HC Deb 21 March 1870 vol 200 cc324-5

said, he wished to ask the Under Secretary of State for the Colonies a Question with reference to the following:—In a letter of Sir Alexander T. Galt, a Member of the Parliament of Canada, published in "The Canadian News" of the 17th of March instant, he states his belief that the policy of Independence for that Colony "had been arrived at by the Imperial Government;" and in a speech recently delivered by that gentleman in the Canadian Parliament, the report of which appears in the same newspaper, he states that the distinction of knighthood had been conferred upon him in pursuance of a Correspondence between him and the Government, wherein he avowed himself to be in favour of that policy, and that he was satisfied that such was "the policy desired by the Imperial Government," and that, in so far as his loyalty might be questioned, "he stood upon the same ground as the Ministers of the Crown in England;" whether the Correspondence so referred to by Sir Alexander T. Galt, is in the possession of the Government, and whether there is any objection to produce the same?


said, in reply, that the Correspondence to which the hon. Gentleman referred could not possibly be laid on the table of the House. He thought, however, that by reading the reply made by his noble Friend Earl Granville to Sir Alexander T. Galt he should give the hon. Gentleman the information which he required. His noble Friend said— I have only one objection to authorizing you to publish a copy of my private letter to Sir John Young of the 19th of June. It would establish a precedent which might, in other circumstances, be inconvenient, if a liability was admitted to produce a private letter from the Secretary of State to the Governor because the latter had communicated is confidentially to a third person, as Sir John Young did to you with perfect propriety in this case. I had previously obtained the Queen's permission to offer you the Knight Commandership of St. Michael and St. George, with a view of paying a compliment to the Dominion in the person of one of its most distinguished statesmen. I was not then aware of the views which you entertained respecting the possible future of the Confederation. Sir John Young forwarded to me the letter in which, giving your reasons for it, you stated your opinion that the Confederation of the British North American Provinces was a measure which must ultimately lead to their separation from Great Britain; that it could not be the policy of England, and was certainly not the desire of the people of the Dominion, to become annexed to the United States; and that the best course to avoid it was to encourage the Canadian people to look forward to independence in the future; and you added your belief that 'the existing relations would be safer and more durable if the future state were clearly recognized and, if possible, a term fixed therefor,' it being the interest of the Canadians and your own desire to postpone the event, and to avail yourselves of the moral and physical support of Great Britain as long as possible. You thought that these views ought not to be regarded as detracting from your duty as a subject of the Queen; but you did not like to accept the distinction unless those opinions were known to those who made the offer, and you asked that the communication might be considered confidential, as you did not wish to pledge yourself to a policy which events might cause you to modify. In reply, I requested Sir John Young to inform you how much pleased I was with the honourable spirit of your letter, and to add that I did not consider your statement precluded a Minister of the Crown from offering you a well-deserved honour from the Queen.