§ Mr. Roebuck,
on presenting a Petition from the House of Assembly of Lower Canada, contrasted the intentions of the late and present Government with regard to Canada. The late Government had resolved to act; they determined to send out a Commissioner to redress grievances; but the present Government intended to do nothing more than to send out a Commission of Inquiry into grievances which were known very well already. He complained of the audiences given by Lord Glenelg to two unaccredited individuals from Canada (Messrs. Neilson and Walker). The names of these two gentlemen were continually published in the Court Circular, coupled with an announcement, that they had been received by Lord Glenelg, while be, the accredited 876 agent of the Assembly, the bearer of instructions from that body, was not allowed to appear in the noble Lord's presence, unless he had some official communication to make, and when he was desirous of informing Lord Glenelg, that the Commission would not be received by the Legislative Assembly, unless certain preliminaries were first settled, he was met by the observation, that his representations on the subject could not be considered as authorized, because the House of Assembly was prorogued before it was known that the Commission would be issued. It was on the representation of these two gentlemen, that the instructions given to the Commission by the late Government were altered, and others of a much less liberal character substituted. But he could tell the right hon. Gentleman opposite, that Lord Gosford, when he arrived in Canada, would find that no one connected with the Legislative Assembly would appear before him. To show the indisposition which existed on the part of the Government to attend to the wishes of the Canadians, he observed that no steps had been taken to repeal an Act constituting a Canadian Land Company, which, though containing enactments of a public nature, passed through the House as a private Bill. This Act was considered by the House of Assembly such an infringement of their rights, that they declared, they would not allow it to be brought into operation.
§ Sir George Grey
thought he should best consult the interests of this country and of Canada by abstaining from discussing the different topics contained in the petition, as it was well known that a Commission was to proceed to Canada for the purpose of making inquiries respecting the grievances complained of by the inhabitants of that country; and he must say, that in his opinion, the Government did right in not excluding from the investigation of that Commission, grievances which had been alleged in other petitions besides those which had been presented by the hon. Member for Bath. However, some observations had fallen from that hon. Member, to which he was desirous of offering a reply. In the first place the hon. Member complained, that Messrs. Neilson and Walker had been received by the noble Lord at the head of the Colonial Department. It was undoubtedly true that those gentlemen had been received by that noble Lord; for as they had come 877 to this country with petitions from a large portion of the population of Canada, the noble Lord was anxious to give to those individuals an opportunity of explaining the nature of the petitions of which they were the bearers. They consequently had had several audiences at the Colonial-office, and so had the hon. Member for Bath, who had never met any difficulty in communicating with the noble Lord, the Secretary for the Colonies. Upon the subject of the Commission, the noble Lord, waving all technical objections, informed the hon. Member for Bath, that he would be received as the agent of the House of Assembly, but not as the agent of the Province; and the hon. Member attended and made a statement with respect to the Commission. That statement (the noble Lord, the Secretary for the Colonies, observed in a written communication to the hon. Member) could not be considered to be a statement of the views of the House of Assembly, because, in point of fact, the House of Assembly was prorogued before it was known that a Commission would be issued. The hon. Member said, that the instructions of the late Government to the Commission were more liberal than those of the present. The hon. Member might know what was the nature of the instructions given by the late Government. The hon. Member might have been in the confidence of that Government, though he (Sir George Grey) surmised that such was not the case. Be that as it might, the hon. Member certainly was not in the confidence of the present Government, and not a syllable of the instructions to the Commission had been submitted to his inspection. The hon. Member therefore was not in a condition to say, whether those instructions were or were not less liberal than those which had emanated from the preceding Government, and the House would now know what weight it ought to attach to the comparison which had been drawn by the hon. Member. It had also been said by the hon. Member, that the instructions had been changed in consequence of representations from Messrs. Neilson and Walker. Now, the fact was, that the instructions had been altered before the arrival of those gentlemen in this country. He did not wish to prolong the present discussion; and he regretted to say, that the language employed by the hon. Member for Bath, was not calculated to close, 878 but rather to widen the breach existing between Canada and the mother country.
§ Mr. Robinson
said, as the hon. Member for Bath had alluded to a Bill by which the British American Land Company was established, he wished to observe, that that Bill was introduced when Lord Goderich was Colonial Secretary, and had received the sanction of his noble Friend (Lord Stanley). The hon. Member for Bath said, that the rights of the Canadian people were infringed by that Bill. If that were the case, it was the hon. Member's bounden duty to have opposed it at the time of its progress through that House; but if he were ignorant that such a Bill, had been introduced, how could he account for his utter ignorance of the Parliamentary business of that House, with which he ought to have made himself acquainted; but it was his belief, that the hon. Member was aware of the progress of that Bill; and having received communications from Canada, stating that he ought to have opposed it, he now came down to the House and stated, that the Bill passed in a secret manner. He would take the liberty of telling the hon. Member for Bath, that his conduct as agent to the Legislative Assembly would be inconsistent with his duty as a Member of that House, if, instead of endeavouring to settle the unhappy differences which existed between the mother country and the colony, he made use of language only calculated to throw additional difficulties in the way of adjustment.
§ Mr. Hume
said, that his hon. Friend, the Member for Bath, was no more to blame than he was himself, that the Bill alluded to by the hon. Member for Worcester passed the House. His hon. Friend was not the agent of the Assembly of Lower Canada during the passing of that Bill. The Legislative Assembly of that province claimed to have the management of all the revenues raised in it which was conceded to them by the Constitution of 1792. But these revenues were withdrawn from their control, and were distributed at the sole pleasure of the Colonial-office, without any control over such expenditure by the House of Commons, or of the colony in which they were raised, and for whose advantage they ought to be laid out. These revenues had been jobbed, and were now jobbing, for jobbing he would call it, since the House had no control over the distribution of the money, 879 and this was the grievance of which his hon. Friend had complained on behalf of the Canadians. He entirely agreed in the sentiment expressed, that the Government was bound to hear both parties; but it was not dealing out even justice to admit to an audience an agent who represented 75,000 persons, while the representative of 450,000 was refused one. Mr. Visier could obtain no audience either from the noble Lord (Lord Stanley) or from the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Spring Rice) during his administration of the Colonial Department. For his own part, he did expect, and he prepared the people of Canada to expect, that justice would be done them by the right hon. Gentleman, and he did think that the time had arrived when their complaints would meet with the attention they deserved. But he would repeat for the twentieth time, that the differences which divided this country and the colony, would never be appeased till we gave to the people of Canada the entire managment of their own funds, raised from the taxes which they paid themselves. Was it to be expected that a separate Legislature should be denied that control over their expenditure which we were about to give to every petty Corporation in the country? If the Government acted towards the colony in the same spirit which they had exhibited towards the Corporations, nothing would be heard from the shores of Canada but thanks and congratulations instead of bitter complaints and defiance. But when 31,000l. of their money was taken out of their chest, contrary to their own wishes and desires, and applied to purposes which they did not sanction, it was not to be wondered at that their complaints should be both loud and constant.
§ Mr. Labouchere
was so sensible of the great mischief which resulted from allowing charges and assertions, such as had been made, to go forth to the colony, particularly in a state of great excitement, without contradiction, that he would, with the leave of the House, make a few observations in reply to what had fallen from the hon. Member. The 31,000l. to which the hon. Member for Middlesex had referred was taken out of the military chest, which belonged to the people of this country, and although it was a proper subject for the consideration of the House how far the Government was justified in dealing with that sum as it had done, it 880 was not fair that it should go forth to the people of Canada that the money which the Government of this country thought it their duty, under all the circumstances of the case, to advance for the Officers of the colony, to prevent its affairs becoming embarrassed, belonged not to this country, but to them. He had no doubt that his right hon. Friend, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who advised that that advance should be made, would be quite ready to defend the policy of the Government whenever the question came regularly before the House for discussion. With regard to the charge made that the agent of one portion of the inhabitants of Canada was admitted to an audience, which was refused to the representative of another portion, he could assure the hon. Member that, to his own knowledge, Mr. Visier had most frequent and constant opportunities of having access to the Secretary for the Colonies. Mr. Visier told him (Mr. Labouchere) the last month he was in England—or at any rate the last month in the last Session—that he had most frequent and constant opportunities of access to the Colonial Office. He could not help addressing a few words to the hon. Member for Bath. He did not know whether the hon. Member gave him credit for a desire to reconcile the differences between the colonies and the mother country, but he would say this—that according to the humble measure of his abilities, he had never neglected to use his best endeavours to procure a satisfactory adjustment. He would ask the hon. Member for Bath, dispassionately and seriously, whether the course he had adopted to-night, and on another occasion not long ago, was the best he could follow? It was throwing the most serious impediment in the way of any Government to make such statements as the hon. Member had made. He could assure the House, that great obstacles to the adjustment of the matters in difference had been thrown in the way of Government. As an instance, he would mention this fact; the Committee which sat in the last Parliament on the affairs of Canada received evidence of a very remarkable kind, which they deemed it highly dangerous and inexpedient to publish. To his great surprise he had received a file of papers from Canada containing all this evidence, and he referred particularly to that given before the Committee by Mr. M'Kinnon, 881 Lord Aylmer's confidential agent, and by Captain Stewart, his military Secretary. He was most unwilling to impute such a breach of faith and of honour to any hon. Member of the Committee, but he could not help saying that this evidence had found its way into the papers of Canada, owing to the unguardedness of some Member of that Committee. He advised the hon. Member for Bath to take care that in uniting himself with some parties, his endeavours, instead of reconciling, did not tend to keep up the unfortunate differences between this country and Canada.
§ Mr. Roebuck
observed, that he gave hon. Members opposite the credit of having good intentions, and he hoped he should have the same credit given to him. He was not an anarchist; he had no desire to separate the colony from this country, but because he was desirous of stating what he knew to be the truth, and to instruct the House in a matter of which they were ignorant, and the truth happened to be unpleasant, the House visited him with their displeasure, instead of reserving it for those who had given occasion to the complaints which he had preferred. The hon. Baronet (Sir G. Grey) had intimated his doubts whether he (Mr. Roebuck) had enjoyed the confidence of the late Government. He certainly had not, and he could assure the hon. Baronet that he had no desire to cultivate the confidence of the present Administration. He had, however, never complained of Lord Glenelg; he had received from him all the courtesy he could shew, nor did he complain of discourtesy at the hands of the noble Lord who formerly filled the same office: but that he had not attended to the wishes of the colony. As to the publication of the evidence given before the Committee on the affairs of Canada, he had stated over and over again, that so far from having communicated any of the evidence to the parties who published it, he had told the parties who had obtained possession of it, that the publication of it would be contrary to good policy and propriety. He had certainly quoted some parts of the evidence, but those were generally known.
§ Mr. Labouchere
entirely acquitted the hon. Member of any intentional design to publish the evidence.
§ Sir Robert Peel
asked if there was any intention on the part of Government to lay before the Parliament, during the present session, information of the course intended to be pursued with respect to Canada. There might be objections to communicating the instructions that were given by Lord Aberdeen to Lord Amherst; but he wished to know if it was meant to communicate to Parliament in the course of the present Session what were the points upon which it was expected a settlement could be accomplished by Lord Gosford, in his capacity of Governor of Canada, distinguishing those points from the points on which it would be likely further inquiry might necessarily have to be made?
§ Sir George Grey
said it was impossible to answer the question of the right hon. Baronet without in the first place knowing when it was likely the Canadian Assembly would meet; and, secondly, without knowing how long the present Session of the British Parliament would continue. He thought the information asked for ought not to be made public till Lord Gosford had had an opportunity of communicating officially with the Canadian Assembly. It was possible that after Lord Gosford had had that opportunity the communication might be laid before the House of Commons during this Session.
§ Sir Robert Peel
said, he should deprecate that event most sincerely. He quite agreed that the first communication of the intention of the Government ought to be made by Lord Gosford to the Canadian Assembly; but, after that had been done, he could not see the necessity of delaying the information to the House of Commons till after a correspondence had been received from the Canadian Assembly.
§ Sir G. Grey
said Sir C. Grey, who had been for many years Chief Justice of Calcutta, and Captain Gipps, late private secretary to Lord Auckland.
§ Petition to lie on the Table.