Province of Canada, Legislative Assembly, Scrapbook Debates [The Ministerial Crisis], 8th Parl, 2nd Sess, (29 March 1864)
By: Province of Canada (Parliament)
Citation: Province of Canada, Parliament, Scrapbook Debates, 8th Parl, 2nd Sess, 1864 at 110-111.
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QUEBEC, MARCH 29, 1864
The Speaker took the Chair at three o’clock.
After petitions were presented—
TRADE AND NAVIGATION
Hon. Mr. Holton laid on the table the Trade and Navigation Returns for the year 1863.
THE MINISTERIAL CRISIS
Hon. J.S. Macdonald said that the rule of the House required that two days’ notice should be given for referring to entries in the Journals of the House, but he presumed this rule would not be at present insisted upon to prevent him referring to the newspaper report which he held in his hand, of a speech made only yesterday by his hon. friend the hon. member for Montreal East. The remarks referred to an answer to the request for information in regard to the progress made in the formation of a new administration, and read as follows:—“Hon. Mr. Cartier.—Mr. Speaker, I am happy to state to you and to the House, that such progress has been made as to enable me to announce to this House that a new administration will be formed which will possess the confidence of this House.
(Cheers and laughter from the Ministerial benches.)
A portion of the departmental arrangements are not yet fully completed, but to-morrow, at next sitting of this House, I will be in a position to state them.”
Notwithstanding this pledge, he (Hon. J.S. Macdonald) now saw in their places, the hon. member for Montreal East (Hon. Mr. Cartier) and other hon. gentlemen who had been mentioned as most likely to form the new administration, and the House therefore must take it for granted that the new formation had not yet taken place.—He thought the time had arrived, when the House should have from the hon. gentlemen who had been trying to tinker up a Government, a full statement of the position of matters.
The patience of the House and the country was exhausted at having to wait on in this manner day after day.
A grave responsibility was attached to any statement made in this House by the hon. member for Montreal East (Mr. Cartier) in the position he now occupied; and having failed to fulfil the pledge he solemnly gave yesterday, he (Hon. Mr. Cartier) certainly should now submit to the House a full and ample statement of the causes which has delayed the formation of the Government, keeping the whole administration of public affairs at a stand-still; otherwise the country would not be satisfied. Was the House to be kept adjourning from day to day, without being informed of the reason for it?
He (Hon. J.S. Macdonald) thought the House should not submit to such a burlesque, and should insist on the hon. gentlemen opposite, who had boasted so much of what they could do if they an opportunity of forming a government, to explain why they were in the miserable position in which they found themselves to-day. Before deciding to move an adjournment he would wait to hear what the hon. member from Montreal East had to say.
Hon. Mr. Cartier was surprised that the hon. gentleman should indulge in such violent and hostile passion. He would better have consulted his own dignity and the dignity of the House, if he had contented himself with simply asking him (Hon. Mr. Cartier) for explanations with reference to the statement made yesterday. The report read was correct except with the exception of one word wanting. He (Hon. Mr. Cartier had said he had expected that he would be in a position to make the announcement to-day.
(Cries of oh! oh! and Ministerial laughter.)
The hon. gentleman had wished him to explain the reason why he (Mr. Cartier) was in his place in the House at this moment.
Well, he (Mr. Cartier) supposed that every hon. member now sitting on his (Opposition) side of the House had expected to be made a member of the new Administration.
(Great laughter, and cries of “Not a doubt of it,—encore.”)
Well, he was not at all sorry to have created this spirit of hilarity, because it would make the House disposed to pass the most gentle censure possible on the hon. member for Cornwall.
(Cries of oh! and laughter.)
There was not the least doubt that the formation of a new Government was a grave matter—a grave matter for the House and a grave matter for the country.
Hon. Mr. Holton—Yes, and it will be a grave matter for a good many of you.
(Cheers and laughter.)
Hon. Mr. Cartier said it was possible the Hon. Minister of Finance [Hon. Mr. Holton] did not at all mind the logs of office, and was quite sincere in his hilarity; but many hon. members, he was afraid, would believe those smiles were merely put on. But to return to the question, he (Hon. Mr. Cartier) was ready, in continuation of the announcement he had made yesterday, to state that the non-arrival of an hon. gentleman whose aid was expected to be obtained in the formation of the Government had prevented his announcing at present the final assignment of all the different cabinet officers, amongst those hon. gentlemen who had consented to become his Excellency’s advisers.
Hon. J.S. Macdonald believed the House had a right to know, at this stage of the negotiations, to whom the offer referred to by the hon. member for Montreal East (Hon. Mr. Cartier) had been made; because they could then judge as to the likelihood of such offer being accepted, and act accordingly. Otherwise they might come down here day after day; and be told one day that an offer was made, and the next day that it was refused, and an offer made to another member, and so on; every day a new excuse being given. It was very clear an altered state of things existed now, from what existed yesterday, when the hon. member for Montreal East stated that the administration was formed, and the only matter that remained to be arranged was the distribution of the several offices amongst ministers. But to-day we are told that an hon. gentleman whose aid is required, had not yet arrived. To-morrow there might be another such excuse.
Hon. J.A. Macdonald did not think the hon. member for Cornwall justified in saying that his hon. friend the member for Montreal East had made one statement yesterday and another to-day. He (Hon. J.A. Macdonald) did not happen to be present yesterday, but had read the remarks of his hon. friend the member for Montreal East as they appeared in the newspapers, and they were what he had looked for, with the exception of the word “expected,” which had been omitted in the report. The same announcement had been made to-day—that the non-arrival of an hon. gentleman who was expected to aid in the new administration had prevented the arrangement of the offices amongst those who were to be the advisers of Her Majesty’s representative. These were matters of detail, but it was a very important matter of detail who should take one office and who the other. Settling this was the cause of the delay yesterday, and it was the same to-day.
The fact was really this—that the non-arrival of the gentleman referred to prevented the announcement of certain gentlemen who were to be the advisers of His Excellency, hey certain portfolios they were respectively to hold, which should be an ounce simultaneously with the policy of the government, together with the explanations of the retiring and incoming members of the Administration.
Hon. Mr. DORION said he thought that every hon. member clearly understood, yesterday, that hon. members who to form the Administration had all excepted; that the Administration of factors formed, and what remains to be done was the arrangement of ministers in the different departments. This was the announcement which had been made, and so positive was the hon. member for Montreal East [Hon. Mr. Cartier] , but he accompanied the statement with a declaration that it was such an Administration as was secure the support of the large majority of the House.
Hon. Mr. CARTIER.—Hear, hear. [Laughter.]
Hon. Mr. DORION.—It now appeared, however, that’s so far from that statement being correct, that the formation of the Administration dependent on the arrival of a gentleman not now in town. Was this house to understand that that gentleman had excepted office? If not, matters were not further advanced than they were yesterday.
Hon. Mr. HOLTON thought there could be no question as to the position in which his hon. friend opposite stood. In making the statement he did yesterday, he [Honorable Mr. Cartier] had been guilty of not only trifling with the House, but with the Crown.
He had stated that an Administration has been formed; at the whole material of which it was to be composed has been secured; that nearly the distribution of the several offices remain to be arranged; and that the announcement of the distribution would be made to the House to-day.
It was quite evident he was not now in a position to make good that pledge; and he [Hon. Mr. Holton] contended that to make such a pledge, without being in a position to make it good, was trifling with the House, and with the confidence reposed in him by the representative of the crown.
[Hear, hear, and applause.]
The House had now for nine days waited in silence the progress of this crisis; but the course which his hon. friend the member for Montreal East [Hon. Mr. Cartier] had pursued was one which the House could not regard as becoming and one occupying his responsible position. The House was entitled to further explanations than had yet been given. When negotiations for the formation of a Government what is in progress will Parliament was sitting, it was in accordance with British practice, that the fullest possible explanations should be given as to the progress of those negotiations. And he asked his hon. friend from Montreal East, whether, since the announcement of yesterday, that the Government was complete, overtures had not been made to-day to hon. members of this House to join the Government, who had nothing been communicated with on the subject, and we’re not included in the arrangements then post?
Hon. J. A. MACDONALD said he must’ve called her hon. gentleman to order. It was very convenient for the hon. gentleman to the organ of his own Government, but on the reference to the reports in the Chronicle it will be found at the hon. member for Montreal East [Mr. Cartier] had said yesterday that “a Government will be formed.” Following up to-day the statement of yesterday, he frankly told the house that he was unable to do what he expected to be able to do, in consequence of the non-arrival of a certain hon. gentleman.
There was nothing to justify hon. members opposite in making use of the language in which they had indulgent.
A delivery nine or 10 days have been spoken of, will stay on you very well that Sir Étienne Taché was not responsible for the delay. It was known to all that it was late on a Wednesday evening when Sir E. Tache proceeded with his hon. friend, the member for Montreal East [Mr. Cartier] to His Excellency, and then accepted the charge of forming an administration. After that late hour on Wednesday evening it was of course impossible to enter into negotiations, which consequently were delayed until Thursday morning. A further delay, then, took place until Friday morning awaiting the arrival of an honorable gentleman belonging to the other branch of the legislature, who was abrupt from the city. Rumour had it that negotiations were entered into between Sir E. F. Tache and Hon. Mr. Campbell, with a view of forming and Administration, and embracing prominent gentleman on the other side. These negotiations continued until Monday, and only when they failed, did Sir E. P. Tache, on Monday morning, make up his mind to form an administration from the regular body of the Opposition to the retiring Administration. These negotiations had been of a protracted and complicated nature, and would require full explanations which could not be given until the other House met on Thursday. It be the policy of the new Government to ask Parliament to go on with business at once, there might be less difficulty; but should be the policy of the new government to ask the House to adjourn to allow members to be elected, and they must like ask the Upper House to adjourn also; and there must be the joint action of the two Houses, so that in reality no time has been lost. He thought hon. gentleman opposite we’re not treating Sir E. P. Tache, and those who had consented to act with him, as fairly, as his [Hon J. A. Macdonald’s] side had treated gentleman opposite when called on to form an Administration.
Hon. J. S. MACDONALD said hon. gentleman opposite had no cause to complain of want of courtesy form his (Hon. J. S. Macdonald’s) side. The House might not have objected to grant further delay to-day had not the hon. member for Montreal East raised their expectations yesterday by the announcement then made. But the hon. member for Kingston had not at all relieved his friend the hon. member for Montreal East, from what he had been charged with by the Minister of Finance, namely; that the statement of yesterday did not correspond with the fact that hon. members of this side of the House had been, after that statement was made, for the first time asked to take a seat in the Cabinet. He thought the House entitled to receive an answer from the hon. member for Montreal East, to the question so distinctly put by the hon. Minister of Finance. The hon. member for Kingston had said that explanations could not be given until the other House met. It was true that it so happened that the gallant knight who had been called on to form a government was a life member and retained his seat, and was in a position to give explanations; but had this not been the case, could this House have been asked to wait for explanations in the other House, which they had a right to demand for themselves?
When the Macdonald-Sicotte government was formed they authorized a member of this House to make explanations, and announce the programme and the principles on which the Government was to be carried on. There was nothing to prevent hon. gentlemen opposite from taking the same course; but the fact was, they were not ready now, neither would they be ready to-morrow in the statements made yesterday and to-day, they were only trying to conceal from the House and the country the grave difficulties they had encountered in the formation of a government, For his part he was willing to give the hon. gentleman opposite every facility for forming a government, that the business of the country might be proceeded with; yet they had a right to demand from the hon. member for Montreal East something more satisfactory than his miserable explanation that the word “expected” was not put into the report.
No doubt he had been long expecting to be on this side—perhaps those expectations were not to be realized yet. The fact that the Hon. Minister of Finance’s question remained unanswered, in connection with the whole circumstances of the case, showed that there were difficulties in the way, and that they were to all appearances unmountable.
Mr. DENIS—So much the better for you, as you will have a chance to keep your seats.
Hon. Mr. HOLTON wished to know whether the hon. member for Montreal East (Hon. Mr. Cartier) still declined to answer the question, whether, since the announcement of yesterday, stating that the administration was complete, overtures had not been made to other gentleman not then in the confidence of parties charged with the formation of the Government? If he left the question unanswered, he (Hon. Mr. C.) must see the serious position in which he placed himself, for he would leave the country to infer that he came down to the House and made a solemn statement which facts prove to have been false.
(Oh! Oh! And sensation.)
He (Hon. Mr. Holton) put the case hypothetically. It was for the honorable gentleman to clear himself from the charge of misleading the House.—He would also ask whether this gentleman, without whom nothing could be done until he arrived, had not been summoned to the Seat of Government since the announcement made yesterday? And he would further ask him, to disclose the name, the position and the character of that gentleman, that they might know the great coming man, and how far to disclose the name, the position and the character of that gentleman, that they might have the great coming man, and how far he is likely to secure for the new government the confidence of the house.
He certainly thought the hon. member for Montreal East should not forfeit his reputation for “pluck” by refusing to give the distinct and categorical answers to his questions.
Hon. Mr. CARTIER said he intended to maintain his character for “pluck” and would give a good, explicit, categorical answer to the hon. gentleman’s Questions. Had not His Excellency the Governor General been pleased to relive him (Hon. Mr. Cartier) from the duty of undertaking to form an Administration, the questions might have been more appropriate, although he would not say that even then they would have been quite correct at this stage of the proceedings; but he must protect against the idea of an hon. gentleman rising in his seat, and with such an air of indignation putting questions which it was impossible for him (Hon. Mr. Cartier) to answer—
(Laughter and Ironical cheers)
—questions which could only properly be put to Sir Etienne Taché himself in the other House. Again hon. gentleman to whom His Excellency had intrusted the formation of the new government, yet he was merely a cats-paw for him (Hon. Mr. Cartier).
Well, even taking that version of the Mercury as correct, it was not right to come with such questions to him (Hon. Mr. Cartier) who was merely considered a sort of back-stairs man,
with reference to matters which he could not be presumed to know anything about.
(Cheers and laughter.)
Hon. gentleman should bear in mind that there were two Houses of the Legislature, and that His Excellency had entrusted the formation of the Government to a member of the other House. If on Thursday next, however, the Hon. Minster of Finance would be pleased to condescend to step across the passage to the Upper House, he will hear all the explanations, and perhaps hear too much of them.
Hon. Mr. HOLTON reminded the hon. gentleman that the whole of this discussion was based upon his own statement of yesterday, and on the fact that he had previously intimated that he was the authorized exponent in this House of the inchoate administration now being formed by Sir Etienne Taché. If the hon. Member for Montreal East was not the authorized exponent he professed to be, then he certainly occupied a more equivocal position than he (Hon. Mr. Holton) has assigned to him. If authorized, then he was certainly in a position to give such reasonable explanations as might be sought by members of this House.
Hon. J. S. MACDONALD said that notwithstanding the refusal of the hon. member for Montreal to give those explanations which seemed called for at this stage of the proceedings, he presumed the House would be disposed still give every facility which might be required for the formation of the new administration. Still there must be an end to everything and the patience of the House could not be expected to last for ever, and he hoped all family disagreements would be settled in time to allow the announcement too be made to the House tomorrow that the administration had been formed.
He hoped hon. gentlemen opposite see the propriety of acerbating the business entrusted to them, and bringing it to an issue with the greatest possible speed, and that they would not find it necessary to send any more telegrams to men five hundred miles away to come down and help them. A notice had been put on the paper for an address to His Excellency requesting him to form a strong and effect administration as early as possible. If not formed by to-morrow, it might be necessary to move this, and the failure of gentleman opposite wold teach them that they had made a sad mistake in the assumptions that they had boastingly made as to their ability to take hold and manage the affairs of the country on the shortest possible notice. It was now evident that the hon. member for Montreal East was not prepared to answer the question put to him. The House and the country would draw what was the natural inference from his silence and would understand that he (Hon. Mr. Cartier) had encountered most serious difficulties in his path when he undertook the formation of a new Government. The hon. gentleman moved that the House do now adjourn.
Hon. Mr. CARTIER seconded the motion, and.
The House adjourned at a quarter to four o’clock.