Province of Canada, Legislative Assembly [Elective Legislative Council] (22 May 1850)
By: Province of Canada (Parliament), The Globe
Citation: “Legislative Assembly,” The Globe (25 May 1850).
WEDNESDAY, MAY 22ND.
The routine having been gone through, and the notices of motions postponed till after consideration of the orders of the day, the answer to the Speech from the Throne, with Mr. Prince’s amendments, was taken up.
COURT OF CHANCERY.
Hon. W. B. ROBINSON was not sufficiently acquainted with the affairs of the Court of Chancery to be able to determine then that the Court should be abolished, and he should therefore vote against the amendment. He would not say, however, that, at another period of the session, when the new Rules had been laid before the House, and they had been discussed, it would not be necessary to introduce some other measure on the subject.
Mr. PRINCE said that he had as yet heard no argument from any one against the reasons which he had urged yesterday in favour of the abolition of the Court. He appealed to the members from Lower Canada to support the amendment.
Mr. SMITH (Durham,) thought that this measure would have come far better from the hon. member for Essex last session, before the changes then made in the Court of Chancery. After the old system, with all its faults and evils, had existed for 13 years, and been tolerated by the honourable gentleman, it was singular to see him asking to abolish what had been introduced as a remedy, without giving it a trial. The new system had hardly an existence; as yet the new rules had not been laid on the table of the House. He felt that his constituents would not bear him out in voting for the amendment, knowing the necessity there was for the Court, and the amount of business at present before it.
Sir Allan MCNAB said, that at that moment there could be no more popular measure in the country than the destruction of the Court of Chancery; he believed the country was thoroughly prejudiced against it; he regarded the Bill of last Session as a job. He was not prepared, however, to vote for the amendment; he wished to hear the opinions of members on the subject.
Mr. McLEAN spoke at some length, but was inaudible in the gallery.
Mr. MORRISON said, that the present debate was not the time when this subject should be discussed. He had not intended saying anything at present, but purposed reserving his remarks to the time when the proposed Bill of the member for Essex was brought before the House. The member for Essex admitted yesterday that he had not seen the new rules. He was sure that if the hon. member had seen those rules—had considered their effect upon proceedings in Chancery—he would have paused before pressing the present amendment.—He (Mr. Morrison) held a copy of the rules in his hand, and for the information of the member for Essex he would merely note some of the proceedings that were abolished; proceedings which, no doubt the hon. member was aware, were the cause of the ruinous expenses in that court; first, the court had abolished 112 orders of the former court, and enacted new ones, by which supplemental bills, bills of review—(the hon. member, mentioned many more and proceeded)—from these unnecessary proceedings, had arisen the large amount of costs; the delays and all the vexation of chancery suits; witnesses were to be examined viva [illegible]oce; and the expensive process of written interrogatories and answers was abolished. The master’s office put upon an improved footing, cases would be more expedited and costs lessened. He (Mr. M.) admitted that the old court was a curse instead of a blessing, as the member for Essex intended it should be. The complaints of the country were directed not against the court itself, but against the delays, the expense, and the useless forms and proceedings tolerated there. Lawyers are cried down because it is asserted that they are desirous of retaining the abuses of that court; on the contrary, time after time the unanimous voice of the profession was embodied in petitions to the government to amend the chancery act—place the court upon a solid footing—or abolish it altogether. It was pressed upon the late administration, and they had not the courage to attack it; a change had been effected last Session, and the court remodelled—but not a month had elapsed since the new system was promulgated, when Hon. members in this house, and popularity hunters out of this house cry for its repeal! The absurdity of such a cry was too glaring to require arguments to rebut it. Give the Court a fair trial, and if it will not answer the object intended, abolish it if you will. When the chancery act of last session was passing through the house, no such opposition was given to it. The member for Essex yesterday stated that he was not present at the debates on the Bill; he would correct the hon. member—he was present, and he would recall it to his memory by the eulogy he then passed upon the chancellor—
Mr. PRINCE said the statement was correct; he was present, and admitted that Mr. Blake was the most proper person of the office of chancellor.
Mr. MORRISON continued—Hon. members ask for equity powers to be conferred upon the courts of law; in that case there would be no saving of expense to the country. The present Judges could not perform all the duties of both courts; they have enough on their hands as it is—at the several [illegible] lately held, they could not get through the whole of the business. Equity powers must be placed somewhere; you must have judges to perform the work, and it is not a matter of moment what court you call it. The people of this country are excessively litigious; he believed that in no country in the world was there so much litigation. You may abolish courts and lawyers, still litigation will proceed, and parties must be paid for their services. He (Mr. Morrison) had no objection to an enquiry into the subject of the law and practice; but he thought the best mode was to appoint a committee to whom the various propositions could be submitted, and report the same to the house. In the State of New York they had introduced a new system, which in effect had destroyed the common law system, and introduced the bill and answer system of chancery in all proceedings; the effect is now apparent—the press is attacking it—it is more expensive and complicated—and a few years will see it swept away. The cry is that State was to abolish the court of chancery, and merge it in the common law courts; but as Judge Edmonds, one of its most distinguished Judges, in a late address said, the chancery system had swallowed up the common law system. Hon. members must pause before they mingle the two jurisdictions in one set of Judges. They must duly consider the subject. The Judiciary system cannot be perfected in one day. After the new rules are placed in the hands of hon. members, they will then be better able to judge of the reform in that court, and (Mr. Morrison) advised, for the present, that the hon. member withdraw his amendment. The object intended by this amendment could not be effected by the present course; it is intended merely as an attack upon the ministry.
Mr. SMITH (Frontenac) was glad that this discussion had been brought on by his hon. friend. He was not surprised that his hon. friend from the Second Riding of York, should oppose the amendment, nor would he be surprised at any other member of the Toronto bar doing so. Neither was he astonished at the opposition of the member for Durham, his brother having been appointed, through his influence, to one of the best offices connected with the Court. But the people were thoroughly opposed to its continuance, because, instead of bringing justice to every man’s door, it brought them to Toronto for justice. His hon. friend had said that 100 rules had been abolished by the new judges; he dared to say that 100, or near it had been substituted in their stead. These were the days of reform, however, of a Reform Administration at any rate, who promised every thing and did nothing. He would state a circumstance of his own knowledge which conclusively proved the necessity of the abolition. A person told him that he had been giving evidence in the Court for four years, and in four more he supposed he would get a decision. How often in the common Law Courts did the judge order a nominal verdict; saying that this Court had no power to decide the point at issue, it must be taken to the Court of Chancery. It was necessary that such a system should be changed.
Mr. RICHARDS said, he was surprised to find the hon. mover of the resolutions, so much changed since he formerly supported the Chancery Court. He [Mr. R.] had been opposed to the Court, but had voted for the measure of last session, in the hope that it would satisfy the people by thoroughly reforming it; and one reason for his doing so was that it provided an efficient Court of Appeal, which the country very much required. When the government were pressed last year to let the bills lie over for the session—what was the consequence?—why there was a numerously signed memorial from the Bar of Toronto sent down asking them to go on. Now the hon. gentleman asked them to repeal the very bill they had passed only last session, when it had hardly gone into operation, having only been promulgated three months.
Mr. CAMERON (Cornwall), after careful consideration of this amendment. He thought that the Province had just reason to complain of the costs of proceedings in the Court of Chancery. The public out-cry was directed more to the abolition of these expenses, than to the abolition of the Courts altogether. He was convinced that, were the Court of Chancery done away with and its jurisdiction given to the Courts of Queen’s Bench and Common Pleas, the business of both could not be done by the present number of judges. There was one fault in the Court, in his opinion, he considered that there was no need of three judges. He believed, however, that he stood almost alone, in Toronto, on that subject. He had heard yesterday an attack on his hon. friend the Chancellor. The establishment of the Court and his appointment were called a job. Now, no gentleman of the bar had a larger practice than his hon. friend, and there was no doubt that in a pecuniary point of view, his acceptance of the office had been to him a decided loss. The present Chancellor had been the first to agitate for the reformation of the Court, and a few years ago had published a pamphlet on the subject; he was sorry that the Chancellor, in bringing in his bill, had not followed the course recommended in that pamphlet; it was there proposed that the Chancellor should receive £1000 a year, and the Vice-Chancellors £750 each. He was sorry that the bill increased these salaries by £250 each. He did not see the necessity either of their being three judges, or of the enlarged salary. The sole point of argument in favour of the abolition of the Court, was the plea that the Courts of Queen’s Bench and Common Pleas could discharge the duties of equity jurisdiction as well. He did not think that this system of mingling the two modes of procedure would be satisfactory. It was but two years ago since the Court of Exchequer in England possessed both the Equity and Common Law power, but it was altered at the instance of the best men in England, Conservative and Liberal agreed that it would be better to abolish the Equity jurisdiction of the court. As to speedy justice, he did not see why a suit might not be as quickly decided in a purely Equity Court, as in a united one of equity and common law. As to the expense to the country, any one who knew the quantity of business remaining over at every assize, must be satisfied that one more judge, at least, would be required in the common law courts if an equity jurisdiction was given them. He was decidedly of opinion that one judge would be quite as efficient as an equity court, and would produce as efficient a court of Appeal as three. Before the reform of the courts, the Appeal lay to five judges, three of whom must have decided on the case before it came before them, or to the Governor in Council, where they got the decision of the law officers of the Crown, who, perhaps, however, had been engaged on one side or the other, and would not be in a position to decide; that was altered by the bill of last session, but he thought that the new Court of Appeal would be as efficient if it contained, with the six judges of the Queen’s Bench and the Common Pleas, one Chancery judge, as if it contained three. The reason for the appointing of three judges was, he believed, the ministry did not wish so dismiss the formerly single judge of the court. The hon. member from the Second Riding of York, had referred to the surplus in the Riding of York, had referred to the surplus in the fee-fund of the new courts. He (Mr. Cameron) would like to know, whether in the reform in the court, these fees had been cut down as well as the fees of the Solicitors, if not, a still further reform might be effected.
Hon. Mr. BALDWIN said, the member from Cornwall had expressed himself in a manner so consonant with the sentiments he entertained, that it became necessary to curtail the remarks he intended to make. One remark in particular he had made, which Mr. B. said had his hearty concurrence; and it was, that the question which then engaged the attention of the house should be discussed in a spirit of candour; it was a course he himself had always pursued—to decide without reference to party politics; and this was the more necessary as to subjects affecting the judicature, which should not be made those of party triumph, but should be considered with reference to the country at large; and was what he had frequently urged with reference to the judiciary of Upper Canada. There were frequently allusions made to public men, whose conduct in introducing alterations and improvements, it was too common to attribute to a desire to promote their own pecuniary advantage; it was a miserable habit, and had a tendency not only to degrade public men in the eyes of the country, but to debauch the public mind. Men of such a description were not fit for any office whatever. Unless the debate therefore were entered upon by the leading minds of the house in a becoming spirit, the effect would be to injure the morals of the country. Before the union of the two Provinces, he had, he said, looked forward to the arrival of a time when it would be deemed expedient to unite the two courts of law and equity. He differed from his learned friend as to referring decisions in equity to one judge; that, however, was his opinion for some time; but he now doubted whether these should be confided to a single mind. So far were the views he now entertained from being shaken, they were rather strengthened by what is taking place in the Mother Country; as even in England the opinion prevails very extensively, in favour of a plurality of Judges in the Court of Equity. That was the opinion of Mr. Tredwell who had written ably upon the subject, and this had relieved his mind as to the correctness of the conclusion at which he had arrived, when last year he agreed to make the experiment here. As to the construction of the Court of Appeal, there could be no objection to the law judges being members, as it was important to bring such minds to the consideration of subjects that were referred to it; and it was equally important that the public should have every confidence in its decisions. He was satisfied that members of the legal profession had suffered injustice from the opinion which was very generally entertained, that a Judge who had already given a decision, was not open to conviction, and would not be willing to acknowledge that he had previously taken a wrong view of the subject. Now, if to the investigations of the Court of Appeals, fresh minds were brought to bear, this would not only add uniformity to its proceedings, but would give to its decisions that weight and stability of so much importance in questions, affecting not only property but civil rights. This was doubly important when reference was had to the expense attending an appeal to the Queen in Council; which would never be resorted to except where a large amount of property was involved, or there existed a want of confidence in the decisions of the Court of Appeals. As respected the alteration in the structure of the common law courts, the only additional expense that had been incurred was the appointment of an additional Judge; and at present instead of one court with five judges, there were now two courts with three Judges in each. The difference, therefore, was merely the appointment of an additional judge and the giving a corresponding jurisdiction to two courts. As to abolishing the Court of Chancery and merging its powers in the common law courts, this had been attempted in New York; and it had been found that so far from the giving to them an equitable jurisdiction reducing the expense and saving time, it had increased both; and consequently no saving had been effected whatever. He (Mr. B.) had been informed by the Chancellor that the reduction of expense in this Province, in consequence of the abolishing an immense mass of forms had been four-fifths, and the Judges of the Court of Chancery had not yet terminated their labours, as they were still engaged in effecting other improvements; and before they concluded, hoped to establish courts by which evidence on the spot—and as had been observed bringing justice to every man’s door. But the contemplated alteration could not take place at once, and reforms could not spring forth, like Minerva armed cap-a-pie; and the Judges of the Court of Equity should be allowed time to introduce improvements in the practice of their courts. But while those improvements were taking place, an outcry had been raised that the Court of Chancery should be abolished; this would not alter the rights of parties, or render less necessary professional aid to vindicate them; and the more the judiciary of the country was unsettled the more would the expenses attending litigation be increased; as it would become the more necessary to call forth the energies of the ablest minds. As to abolishing the Court of Chancery in the State of New York, it had not afforded the satisfaction there which had been anticipated, as would be seen from an article which he would read to the House, condemning the merging of the Court of Equity in those of the Common Law; and which went to prove that extensive changes could not be effected without a corresponding inconvenience. His learned friend had alluded to the salaries of the Judges of the Court of Chancery; but he (Mr. B.) could not see why that of a Vice-Chancellor should not be the same as that of the Common Law Judges, as it was desirable to obtain persons of equal character and weight to preside in both tribunals. If the salaries are considered too high, let them be reduced, but both should be placed on the same footing, as the amount of property decided upon in both Courts was great, and the intricacy attending their proceedings was equal. The hon. gentleman said he had dwelt longer upon this branch of the subject than perhaps he should have done; but the attack on the Government had been so direct that he felt bound to repel it. Not only had the course which the Government had pursued been formerly supported in the House, but also by the opposition press; to prove which he would read an extract from one of its papers in 1846, supporting the views which he [Mr. B.] entertained; with which remarks he had nothing to do, as in fact at that time he thought equitable jurisdiction should be confided to a single judge. Having thus, when in opposition, been supported by the press as to the altered view he now took of the question, he would ask hon. members, how he could be expected to legislate at present otherwise than in accordance with the sentiments which he at present entertained, and which he had fully explained in a letter to his constituents asking their support. It was therefore unjust and ungenerous to impute to the members of Government improper motives, with reference to the entire proceeding. Let hon. members look at the appointments which had been made in the Court of Chancery, and then blush at the insinuations they had uttered. With reference to the Chancellor, if the profession throughout the Province were polled, none would be found to dispute his qualification for the office, unless it were upon grounds of personal hostility; and as to the two Vice-Chancellors, one of whom at all events, was no particular friend of the government, they were equally capable of filling the situation to which they had been appointed. Was it fair or honorable, after years had been spent in the endeavour to place the Court of Chancery on a satisfactory footing, that the alterations that had been effected were called a mere job, when it was admitted on all sides that the gentlemen who had been appointed to preside, were in every respect fitted and qualified. But as had been asked by the member for Durham, were the House prepared after determining at one Session to make the requisite improvements, at the next to come to a decision which would stultify itself, by destroying the arrangements and machinery which had subsequently been made and introduced? It would be utterly inconsistent with what is due to themselves and the country, were members thus to trifle with the public interests. If one question were of more importance than another with which to deal, this was one which required the utmost deliberation and prudence. It was desirable that the country should advance in the march of improvement, but the measures that ought to be adopted should have that tendency rather than in a retrograde direction; and unless the House give full opportunity for satisfactorily ascertaining the effect of any measure, the country would not advance at all. He did not believe, however, that any considerable portion of the House would give their sanction to the destruction of the plans of last year, before they were fairly in operation, or the country aware what would be the effect of the contemplated alteration.
Mr. BADGLEY believed that no better appointments could have been made than had taken place; it was not possible they could be better. He was in favour of pursuing one uniform course, with reference to the judicature of the Province; and he did not know why courts held under the two systems should not be presided over by the same man; for, as respected Common Law and Equity Judges, they must be of the same standing. He had not altered the opinion which he had always entertained, that there should not be one Court for one description of causes and another for the other. If an equity jurisdiction could be given to the Courts of Common Law, for which it was admitted the judges were well qualified, he did not see why there should be a Court of Chancery. As to the proceedings in equity there was no difficulty; the principles by which they were determined being as well understood as are those of the Common Law Courts; and he was satisfied the rights of parties could be as well secured by the decision of the judges who resided there, as in the Court of Chancery. The difficulty would be in getting causes before those courts; but when once there, they could be as ably adjudicated upon in one court as the other. With reference to the Court of Chancery, objections may exist as to the expensive nature of its proceedings; but that did not prove that it was not all that could reasonably be expected.
Mr. H. J. BOULTON said, the voice of the population of the Province, is decidedly opposed to the present system, and some pains should be taken by the Legislature, to conform to the views that were entertained upon the subject. He thought the plan which was proposed, could be adopted with benefit to the country; and that the courts of equity and law might be consolidated with much advantage to the public, as the judges in the courts of common law are quite capable of giving judgement in equity; the same might be said of judges in equity, with reference to common law. But he would assume that they were not capable; why then call them up to the Court of Appeals, to decide upon causes that had already been determined by an Equity Judge? But he would say boldly that no man could be a good Chancellor who was not a good common law lawyer; all that was requisite, in addition to the common law practice, was a knowledge of right and wrong; and the principles of equity were as well known and as easily determined, as were those of the common law. He would therefore, say, that a judge who was acquainted with one or the other, was a fit and proper person to determine with reference to both, and if that were not the case, judges of the common law courts ought not to be members of a court of appeal. As to the remark of the hon. member of government, that by undoing in one Session, that which they had done during a preceding one, the House would stultify itself; he would say that it would have been happy for the country, if that had not been done oftener than once. He could only refer to a bill, which had not been acted upon, and which was one of the deepest interest; he meant the common School Bill. Last year it had been introduced by the Administration, but with the advice of the members of government, it had never been carried into effect; and a bill had been circulated throughout the Province, the object of which was the repealing it. He did not mean to reproach the members of government on this occasion as it was honourable to confess an error; but he only alluded to the subject, in reply to the word stultify, which had just been applied to a proposal, to pursue a similar course with reference to the Court of Chancery. The question to be determined, the hon. gentleman said, was not as to the talents or ability of the Chancellor; but whether the system could not be improved, and the expenses reduced; it had been observed by one of the Lord Chancellors of England, that this country, in establishing its system of jurisprudence, had the finest opportunity of getting rid of the elaborate machinery which encumbers the Court of Chancery in the mother country. The inconveniences attending which in this Province, are not to be got rid of by any set of rules that judges may adopt. The hon. gentleman said, he agreed with the Attorney General, that this should not be made a party question; and hoped the propositions of members, would be met in a proper manner, and that the best decision would be brought to bear upon the question that could be obtained. The public were alarmed at the enormous expense of the Chancery Court, and which could not be borne in a new country like this. He said he was opposed to the amendment that had been made. He did not blame persons for adhering to opinions, that they had long since formed, but such persons were not the fittest in the world for devising remedies. Allusion had been made to the courts of the United States, the proceedings of which, had been favourably commented upon in England, and the decision of whose judges, had met with the highest encomiums there. The hon. gentleman concluded with a description of the practice of the Court of Chancery; and gave an account of a Chancery suit, where the amount in which the case originated, and only £29, and the expenses of which, before it was concluded, amounted to from three or five hundred. The details of which were at once highly edifying and amusing, and which lost nothing by the manner in which they were related.
Mr. CAMERON (Kent,) said, that the present was no doubt, a very inconvenient time for bringing this amendment, but it necessarily followed from the rather irregular manner in which the Chancery Court was mentioned in the speech. An irregularity which was rendered still more apparent, as no explanation had been given respecting it; nor did it even appear that the new rules, of which they heard so much, were the work of the Administration. Hon. members would no doubt, remember, that the Bill, establishing the Court of Chancery, was passed by a large majority in the Upper Canada Parliament, in the year 1837, but not without a great deal of discussion, and a vast number of amendments had been moved; among the number was one to the effect, that, the Solicitor who had charge of the suit, should in no case obtain more than half the estate in dispute, in payment of their fees. (Hear, hear.) At the time, that amendment was thought to be absurd, and was withdrawn—but experience has since shown, that it was in reality a very necessary amendment, and ought to have formed part of the Bill, for it frequently happens that, instead of half, they will be content with nothing less than the whole estate. He had stated that the Bill had been passed by a large majority, but there was nevertheless, a very generous feeling of doubt and hesitation, and he believed that it would not have been passed if it had not been for an amendment introduced by the hon. member for Essex, who took at that time a warm interest in the Bill, and allayed in a great measure the apprehensions of hon. members, by assuring them that here, where the machinery was perfectly new, they had no reason to anticipate the annoyances or vexatious delays, which made the English Court of Chancery odious. But he succeeded still better by proposing a tariff of costs, which was completely satisfactory, as it limited the amount of costs in any case to £13 17s. 6d. That was in 1837, but since that time there were great changes, and he was satisfied that better times were coming; for he was one of those who believed in progressive improvement and the approach of the millennium. [Hear, hear.] And one of the signs of the times was, that the lawyers, who at the passing of that bill, were, with one exception, banded together in its support, are now disagreeing among themselves. They had at all events no reason to complain that it had not had a fair trial, as it had been fourteen years in operation. With respect to the Act of last Session, he would merely say, that although he was then a member of the Administration, he had strenuously opposed it, not however, without incurring the reproach, that a shoemaker should not be above his last—and it was dropped for the time, with the understanding that it would not be resumed; however, as it had been passed, and as it appeared that some alterations had been made in the Chancery practice, he thought it would be much better if the amendment were withdrawn for the present, and opportunity given to test the working of the Court under the changes that had been introduced.
Col. GUGY explained the manner in which Equity cases were decided in Lower Canada, and was of opinion that that system, whether as regarded cost or time, would compare favourably with the practice of the U.C. Court of Chancery. He was free to admit that, personally, he knew nothing of the practice of that Court, but he had made himself thoroughly acquainted with public opinion, and he was bound to say, that, with the exception of those persons who were directly interested, there was but one opinion abroad, and that a very unfavourable one, respecting the most vexatious delays and ruinous expenses. That being the case, he thought it was the duty of that House to give way to public opinion. At the same time he wished it to be distinctly understood that he did not mean in any way to throw out insinuations against the gentleman who now filled the high and important office of Chancellor. He had met that gentleman on the floor of that House—had conceived the highest opinion of him as to his personal integrity, and had no doubt that, if he were gifted with that happy spirit of gravity and moderation which was so necessary in his high situation, he was in every other respect well qualified for it.
Mr. PRICE confessed his astonishment that the lawyers, who were themselves the men that had originated and supported that Act, should now, without a moment’s warning, turn round and unite themselves together for the purpose of sweeping it off the statute-book, without giving it even the semblance of a fair trial. But his astonishment was principally excited by the course taken by the hon. member for Norfolk, who, during the last session of Parliament, not only spoke in favour of that Bill but even voted for it. And who was Attorney General for U. Canada when the original Chancery Bill was introduced? Where was that Hon. Gentleman’s patriotism or his disinterested regard for suitors then? Or what precented the Hon. Gentleman, in the plenitude of his power, from stopping the course of that Chancery Bill and conferring its powers on the Common Law Courts? But the fact was the Hon. Gentleman well knew that, at that time, there were hundreds of cases of the most vexatious character that could not be determined by the Common Law Courts, and that it had become absolutely necessary to create another Court with increased powers, in order to afford redress to aggrieved powers, in order to afford redress to aggrieved parties. The Hon. Gentleman was well aware of that at the time, but he had now got a new light, and, seeing that this was a popular question, he wished to rescind his vote of last session, and endeavour to sweep the Act from the Statute-Book, although it had barely gone into operation, and had already cut off nine-tenths of the expenses. He would ask that Hon. Gentleman if it would not be better, wiser, and more statesman-like to watch the operations of that Act, and ascertain if it would really effect the great things that had been expected from it. He would put it to Hon. Gentlemen if it was fair or just to make this proposition now when the new Act had scarcely been acting for six months, merely because that Court had been mentioned in the Speech from the Throne? If, on the contrary, it had been in operation for three or four years, and had effected none of those reforms which had been anticipated; if the waste of time and the enormous costs were still kept up; if, in short, the country derived no benefit from it,—he would then say that they were justified in the position they assumed; but under present circumstances he could not think so.
Mr. MYERS addressed the House, but was quite inaudible.
Mr. W. H. BOULTON said it was not very extraordinary that there should be so many contradictory reports with respect to these new rules in the Court of Chancery, as the government had not thought fir to inform the house what they were. The consequence was, that one hon. gentleman stated that the expenses would be cut down nine-tenths, while another informed the house that a lawyer practising in that Court had gained an increase of 20 or 30 per cent on his costs since they were introduced. With reference to the amendment immediately before the house, he would only say that he did not feel disposed to vote for the repeal of an act passed last session, and before it had been fairly tested.
Amidst general cries of question, Mr. BOULTON (Norfolk) rose, and as well as we could distinguish charged Mr. Prince with a desire to excite a personal altercation between them.
Mr. PRICE repelled the charge. During the long space of time that he had a seat in that house, he never had, or desired to have, a personal altercation with any one. Could the hon. member for Norfolk say as much?
Mr. MALLOCH had given two votes, and very important votes, fourteen years ago, and he had regretted them ever since. One was for the establishment of the Court of Chancery—a Court which the whole country now desires to see abolished; and the other was for a marriage contract between Upper and Lower Canada. That vote he regretted more than any other he gave in his life; for it was by the votes of the Lower Canadian members that the amendment then before the house would be rejected. [Cries of “No,” “No,” from the ministerial benches.] He repeated that the public desired that that Court should be broken up, and its powers conferred on some other Court; but at the same time he felt that it was due to the gentleman at the head of that Court to say, that the greatest confidence was placed in him individually, on account of the high estimate formed of his moral worth and integrity of character.
Mr. HOPKINS said, that nineteen out of twenty of the population of the Western part of Canada were desirous of seeing the Court of Chancery remodelled in such a way as to cut down its enormous expenses. But the fact was, that there were too many lawyers in the house—the majority of the house was composed of lawyers—and the lawyers made laws for themselves, and they took good care that they should not lose anything by them. He had been told once, by one of the Governors of Upper Canada, that if they wished to maintain peace and good order, they must keep the lawyers out of the house, and he believed that the advice was good, for they seemed to forget the public interests altogether, in their desire to strengthen and establish their own class interests.
Mr. LYON said, the business of the Court of Chancery might be very well transferred to the other superior courts the business in which would be materially diminished, by the extended powers, that it appeared were to be granted to the inferior courts. With respect to the appointment of three Judges in that Court for the purpose of performing the duties which one person performed for fourteen years, the reasons for doing so were no doubt best known to the Government, but he could not see the slightest occasion for it, or for the services of two of the Judges, who might be much better employed elsewhere. For the court was in reality ruled by one man, as much now as when there had been only one Judge on the bench, instead of three. The question was then put on the amendment.
Yeas.—Messieurs Badgley, Boulton of Norfolk, Christie, Gugy, Hopkins, Johnson, Lyon, Malloch, McConnell, McLean, Meyers, Papineau, Prince, Sanborn, Seymour, Smith of Frontenac, Stevenson.—17.
Nays.—Messieurs Armstrong, Attorney General Baldwin, Bell, Boulton of Toronto, Boutillier, Cameron of Cornwall, Cartier, Cauchon, Chabot, Davignon, DeWitt, Solicitor General Drummond, Duchesnay, Dumas, Fergusson, Flint, Fortier, Fourtnier, Guillet, Inspector General Hincks, Jobin, Lacoste, Attorney General Lafontaine, Laterriere, Laurin, Lemieux, McFarland, Merritt, Methot, Mongenais, Morrison, Nelson, Notman, Polette, Price, Richards, Robinson, Ross, Sauvageau, Scott of Two Mountains, Smith of Durham, Smith of Wentworth, Tache, Thompson, Viger.—45.
Mr. HINCKS rose amid loud cries of order from the Opposition. He said he was perfectly in order, and trusted that he would be permitted to make one remark. An hon. member who had spoken only a short time before had indulged in a species of clap-trap—(Sir A. McNab, “order.”) Yes clap-trap, which was not unfrequently heard in that House about the votes of hon. members from Lower Canada being made use of to decide local questions adverse to the wishes of the Upper Canada members. He wanted to call the attention of that hon. member to the division that had just taken place, and he would find, that the question in reality was decided by a majority of the Upper Canada members.
Mr. MALLOCH—Yes. A majority tied to the Government.
Mr. SMITH (Frontenac) then moved another amendment, expressive of an opinion that the expenses of the Court of Chancery were entirely disproportioned to the resources of the country, or the wants of the people.
Yeas 19, Nays 39.
Mr. ROBINSON moved an amendment to the 13th clause, for the purpose of expressing the wish of the house that the expense of erecting Gaols and Court Houses in Lower Canada should be defrayed by local assessment, instead of being taken from the general revenue.
Mr. BALDWIN said the system adopted by hon. members opposite, of moving amendments of that extraordinary nature was entirely moved, and such as would not be seen in any other part of the world. It seemed as though hon. members imagined, that any motion, no matter what, or how extravagant could be brought up, when considering the address in reply to the speech from the throne,—attended as a matter of course with the usual waste of time and long debates. It was really a very singular idea, the hon. gentlemen appeared to entertain, that they could discuss all the business of the Session on the address. The question was then put,
Yeas.—Messieurs Badgley, Boulton of Norfolk, Boultan of Toronto, Cameron of Cornwall, Hopkins, Malloch, McConnell, Meyers, Prince, Robinson, Smith of Frontenac, and Stevenson.—17.
Nays.—Messieurs Armstrong, Attorney General Baldwin, Cameron of Kent, Cartier, Cauchon, Chabot, DeWitt, Solicitor General Drummond, Duchesnay, Dumas, Fergusson, Fourtnier, Forquin, Gugy, Guillet, Inspector General Hincks, Homes, Jobin, Lacoste, Attorney General Lafontaine, La Terriere, Laurin, Lemieux, Merritt, Methot, Mongenais, Morrison, Nelson, Papineau, Polette, Price, Richards, Ross, Sauvageau, Scott of Two Mountains, and Viger.—37.
ELECTIVE LEGISLATIVE COUNCIL.
Mr. BOULTON (Norfolk) moved his amendment, on Household Suffrage, and an Elective Council.
Mr. BALDWIN objected to his amendment on the same grounds that he had urged against the last. That was not the time for discussing those details of the business of the Session. He did not mean however to say, that some improvements could not be made in the elective franchise, although he was not prepared to go so far as Household Suffrage. With respect to an Elective Council, that was a proposition he was decidedly opposed to, and never would entertain, he did not care what others might think respecting it.
Mr. W. H. BOULTON regretted exceedingly that a proposition for establishing an Elective Council in Canada was not mentioned in the speech from the Throne. For he thought the time had come for a change in that respect, and this was the last time that he would be prepared to see a Parliament of Upper Canada, throw out that question. In fact, he could not understand how it was even then that the hon. gentlemen whom he saw in front of him—the authors and supported of the ninety-two resolutions—should be determined to throw out this proposition, which the state of the country had rendered necessary. Hon. gentlemen appeared to have forgotten every thing that had occurred during the last twelve months, when the country was almost brought to the verge of a revolution. And the manner in which the infamous Rebellion Loss Bill—the debates on which he had no wish to revive—was passed last Session—had convinced the whole country, that there was a degree of power lodged somewhere, with which it was not safe to entrust any set of men; and the result was that a cry had been raised that would never otherwise have been heard. For the eyes of the public had been opened and they perceived clearly, that if it was in the power of the present administration to fill the Council with men pledged to carry that Bill, or any others which they required to pass. It was equally in the power of their opponents, whenever they succeeded in turning them out of office, to act in the same high handed manner, if they found such a course necessary for their purpose. They understood clearly that the Council ought to be a perfectly independent body, and that it never could be so, as long as it was in the power of the dominant party in the lower House to pack it in such a manner as to carry out any particular views they had determined on. That was clearly understood, and the time had at last arrived when steps should be taken to prevent any particular body of men from retaining a power, which they could not exercise without danger. A striking case of that abuse of power occurred in the Legislature of South Carolina, in which the dominant party, who only had a majority of one, disfranchised the whole body of Roman Catholics in the State. In that case, power was exercised to the detriment of the great mass of the community, and in the case he had already cited in Canada, it was exercised in exactly the same manner. He would admit that he had not given the question that due consideration which it required and which it had received from other hon. members, but he would ask the hon. Attorney General East, the author of the ninety-two resolutions, in which it was affirmed that Canada could not exist, except she had an Elective Council, to explain why she did not stand in as much need of it now? And he would also expect the hon. member for St. Maurice, who had studied this subject deeply, would give the House his views on the subject. For himself, he could merely say, that he was convinced of the absolute necessity of elective institutions in Canada, and that they were better adapted to it than others that could be devised; [hear, hear,] for there was no country under the sun, in which, from the peculiarly agricultural character of its population, democracy was more firmly established, [hear, hear, from the ministerial benches.]
Mr. MCCONNELL would vote for the plan of an Elective Council, as he was convinced of its necessity by the proceedings of last session, but he would oppose that portions of the amendment which went to establish household suffrage.
Mr. LAFONTAINE had not the slightest doubt that Mr. Boulton’s advocacy of the principle of Elective Councils would be entirely successful. But it was at that moment quite impossible to entertain that proposition in the abstract, as it would be necessary to take several other points, in connection it, into consideration, which would necessarily effect a complete change in our system of government. He would mention one, and ask the hon. gentleman if he were prepared to assume the responsibility of it. He alluded to the exclusion of the cabinet from both houses. The hon. gentleman would easily perceive that the consideration of that question would not merely involve the dissolution of the Council under its present form, and its reconstruction under another form, but it would also involve a number of other considerations for which they must be fully prepared. For his own part, he was not prepared to say that something might not be done at another time to render the Council more conservative in its character than it is at present; but he would repel any attempt to constitute such a council here as has been established at the Cape of Good Hope, [hear, hear,] which, from the state of society, may be very well adapted to the wants of that colony, but would be very unsuitable for Canada. With respect to the ninety-two resolutions, it was very true than an elective council was advocated in them, them, but responsible government was not at that time thought of, and the change in the form of government had been so great, that it was not so necessary as under the old system. The hon. member had said that the annexation cry had been raised in consequence of the Legislative Council passing the Rebellion Losses Bill. Perhaps the hon. member was an annexationist himself? The hon. member, he believed, had been called on by his constituents to define his position; but however that might be, one thing was quite certain, that the signers of the “Manifesto” never assigned that as a reason for annexation. [Hear, hear.] He would repeat again, that he was not prepared to say that the elective principle might not be so applied to the Legislative Council, as to make to more conservative than at present; but the question had not been agitated since the union of the Colonies up to the present moment; and, as it would effect a complete organic change in the constituents, a good many gentlemen from Lower Canada were of opinion that it should not be acted on, until the people had an opportunity of expressing their opinions at the polls. [Hear, hear.] That being the case, he hoped the hon. member for Norfolk would consider whether the present was the time at which this question could be brought forward most effectually. For his part he thought it was not.
Sir A. MCNAB asserted that the Annexation cry was caused solely by the Rebellion Losses Bill, which had been devised for the express purpose of paying rebels by an hon. gentleman who then sat opposite to him, as the head of the Administration, but who, in the time of Lord Seaton had been called a rebel—
Mr. LAFONTAINE. “Never.”
Sir A. MCNAB. Was not a warrant issued for that hon. gentleman, with a reward of £500 for his capture, and did not he fly from Montreal to England, and when the warrant was sent over to England after him, did not he fly over to France as soon as he found it out?
Amidst some confusion Mr. LAFONTAINE denied the correctness of Sir Allan’s assertions.
Dr. DAVIGNON also said that Sir Allan appeared to be in error.
Sir A. MCNAB reiterated his statements, and defied the Hon. Attorney General East to deny them. They were too true. The hon. gentleman concocted that rebellion, and then fled from the country, leaving his friends to manage as well as they could. What did either of those four hon. gentlemen who sat in front of him do, when the peace of the City of Toronto was assailed by armed rebels, and when Her Majesty’s representative called on her loyal subjects to stand by him in the defence of the country and its institutions? Where was the Hon. Attorney General East? Fled to France. Where was the Hon. Attorney General West? Taking care of his books and papers. Where was the Hon. Inspector General? Skulking in his hammock. Where was the Hon. Commissioner of Crown Lands? Not to be found anywhere. And yet these hon. gentlemen went up to His Excellency only a few months ago, and pretending a marvellous love for the institutions of the country, advised him to dismiss from the Commission of the Peace a number of highly respectable magistrates and militia officers—men who had in 1837 turned out in arms and driven that Hon. gentleman from the country he had agitated, merely because they had signed their names to a document expressive of their views in the altered state of the country. It was no wonder that the loyal population of Montreal felt themselves insulted, for he insisted on it, that they were the most loyal body of men in the Province, [Hear, hear, from Mr. Hincks,] for when seven thousand of them waited on His Excellency with a petition, praying that he would not assent to the Rebellion Losses Bill, in what manner was their petition received? Why, they were informed that “it would receive his very best consideration.” Was that the kind of answer to return to men who, in the time of trouble and danger, had placed themselves foremost—had stood out in the front rank, and bared their breasts to the steel? The men who advised that answer sat opposite. He would not compare the men of Montreal with them, for they would suffer infinitely by the comparison; but he would ask them, if they thought they were competent to advise His Excellency in that matter? And before they have their answer, it would be well for them to recollect that their position—some of them, as he had already said, having been actually engaged in concocting that Rebellion, was exceedingly delicate. At a subsequent stage of the proceedings, the Governor was pelted through the streets, and he was exceedingly sorry to hear it; but he was quite confident that a stone would never have been thrown at him, if he had adopted a different line of conduct. The result of it was, that His Excellency shut himself up in his own particular cell at Monklands for three months, instead of riding into town every day to perform his duty. As a matter of course, his Cabinet had advised him that his dignity was insulted. And finally they removed the Government to this place, where he was very glad to see it, as it was so much nearer his own home. The Hon. gentleman gave a very detailed history of the manner in which the Rebellion Losses Bill was introduced and carried through Parliament; and also alluded, but more concisely, to the Representation Bill of last session, which he said was an open attempt on the part of the Ministry to secure themselves permanently in office. That was perfectly clear from the manner in which Mr. Couchon, whom he believed to be more in the confidence of the Ministry than any other man, had spoken of it in his paper. But he would advise them, before they renewed the attempt, to wait until they could get the sense of the people at the polls.
Mr. MERRITT had listened with much pain to the speech of the hon. member of Hamilton; he would have listened with pleasure had he been discussing a practical measure, but the same topics which had been discussed for days and weeks last session, and which had led to scenes of violence of which the less that was then said the better, he could not here notice without pain. He should not follow the hon. member in the course he had taken. They had left the scenes of violence behind them in Lower Canada, and now he entertained confident anticipations that they were about to enjoy a season of more peace and quietness than they had lately passed through. The country would not prosper till the feelings of animosity which had produced these scenes were buried forever. It was improper for the hon. member to mention the Governor General in that house; it was the ministry who had advised them that were responsible for the acts he had complained of; the Governor had acted in the manner which the constitution required of him, in assenting to the bill, and for so doing he had been eulogized by all good men throughout the length and breadth of the land. He believed that the Indemnity bill, notwithstanding all that had been said against it, had effected a great deal of good; it had shown to the people of Canada that they possessed the power of self government,—that the Imperial government would not interfere with their right. He could understand the anger of the hon. gentleman and the member for Huron, who had gone to England to ask the Imperial authorities to say, that the minority of the people of Canada should rule the majority. That demand had come before the House of Commons, and a very large majority came to the determination to allow the people of Canada to govern themselves; they were a million and a half in number and able to manage their own affairs; they had also expressed their approval of the noble conduct of the Governor General—the first constitutional Governor that Upper Canada ever had. The question had come before the House of Lords, also, and a majority there, too, had decided that self-government was necessary for Canada. Lord John Russell’s speech on the Commons would prove, if any one doubted, that they possessed that power. To come to the motion, then, of the member for Norfolk. If the people of the Province desired an elective Legislative Council, they would have it; anything that they desired, they could obtain; if they wised the honorable member for Hamilton to form a government it would be so. Why then did he not wait patiently; his turn might come soon, but not with a minority, and not by means of force and violence in which he would fail. No appeal to the passions would succeed in Upper Canada; the contest must be waged in a peaceable and constitutional manner, and be decided at the polls. The people desired to see the fruits of this right of self-government in good practical legislation, for the benefit of the country, which could only be effected by the united efforts of both sides of the house. He believed that they would have no more violence in that house; they would quarrel about administration, he dared say, and he had no objections to that, but they would not do it in that bitter and violent manner which had marked the debates on recent occasions. As to the motion before them, it was not the proper time to discuss it; he believed, however, that there was a majority of the people in favor of elective institutions; and if they wished that principle applied to the Legislative Council it would be done.
COLONEL GUGY said that he was not in favor of an elective Legislative Council. He had hitherto had a spokesman to express his opinions in the honorable and gallant knight; but the time had come for him to dissent from the course pursued by that honorable member—to declare that he disapproved of the manner in which he had conducted this debate. That hon. gentleman occupied a high and powerful position, in which he had the power of doing much good to his country, and of advancing its highest interests; but in his place that night he had not shown a proper sense of his position. He had only displayed an anxiety to wound, to lacerate the feelings of those opposed to him. The hon. member, perhaps, did not intend it so; but there was little doubt that it would go abroad, that he approved of the scenes of violence which had passed before their eyes last year, of which he was sure no Christian man, no man of good feeling could help disapproving. He was forced to create this breach with his friends and the act gave him the greatest pain. He could not expect either, any sympathy from members on the other side of the House, whom he differed from on many subjects, who had not been consulted, and knew nothing beforehand of the step he was then taking. He intended course was well known to his friends on his own side of the House however; the matter had been discussed in private, and he had made no secret of his views. He would put the question on the broadest possible ground; on that debate depended the continuance in office of the Administration. He had had no communication with the Ministry; he appealed to them whether he had had any communication with them; but he felt that he was bound by his sense of duty to his country not to do anything to endanger their tenure of office. He wanted peace, and was averse to scenes of violence; and he felt that the natural effect of the course of the gallant Knight was anarchy and confusion. There was already a great relaxation of social bonds in the country; the standard of political morals was already too low, and the first duty of the Legislature was to raise it. He [Colonel Gugy] had all his life acted with the minority, and he expected still to continue to do so; but he was not to be caught assuming a position and laying down principles at one time, which he could not do at another. He was prepared to bow to the decision of the majority. Every one knew that he was not pleased with the events which had preceded those scenes of violence which the gallant knight had alluded to with questionable taste; he was grieved by them, but he bowed to the will of the majority. He might be willing to see the dismissal of the ministry, but he could see no chance of such a result from the course of the hon. member. If by a coalation [sic] between members, who like him were monarchically inclined, and those who were prepared to connect the province with the neighbouring republic, they could turn out that ministry, what would they substitute for them? Could they form an administration to take their places which would last an hour? Could they sit at the same board and not eat each other up? Perhaps the hon. member hoped that he would eat up the other members as Aaron’s rod swallowed all the rest. If they could bring about such a result ought they to do so? He thought that it was their duty to abstain from all attacks on the administration in regard to their treatment of the annexation question. One who had fought the battles of his country like the honorable and gallant knight should have rather manifested a desire to support the constitution and those who supported it. He should not enter deeply into the discussion of the speech—it was full of matter and to him it appeared gentle in tone and to embrace every subject upon which to bring about a coalition of parties, except indeed the Clergy Reserves. It spoke of practical measures that the country required, which the House would be much better employed in discussing than recalling scenes which it were much better to drop. He thought it was his right and his duty to say a few words on the subject of annexation. It appeared to him that it was one of the tendencies of the age and country to agitate upon every subject which was capable of agitation. A few persons of sufficient wealth, who were interested in a particular measure, met together and then they set the press in motion, and so an agitation was got up with great facility. Now he considered that the honorable and gallant knight as a great party leader might have stepped forward to reprove and denounce such a system. These agitators assumed the right to dictate to members of Parliament? they assumed all the merit of the measures if they were successful, while they assumed no responsibility of failure. The annexation movement had been got up in this way, and the only effect which it had hitherto produced was the thorough disruption of the Conservative party. There was no doubt that this had been the result, and the consequence was that he had no party to fall back upon, for he would rather return into private life, never to emerge from it, than represent annexation interests. He hoped that he would retain to his dying day his love for the Mother country and his pride in the name of Canadian. The annexationist appealed to the most sordid feelings of the human heart, the love of money. The gallant Colonel then contended that annexation would not cause that influx of wealth which its advocates expected. It was usual to talk about the poverty of Canada, but it should be recollected that it was but a young country and had had but little time to accumulate capital, but improvement was going on at a rapid rate. He would say that the city in which they were then assembled was fit to be called the city of giants, the produce as it was of one generation. What accumulation of capital had taken place here during that time in houses, in public works, in under draining. They might compare the city favorably with any on the face of the earth, considering the short period of its existence; they should point to it as proof of what could be done in Canada; she was young, active and making rapid strides in improvement, and there was no country where the comforts and necessaries of life were more generally enjoyed by the people. He had found that the men who favored annexation were the most vicious of the community, men who had failed in everything they had undertaken, and were ready to rush into any scheme, however wild and extravagant. They were afflicted with the vices of sordid avarice and of dishonest speculation; he would not say that every annexationist was a drunkard, but he had found that every drunkard was an annexationist; they had lowered and were ready for any scheme to raise themselves. The gallant Colonel again expressed his regret at severing the tie with his political friends. Except in the cases where ministers were clearly proved to be in the wrong, he felt that the only course left to him was to support them. One of the reasons for his doing so was their conduct—wise, honest and true, on the annexation question. It was the only course they could have pursued; the offices of the Crown, the militia captains, the magistrates and others derived a certain amount of influence from their position; would it have been fitting to permit those who favoured annexation to use that power to overturn the constitution. Some reference had been made to the removal of the seat of government; that subject had but little effect upon his mind; he did not think that it was for the benefit of any community to have the seat of government amongst them; it encouraged luxury and extravagance, and excited feelings of bitter enmity. That opinion was a very common one in Montreal and the removal of the government was generally acquiesced in.
Mr. CHRISTIE was not distinctly heard in the gallery. He was understood to be ridiculing Col. Gugy for the change he had just announced.
Dr. NELSON was greatly pained by the hear and violence displayed by the hon. and gallant Knight, unbecoming a gentleman of his years and standing. He hoped that the violence was only in his manner and not in his heart—that he had spoken on the impulse of the moment. He trusted that he had no intention of exciting again those disgraceful scenes which had occurred elsewhere, to the lasting shame and disgrace of Canada. One would have thought that, at the present crisis, every one would have endeavoured to cast oil upon the troubled waters, have co-operated in the cause of their country, to assist in gaining for her a better name than she had hitherto obtained. He regretted that the hon. and gallant Knight had not endeavoured, in that campaign, to add laurels to those he had already gathered; it was a pity that, instead of doing so, he had withered those which before crowned his brow. He deplored the attempts to lacerate the feelings of those opposed to him by the honorable member; it pained him to hear the word rebel coming from men’s mouths. When applied to him (Dr. Nelson) he said it was false as hell; he had been a rebel, not to the sovereign, but to a vile oligarchy, composed of men like those to whom Great Britain owed the loss of the thirteen Colonies. If men like the present advisers of her Majesty had occupied that position in the reign of her grandfather, all America would yet have belonged to the British crown. With the exception of one person, none who took up arms with him [Dr. N.] wished to separate the Province from the mother country; they rebelled because they were deprived of their rights as British subjects—because they could not enjoy the privileges of British institutions; they wished no more, and would have been satisfied with no less. They had held many public meetings before the revolt, at one of which he was president, as the hon. member had said. He thought that his name had been brought up that evening before people who did not know the circumstances of the case, for no kindly purpose, with a disposition to excite feelings of ill-will, which ought to be set at rest in the country for ever. He hoped that he was wrong, and if he was so, he begged the hon. member’s pardon. In the days of old, a stigma had been attached to him, unworthy of the name of his family, and his own feelings and conduct. He was glad to hear the manner in which the hon. members from Lincoln and the town of Sherbrooke had spoken on the subject, and hoped that it would have a good effect. The hon. member for Hamilton had made an attack upon the Catholic Clergymen and people of Lower Canada. Did his mind not go back when he spoke thus to his near associations with the members of that church? Did the virtue, piety, and dignity of persons now gone, not remind him of the injustice he did to that church? He designed, no doubt, to excite the feelings of the people of Upper Canada against their Lower Canadian countrymen, to induce them to wage war against them. The people of Lower Canada were loyal, and to whom was that loyalty owing? why to the clergy of the Catholic church, who were maligned by many professing loyalists. He had been in his younger days a red-hot Tory, and prepared to meet with hatred everything Catholic and French Canadian, but a closer acquaintance with the people had changed his views; he was soon satisfied by communication with their leaders, that in politics they asked no more than their rights. He had since jeopardized the fruits of thirty-years labor in the cause of these rights. A false and unkind report had been lately spread abroad that he was induced by personal motives to support the Indemnity Act—that he was about to get a slice of the hundred thousand pounds. The hon. member for Huron had said that it was through the influence of the hon. member for Norfolk that he [Dr. Nelson] had consented to renounce his claim to a share of the indemnity.
Mr. CAYLEY said that Mr. Henry John Boulton had told him so.
Dr. NELSON resumed—Yes, that hon. member plumed himself on having saved the ministry; they would have fallen down if he had not helped them up. He had anticipated the honorable gentleman when he came to him [Dr. Nelson] on the subject; he had said that if any sacrifice of his was necessary to procure restitution for the unfortunate sufferers who had lost all, he was willing to make it, and he had said before then to some honorable friends in that house a few days before, that he was prepared to do so. If there was any credit due for the action, it was due to himself and not to the honorable member for Norfolk. Those who attributed to him selfish and pecuniary motives in the course which he at any time pursued, misrepresented him and knew him not. It was to that was referred his support of the present ministry. But he supported them, because their motive was evidently a desire to promote the public good, while the conduct of those who opposed them, originated in a desire for their own self advancement. He said it was getting late, or he should advert to several other topics in the speech, the consideration of which would undoubtedly come up again. It was difficulty he said, to curb one’s indignation, on hearing the objections that are raised against the present government of the Province; which were urged by men who would not pursue that course were they true patriots, or were they influenced by a desire to serve their country, and who were not worthy to untie the shoe-latchets of those who they maligned. The Lower Canadians also had been misrepresented; they had been kept in the back ground, and studiously neglected. He trusted, however, that the union of the two Provinces, which was meant for their destruction, would ultimately prove their salvation; and he hoped the day would arrive when there would exist no rivalry between parties, but as to which could best promote the public interest. In all the communications which he had had with the French Canadians, he had endeavoured to dispel those prejudices they entertained against the British population, which had originated in the treatment the former had received at their hands. He would tell the House—and his Honor the Speaker knew it well,—that the Lower Canadians desire nothing more than their political rights; he should like to see in what manner the leaguers and annexationists would take the field; and was satisfied that no class of men would come forward with more alacrity in defence of their country, than the French Canadians were it invaded by a foreign enemy. Thought they had been formerly promised that they should be well treated, yet, whatever might be the state of the public mind in England, these promises had never been realized, owing to the pernicious influence exercised at Downing-st. This, we was happy to say, existed to that extent no longer; and it was this altered condition of things, which had induced a disappointed and prostate party to raise the cry for annexation, because they could no longer rule the country and precent the advancement of honest men, and who called the French Canadians rebels! He [Mr. N.] had a natural horror for arms and warfare, but had been thrust into it; for nothing remained for him under the circumstances in which he was placed, than to do so, or allow his castle—an Englishman’s castle—to be attacked, and tumbled about his ears. He trusted, however, that the position he then assumed, would not cast a stain upon his character after he had been dead and gone, or a reproach upon his children. One fact, he said, was not sufficiently known—it was, the conduct of himself and the French Canadians, while expatriated and residing in a foreign land; did they asperse the Sovereign of whom they were the subjects, or the great empire to which they were still attached, and of which this Province forms a part? No; they refused the rights of citizenship which were freely offered them in the United States, notwithstanding the unbounded hospitality with which they were treated there; but said, in reply, that they still hoped to go back and enjoy undisturbed their rights as British subjects; they told the Americans, that it was the same men who had tyrannised over them and who formerly compelled them to take up arms in defence of their rights—and thus produced the severance of the then colonies from Great Britain—who had drawn them also into rebellion. These were the individuals who oppressed the people of Canada—monopolised all the offices, wealth, and influence of the land—and closed the avenues of advancement against honest men. Notwithstanding all that those who with him had been expatriated, had suffered from persons in authority, they still loved their native country as their mother, and England as their foster-father; they were always desirous of returning to that country—and they had returned. For himself, he felt happy in having taken part in the contest with men who were actuated by no improper motive, and who were most desirous of advancing the best interests of Canada. It spoke well for the Head of the Government, that in the course he is pursuing, he is actuated by principle. The inhabitants of this country have now a taste of that good government for which they so long had signed; and he trusted, that for the sake of its peace, honour, and welfare, hon. members would no longer advert to that, which would only create the recurrence of bad and angry feelings; and that those gentlemen in the House, who were more advanced in life, and to whom the younger portion looked up for examples of moderation and magnanimity, would not disappoint those just expectations.
Mr. SANBORN said, he was placed in a situation different from almost any other member in that House; he was not bound down by any ties, actuated by any prejudice, or pledged to any party in the Assembly. He could not, therefore, enter into those strong feelings, which gentlemen on both sides entertained towards each other. It had been remarked by the gallant Knight, that the desire for annexation was caused by the Rebellion Losses Bill; that was not the case, although it might have increased it. It would be found, however, that a large number of individuals who were most forward in the first instance, in promoting the annexation movement, were now the most loyal, and the most determined opponents of that measure. With reference to the present Government of the Province, he believed, the members who compose it, are liberal men; and are desirous, while carrying on the Government, of promoting the best interests of the country. He believed many gentlemen in the House were of that opinion, who did not deem it expedient to avow their sentiments, but who, nevertheless, desired the continuance of the present Ministry; as they were satisfied no other set of public men could be found, who would so well fill their places. He (Mr. S.) would say, fearlessly, that he wished the gentlemen at present forming the Ministry, to remain in power; for he felt assured, there was no party in the House, which was competent to succeed them—none so united, or who would act so unanimously, as to be able to carry on the Government successfully. He disagreed with the member from Huron, in his remarks of yesterday, as to what the Government had effected. He (Mr. S.) thought they had done much, and had procured the enactment of laws, that were calculated to promote the best interests of the Province; among which, as of the utmost importance, he would name the Portland Railroad Bill. Then, as to the Judicature Bill, from the hurried manner in which it had been passed, he was surprised it was so perfect, as it is. He said, he regretted as much as any member could, that allusion should have been made to a measure that had cause much trouble. The Rebellion Losses Bill had no precedent in history; and he believed that those who brought it forward, now deemed it to be impolitic themselves. But he was desirous that all discussion should be suppressed, and that the recollection of what had occurred, should be buried in oblivion. The members of that House, he said, had higher duties to perform, and which would not allow them to engage in a course of conduct that would disgrace less important bodies; they were sent for other purposes than to create dissension, and to endeavour to weaken that support, which the Government received in the Assembly. There were some subjects on which he differed with the Government, yet this would not prevent him from supporting them as to those of public and general usefulness. He differed from them with reference to annexation; and notwithstanding what had been said by the Hon. gentleman who misrepresented the town of Sherbrooke, and the feelings of that county, its inhabitants were favourable to annexation, if it could be obtained peaceably. He [Mr. S.] was surprised that men entertaining liberal sentiments, should pursue the course the Ministry had done relative to this question, and in opposition to principles which every British subject held dear; and had exhibited a desire to control the right of petitioning, and the freedom of speech. The absurdity of the course they had pursued in this instance, had been exemplified by the removal from office in the county which he represented, of individuals who were most useful members of society; where magistrates, who had acted honestly for years, had been officially beheaded, because they dared to express their views in favour of annexation, provided it did not clash with those entertained by Great Britain—and who had a right so to do. He thought this condition had been overlooked by the Government, who, having once committed themselves, felt bound to proceed. He believed their desire was to do right in the first instance; and in the second place, hoped that as honest men, they would retrace their steps, even although it might call down upon them the sneers of their opponents. By removing men in whom the people had every confidence, and who had been so long in office, the members of the Government had not only disgraced themselves, but they had brought authority into contempt. Power without dignity, he said, degenerated into childish retaliation; and no remark could be more applicable than this, as respected the course pursued by the Ministry; which had been placed in the more glaring light, from the difficulty that had been experienced in replacing those who had been dismissed. The Government had departed from the customary course, and had not, as usual, consulted the representatives of the county, but had taken the advice of irresponsible persons, and appointed those who were notoriously bad. In one instance, a party had been appointed who had been guilty of fraud, who had been disrobed for his dishonesty towards his clients, and for falsifying the records of the Court; and others had been appointed, who had never been guilty of writing a sentence of good English in their lifetime. The only person in the town of Sherbrooke, who had not signed the petition for annexation, at first refused the offer of a situation which was tendered him. In this dilemma, fortunately for the Government, he retracted at this critical conjuncture, had repented of his sin, and received absolution, in the shape of a commission. A man who had been guilty of systematic bankruptcy, had also been set up as an example to others, and a terror to evil-doers. Since his arrival, he had heard of the appointment of a party in his own county, who certainly could not be known to the Government as he is there known; who had been in jail for forgery, and who was notorious as a rogue:—on him the commission of the peace had been bestowed. Did not these appointments reflect upon the character of the Ministry, and prove that the measure which originally had been adopted, was leading to bad results, Mr. S. concluded by repeating, that it was not his intention to offer any factious opposition to Government. As to the dismissals that had taken place—he was still a young man—but there were members in that House, who were twice his age, and who would, doubtless, live long enough to hear those dismissals condemned by the entire community.
Mr. DEWITT followed, but from the low tone of his voice, it was impossible to ascertain the tenor of his remarks, with sufficient accuracy faithfully to report them.
Mr. DUNBAR ROSS had heard sentiments uttered that day, which he could not allow to pass uncontradicted; he alluded to observations that had been made during the debate on the Court of Chancery, in which it had been stated that the members for Lower Canada would resist the proposed amendments, from a determination to support the ministry. He [Mr. R.] was well acquainted with his colleagues from Lower Canada, and was satisfied they would not vote for any measure which their conscience condemned; they would not so vote to support any party. The object of the movers of the several amendments, was to obtain a victory over those to whom they were opposed. The members from the Lower Province, would doubtless refrain from voting in favor of measures which they did not fully understand. Still each one of them represented an eighty-fourth part of the population of the entire Province; and profess to have sufficient information and ability to be able to give their opinion on all subjects, upon which persons generally can be expected to be informed. But such questions as that with reference to the Court of Chancery they did not pretend to understand. And when they saw it brought up indirectly as in the case referred to and were called upon to pass an opinion as to a vote, which was intended to turn out the ministry; they were not so short-sighted as not to comprehend what it meant. They would endeavour to do their duty faithfully on all occasions and to oppose the return to power of the old family compact party.—He had hoped on entering the House, that its political atmosphere would have exhibited a more genial temperature than he had witnessed; and that reference would not be made during the session to scenes and circumstances, which it was desirable should not again be alluded to; but unfortunately a proposition to that effect had been introduced by the gallant knight on a previous day; whether this was for the purpose of creating discord and violence in Toronto or not, he best knew himself; but the people of Toronto were far too intelligent a class to be taken in by such clap-trap. [Cheers.] It was a measure of which the parties with whom it originated should, themselves, be ashamed. He should expect that the older members would not set an example, which might produce unnecessary and dangerous excitement. He was satisfied, however, that the gallant knight already regretted the course which he had pursued. He [Mr. R.] would be very sorry to see the ministry retire; and he did not know what would be the destiny of Canada if they were succeeded by the party who formerly ruled in this colony; who had sacrificed the character of the country at home and abroad—a party which required, as themselves had stated, that it should be lashed into action, so as to command a majority of one; and which he wished and lashed into the exercise of common sense and a desire to promote the good of the country. He should have refrained from any other observations at that time, had it not been for the allusion to annexation made by the member from Sherbrooke. With that exception, the sentiments which he had uttered did him credit as a British subject. But the question of annexation should not be introduced on the floor of that House; a British Colonial Parliament was not the place to argue for or against it.
Mr. SANBORN—I alluded to the subject in the defensive.
Mr. ROSS—Whether in the offensive or defensive, the subject was decidedly offensive to him, and he could not refer to it without a feeling or indignation. It originated in the ungrateful minds of certain persons, because they could no longer rule the Province; and proved that the loyalty of which they so much boasted, was merely filthy rags. Allusion, Mr. R. said, had been made by the member for Sherbrooke, Mr. Sanborn, to a gentleman who had received an appointment in the county of which he is a representative; it might be that the individual alluded to was the one who had presented a petition against the hon. member’s being returned to that house. He was a member of the Quebec bar, and had committed no act there of which he need be ashamed; he was highly respectable, and did not deserve what had been said against him.
Mr. SANBORN here offered to adduce proof of the correctness of his statements.
Mr. ROSS continued—No member of the Quebec bar had ever been disrobed; of that he was certain. The language which had been used, however, he said, was not suited to this side of the line 45, although its coarse tone might be acceptable on the other. It was unsuited to that house, and was inconsistent with the sense of propriety by which its members should be actuated. He should detain the house no longer, and would not have taken part in the debate, if it had not been asserted that the members from Lower Canada would flock to give their support to the ministry, even on questions which they did not understand.
Mr. W. H. BOULTON desired to explain that he had no wish to make any allusion unfavourable to Lower Canada members, with reference to a motion lately before the house. So far from that being the case, he had himself votes with them on that subject.
Sir A. N. MCNAB wished to explain to the hon. member for Richelieu that he had no desire whatever to speak slightingly of the Roman Catholic Clergy. He had been informed, and he could state his authority.—(Name, name.) He would give the name when he found it was necessary.—He had been informed that the hon. member for Richelieu had boasted that he could obtain the support of the whole of the Roman Catholic Clergy. And it was in allusion to that, he had said that the hon. Gentleman was welcome to their support. He could assure him that he had no the slightest intention of offering any insult to that very respectable body.
Mr. HOLMES said that it was with extreme regret that he rose to blame the Ministry, for the course taken by them on this subject as he had always hitherto supported them zealously, under the impression that they could give more general satisfaction as a Government, under our present system or constitution than any other party. Those hon. gentlemen had advised the Governor to say that the principles of Annexation were not entertained by any respectable portion of the public. He believed that statement was erroneous. For he felt confident that Annexation principles were entertained by a large proportion of the inhabitants, not merely of the city, but of the District of Montreal. And if those hon. members (the Cabinet,) were removed from the Treasury Benches, it would prove that his statement was correct. They were, however, apparently in advance of the time, and the consequence was, the highly blameable attempt made by the Government to gag their mouths, and prevent them exercising their right of free expression of opinion. What was this manifesto, which had drawn down the wrath of the Ministry? A mere statement of the views entertained by the people who had signed it, respecting the altered circumstances of the Province, and of the opinion they had formed, and the distress and ruin brought upon them would meet with relief by a union with the prosperous and happy Republic in our neighbourhood. And he hurled back with scorn and contempt the insinuation, that the parties who enunciated and avowed those sentiments were a set of bankrupts and drunkards. They were a highly respectable and independent body of Englishmen, who had studied the question deeply and earnestly—and who not only did not deserve the epithets heaped upon them, but were also free from the imputation of being either office-holders or office-seekers; and they had arrived at the conclusion that this colony could no longer be governed by Downing Street in accordance with the wants or the wishes of its inhabitants. Let any Canadian go to Great Britain now, let him go to Downing Street, and dance attendance there from day to day, and see in what manner he would be treated. Why, with the most perfect contempt; and if he did at last gain an interview, he would find that not only the mass of the English people, but even the Colonial Office itself was in the most profound ignorance on every subject connected with Canada.
Mr. HINCKS. What would take him to Downing Street?
Mr. HOLMES. What would take him to Downing Street? Why, to present petitions occasionally!
Mr. HINCKS. Against the Acts of the Provincial Parliament?
Mr. HOLMES, No. Not against the Acts of the Provincial Parliament. The Hon. Gentleman who had interrupted him, had himself procured a letter of introduction to Downing Street for a gentleman of the highest ability and enterprise, who was desirous of establishing a line of vessels between Bremen and other continental ports and Quebec, for the purpose of securing the carriage of the extensive European immigration on its way to the West. Well, after a vast deal of trouble and delay, he succeeded in getting an interview with Mr. Hawes, and, after having stated his views to that Gentleman, what did Hon. Members think was the reply? Why, it was this. “Mr. Macpherson, this scheme may be all very well for the steamboat-owners on the St. Lawrence, but in what way can it benefit Canada itself?” (Hear. Hear.) Well, Mr. Macpherson was catechized by a Mr. Elliott with regard to his own views; and he was met in a lisping, dandified sort of style—with a request to be informed whether “he could really accomplish what he proposed?” “How long it would take him to convey immigrants from Quebec to Buffalo?” And when he replied in three days and a half, the answer he elicited was, “Indeed, that is very quick.” (Hear. Hear.) “I think you must be in error. I have lived in Canada, and know that the current fall down the river at the rate of four miles an hour. It is impossible, quite impossible.” (Hear, hear and laughter.) After the specimen of the knowledge that Downing Street diplomatists had of Canada, Hon. Members might be able to form some idea.
Mr. HINCKS, Yes. And after that specimen, the House might form an estimate of the gratitude of that gentleman for an introduction he had no right to expect. Loud cries of order from Mr. Holmes and the opposition, induced the Speaker to call Mr. Hincks to order.
Mr. HINCKS desired to explain the circumstances. He contended that he was perfectly in order.
Mr. HOLMES would not allow himself to be interrupted. He did not wish to show any ingratitude to the Colonial Ministry, but he blamed the officials in Downing Street for their ignorance of Canadian affairs. He had been repeatedly told that we ought to feel the greatest gratitude for the manner in which England has acted towards her Colonies. But he could not see any reason for shewing an extraordinary amount of gratitude, although he was willing to admit that lately she had not refused any of our requests, and had even shewn a desire to throw us off altogether; but admitting that to be the case, was it any reason why we should prostrate ourselves at her feet. He did not desire to throw any blame upon her on another account—giving Free Trade to her people,—for however prejudicial it might be to the Colonies, it had become absolutely necessary for the welfare of her own masses, but he did blame the Government for attempting to throw a stigma on the signers of the manifesto, because they had avowed this opinion as to the course to be adopted, since Free Trade in England had inflicted a great amount of misery on them. For he believed that although they were styled republicans and rebels, there were numbers among them who had stood forthonce in defence of their allegiance, and would do so again, if occasion should require, more readily and more firmly, than many who now boasted of their loyalty but whose loyalty was rather that of the lip than of the arm. He believed firmly, that those gentlemen who have been deprived of their commissions, were among the most loyal and respectable of the population of Lower Canada, and that Earl Grey would not have dared to use the language he had applied to them, towards those persons in England, who had talked more openly and loudly of separation from the Parent State, than they had. And he had very little difficulty in foreseeing that the time was not far distant, when the Ministry would regret the course that they had adopted on this question. He contended that it was unjustifiable towards the signers of the manifesto, who had been forced upon that step, by a comparison of their own distress, when compared with the prosperity of the neighbouring Republic; and for his part, he must say, that he could not understand how it was, that the intelligent yeomanry of Upper Canada did not enter into those feelings quite as strongly as they did. He did not mean feelings of hostility or hatred towards England, for their love for her was as strong as it had ever been—but he wondered why it was that the hardy yeomen or lumberer, who is obliged to sell his produce twenty per cent. below the price on the other side of the line, which twenty per cent. goes to the United States revenue, could not understand and appreciate their motives. But there was no doubt that the intelligent people of Upper Canada, would very shortly understand in what manner they might themselves contain that twenty per cent,. and would come forward at the polls for the express purpose of electing such representatives as would carry out their views on annexation; and he had no doubt, they would be as unanimous as the citizens of Montreal had been. A few days after the annexation manifesto had been issued, a great effort was made to get up a counter manifesto, and every stipendiary and office-holder in Montreal, was obliged to sign it, and although there were four or five additional names, yet as the people to whom they belonged, could not be found in Montreal—and in fact, it was quite uncertain whether they existed—he was confident, that not only the independent population of the city, but that the people of the county, also, were decidedly in favour of annexation. However, although that was the case, they were anxious to procure their object by none but the most peaceful means, and refrained from urging it upon the public attention too strenuously, lest everything should be thrown into confusion. They were strictly loyal, although it might suit the purposes of the Government to term them Republicans, and desired a separation from England, not through hostility to her, but because they were convinced that it would be more beneficial for their interests and for hers also. For his part, he was at a loss to understand why it was that England still desired to retain a colony which was only a bill of expense to her, except to serve as a vast breakwater against the democracy of the Republic on the other side of the line.
Mr. HINCKS said he was not going to discuss the question of Annexation, with the hon. member who had just taken his seat, but to give an explanation of the circumstances to which the hon. gentleman had with very questionable taste, alluded in a manner calculated to throw ridicule on the Colonial Office; and he must say that he was astonished that the hon. gentleman’s remarks and tone should have received so much applause from the other side of the House.
Mr. CAYLEY said, that the applause proceeded from both sides of the House.
Mr. HINCKS denied that his side of the House had applauded the hon. member. All the cries of approbation were made by the opposition. When the hon. gentleman first mentioned the subject, he [Mr. Hincks] could not forbear interrupting him, to inquire whether he had alluded to persons going to Downing Street, for the purpose of procuring the interference of the Colonial Minister with Provincial Acts of Parliament. For he knew that that system had been pursued for years and years, and that unfortunately they had not always to complain of want of attention. It happened however, that he was well acquainted with the circumstances of this case, as he had been instrumental in procuring for the gentleman referred to, the letters of introduction which he required, and which was solely for the purpose of carrying out a private speculation. He [Mr. Hincks] had since seen letters from that gentleman, in which, instead of complaining of want of attention, he had expressed his gratification at the manner in which he had been received, and at immediately obtaining the letter which he required, to the Consuls at different Continental ports. And now the thanks due to the Colonial Government, and to the Colonial office were contained in the speech of the hon. member for Montreal, and he would leave it to the House, whether that hon. gentleman’s attack could be justified; for his part, he believed that Canadians when they went to Downing Street, had no cause to complain of want of attention; on the contrary they sometimes received too much.
Mr. HOLMES would like to ask the hon. Inspector General, if his regard for Downing Street had always been as high as at present? He had heard that the hon. gentleman had visited it two years since, and had not even been honoured with a reception.
Mr. BALDWIN, that would not justify the hon. member himself, in the attack he had just made. He concurred entirely with his hon. friend, the Inspector General in the views he took of that hon. gentleman’s tone and manner.
The House then adjourned.