Province of Canada, Legislative Council, Scrapbook Debates, 8th Parl, 2nd Sess, (25 February 1864)
By: Province of Canada (Parliament)
Citation: Province of Canada, Parliament, Scrapbook Debates, 8th Parl, 2nd Sess, 1864 at 24-28.
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Debate on the Address
On the Order being called—
Roderick Matheson [Canada West, appointed 1847] rose and said he hoped that His Excellency’s [Viscount Monck] expectations in the organization of the Militia Force would be realized; but he feared that the repeal of the late Militia Law had, to a certain extent, disorganized the Sedentary Militia of the Province. The Volunteers were useful in their way, but what were they in comparison with the Sedentary Militia of the Province, who were the bone and sinew of the country? It was true that the Governor General had the power of calling out the whole Militia of the Province; but what was a mass of men without organization? The Colonel did not know his officers, nor the Captains their men. The Assessor took the names of the men, and gave the Rolls to the Clerk of the Peace, in place of giving a copy to the Colonel commanding, whose duty should be to organize the Battalion—officers and men. When trouble came there was a mass or mob of men without order. Was that a time to appoint officers to regiments? It was only carrying out the saying that no armament was the best armament for Canada. In his opinion the Law of 1812 was the best Militia Law we had had in Canada. The officers knew their men, and the men knew their officers; they were as brothers who shrank not from each others’ side.
By the law of 1812, the fifth part of the male population of the Province were placed in what was called the Flank Companies; that was two companies in each battalion in the Province, or the fifth part of the regiment. They were the youngest and most active men in the regiment—the first for duty—and they were proud of their station. They required no ballot—their motto, was “Aye ready!” Such was part of the Militia Law of 1812. During the Trent excitement, the Governor General ordered, he believed, 75 men, Volunteers, from each Battalion. At that time, he commanded No. 1 Military District, Upper Canada, consisting of 26 or 27 Battalions. He wrote to the Lieut.-Colonels of each Battalion to ask for Volunteers; and if the number required did not offer, to ballot for the remainder, but not to take a widow’s only son nor the only son of an old man. Some of the battalions offered to come in a body, but did not wish to be separated: the whole Militiamen of the Province were organized, and the men knew that they were all liable to serve. Such was the law—the present, perhaps he did not comprehend; but in his opinion he considered the present Militia Law as a paper Militia, that promised a great deal but effected nothing, while it cost the Province as much money as an effective force would do under a good law. If another Trent affair occurred, he would not know what do to, or how to act under the existing law. The old ship was cast adrift without a new one being provided to carry us to the shore. He considered that the loyalty of the people of Canada in the present day was beyond suspicion—east and west, north and south, all sect and creeds were true, loyal and attached to the British Nation; and if the people were encouraged as they should be there would not be twenty or thirty thousand Canadians in the Federal army, as it was said there were.
John McMurrich [Saugeen, elected 1862] said that as he had been alluded to by the hon. member for Cataraqui [Alexander Campbell], in his late speech, he would occupy the attention of the House with a few observations in answer. When that hon. member had made allusion to the youthful ardour of certain members, he [Mr.McMurrich] felt at a loss to determine whether the remarks were intended as complimentary to his grey hairs, or otherwise; but he certainly had appeared to go out of his way for the express purpose of paying his respects to the member for Saugeen [John McMurrich].
He [Mr. Campbell] had apparently been much exercised about the consistency of that hon. member [meaning himself] on the subject of Representation according to Population: and to relieve his mind of all anxiety he [Mr.McMurrich] felt it necessary to re-state and define his position on that subject. He now held the principle as fully as he did when he was returned to the House, and believing, as he did, in its soundness, its fairness, and strict justice, and not being much given to change—without good cause—thought there was not much fear of his falling away. The hon. member, however, having attempted to lay at his door the guilt of supporting an Administration which had given the principle the go by, it was but proper that he should remind him of the explanations he had given to the House when the Macdonald-Sicotte Government came into power. He had then fairly stated his position. The hon. member at that time was in the Chair, and, being occupied with its peculiar duties and responsibilities, may possibly have forgotten his explanations. To refresh his memory he would, therefore, read what he had said on the occasion.
Alexander Campbell [Cataraqui, elected 1858]—From what paper?
John McMurrich [Saugeen, elected 1862]—The Toronto Globe.
A Member—Oh! oh!
John McMurrich [Saugeen, elected 1862]—Well, such as it is, it is about the best going. He would now read the remarks to which he had just referred. They were as follows:—
“The late changes have placed me in circumstances of considerable embarrassment, and render a word of explanation necessary. My sympathies are with the Government and the liberal party with whom I have always acted, but in so much as the important question of representation seems to have been given up for the present, I cannot give them that cordial support which in other circumstances would have been cheerfully rendered. The question of Representation according to Population is one upon which I was returned to this honorable House. I believe it to be just and cannot abandon it; for by so doing I feel it would be giving up the claim of right of Western Canada. I shall offer no unnecessary opposition to the new Administration, and hope they will get a fair trial.”
The question of Representation by Population was an important one, and he had always regarded it as seriously affecting the interests of the Western part of the Province. But another question of more immediate importance had to be dealt with, and as it seemed impossible the two should be handle at the same time with success, he had concluded it was unavoidable that one should be held in suspense until the other had been attended to. It would thus be seen he had merely given precedence to the pressing necessity for financial reform without abandoning Representation by Population. He was happy to say that except on two or three measures he had been able to give the Administration his cordial support, but if that particular question had come up he would have been found voting against them. He did not well know for what special reason the hon. member had alluded to him, unless it was in view of the coming election for the Saugeen Division.
Alexander Campbell [Cataraqui, elected 1858]—The hon. member might make himself easy,—he (Mr.Campbell) was not going there.
John McMurrich [Saugeen, elected 1862]—Perhaps the hon. member was so pleased at his success in South Leeds that he had turned his attention to Saugeen, but as Saugeen was not so easily traversed he had fallen upon the device of reaching
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him through the Council.
However, he would inform the hon. member that he (Mr. McMurrich) was in Saugeen before the Speech, and as far as he had been able to ascertain the feelings of the electors, they were perfectly satisfied with the course he had pursued in regard to Representation by Population. This being the case, it was not likely that he should be found playing into the hands of the hon. member. If, however, the hon. member should one of these days be at the head of the Government, he hoped he would not be wanting on that great question, and he (Mr. McMurrich) was not without the hope of yet seeing it settled to the satisfaction of the people of Upper Canada.
With regard to the Intercolonial Railway project, he had listened attentively to the arguments of the hon. member opposite (Hon. John Ross) but could not go with him. In his opinion the Province was not in a condition to embark in the enterprise, and he gave the Government credit for the prudence they had displayed in dealing with the subject. It might be true that they had to some extent committed themselves to the Lower Provinces in the matter, but even if the agreement had come as nearly as possible to be binding, and they found at the last moment that it was going to injure the country, they were bound to stop short. This, it seemed, they had done.
John Ross [Canada West, appointed 1848]—They should have seen this before they sent delegates to England.
John McMurrich [Saugeen, elected 1862]—They did only what every prudent man would do, who, if obliged in difficult circumstances to say yes or nay, would give himself the benefit of the doubt. They might, nevertheless, have thought there was something in the project, and requiring reliable data whereon to inform their judgment had decided upon causing a survey to be made. If the result was favorable, well; if unfavorable then the expenditure of the money would save millions, so that in either case the survey was a wise step. In the absence of a survey it would be the height of folly for the Government to bind themselves to such an enterprize. They ought to profit by the experience of the [?lat?] in regard to railways. It was an exceedingly easy thing to get involved in such entanglements, but a very difficult one to get out of them. He well remembered the fine prospectus of the Grand Trunk Railway, which promised 11 ¼ or 11 ½ per cent profit to the stockholders—a rate of interest which showed how carefully the calculations had been made. It was a pity the projectors had not made it 11 5/8ths, just to show how fine and minute the examinations were. Everybody knew the results.
As to the Intercolonial Railway, it was his belief that if built it would turn out even worse. The hon. member (Hon. J. Ross) had gone into the statistics of the Lower Province trade, to show the business the road might be expected to take, and among other things had alluded to the tea they imported from New York, which, in the opinion of that hon. member, could then by supplied to them from Canada. But everybody knew that we could not law down tea in Quebec or Montreal as cheaply as at New York.
Several Voices—But it was being done now.
John McMurrich [Saugeen, elected 1862]—It was not in the nature of things that it should be, for our route was 400 or 500 miles longer. Then it would be impossible for us to compete by railway with the cheaper mode of travel by water between New York and the Provinces. Another item named by the hon. member was general merchandize, but it would be folly to expect that they would buy goods from us while they themselves could import from England, and as to any other merchandize it must be of United States product, which certainly we could not supply so cheap as New York after having paid the duty. Then as to Pork it was impossible for us to raise it as the same price as the Americans, who get Corn for 12 ½ cents a bushel while we paid 45 for it. Under such circumstances how could the Intercolonial Railway enable us to compete with the United States markets? On the whole it seemed to him that the expectations of trade in connection with the enterprize were entirely delusive, and would be so found if ever the road was constructed.
Thomas Ryan [Victoria, elected 1863] said he had not intended to speak, but the remarks of the hon. member for Saugeen [John McMurrich] seemed to warrant his saying a few words. Now, as to being able to supply the Lower Provinces with tea as cheaply as New York, it was a fact that at some of our recent large sales of that article in Montreal, a considerable proportion had been purchased on New York account. He admitted that the difference in navigation was in favor of New York, but the hon. member ought not to forget that if the Intercolonial Railway were built Halifax might compete with New York in the supply of tea and other foreign articles, since the navigation in that case would be in favor of that city, and the merchandize could be distributed by the Railway through the Lower Province cheaper than it could be brought there from New York.
At the present, Halifax was the port of call for China and other vessels to receive orders to proceed either to the States or up the St. Lawrence with the cargoes, as the owners deemed best. But it was important to us, in the present temper of the Americans, that we should in some measure be independent of their channels for access to the ocean in winter. At present, we could only reach the seaboard at that season through their territory, and they might at any time cut us off altogether from communication with the ocean. Our trade at present was entirely at their mercy, and must ever continue so, until we had access to a port of our own. If that road were built, we should be practically independent of them, and everybody must see that, be the circumstances what they might, this was extremely desirable. It was quite right that the Government should carefully examine into the matter before committing themselves to the undertaking, for the question of our ability to meet the expense was a very important one. Allusion had been made to the disappointments experienced in connection with the Grand Trunk Railway, but he would put it to any hon. member whether, after all it had cost the Province, it would be better to be without it. Who would be willing now, for the sake of the money expended upon it, to give up the advantages had conferred upon the country.
Some Hon. Members—Hear, hear.
Thomas Ryan [Victoria, elected 1863]—He did not believe any one would be found willing to do this; in fact, we could not do without the road. The money it has cost, notwithstanding the alleged extravagance and mismanagement, had been spent advantageously. Another point, in connection with the subject, was the prospective union of the Provinces. If ever such a confederation took place, the road would be an indispensable necessity. Another argument in favor of the road was the Treaty of Reciprocity itself. If the weak flag was Canada, the strong is our fisheries around the Province. What did we find? Why, that the people of Newfoundland so far from valuing Reciprocity with the United States were petitioning for the abrogation of the Treaty, except on better conditions for the Colonies. If we could induce Newfoundland to yield her objections might we not ask for a renewal on the old terms? It was then important for us to stand on a good footing with the Lower Provinces, in view of the influence they exerted in respect of Reciprocity of trade with the States, and it would therefore be exceedingly unwise to do anything which might have the appearance of deception in our dealings with them on the Intercolonial Railway matter, as it would be fatal to the good understanding it was so evidently our interest to keep up. He heard with pleasure the hon. Provincial Secretary say that the Government would stand or fall by their measures. This was the true principle, and he trusted it would be strictly observed.
James Currie [Niagara, elected 1862] said the hon. member for Cataraqui [Alexander Campbell] had made a very able speech from his point of view, in fact he had been both forcible and eloquent, but he thought he had travelled a little out of his way, when he went to Saugeen. The hon. member from that division [John McMurrich], however, had given so good an account of himself that the best way was, perhaps, to let the two gentlemen fight it out at Saugeen, but he thought he might promise the hon. member for Cataraqui [Alexander Campbell] that if he went there he would find a very different class of men to deal with than those he had met at South Leeds.
Alexander Campbell [Cataraqui, elected 1858]—I promise not to go.
James Currie [Niagara, elected 1862]—Better so. He must say, however, that he had been somewhat amused at some of the causes of dissatisfaction expressed by that hon. member, for he must surely understand that the Ministers were more disposed to please their supporters than their opponents. Some of his complaints were uncalled for, and came with a bad grace. Surely it was not anything very new in this country to find Ministerial promises unfulfilled. Now, as to the Bankruptcy Law, for instance, it was promised in the Speech from the Throne in 1858, but it did not pass; it was again promised in 1860 and in 1861, with like results; and he supposed that if the old Ministry had continued in power it would have been a trump card this session.
Some Hon. Members—Hear, hear.
James Currie [Niagara, elected 1862]—Then the hon. member thought the boundary of the Province too small a matter to put in the Speech, but he (Mr. Currie) found [illegible] announced in the Speech of 1860 that the Consolidated Statutes were getting on, and in [?1861?] it was as gravely added that they had been distributed. In 1860 the question of the boundary between the Provinces themselves was [illegible] as a subject of inquiry; but, surely, if our [illegible] local limits were deemed worthy of such prominence, the boundary which defined the [illegible] of Canada itself out not be regarded as beneath notice. For his part, he thought this subject a very important one, and regarded the action of the Government in relation to it as the first practical step yet taken for ascertaining where the North West Territory commenced and the Province ended. He had also been struck with the manner in which the hon. member had alluded to the feeling in England towards Canada, and was not a little surprised at the reverence he had shown for the British North American Association. It seemed to be a weakness with some people to feel very sensitive about the opinions held towards us in England, and because a small sum had been paid to this most important Association and voted afterwards, we must, forsooth, highly value their opinions. He had hoped the last of that payment had been heard before, but since it was again brought up it would, perhaps, be as well to re-state the case. It appeared that a distinguished member of the Canadian Government of the day, together with members of the Governments of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, happened to be in London when the Association in question was formed, and that these gentlemen, on the part of their respective Provinces, had promised them a small grant of money; that the subscriptions of the two other colonies had been duly paid, but in consequence of a neglect to put the amount in the estimates the $1,000 Canada was to give had remained unpaid.
When Messrs. Sicotte and Howland visited London, in connection with the Intercolonial Railway scheme, they were reminded of this and had engaged to make good the amount, which was done. At that time a good deal of prejudice existed in England against Canada, and he regarded the payment of this small sum as one of the best investments ever made. The hon. member had then asked who the parties were that kept the Government in power, and had answered his own question by saying the Clear Grits, and he (Mr. Currie) thought the Clear Grits were very wise in so doing, for if the Government were not all that could be wished they were at any rate a great improvement upon their predecessors. He had also characterized the Commissions appointed as expensive, but that was a rather novel objection from a quarter not usually so mindful of the finances. His (Mr.Currie’s) opinion was that the objection was not so much to the expense as to the exposures.
Some Hon. Members—Laughter.
James Currie [Niagara, elected 1862]—The next complaint was about the Bank arrangement and the loan obtained from the Montreal Bank, which the seconder of the resolution had said was a financial triumph. Well he, too, regarded it as an excellent arrangement, and believed the money could not have been got in England at the time on the same terms.
Alexander Campbell [Cataraqui, elected 1858]—Whose fault was that?
James Currie [Niagara, elected 1862]—The Opposition’s of course. They were, no doubt, disappointed that the Minister of Finance [Luther Holton] had not been obliged to go to London, but he was proud that we had institutions in Canada able and willing to assist the Government when it needed help. The hon. member had also said that the money borrowed was to be sent out of the country: now, when members like him made statements they should be correct, for people were apt to believe them.
Some Hon. Members—Hear, hear.
James Currie [Niagara, elected 1862]—Well, a great portion of the million and a half was to pay debts in Canada, and a small portion only was remitted to England. Another objection was that the estimated income was less than the income actually received, and he [Mr. Currie] thought it was a pity the old Government had not committed many such errors, but unhappily it had never been in their power to put such words in a Governor’s mouth. Perhaps if the hon. member for Gore [Hon. Mr. Alexander] had had the management he might have done so, for he would have at once abolished a couple of Ministers.
Some Hon. Members—Hear, hear and laughter.
James Currie [Niagara, elected 1862]—But there had been real retrenchment notwithstanding that the Minister of Agriculture [Luc Letellier de Saint Just] still lived. In the division he represented there had been a saving in the Customs alone of $3, 500, and that, too, without impairing the efficiency of the service. When a Government did really introduce reform, it should have the credit of them, and if ever a country needed financial reforms it was this. At the time of the union, the cost of government in Upper
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Canada, per head, was $1.13, and in Lower Canada less than $1.00. Ten years afterwards, or in 1851, the cost of all Canada was also less than $1.00, but in 1861 it was $2.81, or nearly four times as much per heard as in 1851.
Alexander Campbell [Cataraqui, elected 1858]—But then, see how much more the people got for the money.
James Currie [Niagara, elected 1862]—Yes, the population had increased 35 per cent. and the expenses 400. In 1852 the expense of the departments were $155,000, in 1862, $536,000.
Alexander Campbell [Cataraqui, elected 1858]—And the present Government in two years had reduced the amount by $49, 000.
Some Hon. Members—Laughter.
James Currie [Niagara, elected 1862]—No, but, as he hoped, by $79,000. Last year they had reduced the Estimates from 20 to 25 per cent., and he hoped they would increase the reductions this year by a similar amount. He was very glad that the Government had turned their attention to the improvement of the water-ways of the country, for, to the present, the railways had monopolised most of the attention. Representing, as he did, a constituency largely interested in the canals, it was natural that he should feel an interest in this subject. Some of them yielded a profit and others a loss, but the most profitable of all the public works in the country was the Welland Canal, and as it required enlargement he trusted the Government would see the propriety of giving it immediate attention, as it was the chief avenue through which we must expect to attract the trade of the great West. He was glad to know that the trade on the canals was increasing so rapidly, the best proof of which was, perhaps, the amount of tolls collected upon them, and showed the following as the amount of tolls collected in the years 1850, 1856, and 1862, respectively: —In 1850, the tolls paid on the Welland Canal was $171, 703.52c.; in 1856, $272, 049.62; and in 1862, $280, 278.62 while, during the same period, on the St. Lawrence Canals, the following was the result:—1850, $81, 572.22; in 1856, $85,534.80; and in 1862, $22, 406.14. In short, in 1862, a year in which the tolls were taken off the St. Lawrence Canals, the Welland Canal tolls proved a net gain to the Province of $136, 918.79, while it took $52, 665 over and over the tolls taken to maintain the St. Lawrence Canals. And he thought this fact alone ought to satisfy the country that in the enlargement of the canals a profitable work like the Welland should receive the early attention of the Government. The Welland Canal cost the Province, up to January, 1862, for construction, $4, 666, 558, and the gross tolls collected in that year amounted to sufficient to pay 5 per cent. interest on that amount and left $7, 436 to the credit of the work. The hon. gentleman went on to say that to his mind there existed an immediate necessity to the commence the enlargement of the canal. The Americans were already moving in the matter of a ship canal around the Falls, but he felt satisfied that no canal which they could make could compete successfully for the carrying trade with an enlarged Welland Canal. By taking the Welland Canal a vessel going from Oswego to Cleveland, or any of the more Western ports, would save in distance from 20 to 22 miles over the route of the proposed canal on the East side of the Niagara River, and also a great deal of more expensive towing. The hon. gentleman said that the enlargement of the Welland Canal was not such a vast undertaking as some supposed, all that was wanted enlarged locks between Thorold and St. Catherines, with a supply of water from Lake Erie. On a great portion of this canal we already have larger locks and a greater depth of water than the St. Lawrence Canals possessed, and he was confident that if the canal was at once enlarged he would hear little more of this American Canal. At the same time ours would continue to be the great link in our inland water communication and prove a great source of revenue to the Province. The hon. member for the Gore Division [George Alexander] had said that he through it was too soon to undertake the enlargement of the canals, but he would refer to a report made by a gentleman in the other House as long ago as 1854. He referred to a report of Mr. Shanly, admitted to be the ablest of our Canadian Engineers, and a good authority on such subjects, which he read to the House. Speaking on inland navigation Mr. Shanly says:
“In such a system of navigation the Welland Canal must ever be the main link, and that it, in its present state, is fast becoming inadequate to the growing demands that are made upon it is hardly to be question. The crowded state of the reaches between locks, and the jostling of vessels to get through during the latter weeks of last season’s navigation, and the consequent outcry amonst the owners and captains of vessels, are facts common in the men’s months scarcely calling for evidence to substantiate. It may then be looked upon as conceded that the trade, since largely increased, as well as the interests of Canada generally, demand an enlargement of the capacity of the Welland Canal.”
This was the testimony of an able and disinterested witness in 1854, and if the language was applicable at that time it is ten times more applicable in 1864. The honorable gentleman then referred to the reciprocity, and said it was gratifying to find that however parties might have differed about the policy of the Treaty when it was made, all parties now appeared to approve of it. He regretted that an excitement existed in the States respecting the Treaty, but he thought it would not be abrogated. The Treaty was, what its name indicated, reciprocal and highly beneficial to the trade and commerce of both countries, the provisions of which he would like to see at no distant day, extended to our shipping and manufacturing interests. The Americans were an intelligent people, and fully alive to all the advantages they obtained by the Treaty. They knew the value of our fisheries and the navigation of our canals and rivers. We must have the shipping interest of the Western Lakes in future. Let the Treaty be abrogated and our canals enlarged, and the whole of the direct grain carrying trade to Europe will be monopolized by our vessels. The repeal of the Treaty would destroy that, promising direct trade, lately commenced by our neighbors in the Western States, with Europe. The foolish policy of the late Government respecting the Tolls on the St. Lawrence Canals, and the manner in which we have repeatedly increased our tariff, were the chief causes of complaint with the Americans. Should the Americans, however, see fit to rescind the Treaty, we have no fears for the future. We lived in Canada before we had the Treaty, and can well live and prosper without it, but at the same time, we have no wish to determine it. The honorable gentleman then adverted to the subject of the Militia, having been specially referred to by the leader of the Opposition, and while on this subject he said he deeply regretted that during the present Administration, the leaders and press of the Opposition tried to be-little all that the Government had done. In justice to the Government, he said that when the coalition went out of power in 1862, in the Niagara Division which he had the honor to represent, counting a population of about 60,000 souls, there were only two small troops of cavalry and two companies of Rifles, whereas there were now in the Division, two troops of cavalry, two batteries of artillery, and seventeen companies of infantry, all uniformed, well armed, and in an efficient state of discipline. He claimed that the Militia Question should never be looked at from a party point of view, it was one in which all were interested, not as Reformers or Conservatives, but as Canadians—as men having the interest of the Province and Empire at heart. He considered it unreasonable for people in England to expect us to bear the burden of the defence of Canada in the event of war; that we would do our part, but could not do more ; that we were entitled to and should claim the rights of colonists, the chief of which was the right of protection. That should war unfortunately arise, England would, in the future as in the past, send her army and navy to our assistance, and that Canadians would be alive to their duty. That the Americans next to the people of England should be our best and firmest friends, connected as we were by so many ties and intimate relations. He then referred to the great change the past four years had made in America, lamented the sad strife in the neighboring Republic; and he considered that looking at the state of affairs on this continent and standing on the brink of a European contest, war at no distant delay was more than possible—that the legislature should realise the importance of the defence of the Province. He then referred with regret to the tone of the public mind and press of America, and said he thought that a great deal of the bad feeling he regretted, had been needlessly cause by the braggadocio and silly vapouring of a portion of the American press and some of its puny imitators in this Province. In speaking of our colonial relations he said he would far rather remain as he was, a British colonist and a subject of the greatest empire in the world, than become the mere subject of a petty North American monarchy, or he drifted into the vortex of American republicanism. He hoped the day was long distant when the proud flag of England would cease to float over the citadel of Quebec. The future of British America he hoped would be a vast British North American confederacy, extending from the Atlantic to the Pacific, united by self-interest, the bonds of loyalty and a common allegiance to the Throne and destinies of Great Britain. He then referred to the Trent affair, the defenceless state of Canada at the time, and the display of loyalty made by our people. He then pointed out the necessity of a proper organization of the Militia, that our people should be drilled and practised in the use of the British Enfield, the noblest weapon ever put in the hands of brave men, and if that were done we need not fear invasion, come when it might. Should war unfortunately arise, it would be no more difficult to protect Canada in 1864 than in 1814, and said that while the States had grown in strength and number we had done the same, and expressed the hope that, living as he did on the frontier of Canada, and representing a constituency that, in the event of war, would suffer more than any other, our Province would long be saved from war with all its attendant horrors. The honorable gentleman again referred to the spirit of our people during the Trent affair in 1861 and the attachment of all parties to the Empire, concluding by saying that, let the flag of England that waved over our fathers’ heads be again insulted, and Canada would again exhibit the like loyal spectacle that was shown at the close of 1861, when not a whisper of disloyalty was head from Gaspe to Sault St. Mary—when strife of party was forgotten and all prepared to enact the scenes of 1812, when aided by a few British troops the Canadians successfully resisted foreign invasion.
Some Hon. Members—Cheers.
George Allan [York, elected 1858] then addressed the House in the following terms:—The hon. gentleman who moved the Address, in the course of the remarks with which he introduced his motion, said that he believed it was for the advantage of the country and conducive to the cause of good government that there should be a properly organized Opposition in the House. I am glad that the hon. gentleman has seen reason to modify the opinions which he entertained on that subject no longer ago than the last session of Parliament, when on a similar occasion to the present he very emphatically disclaimed the idea of there being any such thing as an Opposition in this House! and expressed himself in strong terms on the undesirableness of any party organization whatever in this branch of the Legislature. I presume, however, that subsequent reflection has induced him to change his mind, and that having now accepted the fact of their being an Opposition, he has decided upon throwing in his lot with the Ministerial side, by consenting to move the Address in answer to the Speech from the Throne. I am free to confess that when I first entered this House, I entertained views somewhat similar to those expressed by the hon. gentleman last year. I thought that it was not necessary or desirable to give in one’s adhesion to any party organization or any party leader, but that we should be free to deal with the different political measures that might come before the House according to each one’s individual judgment. Experience, however, has led me to a different conclusion, and I, while I would most strongly disclaim any desire to see a factions or partizan spirit introduced into this body, or in fact any of that bitter feeling of political hostility and antagonism which unhappily must always prevail more or less in the more popular branch of the Legislature—I nevertheless do think that it is to the advantage of the country, and will conduce to the usefulness and efficiency of the Legislative Council, that is should always have amongst its members a properly constituted Opposition. In view, then, of the desirableness of such an organization, I consider it particularly fortunate that those of us who act together on this side of the House, although all belonging to the Moderate Conservative party, have nevertheless, with comparatively few exceptions, taken hitherto but little share in purely party politics, and that the gentleman whom we recognize as our leader, the hon. member for Cataraqui [Alexander Campbell], has not been mixed up with the doings of former Governments, and consequently cannot be held answerable for their sins! So that we may fairly hope that all questions of public policy which may come before us in this House will be debated on both sides in a spirit of candour and fairness, and without any of that bitterness and acrimony which past party contests so often infuse into such discussions. It is in such a spirit that I desire to make the few brief remarks with which I shall trouble the House on the motion which is now before us. The first paragraph of the Address to which I shall refer, is that relating to the Militia; and here I shall initiate the example set me by so many honorable gentlemen who have preceded me, and disclaim-more especially in the presence of so great an authority! on Militia matters as the hon. member for Niagara [James Currie]! —any idea of speaking from a practical acquaintance on the subject—for although I have gone through a moderate
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amount of drill, and have always taken a deep interest in the defences of the country, —still the subject is one which requires a much more careful and practical study of all its details than I have been able to bestow, to enable one to speak with any degree of weight or authority on it. I may fairly however, state to the House what I know to be the general feeling of those well acquainted with Militia matters in my own section of the country, and then how far it accords with the assertion made by the Provincial Secretary [A.J. Fergusson Blair] in his reply to the honorable member for Cataraqui [Alexander Campbell] “that the Militia policy of the government has the support and approval of the people of this country.”
At the same time I would desire to express my most hearty concurrence in the sentiments expressed by the hon. member for Niagara [James Currie], when he said that the Militia question ought not to be viewed as a party question, but as one in which all Canadians alike, whether Conservative Radical, Grit or Tory, have the deepest interest. But if I find any fault with what has been done, it cannot be set down to party spirit, when it is remembered that the honorable member for Welland himself could hardly be restrained. At the close of last session, from making a violent onslaught on the Bill introduced by the Government which he supports; and I am satisfied that every one who has taken an active part in the Volunteer movement in Upper Canada, looks upon the Act of last session, so far as relates to the Volunteer force, as grievous blunder. The honorable member for Niagara [James Currie] quoted some statistics from his own part of the country, to show how largely the Volunteer force had increased in numbers since the accession of the present Government to power, as compared with what it was when the Cartier-Macdonald Ministry went out of office, and would have us infer that this increase is due to the fostering care and excellent measures of the present Government. But in truth everybody knows, and no one better than the hon. member for Niagara [James Currie] himself, that it was the “Trent affair,” and the dangers which then seemed to threaten us, which gave the first impetus to the Volunteer movement, and it was the sense of our defenceless situation, to which we Canadians were then first aroused, that has continued since to help on and keep alive the Volunteer organization, in spite of bad legislation and the lukewarm support of the Government.
The fact is, that nothing can exceed the excellent spirit which animated the greater part of our population, both in town and country; on; young men are all anxious and ready to do their duty in contributing to the defence of the Province; but, instead of encouraging and fostering this spirit by every means in their power, the Government are throwing cold water upon their zeal, and gradually but surely disheartening the Volunteers by niggardly treatment and bad legislation. You must pay both officers and men better, if you expect them to continue to turn out, and to be punctual and regular in their attendance at drill. In the country, more especially, it is unreasonable to expect that the men coming, as many of them have to do, long distances to attend drill, should continue to do so, at a great loss of time and expense to themselves, without being paid. In the towns the case is different, though even there, great dissatisfaction has been occasioned by some of the clauses of the Act of last session.
As to the officers, any one who has any practical acquaintance with the subject at all, knows that if the captains of companies are really zealous and in earnest in their work (I am speaking now more especially of the country) they are necessarily, in many ways, put to a great deal of expense, which most of them can very ill afford. If therefore we expect that our Volunteers are to form the nucleus of a disciplined force, such as this country requires, a force which as it goes on increasing in numbers and disciplines, shall gradually lessen the whole Militia of the Province, and thus confences, we must legislate far more liberally in their favor, before we can congratulate ourselves or the Government, upon having discharged its duty in reference to the defences of the country.
As to the Sedentary Militia, I shall say nothing on that subject. The Provincial Secretary [A.J. Fergusson Blair], in introducing the Bill last Session, spoke of it as “an experiment” and so far the experiment has resulted in giving us a Militia on paper! —but nothing else! I proceed now, honorable gentlemen, to the paragraph which refers to the Reciprocity Treaty between this country and the United States, and I do so more for the purpose of alluding to some very extraordinary observations which fell from the member for the Wellington Division [John Sanborn], when speaking on this subject, in the course of which, he accused the late Government of fostering an unfriendly feeling towards the Government of the United States; and the hon. gentleman went on—as I understood him—to charge the Conservative party generally, and that portion of the press of this country, which was supposed to represent their opinions, with having contributed, by the hostile tone which they assumed towards the Northern States, to bring about the angry feeling which had resulted in a desire on the part of the Americans, to put an end to the Reciprocity Treaty. I do not see the hon. gentleman now in his place, but that I am right in thus interpreting his language is the more certain, from an observation which fell from the hon. member for Erie Division [David Christie]—“That there would be no fear of the abrogation of the Treaty if the Opposition did not return to power!”
Well, honorable gentlemen, I am not concerned to answer for all the acts of the Cartier-Macdonald Government, but I defy any gentleman on the opposite side of the House to point to any one measure of the Cartier-Macdonald Ministry which could be construed into an act of unfriendliness, much less of hostility, towards the Government of the Northern States. As to the Conservative party having endeavored in any way to keep up a feeling of enmity towards the North, I deny it in toto. I am sure that there is not a man in this country who, even on selfish grounds, does not desire that this miserable war should come to an end. I am sure that there is not a man in this country, be he Conservative or Radical, Grit or Tory, who does not heartily desire to live at peace and amity with our neighbors if they will only allow us to do so. But while entertaining these feelings, are we, as British freemen, to be debarred from expressing our individual opinions on the merits of this wretched quarrel? Are those to be charged with hostility to the North who may have avowed their belief that the South had a right to secede? Or are we bound to have such a dread of wounding the susceptibilities of our Northern neighbors that we may not, even to each other, give expression to our admiration of the bravery and gallantry of any but the Northern arms? The honorable member for Wellington [John Sanborn] said that the newspapers representing the Conservative party in Montreal and Toronto had been more particularly prominent in their hostility to the Northern Government. I know nothing about what may have appeared in the Montreal papers, as I hardly ever see them, but the only paper that I can suppose him to allude to in Toronto is the Leader. And it is not necessary for me to become the apologist of the Leader, it is quite capable of defending itself; but for the life of me I cannot comprehend why that paper is to be condemned because it has chosen to express its sympathy in the bravery and endurance displayed by the Southern Confederacy, any more than the Globe is to be condemned for warmly advocating the cause of the North and stigmatizing the Southerners as rebels. Surely things must have come to a pretty pass in a British province, and woefully like what unfortunately prevails on the other side of the lines, if the press is to be censured and condemned for openly and fearlessly expressing their opinions on the events which are passing around them. But honorable gentleman opposite, in their haste to charge the Conservative party with exciting a feeling in the Northern States inimical to Canada and to the continuance of the Reciprocity Treaty, have forgotten that it was an act of their own friends which led to the fresh agitation on this subject on the other side, and for which they are solely and entirely responsible. I allude to the re-imposition of the Canal tolls, which had far more to do with the opposition to the continuance of the Reciprocity Treaty, so far at all events as the Western States are concerned, than any of the causes which the hon. member for Wellington [John Sanborn] has suggested: and I think hon. gentlemen opposite should take care that the policy of their own friends is not such as to bring about the very result in reference to the Treaty which they have just been deprecating.
Now, with respect to the Intercolonial Railway, I suppose, after the explanations we have received from the Hon. the Provincial Secretary [A.J. Fergusson Blair], we must presume that the obstacles to the survey were unforeseen! and that until Parliament was on the point of meeting, any idea of going on with the survey was equally unforeseen. But I must say, in reference to that part of the hon. gentleman’s remark in which he stated that “we were to go on with the survey at our own expense, trusting to the good faith of the other colonies to repay their share,” that the other colonies must be of a remarkably forgiving and christian disposition if, after all that has passed, they respond to our appeals to their good faith in any matter connected with the Intercolonial Railway! I pass now to the paragraph referring to the removal of the Seat of Government to Ottawa, and here I would remark that at the beginning of last session, in answer to some observations which I made on the Address, I was gravely rebuked by the hon. gentleman the present mover of the Address for suggesting that something ought to have been then said to the Speech from the Throne in reference to the removal of the Seat of Government, as the people of Upper Canada at all events were most anxious to have some authoritative expressions of the intentions of the Government.
The hon. gentleman informed me that the Speech from the Throne was not the proper place to introduce such a subject! I ventured to differ from the hon. gentleman on that occasion, and it seems now that I was not so far wrong after all. I was particularly desirous, hon. gentlemen, to hear something from the Government in reference to this matter at the last session, because statements had been made by the supporters of the Government in Upper Canada very much calculated to mislead the minds of the people. The two gentlemen who were returned for Toronto as supporters of the present Administration most certainly gave the electors to understand that the removal of the seat of Government to Toronto was to be one of the rewards which their constituents would receive at the hands of the Government if they returned them to Parliament—nay, no less an authority than the Globe newspaper, thought its columns, gave the people of Upper Canada to understand that that was one of the blessings which would result from the new order of things; and although we have been now distinctly told by honorable gentlemen opposite, that the Globe does not in any way represent the opinions of the Government, still it was at that time, and I suspect with some degree of truth, considered as the mainstay and pillar of the Administration!
Well, it seemed that on this occasion, at all events, the curiosity of the country was to be gratified, but I confess that on reading the paragraph in the Speech, I felt myself but very little enlightened by the uncertain sound which His Excellency’s [Viscount Monck] advisors have causes him to utter on this subject. We are called to express ourselves as “happy to be assured” of the “intended early removal to Ottawa of the seat of Government,” and that the officers of the Civil Service have had that fact announced to them; but from all I can learn, the officers of Her Majesty’s Civil certainty as to whether this “early removal” means this year or the next year, or the year after. Indeed, I could not help thinking that the honorable mover of the Address was paving the way for some possible disappointment on the party of the Ottawa members, when he discussed the subject from a sanitary point of view! and told us about damp walls and the possible colds and influenzas that might arise from a too early removal. I did hear a slight growl of dissent! from an honorable gentleman behind me when these remarks were made, but I think the growl will be likely to swell into a pretty loud chorus, if the Ottawa members find that, after all, the Government are as little in earnest about the move as they were a twelve month ago. I do not intend to trespass further on your patience, honorable gentlemen, I will only say, in reference to the last part of the Address, that if I could believe that the Government were likely to carry out one half of the bill of fare which they have given us in one of the concluding paragraphs—“Amendments of the laws relating to Parliamentary Elections; to Bankrupt and Insolvent Debtors; to the Administration of Justice; to the Encouragement of Agriculture; and of the Fisheries; to the Registration of Titles to Real Estate; and to the granting of Patents to Inventors.” I should look for wonderful results from their accession to power. But we have impressed upon us over and over again by the supporters in Parliament during the last session, by their organs in the press during the recess, and by many of the speakers on the opposite side of the House during this very debate, that the Government, as at present constituted, is only capable of exercising one virtue at a time. That retrenchment is their one virtue, and while cultivating this, all others must wait. All the views which they have so long professed in reference to Representation and other leading questions, must be kept in abeyance, and when they have sufficiently matured their financial schemes, and feel themselves strong enough to do more than live from hand to mouth, they will then take up those great measures which the country requires and has been so long expecting at their hands. Well, honorable gentlemen, if this be so, I have no hesitation in avowing my opinion that a Government which is not strong enough to deal with more than one measure is not a Government which deserves the support of the country, and while I would willingly admit retrenchment to be one of the very first and most important questions which any ministry in Canada can now be called upon to
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deal, I earnestly hope that the time is not far distant when the present party in power will be compelled to give place to others who will be strong enough not only to persevere in an efficient system of retrenchment, but strong enough also to originate and carry into effect those important measures which the country urgently demands and has a right to expect from the Government of the day.
Luc Letellier de Saint Just [Grandville, elected 1860, Minister of Agriculture] said he only rose to rectify an error in respect to the prospective removal of the Government to Ottawa. He believed the buildings were now in that advanced condition which fully justified the expectation that they would be perfectly ready next fall to receive their occupants. Under this conviction the Government had cause the officers to be informed, through the Speech from the Throne, that they were to hold themselves in readiness to leave, and he begged to assure the House that so soon as the edifices were ready there would be no delay. In addition to this the officers had been duly notified previous to the beginning of this quarter that such would be the case, and he had the assurances of the contractors that everything would be in readiness at Ottawa at the time named.
Alexander Campbell [Cataraqui, elected 1858]—How was it then that the Attorney General West [John Sandfield Macdonald], during the recent elections at Toronto, eight months ago, had led the people of that city to understand that they might expect the Seat of Government for another term, and that his colleague, the Hon. Mr. Mowat, upon learning there was some doubt on the subject, had tendered his resignation?
Luc Letellier de Saint Just [Grandville, elected 1860, Minister of Agriculture]—At that time there was nothing before the Government to show that the Public Buildings at Ottawa could be ready for a removal this fall. It was clear that if the work to be executed involved several years delay, it would have been right, in obedience to the old standing agreement, that the Government should go to Toronto after the Quebec term had elapsed, but when it was found that one year and a-half would be sufficient to complete the Buildings, the interests of the country forbade the removal to Toronto. And so determined had been the Government to do what was right on the matter that they incurred the risk of displeasing an hon. member who exerted a powerful influence over a large number of the Western members. The Government knew very well that if they had consented to go to Toronto, the Opposition would have had good grounds to ask what had become of the policy of retrenchment, and the cry would have been made not without reason, that, utterly regardless of the ruin they entailed upon the employe’s, they dragged them away to serve their party purposes. The hon. member for Cataraqui [Alexander Campbell] understood well what an inconsistent position it would have been for them to take, but they understood that as well as the Opposition, and though their determination to remain at Quebec exposed them to some risk, they preferred encountering it to breaking their pledge to the country. The position in which they stood at present was this, —they were resolved to move to Ottawa next fall, and had reason to believe there would be no difficulty in the way. Under this conviction, and to obviate claims on the part of the civil servants for unexpired rents, they had warned them not to renew their leases or to enter into engagements with landlords for more than six months from 1st of May next.
Alexander Campbell [Cataraqui, elected 1858]—This was satisfactory, and in accord with the policy of the party with whom he acted, which had always been to go to Ottawa at the earliest day. The hon. member, however, had as good as admitted that the Attorney General West [John Sandfield Macdonald] had led or at least allowed the people of Toronto to believe that the Seat of Government would be removed to that city last fall.
Luc Letellier de Saint Just [Grandville, elected 1860, Minister of Agriculture]—No, but that on the supposition that he had done so, as was alleged.
Alexander Campbell [Cataraqui, elected 1858]—It was perfectly well known that he did, and that to deepen the feeling he had gone personally to examine the buildings available for Government Offices. These proceedings were generally regarded as having greatly influenced the elections, and in effect secured the return of the gentlemen elected. The Hon. Postmaster General [Oliver Mowat], it was also well known, had joined the Government in the belief that this course was to be pursued, and in the Assembly had openly stated he had resigned his office on discovering it was not the intention of his colleagues to do so. How was it, he would like to know, that the Hon. Mr. Mowat could have been so deceived?
Luc Letellier de Saint Just [Grandville, elected 1860, Minister of Agriculture]—Had there been any reasonable grounds for believing, as he had already stated, that several years would be required to complete the Public Buildings at Ottawa, and the Government had refused to go to Toronto, the Hon. Mr. Mowat would no doubt have insisted upon the acceptance of his resignation, but he was too reasonable a person to demand that his expectations of a removal, founded upon the condition of things at the time he took office, but which the rapid progress of the edifices towards completion had altered, should nevertheless be met. He withdrew his resignation, and having become quite satisfied of the feasibility of the transfer of the Seat of Government to Ottawa in about a year, came into cordial accord with his colleagues in regard to remaining, meanwhile, at Quebec.
Some desultory conversation between several members across the floor followed, as to the policy of the Cartier-Macdonald Government on the removal question, in which, however, nothing new was advanced.
It was then six o’clock, and several members were calling for an adjournment, when
William McMaster [Midland, elected 1862] rose and said that before adjourning he wished to say that he had been very much in the company of the Hon. Attorney General West [John Sandfield Macdonald] while he was in Toronto about election times, and ought therefore to know whether the rumoured promises of a removal of the Seat of Government to that city in the fall were correct, but he begged to assure the House that neither by word nor deed had the hon. gentleman given grounds for the reports. They were mere idle rumours, got up to serve a purpose, that was all.
Some Hon. Members—Hear, hear.
On the motion of A.J. Fergusson Blair [Brock, elected 1860, Provincial Secretary], the debate on the Address was adjourned until the next day.
The House then adjourned.
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