Province of Canada, Legislative Assembly, Scrapbook Debates [Ministerial Statement], 8th Parl, 2nd Sess, (31 March 1864)
By: Province of Canada (Parliament)
Citation: Province of Canada, Parliament, Scrapbook Debates, 8th Parl, 2nd Sess, 1864 at 116-118.
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Quebec, March 31, 1864.
The Speaker took the Chair at three o’clock.
A number of petitions were presented and received.
The Speaker laid before the House his warrant appointing Hon. Mr. Alleyn a member of the General Election Committee instead of Hon. Mr. Chapais.
Mr. Dunsford presented the report of the Committee on the county of Russell election in reference to the absence of Hon. Mr. Rose and Mr. Wm. Ferguson.
Mr. Irvine moved that the Richelieu Election Committee be permitted to adjourn intill the 16th of May next. – Carried.
Hon. Mr. Howland presented report on the Terrebonne election.
Hon. Mr. Evanturel presented report on the Joliette election.
Mr. Morris moved that the time for revieving petitions for the introducing Private Bills and receiving the reports from the Committee up Private Bills be extended to 10th of May. – Carried.
The following Bills were introduced and read a first time:
Hon. Mr. Howland – Bill to Incorporate the British American Mining and Exploring Association.
Mr. McConkey – Bill to Incorporate the Fergus and Elora Railway Company.
Dr. Parker – Bill to authorize the administration of J.C. Hogarth to practice as a barrister in the Upper Canada Courts.
Hon. Mr. Cauchon said: – Mr. Speaker in reference to the demands made on me yesterday for information on various subjects connected with the policy of the Government, I have the honor to make the following statement. Yesterday I was charged with announcing the formation of a new Ministry, and was at the same time authorized to state the policy of that Administration. The course to be pursued by the Government on particular subjects, however, and the measures to be introduced by them will be stated by ministers themselves in accordance with parliamentary practice when they are in their places in Parliament
(Hear, hear, and oh! Oh!)
Hon. J. S. MacDonald was aware that there was no more of compelling the hon. member for Montmorenci to be more explicit then he had been authorized to be; so the House, he supposed, wold have to put up with the meagreness the explanations which had been given. Were it not for the remarks he (Hon. J. S. Macdonald) had heard in the other House, from the present Premier, touching the interview he had in himself, he would not have troubled the House with any further observations on the subject. He regretted that Sir. E. P. Taché had not previously communicated wit reference to a conversation which it was distinctly understood between them, was of an entirely informal character. The interview referred to took place after himself and his colleagues had come to the conclusion, that in consequences of not being able to carry on the affairs of the Government with that energy which numerical strength alone could give, they should endeavor, if possible to obtain that strength. He therefore, with the consent of his colleagues, approached Sir Etienne P. Taché, and an interview was appointed at his (Hon. J. S. Macdonald’s) office. At that interview, he explained to Sir E. P. Taché the object he had in view. Sir E. P. Taché at once frankly told him that he would undertake the task of forming a Government for Lower Canada. He (Hon. J. S. Macdonald) then said he had not disclosed to Sir E. P. Taché the terms on which he desired that they should agree, nor the names of the parties whose co-operation might have been sought, but that formal negotiations were now at an end, and, as old friends, they might, in an informal manner, talk over the possibility of seeing established such a good and strong government as the country required. The conversation continued on that understanding. He (Hon. J. S. Macdonald) claimed that the Government of that day had a majority in the House, and that they were in a position to see whether arrangements could not be made with gentlemen from Lower Canada, so as to secure the harmonious working of our constitution in a way to meet the views of both sections of the country, and with a view to sound legislation, economy and retrenchment. Sir E. P. Taché said he would like to see such arrangements made, but though there was a good deal of difficulty in the way. He (Hon. J. S. Macdonald) replied that, so far as he was personally concerned, there would be no difficulty – that he would not stand in the way of the disposal of the premiership in any manner that might be considered best; that he, with others of his colleagues, were ready to retire and become private members of the House, if their doing so would facilitate the formation of a strong Government, which would secure the legislation of the country being carried on satisfactorily.
He might say he had been surprised to hear Sir. E. P. Taché state to-day that he (Hon. J. S. Macdonald) had expressed his willingness to act with the hon. member for Montreal East (Mr. Cartier), as the leader of the Lower Canada section. Sir. E. P. Taché had entirely misapprehended him on that point. What he (Hon. J. S. Macdonald) had suggested was, that the Premiership should remain with Upper Canada, and that four Lower Canada Opposition, and two Upper Canada Opposition should come into the Government. On the Hon. Mr. Cartier’s name being mentioned, he (Hon. J. S. Macdonald) said he was certain that the presence of the hon. member for Montreal East (Mr. Cartier) in the Cabinet was the difficulty; but he did not say it was an insurmountable difficulty. As regarded himself, he (Hon. J. S. Macdonald) could not join a Government of which the hon. member for Montreal East, and others prominently identified with the Coalition rule, was identified; (hear, hear) and that he would prefer being a private member to joining them with whom he had been in political conflict for years, so that he should not have to offer apologies for acts which he had condemned time and time again.
He stated, however, that he was extremely anxious to see arrangements entered into, by which a strong government would be obtained; and he told Sir. E. P. Taché that his colleague the hon. member for Hochelaga (Hon. Mr. Dorion) also was willing to retire, if that were necessary, to effect those arrangements.
As Sir E. P. Taché was leaving he (hon. J. S. Macdonald) told him, he would be glad if he could consult some of his friends with that view. The same evening Sir E. P. Taché called at his (Hon. J. S. Macdonald’s) house, and said he had seen some of his friends, and was satisfied that no arrangement, such as he (Hon. J. S. Macdonald) had proposed could be carried out – that Mr. Cartier was the ruling spirit in Lower Canada, and that he (Sir. E. P. Taché) would not desire to take a position which would separate him from those who had been his political friends for many years. After that, he (Hon. J. S. Macdonald) had no further communication with Sir E. P. Taché on the subject.
Hon. Mr. Holton thought it desireable that other hon. members of this House, who had been connected with the negotiations as to the change of Government by having overtures made to them or otherwise, should also give explanations. He understood that the hon. member for North Ontario had some explanations to give, and he also thought that the hon. member for Peel, whose non-arrival had for some time delayed the formation of the ministry, should likewise explain to the House the part he had taken in the matter.
Hon. Mr. McDougall said the events of the past few days would form an important and interesting chapter in the history of Canada. In the circumstances in which he found himself he would not attempt to characterize these events, nor to state the results which he believed would be sure to follow them, and which no lover of his country would contemplate without alarm.
To enter upon a discussion of this kind in the absence of hon. gentlemen whose conduct would necessarily be the subject of animadversion might be deemed unfair, and be confessed, not without some show of resistance. But he promised the House that so soon as those gentlemen appeared in their places he would state his views of the transactions of the last few days very fully, and he would then be under no obligation to speak with reserve. Possibly he might think it expedient to meet some of those gentlemen face to face before their constituents; (cheers) on which case he should feel himself at liberty to speak of both the men and their acts as truth and the interests of the country require.
His hon. friend (Mr. Holton) had remarked that explanations were expected from those of the House to whom offers of office were made, and refused during the late negotiations, as he (Hon. Mr. McDougall) had been honoured with an invitation by Sir. Etienne Taché, and the offer of a seat in his cabinet, he felt it his duty, as well to put himself right with his political friends as to explain to this House and the country, the reason which induced him to decline the offer of the hon. gentleman. Sir Etienne Taché had just explained in another place the negotiations in which he had been engaged for the last few days, and had detailed briefly the character of the interview he had held with him (Mr. Macdougall.) In order to be as precise as possible, he would read to the House a memorandum of his conversation with Sir E. Taché, which was made a few minutes after that conversation took place. He would state for the information of the House that this interview was held at his (Mr. Macdougall’s) residence on Monday last, about noon. He was aware before meeting Sir Etienne, that he had had an interview that morning with Hon. Mr. Blair, but he was not aware of the result, when he was summoned to meet the hon. gentleman as before stated. The memorandum is as follows:
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