Province of Canada, Legislative Assembly, Scrapbook Debates, 8th Parl, 5th Sess, (13 August 1866)

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Date: 1866-08-13
By: Province of Canada (Parliament)
Citation: Province of Canada, Parliament, Scrapbook Debates, 8th Parl, 5th Sess, 1866 at 88-90.
Other formats: Click here to view the original document (PDF).
Note: All endnotes come from our recent publication, Charles Dumais & Michael Scott (ed.), The Confederation Debates in the Province of Canada (CCF, 2022).

Click here to view the rest of the Province of Canada’s Confederation Debates for 1866.


Monday, August 13, 1866

George-Étienne Cartier [Montreal East, Attorney-General East] moved

The second reading of the bill to postpone, for a limited time, the issuing of writs for the next election of Members of the Legislative Council.

He said that the preamble of the bill[1] explained the reasons for its passage—the prospect of the early accomplishment of Confederation. The bill provided that the writs which should be issued in September next, are to be delayed until the 17th of July of next year, the day on which the present Parliament will expire. It was not intended to destroy the elective principle, but merely to suspend its action for a few months. There was no question of the power of the Legislature to pass such an act, thought it must be reserved for the Royal assent.

As the present law continued existing members in their seats until the return of the writs of the new election, so this act continued the present members until an election should be held under it. The act provided that in case the constitution of the council is not changed by act of the Imperial Parliament before the election under this act shall have taken place, then the members elected under it will serve only for the unexpired portion of the term, which they would have had to serve had they been elected in October next.

Then in case of accidental vacancy, the existing law provided that if that vacancy occurred within three months of the expiring of the term, it should not be filled up until the usual time; now this act proposed to extend that principle, so that if any accidental vacancy occurred in the Council, it should not be filled up until the time appointed for the election by this act. These were the provisions of the bill, and he would move, seconded by the Provincial Secretary [William McDougall], that it be now read a second time.

Antoine-Aimé Dorion [Hochelaga] opposed the bill. These gentlemen proposed the suspension of an important part of the Constitution, and without any reason. The grounds stated in the preamble that this Legislature has passed an address in favor of Confederation in 1865[2], was not justification, because there was no evidence to show that we were nearer to Confederation now than we were then. We had no assurance that the Maritime Provinces would accept the Quebec scheme[3], to which this Legislature was pledged. He contended that a corrupt bargain had been made with the Legislative Councillors, that they would be retained in their seats provided they would vote for the Quebec resolutions.

He charged the hon. member for South Oxford [George Brown] with direct responsibility for all the bad measures that they had been agreed to by the Legislature since the time he joined the coalition Government. They found also that the Government had made a bargain with members of this House, they not only got a promise from the Government, but a letter written by the Finance Minister[4] [Alexander Galt], binding them to pass a bill to amend the school law. They got these gentlemen’s votes for the Quebec resolutions, and now, the Government failed to pass that bill.[5]

George Brown [Oxford South] denied that there was any pledge from the Government. The question was not considered by the Government.

William McDougall [Lanark North, Provincial Secretary] said, without entering upon the extent or the nature of the promises made, he protested against giving it the character of a corrupt bargain; it was a fair stipulation as to legislation on a question of public policy.

Antoine-Aimé Dorion [Hochelaga] then read Mr. Galt’s letter on the School question[6], pledging the Government to legislate upon it.

George Brown [Oxford South] again denied that the question had ever been considered by the Government.

Antoine-Aimé Dorion [Hochelaga] contended that when a secret pledge was given upon one point, with the view to influence action upon another, he held it was a corrupt bargain. Holding very strong views against this bill, he would move

That it be not now read a second time, but that it be read a second time this day six months.

Luther Holton [Chateauguay] rose to have the floor for half-past seven.

The amendments made to the Municipal Bill by the Legislative Council were read a second time.

The House rose at six o’clock.

The Legislative Assembly adjourned for dinner recess.

Third Sitting

George-Étienne Cartier [Montreal East, Attorney-General East] with the leave of the House, moved

That there be a sitting to-morrow from eleven to one, and three sittings on Wednesday. He explained that he asked for three sittings on Wednesday in case they might be needed.

John Sandfield Macdonald [Cornwall] wished for some explanation of this extraordinary departure from the rules of the House.

George-Étienne Cartier [Montreal East, Attorney-General East] said the Government did not anticipate that the measures before the House to-day, would have consumed so much time in their discussion. He found no fault with that discussion, for no doubt it had been useful, but as he had said before, the Government intended to dispose of every measure on the paper;—

Some Hon. Members—Hear, hear.

George-Étienne Cartier [Montreal East, Attorney-General East]—he wished to provide for three sittings on Wednesday in case they might be wanted.

John Sandfield Macdonald [Cornwall] assailed the bill to postpone the Legislative Council elections, which he said was a plan to make these gentlemen members of the Legislative Council for life, in defiance of the wishes of the people. The members on his side were ready to raise their voices against this exceptional legislation in violation of the Constitution, and in defiance of the rights of the people, by which twelve gentlemen were to be foisted upon the country as legislators for life. He and his friends objected to the violation of the rules of the House in favor of such an outrageous act, as that, which they proposed to pass at the close of the last session of the Canadian Parliament. He referred to Hon. Mr. Cartier’s “pluck” and said it had deserted him on the Lower Canada School question, when he saw he was about to lose his office if he redeemed his pledge.

George-Étienne Cartier [Montreal East, Attorney-General East] replied. He said that in private and public life his word had always been taken as his bond, and nobody had ever been disappointed in it. He hoped the hon. member for Cornwall [John Sandfield Macdonald] would withdraw his objection and allow the motion to pass, as then they might get the session closed on Wednesday, but if this motion were not carried, and if members wished to delay the business they might do so, but he could assume them, as he had before, if the Government measures were not passed to-morrow, then they would be the next, or if not the next day, then the day after. No matter how long, they must be passed

Some Hon. Members—Hear, hear.

George-Étienne Cartier [Montreal East, Attorney-General East]—He had given his word to the member for Chateauguay [Luther Holton] that the Supply Bill should be the last Government measure, and he would keep his pledge. As to what the hon. member for Cornwall [John Sandfield Macdonald] had said about the Protestants of Lower Canada having his (Mr. Cartier’s) word, it was true they had his word, and his word would be kept

Some Hon. Members—Hear, hear.

George-Étienne Cartier [Montreal East, Attorney-General East]—There had been a difficulty about carrying it out this session, but the majority of the members for Lower Canada would redeem that promise in the Local Legislature, and the Protestants were not afraid to trust them.

Some Hon. Members—Hear, hear.

Luther Holton [Chateauguay] was willing that the Supply Bill should be read in its order on the paper, but he and his friends objected to the passage of this most monstrous bill in violation of the constitution, at this period of the session.

Matthew Cameron [Ontario North] said the Attorneys General East [George-Étienne Cartier] and West [John A. Macdonald] had pledged their words that every notice on the paper should be taken up, and the Government should proceed with the business in their own way.

Legislative Council Elections[7]

The discussion on the Legislative Council election postponement bill,

The second reading of the bill to postpone, for a limited time, the issuing of writs for the next election of Members of the Legislative Council.[8]

and Antoine-Aimé Dorion [Hochelaga]’s amendment (six months’ hoist)

That it be not now read a second it, but that it be read a second time this day six months.[9]

was resumed.

John Sandfield Macdonald [Cornwall] said a few words, and proposed to allow the measure to take a stage, and have the discussion again, so that other measures might be proceeded with.

Matthew Cameron [Ontario North]— Though he had paired upon this bill with the member for Addington [Mr. Cartwright], he desired to say a few words on this extraordinary and very objectionable measure. It had been introduced at the very end of the session, when the parties chiefly interested had not had time to be heard on it. The people had not had the opportunity of being heard, and the only chance of their being protected was by the action of their representatives on the floor of this House. He had no personal objection to any one of the gentlemen who were to be continued by this bill for another year.

On the contrary in so far as he was concerned, he would be very glad to see them all returned to their position in the Council. He would be especially glad to see the representative of his own division, Hon. G.W. Allan, returned again, for he was one who had endeared himself to every one, by his many excellent qualities. Four of the six gentlemen from Upper Canada were conservatives, and upon this ground he, as a conservative, had no objection to their being continued in the Council, but he did not think that as a Conservative, he was bound to conserve the rights of the people. It would have been far more honorable to these gentlemen to have allowed them to appeal to their constituencies, when no doubt they would have been elected by acclamation. He desired to enter his protest against this extraordinary and unconstitutional bill.

Alexander Mackenzie [Lambton] said it was an extraordinary thing that this bill had not been brought down at an earlier period of the session. It was a violation of the people’s rights to make nine, at least, of these twelve men Legislative Councillors for life.

Thomas Parker [Wellington North] said they had done so already by all the members of the Council.

Alexander Mackenzie [Lambton] did not admit that had agreed to select the Councillors from among the present members, but these members were supposed to have the confidence of their constituents, and now this House has been called upon to deprive the people of giving an expression of their confidence. In case it might occur that Confederation was not passed by the Imperial Parliament so soon as was expected then this bill would be a precedent for this House to extend its own duration. It was an outrage on the constitution, against which he protested. There was no use in discussing it at this late day, and indeed it appeared to him to have been kept back purposely to avoid discussion.

George-Étienne Cartier [Montreal East, Attorney-General East] said the bill had to originate in the other House.

Alexander Mackenzie [Lambton] said he did not think so, the resolutions changing the constitution of the country, and the bill applying to the elective principle to the Upper House[10] both originated in this House. He would however content himself with entering his protest against the bill.

Arthur Rankin [Essex] said the hon. member for Lambton [Alexander Mackenzie] had been responsible for the state of affairs which had thrown the hon. member for South Oxford [George Brown] into the arms of his hon. friend from Kingston [John A. Macdonald].

Alexander Mackenzie [Lambton]— I acquiesced in it.

Arthur Rankin [Essex]— That hon. member is, therefore, responsible for the circumstances which had rendered the bill necessary. He then referred to the probability of the early accomplishment of Confederation. He contended that the Lower Provinces, having once rejected the Quebec resolutions[11], had gone as far in eating their own words as any people

  • (p. 90)

could have done; they had appointed delegates to go home to England to arrange for Confederation[12], with a perfect knowledge that the people of Canada, who formed four-fifths of the people of British North America, were pledged to the Quebec scheme[13] without alteration or change.

He believed therefore that the scheme would be carried out, and he would give the Government an unswerving support in all their endeavors to accomplish it. He did not see how any gentleman who had taken so strong a part in forming the coalition, who had supported it in trampling upon the very spirit and essence of the Constitution, could now object to this measure, which grew out of the state of affairs which he had helped bring about. He could understand why the member for North Ontario, (Mr. M.C. Cameron,) opposed this bill; that gentleman was consistent in doing so, for he had moved that Quebec scheme should have been submitted directly to the people, but the member for Lambton [Alexander Mackenzie] opposed that amendment, which was designed to prevent a great violation of the constitution, and he need not now make a wry-face at the small one.

Frederick Haultain [Peterborough] did not agree with the members for Lambton [Alexander Mackenzie] and North Ontario [Matthew Cameron] when they called this bill a violation of the Constitution. It was a change and not a violation of the constitution, but a change which he very much regretted, as such changes, proposed without any reason, were calculated to bring the constitution into contempt. He was astonished that the gentlemen on the Treasury Benches should have introduced this bill on so slight a pretence. How did the case stand? Why that a few gentlemen, if they desired re-election, might have to spend a little money, but was this a reason that the constitution should be changed?

Christopher Dunkin [Brome] said it did seem to him that the gentlemen who supported the Quebec resolutions were just in the position indicated by the member for Essex [Arthur Rankin]. The effect of these resolutions was not only to change the elective for the nominated principle, but to confine the election of the nominated members to those who had been elected by the people. He did not see anything particularly constitutional in voting for twelve gentlemen who would either never be called upon to discharge the duties of their office, or who would first have to be nominated for life.

William Powell [Carleton] thought the argument that this bill had been kept back until members had gone home proved nothing against the Government, though it might shew that members had neglected their duty. He had been much amused to see the members for North Ontario [Matthew Cameron] and Lambton [Alexander Mackenzie], coming to the same conclusion upon this question. The member for North Ontario [Matthew Cameron] had been consistent.

He had moved when the Quebec Resolutions, charging the whole Constitution of the country as being changed, that the important question should first be submitted to the people by a constitutional appeal[14]. But the member for Lambton [Alexander Mackenzie] had voted “Nay” on that amendment, for then his own seat was in danger. He had however consulted his constituents

Some Hon. MembersLaughter.

William Powell [Carleton]—and how did he know that the gentlemen in the other House had not consulted their constituents? As to its being a violation of the constitution, had not this Legislature made the law which applied the elective principle to the Upper House and surely it was competent to change it.

The members were then called in, and they divided on Antoine-Aimé Dorion [Hochelaga]s amendment,

That it be not now read a second it, but that it be read a second time this day six months.[15]

which was lost. Yeas, 17; nays, 35.



Dorion (Hochelaga)
Dufresne (Iberville)
Macdonald (Cornwall)
Mackenzie (Lambton)
Ross (Dundas)



Cartier (Attorney-General)
De Boucherville
Dufresne (Montcalm)
Ferguson (Simcoe South)
Le Boutillier
Macdonald (Attorney-General)
Wright (Ottawa County)—35.

Mr. Mackenzie left for the train immediately after the vote. The reading of the division was called for, and he going out of the House, Mr. Cauchon objected to his name, and it was struck off accordingly.

The second reading

The second reading of the bill to postpone, for a limited time, the issuing of writs for the next election of Members of the Legislative Council.[16]

was carried on the same division.

Luther Holton [Chateauguay] then stated that he and his friends would have no objection, since the Government had taken the whole responsibility of the bill to allow it to pass through all its stages.

Some Hon. Members—Hear, hear.

The bill was then passed through Committee, read a third time and passed.


[1]      The bill could not be located. The final legislation would be An Act to postpone for a limited time the issuing of writs for the next election of members of the Legislative Council (1866). The preamble explains, as Cartier says, that “there is therefore reason to believe that the measure aforesaid for the union of the Provinces of British North America will be submitted to and enacted by the Imperial Parliament at an early date…”

[2]      The Address, including the Quebec Resolutions, which was agreed to by the Legislative Assembly can be found on Mar. 13, 1865, pp. 1027-1032.

[3]      Meaning the Quebec Resolutions. Supra footnote 2.

[4]      This refers to Alexander Galt as the previous Finance Minister. He resigned on Aug. 12 and was replaced by William Howland.

[5]      This charge against Galt—the guarantee of English, Protestant rights in Lower Canada in exchange for a vote on Confederation—was a charge that had been made in the Legislative Assembly as early as Mar. 18, 1865, p. B:7. Luther Holton is the first to make the accusation. The letter itself remains an unconfirmed reference.

[6]      ibid.

[7]      This title has been added by the editors of the current edition (2022). A small non-relevant line was excised just prior. For the full, original document, please consult

[8]      Reinserted from the beginning of the debate for clarity.

[9]      Reinserted from the beginning of the debate for clarity.

[10]    An Act to change the Constitution of the Legislative Council by rendering the same Elective (Province of Canada, 1856).

[11]    The member here is likely referring in part to the work of the colonial office and the Canadians, as well as the effect of a host of other events in 1866 that turned public opinion in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia in favor of confederation (e.g., abrogation of the Reciprocity Treaty by the United States, and Fenian raids from that territory into Lower Provinces and Canada). In New Brunswick in 1866, for example, events forced the resignation of the anti-confederate ministry of A.J. Smith, and general elections in June, overwhelmingly elected an assembly of pro-confederationists under new Premier Peter Mitchell.

[12]    Delegates to the London Conference of December 1866. The delegates for Canada were [John A.] Macdonald, Cartier, Galt, McDougall, Howland, and Langevin. For Nova Scotia they were Tupper, Henry, Ritchie, McCully, and Archibald. Finally, for New Brunswick, they were Tilley, Johnson, Mitchell, Fisher, and Wilmot. See Joseph Pope, Confederation: Being a Series of Hitherto Unpublished Documents Bearing on the British North America Act (1895), p. 94.

[13]    Meaning the Quebec Resolutions. Supra footnote 2.

[14]    This amendment was actually moved by John Cameron. Matthew Cameron did second the motion. Legislative Assembly (Mar. 13, 1865), p. 962. The vote occurred on p. 1020.

[15]    Dorion’s amendment has been reinserted from earlier for clarity.

[16]    Also reinserted for clarity.

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