“The Late Halton Election,” The Globe (19 March 1850)

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Date: 1850-03-19
By: The Globe
Citation: “The Late Halton Election,” The Globe (12 March 1850).
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The late Halton Election.

(From the London Free Press.)

The election in Halton terminated in the return of Mr. Hopkins with a majority of 57. Almost all the causes which have contributed to this unexpected result are of such a character as ought to make the winning party ashamed of their success. Unscrupulous conduct may always be expected in elections for members of Parliament, for on such occasions it seems to rule with many is, that the end justifies the means; but in the present case there has been, of disingenuous and dishonorable conduct an extra quantity. Elections are not yet conducted in Canada, nor perhaps in any other country, in such a way as fully to serve their legitimate object—the expression of the opinions of the electors on those matters which on these occasions are submitted to their judgement. In place of clearly and truly placing the case before them and leaving them to express their dispassionate opinion, the practice commonly is to divert their attention from its real merits, and to reat the issue on the character of the several candidates. Hence every fault which either candidate has at any time committed in his public life is raked up, dwelt upon, and exaggerated,—and that not by the electors only but even by the candidates themselves, until the whole affair becomes nauseous. In this way the question to be decided is lost sight of and the only point to be settled is, who is the man that is the most in favor with the electors, or has the greatest personal influence. The impure motives from which very many electors act, and the disingenuous tricks which are resorted to in order to gain their votes, detract greatly from the value of any opinion supposed to be expressed by an election. For this we see no remedy but in the enlightenment of the people, and this, we rejoice to think, is rapidly advancing.

The history of the Halton case may be briefly states as follows:—

Mr. Cameron, for reasons which are not yet fully before the public,—and will not be till the meeting of Parliament—threw up his appointment as second Commissioner of the Board of Public Works, declaring that the office was unnecessary, and that the salary attached to it might be saved to the public. The Government appointed Mr. Wetenhall to succeed him. This was eagerly laid hold of by a party, who, though Reformers, have for a long time scarcely seen one act of the Ministry which they would approve of. They denounced the filling up of an office which Mr. Cameron had asserted to be useless, as a profligate waste of public money; and raised the popular cry of Retrenchment. Every effort was made to prevent Mr. Wetenhall’s re-election. Regardless of every thing in their eagerness to oppose and defeat the Ministry, they found a convenient instrument in Mr. Hopkins, who had been thrown aside with disgrace in 1844 by that very party who now gave him their energetic support. In favour of Mr. Hopkins they said nothing and they could say nothing. The object was to thwart the Ministry and lessen them in public esteem, and if a broom stick could have served their purpose they would have sent it to Parliament. Without caring for the injury they might do to Mr. Cameron as a public man, [and they have deeply injured him] they prevailed upon him to go to Halton and use his influence, ostensibly in favour of Mr. Hopkins, but really in opposition to the Ministry with whom he had quarreled; and he, with singular bad taste consented, and after they had used him, they mangled his speech, and represented him as having said what he has declared he did not say. At this nobody need be surprised. But what did they care for Mr. Cameron? His popular influence would be of use to them; they got it, and it served their turn. They may find to their disappointment and chagrin that they have used up an influence which, had they been more careful to protect, might afterwards have come to be of service to them.

Mr. Hopkins’ own conduct has been far from being pure. When charged with having been connected with the “League,” he flatly denied it. The charge has since been proved. He asserted that Mr. Wetenhall, in 1844, wrote to Mr. Dunn to offer himself a candidate for Halton, and in another letter requested him not to offer himself. Mr. Wetenhall has since distinctly denied that he ever wrote any such letter. Mr. Hopkins further asserted, that certain parties opposed to him in ’44 appended Mr. Baldwin’s name (i. e. forged it) to a letter expressive of his opinion that Mr. Hopkins and Mr. Notman should retire from contesting Halton, and that Mr. Wetenhall should be the only candidate in the Reform interest. Mr. Baldwin has declared that the wording of that letter was his and that he signed it. These falsehoods were industriously circulated immediately before the election and what influence they had in contributing to the election of Mr. Hopkins, his being returned sufficiently shows.

It is not a little remarkable that many Conservatives voted for Mr. Hopkins, for which no other reason can be assigned than that they were glad of an opportunity of thwarting the ministry. To maintain that they did so because being favourable to retrenchment, they disapproved of the appointment of Mr. Wetenhall to an office which Mr. Cameron asserted is unnecessary, is to maintain what few will believe. When did the Tories ever stand up for retrenchment? When did they quote Mr. Cameron’s opinion or the opinion of any Reformer as their guide? The cry for retrenchment in this case has been merely a decoy duck, and every body knows it.

This victory may yet turn out an “untoward” event, even to the party that has gained it and for their professed object. It is supposable that when all the facts of the case have become fully known that the retrenchment to any profitable extent will be feebly supported, if not resisted, by those who otherwise might have contended for it, merely to testify their entire disapprobation of those who, for the purpose of damaging the ministry, have prostituted the name of economy to an unworthy end. When persons take extreme opinions on each side and resort to every means foul as well as fair to support them, it is not unusual that they who disapproved of them think it necessary to go to the opposite extreme, and such may be the effect in the present case.

It is further not out of the range of things probable, that the party which has been successful may lead to an union of the moderate Reformers and the moderate Conservatives, by which, it is evident that some objects for which Reformers have zealously contended will be but imperfectly attained, and should such a coalition take place, in what a perilous position will the Clergy Reserve question be placed? We can conceive nothing more desirable by the church party than that the reform party should be weakened—and the countenance which they have given to the opponents of the ministry in the Halton election, shows that they understand the game—and if such should be the event, there is no person so blind as not to see who is the cause.

If a political party is to have an opposition, the opposition they would prefer is that which, by being carried to a violent and unreasonable extreme may defeat itself. The opposed party will justify its measures and be supported in them too, though not very justifiable, from the violence with which they are opposed. We are so far from thinking that the defeat of the Ministerial candidate will seriously injure the Ministry, that the contrary is the more probable result, and for this reason above all others, that the principle on which they have been opposed in an assumption not supported by any adequate proof.

From the Niagara Mail.

The contest is over, and the government candidate, Mr. Wetenhall, had been defeated by a majority of 57. A renegade reformer in the shape of the original Caleb Hopkins has been returned on the clear-grit-tory-annexation, ticket. Some people seem to express great surprise at this result, but any man with half an eye might have seen how it would be. Whenever Reformers divide, then, the tories who are ever united, are sure to conquer. Did any one ever see two tory candidates at once in the field, especially on an occasion like the late one? Knowing that Hopkins’ return would embarrass the ministry, although they hate Hopkins, yet to a man they voted for him. We give the tories credit for the way they managed matters.

Their back broken and contemptible faction, united with the no less contemptible knot of traitors to reform, and annexationists at heart, “clear grits,” were too much for the loyal reformers of Halton. We hope the alliance formed on this occasion may be adhered to. What wonderful reforms we shall get from clear grits and tories! The clergy reserves are all safe now, safe in the hands of the Tories. The clear grits will with the help of Tories bring about a wonderful deal of retrenchment and law reform; yes, wonderful! The Hamilton Gazette calls the result a defeat of the Ministry, he is correct. The Provincialist has the assurance after all to call it the “second triumph of clear grit principles.” We presume the first triumph was Sherbrooke. But he should give the devil his due. After acting the part of Judas to the reform party and uniting with and working so truthfully, faithfully, for the Tories he should give them their share of the credit. He knows full well that it was Tory combination did the business. Let him strike off his “clear grit” votes from the total polled for Hopkins and the triumph of the principles of the principleless would be found as the chances of annexation. He must be a very muddy grit indeed, who has not brains enough to see what party will be clear gainers in the end by clear gritism. The Tories made a great mistake when they thought to overthrow reform by burning the Parliament houses, and the honest clear grits—and some of them are honest—make as great a mistake when they think to obtain retrenchment by overthrowing the present ministry. Like the man who was not satisfied with getting a golden egg every day, and who thought to obtain them all at once by killing his goose, the clear grits will discover their error when too late.

Does the Provincialist imagine for a moment that the Tories care a straw about retrenchment or clear gritism. They can well afford to grin at the grits, now that they have fooled them. O what a victory we little grits have gained for the enemies of the country. Hain’t we done it up slick! Ain’t it great to be the honored instruments in the hands of good old Sir Allan, of sending Reform to the dogs! Hooray for the genuine “clear grits!”

Our readers know our sentiments in reference to retrenchment, and law reform, and the ministry know what the sentiments of the Reformers of this District are on the subject. But we do not expect the ministry to do every thing at once, we intend to give them a trial before we lynch them. The grits would hang the ministry first and try them afterwards. But we go for the good old English plan of seeing if the prisoner is guilty before condemned.

(From the Kingston Herald.)

But that section of the Reform party, that brought Mr. Hopkins forward, deserve the deep indignation of every true Reformer.—What language can be found strong enough to condemn their traitorous conduct? Upon what principle will they seek to defend themselves? They can put forward no plea—no defence. With the most ardent professions of attachment to the Ministry, and to reform principles, they have proved traitors to the one and sold the others. With the clearest evidence of what the consequence of the success of their agitation would be, in damaging the Ministry in the eyes of the Country, they dared recklessly to pursue in their mad career.—Well, they have triumphed!—they have purchased a victory at the sacrifice of honor and integrity,—they have covered themselves with degration and infamy. They bear attachment to the Government while they rejoice over the defeat of a Government candidate,—they, friends of Reform, while they elect an apostate, an uneducated ‘loose fish’? No!

What do these “clear grits” desire? what motive had they in view, in for months back, keeping up a senseless agitation about Retrenchment? Do they desire to become a Party distinct from the Reformers or Tories? Well, who is to be the head of that party—Caleb Hopkins? He the representative of the intelligence and ability of the faction—the embodiment of the principles of Retrenchment—the impersonation of “clear grittism?” Is it so, we are satisfied; we can know something of the members by a scrutiny of the head. But is it this man that this contemptible faction—a faction paltry and insignificant, contemptible as to numbers, influence and education—sets up as a second “molten calf” for us to pay homage to? Let not those men suppose that we in this section of the country can be duped. Let them work away upon the heterogeneous mass that they influenced in Halton, we utterly repudiate their sentiments, and can feel no sympathy for them, now that the first burst of honest indignation is falling on them.

Let no Reformer be duped into the belief that the “clear grit” faction are sincere—that they have acted upon principle. Three months at most, would find Parliament assembled, an expression of public opinion could then be legitimately given on Retrenchment—it would find a response from the Ministry—the principle would not be in the slightest degree affected by the short delay. This course just, prudent, wise, would not suit them. Sensible that the clap-trap cry of Retrenchment would gull the ignorant and arouse the discontented, and would be productive of some influence to themselves; they seize upon the appointment of Mr. Wetenhall as the fitting object to test their strength; they commenced by falsely and foully aspersing his motives and reputation; they unblushingly and traitorously turned their backs up on the Ministry, and leagued themselves with the fag end of the Tory party. Never did a faction collect such a heterogeneous mass of discordant materials, to assist them in their nefarious design. “Clear grits,” “annexationists,” “loose fish,” and unprincipled Tories, coalesced, pitched honesty to the dogs, and joined in with the renegade, apostate faction, to support a renegade nominee. What a glorious triumph achieved by such means! How creditable to the immaculate principles of “clear gritism!”

From the Journal & Express.

“During the election now ended the most absurd reports were circulated by the friends of Liberalism, and believed because not contradicted. Had a Reform Association existed in the Townships where these misrepresentations were current, their evil tendency would have been nullified, and they would have vanished without other effect than exposing the treachery and falsehood of their authors. With a Reform Association in Esquesing, Nassa gaweya, and Trafalgar, full publicity would have been given to the correction of Mr. Cameron, to the effect that the Ministry were preparing a measure comprehending greater Retrenchment than even he had ever contemplated. As it was, the coined lies of the Provincialist, repeated by the Examiner, did their dirty work without opposition. With a Reform Association, Dumfries would have been informed of the feeling in Esquesing, and instead of little more than 200 votes polled there, 400 would have been recorded. With a Reform Association to have told the necessity for exertion, Beverly, although nobly doing her duty, would have done more. With a Reform Association proper agents would have attended Esquesing, and have stopped that species of Universal Suffrage which was allowed there. In short, with a Reform Association in every Township, Mr. Wetenhall would have had 300 majority instead of nearly 60 minority. The Reformers of Halton have bought their experience dearly; let them turn it to account. Let them set to work cheerily and shield themselves against such another surprise. If Liberal principles are worth anything, they are well worth the little trouble thus requisite to their preservation. If cheap Government, election of local officers by the people, settlement of the Clergy Reserves and the Rectories, Vote by Ballot, and elective Legislative Council, Extended Suffrage, Increased Representation, Free Trade, Improved Public Works, Cheap Education, extended Law Reform, and thorough self government, are really worthy the acceptance of free men, they surely ought to be looked upon as easily bought at the expense of a little time and trouble in the proper organization of the party seeking to bring them to the door of every Canadian. [Illegible] call up the people of Halton particularly, and Canada generally, to set about such a good work in earnest. Thrown aside individual piques, stand shoulder to shoulder, remember that a common enemy is to be attacked, and pause not until the victory is completed. We would like to see this movement taken at once, and we freely open our columns to a publication of the necessary proceedings, so that all may become acquainted with the doings of localities. The good old motto, ‘Union is Strength,’ comes as forcibly now as it ever did, and all sound Reformers would do well to adopt it as their rule. Which Township of Halton will first put its shoulder to the wheel, to lift the car of progress from the slough into which it has fallen, and will sink deeper, with such a driver as CALEB HOPKINS?

From the Dundas Warder.

We confess we were not prepared for this result although we never expected Mr. Wetenhall would have a large majority. To fully explain the various causes which have led to this defeat, would be a tedious task. We shall merely remark that no exertion was spared by the friends of Mr. Hopkins, whist the greatest apathy was manifested by those of Mr. Wetenhall. This arose from various causes, the principal one being that Reformers generally believed Mr. Wetenhall’s returns was certain, and consequently did not exert themselves as formerly. We learn that there is good ground for believing that a scrutiny would unseat Mr. Hopkins. Under ordinary circumstances, we should disapprove of a resort to such a course, but when we bear in mind that Mr. Hopkins possesses not the confidence to any party in this county, we conceive that he should not be permitted to misrepresent so large and important a constituency, regardless of every sense of propriety or public duty. There is one truth, we hold to be of the highest importance.—that every constituency connection with this we have an equally grave inquiry to make,—WHO DOES CALEB HOPKINS REPRESENT?

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