Province of Canada, Legislative Assembly, [The Globe version], 8th Parl, 4th Sess (15 June 1866)

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Date: 1866-06-15
By: Province of Canada (Parliament), The Globe
Citation: “Provincial Parliament”, The Globe (16 June 1866) & “Provincial Parliament”, The Globe (18 June 1866).
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FRIDAY, JUNE 15, 1866[1]


John A. Macdonald [Kingston, Attorney-General West and Minister of Militia] said, before the orders of the day are called, and in accordance with the arrangements of yesterday, I propose to call the attention of the House to the changes that have taken place in the Administration since last session. The explanations, as far as the Government is concerned, will be very short and simple, and will not interrupt the business of the House. It is known that, since last session, the President of the Council [George Brown] resigned his seat in the Cabinet, and that his position was assumed by Mr. Blair. It is also known to public rumour that the member for South Oxford [George Brown] retired upon a difference of opinion with a majority of the Council, on the subject of the Reciprocity Treaty, in regard to the best mode of renewing, conducting, and continuing the negotiations respecting the renewal of the Treaty with the United States for reciprocal trade between the people of the United States and British North America Provinces.

Well, the majority of the Council, after a long and careful discussion of the whole subject, came to a certain conclusion as to the best policy to pursue under the circumstances. The gentleman who resigned could not conscientiously assume the responsibility of that policy, and hence his course. The subject in question, had occupied the attention of the country for a very considerable time, indeed ever since the hon. gentleman entered the Coalition Cabinet engaged continuously and systematically the attention of the Government. In December last the members of the Government, who were all here except the Provincial Secretary [William McDougall], then absent on a commercial mission, came to a conclusion upon the best mode of conducting the negotiations with the U.S. for a renewal of the old treaty, or for securing by some other arrangement the advantages which flowed to this Province and the United States from the treaty of 1854.

The papers to be laid before the House shortly will give all information respecting the proceedings with that object, and the policy of the Government on the matter. The hon. member, to the great regret of his colleagues, could not agree to that policy and declined to accept the responsibility of being a party thereto, though we considered it the best calculated to secure the advantages which, we believed, would accrue to both countries by a renewal of the treaty. The Government, I repeat, deeply regretted that Mr. Brown should deemed it his duty to adopt the course he did on that occasion—that he could not, in accordance with his conscientious view of what was both political and right, yield to the opinions of the rest of his colleagues and remain in the Council.

After considerable amount of excretion to induce Mr. Brown to yield his opinions to those of the majority of his colleagues, he declared he could not and decided to resign. The only thing that remained was for the Administrator of the Government to accept his resignation, and for the Government to take steps to fill up the vacancy. The House knows that the hon. gentleman did not hold a common or ordinary position in the Government. He was not only a Minister holding office, like the rest of his colleagues, but was the representative of a great party. He was the leader of the Liberal section in the Cabinet, which came into office with himself for the purpose of affecting the great object which is now, I am happy to say, near its completion; and it is an additional source of regret that Mr. Brown is not now in the Government, to see, as Minister, the accomplishment of the great object for which the Cabinet was formed and for which he sacrificed so much and worked so patriotically.

Some Hon. MembersCheers.

John A. Macdonald [Kingston, Attorney-General West and Minister of Militia]—I repeat, his absence from the Government is a matter of sincere regret to all his colleagues, and must be so also to most of the members of the House. I need not say that it is only in a case of this kind, when a public man’s personal honour is concerned, that, when he assumed the responsibility of entering the Government, he could properly withdraw from it. It was only when he could not as a public man, conscientiously be responsible for the course which Government had made up its mind to pursue. Mr. Brown took the course which, as an honest man, he felt bound to pursue in what he considered was for the benefit of the country. The head of the Liberal party having resigned, I, with the consent of my colleagues and the approbation of the Administrator of the Government, invited the Postmaster General [William Howland] to assume the task of filling up the vacancy caused by Mr. Brown’s retirement.

He, on being consulted, could not give me an answer at once, or before communication with his friends. I cannot do better than read a memorandum on this subject. Mr. Howland stated to the Council that by the resignation of Mr. Brown he was placed in a position in which he felt that great responsibility rested upon him, and that before coming to a decision as to whether he should continue in the Government, he felt it to be his duty to consult and obtain the advice of those members of both branches of the Legislature who belonged to the Reform party. Pending this, he would decline to take any part in the proceedings of the Council. He, therefore, asked the consent of the Council to the step he proposed. This consent was accorded, and a letter was at the same time placed in Mr. Howland’s hands, which reads as follows:—

“Executive Council Office,
Ottawa, Dec. 20th, 1865.

“My Dear Howland.—I have only time, before you leave, to say to you that the policy of the Coalition Government will, in no respect, be changed by the resignation of Mr. Brown—that all the conditions entered into at the time of the formation of the Coalition Government, will be fully carried out—that I ask you to take Mr. Brown’s position in the Government, and that you have the carte blanche in the choice of a gentleman of your party to fill the vacant seat in the Council.

In haste,
Sincerely yours,


“P.S.—When I speak of the conditions on which the Coalition Government was formed, I of course, refer to the original arrangement under Sir E. Taché, and to the continuation of them when Sir N. Belleau became premier.”

Mr. Howland, after seeing his friends, determined to remain in the Cabinet himself, and endeavour to fill the vacancy; and the result was that Mr. Blair was induced to accept the Presidency of the Council. He accepted office with the consent and approbation of the party as I understand, and now holds office. This is, as far as Government is concerned, all the information we can afford on this subject. The whole of the papers connected with the negotiations in respect to the Reciprocity Treaty will be laid on the table in a few days for the satisfaction of the House.

George Brown [Oxford South] then rose and said he needed hardly state that he had been anxious, at the earliest moment, to give those explanations which the country and the House had a right to expect at his hands; but as the House was aware, he had had other duties, elsewhere, to the public, which he had thought even more incumbent on him to attend to than to be here on the opening day of the session.

Some Hon. Members—Hear, hear.

George Brown [Oxford South]—Before proceeding to enter on the explanations which he deemed it necessary to offer to the House, he desired it to be distinctly understood that his resignation was entirely on the question of Reciprocity, and in no way affected the great end for which he entered the Government. Had it been possible for him to have remained as a member of the Government till the final adoption of Confederation, he would have remained; but when he had given his explanations to the House, he thought he would make it obvious to them that, holding the views he did, it was impossible he could remain. He was free to admit that, with the responsibilities resting upon him as the representative of a large section of this House, no slight cause would have justified his leaving the Government. At the same time, it was right to say, that with the full knowledge of the position of matters, and what had still to be done he was satisfied that the Confederation question had reached that point that it incurred no rush from his leaving the Administration.

Some Hon. Members—Hear, hear.

George Brown [Oxford South]—When he entered the Government, it was with great reluctance. It was his desire to have sustained the Government, so long as they adhered to the policy they were pledged to, from the other side of those House, and not as a member of it. There was no political affinity between gentlemen opposite and himself; and it was his impression that it would be far better for his political friends and himself to sustain the Administration, out of office, than to go into office with them. He was overruled in this by his friends, and having taken office, endeavoured to do his duty as a member of the Government, under all the responsibilities imposed upon him.

But he would say this, that, had he remained where he now stood, during the whole of last year, he would have taken precisely the same course toward the gentlemen on the Treasury Benches as he would have taken in office; but now standing once more a free man, the Government were as welcomed to all the advice and assistance he could give them on the Confederation question, and would find him working as heartily and as conscientiously is procuring the accomplishment of the scheme, as if he were still a member of the Government.

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

George Brown [Oxford South]—It should also be distinctly understood that, in making his explanations, no reference whatever would be made to what had taken place subsequently to his leaving office. There were two stages of the Reciprocity question which were entirely distinct—the negotiations which took place between the Canadian Government and the Government of the United States, and the negotiations which went on between the delegates and from the British American Provinces and the American Committee of Ways and Means. With the latter negotiations he had nothing to do.

In making the present explanations, he would constitute himself simply to what transpired between the Government of Canada, while he was a member, and the Government of the United States—transactions which had not, as yet, appeared in any shape before the public. As regarded the after negotiations, it was well known he dissented strongly from the views of the Government. He heartily rejoiced that the propositions they made to the United States Committee of Congress were not accepted, and he was thoroughly persuaded that had they been accepted they would not have been ratified by any one of the five Legislatures of British America. But he did not desire to raise a controversy on that point now—more especially as he could not help congratulating himself that his resignation of office had tended to the defeat of the policy which he so strongly deprecated. He should endeavour to make his remarks as brief as possible and to say nothing which would cause any embittered feeling.

His late colleagues and himself differed on this Reciprocity question, they must speak their minds freely with respect to it; but that was no reason why there should be any personal hostility between them. The Attorney General [John A. Macdonald] had correctly stated that the question of Reciprocity had been under the consideration of the Government from the time that he (Mr. Brown) entered it, till the day he left it. On the 15th July, 1865, when Parliament was about to assemble, the Government found it necessary to know what were the views of the United States Government on the Reciprocity question, in order that in coming down to the House, they might be able to state exactly the position of the question, and what was the policy of the Government in regard to it. With this view, the Minister of Finance [Alexander Galt], to whose department it belonged, prepared a minute of Council, which was submitted to the Cabinet, and a long discussion took place upon it. In the document, his honourable friend set forth a bases of negotiations, including certain temptations that he proposed should be offered to the American Government to renew the treaty.

He (Mr. Brown) and others, strongly opposed any such policy being followed, and after full discussion, the hon. gentleman’s document was rejected by the Council. He regretted he was unable to read that rejected document to the House, as its contents were material to what followed; but he had applied for a copy of it, and was told there was no record of it in the Executive Council office. The conclusion finally arrived at by the Council was, that it was neither the duty nor the policy of Canada to tender concessions for a renewal of the Treaty. We were satisfied to renew it as it stood. If the Americans objected to its conditions, it was for them to state their objections, and we were prepared to discuss them candidly. If they could show unfairness, we were prepared to make them fair. If they wished the treaty extended, we were ready to extend on equitable terms. If they desired it modified, we were ready to modify, but from them, and not from us, such suggestions must properly come—indeed, could only come. This was the line of action adopted, and the Messrs. Galt and Howland were sent to Washington to ascertain, if possible, what course the United States Government intended to take.

On the return of these gentleman from Washington, they were enabled to report that, from the communications they had held with Secretary of the Treasury McCulloch, and the Revenue Commissioners at New York, they had a hope that the Treaty might be renewed. The chief point, it appeared, which the American authorities looked to, was the interference with the collection of their revenue by smugglers on the Canadian frontier; and, as some discussion has occurred as to his (Mr. Brown’s) own views on that point, he took the opportunity of saying that they entirely accorded with those of the Government at that time. The Americans urged that it was a reasonable thing that, while considering the extension of mutual traffic, some arrangement should be made with reference to certain articles by such an assimilation of the duties as would render smuggling less profitable that it had been, and he (Mr. Brown) felt bound to say that he had been in favour of that as an additional consideration to what we now have for obtaining a satisfactory treaty.

Some Hon. Members—Hear, hear.

George Brown [Oxford South]—The minister of Finance [Alexander Galt] made an announcement to Parliament during its last session, which was entirely in consonance with the position taken by the Government. He had it beside him; but all the members would distinctly recollect it.

Some Hon. MembersSome cries of “read, read.”

[Here Mr. Brown read two passages from Mr. Galt’s speech which, he states, and Mr. Galt confirmed, contained the essence of his statement with reference to Reciprocity on that occasion.]

George Brown [Oxford South]—This, he proceeded, was the position of the matter when Parliament sat at Quebec last session. But immediately afterwards a change took place in consequence of a despatch received from the Colonial Office. During a visit of some of his colleagues and himself to England, last year, they suggested to the Imperial Government that it was exceedingly desirable that the Governments of British American Provinces should be consulted in the negotiations regarding a renewal of the treaty, The British Government, in the kindest manner, acceded to their request. Earl Russell thought the best way was formally to establish a Confederate Council Trade, and wrote a despatch to the Colonial office, which was forwarded here, suggested the establishment of such a body. The proposition was submitted to our Government and approved of. It was submitted to all the Governments of the Lower Provinces, and approved.

A Confederate Council was accordingly appointed, and a meeting summoned at Quebec. The members of the Canadian Government who were appointed members of it were the Attorney General West [John A. Macdonald], Attorney General East [George-Étienne Cartier], the Minister of Finance [Alexander Galt], and himself. The Confederate Council set from the 15th to the 18th of September last during the last days of the last session of Parliament, and the whole subject of Reciprocity was fully considered and dealt with. He held in his hand a copy of the resolutions adopted as the result of their deliberations, and as the conduct of the Reciprocity negotiations had from that moment gone into the hands of that body, he would read their resolutions:—

1st. “That the existing Treaty of Trade with the United States is acceptable, and that its renewal, as it now stands, would be assented to by the respective Provinces.

2nd. That, in the opinion of the Council, any reasonable proposals for the modification or extension of the treaty that may be suggested by the United States Government, ought to be entertained by the Provinces.”

3rd. That in the event of a new Reciprocity Treaty being negotiated, it would be highly desirable that the coasting trade and the registration of vessels should be included in its provisions.

4th. That, in the event of the abolition of the Treaty by the United States Government, it is the opinion of this Council that all the British North American Provinces should combine cordially together all their commercial matters, and adopt such a commercial policy as will best advance the interests of the whole.

5th. That in the opinion of the Council it would be highly desirable that application be made to Her Majesty’s Imperial Government, requesting that steps be taken to enable the British North American Provinces to open communication with the West India Islands, with Spain and her colonies, and with Brazil and Mexico, for the purpose of ascertaining in what manner the traffic of the Provinces with these countries could be extended and place on a more advantageous footing.

6th. That in the event of negotiations for a new Treaty of Reciprocity with the United States being opened by Her Majesty’s Government, but not concluded before the 17th March next, application be made to Her Majesty’s Government, suggesting that an arrangement be entered into with the United States Government for such a continuation of the existing Treaty as may afford time for concluding the pending negotiations.

7th. That Her Majesty’s Government be requested to authorize the members of his Council, or a Committee to be appointed from amongst them, to proceed to Washington in the event of negotiations being opened for the renewal of the Reciprocity Treaty, in order to confer with the British Minister there, and afford him information with respect to the interests of the British North American Provinces.”

These, continued Mr. Brown, were the resolutions of the Confederate Council, and he called the special attention of the House to the 2nd of the series, in which the line of action to be pursued was fully discussed, and the decision arrived at that that proposition of concession or modification should not be made on behalf of British North America. He also called special attention to the 7th resolution, that declared distinctly by whom the future negotiations were to be conducted, that it was to be done jointly by all the Provinces?

The proceedings of the Confederate Council were approved by the Imperial Government and by the Canadian Government, and all parties were pledged to maintain them in good faith. The Council broke up on the distinct understanding that so soon as the time arrived for opening negotiations at Washington, the members would be summoned. Immediately after the Council adjourned, the removal of the Public Departments from Quebec to Ottawa commenced, and while that was proceeding, Cabinet business was transacted at Montreal.

On the 7th and 8th November, a meeting of the Executive Council was held at Montreal. At that meeting it was determined that he (Mr. Brown) should go on a special mission to Nova Scotia and New Brunswick; and most of the business having been got through, the Minister of Finance [Alexander Galt] produced a private letter from Mr. Wells, chairman of the Revenue Commissioners at New York. It was of a very satisfactory nature, and to the effect that the Revenue Commissioners, in reference to the views laid before them by the Minister of Finance [Alexander Galt] and the Postmaster General [William Howland], when in New York in July previous, had arrived at a conclusion.

Alexander Galt [Sherbrooke, Minister of Finance]—Allow me to read the letter.

George Brown [Oxford South]—Certainly.

Alexander Galt [Sherbrooke, Minister of Finance] proceed to read a portion of the letter, which was to the effect that the Revenue Commissioners desired to obtain from the Canadian Government an expression of their views as to the best mode of having a temporary extension of the treaty in the meantime.

George Brown [Oxford South] went on to say that this matter having been discussed by the Council, an understanding was arrived at upon it, and at his (Mr. Brown’s) suggestion, the Finance Minister [Alexander Galt] was requested to proceed to New York and convey to Mr. Wells the views of the Government upon it, and have a mode of procedure definitely arranged. He (Mr. Brown) left Montreal that night for the Lower Provinces; but not before receiving the positive assurances that nothing material would be done in his absence. He executed his mission and returned to Canada in time for a Cabinet Council, summoned to meet at Ottawa, on the 23rd of November. Mr. Galt was not present at that meeting, being still in the United States; but no one knew what detained him there. A few days after he (Mr. Brown) was astounded to read in the American newspapers the following official despatch sent from Washington to the Government organs throughout the United States, and bearing date the 30th November, 1865:—

“The Canadian authorities are quite willing now to make a Reciprocity Treaty, perfectly reciprocal; that is, they are willing, under the necessities of their treasury, to lay on their own products as heavy duties as we shall be obliged to lay on ours. This is the true remedy for smuggling, and the Minister of Finance had a conference with the Secretary of the Treasury to-day on the subject. If nothing appears in the forthcoming annual report of the Secretary on the Reciprocity Treaty, it is because the settlement of the question is to be made by the legislation of the two countries on the basis above states. And not by any treaty engagements. The Revenue Commissioners appointed to revise our internal revenue system have been, and continue to be, engaged in arranging this affair with Mr. Galt to the satisfaction of both parties.”

When he (Mr. Brown) read this, he did not believe it. He presumed it was some confused report founded on Mr. Galt’s errand to the Revenue Commissioner’s at New York. It appeared utterly incredible that Mr. Galt, without any authority, should have taken upon him to open negotiations with the United States Government. Nay, to make formal propositions to that Government, in direct defiance of the policy formally adopted by his own Government on the 15th July, and by the Confederate Council. More than one member had come to the meeting opposed to Confederation, but had been very much shaken in their views, and one of its most prominent members had been brought completely round by the force of the commercial consideration presented to him. But to have it sent through the public press to these gentlemen and those for whom they were acting, that, after all the assurances of joint action that had been given them, the Canadian Government had gone to Washington of their own motion, and made formal propositions for the settlement of the whole Reciprocity question, he (Mr. Brown) could not but regard it as a most dangerous blow at the hopes of Confederation.

At the next meeting of the Cabinet, on the 13th of December, the announcement of the American papers was more than confirmed by the statement of Mr. Galt himself. He did not doubt that the hon. gentleman had done nothing more than what, in his opinion, was for the advantage of the Province; but so strong was his (Mr. Brown’s) opinion of his conduct that, had it not been for his special position in the Government, as the representative of others, he would not have remained in the Government one hour after he learned what Mr. Galt had taken upon himself to do. One or other of them must have left the Government.

Some Hon. Members—Hear, hear.

George Brown [Oxford South]—The hon. gentleman did not make a written report. He (Mr. Brown) asked him to do so, but he did not; and after he (Mr. Brown) resigned, he wrote for it and did not obtain it.

Alexander Galt [Sherbrooke, Minister of Finance] rose, and was understood to say that he had made such a report.

George Brown [Oxford South]—The hon. gentleman will not say a written report was made.

Alexander Galt [Sherbrooke, Minister of Finance]—A verbal report.

George Brown [Oxford South]—Yes, a full verbal report was made, but he (Mr. Brown) thought it should have been reduced to writing. When he resigned, therefore, it became necessary for him to prepare a memorandum—his own—of what took place, and perhaps the best thing he could do was to read this to the House. Mr. Brown then read this memorandum as follows:—

“When the Council met at Ottawa on the 13th December, Mr. Galt gave a full narrative of his proceedings in the United States, but did not submit it to writing. I asked him to do so, but he thought it unnecessary—which I think is to be regretted. He stated that he met the Commissioners at New York and arranged with them that they should report to their Government in favour of a renewal of the Reciprocity Treaty, and of a year’s extension of the existing treaty to enable a new one to be arranged by commissioners. He also stated that he had agreed with them for the assimilation of duties during the year, so as to prevent, or at least, render unprofitable, smuggling on the border. Mr. Galt then went on to say that, after seeing the commissioners at New York, he proceed to Washington where he saw Mr. Seward and Mr. McCulloch.

He said both were very friendly, and deprecated any interruption to our commerce, but that Mr. Seward declared no new treaty could be made, and that only reciprocal legislation could be assented to. Mr. Galt said he combatted this proposal and showed the difficulty of getting all the Provinces to consent to reciprocal legislation, to which Mr. Seward replied that he did not care about the Lower Provinces. It was an arrangement with Canada he wanted. Mr. Galt said he urged that the Fishery question could not be arranged except by treaty, to which Mr. Seward replied that he did not care about fisheries, and also that that could be separately arranged.

The result was, that Mr. Galt proceeded to discuss with Mr. Seward and Mr. McCulloch separately, I understood, the arrangements possible under reciprocal legislation. He suggested to them that such manufactures of the two countries as the United States might designate might be admitted free, provided the same articles from England were admitted into Canada free. He suggested that all the natural products of the two countries should be admitted free, with this exception, that when the Americans impose an excise duty on articles made or grown in their country, they might impose an equal customs duty on the same articles coming in from Canada. He suggested that our inland waters and canals might be made a highway, common to both countries, and maintained at the joint expense of both. He suggested that the Customs duties on the foreign merchandize of the two countries should be assimilated as far as possible, and where the rate of duty was the same in both countries, such articles should pass free from country to country, and a settlement be made between the Government at the end of each year on a balance of accounts from the Customs entries on the lines. Other suggestions were made by Mr. Galt, equally important, and all likely to cause much agitation in the Provinces.

Mr. Galt followed up his narrative by proposing that a minute of Council be adopted, endorsing what he had done and authorizing him to proceed to Washington, and continue his negotiations. A discussion of several days followed. I contented that Mr. Galt had no authority for going on to Washington, and had acted most indiscreetly in making such suggestions even on his own personal responsibility—that what he did was done in direct opposition to the deliberate decision of the Government and the Confederate Council, and calculated to be most seriously injurious to us in the coming negotiations. I contended that, even had Mr. Galt full authority for going to Washington, and had the Council not previously determined the line of discussion to be then adopted, the action taken was worse than folly. Mr. Galt had flung at the heads of the Americans every concession that we had it in our power to make, and some that we certainly could not make, so that our case was foreclosed before the Commission was opened. Every suggestion he had made would be regarded as a boon we were seeking, and our eagerness in making them would convince the Americans more than ever that we were, and that we thought ourselves, entirely at their mercy.

But I went on to contend that the worst part of the matter was that all these sacrifices were to be made to secure reciprocal legislation—that is, an Act of Congress and an Act of the Canadian Legislature, which either might repeal at any moment. I pointed out the astuteness of the suggestion on the part of the United States Government—that it simply meant an arrangement by which the Americans could get over their present difficulties, and have our aid in collecting their revenues—the one sole thing they were then bent on, and after that hold our people dangling, from year to year, on the legislation of the American Congress, looking to Washington, instead of to Ottawa, as the controller of their commerce and prosperity. Knowing as I well did, the determination of leading United States public men to absorb the Provinces into the Union, I pointed out how admirably the scheme was designed to attain their end, and what a position we would be in, with the public mind excited, before each meeting of Congress, by articles in the United States press threatening ruin to our trade, and resolutions proposed in Congress by protectionist members.

I also pointed out the effect all this would have on the Lower Provinces. Here had Mr. Galt been settling, the basis of a new Treaty without one word of communication with any of the sister Colonies—nay, in direct opposition to what they had determined was the best course to pursue. I remind my colleagues what had been done by the Confederate Council, and that I was bound in honor to stand by the course taken by, and the promises made to, the members of the Confederate Council. I expressed my fear that great offence would be taken if Mr. Galt’s proposal were persisted in, and that the result might be the loss of Confederation as well as Reciprocity. I stated that I could not be responsible for Mr. Galt’s proposed Order-in-Council and for his continuing the negotiations alone, and, if it were insisted on, I must leave the Government.

I was asked to state what course I suggested. I said that Mr. Galt’s proceeding at Washington was unofficial—call the Confederate Council together at once by telegraph, and commence anew—make a dead set to have this ‘reciprocal legislation’ idea upset before proceeding with the discussion, and if you fail after every exertion has been made to restore the proposal for a treaty, then, before breaking off all negotiations, ascertain the conditions proposed for the purpose of seeing whether all the present advantages of our position should be sacrificed for a boon independent from day to day on American whims. I endeavoured earnestly to impress my colleagues with the dangerous nature of this ‘reciprocal legislation.’

I pointed out that until Mr. Galt met Mr. Seward, such an idea had never been broached by any one. I pointed out also that apart from its political effect no extension of the scope of the treaty would be worth much that was capable of repeal at any moment. Who would put his money in any enterprise that might be knocked on the head on a month’s notice? I also remind them that even in the United States those friendly to reciprocity, and who were striving for its renewal would be equally dissatisfied with us at such an unreliable arrangement. At last Mr. Galt, after consulting with others, made a suggestion for a compromise. He consented that his proceedings at Washington should be treated as unofficial—that no order in Council be passed on the subject—and that he and Mr. Howland be sent down to Washington to secure a treaty if they could; but if not, to find the best terms that could be got, and report to Government without delay for their approval.

I replied that I quite understood this as intended to strike my name from the Confederate Council of Trade, and place Mr. Howland’s in lieu of it—that I would not, on that account, object to the proposal, but accept the compromise. I suppose the matter settled; but Mr. Galt then proposed that a second draft minute be adopted. I said that I thought no minute whatever was to be passed; and, on his reading what he proposed now to be adopted, it appeared that the document referred to Mr. Galt’s mission to Washington, endorsed his policy, and instead of calling the Confederate Council together, ordered that an intimation of what had been done, and what was proposed to be done, should be sent to the Governments of the Lower Provinces, so that they might, if they chose, send representatives to Washington. On pointing out these objections a clause was added, intimating that a meeting of the Confederate Council would be held when Messrs. Galt and Howland returned from Washington.”

George Brown [Oxford South] proceeded[2] to explain in reference to the two minutes referred to in the memorandum drawn up by himself in regard to the discussions in the Cabinet after Mr. Galt returned from Washington and repeated what he had done. He (Mr. Brown) said that one of these minutes contained the proposition of Mr. Galt in full, to be placed among the public records as the determination of Government on the question; while the other was a minute forwarded upon it for transmission to the Government of the Lower Provinces to the British Ambassador at Washington, and others.

When he (Mr. Brown) resigned, he asked for copies of both documents. The first and most important was refused to him, but a copy of the second or minor one was given him, and he now held it in his hand. He applied again for a copy of the first minute yesterday, but the hon. Gentlemen on the Treasury Benches considered that he was not entitled to it, and would not give it. They held that it was withdrawn before his resignation, and that the resignation, strictly speaking, was made on the second document; but every one must see that it was essential to a right understanding of the cause of his resignation, that both documents should be put before the House. Both had been discussed together for several days. The second could not be understood without reference to the first, and his resignation was because he would not be responsible for the policy referred to in the second document, but set forth fully in the first. He must say that he regarded the refusal of a copy of this important document as entirely wrong, and that even hesitation in granting it was exceedingly ungenerous.

 Mr. Brown then read the second minute, as follows:—

“Copy of a report of a Committee of the Hon. the Executive Council, approved by His Excellency the Administrator of the Government on the 22nd December, 1865. The Committee have had under consideration the memorandum dated 18th, December, 1865, from the Hon. the Minister of Finance, submitting for the consideration of your Excellency in Council, that it appears from the report to Congress of the Secretary of the Treasury of the United States, as well as from information obtained in recent conversations  had at Washington with the Secretary of State and the Secretary of the Treasury of the United States, that the American Government are not disposed to submit to Congress any proposal, for a renewal of the Reciprocity Treaty, but consider that the commercial relations between the United States and the British North American Provinces, should form the subject of concerted legislation.

That under these circumstances, he submits that inasmuch as the treaty will expire on the 17th March next, there is no reasonable probability that the Congress of the United States will before that date decide in any way upon their policy in this respect, while it is manifest that no corresponding legislation could possibly take place in each of the British Provinces.

That it is, therefore, evident that unless some understanding be arrived at with the American Government for a temporary continuance of existing arrangements, the trade between the two countries must be subject to serious disturbance by the expiry of the treaty on the 17th March.

That the proposal of the Secretary of the Treasury to substitute legislation in lieu of the treaty can only apply to those portions of the treaty which refer to commercial objects.

That the national rights involved in the engagements relative to the fisheries and to the navigation of the great lakes and the St. Lawrence cannot, he believes, be dealt with otherwise than by treaty or convention between Great Britain and the United States.

That the subjects embraced in the Reciprocity Treaty are two-fold. That those relating to trade and commerce can, if it be so determined be reserved for the action of the respective legislatures—each country pursuing the policy that is most in accordance with its own interests, while those relating to international engagements must either be continued by treaty, or each nation will revert to its position prior to the execution of the Reciprocity Treaty. That as the latter class of subjects has not been referred to by the Secretary of the Treasury, it is possible it has not received full attention in the decision that would appear to have been arrived at for the abrogation of the treaty, as it can scarcely be supposed that the United States desire to reproduce the state of things which was happily put an end to by the execution of the treaty.

That the concessions which were considered to be made by Great Britain in relation to the fisheries question were, however, so intimately blended with the commercial advantages alleged to have been granted by the United States by a new treaty, while the latter country determines to retain within its own control all the subjects by which equivalents were considered to have been given to the British Provinces.

That if the objections by the United States to a renewal of the commercial treaty rest upon its being an unconstitutional act on their part, it no longer becomes a subject of discussion, and some other course must be devised for the division of the subject.

Dealing with national rights by treaty, and with commercial relations by legislation, he offers as his opinion that no insuperable difficulty need be apprehended in this course if the subject be approached in a spirit of mutual desire to perfect and perpetuate the friendly intercourse and trade between the two countries; but that it is manifestly impracticable within the time limited for the termination of the treaty to give the required consideration to the subject, and to settle all the various details connected with it; and that it is, therefore, very much to be apprehended that the whole engagements of the treaty will end or the 17th March, unless the Government of the United States acquiesce in their temporary continuance with a view to negotiations. But in case it should be ultimately found necessary to deal with the question of trade by Legislation, it must be apparent to the United States Government that extreme difficulty must be experienced in bringing into harmony the view of so many different Legislatures, and much time will be required for the purpose.

That in view, therefore, of the proposed Confederation of the British North American Provinces, probably taking place at an early day, it would appear most desirable to refer, if possible, any Legislative arrangements with the united States to the Legislature of the Confederated Provinces especially as the earliest duty of that body will be to revise and assimilate the existing separate systems of finance and trade now existing in each Province, thus affording the most favourable opportunity for the consideration of any proposals of the American Government, relating to trade and revenue.

He, the Minister of Finance therefore, recommends that communication be had with Her Majesty’s representative at Washington, for the purpose of submitting to the Government of the United States, a proposal for the continuance of the existing treaty for such period as may be agreed upon for the purpose of the negotiation, and that two members of the Council be instructed to put themselves in communication with His Excellency and, subject to his concurrence, with the authorities at Washington on this subject.

The Minister of Finance further recommends that the action proposed to be taken for the purpose of obtaining delay in the abrogation of the treaty, be communicated by Your Excellency to the Lieutenant Governors of the Maritime Provinces, and that they be requested to inform their respective Government that it is not the intention of the Canadian Government to depart from the course proposed by the Confederate Council on commercial treaties or act in any manner separately or distinctly from the other Provinces, in the ultimate discussion and decision of the various questions involved; but solely in view of the vast interests in Canada affected by the possible termination of the Treaty, to use every exertion, in the meantime to obtain delay, with the intention hereafter of considering, in connection with the sister Provinces, and suggestion that may be made on the part of the United States, in relation to the future commercial intercourse between the two countries, and that the Maritime Provinces be invited to send representatives to Washington for the same purpose, and be informed that it is proposed to hold a meeting of the Confederate Council on commercial treaties at Ottawa, so soon as the position of the question would warrant it, founded upon the information to be received from Washing ton, as to the probably extension or final abrogation of the probably extension or final abrogation of the Reciprocity Treaty. The Committee concur in the views and suggestions above submitted, and recommend the same for your Excellency’s approval.

(Certified,) (Signed,) W.H. Lee,


While reading this document, Mr. Brown commented on its various points. He pointed out that Mr. Galt’s visit to Washington was directly recognized in it, and that if he had assented to the minute he must have become responsible for all Mr. Galt did there. He pointed out that the positive assertion in the minute that no treaty could be obtained, was not borne out by the cautious language of Mr. McCulloch’s report, and to prove this, he read from the report as follows:—

“There are grave doubts whether treaties of this character do not interfere with the legislative power of Congress, and especially with the constitutional power of the House of Representatives to originate revenue bills.”


“It is certain that in the arrangement of our complete system of revenue—that is the tariff and internal duties—the treaty has been the cause of no little embarrassment. The subject of the revenue should not be embarrassed by treaty stipulations, but Congress should be left to act upon it freely and independently; and any arrangement between the United States and Canada, or the Canadas and Provinces, that may be considered mutually beneficial, can as readily be perfected and carried out by reciprocal legislation as by any other means. No complaint would then arise as to subsequent changes in laws, for each party would be free to act all times according to its discretion.”

There was nothing positive in all this. It was a mere suggestion, made, he could well believe, for negotiations purposes; and he was confirmed in this, from the fact that this report was placed before Congress more than a week after the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Galt) had been manipulated on the legislative reciprocity idea and had fallen victim to it. The hon. gentleman had passed through the hands of Messrs. Seward and McCulloch, on the 27th and 28th of November, and this report was not submitted until the 7th December, leaving Mr. McCulloch abundance of time to make his report accord with his arrangements with Mr. Galt.

Mr. Brown also pointed out that these annual reports were made by the heads of the various Departments on their own personal responsibility, and were not the act of the United States Government; and because Mr. McCulloch expressed a grave doubt as to the constitutionality of a treaty, was that to warrant the Minister of Finance [Alexander Galt] accepting it in one hour as an irrevocable determination, and acting upon it without even a word of consultation with one of his colleagues?

Mr. Brown went on to contend that the whole pretence of unconstitutionality was set up for the occasion. What had been done by Daniel Webster in 1854, might safely be done by his successors in 1866. During the whole 11 years it was in operation, no such objection had been offered to it; and in these 11 years hardly a civilized country existed with which the United States had not made a commercial treaty in precisely the same manner followed in 1854.

Mr. Brown read from the American statute-book the titles of China, Japan, Paraguay, Bolivia, Liberia, Persia, Denmark, Austria, Switzerland, the Two Sicilies, and other countries. If, then, such treaties were unconstitutional, the fact was very long of being discovered, and the discovery was made at a very convenient moment. Mr. Brown, having criticised the contents of the Minute at some length, continued his statement of facts connected with his resignation. He stated that, on this minute being put to the Council and declared to be carried, he declined being responsible for it, and left the Council Chamber. In formally resigning, there were two courses open to him—either to tender his resignation personally to the head of the Government, or place it in the hands of the Prime Minister [Narcisse Belleau]. Under the circumstances, he thought it best to take the former course, accompanying it with full personal explanations to the representative of the Sovereign.

He, therefore, proceeded to Montreal and waited on Sir John Michel; but immediately after doing so, he wrote a note to the Premier [Narcisse Belleau] stating what he had done. The Administrator of the Government gave earnest consideration to the matter, and he (Mr. Brown) was bound to express his sense of the courtesy and interest which His Excellency manifested. Of course, he gave him (Mr. Brown) no clue to what were his own views. He had heard what he (Mr. Brown) had to say; he had yet to hear what the other members of the Cabinet had to say; but, meanwhile, he refused to receive his resignation. What action His Excellency further took had not been clearly stated by the Attorney-General West [John A. Macdonald]; but he thought it only fair to himself, and due to the Administrator of the Government, that he should state what took place in regard to that. His Excellency, at parting, said he might have to judge between the policy he (Mr. Brown) suggested and the policy that may be suggested by his colleagues.

He (Mr. Brown) replied that if his advice were asked, what course His Excellency should pursue, on such a contingency arising he had no destination in saying what his advice would be under the circumstances. His strong conviction was that the one great question, at this time, is Confederation, and though he felt very strongly that the course proposed by his colleagues was one that would prove most injurious, if carried out still, in his opinion, it was absolutely necessary that the Government should be kept in office. He (Mr. Brown) said he would dread throwing the politics of the country again into their former unfortunate state of disorganization and embarrassment. If a crisis were to arise now, that might be the result and he should most deeply regret it.

He assured His Excellency that, so far as he was concerned, not a word would go to the public from him that would injuriously affect the negotiations at Washington. At the same time, he should endeavor to counteract what he conceived to be the evil effects of what his colleagues proposed doing, by eliciting public opinion on the subject, and he would take care that no final steps should be taken without the views of the country being thoroughly brought out and when these are brought out, he had no fear of any damage being done. Moreover the whole matter would have to be submitted to Parliament. There would be ample time to prevent any mischief. If therefore, his opinion were asked, it would be that the Government should be sustained as against himself.

Some Hon. Members—Hear, hear.

George Brown [Oxford South]—Of course under other circumstances, it would have been his duty to have given other advice but in the position the country occupied, he thought that was the course most conducive to the best interest of the Province.

Some Hon. Members—Hear, hear.

George Brown [Oxford South] wound up his address by a brief summary of the position he held on the whole matter, showing the Provincial objections to the proposed policy of the Government for which he refused to be responsible, and exposing the flimsy scheme of Legislative reciprocity for which the whole fiscal system of the Province was proposed to be changed, and our commercial policy made dependent on American whim. He feared no greater evil than that befalling the Province; and if his resignation of office had contributed toward its defeat, he should always look back upon it with heartfelt pleasure.[3]

Alexander Galt [Sherbrooke, Minister of Finance] said he would endeavour to imitate the example of Mr. Brown, so as to avoid giving the slightest offence in anything he might utter. He (Mr. Galt) would have preferred its not being necessary to say one addition word to the remarks of the Attorney General [John A. Macdonald]; but, really, he must confess his belief that, supposing Mr. Brown retired from the Government, on a question of public policy, the responsibility should rest with himself alone.

He (Mr. Galt) objected to being made responsible for the act in question. He had done no act of a governmental character in which he had not the uniform support of his colleagues. He should be very sorry to differ with Mr. Brown in any way on this or any other question, and would, in his remarks on this occasion, in self defence, try to refrain from any irritating observation. Mr. Brown appeared to think that, in my action in this matter, I assumed a degree of responsibility beyond what I ought to have done. On that point a difference of opinion exists between us.

When I proceeded to New York to meet the Committee on Trade and Revenue, I was authorized, if I considered it necessary to the accomplishment of my purpose, to go to Washington also. However I think that if, in my judgement, I had considered it necessary to proceed to Washington as well, i might have assumed that responsibility even without the previous authorization of my colleagues; but in this matter I do not believe I acted on my own responsibility, and I am sustained in this belief by a majority of my colleagues.

Then, on reaching Washington, in conversations I had with the Secretary of State [William Seward], I spoke in the name of a majority of my colleagues, but did not presume to represent Mr. Brown, and I expressed what I believed were the sentiments of the majority. I stated that a difference of opinion had arisen between the rest of the Cabinet and Mr. Brown, in regard to our policy respected the Reciprocity Treaty, and that the difference might possibly continue. I, therefore, do not think Mr. Brown should charge me with having gone out of my line or sphere in this business. I think, when the papers respecting Reciprocity are brought down, it will be seen it was necessary for me to proceed to Washington. I think I have said enough on this head, and I do not intend following Mr. Brown through his criticism in regard to the policy of Government in reference to the Reciprocity Treaty.

Our policy was, in brief, to preserve to this country and the United States, the freest possible commercial intercourse; and it is to be regretted that between the rest of us and Mr. Brown, there should have been any difference as to the mode of reaching the desired end. But I am not prepared to cast any blame upon the late President of the Council [George Brown] for taking the view and action he did. I will not speak as to the possibility or propriety of our obtaining a treaty with the States or not.

It will be admitted that a treaty being of two parties, unless in this case the United States had consented to treat with us, it would have been useless for us to pursue the matter. As to the United States, their circumstances were anomalous. We were dealing with a country under the heaviest taxation; we were called upon, in the event of a treaty being agreed to, to make an arrangement that would be favourable to the States in 1866, and to perpetuate it till 1876, no matter how much the circumstances of the country might have changed in the mean-time.

Now, 1866 was the most unfavourable year that could have been selected to make a commercial treaty with the States. If we had been obligated, on account of the exceptional taxation of the States, to agree on some maximum rates of duty in protection of both countries, then year by year we might gradually have obtained such changes in the system as would have brought matters to the position occupied in 1854. As regards the statement about our looking to Washington, I discard it altogether for consideration. I think the answer given by the country within the last few weeks is a sufficient response to any disloyal sentiments, could we possibly have entertained such—which no one can believe.

Some Hon. Members—Hear, hear.

Alexander Galt [Sherbrooke, Minister of Finance]—As to Mr. Brown’s complaint that a paper or memorandum had been withheld from him, I may say he would not agree to possess it, he would not have it, and consequently it was withdrawn; and how am I to be held responsible. If he had not exacted, as the price of his remaining in the Government, the withdrawal of the paper, he might have had it; but the fact is, the paper became my own, which it was originally.

George Brown [Oxford South]—No! You cannot take that view.

Alexander Galt [Sherbrooke, Minister of Finance]—Yes, he would not have the paper formerly, and now, at this late period, asks where it is? As so much complaint has been made on the subject I shall read the paper.

The Minister of Finance has the honor to submit for the consideration of his colleagues in the Government, that the approach of the period when, under the notice given, the Reciprocity Treaty will expire, renders it necessary to consider the steps to be taken to procure such an extension of the notice from the Government of the United States as will afford time for fully considering and arranging the best mode for establishing permanent regulation for the trade, navigation and intercourse between the United States and Canada. Under the circumstances, and with the view of defining the general limits of the discussion of the question of Reciprocity with the American authorities, it appears necessary to decide upon the principles by which the Canadian Government would be guided, in case it should become necessary to proceed by concerted legislation. The Minister of Finance, therefore, respectfully recommends that the following points be now settled, as expressing the views of the Administration in regard to the commercial relations of Canada with the United States:—

1st. In the event of the Government of the United States declining to make a treaty of commerce with Great British North American Provinces, the Canadian Government are willing to endeavour to effect such arrangements by concerted legislation as will establish such regulations as it may mutually agree upon to adopt.

2nd. Canada would be willing to agree to the reciprocal interchange of the natural productions, shipping and manufactures of both countries, provided she were not required in any case to impose differential duties in favour of the United States.

3rd. Canada would be willing to place the navigation of the great lakes and the St. Lawrence on a footing of perfect equality, and hereafter to consider the best mode of perfecting the canals, so as to afford the greatest possible facilities to the trade of the West. If practicable, the coasting trade of the two countries should be made reciprocal, and the regulations for the transit trade made permanent and satisfactory.

4th. With the view of preventing illicit trade, Canada, would be willing to agree upon the assimilation of the excise duty upon spirits, beer and tobacco, and of the customs duties upon the same, and cognate articles. She would also willingly consider any suggestion by the United States for the extension of such assimilation to other articles. Provided the settlement of the whole commercial relations between the two countries be made upon the principle of perfect reciprocity, and the greatest freedom afforded to the citizens of both countries, to purchase and sell in the markets they may prefer.

5th. Canada may state that the Maritime Provinces are prepared to unite with her in the discussion of the subjects arising out of the abrogation of the Reciprocity Treaty, and she therefore desired that the negotiations should be carried on with commissioners appointed to represent the several provinces. But as such negotiations could not possibly be completed before the 17th of March, Canada suggests that the notice for the abrogation of the Treaty be withdrawn, pending negotiations, reserving however to both countries the right of imposing customs duties upon any or all of the articles enumerated in the free list in the 4th article of the Treaty, provided the same do not exceed the duties now levied by the internal revenue Acts upon the notice given for the abrogation of the treaty further than to impose such duties as inconsistent with the reciprocity provided by the treaty, which shall, in all other respects, be held to be in force.

6th. If no other course can be taken for obtaining an extension of the treaty, the Canadian Government are prepared to recommend at the next session of Parliament, the enactment of such measures as may, in the meantime, be agreed upon with the American Government, provided the legislation of both countries be made concurrent and reciprocal.

(Signed) A.T. Galt, M.F.

19th December, 1865.

No one could more regret than I that, judging from what has fallen from Mr. Brown, I should have, in any way, contributed to bring about his resignation. I can only express deep regret, both on behalf of myself and the country. At the same time, Government, having made up its mind to a certain course, felt it a duty to pursue it. No one could, on the other hand, blame Mr. Brown for his conscientious action in the matter. However, when the papers were brought down, the House would be in a better position to discuss the whole subject.

Some Hon. Members—Hear, hear.

John Pope [Compton] asked how did the hon. gentlemen take such unwarrantable latitude in going on with the negotiations without consulting the representatives of the Lower Provinces?

Alexander Galt [Sherbrooke, Minister of Finance]—It is not a question involved in these explanations, but one of the general policy of the Government, which will come up in the proper time.

[Our reporter is compelled to explain here, that Mr. Galt was very imperfectly heard in the gallery.]

After a short pause. 

George Brown [Oxford South] said that before passing to the next order the House might like to hear explanations on this subject from the Postmaster General [William Howland] and Mr. Mackenzie. Such were very desirable.

Some Hon. Members—Hear, hear.

William Howland [York West, Postmaster General] said that after Mr. Brown’s retirement, he felt himself placed in a position of a very great difficulty and responsibility. The leader of our party had resigned, Mr. Macdougall was absent, and I was in agreement with my colleagues in office, in position to Mr. Brown on the question between us. Had I felt it consistent with my duty to my colleagues and party, I would have resigned also, for such would have been more agreeable to my feelings. I considered my position was peculiar. The Government was formed for a peculiar purpose, on express conditions, and for important objects; and i considered the attainment of the desired result might have been endangered by a dissolution or weakening of the Government, or if the arrangements made on the formation of the Coalition should be terminated.

Some Hon. Members—Hear, hear.

William Howland [York West, Postmaster General]—With these views, I decided to consult with members of the Liberal party, in both Houses, on whom I should have to depend for support before coming to any conclusion as to my course. I also informed my colleagues in Council that until I had an opportunity of doing that, I did not wish to participate in the proceedings of Government. They consented. When I proceeded west I met a number of friends at Guelph, and they expressed the opinion that I should remain in the Cabinet, promising to support me if I should so decide.

After that, I offered Mr. Mackenzie the vacant position, which, after consultation with his friends, he declined. I next met a number of other friends of our party, belonging to both branches of the Legislature, in my house, when we discussed the whole matter. They arrived at the same conclusion as my friends in Guelph. The result was I offered the vacancy to Mr. Blair, which he, I am happy to say, readily accepted. There are all the facts I have to relate. As to the discussion on the policy of Government, I think it would be only fair to all parties that that should be postponed till all the papers are brought down, when members will be better able to judge of the merits of the question.

Some Hon. Members—Hear, hear.

Alexander Mackenzie [Lambton] gave a statement agreeing in substance with the Postmaster General’s [William Howland], but he said that the account was incorrect as regarded the assertion of his friends at the Guelph meeting entirely agreeing with his course. It must be recollected that it was there observed that, provided Mr. Howland had set forth all that was to be said, he should receive their approval. I recollect he replied that of course we should have to hear Mr. Brown first. When he offered me the position, I said I could have no objection provided we had heard all to be said on the subject, but that I was desirous to ascertain from Mr. Brown his views on the political position.

I learned then that the whole difference between Mr. Brown and his late colleagues was one of opinion respecting the Order in Council just read. I found afterwards that that was but the mere end of a controversy that had existed for months, while there were serious difficulties as to the whole policy of the country respecting negotiations with the United States. I found also that personal grievances had much to do with the matter. I accidentally met Mr. Brown the following night, when with some difficulty I extracted from him what he has now detailed to the House. After considering the matter fully, without asking or receiving advice from any member, I despatched the following letter to Mr. Howland:—

“SARNIA, Dec. 27, 1865.

“My Dear Sir—Since our meeting at Guelph on the 25th inst., when you were good enough to tender me a seat in the Cabinet as President of the Council, I have seen Mr. Brown and have received from him a full statement of the causes which led to his resignation. You recollect that I informed you of my desire to ascertain from himself how he regarded his present position. Mr. Brown, at first, declined giving me any information on the ground that he was not authorized by His Excellency, the administrator, to do so, and that such information should be first communicated to Parliament. On my informing him that I had received from you a statement of the causes which led to his resignation, he consented to state minutely the circumstances which led to his withdrawal from the Government.

Your statement of the reasons which you understood to actuate Mr. Brown in resigning his position in the Administration, so far as it went, is substantially the same that given by Mr. Brown himself. I find, however, that very much of what, in my opinion, was essential to a proper understanding of Mr. Brown’s position, was not communicated to me at the meeting above referred to. I understood you to say that the issue between Mr. Brown and the other members of the Government, was confined entirely to the adoption of the Minute of Council relating to the Reciprocity Treaty, a copy of which you read to me. Although personal feeling might have increased the dissatisfaction he felt, and which caused him to resign, I also understood you to say that the Government of the United States had formally intimated to the Canadian Government their final decision that commercial treaties affecting the revenue between the United States and foreign countries as unconstitutional, and, consequently, that any commercial arrangement between the British North American Provinces the United States must necessarily be provided by concurrent legislation in the two countries.

Assuming these statements to be perfectly correct and full, I could see no sufficient reason for Mr. Brown leaving the Government, or that my entering the Government as his successor would be distasteful to the party to whom I would look for support as a member of the Government, or be in any way wrong in itself. I am now led to believe that the adoption of the minute of Council referred to, was but the culminating act of a series of circumstances connected with the pending negotiations against which Mr. Brown protested as improper and seriously prejudicial to our interests as a Province.

Subsequent reflection also convinced me that there could hardly have been any formal declaration from the Government of the United States, announcing that commercial treaties were unconstitutional, inasmuch as that Government have very recently entered into treaties of a similar kind with other nations. I do not, of course, doubt that the idea of legislative reciprocity had been suggested from official quarters in the United States as the proper course for the purpose of accomplishing an object; but I have not heard anything which would lead me to believe that a treaty could not be obtained similar to the treat of 1854, had that suggestion been firmly combated by the Canadian Government.

As I stated to you at our interview, I regard the proposal of regulating our commercial intercourse by reciprocal legislation as of little value compared with a treaty extending over a term of years, and as calculated to keep the minds of the people, engaged in traffic with the United States, in a constant state of doubt and alarm. Under these circumstances, I feel that I could not defend the policy set forth and adopted in the minute of Council, or justify myself for accepting office with the conviction I entertain. I must, therefore, decline the offer of a seat in the Cabinet you offered for my acceptance, with the concurrence of His Excellency the Administrator and your colleagues.

I am, my dear sir,

Yours faithfully,

A. McKenzie

In thinking over the matter at the time, I considered the system of commercial legislation, suggested by Mr. Howland, and proposed to be carried into effect, could only, and would inevitably lead to more intimate political connection with the States, and that is a policy which, above all others, I have set myself against. That was one of the principal reasons which lead me to reject Mr. Howland’s offer. I was not insensible to the honour of a seat in the Government, but a greater calamity may happen to a man than to remain out of it; and greater blessings may be conferred upon him than to become one of its members.

Some Hon. MembersLaughter.

Alexander Mackenzie [Lambton]—Having taken party in the negotiations that lead to the formation of the Coalition and supported it since, I declined the question with some regret, but I determined that if the commercial policy mentioned were not persisted in, Government would receive no opposition at my hands. From whatever cause the then policy entirely failed, and we now stand perfectly independent of the United States or any other people, and Government receives my support simply as pledged to bring about the Union of the British North American Provinces. In that policy I believe them sincerely desirous of accomplishing all promised at the outset, and I have no doubt they will succeed in satisfying all our expectations in that regard.

Some Hon. MembersCheers.

The House then proceeded to the orders of the day. A formal stage was taken in forming the Committee of Supply, and at 6 o’clock the House adjourned.


[1]      Source: The Globe (Jun. 16 & 18, 1866).

[2]      After the memorandum was read, the Globe reported, Mr. Brown proceeded to explain in reference to the two minutes referred to in the foregoing memorandum. [The advanced hour compels us to reserve the remainder of Mr. Brown’s speech in order to give the concluding portion of the debate.]”

We have inserted the remainder of Brown’s speech, which was published on Jun. 18, 1866. The summarizing lines have been removed as superfluous.

[3]      Here ends the coverage, from the Jun. 18th edition of the Globe, which covered the missing fragment of Brown’s speech in the middle of the debate. The debate returns now to the earlier publication, Jun. 16, 1866, which printed the end of the debate. It recommences with Galt’s speech.

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