Letter from L.J. Papineau and J. Neilson to the Under Secretary of State on the Proposed Union of the Provinces of Upper and Lower Canada (10 May 1823)
By: Louis Joseph Papineau, J. Neilson
Citation: Letter from L.J. Papineau and J. Neilson to His Majesty’s Under Secretary of State (10 May 1823) in Louis Joseph Papineau,
Letter from J.L. Papineau and J. Neilson, Esqs., addressed to His Majesty’s Under Secretary of State on the Proposed Union of the Provinces of Upper and Lower Canada (London: W. Clowes, 1824).
Other formats: Click here to view the original document (PDF).
London, May 10, 1823.
WE have now the honour, conformably to your desire, to submit for your consideration our observations on the proposed measure of uniting the Legislatures of the Provinces of Upper and Lower Canada; and on the clauses of the Bill for that purpose, as amended by a Committee of the Honourable the House of Commons, and printed by order of that House on the 31st of July last.
For the facility of reference we have annexed to these observations a copy of the Bill, as reprinted in the French and English languages in Lower Canada, and circulated throughout that province, previous to the subscribing the petitions against it.
Before entering into the subject, we have to apologize to you for the delay which has occurred, and for not transmitting these observations till after your reiterated recommendation to that effect.
His Majesty’s Government having, at the last session of Parliament, consented to postpone the proposed measure for a time, sufficient to enable His Majesty’s subjects in the Canadas to make known their sentiments thereupon; and these, together with the heads of their objections to this measure, being expressed in the following documents, now in the possession of His Majesty’s Government, viz.,
1. The Petition of the Inhabitants of Lower Canada.
2. The Petition of the House of Assembly of Lower Canada.
3. The Petition of the Legislative Council of Lower Canada.
We flattered ourselves that it would not be necessary to trouble His Majesty’s Government with our observations on a measure, which nine-tenths of the inhabitants, and all Constitutional Authorities of the Colony to which we belong, so earnestly pray His Majesty to avert, “as fraught with much evil.” Copies of the aforementioned documents are annexed in an Appendix under the letter A.
We have also the honour to inform you, that we have been intrusted with Petitions against the said measure from three entire districts of Upper Canada, viz.,
The Home District,
The District of Newcastle,
The London District,
And also ten other Petitions from Counties situated in almost every other District of the said Province; subscribed in the whole by eight thousand and ninety-seven persons, chiefly freeholders and qualified voters.
We also beg leave to observe that, although the Legislature of Upper Canada has been moved to give its approbation to the said measure, it has refused to do so; referring to the Petitions of the People, the majority of which are decidedly against the proposed Union. Copies of five of these Petitions, viz.,
The Home District,
The County of Kent, in the Western District, and
The Counties of Stormont and Glengarry, in
the Eastern District,
Together with the Resolutions of the Assembly and Legislative Council of that Province, are annexed under the letter B.
From these documents it will appear that no Bill introduced in Parliament relating to the Colonies ever met with a more general opposition, on the part of those immediately concerned in its enactments, than the present. The population of Lower Canada is estimated at 500,000; that of Upper Canada at 120,000. The number of men from sixteen to sixty, in both Provinces, is about 100,000; and of these about 70,000 have actually petitioned against the measure in any shape. If a few individuals have petitioned in its favour, it must be recollected, that no person in either colony ever publicly proposed or supported such a measure, or even perceived the evils which they now pretend to exist, and render this measure necessary, till such time as they had notice of the present Bill being before Parliament. If it has received any countenance from unprejudiced and disinterested persons, permanently connected with the Colonies, it is more owing to its being supposed a Government measure, than from their opinion of its merits. The examination of the signatures to the Petitions of both Provinces will show, that the opposition to the measure is not confined to any one description of subjects, but that it extends to all; and we have the honour to assure you, from our own knowledge and certain information, that by far the greater portion of these Petitioners are independent proprietors of the soil, and that they amount to a great majority of the Electors duly qualified by law in the two Provinces.
Every person in the Canadas readily acknowledges, that it is essential to the connexion and welfare of the British Dominions, that the supreme Legislative Authority should exist at the sent of empire, subject to the restrictions which it has itself imposed; the inhabitants of Lower Canada have supported this authority when every other British Colony in North America was in successful rebellion against it. The distance at which the Colonies are placed deprives them of all direct participation in the representative branch of the supreme Legislature, and the differences between the state of property, of society, and local circumstances, in Great Britain and the Colonies, render it very difficult for a Legislature, solely constituted in the Mother Country three thousand miles distant, to legislate for the internal affairs of the Colonies with advantage. In cases where changes of their established constitutions are contemplated, it surely cannot be expedient to proceed the almost unanimous and humble Petitions of all ranks and descriptions of men in an avowedly loyal colony.
But in such a case it would at least be necessary for those who propose such changes, to show to the Government and Parliament some very strong grounds for interference, founded in actual evils resulting from the existing Constitutions; instead of alleging contemplated advantages, which woeful experience has proved to be seldom realized. It ought, it is presumed, never to be forgotten that the security of the person and property of the subject depends on the established Constitution of a country, and that the very existence of ideas of sudden and important constitutional changes, particularly without the participation, consent, or even knowledge, of those who are to be chiefly affected thereby, is destructive of their quiet and of the general welfare.
The measure proposed by the Bill is nothing less than the annihilation of two local incorporations, established by Act of Parliament, with authority to make by-laws within the limits assigned to them; for the purpose of forming one similar incorporation, the sphere of whose legislation is to extend throughout the whole limits, at present assigned to the two, while for every other purpose of Government the former limits and distinct interests are to remain.
It is obvious that it is essential to the utility of local and subordinate Legislatures, that their limits be not too extensive; the necessity of their establishment, indeed, arises solely from the local circumstances and wants of the place for which they are constituted. Local knowledge is an indispensable qualification of the members of such bodies. The Aldermen and Common Councilmen of London, it is presumed, would form but a very indifferent local Legislature for Dublin, and vice versa; the members of the two corporations, consolidated into one, sometimes assembled in London, sometimes in Dublin, or at any intermediate place, could hardly be expected to do any thing but mischief in their legislative capacity; unless, indeed, they should agree to render their new Act of Incorporation nugatory, by legislating separately for their respective localities.
The settled parts of Upper Canada and Lower Canada, from Chaleurs Bay and Gaspé, to Soult St. Marie, situated between Lakes Superior and Huron, already extend from north-east to south-west upwards of fifteen hundred miles; throughout which the communications are partly by land, partly by water; in boats or upon the ice; on the ground or on the snow, according to the seasons, the time of commencement of which varies between the two extremes fully four months in the year. The communication between Lower Canada and the London and western districts of Upper Canada, is in fact more difficult and uncertain at some seasons, than between Montreal and London.
The Members of the Assemblies generally in the Colonies, can derive no individual advantage from their trust. It is an onerous public duty; and it is well known that there is scarcely an individual to be found in any of the North American Colonies, who is not forced to engage in some industrious pursuit for the support of himself and his family; the Members of the Legislature can, therefore, only attend to their legislative duties, in the winter season, when they have some relaxation from their private occupations. In Upper Canada the winter sets in, and the winter travelling is practicable, a month an half later than in Lower Canada; and there is the same difference in the commencement of the spring or summer. At the time of the falling of the first snows, and the freezing of the rivers in the autumn, and the melting of the snows and breaking up of the ice in the spring, there is in both Provinces a period of near a month when travelling is nearly impracticable. The difference of the seasons, the distance, the difficulties, dangers, and expenses of travelling to the scite of the joint Legislature, at the only season when the people or their representatives can attend to their public concerns, would be such as to leave them only a mockery of the system of government which has hitherto prevailed in the British Colonies; which was solemnly promised to British subjects settling in Canada by His Majesty’s Proclamation of the 7th October, 1763; and which they have hitherto though was inviolably guaranteed to them by a solemn act of the British Parliament. Their situation would be the more severely felt, as amidst their sufferings under the evils resulting from such a state of things, they could not fail to observe on their southern frontier, the United States of America, divided in the same extent, into no less than seven states and territories, for the facility of the local legislation and government.
It is not, however, on account of the distance and difference of climate and seasons, that the proposed measure would be destructive of the rights and interests of the subjects in the Canadas. It is well known that the laws which regulate property and civil rights, the customs, manners, religion, and even prejudices prevailing in the two Provinces, are essentially different. The inhabitants of each are strongly attached to all these, and enjoy them under the most solemn guarantees on the part of Great Britain: their respective codes of law could hardly be amalgamated by the wisest, most unprejudiced and enlightened Legislator, without endangering the security of the property which has been acquired under them. Every new law, every amendment of the old, has reference to the existing laws; and would be met as they bore upon either with suspicion and prejudice even in the Legislature, and be decided upon by at least one part of the members, without sufficient knowledge. The members of the two Provinces would in the end probably be compelled to legislate separately, on nearly all matters relating to their respective Provinces. The government and interests of the two Provinces remaining separate, and the colonial expenditure being chiefly for local purposes, it is not likely that the votes of the members of the joint Legislature, whether in Levying or appropriating the supplies, would always be governed by fairness or justice, the population of the two Provinces have unfortunately, in these matters, opposite interests. The inhabitants of Upper Canada, from their distance from the sea, and the want of an external market for their agricultural produce, have, in great measure, ceased to be consumers of the description of goods upon which duties are raised at the port of Quebec: for rum, they have substituted whiskey of their own manufacture; for salt by the St. Lawrence, salt from the United States or from their own salt-works; for teas from England, teas from the United States; and the settlements in Upper Canada, being separated from the American territory only by a navigable river and lakes, smuggling cannot be sufficiently checked. Upper Canada has, therefore, an interest in continuing to raise the supplies upon such articles as are still consumed in Lower Canada, and it is natural that each should wish to have as large a proportion of them appropriated to its own local uses, as can be procured. The distribution of a colonial revenue for local objects, within a very limited extent of territory, is always difficult in a colonial legislature; between two distinct provinces, differing in almost every thing, excepting their common quality of British subjects, justice in this distribution could hardly be expected.
These, Sir, are general objections to the measure proposed. We shall now proceed to consider the enactments, which are intended to give effect to that measure, referring to the copy of the Bill which is annexed.
Clauses 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6
To the two first our general observations apply. We shall merely remark that the Bill by permitting the Provinces to remain separate as to government and limits, ans divided by Act 31 Geo. III., there can be no diminution of the necessary expenses of the Government; the real expenses would be increased by the additional cost of travelling and correspondence, and the expenses of transmitting laws, documents, evidence, etc. The duties of the local Executives and of the Departments in England corresponding with them, could not be diminished by a mere legislative union.
If local circumstances and institutions permitted a complete re-union of the Provinces, it could only be rendered useful by the seats in the Legislative Council and in the Assembly becoming vacant, and by appointing Legislative Councillors, who would generally attend in their places, who would not be composed almost exclusively of executive Officers, and particularly of the Judges, whose duties, as such, are sufficient in Canada to occupy the whole of their time; by these means the composition of the Legislative Council might be made more corresponding with that of the House of Lords in England, and it would thus be more likely to be on a footing of better understanding wit the Elective Body. The continuing the Members of the Assembly for one year beyond the time for which they were elected by the people, must be an error: for it is not to be supposed, that it was intended to constitute the Representatives of the people of Canada by and Act of the Imperial Parliament of the United Kingdom.
Clauses 7, 8, 9, 10,. 11, and 12
The clauses provide for the representation of the people in the proposed Legislature of the Canadas.
When the existing constitution of these Provinces was established by the Act 31 Geo. II. cap. 31., Fifty Members of Assembly were allowed to Lower Canada, and fifteen to Upper Canada. The former than contained about 200,000 souls; the latter about 25,000, or one eighth of the former. This was also the proportion of duties which the first agreement between the two Provinces allowed to Upper Canada. The representation of Upper Canada was then double that of the lower Province, in proportion to its population; by the operation of the Upper Canada Act, 60 Geo. III., which is confirmed by the 7th clause, the representation of that Province has been increased to Forty, while that of Lower Canada has remained at Fifty, and every attempt to increase it, has been frustrated in the Lower Province. By the operation of the same Upper Canada Act, continued by the said clause, a regular increase of the representation of that Province, proportionate to the population, is provided for, which would soon carry it to an amount equal to that of Lower Canada, unless the Governor chooses to increase the latter to 60; and even with that increase, the representation of Upper Canada would soon be equal to that of Lower Canada, and it is provided by the 9th Clause, that the number of Representatives shall not be altered, should a minority of one-third of the Members present refuse their assent at either the second or third reading of the Bill.
At the time of the Union between Scotland and England, or Great Britain and Ireland, had the population of England been told that Scotland or Ireland, or both together, were to have a number of Members in the House of Commons equal to that of England, and with such a restriction, it is probable that an alarm fully as great as that which this Bill has excited in Lower Canada, would have prevailed in England.
The present population of Upper Canada has been admitted on the part of Upper Canada, and by the late Canada Trade Act, to be only one fifth of that of Lower Canada; the proportion which the number of qualified Electors in each Provinces bears to the whole population is about the same; almost every father of a family in both Provinces being a freeholder; and the relative wealth in each Province, compared with the population, is in favour of Lower Canada. By the scheme of this Bill, a distinct Province, in reality possessed of distinct interests, of only one-fifth the population of the other (certainly only one-fifth of the qualified Electors,) and of less than one-fifth the wealth, is to have an equal power in levying the taxes, and in appropriating the proceeds to the local expenditures. This is what appears on the face of the Bill, and by the Canada Trade Act passed last Session. But, in reality, the situation of Lower Canada, under this Bill, would be worse than appears even by these documents. The ten Members, which the Governor is empowered by the 8th clause to add to the representation of Lower Canada, may, or may not, be added at his pleasure; if he does so add them, it seems to be intended that they should be given exclusively to the townships erected in continuation of the American settlements in Lower Canada along the frontiers of the United States. These settlements still continue, in part, to be separated by a wilderness, from the old settlements in Lower Canada along the St. Lawrence: thy have very little intercourse or community of interest wit the body of His Majesty’s subjects in Lower Canada; as is the case in Upper Canada, their supplies of articles, of the nature of those which are dutiable on importation at Quebec, are either manufactured in these townships, or brought across the American line; their interests and feelings correspond more with the population of Upper Canada, than with that of the Lower Province. Thus, if ten Members were given to these townships, and as it only requires that there should be six Townships to form a County, whatever may be the population to give one Member in that quarter of the Province, the representation of the two Provinces might, in reality, be considered as about equal immediately. A few votes would put it into the power of the Representation of Upper Canada to impose all new duties, so that they would fall almost exclusively on Lower Canada; or to dispose of the proceeds of all duties, to the exclusive advantage of Upper Canada and the aforementioned Townships. It is probably, indeed, that the spirit of liberality and justice, which, it is well known, distinguishes the majority of the people of Upper Canada, and the common feeling which prevails between them and Lower Canada, in opposition to this Bill, would find means of preventing the excess of injustice which might result from its provisions; but the possibility of such a result, can never justify such an enactment.
It is not, however, in respect to their property only that the inhabitants of Lower Canada have reason to be alarmed by the enactment of these clauses. By the capitulations of Canada; by the Treaty of Cession in 1763; by the acts of the 14th and 31st of Geo. III.; the inhabitants of Lower became entitled to property, civil laws, religious liberties and rights, in many respect different from, and in some instances at variance with, those that have prevailed or do prevail in the other British Colonies. The existing constitution ensures them the full enjoyment of all these, without alteration, unless the majority of the qualified electors throughout the Province should consent to change them, by Representatives chosen by themselves. The proposed Bill, by calling into the Legislature the representatives of a country accustomed to a different order of things, perhaps, prejudiced against that which prevails in Lower Canada, and by giving to that population, consisting of a fourth or fifth of their numbers, property and qualified Electors, a majority, or at least equality of votes, in the only branch of the Colonial Legislature, in which the people of Lower Canada have a direct share, puts all the property, laws, and peculiar privileges of the nature aforementioned, to great hazard: for although restrictions, in certain cases, are imposed upon the infringement of these guaranteed rights, they are not all protected in the same way. They would find it very difficult to vindicate those peculiar privileges, if they were once invaded by an Act of the Colonial Legislature; their property and their persons might for a time be at the disposal of a prejudiced or self-interested minority of the population, having the power of a majority of the representative Assembly, and the support of the whole Legislative, Executive, and Judiciary Authority.
Clauses 13, 14, 15
These are chiefly remarkable for the qualification, to the value of 500l. sterling in real estate, required of the Members of the Assembly, none being necessary by the existing constitutional act. This qualification has been objected to, both by the petitioners for and against the bill, in Upper Canada, as too high. In Lower Canada, where no qualification in property ever existed, it has not been mentioned in the petitions against the bill: in truth, there has hardly ever been a Member in the Assembly of Lower Canada who was not much more than qualified, according to these clauses. The Members having no pay, and disbursing upon an average from 30l. to 50l. each Session, generally without the most distant prospect of any private advantage, no person who is not possessed of much more than 500l. real estate would accept of the situation; or if he were so disposed would find electors to appoint him. The clause, if it does not convey an unjust censure on the electors, is indifferent; such details ought however, as in the 31st Geo. III. to be left to the Colonial Legislature.
This clause authorizing the Governor to appoint executive councillors to sit and debate, but not vote in the Assembly, has excited much reclamation from all parties in Upper Canada. In Lower Canada it has been considered only as a singular deviation from the principles and practice of the British Constitution, and as conveying a very unjust opinion of the people, or a censure upon the Colonial Government and its officers. There is nothing to prevent executive councillors from being elected into the Assembly of either province, unless that the measures of the Colonial Administration, or the conduct of its officers, should be such, as to render them peculiarly obnoxious to the Electors.
Clauses 17 & 18
Some have contended that the seat of the Legislature should be fixed, and that the due and sufficient notice should be better defined. The Governor, seeing the extent of the provinces, and difficulty of travelling, might certainly abuse this prerogative which is allowed him conformably to the practice in England, by assembling the Legislature where few of the Members could attend: but it is not the abuse of power in acts emanating immediately from the Governor that is the most to be apprehended in the Colonies. The 18th clause prolonging the duration of Parliament for one year more than at present established by law, has been reprobated by all parties as a violation of the existing Constitution of the Canadas, and an attempt upon the established liberties of the people.
Clauses 19, 20, 21 & 22
These clauses seem to be altogether of form, and conformable to the present Constitution.
This clause is a direct attempt to destroy one of the most essential privileges claimed and exercised by every Colonial Assembly, and constantly allowed by the Crown. The power of imprisonment for contempt has ever been held by these bodies, as well as by the Courts and Magistrates, as indispensable to the exercise of their functions, and cannot become the subject of Legislative enactments, among co-ordinate bodies, as provided by this clause.
Clauses 24 & 25
These two clauses have excited much animadversion in Lower Canada. Two languages in common use, is an incumbrance; in many instances it is unavoidable; it was so in England after the Norman Conquest; and the ill-advised measure of those barbarous times proscribing the Saxon tongue met with the fate which it deserved; the language of the majority among a people having intercourse with each other always prevails. The English language will unavoidably become the prevailing language of North America, with or without positive enactments. There are probably not ten Members of the present House of Assembly of Lower Canada, who do not understand English; several of them speak English fluently; there is no person of any wealth or station in the Colony who does not cause his children to learn English. It is thus people vary with time, and yield to circumstances; but the language of a mother, of a father, of family and friends, and early associations, is dear to every one; and this unnecessary interference with the language of the people of Canada, has been severely felt in a country in which that language unquestionably was mainly instrumental in preserving the Colony to Great Britain at the period of the American rebellion.
The 25th clause, when taken in connexion with the preceding one, has perhaps been misunderstood. It has been considered as a covert attack on the liberties which the Roman Catholic’s have hitherto enjoyed under the British Government of Canada; and which are secured to them by the capitulations, the Treaty of Cessions, Acts of Parliament, and the liberal practice of the British Government. The Roman Catholic Church in Canada has at its head a Bishop, approved of by the Crown, previous to his canonical institution by the Pope; the state is thus secured against the danger, could any possibility exist in the present age, which might be apprehended from an improper person being placed at the head of that Church in the Colony. With no further control the Government has, in every instance, found the Roman Catholic Clergy devoted to the connexion of the Province with the British Empire, and exercising all their influence to maintain that connexion. The Bishop and all his predecessors have uniformly appointed to, and removed from, the Cures. The King of France, by an order in Council, dated the 27th of May, 1699, declared the Bishops of Quebec to be possessed of this right, emphatically, stating it to be their natural right. The general rule, says Blackstone, is: –
“That it is the business of a Bishop to institute and direct induction to all ecclesiastical livings in his diocese.”
“Il faut toujours observer comme une règle constante, que l’Évêque est le collateur ordinaire de tous les bénéfices de son diocèse, à moins qu’on établisse le contraire, ou par des titres précis, ou par une possession constante, qui fait présumer ce titre.” – D’Hericourt, Loix Ecclesiastiques, 2 Part, Ch. 5
By the present clause it would seem, that what has existed and been enjoyed in Canada to the present day, is no longer to be held valid; but that instead of leaving, as before, the collation to the benefices to the Ordinary, the consent of the Governor in writing must be first obtained. The inference is, that the Curates appointed by the concurrent authority of the Governor and Bishop, could no longer be removable by the separate authority of the latter, as has been hitherto practised; thus taking away the control which the Bishop (himself approved and paid by the Crown) has over his Clergy. Such a proceeding, so contrary to what has existed in the Colony from the commencement, could hardly fail to bring disorders into the discipline of the Roman Catholic Church in Canada, and in the case of a difference of opinion between the Governor and the Bishop, it might have the effect of enabling a Roman Catholic Curate to recover tithes from his Roman Catholic parishioners, after, on their complaint, he had been interdicted by the Bishop, and no longer in a condition to perform fro them those religious services for which the tithe is the consideration. A clause supposed to have such a tendency could hardly fail to excite alarm in Canada; and if ever it were to be acted upon, it would unavoidably give rise to those unhappy feelings between Catholic and Protestant, which have tormented other countries, and from which Canada has been so fortunately exempt under the beneficent and enlightened Government of His Majesty. If the practice hitherto peaceably and beneficially exercised by the Roman Catholic Bishop under His Majesty’s Government were pretended to be unfounded in law, it is by the decisions of Courts of Justice that such pretensions ought to be established, and not by parliamentary interference.
Clauses 26, 27, 28
Only the last of these clauses requires any remark. The provision which it contains for continuing the salaries of the officers of the Legislatures, to be paid no doubt out of the colonial funds, although it may be just in regard to these officers, ought to have been left to the Colonial Legislature. It has the appearance of an appropriation by the Parliament of the United Kingdom, of monies raised on the subject in the Colonies, contrary to the Declaratory Act 18 George III., confirmed by the existing Constitution of the Canadas; and it is because the aforementioned declaration is considered as the palladium of the security of the property of the subject in the Colonies, and of all his other rights, that reclamations against this Clause have been made by all parties.
The general objections to the measure, as stated by us, may be reduced to the following heads, viz.,
1st. The satisfaction of both Provinces with the existing Constitution, as incontestibly proved by the absence of all public complaints against it, or alleged evils resulting therefrom, previous to the arrival of the intelligence in the Colonies of the introduction of the present Bill into Parliament.
2nd.The non-existence of any evils actually proved to result from the established Constitution.
3rd. The general inexpediency of changes in established Constitutions, particularly when the Legislature must unavoidably be unacquainted with the local circumstances of the countries which these changes are to effect.
4th. The expressed repugnance of the inhabitants of both Provinces of Canada to the proposed measure.
5th. The impracticability of obtaining the ends of the established of a subordinate and local Legislature, throughout so great an extent of sew country, with such varieties of climate, wants, and circumstances.
6th. The differences of the long-established Codes of Law, Local Regulations, and Customs, in the two Provinces, and the opposition of their local interests.
The enacting Clauses of the Bill, according to our view of them, are liable to the following objections:
1st. They do not tend to diminish the expenses of the Colonies, remedy abuses, or render their Government less complicated and difficult.
2nd. They endanger or destroy the just right which His Majesty’s subjects in Lower Canada enjoy by the existing Constitution, of not being taxed, or not having the proceeds of the taxes levied on them, disposed of, without their consent through their own Representatives.
3rd. They endanger the right which they now enjoy, and which is guaranteed to them in the most solemn manner, of preserving their existing laws and institutions, unless they consent by their Representatives to alterations.
4th. They impose unnecessary qualifications on persons who may be elected to serve in the Assemblies, and lengthen the duration of the Colonial Legislatures beyond the terms now established by law.
5th. They introduce among the Representatives of the people, independently of the votes of the Electors, executive officers, contrary to all precedent within the British dominions.
6th. They destroy an acknowledged privilege of all the Colonial Assemblies, without which they could have no existence, independent of the other authorities.
7th. They proscribe the language of the great majority of the people in the Assembly of their own Representatives, and question a privilege connected with religion, uninterruptedly, peaceably, and usefully, exercised under His Majesty’s Government for more than half a century.
8th. They finally countenance an appropriation of the money levied on the subjects in the Colonies, without the consent of their Local Representatives.
On referring to the debates during the progress of this Bill and Canada Trade Act in the House of Commons, we find no motives alleged for the introduction of the present Bill, after the passing of the latter, which contains the arrangements relating to the misunderstandings which had subsisted between the Upper and the Lower Province. The existence of the present Constitutions of the two Provinces for nearly thirty years without any misunderstanding with regard to trade and revenue, is the best proof that these differences were not a necessary consequence of the division of the late Province of Quebec. It is neither necessary nor practicable that the inhabitants of countries lying on the same extensive rivers, forming their natural outlet to the sea, should be under the same Government. Europe shews many countries so situated, even under independent Governments, where a good understanding on matters of trade and revenue has never been interrupted. The United States of America exhibit a great number of Local Governments, having no communication wit the sea but through other states. If it were indispensable that countries on the waters of the same river should be under one Local Legislature, the United States of America would have the best possible argument for uniting the Canadas to these states, which have now on the waters of the St. Lawrence a greater population than that of all British America. The present Constitution of the Canadas has, however, provided for the settlement of any differences which accidentally might arise between the two Provinces respecting trade or revenue. It is perhaps to be regretted by both Provinces, that the recent complaints of Upper Canada were not laid before the Legislature of Lower Canada, and that the latter Province had not, as well as the Upper Province, a Commissioner in England to support its interests, before any decision is, however, made, and the law is now in operation; and we have not yet heard of any representation from the Constitutional Authorities of either Province on this subject. The whole matter relating to revenue between the two Provinces now lies between the Colonial Executives and His Majesty’s Government in England; and it must, at least, be a matter of mutual congratulation to the inhabitants of both Provinces, that it is in the hands of those who can have no interest in an unfair division of the proceeds of the taxes, and that a potent engine for exciting misunderstanding among those whose dearest interests lie in friendly union, no longer exists.
We have heard, indeed, in the Colonies, motives alleged for changes in the Constitution of Lower Canada; but as they bear the character of party, of prejudice, and even hatred, of the inhabitants of that Province, they never can be supposed to influence the British Government. There appeals have been made to the right of conquest against a people who have been for two generations native born British subjects; foreign attachments and feelings have been ascribed to those, who have twice voluntarily hazarded their lives and fortunes to preserve their allegiance to the British Crown. No calumny, no misrepresentation, has been spared against those who have uniformly walked in the path of honour and of duty, and who, if they were unfortunately torn from that allegiance, which connects them with the British Empire, could not fail to perceive, that as natives and inhabitants of North America, they would partake in its fortunes.
We very much regret that we should have trespassed so much upon your indulgence by the length of this letter. We entered into the subject with reluctance; but having done so, it became our duty to comply with your recommendation of expressing ourselves fully and freely.
We have no doubt but that His Majesty’s Government will give the fullest consideration to a subject of so much moment to the interest, quiet, and future well-being of more than a million of natural born British subjects, inhabiting the North American Colonies. It does not become us to weigh and speak of the interests of this great and glorious Empire. It has hitherto been the happiness of Canada to find in her own case, that, amongst those interests, the most highly prized has always been the established rights and happiness of every portion of His Majesty’s subjects.
Should His Majesty’s Government at any future period judge it expedient to countenance this Bill, we most respectfully solicit: –
1st. That the Governors of Lower Canada and of Upper Canada be instructed to recommend to their Legislatures respectively, and to sanction a law, whereby a true enumeration of the population of the respective cities, towns, villages, townships, parishes, counties, ridings, and districts of each Province, may be made upon oath, for the purpose of being transmitted to England, previous to the measure being again proceeded upon.
2nd. That the Governor of Lower Canada be instructed to recommended to the Legislature, and to sanction a law, for appointing a Commissioner of Commissioners to proceed to England, to be heard in support of the existing Constitution of the Province.
We humbly suggest that instructions to the above effect are indispensable to the ends of justice, as Bills for similar purposes have been constantly opposed by the Provincial Advisers of the Crown for several years past.
We have the honour to be,
Your very humble
and obedient Servants,
L. J. PAPINEAU
R. WILMOT, Esq., M.P.,
Under Secretary of State
for the Colonial Department.
Leave a Reply