Province of Canada, Legislative Assembly, Ministerial Explanations (24 October 1854)

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Date: 1854-10-24
By: Province of Canada (Parliament), The Globe
Citation: The Globe (24 October 1854).
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[illegible] annual meeting of [illegible] the Toronto [illegible] that the [illegible] the re-election [illegible] county of [illegible].


            [illegible] presented,—Return to an [illegible], for copies of Papers [illegible] changes in the constitution [illegible] Legislative Council.

[illegible] the Hon. Mr. MORIN, the said [illegible] to be printed.


            [illegible] said he thought the time had [illegible], all the ministers having taken their [illegible] some explanation should be given of [illegible] policy, to satisfy the mind of the country. Explanations had been given by the Attorney-General West, by the Attorney-General East, and by the Commissioner of Crown Lands, which however were conflicting one with the other, and could not satisfy this House or the public. The House required some explanations which might have a tendency to reconcile them to the extraordinary coalition which had taken place.

Sir ALLAN MACNAB said—I have very little to add to what has already been said by my honourable friend on my right (Mr. Morin). I do not think it is a usual thing for more members than one of an administration to make explanations in this House of the principles on which they took office. That has already been done by my honourable colleague in whom we have all the highest confidence. I have very little to add to what he has said, but for the satisfaction of the hon. member for North Hastings (Mr. Murney), I will merely state what actually has taken place, without making any remarks on the “extraordinary combination” to which the hon. gentleman has alluded. But if I were inclined to remark upon that, I should remark also upon the very extraordinary combination that is opposite to me. (Hear, hear, from the ministerial aide.) Perhaps at a future period I may do so, without mixing it up for the present with the explanations I am to give. On the 8th of September I was sent for by his Excellency the Governor General, who did me the honor to inform me that he had sent for me in consequence of the Government having resigned, and that they merely held office till their successors were appointed. I felt the difficulties of the position in which I was about to be placed, but no consideration of these would prevent me from entering on what I consider a proper and faithful discharge of the duty I owe to the country. I immediately consulted with my friend, the hon. member for Kingston (Mr. Macdonald), and after a consultation with him he had a general meeting of our friends, and with their sanction and approval we put ourselves in communication with my hon. friend on my right, the Commissioner of Crown Lands, and with the assistance of that hon. gentleman, this Government was formed. Hon. members desire, I suppose, to understand whether we agreed to support the secularization of the Clergy Reserves. I inform the House and the country that I did agree to do so, and I am prepared to do so, and I am prepared to assume in doing so all the responsibility that belongs to me either as a member of the House of Assembly, or as one of the Government of this country. (Hear, hear.) We also considered the Reciprocity Bill which has already been passed, and the Seignorial Bill in regard to Lower Canada, which it is our intention to support, and which it was understood should be passed if possible. And with regard to the Legislative Council Bill, if I had any difficulty on that subject, it was entirely removed when I saw a vote in this House of 94 to 6 in favour of it. It will be our duty then to submit to this House, claiming as I do the responsibility of the position I have taken, such bills as are called for by this country. These bills will be submitted to you. You can discuss them—you can amend them if they are deficient—and, if you refuse them, the responsibility rests with you and not with us. With regard to the combination which the hon. gentleman speaks of, that is a matter entirely with ourselves, and hon. gentlemen can just place their views on that matter before the country in any way that best suits their own purposes. I am prepared for the responsibility and will not shirk it.

Mr. MURNEY said it was plain from the explanations now given, that the great Conservative party of Upper Canada were sold, thoroughly sacrificed in every principle they had ever advocated. He should not say another word.

Hon. Mr. ROBINSON dissented from the statement that the great Conservative party of Upper Canada had been sold. The honourable and gallant knight, the member for Hamilton, had consulted with his friends before taking the step he did, and took it with their consent. He (Mr. R.) could not say that he was altogether satisfied with the combination, but, in a choice between two evils, he preferred the least. He (Mr. R.) had not deserted his principles, and would not support his hon. and gallant friend in the secularization of the Reserves; but he greatly preferred seeing him in the Government to some of those who preceded him. He had been surprised at the conduct of the hon. member for Lambton (Mr. Brown) in opposing the present Government, for on more than one occasion that hon. member had said to him—“why still adhere to the idea of maintaining the Clergy Reserves—why not give them up so as to have a share in the Government?” Perhaps the hon. member would say that this was not the sort of combination that pleased him, and probably no combination would please that hon. member which did not embrace himself.

Dr. CLARKE also protested against its being said that the Conservative party had been sold. The present Government, he believed, truly represented the opinions of the Conservatives and of every moderate man in Upper Canada, and in secularizing the Reserves, they were settling a question which perhaps never would have been settled, if they had not taken it in hand.

Mr. BROWN said:—I would probably have taken no part in the present discussion, but for the remarks which have fallen from the hon. member for Simcoe (Mr. Robinson.) The hon. gentleman states that in private conversation I frequently urged him and other conservatives to give up their opposition to the secularization of the Clergy Reserves, so that a union might be accomplished between the Reformers and Conservatives of Upper Canada. He says that the gallant knight and his Upper Canada colleagues have adopted my suggestion; and he is at a loss to understand how I, of all men, can consistently oppose them. Mr. Speaker, the hon. gentleman’s statement, so far as it goes, is nearly correct; but it by no means covers the whole ground. I have never sought to conceal my views on the position of political parties in this country; on the contrary, I have taken every means of urging them publicly and privately on Conservatives and Reformers alike; and, with the leave of the House, I will now show, that the coalition which has just been formed, is very different from the alliance that I urged, and is likely to frustrate the very ends which the hon. gentleman from Simcoe and I, at the time of our conversations, sought to attain. The conversations to which the hon. gentleman alludes, took place in the sessions of 1853 and 1854, while we were working together from different points of view, is opposition to the late ministry. Differing on many questions of reform and progress, between the hon. gentleman and his friends and myself, there were not a few strong points of agreement. We agreed that the great interests of Upper Canada were constantly sacrificed to the demands of Lower Canada—that measures most distasteful to us were continually forced through the Legislature by the unanimity of Lower Canada Representatives, on every sectional question and the divisions among Upper Canadians. We agreed that the system of Representation was most unfair to Upper Canada, and placed us in a position of inferiority to our Lower Canada countrymen, and that population was the only just basis on which representation could be placed. We agreed that two elective branches were inconsistent with Responsible Government, and would certainly load to the adoption of Republican institutions; and we also agreed that to take money from the public chest to ameliorate the evils of the Seigniorial Tenure of Lower Canada, without extinguishing the Tenure altogether, would be most unjust and unstatesmanlike. We agreed that the future happiness and prosperity of this country would be best promoted by the adoption of a uniform policy in all our legislation—that both sections should be regarded as one Province, and a uniform system of administration adopted, judicial, educational, and municipal. We were also thoroughly united in our hostility to the Hincks-Morin administration; we agreed that the union of men in that government, holding sentiments entirely antagonistic on prominent political questions, was subversive of the British system of Executive government, and highly demoralizing. We agreed that they had shirked certain great questions on which they were elected, and that the whole tendency of their legislation had been to gather into their own hands increased power and patronage, to the detriment of the public interests. Above all, we perfectly agreed that the members of the late cabinet held their high political position and influence, for purposes of personal gain; we believed in the words of the hon. Attorney General West (Mr. Macdonald), that among them there might be Walpoles, but “there were no Pitts,” and that they were “steeped to the lips in corruption.” [Hear, hear.] We heartily agreed that the honor of our country demanded the immediate expulsion of such men from office, whoever might be their successors, and that their downfall should be so marked as to be a lesson to all future politicians, and prevent the recurrence of transactions so discreditable to us as a people. When we talked over these things, and the difficulty of grasping with them, I was in the habit of saying, “Why not sacrifice your prejudices on the question of the Clergy Reserves, adopt the principle of entire separation of church and state, in Upper and Lower Canada, and then we, in Upper Canada, in connection with the true liberals of Lower Canada, will be as united as the priest party of Lower Canadians, and hold our own with them?” I held that with the surrender of the Clergy Reserves question, the whole ecclesiastical variances would follow—rectories, tythes, sectarian schools, sectarian money grants—and that in Upper and Lower Canada alike. [Hear, hear.] I suppose that the Conservatives would, as a matter of course, yield on the whole question of state [illegible] for religious purposes. I did not conceive it possible that our Upper Canadian churchmen would secularize the Reserves merely because they stood in the way of his gaining office, and yet continue to oppose the principles on which alone their secularization was demanded. [Hear, hear.] Still less did I conceive that churchmen could be found to tear down Protestant endowments, and at the [illegible] effect great [illegible]—[illegible] over of troublesome topics [illegible] on which to mount to office. (Hear, hear.) Can say hon. member of this House honestly affirm that the coalition which has been formed in founded on principle? Is it not in fact an utter abandonment of principle for the mere sake of power? The hon. and gallant Knight and his three Conservative colleagues profess to have thrown overboard in order to satisfy their Lower Canada allies, every distinctive principle they have ever professed, every prominent measure for which they have battled in past years—and yet not one concession have they obtained in return. They hand over the Protestant Reserves to be divided among Protestant Reserves to be divided among Protestant and Roman Catholic alike, and yet they declare every day the inviobility of Roman Catholic Church property—they grant new charters without end for Papal Institutions, with full power to hold lands in mortmain—they specially exempt Roman Catholic Seigniories from the operation of their Tenure Bill—and the very first act of their Administration was to hand over the Normal School of Lower Canada to the Roman Catholic hierarchy which for years past their predecessors had resisted. They have eaten up all their speeches and votes and resolutions for Representation by population and have agreed to leave Upper Canada in its position of inferiority, (Hear, hear.) They have forgotten all their hostility to the Elective Council measure and have adopted the very scheme they condemned, let it lead to Republicanism as they once disclaimed, or wherever else it may. (Hear, hear.) They have adopted the Tenure Bill of their predecessors with all its absurdities and have agreed to pay an unknown sum from the public chest in defiance of all their declarations. (Hear, hear.) Aye, Sir, and they have taken to their embrace the very men whose condemnation they had demanded, whose downfall they sought in the name of public morality. Who are their present colleagues but a majority of the very men who themselves declared to be “steeped to the lips in corruption?” Who formed the present Government, who holds it together, who dictates law to it? Why the Hon. ex-Inspector General whose malpractices they so professed to abhor. Sir, the combination of the present is more immoral, and far more destructive of public confidence in public men than the one that preceded it—and not its least crime is that it has mitigated the blow which the indignant voice of the country aimed at the misdeeds of the late Administration. (Hear, hear.) The gallant Knight tells us it was enough for him to find that there were only six in a late division opposed to the Elective Council, for him to go for it. And why were there only six? Because the Knight himself and the Attorney General West, and their forces, had given up their often-declared conscientious convictions in order to gain office. And is it come to this that on a great question of constitutional change, the Premier may defend it on the ground that though he is firmly opposed to it and believes it will be ruinous to British connection, yet the majority favour it and that is enough for him? (Hear, hear.) And nearly the same is their argument on all other questions. They say we are as opposed as ever to secularization of the Reserves, but the crowd go for it. We are as opposed to the Feudal Tenure Bill as ever, but the crowd go for it. We are as much in favour of Representation by population as ever, but the French Canadians go against it. Sir, I censure no man for an honest change of opinion. Had the hon. gentlemen opposite obtained their new views by degrees, by conviction that their old opinions were wrong, nothing could be more commendable. Had each man of them come to the same conclusions on different days of the week—had they acquired them before last election and declared them at the hustings—nay, had they even acquired them after the election and were now advocating them in opposition, I could have almost honored them for the wonderous change. But, Mr. Speaker, when we see four gentlemen of talent and experience giving up all the principles they ever professed, principles on which they had just before been elected—when we see that they all made the surrender in one day and that day the very day they obtained office—nay, when the surrender was made as the only mode of obtaining office—then, Sir, I am free to confess that I have not a particle of respect for the transaction, but must regard it as one of the most flagrant acts of political venality. Is it such a Government the hon. member for Simcoe would have me to support—is it such a thing as this he imagined I can be satisfied with? No, sir, combinations so brought about ought to have but one end—it carries with it the elements of its own dissolution and must go to pieces from its own inherent rottenness. Public men may make alliances for the sake of office, but the constituencies they represent have not the same temptation to forget their principles’ and when the mind of the country is fairly awakened to the true character of this coalition, there will be but one vote of condemnation in regard to it. But while I speak thus, I am free to confess that I am quite willing that the present Ministry should go on, and show what they can do. They have a large apparent majority in this House, and nothing is in the way of their accomplishing all they desire—let us judge them by their fruits. Bad as are the attendant circumstances of their alliance, if it shall have the effect of settling satisfactorily those great questions by which the country has so long been agitated, no member of this House will rejoice more heartily than I will. (Hear, hear.) and no one will be more ready to aid them in obtaining such a settlement as will be satisfactory to the country. One word more and I have done. The hon. member for Simcoe was pleased to say that he could only suppose my opposition to the ministry arose from dissatisfaction that I was not a member of it. I do think, sir, the insinuation came very ill from the mouth of that hon. gentleman. Well he knows and every leading man of his party, that I was not during the late crisis, that I have never been, an aspirant for ministerial honours; he must know that from the first it was distinctly understood that no matter what party or combination obtained the reins, I would not accept office at present—that I claimed to be with the hon member for Renfrew a “governmental impossibility.” Had I been an office-seeker, Mr. Speaker, the course I have followed in this house would have been the last to be adopted. I might have basely bowed to the prejudices of my colleagues as others have done and pandered when I have opposed. Does the hon. gentleman think I do not know, as other men know, that servility and pliancy are the safest conductors to office. I came here to do my duty to my country and as God has given me judgment I have tried to do it faithfully and uprightly—nor do I fear that when the mists of prejudice and misrepresentation have passed away, my countrymen of all parties will do me justice. The hon. and gallant Knight was pleased to charge those who sit on this side of the House with as great an abandonment of principle as he and his colleagues had been guilty of, because, as he alleges, great discordancy of opinion exists among us. The hon. gentleman, allow me to tell him, greatly over-estimates the discordancy on this side of the House. But what if it were true? An opposition must naturally be composed of all who are dissatisfied with the course of the government. We are not responsible for each other’s views—we but unite to guard the public interests from mismanagement by the Ministry of the day—and to urge on the majority those improvements and reforms to which the conservation of office renders them indifferent or disinclined. We are her Majesty’s opposition—our duty is to keep her Majesty’s Government in order, and so far as we can we mean to discharge our duty faithfully and always courteously. (Cheers, and loud cries of hear, hear.)

Hon. Mr. CAYLEY.—The honorable member for Lambton has brought the charge against myself and others that the views we now entertain we did not express at the last election. As regards myself, that charge is not correct. I am free to repeat now what I stated then, that I looked forward to this change which has now taken place, as very probable. I brought to the recollection of my constituents that in all probability those who advocated the views generally advocated by conservatives, would be a small minority in this House, and if that should be the case I stated that I should no longer offer any opposition to the settlement of the great question so long agitated in the country. I stated that I looked upon that question as already settled for us by the Act of the Imperial Parliament. (Hear, hear, from Sir Allan McNab). The Imperial Parliament made a grant in this country for certain purposes. That grant was given to certain bodies, and I for many years contended that no one here had a right to make any other distribution of those funds. But Great Britain has revoked her grant by the Imperial Act of 1853, and we are called upon to pass a new Act if we wish to make any provision for the clergy, without any reference to the old settlement which Great Britain has now revoked. She has revoked her grant, making provision only for the actual incumbents, the lands being placed under the control of the Canadian Parliament, only burdened by making that provision. I contended then at the last election that we no longer had any Reserves, except for the actual incumbents, and I am free to admit that it is out of our power—out of the power of a minority of 10, 20, or 30 to bring in a Bill to make a new provision for existing churches in the face of a large majority. I would regard such an attempt as mischievous, and as keeping up a vexed question for an object, the attainment of which was hopeless. I must take the liberty of recalling to the honorable member for Lambton a conversation we had in the public streets of Toronto on this very subject. That honorable gentleman most freely declared that the only cause of separation between the Reformers and Conservatives of Upper Canada was the Clergy Reserves. Mr. Cayley went on to argue that the vote condemning the Administration in June implied that Conservatives as well as Reformers were in favor of a speedy settlement of the Clergy Reserves question. Every Conservative member, therefore, was bound to explain that vote to his constituents, and say whether he really meant it or not, and it was not unreasonable to expect that Conservatives would unite with Reformers to settle the question and put it out of the way for ever.

Mr. McKERLIE was strongly of opinion that the gallant knight, the member for Hamilton, and his colleagues, entertained the same views still in regard to the secularization of the Clergy Reserve and other reform measures, and that they had merely changed their position for the sake of office. Was it a sufficient excuse for them to say that the country demanded certain legislation. If the country demanded what they had always maintained and still considered to be wrong, was it their duty to carry out the wrong?

Mr. GAMBLE, though no apologist for the present administration, said their course was not a novel one, and instanced the case of Lord Derby and his friends taking office to carry out the Free Trade policy, although they did not conceal the fact that they still [illegible] Protectionists in principle.

Hon. Mr. HINCKS said,—I had occasion a few [illegible] me by [illegible] mine in Upper Canada, and I was very forcibly impressed with the truth of his remarks when I heard the speech of the honourable member for Brant (Mr. McKerlie]. I allude to a reference in that letter to the opprobrium which is cast upon gentlemen who become parties to a coalition of this sort. I think the casting of that opprobrium would come with much more propriety and a better grace from some than from others, and I think the last honorable member who should have cast opprobrium on the coalition, and make the speech he did, was the hon, member for Brant. Those who knew the antecedents of that hon. gentleman, and the colours under which he came into parliament, will know my reasons for speaking as I do. I was not present while the explanations were being given from the Treasury Benches, but I had the good fortune to hear some explanations from the other side, and I cannot help feeling that there is some ground for congratulating the hon. member from Lower Canada who have formed a coalition with the hon. member for Lambton. It now appears that the whole ground of that hon. member’s opposition to the late administration was, that it was too much Lower Canadian, that we paid too much respect to the feelings of the people of Lower Canada, and that the combination which the hon. member for Lambton was wishing to form was for the purpose of preventing the people of Lower Canada from having any of their feelings or any of their wishes carried out. We have had a full explanation from the hon. member for Lambton as to what he desired not only in regard to the Clergy Reserves, but “all the rest of it.” We had a little sample the other evening of what he meant by “all the rest of it.” We had an opportunity of witnessing the votes on a bill introduced by the hon. member for Terrebonne [Mr. Prevost), and of seeing a grand separation of the hon. member for Lambton and his Upper Canadian friends from the Lower Canadian gentlemen with whom he has been acting, so that notwithstanding all the combination that we understood was formed with gentlemen from Lower Canada, with the view of carrying on the government, on almost the very first question that arose, we saw a separation taking place. The hon. member for Lambton is not satisfied with a settlement of the Clergy Reserves, but he must have “all the rest of it,” and that involves that a College in Lower Canada is not to be incorporated in accordance with the wishes of almost every member from Lower Canada, unless the hon. member for Lambton gets the bill framed to suit his own mind, and I apprehend there is scarcely any modification of the bill which would satisfy him. I wish to put it again to hon. gentlemen who have any sort of common sense, to consider whether the government of this country is to be carried on or not, and whether it is practicable to carry on the government of this country on the principles of the hon. member for Lambton, by setting at defiance the feelings of the people of Lower Canada. The hon. member for Lambton and the gentlemen from Upper Canada who go with him, have only one consistent course to pursue, and that is to go for a dissolution of the Union. If they wish that the government should be carried on in defiance of the feelings of the people of one section of the Province, if they are going to pursue the course which was attempted to be pursued in Holland by governing Belgium by Dutch principles, until the people arose and threw off Dutch authority, or if they are to copy the attempt which was made by England, at least until lately, to govern Ireland upon principles altogether at variance with the feelings of the people—if an attempt is made to govern Lower Canada on those principles, I warn hon. gentlemen that that is a course which cannot be carried out. I do not think, however, that the opinions of the hon. member for Lambton are sustained in Upper Canada. I believe that every election that takes place will show that they are not sustained. But if I believed those views were sustained by the people of Upper Canada, then I would say that the only common sense view would be that the Union should be dissolved.

Mr. BROWN said the hon. member for Renfrew had made one of his accustomed speeches for Lower Canada ears—such a speech as was only heard from unfaithful Upper Canada representatives, but never from Lower Canadians themselves. The honorable gentleman would make it appear that he [Mr. Brown) and those who thought with him desired to do great injustice to Lower Canada, while in fact all they demanded was bare justice for Upper Canada. The hon. gentleman was also too apt to deliver lectures to the opposition about their proper course of policy and what their proceedings would certainly end in. He thought it would be at least decent in the hon. gentleman to leave the opposition to chalk out their own course. It ill became a politician who had just broken down ignominiously himself—who in one session had turned a majority of three fourths of the house into a feeble minority—to read lectures to any body.

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