New Brunswick, House of Assembly, Debates of the House of Assembly [Proposed Address in Answer to His Excellency’s Speech] (23 June 1866)
By: New Brunswick (House of Assembly)
Citation: New Brunswick, House of Assembly, Reports of the Debates of The House of Assembly  at 7-10.
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SATURDAY, JUNE 23d, 1866.
RESOLUTION CONCERNING THE DEBATES.
Mr. Ryan moved—”That for the purpose of giving information of the proceedings of the House the number of copies of the Debates ordered to be published be increased from 7,000 to 10,000.” He believed this was the most important Session ever held in New Brunswick, as measures were to come before them involving a change in their Constitution. The question upon which they were to legislate was one in which the people take a great interest, and which had moved the whole country from its centre to its circumference. As the expense of the increased number of debates was so small, being only $4.50 per thousand, and the importance of the measures to be introduced was so great it was desirable to have this increased number.
The question was then taken, and the resolution adopted.
The order of the day was then moved, viz:—
PROPOSED ADDRESS IN ANSWER TO HIS EXCELLENCY’S SPEECH.
Mr. Botsford said he did not oppose going on with the order of the day, but he thought it a matter of courtesy due to the leader of the late Government, who was unavoidably absent, that the consideration of the answer to His Excellency’s Speech should be postponed until Monday, He (Mr. Smith) would be here to-night. Questions may arise during the discussion which it would be necessary for him to answer, therefore, they should as a matter of courtesy adjourn the debate until Monday, particularly as it has been the usual course to take up this subject on that day.
Hon. Mr. Fisher said he did not want to take advantage of any one, he did not see that any discussion would arise which would affect the leader of the late Government. They should press the business forward as fast as possible. This was the third day of the Session, and in short sessions, the address was generally taken up on the second or third day. He wished to give notice of a resolution on the subject of Union, and also to give notice (in the absence of the Provincial Secretary) of supply. The public business of the country requires His Excellency to go up the River on military matters next week; they therefore could not delay the consideration of this address. He would put it to the House, whether the Government would be justified in doing so. He could not consent to this delay, and he hoped they would not be considered uncourteous in pressing on the business of the country.
Mr. Kerr said that he observed in the journals of 1857 that the House met on Wednesday the 24th of June, attended to the routine of business, elected a Speaker, and on the 25th of June at 2 o’clock they presented the address in answer to the Speech.
The motion was then carried, after which His Honor the SPEAKER read part of the proposed address, when—
Mr. Botsford remarked that there had been a slight alteration in the phraseology. He did not know by what parliamentary rule an address was altered after it had been published and laid upon the table. If any alterations were necessary, the members of the House should have
been apprised of it, and they should have been made with the Speaker in the chair.
His Honor the SPEAKER said the time to make those observations would be when the address was read by paragraph. When this was done he hoped his honorable friend would be able to state the character of the alterations that had been made.
The address was then read, after which upon motion of Mr. Kerr it was read by paragraph. The first paragraph passed unanimously. Upon the reading of the second paragraph—
Mr. Botsford said he did not rise to move any formal amendment for he did not wish to make any factious opposition. What he had to say would not occupy much time. ‘There are several paragraphs in the Speech to which he could not as a member of the late Government assent. He would connect the second, third, and fourth together in order to avoid a Speech upon them separately, and thereby not take up so much of the time of the House when members were anxious to get through with the business as quickly as possible. In reading the address we find it stated that,—
- We learn with pleasure that Her Majesty the Queen graciously received the Address of the Legislative Council, on the subject of the Union of the British North American Provinces, transmitted to England by Your Excellency.
- We agree with Your Excellency that the adoption and reception by Your Excellency, for transmission to Her Majesty, of this Address on the subject of the Union, led to events which rendered it expedient to dissolve the late General Assembly, and we believe that the Constituencies of the Province have justified the course adopted by Your Excellency. Although it is an inconvenient season of the year for the discharge of Legislative duties, we will cheerfully co-operate with Your Excellency in the transaction of such business and the perfecting of such measures as the public interest demands.
These two paragraphs refer principally to the Address of the Legislative Council and its reception by Her Majesty the Queen, and to the inconvenient season of the year at which the House had been called together. After viewing what took place during the last sitting of the Legislature which was familiar to most of them; he could not say he was pleased that the Address of the Legislative Council had been transmitted to Her Majesty the Queen. Although he did not deny the right of the Legislative Council to express an opinion in reference to the Quebec Scheme, or to any kind of Union, if they thought proper; yet he believed they transcended their powers when they prayed Her Majesty to pass an Imperial Act on this question without any reference to the action of the Lower House. These were the views which he expressed to his constituents, and he was bound to express them here.
The third paragraph goes on to say that the proceedings which took place led to a dissolution of the House. It was admitted by His Excellency that his late advisers were not consulted; as an excuse for this, he says it was a matter of accident. He (Mr. Botsford) held that His Excellency’s not consulting with his advisers was subversive of their Provincial Constitution. His not having done so, caused the resignation of his advisers. Another part in that paragraph he could not assent to was: “We believe the constituencies of the Province have justified the course adopted by Your Excellency.” That is not correct. It does not state a majority of the constituencies, but includes the whole; therefore it states what cannot be substantiated, for the Counties of Westmorland, Gloucester and Kent have not justified the course pursued by His Excellency.
The fourth paragraph says;—
- We know that Her Majesty’s Government have expressed a strong and deliberate opinion that the union of the British North American Provinces is an object much to be desired, and that the Legislature of Canada and Nova Scotia concur in this view, and Your Excellency may rely with confidence on our cordial co-operation in any measure which may be proposed to secure that object.
Take that answer without any reference to the Speech, and it would not be so very objectionable; but when they compared it with the paragraph in the Speech, it was not consistent, and he could not sustain it. The paragraph in the Speech says:—
Her Majesty’s Government have already expressed their strong and deliberate opinion, that the Union of the British North American Provinces under one Government is an object much to be desired. The Legislatures of Canada and of Nova Scotia have formed the same judgment; and you will now shortly be invited to express your concurrence with or dissent from the view taken of this great question by those Provinces.
The answer, taken in connection with that paragraph, not only binds us to concur in the mode by which that resolution in favor of Union was accomplished in Nova Scotia; but it goes further, and binds us to assent to any measure which may be proposed to secure that object. He was not prepared to assent to that doctrine. The mode by which it was accomplished in Nova Scotia was not constitutional. It may be urged on the other side that the people are represented by the House of Assembly.
This, as a general principle, may be correct, but when you find that the constitution of a country is to be altered, and those members who have passed upon it were elected by the constituencies of Nova Scotia before it was even thought of, you must say that it is not a correct principle to act upon in that case. When they presume to alter the constitution without giving the people a voice in it, we are going beyond our duty and powers to confirm it. He could not see upon what ground they were asked to strengthen the position of a party in a sister colony. These were the reasons why he opposed the passage of those three paragraphs, and he would call a division upon each of them.
Mr. Johnson said he was astonished that a professional man with the standing of his learned friend from Westmorland would talk of the Legislative Council exceeding their constitutional rights when they addressed the Crown, and asked for Imperial legislation upon this question. Does he mean to say that they have not the right to ask for Imperial legislation? Does he mean to say the Imperial Legislature would take action on the subject without our concurrence? They ask for this legislation, presuming that the people would also ask. My hon. friend says they transcended their duty. What rights have this House more than the Upper House, except the initiation of money grants?
Let us trace the origin of the House of Commons. It was first originated in 1269, and in 1295 the Lords and Commons sat in the same room and voted together, and it took majority of both Houses together to carry a measure. They were not seperate branches at all. If we deny the rights of the Upper House, we might as well abolish it altogether. The House of Lords has been a protection to the country, and their rights are the same se the rights of the Lower House, except the initiation of money grants. When the tariff increased with the increase of trade and commerce, the interests of the people became a source of revenue, and the House of Commons claimed this right and it was assented to.
For many years previously the Lords and the Commons each granted their subsidies upon the property over which they had control. For a long time after this right was given up, the House of Lords maintained their right to alter and amend bills of that kind, but finally this right was also given up.
The House of Lords has now no right to alter or amend those bills, but simply to accept or reject them. He called upon his hon. friend, as a lawyer and a statesman, to point out in the history of their country any rights possessed by the House of Commons, further than has been stated, that were different from those possessed by the House of Lords. They each have the right to originate bills. A bill was originated in our Upper
House to alter the representation of our country. This was a bill which they had no interest in. They sent it down here, and there was no objection raised To its reception. This House received that bill, and it was read a first and second time. No member asked to have it laid before the Committee on Privileges.
The reason the question was not taken upon t was because it came in so late in the Session that there was no time to take it up. If they had rejected or amended the bill, it would not have been because the Legislative Council had no right to bring it in, for having received it, they had admitted this right. The House of Lords has introduced some of the most important measures in Britain, and this is done in the face of the House of Commons, and contrary to their opinions and the opinions of the Ministry of the day. He would mention a case.
During the revolutionary war the Ministry came down with their Speech, and declared they would carry out that war vigorously to the end, and the House of Commons expressed their opinion that the war should be carried on. The Earl of Chatham moved, right in the face of the Ministry and the House of Commons. to discontinue the war. We find the rights of the Lords and Commons are co-equal. Why, then does my hon. friend say they have not the same rights which we have? Do not the same rules govern us that govern the Imperial Parliament?
In all the other Provinces of the proposed Union their Legislative Councils have been the first to act upon it, long before the House of Assemblies of the various Colonies took it up at all. If his hon. friend denied this right to exist, he would ask him at what particular year or century this change was made. If he cannot answer this, he must admit that the right still exists. He objects to this paragraph:—
“We learn with pleasure that Her Majesty the Queen graciously renewed the address of the Legislative Council on the subject of the Union of the British North American Provinces transmitted to England by Your Excellency.”
If the Legislative Council have a right to pass an address, are we not gratified to learn that Her Majesty has been graciously pleased to receive that address. He (Mr. Botsford) says he cannot agree to adopt the third paragraph in the address, because it includes the manner of His Excellency’s consulting with his advisers. This is an important matter, for there are many instances of the Lieutenant Governor’s consulting with the leader of the Government instead of all the members of the Council. He says His Excellency’s not consulting with his advisers was unconstitutional. We know that the House as returned was directly opposed to Union in every respect.
Suppose the people had changed and His Excellency’s advisers had not; was it not right that he should take new advisers, who would adopt his views and take the responsibility? He did so, and his advisers took the responsibility of dissolving the House, and the verdict of the people was an approval of their course. My hon. friend says the constituencies of the Province did not justify the course adopted by His Excellency, but only a majority of them, and therefore the paragraph states what cannot be substantiated. When we pass a resolution in this House by a majority of the members, it is a resolution of the House and not a resolution of a majority of the House, and the same parallel holds good in regard to the constituencies of the Province.
This course adopted by His Excellency led to events which rendered it expedient to dissolve the House. Was it expedient that the eleven constituencies that were in favor of Union should remain governed by the voice of the three that were opposed to this measure? If the House of Assembly had not been dissolved the majority of the people would have been misrepresented by a majority of the members of the House, who did not express their views on this question.
Will he (Mr. Botsford) contend that the rights of the people were endangered by this dissolution? It was the duty of His Excellency’s advisers to see that the majority of the people were properly represented, and to do that they must dissolve the House. The people had been hastily called upon to express an opinion upon a great question, and they did so; but they had since changed their views, and an opportunity was given them to send men here to represent their changed views. This was not endangering the rights of the people. Could any Government be justified in saying, we will keep you here for three years longer, for if we dissolve the House we are taking away your rights.
In regard to the fourth paragraph he (Mr. Botsford) says we are called upon here to express an opinion of approval or disapproval of the manner in which the resolution in favor of Union was carried in Nova Scotia. We are not called upon to do anything of the kind; we are not called upon to decide whether they took the proper course in deciding upon this measure without submitting it to the people. If he (Mr. Johnson) was asked to say whether it was a constitutional course or not, he should say it was. The representatives of the people are sent here to exercise their judgment and think for the people, without going back to the people upon every matter which comes before them.
In the Imperial Parliament all those important measures, like the repeal of the Corn Laws, have been decided without any reference to the people. In the same manner alterations have been made in the Constitution of Great Britain. This Constitution is not the same as it was in the time of William III. There was no such thing as responsible Government in that day. It has been again and again altered and improved. It has been sufficiently yielding to admit of those improvements, which have been rendered necessary by the increase of commerce, and sufficiently strong to prevent its bursting up as other countries have done.
The representatives of the people in Nova Scotia have a constitutional right to act as they have done. and we are not asked to say whether they have done or right or wrong, for it is a matter which they must settle among themselves. We are simply asked to say: do we approve of what they have done? and we are not asked to say whether we approve of how they did it. If they have done what we conceive to be right, we can well say that we approve of the substance of the resolutions, without expressing an opinion as to the manner or mode in which those resolutions were carried; therefore my hon. friend (Mr. Botsford) is not called upon to commit himself in that matter at all.
There are a few words in the third paragraph he (Mr. Johnson) thought it would be as well to strike out. The section which says: ” Your Excellency may rely with confidence on our cordial co-operation in any measure which may be proposed to accomplish that object.” He (Mr. Johnson) thought that was asking too much from the House. It would preclude them from asking for any alterations in any measure proposed. He would suggest that they leave out the words, ” in any measure which may be proposed.” The section would then read, ” Your Excellency may rely with confidence on our cordial cooperation to accomplish that object.”
Mr. Young said he still believed, as he did at the close of the last session, that the course pursued by the Legislative Council, in passing a resolution for a Union based upon the Quebec Scheme, thereby endeavoring to force upon the people a measure the people had rejected twelve months before, was wrong. He should, therefore, vote against the second and third paragraphs, but if the fourth paragraph was amended as proposed, he might vote for it. He had been sustained by a large majority of his constituents in the position he took in reference to the conduct of the Government, and in reference to the Upper Branch of the Legislature. He was satisfied the address would pass without any amendment, by at least four-fifths of the members of the House, therefore he would say nothing further on the subject, but would content himself with voting against those paragraphs in the address.
Mr. Caie said it was not his wish or inclination to show any factious opposition to the Government. In the first place it would be useless to do so. In the second place it would occupy too much time at this season of the year, when time is so valuable. In the third place, he had not conceit enough in any arguments which he might use to convince the minds of the members on the floors of the House. He would, therefore, merely express his dissent from that paragraph which says:
“We learn with pleasure that Her Majesty the Queen graciously received of the Legislative Council,” &c.
Representing as he did a constituency of 16,000 inhabitants, three-fourths of whom are what are called “Anties,” he felt himself called upon to enter an unqualified disapprobation to the passing of that paragraph, and he trusted a division of the House, showing our opinions on the matter, will be taken.
Mr. Stevens said he was glad to embrace the opportunity of raising his voice against the assertion made against the Legislative Council, that they represented nobody but themselves. The Constitution of Great Britain has received the plaudits of all writers of history. The reason of this is, because of the admirable checks which one branch has upon another. We should, therefore, endeavor to prevent the usefulness of the Upper Branch being done away with by any remarks calculated to bring them, as an independent Branch, into contempt. It has been urged by one hon. gentleman, that the Legislative Council was endeavoring to force upon the people a scheme which they had previously rejected, and because the scheme had been once rejected the people never ought to have another opportunity of expressing an opinion upon it. They were prepared to meet this constitutional question in all its bearings.
The action of the Lieutenant Governor was strictly constitutional in all its details. There was no endeavor to subvert the constitution or to force upon the people a scheme that they did not wish. The Legislative Council cannot carry anything into effect without the concurrence of the other branches. They did as they were asked to do by the Imperial Government, and in consequence of doing that they brought matters to an issue, which caused the resignation of a Government that had been in power long enough, and this was proved by the result of the elections. The country knew when His Excellency returned from England that there was something to be done to bring the subject of Union prominently before the people. We now find that the subject of Union was to have been brought before the people by the despatches which were to be laid before the House. If we look at the correspondence which took place upon the resignation of the Government, we will find that His Excellency was willing to bring this about through the agency of the Government, so that it could be carried out without a party triumph. This showed great delicacy on the part of His Excellency.
This subject of Union was mentioned in the speech from the throne, and the Legislative Council presented an address in answer to the speech, the reply to which was endorsed by the Government and couched in the same language in which afterwards His Excellency replied to their address on the subject of Union. The found fault because that reply was not communicated to the Government as a body, and in consequence of this they said it was not a constitutional act of the Governor. Why, he would ask, was it necessary for the Governor to do that when it was but a second copy of what they had already endorsed and approved of? Where was the unconstitutionality of this act of His Excellency? It was a mere matter of form, and they could not go to the country and ask them to decide on a mere matter of form.
A division was then taken upon the second paragraph in the address.
Yeas—Messrs. Fisher, McMillan, Williston, Connell, Kerr, Stevens, Beveridge, Lewis, Hibbard, Herbert, Johnson, Dow, Beckwith, Thompson, Perley, Babbit Ryan, J. Flewwelling, W.P. Flewwelling, Ferris, MeClelan, McAdam, Sutton, Wilmot, Chandler, DesBrisay, Glasier,—27.
Nays—Messrs. Botsford, Meahan, Landry. McInerny, Caie, McQueen, Young—7.
The third and fourth paragraphs passed each with the same division that was taken upon the second, and the remaining paragraphs passed unanimously.
Mr. Kerr moved that the address be engrossed and signed by His Honor the Speaker, and presented to His Excellency by the whole House.
This resolution was adopted, and a Committee appointed to wait upon His Excellency to know when he would be pleased to receive the House therewith.
On motion of Hon. Mr. Fisher, the following resolution was made the order of the day for Tuesday.
Resolved. That an humble address be presented to His Excellency the Lieutenant Governor, praying that His Excellency will be pleased to appoint delegates to unite with delegates from the other Provinces in arranging with the Imperial Government for the Union of British North America upon such terms as will secure the just rights and interests of New Brunswick, accompanied with a provision for the immediate construction of the Inter-Colonial Railway, each Province to have an equal voice in such delegation, Upper and Lower Canada to be considered as separate Provinces.
On motion of Mr. Fisher, 200 copies of this resolution were ordered to be printed.