Province of Canada, Legislative Assembly, Scrapbook Debates, 8th Parl, 5th Sess, (15 June 1866)

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Date: 1866-06-15
By: Province of Canada (Parliament)
Citation: Province of Canada, Parliament, Scrapbook Debates, 8th Parl, 5th Sess, 1866 at 12-15.
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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.


Friday, June 15, 1866

John A. Macdonald [Kingston, Attorney-General West and Minister of Militia] said, before the orders of the day were called and in accordance with the arrangements of yesterday, he proposed to call the attention of the House to the changes that had taken place in the administration since last session. The explanations, as far as the Government is concerned, will be very short and simple, and will not interrupt the business of the House. It is known that since the last session, the President of the Council [George Brown] resigned his seat in the Cabinet[1], and that his position was assumed by the Hon. Mr. Blair. It was also known to public rumour, that the member for South Oxford [George Brown] retired upon difference of opinion, with the majority of the Council, on the subject of the Reciprocity Treaty[2]—in regard to the best mode of renewing, conducting and continuing negociations, respecting the renewal of the Treaty with the United States and the British American Provinces.

Well, the majority of the Council after a long and careful discussion of the whole subject came to a certain conclusion as to the best policy to pursue under the circumstances. The hon. gentleman who resigned could not conscientiously assume responsibility for that policy, and hence his course on the occasion. The subject in question had occupied the attention of the country for a very considerable time—indeed ever since the hon. gentleman entered the Coalition Cabinet it engaged continuously and systematically the attention of the Government. In December last, members of the Government who were all here except the Provincial Secretary [William McDougall], then absent on a commercial mission, come to a conclusion upon best mode of conducting negotiations with the United States for the renewal of the old treaty or for securing by some other arrangement, advantages which flowed to this Province and the United States from the treaty of 1854[3].

The papers to be laid before the House shortly will give all the information respecting the proceeding with that object, and the policy of the Government on this matter. The hon. member to the great regret of his colleagues could not agree to that policy, and declined to accept the responsibility of being a party thereto, though we considered it best calculated to secure

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advantages which we believed would accrue to both countries by the renewal of the treaty.

The Government, I repeat, deeply regretted that the Hon. Mr. Brown should deem it his duty to adopt the course he did on that occasion, that he could not in accordance with the conscientious views of what was both politic and right, yield to the opinions of the rest of his colleagues and remain in the Council. After a considerable amount of exertion to induce the Hon. Mr. Brown to yield his opinions to those of the majority, he declared he could not and decided to resign. The only thing that remains to be done was for the Administrator of the Government to accept the resignation, and for the Government to take steps to fill up the vacancy.

The House knows that the hon. gentleman did not hold a common or ordinary position in Government.—He was not only a minister holding office, like the rest of his colleagues, but was the representative of a great party. He was leader of the liberal section in the Cabinet which came into office with himself for the purpose of affecting a great object, which is now, I’m happy to say, near its completion; and it is an additional source of regret that the hon. gentleman is not now in the Government to see as Minister the accomplishment of the great object for which the Cabinet was formed, for which he sacrificed so much, and work so patriotically.

Some Hon. MembersCheers.

John A. Macdonald [Kingston, Attorney-General West and Minister of Militia]—I repeat, his absence from the Government is a matter of sincere regret to all his colleagues, and must be also to most of the members of the House. I need not say that it is only in a case of this kind, when a public man’s personal honour is concerned, that when he assumed the responsibility entering the Government, he could properly withdraw from it. It was only when he could not as a public man, conscientiously be responsible for the course which the Government had made up its mind to pursue, that Mr. Brown then took the course, which, as an honest man, he felt bound to pursue and what he considered was for the welfare of the country. At that time the head of the Liberal Party having resigned, I with consent of my colleagues and the approbation of the administration of the Government, invited the Postmaster General [William Howland], to assume the responsibility of filling up the vacancy caused by Mr. Brown’s retirement. He stated he could not do so before seeing his friends. The following is the memorandum on the subject:

Memorandum of Facts

Mr. Howland stated into the Council, that by the resignation of Mr. Brown he was placed in a position in which you felt that great responsibility rested upon him, and that before coming to a decision as to whether he should continue in the government, he felt it to be his duty to consult and obtain the advice of those members of both Houses of the Legislature, who belonged to the Reform Party. Pending this, he would decline to take any part in the proceedings of the Council, he therefore asked the consent of the Council to the step he proposed. This consent was accorded, and a letter was at the same time placed in Mr. Howland’s hands, which read as follows:

Executive Council Office,
Ottawa, Dec. 20, 1866.

My Dear Howland,—

I have only time before you leave to say to you that the policy of the Coalition Government will in no respect be changed by the resignation of Mr. Brown, that all the conditions entered into at the time of the Coalition Government will be fully carried out; that I ask you to take Mr. Brown’s position in the Government, and that you have carte blanche in the choice of a gentleman of your party to fill the vacant  seat in the Council.

In haste, sincerely yours,

John A. Macdonald

The Hon. W.P. Holland,

P.S.—When I speak of the conditions on which the Coalition Government was formed, I of course refer to the original arrangements under Sir Etienne Tache, and to the continuation of them when Sir N.F. Belleau became Premier.

J.A. MacD.

The Hon. Mr. Howland, after seeing his friends, determined to remain in the cabinet himself and endeavour to fill the vacancy, and the result was that the Hon. Mr. Blair was induced to accept the Presidency of the Council. He accepted office with the consent and approbation of his party, as I understand, and now holds office. This is, as far as the Government is concerned, all the information we can allow on this subject. The whole of the papers connected with the negotiations in respect to the Reciprocity Treaty will be laid on the table in a few days for the satisfaction of the House.[4]

Some Hon. MembersCheers.

George Brown [Oxford South]—Before proceeding to enter into explanations on the subject of his retirement from the Government, desired it to be distinctly understood that his resignation was entirely on account of the course which had been pursued on the question of the renewal of the Reciprocity Treaty. He was bound to admit that no slight cause would justify him and leaving the Government before the great question of Confederation, for the carrying of which he had taken office, had not been finally disposed of.

At the same time he thought that Confederation had even then reached that point when no danger of its failure, need have been apprehended. He had entered the Government with very great reluctance and would have preferred, as he had stated at the time, to have remained on his own side of the House and sustain the gentleman opposite in maturing the great question and carrying it to a successful issue. He thought it still that it would have been the proper course for he and his friends to have sustained the Government from their own side of the House, than to have joined in the Government, and he was still prepared to give the Government his hearty and cordial support to carrying out that measure. With regard to the occasion of his leaving the Government, the policy on the Reciprocity Question, the matter in connection with which led to his resignation, was the negotiations of Canada with the United States. It was in the course pursued by the Hon. Minister of Finance [Alexander Galt], that he had found his reasons for the course he had taken. He was glad however that the policy on which he had resigned had not been carried out, and thought his resignation had done some good in preventing that policy from bearing fruit.

The hon. gentleman opposite knowing he (Mr. B) was present, had not thought fit to give his view of the case, and he beg to stayed before entering upon it, that he had left the Government in perfect friendship and without any difference or disagreement on any other questions than that of Reciprocity. As the Attorney-General [John A. Macdonald] has stated that question was before the Cabinet from the time of the formation of the Coalition Government, and on the 15th July, 1865[5], feeling it necessary that the Government should know what were the views of the United States Government that ministers might come down and meet the House with a statement of policy, it was proposed to send a deputation to Washington.

A long discussion took place upon this point, the Council did not agree upon it, but on applying for the document it could not be found. A deputation was sent to Washington to ascertain the views of the American Government. We were satisfied with the Treaty; they were not; therefore they should make a proposition to us and not us to them as a basis for renewal of negociations. The result of that mission was that the American Government desired some arrangement with regard to certain articles in which a great deal of smuggling was carried on from this country to the United States, and he was perfectly satisfied to enter into an arrangement of this kind from first to last.

During the last Session of Parliament on a discussion on the enlargement of the canals, the Hon. Minister of Finance [Alexander Galt] had made some remarks which he supposed members would recollect in which he did not hesitate to say conveyed an idea of the policy of the Government.

(Mr. B. then read from Mr. Galt’s speech shewing that enlargement of canals would only be nice policy for Canada as an inducement to Americans to renew the treaty &c.)

The Ministry last year had suggested to the Imperial Government the propriety of consulting the British American Colonies in any negotiations that might take place for a renewal of the treaty. The British Government had agreed and appointed the Inter-Colonial Council of Trade.[6] The Canadian Ministers who are members of that Council were the Hon. Attorneys General East [George-Étienne Cartier] and West [John A. Macdonald]; Hon. A.T. Galt and himself (Mr. Brown.)

He held in his hand the resolutions which had been agreed upon at that Council[7], after a full discussion, which it was proper he should read.

Mr. Brown read resolutions to the affect that the Colonies were satisfied with the present treaty, but willing to enter upon a new one upon any reasonable basis, that in any new treaty the Coasting Trade should be included; that in case of the failure to negociate before the 17th of March, then the Imperial Government should be appealed to, to get a renewal of the then existing treaty for a brief period, to enable negociations to be carried to a successful issue.

These resolutions were agreed to on the 17th September last[8]. Shortly after that time the Departments were removed to Ottawa, the Cabinet meetings were held in Montreal, so that properly speaking, the Government had no abiding place.

On the 17th November he had gone to the Lower Provinces, on a mission connected with our trade relations, and shortly after his return to Toronto he had been surprised to see in the American papers, a statement that Messrs. Galt and Howland, who had been sent on a mission to New York, to confer with the Internal Revenue Commissioner, were negociating with the Committee of Ways and Means, in Washington. He thought there surely must have been some mistake, as no authority has been given our delegation to make any propositions, and he feared this step would have a most dangerous effect on the Lower Provinces, and even be detrimental to the prospects of Confederation, as indicating that Canada desire to act without consulting the other Governments equally concerned. It was desirable to know exactly what had taken place, and though he had no doubt his hon. friend had acted in the best of faith, still, from the course pursued, had it not been for the great question of Confederation, he (Mr. B.) would not have stayed in the Government one hour.

Mr. B. here read the following memorandum:

When the Council met Ottawa on the 13th December, Mr. Galt gave a full narrative of his proceedings in the United States, but did not submit it to writing. I asked him to do so, but he thought it unnecessary—which I think is to be regretted. He stated that he met the Commissioners at New York and arranged with them, that they should report to their Government in favor of a renewal of the Reciprocity Treaty, and of a years extension of the existing Treaty, to enable a new one to be arranged by the Commissioners.

He also stated he had agreed with them for the assimilation of duties during the year, so as to prevent or at least render unprofitable smuggling on the border. Mr. Galt then went on to say that after seeing the Commissioners at New York, he proceeded to Washington where he saw Mr. Seward and Mr. McCulloch. He said both were very friendly, and deprecated any interruption to our commerce, but that Mr. Seward declared no new treaty could be made, and that only Reciprocal Legislation could be assented to. Mr. Galt said he combatted this proposal, and shewed the difficulty of getting all the Provinces to consent to Reciprocal Legislation—to which Mr. Seward replied that he did not care about the Lower Provinces, it was an arrangement with Canada he wanted. Mr. Galt said he urged that the Fishery question could not be arranged except by Treaty, to which Mr. Seward replied that he did not care about the Fisheries, and also that could be separately arranged.

The result was that Mr. Galt proceeded to discuss with Mr. Seward and McCulloch (separately I understood) the arrangements possible under Reciprocal Legislation. He suggested to them that such manufactures of the two countries as the United States might designate might be admitted free, provided the same articles from England were admitted into Canada free. He suggested that all the natural products of the two countries should be admitted free, with this exception, that, when the Americans impose an excise duty on articles made or grown in their country, they might impose an equal customs duty on the same articles coming in from Canada. He suggested that our inland waters and canals might be made a highway, common to both countries, and maintained at the joint expense of both. He suggested that the customs duties on foreign merchandise of the two countries should be assimilated as far as possible, and when the rate of duty was the same in both countries, such articles should pass free from country to country, and a settlement be made between the Government at the end of each year, on a balance of accounts from the customs entries on the lines. Other suggestions were made by Mr. Galt equally important, and all likely to cause much agitation in the provinces. Mr. Galt followed up his narrative, by proposing that a minute of council be adopted endorsing what he had done, and authorising him to proceed to Washington and continue his negotiations.

A discussion of several days followed. I contend that Mr. Galt had no authority for going on to Washington, and had acted most indiscreetly in making such suggestions, even on his own personal responsibility. That what he did was done in direct opposition to the deliberate decision of the Government and Confederate Council, and calculated to be most seriously injurious to us in the coming negotiations, I intended that even had Mr. Galt full authority for going to Washington, and had the Council not previously determine the line of discussion to be then adopted, the action taken was worse than folly. Mr. Galt had flung at the heads of the Americans every concession that we had in our power to make, and some that we certainly could not make—so that our case was fore closed before the commission was opened. Every suggestion he had made would be regarded as a boon we were seeking, and our eagerness in making them would convince the Americans more than ever that we were and that we thought ourselves at their mercy. But I went on to cost and that the worst part of the matter was that all these sacrifices were to be made to secure ”Reciprocal Legislation” that is, an Act of Congress and an Act of Canadian Legislature which either might repeal at any moment. I pointed out the astuteness of these suggestions on the part of the United States Government—that it simply meant an

  • (p. 14)

arrangement by which the Americans could get over their present difficulties and have our aid in collecting their revenues—the one sole thing they were then bent on—and after that hold our people dangling from year to year on the Legislation of the American Congress—looking to Washington instead of Ottawa as the controller of their commerce and prosperity knowing as well as I did the determination of leading United States public men to absorb the Provinces into the union, I pointed out how admirably this scheme was designed to attain their end, and what our position we would be in, with the public mind excited before each meeting of Congress by articles in the United States press, threatening ruin to our trade, and resolution proposed in Congress by protectionist members .

I also pointed out the effect all this would have on the Lower Provinces. Here had Mr. Galt been settling the basis of a new treaty without one word of communication with the sister colonies—nay,  in direct opposition to what they had determined was the best course to pursue. I told my colleagues what had been done by the Confederate council—that I was bound in honor to stand by the course taken by and the promises made to the members of the Confederate council. I expressed my fear that the great offence would be taken if Mr. Galt’s proposal were persisted in, and that result might be the loss of Confederation as well as Reciprocity. I stated that I could not be responsible for Mr. Galt’s proposed order in council, and for his continuing the negotiations alone, and if it were insisted on I might leave the government.

I was asked to state what course I suggested. I said, treat Mr. Galt’s proceedings at Washington as unofficial, call the Confederate council together and at once, by telegraph, and commence anew. Make a dead set to have this reciprocal legislation idea upset before proceeding with the discussion, and if you fail after every exertion has been made to restore the proposal for a treaty—then, before breaking off all negotiations, ascertain the conditions proposed, for the purpose of seeing whether all the present advantages of our position should be sacrificed for a boon dependent from day to day on American whim.

I endeavored earnestly to impress my colleagues with the dangerous nature of this reciprocal legislation. I pointed out that, until Mr. Galt met Mr. Seward, such an idea had never been broached by any one. I pointed out also that, apart from its political effect, no extension of the scope of the treaty would be worth much that was capable of repeal at any moment. Who would put his money in any enterprise that might be knocked on the head at a month’s notice? I also reminded them that even in the United States those friendly to Reciprocity, and were striving for its renewal, would be equally dissatisfied with us as such an unreliable arrangement.

At last Mr. Galt, after consulting with others, made a suggestion for a compromise. He consented that his proceedings at Washington should be treated as unofficial—that no order in council be passed on the subject, and that he and Mr. Howland be sent down to Washington to secure a treaty if they could, but, if not, to find the best terms that could be got, and report to Government without delay, for their approval. I replied that I quite understood this as intended to strike my name from the Confederate Council of Trade, and place Mr. Howland in lieu of it—that I would not on that account object to the proposal, but accept the compromise.

I supposed the matter settled; but Mr. Galt then proposed that a second draft minute he had placed before the Council should be adopted. I said I thought no minute whatever was to be passed, and, on his reading what he proposed now to be adopted, it appeared that the document referred to Mr. Galt’s mission to Washington, endorsed his policy, and, instead of calling the Confederate Council together, ordered that an intimation of what had been done, and what was proposed to be done, should be sent to the governments of the Lower Provinces, so that they might, if they chose, send representatives to Washington.

On pointing out these objections, a clause was added, intimating that a meeting of the Confederate Council would be held, when Messrs. Galt and Howland returned from Washington.

He (Mr. B.) had not been able to read the first memorandum[9], though he had applied for it, but could not get it. That was the reason why the explanations had not been given yesterday, and not as stated in one of the papers, that he required time to refresh his memory. Had both minutes been withdrawn he would have been satisfied, but as only one was withdrawn and the other being substantially the same, he could not consent to undertake the responsibility involved in agreeing to substituting reciprocal legislation for the provisions of a treaty. The Secretary of the Treasury [Hugh McCulloch] had more than a week to repair his Report, after his conference with our Finance Minister [Alexander Galt], and even in their report the objection of the treaty being unconstitutional, was not so decidedly put as in Mr. Galt’s report.

The Secretary [Hugh McCulloch] only said there were grave doubts whether such treaties were not unconstitutional as infringing the rights of Congress to legislate on all matters of Commerce, and he (Mr. B.) was surprised that his hon. friend should have fallen in with such an absurd proposition. It was a mere delusion to suppose that there could have been any constitutional objection to the treaty, because the United States had made twenty treaties of a similar import since the one of 1854. Having fully considered this matter, and having viewed it in the light of an improper concession to the United States, being of opinion that the Minister of Finance [Alexander Galt] was not authorised to proceed to Washington and offer terms on behalf of Canada, and believing that reciprocal legislation would be no rightful substitute for the treaty, he had come to the conclusion that it was his duty to resign his position in the Government.

Having decided upon this step, he then considered how he should carry it out. There were two ways—one to place his resignation at once in the hands of the leader of the Government, the other to wait upon the Administrator of the Government. He, considering the peculiar circumstances under which he had entered the government, considered it his duty to adopt the latter course, and lest there should have been any appearance of discourtesy to his friend at the head of the Government he at once sent his resignation to the Premier [Naricsse Belleau]. His Excellency the Administrator had received him with great kindness, indeed he would never forget the consideration extended him on that occasion.

After explaining the whole matter the Administrator said “Then Mr. Brown I am called upon to decide between your policy and that of the other members of the Government?”

He (Mr. B.) replied, “Yes, Sir, and if I am allowed to give advice in the matter, I should say that the government ought to be sustained. Though the decision is against myself I consider the great question of Confederation as a far greater consequences to this country than reciprocity negociation. My resignation may aid in preventing their policy on the reciprocity question from being carried out or at least call forth full expression of public opinion on the subject, and the Government should be sustained, if wrong in this, for the sake of Confederation.”

Mr. Brown continued that he was as much in favor of a renewal of the Reciprocity Treaty[10] as any other member of the House, but he wanted a fair treaty, and they should not overlook the fact, while admitting its benefits, that the treaty was attended with some disadvantages to us. He contended that we should not have gone to Washington as suitors for any terms they were pleased to give us. We were satisfied with the treaty and the American Government should have come to us with a proposition since they not us desired a change. There was something in building up a great country besides mere commercial advantages, and he did not desire that by a system of Reciprocal Legislation Canada should be bound to sail in the wake of Washington.

Alexander Galt [Sherbrooke, Minister of Finance] in rising to reply said he objected to the hon. member for South Oxford [George Brown] basing his reasons for resignation upon the action of anyone member of the Cabinet. He had listened to the hon. member throughout and from one end to the other it appeared that his sole cause of opposition to the policy of the Government on the Reciprocity negotiations was himself (Mr. Galt).

To this he (Mr. Galt,) objected, as whether he had been duly authorised or not to proceed to Washington, from the day that his conduct had been sanctioned by the Cabinet of which he was a member he ceased to have any personal responsibility in the matter apart from his colleagues. He was surprised, therefore, that the hon. member should have singled him out as the cause of difference between himself (Mr. B.) and the Government.

The course which had been followed, whether correct or otherwise, was the course authorized and agreed to by the Executive Council, and from that time it seems to be a matter of individual responsibility.

He (Mr. Galt) considered that his position in the government fully entitled him to have gone to Washington, even without any special authorization, if by that means he believed he could serve the interests of the country, but he had been fully authorized to go there. During the time the Council was sitting, government was in constant receipt of important documents relating to the movements of the Fenians[11], and the Attorney General [John A. Macdonald] had given him some papers relating thereto, to lay before the President [George Brown]. He mentioned this circumstance merely to show that it was understood he was going to Washington. Regarding his action as a member of the government, the hon. member should not have taken special notice of him, but treated the questions solely as one of difference with the government.

He (Mr. G.) did not, on the present occasion, purpose going into a discussion of the differences of opinion between the hon. member for South Oxford [George Brown] and the government, but he was not prepared to say that the hon. member’s course was preferable to the one the government had adopted. It was absurd, perfectly absurd, to hold to the abstract idea of a treaty, and nothing but a treaty. When the Americans had said that we could not have a treaty, we should then endeavor to gain the same ends by other means. With regard to the danger of looking to Washington, he would discard it altogether, for had anybody believed in that danger, we had given them such an answer within the last few weeks as would dispel any thoughts of the kind.

The hon. member had complained of the want of a document which he desired to read to the House, and he (Mr. G.) would now read the document in question.[12]

(Mr. G. here read the memorandum.)

The Minister of Finance has the honour to submit, for the consideration of his colleagues in the Government, that the approach of the period when, under the notice given, the Reciprocity Treaty will expire, renders it necessary to consider the steps to be taken to procure such an extension of the notice from the Government of the United States, as will afford time for fully considering and arranging the best mode for establishing permanent regulations for the trade, navigation and intercourse between the United States and Canada.

Under these circumstances, and with the view of defining the general limits the discussion of the question of Reciprocity with the American authorities, it appears necessary to decide upon the principles by which the Canadian Government would be guided in case it should become necessary to proceed by concerted Legislation.

The Minister of Finance, therefore, respectfully recommends that the following points be now settled, as expressing their views of the Administration in regard to the commercial relations of Canada with the United States:

1st.—In the event of the Government of the United States declining to make a Treaty of Commerce with Great Britain, as regards Canada and the other British North American Provinces, the Canadian Government are willing to endeavor to effect such arrangements by concerted Legislation, as will establish such regulations, as it may be mutually agreed upon to adopt.

2nd.—Canada would be willing to agree to the reciprocal interchange of the natural productions, shipping and manufacturers of both countries, provided she were not required in any case to impose differential duties in favor of the United States.

3rd.—Canada would be willing to place the navigation of the Great Lakes and the St. Lawrence on a footing of perfect equality, and hereafter to consider the best mode of perfecting the Canals, so as to afford the greatest possible facilities to the trade of the West.

If practicable, the coasting trade of the two countries should be made reciprocal, and the regulations for the transit trade made permanent and satisfactory.

4th.—With the view of preventing illicit trade, Canada would be willing to agree upon and assimilation of the excise duties upon spirits, beer and tobacco, end of the customs duties upon the same and cognate articles. She would also willingly consider any suggestion by the United States, for the extension of such assimilation to other articles, provided the settlement of the whole commercial relations between the two countries be made upon the principle of perfect reciprocity, and the greatest freedom afforded to the citizens of both countries, to purchase and sell in the markets they may prefer.

5th.—Canada may state that the Maritime Provinces are prepared to Unite with her in the discussion of all the subjects arising out of the abrogation of the Reciprocity Treaty, and she therefore desires that the negociations should be carried on with Commissioners appointed to represent the several Provinces. But as such negotiations could not possibly be completed before the 17th March, Canada suggests that the notice for the abrogation of the Treaty be withdrawn, pending negotiations, reserving, however, to both countries, the right of imposing customs duties upon any or all of the articles enumerated in the Free List, in the fourth article of the Treaty, provided the same do not exceed the duties now levied by the Internal Revenue Acts of the United States; or, if necessary, Canada would accept a declaration from the United States, that they will not act upon the notice given for the abrogation of the Treaty, further than to impose such duties as aforesaid, upon the productions of British North America, and will not consider such duties as inconsistent with

  • (p. 15)

the Reciprocity provided by the Treaty, which shall, in all other respects, be held to be in force.

6th.—If no other course can be taken for obtaining an extension of the Treaty, the Canadian Government are prepared to recommend, at the next session of Parliament, the enactment of such measures as may meantime be agreed upon with the American Government, provided the legislation of both countries be made concurrent and reciprocal.

(Signed.) AT. Galt, M.F.

16th December, 1865.

Alexander Galt [Sherbrooke, Minister of Finance] continued—He (Mr. Galt) was sorry that circumstances had compelled him to say a single word on these explanations.—He had no desire to enter into the discussion of the question at issue. When the papers came down, hon. members would be better able to understand and discuss this subject than at present.

William Howland [York West, Postmaster General] felt the great responsibility attached to the position when called upon by the Hon. Attorney-General West [John A. Macdonald] to bring another member of his own party into the Government. But the fact of his according with the policy of the Government, and the great question upon which the coalition had been formed being still unsettled, had induced him before coming to a decision as to his own course, to consult with his political friends, and he found it was their desire that he should remain in the Government. Having been charged by the Attorney-General [John A. Macdonald] to fill up the vacant office, he had preceded west, and having solicited the member for Lambton [Alexander Mackenzie] to accept the Presidency of the Council, that hon. member declined. He then called upon the Hon. Mr. Blair, and was happy to say that hon. member had willingly agreed to enter the Government.

Alexander Mackenzie [Lambton] said the explanations of the Hon. Postmaster-General [William Howland] were quite correct and satisfactory, except that it had been stated that the explanations of the hon. member for South Oxford [George Brown] might put matters in a different light. When the vacant seat in the cabinet was offered to him (Mr. McK) he said he desired to consult with the late President of the Council [George Brown], through a third party, and he found that the passing of the minute in Council, upon which Mr. Brown had resigned, was but the concluding act of a long contention, and that personal animosity had had a very great deal to do with it.

Some Hon. Members—Hear, hear.

Alexander Mackenzie [Lambton]—He did not intend to discuss the questions of policy at issue in these negociations, but he could not but remark that it was his impression that the Commercial policy then proposed by the Government, if carried out, would have led to a more intimate political union with the United States. With the permission of the House, he would read a memorandum of the negociations, in so far as he was concerned.

(Mr. McK. then read his account of the interview with Mr. Howland, and the subsequent information he had acquired as to Mr. B’s retirement , and continued.)

He should never regret that he had declined the high honor of a seat in the Executive Council, if that seat were to be gained by concessions to the Government of Washington. There might be greater misfortunes befall a man than to be excluded from this Government, and there might be greater blessings than to become a member of it.

Alexander Galt [Sherbrooke, Minister of Finance] then moved the House into Committee of supply, Thomas Street [Welland] in the chair.

On motion of Alexander Galt [Sherbrooke, Minister of Finance], it was resolved

That a supply be granted Her Majesty.

The Committee rose and asked leave to sit again.

On the order of the day, for the second reading of the interest bills, Messrs. Dunkin and Bourassa, in view of Alexander Galt [Sherbrooke, Minister of Finance]’s motion for a Committee to consider the whole question, allowed the Bills to stand, and the House adjourned a few minutes before six o’clock.


[1]      Brown resigned his cabinet post in late December 1865, citing internal cabinet disputes with Finance Minister, A.T. Galt for attempting to negotiate a “Reciprocity treaty” with American counterparts without consulting the Lower Provinces and the Confederate Council. For more details, see J.M.S. Careless’ Brown of the Globe (MacMillan Company of Canada, 1963). And the “Latest from Montreal. Hon. Mr. Brown’s Resignation,” The Globe (Dec. 21, 1865). Brown was replaced as President of the Executive Council by A.J. Fergusson Blair.

[2]      Canadian-American Reciprocity Treaty of 1854 (Elgin-Marcy Treaty). The United States passed a Joint Resolution abrogating the treaty in Jan. 1865. It was formally terminated on Mar. 17, 1866.

[3]      ibid.

[4]      Papers respecting the Reciprocity Treaty. Unconfirmed reference. For the treaty see footnote 2.

[5]      Cabinet Minute (Jul. 15, 1865). Unconfirmed reference.

[6]      The Confederate Council of the British North American Colonies was composed of the Governor General and one voting member from each colony (Upper and Lower Canada each getting one vote). The Canadian delegates included Brown, Cartier, Macdonald, and Galt although only one vote per colony was allowed—this ended up being Brown for Upper Canada and Cartier for Lower Canada. The other members were Shea (Newfoundland), Pope (P.E.I.), Ritchie (Nova Scotia), and Wilmot (New Brunswick).

[7]      Seven unanimous resolutions were passed by the Council on Sep. 18, 1865.

[8]      The resolutions were passed on the 18th, not the 17th as Brown claims. See footnote above.

[9]      Alexander Galt reads the memorandum that Brown was unable to obtain at the end of this page. It ends on p. 15.

[10]    Canadian-American Reciprocity Treaty of 1854. Supra footnote 2.

[11]    The Fenian movement gained strength in North America when British antipathy in the United-States were raised after American politicians blamed “unneutral” British interference during the civil war after it concluded and raids on the Irish Republican Brotherhood in Ireland in the Fall of 1865 angered American immigrated Irish. In America, membership in the Fenian movement swelled late-1865 and it aimed at invading British North American to encourage rebellion and free Ireland from English subjugation. While the movement itself did attempt actual invasions of British North America, these were inefficient and unorganized – compared to “a crowd of seedy theatrical extras, hired by the hour for some battle scene in a play or a film.” The Fenians are mentioned once in the “Confederation Debates” of 1865 by T. D’Arcy McGee on Feb. 9,. 1865 when quoting a passage from Archbishop Connolly’s letter in favor of confederation published in the Halifax Morning Chronicle on Jan. 13, 1865. There Archbishop Connolly wrote:“A cavalry raid or a visit from our Fenian friends on horseback, through the plains of Canada and the fertile valleys of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, may cost more in a single week than Confederation for the next fifty years; and if we are to believe you, where is the security even at the present moment against such a disaster?”

[12]    This is the memorandum Brown complains about being unable to obtain and read to the Assembly earlier in this page. Supra footnote 9.

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