Province of Canada, Legislative Assembly, 8th Parl, 3rd Sess (17 March 1865)

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Date: 1865-03-17
By: Province of Canada (Parliament)
Citation: “Provincial Parliament”, [Quebec] Morning Chronicle (18 March 1865).
Other formats: Click here to view the original document (PDF).
Note: All endnotes come from our recent publication, Charles Dumais & Michael Scott (ed.), The Confederation Debates in the Province of Canada (CCF, 2022).

Click here to view the rest of the Confederation Debates.

George Brown [Oxford South, President Executive Council] moved

That when this House adjourn at the close of its second sitting, it do stand adjourned until Saturday at eleven o’clock.

The hon. gentleman said that he was willing to make it noon instead of eleven o’clock, if the House preferred the latter hour.

Several Hon. Members—Noon, noon.

George Brown [Oxford South, President Executive Council] made the alteration suggested.

Luther Holton [Chateauguay] said—As this is the last opportunity we may have before the close of the session, and as it is coming to a termination under somewhat unusual and extraordinary circumstances, it may be well to have a little summing up of the reasons and conditions under which the Government have brought this session to a termination, and as it their pledges to the House and country both in regard to the proximate session of Parliament and the nature of the subjects to be brought before it.

The reasons given for the very unusual course taken by hon. gentlemen opposite have been these: first, the subject of Confederation of all the British North American Provinces; second, the defence of the country—the apportionment of the burthens of that defence between the Imperial and Colonial Governments; and, third, with reference to the Reciprocity Treaty[1]. I understand that hon. gentlemen on the Treasury benches are pledged to convene Parliament, probably in June—in the words of the Hon. Attorney General West [John A. Macdonald]—“early in summer.”

I also understand that they are pledged, if they do not succeed in getting a measure to secure the Confederation of all the B.N.A. Provinces passed by the Imperial Parliament, during the present session, to introduce a measure, at this “early summer session” proposed, respecting the Federation of the two Canadas. In this case, I understand ministers are pledged to introduce measures providing for the local institutions of the two Canadas, whether under the larger scheme of Confederation or under the smaller one; that they are pledged, too, to come down to the House with a distinct statement of the position of the country and the burdens it expected to assume in relation to the defence of the country.

I understand further, that, next session, the Government are to be in a position to state what their intentions may be in respect to the commercial policy of the country and in regard to the steps to be taken in order to open negotiations for the continuance of the Reciprocity Treaty[2]. I have also understood from what passed last night that at the early summer session the Government will be in a position to submit to the House a policy respecting the North-West Territory and in relation to the proprietary rights of the Hudson Bay Company. These are points on which there should be no misunderstanding, and I think there can be no misunderstanding regarding them after what has passed here during the last few days; but on this the last day of the session, I feel it my duty to state what our understanding of the position is.

This brings me to another point—namely, the composition of the proposed mission to England[3]. Of course I do not anticipate hon. gentlemen on the Treasury benches will state which of their number is to go to the mother-country; but rumor has it that the Hon. President of the Council [George Brown] is not to be one of the party, but is going to send in his stead the Hon. Provincial Secretary [William McDougall]. I have great respect for the talents and character of this gentleman, but I maintain that, with respect to those questions which have recently been engaging our attention, the Hon. Provincial Secretary [William McDougall] is not in a position to be subjected to the same degree of responsibility as the Hon. President of the Council [George Brown], and I do believe that if this gentleman shrinks at this moment from the performance of this obvious duty to the party who sustains him in his present position, it will be inferred, and, I think justly, that he so shrinks from it because he anticipates a miserable failure of the mission.

Some Hon. MembersOpposition cheers.

George-Étienne Cartier [Montreal East, Attorney-General East] said—I am really surprised at the proceeding of the hon. member for Chateauguay [Luther Holton]. Of course the hon. gentleman has a perfect right to make any comments he may be pleased to make on a motion before the House, when he is in order; and I do not pretend to say that he made use of this privilege against the rules of this House. But the fact is the hon. gentleman is too fond of indulging in comments. In replying to the hon. member I shall divide his remarks into two parts. The first part relates to the policy of the Government, and he has expressed great anxiety to know whether he correctly understood that policy, and stated what he understood it to be. Well, I shall not disturb him in his understanding.

Some Hon. Members—Hear, hear, and laughter.

George-Étienne Cartier [Montreal East, Attorney-General East]—Whether he understood correctly or incorrectly is his own affair; but he has certainly too much shrewdness and too much intelligence not to be able to draw some conclusion.

Some Hon. Members—Hear, hear.

George-Étienne Cartier [Montreal East, Attorney-General East]—But I may ask, with regard to the policy of the Government that it was stated in the most explicit terms by the Hon. Attorney General West [John A. Macdonald] the other day, and that the line of conduct then explained will be carried out.

Some Hon. Members—Hear, hear.

George-Étienne Cartier [Montreal East, Attorney-General East]—This is my answer to the first part of the remarks of the hon. member for Chateauguay [Luther Holton]. Then, in the second portion of his discourse the hon. member has expressed great anxiety to know who is going to England. Well, I shall tell the hon. gentleman that we are not a Government of rumors.

Some Hon. MembersLaughter.

George-Étienne Cartier [Montreal East, Attorney-General East]—When we adopt any course, we adopt it advisedly after due deliberation and counsel amongst ourselves. I may, however, state that there is as yet no decision as to who is to go to England.

Some Hon. Members—Hear, hear.

George-Étienne Cartier [Montreal East, Attorney-General East]—Of course the hon. member for Chateauguay [Luther Holton] is at liberty to deal in rumors as much as he pleases. I verily believe, if he were not permitted to pick up all the floating rumors and read the sensation articles which are in circulation, he would die.

Some Hon. MembersLaughter.

George-Étienne Cartier [Montreal East, Attorney-General East]—I repeat, however, that the Government has not come to any decision on the latter point.

Some Hon. Members—Hear, hear.

Frederick Haultain [Peterborough] said that every member of the House felt deeply the present position of the relations between Canada and the mother-country. A great deal, he thought, depended on who went to England. He should be the very last to do what might be construed into a desire to dictate but he thought he might very humbly and respectfully submit his views. He believed that the great bulk of the people of Upper Canada entertained a strong sense of the advisability of the presence in England of the Hon. President of the Council [George Brown]. He was persuaded that nothing but the most important business would prevent that hon. gentleman from proceeding with the delegation. If it was at all possible for the hon. member to proceed to England he (Col H.) hoped he would do so.

He was equally desirous that the Hon. Attorney General East [George-Étienne Cartier] should form part of the delegation. He trusted that he was not going beyond his position in giving his views on this subject, but he was merely giving utterance to the general opinion of Upper Canada to the effect that at this juncture it was right that an hon. gentleman who had recently been in England, and who was familiar with the views of the Government and people of England on this subject of colonial relations, should represent our case to the mother-country.

James Cockburn [Northumberland West, Solicitor General West] said he hardly thought his hon. friend from Peterborough [Frederick Haultain] had acted strictly within the theory of constitutional Government, as it was understood and practiced in this country, to make any suggestion as to who should form part of the delegation to England. Were the principle enunciated by the hon. gentlemen to hold good, we should have every hon. gentleman in this House rising and making suggestions as to what ought to be done. This was not in accordance with our constitutional principle, which established the unity of the responsibility of our Government.

Francis Jones [Leeds & Grenville North] said he did not with to make any invidious comparisons, but he thought that, if the whole Ministry went to England, the people of Upper Canada would not derive any benefit from the trip, and if they all stayed at home we should not suffer any loss.

Some Hon. MembersLaughter and cheers.

Thomas Ferguson [Simcoe South] said he hoped and trusted such a selection would be made as would represent the public feeling of both Upper and Lower Canada, and if he had not believed that this would be the case he would not have supported Confederation.

Some Hon. Members—Hear, hear.

Thomas Ferguson [Simcoe South]—He did not think it was right for hon. gentlemen to rise in their place and suggest this one or that one. It was but proper the whole responsibility of the selection should be left with the Government; and that such steps should be taken as would set us right with the Home Government, and restore us to the position we had unfortunately lost on the occasion of the defeat of the Militia Bill two years ago.

William Powell [Carleton] was of opinion that it was rather invidious and indelicate to suggest who should proceed to England. The matter should be left entirely to the Government.

Lucius Huntington [Shefford] said that he failed altogether to see that there was anything improper in summing up the desire to know whether the policy of the Government had been rightly understood. The House was certainly entitled to know that policy; and we should not be taunted by hon. gentlemen opposite when we asked for information on that point.

John Carling [London] said he differed entirely from the remarks of the hon. member for North Leeds [Francis Jones], who believed it was entirely indifferent to the people of Upper Canada whether a delegation of the Ministers proceeded to England or not. This was certainly a most critical period of our history, and it was but right that our representatives should go to the mother-country and have a distinct understanding as to what was expected of us in the matter of defence—to know what we were required to do and to state what we were prepared to do.

Some Hon. Members—Hear, hear.

John Carling [London]—We were ready to do our fair share, and we had a right to ask the Home Government to reciprocate.

Some Hon. MembersCheers.

John Carling [London]—It was not right to make suggestions—the Government was quite able to decide who should act as delegates.

John Cameron [Peel] said he hardly thought it was fair to comment upon the statements of the hon. member for North Leeds [Francis Jones], inasmuch as he believed his hon. friend was only joking.

Some Hon. Members—Hear, hear.

John Cameron [Peel]—The hon. gentleman went on to say, in reference to the remarks of the hon. member for Chateauguay [Luther Holton], that, as the policy of the Government had been already announced, it was not reasonable to ask Ministers to repeat it.

Luther Holton [Chateauguay] said he had only asked to know whether he had clearly understood the policy of the Government, and he was satisfied from the policy of hon. gentlemen on the Treasury benches that he had correctly understood them.

After some further discussion, in which Hon. Mr. Evanturel, and Messrs. Joly, Denis, Scoble and other hon. gentlemen took part, the motion of George Brown [Oxford South, President Executive Council]

That when this House adjourn at the close of its second sitting, it do stand adjourned until Saturday at eleven o’clock.[4]

was carried.

[1]      Canadian-American Reciprocity Treaty of 1854 (Elgin-Marcy Treaty). The United States passed a Joint Resolution abrogating the treaty in Jan. 1865. It was formally terminated on Mar. 17, 1866.

[2]      Canadian-American Reciprocity Treaty of 1854. Supra footnote 1.

[3]      The Canadian delegation would consist of John A. Macdonald, George-Étienne Cartier, and Alexander Galt. Their report can be found later in the volume on Aug. 9, 1865, p. C:15, where they presented their discussions in London to the Legislative Assembly.

[4]      Reinserted from the beginning of the debate for clarity.

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