Debates of the British American League Convention (27-30 July 1849)
Date: 1849-07-27 – 1849-07-30
By: British American League, The Globe
Citation: “Debates in the League Convention,”The Globe (2 August 1849).
Debates in the League Convention
Friday, July 27
Mr. GOWAN submitted a resolution in favour of the formation of a central Association, with local branches.
Mr. VANKOUGHNETT (Toronto) seconded the motion. He thought that all history and experience teaches that “union is strength.” And that there must be organization in order to effect any great object or purpose. [Cheers.] Only look to the history of those as a party, whose acts the convention was called together to condemn; they might learn from them by taking a leaf out of their book, that organization was the most effectual means of working out any purpose, whether good or bad. He believed that the party who had elevated to power the men whose acts they so justly condemned, were more indebted for that success to organization than to their numbers in the country. [Cheers.] He was proud and happy to believe it was so, and if he had no other argument to urge in favour of organization, this would be amply sufficient, because if by organization their opponents had been, with a minority of the people, able to subject their opponents and place them under their feet, it was surely high time that they (the Conservatives) should adopt the same course, to rid themselves of the subjection which organization had placed them under. The Government had attempted to stifle and put down their opponents as a political party, and to destroy their rights and liberties as free-men, and all that remained for them therefore was to organize in a constitutional manner, for the purpose of ridding the country of the present tyrannical government; our rights as Britons, as Englishmen, as members of the great Anglo-Saxon family—those rights which our forefathers have exercised for ages past they could exercise still, and it was proposed by this resolution that they should do so. [Hear, hear.] He conceived that one of the great objects of the Convention was to give birth to a system of organization throughout the country. The great object of the Convention was to turn out of power any party who, like the present, held office for party purposes, to trample on their political opponents, under the pretence of liberalism and a love of civil and religious liberty. [Hear, hear.] In doing this he did not mean to say that he was advocating the interests of a party; he did not propose an organization for the purpose of reviving the Conservative party, but merely for the purpose of throwing out the ministry who now hold the reigns of office,—and whether that was to be done by reviving the old Conservative party or by forming a new party under a different name, made no difference to him, so long as it succeeded in overthrowing the present corrupt and tyrannical government. He held that some such organization was absolutely necessary, and he hoped, therefore, the resolution would be unanimously adopted.
MR. CHAS. BOCKUS understood that the next resolution would be one for the impeachment of Lord Elgin, and he could not understand the course of the Convention; at one moment they called upon men of British origin of all parties to join them, and the next they attacked the very measures which the Reformers supported. He extremely regretted to see the introduction of party politics; he had hoped that their object would have been to endeavour to promote the commercial and social prosperity of the country, and not to see party [illegible] of the Convention and their acts be at least consistent. He came not there to support either party. Conservative as he was, he believed the Province had suffered more from party bickerings than anything else, and he had thought they were [illegible] together there to devise measures to relieve the depression under which they were suffering, but as yet they had done nothing. He did not understand the confused manner in which they were proceeding. They [illegible] upon to pledge themselves to a certain scheme of organization for the whole country, and at the next moment they were told that they were not a party, that they were assembled there for the general good of the country. Let them then take into consideration the real good of the country and the causes of the depression; he should like to hear how politics affected the present position of the country. Unless they could make the people here as prosperous as their neighbours on the other side of the lines, they would never be satisfied with any party or organization. [Cheers.] If they had came there as a party they had never done the Conservative party a greater harm than they were doing it now. (Hear, hear.) He had no objection to local organization, but they would do a fatal injury to their party by the course they were now pursuing. He had seen as the first move of the League, an address calling upon all Anglo-Saxons to join them, but he had heard nothing in this Assembly that would not show that they belonged to but one political party; all their resolutions were most violently political. Whatever they might think of their Radical Administration, he did not think there was an individual present who would say that if there was an election now, the Conservatives could het a majority capable of carrying on the government. [Hear, hear.] They could not point to the places they could gain on the list of constituencies. (“Yes, yes.”) If we are to remain a poor, miserable despised country, let us know it early, let the League admit it at once. If we are to be told by every succeeding Government in England that we are nothing in their eyes, that we are at perfect liberty to go whenever it is our interest to do so, let us raise ourselves at once to the standard of a nation. [Cheers and disapprobation.] Let it not be supposed that nothing was to be said here but what would agree with their wanted feelings of loyalty, they must be prepared to forget that they were colonists and take a step for themselves. [Cheers, and disapprobation.]
Mr. VANKOUGHNETT explained that he did not mean to say they were there to advance the interest of the Conservative party, but to oppose the existing Administration. [Cheers.]
Mr. VANSITTART complained of Mr. Bockus’s remarks as having reference to a resolution which had not been submitted, and perhaps never would be submitted to the Convention. He denied that they had met together for party purposes; for one, he was desirous of seeing all parties abolished, and the general interests of this, his adopted country, advocated. The language of the last speaker was that of a man who desired to see us annexed to the neighbouring Republic. (Cheers.) To that view he was opposed [Cheers.] If he belonged to any party, it would be to a party which would repudiate such views. [Loud cheers.] He was a Canadian, and his sole desire was to see the interest of Canada promoted. (Cheers.)
Mr. BOCKUS said that before making his remarks he had asked Mr. Gowan if he intended to bring forward the motion, and had been answered in the affirmative.
After a few words from Mr. GOWAN, who admitted that the motion for the impeachment of Lord Elgin would have preceded this, but for the absence of the gentleman who was to second it, Mr. Stewart of Quebec,—
Mr. BROOKE (Hatley,) supported the motion; and declared himself to be there as a party man, to promote party objects.
Mr. MURNEY (Belleville,) likewise supported the motion Organization was necessary for the preservation of party. Under the present system of Responsible government there are but two parties, the party in power and the party out of power; there is no medium. He (Mr. Murney.) professed to belong to the partyout, and he was sent there by those who had confidence in him to promote the interests of his party. (Cheers.) They had come there as a part of the great Conservative party, and it would be treachery in them to turn their back on that party and establish a new one (Cheers.) He was proud to belong to the Conservative party, and he regretted that at a great Convention like this, gentlemen should get up and renounce party. [Cheers.] If they had organized two years ago, there would then have been no necessity for this Convention, they would have had their own friends at the head of the government. [Cheers.] They were there for party purposes, to express their indignation honestly and constitutionally against those who had oppressed them and triumphed over them in their might. The party of [illegible] wealth of the country with them, and they must ultimately triumph; all they needed was to make the exertion which this resolution pointed out.—[Cheers.]
Rev. James GREEN [Barnston,] was not there as a politician, for one part or the other; he came there as a Conservator of the country. The country was groaning under evils, which they all agreed must be remedied if possible. He was aware of the necessity and desirableness of organization; but he warned the delegates of the danger of making this a party affair, and dragging into it the party questions, which had been the cause of all their bickerings; by so doing the Convention would be shattered into a thousand pieces, and the object for which they came together rendered ridiculous. [Cheers.]
Mr. AIKMAN (Barton) also denied being influenced by party motives.
The resolution was unanimously carried.
SATURDAY, July 28
The discussion on the confederation in the amendment in favor of represe[illegible] the Imperial Parliament, was resumed in [illegible] noon. As the speeches were in a great repetition of each other, the speakers [illegible] the same opinions in varied language, [illegible] have abridged them considerably, and in [illegible] instances omitted them entirely.
Mr. WILSON, of Quebec, opposed [illegible]ment; he was not prepared for the Colo[illegible] called upon to pay their share of the [illegible] expenditure.
Mr. GOWAN said that he was opposed [illegible] of the resolution; he had listened to the speakers who had gone before, [illegible] heard nothing to convince him of the [illegible] the scheme. For his own part he was [illegible] favour of Imperial Representation than [illegible]deration. He wished to know something [illegible] proposed details of the Confederation [illegible] said that the principle was all that [illegible] required to be recognized—the details [illegible]. This reminded him of the words of the [illegible] Jones on the Union Act. A gentleman [illegible] Parliament, said to Mr. Jones that he [illegible] of the Union Act, provided it was [illegible] effect in a particular way. Said Mr. Jones [illegible] is the wrong way to set about the matter [illegible] the demand was once made for the Act, [illegible] would be arranged by the Imperial [illegible] who would not consult the Canadians [illegible] had been said that this union would [illegible] French domination. He could not see the [illegible] work so. The strength of the French [illegible] at present lay in their union, while the [illegible] population was divided. The British [illegible] would still be divided if the change were [illegible] the French would still hold the balance [illegible] again, if it were a federal union that [illegible] how would it help the British inhabitants [illegible] Canada from French domination to [illegible] Legislature to that Province to control [illegible] internal affairs? Mr. Duggan said that [illegible] then have a Canadian Ambassador to [illegible] a Canadian army and navy. They had [illegible] about him, they had their militia. [illegible] proceeded to say that Lord John Russell [illegible] in the Commons that the Canadians [illegible] themselves henceforth, and then when [illegible] a question, he said that he thought [illegible] troops were wanted, but if they were, [illegible] be sent. Yes, they were to be ruled [illegible] bayonets—(here there was a loud out [illegible] the worthy delegates)—yes foreign [illegible]. As so much had been said about loyal [illegible] loyalty, he took this opportunity of [illegible] there was no people, either in [illegible] or in the dominion proper of England [illegible] had given such a continued series of [illegible] devoted loyalty, as the people of [illegible]—Great cheering.—The original [illegible] country were men who fought for the [illegible] for British connexion; and when their [illegible] came a foreign state, they deserted [illegible] which should attack a man to the land [illegible] they turned their backs upon the [illegible] tombs of their ancestors, and came into [illegible] try, then a wilderness, rather than [illegible] allegiance to Great Britain.—Cheers.—[illegible] when in 1812, 1813, and 1814, the [illegible] were engaged with foreign powers in [illegible] this Province was assailed by the [illegible] Republic, the people of Canada came [illegible] a noble and valorous, a chivalrous [illegible] defend the Crown of England, following [illegible] mortal leader, the brave Brock—cheers—[illegible] lies entombed at Queenston. And [illegible]the same loyalty impelled them to defend [illegible] interests of Great Britain. And yet now [illegible] were to be trampled on by a French [illegible] the Representative of the Sovereign [illegible] on them and tell them they were the [illegible] liberties of their country. He knew [illegible] language strong enough to denounce such a [illegible]—Cheers.—Let it not be supposed [illegible] opposed to this proposition, on the [illegible] supported the proposition about to be [illegible] Mr. Breakenridge, because he understood [illegible] this, that a certain number of delegates [illegible] appointed by the Convention to meet a [illegible] number of delegates from New Brunswick [illegible] Nova Scotia, at Montreal, for the purpose of [illegible] into this matter, and reporting at a [illegible] meeting of the Convention, whether or [illegible] expedient to adopt this scheme. It might [illegible] be expedient, at some subsequent period, [illegible] the country into a certain number of [illegible]—say into a Province of Superior, a province of Huron, a province of Erie, a province of [illegible], a province of Ottawa, and a province of [illegible] Lawrence; and it might be necessary, for [illegible] government of these States, to have [illegible] union; but he thought they ought to [illegible] what would be the result of such a [illegible] should like, before plunging into the [illegible] know that he was able to swim.—[illegible] are labouring under the domination of [illegible] inhabitants of Lower Canada. The [illegible] a natural interest in perpetuating [illegible] national ascendancy; and in spite of [illegible] differences, in spite of the rivalry and [illegible] between Lafontaine and Papineau,—how [illegible] the French were united on all the [illegible] questions of the day, when the intelligence [illegible] population are divided? It is because [illegible] of their ascendancy consists in the union [illegible] party. Well, then, the French must be [illegible] for, in some different way from what [illegible] present. There was but one thing which [illegible] Gowan—would desire to see adopted, [illegible] to the French people. The [illegible] Lower Canada at present ran in a tier [illegible] river St. Lawrence and the Richelieu, [illegible] the St. Lawrence, and stretching back [illegible] way. The consequence of this electoral [illegible] is that the seigniories lying along the river [illegible] inhabited by French, and the townships [illegible] the rear larger in extent of territory, but [illegible] population, and inhabited by the English [illegible] latter are swamped by the smaller amount [illegible]. The remedy he would propose, [illegible] make a different division. He would [illegible] counties run in a double tier parallel to [illegible] for, by this means, the French of the [illegible] would be separated from the English of the [illegible] ships, and for every French county there [illegible] an English one. The Convention here [illegible] show some signs of impatience, whereupon [illegible] Mr. Gowan sat down.
Mr. BREAKENRIDGE, Kingston, after a [illegible] display of temper at the allusion made [illegible] motion by Mr. Gowan, moved for the appointment [illegible] delegates to meet at Montreal sometime [illegible] close of the Navigation, and to consult with [illegible] delegates from Nova Scotia & New Brunswick [illegible] concerning the practicability of a union of all [illegible] Provinces, and report the result of the next meeting [illegible] the Convention.
Mr. DIXON, London, made a long speech [illegible] believed it had been admitted by all the gentlemen [illegible] who had addressed the Convention on this [illegible] we had arrived at a period in our political [illegible] when some alteration was necessary [illegible] we must sink and have our energies trampled [illegible] be swamped and held back in this age of [illegible] and advancement. That such was our destiny, he could not for one moment be [illegible] the British population of united Canada [illegible] that energy, that information, [illegible] which would prevent their being [illegible] any influence like that of the French [illegible]. [Cheers.] He contended that the [illegible] with Lower Canada was unnatural, because [illegible] the Upper Canadians to associate and [illegible] with those whose habits and [illegible] different from their own. As well [illegible] attempt to amalgamate the [illegible] the middle ages, with the intellectual [illegible], the march of improvement which [illegible] the 19th century. The thing is impossible [illegible] then this were the case, some step [illegible] to mend our condition, and that some such [illegible] must be taken, he believed the British Government themselves were convinced. About a fortnight ago he [Mr. Dixon] was waited upon by a gentleman of the highest standing who had recently arrived in this country from London, a gentleman very intimately connected with the present Ministry for reasons which he was not at liberty to detail to the convention, this gentleman wished to [illegible] him [Mr. Dixon,] probably because he had the [illegible] to hold the chief municipal office in the town of London. The gentleman immediately entered on the political evils of the country with a minuteness which he had not thought our governors in Great Britain possessed, showing that they knew more about affairs in Canada than they were willing to acknowledge; after a long conversation a gentleman put this question to him [Mr. D.] What do you suppose would be the disposition of the British population of Canada with respect to a [illegible] union of the Provinces?” He replied that [illegible] appeared to him, under our present circumstances, to be our only salvation. The gentleman observed that we need not be surprised if such a union was in a very short time carried into effect.—[Cheers.] He [Mr. Dixon] believed from this [illegible] the British Government contemplated some [illegible] step at the present moment, he thought therefore that they ought not to burke this question, bit [illegible] fully and fairly into it. It appeared to him [illegible] this convention was more importance than [illegible] meeting which had taken place since Canada [illegible] under the dominion of Great Britain.—Cheers. [illegible] he was equally convinced that not only the British Government, but the Provincial Administration were at this moment watching with the [illegible] anxiety the result of their deliberations.—Hear, hear.—Mr. Dixon then entered into a [illegible] of a plan for a federal union of which we [illegible] to say anything.
Mr. WILLSON—Saltfleet—then withdrew his amendment, and Mr. DUGGAN at the request of the [illegible] withdrew his motion also, leaving
Mr. BREAKENRIDGE’S resolution alone before the house.
Mr. VANSITTART seconded the motion.
Mr. J. W. GAMBLE was delighted that at last [illegible] made some progress. They had arrived [illegible] events at this conclusion that we cannot go [illegible] we are.—Hear, hear. The next thing [illegible] asked was what is the course to be [illegible] in order to bring about the prosperity of [illegible] country? When he listened, as he had that [illegible] to the various attempts which had been made [illegible] present administration to perpetuate French [illegible] and the power of their party, he could [illegible] give them credence—Hear hear.—Some of [illegible] he had known from his youth, and he [illegible] not have believed that they would prove such [illegible] to the interests of their country—he could have believed that they would have endeavoured [illegible] inflict on us the chains of French domination [illegible] violation of every principle most conducive [illegible] British liberty.—Cheers.—But he was now led [illegible] conclusion that these very measures were [illegible] for the purpose of forcing us into connexion [illegible] with the neighbouring Republic.—Great [illegible].—He hoped to live to see the day when he [illegible] stand on the floor of a legislature of his [illegible], where all the interests of that country [illegible] be represented, and that he might be able to [illegible] in the impeachment of these persons for [illegible] regard they have paid to the interests of the [illegible].—Great cheers—Having arrived at the [illegible] that we cannot go on as we are, the question is, what is the course most [illegible] the feelings of loyal British subjects, that [illegible] about a prosperous state of things in our [illegible]. He, Mr. G., had always thought that [illegible] of our commercial distress were situated [illegible] where else than in our political institutions, nevertheless they have a bearing on it; he for [illegible] would desire if possible to go on without any [illegible] in our political organization, and in [illegible] with the mother country, although he did [illegible] an elective Legislative Council; and his [illegible] for doing so was that he believed that with an [illegible] Legislative Council and an elective [illegible] a Governor elected for life by the Crown [illegible] Britain—a person whose interests should [illegible] Canada, whose prosperity was bound up [illegible] own, and who should enter into our wants [illegible], and sorrows—the great objects that [illegible] in view would be carried out. He did [illegible] they could carry out these objects with out [illegible] constitution, which is liable to be overturned [illegible] had been by the Ministry in power. Finding [illegible] idea of an elective Legislative Council was [illegible] by the majority of the Convention, the [illegible] asked himself was what next can we do? [illegible] measure now before them,—a [illegible] of the Provinces, was the plan [illegible] presented itself. To that scheme he, [illegible] would give his support. There were [illegible] courses for the country to pursue; the [illegible] after the federation was independence, [illegible] thought if we could obtain an independent government for Canada, granted by Great Britain [illegible] it would be the most congenial to his [illegible]. We would not have to lay aside our British [illegible] we would continue to be under the [illegible] of Great Britain, but we would not have our [illegible] managed by Mr. Hawes, Mr. Stephenson, [illegible] else. He was one of those who had [illegible] at the conclusion that we really know better [illegible] to manage our business than a person [illegible] thousand miles off can do. Some such [illegible] about suit us: This might not, how [illegible] the views of those present, including [illegible] intelligence and wealth of the country—and [illegible] necessary to make mutual concessions in order [illegible] some plan which would secure the great [illegible] had in view, and in doing so he intend[illegible] the resolution before the Convention. [illegible] But there was another course which [illegible] pursue, which he would allude to, [illegible] he would allude to it because his [illegible] from those of other gentlemen. That [illegible] and it would be a dernier resort—was to [illegible] part of the United States.—Hear, hear. [illegible] only lay aside their British feelings, [illegible] that our interests would be greatly [illegible] by such a step; not so much as by a [illegible] all the Provinces or an independent [illegible] but he asserted and would maintain that [illegible] better than our present position, and [illegible] value of property would be at least [illegible]. With regard to the question [illegible] before them, the resolution proposed a [illegible] of delegates from all the British Provinces [illegible] the purpose of enquiring how far it [illegible] expedient that we should unite our [illegible] one general interest. This appeared to [illegible] a wise and prudent plan, because they [illegible] see clearly what was before them, ere [illegible] fatal leap. The Reform party was in [illegible] in New Brunswick and in Nova Scotia [illegible] he had no objection to be ruled by a [illegible] party, if they were not under the influence [illegible] French domination, which would be [illegible] with this plan. The French Canadians [illegible] and polite people, and the women—[illegible] women were as adapted for the [illegible] work as any women on the face [illegible] globe—Roars of laughter. But it was [illegible] that the British could consent to be [illegible] of French origin.—Hear, hear—[illegible] it very probably that before many [illegible] would be some great political [illegible] United States, and then some of the [illegible] be desirous of coming into a union [illegible] forming one great body. This, the [illegible] position of the country pointed out, [illegible] our ultimate fate.—Cheers.
Mr. [illegible] thought that gentlemen were [illegible] the evils under which we suffer to every [illegible] the right one. The cause was not in [illegible] French Canadians alone or in the British [illegible], alone, but amongst ourselves. Look [illegible] sent into the Legislature from Upper Canada [illegible] they could not expect to make such [illegible] as this in the country [illegible] Legislature being consulted, and they [illegible] better to attend to the improvements of [illegible] Legislature, than to impute all their evils [illegible] which is the wrong one.—Cheers.
Mr. [illegible], Goderich, did not think Mr. [illegible] understood what he was talking about. [illegible] not there as a Legislative body for the [illegible] the constitution, and forming a [illegible]. They had come there for the purpose [illegible] a remedy, that would cure the evils [illegible] the country suffers. The measure [illegible] would most approve of, for that purpose, [illegible] elective Legislative Council, and he had [illegible] resolution for that purpose, and he [illegible] he had a right to state publicly his [illegible] that course.—Question, Question. [illegible] gentlemen wished it he would let it [illegible] felt that the very name he bore, would [illegible] from being branded as he had been by [illegible] friends, as advocating revolutionary [illegible] he thought the contrary that it was [illegible] conservative measure that could be [illegible] the Constitution in its present unhappy [illegible] believed an elective Legislative Council [illegible] only measure by which the Government [illegible] possibly be worked out according [illegible] present constitution. Mr. Strachan then [illegible] a piece of paper a brief statement of his [illegible] supporting the resolution before the [illegible] he advocated as a means of perpetuating [illegible] Connection; all idea of annexation he [illegible] strongly repudiated. The Convention adjourned till half-past seven oclock.