Province of Canada, Legislative Council, Debate on the Constitution (24 June 1850)
Date: 1850-06-24 – 1850-06-25
By: Province of Canada (Parliament), The Globe
Citation: “Parliamentary Proceedings,” The Globe (27 June 1850).
[REPORTED FOR “THE GLOBE.”]
MONDAY, JUNE 24.
The House went into Committee for the consideration of the Bill, extending the jurisdiction of magistrates to foreign seamen in the ports of this Province.
Hon. the Speaker said the provisions of the Bill before the Committee, had been deemed necessary owing to the recent alteration in the Navigation Laws of Great Britain, in consequence of which foreign vessels frequent ports in this Province, and it was desirable that seamen should be prevented from leaving them improperly, in a manner that would not be likely to lead to difficulty with foreign nations. The Act of Geo. III, gave to the magistrates of the cities of Montreal and Quebec certain powers, by which they were enabled to decide in cases of desertion, any difficulties arising between seamen and masters of vessels; and it had been found necessary to extend the provisions of that Act to the crews of vessels that did not belong to the British dominions. A number of seamen having deserted from vessels which had arrived at Quebec during the last spring, the captains had called upon the magistrates were of opinion that their jurisdiction did not extend to the subjects or citizens of foreign counties, and therefore refused to interfere. And for the purpose of ascertaining if their construction of the Act was correct, a mandamus issued calling upon them to show cause why they considered themselves prevented from deciding in the cases referred to , and the judges decided very properly that the Act of Geo. III. gave them jurisdiction over British subjects only, and did not extend to those of foreign nations. It therefore, as he had already stated, was deemed necessary to extend their jurisdiction to the vessels of foreign nations; and under that impression the Lower House had passed the Bill under consideration. But it had been suggested that if the Bill were passed, and was acted upon, difficulties would arise from its application to foreigners; and in this way the Home Government might be brought into collision with foreign governments. There are only three cases, he said, in which the magistrate can exercise jurisdiction over foreigners; where they refer their difficulties to his decision by mutual consent—another case in where it is provided by treaty with a foreign nation, that he may exercise jurisdiction where difficulties arise between subjects of the two governments; and thirdly, where he is authorised to exercise his jurisdiction upon application of a foreign consul. It was therefore brought that if the bill went into operation, magistrates would feel authorised to exercise the same jurisdiction with reference to foreign seamen, as is conferred by the Act of Geo. III. with reference to British subjects, who would proceed to fine and detain parties in prison, by which difficulties would be created with foreign powers. For this reason the amendments which would be submitted to the committee had been suggested; in preparing which, similar laws existing in England and the United States had been examined, and the provisions of the bill had been so amended, that while foreigners would attain the summary justice that might be necessary; care was taken that no difficulty could arise with their respective nations.
The amendments were then read and passed in committee, which were subsequently agreed to when the House resumed; and the following day was appointed for its third reading.
The Report of the Select Committee on the Bill for conferring powers of the Corporation of Hamilton and other corporations in the Province, to take stock in the Great Western Railroad was then taken up in Committee.
Hon. Mr. DEBLACQUIERE said, the object of the Bill was to authorise assessments to be made, for the purpose of aiding the Great Western Railroad Company in their undertaking. This Company, he said, had been a long time in operation, without making much progress; and they now make application, that their charter may be amended, that the same powers shall be extended to them, as belong to the Atlantic Railroad Company; and that municipal bodies might be allowed to take stock. The petitions from the Corporation of Hamilton and St. Catherines are to the same effect; and it was stated there is a fourth petition from Middlesex. By these petitions it is proposed that the charters may be so amended, that while these Corporations shall be authorised to take stock, the same powers may be extended to any municipal corporation throughout the Province. This, he said, was a proposition calculated to be so disastrous in its effects particularly after what had occurred in England; that he hoped the House would pause before it extended such powers to corporations generally, as would enable them to invest the funds that might be raised in railway purposes. Before proceeding farther, he said he should like to know whether a particular rule of that hon. House had been complied with; and whether due notice had been given in the Official Gazette, which was thereby required, and which was extended to guard against this description of legislation, and to secure to parties interested due notice that their property or rights were about to be interfered with. The first question, therefore, to determine was, whether the rule he referred to had been complied with? It was true, petitions had been presented from the Corporation of Hamilton and other places; but had due notice of the application been published in accordance with good faith and justice? It was for the House to decide the question; but he put it to honourable gentlemen whether the rights of the people which were thus guarded, were to be effected by such loose legislation? That was a question which he should like to have considered.—There were persons in Hamilton who are possessed of vast property, who may have heard that an application was about to be made to the Legislature, but who did not know that it was proposed to confer on its corporation powers by which a proportion of that property would be pledged for the payment of £100,000. No one, the hon. gentleman said, valued railroads more than he did, or considered them to be of more importance to the Province; whose prosperity, he considered, is wound up in their success. But what he most feared, was giving discretionary power to Municipal Councils to subscribe, by which property would be taxed without reference to the wishes of the inhabitants. He thought a serious duty devolved upon the Government in this respect; and that had that of England done what it ought to have done, and provided for the establishment of minor trucks before the different branches were commenced, much of the serious difficulty which afterwards occurred would have been avoided. He should not take up the time of the House by entering into details upon the subject, but this was the view entertained by the Duke of Wellington when he was at the head of the Administration, but whose views unfortunately were not carried out; and the result was, a profligate and wasteful expenditure of money. And if this country would avoid similar disasters, the Government would see that a proper line of railroad was selected. Upon reference to the Journals of the House, the hon. gentleman said it would be found that before the union of the two Provinces, he brought under its notice a resolution in accordance with the arguments he was then advancing; and the same arguments applied at the present day. He believed the Great Western Railroad to be one of the great arteries of the Province, but he would not undertake to say whether the route from Hamilton or Lake Erie were the best; another Company had been started, which asserted that the former was not the true line; and such, he understood, was the opinion of persons well acquainted with the subject. He believed, however, that the two companies were about coming to an agreement. He thought it should be satisfactorily shown that the proposed line was a correct one; but because it might be useful to parts of the country through which it passed, it did not follow that other parts of the Province were to be taxed to open it. He should therefore move to limit the assistance which was sought, to those districts which were more particularly interested, and likely to be benefitted by the undertaking.
Hon. Mr. GOODHUE said no person was more desirous than himself that legislation should be conducted with a proper degree of caution; and the objections of the application of extending the powers of Municipal Councils in the manner proposed, was entitled to every consideration. But the Railroad referred to would never be opened, except with the assistance of the Province and these bodies; no individual would contribute his funds except it were for a mere local improvement in which he might be interested; nor could any assistance be expected from England and the United States, unless there was an assurance that other than individual support would be obtained. In undertaking in the United States, where capital was more abundant, individuals had subscribed largely, because public faith had been pledged. In Massachusetts, he said, six millions of dollars had been appropriated in this way for the opening of a Railroad to Albany, to which that city had contributed; which had been productive of great advantage to the country. The Lake Erie Railroad had been built almost entirely upon the credit of the city of New York; and a large portion of the road must have been abandoned, which is at present under contract, had it not been for the aid which was thus afforded, and which offers advantages which no other line possesses. He (Mr. G.) was not prepared to grant power to the extent asked for in the present instance; but if it were confined to places through which the Railroad was to pass, he thought it might be legitimately granted to them. If payment of three-fourths of the contemplated expense were subscribed in this Province, Americans, who own stock in other Railroads, would take the remainder. Taking the road on the opposite side of the Lake, he said, would increase the distance to Detroit 150 miles. He was not prepared to say that the line which had been selected was the best, but it would be found to be the most direct and beneficial to the country; and every town and village through which it passed would be benefitted. The produce of the upper country he said, must be landed at Hamilton, which was the only direct route whether it is intended for Montreal or New York; and which should never go to [illegible]. Already £18,000, being five per cent. [illegible] capital which was subscribed for the Great Western Railroad, had been paid in—£15,000 of [illegible] had been expended; but persons in England and elsewhere would not pay further dividends unless the completion of the road were guaranteed in the manner proposed. In the United States, he said, Companies are formed for expending money on railroads, much of which was subscribed by European capitalists, who agree to make the railroad and take certificates of stock or Provincial debentures as security for their outlay; and if the Great Western Railroad was not encouraged by the Province, and if the Legislature did not grant the assistance asked for, the undertaking must be given up; and if that were the case, the inhabitants on the South side of Lake Erie would open a line in that direction. He did not wish to injure them, but only to secure the travel which belongs to this Province, and the transportation of heavy goods, by railroad; and thus avoid the heavy expenses that are incurred in forwarding them by either of the present routes. He agreed with the hon. member, [Mr. DeBlacquiere,] that the proposed Bill would confer dangerous powers; but corporations, like individuals, would not subscribe to take stock, if they did not expect to derive benefit from the investment; and the Counties of Essex, Kent, and others, which he named, he said would derive advantage from the contemplated railroad. He hoped the Committee would not reject the Bill; railroads might be a new undertaking here, he said, but that was not the case in other countries; and the stimulus, however beneficial it might be in a local point of view, would be felt throughout the Province. He believed the surveys were good, and the right of way for a considerable distance had been secured. He had no objection to restricting the Bill to the councils, which had petitioned, and that they should be required to submit the vote for the approval of their constituents, before it should be acted upon.
Hon. Mr. MILLS said the people of Hamilton were desirous of seeing the railroad opened; and every one who had the means had taken stock; they are already heavily taxed, and if the proposal were carried into effect, those taxes would be doubled. He was opposed to granting powers by which those who had already taken stock, and he was one who had done so, would be subjected to an additional tax for the same object.
Hon. Mr. DEBLACQUIERE said the public, which is the party most concerned, had not been heard from. The inhabitants in the vicinity of the railroad might consider the undertaking a good one, and yet not consent to have their property taxed for its accomplishment. In his judgement, the best method to induce capital to flow into the country would be prudent legislation. In consequence of what he had heard from hon. Members, his objections were stronger than at first.
Hon. Mr. MCGILL said people sometimes embarked in imprudent speculations. However glad he would be to see the Great Western Railroad in operation, yet parties more immediately interested in the undertaking, had not laid out a sufficient sum to induce the Legislature to assist the Company in the manner proposed. The Atlantic Railroad, he said, had expended £200,000 before they obtained a loan from the ecclesiastical establishments of Montreal; and he should like to see the Great Western Railroad Company making exertions, and private stockholders coming forward, before the House was called upon to assist them. He believed, as had been remarked, that whatever funds could be raised were required for local improvements; and were the interest on the proposed loan added to the other assessments, it might embarrass the inhabitants of the district that would be affected very much, and prevent other local improvements from being proceeded with. He understood there was a desire on the part of hon. members to refer the report back to the select committee. He should like to see the railroad advance, but private stock must be first subscribed, and put little had been laid out on the road; the places on the route, he said, would be greatly benefitted by the undertaking.
Hon. Mr. DEBLACQUIERE said, the council of Hamilton applied for authority to invest £100,000 in the railroad. There was something definite in that. The other petitions prayed that councils generally might take stock in this and similar undertakings. It was, he repeated, an important question; as if any error was committed by party legislation, the province had nothing to fall back upon. This railroad, he said, had been in contemplation for years; and there was no means of knowing what had been subscribed, or what subscriptions are expected. In England, no measure of a similar kind is permitted to pass, unless the entire stock is forthcoming.
Hon. SPEAKER agreed with the hon. gentlemen who had preceded him, that it was not advisable to grant the unlimited power that had been applied for; which it was never intended municipal corporations should possess, and which might be attended with dangerous consequences. If the committee should be of opinion that the Great Western Railroad is so much required; there could be no objection to referring the report back to the select committee, to see if by certain restrictions and resolutions, those bodies might not be prevented from going too far, and injuring the interests of their constituents. He would not vest power exclusively in municipalities; but when a Corporation had decided that help should be granted, that decision ought to be confirmed by a majority of its constituents. In that case the interests of those who were most interested, would probably not be injuriously affected, as they would be the best judges. If two-thirds of the constituency considered the undertaking advantageous, the Council might then carry out its decision; and if the rate-payers did not give their consent, a remedy would be afforded against sacrifices that might otherwise be made. He was very much opposed to the introduction of a principle, which might have an injurious tendency, because a county might be heavily taxed, at the instance of some ten or twelve persons who might be interested. He did not apply this remark to the Corporation of Hamilton; but the Legislature must make laws that will provide for exigencies, and which will prevent the possibility of mischief. As the report would probably go to the select committee again, they would probably meet the views of parties, consistent with a due regard to the rights and interests of the public. He should therefore move that the committee report progress, and ask leave to sit again.
Hon. Mr. BOULTON considered the present as an application for extraordinary powers to be conferred on Corporations; and if the Bill was to be passed, he hoped there would be proper limitations inserted; otherwise, as had been remarked, persons who were interested might encourage useless undertakings. He therefore approved of the suggestion to refer it back to the select committee, who might ascertain whether it would not pass in some other shape. He was desirous of seeing public improvement; the Great Western Railroad had been for a long time talked about; and he was sorry to see that no small a sum had been subscribed. Before the Legislature interfered, therefore he should like to see something done.
Hon. Mr. ROSS said it was not his intention to have troubled the Committee with any remarks, but there appeared to be a desire to restrict the operation of the Bill; the effect of which would be to defeat the intention of the other branch of Legislature in passing it. It was not desirable to do that. The Corporations through which the Great Western Railroad runs, ought to be allowed to take stock. It was a disgrace to Upper Canada, that there is no concentration of capital or ability, for the opening of communication throughout the Province by means of Railroad. In Lower Canada, means were found to do this; and why were not such undertakings commenced in Upper Canada, which would pay there if they would pay anywhere. Unless something was done to aid the Great Western Railroad Company, it would not succeed. He understood hon. members were willing to allow Municipal Councils in places through which the Railroad will run, to take stock. With that understanding, he would vote for the report being referred back to the select committee.
The House then resumed, when it was agreed to refer the report to the select committee which had examined the Bill, to which the hon. Messrs. Macaulay, James Morris, Ross, Boulton, and De Blacquiere were added.
The House then adjourned.
DEBATE ON THE CONSTITUTION.
Mr. BOULTON (Toronto) rose to move the adoption of his resolutions to amend the constitution. He alluded in very severe language to the counting out of the House a few nights since, and claimed as a matter of right—for he had no reason to expect any favour from the other side of the House—as a member for the City of Toronto, that he should be heard on the resolutions he held in his hand, and that no repetition of that proceeding should be adopted, as it only had the effect of retarding the business of the country. The treatment he had received on that occasion was not only unfair to him, but unfair to his constituents, for he did not bring in those resolutions because he was alone anxious of a change, or because he wanted to manufacture political capital, but because he was convinced that the substance of them was approved of by a large majority of the people of this Province; and as a matter of justice to them he claimed a fair discussion of his proposition. If there was no good in it, why then it could very easily be disposed of, but if he could show that it was founded on just principles, and he thought he had it in his power to do so, then it should be adopted, or such portion of it at least, as could not be objected to. Since he had introduced these resolutions, the hon. member for Simcoe had laid before the House certain amendments, and he must confess he was at a loss to understand the hon. gentleman’s language, when he spoke of his proposition as being revolutionary. It had nothing of a revolutionary character about it, so far as he could judge: it was, in fact, the opinion of a very large proportion of the electors of Canada, supported by the views of the most enlightened English Statesmen. They considered, and he proposed, that the elective principle should be more fully developed, and, as two other honourable gentlemen had already done, that the Legislative Council should be rendered elective. Every person knew that Lord J. Russell himself stated in his place in Parliament that it was desirable to extend to the colonies the elective principle; that all the colonies of Britain should have the power of governing themselves, and after comparing his resolutions with the speech of the Noble Lord, he would wish to be informed whether they came properly within the definition—revolutionary. He looked on that speech as an invitation to the colonies to say whether they desired any change in their constitution so as to adapt it more to their wants and wishes. They all knew that was not an expression of opinion in consequence of anything that had recently occurred, but that the question of an Elective Council had agitated the country for several years, and now that it was taken up by the Prime Minister of England, surely he was justified in acting in accordance with the views of the people, and in accordance with the views expressed by him. To probe that he was not singular in the course he had taken, he read an extract from the ninety-two resolutions, for which the Attorney-General East and several of the members sitting opposite, had voted in past years. That principle had been affirmed very lately by a considerable portion of a very respectable body who lately met in this city, and having been elected by the most influential persons in the Province, their opinion was entitled to great weight. That opinion was even entertained by a great many gentlemen who sat in that House, and had been taken up, as he already said, by two hon. gentlemen; and when he heard the Attorney-General oppose the motion of his hon. friend the member for Gaspe, because it involved other considerations for which no provision was made, he thought there would be little harm in his bringing in a set of resolutions in which that defect was remedied, and which he proposed to refer to a Committee on Finance, in order to see how far they might be carried into effect without affecting the financial interests. Now he did not know what was meant by the charge brought against him of espousing republican theories. There were but three forms of government, the monarchial, aristocratical and the democratic. No one would say we had a monarchial government. It certainly was not aristocratical, and therefore it must be admitted that in reality our government is a democracy. He supposed, however, that the hon. member for Simcoe wished to make it appear, that the effect of his resolutions would be to sever the connection with Britain, as he had completely failed in proving that they were of a republican tendency. He had always acted hitherto in concert with that hon. gentleman, was just as much attacked to the connection as he could possibly be; and he would defy him to point out a single clause which would prevent the government from working in harmony with that of Britain. If he could show that, he (Mr. B.) would abandon them at once. But the hon. gentleman had contented himself with asserting that they were of a republican tendency. Well, he (Mr. Boulton) asserted that our institutions are now republican. It was all nonsense to tell him the contrary. The institutions of the Great Britain are republican, ours are modelled from them, and he deserved nothing more than that they should be made to work smoothly and harmoniously. He then read the resolution, which declares that the Provincial Surveyor or Engineer shall always be a practical Engineer, and limits the salary of that officer and the Attorney General to £500 per annum. Was there any thing very revolutionary in that? On the contrary, was it not an absurdity to appoint to the head of the Public Works department a lawyer or doctor? They had experienced the practical evils resulting from that system, in the utter inefficiency of the department for want of a skilful head. With respect to the other part of the resolution in might be supposed that he had framed it for the purpose of making a little capital out of it. Nothing was further from his intentions. He only desired that every one of the public servants should be paid a fair remuneration for their services and nothing more, and in order that he might not be supposed to be influenced by any feelings of hostility to the hon. gentlemen who now sit on the Treasury Benches, he would say that if they were of the same political views with himself he would act exactly in the same manner. It might perhaps be said that the mere amount of salary paid to a public official was a matter of very little consequence, but he asserted on the contrary that it had the greatest influence on the state of society, and he would prove it by comparing the condition of Canada with that of the State of Massachusetts. He had travelled a great deal in the neighbouring States, and he found that one was naturally the poorest in the Union, not possessing more good agricultural soil than in to be found in the Home District, and yet he found in it a population of a million and a half, enjoying advantages superior to what the same number of people possesses in any other part of the world. He found that their public debt was little more than a million of dollars, whilst we in the enjoyment of the finest agricultural country on the continent owe a debt of four or five millions. He found that the revenue for the support of Government is derived almost solely from sources which do not bear heavily on the people, while we have to pay to the Government the tenth of the value of every article that is imported for our use. He found that their entire expenditure did not exceed £54,000, and their revenue amounted to £175,000. They had asylums for the blind, the deaf, the dumb, whilst to our shame we have nothing of the kind, but are obliged to send those unfortunate beings to one of those republican States, to obtain that instruction, which we, with larger means, cannot give them. What was the reason that such a great difference was perceptible? Could any one account for it? He should endeavour to do so, and he would say that it was attributable to the very low rate of salary paid to the officials, and the consequent cheap government with which they are blessed. If others would give the subject as much consideration as he had, he believed they would come to the same conclusion. The fact was that the state of feeling in Massachusetts was very different from what it is Canada, for the people are not accustomed to look upon public employment as the most lucrative or as the best means of advancing their interests. It is looked upon as rather an inferior employment, and the consequence is that the most intelligent men—the leading men in that community instead of bringing up their children to the law as the custom is here—so that numbers can scarcely find the means of existence, bring them up to commercial pursuits, and the result is, that prosperity which astonishes every one who is acquainted with them. It was impossible for them to form a Monarchical Government in this new country, it would have been absurd; an aristocracy would have been equally so, and they adopted as good a system as they could at the time. They had no national aristocracy and so they established an unnatural aristocracy, a class of men with high salaries, which raised them above their fellow citizens. They despised the labour of commerce. Nothing would do for them but the learned professions in which there was not room for all. Most of them did not earn their bread; their time, which might have been useful to their country, was wasted. There was a want of self reliance in the community; there was not a man who was thrown out of a situation of £200 or £300 a-year, who did not feel that he was ruined for life. That was not the feeling which ought to exist in a young country; if a man had industry and moral character there could be no danger of him failing in making a livelihood. A great quantity of produce lost value for want of internal communication. Wheat in Galt was worth only 4s. per bushel, while in Toronto it was worth 5s. 6d., a difference caused by that want. These practical measures were of the greatest importance to the community. The Attorney General compared England with the United States much to the advantage of the former. He had lately gone into a hardware store to buy a hammer, and he was shown an English and an American hammer. (Laughter.) He had brought them to the house to show the difference between the two. (Here the hon. member stopped, and amid roars of laughter, took from under his desk two hammers, very different in shape from one another.) There was the English one—(holding up one is his right hand)—did ever they see such a looking instrument? [Laughter.] Well here was the other. [Roars of laughter.] And so marked was the difference, that the American article had completely driven the English out of the market. Who would not have a Government to train a people who could make such hammers. [Shouts of laughter.] An hon. member had told him, when he had spoken of these hammers, that he ought to see the English axes. Well he had gone and enquired for an English axe, and he was told that they did not import them; and there were no American axes made in England. [Laughter, and the hon. member apologised for the bull.] But such mis-shapen things that no man could use them. He was told that a merchant in Canada had got a model made of wood of an American axe, and had sent it to England to get some made like it. He had not the hold cut for the handle, but merely marked out with pencil; and what did they do but send them out without holes at all. (Laughter.) That was the result of the institutions of England. He was told, however, that if they had no English axes they had English adzes, and so he had brought an English and an American one, that they might compare them. (Laughter.) (Holding up the English one.) Did they ever see such a miserable looking tool as that.
Dr. DAVIGNON rose to order. He wished to know if the hon. member was in order in bringing edge tools into the House. (Laughter.)
The SPEAKER said that he could not say the member was out of order unless he brandished them in a dangerous manner. [Loud laughter.]
Mr. BOULTON continued. Here was an American one, and whether was it desirable to have people to make this or that. [Laughter.]
A VOICE—We are not obliged to buy them.
Mr. BOULTON—No, he did not say they were; he only introduced them to show the effects of the different forms of government. Mr. Boulton then proceeded to show the advantage or educing salaries to effect an improvement in the making of hammers [as we understood him] and to advocate other changes recommended in his resolutions.
Hon. Mr. ROBINSON would assure his hon. friend from Toronto (Mr. Boulton) that nothing gave him more regret that that the resolution he had introduced should have given rise to the amendment which he was about to propose. They might consider their respective resolutions in a different light, but they must speak for themselves. Upon referring to the second of these resolutions it would be found, that the terms revolutionary and republican might with justice be applied to it; he [Mr. R.] did not mean that it was contemplated by force of arms to change the government of the country. The hon. member, in the course of his speech, had referred to a declaration of Lord John Russell; and were that nobleman present, he would apply to his observations the same censure. His next reference, he [Mr. R.] regretted to say, was to the ninety-two resolutions of the Parliament of Lower Canada; and he would refer the House to the Journals of that period, to show the views which that House then took of those resolutions. On the 20th April, 1836, he [Mr. R.] moved the following resolutions, which was seconded by Mr., now Sir Allan McNab:—
“Resolved, that the letter from L. J. Papineau, Esq., the Hon. Speaker of Lower Canada, dated the 15th March, and also certain resolutions adopted by that body of the 15th February last, on the political state of the British American Colonies, both of which were directed to the Hon. Speaker of the House, as its organ, and by him laid on the table, on the evening of yesterday, contain sentiments and opinions subversive of the true principles of the British Constitution; which this House, representing the loyal inhabitants of Upper Canada, do not respond to, but most distinctly and decidedly dissent from, be not entered on the Journals of the House, but returned to the Speaker of the House of Assembly of Lower Canada.”’
The ninety-two resolutions were received the evening before the prorogation, and there was no time to express the feeling which was entertained with reference to them; but that was the view taken by a vast majority of the people of Upper Canada at the time; and he [Mr. R.] for one had not since changed his sentiments. The learned member for Norfolk had stated on a former day, that the separation of this Province from the Parent State was a mere question of time. Such opinions, he said, went forth to the country, and might do a great deal of harm. He [Mr. R.] regretted that these questions were continually coming up, and he did not think it right merely to vote them down, but to meet them with counter resolutions. The resolutions under consideration went to produce an entire change in the system of government; and among other arguments that had been resorted to, was the difference in the price of wheat in Toronto and on the seaboard; although every one acquainted with the subject knew, that it was regulated by the selling price in England. The erroneous views and sentiments had a tendency to create discontent among ignorant people throughout the country. He [Mr. R.] was happy to hear the learned member for Toronto say that he was in favour of the connexion with the Mother Country. If that were the case he hoped that the present would be the last attempt he would make to disturb it. The hon. gentleman said he would call the attention of the House to the resolutions he meant to propose in amendment. In doing so, however, he would not admit that this Province was so far behind the United States as is represented; and thought that no part of them could offer greater inducements to men of property to settle than Canada does; and men, within his own knowledge, had come to this country poor and destitute, who live now in comfortable and independent circumstances. He concluded by saying, that in his opinion the members of government at the commencement of the session, should have introduced Resolutions expressive of the sentiments of the House on the subject of separation. No man was more opposed to the present ministry than himself; but he was not disposed to change the constitution of the Province, because they might commit errors. If the people sustained them at the next election he should be sorry for it. In the mean time, he thought, the House should read a lesson to every part of the country.
Mr. H. SHERWOOD did not desire to express an opinion as to the constitution of the United States, or of the several States individually; but would make one or two observations in the first instance, as to the constitution of the Legislative Council; he had said on a former occasion, and he believed it still, that if it were elective it would be a wiser and better body; and if the people, as he, Mr. S., believed, was the case, were desirous of retaining British connexion, there was no fear that any one would be sent there who would be actuated by improper feelings. It was a considerable time, he said, and after he had conferred with many well-informed individuals upon the subject, that he came to the conclusion that this was desirable, Hon. gentlemen would recollect that he had before expressed himself as not desirous of agitating the subject at the present time, and had stated that the members of the present House were not sent there to make violent changes; but he would leave the question to be discussed by the people at the next election. Having said this, he would add that he entirely repudiated the sentiments entertained in the Resolutions. His learned colleague might say that he was in favour of British connexion; but if his views were carried out, British connexion would be severed to all intents and purposes. He had not used arguments which satisfied him that the views developed in those resolutions were right, and he (Mr. S.) was wrong; and expertness is making hammers and axes afforded no reason for changing the constitution. If the Americans invented improvements, they can be carried out in this Province, and perhaps be improved upon; and he did see what the constitution had to do with manufacturers. So long as the British Government dealt with the Province in that spirit of liberality, justice and good faith which has hitherto characterized them, so long would he be desirous of maintaining the connexion with the parent State; and not only would he renew again and again his oath of allegiance, but would subscribe a declaration of unaltered attachment. And he would say farther, that the views entertained by his hon. colleague were contrary to those entertained by his constituents; and even in the City of Toronto where these resolutions had been disseminated, but a few factious people could be found to support them.
Mr. PAPINEAU said the mover of the original resolutions had pointed out defects in the constitution of the Province, and proposed a remedy. The honourable member for Simcoe proposed an amendment supporting that constitution. Was it in accordance with the principles of the British constitution he would ask, when such alterations are proposed as had been that day suggested, for Ministers to sit still, and not express an opinion on the subject, or as to what are the views of Government? Had the hon. member for Simcoe known what was proper, he would have kept modestly silent, and left those who were paid for it, and who were in possession of all the honours and emoluments to have introduced his resolutions; who found fault with useful measures because they were not introduced by members on their side, and yet proposed nothing themselves. The resolutions of the learned member for Toronto came properly before the House, and if they did not approve of them, why not bring in other proposals, which, if adopted might be productive of benefit to the country.
Mr. LAFONTAINE had remained silent as long as the hon. member for St. Maurice confined his attacks to himself, but it was impossible for him to do so when he repeated without cessation his gross calumnies upon the representatives of his countrymen. Last session he had replied to that hon. gentleman, and this session he had also been forced to tell him that he stated what was not true; he hoped it would not be necessary to reply to him again. The hon. member for St. Maurice said that no honest man would take office under our present constitution, because it was bad, because it was no better than the one which preceded it; and asserted that the constitution of 1791 was far more liberal. He would go back to the year 1820, and look at a speech delivered by the hon. member for St. Maurice on the hustings. The hon. gentlemen had been in France since he delivered that speech, he made great promises then, he promised that the whole continent of America should disclaim all connection with a European power, that he would easily bring about a revolution in Canada; but the revolution of 1848 took him by surprise, and he was not able to accomplish his purpose. This virtuous man, this moral man, this courageous man—it was some consolation for Canada that, in a population of a million and a half, she had at least one virtuous man—in 1820, just previous to an election, passed a high eulogy on the Sovereign who had died only a short time before, and said that he had given to Canada a free constitution. Those were the sentiments of the hon. gentleman at that period. He well knew that abuses existed in the constitution at that time, that the Legislature was powerless. But the hon. gentleman was omnipotent, he was within a short time appointed a Cabinet councillor. How was it that he forgot all the glories of that constitution now, and tried to make it appear that they had been in a state of constant servitude. Did he believe that what he said was true? No, he did not. But he was actuated by a desire of making everything that passed through his imagination pass for true, without stopping to enquire whether it was or not. He had now, he had always accused his fellow-countrymen of servility, without stopping to enquire whether it was true. He had accused him (Mr. Lafontaine) of despotism. Was there any one of his colleagues that he had ever asked, how he intended to vote on any particular question. (Cheers from the French members and cries of “never.”) On the contrary it was a mark of reproach with many that he did not do so, but he would rather abandon his seat than attempt to control that house in its decisions. But he had said more. He said that they wanted courage, that they dared not face a mob! Was it for him to talk of courage? Did he forget his past life. Did he not blush as he mentioned the word? Or was he so really forgetful that he thought he was courageous? Was it not the fact, that he was afraid when he landed on the shores of Toronto? Did he tremble before that part of the population, which he thought would possibly renew the scenes of Montreal? Did he not try to conciliate and approve them? Was not this unceasing abuse of the ministry intended by him for that purpose? Ah! he would say; the ministry are to blame. I have not spared them. They deserve all the violence they have had to endure, but I—I am opposed to them, I am their enemy, protect me, and do not make me experience also the effects of your rage! Courageous man! Skilful politician! How well was it for him to bring want of courage as an accusation against others. He had followed up this well founded change with another of the same stamp, but in rather more moderate language than he had used in making it a month ago, when he accused him (Mr. S.) and his colleagues of a desire to shed innocent blood. Could the hon’ble member for St. Maurice establish any proof of that assertion? He waited for a reply.
Mr. PAPINEAU denied having ever made such a charge. He had said some time ago, that the ministry were to blame for not having instantly corrected the imprudent speech of one of their supporters who said, he hoped to see the Knight of Dundurn and ten other leaders of the conservative party answer in the dock for the atrocities of the Montreal riots.
Mr. LAFONTAINE continued. The hon’ble member for St. Maurice was not content with making these accusations once, he had repeated them in seven or eight speeches, something attacking him (Mr. Lafontaine) alone, sometimes including the whole of the Cabinet, apparently for the purpose of obtaining a character for independence. He could tell that hon. gentleman that if the ministry had shed blood, that in spite of all his vehement attacks, nothing would have pleased him better, nothing could have afforded his party in Montreal more pleasure, but the hon. gentleman had evidently been tutored by some one on the other side, who having more respect for him than he had for himself, had convinced him of the necessity of altering his tone, and he had in consequence, assumed a moderation in language that was far from being natural to him. The hon. gentleman would now willingly disclaim many of the harsh expressions, much of the furious language in which he had formerly clothed his views. He now blamed the government for the Lower Canada School Law. Was that law passed by the present government? Did he not know perfectly well that it was passed by the late Administration? He [Mr. L.] was so convinced of the necessity of amending the School Bill introduced by them, that although in opposition, he had tendered his assistance to make its provisions effective. Who was that administration composed of? Why, the brother and the uncle of the hon. member for St. Maurice.
Mr. PAPINEAU.—What of that?
Mr. LAFONTAINE continued—What of that? Why that administration had kept the hon. member silent from the time that he returned to the Province. He is now, however, independent, at least he attempts to get a name for independence, and he says that the law is unpopular. Yes, it is unpopular, and although he used it as a means to inflame the masses and excite their worst passions, in order to put himself at their head, he (Mr. L.) was ready to meet him on that ground, and he would tell him he would rather lose his seat in that house than consent to allow the children of French Canadians to be brought up in ignorance. Well, the hon. member for St. Maurice and out constitution was a very bad one, that no honest man would take office. What was the reason it was so bad? Because a quorum consisted of only 20 members. (Hear, and laughter.) There was another reason, also. If under our institutions there were any possibility of having two or three Speakers instead of one, the hon. gentleman would not think it was quite so bad, and perhaps others would be found to agree with him in opinion. Well, when he (Mr. Lafontaine) took his seat in Parliament the first time, the House was composed of eighty-four members, and 21 formed a quorum, and there never was such a full attendance then as there was under present circumstances. Did he then find fault with the constitution because twenty-one members were a quorum? Not at all. His speech of 1820 would make you believe that it was the best constitution in the world. But since he had been at Paris, he had discovered many abuses which never existed before, and had borrowed the language of the Marche aux Halles to heap on him and on his colleagues epithets, that he would not dare to use, were he not protected by the sanctity of the place. He had associated with the Socialists of the present day—his friendships were with the men who played a part in the scenes of the revolution—but even those men were obliged to interfere. He had published a pamphlet, the effect of which was to alarm the English Government and largely increase the number of unfortunate people who were transported to Van Dieman’s land. It was called “Letter to First;” was the second ever published? What was the reason it was never published? Because, as he (Mr. L.) had been told by a gentleman well acquainted with the details, the Socialists, the men of the revolution, saw the effect that letter would have, and prevented the publication of the second.
Mr. PAPINEAU said it was absolutely untrue.
Mr. LAFONTAINE was sorry for that. They showed their goodness of heart by their conduct.—But there was one thing it was in vain to deny, that the publication of that pamphlet three months before the prisoners were sent to VanDiaman’s land was followed by the most unhappy effects. His object as he [Mr. L.] was told, is now to get himself at the head of the masses by indulging in every kind of tirade. It was not at all unlikely that a man who had lost all the principles of honour which ought to distinguish a Canadian might think of doing so; but nevertheless he doubted it, for he like every one else had been struck with a feeling of surprise when he listened to his speech on the Seignorial Tenure. That speech showed that the hon. member for St. Maurice felt the truth of the saying, that if the Seigneurs did not facilitate the settlement of that question, they would be paid in five minutes, in accordance with the doctrines preached not by him but by the papers in his interest, and which he had only turned his back on when he saw what it would lead to. He at length began to discover that society was based on the security of private property. That to destroy society would render the latter insecure. He immediately denied all his former opinions, he forgot everything unsuited to his new character—if it were conducive to his interests. He would at last forget the 92 resolutions. He saw the fatal result of the doctrines he had preached since his turn from Paris, in the hope that he would get the Colonies to follow his guidance. He found to his surprise that his efforts were in vain. He now falls back. He is a Seigneur. He holds property.—He must save it. He will therefore forget, deny every principle he advocated before. At the same time he must shew his independence of character—for that purpose he must traduce his countrymen, he must traduce their representatives. It was not enough merely to say that Mr. Lafontaine was unworthy of office—that he was a despot—no; he must add that the whole body of Lower Canada representatives are servile, and then if the opposition cheered him too strongly, then he added that one side was as bad as the other. [Laughter.] He desired in short to show that there was but one honest courageous, virtuous person in the House, and that was himself. Let him beware how he indulged in those reckless attacks; let him attack himself [Mr. Lafontaine] he could bear it, but let him cease to insult the representatives of Lower Canada, and through them the whole body of his countrymen. This was the second time he [Mr. Lafontaine] had replied to him this Session, he hoped he would not have to do so another time.
Mr. HOLMES said, that a change in the Constitution was demanded by the people of every part of the Province. He meant a change to the Elective principle, a principle that was not advocated merely on his side of the House, but was approved of by many on the other side also. Yet that demand was now to be resisted and repulsed by the assertion that it was republican and revolutionary. Well, suppose it was republican. What then? Was not Britain a limited republic? Was not her Sovereign a limited Monarch. The efforts of Hampden, Sidney and Russell were directed towards that point, and fortunately the Sovereign is now obliged to govern strictly in accordance with the views of the people who had their power to effect such changes as they required from time to time. He was surprised at the high toned loyalty of hon. gentlemen when speaking of these resolutions. It was a description of loyalty that had been once already termed spurious, it was not at all impossible that the same term would be applied to it again. One would think that Canada was a perfect Elysium, where every thing was so perfect, that no change was needed but the truth was, it could bear no comparison with the neighbouring States, either in an agricultural, commercial, or political point of view, and he was desirous of such changes being brought as would place it in the same happy condition. He would therefore oppose the amendment of the hon. member for Simcoe, but at the same time, he must say that he could not support the resolutions before the House, as earnestly as if they emanated from any other member whose antecedents showed that he was sincere.
Mr. RICHARDS was of opinion that the grand reason why the people of L. Canada were backward in agricultural and commercial enterprise was because they wanted a spirit of self-reliance, and that they depended on the government to do everything for them. A direct change to republicanism would not effect a cure at once, for it was not the Government that formed the character, nevertheless, the Lower Canadians, if put in full possession of the Municipal system and taught to rely more on themselves would not be behind hand. They are now advancing in the right direction and in half a century more need not envy any part of the world. He did not see any necessity for discussing these resolutions now, but was of opinion that they would do a great deal better if they took up those practical measures the Province really required, then to waste time in discussing theories.
Mr. PRINCE was surprised at the apathy displayed by the House in approaching this great and important question. One hon. member stated that they were not supported by the opinions of one-third of his hon. friend’s constituents. He knew better than that, for he had made himself acquainted with the views of the good people of Toronto—with whom, in fact, he had become very intimate, for he was not bound by any strict ideas of what is fashionable, but frequently smoked his cigar among them in the bar, acquiring useful information in the easy converse of sociality, and at the same time enjoying himself—and he was confident that not only a large proportion of his hon. friend’s constituents, but a very large proportion of the population of Canada were in favor of the principle of these resolutions. Look at the movement in the Western country since he had the honor of taking his seat this Session. The Globe chose to assert for him—for he had not the slightest recollection of having uttered anything of the kind himself, but whatever the Globe said, must of course be true—that at the time of presenting his unfortunate Petition for Independence, he offered to resign on a requisition to that effect being signed by one hundred and fifty of his constituents. Well, what followed? A lot of noodles scoured his county, in order to get a hundred and fifty names to the requisition; and at length it came with the names of just six noodles attacked to it; three of them signing with a cross, while one of the other three was a fellow of the name of Lafferte, whom he had saved from the punishment which he stood in danger of incurring from the share he had in a certain transaction. Now to apply the argument. He told the Attorney General when that petition was thrown out that very great dissatisfaction was felt throughout the country at the present system of government; and the proof was, that after flattering and bribing his constituents only six ignorant names could be secured for a requisition to recall him who desired to upset the Government. The day would come, the day will come, it is now hastening on, when the people will insist on the changes proposed by his hon. friend and himself and would point the finger of scorn at the men who now oppose them—although convinced of their absolute necessity, and have no better way of getting rid of them than the very convenient method of treating them with lightness. These resolutions were exactly the same in effect as the 92 resolutions, they were to remedy the same abuse, but the fact was that the two Attorney Generals were proceeding in the right course and coming at last to a sense of their duty, and from what he could gather there was a very general opinion out of doors that the Attorney General West would turn out a good, red hot, honest Tory—if there existed an honest Tory (laughter) in the world. He contended that the Commissioner of Public Works should be a practical surveyor. The head of the department in England was the first man that the profession could produce, and any of the subordinates there could instruct the member for Lincoln in his duties, as they were all regular surveyors likewise. Having expressed his approval of the resolutions, although in other circumstances he would have gone further than they did, he would now examine the amendment. It said that they were deeply sensible of the advantages of the connexion with Great Britain. Now, where were the advantages; when the Governor could put a spoke in the wheel they might have talked about them, but he was a mere puppet in the hands of his ministers. Where were they? He supposed the member for Simcoe would instance the fleets and armies of England which defended them. What did they want with them—who was going to attack them; peace and quietness reigned. Who was going to attack them, he asked? Not their neighbours across the lines, who looked upon them with a very friendly eye, and to whom they were going on their knees for favours, which by the bye there was no apparent hope of obtaining.
Mr. HINCKS—No, no.
Mr. PRINCE—Had the Bill been passed?
Mr. PRINCE—Was there any hope of it being passed?
Mr. PRINCE—The hon. member for Simcoe spoke of the prosperity of the country, but if he would go through the Western country from London to Windsor, through lands on the Thames as Fertile as those on the Ganges, on which they had grown wheat 25 years in succession without manure, and he would see no signs of prosperity or progress. They had no market for any kind of produce, unless they took tea and sugar in exchange. All their troubles he had represented in his letter to Mr. Rankin, of which he was not ashamed. Why had not the organ, or some other of the powerful Presses the Government had at their command, not disproved all these statements? They had not done so, but only called him rebel and republican. He (Mr. Prince) was a loyal man, inasmuch as he would willingly lay down his life to defend the Queen from insult; but he was not ready to lie down in the sleepy, lazy state in which two-thirds of Canada existed, or submit to the oppressive Government they were groaning under. He had proved that there was no prosperity in the Western part of the country. Toronto was not the country; it was prosperous from the seat of government, its magnificent harbour, and the fine back country behind it, which was near a market, while the Western country was distant from it. He was not a republican, but wished as free a Government as they could ask the Home Government to grant. The young farmers of Canada possessed a great deal more energy than the same class in England, where the boys were tied to their mother’s apron strong at the age when they were doing for themselves in Canada. He maintained that they had a right to exercise that energy with the least possible restriction. He had no desire whatever to separate from Great Britain unless it were necessary, but he believed that the country would never be happy or prosperous until they were independent.
Mr. MERRITT said that the member for Essex asked why the members of the government did not discuss these measures of reform, why they threw them out one after another without discussion. The reason was simply that the government had introduced a measure which embraced them all; they had proposed and carried the appointment of committee on the finances, before whom all these matters brought under the notice of the House by hon. members would be brough. The hon. member for Toronto had copied his resolutions from the State of New York constitution, but he had totally mistaken the object and principle of that document, and had therefore copied it improperly. That constitution was adopted in 1846 when they had a large public debt, with damaged credit, and they were forced to provide for its liquidation. They laid aside from the income of their Public Works, after paying the expense of repairs and working, $200,000 per annum, for the expenses of their government, then a sum sufficient to pay off their debt by a particular year and the rest, if any, was to be devoted to new works or the extension of the old. The member for Toronto had reversed this arrangement, he provided that three-fourths of the whole proceeds of the canals should be devoted to new works and to pay the debt out of the remainder. He [Mr. M.] believed that by the year 1866 the whole debt of Canada might be paid off from the proceeds of the Public Works, which they had set apart for that purpose; and they had in addition their revenue from Custom duties which they owed to their connection with Great Britain, for carrying on their government. They were following the same principle as in the State of New York with a small difference in the plan. The hon. member then spoke of the absurdity of attempting to pass a constitution for a country in a single evening. He was willing to acknowledge that there appeared a growing inclination to give further effect to the elective principle, and if the people desired it they would get it. He was not prepared to say that were at present as prosperous as some of their neighbours, but he was prepared to assert that under our present constitution we could become far more so.
Mr. BOULTON supported the resolutions at considerable length. He referred to the expenditures of government, without receiving consent of Parliament, to the depreciation of our credit and to the defeat which a Ministry had suffered in Halton, for appointing an Assistant Commissioner of Public Works contrary to the retrenchment views of the people.
Mr. HINCKS was astonished that the member for Norfolk, who had formerly advocated responsible government, should now support a new system which would inevitably lead to separation from Great Britain. He was not prepared to say that no reforms could be made on our present system, but he had a firm belief that if the changes were made as proposed by members opposite, the result would be separation from the Mother Country, who would no longer consent to protect and assist us, when she was denied the slightest influence over us. He could see the propriety of the Annexationists advocating such a measure, but in those who, like the member for Norfolk, professed loyalty, it was utterly inconsistent. The people of this country, he was confident, and he knew them well, were not prepared to give up the system of Responsible Government which they demanded and received, for the new republican scheme of the member for Toronto. In Lower Canada they had not even adopted municipal institutions or submitted to local taxation; he did not think them less fitted to work these Institutions than the people of Upper Canada, but they had not been introduced till lately, because before the union they had an ample revenue to pay all the expenses of local as well as general government. At a late attempt to introduce taxation serious riots had taken place, and it would take time to reconcile them to it. The member for Norfolk spoke of the censure which the government, as he had said, had received from the County of Halton for the appointment of the Assistant Commissioner of Public Works. He did not consider that any censure had been pronounced by the friends of the Administration; the member was retuned by a very small majority of its bitter opponents; in one township, it was true, some friends of government had been fed away, who had already found out their error and repented it. His late lamented friend the Assistant Commissioner, was not alone responsible for the appointment; the whole government was answerable, yet, his hon. friends for Lincoln and Quebec, had been returned by the people. How could that have been the case if the whole country were against it. He [Mr. H.] was prepared to stand or fall by that appointment; if his party would not support him in it, he was ready to retire from Parliament altogether. He knew that the people of Upper Canada would have been incensed if it had been attempted to carry on the public works by a French Canadian alone; the same feeling would exist in Lower Canada if an Upper Canadian were to do so, and the only course to secure public confidence to the department was to give a representative in it to each section. Reference had been made to the difficulty of obtaining money in the English market on Canadian securities as compared with American. Now, he had lately learned that of the large sums invested in American securities, a great portion came from the continent, where of course, we could not expect to be as well known as our neighbours. Even with this advantage in their favour, however, which would be speedily removed by the increase of our foreign trade, the stocks of many of the States did not stand so high as ours; Ohio sixes as well as others were quoted below par. He thought that the resolutions were properly characterised by the member for Simcoe, and he would support his amendments although he had not thought the matter of sufficient importance to call for them; as they had been brought forward he would support them.
Mr. WILSON said this discussion had already cost £800, and he did not wish to prolong it. He only desired to contradict the assertion of the member for Essex, and the Western country was not in a prosperous condition. If they had heard the sum which he [Mr. W.] knew had been offered for his Park farm, they would know what reliance to place on his statement. The hon. member then proceeded to show that we possessed as good a market as the Americans did, and to point out the difference in the time which it took to clear our lands, from that of the Western States, on account of its different character, and the emigrants to Canada being generally from Europe, unaccustomed to the bush, while many of the settlers in the States were from the more Easterly States, and accustomed to the habits of the country. That accounted for us taking a somewhat longer time than the Western States to arrive at the same state of prosperity, but it was only a question of time.
Mr. CAUCHON proposed an amendment which would express his views, as he did not wish to lay it down as a general principle that he was opposed to changes in the Constitution. He was opposed to the adoption of these resolutions.
Mr. ROSS was sure that the amendment of the member for Simcoe would be responded to by almost every member in the House. The Government under which we live, is as free as any in the world, and few countries afford the same protection to life and property that we enjoy here.
Mr. BOULTON (Toronto) replied at some length to the speeches against his motion, taking the same ground as at the opening—not forgetting the hammers, which he appeared to look upon as the type of elective and non-elective Legislative Councils.
Dr. DAVIGNON said he would vote against the amendment, as it was useless to repeat incessantly the expressions it contained. He would vote against the resolutions because the matter of them had been decided for the twentieth time already.
Mr. CAUCHON was allowed to withdraw his amendment.
Mr. ROBINSON’S amendment was then carried. Yeas, 42. Nays, 13.
The vote then taken on the main motion as amended. Yeas, 7. Nays, 44.
The House then adjourned shortly after.
House in Committee.
Mr. LAFONTAINE said that great stress was laid on the arret of 1711, and that some hon. gentleman had attempted to make it appear that it had not the force of law, and was not recognized in L. Canada. He would not admit that at all, and would shew that it was recognized by the Lower Canada House of Assembly as being the law of the land. It was much to be regretted that that arret had not been put in force; if it had, very little cause of complaint would now exist. It was also stated, that the arret did not fix any rate of rent; and the hon. member for St. Maurice asserted that the Seigneurs were absolute proprietors of their lands. So far from that being the case, the very contrary was the fact. Ge would take up the arret, and it should be remembered that it was a declaratory law. If declared that certain Seigneurs had sold their lands and to put a stop to that practice, which was directly against the law, a penalty was imposed on them for infringing it. That penalty was a confiscation of their property. There was also a provision made to compel the Seigneurs to concede, if they refused to do so. An officer, styled an intendant was appointed with administrative and judicial powers, who, acting with the Governor, compelled the cession of lands—but at what rate? At the same rate as was already imposed on other lands in the Seignory. It was true that the arret did not mention in figures what that rate was—one son, two sons, or three sons—but it said distinctly at the rate paid on other portions of the Seignory; so that he was convinced that it was not out of the power of the legal authority to discover what that rate was. The provisions of that arret were repeated in the arret of 1739, which showed that the Seigneurs were quite as industrious then, as they have been since the conquest. It then became the question whether that arret had or had not the force of law, and he conceived that it was impossible for any person acquainted with the law at that period not to admit that it was still in force. Since the cession of Canada, the Seigneurs have tried to show that the double powers of the intendant were not conferred on the new tribunals. That objection should not be lost sight of, as it was insisted on when the Judicature Act was passed, and a great many contended that the Act only conferred administrative powers. From that error arose many of the abuses which formed the principal cause of complaint. If that Act did not confer on the Court of Queen’s Bench the administrative and judicial powers of the Intendant, it must be necessity be a dead letter, and to show that it was considered in that light in Lower Canada, he read the evidence given before a Committee of the House of Commons in 1828, by Mr. Neilson, who had been for many years a distinguished member of the Lower Canada Assembly. The evidence was a mere repetition of the views of the Legislative body to which he belonged and was never impugned till the other day. To what laws did that gentleman refer when he spoke of the old laws of the country? Was it not evident that he meant the arrets of 1711 and 1732, and when he intimated that they were still in force, was it not evident that he expressed the general opinion of his countrymen and his colleagues of the Assembly. The expression, certain dues, used by him, showed also that he was of opinion that the rate of rent was fixed by law. That evidence expressed exactly the opinions of every member of the Lower Canada House of Assembly, which had affirmed them by unanimously passing two Bills—one of them introduced by Mr. Neilson in 1825, setting forth that the arret of 1711 with all its provisions was still the law of the land—but they were both lost in the Legislative Council. In the face of these facts would it be now pretended that arret was abrogated, and that the Seigneur was absolute proprietor of the land in his possession. If he had not misunderstood the hon. member for St. Maurice, that was one of his arguments.
Mr. PAPINEAU said that it was evident that in the early settlement of the Province, there was no condition imposed on the Seigneur, and the grant conferred an absolute right; but in process of time, the Seigneur discovered that he could best advance his own interests by conceding his lands. There was no compulsion, however. At a later period, the nature of the titles was changed, and the grants were made conditionally.
Mr. LAFONTAINE would suppose that a number of grants were made previous to 1711, which was certainly very early in the history of Canada, and that no conditions had been imposed on their seignories. How was that borne out by the fact that the arret of 1711 said, that the Seigneurs had infringed the conditions on which their grants were made by selling their lands? If they were absolute proprietors, then they would have the right to see to whomsoever they pleased, and the arret would have been not only uncalled for, but would have no effect. If the argument of the hon. Member were correct, how was it possible that no distinction was made by the Lower Canada Assembly in the bills they passed, between these different kinds of titles? Certainly there were Seigneurs sitting in that House, and they would not lose sight of their own rights. The fact was that they were all on the same footing, and that no distinction was ever recognised in Lower Canada. He came next to the celebrated 92 resolutions, which were passed in 1834. The 77th resolution declares that the Seigneurs hold their land only for the benefit of the country, and were bound to concede them. Did that import that they were absolute proprietors? At a later period, in 1841, certain resolutions were adopted by the House—only three members voting against them—and the resolutions now laid before the House were exactly the same, with this exception, that they were not quite so long. In all those Acts, the old laws were recognised, and he must not be told, in the face of so many proofs, that it was not the case. It was asserted by some that the French Canadians were not anxious for the commutation of the Seignorial Tenures, and as a proof it was said they would not settle in the townships. It was true that at one time the French would not settle there, but it was not from any disinclination to the tenure of free and common soccage, or from want of means to purchase, but because there was a great uncertainty as to the laws prevailing in the townships. In 1829, it was contended that the English law was in force there, and there was a great diversity of opinion on the subject. One thing, however, was certain, that the law of primogeniture was not in force, for if a person died intestate, his property was divided among his children according to the law of France. The consequence was, a disinclination to settle in a place where the laws were so unsettled. What was the result? In 1831, in a population of 30,000, according to the census, there were only 1100 French Canadians, but in 1844 there were 11,000, in a population of 60,000, How was this to be accounted for? Why, that a law was passed setting at rest the doubts which had so long existed, and the French Canadians immediately availed themselves of it. That fact would disprove the assertion he alluded to. The most difficult part of this question was as to the compensation. By the errors of the Courts of Justice, and the rejection of the bills passed by the Assembly, abuses had kept on increasing since the conquest. The Seigneurs had not only sold lands, but they had also raised their rents, giving their Seignories an increased value. People have purchased those Seignories at their increased value in good faith. That must be taken into consideration if they desired to do justice. If it were not, they were in danger of committing an act of spoliation.
Dr. DAVIGNON—They did not purchase in good faith.
Mr. LAFONTAINE—Did the hon. gentleman say no? He was surprised to hear such an assertion. Many of those purchasers were strangers—was it their fault that the different branches of the Legislature could not agree among themselves? Was it their fault that the Judges, either from ignorance or prejudice, were unable to give correct decisions? They looked at the laws as they were interpreted. They acquired rights under that interpretation, and those rights must be protected, but they must also protect the censitaire. They must observe the juste milieu, and while they labour to free the censitaire from his burthens, resolve also not to commit an act of spoliation on the man who invested his capital in good faith. He would say, in conclusion, that it was the interest of all parties to come to a settlement as speedily as possible. It was the interest of the seigneur. It was the interest of the censitaire. If the seigneur refuses to come to an accommodation, the day will come, when he will rue it. He hoped he would not live to see that day, when society—when the whole country—would become demoralized. He saw what was going on. It was the struggle of the mass against the few. The masses were become excited. Time should not now be wasted, but, if it were really an object to get rid of this peculiar tenure, let all work together—seigneur and censitaire—and if the seigneur shewed the example, showed a willingness to come to terms, it would be so much the better for himself.
Mr. BADGLEY said that the only tenure recognised by the old law of France, was the feudal tenure. It was true. That the Seigneur tried to make the most of the rights which that tenure gave him, and sometimes exceeded them, but it was the custom in Lower Canada to make very exaggerated statements of this subject, which caused consequently a great deal of ill temper, and even violence had ensured. Now, the Seigneurs were a mere fraction opposed to the physical force of the great mass of the population, and had no other defence than the mere moral force of the law. The censitaires were fully awake to the importance of the struggle, and turned back to the old law to show the abuses of which the Seigneurs were guilty. Now, the difficulty was to discover the legal rate at which the law was fixed. In many instances the Seigneurs had increased their rents. The English purchasers followed in their footsteps, and there were many instances in which the charges were extortionate. But he could not understand how it was that the censitaire holding his lands by a title strongly binding, should come to Parliament and demand that agreement or contract should be rendered void. He was afraid that the action of Parliament would be followed by difficulties of which they had no idea. For his own part he was a censitaire, and if the Seigneurs and the Crown, represented by the Attorney General, were ready to enter on the subject, he could make no objection, although he was rather fearful of the consequences. The censitaires’ rents formed a very small part of the burden, as he believed they averaged in the District of Montreal, on a farm of 90 acres, two or three bushels of wheat, and from ten to fifteen shillings in money, per annum. The real draw back on the industry of the country was the lodes et ventes. A man purchases a piece of land worth 5s. per acre; by the outlay of capital and by his industry, he makes it worth 40s. an acre; well, he wishes to sell it at that price, and he is obliged to give 1-12th of the purchase money to the Seigneur, without deriving any compensating advantage in return. As he had said, this formed a real draw back on the country, as very few men would be found willing to expend capital and labour in making improvements, from which another was to derive so large a proportion. He was, however, of opinion, that in spite of all the agitation, there was very little real desire in the country to commute. It was very strongly desired in the towns no doubt, where lands were rapidly increasing in value, but he did not believe that the same feeling prevailed in the country, where it was not for the interest of the people to commute, and he was confirmed in that belief, when he saw the very small number who commuted in the Seignories of Beauharnois and Two Mountains. With respect to the proposition to put one-half the charge of commutation on the censitaires, and to take the other half, amounting to £1,750,000 out of the public chest, he would never be a party to it.
Dr. BOUTILLIER said, that it was impossible for any country to prosper while land was burdened with the lodes et ventes. In order to shew that the lands were not the property of the seigneurs, he stated they were never taxed, and if it were private property it was not possible to suppose that it could be exempted from taxation. As to acquired rights, he admitted that the parties who had them ought to receive an indemnity, but who was to pay it? The people who had suffered injustice, or the government, which had not corrected the errors of the court of justice. It was true that there was no general desire for commutation, and although he was himself in favour of it, he would oppose a forced commutation, as it would inflict a serious injury on the Province.
Mr. SCOTT of Two Mountains said, that it was impossible to have manufactures in the Lower Province as long as it is burdened with the feudal tenure. The seigneur can demand not only the twelfth of the purchase money of a piece of land which was improved by another man’s labour, but he can also insist on an annual rent if a man builds a mill on a stream flowing through his own farm. A case of the kind occurred very recently, and the consequence is that the finest water power in the world is useless. Some hon. gentlemen had warned the House not to commit an act of spoliation, but that was needless, for after all the long speeches he had listened to, he could not remember that any one had expressed a desire to do so. All they desired was a fair settlement of this difficult question, if it could be effected.
Mr. GUGY attributed much of the agitation that existed in Lower Canada, with reference to the Seigneurs, to the interested efforts of shop-keepers and others in Montreal, who tamper with the rural population; and many of whom by their arts have succeeded in getting eight or nine farms in their possession. If the Seigneurs therefore were interested in preserving their rights, they were opposed by others whose motives of self-interest were more objectionable. The hon. gentleman here referred to the original grant of a seigneury dated in 1743, which was conceded by the crow. Of France in the payment of a quit rent, and on condition of rendering fealty and homage at the castle of St. Louis, according to the costume de Paris. He said he addressed himself more earnestly upon this subject to the members for Upper Canada, not only because it was new to them, but because systematic misrepresentation, artifice and fraud had been resorted to for the purpose of misleading them. That no doubt should remain as to what were the intentions of Louis XV, in granting certain tracts of land, he cited the ordinance of 1716, conferring the rights of property, vested originally in the Knight of Soulaze, in his widow, with the right of administering justice, fishing, hunting and trading with the Indians; under which conditions the estate has since been held. And if under the ordinary operations of law the rights of property could not be interfered with; neither could it by any expost facto measure deprive individuals of them, and which they had enjoyed during a hundred and fifty years. This was the nature of some of the titles to land in Lower Canada; in others there was a slight but not important difference in language. He [Mr. G.] knew an instance where a large tract of wilderness land was granted to a man and his heirs for ever; and another that was granted on condition that he should take possession. Something like this, he said, took place in 1816, when grants of land were made in this Province to disbanded soldiers, on condition that they should make actual settlement; the object of the government being to promote the comfort of future settlers, because as the lands became cleared, civilization was promoted, and a superior class of persons would be induced to immigrate. The Kings of France, he said, were actuated by the same views. As the desire to settle on this land became prevalent, labour became proportionably scarce, owing to the large quantity of land as it were thrown into the market, and lands were consequently granted by the Seigneurs upon the lowest conditions [illegible] the Censitaires, and in some instances for no payment whatever. He knew of no other restrictions upon the rights of the Seigneur, and which continue to the present hour. The hon. gentleman were referred, by way of exemplifying what he had endeavoured to impress on the minds of members, to a Seigneury near the Cascades, which concession had been enlarged upon several occasions, and for which an increased price had as repeatedly been paid—that is a larger proportionate rent had been retained by the Seigneur. Thus was evidence afforded, that before the conquest of the Province, and under a despotism, which, mild as it was, was still a despotism, different amounts of rent were paid at four different sales. The hon. gentleman said an impression generally exists, that the seigneurs must grant their lands at a fixed rent, which they cannot exceed. But lands were not all of the same value, and a tenant could not be expected to pay as much for bad land as for good. There were lands belonging to himself, on which was a fine growth of hardwood timber, and where the tenant by the manufacture of pot-ash would make two hundred times the rent. Under the law of Lower Canada, he cannot sell this land; and he had had at the same time different men offering different prices. He [Mr. P.] was speaking to persons who understood the value of property; and he would ask them what value they would attach to land which could not be sold to the highest bidder bout to the lowest bidder! It was natural for the seigneur, and it was just, to grant his land to the man who would pay the most for its use. He said he should expect to see the law by which property could be taken away from its owner, as clear as the gas lights which illumed that chamber; but there was no such law in existence in the British dominions. In an edict, to which the hon. gentleman referred, he said, it was stated that the King of France had been informed that tracts of land that had been granted to his subjects were not entirely settled, and on others there was not an inhabitant; and the certain seigneurs refused to see lands when required and in other cases sell the lands and claim the payment of rent, contrary to the determination of the King, that they should not sell. He therefore declared that all grants of land that had not been settled, shall be forfeited; and that when others having sold and retained rent should be brought before the Court, the transaction be declared null, and the concession be made by the Courts of Justice. The King further declared by this edict, that all seigneuries which were not settled in one year should be forfeited; and directed that seigneurs should concede farms without exacting a sum of money in addition to a fixed rent. The object of the ordinance he had referred to, the hon. gentleman said, was so evident to every man sense and honor, that he should not read any other extract from it. The manner in which the subject under discussion had been treated, reminded him of the anecdote of the blacksmith—a relative of the Gretna Green functionary—who said that when a man addressed another upon a subject with which he was acquainted, and which the other did not understand, that was physics; but when he addressed the other upon a subject which neither of them understood, that was metaphysics. And upon this occasion there was a good deal of metaphysics—a good deal of the blacksmith. He, (Mr. G.) was addressing men who must possess property, and whom, he trusted, were devoid of prejudice; and he would say, if they made light of the titles of the Seigneurs to their Seigneuries, their own estates might be invaded, and the same rule might be extended to the broad-cloths and other articles, by the sale of which individuals obtain a living. He had thus, he said, attempted to bring the subject before the House on its true basis. It had been stated that the Seigneuries pay no taxes; all he knew was, that he paid a considerable sum in that way. He considered it his duty to prevent misrepresentation on the subject; and trusted that the Attorney General West, before he came to a determination, would read the ordinance to which he had referred. In treating the question as he had done—as one of right; he was willing to meet the opposite party half-way, although he was satisfied no ex post facto law could go into operation, which would have the effect of destroying two or three hundred titles. At present the tenant has his grant by which the Seigneur was willing to be bound, and with which he must be satisfied; and as to a depreciation in the value of money, the Seigneurs have no intention of applying that principle to rents, but considered themselves bound by the terms of the grants made to the tenants. In cases of default on the part of the Seigneurs, and a refusal to grant lands, he said, the censitaire may require it by summons; and when he refuses to comply may resort to the representative of the sovereign, who might concede the lands upon the same terms as was paid in the surrounding Seigneuries. It was necessary, when the authorities of the Province were called upon, to interfere in this way, that some rate at which lands should be rented must be defined; but when they did not interfere, the seigneur could make his own terms.
Tuesday’s proceedings to be concluded in our next.
Leave a Reply