UK, House of Lords, “Canada—Address to the Crown”, vol 47, cols 866-870 (6 May 1839)
By: UK (House of Lords)
Citation: UK, HL, “Canada—Address to the Crown“, vol 47 (1839), cols 866-870.
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CANADA—ADDRESS TO THE CROWN
Viscount Melbourne moved, that her Majesty’s message be read.
The message having been read by the clerk and by the Lord Chancellor, [See Ante.]
Viscount Melbourne rose and said: My Lords, notwithstanding the very great and paramount importance of the subject which has been brought under your Lordships’ consideration by her Majesty’s gracious message, notwithstanding its great magnitude and its vast importance, and notwithstanding the convictions which I apprehend, we all feel of the necessity of prompt and decided legislation on this subject, yet, my Lords, I do not think it necessary, or consider myself called upon to detain your Lordships by any lengthened observations, or take up your Lordships’ time for any long period on the present occasion. It has appeared, unquestionably, that all the circumstances of the great importance of the subject to which I have adverted, have impressed upon her Majesty’s servants the necessity of bringing it under your Lordships’ consideration in the most solemn and formal manner, by a message from the Throne.
During the last Session of Parliament, when the measures which we were about to introduce were confessedly not to be permanent, but of a transient, temporary, and occasional nature, and such as were necessary to meet the peculiar circumstances of the case, the noble Duke opposite, I remember, thought we were subject to censure, that we were guilty of au omission of our duty in not bringing down a message on that occasion, and under such circumstances. Whether that were so or not, whether the noble Duke were
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right or not in that censure, it is not necessary for me now to inquire; but I think your Lordships will necessarily feel, that now, when it is our intention to propose measures with the object, and, I trust, with the effect, of settling the affairs of Canada on a permanent, durable, and stable foundation—there can be no doubt that it is our duty to introduce those measures to the consideration of Parliament, with all the solemnity which it is possible for us to give to them. My Lords, the message from the Throne only submits the subject to your Lordships’ consideration. It points to your Lordships the principle of the measure intended to be submitted to Parliament—namely, the principle of a union, for the purposes of legislation, of those two provinces in that part of her Majesty’s dominions which were divided by the act of 1791. But, although it points out to your Lordships, that such is the principle of the intended measure, yet, neither upon that principle of a union, nor upon any other part of the question, is it my intention to call upon your Lordships, at the present moment, to pronounce a decided opinion, or require from you anything in the slightest degree resembling a pledge.
I will leave that to future discussion and future consideration, and simply content myself on the present occasion with moving an address to her Majesty, to thank her Majesty for the gracious message from the Throne, and to declare your Lordships’ readiness to take into consideration those measures which shall be submitted to you. As it is not my intention to enter into the details of these measures, on the present occasion, or to enter into a consideration of any of the various documents which have been submitted to you, I trust your Lordships will think that I best discharge my duty in not going further into the discussion of the general question, or of any part of it. I shall, therefore, content myself with moving, “That an humble Address be presented, to return her Majesty the Thanks of this House, for her Majesty’s gracious message relative to the provinces of Lower and Upper Canada, and to assure her Majesty, that we will not fail to take into our most serious consideration, the subject recommended to our attention by her Majesty, and that this House be desirous of concurring in all such measures as may best tend to promote those salutary Objects which her Majesty has in view.”
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The Duke of Wellington said, that it did not appear to him to be necessary that he should enter into any discussion upon what passed on a former occasion, when this subject was under discussion, in the course of the last Session of Parliament. Upon the Address just read, and upon the proposition made to their Lordships by the noble Viscount, that they should agree to that Address, in answer to her Majesty’s most gracious message sent to that House on its last day of meeting, he thought that no proposition could be more reasonable than that made to their Lordships by the noble Viscount.
The noble Viscount had refrained, both in his speech and in the wording of his motion, from pledging their lordships to any specific plan on this important subject. The noble Viscount had most judiciously avoided referring to other matters connected with this subject, with the various documents which they had before them. With their Lordships’ permission, he (the Duke of Wellington) would follow the noble Viscount’s example, and refrain from adverting to the subject, or the topics connected with it, on the present occasion, being desirous that their Lordships should carry to the foot of the throne, unanimously, the assurance con-tamed in this Address, of their willingness to take the subject into consideration, and of their wish, that they might be enabled to approve of the measures to be submitted to them.
The Earl of Wicklow was anxious to take this opportunity of adverting to a point on which he had touched, when this subject was under their Lordships’ consideration before. He thought it of peculiar importance, now that some intimation had been given of the intentions of Government with regard to Canada. He had asked, on a former occasion, whether the noble Viscount meant to furnish the House with any suggestions or information the Government might have received on this subject from other governors of the province. He (the Earl of Wicklow) had since had reason to believe that there was some information or suggestion coming from Lord Aylmer. He also wished to know whether the noble Viscount would furnish any information that might have been received from Lord Gosford or Sir John Colbourne. If there had been any such information, its production was the more desirable, since the appearance of a publication by a talented individual, Sir Francis Head, who evidently
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differed in toto in his suggestions from the noble Earl, the late Governor-General of Canada. Sir Francis Head had this advantage, that he was Governor of one province for considerably more than two years; whereas the noble Earl, whose suggestions were now attended to by the Government, only passed a few months in the country. With these conflicting opinions, if there were any further information, it was desirable that it should be furnished to the House.
Viscount Melbourne said, that if there were any such information as that alluded to by the noble Earl, it should be furnished.
Lord Brougham entirely agreed with the noble Duke, that the course taken by the noble Viscount, in proposing such an Address to the Crown, had been most judicious. It not only rendered no discussion necessary on this occasion, but it precluded discussion altogether. They were pledged to nothing, by agreeing to a mere act of courtesy on the part of the House, in return for an act of courtesy and condescension on the part of the Crown. Whether it were necessary to bring down a message before proposing a plan for the government of Canada, was beside the present question. It was thought expedient, but it could not be said to be necessary. He made no objection to the course proposed, further than saying, that he must protest on behalf of both Houses of Parliament, against the understanding that a message from the Crown was ever necessary on any subject, to enable Parliament to exercise its wisdom on that subject. It was found expedient to adopt this course now, because it had been adopted in 1791. But the course adopted in 1791 had not turned out very successful, and perhaps that might furnish a reason for not caring whether the forerunners and accompaniments of that course were adhered to as precedents. In offering no objection to the Address, he did not consider that he, in the least degree, committed himself, even to the most general adoption of the principle laid down. He considered himself just as much entitled to object to it on a future occasion, as if the address had not been agreed to. His noble Friend opposite (the Earl of Wicklow) was mistaken in supposing that the plan propounded in the report of his noble Friend, was announced in the message. The principle of uniting the two provinces was as old as the
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hills. The merit of his noble Friend (the Earl of Durham) was of a different nature, for he entered into details, and proposed a great variety of measures for carrying his views into successful effect. But the House was not committed, in any way whatever to any of his plans by the adoption of the present Address.
Address agreed to nem. disc.