“Legislative Assembly”, The Globe (18 June 1864)
By: The Globe
Citation: “Legislative Assembly”, The Globe [Toronto] (18 June 1864).
QUEBEC, June 17.
The Speaker took the chair at three o’clock.
After routine business,
Atty. Gen. MACDONALD said he had now the consent of His Excellency the Governor General to state to the House the nature of the communication which they had felt it to be their duty to make to His Excellency. In consequence of the hostile vote of Tuesday night, which they considered to be in effect a vote of want of confidence, they felt it to be their duty to proffer their advice to His Excellency, that—considering that a vote of want to consider as had been recorded, and considering the state of parties, the equality between the members supporting the Administration and opposed to it, and the great improbability of a Government being formed which could command a majority in the present House—there should be an appeal to the people; that, in other words, after the Supplies were granted, and the necessary business gone through, there should be a dissolution. His Excellency informed them this morning that he had accepted their advice, and authorized, [text illegible] giving them carte blanche in that respect. His Excellency’s advisers, however, looking at the very grave questions which divided parties in the country, and the expediency, if possible, of avoiding the extreme measure of proceeding to a dissolution, and with a view to seeing whether some solution could not be found for the difficulties which now existed, and especially the sectional difficulties which had arisen between Upper and Lower Canada, had felt it to be their duty to confer with a leading member of the Opposition to-day to see if they could not agree upon principles on which a Government could be formed that would command a majority in the House. In that conference they had made such progress that he believed a way to the solution of our difficulties had been found, such as would obviate the necessity of a dissolution. (Hear, hear.) The step he had just announced was of course a very grave one, and the considerations connected with it were of a very grave character, and could not be hurriedly settled. The House, therefore, would not be surprised that he should ask for an adjournment till Monday, in order that there might be a full conference between the leading members on each side, with a view to arriving at the result he had mentioned. He would only add that the hon. Gentleman with whom the Finance Minister and himself had conferred was the hon. member for South Oxford. (Hear, hear.)
Hon. Mr. DORION said, as regarded the latter part of the Attorney General’s remarks, he (Mr. Dorion) believed, and such was the opinion of a large number of hon. Members, that a strong Government could be formed in this House, and he considered it was the correct course that was proposed by the Attorney General West when he desired to see whether he could strengthen his position. But he could not allow this occasion to pass without recording his utter dissent from the doctrine, that an Administration could go to his Excellency, and obtaining the promise of a dissolution, bring that down as a threat wherewith to coerce the House into submission. He admitted it was proper on the part of hon. gentlemen opposite to see if they could strengthen their position so as to command a majority. But it was an unprecedented and unconstitutional course for Ministers to come and tell the House, “We have a right to dissolve, and if you do not submit to what we dictate we will send you about your business.” He had no objection, however, to the adjournment.
Atty. Gen. MACDONALD begged entirely to disavow the intention imputed to the Government of holding out any threat whatever to the House. If they had said, “unless you rescind the vote of Tuesday night we will exercise the permission given us to dissolve.” That would have been a threat which the House might properly have resented; but when they came and said to the House that, looking at the state of parties, and looking at the grave sectional questions which were again beginning to seethe, it was most desirable that hon. gentlemen on both sides should cast aside prejudices, and for a time rise superior to all party considerations, in order to agree upon some well-considered principles of action on which to form a new Government, and that if this failed them, the advice they had tendered would be carried out—he did not think, in submitting the matter in this way to the House, they could be at all considered as holding any threat over the House. It was a fact that a large majority from Lower Canada were in favour of the Government, and a large majority from Upper Canada were against them; and under the certainty that if this state of matters continued, sectional questions would assume a position that must seriously interrupt the prosperity and harmony of Canada as a whole, what he asked was, that gentlemen on both sides should rise superior to former party connections and prejudices, and try to find a common basis on which they could act. If this failed, there must be an appeal to the country. That was what he had said.
Hon. Mr. DORION—Are we to understand that negotiations are going on with the member for South Oxford with a view to strengthening the Government?
Atty. Gen. MACDONALD.—Precisely. You are quite right.
Atty. Gen. CARTIER repeated in French what had been stated by the Attorney-General West in English.
Hon. J.S. MACDONALD said that the statement made by the Attorney-General West and his colleague on the right was, satisfactory so far as it was frank and open, and if it could be denuded of the suspicion that his hon. Friend on his left, the member for Hochelaga, had properly cast upon it, as being of the nature of a menace on the part of the Government towards this House it would be very proper to bring the question in the manner the Government had done before the House and the country. The hon. member for Hochelaga had properly appreciated the danger of the threat involved in the speech of the Minister of Finance the other night, and repeated in the statement just made to the House. When the Attorney General West rose in his place, and stated that it was not so intended—that it was not the intention of the Government to use it as a lever to compel submission to their views, but to construct a Government that would honestly and fairly approach questions that had for years agitated the country—it was so far satisfactory. It was satisfactory also for members to find, after all that had been said by the member for Montreal East, in condemnation of the member for South Oxford, that he approved of an approach being made to one whom he had long held upon as a bugbear to Lower Canada, that he acknowledged that all he had heretofore said of him was not founded upon a correct basis, and that he admitted now the necessity if acting with a gentleman whom he had so long opposed. He (Mr. Macdonald) hailed with great satisfaction the announcement that this matter was to be approached in a friendly spirit, and, as far as he was concerned, he would throw no obstacles in the way, particularly as it had been stated that the proposal would be entered upon in a spirit of fair-play. Let us see these negotiations followed up by such changes in the Cabinet as would assure the House that it was intended to act throughout in a spirit of fair play to parties on this side of the House, and so far from opposing the motion he would cheerfully accord the time the Government had asked, because it would require some time before the Government would be able to come down with a definite proposition. But let it be understood, however, that he was of opinion that the Government ought to have preceded the advice given to His Excellency respecting a dissolution, by a proposition such as they had now announced to hon. Gentlemen on his side. That would have been the constitutional course to take. It could not be denied that there was an unwillingness to appeal to the country at this time of the ear, when it would be difficult for any member to declare to his constituents that it was in the interest of the country that such an appeal should be made. He would tell hon. Gentlemen on the Treasury benches that if they would frankly and fairly go to work in this matter, so as to bring gentlemen from both sides of the House into their Government; that if the coalition they had spoken of was not a sham and a delusion which they wished to impose [?] upon the House, it would be creditable to them; but if otherwise, he would only say it would redound to their disgrace, and occasion greater difficulties in the government of the Province than those which now engaged the attention of the House and the country. If a new Government were formed on a liberal basis of conciliation, he had no doubt it would deserve and receive the confidence of the country. (Hear, hear.)
Hon. Mr. BROWN said he was sure the House would acquit him of all desire to aid hon. Gentlemen opposite in using the assent of His Excellency, to a dissolution in order to coerce members of the House. He was quite certain every member would perfectly comprehend that hon. Gentlemen opposite to whom he had been opposed so strongly for many years, could not have approached him with the view of asking him to join them in the construction of an Administration except under the force of very extreme circumstances. The House also must be fully satisfied that he could not, by any possibility, have met those hon. gentlemen except under such circumstances (hear, hear)—that he could have been induced to it o[n?]ly by the position in which the House now stood. When the repeated endeavours year after year to get a strong Government formed had resulted in constant failure, and they now stood ranged, Upper Canada against Lower Canada, in such an attitude that no dissolution or dozen of dissolutions was likely to bring about a satisfactory change from the position we were now in, he was bound to say that hon. Gentlemen opposite, so far as he could perceive, were approaching this question with candour and frankness worthy of men occupying their position. (Hear, hear.) He was bound to say that they had approached him in a spirit with which hon. members on both sides ought to be satisfied; and he did hope that, instead of any feeling being aroused in the matter, hon. members would approach it with but one desire to consider the interests of both sections of the Province, and to find a settlement of our difficulties which would be acceptable to both sections, and which would put an end to those constant scenes of discord that we have had ion the past. He had only to repeat that, so far as he had had intercourse with the hon. gentlemen opposite, they had approached the question, in his opinion, in that spirit in which hon. on his side desired they should, and he hoped the House would fully understand that neither on their part nor on his was there any intention that there should be secrecy, or anything like intrigue in donating the negotiations. The whole proceedings, it was intended, should be as open as the day. (Hear, hear.)
Mr. RANKIN briefly expressed his satisfaction with the statements which had just been made, and said no one would be more rejoiced than himself to see such negotiations as those referred to carried on in a spirit of disinterestedness and patriotism.
The House then, at 4 o’clock, adjourned till Monday.