UK, HC, “Affairs of Canada”, vol 36 (6 March 1837)
By: UK (House of Commons)
Citation: UK, HC, “Affairs of Canada“, vol 36 (1837), cols 1284-1362.
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AFFAIRS OF CANADA.
The Order of the Day was read, and the House went into Committee, to take into consideration that part of the King’s Speech which related to Canada.
Lord John Russell I can assure you, Sir, that I never rose with so much reluctance to make a proposition to the House of Commons, as I now rise to propose the resolutions of which I have given notice, and with which proposition I mean to conclude the observations I am about to make. It is my duty, and it is the duty of his Majesty’s Government to which I belong, and of which I stand here as the representative on this occasion, to bring under the notice of the House the affairs of Canada, with a view to the declaration of what is our sense of the conduct of the representatives of the people of Lower Canada, and to ask this House to apply to the necessary services of that colony those sums of money which ought, in the regular course, to have been voted by the colonial assembly. I feel that it is necessary, in order to justify us in taking such a course, to show, first, that there is a necessity for interference on the part of Parliament; and, secondly, that that interference cannot be other than that, and certainly should not stop short of it, which I shall have the honour to propose. In making this proposition I do so with very great reluctance, yet, at the same, time, I feel that the House of Assembly of Lower Canada have the advantage of being represented in this House, and that their case will be stated with as much ability as they can desire; and that if in any respect I shall wrong them by the proposal I shall have to make to this House, they will have an opportunity of having their claims fully advanced, and their pretensions put in the most favourable light, by the Gentlemen who have undertaken to support their cause. It is likewise a consolation to me to know, in bringing forward the affairs of Lower Canada, that the pretensions put forth by the Assembly of that province, are not supported by the general concurrence of the other provinces of North America subject to the Crown of Great Britain, It is not now proposed, on the part of Upper
Canada, that there shall be an elective Legislative Council; it is not proposed on the part of New Brunswick, or on the part Nova Scotia; and with respect to all these colonies, I may say, that the communications which have taken place between the Government and the Houses of Assembly of these provinces, tend generally towards a satisfactory adjustment—that they have the prospect, that what they now consider their grievances will be redressed in a manner the most full and sufficient; and, on the other hand, the Crown has every reason to expect a loyal and dutiful concurrence on the part of the Assemblies of those provinces. Therefore, we have not to reproach ourselves with having to contend against the general demand, and the general wishes of the provinces of North America. On the contrary, all the demands are from Lower Canada; raked up, as I believe, in the course of long and unfortunate divisions, and the consequence, as I believe, rather of past irritation than demands, founded upon real and practicable wants, without the effectual redress of which we could not hope for future and permanent tranquillity. In so saying, I may likewise say, that I do not intend—and if I do, it is unintentional on my part —I do not propose to cast censure and reproach on the Assembly of Lower Canada for the course they have taken. I consider that this course so much resembles the course which other popular assemblies have on similar occasions taken, that instead of its being an act of self-will or caprice, or presumption, it seems rather to be the obligation of a general law which affects all these disputes between a popular assembly on the one hand, and the executive on the other; and the course of the proceedings which generally take place strongly impresses this lesson, that popular assemblies are hardly ever wrong in the beginning, and hardly ever right at the conclusion of such struggles, which generally commence with right, and end with the establishment of wrong. They are generally struggles which begin with seeking a remedy of well-founded and existing grievances, and end with a declaration of suspicion and distrust of all authorities at present existing, the popular party endeavouring to set up some new and unknown government, by which they suppose there will be a means to remedy all future grievances. But if they succeed in their attempts, they seldom end in producing
the benefits that are expected from the new institutions. The province of Lower Canada came into the possession of the English Crown, in consequence of the successful war which ended in the peace of 1763. It contained, at that time about 60,000 souls, who were governed according to the laws of the arbitrary monarchy of France, having for their own especial law one of those inconvenient and local laws known in France by the name of the Customs of Paris. At first, the British Government wished to make it a British colony, to give it a constitution like the other colonies that had fallen into our hands, and make it like other British colonies in every respect. This policy was afterwards changed; and when we entered into the contest with our other North American provinces, care was taken to separate Canada from the appearance of resistance to the British Crown, and to induce the colonists to cling to their own customs, and to become again, as it were, a French colony. With the increase of the people, and the influx of emigration, it was proposed to introduce a new kind of government for that province, and Mr. Pitt proposed a Bill which became law in 1791. I think it will be doubted now, both upon abstract grounds, and the grounds of experience, whether the main provisions of that Act, or some at least of them, were adapted to secure future good government in that country. One part of the measure of 1791 was to establish an assembly, which should partly consist of hereditary members, and partly of members elected for life by the Government. Another part of the measure was, the separation of the provinces of Upper and Lower Canada, with the intention of making Upper Canada more completely English, and a resort for those emigrants who flocked thither in great numbers, while the lower province was left to become more gradually a country of a mixed proportion of French and British subjects. I will not at present touch upon the latter of these two provisions, but I will take the liberty of saying a few words with respect to the former. It seems to me that it was intended to establish in Canada a general resemblance to the British constitution, which I think impossible in any colony. It is not in the power of any one—as the hon. and learned Member for Bath argued last year, and, as I think, was very generally admitted— it is not in the power of any one to establish
in Canada an assembly which should have that moral influence which properly belonged to the House of Lords in this country; because there is no class of persons who can naturally be pointed out as an hereditary aristocracy in that country, and it would be difficult to select for life any persons whom the rest of the community would generally acknowledge to be worthy of that great honour. It is hardly possible that in the natural course of events the different governors who have been sent from this country should not take different views of the nature of their duties, and of the persons who were fit to be appointed; and that there should not come to be in the end a very great difficulty in carrying on the government by an assembly thus created, without any settled system, as there would be no authority like that of the King acting through his ministers, which should be responsible for all appointments that might be made The evil consequences of the present state of things is agreed to by all parties. The Assembly, on the one hand, complains very much of the existence of the Legislative Council. The petition presented to Parliament last year, and which was sent to the Under Secretary for the Colonies from the Constitutional Association, declared that the power was a very dangerous one; that it had not altogether been properly executed; and that there ought to be some new check, in order to obtain a proper and due selection of the legislative councillors. So far, I believe, I may conclude that there is some fault or some defect in the constitution of the Legislative Council; but this is not the only subject on which immediate remonstrances have been made, or on which contests have existed for a long time. On the contrary, there are many subjects of dispute, with respect to the nomination of judges, with respect to the disposal of the public money, with respect to the prosecution of certain persons who were defaulters, and various other subjects, which, after continuing for eight years, were still subjects of dispute in the provinces. These matters had been referred by Mr. Huskisson, when he was Secretary of State for the Colonies, to the consideration of a Select Committee of this House; and among the papers printed by the order of the House, there is a minute of the Earl of Aberdeen, which was drawn up by him when he was Colonial Secretary, in which the question
is treated with very great calmness and moderation, and quite to demonstration. It shows, that with respect to all the subjects, with the exception of one, which I shall mention presently, which were brought before the Committee of 1828, the remedies provided by the Government of this country were not only fully that which the Canada Committee recommended, but went beyond the propositions made by the Committee. I will mention an instance of this, and it is a very strong instance. The Canada Committee recommended that a certain duty, which was imposed by the Act of 1774, should be appropriated by the House of Assembly itself as soon as that House of Assembly should make permanent provision for the support of the judges, and for the support of a certain number of officers of the civil government. The Government of this country went beyond that proposal, and by the Act of 1831 they repealed, simply and at once, the provisions of the Act of 1774, as far as it left the appropriation to the Lords of the Treasury of this country, and left it freely and fully to the House of Assembly to appropriate the funds arising from these duties. It did not follow that because the Government and the Legislature of this country dealt this fair and full concession to the House of Assembly, that they should be disposed to make a proper return, by acceding to what the Committee of 1828 considered an indispensable preliminary. On the contrary, they have not hitherto, and, I think, as I shall hereafter show, they do not seem disposed now to make any such provision. There was one recommendation of the Committee which referred to the judges, with respect to whom it was by the Committee proposed that they should be independent as far as their salaries were concerned, but that they should be removeable at the pleasure of the Crown. An Act was proposed by Lord Ripon to the effect that the judges should not only have permanent salaries, but that they should hold their offices during good behaviour. The House of Assembly, in return for this, introduced into that Bill, clauses by which they made all the officers of the colony, not excepting the governor himself, subject to a tribunal appointed in the manner then pointed out. Thus they met the concessions largely and freely made by the Government of this country. These proceedings continued;
contests upon various points were raised from time to time until, in 1833, a supply bill was passed, with many conditions tacked to the several items of it, declaring that certain persons should have salaries for such offices, providing, at the same time, that they should not hold any other office, and various conditions of this kind, in consequence of which the supply bill was lost. In 1834 the House of Assembly passed ninety-two resolutions, which are familiar to this House both in their purport and their language. In 1833 the House of Assembly separated without passing a supply bill, in consequence of Lord Aylmer refusing to sanction their votes for the contingent expenses. In 1835 Commissioners were sent out from this country, in order to investigate the whole of the subject matter in dispute, and that they might make a report to his Majesty’s Government, by which his Majesty should be informed of the whole of the matter in dispute, to be able to judge how far it might be safe or practicable to comply with the demands of the House of Assembly. It is very satisfactory to me that the Commission which was appointed took full time to enter into every topic connected with the propositions made to this country. I think that, whatever suffering there may have been on the part of those officers of the government who claim, and have a right to claim, the protection of the British Crown and the British Parliament to defray the sums owing to them,—I think, whatever public inconvenience may have been suffered in consequence of the delay in the appointment of that Commission, yet the inestimable advantages derived from it— that we do not now proceed without the fullest and fairest inquiry, and that every subject has been carefully looked into—fully compensate for the time that has been lost. After four years and a half no supply has been voted; and we have come at last to this decisive question, whether or not we can grant some or all of the demands of the House of Assembly, without which no supply can in any case be looked to? It is a great advantage, I think, that we do not appear to proceed in haste or passion, or in ignorance, and that every light which can be thrown on the subject has been thrown upon it—that everything that could be fairly granted to the demands of the House of Assembly has been previously granted—that there is now but one question for this House to consider,
whether or not we shall proceed to alter the constitution of 1791, and to alter it in a manner which I shall afterwards show is inconsistent with the relations of the mother country and the colonies; or whether we shall interpose, as in a case of necessity, and a case of clearly and fully proved necessity, to protect the colony itself from disturbance, and to rescue the honour of the British Crown from that which I consider a stain upon it—of leaving the subjects of the Crown unprotected in a situation in which they have been encouraged and even directed by the government to place themselves? That this is the question is sufficiently proved by the amendment which the hon. Member (Mr. Leader) means to propose. He does not say, neither do those who agree with him say,” Let not Parliament interfere, allow the colony to continue its course, do not coerce the assembly of the colony, do not interfere with the imperial parliament;” but what he says is this, “It is necessary to interfere; it is necessary that you should consider former acts of Parliament; it is necessary that you should repeal those acts and adopt another constitution.” To this question, then I beg leave to call the attention of the House, and I will only do so generally, because really, though I have been long conversant with the subject, I am not able to enter at length into every statement of the demands of the House of Assembly. But I am sure that my learned Friend who sits near me (Sir G. Grey) will be able to give any details that may be necessary. I will go shortly and generally into the questions upon which the House of Assembly make their demand, and I will state the reasons why I think it impossible, for us to grant those demands, and the course which I propose to take on this subject. The first demand of the Assembly is, that the legislative council having hitherto been nominated by the Crown, shall for the future be an elective assembly. The next is, that the executive council shall be a responsible council, similar to the cabinet in this country. Another is, that the law of tenures shall be changed without respecting the rights acquired under an Act passed by the British Parliament; and the fourth is, that the land company shall be abolished, with a similar disregard of the rights acquired under the same Act. With respect to the proposition of making the legislative council elective, the effect of it in the present
state of the colony must be to make a second -assembly exactly resembling that which at present exists. There could be no doubt, from the Report of the Commissioners—and every one who has spoken on the subject seems to have come to the same conclusion—that the second Assembly would be but an echo of the first Assembly, and would try to enforce all their demands. It is proposed in the next place that the executive council should be made to resemble the ministry in this country. I hold this proposition to be entirely incompatible with the relations between the mother country and the colony. The relations between the mother country and the colony require that his Majesty should be represented not by a person removeable by the House of Assembly, but by a governor sent out by the King, responsible to the King and responsible to the Parliament of Great Britain. This was the necessary constitution of a colony; and if you have not these relations existing between the mother country and the colony you will soon have an end to the relations altogether. Then, again, if the executive council were made responsible as the ministers of this country, of course the governor must act according to their advice. If the Assembly do not trust those ministers, if they do not think them fit, they must be removed, and others put in their places. The person sent out by the king as governor, and those ministers in whom the assembly confided, might differ in opinion, and there at once would be a collision between the measures of the King and the conduct of the representatives of the colony. But this proposition would tend not merely to produce disputes, not merely to try the King’s authority, but it would tend to introduce authorities totally incompatible with the authority which the King seems to have over every colony. There is an obligation, for instance, on the Government of this country, to prevent any British subject being injured with impunity. If the executive council be appointed through the influence of the House of Assembly the consequence would be that the Ministers thus appointed must carry into effect the acts of the Assembly, and must deprive persons of land or other possessions, though holding them under the laws of this country, and by virtue of an Act of Parliament. Let it be considered, that these measures must be carried into effect not merely by the forces of
the colony, not merely by the Assembly, but in the King’s name, and by means of the King’s forces in that colony. Let me suppose this case, that the King sends out certain orders to the governor in conformity with the existing laws. The law in the mean time is changed by the Assembly, and the consequence might be that the King’s troops would be obliged, in obedience to the orders of the ministers of the Assembly, to carry into effect those orders in defiance of an Act of Parliament, and tending, perhaps, to the injury and destruction of the King’s subjects holding property according to law. It may be maintained that there is justice in the attempt to give an executive to the colony which should be responsible to the Assembly in the same manner that the Ministers in this country are responsible to this House. That part of the constitution which requires that the Ministers of the Crown shall be responsible to Parliament, and shall be removable if they do not obtain the confidence of Parliament, is a condition which exists in an imperial legislature, and in an imperial legislature only. It is a condition which cannot be carried into effect in a colony—it is a condition which can only exist in one place, namely, the seat of empire. Otherwise we should have separate independent powers existing not only in Great Britain, but in every separate colony. In such a case the Government would be unable to carry its measures or wishes into effect, and each colony would, in effect, be an independent state, with this singular anomaly, that the executive chief nominated by the King of England, and the troops and forces of the King of England, might be employed to carry the orders of the House of Assembly into effect. This is, therefore, a condition which it is impossible to have consistently with the relations between the mother country and the colony. With respect to the other points of the tenures and the Land Company, in looking through the measures of the House of Assembly I do not find that they made any laws upon this subject; on the contrary, they seem to infer that these Acts of the British Parliament were Acts of usurpation altogether, and that they would be fully justified in repealing those Acts, and in acting according to their own discretion with respect to any persons who may have acquired property and rights under these Acts. It is neither possible for the Crown or the Parliament
of Great Britain to yield the rights of those persons, and after the passing of a solemn Act of the Legislature to say that those rights shall be disregarded and set at nought, because they do not agree with the views of the House of Assembly. And as far as I can conceive, the only remedy that is left, according to the views of the House of Assembly, is for the British Parliament to vote compensation to such persons, and to provide for them out of the funds of this country. This is the resource left to us—a resource worse than that which we were compelled to accept from another of our American colonies after a most disastrous war. I feel assured that this House will think that they are justified in taking under their protection those persons who have suffered in consequence of Acts passed by this and by the other House of Parliament. If the House were to concur in the views of the House of Assembly, taken as a whole, what would be the consequence? Canada would cease to be a colony, and would be regulated by an authority there independent and subversive of the power of the British Crown, and having all the inconvenience of a colony with none of its advantages. But there would be this anomaly also: if Canada were really independent, if any subject of Great Britain were wronged there, the King of Great Britain, as in the case of any other foreign power, could interfere to see that the wrong was redressed; but according to the demands of the House of Assembly, if a subject of the King of Great Britain were wronged on the banks of the St. Lawrence, the King of Great Britain would not have the power to interfere, which he would have if the wrong had been committed on the banks of the Danube and the Bosphorus. I ask Gentlemen to consider what will be the effect of these propositions of the House of Assembly? One objection is stated by the Commissioners, and stated for a reason which I think all sufficient in the present state of the colonies, to prevent our acceding to the demand for an elective Legislative Council. With respect to a Legislative Council, they state that there is no reason with respect to the abstract consideration why there should not be an effective Legislative Council in the colony as well as one nominated by the Crown; but in the present condition of Canada, they cannot imagine a, state of circumstances,—
they cannot imagine a body of constituents of such a nature, so different from the body which constitutes the present House of Assembly, as to have an independent assembly appointed in the manner of an election, and not by the nomination of the Crown. But they state that, whatever may be the result come to upon abstract speculation, that this is not the case in Canada; that the case of Canada is such, that if you yield to these demands a great portion of the King’s subjects, namely, those of British descent, will be excluded altogether from a voice and representation in the two assemblies; that that portion, consisting of 120,000 of our fellow-subjects, persons of considerable wealth and intelligence, and who are engaged principally in commercial pursuits, would consider themselves so far abandoned, so far unprotected, that it was not likely that the peace of the colony would be preserved, but that they would oppose and resist the Government as a Government from which they could expect no security for life and property. They concluded that whatever might be the result of speculation on this subject, and though their views, as far as regarded them individually, were in many respects dissimilar, yet they all agreed in this, that in the present state of the colony it would not be possible, with security to the subject and tranquillity to the colony, to grant the demands that were made. I consider —these Commissioners having, as I stated in many respects entertained dissimilar views upon many questions that came before them—I consider that there must have been a very strong impression that the present state of the colony was such that it would be unwise and unsafe to introduce an elective council into that colony. I think that the report of the Commissioners affords sufficient reasons for the opinions to which they have come. Having thus stated why, in the opinion of his Majesty’s Government, it is impossible to yield to the demands which have been made by the representative assembly of Lower Canada, I shall now proceed to state the views which we have taken of the whole case, and of the remedy by which we propose to put an end to the difficulties which have arisen in consequence of these occurrences. The first difficulty is the payment of the judges and of the king’s officers in the colony. When it is recollected that it is now four years
and a half since the judges have received their salaries, during which period they have been left entirely to their own resources for support, the House will, I think, consider that it is high time for us to come forward and interpose the authority of Parliament in their behalf and rescue those officers from the state of distress which must necessarily result from a protracted continuance of this state of things. Had we followed the advice of the Commissioners upon this subject, we should have come forward last year and demanded of Parliament the means of paying the arrears justly due to these officers; but it was thought that as some misunderstandings appeared to exist between the Assembly of Lower Canada and Lord Glenelg, it would be desirable to give them an opportunity to re-consider the subject once more, and wait to see if they still persisted in refusing these payments. With regard to the propriety of the proceeding which I am about to recommend, I apprehend that it is undoubtedly in the power of the imperial Parliament to interfere in colonial affairs, whether in legislative matters or in supply, when a pressing occasion occurs for so doing. In legislative matters we had recently an instance in regard to Jamaica, where we interposed our authority to continue an act of great importance, which the colonial legislature had omitted to pass within the proper period. In matters of supply, also, I have as little doubt that in cases of great necessity it is in the power of Parliament to employ all the means in its hands to appropriate the proceeds of the taxes raised in a colony to certain public services in a colony to which they are under ordinary circumstances applied. This principle was admitted at the bar of the House of Commons by Dr. Benjamin Franklin, who in regard to the Assembly of New York, was asked, whether, if a colony were altogether to refuse supplies, the imperial Parliament could interfere, and he replied that “he could not conceive such a case to occur, though they had in some cases refused to grant permanent salaries to the officers of Government, and he thought very wisely so.” He was then asked again, “whether in cases where interference was justifiable, the right of interfering ought not to be in the Parliament of Great Britain?” To which he replied, “that he would have no objection to it, provided the power were only used for the use and good of the colony
itself.” Now this is a limitation in the justness of which I fully concur; for if we were to attempt to order the appropriation of the funds raised in the colonies to the use of the mother country, it appears to me dearly that we should be far overstepping our province and our authority. What I propose, however, to-night is simply to apply a certain portion of the revenues of Lower Canada to the payment of such items as the Representative Assembly have already agreed to in their votes of supply in the year 1833. The total amount is 148,000l., and my purpose is only to order the payment of that sum for those purposes which the Assembly has already admitted, and not for any which in 1832 it may have refused to agree to. The next consideration is the manner in which the government of the province is to be carried on in future, and the nature of the legislative council which is to be adopted. It is proposed to adopt the recommendation of the Commissioners, that judges shall be excluded by law from this council, as also all persons guilty of any disgraceful offence; and that no person shall be appointed to it until his name has been sent over here by the governor of the province. With regard to the principle or predilections upon which persons have been selected for appointment to the legislative council, I believe it has been too much the practice to select them almost entirely from amongst persons of British extraction, who form but a small numerical minority in the province, whilst the Representative Assembly is composed in great part of persons of French extraction, who are the majority in point of numbers, and whose views and interests in many matters are entirely at variance with those of the minority, whose feelings are represented in the Legislative Council. I must say that the manner in which governors of this colony have lately acted upon the authority vested in them by the acts of 1791 in this particular has not been judicious and I consider that to select the members of the Legislative Council alternately, one from the British and then one from the French stock, would be far preferable, as well as more in accordance with’ the practice in the earlier periods after the passing of that Act. Of course the governor should take care to appoint a person of sound discretion and of good character and standing in the colony, but at the same time no undue
preference should prevail in favour of one particular class to the exclusion of others, keeping up and fermenting a perpetual opposition and jealousy the minority acting in every case against the wishes of the majority. I think by thus adopting many persons who had no hope of appointment hitherto, and by excluding all persons of doubtful character, and especially those who have been public defaulters, we shall go a great way towards effecting a reconciliation of differences upon this point. This, however, should of course be left as a matter of discretion, and not as a positive rule. In the next place, with regard to the composition of the Executive Council, I propose that there should not be more than two or three official persons in that Council, and that the rest of the Council should be selected from the Legislative Council and the General Assembly. It is proposed also that they should not enter into the discussion of any subject not immediately connected with the province except upon advice of the Governor. I propose further that the Governor shall be at liberty to act contrary to the advice of the Executive Council if he think proper, but that on so doing he should make a minute of the occurrence. By this means, whilst we give the members of the Executive Council a proper degree of control in the affairs of the government of the colony, we also leave the Governor a discretionary power to act by himself when he conceives the duty of his office and his general instructions require it. The next question to which I have to allude is the North American Land Company. This association, I believe, has been of great use to the colony; many settlers have obtained advantages from it which they could not have hoped for, either from the Government or from their own individual exertions and resources. I see no reason to differ from the resolution of the Commissioners in respect to this point. No doubt the Land Company might acquire possession of a greater extent of land than it would be judicious to allow it to possess but a provision might, without much difficulty, be framed to restrain this. The Assembly, it appears, pretend that the act of 1791 gives them the supreme control over all the wild land of the province—a pretence which I cannot agree to, as the Crown has never parted with its right to grant charters for the purposes of planting or clearing as it may think fit.
Another subject upon which much complaint has been made is the Act passed in this country in reference to tenures. This Act is complained of upon two grounds— first, that it was originally framed in ignorance of the tenures of the colony; and, secondly, that it does not provide a means of voluntary commutation. The Commissioners considered both these opinions to be well founded, and propose that as soon as any Act on the subject shall have been passed by the colonial Legislature, Parliament will repeal the above Act. In doing this, however, I need hardly observe that great care should be taken that the vested rights of individuals under the existing system be not prejudiced. Another complaint of the Canadas against the Act of 1791, especially on the part of Upper Canada, is the embarrassment which arises out of it to the trade between the two colonies. A newspaper which I hold in my hand complains that every boat which comes from the lower provinces is subject to inspection at the Custom-house and forced to pay duty, and that the passengers from Great Britain passing by this route are also subject to pay certain dues of this kind. It complains further, that the general division of the duties is unfair, and, above all, that they have not a full vent for their merchandise by the St. Lawrence; for it appears that in the upper province, by the Act of 1791, they have not the means of communication with the sea, and consequently with foreign parts, without the payment of considerable duties, while other impediments are thrown in the way of the trade of Upper Canada in Lower Canada. With respect to this and many other questions of the like kind I think it highly desirable that some satisfactory adjustment of difference should at least be attempted. At present, instead of the two colonies helping and strengthening one another, they seem to be a mutual hindrance and mutually injurious to each other’s commerce. With a view to the adjustment of these differences it is proposed, with the assent of the Legislatures of the two provinces, that a joint Committee should be appointed, to sit at Montreal, and which Committee should be composed in the following manner, namely, of four members of the Legislative Councils of each province, and of eight members of each Representative Assembly, making twenty-four persons in all, who should have the power to prepare
laws and to compare results upon all these points of reciprocal policy. One of the most important matters which would come under their notice would be the navigation of the St. Lawrence. Another would be the settlement of matters of commerce between the two provinces. Another point would be the constitution of some fair court of appeal, and of impeachment for judges and other officers of the executive, while under existing circumstances the accusing body would be at once both the accuser and the judge. The Committee would also have to direct its attention to the line of boundary. It is hoped that upon many of the points I have adverted to, this Committee would be able to devise measures by which the mutual interest and the good government of the two colonies would be greatly improved. With regard to the matters of supply to which I have already alluded, it is proposed that, after securing the civil list, and the salaries of the judges and of certain Government officers, the whole revenue of the colony should be left to the disposal of the Assembly. The Assembly would hardly wish for more than this; they would hardly, I think, wish to see the judges’ salaries made dependent on the annual vote of the Representative Assembly, instead of the judges holding the independent position which their important office so peculiarly demands. Putting these few items, therefore, out of the question, the Assembly would still have to dispose of the greater portion of the revenue of the province for purposes of national improvement, as the formation of roads, &c. In this situation, without any direct tax, without any debt, and while the whole revenue is raised by means of duties upon commerce, which the Assembly may apply as it thinks proper to internal improvements, and necessary expenses, the Canadas enjoy as desirable a state of things as it is possible to conceive. With respect to any injuries or disadvantages which the Canadians allege to be inflicted by the law, I can only say that they do not appear in any of the petitions before us. That the House of Assembly should be entirely elected by the Canadians, that the Executive Government should be nominated by the Crown, but with certain conditions and securities, and that the House of Assembly should come to some arrangement with the upper province on the subject of trade and other international matters; such are the general propositions
which we desire to submit with a view to bringing these complaints to an adjustment. With respect to the wild lands, they are, as I said before, in the hands of the Crown. The rule now is, not to make the same improvident grants as formerly, but to sell the land at a fair price; the House of Assembly having the general control of the revenue, leaving only to the Executive such superintendence in matters of detail which is usual both in the, mother country and in the colonies. According to this view of the case, I think it can hardly be denied that these colonies are in the enjoyment of as great a portion of political freedom, and of personal immunity from oppression, and of as great power to make wholesome laws, as any persons at home. They certainly do not possess some privileges in the imperial government of the colony, which it is not in their nature, as colonists, to enjoy. At the same time, however, it should be borne in mind that they are exempt from the payment of taxes which we have to pay. Their taxes, on the contrary, are exceedingly light, and their means of internal improvement very great and very promising. Such is the condition of these colonies, and such will be their prospects if they accept the propositions which I have now brought forward. If, however, they take an unfavourable view of these proposals—if they persist in maintaining that it is absolutely necessary that there should be an elective Legislative Council and an Executive Council subservient to the Representative Assembly, then it must very shortly come to this, that they should also have a governor of their own nomination, for none other would do their bidding. If this be the proposition of the Assembly of Lower Canada, it is in another form nothing else than demanding the total independence of the colonies from the mother country. This is a demand which, if it be persisted in, must drive Parliament to the necessity of saying, whether there is any other form of colonial constitution under which the Canadas can be governed than that embodied in the Act of 1791. But to these addresses, by which the dignity of Parliament and of the country is impaired, and by adopting which we should be made responsible for acts in which we do not concur, and which we do not think desirable, I cannot agree. I however, do not suppose that these colonies will persist in their demands; but if they do still hold
out, we have not the means of carrying on the government of them here in continual resistance to their Assemblies. I do not propose to do away with the constitution of 1791; but if the colonists are desirous of retaining that constitution, and will agree to carry it on in the fairest way, that constitution may be so carried on by the steps we are about to propose. I do not think that we could carry on the government of the colony without the Legislative Council; and I wish to have the advice of Parliament on the subject, whether we should yield to demands which we consider would amount to the abandonment of the colony altogether, or whether we shall adopt the course I now propose, by which I hope to induce the colonists to re-consider the whole matter in dispute, and see whether those disputes had not arisen in a great part out of feelings of irritation consequent upon former disputes, and to offer such practicable measures as may induce them to abandon the greater number of those complaints. The noble Lord concluded by moving the first of the following Resolutions:— 1. That since the 31st day of October, in the year 1832, no provision has been made by the Legislature of the province of Lower Canada, for defraying the charges of the administration of justice, and for the support of the civil government, within the said province, and that there will, on the 10th day of April now next ensuing, be required for defraying in full the charges aforesaid to that day, the sum of 142,160l. 14s. 6d. 2. That at a Session of the Legislature of Lower Canada, holden at the city of Quebec, in the said province, in the months of September and October, 1836, the Governor of the said province, in compliance with his Majesty’s commands, recommended to the attention of the House of Assembly thereof, the estimates for the current year, and also the accounts, showing the arrears due in respect of the civil government, and signified to the said House his Majesty’s confidence that they would accede to the application which he had been commanded to renew, for payment of the arrears due on account of the public service, and for the funds necessary to carry on the civil government of the province. 3. That the said House of Assembly, on the 3d day of October, 1836, by an address to the Governor of the said province, declined to vote a supply for the purposes aforesaid, and by the said address, after referring to a former address of the said House to the Governor of the said province, declared that the said House House persisted, amongst other things, in the demand of an elective Legislative Council, and in demanding the repeal of a certain Act
passed by the Parliament of the United Kingdom in favour of the North American Land Company; and by the said address, the said House of Assembly further adverted to the demand made by that House of the free exercise of its control over all the branches of the Executive Government; and by the said address, the said House of Assembly further declared, that it was incumbent on them, in the present conjuncture, to adjourn their deliberations until his Majesty’s Government should, by its acts, especially by rendering the second branch of the Legislature conformable to the wishes and wants of the people, have commenced the great work of justice and reform, and created a confidence, which alone could crown it with success. 4. That in the existing state of Lower Canada, it is unadvisable to make the Legislative Council of that province an elective body; but that it is expedient that measures be adopted for securing to that branch of the Legislature a greater degree of public confidence. 5. That while it is expedient to improve the composition of the Executive Council in Lower Canada, it is unadvisable to subject it to the responsibility demanded by the House of Assembly of that province. 6. That the legal title of the North American Land Company to the land holden by the said Company, by virtue of a grant from his Majesty, under the public seal of the said province, and to the privileges conferred on the said company by the Act for that purpose made, in the fourth year of his Majesty’s reign, ought to be maintained inviolate. 7. That it is expedient, that so soon as provisions shall have been made by law, to be passed by the Legislature of the said province of Lower Canada, for the discharge of lands therein from feudal dues and services, and for removing any doubts as to the incidents of the tenure of land in fee and common soccage in the said province, a certain Act made and passed in the sixth year of the reign of his late Majesty King George IV., commonly called ‘The Canada Tenures Act,’ and so much of another Act passed in the third year of his said late Majesty’s reign, commonly called ‘The Canada Trade Act,’ as relates to the tenures of land in the said province, should be repealed, saving nevertheless to all persons all rights in them vested under or by virtue of the said recited Acts. 8. That for defraying the arrears due on account of the established and customary charges of the administration of justice, and of the civil government of the said province, it is expedient, that after applying for that purpose such balance as shall, on the said 10th day of April, 1837, be in the hands of the Receiver-General of the said province, arising from his Majesty’s hereditary, territorial, and casual revenue, the Governor of the said province be empowered to issue from and out of any other part of his Majesty’s
revenues, in the hands of the Receiver-General of the said province, such further sums as shall be necessary to effect the payment of the before-mentioned sum of 142,160l. 14s. 6d. 9. That it is expedient that his Majesty be authorised to place at the disposal of the Legislature of the said province, the net proceeds of his Majesty’s hereditary, territorial, and casual revenue arising within the same, in case the said Legislature shall see fit to grant to his Majesty a civil list for defraying the necessary charges of the administration of justice, and for the maintenance and unavoidable expenses of certain of the principal officers of the civil government of the said provinces.10. That great inconvenience had been sustained by his Majesty’s subjects inhabiting the provinces of Lower Canada and Upper Canada, from the want of some adequate means for regulating and adjusting questions respecting the trade and commerce of the said provinces, and divers other questions, wherein the said provinces have a common interest; and it is expedient that the Legislature of the said provinces respectively be authorised to make provision for the joint regulation and adjustment of such their common interest.
Mr. Leader It is my intention to oppose the resolutions proposed by the noble Lord, if the usage of the House permit. If the noble Lord in rising to bring forward the subject were under the necessity of craving the indulgence of the House, I must also claim similar indulgence, not only on account of illness, but on account of the vast importance of the question. The interests of a nation—the interests of a large and gallant body of fellow-subjects—depend on the vote which the House may come to on the resolutions proposed by the noble Lord. The resolutions were of vital importance, not only to the colony, but to this country, and any one much more competent than myself to discuss the merits of the question must approach it with some degree of awe. The noble Lord said he brought forward the resolutions with considerable reluctance, and I am not surprised at the expression. The noble Lord represented a liberal constituency, and was the leader of a liberal Government, and he must therefore have felt reluctance in bringing forward the most arbitrary measure that had ever been proposed to that House. It was, in short, a Coercion Bill. The noble Lord admitted that colonial assemblies were often in the right at the commencement, when they complained of grievances and
claimed redress; but it also often happened that these colonies ended their claims by forming themselves into commonwealths. The Assembly of Lower Canada had commenced with the first mode of proceeding; but unless their just demands were conceded, they would not form themselves into a commonwealth, but throw themselves into the arms of a neighbouring republic. I differ from the noble Lord relative to the effects of the Act passed in 1828; and he will find on referring to it, that the report of his own Commissioners is equivocal on that point. The noble Lord had told us, that the Legislature has hitherto abstained from interfering with the steps taken by the House of Assembly. But what had caused that conduct but the course pursued for the last twenty years by a nominated council against the wishes of the Canadian people, and sustained by the bad policy of the Colonial-office? The noble Lord says if the Legislative Council were made elective, the interests of the people would predominate. What an objection to come from the noble Lord! The people of Canada gay, in order that all legislation may not be impeded, there is an absolute necessity that the Legislative Council should be reformed; and the noble Lord proposes, by way of remedy, not that the Legislative Council should be so reformed as to act in harmony with the other estates, but that the House of Assembly, and the great body of the people should be made to conform to the vicious principles and practice of the Executive Council. The noble Lord says, it would be inexpedient to repeal the Act by which the North American Land Company hold their tenures. Now that very Act is one great subject of complaint. The people of Canada say, that the Tenute Acts and other Acts of a similar description, ought never to have passed the Imperial Parliament, and contend that so long as they have a Constitution and National Assemblies of their own, the Imperial Parliament ought not to interfere with their concerns. The noble Lord said, if the Legislature of this country supported the resolutions, the people of Canada would be placed in a most enviable position; but the noble Lord forgets one point; he forgets that if these resolutions are passed, the independence of the Canadian Assembly is annihilated; he forgets that the people are deprived of their constitutional rights. That would
be the result of the resolutions. That would be the enviable position in which the people of Canada would be placed. Now, I would ask the noble Lord whether he is prepared to deprive that Colonial Assembly of the rights with which it is intrusted for the benefit of the people—is he prepared to deprive that Assembly of their control over their finances, of their control over the executive, and to tax the Canadian people without the consent of the National Legislature? That was the course pursued towards the North American Colonies. That was the cause of their separation from the mother country; and, with such an example before your eyes, will you persevere in such unconstitutional and arbitrary measures. Is there not an Act passed by the Imperial Legislature, which declares that the colonies of Upper and Lower Canada shall not be taxed but by their own Legislatures? And are not the resolutions of the noble Lord directly opposed to this principle? The noble Lord proposes that the House of Assembly shall pay certain arrears. They refuse to pay unless on certain conditions —these conditions are not complied with, and yet the noble Lord steps in between the parties—the Assembly and the Executive—and, in the most unconstitutional and arbitrary manner, endeavours to tax the colonies. If such a system is to be carried into effect, the constitution of Canada is a mere paper parchment, and the Assembly nothing more than a debating club. I therefore contend that so long as the Canadian people have a constitutional assembly of their own, it is beyond the right of this House to interfere with their concerns, or make any change in their financial affairs. The Commissioners had some feelings of this sort. What are their words?—”That such a measure would be less objectionable than any interference with the privileges of the Canadian Legislature or any tampering with the principles of the Constitution granted in 1791.” The noble Lord said he was sorry there was no choice left but to adopt the latter course. And what would that amount to but to send troops to the country, and provoke the people by threats and the fear of slavery? Such was not a constitutional course of proceeding, and so long as the colonies had a Legislature of their own, this country had no right to tamper or interfere with the privileges of the people, or render null and void that power which
you have intrusted to the Legislative Assembly. Now, this unsatisfactory and unconstitutional resolution—and he was not surprised when he read it—this unconstitutional resolution is founded on the report of the Commissioners, and is in accordance with the policy of the Colonial office at all times. I do not confine my remarks to this or that side of the House; it is in accordance with that policy towards our colonies, which, for many years, has been most arbitrary, and which still remains unaltered. I heard the resolutions and the speech of the noble Lord with sincere regret, because they will be neither satisfactory to the Colonial Parliament, nor to the people of the country, whom they would exasperate in the highest degree. The grievances of the colony are, unfortunately, too well known, and it would only be a waste of the time and patience of the House to enumerate them. They have existed for more than forty years. In 1791, when a change was made in the constitution of the colony, it was said by many it would not work well, and the vital error and defect was the nominated Legislative Council. The prediction has unfortunately proved too true. The Constitution has not worked well. For twenty years a contest has been carried on between the nominated Council and the Legislative Assembly, and all legislation stopped. And what does the noble Lord propose to supply for a remedy? The noble Lord comes forward, not with a remedy, but with a resolution to make the people pay without directing his attention to their just demands. The grievances and the complaints had continued so long that a Commission was sent out, and a sort of report had been made; and he must say of that report that he had never seen a more curious, more incomplete, or more disjointed document. To the report drawn up and signed by the three Commissioners there are notes appended; some by Sir Charles Grey, disagreeing with a part of the report; some by Sir George Gipps, of a similar character; and there is only one on which they all agree, the general attack made on the hon. Member for Bath. All agree to that short report; and even the secretary was so delighted with it that he thought proper also to sign his name. In that report they said little or nothing of the remedy, but it was full of threats against the Legislative Assembly, full of projects for
taking away their rights, and with schemes for converting the minority into a majority, and with plans and Bills of a similar nature, which, instead of satisfying the people of Canada, would excite them to the highest degree of exasperation. The report acknowledged there were many grievances—it acknowledged the Assembly had justice on their side; but there were many difficulties in settling the question, and they have not settled any question. They have staved many things off which, unless brought to a satisfactory conclusion, may lead to a separation between Canada and this country. Now the great point to be settled, and on which the Canadians laid the greatest stress, was making the upper assembly elective. That depended on the state of parties in Lower Canada, it was said because Gentlemen interested told us that it was a contest not for right, but a contest between English and French Canadians. Now that was not the truth, because there is a majority of English Members voting with what was called the French party. Many of British descent and many of American descent are found to agree with those of French descent. It could not, therefore, as insinuated, be called a contest of races—no, it was a contest between the people and a nominated council—it was a contest between the oligarchy and the democracy, insulted and trampled down by a miserable minority— an oligarchy who had so long tyrannised over the rest of the community that they think they are deprived of their rights when affairs are placed on a proper footing. Four-fifths of the Canadians wish to make the council elective; and the other fifth, interested in abuse, are determined to keep up the nominated council, and say they will never submit to the National Colonial Assembly. In favour of which of the two parties will you decide? Will you agree with the minority or the majority? That is the real state of the question. When the constitution was granted in 1791, the ministers of the day thought it would be a great benefit to give a constitution as much like to that of England as possible and they accordingly framed it on the same plan, though with different titles for the separate estates. For the King the colonies have a governor—for the cabinet a privy council—for the House of Lords a Legislative Council, and for a House of Commons a House of Assembly. The great difficulty was to find proper persons to constitute an
upper House, because in Canada there are no elements for an aristocracy—no persons of the proper stamp to make a House of Lords; but the Government finding it was necessary to make the constitution like that of England, created that assembly of officers nominated by the Crown. It was hardly to be expected that a body thus nominated would agree with an assembly elected by the people; and the consequence was such as every man expected—the two houses did not agree on any one point, and all legislation was stopped—the assembly was useless, and the colony was deprived of the benefit of a Legislature, because it had been judged necessary to adopt this scheme for a House of Lords. What remedy do the Commissioners propose? They do not propose to do away with the Legislative Council, or reform it, though after forty years experience it had been found a failure. They did not propose to restore to harmony the Executive, the Legislative Council, and the House of Assembly, but still to keep up and preserve this strange and anomalous body. The Commissioners in their report admit that there was a want of harmony and a hostility shown towards the Legislative Council, and that something was expected by the people by which the Council would be placed more under control. Their words are:—”With these signs, therefore, of a continued hostility before us, we are disposed to ascribe the fact of no formal demand for an elective Council having been made before 1833 simply to the expectation entertained by the popular party, that in consequence of the recommendations of the Committee of 1828, very essential alterations in the composition of the Council were on the point of being effected. An alteration was indeed produced in 1832. The judges ceased to take any part in its proceedings, and thirteen new members, unconnected with the Government, were added in the course of the year; but that these new nominations were unsatisfactory to the Assembly, and that the disappointment, they felt at the alterations in the Council was the cause of their fresh proceedings against it, may be inferred from the fact, that in the next session of the Legislature was voted the first address in which a demand for an elective Council was put forth. We certainly do not think that either the recommendation of the Committee of 1828, or anything that subsequently issued from a competent
source, warranted an expectation that the Legislative Council was to be made entirely to harmonise with the feelings of the Assembly; nevertheless that something of the kind was expected by the popular party does seem beyond dispute. We do not feel called on to pronounce an opinion on the propriety of the appointments in question; and the less so as they were narrowly scanned in the cross-examination of Mr. Morin, before the Committee of 1834; but we may, we think, venture to say, that whilst they satisfied the terms of the recommendation made by the Committee of 1828, as far as the matter of pecuniary independence of the Crown was concerned, they scarcely produced an alteration in the political character of the body to which the new Members were aggregated.” The next topic they advert to is the contest between the two races. That part of the report concludes with the remark, that though at first it might have been expedient to make some change in the constitution of the assemblies, it would not be advisable to adopt the principle now. And why? Because it would only take the power from one and give it to the other—the very argument used by Gentlemen opposite when they refused Corporate Reform to Ireland. They said “No! it may be just to give Corporations to Ireland, but we will not, by giving Corporations to Ireland, create a party triumph.” It is perfectly surprising that Commissioners appointed by a liberal Government should have drawn up such a report. It ends by quietly recommending that as they cannot agree to make the Legislative Council elective, the Constitution of Canada should be taken away altogether, and a Coercion Bill substituted for it. Such, Sir, is the argument of the Commissioners. But I appeal from the Commissioners to this House. Nay, I appeal to the noble Lord, and ask him if he is prepared to sanction such an argument as that? The Canadians, in a constitutional manner, ask for the introduction of the principle of election into the Legislative Council, both as a great measure of reform, and as a measure of urgency, without which peace cannot be restored to Canada. What is the answer of the Commissioners?” We cannot agree to your request, for it is contrary to the unity of Government in the British empire. But we have a remedy of our own; which is to deprive you of the control
over your finances, and to take away your Constitution. We cannot consent to the introduction of the elective principle; for then the Legislative Council will not be like the House of Lords.” Sir, let it be remembered that in the first instance the Legislative Council was but an experiment. Mr. Pitt said that it was only an experiment. What were the words of another great statesman on the occasion of its establishment? The noble Lord told us the other night that when he wished to seek for large and liberal principles of Government, he did not refer to the system of Locke or the technicalities of Blackstone. I perfectly agree with the noble Lord, that a more powerful advocate of liberal principles than Mr. Fox never lived. But what did Mr. Fox say on the occasion to which I have just alluded? In the debate on the Quebec Government Bill in 1791, Mr. Fox said, “He did not advise giving Canada a servile imitation of our aristocracy, because we could not give them a House of Lords like our own. The Chancellor of the Exchequer appeared to be aware of this, and therefore he had recourse to a substitute for hereditary nobility. It was, however, he must contend, a very inadequate substitute; it was a semblance but not a substance. Lords, indeed, we might give them, but there was no such thing as creating that reverence and respect for them on which their dignity and weight in the view both of the popular and monarchical part of the constitution depended, and which alone could give them that power of control and support that was the object of their institution.” The experiment has now been tried for above forty years; and the result has shown that Mr. Fox was right. It has been a complete failure. In a subsequent part of the same speech, Mr. Fox said, “Instead, therefore, of the King naming the Council at that distance—in which case they had no security that persons of property, and persons fit to be named, would be chosen—wishing, as he did, to put the freedom and stability of the Constitution of Canada on the strongest basis, he proposed that the Council should be elective “So that I now merely propose what the noble Lord’s chief authority in political matters proposed in 1791. Mr. Fox added, “In order to show that his idea of an Elective Council was not a new one, before the Revolution, more of the councils in our colonies were elected by the
people than by the King.” Such were Mr. Fox’s views on the subject in 1791. He at that time predicted what has since happened. We have now the experience of forty years to guide us. Is the noble Lord prepared to oppose not only the opinions of Mr. Fox, but the result of the experience of nearly half a century? I beg leave to tell him, that if he perseveres it will be, in a very short time, impossible for his or any other Government to rule Canada, except by force of arms. Is England likely to derive either honour or profit from such a state of things? Remember the consequences of the unholy policy pursued towards America. Compare that policy with the liberal policy now pursuing towards Ireland, and determine which is the best. Remember that Canada has been complaining for these thirty years. Remember that there is in her neighbourhood a great, flourishing, and powerful republic, anxious to assist her. Remember that the attachment of Canada to England, not weakened at present, can be destroyed only by obstinate perseverance in an unjust course. I appeal to every hon. Gentleman who remembers the contest with America; I appeal |to every man who prefers free institutions to arbitrary rule; and, above all, I appeal to the hon. Members from Ireland to do justice to Canada. In political condition Canada may be considered a miniature of Ireland. The Irish Members demand justice for Ireland; I demand justice for Canada. Sir, I move as an amendment to the noble Lord’s resolution. “That it is advisable to make the Legislative Council of that province an Elective Council.”
Mr. Robinson observed, that the speech, of the hon. Member for Bridgewater had been a complete commentary upon that delivered by the noble Lord opposite, who had moved the resolutions now under the consideration of the House. Everybody, however, who was acquainted with the policy of the present Government must be well aware that the noble Lord must have submitted those resolutions for the adoption of the House with a great deal of reluctance, and that those resolutions never would have been brought forward by him if he had not felt that every means for the conciliation of the Canadian people had been completely exhausted. The hon. Member for Bridgewater had assumed throughout the whole of his speech that the House of Assembly were right in all
their demands—that the legislative council had been decidedly wrong—that the Commissioners had been wrong in their views, and that the Government itself had acted under error. Now, certainly this was a very modest assumption. When the hon. Gentleman, on behalf of the Canadian people, demanded that the constitution of 1791 should be maintained, as he contended it ought to be maintained inviolate, and yet the hon. Gentleman had moved an amendment in utter violation of that very constitution, because nobody could now deny that the constitution of 1791, which made the House of Assembly part of that constitution, expressly provided that there should also be a Legislative Council nominated by the Crown. The hon. Gentleman had quoted the words of Mr. Fox on the occasion of the debate on the Quebec Government Bill in 1791; he would also quote an expression of Mr. Fox, used in the same discussion, which admitted of a very different construction from that contended for by the hon. Member for Bridge water. Mr. Fox never supposed that either in the colonies or in this country there would ever exist such an anomaly as the House of Representatives of the House of Assembly substantially enjoying the supreme power of the state; and what did Mr. Fox say in 1791? In memorable words he laid it down as a principle never to be departed from—namely, that in every part of the British dominions, there ought to be a government in which the monarchical, the aristocratic, and the democratic principle were eventually blended, nor, indeed, was there any government fit for British subjects to live under which did not contain its due weight of those three elements of a constitution. Now, this principle was that which he now contended for with reference to the present question, and this was the point at issue between the hon. Member opposite and the Canadian people, and the legislature and government of this country. It was true the hon. Member had chosen to say, that this was not a dispute between the Canadians and the British people; but he was prepared to maintain that the whole of this contention was neither more nor less than a dispute between the Canadian people, who were endeavouring to maintain separate nationality in Canada, and the British people settled there. In support of this proposition he would refer to a Canadian journal,
the Minerva, the organ of Mr. Papineau’s party, the views of which would fully account for the very extraordinary demand now made upon the government of this country, In the Minerva he (Mr. Robinson) found this statement:—”On examining with an attentive eye, what is passing around us, it is easy to convince ourselves that our country is placed in very critical circumstances, and that a revolution perhaps will be necessary. We have a constitution to remodel, a nationality to maintain, and these are the objects which at present occupy the attention of all Canadians. I repeat, that an immediate separation from England is the only means of preserving our nationality.” Here let him remind the hon. and learned Member for Bath, who last year had taken occasion to deny his (Mr. Robinson’s) assertion, that the struggle between the House of Assembly and the British nation, or rather the British Parliament and Government, was this—that they, the House of Assembly were determined, if possible, to govern Canada for and by the Canadian population alone. He spoke of the French Canadian population. Now, let the House see what the organ of Mr. Papineau said upon that subject:—”Some time hence, when emigration shall have made our adversaries equal in number to ourselves—when they shall have become more daring and less jealous, they will deprive us of our liberties, or we shall share the same fate as our unhappy countrymen in a neighbouring district. This is the fate that awaits us.” He contended that these articles amounted to an open declaration that the French Canadians were determined to maintain a system of government in that country the effect of which would be to preclude the possibility of British settlers going out there, in consequence of the apprehension that the necessary consequence of the influx of British settlers into Lower Canada would be to equalize in the process of time the population, and to destroy the preponderance of the French Canadian party. He (Mr. Robinson) begged now to ask the British Parliament if that was the course of policy in which the Legislature ought to concur. This country looked to her colonies in North America as furnishing an abode and employment for her surplus population, and therefore could she permit the House of Assembly to say, “You shall not send your population here?”
No, such would be a course of proceeding to which the government of this country ought not and could not be expected to yield. The hon. Member for Bridgewater had forgotten to state, that when the present Government came into office they undertook to follow up and to adopt the system which had been designed by the Administration which they succeeded—namely, by sending out Commissioners to inquire into the state of Lower Canada. No objection could be raised to the three Commissioners who had been sent out; their characters were such that no man could pretend to doubt for one moment that they had a most anxious and sincere desire, if possible, by every reasonable concession to the Canadians, to redress their grievances. Could any honest man who looked to the diligence, the assiduity, the anxiety with which those Commissioners had performed their numerous and most arduous duties, looking also at the instructions given to them by Lord Glenelg, could any man—nay, he would even put it to the hon. and learned Member for Bath, entertain a doubt that the Commissioners had not manifested a desire to fulfil those instructions, and by so doing to make every concession to the French Canadian party that was consistent with the rights of the British subjects in that colony and the supremacy of the British crown? He (Mr. Robinson) felt convinced that the Commissioners had come to the recommendation with which they concluded their report only when they found that all their hopes of conciliation were destroyed. Did the hon. Member for Bridgewater recollect that when the Earl of Gosford wrote and published his able and most conciliatory address to the House of Assembly, in which his Lordship declared that he came charged by the King with the duty of inquiring into all their grievances—that he was resolved so far as depended on him to carry out his instructions to their fullest extent, did the hon. Gentleman remember that the Earl of Gosford also declared that he would in future remove all cause of complaint as to the filling up of public offices, and that the Canadians should have their full share in those public appointments? In short, no man could read the noble Earl’s first address without being impressed with the conviction, first, that the Government had sent him on a mission of peace and goodwill, and next that the Earl of Gosford was a man determined, if possible, to carry
such their design and intentions into the fullest operation and effect. He thought that last year the hon. and learned Member for Bath spoke in terms of eulogy of the Earl of Gosford. [Mr. Roebuck: Never; on the contrary, I always condemned the Commission.] He had, then, misunderstood the hon. and learned Member. However, it appeared that the Earl of Gosford felt it his duty to do justice to every class of his Majesty’s subjects in the colony, and from that moment the French. Canadians turned round and said he was worse than his predecessor, Lord Aylmer. He had ever been the advocate of liberal principles—his interests were identified with those of Canada; but he must deny the existence of any identity whatever between the state of Canada and the state of Ireland. When the hon. Member for Bridgewater talked of an analogy between the two countries, he must ask the hon. Member whether any portion of his Majesty’s subjects in Canada laboured under any disqualification, civil or political, on the ground of religion? And yet the Canadians meant nothing more nor less than this—namely, to demand that the whole power of the colony should be vested in the House of Assembly. It was true they talked of an elective Legislative Council, but what was meant by that? Why, a council which, by the adoption of the elective principle, should be rendered a mere echo of the other house. He would not say that the Legislative Council had not adopted extreme views, because if be understood the noble Lord right, the Government were desirous of altering its constitution so as to make it harmonious with the feelings of the House of Assembly. He hoped, however, the Council would not be made dependent upon the House of Assembly, as, if such were intended, it would be better to give up the government of Canada entirely. He hesitated not to say, that the inhabitants of Lower Canada would infinitely prefer that the Government should abandon them altogether than that it should yield to the extravagant and most extraordinary demands of the House of Assembly. Was it to be believed that the Canadians themselves really desired a separation from this country, if those terms and those demands were not acceded to? No such thing. The hon. and learned Member for Bath would doubtless endeavour, by and by, to persuade the House that the Canadian
population were unanimous in support of the views of the dominant party in that colony. He, however, begged at once to deny the fact. He admitted that Mr. Papineau and his party exercised an influence over the elective body there; but he must at the same time affirm, that a very considerable portion of the Canadian people were adverse to his extreme views and would be disposed to adopt the remedy for existing evils which the noble Lord by his resolutions had pointed out. But how could it be expected that the Canadians would be satisfied with what the Government of the mother country proposed to do when, in addition to the excitement kept up amongst them by Mr. Papineau and his party, the hon. and learned Member for Bath and the hon. Member for Middlesex contributed to that excitement by sending out the most inflammatory statements to that country. In one of those addresses the power of this country over the province of Lower Canada had been called a baneful domination. After this from the hon. Member for Middlesex, he was not surprised that the hon. and learned Member for Bath should follow in the same steps, and in his communication state, that if grievances were not redressed, recourse must be had to arms.
Mr. Roebuck rose to order. That assertion had been so often contradicted by him, that he was surprised the hon. Member for Worcester should again quote it.
Mr. Robinson was not aware the language he had cited, had been denied by the hon. and learned Member for Bath; on the contrary, he had supposed the use of it had been admitted. If he was wrong in that supposition, he begged the hon. and learned Gentleman’s pardon.
Mr. Hume I deny also the use of the language imputed to me by the hon. Member for Worcester.
Mr. Robinson observed, that he had the letter of the hon. Member for Middlesex in print, and had never heard it denied before. The noble Lord opposite (Lord J. Russell) had justly observed, that the British Parliament had been absolutely menaced by the French Canadian party, and their supporters; and it had been said, that if these resolutions were attempted to be carried, it would lead to a rebellion in Canada. Now, he remembered that last year, the hon. Member for Middlesex stated, that these demands
were not confined to Lower Canada, but that they had found their way into other provinces of British North America; indeed, if the same feeling were not to be found there, it was not for want of vast exertion, and great assiduity on the part of the Canadian party, who had sent forth their resolutions, and had endeavoured to inoculate the other provinces with the same democratic principles and feelings. But let the hon. Member for Middlesex now call to mind the complete revolution, in point of feeling, which had taken place in Upper Canada for instance, where similar demands had been made, since last year. Let him remember what in that province had been the effects of the judicious course pursued by Sir Francis Head—a course which had led to a complete change in public opinion in Upper Canada; and he would venture to say, that at the moment at which he was speaking, there was not a colony in his Majesty’s dominions, a people more satisfied with the constitution under which they lived, and their connexion with the mother country, than the population of Upper Canada. So also were the other North American Provinces; and so, also, would be the people of Lower Canada, if they were freed from the mischievous firebrands that were sent forth amongst them. The Legislature of this country, by the course now proposed, were endeavouring to persuade a class of men, eminently industrious, virtuous, and well-disposed, to preserve the connexion with the mother country, conscious of the benefit of her protection, that happy would be their lot but for the unfortunate influence exercised over them, in bringing them in opposition to the Government. The noble Lord opposite, in a speech of great moderation, had pointed out the course which the Government meant to pursue, in the unhappy exigency which had arrived. The necessity for interference had, however, now arisen. He contended, that neither the Canadian House of Assembly, nor the Commons House of Parliament were justified in exercising their privilege of stopping the supplies, except in an extreme case; that powerful engine was only given to guard the rights and privileges of the popular branch of a government like that of this country, against invasion by the Crown, or the other House of Parliament. Now, there had been no such invasion of the
rights and privileges of the House of Assembly in Canada, but there the people had made use of that engine, and said, until a change was made in their constitution, they would not pay the public servants of the state. Those servants had been kept no less than a period of four years out of their salaries, the victims of an experiment to extort and force a change in the Canadian Constitution. Anxious as he was to support the privileges of the House of Assembly, he should cheerfully support the noble Lord opposite in the proposition he had made, and take sufficient from the funds already in the Treasury Chest of that colony, to pay the amount of arrears now due. With respect to the Executive Council, every one must concede that if it was made responsible to the House of Assembly, there would be a complete abrogation of the rights of the Crown in that colony. Who could doubt either, but that if the Legislative Council was made elective, the rejection of measures not to be approved would be thrown upon the Governor-in-Chief, and thus the whole odium would be thrown on the King’s representative? But if the analogy of the United States was to be preserved, the next step of the Canadian party would be, to demand an elective governor also. The hon. and learned Member for Bath stated they did seek that change. He did not doubt it would be the next step taken, and thus a democratic form of government was sought to be established. He differed from the noble Lord on the wording of the fourth resolution. Why should the words “the existing state of Lower Canada” be introduced? Because, if they meant anything, they meant that time and circumstances might arrive, in which Government might be disposed to concede the point. He would tell the noble Lord, that he must be both firm and conciliatory; he must concede every thing to the Canadians, and every thing should be conceded to them on account of their prior claims, as being the original proprietors of the soil; he would say nothing about dominion acquired by conquest, a term which was frequently used in reference to Ireland, although “agitation” was equally well known in both countries. The Commissioners had unanimously declared, that the claims of the British American Land Company, of which he had the honour to be a governor, had been founded on such principles, that any
attempt to shake it, would shake the foundation of all property in that colony. But the Commissioners had not stopped there—they had informed the British people, that from the existence of that Company the colony had derived most important benefits. It had caused the employment of a considerable amount of capital, without which the waste lands would never have been improved, and it had laid a foundation for the Government to pursue a wise course in respect to British settlers there, and to enable them to render the colony, in a few years, as flourishing as it would have been long ago, but for the antiquated prejudices of the Canadians themselves. Some of the demands which they had made were, however, such as could not be acceded to. One demand was most audacious—namely, that the Imperial Parliament here, should be made subservient to the House of Assembly there. They denied the right of that House to legislate for the colony in extreme cases. He protested against that audacious doctrine. The noble Lord had alluded to a case last year, in which the House of Commons unanimously legislated for Jamaica. He admitted that there might have been one or two hon. Members who objected to that course; but their number was so small, that no notice was taken of the circumstance. To grant such a demand would be to diminish the prerogatives of the Crown in Canada. But if such demands were persisted in, and such language as he had alluded to was continued to be held out to this country, then the Canadians should be told, that the British House of Commons would, as a dernier resort, abrograte the constitution of 1791. That House ought not to sacrifice the privileges and prerogatives of the Crown to any of our colonies. If the Canadians were strong enough to enforce their demands, they should be told at once, that the time had arrived when they might, like the United States, shake off their allegiance altogether; for he had no notion of people continuing to live under the protection of this country, who denied, or attempted to deny, their allegiance to the British Crown, and refused to yield obedience to the Imperial Legislature. The noble Lord, and the right hon. Baronet must know, if they were well acquainted with the state of the colonies, that the threats which had been held out on the part of the Canadians, were merely
used for the purpose of enforcing the arguments of the hon. Gentlemen who had recourse to them, and that, in fact, they amounted to nothing at all but words, without any reality in the general feeling of the colonists to justify them; and it was equally true, that a great portion of the Canadians would detach themselves from the dominant party, if they once saw, that while the British Government was determined to maintain its authority, it was also disposed to give them every assistance, and to make all concessions that were not likely to prove inimical to the existing privileges of his Majesty’s British subjects who had settled there. Was that colony to be governed for the universal benefit of the Canadian people, or for a portion only? He would, repeat what he had before stated, that the object of the Canadians was, to secure the nationality of Lower Canada, and the French laws. He had no wish to deprive them of those laws—he had not the slightest wish to interfere with their privileges; but to allow them to be enjoyed by the Canadian party alone, was a proposition to which he never would consent. He could not foretel what would be the result of the present unfortunate state of affairs, because much would depend upon the Canadian party itself, and on the unanimity of the House in passing these resolutions. Undoubtedly, if there appeared to be a great division, not of opinion in the debate, but of numbers, it would be very unfortunate, because nothing would be more calculated to assist the views of the extreme party in Canada. He did not ask those hon. Gentlemen opposite who differed from him, to abandon their views, but he hoped that no obstacle would be thrown in the way of the Government, and that the resolutions would be adopted. He hoped also that the French Canadians themselves would see that they had been resorted to in an extreme case, and that they would have the good sense to submit to them, because he did not see why, if these resolutions were adopted, all existing differences should not be settled.
Mr. O’Connell said, something had fallen from the hon. Gentleman who had just sat down, which induced him to take that opportunity of delivering a few words explanatory of his own opinions on this question. The hon. Member had told the House, that he was a man of liberal
opinions, but the hon. Member had the oddest manner of showing his liberality that he ever knew, and especially on the present occasion, when he came forward, and used such exceedingly harsh language as he had done towards the Canadians. Although he was ex officio, a party interested he had ventured to talk of the audacity of the other party, that party being the representatives of the nation assembled in their legislative capacity: by virtue of his privilege as a Member of that House, he had ventured to treat men, his equals in everything, and he believed his superiors in many things, with the language he had used. Why should he use the word “audacity” or “audacious?” The men to whom he applied that language were men who had been elected, not by bribery, not by corruption, not by intimidation, not by the power of the aristocracy, but by the people, men who represented the wants of the people, and had persevered in an honourable course against every obstacle in maintaining the rights and privileges of their constituents. Why the hon. Member himself was one of the grievances of which the colonists complained. It was exceedingly bad taste, then, for that hon. Gentleman to put himself forward as their antagonist; and he must add, that the company of which the hon. Gentleman was chairman appeared to be a direct violation of the principles upon which the Canadians ought to be governed and the privileges they ought to enjoy. Therefore, he thought they were justified in opposing it. Having disposed of that portion of the subject, he would express his deep regret at having heard the propositions which had emanated from the noble Lord. He thought they contained some of the very worst principles of the worst Tory times. They involved principles that had been the fruitful source of civil war, and dissension, and distraction in Ireland, for centuries. The analogy between Canada and Ireland was greater than the hon. Gentleman was willing to admit. In fact it was complete; and if they came to names, when they spoke of Papineau they had only to substitute another name with an O at the beginning. The cases were precisely similar. This House of Parliament was to lay hold of the monies raised by the Canadians, the Canadian representatives being permitted to exercise only one of the functions, to raise the supplies, but not to appropriate
them. But the one function ought not to be separated from the other. It was a mere mockery to give them the power of raising money, and then to take that money away. That was the very thing that made the Americans resist—and, blessed be God! they did resist, and the consequence had been the spread of that democratic principle which had been abused, and which ought to be abused, by those who dislike it, and who felt they would be losers by its growth. The very spirit of resistance, then, was involved in the resolutions. The hon. Gentleman, who was chairman or director of the company concerned, had talked of the necessity for doing this or that. Why necessity was the constant plea of tyrants. Was it not necessity that introduced a Coercion Bill into Ireland? Was there a single individual who brought forward and supported that Bill that did not talk of the necessity for it? The plea of necessity might be made to justify anything. Well, but what was the necessity in this case? What did it teach them”? Try, at least to do something for Canada—justice for Canada! Let them have such a Legislative Assembly as they wished for, and if they persevered in their appeals to that House, he hoped that by a considerable majority they would be protected from being deprived of their money. He protested against the resolutions, and hoped that the amendment of the hon. Member for Bridgewater would be adopted. The hon. Gentleman (Mr. Robinson) had talked of the Canadian party. Was not that what was done in Ireland by the Orange party? The Canadian party were the people of Canada. What was the proof of that? Why, they returned the proportion of 80 out of 88 of the Members of the Legislature. Was that a party? What! a party that elected so overwhelming a majority of the Legislature? The hon. Gentleman might call it a party if he pleased; and he sat himself in a seat which was occupied a short time ago by a Gentleman who called the Irish nation a party in precisely the same kind of way. The Irish nation was opposed by the Orange party, and that party called the nation a party. But then it would be objected the question of religion does not arise in Canada so much as it does in Ireland. No, but the miserable distinction of party did; and if religious dissensions had been avoided hitherto, he did not think, from certain hints which
had been thrown out, that Canada would be long free from them. It appeared from the last authentic reports that 314 high situations and important offices were filled by persons of British birth, and only forty by Canadians. He would not say what the proportion was at present, he did not know it precisely, but he had reason to believe that the whole proportion of persons of British birth in offices of influence and emolument was exceedingly great as compared with the Canadians. In short, the Court party, if he might so call them— the British party, was the Orange party of Canada. He was very sorry to perceive from the report of the Commissioners that they seemed to be in favour of the British party. There was hardly a word which had been used by hon. Gentlemen on the opposite side that might not have been put into the mouth of an Orangeman when speaking in reference to Ireland. In fact, he had heard that the Orangemen who had gone out to the Canadas had joined that party which the hon. Gentleman supported. When he had heard it, he had told his informants, “why, the thing is just the same as it is in Ireland, there is an Orange party there.” The hon. Gentleman had contended that if we protected Canada she was bound to give us her allegiance. Was she not able to protect herself, then? What had America lost by protecting herself? In New York property would sell at forty-five years’ purchase, while in Canada it would fetch only eighteen or twenty years’ purchase. What was the reason? Because there was an independent system of government established in the former country. Why should not Canada have a legislative Government of its own? What could be more miserable than to be governed by its present left-handed House of Lords? Why should any irresponsible body be placed over it by the Crown? Was it necessary for the protection of the Crown? Certainly not. It was not the way to secure the authority of the Crown. Did not the hon. Gentleman remember, that during the American war an officer rose up in the House of Commons and said, “Give me an army? No, I do not want it. Give me the old watchmen of the city, and I will march from one end of America to the other.” But what was the fact? Some of the finest grenadiers that ever stepped from the ranks were sent out afterwards, and some few of them returned,
but not crowned with laurels of victory. It was all idle vapour to say, that a people could be outraged with impunity. He hoped the House would join him in saying—” Give the Canadians further constitutional privileges.” In reply to the statements of the hon. Gentleman with respect to the complaints of the Canadians, he would ask him if he had ever heard of granting lands to certain persons half an hour before the time of voting? [Mr. Robinson said, that was done by a packed House of Assembly.] O! that was right. A packed House of Assembly! But the hon. Member ought rather to declare that they were all most properly elected. The great point, however, to be considered was, that Canada ought not to be governed for British purposes merely. We ought not to hold it for one moment, and we could not want to hold it, for the trifling pecuniary advantage to be derived from it. And as to our commercial interests, commerce, instead of being diminished, would be augmented if Canada were freed. There was not a man in that House but would scorn the idea of levying any contributions on the Canadians. Let their interests be fairly and fully stated to the House, and if any thing appeared which rendered our fixed principles of government inconsistent with the benefit of that people, let us generously and at once let them go free, and tell them if we cannot govern them for their benefit, we will not govern them at all. But he implored them not to assist a party merely—not to leave Canada to be dealt with by a party only—not to hand it over to a system of jobbery to be managed by persons who only wished to get something out of it. Let them not create a party, which, when it came to the fair test of representation, hid its diminished head; nor let them support any party in plundering the people. Let them distinguish between robbery and rectitude, between plunder and justice. Let them prove that they were governing Canada for the good of the Canadians, or let them cease to take money from the Canadian people.
Mr. Patrick Stewart could not agree with the hon. and learned Gentleman in the analogy which he had attempted to draw between the cases of Canada and Ireland, because he had thought that the grievances of Ireland were always attributed to religious distinctions, which had been persisted in to the great detriment of
the peace of that country. In Canada, there was not now, nor had there ever been, any religious distinctions producing the same results. Again, Canada differed from Ireland, because the chief point in dispute was now, that the legislative body of that colony had refused to perform its functions unless something which they desired should be granted by the British Government at home. He denied the analogy also with regard to America; the object this country had in view, in the latter case, was an increase of our revenue, but with Canada we had no quarrel of that kind. He felt it his duty to contradict something which had fallen from the hon. Member for Bridgewater, with regard to the prayer of a petition from Canada which he had the honour to present to that House last year. The following was an extract from the petition:— That your petitioners, deeply deploring the inevitable necessity of external legislation in the internal affairs of the province—a necessity which springs from the systematic hostility of a dominant party to the provincial Executive, and to the progress of rational improvement, humbly rely on the wisdom and justice of your honourable House to concur in such modifications only of the provincial constitution as may be deemed indispensably requisite to afford permanent relief to the financial embarrassments of the Executive, to maintain the subsisting connexion between the mother country and the colony, and to preserve in their proper places, and within their due limits the mutual rights and privileges of all classes of his Majesty’s subjects within this province. That petition was signed by upwards of 12,000; and lest it should be said, as had been to-night, attempted in vain to represent them as identified with the Orange party in Ireland, the professors of old and by-gone principles, the monopolisers of power and place, they added a designation of themselves, which in the present state of political feeling within those walls should have some weight with those who sat on that (the Ministerial) side of the House. This was their designation:— Numbering in our ranks, many who were, both in Britain and Ireland, foremost in the cause of Reform—independent in our principles—unconnected with office—of all classes and all creeds—bound together by the endearing recollection of a common origin, and the powerful sentiment of a common danger, we are prepared to resist to the utmost the efforts of a party which, under the specious guise of popular institutions, would sever wisdom from
power, respect from intelligence, and consign us to unendurable bondage. Such was the language of the petitioners, and yet they were told that it was the unanimous desire of the Canadian people that they should so far upset the Constitution of 1791, which they sought to perpetuate by introducing into the Legislative Assembly, the slippery unstable foundation of the elective principle. The hon. Member for Bridgewater said, he deprecated the interference of the British Parliament in the internal affairs of Canada. But Sir James Mackintosh admitted, that Parliament had the right of interference. He admitted that a case for interference might arise. All he contended for was, that the circumstances should be strong enough to justify that interference. He only sought to put off, for six months, the Act introduced by the hon. Member for Coventry. His language in 1822 was, He was anxious that his view of this question should not be misunderstood. His own opinion was, that such a power (the power of making and of altering laws which should be binding on the colonies) did inhere in Parliament by the law and constitution of England. It was a power which ought not to be wantonly or indiscriminately exercised, but which should be reserved for extraordinary occasions—to preserve the unity of the empire—to prevent discord between distant dependencies—to regulate the general commercial intercourse of every part of Europe—above all, to correct any extraordinary act of direct misrule and oppression which the provincial governments might commit. Now he maintained that the necessity had actually arisen in the case before them, for the interference of the Imperial Parliament. He acknowledged the difficulties of the case, and that they were even proceeding on the unpopular principle of legislating against the majority; but his defence was, that that majority had been got up by a system forced and untenable. He could, for instance, name one member of the Assembly who had been denounced and displaced by M. Papineau, because he drew back from the course into which he was attempting to inveigle them. The hon. Member then referred to the Act of 1791, which Mr. Pitt acknowledged to be an experiment, which established the franchise on one principle in Upper, and on another principle in Lower Canada, and which, though partially remedied by an Act in 1829, still contained in it an inherent vicious principle. The franchise
should be so framed as to include the widest range of the population settling there, so that all might be represented directly or indirectly in the House of Assembly. He could not but express his regret that the present occasion should have arisen, but he must say, and he was sure the country would support the opinion, that the noble Lord had acted consistently as the friend of the people, whether abroad or at home, in interfering as he did in this matter. They talked of interfering with the money of the Canadians. They did no such thing. They did not even repeal the Act of 1831, the Appropriation Act; they merely took the accumulations which had arisen under it, which had not only not been appropriated but unfairly and dishonestly retained, and assigned them to the purposes for which they were originally destined, when that Act was passed. He inferred from the 10th Resolution that a federal assembly was to be formed from the two provinces, to which would be intrusted the whole regulation of navigation and every thing else connected with the trade of the St. Lawrence, by which the old cumbersome system of duty would be completely superseded. If that were the intention of the noble Lord, he would say it was prospectively the most valuable of all the resolutions. He hoped the hon. and learned Gentleman below him (Mr. Roebuck) would have no concealment here. There was no doubt they would have a forcible denunciation of the resolutions, but he hoped the hon. and learned Gentleman would act in regard to the Canadian question as he did on a recent occasion with respect to the home policy of the Government. Before special measures had been introduced, he denounced them all, and before a single actor had appeared on the stage, cried “Off, off;” but successively as the bills were produced, he appeared again as the able and zealous supporter of them all. So with respect to these resolutions, the House should not place much stress on his general denunciations, assured that on second thoughts, and on discussing them separately, he would give the case of the Canadians his efficient support. He hoped the Government would adhere to their Resolutions, and pursue the constitutional, sound, and safe policy of extending to the Canadas the power and protection of the Imperial Parliament.
Sir W. Molesworth had listened attentively to the speech of the noble Lord, the Secretary for the Home Department, and to those who had spoken on the same side of the question, without hearing any argument which could at all support or justify the extraordinary resolutions which had been proposed for the adoption of the House. He would not go at length into the state of affairs in the Canadas. The hon. Member for Worcester, the chairman of the British American Land Company, and the hon. Member who last addressed the House, also, he believed, a member of that company, took occasion to deny the similarity which existed between the state of affairs in Canada and Ireland; whereas he contended with his hon. and learned Friend, the Member for Kilkenny, that Canada was but Ireland on a small scale. On the one side, they had the vast majority of the people—on the other “a miserable monopolizing minority,” arrogating to itself superiority of place, and treating the rest of the people as aliens in blood. He called on that House to assist the representatives of the Canadian people. The Canadian people complained of certain grievances, and their representatives had adopted the constitutional mode of refusing to grant the supplies till those grievances were redressed. The noble Lord called on the British Legislature to exercise a sovereign power and interfere with the House of Assembly in its control over the revenues of the province. Now, had the noble Lord any right to do so? He denied that the British Legislature was sovereign in Canada with regard to money affairs. The first question was one of sovereignty. According to the constitution of Canada, the rights, privileges, and powers of the House of Assembly in regard to Canada were in every respect similar to the rights, privileges, and powers of this House with regard to the King. They were founded on precisely the same principle—namely, that the Representatives of the people should alone determine the mode and manner in which the money levied from the community ought to be appropriated. By the 18th Geo. 3rd, this principle was acknowledged with regard to all the colonies, and 31st Geo. 3rd, and 1st and 2nd Wm. 4th specially asserted it with reference to Canada. The Lower Assembly was supreme in money affairs. With that supremacy the noble Lord wished now to interfere. He attempted,
in that respect, to alter the constitution of Lower Canada. It had been said, that the hon. Member for Bridgewater had also proposed a change in that constitution; but there was a great and palpable difference between the two cases. An alteration, such as his hon. Friend had recommended, being in accordance with the wishes of the people, and in deference to them, was an act of constitutional reform; whereas, the alteration proposed by hon. Members on the other side, was in direct opposition to the wishes of the people, supported by the superior force of a foreign and extrinsic power, became an act of grievous tyranny. In this case, if the people were strong enough, they were morally bound to have recourse to their right of resistance. But the noble Lord said, that the conduct of the House of Assembly had been reprehensible. He denied that the noble Lord was a judge of that fact. The Crown had a constitutional right to negative the measures passed by the Canadian Legislature, but the Ministers of the Crown had no right to cite the House of Assembly before the tribunal of the British Parliament. It was not competent for them to interfere with the rights of that Assembly with regard to their control over money affairs. Perhaps the British Legislature had such a power, but not the right; and such a power being founded on force alone was consequently tyrannical. It was argued, that the British Parliament having granted a constitution and certain powers of control to the Canadians, they might now be legitimately resumed. That was an appeal to be determined, not by the resolutions of that House, but by those means which tyrants employed to oppress freemen, and which freemen likewise knew how to employ in order to defend their valuable constitutional rights. If the noble Lord persevered in attempting to carry out these resolutions, it must become a question of pure force. The British Legislature had granted a sovereignty to Canada in money affairs; and that sovereignty they now wished to resume. He maintained it was the control of the purse which constituted the essence of freedom; and did they think the Canadian people would permit themselves to be rendered slaves by the resolutions of that House? The people of this country had, in a similar case, brought about the revolution—in a similar case, they denounced the
monarch who dared to tax them without their consent—in a similar case, their fellow-citizens of the United States bad them defiance and threw off their yoke; and if the Canadians were of that race which produced Washington, Jefferson, and Franklin, they would feel themselves in that position which made every man of English blood a rebel. He trusted, however, that such an unfortunate state of circumstances would not be brought to a crisis. He firmly believed the people of England would not permit such conduct on the part of the noble Lord, nor allow their representatives to adopt the means which he proposed of putting down their Canadian fellow-subjects. Probably enough the resolutions would be carried. The sympathies existing on the other side of the House would, probably enough, lead to an unholy coalition with his Majesty’s Ministers upon the present occasion. Hon. Gentlemen opposite wished to have the conquest of Canada a precedent for the re-conquest of Ireland, and he had no doubt they would join most willingly in this vile and unholy crusade against the rights and privileges of freemen. But the Canadians would act as Englishmen, and attempt, he confidently expected, by every means in their power, to shake off the yoke. The people of England, he was sure, would say they had, in that case, done right; they would never suffer their representatives to give the noble Lord the means of putting the Canadian people down. Let the House look at this question, in conjunction with the present state of the Texas, and ask themselves if, having failed in the case of the United States when they stood alone, they were likely to be more successful in a similar struggle against the Canadas, backed by so many who hated the name of monarchy, and abhorred an act of tyranny such as this? He should resist the Resolutions of the noble Lord in every stage, contending first of all that they had no right whatever to pronounce a judgment on the acts of the Canadian legislature, they not being responsible to that House; secondly, that they had no constitutional Tight to interfere with their control over their own money; and lastly, because the consequence of such an attempt must lead to the violent separation of the two countries or a dreadful civil war.
Colonel Thompson, after what he had heard during the debate, could not avoid
recommending his Majesty’s Government to adopt on this occasion the advice of the Scriptures, and to “agree with their adversaries quickly,” because, after all he had heard, he had not found one reason advanced on either side to show why the people of England should support the Government in a struggle with the Canadas. On the contrary, he had been struck with some strong reasons why their wishes should be exactly opposite to the wishes of the Government. If we could but lose Canada, what should we gain in a commercial way! Would not every man in England who lives in a house, gain a substantial sum which he might add to the amount of his enjoyments? Is not Canada kept as a breeding pen or a warren to which to send that part of the population which is not allowed to live at home? Do not our young couples marry with a certainty that they are to breed for exportation? Will the people of England think it worth their white to struggle for the maintenance of that system? We are told also that we are to struggle for the present Legislative Council, lest there should be an elective one. Why, what do we want ourselves but an elective Legislative Council? Is not that one of the objects which the hearts of a vast majority of the people of England are visibly at this moment fixed upon? Is this to be our recruiting cockade against Canada—’Don’t let Canada have an elective Legislative Council, for if you do, there will be an elective Council here?” This is what is proposed to us. I certainly think that the reasons for an elective Legislative Council for Canada, are stronger than they are for one in this country, strong as they may be with us. There is a sort of reverence among the people for a House of Lords, and justly so to a certain extent. Voltaire once said to an old lady, that he had said in five minutes more good of the Creator of the world, than she had ever thought of him in all her life. Now, let me see if I may not say the same with respect to the House of Lords. The House of Lords contains the descendants of men who once possessed substantial power, co-equal with that of the empire, and even superior to it. It still maintains much of that reverence which the people of former days entertained for it; but does anything of that kind exist in Canada? Is there anything there but a mock House of Lords. The principle acted upon seemed to be, that wherever the people attempted to govern themselves, these efforts were made to check them. Such was the nature of the struggle going on in Canada, and how long it would continue, he could not say; but history told them that generally the people eventually succeeded. He thought the question in
the present case was, whether they would drive the people of Canada to say, that the only issue to which they could bring this contest was the separation of the two countries.
Mr. Roebuck A few nights since, in the very place I now stand, I found myself advocating, in conjunction with his Majesty’s Ministers, justice to Ireland. I did so, and I would fain have hoped that they did so, not in obedience to any pressing exigency, not for the sake of present expediency, but in accordance with the great, lasting, and universal principles of legislation, with those principles which teach us that if we desire the people to be well governed, we must allow them to govern themselves. This hope, however, has been raised only to be disappointed; a week has not passed before my illusion has been destroyed, and I am compelled to see that we in vain desire such conduct from men in office amongst us, for they have neither the capacity nor the courage to be consistent. We have now before us a case in all its leading, all its important, particulars parallel to that of Ireland. We have, as I shall immediately prove, the same difficulties to overcome, the same prejudices to face, and yet I now find new and very different principles invoked, a very different conduct pursued. “England,” said the noble Lord a few nights since, “has justice because she is inhabited by Englishmen. Scotland, because inhabited by Scotchmen.” Let me finish his sentence. “Canada has justice denied her, because inhabited by Canadians.” The same necessity does not press upon the Government, in the case of Canada, as now bears them down with regard to Ireland. They render justice upon compulsion; and not dreading any pressure from without to force them to be just to a distant colony, they follow their usual habit, the natural bent of their inclinations, and refuse justice to Canada. I appeal, however, from the decision of the Government, to the people of England. I appeal to the people of Ireland—to the hon. Member for Kilkenny, and his friends in this House, I also appeal. We have fought their battle, the battle of Ireland, manfully, and without flinching. That fight still rages! If we are to hope for success, we must prove, by our steady love and pursuit of justice; that we deserve it. If we desire justice for Ireland, we
must show ourselves ready to grant it to a suffering colony. We must prove ourselves above the paltry prejudices of national hostility. If we seek justice for Irishmen, who are our subjects, we must not deny it to Canadians, who are our subjects also. The cause of Canada and Ireland are the same—it is the cause of self-government and religious liberty—it is the cause of the suffering many who resist the overbearing insolence of a “miserable monopolising minority.” I call, then, upon all those who have fought the good fight for our suffering fellow-citizens across the Irish Channel, to extend the range of their benevolence, and prove, that if our dominion reaches beyond the broad Atlantic, so also does our justice, and that our desire for good government is co-extensive with our empire. I have said, that the cause of Canada and Ireland are the same. I will prove that assertion, and show, that the enemies of the majority in both countries proceed upon the same principles, have the same ends in view, while the people whom they seek to oppress, are in all particulars labouring under similar difficulties. Canada and Ireland have both been conquered by England; the majority of the people in both countries are of the Roman Catholic persuasion; and in both countries a small minority, who call themselves English, have hitherto domineered over, and insulted the people at large, whom they always stigmatise as foreigners and aliens. By the power of England, this monopolising minority has been supported in both countries. The English Established Church has been excited, and an attempt has been made to create religious as well as national discord. When at length reform has been loudly called for, the interests of the minority have been set up in opposition to the cry for justice: the minority has been called English, and its interests falsely identified with those of England—the majority has been branded as foreigners and aliens, and their interests have been held up to public prejudice and hate, as hostile to those of England. In the one case the Ministry seek to support the cry for justice—in the other they oppose it. The only reason that I can find for this discrepancy is, that they love not justice for her own sake, but are her friends and supporters by necessity. I will now, with the permission of the House, lay the case of Canada before
them. As shortly as I am able, I will relate the history of her wrongs, describe the claims she now makes for justice, and explain and answer the reasons which are adduced, in order to lead us to refuse her righteous and oft-reiterated demands. The House must bear in mind, that the present discussion relates solely to Lower Canada. The case of the Upper province is a separate matter, that must hereafter occupy our attention. In the year 1791, the then province of Quebec was divided into two separate colonies, the one called Upper, the other Lower Canada. Lower Canada was then, as now, chiefly inhabited by persons descended from French proprietors, and was governed, as respected civil law, according to the Customs of Paris. By 31 Geo. 3rd, c. 31, a constitution was granted to Lower Canada, in form something similar to our own, in substance widely different. The Government was tripartite—1. There was a Governor, representing not the King, but, in reality, being the mere lieutenant of the Colonial Minister. Not, indeed, responsible to the people, but wholly subject to the ministry at home: in nothing did he resemble the King in England. He was merely the lieutenant of the Colonial Minister. I do not mean Lord Glenelg; but I mean certain parties who inhabit a certain office in Downing street; and I doubt not there is a certain person siting under that gallery who is the real colonial minister. 2. There was a Legislative Council, called the upper House; but in nothing else resembling the House of Lords, having no wealth, no estates, and chosen for life, chiefly from among the official ranks. They thus constitute a faction, having no natural ties or influence in the country; and, thirdly and lastly, there was created a House of Assembly, which really represents the whole population. Such was the constitution. I will now proceed to detail the consequences of creating it. The real history of the present discontents, the circumstances which have given birth to all the existing disquietude, as well as the great principles really involved in the discussion, are all carefully kept in the back ground by those who favour the present ministerial scheme; and this House is now called upon to act blindfold in a most delicate and difficult case. I will now endeavour to state for the information of the House—briefly, indeed, but I hope clearly—the real story of this
long-continued and dangerous strife. Some years after the constitution I have just described was granted to the Canadians, they became fully sensible of the value of the gift, and determined to use it to the purposes for which it was intended. This determination quickly brought out the latent errors that had been committed in the construction of their Government. The sinister interests of the Legislative Council were at once brought to light, as well as the mischievous power which the constitution gave of successfully promoting them. The House of Assembly desired to relieve the mother country from all unnecessary burdens, and sought to take charge of their own peculiar concerns. To this end, in the year 1810, they demanded permission to provide for their own civil expenditure. The House of Commons may not know that within the lifetime of most of its members there were committed acts by the English rulers of Canada very similar to those which this House had to bear in the reign of Charles the first. For the demand of the House of Assembly three of its Members were sent to gaol by Sir James Craig, and were eventually contemptuously turned out of prison, without trial or explanation. It may be demanded of me why this outrage was committed. The answer to the question is the key to all the future discontents and disputes, and explains the present condition of the province. The official people of Canada dreaded responsibility to the House of Assembly. They, therefore, at the outset thus violently opposed the demands which they clearly saw necessarily brought with them this disagreeable condition. The great expenditure of England, and the pressing difficulties of our position during the great struggle with Napoleon, at length compelled the colonial Government to accept the offer of the Canadian representatives; but the official tribe did not lose their fear of responsibility, and therefore determined to lessen the evil they could not wholly avoid. Three several plans to this end were devised, and these three plans are at this moment in full force, and are about to be carried partially into effect by the noble Lord. The one was, first to demand that the monies to pay the expenses of the Government should be voted in one sum, in what was then termed en bloc leaving the distribution of the several salaries and items in the Executive Government. To this demand the House of
Assembly would not accede, and now was shown the real character of the Legislative Council. That body determined to receive no appropriation Bill unless the money were voted en bloc. A disgraceful fight was maintained on this point by the official party, aided by the colonial minister, and using the Legislative Council as their weapon of attack and defence. The justice of the Assembly’s demands, however, eventually prevailed, and the civil expenses were allowed to be voted by items. The next scheme after this failure was somewhat more artfully concocted. It was determined to demand a permanent civil list—one for the life of the sovereign. This was also resisted: and the House of Assembly was again successful. It was then proposed to have a civil list for a term of years. To this again the House of Assembly has repeatedly refused to accede, and their determination on this head is now as firm as ever. The House saw plainly what was the real intent of the scheme proposed; and as they determined that the public officers should be responsible to the representatives of the people, they wisely refused to permit this scheme to be carried into effect. I shall hereafter have to discuss this matter, when speaking of the plan of the noble Lord. The third scheme to which I have alluded had the same end in view, viz., to escape from the disagreeable responsibility to the House of Assembly which threatened the official party. The scheme consisted in separating the revenues of the provinces into two distinct classes, and withdrawing one class wholly from the control of the Assembly. The House of Assembly saw through this scheme also, and again wisely determined to bring every portion of the revenue derived from the people of the province under their own control. The struggle of the two parties was, on these two points, carried on between the representatives of the people, strong to defend the public interests, and to make the public servants responsible; and by the official tribe, endeavouring to fight off this painful scrutiny, and to maintain their long-enjoyed and pleasant freedom from any check or control. Let this House bear in mind that they are now called upon to decide which of these two parties have justice on their side. In carrying out their determination to make public officers responsible, the House of Assembly demanded to see the accounts
of the Receiver-general of the province. Now, I beg the serious attention of the House to this history, as it shows the real purposes and principles of the two contending parties. Hon. Members will hardly believe, that these accounts were for a long series of years steadily refused. At length, however, the House was determined to bring the question to issue, and they refused supplies. This proceeding forced the Governor-general, Lord Dalhousie, to draw, in spite of himself, upon the Receiver-general, who was then found to be a defaulter to the amount of 100,000l. I now entreat the House to remark upon the peculiar points of this case. Here was a public servant refusing to show his accounts. Who supported him in his contumacy? The Executive or Legislative Councils, the official party—brother officials—with the Governor at their head. And in what did they support him? In hiding his bankruptcy—in robbing the public. Let me inform the House that this debt, amounting to 150,000l. principal and interest is still unpaid. So far as regards one of these immaculate gentlemen, the official people of Lower Canada. This struggle respecting the Receiver-general continuing, and the House refusing to furnish any supplies but in items and annually, and also demanding to see the accounts, Lord Dalhousie was left without any money legally at his disposal; he, nevertheless, put his hand into the public coffers, and, without legal warrant, used it. This outrage, as it was then deemed—though later times have effaced, by repetition, the notion of its being an outrage—raised the anger of the Assembly to such a point that they determined to petition the Imperial Parliament, stating their grievances, and requiring at their hands a remedy. In 1828, in consequence of this petition, a Committee sat to inquire into the situation of Lower Canada, and that Committee, though of an unreformed Parliament, justified entirely the House of Assembly, severely rebuked the Governor, and proposed to do, what the noble Lord now proposes—to reform the Legislative Council. At that time had the reform proposed been honestly carried out, this change in the character of the Legislative Council would have satisfied the people of Canada. Now no such palliation will be sufficient. They have learned by subsequent experience that reforms are not to be expected from
Downing-street, and they in their next petition demanded a complete change in the constitution of the second charter. The reason of this demand was the nonperformance on the part of the Government of its promise to reform the colonial administration. All the former abuses were suffered to exist, and to increase, and new ones have been added. The House again petitioned, and no redress was granted. They thereupon again stopped the supplies, and have resolved not to grant money till their grievances are redressed. I will now shortly state what their grievances are, and what is the plan which they propose as a remedy, and contrast it with that now submitted to us by the noble Lord. The grievances I am about to enumerate are elaborately set forth in ninety-two resolutions of the House of Assembly. I admit they are too numerous; their grievances might have been summed up in two words—”bad government.” To those resolutions the House still adheres, so that I cannot be said to act on this matter without authority. 1. The first class of grievances relates to finance. The House of Assembly complains that a revenue is raised from the people without their consent that the control of the provincial revenue is withdrawn from the House—and that accounts have hitherto been denied. 2. The second class of grievances relate to the administration of justice. The judges are wholly irresponsible, and the present disgraceful situation of the judicial bench proves the necessity of an immediate and searching reform. They complain, moreover, that all judicial reforms by which justice may be made cheap and easily accessible—have been refused by the Legislative Council. 3. The House complains that the revenues which ought to have been devoted to public instruction have been diverted from that end. The Jesuits’ estates belong to the public, but have been usurped by the official party and applied to their own uses. The House complains bitterly of this enormous grievance; moreover, they further complain that 1,600 primary schools have been closed by the Legislative Council, acting from party and personal pique. 4. They further complain that the British Parliament interferes with internal concerns; and, 5. They assert that the general administration of the Government is mischievous, creating jealousies, distrusts, and alarm, doing
many things which it ought not to do, and leaving undone those things which it ought to do. They complain, in fact, that they are deprived of the Government of their own affairs, and they say that they are made the prey of a faction, who cajole the people of England, and rob the people of Canada. Such being the evil, the House of Assembly thought it necessary to suggest a remedy. Knowing well the seat of the disease, their remedy is applied to the really peccant part, and would, if adopted, completely eradicate the evil. The evil is the irresponsibility of the public servants; the means by which this irresponsibility has been maintained is the Legislative Council. This council is responsible to no one, and therefore recklessly pursues its own interest, and treats with contempt the interests of the province. The House of Assembly, therefore, proposes to render this body elective, thus making it responsible to the people, and depriving it of that reckless and mischievous character which now distinguishes it. They propose further to this House to repeal theCanadas Tenures Act, and the Act creating a Land Company, because such Acts interfere with their internal Government. And, lastly, they require, that all the revenues of the province should be subjected to the control of the provincial legislature. I will immediately proceed to the discussion of certain objections which have been urged to this plan, but before I do so I would beg of the House to compare the enormous extent of the difficulties of the case before us, and then to estimate the worth of those inadequate remedies proposed by the noble Lord. The representatives of a great colony have repeatedly petitioned for redress. You have told them that you would give all due attention to their complaints, and to that end you sent out an expensive commission to investigate their grievances. The people told you long since, and your own Commissioners tell you, that the points in dispute are great questions of policy, involving principles upon which rests the whole science of government. You are told that a people complain of the responsibility of its public servants. You hear that supplies have been refused by a vote almost unanimous of the House of Assembly. You see that demands are made to remedy a defective constitution, and the noble Lord brings before your notice a pitiful evasion of the whole matter in dispute —a sort of cut-purse remedy, “Rob me
the Exchequer, Hal,” being his motto and rule upon the occasion. He proposes merely to pay certain arrears of salary, to destroy thus the moral force of the Assembly, and to leave the whole evil without the least remedy or check. The coming year must bring back every difficulty; again arrears will exist; again supplies will be refused; again the Legislative Council will be complained of; and again the official tribe will send their hirelings across the Atlantic, and rouse the sympathies of their brother officials in Downing-street. Compare, I say, this paltry expedient, this shuffling and disgraceful evasion of the difficulty, with the bold, honest, and comprehensive plan of the Assembly. You may call yourselves statesmen, and fancy yourselves superior to the people whom you are about to insult; but the day is not far off when your puny efforts, your pretences at legislation, will receive the scorn they so richly merit, and contempt will be duly reflected from the measures to their authors. Look, too, Sir, at the machinery which has been employed to produce this mighty project of legislative wisdom. Not content with the statements of the people’s representatives, you sent out an expensive commission to make inquiries, and now propose to do what you could have as easily have done two years since. Have all your inquiries had this effect alone? Have your three special Commissioners done nothing more than this? Has all their wisdom, and that of the ministry to boot, been able to suggest no wiser plan than this pitiful pettifogging chicane? In good truth, Sir, spite of my indignation, I cannot help pitying the degraded position both of the Government and their Commission in this wretched proceeding. Having mentioned the Commission and the Commissioners, I will here express my opinion of themselves, their proceedings, and their production. The very appointment of the Commission was in itself an insult to the people with their representatives at their head. You had given the people a constitution, and the representatives have the marked confidence of their constituents. This body often sent back to the people, and as often re-elected, set forth their measures and their demands, and you in answer sent out a body of Commissioners to make inquiries as to the truth of the Assembly’s complaints. That is, you set aside the statements of the natural leaders of the people
—of persons born among them, well knowing their failings, wants, and wishes,— acquainted with their manners and their laws—and you sent out these gentlemen from this country to supersede the House of Assembly in their function of representation, the grievances of the people, to the Throne and to Parliament. Now the first inquiry necessarily must be, is there any peculiar knowledge or certainty in these persons to fit them for this invidious position? Before we can answer such a question we must know what was the subject matter of their inquiries. Let it be remembered that the subject matter of inquiry was here twofold—1st. A great practical difficulty arising in the government of a colony under very novel and intricate circumstances; 2nd, A body of very complicated laws which are said to require reform. This body of laws is composed of the old Roman or, as it is called, the civil law, of the Customs of Paris as existing in the seventeenth century, certain portions of the English common law, of the English statute law, of ordonnances, and provincial statutes. Now, who do we send there in these difficult and intricate affairs? Men bred to the study of government as a practical science—of jurisprudence, of positive law? No, no. The first commissioner is a sort of country squire—a peer, indeed, but in his habits and education a mere country gentleman, whose knowledge of the Pandects is probably confined to the fact that they were compiled by Justinian; neither can he be supposed to know much of Canadian law. Sir George Gipps is a soldier; and Sir Charles Grey, though an East Indian judge, cannot be expected to know more than his Colleagues. They have been extolled because of opposite political sentiments; and the Report on your table, evinces the greatly beneficial result of quarrelling commissioners. Sir George Gipps has a leading towards liberality; Sir Charles Grey is a high Tory; and as for poor Lord Gosford, he seems to have led a disagreeable life, between the snarling Whig and the arrogant Tory, and was evidently distressed to choose between the two, knowing nothing of the subject matter of dispute. Such is your piebald commission, which superseded the Representatives of the people in their duty of discovering and explaining the grievances and wants of the community. And what has the Commission done? It has done
just what I predicted it would do—spent money, and gained no information. Look at the Report—I hope hon. Members have read it. The noble Lord, indeed, thought fit, in his official capacity, to give it official praise: but, unburthened by any conventional authority, I am bound to say, that a more unworthy document was never laid upon your table. It sins in every possible way against the rules according to which such a document ought to be framed—confused, contradictory, illogical, insincere, containing few facts worthy of record, and no reasoning worthy of the name; it is beneath contempt; it is a disgrace to its authors, and to the Government to which it is addressed. I defy any one to point me out a single particular of importance of which the Government had not already ample information. I challenge any one to show me an argument which is not condemned by the premises stated in the volume itself. It tells no truth worth knowing—it records many falsehoods long- since refuted—it has cost a large sum of money, and will probably cost us also the colony itself. I now, Sir, return from this digression to the consideration of the two plans of reform before us; and I first solicit the attention of the House to that proposed by the Assembly. The objects of the Assembly are twofold—1st, they desire to make all the public functionaries responsible to the people whom they serve; and, 2nd, they desire to have subject to the control of the representatives of the people the whole of the revenue derived from and paid by them. To these ends, the first great means is the destruction of the irresponsibility of the Legislative Council, by which, in fact, hitherto every malversation has been defended, every recusant officer protected, every abuse of whatsoever description supported. In accordance with the successful practice of their intelligent and powerful neighbours of the United States of America, the Canadian House of Assembly have endeavoured to render this second chamber elective. My own opinion on the matter has been very freely expressed to them; and I have sought to convince them that this was not, in my belief, the wisest plan—my scheme contemplated the abolition of the Council. However, to this, as far as I can ascertain it, I believe the feeling of the people to be averse. They believe that a second
chamber is requisite to wise legislation, and this opinion they share in common with the large majority of those who have spoken and written on the subject. This elective council it is proposed to elect by a different mode from that by which the Assembly is chosen; and the councillors are to be eligible at a later period of life than the members of the Assembly. Their number also is to be smaller. In short, the model is, the Senate of the various legislatures of the United States. In the Report on your table, the Commissioners, though opposed to this elective Council, are obliged to confess “that in such a country (as Canada) the people will be little inclined to respect any legislative body which does not emanate from, themselves; and that this effect must be enhanced in Lower Canada by the example of the powerful states which flourish so immediately in her neighbourhood.” Acknowledging, then, that in. principle the plan of the Assembly is correct, what objection do they urge to its establishment? Merely what they are pleased to state present circumstances. If it had been asked earlier—if it had been asked later—we would have granted it; but seeing that it was asked just at the time that it was asked, we are bound to refuse your demands. To refuse what? The means of good government; means which they themselves allow to be necessary—a remedy for an abuse which they themselves admit to be a crying one. If we were to grant this demand, say the Commissioners, we should give a victory to one party—we should wound English feelings and injure English interests. They thus echo the cry of the official tribe of Canada. They have adopted the fallacy, and to the best of their endeavours propagate the falsehood which these peculating and refractory servants have been concocting for the last four-and-twenty years. One part of this statement I allow. You will, if you grant this elective Council, give a victory to one party; so you will, if you pay these arrears, by your violent interposition. In the first case, the party to whom you will give the victory will be the people at large, demanding securities for good government; in the second case, you will give the victory to dishonest public servants, who have been plundering the people and fighting off responsibility by every effort
in their power. Choose which course you will preserve. But I deny wholly the remaining portions of the Commissioners’ assertions. I assert boldly that this is not a quarrel of races, but a quarrel of principle. The dishonest party choose to call themselves English, but I deny that their interests are English interests, or that race or language marks out the contending parties. I take two separate passages of the Commissioners’ Report to show this. The first passage will show that some French people join the official herd, because they, like them, have sinister interests. The second passage will show that a large body of the English have joined the popular party, because their interests, being that of the people at large, are identical. “We do not know where any persons,” says the Report, “are to be found of British descent who enjoy any influence in society, and, at the same time, wish for an elective Council”—(This, while they wrote it, the Commissioners must have known to be a falsehood)—”whilst of the higher class of French Canadians, there are several who have no desire for it.” Here, then, are several of the higher class of French Canadians siding with the official party (as appears by the general Report), when we have it distinctly allowed, that all the large body of persons descended from citizens of the United States, and living in Canada, persons speaking English, are hostile to the official party. How then, I ask, could any man in his senses say, that the quarrel was a quarrel of races? But the Commissioners have had the hardihood to assert that no persons of English descent of any influence in society have joined the popular party. What do the Commissioners say to the names of the provincial M. P.’s? The House must pardon me if I dwell on this topic. The official party, when they found their case becoming desperate, artfully invented this protest of English interests to influence the English people. They knew that prejudice against everything French, and particularly French republicanism, was strong in this country; they, therefore, have laboured industriously to make out that the popular party in Canada are French and republican; that they desire to persecute the English minority; and, that the Legislative Council has been the sole means of security for the English—the sole barrier
against a persecuting majority of French Catholic republicans. It is my duty to destroy this fallacy; and, with the permission of the House, I will proceed to the task. The population of Lower Canada is something beyond 500,000, and of these, I will allow for the present 100,000 to be persons speaking English. But this 100,000 must be classified also. There are three distinct classes of persons speaking English; first, there is the large majority of the whole who are agriculturists—now these people live chiefly in the townships by themselves, and very little intermingle with the French Canadians, and of these townships one-half, in point of numbers, have sent members to the House of Assembly, who are staunch friends of the popular party. I press this fact upon the consideration of the House. I challenge any one to deny it; and I ask how any one who is solicitous of his character as a person loving the truth can, with this fact staring him in the face, dare to assert that the question is one of race, and not of principle? I refer members who are doubtful upon this matter to the minute of Sir George Gipps at the end of the General Report. The next section of the English-speaking minority are the merchants of Montreal and Quebec; and these merchants having, as I shall soon show, a sinister interest, they for the most part side with the third section, viz., the official people and their families. Now I desire anxiously to know in what way the Legislative Council protects English interests; for I assume, first, that it is in the interest of England, as a nation, that the colony be well governed; and next, that the interests of the majority of the persons speaking English, are precisely the same as those of the French Canadians. Now, if these assumptions be correct, and I challenge any one to disprove them, how does it happen that for their protection an irresponsible and hitherto mischievous body is needful? These legislative Councillors have no such influence in the country, either personally or as a body— they are not the great land-owners of the country—they are powerful only because they have a vetoupon all legislation. How, then, came their peculiar, their sinister interests, so identified with those of the laborious English settler? But it may be objected, that the interests of the French and great body of English Canadians
may be the same, but the French desire to persecute. They have hitherto been the persecuted. Their desire of vengeance will induce them to run counter to their interests, and ill-treat their fellow citizens speaking English. Therefore, we must give the minority power in the government equal to that of the majority. My answer to this is, that the Canadians have hitherto given no evidence of their desire to persecute; they have, in all things, proved themselves kind neighbours, hospitable hosts, firm friends to those English who have gone to their country; in none of their legislative proceedings have they shown any, the least partiality to French Canadians; they have never attempted to draw any line of distinction between the English and Canadians. I also desire to know how, in what manner, the Legislative Council have hitherto opposed the desire to persecute? Has it been by shielding peculating officials; preventing the increase of education; fighting a disgraceful fight in favour of every abuse, and resisting reform at every step? If such conduct be a defence of English interests, then, indeed, may the Legislative Council lay claim to the character of their supporters. The House, doubtless, must be struck with the identity of the language used respecting the minority in Canada and in Ireland. In Ireland, nevertheless, we have determined to grant power to the majority—we have done nothing to shield the minority—why should we do so in Canada? Some nights since, when I attempted to give my reasons for believing that the majority would not persecute the minority, the House and his Majesty’s Ministers were pleased to receive, with approbation, my arguments, and to adopt my conclusions. The same spirit which dictated the pretext in the case of Ireland set it up in that of Canada; and we, in consequence, shall treat the pretence in both cases with the scorn it richly deserves. To show the House the identity of the two cases, I must once more quote from the Report. Not content with retaining the Legislative Council, the Commissioners entertain the inquiry of how the House of Assembly may also be made subject to the minority, and one of the Commissioners, Sir Charles Grey, tells us how he would have acted in the Irish Municipal Bill, and wishes us to treat the Canadians as he would have treated the
people of Ireland. [Here the hon. Gentleman read the passage in the General Report, containing Sir C. Grey’s scheme of voting.] I must now dismiss this topic, and turn to another, the interests of the merchants of Montreal and Quebec, about which I shall content myself with this remark. To maintain these merchants, and enable them to aid in keeping a large colony in turmoil, we consent to lose a million and a half a year by our restrictions on timber. Whether we derive corresponding benefit, let the House determine. The last objection I shall notice at present to the plan of the Assembly, relates to their conduct on the tenures of land. In a passage I have quoted, the Commissioners insinuate that the House of Assembly is in love with antiquated feudal customs, and determined to retain a mischievous system of law. I would, in answer, remark, that Sir George Gipps, a soldier, and Lord Gosford, a country gentleman, are but little qualified to judge of the difficulties attendant on changing a law of this kind. They know nothing of the law of France, and the incidents and complicated peculiarities of the tenures they deny, and I suspect Sir Charles Grey is pretty much in the same condition. It so happens that the great body of the public desire a change, but they desire that the change should be made by their own representatives, and not by those so ignorant of the whole matter as the Imperial Parliament. For this they are abused, and a reason is hence deduced for maintaining a corrupt and corrupting body, that is itself also incapable of working out the reforms needed and desired by the people. To the other items of the Assembly’s plan I shall not now advert, but shall resume the remarks I have to offer when the separate resolutions are submitted to the Committee. I am come to the plan of the noble Lord; and I am pleased to know, respecting this whole project, the following things:— That 1. The plan, if adopted, will be a signal and gross breach of faith on the part of this House. 2. That it is wholly inadequate according to the noble Lord’s own showing; and 3. That it is unjust and impolitic. When the disastrous consequences of the attempt to tax one of our American colonies in 1770 were dearly proved by the loss of those flourishing possessions, and the independence of the United States of America, the Legislature
of this country passed a law, by which it solemnly gave up, as a great concession to a great principle, all power of taxing the colonies. That power was after this solemn concession to rest with the colonists; and in 1793 we established a constitution in the Canadas, by which we gave a means of checking the public servants of the province which we ourselves possess—a power rude indeed, and not well fitted for the end in view—I mean that of stopping the supplies. The clumsiness and inefficiency of these means resulted, however, from the| nature of the constitution. In America, where the people do really govern, the power of remedying all grievance is directly and immediately occasioned. No roundabout course is adopted. If public servants act unworthily, they are at once dismissed; if changes are desired in faulty institutions, they are immediately made. But in our colonies (in the colonies all are Tories) as in England, the people govern only by a sort of side-wind; they can if they please make bad government so uncomfortable to the governors, that to maintain grievances will prove more distasteful than even reforming them. This effect is produced by the circuitous method of stopping the supplies. This method is in strict accordance with the powers you yourselves conferred on the representatives of Canada; and you now, because you fancy yourselves strong, determine not to remedy the grievance, but to punish the representatives for believing your constitution a reality, and you selves not to be impostors. You told them you had given them a constitutional power, which you considered one beyond all price; you told them they were the House of Commons of Canada, and you now punish them for putting faith in your assertions. You are about to take upon yourselves the taxation of the people; you are about to declare that your solemn declaration in times past, a declaration wrung from you by a bitter and disgraceful experience, was a solemn farce, and that you keep your faith only so long as you are not afraid of the consequences of breaking it. What is now the value of your protestations? Your faith will be a by-word among the people and following your mischievous example, the people will obey only so long as they fear you. Need I say anything to prove the utter inadequacy of this plan? What is the evil—
what the proposed remedy according to your own statement? You declare that great misey exists among the public servants; we do not deny it. Well, miser is created, what do you propose to do? Do you propose to prevent the recurrence of the mischief? Not at all; you pay the arrears. Who will pay the servants next year. Do you believe that the House of Assembly will do so? Are you not well assured that next year will bring but the same difficulty? The grievances complained of exist, the House of Assembly exists, their feelings and their power are the same as formerly. What, then, will happen next year? You know as well as I do that the supplies will again be stopped that the same doleful outcries will again be raised by the public servants, and then, I suppose, we shall have another special commission—another delay of three years —another evasion of the difficulty— another breach of faith—and that so long as Canada is ours, discontent, distrust will continue, exasperation will increase—their powers of resistance will increase also, one effort will be made, and you and your shuffling policy, your degraded government, your unworthy, peculating, and mischievous officials will be dismissed with ignominy and hatred. Need I say any thing more to prove this proceeding unjust? You seek to punish and insult the faithful guardians of the people; you protect and sympathise only with the unworthy, recusant, and peculating servant; you set aside with contumely the grievances of the people; you have compassion only for the suffering of public servants. I hear eternal talk of the evil consequences of stopping the supplies to those official people. I hear nothing in reproof of the Legislative Council, who shut up last year all the public primary schools in the country, and left 60,000 children without instruction. All your regards are turned the wrong way—all your inquiries have a wrong end in view. You sought to make out a case of hardship to the servants of the people, but you turned a deaf ear to all complaints of evil to the people themselves. The House of Assembly seeks to make the servants responsible— the servants seek to avoid responsibility; you thrust yourelves into the dispute, and instead of doing what your duty dictates, you take the part with the profligate servant, and ill treat the already injured
master. Such, Sir, is the course his Majesty’s Ministers now seek to pursue. At the commencement of the Session I stated, in reviewing the colonial policy of the present Government, that in no way were they better than their predecessors, and they now affirm my assertion. I said, that abroad they did not fear the anger of the people of England, they knew that the people pay little attention to the colonies—in the colonies, therefore, ministerial feelings have full sway, and revel in undisturbed security. What is the result? Behold it now on your table—behold it in the propositions of the noble Lord, in the division of this evening; you will at once learn the apathy of the people of England, and the innate spirit of jobbing, and unworthy leaning to unworthy servants, which rules uncontrolled in the hearts of the servants of the crown. But I would ask his Majesty’s Ministers, if they have well weighed the policy of this measure, and do they know its inevitable results? Lest they should have been negligent on this head, and in order to prevent the possibility of their saying at any future time, “we did not anticipate such results, and no one pointed them out,” I will, for their information, and for that of the House, state what my knowledge of the country leads me to expect as the result of this measure. The first immediate consequence will be, intense anger in the minds of the great majority of the population, who will see in this proceeding insult and injury. This anger will produce a determination as soon as possible to get rid of a dominion which entails on them results so mischievous and degrading. Every year will hereafter strengthen this feeling, and lasting enmity and discord will thus be created between the mother country and the colony; discord that will cease only when the colony shall become like the United States, a great, powerful, and independent community. The immediate effects of this anger will not be seen in open and violent revolt, but in a silent, though effective warfare against your trade. Non-intercourse will become the religion of the people. They will refuse your manufactures, and they will smuggle from the States. The long line of frontier will render all your attempts to prevent this smuggling unavailing. The people will refuse your West-India produce, and they will view with hatred your shoals of unprotected
emigrants. They will withdraw themselves from your communion, they will teach their children to hate you, and they will look with longing eyes to this happy States adjoining their frontier. Impatiently will they wait for the moment in which they shall obtain their freedom, and become part of that happy, and, for our interests, already too powerful republic. A war will be waged through an unrestricted press upon your Government and your people. In America you will be held up as the oppressors of mankind, and millions will daily pray for your signal and immediate defeat. To restrain this press will be impossible; printing presses will be established along the line, and inflammatory papers will be imported into your colony, spite of an army of custom house officers and lawyers. The fatal moment will at length arrive. The standard of independence will be raised; thousands of Americans will re-cross the frontier, and the history of Texas will tell the tale of Canadian revolt. The instant you have passed the resolutions of the noble Lord, a wide and impassable gulf will be opened between you and your colony, the time for reconciliation will be gone for ever, and the bitter lesson taught us by the mighty empire we have already lost will be repeated. We may then indeed repent our folly, but repentance will be vain—our loss will be irreparable—shame, defeat, and ignominy, will be our portion, and we shall leave for ever the shores of America, amidst the hootings, and reviling, and exultation, of the many millions of her people whom we have successively injured and insulted.
Sir George Grey said, the hon. and learned Gentleman had endeavoured to lead the House from the real object under its consideration by a lengthened detail of grievances, the whole of which, with one exception, he perfectly remembered to have heard the hon. and learned Member go through in a speech delivered by him in 1834, when he moved for a Committee to “inquire into the state of Canada. The hon. and learned Member omitted to state the fact, although it was a most material one that they were now discussing this question under entirely altered circumstances from those which existed when the question came formerly before this House. In the several addresses which had lately been presented to the House, from the
House of Assembly of Lower Canada, in the speeches which had been made that evening by the several advocates of the claims of the House of Assembly, no complaint appeared to be urged against the executive Government, the ground of complaint being, not that the instructions of the home Government to the executive Government of Lower Canada, were not directed to the redress of every grievance which it was in the power of the executive Government to redress, not that the local Government had not acted in the spirit of the instructions, or that the executive Government had abstained from doing everything in its power, but that the Imperial Parliament had not altered the Act of 1791, and that the home Government were not prepared to ask the House to concede every demand made by the House of Assembly, as the price at which it would purchase their good will, and justify them in their refusal to advance supplies necessary, not for a few official persons, as the hon. and learned Member wished to make out, but for the continual administration of justice—of that justice which was now in danger of being polluted at its source from the terror with which the judges of the land regarded not only the suitors before them, but perhaps even the criminals whom they had to try. He would appeal to all the papers on the table—to all the instructions which had been sent out to the local governments, and to every act which they had done in pursuance of those instructions—and he would ask if there were anything which a free and independent people had the slightest right to complain of? Every grievance which had arisen out of former mis-government—mis-government strongly condemned and reprobated by the Commissioners and the home Government— had been redressed to the utmost power of the Government; and now the House of Assembly took their stand on another ground, and declared that if the constitution were not altered, if various acts were not done, which Government, consistently with its duty, could not ask the House to do, but which must be done by Parliament, if done at all, that they would abstain from the exercise of those functions reposed in them by the Act of 1791. What were the demands made by the Assembly? They had been treated as if they
went simply to make an alteration in the Legislative Council recommended by Mr. Fox. When the subject was last before the House he stated that he considered the principle of the Act of 1791 to be, that there should be an independent Legislative Council, and that it was most desirable to devise means whereby the Legislative Council might be rendered so, and with this view the Commissioners sent out to Canada had been directed to inquire by what means the Legislative Council might be rendered more an object of public confidence. The intention was not to render the Legislative Council a mere cipher or a mere echo of the sentiments of the House of Assembly, as was desired by the hon. and learned Member. The hon. and learned Member complained that Government, had not placed sufficient confidence in the statement of facts made by the House of Assembly last year, and declared that the Assembly being the constitutional representatives of the people of the province, he claimed for them that the complaints of the people of the province should proceed only through their medium, and that the Parliament here should place implicit confidence in their statements, and pay no attention to any other parties, though these parties might come before the Imperial Parliament with petitions signed by 80,000 persons, who declared that they did not coincide in the sentiments of the majority. The Government had been always fully desirous of sifting to the bottom the statements made on one side and the other as to the state of public feeling in the province, and all that was brought before the House, especially as to the Legislative Council. The state of feeling was strongly adverted to by the Commissioners, and was besides fully evidenced in the proceedings of the House of Assembly, proceedings which ought to be conducted with judicial gravity, but which evinced a most virulent party spirit, directed against official persons. The propositions of the House of Assembly were for the most part altogether inconsistent with the relations existing between the mother country and her colonies; and it was the indispensable duty of Government to oppose propositions the direct and immediate tendency of which was the dismemberment of the empire and the severing from this country one of the greatest possessions of the Crown, The only
charge which had been brought against the Executive Government was its appopriation of funds not subject to the House of Assembly, and this was a course which the Executive Government was warranted in taking on all just and constitutional grounds. An analogy had been attempted to be established between this question and the question on which the House had been so lately occupied, the granting Municipal Corporations to Ireland; and he was ready to admit that considerable ingenuity had been exhibited in the endeavour thus to enlist for the House of Assembly of Canada the feelings of the representatives for Ireland, and those who had struggled with them in the assertion of the great principle lately asserted by the Commons of England; but there was not the slightest analogy between the two cases. The object which had been striven for in reference to Ireland was, not to make it an independent portion of the empire, but to invest it with those local powers of Municipal Government which had been with such success granted to England and Scotland. It was no change in the constitution which had been struggled for on behalf of Ireland; it was a change in the constitution which was demanded by the House of Assembly of Lower Canada. It was to be particularly remarked, too, that this outcry was raised only by the House of Assembly of Lower Canada. The people of Upper Canada altogether disclaimed any participation in the demands made by Lower Canada. And what was the case in reference to New Brunswick? In the past year New Brunswick sent two Members of her Legislature to this country to ask concession on all those points on which the people of Lower Canada stated themselves to be aggrieved. In consequence of the communications that took place, an arrangement was proposed precisely similar in principle, and in most of its details, to the proposition made to the House of Assembly of Lower Canada. He had only within these few days received a copy of certain resolutions passed unanimously by the Assembly of New Brunswick, with a few of which he would trouble the House. The first resolution, which was unanimously passed by the Committee of the whole House, was to the effect that the dispatches containing the declaration of his Majesty’s Government with respect to various important
matters which were brought under consideration afforded the most entire satisfaction, and that requisite means be taken as speedily as possible in order that the views of the home Government might be carried into effect. The second resolution was, that the House of Assembly entertained a deep sense of the obligations which it owed his Majesty’s Government for the promptness with which it had attended to their wishes. These resolutions were, as he had stated, passed unanimously by the House of Assembly, which was a completely fair representation of the inhabitants of the colony, sensible of their rights, and willing and anxious to maintain them. They showed the utter groundlessness of the charge that the present Government was dealing with those colonies in a severe manner. The terms offered to New Brunswick had been offered to Lower Canada, and, in addition, they proposed to deprive the Crown of the appropriation of one million annually, provided that the support of the judge, and a few other civil officers was guaranteed by the House of Assembly. The proposition was rejected by the House of Assembly; they insisted upon the absolute concession of their demands, involving, as they did, the independence of the colony, and its separation from England. And though there was a nominal control, involving a certain degree of responsibility, it was a most inconvenient responsibility, and one that did not ensure the existence of good government. It certainly was the duty of Ministers not to abandon its colonies without sufficient reason being assigned. It was impossible, in his opinion, to concede the demands insisted upon by the House of Assembly. The hon. Baronet the Member for Cornwall (Sir W. Molesworth), had taken a high ground, and said that he denied the right of the House to interfere in the way proposed. He would not detain the House with this argument, he would only appeal to a memorable instance in which Parliament, by virtue of the right which the hon. Baronet denied, proposed to assert that privilege that existed in the case of an extreme emergency, and did assert it, by striking off the fetters of 890,000 slaves, by virtue of an act of the Imperial Legislature, who, but for this interference on the part of the Government, would have continued in perpetual slavery. The only question they had to argue was, whether,
in the present state of the colony, they could comply with the course proposed. He would ask the hon. Baronet, the Member for Cornwall, to look at the state to which the judges of the land, various officers of the province, and even the gaolers of the prisons, were reduced by the total stoppage of all appropriation for, not three years, but four and a half years. Last year this misery was reduced by the payment made by Lord Gosford out of those funds which the Crown had hitherto appropriated, and which, in order to show the sincere desire of the Government, he was directed to abstain from appropriating in the usual way, so long as there was any hope of obtaining the supplies from the House of Assembly. It was plain, therefore, that England must either abandon the colony, and concede all their demands, or they must attempt to go on again for years in the vain hope that the House of Assembly, without the intervention of Parliament, would recede from their demands. He thought that of this there was now no reason to hope, and that they would be committing a gross injustice if they continued public servants in the discharge of a duty without remunerating them for their labours. This was a condition in which the Government should no longer allow its public servants to remain. It was a question for Parliament whether they would obtain the means of carrying on the Government by a complete concession of all demands, or whether they would take the course recommended by his Majesty’s Ministers, who felt that a case of necessity was established to justify them in the interference which they were compelled with great reluctance to submit to Parliament. There was another course that might be taken, which had been glanced at by the Commissioners, which was, that this House should advance a sum of money sufficient to pay off all arrears, and having obtained the opinion of this House on the questions in dispute, that then they should apply to the House of Assembly, and ask them whether they still persevered in their demands? He confessed that he thought this a still more objectionable and unconstitutional course. Were the representatives of the people of this country to consent to tax the people in order to pay the public servants of a colony, when the colony itself did not pretend that the payment was not just, but refused to pay simply
because that House refused to assent to all the unjust demands of that colony. He really thought he need not detain the House by arguing the case of necessity, unless indeed some hon. Member should go beyond anything yet proposed, and were to say that in everything, whether reasonable or not, the majority was to govern the minority. He would put it to the hon. and learned Member for Bath in this way. Supposing, instead of going a round-about way to the attainment of their object, which the hon. Baronet (Sir W. Molesworth) looked upon with so much pleasure, namely, their independence (for the hon. Baronet did not disguise the sentiments he entertained on this subject)—suppose the majority in the House of Assembly declared Lower Canada a republic, and that they threw off their allegiance, and refused any longer to bear the character of British subjects, was that House prepared to say that an immediate assent should be given by the British Parliament to that demand, because it had already received the assent of the majority, whilst the minority of the province—a large, powerful, and influential minority—consisting not of a few official persons, but 150,000 inhabitants of the province (who were daily, nay, hourly, increasing by emigration), protested against the change? Were they prepared to carry out the principle, to legislate merely with reference to the division-list of the House of Assembly, and to say that whatever the majority decided should be immediately done? There was this difference between the imperial and colonial Government, that from the colonial Government there was an appeal to the Imperial Parliament, which would look at the question in all its true bearings, apart from jealousy or from factious motives. It was absolutely necessary that they should secure the Government in this country from the discredit into which it had fallen in Lower Canada. They did not ask that House to make them independent of the House of Assembly; all they sought at present was, sufficient funds to enable them to pay the salaries of the judges and the principal officers of the existing Government. With regard to the general interest of the provinces, he thought that the plan proposed would tend to a permanent settlement of the differences that existed between the two provinces. If, unhappily, the House
of Assembly of Lower Canada, should persevere in their present course after the recorded opinion of Parliament, a consideration would arise respecting the connexion which this question had with reference to Upper Canada. Hon. Members who were familiar with the geographical position of that province, its vast territory, and increasing population, would perceive, that if a free passage were not accorded for its commerce through Lower Canada, it would of necessity be driven to seek one though the Unite States of America. He therefore thought that the Imperial Parliament was bound, as far as it could, without unduly interfering with the Legislative powers of the Colonies, to provide, or rather to invite the local Legislatures to provide some means by which the common interests of both provinces might be consulted much more effectually than they could be by any arrangement at present existing. By the Canada Trade Act, certain regulations were made with respect to the apportionment of duties between the two provinces; but inconveniencies had been found to result from the system established by that Act. According to the provisions of that Act, the Legislative Assembly of either province possessed the power of originating laws which should be common to the two provinces; but before they came into operation, it was necessary that they should receive the sanction of both the Assemblies. The consequence had been that in that respect the Act had remained a dead letter. It was for that his Majesty’s Government had proposed the tenth resolution, by which each of the local Legislatures were invited to depute a certain number of its members— namely, eight members from each House of Assembly, and four members from each Legislative Council—to form a joint committee to consult together about the navigation of the St. Lawrence, the shipping dues, and other matters interesting to both colonies. The Legislature of each province would, nevertheless, have the power of rejecting any proposition made by the Joint Committee; but he trusted that the institution of that Committee would be a means of drawing the provinces together, and putting an end to a feeling of jealousy, which he regretted to say had been continually increasing in force, and which, in his opinion, was more calculated to endanger the connexion
of the provinces with Great Britain than any of those measures which had been so warmly commented upon that night. If the hon. Member, who alluded to Municipal Institutions in Ireland, were to suggest to the Canadians the expediency of establishing Corporations in their country similar to those which existed in this country, he would be acting a more friendly part towards them than by stirring them up to resist the Imperial Parliament. He felt convinced that Parliament would be of opinion that the concession of the demands of the Canadians would be fraught with danger, and he appealed to the House to decide between those demands and the propositions of the Government. He desired that the sentiments of that House should be known, and in spite of the predictions, of the hon. Member for Bath, he trusted that when the British Parliament should have pronounced an opinion, the House of Assembly would recede from some of their demands, and not think it any badge of slavery to be connected with the British empire, and to enjoy those privileges which were valued, respected, and cherished in every other possession of the British Crown.
House resumed, Committee to sit again.