Province of Canada, Legislative Council, Scrapbook Debates [Ministerial Explanations], 8th Parl, 2nd Sess, (31 March 1864)
By: Province of Canada (Parliament)
Citation: Province of Canada, Parliament, Scrapbook Debates, 8th Parl, 2nd Sess, 1864 at 113-116.
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THURSDAY, March 31st, 1864.
The Speaker took the Chair at 3 o’clock.
Hon. Sir E. P. TACHE moved that the time for receiving Private Bills and Reports of the Private Bill Committee be extended to the 5th of May next.—Carried.
Hon. Sir N.F. BELLEAU introduced a Bill to regulate the inspection of Leather and Raw Hides.
The SPEAKER informed the House that he had issued his warrant for the election of a member for the Cataraqui Division in lieu of the Hon. Alexander Campbell, who had accepted office under the Crown.
Étienne Pascal Taché [Canada East, appointed 1848, Premier, Minister of Militia, and Receiver General] then rose and spoke as follows:—It is my duty to explain to the House how it happens that I occupy the seat upon which I feel myself at present. On Thursday, the 17th instant, the Premier—the Hon. J.S. Macdonald—came to me in the Legislative Council, and asked me to repair to his office, having important business to communicate to me. I immediately proceeded thither, and after the usual formalities, he addressed me in substance as follows:—“I desire to consult you, to see if there are no means of forming, with your assistance, a stronger Government that that which now exists. My Government has not been beaten, it is indeed weak, but it still commands a majority.” Mr. Macdonald then told me that I could have a certain number of portfolios to dispose of; that if necessary he would even give up his title of Premier, that he then spoke with the concurrence of Hon. Mr. Dorion, who would be disposed, as I understood him, either to withdraw altogether or to drop his quality as Chief or Leader of the Lower Canada section, were that deemed absolutely indispensable.
I replied to these overtures, that at the outset he (Mr. Macdonald) should understand that I did not feel at all disposed to re-enter into active public life, and that consequently it was useless to enter into further details. Before leaving Mr. Macdonald, I promised him to communicate his offers to my friends, and the same evening I went to his house, where he again told me I could inform my friends and Mr. Cartier in particular, that he Mr. Macdonald would not be an obstacle in the way of an arrangement, and I understood further that Mr. Macdonald would have no objections to act in concert with Mr. Cartier.
The next day, Friday the 18th, I went to Montmagny, and on the ensuing Monday, the 21st, I received a telegram from the Hon. Mr. F. Blair, informing me that the Ministry had resigned, and that he, Hon. Mr. Blair, was ready to put himself in communication with me, and he desired to know if I could come up to Quebec. I answered that I would go up on the morrow by the cars, and at four o’clock, a.m., on Tuesday a special train arrived at Montmagny. Having repaired without loss of time to Quebec, I met the Hon. Mr. Blair in one of the rooms of the Legislative Council at about half-past nine o’clock in the morning. Mr. Blair having at first made general proposals, I told him that as regarded himself personally I had only sentiments of esteem and consideration, and that I discovered with pleasure in him the fine qualities I had admired in his honored father, my old friend.
A.J. Fergusson Blair [Brock, elected 1860] then entered into details, and expressed the desire to retain in the Cabinet Messrs. Dorion and Holton, as more likely to inspire confidence in Upper Canada. I replied that I was certain the majority of the members of the Lower Canada Opposition never would consent to support a man like Mr. Dorion, who had just submitted to the Legislature bills tending, if not to destroy, at least to mutilate some of the institutions of the country, and without a prospect of passing them other than reliance upon an Upper Canada majority, and that moreover the Lower Canada section was strong enough to provide for itself (se constituer elle meme.) After some observations from Mr. Blair as to the possibility of inducting Messrs. Cartier and Dorion mutually to retire or to act in concert, we separated without coming to any conclusion.
Next day—Wednesday, the 23rd—His Excellency [Viscount Monck] having sent me a letter by his aide de-camp, asking me to go and see him. He entered at once upon the subject of constructing his Cabinet, dwelling particularly on the necessity of an understanding between the parties. His Excellency [Viscount Monck] then suggested the retention in the Cabinet of Messrs. Holton and Dorion, and as I was about to answer, His Excellency [Viscount Monck] prayed me to speak freely and without any restraint, and also to offer him without hesitation such suggestions as would appear to me reasonable. Thereupon I expressed to His Excellency [Viscount Monck] my great repugnance to enter anew at my age into the active public life which I had left for nearly seven years, and that I really could not take upon myself so responsible a burden as His Excellency [Viscount Monck] seemed desirous to honor me with,
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unless after the trial and failure of all other means of arrangement.
I then submitted to His Excellency [Viscount Monck] that the Bills (projets de loi) which the Hon. Mr. Dorion had introduced in the Legislature when he was supported by only one third of the representatives from Lower Canada, rendered him absolutely impossible to the majority of that section. His Excellency [Viscount Monck] then observed that it would nevertheless be desirable to retain the Hon. Mr. Holton in the Executive Council, to give him the opportunity of putting his financial scheme in operation. His Excellency [Viscount Monck] having left me at liberty to express myself freely, I told him it was my opinion that a strong Government could be formed by the union of the liberal Conservatives of Upper and Lower Canada, with an admixture of the moderate Liberals of Upper Canada, and that as Mr. Cartier had the largest number of adherents in the Opposition I thought it extremely probable that he could succeed in forming such a Government.
His Excellency [Viscount Monck] then said to me that he had no objection whatever to Mr. Cartier; and that if he had sent for Mr. Blair, in preference to Mr. Cartier, it was because the Administration of which Mr. Blair formed part had not been formally defeated, and that, though weak, nothing appeared exteriorly of a nature to prove to him that that Administration was positively in a minority. After having promised His Excellency [Viscount Monck] that I would not leave Quebec, I respectfully withdrew. The same day, toward 4 o’clock in the afternoon, having met a number of my political friends, at the head of whom was Mr. Cartier, I yielded to their solicitations, and consented to form an Administration, if His Excellency the Governor General [Viscount Monck] should so order it.
His Excellency [Viscount Monck] having returned to his residence—it was then 5 o’clock, p.m.—Mr. Cartier and I proceeded thither; and Mr. Cartier having stated to His Excellency [Viscount Monck] that the best thing he could recommend him to do would be to authorize me to form a new Administration—to which, he added, I had consented—His Excellency [Viscount Monck] at once expressed his consent, and the desire that I should set about the work without delay.
Having received from His Excellency [Viscount Monck] the necessary authority I immediately went to the leader of the Conservative party of Upper Canada, Hon. John A. Macdonald, to assure myself of his assistance, and to engage him to construct himself the Upper Canada section of the Cabinet. Mr. Macdonald, being of opinion, with me, that it was important to obtain, by means of just and even of generous offers, the support of moderate men of the Upper Canada Liberal party, thought it his duty to decline a seat in the Cabinet, and immediately caused Hon. Mr. Campbell, of Kingston, to be sent for, to confide to his hands the task which, under the circumstances, he thought he would be most likely to succeed in.
Alexander Campbell [Cataraqui, elected 1858, Commissioner of Crown Lands], having arrived, concurred entirely in the views entertained by Mr. John A. Macdonald and me, as to the propriety of calling upon a sufficient number of the Liberal party of Upper Canada, to establish, if possible, an equilibrium between the respective parties in that section of the Province, and having accepted the offer of leader of that section of the Government immediately put himself in communication with some of the principal members of that section, and as to the result, I will leave Mr. Campbell to speak for himself, through the following report which he made to me. “In pursuance of the suggestion made by Mr. Campbell, on being requested by Sir E. Tache to assist him in the formation of the Upper Canadian section of his Cabinet, Mr. Campbell, on Saturday, the 26th instant, sought an interview with Mr. Fergusson Blair.
At this interview, after discussing the relative strength of parties in the House of Assembly, and the extreme importance to the country of constructing a Government strong enough to deal vigorously with those questions which were pressing and likely to press for attention, Mr. Campbell explained that he had sought the interview with the view of ascertaining whether the aid of Mr. Blair and some of his friends could not be obtained in the construction of the Upper Canada section of the Government, and proposed to place three seats in the Cabinet at Mr. Blair’s disposal, to that end.
Mr. Blair said he must not be regarded as authorized to speak for any one but himself, or to express any views from his own, and that he must reserve to himself the full right to consult with his friends, but he believed they would not depart from the terms which he considered due to the interests of his party, and which he had himself discussed some days before with Sir Etienne Tache, and would have formally proposed to him, had not that gentleman met him with a declaration of his personal unwillingness to assume the toils of office; these terms Mr. Blair said involved conditions affecting the whole province. Mr. Campbell being only authorized to speak as to the Upper Canadian section of the Cabinet, said that he would be glad to learn what they were, and would report to Sir E. Tache.
Mr. Blair replied that they involved the following points, viz.:—That Mr. Blair should have at his disposal six seats in the Cabinet, four for Upper and two for Lower Canada, and Sir E. Tache the same number, reversing the order. That Mr. Blair as Premier of the Government, under the proposed arrangement, should lead in the Legislative Council and one of his friends in the House of Assembly, and finally, that objections on grounds exclusively of a public and political kind existed on the part of some of his friends to Messrs. Cartier, Galt and Cauchon; that he had felt it necessary to stipulate against any of their names being included in the proposal arrangement.
To these names, and for the same reasons only, Mr. Blair, felt it necessary now to add that of Mr. Turcotte. Mr. Campbell inquired if it had been proposed to concede to Sir. E.P. Tache a right to include a similar number of gentlemen inimical to Sir. E. Tache, or his friends and Mr. Blair replied in the negative, adding by way of explanation that his party occupied a position which he thought entitled them to make a stipulation without yielding its equivalent. Mr. Campbell pressed upon Mr. Blair the unfairness of his proposal, and also that Sir. E. Tache being now entrusted with the duty which had, when it was made, been in the hands of Mr. Blair, the ground was much changed; and expressing his conviction that those terms could not but be regretted by Sir E. Tache, suggested that Mr. Blair should farther consider them with his friends, with a view to their modification, and give Mr. Campbell a second interview before Mr. Campbell should wait upon Sir E. Tache. Mr. Blair assented to this”—
A.J. Fergusson Blair [Brock, elected 1860] said he had not engaged to consult with his friends, but had only promised to reconsider the matter himself.
Étienne Pascal Taché [Canada East, appointed 1848, Premier, Minister of Militia, and Receiver General] said he was not in a position to controvert this little point, and when Hon. Mr. Campbell returned the two hon. gentlemen could settle it together, but the memorandum he held in his hand distinctly stated as he had read. He would now proceed with the narrative of Mr. Campbell, who stated that “upon the occasion of the second interview Mr. Blair said that as far as he was personally concerned he would be disposed to waive his claims to the Premiership in favor of Sir E. Tache [who would consequently also become leader in the Upper House] Mr. Blair added that he thought any advances should now properly come from Sir E. Tache as the person entrusted by His Excellency [Viscount Monck] with the formation of a Cabinet, but that in other respects he adhered to the terms originally proposed by him.” Sir E. Tache then proceeded and said:—In consequence of the last conversation of Mr. Campbell with Mr. Blair I met the latter on Monday, the 28th inst., early, in the Legislative Council, when he at once said he was no longer in a position to treat with me. That at a caucus of the friends of Government the Hon. Mr. J.S. Macdonald had been chosen leader of the large Upper Canada section.
A.J. Fergusson Blair [Brock, elected 1860] said he did not think he had stated that Mr. J.S. Macdonald had been appointed leader, since he had all along been the leader of that party; but that his friends had passed a resolution approving of the manner in which he had discharged the duties of that post.
Étienne Pascal Taché [Canada East, appointed 1848, Premier, Minister of Militia, and Receiver General]—Well, I certainly did understand the hon. members to say that Mr. J.S. Macdonald had been appointed leader, and that he (Mr. Blair) was no longer in a condition to treat with me.
A.J. Fergusson Blair [Brock, elected 1860] said the inference was perhaps natural enough; but he still maintained he had not stated that Mr. Macdonald had been elected leader at the caucus.
Étienne Pascal Taché [Canada East, appointed 1848, Premier, Minister of Militia, and Receiver General], continuing he narrative, said:—Surprised at the exorbitant pretensions of Mr. Blair, and not holding myself obliged to acknowledge the choice of Mr. J.S. Macdonald by his party, without, however, abandoning the hope of obtaining the co-operation of the moderate liberals of Upper Canada, I addressed myself the same day, about noon, to the Hon. Mr. McDougall.
The first thing Mr. McDougall desired to know was the political basis of the new Government, and having entered into some detains, the hon. gentleman made no objection of a nature to lead to the conclusion that he could not act in concert in a combination such as I was attempting to form. It became necessary in the next place to come to the conditions; and Mr. McDougall having asked four seats in the Cabinet for the Upper Canada section, and two in that of Lower Canada—the precise proposition of Mr. Blair, excepting always the exclusion or ostracism of the gentlemen named in the Hon. Mr. Campbell’s report—I told him that the demand was altogether inadmissible, whereupon we separated. I then saw Messrs. J.A. Macdonald and A. Campbell, and resolved to form a Cabinet composed of the Liberal Conservatives of Upper and Lower Canada, supported by such of the Liberals of Upper Canada as might be disposed to act in convert with us, and having accomplished the task, I now beg to give to the House the names of the members of the new Administration.
(The hon. gentleman read the names of the members of the new Government with the several offices held by them, but which having already appeared, we do not here repeat. He also read the political programme they had agreed upon, which for the same reason we with-hold.)
This political programme, he continued, was adopted by a Cabinet composed pf homogenous elements. It only contains of course, an index to the subjects which will be matured at a later day, and submitted to Parliament. To ask for more would be simply an absurdity, a moral and physical impossibility, the Government being hardly twenty-four hours old.
A.J. Fergusson Blair [Brock, elected 1860] said if the House had not stood adjourned over Easter holidays, it would have fallen to his lot to announce to the House the resignation of the late Government, instead of that task devolving on the gallant knight, who was now Premier [Étienne Pascal Taché] and the leader in the House. The Macdonald-Dorion Government up to the time of its resignation had been able to maintain itself in Parliament, and to conduct the ordinary business of the country. They had no reason to believe that they were weaker than in the previous session. On the contrary they have assumed that they were not as weak, from the circumstances that during this session no attempt had been made in the House of Assembly to carry any vote adverse to the Government.
Still they felt they did not possess that amount of strength which would, in their opinion, have justified them in bringing down any important measures to Parliament, to be carried by a very small majority; and as there appeared no way of obtaining additional strength, unless by getting some accession from the opposite party, they resolved to place their resignations in His Excellency’s [Viscount Monck] hands. He alluded to these circumstances, in order that hon. gentlemen might bear in mind they did not consider themselves in the position of a defeated party, and understand why ha had thought they were justified in subsequent negotiations in proposing terms which, under other circumstances, might have appeared too favorable to themselves. They also furnished a reason why His Excellency [Viscount Monck] should have felt justified in sending in the first instance for a member of the resigning Cabinet, instead of the chiefs of the Opposition, because in fact the Opposition had carried no vote defeating the Administration.
His Excellency [Viscount Monck] did him [Hon. Mr. Blair] the honor of sending for him, and he lost no time in sending intelligence to Sir E.P. Tache to the effect as he had stated. In the interview with Sir. E.P. Tache, his hon. and gallant friend expressed, from the very first, an unwillingness to resume the toils of office, and declined to join him in the task of forming an Administration. The conversation then ceased to be of a formal and official character, but it continued for some time longer, as he [Hon. Mr. Blair], naturally desired to hear the views of one who had so great experience in public life as Sir. E.P. Tache—particularly with regard to sentiment in his own section of the Province. He afterwards invited Hon. Mr. Dorion to undertake the task of endeavoring to secure further support from Lower Canada.
After some time spent in endeavoring to secure this support, the Hon. Mr. Dorion informed him [Hon. Mr. Blair] that he had been unsuccessful. He [Mr. Blair] then waited on His Excellency [Viscount Monck], and requested to be relieved from the task entrusted to him. His Excellency [Viscount Monck] having granted this request, he [Hon. Mr. Blair] ceased to be anything more than a private member of the retiring Cabinet, and he considered that any further approaches which might be made to their party should be made to the hon. gentleman who was his chief and leader—the late Premier, the Hon. J.S. Macdonald.
At the same time he had no objection to meet any of his colleagues in this House and converse on affairs in the country, in the manner in which he afterwards met the Hon. Mr. Campbell, whose statement of what had passed at the interview between them had been laid before the House. That interview was entirely of an informal character. He had not the authority of his colleagues to treat with the Hon. Mr. Campbell, nor was anything he said binding on any of them except himself. Had this conversation with the Hon. Mr. Campbell appeared likely to lead to any result, he would have requested Hon. J.S. Macdonald as his chief, to call a meeting of their colleagues, in order that it might be seen whether they agreed or not with the views he had expressed, either as regarded the policy or personnel of the Administration to be formed. But the points of view from which the Hon. Mr. Campbell and himself looked at the matter were so different, that there was evidently no reasonable ground to suppose that any agreement could be come to.
His (Hon. Mr. Blair’s) opinion was, and still is, that the party to which he belonged was the stronger party in Parliament, and that its strength out of doors was relatively stronger than within the walls of Parliament. But the Hon. Mr. Campbell frankly stated that he entirely differed from him (Hon. Mr. Blair) in that opinion, and very naturally a proposition coming from the party which believed itself the stronger might appear unreasonable to the Hon. Mr. Campbell, who believed it weaker than his. To show how impossible it was that they could come to an understanding, it was enough to mention that if he had accepted the Hon. Mr. Campbell’s proposition of three Upper Canadian seats to a majority of that section, he would have been compelled to accept a gentleman who had openly left the Liberal party.
As to other negotiations referred to by Sir E.P. Tache, he knew nothing. He could not sit down, however, without acknowledging in the most heartfelt manner, the very kind treatment he had met, without a single exception, during the time he had had the honor of conducting the affairs of the Government in this House. He should ever be sensible of it, and should endeavor to repay it by similar conduct to those who might occupy a similar position; and he trusted, now that he had ceased to fill that honorable and responsible position, it might still be in his power, so long as he continued a private member of the House, to be of some service in forwarding useful legislation.
Some Hon. Members—Loud and continued applause.
Luc Letellier de Saint Just [Grandville, elected 1860] said that the hon. member [Sir E.P. Tache] had endeavored to create the impression that the late Government had evinced a spirit adverse to conciliation, but he thought without sufficient grounds. No doubt the circumstances were very difficult, but he did not think the hon. member was justified in saying that there was a disposition on the part of his [Mr. LeTellier’s] friends to ostracise any one. On the contrary he believed that the general course of the late Government showed there was every disposition on their part to try the best means to make the differences disappear, but the position was so difficult, that without good will on both sides, such a result was almost impossible.
His Excellency the Governor General [Viscount Monck] finding that no of vote want of confidence or any vote implying censure had been passed upon the Administration, deemed it his duty after their resignation, to call upon one of themselves, and accordingly he had sent for the Hon. Mr. Blair. Finding that that hon. member could not succeed in forming an Administration, he had then sent for the hon. and gallant Knight, who having great experience in the politics of the country, he thought would probably succeed in conciliating the diverging parties so as to form a strong Government. His Excellency [Viscount Monck] was sensible that without that there would be a dead lock, and as a consequence great trouble and loss to the country.
The honorable member [Sir E.P. Tache] came and met Hon. Mr. Blair, but pleaded his age as a sufficient reason for not assuming the task of aiding to form a Government, though he had afterwards consented. The consequence of the refusal was that Hon. Mr. Blair applied to Hon. Mr. Dorion to see it he could not get assistance from the Opposition, and that gentleman had made overtures to some of them. But without success. He had approached them in the spirit of conciliation, but did not find them willing to enter into his views. Mr. Dorion reported his failure to Mr. Blair and Mr. Blair was obliged to inform His Excellency [Viscount Monck] the he could not construct an Administration. It was then that Mr. Mr. Cartier was called upon by His Excellency [Viscount Monck] and he [Hon. Mr. LeTellier] believed that it was in consequence of the difficulties which that hon. gentleman experienced, that the hon. member [Sir E. Tache] at last consented to undertake the task.
After that other attempts were made to induce Liberal members from Upper Canada to assist, but without avail, and one of the great charges now started was that they were too exacting. He must say, however, that the negotiations between Hon. Messrs. Campbell and Blair, in which the latter hon. gentleman was charged as having been too exacting, was only a personal matter, and that his opinions did not necessarily bind the whole party. He did not know whether they all entertained the same views, especially in the matter of excluding hon. Mr. Cartier from the new Government, but even were it so he [Mr. Le Tellier] believed it would have been but a reflex of the general opinion entertained of that hon. gentleman, who, though now represented as the only saviour of the country, had been for a long time regarded as the chief obstacle in the way of accommodation: Hon Mr. Campbell, as it appeared, offered three or four seats in the cabinet to the Upper Canada Liberals and two to the Liberals of Lower Canada, but he [Mr. Le Tellier] thought the offer was not up to the reasonable expectations of the latter.
It was true that the Conservative party of Lower Canada was in a large majority, but then it should not be forgotten that there were two nationalities in Lower Canada, and that when the English were deducted the residue would be found pretty equally divided. He did not wish to see the Upper Canada Conservatives ostracised, but he thought there was something of a disposition to a ostracise the Liberal party of Lower Canada. If there had been more regard for that party, and a proper spirit of conciliation had been exhibited, the results might have been different.
The recriminations which were now indulged in about the exactions of the Upper Canada Liberals, showed that those of Lower Canada had been forgotten, and if the former deserved blame, he thought the Conservatives of Lower Canada merited the same censure. As to the political programme submitted to the House, he had some misgivings. If the Cabinet were homogenous as had been represented, the policy would be the same, but he hardly thought the elements of the new Administration were so homogenous as was pretended. They proposed to occupy themselves with the question of defence, and no doubt the defence of the country was a matter of the first importance, but then this was not a new idea, for the late Government had given a great deal of attention to the subject. But perhaps the Hon. Premier [Étienne Pascal Taché], who had always advocated a coercive system, intended to make changes in that direction.
Étienne Pascal Taché [Canada East, appointed 1848, Premier, Minister of Militia, and Receiver General]—Your Militia system was a coercive one, and the objections to it were in the details of a machinery for carrying out the principle.
Luc Letellier de Saint Just [Grandville, elected 1860] would be glad to know what the changes would be, but evidently there was some desire to conceal them for the present.
Étienne Pascal Taché [Canada East, appointed 1848, Premier, Minister of Militia, and Receiver General]—No, no. On the contrary he wished everything in regard to the Militia policy to be fully know.
Luc Letellier de Saint Just [Grandville, elected 1860]—Then the Reciprocity Treaty with the United States was to be looked after, but he thought this was a matter within the particular province of Great Britain. We could indeed say we would be happy to have the Treaty renewed, but that was all, for the action must remain between the Imperial Government and the United States. Then the relations with the Lower Provinces were to be drawn closer. Did this mean that the Intercolonial Railway policy of 1862 was to be revived? Was it intended to build that Railway upon the terms then spoken of. The policy of the late Government had been attached by the hon. member for Montreal West [Thomas D’Arcy McGee], and the country had a right to know whether it was now proposed to go on at once with that work. Various other measures were alluded to in the programme, about which it would be desirable to know more than had been stated.
The hon. member here read the various items of the programme, and said that it so much resembles that of the late Government he could not see why so much fault had been found with the Speech from the Throne. The hon. member went on to contend that the country had a right to know more of the policy of the Government then was imparted, before the elections took place, especially about the proposed changes in the Militia law, the Intercolonial Railway, and the commercial policy of the new Minister of Finance [Alexander Galt]. The latter item was particularly interesting, inasmuch as there was now in the Cabinet two influential members, the Minister of Finance [Alexander Galt] who was a Free Trader and the President of the Council [Isaac Buchanan] who was a Protectionist.
He then referred to the objections of the Hon. Premier [Étienne Pascal Taché] to some [illegible] of Hon. Mr. Dorion as calculated to destroy or [illegible] the institutions of Lower Canada, and asked whether they had reference to the Judicature Bill or to that which was intended to compel public officers having moneys belonging to clients to deposit them in banks instead of keeping them as they now did in their own custody. He would be glad to hear from the Hon. Premier [Étienne Pascal Taché] upon these subjects. He also desired to propose a question to the Hon. Premier [Étienne Pascal Taché] which had been asked in the other Branch but not answered, vis., whether the Government intended to re-open the matter of the Postal Subsidy, and would be glad to get an answer. Upon all these subjects the people had a right to be informed, and be trusted they would be satisfactorily met by the hon. member.
Étienne Pascal Taché [Canada East, appointed 1848, Premier, Minister of Militia, and Receiver General] said Hon. Mr. Blair had stated that although the late ministry had resigned their offices they had a majority in the other Branch of the Legislature, but many persons were of a different opinion, and the Hon. Mr. Campbell held that the reverse was the case. At any rate this was a matter of opinion, and he thought that if the Government had believed they had a majority, they would not have resigned. The Opposition had placed no obstacles in their way, had proposed no vote of want of confidence and no amendment in answer to the Speech from the Throne. There had been a good deal of talk to be sure, but no action.
No doubt the Opposition had reasons for the course they had pursued. They knew that it was feeble and in the last stage of consumption, and that it must soon die, so they determined to let it expire in peace and it did. As to the majority, he had said it was a matter of opinion, and when the ministers come back from their elections the opinion could be verified. The hon. member for Brock (Hon. Mr. Blair) had intimated that he ought not to have been put in communication with Hon. Mr. Campbell as Mr. J.S. Macdonald was the head of the party, but he (Sir E.P. Taché) thought that since the latter gentleman had resigned he was no more (in spite of the caucus) than any other, the humblest member of the party, and that the proper person to negotiate with was the person His Excellency [Viscount Monck] had sent for. This objection he must regard as due to the extreme modesty of his hon. friend, but he (Sir E.P. Taché) could know no other person under the circumstances.
The hon. member (Le Tellier) had said that the Lower Canada minority had not intended to ostracise their opponents, but that they were disposed to conciliate, but he, (Sir E.P. Taché) thought that the measures of Hon. Mr. Dorion, to which he had alluded, and which could only be passed by Upper Canada majorities, showed there was at least a desire to ignore the Lower Canada majority. The same hon. member had also reflected upon his (Sir E.P. Taché’s) first refusal, by reason of age, to resume the cares of active political life, and his subsequent consent, and he admitted there might appear some incongruity in this, but what a person might be disposed to do for political adversaries, he might be excused for doing in order to save his friends.
Some Hon. Members—Hear, hear.
Étienne Pascal Taché [Canada East, appointed 1848, Premier, Minister of Militia, and Receiver General]—If he had consulted his feelings only, he certainly would not have re-assumed the burden of political affairs, but his friendship had caused him to yield, and perhaps after all he had been guilty of weakness in so doing. The hon. member (Mr. Le Tellier) had also said that if the English element of Lower Canada were put aside, the two divisions of the Franco-Canadians would be about equal; but it was impossible to make such distinctions. Englishmen had the same rights as French Canadians, and taking the whole together, the Conservative party in Lower Canada had at least 40 to 25, which was a large majority. Then the hon. member wished him to go into the details of the Ministerial policy.
Luc Letellier de Saint Just [Grandville, elected 1860]—No; he wished only some precise and brief statements as to particular items which could be answered yea or nay; as, for instance, if free trade or protection were to be the commercial policy of the country under the new regime.
Étienne Pascal Taché [Canada East, appointed 1848, Premier, Minister of Militia, and Receiver General] said that when the policy of the Government had been maturely considered, he would be able to answer the hon. member; but after only two or three hours to consider the subject, it was not likely he would be able to reply as fully as the hon. member seemed to desire. No doubt after the Ministers had come back to their places, the inquiries of the hon. member could be fully answered. When the late Government was formed it was not so pressed to give details of its policy, and in proof of the forbearance there exhibited he would read a paragraph from the speech of the hon. J.A. Macdonald on the occasion, which was as follows:—“I will not discuss any one of the items of which that policy is composed. I desire to keep myself free from entering prematurely into the discussion of any one of them. It had been authoritatively announced that their policy, as shaped in due season by the Government, will be submitted to the House, and we will then have a full opportunity of expressing our opinion upon it.” That was what he called fair play, and all he asked was that it should be conceived to-day as it was in analogous circumstances some time ago.
The hon. member had also spoken of the Militia and of coercion, but he ought to know, as a notary, that such coercion had always existed in the law, and that every member, from 18 to 60 years of age, was bound to serve in case of need. To be sure, it had been fashionable lately to call such coercion by bad names, but still it was law, and the same law as was embodied in the Bill of the late Government, to the details or machinery of which only he objected. Now that he was Minister of Militia he would try to remedy the defects, and proposed to bring in a Bill for that purpose. But the hon. member thought that after twenty-four hours the Government should be prepared to go into the details of their measures. Well, now, the Postmaster General’s Report, which should have been placed on the table within ten days after the meeting of Parliament, was not ready until twenty-four days after the opening.
Narcisse F. Belleau [Canada East, appointed 1852]—Aye, and the Report of the Minister of Agriculture.
Étienne Pascal Taché [Canada East, appointed 1848, Premier, Minister of Militia, and Receiver General]—Yes, that Report was not yet submitted, although he knew his hon. friend to be a pains-taking and laborious man.
Some Hon. Members—Hear, hear.
Luc Letellier de Saint Just [Grandville, elected 1860]—All that he could say was that the Report was in the hands of the translators.
Étienne Pascal Taché [Canada East, appointed 1848, Premier, Minister of Militia, and Receiver General] had only alluded to these things just to show that it was not so easy a matter as the hon. member had supposed, to go at once into the details of all the items specified in the political programme submitted to the House.
Luc Letellier de Saint Just [Grandville, elected 1860] said he had only asked answers to special things, which could be given yea or nay.
Étienne Pascal Taché [Canada East, appointed 1848, Premier, Minister of Militia, and Receiver General]—Yes, the hon. member wanted to know all about the commercial policy of the Government, but the late Minister of Finance had been in office for ten months, and had not as yet made known his commercial policy. How then could the hon. member ask that in a few hours the present Government could give theirs?
Philip Moore [Canada East, appointed 1841] said he thought the present discussion was not regular, and that if allowed, it would afford a pad precedent. It was not usual in the Imperial Parliament to go into the policy of a new Government. The retiring and incoming parties had agreed as to matters of fact just as they had occurred, and they were submitted to the two Chambers. After the communication of these statements no debate ensued. If the contrary principle were allowed, and the policy of the incoming Government were to be discussed, it would be unfair; for until the members of the new Government were in their places, it could not be expected that a full and reliable account of their policy should be submitted. Such inquiries should be deferred until they were there to answer for themselves. The discussion this afternoon, he thought, had been irregular, and ought not to be passed into a precedent.
Some Hon. Members—Hear, hear.
Luc Letellier de Saint Just [Grandville, elected 1860] thought the course pursued was altogether regular and proper.
On motion of Étienne Pascal Taché [Canada East, appointed 1848, Premier, Minister of Militia, and Receiver General], seconded by A.J. Fergusson Blair [Brock, elected 1860], it was resolved that when this House adjourns it stands adjourned until Tuesday, the 3rd May next.
The House then adjourned.