“Mr. Henry John Boulton’s Amendments,” The Globe (21 May 1850)

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Date: 1850-05-21
By: The Globe
Citation: “Mr. Henry John Boulton’s Amendments,” The Globe (21 May 1850).
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In another column will be found a series of amendments on the Ministerial reply to the Speech from the Throne, proposed to be moved by the Hon. Henry John Boulton. According to the British system of Executive Government, there is no defeat which a Ministry can sustain more fatal than that of having their reply to the Speech altered by their opponents. It is held equivalent to a vote of want of confidence, on which the Ministry must retire from office. Mr. Boulton, by moving amendments to the Address, therefore, declares that he is in opposition to the present Ministry—that he has no confidence in them—and that he desires to see them ejected from office. Mr. Boulton has an undoubted right to come to this determination, and if he can show good reasons for it, he is not censurable. All men cannot think alike, and though many will recall events not long past, and at once see in them good personal reasons for Mr. Boulton’s now deserting his party; we think the more just and correct course is to examine first the reasonableness of the Hon. gentleman’s present suggestions, ere ascribing the hostility of his movement to personal motives. We are free to confess, however, that Mr. Boulton’s amendments ought to be scrutinized with the utmost strictness. He was returned by a Reform constituency, to support a Reform Government; but a few weeks ago, he was the warm supporter of that Government—he claimed to be a member of their party—and he was recognised as such. No great public question has since arisen; no very decided step has been since taken by the Ministry, except, perhaps, the filling up of a few Judgeships; but yet, we find Mr. Boulton foremost in opposition!

But perhaps Mr. Boulton’s opposition is all founded on the Speech from the Throne; mayhap, he came to Parliament earnestly determined to sustain the Government with all his strength; a new light may have been shed upon his mind by the Ministerial plans and views developed in the Speech; sadly to his grief the Hon. gentleman may have found himself differing from his friends on many weighty points; against his will he may feel constrained to sacrifice his party to the good of his country! We much fear that a candid examination of Mr. Boulton’s amendments will not justify our being so charitable. We search them in vain for some practical point which would justify any man in deserting his party. On the contrary, we fear there may be traced a remarkable ingenuity in scraping up little points, not material to the matter in hand, but on which a little clap-trap might be readily discoursed, to the benefit of the mover and the expected injury of the Administration. Let us look at them for a moment.

Mr. Boulton’s first amendment is to get the House to declare in favour of an elective Legislative Council. Now Mr. Boulton may be right or he may be wrong in desiring to see the second branch elective. It is a very important question; but it is also a very difficult one, and entitled to much careful deliberation. It is easier to see an evil than to see how to amend it, and we must say the difficulty of carrying on a government on the British system with two branches of the Legislature elective, appears to us very great. It is not a subject to be rashly pronounced upon either way, and we should have been ill content had the ministry determined to force through such a subject without giving the public mind time to deliberate upon it. There can be no doubt that the question will come up during the Session, that the various arguments upon it will be fully discussed, and a way opened up for action. But heretofore the question has not been fully before the public—it is not a settled question in the public mind—there is no practical grievance involved in it from which the public interests are now suffering—and we do not think the ministry can honestly be deserted by any one of their supporters for not making it a leading measure of the Session. But admit for the sake of argument that an elective Council is highly desirable, and that the country expects it—would Mr. Boulton’s present course be the way to effect the object? Certainly not. If he carried his motion, he would turn out the Ministry and let in the Tories. If he had brought in a Bill to alter the Constitution of the Upper House, he might have found many to agree with him, perhaps in the Ministry as far as appears to the contrary, and have effected the object he seeks. Mr. Boulton’s first amendment is therefore aimed so as to injure the Ministry, not to effect a practical object.

The second amendment is on the subject of Retrenchment, and is still more hostile than the first. The Ministry, by moving for a Committee to overhaul the whole revenue and expenditure of the Province, have admitted that there is room for retrenchment, and by seeking to have the whole question sifted by a Committee of the people’s Representatives, they have shown that they are prepared to go any length consistent with securing the efficiency of the public service. What could be more hostile, then, than for one of their friends to move an amendment on so liberal and candid a proposal, calling on the House to pronounce the verdict, to be rendered by a Committee of themselves, upon an inquiry into which they have not yet entered? The Ministry say an evil exists, and suggest a way of curing it; but he thinks they don’t use strong enough language—they have not such sounding phrases as “large and extensive reductions,” “overgrown expenditure,” and so forth in their address—and therefore he moves an amendment with these high spiced terms in it, which, were it carried, would turn the Ministry out of office! He agrees with the Ministry on the evil and the cure, but their words don’t please him, and therefore, he would prevent their applying the cure.

Mr. Boulton must have been very anxious to find points of amendment, when he took up that which forms the subject of the third in his series. It will be seen that the words proposed to be inserted could not have been used by men who held in their own hands the means of giving what the amendment seeks; that they are not pointed at any public matter, but merely refer to the time when the ministry may place certain documents before the House. In this amendment, Mr. Boulton’s desire to oppose the ministry comes out even more clearly than on the others. It contains no matter at issue,—refers to no public measure; it merely says, “I, Henry John Boulton, wish to have a blow at the Administration, and I will tell the Governor that I have no confidence in anything they may do—even in bringing down Bills to the House in proper time.”

For Mr. Boulton’s last amendment in condemnation of the Annexation dismissals, we were not prepared. It is but another melancholy proof how far men will go when once they diverge from the straight course. No doubt it is like the other amendments, a bait intended for a certain portion of the good public. But Mr. Boulton might have learned by this time that fine-spun humbug about the “right of free discussion” will, in the mind of no true British connectionist, gloss over the turpitude of holding meetings, getting up societies, and circulating false statements far and wide for the avowed purpose of overturning the existing government, and handing our country over to the Yankees.

We observe Mr. Boulton says, the Parent State has placed the Canadian people “upon the footing of foreigners with regard to her markets, while their colonial dependence forbids their availing themselves of those advantages in foreign markets, which a really national character would not preclude them from acquiring.” In the first place, Britain has not placed us “on the footing of foreigners with regard to her markets”—for our great article of export, timber, enjoys a decided protection. And as to the latter part of the sentence, we would be happy to learn what “those advantages” are which Mr. Boulton points out. What port are we kept out of as colonists, that we could enter in a “really national character?”

On the whole, we cannot find that Mr. Boulton’s amendments point to any practical reform; and we are inevitably drawn to the conclusion, that the Hon. gentleman is in opposition to the powers that be, heart and hand; that he has set himself at work to scrape faults in their address, and that he is ready to join Whig or Tory to turn them out. We have failed to discover any grounds in the amendments sufficient to send any supporter of a Government into opposition, and we look with interest for the future development of these grounds. Meantime, we should fancy the electors of Norfolk may have some little thing to say in the matter.

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