HC Deb 09 July 1838 vol 44 cc31-3
Sir Edward Sugden

rose to ask some questions of the noble Lord in regard to what had taken place in Canada. The House were aware, that before the act relating to the suspension of the constitution in Canada passed, there were three public bodies, besides the Governor himself. There was the Executive Council, the Legislative Council, and the Legislative Assembly. By the act which had been passed this. Session, they had suspended the functions of the Legislative Council and the Legislative Assembly, but they did not interfere with the Executive Council. But that act authorised the Crown to appoint a Special Council, consisting of so many persons as the Crown might think proper to adopt; and, by a subsequent clause, no act was valid in which the initiative was not in the former, and that not less than five of the Council should be present. It appears by the last papers, that Sir John Colborne having received the act, on the 27th of March he proclaimed that act, and wrote a dispatch immediately to say, that he was enabled to appoint fifteen or twenty gentlemen to form a Special Council. By another despatch it also appeared, that he had appointed twenty-one, persons of whom eleven were French Canadians, two were Canadians, and the others were British. A session was held, in which business was transacted as it might be in that House, and he believed, that twenty-six laws or ordinances were passed by this Council. Early in the month of May, Sir John Colborne dissolved the Council, and in a despatch, addressed by him to Lord Glenelg, he stated the great satisfaction he had derived from the unanimity which had prevailed in the deliberations of the Council. What he wanted, then, to know was, whether Government had authorised, by instructions, Lord Durham, not simply to appoint an Executive Council, but also to remove the existing Special Council, and to appoint a new Special Council; and whether the noble Lord objected to lay on the table of the House the instructions on these subjects, or either of them, with other papers, if necessary, He also wanted to know whether the noble Lord was aware how many persons, and whom, had been appointed to the two Councils; whether they exceeded five in number, and were the same persons? During the discussions in that House there had been published a dispatch from Lord Glenelg to Lord Durham, by which it appeared, that instructions were to be given for a convention of estates to ascertain the opinions of the people of Lower Canada. He wished to know whether the opinions expressed in the despatch to Lord Durham had been abandoned or not?

Lord John Russell

would endeavour to answer the questions which had been asked by the right hon. Gentleman. First, with respect to the appointment of the Executive Council, there had not been any special instructions upon that point. The Governor had the power to appoint for a time such persons, members of the Executive Council as he should think fit. Lord Durham had made use of that power by summoning as his Council certain persons whose names had appeared, and been published in the Gazette of Quebec. The number of the persons was five, and all connected in some way or other with office and the government of Lord Durham. With respect to the appointment of the Special Council, Lord Durham had authority given him to appoint a number of persons, not less than five, by his own act, to form part of that Special Council. The papers which were about to be given to the other House of Parliament he should have no objection to produce. The right hon. Gentleman made a correct inference when he said, that as Lord Durham had thought it expedient to call persons to his Executive Council not connected with the parties in the province, he would probably follow the same principle in the selection of his Special Council. With respect to the further question of the right hon. Gentleman, whether the instructions that had been laid on the table were abandoned, his answer was, that these instructions remained in the same situation, and there had been no variation or abandonment of them. He was persuaded, that Lord Durham had exercised the powers confided to him to the best of his discretion, as far as he had gone. And he must also say, that, from the accounts that had been received from the provinces, it appeared, that his proceeding had met with concurrence and approbation, as expressed by addresses from various parts of the province.

Subject dropped.