HL Deb 24 March 1835 vol 27 cc165-8
The Earl of Aberdeen

then rose to present a Petition, upon which he wished to say a few words, but as he did not wish to provoke discussion upon the subject at that time, he should do little more than state what the petition was, and what the prayer of the petitioners was. The Petition was from Lower Canada, and it was signed by 11,000 of the Inhabitants of Montreal and its vicinity. Of the petitioners, 10,000 consisted of British-born subjects, or of the descendants of Britons, who had settled in the Colony; those 10,000 represented a numerous and respectable body of the colonists, amounting, as he was informed, to no less than 100,000 persons, and they made known their desires and wishes, to which he entreated their Lordships' attention, as it would be admitted that the petitioners represented the greater portion of the capital, industry, and intelligence of the province of Canada. The petitioners stated that they highly prized the connexion between the mother country and the province, that they felt especially grateful for the Constitution which had been granted to them by his late Majesty, and that they were determined to maintain the connexion unbroken. They viewed, however, with regret and alarm, the tendency of the Resolutions lately passed by the House of Assembly of that Colony, which they described as encouraging disloyal principles, as likely to bring the Government of the mother country into contempt, and to paralyze the efforts of the Government in the Colony, and tended to the establishment of a pure democracy, by requiring that the election of the Legislative Council should be placed in their hands. The petitioners disavowed all participation in the feelings of the Assembly upon those points, and they entreated their Lordships to concur only in such measures as would give permanent relief to the real grievances of the colonists, while they cemented the connexion of the Colony with the mother country, and kept in their places the rights of all classes of persons inhabiting the Colonies. He desired to be understood to give no opinion upon this petition, any more than upon the petition on the same subject, presented to their Lordships on a former day from another quarter. He had already stated that he did not think that Canada was without just cause of complaint; and he had also stated, that his Majesty's Government were most anxious that a remedy should be found for the grievances complained of. For his own part, he would say, that he was anxious to deal with the subject in a way which, from, the feelings with which it was entered upon, deserved, as he hoped it would bring, a favourable conclusion. Knowing, as he did, the singleness of purpose which actuated his Majesty's present Government, in all that they did in regard to that Colony, he would say, that if their feelings were met with a corresponding feeling in other quarters, it would be hard, indeed, if the conclusion were not favourable. He was confident, however, that in those efforts the Government would have the support of their Lordships, as well as of all who did not wish to withdraw the important province of Canada, from its connexion with the mother country.

The Marquess of Lansdowne

was sure the noble Earl did not mean to attach any blame either to his right hon. Friend who last held the Seals for the Colonies, under the late Government, or to the noble Lord who preceded his right hon. Friend, in any steps he might have taken, or instructions he might have given, respecting the Government of Canada. He had understood the noble Earl to say, that some sanction or concurrence had been given by his noble Friend (Lord Stanley), to the seizure of the Colonial revenue. He hoped, indeed he was sure, it was not intended by the noble Earl, that any such inference should be drawn from what he said, but it was simply a matter of justice to the noble Lord, to state, that so far from sanctioning the seizure of the revenue, the direct contrary was to be inferred from his acts, in so far as the noble Lord, being aware of the great distress which had occurred from the non-payment of the salaries of the Colonial officers, had authorized that those salaries should be paid out of a different fund—namely, out of the extraordinary revenues. Then with regard to the unnecessary delay which was stated to have taken place, he was convinced that it could be shown that there had been no unnecessary delay. It appeared, too, as if the noble Earl had imputed blame to his noble Friend, for not having recalled Lord Aylmer. Now, this had the appearance of injustice to his noble Friend; for he could not understand how any blame could be attached to his noble Friend for not having advised his Majesty to recall Lord Aylmer from the Government of Canada.

The Earl of Aberdeen

could have no difficulty in answering the remarks of the noble Marquess. It ought to be recol- lected that the remarks to which the noble Marquess alluded were delivered upon the presentation of the petition from Canada by the noble and learned Lord opposite. In that petition blame was attached to the Government for not recalling Lord Aylmer and he (the Earl of Aberdeen) then said, that if any blame were to be imputed to any party, it was to the noble and learned Lord and his party and not to the present Government; but it was far from his intention to say that blame was to be imputed to any party upon that account. On the contrary, he could never have had any such object in contemplation; for he considered the complaint of the petitioners unfounded, and it was only because the noble and learned Lord appeared, in some measure, to support the prayer of the petition, that he had stated; that if there was any blame anywhere, it rested not with the present Government, but with the noble and learned Lord himself, and with his colleagues. But he never could have blamed any Government for retaining the services of Lord Aylmer. Then with regard to his having made use of the expression "seizing the revenue," he certainly had used it; but he had only repeated the words used by the noble and learned Lord. He could not have meant to describe the seizure of the revenue as an act of the late Government; for he knew it not to be the fact, because he was quite aware that the fund alluded to was British, and did not belong to the colony. It was, however, a grave question how far the appropriation of the fund in question to the payment of the salaries of the officers was justified; but that was another question; and was not complained of by the petitioners. And as to the delay, he certainly had said that if any had taken place, it was the fault of the late, not of the present Government; but he was far from saying that any unreasonable delay had taken place.

The Earl of Ripon

said, that it was but justice to the noble Lord, the late Secretary for the Colonies, to state, that so far from giving his sanction to the seizure of the revenues, he had, in anticipation of a similar occurrence, which happened about ten years previously, actually prohibited it.

Lord Brougham

said, that he had merely given the statement of the petitioners. It might have been right, or it might have been wrong—he gave no opinion on the subject. With regard to blaming the Government for not recalling Lord Aylmer, there was no such prayer in the petition that he was aware of. The charges were against Lord Aylmer, and not against the Government.

The Earl of Aberdeen

said, that the very first complaint made in the petition was, that Lord Aylmer was continued in the Government.

Petition laid upon the Table.