HC Deb 02 April 1840 vol 53 cc428-30
Lord J. Russell

in rising to move that the second reading of the Canada Bill be fixed for Monday se'nnight, wished to take that opportunity of explaining an opinion which had been expressed by him upon a former occasion, and which had been represented in a sense very different from that which he intended to convey, and might, so represented, cause serious misapprehension in Canada. He had in his opening speech on introducing the Canada Bill stated generally his opinion respecting the measure which had been passed in Upper Canada on the subject of the clergy reserves. This opinion of his had been stated as if he had expressed himself to be unfavourable to the general nature of this measure, and as if his right hon. Friend the Governor-general had acted with regard to this measure upon views of his own, which were not in accordance with the general views of the Government. Now, this was far from being what he (Lord J. Russell) had stated, and certainly very far from what he intended to state. The opinion which he expressed was, that it was a very different thing to devise a project upon one's own abstract notions, or with regard to what might have been feasible thirty or forty years ago, and to frame a measure adapted to the circumstances of the present day. He had not upon that occasion entered any further into the subject, though he had alluded to the general question respecting Church establishments and their utility, and the peculiar situation of the Protestant Church in Canada, and the necessity for making a due allowance for its maintenance. With respect to the measure which had been proposed to the Assembly of Upper Canada, it was necessary to state what had happened on that subject. It had been under consideration whether it were expedient to direct the Governor-general to propose a measure to the Assembly on the subject of clergy reserves, and endeavour, if possible, to settle the question at the lime when the union was proposed; but knowing the difficulties that attended the question, and had attended it for many years past, the Government considered it better to leave it to the discretion of the Governor-general recommending him to take every opportunity in his power to afford an opening for a settlement of the question upon a satisfactory basis. In conformity with the views of the Government the Governor-general had made earnest inquiries into the subject, and in a private letter addressed to him, the Governor-general stated that any settlement of the question was hopeless, the views of the different parties being so extreme and so adverse to one another as to afford no prospect of a compromise. Further information, however, was afterwards received to the effect that the Governor-general had seen many Members of the Legislative Council, and that there were then some hopes of an accommodation, for that those who had declared that they would acquiesce in no proposition for making a provision for the ministers of religion had expressed their willingness to consent to a measure providing for Ministers of all denominations. The Governor-general had accordingly proposed such a measure, and it met with the general concurrence of the Legislative Council, and especially of that part of it which consisted of members of the Church of England, and after a debate it was carried by a considerable majority, considering the smallness of the numbers. The Bill was transmitted to this country together with a despatch, and had been laid on the Table of the House, and he should say, that the Governor-general had followed his instructions most ably and wisely. The Government had not wished to place such an obstacle in the way of the Governor-general as to direct him peremptorily to propose a measure of this description in the colony, but they had at the same time given him such instructions as not only authorized but required him to use every endeavour in his power to bring to a satisfactory settlement a subject which had caused so much discontent and dissension. So far, therefore, was the Government from disapproving of what the Governor-general had done, that it was of opinion that the measure would, if it did not meet with opposition in the Parliament of this country, be the means of re-establishing peace in the colony. He did not wish now to discuss the question whether it were necessary to pass such a bill, as his only object had been to correct the misapprehension which had gone forth, but looking back to the declaration made by Mr. Fox in 1791, to the opinions which had been expressed by Lord Stanley, Sir G. Murray, and the Earl of Harrowby, in a speech in the House of Lords, to the evidence given by Lord Stanley before a Committee of the House of Commons, to the message of the Earl of Ripon to the Assembly of Upper Canada, and to the various transactions which had taken place since that time, and considering how highly expectations were raised in Canada that the Parliament and Government of this country were disposed to yield to the general wishes of the colony, he felt convinced that the course now proposed to be taken was wise and expedient, and he would beg those who were adverse to the bill well to consider all these things, and to remember how serious a matter it was, to oppose the desire of the loyal subjects of her Majesty who had agreed to adopt this measure.

Bill to be read a second time on Monday se'nnight.

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