“The New Constitutional Movements” The Globe (20 July 1864)
By: The Globe
Citation: “The New Constitutional Movements”, The Globe [Toronto] (20 July 1864).
The New Constitutional Movements.
MEETINGS IN LAMBTON COUNTY
THE POLICY OF THE GOVERNMENT UNANIMOUSLY ENDORSED
We find by the Sarnia Observer of Friday last, that Mr. Alex Mackenzie, M P.P, is engaged in holding a series of meetings throughout his constituency for the purpose of explaining his position with reference to the recent political changes. The Observer reports the proceedings at the first of these meetings, held at Sarnia on the 11th instant, at great length. Our contemporary says:— “The attendance was good, embracing, in fact, the prominent men of all parties in the town and vicinity, the number present being at least two hundred. The Reeve of the town occupied the chair.”
Mr. Mackenzie addressed the meeting at length. After a review of his own career as a member for Lambton, and of the negotiations which led to the formation of the present Administration, he proceeded to discuss the policy adopted. We make the following extracts:—
“He (Mr. MACKENZIE) believed that the negotiations had been gone into by all parties in good faith, and that Attorney-General Macdonald was sincere in his desire to see the scheme honestly carried out. One of the arguments used by this gentleman in favour of Mr. Brown becoming a member of the Cabinet was, that the scheme was exactly that originated by him in 1859; and that, as the author of it, and the leader of the Liberal party, it was absolutely necessary that he should be there to aid in carrying it out. This was the view taken by the Ministry generally; and which was ultimately agreed to by the Reform party at the caucus alluded to. His own view at first was against the plan of a coalition for the purpose of carrying out the scheme, but as it was not shared in to any extent by his fellow-Reformers, he did not think it his duty to withhold his assent to the proposition, believing that it would have the effect of setting the sectional question at rest. He had observed a disposition on the part of some to find fault with their neighbours by charging them with a desertion of principle, in sanctioning this combination; but he thought neither party had any right to accuse the other of doing so. For himself, he felt that he was still a Reformer as much as he ever was, and that he would continue so; and though for a time party lines would not appear so distinctly, till the object for which the Coalition was formed was accomplished, he believed they would afterwards resume to a considerable extent their former shape. Party government he thought necessary to ensure good government. There was nothing objectionable in the term, if kept within proper bounds; and he regarded partyism as essential to preserve the liberty of the subject, as to maintain the security of the Crown. Party spirit, it was true, was sometimes carried too far, and it was only when it was so, that it should be condemned. Mr Mackenzie next referred to the charge brought against the Upper Canada Reformers, of having deserted their Lower Canada allies; but he showed conclusively that this was not the case; for before entering into any arrangement with the Ministerialists, they had asked them to join with them in an effort to settle this sectional difficulty. Had they taken the same ground as Mr Cartier and his friends expressed themselves ready to take, the Western Reformers would have gone with them; but they refused to do so consequently had no right to complain because we obtained what we desired from those who were willing to grant it, even if they had previously been our opponents. It had been objected, that none of the Lower Canada Reformers had been taken into the Cabinet, but this could hardly be expected, seeing they opposed the objects of the Coalition entirely. The true position of the majority on both sides therefore was, that they had agreed to support the Government as now constituted, till the House met; that then the measure for federation would be brought in, and an honest effort made to enact a measure on a federative basis, which would do justice to both sections. He observed that a few papers, and a few weak-minded people, were inclined to taunt those who supported the scheme with desertion of principle; but as no desertion of principle was necessary on the part of Reformers, it was satisfactory to note that the large majority, both of the press and the people, were favourable to it. He was aware that even this federation scheme was opposed by some of the Lower Canadians, and alluded to a threat of a French member that if it [Illegible] would resist it forcibly; but he had no fear of such forcible resistance. Referring to the position of the Lower Provinces, he thought some difficulty might be found in getting them to join with us, as none of them seemed at all anxious for such a union, except New Brunswick. In case they became a part of the Confederation, the railway would become a necessity; but in the meantime he was in favour of commencing with the Canadas alone, letting the others enter the federation afterwards. The expense the working of the arrangement would create, had been urged as an objection. He believed the advantage we would derive from having the management of our own local affairs, and the disposal of our own funds in support of our schools and other local institutions, would far outweigh all the disadvantages of extra cost, which need not be great, if the government were economically managed. It had been a favourite idea with some to advocate the assimilation of the laws of the two sections; but he (Mr. M) had always doubted the practicability of carrying the idea into effect. It had failed in Austria, Italy, &c, and as the difference between the character of the inhabitants of the two sections of this Province was so marked, he believed it would fail here also. All things considered, he therefore was of opinion that the proposition lately adopted was the best for both; the present system having a tendency to beget extravagance in many respects, and in nothing more than in the multiplication of the officers and servants of the House and of the Government. Mr. Mackenzie next referred to the objection as to Representation by Population being the basis on which the Lower House would be constructed, while the principle would not be extended to the Upper Chamber. He did not apprehend any difficulty on that score, as the Upper House seldom had recourse to their power to veto any measure passed by the Lower, especially as they could not originate or amend any money Bills. They had either to pass these as they came from the Assembly, or reject them entirely, which they very seldom did, not even in Britain.”
Mr. Mackenzie closed his speech with very full explanations in reference to certain local matters with which he, as member for Lambton, had had to do. The following resolution was adopted unanimously:
Moved by Mr. David Brown, seconded by Mr. James H. Wood, “That this meeting cordially approves of the Reform party and the Government, in entering into the recent negotiations which resulted in the formation of a Coalition Government, to carry out the proposed Constitutional changes in the political relations of the two sections of the Province.”
It was then moved by Mr. C Taylor, seconded by Mr. G. Leys, “that this meeting fully endorses Mr. Mackenzie’s conduct as the representative of the country, and tenders him its hearty thanks for the able, manly and independent course he has pursued throughout the whole course of his Parliamentary career.” This latter resolution was adopted with but one dissentient voice. The meeting closed with three cheers for Mr. Mackenzie.