Province of Canada, Legislative Assembly, Elective Legislative Council (3 June 1850)
By: The Globe
Citation: “MONDAY, June 3,” The Globe (4 June 1850).
MONDAY, June 3.
NOVA SCOTIAN TARIFF.
In answer to a question from Mr. HOLMES,
Mr. HINCKS said that he had much pleasure in informing the House, that he had that day received a letter from a commercial house in Hamilton, stating that they had received a telegraphic despatch from Halifax, informing them that the duty on Canadian flour had been taken off, in consequence of the representations of this Government. He [Mr. H.] had no doubt that the information was correct.
ELECTIVE LEGISLATIVE COUNCIL.
Mr. BOULTON (Norfolk) moved the resolution on the subject of which he had given notice. “Resolved—That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty and both Houses of the Imperial Parliament praying that an Act may be passed providing that the Legislative Council of this Province shall consist of thirty Members, who shall be British subjects, not less than thirty years of age, and possessed of real estate within the Province of the value of not less than [illegible] pounds of lawful money of Canada, free from all incumbrances, and to be elected for six years, by persons possessed of real estate, to their own use, of the annual value of [illegible] pounds, or who shall pay an annual rent of [illegible] pounds, for real estate occupied by such voter; the Province being divided into thirty Electoral Districts, composed respectively of such Counties or Unions of adjacent Counties as shall respectively decennially be found to contain, as nearly as such Unions will permit, an equal thirtieth part of the population of the Province, and that Her Majesty, by and with the advice and consent of the Legislative Council and Assembly thus constituted, shall have power to make laws for the peace, welfare, and good government of the Province of Canada, with power at any time to call a Convention, elected by the people entitled to vote for Members of the Legislative Assembly, to establish such a Constitution for this Province as they shall think proper; such Constitution also receiving the assent of Her Majesty, Her Heirs or Successors in Her Privy Council, before it shall take effect:—Provided, that any act passed by the so newly constituted Parliament may be disallowed by Her Majesty, within [illegible] after it shall have been assented to by Her Majesty’s Representative in Canada, upon an Address of both Houses of Her Majesty’s Imperial Parliament, praying Her Majesty to disallow such Act, and expressing therein the reasons inducing the same—and that after the election of such Legislative Council shall have taken place, and one Session of Parliament so composed have been held, then that an Act passed in the thirty-first year of the reign of His late Majesty King George the Third, intituled ‘An Act for making more effectual provision for the government of the Province of Quebec, in North America,’ and to make further provision for the government of the said Province;’ And also an Act passed in the fourth year of Her Majesty’s Reign intituled ‘An Act to re-unite the Provinces of Upper and Lower Canada, and for the government of Canada.’ As well as all other Acts and parts of Acts of the Imperial Parliament relating, in terms, either general or particular, to any subject of a Colonial or local nature, affecting this Province, shall cease, determine and have no further effect within this Province—except such Acts as relate to the discipline and employment of Her Majesty’s Land and Sea Forces, abroad.” He said that if that part of the resolution was passed which enacted that the home government should not disallow any bill passing out Legislature, except in consequence of an address from that Legislature, there would be no more dread of Imperial interference; there would be no possibility of a colonial Administration supporting a bill in their own Legislature, and then recommending that it should be refused the Imperial sanction. It had been said that they could not touch the question of the Clergy Reserves, that the British Legislature stood in the way; if members opposite were in favour of the passage of that measure, they would not hesitate to support this. At present, not a measure passed that House, which was not liable to the interference of the Colonial Secretary. He did not think that that officer meant to do wrong, but he was ignorant of our affairs; he possessed less information on the subject than many members of that house, although he was a man of abilities and of great experience. He (Mr. B.) did not fear that he would follow now the example set them in 1833. But if they did not interfere with us, what was the use of their having the power. It was very desirable that it should be taken away on the Colonial minister’s own account, as he was now made a mark to be shot at on the floor of that House. It had been said that his propositions were chimerical and impractical, only fit to be ridiculed and laughed at. He could tell honourable members that these remarks passed him by like the rushing winds, he did not heed them. The honourable member then proceeded to read the opinions of Mr. Fox, of the London Standard and of Mr. Gladstone, in favour of their being two branches of the Legislature. The inhabitants of the Cape of Good Hope had acted with a spirit and a determination, which had called forth the approbation of the civilized world. They had resisted the landing of convicts upon their shores; and the result had been, that the Minister of the Crown had come down, and in his place in Parliament, proposed that they should have two Elective Chambers. The Constitution that had been proposed for Australia was not applicable to this Province, and could never be introduced here. Mr. Gladstone, at one time Secretary of State, had been favourable to the continuous interference of the Imperial Government in the affairs of the colonies, but had altered his views, and now held that they should not only have the right to judge of the Constitution under which they were to live, but that the responsibility devolved upon them of exercising that right. With respect to the veto upon the Acts of Colonial Legislatures, of which he was at one time in favour, he confessed he had been misled in thinking it essential; and he now considered his former opinions as erroneous; as it was at present impossible to say whether laws which had been passed by the Colonies were in force or not. Hence it was with reference to the Bill for the remuneration of Rebels, that the Imperial Government, by having the power to interfere and prevent its going into operation, had mixed itself up with the affair. Then, again, the members of the Legislative Council were absolutely dependent upon the Executive; they were mere slaves, and had no will or consciences of their own. Better far were it, that the colonists should take a defective Constitution and work it out, than that they should have a good Constitution given them. Such were the sentiments, he said, of men who held seats in the Imperial Parliament, and who had the best opportunities of judging. He [Mr. Boulton] could quote the opinions of others equally well entitled to deference, but which he deemed unnecessary. As Mr. Hume was considered by some hon. gentlemen as entitled to respect, he (Mr. B.) would quote what he had said—that he considered the colonial office had been an incubus; and if it continued in the old track, the nation would lose the hold it had upon the colonies. He (Mr. B.) considered the time had arrived for the Assembly to act; as he considered that if responsible government were left where it is, it would not work well, without those checks and restraints, which he had endeavoured to put on those who conduct it; and which has degenerated into an entirely unbridled elective oligarchy, which must continue in power for four years. What did the press and the community, and even members of the house say? It might be told him, that in proposing the measures of which he was then the advocate, he had become recreant. [Hear.] He knew where that cry arose, but he despised it—it did not touch him; and he would act in favour of what he believed to be the substantial interests of the country [illegible] and would support such measures as he believed were conducive to that end; he had supported and would continue to support such measures, let them originate in what quarter they may. With reference to the government as at present constituted, he said, any member who did not do as it pleased, he could not get his sentiments fairly before the country; but was put down and obstructed by those who compose it—he could not get a fair hearing. But it was not the representative merely, that was thus put down; but that portion of the people who spoke through his mouth; and who, however small their numbers, were entitled to the consideration of the House,—even the few clear grits were entitled to be heard. But if measures of reform were propounded, which went farther than the government wished, those who proposed them were obstructed and prevented from proceeding, by a body of men who, like the sea-shore said to the approaching waves, thus fare shalt though go, and no farther; and who pursue a course which is an interference with the freedom of Parliament. He (Mr. B.) had tried during several sessions, and was still bent upon the accomplishment of his object, to have the members of responsible government stript of irresponsible power. Were it not for that, the Legislature would not be convened at a period that is inconvenient to the people; the members of which could form no idea of the time when they would be required to assemble; and therefore could not go abroad, with any certainty of knowing when they must return. He contended that the public monies should be specifically appropriated, so far as is consistent with the exigencies of the country. As it was probable other gentlemen would speak on the subject, and he would have an opportunity of replying, he said, he would not detain the House any longer.
Mr. PAPINEAU, who seconded the Resolution, said that the studied reserve of the members of the Government, when a question of so much importance was under consideration, and which alone could produce peace, showed that they did not understand the intentions and interests of the people; and who he considered were the rankest Tories. In conversation they had admitted that the present constitution is unwise and unsound, and that the Legislative Council is improperly constructed; but in the House they would not give their attention to a resolution which was the echo of the popular voice. Persons who were at one time in favour of the present system of Government, now see that it ought to be remodelled. Hon. gentlemen say, that the people should not be clothed with power to meet in convention, there to decide upon what alterations are required; they were setting their faces against the Resolutions which had been proposed; and would not allow the people to say whether the union of the Provinces ought to remain or not. They did not speak, however, so disrespectfully at the hustings, where they pretended to participate in the feelings of the people; and expressed a desire to comply with their wishes and to conduce to their well-being. The situation of this Province, he said was peculiar and unfortunate. In other colonies, the people, previous to emigrating, made contracts and received charters; after which they determined to go abroad and settle; and having done so under an expressed pledge, would not consent to the trial of experiments by the Parent State. Through the iniquitous conduct of Parliament, one Constitution had been destroyed and another substituted without the consent of the people; and yet, when they asked to be restored to a higher degree of freedom, the obstructives trampled on the necks of their fellow citizens. The propositions that had been made, were consonant with reason and justice, and from which no evil could possibly flow, which means that the people should meet in convention, and deliberate as to what would be conducive to their well-being; and it was evident the members of the government were opposed to this, when they would not allow petitions to reach the throne, or both Houses of the Imperial Parliament. The necessity for the second branch of the Legislature was generally admitted, and was far more beneficial in the United States than in the mother country. In England, under the Stuarts, kingly interests predominated, and it was this which brought one Sovereign to the scaffold, and compelled the other to abdicate the throne. The reigns of the first three of their successors formed the brightest periods of English history. Since that time England has declined. At present, he said, the House of Lords made royalty a show, and its power a nullity, and it was the foolish attempt of Louis Philippe to govern, which brought him to what he is now; he is a man of uncommon talent, and has been tried during an eventful life, by the extremes of good and bad fortune. The fallacy of monarchical institutions was evident, from the circumstance of three queens reigning in Europe; one of whom was an admirer of Louis Philippe and his policy; but whose fate must have taught her a lesson. He was desirous of grasping power, and merited his fate. In the United States, he said, two chambers exist, who are formed upon the elective principle, in which the working classes exercise a proper influence; and with whose wishes a second chamber would act in accordance; but in the other there was a counterpoise; and, such a body so chosen would be useful here. But there was a higher gratification required than money, which would not bear a compromise with talent. Every attempt at reform in the Province, he said, was opposed by a ministry, who brought forward precedents from the time of Lord Jeffries; and in their legislative capacities repudiate that, which elsewhere they pretend they are desirous of granting. It was a sound principle, he said, which is contained in the resolution, that the new chamber should be based on population. Even the member of the league, he continued had been denounced as tories, which consisted of practical men, who were willing to forego preconceived notions, where they find the present system, not working for the well-being of society. Then again, it was not desirable that the British Parliament should interfere with the trade of the Province, or the civil rights of its inhabitants. All this had been submitted to because it was the desire of the King of England, by whom monies were expended and lavished under error. Mr. Ellice, whose connexions are of ancient family, had been too much committed; to him were to be attributed all the misfortunes of this country and owing to whose advice being taken, his property near Sorel had been greatly increased in value.
Mr. SHERWOOD (Toronto) said, that this was a question of great importance, and great changes of opinion had taken place upon it in the minds of many members of the house. Some time ago they would hardly listen to a proposition of the kind; but now, when place and power were wanted, they were more disposed to favor it. He thought that the hon. member for St. Maurice, instead of making attacks upon the administration which he had made many times before, would have done better to have discussed the measure apart from any reference to present arrangements. He [Mr. S.] had always been in favor of a federal union of the North American Colonies; in 1830 he was chairman of a committee of the Upper Canada Legislature, in favor of that confederation. If a union were effected on the terms he would desire he believed they would take a position among the nations of the earth second to few of the States of Europe, and they would command the respect of the whole world; their public men would acquire a name throughout the world; they would occupy a high position among a people of millions instead of a million and a half. He believed that it would perpetuate British rule on this Continent for many years to come. The Governor or Viceroy of this Union he would have a statesman of talent, who would be the only connecting link with Great Britain; he would have the two Chambers elective, and to the government thus formed would be intrusted the regulations of commerce, the post office, and public works which affected the interests of all. Each Province would also have its Governor and two Houses to manage their own local affairs, like out Municipal Councils or the States of the Union. If these views, however, were not acceptable to the country, he should endeavour to improve the present system as much as possible. Many persons were in favour of the measure proposed in former days who were not so at present. The hon. Attorney General East had supported it formerly in the Lower Canadian House, and so had many gentlemen supported it in Upper Canada who now opposed it. He (Mr. S.) had formerly opposed the principle, he had believed that if it were once introduced it could not be stopped, that people would then call for an elective Governor also, and that it would lead to a separation from Great Britain, which it was a paramount duty to maintain. But when he saw a member of that Council move that it should be abolished, and when he saw the course of that body last Session, in passing Bills without giving them any consideration, to suit the course of the men in power—when he saw the House packed to carry the most extraordinary measures ever introduced into any Legislature, he came to the conclusion that a change ought to be made.—The effect of the system is, that persons are put in by every Administration, in order to support their particular views; so that in a very short time every man in Canada will be made a Legislative Councillor. In England, the working of the system is very different. It is true, that the Crown has there the right of calling to the House of Lords any person whom the Sovereign pleases to honour with that distinction, but the right of a seat descends to the child of the newly-made peer, and to his children after him. The consequence is, that although a took may have been nominated, in a few years a generation springs up, who stand perfectly independent. Here, on the contrary, a tool is nominated to the Council—he acts as a tool, and remains a tool to the day of his death. There was no opposing influence, as his seat did not descent to his children, and therefore he was surrounded by men in the same position as he occupied himself. Being convinced then of the necessity of some change, and being satisfied that the proposition for an Elective Council was the most likely to establish a respectable and independent branch of the Legislature, he was prepared to look on it favourably; at the same time he was of opinion that the Hon. member’s motion should be postponed for the present, in order that hon. members might have an opportunity of looking over it, for he believed that it could be amended considerably. Nevertheless, he believed the principle was good, and from a speech delivered by Mr. Hawes in the Imperial Parliament, he believed that no opposition could be expected from the Home Government, if the majority of the people of this colony desired it. He did not mean to assert that they were favourable to this proposition; perhaps he might even safely say the contrary, but he desired to express his individual opinions in order that the people out of doors might understand and condemn them if they deserved condemnation.
Mr. CAMERON [Cornwall] requested the hon. member for Norfolk to postpone his motion for the present, in order to give members an opportunity of reflecting on the subject. For himself he would say, that he could not understand from the motion what arrangement was to be made respecting many vital points. It did not show how antagonisms between the two houses were to be avoided; nor which was to be the governing power; nor which house was to be dissolved by the Governor, if his policy were opposed. Now these might be considered matters of detail, and of minor importance; but he was of a very different opinion, and could not believe that the system established in the United States could be introduced here partially, and must be satisfied that those arrangements which he looked on as being absolutely essential, should be completed, before he would vote for the motion.
Col. GUGY hates all tinkers and tinkering heartily, and felt the utmost contempt and disgust for the crude attempts at constitution-making which certain Hon. gentlemen were constantly perpetrating. What, in the name of Heaven, was to be done with that motion for an Elective Council, without any attempts to show by what machinery it was to be put in operation. It was an article of faith with him, that, whatever was best administered, was best; and it was his firm opinion that, if the hon. members for Norfolk and St. Maurice would devote their talents and their energies to carrying out the principles of the Government, in the best spirit, instead of compounding disagreeable nostrums which no one was willing to accept, they would find that we could enjoy as great a share of happiness and freedom as any people on the face of the earth. That being his impression, he thought it would be much better for the House to give this motion a decided negative at once, instead of postponing in and thus giving hon. members an opportunity of repeating their “bunkum speeches,” not merely for the sedative effect it might have for the moment, but also to prevent others from sinning in that way any more; for there was an outcry from one end of the Province to the other, and very justly, against the manner in which the legislation in that house was conducted; and he wished that some one with the strength of character possessed by Wellington were among them, to repeat his advice to the Council; “speak less and work more.” The hon. gentleman then referring to the constant and reiterated attacks made by the hon. member for St. Maurice, said that they reminded of the famous fiddler Paganini, who fiddled and fiddled constantly; but he fiddled all the time on the one strong. So it was with the hon. member for St. Maurice, as soon as he [Col. G.] heard the premonitory notes, he knew all that was to follow, and made up his mind to bear with it. Reverting to the original question, he said that those who would vote for this motion, ought to be the whole hoggers, fully prepared to swallow the animal, bristles, and all. An Elective Council necessarily, brought into full play the whole of the Elective Institutions, and they must have also an Elective Governor, and was consequently an object of the greatest alarm to all those who wished to preserve the connection with the Mother Country.
Mr. BALDWIN confessed that he still retained exactly the same opinions he held at the beginning of the Session, in spite of all he had heard from the hon. gentleman who proposed this motion, and he had no doubt had been set down as impracticable, both by that hon. member, and the hon. member for St. Maurice. However that might be, he fully concurred with the hon. member for Sherbrooke, that it was exceedingly inconvenient to make frequent organic changes in the constitution. At one time it was supposed that all that was necessary to secure peace and good order, was to have the English principle of Government applied to this colony. That had been done; and although it was true that it had not been found to work quite so well as some persons anticipated, yet the great majority acknowledged that the Government was conducted on true British principles, and that they enjoyed the right of legislating on their domestic affairs. No one in fact would pretend to say that they had not that right; and in spite of all the tirades of those Hon. Members, no one could pretend to say that the English Government had any wish to interfere with their exercise of it. And was it now, within a short time of a declaration by the Imperial Ministry, echoed by both Houses of Parliament, that they would leave all internal affairs to management of the Colonists themselves, that the hon. members opposite should raise their voices, and however the hon. member for Norfolk might disguise it, endeavor to destroy the connection between this Province and the mother country. The hon. member for St. Maurice at least had the manliness—aye, the effrontery and boldness—to make this avowal, and at once confess that he was a wretch who could not feel the slightest gratitude for the greatest benefits conferred; and that he was determined, if possible, to break down the power of the flag under which he was born. He conceived this time to be extremely unfit for such a proposition, and he knew well that there were many persons of high respectability, and who were favourably disposed to the establishment of an Elective Council, who would certainly oppose the motion of the hon. member for Norfolk, subversive as it was for the entire constitution. For his part he concurred fully with Col. Gugy, that it would be far better if hon. members turned their attention to practical objects instead of constitution tinkering; and if they found that the present Government was not capable either from want of talent or industry to carry out those views which the House considered to be more advantageous for the interests of the country, let them at once choose such men as did possess their confidence; he would willingly resign his seat to the hon’ble member for Norfolk, or the hon. member for St. Maurice, if the House looked to them with confidence, had more faith in their industry and talent than in his, and he would give them his support in carrying out those plans, as he had done when he was in opposition before. For he could appeal with confidence to his conduct as well when he was in opposition as when he was in office. He had never made a factious opposition. He had never attempted to upset the institutions of the country, because there happened to be a majority of one in favor of some popular cry. He had never attempted to force himself into office, but he waited his time, and when the country declared it required his services, it was only then that he ventured to come forward to carry out the views which he always advocated. And as he never shrunk from avowing his opinions, he would not now shrink from opposing this motion for an Elective Council, to which he had always been opposed. At an early period of his political life, it had been prominently before the public, and it was not to be supposed therefore that this was the first time that he had been called on to give his opinion respecting it. It was a principle adopted by men for whom he entertained the highest respect, and by many of the party with whom he had always acted, and always wished to act. There were circumstances which caused them naturally to bend their regards in that direction, and to consider it as the only moans by which a direct influence could be brought to bear on the Executive, for the Legislative Council had been truly an obstructive body; and in reply to their just complaints, they had been told that the institutions for which their fathers had blend, and to obtain which one king had lost his head, and another had been driven from his throne, were not applicable to them. When such language was held, he thought they were justified in looking to elective institutions as the only means by which they could be put in possession of the boon they sought.—But they had obtained what they had demanded, and a living principle had been instilled into the body politic, which could not fail to work most beneficially, and leave us nothing to envy in the boasted institutions of Mr. Papineau over the way; and in his opposition to those institutions he would confidently say that he acted with perfect consistency. Not that he would be ashamed to change his mind if it were proved to him there existed a gross evil, which might be remedied by Elective Institutions—after all other means had failed, for he did not pretend to infallibility. But he would call hon. gentlemen to mark his words that this motion was but one end of the wedge, and the time might come when it would subvert all our institutions, and effect a complete separation from the mother country. He could only say that he was prepared to stand or fall on the event, and so far as lay in his power resist the introduction of Republicanism. Between the two systems—Monarchical and Republican, he believed, there was not a mere formal difference; there existed, in reality, an essential difference that was altogether in our favour; and here he would remark that it was the fashion, to charge hon. members on his side of the house with succumbing to the Administration. He need scarcely remark how unfounded such a charge was. Nothing was more common than for the party in opposition to charge its opponents with yielding to the Administration. His reply to such a charge was, that hon. gentlemen were themselves best acquainted with the motives which induced them to support the Administration, and that if they were influenced by such a confidence in it as to induce them to give it an enlightened support, they could laugh such charges to scorn; but if they did not feel that confidence, let them withdraw their support at once, for he did not wish to remain in office a single hour, if his conduct did not give entire satisfaction. The ministry were appointed by the representatives of the people as watchers on the towers, to resist every attempt to interfere improperly with public institutions, and to introduce those measures which they conceived to be requisite. On the other hand what is the system in the U. States. The fact is they have no regular government there at all. In consequence of the bad system of government established in the old colonies they became so suspicious that they excluded every member of the Cabinet from their legislature; and consequently no member of the Cabinet can be held responsible for his conduct, nor could enter into those explanations of the conduct of the Cabinet, or urge on its measures, as a minister is expected to do here. In any point of view, he thought the comparison was decidedly unfavorable to the American system of government; and he must say, that he hoped he would never see his native country cursed by its adoption. There was one remark closely connected with this question of the Legislative Council which he wished to make. Hon. gentlemen on both sides of the House were too frequently in the habit of speaking in disparaging phrase of that body, and the result was that it was lessened in public esteem more than could be conceived from its position or its organization. And he was only surprised that it had been able to sustain itself so long against the attacks directed against it. It was true that it would never command the same influence as the House of Lords, but instead of honourable gentlemen using every means in their power to destroy that influence entirely, they ought to have united in assisting to maintain its dignity. One very common complaint was, that the Bills were hurried through that House very expeditiously. If hon. gentlemen knew anything about the practice of the English House of Lords, they would know that the same complaint was made there, and with as little justice. The fact was that, the great bulk of the business originated with the Lower House, and as it was frequently several weeks before the public, before it reached the other branch of the Legislature, there was seldom occasion for them to take as long to consider it, as would be found necessary where it was first introduced. Hon. gentlemen were well acquainted with that, but yet few ever remembered it, or had the fairness to explain it when they heard that House charged with hasty legislation. Another accusation was brought against some of the members of that hon. House, that they had been given their seats on the express condition that they should support a certain Bill introduced by the Government. Noe he gave that a flat denial—in was not true. It was true that it was found necessary by the present Government to increase the number of Councillors, and they appointed, very naturally, men of their own party to those seats, but not a single man was called to sit in it, on the understanding that he would support any particular measure.—He should always be ready to condemn the summoning by wholesale of members to the Council, for the purpose of carrying any measure. He believed that it was not now an obstructive body—that it was so acted upon by public opinion, that it would not oppose the popular will; it might not be prepared to pass every measure immediately—it might be necessary that the people should discuss some subjects more fully, and express their views more decidedly, before they would move—but these measures would be better so carried than by filling the Council to accomplish it. The hon. member had complained of the Home Government because of the reservation of Bills; it was not right to blame the Imperial authority—it was them [the Ministry] they ought to blame—and they would be prepared to meet him. Some bills were, to be sure, reserved by statute; but he should not attack the Home Government as if it interfered with our local affairs—for no such attempt had been made. The hon. member had said, that if the power of rejection were not exercised, it ought to be abolished. So he supposed he would say of the Crown’s prerogative of the veto.
Mr. BOULTON—Yes, I would.
Mr. BALDWIN—Yes, he would sweep away the Queen from her throne, and establish a republic in England, and that was the object which he contemplated here. But he was satisfied that the people of Canada would stand by their connection with the mother country and the constitution established amongst them, and would not be led away by the open opposition of the hon. member for St. Maurice, er the sapping and mining of the member for Norfolk. His course was plain; he began public life attached to the British Constitution—he saw that the hon. member for St. Maurice laughed, and he rejoiced to see it, he desired not his friendship; the hon. member had said the other day, in this Christian country, that he hated the Ministry with a perfect constitution, and he hoped that he would continue to do so; he desired no change in it, least of all such changes at the hon. member for Norfolk contemplated.