HC Deb 07 July 1837 vol 38 cc1845-7
Mr. Hume

seeing the state of the House did not intend to press the motion of which he had given notice for an Address to her Majesty, that she would be pleased to disagree to an Act of the Legislature of Upper Canada, 7 Wm. 4th., c. 17, entitled, "An act to prevent the dissolution of the Parliament of this province, in the event of a demise of the Crown." But, at the same time, he was anxious to put a question to the noble Lord (Lord John Russell) upon the subject. Was the noble Lord aware that by the act of the provincial Legislature to which his motion referred—an act carried only by a majority of eight—the sitting of the provincial Parliament would be continued for four years after the demise of the Crown, instead of the ordinary constitutional period of six months? On the part of the Canadians he begged to protest against the whole of the conduct pursued by Sir Francis Head with respect to that Bill. In the first place he complained that Sir Francis Head, having by corrupt means got a Parliament to his liking, induced them to pass an act to continue their sitting for four years; and in the next place he complained that Sir Francis Head had exercised an unconstitutional power in giving the assent of the Crown to a Bill which went to deprive the Canadians of that part of their constitution which gave them an election within six months from the demise of the Crown. The conduct of the governor upon that point was, in fact, illegal, be- cause, as the noble Lord must be well aware, every measure passed by the provincial legislature effecting a change in the constitution of the province required to have the royal assent signified to it, not through the medium of the governor acting for the Crown, but directly from the Crown itself. Therefore, on behalf of the Canadian people, who were highly dissatisfied with the measure, he asked the noble Lord to disagree from it, and to allow the people to have another election within the constitutional period.

Lord John Russell

said, that the hon. Member was not justified in calling the act of the provincial legislature an illegal act, inasmuch as that it was distinctly within the power of the Houses of Assembly, acting upon former precedents, to determine that the provincial parliament should not cease, notwithstanding the demise of the Crown. The hon. Member was mistaken in supposing that the act of Anne, which applied to this country, and which required a new election within six months after the demise of the Crown, applied also to the colonies. The provinces of Lower Canada and of Nova Scotia had on former occasions agreed to resolutions, and framed and passed acts founded upon those resolutions, declaring that the Parliament should not be dissolved in case of the demise of the Crown; and he (Lord John Russell) confessed that he could see nothing improper or illegal in these acts. Whatever the necessity at home might be, he could not conceive it requisite with respect to those distant provinces that there should be a fresh election immediately on the demise of the Crown. But the hon. Gentleman had raised another question, namely, that Sir Francis Head had exercised an unusual power in sanctioning this act, instead of reserving it for the consent of the Crown. There was no positive law to prevent the governor of the province from signifying the royal assent to an act of this kind; but at the same time he must admit that there was a general instruction, according to which the governor should reserve a measure of this description for the direct consent of the Crown. Sir Francis Head would have acted more wisely if he had guided himself by that general instruction, and had not given the assent of the Crown in his capacity as governor. It was a point, however, merely of discretion—there was nothing unconstitutional or illegal in the course that had been pursued. He was bound also to state that if the act had been reserved for the direct assent of her Majesty, her Majesty's Ministers would undoubtedly have advised that the regal assent should be given to it. As to the general allegation against Sir Francis Head, of having employed corrupt means to obtain a corrupt and subservient Parliament, he would only observe that inquiry proved that allegation to be perfectly groundless. Sir Francis Head had not been guilty of any one of the corrupt practices of which he had been accused; on the contrary, it distinctly appeared that his conduct had been such as to give general satisfaction.

Motion negatived.