Province of Canada, Legislative Council, Parliamentary Debates on the Subject of the Confederation of the British North America Provinces, 8th Parl, 3rd Sess, (9 February 1865)
By: Province of Canada (Parliament)
Citation: Province of Canada, Parliament, Parliamentary Debates on the Subject of the Confederation of the British North America Provinces, 8th Parl, 3rd Sess, 1865 at 115-125.
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THURSDAY, February 9, 1865.
Hon. Mr. Allan said, that if he acquiesced, or thought that the House acquiesced, in the opinion expressed by the honorable gentleman who spoke at the close of the debate last evening, that under the circumstances in which the resolutions now before them were presented for their consideration, it was useless to discuss their merits or express any opinion upon them; he would not now venture to trespass on the time of the House with any remarks of his on the great scheme which had been submitted for their approval. But believing, as he did, that the Government had not invited them to express their opinion as a mere matter of form, but they were really asked in good faith to examine and discuss the measure, and then to express their approval or disapproval of it as a whole, he would venture to occupy their attention for a few moments, while he stated to the House the reasons which induced him to give it his hearty concurrence and support. He would first, however, premise that he could not see the force of an objection which had also been made, that as they were precluded from making any alteration in the details of the scheme, they would be betraying their trust and violating their duty to their constituents if they […]
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[…] acquiesced in the scheme as a whole, to some of the particular features of which their own convictions might be opposed, and in reference to which they perhaps had no opportunity of ascertaining definitely the views of their constituents. Now, he would ask honorable gentlemen, did it not constantly happen that in the business of life they were obliged to delegate to a few the conduct of many matters in which they were most deeply interested themselves, but which, from the very nature of the interests involved, could not be dealt with advantageously otherwise, and if they had confidence in the judgment and ability of those to whom the task had been committed, were they not satisfied to accept their recommendations, although their views on all points might not coincide with their own? Just so in the case of the Confederation scheme—it was one which required special ability, tact and judgment, to deal with.
It was one in which so many conflicting interests, so many nice questions were involved, that it would have been next to impossible to have arrived at any satisfactory settlement of the question, had the task been committed to a popular assembly or any other large body. Now, he was satisfied that the people of this country were fully persuaded at the time of the Conference that the task of framing a scheme for the union of all the North American Provinces had been assumed by those statesmen who, by their ability, experience and judgment were, of all men, the best qualified for the duty; and he had yet to learn, from any expression of public opinion, either out of doors or in the press, that this confidence had been shaken, or that the scheme, as a whole, had been disapproved of.
On the contrary, the people of Canada had now been acquainted with all the important features of the measure for some three months at least, and he believed the result had been that, while various opinions had been expressed in reference to the details of the scheme, the great majority of the people were perfectly satisfied to leave the matter in the hands of their representatives, to be assented to by them as a whole, if, after a full discussion of its merits, they were satisfied that they so far outweighed its defects as to commend itself to their adoption. If then, in the best exercise of his judgment, he had come to the conclusion that the peculiar circumstances of the times, and the merits of the scheme as a whole, outweighed any of the defects which might present themselves in the details, he thought he should be fully warranted, acting on behalf of his constituents, in according his support to the measure, without being in any way chargeable with a dereliction of duty or a betrayal of the trust committed to him. He would now state to the House what were the considerations which induced him to give his support to the measure, and which, to him at least, appeared of sufficient importance to outweigh all objections that had been brought against it.
They were twofold—arising in the first place from our internal condition, and in the second place from our position with regard to the neighbouring States. And first, with regard to our internal condition, while he partly agreed with the remark which fell from the honorable member for the Brock Division [Hon. Mr. Blair], that our political differences alone could perhaps scarcely be said to necessitate such great and important constitutional changes as those involved in Confederation; yet taken in connection with our external relations, he thought no one would deny that the state of chronic weakness of the governing body had become a subject of grave apprehension to every well-wisher of their country.
No one would deny that when storms were impending, it was doubly necessary that the ships of the state should be guided by firm and determined hands—that weakness and vacillation under such circumstances would be sure to end in disaster. Yet for the last few years, when the political horizon had been growing darker and darker, when fresh causes of irritation had unhappily sprung up from time to time between us and our neighbours, we had seen ministry after ministry break down, until anything like a stable and vigorous government seemed to have become a hopeless impossibility. Who could say that such a state of things was not fraught with danger to any community.
He believed that in Federation they had found a remedy for those sectional differences between Upper and Lower Canada, which had so long agitated the country, and had been a source of weakness to so many administrations. Under the scheme now proposed, all causes of jealousy and distrust between the two provinces would be removed, and they might well hail with satisfaction any change which, by removing these stumbling-blocks which sectional feeling and party strife had placid in the way of so many successive ministries, had enabled the ablest men of all parties to unite their councils for the formation of a strong, vigorous and permanent government. For these considerations, amongst others, the measure before the House should have his hearty support, but there were to his mind graver reasons still why the union of the provinces […]
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[…] should, if possible, be brought about without further loss of time. No one who had watched the course of public opinion in Great Britain in reference to the colonies, as expressed during the last few years, either in Parliament or in the public press, could doubt that the feeling had been gaining ground there that the time had come for us to assume a larger share than we had hitherto assumed of those responsibilities which attach to every country aspiring to any sort of national existence or political standing. He need scarcely say that he alluded to the question of defence.
This was a question which would have been forced upon us sooner or later under any circumstances, because it was neither reasonable nor just that we should expect that Great Britain would continue to give us the protection of her fleets and armies, unless we showed that we were willing to bear our share of the burden, and were ready to contribute our quota of men and means towards the defence of our own hearths and homes should war unhappily threaten us. Under any circumstances, then, the consideration of this question must necessarily have occupied a large share of the attention of the Government and the Legislature, but no one would deny that it had acquired tenfold importance in view of our present relations with the United States, and that what might safely have been left to the unaided resources of Canada alone, had peace and harmony continued to prevail on our borders, would now require all the assistance, all the material aid and moral support, which a close and cordial union with nearly a million of our British fellow-subjects could alone give to us.
Feeling then as he did upon these points, he could not help asking himself the question, what would be the result, as regards the well-being and prosperity of Canada, if this Confederation scheme should fall through? Should we not suffer most seriously in all our relations both at home and abroad? Would not the effect on our credit in England be most disastrous? Would they not say that our own folly and want of patriotism had condemned us to a state of isolation and weakness, when union with our sister provinces would have made us strong, powerful and prosperous? Some honorable gentlemen had such strong objections to some of the details of the measure—the alteration in the constitution of this House, for instance—that rather than bring themselves to vote for it, they were willing to run the risk of imperilling the whole scheme. For his own part, he thought it would ill become an elected member like himself to say anything against the elective system as applied to this House; although he earnestly believed that the majority of his own constituents were in favor of a Legislative Council appointed by the Crown.
As for the objection which had been urged that between an Upper House composed exclusively of life members, and an elective Lower House, there might be the danger of a direct collision in the event of one rejecting an important measure which the other had passed, he did not think there was much danger of such a contingency. Indeed he would remind honorable members that the only instance of anything like a dead-lock between the two Houses, which had occurred within late years, at all events, was since the introduction of the elective principle, when the Council in 1859 refused to pass the Supply Bill on account of certain items contained in it, providing for the expense of the removal of the Government to Quebec.
The Government on that occasion were left in a minority in this House, although they had a majority in the Assembly, and it was only after an adjournment of some days and upon a reconsideration of the question, after bringing up some life members from Lower Canada, that the Government carried the vote by a majority of two or three. Upon the whole, however, he thought that the life members of the Council would admit that the elective members had so far, at all events, comported themselves in such a way as to maintain the character of the House as a conservative body, free from all violent party feeling, and exercising a wholesome check against all ill-considered or hasty legislation.
The real danger, he thought, was that if the House in process of time were to become a purely elective body, and party lines became more closely drawn, the same partisan spirit which too often swayed the proceedings of the popular branch of the Legislature, might find its way into their chamber, larger powers, such as originating money bills, might be claimed, and a collision between the two Houses might then occur at any time. Another objection raised by some honorable gentlemen, was, that this measure was being urged upon the Parliament and people of this country with undue haste, and from the language of some honorable gentlemen it was quite clear that they did not think that our situation was by any means such a critical one as to call for any immediate change. For his own part, he did not understand how any one could look abroad at what was passing on our borders and not take into consideration the fact that our communication […]
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[…] with the sea-board during the winter was I about to be cut off—that our trade and commerce with the United States was hampered by the most vexatious and needless restrictions—and that, furthermore, measures of a military and naval character having special reference to our frontier relations, had found favor and countenance with the Government and people of the United States. Looking at all these things, he could not conceive how any Canadian could feel that this was a time for his country to remain in her present comparatively weak and isolated condition, when an opportunity was offered of acquiring that Strength which union with the sister provinces could alone give us.
It might be that there were some honorable gentlemen who did not view the question, so far as regarded our relations with the United States, in the same light that he did. Now, from whatever point of view he looked at the question of Confederation, he was equally convinced of the extreme desirableness of an early settlement of the question. He would be very unwilling to follow the example of some honorable gentlemen in decrying the resources or underrating the position of Canada; but he was bound to say, that while he freely admitted and heartily acknowledged the many sources of material wealth and prosperity which Canada possessed, in her fertile soil, her rich minerals, her noble system of canals and railways, he nevertheless could not shut his eyes to the fact that our trade and revenue, our commercial and agricultural interests, had been so injuriously affected by the state of things on the other side of the lakes, that unless we could find new avenues for our commerce, new markets for our produce, we must inevitably suffer a most serious check to our prosperity and well-doing. In this Confederation scheme he believed that a golden opportunity was offered to us of remedying the evils under which we were now suffering, and of opening out a new and prosperous career for this country, if we would avail ourselves of it. He believed that it might be said of nations as of individuals:—
There is a tide in the affairs of man
Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune;
Omitted, all the voyage of their life is spent
In shallows and miseries.
On such a full sea are we now afloat.
And we must take the current as it flows,
Or lose our venture.
He would urge then upon the House, not to allow the opportunity to pass—even should it be at the sacrifice of individual opinions—of forming a strong, powerful and prosperous Confederation, and thus ensure for ourselves, and our children’s children, a national existence as British North Americans, which may endure for many ages to come. (Cheers.)
Hon. Mr. Sanborn said he rose for the purpose of moving the resolution of which he had given notice, and would take the opportunity of offering some observations on the general subject. In his opinion it could not be injured by discussion, and whatever might be its merits or demerits after going through the crucible, the residuum must be better than the present condition of the subject, both as regarded the legislature and the country. On a former occasion he had expressed himself as not averse to the question, but as inclined, from various considerations, to view Confederation favorably; and acting in the same sense he would now state certain points, which, in his opinion, must lead to the conclusion that such a union would advance the prosperity of the colonies interested, and their ultimate establishment as a nation. The principle of association, as exhibited in commercial partnerships and corporations, continued a secret of prosperity, the precise nature of which it might be difficult to elucidate and account for, but which no one could fail to recognize, and so far as it applied to nations its potency was sufficiently established to show that the analogy was presumed and that it was as operative as in partnerships and corporations.
He was also prepared to admit that diversity of interests was no sufficient argument against union,—(hear)—since in this very particular might frequently be found the strongest bond of union. As in electricity, opposite poles attracted each other, so among nations a diversity of interests which might a priori be pronounced a bar, was not infrequently the most effectual means of harmony, and thus a diversity of feeling which brought out talent, might lead to a comparison of opinions which would induce an enlarged policy calculated to elevate and not to depress national energies. He was prepared to admit that Confederation would enlarge the minds of all, and make us better to understand our resources and capabilities. It would make us more enquiring, and teach us so to use our industrial power as to secure the best results. (Hear, hear.)
He was prepared to admit that the results of the union between Upper and Lower Canada had been beneficial to both, and he argued that union with the other provinces, inhabited by a people educated under different circumstances and of different origins, could hardly […]
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[…] be without mutual advantage. It would give the inhabitants of each province the opportunity of studying each other’s habits and pursuits, and so induce larger and more comprehensive views. He was prepared to admit that the assimilation of tariffs would be an advantage of no little moment, and that it would do away with much chafing in working the machinery of the government. He also admitted the advantage of having ocean seaports of our own, though he was not prepared to attach so much importance to that as some other honorable members. We were told that no inland country could ever be great, and that so long as we had no opening to the sea we could not expect permanent prosperity. He was quite prepared to say that access to the ocean through the ports of St. John, N.B., and Halifax, was very desirable, but he was not at all certain that the grand effects proclaimed would be realized. It was no doubt very desirable to secure all these advantages, but the measure contained some provisions which, if carried out, would, as he believed, be highly injurious to both the general and local governments. Then he must say he had a strong distrust of it on account of the manner in which it was originated.
It was not in accordance with the analogy of things or with the lessons taught us by the history of the world, that a few gentlemen, however wise and well-intentioned, but self-elected, should meet together to form a constitution and erect a new nationality. If we looked to the United States (the history of whose Constitution he would presently allude to, and whose Constitution had been more closely followed in that now under consideration than the British Constitution) we would see how patiently they had proceeded to construct it. [Here the honorable member gave a history of the first instrument of federation, established for mutual convenience and support, though not for national union, which occupied from the 7th October to the 15th November, 1777, in the discussing. He then said that this arrangement, not being found to answer the requirements of the States concerned, in September, 1787, they commenced deliberating upon the adoption of a Constitution, which, after being arranged, was for two years before the individual states and the people, being only ratified in October, 1789.]
This showed how careful and particular they had been in this important matter, and a distinguished member of the other branch of our legislature had said, only a few evenings ago, that the greatest statesmen who ever lived had been engaged in the work. From the length of the discussions, and the time given to the people to study and understand the measure, it was seen how anxious they were that it should be made perfectly satisfactory to them. But what was it that gave rise to the desire for federation first in the States? They were poor and comparatively helpless. They had-just come out of an exhaustive war with Great Britain, and the duty fell upon them of organizing a government for a broad expanse of country, containing but two and a half or three million souls. This it was that led to the first attempt at federation, and afterwards to a closer union under the constitution of 1789. How was it with us? It was alleged that we had been led step by step, according to the strictest method of induction, to the necessity for the measure now proposed; that without it there must have been an irremediable dead-lock between the parties in the legislature, which would have rendered further progress impossible. But what was the real impediment? Want of patriotism—not the want of a good Constitution. If there had been less virulence of party spirit, and a better disposition to accommodate matters, there would have been no dead-lock. (Hear, hear.)
Hon. Mr. Ross hoped the honorable member felt this.
Hon. Mr. Sanborn—If the leading men had felt as they ought to have felt, there would have been no dead-lock, for it existed more in name than in reality. There was no cause for saying that no government could be formed which could command a good majority. And what had the difficulties arisen from? From a persistent agitation for representation according to population, in consequence of which the people had at last come to believe that it was a fundamental axiom in government. (Hear, hear.) But did it follow that because there were difficulties that they could not be arranged without recourse to such a measure as this, and was it certain even that Confederation would remove them?
Instead of meeting the difficulties, the Government had travelled away from them and formed an agreement with provinces in which they had no existence, without devising means to relieve themselves. Federation was forthwith produced, like Minerva from the head of Jupiter, fully armed; and we were told it was just what we wanted to make all things right. We were told we must take it as presented, without any possible change; we must lay aside our character as a deliberative body, and without considering the country (which had been studiously kept in ignorance of the scheme) vote to accept or […]
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[…] reject it. It was true that soon after the resolutions had been agreed upon, copies had been sent to the members of both Houses confidentially, but the people must be kept in the dark. If the members had acted up to the implied requirement of secrecy, and not divulged the provisions of the scheme, the people were to this day ignorant of its character, and it could not be said that it was ever constitutionally submitted to the country. Then we were told that, as elective members and as patriots, it was our duty to accept the measure as it was, even though portions of it might not be satisfactory, rather than lose it altogether. It had been generally represented by the local newspapers in Upper Canada—fed to do so—that it was commonly approved; but while the simple idea of union might find favor, as he believed it did, it was not less true that the country was waiting for the details, of which they would judge when they had been discussed in Parliament.
When this had been done, and the bearing of the manifold particulars was thoroughly understood it was expected, at least among the English of Lower Canada, that it would not be passed until after having been submitted to the people. If it were passed through without such an appeal, he had no hesitation in saying that the Government would assume a very serious responsibility, and if, in after times, the union should prove disastrous, it would bring upon them imprecations instead of blessings. And he was under the impression that the Government, whenever they had given their views on the subject, had never said it would not be so presented, but no doubt their utterances were very much like those of the Delphic oracle, susceptible of being understood in two opposite ways. But what could such an indisposition to speak clearly indicate, if not a purpose to press the matter on to a result, even though the people might not want it. Under this measure the elective members would have a right to vote themselves, two out of three at least, as members for life.
Now it had been found necessary to enact a law to ensure the independence of Parliament, and for the purpose of removing all temptation to swerve from the right, they were precluded from occupying even the small offices of postmasters in the remotest parts of the country, or acting as security for such officers. For every day that a member occupied a seat in either House unlawfully, he was subject to the extreme penalty of £500, and if this strictness had been found necessary, was not the spirit of the law violated when this House was invited to pass a measure by which the members of the Legislative Council of the Confederation would be appointed for life, and selected from the members of the present Legislative Council—even allowing that all the Crown nominated members were to be first chosen, as the Honorable Commissioner of Crown Lands [Hon. Mr. Campbell] had left us to infer from his remarks.
Hon. Mr. Campbell said he had stated nothing of the kind, and the honorable member had no foundation whatever for his assertion. He (Hon. Mr. Campbell) had used no such language, but had expressly stated that due consideration would be given to members of both sides of politics, and to life and elective members equally.
Hon. Mr. Sanborn said he had reason to suppose that what he had stated was a fair inference from what the Honorable Commissioner of Crown Lands [Hon. Mr. Campbell] said.
Hon. Mr. Campbell—The honorable member could not have been in the House when the statement was made, or how could he draw that conclusion?
Hon. Mr. Sanborn said he was ready to accept the explanation, as it would not affect his argument. And supposing all the members nominated by the Crown were appointed, he would say it was but just; nay, it would be unjust to deprive them of seats which had been given them for life. The Honorable Commissioner of Crown Lands [Hon. Mr. Campbell] would thus see that he (Hon. Mr. Sanborn) had attributed only such opinions to him as he himself conscientiously held to be right. Assuming then that the Crown members would retain their seats, there was a direct temptation presented to at least two out of three of the elective members. This, he thought, exhibited the project in a very damaging light. Such a measure was calculated to bias the judgment, and ought not to be presented to any legislative body. He held that elective members had received a sacred trust to exercise; that they were sent here by their constituencies to represent them, and to do that only. Under these circumstances he would ask, whether they could conceive they had the power to vote away the rights of their electors? That was not in their mandate, and if they did, they would be doing what they had no authority to do; they would be doing what they could not do without going beyond the authority confided to them. Coming to the principle of elective legislative councils itself, he might say it had already been adopted in four British colonies besides Canada. Canada, though the largest of these, was not the first to adopt it […]
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[…] though it might claim to be foremost in establishing precedents—especially as with the addition of the Lower Provinces we are told we shall be the third largest nation in the world—(hear, hear, and laughter)—since for a long series of years the demand had been made by the people. They persisted against many discouragements, and the reform constituted one of the famous ninety-two resolutions of the constitutional party in Lower Canada, until with other reforms it was at last conceded and consummated. When the subject was under discussion, objections were made and fears expressed that there might be a feeling among the members, who came from the people, to claim the right to originate money bills, and that an antagonism would thus arise between the two branches, but no such conflict of opinion had ever happened, and the Constitution had worked as heretofore. The infusion of the elective element was made gradually with the view of anticipating such a result, and the effect was attained, for there had been no clashing of interests.
The elective principle had been applied to the Legislative Council of Prince Edward Island, and he would ask, how, under the 14th resolution of the Confederation, that body was to be dealt with? He would read that part of the resolution to which he referred—“The first selection of the members of the Legislative Council to be made from the Legislative Councils of the various provinces, except as regards Prince Edward Island,” &c. What did this mean? Were the members from Prince Edward Island still to be elected?
Hon. Mr. Campbell—No; they were to be appointed. The resolution was so worded as not to limit the selection in Prince Edward Island to the Legislative Council now in existence there.
Hon. Mr. Sanborn—Was it because the elective principle had worked so badly in Canada that this change is proposed?
Hon. Mr. Campbell—No; and therefore in Canada the selection was to be made from the House itself.
Hon. Mr. Sanborn—It appeared then, that Prince Edward Island, dissatisfied with the elective principle, had dictated terms, and Canada had yielded to the dictation.
Hon. Mr. Campbell—The Conference had yielded to Prince Edward Island only in respect of its own members. They were so dissatisfied with their Legislative Council that, with reference to themselves, a choice from the people at large was permitted, but this had no reference whatever to Canada.
Hon. Mr. Sanborn—Suppose the elective members should be swept off, what became of the people’s right of representation by men of their own choice?
Hon. Mr. Campbell—No such thing was intended.
Hon. Mr. Sanborn said he had only put the case hypothetically, but had been glad to learn the reasons which had led the delegates to resolve upon the abandonment of the elective principle in respect of the Legislative Council. Canada, however, did not deserve to be used in this way. He would now ask whether the representatives of Canada in the Conference had any warrant from the country to justify their action? They had none whatever. If they had not acted under the dictation of Prince Edward Island, they had acted on their own motion, and without authority of any kind. The conclusion was legitimate and logical.
The position they had assumed was exceptional and distasteful. Coming to the proposal to amend the resolutions, he would say there existed no reason why the House, if it thought proper, could not change them in any particular. He willingly admitted that they were in the nature of a treaty, and we must accept them, if accepted at all, so that their essential character should not be impaired; but when they were presented to us, we were bound to decide whether they were what we wanted or not. If they were so in the main, there was no necessity for taking exceptions which would affect our relations with the other provinces, but they might be modified and changed in so far as Canada was concerned, and the other provinces would have no cause of complaint. What interest had they in the manner of our choosing our own representatives? All they had a right to say in the matter was that we should not have more than two-thirds of the whole number.
There was a way of putting things so as to frighten and convince wavering minds; but he would ask the House to sift this matter to the bottom—to look at the reason of things—and to say if his amendment were adopted, which maintained intact the principle of representation laid down in the resolutions—only retaining the mode of choosing the members—the modification could lead to harm or to anything else than what had already been declared, viz., that the Imperial Parliament might take the scheme with the amendment under consideration, and act upon said amendment. Mr. Cardwell had […]
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[…] already remarked upon that very point, and if it were changed, would it not be to retain the elective principle? If the Imperial Parliament may do so, may we not ask them to do it? May we not record our views? And would they, upon a measure of such vast moment and pregnant with such results, proceed to adopt a principle unless they knew its operation to be beneficial? Turning to his proposed amendment, the honorable member said that if it were adopted, the principle of federal representation in the resolutions would be retained; the same members would be retained (in Canada at least); and to render the proportion of the Lower Provinces relatively equal, he would allow them to name ten life members. Were we to be told that such a form would be incongruous, and be deterred from considering the proposition? Then we should be reflecting upon ourselves. He and other honorable members sat under a mandate from the people, while other honorable members sat under a patent from the Crown.
It would be a reflection both on our past and present condition. There were the same reasons now for adopting such a form as there were when the elective principle was adopted. It was a domestic matter, and should be left to domestic arrangement. Each province had its own peculiar interests, and should be left to the exercise of its judgment in the management of them. If subsequently a change were desired, it could be granted. He maintained that his views were correct and logical, and he was at a loss to see the incongruity with which they were charged. He could not discover any sufficient cause for the proposed change, and as the people had not asked for it, and as Canada formed a large majority of the whole, it ought not to have been granted without reference to their opinions. Representation according to population was now looked upon as a cardinal principle, but it certainly was not observed in dealing with this important question.
“We were told the vote was taken by provinces, not by numbers, still the Lower Provinces had the majority of representatives, though they represented but a minority of the people. Then it was said our delegates were leading men and men of talent, which he was quite prepared to allow, yet they did not compose all the talent or statesmanship of Canada. In this way the one third of the populations interested had given the law to the other two-thirds. We were told again that the Constitution emanating from the Conference was desirable because it was modelled on the British Constitution. The British Constitution was unmatched in the world, and was not susceptible of imitation. It had grown by the accretions of ages, by the independence of the people, and by their undying love of justice and fair play. (Hear, hear.) It had been produced by the strictest inductive method, and stood unrivalled as a monument of the greatest human wisdom. Except in remote future times, it could not be imitated—(hear)—and he did not urge this difference as a demerit, for it was in the nature of things that it should exist.
It had reference to different kinds of people—to people of different genius, and to people of new countries and altered circumstances; but though an able theoretical composition, it might fail to produce the anticipated results. It was not a copy of that horror of our Constitution-makers—the Constitution of the United States—but he would show that the delegates had borrowed more largely from that Constitution than from any other, though to be sure, in some aspects, it differed very much from it, as in the provision which gives to members of the Upper House their seats for life. The resolutions provided that an equal representation should be given to the three sections of the Confederation as having separate interests, while in the Lower House the representation was to be according to population.
Both these provisions were copied from the American Constitution. The life membership was supposed to be in conformity with the British Constitution, but the limitation of the number of members was a violation of it. The limitation of the power of the federal, and the power of the local governments, was the old story of federal and state rights—in fact, the bone of contention which had led to the present unhappy war; an apple of discord which our posterity might gather in fruits of the most bitter character. There was another branch of the subject he would fail in his duty if he did not touch upon, and that was the situation in which the English of Lower Canada would be placed.
The Honorable Premier had remarked at some length upon the disposition to toleration and the indulgent spirit evinced by his people in past times, and he (Hon. Mr. Sanborn) was not prepared to detract from this. He would freely and fully concede the point. He had always lived in the midst of a mixed population, and his division was more French than English, and it would ill become him to cast reflections on their liberality and desire for fair play or justice to others. But this was the time, when treating of important arrangements […]
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[…] for the future, to lay aside all unnecessary delicacy, and by our action to lay down the guarantees for the perpetuation of these kind feelings and this spirit of toleration so long-existing, and which he devoutly hoped would never cease. No greater calamity could befall the English, or, in fact, both races, than the introduction of religious discord among the people of Lower Canada. (Hear, hear.) It would, however, be a grievous mistake to overlook the safeguards and rules necessary to perpetuate kindly feelings, and to prevent the disposition to aggressions which existed more or less in all minds. That principle—the love of power—was found in every human heart, none were exempt from it, and the history of the world showed that no people had ever risen superior to it. The Honorable Premier had recognized this truth in the remarks he had made in regard of the difficulties between Upper and Lower Canada.
The French Canadians had persistently refused the demands of Upper Canada for representation by population, because of the terror they felt that, if granted, their institutions would be in danger; and he had told the French members in the House that under the new Constitution their rights were so effectually guarded that their autonomy was fully secured—the safeguards thereof being put in their own hands. But, at the same time, the English, who were a fourth of the population, and who, by habit and tradition, had their own views of public policy, were left entirely without guarantee other than the good feelings and tolerant spirit of the French. Was this safe?
The only safeguard they were to have was in regard of education, but in regard of the rights of property they were to be left to the Legislature. And this brought him to the consideration of that part of the proposed Constitution which had reference to civil rights and rights of property. It was said that the civil laws of Lower Canada were now consolidated into a code, and this would enhance our credit; and if based upon sound principles and rendered permanent, it would undoubtedly do so, for what is so conducive to the prosperity of a country as well-protected rights of property and vested interests? This feature was deeply engrained in the British mind, and in that of the United States also, insomuch that the American Constitution provides that no law could be passed which would affect the rights of property. This was exemplified in the celebrated Dartmouth College case, in which Webster so distinguished himself, when the endowment was maintained and perpetuated. But to what power were the rights of property committed in these resolutions?
When the Minister of Finance [Hon. Mr. Galt] appealed to moneyed men abroad for a loan, could he say the Constitution had provided guarantees against injurious changes, when it was known that the laws relating to property were left to the caprice of the local governments? Where was the security of the great religious societies of Montreal, if a sentiment hostile to monopolies were carried to extremes in the Local Parliament?
Hon. Sir. E.P. Taché—The General Legislature had power to disallow such acts.
Hon. Mr. Currie—This would be an interference with local rights.
Hon. Mr. Ross—It would preserve local rights.
Hon. Mr. Sanborn—It was a wise power and commended itself to all; it was, however, not an ordinary power to be commonly resorted to, but an extreme power, and one almost revolutionary. It was a power somewhat similar to that which existed in the second branch of the Legislature to stop the supplies, but in its very nature not one often to be exercised; and it could not be frequently exercised without destroying the very foundations of society, and occasioning evils of the greatest magnitude. On the whole he conceived that entrusting such power to the local governments was illogical and dangerous, and informing the world that the rights of property were not made sure. It was urged by some that, to make the measure now before the House answer the ends proposed, it must be immediately adopted, but he did not participate in this opinion.
He knew no reason for this haste, and could not believe that a few months would make any material difference. This union, when formed, was to strengthen us so marvellously that we would be able to intimidate all the rest of the world, and guarantee us a lasting peace with all mankind. It might increase facilities for communication, but could not increase our real strength. How the people of New Brunswick could be expected to come up to Canada to defend us, and leave their own frontier unprotected, he could not comprehend. If he had misinterpreted the statements or explanations on this point, let the ministers show how this greater strength was to be acquired. There would be three or four provinces more united together, but the frontier to be defended would be increased in greater proportion than the additional number of men acquired. It was said by the advocates of the scheme that the naval power of […]
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[…] Great Britain would defend St. John, for instance, and leave scope for the volunteers to defend the frontiers; but the Intercolonial Railway, running as it would along the frontier, would be constantly subject to assaults, and would require all the force which could be spared for that purpose. Lower Canada would continue to be assailable from Maine and Vermont, and Upper Canada from the state of New York. Under these circumstances, each section of the Confederation would have enough to do to attend to its own affairs. We were told to love our neighbours as ourselves, but he was not aware that we were enjoined to love them better. (Hear.) We were not told what appropriations were to be made for defence, indeed pains had been taken to conceal that, and Hon. Mr. Tilley said that the matter was not debated or determined.
The province had already incurred an expense of $400,000 for the simple purpose of sending a few companies of volunteers to our frontier, and if there were no guarantee in the scheme of union—and he did not see any—for increasing our strength, where was the use of haste? Were we not as safe now as we would be then? The Honorable Premier had stated we were on an inclined plane, and he (Hon. Mr. Sanborn) supposed that like Holland we must dyke ourselves up, lest we slide away into the sea of the great American Confederacy. (Laughter.) Whether we were liable to be hurled thither by an avalanche or gradually glide down, we could not prevent our going there except by Confederation, but Confederation would stop us, and that was something to be thankful for. His own impression was that our position would have been more improved by an agreement with Upper Canada than by the new nationality. Canada had had difficulties with the United States, but they had never exhibited a spirit of aggression towards us, except in times of war, which had arisen from issues between Great Britain and the United States, and he did not believe they entertained such purposes now any more than in former times. If we desired to have a Constitution which would afford good hope of permanency, it must be planted deep in the affections of the people—(hear, hear)—for until their intellects were convinced of its excellence, they would not be prepared to uphold it and resist innovations. But they must feel and comprehend the obligation. (Hear.)
To render it secure, it must be in the hearts of the people. Why was it that the English had always resisted attempts upon their Constitution? Because every link of the great chain had been conquered by resistance to oppression, and by sacrifices of blood—(hear, hear)—by resistance to royal exactions and assumptions—(hear, hear)—and these achievements were preserved, held dear understood, valued, and clung to with all the tenacity of that great people’s nature. (Hear, hear.) This was the reason why it rested upon such a solid foundation, why it had endured so long, and was likely to endure for ever. (Hear, hear.)
The Constitution asked for was to be built on a flimsy foundation, consisting of certain ideas in the minds of a few men, who no doubt wished well to their country; but that Constitution was new after all, and they could not, in the small space of time they had given to the project, view the whole subject in all its bearings and aspects, as it was desirable they should. The honorable member closed his remarks by reiterating his opinion that an appeal on the subject was due to the people whose voice had not been heard upon it. The acquiescence spoken of was rather the patient awaiting of the details which were sure to be challenged, and the testimony of a subsidized press was not to be taken in evidence of its general acceptance. He was not prepared for one to take or reject the measure as presented. He believed the people would not approve of such a course, and, even were it infinitely better than it was, he would not take the responsibility of voting for it unless after it had been submitted to the country. (Hear, hear.)
He would now move his amendment, which was as follows:
That the following words be added to the resolution now under consideration, as an amendment, by submitting for the eighth resolution the following:—
Upper Canada to be represented in the Legislative Council by twenty-four elective members, and Lower Canada by twenty-four elective members, and the Maritime Provinces by twenty-four members, corresponding with the twenty-four elective members in each section of Canada, of which Nova Scotia shall have ten, New Brunswick ten, and Prince Edward Island shall have four, and the present members of the Legislative Council of Canada, as well life members as eflective members, shall be members of the first Legislative Council of the Federal Parliament—the appointed members to remain for life, and the elective members for eight years from the date of their election, unless removed by death or other cause; their successors to be elected by the same divisions and electors as have elected them; and it shall be permitted to the Maritime Provinces to appoint ten additional members for life, four for New Brunswick, four for Nova Scotia, and two for Prince Edward Island, to correspond with the […]
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[…] present life members from Canada, and that after the first appointment of members in the Maritime Provinces, no new appointment shall be made, except to supply the vacancies by death or otherwise in the twenty-four members appointed to correspond with the elective members from the two sections of Canada.
And that in the eleventh section, after the word “Council,” in the first line, the following words be added: “in the Maritime Provinces.”
And that section fourteen be struck out.
Seconded by Hon. Mr. Bureau.
Hon. Mr. Macpherson briefly addressed the House in opposition to the amendment until the hour of adjournment, six o’clock, arrived. His remarks will be found recapitulated in the commencement of his speech on Friday.
At six o’clock the debate was adjourned, Hon. Mr. Macpherson having the floor.