Province of Canada, Legislative Assembly, Scrapbook Debates [Memorandum on Confederation], 8th Parl, 2nd Sess, (22 June 1864)
By: Province of Canada (Parliament)
Citation: Province of Canada, Parliament, Scrapbook Debates, 8th Parl, 2nd Sess, 1864 at 205-206.
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WEDNESDAY, June 22, 1864.
“The Government are prepared to state that, immediately after the prorogation, they will address themselves, in the most earnest manner, to the negociation for a confederation of all the British North American Provinces.”
“That, failing a successful issue to such negociations, they are prepared to pledge themselves to legislation during the next session of Parliament for the purpose of remedying existing difficulties by introducing the federal principle for Canada alone, coupled with such provisions as will permit the Maritime Provinces and the North-Western Territory to be hereafter incorporated into the Canadian system.
“That for the purpose of carrying on the negotiations and settling the details of the promised legislation, a Royal commission shall be issued, composed of three members of the Government and three members of the Opposition, of whom Mr. Brown shall be one, and the Government pledge themselves to give all the influence of the Administration to secure to the said commission the means of advancing the great object in view.
“That, subject to the House permitting the Government to carry through the public business, no dissolution of Parliament shall take place, but the Administration will again meet the present House.”
Shortly after 6 p.m. the parties met at the same place, when Mr. Brown stated that, without communicating the contents of the confidential paper entrusted to him, he had seen a sufficient number of his friends to warrant him in expressing the belief that the bulk of his friends would, as a compromise, accept a measure for the Federative Union of Canada, with provision for the future admission of the Maritime Colonies and the North-West Territory. To this it was replied that the Administration could not consent to waive the larger question, but, after considerable discussion, an amendment to the original proposal was agreed to in the following terms, subject to the approval, on Monday, of the Cabinet and of His Excellency :
“The Government are prepared to pledge themselves to bring in a measure next session for the purpose of removing existing difficulties by introducing the federal principle into Canada, coupled with such provisions as will permit the Maritime Provinces and the North-West Territory to be incorporated into the same system of government.
“And the Government will seek, by sending Representatives to the Lower Provinces, and Lower Provinces and to England, to secure the assent of those interests which are beyond the control of our own legislation to such a measure as may enable all British North America to be united under a General Legislature based upon the Federal principle.”
Mr. Brown then stated that, having arrived at a basis which he believed would be generally acceptable to the great mass of his political friends, he had to add that, as the proposition was so general in its terms, and the advantage of the measure depended so entirely on the details that might finally be adopted, it was the very general feeling of his friends that security must be given for the fairness of those details and the good faith with which the whole movement should be prosecuted by the introduction into the Cabinet of a fair representation of his political friends. Mr. Brown stated that he had not put this question directly to his friends, but that he perceived very clearly that this was the strong opinion of a large majority of them, and that his own personal opinion on this point (to which he still adhered) was participated in by only a small number. Messrs. Macdonald, Cartier, and Galt replied that they had of course understood, in proposing that Mr. Brown should enter the Government, that he would not come alone, but that the number of seats at his disposal had not been considered by their colleagues. Mr. Brown was requested to state his views on this point, and he replied that the Opposition I were half of the House, and ought to have an equal influence in the Government. Messrs. Macdonald, Cartier, and Galt said this was impossible, but they would see their colleagues and state their views on Monday.
“On Monday, at 10.30 a.m., Messrs. Macdonald, Cartier, and Galt called on Mr. Brown at the St. Louis Hotel, and stated that Sir E. P. Taché had returned to town. Mr. Brown accompanied them to the Provincial Secretary’s room, when Mr. Brown, having been asked to explain how he proposed to arrange equal representation in the Cabinet, replied that he desired to be understood as meaning four members for Upper Canada, and two for Lower Canada, to be chosen by the Opposition.
In reply, Messrs. Cartier and Galt stated that, as far as related to the constitution of the Cabinet for Lower Canada, they believed it already afforded ample guarantees for their sincerity, and that a change in its personnel would be more likely to produce embarrassment than assistance, as the majority of the people of Lower Canada, both French Canadians and English, had implicit confidence in their leaders, which it would not be desirable to shake in any way. That in approaching the important question of settling the sectional difficulties, it appeared to them essential that the party led by Sir E. P. Tache should have ample assurance that their interests would be protected, which, it was feared, would not be strengthened by the introduction in the Cabinet of the Lower Canada Opposition.
“Mr. Macdonald stated, as regards Upper Canada, that, in his opinion the reduction to two of the number of the gentlemen in the Cabinet who now represented Upper Canada would involve the withdrawal of the confidence of those who now support them in the House of Assembly, but that he would be prepared for the admission into the Cabinet of three gentlemen of the Opposition, on its being ascertained that they would bring with them a support equal to that now enjoyed by the Government from Upper Canada.
“Mr. Brown asked in what manner it was proposed the six Upper Canada Ministers should be selected was each party to have carte blanche in suggesting to the head of the Government the names to be chosen? To which Mr. Macdonald replied that, as a matter of course, he would expect Mr. Brown to be himself a member of the Administration, as affording the best, if not the only guarantee, for the adhesion of his friends.
“That Mr. Macdonald, on Mr. Brown giving his consent, would confer with him as to the selection of Upper Canada colleagues from both sides, who should be the most acceptable to their respective friends, and most likely to work harmoniously for the great object which alone could justify the arrangement proposed.
“Mr. Brown then inquired what Mr. Macdonald proposed in regard to the Upper Canada leadership. Mr. Macdonald said that, as far as he was concerned, he could not with propriety, or without diminishing his usefulness, alter his position, but that he was, as he had been for some time, anxious to retire from the Government, and would be quite ready to facilitate arrangements by doing so. Of course he could not retire from the Government without Sir Etienne Tache’s consent.
“Mr. Brown then stated that without discussing the propriety or reasonableness of the proposition, he would consult his friends, and give an early reply.
“Tuesday.—The respective parties being occupied during the forenoon in consulting their friends, a meeting was held at 2 p.m., at which were present Sir E. P. Tache, Mr. Macdonald, Mr. Cartier, Mr. Gait, and Mr. Brown.
“Mr. Brown stated that his friends had held a meeting, and approved of the course he had pursued, and the basis arrived at, and authorized him to continue the negotiation.
“Mr. Macdonald and Mr. Cartier also said that they had received satisfactory assurances from their friends.
“Mr. Brown then stated that it was now for him to consider what course he should pursue, entertaining, as he still did, the strongest repugnance to accepting office.
“A further meeting was appointed for half-past 8 p.m., at which the details of the arrangements, in case Mr. Brown and his friends accepted office, were discussed at much length.
“Mr. Brown contended strongly that the Government should concede a larger representation in the Cabinet than three members. To which it was replied that the Administration believed it was quite impossible to satisfy their own friends with a different arrangement.
“Mr. Brown then asked whether he could be sworn in as an Executive Councillor, without department or salary, in addition to the three departmental offices to be filled by his friends.
Mr. Macdonald replied that the principle of equality would in this case be destroyed, and he was satisfied it could not be done.
“Mr. Brown asked whether it was a sine qua non that he should himself enter the Cabinet. To which it was replied that, to secure a successful issue to the attempt to settle the sectional difficulties, it was considered that Mr. Brown’s acceptance of office was indispensable.
A meeting was then appointed for the following day.
“On Wednesday, a little after one, the same parties met, when Mr. Brown stated as his final decision that he would consent to the reconstruction of the Cabinet as proposed, but inasmuch as he did not wish to assume the responsibility of the Government business before the House, he preferred leaving till after the prorogation the consideration of the acceptance of office by himself I and the two gentlemen who might be ultimately selected to enter the Administration with him.
“Sir E. P. Tache and Mr. Macdonald thereon stated that, after the prorogation, they would be prepared to place three seats in the Cabinet at the disposal of Mr. Brown.”