Province of Canada, Legislative Assembly, Representation by Population [McGee’s Speech] (17 April 1861)
By: Province of Canada (Parliament), The Globe
Citation: “Provincial Parliament”, The Globe (25 April 1861).
Quebec, Wednesday, April 17.
The Speaker took the chair at three o’clock.
REPRESENTATION BY POPULATION.
The order was then called for resuming the adjourned debate upon the question proposed by Mr. Ferguson, “That the bill providing for a reform in the representation of the people in Legislative Assembly, by re-adjusting and equalizing the same without reference to existing boundaries or territorial distinction, be now read a first time.” and of the Hon. Mr. Cauchon’s amendment, “That the said bill be read a first time this day six months.”
Mr. MacDougall addressed the House in a speech of considerable length. We reserve the report of it till to-morrow.
Hon. Mr. Rose said he thought at one portion of the speech of the hon. gentlemen who had just resumed his seat, he would have been able to have congratulated him on the moderate temper he had displayed. But the conclusion of his speech had taken by surprise many gentlemen on both sides of the House. The hon. gentlemen had threatened them with nothing short of revolution and annexation to the United States. (Ironcial cheers by the Opposition.)
Hon. Mr. Foley – How shocking! What is annexation?
Hon. Mr. Rose would refer the hon. gentleman for an answer to his leader from Lower Canada, who had signed a document in which annexation views were expressed. But he would pass from that to the comparisons which the member for North Oxford had instituted with reference to the revenues derived from the respective section of the Province, and the state of the debt at the time of the Union. The hon. gentleman stated that at the time of the Union the debt of Lower Canada was nearly equal to that of Upper Canada. The hon. member surely could not be ignorant that at the time of the Union the whole direct debt of Lower Canada, was but €15,000, which was the whole of tis liability, except a guarantee of €80,000 for the harbour of Montreal. The hon. gentleman further stated that for the debt of Upper Canada there were valuable assets to show, and instenced the Welland Canal. He would like him, however, to show how he could increase the revenue from that work, so as to make it pay even the interest on the debt of construction. With reference to the debt of the two sections at the time of the Union, Lord Sydenthars, the hon. gentleman’s own authority, and stated that Lower Canada owed nothing, while Upper Canada owed heavily, and had not credit to borrow a shilling more. The hon. member further stated that Upper Canada had contributed two-thirds or three-fourths of the revenue. This statement had been so frequently made that it should not be allowed to pass without contradiction. He (Mr. Rose) had gone over the Accounts since the time of the Union with a good deal of care, and would state facts which he challenged any hon. gentleman to contradict. The net amount of revenue which had gone into the coffers of the Province since the Union was $57,700,000; The five principal sources of revenue had yielded as follows: – Customs, $46,800,000; Excise, $2,064,000; Public Works; $3,000,000; Causal $1,299,000; Bank imports, $1,200,000. Total received from these five sources, $54,234,000. Of these five items, what had Lower Canada contributed? It would be said that of the customs’ revenue collected at Montreal and Quebec, a large proportion was contributed by Upper Canada. But, at present, assuming that what was collected in Lower Canada, the comparison would stand thus. Of the revenue from Customs, there was collected in Lower Canada, $29,524,000; in Upper Canada $17,176,000: of the Excise, there was contributed by Lower Canada, $[illegible],000; by Upper Canada $1,171,000 of Causal Revenue besides $634,000, [illegible] was not specially appropriate either to Upper Canada $230,000. Of Bank Imports, Lower Canada contributed $672,000, and Upper Canada $444,000. (Opposition laughter). Hon. gentlemen might laugh. They might say all the banking was carried on in Upper Canada had not hon. gentlemen heard of the lumbering interest, which had large banking requirements, and the operations in exchange between Montreal and Quebec and England? With regard to the revenue from Public Works, $3,020,000, it was contributed in equal proportion by Upper and Lower Canada, $1,500,000 by each. So out of the five great sources of revenue, amounting in the aggregate to $54,384,000, well, out of $57,344,000, Lower Canada contributed $33,400,000; and Upper Canada contributed $21,900,000. (Laughter on the Opposition side.) Hon. gentlemen might laugh, but the only item with regard to which there could be any dispute, was the Customs’ revenue collected in Montreal. The net amount derived from territorial resources since the Union – the expenses of managing the public lands having been very great, something like $5,000,000 – the set revenue was $2,610,000. The department had classified a portion of this as derived from the general territory of the Province, not belonging specially to one section or the other, and that portion amounted to $2,300,000, leaving only shout $3,000,000, in doubt. He would say that half was derived from Upper and Lower Canada. (Laughter.) Hon. gentlemen opposite laughed, but did they not know that the chief profit of the territorial department was derived from the lumbering interest, especially in the Ottawa district. These figures showed this result that Lower Canada had contributed to the public revenue since the Union. $34,600,000, and Upper Canada but $22,500,000. With regard to the customs’ department, the great bulk of Upper Canada importations by the St. Lawrence passed on to Upper Canada under bond. He believed that not one-hundredth part of them paid duty in Montreal.
Mr. Gowan – Is the hon. gentleman not aware that the great bulk of the goods consumed in Upper Canada, at least east of Cobourg, is bought in Montreal and pays duty there?
Hon. Mr. Rose said as regarded goods purchased in Montreal and Quebec, the duties were really paid by the Montreal and Quebec merchants. The duties paid on these goods were no more the contribution of Upper Canada to the Revenue, than the duties on goods purchased by Upper Canadians in New York were their contribution to the revenue of the United States. Suppose there was to be a dissolution of the Union, the Upper Canada trader would either have to go to New York or Boston, or Montreal, for his goods. But how long the bonding system with the United States might last it was impossible to say; and in what position would Upper Canadians be placed, shut out from access to the ocean by the St. Lawrence.
Mr. Gowan – Does the hon. gentleman mean to say that in any case, we would be prevented from using the St. Lawrence?
Hon. Mr. Rose said it would be a matter for arrangement. England would not necessarily interfere to settle our quarrels. At this moment, did not one of the chief difficulties between North and South in the United States refer to the control of the Mississippi navigation. He denied that if Upper and Lower Canada were each independent, there would be any necessity incumbent on Lower Canada to concede the free navigation of the St. Lawrence. Coming to the expenditure, Mr. Rose stated that the gross expenditure since the Union was $81,167,000. Some items was common to both Provinces. These were interest on debt. $21,700,000; Civil Government, $3,500,000; Legislation, $5,000,000; Education, $5,500,000, (there being an excess under this head paid to Upper Canada of $141,000.) Charities, hospitals, and agriculture $2,600,000; Sinking Fund, $2,500,000. Total: $40,800,000. In regard to debatable items, there were expenditure on Public Works $21,000,000; Administration of Justice, $6,300,000; Light House and Coast Service, $1,100,000; miscellaneous, $8,000,000. Total, $36,400,000. The balance of $3,967,000 was nearly made up thus; Penitentiary $350,000; Militia, $750,000; Emigration, $250,000; Pensions, $350,000; Indian Annuities, $400,000. In regard to the Public Works, it had been stated that the great bulk of the expenditure had been in Lower Canada. What did the accounts show? The amount of expenditure on Public Works was thus divided – for Canada, such as the Chats Canal, the Ottawa Slides, &c., $2,800,000; in Upper Canada. $9,800,000; in Lower Canada, $8300,000. Where, then, was all this disparity of which they had heard so much, with reference to the expenditure on Public Works, the amount expended in Lower Canada having been $1,500,000 less than in Upper Canada? Coming to the item, Administration of Justice, with regard to which the member for North Oxford had said so much, he admitted there was a disparity there. The expenditure in Upper Canada had been $2,700,000, and in Lower Canada $3,500,000/ He would allow him the full benefit of that disparity, which was disappearing every day, but that was the only item in which there was a disparity against Lower Canada, and $200,000 was undistinguishable. Of the Miscellaneous expenditure, $3,905,000 was for the Province generally. Of the other $4,000,000, it was difficult to distinguish what belonged to Upper and what to Locer Canada. He assumed that it might be apportioned equally. What, then, was the result? That of those items $6,700,000 belonged to Canada proper; $14,384,000 to Upper Canada; and $14,322,000 to Lower Canada. If those statements were true, what was the value of all that had been said of the excess of expenditure in Lower Canada, as compared with Upper Canada. He challenged hon. gentlemen opposite to show that the figures were erroneous. He would only say a few words on the subject of the motion now under discussion. He thought that 300,000 as the excess of the population of Upper Canada over Lower Canada was an over-estimate. Making an estimate, from the returns received of those yet to come in, he believed it would be shown that the population of Upper Canada was about 1,333,000 and of Lower Canada 1,150,000 – an excess of 183,000. But suppose it were 250,000, would that be a sufficient reason for clamouring for constitutional changes, and threatening a dissolution of the Union, or annexation to the United States? He did not apprehend any serious difficulty, where there was no practical evil to redress. (Ironical cheers from the Opposition.) WHat offensive legislation had been forced on Upper Canada? Was there a petition from Upper Canada for the repeal of a single measure? What legislation was there with which the people of Upper Canada were dissatisfied?
Hon. Mr. Foley – What about the Jury Law?
Mr. W. P. Powell – The Jury Law passed at its third reading by a majority of four from Upper Canada.
Hon. Mr. Foley – Yes, after the members of the Brown-Dorion Administration were turned out of the House.
Hon. Mr. Rose went on to say that beyond a doubt the public sentiment of Upper Canada had been excited on this question of Representation by Population to a degree for which hon. gentlemen opposite had incurred a deep responsibility. That ery had been got up for party purposes, and for party purposes only.
Hon. Mr. Foley – Would the hon. Gentleman be satisfied if Lower Canada were governed by an Upper Canada majority?
Hon. Mr. Rose – You might as well ask if the moon was made of green cheese. (Laughter.) The hon. gentleman’s leader in Upper Canada abjured the principle of the Double Majority. As the Representation by Population no Government could be formed on the principle of carrying out that measure. The history of the Brown-Dorion Administration showed that it was impossible. If we were a homogeneous people, Population might be on of the bases of Representation.
Hon. Mr. Sicotte – No.
Hon. Mr. Rose said that at least was his opinion, but this Union was of a federal nature, and being so, could not admit of population being made the sole basis of representation. Lower Canada, almost to a mon, was against that principle, and even if it were carried by a bare majority, it would be impossible to carry it into practical effect. The whole of Lower Canada being hostile, it would be impossible to work the Union with that principle admitted. There was an unanimity of opinion in Lower Canada on this point. All the English-speaking members, with one exception, were as one with regard to it with their French colleagues, and probably after the next election, that one exception would not exist. The adoption of the principle would place the English-speaking people of Lower Canada in a worse position than they now occupied. At present they could command 15 or 17 seats in the House; but if the population was apportioned into constituencies numbering about 20,000 each, it would be impossible to make anything like that number of constituencies, probably not more than five, in which the population would be English-speaking and Protestant. He thought, when there was no practical evil to be remedied, the populations of the two sections of the Province might continue to bear and forbear, and go on in harmony together.
Mr. McGee – The hon. gentleman who has just sat down, is, Mr. Speaker, not easy to follow, because he has the knack of muddling whatever is clear in itself. He has just given us the [illegible] revenue of the Province since the Union at $57,000,000, and then informed the House, that, in apportioning the amounts collected in Upper and Lower Canada respectively, “the only item” about which there could be any dispute was one of $47,000,000 out of $57,000,000. This was as if one were called to account to us for a pound sterling, and remarked that there was only “one item” of 15s, about which there was doubt. (Laughter.) The hon. gentlemen has further discovered a new principle in polluted economy. From this night henceforth let no man say that the great roll of the masters of economical science is closed, or that the discoveries in that region of human speculation are exhausted. To the names of Adam Smith, Richardo, and Mills, must now be added the name of Rose. (Laughter.) The hon. gentleman had discovered that it is not the consumer who pays the duty, but the merchant. (Laughter.) That is a discovery, Sir, never before made; certainly it was never before announced by a Minister at the head of a great Administrative Department, to a Legislative Assembly in this or any other country in the world. In figures the hon. Commissioner makes no great figure. (Laughter.) And it would be an act of kindness on the part of some of his friends to induce the hon. gentlemen to place that portion of his duties in commission to the Finance Minister, who, if he would not undertake to approve such discoveries in political science, would save the party with which he is connected, and the Ministry of which he formed one, from the ridicule which must fall on such axioms as those propounded by the Commissioner of Public Works. There is not an intelligent man in Quebec, who knows that two and two make four, who will not be laughing by breakfast time to-morrow morning, if he takes the morning paper, at the political economy and political anthmetic of the hon. gentleman. (Laughter.) To pass, Mr. Speaker, to the motions before us. The hon. gentleman at the head of the Government has chosen to solve the debate in all its latitude, and with more than its former longitude. (Laughter.) Every one knows that it is not in the power of the hon. member for South Simcoe to originate any serious discussion in this house. Every one knows from the proceedings of the last few days, that the Attorney General for Lower Canada is the actual author of this outbreak of hostilities between the two sections of the Province, for the spirit in which he renewed the debate, was a hostile, angry, uncompromising spirit, I leave to the members from Upper Canada the vindication of their own constituents, but I cannot refrain from saying, that having bad frequent opportunities of observing the people of that section of the country – having enjoyed their hospitalities and canvassed their opinions – I feel compelled to say that the charges made of profligacy, immorality, and inferiority, were unfit to be made in this House by any one, but most unfit of all to be made by the Premier of an Administration which claims to govern the whole people of this country, irrespective of their residence, East or West. (Hear, hear.) The hon. gentleman though vicious in his anger, is no fool. (Laughter.) He knows that if he flings a hatchet from a hourstop into a crowd, it must hurt somebody, and equally certain is he that his ground and pointed insults hurled against all Upper Canada must wound, and rankle, and inflame. What, then, can be his motive, except to rouse to a war of race those who speak his own language in this House; to place himself at the head of an inflammatory party in this section of the country, and to imitate, without the plea of self-defence or sectional injustice, the cries and tactics by which, according to his version, the hon. member for Toronto and his friends obtained their Upper Canada majority in 1857. In this the line which the hon. gentleman, being Premier, has chalked out for himself? Judged by his own words, he can have chosen no other; judged by his echoes from Champlain county and elsewhere, this must be his line; but let me tell him now, that the scheme is fortunately as impracticable as it is wicked. They talk of war to the knife, or treason, and of traitors, and of punishment – language just as unfit for this House as the grossly offensive language used towards Upper Canada. (Hear, hear.) Synch menaces and epithets may, in themselves be unworthy of our serious notice, but the feelings which prompted them are strange and formidable feelings to be exhibited in this House, in the twentieth year of the legislative Union. I noticed, during his all-evening speech, that the hon. gentleman [Mr. Cartier] spoke frequently of “my countrymen” and “my own countrymen”, meaning the French-speaking population of Lower Canada, as if he did not recognize his fellow-subjects of other languages as equally with them, his fellow countrymen. [Hear, hear.] How is this, Mr. Speaker? Is the hon. gentleman a Prime Minister over strangers, imposed on them by sheer force of circumstances, but without regard for their honour, their interests, or their approbation? This extraordinary language ought surely to be explained; and if this House cannot compel an explanation, then the representative of that power which knows no distinction between Her Majesty’s subjects of Canada ought to require such an explanation. I call your attention, Sir, and that of the House, to this hitherto unheard of language, and I proceed now to the general question – Shall we, or shall we not, have such constitutional changes as our present circumstances, our twenty years experience of Responsible Government, and a majority of our fellow subjects demand at our hands? (Hear, hear.) The arguments addressed to this House in favour of maintaining things as they are, by the three Cabinet Ministers from Lower Canada having rests in this House, and by general members, their partisans, (who may be called the buttresses of the Administration joined to it and supporting it from without) were mainly three: 1. The example of Great Britain, whose institutions our were said to be a transcript: 2. The recent and experience of the United States – held up to us for our warning; The predetermination of French Canadians to entertain at no future time, near or distant, the question of readjusting the popular representation in this House, I think these three heads include all the argument or show of argument that was made on the other side, and when I examine the two former – the American and British precedents – I shall feel free to discuss the consequences of the utterly impracticable policy foreshadowed in the ultimatum of “things as they are” for another ten years. (Hear, hear.) I deny, Sir, at the outset with the member for South Ontario, that our system can be considered a transcript of the British constitution. Where is the resemblance – not to say identity? England has three “estates” – a Sovereign and two Houses, and we have three branches of Legislature, a Governor and two Chambers. But France, and Prusia, and Belgium, and the United States, have also two Chambers and an Executive, or Sovereign. If we look below the surface we will find that in the present distribution of our powers, we depart almost as widely from the British system. IN several important particulars, as the United States, or some others of the countries just names. Is the Constitutional Act of 1791, and even if the Act of Union, the distribution of powers was essentially different from what if [illegible] now. Then, the Governor General had judicial functions as part of the Court of Appeals – now he has no judicial function; then the Upper House was nominative and might have been hereditary, not it is elective and ephemeral then there was legal provisions made for the maintenance of the Church of England; now you have a Statute, ratified by an Imperial Act, declaring it to be essential to abolish “the very semblance of the connection between Church and State.” Without judicial powers in your Executive, without an [illegible], judicial, or hereditary element in your Upper House, where is the much-talked of transcript of the British constitution? In the powers and functions of this House, we might, indeed, find a close resemblance to the composition of the British House of Commons, if it were not for the 12th section of the Act of Union, which is the real basis of this House; the clause decreeing equality of representation to the two former Provinces of Upper and Lower Canada. Is it not this clase, by your own showing, that gives a federative character to this assembly, and where let me ask, can you show a federative clause in the Reform Bill of 1832, in the Bill of Rights, or the Acts of Union with Ireland or Scotland – or in any other fundamental law of England, defining the character of their House of Commons? No such provision exists, and consequently each of our three principles, or modification of principles, absolutely unknown to the British system. (Hear, hear.) The British system, Mr. Speaker, as a very [illegible] acquaintance with its history shown, was originally constructed on the principle of a domestic balance of power, and although it has undergone important modifications, it has never wholly lost its original character. In its first ages, the balance was between the Clergy and Nobles – “the spirituality and the temporary,” as they were anciently called. A radical innovation was made by the great [illegible] leader Simon de Montfort, now better known of a soldier than a statesman, when he introduced the representation of borough towns. Before his day the tenants in [illegible] and by knights’ service in the country, looked with the same indifferent on the claims of the more mechanics of the towns, that the hon. gentleman does on the majority of Upper Canada; but when de Montfort’s reform began to take effect on the system, [illegible] after the reformation had displaced the clerical equipoise, the balance was formed by the town and country party and that continued to be the case till the Reform Bill of 1832, and still, in part continues. In England this offsetting of interests of classes was possible, for the soil of England was held by feudal tenures, and so early as the reign of the first Stuart, 8,000 towns could be counted within the Kingdom. In England, as Romilly, said of India, “Distinctions of class are religiously preserved;” in England there are estates of the Crown, of the Peerage, and of the Commons; but in Canada we have nothing of the kind. In Canada we have been obligated to extinguish the only feudal tenure which remained on the Continent, and to substitute for it, the tenure of “free and common soccage” – the universal tenure of the British American Colonies, a tenure fatal to the growth or sustenance of a landed aristocracy. I freely admit, therefore, with all the hon. gentlemen who have made that assertion, that the British system is not now, and never was founded on the basis of numbers alone; but at the same time I assert we never had a close copy of that system, and that every year since, the Union we have been departing, under the pressure of circumstances, further and further, from the general resemblance, which our constitutional acts once bore to that original. (Hear, hear.) But, sir, I might go even further than this – I might assert with truth, that for the last half century and upwards, much of the best intellect of England has been devoted, to equalizing the representation of the people, in the Commons House of Parliament. What was the method pursued by Earl Grey’s administration, when they brought in their Reform Bill in 1832? They employed Lieut. Drummond, an expert at calculations, to classify the towns and counties of England, into five classes or schedules, in proportion to their population and taxation. Lieut. Drummond’s decimal tables were a main point of attack, by the Diernell of that day – Mr. John Wilson Croker. Every advocate of the bill defended their accuracy; upon the basis of those calculations the Reform was carried, and the Representation still stands. Why were St. Michael’s and St. Mames, Gattan and old [illegible] disfranchised? Why were Manchester and Leeds enfranchised? Because the former were dispeopled, and the letter were populous towns – and was not that a long stride towards the representation of numbers. (Hear, hear.) This is a very slight sketch of the history of the British system; before, however, I pass away from it. I beg to observe, in answer to what fell from the hon. Provincial Secretary and other gentlemen, who referred to the unequal representation of Ireland in the Imperial Parliament, that the Irish liberal or patriotic party, have always considered that inequality, a flagrant injustice. (Hear, hear.) The hon. Secretary alluded to Mr. O’Connell on this point, and was glad to find that I considered him a greater authority now than when he was living. Sir, I had the honour to known him slightly in his latter days, and the misfortune to differ from that illustrious man, to whose memory I may be permitted to render the homage of my maturest reflections. It has been my lot, Sir, to have seen many and to have known a few – a very few – historical persons, but I can truly my, that, apart from the exaggeration of native patriotism, I never approached a person, who seemed more truly deserving of the title of “great” than Mr. O’Connell. (Hear, hear.) When I consider his exclusively Gaelic origin, his Provincial birth, his prescribed creed, his foreign aducations; when I consider that the English tongue destined to be his sole arsenal, equipment and resource, was neither the language of his childhood in Kerry, nor of his studies in France; when I consider all the foes he overcame within and without; when I remember that he entered the Imperial Parliament for the first time at the age of 54, and the position he made and held till the last, in that critical assembly; I feel that I do not place him too highly, when I claim that he should be ranked among the most original politicians of modern times. (Hear, hear.) Well Sir, on this very subject before us what was Mr. O’Connell’s a standing complaint – “The county or Cork has 300,000 inhabitants, and (with her boroughs) six members; the principality of Wales, has some 900,000 inhabitants, and yet Wales has 29 members! Is this justice to Ireland – is this a union which should be [illegible] by Irishmen?” Such were the arguments of that great popular leader, and such was the doctrine of all the Irish liberal party – a school to which, in many things, though not in all things, I am as proud to declare my adhesion to-day, as I was in the earlier and more enthusiastic years of my life. (Hear, hear.) The recent sad experience of the United States has been frequently held up to us as a warning, against extending the power of the people in this House, during this debate. Every one of the gentlemen who so admonished us, [illegible] one and the same cause – the excess of the democratic element in that constitution, as the origin of its disruption. Mr. Speaker, I sympathize deeply with the proud and [illegible] American people, who for the first time within living memory, are doomed to hear their country spoken of in accents of pity. I sympathize with them, and with human nature deeply concerned in the issue of the American experiment; but I maintain that it is our duty in the presence of such events as are now unfortunately occurring in the United States, not to volunteer our testimony on slight or insufficient grounds against man’s capacity for self-government in the New World – [Hear, hear.] – not to attempt to wrong a distorted moral, unfavourable to human rights, from a hurried survey of the facts. [Hear, hear.] Next to the people of the Free States, we ourselves possess the largest powers of self-government wielded anywhere on this continent, and we ought to be bailsmen with them for our common liberties, derived from a common root, rather than witnesses against them. [Cries of hear, hear.] But as the instance of the United States has been adduced, let me ask directly, does any one pretend to say that it was, mainly or solely, through default of the House of Representatives – which is based strictly on Representation by Population, that the Union fell? [Hear, hear.] The senate is constructed on quite another basis; on the basis of State equality; yet every one knows that in the Senate, the discussion mainly raged, since the early days of Mr. Calhoun, June, 1820, downwards. It was not through the popular branch, that the core of the constitution was wounded beyond cure, if it has been wounded. What then becomes of your argument, [illegible] or nothing? Oh! It was because the President’s Cabinet did not sit in the House, and were not responsible directly to the Legislature that the system broke up! Well, suppose we grant this other assumption, who proposes here to lessen the responsibility of our Ministers, or to exclude them from this House? No one proposes anything of the kind; let us not evade the question under consideration, by arguing against a proposition which is not before us. If we are to profit by American experience, it can only be by taking into view all the recent facts of their political history, the numerical increase of the slaves, the territorial increase of the Southern States, the annexation of Texas, the war with Mexico, the conquest of California, that fatal success which has brought the trial of sudden riches, hard to be borne by man or nation, in its train. Then there were other internal reasons, besides this sudden overgrowth. There was the States rights doctrine of Mr. Calhoun and his school, which taught the seductive theory to Southern men that the essentials of sovereignty remained with the States, and never were coded to the Union then there was a political pulpit and an agitating clergy, confounding the Sabbath with the week, and theology with politics; then there was a brilliant but reckless press sneering daily at the “Union-nevers” – a press, before whose arrows of ridicule, barbed by wit but feathered by folly, the ancient sentiment of veneration for the work of Washington and his colleagues fell to the earth. (Hear, hear.) These influence – but most of all the numerical increase of the slaves, the unjustly acquired spoils of the Spanish-Americans – must all be taken into the account, when we presume to sit in judgement on the events we have lived to witness at Washington; and we should be most careful not to everstate the case against popular institutions which our own resemble in structure, 9though not in administration0 quite as nearly, as they resemble those of Great Britain. (Hear, hear.) I come now, Sir, after these excursions, [illegible] the line and across the ocean, to our own constitutional condition – the immediate subject on this debate. I intend to vote against similar Bills and resolutions when introduced formerly by the hon. members for Toronto, Lambton, and Victoria. I never will vote, as I never have voted for the introduction of such a principle into our system alone, unqualified, unchecked, unbalanced. (Hear, hear.) Hon. gentlemen opposite have again in this debate sneered at their own science – or what ought to be their own science, – constitutional checks, balances and guarantees. Yet, I ask them, or any of them, from their supremely confident leader downwards, to point me out a single constitutional statesman or writer, European or American, who has ever been able to discuss this subject, or define this system, without the employment or such tenure. (Hear, hear.) I presume no one will deny, that Lord Brougham may be considered an authority on the British Constitution, and Mr. Webster, on the American. Well, in what terms do those distinguished men speak of their several systems? Mr. Webster in his celebrated speech in reply to Hayne, delivered in the Senate of the United States, in 1830, says “ I admit, Sir, that this Government is a Government of checks and balances; that is, the House of Representatives in a check on the Senate, and the Senate is a check on the House, and the President is a check on both. (Hear, hear.) The 2nd chapter of the second volume of Lord Brougham’s “Political Philosophy,” entitled “of Balances and Checks,” is devoted to prove that no constitutional system can exist without these conditions, perfect or imperfect. After referring to the constitutions of Athens and Rome, he goes to say that “a much more striking exemplification of the doctrine” – of checks and balances” is to be found in the English constitution,” After giving some particular recent instances of this description, he proceeds to lay down the general rule in words, with which I shall trouble the House; – “In all these instances,” says Lord Brougham, “whether of contending parties or conflicting authorities in the State, the different focus combine to produce the result, the movement of the machine. Its course is in the discretion neither of the one force not of the other, but in a direction between those which either would separately have made it take. As a body on which two forces operate at the same time, in different but not in opposite directions, moves in the diagonal between the two directions, so does the Legislature or the Government of a country take the middle course between the two which the different authorities or influence would make it take if left to itself. It will depend upon the proportion of the forces to each other, whether the direction taken shall incline more to the one than the other; but this affect not the argument, the course is affected by each, and the influence of each prevails at a check on the other.” I dare to quote Mr. Webster even against so profound a sage as the hon. member for Arthabaska, (Laughter.) And bye-and-bye, Sir, I may have to quote Archdeacon Paley against the hon. and rev. member for South Lanark, (Laughter) and Mr. Justice Blackstone against the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down. (Laughter.) In one respect it is consistent enough in the hon. gentlemen to sneer at “checks” and “balances”, in the face of all constitutional authority, because their own policy has never been regulated by any such constitutional rules or forces. They have been instrumented as principles or [illegible] in sweeping away 27 of the 62 clauses if the Act of Union, and yet they plead the remaining fragment as an inviolable compact. They have left our present division of powers between the two Houses, and the internal organization of each House at the hap-hazard of a single vote. (Hear, hear.)
Hon. Mr. Cauchon – No, no!
Mr. McGee – If the hon. gentleman consults the Statutes he will find it as I say. They created an elective Legislative Council, and they have never till this day defined its functions, so that no one either in this House or in the other, can describe its proper place in the present contrivance, which serves us instead of a constitution. They have induced the representative of the Sovereign to become their abettor in a horrid pantomime of oath-taking and oath, which, by the admission of their own partisans, “shocked the moral sentiment of the country,” (Hear, hear.) Have they not argued here last night and sealed their arguments with their votes, that it is not necessary for an adviser of the Crown to possess the confidence of the people? (Hear, hear.) I can well understand why persons capable of such public conduct should find checks full of painful restaurant balances irksome in operation, and guarantees impossible of observance. When I advocate a more measured distinction of the powers of the government, I advocate it not for them, but for the peace of the country, the unity of all its inhabitants, and for the direction and protection of those who may be the future rulers of the Province. (Hear, hear.) Though I intend, Mr. Speaker, to vote against the introduction of the Bill, I do not intend to meet its many able and respectable advocates on this side of the House and on the other with a flat denial, still less with odious comparisons and irritating taunts. I concede to them frankly that constitutional changes are necessary, and must come sooner or later. But I go further; I believe that such changes should be made with a view to permanence, and should embrace simultaneously the division of powers between this House and the other, the limits of the Executive power, the real responsibility of Ministers, and the recognition of some judicial tribunal as the final interpreter of our constitutional compact or fundamental law. I will endeavour to exhibit my meaning, as briefly as possible, under the several heads of the Executive, the Upper House, Ministerial Responsibility, the Composition of this House, and the function of Final INterpreter, under such a reformed constitution as I am prepared to discuss and to help forward, in common with all who are convinced of its necessity, whether they come from Upper or Lower Canada. Before I go into this detail, Mr. Speaker, it may not be amiss to say another word or two on the general subject, the division of powers and the system of check, which Dr. Paley calls “the first maxim of a free State,” and which Blackstone calls “a main preservative of the public liberty.” The same may be said to be the all but unanimous verdict of all the authors whos works are of universal authority on the great subject of government; in fact, this doctrine of the distribution of powers is as cardinal with constitutional writers as the doctrine of the division of labour is with the economists. (Hear, hear.) To begin at the head. Are the duties and powers of the Executive in any of these North American colonies – or, for our present purposes, speaking only of ourselves – as well settled, as well understood, as indisputable, as the duties of the Sovereign are in England? Has not every Governor who has been here, since the establishment of Responsible Government, been accused of violating that system? (Hear, hear.) Has not every representative of the Crown, during those twenty years, been accused of transgressing his limits, and been hooted in the streets of the seat of Government? Has not the remedy of electing our own Governors been advocated by many influential persons? Have not a “written constitution” been thought by others the only protection against the abuses alleged against the representatives of the Crown in Canada? (Hear, hear.) Have there not been hints and murmurs about a renewal of the scenes of 1837 – 38? Whence the reason? Have all out Governers been to blame, or has not the indefinite nature of their powers been a main cause of all this unpopularity? The truth seems to me to be that the Governors’ powers were settled by the Act of Union, and unsettled by Mr. Baldwin’s subsequent resolutions laying down the doctrine of the Executive Council’s responsibility to this Chamber. Nothing can show more clearly the double responsibility of the Governor as an Imperial officer to the Crown, and the Governor’s Provincial advisers to this House, than the conflicting despatches addressed on those subjects to Lord Sydenham by Lord John Russell, in October, 1839. (Hear.) Both these despatched may be considered hostile to the theory of Responsible Government, though in very different degrees, and it is equally certain from Lord Sydenham’s memoirs and letters, that the Act of Union was framed in the same spirit of hostility. Your first innovation upon that Act was to make the Governor subject, in the selection of his council, to the will of the majority of this House, – a salutary innovation, I admit, but still not part of the fundamental law; affirmed only by a resolution of this House, and which a strong man, a vain man, or an irritable man, holding the office, might and could evade, by shuffling expedients, such as refusing one party a dissolution and granting it to another, or by sanctioning such an evasion of the independence of Parliament Act, as was sanctioned at Toronto, in July, 1858. Another innovation on the Governor’s powers, I have already alluded to, when you struck him out of the composition of the Court of Appeals, and left him no remnant of judicial authority, excepting the pardoning power, may be so considered. I do not complain that our chief rulers appear on closer examination that they have still quite enough for the efficiency of their office; I do not complain that their term of office is not fixed; but I do think it would be equally desirable for the future incumbents of that high office, as well as for their councillors and the people of this country, that these powers of the Executive should be, by common consent, defined and established, so that the riotous discontents of the past might never gain disgrace our cities or our record. (Hear, hear.) For it seems to me that if you wish to give the Sovereign’s representative here a chance to be as popular as the Sovereign’s self in England, give his authority its full legitimate people within the constitution; let him know his place, let us know it, let the people know it, and then the experiments of the [illegible] and the Heads, on Canadian endurance, and the deplorable events they led to, will be impossible of repetition in the future. (Cries of hear.) I come now, Sir, to the composition fo the Upper House, and I repeat my former question; can any one in this chamber or in that, tell me what the powers of our Senate are?Can they vote confidence or want of confidence in the Ministry of the day? Can they alter or originate a money bill? We vote the people’s taxes, because on the British maxim, we come from the people – because, as the hon. member for Arthabaska said the other night- “the Commons are on the floor of this House.” But do they not also come from the people? Are they, either as persons or as an assembly, a privileged order? The only privileges I know appertaining to them is, tht they are not subject to dissolution before their time, as we are. But does this indissolubility alone constitute them an effective check on this House? Does it establish any other function in them, than the faculty or inertia? Is it anything better, in itself, than a premium for indifference – than a bonus on indolence? Men of active mind going into that Chamber may busy themselves in amateau legislation for a session or two, but when they find they have no real power, either with the Executive or with this House, they will soon grow uneasy
– “Of dropping buckets into empty wells, And growing old in drawing nothing.”
Sir, I would give the Upper House real importance, by giving it active duties; I would have it constituted on a basis as unlike ours as possible; I would have it the representative of age, property, and all our conservatice influences; and I would besides make it the Court of Impeachments, before which all high crimes against the Constitution should be tried. (Hear, hear.) And this mention of the word impeachment, brings me, Mr. Speaker, to another matter – our present notions of Ministerial responsibility to the people. We hear commonly a great deal of Ministerial responsibility to the people that is, to this House, that a majority can always turn them out of office, and so forth.
Atty. Gen. Macdonald – Is it not so?
Mr. McGee – Practically, what has been the proof of such vaunted responsibility? (Hear, hear.) Give a Ministry the power of augmenting the public debt, at discretion, and obtaining by the lavish expenditure of the people’s money a corrupt majority in this House, and they may defy, and have defied, public opinion, from one general election till another! Give them the power of retaining their seats by a narrow majority, made up wholly of their own votes, and where is the responsibility? We saw an instance of it last night. Convict one or all of them of a corrupt use of their position as advisers of the Crown – they resign – and where is the responsibility? Oh! True, you may cite them before a court of justice; you or I, or any private citizen may. That was the Finance Minister’s retort to the charges concerning the Sarnia land sale; that was the course taken by Mr. McDonnell, a citizen of Toronto, after the double shuffle. But I maintain that, according to all constitutional precedent, an offence against the State ought to be prosecuted by and in behalf of the State; that the high criminals ought to be tried before one of the bodies of the magistracy, who partake both of legislative, and in that respect, of judicial functions; and I go father, and assert that there never has been a salutary form of constitution which did not provide for the public punishment, on behalf of the State, of corrupt Ministers and other executive officers. In England, not only the ordinary adisers of the Crown are subject to such impeachment, but the Lord Chancellor may be impeached for attaching the great seal to an ignominious treaty; an Admiral may be impeached for neglecting the defence of the narrow seas; an Ambassador for having betrayed his trust a Judge for receiving a [illegible], or a Privy Councillor for propounding pernicious advice to his Sovereign. No portion of their history is better known to English politicians, than their “State Trials,” and though the comparative calm of recent times has called for few impeachments, they know well that the block and the headsman’s axe have not been removed from the ramparts of the Constitution. Those who are forever asserting that our system is a transcript of the British ought to know that, in this important particular, the copy has not been truly made; that this House cannot arraign, nor the other House fear, nor the Judges act as agressors, nor the Governor General preside at the trial of any guilty Minister, or peccant Judge in this Province; that in office you cannot reach them; that out of office you cannot pursue them; that we stand before the World in the anomalous position, of having provided ample penalties for every breach of trust, which is a public wrong, except the very highest breach of all, for which we have no penalty and no tribunal. (Hear, hear.) The thief who puts his hand into his master’s till is rightly punished; but the thief who thrusts his arm to the elbow into the public Treasury, “resigns,” to re-appear after a season, on the public stage, or to enjoy unmolested his case and dignity. (Hear, hear.) I have reached Sir – and I must beg the forbearance of the House a little longer, – while I discuss the Constitution of this House. I have always been of opinion – in Ireland – in the United States – in Canada – that the popular branch of every Legislative body, should fully represent the numbers of the population. (Hear, hear.) I for one am not frightened at the [illegible] of universal suffrage, though I am well content with out present low standard, which has been aptly termed “universal suffrage for married men.” If the population of Upper Canada should be shown to be at the census 250,000 more than that of Lower Canada, and notwithstanding all the arrangements, made under various pressures and pretexts at “the Union,” these quarter of a million out of two million and a half– one-tenth of our total numbers – demand an increased representation on this floor, in my humble opinion, the way to meet such a demand is not, by a flat denial, but by an alternative proposition, to which both sections may in the end be reconciled. Can any such proposition be made by Lower Canada. (Hear, hear.) That is the great question which the bill before the House calls on us to revolve within ourselves. The Premier says “no” and menaces us with a war of races. The hon. member for Montmorenci refuses even to debate [illegible] moves “the six months’ hoist.” My hon. Friends from Montreal and Iberville, and, I hope, I may add my hon. Friend from St. [illegible], do not despair of a remedy; they are at [illegible] events quite willing to hear other opinions and to offer their own, when the question comes up in a practical shape. I agree with those who hold that we can find an alternative proposition, rather than by repealing the Union, which would be a release, but no remedy. And I will put a supposition case to those hon. gentlemen who deny the possibility of establishing any efficient checks against oppression in our circumstances [illegible] is this: – Suppose you had guarantees for the fullest religious and civil freedom in your fundamental law, framed by yourselves and ratified by Her Majesty for herself and her successors! Suppose you had a guarantee in the composition of the Upper House; suppose you had a power of final interpretation in cases of doubt arising under the constitution, composed of an equal number of the judges of Upper and Lower Canada; would all these guarantees involving the good faith of the Sovereign and her representative, the good faith of the Upper House, and the high Judiciary; would all these content you?
Hon. Mr. Cauchon – No.
Mr. McGee – I believe there is but one voice in this House says “No.” That such guarantees could be bad, both from England and from Upper Canada, this interests of the Empire, the interests of the public creditor the interests of Upper Canada herself, would all the favourable to such a settlement, and if Lower Canada is wise in season, she will neither despise wuch terms, nor insult those who respectfully submit them for her consideration. To those, who threaten a war of races, I say solemnly – Beware! (Hear, hear.) We have pretty well extinguished the war of [illegible], and we are not likely to permit ourselves, I hope, to be embattled, like the Knights of Rhodes, by languages and nationalities. What must we think of the sanity, not to say the wisdom, of any Minister who could utter such a menace against the English-speaking population, against two thirds of the whole people of this dependency of England? That English-speaking population is a slow match, hard to kindle and hard to extinguish, and to those who address it in the language to menace, I say again, Beware! (Hear, hear.) Far better and worthier of the hon. gentleman’s position would it be to avail himself of his majority to produce an alternative to the people of Upper Canada, than to force them into one united phalanx, as his devoted follower for the last seven years, the member for Durham, told him the other night he would do “A time of peace is the time for reforms,” says a great political authority, and it will be far easier to adjust our mutual difficulties now, than to let the [illegible] constitutions [illegible] on into downright political bankruptcy. Does the hon. gentleman suppose that, by postponing the day of reckoning, he can diminish the demands on either side, or lessen the pangs of concession on either? Is his best preparative for a friendly settlement to be found in a long cherished previous hostility? Will his own usefulness, as a pacificator, be improved by his haughty and insulting tone in the present debate? Far from – far from it. He may win the applause of the unthinking; he may strengthen himself by such language with a section or a faction, but he never can become, by indulging in that spirit, a statesman for the whole country. (Cheers.) Another word only I will add to every man who values our Provincial Union peace, and prosperity – and that is, that there no time like the present in which [illegible] enter on the great, good work of constitutional amendment. To those who would attract new strength from abroad – to those who would contrast our stability with America’s agitation – to those who desire the principles of constitutional monarchy to have a fair trial in this new field. – to those [illegible] spirits who look beyond the hour, and know a duty in the distance as well as when they can touch it with their right hands – to all and every one of these classes I say, use your time, and correct by the high light of experience, the errors and aberrations of your constitution. Let others who have faith in a war of creeds, let such as have faith in a war of races, takes their stand – the sooner the better; but let all just men, who have seen and felt the derangement of our whole existing system; who have thought, and compared thought as to the remedies to be spoiled; let us be but true to ourselves and our convictions, and I am persuaded a solution will yet be found, satisfactory to all reasonable men, both in Upper and Lower Canada. (Loud cheers.)
Mr. Piche regretted that such words had fallen from the lips of the hon. member for Montreal – Mr. McGee. Lower Canadians were attached to their language, but did not, and need not attempt to impose it on any one, as it was the finest in the world. On every point of the American continent the French race and language was rising. And the hon. members think that because the Lower Canadians were polite, they were, therefore, fools. True, they were on the defensive here, as their race had ever been even in Europe, but they were vigorous, and would know how to resent such language from one who probably owed his election to Lower Canadian votes. It was very strange that Lower Canadians could not speak their own language in the House without being roughed down and having a noise made, while they patiently and politely listened to English speeches. (Hear and laughter.)
The adjournment of the debate was carried on the motion of Hon. J. S. Macdonald, seconded by Mr. Benjamin, and at 12 o’clock the House adjourned.