UK, House of Commons, “Canada”, vol 47, cols 1254-90 (3 June 1839)
By: UK (House of Commons)
Citation: UK, HC, “Canada“, vol 47 (1839), cols 1254-90.
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The Order of the day for taking into consideration the Queen’s message with respect to the Canadas having been read,
Lord John Russell said: It is now my duty, as a Minister of the Crown, to call upon Parliament to lay the foundation of a permanent settlement of the affairs of Canada. I think, upon general grounds, there are sufficient reasons why Parliament should at present be asked to take some step which may indicate the policy that Parliament will, in future, pursue with regard to those complicated and disturbed affairs. We have had various commissions of inquiry—we have had reports from those commissions laid upon the Table of the House; and the abrupt termination of the mission of Lord Durham made it, in our opinion, inexpedient to appoint any other person with similar authority to report again with regard to the facts of the case, or to state the views which he might take of the best manner of meeting its difficulties. But there are other and special reasons why, in my opinion, Parliament should be ready now to declare its opinion with regard to the principle upon which the legislation of Canada is ill future, to be guided. When Parliament last year passed an act, which
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was agreed to by very large majorities in both Houses, to provide for the temporary government of Canada, it was supposed, that the powers granted by the act were so extensive that they partook—as its opponents represented—so much of an arbitrary and despotic nature, that it would not be necessary for the person exercising the authority of the Crown in Canada to apply to the home Government for any further powers as the means of preserving peace in those provinces. But at the end of the last Session of Parliament, in consequence of an ordinance passed by Lord Durham, new views, as I think, were stated with respect to the powers conferred by that act of Parliament. Very learned authorities supported a view, not merely questioning that particular ordinance of Lord Durham of which it is not necessary for me to speak; but disputing and doubting altogether the extensive nature of the powers which, in the opinion of the Government, fortified by that of the Lord Chancellor and the Attorney-general, had been conferred upon the Governor-general of Canada. The consequence of that interference of Parliament—I am not now speaking of whether it were a necessary or politic interference—but the consequence in point of fact of that interference was, that a tribunal in Lower Canada, expressed on one particular occasion, strong doubts as to the validity of the act to enable the Governor-general of Canada to detain persons suspected of high treason.
Two of the judges concurred in an opinion that a person who had been so detained was entitled to a writ of habeas corpus. The Governor, by the exercise of an authority very sudden and very arbitrary, but as I am disposed to say, extremely necessary, refused to allow this writ to be executed. He justified the officer who refused to produce the body of the prisoner, and he suspended the judges who had given an opinion contrary to the effect of his ordinances. I say, that in the circumstances in which Canada was then placed, with an impending rebellion—with resistance already begun in some portions of those provinces, if the Governor had acted otherwise, his hesitation would probably have been the cause of great bloodshed and a very protracted struggle, even if he had not risked the safety of the provinces altogether. But, at the same time, I say that an Act of Parliament should not be left in such a state that the Governor should be obliged to resort
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to such extreme measures as the suspension of judges, who, no doubt, had acted conscientiously, taking into their view, (I understood, indeed, that that was the main ground of their proceedings) the opinions given in this country by learned individuals who had filled high offices in the State, and thereby induced to give a decision in court which tended to make the powers of the Government inoperative, and to place the safety of the province in danger. It may be said, that the simple and the single remedy for such a state of things would be, to call for fresh powers—to explain in more definite terms those powers which were conferred by the Act of last year, and to take care that that Act should be sufficient to arm Sir John Colborne, or whoever the Governor of the province may be, with legal and undoubted powers to preserve its peace and tranquillity.
But, viewing the state of the province with regard to inquiries generally—looking at the information which is before the Government and before Parliament with regard to this subject, I do not think the Government would be justified in coming down to Parliament and asking for further and more definite powers, unless they, at the same time, asked, that some principle should be established by which a future government, and, I should say, a future free government, of the Canadas could be secured when these temporary powers shall cease to be in force. These, therefore, are the grounds upon which I say that the time is come when Parliament should be called upon for an opinion as to the principle, at least, of the future settlement of the affairs of the Canadas. I will now recall to the attention of the House the Act which, by her Majesty’s message, it is proposed in its chief enactments to renew, to the series of transactions which took place in consequence of that act, and to the representations which have been made by Lord Durham as her Majesty’s high Commissioner.
The Act of 1791, which provided for the separation of the two provinces, appears to be, from all that I have read of the speeches delivered by Mr. Pitt in this House, and by Lord Grenville in the other; and from all I have heard from persons who were acquainted with the general transactions of that period, the grounds upon which that Act was founded appear to me to have been principally two. The one was, that there being
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an influx of British emigrants into Canada, and with them an increase of British industry, British habits, and fondness for British institutions, it seems to have been conceived—I will not detain the House by quoting passages from the speeches of the time—but it appears to be very clearly shown, that it was conceived by Mr. Pitt and Lord Grenville that by dividing the province into two, the French population might remain in that portion thenceforth to be called Lower Canada, whilst British emigrants would have free scope for their industry, and free power to establish their own institutions, and to abide by their own customs, in the other portion of the province, which was to be called Upper Canada.
Another reason upon which I conceive the bill was founded, though that certainly is not so clear—but it seems to me to follow from the state of the times and the views taken by the Government of that period—another reason was, that it was thought advisable that the French inhabitants being at once very loyal to the Crown, of very simple habits, and possessing institutions to which they were very much attached, should have preserved to them the means of maintaining those institutions. By this plan, then, it was intended to reward them for their previous loyal conduct, and to give them a security for the future stability of their institutions. Speaking with great respect of those who introduced the constitutional Act of 1791, and readily allowing, that there might have been at the time reasons of which we cannot properly judge—for we have no right to make use of our own experience in affording a reason for condemning the authority of that measure—readily allowing this, I do think, that upon both the grounds to which I have alluded, that Act was a mistaken act of policy. It appears to me to be quite impossible that you could so contrive a division of the two races as to keep the British in Upper Canada distinct from the French in the Lower Province. And even if that took place, the consequence was sure to follow, that the French in Lower Canada would seek to deprive the English of the Upper Province of those natural advantages, which a free communication with the sea by the river St. Lawrence, would necessarily confer. In the next place, I do not think that there was any thing in the old French institutions, or in the habits of the French people, which at all deserved to be retained, or that the
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government should take means to preserve. I think that the policy should rather have been to give the greatest power to the emigrants from this country, to have amalgamated the institutions of the two provinces, and to have brought them as near as possible to those of England. But whatever may be the judgment of the House with respect to the bill, as it was then introduced, we have had an opportunity of seeing the very serious, and I think the very dangerous consequences which have flowed as certainly from that act as any effects can ever be said to flow from any cause.
For many years, indeed, the people of Lower Canada being chiefly French, and little curious of inquiring into the powers which they had acquired by the Act of 1731, made no opposition to the Government at home; but, as was perfectly natural, there grew up in a little time in Lower Canada a considerable population of British race, British habits, and possessing to the full the British love of enterprise, bringing with them great commercial capital, and anxious to push to the utmost the advantages which were to he derived front the rich soil and the opportunities of trade which the position of Lower Canada afforded. The result was, that strong opposition was made by the House of Assembly of Lower Canada to the views of the Crown in England, and for some years it appears to have been the practice of the Crown—a practice justly reprehended by the committee of 1828—to make an appropriation of the supplies of Lower Canada, which supplies were never voted by the House of Assembly. A method, indeed, was adopted in order to prevent the governor and the servants of the Crown in that province from being completely overwhelmed by the opposition of the House of Assembly, of composing the Legislative Council almost exclusively of persons of British origin. I think, that that also was not a politic course of proceeding. The effect of it was to produce in the Legislative Council a great majority of persons of British, race, of different views, and totally different opinions from the majority of the House of Assembly. There thus grew up a constant opposition, a constant source of irritation between the members of the House of Assembly chosen by the inhabitants of Lower Canada, and the British majority in the Legislative Council, placed there by the Crown. It was found, that that mode of proceeding tended ultimately so much to dissension and disunion—that
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the business of the province could not be carried on, and that the governor was obliged, year after year, to report the failure of his attempts to induce the House of Assembly to adopt those measures which had been recommended from the Home Government. At length a committee was appointed in 1828, which committee made various propositions of amendment—propositions which I stated to the House last year in detail, and to which it is of course unnecessary that I should again refer. These propositions, it must be said, were fairly admitted by the Government of this country as soon as they were made; but by the time that the Government had determined to grant everything that could in fairness and justice be demanded by the House of Assembly, that body, elated by what they conceived to be a triumph over the Mother Country, made demands totally incompatible with the relations between the parent state and a colony—demands which would deprive the British population of the province of all power, and the representatives of the Crown of all control—demands which in fact would, if granted, have established, under the name of a British province, an independent French colony in Lower Canada, Great Britain having only the burden of contributing her fleet and armies to support and sustain the colony, or rather the public, against any enemy that might chance to assail it. In consequence of these proceedings in the year 1837, I proposed certain resolutions to the House, and which resolutions, after long and repeated debates, were adopted by a very great majority.
Those resolutions negatived the proposal of the Assembly of Lower Canada, and declared that it was the resolution of this House not to agree to the demands which the House of Assembly had said were the sine quâ non for granting the supplies. The resolutions went on further to declare, that the House of Commons would, by authority of Parliament, provide for the payment of those servants of the Crown in Canada, whom the Assembly had for more than three years left without any pay. The consequence of that proceeding on the part of this House was increased discontent and irritation among the French leaders, and those who followed them in Lower Canada; a feeling of irritation, which went to such an extent, and was so dangerous in the eyes of Lord Gosford, who was then the governor of that province, that after procuring the best information he could obtain, he thought
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it necessary to issue a warrant for the apprehension, on the charge of high treason, of many members of the House of Assembly, which members, with few exceptions, immediately left the country, and then the rebellion took place on which was founded the act of last year. It was in consequence of that act, and under the powers of that act, that Lord Durham was sent to Canada. He was there for no very long period, and I think considering the difficulty of the details of the administration, and the immense amount of business necessarily before him, that the attention he paid to the general state of the province shows, that if he had been able to remain for the whole time originally contemplated, we should have received from him a very detailed and satisfactory account of measures by which the evils of Canada could have been remedied.
As the matter stands, the report of Lord Durham contains at great length, and in very forcible language, a picture of the evils of Lower Canada, a description of the sources from which those evils have been derived, and a very strong, and I hope a somewhat too strongly, coloured picture of the animosities existing between the two races of the French and British in that colony. I come then to the question of the remedy which is to be proposed for these evils. But, before I state the proposition for the re-union of the two provinces, I beg again to place before the House the fact, that the chief evils with which we have had to contend, appear to have been derived almost directly from the act of separation of the colony. It is at all events difficult to deny, that those evils have flowed from that cause. One great evil is the entire predominance of the French party in the House of Assembly, that party refusing that any French habits, French laws, or French tenures should be altered, and declining to give their assent or approbation to any law by which British enterprise could be encouraged.
That was the result of the French people having received by the constitution of 1791, a decided majority in the representation. However incompatible the proceedings of the Assembly may have been to the general interests of the province, and however ill they may have used their power, it appears to me to have been the necessary consequence of their position, and the direct result, that might have been expected from the powers they possessed, knowing, as we must, their inclinations and dispositions. Another very serious matter
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is, that the people of the Upper Province have been unable to carry on trade in that unrestricted manner in which they feel themselves entitled to do, for want of having immediate communication with the sea. In the address from the Constitutional Association of Montreal to the inhabitants of British America, they say, “Upper Canada, repulsed in her endeavours to open a direct channel of communication to the sea, has been driven to cultivate commercial relations with the United States, whose policy is more congenial with her own.” They say again, Upper Canada is honourably distinguished for works completed and in progress, remarkable for their magnitude, and for the extensiveness of their destined utility. The St. Lawrence Canal, at this moment in active progress, will complete an uninterrupted navigation for vessels of considerable burden from the upper lakes to the line dividing that province from Lower Canada; but at that point the spirit of British enterprise encounters the influence of French domination; the vast design of rendering the remotest of the inland seas accessible to vessels from the ocean, is there frustrated by the anti-commercial policy of the French leaders.
We look in vain to their proceedings for any manifestation of a desire to cooperate in the great work of public improvement which animates, as with one spirit, the entire North American population of British descent; nor is their adverse disposition less visible in their opposition to other important designs; they either refuse to grant charters to carry into effect works of acknowledged public utility, or when, after repeated and earnest applications, charters are obtained, they are clogged with restrictions of an unusual character, in the hope of rendering them inoperative.” Thus it is, that whether with regard to political interests, or whether with regard to material interests, we find that the act which separated the provinces, is the act which has been the cause of the political dissensions in Lower Canada and the cause also of arresting all enterprises of great public utility, and of promoting the means of commerce in the Upper Province. It would seem, therefore, if we were to look no further than to the evils and their cause, that the proper remedy of them would be, to unite those provinces whose separation has been the evident cause of them. But, before I state any further reasons in support of that plan, or of the mode by which I think it may be carried
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into effect, I wish to state another plan that might be proposed, and the objections which I think are conclusive against it. One plan might be, the continuance of what I should call the constitutional power now existing in Lower Canada, the continuance of the power of the Governor and Special Council to dispose of the whole of the taxes, and to make laws for that province. I think any very long continuance of such powers, without a prospect of some change, and of returning to a free Government, would be repugnant to the feelings of any people who have been once governed by constitutional principles; but, above all, repugnant to the feelings of a large proportion of the inhabitants of the continent of America.
We now see that, with regard to no part of the continent of America, either in the north or in the south, is there a despotic power vested in any one head, or in any small or oligarchical body. Even those provinces which formerly belonged to Spain and Portugal, however ill they may have carried it into effect, have acknowledged the representative principle of Government. If, then, you were to have in Lower Canada a large population—a population of not less than 150,000 of British descent, with a state of the law by which their wishes were not at all consulted, by which an arbitrary power was enabled to rule, and of the termination of which there was no speedy prospect, I think you would soon find that there would grow up a feeling of discontent on the part of both races—both of the British races who have been accustomed to freedom and the practices of freedom—and of the French race, who would remember that they had not long ago enjoyed very great power in the choice of the Assembly. If, then, this plan would not be sufficient, let us consider next the plan which I find to have been suggested by Sir Francis Head, Lieutenant-governor of Upper Canada, namely, that the district of Montreal should be added to Upper Canada, and that Lower Canada should be differently governed. That would apparently provide for some of the wants of Upper Canada, but I do not think it would do so in effect; because, if you still have a French Assembly in Lower Canada, although the interruption to trade might not affect the same parts, there would be the same spirit prevailing, and the same obstacles to that free enjoyment of trade which the people of Upper Canada had a fair right to expect would exist. But there is
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this further consideration. This plan seems, to be adopted solely for the benefit of the province of Upper Canada, without the interests of the inhabitants of Lower Canada being at all consulted. Now, as affecting Lower Canada, if such a plan were made permanent, you would necessarily reject that which I just now spoke of—namely, that of having a Governor and Special Council, and you would be obliged again to resort to an assembly with an overwhelming majority of members of French origin. I think, after what has happened, after the declarations made by the Assembly of Lower Canada—after their refusal to legislate unless powers were given to them which had been already shown to be incompatible with the political condition of the province, and destructive of British interests there, if you were to have the British population of Lower Canada again subjected to the revived predominance of a French assembly, it would excite the greatest degree of discontent, and I am prepared to say of just discontent on the part of that population, as well as on the part of the Imperial Parliament. Then, Sir, I know not, taking the matter in this view, and considering what the remedy ought to be, if you can neither establish an arbitrary government in Lower Canada consistently1 with your general principles, and with the consent of the province, and if you cannot re-establish a separate Assembly, I know not what plan you can resort to, unless it is by an union of the two provinces to give to the British population of Upper Canada, and to the British population and French population of Lower Canada, equal and free institutions, by which a representative constitution may be carried into effect, and all the means of promoting the prosperity of both provinces may be fully obtained.
Thus, then, I arrive at these general conclusions in balancing these propositions. I say, first, if you look at the history of what has occurred since the enactment of 1791—if you look at the difficulties of administration, at the insurrections, at the want of good laws in Lower Canada, you are led to the conclusion that those evils have flowed from the separation of the provinces. If, again, you look to the remedies that can be applied—if seeing what you must see, that the present state of things being only temporary, it is necessary to lay down a foundation for some permanent settlement of the colonies—then you must feel that any foundation must fail of producing the desired effect, unless it be a
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proposition for the union of the two provinces. From a consideration both of the evils and of the remedy, I am irresistibly led to this conclusion. There is another scheme which I have not mentioned—although of a far more extensive nature—because I believe it has been at present abandoned by its proposers: I mean the scheme for the confederation of all the North American provinces—each province having a separate Assembly, and, at the same time as it were, one supreme Assembly over all. Upon that subject, more than a year and a half ago, I consulted a person, whose opinion is always deserving of great weight in reference to this particular question, and to all matters referring to Canadian affairs, I mean Sir James Kemp. I asked him his views, and he told me that he was convinced, from the state of the provinces, and of the communications between Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, and Upper and Lower Canada, that such an union would not be practicable; that it would lead to the greatest inconvenience on the part of the representation of the interest of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia; and that he would strongly dissuade the Government from entertaining such a proposal.
That was the opinion of Sir James Kemp before Lord Durham went out to Canada. Lord Durham went out, after considering every plan, very much disposed to favour the plan for a general union of the provinces; but the result of all the communications he had had with persons there and in this country, interested in the welfare of Upper Canada, and of the British population in Lower Canada, had led him to the conclusion that he could not, consistently with his duty to the Crown, recommend such a union. Having thus stated the general reasons which weighed with us in favour of the legislative union of the two provinces, I think it only necessary to state shortly, at present, the principles upon which we think a legislative union ought to be founded. One main consideration evidently is, in what manner the representation is to be formed?—whether it is to be a representation, giving to each province a certain number of members, or whether it is a representation giving a certain number of members in proportion to the population, or what other scheme?
Upon considering these various matters, and discussing each proposition, it is our opinion generally, that you ought not to lay down any precise number of representatives for Lower Canada and for Upper
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Canada, and that likewise you ought not to lay down as a principle, that the population alone should be considered. It seemed to us, that it would be necessary, in forming the union, and before that legislative union could be properly completed, to have taken into consideration all the matters relating as well to the population as to the territories upon which a good representative system may hereafter be founded, Whatever may be the case with regard to old countries, yet in providing a representation for a country which twenty years ago had hardly any inhabitants, but which has now become very populous, it is necessary to keep in view that the same increase of population may go on, not only by births, but by immigration; and that, therefore, it would be proper to combine the consideration of territory with population, and to lay down, as a general basis, that you will combine those two principles, and give a representation which may not be actually suitable to the amount of the population at present, but which several years hence would more correctly be a representation of the people, than if they were to lay down for their guidance the present state of the population.
In taking this principle, it appears to me a reasonable one. One great advantage and effect of that principle would be, to give greater weight to the British inhabitants of Lower Canada, because many of the evils of Canada have flown from the extreme jealousy of the French inhabitants and the introduction of new laws, new enterprise, and new trade into their province. I think the true policy of this country, not only with regard to England and the Imperial Parliament, but as regards the future interests of Upper Canada, is to give a British character to the whole province, to allow British laws and British legislation to have a thorough scope;—to take care, by all means, that the French population shall not be oppressed, that they shall not suffer from any injustice, but at the same time not to allow their jealousies and their attachments to their own customs to stand in the way of that great progression which I trust Canada is destined to make, and which alone can make either a province or a state prosperous and happy. Such, therefore, would be the general principle of that united legislature which we recommend; but it is a general principle which it must be perceived by the House cannot be carried into effect by any bill at present to be introduced. It is a plan which will require
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previous inquiry on the spot from persons who have an intimate knowledge of the state and circumstances of Canada. There is one portion of Lord Durham’s report to which I will immediately advert in connection with this subject. He proposes that there should be power given to the Governor to suspend by proclamation the writs for any electoral districts in which any disturbances may have taken place, stating specifically the grounds for such suspension. This does appear to us a very objectionable power to be given to the Governor. The Governor might, indeed, state the grounds of his determination fairly, but it would always be suspected that the real grounds were in order to give an advantage to one party over another.
It therefore seemed to us better to adopt some general principle, such as I have already mentioned, and better to delay carrying into effect those principles for some considerable time, rather than run the danger on the one hand of appearing to introduce the representative principle, at the same time introducing it with such large and objectionable exceptions; or, on the other, of giving representatives to a district almost universally engaged in insurrection, and whose presence in the assembly could really lead to nothing but dissension and mutual accusation; it appears to us, therefore, both on the one ground and on the other, that it is better to postpone to a future period the calling together of any assembly for legislative purposes. We accordingly propose that no assembly should be called together for the two united provinces till the year 1842. It follows, as a necessary consequence, that we should propose to continue all the temporary powers now granted to the Governor and Special Council till that period. I will now advert to some of the proposals contained in the report of Lord Durham, which I greatly regret have not been more developed than they have been, I do not think, that blame is attributable to Lord Durham for their want of greater development; because to whomsoever blame may attach, from the abrupt termination of his Government, he had not the means of sufficiently discussing the particulars and details of each of his propositions in a manner which might have entitled them to the confidence of Parliament and of the Crown. He proposes, that there should be local elective bodies in the provinces subordinate to the general legislative body. In that proposition we are disposed to agree. We
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think there should be elective bodies in the nature of municipal bodies, with power to levy local taxes for the formation of roads, bridges, and all other necessary local purposes. He also proposes, that there should be a supreme court of appeal for all the North American colonies. That is a question, however, which must be reserved for a separate measure. With regard to the constitution of the Legislative Council, the report of Lord Durham does not contain any very different proposal from the resolution of this House, which declared, that it was not expedient to give the Legislative Council an elective character, but that it was expedient to give it greater weight, with a view of inspiring greater confidence in its proceedings.
It appears to us, that the best mode by which that could be effected, without adopting the principle of election, and which would seem to give it some conformity with the character of a representative council, would be, to make it necessary, that the persons appointed to the Legislative Council, should either have been members of some popular assembly to which they had been elected by the people, or have been placed in some office by the Crown which might serve as a proof, that they were persons to whom the public or the Crown had thought fit to intrust important duties. Of the management of the Crown lands, which is a very extensive subject, it is not necessary for me to say anything. We shall propose, with regard to the Crown revenues, that the Assembly shall have the power of applying them when a provision shall have first been made by that Assembly for an adequate civil list.
It is very evident, that the disputes which have arisen between the Crown and the popular Assembly, on the subject of the appropriation of the public money can only be stepped, if stopped at all, by complete confidence existing both on one side and on the other. If you give to the Assembly, power over the greater part of the revenue, and at the same time withhold a part, and refuse to them the administration of that part, that body will entertain the same feeling of jealousy with regard to that part so withheld, which they have done with regard to the whole. If, on the other hand, the House of Assembly should refuse to make a permanent provision for the salaries of the public officers, and for the necessary administration of the Government, and of justice, in the colony, they would completely paralyze the Government, and on their side could not, therefore, expect,
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the Government of the colony to be carried on in a manner to their own satisfaction. Them is another question upon which I am now going to state an opinion, which question I think is of the very greatest importance, and upon which Lord Durham has expressed an opinion contrary to that entertained by this House—I mean the question with respect to the responsibility of the individual holding the office of Governor in the province. Lord Durham has stated, that an analogy existed between the representative of the Crown in the colony and the constitutional responsibility of the Ministers in this country. He states, that as soon as the Ministers of the Crown have lost the confidence of the House of Commons in this country they ceased to be Ministers, and that they could not go on with the Government with a constant minority. He adds, that it is certainly a most unusual case for a Ministry to go on for several months in a minority—and he then attempts to apply that principle to the local Government of Canada. Now, the resolution of the House on this subject was in these terms:—”Resolved, That while it is expedient to improve the composition of the Executive Council of Lower Canada, it is unadvisable to subject it to that responsibility demanded by the House of Assembly of that province.”
This House upon my motion came to that resolution, and I must own, that there is nothing in this report which has at all in my mind shaken the argument by which at the time I supported that resolution. It does not appear to me, that you can subject the Executive Council of Canada to the responsibility which is fairly demanded of the Ministers of the executive power in this country. In the first place, there is an obvious difference in matter of form with regard to the instructions under which the Governor of a colony acts. The Sovereign in this country receives the advice of the Ministers, and acts by the advice of those Ministers, and indeed there is no important act of the Crown, for which there is not some individual Minister responsible. There responsibility begins, and there it ends. But the Governor of Canada is acting, not in that high and unassailable position in which the Sovereign of this country is placed. He is a Governor receiving instructions from the Crown on the responsibility of a Secretary of State. Here then at once is an obvious and complete difference between the executive of this country, and the executive of a colony. The Governor might ask the Executive
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Council to propose a certain measure. They might say, they could not propose it, unless the Members of the House of Assembly would adopt it, but the Governor might reply, that he had received instructions from home commanding him to propose that measure. How, in that case, is he to proceed? Either one power or the other must be set aside. Either the Governor or the House of Assembly, or else the Governor must become a mere cipher in the hands of the Assembly, and not attempt to carry into effect the measures commanded by the home Government. But, if we endeavour to carry out this analogy, there is one case that all the world allows is a case in which it could not be applied—I mean the case of foreign affairs. If the Assembly of New Brunswick in the late collision carried on a dispute with the North American States.
Some Hon. Members—Interruption. Cries of “Order”
Lord John Russell—The subject (continued the noble Lord) is certainly a very important one, and although I may express myself in very inadequate terms, yet I do conceive, that, as it is in my opinion, one of the most important points contained in Lord Durham’s report, and one on which I differ with him, I ought to state the grounds of that difference. I say, if the Assembly of New Brunswick had been disposed to carry the point in dispute with the North American States hostilely, and the Executive Council had been disposed to aid them, in my opinion, the Governor must have said, that his duty to the Crown of this country, and the general instructions which he had received from the minister of the Crown, did not permit him to take that course, and, therefore, he could not agree with the Executive Council to carry into effect the wish of the majority of the Assembly. That is allowed.
Does not then this very exception destroy the analogy you wish to draw, when, upon so important a point as that of foreign affairs, it cannot be sustained? Again, neither could this analogy be maintained with regard to trade between Canada and the mother country, or Canada and any foreign country; how then can you adopt a principle from which such large exceptions are to be made? If you were to do so, you would be continually on the borders of dispute and conflict; the Assembly and the Executive, on the one hand, requiring a certain course to be pursued, while the Governor, on the other hand, would be as constantly declaring,
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that it was a course he could not adopt; so that, instead of furnishing matter of content and harmony in these provinces, you would be affording new matter for dispute and discontent, if you were to act upon this supposed analogy. But, supposing you could lay down this broad principle, and say that all external matters should be subject to the home Government, and all internal affairs should be governed according to the majority of the Assembly, could you carry that principle into effect? I say, we cannot abandon the responsibility which is cast upon us as Ministers of the Executive of this great empire. I will put a case, one merely of internal concern that occurred only the other day. Let us suppose that an officer of militia in Upper Canada, after an action, was to order that the persons taken in that action should be put to death on the field.
I can conceive it possible, in a state of exasperation and conflict with the people of the neighbouring state, that the Assembly might applaud that conduct, and might require that it should be the rule, and not the exception, that all invaders of their territory should be treated in that manner, and that the parties should be put to death without trial. Supposing that to be the case, could the Government of this country adopt such a rule? Could the Secretary of State for the Colonies sanction such a rule, and not decide as his hon. Friend, the Under-secretary had done, that such a practice would meet with his decided reprehension? It was quite impossible to allow it to be laid down as a general principle, that any part of the government of this country, conducted by Ministers having the sanction of this House, shall be overruled by a colony, and that such colony shall not be subject to the general superintending authority of the Crown of these realms. I can conceive, Sir—and I think that it would be the part of wisdom and of justice to say—that there are matters affecting the internal affairs of these provinces, that there are matters in which neither the Imperial Parliament nor the general Government need interfere, and on which they should be anxious to consult the feelings of the people of the colonies. It seems to me, Sir, as much a rule of sense as of generosity, that there are some questions on which it would not be desirable, that on the opinion of the Secretary of State for the Colonies, the opinion of the
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House of Assembly should be put on one side. I know no reason why the Legislative Assembly, whether of each, separately, or of both provinces united, should not be listened to with deference; but I am not prepared to lay down a principle, a new principle, for the future government of the colonies, that we ought to subject the executive there to the same restrictions as prevail in this country. Adopting the general view sanctioned by the report, it has been necessary for me to mark the differences which I feel respecting some of its suggestions. It is stated in the report, that the past provision in the Act respecting the clergy reserves, as a security for the existing endowments of the Catholic clergy, should be guaranteed by a public Act.
I think, Sir, that this is one of the subjects which may be left to the consideration of the Legislature of the province, for there has been a great anxiety in both provinces to administer religious instruction, though there has been great objection to the application of particular funds, more especially of the clergy reserves, to that object. But, Sir, whatever the opinion of the local Legislature may be, I would rather have that opinion pronounced before the opinion of the Imperial Parliament shall be taken on this subject. It remains only that I should state what appears to have been the opinion entertained in Canada generally as to the proposition of an union of the two provinces. It seems that in Lower Canada there has been for a very long time a strong party anxious for an union, and declaring, that it is the only means by which the true interests of the country can be provided for. This is distinctly stated in several of the addresses agreed to by different associations; it was especially stated in the address of one association at Montreal, presented to Lord Durham, and it had been stated previously by the British inhabitants of Lower Canada, that they looked for security to the proposal of re-uniting the two provinces. This year, the Legislature of Upper Canada have decided in favour of a general adherence to the proposal for union, but, at the same time, insist upon conditions and terms which cannot, in my opinion, be reasonably or fairly granted: They say Resolved, That the experience of the past year confirms the House in the opinions then expressed, and they are still of opinion that a united legislature for the Canadas, on the
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terms then proposed is indispensable, and that further delay must prove ruinous to the best interests of the Canadas; and it was resolved also, that as a measure deeply affecting the future interests of this province is now pending before the Imperial Parliament, it is of the utmost importance that one or more authorised agents, deputed by this House, should proceed forthwith to England to represent the true interests and opinions of her Majesty’s faithful subjects in Upper Canada. This resolution was adopted by a considerable majority of the Legislative Assembly. The Legislative Council, however, after a long discussion of the proposal for an union, rejected it by a majority of ten to eight, being only a majority of two. Further accounts, Sir, have been received to-day with respect to the manner in which the Legislative Council and the Assembly have proceeded on receiving the report of Lord Durham. It appears, that both the Legislative Assembly and the Legislative Council thought themselves unjustly assailed by the report, and they had deemed it necessary to appoint a committee, who had drawn up a long report of the transactions in Canada, and the Legislative Council came to a resolution which seems to have been acquiesced in by the Legislative Assembly, not to send the two agents to England to represent their views.
They had, however, sent an address to her Majesty, in which they refer to the report of their committee of the 30th of April, 1839. In this report, they came to a decision upon two points, which were important. They say that the proposal of the legislative union of the two provinces, and of the responsibility of the officers of the Government to the Legislature had undergone an investigation, and the deliberate judgment of the House. To the first they assented, and the second they pronounced to be inconsistent with the dependence of the colonies on the mother country. With regard to those two propositions, I have stated that what I propose is, in principle, the same as that to which they have assented; and it can hardly be expected that we here should take a view of their interests so confined to the province of Upper Canada, as have the Assembly of that province; and as to the disagreement with some of the recommendations of the report, I have already stated my own dissent from the same recommendations. Alluding to this report, in their address to the Queen, they make his request;—
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In this report (Lord Durham’s) your Majesty’s faithful subjects find many statements deeply affecting the social and political relations and conditions of Upper and Lower Canada, and recommendations of several important changes in the form and practice of the constitution. It is with much concern your Majesty’s faithful subjects find that your Majesty’s High Commissioner has strongly urged the adoption of these changes by your Majesty in the Imperial Parliament, without waiting for the opinion which may be formed of them by the people the most deeply and immediately affected by them. Under these circumstances, we have caused a report to be drawn up by a select committee of the House of Representatives, which contains matter referring to this subject, as well as to our relations with the people of the United States, which we respectfully submit for your Majesty’s consideration, and, in the fullest confidence in your Majesty and the Imperial Parliament, we commit ourselves to that superintending power to which, as loyal people, we owe implicit obedience. Now, with that opinion before us, and with that address on the part of the Assembly of Upper Canada, it appears to me that we may well proceed to adopt this principle as to the future government of the two Canadas, and consider it as settled.
I do not think, that with this address, with this prayer coming from a loyal people, coming from a people attached to the Crown of this country, and attached also to the institutions of this country, that we should be justified in proceeding to enact the details of the plan without consulting the people of Upper Canada, and without knowing their objections to the particular details of the plan. I shall, Sir, introduce a bill, if these resolutions are adopted; but, I say, with the information at present before us, and in the present state of public affairs, that 1 do not think that we should come to a satisfactory settlement of this great question, if we were to press the House to go into committee on a bill containing enactments of details, without further concert and information. I wish that the ties which unite this country with the Canadas may be drawn closer, and may not be relaxed, that nothing may be adopted to weaken the sympathies of subjects so devotedly loyal; therefore, having the same object with them, I wish to found a measure on the same principles as they have formed their proposition, and shall be content to confirm that principle now, and to subject the details to their examination
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and their consideration; and I hope that this may be done in such a manner as to conduce, in the end, to the freedom and the happiness of those colonies. I feel, Sir, that this is a question which deeply affects this country, as a question of power; but I feel that it affects still more deeply the future happiness, the future welfare, and the future freedom of two millions of the Queen’s subjects on the other side of the Atlantic. And, Sir, anything that affects Canada, though it may not directly touch Nova Scotia or New Brunswick, will necessarily have an influence on those two colonies.
But, with regard to all her Majesty’s subjects, I believe that I am proposing a course of proceeding which will tend to the happiness and the welfare of the whole. In that spirit I hope that the question will be discussed; and in that spirit I ask the House to assent to these resolutions, And, Sir, I am glad to repeat what I stated at the end of the last Session of Parliament, that in all the discussions on Canada, though there may be some difference of opinion as to some points, and though there may have been considerable deliberation upon others, yet that finally a large majority of this House agreed to one course, and that there did not appear, with reference to any point that any other than a great national object was looked to, and there was no other wish than to consult the permanent general interests of the country. And it is with the confidence I have acquired from referring to that statement that I now propose the present resolutions to the House.
They embody the opinion which her Majesty’s Government have, after much anxious deliberation, decided upon; it may occur to others to take a different course, which may be better; but I own, that, weighing all the difficulties of the case, I cannot see any course which will tend to promote the great object of securing freedom to her Majesty’s subjects in North America so well as this, and I submit these resolutions to the House, in the full confidence that they will be fairly considered and dispassionately discussed. I propose, after the question has been put, that the discussion shall be adjourned till Monday next, and, in the mean time, I will not ask for any opinion of this House.
The noble Lord concluded by moving the following resolutions:—
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- 1. That it is the opinion of this House that it is expedient to form a legislative union of the provinces of Upper and Lower Canada, on the principles of a free and representative government, in such manner as may most conduce to the prosperity and contentment of the people of the United Province.
- 2. That it is expedient to continue till 1842 the powers vested in the Governor and Special Council of Lower Canada by an Act of last Session, with such alterations of those powers as may be deemed advisable.
Mr. Hume contended, that the course proposed by the noble Lord, was one of much unfairness. If no discussion were to take place at that time, it would go forth to the public that the House of Commons assented to the opinions which the noble Lord had expressed. He could only say, that he had heard the statement of the noble Lord with deep regret. The plan which had been proposed would, if adopted, do nothing more nor less than continue the system which had been pursued for the last twenty years, and against which the Canadian people had so loudly and so justly complained. The noble Lord, as he understood him, proposed to give the British population a preponderating influence, by means of some territorial arrangement, and yet the noble Lord talked of impartiality and justice. He was very sorry the noble Lord had not profited from the lesson which the passing of the resolutions which had been agreed to in a former Session, might have taught him. He could not recollect ever having heard of the people of Lower Canada complaining of the separation of the colonies.
What they complained of was, the constitution of the Legislative Council, which was the cause of all the evils which had arisen, as, from its construction, it was impossible for that body even to act in harmony with the Legislative Assembly. And what did the noble Lord now propose with respect to that body? Why, that it should be composed entirely of placemen, and that there should be nothing like representation. The noble Lord proposed no legislative measure with a view to effect an immediate settlement of all or of any of the questions in dispute, but postponed all legislation till 1882, he meant 1842, The noble Lord also proposed to continue and to increase the powers of the Governor, who had already suspended the Habeas Corpus Act, and, in fact, established a perfect despotism. In protesting against the plan of the noble Lord, he must also tell the noble Lord, that the course which he proposed was not the way to secure
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peace, or to promote the happiness and prosperity of the colony. In order to attain those objects, they must give the Canadian people the means of self-government. They must give them a fair and impartial representation, and not render one class dependent on the other. The noble Lord had alluded to a government carried on by a minority. He would ask, whether her Majesty had not stated to a noble Duke, upon a recent occasion, that she was perfectly satisfied with her present Ministers, lout that, as they had resigned on account of not possessing the confidence of Parliament, she felt herself obliged to call for new advisers? Was then the Governor of Canada to be placed in a situation superior to the Queen? He would tell the noble Lord, that if the Legislative Council was not made elective, there was no other way in which to secure the peace and welfare of the colony. He was clearly of opinion, that some law for the settlement of the disputes was necessary, and if the passing of that law was put off much longer, the effect would be ruinous. He would, therefore, entreat the noble Lord to reconsider his determination. He had no objection to the first resolution, but he did not object to any principle of representation not founded upon the basis of population, and which was proposed with the view of giving the British population a preponderating influence. He could not but regret to see a people so amiable as the French Canadians treated with so little justice or consideration. They were the most amiable people in Europe or America. Let any man look to their condition during the last twenty years, and then say whether a continuance of the same system of government could be productive of peace. He, therefore, felt bound to protest against the plan of the noble Lord, which he considered as nothing more than a continuance of the same system.
Mr. Goulburn, in order to secure for himself and those on his side of the House an opportunity of expressing their sentiments upon the proposition of the noble Lord, both now and on the resumption of the debate, begged to move, that the further consideration of the resolutions be postponed till Monday next, which the noble Lord had omitted.
Sir Robert Peel spoke on the question of adjournment. Had he addressed the House before that question was put, he would, he conceived, have deprived himself of the power of again offering his sentiments on
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the resumption of the debate on Monday next. The hon. Member for Kilkenny had already spoken upon the resolutions which had been proposed by the noble Lord, and had thereby, according to the rules of the House, rendered himself incapable of speaking in the discussion which was to follow. Had he followed the example of the hon. Member, he should therefore have been placed in the same position; but he now spoke on the question of adjournment. In regard to what had fallen from the noble Lord, he must say, that this was the first time that he had heard that it was not the intention of her Majesty’s Government to propose any legislative measure in the present Session having reference to Canada.
Up to the present moment he had been impressed with the opinion, that they were in the present Session to proceed to actual legislation on some, at least, of the many important questions which had reference to Canada, and which called so strongly for immediate consideration. He had, till the present time, considered that they were to proceed to legislation, either on the basis of a resolution affirming the principle of a legislative union of the two provinces, or, in case that plan should have been abandoned, on some other principle—on some other basis more calculated to effect the settlement of the great and important questions which were at issue, and more likely to secure the connexion of the two countries, and the welfare and happiness of the Canadian people.
He now, however, understood from the noble Lord, and for the first time, that it was the intention of Government to abstain from legislation in the present Session, at least upon the main question, although there might be some bill brought forward, of an inferior and less important character. Now, he felt it incumbent upon him to say, that there were many important circumstances connected with this subject which were well worthy of the most mature consideration; and there might be many more circumstances of which he had no knowledge, sufficient to induce the Government to postpone legislation in detail. The noble Lord had stated, that he had that day received important information from Canada, which had confirmed him in the opinion that legislation, for the present, was impolitic. He trusted that it was the intention of the noble Lord to lay that information on the table of the House, and when they saw the resolutions, and the address to which the noble Lord had alluded, they
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would then be the better able to come to a safe and satisfactory conclusion on the course which the Government proposed to adopt. He spoke then, at present, without full information on the subject, without that information which had confirmed the opinions of the noble Lord, without that information which was necessary to remove the doubts which he entertained on this important subject.
Until, then, the whole of the information which the Government possessed was communicated to the House, and until he had fully and maturely considered the propositions which had been submitted for their consideration, he reserved to himself the right of opposing those propositions, either in whole or in part, or of supporting them if he should afterwards see fit to do so. The noble Lord had asked them to assent to the principle, that they should proceed to legislate in 1842; but, at the same time, he said, that the House of Assembly was not to meet till that period. Now, he thought it would be well for the House to consider whether it was wise or politic for the Imperial Legislature to give a pledge on any subject when they were not to proceed to actual legislation on a subject before the year 1842.
Could it be thought wise in 1839 to come to a positive resolution as to what they were to do in 1842? Could they now say that union was a wise measure abstractedly considered, without knowing how the weight of the two provinces in the representative assembly was to be adjusted and maintained? Lord Durham had in his report pressed strongly for the immediate consideration of Parliament in regard to a legislative union. He would prove from that report, that immediate legislation on the abstract principle of union was loudly called for, although that report might not be relied on in regard to the details of any such measure. But it was good for this—that it pointed out in the clearest manner the necessity for immediate legislation. Lord Durham said, that on his first arrival in Canada he was inclined to advocate the project of a federal union; and from the first, he had determined that there was nothing in the Lower Province preventing a legislative union. That did not, however, apply to Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. The noble Lord said, in his report— Moreover, the state of the two Canadas is such, that neither the feelings of the parties concerned, nor the interests of the Crown, nor the colonies themselves, will admit of a
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single session, or even a large portion of a session, of Parliament being allowed to pass without a definite decision, by the Imperial Legislature, as to the basis on which it purposes to found the future Government of those colonies. That was no recommendation of an abstract principle. No recommendation for passing a resolution, but one pressing on the Government to bring in a bill without letting a single session, or a large portion of a sessions pass away before. And, the report went on to say— In existing circumstances, the conclusion to which the foregoing considerations lead me, is, that no time should be lost in proposing to Parliament a bill for repealing, the 31st of George 3rd, restoring the union of the Canadas under one legislation, and re-constituting them as one province.
He was not prepared to say, that under the circumstances of the case, her Majesty’s Government might not have heard sufficient grounds, of which the House was not aware, to induce them to adopt the recommendation of Lord Durham. But, having abandoned the intention of immediate legislation, should they better themselves by pledging themselves to an abstract principle? He could not but say, that the whole course of his Parliamentary experience had been entirely against resolutions pledging the House to any particular course. When he considered the vicissitudes of the colonies, when he looked at their present state, and when he remembered what had occurred in the colonies, could he say, could he so depend upon the future, that he should give a positive pledge that in 1842 the steps proposed by the noble Lord should be taken?
Lord John Russell—We may legislate without the Act coming into operation.
Sir Robert Peel —Well, if it were not the fact that they were not to legislate until 1842, at least he understood the noble Lord distinctly to propose that the fruit of legislation should not be reaped until 1842. Therefore, if that whole interval were to elapse before any act which might be passed could come into operation, and if that act were to apply to the future, for so he understood the proposition of the noble Lord, it was a matter for grave consideration whether or no he was advancing the legitimate end which was the ultimate union of the provinces, by coming to his proposed resolution. The noble Lord had said, that he would give a guarantee that a constitutional government should be ultimately
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established, but that they were to continue the power now existing in Canada for some time; that while it was proposed to give the present Government and Council an absolute power in Lower Canada, yet it might be desirable that they should give the public an assurance that they would ultimately establish a constitutional government.
That was the sole advantage to be derived from laying down this principle. His answer to that was, that they had given that solemn guarantee before; that they had justified the suspension of the constitution in Lower Canada, solely on the ground that they would give the Canadas a constitutional government, and when the act for suspending the constitution was made by the Imperial Parliament, it was distinctly stated, that the measure was only resorted to from the dire necessity of the case, a necessity created by circumstances which they could not overrule. In the preamble of that act it was distinctly declared:— It is expedient to make temporary provisions for the government of Lower Canada, in order that Parliament may be enabled, after mature deliberation, to make permanent arrangements for the constitution and government of the said province, upon such a basis as may best secure the rights and liberties, and promote the interests, of all classes of her Majesty’s subjects in the said province. Therefore, it was distinctly understood, that arbitrary government in Lower Canada was not to endure for ever, but that it was the duty of Parliament to consider the mode by which a constitutional government was to be established.
Now, the noble Lord said, he was not prepared with any measures of immediate legislation. But he said at once, that it was his intention, that the inhabitants of Lower Canada should not be enabled to dictate to the inhabitants of Upper Canada, whatever their prejudices or feelings might prompt; and that it was his intention to declare, that an union of the provinces should ultimately take place. That might be perfectly just. He did not mean to say, that if they were to retain those colonies, it was or was not quite right to do so. But such a course as this would not relieve them from their present responsibility in the slightest degree. On the contrary, by laying down an abstract principle like this, they were only tending to increase the difficulties which might otherwise be reduced. He deeply regretted, that the advice which he
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offered last Session had not been adopted; that they did not at once apply themselves to the examination of the whole case at the Bar of that House, and that they did not send over to the provinces of Upper and Lower Canada, and say to them—”We have hut one object in view, we wish that the union of the two Governments should be maintained, but we do not wish to retain the Government of the colonies for any paltry or pecuniary advantages. We are determined, that you shall remain a British colony, but we will take care of this, that we shall not make ourselves responsible for defending you from foreign enemies, and at the same time, be constantly opposed and thwarted by your resistance of our authority.” It was necessary, that we should say this, as well for the welfare of the colony, as for the mother country. But what bad been done? They had not made the slightest advance. Notwithstanding all the commissioners that had been sent out, they had not advanced one step beyond the principle laid down by his right hon. Friend, Sir Wilmot Horton, in 1823, who declared himself in favour of an union of the colonies.
What proposition were they considering that very night? The proposal was nothing more than this—let us decide in favour of an union of the colonies. But there was an admission on the part of the noble Lord that they had not the means of proceeding further. Beyond the principle of 1823 they had not advanced one single step, and now they were to send out commissioners to the colonies for the purposes of inquiry. The noble Lord said, that the details of the measure would depend on local inquiry. But pending this inquiry, the noble Lord would allow no explanation to be given of the character and form of Government hereafter to be established; he would not explain how far, or in what manner, the elective power of the people was to be extended, and in what manner property should have influence in the Legislature.
If the noble Lord had not the means of judging what course of legislation should be at once adopted, the first point was to get the information; but if they were in possession of the necessary information, why not proceed to legislate now? If local inquiry was necessary, means must be taken to carry it out, and some persons must be appointed, whether they were called commissioners or not, for that purpose. That being the case, and being quite unprepared to throw out a word against the principle, and
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being also perfectly prepared to give to her Majesty’s Government any powers necessary for the purpose of maintaining the just authority of the Crown in those colonies, yet he would reserve to himself the perfect right to inquire and decide whether he ought to he called on to say, that it was right to violate the constitution by a law which they could not practically repeal until the year 1842, and whether they should endeavour to soothe the prejudices of the Canadians by pledging the House to a resolution for establishing a future constitution.
He now gave the noble Lord due notice, that he would act on the same principle which guided him last Session. He would never see a colony in rebellion, and condescend to make the settlement of that rebellion a party question. But at the same time, if he had a strong opinion differing from that of her Majesty’s Government, he would not try to gain credit by professing an abstinence of party feeling, and by restraining his expression of that opinion. He would neither make this a party question, nor compromise his principles by refraining from giving expression to his opinions.
Mr. C. Buller was glad to hear that the noble Lord was favourable to the plan of the union of the two provinces, and he was only sorry that he’ had not adopted a still more valuable suggestion contained in the report of the Earl of Durham, for the union of all the five provinces, in his opinion by far the most valuable part of the Report. He had been deeply grieved at it, because he believed that without it the Executive Government would be imperfect; and if the Government were not prepared to adopt that principle, he believed that it would have been far more honest, and more prudent, and more really liberal, to do away with the farce of a responsible Government. He should not now enter into the consideration of the argument of the noble Lord. He was happy that there were at that moment strangers in the House,—he meant rather to say that be was happy that the debate in which they were then engaged would be conveyed to the notice and attention of the delegates to this House of the representatives of some of the most loyal of our North American colonies. They had come with the instructions of their countrymen, commissioned to represent their case to the Government and to demand redress. In the House of Assembly, three executive
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councillors represented the executive Government. The question arose as to the appointment of the delegates to England, and there was a division as to each of the two delegates, and the majority against the first was 37 to 7; while in the second case, the numbers were 35 to 9. They would be called very large proportional majorities, and in the minorities on each occasion were the whole of the executive councillors. He asked, then, how was the Executive Government to go on in this way? There was a regular ministerial minority in the House of Assembly, and he begged to ask the noble Lord in what country of the earth, whether a colony or a mother country, dependent or independent,—and let him draw on the troubled times of our own colonies,—a legislature had ever been carried on to the advantage of the community when the Executive was constantly opposed to the will of the people?
He begged to ask how long it was thought that the people of Canada would submit to this system being carried on? How the noble Lord could expect that the House of Assembly would hear to see every office of the Government given to the most determined enemies of the people? Did he think that such a system could last a single Session, without the supplies being refused; and if they were refused, what force could compel the Assembly to grant them? What the Earl of Durham proposed was a representative Legislature, with a responsible Executive; and, until enlightened by the superior intelligence on constitutional history of those who dissented from him, he should continue in the belief that this at least was new, If the Legislature had no voice in the composition of the Executive, then they ought no longer to carry on the Government after they had lost the confidence of the representative body. But this was a matter on which he did not oppose the plan of the noble Lord. Any bill which the noble Lord might introduce for the union of the two Canadas he would support, without any reference to the principle of a representative Government, because he thought that the union would in itself carry out that principle; but he could not help remarking upon the entire omission to legislate at all on this subject. Under any circumstances, he was surprised at the proposition of the noble Lord to delay legislating for so imperative an evil. He would not go over the arguments
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of the right hon. Baronet, who had so ably and eloquently urged on this point, but would allude to those things which had struck him in the noble Lord’s statement in reference to this subject. He had seen the country during the summer of doubt, and the winter of alarm. During the summer every man was arming himself against his neighbour, and he was not exaggerating when he said, that while he was in Canada there was hardly a day passed without some accounts being brought of actual incursions made by refugees who had procured small bands of armed men to join them, for the purposes of pillage and bloodshed. There were no vagabonds on the frontier who did not think it safe and prudent to beard the British Government, and their attempts at plunder generally succeeded but too well for the interests of the settlers.
What security was there, then, against such a winter as the last? Was it supposed that the refugees who were on the frontiers were less determined to enter into the country again? In the almost impenetrable fortress of Quebec they were anticipating danger, and even in that place, which above all might be considered the safest spot in the colony, they had constant details of bloodshed, and the fears which were not unreasonably enter tamed by civilians, were not unfelt by Persons of no small military experience. Was it thought that the cruel punishments which had been inflicted on that unhappy country were at all calculated to soothe the evils? The House was not at all aware of the horrors occasioned by putting down the insurrection. In the course of the winter the cold was so excessive, that no man could stir out without putting on almost all the clothes which he could obtain. It was in that season that the volunteers came out, awl laid waste Beauharnois, and the adjoining districts, and they left no house of the French Canadians standing. They turned the people into the forest, where they were left to lie down and seek the only refuge which was left for them, death. He would instance one village, which had taken no part in the insurrection, from which no armed band had issued. He saw it after a regiment of the line had passed through it, and every house was sacked. The people were entirely free from any suspicion of interference, and were perfectly innocent, their only fault being that they might
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have fostered the insurrection. He did not blame the soldiers for it, but he said that this House must shrink from the repetition of such horrors. He would advert now to the present state of the frontier of Lower Canada. The population of the frontier consisted entirely of Englishmen, of American citizens, who from the cheapness of land in Canada had crossed over from Vermont and the surrounding counties and in some instances the English had passed over to the State, preferring the protection of the laws of that country to the state of anarchy in which they were obliged to live in the colony which they left.
A Canadian refugee would get a few men together, and would cross the frontier—it was not confined to the Canadians, for those on the American side were as bad—and would go to the farm of the man whom he conceived to have injured him, by denouncing him to Government, which immediately became a scene of rapine and bloodshed. He asked, how long such outrages could be permitted to go on without their producing warfare between the two nations? He need only refer to the recent transaction with regard to the disputed boundary of Maine, in proof of the probability of such an event occurring. He did not suppose that the disturbances and differences could be soothed by magic, but he said that they had no right to leave these people whom they were to govern in uncertainty. Let them see that the English Government had some plan to govern them—let the plan be declared at once, and he believed that those even who might disapprove of it would prefer it to remaining in their present position.
They required nothing so much as a strong effective government, and he believed that the only mode in which the disturbances and disorders which arose there could be put down, was by means of the strong arm of the British Government. In speaking thus, he did not mean to allude to any permanent measure which might tend to elevate the British possessions in North America to be equal in strength with the adjoining Union, but he spoke of the present state of the calamitous disorders which could not last without causing the entire depopulation or destruction of the provinces in a short time. The increase of emigration from Canada had already been referred to, and Lord Durham in his report had said, but not with half the strength with which he might have said it,
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that he had heard from very good authority that in two towns emigration had been going on to the extent of fifty or sixty persons a-day, which would tend greatly to depopulate the greater part of Upper Canada. In thinking of the subject, it must not be forgotten that the land was the least valuable part of the stock of the farmer, and the facility with which he might drive off his flocks and carry away his furniture to the neighbouring country, where he knew there would be protection against any future aggressions, must be remembered. He believed, that this House would sacrifice every party feeling to put an end to such horrors as he had referred to, and be thought that all classes and all parties in that House would at once unite to establish on a firm and permanent basis a free and constitutional Government for these colonies.
Mr. O’Connell said, that it appeared to him that the noble Lord, in describing the miseries which existed in Canada, had fallen very far short of the truth. If he understood the noble Lord, he supposed that the whole of the existing grievances would cease the moment the measure was passed which was proposed. He could not conceive why. He could think that it would do so if it were carried out liberally, and with the consent of the people of both provinces; but to jump hand over head to it, before consulting the people, would be most improper. The effect would be annihilate the French Canadians as a party.
He believed they were the worst treated, or nearly so, since their conquest, of any of the races, and if a measure were passed to unite both provinces and by that means sacrifice the French Canadians, they would by that means destroy a most amiable and excellent people. They proposed, then, that they should be sacrificed to what was called the British party, but that would only be an additional outrage upon Canada. With regard to the course now suggested by the Government, if they had proposed to go on flippantly with this legislative union, there would have been grave complaints of their proceeding in so solemn a matter without learning what it was that the people wanted. Now, however, when they talked of pausing before they acted effectively, they were taunted with acting with uncertainty. Was it not better, however, to be cautious, and to ascertain how far the measure would be acceptable to those parties who were most interested than to proceed hastily to determine upon
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the ultimate plan, by which the discontent of the people might be caused. He only wished to protest against carrying this union into execution at the expense of the French Canadians; and it ought to be permitted that if the union were made, it should not give the superiority to either colony, but that the French Canadians should be placed in a situation of perfect equality with the other inhabitants, and should enjoy every advantage conferred on them. If this were not the principle on which any union between the colonies was based, such an union would be of no use. There was example enough of the effect of such an unequal union in the case of Ireland. The rebellion in that country was not put down by the legislative union with England being effected. Yet precisely the same arguments were used prior to the adoption of that measure that were now used by the hon. Member for Liskeard. The rebellion, however, continued long after—a sufficient evidence that the name of an union alone was useless, unless the union itself were based on the terms of perfect equality.
Lord J. Russell thought it necessary to say a few words, as well on what had fallen from the hon. Member for Liskeard, as on what had been observed by the right hon. Member for Tamworth. With regard to the hon. Member for Liskeard, he (Lord J. Russell) certainly could not have expected, that he would have taken what he said in a sense, so directly opposite to that which he intended. The hon. Gentleman asked him (Lord J. Russell) whether he approved of the principle that the executive Government of a colony should be carried on with a minority in the House of Assembly. What he really said was, that the executive should be carried on in such a way, as that their measures should be acceptable and agreeable to the representatives of the people, and that he saw no reason why the Government should not agree to adopt the measures approved of by a majority of the colonists. He certainly did say, as he still thought, that it was not wise to day down as a principle that the Canadian constitution, or any colonial constitution, should be an exact copy of the British constitution, unless the analogy could be completely carried into effect. And he thought the right hon. Baronet himself would say, that we could not have a Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs at New Brunswick who
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would negotiate with Maine on principles different from those held by the Government at home. He certainly did think it unwise to lay down a principle which, although it went through the entire executive here, could not be applied to the entire executive of the colonies. With regard to the hon. Member for Liskeard’s statement of the miseries now endured by the Canadians, he could assure the hon. Member that the Government felt on that subject as deeply as he could; and if the Government thought there was any measure likely to be immediately passed which would put an end to these miseries, he would not lose an hour in asking the immediate attention of Parliament to it. But it was not his opinion that, with the events of the last two or three years, it was likely that the dreadful warfare which had been so lately raging in Canada would immediately cease.
He really thought, too, considering the excitement that immediately preceded the insurrection in Lower Canada, that calling together the representatives of that colony, even in conjunction with those of the Upper Province, would be more likely to increase the danger and produce fresh commotion, than if time were allowed for the excited feelings to subside before a popular government was established. The right hon. Baronet had also raised an objection on the score that the resolution was not to be immediately followed by a bill. The right hon. Baronet, in the former part of his speech, had observed, that the Government had gone on making inquiries and receiving reports, but that no step had been taken or was about to be taken. Now, he was, on the contrary, of opinion that if that House came to a resolution in favour of the principle of an union, a very important step would have been taken. Such a declaration of the sense of the House of Commons would have very great weight and authority in Canada, and the Canadians would be more disposed to say, “As the principle is agreed on, let us now make such arrangements as will be most likely to be advantageous.” It was more likely they would do this if the resolution was adopted than if terms were merely proposed on behalf of the Ministers of the Crown. There was another course, one which he had originally intended to adopt—that of introducing a bill, and proceeding, if possible, to enact all its details. But he really did think if he had
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taken that course, the effect of which the right hon. Baronet might not have fully considered—if he had brought in a bill (as he might do after this resolution was agreed to), and had asked the House to pledge themselves to all the details, the right hon. Gentleman would have been very likely to say—and with much greater effect than attached to his argument on the present occasion—”It is all very well to adopt the principles of an union, but when you ask me to adopt all these details, and finally to ratify them, I must hear in mind that the Legislative Council in Upper Canada have protested against such a course without their having the opportunity to consider them; and I therefore think that you ought to stop till another year to hear their opinions.”
He (Lord John Russell) thought it would not have been possible for the House to concur in such a bill if that objection had been made. When he proposed first to introduce the bill, he thought they understood what were the sentiments of the Upper Canadians, and that they would appoint delegates to give their assent to the measure; but since then they had declined to act on that resolve, and wished the House to stop until their opinions could be known. He had great respect for both these parties in Upper Canada, thinking, as he did, that they had shown great spirit, zeal, and loyalty. He was not, therefore, ready to say that he would do what would be repugnant to their declared sentiments. With these feelings it was, that he approved of the course now taken—a course which answered the object of taking a great and important step towards settling the affairs of Canada, and, at the same time, avoiding to do what would be repugnant to the feelings of the representatives of Upper Canada. The right hon. Baronet also had said the Government were now coming down with a resolution on which they did not propose to act till 1842. That was not his (Lord John Russell’s) statement. He was of opinion that the Assembly ought not to meet till 1842, but that the union might be effected much earlier. At the same time he was by no means sure that much time might not be required for the adjustment of so important a question. In a similar case—that of the union with Scotland—a considerable time elapsed, and a great deal of discussion arose, before the measure could be finally enacted. Persons were appointed by the Crown to
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look severally to the interests of the English and Scottish Parliaments, who had long discussions and debates before they finally adopted the measure. This precedent afforded another reason for not now enacting an union to take place from the end of the present year. He thought it unadvisable to say, by a peremptory legislation, that the union should at once operate, and that in 1842 the Legislature should meet. He thought by the course they now proposed, to take, they would put an end to existing strife, and, by the intervention of this country, reconcile the various parties.
Sir Robert Peel had been misunderstood by the noble Lord if he supposed that he meant to press for peremptory legislation this Session. When the noble Lord announced his abandonment of the former measures, he did not press for peremptory legislation. All he asked was, that if they were not prepared to legislate now, they would not call on him to affirm the abstract principle of union, without telling I him what were to be the details of the; plan on which it was to be effected.
Debate adjourned to Monday.