Province of Canada, Legislative Assembly, Scrapbook Debates, 8th Parl, 2nd Sess, (26 February 1864)
By: Province of Canada (Parliament)
Citation: Province of Canada, Parliament, Scrapbook Debates, 8th Parl, 2nd Sess, 1864 at 34-35.
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FRIDAY, 26th Feby, 1864.
The Speaker took the Chair at 3 o’clock.
On the reading of petitions, several members of the Opposition objected that some of them were not dated, and a discussion of the necessity or otherwise of having every petition dated, took place between Messrs. Cartier, Mowat. Galt, Holton, Brown, Dunkin; and others.
DEATH OF CHIEF JUSTICE LAFONTAINE.
When the Orders of the Day were reached, Hon. Mr. DORION rose and said:—Mr. Speaker—Before the Orders of the Day are called, I must say that it is with great regret that I have to announce that news has arched which every member of the House would consider and news indeed—that the late Hon. Chief Justice of Lower Canada, Sir Louis Lafontaine died this morning, at three o’clock. The high position which Sir Louis Lafontaine occupied for a long time while a member of this House, both before the Union and since, makes his loss the more severely felt by everybody. He attained that high position by the integrity and by the ability with which he discharged the various duties devolving upon him. Notwithstanding the high state of feeling, and the sprint of political warfare which existed while he occupied the position of leader of the House, and subsequently of the Opposition, when a short time after he had retired in private life, he was elevated to the Bench as Chief Justice of Lower Canada, that accession was hailed as a well merited compliment to him and to his countrymen. Also, when it pleased our gracious sovereign to confer upon upon him the highest honor that has been bestowed on any men within this Province, that of a baronetcy, it was considered by all parties as a richly deserved honor.
I am happy to pay this small tribute to the memory of one whose uprightness as a public man I have always appreciated and admired, and whose moral worth is appreciated throughout the land. In his decease, the Bar loses one of its most brilliant ornaments, the Bench one who was well fitted to preside over the highest Court in Lower Canada, and the public a man of the highest moral worth. Feeling the great loss which the country has sustained I would propose that, although the labors of the session require constant attention, and perhaps no loss of time, if the leaders of the other side of the House have no objection, the House should adjourn. It would only be a proper mark of respect to the illustrious memory of one who was for a longtime a member and also a leader of the House, that it should adjourn, and if the hon member for Montreal East would second the motion, there was no doubt every member of the House would willingly […] to it. I therefore move, Mr. Speaker, that the House do now adjourn.
Hon. Mr. CARTIER rose to second the motion made by the Hon. Attorney General East, and he did so with feelings of the deepest regret. Last night he could have wished that some other hon. member had taken his place in the debate on the Address, for before he rose he had received a telegram from a friend in Montreal apprising him of the very dangerous condition of his friend the late Chief Justice Lafontaine. His (the speaker’s) mind was disturbed, in consequence of this information, all last night and all this morning, when unfortunately the melancholy news he expected reached him. With regard to the relations between himself and the late Chief Justice, he might say that the deceased Judge was an older professional man than he (Mr. Cartier.) As a young lawyer, and a young professional man he had studied the late Chief Justice as his model; not that he could reach him, not that he could act insect a way as a professional man as to equal or even to approach him. The deceased Judge was a man of vast intellect, and as a professional man he was very accurate. (As a member of the Montreal Bar he (Hon. Mr. Cartier) was sometimes opposed professionally to the late Chief Justice, but it was always with a great amount of diffidence he took up a case when Sir Louis Hypolite Lafontaine was acting on the other side. If he (the speaker) had acquired any professional experience, if he had acquired any professional experience, he owed it, in a great extent, to that highly gifted model he was always glad to follow. It had been his lot not only to be a professional, but also to be a personal friend of the deceased Chief Justice. He became his (Hon. Mr. Cartier’s) political leader, and received his support in Parliament, and before the entered parliament. The late Chief Justice was a great man; his death was a great loss, as the Attorney General East had said, not only the Lower Canada, but to the Province.
He was a man of accuracy, of honesty, of probity. Of course, the late Chief Justice had opponents, when political and party spirit ran high. But in our day, even, there was party spirit more or less in all our Parliamentary doings. The deceased Chief Justice, however, in the midst of the highest political excitement, never lost the feeling of self respect which he had for his reputation as an accurate man, as an honest man, as an able man.
He never assumed by his outward actions the position to which he was entitled. He (the Hon. Mr. Cartier) deeply regretted that the country had lost Sir Louis Hypolite Lafontaine. As a Judge of the land, he was an ornament to the Bench and to the country. As was properly stated by the hon. Attorney General East, his appointment as Chief Justice was approved of by every one. He (Hon. Mr. Cartier) was glad that that great man was to some extent remunerated for the services he had done the country, by being raised to the post of Chief Justice for Lower Canada.
And when he received the high mark of honor from Her Majesty, every one agreed at the time it was conferred, that there was no man in Lower Canada more deserving of it than his most deeply regretted friend, the late Chief Justice Lafontaine.
Mr. NOTMAN said he could not allow the motion to be put to the House without briefly paying a tribute of respect to the memory of his old friend and contemporary, who died that morning. Ink the year 1848, on his first introduction to Parliament, he met Mr. Lafontaine, and ever received the kindest and most considerate treatment from the now illustrations dead. He (Mr. Notman) was but one of eight gentlemen now on the floor of the House who were contemporaries of the Hon. Chief Justice Lafontaine. When he first came into the House, he ranged himself under his banner, and that of his illustrations colleague, the late Hon. Robert Baldwin. He highly respected and admired both of those hon. gentlemen, as well for their integrity and personal worth, as for their sincere desire to promote the welfare of their common country of Canada.
Both gentlemen exhibited talent of the highest order, and were governed by the highest sense of honor. Our Sovereign had wisely conferred upon the late Chief Justice a well deserved distinction, for his conduct was ever characterized by a desire to discharge the duties devolving upon him to the best of his ability, and to the general satisfaction of the whole country. He should ever cherish, with the greatest satisfaction, the memory of Chief Justice Lafontaine, and was sure he would never regret, to the day of his own death, that he had worked under the banner of Messers. Baldwin and Lafontaine as long as they remained in the House. He though it well became the House to pay that just tribute of respect to the memory of the illustrations dead, which was contemplated by the morion placed in the Speaker’s hands.
Hon. J. A. MACDONALD said that perhaps he should beg pardon for rising to add a few words to what had already fallen from the lips of his contemporaries. From the time of his entry into Parliament, upwards of twenty years ago, to the time that the late Chief Justice Lafontaine left the House, he had belonged to the same political party with him. He could well remember when he first came into Parliament, quite a young man, the kindly spirit with which he not only noticed and encouraged his youthful efforts, but those of every honorable member of the House, no matter to which side he belonged.
What pains he took to cheer them on by a good-natured remark or notice of their early efforts in addressing the House, no matter if they were friends or foes. To his political enemies he was always considerate, always just, and always generous. He quite agreed with his honorable friend who had just sat down, that the whole country greeted with pleasure the honor conferred upon him by the Sovereign in creating him a Barnet. With the Scottish poet he could truly say the “rank was but the guinea stamp,” but Chief Justice Lafontaine was truly a man for all that. The voice of the whole country, both in Upper and Lower Canada, of all parties and denominations, agreed that never man received the stamp of rank more deservedly than Hon. Louis Lafontaine, and that when he retired from Parliament, he carried with him the reputation of being a great man, a good man, and an honor to our country.
Hon. Mr. BROWN fully concurred in the observations which had been made with regard to the late Chief Justice Lafontaine. He had had intimate relations with the late Chief Justice from 1843 to 1851, and had a full knowledge of his honesty and political integrity. (Hear.) He was one of nature’s noblemen, one of those who scorned a mean action. He had a gruff manner at times, but this merely concealed the warmth of his heart, and when not under the influence of that manner, none could be more kind. The country had lost a great man in his death, and it would be well for us that he could feel that we had at the present day such statesmen as the late Sir Louis Hypolite Lafontaine.
Hon. Mr. CAUCHON said that in view of the feelings which had been expressed on both sides, it was unnecessary for him to add a word. But he could not help adding the tribute of his personal regret to the memory of the late Chief Justice, who, when he (the speaker) was a young man in political life, both advised and encouraged him. He was well aware of the feelings of the House with respect to the Chief Justice, and he, personally, had every opportunity of becoming acquainted with his talents, integrity and honesty of purpose. He might, now that both were dead, relate a conversation which took place with Lord Elgin with respect to the Chief Justice. He (the speaker) had had a conversation with Lord Elgin, not with respect to politics, but the qualities of public men. The name of the late Chief Justice came up, when Lord Elgin said: “This man is a great man, and I might add that he scarcely ever made a mistake.”
Hon. J. A. MACDONALD said that he believed that the late Chief Justice, whose death they all so deeply lamented, was the only member of the House of twenty odd years Aho, whose countenance at that time he now distinctly remembered. He had enjoyed very frequent opportunities of becoming acquainted with his great value to the country, and he took great pleasure in adding his humble testimony to what had already been said, of the cause they all had for grief at his departure from among the living. Shortly after he (Hon. J. S. Macdonald) entered public life, he participated to some extent in the warm discussion that then occurred, and he could only say that, on many occasions, he had been assisted by the general kind-heartedness of the late Chief Justice. No one who had had the advantage and pleasure of his acquaintance, either as a politician or as a friend, could help bearing testimony to his excellent qualities of mind, and his ever generous disposition. The position he occupied at his death, he remarried, was one which does not fall to the lot of any persons in Canada, but it is one for which Mr. Lafontaine was well fitted, owing to the possession of a coolness of judgement and determination of character which were peculiarly his own. As leader of the House, he disdained to be led away from the straightforward course which he had marked out for himself by the propositions of ardent politicians, [……………………………………………………………………..] is the best policy, he frowned down everything which seemed to run contrary to his views in this respect. His course of conduct made a feel impression upon his own mind during the time he was in the House, and he felt that he had profited much by his acquaintance with him. Men were naturally prone to forget the faults of the departed, but if there was a men of any position in Canada who had few faults, wither as a private individual or as a public man, Sir Louis H. Lafontaine was probably amongst the foremost in the ranks of such.
He had nothing more to add to what had been said, but to express his deep and sincere regret at the grief that had overtaken his family and the country at large, through the calamity of that morning—the death of the late Chief Justice, Sir Louis H. Lafontaine.
The motion was then put to the House and, amid profound silence, declared carried.
The House accordingly adjourned at ten minutes to four, p.m.