Province of Canada, Legislative Assembly, 8th Parl, 4th Sess (15 September 1865)

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Date: 1865-09-15
By: Province of Canada (Parliament), Morning Chronicle
Citation: “Provincial Parliament. Legislative Assembly. Friday, Sept. 15th” [Quebec] Morning Chronicle (16 September 1865).
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Friday, September 15

Volunteer and Militia Acts

George-Étienne Cartier [Montreal East, Attorney-General East] moved

The second reading of the Bill further to amend the Acts respecting the Militia and Volunteer Militia Force.

George-Étienne Cartier [Montreal East, Attorney-General East]—In making the motion, the hon. mover explained the purpose of the bill. It had two objects. By the law, as it stood, every county in both sections of the Province was a regimental district. Then, when the ballot took place, if in any county there were one, two or three battalions, they were taken from the different townships or localities all together.

Well, one object of the bill was to enable this feature to be remodelled, and when there were two or more battalions in one county, they should have separate territorial districts. Another object related to the summoning of the Service Militia for yearly training. It is provided at present that they can be summoned either by battalions or companies; but, by the provision now introduced, a portion of a battalion or company may be summoned as the officers may desire. The last clause related to what was now being done in Montreal, and provides that all who have obtained certificates shall encamp or turn out for a period not exceeding six days.

Frederick Haultain [Peterborough] would like to ask whether the militia amendment in the 13th section applied to the men balloted for.

George-Étienne Cartier [Montreal East, Attorney-General East]—Yes; the balloted for.

Frederick Haultain [Peterborough]—Then, the word “organized” ought to be inserted. The “Service Militia” applied to all fit for service; but the organized militia were those balloted for three years; and, unless we specified who were meant we might call out any portion of the militia. He could not see the object of calling out the militia for six days, as it would entail great expense without proportionate advantages.

George-Étienne Cartier [Montreal East, Attorney-General East] said the object of this clause was only to authorize the Governor General [Viscount Monck] to call out part of a company or a battalion, in certain cases, instead of a whole company or whole battalion. The law remained the same in other respects.

Frederick Haultain [Peterborough]—Is it the intention of the Government to call out the militia for six days?

George-Étienne Cartier [Montreal East, Attorney-General East] could not answer this now. The amendment, in question, however, had been thought necessary by the Government.

Frederick Haultain [Peterborough] again repeated his hope that the organized balloted militia would not be called out for six days. If they had previously six weeks’ training, the six days’ drill and service would be of some benefit to keep the force in training. Otherwise it would be of no use. He trusted the Government would not be tempted to take this step, as it would be a mere throwing away of the money.

Some Hon. Members—Hear, hear.

John Rose [Montreal Centre] said—I do not intend to discuss the details of this bill, or weary the House with many observations in regard to it; but I must be permitted to say a few words as to the general policy of the Government on the question of the defence of the country. I intended doing so when the militia estimates were under discussion, but acting according to the suggestion of my friends on the Government benches, and it being a very late hour when the House was in Committee of the Whole, and when we were considering the concurrence, I judged it better to abstain from entering upon the subject on those occasions.

I now, however, propose making a few remarks upon the matter, and shall take up as little time as possible. It will be in the recollection of the House that, last session, a vote was taken by the Government for one million of dollars to be expended on works of defence. At that time the situation was considered so imminent that the Government asked for and obtained unanimously of the House this sum for the purpose I have stated. It was at the same time, understood that the money should not be expended till an arrangement had been come to between the Government of this country and the Imperial Government with reference to the whole system of defence, and also in regard to defining the portion of the cost that Canada and the mother-country should respectively bear.

It is now, evidently, the policy of our Government to take no action whatever upon that vote; because they say the circumstances that have arisen since justify them in foregoing that policy they pressed so strongly, on the House last session. They take this ground that now there is no occasion we should spend any money in works of defence, when the whole question will be considered, after Confederation, in connection with the defence of the Lower Provinces. I am free to admit that the events that have taken place since have, in a great measure, relieved us from the imminent peril in which we were then placed; but, at the same time, I do not think they are such as to warrant the Government in stating that they will take no action in reference to defence until the bringing about of the constitutional changes, which, I believe, will not be long in arriving.

Some Hon. MembersOpposition laughter.

Luther Holton [Chateauguay]—How long?

John Rose [Montreal Centre]—I believe that by this time twelve months you will find no longer separated colonies, but the Provinces of British North American united under one Government.

Some Hon. MembersCheers and counter-cheers.

Luther Holton [Chateauguay]—That is your impression only.

John Rose [Montreal Centre]—Yes; it is both my impression and conviction, and that also of others capable of judging. But I shall not discuss this matter now. Now, my hon. friends on the Treasury benches say that the change from the state of circumstances which existed at the close of last session justified them now in postponing those works of defence. They say—we are now exactly in the same position, with reference to the United States, in which we had been for the 20 or 30 years preceding the late civil war, and that there is no reason to justify us in undertaking any special works of defence. Now, I think that is a great fallacy.

Things have not relapsed into the condition in which they were when the war broke out. At that time we were on a par with the United States. We were both unskilled and inexperienced in the art of war. The United States had not then arsenals or skilled and energetic young officers and generals. They had not the enormous navy they have now. Their coast was not then fortified as now. We then would have met each other, in a contest, on equal terms, being both unskilled in war, and would have gradually learned the art—we would have learned to defend ourselves, and they would have had to acquire that military skill so extensively gained in their late struggle with the Southern States.

I do not, of course, believe there is any particular danger at the present moment in our relations with the United States—on the contrary, I believe there is the most friendly feeling between the two countries and I foresee nothing likely to interrupt it; but we must bear in mind that the condition of things existing before the war no longer continues. They could not have then made a sudden inroad into the country; at any rate, we could have met them on the same footing of preparation. Now, however, they have the means of invading and subjugating this country in 24 hours. No man can deny that.

Some Hon. Members—Hear, hear.

John Rose [Montreal Centre]—It could not be denied that by a sudden invasion from the United States they have now the means of subjugating this country; and that we could not hold it for 48 hours unless we had works of defence.

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

John Rose [Montreal Centre]—I shall, on this subject, read the following extract from Colonel Jervois’ report:—

“It can scarcely be expected that the force that could be mustered at an outbreak of hostilities would be equal to withstand the enemy in the open field. Works of defence are, therefore, essential to enable our comparatively small forces to hold the points against which the main attacks would be directed. It is at the commencement of a war that the greatest danger is to be apprehended, and it is submitted that it is only by availing ourselves of the advantages afforded by fortifications that we can provide against our troops being overpowered at the first onset, or that time can be obtained for rendering the militia available for the defence of the country.”

Now, this is the opinion of this able officer—one who possesses the confidence of the Imperial Government, and whose views are, I think, shared in by the Government of Canada. If it be true that we could not hold the country 24 hours, and would be overpowered at the outset, we ought, at the present juncture—not, perhaps, to go to a very great length, in the way of fortifying, or to the length suggested by Col. Jervois—but we ought to set about making such preparations as would enable the militia of, the country to defend themselves and prevent the country being subjugated in case of a sudden attack. It cannot be denied that we are completely and exclusively at the mercy of an invading force.

Some Hon. Members—Hear, hear.

John Rose [Montreal Centre]—Now, that is not the position we ought to occupy. We should not be so absolutely and entirely at the mercy of our neighbors if we value our independent position. We ought, at all events, to have sufficient points at which the militia of the country could rally, so that we should be enabled to hold the country till assistance could reach us. An hon. member has said that this is only Col. Jervois report; but I will now read the opinion of an officer than whom no one stands higher as a writer on the subject of fortifications. He is a gentleman who has lived many years in Canada, knows what our climate is, the capabilities of the country for defence, and what the people of Canada can do.

Francis Jones [Leeds & Grenville North]—Whom are you referring to?

John Rose [Montreal Centre]—Col. McDougall, the present Adjutant-General of Militia, whose services I consider the Province has been most fortunate in obtaining.

In answer to Antoine-Aimé Dorion [Hochelaga]

John Rose [Montreal Centre] said—The Imperial Government have stated that they would fortify the Imperial positions in order that their troops might be able to hold them, and be available to aid the militia force of this country. But they said that these could only be used as a means of holding certain points; whereas, the people of Canada, upon whom the defence of the rest of the country devolves, are satisfied not to take these precautions which the Imperial Government has taken with reference to its troops. We are willing to fold our arms, and take no steps in our own defence, or for the protection of that great Western peninsula upon which we could have to depend to a larger extent; but we are merely relying on what the Imperial Government is doing, instead of beginning our own works, and carrying them on pari passu with those of the Home Government.

The Report of Col. Jervois speaks principally of the defence of Quebec, Montreal and Kingston. But Colonel McDougall says it would be the gravest and most disastrous policy, in a military and political point of view, to do anything that would savour of abandoning the Western peninsula, which, he thinks, should be defended to the last extremity. He is of opinion that we should begin our struggle at Collingwood, and fight our way down to Kingston if necessary.

Some Hon. Members— Hear, hear.

Antoine-Aimé Dorion [Hochelaga]—The two authorities do not agree.

John Rose [Montreal Centre]—They do. Col. Jervois states that by constructing certain works at the various cities, we should be doing a very important and necessary thing in our own defence.

Antoine-Aimé Dorion [Hochelaga]—Does he say it would be a great error both in a political and military point of view to evacuate the peninsula.

John Rose [Montreal Centre]—Col. Jervois stated that his instructions only were to report on the fortifications of certain practical points—those to which I have alluded; and I am very much inclined to think that the opinions of Col. McDougall will rather commend themselves to the people of this country. Every one knows what earthworks are capable of doing in the work of defence; and it is well-known also that the great bulk of our supplies must be brought from the Western peninsula, as also a great body of our fighting men; and if that part of the country is not to be fought for, inch by inch—if we have not fortifications there, round which the yeomen of the country can rally at the first alarm; the Province was likely to be wrested from our hands at the first outbreak of hostilities. It is quite certain that the works of defence, behind which the militia of the country might rally, cannot be constructed in the face of an invading enemy, and are not likely to be thrown up when war has actually burst upon us.

Some Hon. Members—Hear, hear.

John Rose [Montreal Centre]—I do certainly think that this is a matter of great importance, and I complain of the Government not thinking of going on with these works until after Confederation.

Antoine-Aimé Dorion [Hochelaga]—At what points should we fortify?

John Rose [Montreal Centre]—The hon. gentleman has a very unhappy way of putting small questions that have nothing to do with the general bearings of the case. I really do think it is essential we should have some immediate policy respecting those works of defence. Hon. gentlemen speak of the enormous cost of those works. Now, I will take Col. McDougall’s estimate. His idea is that in addition to Montreal and Kingston there should be certain points in the western peninsula and elsewhere at which fortifications should be begun now, and which might be completed—if not convenient to do so at once when the immediate necessity for their use arises; but which works could not be begun after an outbreak of hostilities. He considers that a sufficient number of works could be constructed at certain points for fifty thousand pounds a-piece.

Luther Holton [Chateauguay]—What do you quote from?

John Rose [Montreal Centre]—From a well-known article of the present Adjutant-General of Militia, which has received the commendation of every man capable of judging.

Some Hon. Members—Hear, hear.

John Rose [Montreal Centre]—He states that at the principal points of the country, works could be constructed at fifty thousand pounds each. The whole cost of those which could be strengthened to any extent afterwards would be only two hundred and fifty thousand pounds. The Adjutant General said—

“In this manner and in this manner alone every man in Canada capable of bearing arms or using a spade or axe might be utilized in the defence of his country. And although the territory of Canada would be over-run in the first instance at a cost of vast loss and suffering to the colonies, the Province could never be conquered, so long as there existed an organized force, supported by impregnable fortifications and daily increasing in efficiency.”

And again:

“A series of such forts disposed around any place it is designed to protect, and occupying the most commanding points of the surrounding country, constituting in the aggregate one of those fortresses to which we have applied the term of entrenched camps in the scheme for the defence of Canada.”

By means of such fortifications the militia of the country could be brought together and trained, and enable to acquire that efficiency which would give us good security for the holding of our main positions till assistance arrive. Well, if that be the case, there is only two hundred and fifty thousand pounds in the aggregate required for this purpose—the interest on which the Imperial Government are ready to guarantee, and which would be a small item indeed to be paid upon this security. If, by beginning and proceeding with these works to a certain point, we have a reasonable guarantee that the country can be held against that sudden irruption which he says, and all military men agree, constitutes our chief danger, it is well worth our while to undertake them without delay.

The point to which I have desired to draw attention is this: that the Government ought to take some steps now to mature the plans of these works, decide where they are to be constructed, and what their cost would be, because they cannot be constructed in a day, a month, or a year; they should make some estimates in relation to them, providing for the means required therefor out of the vote of last year. True it may be that present circumstances do not justify us in supposing that the country will be in any danger for some time to come; but I maintain we cannot begin them and complete them when that is imminent. If we construct these fortifications, we thus obtain a guarantee of peace and protection, and of the ability to hold our country against all enemies.

We ought not to remain in our present defenceless condition—in a state of absolute dependence upon the forbearance of our neighbors, or at the mercy of any attacking force that might choose to come against us. I am convinced we ought to begin those preparations, and not postpone them to a future contingency, which is, I regret to observe, the policy of the Government. I should have said more on the subject, but I know how impatient the House is at this period of the session, and that members are absolutely wearied out by the late hours of the past week. But, reluctant as I was to trespass on their time, I could not permit the only opportunity to pass by without expressing my conviction that it is the duty of every member of the House to educate the public mind up to the understand that precautionary measures are necessary, and that the sacrifices required are needful if we do not wish danger to find us altogether unprepared to meet it.

Mr. Dunkin, F. Jones and Mr. T. Ferguson arose at once to address the House amid cheers, laughter and cries of “one at a time.”

George Brown [Oxford South, President Executive Council]—The oldest commoner first, by all means.

Some Hon. MembersLaughter.

Francis Jones [Leeds & Grenville North]—I think I had the floor first, but I did not catch the Speaker’s eye.

The Speaker—The hon. member for Brome [Christopher Dunkin] has the floor.

Christopher Dunkin [Brome] said he could hardly congratulate his hon. and gallant friend of the “Royals,” the member for Montreal Centre [John Rose], on the occasion he had selected for making the outburst about fortifications which the House had just heard.

Some Hon. Members—Hear, hear.

Christopher Dunkin [Brome]—He (Mr. Dunkin) would use the present opportunity of saying a few words upon the subject, inasmuch as he had not been enabled to do so when the vote of credit of one million dollars for works of defence had been brought down last session, nor on any other occasion. It was, he repeated, most unfortunate that the hon. member (Mr. Rose) should have chosen the present occasion to bring up this matter, when we all remembered that the money had been voted upon the express promise that it would not be used except under a certain contingency which had not happened, and which seemed more distance than ever. Look at the altered circumstances of our condition now as compared with the circumstances under this vote for defences had been obtained.

Some Hon. Members—Hear, hear.

Christopher Dunkin [Brome]—War in the neighboring States was at an end. The vast military organization which was considered dangerous had no longer an existence.

Some Hon. Members—Hear, hear.

Christopher Dunkin [Brome]—The danger considered imminent a few months ago was all but over, and if we were wise we would look upon it as such.

Some Hon. Members— Hear, hear.

Christopher Dunkin [Brome]—He (Mr. Dunkin) held that it was wrong to send it forth to the country that there was a pressing necessity for extensive and costly works of fortification. He certainly would not allow a statement that such was the case to go forth uncontradicted, because he did not believe it to be fact. When the United States were in the midst of their difficulties, they had spoken confidently of their ability to whip the South—they had offered every possible inducement in the shape of high country and military glory to emigrants from the old world who might come to their aid; and now that they had ceased doing so it would be wrong on our part, it would be unwise in the extreme to raise the cry of alarm, and say “Oh, unless we all take up arms, unless we build great fortifications, we shall be annihilated, we shall be swept away.”

Some Hon. Members—Hear, hear.

Christopher Dunkin [Brome]—There was no truth in such a cry. We were not in a position of a beleaguered city. There was no danger of annihilation.

Some Hon. Members—Hear, hear.

Christopher Dunkin [Brome]—So long as the mother-country was true to her pledge—so long as the colony and the parent state would abide by the relations existing between them, he believed we were safe. He had no fear that the United States would, this year, or next year, or in five years to come, attack Canada and thereby plunge themselves into a war to the death with the whole military power of the British Empire.

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

Christopher Dunkin [Brome]—He did not by any means advise that we should neglect those preparations for our defence which it was manly and proper for us to make.

Some Hon. MembersCheers.

Christopher Dunkin [Brome]—The serviceable portion of our population should be so organized as to be available in case of danger. Now, in time of peace we should train a force which would be of use to us in time of war. We should have efficient., well-drilled officers and non-commissioned officers for our militia. There was no occasion, however, to cry out that we were on the brink of destruction, nor that we should whistle to keep our courage.

Some Hon. MembersLaughter.

Christopher Dunkin [Brome]—The hon. gentleman talked about fortifications. But if we erected permanent works of defence now, what guarantee had we that they would be of use to us in a year or two hence. The progress of military science was such that vast improvements were being made every year—nay, every month—in the arts of attack and defence. Look for instance at the British navy—it had been to a very great extent indeed changed or remodelled since the Crimean war, in order to meet the exigencies of modern invention.

Some Hon. Members—Hear, hear.

Christopher Dunkin [Brome]—There was no saying how long the present force would be of use. There was yet another point we should consider respecting the proposed construction of costly defences for the purposes of defence in the future. By what means was Sebastopol defended? Not by its magnificent stone forts, but by the skill and genius of Todleben, and by the extemporized earth-works thrown up by the army of defence.

Some Hon. Members—Hear, hear.

Christopher Dunkin [Brome]—He (Mr. Dunkin) repeated that what we really wanted was a good organization, so that our militia should be properly officered and available when required, aided by the money, the means, the pluck and the skill of the mother-country.

Some Hon. Members—Hear, hear and cheers.

Christopher Dunkin [Brome]—In time of peace we should prepare for war, but in time of peace we should not raise the language of alarm.—The hon. gentleman proceeded to comment upon the amendments to the Volunteer Militia law now before the House, urging that six days’ training would be by no means sufficient for the Service Militia. The officers of the militia throughout the country should be thoroughly trained as a corps d’elite, or in some other way, so that they would know their duties.

Duty on Promissory Notes

Alexander Galt [Sherbrooke, Minister of Finance] moved

The second reading of the bill to extend the act to impose duties on promissory notes, on bills of exchange to all notes and bills of whatever amount, and otherwise to amend the said act.

Luther Holton [Chateauguay] raised the question of order, on the ground that the bill had been altered—or rather a new bill substituted after it had been introduced, read a first time, printed and distributed.

The discussion was proceeding on the point of order when the House adjourned at six o’clock.

After the recess—

The Speaker took the Chair at eight o’clock.

Order of Business

George Brown [Oxford South, President Executive Council] signified that it was his intention to give explanations on the North-west question.

John Sandfield Macdonald [Cornwall]—Explanations only?

Some Hon. Members—Hear, hear.

Alexander Galt [Sherbrooke, Minister of Finance] said it was the desire of the Government that the explanations on the North-west question should be had at an early hour of the sitting, to afford an opportunity for whatever discussion might be desired.

Some Hon. Members—Hear, hear.

Arthur Rankin [Essex] said that if there was going to be no measure introduced he really did not see the use of wasting the time of the House on a mere conversation upon the subject of North-west extension.

Some Hon. Members—Hear, hear.

William Powell [Carleton] would like to know whether there was no means of avoiding the farce of a conversation on this subject? Could not the Government get an article inserted in the Globe which would answer the purpose?

Some Hon. MembersLaughter.

Joseph Cauchon [Montmorency] urged the desirability of proceeding at once with the Quebec Corporation bill.

After some conversation, however, the orders were taken up in the manner desired by the Government.

Volunteer and Militia Acts

George-Étienne Cartier [Montreal East, Attorney-General East] moved

The third reading of the bill to amend the Volunteer and Militia Acts.

Thomas Parker [Wellington North] objected to some of the provisions of the bill as cumbrous.

Thomas Wallbridge [Hastings North] reminded the Government of the petition he had presented on the subject of the balance of pay claimed by the Volunteers on frontier service, as being due them. The Volunteers claimed that they were entitled to the full pay of five shillings per day. He would like to hear from the Government some expression of opinion in the case of these Volunteers.

Alexander Galt [Sherbrooke, Minister of Finance] said that the petition and other documents were before His Excellency the Governor General [Viscount Monck] for consideration. He might, at the same time, say the Government believed that they were doing a kindness to the Volunteers in withdrawing them from active service, and allowing them to return to their homes before the period for which they believed they would be retained. He believed the Volunteers would disclaim and repudiate any demand which would tend to place them in the position of having acted merely from pecuniary considerations.

Thomas Wallbridge [Hastings North] said that the claim of the Volunteers was not pressed through any mercenary consideration whatever.

Some Hon. Members—Hear, hear.

Thomas Wallbridge [Hastings North]—The Volunteers did not come forward through any interested motive, but solely through a sense of duty, and they served independent of whether they were to receive one shilling per day or five shillings per day.

Some Hon. Members—Hear, hear.

Robert Macfarlane [Perth] spoke from personal knowledge of the sacrifices which many Volunteers had made, in order to serve on the frontier. A great number had been obliged to place substitutes in their situations and renumerate those substitutes, while others had lost their situations.

Jean-Baptiste-Éric Dorion [Drummond & Arthabaska] proposed an amendment to the bill, to the effect that the Service Militia should not be called out for six days’ training unless so ordered by a resolution of Parliament.

The amendment was lost upon a division without recording a vote of the House.

The bill was then read a third time and passed.

The Prorogation

In reply to Christopher Dunkin [Brome]

George Brown [Oxford South, President Executive Council] stated that the Government found it to be impossible to prorogue the House to-morrow. It was, however, the intention to do so on Monday.

Some Hon. Members— Hear, hear.


Explanations on the North-West Question—The Order of Business

No order having been called

George Brown [Oxford South, President Executive Council] rose to address the House.

Joseph Cauchon [Montmorency] said it was not fair to the members of this House who had supported the Government all through to have the Quebec bill and other urgent measures, which there was a loud demand for, postponed longer.

Some Hon. Members—Hear, hear.

John Rose [Montreal Centre] hoped the Hon. President of the Council [George Brown] would allow the third reading of the Quebec bill.

George Brown [Oxford South, President Executive Council] said his only object was to accede to the feeling of the House; but, at the same time, he thought that explanations on this Hudson’s Bay question should go to the country. For three nights he had awaited the opportunity of making those explanations, and was now ill-content to allow this opportunity to pass without stating what he had to say. He had no objection to the bill passing, it did not entail such a long discussion as would prevent him making his explanations.

Antoine-Aimé Dorion [Hochelaga] said there was no order or notice on the paper relating to those explanations on the North-West Territory, and if the hon. gentleman spoke at present, it was only to explain and not to bring in any measure.

George Brown [Oxford South, President Executive Council]—Well, if that is the ground you take, I will move that we take up item 16 (Militia Amendment Bill).

John Sandfield Macdonald [Cornwall] proceeded to complain that notice of the matter, about which the President of the Council [George Brown] was going to speak, had been put on the paper.

Finally, the matter dropped, with an understanding that the explanations would be given on Saturday, as the first order.

The Interest Bill

On the order being called for the third reading of the bill respecting interest


Some Hon. MembersCries of “dropped,” “withdraw,”, &c.)

Christopher Dunkin [Brome] said he desired to move a series of resolutions of which he had given notice, to make such changes in the bill as he thought would meet with the approval of hon. gentlemen.

George-Étienne Cartier [Montreal East, Attorney-General East] said the intention of the Government was at the next session, to move for a Committee composed of men representing the views and interests in this matter, and comprising leading members and some Ministers, in order to enquire thoroughly into this question as well as the operation of the laws relating to the rate of interest, in order to make a report which would place the House in possession of all the facts and enable the Government bring in a measure. The Government coincided to a great extent in the amendment of the member for Brome [Christopher Dunkin], but it would be fatal to the success of this principle to press it in such a thin House. He (Mr. Cartier) hoped, therefore, that the hon. member would not press this matter further at present.

Some Hon. Members—Hear, hear.

Christopher Dunkin [Brome] was glad to hear this explanation. He had proposed his motion in order that some measure or system would be adopted and carried out. He hoped the Government would endeavor to bring in a measure to settle this vexed question of the rate of interest; in doing so they would receive his support. He hoped that the further discussion of the matter for the present would be dropped, with the view of it being taken up early next session.

After some further conversation the bill was ordered to stand for further consideration, but it appeared to be understood that it would be pressed this session.

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