The British American League Convention (27-28 July 1849)

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Date: 1849-07-27 – 1849-07-28
By: British American League, The Globe
Citation: “The League Convention,”The Globe (31 July 1849).
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The League Convention.

No, II.


KINGSTON, July 27, 1849.  

I told you in my last of the troubles in the Convention yesterday. Since then I have ascertained farther particulars, though the more minute circumstances are carefully concealed. It appears that the point on which the dissensions arose, was the question of an Elective Legislative Council, which was proposed by Mr. Wilson, of Quebec. The following was the resolution proposed, with the amendment moved by the distinguished naturalist of Middlesex, Mr. Ermatinger:—

Moved by Mr. Wilson, of Quebec, seconded by Mr. Strachan—

“That it is essential to the interests and liberties of the people of Canada, that the Legislative Council should be elected and not appointed by the Crown.”

Moved in amendment by Mr. Ermatinger, seconded by Mr. Rolland McDonald—

“That the words after the word that in the original motion, be struck out, and the following inserted:—The British American League is composed of a large portion of the inhabitants of Canada, who have always been firm in their allegiance to the British Crown, and who still desire that Canada shall remain a dependency of the British Empire. Devoted in their attachment to the principles of Monarchical Government, and recovering the mixed forms of Government established by the British Constitution, they only desire the enjoyment of the immunities and privileges, for which that Constitution provides when the Government is fairly and honestly administered for the benefit of all classes of the community. The members of the British American League, although resident in a distant province of the Empire, consider themselves entitled to protection in the enjoyment of their political, social and commercial rights equally with their fellow-subjects in the British Isles. They seek no more—they will not be satisfied with less.”

These resolutions brought up all the differences between the parties in the Convention. The Lower Canadians with some from the Upper Province, eager for some great change to work wonders, filled with bitterness against the Imperial Government, almost annexation [illegible] though not venturing to declare themselves, but openly advocating strong measures; the Upper Canadians only anxious to make a working political party, ashamed of past violence, eager to get back to their old position of Conservative quiet, shuddering at any great change—thus they were divided. The debate was conducted with considerable spirit and even heat, and the vote was not taken till half past one o’clock in the morning, when there were for the motion, 19, for the amendment 89. This shows what the Convention is—nothing but the old fogies of the Conservative party, met together to have a talk over their party affairs. [illegible] to drivel about protection, and talk of vested rights. The British Anglo-Saxons of Lower Canada will be most miserably disappointed in the League. They have held lately that they owed no allegiance to the Crown of England, even if they did not go for annexation—the League is loyal to the back bone; many of the Lower Canadians are Free Traders, at least they look to Free Trade with the United States as the great means for promoting the prosperity of the Province—the League is strong for Protection as the means of reviving our trade; the Anglo-Saxons of Lower Canada have no confidence in the late ministers or the Conservatives at present in the House—but these men must be the leaders of the League ultimately, for they have no others. And will the old Tory compact party, with protection and vested rights for its cry, ever raise its head in Upper Canada again think you? Ehen every one is looking to the American trade through the St. Lawrence and our canals, to the American market for our produce, from which the draw our prosperity, is this the time to prosper by that movement? The Dogs and Ducks think so, and let them continue in their delusion: it will keep them out of mischief, and they will act as a check to the Reformers, which we perhaps be useful should they attempt to go too fast.

No. III.

KINGSTON, July 28th, 1849.

The League has very nearly finished its business I believe, and a precious business it is. First there were the quarrels carried on with closed doors, in which it appears that no change in the Constitution was to be made, notwithstanding the aspirations of the annexationists and Elective Governor and Upper House men. Then it appears that Mr. Gowan had been intrusted with or had undertaken the duty of proposing a set of resolutions on which to form a platform. The difficulty in the concoction of these resolutions was how to gratify, at the same time, the old Tory combatants, content the few loose fish who have been elected to the convention, and hold out a bait to the Reformers to induce them to join the League. You will see how Mr. Gowan succeeded in his task.

His first resolution as given in my last letter was in favour of Protection. His second resolved to reduce the expenditure of the Province. This was the bait to the Reformers and loose-fish, but Mr. Gowan is rather too late in market with his fish. Messrs. Black and Merritt last session stated in the house that the Government had a measure of retrenchment in preparation which would be introduced next session. Mr. Gowan introduced his resolution with an attack on the officeholders, taking the blue book as his guide and going over the items seriatim. His speech together with the others delivered this afternoon will be prepared in time for the Globe of Tuesday. Mr. Gowan happened to mention the Family Compact saying that he had opposed that party in times gone by; he was immediately assailed by Mr. Burney of Belleville and Mr. Strachan of Goderich for referring to it.

When Mr. Gowan had concluded Mr. Murney started to his feet, “his eyes in a fine frenzy rolling,” and attacked Mr. Gowan for raising a radical cry, one which the Conservative party had repudiated and upon which they had beaten their opponents in 1836. He was in favour of paying generously men who had been called to fill high public stations. He did not think the Judges were paid too high, and asked Mr. Gowan why he had not advocated retrenchment while he was in Parliament.—In fact a regular Tory speech.

Mr. Hatt advocated retrenchment, but thought the Judges and some others mentioned by Mr. Gowan were not too well paid.

Mr. John A. Macdonald was in favour of retrenchment, but though Mr. Gowan had gone too much into detail. Mr. M. was evidently afraid that the office-holders, many of whom are Tories, would oppose the new party.

The resolution was passed without a division, the majority evidently thinking it was a good “cry.”

The next resolution was a general declaration of right to the protection of law, very indefinitely worded, so that it was difficult to make out what it meant. This was passed unanimously also, as well as one against the present administration, and after some notices of motions the convention adjourned till half-past seven.

At the hour the Convention met, and Mr. Gowan proposed a resolution in favour of organization, and Mr. Vankoughnett seconded it in an ordinary speech.

Mr. Charles Bockus of Montreal, complained that they were making the League into a party. The next resolution to be proposed was one resolving to impeach Lord Elgin; this was a party question, a question of Conservatives and Radicals, and he could safely say that if they went to the country on those grounds they could not obtain a majority. Mr. Bockus then proceeded to speak on their absurd notions of loyalty when England had cast us off in effect; that our neighbours were in a prosperous state, while we were in distress; that was the thing to enquire into, and not waste time on party matters. Nothing good had been done by the Convention, and nothing was likely to be done.

Mr. VANSITTART answered Mr. Bockus saying, that he wished to form a new party, a Canadian one, that Mr. B was an annexationist, &c., &c.

Mr. MURNEY was open and honest about the matter; there is at least no humbug about him. He said he came there as a delegate of a party to support a party; not a middle one, which would fall between two stools, but the Conservative party, to which he had always been proud to belong.

The resolution for organization, was passed without any division.

Mr. GOWAN then proposed the resolution to impeach the Governor in the House of Lords, and some speeches were made in support, filled with fire and fury.

Mr. BOCKUS said, this was a party resolution which would defeat the object of the League. He should like to know what they would impeach the Governor for? for obeying the voice of the people? He could not imagine any honest minister remaining in office if the Governor were to refuse to give his assent to a bill which he had given them permission to introduce into the house. Here there was such a storm of hisses and groans, that Mr. B. was inaudible for a few minutes, after which he was about to resume, when Mr. Gowan saw the storm rising, and withdrew his resolution. Ha! ha!

Mr. GOWAN then proposed a resolution in favour of the Governor-General being sent home, and the same objection was made to it, but it was not so active, and the motion was passed without a division.

Mr. GOWAN then proposed the appointment of a Committee to draft an address founded on the resolutions, but it was urged that it was premature, as there were other matters to come up, and the motion was withdrawn; it was evident that Gowan did not want any more matters taken up, and thought the appointment of the Committee would stop them.

Mr. VANKOUGHNETT then proposed a violent resolution against the Rebellion Losses Bill.

Mr. WILSON of Quebec, opposed the resolution, notwithstanding a very ill-mannered and almost brutal attack on him by Mr. John Duggan. He said the resolution would commit them to a party, and he was opposed to it. He insisted that as the Imperial and Provincial Government were pledged that rebels were not to be paid, that that question should be dropped. He said that he would rather have the present Ministry in power, than the late one, for which sentiment he was heartily [illegible].

After some notices of motion had made, the convention broke up at a late [illegible].

It is evident that Gowan and some other leaders have wished to make a [illegible] in the Tory party, to give it a new [illegible] to try to get new materials to form [illegible] they have been terribly hampered by [illegible] old Conservatives who know nothing [illegible] their old cries. They were obliged to [illegible] in some resolutions against the [illegible] Ministers, and Rebellion Losses Bill. [illegible] in doing so they have totally disgusted [illegible] men in the convention who had [illegible] dreams of a new patriotic party [illegible] all classes to seek the good of the [illegible]. These men see plainly that they have [illegible] brought here under specious pretences [illegible] merely to swell a meeting of [illegible]. Many and loud have been their outcries [illegible] and privately against the Conservative spirit and Tory venom shown by a [illegible] majority of the members in spite of their [illegible] who wished to throw a veil, a filmy [illegible], over the fact which they must [illegible] known that they were Tories, strong [illegible] nothing else but Tories. The only [illegible] which they have introduced is [illegible] entrenchment which they have from [illegible] as I said before,—and what confidence [illegible] one have in such men as Gowan and [illegible] and Moflatt and Vankoughnett and [illegible] and Gamble carrying out any scheme [illegible] entrenchment? They may try to ride [illegible] on the cry, but are they the men [illegible] their promises? Judge them by the [illegible] conduct, these supports of the [illegible] how can economy be expected from [illegible] Bah!

I have since received the resolutions [illegible] last night, a summary of the [illegible] which I have given above and now [illegible] them.

1st Moved by Mr. Gowan, seconded [illegible] Aikman,

Resolved,—That it is essential to the [illegible] of the country, that the Revenue Tariff [illegible] be so proportioned and levied, as to afford [illegible] adequate protection to the Manufacturing [illegible] industrial classes of the country, and to [illegible] Agricultural population a Home market, [illegible] and remunerating prices for all description [illegible] Farm produce—Carried unanimously.

1st. Moved by Mr. Gowan and [illegible] Mr. Brouse,

Resolved,—That the present expenditure [illegible] civil government is disproportionate to the [illegible] of the Province; and that great [illegible] retrenchment may be safely introduced [illegible] management of the public affairs of the [illegible] without impairing the efficiency of the [illegible].

2nd. Moved by Mr. Gowan, [illegible] Mr. Aiken, and

Resolved,—That in the opinion of this [illegible], all the inhabitants of Canada have [illegible] right to the protection of good Government [illegible] only in the suppression and punishment of [illegible] but also in the guidance and direction [illegible] affairs of the country, both executive and [illegible], and which guidance and direction [illegible] to public quiet, which is the sure [illegible] foundation upon which public prosperity [illegible] and true fealty and allegiance to the [illegible] the Institutions of the country be maintained [illegible].

4th. Moved by Mr. Gowan, seconded by Mr. Strachan, and

Resolved,—That the guidance and [illegible] the public affairs of this country have [illegible] such as to conduce to public quiet, public [illegible], or to true fealty and allegiance to [illegible] Institutions of the Province, but [illegible] contrary, public feeling has been, and [illegible] to a state unexampled in this [illegible] foundations of social and moral order [illegible] to their centre. The Queen’s Represent[illegible] the Executive of which he is the head, [illegible] brought into contempt; the Commercial [illegible] cultural, and all the industrial and [illegible] interests of the country have been paralyzed [illegible] the connection between the colony and [illegible] state placed in imminent peril.

5th.—Moved by Mr. P. M. Vanko[illegible].

That this Convention is of opinion [illegible] passed during the last Session for the [illegible] the losses incurred in the unnatural [illegible] 1837 and 1838 invoices—notwithstanding [illegible] interpretation put upon it by the British Government [illegible]—a principle so insulting to those [illegible] the risk of life and property, maintained [illegible] to Great Britain,—a principle so [illegible] all order and good government, that it [illegible] the unqualified condemnation of all men, [illegible] may be their political opinions or party [illegible] who agree with this Convention that the [illegible] the—will be tried to carry out the [illegible] and objects of those who forwarded it: [illegible] the treason of Rebels out of the [illegible] loyalists. That though this Convention [illegible] the views above expressed, it has yet [illegible] great satisfaction the declaration drawn [illegible] the British Government, on the appeal [illegible] to Her Majesty that the bill referred to [illegible] receive Her Majesty’s sanction, should [illegible] understand that its effect would [illegible] Rebels; while, at the same time, this [illegible] regrets that Her Majesty should have [illegible] to adopt so erroneous a construction.

Two American flags were hoisted [illegible] morning on the cupola of the City [illegible] reported to have been put [illegible] B. Wilson of Hamilton, or Charles [illegible] of Montreal. They were pulled [illegible] some Reformers who were indignant [illegible] insult offered to the city.

There are a very great number [illegible] men in the convention—the sons and [illegible] of the old Tories. Mere whipper-[illegible] most of whom appear to have been [illegible] in the way their fathers went.

It is worthy of remark that by [illegible] members of the convention are [illegible] speaking disrespectfully of the Queen [illegible] family; this, of course, is a mere [illegible] the truly loyal people of Upper Canada [illegible].

No. IV.

KINGSTON, July 28th, [illegible].   

Mr. H. E. MONTGOMERIE, at the [illegible] the Convention this morning, at [illegible] presented the report of the Committee [illegible] Constitution. It recommended that [illegible] should be henceforth called the British [illegible] Canadian Association; that it should be [illegible] of District and Branch Societies; each [illegible] or Riding which contains four [illegible], shall have a District one; the [illegible] and Vice-Presidents shall form [illegible] Society, which shall meet annually [illegible] of Government.

Mr. ROLLAND MCDONALD [illegible] resolution against the Representation [illegible] last session, and after some speaking [illegible] adopted.

Mr. JOHN DUGGAN proposed a [illegible] favor of a Confederation of the North American Colonies.

Messrs. CARROLL and MCDONALD [illegible] the motion.

Mr. H. B. WILLSON, of Hamilton [illegible] posed, with a long speech, an [illegible] favor of representation in the Imperial [illegible]. He proposed we should [illegible] members in the Imperial House of [illegible].

The Convention then adjourned [illegible].

At 3 P. M., the Convention [illegible] and Mr. GOWAN opened the ball with [illegible] on the confederation scheme. The [illegible] Gowan does not want any large platform [illegible] he is right,—the Tories cannot [illegible] than two ideas at once.

Mr. T. C. DIXON, of London, made [illegible] containing a plan of a Constitution [illegible] Jeremy Bentham or the Abbe Sieyes [illegible] to have a Federal head—and a tail, [illegible] we know—and a separate head for [illegible] and a check here and a check [illegible] it was soon evident that so many [illegible] exhaust all the funds; and representing [illegible] the Imperial Parliament, and goodness [illegible] what—all in a little pass-book in hand.

Mr. BREAKENRIDGE now proposed [illegible], which left the matter to a [illegible] consisting of Sir A. McNab, Stewart [illegible] Quebec, Colonel Prince, and Moffatt, but [illegible] were afterwards left blank.

Mr. VANSITTART seconded it, [illegible] subject was burked, as John [illegible].

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