Province of Canada, Legislative Assembly, Repeal of the Union, The Globe Version (24 April 1856)

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Date: 1856-04-24
By: Province of Canada (Parliament), The Globe
Citation: “House of Assembly” The Globe (26 April 1856).
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THURSDAY, April 24.


Mr. BROWN.—I am quite sure, Mr. Speaker, that this debate must have highly gratified such members of this house as have long contended for equality of representation, with little apparent prospect of early success. I think it must have convinced them that the day of deliverance is not far off. The Hon. Attorney General East has been pleased to say that he looks upon this question of representation by population as a petty question—as “a mere idle theory.” Sir, I could not help contrasting the position of the hon. gentleman on this question with that of my hon. friend in Montreal (Mr. Dorion), and I confess I did think it was the Attorney General who stood chargeable with a petty spirit—with dealing in idle theories, and that on the contrary, the questions presented by my hon. friend is one of the gravest and most important that could possibly occupy the attention of this house, and that it was treated in a statesmanlike manner, worthy of the subject and of the speaker. I think hon. members from Upper Canada who have been in the habit of voting against representation by population must have learnt a salutary lesson from what has been heard to-night. What has been the argument of those hon. gentlemen who have year after year opposed the motion brought before this house? Have they attempted to say a word against the principle? No. Their reply to us has always been that we could not carry the measure; that hon. members from Lower Canada would never consent to representation by population, and that there is no use voting for it. But what have we heard on this point to-night? Why, we have had it meanfully declared by the hon. member for Montreal on this side of the house, that he cannot deny the righteousness of the principle of representation by population, and that if he fails to carry a Federative system, he for one will vote for it. (Hear, hear.) What, too, have we heard from the Attorney General East? Why, that even he is prepared to grant representation by population, so soon as the population of Upper Canada shall be shown to be largely in excess of that of Lower Canada. )Hear, hear.) That was the hon. gentleman’s statement, and I hope it will be recorded that the two leaders of Lower Canada—the leaders on both sides of the house—have announced themselves in favour of representation by population. (No, no.)

Hon. Mr. DRUMMOND.—I did not say that. I said that if at some particular time the population of either section of the Province should be larger than the other, that it would then be time for us to consider how far that section of the Province which was in an inferior position could be dealt with.

Mr. BROWN.—I am rather under an impression that the hon. Attorney General has placed the matter in a [illegible] light than he did before, but I accept at once the light in which he desired to place it, and I apprehend that the hon. gentleman’s second statement is essentially all that we could wish. If the population of Upper Canada shall be found greatly to exceed that of Lower Canada, the hon. gentleman says he will consider the subject; well sir, when he considers it, what will he do? Will he deny justice to Upper Canada? Will he then say that she should not have representation by population? He will not say so—and the conclusion I have draws from his remarks were therefore undeniably just, and I shall hold the Attorney General as an advocate of representation by population as soon as the population of Upper Canada shall largely exceed that of Lower Canada. And when shall that time arrive? According to the views of the people of Upper Canada, it has arrived now. And will not another census clearly show the gross injustice done to Upper Canada beyond all possible [illegible]? That census ought to be taken at the end of five years from the time it was last taken—or on 12th January, 1857. Why then shall we not legislate now with a view to that census. The house must bear in mind, that the advocates of representation by population have not said that we must have representation by population to-day or to-morrow—we are satisfied to take it at next general election. All we ask is that justice shall be done to Upper Canada. We cannot remain content with an inferior position in the Union. We have 200,000 more people than Lower Canada, and we pay $12 or $12 into the Provincial chest for every $4 contributed by Lower Canada—and all we ask is that an elector in Upper Canada shall have the same political influence as an elector in the lower provinces. The people of Upper Canada will never submit to a continuance of the Union, unless this bare set of justice is granted them. Honourable gentlemen, sir, may think that by moving the previous question and choking odd discussion in this house, they will still the discontent throughout the country, but I can tell them they are greatly mistaken. The people of Upper Canada of all parties are perfectly united on this question; and such motions as this of the previous question by the Provincial Secretary will only strengthen the determination to secure justice at our hands. The honorable Attorney General says the Government have no fear to discuss this question in all its bearings; but I think his statement will not go with very great force to the country in face of the fact, that his colleague has moved the previous question, so as to kill the amendment which I was about to place in your hands for a consideration of the whole question of the condition on which the union now is based. If the hon. gentleman acted wisely, and really desired to maintain the Union, and the credit of the country, he would yet get his colleague to withdraw the previous question, and allow the whole subject to be considered. If he does not, the country will see that the government and their supporters are afraid to test the opinion of the house, and only adopt their present course to avoid meeting a vote on representation by population. My amendment would be that we send the whole subject to a large committee chosen from both sides of the house, and to inquire if they cannot discover some basis on which Upper and Lower Canada can go on harmoniously together, without injustice to either. If a large vote were given upon this proposition it would tend more to settle the differences among us than if we got a large vote tonight in favour of a dissolution of the Union. I am not in favour of dissolution; I have always opposed dissolution, and I shall continue to oppose it so long as there is any chance of justice being done to Upper Canada. But when that hope is at an end, I will not hesitate to advocate separation. If I had any hesitancy in coming to the resolution of voting against the motion of the hon. member for Haldimand, it was entirely put to fight when I heard the speeches of the hon. member for Montreal and the Attorney General East, admitting the principle of representation by population, and treating it as a mere question of time. I shall still continue to struggle for the great reform of representation by population; and I appeal to Upper Canadian members, who have heretofore opposed us upon it, to say whether they are true to their trust—true to the interests of Upper Canada, when they hesitate to come forward upon every occasion with their votes and influence, and strengthen the hands of those who for years have been urging on Parliament this great principle of reform. Hon. members say there is no use in voting for it. Why? “Because,” they say, “we cannot carry it.” And how, sir, shall we ever be able to carry this or any other measure, if those who are in favour of it vote against it? It did strike me when I heard the sneers of the Attorney General East, at the speech of the hon. member for Montreal, that the unjust comments which the hon. gentleman made upon the speech might, with great force, be turned against himself. My hon. friend treated the subject as a great national question; he took a most statesmanlike view of the future destiny of the country; he admitted the injustice done to Upper Canada under the existing arrangement; he did not conceal from himself the causes of dissension which exist—and he applied himself to the task of finding some mode of meeting the whole difficulties which beset us. The hon. member recognized the necessity of placing all the people of the country upon the same footing; of rubbing out the dividing line between the two sections, or else adopting the principle of a federal union. The Attorney General East sneered at the idea of having a federal union, and at our being divided into two or three petty principalities.

Attorney General DRUMMOND.—Yes, half a-dozen!

Mr. BROWN—Would these states be so petty in a country of such magnitude as Canada? We have territory enough now to make several large states, and when the Hudson’s Bay Territory comes to us—as it undoubtedly must do at no great distance of time—there will be space for as many more. Have we never heard of states much smaller than ours would be?—states which have taken their stand creditably as self-governed communities. Nay, sir, had we not two states of Upper and Lower Canada, at a time when our population was but a third its present strength? I am not prepared to say that the Union of Canada has not produced great fruits. The material results have been very satisfactory, the country has progressed with wonderful rapidity—much faster, I am [illegible], then it would have done otherwise. But while I say this do I close my eyes to the evils it has entailed—do I conceal from myself this fact, that instead of effecting those moral and political ends for which it was brought short—it has drawn the line between the two sections more distinctly than before—and demoralized our public men in a manner most lamentable to contemplate. Is it not a fact that we are arranged in this house as two different nations—each separately represented—our public money squabbled for and divided between the contending sections? We have one part of the country [illegible] watching the other—trying to find fault because that it has not had its due share. All this is most ruinous to the perpetuation of the Union. Then we have two systems of legislation and policy for the two sections—and to carry it out, we must have double consciences, one for Upper and another for Lower Canada. How can we help differing upon a great many subjects, while we have two different systems of legislation? When a Bill is bright into this house, founded upon a Lower Canada principle to-day, and one comes to-morrow on an Upper Canada principle—how shall members act? Shall a member give a vote to sustain a Bill which he cannot conscientiously approve of? And yet, how otherwise can members from both sections of the Province act together? Do we not see every day the demoralizing effects of our position? It cannot go on thus always, Mr. Speaker—and there are but three ways of meeting the evil: by repealing the Union of the Provinces, or by assimilating our systems of local legislation—adopting representation by population, and wiping out the absurd boundary line which now separates us; or, thirdly, by remaining together for all national purposes, and leaving local questions to local legislatures. One of these courses must be taken—and however the Government may now resist, it will not be long they will be able to resist it. The Attorney General East was pleased to say he would never consent to a retrograde movement; if there was to be a movement made at all, it must be a union of the whole Provinces, with the ultimate intention of becoming an independent nation—

Attorney General DRUMMOND—That is not what I said.

Mr. BROWN (sitting down)—Let the honourable gentleman state what he did say. When he finds his words reported to-morrow, it will be seen, I think, that I have not misrepresented them.

Attorney General DRUMMOND said, what he had stated was this: If this Union could not be successfully carried on, he would wish to see a Federal Union of all the British possessions; and if ever a time should come when we should be compelled to bid adieu to this British [illegible], he hoped we would become a great and independent nation—and that we would not consent to be annexed to the United States, to be dragged down under the load of slavery.

Mr. BROWN—The honourable gentleman’s proposition is exactly as I understood it and stated it. He says, if we are to make any change, he is in favour of a union of the whole provinces, and if there is to be any change beyond that, then we should become an independent nation. I quite agree with the honourable gentleman that that would be a far better resort than becoming the [illegible] of the American Republic. (Hear, hear.) But I hope the day is very far distant when the connection between this country and Great Britain should be severed. (Hear, hear.) I regret very much that we are confined to the consideration of the particular proposition moved by the honourable member for Haldimand. I shall be compelled for the present to vote against that motion. What course, when the question is again presented, one may feel obliged to take, it is impossible to say—but for one I shall never give such a vote without great reluctance.—Upper Canada, I believe feels intensely on the subject. And I would [illegible] say to hon. gentleman that it is far better to meet the difficulty now then to put it off to a future day; for [illegible] long it will certainly present itself in a still more formidable shape.

Mr. EVANTUREL opposed Mr. Mackenzie’s motion, and also declared his [illegible] against representation by population.

Mr. SANBORN participated in the regret expressed by the hon. member for Lambton, that the ministry has resorted to an unworthy shift merely to evade a question which must sooner or later be met by all parties. He felt surprised that the hon. Attorney General (East) had directed a volley of sarcasm and affected wit against the wise and calm speech uttered by the hon. member for Montreal (Mr. Dorion.) The shifts of ridicule would recoil on him who employed such [illegible] weapons to controvert a statesmanlike and temperate speech.—The government ought to have neem prepared to meet this question to some shape or other. It is a pressing one, and must be grappled with at some time. He was aware how easy a thing it is to raise an agitation on a subject like this, new and popular. And although although [sic] the hon. member for Haldimand seizes upon every subject which will afford him food for excitement, and all the old topics have now grown [illegible]; the fact, therefore, of his adopting this question is sufficient evidence of its force and popularity, apart from its [illegible] in a political point of view. There could be no doubt that the people of Upper Canada will obtain their demand for population to be made the basis of population [sic], or they would seek to dissolve the Union. The hon. member for the county of Quebec has declared his opposition to the change. The predecessor of that hon. gentleman (Mr. Chauveau) was of the opposite mind: he both argued and voted for that basis. (Hear, hear.) There was no need of the Lower Canadians being feared of losing their [illegible]ence, if this change were adopted; they are too united and compact to sustain injury. He vindicated the honourable Attorney General’s ideas of a grand confederation. It had more importance in name than reality. Nor would it suffice to meet the difficulties experienced every day. Representation in accordance with population was the only practicable mode of solving these difficulties. He would vote, however, against any motion having for its object a [illegible] dissolution of the union; as he rather desired its perpetuation. The prosperity of the provinces is mutual, and to separate them would be merely to injure both sections, and to add another evil to the many abuses of which [illegible] in other divisions so justly complain.

Mr. RHODES agreed with the hon. member for Compton in the views that he expressed. He quite agreed that the theory of representation must be by population, but that was a different thing from carrying it into practice. The question of the dissolution of the Union and that of representation were so intimately connected that they could be well discussed together. He contended that the population of Upper Canada only exceeded that of Lower Canada by 66,000/ The births in Lower Canada in one year were 26,000, while in the same year in Upper Canada, although the population was larger, the number of births were only 20,000. From this he concluded that the natural increase of the Canadian population of Lower Canada was greater than that of the Canadian population of Upper Canada. He then calculated the number of the colored, the German, and the American population of the Upper Province, and also the larger number of females in Upper Canada who who [sic] had not increased the population, and putting them together he made out that in point of fact Lower Canada had a population 20,000 larger than Upper Canada, so far as Canadians were concerned, and the classes he alluded to being foreigners, were not entitled to the privilege of the franchise.

Mr. FOLEY said that the classes alluded to by the last speaker were equally wealthy and intelligent, if not superior to the constituents of that hon. member, and equally well entitled to the privilege of the franchise. He protested indignantly against the insinuations of the hon. gentleman against the American and German portion of the population, who were among the most intelligent found in our country. In the county which he had the honour to represent, there were large numbers of those classes, and they had more schools in their locality than in the surrounding districts.

Mr. C. DAOUST condemned the Government for not taking up the matter in earnest and compared the statesmanlike views of Mr. Dorion with those of the Attorney General East. He compared the positions of Upper and Lower Canada with that of Holland and Belgium, which, after a union of sixteen years, had found that from the differences of race and religion it was better to separate. He then referred to Switzerland, where so many races were combined, and who, when closely united, suffered from constant strife, and who, when separated, had been happy and prosperous. He had been opposed to the Union when it was consummated, because he thought it was founded in injustice, and he thought so still. At the same time, there were great difficulties in the way of a dissolution of this Union, and he was not prepared to vote for it unless it was desired by both sections of the province, but circumstances might arise very soon when this would be the case.

Mr. O’FARRELL [in French] condemned the conduct of the member for Montreal, and others of the Rouge party, who followed in the wake of the members for Haldimand and Lambton, and joined in their opposition to the educational institutions of Lower Canada. He contended that representation by population was no part of the British constitution, and was not acted upon in England, and could not be carried out. The Act of Union was a contract accepted by Lower Canada, which should be looked upon as final.

Mr. LABERGE said that the question was put in such an extraordinary manner that, although in favour of the principle, he could not vote for it in its naked form unless prepared in such a way as to lead to a practical rework. He was in favour of a dissolution of the existing Union if any proper provision was made to obviate all the inconveniences that would arise from doing so. It would be necessary to make some provision for the payment of the public debt and the disposal of the public works. He considered that the question was not regarded in its proper light. It was looked upon as [illegible]. They might be united for fifty years, but under a liberal form of Government there never could be any sympathy between them. The only thing they could mean by a union was fusion, which he did not desire. He wished that both races should have free course but that they should be united on great questions. Hr did not think that a union with the other Provinces would affect the questions, as the populations of those provinces was too small to make any difference. If the two provinces were divided into four, each section would have a population equal to that of all the other provinces united. Lower Canada would never consent that in a united Parliament Upper Canada should have a superior position. At present they had two Administrations, for when a majority from Upper Canada was against the Government the Upper Canadian section of the Government retired, but not the Lower Canadian. He could appreciate the desire that was entertained by the British population that this should be one great country, but he could not, as a French Canadian, consent to give up his nationality. He put it to the people of Upper Canada whether they would have representation by population, or a dissolution of the Union. They said yes to the first proposition, and no to the second. He condemned the ministry for evading the question of representation by population. There were certain great difficulties in the way of a dissolution of the Union which would increase every year, and both the debts and liabilities for works undertaken would every year be increase. Suppose the populations of Upper Canada should increase to the ratio that may be expected, would it be possible to maintain this Union. He considered it would not. As it is, half the time of the session is taken up with mutual [illegible] between the people of the two provinces. In such a case it would be hopeless to attempt to reserve any harmony. For a province to increase, there should be only one government, which should all pull together, but that was impossible now. The theory of the member for Montreal had been treated as crude and absurd, bit it was far more statesmanlike than that of the Attorney General.

On motion of Attorney General DRUMMOND the debate was adjourned till Monday.

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