“Correspondence of the ‘Globe,'” The Globe (21 August 1852)
By: The Globe
Citation: “Correspondence of the ‘Globe,'” The Globe (26 August 1852).
Correspondence of the “Globe.”
QUEBEC, August 21st, 1852.
The Royal Speech is just such a document as might have been expected from the present Government. Composed of elements so diversified, and representing political sections so discordant, it is matter of wonder that Ministers found so many points on which they could all agree to speak harmoniously. Truly they have made the best of their position; and were their troubles to be ended by rounding off the sharp corners in kings’ speeches, the present cabinet might anticipate a long period of fair weather. What a display they make, to be sure! Great prosperity—Rising Securities—Post Office flourishing—Clergy Reserves—Reformed Representation—Registration—Amendment of Suffrage—Feudal Tenure—Railways, Steamboats, Agriculture, Immigration, &c. &c., Read the document cursorily, and you would think the whole troubles of the Province were to be swept away in a single session; analyse it carefully, and Upper Canada Reformers will change their minds. Let us glance at the sever features of the speech.
It is very satisfactory that the finances of the Post Office Department show results so satisfactory, notwithstanding the greatly increased facilities afforded to the public. The ability and energy with which Mr. Merrie has conducted the department since it passed under Provincial control, must be admitted by all unprejudiced persons; and the “fourth estate” have especial cause to acknowledge the liberality of his policy. But what is proposed for the future? Is the postage to remain as it is, or, having successfully tested the practicability of the cheap system, shall we have further reductions? With the receipts of the department soon likely to balance the expenditure, cannot the public revenue be pledged to cover any loss from a reduction of letter postage to two pence, or even to one penny?
The fire at Montreal is deeply to be regretted, and the personal sufferings of the unfortunate individuals who lost the necessaries of life by the devastation, must evoke the deep sympathy of all. It is fit and proper that the Legislature should be ready to aid in relieving liberally such personal distress. But if the allusion in the Speech points at a grant of the public money to build up the houses which have been destroyed, it is questionable whether the Government do not overstep discretion. It is said that the Ministry have offered £200,000 of the public money for thirty years to aid the owners of burnt houses in re-erecting their property. Why should the property-holders who have suffered by this fire have a greater claim to public assistance than the suffers by any other fire? Is it because of its extent? Certainly not; for though the number of sufferers has been larger, the separate cases of individual hardship are not more grievous than in fires occurring over the Province daily. If the public purse aids the sufferers by large fires, on no principle of equity can the same aid be refused in lighter cases? Do the Government, then, mean to establish the rule that all who have houses burnt by fire may have public money for thirty years to rebuild them? How many conflagrations have there been in Upper Canada,—Toronto, Kingston, London—carrying ruin to hundreds; but who thought of asking public assistance? Energy and perseverance armed the sufferers, and by private exertion the burnt districts were soon rebuilt in better style than ever. It is for Lower Canada alone that these aids are reserved. Quebec got one hundred thousand pounds, and now Montreal is to have two hundred thousand. When is it to stop? We doubt much the soundness of the political economy which favours these loans. If the Government is to build up burnt houses, it will by and by be urged to find employment for artisan out of work. It has the tendency moreover to make men lean too much on the Government and too little on themselves; and it provides a standing dish of political capital in the suggestion that the debt should be partially or wholly given up by Government.
The Speech is very guarded on the subject of the Railway scheme—quite subdued in tone. The Ministry have found out their grievous mistakes in this matter, or we are much mistaken. Not a word is said as the failure of the grand trunk line—not a word as to the embassy to the Court of St. James’—not a whisper as to the ambassador’s explosion with Sir John Pakington. There is much mystery thrown around Mr. Hincks’s bargain with Messrs. Jackson, Peto and Co. The document has not as yet been published, and is looked for with much interest. Persons do not hesitate to say that Mr. Hincks had closed the agreement before his explosion with the Colonial Minister—that if the Parliament and the Railway Companies should ratify that agreement, Messrs. Jackson and Co. will pocket nearly a million of dollars by the operation—and that Mr. Hincks is intensely anxious that they should do so. It is whispered that one at least of the Companies proposed to be favoured by the arrangement, has declined the terms, and in giving out their contracts refuse to place Messrs. Jackson & Co. on a different footing from Canadian contractors. The Richmond and Quebec Company has, however, snapped at the offer, and the engineers of the English firm are already on the ground. The terms they submitted to are said to be most exorbitant—but this is only rumour. The secrecy preserved as to the conditions of the contract, however, is not a little remarkable.
The next clause of the Speech makes mysterious allusion to some mode of enhancing the value of County debentures. Doubtless the intention is to make this class of securities a foundation for banking purposes. The general banking law of 1850 has been a dead letter in consequence of the difficulty in procuring Provincial debentures—the only securities now recognized under the Act. There is an urgent necessity for an increase of the banking capital of the country, and doubtless some arrangement by which a certain amount of county debentures could be deposited as security for the issue of bank notes, would at once supply the deficiency. Two persons are now prepared to take fifty thousand pounds each of county debentures, were the provisions of the Banking Bill extended to their securities. The arrangement will, however, require to be perfected with great care. The total issue of debentures by any county should be limited, and notes should be given only for a per centage less than the face of the debentures. We presume this clause of the Speech will cause an immediate advance in the price of county debentures—those having such for sale may rest assured that should a bill such as we have spoken of pass the Legislature, county debentures will go up to a premium forthwith.
The Speech next proceeds to the ocean steamboat scheme—but gives no particulars, and no one seems to know anything about it. We must wait with patience further information.
The promise of a Representation Bill is refreshing—though the same promise has been made to us three times already, and three times ended in nothing. The bill must be carried by two-thirds of both Houses, and there is little or no hope of obtaining such a majority for any truly liberal measure. We hope the Ministry will not be content with making a mere show of carrying it, as they did before—but will insist on a change of the Union Act, and failing that, will disfranchise the little burghs and re-adjust the constituencies. This clause may mean nothing, or it may point at one of the most urgently-needed reforms demanded by the country. And what is to be the principle of the bill?—electoral districts according to population without regard to the division of the Province? We fear not. That would, indeed, be a measure to cover a multitude of sins. By the way, it will be envious to notice how the Clear-Grits will act, should the Representation Bill of the present Ministry proceed on the same principle as the bill of the late Ministry which they so loudly denounced.
The puff about “the interests of agriculture” is a flourish of trumpets to cover the Bureau business—and nothing more.
The notice as to the Feudal Tenure is wonderfully “delicate” for a Radical Ministry speaking of one of the most cruel systems that ever cursed a country. However, if they act firmly, we may forgive their giving smooth words to the Seigneurs.
The less said about the Asylum affair the better—it was a bad business from beginning to end, and this attempt to place the error on the law and remove it from the shoulders of the Executive, will not answer. No one but the Inspector General would have thought of getting out of a scrape, on such a subject, by sticking it into a King’s speech. Why were not the Tug-boats stuck into it too?
And this is all.
What,—all? Is there nothing about retrenchment? Nothing about Law Reform? Nothing about an elective Legislative Council? Are there to be no elective county officials—no ballot—no restriction of pensions—no nothing for the Clear Grits? Alas, no.
But what of the Clergy Reserves, and the Rectories, the Sectarian Schools, and the Sectarian Money Grants, and the mammoth ecclesiastical Corporations? These are all summed up in this one short sentence:—
“I shall lay before you a Despatch which I have received from the Principal Secretary of State for the Colonies, communicating the views of Her Majesty’s Imperial Government in reference to the Clergy Reserves, and stating the grounds on which Her Majesty’s Ministers refrained from introducing a measure into the Imperial Parliament, during its last Session, for the repeal of the Imperial Statute on this subject.”
What! nothing but this? no promise of action upon any of the ecclesiastical questions of Upper Canada? no promise of a Bill to give the Reserves to education—nothing but a promise that a despatch from Ex-Secretary Grey will be laid upon the table!
Be patient, gentle Radical! Rome was not built in a day, and the Reserve question cannot be settled in a moment. There is to be no Bill on the Reserve question—no Bill on the Rectory question—no serious action on any one of the subjects the Upper Canada Reformers have most at heart. But there is to be an address sent to Sir John Pakington. This will give the whole matter a shove for two or three sessions—it will not touch the point as to the appropriation of the Reserves—it will only ask for a transference of the power over them—no division will arise in the Cabinet on this, and the Ministers will keep their offices. A Bill with a suspending clause would bring up at once the whole question of future appropriation, and reveal the precise condition of the wigwam.
The hour has now arrived for ascertaining the grounds on which the present Government was formed. On 30th October, 1851, just before the general election, the Globe made the following explicit statement:—
“We aver that it is understood between Dr. Rolph, Mr. Hincks, and Mr. Cameron,
“—That the Reserve question remains untouched until the Imperial Parliament legislates upon it.
“—That the Rectory question is to be left to the decision of the Law Courts.
“—That the Sectarian Clauses are not to be removed from the School Act.
“These three things we know, and we defy the American to deny them.”—Globe, 30th Oct. 1851.
For this statement the Globe was denounced with great bitterness by the Ministerial press, and, among others, the Examiner replied as follows: “The Globe of Saturday last states [as above].
“We give the assertion, on the best of authority, a most emphatic denial; no such terms of understanding were made between the parties named by the Globe; the charge is purely a fabrication for a most nefarious purposes.”—Examiner, 5th Nov. 1851.
So said the Examiner—we doubt not, under the full impression of its truth—and so said a dozen of other organs. We are fast discovering who spoke the truth.
After all the declarations of the Ministerial press, the election addresses, the Convention platforms, the oral and written pledges to the contrary—can it be possible that the Ministry will be allowed to snuff out the Reserve question with an Address, and pass over the Rectory, School, and Corporation questions with contemptuous silence? We shall see.