UK, House of Lords, “Canada—Mr. Mackenzie”, vol 46, cols 327-333 (12 March 1839)

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Date: 1839-03-12
By: UK (House of Lords)
Citation: UK, HL, “Canada—Mr. Mackenzie“, vol 46 (1839), cols 327-333.
Other formats: Click here to view the original document (Hansard UK — External Site).


The Earl of Ripon said, it was with considerable reluctance that he called their Lordships’ attention to a matter which, although not unconnected with a very important public question before the House, had, nevertheless, as far as the present motion was concerned, a special personal reference to himself. His motion would be for the production of certain information with respect to communications which in 1832, when he was colonial secretary, had taken place between himself and an individual of the name of Mackenzie. His attention had been called to this subject by having accidentally seen a work, published in 1835, in Canada, in which reference was made very specifically to those communications.

The work was called “The Seventh Report of Grievances of the House of Assembly of Upper Canada.” Some matters introduced into this report had since attracted notice in this country, and had led to observations connected with his communications with Mr. Mackenzie, which were of a nature somewhat injurious to him, alluding to his disposition respecting that individual, founded in misconception he had no doubt, and which were entirely contrary to the fact. Of this Grievance Report this Mr. Mackenzie was both the author and the hero. It was not at all surprising, therefore, that Mr. Mackenzie should have availed himself of the opportunity of describing himself

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as a great man, and of priding himself on the very great influence he had obtained in this country in communications with the Colonial-office. But he should be able to satisfy their Lordships, that this gentleman affecting to be a very great man was, in fact, a very small one. He came to England in 1832, and presented himself at the Colonial-office as the representative of twenty thousand persons of Upper Canada, complaining of a variety of grievances. He almost affected the importance of an ambassador coming from an independent state; in short, there was no end of the importance he assumed. He addressed himself to me (continued the noble Earl), requesting I would see and permit him to be accompanied by three other gentlemen. I had to consider first, whether I ought to see him at all; and secondly, upon what footing I ought to receive him. I without the least hesitation determined to see him, because I was of opinion, that the doors of the head of any public office ought to be open to any person who wished to make representations of what they conceived to be grievances; and I also thought it good policy to hear the parties themselves state the grounds and reasons of their complaints. I determined, therefore, to see Mr. Mackenzie, who I was not prepared to say was what he had since been called—a broken down pedlar.

As to his individual character I had no reason to know that he had been guilty either of treason or sedition. I knew he was upon very bad terms with the House of Assembly. He had, as they alleged, libelled them. They expelled him from the Assembly: he was re-elected. They expelled him again, he was again re-elected. In short, he was what was considered a very troublesome person; and it was not impossible that he might be also mischievous. Considering the character he gave himself, as being a person charged to speak the sentiments of a whole people, it became necessary for me to consider whether it was consistent with my duty to admit him in that character. I thought I ought not. He had no right so to represent himself. I therefore desired my under-secretary, Lord He wick, to write a letter, to make it quite impossible for this person to misunderstand the footing upon which alone I could consent to see him. His application was made on the 21st of June. On the 23d of June, Lord Howick wrote to

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him, and after saying I should be ready to see him, he added (by my direction), “I have further to observe, that although Lord Goderich is ready to hear any observation you have to offer upon the affairs of Upper Canada as an individual interested in the welfare of that province, and as a member of the House of Assembly, he cannot recognize you as being deputed to act for any other person, nor can he enter into any discussion with you upon measures which his Majesty’s Government may think it right to pursue.” I think your Lordships will see, that that does not indicate on my part any hasty disposition to place unlimited confidence in that person. Lord Howick added, “The intentions of his Majesty’s Government with respect to the affairs of the province can only be made known to the people of Upper Canada through the medium of the governor or the Legislature.”

No one, I think, can pretend, after this, to say, that I was incautious as to the extent upon which I should allow him to communicate with me. It reduced him from the lofty position he affected to assume, to his own natural level. I believed this disconcerted him very much, because he complained of it, and represented, that by my decision I shut the door of the Colonial office on all that vast mass of facts which he offered to submit on behalf of the unrepresented landholders and inhabitants of Upper Canada. As to what he called a mass of facts, it was, on the contrary, as great a mass of trash as was ever got together. Lord Howick’s answer to that complaint was, that there had been a mistake, and that I was not unwilling to see him, and added, that I only declined to see him as having any authority from any recognised body, and said, “Lord Goderich declines to enter on any official discussion with you on the public affairs of Canada, or to admit, that you are the organ of those whom you term the unrepresented landowners and inhabitants of Canada,” and then added, “Lord Goderich cannot form his judgment as to the wishes and opinions of the people of Upper Canada from unauthorised statements of individuals in opposition to those of the House of Assembly, in which he is convinced that all classes of the inhabitants are fairly represented.” I apprehend that was good sound constitutional doctrine; and it did happen that the Assembly concurred in no single point with Mr. Mackenzie.

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However, I saw him. He came accompanied by three other individuals. The first was Mr. Hume, then the Member for Middlesex; another was Mr. Viger, a sort of hybrid agent from Lower Canada; and the third was a Mr. Riarson, a gentleman of the Wesleyan persuasion. As soon as I found what it was Mr. Mackenzie was coming to talk to me about, it occurred to me that it was very singular that Mr. Viger should be of the party, he having nothing to do with them, but was a member of the Assembly of Lower Canada. I thought it might lead to very great inconvenience if I allowed him to be a party to the interview, and I asked what he could have to do with it. It was answered that the grievances were so much a matter of general concern that Lower Canada had almost as great an interest in them as Upper Canada. I, however, did not see the advantage of his being present. I thought it might lead to confusion, and I declined seeing Mr. Viger any more.

Mr. Riarson stayed; his purpose for staying was to inform me that he came over with Mr. Mackenzie, but that he should not come again, because he did not agree in the views of Mr. Mackenzie. Mr. Mackenzie, therefore, was left to his own unassisted efforts. He fired at me a great number of memorials at subsequent periods; but I soon became satisfied that Mr. Mackenzie was as vain and shallow-headed a gentleman as ever I encountered; that he was totally incapable of managing business in any intelligible form, or of expressing his own views, or understanding the views of others. I think your Lordships will not believe that I was much disposed to place anything in the shape of confidence in him. On the 8th of September Lord Howick wrote to him thus:—”Lord Goderich is willing to receive and to pay such attention as they may seem to require to any further written statements you may think fit to submit, and if you have anything to state which can only be verbally communicated, his Lordship will not refuse to afford you an opportunity of stating it, as far as his other avocations will allow.” This was rather a cold communication, and not indicative of a disposition to give my confidence to him. I had only one other conference with him; and in the Report of Grievances I find he endeavours to make his friends believe, that a dispatch which was sent to Canada the day after that conference was in consequence

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of a two hours’ conversation he had had with me on that occasion. It was perfectly true that a dispatch was dated the day after that conference; but when their Lordships were told what was the nature of that dispatch, they would perceive that it was not possible it could be the result of any conversation he had had with Mr. Mackenzie. It was a very long and elaborate dispatch, and one which touched on many questions of general policy, entering at the same time into minute details and interesting points affecting Upper Canada.

This dispatch so far from proving that he had any confidence in Mackenzie, proved distinctly that he could not by possibility have entertained any, because it contained an elaborate refutation of all the statements which Mackenzie had made, and stated that he considered what Mackenzie had represented as grievances were no grievances at all. That was the nature of his communication with Mackenzie; the conclusions which had been drawn from it, therefore, were not founded in fact. Allusion had been made to the great respect with which he had received the representations of Mr. Mackenzie. What he received were not the representations of that person, but what he had received with respect were the petitions of 24,000 men. It was his bounden duty to treat them with respect, whether he adopted their representations and acted upon them or not. As to any other application of the word “respect” contained in the sentence which had been commented upon, he would say that the sense of the expression was entirely misunderstood, and that it had no reference whatever to Mr. Mackenzie. Perhaps, my Lords, concluded the noble Earl, I am laying too much stress upon this; but feeling that I am a loyal subject of her Majesty, I do not, my Lords, much like to be held up as a friend and fosterer of persons of this description—of such an individual as this Mr. Mackenzie, who, it appears, is now an outlaw—an admitted rebel, and a traitor. I confess I should think it a great reflection upon me if I had given my confidence to, or had placed any trust whatever in such a person. I, therefore, have felt it my duty to say that he had not the slightest influence over me in what I thought proper to do in respect to advising his late Majesty on the measures to be adopted with respect to Upper Canada. The noble Earl then moved for

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the production of the papers to which he had alluded in the course of his speech.

The Marquess of Normanby said, he had not the slightest objection to the production of the papers moved for by the noble Earl. Since the noble Earl had given notice upon the subject, he (the Marquess of Normanby) had looked into the dispatch referred to, and he certainly could have borne his testimony, if any corroboration of the statement of the noble Earl had been necessary, as to the manner in which the noble Earl had guarded his intercourse with Mr. Mackenzie. But although the noble Earl had stated that his desire was to vindicate himself from certain imputations founded on a report of grievances published in 1835, yet he (the Marquess of Normanby) was at the same time aware that public attention had been called to a supposed relation between Mr. Mackenzie and his noble Friend by a much more recent publication. Therefore, in assenting to the production of these papers, he was anxious to guard himself against it being supposed that any unauthorised publication had in the least fettered him in the exercise of that discretion which he otherwise would have used as to the production of any of these documents to either House of Parliament. He had not the slightest feeling of personal ill-will towards the gallant officer (Sir Francis Head) from whom that publication had emanated.

Quite the contrary; he had great respect for his bravery as a military character, and knew him to be a man of varied acquirements, and of great ability and talent. He wished to give no opinion with regard to his previous conduct; but with regard to this one act to which public attention had been called, he begged once for all to say, that he believed it to be an act perfectly unparalleled, and he trusted it would long remain a solitary instance. He owned he felt very strongly upon this subject. He would not allude to anything connected with that publication more than to state that he believed the insinuations were perfectly unwarranted, which had been thrown out against the private character of a highly honourable individual. He was only speaking as the head of the office whose documents had been so brought before the public; and he wished to take this opportunity of protesting against that conduct being drawn into a precedent, and of stating that as long as he should have the honour of serving her

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Majesty in that office, he should do hi utmost to restrain and prevent the repetition of such conduct,

Papers ordered.

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