“Meeting of the Liberal Convention of Upper Canada”, [Report of the Committee of Resolutions], Part I, The Globe (9 November 1859)

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Date: 1859-11-09
By: The Globe
Citation: “Meeting of the Liberal Convention of Upper Canada”, The Globe [Toronto] (10 November 1859).
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Yesterday, the streets of the city, in the neighbourhood of the St. Lawrence Hall and the principal hotels, were crowded with gentlemen who had arrived by the trains on Tuesday, and by those of Wednesday morning, from all parts of the country, to take part in the proceedings of the important body which was about to assemble. By ten o’clock groups of ten, twenty, and thirty, chiefly substantial farmers, were to be seen wending their way along King-street to the St. Lawrence Hall where the gentlemen acting as secretaries were soon busily engaged in receiving the credentials. About noon, the meeting was called to order, and the Hon. Adam Fergusson was unanimously requested to take the chair, and Mr. John Scoble to act as secretary.

The Hon. Adam Fergusson then addressed the meeting. He thanked them for the honour they had done him by placing him in the chair. He would not make a speech, as that was neither in accordance with his position nor with his wishes. He was delighted to see so large a gathering upon so important an occasion. He was gathering upon so important an occasion. He was delighted to see so many Scotch faces around him, who remind him of their national motto – which, however, was equally appropriate to an Englishman, for he was an honest fellow, or to a frank-hearted Irishman – Nemo me impune lacessit– “We will not permit of injury beyond tolerance.” He was here reminded of the possibility of thinking of individuals differently in their different capacities, and thus, though he sincerely regretted the sad calamity with which the Almighty had visited the family of the Governor General, he could not help feeling for him contempt and destestation for his conduct as Governor General. There had been statements that the objects of this meeting were disloyal and illegal, but if the time came when Britons could not meet to complain of their injuries, he thought the whole affairs of the world would be changed. He believed that in respect to the grievances the country complained of, there would be no great difference of opinion. Of course, there would be some as to the appropriate remedies. He was the last man to desire any one to sacrifice his conscientious opinions, but though there could not be perfectly unanimity, he thought that it was only right, so far as could be done, to sacrifice any differences on minor points, in order to secure united action in the party. Much had been committed to the members of the Convention. He hoped and believed that their deliberations would be conducted in a spirit of calmness, patriotism, legality, and loyalty.

The following gentlemen were then named a Committee to select Committees on Credentials, on Procedure, on Resolutions, on Organization of Party, and on Finances: –

Hon. M. Cameron, M.P.P., D. A. Macdonald, M.P.P., A Morse, W. Macdougall, M.P.P., Hon. O. Mowat, M.P.P. Thos. Short, M.P.P., Dr. Connor, M.P.P., Hon. David Christie, Hon. M. H. Foley, M.P.P., Abraham Farewell.

The Convention adjourned for an hour.

On re-assembling at 2 p.m., the above Committee presented the following lists of Committees, which were adopted: –


Hon. Donald McDonald, Chairman.
W.P. Howland, M.P.P.
Hiram Capron, East Brant.
J. H. Hopkins, Victoria.
John Shuter Smith, Durham.
Wm. Woodruff, Niagara.
Alderman Bugg, Toronto.
M. Freeman, North Oxford.
Wm. Carroll, Norwichville.
Dr. Bowlby, Waterford.
Frank Smith, London.
Wm. Henderson, Toronto.
W. H. Mitchell, South Ontario.
Dr. Cook, West Brant.
Wm. McGivern, St. Catherines.
John Gowan, Haldimand.
Matthew Jones, Durham.
Hon. John Simpson, Bowmanville.


W. McDougall, M.P.P., chairman.
Hon. David Christie.
Robert Craik, Westminster.
Charles Clarke, North Wellington.
C. W. Cook, M.P.P.
Mr. Donelly, Picton.
Mr. Ketcheson, Hastings.
Robert Ried, London.
John Ferries, Hamilton.
William Mullin, South Dumfries.
William Brown, North Oxford.
John Fraser, Welland.
James Young, Galt.
Alexander McDonell, Glengary.
Mr. Beach, South Oxford.
James Lockhart, South Waterloo.
James Somerville, Dundas.
J. W. Grayson, Brantford.
Alderman Devany, Hamilton.
John Walton, Peterborough.
Oliver Blake, Norfolk.
D. Ressor, York.
Robert Paterson, Grey.
John Bell, Toronto.


W. Niles, Middlesex, chairman.
Mr. Johnston, Iroquois.
Hope F. Mackenzie, Lambton.
J. W. Rose, Kent.
A. Morse, Lincoln.
George Sheppard, Toronto.
E. Jackson, Newmarket.
J. Climie, Durham.
Thomas Tipton, Haldimand.
A, A. McLauchian, Victoria.
Rowland Burr, York.
John Ritchey, jr., Toronto.


Andrew Jeffrey, Cobourg, chairman.
W. L. Mackenzie, Toronto.
Hon. M. H. Foley, M.P.P.
Abraham Farewell, Oshawa.
Hon. Malcolm Cameron, M.P.P.
Donald A. Macdonald, M.P.P.
F. Ferguson, Peterborough.
Dr. Connor, M.P.P.
Hon. Oliver Mowat, M.P.P.
David Wylie, Brockville.
Dr. Hope, Belleville.
William Macbride, London.
George S. Wilkes, Branford.
Thomas McQueen, Goderich.
James Moylan, Toronto.
Samuel Ault, Stormont.
William Eccles, St. Catherines.
John Smith, Mornington.
James McDonell, Glengary.
R. M. Rose, Kingston.
Duncan McFarland, Welland.
E. V. Bodwell, Dereham.
J. Drury, Oro.
Aaron Choate, Hope.
Hon. George Brown, M.P.P.
P. N. Norris, London.
Dr. John Y. Bown, Brantford.
John Wilson, East Northumberland.
J. C. Aikins, M.P.P.


Thomas Shortt, M.P.P., chairman.
Elijah Leonard, London.
Hugh Miller, Toronto.
W. H. Oliver, Simcoe.
John C. Brown, Toronto.
Alexander L. Macbean, Glengary.
A. Diamond, Belleville.

The Convention then Adjourned till seven p.m., to allow the Committees to assemble.

The Convention resumed at seven o’clock.

The Committee on Procedure, through their chairman, Mr. Miles, submitted the following report, which was unanimously adopted: –

Mr. Miles having been appointed chairman, and Jno. M. Climie, secretary, the following Mode of Procedure was adopted, for the consideration of this Convention: –

1st. That the officers of this Convention consist of a President , two Vice-Presidents, two Secretaries, and one Treasurer; and the Committee recommend the appointment of the following gentlemen to the above offices: –

President – Hon. A. Fergusson.

Vice-President – Hon. D. Christie, D. A. McDonald, M.P.P.

Secretaries – John Scoble, Esq., A. McKinnon, Esq.

Treasurer – James Lesslie, Esq.

2nd. That, whilst for the convenience of the Convention it is necessary to close the doors of the Hall against the general public, one duly accredited representative of each of the Toronto journals be admitted, by ticket, to the ordinary debates; the Convention reserving to itself the right of excluding reporters from those of the proceedings; which are more peculiarly private in their nature. This Committee further recommended that the President be authorised to issue tickets of admission to the gallery to such persons as he may seem worthy.

3rd. That the proceedings of this Convention be governed by the rules and practice of Parliamentary debate; and that no member be allowed to speak more than once on any question under discussion, nor for a longer time than half an hour without the consent of this Convention.

4th. That the Committee shall hold a sitting at nine o’clock, a.m., adjourning for dinner at half-past twelve, m.; to meet again at two o’clock p.m.; adjourned at six and resume again at seven o’clock p.m., of each day, during the continuance of the Convention.

William Niles, Chairman.

Jno. M. Climis, Secretary.

The Committee on Finance submitted the following report, which was also unanimously adopted: –

The finance COmmittee beg to report that they consider their duties at the present moment only require them to provide funds for the purposes of meeting the expenses of the present Convention. For this purpose your Committee, having no means at their disposal, recommended that the members of the Convention subscribe to a fund for that purpose.

From the information before your Committee they estimate that a subscription of one dollar from each member would provide the necessary amount, and they would respectfully request that members will pay their subscription on entering the Hall to-morrow to Mr. William Henderson, the treasurer of the Committee, who will be in attendance at the door for that purpose.

All of which is respectfully submitted.

D. McDonald,


On behalf of the Committee of the Credentials, Mr. W. H. Oliver stated that there was nothing on which the Committee had found it necessary to present a report.

The Secretary (Mr. Scoble) stated that at 4 o’clock the number of delegates who had reported themselves was 465. Since that hour a number of other delegates had reported themselves.

The Chairman – We must all feel it is a most satisfactory turn-out.


The following report of the Committee on Resolutions, was submitted through the Chairman of the Committee, Mr. Jeffrey, of Cobourg:

The Committee appointed to prepare Resolutions for the consideration of the Convention respectfully report that, after mature consideration, they have agreed to present the following six resolutions as likely to elicit discussion on the several remedies proposed for existing evils in the government of the Province:—

1. Resolved,—That the existing Legislative Union of Upper and Lower Canada has failed to realize the anticipations of its promoters, has resulted in a heavy public debt, burdensome taxation, great political abuses, and universal dissatisfaction throughout Upper Canada; and it is the matured conviction of this assembly, from the antagonisms developed through difference of origin, local interests, and other cases, that the Union in its present form can no longer be continued with advantage to the people.

2. Resolved,—That highly desirable as it would be, while the existing Union is maintained, that local legislation should not be forced on one section of the Province against the wishes of a majority of the representatives of that section—yet this Assembly is of opinion that the plan of government known as the “Double Majority” would be no permanent remedy for existing evils.

3. Resolved,—That, necessary as it is that strict constitutional restraints on the power of the Legislature and Executive in regard to the borrowing and expenditure of money and other matters, should form part of any satisfactory change of the existing Constitutional system—yet the imposition of such restraints would not alone remedy the evils under which the country now labours.

4. Resolved,—That without entering on the discussion of other objections, this assembly is of opinion that the delay which must occur in obtaining the sanction of the Lower Provinces to a Federal Union of all the British North American Colonies, places that measure beyond consideration as a remedy for present evils.

5. Resolved,—That in the opinion of this assembly, the best practicable 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 [text missing] character, and a general government charged with such matters as are necessarily common to both sections of the Province.

5. Resolved,—That while the details of the changes proposed in the last resolution are necessarily subject for future arrangement, yet this assembly deems it imperative to declare that no general government would be satisfactory to the people of Upper Canada which is not based on the principle of Representation by Population.

All which is respectfully submitted.



Committee Rooms,

9th November, 1859.

Hon. Malcolm Cameron, being called upon by the chairman, stepped on the platform. He said there was a good deal of discussion as to the mode in which these resolutions should be submitted to the Convention – whether it  were better to agree upon some particular point, some particular course of action, and submit that only, or whether it was better to put the various proposition and remedies that had been suggested in such a shape that a debate might arise on each separate point, and that persons holding different views on these particular remedies might have an opportunity of moving their amendments, and placing them on the journals of the Convention. The committee preferred the latter course. There were 30 members of the committee, whose residences were distributed over the whole Province. The views of the members of the committee were fully brought out, and their ideas as to the different questions, of a Dissolution of the Union, of a Double Majority, of Representation by Population, &c., were brought out separately, and in the resolutions now submitted, these questions are put in a convenient form for discussion, and gentlemen who are anxious to put forward their views and have them on record, and have a vote taken, will have time to prepare by to-morrow such amendments as they may desire to submit. In the meantime, it is thought advisable that we should take up the whole resolutions, speak to them generally and endeavor to bring the mind of the Convention to that point upon which the very large committee on resolutions agreed almost unanimously – in fact, I believe, with but one dissenting voice. I had an opportunity some time ago of attending two very large meetings in my own county, and some smaller ones, and I have this day had the opportunity of seeing this vast assemblage brought together from all parts of the country, representing the wealth of intelligence of Western Canada, perhaps more fully than they have ever been represented before – (applause) – and on all these occasions I have had proved to my own mind satisfactorily, that there is a greater amount of unanimity, more concord, and a more general feeling and tendency to one particular point that I have ever known in the public mind before. (Cheers.) At that Rossin House meeting, composed of men who had been in the habit of contesting matters with as much bitterness as other men, each liking his own crotchet, we found ourselves in a very short time agreeing upon the course of action to be submitted to the country. And wherever that course was submitted and explained by me, I found it was received with the same unanimity, and the same thing appeared in this Committee to-day. This gives us very great confidence in submitting these resolutions. (Cheers.) I was requested to speak first, being a modest man. (Laughter.) There may be a great many reasons why I should speak first – particularly on this matter of the Dissolution of the Union. When a man is taking a strong step he should take it boldly and vigorously, and I have not so taken it without reflection. I was an advocate for the Union from the time I entered Parliament. I felt the serious difficulties which formerly existed. I saw our trade shackled, that we were not likely to rise to power, influence, or credit; that we were unable to compete with the neighbouring republic; that we had no credit in England; that we were at constant war year after year with Lower Canada on the subject of the Tariff, that from year to year we had to send Commissioners to Quebec to remain there for several months trying to determine what share of the customs was theirs and what ours. As a lumberer I had occasion to have this matter brought home to me. We had a Customs House at Coteau du Lac, where all the logs sent down had to be examined, and a dollar a crib had to be paid to a Mr. Simpson for the trouble of counting them. All these restrictions convinced me that there was a better way, and that if the two Provinces were united we should be a stronger people. I therefore supported the Union, and did so liberally and with the Liberal party. I was not one of those who desired to put shackles on Lower Canada, or to limit its people to having an equal number of representatives with ourselves. For I always held the broad principle that Representation by population was a matter of such simple justice, that it ought under no circumstances to be refused. But it was refused to Lower Canada at that time, and some fo us have a right to suffer for our share in the sin. We are here to consider now that is our position, and what is the best course for us to take, in seeking a remedy for the evils under which we labour, having still an eye to fair and equal justice to both Lower and Upper Canada. The Union was effected with a great deal of difficulty. It was effected when there were many prejudices on the subject in England. But I am still prepared to say that the Union has worked great good, that to that Union we owe our vast improvements, our great credit, and a great deal of our population. To the Union we were indebted for calling out a great deal of the talent of this country, and a great many difficult questions were got rid of and settled, and a great deal of sociability and kindly feeling for a long time existed between Upper and Lower Canada, exhibited by the election of Lower Canadians to represent constituencies in Upper Canada, and Upper Canadians to represent constituencies in Lower Canada. Great unanimity prevailed between the Reformers of both sections, and this with prudence and foresight might, perhaps, have continued a little longer, although there were, doubtless difficulties in the system, differences in the feelings and prejudices of the two peoples, which, under any management, would have led to some difficulty, but which, under such management as we have had, have brought about such a state of things, that I believe it to be impossible any longer to work our present systems. (Cheers.) I never felt more satisfied of the consistency of the course I was taking than I now do – although at times it may not be so easy to satisfy the public as to satisfy your own minds – with regard to this Union, of which I was one fo the promoters, when I contend that it is absolutely necessary for the protection of the interests of the people of this country, to save us from utter commercial bankruptcy, that there must be some change which will prevent the reckless expenditure and jobbery of the public money, which spring from this Union system of Government. (Cheers.) As far back as 1850 you will find resolutions proposed by Mr. Henry John Boulton, whom I saw here to-day, some of which I seconded, desiring to put on record the same views as are now the unanimous opinion of the people of Western Canada, and to prevent running in debt beyond the means of the country to pay. We contended then that it was necessary that, before any large undertaking was gone into, before any large public debt was contracted, the question should be submitted to the people, and that when the Legislature voted a large sum for any purpose, they should provide that means of paying it, or redeeming the debt. Had this course been adopted, it would have prevented the incurring of the extraordinary debt in which we are now involved. But it is no use to look back nor to ask who was to blame for this or the other evil. We are to-day involved in a large debt and entangled by difficulties in our legislation, especially on one point – that of commercial legislation – the tariff. On that subject the legislation of the last session was so inconsistent with that of the preceding one, that I cannot understand how it was possible, even for the professed supporters of the Government to sustain them. It is well known in my own section of the country that I never professed to be a supporter of the Coalition Government, though I declare myself ready to accept good measures from them, without regard to one party or the other. There were too, some measures, such as the abolition of imprisonment for debt, which I felt to be necessary in the crisis which had fallen upon us, in order to prevent the county from being depopulated, and to carry these I gave the ministry all the aid in my power. But I understood the commercial policy of Mr. Cayley to consist in the laying of duties on such articles as we can manufacture, in order to favour our own industry while he reduced the duties on the necessaries of life.  Mr. Galt, on the contrary, adopted an entirely opposite principle, and putting the increased duties on the chief necessaries of life, changed the whole system. During many years – perhaps, however, not so plainly to the perception of ministers as to that of persons outside – vote after vote had been given under the influence of Lower Canada, in such a way as to make a grant to one part of the province, and an equal grant to the other part. But this system was never openly avowed till last session, by the passing of the Seigniorial measure – a measure taking £400,000 to pay the debt of the censitaires to their seigniors. And many of you think it was no more reasonable than it would be to pay off the debts of our farmers to the Canada Company. No doubt even that expenditure for such a purpose was bad enough, but it was nothing to the avowal of the principle, that because Lower Canada required £400,000 Upper Canada must have a grant of the same amount, which no one needs, and the manner of laying out which, no man can tell anything about. No country in the world – no revenue however great, could stand such a system of extravagance. I took my stand on this, and from the day the question came up I stated to the government that I should walk across the floor of the House. I long hoped that representation according to population would be granted, because I knew that many persons from Lower Canada had declared their assent to the principle, and seemed to be only awaiting a good opportunity to concede it. But when Mr. Cartier told me it was of no use to expect such a thing – that it would never be granted, I felt it necessary to take my stand and to say, that if this were refused, we had only one other thing to do, and that thing was to get rid of the union. No man would more deplore the breaking up of the union than myself; but there is a depth of degradation to which no free man ought to submit, and that point was fast approaching. It is for the interest[e] of Lower, as well as for those of Upper Canada that we should now lay down some scheme that will be good for all parties. I think that this will be effected by the cutting up of the Province into three or four Provinces. Such an arrangement will give Quebec to its own people, who could legislate for themselves in their own way. They were much afraid of taxation, while we are not. I believe that if the whole of this section of the Province could be polled, there would be a majority even for direct taxation. (Cheers.) He knew it would be cheaper, that the money would not be voted so extravagantly as at present, and that its expenditure would be better looked after. Lower Canadais not prepared, however, for direct taxation. They want their Courthouses and gaols built out of local taxes. It has been said indeed that the division of the Provinces would increase the expenses of Government, but it is easy to show that this will not be the case; but that the smaller the districts within which the taxes are expended, the more narrowly do the people look at the expenditure. You all recollect when this section of the country, from the Bay of Quinte to Lake Huron, was called the Home District. It is now divided into sixty municipalities, but do the people grumble at the increased expenditure? Would they permit the magistrates in Toronto to spend all their taxes, merely be cause it would save a few dollars? By no means. I early discovered the fact that it is only when the money raised on taxes is spent directly under the eye of the tax-payers, that economy can be enforced; for I observed that it was only Prince Edward and some of the smaller districts where they kept out of debt. But let the cost of the present system by examined – take the one item of printing, for example, in French and in English. Why, there was one report of the Crown Lands Commissioner, the printing of which cost £10,000. £6,000 more was paid for another report; and a third cost £600. It was respected a lot of land, which was not worth £300. These expenses alone amounted to the whole cost of government in several of the States. (Cheers.) But there would undoubtedly be great difficulties in the way of doing away with the union entirely. A man and his wife sometimes quarrel and agree to take up separate houses. They reside apart for two or three days; but then came the question – who was to take care of the children? – (laughter) – who was to do the cooking? – (laughter). Similar difficulties would occur in respect to the Dissolution of the Union. There are the Post-Office and the Custom House to be cared for, and we must be able to follow down the St. Lawrence, with our produce to the Ocean. This, the Americans contended for in respect to the Mississippi, and every man will feel that if God Almighty has created a channel to the ocean by means of a mighty river, no man can have the right to block up that channel. A friend has suggested to me to leave the decision of this question to the Imperial Government; but the Imperial Government will not interfere in our local affairs, and, at any rate, we are bound at least to try first what can be obtained from the liberality of Lower Canada. They have acted liberally in that part of the country, and we know that there are men as liberal as any in the West. We know, too, that many of them vote unwillingly against the majority of Upper Canada, and that they do so in fear of the consequences – in fear of that retaliation which always in the long run punishes every injustice. There was in the United States a good illustration of the probability of the two parts of the Province getting on better separately than they could do together. If Louisiana had been united with Kentucky, they could not have gone on better than we have done – in fact, they could not have got on at all – Jonathan would have burst right through all bonds. (Laughter.) But though at first they had the two languages, just as we have them here, they had not gone on for twenty years until the French of Louisiana had given up, voluntarily, all their peculiarities, and had begun to go on like any other state. I have, I acknowledge, changed my mind on this subject. But I now think that all difficulties would be got rid of if the people of the Eastern part of the country will meet us half-way, and each portion agree to go on in its own fashion. It has been asked, what was the federal government to do? I reply, the less the better. But if any one be anxious that the federal government should have something to do, there is the management of the customs and the canals. These are partly in Upper Canada and partly in Lower Canada. They are a part of the navigation of the St. Lawrence, and Lower Canada has the same right in it as I have claimed for ourselves. Then, if we agree that no new debt is to be contracted by the general government, the debt will have to be paid off as rapidly as possible, and the local government will have to manage the taxation and expenditure within their own limits. There are the principal points brought out in the resolutions. As to the double majority, it was properly said it was impossible to apply such a principle. That would be to admit the recespity for bargaining between the two sections of the Province, and that bargaining would continue from the beginning of the session to the close. Every member of Parliament knows how it would work. Again, the Federal Union of all the British North american Provinces has received the approbation of many of our best minds; but though that will one day be carried out, the difficulty at present is that the body will not have us. (Laughter.) That is a serious matter – a matter that many a man has to meet with in his time. (More laughter.) We sent ministers of the Crown to ask the Lower Provinces, and we got the cold shoulder. The ministry in England, however, to whom an application has been made on the same subject, has given a hint on which, I think, we may act. The colonial Minister, while stating that there was no great intercourse between Canada and the Lower Provinces, suggested that Newfoundland and Prince Edward’s Island might properly be united together. Now, I think that the same reasons which make it proper for the Lower Provinces to be united, make a federal union between our Provinces in the West also proper. In the western valleys of the Saskatchewan and other rivers, there is land enough for several provinces as large as these; but there are no people, and if the people of Western Canada, now alive, are to have their due influence in the legislation of the country, we must take care that their voices are not outweighed by too great a preponderance of influence brought in from the East. All that we have to do is to lay down a platform, on which, as in the United States, other territories may come into the confederation, and we shall then have the nucleus of an empire extending from the Atlantic to the Pacific. I believe that the resolutions now before the Convention will meet the views of the people of the country, and that, if carried out, they will lead to a cheap, safe and satisfactorily management of the public affairs of the country. (Cheers.)

(To be Continued.)

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