“THE TORY REBELS—THE LEAGUE,” The Globe (20 June 1849)
By: The Globe
Citation: “The Tory Rebels—The League,”The Globe (20 June 1849).
THE TORY REBELS—THE LEAGUE.
We have hitherto paid little heed to the violence with which the opposition Press of Canada has teemed for many weeks past; we regarded it as but a natural ebullition from men, long accustomed to view power and place as their peculiar right, on finding themselves driven by the force of liberal Institutions, for once carried out with integrity, into their true position in the body politic; and we were in hope that time and reflection would cool their violence and enable them to show mere philosophy over their defeat, thorough as that defeat has been. It must be confessed, however, that these expectations conferred too much honour on the Conservative politicians; mercantile embarrassments added to political discomfiture appear to have upset them completely. They seem to have gone fairly demented; they [illegible] against French domination—Free Trade—Responsible Government—in fact against anything and everything on which they can vent their ill-temper, in a style of mendacious recklessness and abuse, far outstripping anything Canada had previously witnessed. And it is highly amusing to observe the panaceas for Conservative ills which every new day brings to light; as they twist and writhe about in their rage, some new plan is ever and anon sputtered forth as a balm for all the wounds of their Anglo-Saxonism, delightfully relieved by prophecyings of frightful impending calamities and fierce threats of what they—the Anglo Saxons—are about to do. The dissolution of the Union, and a federation of the British American Provinces—was at first the favourite remedy; but as Governors became intractable, when the Home Authorities acted firmly and justly, since the English Journalists have seen through the wiles of Canadian Tories and scathed them for their sins, it has become rather fashionable to rave against all interference by the Home Authorities, and to hint at elective Governors and an elective second branch of the Legislature. Nay, with a large portion of the Conservative party these comparatively moderate views are far outstripped, and we hear men daily openly advocating annexation to the United States.
We are well persuaded that a large and respectable portion of the Canadian Conservatives are thoroughly attached to Great Britain, and will not knowingly be led into an annexation agitation. But the time has come when it is their duty to ask themselves to what end the political combinations now forming throughout the country tend—if their immediate effect is not to produce distraction, and strife, and dissatisfaction in the country—and their ultimate effect to sever the bonds between us and Great Britain? Surely there never was such a senseless agitation as that now getting up by the League. Is there one object common to the members of it which is sought to be obtained? Is there one political principle which they hold in distinction from the ministerial party, and which they dare avow and rally round? Is there any public measure any political principle advocated by the party in power to which they dare give open opposition? No such attitude can they assume;—their whole political faith—their text-book for the past—their budget for the future is summed up in miserable yelping about a sum of money paid in liquidation of the just debts of the country—paid as they themselves originally proposed—paid with the sanction of the freely-chosen Representatives of the people, with the assent of the Legislative Council and the approbation of the Crown. What if every one of the thousand lies uttered about this Rebellion Losses Bill had been true—what if every penny of it were to go into the pockets of Louis Joseph Papineau as the $18,000 went before—what if it were all to be spent in bringing back the arch-traitor’s son from the Republic and endowing him with an office worth £6000 a year instead of the one worth £1000 which he got? What if it were all to be given to buy up some Radical Church Corporation as Tory Church Corporations have been bought ere now, with ten times the sum? What if it were all to be distributed as bribe money under the cover of Militia claims in open defiance of an Act of Parliament? What if I were invested to endow chairs of natural philosophy, or superintendencies of Education wherewithal to supply the reward of Reverend apostate slash-bucklers? Would any application, however monstrous, of a sum of £90,000 by a majority of a people justify the minority in attempting a Revolution—for that is the object of the League if it has any? Is there any oppression in the country—any galling yoke—grinding a particular class of the people so intolerably that it cannot be borne? Have the Conservative party brought forward some great measures for the advancement of the Country, obviously desirable, but arbitrarily resisted by the Government? Nothing of the kind. Three-fourths of the people desire to recognize a money claim made against the Country; the other fourth do not desire to recognize it—and therefore we must have incendiarism, and riot, and revolution!
But it is wasting time to talk about the Rebellion Losses Bill. Every one knows that the cry which has been raised as to it throughout the country was got up by the leaders from no pure motive but for the one object, of riding, through the falsehoods heaped on the bill, once more into power. Make Sir Allan McNab Speaker to-morrow, and Henry Sherwood Attorney General, and Bill Boulton Solicitor General, and Wm. Cayley Receiver General, and Ogle R. Gowan Inspector General, and allow Mr. Turcotte to stride once more “knew deep in British blood” as Solicitor General East—and you will hear not another word about the Rebellion Losses Bill. These worthies would push off Parliament to the last moment, buy, coax, and intimidate the members and cheat the electors out of fair representation as of yore—they would scratch along for a brief year or two and then be kicked out, as they were before, with the contempt and disgust of every man in the country.—Let any honest Conservative compare the measures of the last administration during their four years of existence with the measures of the present during the one session just terminated, and putting the Rebellion Losses Bill quietly in his pocket for the nonce, ask himself candidly which set of men has done most of the solid advantage of the country, his friends or ours? Let him read slowly and thoughtfully over the 201 bills passed during the late Session, and ponder over the labour and talent which have been devoted to the ministerial portion of these measures, on all sorts of subjects, and ask himself what members of the Conservative party could have performed such services of the country.
It is full time that the really loyal portion of the Conservatives were alive to the insidious manœuvres of the men who are pulling the strings of this new Conservative League.—There is but one object in view—annexation.
The Hon. William Allan has been drawn in, in his old age, to be President of the Toronto League; a great rally of the said League took place last week at “the Dog and Duck” tavern, in this city. Mr. Allan made an oration on the occasion, and we could not read what the Colonist calls his “very pithy speech” without sympathy for the old gentleman in his unsophisticated moanings over the true cause of all the present turmoil—the final loss of the flesh-pots of Egypt. “Gentlemen,” weeps Mr. Allan, “I have lived in this country for nearly sixty years”—“we had many years of perfect peace and quietness, without the turmoil and agitation of party politics—we heard of no such distinctive terms as Tory, Radical, Whig, Reformer, or anything of the kind.” The venerable Mr. Allan was here evidently overcome with emotion—overwhelmed with golden recollections of the halcyon days of Toryism. And as the sad changes which time has wrought comes over his mind, the poor old gentleman exclaims in agony—“true, we had no newspapers in those days!” Happy days. Still happier people who lived in all the peace and quietness of ignorance—uncursed of newspapers! Could not we go back to those blessed days? Nothing easier—let us burn all the newspapers! A worthy beginning we made with the books at Montreal;—it was a decided step towards a return to those glorious days of “peace and quietness” which the worthy president of the Dog and Duck so much delights in. What a noble Institution is the Canadian League! Worthy of our glorious Anglo-Saxon Race—a brilliant monument of the intellectuality of the nineteenth century! “We had no newspapers!”—and no doubt the cheers of the Dog and Duck Anglo-Saxons rang in plaudits to the sentiment.
The coolness with which our gentlemen of the League talk treason is exceedingly amusing. The Montreal Herald, of all papers in the world, with its over-weening vanity and authoritative pomposity so delightfully Mantalini-like, begins to use language not to be mistaken. Driven from his “dignified neutrality” by the increasing popularity among Conservatives, of his opponent the Gazette’s outrageous tone, our contemporary speaks as plainly as the most savage book-burner could desire. In the Herald of Thursday last there is an article on the general state of affairs, in which the speech of a Mr. George Troupe, at a meeting in Glasgow, is quoted. Mr. Troupe, speaking of the Commercial position of Canada says;—
“The colonists had the choice of remaining loyal or making a successful rebellion, by which they would put themselves into a vastly superior position. He could not believe for a single moment that the connection would continue, or that its continuance in its present form would be desirable. It might be forced on the colonies by our army and navy; but it was not a connection which any honest man would wish for a moment to be of long endurance.”
The Herald’s comment on this very plain language is, that “it must be obvious to every reader” that “there is much of truth and justice in Mr. Troupe’s conclusions.” Not sure that it is yet safe to openly propose annexation, the Herald has a half-way house towards Republicanism, to try its strength upon. Hear him:—
If the integrity of the Empire is to be maintained, some great radical change in our constitution must be effected—some change that will restore the confidence of the people, in the honor and power of the Crown, and the practical efficiency of the “Second Estate”—the Legislative Council—as a check upon the despotism and injustice of a rampant majority in the House of Assembly.”
It will be observed how cautiously the ground is broken,—it is quite the tone-speculative; but he waxes bolder presently:—
“Let us ingraft upon monarchy, in Canada, the wise succedaneum for an independent aristocracy, which has so long, and so fully, succeeded in the neighbouring republic—let our Governors and Legislative Councillors be elective, but independent.”
And not content with using such language, the Herald goes further still and systematically copies from others what he dare not write himself. In the same number as the leader we have quoted from, there is an atrocious article from the Army and Navy Despatch, in which the following choice passages are found and eagerly circulated by the Herald throughout Canada:—
“We can inform the Times from an experience not bought in Blackfriars, but in the wilds of Canada, that these same people,” (Sir Allan McNab and the other desperadoes,)” ‘incapable of honest employment,’ could, at their will, in twenty-four hours, irrevocably sever the union with the mother country, or in one week, considering the extent of the country, they could exterminate, root and branch, the whole French race.
“We can further inform the Times, that it arrived at a most erroneous conclusion, when it compared a British-Canadian mob, to the scum of the Nottingham and Bristol rioters. In the latter was to be found some half-starved mechanics, and badly-fed poor-house recipients. In the former, each man has his house, his horse, his rifle, and his wallet of dollars.”
“Lord Elgin must and shall leave Canada, the whole basis of the Canadian Constitution must and shall be revised, the French party shall not domineer over the British. They loyal shall be in power, and the hereditary foes of Britain again resume the position as a race subordinate to the Saxon.”
“The loyalists of Canada rely upon the good sense and affection of the Conservative people in England, they rely upon a brave army whose feelings correspond with their own, and despite that, with the blessing of Heaven, and a good Yankee rifle, they are, one and all, prepared to act and govern for themselves without the aid of the most noble and puissant, the Earl of Elgin and Kincardine, the kicked out Governor of the St. Andrew’s and Thistle Societies of Montreal.”
Mr. Thomas Wilson, a leading oracle of the League, in a letter which he has just addressed to the people of Ottawa, imploring them to join his association, uses the same sort of language as the Herald. He says, “I look upon our present form of Government as most imperfect and dangerous,” and following up the League’s tone of mysticism adds, “a change in the appointment and constitution of the Governor General and Legislative Council is indispensable necessary for the public good. Of the nature of that change, it would be premature just now to speak.” Meaning thereby, no doubt, that to decide between annexation, or an independent republic, would at present be indiscreet.
The Hamilton branch of the League is also exceedingly cautious; after running over a list of grievances, some of them without foundation, and others only fit to raise a smile, they say—
“The originators of the Association do not presume to express an opinion, or decide upon the remedy which may be applied.”
The fact is, the men know not what they would be at. They were beaten at the Polls when an unscrupulous Tory Government was in power working a limited suffrage; a bill is carried by the representatives so elected under their own auspices; the only chance left the minority is in the aristocratic character of the first and second branches of the Legislature, and to shield themselves from the results of popular election in the third branch, they absolutely propose to bring the other two branches under the same influence! To escape from “the despotism” of a limited suffrage majority in one house, they would fain fly to the despotism of universal suffrage in all three branches! As our friend Isaac Buchanan used to say Quem Deus vult perdere, &c.
How clearly does the utter ignorance of the Conservatives of everything like true British Constitutional principles speak out in their conduct in this matter! How perfectly loathsome are the quondam fulsome professions of Loyalty, now that they are weighed against their bread and butter! Set them up indeed to call people rebels who after years of a government, disgraced by oppression, injustice, robbery and extravagance in every shape, asked but for the adoption of a few simple portions of the British Constitution! Of how many hundreds of thousands of pounds did the Family Compact and their satellites rob the public exchequer, legally and illegally, in one shape and another—but did the Reformers who saw the public property filched before their eyes, think it cause for rebellion? How many iniquities did their miserable purchased majorities of 1 or 3 or 5 perpetrate in the time of the late Administration—but who spoke of rebellion then? No: the Reformers have always acted conscientiously—kept their temper—fought their battle—abided their time manfully—and beat the Tories at the Polls whenever they got fair play.
Why don’t the Tories do the same, the chicken-hearted crew? Can it be true, as the London Times suggests, that they can’t keep themselves alive till then, that they must have public plunder at once? It looks vastly like it. The whole thing is a silly, a very silly business; if they had a spark of that Anglo-Saxonism they boast of they would wipe their swollen eyes, talk no more mysterious trash about elective Governors, and “Yankee rifles,” and stiffen their sinews for a general election two years hence. If they won’t do this—if the indignant souls of these fire-eaters can’t submit to the will of the majority, when they are in a despicable minority,—why, the only resource we know for them is, to take the advice of Guy Pollock, and pull up stakes. By the way, where could they go to—where could a Canadian Tory colony be founded? We are very sure the Yankees would not have them. Guy Pollock is a corresponding branch of the League—a very pithy fellow indeed, as may be seen by his letter in yesterday’s Colonist. Some of his sentiments are decidedly good, but of them all we most admire the following;—
“I do not say that the man who mouths the word “loyalty” again in Canada, ought to have the tongue cut out of his head, that punishment would probably exceed the offence, even in the opinion of Lord John Russell himself; neither will I either in though, word, or deed, contend against the British Government; for that is madness, when a few hours will at any time place me beyond what a great Reformer called ‘the baneful domination of the mother country,’ whenever I choose to think that domination intolerable.”