HC Deb 16 March 1835 vol 26 cc1013-6
Mr. Patrick Stewart

rose for the purpose of presenting to the House a Petition which he considered of very great importance, inasmuch as it would give to hon. Members something like a fair knowledge not only of the present unfortunate condition of Lower Canada, but of the real state of parties and opinions in that Colony. This petition was signed by 11,170 English, Irish, and French Canadians, resident at Montreal and its vicinity, and, so far from agreeing in the sentiments contained in the petition presented by the hon. and learned Member for Bath the other night, these petitioners expressed the deepest and most unfeigned regret at the disloyal spirit which a few discontented men had succeeded in engendering in the province in which they resided. They looked with dismay and alarm at the proceedings of a faction, whose only object was to destroy the present Constitution, and place in its stead a destructive democracy; and they severely deplored that their internal affairs were not altogether under the control of an external Legislature. In short, they reiterated the sentiments embodied in that part of his noble Friend (Lord Stanley's) the member for Lancashire's well known despatch, which was rejected by the House of Assembly, and humbly prayed, that the Constitution which had originally been given to Lower Canada should be preserved in its integrity to that Colony. It might perhaps be said, that these were the sentiments of Tories, but this he begged leave to deny. They were the sentiments of the old and constitutional Canadian Whigs, and this would be proved by a reference to the papers published at Montreal. The hon. Gentleman read extracts from some of those papers in which, though the principles of Reform were strongly insisted on, the most unqualified censure was cast upon those "injurious and dangerous advisers" who were endeavouring to create discord and anarchy in that province. He would call the attention of the House, and more particularly of the hon. and learned Member for Bath, to a letter which had some time ago appeared in the Canadian papers and created a strong sensation in that Colony. It was said that the hon. and learned Member for Bath knew something of that letter; and, if that were not so, the hon. and learned Member would have an opportunity now of denying it. The letter to which he alluded was dated from the place where the hon. and learned Gentleman lived, namely, Gray's-Inn-square. [Mr. Roebuck: My chambers are not in Gray's-Inn-square, but in Raymond-buildings, Gray's Inn.] The consequences which this letter produced were of so painful a nature that he could not pass it over in silence. Although the letter was published without signature it was generally attributed to the hon. and learned Member for Bath, and if he were not the writer of it he would no doubt be rejoiced at having an opportunity like the present to publicly disavow the fact. [The hon. Gentleman read the letter, which stated that Sir H. Vivian was about to be sent out as Governor of Canada, and expressed a hope that the Canadian people would be firm. It charged Mr. Spring Rice with having deceived the Canadian people, and advised them, if that right hon. Gentleman should return to the Colonial Office to render his position as difficult as possible, and not only to grant no supplies, but to harass the Government by every possible means.] This letter it was true had, as he had stated before, no signature attached to it; but still as it was generally supposed to have proceeded from the hon. and learned Member for Bath, he would leave it to that hon. and learned Member to affirm or deny the fact. The hon. Gentleman then proceeded to insist upon the services rendered by the Canada Land Company. It might be objected to him that he advocated the Company because he was himself one of those who composed it; but his reply would be, that he belonged to the Company because it was calculated to check great evil in this country and produce great good in the Colonies. That the Company was considered valuable by the Colonists was proved by the circumstance of a petition having been forwarded to his noble Friend, the Secretary for the Colonies, praying for such a Company. The alienation of the Crown and Church lands had been recommended by the Committee of 1828, and the Canada Land Company had been established for the purpose of drawing British capital, British industry, and British morality into Lower Canada. The abuses which existed in the Canadas were never denied by the British Government, and it had been the intention of the late Ministry to apply the earliest and most efficacious remedy.

Mr. Gladstone

would put it to the hon. Gentleman, whether it were wise or discreet to renew this discussion?

Mr. Stewart:

the hon. Gentleman reversed Johnson's definition of a fashionable patron, whom Dr. Johnson described as one who encumbers you with help when you have just reached the land; for the bon. Gentleman met him with an interruption when he had nearly arrived at the end of his journey. There was one point to which he would refer, and in doing so he would take the opportunity of saying that he felt satisfied this discussion, so far from doing injury, would on the contrary, be productive of good. The point to which he alluded was the necessity which existed of revising the representation, the evil of which consisted in this, that, whilst in one part (the Upper) of the Canadas the representation was founded on property and population combined, in the Lower the principle of population was alone acted upon. The hon. Gentleman quoted a passage from Burke, to show that if the Colonies conformed as closely as possible to the mother country in their mode of enjoying civil and social rights nothing would ever be likely to separate them. This, he hoped would prove to be the case of the Canadas. There was still, as he hoped whatever Commission was sent out would find, a fund of sound sense amongst the people of Canada, which, on the redress of any just grievance under which they might labour, would still ensure the continuance of the connection between them and the mother country.

Mr. Roebuck

wished to vindicate himself from the charge of having endeavoured to excite the people of Canada to take up arms. He insisted that the letter which he had written could not be tortured into such a construction. In that letter he had advised the Canadians to resort to all means except arms. The letter he acknowledged to be his, and to the sentiments it expressed he still adhered. Of the other letter to which allusion had been made, he knew nothing, and he never wrote anything to which he would object to have his name attached. He had told the Canadians that they could gain nothing from this Government but by stand- ing out, and he told them so in the same spirit in which the Whigs addressed the people of this country previously to the carrying of the Reform Bill. In telling the Canadians to endeavour to improve their institutions by withholding the Supplies, he had only done that which but recently had been done by the Gentlemen on his side of the House, and he had yet to learn that such a doctrine was unconstitutional. The House of Commons in London contemplated doing that which he had advised to be done in Canada. The people of England looked to that House to harass an unpopular Ministry by stopping the Supplies; and all the parties in that House would be taught, as in Canada, that the power which the Representatives of the people possessed to stop the Supplies was not unconstitutional. He contended, that the petition in reality involved the same dispute which existed here between the Liberals and the Tories, and he felt satisfied, that if a good Constitution were not established for the Canadians, they would make one. The only advice he would give to the Canadians would be, that they should state calmly to the Commissioner the grievances of which they complained, and insist upon obtaining a good Government.

Mr. Robinson

observed, that the advice of the hon. Member for Bath went the length of advising the Canadians to harass every government. As long as he acknowledged the giving such advice the hon. Gentleman showed himself as one throwing in a firebrand to excite and to irritate, and was adopting a course which would only have the effect of preventing all adjustment. Why should the hon. Gentleman assume, that it was not the intent of the British Government to redress any evils which the Colonies could fairly point out? The hon. Gentleman had advised the Canadians to resist the British Government if it did not grant their claims to the fullest extent. He could not agree with the hon. Gentleman in this advice, and he felt satisfied, that the Canadians would have reason to regret that their cause was not in the hands of the hon. Member for Taunton, who would be more likely than the hon. Member for Bath to conduct them to a satisfactory issue.

Petition to lie on the Table.

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