UK, House of Commons, “Canada”, vol 45, cols 1312-1318 (5 March 1839)

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Date: 1839-03-05
By: UK (House of Commons)
Citation: UK, HC, “Canada“, vol 45 (1839), cols 1312-1318.
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Mr. Hume then rose to move for “copies of all despatches and correspondence which passed between Sir Francis Head, as Lieutenant-governor of Upper Canada, and the Colonial-office, and her Majesty’s Ministers, during the time he held that office.” He was induced to move for these papers in consequence of some accusations which had been brought against him, and because he was anxious to have the whole facts of the case put into the possession of the House, in order to show the situation in which this country had been placed by the conduct of that Governor. Since he had sat in Parliament no public officer had conducted himself in a manner similar to that individual had done.

It was true that according to certain papers which had been laid on the Table of the House, and by garbled statements which had been published, that public officer had made out a very good case on his own account; and he had chosen at the same time to make attacks upon him (Mr. Hume). As soon as he could get the papers. he intended to bring the conduct of that officer before the House, and to show wherein he had departed from his duty. But that he could not do until he got the documents. He could not see why those documents should be kept back. A report from a committee of that officer’s packed friends had been laid on the Table of the House, and his character had been implicated, and the public mind misled by it. He would undertake to prove that, if the Government would let him have all the papers he wanted. One of his letters had been

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published. Why did they not bring out all his letters? He defied them to bring forward a single letter written by him which he was not prepared to vindicate. He was glad to find on a re-perusal of the letter which had been published by Sir F. Head, that it was a most satisfactory one. He had been charged with being an instigator to violence and rebellion, because he had asked for a bit-by-bit reform. Why, he had advised Mr. M’Kenzie to abstain from all violence, to wait patiently, and to proceed properly, but firmly; and he had been found fault with for not being importunate enough. A letter found in M. Papineau’s baggage had been published by Sir F. Head; but why did he not publish the other letter-for there was another letter written by him, a letter of introduction to Mr. M’Kenzie, which Sir F. Head took out with him? Why did not the Government give up all the letters and papers at once? A paragraph from one of the letters of Sir F. Head had been promised, in which he (Mr. Hume) was mentioned. He had no doubt that he was not very agreeably noticed. But Sir F. Head had actually left that letter out of his book. So that he was placed entirely at the mercy of the papers on the Table of the House, and the garbled statement put forth by Sir F. Head, and he could not get at the truth. Lord Glenelg had said in the other House that he was anxious that every paper should be produced, and that he was not aware that any one was withheld.

Why, then, should they be withheld? He had no doubt that some very curious facts would come to light if all the papers were produced, particularly if the answers to the despatches were printed; and he contended that the House had a right to demand them all. They had a right to know what had been done at Toronto. Was it true, or was it not, that this gallant hero had offered to capitulate at Toronto? He was anxious that the whole truth should come out. For his own part he was not afraid of the truth, but it seemed that others persons were so. The country ought to be made acquainted with the causes that had led to such lamentable doings in Canada. The hon. Under Secretary for the colonies, the other night, appeared to think that sufficient blood had not been shed in Canada. That was what the hon. and learned Member for Dublin complained of, and the answer made by the hon. Secretary seemed to convey that

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impression. When the resolutions relating to Canada were under discussion in that House, he forewarned them that all the bloodshed that might follow would be on the heads of those who passed those resolutions. Why, then, was he to be stigmatized as the author of evils, when he could point out the very individuals who were the real authors of them? The House was not aware that his accusation was that during the elections, Sir F. Head had signed papers to create votes at the very moment, and by those means had carried the elections, and that accusation was confirmed by Lord Durham in his report.

 Mr. C. Buller—No, no.

Mr. Hume—The hon. and learned ‘Gentleman who expressed dissent might not perhaps remember what had been written in that report, and he ought to let others judge from the acts which Sir F. Head did in violation of the rights and privileges of the Canadians. Therefore it was, that he desired the production of all the documents in order that the public might be enabled, as well as himself, to judge of the matter. At present he was unable to bring forward any statement, because he had not all the facts, as if he did so, he might be turned, as he had been on many occasions round upon, by an official man saying he was possessed of this or that information.

As the discussion on the whole question of Canada and Sir F. Head’s conduct must take place, would it not be better, when that gentleman had defied the Government, had published garbled statements, as indeed had the Government also, to have the whole information complete, and fill up the chinks with his whole story? He put it to the Government whether it was fair to him, who had been so frequently challenged on the subject, to prevent him from giving up the agents and actors in all the mischiefs. It was not treating either the House or information country fairly not to produce all the; it was important that those who had produced the evils in Canada should be brought forward in their proper colours, and if the documents were refused, it must be, concluded they contained facts which the Government were afraid to make known. Sir F. Head had challenged the Government, and it was fitting the Government should meet that challenge. On all these grounds he should press his motion.

Mr. Labouchere said, he should not allow himself by any observations which

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had fallen from the hon. Member for Kilkenny, to be provoked to enter at that late hour, and in the present state of the House, into any discussion of the very great and important subjects to which the hon. Member had alluded. The hon. Gentleman had justly said, that no long period could elapse before the attention of the House must be seriously called to the state of the Canadas, to the administration of Sir F. Head when he governed the upper province during a very important period of events which had lately taken place, and to all other subjects which related to the peace of those countries. That was a sufficient reason why he should not attempt at this time to enter upon a subject to which, consistently with the time of the House, he could not do anything like justice.

He should therefore confine his observations to the point of the motion-namely, whether the House should take the very unusual step of requiring from the Government to lay all despatches and communications, without exception, which had passed during a period of unexampled difficulty between the governor of an exposed colony and the Government at home upon the Table of the House, or whether that discretion which never was refused to any responsible Minister of the Crown, whom the House thought worthy of its confidence should in this instance be allowed to the Colonial Secretary—in other words, whether he should be allowed the province of judging what parts of those despatches and communications could with safety to the public be laid on the Table, and what parts it would be his duty to withhold. If the House had not confidence in the noble Lord now at the head of the Colonial Department, it was its duty to express that want of confidence, and to insist on his removal? If they did, the House ought not to embarrass the Government by insisting on the production of documents which the Government felt it to be its duty to resist. This was a most important general principle, from which he did not think anything at this time had occurred, which ought to induce the House to depart. At the same time he assured the hon. Gentleman, that it was the full intention of the Government, as indeed had been before stated by the noble Lord at the head of the department, to day on the Table every thing that was material for the perfect and complete understanding of the subject of the administration of Sir F. Head without the slightest reserve.

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The House would therefore perhaps allow him to move as an amendment to the motion of the hon. Member, that copies of extracts from despatches, and extracts from answers to despatches, containing all the information essential to a right understanding of the subject, be laid before the House. He was bound to say there were parts of the despatches which would not be produced; there were some things in them which Sir F. Head, without communication with the Government, had thought proper to publish, but which he knew his noble Friend, the Secretary for the Colonies, would not feel it to be consistent with his duty to lay before the House. There were, for instance, personal reflections upon individuals wholly irrelevant to the subject on which Sir F. Head had to treat, and which were improper to be addressed by a governor of a colony to a Minister of the Crown, which would not be laid upon the Table.

Again, there were reflections in the despatches of Sir F. Head, and published by him, not upon the conduct, but upon the institutions of the United States of America, which it would not be decent or proper for the Colonial Secretary to recommend her Majesty to communicate to Parliament. He claimed on behalf of his noble Friend, the Colonial Secretary, the right to judge what was, and what was not, fit and proper to lay before the House. An examination would be made in the office with a desire not to keep back anything which could afford the amplest information upon the conduct of the Government, the conduct of Sir F. Head, and, indeed, upon the whole transactions which had taken place in Upper Canada.

The hon. Member for Kilkenny had complained very much of the omission from Sir F. Head’s book of the sentence in the despatch which was personal to himself. It would seem, however, that the book had been got up in a hasty manner, for the matter was stated in the table of contents, but on turning to the chapter referred to, it would be found to contain no such passage, nor anything like it. He however, would own that there was a sentence relating to the hon. Member in the despatch of Sir F. Head, which had been laid on the Table, omitting that sentence, because it was wholly irrelevant to the subject of the despatch. That sentence did not apply to any act of the hon. Member’s, but was a general expression of the opinion entertained by Sir F. Head of the hon. Member, and whether, if placed on the Table, that opinion would show the modesty of the hon.

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Member, or whether it was of an opposite character, he (Mr. Labouchere) would keep a profound secret. His hon. Friend had also alluded to a letter which he wrote to Mr. M’Kenzie, and which had been found among the papers of M. Papineau. But even if the present motion were granted, the hon. Member would not obtain his object with regard to that letter, for it had been transmitted by Sir John Colborne, and not by Sir F. Head. He was unwilling to enter further into these particulars. He felt the serious difficulties and obstacles which surrounded the great question of Canada too deeply to wish to mix up with it matter of personal character, and he hoped the House would approach that question in a very different spirit. On public grounds, together with a feeling of his duty to the Crown, it was, that he should resist the present motion, and should ask the House not to depart from the usual practice, but leave it to the responsible Minister to judge what ought and what ought not to be produced. He should therefore move, as an amendment, “that copies or extracts from despatches, and extracts from answers to despatches, which passed between Sir F. Head and the Colonial-office and her Majesty’s Ministers during the time he held the office of Lieutenant-Governor of Upper Canada, be laid before the House.”

Mr. Hume said, the right hon. Gentleman seemed to think, that the motion, if carried, would cast a reflection on the noble Lord, now, the Secretary of State for the Colonies. If he thought there was any reason to draw that conclusion, he (Mr. Hume) would not persist, for he regarded with great satisfaction, that noble Lord’s conduct towards Ireland, that he should not be the person to begin throwing reflections upon that noble Lord. On that ground, and trusting to the declarations of the right hon. Gentleman, he should consent to the amendment. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman would give him privately the date of the despatch in which he was alluded to, as he had some letters of Sir F. Head’s which might assist him.

Sir G. Grey observed, that the hon. Member for Kilkenny had spoken of garbled statements laid on the Table by the Government. The despatch which had contained the allusion was produced last Session, and he felt it due to Lord Glenelg to state, that, on laying that paper before Parliament, he had communicated to Sir F. Head, that he had omitted that paragraph,

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and had stated to him his reasons for doing so, and that the noble Lord had subsequently received a despatch from Sir F. Head, acquiescing in those reasons, and in that omission.

Mr. C. Buller was tempted to say a few words in consequence of his having said “No” to the statement of his hon. Friend, the Member for Kilkenny, that Lord Durham’s report corroborated the charge made against Sir F. Head of issuing patents for land to turn the election. He did not speak to the words of the report (which he had not read so recently, perhaps, as the hon. Member), nor as to how far those words bore out the impression which he knew to have been made and impressed on Lord Durham’s mind by the evidence taken with great pains on the spot. He was sure, however, that the object of the report was to free Sir F. Head from the charge of creating fictitious votes, and that conclusion was induced in Lord Durham’s mind by the Commissioners of Crown lands, who had fully investigated the subject at Toronto. He could not be supposed to have any great temptation to defend Sir F. Head, but he had felt bound to set his hon. Friend right, and to assure him that, from the best information that could be collected, there was no ground for that imputation on Sir F. Head.

Amendment agreed to.

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