Province of Canada, Legislative Assembly, Scrapbook Debates, 8th Parl, 2nd Sess, (23 February 1864)
By: Province of Canada (Parliament)
Citation: Province of Canada, Parliament, Scrapbook Debates, 8th Parl, 2nd Sess, 1864 at 6-13.
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TUESDAY, 23rd Feby, 1864.
The Speaker took the Chair at 3 o’clock and laid upon the table a number of returns which had come to hand in due course.
Excuses for non-attendance upon the Committees on the Joliette, Ottawa, Montreal East, and Russell Controverted Elections from Messrs. Dickson, A. Mackenzie, Shanly, Lajoie, Pouliot, Cockburn, and Rose, on Saturday last, were received and accepted as sufficient to properly account for their absence.
Mr. MACFARLANE then rose to move the Address in reply to the speech from the Throne, and said it was with pleasure he found in the resolutions which he was entrusted to submit for the consideration of the House, that foremost in the list stood the question of our militia organization and our colonial defence, and was indeed glad that we had now in progress the military training of the people, and the establishment of schools for the education of the officers— affording a guarantee that however difficult it might be to inaugurate a system of citizen soldiership, that all events in Canada a truly loyal people had now in general and effective operation a system suited to its necessities and protection—
— a system giving the man confidence in his officer, and the commander reliance in those whom he was to lead to the field. This system was one that was correct in theory, and though some of the minor details might be objectionable, he was assured that the policy of the Government was to remedy those defects, and encourage the volunteer movement by inducements even in the excess of those at present existing. He claimed for himself and the party to which he was allied, credit for desiring to teach the people of our country the art of defending the soil and the rights which they so deservedly enjoyed. He was not so selfish as to suppose that the gentlemen opposite would hesitate to co-operate with the Government in those assurances of loyalty and those guarantees of self-reliant protection against all comers, which the first and second resolutions, alike predicated and promised. Although determined to protect alike our altars and our healths— although preparing, if need be, to repel the aggressor and drive him from our soil, they did not throw down the gauntlet or challenge hostility. On the contrary, they desired peace at home, and wished abroad a continuation of those friendly relations, commercial as well as military, which had for years subsisted. Those friendly commercial relations, especially those existing between ourselves and the people of the consideration; and he trusted the action of the House would be such as would enable the Administration forcibly to bring before the Imperial Government the importance and advisability of the continuance of the Reciprocity Treaty.
The effect of that or termination, were now the subjects of discussion was well that we should dispassionately test its merits, and decide upon the course we should adopt with reference to it. There were, no doubt, numerous advantages resulting to Canada from this Treaty, which it was desirable should be preserved and continued.
The facilities which it afforded for commerce were too patent to be denied, and the general benefits which is produced were too universal to be gainsayed, but these advantages were not limited to us.
The American people shared reciprocally with us in its benefits and joint enjoy its operations. The participation by the American people in our fisheries alone, was, in his estimation, equal to all the advantages which we derived from the treat we desired to continue. In fact those fisheries were of paramount importance to them as a people, and of inestimable advantage as a school of training for their navy. It, then, political difficulties or national prejudices should unfortunately be allowed to weigh in the balance, and govern the decision of the American people— if the abrogation of that treaty at the instance of the adjoining Republic was to be effected,— if the access to our forests was to be deemed a matter of but little moment,— if the importation of our lumber and the products of our soil into their territory were to be forgotten,— if the importation of our lumber and the products our soil into their territory were to be forgotten,— if the procurement of the mineral wealth which we supply was to be foregone,— and if the sharing in our fisheries was to be disregarded, and all alike be abandoned, he feared no representations would affect the determination of a people who would be prepared to sacrifice those advantages for no reason save that we shared in some of the benefits which by the Treaty were contemplated.
It was well that we had in the Canadian Administration gentleman who, he was assured, desired this matter to be arranged upon its merits, and he trusted that in the American Government would be found men of intelligence and liberalism, who would fail to be the cause of occasioning so much immediate commercial difficulty and misfortune as the abrogation of the Treaty would entail. He was not one of those who anticipated the abrogation of that Treaty, for he believed that the good sense and commercial and farming interests of the people of the United States would approve of its re-adoption. If, unfortunately, however, it should be abrogated, and its abrogation followed by the abolition of the American Bonding Act— which allowed the passage in bond to Canada, through the States, of the productions of foreign countries, but obtained, in return, for the Americans a trade which they would not otherwise enjoy, and give them a carrying trade they would under no other circumstances procure. If we were to have agents to receive our European goods the instant they reached an American port and pay the duties upon them before the could be re-exported to Canada, placing in fact, as mentioned by one of our journals, an insuperable customs’ barrier between the Province and the ocean, no alternative would be left us but to abandon the New York and Portland routes and seek upon British soil an outlet to the Atlantic.
For, on the contrary, the prosecution of that survey was most earnestly desired by the present Administration, and only awaited the co-operation of the sister colonies to effect it. It was with pleasure he discovered that the management of our financial affairs had been such as would enable the Government and this House to take action in developing the immense resources of this growing Province. There was within ourselves the nucleus of a great people, and the germ of ever growing wealth; and he saw in the policy submitted a finger pointing to the star of future greatness and future wealth and power for this colony.
The deepening of the St. Lawrence and widening of the Welland Canals would also throw our inland waters open to the trade of the world, presenting one uninterrupted channel from Lake Superior to the Atlantic for the sea-going vessels of the universe, and would draw to its route not only our own trade, but give to us the carrying trade of the immense producing States of the West—
—and with that trade we should have the increased business which it would occasion, and the enlarged revenues which it would produce; so that our canals, instead of being a drag upon our resources, would become a source of revenue and sustenance.
And while procuring these advantages on our frontier, the inland, and as it were, domestic, development of our resources were wisely and judiciously considered in the increased facilities promised for the navigation between Carllion and Grenville of the Ottawa River, supplying an adequate and necessary outlet for the manufactures and the products of the vast territory drained by that noble stream and its tributaries, and forming the first link in that chain of locks which, in the bright future destined for this country, would yet unite the waters of the Georgian Bay with those of the Ottawa, over the surface of which would be borne past the capital of these Provinces the products of a vast country yet undeveloped; and the manufactures of a might people yet unborn.
(Hear, hear, and applause.)
To the north and west of us lay a territory pregnant with mineral and agricultural wealth, adapted alike, in soil and climate for the abode of man, and promising to the artisan, the miner, and tiller of the soil, the honest reward of industry, and the generous profusion of the innate riches which it concluded. Where the boundaries of Canada terminated in that direction (Westward) was quite unknown, but whatever limit was recognized as the outposts of the territory owned by the French at the time Canada was ceded to Britain, was, he claimed, that which should bound us now,
and which, he thought, would bring within the jurisdiction of our Government and our municipal system, a territory the wealth of which we were now unable to estimate and the advantages of possessing which we were scarcely competent to conceive. Let this immense territory, he said, be settled by our own people; let its vast beds of coal be thrown open of our own consumption; let its mineral products find their way to the markets of the world through our own waters and across our own people; lets its mineral products find their way to the markets of the world through our own waters and across our own roads, and we would forget that we were ever dependent upon our American neighbours for the corresponding products of their soil, which now threatened to be all but withheld from us.
The opening of the mines alike in the West and the East, was the creation of new employments and the development of our own resources; and it was with satisfaction he saw that both they and that living mine of teeming wealth—our fisheries—were to be alike the subjects of legislation, promising encouragement and protection to those engaged in their development and producing an additional source of revenue to our country.
In the arrangement which had been effected with regard to the Ocean Mail Service, not only had the subsidy been reduced one half, but as far as human foresight could direct, the protection of human life and the safest of the mails have been considered and ensured.
Gentlemen will please for an instant in receipt of the most deplorable intelligence as to the fate which had overtaken some of the passengers and the loss of the mails of the “Bohemian” on the American coast; yet the disaster was such as no government could guard against, and no Administration could be held responsible for.
The powers given to Government to direct the route and limit the freight to be borne by our Ocean Mail Steamers, notwithstanding this disaster, was, in his estimation, of greater consequence than the monetary considerations in the contract. It was well that such laws should be established respecting shipwrecks upon our own coasts as would enable our own courts to punish negligence at sea, and determine all questions of dispute arising out of these disasters. He trusted that the effect of those stringent laws would be, that, for the future the unfortunate reputation acquired for the navigation of the St. Lawrence might no longer be considered as fully deserved. The amendment of our laws, by the passage of a just and equitable Bill for the relief of honest but unfortunate credits, as well as the other legal measures foreshadowed in His Excellency’s speech from the throne, had been too long delayed, but happily those important questions were not to be submitted by the Government for consideration, and certainly none of them would require more careful legislation than that affecting our Parliamentary Elections. At present, the inconvenience of having but one polling place in each of the large and populous Townships throughout the country, was severely felt,
and the frauds which a second days polling induced, should be guarded against, and avoided. He hoped to see the law so amended as to enable the rate payers to exercise their franchise in their own ward, and terminate the election in one day.
A source of fraud and violence would thus be removed, and a cause of bickering and of strife amongst neighbors and friends would be at once and for ever swept away. Whilst in addition to these, the franchise would be no longer subject to the caprice of a partizan assessor, but be properly defined and honestly enjoyed.
In the determination of the Administration at once to remove the Seat of Government to Ottawa a great difficulty and endless cause of dispute has been removed, and a loyal people have paid a proper tribute of respect to a beloved and gracious Sovereign.
He was unable to give the exact details of the policy which the Minister of Finance proposed to submit to remedy the existing evils in our financial position; but judging from that hon. gentleman’s efficient management during the short time the finances of this country have been entrusted to his care, he felt assured that those new impositions and new duties which all admit to be inevitable, and which would be submitted to the House, would be such as an intelligent people would recognise to be necessary, and admit to be well devised and impartial.
The Government have so far acted well in the [text ineligible] questions of beneficial retrenchment and judicious expenditure, and he was willing to allow them to carry into effect that policy which those resolutions foreshadowed, and which he believed tended to procure for Canada that high petition which her own resources and a beneficent Providence had destined for her; and which would give to her people the assurance of present prosperity, with the prospect of future untold greatness.
Mr. CARON rose to second the resolution moved by the previous speaker. He observed that the Speech from the Throne embraced several points of a most important character, but he was sure the House would weigh seriously everything it contained.
The first question that met the House was the consideration of the question of national defence. The subject was one of the very highest importance, and as such had received the carful attention of the Government, and he was sure the House would treat it in the same manner.
He was certain the House would bear him out in the opinion that defence of the country was a subject in which every one who had the interest of the Province at heart would act with firmness and patriotism. The Government had determined to improve the St. Lawrence route. Their intention was one which the country at large would appreciate; for not one would it have a most beneficial effect on the commercial interests of Lower Canada, but also prove of the greatest advantage to the trading population of the populous West.
The Ministry in undertaking the improvement of the St. Lawrence route would confer advantages on Canada which would raise her to an unprecedented pitch of commercial prosperity.
The Government had also determined on benefitting the St. Lawrence route would confer advantages on Canada which would raise her to an unprecedented pitch of commercial prosperity.
The Government had also determined on benefitting the St. Lawrence route by instituting an enquiry into the cause of the marine disasters that had occasionally taken place. These disasters would be traced to their proper source, and it would be the object of the Government to show that they were not incident to the navigation of the River St. Lawrence. This question was one that was immediately connected with the commercial prosperity of the country, and the fact of the Government taking it up was sufficient to show that they had these interests at heart, and would advance them at every opportunity.
He would beg to compliment the Government and the Finance Minister on the altered condition of the finances of the Province. The House and the country were well aware that before the advent of the present Ministry, the Provincial finances were in the worst possible position; and every day added to the difficulties of the country in this particular respect.
The trying labors the Honorable Finance Minister had to undertake, when he accepted office, would balance the revenue and the expenditure. The task involved a vast amount of trouble, but he was happy to say it had been accomplished, and he made bold to compliment the Ministry on this very gratifying fact. The House and the country would, he felt certain, estimate the extensions that had been made to settle the financial difficulties of the country.
The member for Sherbrooke had in vain striven to lessen the enormous debt that weighed upon the country. But how did we stand at present as compared with the past? He would not enter into statistics, but merely state that, instead of the vast deficit of former years, the deficit this year only amounted to $980,000.
He could assure the House that it was the earnest desire of the Government to place the finances of the country on a basis firm and unassailable.
He was sure the House would heartily colacide in the last paragraph of the Address, “That His Excellency may rest assured that the affairs of the Province will receive our most attentive and disinterested consideration, and that we participate with His Excellency in the earnest hope that under the favor of Diving Providence our deliberations during this Session may be productive of results conducive to the prosperity of Canada, and the happiness of her people.” He would observe in conclusion that the Ministry had done their best to carry out everything they promised; they had already accomplished wonders, and he hoped, and the country expected, that they would receive the support of the House, in respect to the measures they brought forward for the public welfare.
Hon. Mr. CARTIER rose to inquire if any offer of a seat in the Cabinet had been made to any member of the House since last session. If so, he thought the House and they count were entitled to an explanation respecting such offer.
Hon. J. S. MACDONALD replied, that, he acknowledged, to the fullest extent, the right of the hon. gentleman to question the Government in relation to such an occurrence, and he therefore readily rose to reply. A vacancy in the Cabinet had occurred, and it was concluded to offer the seat to the hon. member for Russell.
Hon. J. A. MACDONALD.— There is a vacancy then?
Hon. J. S. MACDONALD.— Yes. It was offered to the hon. member for Russell, and its acceptance was by him most respectfully declined.
Mr. BELL (of Russell.)— As my name has been mentioned by the hon. gentleman at the head of the government, and as the proposal made to me happens to be the subject of the present enquiry, I think it is due to this House, as well as to the Premier and myself, that I should state to the House that what has been now stated by the Premier is correct. The offer which was made to me, I feel bound to say, was made in a straightforward and honourable manner.
For reasons which to my judgement were good and sufficient, I did not accept the proposal.
Hon. J. A MACDONALD inquired if the vacancy which had occurred was that of the Solicitor Generalship? No distinct announcement had yet been made to the House respecting the particular vacancy alluded to.
Hon. J. S. MACDONALD replied that all the other members of the Cabinet were in their seats in the House, and therefore he did not suppose that it was necessary for him to state what office was vacant.
Hon. J. A. MACDONALD said the resignation of Mr. Richards had not yet been announced.
Hon. J. S. MACDONALD replied that he might say then, as the question had been asked, that the hon. Mr. Richards, immediately upon his defeat in South Leeds, had sent in his resignation.
The first paragraph of the Address was then put and carried.
Mr. JOSEPH DUFRESNE inquired if a member of the House would be allowed to speak upon more than one paragraph, and received answer that each member would have the privilege of speaking to every paragraph as it came up.
Mr. BELLEROSE (in reference to the second paragraph of the address) said that if the acts of the Government had not prepared him for almost anything, he would feel the highest degree of astonishment at the statements contained in this paragraph. Did the hon. member of the Government really think that hon. members on this side of the House were going to allow it to pass over in silence? Did they fancy for a moment that the House or the country attached the slightest credence to their earnest protestations, that they had done everything in their power to cause the people to form with their breasts as invulnerable barrier against invasion— that they had neglected nothing which could tend to promote the efficiency of our Volunteer Militia?
This paragraph involved nothing more or less than a glaring falsehood— it was false in every particular. They had the audacity to tell us that they had done everything to fur her the efficiency of the Volunteer Militia, because, forsooth, they recognized its importance.
It appeared therefore they had been converted from their former well-known doctrines on the subject of colonial defence. But it was in every respect contrary to truth to say that since this House was last in session— since the 15th day of October last— they had used every possible exertion to give the country the benefit of a proper defensive force. What had the Premier done when he was in Hamilton a short time ago, when the Volunteer Force of that city was on parade? Did he go to encourage them by his presence, as he should have done— as one would be led to imagine by the statements of the Government he would have done? No, he kept clear of them as if he was afraid or ashamed to show himself to the Volunteer defenders of the country. It was an insult to common sense for the Administration to pretend that they had encouraged the Volunteers.
Only a few weeks ago a general order had been issued, bearing date somewhere about the middle of January, stating that the volunteers would be inspected by officers of the regular army, and that certain prizes would be given to those companies which proved most effective on the occasion of such inspection. But this inspection had been already commenced are the general order was properly made known throughout the Province.
Was this just or fair towards the volunteers— was this then the much-lauded system of giving encouragement to our citizen-soldiers? There was no lack of proof to show that truth had been utterly disregarded in this portion of the address. About a fortnight ago, for instance, another general order was issued, stating that, in order to entitle any company to be considered an effective company, at least forty men should be present at its drill-musters. Now, in the regular army, the companies numbered some eighty or one hundred men each, and yet who that was acquainted with the routine of military life could deny the fact that there was rarely more than one-half the full strength of a regular company present at a muster for drill; and yet our wise and patriotic Government required that out of a volunteer company, the full strength of which was forty-eight, not less than forty men should be present on parade— thus only allowing a deduction of eight for unavoidable absence through sickness or other legitimate cause.
And yet this was the manner in which the volunteer defenders of our country were encouraged— by enforcing rules more rigorous than those which applied to the regular army.
With regard to battalion drills, the provisions of this same general order were still more absurd and unreasonable. The companies were required to attend battalion muster six times during the year, with the strength already stated. This year, with the strength already stated. This might of course be quite possible in large cities like Quebec and Montreal, and perhaps also in Toronto, Kingston and Hamilton; but in the great majority of the rural districts it was out of the question altogether, owing to the manner in which the companies composing the rural battalions were scattered over the country. Take for instance his (Mr. Bellerose’s) own battalions were scatted over the country. Take for instance his (Mr. Bellerose’s) own battalion, the head-quarters of which were at St.Vincent de Paul— one of the companies was at a distance of eight leagues from the head-quarters while another was seventeen leagues.
By what spirit of ignorance or even worse must hon. members at the head of the Government have been impelled when they imposed these almost impossible conditions upon our volunteer battalions in order to entitle them to the small sum they received from the public treasury, in compensation for their loss of time and the man other sacrifices they had to make. The fact of the matter was that the conduct of the honourable gentlemen on the Ministerial benches seemed to indicate that they cared nothing for the defence of the country, and that they were more thoroughly annexationist in their principles than the Americans themselves.
Look at the public press and what did behold? That was was imminent in every quarter, that trouble was brewing, and that dangers which we could not conceal threatened us. What was the conduct of our patriotic Government under these circumstances? Why, there was less done this year than at any previous period; although the necessity was much greater now than it had been at any precious period; although the necessity was much greater now than it had been at any precious moment. There was little to excite astonishment in this when we considered the hon. gentlemen opposite were the men who, two years ago, on the occasion of the introduction of the Lyson’s Militia Bill, had done everything in their power to excite people against the bill and against the principle of defence in general, telling them that a militia force was useless and unnecessary. During the last session, they attempted to deceive the country with the pretence that the were desirous of increasing the Volunteer Militia of the country to 35,000 men; and that they would attain this end by recognizing or gazetting the many companies which had been formed throughout the country, and which awaited recognition of these additional volunteers, and what had they done? Why, since the last Session of Parliament, they had not gazetted a single company. Thus, if they were sincere in their protestations of last session; if they believe these 10,000 volunteers, in addition to the force we already possessed were needed, they had failed— most shamefully failed to perform their duty.
Was this encouraging the volunteers? (Ironical cheers.) He (Mr. Bellerose) had personal experience of the conduct of the Government, because he knew that companies which he had formed by his own exertions, and which he desired to have gazetted were refused that privilege when he had written to the proper authorities on their behalf. Nothing could be more strongly calculated to damp the energies of the people, and to deter them from farther of the people, and to deter them from farther exertions than the course which had been systematically pursued towards them. He could give yet another instance of the glaring falsehood contained in this paragraph which boasted of the fostering care of the Government on behalf of the Volunteer Militia. A few weeks ago, the country had been made aware of the dismissal of Brigade Major de Bellefeuille.
Of course the Premier would tell the House, with his usual specious logic, that it was done for the sake of economy. It was rather unfortunate for that hon. gentleman, however, that it happened to be so well known in the streets of Quebec, that it was done through a political motive— that it was done between two hon. members of this house had rejected with score the offers which had been made to them. They refused to accede to the terms proposed to them, and Major de Bellefeuille, than whom there was not a more competent officer in the Province, was made the victim. There was no fault whatever to be found with that gallant officer. On the contrary, he was deservedly popular in the district of which he had charge— he had succeeded in forming a most effective organization— indeed, every person who had seen the splendid battalion commanded by Col. Blanchet, which belongs to Major de [text ineligible] district, would at once admit that it was a corps of citizen soldiers of which Lower Canada had reason to be proud.
“Oh, but it was in order to carry out our retrenchment programme,” hon. gentlemen opposite would exclaim. If it was, why not previously have dismissed Brigade-Major Carter, who, during a tenure of office of some thirteen or fourteen months, had not added a single company to the active force in his district, and who, during the whole of this time, had received his pay from the public chest? But no, the hon. Minister of Militia waited until he had a political motive to dismiss the other officer, so as to give a justifiable colouring to his conduct. The next excuse would be that two districts were to be united under the management of one Bridgade-Major and a considerable saving thus effected. There was no sincerity in this allegation, inasmuch as there were other districts in which there were not nearly so many volunteers as in Major de Bellefeuille’s district. Why were the Brigade-Majors of these districts, where there so many volunteers, not dismissed? Because there was not the same corrupt and improper motive acting against them.
The hon. gentleman alluded to one or two other instances of gross mismanagement in militia affairs, and concluded by denouncing the Government in strong terms for their insincere pretensions of retrenchment as contrasted with their useless expenditure, and their reckless promises to reform measures compared with their ridiculous incompetency.
Mr. DENIS, in strong terms, denounced the Government for the manner in which they treated the very serious charges made against them by the hon. member for Laval. Were we earnest, sincere legislators, endeavouring to do our duty to the best of our ability, or were we to be treated as if legislation was a comedy, and legislators mere harlequins? To what a stage had we not descended when hon. gentlemen opposite dare not even say a single word in defence of their conduct. Doubtless it was because they knew full well that every one of their acts was indefensible. It could hardly be, however, that they were so stupid, so ignorant as to imagine that hon. gentlemen on this side of the House would refrain from pointing out, and censuring in fitting terms, their political course. The conduct of the Premier was particularly deserving of censure, in feigning sleep while the hon. member for Laval was proving in the most incontestable manner that, instead of encouraging and promoting that organization of our Volunteer Militia, he had done everything which in him lay to discourage it. It was unnecessary to comment, at any length, on the course pursued by the Administration, in reference to the defences of the Province, as this had been so fully, and ably done by the hon. member for Laval.
Look, for instance, at the case of Major de Bellefeuille, whose dismissal was dictated by the most corrupt and miserable motives, and which was now attempted to be justified under the usual plea of economy. It was hardly to be wondered at, however, that this course was pursued by the hon. gentlemen on the Treasury Benches, when we considered, that these were the same men who told the people, a few short months ago, that we wanted no military, and who told the mother-country, in so many words, “If England wishes to preserve Canada let her pay soldiers to defend it.” (Hear, hear.) But while these charges were being made and proven, the Premier and his co-leader seemed too much pre-occupied to take any notice of these charges— they were like men who had neglected their routine work during vacation, and now wished to make up for lost time.
As for the Premier himself he was a political eel, and evidently seemed to think that he was too slippery to be caught. It was true that, as a politician, he bad descended to be the lowest stage of political degradation, for his sole aim had been to delude and mislead the country by the most specious promises— The hon. gentleman then referred to the action of the Government in reference to the claims arising out of the Beauharmnois Canal case, which he censured in strong and eloquent terms— observing and he would move for the pampers, as he desired to have full details of the doings of the Government agent in his county. He concluded by saying that it was the duty of [text ineligible] to reign, inasmuch as they did act posses the confidences of the House or the public, and their course was calculated to injure the country instead of promoting its interest.
It was, doubtless, hard to expect them to be able to defend themselves, for their political sins were too numerous. There was their defective new found loyalty; their scandalous abandonment of principle, so strikingly exemplified in the case of the Hon. Commissioner of Crown Lands and his quondam favorite doctrine of Representatives by Population; and though last not least, there was the tremulous anxiety for their political existence which caused them to omit all mention of the birth of the new member of the Royal Family.
Mr. JOS. DUFRESNE followed on the same side. He also taunted the Government for their silence. It was, however, only a natural consequence of their position. They held their offices by means of falsehood and subterfuge, and it was hard to expect them to have anything to say in their own defence. With regard to the paragraph which had been the principal subject of discussion, he could only say that the Government were notoriously wanting in sincerity in their Militia policy. They now attempted to deceive the people of this Province, just as the had attempted to impose upon the Imperial authorities some time ago.
They had not improved since last session. It appeared as if there was not enough of disgraceful transactions during the last session, and that we were about to descend still deeper into the sink of political infamy. In reference to this charge he need only allude to the attempt to coerce the Ottawa members; and the offer made to the honourable and honest member of Russell, and which had been so properly treated by that hon. member.
It being six o’clock, the Speaker left the chair.
At 7:30 P.M., after the recess—
Mr. DUFRESNE addressed the House in English. He said he could not reconcile the professions of the Government with respect to the improvement of the internal water communications of the country, with the increase of the tolls on the canals already in existence. If it was intended to improve our inland navigation, so as to attract the trade of the Great West, why had the Government burthened the internal commerce of the country with higher tolls. With regard to the promise of legislation in reference to the Intercolonial Railway, he could not understand their conntenancing the scheme, out of hostility to which the Hon. Attorney-General had resigned his portfolio some time ago.
He (Mr. Dufresne) would not express an opinion as to the wisdom or otherwise of this scheme; but he did not understand why there had been such a change of feeling on this important subject— why hon. gentlemen who had opposed the scheme a year ago, could turn round and support it now and accept the responsibility in reference to the matter from which they had shrink but very recently. The Administration offered inducement of various kinds to members, holding out to some the prospect of an Intercolonial Railroad and to others that of extension westward. He was glad to hear that spite of all the piteous complaints by the present Ministerial party of the financial difficulties of the country, its great debt, amounting to $57.25 3/4 per head of the population—(laughter)—that the country was in such a favorable condition as to warrant its entering upon the expensive project of an Intercolonial Railroad. He hoped the hon. gentlemen on the Ministerial benches would be able to explain this and other inconsistencies.
Mr. CARTWRIGHT said there had been, last session, a good deal of difference of opinion in this House on the subject of the Volunteer Force, its organization, and the policy calculated to advance its usefulness and prosperity. Although he had not been able to devote that attention to the matter which its importance deserved, he had been in a position to make such investigations as afforded him information respecting the Volunteer Force in his own and other districts of the country. He had found considerable dissatisfaction prevailing among the members of the force in various places, but he was bound to say that it was not, in all cases, well founded that the members entertained expectations which could not be reasonably realised, and more than the position of the Province would warrant granting. But, after making all reasonable deductions, it was safe to say he found considerable if not general dissatisfaction existing among a large number of the volunteers, in various districts. This force was enrolled under abnormal and exception circumstances, including the peril of war to the country. The people had responded nobly to the danger; but it must be observed that the movement then originated was intended in great part as a temporary expedient; that many wished, in encouraging this movement, rather to turn the public opinion of the country in a right direction, and frame a system on which it could work effective when there was time to mature and perfect its plans for organising a proper system of defence. Hence, the temporary object being attained, there across considerable dissatisfaction in the minds of a large portion of the force at the neglect exhibited as regards the force— because they had not expected they should be exposed singlehanded to bear the brunt of the defence of the country, and face any danger that might arise. He had dissented last session from the hon. Premier’s statement that the Volunteer Force was a failure. He did not think it was then a total failure or was so now. Very likely the Premier meant to say that, though not a total failure, the Volunteer Force was not adequate to the requirements of the country. He (Mr. Cartwright) believed that the force was not sufficient to enable us to rely upon it for the effectual defence of the country. In many places our volunteer organizations were largely composed of men belonging to the Sedentary or reserve Militia— were made of men occupying positions of usefulness and comfort at once in the community, whose lives it would be injudicious to expose at the call of danger. The greater part of the Active Force was drawn from the towns, whose population scale formed one-tenth of that of the country. This of itself showed that the Volunteer Force was not sufficient or properly adapted to the defence of the country, or one on which it should exclusively rely. He believed the system was vicious in the extreme. Given the problem of how to expend the most money with the least corresponding result, and the present system was admirably adapted to its solution.
The Hon. Premier, in his three-fold office, could not possibly manage efficiently the militia of the Province. He thought he was safe in saying that fully one-third and perhaps one-half the amount appropriated for the militia, under the present system, went to the staff. This was a most extraordinary disproportion, and one that must be remedied, if we were to have an efficient and economical system put in operation. The present system did not make the smallest provision for the maintenance of the militia proper; it only applied to the maintenance and disciplining of our Volunteer Force. As many members had objected to the militia scheme of the Hon. J. A. Macdonald, he would say that if the amount now appropriated were divided by the number of efficient volunteers at present of the rolls, it would be found the expense of the present force, bearing in mind that it was an annual expense running over five or six years, would probably amount to double all that the hon. gentleman and he (Mr. Cartwright) had proposed to expend on the militia, before the advent to power of the present Administration. Many of the members had conceived mistaken ideas of the requirements of the scheme to which he had referred. They had supposed that it was intended to erect barracks and provide all the requirements of a large standing army, and so forth, when it was merely contemplated to select a certain proportion of our first-class service men and place them in camps of instruction with regular soldiers, where they should be drilled and disciplined for several months, like the latter themselves. He thought that, if this plan had been adopted, the course of training in question would not have required to be repeated with the same men, who would no doubt be found, ever after, efficient and capable of performing any service imposed. The actual expense of this training, for five or six months, would be comparatively less than what they were now compelled to expend for the maintenance of an inefficient Volunteer Force. It had been said that the assembling of large bodies of young men in camps would tend to demoralise them, and, also, that the system of conscription proposed was foreign to the genius of our people; and that, further, the withdrawal of so many men from business pursuits would be injurious to the industries of the country. Now, with regard to the last objection, there was a very large number of unmarried men in the Province between the ages of eighteen and forty-five, besides the married and those beyond those ages, and the number proposed for drill in camps could easily be spared from industrial pursuits for a portion of the year. As regards the demoralisation of our young men, he thought their being subjected to a strict course of drill and discipline would have the contrary effect. He believed the discipline of campus would be of the greatest value to them, serving as a fitting termination to their ordinary scholastic career. As to conscription being foreign to the genius of our people, he could not recognise the plea the men had any right to refuse to serve their country when called upon. He believed the country had a fair amount and prior claim to the services of all her sons. It would be as reasonable to say no man should be called upon to pay taxes without his consent, as to say as man should be called upon to undergo a certain discipline when his country required it. He thought it was plain that while the expenses of each system might be [text ineligible] equal, that in all human probability the result of that advocated by the Hon. J. A. Macdonald, and himself, would have been show the strongest possible reason for its adoption. Should the present system continue in operation it would no doubt be found that at the end of five or ten years, in spite of all the expense, we should have a comparatively useless force, over which we could exercise no efficient control. While on the other hand, if the Government had wisely made use of the facilities offered, we should have had, probably, by this time, an efficient force of 50,000 to 60,000 men, who, in conjunction with the assistance which might be expected from the mother-country would be sufficient to defend and hold this country against all comers. It appeared to him that the people of Canada, from first to last, had done their duty well and nobly, and were prepared to sustain any burden for an efficient militia organization which the Government might deem fit to impose. But he felt they had not sufficiently availed themselves of the facilities afforded by the loyalty of the people to create a force for the defence of the Province in which all could repose confidence. He trusted that, before the House broke up, measures would be taken to develope adequately our military resources, and place the militia and volunteer force of the country on a thoroughly efficient and satisfactory footing.
Mr. BLANCHET said he could not admire either the style or logic of the hon. genetlemen who had spoken in support of the Address. But, he must certainly congratulate the hon. member for L’Islet on his happy change of sentiment in relation to the defence of the country; for, there was a time when that hon. gentleman did not consider the constitution worthy of being defended by Canadian arms.
When that hon. member was on the Opposition side, his doctrine was that England should defend this country if she wished to preserve it. It was rather cruel in the member for Beauharnois to seek the disturb the slumbers of the hon. Premier— perhaps it was only a slight rest before political dissolutions. It was not at first his (Mr. Blanchet’s) intention to speak; but since the subject of the Volunteer Militia had been alluded to, by the hon. member for Laval, he would make a few remarks in reference to it. He might begin by saying that he had a little more faith in the volunteer system; than that hon. member, but certainly not with the peculiar style of encouragement which the hon. Premier had given to it— namely, by dismissing the best and most efficient officers in our Provincial service. Look for instance at the dismissal of Major de Bellefeuille, a gallant gentleman who had proved his worth and valour on the battlefield, and who had bore upon his breast the honourable reward of his merit.
There was, he (Mr. Blanchet) might say, but a single company in the district when Major de B. was appointed. That officer set energetically to work, and he succeeded admirably, for there was soon; in addition to other organizations, a fine battalion formed, which he (Mr. Blanchet) had the honor to command; a battalion of which he felt proud, and of which Lower Canada had reason to feel proud, and for the compliments paid to which, by the hon. member for Laval, he now begged to thank that hon. gentleman. A very short time ago a general order was issued, stating that an inspection of the force of the district was about to be made by Colonel Ingall, of H. M.’s 62d Regiment. The Brigade Major was order to hold himself in readiness for this inspection, and was in course of taking the proper steps, when, on the 30th ult., he had received a communication from the office of the Adjutant-General of Militia, informing him that after the 31st of the same month, his services would be no longer required.
Col. Ingall, hearing that the Brigade-Major had been dismissed, communicated with him (Mr. Blanchet) relative to the inspection; and when the inspection took place the battalion made a very fair muster— some five companies turning out on the occasion. He (Mr. Blanchet) did not desire to find fault with the handing over of the charge of the district to Major Duschesnay who was a most competent and energetic officer. But great regret was very naturally felt at the sudden and uncalled for dismissal of Major de Bellefeuille, on the eve of the inspection; and within a short period after this dismissal a meeting of the officers of the 17th Battalion or Levis Infantry was held. The first thought of several of the officers was to resign but patriotism triumphed over personal feeling; and resolutions were merely adopted to express personal feelings of regret.
He (Mr. Blanchet) here desired to state that it was far from his intention to make an political capital out of this meeting— on the contrary, he repeated that it was only sought to express personal regret; and although one of the officers desired that it should be stated in one of the resolutions that the dismissal was caused by political motives this was avoided. Well, resolutions to the effect already mentioned were adopted and published in the newspapers. Very soon after this, he (Mr. Blanchet) received a letter from the office of Militia, asking him whether such a meeting had been held, whether the published resolutions had been adopted at such meeting. To this he had immediately replied in the affirmative, stating that the published report of the meeting was correct, but taking care, at the same time, to explain that there was no political motive, no desire to make political capital, and certainly no intention whatever to violate the rules of military discipline. In reply, he (Mr. Blanchet) had received a document from the office of the Adjutant-General of Militia, condemning his conduct and that of the other officers of the battalion in holding such a meeting and thereby infringing military discipline which it was so desirable to preserve in the Volunteer Force, but stating that no other step would be taken against him or his officers as it appeared that the had acted rather in ignorance that they were doing wrong than with any design to behave in an insubordinate manner. Now he heartily concurred in the doctrine that discipline must be maintained; but it should be borne in mind that the volunteers were citizen-soldiers, and it was not reasonable to consider them subject to the Queen’d regulations for the regular army.
He (Mr. Blanchet) was not aware that he had committed any breach of military rule in the course he, as a volunteer officer, had taken, nor did he think he merited any reprimand. He was one of the first, when the Treat difficulty arose and danger treated our frontier, to add his humble efforts to those of others who had come forward to defend their country, and he had succeeded in organizing a flank company of the Sedentary Militia. And on the occasion of the second reading of the Cartier-Macdonald Militia Bill, he (Mr. Blanchet) had voted for the second reading of the same— not because he approved of the details, but because he desired to show that he was in favor of the principe of defence, and because he feared that its rejection would have a bad effect on our relations with the mother-country; and subsequent events shewed that his fears were but too well founded. It was, as he had already said, much to be regretted that such an efficient officer as Major de Bellefeuille had been dismissed; but it was not on the ground of economy as hon. gentlemen on the Ministerial benches pretended. It was owing to causes of quite a different nature, and an incident which he (Mr. Blanchet) would not relate might tend to elucidate the real causes. It would be recollected that, when the motion of want of confidence, proposed by the hon. member for West Northumberland, was under discussion, strong exertions were made by the hon. Premier to secure support, and he did succeed eventually in obtaining a majority of three on the vote on that motion. One evening, during that debate, he was somewhat surprised to see the leader of the Government, about the House, arm-in-arm with Major de Bellefeuille, and evidently on the most friendly terms with him. At a late hour in the evening, the Major sent for him, by one of the pages of the House, and on meeting that officer in the smoking-room he was informed b him that he had a message for him (Mr. Blanchet), from the Minister of Militia, which was somewhat to the following effect; “If you will vote for thee Government on this motion I shall have two Military Districts placed under my charge instead of one.”
A VOICE— Honest man! (Laughter.)
Mr. JOS. DUFRESNE— The hon. Premier is asleep.— (Cheers.)
Mr. BLANCHET went on to say that he did not think the hon. Premier would deny the version he had just given of this affair. It was needless for him (Mr. Blanchet) to enter into detail as to any personal observations he had made with regard to this offer.
His subsequent course was known to the country, and he was content to be judged by it. Turning to another point of the Militia question, he could not approve of the conduct of the Government in issuing the general order which had led to the resignation of two such gallant, loyal, and able officers as Colonel Sir E. P. Tache, and Colonel Campbell. It was true that, at the time, he was hismself under the impression that they had allowed themselves to be swayed too strongly by their ideas of military etiquette, but the result had nevertheless been of the most damaging kind to the Militia of the Province.— Later general orders had been still more absurd, and of a still more discouraging character, as for instance that which defined what should constitute a claim to the title of an ineffective volunteer battalion, the inapplicability of which, to rural districts, had been so ably pointed out by the hon. member for Laval. Instead of preparing and training so efficient defensive force for the country, the course of the Minister of Militia had tended to open the door to the enemy— to leave us entirely without defence. It would be an unfortunate thing for us if war should be forced upon us in our present helpless state. We would not even have sufficient strength to secure the benefit of a treaty. We would not even be able to exclaim, with a chivalrous King of France, when overtaken by disaster: “Tout test perdue said Phonneur.”
SEVERAL HON. MEMBERS— Answer, answer!
Hon. Mr. TURCOTTE would like to know whether it was in order for a Minister to sleep or feign sleep while himself, personally, or his Department, was being made the object of of charges of the most damaging nature?
There was a pause of a moment followed by cries of “Adjourn.”
Hon. J. A. MACDONALD rose to address the House, when several members observed that the Premier was asleep, and apparently indifferent to what had been said by members of the Opposition.
Hon. Mr. HOLTON— He does not feel it.
Hon. J. A. MACDONALD said if anything were calculated to arouse a man of honor, and the leader of a Government, it was the charges which had this evening been preferred and reiterated against the hon. Minister of Militia. If he did not “feel it,” as had been said by one of his colleagues, who must share with him the responsibility of his conduct, he must be devoid of all feeling of boner, and, morally, have a skin as thick as that of the hippopotamus.
(Laughter and cheers.)
Grave as were the charges and grave as would be the consequences if the should be established— and this would be found out, no doubt, in the above event, by the hon. gentlemen on the Ministerial benches who now laughed at the idea— the hon. Minister of Militia had maintained silence on the matter to this moment. But though he might think to escape the responsibility, he would be held primarily responsible to this House and the country for the translation of which he stood accused. What was the chair? An hon. member of this House, whom they were bound to believe, got up in his place here and stated deliberately that a message had been sent to him direct from the Minister of Militia, to the effect that if he would compromise compromise his principles, betray his sacred trust, and sell his vote, that his relative should be continued in his office as Brigade-Major and have another district added to the original one. The House had heard what Mr. Bellerose had said on the subject and the two members who had spoken after him, all declaring that this advantageous offer had been made on condition of their supporting the Government on the floor of the House. And yet the hon. Minister of Militia had by his continued silence in the House left it to be inferred that he felt no concern in the matter; that be felt as if his honor had been not impugned while the most damaging charges that could be preferred against a public man were ringing through, the House, and were being taken up for transmission to all the newspapers in the country. The hon. Premier had practically said to the hon. members spoken of: Here is your friend the Brigade-Major, whose prospects in life depend on your vote; if you will vote for us, and sacrifice the principles you avowed at your election; if you will do a corrupt act, we will retain your friend in office, and keep him from starving; but if you cote against us, you’ll leave him to starve.
Yet the hon. gentlemen on the Treasury benches did not think their honor was assaulted in a manner to call for its defence against such charges. He did not impute this act to any one but the Minister of Militia himself, but still his colleagues would have to bear the consequence of being in suspicious company. He would ask the hon. gentleman’s colleagues what could they think of this—their leader being distinctly and deliberately accused of this grave offence, and his not daring to repel thereto. He knew there were honorable gentlemen on the Ministerial benches— men having characters to preserve, who, if accused of such conduct, would promptly rise and repel the charge; but their leader maintained silence, and was going to let judgement go by default, and allow it to be taken for granted that every word of the charge was true. What could the hon. Premier’s colleagues, comprising men who would be a credit to any country or government, men who had a character to support, say if what was alleged against their chief be true? What could they say to marching through Coventry with their leader, and being drawn through the dirt, and besmirched by him in regard to this matter?—
No! he could not believe the hon. gentleman’s colleagues could have known the transaction, or that the Hon. Finance Minister could have been privy thereto. He (Mr, John M. Macdonald) would now state distinctly and publicly, that he had the authority of a gentleman, personally cognizant of the transaction, for saying that the Hon. Minister of Militia had made a most corrupt offer to another gentleman, as stated, on condition of his relatives supporting the Ministry.—
(Cheers and Ministerial groans.)
Hon. J. S. MACDONALD— Name, name.
Hon. J. A. MACDONALD— The gentleman, whose authority to make the statement he possessed, was Mr. King, a friend of Mr. Issac Buchanan, and a part uninterested in the political question. Mr. King had dined in company with the hon. gentlemen, also.
Hon. J. A. MACDONALD said the Hon. Premier knew him very well, at any rate, and he was a reliable and independent witness. They had gentlemen from different quarters all stating the same thing. He called this House and the hon. Premier’s followers to witness if he was not bound by every consideration of respect for himself and party, his colleagues and the country, to deny, if he could, the damaging charges made against them.
Hon. J. S. MACDONALD said he would give the gentlemen in Opposition the benefit of the breeze they had raised against him as to the offers he was said to have made to the hon. gentlemen in question. He was in the hands of his friends, and when this House let confidence in him they could dispose of him by their vote. He would have an opportunity of answering this and other charge; against him seriatim during the session. Meantime he would give hon. gentlemen opposite the benefit of their little breeze. Let them take a vote on the question. He would abide by that.
Hon. Mr. TURCOTTE— Then the protection of your honor depends upon a vote.
Hon. Mr. CAUCHON said that it appeared that the Premier measured honor, truthfulness and manly dignity by the number of votes he would receive, rather than the ordinary standard. If he did so, however, he (Mr. Cauchon) begged to tell him that the country would not accept such a standard. The hon gentleman then criticised the Speech, which was made up of many fragments with a view to attempt to satisfy all. With regard to the charges of corrupt offers having been made by the hon. Minister of Militia, it was true that he had not even ventured on a straight-forward denial; but it would require something more than the simple averment of the hon. gentleman when we considered that, on the other hand, we had so many clear and distinct statements— not only from hon. members of this House, but from gentlemen outside of this House. The hon. gentleman boasted of his militia policy. What had been done? Nothing to encourage, and a great deal to discourage the defensive movement. Two years ago, when danger was imminent, the enthusiasm of the people was at its height. There was no difficulty whatever in forming companies and organizing battalions. The most wonderful energy and good will everywhere prevailed; but now that the Minister of Militia himself studiously pursued the policy of discouraging the volunteers what was the inevitable result. The force had fallen away, until it almost ceased to have an existence. Out of a force of 25,000 which we had on paper, he ventured to say that there were not 10,000 actually available and under arms. Throughout the country, pleaty of Colonels, Majors and Captains were to be found, but the privates were wanting— we had no soldiers. We had the skeletons of battalions, but the skeletons only. No wonder this state of things should prevail, when an efficient officer was dismissed, merely because his relatives, hon. members of this House, refused to become political renegades.
Who was there who had seen the fine battalion of Levis Volunteers at the Volunteer Review in this city, but would at once readily admit that they were a most creditable body of citizen-soldiers? The first step towards encouraging them to further exertions was taken by depriving them of their competent and energetic Brigade-Major; and the next was to degrade and insult their officers by reprimanding them, because of their expression of personal feeling towards the dismissed officer.
And this insulting course was pursued towards Col. Blanchet and his officers despite his candid statement that there was n political motive in the demonstration, and no desire to commit a breach of military discipline. It was a matter entirely for the Premier’s own consideration, whether he would condescend to reply to the very damaging attacks which had been made upon him, or perhaps indeed he considered that his character was not susceptible of damage.
(Hear, hear and laughter.)
But in his public and official capacity, the House was entitled, if not to a denial, at least to some explanation.
Mr. LANGEVIN followed in an eloquent and effective speech.— He said he would confine his remarks to one or two paragraphs of the Address, and to the revelations of corruption so characteristic of the present Administration which had been made this evening. The honorable gentleman then alluded to the corruption and corrupt offers practised at the end of the last session, to the doings during vacation; and to the manner in which the practice had been inaugurated during the present session.
(Laughter from the Ministerial side.)
Hon. gentlemen on the opposite side might laugh but their laughter was hollow and insincere for they knew that the charge was true in every particular.
Their conduct, however, had already excited throughout the country, even in those constituencies which they had formerly counted as friendly, the indignation which it could not fail to elicit. Look for instance at the case of South Leeds. In the month of June or July last, Mr. Richards went to that constituency as a supporter of the Government and was returned by a majority of 175 votes. During the recess, the Solicitor-Generalship West happening to be vacant has hawked about until, finally, the member for South Leeds, Mr. Richards, was prevailed upon to accept it. That hon. gentleman went back to his constituents with the additional prestige and power of being a member of the Government. He was met by the same opponent, Mr. Jones, the present member for South Leeds, who had only his personal respectability and the fact that he was a supporter if the Opposition to recommend him to the electors. Mr. Jones labored under the disadvantaged of having lost the votes of about one hundred of his friends whose names had been struck off the voter’s lists. But, notwithstanding this, the minority of 175 was made up as was the loss of 100, and the whole was changed into an adverse majority of 75 by which the Hon. Mr. Richards was defeated and sent into private life.
(Hear, hear, and cheers.)
Why was this— was it because Mr. Richards, had lost his influence in a county in which he had so many friends? No! it was because the corrupt and unpatriotic conduct of the Government had excited the reprobation which it deserved.— The hon. gentleman then went into the details of the Militia policy. What had the Government done to entitle them to the thanks of the country? Let their conduct and its results be judged by the fact that the recent inspection in this District only resulted in the parade of an effective force of about 830 men, while in Montreal some 2,500 had mustered. Add a couple of hundred for the rest of Lower Canada, and this gave us somewhere about 3,500 men for this section of the Province. This was not, be it remembered, because the volunteers were unmindful of their duty, unwilling, or unpatriotic. It was simply because the necessary encouragement had not been given. He complained that the existing system did no justice to the rural population; and he pointed out that by the conditions imposed, persons from the rural districts would be unable to partake of the advantages offered by the military schools and, consequently, from the lack of officers in the country places, the rural militia— if called out for active service— would have to be officered by citizens, and the former would thus be placed at great disadvantage— simply, as he had said before, because proper facilities were not given. The hon. gentleman concluded with some remarks on the necessity of such a system as would render available the rural population, and would at the same time give them fair remuneration for the time given to drill and training. He would reserve to himself the right of speaking upon other paragraphs of the Address when they came up, should he think proper to do so.
Mr. BELLEROSE remarked that, during the course of his speech, in the afternoon, he had charged the hon. Premier with having made offers of a corrupt nature, in reference to Major de Bellefeuille, to two members of this House. One of these hon. gentlemen, the hon. member for Vaudereuil, was now in his place, and he (Mr. Bellerose) would therefore take the liberty of asking him if the charge was well founded.
Mr. HARWOOD said he regretted very much being obliged to repeat, publicly, the language used during a private conversation between the Premier and himself, when he was the guest of the former. However, he did not feel that he was doing anything improper in giving the explanation sought for, inasmuch as he (Mr. Harwood) was not the first who had alluded to it, and as the question had been put in a direct and formal manner by the hon. member for Laval. He would, therefore, tell all he knew. Certain accusations had been made here against the Premier, in reference to the dismissal of Major de Bellefeuille . Now, it should be borne in mind by hon. members, that there were three persons concerned in this matter. In the first place, there was the Major himself, with whom he (Mr. Harwood) had no conversation about this affair since his dismissal; in the next place, there was the hon. member for [text eligible] (Mr. Taschereau), with whom he had not any conversation either; and, finally, there was himself. The subject had also been referred to by the press, some time ago, so that he felt, in entering into the particulars under these circumstances, that he was not violating any private confidence, much as he regretted being compelled to refer to them. The circumstances were briefly these; One evening, at the Premier’s house, that hon. gentleman addressing him (Mr. Harwood), said:— “You don’t know what you’re doing; you don’t know how to play your cards. We shall be here for a long time yet; and we could do something for yourself, your friends and Major de Bellefeuille. For instance, we could give him another District in addition to which he has already under his charge, or as he is a man of talent and experience, we could give him a place in the Adjutant General’s office.”
(Cheers and laughter.)
An HON. MEMBER— Trying to purchase wholesale and retail.
Mr. HARWOOD went on to say that, on behalf of himself as well as his relatives, he had spurned the offer contained in the Premier’s language, inasmuch as he felt he had a duty to perform towards his constituents, and that he should deserve the strongest censure if he betrayed their trust. The Premier thereupon dropped the subject (se tut.)
An HON. MEMBER— It was about time.
Mr. HARWOOD (who had spoken in French), repeated the same version of the affair in English. Just as he had concluded—
Mr. WOOD— That was all right.
Mr. HARWOOD— It may be all right according to the ideas of the hon. gentleman opposite; but it does not agree with mine. It is contrary to my sense of honor and justice.
Mr. WOOD— Was your brother-in-law (Major de B.) competent to fill the place?
Mr. HARWOOD— As competent, at least, as the hon. gentleman opposite is to fill the position which he occupies.
Mr. A. MACKENZIE did not think the hon. member for Vandreuil could justify his conduct. There was no getting over the fact that he had repeated a private conversation.
Mr. HARWOOD said that if the hon. member had listened attentively to him he would have heard him express his regret that the fact of his being called upon compelled him to relate the matter. The hon. gentleman should also recollect that there were three persons directly concerned in it— that it had been alluded to in very plain terms in the public press— that it was in no respect a secret or confidential matter— and that the first mention of it had not come from him (Mr. Harwood).
Mr. MACKENZIE said this explanation was very unsatisfactory. It was nothing else but a private conversation which had been repeated.
Mr. HARWOOD did not think certainly that it was for the hon. member for Lambton to taunt him (Mr. Harwood) about honor, delicacy or good breeding. He repeated that he had not violated any confidence.
Mr. BELLEROSE begged to say that he had first seen a statement relative to this affair in a public newspaper. As he had repeated the statement himself he had called upon the hon. member for Vaudreuil to verify it.
Mr. McKELLAR, in a short speech, censured the conduct of the Opposition generally for the tone of the debate, and more particularly that of the member for Vaudreuil for repeating a conversation.
Mr. HARWOOD— Since the hon. member considers himself such a good judge of honor, and delicacy, what does he think of the conduct of the Premier in barefacedly making such a proposal to me in his own house? Is it according to his ideas of the rites and usages of hospitality?
Mr. McKELLAR would like to ask another question. When had this proposal been made, and had the hon. gentlemen been in this Premier’s house since?
Mr. HARWOOD hoped the hon. gentleman knew the usual order of debate better than to suppose that he was going to answer his (Mr. Harwood’s) question by another question.
Mr. McKELLAR— I should nevertheless like an answer to my question.
Mr. HARWOOD— Answer mine first.
(Cheers and Laughter.)
Mr. PERRAULT censured the reposition of private conversation, and the basing of serious charges on tales (historelles) of this kind.
Hon. Mr. TURCOTTE rebuked [text inelgible] for Richelieu for the [text inelgiible] manner in which he had spoken of what was in reality [text inelgible], outrageous, and shameful attempt to corrupt. He also attacked the conduct of the Government in references to the Militia, as being calculated to destroy, instead of furthering its efficiency.
Hon. Mr. McGEE said it was his duty to recall the attention of the House to the extraordinary spectacle which had been exhibited this evening. They had seen two members rise in their places, early this evening, and declare their personal knowledge of an offence of the gravest description that could be charged against an hon. member, and especially against the Minister of Militia. They had heard the charge made in language the most clear and unmistakable, which would go to the country and be read by this time to morrow by tans of thousands of their constituents; and the House had seen the Minister of Militia sit in his place for two or three consecutive hours, without rising to deny the truth of the charge in question. When the hon. member for Levis stated that a direct message was brought to him to the effect that unless he would consent to vote for the Government Brigade Major de Bellefeuille should lose his commission in the Militia, he (Mr. McGee) expected the hon. Minister of Militia would interrupt his further remarks by the declaration that no such message had ever been sent by him or received his authorization. But he did nothing of the kind. The hon. Premier simply rose, and told the hon. member for Laval, who repeated the charge, that he would not answer him now nor during the rest of the session. What was the position of the hon. Premier, that he should make such a declaration? The hon. member for Laval was, in every respect, the equal in this House, in his representative capacity of the hon. member for Cornwall, and deserved equal consideration and respect. The hon. Premier should have, on the contrary, either answered the charges preferred against him or withheld the declaration that he would pay no attention to anything which that hon. gentleman might say during the session. It was the duty of the Premier to give the hon. member for Laval all that attention and consideration which every member was entitled to, as long as he kept within the rules of order and was not obliged to apologize to the House or the Speaker for any breach of decorum. If the hon. Premier had said to Brigade-Major de Bellefeuille— “Your relations or friends in the House are opposed of organizing properly the militia of the country, and if you lose, in consequence, your situation, you may blame them for it, for having refused the support the policy of the Government in this matter”— the House could have understood the hon. Premier’s position, and would have had no reason to complain. But what were the facts? One of the best and most creditable speeches made here last session in support of the militia bill was that of the hon. member for Vaudreuil. the brother-in-law of the dismissed Brigade-Major, and the hon. member for Beach, another of his friends, also supported the hon. Premier’s bill on that occasion; and it was well known that his militia policy could not have carried out last session had it not been for the generous support of the Opposition.
The hon. Premier could not plead, then, in justification of the dismissal, that the Brigade-Major’s friends had resisted his militia policy. The hon. Premier had told the House be would give the Opposition the benefit of the little breeze got up at his expense. It was, then, only a little breeze to declare publicly on this floor that the hon. Minister of Militia, who was the responsible adviser of His Excellency, the head of the Cabinet, had gone to superior officer of Militia and said— “your retention in office, and the further holding of your commission depends in your procuring me support in the Legislative Assembly.” This was the plain English of the message. The hon. Premier had plainly said— “Bring me political support and you will be permitted to retain your office and draw your salary.” How were these little breezes to be guarded against in our Parliament? When hon. gentlemen not now in office held seats in the Cabinet, under the hon. Premier, it was their pride to declare, and justly, too, that the militia appointments were made irrespective of party, which principle had been observed in the appointment of the original Brigade-Majors, 19 in number, he believed. He thought the Government of that day did right in making those appointments irrespective of party; for if there were any offices in the country which should be kept apart from mere partisan intrigue it was those in connection, with the defence of the country.
If a real danger unfortunately arose, the question of defence would not be one of party; because he believed men of all political parties would be equal willing to do their duty. But what did they see? The hon. Premier and Minister of Militia, who escaped official extinction last season by the skin of his teeth, used his militia patronage for political purposes and during the recess placed the part of his own whipper-in. He was quite willing to draw off any hon. gentleman’s boots, to find his night-cap, to wake him up in the morning and order him his soda water, if necessary, in season and out of season, if he could only secure such member’s adhesion to his government, and gain one or two more votes on a division; and for this purpose he was also quite willing to prostitute the militia patronage. Taking counsel only of his political fears, knowing he dare not face this session, and had no chance of going through even the preliminary period, unless during the recess he could, through mercenary or other motives, win two or three recruits, to enable him to muster a corporal’s guard, he made the Militia an instrument to enable him to obtain a partisan majority in this House.
It was well it should be understood that the Militia force was now in the hands of a political manager who would not hesitate to make use of it, not for the purpose for which was originally intended, but with a view to recruit his own ministerial ranks, and to endeavour to coerce the friends of officers in this House so as to obtain a parliamentary majority to enable him to carry his political measures. The country had consented to bear large pecuniary burdens for the support of the Militia, though many had thought a system so extensive and expensive was scarcely needed. But for these burdens did the country expect to get, in, return only a partisan Militia? But suppose there was a change of Government, and that the successor of the present Minister of Militia also wanted assistance, and went to operate on Brigade-Majors, to make them not only simply military instruments, but recruiting sergeants to strengthen his following— what would the House say of such a thing. It was by these acts Ministers destroyed themselves. The hon. Premier said he was in the hands of his friends, with regard to this matter. Well, if he remained in their hands with this act unexplained and unanswered, they would have very unclean hands indeed. But he was also in the hands of this House, and out of them he would not get till he had explained this transaction, and either established his innocence or confessed he made this corrupt offer to the Bridage-Major in question— until his attempt to turn the Militia into an unclean agent of his Government had been atoned for we should stand between gentlemen who earned their commission as the present gallant Brigade-Major had done— a man who had resigned his commission in H. M.’s 100th Regt.,to bring his military knowledge, acquired in the armies of France and England, to bear, to build up the militia of his native Province— and the hon. premier, who might say to them— “Oh, we have no fault to find with you as an officer, but you must procure us the political support of your friends if you wish to retain your commissions.”
Such was not contemplated by the law as a duty of Bridage-Majors. He (Mr. McGee) wished it to be clearly laid down as law for those who might hereafter be Ministers of Militia and Premiers, that no political chief shall dare abuse his position as head of the militia of this Province, to turn it into a political organization for a partisan purpose, for strengthening and benefitting his own party, either in or out of Parliament.
If a Premier warned a Brigade-Major against canvassing or working for the opponents of the existing Government, he was clearly within his duty. But if the head of the Government, as in this case, told such an officer to canvass for him or submit ti dismissal, he committed an injudicious and illegal act, for which he [text ineligible] account.
Hon. J. S. MACDONALD— Who said that?
Hon. Mr. McGEE— It has been distinctly stated here that you told the gentleman in question if he did not get political support for your administration he would be dismissed, Mr. Bellerose said so.
Hon. J. S. MACDONALD,— He does not know it.
Mr. BELLEROSE— Because I do not know it, personal, then, will you say you did not state so. I can prove it.
Hon. J. S. MACDONALD— You know nothing of it; I said nothing of the kind.
Hon. Mr. McGEE— I am exceedingly glad to hear at last a distinct denial of the charge.
Hon. J. S. MACDONALD— I have denied it already.
(Laughter and uproar.)
Hon. Mr. McGEE— I beg your pardon; you only said you would give the Opposition the benefit of the little breeze the had raised. Two or three members had distinctly stated that the Brigade Major had been told that unless he could get the Ministry certain political support he would lose his office.
Hon. J. S. MACDONALD— That is hearsay.
Hon. Mr. McGEE said that there were, of course, two principals to every transcaction, one of whom, in this case, stated positively that the act of bribery referred to had been attempted by other principal, who had not as yet condescended to repel the grave charge.— Hon. Mr. McGee proceeded to combat the assumption that the overture to the Brigade Major was of a private nature and should not have been divulged. He contended, with much force, that a proposal from the head of the Government, to another public officer, concerning a matter affecting the public service, could not be regarded as a private and confidential conversation, no intimation as to the manner in which it should be regarded having been made at the time. The matter could not be regarded as other than an official communication under the circumstances. This was not a private but a public conversation on a public matter, and the House should hear all about it.
Hon. J. S. MACDONALD— Supposing it was true.
Hon. Mr. McGEE could with more reason infer it was true, from the fact that the Premier stated the opposite.
There were two ways in which the Minister of Militia could get out of this difficulty. One was, by frankly and candidly owning the whole thing, which would be to his credit.
Hon. J. S. MACDONALD— If I did I should tell a falsehood, and I do not meant to do that.
Hon. Mr. McGEE— Oh, no! The next way would be to get up and justify the act. The only fault committed by the Brigade-Major was his refusal to procure two or three votes for the Administration. This was the whole case in a nut-shell, and out of that, neither the Minister of Militia nor his apologists could escape. Then a most unjustifiable act had been perpetrated in the dismissal of Brigade-Major Carter— a man who had made many sacrifices in accepting the office. We never could have an efficient Militia force it such practices should prevail; and as His Excellency, in his speech, asked the House to use its best efforts for the improvement of the Militia, it should in reply ask him to protect the superior officers, and prevent their being made political agents of the existing Government.
The Government had refused a large number of Volunteer officers, including those of Montreal, permission to meet and suggest amendments for the benefit of the force, and considering the principle involved he did not object to this. But the hon. Minister of Militia, had done far worse himself than what the officers proposed doing. The hon. gentleman concluded by denouncing this latest act as a most outrageous and disgraceful one, which became the more unsavoury the more it was stirred, and by predicting a good result from this disclosure of the Premier’s attempts to gain strength for his administration.
Hon. Mr. MACDOUGALL protested against the course adopted by the Opposition tonight.
The Premier had already contradicted the assertions that had been made, and would reply, doubtless, at more length.
What was the origin of this breeze, as it had been styled? It was this, that the Government in following the policy of retrenchment on which they took office, found it convenient for the public service to dismiss two officers. The duties which Brigade Major de Bellefeuille discharged had been handed over to another officer, admitted by the Opposition to be equal to the post to which he had been assigned.
Major de Bellefeuille had only a few companies under his control, the same duties were now performed by his senior, and his salary saved to the public.
The other officer named, Mr. Carter, had only one company; his services were dispensed with, his salary as Brigade Major saved to the country, and the duties performed by another officer. The death of a Brigade Major in Upper Canada had furnished the Government with another opportunity of saving money to the Province, by calling upon a neighboring officer to perform the same functions. The more saved in the three instances to which he had alluded, was between $3,000 and $4,000.
The principle of retrenchment was the cause of these dismissals. Yet, gentlemen in this House, believing no doubt, that they truly represented the wishes of their constituents, had made charges against the Minister of Militia based on mere tittle-tattle, and having no foundation in fact.
M friend, the Minister of Militia, has denied these charges in general terms, and when the time comes will deny them more particularly.
A MEMBER— The time is past.
Hon. Mr. MACDOUGALL.—Well, that is a new doctrine to enunciate on the floor of this House. Does the hon. member mean to say that the Opposition can bring charges, and that because we wait to hear those charges, and that because we wait to hear those charges completed, and the evidence submitted in full, that we are not allowed to reply, that the time is passed, that we are not allowed to reply, that the time is passed, that we are foreclosed and stopped?
He (Mr. Macdougall) desired simply to say— not so much for the information of gentlemen here, for he thought they understood what was at the bottom go this matter— but for the information of the country, that these dismissals were made purely for the sake of retrenchment.
He did not wish it to go out to the country that they admitted by their silence that there was any foundation for these charges— that a gentleman who happened to be related to the members of this House had been charged for a mere political purpose.
If it could be shown that the services of these officers could not be dispensed with, that their salaries could be saved, that their departments in the Militia had not been conducted with as much efficiency as before, then it would have been perfectly competent for the Opposition to have made their charges. The dismissals, he assured the House, had been made with this sole consideration, that the services of these officers could be dispensed with, and their salaries saved to the public exchequer. This was the sole ground. He would not enter into a discussion of those personal matters which had been brought forward greatly to the discredit of the House.
He considered, looking at their discussions during the past session, that the character thus deliberative body secured for itself in introducing personal matters, was very far from being creditable.
The people had sent them here to promote legislation, and enact such laws as would benefit the country. There was an ample programme before them, sufficiently extensive to engage their attention for some weeks, and he hoped that members opposite would drop the present style and proceed to discuss public, not private matters, in that spirit of cantor which ought to characteristic a body of this kind.
Hon. Mr. ALLEYN said that, after the debate which had taken place, and the statements which had been made, he really felt that he was placed in an awkward position. As an old corruptionist he felt that it was almost his duty to support the leader of the Government, inasmuch as a very strong odor of corruption appeared to cling to him.
(Hear, hear, cheers, and laughter.)
But, coming to the question immediately before the House, he considered it right to remind the Hon. Commissioner of Crown lands, who had just spoken, that he altogether mistook the point at issue. It was no answer to the charges which had been made in reference to Major de Belllefeuille to say that the dismissal was caused by a desire to effect a retrenchment. This was not the point; and the hon. gentleman who had last spoken misunderstood it entirely. A statement had been made and repeated in the most distinct and straight-forward manner, to the effect that corrupt offers had been made to three members of this honorable House in connexion which the post or commission held by Major de Bellefeuille. The hon. Premier would do well to come at once to the point, and tell the House whether he acknowledged the truth of these accusations or whether he denied them— The hon. gentleman then repeated the statement made by the hon. member for Vaudreuil and said he should like to hear the Premier’s reply thereto.
Hon. Mr. McDOUGALL— It’s not the case.
Hon. Mr. ALLEYN would like to hear the hon. Attorney General West answering for himself.
Hon. J. S. MACDONALD— I deny it.
In the interval, Mr. HARWOOD, who was not in his place when the hon. member for Quebec West commenced to speak, entered the House.
Hon. Mr. ALLEYN repeated the version which he had given of the offer made to the hon. member for Vaudreuil by the hon. Premier, and begged to ask that hon. gentleman whether it was correct?
Mr. HARWOOD— Yes, it is perfectly correct in every particular.
Hon. J. S. MACDONALD— I deny the latter portion, having reference to the alleged offer of a place in the Government.
(Laughter and cheers.)
I mean a place in the Militia Department. I, however, shall reserve my statement of this affair until a fitting time comes. I see the object of this attack, and I do not intend to be drawn out piece-meal in this matter.
AN HON. MEMBER— What did you say?
Hon. J. S. MACDONALD— I said that the hon. member did not understand his own interests, and I say so now.
(Hear, hear, and laughter.)
I merely uttered a hint—
Mr. HARWOOD— About everything in general and some things in particular. (Laughter and cheers.)
Hon, J. S. MACDONALD— I reserve my defence in this matter.
Mr. HARWOOD— Then you admit it.
It was now midnight, and no other hon. gentleman arising to address the House, there were loud cries of “Adjourn” from both sides.
The House, accordingly, adjourned at midnight, on motion of Hon. J. S. MACDONALD. injure the country instead of promoting its interest.