distasteful, the opportunity of placing on record their objections to it. (Hear, hear.)
Félix Geoffrion [Verchères] moved the adjournment of the debate.
George-Étienne Cartier [Montreal East, Attorney-General East] moved in amendment that the debate be resumed at the next sitting of the House tomorrow, as the first Order of the Day after routine business.
Luther Holton [Chateauguay] moved in amendment:—
That the debate be adjourned till Monday next, and that an humble Address be presented to His Excellency the Governor General, praying that he will cause to be laid before this House, in the meantime, all information submitted to the Conference, as well as any that may have since come into the possession of the Government, relating to the various important subjects referred to in the resolutions of the Conference; and particularly all information respecting the route and cost of the proposed Intercolonial Railway, the proposed distribution of the public property and liabilities among the several governments which are intended to replace the present Government of this Province, the nature, extent and cost of the contemplated improvements of our inland water communications, the rights of Canada in the Northwest Territory, and the cost of opening up that territory for settlement, the amount required to be contributed by the provinces towards the public defence, and the extent and value of the public lands of Newfoundland, in order that this House may be better enabled to consider the effect of the proposed constitutional changes on the material interests and the future political condition of the country.
The honorable gentleman said—Mr. Speaker, I shall simply say, with respect to this motion, that we are asked to adopt conclusions come to by the Conference of delegates which met in Quebec in October last. It is only right and proper—it is only fair and reasonable—that we should be placed in possession of the data upon which these conclusions are founded. If we are a free British Parliament, worthy of our position as the representatives of British freemen, we will insist on being placed in possession of all the information upon which these resolutions were founded. I think there can be no reasonable answer to oppose to this request, and I feel that I should be doing injustice to the House if I detained it for one moment longer with any argument upon the subject. (Hear, hear.)
Alexander Mackenzie [Lambton]—The time mentioned is too short. It would be necessary to adjourn the debate for two months at least, in order to get the information here sought. But there are serious omissions in the resolution. The honorable gentleman ought to have asked for the number of engines and cars proposed to be employed on the railway, and the amount of traffic which is expected to be carried backwards and forwards in the course of a year. (Laughter.) The whole thing to my mind is ridiculous. (Hear, hear.)
George-Étienne Cartier [Montreal East, Attorney-General East]—I am surprised, sir, that the honorable member for Chateauguay [Luther Holton] should have proposed such a motion in amendment as this—a motion which has no affinity whatever to the question under consideration. In my opinion things should be called by their right names, and I have not the least hesitation in saying that this motion, from the irrelevant matter it contains, is entirely irregular—that it is, in fact, an absurdity. (Hear, hear.)
Antoine-Aimé Dorion [Hochelaga]—This is the only way in which we can make a motion for getting information from the Government. The amendment proposes that the debate shall be adjourned until Monday next, for the purpose of affording an opportunity to the Government […]
- (p. 768)
[…] to bring down the information which they had before them during the Conference at which the resolutions in favor of Confederation were originated. It cannot be denied that when the Hon. Finance Minister [Alexander T. Galt] and his colleagues agreed that $150,000 should be paid for the unoccupied lands in Newfoundland, they must have had some information before them as to the value of those lands, and whether they consisted of one acre or a million. There is no doubt that when they agreed upon what part of the public debt of Canada should form part of the debt of the Confederation, they had a statement laid before them upon which that agreement was based.
If I re-collect aright, I saw in the newspapers a statement that the Conference had adjourned for a day or two in order to allow the Finance Ministers of the several provinces to make up and bring before the Conference a statement respecting the debts and financial positions of the several provinces. Well, this is all we want to obtain. We want the same information that the honorable gentlemen had before them when they agreed to those resolutions in conference. We do not suppose that they went into the consideration of these matters without any information before them. We do not suppose that they merely guessed that the debt of Canada was $62,500,000, and guessed in the same way at the debts of the other provinces. We want the same opportunity of understanding these resolutions nd of coming to a correct decision upon them, that the honorable gentlemen themselves enjoyed. We do not want an hour’s delay more than is absolutely necessary to bring down the information and enable us to apply it in judging of the merits of the scheme. (Hear.)
Honorable gentlemen say it will require months to get the information. The honorable member for Lambton (Mr. A. Mackenzie) seems to be very much afraid to have the information brought down, lest it would result in the scheme not being carried. He ought to remember that we have not the confidence in the Honorable Attorney General East [George-Étienne Cartier], nor yet in the Honorable Finance Minister [Alexander T. Galt], that he has. (Laughter.)
He has known those gentlemen for a long time, and the House has had frequent opportunities, during past sessions, of observing the amount of confidence he has always reposed in them. He had a wonderful amount of confidence in the Honorable Finance Minister [Alexander T. Galt] at the close of last session, when he voted for the motion respecting the $100,000 handed over to the city of Montreal for the payment of a Grand Trunk railway liability. But he will pardon us and exercise a little patience with us if we, who have never had that confidence in the honorable member for Sherbrooke [Alexander T. Galt] since he has been Finance Minister, desire to have a little information before we vote for the extravagant scheme which he has brought before us. We want information mainly respecting the finances, the Intercolonial Railway, and the Crown lands of Newfoundland, and we have no other way of placing our demand in a shape to be recorded, since the previous question has been moved, than by moving for it in amendment to the motion for adjourning the debate.
Alexander T. Galt [Sherbrooke, Minister of Finance]—The honorable gentleman is going into the merits of a resolution about which a point of order has been raised.
Antoine-Aimé Dorion [Hochelaga]—I was not aware that a point of order had been raised. What is the point of order? I understood the Honorable Attorney General East [George-Étienne Cartier] to have been arguing against bringing down the information called for.
George-Étienne Cartier [Montreal East, Attorney-General East]—No, no, not at all. The Speaker will decide whether the resolution is in order or not.
The Speaker—It is a well understood rule that no amendment to a motion for an adjournment can be proposed, unless it relates to the time to which the adjournment is proposed to be made. The first portion of the motion is in order, or would be in order if it were separated from what follows, and proposed by itself; but I cannot compel the honorable mover of it to alter it. According to the best of my judgment, the motion is out of order.
Luther Holton [Chateauguay]—Then, Mr. Speaker, I desire to have an opportunity of placing an appeal from the decision of the Chair on the resolution I have offered, upon the Journals of the House.
The members having been called in, the decision of the Honorable Speaker was sustained on the following division:—
YEAS.—Messrs. Alleyn, Ault, Beaubien, Bellerose, Biggar, Blanehet, Bowman, Bown, Brousseau, Brown, Carling, Atty. Gen. Cartier, Cartwright, Cauchon, Chapais, Cockburn, Cornellier, Cowan, Currier, De Boueherville, De Niverville, Dickson, Dufresne (Montcalm), Dunsford, Evanturel, Gait, Gaucher, Gaudet, Gibbs, Haultain, [YEAS] Higginson, Howland, Jones (South Leeds), Langevin, LeBoutillier, Mackenzie (Lambton), Mackenzie (North Oxford). Magill, McConkey, McDougall, McGee, McKellar, Morris, Morrison, Pinsonneault, Poulin, Powell, Robitaille, Ross (Prince Edward), Scoble, Smith (Toronto East), […]
- (p. 769)
[…] Stirton, Street, Sylvain, Thompson, Walsh, Wells, Willson, and Wright (East York).—59.
NAYS.—Messieurs Cameron (North Ontario), Coupal, Dorion (Drummond and Arthabaska), Dorion (Hochelaga), Dufresne (Iberville), Portier, Geoffrion, Holton, Houde, Labreche-Viger, Laframboise, Lajoie, Macdonald (Cornwall), O’Halloran, Paquet, Parker, Perrault, Rymal Scatcherd, and Thibaudeau.—20.
The question being again put on George-Étienne Cartier’s [Montreal East, Attorney-General East] motion,
|Editors’ Note (2019): Étienne Pascal Taché’s motion is as follows:
George-Étienne Cartier [Montreal East, Attorney-General East] moved in amendment that the debate be resumed at the next sitting of the House tomorrow, as the first Order of the Day after routine business.
Antoine-Aimé Dorion [Hochelaga] said—Mr. Speaker, I hold in my hand an amendment which will exactly suit the ruling of the Chair, as it relates only to the time to which the debate shall be adjourned. The very unfair and arbitrary course which the Government has unfortunately seen fit to pursue, has prevented the honorable members of this House from moving any amendments to the scheme proposed for its adoption; but I for one am most desirous, in accordance with the almost universal wish of the people of the district of Montreal, to have the question tested whether the opinion of the people shall be allowed to be heard before a final decision is come to by this House. I find that in nineteen French-Canadian counties in that district, resolutions have been passed in favor of that course, and petitions have been signed by from fifteen to twenty thousand inhabitants, asking that no such scheme be adopted without submitting it to a vote of the people. (Hear, hear.)
Sir, I think it would have been far more dignified on the part of the Government, and more respectful towards the country, to have allowed the scheme—which, in their opinion, will create such prosperity that everybody will be in ecstasy over it, but which, in our opinion, will bring on this country such a state of dissatisfaction as will perhaps engender some other feeling than that of union with the Lower Provinces—to be voted upon by those who are most deeply interested in it, the people of Canada. But they have chosen to gag us, insomuch that we have no other course left but to move amendments to the motion for adjourning the debate, and that we are determined to avail ourselves of. My motion in amendment is:—
That the debate on this resolution, involving as it does fundamental changes in the political institutions and in the political relations of this province, changes which were not in the contemplation of the people at the last general election, ought, in the opinion of this House, to be adjourned for one month, or until such time as the people of this province shall have an opportunity of constitutionally pronouncing their opinions thereon, by an appeal to them.
I do not fix the time arbitrarily in which the appeal to the people shall be made. If hon. gentlemen are anxious to have the scheme carried at an early day, they can bring on an election at once, or they may take their own time. Let them dissolve the House to-morrow. We are ready for it at any time. The conduct of the Government in reference to the procedure of the House upon the great question they submitted to it, is as disgraceful as it is derogatory to the dignity of this House. After coming to a solemn agreement with the House that the discussion should go on as if in Committee of the Whole, and that consequently amendments might be moved, they now distrust the favorable feeling which they told us at the outset existed among the people, and now they will not allow us to place amendments to the scheme in the Speaker’s hands. They fear to have the question discussed and understood among the people. They are wise in their generation. They have just beheld the Hon. Mr. Tilley—for ten years past at the head of the Government of New Brunswick, and a most deservedly popular gentleman—though uniting with his own strength that of the leaders of the Opposition, swept away by the people. (Hear, hear.)
Well may they tremble for the fate of their scheme among the people of Canada. But they do not content themselves with simply refusing an appeal to the people. They go further and refuse the members of this House the opportunity of placing their views before the House and country. We are ready to go to our constituents at once upon the question, and if they say that the scheme is a desirable one, I for one am prepared to bow to the will of the majority.
But, sir, to bow to a self-constituted delegation—an association of honorable gentlemen who were never authorised, either by the Parliament or people of this province, to meet together along with gentlemen from other provinces, and concoct a new Constitution for the government of the people, and then to come to this House and say to it, “You must accept this new Constitution in all its details, making no change or amendment, nor even having the privilege of proposing any amendments so as to have them placed on the Journals of this House “—I say the demand that we should bow in meek and humble submission to that sort of treatment at the hands of […]
- (p. 770)
[…] the gentlemen on the Treasury benches, is most monstrous. (Hear, hear.)
I cannot say that under other circumstances, such an appeal as has just been made from the decision of the Chair would have been taken, but in this instance there was no other course left to the minority to show that they had demanded most important information in reference to the scheme under discussion. Whether it be until a direct appeal can be had to the people by a general election, or by petitions, I say the gravity of the question calls for delay. Never has such extraordinary action been taken by any government, whether weak or strong, as has been taken by honorable gentlemen opposite.
Matthew Cameron [Ontario North]—The Government having endeavored to checkmate the Opposition to their scheme in the tyrannical way in which they have done, I think it is only fair to defeat their object and to stalemate them, because in point of fact it will amount to that if we succeed in this motion.
I think honorable gentlemen will admit that in this great and momentous change which is going to take place, the people who sent us here are as deeply interested as we are. They sent us here to make laws under the Constitution as established, not to overturn the Constitution; and before such a violent change of Constitution is made as will, undoubtedly, plunge us into most serious expenses, there ought to be given them an opportunity of saying whether or not they concur in the change proposed. It is for this reason I second the resolution in amendment, and I hope we shall have for it the support of those honorable gentlemen who, though supporters of the Government, have expressed such marked dissent from the policy of shutting off amendments by moving the previous question.
George-Étienne Cartier [Montreal East, Attorney-General East] said—With reference to this motion, I have to raise the same point of order that I brought against the other one. I beg to say at the outset that the statement that there is to be no other opportunity of bringing forward a motion in favor of submitting the scheme to the people, is all claptrap. The honorable member for Peel [John Cameron] has given a notice of a motion on that subject, as a substantial proposition on which every honorable gentleman will have an opportunity of recording his vote in a regular way.
*[Original Editor’s Note: The honorable gentleman then went on to discuss the point of order, giving several reasons for considering it irregular. The discussion of the points raised was also taken part in by Hon. Messrs. Galt, Holton, Dorion, J.S. Macdonald, and Mr. Morris.]
The Speaker ruled the motion out of order.
|Editors’ Note (2019): The motion, by Antoine-Aimé Dorion, ruled out of order by the Speaker is as follows:
That the debate on this resolution, involving as it does fundamental changes in the political institutions and in the political relations of this province, changes which were not in the contemplation of the people at the last general election, ought, in the opinion of this House, to be adjourned for one month, or until such time as the people of this province shall have an opportunity of constitutionally pronouncing their opinions thereon, by an appeal to them.
He said that the practice in such cases appeared to be for the Speaker to eliminate from such motions all that was irregular, and if the honorable member who prepared the motion consented to that, to put it to the House as it then stood. If the honorable member would not consent, why the motion fell to the ground. If the honorable member for Hochelaga [Antoine-Aimé Dorion] would consent, therefore, to his eliminating from the motion all but that which referred to the adjournment, he (the Speaker) would put it to the House. If not, he would be obliged to rule it out of order.
Antoine-Aimé Dorion [Hochelaga] having declined to allow his motion to be interfered with, it was accordingly ruled out of order, the amendment of George-Étienne Cartier [Montreal East, Attorney-General East] was agreed to, and the debate was adjourned until three o’clock the next day.
|Editors’ Note (2019): The amendment of George-Étienne Cartier’s that was agreed to is as follows:
George-Étienne Cartier [Montreal East, Attorney-General East] moved in amendment that the debate be resumed at the next sitting of the House tomorrow, as the first Order of the Day after routine business.
 Ibid., p. 205.
 Ibid., p. 205.
 Ibid., p. 14.
 Ibid., p. 15.
 Trade Review (February 1864). Unconfirmed reference.
 Trade Review (February 1864). Unconfirmed reference.
 “Meeting of the Liberal Convention of Upper Canada”, The Globe (10 November 1859).
 “Meeting of the Liberal Convention of Upper Canada”, The Globe (10 November 1859).
 “Intercolonial Railway”, The Globe (18 September 1862).
 All resolutions found on pp. 1-6. As presented to the Legislative Council on 3 February 1865.
 [Alexander Grant] Dallas in The Union of the Provinces of British North America by Joseph Cauchon (Quebec: 1865), p. 56.
 “Intercolonial Railway”, The Globe (19 September 1862).
 “The Intercolonial”, The Globe (23 September 1862).
 The Globe (4 November 1865).
 Despatch from Right Hon. Edward Cardwell to Viscount Monck, Downing Street (3 December 1864) from “Correspondence relative to the Canadian Confederation” in The Annual Register (London: 1864), p. 300.
 Resolution 69. All resolutions found on pp. 1-6. As presented to the Legislative Council on 3 February 1865.
 Cartoon republished in Unechte Korrespondenzen by Theodore Fontane, Streiter-Buscher (Berlin: 1996).