John A. MacDonald, “Address of the Hon. John A. Macdonald to the Electors of the City of Kingston” (10 June 1861)

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Date: 1861-06-10
By: John A. MacDonald
Citation: John A. MacDonald, “Address of the Hon. John A. Macdonald to the Electors of the City of Kingston” (1861).
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It is my intention to offer myself again as a Candidate for your suffrages, at the next Election.

During the last two Parliaments I have not only had the honour of being Your Representative, but I have been a Member of the Government, and as such may be expected by you and by the Country to vindicate the policy and defend the Conduct of the Administrations with which I have been connected.

In order to do this in some measure, I have caused extracts from several speeches delivered by me during a tour thro’ Western Canada last year, to be published with this address.

These Extracts are published exactly as they were reported, and without revision or correction (for I have had no time to devote even to their perusal,) but they will serve, I feel assured, to shew to you that we have not been unworthy of the confidence bestowed upon us by the last two Parliaments, and that we have every right to expect that our course will be approved of by the Country.

I have no hesitation in saying that the Legislation for Canada, since 1854, will favorably compare with all that has been done by the Legislature or Government, from the Union up to that time ; we have settled the Clergy Reserve question on fair reasonable terms ; we have made Lower Canada contented and progressive by abolishing the Feudal Tenure ; we have given Canada the great political advantage of an efficient Second Chamber ; we have perfected and consolidated the Municipal Institutions of both Upper Canada and Lower Canada ; we have decentralised the judiciary system in Lower Canada and established Local Courts.

In both sections of the Province, the expenses of the Administration of Justice, in a great measure, will be borne by the Localities instead of being, as they formerly were with respect to Lower Canada, defrayed out of the Public Chest.

We have in effect abolished imprisonment for debt ; we have saved for the unfortunate debtor what is essential for the comfort of himself and his family.

And we have carried out, and nearly perfected the educational system of Upper Canada.

I must refer you to the extracts appended to this address as to our past conduct. I will now say a few words as to our future.

It is my intention to introduce next session—


For Upper Canada, I attempted to carry such a Law last session, but the Upper Canadian opposition defeated me. Never did Men behave so well as did the Lower Canada majority, Although all Lower Canada was against the bill, although the Boards of Trade of Quebec and Montreal protested against it, they voted for my bill, lest it might be said that French Domination governed and controlled legislation for Upper Canada. They voted therefore for the second reading, but there was a majority from Upper Canada against it. In the next stage of the Bill, (going into committee,) another vote was taken, and again there was a majority of Upper Canadian Representatives against it. Under these circumstances, I could not ask the Lower Canadian Members to carry a measure, which was decidedly distasteful to Lower Canada, and apparently had not the sanction of those supposed to represent Upper Canadian interests. With bitter regret therefore, I was obliged to postpone my Bill. It is only a postponement, however, because if I live and have the power, it will become the Law of the land. Nothing could be more factions or unprincipled than the course of the opposition on this question, and although they professed to be in favor of the principle of the measure, they voted against the second reading of the Bill, and therefore voted against its principle. This they did on they weak pretext that the measure was cumbrous and expensive. Now, it is true that the Bill contained a great many clauses, but we had no Bankruptcy Law in Upper Canada, and it was necessary to introduce a complete system : the measure was not cumbrous, but comprehensive and complete. In expense, the Bill would have effected a great saving, because it provided for three Judges at moderate salaries, instead of adding to the salaries of thirty-five County Judges, as proposed by the Opposition. You will readily see that in efficiency three Judges specially appointed to settle and adjust Bankrupt estates would be infinitely preferable to thirty-five Judges, who would naturally postpone the Bankruptcy cases to their ordinary duties as County and Division Court Judges. On the opposition, therefore, I throw the whole responsibility of deferring a measure which would have made many an Upper Canadian home happy, and given many an honest though unfortunate man, a new sphere of usefulness.

The public attention has been aroused to the question of


It has been alleged that the expenditure of the University and University College at Toronto has been excessive, and that the same or a higher standard of education could be attained at much less cost. The Government see the great importance of maintaining this Great Provincial Institution in its full efficiency, but they are at the same time aware of the great service rendered to the youth of Upper Canada by the other Seminaries existing there. The University act provides that any surplus remaining after paying the necessary expenses of the Provincial University and College, shall be appropriated by the Legislature to the furtherance of Academical Education. The Government have ordered the issue of a Commission to enquire into this expenditure with the object of applying any surplus that may exist, after fully providing for the requirements of the University and College, to the support of the other Seats of Learning in Upper Canada. They design further to ask the legislature for additional aid and assistance to those Institutions from the Upper Canada Building Fund, a fund belonging to Upper Canada and applicable only to Upper Canadian purposes.

Great progress has been made during the last eleven years in


The expense of litigation has been much decreased, the Administration of Justice has been brought to every man’s door, and the Administration of law regarding Criminals has been rendered more prompt, certain and efficient. I think further Reform is required, and that the increase of jurisdiction in the County and Division Courts, and a decrease of the fees of their officers are essential to the interests of the Country.

The settlement of the CLERGY RESERVE question has met with the decided approval of the people of Upper Canada, one fragment of that question still remains, in the existence of the


It was the intention of government to have introduced a measure into the legislature for the purpose of their abolition on terms fair and reasonable to all parties concerned. Technical reasons have hitherto prevented this, but now, I believe, all parties interested are willing to join in a measure for this purpose.

The Government will not relax its exertions to effect a


We must however endeavour to take warning by the defects in the Constitution of the United States, which are now so painfully made manifest, and to form (if we succeed in a Federation) an efficient central Government.

The course of the Administration has been surrounded with difficulties. On taking office in 1854, the responsibility of completing the Grand Trunk Railway was thrown upon us. In 1857, came a great commercial and financial crisis, which ruined so many of our best men, depreciated property all over the Country and destroyed the Public Revenue. The Province has survived all this, and never, I am happy to say, has the Revenue been more flourishing, the Country more prosperous, or the public credit higher.

In carrying out our Policy, we have not increased the Public Burthens, for, as has been shewn by the Minister of Finance, the average amount of taxation per head is the same, as in the time of Mr. Hincks or a little less.

We have however readjusted the Tariff on imported articles so as to secure a sufficient revenue, and at the same time incidentally to encourage home manufactures. The success of our Policy in this respect is already shewn by the numerous manufactories of every description, which have sprung up in both sections of the Province.

I annex to this address the Finance Minister’s Report from which you will see that the


instead of being $70,000,000 as alleged by the opposition press is only $58,000,000. This debt is not large, and when you consider, that all our public works are completed ;—that for the future we will only have to provide for the ordinary administration of affairs, and that the Country is rapidly in creasing in wealth and population, you will see that the debt will speedily diminish and finally disappear.

We have been charged in Parliament, during the last session, with having made unauthorized advances to the


Nothing can be more untrue. If there be one thing more than another, for which the present Government deserves credit, it is for not exceeding the authority given them by the Constitution. It has been stated by Mr. Dorion that the Government advanced to the Grand Trunk Railway, 1,168,830 67. This sum is made up of the following items :

Advance on account of postage $ 73,000 00
Advance on 1st February, 1861, to keep line open 120,000 00
Loan on Toronto City Bonds 316,333 33
Loan on £42,500 sterling, 6 per cent preference Bonds of Grand Trunk Railway 172,830 67
Exchange on Grand Trunk Railway, received from Bank of Upper Canada 486,666 67

Making in all $1,168,830 67

Now, Mr. Dorion should have stated that of this sum, the Public accounts shewed that $245,712 85 were repaid, and I will now call your attention to every item contained in the above statement.

1. The first item of $73,000 was not an advance, but a payment for work done in carrying the mails ;

2. The second item of $120,000 was a payment made on account of postal service in order to enable the Grand Trunk Railway to pay their men who had struck for wages and to keep open the communication between Toronto and Quebec, which had been blocked up by snow. The Grand Trunk Railway are rapidly paying off this debt, if they have not already done so, by the daily carriage of the mails ;

3. As to the “Loan on Toronto City Bonds, $316,333 33.” This loan, as appears by the papers laid before Parliament in April, 1860, (more than a year ago) was made out of the unemployed balances arising out of the 5 per cent new loan at the recommendation of the financial Agents, upon sterling Bonds of the City of Toronto, at 80 per cent, of the value. It bore 5 per cent. interest, the security was undoubted; and it was considered by Mr. Galt a good temporary investment, an opinion, in which parliament certainly coincided last year, when it was submitted to them. Mr. Galt, in the late debate, stated that this loan had been directed to be called in, that $132,568 had already been paid back, and that failing the prompt payment of the remainder, the Agents in London had been instructed to realize the Toronto City Bonds, which being held at 20 per cent, discount, and always hitherto saleable at par, he had no doubts would immediately replace the outstanding balance at $183,765 33 ; that the Government had nothing to do with the Grand Trunk in the transaction, had never had any negotiation with that Company about it, and were perfectly satisfied with the security they held.

4. As to the “Loan on Preference Bonds of Grand Trunk Railroad, $172,830 67.” In regard to this the facts are plain :—At the period when the Prince of Wales had just sailed from England on his late visit to Canada, on the invitation of the Legislature, expressly given on the occasion of opening the Victoria Bridge, he (Mr. Galt) being in London, was applied to by the Grand Trunk Board there, in view of the prostration of their credit, from the non-payment of interest on their Bonds, and from an apprehension that the complete insolvency of the Company would take place before the Prince’s visit could be terminated. It was represented that a sum of £40,000 to £50,000 would meet the most pressing claims, and that the Company might still be able by a little delay to postpone, and possibly to avert the misfortunes that have since overtaken them. Under these circumstances the Board pressed Mr. Galt at once to sanction a claim they had on the Government for postal service, amounting to about $200,000. This was refused ; and they then proposed in addition to the claim to lodge with the Agents of the Province Preference Bonds for £42,500 sterling, as security for a loan from unemployed funds then in London for the amount required. To this proposition Mr. Galt assented, and under it the sum of $172,830 67 was loaned by the London Agents. Of this sum $113,144? 89 were subsequently found to be actually due to the Company and consequently appears in the accounts as repaid. The real loan was therefore only $55,685 78, while the security held, even at the present selling price of Preference Bonds (say 70 per cent,) is worth $144,783 33, and the Company still claims arrears of postal money of about $80,000. It was also stated in the debate that at the time, and in fact during all last year, the Government actually had in their hands money belonging to the Grand Trunk, 250,329 17 for the works of the Arthabaska line, so that in fact the loan was made from their own money. This transaction is the only one where the Company obtained any aid from the Government ; and certainly under the circumstances, it cannot with any truth, be called an advance of Provincial funds, while small and pitiful as it was, it certainly saved the Province from the mortification of a refusal by the Prince to open the Victoria Bridge, which must have occurred, had the insolvency of the Company been complete before that event.

5. The last item is a charge of

Exchange or Grand Trunk Railway received from Bank of Upper Canada…………………$488,666 67

In explanation of this item, it maybe necessary to state that the Bank of Upper Canada was appointed by the Lafontaine-Baldwin administration, the fiscal agent of the Province ; and that administration thus made it the sole depository of the Provincial funds. We found it so, and have continued to carry out the same policy. Last year, rumours got abroad affecting the credit and position of the Bank. The Government, however, satisfied themselves by a rigid enquiry of the solvency of that Institution. They therefore continued to deposit the public funds in the Bank, as they felt sure that a withdrawal of the account, would have been considered as a want of confidence on the part of the Government, and would probably have created a panic and a run upon the Bank. This panic might and probably would have extended to the other Banks, and Canada might have seen a more disastrous financial crisis than it has ever experienced. The Government therefore continued to employ the Bank of Upper Canada as the depository of the Public Revenues. The Province is obliged to remit to England, half yearly, large sums to meet the interest of the public debt. This is done by the purchase of Bills of Exchange, and the Province bought from the Bank of Upper Canada, for the purpose of remittance, a draft or Bill of Exchange on the Grand Trunk Railway Company in London which was indebted to it, for the sum of $488,666 67 and of course the Bank of Upper Canada charged the Province with the amount. The Bill was sent to England and accepted by the Grand Trunk Railway Company, who thereby promised to pay it. In consequence of the financial embarassments of the Company, they were unable to pay the Bill, and it was protested. The only consequence of this was that the Bank, which was responsible for the amount of the Bill, and had charged it to the Province, would be obliged to credit the Province with the amount again. The only reason why this item appears in the public accounts at all, is that the Minister of Finance wished to hold the Bill, and thus have the double security of the Bank and the Railway Company for the account.

My sentiments on the subject of


are well known and I have attached to this address, a copy of my speech in Parliament on that subject. It is quite clear that with the present feeling in Lower Canada, no government could be formed from either side of the House to carry out that principle. The Brown-Dorion Administration, who professed an intention to grapple with the question, consisted of twelve, of whom seven were decidedly opposed to its adoption, and every one of those seven who were in the House voted last session against it. So would it be with every other administration, and the question must therefore be an open one, and go to the country upon its own merits. This is not a party question, and ought not to be made one. Western ministerialists are in favor of it : Central and Eastern Canada of all shades of politics are opposed to it, while the opposition have, in solemn convention, declared that it is not an efficient remedy for the evils, from which they allege the Province is suffering.

The fratricidal conflict now unhappily raging in the United States shews us the superiority of our institutions, and of the principle on which they are based. Long may that principle,—the Monarchical principle,—prevail in this land. Let there be no ” looking to Washington,” as was threatened by a leading member of the opposition last session ; but let the cry, with the moderate party, be “Canada United as One Province, and under One Sovereign.”

I have the honor to be,


Your obedient, humble servant,


Kingston, 10th June, 1861.

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