HC Deb 02 April 1835 vol 27 cc650-4
Mr. George F. Young

rose, pursuant to notice, to present a Petition from certain inhabitants of Annfield and Beauharnois, in Lower Canada, expressive of their dissent from, and entire disapprobation of, the ninety-two Resolutions passed by the House of Assembly in that province in the month of February, 1834. As his Majesty's Ministers appeared disposed to remedy the grievances complained of in former petitions presented to that House from Lower Canada, he conceived that he should best discharge his public duty by briefly adverting to the nature of the petition he had now the honour to present. Abuses had existed in Lower Canada from the year 1791 down to the present period, and the cause of those angry and irritating feelings by which the people of that colony were set against each other ought, and he hoped would, be removed by the interference of the Government. He denied that the French settlers in Lower Canada had any cause to complain that their grievances were occasioned by the English population. He was afraid, however, that from the discussions that had taken place in that House during the last two years, Parliament had been led to believe that the fault of such dissensions was in a great degree attributable to the British residents in Canada, and that the French population, which he admitted formed three-fourths of the population of the country, were perfectly free from the guilt of causing such dissensions. Now, he begged to say that, upon inquiry, he had satisfied himself that such was not the fact. These petitioners, British subjects, stated that they had great cause of complaint from the manner in which they were excluded from their common rights as British subjects, by the mode in which legislation was carried on in Canada, which gave the French population a preponderating weight, which they used to oppress and deprive the petitioners of the rights to which they were entitled. They objected to the proceedings of the majority of that House, and thus far he (Mr. Young) would say, that the proceedings of the French party in the House of Assembly were of such a character that he was quite sure they would, if properly understood, meet with the condemnation of the British House of Commons. One of the principal causes of the disputes between the parties in Canada, who were opposed to each other was caused by the futile system of tenure. But the suggestion of the hon. Member for Bath, that the English law of copyhold ought to be extended to that colony would, in his opinion be the worst plan possible. If the House would but for a moment consider the mischievous nature of the ninety-two resolutions proposed by the Local Legislature of Lower Canada, he was quite sure they would at once say, that a body so constituted was not calculated to act in a deliberative capacity, and the Speaker whom they had elected was wholly unfit for the office, for he had denounced the Magistrates of the country as a set of Magisterial butchers, and he had even gone so far as to call the Governor of the province—the representative of his Majesty—an ignorant and bigotted politician. He mentioned these circumstances to the House in order to show the sort of men who composed the French majority in the House of Assembly, and the manner in which they attempted to exercise a control over the English population. It was in consequence of this undue influence that the present petitioners ventured to approach the House, denouncing the proceedings of the French majority of the Local Legislature of Lower Canada, and praying to be protected from that majority. He should not further occupy the attention of the House, but content himself with moving that the petition be brought up.

Mr. Hume

was at a loss to know the real object of the petition, for he really could not gather it from the speech of the hon. Gentleman. That the British inhabitants of Canada had grounds for complaint he was not disposed to deny, but of this he was quite sure, that the French party were aggrieved also. The hon. Gentleman had spoken of the majority of the House of Assembly, declaring that they were unfit to legislate, and were not calculated to allay the irritation which unfortunately existed in that colony. He denied that such was the fact, and protested against the right of the hon. Member to charge the majority of the House of Assembly with acts of treason, for he implied as much. As to the ninety-two resolutions, he could only say, that they had received the deliberate approbation of the House of Assembly, and as such they were entitled to respect. He wished to know whether the statements made by the hon. Member were embodied in the petition he presented, for, if not, he conceived that they ought not to have been used? The hon. Member proceeded to defend M. Papineau from the attack made upon him, and stated, that that gentleman possessed the entire confidence of the House of Assembly, by whom he had been three or four times elected as Speaker, in opposition to Government.

Mr. Ellice

concurred with his hon. Friend, the Member for Middlesex, in considering that the petition was ill-timed, as a Commission had been issued by the Government to investigate the complaints of the people of Lower Canada, and he also agreed with his hon. Friend that the grievances complained of were not con- fined to any one class of his Majesty's subjects in that colony. Surely, however, it would be but reasonable to wait until the grounds of complaint were investigated before any such grievances were stated.

Mr. Roebuck

was desirous of asking the hon. Gentleman who presented the petition, and who appeared as the organ of the minority of the House of Assembly, what it was that he complained of? Were not the English residents fairly represented, although they happened to be in a minority in the House of Assembly. [Mr. Young—"No."] The hon. Gentleman said "No;" but that only proved he knew nothing at all about the matter. Of the eighty-eight Members in the House of Assembly, twenty-five were English, although the English composed only one-fourth of the inhabitants of the colony. But the truth was, that the grievances of Lower Canada were mainly attributable to the mal-administration of its affairs in this country, and he had no hesitation in saying that the whole conduct of the Colonial Office was extremely reprehensible, for it was confided to the management of Mr. Hay, a clerk in that office. No matter who was Secretary, whether Lord Goderich, Lord Stanley, or Mr. Spring Rice, the whole of the Colonial Department was managed by Mr. Hay, and no justice could be expected so long as that person ruled the fate of the colonies.

Mr. Robinson

rose to order, and said it was not competent for any Member, on the presentation of a petition, to go into the whole question of Colonial policy, especially when a Commission had been issued by the Government.

The Speaker

was understood to deprecate these discussions on petitions, but to express an opinion that the hon. Member for Bath was not out of order.

Sir E. Knatchbull

and Mr. Roebuck rose together.

Sir E. Knatchbull

.—Will the hon. Member pardon me for one moment?

Mr. Roebuck

.—I can hardly pardon you Sir, for I am perfectly in order.—When the hon. Member presenting the petition had made a long speech, he (Mr. Roebuck continued) had a perfect right to reply to it; without being interrupted either by the hon. Member for Worcester, the Chairman of the Canada Company, or by the right hon. Baronet. He had a right to complain of the manner in which the hon. Member (Mr. Young) had spoken of the House of Assembly, where proceedings, he had said, verged upon treason.

Mr. Young

.—I did not say so.

Mr. Roebuck

.—The hon. Member only a few minutes ago had acknowledged, across the Table, that he had used the words "verging upon treason." He (Mr. Roebuck) begged to say that justice would and should be done to that colony.

Mr. William Gladstone

was sorry that this debate had assumed such an aspect and that the hon. Member for Bath had indulged in such extraordinary and unwarrantable assertions. He did not say that the hon. Member was out of order; but this he would say, that the hon. Member, after the understanding which had been come to by the House respecting discussions on the presentation of petitions, was not justified in going into the statements he had just made. Was he justified in professing a knowledge of the interior concerns of the Colonial-office, which he (Mr. Gladstone) was not aware that the hon. Member had any peculiar means of obtaining? Was the hon. Member justified, after complaining of the attack made upon M. Papineau, who was absent and could not defend himself, in immediately after making an attack upon Mr. Hay, who was also absent, and could not defend himself? He begged to say that the attack was a most unfounded one.

Petition laid on the Table.

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