UK, House of Commons, “Government of Lower Canada”, vol 49, cols 839-885 (26 July 1839)
By: UK (House of Commons)
Citation: UK, HC, “Government of Lower Canada“, vol 49 (1839), cols 839-885.
Other formats: Click here to view the original document (Hansard UK — External Site).
GOVERNMENT OF LOWER CANADA
The Marquess of Normanby said, that in rising to ask their Lordships to sanction the bill, for the government of Lower Canada, it was his intention in what he was about to address to them to confine himself as much as possible to the immediate objects of the bill, and to an explanation of the intentions of the framers of it. He was anxious to abstain from anything likely to excite discussion, as well for the exigency of the present moment as for the security of the future government of Canada. He should neglect his duty if he did not proceed in such a manner as was calculated to promote the general concurrence of their Lordships. He should therefore, avoid allusion to any by-gone differences: but should endeavour to do all in his power to promote a calm consideration of the subject. He was anxious to urge this measure on their Lordships’ attention, because he believed that it was a measure of vital importance for the Government of Canada. The evils that were felt from the cession of the regular constitutional government in that colony had chiefly arisen from the inefficiency of the present government for those objects which naturally grew out of its form, and also from its want of power. He was sure that the advantages of a constitutional form of government would be felt by other noble Lords as strongly as himself, and they
would feel that a departure from it could only be justified by extraordinary circumstances, and when the safety of the State absolutely demanded it. When such a state of things arose it was no doubt productive of great evils. Sometimes it arose from causes which might pass away, or from others which were almost inherent to the constitution of society, and he felt that a very great proportion of the evils of Canada had arisen from this latter cause. If, therefore, under the circumstances of the case it was found necessary to continue the present act for the suspension of the constitution, or rather for the present unconstitutional government for a time, he thought that their Lordships would agree with hint that they should not cripple the government, so that it could not be productive of good to the people. The present Act for the temporary government of Canada was brought in under peculiar circumstances; just after the suppression of one insurrection and immediately on the breaking out of another; it was thought necessary that the forms of the Legislature should be dispensed with, and that the Governor in Council should be enabled to make laws. It was thought desirable that the powers to be given to him, should be wielded promptly and decisively, but that the duration and extent of its operation should be as much limited as possible.
The present bill was introduced with a view of making some alterations in the late Act. The first provision in the former Act confined the number of the special council to five. The second provision in the Act was intended to limit its duration to 1842. The next clause referred to the power of levying taxes or local rates; and the last declared that no act of the Governor and special council should be legal which was contrary to any act of the Imperial Legislature. These were the provisions; and in consequence of these limitations, they had led to very great practical inconvenience. If their Lordships looked to the state of Canada, it would appear that the present Legislature, from want of power, was often prevented from promoting matters of every-day interest in that country; and this operated in a way to check industry, and to prevent the introduction of capital into the colony, and in many other ways which must at once be obvious. This Act he must remind their Lordships was only of a temporary nature. For the purposes of legislation, it was found that the number of members of the special council had been too
small, it was therefore, thought desirable, and in some respects necessary, that the special council should be extended so that it might inspire more general confidence in the colony. The consequence of the present small number was a want of free discussion, which led to a want of confidence. The first alteration that was made by the present bill was to declare that the number of the special council should not be less than twenty, and that not less than eleven should be a quorum. The next alteration was in proposing to give a more permanent character to the acts passed by the Special Council. On this subject he would quote the opinion of Sir John Colborne, which was entitled to much weight, because that gallant officer did not often indulge in mere speculative views as to the future government in Canada; therefore, where he wrote so strongly as he did on this point, his opinion must produce a strong impression.
Sir John Colborne in a despatch to Lord Glenelg, dated January 31, 1839, says— I beg leave to state to your Lordship that I am persuaded that the most important remedial measures required in the present state of the country are those which would tend to the reconstruction and enlargement of the judicature, to the establishment of registry-offices, to the commutation or abolition of the lods-et-ventes, particularly in towns, and the other oppressive incidents of the feudal tenure, to the continuation and completion of local improvements, and to the introduction of a well-regulated system of district police. With returning tranquillity, it is justly expected that the measures to which I advert will be speedily carried into effect, preparatory to the changes of a more difficult nature, which may be proposed for the permanent government of this province.
This referred to the necessity of giving a degree of permanence to the enactments passed previous to the re-establishment of a fixed government there. In a subsequent despatch dated March 15, Sir J. Colborne said:— I have adverted, in my despatch of the 31st. January, No. 24, to the benefits of extending the system of police, which has been introduced into the cities of Quebec and Montreal, to the rural districts. The continuance, however, of the police already established must depend on the enlargement of the powers of the special council, which can alone adequately provide for its support. Among other measures connected with local improvements, which in the present situation of the country, are highly desirable, and which must be deferred till the special council is invested with the authority to raise loans applied for
by Lord Durham, are the establishment of inferior tribunals in every district, for the summary trial of petty offences, which may obviate the evil and inconvenience of bringing complainants and witnesses from remote distances; and the erection of court-houses and gaols. Whatever may be the restrictions which it might be deemed expedient to impose upon the exercise of the required important power by the special council, I cannot but express my opinion, that to promote the future tranquillity of the province, and to de prive the influential factious individuals who have long exercised a dangerous control in several sections of this province, the speedy concession of this additional power is indispensible.
The despatch of the Earl of Durham, dated the 18th June, 1838, adverted to the deficiencies in the legislative power of the special council, and recommended an extension of its powers, as regarded many necessary subjects of legislation, to which it was not necessary for him to allude in detail. Two subjects there were, as to which the want of some power of permanent legislation was most especially felt. The first of these was the abolition of the feudal tenure in Montreal, a measure most desirable, and one in which the ecclesiastics were very ready to acquiesce. A temporary ordinance for the abolition of this tenure had been passed already, but this only the more showed the difficulty created by the present arrangement, which confined the duration of the legislative powers of the special council to three years. The other subject was that of a general registration, one which had also engaged the attention of the Canadian Legislature during many years. As to the advantage which must accrue from the adoption of such a measure, there was no difference of opinion. On the contrary, it was much desired in a country where the transfers of land were so frequent, in comparison with what they were in this country, and where, therefore, it was obvious that the investments of capital in land would be impeded, and the profits derived from that mode of investment endangered or deteriorated, by the impossibility of establishing any title by registration, that was not liable to be set aside at the expiration of three years. To remedy these evils, arising out of the want of a power of permanent legislation in the special council, a provision had been made in this bill giving the special council a power of permanent legislation, subject to the approval of her Majesty, after having been laid before the Imperial Parliament. The next provision of the bill had reference to
taxation. This was a subject which he approached with as much fear as any man; but at the same time he would not lose sight of the evil attending any attempt to bestow any power of general taxation:—with the restrictions now imposed upon the functions of the special council—restrictions which he conceived ought to be removed to the extent of allowing the special council to levy tolls and taxes for certain local purposes which were now totally neglected in consequence of the want of any permanent regulation. One object of the present bill was, to confer these powers on the special council with regard to local taxation, and he thought those powers might be very fairly extended to the establishment of schools.
It had, however, been argued that these objects might be provided for out of the general revenue of the colony. He was sorry to say that the present state of the finances of Lower Canada did not offer an opportunity for anything of the kind, and that it was quite impossible to provide for any of those objects from the general funds. By a return of the revenues of Lower Canada for each year from 1833 to 1838 inclusive, it appeared that there had been from year to year a very great reduction, and that the amount of net revenue for 1838, as compared with 1833, exhibited a diminution of nearly one-third. In 1833 the gross amount of revenue was 212,971l. and of net revenue 147,712l. In 1838 the gross amount was 146,079l. and the net amount 95,547l. In 1833 the expenditure was 134,621l., and in 1838 (including 94,174l. repayment of part of loan from the Imperial Treasury), it was, 224,050l. The balance in hand in January 1839, was 5,381l.
Upon an analysis of the different sources of revenue, it appeared that one lamentable result of the recent disturbances had been a great reduction in the revenue on all exciseable articles. This circumstance afforded an additional reason for the immediate settlement of the affairs of Canada, for he need scarcely press upon their Lordships’ consideration that in a country like Canada, if habits of industry were once disturbed in this manner, and the means by which industry was set in motion distributed into other channels, and means were not immediately adopted for the resuscitation of the internal activity of the country by affording every encouragement to the employment of capital, it would be impossible to say to what extent another twelve months of similar circumstances would increase
the evil. There was another alteration in the measure which related to the restriction upon the special council from interfering in any respect with any British statute introduced into Lower Canada. Much difficulty had arisen with regard to the provision in the act of last year, which was supposed to bear this construction. It certainly did appear to him that the original intention of that provision could not have been exactly that which its words would seem to import. By very high legal authority in the colony that provision had, been construed to extend to the prevention of interference on the part of the special council with any criminal act passed by the Imperial Legislature. By two of the judges of the colony, the provision in question was construed to prevent the special council from suspending the Habeas Corpus Act. Those learned judges no doubt acted most conscientiously in delivering and maintaining that opinion; but it struck so much at the root of public safety, that the governor-general thought it necessary to take the strong and unusual step of suspending them from their functions. He now came to the recommendations contained in the report of his noble Friend, but he could not enter upon the general subject without first offering his tribute of praise to the intelligence and industry manifested in the compilation of that report. The Government felt that it was a document entitled to their most mature consideration; for at the same time that it was a subject requiring great attention and resources, founded upon a deep and accurate knowledge of the state of the colony, the report itself contained recommendations of a very novel kind.
While, however, he thus stated his own sincere opinion of the merits of that report, and admitted the influence which the information it contained had naturally exercised over many of the subsequent, as it would no doubt over many of the future, deliberations of the Government on the subject of Canadian affairs, he must allude to one particular point upon which a great deal of excitement was known to prevail among those most likely to be affected by it, and on which the Government had the misfortune to differ in opinion from his noble Friend. He alluded to the theory of a responsible Government laid down in that report. He undoubtedly was of opinion that no form of popular government for a colony could he properly conducted, unless there existed a desire on the part of the superintending authority,
that the executive government of the colony should, as much as possible, act in harmony with the representative body. But at the same time he quite concurred with his colleagues in opinion, that it was not possible in the present condition of affairs in the Canadas to act upon any plan by which the principle laid down and recommended by the noble Earl in his report could be effectually carried out consistently with strong and efficient government. Nor had the noble Earl, as he conceived, pointed out any mode by which his principle might be applied to the government of Lower Canada.
He had himself had some experience in colonial government, and he must say he did not see how a government could act under the species of double and opposite responsibility which the plan of the noble Earl presumed. In what position would a governor be placed who was bound to obey instructions from the Home Government, and at the same time to act in accordance with the expressed opinion of the representative body of the colony, in the event of a conflict of opinions between those two. This was a practical difficulty which seemed to him not easily got over; at the same time he admitted to the full how desirable and important it was that the Imperial Government should endeavour, as much as possible, to keep up a continued harmony between the Governor of the colony and the House of Assembly. The Government, then, feeling themselves unable to adopt the principle of responsibility and representation laid down by the noble Earl in his report, had three courses pointed out to them as open for the settlement of the affairs of Lower Canada.
The first was, the restoration of the old Assembly of Lower Canada, as far, at least, as could be restored, when it was remembered that many of its members had subjected themselves to attainder, and, therefore, would be unable to resume their functions, but still with the old majority devoted to the French Canadian interest, and very much if not entirely of the same character as the former majority. That scheme, however, was evidently impracticable and useless. No person could possibly expect from it any release from the difficulties in which the colony was at present involved. The second plan was one equally objectionable, though on different grounds. It consisted in a proposition to obtain a system of representation favourable to the Government, by means of a species of
juggle to be resorted to in the organisation. There remained but one other plan at all practicable, and that consisted in an union of some sort with the other province. In the first instance, however, he must observe, that neither he nor his colleagues had considered that it would be fair to attempt the introduction of this plan, until a sufficient time had elapsed to enable Lower Canada to amalgamate fairly with Upper Canada, especially as Upper Canada desired that any such union should be coupled with conditions, which would have been by no means fair towards Lower Canada, and which would, therefore, have deprived the proposition for the union of all character of impartiality. The Government, however, prepared to introduce a measure of the kind proposed, in order that opportunity might be afforded to the colonies to consider its enactments.
But on the day on which his noble Friend was about to propose that measure in the House of Commons, there arrived intelligence from Upper Canada, in the shape of resolutions of a committee of the House of Assembly, which showed the existence of a considerable degree of excitement on the subject, and a state of feeling not at all calculated to ensure a fair consideration of the measure. These sentiments were not confined to the legislative bodies, but were extended throughout the province. Now, though many persons might be disposed, and perhaps with truth, to regard the House of Assembly of Upper Canada as not representing fairly the public opinion of the province, yet it was the legally constituted authority, and the Government felt bound not to persevere in urging the other House of Parliament to come to a decision on this question, when they had not any decided assurance of support here, and at the same time they felt that they were not in possession of that degree of information as to the state of the public opinion in Upper Canada, to justify them in pressing the measure as one consonant to the feelings of the population. No doubt there were other reasons which also influenced the Government in the course they thought fit to adopt in withdrawing that bill, but he had stated the main reason for that proceeding. He could not conclude without adverting to an impression which had gone abroad, and which had been kept up for reasons for which it was impossible for him to account. It was, that it was not intended that there should be any legislation for the Canadas until 1842.
There never was any intention to postpone legislation till that period, and the only ground on which it was thought desirable that there should be an interval before there was any legislation was, that it was hoped that the social condition of Lower Canada would, in the course of time, become such as to render it a more easy task to amalgamate the province with Upper Canada. The expediency of this course had, however, not been felt by all; and the Government had been taunted by some, who cried out to them incessantly to “settle the question!” Some meant by a settlement of the question a restoration of the original government of Lower Canada: others, an annexation of the island of Montreal to Upper Canada: others again meant by a settlement of the question the adoption of some form of representative government that would not give a real, fair, and honest representation of the people. The other proposition for the settlement of the affairs of the Canadas involved a distinct admission and recognition of responsibility on the part of the Government to the representative Assembly. He need not speculate on the probable results of any such attempts, because under the peculiar circumstances of the great want of accurate information as to the state of feeling in Upper Canada, which it did not now appear to be what it had been originally supposed to be, and the recent excitement having appeared rather to favour the opinion that no union at this moment could have a fair prospect of success, as compared with what might be computed in more tranquil times.
He felt that the Government had taken the right course in withdrawing the scheme for a permanent union of the two provinces, and merely calling for this temporary government, and fur the amended provisions of this bill, for the purpose of supplying the deficiences of former Acts, and affording facilities for the investment of capital and the promotion of industry. He had now endeavoured to explain the provisions of this bill, and he would conclude by hoping that it would not prevent the due consideration of that more important plan of settlement, which, in order to ensure its passing into a law in sufficient time for its operation in 1842, it would be necessary to introduce early next Session. The object of the measure was to endeavour to establish in the province of Lower Canada such a system as would prepare the population for the introduction of capital, and the promotion of industry, and prepare them for that state in which they
could participate in the advantages by which they would ultimately be entitled to a restriction of the privileges conferred upon them by former acts of the Legislature. The noble Marquess concluded by moving, that the House resolve itself into a Committee on the Bill.
Lord Brougham said, that the part taken by him in the various discussions as to this important colony, might lead their Lordships to expect that a bill of this nature, although recommended by the temperate and judicious statement of the noble Marquess—a statement as distinct as judicious—could riot pass through even its first substantial stage without compelling him, however reluctantly, once more to press upon their Lordships those constitutional views which he had before in vain endeavoured to make acceptable to that House. But he stood now in a situation entirely different from that which which he had occupied last Session, and he should endeavour to show, that not the slightest shadow of inconsistency could be supposed to rest on that House or any individual Member of it, should they who last Session differed most slightly from the Government adopt now the same view of the principle clause of this bill, as that to which, after much consideration, he had himself come.
The subject, according to the statement of the noble Marquess, divided itself into two branches:—the conduct of the Government, and the manner in which the Government had dealt with this question from the beginning of the Session up to the present hour; and next, the particular measure which was the only point of their deliberation. He deemed it absolutely necessary that he should first advert to the second of the two heads, not only because the noble Marquess had spent no little portion of his time in stating the grounds on which he defended the conduct of Ministers, but also because he thought, that the Members of the Cabinet had not well and faithfully discharged their duty to the Crown, the provinces of Upper and Lower Canada, the country, and the Parliament, by the course which, on this occasion, they had taken in respect of this great question. Therefore, before he came to the measure at all, it was his bounden duty to bring before them what he took to be a grave charge against the Government, in respect of the manner in which they had dealt with this subject. He did not
wonder that the noble Marquess, temperate though his statement, was, should have wished, as he said, to avoid all unpleasant topics, to shun all controversial topics, to eschew all matter that might give rise to charge and recrimination. Those in the position of the noble Marquess naturally avoided such topics as those on which charges was likely to arise. The noble Marquess, no doubt, did not wish much to advert to charges, until he knew what was to be brought against him and those who acted with him—till they were aware, that by recrimation, they would be able to work out their own defence.
Those who stood on their trial were, of course, the very last persons to court what involved retrospection, when the retrospection had reference to their own conduct; therefore, if, at the outset of his remarks, he had spoke of the speech of the noble Marquess as temperate and judicious, of course he meant to qualify his praise of that temperance, by not ascribing any peculiar disinterestedness to his motives in that temperance. He would first deal with the treatment which, on his question, the provinces, the country, and the Parliament had met with on the part of the Ministers of the Crown. Abundantly sensible was the noble Marquess—abundantly conscious were all his colleagues, how much their course of proceeding stood in need of explanation; but if they would defend it after the dates, facts, and circumstances brought in contrast with their conduct before that House, then they were assuredly abler men and luckier men, if successful, than he had given them credit for.
Last Session, Parliament signalized two great leading, features of policy—one was the absolute failure of a motion which he had submitted to them, for the purpose of securing the interposition of the mother country on behalf of the half-emancipated slaves of the colonies, and on behalf of our fellow-countrymen in the East Indies, as the re-suit of a most politic concession to some of our fellow-subjects in the West, but which had given rise to a practice by which the West had been humbled, disgraced, and degraded. The other great subject, which had been successfully and uniformly received with an alacrity as great as the peremptory denial with which the former measure had been met, was that relating to the affairs of Canada. It was asked to suspend the constitution of that colony—
it was asked to put a stop to the representative government—it was asked to annul the legislative acts passed by the people’s representatives—it was asked to thwart the almost unanimous desire of the people of the province, on the very ground that the people of that province were almost unanimous in their desire that the Parliament should not so treat them, and it was asked to appoint a dictatorship, the absolute government of an absolute dictator, in the place of the constitutional government which had before existed, on a parallel with the mode of government by King, Lords, and Commons. All these demands were granted—all these requests favourably received—all that was asked was given—for their Lordships and the Parliament refused nothing to the Crown, and he apprehended that they did so on the supposition, that the necessity of the case had been made out—and that was only one of the suppositions—that the absolute necessity was shown for the suspension of the constitution, and for the appointment of an absolute government in its place.
Out of that necessity, and out of the inference which was drawn from it, they granted the application which was made, and out of the measures which were adopted arose another duty, which they never doubted would be performed, and which they were now called upon to perform, that of scrutinizing with a rigid eye the conduct of the government to which they had entrusted these large powers. But there arose another correlative duty, on the part of those Ministers, which was to lose not one moment in providing for the restoration of that constitutional government, from the instant at which the necessity ceased to exist, which was the only justification for the measure which had been adopted. Accordingly, when the Government met the Parliament in the month of February, alive to the duties which he had called correlative, in the very first speech of the Session, in the Speech delivered from the Throne—met the Parliament with a communication from the Crown, calling upon Parliament immediately to direct its attention, and to exercise its wisdom, in the serious consideration of this important subject. Months passed away. The noble Marquess said, it was not until June that anything came over from the colony to interrupt the course of proceeding adopted by the Government for providing for the
wants of the province. He dated it in June, and this was one of the reasons for which he (Lord Brougham) had told the House that it was by the dates, contrasted with the conduct of the Government, that he meant to substantiate his charge. The noble Marquess had told the House, that it was in June when first there crossed the Atlantic anything to alter or modify or vary the course which was then being pursued. But what happened between the months of February and June? Had March fallen out of our calculation, had April ceased to exist in the calendar, and was May no longer to be found in the history of the Session, or why was it that February, March, April, and May were all suffered to elapse before a vestige of excuse was given for the inaction which had existed on the part of the Government, or to attempt to enable the Government to account for having suffered four months to elapse before a single step was taken to redeem the virtual pledge which was given by them, and which was put in the mouth of the Sovereign, and to which an address was obtained, which was the echo of the Royal Speech?
But something had been done. May did not altogether elapse without some step being taken, for on the 3rd of that month a message from the Crown came down calling upon the Parliament, without further delay, to apply their minds to the subject of Canada. Then it was supposed that some measure was in contemplation—then it was taken for granted that the Government had considered the question—then it was concluded that they saw the plan which was to be proposed, because he had never yet heard of any system of vacillation or imbecility, in such a case as this, in which the Crown called upon Parliament to legislate, unless the Ministers saw their way to the measure, which they were prepared to lay before Parliament. It was concluded, therefore, that on the 3d May, when the message came from the Crown, the measure for new modelling the constitution of Canada had been considered and discussed, and licked into shape, and adopted, and nothing but a statement, almost incredible, could make him believe the contrary. The probabilities were all in favour of the suggestion which he had thrown out, for if on the first day of the Session, the Ministers told Parliament, through the Speech from the Throne, that they must attend to the affairs of Canada—if they
had abundant opportunity to attend to it—if during the months of February, March and up to the beginning of April, when the Easter recess commenced, they might have attended to it—having made it the subject of a prominent and leading paragraph in the royal speech—was it likely that they would not have framed some measure upon the subject? Did not every one know that during the whole winter Canada and Canadian affairs were the topics of conversation in all circles, and, in fact, that there was nothing else to be discussed? Last of all, there was another reason for saying that it was eminently probable that the Government had determined on some measure before the month of May.
His noble Friend (the Earl of Durham) the late Governor-General of Canada had laid before Government, the Parliament, and the Country, a report of very great ability, showing very great industry, great resources, deep, if not successful—for some persons differed on that point—but, at all events, assiduous, able, and skilful attention to the details, as well as the principles, of the measure by which the colony ought to be governed. Noble Lords might differ from the recommendations of that report, and the noble Marquess had argued against one of the principles which were recommended, but, at all events, it was what the lawyers would call notice; it did occupy attention (he had that from the noble Marquess himself), and he ventured to say, with as great certainty as if he had been in the room when it was read, or in the cabinet when it was discussed, that before February was at an end, every one Member of the Government had read and considered his noble Friend’s able report, going through the whole subject, sifting it in all its details, and arguing and viewing it in all its lights, and that there was not one Member of the Government, of the Cabinet, or not of the Cabinet, who had not got it almost by heart.
Well, then, the 3d May having come, he should have thought that a message being sent, and the House being called upon to give an answer to it, and having given an answer that it would take into consideration anything which might be laid before it, would have led to the conclusion that before many clays had elapsed, out of respect to the Crown, and out of respect to subject itself, the Government would have stated the plan which they desired to be
adopted, and would have called upon the House to discuss their measure in obedience to the pledge which they had given, at their instigation, in answer to the message. How was a neglect of this duty accounted for? Twenty-eight or twenty-nine days elapsed and no notice was taken of the question, for the House was just left to stare and look vacant, without anything but a void before their eyes to fill up the blank; only reflecting that a message had been received, to which an answer had been given, and that it was ready to act upon both when the Ministers should enable them to act upon either. But further, to this message of the 3d of May it was expected that a correlative matter would be appended, and that it would be conveyed to the other House of Parliament as well as to their Lordships. Such was the case; but he had looked through the votes and minutes of the proceedings of that House in vain for any one notice being taken of it; and he would venture to say—he was not so great an observer of the laws of etiquette as some of their Lordships, and particularly of the etiquette existing between the Parliament and the Crown, although he did not think that to be in anywise unnecessary—and he could not help feeling that it was somewhat strange that this was the very first time in the course of the parliamentary history of this country on which a message sent from the Crown to the House of Commons had been passed unnoticed so long as from the time of its being delivered at its bar to this moment.
This, perhaps, would have signified little, if the substantial question had been attended to; but if etiquette were set at nought, common sense and justice ought not to have been passed over. He then came to one of the most singular, unprecedented, and anomalous notices which he believed had ever yet been found in the history of a human Legislature. The Ministers in the other House came down first with one bill and then with another, and it was then stated that one bill was to be pressed and not the other, and then there was a doubt whether either should be pressed or not; and then, finally, it was resolved that the one should be pressed and not the other, and that the latter was to be put off for the year, and that it was to lie there, and sink, or be buried, for it was hard to say what was to be done with it until some
other Session should bring the question to an issue. Now, on these facts and on these dates the noble Marquess had founded his explanatory vindication tonight, arising from a sort of history which he gave of the course of the Government, and this was his doctrine—whether it was one which was probable or not he should ask the House. “The reason why the bill was not pursued when it was brought in, and why proceedings were suspended upon it, if it were not withdrawn, and allowed to lie over, was, that, after the 3rd of May, and after the measure had been propounded in the other House of Parliament, there very unexpectedly came over from the colony intelligence which had not been reckoned upon, and which showed that the colony did not approve of the bill, and that it would not be fit to press it this year.”
A multitude of reflections, some in point of principle, others in point of fact, instantly crowded upon his mind, and almost bewildered him on hearing this most extraordinary explanation. First, that the Legislature of the mother country should be called upon to adopt the principle of staying its legislative course because the colony disagreed with it, was a principle which somewhat startled him; but next, that in this particular year, 1839, it should be a sufficient ground for staying proceedings, it being the year after the year 1838, when the Canada Bill had been passed, in the face of the unanimous wishes and desires, and the strongest passions of the people of Lower Canada, that they should hold their hands because a vote had been passed by one province, when last year they suspended the Constitution when that course was unanimously opposed by the other colony, was still more startling.
But why had they stopped legislation for Canada—why had they stopped the confusion, as some termed it, the union, as others called it, of the Upper and Lower Provinces? Why was not the Lower Province to be consulted as well as the Upper? The Lower Province was much more important than the Upper—it was more populous, more wealthy, and more popular, and yet not a moment’s attention was bestowed on the wishes and desires, and the excited feelings of the people of Lower Canada. It was for the purpose of coercing Lower Canada, and overwhelming the French Canadians in Lower Canada by the influx of British from the Upper Province that the
union was formed. Lower Canada was never to be consulted at all, its wishes were to be disregarded, and its reasons neglected; but the instant a narrow majority of the Upper, the smaller province, protested, that was said to be a sufficient reason for stopping short in that course of legislation which they had been so solemnly and so repeatedly pledged to pursue. That was the sum and substance of the defence of the Government. But sometimes from the ruder and rougher individuals (continued the noble Lord) who carry on the concerns of nations—sometimes in a small parenthesis, and in an under tone—they drop out phrases which possibly—I only put it as a possibility—which peradventure throw more light upon the whole conduct of the party than all the elaborate reasons, than all the prolix statements which have been formally put forth in explanation of measures in question.
“There were other circumstances,” said the noble Marquess, “just about that time, which made it expedient not further to press the measure.” I believe there were. There is no part of that statement on which I throw any discredit. I verily do believe there were “other circumstances.” Just guess what they were. We were desired to direct our attention to one particular point. What think you of withdrawing the confidence of one House of Parliament from a Government that never had the confidence of the other? What if it were withdrawn on a particular question relating to colonial affairs—relating to the interposition of the mother country? What if it had just so happened that the Jamaica Bill had been lost, and it was not expedient to risk the loss of the Canada Bill, which was very likely to follow? Well, it appears there was great consultation, and great consternation, just about the very time of the arrival of the news from Upper Canada; and when the news from Upper Canada came the light dawned, the clouds dispersed, the heavens opened, every heart was cheered. “Now,” said they, “we have a ground for doing what we have for the last two or three days so anxiously desired—now we have an excuse for putting off the Canadian Bill—do not let us have another Jamaica Bill, for we have had enough of Colonial bills for one year.” That does appear to be the grossest inconsistency one can imagine—that they should be driven from one measure
because the Upper Canada Legislature did not agree to it, when they had, because of the disagreement of the Lower Canada Legislature, carried through a measure to suspend the Constitution as well as they had carried through a measure of coercion for the Assembly of Jamaica. What is the plain English of all this? Government calls on Parliament to help them to put off the evil day of another conflict upon the legislation of the mother country on colonial concerns, by allowing the bill to lie over to another Session, and in the meantime aggravating the unconstitutional measure, extending the despotic proceeding, enlarging the Ministers’ powers, which last Session they obtained from Parliament, before they had pledged themselves to bring in any general and permanent measure.
But how long is this to last? For what consummation of future events are we to wait before that can be done, which, on February the 5th they called on Parliament to attend to, and virtually pledged themselves to help Parliament to do; and which, on May the 30th, they had, after three or four months’ consideration of the whole question, made up their minds upon and resolved to do—what is the consummation of events now in the womb of futurity, for which we are called on to wait, before we can ultimately be enabled,—we to redeem our pledge and the Government to do their duty, according to the Speech from the Throne? Anything that is likely to happen in Canada during the summer? Any change the noble Marquess can fancy will take place before the meeting of Parliament next spring? If there were any hope of that kind held out—if there were any probability in the nature of the case of any change of circumstances, or any specific event happening to alter the present state of things out of which the noble Marquess says their difficulty, real or fictitious, now arises, I could listen to it and understand it. But there is nothing of the kind. We are desired to wait till events, the most distant and uncertain that man’s imagination can conceive, can take place. We are called upon to wait until, capital flowing into the province—social improvement taking place—education and preaching performing their office—until the society of the two colonies shall be so improved—until such progress shall be made therein, that men’s minds shall be changed, and the progress of public
opinion will be such, and the soothing effects of events—no of time—until the soothing effect produced by a long lapse of time shall have enabled you to hope for a better understanding with the Province of Upper Canada! That’s the budget of hopes, expectations, and improvements, which the noble Marquess has opened to night—and on the faith and credit of which he calls on us to approve of the conduct he has explained, and has so defended.
I therefore, my Lords, am clearly of opinion the Government has abandoned its duty or the Canadian affairs—that it has not redeemed the virtual pledge given in the speech from the Throne—that it has not redeemed the specific pledge given in the Royal Message—that it has not brought forward the measure which it had framed and adopted on the 3d of May, when that message came down and that it has been guilty of all those laches, all this neglect all this dereliction of duty, all this abandonment of its office as a Government (for that’s the fact—it is no Government)—it is no Government that acts so—it has no right to be called a Government that acts so—it may have the emoluments, the patronage, the outside show, but the substance of a Government it has not. It has not the title to a Government—it has committed all these abdications (I call them no less)—all these abdications it has committed, because after the fate of the Jamaica Bill, and the bed-chamber intrigue which restored the confidence of the country and restored the confidence of both Houses of Parliament, and enabled them to continue attempting to govern the country—because after all that, it, failed, and was convinced it dare not go on with this Canada Bill, and that if it had gone on with it another vote of the Commons would have led to another resignation.
This is the plain English of the matter—that is the explanation—this is the meaning of the little parenthesis, and whether it betters the case of the Government or its defence, I leave respectfully but confidently, to your Lordships to decide. Having dealt with the second part of this question, I come now to deal with that which is more important, though not unconnected with the first part, because if a Government shows me that an unconstitutional measure is necessary, or that an extension of large or unconstitutional power entrusted to its hands is necessary
to be continued, and necessary to be given—continuing the powers and increasing them—that would justify my vote on the second part of the case, in favour of the present motion; but if I do not believe a word of the necessity, but that the necessity stated is not anything more than a pretext—if I do not believe that anything expected in Canada will tend to improve Canada in its social state, taking that in connection with the gross dereliction of duty on the part of the Government, and their bringing in this arbitary measure, then I say that the Government does not do its duty towards the Province, by neglecting now to bring forward a measure for the settlement of its affairs. The first clause continued the noble and learned Lord was exceedingly proper, it through out the measure of last Session. It appointed a Council of twenty instead of a Council of five. The noble Marquess, however, was in error in supposing that the former Bill limited the Council to five. By that bill the Governor had a power of appointing a Council of twenty or of fifty. The proposed measure, therefore, did not enlarge the powers of the Governor, it merely fixed the minimum at twenty instead of a five, or more strictly speaking, it fixed the minimum at eleven, because although twenty must be appointed, eleven only need attend to act. But now came his objection to the bill—the second clause.
He did not believe that even the proposers of this measure themselves were fully aware of the extent of this provision, or understood accurately, because the argument of the noble Marquess would be satisfied by a measure entirely differing from this second clause, What did this clause propose? By the former measure, under the provisions of which his noble Friend had assumed the Government of Canada, the Governor and Council were only empowered to make laws which should end with their own existence. These laws could not possibly continue in force beyond the 1st November, 1842, unless they were re-enacted by the constituted authorities, they could endure for no longer a period than the period of the dictatorship. He used the word dictatorship without any meaning of disrespect for his noble Friend; because he felt assured that if there existed one man who could more safely than another be entrusted with dictatorial powers, it was his noble Friend, on account of his honour and integrity,
and his known attachment to the principles of civil liberty; but he made use of the word merely for shortness. It was most properly considered that the laws enacted by a dictatorial power should last no longer than the power itself lasted to which they owed their being. The dictatorial power would expire in 1840. In order to prevent confusion, and to give the constituted authorities time to enact the laws which they might deem requisite, these laws were permitted to exist for two years longer; but in the year 1842, all these laws thus enacted by the dictatorial authority must of necessity expire, except they were re-enacted by the constituted authorities. But this bill gave the Governor, who was nominated by the Crown—removable at the pleasure of the Crown—bound by the authority of the Crown—with the advice and assistance of any eleven persons as his council, who were also nominated by the Crown—power to make laws for this colony which were to last for ever. But it was said they were not to last for ever—the Legislature of the colony or of the mother country possessed the power of repealing them.
He replied they had—but to insure this repeal it was necessary to obtain the consent of the Crown—and he said this on behalf of the people, who might be aggrieved or oppressed by any acts of the Crown; it was necessary to procure the consent of the Legislative Council, and he said this on behalf of the Crown and the people, who might feel themselves aggrieved or oppressed by any laws giving an undue preponderance to this the aristocratical branch of the Legislature; it was necessary to obtain the consent of the popular assembly, and as he said a small word on behalf of the people just now, when he alluded to the possibility of their being oppressed or aggrieved by the Crown, so now he said this on behalf of the Crown and of the persons of property forming the aristocracy of the colony, if such a thing as an aristocracy could be said to exist there, who might feel themselves aggrieved and oppressed by a turbulent or anarchical democracy.
Suppose any question had passed the Governor and Council which pressed sorely upon the subject—suppose a law were passed giving the absolute power of life and death to the Crown—making the judges dependent, giving the Crown the absolute power of punishing, coercing, imprisoning, or putting to death
without form of trial. As the law at present stood, that power would expire in 1842—it could not be extended beyond—but as the bill stood, unless the Crown consented to the repeal, as well as the two branches of the Legislature, the power remained for ever. So that if the Crown had grappled absolute power during the three years it could retain it as long as it chose. But suppose the Governor were to choose to enact an ordinance establishing Universal Suffrage—Vote by Ballot—Annual Parliaments, under the existing law, such a regulation would expire in 1842. He knew it had been said, that such an Act could not pass on account of the provisions of the Canada Act, but he entertained considerable doubts on that subject, and surely their Lordships would not legislate on a subject of such vast importance, when grave doubts could be shown to exist as to the construction of that Act.
His first ground of doubt was, that only words of limitation were contained in the clause, which was not a clause of proviso. The words were, that the Provincial Legislature should not have the power of doing any thing repugnant to that Act. It did not say repugnant to any enactments of that Act, or inconsistent with that Act. Now, that provision would be abundantly satisfied by any measure that did not go to make any alteration in the Legislature—such as making laws without the intervention of the Assembly, or making laws by means of their assemblies. This would leave an enormous margin within which the Governor and Council would have the power of legislating with respect to the constitution of the Canadian people. Besides, there was a section in the Act recognising acts made by the Canadian legislature, in the teeth of the provisions of the Act itself. It says, they must be laid for thirty days before both Houses of Parliament. It might therefore be very reasonably contended that this Act was never intended to bear the construction now attempted to be put upon it; and as the Governor was not restrained from performing all acts that might be performed by the Canadian legislature, and as he could only be restrained from performing the acts to which he had alluded, on the ground that the Canadian legislature was restrained from doing so by the Act alluded to, he claimed from their Lordships not to give this power unless they were prepared to sanction
the establishment of any system of government, be it either an uncontrolled despotism or an unrestrained democracy. He would now suppose some instances of the manner in which this power might be exercised. Many might entertain doubts as to the propriety of his construction of this statute—many might even entertain no doubt whatever, but might unhesitatingly come to a decision against him. He would, for the sake of argument, suppose he was wrong. What was there in the clause to prevent the Governor and Council, in the exercise of the legislative authority, making a law, that there should be no appeal in a case in which the matter in dispute should be under the value of 10,000l.
All appellate jurisdiction might be at once destroyed. Again, the right of voting at present resided in persons possessing freeholds of the value of 40s. Assuming the Governor had not the power by the Canada Act of altering this qualification to 1s. There was nothing to prevent his altering currency in such a manner as to make one penny of real value, of the nominal value of 40s., and thus give a vote to every man possessing one single pennyworth of land in the colony. There was nothing said as to the method of taking votes. He now came to a subject which he imagined would affect their Lordships—the subject of the ballot. There was nothing said in the Canada Act as to how the votes were to be taken. It provided that the Assembly should meet once in four years, but there was nothing said against Parliaments meeting once a year—there was nothing against Annual Parliaments. Would that be to their Lordships’ taste? There was nothing to prevent it, and if once established, it could only b e abolished by the consent of that Parliament which it called into existence. There was nothing about the method of taking votes. What would their Lordships say at finding the ballot introduced—when they found the ballot had been made an open question by the Ministers of the Crown—by a Cabinet which professed to repudiate the ballot—and which, seeking to reject it altogether, lent it on that account the full support of its own venerable authority—modestly supposing that the more energetically it was supported by them, the more certainly would it become the rejected of all the rest of mankind. But suppose a Member for Manchester—a future Chancellor of the Exchequer—
should be waited on by some of his constituency, who should say to him—”It is certainly an improvement, you having made the ballot an open question, it has secured some few votes, but you must do something more—give us the ballot in Canada, that will make up for your having made it an open question in this country, and by giving it your support retarded it.” Or suppose, throwing aside all these pretences, the Government in a straight-forward and manly manner should say, “We have made the ballot an open question because we approve of it, at least we think it will please our supporters, and secure us a few more votes; with that view we have lent our aid, very feeble it is true—as a set off against our feebleness in its support in England, let us go further in Canada— ‘Fiat experimentum in corpore vili’— Let us see how it works in that country. If the ballot were once established there it could never be repealed, for the Assembly, called into existence by the ballot, would never repeal it; and having once been made an open question in this country, depend upon it you would never get a majority, however narrow, of the House of Commons, to consent to the repeal of the ballot when it should once be enacted in Canada. He beseeched their Lordships not to give to any men the power of inflicting upon the people of Canada, by their dictatorial laws, either the horrors of unmitigated despotism, or such wild anarchy and confusion, as must be painful to all lovers of peace and good order to contemplate.
Even the wild and savage Romans the people of all antiquity, who understood and valued liberty the least, although the word was always on their lips, and who resigned the small portion of it which they enjoyed almost without a struggle, even they, ignorant and careless as they were on the subject, when they chose a dictator, never entrusted him with legislative functions—he was entrusted with the power of the sword—which was sheathed immediately the law wrested it from his hands, all the acts of his dictatorship expired with the power which gave them birth and were sunk for ever in oblivion. But in a country which understood the principles of liberty in as great a degree as the ancient Romans were ignorant of them—which loved liberty to the full as much as the Romans were in-different
to it—under the British Constitution, the model to which all nations looked up with admiration, and which all were ambitious of imitating, it was proposed to institute a new and monstrous species of dictatorship, unknown even to the savage Romans, the effects of which would be perpetuated even after itself should have passed away, and the condition of its existing, the necessity by which it was called into being, should have ceased. Nothing but a necessity the most imperious could have justified the creation of such a dictatorship—a necessity that could not be argued with, and which to hear was to obey; but when that necessity ceased—when the condition of its existence was at an end—it should cease and be at an end also. To whom could he look for help? To those who had always been loudest and most enthusiastic in their aspirations for the cause of freedom—to those who were supposed to be desirous of power only the more effectually to serve the cause of liberty—to that party which had been described by an eminent female writer as those who loved liberty and tolerated kings, while their adversaries the Tories loved kingly power and tolerated the Constitution?
Was it to them, the friends of the Constitution, who had reasoned for months about abdication—a word, by the bye, which seemed well understood now-a-days—was it to them he was to flee for refuge from the “pelting of the pitiless storm” against the Constitution, which now raged and threatened? He found they were the authors of the tempest, that they had unchained the blast. Where, then, did he fly for refuge? To their Lordships. The case was before them—it was their’s to decide. To their calm and deliberate judgment he appealed, and he knew that he should not appeal in vain, against what he held to be a departure from all principle, an inroad upon all freedom, the destruction of all constitutional rights, compared with which the original measure itself was merciful and constitutional. But he must not pass entirely over the reason given for this measure. What was it?
That whereas improvements in public works required the raising of moneys, these moneys could not be raised but by loan, on better securities than temporary Acts. Well, he had framed his alteration accordingly, confining its operation to the particular exigencies stated by the noble
Marquess to be necessary. Let the loans be raised, and on permanent securities, and let the Constitution in other respects stand; and to make this quite easy, he had copied the very words in a following section of the Act itself, where the power of taxation was limited to particular purposes. This was the second time, and only the second time, in which the power of taxation had been required. All the arguments which had been used against the Canada resolutions in 1837, and afterwards in a protest which other noble Lords had signed with him—would apply with additional force to the clause in the present Act.
But if it were considered necessary to allow money to be raised for specific purposes, and none others, all he entreated of their Lordships was to apply the same restriction to the powers of the second clause as to the powers of legislation not extending beyond 1842. He was against giving the power of taxation at all; rather than allow such a departure from the principle of the Act of 1778 he would that the money were lent by England, till the Government of Canada was remodelled. The noble Marquess had said that there were three modes of dealing with the question—that two, having been universally condemned, there remained but the one, which had been submitted to Parliament, that one was, to restore the Canadian Constitution immediately; the second, to proceed with a bill for remoulding the constitution on a basis recommended in the royal message, the union of the two provinces.
The third, the present bill. Was it not time to enquire, when they saw the difficulty they had got into—whether the necessity continued to exist which was the pretext for subverting the Constitution? He was told it was clear that the necessity continued. But every thing had been quiet in Canada for some months. Still it was said the necessity remained, because the majority of the inhabitants were against the Government. That, in truth, was the difficulty of their position. Now, he was cheered last night, by the Queen’s Ministers, when he had said to his noble and learned Friend opposite, that the disproportion of Catholics and Protestants was the difficulty which his noble and learned Friend had to grapple with in Ireland, and that it was to the necessity of the case he must submit. But if the argument was good for Ireland it was good for Canada. Why should the
conduct and the policy of the Government in Ireland be a contrast to their conduct and policy in North America? They never could hope to have an English majority in Lower Canada; they could hardly hope for such a majority even in a union of the provinces; and the difficulty and embarrassment now felt on this account, would be equally felt in 1842. His advice was, restore the Constitution, making such changes as were upon deliberation found expedient. Let it not be suspended an hour beyond the time required by the necessity of the case. But if their Lordships must pass this measure, to enable the Government to abandon its duty to the province of Canada, by relieving them from the task of bringing in a proper and final measure; pass it in such a shape as he had attempted to describe, and by which they would gain not only the gratitude but the admiration, and he would say the veneration, of all their fellow-countrymen who had any regard for the rights of the people, for the privileges of the Crown, and the principles of the Constitution.
Viscount Melbourne said, his noble and learned Friend’s speech naturally fell into two divisions: the first part comprised his attacks upon the conduct of the Government; the second treated of this important measure. In treating of the conduct of the Government from the beginning of the Session, his noble and learned Friend had adopted exactly the same line which had been taken by the noble and learned Lord opposite last night, by going through the history of the Session; giving the dates at which any steps were taken on the measure; dwelling on the periods which elapsed between those several steps, and from those dates and those intervals inferring, that the Government had been guilty of great delay, and charging them with having abdicated their functions and shrunk from the proper exercise of their duties, and charging them with this in language and with all those terms which the eloquence of his noble and learned Friend enabled him so copiously to supply. But he begged to say, that this was not a fair way of putting the case; that though it was possible to put these topics in striking lights, and dwell on this length of time and this appearance of delay, and hence to infer, that those who had the conduct of this measure were guilty of those delinquences with which they had been charged,
still, he repeated, this was not a fair way of putting the case; but, that it was necessary, for obtaining a clear and fair view, to take into consideration the whole events of the Session; that it was necessary to state the measures which had intervened; that it was necessary also, to state those which had been postponed. With all these considerations left out of view, it was not fair to infer, that the Government had been guilty of neglect, supineness, and delay, and all those faults which had been so vigorously charged upon them both at present and last night. However, he thought his noble and learned Friend had thrown away much energy and eloquence in proving that which nobody denied—namely, that it was the intention and the feeling of Government at the beginning of the Session to proceed as soon as possible to legislate for Canada.
That was undeniable; but information had since reached them, grounds had since been found for changing that determination. That was perfectly clear. But the fact was, his noble and learned Friend might have found much better grounds for his assertion than he had taken; because he in that House, and his noble Friend in the other, had stated, early in the Session, that Government contemplated passing some measure of legislation for Canada before the end of the Session; that such unquestionably was their anxious desire; that they thought so many advantages presented themselves at that time; and that they were anxious to carry a measure before the end of the Session. It was clear, that in that state of Canada it was very desirable to frame such a measure as would heal the wounds of that country and bring to a conclusion the existing dissensions; and he entirely agreed with his noble and learned Friend, that it was the duty of her Majesty’s Government to make the cessation of the Government in Canada as short as possible, and to reestablish as speedily as possible that representative constitution without which, or something like it, he readily admitted, that, looking at the state of things in that country, and the nature of its society, it would be quite impossible ever to establish peace, prosperity, and happiness, and attachment to the mother country. But they must take care, that their measures for the purpose of re-establishing the constitution were wise and prudent; and though he admitted the necessity of a
speedy settlement of the constitution, he would not sacrifice to that necessity matters of greater importance—namely, that the settlement should be real, satisfactory, and conclusive. But his noble and learned Friend asked—are you to stop legislating because the Assembly of Upper Canada does not approve of the measures you propose; and are you to refuse on this ground to legislate in the very next year after you set at nought the wishes of all the people of Lower Canada? He replied, that they did not set at nought the wishes of all the people of Lower Canada; on the contrary, they were in unison with the wishes of a great part of the people of that part who had always shown attachment to this country.
Those whom in fact they set at nought, were those who rebelled against this country. Surely it was a strange reason for condemning the conduct of the Government to say, that they paid that attention to the feeling of the loyal and patriotic part of the people which his noble and learned Friend would have had them pay to the disaffected and rebellious. He admitted, that it would have been better that they should have legislated for the re-establishment of the representative constitution this Session; but it was better that they should delay than precipitate measures, and do that which would be unsatisfactory, and which would not terminate the calamities which had afflicted that country. His noble and learned Friend said, that the disapprobation of the colonies was a strange reason for stopping legislation; but this was not a strange reason, nor a bad one, for stopping legislation—that the course they were about to pursue turned out to be not satisfactory to the colonists themselves.
In his mind this was an imperative reason for taking more time for consideration. You must have in these colonies, as the noble Marquess had observed, and the noble and learned Lord had agreed, a representative Government; then, in order to establish a representative Government, if you will, establish a House of Assembly, he did not see how it was to be done in any other way than by an union of the two provinces. But when the measure for that object came before their Lordships, then the terms and conditions on which they would do that might be settled. It would be mere madness to impose on these colonies an union upon terms and conditions which there was reason to suppose
at the time would not be acceptable, and would not ultimately be approved by their inhabitants. Seeing that such great difficulties impeded the adoption of the only plan proposed, he concluded that the only rational and prudent course left was, to take some time to consider the circumstances of the case, and see if by any means they could reconcile the colonies to the adoption of the plan. He said, that so far from Ministers having incurred any blame on account of the delay which had taken place, they would have acted most rashly and most imprudently by taking any other course; and it was, in his opinion, most fortunate that they had not at the beginning of the Session hurried on this measure, and so brought it to a settlement, which, possibly, would have been itself only a beginning of new difficulties, new troubles, and new discontents. His noble and learned Friend had exhausted himself in a lavish display of that power of declamation which so greatly distinguished him, applied to the speech of his noble Friend who had brought the measure under their Lordships’ consideration, as if his noble Friend had said, that their Lordships should await the lapse of time, the progress of improvement, the influx of capital into the country, the spread of religion, and the efforts of education. But his noble Friend said nothing of that kind, nor were his observations at all open to those animadversions.
His noble Friend meant, that from the state of opinion which appeared to prevail in the colony, and the difficulties that might be apprehended to follow the passing of that measure at present, Ministers were not now prepared to recommend it to Parliament, and that, with all the disadvantages of delay—for delays he knew were always attended with disadvantages—it was better not to precipitate the bill at this conjuncture. It was entirely to these motives, and not to motives connected with any domestic affairs, or with internal considerations such as those to which his noble and learned Friend had adverted, that this change of opinion was to be ascribed. He supposed, however, that their Lordships would not give him credit for this asseveration, if he made it; and, therefore, he would not trouble himself to state to their Lordships, that which they might possibly disbelieve, but he could assure his noble and learned Friend, that he was perfectly mistaken in attributing to the
causes specified by him the change in the determination of Ministers. He did not feel at all pressed or affected by the argument of his noble and learned Friend, and he was confident that the Government had acted with the greatest prudence on this question. His noble and learned Friend had said, that it was not his intention to offer any opposition to the motion for going into Committee, but had expressed much indignation at that clause of the bill which enacted, that laws made by the Governor and Council should be permanent, instead of having a limit, as was provided in the last bill, placed to their duration. Now, in the first place, he did not exactly admit that it was a necessary principle of law or government, that laws passed by a government of an arbitrary or unconstitutional character should therefore be invalid. He apprehended, that in the history of all nations, there were to be found many laws proceeding from authorities of very doubtful legality, yet in themselves of no doubtful benefit.
But the reason of the provision had been very distinctly stated by his noble Friend who proposed the bill. His noble Friend had told their Lordships that those bills which had been made necessary by the suspension of the constitution of Canada must be passed, and that in order to create confidence, and establish a sufficient security for the loans of money, the bills must be permanent. His noble and learned Friend admitted this necessity; but then he said that bills of the most violent and extravagant kind might be passed by the council—bills establishing a despotism on the one side, or an anarchy on the other. His noble Friend tried to alarm their Lordships by visions of bills obnoxious to their peculiar opinions, bills for annual Parliaments, vote by ballot, and universal suffrage, thinking he had touched their Lordships on the raw part there.
He certainly did not think there was any compliment implied to their Lordships in that; it showed no great civility; it was no great testimony to the firmness of their understanding or their freedom from superstitious fears. He was sure they would consider the clauses only as they stood in the bill, and not suffer themselves to be deceived by the vain figments of his noble and learned Friend’s warm imagination. There seemed to be no reasonable ground for apprehension, that a governor sent from this country to Canada,
and a council selected by himself, would pass such wild measures, and inflict on the colony those tremendous ills which their Lordships dreaded would result to this country from democratic sway. Besides this, before these bills were confirmed as laws, their Lordships would have thirty days to consider them. As to what his noble and learned Friend had said, that there was no security that either the Legislature of Canada, or the Parliament of the empire would ever repeal a bad law, that was no more than saying, that he had no confidence in the Constitution of the country—no confidence in its authorities, and that if any absurd or extravagant thing were done, there would be neither prudence, sense, nor discretion enough to remedy it. He really thought, if he might employ without offence a word which had been lately declared to be an offensive term, that his noble and learned Friend dealt frequently in a little exaggeration, but on this occasion he had out-heroded Herod, and out-exaggerated himself in the way of conjuring up vain fears, infinitely greater than could ever be realized.
With respect to the observation of his noble and learned Friend, that the Ministers received with great approbation his arguments relating to Ireland, but not with the same degree of approbation those that related to Canada, he did not admit its justice, but, at the same time, he fully admitted, that in both countries great difficulties encountered their efforts arising from the nature of the population. The noble and learned Lord would recollect that he (Viscount Melbourne) would unquestionably have dealt with Canada exactly as he now was dealing with Ireland, supposing that the circumstances, situation, and conduct of the two countries had been the same. The difference was, that the Irish population had been always a loyal population. He believed the noble and learned Lord opposite was of a different opinion; but he considered her Majesty’s Roman Catholics to be attached to her Majesty, and loyal to the Crown. The noble and learned Lord opposite, he knew, considered them as aliens in blood and disposition. That was the noble and learned Lord’s view. There was a boundary between them which could not be overstepped, and that unquestionably accounted for the different manner in which the noble and learned Lord viewed these subjects; but he thought that the differ-ence
between Canada and Ireland was, that Ireland had been loyal and Canada rebellious, and, he much feared, might persevere in that rebellion.
The Duke of Wellington had never felt the smallest surprise at the delay in introducing a measure for the settlement of Canadian affairs, which had been recommended in the Speech from the Throne, and afterwards in a message from the Queen, and actually at length proposed to and printed by the other House of Parliament. He confessed he had never been so surprised in his life as when he heard the message of the 3rd of May delivered to that House, and he should certainly have stated some objections to the Address moved a few days afterwards by the noble Viscount in answer to the message, if he had not received intelligence, on the day before the Address was moved, of certain proceedings in the legislative assembly of Upper Canada which declared the desire of the legislature of that province to see carried into effect a legislative union between the two provinces.
He had not himself meant to make any objection to a measure which seemed to be wished for by the legislature of one province, and might probably be so in the other, because he thought it would be right to return a cautious answer to the message from the Throne. He had, therefore, certainly not stated his reasons for thinking that the question was not then ripe for decision. It was his opinion that the question had not been ripe for decision at the commencement of the Session, that it had not been ripe for decision on the 3rd of May, that it had not been ripe for decision on the 20th of June, when a noble Lord had postponed the bills in the other House of Parliament, and he was convinced that it was not ripe for decision at that moment. It was on that ground that he had given its consent to the second reading of the bill, and that he now gave his consent to going into committee upon it. His opinion was, that before their Lordships could effect what was called a settlement of the affairs of Upper and Lower Canada, they must first establish peace and security within those provinces. But they had not established peace and obedience to authority in these provinces on the first day of the Session—they had not done so on the 3rd of May—they had not done so on the 20th of June—they had not done so now. That was the misfortune of this
measure. The province of Lower Canada, as had been stated by the noble Viscount in the last sentence of his speech, was in a state of rebellion at this moment, and the Queen’s authority was not obeyed there. The Queen could not give protection at this moment to her loyal, subjects within the province of Lower Canada. He said, therefore, they were not in a situation to take any other measure except to do the best they could for the government of the province by some legal means, in addition to the military force, because in point of fact they had not yet established legal authority. That was the difference between the condition of Canada and Ireland.
In Ireland the Queen’s authority was obeyed—he wished he could say it was perfectly obeyed—but, however, the Queen’s authority and the laws were more or less obeyed, and upon the whole there was so much of obedience, that they could make laws for the government of Ireland, but they could not make laws for the government of Lower Canada, because they had not yet established the Queen’s authority there. The reason why they had not done so he had already stated so often that he was almost ashamed to advert to it again. They had never set about their operations in that country with a view to establish the Queen’s authority, as if they intended to carry their measures into execution. They had not in the first instance, as he had more than once reminded them, advised the Queen to declare her intention to maintain her sovereignty and authority within that province; they had attempted to carry on their operations there with a reduced peace establishment, and the consequence was, that neither neighbouring powers nor the world at large had ever believed that they were in earnest in the measures they were pursuing, or that they could attain the objects they professed to have in view. Hence it resulted that after two campaigns, after almost two years of warfare, they were placed exactly in the same situation as when they commenced. There was a description of warfare carried on along the whole line of frontier between the United States and her Majesty’s dominions from the side of the United States. There was not one of her Majesty’s subjects who was not in a constant state of alarm, and the war was proceeding exactly in the state in which it was at its commencement in November, 1837. When
the seasons came round, when, owing to the state of the weather, there would be greater facilities for activity and locomotion, they would hear of the same outrages and disasters which they had heard of in the course of the last year, and so things must continue until this country showed by the measures it adopted in that and the other House of Parliament its determination to establish the sovereignty and maintain the rights of the Crown in that part of the world. He had said frequently that they could not carry on two wars, one in Asia and one in America, and military operations besides in different parts of the world, upon a reduced peace establishment. In consequence of attempting to do that, they were not only starving their war service, but they were starving their peace service also. In consequence of their want of force, then, not only were they not able to undertake the measures, for the delay of which the noble and learned Lord reproached them, but they were not able to preserve the peace of the country anywhere. The army now was more than 10,000 men under its proper number for the home service; and every description of measures must be resorted to in order to preserve the peace because an impracticable attempt, an attempt which could not succeed, had been made to carry on war with a peace establishment. They were trying with a reduced peace establishment to carry on warlike operations in different parts of the world at the same time; and the consequence was that the peace service was starved as well as the war service.
It was very well known that in the course of the last winter the country received an insult, such as he believed was never suffered by this country on any former occasion, nor, he believed, by any country whatever from another, and it was upon the very frontier of one of these colonies, a colony, being in connexion with Canada, was taken from her Majesty’s Government and safe keeping. A territory, the dominion of which was in question between the United States and her Majesty, was seized by the state of Maine, and he was not sure that it was not now in its possession. He heard also that several other inroads were threatened, and again he advised noble Lords that he knew that it had been the practice ever since the French Revolution to announce operations of this kind beforehand, the advantage of announcing
them, the advantage of threats, was this, they occasioned terror, and terror was the great means and the greatest means of execution; and he ventured to predict that this very inroad, which was now threatened from the State of Maine, would be made upon the first occasion, and he would answer for it there was not within the British province the means of resisting the attack, because all the troops, the peace service of the provinces being necessarily neglected into the bargain, were employed in Canada, and there they were not sufficient to give protection to her Majesty’s peaceable and loyal subjects. They could not maintain her Majesty’s Government and her Government was therefore despised, her authority no longer existed; and it was absolutely impossible for their Lordships to attempt any settlement whatever, he did not care what it was, of this question, either now or a year hence, until they were enabled to effect a settlement of Canada, and the establishment of her Majesty’s Government by force in that colony. The noble and learned Lord had stated certain objections to the details of this hill. He voted for the bill brought in by the Government at the commencement of last year, and on the same principle that he did so he was disposed to vote for this bill.
He earnestly recommended their Lordships not to be in a hurry to make alterations in the bill unless they should see an absolute necessity for them, but to leave the Government the responsibility which belonged to them for this and for any other measure they might think proper to introduce in order to bring these matters to a conclusion. But once more he would tell the Government, that unless they set to work clearly and seriously to establish the authority of her Majesty in North America, they might rely upon it, that all they were doing was only throwing money away and tormenting themselves and the country for no reason and no use whatever; that they must first begin by declaring their intention to establish her Majesty’s Government, and to form a fleet and army accordingly, and until they did that they would do nothing at all. He was perfectly aware that besides her Majesty’s regular troops employed in this colony there was a large body of volunteers and militia formed from among the people of both the provinces, but particularly of Upper Canada; and he must say that he could not sufficiently
applaud the spirit with which those men had come forward in her Majesty’s service. The labours and privations which they had undergone in support of the rights of her Majesty and of the laws of the mother country had been very great, and he did think that it would ill become this country to abandon such men, to leave them to their fate, or to do otherwise by them than to make every effort which it was in the power of this country to make to reestablish peace among them, and to establish in the country such a government as would afford them protection, and give them tranquillity, and peace, and happiness for the future. That was what he wished to see. He really felt the highest respect for those people on account of the very valuable services they had rendered to her Majesty, not only throughout the recent disturbances, but on all occasions.
Lord Durham had been anxious to delay the observations which he had to make as long as possible, that he might have the advantage, to which he thought himself fairly entitled, of availing himself of what might pass in the course of this debate in reference to the situation which he had had the honour to fill for a short time; and he had been most anxious not to address their Lordships until he had an opportunity of hearing a speech from the noble Duke, of whom, he might be permitted to say, that he considered him, on the great interests and topics connected with this great question as great an authority as could be listened to either in or out of their Lordships’ House. He could assure the noble Duke, and he believed, if he would tax his recollection to a very trifling degree, be would remember what took place between them before he left this country, and be convinced that there was no great difference of opinion between them as to the necessity for having a very large military force in Canada.
Her Majesty’s Ministers, too, would remember, that on his own responsibility, as well as on the authority of the noble Duke’s opinion, he did make a request for the largest amount of military force that could be spared. He wished also to concur with the noble Duke in the approbation he had expressed of the services of the volunteers and militia of Canada. It was impossible to describe the privations they had suffered, and the services they had rendered, and how touch they were entitled to the gratitude of this country, and how base the
Parliament of this country would be, if it ever abandoned them, or ever wished for one instant to sacrifice that connexion of those two provinces which they had endeavoured to uphold, and had upheld at so great an expense of personal hardship and even of blood. But he wished to go further, and to give a tribute of praise also, which perhaps the noble and illustrious Duke, from his connexion with the army, had not thought it fit for himself to give. In the situation which he (Lord Durham) had held, he had an opportunity of knowing the value of the services of the regular troops; and therefore he felt bound to pay a tribute of gratitude both on the part of himself and the country, and of his gallant successor, Sir J. Colborne, to them; and to say, that from the exceeding difficulty and delicacy of the services which they had to perform, it was impossible for any force to act more in accordance with the spirit of humanity and loyalty.
In thus agreeing with the noble Duke he did not think, that he should render himself liable to the charge of wishing to establish a despotic power in Canada. He was as little inclined as any one to perpetuate such a state of things; but he must contend now, as he did when he last had the honour of addressing their Lordships before he left this country, that the necessity for setting up such a power in Canada had not originated in any Act of the Parliament of this country, but in the Acts of the House of Assembly of Lower Canada, which had thought proper to take those steps which were repugnant to every man who wished for the well-being of the colony. He should be sorry to see the system of arbitrary government continued any longer than it was absolutely necessary; but he should think himself very unmanly if he shrank from declaring, that the powers embodied in this bill were absolutely required for the efficient government of the colony, which he had stated in his despatch of the 20th of June, in which he applied for power to levy rates, not for the purpose of forcing on the people any obnoxious measures, but for the purposes of improvement—purposes which the people themselves had demanded, but which he had not the power to fulfil. Almost the first act which he had to perform on his arrival at Quebec was, to endeavour to form a preventive police for the maintenance of order and common decency. He had never known any
town more destitute of the means of effecting that object. There was no security for the public peace; the most unblushing crimes were committed in open day; and indecency, filth, and dirtiness, in all their most disgusting and degrading appearances, met his eyes in every part of the town. The inhabitants themselves were perfectly ready to enter into any measure to effect an improvement in this respect, but they had not the means of providing rates, they had no municipal laws, no powers for the maintenance of a police. The evils, however, which rendered a police force desirable were very great; especially as there were large garrisons there, and as many as thirteen or fourteen ships at a time lying off Quebec, and here was another source of great disorder; men were constantly prevailed upon, by every inducement, to desert her Majesty’s service to enter the merchant service; and on the other hand, all means were resorted to make them leave the merchant service for the royal navy; so that the whole body of shipowners felt the annoyance to be so great that they came to him and declared themselves willing, if he could legally establish a police force, to supply all the necessary funds out of their own pockets.
But, as he had said before, he had no power to meet their wishes; and not only that, but the act especially prevented him from doing so, and, therefore, when he asked fur that power he conceived that he was only taking means to carry out the great object of his appointment, and he should be ashamed of himself if he had not taken, or endeavoured to take, means to remedy the defects of the old institutions of the colony. The success of such a measure must in a great measure depend on the confidence placed in the governing authorities; and there was an absolute necessity for a permanent law to prevent a decrease in the revenue in a greater ratio than even the noble Marquess had mentioned. He found, also, that there was no jury law in existence. Juries were summoned in consequence of a letter of instruction—a rule established, he believed, by Sir J. Kempt—from the Governor, and it was imposing a very hard and onerous task upon the Governor of the colony to leave him with this resource only; because, suppose the case of the trial of a person on the charge of high treason, if, since according to law, or rather according to the absence of law, he
possessed the power of summoning a jury, he selected all English Canadians, he would be blamed by the French, and so if he selected French Canadians, he would be would exposed to a like charge of partiality. With regard to the law of tenure and of franchise, he had understood from the Principal of the Seminary of Montreal, that that body was very anxious to have the whole of their property enfranchised, but in the existing state of things it was impossible.
Having said thus much on the necessity of granting these powers, which he was confident, that Sir John Colborne and his colleagues would not use improperly, he might be permitted to say one word with reference to the course which he had pursued. He had been most unjustly accused, as it appeared, of having abandoned his duty in not having brought this question repeatedly before the House since he had presented his report. He would, in the first place, before proceeding further, say a word or two on the information conveyed in the report which he had given in to her Majesty’s Ministers and to Parliament, comprising information upon the Crown Lands, the claims of the militia, the hospitals, the prisons, the municipal institutions, the Church of England, the Church of Scotland, the Roman Catholic Church, general education, registrations, the feudal tenures making in all twelve subjects, the presentation of that report being, as he trusted, the redemption of a pledge he made to the people of Quebec, when he left them, that he would devote his best energies to bring their case before Parliament. He had done so, he hoped, without mixing up any personal or party feelings with it.
He had acted to the best of his abilities, and he should be ungrateful if he did not acknowledge how much he was indebted to those industrious persons by whom he had the good fortune to be surrounded, in drawing up that report which had been so much praised by the noble and learned Lord; so much so, that to their industry more than to his own, was the production to be ascribed. It was an epitome of all the information which they gave to him, and to that valuable information, as well as to the method in which they laid it before him, was the merit of the report to be ascribed, rather than to any skill of his own. He had felt himself placed in a situation which rendered it necessary that he should lay these matters before Parliament. The next step
naturally to be taken was on the part of the colonies; the report having been presented, it then became necessary for Upper and Lower Canada to state, whether they approved or disapproved of its contents or not. For himself, he felt determined he would press these matters upon the attention of Parliament, until he was enabled to speak in the name of Upper and Lower Canada, or at least to avow that the propositions which he had made, had not met with their approbation; and he confessed, that he was not surprised that her Majesty’s Ministers should propose this measure, in the present state of Upper Canada, because it ought to be known that the House of Assembly was on the eve of a dissolution, this being the last year in which the present Assembly could meet together. With regard to an union of the provinces, he had, in the report which had been laid before their Lordships, expressed his opinion upon that important subject, and he thought the course which had been followed in postponing the consideration of any measure for effecting that object was a wise one. The people of the colony had a perfect right to claim for themselves an opportunity of expressing their opinions upon a measure so important, and the postponement of that measure could hardly fail of giving satisfaction to the low provinces. The colony had a just title to express their opinions on a matter in which they were so deeply interested, but Parliament had not a right, in its present situation, and without ascertaining the feelings of the Canadian people, to force any such important measure as an union upon the colony.
He agreed with the noble and illustrious Duke, that Government ought not to act precipitately, but he contended that it was only fair and proper that the Ministers of the Crown should state their opinions and their intentions as early as possible, in order that an opportunity might thus be afforded for ascertaining the opinions of the people of the provinces with respect to the measures which it might be deemed advisable to adopt. When Government had expressed its opinions, and declared its intentions, it was only just that Upper Canada should have an opportunity of expressing its opinions on the measure to be adopted. He did not mean, by alluding to Upper Canada alone, to say that an opinion might not also be collected from the people of the lower province. It was true, they
could not have the opinion of the representative body, the functions of the Assembly having been suspended, as in the upper province, but they might have the opinion of the best informed and best educated part of the population—viz., the British inhabitants of Lower Canada, whose loyalty and devotion gave them a just claim to be consulted. They would have, in the interval between the present Session and the next, an opportunity which he trusted would not be neglected, of ascertaining the feelings and opinions of the people of Canada relative to the measures to be afterwards pursued.
They would in that interval, be able to ascertain what the views and opinions of the British population were, as to whether a union ought, or ought not, to be formed; and in the next Session they would be fully prepared to enter upon the consideration of this most important question. There was one other point on which he wished to make a few observations, and that point related to an isolated topic in the report which he had presented, and to which allusion had been made by the noble Marquess. The point to which he wished to call attention had reference to the recommendations he had made, that a responsible Government, as it had been termed—for he himself had never made use of the phrase—should be resorted to. It was his conviction, that no Government could be established which could give permanent satisfaction which was not founded upon a principle, and conducted in such a manner as to carry with it the feelings and the approbation of the people of the colony.
He did not say that he would proceed immediately to the construction of such a government, or that he would take Ministers from the House of Assembly, and so form a responsible Government, but he did say, that if they gave to the Canadian people all the freedom which they themselves enjoyed as to representative institutions—if they gave them the power of regulating their own affairs, of voting money, and of refusing the supplies—if they gave them all these powers, and yet denied to them the results of that freedom, and of those powers, it was impossible to imagine that there would be satisfaction in the colony. On the contrary, if they were denied the enjoyment of those results which ought naturally to spring from free institutions, the colony would continue to be the scene of dissatisfaction, and there would be struggles
and contentons without end; there would continue to exist differences of opinion leading to insurrections, such as that to which the colony had recently been exposed. Therefore it was that he would ask whether, when such were the results of a want of a responsible Government, it would not be better, if such a Government could not be formed, to give up the colony altogether, and suffer them to govern themselves? His opinion was, that such a Government might be formed as would make the union of the colonies with the mother country a means of advantage to both—as would make colonies a blessing, and a source of strength to the nation, instead of being a cause of degradation and of pecuniary loss. If such a government was formed, confidence and strength would be the results.
Mutual advantages in such a case would spring from the connexion, which would give rise to mutual satisfaction; but by the present system, so far from any advantage arising from the possession of colonies, they were only a cause of great loss to the nation. It was, then, an improvement of the present system which he advocated, and he was fully aware that those of their Lordships who opposed his opinions on this subject were not actuated by any improper view, but from wanting that information which could only be acquired on the spot, and from witnessing the wretched condition of those whom they had induced to leave their own country for those distant colonies. He could not but wish that such of their Lordships as were inclined to oppose his views had seen, as he had, the wretched condition of those who, year after year, in such numbers, went out to North America. There was one other reason to which he wished to allude, and which had induced him not to put himself forward for the purpose of proposing any measures relative to Canada. He was well aware of the political hostility to which he had been exposed, and he had been most anxious that this great question relative to Canada should not be mixed up with anything like party feeling or party disputes. He had, therefore, felt it to be his duty, after having furnished the Government with all the information in his power, to rest satisfied for a time, and not force his opinions upon Parliament, or embroil in any way the difficulties with which this question was already surrounded, merely for the gratification of his own personal feelings.
It was on these grounds that he had abstained from forcing on any discussion relative to Canada. He should not trespass farther on their Lordships’ time, but he would perhaps be permitted before he sat down again to declare, that in his opinion, there was sufficient cause for requiring that the powers of this bill should be confided to Sir John Colborne and his Council. He must also express a hope, that the Government would not lose sight of the necessity for legislation without delay on the subject of Canada. He trusted that during the recess the opinions of the Canadian people would be fully ascertained, and in the next Session, as early as possible, he hoped a well-digested measure would be brought forward, such as would meet with the approbation of the people of the colony, with the approbation of Parliament, and of the country, and such as would conduce to the advantage of Canada, and to the honour and prosperity of England.
The Earl of Gosford thought the measure before their Lordships was likely to create the greatest alarm throughout the colony. They might continue the Act of the 1st of Victoria, but if they sent out such a measure as this, where the powers it would confer were so vague, alarm would be spread amongst the people, and they would have reason to repent having passed such an Act. If it appeared that the power of taxation was necessary, why not give uncontrolled power to the Governor. There were some persons in the Council who had not the confidence of the Canadian people, and he was convinced that if such extensive powers were confided to the Council, the alarm would not be confined to the British population, but would extend throughout the colony. He should not, however, oppose the House going into Committee upon the bill.
Earl Fitzwilliam said, it appeared to him that the noble Duke had confounded rebellion in the province with disturbances on the frontier. The disturbances on the frontier were not unnatural. They had long existed there, and it was but rarely during the last century, when the settlers came in contact, that the borders of the States in North America had been in a state of peace. He was at a loss to understand how the measures recommended by the noble Duke would produce peace. They might produce the tranquillity of silence, but such peace would only be the
peace of the body, not the mental repose a the nation. The recommendations of his noble Friend below him appeared to him to amount to nothing less than the assertion of the necessity of a re-conquest of Canada. But how had this become necessary? The whole history of the Colonial-office showed that we had treated Canada with injustice. He did not, however, mean to say, that this was any palliation of rebellion, but it was too true that we were not doing by Canada as we would be clone by. He knew that the opinion which he entertained on this subject was so different from that which was entertained by the majority not only of their Lordships but of the people of this country, that he almost despaired of obtaining anything like attention to the statement of his opinions. Any man, however, who had deduced from history the lessons which it ought to teach would know, that a more fatal error could not be committed than the attempt to make geographical states instead of founding a nation.
The Duke of Wellington remarked, that till measures were taken to restore the province to a state of security, it would be in vain to hope that any constitutional government, or any government at all, could be established in Canada. This was what he had adverted to, and he had never adverted to any constitution of a particular description. He had never, since the commencement of the present Session adverted either to the despatches of the report of the noble Earl, expecting that any measures relating to Canada would originate, as they ought to do, with the Government. He would now only state his determination to do everything in his power to promote a settlement of the affairs of Canada.
House in Committee.
The Yeoman Usher of the Black Rod announced that a message was waiting from the Commons.
The Marquess of Lansdowne moved, that their Lordships should resume, in order that the message might be received.
Lord Brougham objected to the House resuming. Let the bill go through the Committee, and the message from the Commons could be received afterwards.
Several Peers—Resume, Resume.
Lord Brougham—Then I shall enter my protest against that. The Commons might have brought this message up at
five o’clock, the proper time. But this is a specimen of the unnatural, hurried speed at which legislation goes on at the end of the Session, by persons who have been going on for five or six months doing nothing, and what they have done they had better have left alone, for they have clone it in such a way as to give us a great deal of trouble in setting it right. If any of them—[Looking towards the Bar where a number of Members of the House of Commons were standing]—should happen to hear me through any irregular channel, I hope they will mention this, and take care to bring up bills at the usual time, otherwise they will not be received.
The Marquess of Lansdowne—Most probably the bill that will be brought up is a bill which the noble and learned Lord would wish to proceed with unnatural speed, for I believe it is the Portuguese Slave Trade Bill.
Lord Brougham—I totally differ from my noble Friend. I object to an excellent measure being promoted by bad means.
Lord Holland was a much older Member of the House than the noble and learned Lord, and he could recollect very important bills being brought up at a much later hour. He had also known the House to wait three hours doing nothing in expectation of a messenger from the House of Commons. He really thought that a little good humour on the part of one House towards the other would be much better than such constant scolding.
The House resumed, and the Slave Trade (Portugal) Bill was brought up from the Commons.
Their Lordships again resolved themselves into Committee on the Lower Canada Government Bill.
On the third clause being put, Lord Brougham moved that it be struck out.
Lord Ellenborough thought, that before the House came to a division on the clause, it would be desirable to have the meaning of it explained. The clause said, that no new tax should be levied by, or made payable to, the receiver-general, or any other public officer of her Majesty’s revenue; nor should it be appropriated by the governor or any other officer of the Crown. Who, then, was to receive the tax, and who was to appropriate it?
The Lord Chancellor observed, that all the power existing in the Legislature
would, with certain restrictions, be transferred to the special council.
Lord Brougham hoped, that the Portuguese Slave Trade Bill was drawn up with more carefulness, and with a greater regard to the powers of human comprehension, than the present. No public officer of revenue was to levy the new taxes, and what sort of person was to levy them, it was out of his power to imagine. It was impossible for their Lordships to pass nonsense, and they must therefore either reject or alter the clause.
The Marquess of Normanby was understood to say, that the taxes would be levied by persons appointed for the purpose.
Lord Ellenborough—The most convenient course would be for the noble Marquess to concur in the rejection of the clause, and to insert another, more clearly expressed, on the bringing up of the report.
Lord Melbourne conceived, that the better course would be to pass the clause. If their Lordships were inclined to sanction the general principle of the clause, they ought not to reject it, as it might be amended at a subsequent stage.
The Duke of Wellington said, that the intention of the clause was to give to the special council the same power as had been possessed by the Legislature, as to the passing of private bills. If that intention were clearly expressed, he saw no objection to it.
The Lord Chancellor said, that that was exactly the intention of the clause, and collectors would, of course, be appointed by each ordinance.
Lord Lyndhurst said, it was perfectly idle to pass this clause; for, supposing any measure to be passed under it in Canada next November, it would not be before Parliament in this country until February, and as it must then he on the Table thirty days, it would not be received again in Canada until the time had nearly arrived when fresh provision must be made for the government of that province. It was clear that Ministers did not understand their own measure.
Their Lordships divided on the question “That the clause stand part of the bill:” Contents 59; Not-Contents 46: Majority 13.
Remaining clauses agreed to, with amendments.
The House resumed, the report to be received,