“The Convention Yesterday” (Reformers of Upper Canada Convention in Toronto), The Globe (11 November 1859).

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Date: 1859-11-11
By: The Globe
Citation: “The Convention Yesterday”, The Globe [Toronto] (11 November 1859).
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The Convention met yesterday morning at the appointed hour, nine o’clock, and continued the general discussion of the previous evening. Hon. Mr. Mowat opened in a short speech, pointed, straightforward, and solid. He received a very hearty greeting from the Convention. Mr. Geo. S. Wilkes, of Brantford, spoke in favour of federation as the policy which commended itself to the friends of Canadian nationality. After a few words from Mr. Robinson, Mr. Bodwell, or Dereham, spoke of the evils existing, and the remedy he desired—federation of the Canadas. Mr. Farewell, of Oshawa, followed, expressing similar views, and making a very good and effective speech. Mr. Geo. Esson, of Otonabee, dwelt upon the disabilities under which Upper Canada lay, and Mr. Choate of Hope Township made a capital speech, full of amusing hits which kept his audience in excellent humour with themselves and him. He supported federation, as did Mr. Donnelly of Picton, a good speaker and well-informed man. Mr. Hopkins, of Lindsay, lately of the Bank of Upper Canada there, made a fiery speech against the existing state of things. The intense feeling of indignation displayed by these gentlemen, and, indeed, by those who succeeded them, against the domination of Lower Canada, and the corruption and extravagance which have resulted from it, cannot be described. People who talk and write glibly about Upper Canadians being indifferent to existing evils, received ample contradiction yesterday in St. Lawrence Hall. Equally notice able was the feeling displayed against Sir Edmund Head. Every reference to his perfidious conduct to the Brown-Dorion Government, to the double shuffle, and other enormities, was received with shouts of applause. Even his name appeared to be execrated by the mass of the delegates.

Hitherto the discussion had been of a general nature, and chiefly in favour of Federation. Mr. George Sheppard, however, brought up a new issue by speaking against the 5th resolution of the series, and advocating dissolution of the Union, pure and simple. He spoke well, was applauded, and it was evident that many were favourable to the remedy he suggested. Mr. John S. Diamond of the Belleville Chronicle spoke on behalf of Federation, and replied to Mr. Sheppard.

Half-past twelve had arrived, and the Convention adjourned till 2 o’clock for dinner.

On resuming, Dr. Clark took the floor on behalf of disunion, as did Mr. McNaughton of Haldimand. Mr. Foley then made a very strong speech against dissolution. He was received by the meeting with great cordiality and heartiness. The delegates were now tired of generalities, and anxious to come to a vote. The first four resolutions were then taken up and submitted to the Convention. Every one present was invited to vote yea or nay, and all were carried with wonderful unanimity. Not more than two hands were held up in opposition to any one. The following are the resolutions—

  1. Resolved,—That the existing Legislative Union of Upper and Lower Canada has failed to realize the anticipations of its promoters, has resulted in a heavy public debt, burdensome taxation, great political abuses, and universal dissatisfaction throughout Upper Canada; and it is the matured conviction of this assembly, from the antagonisms developed through difference of origin, that the Union in its present form can no longer be continued with advantage to the people.
  2. Resolved,—That highly desirable as it would be, while the existing Union is maintained, that local legislation should not be forced on one section of the Province against the wishes of a majority of the representatives of that section—yet this Assembly is of opinion that the plan of government known as the “Double Majority” would be no permanent remedy for existing evils.
  3. Resolved—That, necessary as it is that strict constitutional restraints on the power of the Legislature and Executive in regard to the borrowing and expenditure of money and other matters, should form part of any satisfactory change of the existing Constitutional system—yet the imposition of such restraints would not alone remedy the evils under which the country now labours.
  4. Resolved—That without entering on the discussion of other objections, this assembly is of opinion that the delay which must occur in obtaining the sanction of the Lower Provinces to a Federal Union of all the British North American Colonies, places that measure beyond consideration as a remedy for present evils.
  5. Resolved,—That in the opinion of this assembly, the best practicable remedy for the evils now encountered in the government of Canada is to be found in the formation of two or more local governments, to which shall be committed the control of all matters of a local or section character, and a general government charged with such matters as are necessarily common to both sections of the Province.

To this Mr. Sheppard moved in amendment, “That this Convention considers early and unqualified Dissolution of the Union the simplest and most efficacious remedy for the evils under which Upper Canada suffers. On resuming, Mr. Sheppard spoke again, and was still better received than in the morning.

Hon. Donald Macdonald delivered a speech of some length in support of a federation, and then Mr. William McDougall, M.P.P., took the floor. He viewed with a good deal of favour the proposal simply to dissolve the Union, but after considering the whole circumstances with the greatest care, he was inclined to adopt the original resolution with the alteration of two words, omitting “general government” and substituting “some joint authority” instead. This would have the effect of defining as the desire of the Convention, the very simplest machinery, whereby the general affairs of the provinces could be arranged. This amendment was received by the Convention with a great deal of favour. Mr. David Wylie, of the Brockville Recorder, made a very effective speech against dissolution pure and simple, from a “Central Canada” point of view. Mr. Pomeroy also of Brockville, followed on the same side. Mr. Nixon, of Newmarket, seconded Mr. McDougall’s amendment with a short speech.

Mr. Hope Mackenzie, of Sarnia, spoke strongly for federation, and Mr. John Smith, of Mornington, as strong for dissolution. The Hon. David Christie, one of the Vice Presidents, came next with a very energetic, powerful speech for federation, which lasted till the six o’clock adjournment.

At seven o’clock, the delegates were promptly in attendance, and Mr. Jones one of the Iroquois Chief, and Mr. Dugald McDougall of the Berlin Telegraph, spoke briefly in support of federation. Mr. Morse, of Grimsby, was in favour of Mr. McDougall’s amendment; and then came Dr. Connor, who was very cordially welcomed by the Convention, and made an excellent, effective speech. He took broad ground against dissolution and for federation. Mr. James Leslie, late of the Examiner, and now of Yonge-street, York township, made a good speech, reviewing at length the political history of the country. He expressed his preference for dissolution, pure and simple. Mr. John Scoble, one of the secretaries, spoke in favour of Mr. McDougall’s amendment, in his usual ready and eloquent manner.

Mr. D.A. Macdonald, member for Glengary delighted everybody with a manly, frank, and cordial address, which went directly to the points at issue, and made them clear to the fullest comprehension. He supported federation and opposed dissolution. Mr. McBain of Glengary spoke to the same effect, as did Mr. Nickerson of Port Dover, in a very effective way. Mr. Climie, of the Bowmanville Statesman argued for dissolution, and Mr. Bengough of Whitby, Mr. Hurd of Prince Albert, and Mr. Rose of the County of Dundas for federation. It was remarked that not one person advocated dissolution who represented a district east of Bowmanville—all were for federation.

During the previous hour, there had been frequent calls for Mr. George Brown to make a final speech before taking the vote. He came forward at last, and proceeded to review the debate. He entered into a comparison of the respective merits of the two remedies proposed, and urged federation strongly as the best and most easily obtained. He readily adopted Mr. McDougall’s amendment, and suggested that all might accept it as common ground on which to stand. The meeting evidently going with this proposal, at the suggestion of Mr. Lesslie and other gentlemen who had supported the dissolution amendment, Mr. Sheppard offered to withdraw it, if not objected to by its friends throughout the meeting. No one dissenting from that course, the first amendment was withdrawn, and the original resolution as amended was carried, with only a few dissenting voices. The result was received with great cheering and clapping of hands, which lasted for some time. Joy was pictured on every countenance at witnessing so much harmony and good feeling where wide divisions were very generally expected.

The sixth resolution was carried, as follows:—

  1. Resolved—That while the details of the changes proposed in the last resolution are necessarily subject for future arrangement, yet this assembly deems it imperative to declare that no general government would be satisfactory to the people of Upper Canada which is not based on the principle of Representation by Population.

Immediately afterwards the Convention adjourned to this morning, at 9 o’clock.


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