Province of Canada, Legislative Assembly, 8th Parl, 4th Sess (17 August 1865)

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Date: 1865-08-17
By: Province of Canada (Parliament), Morning Chronicle
Citation: “Provincial Parliament. Legislative Assembly. Thursday, Aug. 17th” [Quebec] Morning Chronicle (18 August 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).


Thursday, AUGUST 17, 1865[1]

The Free Port System

Alexander Mackenzie [Lambton] moved

For an Address to His Excellency the Governor General for copies of all reports made to the Government, relative to the working of the Free Port system at Gaspé and Sault Ste. Marie.

 Alexander Mackenzie [Lambton]—The hon. member, in making into motion, said he made this motion to bring before the Government what he considered a very grave abuse. He thought it had been understood for ten years, at least ever since the report made, adverse to the continuance of those free ports, that they had not accomplished for which they were established— namely, the extension of our fisheries and opening up of the North West Territory. He had the best possible information that free the port system in Algoma was favorable to only a few traders of the places, but chiefly to the Hudson’s Bay Company who traded there. He hoped the Government would take steps for the discontinuance of a system that had proved useless and irritating to the people on the other side of the lines as encouraging smuggling. A Detroit firm had lately built a wharf and a large store-house two miles from St. Mary’s and intended to carry on, convenient to the frontier, a system of smuggling. Systematic smuggling was carried on at present owing to the existence of the free ports, and this was a cause of considerable annoyance to our American neighbors, which ought to be removed particularly as those free ports had accomplished no good purpose on our side.

Alexander Galt [Sherbrooke, Minister of Finance] said Government did not intend to oppose the motion but, on the contrary, desired to submit to the House all the portions of the report respecting the free ports which could be brought down without detriment to the public service. This subject had engaged the attention, not merely of the previous, but of the present Government. The two inspectors of these ports had made a report about a year and a half ago. There had been reports from two other gentlemen in regard to those same ports. Mr. Anderson having dealt with that of Sault Ste. Marie, and he (Mr. Galt) thought that when his statement was brought down it would be found valuable. He had been instructed to report not merely upon the free-port and the effect of the non-existence of duties, but on the settlement of the country round Sault Ste. Marie.

The report on the Gaspé district was made by an experienced ex-public officer, Mr. Kavanagh, who had a personal acquaintance with the district, and had completed his report in a few days. All the information which could be safely made public would be brought down. It did not appear the full advantage anticipated had been derived from the free ports. It was true that in the Gaspé district the settlement of the country had been promoted by the free port there; but the extension of trade in the Gaspé free-port district, which was the principal object sought for, had not, from various causes, been as great as wished for in the east, and this was equally the case in the West, where there had not been that extension of the mining interests expected. We did not propose to go into explanations with regard to the alterations the Government might make in the free port system. That system, established for a period of years required grave consideration before abrogation, but before the House rose the Government would be prepared to direct some alteration to the subject.

Luther Holton [Chateauguay] observed that the superior fitness of the two gentlemen appointed specially to report on those free-ports, over those regularly in the Government’s service, and who had been previously engaged in examining into the matter, must have been very evident to justify Ministers must have been very evident to justify Ministers in incurring the additional expense of such an appointment.

He (Mr. H.) would wait, however, for further information before entering into the discussion of this subject. What was indisputable was what had been admitted by the Hon. Finance Minister [Alexander Galt] that this free-port experiment was but another of his failures. His great canal policy which was to revivify the western trade was, confessedly, a failure; and so far was that admitted that he had not reverted to it since resuming office, though he had had ample opportunity of doing so. His last tariff he (Mr. Holton) ventured to say would prove the most signal failure of all, in not having produced that amount of revenue predicted from it.

So, now, at the end of eight or nine years this grand scheme of free-ports at the two extremities of the provinces was admitted to be, what everybody who considered the matter, at the start, predicted it would be, an utter failure, involving considerable expense and great loss to the country, and failing to meet those other subjects, in the extension of our trade which the Finance Minister [Alexander Galt] said was intended. He (Mr. H.) would be surprised if, after this admission of the utter failure of this scheme, this House would be allowed to rise without some steps being taken to save the revenue of the country from that steady drain to which it was subjected by this acknowledged failure of the hon. gentleman.

Some Hon. Members—Hear, hear.

Alexander Galt [Sherbrooke, Minister of Finance] had not desired to make any further remarks on this subject, but it seems no subject could come up that the hon. member for Chateauguay [Luther Holton] did not consider it his duty to make an attack on the Government. He always said, in opening, that he intended to do it at some further time, but always did it before sitting down.

Some Hon. Members—Hear, hear.

Alexander Galt [Sherbrooke, Minister of Finance]—It was singular that he, who was always complaining of the policy of the Government, should have been in office some time and left no mark of what he intended to do. With regard to those free-ports, there should be some excuse for the present Finance Minister [Alexander Galt] not having altered the existing system, because he might be considered desirous to wait to know whether his projects were likely to turn out successful.  But how could the hon. member for Chateauguay [Luther Holton] be excused in this matter? He knew it was a failure all along, and yet allowed the system to continue to the loss of the Provinces. He (Mr. Galt) might say in reply that the hon. gentleman, while in office, had taken the very best security against ever being accused of any failures in policy, because he did nothing.

Some Hon. Members—Hear, and laughter.

Alexander Galt [Sherbrooke, Minister of Finance]—It was impossible anything he ever did could have failed. His budget could not have failed, for he never brought it down. The honorable gentleman had been chargeable with one failure in this way: He had assumed the responsibility of sitting in the administration of the country, and coming forward to decry the credit of the country, by saying it was in a bad state, without making any effort to afford a remedy. He contended himself with doing all the mischief he could, and refraining from doing anything to counteract it. The world was just as wise now as it was five years ago, as to what the member for Chateauguay [Luther Holton] was going to do for the benefit of the country, and to enable it to surmount its difficulties.

Some Hon. MembersCheers.

Alexander Galt [Sherbrooke, Minister of Finance]—He (Mr. G) thought that hon. member might refrain from attacking the Government two or three times a day on matters like the present. It might suit his peculiar frame of mind, that he should be always complaining. Even when the Government was desirous of meeting his views he could not take their conduct in a friendly way; but no, it was always— grind, grind, grind.

Some Hon. MembersCheers and laughter.

Alexander Mackenzie [Lambton] thought the free-ports had proved a failure. But as to this being attributable to any Finance Minister was a matter of small importance. Greater men than the present Finance Minister [Alexander Galt] had been mistaken before now. But it was better to have some legislation than none at all. It was better to have a bad tariff than none at all.

Some Hon. Members—Hear, hear.

The motion

For an Address to His Excellency the Governor General for copies of all reports made to the Government, relative to the working of the Free Port system at Gaspé and Sault Ste. Marie.[2]

 was finally carried.

Proposed Amendments to the Election Law

Antoine-Aimé Dorion [Hochelaga] moved

The second reading of the bill to amend the act respecting elections of members of the legislature.

Antoine-Aimé Dorion [Hochelaga]—The hon. member, in making the motion, explained his bill, which is familiar to the public as having been already been before the legislature on three or four occasions. The main object was to have all the elections held on a single day, and to abolish the proclamation or declaration of members elect.

George Brown [Oxford South, President Executive Council] opposed the bill—not on principle, but because the Government stood pledged to go on with Confederation or to change the constitution of Canada. Under these circumstances he did not see that it was necessary or desirable that any change should be made at present.

Antoine-Aimé Dorion [Hochelaga] argued that the present election system only created turmoil, dissipation and expenditure of money. There was no occasion why elections should extend over a period of five or six weeks or two months—neither was there any occasion for the show of hands or the declaration.

Christoper Dunkin [Brome] followed on the same side; and said that in England nearly all the borough elections were held on the same day and the county elections on the same day. In the United States the system now proposed to be adopted here obtained; and he did not see why we should follow the practice which prevailed almost everywhere. He hoped his hon. friend (Mr. Dorion) would persist in the bill.

George Brown [Oxford South, President Executive Council] said it was quite obvious that, if Confederation was adopted we must go into a legislature with gentlemen from different provinces who might present different views upon this matter. The measure then adopted might be agreeable to the views of the whole Confederate Parliament. He did not see the propriety of our dividing ourselves into two political parties beforehand on this subject. He appealed to the members of the House who supported the Coalition, on the ground necessity of those constitutional changes, we had at heart to sustain the Government in resisting this change at present—not on the principle of the Bill—

Some Hon. MembersOpposition cheers.

George Brown [Oxford South, President Executive Council]—but it was quite obvious we should go to the discussion of this measure without laboring under that excitement such as a discussion would raise, in order to frame measures that might be acceptable to all the Provinces.

Some Hon. Members—Hear, hear.

George Brown [Oxford South, President Executive Council]—He would move in amendment,

That a measure for the Confederation of the British North American Provinces, being now under consideration, it is not expedient that the bill be now read a second time; but that its consideration be postponed till 1st March, 1866.

He appealed to the friends of Government to sustain it in support of their present course of opposition to the measure at present, even though they might be in favor of some of its details.

Frederick Haultain [Peterborough] regretted exceedingly that the Government had shown the House. He (Mr. Haultain) had not heard anything to induce him to believe that such a delay was necessary. He was in favor of the principle of the bill; and even supposing we were going to have Confederation, he failed to see that it was any reason why all useful legislation should be stopped. We had very little do this session, and he therefore hoped that the opportunity of pressing the present measure would not be neglected. He did not see that it would affect the position of the Government; and he would vote with pleasure for the second reading of the bill.

Some Hon. Members—Hear, hear.

Thomas Street [Welland] was not quite sure that he was in favor of the bill. He did not think it would suppress corruption, because it proposed to limit voting to one day. This would only have the effect of limiting the corruption into a shorter period; but it would not put a stop to it. It was the custom in England to close the polling in a single day; and surely no person who had followed the course of English elections would tell us that they were altogether free from corruption.

Some Hon. Members—Hear, hear.

Thomas Street [Welland]—The hon. gentleman then went on to express his dissent from various clauses of the bill.

Lucius Huntington [Shefford] said that the President of the Council [George Brown], while not opposing the principle of the bill, said it was not desirable to pass it because, forsooth, we were going to have Confederation. If this argument were good it would apply to legislation of every kind.

Some Hon. Members—“No, no,” and “Yes, yes.”

Lucius Huntington [Shefford]—If we were to unite with the other Provinces, should we not do better to meet them with a good election law than with a bad one.

Some Hon. Members—Hear, hear.

Lucius Huntington [Shefford]—The President of the Council [George Brown], by this line of argument, placed himself in a false position. The course of that hon. member and these hon. gentlemen who acted with him was just this—that although the bill was good they would vote against it, in obedience to the prejudices of the Hon. Attorney General East [George-Étienne Cartier]. They were not in reality voting against the bill because we were going to have Confederation, but because the Hon. Attorney General [George-Étienne Cartier] so willed it. It was the first of a series of concessions of which no one could see the end.

Some Hon. Members—Hear, hear.

Hope Mackenzie [Oxford North] said that the language of the hon. member who had last spoken came with a very ill-grace from a member of the Macdonald-Sicotte Government[3], who had done so much to make hon. members from the Liberal part of Canada set aside their convictions on the School Bill and on Representation by Population. He had voted already in favor the bill; but he did not think it would be right to press it this session, and perhaps hamper the Government in their exertions in favor of the great question of Confederation.

Some Hon. Members—Hear, hear.

Hope Mackenzie [Oxford North]—No thing would be lost by postponing the bill for another session.

Francis Jones [Leeds & Grenville North] was opposed in every respect to the principle of the bill. He liked to have an opportunity of meeting the people at the nomination. He disapproved of the idea of having four or five polling places in a township instead of one, in as much as he considered it would have the effect of very great increasing the expense. He would vote against the bill.

Walter Shanly [Grenville South] was opposed to the principle of the bill, and would vote against it, irrespective of the side of the House from which it came.

James Cowan [Waterloo South] was in favor of the bill and would therefore, vote for its postponement with very great reluctance. He did not wish, however, to do anything which would prejudice the position of the Coalition Ministry in their efforts to carry Confederation. In view of this fact, and in view of the probability that we would not have a general election before next session, he would vote for the postponement.

Archibald McKellar [Kent] did not see that there would be any loss caused by the postponement of this bill. Moreover, the Government had not expressed themselves hostile to the principle of the bill. The Government had been formed in order to carry out certain very important constitutional changes, and it would be very unfair on the part of their supporters to do anything which would embarrass them or prevent them from going on with the constitutional changes.

He (Mr. McKellar) would vote for the postponement, and would be willing even to suspend legislation if it were calculated to embarrass the Government—that is so long as the latter were true to their pledges, and to the basis upon which the present coalition was formed. Our duty was to do everything we could in order to aid the Government in bringing about the constitutional changes which were so necessary. Therefore, he would in favor of postponing the bill until we had the constitutional alterations, when we could frame our election law to suit our constitution.

Some Hon. Members—Hear, hear.

Joseph Perrault [Richelieu] said that those who opposed the bill did so by the most extraordinary line of argument. The President of the Council [George Brown] and his friends had at their disposal certain means of corruption under the present system, which they were unwilling to part with. These members of the Reform party who would vote against the bill now before the House were untrue to their own principle and untrue to their political past. Speaking for Lower Canada, he believed that the abolition of the show of hands would have the salutary effect of avoiding a fruitful scene of confusion and an opportunity of skull-cracking.

Some Hon. Members—Oh, oh, and laughter.

Joseph Perrault [Richelieu]—Another point was this—the fact of there being a second day’s voting gave an opportunity for corruption. On the afternoon of the first day, candidates did not know how they stood, and were both sanguine of winning, but in the course of the night, the candidate who stood at the foot of the poll ascertained the true position of affairs, and bribery was at once resorted to. Declaration-day[4] was another useless formality, and only afforded an opportunity for turmoil. He (Mr. Perrault) was in favor of this bill; and he was astonished to see it opposed by the Hon. President of the Council [George Brown], who was the purest among the pure.

Some Hon. Members—Hear, hear.

Matthew Cameron [Ontario North] said that the Government were not desirous of going on with the measure until after Confederation. Did this objection only apply to this bill, or to all legislation, of whatever kind?

George Brown [Oxford South, President Executive Council]—The objection of the Government applied to this bill, and to that which followed relating to the Legislature— in fact to all measures relating to the representation of the people. The Government, however, had no desire to suspend all kind of legislation.

Some Hon. Members—Hear, hear.

Matthew Cameron [Ontario North] went on to say that if the measure now before the House would be a good one under Confederation, it would be equally good now; and he did not see why we should not have it. The hon. gentleman then went on to comment favorably on various clauses of the bill. The holding of all elections on the same day would have a beneficial effect, in as much as it would prevent the interference of members of the Government in elections. Limiting the polling to one day would have the good result of preventing the buying-up of “loose fish” at the last hour. The hon. gentleman argued that those who had formerly voted for the bill but were now in favor of the postponement because hon. gentlemen on the Treasury benches said it should be allowed to stand until the thing called Confederation was carried, placed themselves in an exceedingly illogical position. The argument for the postponement was most absurd.

James Cockburn [Northumberland West, Solicitor General West] said that the hon. gentleman delighted to strike such hard blows as he thought would sever the union which had been formed for the accomplishment of a great object. His argument had no good aim—it had no other purpose than to damage, if possible, the fusion of parties which was so necessary to bring out great constitutional changes. He (Mr. Cockburn) did not approve of some of the principles of the bill. What we had, however, to do now was not to pronounce upon the merits of the bill at all, but to look upon it in the light of the argument used by the Hon. President of the Council [George Brown]— namely, that this was not the time to discuss such a bill, and that to press it forward now would effect no good object, but would create embarrassment.

Some Hon. Members—Hear, hear.

Thomas Parker [Wellington North] was in favor of the general principle of the bill, although there were some of the provisions which would bear amendment. The hon. gentleman commented upon the details of the bill, and said he could not conscientiously accept the reasons put forward by the Government for the postponement. It was, however, with reluctance he would against their proposal, but in doing so—namely, in voting for the second reading of the bill—he was impelled by a sense of public duty.

Some Hon. Members—Hear, hear.

Alexander Morris [Lanark South] said it was his intention to vote for the postponement of the bill, but this must not be considered as pledging him to opposing its provisions when brought up at a more convenient and appropriate season. He was opposed to some of its features, such as subdividing a township into several wards, which was likely to encourage why the members for Hochelaga [Antoine-Aimé Dorion] and Chateauguay [Luther Holton], who were opposed to that great scheme calculated to ensure us good government for all time, should press so pertinaciously at an inconvenient time for the passage of this bill. He was rejoiced at the approval which Confederation had received from the Imperial Government, and he hoped that in a year the measure would have made such progress as would ensure its early adoption by all the provinces; and desiring the larger measure of reform, he was prepared in order to obtain it, to forego for the present the smaller measure now proposed.

Some Hon. Members—Hear, hear.

Alexander Mackenzie [Lambton] did not think it fair for the members for Chateauguay [Luther Holton] and Hochelaga [Antoine-Aimé Dorion] to hold up this matter in the way they did, and to assume that Confederation was a failure when the large majority who voted for it last session had not changed their minds, and when the people of the country seemed for the most part in favor of it. He thought that at present our legislation must and should be shaped to a certain extent by the prospect before us of an early change in our present constitutional position. He had no doubt the bill would be an improvement on the present election law; but he did not think they was any difficulty in working the present system, and felt there were as great facilities afforded electors by having the polling in two days as in one. He gave as his whole reason in voting for the amendment to postpone this measure that it was simply a postponement for the present, and not a vote against the measure which might be judiciously accepted at a fitting time.

George Jackson [Grey] said that some opposed the bill, at its present stage, because they were averse to its principle, and others through that self-sacrificing spirit which induced them to defer their convictions for the convenience of their friends. He believed however, that the best arguments adduced against it were those of the hon. member for Welland (Mr. Street) namely, that it would not have the effect of putting a stop to bribery, corruption or violence. On the other side, hon. gentlemen who had spoken in favor of the bill had not really advanced any sounds reasons in support of the bill.

While he (Mr. Jackson) believed the election law as at present was open to amendment, he thought we would do better to keep our imperfect law than to run the risk, by tampering with that law, of having a much worse one. He thought we should not be always tampering with the laws. He would vote for the postponement of the measure as proposed by the hon. President of the Council [George Brown].

Joseph Rymal [Wentworth South] said he had always supported any measure like the present. He saw no reason why, if the present bill be a good one, or an improvement on our present election law, its passage should be postponed. He believed there was a proverb which said—“omitting to do good was committing evil,” and further, he thought the Scriptures stated, of him that did evil that good might come from it, that his damnation was just.

Some Hon. MembersRoars of laughter.

Joseph Rymal [Wentworth South]—This was a doom he sought to avoid.

Some Hon. MembersLaughter.

Joseph Rymal [Wentworth South]—But he feared some members might get it without seeking it.

Some Hon. MembersLoud laughter.

Joseph Rymal [Wentworth South]—He believed the present bill was an improvement on the present election law. This had been the opinion of the President of the Council [George Brown], the Liberal party, last year, and many Conservatives. He would vote on this as on all other measures according to his convictions of right, and if the Government should be thereby embarrassed, he (Mr. Rymal) should not say much.

Some Hon. MembersRenewed merriment.

Joseph Rymal [Wentworth South]—As to the members of the Liberal party who had changed their minds on this subject he would only say— “Ephraim is joined to his idols; let him alone.”[5]

Some Hon. MembersBoisterous merriment.

William Powell [Carleton] said the hon. gentleman might be pure; he might have been begotten of election purity, but God help the purity of the electors who have sent him here.

Some Hon. MembersLoud laughter.

William Powell [Carleton]—He (Mr. Powell) was opposed to this bill on principle. The House ought to pause before going farther in the direction of disfranchising the property of the country. An order of electors had been admitted to the franchise, within a few years, which had not contributed to that purity of election which the Opposition professed to desire so much. He believed the best security for the future would be to preserve the safe-guards we now possessed.

Some Hon. Members—Hear, hear.

William Powell [Carleton]—He believed the present election law was better than what the bill would give us.

Some Hon. Members—Hear, hear.

Joseph Rymal [Wentworth South] said the hon. member had spoken in a sneering manner of his constituents sending him to Parliament. He need not pray God for his (Mr. Rymal’s) constituents, for they cared as little for the member for Carleton [William Powell] as he for them.

Some Hon. MembersLaughter.

Joseph Rymal [Wentworth South]—He need not think of coming here to lecture the House— this Chesterfield of Parliament!—this Beau Brummel, of the neck-tie!— this tailor-made man.

Some Hon. MembersRoars of laughter.

Fitzwilliam Chambers [Brockville] was in favor of the postponement, and did not think we should discuss the principles of the bill now. He did not say he was opposed to the principle of the bill, but believed it was not at all improper, under the present circumstances, and in view of Confederation, to defer it until next year.

Luther Holton [Chateauguay] contended that the principle of the bill had already been confirmed by the vote of a large majority of the House. Hon. gentlemen who were opposed to proceeding with the bill now, admitted the bill was good, but contended that it would embarrass the Government. They, however, failed entirely to show how it would embarrass the Government. In fact it was only another sacrifice made to the Hon. Attorney General East [George-Étienne Cartier] by his new Upper Canada allies.

Alexander Mackenzie [Lambton] was understood to say that these hon. gentlemen did not want his sympathy.

Some Hon. Members—Hear, hear.

Luther Holton [Chateauguay] said he did not make any tender of the sympathy to the hon. gentleman, nor had he any claim upon his generosity. Indeed he thought any person who tried the one of the other would find that they would have rather a hard road to travel.

Some Hon. MembersLaughter.

Luther Holton [Chateauguay]—He would, however, take the liberty of telling these hon. gentlemen what would happen them. They would find themselves going on from day to day dragged further from their former principles by those whom they at present followed. They would be led to look upon as entirely free from political blame those whom they at one time charged with all kinds of corruption. They would give up all their old party doctrines, until those who now acted as their leaders were defeated when they would find themselves thrown upon the country after abandoning all the principles upon which they had been elected, and the result would be—ignominiously routed, “horse, foot and dragoons.”

Some Hon. Members—“Oh, oh,” cheers and laughter.

Luther Holton [Chateauguay]—The hon. gentleman then went on to defend a number of details to the bill.

Hector-Louis Langevin [Dorchester, Solicitor General East] said that the position which the Government assumed on this bill was simply that it was inopportune that it should be adopted at the present moment.

Some Hon. Members—Hear, hear.

Jean-Baptiste-Éric Dorion [Drummond & Arthabaska]—Why?

Hector-Louis Langevin [Dorchester, Solicitor General East] said that if he were to give the hon. gentlemen a hundred reasons, he would not accept them—he was determined to oppose the Government, right or wrong, and was therefore resolved not to be enlightened.

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

Hector-Louis Langevin [Dorchester, Solicitor General East]—Hon. gentlemen opposite affected to believe that the Government were asking their supporters to forego their principles and oppose the bill. This was not the case. The Government had no desire to induce those who supported them to set aside their convictions. They occupied their seats on the Treasury Benches by the will of the majority of this House—if they did not they would have to leave them. The bill now before the House had not for its object to improve the law, to prevent corruption, or to suppress violence.—

The hon. gentleman then went on at some length, to refer to various provisions of the bill, and to contend that it would not answer the ends which its supporters claimed for it. The only object the promoters of the measure had was to endeavor to create in the ranks of the Government supporters, so that they might have an opportunity to assume office. The position of the Government was just this—they did not consider the measure in its details at all, inasmuch as they looked upon it as inopportune to change the election law at the present moment.

Aquila Walsh [Norfolk] proceeded to criticise the bill, condemning its principal provisions, and replying to the anti-bribery arguments of the friends of the measure. He had no hesitation in voting against its principle, and in favor of the amendment.

John Sandfield Macdonald [Cornwall] asked why it was that members who had voted to send similar measures to committee in previous sessions, and had condemned the imperfections and urgent defects of the present law opposed this measure. His conviction was that any bill calculated to suppress bribery and corrupt practices at elections should be adopted. He advocated this bill in the interest of the poor voter, although he had never paid a shilling for a wagon at an election.

Some Hon. MembersLaughter.

George-Étienne Cartier [Montreal East, Attorney-General East] was surprised at the hon. gentleman’s arguments in favor of the bill. The Hon. Attorney General East [George-Étienne Cartier] proceeded to controvert the hon. member’s statements respecting former election acts. This was not the proper time to alter our electoral law. According to the 26th article of the confederation scheme[6], the laws regulating the elections in the various Provinces were to remain as at present till the Confederate Parliament took up the question.

John Sandfield Macdonald [Cornwall]—That is not law.

George-Étienne Cartier [Montreal East, Attorney-General East]—Confederation was a foregone conclusion, and the scheme would be law before long.

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

George-Étienne Cartier [Montreal East, Attorney-General East]—Would it be becoming in us, when committed to the above article of the scheme, to make a change when Confederation was likely to be adopted, and when we were now in a transitions state? Besides a law fixing the polling to one day would never do in Lower Canada, where storms, &c., in winter might frequently prevent electors getting to the polls in one day.

Thomas Ferguson [Simcoe South] proceeded to speak on the subject, and reply to the arguments and statements of the hon. member for Cornwall [John Sandfield Macdonald]. He (Mr. F.) could state that in the three elections which resulted in his being sent to represent his country there was not more than $500 spent in all—printing included. So bribery and corruption at elections were unknown in his constituency, and laws to prevent those offences were not there required. His constituents would scout any attempts at bribery. Besides, it was not correct to say that bribery was done on the second day principally, as the preparations for contests and expenditure, were always made days before the contest. This measure would only tend to make the law more complicated, there being a mass of statutes on the subject at present. Instead of enacting further measures it would be better to wait till another session, and then consider the whole subject, and frame one simple clear and uniform law that would answer all purposes. On these grounds, he would vote for the amendment, believing that for the few months between this and next session the existing law could occasion no inconvenience.

Some Hon. Members—Hear, hear.

George Brown [Oxford South, President Executive Council] recommended that the hon. member for Chateauguay [Luther Holton] should devote a little more of his time to the affairs of Lower Canada and less to those of Upper Canada.

Some Hon. Members—Hear, hear.

George Brown [Oxford South, President Executive Council]—There was this difference between the people of that Province and the leaders and other members of the Opposition, that the former desired a great constitutional reform, and were willing to wait and make sacrifices therefore—a measure which those gentlemen opposed all along.

Some Hon. Members—Hear, hear.

George Brown [Oxford South, President Executive Council]—The member for Chateauguay [Luther Holton] then, being in a different position from the people of Upper Canada, was not able to judge of theirs. No one could doubt the sincerity with which the people of Upper Canada had acted in this matter; and their representatives who had supported the coalition, in order to obtain the great reform, would be appreciated by the people of that section of the Province. He had only this to say—to the gentlemen from Upper Canada, who had asked him (Mr. Brown), against his mind, to go into this Government—whether they would support the coalition in this matter.

Some Hon. MembersCheers.

George Brown [Oxford South, President Executive Council]—He hoped they would do so, for in this case he was not asking them to vote against the bill or for anything which they did not approve, but merely to let this measure stand for a few months until the Government was ready to take it up. He could understand why the hon. members for Hochelaga [Antoine-Aimé Dorion], Chateauguay [Luther Holton], Brome [Christioher Dunkin] and others, who were opposed to Confederation, should persist in pressing this bill; but, for those who approved of the policy of the Government to divide the coalition on this question, which they had not had time to consider—to press a matter which both sections of the coalition could not sustain, would be fatal to the objects for which the Government was formed. If these gentlemen who sent him (Mr. Brown) here voted against the Government. he would say—all their pretended anxiety for reform was valueless and vague, and the people of Upper Canada would understand their conduct.

Some Hon. MembersCheers.

The motion for the postponement of the bill—

 That a measure for the Confederation of the British North American Provinces, being now under consideration, it is not expedient that the bill be now read a second time; but that its consideration be postponed till 1st March, 1866.[7]

 —was then put to the vote and carried on the following division.—



Cartier (Attorney-General)
De Boucherville
Dufresne (Montcalm)
Ferguson (Simcoe South)
Ferguson (Frontenac)
Jones (Leeds & Grenville North)
Le Boutillier
Mackenzie (Lambton)
Mackenzie (Oxford North)
Ross (Dundas)
Smith (Toronto East)
Smith (Durham East)
and Wright (Ottawa County)—68.



Cameron (Ontario North)
Dorion (Hochelaga)
Dorion (Drummond & Arthabaska)
Dufresne (Iberville)
Macdonald (Toronto West)
Macdonald (Cornwall)
Walter Ross
Wallbridge (Hastings North)
and Wells—33.

There was some conversation about going on with the next order, but it was not taken up, and the House adjourned at one a.m.


[1]      Source: “Provincial Parliament,” [Quebec] Morning Chronicle (Aug. 18, 1865).

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

[3]      Led by John Sandfield Macdonald and Louis-Victor Sicotte (1862-1863).

[4]      Declaration day consisted of a formal, public announcement of the election results.

[5]      Hosea 4:17.

[6]      Quebec Resolution 26, which reads in full, 26. Until provisions are made by the General Parliament, all the laws which, at the date of the Proclamation constituting the Union, are in force in the Provinces respectively, relating to the qualification and disqualification of any person to be elected, or to sit or vote as a Member of the Assembly in the said Provinces respectively, and relating to the qualification or disqualification of voters, and to the oaths to be taken by voters, and to Returning Officers and their powers and duties,—and relating to the proceedings at Elections, and to the period during which such elections may be continued,—and relating to the Trial of Controverted Elections, and the proceedings incident thereto,—and relating to the vacating of seats of Members, and to the issuing and execution of new Writs, in case of any seat being vacated otherwise than by a dissolution—shall respectively apply to elections of Members to seen in the House of Commons, for places situate in those Provinces respectively.” The Quebec Resolutions which were agreed to by the Legislative Assembly can be found on Mar. 13, 1865, pp. 1027-1032.

[7]      Brown’s amendment has been reinserted from the beginning of the debate for clarity.

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