Meeting of the Liberal Convention of Upper Canada, Part III (10 November 1859)
By: The Globe
Citation: “Meeting of the Liberal Convention of Upper Canada”, The Globe [Toronto] (12 November 1859).
MEETING OF THE LIBERAL CONVENTION OF UPPER CANADA.
Thursday, Nov. 10.
Mr. Diamond, Belleville, said – I am glad that Mr. Sheppard has raised the question of Dissolution in the way he has done, because it will show that this Convention is not a packed Convention, consisting altogether of individuals coming here with one set of views. But before alluding to that question, I would make a remark on the complexion of this Convention. I agree with previous speakers that no such meeting of delegates, no such assembly of men from various parts of Canada over met before. Any one who looks over this meeting must be satisfied that it does represent the wealth, intelligence, and respectability of this Province, and that whatever decision it comes to must have an important practical effect on the political affairs of Canada. I see that the ministerial prints, although they cry somewhat small this morning, yet try to belittle this Convetion, but any attempt of that kind must prove futile. I hold in my hand a copy of the Colonist, which contains an advertisement that throws disgrace on the paper publishing it. It calls a public meeting of the rate payers to be held this evening in front of the St. Lawrence Hall, to consider why they are excluded from this Convention. The person who indited that advertisement might with equal propriety demand admittance here to the private entertainment of Captain Morton Price. [Hear, hear] Mr. Sheppard has truly said that there are great difficulties in the way of providing a remedy for the evils under which we labour. I believe that every remedy proposed for our consideration should have at least three characteristics. We should seek a remedy which is in the first place practicable, in the second place efficient, and in the third place beneficial to our interest. In advocating Dissolution, Mr. Sheppard said we must obtain the consent of Lower Canada, before we can get the Federation of the two Provinces. I know it is very important that we should obtain that consent, but does not the same difficulty. It is true our debt is very great. Calling it in round numbers 60 millions of dollars, that is 40 dollars a piece to each man, woman and child in the Province, 200 dollars to each male adult, and 400 dollars to each elector, the interest on which is ￡6 per annum. A difficulty has been raised with reference to our assumption of this debt, but the difficulty applies still more strongly if we go for a Dissolution, and the same may be said of the argument with reference to Lower Canada cutting us off from access to the sea-board. But I do not think Lower Canada will impose restrictions on our trade, which would injure herself more than us. As regards the question of Representation by Population, I was glad to hear Mr. Donnelly, from Picton, announce the views he did, as I am aware that in coming here he intended to advocate that as the cure for the evils which oppress us. I was glad to find that he had discovered that that was not a sufficient cure. The question is, is it practicable? Can we get Lower Canada to concede it? I think not. Although we carried on the agitation for that measure, considering that the resistance of Lower Canada would be strengthened by traitors among the Upper Canada members, I believe that ten years hence we would be no nearer obtaining it than now. As to annexing the North-west, that also would be resisted by the Lower Canadians, so long as our system remains on the present footing, lest the increase of our numbers should be such that the demand for Representation by Population could no longer be resisted. Mr. Diamond made some further remarks, referring to Lord Durham’s report as having foreshadowed many of the evils now complained of, and as giving a statesmanlike view of the whole subject, and concluded by expressing his conviction that the decision which would be come to by the Convention, would be one which the Parliamentary Opposition could adopt as their policy and which would be sustained by the country.
The Convention then adjourned till two o’clock. On resuming,
Mr. Field said – I do not intend to occupy the position of speaker before this very intelligent body of men, met together to discuss question of interest to Upper and Lower Canada but a gentleman who preceded the last speaker has brought me to my feet. Mr. Sheppard brought before you a question for discussion which I as well as others will have an opportunity of expressing my opinion upon. One point which has not been touched, bears upon the first resolution; it has reference to the antagonism between different races. Lower Canadian are decidedly a French people. We do not, an Upper Canadians, oppose them on that account for I believe a Frenchman is a nobel fellow, possessed of various elements of character which are an honour to his race – his politeness of manner, and other qualities, cast among us Anglo-Saxons, would be of great benefit to us in smoothing down some of our angularities and moulding us into gentlemen. (applause.) But do not think anything would have been brought before this Convention would have met, had not Lower Canadians taken to themselves the decision of purely Upper Canadian questions. (Cheers.) I will mention one question — that of [illegible] observance, which the Hon. George Brown has repeatedly brought before the Assembly, purely an Upper Canadian question, connected with the Protestant denominations. In the last session thirty-six Upper Canadian members voted for the bill, only six against it, and to his eternal disgrace be it spoken, among those six was one of the members who represents the riding which I have the honour to represent as this Convention. It was negatived by Lower Canada votes. I think I express the views of a great many persons in Western Canada when I say a federative union of the two Provinces would be most beneficial to us all. I am not one of those who think great radical changes are necessary in Canada or anywhere else. I would let the changes which are to be made be of an easy character, and I think the federal union of the two Provinces the most beneficial measure which can be advocated before this Convention.
Mr. McLean, of Blenheim – We are met to decide on an important question. It is confessed by all that some change in the system of government is necessary. Even the Governor General in his despatch, addressed to the Secretary of the Colonies, admits this fact. The sole question is as to the remedy. There are two remedies spoken of, and persons have been invited to come here fairly to express their opinions upon them. If I differ from the leaders of my party I ought not the less to declare what my honest opinion is, though I have the most complete confidence in those leaders and though I differ from them with regret. I am not one of those who consider George Brown as the great bugbear who prevents our party from obtaining power. On the contrary, I believe whoever may be the nominal leader his talents and energy will make him really so. (Loud cheers.) And yet I say this without any desire to depreciate other gentlemen, for I heard the hon. Oliver Mowat this morning, with the greatest satisfaction. But I came here satisfied that all remedies were useless, and I despaired of success on anything. I therefore had forsaken politics and did not go near the meeting by which I was nominated, and being appointed even against my will I was left to vote freely according as the circumstances should present themselves to me. I shall, however, if I find a remedy which I think the best accept it cordially, even though it came from those with whose views I now differ. What a picture Mr. Mowat drew this morning of the different races which have now to legislate together. The consideration of this fact makes me in favour of a dissolution pure and simple. (Loud cheers.) I admit that there are difficulties in the way of obtaining this measure – the apportionment of the public debt; the satisfaction of the public debtor; the arrangement of the navigation of the St. Lawrence, the management of the canals; and the tariff. Now the debt, whether we dissolve the union or federate the two provinces, must be paid, and we must take our fair share of it. I see no difficulty in that, for whatever arrangement can be made with Lower Canada in case of federation, may be also made in case of a simple dissolution of the Union. But in respect to the satisfaction of the public creditor, I do see a great obstacle, and, perhaps, an insuperable one. The faith of the whole Province is bound for the debt, and there are three parties, at least, who have to be consulted with respect to any new arrangement of it. These are Upper Canada, Lower Canada, and the public creditor, who has to be satisfied as well with the security that Upper Canada may offer for her share, as with that which Lower Canada may offer for hers. This, then, is the one great difficulty. As to the navigation of the St. Lawrence, it is not open at best more than four or five months, and it would be suicidal for Lower Canada to shut it up against us during that period. We are not now confined to one route to the Ocean, and we shall have rivals asking and begging for our trade. There will, therefore be no difficulty about this. I cannot see the advantages which some perceive in the plan of federation, for I believe that if one scheme can be carried out the other can also be accomplished, and if there is one thing which has taken hold of the public mind in Upper Canada more than another, it is the desire for dissolution. I know, at any rate, that it is so in North Oxford. Mr. McDougall has lately made a tour of that part of the country, and, though I took no part of the country, and, though I took no part in politics, I was an attentive observer of events, and I found that the public sentiment was everywhere in favour of dissolution. It is now said that we are to have two or more governments. I would, at least, blot out the word “more.” I do not like the idea of cutting Upper Canada up into small divisions like little German principalities, with a little government and a little governor in each. I think, too, that such a multiplied government must be more expensive and cumbersome than it need be. My principal objection to the federative scheme, however, is that, although there are many things in its favour, among the [illegible] that local affairs would be managed by local bodies, the general government would consist of the same elements as at present. Little Cartier would come there, as he came now, and would tell you that if you introduced the question of Representation according to Population, he would have to look out for a new state of political existence. What can he look for? Independence, and that they are not prepared for; annexation to the States, anditehn brother Jonathan would swallow them up; or, lastly – what some of their public men have lately been talking about – annexation to France and the protection of Louis Napoleon. Now under the federation, certain questions must be left to the general Government. It is said the less the better, and I say so too; but we must have customs’ duties. Well would these be imposed in such a way as to favour Lower Canada? That must be left to the men who passed the present tariff and it, or a similar one would no doubt again be carried, if a sufficient number of traitors from Upper Canada could be got to barter their principles, as, looking at the history of the past – and it was melancholy to do so – he feared they could be. They had been found before, and he believed they might be found again. On the other hand, with a dissolution to do with Lower Canada in the way of government than we have with the State of New York. Whatever is decided upon, however, I admit that the Reform members of Parliament deserve our support. When the Brown-Dorion Ministry was formed, was one of those sanguine spirits who thought the evils of Upper Canada had come to an end; and I continued to think so till the conviction was forced upon me that the Governor General had been conspiring with these men to betray the interests of the country. (Cheers.) I would not, therefore, do anything to weaken the members of that Government when they shall go down to Quebec to fight the enemy. But after it had been defeated by the double shuffle and the outrages which accompanied it, I looked with great anxiety when the question came up, at its conduct, as a untied party that had composed a ministry, on the Seignorial Tenure Bill. The members of the Government had stated that that question was to be settled by payments out of the local funds of that part of the Province. Now if that were the right way of settling the question at the time that ministry was formed, it was also the right way when the government scheme afterwards came up. I think that the late Brown-Dorion ministry should have putted their scheme against the ministerial one, and then we should have seen who the upper Canadian traitor was who would vote against the Lower Canadians being allowed to tax themselves for the redemption of their estates. With my present light, I shall, when the question comes up, vote for dissolution pure and simple, but my opinion may be modified by those who have yet to speak. If they can show me that federation is better, and can be more easily obtained, I will take off my cap and go again on the stump as I have done before. At any rate I will vote for any reformer in favour of Federation, before I will vote for a Tory – that I never did, and never will vote for. I cannot trust one of them. (Cheers.)
Mr. John McNaughton of Haldimand, did not come there to be dictated to by the members of the Legislature but to tell them what the country wanted them to do. He was much obliged to Messrs. Brown and Cemeron for opening the discussion, and thought there must be a change. He understood Mr. Brown to propose change in the present system of responsible government – the pride of the world but thought they should look carefully before they took that step. Mr. Brown should have told what the Federal Government was to do. If the expenses, which he said were increasing, fell into the hands of that government, and they had not sufficient revenue, they must fall back upon the local legislatures who would have to resort to direct taxation, and the country would then be subject to the two system of direct and indirect taxation at the same moment. He would have preferred a system of free trade and direct taxation. Otherwise with direct and indirect taxation, he knew what must be the end. It was necessary to appeal to Lower Canada for federation even, and why not therefore for dissolution? A federation might be well enough in itself, but the details were everything, and these had been kept back. If they were still to be kept back what were the delegates to say to those who sent them there? They could only say that they had voted for federation; but what the details were to be they could say nothing about. This would be taken hold of by the miniserial press – for what would they not take hold of when they had slandered the venerable President of the Convention – and more harm than good would be done? The delegates had been invited here to say what they thought for the good of the country, and he believed that the members of the Legislature should [illegible] explained their whole plan. Still, he thought these gentlemen would be as ready to receive suggestions as to make them.
Dr. Clark – I consider the Opposition to be in an anomalous position. Last session they came forward with a different platform from their present one, and because the members of the Opposition have thought it necessary to change that platform, they have summoned this mass meeting of the Reform party of Upper Canada. I am prepared to endorse the sentiment of Mr. McLean in favour of a dissolution of the Union. Lower Canada has been our partner long enough; she has violated her vows, and we should sue for a divorce. I know that there are stumbling blocks in the way, but we must try and surmount them. We know how we have been trodden down by Canada East. I need not mention the case of Sheriff Mercer, nor what a majority sanctioned the act he had committed. I need not speak of a Ryerson, with his casual advantages, whom that majority patted on the back instead of turning him out of office; nor need I name the persons who, treating him in the style of “hail fellow, well met,” had shown their approval by adding a few dollars to his salary; nor need I speak of the Custom-house officers placed throughout the country in sincures, provided for them by Lower Canadian majorities, we all the while lying supinely in their hands and forging the very chains which bind us to the dust. I think we cannot have a Federation satisfactory to both Upper and Lower Canada. I am, however, for a Federation of all the British North American Provinces, for who nows that we may not some day have a scion of royalty to wave a sceptre over us? There has been many a king who has had a less wide kingdom and less numerous and intelligent subjects than those which would belong to the Kind of Canada. In the meantime, let us have a dissolution; let us have a proper arrangement for the St. Lawrence and the canals, and when the Red River colony is established and populated, let us have a Federation so colossal that Lower Canada will not have in it the influence she now possesses, and yet will have her rights. Let us have our own fault if we do not rule the country with economy, develop its resources, and make it what it ought to be, the brightest diadem of Victoria.
Mr. Foley would not have addressed the meeting, if the views of several of the gentlemen who had lately spoken had not been so much opposed to his own. I am, said he, opposed to his won. I am, said he, opposed to a dissolution of the Union. I know that in making that announcement I make one contrary to the wishes of many, perhaps to a majority, of this Convention. I know that, disheartened with past reverses and despairing of every reform while connected with the people of Lower Canada, thousands of persons in Upper Canada, Conservatives as well as Reformers, have made up their minds that nothing but a dissolution of the Union would meet the views of the country. That opinion is entertained by men for whom I have the greatest respect, with whom it has been my pleasure to be connected; but nevertheless could not approve of the dissolution and that because he conceived it to be a retrograde step. The principle on which the Reform party has acted political position, I have no doubt that the Union has been productive of a great deal of good. It has placed us in a different position to that we formerly occupied, not only in respect to our own local government, but in relation to what I may call the outer world. Since the Union, we have increased in material wealth. When it was formed Upper Canada was poor, distressed, confused, and demented, even to rebellion. For a few years subsequent to the Union, however, all was prosperity. I opposed the Union as a young man, and with very immature notions; but I did so on the very ground upon which I now oppose injustice to Upper Canada. I believe it unfair to give Lower Canada less than her due proportion of representation in the Legislature of the county, and my friend Mr. Woodruff will remember, he contested the county of Lincoln on the principle of opposition to the Union, because it inflicted injustice upon Lower Canada, by taking from the people their revenues without giving them an adequate representation, which was to be imposed on them without their consent. I am, however, opposed to the Dissolution of the Union now; but not to such an extent that I would not be for it under certain circumstances. Rather than remain as we are now, under the hoof of Lower Canada – our money taken from us without our consent – laws forced upon us against our will – the people and the representatives of the people of Upper Canada treated in the Legislature with contumely and contempt – rather than continue to submit to such a state of things, I will become an advocate even for the Dissolution of the Union. (Thundering cheers.) I should be unworthy the name of a British subject, or the title of freeman, if I did not resist when I saw that Lower Canada was determined permanently to force on us a government in which the people of Upper canada have time and again declared they have no confidence. The great argument of Mr. Sheppard against the plan of Federation was its impracticability; but I think for the purposes of his argument he was bound to go farther, and to prove that Dissolution is practicable. I think it impracticable, and, first, because you cannot secure the consent even of the people of Upper Canada. That may seem extraordinary; but we from the West who, perhaps, feel our present political degradation more acutely than the people of other parts of the Province, must remember that there is an eastern section, from whence come a large number of the present Parliamentary Opposition, in whom you have repeatedly declared your confidence. You must obtain the consent of these gentlemen, making at elast one-fifth of the Opposition, before you can carry the plan of dissolution even in Upper Canada, and among these are some who have been the strongest supporters of Reform principles. Everywhere from the East of Cobourg there will be, I suppose, a majority against dissolution. (Hear, hear, from Mr. D. A. Macdonald). My friend on my right says “Hear, hear,” and I need only mention his name to satisfy the Convention that what I say is the simple truth. Now is it desirable to lose the co-operation of the representatives of that section of country? But if we could succeed in Upper Canada, we cannot expect full success without the co-operation of Lower Canada, and that I do not think we secured even that, still the thing would be impracticable; for the British Government and the public creditor must be parties to the change. Mr. Sheppard may say that it is necessary to procure the consent of all these parties to the principle of Federation; but I am not now discussing that. I shall do it when it comes up; but I at present deal with the question of Dissolution, and shall now advert to some difficulties in the way of carrying out that plan, even after you shall have got the consent of all the parties I have named. We are in partnership with Lower Canada and have property in common; how is that property to be divided? The most valuable part is in Upper Canada, and would you consent to give your public lands, or a part of them, to what would, after Dissolution, be a foreign power? Again, the Lower Canadians would say, when the union was formed – We had five or six millions in the chest, you had nothing; restore us to our pecuniary position if you want to dissolve the partnership.
A voice – They have had it all back.
Mr. Foley – I think so, and more too; but it will be hard to make them believe it (laughter); and if you convinced them of your theory you might find it very hard to get back your money. (Laughter.) Now how long would it take to settle all these things? Perhaps it may be thought that the British Government will step in; but if they did so it would be an interference with our local affairs, which I suppose the strongest disunionist would regret. Under all these circumstances I appeal to the Convention to say whether it will be well to enter upon a discussion which must involve us in many years of wasted energies; in strife with Lower Canada, and perhaps in a collision with the British Government? I have been a Reformer from my youth up, and always shall be one – whatever the Reformers decide on shall be my decision, believing that it will be a good one; but I nevertheless hope that all who have come here wishing for a Dissolution of the Union will become convinced of one of two things, either that it is not advisable, or that is impracticable. Either conviction will ensure unanimity — (laughter) — and there will then be no chance for the enemy to say that we came together only to quarrel; but on the contrary there will then be that union of Reformers which prevailed in old times, and which enabled us to secure to Upper and Lower Canada alike the full measure of the rights of British subjects.
The four first resolutions were then put to the Convention and carried unanimously.
Mr. Diamond of Belleville, seconded by Mr. David Wyllie, moved the 5ht resolution as follows:
“Resolved, – That in the opinion of this assembly, the best practical remedy for the evils now encountered in the government of Canada is to be found in the formation of two or more local governments, to which shall be committed the control of all matters of a local or sectional character, and a general government charged with such matters as are necessarily common to both sections of the Province.”
The question being put by the Chairman, considerable opposition was manifested, Mr. Geo. Sheppard being loudly called for, when
A gentlemen rose in the body of the meeting, who said – I would make a remark about a gentleman in this assembly, and editor of a Reform paper, strongly supported in our county, and who is strongly identified with the Reform party. He came out on the Reform ticket, but for some reason he has turned his coast. (Oh, oh.) Now, I say, it is not more than right that this assembly should cause that gentleman to come forward and explain his views.
Mr. Geo. Sheppard said – The fifth resolution, affirming the desirableness of a Federative Union having been moved and seconded, I step forward to offer an amendment. I am not wedded to any particular phraseology in its – I shall cheerfully modify or alter the language in any way to adapt it to the opinions of the friends of the movement. I have set down my views plainly, for the purpose of raising the dissolution issue in the simplest possible shape: –
Resolved, – That in the judgement of this Convention, a totally unqualified dissolution affords the most simple and efficacious remedy for the prevailing administrative evils, which flow from the legislative union of Upper and Lower Canada.
Having already spoken upon the general question, I do not intend to occupy your time by trespassing upon that ground, but I do propose to touch upon some of the dieas urged by gentlemen who have addressed you; and I will begin with the member for North Waterloo. As I understood him, he said that rather than continue the present system – rather than Upper Canada should continue at the feet of Lower Canada – he would accept a dissolution, pure and simple. I take that as a very great admission, for if there be anything so radically wrong in a dissolution, I want to know how a man can accept it as an alternative. That there is any insurmountable difficulty in it, is practically denied when it is said, “If we cannot get what we want, we go for a dissolution.” (Hear, hear.) But, said Mr. Foley, it is objectionable, because retrogressive. The Union was an experiment; and just as a men may confess, without disgrace, that he has been in error, so may a province confess that a [illegible] may confess, without disgrace, that he has been taken has not brought about the result desired. We effected a union with Lower Canada, in order that certain results might be obtained. Those results have not been attained, and we desire to free ourselves from the connection with Lower Canada that we may bring them about. Is this improper? Is this unreasonable? (No, no.) But, it is said, it is impossible to gain a Dissolution of the Union pure and simple. I now propose to address myself to that point. We are not to expect, I take it, that if this platform is adopted precisely as it is, all Upper Canada will hold up their hands and say carried. That is not expected. There is, as I understand, in connection with this Convention, to be established a party organization. [Illegible] are to go into the country and arouse public opinion thoroughly. Is more than this needed for a Dissolution? Have you not to confess that to make Federation possible, you have to educate the people? Can you hope to accomplish any scheme of reform without doing this [illegible]. You must do it, whatever scheme you may public assemblage, Dissolution pure and simple will recommend itself ot the minds of the people, in preference to Federation – because it is more simple, more effectual. [Cheers.] The federative plan of government is a more refined system – rendering it unfitted to the simple requirements of the people of Canada. What are you going to give your Federative Government to do? Are you prepared to create local governments, and then to create a central legislature, a central executive, with a vice-roy at the top – all to transact the business of a Province? Especially will you do this, imply that we may say we are not retrogressive? That we are still allied to Lower Canada? If you want a principle which shall rouse public attention, it must be a principle which commends itself to the common sense of the community. And as against Federation, a Dissolution of the Union, being simple, direct, and already familiar to the minds of thousands, offers immense advantages when considered as the basis of a popular movement. We are told that Dissolution would be an experiment. I ask these advocates of a Federal Union, if their scheme will be anything more than an experiment? Will it be an experiment free of danger? To impose upon a colony the machinery of a nation is not a trifling thing. Are gentlemen ready to face the possible consequences of a measure which will force upon us the forms and expenses of a nationality, without securing to us the dignity and influence of an independent country? These are points well worth considering before commencing a former agitation out of doors. Any agitation is beset with difficulties, you say. True; but let us choose the lesser ones; and remembering that the public opinion of Upper Canada must be educated, I think we have stronger changes of success because a better case, when advocating Dissolution pure and simple, than whilst entertaining the project of a Canadian Federation. How then shall we acquire Dissolution? We do not say to Lower Canada “we cut this connection,” but we do say civilly and kindly – “Upper Canada does not desire our present connection to continue. Let us shake hands and part.” And how are you to get Federation? Confess you have no influence over Lower Canada, for although a manifesto lately appeared, honourable to its authors and to the party whom they represent, still you must acknowledge that they are a small minority; that the great mass of the Lower Canadian people are against you. If we accept the newspapers of the Lower Province as any index of the opinion there, we find that in by far the majority of cases they are opposed to Federation. And I think not unreasonably opposed, for Federation as it is commonly presented, will be positive bondage to the French race. Think you the French do not understand this? Think you they they do not know your federation would shut them up in a corner of Canada – that in fact if this scheme of federation were carried out you would have them at your mercy? Can you expect the Quebec district to go for Federation? I tell you it would not. And is there no sympathy with the Quebecers in the Montreal district? Have we not already seen in journals which favour the principle of federation symptoms of the fear with which the British population begin to view this project of a federal union of Upper Canada? You say – you, the western friends of federation, admit – that we cannot have a Canadian federation without the subdivision of both Upper and Lower Canada. You want three provinces or four. And when a division of Canada into four provinces is proposed, the people of the Quebec district fairly say – “No; that would place us at the mercy of those with three British provinces pitted against it in the federal government would have scanty likelihood of consideration. To tell me, then, that there are no greater difficulties in the way of federation than are in the way of dissolution, is to discard the whole tons of public opinion in Lower Canada – of course excepting the Montreal district and the eastern townships. (Applause.) Well, then, can we obtain a dissolution? If we to-day declare to Lower Canada – the Union cannot, will not, shall not continue – (cheers) – what then? Do you imagine that the Lower Canadians are insensible to warnings – indifferent to danger? Do you believe that none in Lower Canada will respond favourably to our proposition – to shake hands and part? Are there none to reply – “We will arrange about the tariff, we will apportion our interests in the public works, we will make an amicable arrangement with regard to our revenue; and so close an unprofitable partnership?” Will any one tell me there is not a stronger probability in favour of this feeling in Lower Canada, than in favour of federation? In self-defence they will agree to dissolution – in self defence they will favour that rather than expose themselves to federation. But, said my hon. Friend the member for North Waterloo, there is central Upper Canada opposed to dissolution. I don’t know that the Reformers east of Kingston have yet insisted that unless we acquiesce in a certain proposition they will cease to work with us. The hon. Gentleman from Glengary and his friends may regret the prospect of dissolution; they may prefer Federation; but that preference, that dislike, does not confer upon them a right to dictate terms to us. They have as much right to ask us to give up our feelings in favour of dissolution as we have to ask them to give up theirs in favour of Federation, but no more. (Cheers.) Would it not be an insult to the meeting for any men to come here and maintain that unless we go as they wish, they shall put on their hats and leave? (Applause.) My amendment sets forth a pure and simple dissolution of the Union as the best course. If the Convention, after hearing the speeches to be made shall vote in favour of Federation, think you the disillusionists will leave here dissatisfied? We should how cheerfully to the will of the majority. On the other hand, let it be shown that public opinion is in favour of pure and simple dissolution, and we are justified in expecting that our friends from the East will in common honour manifest the same spirit. (Hear, hear.) I think we had an illustration of the danger inseparable from Federation in one remark which the gentleman preceding me made. He said the Central Federal Government should have the management of the public domain. Now, is it not distinctly understood that in the Federative Government which the authors of the resolutions before us favour, there must be a division of the public lands? Do they propose that the Federal Government, composed equally [illegible] Upper and Lower Canadian members shall manage the settlement of land in Upper Canada? [Cheers.] I contend, then, that this conflict of opinion on one of the simplest points proves that there are no differences greater between them and me, than there are between the advocates of Federation themselves. Call upon them to tell you the details of their scheme, to show its working, to define the powers which they are willing to confer upon the central government; and at once you discover that no two agree. [Cheers.] You may say what you will about the difficulties incident to Dissolution, but there are difficulties a little greater in the way of Federation. [Renewed cheers.] A gentleman near me asks how the Dissolutionists would settle the public debt? I do not want to go again over the ground I traversed this morning. As I said then, this question of debt may and ought to be settled amicably and upon true commercial principles. Complicated the task may be; impossible it certainly is not. Do you imagine in Federation the debt is to be transferred to the Federal Government and no question asked? Do you think Upper Canada will give a Federal authority control over that very treasury which has been the source of so much heartburning – so much extravagance and ruin? If the public debt the public revenue were to be handed over in Federation without any bargain or condition, we had better remain as we are. Now we are some change of bringing public opinion to bear on a body which is the only public authority we have; but the moment you create an authority not subject to the influence of public opinion, you create that which should not be entrusted with an iota of work or power beyond the absolute necessities of the case. [Hear, hear.] And this matter of the debt would need very careful handling, under any possible contingency. Altogether, therefore, I confess my inability to discover any insuperable obstacle to dissolution in the labour requisite to arrive at a due understanding with regard to the public debt. (Applause.) Even with nationality, the assumption of State debts by the federal government of the United States led to great embarrassment, and much violent opposition. It gave birth to an excise system, and that gain produced insurrection in Pennsylvania. So here, call into being a federal government, having the debt and the revenue in charge; and if Upper Canada is to be saved at all, a very clear balance sheet must be struck at the onset. You would require the same with dissolution; so that on this point the plans would sem to be equal. In federation there is one gander not to be found in dissolution. There is an inherent tendency in central bodies to acquire increased power. In the States, there was a federal party, the advocates of a strong federal authority every looking about for excuses for adding to its glory and influence. The democratic States’ Rights party sprung up naturally in opposition. In Canada, too, we may expect to see federation followed by the rise of two parties, having reference to federal politics. We shall have gentlemen who, like Mr. Foley, would transfer the Crown Lands to the federation battling for an expensive and a showy and a potent central government; whilst, on the other hand, we shall have many, like Mr. Brown, contending for State rights, local control, and the limited authority of the central power. (Applause.) You say that Upper Canada is to have the preponderance in the federation. What does the federative principle rest upon, if not on an equality of rights, an equality of powers? And yet forsooth, you who taunt us with the difficulties of Dissolution, are not only to have federation carried, but to have it carried upon a principle which recognizes Representation by Population. (Cheers.) Here we have the hon. member for South Ontario placing his whole argument upon the ground that Representation by Population could not be carried; and yet you are told that by one stroke you may carry federation, and Representation by Population into the bargain (Renewed cheers.) Are you afraid that Dissolution will lead Lower Canada to close our outlet to the ocean? Rather may we be afraid that under federation we shall have Lower Canada succeeding in having her light houses maintained at the federal expense. Will Upper Canada acquiesce in that? (No, no.) Is there no danger, then, I ask a second time, that under the guise of federation we shall have built up a central power less responsible and not less corrupt than that which we now have? (Cheers.) Reverting to the principle involved, let me remark that the only application of the federative principle which we have seen crowned with success proceeds upon a recognition of equality in conjunction with Representation by Population. The [illegible] can Senate represents most thoroughly the federative principle, and in that body the States have an equality of power. Only in the House of representatives is representation according to population carried into effect. To unite Upper and Lower Canada, as proposed, on a basis which would give the major power to Upper Canada, is to do violence to the federative principle. If you are to have not only a viceroy at the head, but a legislative assembly and a council – a senate – I ask you, are you not building up an expensive system of government, utterly inadequate to the simple necessities of Canada? Federation implied nationality. For colonial purposes only, it would be a costly encumbrance. [Cheers.] If you desire to assume the dignity of a nation, let it be understood, yes or nay. Is federation proposed because it is a step towards nationality? If so, I can imagine thousands who would bear the extra expense on that ground. But let it be avowed beforehand, that we may know what we are about. Say that your federation is with a view to nationality, and I am with you; not otherwise. [Applause.] I do not desire to [illegible] well further upon the subject; I only repeat any firm conviction that there is nowish on the part of the friends of dissolution here to embarrass the Parliamentary Opposition; but there is a strong desire that public opinion shall be consulted by that body, and that any course resolved upon by this Convention shall be preceded by a free and full discussion before it is arrived at. (Cheers.) We are not, I think, behind anybody in acknowledging the title our leaders have to the confidence of all Reformers; but we do not acknowledge the propriety or the right of anyone to say – “ I prefer this, and therefore you must accept it.” (Cheers.) I put it to these gentlemen, whether any of them, desiring their own usefulness, having regard to their own character, should not cheerfully bow to any decision this body should arrive at. I know no greater mistake than for a man to say, “If this is not done, I will retire.” (Cheers.) I have seen before this men who imagine that the world cannot go on without them. But it has gone on without them – the crops have grown, the sun has shone, when they were heard of no more. [Laughter and applause.] It is a great fact, which we should always do well to keep in mind, that we can be well spared. If this be remembered, it will mitigate much unpleasantness which any gentlemen may feel if the question of dissolution is affirmed by this Convention. There is no man strong, except in the confidence of the multitude – no man strong, except in the opinion of his fellowmen, – noe entitled to confidence, except those ho are willing to consult the feelings of their friends. [Cheers.] I urge it now, whether any dread of party inconvenience should influence the vote of any gentleman present. I remember a story of a certain antislavery lecturer who, in a powerful speech, discarded the question of expediency. Said a man in the audiences – “You have omitted a very serious consideration – you have overlooked the damage which your course would inflict upon party leaders” “Sir,” said the lecturer – “when I deal with a question of this kind, I open my eyes, look straight at my subject, and go ahead,” [Cheers.] The question with us is not, what in the judgement of this assembly will most command the support of party leaders, but what is intrinsically right, and I put my amendment upon this basis, because it affirms – that we being tired of the Union, would cease the connexion. I place it before you especially, because I think we have every ground for believing, that in the honest, unbiased judgement of the people of Upper Canada, a pure and simple Dissolution is the safest and most efficacious remedy for the evils under which we labour. [Loud cheers.]
Mr. Woodruff, or Niagara, seconded the amendment. He said – I was deputed by the township of Niagara, by the grandsons and great-gransons of the U.E Loyalists to visit this convention on their behalf. I second the resolution moved by Mr. Sheppard, because my constituents think that dissolution, pure and simple, would be the best for the country and if I had not got up and raised my voice on that behalf they would have said [illegible] had neglected their interests, and my duty. But should [illegible] amendment be lost, which I believe it will be [No, no,] I will join most heartily with the majority. [Cheers.]
Hon. Donald Macdonald said – As comparatively young politician I cannot presume to take a large part in the proceedings of this meeting, but I cannot permit my name to come forward as the mover of a resolution with out availing myself of an opportunity to address you. I am prepared for one to admit the necessity of immediate and important constitutional changes. The man must be unacquainted with the facts of the case who will venture to defend the system under which the government defend the system under which the government of this country has been lately carried on. For my own part, I think some change cannot much longer be delayed, and it is gratifying to [illegible] such a desire to bring about that change as [illegible] here manifested. I am not afraid of convulsions or revolution among the sober-thinking men of Canada. To be effective we must not be rash, and with this view I regard the action of this convention with a deep interest. I feel satisfied in my own mind that with such [illegible] resources, and with an industrious, intelligent and independent people, Canada should occupy a position very superior to that she now occupies. I am satisfied the sole barrier to her progress is in the management of her public affairs. (Cheers.) The people of this Province, with the exception of those who approve because they profit by the existing state of things, are anxious to go forward, and in unanimity can be obtained, success is certain. I cannot see any danger even in a written constitution, or in the exclusion of heads of departments from the Legislature. [Cheers.] It would be indicative of peculiar weakness to advocate a continuance of the present system, merely because it has been long in existence. At all events, I do not think any reasonable change agreed upon by a majority of people, in a peaceable and earnest manner, can give serious offence to the Imperial Government. [Hear, hear.] Nor can I suppose the fear of severing British connexion has half the influence that the fear of losing something else has with those who pretend to be afraid of any change. [Cheers.] This meeting signifies to my mind the near approach to some alteration, and as I have said of the measures, I am not afraid of the men. The policy of our present rulers has been a sad failure; for I must still think, Canada to-day is very far from what it should be, and it would be great foolishness to suppose that, with the same forms and appliances, it can improve. Look at the whole facts of the case. I think we are fully warranted in changing both the system and the men – (Loud cheers) – if only on the principle that it may be for the better, and cannot be for the worse. (Cheers.) I do not, however, take this desperate view of the remedy, and though my experience is too limited to enable me to enter into the details of the measures proposed, I have no doubt that the intelligence of this meeting will be sufficient to melt all difficulties. In my own opinion one of the best remedies is to be found in the fifth resolution – in the “formation of two or more local governments, to which shall be committed the management of all matters of a local or sectional character.”