Province of Canada, Legislative Assembly, 8th Parl, 3rd Sess (23 January 1865)

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Date: 1865-01-24
By: Province of Canada (Parliament), Morning Chronicle
Citation: “Provincial Parliament. Legislative Assembly. Monday, Jan. 23rd” [Quebec] Morning Chronicle (24 January 1865).
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MONDAY, January 23, 1865.[1]


  •         (p. A:2)

The first order of the day was the consideration of His Excellency’s [Viscount Monck] speech at the commencement of the session[2].

Théodore Robitaille [Bonaventure] rose to move the resolutions for an address in answer to the speech from the throne. He said—A few slight reflections on the speech from the throne had sufficed to convince him of his slight aptitude for the discussion of such serious matters; and if he attempted, at the present moment, to speak, it was with the hope that this honorable House would be so good as to listen with the same kind indulgence which it had always accorded to these who felt rather doubtful with regard to their own strength, and who therefore only spoke on conviction. (Hear, hear.)

This speech, which comprised subjects of the highest importance, had been submitted to us at a most solemn period of our history; and up to the present moment Canada has never found itself in a position to decide its future by its own individual movement—it had never before been able to pass from inertia to activity—from isolation to union—from weakness to strength—from national obscurity to the light and glory which animate all great nations. (Hear, hear, and cheers.)

That which particularly recommended this speech to our serious attention was the fact that it referred to two subjects of the most vital importance, viz:—the codification of the civil laws of Lower Canada, and the question of the Confederation of the British North American Provinces. (Hear, hear.)

But before entering on the consideration of these very important matters he would have a few words to say on some points which were of minor importance. In order to guide him in discussing them, he would therefore read the following resolutions:

“That an humble address be presented to His Excellency the Governor General, to thank His Excellency for His Gracious Speech at the opening of the present Session of the Provincial Parliament, and further to assure His Excellency,—

“That we share with His Excellency the desire to express our thankfulness to a beneficient Providence, that in calling us together to resume the performance of our constitutional duties, His Excellency is enabled to congratulate us on the general propriety and contentment of the people of this Province, and the continuance to us of the inestimable blessings of Peace.

“That we deeply regret that outrages have been committed on the commerce and territory of the United States of America by persons who, after the perpetration, of these acts, have sought refuge on Canadian soil.

“That we learn with satisfaction that in order to prevent the organization of any such enterprizes within this Province, and also to enable His Excellency to discharge in an effective manner his duties towards a neighbouring power on terms of friendship with Her Majesty, His Excellency has seen fit to organize a system of detective Police on the frontier line of the United States, and that with the same design he has called out for permanent duty a portion of the Volunteer Force of the Province.

“That we receive with much interest the information that similar considerations have suggested the propriety of arming the Executive Government with stronger power than it now possesses for dealing with persons, who, while availing themselves of the right of asylum which has always been allowed on British soil to political refugees from all foreign countries, may be unmindful of the implied obligations which, by their residence amongst us, they contract to obey our laws and to respect the declared policy of our Sovereign; and that any Bill framed for that purpose which His Excellency may cause to be laid before us shall receive our early consideration.

“That we are happy to be informed of the zeal and alacrity displayed by the members of the Volunteer Force when called upon to turn out for active service; and that we are proud to feel with His Excellency and their conduct shows that the present population of Canada has not degenerated from the manly virtues which characterize the races from which it derives its origin, and that it may be relied on, under all circumstances, to respond to the call of duty, either for the maintenance of internal order, or to repel foreign aggression.

“That we learn with pleasure that the Commissioners appointed under the provisions of the second chapter of the Consolidated Statutes of Lower Canada to frame a Civil Code, and also a Code of Civil Procedure for Lower Canada, have completed the former part of their duty; that the results of their labors will be laid before us, and that His Excellency is informed that the Code of Civil Procedure is in a very advanced state.

“That we believe with His Excellency that the completion of the Codification of the Civil Law, in both French and English, cannot fail to be of great benefit to the inhabitants of Lower Canada by enabling the people of all origins to read, in their own languages, the Civil Law under which they live, and which hitherto has only been accessible in a language which is not the mother tongue of a portion of the people whose civil rights are regulated by it.

“That we are aware that the expenditure rendered necessary by calling out the Volunteers for active service, and which was unforeseen when the estimates of the current year were agreed to, must necessitate a supplementary vote for that service; and that the estimate for this purpose, which His Excellency may direct to be laid before us, shall receive our prompt attention.

“That we are happy to learn that His Excellency finds himself in a position to inform us that the financial legislation of the least session has been attended with beneficial results, and that the revenue has largely increased, and there has been a contemporaneous extension of the trade of the Province.

“That the estimates for the next financial year, which His Excellency has directed to be laid before us, shall receive our most careful consideration, and that we do not doubt that we shall find that they have been framed with a due attention to economy combined with efficiency.

“That we have not ceased to bear in mind that at the close of the last Session of Parliament His Excellency graciously informed us that it was his intention, in conjunction with his ministers, to prepare and submit to us a measure for the solution of the constitutional problem, the discussion of which has for some years agitated this Province.

“That we receive from His Excellency, with the most profound attention, the announcement,—

“That a careful consideration of the general position of British North America induced the conviction that the circumstances of the times afforded the opportunity not merely for the settlement of a question of Provincial politics, but also for the simultaneous creation of a new nationality,—

“That preliminary negotiations were opened by His Excellency with the Lieutenant Governors of the other Provinces of British North America, and that the result was that a meeting was held at Quebec, in the month of October last, composed of delegates from those Colonies, representing all shades of political party in their several communities, nominated by the Lieutenant Governors of their respective Provinces, who assembled here, with the sanction of the Crown and at His Excellency’s invitation, to confer with the members of the Canadian Ministry on the possibility of effecting a Union of all the Provinces of British North America,—

“That this Conference, after lengthened deliberations, arrived at the conclusion that a Federal Union of these Provinces was feasible and desirable, and the result of its labors is a plan of Constitution for the proposed Union, embodied in a series of resolutions, which, with other papers relating to the subject, His Excellency has directed to be laid before us,—

“And that the general design of a Union and the particular plan by which it is proposed to carry that intention into effect, have both received the cordial approbation of the Imperial Government.

“That inasmuch as an Imperial Act of Parliament will be necessary in order to give effect to the contemplated Union of the Colonies, we are gratified to learn from His Excellency that he has been officially informed by the Secretary of State that Her Majesty’s Ministers will be prepared to introduce a Bill for that purpose into the Imperial Parliament so soon as they shall have been notified that the proposal has received the sanction of the Legislatures representing the several Provinces affected by it.

“That His Excellency may rest assured that in giving our attention to this subject, the importance of which, to ourselves and our descendants, it is impossible to exaggerate, we shall bestow upon it our calm, earnest and impartial consideration.

“That we receive with deference the expression of His Excellency’s conviction, that with the public men of British North America it now rests to decide whether the vast tract of country which they inhabit shall be consolidated into a State, combining within its areas all the elements of National greatness, providing for the security of its component parts, and contributing to the strength and stability of the Empire, or whether the several Provinces of which it is constituted shall remain in their present fragmentary and isolated condition, comparatively powerless for mutual aid, incapable of undertaking their proper share of Imperial responsibility.

“And that we united with His Excellency in the fervent prayer, that in the discussion of an issue of such moment, our minds may be guided to conclusions which shall redound to the honour of our Sovereign, and to the welfare of Her subjects.”[3]

His Excellency [Viscount Monck] was certainly amply justified in congratulating the country on our material prosperity, and the inestimable blessings of peace which Divine Providence had bestowed upon us. Our position was of the most exceptional nature. Our lot was cast in the midst of a vast continent, the greater portion of which was at this moment disturbed by the horrors of war—should we not therefore appreciate at its true value the peace and liberty we enjoyed, as also the friendly relations which existed between ourselves and our neighbors. (Hear, hear.)

In acknowledging these benefits we could not remain unmindful of our duty, and we should do everything in our power, in order to maintain our neutrality intact. Thus our duty obliged us to protect—and it was a happy privilege for us to do so—all those who, for political causes sought a refuge on our free and neutral soil; but the same duty imposed upon us also the care of respecting our neutrality and preventing any person from taking advantage of the protection of our asylum to drag us into hostilities with our neighbors. (Hear, hear.)

A striking proof that we thoroughly understood our position, and that we were sincere in our desire to maintain the amicable relations which exist between ourselves and the neighbour States, was to be found in the energy shown by the Government in protecting the frontier, and in the enthusiasm manifested by the volunteer corps in responding to the appeal of His Excellency the Commander-in-Chief [Viscount Monck], and ranging themselves under the national flag. (Cheers.)

The maintenance of this little volunteer army under arms no doubt involved considerable expense: but we were happy to learn that the revenues of the present year would suffice to meet this unforeseen outlay. The enthusiasm which the volunteer corps manifested in responding to the call of the Government; their excellent conduct since they have been on active service was of a nature to give us a proof that, if ever their services were required by their country, they would not shew themselves inferior to their ancestors, who had always displayed great valor on the battle field. (Loud cheers.)

He (Dr. Robitaille) would now, so to speak, drop the sword for the gown—he would pass from the subject of the volunteer militia to that of the civil code of Lower Canada. He would be very brief on this subject, inasmuch as it was altogether out of is limits. Had he been called upon to speak on those arts and sciences which had formed the more particular subject of his professional studies, or the means employed to relieve ailments of the different organs, such as the lungs or heart, he (Dr. R.) would have found himself more in his element, and the subject would have been less ungrateful for him. (Hear, hear and laughter.)

Under these circumstances, he should content himself with expressing satisfaction, conjointly with all Lower Canada, at the intelligence that our civil laws had been at last entirely codified: and that the interpretation would be no longer exclusively reserved to the gentlemen of the bar; but that, by means of this work on codification every individual would, in ordinary cases, be able to ascertain what was prescribed by the laws of the country. This, of course, did not go to say that the lawyers would no longer find means of creating quarrels and making fees in order to maintain the dignity of the bar (laughter and cheers.) but he desired to refer to the importance of the work which would be a monument not only to the memory of the three jurists who performed their work so conscientiously, but also to the energy, talent and patriotism of the Hon. Attorney General for Lower Canada [George-Étienne Cartier]. (Cheers.)

Going back through a lapse of ten years, and examining the legislation of the Province from year to year, we would be able to judge of the amount of care, of assiduity and intelligence the Honorable Attorney General East [George-Étienne Cartier] had been compelled to bring into action in order to consummate the great act of his political life. But he (Dr. R.) was mistaken. A greater act was in store for that hon. gentleman. It was reserved for the Honorable Attorney General East [George-Étienne Cartier]  and his colleagues to place before Parliament the plan of a constitution not only for the whole of Canada but for all British North America. It was reserved to them to lay the foundation of an empire almost as great as Europe, and which, by means of its shipping, would at once find itself occupying a third rank amidst the nations. (Loud cheers.)

The constitution in question, if adopted, would settle our destinies for several centuries at least; and certainly deserved, as His Excellency [Viscount Monck] had stated, our most serious consideration. It was not a party question, it was a national question. It was not a question of political passion or prejudice, but one of justice and general interest. We should therefore set aside all resentment and all personal animosity, and consider the question with calm impartiality. We, Lower Canadians, should not forget that, if up to the present moment, we had been enabled to preserve our rights and our privileges, it was because we had been just towards others. We should not, therefore, at such a solemn moment do anything which would create division amongst ourselves our attempt exactions which it would be impossible to satisfy. (Hear, hear.)

Let us follow the example given us by the members of the Quebec Conference and the people whom they represented. They met together—each one with his particular ideas and pretensions and his different predilections; but, once together, they at once admitted that in order to lay the foundation of a durable work justice should form that foundation; and that their work should therefore be a work of compromise. (Hear, hear.)

He (Dr. R.) was convinced that when the Government submitted the result of the deliberations of the Conference to us at a later period, it would not tell us that the constitution adopted was absolutely and in all points that which each one of its members would have desired, or what every member of this House would have desired; but that it was a work which, while exacting certain conditions from the several Provinces called to form part of the Confederation, guarded nevertheless the most important rights and privileges of everyone one of them. (Hear, hear)

He would not enter into the details of the proposed plan, because they were not actually submitted at this moment; but would content himself with remarking that Canada seemed to be a privileged country. A few years ago, we saw, by the change in the Seignioral Tenure, a revolution effected, which in other countries could only have been carried out but in the midst of blood and disturbances. [Hear, hear.]

We had just seen, and we still witnessed the spectacle of another revolution, still greater and more important, being effected with the sanction of the mother country; and our people, having full confidence in these who were called upon to guide them, remaining calm and awaiting without fear for the Parliament to sanction a project which would have for effect not only to settle our sectional difficulties, but above and before all to raise us out of our state of isolation and insignificance, and give us a place at the banquet of nations. [Loud and enthusiastic cheers.]

Frederick Haultain [Peterborough] seconded the address. He said—It was with mingled feelings of reluctance and satisfaction he now rose to second the address to His Excellency [Viscount Monck]—reluctance that he could not bring to his duty greater ability, great qualities of mind and information which the circumstances of our position would well repay. But he had the greatest satisfaction in taking his humble part with the honorable gentlemen to whom we were indebted for our present position, and to congratulate them upon the fact of bringing to an end the difficulties that had harassed us for some time past; and of taking steps towards the establishment and consolidation of the British power on this continent. (Cheers.)

We meet under peculiarly happy circumstances. We were called upon to consider the prosperity that ad been vouchsafed us, and whatever we thought of it, positively or relatively, we had indeed cause to express our thankfulness. We had only to cast our eyes over the world generally in order readily to understand and appreciate the great blessings we enjoyed. If we regarded the old world, we found our position had been peculiarly fortunate. We had, with sadness, to think of the attack made upon a small and gallant country whose population didn’t number more than our own; a country whose rights had been invaded and trampled upon by countries whose external and internal condition but too well indicated the retribution that was to follow their conduct. [Cheers.]

We could most happily contrast our own circumstances with those of the mother-country. We had not had a large part of our population deprived of their usual means of existence; and although the prosperity of that country had been wonderful under the circumstances, yet it had to deplore the loss, on the part of a large class, of the means of useful industry. If we looked at the condition of our fellow colonists, we still had much to be thankful for. We saw a small colony not containing one tithe of our population, which had been suffering all the terrible evils of civil war, and whose expenses had been most disproportionate to its means. Then, again, if we come nearer home, we saw another fellow colony, Bermuda, which had been devasted by the scourge of pestilence; and still nearer home we had seen one of our sister colonies on this continent suffering from the want of the necessaries of life for her population. While pestilence and famine had been at work in other parts of the British Empire those evils had been averted from ourselves; and while there was indeed grave apprehension at the beginning of last year that we should suffer materially in our interests, we had not experienced the serious evils anticipated.

As the year wore on we found that the sun continued to shine when general showers were needed and were in much doubt and apprehension that we should suffer almost a famine. We had, however, to be grateful that, as the year advanced, those apprehensions were removed by the genial showers that were given us. No doubt branches of trade and industry had suffered somewhat; but, on the whole, we had reason to express thankfulness for the prosperity that we had enjoyed. We had had a very large increase of our income over that of the preceding year. We had an increase during the first half of the past year of 50 per cent. over that of the first half the preceding year. He might here mention that the sums paid for the lands needed by the farming population of the country had increased, during the first half of the past year, 25 per cent, over that paid into the Treasury during the corresponding period of the preceding year. In consideration of those facts we could not but conclude that our prosperity had been real and solid.

Not only had we to speak of the prosperity, but had most rightly brought before us the happy contentment that prevailed among our population. We had—and he could speak more particularly of the section of the country from which he came—to record the very great and increasing contentment of the people with their lot in this land. He could not be insensible to the fact that very much was due therefore to that illustrious lady who so worthily filled the British Throne. (Cheers.)

He could not be insensible to the fact that the bonds of society generally were closely connected by our having a common interest in that throne, and by the loyalty existing in all our hearts to wards that illustrious person to whom we owed so much. There could be no doubt that her example, as the head of the empire, had been fraught with untold good to the country over which she reigned. Her example of virtue had animated the hearts of many, and ad it was found that virtue and morality had been largely increased among her people during her glorious reign. There was no question that the monarch of those realms must do much either towards the contentment or the discontentment of the subjects; and none had done so much towards giving satisfaction, under the institutions under which we live, as our Gracious Sovereign Queen Victoria. (Cheers.)

He believed we might all take an example from her life, and that those called to public affairs would do well to remember the influence we must necessarily exert over the country, and that we should aim not to degrade but elevate the community among which we dwell. In this speaking of our Gracious Sovereign, he would have it understood that our sentiments were as far removed from the sycophantic adulation which the frequenter of the halls of the irresponsible autocrat might be guilty of. It was as far removed from it as from that levelling principle too much abroad in the world. (Hear, hear). Therefore, in consideration of the prosperity and contentment of the people there was much ground for the expression of thankfulness as there was also for that which came last, but was not least—the inestimable blessing of peace. (Cheers.)

We had only to look beyond our borders to see the terrible devastation now going on. Hundreds and thousands of our fellow-creatures cut off in the prime of life; untold amounts of property destroyed and public debt increased by strides that history furnished no example of. We had only to consider our perfect immunity from those evils and the fact that we had scarcely spent anything, in comparison, for our defence, to find reason for thankfulness for the continuance of the peace we enjoy. It was peculiarly in accordance with his own mind that we should warmly and gratefully record our thankfulness to Him to whom those blessings were due—to Him who ruled in the counsels of men and gave to whomsoever He willed. We had also rightly referred to our consideration matters that really called for the record of our deep gratitude. Outrages had been committed on the territories of the United States, as set forth in the resolutions in the reply to the address. He could scarcely think there was a man in Canada who would not endorse the language used in describing those outrages. They were happily called “outrages” committed on a neighboring and friendly power. (Cheers.)

It must have been with something like indignation that we had read of the attacks made upon the territory of the United States—whether from our own country or not—by persons who at least sought immunity for their evil deeds by abusing the hospitality we had been ready to extend to political refuges. He would speak—not so much as a legislator, but as a soldier—and say he had no sympathy with war carried on in the manner described, in regard to the St. Albans’ raiders. (Cheers.)

It was not war. Had those men proceeded from their own country, and rank the risk which they would thus have incurred, and had they, after committing the acts in question fallen back upon their own resources, for escape or immunity—he could understand that as an act of war. It would, under such circumstances, have behoved those lying contiguous to our territory to be prepared for such attacks from the Confederates. But the acts we had to deplore and regret were committed against a community living at peace and in friendship with us, and unprepared for such barbarous hostility.

He had to congratulate the Government in the prompt steps taken to prevent the organization of future such outrageous enterprises against our neighbors. The Government had acted most happily in calling out the means of preventing such expeditions; and he was sure it was with satisfaction they learned that His Excellency and his Government had been so mindful of the obligations we owed our neighbors in calling to their assistance a detective police force as also a part of the militia to guard against violations of our neutrality in future. But, as we know the law was proverbially slow, and very often defeated the justice it was intended to further, he, therefore, was glad to hear we were asked to give larger powers to the Executive that they might be enabled to prevent such acts in the future and punish those who would perpetrate them. (Hear and cheers.)

Situated as we were—our frontier entirely denuded of troops, and likely to be passed by large bodies of men actuated by the same principles and intentions as the raiders, it was necessary a call should be made on the only military force existing in this country. And it was to their credit we had to record that they did their duty cheerfully. (Cheers.) Canada expects every man to do his duty, and no doubt the volunteers called out would have been greatly wanting in duty if they had not come forward when summoned; but, though they had only done their duty in turning out, it was no less our duty to thank them for the readiness with which they did come forward. (Cheers.)

He rejoiced that their services would not be of that grave nature which might have been necessary had the orders of a general on the other side been carried into effect. He was glad the volunteers were called out to carry out objects of peace rather than those of war. He thought that any man who had given attention to the present condition of our country and the means of defence it possessed, could feel that something very different from that which now exists, must be established amongst us. He would illustrate his meaning. He himself lived in a very orderly and honest community. (Hear and laughter.)

When he retired at night, he did not, therefore, throw up his windows and open his doors, however good his opinion of his neighbors. He, on the contrary, shut his windows and locked his doors. Now, if he happened to be in a community less honest than that, he could take still further precautions to secure his property. (Hear, hear.)

Now, he thought this country ought to act in the same way. At present our windows were open, and our doors wide open, too, and we were only inviting attacks from a quarter whence he hoped they would never come. It was not because we were at peace and likely to continue at peace that we were to neglect preparations for circumstances that might unhappily arise. Neither would he be thought desirous of provoking war by advocating the putting ourselves in a state of preparation. He knew too well what the consequences of a war with the United States would be. Within the last four years we had had evidence of what our American neighbors could do when determined—we saw the prodigality and persistency with which they could carry on a war when they had an object they thought worthy of it. And he did not think any man of thought or intelligence could help regarding a war between the United States and Great Britain without shuddering at what might be the result. (Hear, hear.)

He said this to show he did not mean by preparation for defense, or for any emergency that might arise, any menace to the United States. Canada had, during the last four years, been greatly awakened to the altered circumstances of her position. Four years ago the position was all in favor of ourselves. We formed an integral portion of a nation of large military power, and of the first naval power of the world. Our neighbors were then no military power and had a fleet quite inadequate to cope with that of the power Canada belonged to. We had to remember, and would that we did fully appreciate, the vastly altered circumstances of the position in which we now stood.

Instead of 10,000 or 12,000 men, their army was now counted by hundreds of thousands; and, instead of a few vessels of war their war ships were almost numberless. We had to consider these things and not allow ourselves to be walked over by an enemy, should there be such an intention. He would say—let us prepare for any emergency that might arise. It was necessary we should strengthen the weak positions of our country. It was our duty to defend and strengthen such positions—and they were well known—not merely to prevent incursions into our country, but also to gain another very important object. In the event of hostilities with our neighbors, we should have to call a large number of men into military service, and it would be impossible for us, with our means, to give them that training which the regular forces possessed; but by having those strengthened positions we could bring together our partially trained militia and give them confidence, because they would be fighting behind defences that would be of great assistance to them. By those means, we should be able to retard the advance of our numerous enemy, and give military instruction to the remaining fighting population that it might be necessary to bring up. It was necessary to have a large number of men sufficiently trained to occupy the positions that might be demanded of them.

Our position was different from that of the old country, not having that deep ditch running all round our borders which the mother-country could boast of. Before a hostile foot could be placed on her soil, her powerful fleet would have to be overcome, and her half trained volunteers would not be called early into action—or employed at all till after the fleet had been engaged. Our partially trained forces would be forced immediately into a collision with well trained and disciplined forces such as our neighbors have and were likely to keep up. Therefore, it was necessary our people generally should receive the advantage as of much military training as possible. It was not to be supposed that if our neighbors should determine on a collision with us they would quixotically wait till we had trained our people to arms.

We had, on the contrary, ever reason to believe we should be called upon to meet at once the shock of the enemy. Some might think that sufficient time would elapse between a rupture and the commencement of actual hostilities, and during diplomatic correspondence, for the training of our defensive forces; but the time of diplomatic negotiations would be precisely the period in which we could not take any military steps or make warlike preparations, as such would then be considered merely a menace on our part. Therefore, when the time of hostility came we should have such a large force sufficiently trained for the positions they would then be called upon to occupy. (Cheers.)

Another feature of the preparation we should make was that which had already been to a great degree accomplished—namely, the establishment of military schools which would afford the means of instructions to those who were to occupy the various grades of command in our defensive forces. While speaking of these forces, which it was imperative we should call into existence he could not overlook one very important point—namely, the advantage, nay the absolute necessity, of the Volunteer force. It was our duty to afford them every means in our power for organization and training. He could say with regard to his own immediate neighborhood there was a great and growing desire to obtain a knowledge of military duty through the medium of volunteering. We should assist and foster all laudable aspirations of this nature. And lastly, with regard to this very important subject, as he (Col. H.) had stated on the floor of the House, we should have a military head—a military adviser of His Excellency—an adviser possessing a military education and accustomed to the duties of such a position.

It would be necessary that such a person should be thoroughly acquainted with the military service; but it would be also necessary that he should come amongst us believing he had much to learn of ourselves—much to learn about our circumstances, and the genius of our people—on who would give confidence to those in whom we should have to rely in case of danger. He spoke on this print, although it was not included in the address, because he hoped and believed Her Majesty’s advisers had these things under their consideration. He would not give these hon. gentlemen his support but that he believed they were thoroughly alive to the present altered circumstances of the country they had been called upon to govern. He had already alluded to the happy results of the financial legislation of last session; and the country would learn with pleasure that “the revenue had largely increased, and that there had been a contemporaneous extension of the trade of the Province.” (Hear, hear.)

It was his duty now to approach what he might be called the main subject of the address. We were all placed in this matter in a position of great responsibility. We were not called upon to legislate, on the present occasion, for ourselves alone. We had to consider the generations that would in future populate our share of this great continent. The question we were about to consider was whether we should attempt to consolidate British power on this continent or else allow it to continue in the state of weakness that seemed characteristic of it on this continent. He would now advert to the details of the scheme of Confederation; but it might not be out of place to offer a few remarks on the reasons which had brought it about, and which demanded that we should give it our most serious consideration. We all knew the difficulties which, for years, had surrounded the government of this Province. We felt that the system could not long continue and that grave results must inevitably follow. The future of this country had often to his (Col. H’s.) mind a subject of sad forebodings; and it was therefore with delight he found that a scheme and been prepared to remove those difficulties of which the future seemed at one time so pregnant—a scheme by which the power and influence of this country might be vastly increased. (Cheers.)

At the close of last session, the leading men of both parties had determined to combine for the purpose of devising some scheme to relieve us our difficulties. It was most fortunate, he would even say it was most providential, that the conference of the Lower Provinces happened to take place at Charlottetown about that time. Our representatives attended that meeting, and the result was that a meeting had been arranged at Quebec. The result of the Quebec conference was not formally before us, so that it would be hardly fair to call the details into question. He did not, however, think it would be improper to allude to one distinctive feature of the scheme which had been the result of that meeting. That feature which he (Col. H.) gladly saw was the determination that there should be no severance from the British Crown; but that, on the contrary, we should hold in view the perpetuation of our connection with the mother-country. Nothing had more contributed to give the scheme popularity in this Province—nothing had so tended to gladded thousands of loyal hearts as this firm determination; and it might lead us to overlook many minor matters which might perhaps otherwise not meet with approval. (Hear, hear and cheers.)

It was most instructive to consider the elements of the Conference by which the programme of Confederation and had been devised. Our representatives were of many creeds and many nationalities. We had among its members the Ultramontane and the Protestant, the representative of the faith of Rome and the representative of the faith of the Reformation. The native-Canadian was represented, and the Irish, and the Scotch of course (laughter)—in fact he believed the only nationality not represented was that of England. (Hear, hear.)

George Brown [Oxford South, President Executive Council]—My hon. friend is mistaken. The hon. gentleman who occupies a seat beside me (Mr. Galt) is a native of England. There was also another hon gentleman—

Frederick Haultain [Peterborough] said that the names might have misled him; and he thought it was perhaps for that reason he (Col. H.) had been asked to occupy his present position. (Laughter and cheers.) Well, he was proud, however, to find that the genius of his beloved country had stamped its impress on the scheme. (Cheers.)

But where every creed and race was represented—great care was necessarily taken by each representative in guarding the interests which he more particularly represented. Our position here was therefore widely different from the onerous and highly responsible position our representatives occupied at the Conference. We were unable here to debate whether this or that opinion should be adopted or rejected. The question for us was just this—were we satisfied with the skill and honesty of those who represented our interests on that occasion? We could not tell her how far we could have pressed our own particular views on a conference so composed, or how far these views might be acceptable. The programme must of necessity have been a measure of compromise. If any one therefore took up the scheme and hoped to find in it all his own views, of course he would be mistaken. Any one who did so would place himself in the position of that highly respectable United States Senator who, in the course of a debate on the Reciprocity Treaty[4], said in substance that if the United States enjoyed all the advantages and Canada suffered all the disadvantages he would oppose the abrogation of the treaty. We should not form the unreasonable idea that we would find in the scheme our own private doctrines and opinions; if so we would be sadly deceived.

No doubt, if any vital principle of good government was neglected in the scheme we should be doing our duty in rejecting it; but if there were nothing in it essentially unjust or wrong, if there were nothing of paramount importance omitted, it would be necessary for us to support the resolutions embodying it—to put ourselves entirely in the hands of those who represented us. (Hear, hear.)

Of course, when we came to look at the vast interests at stake, one must naturally approach the whole question with great diffidence. Whether we were prepared for the realization of such a scheme as that of Confederation at the present moment or not must, of course, be left to the mature reflection of each individual to decide; but it was his (Col. H.’s) opinion that very many circumstances tended to shew that this was the time for a union which would perpetuate the power we all heartily wished to see preponderate in the world. (Loud cheers.)

As an individual he wished to express his indebtedness to the hon. gentlemen who had associated themselves together in order to bring about this highly desirable end. Political virtue was very rare indeed, but of political corruption and dishonor there was plenty; and as one merited approbation the other deserved and should receive the most severe reprobation. He (Col. H.) had therefore to tender his most respectful thanks to these honorable gentlemen who had manifested that highest quality of statesmen—political courage. (Enthusiastic cheering, amid which the hon. and gallant gentleman sat down.)

Antoine-Aimé Dorion [Hochelaga] spoke next. He said that, after considering the speech from the throne he had come to conclusions diametrically opposed to those arrived at by the honorable gentlemen who had proceded him. He would commence, however, by referring to the acts of the present Government since they had entered into office. No less than four members of this House had been removed for the purpose of being placed in lucrative offices. Ministers had distinguished themselves since their advent to power by filling up all vacant offices, and by creating new ones. The hon. gentleman then went on at great length to charge the Government with having neglected to do anything to prevent the repeal of the Reciprocity Treaty[5]; but with having on the other hand done everything to bring back the old days of corruption of annual deficits, jobs and “double-shuffles.” Speaking of annual deficits, the hon. gentleman went on to say that one great cause of deficiency in the present year would be the employment of the volunteers for “permanent duty.” This expression he held to mean that we were actually making preparations for the establishment of the nucleus of a standing army.

John A. Macdonald [Kingston, Attorney-General West] explained to the hon. gentleman that the word “permanent” was the term applied by the law itself for the calling out of the volunteers for special duty or service.

Christopher Dunkin [Brome]—Then the word is used in its unnatural sense. (Laughter.)

An Hon. Member—Split it in two and see what it will make. (Laughter and cheers.)

Antoine-Aimé Dorion [Hochelaga] went on to say that there was a draft for the purpose of obtaining the required number of volunteers.

Charles Alleyn [Quebec City West]—No, that was for the militia.

Antoine-Aimé Dorion [Hochelaga] persisted in saying that in some instances a draft had been resorted to.

John Rose [Montreal Centre]—Just the reserve. There were too many, and they balloted among themselves to see who should go. (Cheers.)

Antoine-Aimé Dorion [Hochelaga] contended that it was unnecessary to create a military force on the frontier and elsewhere in the manner in which it had been done in this case, inasmuch as it would be construed into a threat and would bring about difficulties.—The hon. gentleman, after referring to a number of other matters in the address, alluded to the sentence about the “creation of a new nationality,” as used in the twelfth paragraph. The hon. Minister of Agriculture [Thomas D’Arcy McGee] had at one period of his political life peculiar ideas as to what the creation of a “new nationality” meaned, as would be seen by the tone of a journal called the New Era[6]. [Here the hon. gentleman proceded to read an extract] And this was immediately after that hon. member’s election.

Thomas D’Arcy McGee [Montreal West, Minister of Agriculture and Statistics]—The hon. member ought to bear in mind that I not only got elected myself that year, but that I also got him elected. [Laughter and cheers.]

Antoine-Aimé Dorion [Hochelaga] went on to criticise and condemn the whole scheme of Confederation, and the paragraphs of the address relative thereto. In the course of his remarks he said that journals in the interest of hon. gentlemen opposite—from the Leader to the Chronicle—had excited the hostility of the Federal States by attacks on their generals and politicians.

It being six o’clock the Speaker left the chair.

After the recess—

Jean-Baptiste-Éric Dorion [Drummond & Arthabaska] enquired whether the address would be passed paragraph.

John A. Macdonald [Kingston, Attorney-General West] said that the practice was for the address to be moved en bloc, but if any hon. gentleman wished to raise the question on any paragraph of course he could do so as each came up.

The first, second and third paragraphs were then voted without discussion.

On the fourth paragraph, relative to the subject of arming the Executive Government with stronger powers than it now possesses for dealing with persons who, availing themselves of the right of asylum in our midst, may be unmindful of its obligations—

Luther Holton [Chateauguay] asked for explanations. This was a very important matter, and he thought the House was entitled to some knowledge of the nature of the step contemplated by the Government. It was rumored that there was some intention of suspending the habeas corpus.

John A. Macdonald [Kingston, Attorney-General West] said that it was quite unusual to enter into explanations of this kind in anticipation of a measure which was yet to be brought before the House. It would be inconvenient in the extreme to do so, inasmuch as the Government could not enter into the details of the measure at this stage. But with regard to the statement or rumor which the hon. gentleman (Mr. Holton) had referred to, he would say there was not the slightest intention of suspending the habeas corpus. (Hear, hear.)

Luther Holton [Chateauguay] said that the hon. Attorney General West [John A. Macdonald] understood his meaning. What he desired to say was that he thought the Government might indicate in a general way what it was they intended to do. This would be quite in accordance with British parliamentary practice.

John A. Macdonald [Kingston, Attorney-General West] said the measure would be shortly laid before Parliament. As for the statement particularly referred to by the hon. member for Chateauguay [Luther Holton], he had already denied the accuracy of it.

Henri Joly [Lotbinière] said that prudence, justice and courage were the best defenses of a weak state against a powerful neighbor. They were certainly the best safeguards of Canada against the neighboring States, inasmuch as by these means we should prevent the possibility of offence, guard against any breach of neutrality, and best prevent any violation of our territory. Our authorities ought to have watched closely the proceedings in the case of the St. Alban’s raiders in the first instance, rather than act under the influence of General Dix’s threat of crossing our border with an armed force. We should thus have the credit of acting under a sense of justice, and not under the influence of a bullying menace. Prudence, justice and courage, strictly adhered to in this case, would, he maintained, have left us in a much better position. He did not speak in a partisan sense, for he believed this was a question on which we should be all united for the purpose of upholding at one and the same time our dignity, our neutrality, and our integrity as respects our neighbors. (Hear, hear, and cheers.)

Christopher Dunkin [Brome] followed in a speech of considerable length. He contended that, if he had read the history of Canada aright, there was no call for the use of the words “constitutional problem.” Ever since 1858, Upper Canada had not demanded constitutional but parliamentary reform—but it had been demanded in such a manner that no representative from Lower Canada could sanction it. —The hon. gentleman was understood, in the course of very lengthy remarks, to declare that this bastard federalism would cause an infinitude of evil—it would not unite but would disunite us. It would complicate the machinery of government—it would multiply the wheels—cause greater friction, and render the whole machine more liable to accident. It was nonsense to talk about additional strength being the result of a further union of the Provinces, inasmuch, as for all practical purposes, our common allegiance to England was the best bond of union.

Joseph Perrault [Richelieu] commented briefly on the great importance of the question of Confederation broached in the speech, and said he had hoped to hear the views of some of the leading members of the Government, on the question of the radical changes proposed. They were calculated perhaps to aggrandise the English portion of the proposed Confederation, but would they assure the present happy position of the French Canadians? He objected to carrying any expression of public opinion en bloc—without explanations.

Antoine-Aimé Dorion [Hochelaga] moved in amendment, seconded by Maurice Laframboise [Bagot]—that the following words be added to this resolution:

“That this House believes it a duty respectfully to express His Excellency their firm conviction that the people of this Province fully appreciating the blessings of their existing political relations with the great empire of which they form a part, neither wish nor seek to create a new nationality.”

The members were then called in and a division taken on the amendment which was lost on the following vote:

YEAS.—Messrs. Bourassa, Caron, Coupal, Currier, A.A. Dorion, Eric Dorion, Duckett, Alex Dufresne, Dunkin, Fortier, Geoffrion, Holton, Houle, Joly, Labreche-Viger, Laframboise, Lajoie, O’Halloran, Paquette, Perrault, Pouliot, Rymal, Thibaudeau, T.C. Wallbridge and Alonzo Wright.—23.

NAYS.—Messrs. Alleyn, Archambault, Beaubien, Bellerose, Biggar, Blanchet, Bowman, Brown, Burwell, Cartier, Cartwright, Cauchon, Chambers, Chapais, Cockburn, Cornellier, Cowan, De Boucherville, Dickson, Joseph Dufresne, Dunsford, Evanturel, Gagnon, Galt, Gaucher, Gaudet, Haultain, Higginson, Howland, Huot, Irvine, Jackson, Ford Jones, Knight, Langevin, J.A. Macdonald, Alex. Mackenzie, Hope Mackenzie, McConkey, McDougall, McGee, McIntyre, McKellar, Morris, Morrison, Pinsonneault, Poulin, Remillard, Rose, J.J. Ross, J. Sylvesteer Ross, Walter Ross, A.M. Smith, J. Shuter Smith, Somerville, Stirton, Sylvain, Taschereau, Thompson, Tremblay, Walsh, Wells, White and Wood.—64.

The question being again put on the twelfth paragraph of the address—

Jean-Baptiste-Éric Dorion [Drummond & Arthabaska] said he regretted that no member of the Government rose to speak on this subject. He himself thinking that the debate would have lasted much longer on the paragraphs already passed had not prepared to speak at this stage. The hon. gentleman then proceeded, in general terms, to express his views upon the question of the creation of a new nationality, arguing that our present circumstances did not in the slightest degree warrant a change so sweeping, or such a radical disturbance of our present position. He contended, in answer to arguments of those in favor of Confederation that there was no probability of any increase of Canadian trade and commerce as a result of this measure, the Lower Provinces raising and importing for themselves all the articles comprised in our produce or merchandise, and Canada likewise raising almost everything produced in the other Provinces. He also replied to the argument in reference to defence, urging that colonial union would, instead of proving an additional defence against our enemies, be nothing but a source of weakness. Passing to the calling out of the volunteers, the hon. gentleman condemned the manner in which it had been done, observing they would prove but the nucleus of a standing army yet to be saddled upon the Province. This step would result in heavy expense to the country without entailing any considerable corresponding advantage. He would vote against every one of the paragraphs relating to Confederation.

Thomas Wallbridge [Hastings North] was not prepared, as a British born subject, and as the representative of 20,000 British subjects to vote away their birthright in this matter. The delegates had met in secret conclave and resolved to create a “new nationality.” The London Times, speaking of their scheme and of the provision for a Legislature composed of a Legislative Council and House of Commons, stated that this plan, if taken literally, would exclude the Governor General from the Government, contrary to the analogy of that of England. Now, he was not prepared to vote away his own and constituents’ birth-right for a system like this. He thought the whole matter should be inferred to the people for their consideration; and that the Government had been wanting in their duty in not speaking upon a subject of such great importance as that embraced in the paragraphs under consideration.

Joseph Bellerose [Laval] denounced in scathing terms the conduct of those who, in allowing themselves to be influenced by personal ambition and partisan prejudice, opposed what was calculated to bring about a new and glorious era for the country. Such did not deserve the name of statesmen. He, for one, was willing to confront the great question now before the country, and to set aside all minor considerations, in considering that which was devised to meet the present exigencies of the Province. He denied the statement of the hon. member for Brome [Christopher Dunkin], to the effect that there had been no agitation in regard to constitutional questions within the past few years. He proceded to denounce the manner in which the Rouge members had got up meetings in their constituencies, with prepared resolutions, to surprise the good faith of those whom they represented, for the purpose of extorting from them a partial expression of opinion against Confederation, which expressions in reality amounted to nothing. For his own part, and with regard to the meeting held in his county of Laval, he defied the Rouges to say that the leading opponents of Confederation in Montreal had not had full and due notice of it. He had explained the reasons for the adoption of Confederation, at that meeting, as also all the pros. and cons. and his county had given him carte blanche to act on the question according to his judgment. The hon. gentleman then glanced at the general progress of the country since the Union. He had spoken before his constituents upon the contemplated changes; and was favorable to Confederation which would give us a high rank among nations.

The question was again put on the twelfth paragraph.

Jean-Baptiste-Éric Dorion [Drummond & Arthabaska] asked that the members be called in.

This was done, and a division took place, which resulted in the paragraph being carried, viz: 70 yeas, 17 nays.

The thirteenth paragraph was carried on the same division.

The question having been put on the fourteenth—

John Macdonald [Toronto] said the period had arrived for some solution of the difficulties that had beset us. He did not, in general, believe in coalitions, considering that a purely party government was necessary for the carrying on of the government of the country. If this scheme should be found calculated to end our difficulties it would deserve all the members’ support and would receive his. But if he found that the scheme was likely to entail greater than our present difficulties, it would meet with his opposition. The construction of the Intercolonial Railroad would entail upon this Province an expenditure which would be in no way commensurate with the advantages to be derived from it. (Hear, hear.)

Then the construction of this railroad would necessitate, in the western portion of the country, the opening up of the north-west territory. (Hear, hear.)

The measure proposed should certainly be submitted to the people for their consideration. If there was any conviction that this scheme would not receive the sanction of the country it ought not to be pressed by the Government. He believed that if the measure would commend itself to the good sense of the people they would support it, and, therefore, the advocates of Confederation could have no reasonable objection to its going to the country, which should be allowed to pronounce upon the measure itself, and not upon the mere amendment. He did not wish to be understood as inimical to any measure that would settle our sectional difficulties. He only wanted the matter involving a change of our constitution referred to the country for its sanction. He would also say that the Government deserved great credit for the promptitude with which it had acted in taking means for the prevention of the recurrence of such acts as the raids upon the American frontier. (Hear, hear.)

The fourteenth paragraph was then carried.

The question having been put on the fifteenth—

Luther Holton [Chateauguay] said he believed it was but courtesy to the Crown to reply in some sense or other to every paragraph of the speech. One of his honorable friends moved an amendment, the effect of which was to attack the scheme, and he (Mr. H.) had signified his disapprobation of the scheme by voting for the amendment.

If any other hon. member had made another motion in to the address, he (Mr. H.) should also have voted for it; but could not reconcile it to his sense of propriety simply to negative only one paragraph of the speech. He believed we were bound by usage and English Parliamentary practice to respond, as he had said before, in some sense or other, to every paragraph of the speech. (Hear, hear.)                                                 

The fifteenth paragraph was then carried on the same division.

The sixteenth and last paragraph was carried unanimously.

The address having thus been adopted as a whole—

John A. Macdonald [Kingston, Attorney-General West] then moved that the resolutions just passed be referred to a select Committee, consisting of Messrs. Robitaille, Haultain, Dufresne (Montcalm), Jones (South Leeds), and Stirton in order to draft a reply to the Speech from the Throne, based on the said resolutions.—Carried.

Théodore Robitaille [Bonaventure], from the Select Committee, then reported the draft of the Address which was read and ordered to be engrossed.

The formal resolution to the effect that the Address be presented to His Excellency by the whole House, and that His Excellency’s pleasure as to the time of receiving the Address be ascertained, were then carried.

John A. Macdonald [Kingston, Attorney-General West] then informed the House that His Excellency would be prepared to receive the Address to-morrow (Tuesday) at half-past three o’clock p.m.

The House then, at 11 p.m., adjourned.

[1] Source: [Quebec] Morning Chronicle (24 January 1865).

[2] Speech from the Throne, Legislative Council, Province of Canada (19 January 1865). See p. A:1.

[3] Excerpts from Speech from the Throne, Legislative Council, Province of Canada (19 January 1865).

[4] Canadian–American Reciprocity Treaty of 1854 (Elgin-Marcy Treaty). The treaty expired in 1866.

[5] Ibid.

[6] McGee founded the New Era newspaper in 1857. The first issue was published on May 25, 1857. Among other issues, the newspaper advocating a “new nationality”. 

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