“The New Administrative Conservative,” The Globe (16 September 1854)
By: The Globe
Citation: “The New Administrative Conservative,” The Globe (16 September 1854).
THE NEW ADMINISTRATIVE CONSERVATIVE.
The great difficulty in deciding on the claims of the present ministers to support, arise from the indefiniteness of their position. The only clue which we have to the course which they intend to take, is contained in the speech of Sir Morin announcing the formation of the government. He said that Sir Allan, the new premier for Upper Canada, had consented to adopt the whole policy of the late cabinet. Now, so far as the past is concerned, that is clear enough. We know what the late government have done, and can easily understand that Sir Allan McNab has agreed to defend the Grand Trunk Railway scheme, and other affairs in which Hincks and Morin acted corruptly. But as to the future, we are quite in the dark, simply because we do not know what the future policy of the late Cabinet was to be. The only thing which we have to guide us in the matter is the Governor’s speech; not a vestige of other evidence have we. Our readers know that the language of that document was so indefinite, that according to the interpretation of the party proposing to carry it out, it might mean anything. The Governor, for instance, said there was great difficulty about making two elective Legislative bodies work with a system of executive responsibility, but that something must be done. Does that bind Sir Allan and Mr. Morin to anything? The Governor also said that the Reserves question must be “adjusted.” May not Sir Allan interpret that to mean “division,” just as clearly as “secularization”? True, Mr. Morin said it was to be interpreted in the popular sense of the adjustment.” Admirable precision! Who shall decide which is the most popular? Will it not be Sir Allan and his colleagues? Then, the Governor said that perhaps the tariff might be reduced, if the House felt so disposed. Possibly, Mr. Cayley may like a full treasury as well as Mr. Hincks, and may interpret this to mean, that he is to reduce the duty upon tin whistles, and not upon the “twelve and a half per cents” which draw so much oat out of the pockets of merchants and people. When Sir Allan, therefore, promises through the mouth of Mr. Morin, to carry out the policy of the late government, he promises nothing, for the late government had no policy; we were informed that they had not a bill prepared, not a measure ready to lay before the House. The pledge given goes for nothing, absolutely; and we must judge the government by their antecedents, and by them alone.
Of the French party of the cabinet it is necessary to say very little. Mr. Tache is decidedly, if not the cleverest, the most determined man among them. He brings to the work that force of a stronger will than is often found among the class of his countrymen to which she belongs. He is well known to be highly conservative in his feelings, to be, as much as possible, the antipodes of the “pharisaical brawlers” which he denounces with virulence. Mr. Morin has, from the associations of youth, leanings towards liberalism; but he is timid by nature and conservative from his connections with the Romanist clergy. Mr. Chabot is a French Conservative. So long ago as 1850, he declared himself opposed to the Secularization of the Reserves, and though the influence of place, paramount with him, has since kept him silent, there is no doubt as to what his course would be, in connection with his new colleagues. Mr. Drummond is a mere liberal of the moment. Led by his feelings and everything, he might one day be a repealer and the next and ultramontanist. He is a creature of circumstance, and, with his devotion to Romanism, cannot be relied upon for any firm action in the liberal cause. Mr. Chauveau is nobody. Here we have not one upon whom we could rely on to advocate liberal measures in the cabinet.
We come next to the conservatives: and beginning with Sir Allan McNab, we find a man who was during a long lifetime, maintain the warmest hostility to Reform. He is advanced in years and infirm in health It is possible that he should change, and labour so effectually in a [illegible] old Metcalfe men again in the field—the figurehead of the compact—the only person who can be found by the Tories in all Upper Canada who knew anything of mercantile affairs. He belongs to the protectionist high church school, and has not the slightest inclination towards liberal views. Lastly we have Mr. Henry Smith, a Frontenac, but as he is not in the cabinet, it is not even necessary to say that he is a strong Conservative.
Here are nine men, who from their personal character and their past conduct, we judge to be entirely inimical to the Reform party. In making a cabinet, Sir Allan did not try to secure any of the more liberal members of this section. Who have we to counterbalance them? Who have they taken into company in order give confidence to Reformers? Mr. John Ross, we willingly admit, was once completely identified with the reform party by his connections and in feeling also. He is no longer so. His elevation to office and connection with Mr. Hincks, his Grand Trunk speculations and other circumstances, have entirely altered his position, and he is now universally unpopular among Reformers. His taking office now shows how thoroughly he feels the change. He has been placed by the Tories in the situation of mere honor, to which no departmental duties are attached—the incumbent of which has little or no patronage to dispense. Mr. Spence, too, the second professed Reformer in the cabinet, has an office only recently made political, and considered one of the inferior departments. He has been known as a local politician for some years, but it was never heard of out off the limits of Halton, until he was elected for North Wentworth in opposition to Mr. Miller, a strong ministerialist. Returned as an independent performer, he went down to Parliament and became the servile tool of Mr. Frances Hincks. In three days after, he became a minister of the crown with Sir Allan MacNab and Mr. Cayley. The odds against reformers in the new cabinet are great, since there are nine Tories and only two liberals. But when one of these two is a corrupt schemer like John Ross, and the other is an india-rubber jumper like Robert Spence, what possible hope can there be of anything being gained from the government? Mr. Ross never, to our knowledge, prepare to measure in his life, never showed any powers of administration, never exercised any influence either in the council room or elsewhere. Since he entered office, he has been a mere echo of Mr. Hincks. Mr. Spence knows nothing of Parliamentary affairs, is entirely inexperienced in official life, and has neither tact, talent nor position to influence such men as those by whom he is surrounded. Anyone who knows the men must laugh at the idea of John A. MacDonald or Sir Allan MacNab submitting to the rule of Robert Spence. Since the Tory element predominates in the Cabinet very decidedly, it cannot but be that in its policy the government will be conservative. Believing that, at present, they are at the mercy of a few Hincksites, who were once liberals and maybe so again when it suits their interests, it is probable that the government will profess for sometime to carry out Reform measures; but if it should happen that by any appeal to the country, the ministry, with the help of the Hincksites, should succeed in securing a majority of their own friends, how long could we depend upon seeing a seeming concession to Reformers? Not one day, we venture to say, would MacNab, MacDonald, Morin, and Tache restrain their natural inclinations.
Since, then, the present government is conservative in its character, and may; if supported by a section of professing reformers, become strong enough to carry out tory views, we ask our liberal friends what is their duty towards those who league with the enemies of Reform? Is it not to cast them out at once, to say to them that if they are conservatives, they had better consort with those who agree with them, and not continue to profess a desire for Reform. Messrs. Smith, Monro, Southwick, Roblin, Patrick call Matt and others were elected as liberals. Since they are now supporting a Tory government, their constituents should lose no time in telling them how infamous their treachery is considered in Upper Canada.—It does not mend the matter that their allies make professions of good intentions. They know that these promises are often made, but rarely fulfilled, and they know, moreover, that it was perfectly practicable to form a thorough Reform Government, that instead of helping reform measures, as some impudently assert, they were injuring and delaying them by bringing the conservatives into office. They know that their motive for the step was to bolster up the cause of their master Hincks, to keep him powerful, and prevent his opponents from taking office. The journals which represent them openly boast that this was their object, and claimed that they have done something praiseworthy. The reform party will soon make them see matters in a different light.