Province of Canada, Legislative Assembly, 8th Parl, 3rd Sess (18 March 1865)


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Date: 1865-03-18
By: Province of Canada (Parliament)
Citation: “Provincial Parliament”, [Quebec] Morning Chronicle (20 March 1865).
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PROVINCIAL PARLIAMENT

LEGISLATIVE ASSEMBLY.

SATURDAY, March 18, 1865.

A Demand for Explanations—Parliamentary Badinage

Luther Holton [Chateauguay] rose and with apparent gravity said he held in his hand a paper which had, reached town this morning, and which contained a statement suggesting an enquiry of some importance.

The Speaker—The want of notice will prevent the question being put.

Luther Holton [Chateauguay]—Well, yes; but we could have some talk about it.

Some Hon. MembersLaughter.

Luther Holton [Chateauguay]—He knew that hon. gentleman, strictly  speaking, were not bound to answer this question, but it was one which they find it convenient to respond to on pain of probable unpleasant consequences hereafter. He found this extraordinary statement in a newspaper (Huntington Gleaner)—that just prior to the vote on the Confederation scheme the other day, the Government gave to certain gentleman, representing English constituencies in Lower Canada, a written pledge in regard to the provisions of the local constitutions, in respect to the interests these gentleman were supposed to represent.

Some Hon. Members—Hear, hear.

Luther Holton [Chateauguay]—Now he could imagine nothing more dangerous, more unparliamentary, more unconstitutional than such a pledge beforehand.

George-Étienne Cartier [Montreal East, Attorney-General East]—Undignified, unbecoming, irrelevant.

Some Hon. MembersRoars of laughter.

Luther Holton [Chateauguay] said he could imagine nothing more calculated to sap the foundations of constitutional Government than pledges by a ministry to supporters in regard to any matter, for the purpose of securing their support. When he saw that statement in print he determined to give hon. gentleman fair play.

George-Étienne Cartier [Montreal East, Attorney-General East]—We all know that.

Some Hon. MembersLaughter.

Luther Holton [Chateauguay] said he desired to give them an opportunity—the only one they would have in three months—to contradict the statement if they could. If such pledges brewer given hon. gentleman from Lower Canada, similar assurances might have bene given to other sections of the representation of the country. It might be equally true that such assurance were given the followers of the hon. member for South Oxford [George Brown], and contrary ones given the supporters of the Hon. Attorney-General East [George-Étienne Cartier].

Some Hon. MembersMinisterial laughter and cheers.

Luther Holton [Chateauguay]—We were entitled, firstly, to know whether such assurances were given, and, secondly, what they were in respect to all the different classes and races represented in the House; because it might turn out that these assurances were slightly in contradiction to each other; so that, in addition to the unconstitutional course pursued there might be a graver charge against ministers.

George Brown [Oxford South, President Executive Council]—Oh, pshaw, pshaw.

Some Hon. MembersIronical cheers from the Ministerial benches.

Luther Holton [Chateauguay] said he had not had an opportunity of giving notice of this enquiry, as the matter only came under his notice within a few a minutes.

George-Étienne Cartier [Montreal East, Attorney-General East]—What paper?

Luther Holton [Chateauguay]—A very respectable paper published in Mr. Somerville’s constituency, and which excused him on the ground that he had obtained a written pledge from the Government in reference to certain portions of the local constitution of Lower Canada, affecting the rights and safety of the English Protestants of Lower Canada. If such assurances were given, he thought they must be considered unconstitutional.

John Cameron [Peel] thought there was enough assurance in this House without giving any extra assurances to particular members.

Some Hon. MembersLaughter.

John Cameron [Peel]—He thought the hon. member for Chateauguay [Luther Holton] ought to move for a special committee to enquire and report upon this important matter. There could not be the least doubt it was of immense importance; had assurance been given, as had been stated, to the representatives of the different races and classes—if everybody had got assurances nobody could complain.

Some Hon. MembersLaughter.

John Cameron [Peel]—The proper course would be to move that the hon. member for Chateauguay [Luther Holton] be appointed a committee of one, to sit and enquire into this matter during the recess, with power to send for persons and papers.

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

John Cameron [Peel]—He should also have all the “cheeks and guarantees” ever heard of, and a vote of credit to pay his expenses.

Some Hon. MembersRenewed laughter.

Luther Holton [Chateauguay] said, that perhaps the hon. gentleman could induce his friends to issue a commission of enquiry into the matter. If so, he would undertake to serve without fear of reward, if authorized to act as a commission of enquiry on the subject, with power to call for persons, papers and records, and examine witnesses on oath; and would be prepared to bring down full information on this matter on the first day of next session.

Some Hon. Members—Hear, hear.

Luther Holton [Chateauguay]—The hon. gentleman (Mr. Cameron) said that if assurances were given to all no party could complain; but these assurances might vary.

John Cameron [Peel]—Hear, hear.

Luther Holton [Chateauguay] said he hope such assurances had not been given, for the sake of the government and for the sake of constitutional government generally. If such assurances had been given, it might be considered that other sections of the representation had also received pledges. He would therefore repeat his question.

George-Étienne Cartier [Montreal East, Attorney-General East] said that the Government would take into consideration the issuing of a commission, and give due attention to the weighty arguments brought to bear by the hon. gentleman for this object.

Some Hon. MembersLaughter.

George-Étienne Cartier [Montreal East, Attorney-General East]—These arguments were not only weighty but absolutely ponderous.

Luther Holton [Chateauguay]—What about the assurances?

George-Étienne Cartier [Montreal East, Attorney-General East]—With regard to them, we do not deal in such. There was, however, a former Government, of which the hon. gentleman who sits near me (Mr. Brown) was the leader, and hon. member opposite (Mr. Holton) a member—which understood what was meant by “assurances and checks and guarantees.”

Some Hon. MembersLaughter.

George Brown [Oxford South, President Executive Council]—What can be said of that Government could be said of no other Government—it had not the slightest fault—it never did wrong—never was and never could be charged with corruption.

Some Hon. MembersRoars of laughter.

Luther Holton [Chateauguay]—But the Brown-Dorian government was, however, subjected to great wrong. The hon. member for Dorchester (Mr. Langevin) taking advantage of the issuing of the writ for the city of Montreal, stifled that administration.

Some Hon. MembersLaughter.

Luther Holton [Chateauguay]—That was an action which, it was to be hoped, the hon. member for South Oxford [George Brown] would not forget or forgive. It was one of these things which, though he was condoning so much the acts of his present colleagues, he should not forget.

Some Hon. MembersLaughter and ironical cheers.

John Cameron [Peel]—Does the hon. gentleman forget that all that is buried in the grave, and that “forget-me-not” and other flowers are now blooming over it.

Some Hon. MembersRenewed laughter.

Luther Holton [Chateauguay] did not desire this serious to be laughed off in this way.

John Cameron [Peel] said he was obliged to check the continuance of this proceeding, by raising the question of order. There was no notice of enquiry on the paper. The House did not understand that such an important matter was to be discussed to-day.

Luther Holton [Chateauguay]—I do not intend dividing the House on the matter.

Some Hon. MembersRoars of laughter.

Luther Holton [Chateauguay]—I am aware I cannot demand a categorical answer, under the circumstances. I can put myself in order if necessary, by making a motion; but I merely wish to know whether written assurances were given by the Government to the hon. member for Huntington, and other gentleman representing English constituencies in Lower Canada, in respect to the provisions of a measure not yet submitted to this House, in order to induce them to vote in a certain sense on a. Measure yet to come before the house. That is the point of the enquiry which, I think is serious. Hon. gentleman are bound by grave consideration to answer.

John Cameron [Peel]—I think seriously it should be answered next session, before we have the Speech from the Throne.

Some Hon. MembersLaughter.

George-Étienne Cartier [Montreal East, Attorney-General East]—The hon. member for South Oxford said that the Brown-Dorion Administration had not been guilty of any reprehensible act; but said that wrong had been done it. That wrong was, however, he (Mr. Cartier) believed, in the main corrected, as he had now as his colleague the Hon. President of the Council [George Brown], the leader of that Government. It was not the wish of the country that that hon. gentleman should remain longer in opposition; but it appears that the hon. member for Chateauguay [Luther Holton] should remain in Opposition, inasmuch as he acted that part so well.

Some Hon. Members—Hear, hear.

Luther Holton [Chateauguay] said that he could only infer that the statement in the paper relative to the assurances alleged to have been given was true.

George Brown [Oxford South, President Executive Council]—Pshaw, pshaw.

Luther Holton [Chateauguay]—The only deduction was that these assurances had been given in order to influence the action of this House on a measure under consideration. The silence of the Government implied acquiescence in the accuracy of the statement. If it be correct, it would establish against these gentleman one of the gravest charges ever proved against a government administering representative institutions and occupying the place of a Responsible Government, according to the British notion.

George Brown [Oxford South, President Executive Council] said that, before coming to that conclusion, the hon. gentleman should state what these assurances were. It was quite impossible for the Government to know they nature. They might be with regard to the time that Parliament was to meet, with regard to the local Government’s, the distribution of the debt, &c.,—in fact, there was an infinity of subjects with regard to which verbal assurances might have been given.

Luther Holton [Chateauguay]—I said written assurances from the Government—not those given at dinner tables.

George Brown [Oxford South, President Executive Council] said that if the hon. gentleman would state what he meant we might be able to answer him. As far as he was concerned, he had not the slightest apprehension of what the hon. member was speaking about.

Luther Holton [Chateauguay] said he would endeavor to make himself understood. The statement and question were with reference to this—that, pending, and near the close of the discussion on Confederation, hon. ministers gave to the hon. gentleman already referred to, and to other hon. members representing British constituencies in Lower Canada, certain written assurances as to the provisions the Government would introduce into the proposed local constitutions to be submitted next session, on the peculiar protection of the class those gentleman represented. That was the point, respecting which there could be no misunderstanding.

George Brown [Oxford South, President Executive Council] said he was as ignorant now as before, as to the meaning of the assurances spoken about.

Luther Holton [Chateauguay]—I would advise the hon. gentleman to apply to his colleagues for information, and to ask the Hon. Finance Minister [Alexander Galt] whether he knew anything about it; or whether, if he did, it was in his individual capacity or in that of a member of the Government. Perhaps Mr. Wright, of Ottawa, could tell us something of these assurances.

George Brown [Oxford South, President Executive Council]—Yes, yes, bring him out.

Some Hon. MembersLaughter.

[Mr. Pope now crossed the House, when Hon. Mr. Holton caught him by the arm, in a friendly manner, apparently for the purpose of extracting from him whether he had received any assurances. Mr. Pope, seemingly unwilling to prolong the interview “broke away” amid the laughter of the members.]

George Brown [Oxford South, President Executive Council] George Brown [Oxford South, President Executive Council]—(assuming a grave appearance) I beg to call attention to one of the most unconstitutional and improper proceedings ever witnessed in this House. An hon. member, with a degree of rashness unparalleled, in your presence, Mr. Speaker, and while you were in the Chair, actually laid violent hands on another hon. member. I saw the deed.

Some Hon. MembersRoars of laughter.

George Brown [Oxford South, President Executive Council]—I saw the hon. member for Chateauguay [Luther Holton] seize hold of another hon. member, but I cannot say what the damage was.

Some Hon. MembersRenewed laughter.

Luther Holton [Chateauguay]—I can only say, as I am the member alluded to, I have to apologize in the most abject manner to the House, and also I beg to apologize to the hon. member himself (turning towards Mr. Pope) upon whose persons the alleged violence was committed.

Some Hon. MembersRoars of laughter.

Luther Holton [Chateauguay]—I think I have now fulfilled all the requirements of Parliamentary law.

Luther Holton [Chateauguay]—As the Pope has given my hon. friend absolution, I hope it is all right.—

Some Hon. MembersLaughter.

Luther Holton [Chateauguay]—But I have not given absolution to the Pope. The gentle violence I was seen to practice on His Holiness a moment ago, was not for the purpose of vengeance on that hon. gentleman, but was merely for the public interest.

George Brown [Oxford South, President Executive Council]—I arise to order. I say that is just the plea with all despots since the world began.

Some Hon. MembersLaughter.

Luther Holton [Chateauguay]—Then I am a despot in the interest of my country.

Some Hon. MembersLaughter.

John Cameron [Peel] said it was in accordance with the rules of Parliament that the hon. gentleman having made an apology should withdraw. I insist on the rule in this case.

Some Hon. MembersUproarious laughter and shouts of “withdraw.”

The matter then dropped, and the Speaker left the Chair during pleasure.

Shortly after 2 p.m.—

The Speaker resumed his seat and a number of bills sent down from the Legislative Council with amendments were concurred in.

The Seat of Government

Robert Bell [Russell]—I wish to ask a question, namely—Whether the policy of the Government is the same at present as that communicated to the House, by the Hon. Attorney General West [John A. Macdonald], on the 30th January last—that the seat of Government will be removed to Ottawa during the ensuing summer?

George Brown [Oxford South, President Executive Council]—can have no hesitation in answering the question of my hon. friend. I have the assent of the Government and Opposition in saying that there is no change in our policy in regard to the removal of the Seat of Government to Ottawa.

Robert Bell [Russell]—That is—it is their intention to remove to Ottawa this summer?

George Brown [Oxford South, President Executive Council]—There is no change at all in the policy of the Government.

Luther Holton [Chateauguay] said the facts were slightly different now from what the were on the 30th of January last. Then we were in ordinary session, and it was supposed Parliament would be called together in Ottawa. Since that period we had had another declaration of policy from the Hon. Attorney General West [John A. Macdonald]—namely, that Parliament would be convened, not at the usual period next winter but early in summer probably in June. Well, he (Mr. Holton) understood the pith of the question was this—will Parliament, when summoned in June next, or early summer, be summoned on Ottawa. Because it must be clearly seen that if this promised summer sessions could not be convened in Ottawa, it would be physically impossible that the Government could be removed to Ottawa during the summer.

John Cameron [Peel] arose to question or order. This discussion was entirely contrary to parliamentary rule.

Robert Bell [Russell]—On a question of this kind a discussion is not expected; and as far as what I meant is concerned, I am very much obliged to the hon. member for Chateauguay [Luther Holton] for telling me what I did mean; but I think I knew it quite as well before he told me.

Some Hon. MembersLaughter.

Robert Bell [Russell]— I asked whether the policy of the Government was changed;—was it the same as stated by the Attorney General West [John A. Macdonald] on the 30th January last, namely, that the seat of Government would be removed to Ottawa during the ensuing summer. On that day the member for St. John (Mr. Bourassa) asked whether it was the intention of the Government to remove the seat of Government to Ottawa during the ensuing summer. The Hon. Attorney General West [John A. Macdonald] answered that it was the intention. I ask now whether the policy of the government is the same as then stated.

Luther Holton [Chateauguay] rose to a question of order.

Robert Bell [Russell] contended that he was in order.—I thank the hon. gentleman for telling me what I meant. The question is now asked. It has been replied that the policy of the Government is not changed. I then add the continuation of this question—“Is it the intention of the Government to remove to Ottawa this summer.” To that part of the question, I have not had a decided reply.

George Brown [Oxford South, President Executive Council]—I think the reply was given in that of the Hon. Attorney General West [John A. Macdonald] in January last, namely—that we intended to remove to Ottawa at the very earliest possible moment.

Luther Holton [Chateauguay]—When?

George Brown [Oxford South, President Executive Council]—I am not an engineer, cannot tell when the buildings will be ready, and cannot possibly say what the earliest moment will be.

Robert Bell [Russell]—Is it the intention of the Government to remove to Ottawa this summer?

George-Étienne Cartier [Montreal East, Attorney-General East]—It is the intention of the Government to carry out the declaration made by the Hon. Attorney General West [John A. Macdonald] on behalf of the Government.

Luther Holton [Chateauguay]—Then it is the intention of the Government to convene Parliament in June in Ottawa? I should like to know whether that is the understanding?

George-Étienne Cartier [Montreal East, Attorney-General East]—The hon. gentleman is aware that an announcement respecting the policy of the Government, concerning the prorogation of this House, and convening of Parliament, was made by the Hon. Attorney General West [John A. Macdonald].

Luther Holton [Chateauguay]—It follows, therefore, that the House is to be convened in Ottawa in June, or early in summer?

George Brown [Oxford South, President Executive Council]—When the proclamation comes out you will have full information.—

Some Hon. MembersLaughter.

George-Étienne Cartier [Montreal East, Attorney-General East]—The hon. gentleman (Mr. Holton) pretends to be a great reasoner; he can draw his conclusions from the statement of the Hon. Attorney General West [John A. Macdonald].

John Cameron [Peel]—The Government did not say whether it was in the ordinary summer or the Indian summer that they were to meet.

Some Hon. MembersLaughter.

Luther Holton [Chateauguay] hoped the hon. member for Russell [Robert Bell] was entirely satisfied with the answer, and that he believed there had been no “humbugging” of the important interests he represents.

Robert Bell [Russell]—I have no hesitation in saying that I give full credit to the assurances given me, both by Hon. Attorney-General West [John A. Macdonald] and the Hon. Attorney-General East [George-Étienne Cartier]. They tell me that the policy of the Government is the same as that announced by the former on the 30th January last. That announcement was—“Yes, it is the intention of the Government to remove the seat of Government to Ottawa this summer.” They declared this then, and members of the Government have now repeated. I take it that it is the intention of the Government to remove to Ottawa this summer, as declared in this House I am satisfied to take their word.

Luther Holton [Chateauguay] hoped that the hon. members for Ottawa [Alonzo Wright] and Pontiac [John Poupore] were satisfied with the assurance.

Alonzo Wright [Ottawa County]—I have no objection to say that I am perfectly satisfied with all the assurances I have received.

Message from His Excellency

At twenty minutes past three a message was received from His Excellency the Governor-General [Viscount Monck], desiring the attendance of the members of the Legislative Assembly in the Legislative Council Chamber, wither the members proceeded

The House then adjourned. 

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