§ On the order of the day for recommitting this bill,
§ Mr. Wilmot
in moving that the Speaker do leave the chair, said, that the matter of the bill before them might be brought under three heads: the first part went to alter the constitution of the provinces of Canada, which had been established by the act of 1791; the second, to apply to Canada the principles of an extension of free trade, which had been sanctioned by the bills of his right hon. friend; the third and last, to settle the appropriation of duties between the two provinces of Upper and Lower Canada. The last of these in order he should consider first; because it was the anomalous position of the provinces in reference to these duties, that had led to the necessity of remedial measures. When the French province of Canada was conquered by the British arms, the criminal law of England was introduced into the conquered country, and the civil law of France was suffered to remain, modified by a proclamation issued in 1763, and by various ordinances subsequently made. The alterations introduced into the French law by these ordinances, led to anomalies in the law, which were remedied by the Canada act of 1774, which restored the French civil law to the province. From 1774 to 1791, the government of the province had been carried on by a governor and a numerous executive council, who had not the power of local taxation, the taxes being imposed by the parliament of Great Britain. Previously to 1791, after the American war, the upper part of the provinces which had been comprehended under the general name of Canada, but which was not inhabited, was colonized by American loyalists. In 1791, the Quebec act was passed, the debates on which took place amidst circumstances which were interesting to every Englishman who studied the history of his country, as the produced the difference between two great men, 1699 Mr. Fox and Mr. Burke. The colony was by act divided into two provinces, Upper and Lower Canada. This division was objected to by Mr. Fox, and it was defended on the ground that the, inhabitants of the upper part of Canada were as nine to one Englishmen, and that it would bet unjust to subject them to the same law as the lower province. At the same time, when separate provinces were erected, an arrangement was made respecting the duties levied in the port of Quebec, which was the common inlet to both provinces. The duties upon imports into Upper Canada did not amount to more than one-eighth of the duties on imports into Lower Canada; and it was therefore considered that the province of Upper Canada was not entitled to more than one-eighth of the revenue. This arrangement continued up to 1797. From that period to the year 1817, the principle of examination by Custom-house officers was adopted, in order to ascertain the proportion of revenue which Upper Canada was entitled to receive; but this practice was found so extremely inconvenient, that was soon abandoned, and a fifth portion of the duties was assigned to Upper Canada, for a period of two years. At the end of that period commissioners were appointed to regulate the proportion of revenue to be assigned to each of these provinces; but, notwithstanding all the diligence of those commissioners, it was found impossible to come to a fair adjustment of the claims of the two colonies. The consequence was, that Upper Canada had been deprived of her fair proportion of revenue; and it was one of the objects of this bill to remedy this grievance by supplying the means of arbitration. When it appeared to be the deliberate opinion of the commissioners of Lower Canada, that they could arrive at no principle of adjustment, which was likely to be satisfactory to both colonies, it was natural for the government of this country to consider whether some measures might not be adopted, which by uniting the two provinces, and incorporating their legislatures, might consolidate the interests of the two colonies. Such a measure was suggested, not less by general principles of expediency, than by the pressing necessity arising out of the difficulty of adjusting the claims of the two colonies. He begged leave to refer to a report of a debate on this sub- 1700 ject, which took place in that House in April, 1791, in which Mr. Fox declared his approbation of the policy of uniting the two provinces of Upper and Lower Canada. Mr. Pitt in his reply to Mr. Fox on that occasion, stated, that if the assembly were not properly constituted, it was subject to revision, and that there was nothing to hinder the parliament of Great Britain from correcting any thing which alight appear to want correction He agreed in, the abstract principles of Mr. Fox, but thought that they could not conveniently be carried into effect at that period. The only object of the present measure was, to bring the two colonies into a closer union, by incorporating the two legislatures, so that the English language, and the spirit of the English constitution might be more completely diffused among all classes of their population. No rights or privileges now enjoyed by any persons, in either of the provinces, would be, in the slightest degree, affected by the present measure. There was a clause in the bill which gave the representatives of the executive government a right to speak in the House of assembly. There was another clause establishing a qualification for the persons elected, a provision which had been omitted in the first act. The sum fixed upon as a qualification was, however, such as would in no degree diminish the general competition for such a situation—which ought to exist among a free people. There were two declaratory clauses, relating to the clergy and the feudal tenures, the object of which was to abolish a system of property, so utterly repugnant to every sound principle of political economy. In the clauses relating to trade, the same policy which had been pursued in the bill regulating the trade of the West India colonies had been applied to the inland trade of the Canadas. A drawback was allowed on rum imported from the West Indies, when exported again from the Canadas, to which he apprehended no objection would be made. An objection had been made to this measure on the ground that the feelings and opinions of the people had not been consulted; but he could assure the House that every means had been taken to procure the best information on this subject, that the measure was deemed to be decidedly beneficial to both provinces, and that it had received the complete sanction of those who, from their position and ex- 1701 perience, were best qualified to appreciate its merits. He concluded by moving, "That the Speaker do now leave the chair."
§ Sir J. Mackintosh
said, that in rising to observe upon the very able and perspicuous speech of the honourable gentleman, he hoped it would not be imputed to disrespect for that honourable gentleman if in the course of his observations he alluded less frequently to his speech than might perhaps be expected. The reason why he should not advert to many of the observations of the hon. gentleman was, because they related to parts of the bill, in which he completely concurred. The hon. gentleman had justly observed, that the two great measures connected with these provinces which were introduced in the last reign, one at the commencement of the American war, and the other at the period of the great confederacy against the French revolution, were attended with circumstances of great national interest and importance. The present bill was introduced under very different circumstances. Little good seemed to be expected, and little evil to be apprehended from it, if any judgment might be formed from the thin attendance of the House, which was called upon to consider its merits. The House was now called upon, on the 18th of July, to enter for the first time into the discussion of a bill, the object of which was no less than to change the constitution of two great colonies, to abolish their separate legislations, and unite them into one. He would put it to his majesty's government, whether the present state of the House did not fortify the objections which he was about to make, and which were of a very limited nature, to a part of the present bill? All he contended for, was six months' delay with regard to that part of the bill which related to the incorporation of the two legislatures: to the other parts of the bill be had no objection. The hon. gentleman had divided his measure into three parts. Of the first of these, which applied the principle of a free trade to the inland trade of the two provinces, he highly approved; he concurred equally in the second part of the bill, which distributed between the provinces of Upper and Lower Canada the revenues derived from the port of Quebec; he objected only to the third branch of the measure; or rather to the immediate adoption of that third branch, which related to the Union of the two provinces. He should move, that it 1702 be an instruction to the committee to separate the two clauses of this bill, which incorporated the two provinces from the other two parts of the bill. The right hon. member for Chichester had that nigh put it to his learned friend not to press, at that late period of the session, a measure affecting the property of a considerable portion of the community. If this respect was to be shown to the body of publicans and brewers he trusted he might be allowed to call upon the House to show at least some tenderness for the rights, the privileges, the opinions, the feelings, and even the prejudices of two great provinces, the opinions, the feelings, and even the prejudices of two great provinces, consisting of several hundred thousand inhabitants. The people of Canada had no means afforded them of approaching that House—no opportunity of presenting petitions, but they were to be taken at once by surprise, and to have the whole frame of their constitution and government altered, without being allowed to express single sentiment or opinion as to the alteration. He was anxious that his view of this question might not be misunderstood. He did not moot any question political philosophy as to the relations between the government and the people; he did not moot any question constitutional law as to the competence of parliament to make laws which should be binding on the people of Canada. His own opinion was, that such a power did inhere in parliament, by the law and constitution of England. Such a power was perfectly consistent with that dignified and noble position which parliament had a right to assume as the head of the great English confederation, composed of colonies spread over every region of the world. Of all powers, however, this was one which ought to be exercised with the greatest forbearance, and with the greatest regard to the feelings and interests of the parties who were to be affected by it. It was a power which ought not to be wantonly or indiscriminately exercised, but which should be reserved for extraordinary, occurrences—to preserve the unity of the empire—to prevent discord between distant dependencies—to regulate the general commercial intercourse of every part of Europe—above all, to correct any extraordinary act of direct misrule and oppression which the provincial governments might commit. It was by the neglect of these principles, and by the rashness with which the power of parliament over our colonies was exercised, hat America was lost to 1703 this country; and though that loss might ultimately be no great disadvantage to this country, it reflected the greatest dishonour on the counsels which produced the separation. With regard t the 31st of Geo. 3rd, that act was, of course, not irrevocable, for it was in the nature of all law to be revocable by the same authority which enacted it. It was of no importance therefore to refer to any thing which had been said in argument in the course of debates in the House. The great minister, whose opinion the hon. gentleman had quoted, had given a very obvious and nature answer, namely, that whatever defects were discovered by experience, it was in the power of the legislature to correct. This was not a narrow question of expediency limited to the immediate and local effects of this bill; it was material to consider the general tendency of the measure, and the effect which it would have on the other colonies and dependencies of the empire. He would venture to affirm, as a general principle of colonial policy, especially applicable to the colonies of North America, that colonies could only be retained, when governed by a loose rein. Whenever European states attempted to pursue a different policy, and to govern distant colonies by a system of coercion a terror, they were sure to accelerate the separation which they endeavoured to prevent, and to make that separation adverse which might have been amicable. He Would not enter into the question of the liberality of the terms on which the provinces were proposed to be united: he did not even object to the Union; he objected only to its immediate adoption He would not inquire into the equity and liberality of the conditions or the intentions which the measure was brought forward; for the great question was, not what were the intentions of the mover, but what was the general tendency and effect of the measure? This was the first time that the British parliament had proposed to pass an act for the union of the legislatures of two colonies. The attempt which was made on the legislature of Massachusetts excited at that time an universal insurrection throughout North America. There was not, however, an atom of an island in the West Indies possessing the miniature of a legislature, in which that legislature had been in any degree altered by the British parliament, without their consent. Yet it was now 1704 proposed, without any notice to the people of Canada—upon no evidence—upon no statement of facts, but upon a mere general argument of expediency, and without going through the ordinary forms which were observed with regard to the interests of the most petty corporation in England, to take away the political and legal existence of two great colonies. Was the House in possession of any information? Had they heard any evidence? Had they heard any thing but the statement of the hon. gentleman, that some conveniences would arise from the adoption of the measure; that the English laws and language would be more generally diffused; and that some oppressive tenures would be removed? Would the House refuse to pay the price of six months' delay for that information which they could not fail to receive? Were the feelings and inclinations of two great colonies no element in the political problem which related to their incorporation? Were they to shut out all evidence which related to their feelings, inclinations, opinions, and, prejudices? The House was bound to consult the feelings of the people of Canada, for two reasons; first, because a regard to those feelings was essential to the happiness of the people; and secondly, because it was essential to the security of our own authority. It we disregarded the wishes and feelings of the people, we should expose our own authority to danger, and discover a weakness of which even the most absolute government, acting on the principles of common sense, might be ashamed. He had hitherto used no argument which might not apply to a country governed by an absolute monarch, supposing that monarch, by some rare accident or miracle, to be a reasonable and enlightened man. He would ask, whether any measure could be conceived more calculated to alarm all our colonies than that in the last week of the session, when not more than 40 or 50 members were present, a bill should be introduced to effect what had never yet been attempted by an English parliament—to abolish the legislatures of two great provinces without their knowledge or consent? If such a measure were to pass under such circumstances, what security would any of our colonies have, that their legislatures might not be taken away from them by surprise? What security would our West India islands have, that between one packet and another, the whole form of their consti- 1705 tution and government might not be totally changed? He felt the force of this argument so strongly, that he was ashamed of urging any thing in addition to it. He had indeed heard nothing from the hon. gentleman, which was applicable to the only material question; namely, the necessity of immediately passing this measure. Was it proper that a measure which affected the liberties and pecuniary interests of the colony so deeply, should be passed at this time—this late period of the session? Was it to be tolerated, without so much as consulting the legislature of Canada? Colonists had a claim to a more then ordinary share of the attention of the House. They had no representatives of their own in it; and they could not, as colonists, have any legal representation; but that was a stronger reason why they should have a moral representation. The hon. and learned gentleman concluded, by moving, "That it be an instruction to the said committee, that they have power to divide the said bill into two bills."
§ Mr. Ellice
felt all the difficulty which an attempt to answer the arguments of his hon. and learned friend (sir J. Mackintosh) imposed upon him, and the more so as he was obliged to acknowledge his entire acquiescence in the general principles he had laid down. He considered, however, the present case a little beyond the scope of their application, or at least as affording, from the peculiar circumstances in which the Canadas were situated, a sufficient justification for the apparent deviation from them, which the present proceeding involved. According to his hon. and learned friend, this measure was to be considered as an unnecessary interference with the rights of the legislatures of the two provinces, in matters which were either permanently settled or left to their regulation by the Quebec act, and he could not see in the state merit of the hon. gentleman (Mr. Wilmot) any case of expediency even, much less of necessity, made out, which could justify passing this bill in the present cession. His learned friend also complained, that there were no documents laid before the House, no expressions of the opinion or feelings of the people for whose interests it was proposed to legislate, and however much disposed he might be, individually, to place confidence in the assertions of the hon. gentleman, they could form no rational ground, for the House to proceed 1706 upon, in so important a bill, with such precipitation, at such an advanced period of the session. He (Mr. Ellice) admitted there was great weight in these objections, although he was not exactly prepared to hear some of them urged by his hon. friend. As he (Mr. E.) had originally suggested, and pressed the adoption of this measure on his majesty's ministers, as the only one calculated to promote the permanent interest both of the colonies an the mother country, and infinitely preferable to other expedients that had been advised, to meet existing difficulties, which rendered an application to parliament in the present session indispensable, he felt in incumbent on him, not only to state the reasons which influenced his opinions and conduct on the subject, but also to explain to the House some of the circumstances which had unfortunately delayed the introduction of bill, and his surprise at the unexpected and hostile opposition of his hon. and learned friend. He would not follow his hon. friend (Mr. Wilmot) into all the details he had laid before the House. He could only confirm them from his local knowledge of the position of the two provinces, and it was rather singular, that precisely the difficulties which had arisen between them, and which almost rendered the separate administration of their governments in future impracticable, had been predicted by Mr. Fox in 1795, as the necessary results of the Quebec bill. No person in either province, or in this country, connected with them, now doubted the impolicy of their separation, and the question for the House to decide was simply, whether they would adopt the whole measure of reuniting them, in preference to commencing in this session, a system of perpetual interference on the part of parliament, with the proceedings of their assemblies. At present the Upper province was left without the means of defraying the charges of its civil government, from the assumption, on the part of the Lower, of the her exclusive right to impose duties n importation, and such restrictions on trade as she considered expedient, at the port of Quebec, the common, and only communication of both with the sea. In consequence of disputes between the legislature and governor of the Lower province, the former had suspended all these duties, without consulting the sister legislature, and as the revenue of both depended entirely on customs raised at Quebec, some measure 1707 was necessary to remedy this evil, unless the House considered, under our other pressing emergencies, it was expedient, to gratify the caprice of the. French Assembly of Lower Canada, to place the additional burthen of the civil government of these colonies, on the people of this country. Previous to 1818, by an agreement between them, one-fifth of the revenue had been appropriated to the Upper province—since that time their population had increased, they required a larger proportional appropriation, and the Lower Assembly met this by refusing the former one, and telling theta in the words of their own commissioners, that Upper Canada had long consented, as slit was bound, to the state of dependence or the Lower province, which the natural situation of the latter with respect to the navigation of the St. Lawrence, and the right of levying all duties within her own boundaries, gave her. The only remedy the commissioners point out, was perfectly impracticable: that of establishing custom houses on the various internal communications, which would cost more than the revenue collected would amount to. They add, that any other arrangement would lead to fresh demands hereafter, and that the inevitable consequence of such repeated discussions, "must be serious misunderstandings, destruction of the interests of the two provinces, which were so intimately connected by the ties of allegiance to the same sovereign, and their local position." What better argument could be adduced in favour of the present measure, coming as it did from the only party who are supposed indisposed to it? But he knew his hon. and learned friend would answer to this, power was expressly reserved, in the Quebec act, to regulate the trade, and that a bill Alight now be passed on that ground to levy the duties, which the Lower Assembly had allowed to expire, or refused to impose, for the expenses of the civil government. He must, however, recollect, that such a measure, as directly infringing the most valuable privilege of an independent legislature, would produce much more irritation, than an act not intended to deprive any class of persons, of rights they previously enjoyed, but which only provided for a fair extension of those privileges, to persons equally entitled with the French population to a fair share in the legislature. Such an extension would be fully justified by reference 1708 to the state of the population, and of the country, at the passing of the Quebec act, and the present time. The population of Upper Canada then consisted of about 10,000 souls; that of the Lower province of about 300,000. An Assembly was provided for each, consisting of 16 members for the Upper, and 50 for the Lower, but with power to add to their numbers, by any act or regulations of their own. The populations of the Upper province, from the administration of British laws, and the more liberal principles applied to its government by an English legislature, had increased by emigration from this country and America, till it now amounted to half the number in the Lower; and as all the increase in Lower Canada, had also been English and Americans, the proportion of persons speaking the English language, which had formerly been 30 to 1 in both provinces, was not now more than 5 to 4. In Upper Canada, the legislature had wisely passed a bill dividing the country into counties, and giving to each county, when it should contain 2,000 inhabitants, the right of sending one member, when 4,000, two members, to the assembly, which now consisted of 40 members. In Lower Canada, the assembly had been always unwilling to extend their numbers, fearing a diminution of the French interest; and the additional population which had established English settlements in the new townships were completely excluded from any share in the representation.
Thus the assembly of Lower Canada consisted exactly of the number provided in the Quebec bill, and there was no probability of their admitting by any act of their own, representatives from the additional English population. That the House might judge of the principles which this enlightened legislature proceeded, he would only mention, that any attempt to induce them to alter the feudal tenures, under the old French law of the custom of Paris had failed, and that these, exploded in every other country in Europe, still existed from the prejudice of the Canadians against an improvement in a British colony. Looking at all these circumstances, and as it was necessary some measure should be taken to provide for the government of the provinces, he had advised that of reuniting them, and amalgamating the 40 members of the assembly of Upper Canada, with the 50 1709 of the Lower province, giving to the inhabitants of the new townships of the latter, the right of sending 10 additional members, so that the representation might be fairly apportioned, and then leaving to the joint legislature the power of still farther extending their numbers on the principle of the act of the Upper province, as the population increased. At first, certainly, some objection had been urged to the plan by the provincial law officer, who had been sent home to represent the situation of the country, and by other persons of considerable weight and authority—but, on considering all the bearings of the case, these persons, including the chief justices of both provinces, who happened to be accidentally here, were convinced, the reunion was the only measure that promised efficient good, and warmly supported it. His majesty's ministers then divided, upon proposing the present bill, and certainly he had grossly, but unintentionally deceived them, in leading them to expect the support, instead of the determined opposition of his hon. and learned friend, from some communications which had passed between them. He had consulted his hon. friend, had given him the first draft made of the bill, which he had returned to him, as he understood, entirely approving the measure, if the case be then stated to him was made out to the satisfaction of the House. If his hon. friend had even hinted the opposition on principle, which he now so strongly insisted upon, and which he was free to admit on general grounds, had considerable weight, he doubted whether the measure would have been proposed. As it had passed through a second reading, however, he should now lament its failure, although he was convinced the only consequence of delay would be the excitement of feelings of animosity between the English and French inhabitants in the mean time, and that the House ultimately would find it absolutely necessary to pass the bill. After having given so much encouragement to the measure, he did think his hon. and learned friend went rather out of his way, and beyond the fair scope of the case, in blazoning it, as an act of oppression and unjustifiable parliamentary rigor. He had listened with much pleasure to his splendid declamation on the general principles applicable to all legislation for our colonies, but he little expected to hear a bill, giving 1710 to each Canadian, who possessed a freehold of the value of 5l. in a county, or 10l. in a town or city, the right of freely sending his representative to an independent legislature, compared to the insane proceedings of parliament, in the commencement of our unfortunate contest with the United States. He had not sufficient acuteness of intellect to see exactly the similarity between the act depriving the people of Massachusetts of their legislature, and a bill granting to our fellow-subjects in Canada, the first and fairest representation in the world, except that which their neighbours had been obliged to establish, after wresting their independence from us. He (Mr. E.) had admitted fairly the probability of objection on the part f the French inhabitants, and indeed the House ought to proceed only on an assumption of its unpopularity with them, although he felt assured it would be received by them with loyalty, and acquiesced in as a measure which must sooner or later have been necessary. It would be hailed with gratitude by any person in both provinces speaking the English language, and after all, it was not very probable, even if we did not interfere, that the English and American population inhabiting the immense countries watered by the St. Lawrence, would long submit to the regulations and government of the French oligarchy which had non, possession of the Quebec assembly. What object had ministers in this measure? Was it to maintain the control of the executive? The establishment of a legislature of 100 members was not the likely means to attain that end, unless the conduct of its officers, was strictly directed to the general interest of the provinces. In all the cases brought forward by his hon. and learned friend, in illustration of his argument, some supposed object of the British parliament was sought for at the expense of the colonies. This objection surely could not apply to the present bill; there was not even the appearance of a separate interest, and the House were called upon to act in this case, more as umpires to settle the disputes of the two provinces, and to apportion to each their fair share of weight in the joint administration of their own affairs, than in any respect to interfere in them. Allowing all reasonable weight to the objection of his hon. and learned friend, would it equally apply to good measure as to bad; and by his own admission he thought the 1711 present measure a good one—or to a proceeding on the part of parliament, securing in the fullest sense the popular rights of the colonists, to one curtailing, or abrogating them? His hon. and learned friend's sole difficulty, appeared that of not having the expressed opinions of the people of Canada before them, and he (Mr. E.) admitted they must proceed on an assumption of the objection of the French population, but if the act took from them no rights they possessed, they could complain of no injustice, and all the House could gain by now deferring the proceeding, was the excitement of irritation, and prejudice to the measure, which might render its adoption in another session, although its policy was generally agreed to, inexpedient, and dangerous to the tranquility of the colonies. The strongest objection he felt was the period of the session, and delays had occurred, entirely unforeseen, either by the hon. gentleman opposite or himself, and arising from unavoidable causes, which it was unnecessary to state to the House. But the House must not, therefore, suppose, that the measure was hastily or inconsiderately brought forward. It had occupied the attention of his majesty's ministers very early in the year, and one great inducement to proceed, was the accidental presence of the most competent and weighty local authorities, who had all given their sanction to, and assistance in preparing the bill. The expected support of his hon. and learned friend, was, another motive with him for urging his hon. friend opposite to introduce it, and certainly nothing had so much occupied him, as the intimation of some doubt suggested, but not strongly insisted upon, by his hon. and learned friend on the second reading. From his (Mr. E's.) local knowledge of the circumstances and situation of the colonies, nothing appeared to him so impolitic as suspense or hesitation, after proceeding so far, or indeed, after the, measure had been once determined upon by his majesty's government, and communicated to the public. He therefore, still trusted the House would adopt it, and that his hon. and learned friend would be prevailed upon to withdraw his opposition. His hon. and learned friend said, as far as he could judge, the terms of the proposed union were fair and equitable; he could assure him, that its policy was approved of by every person in England 1712 connected with Canada, and that the most important benefits were anticipated from it by all those, whose experience and knowledge of that country, made them most capable judges of its interest. How long these provinces might remain dependent on this country, or how long it was for the interest of both, that they should continue her colonies, was a question of some doubt and difficulty. He was convinced, that in whichever light this question was viewed, the present measure, the more it was examined, would he found just and expedient. At present, if one province refused to levy the means of providing for the administration of its civil government, we had no choice, except that of defraying the expense ourselves, or entering into a system of contention which must end, as that which had been tried, previous to the American revolution. The other province might, in the mean time, be disposed to do every thing that this country could wish or desire. We could not by withdrawing our military protection from both, abandon our fellow subjects, who had in all respects proved themselves worthy of and entitled to our support, to a state of anarchy, the necessary result of their continued discussions on their separate rights. If, on the contrary, after having by the present bill united them under one government, and given them the most ample means of providing for the administration of it, by a legislature fairly and freely chosen from all classes of their society, this difficulty should arise, the great question of policy, whether it was advisable with reference to the interest and character of both countries, to continue the connexion between them, on its present principle, might be calmly and dispassionately considered and settled. We should ay the present bill have given to our British fellow-subjects, without injustice to their Canadian brethren, their fair share in the legislature of the country, and there could be no doubt of its rapid improvement, whether dependent on or independent of Great Britain, under the more enlightened and liberal principles, which had characterized hitherto, the proceedings of the assembly in the upper province. He could only again implore the House to enable government to carry into effect their liberal intentions with respect to the Canadians, by passing the bill now before them.
said, the measure might be necessary and right, but it was of too im- 1713 portant a nature to be carried at this period of the session, and without notice being given to the parties interested.
§ Mr. Bright
accused the advocates of the bill of sophistry, and stood upon the great Canadian statute, which allowed the assemblies of the colonies to make laws, subject to the revision of, the British House of Commons. The law by which a constitution was given to Canada was intended as a permanent measure. It was under that character recommended from the throne, and so acknowledged by every branch of the legislature. They were now about to take away what the legislature had deliberately conferred. Would not that very measure, compared with the silence observed, excite the greatest discontent, if there existed, as he believed there did exist, a sense of spirit amongst the Canadians? It was purely an Upper Canada bill, having for its object to destroy the influence of the Lower Provinces, And give a decided superiority to the Protestant over the Catholic population. If they took away the legislature from Canada, what security would every other British colony have? Where was the security of Jamaica or of any other of our West India dependencies? He protested against any such violation of the rights of British, subjects. These rights were inalienable, and he could not acknowledge those grounds of expediency on which it was sought to violate them.
§ Mr. Goulburn
observed, that the objections urged against the bill, were founded on a misconception of its object. It did not contemplate any such change as its opponents assumed. The great object of the bill was, to provide for an incorporating union between the two provinces. The question then resolved itself into three parts. First, Whether the parliament possessed the power to interfere; secondly, whether there existed that expediency which justified that interference; and, lastly, whether the present advanced period of the session was a sufficient argument to delay an interference, which; on every other ground, was most beneficial? At to the first point, it was undisputed that parliament possessed the power. The constitution of Canada rested on an act of parliament, which act had destroyed the pre-existing constitution of that colony. The next point was, whether or not there existed that state expediency which demanded such an interference? It was admitted that the consideration of 1714 high commercial interests would justify such an interference; and it had become necessary for the peace and tranquillity of these provinces, as measures had already taken place which had produced great irritation. In the very act of the 31st Geo. 3rd, which gave to Canada a representative system, the subsequent interposition of the legislature of Great Britain was contemplated. In subsequent statutes, with respect to Canada, parliament had acted upon that principle. With respect to the time at which the measure was proposed, this objection was too frequently, in the lack of argument, urged to defeat a bill, the beneficial tendency of which could not be controverted.
§ Mr. Denman
limited his objections to the measure, to the simple ground of the advanced period of the session, and the thin attendance of members.
The Marquis of Londonderry
contended, that the lateness of the session ought not to prevent them from adopting a measure which would confer upon the Canadas a great advantage. If government had not been strongly impressed with a conviction that the change contemplated by this measure was anxiously wished for in both the Canadas, it would never have been submitted to the consideration of parliament. He therefore: trusted that gentlemen would allow the bill to go into a committee.
§ The House divided: Ayes, 48; Noes, 14. The bill was then committed.