§ Lord J. Russell
having moved the order of the day for the House to resolve itself into a Committee of the whole House on the Factories Act Amendment Bill.
§ Mr. Roebuck
rose, in pursuance of his notice, to move, as an amendment, that the House resolve itself into a Committee of the whole House to take into consideration such parts of 31st George 3rd, c. 31, as related to the executive and legislative councils of the Canadas, for the purpose of rendering the same efficient to the good government of those provinces. By the present motion, the hon. Member said, he sought not to excite party feeling; he desired not to impugn the character or conduct of any class of men, but he did intend to impugn the whole system of colonial government. He should be able to show from evidence which it was his intention to submit to the House, that the Colonial Department of that country, as at present constituted, was totally incapable of governing to the satisfaction of those colonists over whom they held sway, and that with regard to Canada, at least, the scheme of administration was with a view to private and partial interests. Before he went further, he begged to state fairly and completely the object he had in view. He sought to obtain for the Canadas what he called a good government. By a good government he meant a government consonant to the feelings of the colonists, and which really and banâ fide had their confidence. Such was their demand—a demand recognized by justice itself, and which this country ought not to refuse. By the statute 31st George 3rd, c. 31, a constitution was given to the province of Quebec, and that province was thereby divided into Upper and Lower Canada. The constitution so conferred was a sort of copy of the constitution of England, the Governor being as the King, the Legislative Council as the House of Lords, and the House of Assembly as the House of Commons, in this country. Now, the object he had in view was to amend the Legislative Council, which was no more like the House of Lords here than the Governor of the colony was like the King of these realms. The members of the Legislative Council, unlike the House of 926 Lords, were poor, unpossessed of wealth or property, having no tenants, and consequently no influence over the people, and were nothing more than a clique holding power for their own particular purposes. Fie said, unlike the House of Lords, because he admitted the House of Lords were wealthy, were landed proprietors, and did possess a great moral influence over a large body of the people of this country. The body he by his motion sought to attack, namely, the Legislative Council of the Canadas, possessed none of these qualities, and therefore in attacking them he hoped not to be supposed to be indirectly attacking any of the institutions of this country. Though the constitution to which he had alluded was given to the Canadians in the year 1791, it was not until 1810 that they were permitted to control their own expenditure, and even when the colonists had asked the permission to do so, three persons were sent to prison for making the demand. They remained there an entire year, merely for asking for the House of Assembly the administration of their own expenditure, and thus obtaining a control over the public servants of the colonists. This demand was refused by the Legislative Council, as was also a request by the House of Assembly to allow the civil list of the colony to be as in this country, permanent during the King's life. On this second refusal the Government of this country interfered, and proposed that the governor, the judges, and the secretary should be so secured as to salaries and retiring pensions. The salaries of the judges were made permanent by the House of Assembly, and the proceeding was approved of by Lord Aylmer, the then governor; but resisted by the Council, of the constitution of which he would leave the House to judge, when he stated that one was a confirmed and notorious drunkard; a second had been denounced even by the right hon. Baronet below him (Sir George Grey), and a third had -been proved by documents laid by him (Mr. Roebuck) before the noble Lord now at the head of the Colonial Department to have been guilty of peculations for the last twenty years. A great part of the Legislative Council was also composed of peculators; and the late receiver-general had been guilty of peculations to the tune of 100,000l. When the right hon. Baronet opposite came into office it was discovered that something must be done with regard to the Canadas, for the people refused to contribute to the expenses of the Govern- 927 ment, unless their grievances were redressed. They demanded an elective Legislative Council, and a responsible Executive Council. The right hon. Baronet accordingly determined to send out a Commission, not merely to inquire, but also to redress; but when he quitted office the functions of the commission were unfortunately limited by the present Ministers to the mere business of inquiry. The only object which the Government could have in instituting an inquiry with respect to matters with which they were well acquainted was to gain time; and it was hoped by delay to obtain all that they wanted—money. Indeed, a distinct proposition was, he understood, made to the House of Assembly to pass by the Legislative Council, and they were told that if they voted the arrears of three years, and agreed to the civil list, those two measures would be accepted by the Government, even though the Legislative Council should resolve to reject them. But Sir F. Head being sent out to Canada, he published his instructions, and the result was that no money was voted. Now, he would ask whether it was proper on the part of the British Government to attempt to get money from the people of Canada by shuffling and underhand proceedings? Was it right in them to try, by concealing their intentions, to cheat the Canadian people into granting what was positively refused, as soon as all the facts of the case were known? The House of Assembly, when the instructions of Sir F. Head were published, immediately resolved not to grant the money which the Government desired; they, however, passed a Money Bill for six months, which was rejected by the Legislative Council; and at the present moment the Government had no money legally at its disposal. What was it, then, that the Government intended to do? Was it intended, as had been not darkly hinted in a speech of the governor, to obtain money by force? If such a step should be taken, the governor, and every person either expending: or accepting any portion of the money, would be held personally responsible for the act; and he had good reason for saying that the House of Assembly (no matter how long a period might elapse before they obtained the means of punishing those individuals) would pursue them to the end, and make them refund the money of which they might have obtained possession. Another expedient which had been proposed to enable the Government to get money, was to repeal, by an act of the British Parlia- 928 ment, the laws by which the control of the public money was placed at the disposal of the people of Canada. If such a proceeding were adopted, how long, let him ask, would the British dominion endure there? Just so long as it could be maintained by military force; and no longer. There was only one way to bind the people of Canada permanently to this country, and that was by redressing their manifold grievances. Let the British Parliament do what he demanded—let it alter the constitution of the Legislative Council. What harm could result from the adoption of his proposition? It had been said, that that Council was a means of cementing the union between the colony and the mother country; but the truth was, that all its acts were calculated to irritate the feelings of the people of Canada, and tended to separate the two countries. But by rendering the Legislative Council elective, it would be made acceptable to the people, and its conduct would naturally be such as to conciliate their affections. The objection to this course of proceeding was, that it was American—that it was republican. How puerile was that sort of argument! By what magic was an aristocracy to be formed in Canada? An aristocracy could not be created in a day; it was not to be raised like asparagus; it must be the growth of an age. The aristocracy of England was not an aristocracy of yesterday, but had existed ever since England was a nation; and yet the influence of this ancient aristocracy, so far from extending, was daily diminishing; while the feeling of equality gained ground. If such were the case in this country, was it to be expected that an aristocracy could be maintained in a new nation? The existence of two parties in Canada—the French party and the English party —was put forward as a ground for preserving the Legislative Council, because it was said, that body represented the English party—the French being represented in the House of Assembly; and the application of the elective principle to the Legislative Council would be favourable to the French party, and render it too predominant in the Legislature. He begged the House to consider whether this objection to his proposition was well founded. The number of persons speaking the English language in Lower Canada was 134,000 and odd, and the number of persons speaking the French language, 374,932; so that the English party was about one-third of the 929 amount of the French party. The House of Assembly contained eighty-eight members, sixty-four of whom were said to be of French origin, all the rest being of English origin; so that the English party constituted as nearly as possible one-third of the representation. But then it was said that all those English Members did not vote with the Government. That was undoubtedly the case; and the same complaint was made in Upper Canada, where there were no French, which plainly proved that the demands made by the people of Canada did not proceed from narrow party considerations, but were founded on principle and justice. The fact was, that the Legislative Council was merely the representative of a small clique, the official partisans of the Government, by whom every thing was done to irritate the people. Their religious feelings even were offended. On St. Patrick's-day a letter was issued, signed by the chaplain to the forces, and he believed by a son of the Chief Justice, recommending the Protestants not to go to the churches of the Roman Catholics, even for the purpose of paying their respect, because the Roman Catholics were idolators; and further exhorting them, as they valued the safety of their immortal souls, to take no part in the administration of the service of the Roman Catholics, on that day. Such an address must have been most offensive to the people, for the Canadians were almost all Catholics, and they never called upon the Protestants to contribute towards the expense of their religious establishment. Why, it was alleged on the part of the Church of England that the Roman Catholics of Canada, when they obtained the power they were seeking to obtain, would practise intolerance towards others. But he denied that they would do any such thing. They were endowed with the same spirit of liberality which prevailed throughout the continent on which they lived. There now remained for him to notice only one more objection to his proposition. It was said, that if the Legislative Council was made elective, the Canadian Legislature would immediately seize on all the waste lands. The Canadians contended that those lands were not the property of the Crown, nor of the people of England, but of the Canadian people, and if the lands were properly applied they might be rendered greatly beneficial, not only to Canada, but to this country also. That mischievous rule, how- 930 ever, which prevailed in all the British colonies had sway in Canada, by which the waste lands were only made the means of jobbing and peculation, without conducing at all to the general benefit, but quite the reverse. If the people of Canada were allowed to possess the land, they would make it fertile and a source of wealth to the country. It would afford the people the means of paying the whole civil expenditure of the government, in the same manner as was done in the United States. He solemnly asked the House steadily, calmly, and patiently, to go over the grounds which he had urged upon their attention, before they determined to resist his motion. It was quite clear, in the natural course of things, that the Canadas and England could not remain joined together, as they now were, but for a very small number of years. The only union that would hereafter exist between these countries, would be that arising out of their commercial intercourse with one another. That connexion might be continued; but if England should attempt to continue the union by the present system of rule, it would only be the means of inducing the Canadians to make a comparison between their condition and that of other and neighbouring nations, and of the great benefits derived under the form of government which prevailed in those countries, the result of which would inevitably be, that the connexion between England and her North American colonies would come to a rapid, and, he was afraid, a violent dissolution. The hon. and learned Gentleman concluded by moving as an amendment, "That this House resolve itself into a Committee of the whole House, to take into consideration such parts of the 3lst Geo. 3rd., c. 31, as relate to the Executive and Legislative Councils of the Canadas, for the purpose of rendering the same efficient to the good government of those provinces."
§ Sir George Grey
admitted, with the hon. and learned Gentleman, the very great importance of the subject brought under the consideration of the House, and he could not help expressing his satisfaction at the tone and temper with which the hon. and learned Gentleman had introduced the subject. It induced him to hope, that in the future discussions which might take place upon this question, a different temper might henceforth prevail, from that 931 which unfortunately had, on former occasions, only tended to exasperate. He hoped that the differences existing between Canada and the mother country would be discussed as they ought to be, as far as possible apart from all angry feeling, and with reference solely to the great interests which were involved in the subject. In the end which the hon. and learned Member proposed to himself, that of establishing good government in the Canadas, he (Sir G. Grey) cordially concurred. But he differed from the hon. and learned Gentleman as to the remedy which he proposed, namely, the revision of the constitutional Act of 1791, and he did not think that such a revision was the remedy which the disease required, or which they could safely apply. Into the argument of the hon. and learned Gentleman as to the constitution of the Legislative Council, he (Sir G. Grey) would not enter, because the hon. and learned Gentleman had never heard from his Majesty's present Government those objections which he stated had been urged by others against the alteration of the constitution of that Council. He (Sir G. Grey) had never urged those objections, nor was he now prepared to urge them. He had not stated that it would be American and Republican, to alter the Council from the form in which it was constructed. He believed that the great object they all had in view was to give a government to those colonies which was suited to the wishes and sentiments of the great body of the people; a government, to use the words of a great man on a former occasion, which would give them nothing to envy, if ever they crossed the boundary that separated them from the United States. The hon. and learned Gentleman had impugned the candour of his Majesty's Government for sending out Commissioners to the Canadas to make a report, and he did so on the ground that the Government were not in want of information to enable them to decide correctly on any of the questions which had arisen in Canada. Looking at the variety of opinions which prevailed, he denied that the Government had the means of ascertaining fully what were the sentiments of all classes of his Majesty's subjects in those colonies when they came into office last year. On that occasion his Majesty's Ministers found that the right hon. Baronet (Sir Robert Peel) had intended to send out a Commissioner to 932 Canada, and they therefore felt it right to adopt the same course. But they conceived that a Commission composed of more than one individual would be more effectual in making those observations on the spot, and obtaining from the people, and especially the members of the House of Assembly, that information which was essentially necessary for the guidance of the Government at home, than if they had confided those duties to one Commissioner. It had been alleged that, whilst the Commission intended to have been sent out by the Government of the right hon. Baronet was authorised not only to inquire, but to act, the present Commissioners had been restricted to the office of inquiring and of reporting to the Government at home. Now, it was quite true that Lord Gosford and his colleagues, as Commissioners, were simply to investigate and to report; but it must be remembered, that Lord Amherst was to have united in himself the office of Commissioner and Governor; whereas the present council, with the exception of Lord Gosford, had no share in the Government, and they could not, therefore, be empowered to act. But Lord Gosford, in his capacity of governor, was empowered to act, and substantially no difference existed as to the extent to which any immediate measures were authorized to be taken by Lord Amherst and Lord Gosford. His instructions were before the House, prescribing to him the course which he was to follow as Governor, whilst in conjunction with his colleagues in the Commission, he was to institute a full inquiry into any allegation of abuse or grievance. It was true that a difference still subsisted between the House of Assembly and the Government; but it was at least satisfactory to know that no imputation of any kind had been cast on the conduct of Lord Gosford, and that it had not been alleged that there was any ground of complaint against the administration of the government in his hands. The Commissioners proceeded to Canada, and in the inquiries which they were directed to prosecute, they were at (hat moment engaged. But what was the object of the present motion. It was to step in between that inquiry and the Report of the Commissioners; and it called upon that House to make itself at once the medium of settling this question between the Legislative Assembly and the Executive Government, by the interference of the Parliament of 933 Great Britain. To the fullest extent to which it had been alleged would the Constitutional Act of 1791 be made the subject of inquiry, also the subject of report by the Commissioners, and alter the report was received, would it be made the subject of full and careful deliberation on the part of the Government at home. He would reserve his opinion until that report should be received, as to how far it might be necessary to make any alteration in the constitution of the Legislative Council, so that it should be made equally independent of the Government and of the House of Assembly, and should obtain a hold on public opinion. It was impossible, however, to read the debates which took place before the Act of 1791 was passed, without perceiving that the Constitution proposed to the Canadas was to a certain degree considered an experiment; and for himself he could not help expressing his regret that the Act had not at some certain period been revised. Looking at the great alterations that had taken place in the Canadas since the Act of 1791, it was impossible to deny that, at no very remote period an alteration in that Act might be desirable. It was this, among other considerations, that induced the Government to send out a Commission of Inquiry to ascertain what views the people entertained on these questions. It was true that the instructions to Lord Gosford deprecated any change, as one not to be made lightly and without complete proof that it was necessary; and in giving them the Government only acted with that caution which the Government ought to observe on this important question. There was a great distinction between measures which it was in the province of the Executive Government to carry into effect, and a change in the Constitution itself, which could only be effected by the intervention of Parliament. It was the duty of a Government to be slow in adopting a change of this description, and to take care not to outrun public opinion on a question of a doubtful nature, which might involve consequences that had not yet been fully considered. One object of the Commissioners was to ascertain the real feeling of the public on this and other questions. Up to the present period, what reason was there to suppose that there prevailed a very strong desire on the part of the great majority of the inhabitants of Lower Canada for such a change as had been proposed by the hon. 934 and learned Gentleman this night? When was the proposal first made? The House was well aware that a Committee of the House was appointed, in 1828, to inquire into the allegations of several petitions which had then been addressed to the House from large bodies of the inhabitants of Lower Canada. Did any of these petitioners ask for the change now insisted on? On the contrary, the very parties who complained the most of the composition of the Legislative Council, expressly deprecated any change in the Act of 1791. Three gentlemen deputed from the province to support those petitions were examined by the Committee, and not one of them recommended that the Legislative Council should be made elective. The first time that the proposition for such a change was brought forward in the House of Assembly in Lower Canada, was on the 10th of January, 1832. On that occasion, Mr. Bourdage brought forward a string of resolutions on this subject, one of which was, thatIn order that the composition of the Legislative Council may be in accordance with the true principles of the British Constitution, and with the interests and wants of the inhabitants of this province, as a distinct and independent branch of the Legislature, it would be expedient that the members should be chosen by frequent election, and by rotation, in such manner as to render the said body, as far as possible, independent of the executive power, and of the Assembly.What was the result? That resolution was negatived on a division by thirty-seven to twenty-two. The first petition received from the House of Assembly on the subject of the Legislative Council in Lower Canada, was on the 20th of March, 1833. Well, scarcely two years had elapsed from that period, before Commissioners were appointed to inquire into the various matters of complaint on the part of the Canadians, especially including this complaint respecting the constitution of the Legislative Council. Could the Government, he would ask, he accused of any great delay in taking up this question? Could they be accused of any desire to stop inquiries, or could they he accused, by negativing the motion of the hon. and learned Member, of withstanding the wishes of the people? What were the views of the hon. and learned Gentleman himself upon this very subject? In May 1835, he addressed a letter to the House of Assembly of Lower Canada, in which he said that the very 935 thing he was now asking for was a delusion.
§ Mr. Roebuck
begged to explain. In bringing forward the present motion, he had distinctly stated, that he was only carrying into effect the wishes of the people of Lower Canada. He did not bring it forward as his own proposition.
§ Sir George Grey
Just so. The hon. and learned Gentleman asked that the views of those whom he represented might be carried into effect. He was proposing to the House to adopt a measure which he had himself declared to be a delusion. He would read an extract from the hon. and learned Member's letter, that the House might know what his opinions then were on that point:—I cannot avoid taking advantage of this opportunity of recording solemnly my opinion as to the demands which, as guardians of a whole people, you are bound to insist on. The object you have in view is to frame a government in accordance with the wants and the feelings of that people. In America no government can unite these conditions, but one that is purely democratic. Any pretence by which it is sought to saddle you with any species of aristocracy ought by you to be scouted and repressed. The Legislative Council, from the beginning, has been such a pretence; and your efforts ought never to relax until you have thoroughly rooted out that wretched imitation of a baneful, mischievous institution. All your other grievances spring from this first source; if this source be not drained up the grievances will never cease to exist. Put an end to the Council, and they will, of necessity, expire at once. All other objects ought, therefore, to yield to the paramount one of extirpating the Council. Make it elective if you will—that, however appears to me a clumsy mode of ridding yourselves of the evil. Why. I ask, are not the Assembly and a governor sufficient for the government of the country?Now, if that were the object of the hon. and learned Gentleman, to the attainment of such an object he could be no party. To such an object the spirit and principle of the Act of 1791 were directly opposed. He thought it was important to bear in mind what the hon. and learned Gentleman's views were as to the remedy which he proposed to apply, but which he, at the same time, said, he did not think calculated to meet the existing evil. He must say that, looking at the general terms of the instructions addressed to the Commissioners —at the direction given them in the 936 earlier part of those instructions—"to lay before his Majesty a faithful statement of all matters intrusted to their investigation," and of their matured sentiments regarding them—looking at the terms in which, they were told, that although their duty, as Commissioners, was exclusively to inquire, to deliberate, and to report, yet within the sphere of that duty they were placed under no restrictions, except such as the necessity of the case or their own Judgment might prescribe;—looking at the injunction, calling on them to listen with the most respectful attention to every complaint, including that which had been made with respect to the Legislative Council as well as others; looking at the pledge contained in the instructions, that the Government, when the Report should have been received, would take into its most serious consideration, whether there were any amendments of the law on this subject, which, founded on the principles and conceived in the spirit of the Constitutional Act of 1791, it would be fit to propose for the consideration of Parliament; —looking at these passages, he contended, that there was no ground for the motion of the hon. and learned Gentleman, especially after the tacit acquiescence of the House last Session, in the course adopted by the Government in the appointment of the Commission. The hon. and learned Gentleman had alleged no reason why the House ought to interfere, nor had he advanced any ground to justify the House in pledging itself to those alterations, with respect to the Legislative Council, which the hon. and learned Gentleman had suggested. As to the Executive Council, the hon. and learned Gentleman had not said much; nor throughout the ninety-two Resolutions which were adopted two years ago by the House of Assembly, in Lower Canada, was there a word of complaint respecting that Council. On this subject, however, also, the instructions were sufficiently ample. To any proposal, of which it was the professed object to render the Executive Council a more effective instrument of good government, the Commissioners were to give their attention. The hon. and learned Gentleman had asked, what in the present position of affairs, his Majesty's Government meant to propose? He said—"Do you mean to seize on the moneys, which are subject to the approbation and control of the House of Assembly, in order to pay the officers, without the authority of that House?" If 937 the hon. and learned Member alluded to the course formerly pursued by Lord Dalhousie, his answer was—certainly not. But if the hon. and learned Member would look at the instructions, he would see that, in the event of a refusal of the necessary supplies, Lord Gosford was distinctly authorized to apply the local resources arising from the revenues of the Crown, and over which the Crown had exercised an absolute right of appropriation during the whole period that Canada had been a part of the dominions of the British Crown, towards the expenses of the judicial and other civil establishments in the colony. It was quite true that Lord Gosford was authorized to state to the House of Assembly that those funds would be placed at their disposal, and be subjected to their appropriation, on provision being made for the public service; and it was not until every attempt to obtain such a provision should have failed, that he was instructed to make this appropriation of those funds. He hoped that Lord Gosford had already acted on that authority, and with this assurance the Government did not feel, that at the present moment there existed a pressing necessity to have recourse to any of those measures to which the hon. and learned Member had adverted, and to which he hoped it might not be necessary, at any time, to resort. If, however, at a future period it should appear that the Government had acted fairly and justly towards the people of Canada, and yet had not succeeded in removing the difficulties which existed in carrying on the government of that country, it would not shrink from applying to Parliament, if necessary, to enable it to take such measures as might be required for the future administration of the colony. What those measures might be it was not for him to state; but until the House of Assembly should have received an answer to their address to their Sovereign, and should have had an opportunity of reconsidering their late decision, he would not abandon the hope that they would adopt a different course. The hon. Gentleman had said, that the Government had endeavoured to cajole the House of Assembly into granting the supplies before the instructions to the Commissioners were made known. He was accustomed to hear charges of this kind from the hon. Member, and he was sure he need not seriously refute the present charge. What possible object could the Government have, even had they been capable of such conduct, in cajoling the House of Assembly, by concealing the 938 instructions with the certainty of a renewal of the difficulties and embarrassments in the following Session. Lord Gosford, following the ordinary course, addressed a speech to the House of Assembly, conceived in the spirit of those instructions, and containing nothing inconsistent with them. He certainly felt there might have been an advantage in the whole of the instructions being at once made known, as it would have prevented the impression unfortunately produced by the subsequent publication of detached passages of these instructions which found their way to the Assembly from the Upper Province. Those detached passages, and the mode in which they were submitted to the Assembly, might naturally excite some distrust, but he was confident that when the House of Assembly should have been placed in possession of the whole of the instructions, the jealousy and suspicion which they had unhappily evinced would be removed, and they would feel that they were not justified in withholding their confluence from a Government disposed to remedy every real abuse, and to redress every real grievance. The hon. and learned Member had taken some credit to himself for having on a former occasion predicted that the state of affairs in the Canadas would be precisely what they had now become. Some predictions tended to their own fulfilment. He did not say, that the hon. and learned Member's were so intended; and he might add, that he did not think the hon. Member would have recommended the exercise of the privilege of the House of Assembly to stop the supplies under the circumstances in which they had been stopped. He respected the privileges of the people as much as any man, and he was fully ready to assert the right of the representatives of the people to withhold the supplies on a sufficient occasion; but nothing was more calculated to blunt the edge of this constitutional weapon, and to bring the exercise of this right into discredit, than the use of it at the very moment when the Government had instituted a full inquiry into every alleged grievance,—he did not say with any pledge to grant all that was sought;—but pledged to remove whatever could be proved to be a just cause of complaint. The hon. Gentleman had adduced the case of Mr. Fulton as a proof of misgovernment on the part of the colonial department. This he could not admit; for what had been the course adopted with reference to Mr. Fulton? By the paper lately presented to the House on this sub- 939 ject, it appeared that the attention of the noble Lord opposite, then Secretary of State for the Colonies, was called to the excessive grants of land made to Mr. Fulton, upon which he immediately directed an inquiry to be instituted into the case. This was followed up by his right hon. Friend, now Chancellor of the Exchequer; and as it did not appear how far his instructions had been acted on, a despatch was addressed by Lord Glenelg to Lord Gosford, calling for. full information as to the steps which had been taken. Another charge had subsequently been made against Mr. Fulton, of a very serious description; but this had only recently been communicated to the Government by the hon. Member for Bath, who placed in his hands a copy of a Report of a Committee of the House of Assembly before whom this charge was investigated. That Committee only made their Report in March last; and no sooner were the contents of that Report brought under the notice of Government, than instructions were sent to Lord Gosford to call on Mr. Fulton for such explanations as he might be willing or desirous to afford, and to take those steps which the ease might require, if the explanation should be unsatisfactory. It did not appear from the Report, or from the evidence, that Mr. Fulton had been a party to the inquiry, or had had an opportunity of making a defence; and, under these circumstances, the only course consistent with justice—and he was sure the hon. Member would not desire any other—was adopted, that of affording him the opportunity before his guilt was assumed, and his removal directed, of making a defence. He had now adverted to the various topics of the speech of the hon. and learned Member. He had stated sufficient grounds for the rejection of the hon. Member's motion —a motion which according to his own admission, would not provide an adequate remedy for the evils of which the hon. Member complained. At the same time he could assure the hon. Member and the House, that the Government was not disposed to look at this subject with any narrow views of selfish policy. Enjoying a free constitution ourselves, it was alike our duty and our interest to impart to our colonies that form of government which would be the most advantageous to them, and to adopt towards them that course of conduct which would bind them to us by ties of friendship which, founded on a mutual interest, as well as on a sound policy, 940 ought to be, and he trusted would be, permanent and indissoluble. In the loyalty of the great body of the inhabitants of those colonies—in their attachment to this country, and to the British institutions,—the Government had the fullest confidence; and animated with this conviction, would not shrink, when the proper time should arrive, from proposing those measures which might appear necessary to forward the permanent advantage and the real interests of all classes of our fellow-subjects residing in them.
§ Mr. Robinson
could not but express his surprise at the proposition of the hon. Member for Bath. The hon. Gentleman, in the course of his speech, had talked of his predictions with respect to the present state of Canada; but some of his predictions on a former occasion did not turn out to have been made in the true spirit of prophecy. The hon. Member had predicted that the people of Canada would be opposed to the timber duties, but the proposition to change those duties had been negatived by the House of Assembly of Lower Canada. The hon. Member had spoken, in what he considered his official character, as the representative of the opinions of the people of Lower Canada. He denied, that the hon. and learned Member for Bath could be considered as the representative of the people of Lower Canada. He was merely the representative of the Papineau party. He (Mr. Robinson), as an individual in some degree connected with the Canadas, and deeply interested in their welfare and prosperity, had no hesitation in expressing his firm conviction, that from the moment the people of Lower Canada gained an elective legislative body might he dated the loss of the colony. He was convinced that from that moment the English settlers would consider themselves abandoned by the mother country. The question was discussed in the year 1791, when a constitution was given to Lower Canada, and though Mr. Fox expressed his individual opinion in favour of it, it should not be forgotten that he stated, in the most emphatic terms, that he considered it essentially necessary that in every part of the British dominions an aristocratic principle, analogous to the establishment of a House of Peers in this country, should form a part of the constitution. This opinion was also ably and emphatically stated by Mr. Burke. At the same time, there could be no doubt that if the Elective Council did not sufficiently harmonize with the popular assembly, it 941 was the duty of the Government to endeavour to render it more conformable to its feelings and opinions. Mr. Papineau and his party, in their speeches, and in the papers which were their organs, expressed themselves decidedly hostile to the colonization of British subjects, lest they should overpower the preponderating influence of the Canadians. He did not blame them for endeavouring to maintain their own nationality, and their own interests; but, having conquered that colony, were the people of Great Britain to deal with it only in reference to the Canadian people and their interests? Why call themselves exclusively Canadians, as if they wished to be considered a distinct people? He contended, that at the conquest of Canada in 1761, it was made a part of the British family, and ought now to be considered as much so as any other part of his Majesty's dominions. The Canadians now enjoyed far greater advantages than they could enjoy if they formed a branch of the United. States of America. Let this country redress their grievances, but never yield to menace. The hon. Gentleman, the Secretary for the colonies, seemed to have left it a matter of doubt whether or not the Government of this country was prepared at some future time to concur in organic changes in the constitution of Canada. It. was not quite fair to leave so important a point in any doubt. He did not mean to say, that Government intended to deceive the people of Canada, but they had a right to know whether the instructions of Lord Gosford had any reference to the question of an Elective Council. The supplies were not yet voted, and it so continued for six months. The consequence was, that Lord Gosford was obliged to have recourse to other public money. There was one most monstrous, untenable, and objectionable claim of the Canadians, to which the hon. and learned Member had not adverted—he meant their claim to exclusive power over the Crown lands. Now he (Mr. Robinson) belonged to a Company from which the Government had received a considerable amount, who had expended large sums on the improvement of Crown lands in Canada. If the House of Assembly obtained the exclusive control over these lands, what would be the result? Their first act would be an attempt to prevent the settlement of British subjects. He should vote with Government in opposing these claims, as he never could sanction such an assumption of unconstitutional control of power by the Canadians in right of their being the original 942 settlers, whilst he recollected they had be come subject to this country by right of conquest. He could not help regretting the distracted state of affairs there, and the reiteration of complaints at a moment when inquiry was going on, and the appeal ought to be made, not to that House, but to his Majesty's Commissioners. He hoped Government would in this case act with decision and firmness. Much depended on the report of the Commission as to the remedy that ought to be applied in so distressing and embarrassing a state of society. The measures of redress resorted to by Government should be calmly proportioned to the actual state of facts, as proved before that Commission, and if his Majesty's Ministers adopted that course, and did not suffer themselves to be influenced by clamour or party heat, they might yet render the Canadas one of the most important and valuable appendages of the British Crown.
§ Mr. Hume
thought, if the differences with Canada were not brought to a successful termination it would be owing to speeches like that of the hon. Member for Worcester. He must, however, express his great satisfaction with the course pursued by the hon. Baronet (Sir George Grey) who had preceded the hon. Member for Worcester. He had merely asked the House not to arrive at a decision upon the subject until the report of the Commission had been made, and he had laid considerable stress on his readiness to give the Canadians as great a share of self-government as could safely be intrusted to them. The hon. Member for Worcester had talked of Papineau and his party. What did the hon. Member suppose their influence to be? The influence of Papineau and his party in Canada, was the influence of Mr. O'Connell, and his party in Ireland. Three fourths of the eighty-eight representatives in the House of Assembly were returned by the French people; and they had, in opposition to the wishes of the Governor, elected him to the office of Speaker again and again, to testify the confidence they reposed in him. Did the hon. Member for Worcester suppose, that speaking of Mr. Papineau in the contemptuous tone he had adopted, was the way to soften down these animosities? He thought that the conduct of the hon. Member for Worcester clearly showed that he was not anxious, like his Majesty's Government, to set the differences at rest. The hon. Member was completely mistaken as to the views of the Canadians. He had asserted that the hon. 943 and learned Member for Bath was not authorised, in many of his proceedings, by the proper authorities in Canada. Now, he (Mr. Hume) would refer the hon. Member to one of the recent resolutions of the House of Assembly in Lower Canada, in which it was stated that Mr. Roebuck was authorised in all that he had done and said in the House of Commons with reference to that colony and that Assembly. He was of opinion, that if the recommendations of the hon. Member were attended to, that there was little hope of peace in Canada. If the complaints which had been made so far back as 1828 had been then attended to, they would not have heard many demands which had since been made, and which had been going on increasing year by year. The House of Assembly in Lower Canada had made use of their last resource to obtain justice, namely, in refusing for the fourth time the supplies. He contended that the people of Canada had proceeded with great forbearance, considering the gross treatment they had experienced from various Colonial Secretaries. It now appeared that Upper Canada, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia, were united with Lower Canada in demanding from this country a greater share in the local governments, and it was more than folly to continue to procrastinate the redress of notorious grievances. He was satisfied, that Lord Gosford might have made his report long before the present time; and surely justice was not to be withheld because this had not been done. Were the people of Canada to be treated as had been suggested by the hon. Member for Worcester, as a conquered people? The time had long gone by when such language could be used with impunity; and he was sure that the knowledge that it had been uttered in the House of Commons would only tend to prevent peace being restored. The people of Canada would have been less than men if they had patiently submitted to the treatment they had experienced. He had heard with much satisfaction many of the observations of the hon. Baronet the Undersecretary for the Colonies; and he trusted after what had been said, that it was not the intention of the Government longer to procrastinate. A little bad certainly been done, but not by any means sufficient to meet the just demands of the people. If his hon. Friend divided the House, he should feel himself bound to vote for the motion, as the demands for justice by the Canadians had for so long a period been de- 944 layed; but after the opinion and sentiments that had been expressed by the hon. Baronet on behalf of his Majesty's Government, he would put it to his hon. Friend whether there was not a reasonable promise of Government dealing fairly with the grievances of Canada, and doing justice to the inhabitants of that colony.
§ Mr. Roebuck
said, that it was true that a Commission had been sent out to Canada by the Government, but it had failed in the object for which it was sent. As, therefore, he saw an end of the Commission, he thought that he was only acting with fairness, in at once demanding of the Government and the House to adopt steps to afford a redress of grievances. He saw no reason why it was necessary to wait longer for the Government to bring forward measures for that purpose. As, however, promises had been made by the hon. Baronet on behalf of the Government, he felt that he must yield, and withdraw his motion. But he could not help telling the Government, that if they persisted in going on in the course that had hitherto been pursued, they would involve themselves in irreparable difficulties. Before he sat down, he felt bound to allude to something that had fallen from the hon. Member for Worcester. He hoped that the hon. Member was prepared to show on what authority he had given utterance to the language he had used. The hon. Member for Worcester had declared that the Canadian party had declared themselves hostile to the emigration of English settlers to Lower Canada, and this because it would strengthen the British connexion. He should like to know where the hon. Member got his information, for it was distinctly false. He hoped the hon. Member could give some definite information on the subject. He had been taunted, in consequence of the office he held in connection with Canada. He accepted that office because he thought that by means of it he could be serviceable as well to his own country as to the colony. He had not asked for this situation, but it had been voluntarily offered to him, and he appeared there in a character which few Members could boast, namely, as the representative of 400,000 persons. With respect to the motion, he would only add, that he had brought forward the subject, because he felt that the consideration of it could not safely be postponed, which, indeed, was admitted on all sides.
§ Mr. Robinson
observed, that the hon. 945 Member had asked for his authority for stating that Mr. Papineau and his party-were opposed to British settlers in Canada. In reply, he would refer to the address of the House of Assembly of Lower Canada to Lord Gosford, in which they requested him to withhold from the British Land Company, formed to encourage emigration from England, his countenance, and not to make any further grants of land to that body.
§ Sir John Hanmer
rose, in consequence of an observation that had fallen from the hon. and learned Member for Bath. He stood there as an independent Member, anxious to preserve the dignity and respectability of Parliament, and when he looked at that Chair, and thought of the recollections which it called up, he felt proud to say, that he had a hereditary right to take care of its dignity. He held, that it was contrary to the Constitution, and to the privileges of that House, for a Member of the House of Commons to receive pay from any portion of His Majesty's subjects, in consideration of any particular duty which he might undertake. There was an instance in which a Member of that House (Sir John Trevor) had received a sum of 1,000l. from the City of London, to advocate a particular Bill, in which it was interested; but that any hon. Member should receive a yearly sum from any colony in the possession of the British Crown, he thought even more derogatory to the character of a Member of Parliament.
§ Mr. Warburton
observed, that his hon. and learned Friend appeared as the representative or agent of the House of Assembly of Canada; and other hon. Members had also appeared in that House in the same capacity. If the hon. Baronet intended to make an attack on this point on his hon. and learned Friend, the Member for Bath, he should bring forward a motion on the subject, when the hon. and learned Member for Bath would be enabled to reply to him. If the hon. Baronet would deliberately bring forward his motion, he would find that a great many Members of Parliament had acted as agents for colonies, and had received payment, and their conduct had never been questioned on the subject.
§ Mr. Roebuck
said, that he was fully prepared at once to answer the hon. Member. He could refer to the case of Mr. Huskisson, who accepted the office of agent for Ceylon, with a salary. The sub- 946 ject was brought before the House, and a Committee was appointed to inquire into the matter. The Committee after investigating the subject, reported to the House that Mr. Huskisson was free from all blame in the proceeding. Again, Mr. Burge, the agent for Jamaica, was a Member of Parliament, and Mr. Patrick Stewart was now a Member of the House.
§ Sir John Hanmer
did not intend to make any personal charge against the hon. Member, but he thought the subject was one which should be brought under the notice of Parliament. He would not shrink from doing so; for if it was a practice that Members of Parliament were in the habit of receiving money in this way, it was time it should be put a stop to.
§ Sir Robert Peel
said, that the conditions on which the motion appeared to have been withdrawn, imposed on him the necessity of saying a few words, not upon the general question, but upon the position in which the immediate question under consideration was left. It was not his intention to detain the House long, and he would merely observe in reference to the motion, that he thought, that with the views entertained by the hon. Member, he had acted wisely in withdrawing it; but the hon. Member had withdrawn it upon grounds which were calculated, in his opinion, to excite expectations on the part of the people of Canada which, if not realized, would leave this question in a worse position than formerly. The hon. and learned Gentleman did not bring forward a question relative to the general state of Canada, but had given notice of a distinct proposition—that the House should resolve itself into a Committee of the whole House, to take into consideration such parts of 31st George 3rd, c. 31, as relate to the Executive and Legislative Councils of the Canadas, for the purpose of rendering the same efficient to the good government of those provinces. The immediate question brought under discussion by the hon. Gentleman was, in point of fact, the substitution of an elective council for a legislative council appointed by the Crown. He had come there prepared to give his negative to that proposition. The hon. Gentleman had withdrawn it in consequence of the speech of the hon. Baronet, the Under-Secretary for the Colonies, on the ground, he presumed, that expectations were held out that this question of a material change in the Exe- 947 cutive Council, and in its constitution, would occupy the attention of the Commission. That, he apprehended, must have been the understanding of the hon. Member when he withdrew his motion. He (Sir R. Peel) begged to say for himself, lest by silence he might seem to acquiesce in a different construction, that he was not a party, as an individual Member of that House, to this compact. He did not question the prudence of the hon. Gentleman in withdrawing the motion, but he thought that that proceeding, after the explanation which had been given by him, was calculated to raise expectations in the minds of the people of Canada, that the subject he had referred to was under the consideration of the Government. [Mr. Roebuck: It was stated in the instructions that it was so.] He admitted it was mentioned; but in what manner? Lord Glenelg in them said, "That the King was most unwilling to admit as a matter of deliberation, the question whether one of the vital principles of provincial government should undergo alteration." It was also stated—"that the solemn pledges so repeatedly given for the maintenance of that system, and the just support which it derived from constitutional usages and analogies, were alike opposed to such innovation, and might almost seem to preclude the discussion of it." Could a Minister of State be conceived to give a stronger opinion as to the inexpediency of any proposed measure, and as to the absence of any argument that might be deduced in support of it from constitutional usages and analogies? Lord Glenelg also said, "It must be recollected that the form of provincial constitution in question is no modern experiment nor plan of government, in favour of which nothing better than doubtful theory can be urged. A council nominated by the King, and possessing a co-ordinate right of legislation with the representatives of the people, is an invariable part of the British colonial constitution in all the transatlantic possessions of the Crown, with the exception of those which still remain liable to the legislative authority of the King in Council. In some of these colonies it has existed for nearly two centuries. Before the recognition of the United States as an independent nation, it prevailed over every part of the British possessions in the North American continent not comprised within the limits of colonies founded by charters, of 948 incorporation. The considerations ought indeed to be weighty which should induce a departure from a system recommended by so long and successful a course of historical precedent." Justified, therefore, by these reasons, he was prepared to oppose any serious change in the form of government in the colony; and if it were necessary, he would add, that it would be better for the Ministers to make up their minds to the change, and take it into their own hands, than to leave the matter open for discussion, as it would be if the motion were withdrawn under an impression that the question was under consideration. He should be very sorry to say one word on the merit of the question. He should wish to consider the hon. Gentleman as being in the position of any hon. Member who had made an original motion and withdrawn it, after exercising his right of reply. Cautiously avoiding, therefore, the discussion of the principle of the subject, he must yet be careful not to acquiesce, by silence, in the grounds on which the hon. Member had thought proper to withdraw his motion. Lord Glenelg stated, in the instructions which he had addressed to the Commission, in the sixty-seventh paragraph, that a disposition existed on the part of his Majesty "not to refuse those who advocate such extensive alterations an opportunity of proving the existence of the grievances to which so much prominency has been given." What he feared was, that the necessity for change was a matter that is wholly incapable of demonstration. But suppose they should say that they were ready to correct all past abuses by the adoption of a new and improved system in future, would not that be an answer to the demand made upon the Legislature? It might be easy enough to establish the existence of abuse; but as to the proof necessary to show what would be the best form of government in the colonies, that was a question which it would be utterly impossible to submit to any test which would lead to a satisfactory result. After all the experiments they could try, they would find that the opinions of men remained unchanged as to the wisdom of their own particular theories, and although they might have abundance of allegations of specific grievance, still they would not bring home to the breast of any one the conviction that his particular notions with respect to the form of government which ought to be established, were founded in 949 error. If, however, the Ministers purposed to make a change in the constitution of the government of those colonies, he hoped that they would bring their proposition forward with as little delay as possible, because, if it were not their intention to take that course, if they meant to preserve that "vital principle" in our colonial governments, which they said was sanctioned by long and "constitutional usage and analogy," he must express it as his opinion that they had better at once avow what they really intended, and by that means prevent any party-from cherishing false expectations—expectations which, if permitted to exist without the voice of a single independent Member of this House being raised against them, were calculated only to embroil still more the unfortunate affairs of the Canadas.
§ Lord John Russell
said, that the right hon. Gentleman had certainly taken a somewhat unusual course; and he could not but think, that if the right hon. Baronet had been in the House during the whole of the speech of the hon. Baronet, the Under-Secretary for the Colonies, he would have seen that there was sufficient cause to come to the determination which his hon. Friend had recommended, and would have seen no necessity for entering, as it were, a sort of protest against the course which the House was about to adopt. For all the sentiments expressed by his hon. Friend, the Under-Secretary for the Colonies, both he and the rest of his colleagues were perfectly ready to be responsible. With respect to the opinions of the hon. Member for Bath, to which the right hon. Baronet had alluded, Ministers had nothing to do; and they were in no way responsible for his expectations, unless they had given him reason to suppose they were about to bring forward a question which they did not mean to consider, or had held out hopes which it was not their intention to realise. The right hon. Baronet could have found nothing in his hon. Friend's speech which could justify such expectations. His hon. Friend had merely stated, that after having sent out Commissioners to inquire into the grievances of Canada, it would be but just and fitting to consult their opinion. It would not be right before the Commissioners had stated their opinion, either for the Government or for the House of Commons to come to any absolute and final decision upon the subject. As the right hon. Baronet had availed himself of extracts from the instruct- 950 tions to the Commissioners, he might be allowed to quote a portion which the right hon. Baronet had omitted. The paragraphs stated by the right hon. Baronet were the 66th and 69th, and the right hon. Baronet had omitted to notice the two intervening paragraphs, though they referred to the question. The right hon. Baronet had correctly described the 66th paragraph, as stating that "the King is most unwilling to admit, as open to debate, the question whether one of the vital principles of the provincial Government shall undergo alteration." But the 67th paragraph went on to say,But his Majesty cannot forget that it is the admitted right of all his subjects to prefer to him, as King; of these realms, their petitions for the redress of any real or supposed grievances. His Majesty especially recognises this right in those who are themselves called to the high office of representing a large and most important class of his people. The acknowledgment of that right appears to the King to imply on his own part, the corresponding duty of investigating the foundations of every such complaint. His Majesty, therefore, will not absolutely close the avenue to inquiry, even on a question respecting which he is bound to declare, that he can for the present perceive no reasonable ground of doubt. His Majesty will not refuse to those who advocate such extensive alterations, an opportunity of proving the existence of the grievances to which so much prominency has been given.The next clause to this, the 68th, was also a very important one, though the right hon. Baronet had not mentioned it; but it was material that the House should have it before them. When they were considering whether or not a people were justified in asking for some changes in a constitution, it was of some consequence to remember how long it had been in existence, and to notice what had been its effects. The 68th paragraph ran thus:—The King is rather induced to adopt this course, because his Majesty is not prepared to deny that a Statute which has been in effective operation for something less than forty-three years may be capable of improvement, or that the plan upon which the Legislative Council is constituted, may possibly, in some particulars, be usefully modified; or that, in the course of those years, some practical errors may have been committed by the Council, against the repetition of which adequate security ought to be taken. Yet, if these suppositions should be completely verified, it would yet remain to be shown, by the most conclusive and circumstantial proof, that it is necessary to advance to a change so vital as that which is demanded by the House of Assembly.951 Again, in the 71st paragraph, the instructions ran thus:—You will, therefore, apply yourselves to the investigation of this part of the general subject, endeavouring to ascertain how far the Legislative Council has really answered the original objects of its institution; and considering of what amendments it may be susceptible. It is his Majesty's most earnest hope and trust, that in the practical working of the constitution of the province, there will be found to exist no defects which may not be removed by a judicious exercise of those powers which belong to the Crown, or which Parliament has committed to the provincial Legislature.Such were the instructions given to the Commissioners on the subject of the Legislative Council, and he could not but think that the sense of these instructions was conformable to the course which Government ought to have pursued on a subject of such importance, when a complaint was made by those who represented the people of Canada. It was the duty of the Ministers of the Crown to advise his Majesty that the remodelling of the Legislative Council was not a subject which the Commissioners were precluded from inquiring into, but that to deal with it required the greatest caution. Such a stale of things required great circumspection, and it was the duty of the House rather to abate zeal than to urge it forward in matters of such considerable importance concerning a distant colony; but he thought that, after all the considerations which he had stated, it was not less the policy than the duty of Ministers to advise his Majesty that this subject was one the Commissioners ought not to exclude from their inquiry; and having given the Commissioners instructions to that effect, it was not unnatural to call upon them to report to the Government at home the bias of their opinions and the result of their investigation. The question having been brought forward in its present state by the hon. and learned Member for Bath, his hon. Friend, the Under-Secretary for the Colonies, had no other answer to give but this—that the Commissioners of Inquiry, if they found any defects in the constitution of the Legislative Council, and any practical remedies for those defects, would report their opinions thereon to the Crown, and that it was therefore not advisable for the House of Commons, before such a Report was made, to adopt a course which might pledge them to do something directly in 952 the teeth of that Report, whenever it might be presented to Parliament. There was no part of this question, as it appeared to him, which called for any opinion from the House at present. For his own part, he should require the fullest proof, and the most cordial agreement, on the part of the Commissioners, to convince him that so vital a change was really required. But let not the right hon. Baronet deceive either himself or the House. These complaints against the Legislative Council were not confined to the House of Assembly, they came also from the settlers of "English descent in Canada, as he had found by reading over their petitions. Those English settlers did not say, "All persons in Canada look up to this Council with respect and satisfaction." On the contrary, they spoke of the difficulties which must always attend upon the selection of its members by the colonial Governor. They said, "The power of selecting members of the Council, which has been exercised by successive Governors without advice or control in the colony, is in our opinion a most dangerous power." Such, then, being the statement not only on the part of the House of Assembly, but also on the part of a Committee acting on behalf of individuals entertaining very different opinions, it might fairly become a question whether the Parliament ought not to take measures to strengthen the Legislative Council, and to enable it to command more of the respect and goodwill of the province than it commanded at present. ["Hear, hear!"] He was glad that the right hon. Gentleman opposite did not deny that proposition. Going, however, that length, it was nevertheless necessary for the House to suspend its judgment for a time, and to wait for the results of further inquiries. With regard to this question, he could assure the hon. and learned Member for Bath, that his Majesty's Government had no wish to bear unfairly on any part of the subjects of his Majesty in that colony. They did not wish to deny redress to any grievance of which the colonists had just right to complain, and being anxious, as they were, to investigate into every source of complaint, they hoped to find in the colony a disposition to a certain extent to meet them in a fair spirit, and a discontinuance of that endeavour to keep up. irritation in the province, which must ultimately prove more 953 mischievous to the province itself than it could, by any possibility, prove to the empire of Great Britain. The Ministers wished the question to be left to the Commissioners, guided by the instructions he had quoted. All parties must, he thought, feel that this question was one which ought on no account to be taken up with heat or in the spirit of party, lest calm inquiry and candid examination should be overwhelmed, and the unfortunate differences between the colony and the mother country be continued and extended.
§ The Order of the Day was read for a Committee of Supply, but the Committee was postponed.