§ Sir George Sinclair
said, that as he had never taken part in any of the discussions respecting the affairs of Canada during the present or any former Session, he should take the liberty on this occasion to trespass on the patience of the House. He believed that no Bill had ever been introduced to which, during its progress through the Committee, so much had been added, or from which so much had been taken away. The acquiescence of the noble Lord in the very seasonable suggestions of his right hon. Friend, the Member for Coventry, had taken no one by surprise on either side of the House. Without pretending to the gift of second sight, he had at once felt persuaded that the noble Lord would give the preference to second thoughts. This result was anticipated by all the Gentlemen who sat around him as soon as they heard the very first sentence of the very able, lucid, and useful speech of his right hon. Friend—so useful to the country, and at the same time so useful to the Government. He knew not whether his right hon. Friend was in the habit of killing two birds with one stone, but he had certainly attained two objects in one speech. He had both shown his patriotism and served his party. He did not for one moment imagine, after the disclaimer of his right hon. Friend, that he had communicated his views beforehand to the noble Lord; but his own sagacity and experience must have convinced him that such a complimentary precaution would be quite superfluous; and, without any assurance from the noble Lord's own mouth, he must have known that he was rendering a most essential service to the Government—extricating them from a notable dilemma, aad sparing to them the danger and mortification of a defeat which was probable in this House and inevitable elsewhere. This proposition must have come like a godsend upon the astonished mind of the noble Lord; he must have felt, thatQuod obtanti Divûm promittere nemoAudebat, volvenda dies en attulit ultro.If a fire had occurred in Downing-street, and that his right hon. Friend, without 617 giving any previous intimation, had opportunely hurried with an enormous engine to the noble Lord's dwelling, and succeeded in extinguishing the flames, he would be just as certain that he was rendering to the noble Lord an invaluable service as if he had given previous notice of his intention. He was very desirous to record the expression of his deep sorrow and heartfelt reluctance at supporting a Bill so despotic in its principle, and, till amended, so objectionable in its provisions; but the misconduct of her Majesty's Government had reduced Canada to such a state, that he was compelled to adopt this course by a paramount sense of duty, and by the entire absence of an eligible alternative. I at one time (continued the hon. Baronet) entertained a hope that it might have been possible to have given the constituencies of Lower Canada another trial, by allowing them once more to elect a House of Assembly, and should have gladly adopted this plan, in the hope that by the result of recent transactions, the majority of the rebels would have been humbled, sobered, and undeceived. But, Sir, I am deterred from acceding to any such proposal by the effect which must be produced on the minds of the colonists by the speeches of those Gentlemen, both here and out of doors, who call themselves the friends of the Canadians, although, by fostering their prejudices, and exaggerating their grievances, they are, in fact, the worst enemies to the peace and prosperity of the province. If these orators had lamented the imprudence and folly of the insurgents, had expatiated upon the benefits which they derive from the continuance of British connexion, and had expressed a loyal desire for the success of her Majesty's forces—in short, if their speeches had resembled that of the right hon. Member for Coventry, the manifestation of such opinions on their part might have greatly tended to restore a sound and constitutional tone of feeling throughout Canada. But their harangues have been characterised by language the most inflammatory and the most revolting, and derive additional importance, as well as inflict additional injury, from the circumstance that most of the Gentlemen by whom they were pronounced, received, during the last general election, the most cordial and active support on the part of her Majesty's Ministers. The Comptroller of the Household, if I am rightly informed, 618 was chairman of the hon. Member for Westminster's (Mr. Leader's) Committee. The Attorney-General was on the hustings at Brentford, as a partisan of the Member for Kilkenny, and I believe that no tradesman could obtain the renewal of a warrant for employment in her Majesty's household if he presumed to vote for Sir George Murray, who would have so ably supported her Majesty's Government on this occasion. It must, therefore, be supposed that the Canadians will suspect her Majesty's Ministers of not being in their hearts so hostile as they now pretend to be to the sentiments of the very representatives whose returns they were the means of securing. Sir, I altogether disapprove of the policy pursued by her Majesty's Government. I wish that at the close of last Session they had adopted those views as to the urgency of the case which were entertained by every class of politicians with the exception of the Ministers themselves. They would not have incurred the heavy responsibility of neglecting to take such precautionary measures as might have prevented those scenes of carnage and desolation which all parties concur in deploring. I am quite willing to vote for such reinforcements of troops and such supplies of money as may be necessary for the due maintenance of her Majesty's legitimate authority, and for the protection of our loyal fellow-subjects in Canada, who, if the insurgents had succeeded, would doubtless have been exposed to murder, exile, or confiscation. Sir, I wish to speak with very high respect of the talents, acquirements, and experience of the Earl of Durham; and the only considerations which disconcert and alarm me, in reference to the noble Lord's appointment, are the expectations entertained and the eulogiums pronounced by the philosophical Radicals, or Radical philosophers, on the other side of the House. I myself, Sir, wish to speak with unaffected esteem of the ability and the honesty of those Gentlemen, however much I may differ from their views; but in the Morning Chronicle of this day I find them described. They form but a very small section of the Radical Reformers, and their object seems to be to form a still smaller section by their intolerance and insufferable self-conceit. Such, Sir, is the language used by the leading Ministerial organ, in reference to the very men without whose gratuitous assistance its patrons 619 could never have climbed into place, and without the continuance of whose powerful aid they would soon relapse into insignificance. Sir, I certainly admit, that the constitution of Canada ought to occupy a prominent place in the catalogue of its grievances, but I understand this statement in a very different sense from that which many Gentlemen attach to it. It appears to me that we could not render a more essential service to Canada, or take a step more calculated to insure good Government, than if we raised the qualifications which give a right to the elective franchise. What kind of representatives can we expect to be chosen by constituents, an overwhelming majority of whom can neither read nor write? Is it not far more probable that they will select Jack Cades and Massaniellos, than John Hampdens or Algernon Sidneys, and that the noble Lord would have a better prospect of success than his distinguished ancestor, Lord Russell? The present system unhappily strengthens the hands and facilitates the manœuvres of certain mischievous demagogues and factious incendiaries, who, by pandering to the worst passions of human nature, have rendered a large proportion of an ignorant, unsuspecting, and excitable peasantry, the dupes of their misrepresentations, the tools of their intrigues, and the victims of their ambition, and who, when defeat has taken place, or rather, as soon as conflict is impending, are found to skulk in quest of personal safety into some contiguous province, afraid to face the storm which they themselves have raised, or to participate in the dangers in which thousands are involved through their reckless and desperate machinations. But, Sir, I cannot help taking this opportunity to notice a subject of still greater importance than the bill which we are now discussing, although by no means remotely connected with it—a subject which involves not only the interests of Canada, together with those of our other dependencies, but the welfare of the mother country, and the stability of our institutions. Are her Majesty's Ministers entitled in point of influence, or competent in point of ability, to preside over the destinies of this great empire? Are they actuated in their general policy by the principles of justice, firmness, discernment, and consistency? Do their bonâ fide partisans constitute even a numerical preponderance within these walls? Do they themselves 620 command the respect or enjoy the goodwill of our constituents out of doors? I deny all these propositions. If a call of the House were to take place to-morrow, and that every Member, on answering to his name, were obliged to lay his hand upon his heart, and to declare upon oath whether he has or has not confidence in the statesmanlike wisdom and political integrity of the Government, I feel persuaded that a very large majority would be compelled to answer that question in the negative. With regard to the sentiments of the British nation, the respectable, intelligent, and religious classes, throughout the length and breadth of the land, are lost in astonishment when they consider the general conduct of her Majesty's Ministers—at the suddenness with which they trim—and at the shabbiness with which they truckle. Their tortuous and vacillating course, their veerings round on the one day, and their backings out on the next, are viewed not only by every straightforward Conservative with disgust, but by every honest Radical with indignation. Take for instance, their proceedings with regard to Canada, which are so strictly in keeping with their virtual abandonment of the Irish appropriation clause, or the artful suspension of the English Church Rates Bill. They were repeatedly warned by both sides of the House in the course of last Session that by their uncertain and fluctuating system they would neither satisfy the loyal, nor confirm the wavering, nor overawe the disaffected; they were assured that, in order to carry their own measures into effect, a large increase of force was indispensable, and yet they were contented to persist in a set of feeble and meagre resolutions, sufficiently offensive to provoke resentment—sufficiently tame to encourage resistance. They seem to have inverted the old adage, as if they deemed cure more expedient than prevention. They are at this moment only preparing the armament which ought to have reached Canada, or the adjacent provinces at least four months ago. The Government has now reached the nadir of political ignominy, and is presenting to the world such a spectacle as was never before exhibited by British statesmen—that of a Ministry distinguished by these striking and anomalous characteristics—office without power, support without confidence, pretension without talent, and profession without performance. They can neither manage the 621 affairs of the country nor carry through the business of this House without the superintendence and advice of a right hon. Friend near me, who is not more conspicuous for his immeasurable superiority in all those intellectual endowments which adorn the character of the statesman and insure the respect of the country, than for the unparalleled forbearance and almost chivalrous magnanimity with which he conducts his opposition to the very politicians from whom, when he himself was in office, he never obtained even common justice. Sir, I am quite aware that from his brilliant position in the world, my right hon. Friend may be as indifferent to the patronage and emoluments of office as his antagonists are tenacious of its influence and advantages; that the acceptance of power involves almost as great a sacrifice on his part as the forfeiture of place upon theirs; but I trust that he will no longer rest satisfied with correcting blunders and preventing mischief—that he will soon be placed at the head of an Administration which will at all events pursue a straightforward and intelligible course. The country will then cease to endure the misfortune and submit to the mortification of being misgoverned by selfish and slippery Ministers, who feebly maintain their ground by the discreditable expedient of playing two parties against each other, of each of which they stand equally in dread, and by both of which they are equally despised.
§ Sir Harry Verney
did not consider the conduct with respect to the Canada Bill of the right hon. Baronet, the Member for Tamworth, had been so chivalrous as his hon. Friend had just represented it. On the contrary, he considered that conduct to be totally the reverse of chivalrous. In talking of the Bill, his hon. Friend had not been able to place his finger on any part of the conduct of her Majesty's Government with respect to it, that he could justly condemn. As to what his hon. Friend had adverted to, with regard to the not sending additional troops to Canada, the conduct of the Ministry, in that respect, had been approved of by his Grace the Duke of Wellington. ["No, no!"] Notwithstanding the contradiction of hon. Members opposite, he asserted that his Grace the Duke of Wellington, with that noble independence of party which had always distinguished him, had absolved her Majesty's Ministers of blame 622 for not having sent additional troops to Canada. It was true his Grace said, that the garrisons in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia might be strengthened with advantage. But he (Sir H. Verney) contended, that if that had been done, the moral effect of the whole transaction would not have been as complete as it was at present. The event had justified the conduct of Government. The Government could not be blamed for the insurrection in Canada. The hon. Baronet had himself agreed to the resolutions regarding Lower Canada, although he now condemned them. Why did not the hon. Baronet condemn them when they were first brought forward? The hon. Baronet had not done so; he had acquiesced in the resolutions, and now he was one of the first to come forward and complain of them as the cause of the insurrection. He was glad that the hon. Baronet, in commenting on the general conduct of Government, was unable to find fault with at least one of their acts—the selection which they had made of Lord Durham as a mediator with the colonies. It certainly was a happy circumstance, that an individual, like that noble Lord, could be found willing to forego all the advantages which he enjoyed in this country, and to accept what, under any circumstances, must be a most arduous, delicate, and painful office. He could not forget that which, although it had not been alluded to in the discussions that had occurred on this subject, he could not but consider as one of the chief causes of the disturbances in Canada, namely, that the conduct of Englishmen there was anything but conciliating towards the ancient settlers; and, therefore, he hoped for much from the mild and conciliatory, yet firm and energetic, character of the noble Lord in question. In the course of their observations, hon. Members had found fault with the American government. Now, he did not think that that censure was founded in justice. On the contrary, he thought that, considering the excited state of public feeling in the United States, the American government had shown a great degree of forbearance and moderation, and a disposition to maintain friendly relations with this country. He hoped that the success which had attended, and which he trusted would always attend, her Majesty's arms in Canada, would not prevent her Majesty's Government from en- 623 tering into a full consideration of the state of all our North American colonies, and he hoped that the noble Earl would be intrusted with a full and final settlement of them. It would be a noble object for the noble Earl to propose to himself, not only to establish the present peace of the North American colonies, but to bind them in a strong band of union, freedom, and prosperity.
§ Mr. Hume
said, that the hon. Baronet who had just relieved himself by the delivery of a long speech, had taken a great deal of trouble to attack the policy of the Government. If he did not know that his hon. Friend conscientiously thought that there could not be a worse Government than the present one, and that he had entertained that opinion for the last two or three years, he should have looked upon his speech as a faithful transcript of the leading article of a morning print. After all his long tirade against the Government, the hon. Baronet said, he was going to vote for the Government bill. ["No, no."] He was going to vote for the bill as amended. There were some who thought that, leaving out the last clause might have an injurious effect, and that the Government might have resisted that part of the amendment which deprived the Crown of the power to terminate the existence of the bill while Parliament was not sitting. Opinions, therefore, being so divided on parts of the measure, he was surprised at the unmeasured language made use of by the hon. Baronet opposite, in expressing his opinions on the bill of the Government. The hon. Baronet had alluded to that portion of the Members of the House who were called Philosophical Radicals, and in doing so had not fairly described them. The Radicals were anxious to promote the welfare of the people; they were unwilling to support any measure directed against popular rights; and the hon. Baronet was therefore perfectly correct in saying, that they were indignant at such a measure as had been brought forward by the Government in regard to Canada, as they considered that measure a gross violation of the constitutional rights of the people of that colony. He hoped the hon. Baronet would allow him to draw a comparison between the measures of the Government and those which had been brought forward by the Friends of the hon. Member. The present Government had brought for- 624 ward and carried many measures highly favourable to popular rights, and he and those with whom he acted, had always supported those measures; as their object was the attainment of the greatest good for all classes of the people. He could see no kind of comparison between the measures of the Government and those which had been brought forward by the right hon. Baronet, the Member for Tarn-worth; and he would ask the hon. Baronet opposite, to point out any measure of his friends calculated to meet the wishes and the wants of the people. The hon. Baronet had said, that the people were hostile to the present Government. He denied,, that such was the case, although he admitted that the people were displeased with the measure proposed by her Majesty's Ministers with respect to Canada. But the hon. Baronet had not alluded to one measure of the Government, but to their general policy; and the people or at least a large majority of them, did approve of the general policy of Ministers. He did not give his unqualified support to either Whigs or Tories, and he only supported such measures of either party as he considered were for the good of the people. He certainly disapproved of some of the measures of her Majesty's Ministers, but he could not join in the general and unqualified censure of their conduct which had been pronounced by, the hon. Baronet opposite. He had thought it necessary to say thus much on what had fallen from the hon. Baronet, and he should now proceed to direct the attention of the House to the Bill which was the subject of debate. Notwithstanding all that had been effected in the Committee in regard to the measure, he still entertained strong objections to it, because, in his opinion, it interfered unnecessarily with the constitutional rights of the people of Canada, and it was, therefore, a most improper measure to be passed by a reforming Ministry. The Government were powerful for doing evil, because their bad measures were supported by the Members on the Opposition benches; but if they brought forward good measures, tending to good government, and to promote the welfare of the people, then he was sorry to say that they failed, because they were met by the whole weight of Opposition of the other side of the House. He was sorry to see both parties supporting the present Bill, which was disgraceful to 625 a reformed Parliament, and the general support of such a measure by a reforming Parliament made him feel the keenest regret. He would ask the noble Lord (Lord John Russell) to point out one valid ground for suspending the constitution of Lower Canada, and putting an end to the meetings of the House of Assembly of that colony. If the noble Lord meant to found his reasons for introducing such a measure on the revolt which had taken place, then he would tell the noble Lord that he had altogether failed, for the House of Assembly was not committed in the revolt, and had taken no part in it. The Assembly of Upper Canada was about to meet for the transaction of business, and the revolt was not terminated in that province, and he would ask why the Legislature of the Upper Province was to be allowed to assemble while the revolt was not terminated, and the Legislature of the Lower Province be prevented from meeting, when it appeared from the latest accounts that the revolt in Lower Canada was at an end? The noble Lord had placed the refusal of the supplies as his foremost reason for suspending the constitution, and he would read to the House the observations of the noble Lord in regard to this point of the question. The noble Lord had said — "In a constitutional government it was impossible, if the supplies were refused year after year, that the machinery of Government could go on. If in this country you were to refuse the supplies for a single year you would produce the most disastrous consequences. Refuse the supplies, and you disorganise the army; refuse the supplies, and you shake public credit to its centre; refuse the supplies and you dissolve the constitution." If the noble Lord acted on that principle, he was going to overturn the most important and valuable privilege of Parliament and of the Assembly. If the noble Lord said, that Parliament was not to refuse the supplies, then he knew of no other means in the hands of the representatives of the people, whereby they could resist a bad Government or a despotic Sovereign. If such a principle were acted on, the rights and privileges of that House were at an end. He held in his hand a resolution of the House of Commons in the year 1678, by which the House claimed that all Bills for aids to the Sovereign should originate with them, and in which they asserted their right to limit all such 626 grants, and denied any power in the House of Lords to alter bills of supply. Now, he would ask the noble Lord whether he meant to support the principle contained in that resolution, and the principle laid down by Mr. Fox, in 1784? If he did, how came the noble Lord to act in opposition to it? In 1793, the House of Assembly of Lower Canada, passed a resolution similar to that passed by the House of Commons, and the very words used in the resolution of the Imperial Parliament were adopted by the Assembly. That resolution had been a standing rule ever since, and he would ask the noble Lord how, when that resolution only carried out the principle of the resolution of Parliament, he could object to the exercise of an acknowledged right? No fact had been stated to prove, that the House of Assembly had gone beyond their rights and privileges, and therefore in condemning them and suspending the constitution, the Parliament of Great Britain was acting in a most unwarrantable manner. In 1821, the Assembly voted the Governor's salary on condition that he resided in the province, and in the same way the supply bills of 1831–32, contained many conditions. The Governor, too, had sent a message to the Assembly, in which a wish was expressed that the different items should be distinctly stated, thereby encouraging the proceedings of that body. He contended, therefore, that the House of Commons were the guilty parties in seeking to punish the Assembly for the exercise of a right which they had been encouraged to assert. But there was no reason that the people should be punished because their representatives had refused the supplies, by such a tyrannical Bill as the present. Again, there was no valid ground for supposing that the leading Members of the Assembly, had been committed in the revolt; but, supposing that some members of that body had participated in the proceedings of the revolters, was that any reason why the privileges of a whole people should be taken from them, and that they should be deprived of a Legislative Assembly? Would hon. Members say that the condition of Wiltshire, Hampshire, and Sussex, in 1830, would have presented a valid ground for depriving the whole people of their representative rights; and would they not rather have proposed the immediate meeting of Parliament for the purpose of considering 627 the disturbances which had taken place and providing a remedy? If the constitution of Canada was to be set aside on such frivolous grounds, he would beg hon. Members to reflect on the dangerous precedent they were affording to any despot who might ascend the Throne. It appeared to him a most serious proceeding, and he was sorry to find the House so generally in its favour. Vattel was an author very much quoted now-a-days, and Vattel had said that the people had a right to be well-governed, and at as cheap a rate as possible; and that if the people were deprived of these their inalienable rights by force or fraud, they would be justified in using every means in their power to recover them. Now, he would ask, had the Canadians been well governed? Had they known what it was to have good and cheap government? The reports of the Commissioners, from time to time, proved that they had not; and that considerable discontent had existed, and that the prosperity of the country had been checked for want of a good and cheap government. Was it a wonder, then, that the Canadians had acted against the existing Government? When they applied to that House last Session for relief, after having petitioned repeatedly, but in vain, for the same object, how were they treated? Instead of any conciliatory measures being passed by the House, severe resolutions were adopted—resolutions which, it appeared from the dispatches which had been received, had excited fresh discontent, and produced increased dissatisfaction. Lord Gosford had particularly pointed out the seizure of the money in the military chest as a great grievance. Would they, then, go on to add insult to injury? Ought they not rather to abandon this Bill, and immediately proceed to meet the Canadians on fair grounds, and concede to them everything they wanted? He was sure that this country could afford to do justice to Canada, and that without delay. They were not dealing with a doubtful case. They were appealed to by the representatives of 377,000, and those who opposed that appeal were backed only by 34,000. It was on behalf of that large number of people that he implored the noble Lord to consider whether the course he proposed to pursue was likely to produce any good effect. The noble Lord had on a preceding evening made some allusion to him 628 and his hon. Friends, as being censurable for uttering inflammatory speeches, whereas they had only stood up to support liberal principles, and to protest against such tyrannical measures as the present Bill. A right hon. Gentleman on a former evening said, that nine-tenths of the miseries suffered by the Canadians had been brought upon them in consequence of their paying attention to the bad advice of persons in this country. Now, so far from he and his Friends having given bad advice, they had lifted up a warning voice to the Government, and called upon Ministers, from time to time, to reconsider and alter the policy they were pursuing towards Canada. But those who had followed that policy were beginning to discover the evil consequences of it, and therefore they endeavoured to shift the blame from off their own shoulders. He denied that the disturbances which had occurred were to be attributed to the course which he and his Friends had pursued. On the contrary, those were to blame who had delivered violent and abusive speeches in that House, calling Papineau a malicious demagogue and traitor. Yes, that was the sort of language which had led to the present state of things in Canada, the people of which had been called an ignorant people, and one right hon. Gentleman said, that not two in a hundred of them could write or even read. Language such as that had been coupled with a refusal of justice and a denial of reform. Ministers had said to the Canadians—"We will not give you reform—we will not redress your grievances; but we will do more—we will take the whole control of your money away from you, and rob your Exchequer." Instead, then, of blame being thrown upon him and his Friends, Ministers deserved all the blame, for their conduct alone had produced the mischiefs which were said to exist in Canada. Had not the right hon. Baronet opposite said, that he knew the resolutions which had been sent out would excite resistance, and that he blamed the Government for not sending out troops with the resolutions in order to enforce them? Therefore it was clear that Ministers by proposing and passing those resolutions had excited the revolt. The noble Lord the other night challenged him to propose a remedy for the evils in Canada, and he would now do so. First, he would advise her Majesty to direct an immediate 629 redress of the grievances complained of in the petitions from Canada; secondly, the House should reject this Bill; thirdly, the first act of the Government should be to remove the Colonial Secretary (Lord Glenelg) from his office. Every dispatch proved that noble Lord to be incapable of carrying on the government of the colonies. He would not repeat what had been said the other night by the right hon. Baronet opposite, but he would assert that imbecility and want of management had marked the proceedings of the noble Secretary for the Colonies, though perhaps he meant as well as any man. Instead of sending Lord Durham out as a messenger of peace, or a dictator to act under Lord Glenelg, let Lord Durham take Lord Glenelg's office, and let the country see what he would do, and how far he would carry the principles which the Canadians wished to see adopted into operation. It would be better to do that than to pass this Bill, or to send Lord Durham out to Canada. Believing that the course proposed to be pursued by her Majesty's Ministers would be unproductive of any good, he should move as an amendment, "that the Bill be read a third time that day six months."
§ Sir R. H. Inglis
did not rise for the purpose of following or answering every statement made by the hon. Member for Kilkenny, who, however he might think the principles which he was accustomed to advocate were popular, was himself no proof of their popularity. He would not, like the hon. Member, be tempted to enter into the merits or otherwise, of the present Administration, nor at this hour, when he could not believe there was any real intention, notwithstanding the amendment had been proposed, of taking the sense of the House by a division, should he enter into the general question of the proceedings and policy of her Majesty's Government either before the rebellion and revolt in Canada or since, with reference to the best mode of proceeding. He rose for the single purpose of urging her Majesty's Ministers to remember, that even if at this moment the rebellion were suppressed, from that moment their difficulties began. They would have then to deal with a people divided in religion, divided in blood, and divided in all the pursuits of civil life: Protestant and Roman Catholic; English and French; commercial and agricultural. He conceived that a great mistake had been com- 630 mitted on the first annexation of Canada to the Crown of England, when a marked prominence was given to the religion of the conquered people. This had been ably urged a week ago by his hon. Friend, the Member for Droitwich: and he (Sir R. Inglis) desired again to urge, not the mere expediency, but the duty of the Government to pay just attention to that subject, when, as now, the whole constitution of Canada was open to revision. If the plan suggested by his right hon. Friend, the Member for Tamworth, in his speech on Thursday or Friday night last, to unite the four great provinces of the North American possessions into one great dependency, were adopted, as his other suggestions had been adopted, then it was quite clear—the majority of the inhabitants, being persons attached by Protestantism, by language, and by blood, to the mother country—that it would be compatible with the preservation of our supreme power to leave to the Roman Catholics and the French Canadians the fullest exercise of their present privileges, and yet, at the same time, to repair the mischiefs already committed by giving a just prominence there to the Established Church of this country. He trusted that the present opportunity would not be lost for accomplishing this object; and that the noble Lord opposite (Lord John Russell) would not be deceived by the hon. Member for Kilkenny as to the relative numbers in those dependencies. In them there is an overwhelming majority of persons deeply attached to England, and connected by religion, language, and by blood with it; and he therefore called upon her Majesty's Ministers to protect those persons against the inroads upon their civil and religious liberties which a majority of French Canadians in the House of Assembly so much endangered. Regarding the mistakes committed in 1763, in 1769, in 1774, and, above all, in 1791, as the great and fundamental errors of the policy of this country with regard to Canada, he hoped that an endeavour would be made to remedy, so far as the; Imperial Parliament could remedy, the evils which exist, and to continue, or rather to restore and enlarge, those religious advantages which he thought the subjects of this country ought to carry with them wherever they might, with the permission of the Crown, be located. It had been stated correctly by his hon. Friend, the Member for Droitwich, the other night, that at the present moment no provision 631 was made, either by the local legislature in Lower Canada, or by the executive government, for the maintenance of the bishop of the Church of England, who was still placed there. He believed that that individual was enabled to discharge his functions by means not derived from either of those bodies, and he called upon the Government to remove the disgrace of such a state of things as the placing such an individual in a prominent situation without supplying him with the means of maintaining his efficiency. Without going into the Canadian question generally, he felt bound to state that he could not but look with almost unmixed pain on the conduct which had been pursued. He trusted that the remedy proposed by the Bill as it stood would be effectual—it might, perhaps, have been spared, if vigorous measures had been taken before. The Bill improved, as it now was, had his most cordial support.
§ Mr. Alderman Thompson
said, the hon. Member for Kilkenny had observed that the House of Assembly in Lower Canada had not been guilty of any infraction upon the principles of the constitution of that colony, and the hon. Member had asked her Majesty's Ministers and the Parliament why, by such means as this Bill, they sought to put an end to the House of Assembly? He had no difficulty in supplying an answer to that question. It was a fact well ascertained that several members of the House of Assembly were already in gaol on charges of high treason, and by the last accounts which had been received from that province, it appeared that rewards had been offered for the apprehension of not fewer than twelve other Members of that body upon similar charges. He asked, therefore, whether under such circumstances any rational man could think of continuing that legislative body with any hope or expectation of legislation from it calculated to tranquillise the province; on the contrary, could any being doubt but that the assembling such a body would add to the agitation which unfortunately already existed there? The hon. Member for Kilkenny had designated the Bill as a despotic measure; he concurred with the hon. Member in thinking that it was a strong measure; he believed that in the history of Parliament its parallel was not to be found. But did history present any similar necessity for such a measure? He believed from the best consideration he could give to the 632 question that this was a Bill of justice and expediency. It was a measure of justice to give protection to the properties and persons of a very large proportion of the inhabitants of that province who were loyally attached to the connexion with this country. At the same time, he must admit, that there were numbers in revolt who claimed a redress of grievances, but those persons neither possessed the property nor the intelligence of the other portion of the population, and their leaders were not distinguished either for their talent or their courage. He contended that the Canadians, having all the rights and blessings which the British constitution bestowed upon them, had no just cause of complaint. Upon some temporary matters differences might have arisen, but for the settlement of those differences a ready manifestation had always been shown by the mother country. But when their demands were for a change in the Legislative Council, making it elective, and for having the control of the executive government, then it became necessary to resist them. If those demands had been conceded, a republican form of government would, in fact, have been established, and it would have been impossible to continue the connexion now existing between this country and Lower Canada. He believed that in the whole history of the colonies of this or of any other country, not an instance could be found where so much favour and generosity had been shown as had been shown in the course of the legislation of Great Britain in regard to Canada. Their corn, their wood, and their ashes were allowed to be imported here with almost a nominal duty. Was that the case with any other colony? Certainly not. He believed that by the present rebellion the greatest infliction had been committed upon the people of Canada that had ever befallen any set of men. British capital, while tranquillity existed there, was flowing in at an immense rate. Banks were established with large capitals—great public works were carried on with money belonging to individuals in this country—all these advantages had been suspended; but he hoped that tranquillity would soon be restored so that no great interruption might be given to that disposition which existed to resume and continue those advantages to the colony. At the same time, while he made these observations, he begged it 633 to be distinctly understood that he went a great way beyond many hon. Members in blaming the policy of her Majesty's Government with regard to their proceedings in Lower Canada. The hon. Baronet, he Member for Buckingham (Sir H. Verney), had stated that a sufficient force was in Canada at the time of the breaking out of the revolt, and that the event had proved the accuracy of that statement. He denied the truth of that assertion. He would contend that if a larger force had been in Lower Canada, to aid and support the civil power in the maintenance of peace and tranquillity, no revolt would have taken place, and we should have been spared the horror of shedding so much blood for the purpose of suppressing that revolt. He knew not whether any inquiry would be instituted with regard to the conduct of Government respecting Canada at the bar of this House; but sure he was that there was evidence sufficient in the documents which had been laid before the House to justify such an inquiry; and independent of those public documents, he, of his own knowledge, knew that for a period of more than two years representations had been made by the merchants of London engaged in trade with Canada, almost weekly, but certainly monthly, to the Secretary for the Colonies, of the state of alarm and dismay which existed in Canada in consequence of the tumultuous proceedings of large bodies of armed men. But to these representations no heed whatever was taken, and the present crisis had unfortunately followed. He must say, that the measure before the House had his entire concurrence.
§ Mr. Grote
said, that the hon. Member who had just sat down, and who declared himself a supporter of this measure, had told the House, nevertheless, that it was a strong measure, which had no parallel in British legislation. The description which that hon. Gentleman had thus given of the measure must serve as his excuse for troubling the House with a few observations at this its last stage. He desired to enter his protest against the third reading of a measure of this severe description, though he was well aware how unavailing such a protest would be. The hon. Baronet, the Member for the University of Oxford had stated one thing which was most true, and which deserved to be well laid to heart by every Gentleman who considered this subject. He had said when this 634 rebellion should have been put down, that at that moment the real and greatest difficulties of the Government would commence. That was his opinion, too, and it was because be entertained that opinion, and strongly entertained it that he was the more strenuous in his opposition to the present Bill; and because also it was his opinion, that while the Bill would remove none of the existing difficulties, it would add very much to some, and those the most serious of them. He foresaw no consequence likely to arise from this Bill so imminent and inevitable as the multiplication of discontent and irritation throughout the province in the minds of men; of those, perhaps, who as yet had taken no part in the revolt—and that of the most dreadful and deplorable kind. He saw in the Bill no remedy proposed for any of the evils that now constituted the grievances of the Canadians, while he saw in it one great grievance added to those already existing, of which, even those who had hitherto abstained from taking part in these matters could hardly fail to feel the weight and the burden. The alterations made in the Bill since the second reading were not of a nature to make much alteration in his opinion. His opinion was pronounced upon it when the preamble still remained as the noble Lord originally introduced it; and it was for those gentlemen who had been wedded to the Bill on account of the preamble, and who were inclined to pardon the severe measures which the Bill itself sanctioned, in consequence of the beautiful phrases put forth in the preamble—it was for them to express the regret they must feel at missing so important a part of its features; but for his part his objection was founded on the nature of the enacting clauses, and those clauses remained still unaltered, or, if any thing, they were rather aggravated. But if those clauses in themselves appeared to him severe, objectionable, and calculated to create a strong sense of anger and discontent in the minds of those who were to be subject to them, he would say, that the nature of those clauses was extremely aggravated, when they were taken in conjunction with the speeches uttered in that House by those by whom they were supported. For the tenure of those speeches led him to foresee only one consequence from the suspension of the Canadian constitution, which was this—that instead of that genuine and 635 faithful representation of the people, which was now the most important element of the Canadian constitution (for we should not have that element restored to its present state) we should have the representation of the people cut down, abridged, and reduced to a name. It would be a name and a shadow, instead of a substance and a reality. When he recollected, too, the suggestion of the hon. Baronet, the Member for Caithness, in which he dwelt upon the necessity of raising the qualification of the electors of Lower Canada—coupling that with the declarations made by certain influential Members on the Ministerial side of the House, and more especially by the right hon. Gentleman, the Member for Coventry, and the hon. Member for Lincoln, insisting, as they did, upon the gross ignorance and incapacity of the Canadian people—he could not misinterpret these indications. He could not draw any other inference except that the present representation of the people—large and faithful — would be exchanged for one neither large nor faithful; but the representation of a part of the people instead of a representation of the whole. He, at any rate, would not lend his hand to the destruction of the representative institution, which at least had the merit of faithfully representing the people of Canada, in the present state of precariousness and uncertainty as to what he should get in its place. He must say, it was to him a rather remarkable circumstance, a strange and preposterous revolution, when he found that that side of the question which was called the Conservative side, was, on this occasion, left to be supported by some twelve or fifteen extreme Radicals, and that those who, on all former occasions, were the unyielding advocates of every existing institution, and the stern opponents of all innovation and change, were now the most earnest in the work of destruction. When it was said, that the Canadian constitution had been found not to work as it was intended to do, his reply was, that if that were the case the fault was with the Executive Government, because the Executive Government had not thought fit to use the prerogative which the constitution intrusted to them. It remained only with her Majesty's Government to improve the Legislative Council, and introduce harmony between the different branches of the Legislature, by appointing such Members to the Legislative 636 Council as would be acceptable to the majority of the people. This would have been no innovation. It would have been the exercise of the very prerogative which was given to the Executive Government by the constitution of 1791, and which was, at that time, highly appreciated as a power vested in the Government for the best of purposes, though it now appeared to be renounced by every one. If, then, the Executive Government did not think fit to exercise that prerogative, surely they had no right to come and tell us that the constitution was unworkable, and that there was no remedy, except to destroy that constitution altogether. He denied the inference, and would contend that it was entirely in consequence of the want of a timely and proper exercise of the prerogative of appointing Members to the Legislative Council that this evil had arisen, and that they were now called upon to enact this destructive measure. Had that power been used, harmony would have been restored, and the constitutional government of Lower Canada would have gone on prosperously up to this hour. They might easily foresee the difficulties which would open when this suspension of the constitution should have been once brought into operation, hearing, as they had done already, an hon. Gentleman, who was a staunch supporter of the measure, proposing to her Majesty's Ministers to saddle the colony with the Established Church. A very pleasant prospect it was to be called upon to sanction, the annihilation of one of the few representative assemblies which really did represent the people, and put in its place a well paid Established Church. The same reasons which led him to wish to improve those representative institutions in this country, which imperfectly and unfaithfully represented the people, and by so improving them to make them the faithful representatives of the people, induced him to be strenuous in preserving this Canadian assembly, which did really and truly represent the people; and he should, therefore, be found on his side maintaining a strong Conservative line of conduct when the thing to be preserved was the most valuable jewel which a people could possibly possess. He doubted and mistrusted the power of the Government to restore this assembly, and he did not feel confident that it was ever their wish to do it. But most certainly when he observed, that 637 during the progress of the Bill through the House, the noble Lord, the Secretary of State for the Home Department, had been compelled to abandon the preamble for the purpose of conciliating the support of the right hon. Baronet, the Member for Tamworth, he knew that whatever new constitution it might be deemed proper to give to Canada, it would not be only what the noble Lord himself might approve of, but what the right hon. Baronet would also approve of; and having heard that right hon. Baronet accused by hon. Members in that House of entertaining a distinct hatred of all representative institutions—though, in the present instance, he did not conceive that the right hon. Baronet was deserving of that reproach more than the noble Lord himself—he could not help appealing to hon. Gentlemen who supported this Bill to say what ground they had for believing that they should ever get back such a constitution as that now existing when it should be once destroyed, seeing that it could only be restored with the approbation of a right hon. Gentleman who was opposed to all representative constitutions. In spite, therefore, of the great volume of debate which had been poured out upon this question, he had heard nothing to alter the conviction he entertained when he first delivered his opinion upon it. He feared that they had sown injustice, and that they would reap trouble and calamity. Whatever the present grievances of the Canadian people might be (they seemed to be almost on all hands admitted, as well as the necessity of redressing them) he felt that by this measure they were about to add one more grievance of so serious a kind, that the people of Canada would be led to entertain feelings of discontent and irritation, which it would be exceedingly difficult for any party, however good their intention, ever hereafter to eradicate or subdue.
§ Mr. Warburton
entirely agreed with what had fallen from the hon. Member for London, that by this measure they were destroying a free constitution to have, probably, in its place one approaching despotism. They were not only effecting a revolution, but they were doing so in the spirit of those revolutions that were occurring in South America. But what he would contend for, as he had on former occasions, was, that as England must cease to govern these states at no remote period, it ought 638 to treat them with all the consideration due to their future greatness. He knew it was a humiliating thing, and unfavourable to national pride and national vanity, to think of the necessity of contracting the limits of empire, and to part with what was fancied to be among the most valuable of the national possessions. He said fancied to be so, because it did appear to him as rational to talk of the moon belonging to ourselves, as to talk of a great and extensive territory 3,000 miles away from the mother country being a part of our empire. But he really thought if they looked at the great, and glorious, and godlike work of establishing a great and free republic out of the incoherent elements, such as the provinces of Canada were, they would feel that it was an object worthy the ambition of a great and powerful nation. It was a great act for a state like this to accomplish. He believed that the people of this country would reflect on this; and that they now felt that it was a greater honour to have raised a mighty republic like that of the United States, than to have subjugated India. If the people regarded the honour of having raised up such a free and great state, and would then consider what the united provinces now forming our North American colonies might become, if fostered in a similar manner, they would have a great and important object before them in the furtherance of which all conflict of party feeling would cease, and there would no longer be called for measures of severity towards provinces that were now alienated and discontented. He hoped that these considerations would reconcile the people of this country to that separation which either now, or at an early period, must take place, and that they would have their attention fixed upon the necessity that must soon arise for such a separation. He trusted that the glory of having been the parent of a great, an extensive, and a free state would be considered a sufficient reparation to them for the apparent sacrifice of the national honour. Condemning it, as he did—hoping, however, that it would not have any of those melancholy results which he anticipated from it—he would avail himself of the present opportunity of passing his last malediction on this unfortunate Bill.
said, that the hon. Member who had last spoken had forgotten that this was not a permanent but a tem- 639 porary measure, which would afford an opportunity to her Majesty's Government to give such a constitution to Canada as would be agreeable to the feelings of the people of that country. He expressed his astonishment at the recommendation which had proceeded from the hon. Member for Bridport, that we should erect a republic in the Canadas, and observed that he could not think a republic a legitimate offspring of Great Britain. He relied on the loyalty and good feeling of the people of Lower Canada, and believed that they would not be deluded by their late leaders any longer. He thought that if the people of Canada were solicited by those who had now deserted them to raise again the standard of revolt, they would say, "How shall we trust to you? How follow where you lead? Where we thought you lions, ye. were hares—where foxes, geese." He must say, however, that if her Majesty's Government had interfered in proper time to suppress the treasonable language which had been employed, we should not now have had to deplore the loss of life and property which had taken place.
§ The House divided on the original motion:—Ayes 110; Noes 8: Majority 102.
|List of the AYES.|
|Adam, Sir C.||Fazakerley, J. N.|
|Aglionby, Major||Ferguson, Sir R. A.|
|Alston, R.||Fergusson, rt. hn. R. C.|
|Attwood, W.||Fitzalan, Lord|
|Barnard, E. G.||Forbes, W.|
|Bateman, J.||Freshfield, J. W.|
|Bentinck, Lord G.||Gibson, J.|
|Bernal, R.||Grey, Sir G.|
|Bewes, T.||Grimsditch, T.|
|Blair, J.||Harland, W. C.|
|Blennerhassett, A.||Hastie, A.|
|Borthwick, P.||Hawes, B.|
|Brodie, W. B.||Hawkins, J. H.|
|Busfield, W.||Heathcoat, J.|
|Byng, right hon. G. S.||Hobhouse, rt. hn. Sir J.|
|Carnac, Sir J. R.||Hobhouse, T. B.|
|Cayley, E. S.||Hodgson, R.|
|Chapman, A.||Horsman, E.|
|Clay, W.||Hoskins, K.|
|Collier, J.||Hughes, W. B.|
|Craig, W. G.||Hutton, R.|
|Dalmeny, Lord||Inglis, Sir R. H.|
|Darby, G.||James, W.|
|Denison, W. J.||Jenkins, R.|
|D'Eyncourt, rt. hn. C.||Loch, J|
|Duke, Sir J.||Lockhart, A. M.|
|Duncan, Viscount||Logan, H.|
|Dundas, hon. J. C.||Mackenzie, T.|
|Easthope, J.||Mackenzie, W. F.|
|Eaton, R. J.||Macleod, R.|
|Evans, Colonel||Macnamara, Major|
|Martin, J.||Sugden, rt. hn. Sir E.|
|Marton, G.||Surrey, Earl of|
|O'Ferrall, R. M.||Talfourd, Sergeant|
|Palmerston, Viscount||Tancred, H. W.|
|Parker, J.||Thomson, rt. hn. C. P.|
|Perceval, hon. G. J.||Thompson, Alderman|
|Philpotts, J.||Thornley, T.|
|Planta, rt. hon. J.||Tufnell, H.|
|Plumptre, J. P.||Vere, Sir C. B.|
|Poulter, J. S.||Verney, Sir H.|
|Protheroe, E.||Walker, R.|
|Reid, Sir J. R.||Westenra, hon. H. R.|
|Rice, right hon. T. S.||Westenra, hon. J. C.|
|Richards, R.||White, A.|
|Russell, Lord J.||Wilberforce, W.|
|Salwey, Colonel||Wilshere, W.|
|Sheppard, T.||Winnington, T. E.|
|Stanley, E. J.||Wood, C.|
|Stanley, W. O.||Wood, Sir M.|
|Steuart, R.||Worsley, Lord|
|Stewart, J.||Yates, J. A.|
|Stuart, H.||Young, G. F.|
|Strutt, E.||Gordon, R.|
|Style, Sir C.||Seymour, Lord|
|List of the NOES.|
|Attwood, T.||Warburton, H.|
|Baines, E.||Williams, W.|
|Leader, J. T.||TELLERS.|
|Molesworth, Sir W.||Hume, J.|
|Wakley, T.||Grote, G.|
§ On the question that the Bill do pass,
§ Sir E. B. Sugden
rose to make one observation, which was, that the alterations introduced into the Bill had verified the prediction of his right hon. Friend (Sir R. Peel), that the instructions from Lord Glenelg to Lord Durham would never be carried into effect, and would not be acted on, for, as the Bill was now framed, it would be impossible for Lord Durham to call together a convention; and the noble Lord was now deprived of the power of making an infraction of the Canadian and the English constitutions. Ministers had, by their alterations, left the Bill precisely in the state in which the hon. Member for Tamworth wished it to be, for the noble Lord (Lord Durham) would only have the exercise of the prerogative at his command, and he would be a bold man who would venture to use it in calling a convention.
§ Sir George Grey
in a matter of mere law would be sorry to put his opinions in competition with those of the hon. and learned Gentleman; but he must say, that in the present instance the hon. and learned Gentleman was wrong; for in the instructions given to Lord Durham, that noble 641 Lord was not authorised to call together an assembly having legislative power, but only a body of persons to give him advice, which was not repugnant to the act of 1791, nor to any other act, and on which there was not placed the slightest obstruction by the Bill which had been read a third time.
§ Mr. Wakley
said, that the only reason why the House had been induced to look with the slightest favour on the Bill of the noble Lord was the circumstance that it was to be carried into execution by the Earl of Durham, and from the consideration, founded on his Lordship's character, his energy, and his discretion, and also of his love of liberal principles, that the House had a security for the discreet, firm, and fair exercise of those powers. But it now appeared that the noble Lord would not reach Canada till the end of April or the beginning of May, and in the meantime it was proposed to allow the act to be carried into effect by the commander-in-chief; and he (Mr. Wakley) therefore wished to direct the attention of the House and of the Government to the accounts which had been received from Canada of desperate engagements, or he should rather say massacres, which had taken place there, and which were of so sanguinary a nature as not to be described in the English language, and the recital of which could not but harrow up our feelings. In The Morning Chronicle of that morning, he found it stated that Colonel Maitland "detached the grenadiers, 1st and 2d companies, to favourable positions, to intercept any of the rebels attempting to escape from the church, and which answered effectually, as upon the taking of that building a number of the rebels fell under the fire of part of those companies;" and it was added, that they afterwards set fire to the church itself. This statement was received from Sir J. Colborne, and was published in a supplement to The London Gazette of Friday last. He would ask, what description of force could have been employed against the Queen's troops when only one of them was wounded? and yet they set a watch round the church to destroy any who tried to effect his escape. Was such conduct as this to be borne— was it to be tolerated? Was this a Christian land—did we live under a Christian government? Was it in such scenes as these that we could boast of the religious 642 institutions of this country? In his opinion, it cast a stigma on the character of the whole country, and could it give rise to anything but deep indignation? He did not say that such conduct received the sanction of the Government, but as it had taken place, it behoved Ministers to step forward at once, and in a bold and energetic manner, and to tell Sir J. Colborne that he had gone beyond his duty of simply maintaining the laws when he indulged in vengeance. Again, he found from the accounts of Upper Canada, that Indians were engaged in the war. Were they chosen for this duty because of their known cruelty in their conduct of war? Did the Government sanction the marching or conveyance in steam-boats of 250 Indians, in company with one of the regiments assisting Sir F. Head? It was the custom of some hon. Members to say, that it was the exciting language held by other hon. Members which induced the Canadians to revolt; but he must say, that the revolt was caused by the conduct of the Imperial Legislature, which had abolished the Canadian constitution, or had completely neutralised its powers, and by these acts seemed almost to have driven the Canadians to the necessity of revolt. He again protested against the bill. As the insurrection had been put down, he held it as an unnecessary and unconstitutional proceeding, and as placing a blot on the English legislation, which it would take years to wipe out.
§ Lord John Russell
observed, that the only part of the hon. Member's speech which required any notice from him, was that in which he had quoted the statements appearing in The London Gazelle. He knew, that the hon. Gentleman had no wish to make any misrepresentation, but he must have misunderstood the passages in the dispatches of Sir J. Colborne, Colonel Maitland, and other officers. The fact was, that the circumstances referred to, were amongst the usual occurrences of war. There were many persons in the church; it was fortified and made a place of offence, from which the British troops were fired upon, and, according to the laws of war, it was destroyed; and if troops, marching through a village, were fired upon, the usual measures of war were taken. If those who had surrendered and had laid down their arms, had not received quarter, then, indeed, the hon. Member's observations would have been just; but he 643 did not find any such statement in the dispatch. But not only should those who did lay down their arms be received as prisoners, bat it was necessary that the best means should be taken to prevent the others from retiring as a body in arms, and from taking up another position from which they might again attack the troops. The hon. Member had said, that there could not be much resistance, as only one soldier had been wounded; but this only showed how little discipline had been used to enable men to cope with the British empire, as well as the extent of the rashness and the guilt of the persons who had induced the Canadians to revolt. With regard to the Indians, he could only observe, that they were not employed as a regular military force; some had attended Sir F. Head, but the circumstance was of a totally different nature from what had been stated. All the troops had been removed from one province, and the militia was called out to meet several persons who were collected on the road to Toronto, and who had commenced the outrages by murdering a military officer who had retired from the service after having greatly distinguished himself in war, who was living with his family, and who was murdered on his road to the city. When persons were thus attacked, it was possible that all the inhabitants, British, Canadian, and Indian, should unite to put down the insurrection, acting, as they did, under fear of their lives and property. This was, however, an entirely different description of measure from that which was taken by Sir John Colborne, which did not affect the propriety of intrusting the powers of the act to that officer before the arrival of Lord Durham, and which were under present circumstances placed in his hands.
§ Bill passed.