UK, HL, “The Canadian Address”, vol 87 (1846), cols 1-9

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Date: 1846-06-04
By: UK (House of Lords)
Citation: UK, HL, “The Canadian Address“, vol 87 (1846), cols 1-9.
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LORD STANLEY gave notice that he should to-morrow move for a Copy of the Address of the House of Assembly of 2 Canada on the subject of the Commercial Policy of Her Majesty’s Government; and a Copy of any recent Despatches from Lord Cathcart, as well as of the Addresses from other bodies in Canada on the same subject.

The EARL of DALHOUSIE trusted their Lordships would indulge him for a few moments in making a few remarks on a matter somewhat personal to himself. It would be in their Lordships’ recollection that, during the discussion upon the second reading of the Corn Bill, on Thursday night last, in meeting the arguments which had been advanced by several noble Lords with reference to the bearing of that measure on colonial interests, he combated the fears entertained by those noble Lords, and controverted the arguments raised by them with respect to the sentiments entertained by the colonists themselves with reference to that measure; and he quoted an Address from the Assembly of Lower Canada, together with a portion of a despatch bearing on that Address; and he founded on that Address, the whole of which he read to their Lordships, the statement that the Government had no reason to believe that 3 the sentiments of the colonists were adverse to the views of Her Majesty’s Ministers on the question. He was not about to commit the irregularity of alluding to what had taken place out of the House; but if he should, by implication, allude to what was known to their Lordships, he trusted, under the peculiar circumstances of the case, he should not be called to order, or be held to say anything which could be considered a broach of order, or offensive to any individual. It was, he believed, well known to their Lordships, that on the following day a question was put publicly to the First Minister of the Crown, which was introduced by the statement that a question was about to be put which bore the appearance of throwing by implication an imputation on the character for fairness and truthfulness of a Member of the Cabinet, and that that Member of the Cabinet was the Earl of Dalhousie. The question was then put, whether at the time he (the Earl of Dalhousie) made that statement with respect to the Address from the House of Assembly, he was aware of the existence of another Address which had subsequently been forwarded to this country, and which had at that time arrived? Now, he confessed, and was not ashamed to confess, that he felt deeply wounded by such a question being put in connection with his name, because there was nothing in his past conduct, either in their Lordships’ House or out of it, which could justify the imputation of unfairness or untruthfulness. He was aware that the question was coupled with the statement that an explanation had been given by him (the Earl of Dalhousie) in private, as at once showed that no such imputation was applicable to him; but he could not help feeling that that statement having gone out uncoupled with any statement by himself, or any contradiction on his part, must have left on the minds of many persons in the country an impression that it was not very clear whether he was aware of the existence of that Address or not. Now no one could for a moment suppose that it would have been worth his while on Thursday night to imply that no Address had been received from Canada, when, if he had known of its existence, he must also have known that it would be produced the next morning; and consequently that the fact of its omission would have been much more injurious to his case than if he never made any allusion at all to an Address from Canada. He begged to say, that he was not aware, and that it was physically impossible 4 that he could have been aware, of its existence. He had applied to the proper Office, and found the facts to be simply these. The steamer which brought the despatches arrived at Liverpool after their Lordships commenced their sitting at half-past five o’clock on Thursday evening. The despatches were forwarded by the Post Office, and arrived in London after their Lordships closed their sitting at six o’clock in the morning; and were sent to the Colonial Office in the ordinary course of post, at ten o’clock; and he was not aware of the existence of the Address, the despatch, or the mail, until his right hon. Friend the Vice President of the Board of Trade came to him between five and six o’clock, to announce to him that the question was to be put, and to ask if he was aware of the existence of the Address. He was aware it was said that persons in town late that night were aware of the existence of it; but he could assure their Lordships in his place as a Peer, and upon his honour, that he was not aware of its existence. He was not aware of the arrival of any mail—he was not aware of the expression of any opinion contrary to that which he read as the opinion of the Legislative Assembly, and which he sincerely believed to express fully and finally the sentiments of the people of that Colony. He would not comment at all upon what had taken place. He would only express his regret, that if it was thought necessary to put the question, it was not put by some noble Lord, and to his face, in that House. He regretted that it was put at a time when a week must elapse before he could take any notice of it in the way of debate or comment; and he regretted that it was not put in the House of which he was a Member, but that he should have been left to the defence of others instead of to his own vindication. He felt it due to their Lordships and to himself to make this explanation, and trusted their Lordships would not think he had occupied their time unnecessarily.

LORD STANLEY said, that no one who knew his noble Friend would suppose that in whatever terms the question was put in another place, with regard to the Address, there could be on the part of any human being the slightest intention of casting the smallest shadow of imputation on his personal character and honour. He himself was not aware that there was any intention of putting the question. He received the Address by post on the following morning, and saw with some surprise 5 that the question had been put in the course of the afternoon, not, however, as he understood, for the purpose of ascertaining whether his noble Friend was cognizant of the existence of the Address at the time he made his statement, but for the purpose of knowing whether, at the time the debate closed, Her Majesty’s Government knew that such an Address had been received? He was quite satisfied that not only in their Lordships’ House—not only in the other House of Parliament—but throughout the country generally, the high honour and character of his noble Friend rendered it unnecessary for him for a single moment to enter upon the exculpation of himself from a charge which, if it had rested on the slightest foundation, would not only have involved a gross breach of public honour, but also of the grossest folly. With regard to the regret expressed by his noble Friend, that the question had not been put in their Lordships’ House, he must have overlooked the circumstance that immediately on the close of the debate on Thursday evening their Lordships adjourned, and it was not till this moment they had met after the recess. It was very natural that the arrival of a despatch of such a nature should excite immediate attention, and that it should be brought under the notice of Her Majesty’s Government at the earliest period in another place. As his noble Friend the Under Secretary for the Colonies had intimated his intention of laying the despatch on the Table of the House, perhaps he might be excused in making one or two observations on the subject of that Address, and the statement made by his noble Friend. He took the liberty, in the observations which he made to their Lordships on the second reading of the Corn Importation Bill, to state his serious apprehension that the measure would be, in a commercial point of view, seriously injurious to the province of Canada—that it would excite serious discontent there, and cause great irritation. He also pointed out specific effects which he expected to result from the measure. These were the diminution of the agricultural prosperity of Canada, and the consequent inability of its inhabitants to take our manufactures in return—the throwing away of a great portion of the capital which, by our assistance, Canada had been induced to lay out on the improvement of the navigation of the St. Lawrence; and he mentioned also the political dangers which were likely to result 6 from giving the province of Canada an inducement to act independently of this country with respect to its commercial policy, and the danger of throwing that provice into too great an intimacy, commercially and politically, with the United States. He would not say that his apprehensions were treated with inattention; but they certainly were treated as unfounded and chimerical. Their Lordships were told that the Canadians had no such apprehensions, and no such fears—that the Canadians were throwing themselves, heart and soul, into the principle of free trade. But, even if that were so, it would not diminish his apprehension: if Canada, in consequence of our policy, was disposed to throw herself into the principle of free trade, it was to palliate the evils likely to result from our legislation, by separating herself from her commercial connexion with this country, and availing herself of the closest connexion possible with other countries. He did not say that was a satisfactory answer, or that it removed the particular apprehensions which he felt. But in the course of that very evening—he would not say before his noble Friend ceased speaking—but before twelve hours had elapsed, and before the country were in possession of the recorded contradiction of his apprehensions on the part of his noble Friend, and his noble Friend opposite, there arrived a unanimous Address from the House of Assembly in Canada, verifying his apprehensions with regard to that state of feeling to the very letter, following his specific objections to the course then taken; and had he acted in concert with them, they could not have more completely echoed his sentiments than they did in the Address which he held in his hand, to one or two passages of which he would call their Lordships’ attention. The House of Assembly of Lower Canada, one of the most divided bodies in existence, with the greatest variety of interests and of origin, composed of French Canadians, Anglo-Canadians, and United States men, much agitated by political dissensions amongst themselves, had nevertheless come to a unanimous vote in condemnation of the policy of the British Government. They expressed their apprehension in words which he trusted would not be lost on their Lordships, before they were again called upon to give their vote on this important subject. The unanimous vote of the House of Assembly assured Her Majesty that while they have seen with feelings of satisfaction the happiness 7 and prosperity of the people of that Colony advancing in steady and successful progression, under a moderate system of protection, they feel it their duty to represent to Her Majesty that they view with serious alarm and apprehension, as detrimental to the best interests of the Colony, the adoption of the proposed principle of commercial intercourse now under the consideration of the Imperial Parliament. They say they cannot but feel that the abandonment of the protective principle, the very basis of the colonial commercial system—(the very words used by him during the recent debate)—is not only calculated materially to retard the agricultural improvement of the country and check its hitherto rising prosperity, but seriously to impair its ability to purchase the manufactured goods of Great Britain, a result alike prejudicial to the Colony and the Parent State. The Address went on to thank Her Majesty and the Parliament for the loan of 1,500,000l., for the improvement of the public works of the Colony; but at the same time they expressed their apprehension that the agriculturists of the province would be deprived of a fair and remunerating price for their supplies, and that consequently the increase of the staple product would be checked to such an extent as materially to lessen the profits of their canals and other public works; and they summed up their Address to Her Majesty in these terms:—”It, therefore, becomes our duty, as faithful subjects of Your Majesty, to point out what we sincerely believe will be the result of the measures which have for their object the repeal of the laws affording protection to Canadian exports. First, it will discourage those at present engaged in agricultural pursuits from extending their operations. Secondly, it will prevent the influx of respectable emigrants from the mother country, who, by their industry and capital, materially contribute to the rapid advancement of the interests of the Colony. And, lastly, it is much to be feared that should the inhabitants of Canada, from the withdrawal of protection to their staple product, find they cannot successfully compete with the United States in the only market open to them, they will naturally, and of necessity, begin to doubt whether their remaining a portion of the British Empire will be of that paramount advantage which they have hitherto found it to be. These, we humbly submit, are considerations of grave importance to Your Majesty and the people of this province. We trust we need not assure Your Majesty that any change which could tend in the remotest degree to weaken the ties that have for so many years bound the people of Canada to the land which they are proud to call their mother country, would be deemed the greatest misfortune that could befall them.” These were the terms of the loyal and dutiful Address unanimously agreed to by 8 the provinces of East and West Canada, in which they deprecated the evils likely commercially to result to them, and in which they avowed as the greatest of all evils the danger which he (Lord Stanley) took the liberty of pointing out to their Lordships, that the consequences of the measure would not be wholly commercial, but would be political also; and that the people of Canada might, in consequence of this policy of the Government, be led seriously to consider whether their union with this country is of that paramount advantage which they have hitherto felt it to be. He would not add one single word to the force of that Address. Remembering from whom it came—remembering to whom it it was addressed—remembering the strong but yet loyal and affectionate terms in which it was couched—remembering at what time it came—he felt that it would be a satisfactory vindication of the apprehension which he had expressed to their Lordships. He deeply regretted that it did not arrive before their Lordships decided on the second reading of the Bill. He trusted, however, it was not yet too late to remove the apprehensions which had been entertained by the contradiction given to his statement by his noble Friend the President of the Board of Trade and the noble Lord opposite; and that when their Lordships again came to consider the provisions of the Bill for the total removal of all protection—he was not speaking of the sliding-scale or of the present amount of protection—but when their Lordships came to consider the effect of the total removal of all protection from the agricultural interests of this country and the Colonies, he trusted they would bear in mind the loyal and dutiful Address unanimously agreed upon by the House of Assembly of Canada.

EARL GREY had no wish to prolong the debate on the subject, but, after the speech of his noble Friend, he was bound to make one remark. He ventured to say, from what he had seen in the newspapers, that the tone of the discussions which took place in the Canadian Legislature, after the policy of Her Majesty’s Ministers was known, was not one of despair or of alarm. Having not yet seen a statement of the subsequent discussions, he had no means of learning what had led to the change of opinion, and the reasons which had created apprehension. But he contended, that in the first instance, none of the existing apprehensions were entertained by the Canadian 9 Assembly, but that, on the contrary, I they combined to pass a Resolution expressive of their confidence in the policy about to be pursued by Her Majesty’s Government. He was satisfied that the measure which had since been sanctioned by the Legislature would tend to the advantage of our colonial and domestic interests.

Subject at an end.

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