Province of Canada, Legislative Assembly, Scrapbook Debates [Ministerial Explanations], 8th Parl, 2nd Sess, (22 June 1864)


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Date: 1864-06-22
By: Province of Canada (Parliament)
Citation: Province of Canada, Parliament, Scrapbook Debates, 8th Parl, 2nd Sess, 1864 at 204-209.
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LEGISLATIVE ASSEMBLY.

WEDNESDAY, June 22, 1864.

Ministerial Explanations—

The Basis of the Agreement Stated

John A. Macdonald [Kingston, Attorney-General West] said—Before the orders of the day are called, I desire, on behalf of myself and colleagues, to lay before the House a full and accurate statement of the negotiations which, the House is well aware, have been going on ever since the defeat of the Government, on the motion of the hon. member for Hochelaga [Antoine-Aimé Dorion], on Tuesday week last. For the purpose of avoiding anything like a mistake, or misunderstanding arising, a minute of the proceedings every day was carefully compared and considered, which I am now prepared to read.

This statement, in itself, contains the whole substance of all the communications that took place between the Government and the hon. member for South Oxford [George Brown]. The negotiations have been principally conducted by that hon. gentleman himself on the one side, and the hon. Finance Minister [Alexander Galt] and myself on the other, with the assistance of several members of the Government, principally the Premier [Étienne Pascal Taché] and the hon. Attorney General East [George-Étienne Cartier]. A printed copy of this memorandum will be placed in the hands of every member of this House, as soon as it is ready.

Some Hon. Members—Hear, hear.

John A. Macdonald [Kingston, Attorney-General West]—It is in the following terms:—

“Immediately after the defeat of the Government on Tuesday night (the 14th), and on the following morning, Mr. Brown spoke to several supporters of the Administration, strongly urging that the present crisis should be utilized in settling for ever the constitutional difficulties between Upper and Lower Canada, and assuring them that he was prepared to co-operate with the existing, or any other administration, that would deal with this question promptly and firmly, with a view to its final settlement.

Messrs. Morris and Pope asked and obtained leave to communicate these conversations to Mr. John A. Macdonald and Mr. Galt.

On Thursday, at 3 p.m., just before the Speaker took the chair, Mr. John A. Macdonald said to Mr. Brown, while standing in the centre of the Assembly Room, that he had been informed of what he, Mr. Brown, had stated, and he wished to know if Mr. Brown had any objection to meet Mr. Galt and discuss the matter? He replied, certainly not.

Mr. Morris accordingly arranged an interview with Mr. Brown, and on Friday, the 17th of June, about 1 p.m., Messrs. Macdonald and Galt called on Mr. Brown at the St. Louis Hotel. Mr. Brown stated that nothing but the extreme urgency of the present crisis, and the hope of settling the sectional troubles of the province for ever, could, in his opinion, justify their meeting together with a view to common political action. Messrs. Macdonald and Galt were equally impressed with this, and stated that on that footing alone the present meeting had been invited.

Mr. Brown asked in what position these gentlemen came to him, whether as deputed by the Administration, or simply as leading members of the Ministerial party.

They replied they were charged by their colleagues formally to invite his aid in strengthening the Administration with a view to the settlement of the sectional difficulties of Upper and Lower Canada. Mr. Brown then stated that, on grounds purely personal, it was quite impossible that he could be a member of any administration at present, and that, even had this been otherwise, he would have conceived it highly objectionable that parties who had been so long and so strongly opposed to each other, as he and some members of the Administration had been, should enter the same Cabinet. He thought the public mind would be shocked by such an arrangement, but he felt very strongly that the present crisis presented an opportunity of dealing with this question that might never occur again. Both political parties had tried in turn to govern the country, but without success, and repeated elections only arrayed sectional majorities against each other more strongly than before.

Another general election at this moment presented little hope of a much altered result; and he believed that both parties were far better prepared than they had ever been before to look the true cause of all the difficulty firmly in the face, and endeavour to settle the representation question on an equitable and permanent basis. Mr. Brown added that, if the Administration were prepared to do this, and would pledge themselves clearly and publicly to bring in a measure next session that would be acceptable to Upper Canada, the basis to be now settled and announced in Parliament, he would heartily co-operate with them to try to induce his friends (in which he hoped to be successful) to sustain them until they had an opportunity of presenting their measure next session.

Mr. Macdonald replied that he considered it would be essential that Mr. Brown himself should become a member of the Cabinet, with a view to give guarantees to the Opposition and to the country for the earnestness of the Government.

Mr. Brown rejoined that other members of the Opposition could equally with himself give that guarantee to their party and the country by entering the Government in the event of a satisfactory basis being arrived at. He felt that his position had been such for many years as to place a greater bar in the way of his entering the Government than in that of any other member of the Opposition.

Mr. Macdonald then said that he thought it would be necessary that Mr. Brown himself should, in any case, be identified with the negotiations that would necessarily have to take place, and that, if he did not himself enter the Cabinet, he might undertake a mission to the Lower Provinces, or to England, or both, in order to identify himself with the action of the Canadian Government in carrying out the measure agreed upon.

It was then suggested by Mr. Brown, and agreed to, that all questions of a personal character, and the necessary guarantees, should be waived for the present, and the discussion conducted with the view of ascertaining if a satisfactory solution of the sectional difficulty could be agreed upon.

Mr. Brown asked what the Government proposed as a remedy for the injustice complained of by Upper Canada, and as a settlement of the sectional trouble. Mr. Macdonald and Mr. Galt replied that their remedy was a Federal Union of all the British North American Provinces ; local matters being committed to local bodies, and matters common to all to a General Legislature, constituted on the well-understood principles of Federal Government.

Mr. Brown rejoined that this would not be acceptable to the people of Upper Canada as a remedy for existing evils.

That he believed that federation of all the provinces ought to come, and would come about ere long, but it had not yet been thoroughly considered by the people; and even were this otherwise, there were so many parties to be consulted, that its adoption was uncertain and remote.

Mr. Brown was then asked what his remedy was, when he stated that the measure acceptable to Upper Canada would be Parliamentary Reform, based on population, without regard to a separating line between Upper and Lower Canada.

To this both Mr. Macdonald and Mr. Galt stated that it was impossible for them to accede, or for any Government to carry such a measure, and that, unless a basis could be found on the federation principle suggested by the report of Mr. Brown’s Committee, it did not appear to them likely that anything could be settled.

After much discussion on both sides, it was found that a compromise might probably be had in the adoption either of the Federal principle for all British North American Provinces, as the larger question, or for Canada alone, with provisions for the admission of the Maritime Provinces and the North Western Territory, when they should express the desire. Mr. Brown contended that the Canadian Federation should be constituted first, in order that such securities might be taken, in regard to the position of Upper Canada, as would satisfy that section of the country, that, in the negotiations with the Lower Provinces, the interests of Upper Canada would in no case be overlooked.

Further conversation ensued, but as the hour for the meeting of the House had nearly arrived, an understanding was come to that the state of the negotiations was such as to warrant the hope of an ultimate understanding; and it was agreed that that fact should be communicated to Parliament, and an adjournment until Monday asked for.

On Friday evening Mr. Galt saw Mr. Brown, and arranged for an interview next morning, at which Sir Etienne Tache and Mr. Cartier should be present.

On Saturday, at 10 a.m., other engagements requiring a change in the hour appointed, Mr. Macdonald and Mr. Galt called on Mr. Brown, and, after further discussion, a second appointment was made for 1 p.m., when the gentlemen named, with Mr. Cartier, met in the Provincial Secretary’s room, Sir Etienne Tache being out of town.

The consideration of the steps most advisable for the final settlement of the sectional difficulties was then entered upon fully, and a general accord seemed to exist that, as the views of Upper Canada could not be met under our present system, the remedy must be sought in the adoption of the federal principle.

Mr. Brown then requested to have the views of the Administration, as expressed to him, reduced to writing, for the purpose of being submitted confidentially to his friends. The following memorandum was then proposed, and, having to be submitted to the Cabinet and to the Governor General, Mr. Brown inquired whether any objection existed to his seeing His Excellency, whereupon he was informed that no objection whatever existed.

Mr. Brown accordingly waited on the Governor General, and on his return the memorandum approved by Council and by the Governor General was handed to him, and another interview appointed for 6 p.m., Mr. Brown etating that he did not feel at liberty either to accept or reject the proposal without consulting with his friends.

Memorandum.—Confidential.

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

    • (p. 206)

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. Galt, 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.”

George-Étienne Cartier [Montreal East, Attorney-General East] then read the explanations in French.

Luther Holton [Chateauguay] asked what was meant by the phrase in the memorandum of Ministerial explanations reading—“the well understood principles of Federal Government”—whether it was intended to imply the adoption of the principle of representation according to numbers in the Federal Government contemplated. This was a very important question, involving as it did the consideration of a change of the constitution itself. It was desirable, therefore, that the fullest possible information should be given the House on this matter.

Some Hon. Members—Hear, hear.

George Brown [Oxford South] said it was well the House should understand that the hon. Attorney General West [John A. Macdonald] read the words in question from the written document, and that their omission from the printed copies was a typographical error only.

Some Hon. Members—Hear, hear.

Hon. Mr. Galt [Sherbrooke, Minister of Finance]—We had no time to read the printed copy.

Luther Holton [Chateauguay] merely wanted to know what was meant by the phrase in question.

George-Étienne Cartier [Montreal East, Attorney-General East] said the details of the scheme or basis of agreement could not be arranged by the gentlemen who had been in conference during the time thus spent.

Luther Holton [Chateauguay]—Then it is not well understood?

George-Étienne Cartier [Montreal East, Attorney-General East] said he thought the country and this House owed, to a certain extent, a debt of gratitude to the parties who had conferred together and to an arrangement upon this matter. The country would understand they had approached the difficult question firmly and candidly, desirous of doing justice to both sections.

Some Hon. MembersCheers.

George-Étienne Cartier [Montreal East, Attorney-General East]—But the hon. member for Chateauguay [Luther Holton] wanted to know the meaning of the words—“well understood principles of federation.” Now, he knew as well as anybody what was meant by federation.

George Brown [Oxford South]—Hear, hear.

George-Étienne Cartier [Montreal East, Attorney-General East]—The member for Chateauguay [Luther Holton] and his friend and former colleague in the Government (Mr. Dorion) well knew the meaning of a federation, having several times proposed resolutions for the purpose of applying the federative system to Canada alone.

Some Hon. Members—Hear, hear.

George-Étienne Cartier [Montreal East, Attorney-General East]—The principal of federation must necessarily mean equality of representation in one branch of the legislature, while as regards the representation in the other branch, population and territory would have to be taken into account.

Antoine-Aimé Dorion [Hochelaga] had listened with great satisfaction to the lengthy Ministerial explanations which were given with a desire to deal with the House frankly in the matter.

Some Hon. Members—Hear, hear.

Antoine-Aimé Dorion [Hochelaga]—The Government had stated they would bring in a measure to settle the present difficulties next session. It was, then, of the very highest importance that, in a crisis like this, when not only a change of Administration, but a change of Governmental policy and a change of the constitution itself were to take place, that everything that could safely be stated as agreed upon in regard to this matter, should go to the country, that it might be in a position, between this and next session, to make up its mind upon the whole question. He was sorry the question of the member for Chateauguay [Luther Holton] had not been answered. Were we to understand that, in one branch of the Legislature there would be an equality as to representation, and in the other that representation would be according to population?

George-Étienne Cartier [Montreal East, Attorney-General East]—Yes

George Brown [Oxford South]—Hear, hear.

George-Étienne Cartier [Montreal East, Attorney-General East] had stated that, with regard to the constitution of one Chamber, there would be equality, and with reference to the other, he had given his opinion that population and territory would have to be taken into account.

Some Hon. Members—Hear, hear.

Antoine-Aimé Dorion [Hochelaga]—So we are to understand that it is perfectly agreed between the hon. member for South Oxford [George Brown] and the members of the Government that the measure to be brought down will guarantee equal representation for both sections of the Province in one branch of the Legislature, and representation according to population and territory as regards the other branch.

John A. Macdonald [Kingston, Attorney-General West]—Hear, hear.

Antoine-Aimé Dorion [Hochelaga] would like to have a distinct answer from the Government.

Some Hon. Members—Oh, oh, and laughter.

George-Étienne Cartier [Montreal East, Attorney-General East] had stated, as briefly and plainly as possible, that the details of the scheme had not been in anyway considered by the gentlemen who had conferred together, and also what he understood by the words “well-understood principle of federation.”

Antoine-Aimé Dorion [Hochelaga] asked how was the question of representation to be arranged, as regards Lower Canada, with a smaller population and a larger territory than Upper Canada, and as respects Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward’s Island and Newfoundland, with a smaller population, but larger territory than that of Canada? What was meant by the statement that population and territory would be taken together as regards representation in one of the branches—he presumed the Lower branch of the Legislature?

John A. Macdonald [Kingston, Attorney-General West] thought the hon. gentleman was desirous of getting up a little debate more in a party spirit than in that in which this question ought to be dealt with.

Some Hon. Members—Hear, hear.

John A. Macdonald [Kingston, Attorney-General West]—The memorandum read conveyed the express understanding that, while as to local matters the local legislature of each section or Province shall alone have jurisdiction, there shall be a central legislature, the constitution of which shall be based upon the well understood federal principle.

The member for Hochelaga [Antoine-Aimé Dorion] did not require to be informed what the federal principle was. As regards the upper branch of the legislature it meant equality, and as to the lower branch meant representation based on population.

Some Hon. Members—Hear, hear.

John A. Macdonald [Kingston, Attorney-General West]—But while this was the case, neither the member for South Oxford [George Brown] nor any member of the Government understood that representation based on population was to be implying universal suffrage; but that in the lower branch of the legislature there shall be a representation based on population with such checks and modifications as regards property as obtain in reference to this House at present. Property and population would be kept in view in the settlement of the representation question.

Some Hon. Members—Hear, hear.

Antoine-Aimé Dorion [Hochelaga] said that if he had obtained from the hon. Attorney General East [George-Étienne Cartier] such a candid, straightforward answer as he had got just now from the hon. Attorney General West [John A. Macdonald], he (Mr. Dorion) would have expressed himself at once perfectly satisfied, and there would have been no reason to call him captious. He (Mr. Dorion) wished to be perfectly understood; and he thought it was most important that the House and the country should thoroughly comprehend the matter. He desired to ask would the same system—or what system would be applied to each of the local legislatures? Were they to have two elective Governors, for instance?

Some Hon. Members—Hear, hear, and laughter.

John A. Macdonald [Kingston, Attorney-General West] said that of course the Government could not answer the question?

  • (p. 207)

It would take all their energy, for many months, to work out the details.

Some Hon. Members—Hear, hear.

Antoine-Aimé Dorion [Hochelaga]—Are we to understand that the federation of the Provinces is to be advocated at once by the Government, with all the parties interested?

John A. Macdonald [Kingston, Attorney-General West] said that after the prorogation, when the Government was reconstructed, they would address themselves to the Imperial Government and to the sister Provinces on this matter. And if they failed in this matter they would at least endeavor to introduce the federal principle in Canada. A great question like this should be taken up and settled by a union of parties, and not treated as a party question. He hoped this view would be taken of it.

Some Hon. Members—Hear, hear.

Antoine-Aimé Dorion [Hochelaga]—Is it not a Government question?

John A. Macdonald [Kingston, Attorney-General West]—Most decidedly; it must be introduced as a Government measure.

Antoine-Aimé Dorion [Hochelaga]—Then it is a Government measure.

John A. Macdonald [Kingston, Attorney-General West]—But we invite the consideration and co-operation of men of all parties.

Some Hon. Members—Hear, hear.

Antoine-Aimé Dorion [Hochelaga] would like to know whether the confederation of the Provinces was the main question, and the application of the federal principle to Canada merely a subsidiary question.

George Brown [Oxford South]—If my hon. friend will read the printed document he will find the whole particulars so far as it is possible to give them. He need not go out of the record at all. There is no necessity, whatever, to depart from the written statement.

Antoine-Aimé Dorion [Hochelaga] repeated his question.

George Brown [Oxford South]—I presume my hon. friend understands English as well as I do. If he does not the statement is translated into French.

Some Hon. Members—Laughter and cheers.

Antoine-Aimé Dorion [Hochelaga] said that what he wanted to know was whether the confederation of the Provinces was the main object in view, and the application of the federal principle to Canada a mere subsidiary affair?

Some Hon. Members—Hear, hear.

Hon. Mr. Galt [Sherbrooke, Minister of Finance] was understood to explain that the measure for the federation of Canada was absolutely pledged to be brought down next session.

Antoine-Aimé Dorion [Hochelaga]—Is the Intercolonial Railway a portion of the scheme?

John A. Macdonald [Kingston, Attorney-General West]—The subject was not mentioned during our negotiations. It never presented itself to my mind as a portion of a new constitution.

Some Hon. Members—Hear, hear, and laughter.

Luther Holton [Chateauguay] went on, at some length, to enquire how the powers of the local governments and the Federal Government were to be opportuned?

John A. Macdonald [Kingston, Attorney-General West] said that the Government was not just now prepared to lay a measure before Parliament on this subject. It would be very wrong, indeed, to prejudice the public mind by laying before the country any foregone conclusions on such a very important question. We had avoided coming to any definite conclusion as to the sovereign powers of the sovereign legislature or the peculiar powers of the local legislatures. The whole of the merits of a scheme like the present must, as a matter of course, depend on the details, and any premature remarks thereon would have an injurious effect. Premature expression of opinion would have a tendency to obstruct or destroy the whole thing.

Some Hon. Members—Hear, hear.

George Brown [Oxford South], apparently almost overcome by his feelings, rose to address the House. He said—Did he conceal from the House what he felt on this occasion—that he felt in all its force the position he now occupied—he would only be practising deception. He was well aware of the position he had occupied in this country for many years; that he had stood opposed to hon. gentlemen opposite for ten or twelve years, in the most hostile manner. He was well aware, in dealing with the question of a solution of our difficulties, and with the question of men opposite political opinions going into the same Government, that he had used language and spoken in tones respecting hon. gentlemen in the Government, which, had the agreement just read been signed under conditions as had been usually attached to political alliances, could not have enabled him to stand here and justify his position before the country. He would deceive the House if he attempted to conceal, for a single moment that he was fully aware of the painful position he occupied before the country as being that of one who would probably be spoken as doing what he did from personal motives—for self-aggrandizement.

Some Hon. Members—No, no.

George Brown [Oxford South]—He was free to confess that, had the circumstances under which the country was placed, been one whit less important that they are, he should not have approached hon. gentlemen opposite to negotiate with respect to the present difficulties. He thought the House would see that if ever there was an occasion in the affairs of any country which would justify such a coalition as the present, that crisis had arrived in the position of Canada.

Some Hon. Members—Hear, hear, and cheers.

George Brown [Oxford South]—It was well known he had believed, for some time, that in consequence of the sectional differences existing in this Province, it was absolutely impossible the Government of this country could be carried on with peace and usefulness, and that there was but one way of obtaining good legislation in this country, and that was by taking such a step as had been proposed to him by hon. gentlemen opposite, and which he had consented to do. He had long stated that he was prepared, as far as he was concerned, to join any man, no matter to what party he belonged, with the object of effecting a settlement of those great question that had so long divided the country.

We had had for years great difficulties arising from the existence of two different systems of religion, two distinct various languages, and from sectional causes; and the consequence was that it was almost impossible we could come together without increasing those difficulties. Well, the difficulties continued, increasing in gravity till at present. Upper Canada had a majority over Lower Canada of 400,000 souls who were unrepresented in this legislature, while the upper Province paid an enormous portion—much the larger portion—of the taxes without being adequately represented in the legislature. He had always maintained—while he claimed representation by population for Upper Canada—that the feelings of Lower Canada must be consulted; that he was prepared to go into such arrangements as would settle this question and do justice to both sections of the Province. The day of such an opportunity had at last arrived, and, had he not listened to the approaches of hon. gentlemen opposite, he would have shown himself one of the falsest hypocrites that ever entered public life.

Some Hon. Members—Hear, hear.

George Brown [Oxford South]—He would not say that it was not without great pain he had to listen to the advances of hon. gentlemen opposite. He had been for years connected with a body of gentlemen from Lower Canada whom he had learned to esteem, who had stood to him through great difficulties, and whose kindness he would never forget.

Some Hon. Members—Hear, hear.

George Brown [Oxford South]—But party alliances were one thing and the interests of his country another. For his hon. friends, the members for Hochelaga [Antoine-Aimé Dorion] and Chateauguay [Luther Holton], he had no terms to express the personal attachment that existed between them and him. Nothing but a feeling of the urgent necessity of the case, an the manful way in which this question was taken up by the hon. member for Montreal East [George-Étienne Cartier] and his colleagues, would have induced him (Mr. Brown) to do that which the hon. members for Chateauguay [Luther Holton] and Hochelaga [Antoine-Aimé Dorion] could feel was in the slightest degree contrary to the position in which he had stood toward them. He thought those hon. gentlemen would feel and acknowledge he had this justification for his course, namely, that for a long period he had urgently besought them to take up this question in the way in which it was now proposed to deal with it.

He (Mr. Brown) had hoped to the last moment that his honorable friends would have joined him in the present movement; that they would have accompanied him to the Committee to confer upon the settlement of our difficulties; but when he found that they would not act with him—that they would no sustain the report read to the House—and when he considered that the hon. gentleman opposite had suggested a conference to deal with the subject, he could not refuse to meet them and do all in his power to bring about a solution of our difficulties. His hon. friends on this side would do him the justice to say that before he had made any approach to hon. gentlemen opposite, after he had received the invitation that he took the earliest opportunity of ascertaining whether his old friends, even at that moment, would not give him their assistance in this matter.

Some Hon. Members—Hear, hear.

George Brown [Oxford South]—And when the first discussion between hon. gentlemen opposite and himself had taken place, he asked his friends from Lower Canada to co-operate with him in the course he contemplated. He hoped that the course he had felt it his duty to pursue would not entail a weakening of those bonds of personal friendship hitherto existing between his hon. friends and himself. He hoped the day would yet come when they would look upon his step as the best that could have been adopted.

Some Hon. Members—Hear, hear.

George Brown [Oxford South]—There was not a man in this House who had not admitted a great crisis had arisen; that we had election after election, and had been able to get no solution of the difficulties before the country; and if asked his friends from Lower Canada to give the Government a generous assistance in this matter, he did not ask them to pledge themselves to anything but merely to allow the Government time to produce its measures when they could judge whether they could support them or not.

Some Hon. Members—Hear, hear.

George Brown [Oxford South]—Could hon. gentlemen think it was any pleasure or gain to him to sit in the Cabinet of hon. gentlemen opposite, and oppose his old friends? Nothing but the strongest sense of duty would ever have placed him in such a position. He had struggled to avoid entering the Government. He was willing to help them, and would have remained outside the Cabinet and given them all that honest, loyal and hearty aid that any man could give. He would say to his hon. friends from Lower Canada—“Let us all try to rise superior to the pettiness of mere party politics, and take up this question as it should be considered; wait till a measure is brought down, and if we are to be condemned, let us be so; but, at any rate, give us an opportunity of showing we are honest and will do our duty to our country.”

Some Hon. Members—Hear, hear, and cheers.

George Brown [Oxford South]—To his friends from Lower Canada, who were afraid of the character of this measure—or who might think that Upper Canada might obtain the advantage in this settlement, he would say that whatever was done would be done with openness and fair play—everything should be free as air; and he was sure that in saying this he spoke the sentiments of every gentleman who was a party to the neogtiations.

Some Hon. Members—Hear, hear.

George Brown [Oxford South]—There was no desire but to extract our country from the unfortunate position it had been placed in.

Some Hon. MembersCheers.

George Brown [Oxford South]—Were he to say he did not feel very painfully the position in which he stood with his old friends throughout the country, he would not speak the truth. During the vicissitudes of his public life, and while he was contending with the many difficulties that had beset him, if there was one thing more than another which he had relied on for encouragement, it was the belief that he possessed the sympathies of the honest yeomen of Upper Canada, of whom he felt proud; and who, he was convinced, were always prepared to come forward, give him the right hand of friendship, and express their thanks for his humble services to the country.

And if there was anything that inspired him with a painful feeling, in reference to his present line of conduct, it was the apprehension that this class might misinterpret his motives. He did think that he should receive the sympathies of hon. gentlemen on his side of the House, in his present position. He had no fears as to the result, however, or as to the feeling of the country, when the measure contemplated was properly understood—or with reference to the sincerity of the parties to the negotiation; for, in the long period of twenty years which he had been in public life, he had never found that the sound common sense of the people of Upper Canada had been mistaken in discovering where there were truth and sincerity in dealing with mean and measures.

Some Hon. Members—Hear, hear.

George Brown [Oxford South]—He wished it clearly understood that the alliance between hon. gentlemen opposite and himself and between their followers, was not a common political alliance for political purposes; that it had been brought about by the crisis that had arisen in public affairs, and upon this and the fair, frank and manly manner in which the hon. member for Montreal East [George-Étienne Cartier] had met our difficulties, he (Mr. B) put his justification for the present alliance and consent to enter the Cabinet.

Some Hon. MembersCheers.

George Brown [Oxford South]—And if hon. gentlemen asked how he could enter the Cabinet with only two other members of the Opposition to whom nine members of the Government would be opposed, he would answer he cared not whether any of his friends accompanied him into the Cabinet except for the assistance and ability they would bring to the aid of the Government, for he was so perfectly satisfied with the honesty and sincerity with which hon. gentlemen opposite had approached this question—so convinced they would carry out their pledges, that he would have been content to enter the Cabinet alone, without the additional guarantee contained in the admission of two of his friends.

Some Hon. MembersCheers.

George Brown [Oxford South]—It was nothing for himself (Mr. B), the Finance Minister [Alexander Galt], or the Attorney General West [John A. Macdonald] to agree to thus compromise designed for the good of the country, but it was a great thing for the hon. Attorney General East [George-Étienne Cartier] to have taken up this question in the bold, manly and straightforward style he had done, feeling a great evil was upon the country which he desired to remedy.

Some Hon. MembersCheers.

George Brown [Oxford South]—And he (Mr. B) felt that he was bound to give that hon. gentleman, who had adopted his present course, even at the risk of his political position, every assistance and protection in his power.

Some Hon. MembersCheers.

George Brown [Oxford South]—He apprehended that the Government would proceed to the immediate consideration of the scheme of federation: that it would send delegates to the intercolonial convention at Charlottetown, and also to England in order to effect a federation as soon as possible. They had arrived at no conclusion as to whether this federative proposition should be an open question or Government measure.

Some Hon. Members—Hear, hear.

  • (p. 208)

George Brown [Oxford South]—As far as he was concerned he had gone into the Cabinet for the settlement of that question, and thereby he would stand or fall.

Some Hon. MembersCheers.

George Brown [Oxford South]—If ever there was an important question before the country, this was it; and he must congratulate the House that we had men from both sides united, and prepared to sacrifice even party ties and personal friendships in this matter for the good of the country. He was quite sure that if members would look at the sectional difficulty carefully, and the sectional question involved in the movement, they would say that if the Government came down next session with a solution of the present sectional difficulty acceptable to the House and country, they would be entitled to as much credit as the United States would have earned had they been able to settle their sectional dispute peaceably before the commencement of this war. If he had no other success to boast of during his political career than that which had attended him in bringing about the formation of a Government—with a strength which no other Government had possessed for many years—a Government formed for the purpose of settling the sectional difficulties between Upper and Lower Canada—he felt that he had something to be proud of, and that he had accomplished some good for the country. He wanted no greater honor for his children—no more noble heir-loom to transmit to his descendants than the record of the part he had taken in this great work.

Some Hon. MembersLoud cheers.

It being six o’clock the Speaker left the Chair.


After the recess—

Antoine-Aimé Dorion [Hochelaga] went on to comment on the Ministerial explanations. He believed the hon. member for South Oxford (Mr. Brown) was perfectly sincere in the action he had taken; but he believed, at the same time, that the hon. gentleman was wrong.—The hon. gentleman then went on to discuss the federation scheme to which he was understood to declare that he was opposed in any shape.

Luther Holton [Chateauguay] trusted that no public assurance was required by the hon. member for South Oxford [George Brown] that the course he had taken did not interrupt private and friendly relations between them. There was as little difference of opinion between himself and the member for South Oxford [George Brown] on the majority of questions that divided public opinion, as between any two men in the country. That hon. gentleman had treated him with the utmost candor throughout the negotiations, and had, no doubt, acted in this matter strictly in accordance with his idea of public duty.—The hon. gentleman then proceeded to discuss, at considerable length, the federal scheme, as proposed by the Government, and expressed his serious doubt whether the hon. member for South Oxford (Mr. Brown) would succeed in the object he had undertaken.

Hon. Mr. Galt [Sherbrooke, Minister of Finance] complicated the hon. member for South Oxford (Mr. Brown) on his well-timed and patriotic speech. The country at large would appreciate the disinterested motive of that hon. gentleman in burying the recollection of the past, for the purpose of attaining an object for the general welfare.

He (Mr. Galt) would say that if the details of the proposed measure were not such as he (Mr. Galt) could approve, then he would consider himself free to take such a course as the hon. member for South Oxford [George Brown] suggested. The union which had taken place was based on the most frank and honest foundation; and he (Mr. Galt) was confident that a remedy for existing difficulties would be found which would be acceptable both to Upper Canada and Lower Canada and which would meet the just demands of both. A union of the kind should not bring a blush to the cheeks of any hon. gentleman.

It was his (Mr. Galt’s) aim to endeavor, if possible, to bring about the confederation of the Provinces; and he held that hon. members should look forward to the time when this country would take its place among the nations of the world. It should be our object, in so far as possible, to strengthen and draw closer the bonds between this Province and the other British North American Provinces. And with regard to the difficulties between both sections of this country, it was certainly time that we should not disguise from ourselves that there must necessarily be some solution of these difficulties. It was not the defence of the hon. member for South Oxford [George Brown] alone—it was his (Mr. Galt’s) defence, and the defence of hon. gentlemen who sat beside him, that it was full time that the leaders of the great parties in this country should come together, and work earnestly and honestly to find a solution of this difficulty.

Some Hon. Members—Hear, hear, and cheers.

Alexander Mackenzie [Lambton] was understood to say that he was not opposed to a general confederation of the Provinces; but that he did not think there was any great urgency for it at the present moment. He was in favor of accepting the minor project of applying the system to Canada alone, at first. But, acknowledging the hon. member for South Oxford (Mr. Brown) as his leader, he felt that the position of that hon. gentleman and his colleagues, was a sufficient guarantee; and he therefore cheerfully accepted the responsibility of advising that hon. gentleman to persist in the course he had taken.

John Cameron [Peel] (in a long an eloquent speech) contended that it would require something more than he had heard from hon. gentlemen to convince him that such a coalition as the present was necessary in order to carry out a confederation of the British Provinces. He would give every aid and assistance in his power to any good scheme a coalition Government might present, with a view of settling this important question. He was not, however, in favor of coalition Governments.

Some Hon. Members—Hear, hear.

Alexander Morris [Lanark South] argued at some length and with great ability, in favour of a confederation of the Provinces; and defended the course which had been pursued by the leaders on both sides.

Francis Jones [Leeds & Grenville North] opposed the confederation scheme. He held that we should not give up the glorious transcript of the British constitution which we possessed, in order to split up the country into a number of small municipalities or principalities. The experience of history was against such a project; and he for one was opposed to it, inasmuch as he wished to see British power in this country maintained and upheld.

Archibald McKellar [Kent] was not in favor of coalition as a rule; but he held that if ever a coalition was justified under any circumstances it was in the present case. If the scheme proposed for a settlement of our difficulties was not found to be a good one when it came down, then we need not support it.

Lucius Huntington [Shefford] taunted the Lower Canadian Conservatives on the position in which they now stood—on having, so to speak, bowed down before the hon. gentleman who had hitherto been held up as the bete noire of Lower Canada. It was indeed a proud day for the hon. member for South Oxford [George Brown] to find that hon. gentlemen who, year after year, had bitterly opposed him, and had hounded from one end of the country to the year, those who were suspected of having any tendency towards his views, now acknowledging that the whole of their past course was one great error.

Oliver Mowat [Ontario South] said he felt convinced from what had been said by the hon. member for South Oxford (Mr. Brown) that hon. gentlemen opposite were sincere in their desire to grapple with the constitutional difficulty; and he had great hopes that the new Cabinet would succeed in bringing about a settlement which would be satisfactory to Upper Canada and satisfactory to Lower Canada; and which would be equally just to both.

Some Hon. Members—Hear, hear.

Oliver Mowat [Ontario South]—Parties were valuable indeed for the working of our constitutional purposes; but we should take care that they be not perverted to purposes of evil; and that they be not allowed to stand in the way of good. He confessed to something akin to a hatred of coalitions, and he held that it as necessary for public men to avoid even the semblance of doing wrong; but in thus avoiding that which had even the appearance of being bad, we should take care not to do wrong. And, as a coalition under ordinary circumstances was anything but desirable, so in extraordinary and exceptional cases it became necessary and desirable. This was not a simple question. It was a grave, a serious, a complicated question. The struggle for a remedy of our sectional difficulties had lasted for ten years, and had, as yet, been unsuccessful.—The hon. gentlemen proceeded to argue from these premises that the present coalition was necessary; and that we should congratulate ourselves on being so near the attainment of a great object.

Thomas Scatcherd [Middlesex West] was understood to express his opposition to the coalition and confederation schemes. When the measure for the settlement of existing difficulties came down, he would be prepared to discuss it on its merits. In other respects, he would oppose the reconstructed Government as he had opposed the last.

James Cowan [Waterloo South] was understood to declare that he considered the coalition unnecessary.

The discussion on this matter then dropped.

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