HC Deb 16 August 1836 vol 35 cc1256-9

On the Order of the Day for bringing up the Report on the Public Works (Ireland) Bill,

Mr. Hume

, in pursuance of notice, called the attention of the House to the petition from the House of Assembly of Upper Canada. He first noticed the Address of the Executive Council to the Governor, Sir F. Head, and his subsequent declaration, notwithstanding the remonstrance of the House of Assembly, to act without the aid of a Council, although it was required by the 31st of George 3rd, that such a Council should be appointed, in order to assist the Governor with its advice. The House of Assembly had itself subsequently been dissolved; but whether Reformers or Tories were returned to the new House, the principle of the resolution he (Mr. Hume) intended to submit would remain unchanged. The great ground of complaint was, that no union or harmony had hitherto existed between the House of assembly and the Council; so that during the twelve years preceding the last, out of 176 Bills, only twenty-nine had been passed into law. In the last year, out of 115 Bills, only thirty-two had been passed into law. The great object of the petition was, that the Council selected by the Governor should consist of men of principles accordant with those of the majority of the House of Assembly. It had been agreed to by fifty-one out of fifty-three Members: the fifty-one Members represented 301,000 persons, and property to the amount of 4,000,000l.; while the two Members constituting the whole minority represented only 22,000 persons, and property to the amount of 224,000l. The last address to Sir F. Head, requesting him to appoint other councillors, had been carried by thirty-two to twenty-one. The hon. Member read various extracts from public documents, to shew the intemperate manner in which the Governor had replied to addresses from various parts of Upper Canada, and particularly dwelt upon his refusal to take any steps for the suppression of Orange lodges, although he knew at the time of the resolutions of the House of Commons, of the reply of the King, and of the determination of Ministers upon the subject. He complained also of the undue means employed by Sir Francis Head, to influence the pending elections, and to procure the return of Members to the House of Assembly favourable to his view of the affairs of the colony. Whatever might be the result of the contest, it would not redound to the credit of the Governor, who had unfairly employed the patronage he possessed, and the consequence of it would be a popular reaction, which, instead of healing the wound, would widen the breach between parties. He did not know whether Ministers would assent to his resolutions, but he wished to hear from the Under Secretary for the Colonies the view Ministers took of the subject, and the probability that existed of their adopting some course to produce an amicable arrangement of differences in the colony. He concluded by moving the following resolution:—"That it is the opinion of this House, that the provincial Government of his Majesty's province of Upper Canada, ought, agreeably to the Act 31 George 3rd, c. 31, and the royal instructions, dated 1818, to be conducted by his Majesty's Lieutenant-Governor, by and with the advice and assistance of an Executive Council, composed of men possessed of the public confidence, and whose opinions and policy should be in harmony with the opinions and policy of the people of that province, as declared by the majority of their representatives in their House of Assembly, by which the contentment, peace, and prosperity of that important province will be increased, and the willing and loyal attachment of its inhabitants to the mother country be best promoted and secured."

Sir George Grey

was sure, that even the hon. Mover would not expect him to go at large into this important subject when the House was within a few days of a prorogation, and when not more than about forty Members were present. The resolution of the hon. Member went to alter most materially the Constitution of Upper Canada, and no doubt many were absent who, at another period, would have been anxious to take part in the discussion. He would, however, make a few remarks, principally injustice to Sir Francis Head. First, he would mention, as Sir Francis Head had himself stated, that he had no power to alter the Executive Council in the mode required by the House of Assembly. The Constitution of that body, as well as of the Legislative Assembly, was at this moment under the consideration of Commissioners, and he apprehended, that before this House expressed any opinion it would wait for their Report. In the dissolution of the House of Assembly Sir Francis Head had taken the course the law pointed out when that body had refused the supplies, and when the Governor, from the addresses he received, had reason to think, that it did not represent the sentiments of the majority of the people. The result of the elections had confirmed him in the propriety of the course, for although the new House of Assembly had not met to record its opinions, the individuals composing it were, in many instances, different from those who had formerly been returned. As to the charge that undue means had been resorted to by Sir Francis Head to influence the elections, he (Sir G. Grey) had no information which enabled him to deny it, excepting that such a proceeding was directly contrary to the instructions of the Governor, which were upon the table, and to which Sir Francis Head had always professed most strictly to adhere. A comparison of dates would show, that the hon. Member was mistaken in the accusation he had made, founded upon Sir Francis Head's declaration with respect to Orange lodges. He was not then acquainted with the resolution of the House of Commons, and with the reply of his Majesty to the Address. Under all the circumstances, he (Sir G. Grey) hoped that the hon. Member would see the propriety of not pressing his resolution to a division. It was desirable, at least, to wait to see what course would be taken by the new House of Assembly, and what ulterior measures would be adopted by Sir Francis Head for the remedy of those grievances which he was appointed to remove.

Resolution withdrawn.