UK, House of Lords, “Government of Canada”, vol 55, cols 490-522 (7 July 1840)
By: UK (House of Lords)
Citation: UK, HL, “Government of Canada“, vol 55 (1840), cols 490-522.
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GOVERNMENT OF CANADA
Viscount Melbourne moved the Order of the day for a Committee of the whole House on the Canada Government Bill.
The Order of the day having been read,
The Earl of Hardwicke said, that in rising to address their Lordships on I his occasion, and in pursuance of the notice which he had given the other day, that this bill be committed this day six months, he felt it his duty to state to their Lordships the grounds on which he took this, what might be considered in some degree extraordinary proceeding. It was perfectly true, that he was present when this bill was read a second time, and lie did not rise in his place to offer any objection to the principle of the measure; but when he came into the House he was not aware that the course which was then pursued would be taken. Since that time he had thought it his duty to proceed in the manner in which he was now proceeding, nut consulting any individual, not connecting himself with any party, but acting entirely on his own responsibility, and from a sense of public duty.
He was perfectly aware of his own imperfections —he was aware that he had neither the talents nor the knowledge which a Member of that House presuming to address their Lordships on such a subject ought to possess. But he had about him a strong sense of duty which impelled him to avow his conviction, that if this bill were permitted to pass, it would tend to the separation of our Canadian colonies from the mother country. Although he felt incapable of doing justice to the subject, he also felt that the cause was just and right, and he further felt, that if he failed in showing that this bill was dangerous to the union between this country and her colonies, several of those who had already addressed their Lordships were on his side, although they might not be disposed to carry their opposition to the full extent. He, therefore, was not oppressed by the same difficulty under which he should have laboured, if the whole charge of the proof, and the consequences of failure, had rested upon him alone. He might rest contented upon this occasion, in going at once to a vote upon the speeches which had been delivered by his noble Friend (the Duke of Wellington), and his noble Friend the noble Baron (Ellenborough) who sat at his left on the same bench. He might,
he repeated, be contented to ask for a division on those speeches alone, but he thought it more respectful to their Lordships to take upon himself the task of stating the reasons upon which he founded the motion with which he should conclude. He thought, however, that he might also rest in some small degree on the speech of the noble Viscount who had introduced the subject to their Lordships, a speech not conveying to his mind, whatever it might to the minds of others, that sort of impression which ought to be conveyed by a Minister of the Crown on a subject of so great importance, namely, that it was a measure which the noble Viscount was fully confident was necessary to the safety of the empire.
The noble Viscount concluded the latter part of his speech with these words: — But whether this union, abstractedly considered, would, with a country which had yet to be settled, be the wisest and the most expedient that could be devised, was scarcely worth discussing, for circumstances were sometimes more powerful than reasons, opinions, theories, and systems. Scarcely worth discussion! scarcely worth discussion! Such observations as those, when the question before the House was whether two great and important colonies should be well or ill governed, seemed so extraordinary, that they must have escaped a Minister of the Crown by the merest accident.
Viscount Melbourne—They never escaped me at all.
The Earl of Hardwicke—He did not quote from memory, but from The Times, which was tolerably correct, he believed, in the reports which it contained of the proceedings in their Lordships’ House. However, he took the purport of the observations which fell from the noble Viscount to indicate that grave doubts existed in his mind whether the measure would be beneficial. But to proceed. He would pass over that portion of time and that Act of Parliament which, after the conquest of Canada, divided the province into two portions for the purpose of forming the upper part of it into an English province. Now, he would ask their Lordships whether the prospects of Canada were so materially changed, or the aspect of affairs was so satisfactory in itself, that they would no longer think it their duty to keep that division as it was at present. The country had by no means diminished in she, nor was the population much increased,
and the French still formed a very large portion of the population, and it seemed to him that the advantage which we had gained by having erected in that country something like an English citadel would be placed in jeopardy by this bill. Now, his opinion was, that no union between the two provinces could be founded on justice. He cared not for the effect of an Act of Parliament, but if an act was to pass to unite the two provinces of Upper and Lower Canada, it never could carry with it the force of justice. If the bill should pass their Lordships’ House, and receive the royal assent, that bill being avowedly intended to secure the preponderance of British influence in the united Legislature, by that very act alone they would perpetuate the dissensions which prevailed, and the French Canadians would never feel satisfied that they would be justly and peaceably governed.
But he would take another case, and he would suppose, that the bill was a just bill, and would give equal political rights to all parties in that country. If that were the case, their Lordships would do injustice to the other party. Those who had fought and bled for the connexion with this country, and had contended for its institutions in Church and State, would look upon themselves as deserted by us, and handed over to the tyranny of those who were aliens in affection to them. Under those circumstances he held that it was impossible that their Lordships could pass any measure which should be both just, and at the same time insure a preponderance for British influence. This it was which had induced him to take the step which he had adopted on that occasion. Now, none of the governors of the province, till Lord Durham’s time, since 1791, had recommended the union of the provinces, and none of the executive councils had sanctioned it, but had invariably discountenanced it. He was now going to refer to a pamphlet which he held in his hand, which was not of authority by itself, but which he should use entirely as a matter of convenience. He should turn to the opinion of Sir Peregrine Maitland, which was given to the author of the pamphlet, Sir F. Head, in reply to a question put by the latter. The opinion was contained in a letter, which was as follows:— Brighton, June 6, 1839. Sir,—In reply to your letter which I have
just received, I have not a moment’s hesitation in saying, that the democratic pressure in the House of Assembly, aided as it was by English influence, has been as strong as the Lieutenant-governors of the province have been practically able to resist. There can be no doubt that the union of the two provinces would greatly increase that pressure, and the measure was deprecated by the loyalists of Upper Canada in my time upon this ground. He would then call the attention of their Lordships to the opinion of Sir Francis Head contained in the extracts from a despatch dated Toronto, Upper Canada, October 28, 1836:— The remedy which I fear will be assiduously recommended by the British population of Lower Canada is, that the two provinces should be united and placed under the government of some individual in whose coolness, decision, and ability, they can rely. My humble but deliberate opinion of this project is, that it would produce the effect of separating both the Canadas from the parent state, on the homely principle that if tainted and fresh meat be attached together both are corrupted. So long as Upper Canada remains by itself, I feel confident that by mere moderate government her ‘ majority men’ will find that prudence and principle unite to keep them on the same side; but if once we were to amalgamate this province with Lower Canada, we should instantly infuse into the House of General Assembly a powerful French party, whose implacable opposition would be a dead, or rather, a living weight, always seeking to attach itself to any question whatever that could attract and decoy the ‘majority men.’
If the Imperial Parliament will now deal with Lower Canada with firmness and decision, there is nothing whatever to fear; if it vacillates, all is gone. Now, it should be borne in mind that the House of Assembly had never once addressed the Crown or the Colonial Secretary in favour of such a measure as the present, but, on the contrary, had addressed the Crown against it. In a despatch addressed to his late Majesty King William 4th, from both houses of the lower province, dated the 3rd of March, 1837, they said:— We are of opinion that such a change would expose us to the danger of consequences certainly inconvenient, and possibly most ruinous to the peace and welfare of this country, and destructive of its connexion with the parent state. This province we believe to be quite as large as can be effectually and conveniently ruled by our Executive Government. United with Lower Canada it would form a territory of which the settled parts from east to west would cover an extent of
1,100 miles, which, for nearly half the year’ can only be traversed by land, the opposite territory of the United States, along the same extent of frontier, being divided into six states, having each an independent government. The population which Upper Canada contains is almost without exception of British descent. They speak the same language and have the same laws, and it is their pride that these laws are derived from their mother country, and are unmixed with rules and customs of foreign origin. Wholly and happily free from those causes of difficulty which are found so embarrassing in the adjoining province, we cannot but most earnestly hope that we shall be suffered to continue so; and that your Majesty’s paternal regard for your numerous and loyal subjects in this colony will not suffer a doubtful experiment to be hazarded, which may be attended with consequences most detrimental to their peace, and injurious to the best interests of themselves and their posterity.
Further, an objecting party to this bill was one who was connected with most important interests in this country—namely, the Church of England. The Bishop of Toronto had opposed the union of the provinces, as also had Mr. Hager-man, a most important person, the Attorney-general of Upper Canada, from whose speech he would read two or three extracts. In the vote I am about to give I firmly believe is involved the question of my allegiance, and, as far as depends on my humble advice, the integrity of the empire. Sir, I believe, that the union of the provinces of Upper and Lower Canada will place in imminent peril the connection of this country with the parent state; and, believing this, I cannot, I dare not, without violating the oath of allegiance I have so frequently and so willingly taken, vote in favour of this measure.
But the advocates of the union with these people say, that by that measure, all this will be changed, the Canadians of French origin will become reconciled to the dominion of the British, or, at all events, they will be prevented from giving further trouble. I put no faith in any of those opinions, and I believe, that none of them will be realized. On the contrary, I fear, that an opposite effect will be the consequence. I do not believe, that by showing your intention to coerce or overwhelm them by your superior numbers, you will remove the repugnance they now feel to any association with you; neither is the union likely to be recommended to either French or English, when your chief, if not your only reason for seeking it, is to obtain from their coffers the means of paying your debts. If the question were plainly asked me, why I am opposed to the projected union of the provinces, I would answer by simply stating, that we are safe as a dependency of the empire
now. Unite us to Lower Canada, and that safety is at an end; and I will not assent to any measure that incurs the risk of so great a calamity as separation from the British Crown. And for what are these great dangers to be incurred—these sacrifices to be made? For no other reason than that we are unwilling to encounter the difficulty of paying off a few hundred thousand pounds of debt! The reflections that are awakened in my mind by this view of the subject are, I confess, melancholy and humiliating; and so strongly do I feel the fatal consequences of this measure, that were I permitted to approach my gracious Sovereign, I would, on my bended knees, implore her Majesty to withhold her assent from it.
With regard to the negative proof, he might adduce to show the danger of the course proposed, he should wish to show their Lordships that the traitors were very much in favour of this bill. Those who had been outlawed supported the principle of the union. If that were the case, was it possible to suppose that they did not expect the hands of their party to be strengthened by it—of that party which we had been obliged to put down by the bayonet? And if that party should be so strengthened, what prospect —what hope, could there be that they could govern that portion of the empire? He would now, in addition to the authorities he had stated as opposed to the union, read to their Lordships a signed document which had been written by Sir F. Head on the previous day, on his requesting that officer to give him any information which he might possess on this question. The noble Lord then read the memorandum of Sir F. Head, as follows;— It appears, that the House of Lords is called upon by her Majesty’s Government to assent to the Canada Bill on the ground that the union of the Canadas is the declared wish of the Legislature and constituted authorities of the two provinces, and, therefore, that it ought not to be resisted. The following facts will, it is humbly submitted, expose the fallacy of the premises, and of the inference deduced from them. 1. The union of the Canadas was recommended by the Queen to both Houses of Parliament, without the Government having previously consulted either Colonel Gore, Sir P. Maitland, Sir J. Colborne, Sir G. Arthur, Sir F. Head, or Lord Gosford, all of whom had practically administered the Government in the Canadas, and all of whom, had they been consulted, would have given their advice against the measure. Lord Seaton and Lord Gosford, if appealed to in the House of Lords, will, I believe, corroborate the above,
statement, 2. After the Queen’s message had been delivered, the printed bill for the union was submitted by her Majesty’s Government to Sir J. Colborne, who, far from approving of it, returned it to the Government with his disapprobation of its contents. If Lord Seaton be asked whether this was or was not the case, he will, I believe, answer in the affirmative. 3. Shortly after Mr. Thomson’s arrival in Canada, and shortly after his declaration in favour of the union had been promulgated, Sir G. Arthur forwarded to him a report drawn up by his own Executive Council, in which report the Government project of an union was deprecated in the strongest terms; nevertheless, in direct opposition to this report from Sir G. Arthur’s Executive Councillors, Mr. Thomson proceeded with the measure. If Lord Seaton be asked, whether or not he is aware of any such report from Sir G. Arthur and his Executive Council having been submitted to Mr. Thomson, he can, I believe, fully substantiate what I have said. 4. If Lord Seaton be asked whether the recommendation for the union of the Canadas originated with him, he will, I believe, declare that he never recommended it, that he never would have recommended it, and that even now he thinks it a most hazardous experiment. 5. With respect to Lower Canada, if Lord Gosford be asked whether he considers the present Council as a fair representative of the feelings of the inhabitants of the colony, he will, I fully believe, reply, ‘ that he considers the said Council as a packed jury;’ and that in his opinion, their recommendation in favour of the union will be protested against by the Commons’ House of Assembly, whenever there shall be restored to it the gift of speech. 6.
If Lord Gosford be asked whether he thinks, that Lord John Russell’s despatch respecting the future tenure of office, has or has not been the means of intimidating the public officers of Upper Canada to assent to the union, I am confident he will reply in the affirmative, and I believe that Lord Seaton, if asked, would concur in the opinion. 7. With respect to the assertion, that the combined desire of the House of Assembly of Lower Canada, of the House of Assembly of Upper Canada, and of the Executive Council of Upper Canada cannot practically be resisted by the Imperial Parliament, I unequivocally deny it; and I humbly appeal to the records of the Colonial-office to show that as an inexperienced man I not only successfully stood against the demands of all these three authorities combined against me at the same time, but that had I not opposed them, we should have lost the Canadas. What an individual could effect, the Imperial Parliament surely ought not to be afraid to attempt; in fact, the moment the British Parliament admits that its strength is inferior to that of a little colonial Legislature, it virtually casts off its noble colonies, by declaring its imbecility, or rather its incapacity to govern them. The House of
Lords is no doubt embarrassed by the progress which the project of the union has made, but the measure breaks down because it has been founded upon inaccurate representations, endeavouring to show that Lord Seaton, Sir George Arthur, the Legislatures, and constituted authorities of the Canadas, are all so strongly in favour of the measure, that their united desire cannot, or at least ought not, to be resisted. The authors of these fallacious representations, and not those who have detected them, will surely by history be held responsible for any effects that may be produced by the rejection of the Canada Union Bill by the House of Lords. Such were the statements and opinions of a gentleman who, whatever might be thought of the dangers he encountered, or the risks he ran, had done that which always received in this country the greatest praise and the greatest support. Sir F. Head had succeeded—he succeeded in saving Canada.
He had now shown that none of the governors, from 1791, downwards, none of the Councils from 1791, none of the Parliaments from 1791, had ever petitioned for this measure; he had shown that in one instance they petitioned against it; and he would show to their Lordships also that the Secretary for the Colonies in the Government of the noble Viscount had no notion of such a proceeding down to the ’21st of April, 1837. Under that date the following despatch was written in reply to an address from both houses of the upper province against the union:— Downing-street, April 21,1837. Sir,—I have the honour to acknowledge your despatch (No. 26) of the 4th ult, in which you transmit to me an address to his Majesty from the Legislative Council and House of Assembly of Upper Canada, deprecating an union between the two provinces Upper and Lower Canada. I beg leave to acquaint you, that having laid this address before the King, his Majesty has been pleased to receive the same very graciously, and to command me to observe that the project of an union between the two provinces has not been contemplated by his Majesty as fit to be recommended for the sanction of Parliament. I have, &c. GLENELG.” When he looked at this answer and compared it with the speech made by the noble Viscount opposite on introducing this measure, the impression on his mind was strong that the noble Lord who introduced this measure, and the Government of which he was the head, could not be
so satisfied of its success as to introduce it to the notice of Parliament with that feeling of confidence which their Lordships ought to have in legislating on a subject of so much importance. He had shown to their Lordships that the Bishop of Toronto and the Attorney-General of Upper Canada disapproved of this measure—that the traitorous party had given it a sort of negative sanction, and he should now proceed to state to their Lordships who recommended the union. The union was never mentioned as in contemplation till Lord Durham’s expensive report was sent in. By the term “expensive” he meant that that report was all they had got for something like a million of money, he believed.
He had a great respect for the character of the noble Lord, who was not now present, and therefore he should be cautious of what he said in reference to any subject in which he was concerned. It was said, that they were about to try a measure founded on the principles of Lord Durham’s report, and having the sanction of the legislative councils of Upper and Lower Canada. He should first of all call their Lordships’ attention to the report of Lord Durham, with a view of showing that that report was not very worthy of being made the guide of their legislation with reference to Canada. However highly parts of that report might be esteemed by some persons, yet in the great essentials of legislation he thought he should be able to show, by the opinions of those who had resided in Canada, that it was not a good and sufficient groundwork for the proceedings of Parliament. Sir Peregrine Maitland was, as their Lordships well knew, a long time in that country, and he had written to Sir F. Head a letter, in which he stated that he had no objection to its being made known that he had expressed a decided condemnation of Lord Durham’s report. My opinion is,” said Sir P. Maitland that it gives an inaccurate and unfair representation of the opinions entertained in the province of Upper Canada, and that it censures ignorantly and unjustly those who have administered the government of that province. He should next state the opinion of Sir F. Head, who declared in a very few words, that The report was a tissue of unintentional errors. Sir G, Arthur also expressed an opinion
unfavourable to the accuracy of the statements contained in the report in his despatches dated April 17 and May 13, 1839. The House of Assembly of Upper Canada had addressed her Majesty in strong terms of disapprobation of the doctrines promulgated in that report. In the report which they humbly submitted to the Queen, refuting at great length all its principal allegations, they said,—. That they will apply themselves with calmness, and, they trust, with dispassionate zeal, to vindicate the people of Upper Canada, their Government, and Legislature, from charges that imply a want of patriotism and integrity which they did not expect, and which they grieve to find advanced by a nobleman who had been sent to these provinces to heal rather than to foment grievances, and who certainly should have carefully guarded against giving currency to unfounded, mischievous, and illiberal rumours, for the truth of which he admits he is unable to vouch.
He now came to the next opinion he should cite relative to this report—that of Chief Justice Robinson, who, he believed, was a man of the most distinguished ability and merit, and One who had long served her Majesty faithfully in those provinces. That functionary said in his communication to the Colonial Secretary, published by him,— Another object desirable to be accomplished for promoting the security and welfare of Canada is to counteract by whatever measure may seem most effectual the injurious tendency of that report presented to her Majesty by Lord Durham during the last Session of Parliament. I did not hesitate to state officially, immediately upon its appearance, that I was ready, in any place and at any time, to show that it was utterly unsafe to be relied upon as the foundation of Parliamentary proceedings. Yet this report had been presented by desire of her Majesty to both Houses of the Imperial Parliament, and the Government had upon that report recommended the union of the provinces. He had shown their Lordships that that report was not very worthy of the consideration, which it was wished should be given to it, and that in itself it tended to induce a belief that the union might be successful, when those persons who Were best acquainted with the country thought that the principles contained in it were dangerous and unconstitutional. He now came to the question, by whom was the union supported? By the Council of Lower Canada, and the
Assembly of Upper Canada. Their Lordships were now called on to legislate because those bodies had strongly recommended this measure as necessary for the security and peace of the country, and their Lordships must depend upon those bodies as having given an honest opinion. He believed, that it was not an honest opinion; he believed it to be an opinion procured by fraud and coercion; lie believed it to be an opinion which they had been induced to give from various reasons which they in their own minds could not. resist. They had been led to believe, that they would derive great advantages from the union in a pecuniary point of view; they had been led to believe, that the members of that great party which was called Conservative were in favour of the union, or at least thought it necessary; and they had, on the other hand, been led to expect that those who did not agree in the proposition made by the British Government, would, if they were public servants, be dismissed from their offices. They were told, that it was the desire of Her Gracious Majesty that the union should take place, and looking at all the circumstances, he would ask their Lordships what was likely to be the effect of such an intimation on a body which, he might say without derogating from their dignity, rather resembled in power the vestry of the parish of Marylebone than a great legislative assembly?
He meant that the population of Upper Canada, not being greater than that of the parish of Marylebone, the representative body of that colony, when put in comparison with the Legislature of this country, rather resembled the vestry of Marylebone than the English House of Parliament. When they used an influence on a body like this, when these parties were told that the Queen was in favour of the union, and that the Conservative party in Parliament intended to support it, and that they would reap pecuniary advantages from it, and that if they did not consent to it Great Britain would withdraw its countenance from them, and that those who were in office would be superseded—when all this was going on practically before their eyes, nothing would induce him to believe that the opinion of these legislative bodies had been honestly obtained. He would proceed to prove it. Where did he find that he was borne out in the statement that a representation had been made to the
House of Assembly, that Great Britain would withdraw its countenance from the Canadians if they did not consent to this union? He found it by referring to the debates which had taken place in the Assembly itself, and by seeing what the gentleman who advocated the cause of the Crown in that body had stated in reply to another gentleman who had said, that it was the intention of the British Government to withdraw its troops in a certain contingency. Mr. Sullivan, who was the presiding Member of Sir G. Arthur’s Executive Council, and therefore the representative of the Crown, was reported, in reply to the hon. W. Elmslie, who asserted that the troops would be withdrawn from Canada if the bill were not passed, to have used this language: He rose for the purpose of correcting a mistake the hon. Member had fallen into, in stating that the head of the Government had said, if the Legislature did not assent to these resolutions, the troops should be withdrawn; and he heartily concurred with the hon. Gentleman in declaring, that had such a threat been made, it was unworthy of a British statesman. But he was happy to inform lion.
Gentlemen, and he did so from authority, that no such threat had either been expressed or intended. His Excellency the Governor-general, in converging with the gentleman alluded to, had only put a case thus, that if the people of England, hearing always of our discontent, and of our applications for assistance, and if they also heard of our rejection of the only remedy that seemed open for our relief, might they not say, why should we any longer trouble ourselves with people who will not hear reason? An observation like that coming from the Governor-general of the province was a strong step towards saying, “Take care what you are about, my fine fellows; if you do not support us, I do not know whether England will not withdraw its countenance from you.”
Then as to the notion that it was stated in Canada that the Conservative party would aid and assist the Government in carrying this measure through Parliament, he found it positively asserted in page 36 of the pamphlet published by Sir F. Head. To use their own homely expression, it was easy to see which -way the wind blew; and, as the approaching storm was evidently inevitable, many sound and sensible men, who had all their lives been distinguished for their admiration of British institutions, as soon as they were told that Mr. Thomson had declared that ‘Sir R. Peel was in favour of the union,’
did not hesitate openly to avow, that common prudence and a sense of self-preservation had united in inducing them to shelter themselves in time from its desolating effects. So much, then, for the gentle measures which were adopted to recommend this measure of union to the Upper Province. Then with respect to the assertion that the prospect of pecuniary assistance had weighed much with the Legislature of Upper Canada, he would only read one short passage from the speech of Mr. Hagerman, wherein he said, Neither is the union likely to be recommended to either French or English when your chief, if not your only, reason for seeking it is to obtain from their coffers the means of paying your debts.
Then, with respect to his position that coercion had been practised on the Assembly, the proof was contained in a despatch from the Secretary of State for the Colonies to Sir G. Arthur, lieutenant-governor of Upper Canada, dated the 16th of October, 1839:— I am desirous of directing your attention to the tenure on which public offices in the gift of the Crown appear to be held throughout the British colonies. I cannot learn that during the present or the two last reigns, a single instance has occurred of a change in the subordinate colonial officers, except in cases of death or resignation, incapacity or misconduct. It is time, therefore, that a different course should be followed; and the object of my present communication is to announce to you the rules which will be hereafter observed on this subject in the province of Lower Canada.
You will understand, and will cause it to be made generally known, that hereafter the tenure of colonial offices held during her Majesty’s pleasure will not be regarded as equivalent to a tenure during good behaviour, but that such officers will be called upon to retire from the public service, as often as any sufficient motives of public policy may suggest the expediency of that measure. Mr. Poulett Thomson had made a remark upon that despatch in a despatch which he had written to Lord J. Russell, dated December 6,1839, in these words:— I had previously received the similar despatch addressed by you to Sir George Arthur, and had directed its publication in the Gazette for the information of all parties concerned. This publication appears to have been attended with good effects. He put it to their Lordships, whether they could now call the opinion which had been expressed by this little legislative body, looking up as it did to England for support, and biased as it was by What
passed in the English Parliament, a free opinion. He had now shown, first, that all the great men and governors, both of Upper and Lower Canada, for many years, and nearly all their legislative bodies, had not expressed any favourable opinion of this measure of union. He had shown, in the second place, that the report of Lord Durham was the foundation of that measure, and that it was not a worthy document to rest legal enactments upon. He had shown, in the third place, that, according to his belief, the consent of the House of Assembly of Upper Canada had been given under circumstances which would not allow him to call it an honest consent; and he had now nothing to add to prove his case, save that the Legislative Council of Lower Canada had given an opinion in favour of the union, and that Lord Gosford was of opinion, that the Legislative Council of that province was nothing but a packed jury.
He said, that that was his case. He said, that they were now legislating in that place for the union of two provinces under circumstances so doubtful, nay, he would rather say, so certain in their consequences, that he, for one, could not be induced to assent to it. If their Lordships could judge from what appeared in the public prints, if newspapers were of any value at any time—and he thought that the noble Lord opposite was of opinion that they were of value, and that well-conducted journals spoke the sentiments of the public mind, for when they did not they were useless as matters of sale—he was sure that their Lordships would excuse him whilst he read an extract from an American paper, in which the editor proclaimed his opinion on the prospect of the Canadas, supposing this union between them took place. The paper from which he should read an extract was the New York Gazette:— The Governor-general of the Canadas appears to be acting under specific instructions from his Government, and can hardly, therefore, be considered accountable for this or any other act of his administration. These are certainly affairs with which we, on this side of the border, have no right to meddle. The British Ministry must manage these matters as best suits themselves; but there is nothing unneighbourly, we suppose, in prophesying, as we do, that the British Government will have very little further trouble in defending their North American possessions after a union of the two Canadas, as is proposed, for the Lower Canadians will probably take that
matter into their own hands. Her Majesty’s Ministers have, for a year or two past, proved themselves the most adroit gentlemen whose acts we ever heard or read of. If their object really be to lose their colonies altogether, this, we have already said, is none of our business. This went so far as to show that our neighbours in the United States were well aware of our proceedings, and that there was a party among them who thought we were voluntarily contributing to the loss of our own empire. It had been said in another place, that those who opposed this measure must be prepared with another in its place, as the Canadas could not remain for six months longer in their present position. He did not believe, that the latter part of that statement was correct. He believed the very reverse to be the fact. He believed that if the Canadas were left in their present state, not only for six months longer, but also for three years longer, it would tend greatly to their safety and to their ultimate improvement. “You have,” continued the noble Earl, “in Upper Canada a fortress of brave and loyal Englishmen, who are ready to sacrifice their lives to preserve the laws and institutions of their country, and who are enthusiastically devoted to the integrity of the empire. Upper Canada was a citadel, and a safe citadel, in a country surrounded by enemies. It was a citadel which you could always fall back upon, and in which you could foster and protect your resources.
I believe that if you will only support there a just and a good Government—if you will refuse to listen to the delegations of unknown and insignificant individuals—if you will place confidence in your Governors, and will not receive information from every person who volunteers to transmit it to you—if you will countenance honest and patriotic men, and put aside all Reformers, Radicals, and traitors—you will secure to England that fortress intact, and will never have the humiliation of seeing it taken by storm. I believe that in Upper Canada, you have an impregnable, ay, and an invincible fortress. Then, on its flank, you have New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, settlements as brave and as loyal as any dominions that belong to the British throne. You have the sea open to you on the other side; and then to tell me, that a handful of Frenchmen in Lower Canada can throw us all into confusion, and derange all our valuable interests in British America, is to
offer me a statement which no honest Englishman can by any possibility put up with. Never will I believe, if the Government at home is prepared to stand upon the constitution, that we cannot keep Lower Canada in perfect quiet until the time shall come, when it can again be intrusted with an honest representation and an honest constitution; and then, if its inhabitants shall not be prepared to perform their duty towards you—you, my Lords, must be prepared to exercise towards them the duty of a parent state, and to put down that rebellion once mote, as you have put it down more than once already. This is the only cure which will be left to you for these evils, unless you are prepared to lose the Canadas altogether. My Lords, I thank you for the patient and indulgent hearing which you have given me. I never should have undertaken this task, had I not been impressed with the conviction that it is a duty incumbent upon me to raise my voice, and to stand up here, where I have a right to be heard, in defence of my honest opinions; and I assure your Lordships, that no party considerations will ever have the slightest effect upon me, when I think that the integrity of this empire is in danger.” The noble Earl then moved that the bill be committed this day six months.
Lord Seaton said, that as the noble Earl had referred to the correspondence in which he had expressed his opinion with respect to the proposed union of the two Canadas, he trusted that he might be permitted to offer a few remarks upon that subject at present. It was certainly true that the bill for uniting the two provinces was announced and introduced in this country before any of the authorities in the province —for instance, before either Lord Durham or Sir G. Arthur were consulted as to its policy. It was also true that he had himself felt the greatest apprehension and alarm as to the probable results of that union, and he believed also that every man in both provinces felt the same apprehension and the same alarm. But, as matters now stood, he thought that it would be more injurious both to the two provinces and to this country to defer this bill, and not to proceed with it this Session, than it would be to suffer it to go on. He decidedly thought that their Lordships ought now to go on with this bill, for it appeared that this constitution could not be continued
to be suspended, nor could the restoration of the old representative system in Lower Canada be resorted to again with safety. He therefore thought, that in the present state of the provinces, in the confusion which still prevailed there, and with the agitation which was still going on, it would be better to proceed now with this measure than to leave the two provinces in the present state.
The Duke of Wellington concurred nearly in every word which had fallen that evening from the noble Earl, particularly when the noble Earl was stating his own opinions. He did not, however, think it worthy of the noble Earl to read from a paper the argument of another Gentleman, when he was able to state his own case so ably. He was not inclined to depart at all from the opinions which he had given upon this subject on a former evening-, and more particularly not from that part of them in which he had entreated their Lordships not to consent to the passing of this measure on account of the opinion entertained upon it by his noble and gallant Friend on the cross benches, and by another gallant Gentleman who was then abroad, and by the House of Commons, and more particularly by some persons in the House of Commons, in whom it was but natural that their Lordships should repose entire confidence.
He entertained opinions directly opposite to theirs. It was his opinion that this measure was entirely dangerous. Even her Majesty’s Ministers did not venture to state that they felt confidence in it; and from their taciturnity he said distinctly that they did not feel confidence in it. He said further, that her Majesty’s Government would not be able to govern these provinces according to the system of this bill. They should, therefore, seek some other system by which they would be able to govern them; for it was their duty, and it was also the duty of Parliament, to secure to the dominion of the Crown of England those valuable provinces called the North American colonies, which, would all be lost, if the system of this bill did not succeed entirely. Now, the papers which had been produced, and the discussion which had taken place last week before their Lordships, all tended to throw light upon the mode in which the opinion of the legislature of Upper Canada had been obtained; and he looked upon that as an
additional reason for her Majesty’s Ministers to pause a little, and to give themselves time for consideration before they attempted to hurry this measure through the House. He had stated to their Lordships on a former evening the effect produced in the legislature of Upper Canada ‘ by the publication of a despatch from the Secretary of State, Lord John Russell, to the Lieutenant Governor of Upper Canada, Sir G. Arthur, which was dated the 16th of October, 1839. It was rather a curious circumstance, that the despatch of the 14th of October, which ought to have been sent out with the despatch of the 16th of October, was not published at that time, and he believed, that he might venture to say, from the answer which he had received from the noble Viscount opposite, that the despatch of the 14th of October had never been published at all.
He had a paper which showed that the contents of that despatch were known in Upper Canada merely by the receipt of the intelligence from England that that despatch had been laid on the Table of the House of Commons. Well, what happened? This despatch of the 14th of October, which was intended to govern the disposal of the colonial patronage from that time forward, which was written within two days of the despatch relating to the local responsibility of the Government, and which entirely neglected that principle, on the part of her Majesty’s Ministers, and declared, that it never should be adopted, in his opinion with great wisdom and propriety —that despatch, he said, had never been published at all, while the despatch of the 16th of October was published, and the Governor-general said, in writing of the publication of that despatch, It will also be of service to me in my endeavours to explain to those who cry out for responsible government the extent to which her Majesty’s Government wished to go in administering these offices in accordance with the wishes of the people. But the despatch of the 14th of October had been received equally with the despatch of the 16th. Why was not it also published? There the principle was clearly laid down, but the despatch was not to be shown. Why? He would tell their Lordships. They all knew perfectly well that there were two parties in the province of Upper Canada. They knew this from the despatches of Sir F. Head,
from the report of Lord Durham, and from numerous despatches besides. One of these parties was called the “Family compact.” It was supposed to be the party in office, and was called the “Tory” party, a party which was most undoubtedly loyal to the Government, and which had enabled Sir F. Head by its assistance to expel the rebels from the colony, and drive back the foreign enemy. This was the party which was to be affected by the arrangement in the despatch of the 16th of October. He begged to observe, that he threw no blame upon this arrangement. He only blamed them for the period at which the publication took place. He maintained, that it was not fair to publish it at that period.
The consequence was, that the people of this country did not get a fair opportunity of ascertaining the true opinion of the legislature of Upper Canada on the subject of that union. The despatch of the 14th of October was not published, because there was another party in that province called “Republican,” which was composed in a great part of refugees from the United States, and from this country. This party was in favour of republican institutions, and responsible government. It was this party which had hoisted Lord Durham’s flag, and cried out for “Durham and local responsible government.” That party, as opposed to the other, which he had before described, would have known what to reckon on, if the despatch of the 14th of October had been published, and would not have been so warmly disposed in favour of the union of the two provinces, had that despatch been published. To influence those who were in office, and conciliate them as much as possible, another despatch was written, but all knowledge of it was concealed from the Republican party, because it would have informed them that they were not in reality to have a responsible local government. The noble Lord, the Secretary for the Colonies, had declared this distinctly enough in his place in Parliament, but the effect of this was nothing as compared with the declaration contained in one of his official despatches. If the Governor-general wanted to put down the cry for “local responsible government,” why did he not publish that despatch of the 14th at the same time as the despatch of the 16th of October? Up to the 21st of January nothing whatever was known of
- On that day Mr. Poulett Thomson wrote:— I have the honour to forward to you the accompanying copies of addresses received by me on the 13th of December, together with my answer of the 14th of January. It appears to me to be extremely unadvisable to excite the public mind, by making any formal communication on the matter. The matter here alluded to was “local responsible government.” “The opinion of her Majesty’s Government is well understood respecting it, and generally acquiesced in.” Here was the address inclosed:— Your Majesty’s dutiful and loyal subjects, the Commons of Upper Canada, in provincial Parliament assembled, pray of your Majesty to inform their House whether any communication has been received from her Majesty’s Secretary for the Colonies, with regard to a responsible Government, as recommended in the report of Earl Durham; and if any such has been received, or anything exist from which the opinion of her Majesty’s Government can be collected, that your Majesty will be graciously pleased to cause copies of the same to be transmitted for the information of the House.
The answer was as follows:— The Governor-general regrets that it is not in his power to communicate to the House of Assembly any despatches on the subject referred to. The despatches both of the 14th and the 16th being in his pocket at the time. He would simply ask of their Lordships whether this transaction was a fair one—whether these despatches, having both been in existence at the time, a proper influence had been exercised in respect either of the legislature or of the people of Upper Canada generally? The despatch of the 16th of October was understood to be a despatch distinctly in favour of local responsible government. It was sounder-stood in Nova Scotia, where the Assembly went immediately, and demanded from the Governor the dismissal of his Executive Council. They even went further, and advised her Majesty to dismiss that hon. and gallant Gentleman from her service, because he declined to take the course prescribed. The same experiment had been tried in New Brunswick and Prince Edward’s Island. Wherever the despatch of the J6th of October was forwarded without the check of the despatch of the 14th of the same month, it necessarily created the demand for local responsible
government. In fact, the inhabitants of these colonies seemed disposed to take the authority into their own hands. He would finish by entreating his noble Friend not to press his motion on the Mouse. He was thoroughly convinced, that happen what might, it was absolutely necessary that this bill should be thoroughly discussed, that the House and the public should understand clearly on what ground they stood in regard to this measure, that it should be fully considered in Committee, and that such amendments should be adopted as her Majesty’s Government might think proper to introduce into the bill. After this, if his noble Friend chose to propose his amendments, it would be for their Lordships to consider whether they would adopt them. He entreated their Lordships not to reject this bill if her Majesty’s Government persevered in calling on them to pass it. He recommended to them to consider well the opinions of others in another place, of those who had administered the government of the colonies in question, and not to take his opinion, or the opinions of men who, whatever they might know of subjects like this in general, or of his subject in particular, by consulting the returns, could not at all compare, in their knowledge of it, with those who had acquired their acquaintance with the country on the spot. He had shown their Lordships what a serious responsibility would fall on her Majesty’s Government, if his suspicions as to this despatch were well founded.
If they persevered, under such circumstances, they must be perfectly certain of the success of the measure. But what he earnestly recommended to her Majesty’s Ministers was, to take upon themselves the power of suspending the operation of the measure for one or two years, in case such suspension should become necessary. Within the present week intelligence had reached them of hostilities being threatened again on the frontier. A steam vessel had been blown up in one of the American ports on the St. Lawrence by what was called an “infernal machine.” As long as anything of this description continued, let them consider how extremely awkward their position would be. They would be unable to carry this scheme into execution, and at the same time would have no legal power whatever to govern the Lower Province.
Viscount Melbourne observed, that
though this bill, and the general project for the union of the two provinces of Canada had received a pretty full discussion on the second reading, yet there was no necessity for the noble Lord to say anything of an apologetic nature for the course which he had pursued on the present occasion. If maturer reflection, or if anything which had occurred since the period of the second reading, had induced the noble Lord to change or modify his opinion as to the merits of the bill, nothing could be more becoming than that he should take the next opportunity to state the course which he had determined to pursue. And as the apology offered by the noble Lord was not needed, neither was his repudiation, at the close of his speech, of the idea that he was influenced by party spirit necessary. The noble Lord had not only referred to the speeches of the noble Duke opposite, and other noble Lords, in the debate on the second reading, in reprobation of the bill, but the noble Lord had done him the honour to refer to some observations which he had made in the course of his opening statement, and founded his objection not on that statement, but on his manner in opening the debate, which he alleged to have shown a want of confidence in the measure, and to have proved, that he did not feel as strongly convinced that it was absolutely necessary for the welfare of these colonies as a Minister of the Crown ought to feel in introducing such a measure.
Now he begged leave to state in reply, that he introduced the bill with that doubt which every human being must feel as to a measure of this magnitude. He should hold it monstrous presumption to say, that he entertained no doubt as to the operation of the measure. But this he would declare, that considering all the circumstances of the case, the state of the country, the position of parties, he did in his- conscience believe, that the measure was absolutely necessary, and that the sooner their Lordships adopted it the more likely would it be to be productive of beneficial results. To this he would add, that the fewer expressions of fear they indulged in as to a measure like this, which they were about to adopt, the more likely it was to be ultimately successful. They might thus save what they conceived to be their own credit, but with material injury to the object in view, and detriment to the country. The noble Lord had
alluded to some observations which he had made on a former occasion, to which he attached the construction, that he was somewhat indifferent as to the retention of these colonies. Nothing could be further from his real opinion. All that he had meant in referring to former events of a similar character was to show, that by internal discord and dissention, and by violent condemnatory speeches in Parliament, former conflicts had led to disastrous conclusions, and he had warned their Lordships against the repetition of such conduct. He meant also to state, what he afterwards observed, that from all her former losses this country had recovered with wonderful force, astonishing ‘ energy, and with velocity almost incredible.
Yet, wonderful as had been her recovery on those occasions, they were not to derive inactivity for the present from a recurrence to the past. He had wished to warn their Lordships that similar results might again arise, and he had, therefore, entreated them to throw off party feeling, and thus avoid evils which might even be more fatal than those of former times. The noble Lord had also misstated what he had said in another respect. It was impossible he could have stated, that the general principle of Government to be established in Canada was not a fit subject for the consideration of their Lordships. All he had meant to say was, that the general abstract argument against such a principle might be overruled by the particular circumstances of the case. The noble Lord had certainly delivered a very elaborate and a very able speech, but he rather thought the noble Lord had confined himself to points of inferior importance, and had not sufficiently considered the general bearings of the question, and the condition of the Canadian provinces.
The speech of the noble Lord was confined to particular matters, to the opinions of the governors of Canada and others, and to the line of conduct which had been pursued by the Government at home, and by the local Governments. One great objection, however, against this measure had been stated by the noble Lord, and if that objection was good, he should consider it fatal. The noble Lord had said, “This cannot be a just measure.” He would answer, “It can be a just measure.” He would say, that this measure was just and fair upon the whole, and he would add, that if it
could not be shown to be consistent with the principles of justice, it ought to be entirely rejected. He himself, as well as those with whom he acted in the Government, sincerely deprecated the principle of pretending with a show of openness to give a fair constitution, when they were in reality giving one of exclusiveness. That was a course he had always deprecated, and to which he had always avowed his hostility. But considering the relative position of the Canadas —considering their population, and considering also their varied characteristics, this he must say was as fair an arrangement as to representation as could, in his opinion, be devised; and he was persuaded that it was only by a measure of this kind and of this character that constitutional Government could be restored in Lower Canada.
That was one of the strongest reasons which had induced the Government to propose, and the Imperial Parliament to adopt, this measure. The noble Lord had quoted the opinions of the different governors of Canada. He had quoted the opinion of Sir P. Maitland, which he believed was generally unfavourable to an union, but he did not think that the opinion of Sir P. Maitland on the point at issue was supported by much reason or argument. The noble Lord had then quoted the opinion of a very lively writer, and that gentleman said in his usual lively style that this union was “like uniting tainted and fresh meat.” That was evidently a metaphor, and there was not, as their Lordships would allow, much of argument or of resemblance between the objects in the comparison which was drawn. But the same Gentleman went on to say, that if this measure were adopted they would infuse into the General Assembly, to be established, an inveterate host of French Canadians, but unless they admitted the French Canadians into the Assembly they would leave that people entirely without representation, which he could not consider either wise or just. The hon. Gentleman to whom he alluded would not wish, he was sure, to restore the Assembly as it existed before the rebellion broke out, and he contended, therefore, that there was no alternative, unless they retained the present Government, which no one approved of, and which all thought should terminate as soon as possible, but to resort to a measure of this description. The reason upon which Sir
- Head’s opinion was founded was, he must say, in his opinion, worth very little. It was indeed strange to observe that no reason was given for the formation of any of the opinions which the noble Lord had quoted. The noble Lord had mentioned the name of the Bishop of Toronto, and as to Mr. Hagerman, the noble Lord had merely said, that it was the opinion of that gentleman that this measure would place the connexion between the Canadas and the mother country in danger. But there was no one reason advanced in support of that opinion, and indeed he had not heard one word uttered in the course of those debates which went to show, that the connexion between the two countries would be weakened by the operation of this bill. There might be arguments for holding such opinions, and he could make such arguments himself, but he had not yet heard one stated by any one who had spoken upon the subject, or who had delivered their opinions upon the measure before the House.
The noble Lord had also quoted from a long paper which had been published by Sir F. Head, and which the noble Lord said that gentleman had written at his request. He had no doubt Sir F. Head had very willingly done so, as that gentleman, he believed, would be very glad to write such a paper at anybody’s request. The paper which had been published by Sir F. Head had furnished the noble Lord with a sort of brief, from which he had made large quotations. In that paper Sir F. Head spoke of filing bills of discovery against every Government which had existed for many years, and other things of a similar kind. There was, however, one assertion to which he wished to call their Lordships’ attention, which was, that Sir G. Arthur’s Executive Council had given an opinion against the union. He believed that was not the case, for the only report which that body had made upon the subject had reference to the propriety or impropriety of dissolving the present Assembly, in which report the union was, but only in a collateral manner, alluded to. The Executive Council had, however, after full consideration, come to the conclusion that it would be unwise to dissolve the House of Assembly. The noble Lord, after having stated the authorities against this measure went on to consider what the authorities were in favour of the bill. In so doing the noble Lord had made an observation
on Lord Durham’s report, to the effect, that it was an expensive document, as it was all which they had gotten for a million of money. He did not know what the noble Lord meant by that observation, but he supposed the noble Lord intended to say that such was the expense of a whole year, for it would be very unfair to attribute any but a very small portion of that sum as the expenses of Lord Durham. The noble Lord had stated the opinions of Sir P. Maitland, Sir G. Arthur, Sir F. Head, and of Chief Justice Robinson and others, in regard to the report of Lord Durham. There were unquestionably many things in that report which he did not praise, and which he did not think were prudent matters to be brought forward, and which he thought it would have been wiser to have omitted, and he therefore did not say, that that report was an impartial authority; but, at the same time, he must add, that it contained much which was of very great value, and which was well deserving of consideration and attention. The noble Lord had attacked the authority of the Legislative Council of Lower Canada and the Legislature of Upper Canada, but the noble Lord could not deny, that the opinion of those bodies had been pronounced in favour of this measure, but then the noble Lord said that that opinion, under the circumstances, was not an honest one. That was strong language to make use of, considering the body in regard to whom it was spoken. The members of those bodies must be respectable persons, and they were the very persons to whom the Government had been committed, and to whom it must in future be committed, and he could not therefore help saying, that the noble Lord had made use of strong language when he said, that the opinion of those bodies was not an honest opinion.
It was strong language, to say, that taking into consideration all that might be advanced in support of an union—that on being told the Queen was favourable to the measure—that Sir Robert Peel approved and supported it—that they would derive great pecuniary advantages under this bill —that if they did not vote in favour of it they would lose their offices, under the despatch which had been sent out by his noble Friend the Secretary for the Colonies—it was, lie must say, going a great way, and expressing but a low opinion of those persons, of their power of resisting
Court influence, and of the energy and strength of their characters, to say, that by such considerations they would be debarred from acting with probity, and that their opinion was not an honest one. He was sure their Lordships would not think that the authority of the opinion which those persons had expressed, was in the slightest degree impaired by the statements of the noble Lord—though in some degree, similar to those of the noble Duke opposite. A despatch went from the Colonial-office, his noble Friend at the head of that department thinking that more frequent changes ought to be introduced amongst, the officers of the Government, and they were now to be told, that the Legislature of Canada on receiving that despatch, and on being informed that they might, under certain circumstances, lose their offices, could not give an honest opinion on a matter of this importance. Such a statement was a libel on their own Legislature. What would their Lordships say to that? If all probity and honesty in the Legislative Council was to be overthrown by such a despatch as he had alluded to, how, he would ask, could their Lordships place any confidence in their own decisions or in the decisions of the other House of Parliament, for many Members of both Houses held offices under the Crown? It was impossible that they could do so.
The argument of the noble Lord, was the argument of the most violent Radicals of this country, who made on every vote of either House of Parliament similar observations. They found it every day asserted, that on every division of that House or of the other House of Parliament, so many persons voted for or against a measure for fear of losing their offices, or from being under Court influence, and lists of those so voting were every day published. In fact, the argument of the noble Lord and of the noble Duke, in reference to the Legislative Council, was the argument of the Radicals of this country. He contended, that there was nothing in this argument of the noble Lord, which could in any respect impeach the authority on which this measure was recommended. It was not his intention to go into the general argument in favour of this measure, or to reurge upon their Lordships what had been stated in a former debate. He thought this measure was absolutely necessary, and that it was the best which,
under all circumstances they could adopt. He would not say, that this was a dangerous measure, because he thought it ought to be adopted, and he was therefore not willing: to make use of any observations which could impair its efficacy or render it more difficult to carry it into operation than it would otherwise be. He did not believe, that it would endanger the connexion between Canada and the mother country —a connexion which he was as anxious to preserve as any of their Lordships. The noble Lord had said, that some one had staled, that if something was not done by the Legislature, the connexion between the two countries could not continue for six months. That was not his opinion, and he had never uttered anything of the kind. It was, however, the universal opinion in this country, and one which had been most strongly expressed in the other House of Parliament, and to which much weight had been attached, and in his opinion wisely, by the noble Duke opposite.
It was also the opinion which prevailed in Canada, and he was perfectly sure, that it would be neither wise nor prudent to maintain for any length of time the present Government in Lower Canada. The noble Duke had recommended delay. He was sure, however, that their Lordships must feel that it was of the highest importance that this country should act in this matter with firmness and resolution; that they should present an united and decided front to the people of Canada, and anything like disunion at home—anything like hesitation, irresolution, or doubt, must have the effect of exciting opposition to this measure in the colony, and of rendering its ultimate success more uncertain and problematical. All popular governments were subject to vicissitudes.
They were subject to irresolution, to change, to bursts of violence, and to act under the impulse of passion, and where they had a popular Government in the two countries, both at home and in the colony, all those evils would be redoubled, and it was therefore necessary to show to Canada, that under every circumstance she would not be subject to, or suffer by, the changes which might take place at home, and that, under all circumstances, her interests would be considered with calmness, impartiality, and fairness. He would, therefore, say, that if this measure was to be adopted, the sooner it passed
the better, and the less doubt and hesitation which attended its passing, so much more likely would be the chance of its ultimate success. He did not then know what the fact was, with respect to the publication of the despatch to which the noble Duke had alluded. He thought, however, it was probable that the first despatch mentioned, had not been published in Upper Canada.
He was not aware of the fact at that time, but he would make inquiry into the subject, and, although he wished this measure to pass with as little delay as possible, yet he was most happy to hear the noble Duke opposite state, that its details ought to be fully considered in Committee, more particularly as there were many parts of the bill which, though of minor importance, were essentially necessary to the working of the measure, but which might have escaped observation in the general debates, and which could be altered or explained on the fitting occasion. The noble Duke thought of nothing but of the effect which he considered the Government wished to produce on the Assembly, and if the despatch alluded to was not published, he thought it might be because of the effect it was likely to have had on those Members of that body who were favourable to responsible government. The Governor, however, might have had other reasons, and he might have thought it wise and prudent not to publish the despatch, for there were many circumstances which might have induced him to withhold it for a time.
All the principal part of that despatch had also been stated fully in the other House of Parliament. His noble Friend the Secretary for the Colonies had stated in Parliament all the material parts of the despatch, and the reports of that speech must have arrived in Canada before the opinion of the Assembly was given.
The Duke of Wellington—Will the noble Viscount refer to dates?
Viscount Melbourne —He did not know the date of the speech of his noble Friend. He thought, however, that the report of that speech must have been in Canada by the 16th of October, when the despatch was written. His noble Friend, when asked to produce that despatch, had stated, that it was not in his power to do so, but he had not said that no such despatch existed; he had only considered that it would not be prudent to produce it at that time, having due regard to the interests of the country. He would not
trouble their Lordships further, and he should only remark, in conclusion, that the noble Lord, who had certainly made a very able speech, had, notwithstanding, in his opinion, laid no grounds for the motion which he had submitted to their Lordships.
The Earl of Wicklow observed, that during the two debates upon this subject in their Lordships’ House, he had not heard, with the exception of two of her Majesty’s Ministers, who were the Cramers of this measure, any other noble Lord address their Lordships, who had not expressed his decided opinion that this bill would be attended with imminent danger to, if not with the absolute loss of, our Canadian possessions. When he heard the noble Baron on the cross bench (Lord Seaton), who was so intimately acquainted with the subject, declare that no application had been made to him or to any of the other authorities in Canada previous to the introduction of this bill —when he heard the noble Earl opposite (Gosford) on a former evening say that he was strongly opposed to the bill—and when he heard the noble Viscount (Melbourne) express doubts as to the result of the bill, he thought he had a right to assume that the noble Viscount had very considerably inculpated himself, and that he ought not have introduced a bill of this kind without having first got all the information which he could have procured upon the subject.
If this were a good bill, he must congratulate their Lordships and the country on the fortunate circumstance that the bill of last year was not passed. That bill was founded upon the recommendations of Lord Durham, who went to Canada with certain feelings and prejudices, and upon those feelings and prejudices his report was made. Mr. P. Thomson, in his suggestions to Lord J. Russell, condemned the proposed measures of Lord Durham as incorporated into the bill of last year, and stated, that upon consulting the best authorities in the country, he had not found one who did not disapprove of those measures. If the present bill were a good one, and the opinions of Mr. P. Thomson were correct, then was it a fortunate thing for the country that the bill of last year was not passed. The noble Viscount said, that if this bill were to pass, it was important it should pass immediately. Now, by the bill of last year, the union of the Canadas was not to come into operation till 1842. Again,
in the bill of Lord Durham, the members of the Legislative Council were to be retained for only eight years—a principle which Mr. P. Thomson condemned—so that if that bill were founded upon just principles, the principles of this bill must be bad. Lord Durham’s bill likewise proposed to cut the electoral district into new forms—a proposition which Mr. P. Thomson said every individual in Canada whom he had heard speak upon the subject condemned. Looking at this, and recollecting the slight experience which either Lord Durham or Mr. P. Thomson had had, might they not expect, if another person in the confidence of her Majesty’s Ministers were sent out to govern those colonies, that a third measure would be produced better than either of those two? At all events, they had no security that this was a good measure.
The noble Viscount opposite said, that he had heard no arguments from those who opposed the union of the two provinces against that step. Now, he thought it was enough that those individuals who were the best informed upon the subject, he alluded to the noble Baron on the cross bench, the noble Earl opposite, and to every individual of influence in the colony—he thought it enough that they should be of opinion that the union of the Canadas would be attended with danger to induce the noble Viscount to pause before he pressed this bill upon their Lordships. He would also say, that if no argument had been adduced to prove that the union of the provinces was a bad measure, no argument had been advanced to prove the contrary. All the noble Viscount said was, that he entertained doubts upon the subject.
He apprehended danger from this bill, because he thought it a measure of gross injustice to the French Canadians, the professed object of it being to prevent them from renewing their own Assembly, and to unite them with another body, by whom they would be overruled. The Government was therefore professing to give to the French Canadians liberal institutions, while they were really binding them hand and foot. The fact of this bill uniting people who were so different in point of taste, habits, customs, religion, and general feelings, at once proved its inaptitude for any good, and, in his opinion, could only have the effect of exciting animosities, ill-will, quarrels, and finally rebellion. He thought that these countries would be better governed if each were
allowed to have a separate legislature, and to manage its own affairs; at least that they should be allowed to settle down before their Lordships proceeded with a measure of this kind. If they left Lower Canada under the existing government for a few years longer they would possibly find it advisable to restore the legislature of that country. Let them do that—let them apply the principle to Lower Canada which they had already found so successful in the case of Jamaica, and he had no doubt that the result would be the perfect reestablishment of harmony and peace.
The Earl of Gosford wished to state, in consequence of what had fallen from the noble Earl who had just sat down, that the reasons assigned by those noble Lords who opposed this bill for opposing it, were not those by which he was induced to oppose it. Many of those reasons appeared to him to be rather in favour than against the present bill; but his reason for opposing it was, that the principle of it, from beginning to end, was founded upon misrepresentation; that it was, on that account, likely to be attended with gross injustice, and would, he feared, prove an indelible blot on the Legislature of this country.
The Marquess of Normanby said, that the noble Earl opposite, in staling that, with the exception of two Ministers of the Crown, every noble Lord who had spoken on the subject had opposed this bill, seemed to have forgotten that there was a great preponderance of opinion in its favour, both in that and the other House of Parliament, in the country, and also in the two Provinces which it more immediately affected. The noble Lord admitted he had no arguments to advance against it, and to justify his opposition to it, appealed to the opinion which had been expressed by the noble Lord on the cross bench. Now, surely, the noble Earl could not have listened to the speech of that noble Lord, or he would have observed that if ever a decided opinion had been expressed by any one acquainted with the condition of those Provinces as to the course which ought to be taken respecting them, that opinion had come from the noble Lord. He begged that their Lordships would consider the weight of authority in favour of this measure. There was, in the first place, the Legislative Council of the Lower Province, many of whom had been appointed by the noble
Lord on the cross bench (Lord Seaton). There were the English merchants here, together with the House of Assembly in Upper Canada, which had been called together by Sir Francis Head, and to which so much praise had been properly given. What were the authorities against the measure? It was true it had been opposed by former governors, but it should he remembered, that these had been resident in the Colonies before the recent events. Such authorities, together with the natural impatience of the present arbitrary government, which the English residents must feel, were well worthy of consideration. As no other course was proposed, why should their Lordships not accede to that now before the House, and which was in his opinion, under all the circumstances of the case, a just and equitable adjustment? Whatever might be the danger which some noble Lords might see in this measure, it would, at least, secure the great advantages of commercial freedom to the Upper Province and constitutional government to the Lower.
The Earl of Hardwicke felt himself placed in a painful situation in not being able to comply with the request of his noble Friend (the Duke of Wellington). He felt himself bound to pursue the course which in his conscience he felt was the right one, and to follow the example which the noble Duke himself had set in adhering to that line of conduct which duty prompted, in spite of any opposition which might be offered.
Their Lordships divided on the original question—Contents 107; Not-Contents 10: Majority 97.
House in Committee.
Clauses of the bill agreed to with a verbal amendment. House resumed. Report to be received.