“Provincial Parliament. Legislative Assembly. Monday, July 5”, Montreal Herald (8 July 1858)

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Date: 1858-07-05
By: Province of Canada (Parliament), Montreal Herald
Citation: “Provincial Parliament. Legislative Assembly. Monday, July 5” Montreal Herald (8 July 1858).
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Monday, July 5.


The House then commenced the discussion upon the Hon. Mr. Cameron’s motion for the first reading of the bill relative to Representation, and on the Hon. Mr. Cauchon’s amendment, “That the bill be read a first time this day three months,” and Mr. John Cameron’s amendment to the latter.

Mr. Langevin said he would be happy to take a division at once, if the House were full. He then proceeded to remark that the Population of Lower Canada was as great as that of the Upper Province, and that the imperfect census was the cause of the contrary impression. Since 1851, immigrants had settled in Lower Canada in a greater proportion than for ten years previously, and, since that period, the emigration of Lower Canadians to the States had diminished from year to year in consequence of improved legislation. [Hear.]

He pointed out that there was, in Lower Canada, an immense extent of country which wanted but the work of sturdy arms to develop its great resources. He was happy to find the Government intended establishing fresh routes of communication, long and important roads, for this was all the youth of Lower Canada wanted to retain them within their own borders. He was also informed, and he believed it, that many Canadians were returning from the States to their native soil. [Hear]

He proceeded to say that in Upper Canada, at the late census, there had been a very different spirit from that of Lower Canada. In one there had been a prevalent desire to augment the numbers, in the other a desire no less prevalent to diminish them. This was shown by the discrepancy between the census and other returns. For instance, the census of 1851 gave Toronto 4292 children attending school, whereas, in 1852, the School Inspector’s report said there was only 3821. In Kingston the census gave 1650 children, the School Inspector’s 1115, a difference of only one-third. The same was the case with adults, a reason which was, perhaps, that the census commissioners in Upper Canada were paid so much per head of the population they numbered. [Hear.]

Then, again, the absent population of Upper Canada, in 1851, was 13,651, of Lower Canada 18,183. The mortality, too, was in some measure an index of population, and it was rather significant that the deaths, last year, in Lower Canada were 11,674, but in Upper Canada only 7,775. [Hear.]

He noticed the names of several members of the House recorded against Representation by Population on former occasions, among them Messrs. Hartman, Notman, H. Smith, Christie, Merritt, Patrick, White, Wright, &c. He said he felt sure these members would have the good sense to vote now as heretofore. [Hear.] Did people think that the Lower Canadians, who had been abandoned by their mother country, and left alone with 60,000 people in a corner of the continent, but who had nevertheless lived on and increased to a million, would submit to have their race, their religion, their institutions trampled upon? No. Upper Canadians and Lower Canadians were to distinct people, and must remain so, if a spirit of hostility on the part of either, refused to the other those rights which they sincerely cherished.

Mr. Galt said, in attempting to address the House on this occasion, he could not lose sight of the fact that, during the whole of this session, the most painful state of things had been witnessed on both sides of the House. They had seen an utter absence of any disposition to consider questions on their merits, and continual appeals to sectional and local feelings. Every division which had taken place had had reference, not to the merits of the question before the House, but solely to the interests of either Upper or Lower Canada. Now, as far as he was concerned, he was unable to vote on such grounds. He desired to see broader views taken; he desired to see the future interests of this great country considered, and he did not wish to see all that he considered valuable made shipwreck of to the mere sectional views of each side of the House. They had seen each side desirous of making a distinction between one and another. So, instead of the debates being conducted with that harmony which ought to characterize them, there had been an interchange of language which was calculated to provoke the strongest and worst feelings.

They were experiencing the consequences of this state of things, in finding it impossible to carry on a debate without scenes which really reflected discredit upon them. Arising out of this state of things there was scarcely one member who was not made the mark for attack, whose motives were not traduced, whose actions were not misrepresented – scarcely one on the one side or the other who had not found that he did not receive that fair play to which he was entitled. He felt it himself; he felt that he stood alone. He did not know a member on the one side or the other to whom he could appeal for support. But was it to be supposed that he shrank from the position which he took – a position which he believed to be for the real interests of the country?

He was not ignorant of the charges that were made against men behind their backs. He was aware of the sort of whispers which circulated round the benches of that House, and desired to say whatever course he took it would be first stated in his place there. No man could fairly or honestly accuse him of intrigue. He was not unaware of the charges that were brought against him, and he desired to state to the House and the country that, in whatever course he had taken or might take, he was actuated solely by what he conceived to be his duty to the country – by what he thought, would benefit it. He had no aspirations for office – none whatever. If he had desired such a thing he might have achieved it long ago. All he desired was to see the country prosperous, and that a policy should be adopted by the House which would enable them to overcome the difficulties by which they were surrounded – a policy which would be right and just. He had heard himself as one who had acquired his wealth by a railway speculation – as a blackleg, indeed – as one who had attained his present position in a most unfair and improper way.

Well, what was his position? He had scorned to answer these charges before, and he only stood up now to defend himself because he felt the time had come when he was called upon to express his opinion. He came to this country when quite a lad, and he could appeal to the members from the Eastern Townships, who had known him from his youth upwards, whether they ever knew him [to] act otherwise than in the most honest and straightforward manner. Although he was the person to say it, he could say that he had not only enjoyed the confidence, but had merited the confidence, of the people amongst whom he had lived. Day and night he had considered what could be done to relieve the position of the Province. He might be wrong in the conclusions at which he had arrived, but he had sufficient confidence in honourable gentlemen to believe that they would give him credit for sincerity.

It must be manifest to honourable gentlemen, from what had occurred during the last four months in that House, that there was a strong feeling between the two sections of the Province which could not be erased, and which was increasing in intensity every day. The effect was manifest in the course taken by the Government this session. Everyone must have observed that, although the Government was supported by a large majority, they had been unable to carry out any legislation, good or bad, which they had commenced; everyone must have seen that, owing to the determined opposition that came from Upper Canada, the Government was unable to carry out their own views. He did not say that this was a charge which ought to be made on the Government because it had arisen from causes over which they had no control. It arose from the circumstance of the two sections having arrived at a point which rendered it impossible to go on under the present system of Government.

For his part it was impossible for him to give his entire support to the gentlemen on the treasury benches, or to act together with the member for Toronto. He might differ, and did differ from the Government in some of the measures which they introduced, but he equally differed from the member for Toronto, because he felt if the Government were displaced they would have precisely the same sectional difficulty under any Government which might be formed by that gentlemen.

What was the consequence of this state of things? The Government, with a very strong majority, were unable to carry out the very measures the country desired. (Hear, hear, from both sides.) Even the usury bill lay dormant.

Mr. Foley – That’s their fault.

Mr. Galt thought if the Government were sure of the support of the member for Waterloo and some of his friends, they would go on with it at once.

Mr. Brown – Would you have voted for it as introduced?

Mr. Galt – would vote for it as amended. Would the member for Toronto do so? The country would then have the benefit of it in a fortnight.

Mr. Brown – It’s under consideration (Hear.)

Mr. Galt – That is the misfortune. Matters are under discussion either by the Government or by the Opposition, whose party faction they might not suit. (Hear, hear) He, for his part, though representation by population was not the means of bringing peace to the country. It would only increase the reigning discord. No hasty or unadvised change ought to be made. In Lower Canada, at the time of the Union, the majority of the people had not desired it, nor perhaps in Upper Canada either. We had, however, progressed fast under responsible Government. Our public men had ever contended for the concession of the great measures which had made Canada what it is. Local legislation for local questions had been initiated in the municipal and other institutions which had been founded. The seigniorial tenure had been done away with. The Upper House had been made elective (Hear, hear.)

At the time of the union there had been in Upper Canada 480,000 people; in Lower Canada 690,000 – together more than 1,100,000. In 1851 there had been in Upper Canada 950,000, in Lower Canada 890,000. And now, it was calculated there were in Upper Canada 1,380,000, and in Lower Canada 1,220,000 – together 2,500,000. The progress in the material improvements of the country had been no less than in population. We had public works which no country could surpass. Ships of hundreds of tons could – those of thousands should – penetrate where at the time of the union a barge could not pass. We have railroad and steamboat lines, which we ought to be proud of. And yet such was now the state of parties that, when a subsidy to our ocean steamships was talked of, it was made an accusation against the Government.

He then eulogized the energy of Mr. Young, of Montreal, a man in whose hands the interests of the country would be safe. (Hear.) Our post office system, also had been changed, and for the better, since the union. Our trade relations had also been given into our own charge. Reciprocity with the States had been inaugurated, and he trusted would, be carried out in the spirit in which it was framed. The imports of the country had increased from £2,138,000 in 1841 to £9,857,000 in 1857. The exports had risen in the same period from £2,200,000 to ££6,700,000. (Hear.)

In view of this it was perhaps daring to propose to change the system under which these results had been achieved, but he craved for a short time, the patience of the House while he expressed his views. (Hear.)

He found, now a political agitation in the country which was hardly healthy. The small size of the political field was perhaps its cause. And were it larger, men might be induced to take a more comprehensive view of what was for the interest of the country. Representation by population or the double majority system would not effect a cure. He did not say that the principle of Representation by Population was unjust – far from it. But the maintenance of the union was of such importance as to render it advisable, if possible, to meet the just claims of Upper Canada in another way. (Hear.) He, as a Lower Canadian, could not say he was prepared to force Upper Canada – with a larger population, paying more taxes than Lower Canada – to meet her sister Province in all time to come in Parliament with no more than an equal number of representatives. And with hostile feelings, such as now existed they could not continue to meet and have a joint Government without a sacrifice of principle on the part of the leaders of one or the other section. The union he thought would not work any longer.

He desired to see the country prosper; it was hi thought by day and his thought by night what was best for the country. The honourable members for Toronto and Cornwall desired him to state what he conceived was the remedy. They knew what the remedy was.

He felt it was necessary to get rid of our present constitution, and to adopt the federal instead of the legislative principle. If that were adopted all the causes of disunion would be removed. Were those causes not those of religion and of race? So under a federal union, the local legislature would deal with those local questions, and the united legislature would be free to discuss the general subjects which affected them as a whole. At this late period of the session he could not fully enter into the subject.

The subject had been sufficiently before members, to estimate what would be the effect of the change. If the present government had chosen to initiate a policy of the kind, they could have said to Upper Canada and to Lower Canada they only held power to enable them each to legislate for themselves. Their position, instead of growing daily weaker would have been infinitely stronger and they would not have found the Opposition accumulating against them.

How were we to expect to control the great western territory, unless we established a system of local self-government? Here was the half of a mighty continent offered to them. If they were to take how was it proposed to govern it? Would a simple land agent be sufficient? No, inducements must be held out to the ambition of those who settled there. In the United States, if the people went to one of their territories, there was the prospect before them of taking part in their own government – of being governors, legislators or judges.

He desired to come before the House as the advocate of the confederation of the whole of the British Provinces of British North America. He desired to see all their energies directed into one channel, and under one control, for then, they would achieve a great future. The people here desired to be no longer a Province, but to become a nation. There must then be a national policy inaugurated.

The Imperial Government offered no obstruction; they wished to concede what the colonists desired. In Lord Durham’s time, there had been a convention to discuss the subject. His Lordship had once been in favour of it. The ultra conservatives – The British League – had passed resolutions approving of it. It was not new. In other parts of the world confederation had been carried out. The Australian colonies had recently done this. They had solely themselves in view; we had a powerful neighbouring State to take into consideration.

He had heard the objection urged that we wished to unite the poorer Lower Provinces to the richer Upper ones. This was the opinion of those who were not acquainted with the Lower Provinces. He thought, however, he could show that the union would not be so disadvantageous to the western countries. The nature of the resources and strength of the Lower Provinces were just those which we required, in order to initiate a national existence. They had a navy and a seafaring population – we had not. They had mineral resources which we did not possess. The population of the Colonies was 3,400,000. The trade return of the various Colonies showed an amount of £26,000,000 – figures of no little importance. The inter-Colonial trade alone was worth £2,000,000 per annum. The seagoing shipping of the whole was 3,798,213 tons, exclusive of the lake trade, which was over 8,940,000 tons. The tonnage employed with inter-colonial trade was 719,000 tons. All this showed that, if we were united with the Lower Provinces, our trade would very largely increase. Again the amount of the ship-building in the various Provinces was enormous. The latest returns he had been able to get showed that 210,000 tons of shipping were built in the various colonies per annum. This was important, for the time might eventually come when we might require the services of a navy. There were 67,000 seamen employed in the local trade. Every member in the House must be aware of the position of the Provinces. Each of them were absorbed in developing its own resources – attending to its own interests. Almost the first we had heard of Newfoundland was when its people they were going to be delivered over, bound hand and foot, by the treaty with France.

This showed that the interests of the Provinces, treated in detail, must be sacrificed. Would such be possible with 3,000,000 of people represented on the floor of one House? We saw the deference which was paid to us of Canada, even now – two Provinces being united. How much would not this be increased if the whole, like a bundle of sticks, were bound together?

He would be glad of an opportunity of going into discussion of the manner in which the scheme of a federal government should be carried out, but he would not now do so, further than to say that there must be one general government to attend to the general interests, such as the control of public works, of banks, post offices, lighthouses, harbours, provisional governments for the western territory. Local legislatures would have control of local objects.

In proposing a federal system, he by no means thought the American one should be adopted – we might copy that in its good points and avoid its defects, and at the same time preserve the flexibility of our own constitution. Of course in any change which might be proposed he did not think any difficulty would arise with the mother country. The source of Canada’s weakness was her long exposed frontier. If the colonies were united, we would have a bulwark to the east, and would not be required in the event of disorder to form a constitution or to enter into treaties the one colony with the other. All he wished to see was the policy adopted which was best for the country, financially and otherwise.


Click here for the continuation of the debate on July 7.


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