Province of Canada, Legislative Assembly, Parliamentary Debates on the Subject of the Confederation of the British North America Provinces, 8th Parl, 3rd Sess, (8 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 770-814.
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WEDNESDAY, March 8, 1865.
Mr. Chambers said—The position of the speaker who comes towards the last in a debate is, if disadvantageous in some respects, at least advantageous in others. If from the ability of gentlemen who have preceded him, and from their logical and argumentative powers, most that could have been said has been said—if, from the ample store of knowledge they possess, numerous ideas have been advanced, and logical conclusions drawn therefrom, there is at least this advantage to their successors in the debate, that they have the benefit of those conclusions, the advantage of those ideas and of that knowledge. And although a subsequent speaker may be unable to advance new theories, or even adduce new arguments, he can at least compare the opinions and the views of those who have preceded him. I may state in the outset that I had hoped, at the commencement of this debate, to have heard it announced that this Legislature would be allowed the privilege of amending such of the resolutions submitted as they might, upon earnest and careful examination, have deemed necessary.
I had hoped, Mr. Speaker, that some latitude would be allowed to this Legislature in suggesting improvements and […]
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[…] amendments to the resolutions, which do appear to me to have been resolved upon with some degree of haste for matters fraught with such vital interest and importance to these provinces. If indeed, sir, the hon. gentlemen who so recently held their deliberations in this city had been composed of men perfect in intellect, and possessing intelligence unalloyed by the baser ingredient of ordinary humanity—liability to err, then it would, I say, have seemed more consistent to ask this or any other legislature to adopt the Constitution which they had framed for us and for posterity without amendments, to ask us to receive, as we would or as we do, the articles of our religious faith—to ask us to have faith, and to believe that these delegates had embodied in these resolutions all the requisites and necessaries for a perfect Constitution.
I had hoped, sir, we should be able to apply ourselves to the calm, deliberate, impartial consideration of these important resolutions, and, being divested of all party spirit, endeavor to arrive at such conclusions as would be advantageous to all the provinces, But, sir, notwithstanding all this; however much it may have been desired, and whatever alterations we may have wished for; whatever further benefits and advantages Upper Canada may have desired to secure in this great national co-partnership; and although I should myself have preferred alterations in some of the resolutions, as well as in some of the details, yet I am not, after having listened patiently and anxiously to the able arguments in favor of Confederation, as well as against it—I am not, I repeat, prepared to state that I will take upon myself to say that Confederation, as a scheme, should be rejected—that I will state that I shall vote against the creation of a new nationality. (Hear, hear.)
I will state some reasons why I am not prepared to do so. In the first place, when I look abroad and see the neighboring American Republic engaged in one of the most terrible and disastrous wars that has ever racked this continent; when I read in almost every journal issuing from the press of that country anathemas against the British Empire; when I see that press teeming with threats against this country; when I know that that nation has by sea a navy prepared to cope with the strong powers of the old world, and a force on land, in point of numbers at least, astonishing the generals of the most advanced of warlike nations—when, I say, I see that nation in a warlike, and not only in a warlike, but in a threatening attitude towards us, I am led to consider, as paramount to every other consideration, what ought to be done for the safety of this country. To preserve its territory from invasion, to protect the lives and property of its subjects, is, I conceive, the first important duty towards which the attention of every government should be directed. (Hear.)
Then, sir, upon the well-understood maxim that union is strength, I am inclined to believe that the union of the British North American Provinces would give strength to us all. (Hear, hear.) I confess I fail to see a source of weakness in this union, as is very ingeniously argued by some hon. gentlemen opposed to this scheme in toto. It does appear to me that the very political and national status given to these provinces by a union, would become immediately a source of strength; that the very new name to be given to the new nationality would be an immense fortification of defence in itself. (Hear, hear.) When, sir, I consider the interest evinced by the people of England, the people of France, and, I may say, of all Europe, the very apprehension that seems to exist with regard to this Confederation of the British North American Provinces, it appears to me that the very announcement of the creation of this new nationality has given us already a position and a strength which in the palmiest days of the old régime we might never have hoped for. (Hear, hear.)
When I remember, sir, that great Constitutions in the old world have been founded in the blood of contending nations; that in the Mother Country the heirs of contending houses, at times through various centuries, struggled for supremacy; and that authority, power and good government have been established only after being wrenched from opposing factions by the sword—when I remember, sir, that history records the revolution which terminated the long struggle between the sovereigns in England and their parliaments—how, from union, order and freedom, established only by the sword, sprung a prosperity hitherto unknown in the annals of human affairs; when I trace their history from the days of feudalism down to the present, I am led to believe that if we have the opportunity of securing greatness, prosperity, and an established and well-regulated freedom, comparing favorably with all that is enjoyed by the Mother Country, and without the cost of a single drop of blood, and, if the financial […]
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[…] statements are correct, with little loss, if any, of treasure, we would not act wisely in letting pass the opportunity. (Hear, hear.) I think, on the first proposition, that our defensive position would be strengthened by this union. First, because were we to remain as we at present stand, separate provinces, there would be greater temptation to the adjoining republic to acquire possession of our territory, believing, as they undoubtedly would, that this could be done with advantage and little cost to themselves; whereas the magnitude of our national position, under the Confederation, would be the means, I am satisfied, of deterring them from such an enterprise And I am satisfied, too, that the people of England would be more alive to our interests, more willing to spend their lives and their treasure in assisting in our defence, composing a strong, united, new nationality on this continent, than they would if we were to remain isolated colonial dependencies. (Hear, hear.)
I believe the very intimation of this Confederation has awakened the world to the greatness, the vastness of the resources of this country. (Hear, hear.) That these views are shared in by eminent statesmen in Europe is also a significant fact. Lord Houghton, on seconding the Address on the late Speech from the Throne, very emphatically declared, in regard to that portion in which allusion is made to Confederation, “that he was glad of this movement, because he confessed that he believed the future of the world rested not in isolated municipalities, but in great empires.” And the Earl of Derby, too, in his remarks on that occasion, also said:—
Under the circumstances, I view with the utmost satisfaction that most important step to which Her Majesty’s Speech refers—the Confederation of the Canadian Provinces. I hope to see in that Confederation of the Canadian Provinces a determination to constitute themselves a power strong enough, with the aid of this country (which I am sure will never be withheld from them), to defend themselves against all aggression. (Hear, hear.)
Now, I ask, what would have been the consequences if the political combination that has taken place, for purposes well understood and declared, had not been made? We have seen the political party strifes that agitated this country; we have seen the bitterness with which opposing parties contended for office; we have seen the business of the country neglected, and its legislation brought to a stand-still, while parties assailed each other in our legislative halls on some personal, individual ground of malice; we have seen Lower Canada refusing to Upper Canada her fair representation in Parliament; we have seen sectional and religious difficulties and dissensions growing more and more complicated, and portending strongly a dissolution of the union, because we of Upper Canada could not have much longer submitted to waive our fair and equitable right to be represented according to our population upon the floor of this House. (Hear, hear.)
Looking, then, at the matter from this point of view, I deem the circumstances opportune that have opened a way for a solution of the difficulties that surrounded us, and at the same time afford a wider and more extended and ample scope to the people for their defence, for their commercial, manufacturing and mining interests, and for their social intercourse. Believing, then, that in respect to the solution of the political differences so recently existing, the Confederation of the provinces is exceedingly desirable; believing that in order to maintain an honorable existence, the union has become expedient, as affording a means of defence against aggression, I have, I think, at least two exceedingly strong grounds upon which I may favor the scheme in a general point of view. (Hear, hear.)
Admitting that Confederation on general principles is a proposition that admits of being strongly entertained; that I feel convinced in my own mind that something requires to be done; that necessity demands strong and vigorous action on the part of the Government to relieve us from the difficulties into which political differences have thrown us, to guard and defend us against difficulties not only political at home, but warlike abroad—I am, nevertheless, not one of those who are willing to accept, without investigation and careful enquiry, a Constitution cut and manufactured without the measure of the people it is proposed to fit having been taken. (Hear, hear.) I desire that the garment of the Constitution should be made to fit the people and at their request. (Hear, hear.) If I had any apprehension that this scheme was distasteful—was not acquiesced in—was not endorsed by the people, I should be the last man in this House to endorse these resolutions; and I should like every information afforded to this House that can be possibly given. I will not, however, pretend to dictate […]
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[…] to the Government of the day what amount of information they shall furnish and lay before us. I shall not charge them with dereliction of duty in not giving more information. I do not pretend to say that they should at this stage give further intimation of the line of policy proposed to be pursued and adopted by them with regard to the local governments.
They, in their wisdom, no doubt, have laid down a course they deem judicious and advisable to pursue, and which may be so. But at the same time I reserve to myself the right to be satisfied or dissatisfied with the reasons given, and with the information laid before us, and I conceive no blame can be attached to the man from Upper Canada who is anxious to know, before he votes for Confederation, what the results will be to that section of the country. (Hear, hear.)
Gentlemen will, I hope, take it in no wrong spirit when I say that upon others than themselves—upon the young men of this House and this country—will fall the consequences of this scheme, if carried into effect, whether beneficial or disastrous; and upon us who now cast our votes in its favor will fall the responsibility, if, after its adoption, the working of its machinery shall prove disastrous and injurious to Upper Canada. I maintain that the merit for the time being of framing a new nationality will attach to the few who have conceived and accomplished it; and they will no doubt be removed to places of honor, trust and emolument beyond the reach of the people, while we shall be left to see that the cog-wheels and straps and appurtenances of this gigantic invention are made to adhere to their respective and destined positions. (Hear, hear.) And woe to us if a wheel becomes displaced, or a single accident happens in its future working. Is it then, sir, improper to desire to see the fullest programme before we enter upon the play?
Though favorable to Confederation, we might be unwilling to swallow some of its indigestible ingredients, if any such it should, upon examination, be found to contain. (Hear, hear.) Now, upon examination of these resolutions, I find the first one contain I think nothing but that which would be acceptable and be gladly received by every truly loyal British subject—a Federal union under the Crown of Great Britain. No one has attempted to address this House but has given the fullest expression of his desire to see the connection with the Mother Country maintained and preserved—to see the great arm of the British Empire, which we all so much esteem, respect, and admire, strengthened. (Hear, hear.) It has been argued here that the British connection will be endangered by this scheme, that growing in strength, we shall by and by become independent, throw off our allegiance, become coveted, and finally swallowed up by the neighboring republic. I believe the interest now exhibited in England in our welfare, in our prosperity, in the formation of our new nationality—the affection shown for us in the hearts of many English statesmen, exhibited in their declarations of their belief in our loyalty, is sincere. (Hear.)
I cannot believe that as we grow great, prosperous, and valuable, their interest in us will grow less or be in the slightest degree diminished. The contrary is the reasonable deduction. If that nation has been in times past so solicitous with regard to us; if when poor, small, and unknown comparatively, she has sent her best blood and her richest treasures for our defence and support, it is unjust to her now and unreasonable to assume that she will ever, unless at our own request, abandon, neglect or forget us. (Hear, hear.) The recollections of our childhood and of the anxious care extended toward us will be ever fresh, I trust, in the mind and heart and memory of our Island Parent, and when maturity overtakes us, I am sure she will not forget the child she has so loved I trust not. I see no occasion for apprehension on this account in this direction. (Hear, hear.) I see, Mr. Speaker, embodied in this second resolution—if we are to have a union of the provinces—the only method which I think could be at all satisfactory to the various sections It is alleged by some that a legislative union would be desirable.
For my own part, I see many difficulties that would inevitably arise out of a legislative union, which it appears to me would be insurmountable. I do not believe that a general government would be as capable, even if it were as willing—which I doubt if it would be—to deal with the local affairs of the different sections as the local governments would be. I believe a general government, charged with matters of common interest to the whole country, and local governments for the province, as proposed by this resolution, is best adapted to secure efficiency, harmony and permanency in the working of […]
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[…] this union. The second resolution, too, opens up a mighty page on our historic future. It points a significant finger to the day when millions of inhabitants shad people the verdant valley of the Saskatchewan, when railways and telegraphs shall thread the almost boundless territory of the North-West, where the war-hoop of the savage alone is heard It points to the vast commercial enterprises yet to be engaged in upon the Pacific shores, to the rich gold fields of Columbia and the fertile shores of Vancouver. (Hear, hear.)
We rise, Mr. Speaker, in this resolution, from the simplicity of small colonial dependencies to a vastness in extent of territory to which the little islands that compose the mighty Empire to which we belong are insignificant. We may look forward, even with hope and pride, without, I think, too great a stretch of imagination, to some distant day, when in the rocking of European thrones, perhaps, we shall be able to send out our fleets and our armies, gathered from the Atlantic to the Pacific, to afford aid and assistance to that very Empire to which we now, in our weakness, appeal for support and strength and aid. (Applause.)
Who will say that the conception of this scheme has not a grandeur about it commending itself to the minds of those who rise superior to the cries of party strife—commending itself to the favorable consideration of those who desire to move onward with gigantic strides to greatness, to wealth, to a more perfect civilization—to break out from the narrow grooves of prejudice, and selfishness, and bigotry, and desire to take to the broad gauge of an enlightened and expansive policy? (Hear, hear.) Resolutions three, four and five I may pass over.
They all have for their tendency the planting of the roots of the Constitution of this new nationality in the firm soil of the British model; of coupling to the firm car of British freedom this new nationality, the wisdom, and expediency and policy of which course is not attempted to be denied by a single voice in this House. I pass to the consideration of the eleventh resolution, which has been the subject of much discussion among the people outside of this House, and has been referred to as one very strong ground for the rejection of the scheme. Those of the old Reform party who contended—and I am sure conscientiously contended—for the elective principle in the Upper House, ever jealous as they have a right to be of those rights and privileges, for which they have long and ardent contended, see in this resolution a retrograde rather than a progressive principle—a backward rather than a forward movement—instead of a salutary reform, a return to the old-fogyism of the past, if I may be allowed the expression. (Hear, hear.)
Well, sir, I in some measure agree with those who entertain these opinions. I would, for my own part, very much prefer to see the elective principle retained in the Legislative Council, and I very much desire, if this scheme is to be adopted at all, that in pursuance of the intimation given in the despatch of the 3rd December, 1864, from the Imperial Government, acknowledging the despatch of this Government of the 7th of November, 1864, the provinces should enter again upon the consideration of the resolution respecting the appointment by the Crown of the members of the Legislative Council. As this suggestion is one that comes not from either of the provinces—arises from no sectional nor provincial prejudices—none of the provinces can well refuse to entertain it if they are really actuated by a desire to arrived at a form of Constitutional Government based upon principles just to the several provinces, as is declared to be their desire in the very first of these resolutions. (Hear.)
I will not, sir, enter into further details upon this subject; I will not discuss the advantages of an Intercolonial road, or its disadvantages; but I will simply say, that in the hour of emergency, when our position is such that we cannot, we must not stand still—when we are hurried along by the resistless power of circumstances—when dangers threaten, on the one hand, and bright prospects of greatness lie in immediate unity of action on the other, we should not descend to the penurious position of being unwilling to spend a dollar to accomplish a great and mighty project that will live in the memory of all future ages—of founding a nationality that will, it may be, exist, as the learned historian quoted by my hon. friend from Quebec [Hon. Mr. Alleyn] has said: “When some traveller from New Zealand shall stand upon a broken arch of London Bridge to sketch the ruins of St Pauls.” (Hear.) I would not, sir, on the other hand, be willing to adopt a scheme which would, in a financial point of view, endanger the best interests of Upper Canada; but I am assured by the facts and figures introduced […]
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[…] by my honorable friends from South Oxford [Hon. Mr. Brown] and from Sherbrooke [Hon. Mr. Galt], who, I am sure, do not wish to be taken in in respect to this scheme any more than I do, or than any other man from Upper Canada—I am assured, I say, by them, that our financial position will be benefited by the Confederation. I have compared those facts and those figures, and I must confess I have confidence in their conclusions. (Hear, hear.) I have heard it urged, sir, that because some counties in New Brunswick have rejected the men who have adopted Confederation as a policy, we ought therefore to abandon the scheme. Well, sir, we are either bound in good faith to carry out the engagement entered into at Quebec or not, and I say with my friend the Honorable Attorney General West [Hon. J.A. Macdonald], we are bound in all conscience and honor, and in every principle of law or equity, to adhere to the agreement entered into. (Hear, hear.)
The tu quoque argument is not a good defence to such a breach of good faith. What a sorry figure should we cut, sir, before the Imperial Government with this argument in our mouths:—”The Provinces of New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island broke faith, violated their pledges, were untrue to their engagements, and we followed their example.” I think, sir, such a position would be pitiable, and would tend to lower us in the eyes of the Imperial Government. (Hear, hear.) I maintain that the principle enunciated by my friend the Honorable Attorney General West [Hon. J.A. Macdonald] is correct; we must adopt these resolutions, and we must take them before the Imperial Government, in order to maintain the respect of that Government, in order to maintain the respect of the Empire, in order to maintain even our own self-respect. (Hear, hear.)
When that is accomplished, our duty will be ended. If the Maritime Provinces will not adhere to the arrangement, we shall have done our duty, and shall have secured the good-will and respect of the Mother Country. (Hear, hear.) Before taking my seat, I will say, sir, with regard to the putting of the previous question, I am sorry that has been done. I am one who is desirous of giving to every man, of every party, of every shade of political opinion, the most extensive scope for the expression of his opinions, the fairest opportunity of giving them utterance and of recording his votes, so that they may appear upon the Journals, ready to be referred to, in order both to protect himself and to benefit others. This, sir, is, however, a technicality; and however much I may regret that the question has been put in that form, I cannot on that account reject the whole scheme of Confederation. (Hear, hear.)
Mr. Geoffrion said—Mr. Speaker, when I moved the adjournment last night, it was not my intention to offer to-day a general review of the scheme which is under discussion; for I am of opinion that it has been sufficiently discussed to enable the country to judge of its merits and of its disadvantages. My intention was rather to confine myself to certain points in the plan which, in my opinion, have not been held up in a sufficiently salient point of view, and to make a few remarks on what has been said, both in this House and in the Legislative Council, in relation to the protection of the institutions of Lower Canada. In the Upper House the Hon. the Prime Minister (Hon. Sir Etienne Pascal Taché), in his speech of the 3rd February last, said:—
If we obtain a Federal union, it will be equivalent to a disunion of the provinces, and thereby Lower Canada will preserve her autonomy, together with all the institutions which are so dear to her, and over which she may exercise all the surveillance which is necessary to preserve them from danger.
And the Hon. Solicitor General (Hon Mr. Langevin), after having explained, in his way, the resolutions respecting marriage and divorce, expressed himself as follows, in his speech of the 21st February last:—
This is an important point, and the French-Canadian members ought to congratulate themselves on observing that their fellow-countrymen did not fail in the performance of their duty in relation to a question of such importance. It is needless to say that on many other point some of them will not admit that we performed our duty well; but on the point in question, there can be no difference of opinion, for we have all a common rule, and, I repeat, they should be satisfied that their co-religionists in the Conference were not forgetful of their duty on that occasion.
It then behoves this honorable House, Mr. Speaker, to see that our national institutions are really protected by the resolutions which are submitted to us. In order that this end may be fully attained, it is necessary to define the peculiar features of our position as a people. I can say, with the utmost sincerity, that for my part I have […]
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[…] never found any other points of difference between the English and the French-Canadians who inhabit this country, but these arising from their religion, their language, and their laws; for we have the same attachment that they have to the British Empire, and I am convinced that no hon. member of this House will express a contrary opinion. (Hear, hear.) This being admitted, Mr. Speaker, I beg to call the attention of the House to the twenty-ninth resolution. It reads as follows:—
The General Parliament shall have power to make laws for the peace, welfare and good government of the Federated Provinces (saving the Sovereignty of England), and especially laws respecting the following subjects:—* * *
Then, after a long enumeration of subjects on which the General Government is to have power to legislate, we come to the 31st paragraph, which relates to marriage and divorce. On the 2nd July, 1864, the Prime Minister, (Hon. Sir Etienne Pascal Taché), in the course of an eloquent speech delivered on the second reading of the Benning Divorce Bill, spoke as follows in the Legislative Council:—
I oppose the second reading of the bill, and I do so on the principle that divorce is antichristian and antinational. And after having cited various passages from the Bible, he continued: Divorce is immoral in its consequences, and, worse still, it destroys society by destroying the family. And again: I should be sorry to wound the feelings of any one, but we have to protect society in general, and we have certain duties to discharge. For my part, I should be acting against my conscience, my religion and my country, if I did not oppose the bill. Death alone can dissolve marriage—that is the teaching of the Apostles, and it is also the doctrine of all the Fathers and Councils.
On the 9th July of the same year, the Hon. Solicitor General for Lower Canada [Hon. Mr. Langevin], in his speech delivered in this House on the same subject, expressed himself as follows:—
If I oppose the bill now before the House, it is not because I do not believe that the person petitioning for it has just grounds of complaint, but because we are asked to do that which is diametrically opposed to my principles in this matter; and because, moreover, I consider that the House has not the right to dissolve the marriage contracted between the parties interested, and to permit them to marry again.
This opinion of the Hon. Solicitor General for Lower Canada [Hon. Mr. Langevin] was supported by the whole of the French-Canadian and Catholic members, who declared, on that occasion, by voting even against the first reading of the bill, that they were opposed to the principle of divorce; and their opinion was concurred in and supported by the greater part of the newspapers in Lower Canada. The Canadien said, on that occasion:—
The Divorce Bill was, we regret to say, read a first time yesterday evening. The division was 61 votes against 42. There is, therefore, no hope of this antisocial measure being defeated. The duty of reflecting men, nevertheless, is to warn society of the danger in which it is placed; to protest strongly against the deadly assaults made upon it. Messrs. Langevin, McGee and Cartier discharged, yesterday evening, that high and important duty, and, as representatives of Lower Canada society, they addressed in eloquent terms warnings to society in Upper Canada.
The Courrier du Canada, with reference to the same question, said:—
If anyone says that the Church is in error when, for various reasons, she decides that a separation between married persons, in so far as regards the marriage bed or cohabitation, may take place for a definite or an indefinite period, let him be anathema. That is the doctrine of the Catholic Church as to marriage, and in this instance, as in every other, it is in accordance with the laws of nature, which themselves repel divorce as something monstrous.
The Journal de Québec of the 9th June, 1864, says:—
The question of divorce recurs periodically to occupy the attention of the House and afflict the consciences of Catholics. Divorce is the most powerful agent for effecting the dissolution of society, for marriage is the social formula; once you open the flood-gates of divorce, no matter under what pretext, how are you to dam up the tide and prevent it from submerging the whole of society?
Now, Mr. Speaker, as I said a moment ago, these were the opinions of all French-Canadians, and, with reference to this question, I cannot imagine anything to justify the change of opinion which has manifested itself amongst a certain number of French-Canadian members and our Catholic ministers If it be true that a Catholic cannot adopt the principle of divorce, and if we are in conscience bound to oppose it in our capacity as legislators, by voting against every measure tending to sanction it, I ask how we can vote for a resolution purporting to vest in the Federal Legislature the power of legislating on the subject? The hon. member for Montmorency [Hon. Mr. Cauchon], in the course of his speech in this House the day before yesterday, told us that if it had not been recorded in the resolutions […]
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[…] that the Federal Parliament would have the right of legislating on divorce, that power would have been exercised not only by the latter, but by the local legislatures also. The 43rd resolution, article 15, tells us that property and civil rights, excepting those portions thereof assigned to the General Parliament, are to be left to the local governments. It is evident, therefore, that if it had not been stated in the resolutions that the Federal Government was to have the right of legislating on marriage and divorce, that power would have remained vested in the local legislatures.
Hon. M. Cauchon—And if that resolution had not been inserted in the scheme, what would have been the effect?
Mr. Geoffrion—The insertion of that clause places us precisely in the position we should have occupied under a legislative union. By one section of that clause, the Federal Legislature is vested with the power of legislating, not only on the question of marriage and divorce, but also on the civil rights of the French-Canadians. It can, whenever it chooses, attack our civil laws. The hon. member for Montmorency [Hon. Mr. Cauchon] admits that the 43rd clause, and paragraph 15, assure the protection of our civil rights, and says that if that portion of the resolutions had not been inserted, the local legislatures would alone have had the right to deal with the matter.
Mr. Speaker, a single glance at our civil code is sufficient to convince anyone of this. Under article 74 of title 5, I find the following:—”Marriage is dissolved solely by the natural death of one of the parties; so long as they both live, it is indissoluble.” If it be true that our French civil law declares that marriage cannot be dissolved by any means whatsoever, nor by any authority; if the right of legislating on marriage and divorce had not been left to the General Legislature, no person could have obtained a divorce and leave to marry again.
Hon. Sol. Gen. Langevin—What happens at the present moment?
Mr. Geoffrion—What happens? It is true that the Legislature furnishes us with precedents, but every time that a divorce has been asked from the Legislature, the Catholic members have voted against it. As the resolutions stand, the Federal Legislature may grant bills of divorce, thanks to the insertion to thus clause in the scheme. We are told that this has been done in order to remove a danger which already existed in the local legislatures; but a great error has been committed; for, under the new system, anyone can make application to the General Legislature and obtain a bill of divorce. And if that right had not been given to the Federal Legislature, it would have been impossible to obtain a divorce in Lower Canada, inasmuch as the majority in the Local Legislature will be French-Canadian and Catholic, and marriage and divorce would be under the control of that legislature. (Hear, hear.)
The Honorable Solicitor General Langevin said in his speech—and I fancied that he had much difficulty in explaining the article relative to divorce, that the Catholic members of the Conference were not opposed to that article, and that, though they were opposed to the principle of divorce, he admitted that there were cases in which Catholics were allowed to separate. I cannot help saying, Mr. Speaker, that this was a very poor argument for granting to the General Government the power of legislating in the matter of divorce. The same resolution says that the Federal Government is to have the right of legislating on marriage, and the Honorable Solicitor General [Hon. Mr. Langevin], in his speech, explains that article as follows:—
The word “marriage” has been placed in the draft of the proposed Constitution to invest the Federal Legislature with the right of declaring what marriages shall he held and deemed to be valid throughout the whole extent of the Confederacy, without, however, interfering in any particular with the doctrines or rites of the religious creeds to which the parties may belong.
I must acknowledge that the statement is very skilfully made, and to persons who accept it without close examination, I admit that it is calculated to convey the idea that the Government hold that the Federal Legislature cannot decree that a civil marriage is obligatory, and that a marriage must be celebrated under the Catholic or the Protestant Church in order to be valid. But anyone who closely examines that portion of the clause will easily see that it cannot possibly be interpreted in any such sense, and that the existence of that clause in the Constitution will enable the Federal Government to enact that civil marriage alone shall be valid, so that children the issue of marriages contracted in the Church and not ratified by a civil magistrate, will be illegitimate. I maintain that the clause is susceptible of no other interpretation, and I defy the Honorable Solicitor General for […]
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[…] Lower Canada (Hon. Mr. Langevin) to interpret it correctly in any other sense. (Hear, hear.) He has really given us a magnificent explanation of the clause, but it seems to me that as the House is called upon to deal with written resolutions, we must interpret them as they are laid before us; the House cannot scrutinise the hidden intentions of the Government in the matter. If the resolutions have any other meaning than that expressed on the face of them, the House is entitled to call upon the Government to explain and correct them. The motion now before the House is as follows:—
That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, praying that She may be graciously pleased to cause a measure to be submitted to the Imperial Parliament, for uniting the Colonies of Canada, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Newfoundland, and Prince Edward Island in one government, with provisions based on certain resolutions which were adopted at a Conference of Delegates from the said Colonies, held at the city of Quebec, on the 10th October, 1864.
I assert, then, that if we vote this Address, we cannot complain if the Imperial Government should declare that the Federal Legislature shall have the right to legislate on all matters relating to marriage and divorce.
Hon. Mr. Cauchon—Who is to draw up the Constitution?
Mr. Geoffrion—The Imperial Government.
Hon. Mr. Cauchon—Not at all. It will be drawn up here and submitted to the Imperial Government.
Mr. Geoffrion—If I am not mistaken as to the meaning of the motion, the Address asks Her Majesty to cause a measure to be submitted to the Imperial Parliament for the purpose of uniting the Colonies of Canada, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Newfoundland, and Prince Edward Island in one government, with provisions based on certain resolutions which were adopted at a Conference of delegates from the said colonies. Now, if the Imperial Government is to adopt the measure, they can do as was done in 1856, with reference to the Legislative Council, and we cannot complain if they should amend it in a sense distasteful to us, since our resolutions declare that the Local Government shall have the right to legislate on property and civil rights, except such portions thereof as shall be vested in the Federal Government—and amongst the subjects left to the latter are marriage and divorce. (Hear, hear.)
I know the answer that will be made to me on this point. It will be said that it is through party spirit I am standing up to defend religion, and that I desire to lead this Honorable House to believe that by voting for these resolutions we endanger our religious institutions. But it appears to me, Mr. Speaker, that for all of us Catholics, the indissolubility of marriage is an article of religion, and that if the resolutions do not admit that doctrine of the Church, they must be rejected by every one of us. But it will perhaps be asked—”How does it happen that our Catholic clergy remain passive whilst one of the dogmas of our religion is thus being undermined?”I deny, Mr. Speaker, that the Canadian clergy are in favor of the Ministerial scheme, and l am supported in this by the last that the petitions sent here against the scheme were signed by several priests.
Hon. Mr. Cauchon—by how many?
Mr. Geoffrion—several of them have signed the petitions; I can fancy that some members of the clergy are in favor of the project, but I deny that the clergy in general profess the same sentiments. We have not received a single petition in favor of Confederation, and every day large numbers of them reach us, praying for the abandonment of the scheme.
Hon. Mr. Cauchon—Do not drag the clergy into the debate: we have not done so.
Mr. Geoffrion—yes, you have done it. The Honorable Attorney General for Lower Canada [Hon. Mr. Cartier] said in this House that the clergy were in favor of the scheme. Now, I maintain that a great many priests are opposed to Confederation. (Hear, hear.) I find in the Canadien of this day a letter written by a member of the clergy, who expresses himself in the following terms on the subject of Confederation—
Mr. Robitaille—Is the letter really written by a priest?
Mr. Geoffrion—If the honorable member has any doubt on that point, he can solve it by applying to the honorable member for the county of Quebec [Hon. Mr. Evanturel], who is the proprietor of the paper. This is what the reverend gentleman says:—”The clergy are not in favor of your Confederation as it is proposed; a great many of them, it is true, have faith in it, and trust in our public men, but a good many of them also dread it, and would like to see it amended.” It is quite easy for anyone who takes the trouble to reflect on this matter, […]
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[…] to understand that among the clergy, as among the people, there may be a great many persons who, having always had confidence in the Lower Canada Ministers, and having been accustomed to look upon them as the natural protectors of religion and of our national institutions—are ready to accept the declarations and explanations made in this House by our Ministers. Now, these explanations simply stated that the legislation of the Federal Government would merely go the length of declaring the validity of marriages contracted in any one of the provinces of the Confederation when the parties entered Lower Canada; but it is evident that if they accept such explanations, those members of the clergy who have always had confidence in the present Ministers are not easily susceptible of alarm. But if we take the trouble of interpreting that clause of the resolution in its true sense, it must be admitted that the legislation of the Federal Government on marriage and divorce may in many ways run counter to our sentiments as Catholics, since it may declare that marriage is nothing more than a civil contract, and that religious marriages contracted either by Protestants or Catholics, and not ratified by a magistrate, shall not be valid.
Let us now see what will be the effect of these provisions as regards our laws. The Honorable Attorney General for Lower Canada [Hon. Mr. Cartier] gave us a pompous eulogy of our civil code; he went so far as to state that it was infinitely superior to the French code, and to any code he was acquainted with. We are told that our institutions and our civil laws will be fully protected, and that the Federal Legislature can only legislate on the laws of the other provinces, our civil laws being placed beyond its reach. If this provision relating to marriage and divorce be adopted, what will be the effect on our civil laws? The Hon. Solicitor General for Lower Canada [Hon. Mr. Langevin] told us that the object or that resolution was to render valid throughout the Confederation a marriage contracted in any one of the provinces.
It seems to me very extraordinary, Mr. Speaker, that a gentleman in the position of the hon. member for Dorchester [Hon. Sol. Gen. Langevin], and who, in virtue of that position, may aspire to a seat on the bench, and who already enjoys precedence over the majority of the Bar of Lower Canada, should evince such deplorable ignorance of our civil law. In article 19, title 5 of the Civil Code, relative to marriage, I find the following:—”A marriage celebrated out of Lower Canada between two persons, either or both of whom are subject to its laws, is valid, if celebrated according to the formalities of the place of celebration, provided that the parties did not go there with the intention of evading the law.” Thus, Mr. Speaker, since the marriage of a Lower Canadian contracted in another country in accordance with its laws, is valid in this country, the explanation and interpretation given by the Honorable the Solicitor General [Hon. Mr. Langevin], of the clause relating to marriage and divorce, has no force whatsoever, and the clause may as well be struck out of the resolutions. (Hear, hear.)
If I rightly understand that clause, the legislature will have power to deal with a host of matters relating to marriage; thus it may change that part of the civil code which defines the age at which a child may marry without the consent of parents; it may alter the mode of contracting marriage, change the mutual rights and duties of married persons; it will also have power to modify our civil code in the matter of our obligations arising from marriage, in the matter of tutorship, paternal authority, &c, &c, in fact in a multitude of its provisions. If that be the great protection afforded by the new Constitution to our laws, to our religious and civil institutions, there is every reason to fear that they may one day receive a fatal blow. I will now call the attention of the House, and particularly of the French-Canadian members, to the forty-sixth resolution, which relates to the use of the French language in the Federal Legislature. It is as follows:—”The English and French languages may be used simultaneously in the proceedings of the Federal Legislature as well as in the Legislature of Lower Canada, and also in the Federal courts and in the courts of Lower Canada.”
A close examination of this resolution shows at once that it does not declare that the French language is to be on the same footing as the English language in the Federal and Local Legislatures; in place of the word “shall,” which ought to have been inserted in the resolution, the word used is “may,” so that if the British majority decide that the Votes and Proceedings and Bills of the House shall be printed only in English, nothing can prevent the enactment taking effect. Of course we shall be allowed to use the French language in debate, but on the other hand, it is evident that the majority may, whenever they choose, enact that the bills and proceedings of the House shall not be printed in French, and consequently the clause affords no security whatever to us French-Canadians. I take it for granted that as regards all the bills or resolutions of this House, the meaning to […]
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[…] be given to words is that given to them by the law of the country, and I am therefore justified, when explaining the resolutions before us, in holding to the very letter of their resolutions, and it needs no effort of the imagination to discover the intention of those who prepared them.
The provincial statute 22 Victoria, chap. 29, relative to the interpretation of the statutes, says:—”Whenever by any act it is provided that a thing shall be done, the obligation to do it is to be inferred; but when it is said that a thing may be done, the power of doing it is permissive.” In the resolutions submitted us, the word used in the English version is “may,” which is translated into French by the word “pourront” and it is said that the English and French languages may be used simultaneously in the proceedings of the Federal Parliament as well as in the Legislature of Lower Canada, and also in the Federal courts and the courts of Lower Canada.
It is easy to see, then, that the use of the French language is rendered extremely precarious, and that the majority may proscribe it in our Votes and Proceedings, and in our Legislature. The Lower Canada members who have always supported the Ministry ought to urge them to insert a clause in the resolutions declaring that the French language shall be on the same footing as the English language; the guarantee afforded us by the resolutions, as they new stand, amounts to nothing. I am not the first to point out the danger to our institutions and our laws; the Canadien of this city has enumerated them over and over again, and the honorable member for Montmorency [Hon. Mr. Cauchon] himself, who quite recently admitted in this House that he was the editor in chief of the Journal de Québec, wrote as follows in that paper on the 18th January, 1865. After having spoken of the past conduct of the Upper Canadians, and more particularly of the Honorable President of the Council (Hon. Mr. Brown), he says:—
For Lower Canada there are other questions still besides the question of money; there are the religious, social and national questions. Here it is that the greatest difficulties exist in the way to the success of the scheme, for a few slight changes in the letter of the scheme—changes which will in no way affect the interests of the other provinces—will cause the project to be accepted by the immense majority of the population of the country. We do not hesitate to say that it is astounding that the Conference should have approximated so closely to equity, after a few days only of work, and in the midst of innumerable obstacles.
It seems to me, Mr. Speaker, that if the honorable member for Montmorency was right in telling the Ministry that our nationality and our institutions were in danger, and that changes were required, we French-Canadian members are bound to see that the resolutions submitted to us afford sufficient protection to those institutions, and that the resolutions are not written in such a way as to be susceptible of two interpretations. How has the discussion of the scheme of Confederation been conducted in Lower Canada? In this way: in the first place, all the Ministerial journals begged and prayed the people not to condemn the scheme before being made acquainted with it; they proclaimed stoutly that the Government must be allowed to elaborate its measures in peace, and then, when the scheme was made public, the same journals declared that certainly the scheme must be amended in certain particulars before being adopted by the country, and that they would be the first to call for these changes, which, moreover, could be obtained without difficulty from the Administration; if not, they would oppose the scheme as dangerous to Lower Canada.
Even the Mercury made that statement. It was also said: “The Government will not make a Ministerial question of the adoption of the scheme as it is; the project may be discussed, and if it is found to involve anything dangerous for our religious and national institutions, that danger can be obviated by amending the resolutions.” More than that, at the opening of the discussion of the scheme, the Hon. Attorney General for Upper Canada [Hon. J.A. Macdonald] himself declared in this House that members might propose amendments, and that the House would dispose of them. Now what have we seen since? We have seen the same Hon. Minister declare that the scheme must be accepted as it was, and that the Government would not tolerate any amendment.
Is such conduct calculated to inspire confidence in the scheme, and in the Administration who bring it forward? I appeal to honorable members from Lower Canada, and I ask them if they are prepared to ratify by their verdict the unjustifiable course adopted by the Government, and whether it is not their duty to insist on the Government affording us better security for our religious and national institutions (Hear hear.) I trust that the Lower Canada members will not shirk their duty, and that they will insist on the Government declaring, in their resolutions, that all these things we hold so dear shall be protected […]
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[…] from the attacks of our adversaries. Every danger of false interpretation ought to be removed from these resolutions. If, as it is stated, our language is to be fully protected under the new system, I do not see why it is not so stated clearly in the Constitution. The explanations of the Honorable Solicitor General for Lower Canada (Hon. Mr. Langevin) are all very well, but they are not sufficient, and I should much prefer a written statement in the Constitution itself, formally setting forth that these matters shall not be affected by any legislation of the Federal Government. (Hear, hear.)
I trust the English members of this House will not take offence at my insisting on more ample guarantees for our religious and national institutions, and that they will see that it is not through a spirit of hostility to their institutions, and that the same motives that induce them to demand more ample guarantees for their national minority in Lower Canada—guarantees which were claimed the other evening by the honorable member for Montreal Centre (Hon. Mr. Rose)—make me ask for the same guarantees for my fellow-countrymen.
Hon. Sol. Gen. Langevin—Will my honorable friend allow me to say a few words in explanation? He said he hoped the Government and members on this side of the House would admit that his desire was to defend the religious and national interests of Lower Canada. The honorable member for Verchères [Mr. Geoffrion] need not be uneasy on that point. For it must always be taken for granted—and every member on this side of the House will agree with me in this—that every sentiment expressed on the floor of this House by honorable gentlemen opposite, relative to those questions touching our nationality and our religion, is frank and sincere, and we, therefore, feel that in expressing himself as he has done, the honorable member for Verchères [Mr. Geoffrion] is perfectly frank and sincere. However, I take the liberty of answering him on two points. The first question is that of marriage. The honorable member did not quote the whole of that portion of my speech which relates to marriage; he simply quoted the first part, but he ought to have given the second, which is as follows:—
The fact is that the whole matter amounts to this—the Central Government may decide that any marriage contracted in Upper Canada or in any of the Confederated provinces, in accordance with the laws of the country in which it was contracted, although that law might be different from ours, should be deemed valid in Lower Canada, in case the parties should come to reside there, and vice versa.
This was merely a development of what I said. I stated before that the interpretation I had given of the word “marriage” was that of the Government and of the Conference of Quebec, and that we wished the Constitution to be drafted in that sense. The honorable member for Verchères [Mr. Geoffrion] quoted that part of the draft of the civil code which states that one of the articles provides that a marriage contracted in any country whatever, according to the laws of the country in which it shall have been contracted, shall be valid, and he argues from that, that since it was declared by the civil code, there was no necessity for inserting it in the resolutions.
But the honorable member must be aware that that part of the code may be repealed at any time, and that if this occurred, parties married under the circumstances referred to would no longer enjoy the protection they now have md which we desire to secure for them under the Constitution. I maintain, then, that it was absolutely necessary to insert the word “marriage” as it has been inserted, in the resolutions, and that it has no other meaning than the meaning I attributed to it in the name of the Government and of the Conference. Thus the honorable member for Verchères [Mr. Geoffrion] had no grounds for asserting that the Federal Legislature might change that part of the civil code which determines the age at which marriage can be contracted without the consent of parents. Another point on which the honorable member for Verchères [Mr. Geoffrion] insisted, no doubt with the view of obtaining information, which I shall be delighted to afford if it should induce him to vote for the resolutions—and I am perfectly certain it ought to be sufficient—is the point as to the use of the French language under Confederation. The forty-sixth resolution is as follows:—
The English and French languages may be used simultaneously in the proceedings of the Federal Parliament as well as in the Legislature of Lower Canada and in the Federal courts and in the courts of Lower Canada.
The honorable member for Verchères [Mr. Geoffrion] says—”It is true that the French language may be used in the Federal Parliament and in the Legislature of Lower Canada, as well as in the courts of justice of the Confederation, but the resolutions do not affirm that that language may be used in the drafting of laws and in the Votes and Proceedings of the Federal and Local Legislatures.” Well, […]
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[…] Mr. Speaker, I am quite sure the honorable member for Verchères [Mr. Geoffrion] will be delighted to learn that it was perfectly well understood at the Conference of Quebec that the French language should not only be spoken in the courts of justice, in the Federal Parliament and in the Legislature of Lower Canada, but that, precisely as is now the case, the Votes and Proceedings of the Legislature, as well as all the Federal laws and those of the Legislature of Lower Canada, should be printed in both languages.
And what is still more, under Confederation the French language will be spoken before the Federal tribunals, an advantage which we do not possess at present when we apply to the Court of Appeals of Great Britain. So that the honorable member for Verchères [Mr. Geoffrion] and this honorable House will gladly admit that its representatives at the Conference of Quebec did not fail in their duty on that point. These are the principles upon which the new Constitution will be based, and I feel justified in going so far as to say that it was impossible to secure more effectually this essential privilege of our nationality, and at the same time our civil and religious institutions. I was anxious to offer these explanations to the honorable member for Verchères [Mr. Geoffrion] and to the House, and I trust they will completely satisfy the country.
Mr. Geoffrion—The honorable member for Dorchester (Hon. Sol. Gen. Langevin) has explained to us that the intention of the members of the Conference of Quebec was, not only that the French language should be used in the Federal Legislature and the Local Government of Lower Canada, as well as before the tribunals of the country, but that it was to be a right guaranteed to the French population by the Constitution under Confederation. The honorable gentleman has also told us that the word “marriage” inserted in the resolutions does not signify anything else but what he explained to the House in his speech, and that we ought to be happy to see that the representatives of the French population at the Conference had thus secured the safety of their civil and religious institutions.
For my part, Mr. Speaker, I must say that I cannot bring myself, like the honorable member, to see the splendid protection he vaunts so highly. If the resolutions now before this House have any meaning, that meaning is only to be derived from the strict letter of the resolutions themselves. It will always be optional with the British majority to avail themselves of the letter of the Constitution, and they may at any time say to us: “You cannot have it, we oppose it, and the Constitution does not confer on you the rights you claim under it.” And it will be the easier for them to do so from the fact that the resolution does not affirm that these matters cannot be disturbed. If the Conference had any other intention than what appears in the resolutions, the House should be made aware of it before being called upon to vote on these resolutions. For if the intention of the Conference was as stated by the Honorable Solicitor General for Lower Canada [Hon. Mr. Langevin], and if that intention be carried into effect, the House will run the risk of discovering that on all the other resolutions the intention is different from the letter, and will be in like manner carried out, for the resolutions must be interpreted as they stand, without reference to the intention of the members of the Conference.
And for that reason I cannot help declaring that we French-Canadians would be guilty of an act to unpardonable imprudence in adopting a resolution which declares that the Federal Legislature is to have the right of legislating on marriage and divorce, and which merely declares that the French language may be used in the Federal Legislature. We French-Canadian members, I repeat it, ought to insist that the word “shall” be substituted for the word “may” in the resolution relating to this matter, with reference to the publication of the proceedings of the Legislature. If this is not done, and if we do not take every possible precaution, sooner or later the English speaking majority in the Federal Legislature will unite against us on this point, and enact that the laws shall be printed in the English language only.
And if we rest satisfied with the understanding referred to by the Honorable Solicitor General for Lower Canada [Hon. Mr. Langevin], we shall be told when we exclaim against that injustice: “You should have obtained more full and complete guarantees, and you should have seen that the Constitution was made more explicit and more precise on this point.” An I we shall have no answer to make. We must perforce be resigned, and put up with all the restrictions the majority may impose upon us. I maintain, therefore, that it is the duty of the French-Canadian members of this House to induce the Government to embody the understanding arrived at amongst the members of the Conference in the Constitution, and to require that the guarantees said to be afforded to us by the Constitution shall be more clearly expressed than they are in the resolutions. If we vote […]
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[…] these resolutions as they are, we shall vote without knowing exactly the nature of the guarantees they afford us. (Cheers.)
Mr. Rémillard said—Mr. Speaker, the question of a Federal union of the British North American Provinces is one of such importance, that at the present time it is engaging the attention, not only of this honorable House, but also of the whole political world. I consider, therefore, that it is the duty of those to whom it is submitted to express, each in his own way, the reasons which induce them to adopt or reject the union in question. When for the first time, in the year 1861, the county of Bellechasse did me the honor to send me here as its representative, I had not the slightest idea that I should be called upon, in the beginning of 1865, to take part in the discussion of such a measure, upon which, in my opinion, our whole future depends. So rapid, however, is the growth of events in this age of progress of every kind, that there is no reason to be surprised that we are to-day called upon to grapple with the subject of the political position of our youthful country.
I am prepared at or to acknowledge, Mr. Speaker, that that position has not for several years past appeared to me to be an enviable one; and in fact what has the political aspect been? Within the precincts of this House we have looked upon scenes that are to be regretted and that were of frequent occurrence. We have looked upon bitter and incessant strife between our public men on the subject of certain sectional difficulties, which should be settled in a friendly way, if it is our wish at a later period to avoid serious troubles. We have seen Ministries succeed each other at intervals of hardly six months—Ministries which were daily accused, and in many cases with good reason, of having been guilty of acts of corruption in order to prolong their feeble existence. Without these precincts we have seen public journals filled with personal attacks and insults of every kind, general elections every year, carried in many counties by means of fraud, and the fomenting of wretched prejudices. (Hear, hear.)
To such a degree had this been carried, that the people had come to consider it a highly meritorious action to calumniate a member or a candidate, and to deprive him of that good character which he had, in some cases, acquired by many and great sacrifices. (Hear, hear.) Honest men can experience no feeling other than disgust at such a political course, which is inimical to every feeling of patriotism, and is fraught with danger to our institutions. The Canadian people, by nature brave, intelligent and courageous, are called upon to play a more noble and a more worthy part than that. Upon our statesmen, let them belong to what party they may, it devolves to provide them with a career which is, suitable to them, without taking into consideration either prejudices or opinions expressed at another period and under other circumstances. (Hear, hear.)
We French-Canadians especially, if we are desirous of continuing to enjoy, in the midst of the various races who inhabit this vast continent of America, the institutions which have been so carefully preserved for us, and which are more precious to us than life itself, require to seek an alliance with the inhabitants of the other British American Provinces, with which we have interests in common, which will have, in case of invasion, the same enemies as ourselves to repulse, and which, like ourselves, enjoy the advantage of living under the protection of Great Britain.
At a time when we are, so to speak, threatened by the United States, ought we to be so foolish as to disregard the advice which comes to us from Great Britain, without whom we could do nothing for our defence, and to pretend seriously that we can without danger overthrow the Federal union which we are discussing, in the preparation of which our statesmen themselves prescribed the conditions which they considered to be most equitable and the best calculated to preserve the interests which are most dear to all? Should we act in this way, we should be forming a very incorrect estimate of our position in relation to England, and our formidable neighbours the United States. The distinguished men who took part in the Conference held at Quebec in the month of October last, unanimously declared that “the best interests and present and future prosperity of British North America will be promoted by a Federal union under the Crown of Great Britain, provided such union can be effected on principles just to the several provinces.” The most eminent men in England have repeated the same thing, and have approved of the scheme of the Conference. I do not propose.
Mr. Speaker, to discuss the several articles contained in the plan of union; the honorable members who have preceded me […]
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[…] in this debate have, in my opinion, said all that can be said on each of the articles. Moreover, the erudite and carefully-weighed papers on the subject which have been published in this city in the Journal de Québec and the Courrier du Canada have contributed to diffusing a knowledge of the scheme in no less degree than the numerous speeches which have been delivered in this House. Despite the good opinion which I have of some of the honorable members who have endeavored to prove to this House and to the country that the proposed union would be more disastrous than advantageous in its results to the several provinces affected by it, I must acknowledge that their arguments have not convinced me—I will even say did not appear to me to be convincing. (Hear, hear.) The hon. member for Lotbinière [Mr. Joly] for example, in whom, as he is aware, I have confidence, and from whom I greatly regret to differ in opinion on a measure of such importance, is opposed to any alteration in our present Constitution. He finds that everything has been for the best. The following is what he said in his eloquent speech:—
Let us not be dazzled by the ambition of becoming, all at once, a great people. The United States are a great people, but what people, however small it may be, is there which now envies their greatness? Let us be satisfied with our lot; few people have a better.
I agree with my honorable friend to a certain extent. Like him, I do not envy the lot of the United States, but I disagree with him as to the means to be taken to protect us against our adversaries, even against the United States, and to preserve our nationality. The honorable member, to prove that the union proposed would be an evil, quoted to us the following extract from Lord Brougham’s work on Political Philosophy:
The Federal union, by keeping up a line of separation between its members, gives the freest scope to these pernicious prejudices, feelings which it is the highest duty of all governments to eradicate, because they lead directly to confusion and war.
I may mistake, but it appears to me that this extract from Lord Brougham’s work is not so much opposed to a Federal union, such as that which is proposed to us, as it is to the existing situation of the French-Canadians. In fact there is a strong line of demarcation in this province between the inhabitants of Upper Canada and those of Lower Canada; it is that very line of demarcation which has given rise to the sectional difficulties which our statesmen have undertaken to settle in a friendly way.
The leaders of the Opposition themselves undertook to settle these difficulties in a manner much less advantageous to Lower Canada. If then the opinion of Lord Brougham is to be an authority in this case, it would be the duty of the Government of this province to remove the line of demarcation to which I have alluded as existing between the inhabitants of Upper Canada and those of Lower Canada. This, I am satisfied, is not what my honorable friend desires. (Hear, hear.) When speaking of the seven United Provinces (now Holland and Belgium), the hon. member for Lotbinière [Mr. Joly] read the following extract from the first volume of Lord Macaulay’s History of England:—
The union of Utrecht, rudely formed amidst the agonies of a revolution, for the purpose of meeting immediate exigencies, had never been deliberately revised and perfected in a time of tranquillity. Every one of the seven commonwealths which that, union had bound together retained almost all the rights of sovereignty, and asserted those rights punctiliously against the Central Government.
This is all that the honorable member quoted from Lord Macaulay. As may be seen, Mr. Speaker, this author is not opposed to a Federal union; he simply points out the defects of the union of Utrecht. That union had been rudely formed, in the midst of a revolution, for the purpose of meeting immediate exigencies. But our plan of union was weighed with deliberation, in a time of tranquillity, and this tranquillity is certainly the result of the formation of the present Coalition Government. Therefore, the author who has been quoted merely demonstrates one thing, and that is, that we should be wrong to await the convulsions of a revolution, or of an invasion, in order to discuss the bases of a Federal union. (Hear, hear.)
The honorable member for Lotbinière [Mr. Joly] gave us to understand that the most certain method of obtaining the friendship of the Maritime Provinces, and of securing their sympathy and zeal in case of attack, was, so to speak, to have nothing in common with those provinces. I believe, on the contrary, that Lower Canada would gain by causing herself to be better known, and by causing the spirit of justice and of liberality which prevails among her inhabitants and her institutions, as they at present exist, to be […]
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[…] better known. Does not the best understanding exist between the people of different origins in all classes of society? We every day perceive with pleasure, and I am happy to say it, that Lower Canada has risen greatly in the estimation of hon. members from Upper Canada, since it has been their lot to reside in our midst, and to see for themselves what our institutions are, and what we are ourselves. (Hear.)
I hope that my honorable friend the member for Lotbinière [Mr. Joly] will forgive me if I take the liberty of discussing, for a few seconds longer, certain portions of his speech; but I am very anxious to convince him that I listened to him with great attention, and that if he did not succeed in convincing me, it was from no fault of mine. To set us on our guard against the proposed union, the hon. member laid before us a hasty sketch of the history of Ancient Greece, in order to show us the hatred which the Athenians bore to the Spartans. No doubt he fears that that hatred, should the union be consummated, will manifest itself between the inhabitants of Lower Canada and the inhabitants of Newfoundland and Prince Edward Island. He also took us a long journey through various countries, in which he pointed out to us frequent insurrections, échauffourées and troubles of all kinds among people living under a system of Federal union, and therefrom he drew the conclusion that Federal unions are bad and pernicious.
But did the honorable member show us that the political condition of those nations, previous to their Federative union, was analogous to ours? Did he show us that the basis of those Federal unions was similar to the basis of that which we propose to establish? Did those unions cause those nations to pass from a state of prosperity, tranquillity, and happiness, to the state in which they have been held up to our view? Were they situated as we are? Had they the same proclivities, the same tastes, and the same antecedents as we have? Did they, as we do, trace their descent from the two wisest, the two greatest nations in the world? Lastly, had they, as we have, the Crown of England to protect them? No! They were not possessed of any of the advantages of which we are possessed, and no comparison between the two cases was possible. (Hear hear.)
Besides, Mr. Speaker, is it not sufficient to cast a glance at the history of all countries, to perceive that everywhere, under all possible institutions, there have arisen, not only échauffourées, but even frequent wars and sanguinary revolutions, characterized by the greatest horrors? Have not the institutions of England and France been consecrated in rivers of blood? All these arguments and reasonings adduced by the honorable member for Lotbinière [Mr. Joly] are therefore not applicable to the question which is submitted to us, and are not of a nature to change the opinions of those who are in favor of a Federal union of all the British North American Provinces. (Hear, hear.)
I now return to certain objections offered by other honorable members of the Opposition to the present scheme of the Government. Thus, they spoke to us of divorce, and tried to show us that great inconvenience would result from leaving to the Federal Parliament the right of legislating on that subject. But they do not remark that by this means the members from Lower Canada, that is to say, in the Local Legislature, will be exonerated from taking those questions into consideration. At the present day, all the Catholic members from Lower Canada are opposed to divorce as a matter of expediency and of conscience, and yet, even in the existing Legislature, they cannot prevent it. Why, therefore, blame the Government for not having prevented in the Federal Parliament that which they cannot even prevent here?
Hon. Mr. Laframboise—they could prevent divorces in Lower Canada.
Mr. Rémillard—Has it ever been very easy to impose in Lower Canada laws upon the English inhabitants of that province, and to prevent them from obtaining what they consider as a right? No; it would have been an act of injustice to endeavor to force our opinions on this subject on the English and Protestant population of Lower Canada; and if an attempt had been made to do so, Confederation would probably have failed, because the majority of the members of the Conference would have maintained their claims, and this would have been sufficient to prevent Confederation. (Hear, hear.)
It is not to be urged as a crime against the Government that they have permitted the Federal Legislature to have the power of legislating upon subjects upon which we ourselves may legislate. For my part, Mr. Speaker, I did not enter upon this question in order to judge the scheme of Confederation. I have sufficient confidence in the clergy to admit that on this question they […]
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[…] are the best judges, and it is they who ought to decide whether there is danger or not; and there can be no doubt but that the bishops and the clergy have consulted together respecting this article, and that they came to the conclusion that it is an evil which there are no means of preventing. The honorable member for Verchères (Mr. Geoffrion) maintained that it was necessary to state clearly in the resolutions what were the intentions of the members of the Conference in relation to marriage and divorce, in order that the Imperial Government may not impose upon us a Constitution other than that for which we ask. Now, I have more confidence than he has in the word of our public men, and in the sense of justice of the Imperial Government. Our public men having made a compromise, and asked a Constitution for the British North American Provinces, which is to do away with the difficulties which exist in the province, are we for a single instant to believe that when this scheme, which is framed to reestablish that peace, harmony and concord of which we stand in need, is carried to England that a clause will be inserted which would raise the Lower-Canadians like one man?
In such a case we should see petitions pour into the House headed with the signatures of the principal members of the clergy, exclaiming against such injustice; in such a case we should see real petitions against this attack upon our religious rights. If our institutions should be so menaced, the Lower Canadian people would do themselves justice, if it was refused to them, and we should no longer enjoy that peace which now prevails in Canada between populations of different origins and belief, in consequence of the absence of disquietude among the people—(hear, hear)—I have confidence enough in the clergy and bishops of Lower Canada to believe that if that clause, on which so much stress is laid, was of a nature to do any injury to our religious interests, they would loudly exclaim against it and have justice done us. Our bishops are not in the habit of standing in fear of the civil authorities, when their duty calls them to defend the interests which are entrusted to them. (Hear, hear.)
It is stated also that the clergy are not in favor of the scheme of Confederation, because two or three of its members have written in newspapers and have signed petitions opposed to the scheme. But is that a manifestation of the opinion of the clergy? No; for they do not write in the name of the clergy, but simply in their individual capacity as citizens; for they sign their writings under their title as citizens. Certain members of the clergy may differ widely in opinion from the remainder of their brethren; as citizens they may believe that the scheme of Confederation is a bad one, but those who hold that opinion are certainly a minority, just as in the House it is the minority of the members who are opposed to Confederation. (Hear, hear.)
Mention is also made of the use of the French language; it is said that it cannot be used in the Federal Parliament. But, for my part, I am of opinion that if the scheme is adopted, the French language will be more used and will be held in higher estimation in the Federal Parliament, than it has been in this Legislature for same years. It is feared that the laws, the documents and the proceedings of the Federal Parliament are not to be printed in the French language. But what does the 46th clause of the resolutions say? It says:—
Both the English and French languages may be employed in the General Parliament, and in its proceedings, and in the Local Legislature of Lower Canada, and also in the Federal courts, and in the courts of Lower Canada.
Thus, if the use of the French language can be excluded, so also may the use of the English language be excluded, for both are on an equal footing. Because it is not stated that the laws and the proceedings of the Federal Parliament shall be printed in the French language, the conclusion is drawn that they will be so in English; but the same thing might be said of the English language, as it is not stated that they will be printed in that language. The hon. member for Verchères (Mr. Geoffrion) would have something more; instead of the resolutions setting forth that the French language may be used, he would have them declare that it shall be used; in that case the members from Lower Canada might be compelled to speak French; but are the Upper Canadian members also to be forced to speak that language, they who do not understand a word of it? I should be with the hon. member for Verchères [Mr. Geoffrion] if we could compel Lower Canadian members to speak French, and Upper Canadian members to speak English, as in that case each would learn the language of the other. I am really of opinion that if the Hon. Attorney General […]
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[…] for Lower Canada [Hon. Mr. Cartier] had never spoken anything but French in this House, the members from Upper Canada would have learned that language in order to understand him; but as he wishes to make them understand him without putting them to that trouble, he most frequently speaks English. (Hear, hear.) It is said that in the resolutions the guarantees which we seek to have for our language, our laws and our institutions are not clearly enough expressed, and that the Imperial Government might, consequently, confer upon us something other than that for which we ask. But could not the Imperial Government impose Confederation upon us as it did the union? And as it does not do so, but is merely desirous of being consulted, we ought not to believe that it will impose upon us conditions which are opposed to our interests.
Hon. Mr. Laframboise—It is proposed to impose it on the Lower Provinces, who do not wish for it.
Mr. Rémillard—Certain hon. members consider our present position an excellent one, and say they do not wish it altered. But that is not the opinion of the greater number, and nearly all the hon. members of the Opposition have declared that changes are indispensable and necessary. The hon. member for Hochelaga [Hon. Mr. Dorion] has acknowledged it, and has expressed his opinion on the subject. When I was a supporter of the Macdonald-Dorion Administration, I understood that the members of that Government were of opinion that changes were necessary, and that we could not very long remain in our present position. The hon. member for Hochelaga [Hon. Mr. Dorion] has admitted that the opinion of Upper Canada must be respected, and that to it would have to be granted representation based on population; and the influence of Upper Canada made itself felt by the Macdonald-Dorion Administration; it made itself felt especially when, just before the last general elections, it become necessary to oust the Honorable Mr. Sicotte from the Ministry to satisfy Upper Canada. By means of Mr. Sicotte, elections had been secured sufficiently advantageous in their results to overthrow the Cartier-Macdonald Administration, to which I was opposed, because I did not wish to see a coalition between the parties, and because I considered that that Government had made too free a use of the public money.
But I foresaw that sooner or later I should return to the Conservative party, from which I had detached myself in consequence of the extravagant conduct of two or three of its leaders, and in consequence I was thon elected without the assistance of any party. Alone I strove with the Conservative party in my county. I was faithful to the friends with whom I went at the time, and I do not regret that I went with them; so long as they stood in need of me, I supported them in order that they might avail themselves of circumstances to bring about a change in the financial affairs of the country. I would not change my party then, but matters and circumstances having changed, I consulted my friends in the county which I represent, and I was then able to go with the men whom I consider able to protect and preserve our institutions and the interests of the country in general. For this reason I am prepared to accept the scheme of Confederation prepared by them, for I have more confidence, as regards the preservation of our rights and our institutions, in the men who are now in power than in those with whom I formerly worked. (Hear, hear.)
I cannot do otherwise than declare it. It is not my wish to insult any one; I merely state the reasons which have decided me to go with them; and as I find that it is always necessary to be in favor of one party or the other in this House, that is to say, for that one which is considered to be the best, I do not hesitate to state my opinion and to declare myself in favor of the Conservative party. (Hear, hear.) It was my intention to reply to the speech of the hon. member for Richelieu (Mr. Perrault), but I perceive that my ideas do not flow rapidly, and moreover, I do not wish longer to fatigue the House.
Several Voices—Go on! go on!
Mr. Rémillard—Well, I listened with pain to the language used by the hon. member for Richelieu [Mr. Perrault]. Should what he said in French be repeated by some one in English, I should greatly fear that it would give rise to prejudice against us among the English members. (Hear, hear.) Last year he said to the members from Upper Canada,—”The French-Canadians are learning the use of arms, and if you insist upon having representation based upon population, they will be turned against you;” and this year he says that one Lower Canadian can stand against ten Upper Canadians. He considers himself fortunate in being under […]
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[…] the protection of the English flag, and yet his whole speech was one insult to the English Government. (Hear, hear.) Does he forget, then, that the French-Canadians are in a minority? He talked a great deal about the great men who saved our nationality; but if those men had made use of such language as the hon. member has done, they would not have obtained that which they did obtain. (Hear, hear.)
Our nationality would long since have passed away; for, I repeat it, his whole speech was one insult to England and Englishmen. Fortunately his speech was not understood by the English members of this House, and consequently it could produce no effect upon them; and those who did understand him, moreover, are aware that he spoke for himself alone, and that he does not represent the opinions of the Lower Canadian members or of the Lower Canadian people. I am therefore convinced that they will bear no ill-will to the French-Canadians in consequence of that speech. (Hear, hear.)
It has been said that the scheme of Confederation would entail the imposition of enormous taxes, and that we should have to provide for the defence of the country. And yet most of the hon. members who oppose this scheme acknowledge that the defence of the country must be provided for, or at least that we must contribute our share to it. Under the present régime, the Government has the right of presenting a bill respecting the militia or the defences, and the members may accept it or may reject it it they consider it too burdensome for us; and will the case be different in the Federal Parliament? We shall lose nothing, under Confederation, in respect of defence, for we shall have allies who will assist us in economising and in preventing the adoption of any measure which would be beyond the strength of the country, for the people of the other provinces are no fonder of taxation than are those of Lower Canada. It is perfectly well known that any change in our position would be only to our advantage, under Confederation, in relation to defence; for if the United States should attack the English provinces, they would attack all the provinces together; they would probably begin by attacking Canada, because they think more of Canada than of the Lower Provinces.
In case of difficulties arising between England and the United States, the burthen of war would fall upon us, for we should be first attacked. It is, therefore, our interest to be able to receive aid from the Maritime Provinces, and to be able to convey the reinforcements which they would send us, and which England would send us, by railway. As regards defence, I am of opinion that Lower Canada would be found to occupy the most advantageous position in the Confederacy, being situated in the centre of all the provinces. (Hear, hear.) In a material point of view, we could not but grow and advance. The annexationists of the district of Montreal only are afraid of Confederation. Indeed, all the commercial transactions of the district of Montreal are with the United States. But if we are not desirous of being annexed to the United States, and if we are desirous of preserving the institutions which are so dear to us, I maintain that we must construct a Confederacy which shall be competent to protect us from the United States.
If we will do nothing to show England that we are disposed to improve our position in relation to the defence of the British North American Provinces, we expose ourselves to see England withdraw her forces and abandon us, because she cannot, unaided, carry on the strife with the United States. With our help, she would be certain of victory. (Hear, hear.) We ought, therefore, to build up a Constitution which will establish such relations between all the provinces as shall make of them a single state and a single people, who will unite in case of war. We may change our Constitution without altering our institutions, and I maintain that the more monarchical our government is, the safer will our institutions be, for in those institutions the monarchical principle especially predominates.
It is in consequence of our having always been at peace that those institutions have grown and prospered. If England should abandon her colonies, the United States would take possession of us, and we should soon disappear, for the American Constitution is not sufficient to protect our institutions. The citizens of the United States would show but little respect for those institutions, and the law would not be powerful enough to prevent the masses from spreading themselves in our midst, and from depriving us of what we hold most dear. (Hear, hear.) In conclusion, I say that I unite wilt pleasure with the men who are now proposing a scheme which I consider to be of a nature to preserve our institutions, our language, our laws and our […]
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[…] religion with that great party which possesses the confidence of a large majority of the inhabitants of this country. (Cheers.)
Dr. Paquet—Mr. Speaker, although I am not in the habit of addressing the House, and although the question now under consideration has already been discussed at great length, I cannot allow so important an occasion to pass without making known the reasons which induce me to protest against the constitutional changes which are now proposed, and which tend to nothing less than the complete overthrowing of the Constitution under which we have been governed since the union of Upper and Lower Canada. Since the prorogation of Parliament in June last, I have endeavored in vain to explain to myself the advantages which we, Lower Canadians, would derive from Confederation, and I had lost myself in the motives and the object of a union of this kind, when I had the opportunity of reading in the speech of the honorable member for Sherbrooke [Hon. Mr. Galt] that “the scheme of Confederation had not been a new question since the days of Lord Durham, that only the question of carrying it into effect was wanting.” After having read this significant passage, I set myself to work to study and ascertain what were the tendencies and spirit which actuated Lord Durham, and more especially, what object he had in view. I did not take long to convince myself, as any Lower Canadian member may do on reading his celebrate!
Report, that everything he had in view was calculated to secure our annihilation as French-Canadians, and that he desired neither more nor less than to subject us to a ruling power exclusively English. When we see, Mr. Speaker, the hon. members from Upper Canada rejoicing over such a scheme, and declaring themselves so much the more satisfied from the fact that they would obtain, by this fine stroke of policy, more than they had at first hoped for, when the honorable member for Lambton (Mr. A. Mackenzie), whilst avowing, as he has always done, that his views are but incompletely expressed in the language which I am about to read, there is reason for some little alarm. This is what that honorable gentleman said in the House the other night:—
I believe then, sir, in the first place, that Confederation is desirable; in the second, that it is attainable; and in the third place, that it is the best thing we can get, and this last is perhaps the strongest reason of all for accepting it. It is quite clear that we must have a settlement of our difficulties in some way, and I think the scheme proposed is a very favorable settlement of them. I think it is more than, perhaps, some of us expected, at the time when the present Government was formed, to bring about a settlement, and I do think, sir, it would be the greatest act of madness that western members of this House could perpetrate, to vote against it. (Hear, hear.)
I am not, however, afraid that it will be voted against by them. I believe that under it we have obtained representation by population, that we have obtained what we have leng contended was justly due to us, that we have obtained our legitimate influence in framing the financial policy of the country, and that beyond this we have obtained the prospect of building up a great British union on this continent. We should therefore, I think, in view of these great advantages, overlook those objections which may be regaided as antecedent to the scheme, and endeavor hearuly to cany out the work successfully. I shall willingly jield my support to the scheme, and I believe it will be acceptable to the people I represent—not only to the people Of the locality, but to those who surround me in Upper Canada.
If, Mr. Speaker, honorable gentlemen from Upper Canada are permitted to give utterance to such opinions as these, I hope that my fellow-countrymen from Lower Canada will permit me to vindicate their rights. (Hear, hear.) But let us proceed to examine this Confederation, to which the practical question is alone wanting. I read from the report of Lord Durham:—
I entertain no doubts as to the national character which must be given to Lower Canada; it must be that of the British Empire; that of the majority of the population of British America; that of the great race which must, in the lapse of no long period of time, be piedominant over the whole North American continent. Without effecting the change so rapidly or roughly as to shock the feelings and trample on the welfare of the existing generation, it must henceforth be the first and steady purpose of the British Government to establish an English population, with English laws and language, in this province, and to trust its government to none but a decidedly English legislature.
A little further on in the same report, I read as follows:—
If the population of Upper Canada is rightly estimated at 400,000, the English inhabitants of Lower Canada at 150,000 and the French at 450,000, the union of the two provinces will not only give a clear English majority, but one which would be increased every year by the influence of English emigiation; and I have no doubt that the French, when once placed, by the legitimate course of events and the working of natural causes, in a minority, would abandon their vain hopes of nationality. (Hear, hear.)
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Hon. Mr. Cauchon—He was in error. That all related to the Union Act and to nothing else.
Mr. Paquet—Yes; it had reference to the beginning of the end. (Hear, hear.) A little further on I read as follows:—
A general Legislative union would elevate and gratify the hopes of able and aspiring men. They would no longer look with envy and wonder at the great arena of the bordering Federation, but see the means of satisfying every legitimate ambition in the high offices of the judicature and executive government of their own union.
Again I find the following passage:—
But even in the administration of justice, an union would immediately supply a remedy for one of the most serious wants under which the provinces labor, by facilitating the formation of a general appellate tribunal for all the North American colonies.
The completion of any satisfactory communication between Halifax and Quebec would, in fact, produce relations between these provinces that would render a general union absolutely necessary. Several surveys have proved that a railroad would be perfectly practicable the whole way.
And thus we come to the Intercolonial Railway; and it is easy to perceive that Lord Durham, from the beginning to the end of his report, preaches in favor of the very Confederation which we are about to have imposed upon us. Even before Lord Durham, Judge Sewell, in 1814, had expressed opinions nearly similar to those of the noble lord, and in 1839 the whole of the present plan of Confederation was traced out. The honorable member for Montmorency [Hon. Mr. Cauchon] pretends that Lord Durham was mistaken; but for my part I find, in addition to the other causes of reproach which have been accumulated against the members of the Conference, we may urge this, that they did not give Lord Durham credit for the work he had already done, and that they did not endorse upon the scheme of Confederation now laid before us the words “True copy of the scheme of Lord Durham as set forth in his report to the British Government.” (Hear, hear.)
French-Canadian nationality has been talked about. Lord Durham speaks of it in his report in the following terms: “The error of Lower Canada consists especially in that vain attempt to preserve a French-Canadian nationality in the midst of Anglo-American states and colonies.” When is the imposition of a new nationality spoken of, if not at the time when it is sought to snatch from a people that which it already possesses?
There will be opposition, I trust; for otherwise, Mr. Speaker, I cannot comprehend the logic of honorable members who emphatically declare that they will stand by it at any risk. I am well aware that the nationality of a people cannot be changed by a mere act of the Legislature; but why should obstacles be placed in our path, why should we submit to the yoke of the oppressor, when there is no legitimate ground for imposing it upon us? Another reason which gives me good ground for hoping that the work of destruction will not be accomplished in a hurry, as desired by the honorable members of the Administration, is that it is a difficult matter to ostracise a people which numbers more than a million. The example of Belgium suffices to prove it to us, and also that of Greece, which, after three centuries of tyranny and oppression, stood up manfully and exclaimed, “We are still Greeks.”
I am confident, then, that following their example, in defiance of all the constitutions that may be framed for us, and of all the vexations to which we may have to submit, we also shall come out triumphant from our trials, exclaiming, and “We are still French-Canadians”. (Hear, hear.) The honorable members of the Government, and especially those from Lower Canada, ought not to forget, either in our interest or in their own, that a generation which detaches itself from the generations which preceded it runs the risk of being repudiated by the generations which come after; that social existence is not concentrated in a single period, that it influences the future.
These honorable gentlemen would do well to reflect on this before imposing upon us the practical question of Lord Durham. Passing now, Mr. Speaker, to the financial question, I regret that I cannot agree in the views expressed by the honorable member for Dorchester (the Honorable Solicitor General for Lower Canada [Hon. Mr. Langevin]), who claims to have expressed an official opinion on this head. Although he has affirmed that he drew them from authentic sources, the results which he has obtained from his calculations differ from those which I have obtained, founded upon the figures which he has made use of to establish his proposition. He has declared that we shall have a surplus of $200,000.
Mr. Eric Dorion—and he added that we should be in a position to lend the amount.
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Mr. Paquet—I shall now submit to this honorable House an s statement of the expenditure which will be incurred by the Government of Lower Canada:—
|Administration of justice,||$364,785|
|Deducting the salaries of the judges||50,000|
|Hospitals and charities||124,949|
|Board of Arts and Manufactures||3,5110|
|Repairs and public buildings||15,000|
|Colonization and roads||113,000|
|Office and other contingencies||77,000|
|Court houses and gaols||10,500|
|Rent of site of Parliament house||4,444|
|Publication of the laws||20,000|
|Interest on the Federal debt, share of|
|Local revenue estimated at about||1,400,000|
These figures are taken from the Public Accounts for last year. Subtracting from that sum the estimated amount of the revenue of the Local Government, instead of a surplus there will be a deficit of $485,088; and I ask you, Mr. Speaker, how are we to meet it otherwise than by direct taxation, or by diminishing the public appropriations, which are by no means excessive now? (Hear, hear.) If we do not adopt the latter alternative, there will remain, I say, no other means than direct taxation. The Hon. Minister of Finance [Hon. Mr. Galt], moreover, told us so expressly, in these words:—
The Federal Legislature will have power to impose any system of duties which they may think proper to meet the expenses of its administration, whilst the local legislatures will be obliged to have recourse to direct taxation for the same purpose, if their revenues prove insufficient.
For my part, Mr. Speaker, I affirm that the country is not ready to submit to such a state of things, and in this matter, as also upon the scheme itself, I am quite certain that I express the opinion of my county. (Hear, hear.) A third point, which I would humbly submit for the consideration of the House, is the expediency of pressing for the adoption of this measure before an appeal has been had to the people. I believe and I hope that the House will have too much respect for itself and for the people to vote at once upon the resolutions now submitted to us. If, however, public opinion is not to be regarded, I flatter myself that at all events precedents will not be treated with contempt. We find in the History of Canada, by Christie, that in 1823, when a proposition was made in the Lower Canadian Parliament to effect changes in the Constitution, the following decision was come to by the Government of Lower Canada, and the paragraph I am about to read formed part of the Speech from the Throne:—
I am commanded to inform you that His Majesty’s Ministers proposed to Parliament certain alterations in the act thirty-first George the Third, chapter thirty-one, principally with a view to unite into one the two legislatures of Upper and Lower Canada; but the measure was withdrawn and postponed to the next session, in order to afford an opportunity ot ascertaining the sentiments of the people of those provinces upon it.
(Hear, hear). In the same history we find another example, which will, I believe, strongly support me in the position I have taken:—
In 1839 Lord John Russell gave notice in the Hous of Commons, on the 3rd June, of certain resolutions which he intended to submit relating to the projected union of the Canadas. He was, however, induced, on the suggestion of Sir Robert Peel, to waive them, and at once to introduce his bill for the purpose. In doing which he stated it to be his intention to carry it only through a second reading, in order that it might undergo discussion, but that having received a strong protest, on the part of Upper Canada, against the intended union, he did not deem it advisable to legislate that session finally on the subject.
Here we have another fact which proves that in England, in 1839, the measure was opposed at its second reading, and that a year was given to the Canadian people to reflect upon the merits of the proposed union of the two Canadas. (Hear, hear.) I trust then, Mr. Speaker, that what was done in 1839 will again be done in relation to the […]
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[…] project of Confederation. For those reasons I am of opinion that the Government ought not, in the first place, to humiliate us by taking from us the privileges to which we are entitled, then ruin us by a scheme which must triple the expenditure, and lastly, fail in the respect which they owe to the people, by refusing to consult them before changing the Constitution. If I am not greatly mistaken, the party which is seeking these constitutional changes is the very party which calls itself Conservative, who obtained their elections to preserve and guard the Constitution, and which has always opposed us becomes, it exclaimed, we were the allies of the hon. member for South Oxford (Hon. Mr. Brown), to whom, said they, we were ready to concede representation by population, the powerful lever which was to endanger all our civil and religious institutions. Well, what do these hon. gentlemen do to-day? Instead of preserving the Constitution, they change it and indeed destroy it, by granting to Upper Canada preponderance in this representation. I prove this by citing the following extract from the speech of the Hon. Minister of Finance (Hon. Mr. Galt):—
Now it became necessary to introduce into the constitution of the Lower House the principle of representation proportioned to population; for without that, Upper Canada, who has so long demanded this reform, would never have consented to enter into the Confederation.
If Upper Canada would never have consented to enter into the Confederation without representation by population, then she has obtained it, as she has consented to enter the Confederation; and why say that that measure has not been conceded? In conclusion, I affirm that the proposed Confederation of the provinces is only a Legislative union in disguise, and I will cite the language made use of a short time ago by a man well known throughout the country for his talents and his eloquence, at a meeting, held in the city of Montreal, to condemn the Ministerial scheme, that the present Confederation is but the chrysalis of a Legislative union, and that the butterfly would not be long in making its appearance. (Cheers.)
Mr. O’Halloran—Before proceeding, Mr. Speaker, to offer a few observations on the resolutions in your hands, I may say that if I had any hesitation in pronouncing on the merits of this scheme, I might have taken a preliminary exception to the jurisdiction of this House to pass this measure. You, sir, and I were sent here to make laws, not legislatures. (Hear, hear.) We were sent here to work out the Constitution of this country—not to undermine and destroy it. There is not an elector from Gaspé to Sarnia, however humble he may be, who has not just as much right to pronounce upon this question as you and I have. Therefore, if it were my wish to shirk this question, which it is not, I could justify myself by saying it was no part of my mandate, or of the compact between me and those who sent me here. When we assume the power to deal with this question, to change the whole system of Government, to effect a revolution, peaceful though it be, without reference to the will of the people of this country, we arrogate to ourselves a right never conferred upon us, and our act is a usurpation.
But I rise not for the purpose of discussing this scheme in detail, as it has already been discussed so fully—and I cannot possibly say much which may not already in substance have been said, and much better said than I could expect to say it—but I rise to record my protest against the usurpation which this House, in my humble opinion, is guilty of in undertaking to pass this measure, or, so far as in its power lies, to impose upon the people of this country a Constitution contrary to their wishes—a Constitution which they will never have an opportunity of seeing, until they are called upon to submit to it and obey it. I rise to protest also against this parliamentary gag by which the attempt is made to suppress free discussion in this House, and to compel it to adopt against its will, or against its reason and judgment, a measure with which, perhaps, a very large number of the honorable members of this House have no real sympathy.
It is no answer to me to say that I may express my views freely—that I may fully discuss this question. It is no answer to say that I have the privilege of pointing out the defects of this measure, if I am denied the privilege of obtaining the sense of this House, and of putting on record what I may consider its objectionable features—if I am denied the right of submitting to the House substantive motions and resolutions, which might perhaps meet the sense of the majority of this House, and which at all events would afford to the people of this country the opportunity of knowing the views of the honorable members of this House upon possible amendments which might be proposed to this measure. At an early period of this session, I gave notice […]
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[…] of substantive resolutions which, however little they might have met the sense of the majority of this House, express the views of a large majority of my constituents. It would interest them to see how far those views met the approbation of the representatives of the people here; it would interest them to know how far honorable gentlemen from Upper Canada are prepared to go to insure to the English speaking minority of Lower Canada those rights and liberties which they claim for themselves; it would afford us some criterion by which we might measure the degree of protection we should find in the Federal Parliament, from possible oppression in our Local Parliament.
For if honorable gentlemen from Upper Canada, on the floor of this House, will not hear us today, if they manifest an indifference to the injustice about to be inflicted upon the English speaking inhabitants of Lower Canada by the proposed Constitution, what guarantee have we that similar selfishness may not mark their conduct after we shall be powerless to rebuke it? I will read those resolutions which I had designed to propose, for the purpose of obtaining the opinion of the House on a modification of this measure, which, if it must be adopted, might possibly have been so amended as to remove many serious objections now entertained to It by a large portion of the people of Lower Canada. They are in these words:—
Resolved, That assuming the Federal system of government to be a political necessity in a union of the British North American provinces, any Confederation of those provinces which ignores the difference of race, language and religion of the inhabitants of the respective states or territories sought to be thus united, and is not framed with a view to secure to the inhabitants of each such state or territory the management of their own local affairs, in accordance with their own peculiar views and sentiments, is unwise and inexpedient, and not conducive to good government, or to the peace and tranquillity of those for whom it is framed.
This resolution I put forth simply for the sake of ¡showing the idea which I had in my mind, without, I am free to confess, any expectation that the particular modification which I was about to propose would meet the sense of the majority of this House, but as giving an indication of the direction in which the English-speaking inhabitants of Lower Canada would consider that their interests might be best preserved. The second resolution I designed to propose is as follows:—
Resolved, That with a view to secure to that portion of the inhabitants of Lower Canada speaking the English language, the free exercise and enjoyment of their own ideas, institutions and rights, in any proposed Confederation of the provinces, Canada should be divided into three civil divisions, to wit: Western, Central, and Eastern Canada.
Why it is that objection is made to a legislative union? The reason why so large a portion of the people of Lower Canada of French origin will not consent to a legislative union, is the very reason that makes it desirable to the English speaking population of Lower Canada. We are in favor of a legislative union. We desire that Canada should be a united people, ignoring sectionalism, and basing our institutions upon one broad principle of Canadian nationality, which shall blend all races, and in time obliterate all accidental distinctions of language, religion, or origin. Our French-Canadian fellow-subjects will not consent to this. If they will not hear our arguments, let them listen to their own. If Federalism is necessary for the protection of their rights, it is necessary in a tenfold degree for the protection of the rights of the English speaking minority.
They tell us we may rely upon their well-known liberality and toleration. We cannot consent to hold our liberties by mere sufferance, when we are entitled to hold them by right. It would be unworthy of us to submit to such humiliation. In these remarks which are forced from me, and which I am compelled to make in defence of the rights and liberties of those who sent me here, I mean no disrespect to those of another origin—to the French-Canadian honorable gentlemen whom I see around me. (Hear, hear.) In many respects I sympathise with them, and have always sympathised with them. I desire to live among my French-Canadian fellow-subjects in peace. I desire to maintain those amicable relations which have always subsisted between the English-speaking and the French-Canadian populations of Lower Canada. As I said before, I sympathise with my French-Canadian fellow-subjects in many respects. I respect their character, I admire their laws.
But this antagonism is not courted by me. It is forced upon me. Let me call the attention of honorable gentlemen, more especially of those from Upper Canada, to the position in which this proposed Constitution now before the House would place the English-speaking people of Lower Canada. I may say at the outset, that although they number only one-fourth of the population, they possess at least one-third of the property, […]
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[…] and pay one-half of the taxes. The French-Canadian differs very materially in many respects from the Englishman, or the Anglo-Saxon. He is simpler in his habits, more frugal in his mode of life, and less disposed to novelty. He is content to ride in a carriage of the same fashion as that of his grandfather. He is wedded to his institutions, his old customs, and old laws. It is different with the English-speaking people. They are, as a people, more extravagant, more eager for novelty, and in many other respects widely different from the French-Canadians in their tastes and habits. Of course a comparison would be invidious, and I do not desire to institute one. But I am not at liberty to ignore the facts. Let us see how, under this proposed Constitution, the English-speaking people would be placed in reference to their peculiar interests and their peculiar ideas.
In the first place, I would desire to direct your attention to the 14th resolution, by which it is provided how, especially after the local governments are established, the Legislative Council of the General Government is to be constituted—by its members being appointed by the Federal Government on the nomination of the respective local governments. We must bear in mind that in this Local Legislature which will be imposed on Lower Canada, the English element will not certainly be more than one-fifth in number. Under these circumstances, and under the peculiar provisions with reference to the powers granted to the local governments, by which the legislative councillors are to be appointed by the General Government on the recommendation of the local governments, and in the case of Lower Canada, when its Local Government will be four-fifths French-Canadian and only one-fifth of English origin, think you how many English members from Lower Canada would ever find their way to the Legislative Council?
How would it be possible, when the Legislative Council is to be appointed on the recommendation of the Local Government, and that Local Government four-fifths French-Canadian, for the English element to obtain fair representation in the Legislative Council? When, I say, would an English-speaking inhabitant of Lower Canada ever receive such a recommendation, unless he approved himself more French than English? (Hear, hear.) Again, by the 23rd resolution, it is provided that “the Legislature of each province shall diode such province into the proper number of constituencies, and define the boundaries of each of them.” How easy would it be, under the provisions of that clause, for the Local Legislature to snuff out one-half of the English constituencies in Lower Canada? They might arrange their bounds in such a manner that the English-speaking element would be confined within very narrow limits. There would be a few constituencies left entirely English, but the English population would thus be deprived of the influence which their numbers and wealth should give them in the Local Legislature. (Hear, hear.)
Again, the Local Legislature will have power to alter or amend their Constitution from time to time. We to-day may frame a Constitution—the English-speaking majority in this House may frame a Constitution which would give proper protection to the English-speaking population of Lower Canada. But, by this scheme it will be in the power of the local legislatures to change that, and to modify it so as to suit it to the wishes or prejudices of the French majority. We would be powerless, after we leave these halls, any longer to conserve our rights, and the privileges which this Parliament might give us may be taken away at the very first session of the Local Legislature. Then look at the powers which, under this Constitution, are conferred on the Local! Government. The first I find is the power of direct taxation. In the case of all governments, the power of taxation is the most important power they can possess. It is that which concerns all portions and all classes of the community, and which gives rise to the greatest controversy, and the greatest amount of difficulty.
It is the most important of all legislative powers, and this power is to be conferred on the Local Legislature of a province, where one nationality has four-fifths of the numbers, and the other nationality contributes one-half of the taxes. Then the Local Legislature is to have the control of immigration—a very important subject, which deeply interests the English-speaking population of Lower Canada—but they would have no voice in framing the measures which might be adopted for directing and controlling that important matter. Then the Local Legislature is to have the control of education. And what subject can there be of greater importance? And what subject is there which might be a source of greater strife between the two nationalities; which by this provision would be brought into antagonism? Even under our present system, with sixty-five Upper Canadian English-speaking members, who would naturally […]
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[…] be expected to sympathise with the English-speaking people of Lower Canada, it is a crying grievance with the latter that they cannot get such legislation on the subject of education as they desire. What, then, would they have to expect if they went into a Legislature whey four-fifths of the representatives were of a different nationality and a different religion, and whose prejudices and interests were in opposition to the claims of the one-fifth minority? (Hear, hear.) Then the Local Legislature is to have control of “the establishment, maintenance and management of hospitals, asylums, charities, and eleemosynary institutions.”
Now it is a positive fact, as I have stated before, that the English-speaking population of Lower Canada, on account of their wealth and expensive mode of living, their extravagant habits, their desire for change and progress, their different ideas generally from the French-Canadians, consume more than one-half of the dutiable goods that are brought into this country, and pay one-half of the taxes; and yet the money which they would pay into the public chest would be distributed by a majority over whom they had no control—a majority who would not in any manner sympathise with them; and their taxes would be applied to objects which they might not deem desirable—which they might, perhaps, consider detrimental to their interests. And they would be completely without remedy, should this proposed Constitution unfortunately be imposed upon them. (Hear, hear.)
It is painful to me to be compelled to refer to these matters. It is not with pleasure that I bring before the House the antagonism* which would inevitably arise between the two nationalities, should they be brought together into one Legislature, with such a vast disproportion between their means of taking their own part We are told, and told very truly—I rejoice that it is the fact—that hitherto the two races in Lower Canada have lived in peace. But it would be impossible that they could any longer live in peace; it would be impossible that with such a disparity of numbers, and with such antagonistic interests, they should not come into conflict. It would be a constant warfare, and this new Constitution, instead of settling the sectional difficulties in this country, instead of bringing peace to this country, instead of removing jealousies and heart-burnings would have the very opposite effect. From the fact that the field of conflict would be smaller, that the arena would be more circumscribed, the strife would be all the fiercer. You are not bringing peace, but a sword. (Hear, hear.)
Opposition in Lower Canada assent to that? (Hear, hear.)
Mr. O’Halloran—It is not my province to inquire what any hon. gentleman assents to or dissents from. What I have to do is to see that the interests of those who sent me here are not put in jeopardy. And it will be for the leader of the Opposition to see that he too, on his part, faithfully discharges his duty to those he represents. But, sir, the English-speaking people of Lower Canada are to be amused, and their attention is to be diverted from a full examination of those serious matters which press themselves upon our consideration, by cleverly drawn abstractions and sophistries, such as new nationalities—union is strength—a great empire—and the other plausible pretexts that are attempted to be imposed upon them. It would be easy to refute and show how baseless are all these schemes of greatness with which the people of this country are sought to be misled.
We are gravely asked: “What man would remain poor, when he could at once become rich? What man would remain weak, when he could at once become powerful? Who would be diminutive, when by merely taking thought he could add cubits to his stature? What people would continue to be a mere colony, when by the stroke of a pen they could at once become an empire, under a new nationality?” Sir, these sophistries will not impose upon the people of this country.
Where is the demonstration furnished us that by this scheme you would add one dollar to the wealth of this country, or one human being to its inhabitants, or one inch to its territory? We do not find it afforded during the course of this debate. I have listened attentively to the arguments in favor of the scheme, but no attempt has been made to demonstrate these things. It has been repeatedly stated that we are about to consolidate the strength of this country, in order to resist invasion; but I should like to know in what manner such an end is promoted by this measure. Are we not already united under one Government? Are we not already living under the control of the same executive power? Do we not fight under the same flag, and pay allegiance to […]
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[…] the same Sovereign? Is not every man in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Newfoundland, and Prince Edward Island just as much under the control of the head of our Government as the inhabitants of this province?
It is all sophistry this idea that we are going to increase the strength of this country by the proposed union with the Lower Provinces. An attempt is made to alarm us by sensational rumors about invasion, and it is stated that we must put forth every possible strength to save ourselves from being swallowed up by the neighboring republic; and we are gravely told that through the action of a number of selfconstitutod delegates assembled around a green table, and adopting certain resolutions, the whole of the physical laws relating to our country are to be changed. Newfoundland and Prince Edward Island are to be brought up into Lake Ontario, and the whole of our territory is to be compacted, consolidated and strengthened.
Our extended frontier is no longer to be exposed to attack, and, if attacked, will be much more easily defended. Is not this the most absurd sophistry? Can paper resolutions change the laws of nature, or modify the physical geography of the country. Will not Newfoundland be as isolated from this province after Confederation shall have been adopted, as it is to-day? I think, sir, it is generally admitted that Canada is unequal to the defence of its own frontier against invasion from the only quarter from which it is apprehended. It is also admitted that the Maritime Provinces are alike unequal to the defence of their own frontier. By what process then will you demonstrate to me, that by adding the frontier of the Lower Provinces to that of Canada, and by adding the force of those provinces to our own, there will not be the same defencelessness as at present? Will there not be the same disproportion between the defensive power and the object to be defended? (Hear, hear.)
Mr. Speaker, in the first place I perceive no immediate necessity for those constitutional changes. I think that our present Constitution is ample for the wants of the people of this country, and that all the difficulties, either real or imaginary, under which we labor, might be solved within the limits of our present Constitution. I consider all our difficulties to be merely sectional, arising neither from differences of religion, of origin, of language, or of laws. On examination it will be found that they are merely fiscal difficulties, and that they arise from the fact that our General Government does not confine itself to the true end and object of its existence. Do away with your local grants, and your absurd system of compensating for one improper expenditure by the creation of another. Let there be no expenditure for merely local purposes, or for purposes that do not properly come within the functions of the General Government. (Hear, hear.)
By what rule of right, for instance, are the inhabitants of Upper Canada called upon to pay for the redemption of the seigniorial tenure of Lower Canada; and what right has Lower Canada to be called upon to meet the extravagant municipal indebtedness of Upper Canada? If our difficulties arise from differences of language and races, how comes it that the English-speaking people of Lower Canada have so long harmonized and sympathized with the extreme Ultramontane party of Lower Canada? (Hear, hear.)
I think you cannot find any reason for it, except on the supposition that they remain united for the purpose of maintaining their sectional power and influence, under a system by which the common exchequer is deemed a legitimate object of public plunder. Each section seems to have always regarded the public chest as fair game; and it is undeniable that Lower Canada has generally had the best of it. These things caused dissatisfaction in the minds of people from other sections of the country, and they undertake to form combinations for the purpose of obtaining from the public chest similar undue advantages.
The remedy for this state of things is to deprive the Legislature of the power to make grants for local objects. Let there be no revenue collected more than is absolutely necessary for the general expenses of the country, and let it be distributed for those general purposes with due economy, and we shall hear nothing more of sectional difficulties. (Hear, hear.) Mr. Speaker, in connection with this same idea, I find in my own mind another very important consideration connected with the administration of the government of our country. It has now, I believe, ceased to be a crime to “look to Washington.” Not long ago, the term “looking to Washington”was one of reproach. But that time has passed away, and our friends on the other side of the […]
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[…] House have not only looked to Washington, but absolutely gone there, and imported the worst features of the republican system for incorporation in our new Constitution. While they were doing this, I regret very much that they did not import from Washington, or from some other parts of the United States, their ideas of economy in the administration of the fiscal affairs of the country. (Hear, hear.)
I regret they did not import from that country a very important principle prevailing there, to the effect that the Government of the day shall impose as few burdens upon the people as possible To-day, sir, we are paying the man who stands at that door to admit you to this chamber a greater annual salary than is paid to the Governor of the State of Vermont. We are paying the man who stands in that corner with his paste brush to wrap up our papers, more than the indemnity allowed to a United States senator. We pay the Governor General a greater allowance than is received by the President of the United States of America. We are the most heavily taxed people, and pay larger salaries for the work performed, in proportion to our resources, than any other people in the world.
Hon. Atty. Gen. Macdonald—We pay ourselves well too. (Laughter.)
Mr. O’Halloran—It has been said, and it seems to be thought a strong argument in favor of this scheme, that we must do something; that our affairs cannot with advantage go on in the same channel in which they have been doing; and that there is a necessity for some change. It is made a complaint that legislation is obstructed by party strife, and that the country suffers for the want of new laws. Sir, if there is one vulgar error in political economy more false and unsound than another, it is that the prosperity of any country depends on the amount of its legislation. We have, as a general thing, too much legislation. If I may use the term, we are legislated to death. And when I have seen bills pouring into this House by the hundred at every session, I have said to myself:—“What, in Heaven’s name, will become of this country if all these bills should, by any possibility, ever become law?” (Laughter.)
The idea seems to prevail, that in this country even the grass cannot grew unless its growth is regulated by an Act of Parliament. No change in the Constitution of this country will remedy the difficulties of which you complain, for they have their source within ourselves. It is honest, economical administration you require, not legislation, or a change in our form of Government.
“‘Bout forms of government let fools contest,
That which is best administered is best.”
You may remove your seat of government to Ottawa, and increase your Legislature from 130 to 194 members, but you will find the same difficulties under any system of government which you may adopt, so long as you continue extravagant sectional expenditure. Those difficulties will still meet you in the face, so long as the legislature or legislatures of the country are permitted to exercise functions that do not properly belong to a general government; so long as you refuse to compel localities to meet their own local expenditure by local means, you will find the same causes producing the same effects in Ottawa as in Quebec. Coelom non anima mutant qui trans mare current. (You but change your skies by the proposed constitutional changes.)
I remarked, at the outset, that I must deny to this House the right to impose on this country this or any other Constitution, without first obtaining the consent of the people. Who sent you here to frame a Constitution? You were sent here to administer the Constitution as you find it Throughout the length and breadth of British North America, there is not one other government that has dared to arrogate to itself the right of changing the Constitution of their people without consulting them, except ours. I am surprised, sir, that even this strong Government of ours have dared to assume this power, when, sooner or later, they must go before the people of the country. (Hear, hear.)
There comes to my hand, this evening, a resolution proposed by the Honorable Attorney General of Newfoundland in the Legislature of that colony. It is instructive as showing that there was one uniform sentiment, throughout all the Lower Provinces, in favor of submitting the question to the people it was so submitted in New Brunswick—it met its fate. It is now about to be submitted to the people of Nova Scotia. The Administration of this province have been wiser in their generation than those of the Lower Provinces. They did out dare to submit it for the consideration of the people—a course which, if not exhibiting wisdom on their part, shows, at the least, that skill and craft in public matters for […]
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[…] which most of them have become famous. (Hear, hear.) The resolution I have referred to, and which embodies the policy of the Government of Newfoundland on this question, is as follows:—
Resolved,—That having had under their most serious and deliberate consideration the proposal for the formation of a Federal union of the British North American Provinces, upon the terms contained in the report of the Convention of delegates, held at Quebec, on the 10th of October last—the despatch of the Right Honorable the Secretary of State for the Colonies, dated December 3rd, 1864—the observations of His Excellency the Governor in relation to this subject in his opening Speech of the present session—and the report of the Newfoundland delegates—this committee are of opinion, that having regard to the comparative novelty and very great importance of this project, it is desirable that before a vote ot the Legislature is taken upon it, it should be submitted to the consideration of the people at large, particularly as the action of the other provinces does not appear to require that it should be hastily disposed of, and as (the present being the last session of this Assembly) no unreasonable delay can be occasioned by this course; and they, therefore, recommend that a final determination upon this important subject be deferred to the next meeting of the Legislature.
An Hon. Member—That is the report of a committee.
Mr. O’Halloran—Yes, it is the report of a committee; but it was submitted to the Legislature by the Hon. Attorney General as the policy of the Government. Of course, if the resolution is not carried in the Legislature, then the scheme is doubly defeated. In this little, petty province, whose interests, as compared with ours, are of trifling importance in relation to the scheme, the Government considers that the question is one of sufficient moment to demand that before the slightest action is taken upon it by the Legislature, the people should be consulted; but in this large province, with its comparatively large population, and with important interests to be affected, the scheme is to be hurried through without allowing the people to have a voice in the matter, or even to have time for its consideration. (Hear, hear.) They are to have no voice in determining what kind of government they and their children are to live under for years to come.
Mr. Speaker, I know very well that it is a bold declaration for me to make, that this Parliament has no right to deal with this question; but, sir, I make it not hastily nor unadvisedly, because I defy honorable gentlemen to find a precedent for their proposed action in any free country under similar circumstances. We are not living to-day in a time of revolution or of great emergency; but, even if our circumstances were different, I doubt very much if any of the precedents that have been referred to, as having occurred many years ago and in troublous times, could again be practised or adopted, even in England, from which country we draw all our precedents. The precedents which have been invoked in approval of the course that has been adopted by the Government prove too much. If they form a justification for the course we are pure suing, then you might prove by the same means that this House had the power to perpetuate its existence beyond the limit fixed for the termination of the present Parliament, or vote ourselves members for life.
We might just as well constitute ourselves life members of the Federal legislature of the proposed Confederacy, as to take the action that is contemplated. I know that it is represented as very important that the measure should be carried into immediate operation; but that is a mat term of mere expediency, and has nothing to do with constitutional principles. (Hear, hear.) The Irish union has been triumphantly referred to as a precedent for this measure. To my mind it is a most unfortunate one, and little deserving of our imitation. Let me show you how this matter has been regarded by one, whose authority will not be disputed. I read from May’s Constitutional History of England, page 505 of the 2nd volume. Speaking of the union of Ireland with England, he says:—
A great end was compassed by means the most base and shameless. Grattan, Lord Charlemont, Ponsonby, Plunkett, and a few patriots, continued to protest against the sale of the liberties and free Constitution of Ireland. Their eloquence and public virtue command the respect of posterity; but the wretched history of their country denies them its sympathy.
This, sir, is the judgment of the impartial English historian upon the means by which this great national crime was consummated, and it is the just encomium on the noble few whose patriotic efforts failed to prevent it. I read it, in anticipation, as the future history of the wrong now about to be perpetrated on the people of this country; and while it implies, on the one hand, in no doubtful terms, the well-merited praise of […]
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[…] the small band who stand here to-night for the rights of the people, in opposition to this scheme, it pronounces, oo the other, the just condemnation of those who trample on those rights, and who forget, in the pride of their brief authority, who it was that raised them to the positions they occupy, not that they might coerce, but carry out the will of the people, the only rightful source of all political power. (Cheers.)
Mr. J.S. Ross—I will not attempt to address the House at any great length at this late hour of the evening, as I think it very desirable that this debate should be brought to a close at as early a day as possible; and believing that that is the prevailing opinion in this House, I shall endeavor to be as brief as I can. The hon. gentleman who has just taken his seat has referred to one matter on which I shall not at present say anything, on which I shall not commit myself. I suppose that it will be very well understood what I refer to, without my alluding to it more particularly.
But there was another statement which he made—that there was no necessity for any change—on which I shall dwell shortly, An endeavor to show that there was a necessity for a change. It must be in the recollection of every hon. member in this House that one year ago affairs were in such a state—such difficulties presented themselves, that legislation was becoming almost impracticable. No better proof of this could be desired than that the Government of the day found themselves so surrounded With difficulties in the House, that they declared themselves unable to carry on the administration of the affairs of the country in a satisfactory manner. Now, why should a Government possessing so much talent and ability as that Government did, make that declaration, if there was no necessity for it? (Hear, hear.)
Hon. J.S. Macdonald—If you had voted with us, it would have been all right. (Hear and laughter.)
Mr. Ross—Although I always entertained a very high opinion of the honorable gentleman who was Premier of that Government, I differed horn him politically. Then, Mr. Speaker, there is another matter to which I shall refer, to show that this House did acknowledge that there were difficulties in the way. A motion was made by the honorable member for South Oxford [Hon. Mr. Brown] for the appointment of a committee on constitutional changes. That committee reported to this House, and I will just read the last paragraph of that report in support of what I have said:—
A strong feeling was found to exist among the members of the committee in favor of changes in the direction of a Federative system, applied either to, Canada alone, or to the whole British North American Provinces, and such progress has been made as to warrant the committee in recommending that the subject be again referred to a committee at the next session of Parliament.
Now, this was signed by twelve gentlemen, and among them I find the honorable member for Chateauguay [Hon. Mr. Holton], who then declared that there was a necessity for some change. I think, Mr Speaker that this clearly shows that the matter was not brought upon us in a hurry, that the scheme now before us is a subject which has been looked forward to for some time. When we refer to that period, we find that the Government of the day placed their resignations in His Excellency’s hands, a new Government was formed which met the House on the 3rd of May, and on the 14th of June they were defeated. At that time, I believe, they had obtained from His Excellency permission to dissolve the House. An effort was made, however, to effect a change in the Administration, in order that it might command a majority of this House, and be enabled to carry out the business of the country.
After some time, a reconstruction was effected, and in the programme which the present Government adopted, they did announce that they would take up this question, and that when they met the House the next session, they would-be prepared to lay before the House a measure for the purpose of removing existing difficulties, by introducing the Federal principle into Canada, coupled with such provision as will permit the Maritime Provinces and the North-West territory to be incorporated with the same system of government. If there were objections to a change, why were they not made at that time? Did not the House commit itself, then, by receiving it without any objection? Hence I think that the Government pursued a manly, straightforward course in coming down and announcing what their scheme was; and whether that scheme is a good or a bad one, they have redeemed their pledges; they have met this House with a scheme for the Confederation of the British North American Provinces. (Hear.)
Whether this scheme is all that we could desire or not, is perhaps a matter on which […]
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[…] we shall not be unanimous. I for one, ever since I have thought anything about politics, have always looked forward to the time when such a scheme as this might be carried out. I have been an advocate of a legislative union. I think that is the correct principle, but I am not ashamed to say that I am open to conviction, and in dealing with a gnat question like this we must not expect to have everything to meet our own views; we must be prepared to make concessions, and take the best we can get. (Hear, hear.) We know the hesitation with which the Constitution of the United States was accepted; that Washington—the father of that great country—expressed himself, as well as many other eminent persons, against it, but accepted it as the best that could be had. We find the same expressions falling from the gentlemen of the Conference which prepared this measure. They believe that it was the very best that could be had under the circumstances. (Hear.)
Now, if we look for one moment at the work of the Conference which met here in Quebec, whether the scheme is what we all could desire for the benefit of the country or not, we must admit that the gentlemen who composed that Conference were men of ability, men of mind, men who have for years been the guiding spirits of public affairs. (Hear, hear.) And the honorable gentlemen from the Lower Provinces stand in their respective provinces equally high with those who represented Canada, and I am ready to believe that the delegates who composed this Conference approached the question in a spirit of the truest patriotism, with the honest endeavor to settle the difficulties of the country, and in the hope that the scheme would be acceptable to the people, and be the means of bringing us together, and consolidating and building up in this part of the glorious Empire, a government that would be lasting and stable. (Hear, hear, and cheers.)
And, Mr. Speaker, I think there has been nothing that has proved more acceptable, or that has been better received by the people of the country. (Hear, hear.) So far as I am concerned, I took the opportunity of bringing the subject before my constituents, and when I read the first clause of the resolutions—”The best interests and present and future prosperity of British North America will be promoted by a Federal union under the Crown of Great Britain, provided such union can be effected on principles just to the several provinces,” sir, it met with their hearty cheers. (Hear, hear.) Although I have not the honor to represent one of the largest constituencies in Upper Canada, yet I represent one that I am proud of—the people of the good old county of Dundas are sound at the core; they do glory in British connection, and nothing would induce them to support me or any other representative who would give an uncertain answer to the question of whether we should retain that connection or not. (Cheers.) Sir, I believe that the time is upon us, when we look at the surrounding difficulties, for us to make some change, and there is an uncertainty in the minds of Canadians at present that we ought to get rid of, and the sooner we approach the subject the better.
The sooner we find out that we have a great future to establish, that we have a country here of which we may feel proud and rejoice in, I think, sir, the sooner that state of things is brought about the better. (Cheers.) Not only in a Canadian point of view is this desirable, but also for the sake of our position alongside of our neighbors, with whom, I am sure, we all desire to remain at peace, if they will only leave us in quiet amongst ourselves. That is all that we desire, but at the same time it is well that these people should understand that we have no desire whatever, not the most remote intention, of connecting our destinies with theirs. (Cheers.) Now, Mr. Speaker, it is said that this matter is new, and that it is forced upon us. I recollect reading, some years ago, and most able letters written by Hon. Mr. Howe, of Nova Scotia, addressed to Lord John Russell, to show how necessary this union was.
Dr. Parker—I would like to ask the honorable gentleman if those letters were not in favor of a legislative union.
Mr. Ross—I think they were; but I believe that if he—the writer of them—had found himself at Quebec as one of the delegates, he would have done just as they did. Again, I find that at another time in our country, in 1849, in the city of Kingston, one hundred and forty gentlemen, chosen by the people—the ablest and foremost men of the country, and presided over by a gentleman who has since left this state of action—a gentleman of high mind, and universally respected—I mean the late Hon. George Moffatt—that organization, the British League, acknowledged that to lay a basis for the future of this country, a union of the British North American Provinces was essential. (Cheers.) If I had time, sir, I could show that at several […]
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[…] periods in the House of Commons, the union of these provinces has been spoken of as what must eventually take place. And since the subject has been under discussion in this country, I have read with the greatest satisfaction, in the press of the United States, articles showing the advantages of this union; and in particular one very able article in the Chicago Times, in which the writer pays the people of this country a high compliment for the foresight with which they are seeking to protect their interests in the future. (Hear, hear.) There are other authorities to which I could refer to show the advantages of a union of these provinces. Whether Legislative or Federal unimportant—union is strength, and union is desirable if we expect future growth and greatness. I think the arguments are in favor of a legislative union. When we approach the subject fairly, we must acknowledge that it is not reasonable to suppose that the people of the Lower Provinces should prefer a Federal to a Legislative union.
I can quite understand why they appreciate the advantages of the local parliaments; to ask them to give up their whole machinery of government, and to place themselves in the hands and at the tender mercies of a people who would have the commanding influences in the legislation of the country, and with whom they are comparatively little acquainted, would be asking rather too much. There is also some reason to fear why a legislative union would be too cumbersome. Many think that too much of the time of the Legislature of the country would be taken up with the local business of the different sections of the province. I believe, after this machinery has been well in operation, and after we have become better acquainted with each other, that we shall find we can work together, and that this has been a movement in the right direction, by bringing together the people from all parts of the country. We shall find that our interests are better understood, indeed that they are one; it will be the more easily to do away with the local parliaments, and to merge them all into one. (Hear, hear.)
Then, sir, there will be this advantage from the present scheme—we shall have the machinery for governing the whole country in existence; and it will be easy for those who desire it—if in the wisdom of the people who will be living under the institutions of the country at that time, it is thought desirable—the necessary machinery will be in existence for consolidation, and the change will not be of that radical nature that it would be at the present moment. Take another view of the case, which I believe will be borne out by the facts; if we are united—if we show to the world at large that we have resolved upon a more enlarged sphere of existence for the future—the population of this country will increase to such an extent, that there will be work enough for the local governments as well as for the General Government.
I think, also, that the system will have the effect of inducing, on the part of the local administrations, a spirit of emulation in the way of conducting their respective governments as cheaply and as economically as possible. I have no doubt, too, that when the local parliaments are once established, the people will see the advantage of material changes in the municipal institutions of the country; those institutions being to a greater degree subordinated to the local governments. At all events, these are all matters for future consideration, and possibly for future action. (Hear, hear.) I shall now, Mr. Speaker, refer briefly to the question of Confederation in a commercial point of view. It is stated that in this respect no benefit will accrue to the country—that there will be no increase of trade between the provinces. But I ask this House to look at the matter in this light—and I am sorry to say that we have good reason for so viewing it—there can be no doubt of the fact.
The United States have given notice of the abrogation of the Reciprocity treaty, and there is too much cause for the apprehension that the bonding system will also be done away with. Well, if we are cut off from all these facilities and advantages, what is our position? We are cut off from the ocean for six months of the year, and in this respect our position of dependency on a foreign power is a most humiliating one. (Hear, hear.) The construction of the Intercolonial Railway has been insisted upon as a commercial necessity, and although it may be an expensive work, I think the time has come when it must be built. I may briefly state my own position in regard to that undertaking. When the appropriation was brought up for the Intercolonial Railway survey, so strongly was I opposed to that scheme at the time that I voted against it. But, as I have already stated, I now see the necessity for it. I believe the time has come when this railway should be constructed. (Hear, hear.)
I hope it will be constructed in a proper and economical manner, and, when it is built, I believe that in a commercial point, our position will be greatly improved. (Hear, hear.) It is impossible for any honorable gentleman to show that by means of that railway no increase of trade will spring up between the […]
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[…] different provinces. Western Canada is decidedly an agricultural country; it has a large surplus of grain, and it must find a cutlet for it. Shut out from the United States, and deprived of winter communication, where are we to go? To store and house it throughout the winter months would be a great cause of loss. It is said that the export of grain during the winter is not profitable. But do not the United States ship continuously large quantities of flour and products to England and to other parts of the world in the winter season? And what should hinder us from pursuing the same course if we have the Intercolonial Railway? (Hear.)
Hon. gentlemen may attempt to argue that such is not the case, and endeavor to conceal the face; but I firmly believe it to be the policy of the United States to introduce coercive measures, with the view of making us feel that our commercial interests are identified with them, and I believe they will continue that course of policy towards us, not perhaps to the extent of immediate invasion and attempted subjugation, but I fear that their policy will be one of a restrictive kind, so as to make us feel as much as they can our awkward position of dependence. Such, I believe, is their policy.
They do not intend immediate invasion, but instead of that, they will, so to speak, put on the screws, in order, if possible, to make us feel that our interest is with them and not separate from them. (Hear, hear.) I can very well see and very well understand the meaning of this desire to annex Canada, although many have maintained that such is not their wish. Going back to the early history of the United States, I find that even in the articles of Federation of the United States, it is provided by the 11th article that Canada, acceding, shall be entitled to participate in all the rights and privileges of the union, whilst they refused to allow any other country to come in unless with the consent of nine states. The war of 1812, too, evinced a strong disposition on the part of our neighbors to attach Canada. And I believe that the statesmen of the United States, in our own day, are animated by the same far-seeing policy in regard to this country, and that they are now applying a little gentle pressure to make us feel that our interest is no longer to remain isolated from them, but to connect our destiny with theirs.
Not long since I listened to a certain lecture in this city, in which it appeared to me that inducements were purposely and designedly held out for us to connect our destinies with those of the people of the neighboring States. It was said that the great cause of difficulty in the United States was now removed, and that there was no obstacle now in the way of their material and social progress. Well, sir, I acknowledge that they are a great people, and that their advancement has been great; but I fail to perceive that, if true to ourselves, we have not the same advantages. (Hear, hear.)
At all events, if our advantages are not so great, they are sufficient for all our purposes, and we ought to be satisfied. There is one other consideration to which I desire to allude. When we look at the people who inhabit these provinces, and consider from whence they come and what are their characteristics, that they are a progressive, enterprising and go-a-head people, is it reasonable to suppose that we are always going to remain in this state of uncertainty? Is it reasonable to suppose that we are always to be divided into different provinces, with an imaginary line?
Have we no desire or wish to expand and grow? And, I ask, is it possible that we can hope to attain national greatness in a separate state of existence? I think that the interests of the several provinces should be consolidated. There is no disputing the resources of the country, so far as territory is concerned. Stretching from the Atlantic to the Pacific, it is ample for the support and sustenance of a great people. I have even heard it said, by persons who are good authority on the subject that they believe the child is now born who will see British North America inhabited by a population of 60,000,000. This may be going too far, but I think there can be no doubt a large increase to our numbers will take place when we shall have given effect to the scheme now in contemplation. (Hear, and cheers.) The honorable member for Hochelaga (Hon. Mr. Dorion) stated in the course of his remarks that it would be a dark day for Canada should these resolutions be adopted.
Mr. Speaker that may be that honorable gentleman’s opinion; but I must say that I differ from him entirely. On the contrary, I believe it will be a dark day for the whole country if we cannot agree upon some plan for securing our speedy union. (Cheers.) The honorable gentleman also stated that the scheme was far too conservative in its character. Well, I can understand why the honorable gentleman should find fault with it on that account, but I confess that that does not trouble me in the slightest degree. (Cheers.) He declares that it will destroy […]
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[…] the great Liberal party. I should be sorry to see such a calamity. I have always professed to be a liberal—a moderate man in politics. (Hear, hear.) While I would be sorry to see any great party destroyed by this scheme, I would particularly regret to witness the destruction of the great Liberal party. (Heir, hear.) I believe, however, that that party will not be destroyed in any such manner. After this great scheme is perfected, we will have parties the same as before. There may be some changes as regards individuals, but I trust that at all events there will still be a great Liberal party. (Cheers and laughter.) Party is necessary for the good government of the country; but I trust that party feeling will not be manifested for the sake of creating divisions and discords, but that all parties will unite to build up a power here which will be felt and respected throughout the world. (Hear, hear, and cheers.)
The honorable member for Brome (Mr. Dunkin) made some remarks which it struck me were very singular in their character, but which are a fair instance of the manner he adopts to illustrate and substantiate his views. He quoted from English statesmen and English publications all that could possibly be cited to throw doubt upon the scheme; but the moment English opinion was invoked in its favor, he turned round and declared that English views on Canadian affairs were entirely unreliable. (Hear, hear, and laughter.) As, however, that honorable gentleman is not present, I shall not refer further to his statements. The honorable member for Cornwall (Hon. J.S. Macdonald), for whom I have always entertained the highest respect, said that the cry of annexation had been raised in order to push this scheme through. Well, sir, if I am not mistaken, the honorable member for Hochelaga (Hon. Mr. Dorion) said that this was the very measure to bring about annexation. (Laughter.)
Hon. J.S. Macdonald—The Premier stated that we were being driven towards annexation, and that this scheme would stop it.
Mr. Ross—I think I have detained the House too long already; and if opportunity presents itself I will claim the indulgence of the House while I refer to one or two other points hereafter. (Cries of “Go on!”) As I said before, I believe the gentlemen who met in Quebec approached the matter in a spirit and with a desire to adopt a Constitution which would be for the good of the whole country. And although I do not entirely concur in the resolutions—although there are some things about them which I would desire to see changed, I shall give them my support as a whole. Take the Constitution of the Upper House for instance—I would prefer rather to see the present system retained; but as the delegates thought fit to change it, I would not feel justified in voting against the whole scheme on account of my objection to one or two items of detail. (Hear, hear.)
We must expect to give up to a certain extent our opinions in order to the attainment of greater benefits than we at present enjoy. I, at any rate, feel it my duty to act in this manner, and I feel also that the honorable gentlemen will deserve the best thanks of the country if the scheme which they have brought down shall be carried into effect. I do hope that whatever may take place—that whatever checks this scheme may meet with—it will eventually be successful, and that Addresses will be passed by the respective legislatures asking Her Majesty to pass a measure giving effect to this scheme. When this Constitution shall have been perfected and ratified—when there shall no longer be any doubts about its containing the principles upon which the government of the country is founded—every true-hearted and loyal Canadian will have cause to rejoice that his lot has been cast in such a highly-favored land. (Cheers.)
Mr. Bowman—as the discussion on this great question appears to be rapidly drawing to a close, I desire to offer a few remarks upon the scheme of Confederation before voting for it. The question of constitutional reform is not a new one in Canada. It is a question which has occupied the attention of the statesmen, the press and the people of this country for a number of years; and so urgent have been the demands for reform on the part of the people of Upper Canada, that it has been found impossible to form a Government under our present system, for several years past, which could command a majority in the House sufficiently large to carry on the business of the country with success.
The people of Western Canada have, for a number of years, agitated strongly for increased representation in Parliament, the justice of which few will pretend to deny. Owing to the disparity in the population of the two sections of the province, and the manifest injustice which is done to Upper Canada, I am satisfied that some change must be made soon, with a view of establishing […]
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[…] a more satisfactory system of government. (Hear, hear.) The people are so thoroughly in earnest on this question, that I am persuaded they are prepared to give a fair trial to any scheme which offers a reasonable prospect of inaugurating a better and more satisfactory state of affairs. (Hear, hear.) There are, in my opinion, two methods by which this may be done. The first is a legislative union between Upper and Lower Canada, based upon representation by population; the second is by a Federal union either between the two Canadas or between all the British North American Provinces. Unless one or other of these two remedies is speedily applied, there is great danger that an entire separation of the two provinces may ultimately take place, which, in my opinion, would prove fatal to our existence as a British colony. (Hear, hear.)
Our proximity to the United States makes it necessary that the union should be maintained at almost any cost. In order to effect a change in our Constitution, it is highly desirable to obtain the consent of a majority of the representatives of both sections of the province; for, although a scheme might be adopted by the majority of one section, aided by the minority of the other section, it would not give such general satisfaction as could be desired. The demands made by the people of Upper Canada for representation by population under the existing union, have hitherto been resisted by the people of Lower Canada with a degree of determination that has convinced even the most sanguine advocates of that measure that it is impracticable, at least for some time to come. Admitting, then, that representation by population under the existing union cannot be obtained, I think it is our duty to endeavor to find some other solution of our sectional difficulties.
In my opinion the formation of a system of government based upon the Federal principle, with a Central Parliament which shall have the control of matters common to all the provinces, and a Local Legislature for each province to manage local affairs, is the only system which will prove satisfactory to the people of these provinces. Such is the scheme now under discussion by this House. It is said by some of the opponents of the present scheme that there is no necessity for a change, that the people of Upper Canada have abandoned their agitation for constitutional reform, and that they are perfectly content to go on as they are. I can only say to those honorable gentlemen, that they are entirely mistaken. The desire for a change is as strong now as ever, and the people of Western Canada will never be satisfied until their just demands are conceded in some shape or other. (Hear, hear.)
We are not the only people who have found it necessary to alter their Constitution. There is hardly a nation in the civilized world which has not, from time to time, found it itself compelled to change its form of government in order to keep pace with the ordinary progress of events; and we generally find that those great political changes which result in the consolidation or disruption of empires, are brought about by violent civil commotions, involving the sacrifice of thousands of valuable lives and the expenditure of millions of money.
Of this fact we have a melancholy example in the present condition of the United States. The Constitution of that country was laid down by some of the wisest and ablest statesmen, yet in less than a century after its formation, the people who have hitherto looked upon it as being the most perfect Constitution in the world, find themselves in the midst of a most disastrous war, trying to remove a constitutional difficulty which has given them a vast deal of trouble. Now, if we shall succeed in laying down a permanent basis for the consolidation of these provinces—if we shall succeed in forming a union which will result in the perpetuation of British institutions on this continent, and thus check the absorbing influence of the neighboring republic—we shall confer a great boon upon posterity, and prevent much bitter strife among ourselves. (Hear, hear.)
While deliberating upon this scheme, we should divest our minds as much as possible of old political associations, in order that we may give it that calm and deliberate consideration which its great importance demands. When we consider the sectional difficulties to be adjusted, the conflicting interests which are to be reconciled, and the prejudices which are to be overcome, it is evident that we must consider this scheme in the spirit of compromise. Mutual concessions must be made, so as to respect the rights and feelings of all, so far as it can be done without doing an injustice to any. In reference to the scheme now before the House, allow me to say that although there are some of its details to which I am opposed, yet, taking it as a whole, I believe it is the best that can be obtained under our peculiar circumstances, and therefore I feel it to be my duty to support it. That part of the scheme which provides for a nominated Legislative […]
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[…] Council I believe to be contrary to the wishes of a majority of the people of Western Canada, and particularly of my own constituents.
I think it will be admitted that the elective system has given us a class of representatives in that body which would do honor to any country in the world, and I should prefer to see that system continued. But while I would be prepared to vote for an amendment which would have for its object the perpetuation of the present system, provided it could be done without interfering with the success of Confederation, yet I do not believe that my constituents are prepared to reject the whole scheme, simply because there are a few features in it which are not exactly in accordance with their views. And I can assure you, Mr. Speaker, that I have no desire to do so.
The opponents of the scheme appeal to the French population, telling them that their nationality is in danger, that they will be entirely absorbed in the Central Legislature, and that their rights and liberties will be interfered with. Then the same parties tell the English of Lower Canada that their nationality and their schools will be entirely at the mercy of the French in the Local Legislature.
And, with a view of obtaining the defeat of the scheme in the west, they appeal to the pockets of the people of Upper Canada, asserting that they will have to bear the greater proportion of the taxation under the new system. Now, I think it has been clearly shown that the Maritime Provinces will contribute their full share towards the public revenue—that they will pay as much per head as Upper Canada, and much more than Lower Canada, so that the financial argument against Confederation cannot be substantiated. Those honorable gentlemen who are trying to defeat the scheme by appealing to the prejudices and sectional animosities of the people of Lower Canada, should bear in mind that they are pursuing a course which is calculated to mar the harmonious working of any system of government, and that if they should succeed in defeating the scheme, it would go very far to convince the people of Upper Canada that Lower Canada is determined not to consent to any measure of justice to Upper Canada. (Hear, hear.)
It is also asserted that this scheme will bring about a separation from the Mother Country. Now, I believe that the advocates of union are as desirous to perpetuate our connection with Great Britain as its opponents, and that it is desirable to maintain that connection as long as possible. But assuming that we are laying the foundation of a British North American Empire, which is destined to become independent of the Mother Country, after our resources have become sufficiently developed, and our vast territory has been filled up with an industrious, intelligent and thrifty population, I do not think such an anticipation should induce us to vote against it. Another objection which is raised against this scheme is the supposition that the Maritime Provinces will oppose the opening up of the North-West territory, which is an unwarrantable assumption on the part of the opponents of Confederation; for I think it will be found that even the people of those provinces will see that it is for their interest to have that portion of our dominions opened up for settlement.
Such a course would extend their field for trade and commerce, in which the Maritime Provinces are extensively engaged, so that the advantages would be of a mutual character. A great deal has been said about submitting the scheme to the people before it is finally adopted, and I must say that I could never make up my mind to vote for it without first having an expression of popular opinion upon it in some way or other, unless I were perfectly satisfied that a large majority of my constituents are in favor of it. I took the precaution to hold a number of public meetings in the constituency which I represent, in order to obtain the views of the people upon it, and, in almost every instance, a large majority present at those meetings, not only expressed themselves in favor of the general features of the scheme, but also expressed a desire that it should be dealt with and adopted by this Parliament without first holding a general election. I shall take much pleasure in voting for the scheme now before the House, believing that by so doing I shall best discharge my duty to my constituents and to the country at large. (Cheers.)
Mr. Walsh said—It was my intention, during the earlier stages of this debate, to have asked the House to bear with me while I made some lengthened remarks on the important subject embraced in the resolutions now in your hands. It was my intention to review the circumstances which made it necessary that the scheme now submitted should be placed before the inhabitants of British North America—to trace fully the course of the sectional agitation with reference to the difficulties between Upper and Lower Canada—and to show how it had gradually grown in importance, until the time had arrived when we had to accept […]
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[…] one of two alternatives—a dissolution of the existing union between Upper and Lower Canada, or some larger scheme, such as that now. Contemplated by the people of these provinces. I should also have stated at some length my reasons, if we had to decide between these alternatives, for opposing the former. I believe—and I think hon. gentlemen almost unanimously in this House agree with me—that the union existing between these provinces at the present time has, in all its important bearings, more than realized the most sanguine anticipations of those who were concerned in bringing it about We have seen, since the union, an increase in the population, revenue and resources of these provinces seldom witnessed in the history of any country. We have seen two peoples entirely dissimilar in race, language and institutions—having nothing in common but their joint allegiance to the same Crown—we have seen those two peoples rapidly becoming one people—one in name, one in object, one in feeling.
And I believe that in every respect the union under which we now live has been most happy in its results. If I had gone, therefore, into the subject, as I originally intended, I should have stated fully my views upon it in all its bearings. And I should have stated, as I now state, that if I had had to give my vote whether the connection between these two provinces should remain, or whether it should be dissolved, and we should go back to the state of separate existence in which we were before the union, I should have been found for one most hostile to a dissolution of that union. (Hear, hear.)
But circumstances, over some of which this House has not control, while others are within our control, have led to a probable termination of this debate at an earlier period than I had anticipated, and I will not trespass on the patience of the House, at this late hour, by detaining honorable members with any lengthened remarks. In the few observations I shall offer, I will confine myself to a reference to some of the leading features of the scheme now before us I shall not, as many honorable gentlemen have done, go into lengthy quotations of other men’s opinions, or comment on the effect of different systems of government in other countries. I will confine myself to what I consider, from the best means of information I can obtain, the probable effect and bearing of this proposed scheme upon ourselves. (Hear, hear.)
I agree with many honorable gentlemen who have preceded me, when I say that since I first gave attention to public matters, I have looked forward to the time when a more intimate connection between these British American Provinces would not only be desirable, but would become absolutely necessary. I look upon it as desirable in a military point of view, and in a commercial point of view. It must be evident to any honorable gentleman who has occupied a seat in this House—even for the short period that I have had the honor of a seat here—that the opinion of the House of late years has very materially changed with reference to the defences of the country. I am satisfied that we have, irrespective of party, become more alive to our duty in that respect; and that the people of this country, acting through those who sit here as their representatives, are prepared to take upon themselves their just share of responsibility for the defence of these provinces. (Hear, hear.)
And I look upon this scheme of union as a most important step in that view; because while we rely, as we do rely to a great extent, on the assistance of the home Government for the defence of this country, it must be evident to all of us that these provinces, acting in concert with each other, and all acting in concert with the home Government, can organize a more effective system of defence than we could do if we remained separate and isolated. (Hear, hear.) I believe this question should be considered chiefly from a commercial point of view. We must necessarily consider the question in connection with the more intimate commercial intercourse which it is contemplated will result from the construction of the Intercolonial Railway. A new market for our commodities will be opened up by the removal of the barriers to trade which now exist between us.
Believing, as I do, that our commercial relations with our sister provinces should be free and unrestricted, I am heartily in favor of the construction of this railway. After stating that upon these general principles I am in favor of the union of these provinces, I may also state that had I my choice, and were my vote to decide the question, I would say “give us a Legislative union,” because I believe it would have, for its effect, the bringing of all the colonists more immediately into contact and connection with each other, rendering our interests much more identical than by the Federal plan But I infer, from the speeches made on the floor of this House at the opening of […]
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[…] this debate, by honorable gentlemen who were delegates to the Conference held in this city, that the two schemes were discussed in that Conference—the Legislative and the Federal—and that the former was found to be impracticable. It is, therefore, not possible for us now to decide the question in favor of a legislative union. We have evidence before us that is satisfactory to my mind, that probably all of the other provinces would refuse to take part in a legislative union.
The Honorable Attorney General West [Hon. J.A. Macdonald], in his speech at the opening of the debate, gave us sufficient information on the point to convince the House that this question had been fully discussed in the Conference, and the legislative plan rejected, on account of its being impracticable. For this reason, sir, believing that the choice before us is either to accept a Federal union or reject the proposal entirely, I give my assent to the present scheme without hesitation, (Hear, hear.) It is brought as one of the strongest arguments against this union that the Federal Government will be far more expensive than our present system. That may be true to some extent; but my impression is that it will not be found true to the extent represented. We must bear in mind that we have in each province a Government fully constituted, with all the machinery necessary for carrying on the business of government.
Therefore the new machinery required would be very little, and would amount simply to the local legislatures for Upper and Lower Canada. Upon these general principles then, I must say that I shall give my adhesion to the scheme of union submitted to us; and as was well remarked by the hon. member for Dundas (Mr. J. S. Ross), the language in which the scheme has been laid before us must prove very acceptable to all who are in favor of a union such as that proposed. The gentlemen composing the Conference could not have used language more acceptable to me than that in which the first resolution is couched, except in the use of the word “Federal,” instead of “Legislative.” The resolution reads:—
The best interests and present and future prosperity of British North America will be promoted by a Federal union under the Crown of Great Britain, provided such a union can be effected on principles just to the several provinces.
Now, sir, I am prepared to say here, and I think I but echo the voice of every hon. gentleman present, that all the people ask is that the union be based upon principles just to the several provinces. (Hear, hear.) We ask nothing more. Again, sir, the language employed in the third resolution is most satisfactory:—
In framing a Constitution for the General Government, the Conference, with a view to the perpetuation of the connection with the Mother Country, &c, to the promotion of the best interests of the people of these provinces, desire to follow the model of the British Constitution, so far as our circumstances will permit.
Surely, sir, we all agree that no better model can be found, or better system of government followed, than that of the British Constitution. (Hear, hear.) One of the features of this scheme that commends itself strongly to my approbation is the marked distinction between the system that is submitted to us, and that which is in existence in the neighboring republic. I believe that to a great extent we may trace the unfortunate difficulties that exist in that country to the absurd doctrine of state rights. Instead of their Central Government having, in the first instance, supreme power, and delegating certain powers to the local or state governments, the very reverse is the principle on which their Constitution is founded. Their local governments possess the principal power, and have delegated certain powers to the General Government. In the scheme submitted to us, I am happy to observe that the principal and supreme power is placed in the hands of the General Government, and that the powers deputed to the local governments are of a limited character. (Hear, hear.)
I am glad also to observe that in the proposed organization of the General Legislature of the united provinces, that question which has so long agitated the people of Canada—representation by population—is in a fair way of being satisfactorily solved. It is proposed that in the General Legislature, or House of Commons as it is to be called, each province shall be represented in accordance with its population, thereby removing that which has been so long a source of agitation in Upper Canada, and of vexation to Lower Canada, and which has led to the discussion of the scheme now before the House.
In reference to the organization of the Legislative Council, I may say that I have always been found among those who opposed the introduction of the elective principle into the constitution of that body […]
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[…] In this province, and I, therefore, find no difficulty in giving my hearty assent to the change now proposed. I have always believed, and I still believe, that we could not expect two branches of the Legislature, owing their existence to the same source, and being elected by the same class of voters, to work in harmony for any length of time. (Hear, hear.) It may be called a retrograde movement, yet I can heartily asset to it, because, in my opinion, it places things where they should have been left. In pressing upon this House the adoption or rejection of these resolutions as a whole, I believe the Government are actuated by the best motives, and that it is their duty to do so. But whilst I am prepared to give my vote in that direction, I am also quite willing to admit the force of the objections urged by the Colonial Secretary in his despatch to the Governor General of the 3rd December last, in relation to the constitution of the Upper House, so far as the limiting of the number of members is concerned.
I for one, although there is no doubt that these resolutions will be passed by this House precisely in the form in which they have been submitted to us, am quite content that the Imperial Parliament should make such alterations in that, or any other respect, as they consider necessary, and I shall bow with very great satisfaction to such amendments. (Hear, hear.) There are two or three questions in connection with these resolutions upon which I desire to offer a few remarks. One of them is that of education. We have already had, in the course of this discussion, a good deal said on this subject. I would simply say, as one of those who gave effect by my vote to the present law of Upper Canada for the establishment of separate schools, that in doing so I believed that I was according to the minority of one section of the province what I conceived the minority of the other section were entitled to, thus doing justice to all.
It gives me, therefore, great satisfaction to observe the recognition in these resolutions of the principle that the rights of the minorities, in each section, with respect to educational facilities, should be guaranteed. I confess that if I were living in Lower Canada, I should not feel that I was being justly treated in being called upon to contribute by taxation to the support of schools to which I could not conscientiously send my children. (Hear, hear.) I have the satisfaction of knowing that, after giving my vote upon the last Separate School Bill, and going back to my constituents, they were fully satisfied with the explanation I gave them, and my action was endorsed by them.
Another question that I look upon as of very great importance to these colonies, is not dealt with in these resolutions in that manner to which its importance entitles it. I refer to the management and sale of our Crown lands. I am very sorry to observe that they are to be confided to the control of the local legislatures. I believe that if, in any one question more than another, the Government of this province have failed in their duty in times past, it is in the management of our Crown lands. The complaint I have to make is that they have not made use of those lands in establishing a wise and liberal system of immigration, by offering them free to all who would come and settle upon them. It cannot but be humiliating to every person having a stake in this province to observe the torrents of immigration that pour from the Mother Country into the neighboring republic; and especially so when they see them passing through the whole length of Canada by multitudes to the Western States. (Hear, hear.)
We have, in times past, failed to hold out such inducements as would stop that tide of immigration from flowing past us. I fear that by leaving those lands in the hands of the local legislatures, the immigration question will be dealt with, in future, in the same narrow spirit in which it has been treated in times past. I would have been very highly pleased if I could look forward to the future with the hope that our General Legislature would adopt a large, enlightened, and liberal scheme of immigration, sending their agents to all the European ports from which the largest tide of immigration sets in, for the purpose of explaining to the people the advantages they could derive from settling in these provinces. I am, therefore, very sorry to see that the delegates were obliged to make the arrangement they have made with reference to this. important question. (Hear, hear.)
Now, sir, in reference to another of the questions embraced in these resolutions, though not forming a part of the proposed Constitution, I am prepared to admit here that my opinions have undergone a very material change since I first came into this House. I refer to the construction of the Intercolonial Railway. I came here, in 1862, decidedly hostile to our assuming any portion of the expense of constructing that road. I believed, at that time, that it […]
- (p. 809)
[…] construction would be of no advantage to Canada; but the course of events has convinced me that the time has now arrived when we should take upon ourselves our fair share of the expense of constructing this important work. It cannot be satisfactory to any Canadian, ongoing to New Brunswick or Nova Scotia, to find that he is a stranger in a strange country, and among a people who, though living so close to Canada, have no commercial intercourse with us. Although they are neighbors of ours, in one respect, yet they are neighbors with whom we have no intercourse.
It is very desirable that the barriers to our intercourse should be removed, and the construction of the Intercolonial Railway is, in my opinion, the only effectual means of removing them. Mr. Speaker, it has been argued by a great many of those who have taken part in debating this subject that this House is assuming for itself a power that it does not, or ought not to possess, in disposing of the question without submitting it to the popular will. It is said that before these resolutions take effect an expression of public opinion should be had through a general election. Some of those honorable gentlemen who have taken this position have stated as a reason for advocating that course that the public mind was not yet properly informed as to the effect of the proposed change, and that, therefore, time should be given until public opinion is prepared to decide upon it. But with a strange inconsistency those same gentlemen are flooding this House with petitions from the electors, not asking for delay, not asking for further time to consider the matter, but asking that the scheme be not adopted.
They in effect show by their petitions that they have considered the subject—that they know all about it—that their opinions are fully formed—and that the measure ought not to be adopted. Either the public mind is fully ripe for the adoption or rejection of the scheme, or else those electors are signing petitions without having sufficient information on which to base the opinions they express. But, sir, there is such a thing as obtaining public opinion on almost any question, and very correctly too, without going to the polls; and, for my part, I find elections very inconvenient. (Hear, hear, and laughter.)
I believe the majority of the electors of Upper Canada have read those resolutions, and understand them about as well as many members of this House; and, sir, we have every reason to believe that the sentiment of Upper Canada at least is largely in favor of the adoption of this scheme. (Hear, hear.) I took occasion to consult my constituents before coming to this House on the present occasion. I held meetings in the various municipalities in the county, and I believe, sir, according to the best of my ability, I did submit this scheme to the electors of that portion of the province. I have heard a good deal said here about the importance of having the question submitted to a vote of the people.
Mr. M.C. Cameron—I would like to ask the gentleman whether he laid any figures before his people to show the difference between the cost of a Legislative and a Federal union. Unless he did that, the people were not in a position to express an opinion as to what was best for their interests.
Mr. Walsh—I did not submit figures to show the difference in cost between a Federal or Legislative union, for the simple reason that until the organization of the local governments is decided upon, it is not possible to give reliable figures, and I therefore think the people as competent to make calculations on this subject as myself or my hon. friend, lawyer though he be. (Hear, hear.) I may say, however, in answer to the hon. gentleman, that I did state to my constituents that the, resolutions now under consideration place in the hands of the present Legislature the preparation of the constitutions and the organization and composition of the local governments of Upper and Lower Canada; and that as the Federal Government is to pay an annual subsidy of eighty cents per head of its population to the respective provinces, for carrying on their local governments and the construction of local works, any sum required over and above that subsidy must necessarily be raised by direct taxation, and in that fact we have the strongest possible guarantee that in the arrangements made by this Legislature, and in the subsequent management of their domestic affairs by the local governments, the strictest simplicity and economy will be observed. (Hear, hear.)
So much, Mr. Speaker, in answer to the question of the hon. gentleman. The difference between us on this question being that whilst we are both advocates of a legislative union, he will accept none other. I, believing that unattainable at present, am prepared to accept […]
- (p. 810)
[…] the system now proposed, hoping that the experience of the people will soon induce them to agree to the abolition of the local governments, and the adoption of the legislative system. (Hear, hear.) I may add—and I do so with great personal satisfaction—that the meetings which were held in my own county were largely in favor of the scheme, and that resolutions approving of it were moved and seconded, in almost every instance, by persons of different political opinions. (Hear, hear.) I was going on to remark, that it is said by many members of this House that the scheme could not be submitted to the people, because the Government in sending the resolutions to the members of the Legislature marked them “Private.” Now, sir, I managed to get over that difficulty without trouble. A copy of the resolutions was sent to me, and as I was precluded from making use of them in that form without violating the confidence reposed in me, I turned to the newspaper version of the same resolutions, and finding it to be a verbatim copy of the original, when I attended my meetings I read from the newspaper and not from the private document itself. (Hear, hear, and laughter.)
I think other hon. gentlemen might have taken the same course with safety to themselves and profit to their constituents. (Hear, hear.) Without wishing to detain the House longer, I shall content myself by simply expressing my regret that on a question of such paramount importance—a question which towers in magnitude above all others that have ever come before this House—a question which not simply affects Canada, but the whole British North American Provinces—a question which does not only interest us, but will be felt in its influence upon future generations—I have, I say, to express my deep regret that such a question should not have been treated apart from party feeling, party prejudices, and a desire for party triumph. (Cheers) Our object in considering this subject should not be to put one party out of office and another party in, but to determine what will most conduce to the present and future prosperity of the British North American Provinces. (Hear, hear.) It is a matter of indifference to me, so far as it affects this question, who occupy the seats on the Treasury benches. I look upon this question irrespective of party feelings.
From the present position of these provinces, I think it is our duty and our interest alike to give effect to these resolutions so far as we can do so. If they fail through the action of the Lower Provinces, we shall not be responsible. I f we believe that the resolutions will be conducive to our interests, we are bound to sustain the hon. gentlemen who agreed to them as a basis of union. Believing this to be the proper course to be pursued, I shall, as I have already said, have great pleasure in giving them my support. (Hear, hear.) There is just one other remark that I may perhaps be permitted to refer to, which fell from the hon. member for North Waterloo (Mr. Bowman), that I decidedly dissent from. The hon. gentleman spoke of this scheme as one which, if adopted, would conduce to independence. I must object to that view being taken of it. If I thought that the adoption of the scheme now before us could in any respect have the effect of severing these colonies from the Mother Country, whatever the consequences might be, I should have no hesitation in giving my vote against it. I believe there is nothing more ardently to be desired—no greater glory attainable than for these colonies remaining for all time to come, as we are now, dependencies of Great Britain.
Hon. Mr. Cockburn—The honorable member for North Waterloo [Mr. Bowman] referred to it as a means of maintaining our independence against the United States.
Mr. Walsh—I do not desire to misrepresent the hon. gentleman, and I am glad to hear that I have misconceived the tenor of his remarks. Mr. Speaker, I have detained the House longer than I purposed doing when I rose. I have touched very briefly on some of the general features of the scheme; but I have not occupied valuable time in quoting authorities, or in reading passages illustrative of the past political history of hon. gentlemen on either side. It matters very little to me, in considering this question, what certain hon. gentlemen thought twelve months ago about representation by population or any other subject. This is a question to be decided by itself and upon its own merits; and believing that the adoption of this scheme, so far as we in Canada are concerned, will be fraught with great benefits to ourselves as well as to those who may come after us, I repeat that it will afford me great pleasure in giving my support to the resolutions. (Cheers.)
Mr. Gibbs said—Mr. Speaker, in rising at this late hour, I feel, in common with […]
- (p. 811)
[…] many hon. members who have preceded me, that the debate has been sufficiently protracted, and should be brought to a close, as speedily as possible. Nevertheless, as a member lately elected to represent a wealthy and populous constituency, largely engaged in commercial, manufacturing, and agricultural pursuits, I deem it my duty to state my views on the proposed union of the British North American Provinces, now under the consideration of this House. In my opinion, sir, the gentlemen who occupy the Treasury benches deserve credit for the earnest and energetic manner in which they have applied themselves to carry out the pledges which they gave the country during the course of last summer. (Hear, hear.) I look upon it that the vote about to be taken is a foregone conclusion, and, for all practical purposes, might as well have been taken as soon as the resolutions had been read and spoken to by the Hon. Attorney General West [Hon. J.A. Macdonald].
I have remarked, sir, that almost every hon. member that has spoken has expressed himself as favorable to a union of some kind or other with the Maritime Provinces. When the delegates from the eastern provinces met at Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, they contemplated a legislative union among themselves; but when invited to visit Quebec for the purpose of holding a conference with a view to a union of the whole of the colonies, the Federal principle was substituted for the Legislative, Lower Canada and the eastern provinces voting as a unit for it, while the members representing Canada West were divided, the Hon. Attorney General West [Hon. J.A. Macdonald] preferring a Legislative union, and the Hon. President of the Council [Hon. Mr. Brown] a Federal one. The subject of “Union of the Provinces” has been looked upon with favor, not only by our own statesmen, who have of late years regarded it as a measure calculated to remove the difficulties which have surrounded the legislation of the country, but by leading statesmen of England as well, who view the proposal favorably, as being the means of building up a great nation, and also of preserving monarchical institutions on this continent. (Hear, hear.)
Mr. Speaker, whatever may have been the points of difference which gave rise to the lengthened discussions of the Conference, there was one upon which, judging by the speeches of the delegates, and also from the resolutions themselves, there was perfect unanimity—that of loyalty and attachment to the Throne of Great Britain. (Hear, hear.) One would have thought it unnecessary to incorporate such a sentiment in the resolutions, yet the first of the series gives utterance to it and is thus expressed:—
The best interests and present and future prosperity of British North America will be promoted by a Federal union under the Crown of Great Britain.
With regard to the future of this proposed union, it is curious to note what is said and written in reference to it, some urging that its inevitable result will be a separation from our present happy connection with the Mother Country, and ultimate independence; while another class, equally confident, declares that it will lead to annexation with the United States. (Hear.) Whatever the ultimate fate of such a union may be, it is conceded by all parties that there exists a necessity for a change of some kind in the political relations existing between Upper and Lower Canada; and it is gratifying to reflect that an expedient has been devised for allaying the rancorous party spirit that has been too frequently exhibited on the floor of this House. (Hear, hear.)
We may congratulate ourselves, sir, that while our republican neighbors are engaged in bloody strife, one portion spilling its best blood in order to obtain a new Constitution, we can discuss the propriety of making a change in our own, which has not been inaptly termed a “bloodless revolution,” without let or hindrance, but on the contrary with the full consent and authority of the power to which we owe allegiance. (Hear.) The provisions of this new Constitution have been widely disseminated, and in some sections thoroughly discussed. In the riding which I have the honor to represent, public attention was drawn to Confederation during the recent election, and I am fully justified in stating, that with a few exceptions here and there, there were not to be found may dissentients to it. (Hear, hear.)
It is true that upon one or two occasions there were found leading men who took the ground that they did not think it desirable to enter into this union, but such instances were rare… One of these gentlemen, the reeve of one of the most important townships in the riding, attended a meeting, where he met a large number of the electors; but after he had delivered his address, he could not find one to […]
- (p. 812)
[…] respond to the sentiments he had expressed. (Hear, hear.) Another gentleman, an ex-reeve and an ex-member of Parliament—although he never had the honor of taking his seat in this House—also addressed a large meeting, but with the same result as in the previous case. The only opposition which was manifested throughout the contest was not to the scheme itself, but to points of detail. (Hear, hear.) The Constitution of the Legislative Council was the principal one referred to, my opponent contending that the Upper House should continue an elective body, as at present, instead of being a nominated Chamber, as it is proposed to make it. I can sustain the view taken by the Hon. President of the Council [Hon. Mr. Brown] in his opening address the other evening, when he said he would not hesitate to go into any liberal constituency in Western Canada and obtain their sanction to this principle. (Hear, hear.)
Such at all events was the result in South Ontario. I am free to admit that a change was not asked for in the constitution of the Legislative Council; but although the resolutions make the change, there is a feeling abroad in the country that on this account the scheme as a whole should not be rejected. (Hear, hear.) Whenever a point was attempted to be made against me that I was endeavoring, by my advocacy of the nominative principle, to build up an aristocracy in this country, and that the result would be the locking up of the lands of the province in the hands of a privileged class, I replied that such had not been the case in the past, and that in a country like ours such could never be its results; and I further stated that the leader of the Reform party, the Hon. President of the Council [Hon. Mr. Brown], had himself stood almost alone on his side of the House in 1850, in resisting the change from the nominative to the elective principle.
My desire, sir, is to see the union carried out only on a fair and equitable basis, and this, I think, is likely to be attained in the manner proposed for the assumption by the Central Government (at $25 per head) of the debts or portion of debts for which each province is now liable. I regret, however, that so high a figure as 80c. per head has been fixed upon a.s the subsidy to the local legislatures, for I fear the revenue will be so large that taken in connection with the revenues derivable from local sources, the surplus, after defraying the expenses of government, may induce that extravagance which has been so frequently deprecated in the past, and which by this arrangement may be continued in the future. I have taken some pains, sir, to ascertain what will be the probable position of Upper Canada under the arrangement as proposed, and I find that its revenue and probable expenditure will be aboub as follows:—
|Municipal Loan Fund||180,000|
|U. C. Building Fund||30,000|
|Grammar School do||20,000|
|Subsidy at 80 cents||1,117,000|
|Administration of justice||$275,000|
|Literary and scientific
|Hospitals and charities||43,000|
|Gaols, from Building Fund||32,000|
|Roads and bridges||75,000|
|Expense of managing
|Interest on liabilities over assets||225,000|
|Interest on proportion of debt
to be assumed, say
In this statement I have not included the Municipality Fund, as the receipts are distributed the following year amongst the municipalities. Estimating the expense of the Local Government at $150,000, we have a balance of $475,000 per annum for local purposes. I regard the subsidy as altogether too large, and shall hope to see it very materially reduced. (Hear, hear.) My hon. friend from North Ontario [Mr. M.C. Cameron], upon the hypothesis that the Maritime Provinces contribute one-fifth of the revenue of the proposed Confederacy, and the balance by the Canadas, in the relative proportion of two dollars by Upper Canada to one dollar by Lower Canada, founds an argument thereon, showing that each additional representative gained for Upper Canada will cost $17,000.
Now, Mr. Speaker, I apprehend that when the union is accomplished and the duties equalized, this seeming objection will, to some extent at least, be removed, for it is well known that the Maritime Provinces consume much more largely of imported […]
- (p. 813)
[…] goods, per head, than we do. (Hear.) But let this principle be extended to county and township matters, and it would necessitate appropriations to the wealthier townships, in the proportion each contributed to the revenue of the county—a principle which has never been contended for, and facts will go to show that it is seldom done even upon population, as is proposed by this scheme. But as it was necessary to establish some basis for contributing to the expenses of the local governments, without compelling them to resort to direct taxation, I think the principle adopted, that of population, is not unjust. (Hear, hear.)
Again, it is argued that as Canada West contributes in the proportion already alluded to, that in the payment of subsidies she will contribute more than her fair proportion in the proposed Confederacy. To this I reply, if the hypothesis that the proportion which Upper and Lower Canada respectively contribute to the general revenue be correct, and that the subsidy should be based upon revenue and not population, then undoubtedly the argument is a good one. Bat, sir, let us see if the proposed arrangement is not a great improvement on the present method of distributing the public funds. It is well known, sir, that the complaint which Upper Canada has made in the past was that the appropriations were made, not upon revenue, nor even according to population, but in utter disregard of both. Under the system which has hitherto prevailed for dividing money grants, of the proposed subsidy to the two Canarias ($2,005,403, or 80 cts. per head),
|Upper Canada would have received one-half||$1,002,701|
|Whereas, according to population||1,116,872|
|Difference in favor of the proposed system over the
As the moneys have been distributed equally in the past between Upper and Lower Canada, I maintain that the balance of the public debt, say $5,000,000, to be apportioned between them, should be divided in the same way, and not, as proposed by the Hon. Finance Minister [Hon. Mr. Galt], on population. But it is said the scheme will lead to extravagance. I had hoped, Mr. Speaker, that an alliance with the frugal and thrifty population of the eastern provinces would induce the very opposite, and lead to greater economy in the public expenditure than we have had in the past. (Hear, hear.)
With reference, sir, to the cost of the local governments, that subject has been left in the hands of the local legislatures entirely, the resolutions showing whence their income shall be derived, and what the subsidy shall be without compelling a resort to direct taxation. I claim for this scheme, Mr. Speaker, that it will give us national importance. (Hear.) But here again it is objected that to obtain this we must have a vast population. When the colonies now forming a portion of the American union severed the connection from the parent state, their population was set down at 2,500, 00, and although an impression has very generally obtained that they have increased in population faster than we have, an examination into the facts shows that such is not the case—for in 1860 their population reached 30,000,000, an increase of 1,200 per cent, while ours in the same period had increased from 145,000 in 1784, to 3,000,000 in 1861, or over 2,300 per cent. (Hear.)
Confederation, sir, would give us nationality—I speak of British nationality—a nation created from the fragmentary portions of the provinces of Britain on this continent, but still retaining its allegiance to the British Crown. Then, sir, it is claimed that the commercial advantages which may arise from Confederation of the provinces can as readily be obtained by a Legislative as a Federal union. This is admitted; but as that is not obtainable, and as a union would remove the barriers to commercial intercourse and foster the trade between the colonies (each of which now effects more exchanges with the United states thin with all the rest of the provinces), it is desirable that the union should take place. (Hear.)
This leads me, sir, to remark upon the probable abrogation of the Reciprocity treaty. The country will be glad to know, from the announcement made to the House on Monday last, that the Ministry if alive to the importance of entering into immediate negotiations, through the English Government, with that of the United States, for the renewal of this treaty. (Hear, hear.) I am not of the number who believe that the advantages accruing from this treaty have been all on the side of Canada; for, from the statements lately published, it appears that the whole trade of 1854 was… $24,000,000
And in 1863 ……….. 43,000,000
An increase in ten years of […]
- (p. 814)
[…] nearly 180 per cent $19,000,000
|The exports from Canada to the
United States amounted in
ten years to
|Imports into Canada in do||195,000,000|
The difference in favor of the United States being paid in gold.
|In 1854 free goods imported
into Canada from the United
States amounted to
|And in 1863||19,000,000|
|Increase in ten years 850 per ct.||$17,000,000|
I do not fear, sir, but that the treaty will be renewed; enlightened counsels will prevail, and, with the better feeling existing between the two countries, the subject will be taken up in a proper spirit, and legislated upon accordingly. (Hear.) The construction of the Intercolonial Railway is said to be a necessity of the proposed union, and without it there can be no union except in name. Calculations have been made which show that this road cannot be used for carrying heavy merchandise at remunerative rates, mote especially flour, which it has been shown would cost $2.25 per barrel from Toronto to Halifax, at two cents per ton per mile.
The Grand Trunk Railway now carries flour from Toronto to Montreal for 25 cents per barrel during winter, and at the same rate a barrel of flour would cost $1.22. If this could be done, the difference in cost between winter rates and shipping via the St. Lawrence in summer, at 85 cents per barrel, would be made up in a saving of storage, interest, and insurance. Then there is the military aspect of the subject, which has already been thoroughly discussed. I contend, sir, that union with the Maritime Provinces not only allies us more closely to them and to each other, but also to that power which alone could render us aid whenever subjected to attack; and, regarded from this point of view, this railroad is said to be a necessity. Lord Durham in his report said:—
An union for common defence against foreign enemies is the national bond of connection that holds together the great communities of the world, and between no parts of any kingdom or state did the necessity exist of such a union more obviously than between the whole of these colonies.
(Hear, hear) In conclusion; sir, if we reject the proposed union, what is offered as a substitute? In the absence of anything better which will settle our existing difficulties, shall we reject the opportunity now presented and that may never recur? Rather let us, as members of the same family, unite for weal or for woe. By it we secure enlarged commercial intercourse, greater security in case of attack, a remedy for the existing difficulties between Upper and Lower Canada, and also render more lasting the connection now existing with the Mother Country. (Hear.)
While in favor of this measure, but believing that it should be submitted for the approval of those who are to be affected by the contemplated change, I shall feel it to be my duty in the first instance to vote against the “previous question,” in order that such an amendment may be put, reserving the right to vote for the amendment of the hon. member for Peel [Hon. J.H. Cameron], when that shall come up for discussion, its object being to submit the question for popular sanction. (Cheers.) If this, however, shall fail, I shall vote, Mr. Speaker, for the resolution now in your hands.
The debate was then adjourned.