“Robert Spence on His Defence,” The Globe (20 September 1854)

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Date: 1854-09-20
By: The Globe
Citation: “Robert Spence on His Defence,” The Globe (20 September 1854).
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The last number of the Dundas Warder which we have received, contains an article written, we presume, by Mr. Spence, and containing a defence of his position. After mentioning the circumstances under which he took office, the Postmaster General proceeds to argue that “he has not deserted his principles—he has not betrayed his trust—he has not broken any of his pledges.” We are not aware what were the exact pledges given by Mr. Spence during the election. We are rather inclined to think that, like a slippery man as he evidently is, he avoided making any pledges in public, whatever. It is alleged, however, that in private he declared that he would oppose the late ministry. Be that as it may, Mr. Spence was undoubtedly returned as a Reformer by Reformers; and it was understood that he would support opinions agreeing in the main with those held by his voters. Now we allege without the slightest dread of contradiction from any Reformer, that in joining a Cabinet composed of MacNab, Cayley, and Macdonald, Mr. Spence has deserted his principles, has betrayed his trust, has broken his pledges, implied and understood. He knows that his colleagues are determined opponents of Reform, and that they have ever been so, and what is his excuse for joining them? We give it from the Warder:—

“When it became known to many of the Upper Canada supporters of the late Ministry that Sir Allan McNab had for himself and for his friends yielded all opposition to the secularization of the Clergy Reserves, to the Elective Legislative Council bill, and to the Seignorial Tenure measure, and that Mr. Morin and all his friends, numbering upwards of forty, had united with Sir Allan, they at once gave their countenance to the coalition, as the only means of securing at once the great measures which has so long disturbed the public mind in Upper Canada.

“Every room for doubt was thrown aside, Sir Allan tendered two seats in the Cabinet, to Upper Canada Reformers, which, with five from Lower Canada of the past Ministry, could certainly leave no reasonable doubt on the mind of any of the new Minister’s sincere recognition of the Reform platform. Mr. Ross, late Attorney-General, and Mr. Spence, were then invited under these circumstances to join them: they did so.

Here is the basis upon which Mr. Spence founds his defence. Sir Allan McNab was kind enough to say “that he and his friends would yield all opposition to the secularization of the Clergy Reserves, &c.,” and to offer two seats in the Cabinet to Upper Canadian Reformers. Penetrated with so much liberality and goodness on the part of Sir Allan, Mr. Spence rushed into his arms, and the coalition was effected. One would think, from the way in which Mr. Spence speaks of him, the Sir Allan presented himself in the shape of a mighty leader with a majority of the House at his back, offering very liberal terms to his defeated opponents. One would never dream that Mr. Spence, in making his bargain for two places in the Cabinet, was actually undertaking to speak for a body (the Upper Canadian Reformers) actually outnumbering Sir Allan’s troop three to one. It could not be imagined that Sir Allan had neither influence in the house or the country, and derived his only hope of keeping office from a corrupt bargain made with a clique which he had been denouncing for years. How dares Mr. Spence to insinuate that a coalition with Sir Allan and his insignificant tail was the only means which the Reform part had in the present house of “securing at once the great measures which have disturbed the public mind of Upper Canada?” Does he not know that that is a transparent mis-statement? Is it not admitted on all hands that three-fourths of the new Parliament were elected to carry secularization, and where was the difficulty of forming from among them a government to do the necessary work? There was none, Mr. Spence well known, except that which was found in the unwillingness of Lord Elgin and Mr. Hincks that those who were in earnest on the Reserves question, and who had destroy the late government for its recurrency, should be trusted with the power of settlement. Mr. Spence knows well that Lord Elgin has expressed himself very strongly against secularization, and that he sent for Sir Allan MacNab in order to give the state churchman another chance of pushing off the evil day; he knows that if reformers had opposed all combinations with the member for Hamilton, that the Governor General would have been compelled to send for Mr. Macdonald or Mr. Sicotte, either of whom could have formed an administration which would have commanded a working majority. He knows how Mr. Hincks, to help Lord Elgin and to punish the independent liberals, joined in the coalition with Sir Allan MacNab, and put in two miserable tools to represent his interests in the new government. And yet, Mr. Postmaster General Spence has the effrontery to say that this coalition was the only means of securing the great measures which have disturbed the public mind. The only means! We are sorry for the chances of secularization, if the MacNab-Spence coalition affords the only hope.

Mr. Spence’s plea of necessity is a foolish one. A Reform member in the present house can be placed in no circumstances in which it would be justifiable for him to make a compromise with his opponents. His opponents are the compromises, not he. The Postmaster General himself admits this in the following sentence:—

“The compromise was made by the Conservative members, who at once entered our camp, range themselves under colours, and proclaimed themselves ready to carry out our principles under the influence of public opinion, unequivocally expressed during the late election.”

What general would dream, under such circumstances, of putting these new allies in the foreground of the battle, nay, surrendering to them the chief command, unless he was weaker than they, and earnestly required their assistance? Yet, that is what Mr. Spence now defends. He has even put these deserters as officers over him comma given them the keys of all the strong points, although the aid was not wanted, our battle being too strong for any opposition, nay, although the only opponents we feared where those very allies.

The plea of necessity is the only one which Mr. Spence sets up, with the exception of the singular argument, that the Tories being placed in the government and helping to carry secularization, they will never be able to dispute the arrangement to be made. A compliment, this, to the principles of his colleagues. He does not profess that they are seriously in favor of secularization, for, of course that would prevent them from disputing the arrangement afterwards; he thinks it necessary to make them particeps eriminis in order to shut their mouths What an argument is this from a minister of the Crown. Mr. Spence further says that securing the Tories will secure the Upper House. This is another compliment to ministers, and to the Conservative members of the Council. He treats the latter as if they had been bought along with the former. The truth is that there is not the slightest danger in the present state of public feeling on the council rejecting the reserve measure, which is so earnestly demanded by public opinion. Neither is there any danger if we secure the passage of the bill, and there will be any attempt to upset it at a further time. The Conservatives will be glad to be done with the subject.

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