George Brown Papers, Drafts of the Quebec Resolutions, Working Notes (10-11 October 1864)

Document Information

Date: 1864-10-10 – 1864-10-11
By: George Brown
Citation: George Brown Papers, Drafts of the Quebec Resolutions, Working Notes, October 10th-11th, 1864 (MG 24, B 40, Vol. 21, p. 3763).
Other formats: Click here to view the original document (PDF).
Click here for our e-book, The Quebec Resolutions: Including Several Never-Published Preliminary Drafts by George Brown and John A. Macdonald & a Collection of all Previously-Published Primary Documents Relating to the Conference (Calgary: Canadian Constitution Foundation, 2021).
Note: The text also contains handwritten notes and other marginalia. Click here to view an explanatory document on how we have transcribed handwritten notes.


Composition of Executive (Macdonald, Cartier, Brown, Galt)
Maintain Responsible Gov.?
L. Provinces formed into one Prov.? [Note [1]]
[illegible] —U.C.—L.C.—Maritime Prov.
What local matters?
What general matters?
How construct the Law [illegible]?
How local authority Constructed?

U.C. 1.396.091
L.C. 1.110.664
 [Note [2]] 3.170.221

[1] The set MG24 B40 3763-3769 (transcribed in this section, parts 1, 2 and 3) all interlock. They are all in Brown’s longhand writing. Unlike later papers (which show signs of being amended in committee), these are also Brown’s own ‘working notes’ – notes he made for himself for side-session drafting (and may not have been intended for circulation). The set MG24 B40 3763-3769 also relate to each other. For instance, paper MG24 B40 3763 (above) has a number of ‘questions’ which are in turn ‘answered’ in MG24 B40 3764-3765 (on the topics of executive cabinet and its composition, division of powers to name a few), and MG24 B40 3768-3769 are cleaner second drafts (with minor revisions) of papers MG24 B40 3764-3765.

I have tentatively dated MG24 B40 3763 (above) October 10th-11th 1864 since parts of it (notably the third question – whether the lower provinces, i.e., Maritime provinces, will form one province) was a formal resolution on October 12th, 1864 (see A.A. Macdonald’s (PEI) account p. 138 in this volume). Since the Conference’s proceedings officially began on October 10th, 1864, and this page closely relates to papers MG24 B40 3764-3765, and also follow the themes raised by Cartier, Macdonald, and Galt across these two days (see Bernard’s “Report of Discussions”, pp. 83-85, and A.A. Macdonald’s (PEI) “Notes”, pp. 133-138 in this volume), all support the tentative dating of October 10th-11th 1864.

Briefly, there are two surprising lines in MG24 B40 3763 (above). First the ‘composition of the executive’ does not list Taché from the list – who was the current Premier and considered the one person capable of holding the coalition together – and especially J.A. Macdonald (conservative) and G. Brown (reformer) together. The reason for this omission is not clear, except perhaps Taché had expressed an intention of retiring after confederation. This is not featured in any biographical account of that I could find and remains somewhat puzzling. The Quebec Resolutions (and their drafts in this volume) also have nothing to say on the structure of the first cabinet mentioned above (unlike say the selection of the first legislative council or later styled Senate), aside from resolutions on the executive’s power, of course.

The passage on the cabinet above suggests that the composition of the first federal executive council was to be bipartisan as the composition of the Canada delegation was for the conference, and as the coalition government of the Province of Canada had been at this time. If we look forward to 1867, this was in fact the case. For reasons too complex to cover here, all except Brown entered the Dominion’s first cabinet in 1867. Secondly, the question of ‘maintaining responsible government’ is surprising. It’s not clear why this was raised, but the question as to the local legislatures maintaining responsible government did emerge later in the conference. This is what this passage is most likely referring to. Further editions of this collection will focus on exploring why this was so [C.D.]

[2] These figures refer to the population estimates for each of the provinces. See Historical Statistics Canada figures.

Leave a Reply