Province of Canada, Legislative Assembly, Double Majority (20 May 1858)

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Date: 1858-05-20
By: Province of Canada (Parliament), The Montreal Herald
Citation: “Provincial Parliament”, The Montreal Herald (24 May 1858).
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The debate on Mr. THIBAUDEAU’S motion on this subject, with the amendments of Mr. Cauchon and Mr. Langevin was resumed by

Mr. CAUCHON, who went over a great part of the ground which he took the preceding evening. The question of a double majority, he contended, could not be raised in the Imperial parliament, because the preponderance of the representation from England was very large over that from Ireland and Scotland; and that was no argument why it should not be recognized in Canada. He accused the Provincial Secretary of having previously declared himself in favor of the double majority, and quoted a resolution which had been made by Mr. Loranger to that effect. Though the Government had declared at the time that the principle was not to be found in the constitution, yet they insisted in having it carried out. Mr. Drummond had declared it a consequence of the federal principle involved in the Union Act, and had said that he would not consider the man a statesman who would hold office unless he had the support of both sections of the Province. The Commissioner of Crown Lands had also changed his position on the question.

Mr. SICOTTE said he had not. If he referred to the speech which he had made on the Address he would find that he had declared that our form of Government was national and federal, and, from being national and federal, we had but one legislature, and but one single majority.

Mr. CAUCHON is to read from a speech of the Commissioner of Crown Lands, when he was interrupted by

The SPEAKER, who ruled that it was out of order to refer to a former debate in the same session; and that in this ruling he was borne out by the House of Commons.

Mr. CAUCHON said he had nothing more to say, unless he was allowed to refer to a former debate.

Mr. GALT could not see what caused the member for Montmorenci had for bringing up the question of the double majority. As a Lower Canadian, he could not complain of the existing state of things. (Hear.) His countrymen had unquestionable the majority in that House. The whole burden of his speech was justice to Upper Canada. When, however, he wasn’t office, this idea was held in abeyance, although the Administration of which he was a member was in a minority in Upper Canada. He could well understand why the member for Cornwall should take the position of an advocate of the double majority principle, because he was a member of the Opposition of Upper Canada, who were in a majority. The member for Montmorenci had quoted the opinion of Mr. Hincks, of the Attorney General West, of the Commissioner of Crown Lands, and of others, in order to shew that those gentlemen had at one time entertained the same opinions as himself Period now, it was no matter what the opinions of these gentlemen were; the question was whether the principle was a correct one in itself, and if so whether the circumstances of our country admitted of its being carried out. (Hear.) The double majority must mean one of two things, either that the not legislate without a majority from the section affected by such legislation, or they should not legislate without possessing the confidence of both sections period now, it was plain that, in order to enable the Government to legislate it all, it must possess the confidence of the majority of the whole House. There were subjects which were common to the whole community, and there were subjects which only affected a particular section of the country. The subjects comment to the whole Province where the maintenance of law and order, the administration of justice, the mode of raising in dealing with the revenue, and the regulation of trade. Well, if the Government had a majority of the whole House in legislating on these matters, it followed that they could legislate on subjects affecting particular sections. If it was determined that the Government could not legislate without having the confidence of a majority in each section of the country, they would be introducing a new and mischievous change in our system, because it would be assuming that there should be no difference of opinion on general questions period he would ask the hon. gentleman whether the policy of the gentlemen from Upper Canada was not one general to the whole country. They differed in toto from the member for Montmorenci, and with that gentleman say that it did not affect the whole of Canada? How could he reconcile that principle with his? The effect of the double majority, if carried out, would be to procure the advent to power of a party who advocated general change in the constitution. But when in power, either they or the Lower Canadians must compromise their principles. But if they took office in compromise the principles which gave them their Upper Canadian majority, they would not remain in power for three weeks, for the whole country would cry shame upon them. But he would come to the question, and enquire whether the double majority, if adopted, would be a cure for the evils under which Canada now suffered What were these evils? They were animosity between the east and the West as to religion, race and laws. One source of this animosity was in the application of the expenditure of the country period of late years whenever anything was done in Lower Canada, an amount was demanded to be spent in Upper Canada two period so when the seignorial tenure was abolished, then municipalities of Upper Canada demanded a sum to be applied—none of them cared how. This system might be a fruit of the application of the double majority principle, and if the tree were known by its fruits that which had produced such deplorable results must indeed be bad period (Hear, hear.) And the Legislature—as witness this session—had been drawn away by these animosities from their proper applications, and nothing but faction—nothing but struggles for power, was evident in the political field. How then could emigration or capital be expected to flow hither? Would people who fled from troubles at home come to a country like this, torn by internal dissensions, where members could rise in their places, and say they anticipated civil war? But he would say another thing to the hon. member for Montmorenci. There were those in Lower Canada who looked at the question in a different light from that exclusively French Canadian one in which he chose to regard it. There were English constituencies in Lower Canada, who must and did feel what he really aimed at meant oppression to all those of Lower Canada not a French Canadian race. They had hitherto been treated with that fairness by the dominant race in Lower Canada to which they were really entitled; they had hitherto acquiesced in their condition; but if the motion of the hon. member were carried, instead of having perfect confidence in the Gallic race, they would seek other alliances, other affinity’s, which might lead to something worse than discord. Did the hon. member from Montmorenci propound this idea of the double majority as the sort of salve that was to cure all their troubles in Lower Canada. He could tell him that it was not so. It was the way to disunion.

Mr. HOGAN—What had Lower Canada done to Upper Canada now?

Mr. GALE—If the hon. member thought that the minority engrossed all the wisdom and experience of the House, then he would abandon his position and submit to the gentlemen on the Opposition benches But the hon. member would remember that the position which he and his friends occupied was the same position which the English population of Lower Canada held. He was endeavoring to show that the double majority which had been offered to the House is the cure for all their evils, instead of being likely to prove the most desirable that could be found, would in all probability excite animosities which did not now exist. They were going on in the most amicable way possible. He did not desire to give forever to the majority the supreme rule; and if it did, it could not give satisfaction. Would it be likely to satisfy Upper Canada? Did his hon. friend from Montmorenci suppose that his friends from Toronto in Waterloo were going to adopt it for the popular idea of representation by population? Did he fancy that they would allow him to have the uncontrolled disposal of little offices, such as judgeships and shrievalties, that would follow under his system? But did the hon. member think his double majority would satisfy Upper Canada? Let all Upper Canada answer.


Mr. HOWLAND would approve of the principle, from the necessity of the case, until the British population of Lower Canada were able to join Upper Canadians in the demand for representation by population. (Hear, and laughter.)

Mr. GALT—And did the hon. member for Montmorenci mean to put his trust in alliances such as that? He would then find that the double majority was as “elastic” as any other principle. (Hear.) Hr repeated, with all the more confidence, that the double majority would not satisfy the majority of Upper Canada. Fifty out of sixty-five members of the House from Upper Canada would express their opinion that Upper Canada, with her increasing contributions to the general revenue, with increasing population, would not long remain content with no more than an equal share in the Government and the representation. (Hear, hear.)

Mr. J. S. MACDONALD—Until then, we will have the double majority.

Mr. GALT—The double majority would not last so long period and he aligns composed of men holding different principles could not long command the confidence of the whole House, although they might commands sectional majorities on sectional questions (Hear.) If the present Government were to resign to-night, no Government could be formed which would last for an hour on the double majority principle. And could hon. gentlemen be blind to the fact, that were the member for Toronto in office, with fifty members from Upper Canada at his back, he would be in a very strong position, and would make strenuous, and perhaps successful, efforts to carry out his cherished principle. He would ask what he would do?

Mr. BROWN—Were I to assume office, I would not remain in power an instant after I had lost the confidence of my own section of the country. (Laughter)

Mr. GALT saw in the answer or leaning on the part of the hon. member towards the fleshpots of office, and greater inclination to adopt the majority principle an relinquish his own principles then he had hoped and expected. (Cheers.) The questions which now divided Canada were local and sectional ones. Even the questions of representation by population end of sectarian schools were, in a great measure, purely local. If that be the case, why not take a course which would suffer those questions from the ones which were acknowledged to be national?

Mr. DORION—That is to adopt the double majority.

Mr. GALT—That was the first time he had heard that the double majority was at all cognate to the federal Union. (Hear.) He proceeded to remark that there were great common interests in Canada. That which was good for the one could not be bad for the other; questions of revenue, of post office management, &c., equally affected both section; but he, would ask, could we under the present system attempt to govern the great territories in the West to which we laid claim? Could we organize Government there under our present constitution? Could we found a new empire in the Red River or the Saskatchewan which should flourish an grow under our control as at present it could be exercised? He thought not; he was confident it could not be done. Looking, therefore, at the present position of things, he believed the only solution for it was to be found in a change of legislative Union, and the adoption of federal principle. But he would like to hear from the Ministry, and explanation of the policy which they were going to pursue It would not be sufficient for them to say that they were opposed to the double majority, or to representation by population, or to anything else. It was perfectly plain data movement was taking place, which, if some escape from it was not found, would inevitably overwhelm them. They must deliberately consider and propose some remedy for the difficult position in which the country was placed. Our present system, it was clear, was not working well. (Hear.)

Mr. LORANGER would not have experienced the necessity of speaking on the subject, had not the hon. member for Montmorenci in his lengthy speech attacked his principles, and misrepresented his views on the double majority question. He asked if it would be possible to rally a double majority on a general question, when the race, the religion, the prejudices, the interests of the two sections were different? He thought not. What was asked now was that Lower Canada should acknowledge that it had two great a majority, and ought, therefore to succumb to the minority of the House. He referred to the Upper Canada vote against the bill to allow the Sœurs Grises to sell their property, in which the Upper Canadian majority had shewn its hostility to a cherish Lower Canadian institution, as an instance of what Lower Canada might expect when the Upper Canadian majority should assume power. The member for Montmorenci had endeavoured to convict him (Mr. Loranger) of having changed his opinions. He would show that his opinions had always being the same, but that those of the hon. member himself had been by no means so steadfast. He preceded to read extracts from newspapers of 1856, to prove this point, and showed clearly amidst much laughter, that Mr. Cauchon Had advocated the single majority while in office. He also quoted from the Journal de Quebec, a newspaper controlled by the hon. member himself.

Mr. CAUCHON denied that the article in question was his.

Mr. LORANGER said that it was unkind of the hon. member to deny his literary bantlings.

Mr. PICHE moved that the various articles quoted be printed for the use of members. (Laughter.)

Mr. LORANGER continued. He would never deny that the double majority principle in the abstract, was correct. But if applied, now, to turn out a Government, another might come in which would not act upon it, and those who now cried out against Lower Canada governing Upper Canada, would make a worse outcry when Lower Canada should be the section governed. He showed that the Upper Canadian section of the House had often opposed the introduction of the measures of the Administration, or voted for their six months hoist, but they had not dared to vote against their principle.

The House then, at half-past twelve, adjourned.

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