“The New Ministerial Policy” The Globe (24 June 1864)
By: The Globe
Citation: “The New Ministerial Policy”, The Globe [Toronto] (24 June 1864).
The New Ministerial Policy
We believe that few among the honest and intelligent electors of Upper Canada will rise from the careful perusal of the memorandum read in Parliament on Wednesday evening and of the debate with which it was followed without feeling convinced that no great good has been achieved. Whether we regard the character of the discussions which are recorded in that memorandum, the decision to which those discussions led, or the general tone of the debate two evenings ago, we find cause for great satisfaction, and for sincere congratulation. Here we had a great political injustice – a most aggravating sectional difficulty – which most seriously disturbed [text illegible] the country and threatened the gravest evils in the future. The magnitude of these difficulties had been infinitely increased by the futility of all previous efforts for their removal. So long had the struggle for constitutional reform been an unsuccessful one, that many of the best friends to that cause had come to despair of ever reaching a satisfactory result. How different is the political situation now. How different is the political situation now. The gloom of a week since has given place to a bright prospect of a speedy and harmonicus settlement of our difficulties. That which but the other day seemed to so many of us well nigh impossible, is now in the fairest way to be among the achievements of next session. The Government with the aid of almost the entire Liberal party of Upper Canada, has taken in hand the task of settling forever the sectional difficulties between Upper and Lower Canada. The settlement which they propose is one arrived at after a patient, careful and candid consideration of the whole question and which moreover, while affording the redress asked for by Upper Canada, as also calculated to be fully satisfactory to Lower Canada. Laying aside all mere partisan considerations and waiving for the time the strong political antagonism of the past, the parties to recent negotiations addressed themselves earnestly to the task of finding a scheme of constitutional reform, upon which they could agree as acceptable to both parties, and just to all sections of the country. How much of success has crowned their efforts, may be judged from the highly favourable reception with which their scheme met when reported to the House on Wednesday evening. Two weeks ago no one would have dared to think it possible that a measure constitutional reform, so fill and so important could have evoked from Parliament so little and such very mild and guarded censure.
According to the policy adopted, the remedy for existing constitutional difficulties is to be found in the adoption of the federal principle a measure applying that principle to the Canadas is to be introduced at the next session of Parliament, with provision for the admission of the Lower Provinces, and or the North-West territory into the federation, whenever that becomes practicable upon equitable terms. The application of the federal [text illegible] involves a legislature and a government for the whole Province, having charge of matters common to the whole; and the division of the Province into tow or more sections, with legislatures and governments having charge of matters of a local character. In the upper branch of the federal legislature the equality of representation is to be preserved, while in the lower branch, Representation by Population is to prevail. Efforts are to be made to induce the Lower Provinces to [sic] the confederation, but the success of the scheme, as far as Canada is concerned, is not to be contingent upon their assent. In any event, Parliament will, at its next session, be asked to carry out the principle as regards this Province, while those who are beyond the control of the Canadian Parliament, will be taken in whenever they are willing to come.
In this basis of settlement, we believe that the mass of the people of Upper Canada of both political parties, will see a satisfactory solution of the constitutional difficulties which have for ten years been productive of so much injustice and of so much and such just complaint. The measure of reform agreed upon will afford fill relief from the injustice under which Upper Canada has been suffering. It will do away with the possibility of Lower Canada interference in our local affairs. It will put those local affairs wholly under our own control. At the same time it will afford this section of the Province the influence in the popular branch of the general legislature to which she is properly entitled. To Lower Canada, on the other hand, it will afford not be meddled with by the representatives of Upper Canada. The religion, the nationality, and the cherished institutions of the Lower Canadian pope will be entirely beyond the reach of Upper Canadian interference. Besides the constitutional or legal guarantees which the new arrangement will afford to them for the protection of their rights, they will have an addition guarantee against even the slightest wish to interfere with their local affairs, which must results from the harmonious settlement of sectional difficulties and the removal of all causes for sectional animosity. Under a system of constant antagonism, such as has for some years existed, there may be the danger though circumstances have in the past rendered it a very slight one, that the ill-feeling and the heart-burning which this antagonism tended to engender, might at some future time, when the opportunity should occur, drive the Western majority to perpetrate some injustice as an offset to the continued injustice of which they had so long vainly complained. No case of this kind has ever arisen, and strongly as Upper Canadians have felt respecting their constitutional grievances, we do not believe, that any public man of any party has ever harboured the thought of any unfair retaliation. Nevertheless, the possibility, however remote, that the animosities which have grown out of the injustice of the existing state of things might one day lead to evil consequences to the Lower Canadians, is one which may fairly enter into the consideration of the constitutional question form their point in view. It may be a very alright consideration, but the people Lower Canada will attach some little importance to the fact that in [sic] to the constitutional changes just agreed upon, they are securing a moral as well as a material guarantee that they will have the fullest security for the undisturbed enjoyment of all their rights. We are fully aware of the very grave responsibility which the Liberal party of Upper Canada has assumed in assenting to an alliance with the Government, even for an object of such momentous importance. We know that the political history of the country for the past ten years is full of material a herewith to reproach them [text illegible]. We feel keenly the separation from the Liberals of Lower Canada which is involved in the step just taken. But, at the same time, it is most clear that that step was one of imperative duty – one demanded by every consideration of patriotism. Not to have taken it would have been to miss an opportunity for the satisfactory settlement of the grave difficulties which have so long been fatal to the peace and good government of the Province. Not to have taken it would have been to reuse the effort of a reform which the Liberals of this section have for many years declared to be of the very utmost importance, and of the gravest necessity – and which they have declared themselves willing to accept from any Government whatever. If they had refused to assent to the agreement which forms the basis of the new arrangement they would have exposed themselves to the strongest censure – to the imputation of having for partisan and personal considerations spurned an opportunity for effecting a great public good. They would have postponed the attainment of constitutional reform indefinitely the haps for many years; and in the [sic] Government in the [sic] been to add to the bitter question [sic] activity of the sectional antagonisms between Upper and Lower Canada. Happily for the welfare and prosperity of the country, those who have so long battled for Parliamentary reform rightly comprehended their duty during the late crisis; and the result is that the [sic] for which we have so long struggled is at last within almost certain and speedy reach.