UK, House of Commons, “Canada—Executions”, vol 46, cols 627-628 (14 March 1839)
By: UK (House of Commons)
Citation: UK, HC, “Canada—Executions“, vol 45 (1839), cols 627-628.
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Mr. O’Connell would ask a question of great importance of the hon. Gentleman, the Under Secretary of State for the Colonies. According to the accounts which had been received in this country there had been thirty-four persons hanged in Upper and Lower Canada, and he wished to know whether the Government had received any information upon this point, and next, whether it was their intention to take any steps to put a stop to these executions?
Mr. Labouchere regretted, that they had received no information at the Colonial-office with regard to the accounts which had appeared in the newspapers of several persons having been executed in Upper and Lower Canada, in addition to the communications which had already been stated to the House. By some circumstances, for which he could not account; the Great Western had not brought any dispatches from the Governor of Upper or Lower Canada. The Government, therefore,
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had no information, except such as was derived from the newspapers. As to the hon. and learned Gentleman’s second question, “whether it was the intention of the Government to take any steps to put a stop to the executions in Canada?” he begged to say, that upon every occasion on which either Lord Glenelg, or the Marquess of Normanby, had adverted to this painful subject in the dispatches to either governor, no opportunity had been lost of expressing the strong feelings of the Government on the advisability of confining to the smallest number possible, consistently with the due protection of the lives and property of her Majesty’s loyal subjects, the use of capital punishments in those colonies. When he said this, however, he must, in justice to the gallant officers who were the governors of those colonies under circumstances of no ordinary difficulty, say, that he trusted the House would not imply that there was any doubt on the minds of her Majesty’s Ministers, or that any communications had passed from which it could be inferred, that those gallant officers did not feel precisely as the Queen’s Government felt upon this subject; and he was bound to say, also, that in every communication from Sir John Colborne and Sir George Arthur, it appeared, that they were carrying out their duty with feelings worthy of their high personal and professional character; that it was to them a reluctant and a painful duty; and that, in the exercise of their powers, they entertained a just and conscientious conviction of the sad and severe necessity imposed upon them to act as they had for the sake of the protection of the colonies committed to their charge.
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