Letter from William McDougall [re the Upper House] to Lord Monck (27 January 1867)
By: William McDougall
Citation: Letter from William McDougall to Lord Monck (27 January 1867).
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Westminster P. Hotel
Jany 27th 1867
My dear Lord Monck
I hinted to you as we were leaving the conference today yesterday that there had been a breach of faith towards a section of the delegates in the remarks of by some of the Spokesman. I think it my duty to make the following statement to you in the confidence that exists between us, and I leave you to act as you may judge best. You will do me the justice to say if ever it should become necessary – that I have not attempted to intrigue in any way either in Canada or in London against the resolutions scheme of union agreed to by the Can Quebec Conference and Canadian and approved by the Canadian Legislature. But you have known from the first that I, in common with many I might say all, of the leading men of the party I belong to have felt very strong
repugnance objections to some of the features of the Quebec scheme and especially to the plan of an a fixed Upper Chamber. Indeed I told the Conference at Quebec, and Mr. Brown & Mowatt, concurred in my view, that believing the Imperial Parliament would never would stultify themselves before the world, itself by enacting so absurd a constitution as that proposed and that I yielded by to the majority then reserving my right to object & discuss the point at every relying on their good sense decision of the majority to rectify the mistake at Quebec favourable opportunity afterwards I reluctantly assented to the plan. When Mr. Howland was asked to join the Government he objected to become responsible for the Quebec scheme especially in the matter of the Upper House. Brown’s answer was “The thing is so ridiculous that no British Parliament will ever be got to assent to it.” You may rest content on that point” and on this suggestion, he took office. It has been no secret to our colleagues that we held ourselves at liberty, if asked our
opinion, to say we did not as individuals, or as exponents of the views of the Liberal party of Upper Canada believe that an appointed body an upper House appointed for life, and fixed as to its number, would work satisfactorily. But for the sake of the measure as a whole, we declined of to break from the come to an open rupture with our colleagues, although we have steadily argued and voted against that future of the scheme on every occasion on which it has come before the conference. After Mr. Cardwell’s Despatch and the discussions that followed in the press and elsewhere we felt strengthened in our hope and belief that an amendment would be made here, and giving that as our reason declined necessary to press the point with much urgency till very recently to discuss or urge the point as we otherwise would have done. In our recent On the revision of the scheme in London, we found ourselves obliged in order to avoid a split, to yield pecuniary certain advantages to both Nova Scotia & New Brunswick. This was a departure from the Quebec Resolutions and from our instructions
as delegates, so far as the Canadian Legislature may be held to have instructed us. We contended at the time that if we were compelled to make new concessions on these points we should hold ourselves released from any obligation to resist amendments on the other points if they were proposed by the Imperial Government & met our views. When therefore, we came to settle finally our Resolutions the Upper House question was held admitted to be re-opened for reconsideration. We discussed it for 3 or 4 days and I was glad to find that a change had taken place in the minds of some of the Lower Province delegates, and an informal on a vote being taken, on a trial vote we stood, -Upper Canada and New Brunswick against the Quebec plan, and Nova Scotia (by a bare majority of its delegates,) and Lower Canada for it. But even after this result still out of regard to the strong prejudices & fears of L.C. we yielded and in view of the fact that this obnoxious feature had been approved by the Canadian vantage & agreed to allow the Chairman to state Legislature – we having announced that the Quebec Res. were a treaty & could not be amended by one party to that treaty we yielded the point so far as to allow the Chairman to state to Lord Carnarvon that the Provinces adhered to the Quebec Plan but not without being considerable differences of opinion among the delegates. We insisted
that there should be no argument in favor of the Quebec plan Upper House resolution feature by any one speaking in the name of on behalf of the Conference If Lord Carnarvon asked for the reasons which induced us to present such a scheme reasons unless specially asked – & on this point it was to be admitted that our proposal was a Compromise Mr. McDonald was to state them briefly but not argumentatively, and he was admitting at the same time that the proposition was a compromise & that there were of the delegates with many strong opinions against it. No one else was to argue the case, because we who held a different view, declared that if Dr. Tupper, or Mr. Cartier was undertook to argue the case we should immediately present our views on the other side. Both Dr. Tupper and Mr Cartier distinctly violated this arrangement and not only argued for the Quebec plan an appointed & fixed U. House, but represented themselves on as speaking the individual views of every the member of the Conference! You may have noticed that I immediately conferred with three or four of the delegates who were astounded at this breach of faith
Some of them and who were determined to denounce it and to state then and there our agreement, and the reasons for it, and to open the whole case, by presenting the opposition view and taking proposing a vote and take a vote then and there on the subject upon the point. I thought it better in order secure an to have the advantages in our subsequent discussions, to restrain this movement, and as I expressed it “wash our dirty linen at the Hotel” Mr. Henry Wilmot and others assented and we said nothing than. I suggested to them that by holding our tongues under provocation. But when we would have a great advantage in our subsequent discussions They acquiesced & when we reached the Hotel, we opened our fire, with guns double-shotted – and We soon compelled a surrender. Humble apologies were made, but the question being up we thought it as well wise to press for the adoption of an alternative. Mr. McCully had proposed some time ago that a clause should be added provision should be made for additions to the Upper House when found necessary to bring that body in accord with public opinion by additional appointments when if necessary the appoint proportions being maintained between the sections & the appointments being subject to the approval of His Majesty in Council. This was now moved
again and debated all the afternoon. A good deal of warmth was excited exhibited on both sides and it looked for a time, as if we were about to be resolved into our original elements. Galt, who has been very quiet here tofore took mounted a high horse against the domination of the West, and stiffened up Cartier & Langevin who seemed very willing to yield. Tupper contended that Nova Scotia & the smaller colonies Provinces would be at the mercy of the Upper Canada, that the fixed Upper House was their only protection and they wanted it fixed just because as I told him he wanted it would make a dead lock whenever the Govt & Lower House pro they had – In other words that when the measures they did not like. In other words he wanted (as I told him) that Govt. & House of Commons of the Confed an irresponsible CHamber of Crown appointees should during their lives govern B America. & that when they eration, 3 millions out of 4 of the people desired some reform of the tariff or some public improvement in the West, or the admission of new members to the Confederation, the District of Quebec. & two maritime Provinces might through their 37 men in the U.H. refuse to assent except on condition that some unfair unless upon some unfair & unnecessary unless their demands for local advantages however unjust were were secured to conditions of pecuniary, or other advantage to themselves! at the same time acceeded to We had a trial took a vote on McCully’s proposition 10 to 7 for the and carried it – 10 to 7
having a majority in three Provinces L.C. alone being a unit against it. power of addition, to 7 against it. So the matter stands. We are to meet early on Monday, and finally we settle the form of our alternative proposition. I have given you this rather tedious narrative in order that you may know precisely how we the matter stands My ad advice is, if I may presume to give it that Lord Carnarvon should not yield his opposition to the Quebec plan, of a second Chamber. If he is inclined to give way at all he might accept our alternative proposition with such an excision of certain conditions with which it may possibly be clogged. It He will not break up the conference by such a course – None of these sticklers for a Cast Iron constitution dare go back to their constituents and tell them that they broke up the Conference on that ground only and on that alone seceded on such a ground. It would like to have the opportunity have been easier for me & perhaps for you also if I had called upon you & talked over this matter but as I have of talking with you on one or two other points already heard whispers of but as their have been insinuations of backstairs suggestions it may be as well to avoid I thought it better to write.any ground for appearance of ground for it. On this point being unwilling to offend Galt or Cartier McDonald plays fast & loose though he is with us in opinion & they suspect it. He does not wish to offend Cartier or let I have dealt frankly with them all the way through and and I believe they are much less offended I have with me offended them less than with him.
Believe me as ever very faithfully yours