Letter [re: Senate] from John A. Macdonald to Lord Carnarvon (30 January 1867)

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Date: 1867-01-30
By: John A. Macdonald
Citation: Letter from John A. Macdonald to Lord Carnarvon (30 January 1867) in Joseph Pope, Memoirs of The Right Honourable Sir John A Macdonald, Vol. I, (Ottawa: J. Durie & Son, 1894) at 388-389.
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Westminster Palace Hotel, Victoria Street,
London, S.W., January 30, 1867.


Our propositions were:—

1. That the tenure of office for the Senate should be for life.
2. That to preserve sectional interests, each of the three sections should be equally represented.

We left the case there, but Your Lordship called our attention to the chance of a deadlock. To meet Your Lordship’s views, and, as we understandit, the opinion of the Cabinet, we offered this suggestion, that whenever a money Bill was rejected by the Upper Chamber three times, it would be a justification for the Governor, with the advice of his Council, to add to the Upper House a sufficient number to carry the measure, provided that such Bill was carried at its third reading in the Commons by a majority of two out of the three sections of which the Confederation is composed. This majority is to be an absolute majority, and not merely of those voting.

In making the additions equality is to be preserved. As vacancies occur they are not to be filled up until the normal number of twenty-four for each section is reached. Of course provision must be made for the contingency of another deadlock before we get down to our original numbers.

With respect to the constitution of the Senate on its first formation, we propose that the names shall be settled by the Governors of the respective provinces with their Councils. Should any irreconcilable difference of opinion arise—which I cannot well anticipate—the parties shall be appointed by the Imperial Government on the Governors’ recommendation and on their personal responsibility as Imperial officers.

It is suggested that the names should be inserted in the proclamation declaring the Union. I can say now to you, what I could not well say at the meeting yesterday, that any immediate nomination would be prejudicial to the existing Governments in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. The Legislatures of both those provinces meet in March, and if the list were settled now, every man in the Upper House of both those provinces who is omitted, rightly or wrongly, would vote against the Government.

Believe me to be, dear Lord Carnarvon,

Very sincerely yours,


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