“The Proper Balanace” The Globe (8 August 1864)

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Date: 1864-08-08
By: The Globe
Citation: “The Proper Balance”, The Globe [Toronto] (6 August 1864).
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In the Peterborough Review, a Conservative journal, we find the following comment upon the appearance of candidates of Liberal antecedents in the constituencies of Peterborough and Niagara:—

“The lesson is one which should not be forgotten. It is a practical illustration of the sincerity of the Reformers when they say that the combination is only temporary; and although believing, as we pointed out last week, that parties never can fall back to their original position before the Coalition, yet we are bound to provide against the contingency which our friends the Reformers place before us. Both Peterborough and Niagara were represented by Conservatives before the coalition, and for the preservation of a proper balance of parties, they ought still to continue to be so represented.”

We are disposed to agree that if all partisan feeling could be buried for the time, and if everything calculated to set the two sections of the Coalition party at loggerheads could be avoided, it would be much better. Besides the anomaly of having two sets of candidates out all over the country, professing to support the same Government, and each set enjoying the sympathy of a section of the Coalition, the strife resulting from party contests of that character cannot be regarded as particularly calculated to fit the two parties to work together for a common object. The good sense of the leading men of the compact, and their earnest determination to carry through the project which they have in hand, may prevent them from allowing any difficulties of that character to bring about a defeat of their purpose, but it is quite certain that war among their supporters will be of no assistance to them. If, therefore, it could be agreed that the “proper balance of parties” should be preserved by allowing each party to keep the constituencies which it held when the Coalition was formed, it might be a most desirable arrangement.

But the limited experience which we have had since the formation of the new Government does not warrant us in being very sanguina that such a thing can be done. North Ontario, for example, was represented by a Liberal when the Coalition was agreed upon, and to make his claim to forbearance vastly stronger, that Liberal was made a member of the Cabinet, and thereby entitled to the support of every supporter of the Coalition. Nevertheless, the Conservatives of that particular riding would not recognize either of those claims to forbearance, but insisted upon destroying the “proper balance of parties” by putting a Conservative into Parliament in place of the Liberal who represented the county when the alliance was formed. Here is a case prior to either the Niagara or the Peterboro’ case, and one vastly stronger than either. If the Liberals should get one or the other of the seats now vacant, it would only restore the “proper balance” for which our contemporary is solicitous; and until that is done the Review has, on his own principle, nothing to complain of. But the North Ontario case does not stand alone, though it is the most conspicuous one. The Burlington and Saugreen divisions are at present in the hands of the Liberal party. They are to choose representatives anew in the course of a few weeks, and the present Liberal members are candidates for re-election with the full concurrence of their political friends in the respective constituencies. To preserve the “proper balance of parties,” as the Review has it, these men should be re-elected—but efforts are being made by men claiming to be friends of the Coalition to replace Dr. Smith and Mr. McMurrich by gentlemen of Conservative politics. How do these efforts square with the Review’s notions?

We are quite aware of the reply that will be made to this. We will be told that Mr. McDongall was opposed on personal grounds—that Dr. Smith is opposed because he is advanced in years, and Mr. McMurrich for some equally wise reason altogether aside from political consideration. But if we admit the validity of such excuses, we shall be sure to have them in every case where there is the slightest chance of wresting a constituency from the party now holding it. In Niagara, for example, the opponents of Mr. Angus Morrison put their objections to him on the ground that he is a non-resident and a lawyer, while his opponent is a resident and a farmer—quite as good an excuse, to say the least, as that offered in the case of Mr. McDougall or of Dr. Smith. We should soon find that the only Liberals unobjectionable to the Conservatives would be those sitting for counties, of an undoubtedly Liberal character, and vice versa.

We confess that the question is one of great difficulty. The Government and its supporters must only do the best they can under the circumstances. The developments of the next session may do much to reveal to all parties what their next proper course may be. Meantime, while these contests are to be regretted, we do not see that those who defeated Mr. McDougall, and who are striving to defeat Dr. Smith and Mr. McMurrich, have any just cause of complaint against either Col. Haultain in Peterborough, or Mr. Brown in Niagara. The former, though a Liberal, was never a politician; he has repeatedly been assured by leading Conservatives of his county that they would be delighted to see him in the higher branch of Parliament, and he is now, we are informed, largely sustained by Conservatives. He is, moreover, the only candidate in the field, and by no torture of words can he be called an intruder. The circumstances of the last election in Peterborough, when the two parties united to elect a gentleman of Conservative affinities on the score of promises to act independently, warrant us in saying that it would not be an unprecedented act of generosity, even if the Conservatives of Peterborough should refrain from getting up opposition to Col. Haultain. We are perfectly safe in assuring them that he will prove quite as independent of partisan considerations as did the late representative. The opponents of Mr. Morrison in Niagara have not, perhaps, so clear a case as have the friends of Col. Haultain; but their case is vastly better than that of the Conservatives of North Ontario, and rather than that of the Conservatives in Burlington or Saugeen.

The point here involved may not be one of primary importance. The Government has a very large majority in the House, and can hardly be affected by any changes arising out of two or three special elections. In the event of a break-up of the alliance, parties could hardly go back to exactly their old position, and if they did the addition of one or two votes to either side in the meantime, would not enable it to govern the country with the present House—so that a return to old party lines would undoubtedly involve a general election. Still, the advantage of carrying a constituency, even under such circumstances, is one which we cannot expect local politicians altogether to overlook. We are not prepared to say precisely what action the Government may take in reference to this question of elections, but experience has proved that the Government could not always control the action of its supporters, even if it attempted to do so. We have do doubt, however, Ministers will decide upon that policy which seems to them best fitted for the success of the great object which has called them together. Perhaps an understanding could be arrived at which would keep down party strife for the time, and in that way facilitate the great object had in view by the Coalition; but it may be, on the other hand, that an attempt on the part of the Administration to interfere too far would create dissatisfaction, alienate friends, and raise up difficulties in the ministerial path which would prove more formidable than would an occasional local fight between the two sections of the alliance. The great object which the Government and its friends have to strive for is the attainment of a satisfactory measure of constitutional reforms. By the side of that, other political issues sink for the present into insignificance. It would be obviously useless, however, to ask from the one side a forbearance which is not shown by the other, and if one branch of the alliance will contest all constituencies belonging to the other party, where they have any chance of winning them, the other must, in justice to itself, do so likewise; and we can only ask that the contests which do arise in that way should be conducted in the temper calculated to do as little injury as possible to the great purpose which both sections of the Coalition claim to have in view.

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