HC Deb 18 July 1839 vol 49 cc494-504

Lord J. Russell moved the third reading of the Lower Canada Government Bill.

Mr. Hutt,

before the bill was read a third time was anxious to say a few words to the House. Although he did not support with his vote the resolution proposed by the hon. Member for Leeds with respect to this measure, he thought that any person who looked at the present state of Canada would be struck with the effects of bad Government in that colony. It was only held in allegiance to Great Britain by 30,000 soldiers. Emigration to that country was rapidly diminishing in consequence of emigrants proceeding to other colonies, where they could find that protection for themselves and their property which they could not find in Canada, and all industry was suspended in its operations. Such being the frightful state of this colony, he sincerely lamented the determination, on the part of the House, to put off to another Session any legislation for the general Government of Canada, and he was not without fear that this course might be followed by another insurrection of a still more serious and fatal character. He thought that some measure ought to be adopted for regulating the disposal of land, and promoting free emigration to the colony. He considered it expedient that the noble Lord should inform the House whether it were the intention of the Government, at an early period in the next Session, to bring the subject forward. All the materials for legislating upon it had been placed within the reach of the Government by the Earl of Durham, and he thought, therefore, that the House was entitled to have some explanation from the noble Lord as to the course he intended to pursue. He trusted that the noble Lord would give some explanation, and he would not at the present moment offer any resistance to the third reading of the bill.

Mr. Leader

also wished to say a few words on this bill before it passed a third reading. He concurred with his hon. Friend who had proceeded him as to the propriety of not offering any opposition to the bill in its present stage, but he objected to the bill in the first place because he looked upon it as a mere continuation of the Coercion Bill of last Session—he objected to it because it was a measure the Government ought not to have introduced this Session (for they ought to have brought forward, as they had promised, a measure for the permanent settlement of a representative Government in Canada)—and he objected to it, because it contained clauses such as no bill ought to pass with: he alluded to the clauses giving to the temporary Government of Lower Canada the power of taxation, and of making permanent laws against the feelings and the wishes of the inhabitants of that province. Some hon. Gentlemen talked of not throwing any difficulties in the way of such a bib, but he thought that every sort of impediment should be thrown in its way, and that such a measure ought to be made as troublesome as possible to Ministers, in order that, the people of Canada might get rid of it the sooner. Now, there were to this question four parties—there were the Earl of Durham, and those who agreed with him; there was the Government; there was the people of England; and lastly the people of Canada—and he must say that the two former had most grossly neglected their duty to the two latter. The conduct of the Earl of Durham had been to him incomprehensible, especially after the speeches the noble Lord had made in answer to the addresses presented to him in Canada, and after the passages contained in his report, in which the noble Earl said it was absolutely necessary immediately, and without delay, to legislate for the permanent government of these provinces—he repeated, that after such an expression of opinion, it was to him incomprehensible that the noble Earl had neither said nor done anything to carry out his views. It was true there had been promises of disclosures—there had been assertions in the report as to the danger that would arise from delay—nay he believed the Earl of Durham had promised not to lose a moment in maintaining in his place in Parliament, the rights of the Canadas, and in attempting to effect a settlement of the difficulties which existed in the Government of that unhappy country. And what had the noble Earl either done or said? Why, positively nothing that could tend to the settlement of the question at issue, or the permanent good government of Canada. He could not blame the Earl of Durham, for he did not know what might be his motives. Neither did he blame the Gentlemen associated with the noble Earl, for he did not know by what circumstances they were influenced; but he must say, that their conduct as it stood before the country was most incomprehensible, and that the Canadian people who had trusted them had just right to be grievously disappointed. He considered the conduct of her Majesty's Government with reference to Canada, to have been highly culpable. It was their bounden duty to effect, or attempt to effect, a settlement of the go- vernment of those provinces. A great deal had been said about this subject. They had heard of it in the Queen's speech, in the message from her Majesty, and they had a distinct promise from the noble Lord, the head of the Home Department, that the Canada Bill would be introduced before Easter—then after Easter—and finally, quite certainly before the end of the Session. If the subject were not too lamentable, never would a more laughable instance have been afforded of the mountain in labour. After all these fine promises, Ministers came out with the bill for the continuance of the suspension of the constitution of the Canadas. This delay on the part of the country would not cost the country less than 1,000,000l., probably 2,000,000l. or 3,000,000l., which to the Chancellor of the Exchequer must be a very pleasing prospect in the present state of the finances. In the mean time, the unfortunate people of Canada were suffering in every possible way from distress, from the ruin of their trade, from the stop put to all emigration, and from the insecurity of person and property which now prevailed. Three months since, the entire people of Canada entertained the expectation that they would hourly receive the bill, which they thought, as a matter of course, would be introduced immediately after the appearance of Lord Durham's report. They would be most grievously disappointed when they found that they were to have nothing but a continuance of this miserable Coercion Act. By a recent number of the Toronto Examiner, he perceived that no fewer than 700 persons had within the brief space of ten days emigrated from one district of Canada, and crossed the frontier into the United States, to escape from the insecurity which was the consequence of our misgovernment. The great mischief of delay was admitted by all parties. Lord Durham adverted to it in his report; the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Coventry told them the same thing, and the right hon. Baronet the member for Tamworth concurred in the same opinion. Yet the Government, with an utter recklessness of the interests of the colonists, had postponed the settlement of this momentous question for another year. He had purposely refrained from urging the Government upon this subject having thought that it was really their intention to do their best to settle the question. He had received several letters from persons in Canada, which he had refrained from answering, because he had thought it wrong to raise hopes which might be disappointed, and did not wish in any way to embarrass the Government. He regretted now, extremely, that the had exercised this forbearance, which, he thought, amounted almost to a neglect of his duty to those unhappy Canadians. Even the little confidence which he had in the Government, and which had led him to trust them on this point, had been quite misplaced. There could be but one opinion with regard to the conduct of the Government, both in this country and in the colonies, namely, that they had grossly neglected their duty; and, if any mischief should arise during the course of the coming winter, upon their heads must the responsibility rest.

Mr. O'Connell

said, that he was not one of those who thought that the Government could have done much more during the present Session with respect to Canada, unless they had restored, or proposed to restore, the constitution of Lower Canada, which, as he considered, would have been the wisest and best measure they could have pursued, as the preliminary to any scheme for uniting the two provinces. He had reason to express the deepest regret that the quarrel in Canada should have taken a religious turn, and that the people should be separated, not by political disputes alone, but that these were aggravated by religious dissensions which were fomented by the Executive Government. Now, he appealed to the right hon. Gentleman, the Under Secretary for the colonies, whether the officers in command, both in Lower and Upper Canada, more especially in the latter, had not testified in the strongest terms the spirit of generous loyalty, and the active support of Government, both in and out of the field, on the part of the Irish and Scotch Roman Catholics in Canada during the recent disturbances; and whether the Governor of Upper Canada had not represented this gratifying circumstance in the the strongest terms to the Government at home? Ought the reward of this loyalty and of these active services to be an increase in the number of Orange lodges? By a communication which he had recently received from Canada he learned that there were now in active operation in Canada no fewer than 254 Orange lodges, regularly officered for holding processions, and that insults were in the habit of being inflicted almost daily by the members of those bodies upon their Roman Catholic fellow subjects. The masters of those lodges were all persons holding office under the Government. They were cherished, therefore, he might fairly infer, by the Government of this colony, which must be looked upon as a party to the transaction; as abettors of this gross insult on the feelings of men who had rendered such substantial services to the Queen's Government, when it was assailed by so many of the disaffected; of men who were regularly regimented and brigaded, and discharging all the duties of actively loyal subjects. Was this their fitting reward—this unblushing encouragement of the Orange lodges? He entertained the strongest confidence that this very improper proceeding would be completely discountenanced by the Government at home. It was not sufficient to express their disapprobation of it in general terms in that House—it was absolutely incumbent upon them to take active steps effectually to prevent the recurrence of such scenes. He found the number of these lodges gazetted, he supposed officially—at all events inserted (apparently as a matter of boast) in several of the Canadian newspapers; and the statements of his correspondents were thus most completely corroborated. It was quite unnecessary for him to enlarge upon the pernicious effects which such a state of things must produce, tending, as it necessarily did, to put a complete stop to the progress of emigration to these colonies from Ireland. How, he would ask, were they to tempt Irish Catholics to emigrate to a country where they might be subjected to insults, to which they were no longer liable at home?

Mr. Labouchere

agree with the hon. and learned Member, that nothing could be more lamentable than that the spirit of religious animosity should be suffered to unite itself to the numerous social evils which already existed in Canada. He had believed that it was almost wholly eradicatd in that province. He could assure the hon. and learned Member, that so far from any encouragement having been given to the Orange lodges, or to any exclusive association of any religious sect whatsoever in Canada—so far from any such encouragement having proceeded from the Government at home, nothing was more contrary to their wish. He had stated a few days since in the House, that from any communications which had reached the Colonial-office, there was no reason to believe that this subject for two years past had attracted the slightest attention in Canada; no communication had been received from the Governor on the subject; no petition complaining of it had emanated from any class of people. The inference to which this had led him was, that this system, if not already quite dead, was fast dying away, and that it would be better to let it die a natural death than institute anything in the shape of an inquisitorial proceeding. His attention had, however, been called in the course of that morning to a newspaper, where it was stated that these lodges had been multiplied to a great extent in Upper Canada; and, most assuredly, no time should be lost in requiring from the Governor of that province all the information that could be furnished on the subject. He must say, on behalf of Sir George Arthur, that he had abundant means of knowing his sentiments with regard to the principle of religious liberty; and he could state with confidence that no man could exist, whose principles and feelings could more completely discourage any sectarian association. When Sir George Arthur was in Van Dieman's Land he materially contributed to the establishment of a system (connected with this very subject of religious differences) which produced peace and quietness in that colony. Surely conduct like this was irreconcilable with the charge now brought against him. As to the conduct of the Irish Roman Catholics both in Upper and Lower Canada, he had the greatest satisfaction in stating that both from Sir George Arthur, and stilt more recently and strongly from Sir John Colborne, communications had been received at the Colonial-office, assuring the Government of the loyalty and active support of the numerous body of Roman Catholics in Canada, without any exception. They stated, that this body vied in loyalty and in the determination to uphold their connexion with the mother country, with all the other inhabitants. With respect to the remarks of the hon. Member for Hull, he could state, that Government was most anxious to promote a well-considered system of emigration, and would most readily concur with the local Governments in Canada for that purpose.

Mr. Hume

said, that the home Govern- ment were chargeable with gross negligence on this subject of Orange lodges. After the address of the House to the late King, and his Majesty's answer, declaring his determination to put down Orange lodges altogether, he had repeatedly put it to the Government whether anything had been done to put an end to the system in Canada, and he had never got a satisfactory answer. The Address of the House, and his Majesty's Answer, had been sent out to Sir F. Head, it was true, but Sir F. Head distinctly stated, that he meant to take no steps in consequence, and he did take none. When that functionary thus set at defiance the will of the House and of the Crown, surely the Government had been guilty of gross negligence in taking no steps to enforce their orders. During the whole time of Sir F. Head's Government, every possible encouragement was openly given to Orange lodges by the Governor and all about him, and if the home Government longer permitted the system to endure, they would be as culpable as the local Government had been. No dispatch whatever had been sent out to Sir F. Head to censure him for his disobedience to the will of the Crown and the House. The numbers of Orangemen in Canada had been rapidly increasing. In June last there were not fewer than 20,230. The country had already lost 3,000,000l. in consequence of the mismanagement of Government, and it would have to spend much more if very different measures were not adopted. That Government had allowed the whole Session to pass away without bringing in a measure to put an end to the state of anarchy and discontent which existed in Canada, was in the highest degree culpable. He should give his decided opposition to the third reading of this bill. The powers granted under it would be only an addition to the evils which the Canadians already laboured under.

Sir George Grey

said, the hon. Member for Kilkenny had stated, that with regard Orange lodges in Canada the Colonial Department had been entirely inactive; that no dispatch had been sent out on the subject to Sir F. Head. If this were a just charge, it would be a heavy one; but it so happened that the hon. Member on two occasions before had made the same charge, and that on both these occasions the despatch which had been sent out to Sir F, Head on the subject had been laid before the House and printed. The hon. Member, however, still persisted in making this charge, upon the strength, apparently, of his private communications with Canada, and on the statements of newspapers, on which he had learned to place but slight reliance. A despatch had been in fact addressed to Sir F. Head, stating, that Lord Glenelg was most strongly opposed to any difference in the policy pursued by the local Government of Upper Canada from that to which the Government in this country was distinctly pledged, and, that Lord Glenelg would use his most strenuous efforts to prevent any such difference. He was unable at the moment to mention the date of the despatch, but would take care to ascertain it, and to state it to the hon. Member for Kilkenny.

Mr. Hume,

in explanation, said that the right hon. Gentleman might produce a dispatch sending out the order to Sir F. Head, but not a despatch condemnatory of the answer of Sir Francis Head to the House of Assembly.

Mr. C. Buller

could not help stating, that he considered some of the charges made against the local Government of Upper Canada much exaggerated. As to whether the measures adopted to check the formation of Orange lodges were vigorous or not, it was a matter of opinion. But he could not help thinking, that the hon. and learned Member for Dublin must have been misinformed as to public officers in Upper Canada joining in such proceedings. The subject had been brought under Lord Durham's notice, by an address from the Roman Catholics of Toronto and its neighbourhood, complaining in strong terms of the outrages to their feelings of party processions on the 12th of July. And that processions had taken place, there was no doubt. But with regard to official persons taking part in them, he believed it was a mistake, for this reason—he knew that Colonel Buller, who was adjutant-general was at one period an Orangeman. It was made matter of complaint against him, and he withdrew from the society. He did not believe, that any other persons in office were connected with Orange lodges, except perhaps Colonels of the militia, and if in making a levy en masse, men were objected to on the ground of such connexions, he (Mr. C. Buller) was afraid it would diminish the numbers exceedingly. It had been also said, that Colonel Kingsmill was charged with being an Orangeman. The charge was brought before Sir George Arthur, but the result of the inquiry was satisfactory, for Colonel Kingsmill totally denied having anything to do with those societies at all. He mentioned this to prove, that if there were any persons in office in Upper Canada who favoured the society, at all events they did not do so ostensibly. There was also a great difference between Orangeism in Canada and Orangeism in Ireland. Canadian Orangeism was certainly distinguished by the banners and symbols which were so offensive in Ireland; but it was connected with a great deal of profession of freedom of opinion and religious toleration. For instance, it was common at public dinners for the Orangemen to make speeches professing great toleration and frriendship towards Roman Catholics, and one of their regular toasts was the health of the Roman Catholic bishops. He believed, that Orangeism was kept up in Canada by gentlemen who had belonged to the society in Ireland, and who wished to keep up an undue political influence. He did not feel himself called on to defend Lord Durham from the charges of the hon. Member for Westminster, that the noble Lord had not adopted the precise measures which his hon. Friend wished Lord Durham to have pursued. The question must soon come before the House of Lords, when his noble Friend would have an opportunity of speaking upon his own conduct. He wished, before sitting down, to say a few words upon the subject of the report on Crown lands, to remove from himself some undeserved eulogium which he had received, on the supposition that he was concerned in drawing it up. He had nothing to do with it, except signing his name. The merit of this very valuable report was due to Mr. Hanson and Mr. Wakefield.

Sir George Grey

begged to inform the hon. Member for Kilkenny, that the despatch to which he had referred was dated August 24, 1836.

Mr. Langdale

said, that he had received very strong representations with respect to the system of Orange societies in Canada, from quarters on which he could place implicit reliance. A letter had been written to a friend of his by a lady residing at Richmond in Upper Canada, in which it was stated, that Orange processions had taken place in that town, the parties shouting "Death to the Pope!" as they went along. The letter also stated, that a petition was drawn up for presentation to Lord Durham, complaining of the countenance given by magistrates to those processions.

The House divided:—Ayes 110; Noes 10:—Majority 100.

List of the AYES.
Aglionby, H. A. Mackinnon, W. A.
Baines, E. Martin, J.
Barnard, E. G. Mildmay, P. St. J.
Bernal, R. Monypenny, T. G.
Bowes, J. Morris, D.
Brotherton, J. Nagle, Sir R.
Bryan, G. Norreys, Sir D. J.
Buck, L. W. O'Brien, W. S.
Buller, C. O'Connell, D.
Campbell, Sir J. O'Ferrall, R. M.
Chetwynd, Major Packe, C. W.
Chichester, J. P. B. Palmer R.
Clay, W. Parker, J.
Clements, Viscount Parker, R. T.
Clive, E. B. Power, J.
Dalmeny, Lord Praed, W. T.
Denison, W. J. Price, Sir R.
D'Eyncourt, rt. h. C.T. Pryme, G.
Donkin, Sir R. S. Rice, E. R.
Dunbar, G. Rice, rt. hon. T. S.
Duncombe, T. Richards, R.
Dundas, F. Rolfe, Sir R. M.
Dundas, Sir R. Russell, Lord J.
Eaton, R. J. Rutherfurd, rt. hon. A.
Eliot, Lord Salwey, Colonel
Euston, Earl of Sanford, E. A.
Evans, G. Scarlett, hon. J. Y.
Evans, W. Scholefield, J.
Farnham, E. B. Seymour Lord
Ferguson, Sir R. A. Sheppard, T.
Filmer, Sir E. Smith, R. V.
Finch, F. Stanley, hon. E. J.
Fleetwood, Sir P. H. Stewart, J.
Gisborne, T. Stuart, Lord J.
Grant, F. W. Stock, Dr.
Grey, right hon. Sir C. Strutt, E.
Grey, right hon. Sir G. Style, Sir C.
Hastie, A. Surrey, Earl of
Hawkins, J. H. Talbot, C. R. M.
Heathcoat, J. Thomson, rt. hn. C. P.
Hector, C. J. Thornely, T.
Henniker, Lord Townley, R. G.
Hill, Lord A. M. C. Troubridge, Sir E. T.
Hobhouse, rt. hn. Sir J. Turner, E.
Hodges, T. L. Turner, W.
Hope, hon. C. Walker, R.
Hoskins, K. Wall, C. B.
Houstoun, G. Ward, H. G.
Howard, F. J. Wodehouse, E.
Howard, P. H. Wood, Colonel
Howick, Viscount Wood, Captain
Hutton, R. Yates, J. A.
Kinnaird, hon. A. F. Young, J.
Labouchere, rt. hon. H.
Langdale, hon. C. TELLERS.
Lascelles, hon. W. S. Wood, C.
Lennox, Lord A. Steuart, R.
List of the NOES.
D'Israeli, B. Teignmouth, Lord
Dugdale, W. S. Vigors, N. A.
Fielden, J. Williams, W.
Irton, S.
Kemble, H. TELLERS.
Perceval, hon. G. J. Hume, J.
Plumptre, J. P. Leader, J. T.

Bill read a third time, and passed.

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