Province of Canada, Legislative Assembly, Scrapbook Debates [Local Constitutions], 8th Parl, 5th Sess, (27 July 1866)

Document Information

Date: 1866-07-27
By: Province of Canada (Parliament)
Citation: Province of Canada, Parliament, Scrapbook Debates, 8th Parl, 5th Sess, 1866 at 61-62.
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.


FRIDAY, July 27, 1866

 John A. Macdonald [Kingston, Attorney-General West and Minister of Militia]  resumed the debate on the resolutions providing for the Local Constitutions. He moved the adoption of the first resolution,—

“1. That by the 38th paragraph of the Resolution of this House passed on the third day of February, 1865, for presenting an humble Address to Her Majesty, praying that She may be graciously pleased to cause a measure to be submitted to the Imperial Parliament, for the purpose of uniting the Colonies of Canada, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Prince Edward island, in one Government, with provisions based on the Resolutions which were adopted at a Conference of Delegates from the said Colonies, held at the City of Quebec, on the 10th of October, 1864, it is provided that “for each of the Provinces there shall be an Executive Officer, styled the Lieutenant Governor, who shall be appointed by the Governor General in Council, under the Great Seal of the ‘Federated Provinces, during pleasure; such pleasure, not to be exercised before the expiration of the first five years, except for cause; such cause to be communicated in writing to the Lieutenant Governor immediately after the exercise of the pleasure as aforesaid, and also by Message to both Houses of Parliament, within the first week of the first Session afterwards;” and that by the 41st paragraph of the same Resolution it is provided that “the Local Government and Legislature of each Province shall be constructed in such manner as the existing Legislature of each such Province shall provide.”[1]

with the following addition,

And it is further now resolved, that in the opinion of this House, the appointment of the first Lieutenant-Governor should be provisional, and that he should hold office strictly during pleasure.

He proposed this amendment to meet the objection raised by the member for South Oxford [George Brown], when the question was formerly before the House, that the first Lieutenant-Governor, who of necessity would be appointed by a Government, not then having received the confidence of Parliament, should hold office five years.

This amendment rendered the office merely provisional, as he could be removed at anytime and without assigning any cause. The first government would of necessity have to be a provisional one. The Governor-General [Viscount Monck] must select his advisers from among the people of these provinces, and continue to administer the affairs of the Confederation, until by a general election, under the Constitution, and Parliament can be convened, and give effect to the Constitutional system of administration.

George Brown [Oxford South] expressed his satisfaction with the manner in which the Attorney-General [John A. Macdonald] had considered the point to which you had called attention on a former occasion. In fact the whole course of the Attorney-General [John A. Macdonald] in treating this question, had been exceedingly satisfactory. He had expressed his willingness to accept changes or amendments where they might be deemed necessary, and he (Mr. Brown) would be exceedingly glad to see the discussion carried on and the same good spirit to the end.

He hoped the members from Upper and Lower Canada would each abstain from interfering with the provisions which only applied to the other section. For his part he would have a great reluctance and interfering in anyway with the Local Constitution of Lower Canada; he thought they ought to make it to suit themselves. With regard to the amendment proposed, he (Mr. B.) thought the difficulty might better be got over, making the Governor-General [Viscount Monck], also the Governor of the Provinces, until the Lieutenant-Governor could be constitutionally appointed.

John A. Macdonald [Kingston, Attorney-General West and Minister of Militia]  had not the slightest doubt but that the whole machinery of both General and Local Governments could be set in motion without difficulty. But, it was not desirable that they should attempt to provide for too many small details. They must provide for a General Government and a Local Government, to take effect at once, though there was no reason why the present Governors in the other Provinces should not administer the affairs of these Provinces, until an appointment could be made by General Government, enjoying the confidence of Parliament.

John Sandfield Macdonald [Cornwall] thought the amendment in the right direction, but the time will come when the people of the country would demand a voice in the appointment of Lieutenant-Governors, as it might be tasteful in the future to see it in the hands of the General Government. And difficulty might arise from his not being removable without a cause being assigned, as is the case of difference with his cabinet the General Government might retain him in the position.

Antoine-Aimé Dorion [Hochelaga] spoke briefly on the point, and was replied to by Hon. Mr. Brown, when it being within a few minutes of the dinner hour, six o’clock was called.

Luther Holton [Chateauguay]—If they called this 6, he would like to know at what time it would be 7:30, as members did not desire to be kept waiting.

An Hon. MemberA laugh.

John A. Macdonald [Kingston, Attorney-General West and Minister of Militia]  said, as he had previously informed the House in reply to the hon. member for South Oxford [George Brown], that a plan would be proposed for the adjustment of accounts between Upper and Lower Canada, he would state before the House rose that he would, after the resolutions were disposed of, move a resolution providing for the division of assets , and a general settlement between Upper and Lower Canada. It was a very difficult question to deal with, and in his judgment could not properly be entered upon until it had first been settled as to what amount of the common property of Canada would be assumed by the general government. It could not therefore take place until after Confederation had been accomplished, and he proposed to provide for it by moving a resolution to the effect that in any act, which the Imperial Parliament may pass for the purpose of uniting the several Provinces of British North America under one Confederate government, it is the opinion of this House that there should be provision made for the adjustment of the debts, credits, liabilities, property and assets of Canada, between Upper and Lower Canada, by arbitration, that one arbitrator shall be appointed by Upper Canada, another by Lower Canada, and the third by the general government, but that said arbitrators shall not be appointed until after the Local Constitution still have gone into effect, nor shall the third arbiter be a resident of Upper or Lower Canada. […][2]

  • (p. 62)

Local Constitutions[3] 

The debate on the resolutions was resumed.

In reply to a question,

John A. Macdonald [Kingston, Attorney-General West and Minister of Militia] explained that it would be necessary to embody these resolutions as passed by Parliament, in an address to Her Majesty.

Luther Holton [Chateauguay] contended that according to the fair meaning of the Quebec resolutions[4], it was provided that the existing government should frame the Local Constitutions; and that the resolutions before the House, presenting but a mere skeleton, did not fulfill that condition.

John A. Macdonald [Kingston, Attorney-General West and Minister of Militia]  replied that the general principles upon which the Confederation of the Provinces was to take place, had been agreed to, and embodied in the form of resolutions, and it was well understood that the general principles of the Local Constitutions should be presented in the same way. The Government has strictly follow the well understood terms of the Quebec resolutions, with regard to the Local Constitutions. Were we to undertake to make an act for the Imperial Parliament to pass? The hon. gentleman day after day had reproached the government for not going on with these measures; now, when they were going on with them here, he was throwing every obstruction in their way, determined if possible to defeat Confederation.

John Sandfield Macdonald [Cornwall] contended that the government should elaborate as many of the details of the Local Constitutions as possible, and submit them for the consideration of this House, and not go home with these resolutions so indefinitely framed, and construct whatever sort of constitution they chose. The people should have some guarantee that within a few months after the abolition of our present form of government, they would be permitted to meet in the Confederate and Local Parliaments.

John A. Macdonald [Kingston, Attorney-General West and Minister of Militia] said as he had remarked before, they must deal with only one case at a time. They should look to the question before them, and settle that before raising other issues. Already the general principles of the Confederate Constitution had been determined; now, they were called upon to settle the general principles of the Local Constitutions. With regard to Lower Canada, the matter was very simple, as the present constitution of Canada had been adopted in its entirety, with a single exception of a nominated, instead of an elective Upper House.

In Upper Canada they had aimed at a greater change—yet it was only a change in one particular, the adoption of one chamber instead of two. This, then, was the great question to discuss in these resolutions, and the other was whether they should or should not have Responsible Government in conjunction with a single chamber. As to the general course of proceeding, the first step after the passing of the Imperial Act would be the sending out of a Viceroy or Governor-General, under whatever title Her Majesty may be pleased to give him. And his first duty would be to issue the writs for a general election for the Confederate Parliament, and to appoint provisional Lieutenant-Governors that they might issue writs for an election for the Local Parliaments.

Of course it was well known that it would be quite impossible to submit this measure to the Imperial Parliament before the next session, which would be in January, or early in February next.

Joseph Cauchon [Montmorency] contended that there was no danger of any changes being made from the principles laid down in the resolutions because they had not given their own government any authority to change them, and the Imperial Government would not introduce such changes without their consent. It must follow therefore that if any changes are proposed, our Government must bring them before the Parliament of this country, and have its sanction before they can be introduced into the Imperial Act. He also referred to the provisions of the Quebec resolutions[5] regarding the formation of the Local Constitutions, saying that the meaning evidently was that well existing government should settle the general principles of the Local Constitutions, separate Provinces would be empowered to amend them here after within the provisions of the general Constitution.

James O’Halloran [Missisquoi] said when the Quebec resolutions were before the House Ministers had promised details on the bringing down of the Local Constitutions, but now they had only laid a ghastly skeleton before the House.

Matthew Cameron [Ontario North] found no provision made in those resolutions for a Local Executive Council. He should like to know whether the government intended to make any change, so that this might be remedied. The resolutions did not actually provide for Local Government, only for a Local Governor. Now a government, as he understood it, consisted of Governor and Executive Council.

John A. Macdonald [Kingston, Attorney-General West and Minister of Militia]  explained that the general terms of the well understood principles of the British Constitution were sufficiently explicit to define the necessity for a constitutional Ministry. But the number of departments had been left to be determined by the Local Parliaments.

George Brown [Oxford South] thought that with the experience, an ability which the House possessed it ought to prepare as many of the details of the Local Constitutions as possible. The union act of ’41[6] had provided that the heads of the Departments, should form the executive, and we thought that some provision should be made for a Local Executive. If the point were left to the Local Parliaments, there would be a great temptation to multiply offices to too great an extent.

George-Étienne Cartier [Montreal East, Attorney-General East] defended the resolutions as framed and argued that the Local Executive was sufficiently provided for by the general declaration of the principle of government. The resolutions upon which the Union Act had been founded, did not make any exact definition as to the Executive Council.

Maurice Laframboise [Bagot] addressed the House in opposition to the resolutions, saying that England would not regard the feelings of French Canadians. She would do again what she did in 1840, impose it up on the people.

Arthur Rankin [Essex] thought the discussion had hitherto been conducted in a most irregular manner. They had already made known, in a constitutional way, their views as to Confederation, in the resolutions embodying what was called the Quebec scheme[7], which would, no doubt, be adopted without change, and the only thing that remained for us was to settle our Local Constitution. He thought the course pursued by the Government, in regard to these, had been a proper one.

After most irregular discussion, it was suggested that the debate be adjourned.[8]

John Sandfield Macdonald [Cornwall] said the vote should take place tonight.

Christopher Dunkin [Brome] and John Scoble [Elgin West] said the resolutions had not yet been properly discussed, and then debate ought to be adjourned.

Joseph Perrault [Richelieu] said the discussion was useless. Members dare not change their votes for fear of an appeal to the country.

Antoine-Aimé Dorion [Hochelaga] said that many members had already left, and in a few days more would be going, and he wished to see the vote taken that the business of the country might be proceeded with.

George Brown [Oxford South] desired to see these resolutions discussed fully and gravely, and if any amendments were found necessary, they should be made. He submitted that honourable gentleman opposed to these resolutions put themselves in an awkward position, by insisting on the vote being taken to-night. They forgot that the important subject of the distribution of the seventeen new seats in Upper Canada had not yet been even referred to in the debate.

John A. Macdonald [Kingston, Attorney-General West and Minister of Militia]  said the government had only one view in framing these resolutions: to leave behind them as perfect a measure as possible. They would not comment therefore, be hurried, nor with the majority of the House be hurried, in coming to a decision upon them. It was not a question of a day, but a question that would affect Upper and Lower Canada, perhaps for all time to come. It should therefore be carefully considered. The hon. member for South Oxford [George Brown] had said there were improvements to be suggested, and it was the intention of the Government to give the fullest opportunity to consider them. But hon. gentlemen opposite who are opposed Confederation, who said it was going to bring ruin upon Canada now desire to hurry it on. They would rush into the danger to avoid the apprehension.

William McDougall [Lanark North, Provincial Secretary] said the subject was a very important one. The Government had laid it before the House, without professing that it was altogether perfect, that it might be fully and fairly discussed, and that, if need be, its imperfections remedied. The Government would be very glad to consider any suggestions to that end from any side of the House. The gentleman opposite had, after all their anxiety to find fault, been unable to discover anything in these resolutions, upon which they could base a reasonable objection.

Antoine-Aimé Dorion [Hochelaga] again charged the government with improperly delaying business.

John A. Macdonald [Kingston, Attorney-General West and Minister of Militia]  replied, dwelling on the importance of the subject, and saying that the member for Hochelaga [Antoine-Aimé Dorion] had a number of amendments in his desk, which he desired to bring up on the House as a surprise, and perhaps create some embarrassment to the Government.

Antoine-Aimé Dorion [Hochelaga] said he had already informed the House that he had several amendments to move, and had not attempted to surprise the House.

John A. Macdonald [Kingston, Attorney-General West and Minister of Militia] —Then why does not the honourable gentleman have his amendments published? It was most unfair to ask members to vote upon such a serious question as an amendment to the Constitution, without giving some time to consider it. He (Mr. McD.) explained that he would press the motion for the adjournment of the debate which would be resumed on Tuesday, though the final vote which would bind the House to the resolutions would not be taken until Thursday.

Alexander Mackenzie [Lambton] approve the course of the government, and thought the suggestion to print important amendments ought to be followed.

Matthew Cameron [Ontario North], though opposed to Confederation from the first, and though he had not seen anything to make him regarded more favourably, considered now that it had become a fixed fact, it was the duty of all to endeavour to make it work as well as possible. The Provincial Secretary [William McDougall] had said it was a grave subject, but he thought the grave part would be when we buried Canada; still he did not wish to have too much crying at the funeral. He thought the course of the government in adjourning the debate the proper one. 

The members were then called in and the House divided on the motion to adjourn, which was carried. —Yeas, 70. Nays, 18.


[1]      Journals of the Legislative Assembly of the Province of Canada (1866), p. 141. Added for completeness. The resolution was first presented to the Assembly on Jul. 13, 1866, pp. 46-47.

[2]      Non-relevant material has been left out. The debate recommences on p. 62. To view the entire original document, see

[3]      This title has been added by the editors of the current edition (2022).

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

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

[6]      The Union Act, 1840 (U.K). Brown refers to it as the ‘union of 1841’, which refers to the year it was proclaimed, 1841.

[7]      Meaning the Quebec Resolutions. Supra footnote 5.

[8]      No further reports on this discussion have been found.

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