UK, House of Lords, “Report on Canada”, vol 45, cols 192-196 (8 February 1839)
By: UK (House of Lords)
Citation: UK, HL, “Report on Canada“, vol 45 (1839), cols 192-196.
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REPORT ON CANADA
The Earl of Durham desired to ask the noble Viscount at the head of the Administration, whether he had been able to fix any day on which it would be convenient for him to lay the papers relating to the North American colonies do the table of this House, which had been referred to the other evening? He was induced to ask the question more particularly, because he had seen, with the deepest regret, a publication of a part, and a part only, of the Report. It was not doing justice to the Report, or to the great question involved in it, that there should be a publication of the conclusions adopted, without the arguments upon which they were arrived at being also given to the public. It was bringing the matter unfairly before the public, and therefore he roust press on her Majesty’s Government the paramount importance of laying all the papers immediately before the House, in order that their Lordships and the country might have an opportunity of judging of their contents.
He had the less difficulty in asking this favour of the noble Viscount, because he had had the honour to receive an official communication from the noble Lord, then at the head of the Colonial department, but who was now no longer so, as their Lordships had that evening heard, conveying had him the assurance that the report ad been laid before her Majesty, and stating also her Majesty’s approbation of the attention he had paid to the subject. Having, therefore, received this communication, he could not conceive any difficulty in laying the whole of the report before the House. He would call upon the noble Viscount, as a matter of fairness to himself and to the country almost, as well as to those provinces which were so deeply involved
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in the importance of the inquiry, to take an early opportunity to produce the papers to their Lordships. Before he sat down, he hoped their Lordships would allow him to say a few words upon another subject connected with his mission. He had been informed, that in some quarters attempts had been made to prejudice him, in the public mind, with reference to the expense which had been incurred in the matter. In order that there might be no mistake on that subject, he begged to state, that every shilling of the expenses which could relate to himself personally, and all those items which had been so much spoken of and calculated upon, had been defrayed out of his own purse. His position, therefore, would be this—that he had not received any salary for his services, and that he should incur a loss of a sum of money not far short of 10,0001.
Viscount Melbourne said, that as to the report of the noble Lord which had been laid before her Majesty, how it had happened that so large a part of it should have transpired almost before it was known to either House of Parliament, or before it was made known to the officers of the Government, it was impossible for him to comprehend. It was a matter, which he lamented most exceedingly; but the publication of it certainly left no discretion at all with respect to the question of whether it should be laid before the House or not, because it would be idle to withhold from the Houses of Parliament that of which so large a part had been communicated to the country, and the whole of which it was evident the parties who had already published a portion evidently possessed the means of laying before the public. He should, therefore, fix Monday next as the day on which he would lay the report before the House.
The Earl of Wicklow availed himself of this opportunity to advert to a statement which had gone abroad that the report in question had been sent to that journal by the noble Earl (Durham) himself. This evidently could not be correct. But how a document of this nature could obtain publication before it was communicated to either House of Parliament he could not, conjecture.
The Earl of Durham observed that it was not very natural that he should communicate with a journal in which his proceedings were generally mentioned so unfavourably. The fact was, he was not in
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the habit of taking it in; and it was only in consequence of being informed of the publication that morning that he had purchased a copy. The paper had given no foundation for such a report, for it only spoke of having received the report on the affairs of British North America from the Earl of Durham,
Some Hon. Members—Hear, Hear.
The Earl of Durham—yes from the Earl of Durham to her Majesty.
Lord Brougham—Every one must see that it was not likely that the noble Earl would do a thing so injurious to himself as to allow his report to appear in a garbled state. There could be no reason for such a supposition.
The Earl of Wicklow—It was not stated that the document in the Times was a garbled report. It did not appear in toto, only because there was not room for it.
The Earl of Durham—If the noble Earl would take the trouble to look at the newspaper, he would see that I furnished no foundation for the statement that had been made.
The Marquess of Londonderry inquired when the noble Earl opposite (Durham) would bring forward a discussion upon Canada?
The Earl of Durham—My Lords I do not know that I am at all in a position to answer that question. I have been as a servant of the public, and I hope a zealous and faithful servant. I have given an account of my mission, and that report it is for your Lordships to decide upon. As to the course I may feel called upon to pursue, I do not feel myself at liberty to communicate to anybody, and certainly not to the noble Marquess, of whom, from his political opinions, I am least of all disposed to make a confident.
The Marquess of Londonderry said, I am not at all ambitious of the honour. There are certain circumstances, not relating to the question, between the noble Earl and her Majesty’s Government, upon which I am desirous of making some animadversions on a future day; and I supposed that as the noble Earl would naturally be anxious to have a discussion at the earliest possible period, that he would from courtesy, inform me of the course he meant to take that so I might shape my course accordingly.
The Earl of Durham—I am happy to learn what is the motive of the noble Marquess which appears to be to have the best opportunity of making animadversions upon my conduct. I can assure the
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noble Marquess that either upon this or any other occasion I shall be willing to answer any allegations he may bring against my public conduct, convinced as I am that however it may fail to meet his approval, it will secure the approbation of my country, and I trust eventually of my Sovereign.
The Marquess of Londonderry—The noble Earl had gone out of his way to speak about animadversions which he thinks I am to direct against him. Now, I have said no such thing, and I don’t know what induced the noble Earl to think so—he must be very sensitive to fancy so; I said expressly, that the animadversions I was desirous of making, were not upon the question between the noble Earl and her Majesty’s Government. I have stated distinctly that I conceive no person ought to censure the noble Earl till full information was presented, and I should be the last person to take such a course, and I think it rather hard that the noble Earl should charge me with what I have shown no intention of doing. It is my intention on Thursday next to propose certain questions to her Majesty’s Government relative to what I conceive to be not a military but a very unmilitary proceeding according to the information that has been publicly promulgated at a certain military festival. I am desirous of knowing what communications have been made to her Majesty’s Government on the subject, and what measures have been taken to admonish the individual in command, who unless I am much mistaken, is greatly to blame for what has taken place.
The Earl of Durham did not understand exactly what the noble Marquess alluded to. He understood him to refer to something that had taken place at some military festival, upon which he meant to found some resolution. If it was in reference to the affairs of Canada while he was in the office of Governor there, he should like the noble Marquess to state with a little more particularity what it was to which he alluded; because if it alluded to anything in which he was concerned, he should be prepared to give the noble Marquess the fullest information; but he felt at present quite unable to know what it was to which the noble Marquess referred, inasmuch as he had not even mentioned whether it was in North America or in Canada, the affair took place that he
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wished to inquire about. He hoped, therefore, the noble Marquess would state it a little more particularly.
The Marquess of Londonderry begged the noble Earl to understand the notice he gave this evening for Thursday should be confined to an inquiry of her Majesty’s Ministers relative to a proceeding which had taken place, and which, if it had not taken place, the noble Earl (Lord Durham) would be able to deny.
Some Hon. Members—Cries of Where? where?
The Marquess of Londonderry—He thought the noble Lord could not doubt where that military festival was, which had been known, he believed, as much as that those who ran might read the proclamation of the noble Earl. He did not think it necessary to do more than to give notice, that on Thursday next he should put certain questions to her Majesty’s Ministers relative to a proceeding which he believed had created as general a sensation in this country as any other circumstance which had occurred during the administration of the noble Earl, and he should put those questions relative to that matter, which must have made an impression on the mind of the noble Governor who was a Member of the Government, and who ought to have a constitutional, as well as a military feeling. Under these circumstances he did not think it necessary to state more than he had done.
Lord Holland asked what use could there be in giving a notice of motion when the ground on which that notice was founded was not stated? The question ought to be such as would desire information, and in his opinion should be such as should state definitively the nature of that information, and the particular grounds on which it was desired.
Earl Minto thought that there should be a notice given of the time, place, and circumstances, to which the noble Marquess alluded, in order to enable the parties concerned to know to what point the notice tended.
The Marquess of Londonderry —The individual to whom he alluded, and who was one of the noble Earl’s council, had made declarations of principles, which he (Lord Londonderry) confessed had astonished him. He did not think it was the province of that individual to have put forward such declarations, either in his civil or his military capacity.
The conversation then dropped.