Province of Canada, Legislative Assembly, 8th Parl, 4th Sess (9 August 1865)

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Date: 1865-08-09
By: Province of Canada (Parliament), Morning Chronicle
Citation: “Provincial Parliament. Legislative Assembly. Wednesday, August 9” [Quebec] Morning Chronicle (10 August 1865).
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Wednesday, August 9

The SPEAKER took the Chair at three o’clock.

After the presentation and reading of petitions and other routine business—

 The Address—Ministerial Explanations

The first order of the day being the consideration of His Excellency’s [Viscount Monck] speech at the opening of the session having been called—

Charles Magill [Hamilton] was sorry to have been selected to move the address on this occasion, feeling the tone more competent might have been chosen. At the end of last session a delegation had been despatched to England to treat with the Imperial authorities upon matters of the greatest importance to this country. Their reception had been of the most gratifying character, and the result of the deliberations could not fail to be of the most beneficial character to the province at large. Reference had been made in the speech to the termination of the civil war in the United States. He was quite satisfied that every member of this House would join in expressing satisfaction at the happy end of that fearful calamity which has desolated the whole country.

Some Hon. MembersCheers.

Charles Magill [Hamilton]—He had no doubt the conclusion of the civil war would redound to the prosperity of this country as well as that of the United States, and that friendly relations and extended commerce would follows as regards Canada and the States from the restoration of peace. We must rejoice at the termination of the way from the fact that it had led to the emancipation of 4,000,000 of slaves, and also from the fact that it was our neighbors who were engaged in the dreadful conflict, and that their object during the contest was the benefit of the human race. He trusted that peace and harmony would be permanently established between the late belligerents and that they would be in a position to take into consideration the renewal of the Reciprocity Treaty. He would not approve of going down on our knees craving this as a boon; because he felt that Canada could do without this treaty as she had before. He felt, moreover, that in case of the refusal of the United States, we would be able to matter the new emergencies that might therefore arise.

Some Hon. MembersCheers.

Charles Magill [Hamilton]—Reference had been made to the prompt response of our volunteers to the call of the country. They had acted in the most commendable spirit and were entitled to the fullest credit for their conduct. But this was not surprising, as their fathers had not failed to come forward to defend in times of necessity, the rights they enjoyed; and he trusted their descendants would ever remain of the same temper.

Some Hon. Members—Hear, hear.

Charles Magill [Hamilton]—It was gratifying to know, in relation to the scheme of Confederation that Great Britain had ratified the scheme agreed upon by the colonists; and he had no doubt whatever that this scheme would be ultimately carried out. What other means was there of perpetuating British rule in this hemisphere and establishing a strong British nationality on this continent? He had no doubt that when the leading men of the Maritime Provinces had considered the whole matter they would consider it their duty to unite themselves with those striving to build up a common nationality, cementing British power in North America and handing down to posterity all the rights, privileges and blessing we at present enjoyed. He begged leave to move the address.

Some Hon. MembersCheers.

Jean Brosseau [Portneuf], in seconding the address, said he had much pleasure in doing so, in as much as it afforded him an opportunity of congratulating the Government upon the promptitude they had shown in carrying out the desire of the Legislature by sending a delegation to England on the subject of the Confederation of the British North American Provinces. He had no fears whatever as to the result of the mission in question, but at the same time, the House would look anxiously for communication of the correspondence relative thereto, so as to be able to judge of the matter in detail. We had every reason to congratulate ourselves on the fact that peace had been concluded between the great belligerent sections of the United States, in as much as it was to be hoped that it would have the beneficial result of promoting our own local commerce and industry, and would thereby tend to the material increase of our revenue. There was no doubt whatever but that the pacific state of our neighbors would have this very desirable effect.

Some Hon. MembersCheers.

Jean Brosseau [Portneuf]—The trouble which had taken place in the adjoining country had given a number of our young men an opportunity of shewing their real and patriotism by coming forward for the purpose of preserving peace on the frontier.

Some Hon. Members—Hear, hear.

Jean Brosseau [Portneuf]—They had done so in the most noble and disinterested manner, shewing that they were worthy of their old renown; and deserving inheritors of the valour of their fathers.

Some Hon. MembersCheers.

Jean Brosseau [Portneuf]—The spirit they had displayed should not be forgotten. We had, however, reason to thank the Government for withdrawing the volunteers, and thus saving any further expense, the moment peace was concluded and the occasion for their services had passed away.

Some Hon. Members—Hear, hear.

Jean Brosseau [Portneuf]—As to Confederation, it was most satisfactory for us to know that the project which had for its object to make us a great and powerful people had met with the approbation, as well of Her Majesty as of Her Majesty’s Government—shewing that the mother-country cordially recognized the principle that we knew better what was suited to the exigencies of our position than those who resided thousands of miles away from us.

Some Hon. Members—Hear, hear.

Jean Brosseau [Portneuf]—It was to be hoped that their interests and ours were identical in respect to this matter. United, we would be strong, respected and in a position to provide for our own defence and to develop the numerous and important natural resources which we possessed.

Some Hon. MembersCheers.

John A. Macdonald [Kingston, Attorney-General West and Minister of Militia] said that before proceeding further with the discussion of the address he would prefer giving explanations as to the re-construction of the Government. The correspondence relative thereto had been reduced to writing, and he therefore had to request permission to read the same, in as much as it contained a full minute of the proceedings which had taken place.

The hon. gentleman then read the following document

Ministerial negotiations for the reconstruction of the Government, consequent on the death of Sir E.P. Taché.

No. 1—Memorandum made 4th August, 1865, of conversation, held on the preceding day between Messrs. Macdonald and Brown:

“Mr. Macdonald, yesterday, sought an interview with Mr. Brown and informed him that His Excellency the Governor-General had sent for him, that morning, and had stated that the Administration, as it was formed in 1864, should continue in office, with as few changes as possible, in order to carry out the policy announced by the Government on its formulation—that, with that view His Excellency had expressed the opinion that the most obvious made of supplying the place, vacated by Sir Etienne Taché, would be for Mr. Macdonald to assume the position of Prime Minister—as being the senior member of the Ministry—and that Mr. Cartier would, on the same principle, become the leader of the Lower Canadian section of the Government—and that, for the purpose of carrying those views into effect, he had commissioned Mr. Macdonald to take the post of First Minister—at the same time requisition all the other Ministers to retain their offices. Mr. Macdonald further informed Mr. Brown that he had assented to this proposition of His Excellency, and had seen Mr. Cartier, who, at once, agreed to it. He then invited Mr. Brown to accede to the proposal of His Excellency.

Mr. Brown replied that he was quite prepared to eater into arrangements for the continuance of the Government in the same position it occupied previous to the death of Sir Etienne Taché; but that the proposal now made, involved a grave departure, from that position. The Government, here to fore, had been a coalition of three political parties, each represented by an active party leader, but all acting under one chief—who had ceased to be actuated by strong party feelings or personal ambitions, and who was well fitted to give confidence to all the three sections of the coalition that the conditions which united them would be carried out in good faith to the very letter. Mr. Macdonald, Mr. Cartier, and himself (Mr. Brown) were, on the contrary, regarded as party leaders, with party feelings and aspirations; and to place any one of them in an attitude of superiority over the others, with the vast advantage of the Premiership, would, in the public mind, lessen the security for good faith, and seriously endanger the existence of the coalition. It would be an entire change of the situation. Whichever of the three was so preferred, the act would amount to an abandonment of the coalition basis and re-construction of the government on ordinary party principles, under a party leader unacceptable to a larger portion of those on whose support the existence of the Ministry depended. Mr. Brown reminded Mr. Macdonald that when the coalition was formed, the Liberal party in opposition, constituted a majority of the House of Assembly:—that, solely for the accomplishment of a great measure essential to the peace and progress of the country, they had laid aside, for the time, party considerations, and consented to form a coalition with their opponents, on conditions which nothing but the strongest sense of public duty could have induced them to accept. He reminded Mr. Macdonald of the disadvantageous and embarrassing position he (Mr. Brown) and his colleagues, Mr. McDougall and Mr. Howland, had occupied during the past year,—united as they were with nine political opponents, who held all the important departments of State;—and he asked him to reflect in what light the Liberal party must regard this new proposition to abandon their distinctive position, and place one of their chief opponents in the premiership, though his conservative supporters in Parliament were much inferior, numerically, to the reform supporters of the coalition.

Mr. Brown stated his conviction that the right mode of settling the question would be to invite some gentlemen of good position in the Legislative Council, under whom all the three great parties to the Coalition could act with confidence, to become the successor of Colonel Taché. In no other way, he thought, could the position, heretofore existing, be continued. Mr. Brown concluded by saying that the proposal of Mr. Macdonald was, palpably, one for the construction of a new Government, and that if the aid of the Reform Party in Upper Canada in the Assembly were desired in its formation, a distinct statement of the policy of the new Government must be made, and a definite proposition submitted. Speaking, however, for himself alone, he (Mr. Brown) occupied now precisely the ground that he had in the negotiations of 1864; he stood prepared to give an outside, but frank and earnest, support to any Administration that might be formed, pledged like the Coalition Government, to carry through Parliament, in the spring session of next year, either a measure for the final completion of the Confederation scheme of the Quebec Conference, or one for removing existing difficulties in Canada, by the introduction of the Federal principle into the system of Government, coupled with such provisional as will permit the Maritime Provinces and the North-west Territory to be incorporated into the system.

Mr. Macdonald stated in answer, that at the time the coalition was effected in 1864, Sir Etienne Taché held the position of Premier with him, (Mr. Macdonald), as leader of the Lower House, and of the Upper Canadian section of the Government. That on reference to the memorandum containing the basis of coalition, it will be seen that Mr. Brown at first preferred to support the Government in its policy, as then settled, without entering the Government, but that it was afterwards agreed in deference to the wishes of his supporters, and at the pressing instance of Mr. Macdonald that he and two of his friends should enter the Government. These terms were acceded to, the offices that happened to be then vacant placed at Mr. Brown’s disposal, and the coalition was completed. Mr. Macdonald further stated that Sir Etienne Taché was not selected at the time of the Coalition, as First Minister, but he had been previously and was then the head of the Conservative Government, and was accepted with all his Lower Canadian colleagues without change. That on the lamented decease of Sir Etienne, His Excellency had, without previous communication of his opinion to him or (as he understood) to any one else, come to the conclusion that the best mode of carrying on the Government was (as already stated) for Mr. Macdonald to take one step upward; that Mr. Cartier, as next in seniority should do so also, and that the other arrangements should remain as before. That he (Mr. Macdonald) thought with His Excellency the this was the best solution of the matter, and could not but accede to it; that, however, he had no personal feeling in the matter, and that if he had, he thought it his duty to set aside such feeling for the sake of carrying out the great scheme so happily commenced, to a successful issue.

He therefore would readily stand and waive his pretensions, so that some other party than himself might be appointed to the Premiership; that he thought Mr. Cartier should be that party; that after the weather of Colonel Tache, Mr. Cartier, beyond a doubt, was the most influential man in his section of the country, and would be selected by the Lower Canadian supporters of the Government as their leader; that neither Mr. Brown nor Mr. Macdonald could dictate to Lower Canada as to their selection of leader; that the Premier must be, according to usage, the leader or senior member either from Upper or Lower Canada: and that as he (Mr. Macdonald) had, in consequence of the position taken by Mr. Brown, waived his own pretensions, it followed that Mr. Cartier should be appointed as Prime Minister. Mr. Macdonald stated in conclusion that although he had no reason to suppose that His Excellency would object to the selection of Mr. Cartier, yet he must of course submit the proposition to him, and obtain His Excellency’s assent to it.

Mr. Brown replied that in some of the views suggested by Mr. Macdonald, there was a difference between this proposition and the original one; but still that this, like the other, would be a proposal for the construction of a new Government, in a manner seriously affecting the security held by the Liberal party. Before saying anything upon such a proposition, however, were it formally made, he would desire to consult his friends, Mr. McDougall and Mr. Howland.

The interview then terminated, and the follow-correspondence took place.”

No. 2—Hon. John A. Macdonald to Hon. George Brown.

“Quebec, August 4, 1865.

My Dear Sir,

Immediately after our conversation, the heads of which we have reduced to writing, I have obtained His Excellency’s permission to propose to you that Mr. Cartier’s, as being the leader of the Ministerial majority of Lower Canada in Parliament, should assume the position of Prime Minister, vacated by the death of Sir Etienne Taché, the other members of the Administration continuing to hold their position and offices as before. All the Lower Canadian Members of the Council assent to this proposition, so do Mr. Campbell and myself; and I am sure I can also speak for Mr. Solicitor General Cockburn who is now absent.

May I request the favor of an early reply.

Believe me,
My dear Sir,

Yours faithfully,
John A. Macdonald.

The Hon. George Brown,
&c., &c., &c.

No. 3—Hon. George Brown to Hon. John A. Macdonald.

“My Dear Sir,

I have received your letter of this afternoon, inviting me to retain my present position in a Government to be formed under the Premiership of Mr. Cartier. In reply, I have now to state, after consultation with Messrs. Howland and McDougall, that we can only regard this proposition as one for the construction of a new Government, in a manner seriously affecting the security heretofore held by the Liberal party. Anxiously desirous, as we are, however, that nothing should occur at this moment to jeopardize the plan of the Coalition Government on the constitutional question, we cannot assume the responsibility of either accepting or rejecting it, without consultation with our political friends. This I am prepared to do without any delay, and to that end it will be necessary that I have clearly stated in writing the basis on which Mr. Cartier proposes to construct the new Government.

I am, my dear sir,
Yours truly,

George Brown

The Hon. John A. Macdonald,
&c., &c., &c.”

No. 4—Hon. John A. Macdonald to Hon. George Brown.

Quebec, August 5th, 1865.

My Dear Sir,

I regret to learn from your note of yesterday that you cannot assume the responsibility, without first consulting your political friends, of either accepting or rejecting the proposition that Mr. Cartier should be placed at the head of the Government in the stead of the late Sir Etienne Taché, with the understanding that the rest of the Council should retain their present offices and positions under him. I have conferred with Mr. Carter on the subject, and we agree that, at this late hour, it would be highly inexpedient to wait for the result of this consultation.

Parliament is to assemble on Tuesday next, and in our opinion, it would greatly prejudice the prospects of the great scheme in which we are all engaged, it we met Parliament with the Administration in an incomplete state and therefore with no fixed policy.

I have His Excellency’s permission to state his concurrence in this view, and his opinion that the public interests require the immediate reconstruction of the Ministry.

Under these circumstances, and to prevent the possibility of the scheme for the Confederation of British North American receiving any injury from the appearance of disunion among those who coalesced for the purpose of carrying it into effect, Mr. Cartier and I, without admitting that there are any sufficient grounds for setting either of us aside, have agreed to propose that Sir N. Belleau shall assume the position of First Minister and Receiver General vice Sir Etienne Taché, that the position and office of the other members of the Executive Council shall remain as before and that the policy of the Government shall be the same as was laid before Parliament in July, 1864, as the basis of the Coalition which was then formed. His Excellency authorizes me to make this proposition and expresses his desire for an early answer.

Believe me,
My dear Sir,

Yours faithfully,
John A. Macdonald.

The Hon. George Brown,
&c.. &c., &c.

No. 5—Hon. George Brown to Hon. John A. Macdonald.

“Quebec, 5th Aug. 1865.
Saturday, 5 p.m.

My Dear Sir,

Your note of this afternoon was handed to me by Col. Bernard, and having communicated its contents to my colleagues, I now beg to state the conclusions at which we have arrived.

Without intending the slightest discourtesy to Sir Narcisse Belleau, we deem it right to remind you we would not have selected that gentleman as successor to Sir Etienne Taché; but as he is the selection of Mr. Cartier and yourself, and as we are equally with you desirous of preventing the scheme for the Confederation of British America receiving injury from the appearance of disunion among us, we shall offer no objection to his appointment.

I think, however, it will be necessary that Sir Narcisse Belleau shall have stated to him and shall have stated to him and shall accept, in more distinct terms than you have indicated, the policy on which our coalition now rests. It is quite right that the basis of June 1864, should be stated as the basis still, but he should also clearly understand the modification of that agreement, rendered necessary by succeeding events, and which was ratified by Sir Etienne Taché in March, 1865. The agreement of June, 1864, was as follows:—

The Government are prepared to pledge themselves to bring in a measure next session, for the purpose of removing existing difficulties by introducing the Federal principle into Canada, coupled with such provisions as will permit the Maritime Provinces and the North-West Territory to be incorporated into the same system of Government. And the Government will seek by sending representative to the Lower Provinces and to England, to secure the assent of those interests which are beyond the control of our own legislation to such a measure as may enable all British North America to be united under a general legislature based upon the Federal principle.

Sir Narcisse Belleau should understand that occurrences in the Maritime Provinces unfortunately prevented this agreement from being carried out, so far as regards time; that it became necessary to consider what course ought to be pursued in consequence of these occurrences; and that we came to an agreement that we should earnestly strive for the adoption of the scheme of the Quebec conference, but should we be unable to remove the objections of the Maritime Provinces in time to present a measure of the opening of the session of 1866 for the completion of the Confederation scheme, we would then present to Parliament and press with all the influence of Government, a measure for the reform of the constitutional system of Canada, as set forth in the above agreement of June, 1864.

I remain,
My dear Sir,

Yours truly,
George Brown

The Hon. John A. Macdonald.

No. 6—Hon. John A. Macdonald to Hon. George Brown.


“Quebec, Aug. 7, 1865.

My Dear Sir,

Sir Narcisse Belleau returned from the country yesterday, and I am happy to inform you that he has, though with great reluctance, acceded to the request of Mr. Cartier and myself, and accepted the position of First Minister,  with the office of Receiver-General.

He accepts the policy of the late Government as stated in your note of Saturday to me, and adopts it as that which will govern his administration.

This policy will of course be announced in both Houses of Parliament, as soon as possible.

Believe me,
Faithfully yours,

John A. Macdonald.

The Honorable
George Brown
&c., &c., &c.”


The hon. gentleman concluded by adding that this written statement contained a report of all the explanations the members of the Government had thought proper to offer as to the change of the Administration to consequent upon the death of the late Sir E.P. Taché.


George-Étienne Cartier [Montreal East, Attorney-General East] expressed his regret that the French translation of the correspondence relative to the reconstruction was not yet ready. He would however state the substance of the various documents for the benefit of hon. members speaking the French language.

The hon. gentleman then briefly related the contents of the letters read by the Hon. Attorney General West [John A. Macdonald].

George Brown [Oxford South, President Executive Council] said it was only necessary he should say a few words in addition to what had fallen from his colleagues. On the morning after the funeral of Sir E.P. Taché, he received a note from His Excellency [Viscount Monck] inviting him to call upon him. He (Mr. B.) went to see him, when he stated very much what had been read to the House by the hon. Attorney General West [John A. Macdonald]. A long conversation ensued between him (Mr. B.) and His Excellency [Viscount Monck], the result of which had been reduced to writing by him, and he (Mr. B.) would now read it to the House.

(The hon gentleman now proceeded to read the memorandum, the substance of which we give.)

He (Mr. B.) was informed that the best mode of filling the vacancy cause by the death of the late Hon. Premier [Étienne Pascal Taché], was to instruct the Hon. Attorney-General West [John A. Macdonald], as the member next in seniority to the late Sir E.P. Taché. and with the view of making as little change as possible in the personal character of the Administration, to undertake the task of reconstructing the Cabinet. Having asked him (Hon. Mr. Brown) to give him his opinion on the existing state of affairs, he stated that the course he anticipated the Governor General [Viscount Monck] would have taken, was to place the Government in the same position which it occupied previous to Sir E.P. Taché’s death—namely, putting some member at the head of the Government under whom both the Hon. Attorney-General West [John A. Macdonald] and he (Mr. B.) might have served. He said, moreover, that he greatly feared that, were he (hon. member for South Oxford), as representing one of the great political parties, placed at the head of the Ministry, the result would be to imperil the existence of the coalition that had lasted for thirteen months; that he (Mr. B) had never desired to solicit the Premiership for the purpose of acquiring consideration; but that he was most desirous of retiring from office at the earliest possible moment, and that His Excellency might rely on it that any Administration formed on the basis of the Government of 1864 would continue to receive his support. He also tendered his resignation. His Excellency [Viscount Monck] might rely on it that any Administration formed on the basis of the Government of 1864 would continue to receive his support. He also tendered his resignation. His Excellency said he would refuse it in the meantime. The correspondence then took place which the hon. J.A. Macdonald had read.

He (Mr. B) looked at the matter in this way: he and his friends, hon. Messrs. McDougall and Howland, in entering the coalition Government considered they accepted a trust from the great Liberal party of Upper Canada, and that they should agree to no change in the Cabinet to which that party had not consented. It must be understood that in entering the Government they accepted a trust not only as regards the matter, but as regards the time, and all the members of the Government were fully alive to bargain being fully carried out as regards the time.

John A. Macdonald [Kingston, Attorney-General West and Minister of Militia]—Hear.

George Brown [Oxford South, President Executive Council]—So when Parliament met last spring, we were in strong hopes that Confederation would be adopted by all the Provinces except Prince Edward Island. Then it was not necessary we should propose any scheme of lesser arrangements. But, afterwards, when Nova Scotia and New Brunswick had rejected the scheme, it was agreed that, failing the acceptance of Confederation, a lesser scheme should be proposed; but that if we afterwards found there was a hope of Confederation being passed within a few months, we should then take steps for the carrying out of the measures to which the coalition was pledged; that we should on opening the session of 1866, if we had in the meantime succeeded in removing the objections of the Lower Provinces—and if we were then in a position to say we were able to proceed with the remainder of the scheme—the plan for the local Governments under Confederation—that we should go on with it. But, if on the contrary, we should find we could not give the House the assurance of the adoption by all the Provinces, of Confederation, we should bring down measures for the reform of the constitution on the basis agreed to in 1864. He was bound to say that all in the Cabinet had acted with the most perfect food faith in coming to the present arrangements.

As to His Excellency ’s [Viscount Monck] part in the negotiations, he (Mr. B.) thought he pursued the proper course in sending for the Hon. Attorney General West [John A. Macdonald]. He was bound, in opening negotiations, at any rate, to find some principle of action, and there could be none more natural and less open to objection than that of taking the senior member of the Executive in commencing communications of this nature.

As far as he (Mr. B.) was concerned, he never dreamt of being called to the head of a coalition government. He would not have taken such position. He was only anxious of seeking the object of this coalition carried out. It had been said he and colleagues were placed in an awkward position in regard to the present Government. He was not complaining of that, because they went into the Government alive to the position in which they would stand. But what all must understand was that they were a coalition Cabinet; that on one side there were three Liberals, and on the other nine Conservatives, of which he made no complaint whatever; consequently, to a certain extent, there must be different views among them on some points. But, take it as a whole, this coalition had answered all the expectations we entertained at its formation; and, while both sections were not able to obtain all they wanted, still the manner in which the members got along could not possibly be more agreeable, and they never hoped to see the Cabinet in a more agreeable position than it had been hitherto.

Some Hon. MembersCheers.

Antoine-Aimé Dorion [Hochelaga] said that a rumor had obtained circulation to the effect that the Premiership had been offered to the Hon. Mr. Campbell. This was not mentioned in the correspondence which had first been laid before the House, and he supposed it was therefore to be understood that it was incorrect.

John A. Macdonald [Kingston, Attorney-General West and Minister of Militia]—Quite so. The whole proceedings were precisely as stated in the documents which had just been read.

Antoine-Aimé Dorion [Hochelaga] went on to comment upon the appointment of Sir Narcisse Belleau to the Premiership—stating that it not only took the public by surprise, but that it took Sir Narcisse himself by surprise as well. In fact he must have been more astonished than any other person.

Some Hon. MembersLaughter.

Antoine-Aimé Dorion [Hochelaga]—The fact of the Premiership being placed in the hands of the honourable and gallant knight in question [Narcisse Belleau], shewed the fearful weakness of the coalition,—The honourable gentlemen went on to charge the Government with having completely departed from the policy which they proposed to follow last session. Every item of that policy had been postponed or cast aside.

Luther Holton [Chateauguay] asked whether the House was to understand that the two Attorney-Generals [John A. Macdonald & George-Étienne Cartier] had offered the Premiership to Sir Narcisse Fortunant Belleau, with the concurrence of the President of the Council [George Brown] and without any reference to the head of the state?

John A. Macdonald [Kingston, Attorney-General West and Minister of Militia] said that Sir Narcisse Belleau had of course had communication with the head of the state and representative of the sovereign, and had accepted the Premiership at his hands.

Some Hon. Members—Hear, hear.

John A. Macdonald [Kingston, Attorney-General West and Minister of Militia]—The hon. and gallant knight had accepted the charge with great reluctance, but from a sense of duty and in order to enable the Government to carry out the great projects they had in view. The sneer at Sir Narcisse Belleau came with a bad grave indeed from the hon. member for Hochelaga [Antoine-Aimé Dorion]. He (Mr. Macdonald) had had the pleasure of being a colleague of Sir Narcisse Belleau and he was thoroughly acquainted with his merits. There was no man so deserving or so talented but that some would be found to decry and belittle him. For instance, there were no doubt persons who would sneer at the hon. member for Hochelaga [Antoine-Aimé Dorion].

Some Hon. Members—Hear, hear.

John A. Macdonald [Kingston, Attorney-General West and Minister of Militia]—Sir Narcisse Belleau was a modest and worthy man, who never blew his own trumpet; but this was no reason he should be sneered at.

Some Hon. Members—Hear, hear.

John A. Macdonald [Kingston, Attorney-General West and Minister of Militia]—Hon. gentlemen opposite need not find fault with the course which had been pursued in this instance, in as much as they had themselves afforded abundant precedents. In reply to the charges made by the hon. member for Hochelaga respecting the alleged postponement of the discussion of important questions, the Hon. Attorney-General West [John A. Macdonald] argued that the most fitting time to discuss and settle the local constitutions of Upper and Lower Canada would be immediately after the concurrence of the Legislatures of the Lower Provinces in the principle of Confederation.

Some Hon. Members—Hear, hear.

John A. Macdonald [Kingston, Attorney-General West and Minister of Militia]—If, however, they rejected confederation—if they insisted on remaining single, and would not accept union—we would have to consider a very different question, that of the position of Canada standing alone, and the relations of Upper and Lower Canada towards each other. It would, during this hot weather, be a piece of absurdity to go on discussing local constitutions without knowing whether they were ever going to be used.

Some Hon. Members—Hear, hear.

Luther Holton [Chateauguay] said that the avowed intention of the Government at the close of last session was that we should be called together in June in order to discuss the details of the local constitutions. Surely, hon. members must have expected that we would have hot weather in June. Their excuse, therefore, about the weather just now would hardly hold good.

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

George Brown [Oxford South, President Executive Council] briefly replied in defence of the course pursued by the Government.

The first paragraph of the address was carried.

On the second paragraph—

Antoine-Aimé Dorion [Hochelaga] went on to review the subjects alluded to in the speech from the throne, and topics connected therewith, distinguishing between “live issues” and “dead issues,” and referring at considerable length to representation by population, the Hudson’s Bay Territory, and separate schools. In connexion with the latter subject, he proceeded to read analysis of some correspondence which he had taken place in the month of March last between a number of Lower Canadian members and the Government in reference to the securing of certain rights and privileges to the Protestants of Lower Canada respecting the education of their children. He contended that this correspondence afforded a key to the manner in which the “strong government” had obtained support by giving extra-parliamentary pledges to their supporters. This explained how it was that hon. gentlemen who had been loud in their denunciations of the Government were finally induced to grant a cordial support to the great scheme of Confederation.

Alexander Galt [Sherbrooke, Minister of Finance] said there was no use, whatever for the hon. member for Hochelaga [Antoine-Aimé Dorion] going on to make a mare’s nest of this matter.

Some Hon. Members—Hear, hear.

Alexander Galt [Sherbrooke, Minister of Finance]—Every point in the correspondence to which that hon. member referred had been stated upon the floor of this House, last session, by the Hon. Attorney General East [George-Étienne Cartier], in reply to certain categorical questions put by the hon. member for Montreal Centre [John Rose].

Some Hon. Members—Hear, hear.

Alexander Galt [Sherbrooke, Minister of Finance]—He (Mr. Galt) would, however, like to know who it was had made these letters public, in as much as he believed they had been marked “confidential.” He was somewhat surprised to find the hon. member for Hochelaga [Antoine-Aimé Dorion] making such a fuss about this matter as if something extraordinary had happened, although the hon. gentleman must remember perfectly well that explanations to the same effect were given in the House by his hon. colleague. The report of the debate on that occasion had just been placed in His (Mr. Galt’s) hands by his hon. friend from Montreal Centre [John Rose], and the hon. member for Hochelaga in making such a fuss about this matter as if something extraordinary had happened, although the hon. gentleman must remember perfectly well that explanations to the same effect were given in the House by his hon. colleague. The report of the debate on that occasion had just been place in His (Mr. Galt’s) hands by his hon. friend from Montreal Centre [John Rose], and the hon. gentleman opposite could see on reference to it that the circumstances were precisely as he (Mr. Galt) had stated.

Antoine-Aimé Dorion [Hochelaga] went on to comment for for nearly an hour on the Grand Trunk postal subsidy, the $100,000 “job,” the old cry of French domination, coalitions, the negotiation in England, and concluded by stating that the policy of the Government—if policy it could be called—was merely spending money and nothing else.

The second, third, fourth and fifth paragraphs of the Address were then carried.

On the sixth paragraph—


Luther Holton [Chateauguay] said he must insist on explanations from the Government. He would like to know whether hon. gentlemen opposite were going to reply to the questions put by his hon. friend from Hochelaga [Antoine-Aimé Dorion], or whether they considered themselves so strong that they could afford to dispense with all discussion. He had some questions to put to the Hon. Finance Minister [Alexander Galt], who, he saw was not in his place.

Joseph Perrault [Richelieu] arose to speak amid cries of “six o’clock.” He proceeded to denounce the Government for their course in reference to the reconstruction, and said that the country disapproved of it also. The great name of the late Sir E.P. Taché had served as a shield for these hon. gentlemen, but they would find that the name of his successor, Sir Narcisse Belleau, would not serve them for the same purpose. After some further remarks in the same strain—

It being six o’clock, the Speaker left the Chair.

The Legislative Assembly stopped for dinner recess.

After the recess—

Luther Holton [Chateauguay] said that in Mr. Cardwell’s despatch to His Excellency the Governor General [Viscount Monck], reference was made to the securities that would be required by the Imperial Government for the loans which Canada proposed raising in the event of Confederation. He (Mr. Holton) would like to know whether the nature of those securities was discussed between the Canadian delegates and the Home Government, and whether the Hon. Finance Minister [Alexander Galt] proposed to introduce any measure this session to give effect to the establishment of the securities contemplated. He (Mr. H) would also like some information in regard to the recent mission some information in regard to the recent mission to Washington respecting the renewal of the Reciprocity Treaty, and also what steps were taken therefor.

Alexander Galt [Sherbrooke, Minister of Finance] said that although the Government had always the greatest desire to satisfy the wishes of the House in reference to information, still he thought the questions put were singularly inappropriate to the subjects under consideration embraced in the Speech from the Throne. They referred entirely to matters not in that speech; and he thought the House would understand that the proper time to have information on the subjects the hon. gentleman had referred to was when the Government proceeded to express its views thereupon. As to the last question, nothing could be more important than the question of the Reciprocity Treaty, but he thought this was not the time to give information on the question. Information could only be given in this matter incidentally and inappropriately, the subject not being now before the House. He thought he would be out of his duty in travelling out of the usual course on this occasion by replying to the question just asked.

Luther Holton [Chateauguay] said that when he (Mr. Holton) was on the other side of the House, and his hon. friend opposite (Mr. Galt) was in Opposition, the latter was exceedingly exacting with respect to information under circumstances analogous to the present. He (Mr. Holton) thought parliamentary practice justified him in referring in general terms to all topics included in the speech from the Throne.

Now, it was said that his (Mr. Holton) questions were irrelevant; but he considered that they were quite in order, in as much as they were connected with the object of the recent mission to England which was alluded to in the speech. Therefore he held that his questions were altogether relevant to the issue. He considered that the Finance Minister [Alexander Galt] was wrong in refusing information in matters connected with his own department and his recent visit to England. It was quite right, no doubt, and he agreed with his hon. friend opposite in principle, that financial affairs should not be brought into the discussion on the Address; at the same time it should be borne in mind that deceptive statements had been put forth simultaneously in three of the leading organs of the Government, to the effect that the public accounts for the last eighteen months had been closed, and that the deficit would be a mere trifle. Now he ventured to say that the defect would be— not four thousand, nor four hundred thousand but close upon two millions of dollars.

Some Hon. Members—Hear, hear.

Luther Holton [Chateauguay]—The hon. gentleman then went on to review the financial position of the country at various periods during the last five years. In conclusion, he said that he put these questions and made these remarks through a sense of duty, although it appeared that hon. gentlemen opposite were going to allow the masterly and scathing speech of his hon. friend (Mr. Dorion) to pass unanswered.

Alexander Galt [Sherbrooke, Minister of Finance]  said he thought every member who had heard the hon. gentleman’s speech must see this was not the time for it. He had based his speech on newspaper fallacies, but it would have been better had he waited for the official documents. He thought the hon. gentleman’s congratulations were virtually expressions of the conviction of his own soul that the country was going to the dogs.

Some Hon. Members—Hear, hear.

Alexander Galt [Sherbrooke, Minister of Finance]—He (Mr. Galt) was afraid that in this matter the hon. gentlemen was going to be disappointed. He could easily understand that the hon. gentlemen would prefer a party triumph even if it were to be at the cost of the country. He had made a speech this night while possessing no information on the matter, based upon the most contracted information possible, for the purpose of allowing it to go abroad that there had been a deficiency of two millions in the revenue of last year.

Without saying anything more on this point, he (Mr. Galt) would give this information— that his (Mr. Holton’s) statements were quite as fallacious as he had declared certain newspaper paragraphs to have been. As to information respecting the finances before refused by the Government, he (Mr. G.) would reply that the hon. gentleman, when Finance Minister, had even refused information when the supplies were under discussion. He had even allowed the House to be prorogued without bringing down a measure on the finances. He (Mr. G.) was not, however, going to be drawn into a discussion on matters not before the House, and which would only lead to a waste of its time.

The sixth paragraph was then carried.

On the seventh paragraph—

Luther Holton [Chateauguay] said he did not believe that the reference made to colonial union in Her Majesty’s speeches from the Throne justified the statements contained in the two last paragraphs of the Address. It should be borne in mind that mention was merely made of union, not of federal union nor confederation—all mention of the federal principle being studiously avoided.

Some Hon. Members—Hear, hear.

Luther Holton [Chateauguay]—The only inference we could draw from this was, that while union was favored, confederation, or union upon a federal basis, was not favored.

Francis Jones [Leeds & Grenville North] said that as he had not troubled the House with any remarks on the subject last session, he would now take the opportunity of saying a few words on Confederation. In reference to this subject, he was somewhat surprised to hear from the President of the Council a sort of boast that Confederation had been hurried through the Legislature. He did not think such a thing should have been made a subject of boast. He (Mr. Jones) confessed that in this age of railroads, he had never seen anything like it.

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

Francis Jones [Leeds & Grenville North]—Referring to a statement made by the member for Peterboro’ (Col. Haultain) which he (Mr. Jones) had not an opportunity of replying to at the time, he would have a word or two say in answer, now that hon. gentleman, in moving the Address, last session, said that he supposed he was selected because he was an Englishman, and remarked that he believed that there was no English representatives at the Quebec conference. In this it appeared the hon. member was in error, in as much as there were a couple of English delegates. However, what he (Mr. Jones) desired chiefly to remark was just this— that four-fifths of the hon. gentleman’s (Col. Haultain) constituents of Peterboro were Irish, so that the hon. gentleman might have said that he had been selected because h represented an Irish constituency.

Some Hon. MembersCheers and laughter.

Francis Jones [Leeds & Grenville North]—The hon. gentleman (Mr. Jones) then went on to comment upon the great numbers of Irishmen and their immediate descendants, in Upper Canada, who were without any representative in the Government. Alluding to the question of Confederation, he said that he believed that the people of the country were averse to any force being used towards the Lower Provinces in order to bring them into the proposed union—they would not have a union accomplished by force.

Some Hon. Members—Hear, hear.

Francis Jones [Leeds & Grenville North]—He did not believe that British North America was too extensive to be united together under one Parliament and he differed entirely from those who supported this view. The hon. gentleman then commented strongly upon the views enumerated by the Hon. President of the Council [George Brown], and read a number of extracts from the Globe newspaper and from speeches to show what amount of weight was to be attached to that hon. gentlemen’s present opinions. Mr. Jones went on to advert to the various confederations mentioned in history—from the first ages down to the present day, observing in conclusion that he had studied them all closely, and that they had never proved successful.

The seventh paragraph was carried.

On the eighth paragraph a short discussion took place— Hon. Mr. Holton, Hon. Mr. Dorion, Hon. Mr. Cauchon, and Hon. Mr. Dunkin taking part.

A division was called for by the Opposition, and the members having been called in, the eighth and last paragraph of the Address was carried on the following division:—



De Boucherville
Dufresne, Joseph
Ferguson, Thomas
Ferguson, William
Jones, Ford
Macdonald, J.A.
Mackenzie, Alex.
Ross. J. Sylvester
Ross, Walter
Wright, Amos
Wright, Alonzo.—37.



Dorion, A.A.
Dorion, Eric
Dufresne, Alex.
Macdonald, D.A.
Macdonald, John
Tremblay.— 28.

John A. Macdonald [Kingston, Attorney-General West and Minister of Militia] moved

To refer the resolutions for the Address in reply to the speech from the Throne to a Select Committee.


Charles Magill [Hamilton], from the Committee, reported the Address, which was then read a first and second time.

John A. Macdonald [Kingston, Attorney-General West and Minister of Militia] moved

That the Address be engrossed.


This was followed by the usual formal motions for the presentation of the Address to HIs Excellency by the whole House, and for ascertaining the pleasure of His Excellency, as to when he will be pleased to receive the same.

Correspondence About the Mission to England, &c.

George Brown [Oxford South, President Executive Council] presented a message from His Excellency the Governor General, accompanied by copies of correspondence relative to the mission to England—also the despatch from the Secretary of State in reply to the addresses agreed to in favor of a Federal Union of the colonies.

Sessional Orders

John A. Macdonald [Kingston, Attorney-General West and Minister of Militia] suggested that the sessional orders should be read so that no time should be lost in forwarding the unfinished business of last session.

The suggestion was agreed to, and the orders were read accordingly.

The House then, at 20 minutes to 10 p.m.. adjourned on motion of John A. Macdonald [Kingston, Attorney-General West and Minister of Militia].

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