Province of Canada, Legislative Assembly, 8th Parl, 4th Sess (23 August 1865)

Document Information

Date: 1865-08-23
By: Province of Canada (Parliament), Morning Chronicle
Citation: “Provincial Parliament. Legislative Assembly. Wednesday, Aug. 23rd” [Quebec] Morning Chronicle (24 August 1865).
Other formats: Click here to view the original document (PDF).



Wednesday, August 23


Mr. HIGGINSON asked—Whether it is in the intention of the Government, in accordance with their expressed determination to remove the Seat of Government to Ottawa at the close of the present Session, to notify the employés of the several Departments to that effect, and when; and if it is intended also to fix a date for closing the Government Offices here, and re-opening them for public business in Ottawa?

Hon. Mr. CHAPAIS—It is the intention of the Government to give such notice; but the time for closing the offices here, and re-opening them in Ottawa, has not yet been fixed. (Ironical cheers and laughter.)

Organizing the Militia on a  Permanent Basis

Richard Cartwright [Lennox & Addington]
moved for

The appointment of a select committee on the subject of organizing the militia on a permanent basis.

Richard Cartwright [Lennox & Addington] The hon. gentleman in introducing his motion denied that the courts which he desired to take was unusual or without precedent. He quoted a number of British precedents which he conceded justified his course and shewed that the hon. member for Cornwall (Mr. J.S. Macdonald) was in error in the opinion he had enunciated about the matter. That hon. gentleman, of course, had very peculiar opinions on the important questions of militia organization.

Some Hon. Members—Hear, hear.

Richard Cartwright [Lennox & Addington]—He had no desire whatever to censure the Government, and he did not believe that his motion implied any censure or want of confidence. All he wished to do was that there should be an enquiry on an exceedingly important subject. If the report should contain any new facts, it would be so much information sent to the House. If, on the other hand, it clashed in any respect with the report printed, it might be well worth the while of the House that both sides of the House should be raised and considered. He did not think there was any risk of this, or that it [text illegible] the Government to have a committee employed to enquire and collect evidence on the subject. That was all it could do. If any object [text illegible] entertained to the wording of the motion, […] be very willing to alter it. Or he might couch it in the form of similar motion. [Text illegible] in the British House of Commons, which had been read. He did not think there could be any just apprehension on the part of the Government that this motion implied, in any sense, want of confidence in or any censure of them. The object was merely to collect evidence. He thought he was justified in saying that a great many members were sincerely desirous of obtaining more information on the subject; and he thought that a committee could collect some facts that would not come within the province of military men—or which they might not be able to get at. He was perfectly well aware it would be of no avail to press the matter if the Government had decided objection to it; first, because there would be no chance of carrying it; and, in the next place, because some of the enquiries would have to be made with their co-operation or consent.

John A. Macdonald [Kingston, Attorney-General West and Minister of Militia] was understood to say that the Government could not conveniently assent to any motion being passed which would entail the expenditure of money, unless submitted by the Administration themselves. They would, in fact, only adopt such a course as coincided with their duty.—The members were empowered by the constitution to act, discuss, consider, and make propositions connected with the public welfare, with this single exception, contained in the same instrument, that no vote or resolution involving a direct expenditure of money, could be introduced without the express sanction of the Crown. The responsibility of introducing great measures was, by the constitution, thrown on the Government of the day. Great questions, such as involving the organization of the militia, or large expenditures of money, or such measures of general policy as affect the material or social progress of the country, must be taken up by those who command a decided majority of the Legislature, which could not be obtained except with the support of the Government, ready to assume all the responsibility. It was from the utter impossibility of carrying any great measures without undertaking the responsibility of them, and not from any constitutional impropriety or incapacity of any member, to introduce measures for the public good, that Government was obliged to take charge of them. Applying that principle, he must say that the Government felt their responsibility to the country for the organization of the militia, and the other steps for the defence of the country. Therefore, they were compelled to accept that that responsibility which they did in this instance; and the Government; were at this moment anxiously considering the question of the militia and defence, besides performing their obligations for carrying out the militia system introduced by the hon. member for Cornwall [John Sandfield Macdonald] when in office. The present Government were applying the Militia Act of that hon. member’s administration, in order to carry it out, in every clause, according to the spirit in which it was introduced. Therefore, he (Hon. J.A. Macdonald) asked the hon. mover , in this case, not to press his motion for information on this subject.

John Sandfield Macdonald [Cornwall] spoke at considerable length, declaring that of course the responsibility of the defence of the country rested on the Government. He taunted the latter on the position in which they stood respecting the defence question which was the more inconsistent when we considered their loud protestations on the subject when they were in opposition. He denied that he had ever said anything disparaging of emigrants coming into this country. He supposed what his hon. friend (Mr. Cartwright) alluded to was the language used by him (Mr. Macdonald) in alluding to those who had only just arrived in the county rushing violently into political agitation, when he said that the first ever heard of these people was at Grosse Isle. But he flatly denied ever having said anything offensive respecting the emigration coming into this country, or having said or done anything to impede or discourage the movement. The hon. gentleman then went on to charge the hon. gentleman at the head of Emigration Department with having done nothing whatever to promote emigration, notwithstanding his attacks upon others about it. The very first thing we had this season was a number of abandoned females who had been very improperly sent out to this country.

Thomas D’Arcy McGee [Montreal West, Minister of Agriculture and Statistics] was not sorry the hon. gentleman had mentioned a matter here, which had been referred to elsewhere, and that gave him an opportunity of replying. He would, therefore, take this occasion to say that there was one journal in Canada that had had the mendacity to make a charge, coupled with his name, in relation to the poor-house emigration from Ireland, and that paper was the Cornwall Freeholder, of which the hon. member was supposed to be the proprietor and which he was known to inspire on many occasions. That paper had the mendacity to state that the first result of his (Mr. McGee’s) journey to Ireland was that he had shipped a cargo of prostitutes from that country to Canada. He took this occasion to any that that statement was a wholesome, unmitigated lie—a lie of the worst character. In the first place, there were only 10 or 12—but that was quite too many, as there should have been none—of the 70 females sent out of bad character. He maintained that the Board of Guardians who shipped those bad females were false to their duty in shipping them to any new country; and we would have been false to ours had we not protested against that act. Those passengers, from the Limerick Union, were on the sea before he had left Canada, and reached here before he arrived in England. The first news he had of their arrival in Canada was received form the local emigration agent here, which reached him in London. The very same day he wrote and despatched a letter to the Poor Law Board of Guardians and all the Boards of Poor-House Guardians in Ireland, remonstrating against the sending out of the dregs of the work-houses to Canada; and he had reason to believe, from the replies he received, that this kind of the refuse of the Irish poor-houses would not be again sent to our shores, to the disgrace of the senders and the injury and annoyance of the colonists. His letter produced a profound impression with the papers, and he believed the act would not be related. Four-fifths, however, of the emigrants were decent and respectable persons, and nothing too strong could be said as to the conduct of those who had sent the others to this country.

Some Hon. Members—Hear, hear.

John A. Macdonald [Kingston, Attorney-General West and Minister of Militia] was glad the hon. gentleman had had the opportunity of denying the objectionable statement. He (Mr. Macdonald) had neither made nor inspired the statement which had appeared in the Freeholder. That paper merely remarked that the arrival here of a cargo of prostitutes, after the arrival of the hon. gentleman in the old country, was a singular coincides, and this statement, he thought, was copied from the Montreal Witness, which was, of course, a mendacious sheet, like all those that opposed the Government. The hon. gentleman went on to denounce the Government for breach of promises in regard to emigration and other subjects.

Luther Holton [Chateauguay] thought the motion of the hon. member for Lennox and Addington was eminently constitutional, but, at the same time, one of want of condense in the Government. He hoped that hon. gentleman would press his motion, and, if so, he (Mr. Holton) would cheerfully vote for it.

Some Hon. MembersLaughter.

Frederick Haultain [Peterborough] was very glad to hear from the hon. Attorney-General West [John A. Macdonald] that very active measures were being taken towards the new organization of the militia. He did not think, however, that continual meddling in this matter would produce much else than mudding.

Some Hon. Members—Hear, hear.

Frederick Haultain [Peterborough]—He thought that if there was one thing more than another upon which we might congratulate the Government, it was their most admirable appointment of the present Adjutant-General (Col. Macdougall.)

John A. Macdonald [Kingston, Attorney-General West and Minister of Militia] asked the hon. member for Peterborough [Frederick haultain] whether he, when Premier, had not managed the Militia Department as well as it was managed at present, and whether there were not more complaints at present in regard to the Militia than during his Premiership.

Frederick Haultain [Peterborough] said he remembered well, on more than one occasion, that serious and just complaints were made as to the course it pursued towards the Volunteers. On one occasion there was complaint of a gross act of injustice; but since the advent of the present members to the Treasury Benches, he had not heard of any mistaken being made.

Thomas Parker [Wellington North] would vote against the motion before the House. He did not see that a Committee of civilians could do any good in a matter of this kind, inasmuch as he believed it should be done into by thoroughly competent persons.

Joseph Blanchet [Lévis] said the new Adjutant-General, Col. Macdougall, had been spoken of in the highest terms of praise by the hon. Member for Peterboro’ [Frederick Haultain], as also by the Hon. Attorney-General [John A. Macdonald]; and from all he (Mr. Blanchet) could hear, he believed that the officer in question was admirably qualified by his experience and military education for such a post. We were assured that Col. Macdougall was at present engaged in examining the whole militia system of the Province, with a view to the improvement of its organization throughout. Now, under these circumstances, there was no necessity whatever that a Committee of the House should be appointed in order to enquire into the subject. On the contrary, the report of such a Committee would most probably have the effect of embarrassing or impeding Col. Macdougall in his work.  In conclusion, he might express a hope that in the system of organization to be decided upon, the extent of the country, its peculiar wants and resources, and the number of its population will be kept in view.

Antoine-Aimé Dorion [Hochelaga] said that he and other hon. gentleman admitted that the organization of the militia was a responsibility which rested entirely upon the Government. The motion which had been made by the hon. member for Lennox and Addington [Richard Cartwright], was in reality a motion of want of confidence, inasmuch as the Government had not done their subject.

Lucius Huntington [Shefford] taunted hon. gentleman on the Treasury benches with the position they occupied in respect of the defence question now, as compared with their declarations while in Opposition. When they were in Opposition, we were told that the creation of a large defensive force was undoubtedly necessary—that we stood upon a volcano, and unless we adopted some prompt measure of prevention, our destruction was inevitable—that annihilation, in fact, was close at hand. Now, however, that these hon. gentleman were in office, they and their friends felt perfectly safe—the danger was over, and their military ardor [?soated?], simply because an Adjutant-General had been anointed.

Some Hon. MembersLaughter and cheers.

Richard Cartwright [Lennox & Addington] said he desired to withdraw his motion, in consequence of the view which the Government had taken upon the subject. He might say, however, that Lord Palmerston, and other members of the British Ministry, had not considered nor treated similar motions as motions of want of confidence. All he (Mr. Cartwright) desired was to obtain information on matters which could not well be obtained otherwise.

The motion was then withdrawn, and the matter dropped.

Enlargement of the Welland and St. Lawrence Canals

William McGiverin [Lincoln] moved for

The appointment of a special committee on the subject of the enlargement of the Welland and St. Lawrence canals.

William McGiverin [Lincoln]—The hon. gentleman briefly introduced his motion, stating that in doing so he was prepared to go into the merits of the question, but before doing so he would like to hear the policy of the Government on the subject.

John A. Macdonald [Kingston, Attorney-General West and Minister of Militia], in reply, said that there was no necessity whatever for the motion of his hon. friend, (Mr. McGiven). There was no necessity whatever for a committee of the House being appointed to take evidence for the purpose or arriving at a conclusion which the Government had already formed, namely, that the enlargement of the canals was a measure required by the growing trade of Canada,—not merely the present, but the future trade, and with a view to the development of the Great West.

Some Hon. Members—Hear, hear.

John A. Macdonald [Kingston, Attorney-General West and Minister of Militia]—The Government were fully aware of the necessity which existed for this.

Some Hon. Members—Hear, hear.

John A. Macdonald [Kingston, Attorney-General West and Minister of Militia]—They had had the whole subject in all its bearings under their consideration, and they had come to the conclusion that, as soon as the means of the country would allow,—and they hoped that would be at no distant day,—they would be quite prepared to assume the responsibility of pressing on the Legislature the necessity of enlarging our whole system of canal and inland navigation, for the purpose of bringing the great trade of the fertile West through the St. Lawrence and our inland waters. He therefore hoped his hon. friend from Lincoln (Mr. McGivern) would consent to withdraw his motion.

William McGiverin [Lincoln] was hardly satisfied with the answer, and said he would like to have some more definite answer as to the time.

John A. Macdonald [Kingston, Attorney-General West and Minister of Militia] said the Government would press the works the moment the condition of the Province justified such a step. They would then be prepared to state the means to be resorted to, the extent of the enlargement, and other matters of detail.

Some Hon. Members—Hear, hear.

Some considerable discussion ensued, in which Hon. Messrs. Holton, Brown, &c., took part. In the course of the debate—

Arthur Rankin [Essex] briefly supported the improvement of the navigation of the Ottawa, as being a most important matter.

Francis Jones [Leeds & Grenville North] said that departmental reform was a most important matter, and he had hoped that when the President of the Council [George Brown] became a member of the Government, this matter would receive full attention. Philosophers had said that it was a remarkable fact that the human eye, which could see all else, could not see itself. The adage was quite applicable in the present case, inasmuch as while hon. members talked about the ways and means necessary to construct the great works and improvements which, it was said, were so necessary to us, they entirely lost sight of the important subject of departmental reform. He concluded by urging the importance of the matter.

Thomas Ferguson [Simcoe South] commented briefly upon the great importance which, in his opinion, deserved to be attached to the Georgian Bay Canal.

Six o’clock having arrived the matter dropped, amid—

Some Hon. Members—loud cries of “withdraw,” “withdraw”—

William McGiverin [Lincoln] (who was not distinctly heard in the gallery) being understood to say that he desired to know from the Government whether they intended to undertake the enlargement of the canals in 1866, and whether they intended to proceed independent of Confederation.

Leave a Reply