§ Lord Glenelg
My Lords, I rise, according to the notice I have given, to move a humble address to her Majesty relative to the affairs of Canada. My Lords, this address generally expresses the regret of this House at the state of affairs in Canada, and it states that this House will support her Majesty in whatever measures may be necessary to preserve the integrity of the empire. This address will, I flatter myself, meet with the ready approbation of your Lordships. I shall now take the liberty of reading it. 163 "That a humble address be presented to her Majesty, to thank her Majesty for her gracious communication of papers relating to the affairs of Canada; to assure her Majesty that the anxious consideration of this House shall be given to the preparation of such measures as the present exigency may require; to express to her Majesty our deep concern that a disaffected party in Canada should have had recourse to open violence and rebellion, with a view to throw off their allegiance to the Crown; to declare to her Majesty our satisfaction that these designs have been opposed no less by her Majesty's loyal subjects in North America than by her Majesty's forces; and to assure her Majesty, that while this House is ever ready to afford redress to real grievances, we are fully determined to support the efforts of her Majesty for the suppression of revolt, and the restoration of tranquillity." My Lords, in submitting this address to your Lordships, I trust that you will permit me to make a few observations upon the subject to which it relates. I think that, with respect to that address, your Lordships will regard the subject as one of considerable and deep importance, and one that is very interesting in relation to, and as affecting, the interests and prosperity of the empire. I think it right, my Lords, on the part of the Government, to request your patient indulgence while I offer to you those observations which I shall feel it to be my duty to make; because I do not think it possible to present to your Lordships a just view of the measures which we propose, or of the policy which the Government has acted upon, without trespassing some time upon your Lordships—I hope not a long time, certainly not a longer time than the importance of the subject demands. In trespassing upon your time, it is not necessary for me to recal your attention to the entire history of the disputes in Canada. At least it is not necessary for me to recal your attention to the earlier part of these disputes. But it is necessary, in order to place our policy in its proper light, to request your Lordships to return to that period of their history upon which the present Government came into the administration of affairs. When this Government came into office, the most difficult question presented to their attention was, the question relating to Canada. Those difficulties were not the consequence of accidental or temporary circumstances. No, but the causes of these difficulties were deep- 164 rooted. They were interwoven with the framework of the society; they could be traced to the nature of the Government, and to the nature and situation of the British North American colonies in general. That great portion of territory added to our dominions by the peace of 1761, divided into two provinces, Upper and Lower Canada, presented at that time a subject of exceeding difficulty and of very great anxiety. With respect to the province of Upper Canada, it was found to be well populated, powerful, and rapidly advancing in prosperity; but throughout that province a great degree of discontent and animosity prevailed with reference to the province of Lower Canada, and that particularly with regard to the situation in which the Upper Canadians found their commercial interests to be placed. That province, I might almost say, that nation was divided from others; it was surrounded by other nations, and could have no intercourse, with the ocean except through the United States, or by the river St. Lawrence. All the commercial interests of the people of Upper Canada were controlled by foreign legislatures, or by legislatures which, if not foreign, between whom and themselves there were considerable distinctions in manners, habits, views, and political principles. The Legislature of Lower Canada viewed with jealousy the exertions of those of Upper Canada. The pressure of this state of things upon the people of Canada was felt to be so great that various plans were devised to meet the difficulty, or to escape from it. One plan, was for entering into a negotiation with the United States for the purpose of securing a communication with the sea; and another was, that Montreal should be made the capital of Upper Canada, in order that the province of Upper Canada might have that command over the St. Lawrence which her interest demanded. At the same time in Upper Canada considerable internal anxiety prevailed. The House of Assembly of that province was then about entering into a race of rivalry with the House of Assembly of Lower Canada upon those topics which agitated Lower Canada. But there were causes of still deeper anxiety in existence with respect to Lower Canada, for in that province there was that at work which might not exactly be the origin of the disturbances, but which certainly gave them the force and energy which they had acquired, namely, the division of the two races which inhabited that province—a di- 165 vision which was not by circumstances at all mellowed, but which had been embittered by them, and had given rise to more heart burnings, and had been the cause of more disturbances than any political events of the time. In that colony the constitution was not established on principles which gave to wealth an influence and weight which, in conjunction with other circumstances, would have been beneficial, but which gave the whole influence to numbers alone—the determination of which alone made the elective franchise what it was; and the case, my Lords, is remarkable, as forming the peculiar political society of that province. The numerical majority, about 400,000, returned by far the greater majority of the members of the Assembly; and the consequence was, that one of the races predominated in the Assembly, so as, in fact, practically to exclude the other, Those who were returned by a numerical majority, comprising, it may be said, the whole of the Assembly, were those attached to the obsolete notions of former times. They were unfriendly to commerce, to the spread of intelligence, to the diffusion of education; and therefore not very friendly to the prevailing characteristics of the English race. The leaders of the House of Assembly, who commanded a majority there, did so with very little responsibility to their constituents. In fact their constituents, though a very amiable and a very virtuous race of men, were yet very ignorant, and little fitted to appreciate the blessings which the constitution bestowed upon them. They were fitted to be deluded by ambitious and designing men. Their leaders were attached to obsolete notions, and had the advantage of fighting for them with the weapons of popular institutions. Those who were against improvement had the support and the aid of popular institutions; while those who were really favourable to improvement, and had wealth and; intelligence upon their side, were compelled to resort to the aristocratic party. These parties were invested with weapons which were not suited to them. Those who were the most liberal had to seek for aid from the Legislative Council, and the aristocratic part, as I may term it, of the constitution; while those who were less liberal, and were indisposed to improvement, were fighting under the colours of free institutions. Thus it happened, on the one hand, that those who were the supporters of an oligarchy hostile to improvement made use of the rights and privileges of 166 popular institutions, and pushed them to an extreme; and on the other, privileges not generally used to promote improvements and support free institutions, were pushed to an extreme for the purpose of enforcing them. This formed a very remarkable circumstance in the situation of that people. But these distinctions were still more aggravated by other circumstances—the differences between the two nations in manners, in religion, in language, in general views, and in general principles. Notwithstanding the advantage which numbers gave to the one race, yet the aspiring activity of the other gave them an ascendancy even in spite of the countervailing advantages. The English race was in possession, of all the foreign commerce, and even of a large portion of the property where the habitants lived: and thus the illusions which they fostered amongst themselves, of their one day constituting a great Canadian republic, was every day fading from their view. Such were the hopes and fears of the two nations; and they could not fail to produce considerable and numerous animosities. Preparations were made upon both sides to assert, by every means within their power, and such as they could find constitutionally, the ascendancy which the one desired to maintain, and which the other was desirous to acquire. But there were other circumstances to be looked to. The constitution of 1791, from the earlier years at least in the history of Canada, might be said not to be administered. It might have been very advantageous for the people of Canada if it had been so; but the executive government took part with one race against the other—it took part with the English race instead of being the umpire and arbitrator between both. All the honours and emoluments flowed in one channel; and thus the popular institutions were severed for the Canadians from the government, and they obtained no advantage through them. This was done while the government usurped practically the funds of the State. Those funds were in the hands of the governors—abuses crept in, and at length they prevailed to such an extent that many of the English united with the French race to obtain a redress of grievances. The French, connected with the English, had the advantage of urging their demands on the ground of real and existing abuses. In 1828, redress was afforded when the subject was brought forward by Mr. Huskisson, and the recommendations that were then made were 167 carried into effect by my noble Friend opposite, as far as the influence and power of the Crown could carry them into effect; and the result was, that the reasonable portion of the French Canadians quitted the ranks of the agitators and supported the government. The English also separated from them and supported the government. But this was not the way to satisfy the leaders of the discontented party. Those reforms were hostile to their purposes. They believed those reforms were not conceded from a sense of justice (as I am sure they really were), but from timidity. Their only hope, then, to retain an influence over their followers was to maintain the cry of existing grievances. When these real grievances had been swept away, fresh grievances were to be found, and the bright reward received by my noble Friend for his exertions was the applause which the House of Assembly gave to those who would resist the just terms of accommodation. At last, having advanced other grievances, the House of Assembly at length took its stand upon demands which involved the surrender of the sovereignty of the province. They insisted upon the application of the elective principle to the Legislative Council; they required the dominion, unqualified and unconditional., over the revenues of the Crown; and the responsibility of the Executive Council to such a degree, that the officers should be dependent upon the will of the Assembly. These demands were openly urged by the Assembly. To these demands the English party were decidedly opposed, because they saw in them the proscription of their own race; for they saw that such would be the result of the success of those efforts. Such, then, was the situation of the minds of men in Lower Canada at the time that the Government entered into the consideration of these circumstances. At the same period, in the adjoining province, there were circumstances which gave room for considerable anxiety. Not only in Upper Canada alone, but also in Nova Scotia and in New Brunswick there was some degree of agitation. At all events the agitators in Lower Canada, if not entitled to claim, did actually claim, a fellow-feeling with themselves in the other provinces—most falsely, most unjustly, I believe, but they claimed it. Their making such a claim proved, at least, that there mast have been some agitation in the other provinces which was calculated to excite the attention of the Government. Such were the difficulties in which affairs 168 were placed when we were first called on to examine those questions. How were the difficulties to be met? I know it is said that the course was a very simple one—that we ought to take the one line or the other, and that we took neither line, and that the consequence is that we are involved in our present difficulty. I know, my Lords, that it is very easy, after the result, to prophesy of the issue, and to make an assertion as to the course that ought to have been pursued. But what were the two lines upon which we ought to have acted, and between which we ought to have made our choice? One of these lines was to support the pretensions of the French party—it was, in a word, to accede to the propositions to which I have adverted. The result would be very simple and very clear—in one sense it would be so, putting aside for the present that which I shall immediately advert to—it would involve the surrendering the British sovereignty; and I may add it would involve, too, very great injustice to the British settlers. Justice, I conceive, is the principle upon which we are bound to act; and if we had at once acceded to the demands of the French Canadians the result would be exceedingly injurious to the British race at the time forming a part of the population of Canada. Would that course be sanctioned by this House? Would it be approved of by Parliament and the nation? Would it have been supported and approved of by their fellow colonists in other parts of North America? Ought, then, that course to be followed? I venture to say that such a course would have involved us in the calamity to which we are now brought, and that, too, under more unfortunate circumstances than we are at present placed. It would have been to call upon us to support the French Canadians against our fellow-subjects in Lower Canada. But another line might have been pursued; that is, to take part with the English Canadians. We ought, then, to have removed this House of Assembly, and to form a new system of representation, so as to give an ascendancy to the English. That, my Lords, would not have been just—that would not have been endured by this country, which never will sanction injustice. That, too, would have brought on us the same difficulty in which we are now, with this difference, that then it would have involved the whole of the French nation in Canada, which at present is not the case: and it certainly would have been 169 against the general feeling of justice amongst our fellow colonists in North America. I come, then, to the course of policy which has been pursued. We thought that the proper course of justice was not to act as the partisans of either; but to act as the mediators between both parties. It was to take the line of justice, of conciliation, and of moderation. It is a line which is always open to the sneers and censures of those who maintain extreme opinions on both sides. It was, however, the only true line, which ultimately could lead to success. That line, I venture to say, is the line which the Government has adopted, and the results to which it led was the redress of acknowledged and admitted grievances, and an investigation into alleged abuses. On that principle the Government proceeded—that which I believe to be the just principle—of moderators between the parties. Preceding Governments had acted upon that principle; for I do not mean to take for this Government alone the merit of having acted upon it. I believe it was the course of policy pursued by my predecessors in office. It is the course which the present Government has pursued, and it was the only one left us to pursue; and in accordance with that policy Lord Gosford was empowered to redress acknowledged abuses, and also to inquire into grievances alleged to exist. Lord Gosford's endeavours in that province were met by the House of Assembly by conduct which I shall not characterise. It was not calculated, I may observe, to maintain a spirit of conciliation and moderation between the parties, and which it was the object of the Government to promote, and the object of Lord Gosford in every manner to extend. The truth was, that the leaders of the House of Assembly were not disposed to acquiesce in any proposition which did not involve a surrender of the province. After the failure of those efforts, the matter was referred to the Imperial Parliament, and by it a decision was pronounced respecting it. Soon after that decision an opportunity was afforded to the House of Assembly to retrace its steps. Some moderate men were anxious to adjust those differences, but the attempt failed, and the House of Assembly adjourned in August, taking up its position on the different demands to which I have alluded. Such, then, is the result of the efforts that have been made; and I need not say—for it is sufficiently notorious, from the papers which are on the table— 170 that at this moment one part of the province is in direct resistance to the arms of the Sovereign. There are circumstances favourable now which at other periods did not exist. I say this notwithstanding the calamity which has occurred in Lower Canada, and the result of which I most deeply lament; yet there are circumstances which have occurred within the last two or three years, in the other provinces which are of no small moment. The result of the mission of Lord Gosford had produced beneficial effects upon the French population in Lower Canada. A few years ago these were scattered through the province, and in Quebec many persons who were allied and joined with the efforts of the agitators, but who had since, perceiving the course which the Government pursued was that of dealing fairly towards all parties, quitted the ranks of the agitators, and supported the Government. The consequence was, that the feelings of discontent which were scattered over the province were latterly confined to Montreal, and the rest of the country had been free from agitation. With respect to the other provinces of North America a very different spirit prevails from that to which I have alluded. I need not refer to the statements from Upper Canada to show the feelings of loyalty and attachment to this country. In New Brunswick and in Nova Scotia the same feelings of loyalty are participated in by the whole population. The Governors of those provinces state, that it is impossible for anything to exceed the enthusiasm with which the people there expressed their determination to give their support in upholding the connection with Great Britain and the rights of the Sovereign of this country. These are circumstances of no small moment when we have to consider the calamity which prevails in Lower Canada. Now, my Lords, with respect to the insurrection which has broken out in Lower Canada, I know that it has been said, that Government has shown a want of precaution in looking to that issue. It has been said, that there ought to have been a greater supply of forces in Lower Canada last summer, and we ought naturally to have expected some commotion when the resolutions which were passed last Session became known. With respect to want of precaution I have now to state,—and I do so in allusion to a question which was asked by the noble Baron opposite (Lord Ellenborough), in reference to the dispatch of November, 1836—that I 171 fulfilled the promise given in that letter; and although I am not at liberty to produce the dispatch, I am at liberty to state, that I expressed an opinion in reference to this matter, and that I referred not to the possibility, but the probability, that it might lead to excitement; and in that dispatch I suggested to the Governor, I pressed upon the Governor, to communicate with Sir John Colborne as to any military preparations that might be necessary—not anticipating such alarming circumstances, but merely some temporary disturbances. [Lord Brougham: The date.] February, 1837. That letter referred to a letter by Lord Gosford, transmitting an account of the meeting and the separation of the Assembly. It was in consequence of that letter, and of the address of the House of Assembly, that I felt it necessary to consult with my Colleagues as to the measures which Government ought to take on the whole of the Canada question. Of course, in consulting with them no time was lost in maturing measures, and, after that had been done, in communicating them to Lord Gosford. But, my Lords, the charge made relative to the force in Lower Canada proceeded on an assumption that that force now there is inadequate. Now, I beg leave to deny, that it is at all established, that the force in Lower Canada was inadequate. Certainly there is no proof of that fact; and so far as the accounts have reached us, it is clear that the force in Lower Canada is adequate or nearly adequate to suppress the insurrection. However I may be inclined to bow to the opinions of persons of such weight and authority, I must be allowed to claim for the Government the benefit of the actual state of things in Lower Canada. But independently of that circumstance it may be observed, as appears in these papers, that in March last I announced to Lord Gosford the intention of the Government to send out two more regiments to Lower Canada, and in a subsequent month 1 announced to him, that that intention had been relinquished. It has been argued from this, not only that the Government had changed their previous intentions, but it has also been assumed, that they did not think it necessary to make any addition to the troops there. In the same dispatch, however, there is a letter enclosed to the Governor of Nova Scotia, requiring him to comply with the requisition of Lord Gosford, and the Governor of Lower Canada is directed to apply to the Governor of Nova Scotia for any force he may require. The change 172 was simply this—instead of sending troops direct to Quebec, the Government decided upon drawing them from the other provinces, in order to supply Canada sooner with a sufficient force. But denying, as I do, the fact of the inadequacy of the force, I may observe that my view of the question is confirmed by the conduct of the authorities in that country. I do not wish to throw from myself any part of the responsibility that belongs to me, but I do not conceive it to be any inculpation of those authorities that, having the power to procure forces, if they required them, the necessity not having arisen, they did not avail themselves of the power which was placed in their hands. In the month of March the authority to Lord Gosford was express; he was in communication with Sir John Colborne, a most experienced officer, and Lord Gosford said, after communication with that gallant person, that he did not think it necessary to avail himself of the power. Three months afterwards, however, he thought right to exercise that power to the extent of one regiment, both Lord Gosford and Sir John Colborne being of opinion that a greater force was not required. At a late period in November he found it necessary to make a demand for a larger force, and in doing so no doubt he was actuated by a sense of the necessity of such a force being placed in the province. Now, my Lords, my argument is that the authorities in Canada acted not blameably, but from a persuasion of a necessity of the case, and upon their judgment I consider myself justified in saying, that till the month of November there was no necessity for any troops beyond those which it was in the power, of the government to obtain from the adjoining provinces. But believing this to be the case I must further add, that, distressing as the events that have occurred may be, it is some consolation to think that the result in one respect is most satisfactory, namely, that of showing how completely entitled we were to rely on the affection and support of the British colonists. I confess, my Lords, that nothing in my opinion would be more to be regretted than that we should have dispatched an overwhelming military force with those resolutions which were passed by the House of Commons during the last session. By adopting such a course we should have told the world we were satisfied of the impropriety of those resolutions, as we did not venture to communicate them to the lower province 173 without accompanying them by an overwhelming force. The adoption of such a course would have placed us in an improper position in the eyes of the world; it would have encouraged the attempt made in this and in the other country to persuade people that our policy had for its foundation, and that we relied for support alone, on our military force. So far from this being the case, I am happy to say, it appears that, whatever may at this moment be the discontents of the colonists, the great security of the British colonial empire rests upon the well-tried allegiance and fidelity of our fellow-countrymen in the colonial possessions of the country. My Lords, I cannot pass from this part of the subject without expressing my utmost satisfaction at the manner in which Lord Gosford and Sir J. Colborne have conducted themselves throughout the painful times and circumstances in which they have been placed. Lord Gosford has been in a most difficult situation; he has been in such a position as to be almost compelled to give offence to both parties, yet he has conducted himself in a manner which will receive the approbation of all. I am persuaded that his conduct will give satisfaction when the asperities of both parties have given way to a better state of things; it will then be acknowledged that he has shown great moderation, with a laudable desire to conciliate; but that when the occasion required it he did not fail to manifest the proper degree of firmness and a resolute determination to support the honour and character of the British Crown. Of Sir John Colborne it is not necessary to speak; his character as a military man is too well established to require any eulogy from me. Such being the state of things, such being the situation of affairs in that colony, the district of Montreal by the latest accounts appearing to be in a state of revolt, it becomes us to consider in what manner we ought to act in this crisis. With respect to the immediate suppression of the insurrection, it is to be hoped there are the means (and the latest accounts justify us in that hope) in the power of the local Government to bring that state of affairs to a successful issue. But then the question arises, what course ought we to pursue with respect to the general government of the colony, in order to ensure its future prosperity? At present the actual Government may be said to be in a state of abeyance. For some years past the Legislative Council has been superseded by the conduct of the House of 174 Assembly. It would be idle to think of again calling together the present House of Assembly, and it would be as idle to hope for any good result from a new election. It is impossible, however, to leave the Government in its present position. It is necessary we should have some sort of Government in its place—some legislative body. It appears to us that a provision ought to be made for the supply of that which may be adequate to the exigency, and that it should be limited to the exigency. It is, therefore, proposed to do by law what practically has been done by the assembly itself—it is proposed to suspend for a given period of time so much of the Constitutional Act of 1791 as relates to the functions and constitution of the legislative authority. It is proposed to place the legislative authority in a governor and council during a given period of time, three years, and during that period to direct that the laws which may be passed by that authority shall not be of a permanent character, but shall partake of the temporary nature of the authority itself. It is also provided, that it shall be competent for her Majesty, at any time prior to the expiration of that period, to restore the free constitution. Such, my Lords, is the temporary expedient proposed as a substitute for the constitution which has been for some time suspended. It is undoubtedly, my Lords, a measure of severity—it is an arbitrary measure; but I submit it is a measure which is absolutely necessary under the existing circumstances. It is a measure that is due for the protection of the English population in that country, and that is necessary to the preservation of the common bonds of society. But, my Lords, it is not enough to provide a merely temporary expedient—it is right that we should look forward to that period when tranquillity may be restored—it is right that we should contemplate the time when the functions of a free constitution may be resumed. Let it not be imagined that it is quite inconsistent with a measure of this nature that at the same moment that we contemplate it we look forward to the period when a better system may be substituted. Though it may be advisable to enact a measure of severity, let us also entertain the hope and intention of returning to a better state of things. The question, then, is, what steps are necessary to be taken? With respect to the restoration of peace in Lower Canada, and the settlement of those questions which now agitate that province, the interests of 175 Upper Canada, must of course, be taken into consideration. In taking steps with a view to a permanent settlement of the affairs of Lower Canada reference must be had to all those questions which are equally applicable to the upper province. The various questions affecting the two provinces are of such importance as to require from Government the strictest attention. Amongst others there are the navigation of the St. Lawrence, the duties by which the commerce of two provinces is to be regulated, their railroads, their bridges, their internal communication, and their monetary system. It is at the same time essential that the disputes between Upper and Lower Canada should be put an end to. Various plans have been suggested for the attainment of these objects. Among others it has been proposed that the lower province should be dismembered, that the city and district of Montreal should be annexed to Upper Canada. This, of course, my Lords, is not a plan which we can entertain, and I do not know that it would tend to reconcile the feeling of both parties; but I believe rather that it would have the effect of transferring the feuds of Lower Canada to the upper provinces. Another proposition which has been much insisted upon is a legislative union between the two provinces. To that there are very strong objections. The great extent of the two provinces, the difference between the habits of the people inhabiting them, the great inconvenience of meeting at such a distance as the common place of resort must be, and other objections of a formidable nature, appear as obstacles to this plan; and, above all, it is not likely that the upper province would consent to such an arrangement. A better prospect might be obtained by a federal union; this would have a very considerable effect in adjusting the disputes between the provinces. It would give the upper province a just influence over those great questions to which I have alluded, and would I should think, satisfy the inhabitants of that district. It would, at the same time, by bringing together the natives of the two provinces to discuss measures of mutual interest, induce them to give their attention to subjects of greater importance; it would enlarge and liberalise their views, and raise them above those narrow and local questions which have hitherto divided them. But, in this, also, I am not aware that the upper province acquiesces; and it is, therefore, my Lords, proposed that something analogous should be attempted by the 176 Governor who is selected by her Majesty for the Government of Lower Canada. It is proposed that the Governor be authorised to invite from the two provinces persons who may be justly supposed to represent the feelings and wishes of the people of the two provinces, and to consult them as to the measures it may be advisable to adopt, both with regard to the constitution of Lower Canada, and for the purpose of some arrangement of those matters, which are of common interest to the two provinces. If it be asked what advantages are to be gained from this proposal, I answer that in some respects I have touched on them in adverting to the federal union; and though, in a far greater degree, something similar may, I think, be effected. At all events, the Governor may be able to ascertain what opinion the two provinces entertain with respect to the constitution originally given to them, and with respect to those amendments—some amendments being admitted on all hands to be requisite—which it is desirable to effect. It is at the same time probable that he will be able to submit to Parliament measures relating to the adjustment of existing differences. [The Earl of Ripon: When?] Of course it will be for the Governor to choose the time. The proposal is, that he invite both Legislatures to nominate a certain number of persons.
§ The Earl of Ripon
inquired what arrangement would be made, supposing the House of Assembly to be suspended?
§ Lord Glenelg
the Legislature of Lower Canada being suspended, it is proposed to endeavour to obtain some persons who will fitly represent the opinions of Lower Canada. The mode suggested is, that the Governor call on the electors of Lower Canada to elect proper persons. There are now five districts in Lower Canada, from which we propose to have these representatives chosen under the present franchise by the whole of the present electors. At the same time a power is to be given to the Governor to select the best time in which to call for an assembly of the electors. Such, my Lords, are the outlines of the measure which the Government proposes to carry into effect. This latter part, as I have stated, will, of course, not form an enactment in the Bill; but it is considered to be an essential part of the plan. Having stated generally the manner in which the Government are prepared to meet the present emergency, I shall now merely refer to the motion I intend to propose to 177 your Lordships, and I do not think it necessary to enlarge on that subject, for I cannot but persuade myself that your Lordships will at once accede to it. His Lordship concluded by moving the address which he had read at the commencement of his speech.
§ * From a corrected edition, published by Ridgway, with the following preface as a defence of the noble Lord, which it seems right to preserve;—
§ It has been considered right by many of the friends of peace and of liberal policy, to publish this speech separately, chiefly in order that the attention of men may be directed to the important questions connected with the future lot of the North American colonies, when the ferment excited by late unhappy events shall subside. The whole history of these transactions is calculated to throw light upon the inevitable mischiefs of extended colonial empire; and there is a further argument of the same kind derivable from the unquestionable fact, that in even the reformed Parliament the misgovernment of a remote and unrepresented province, has encountered but very little opposition from many of those who are always found most reluctant to suffer the least oppression if attempted upon any portion of the mother country.
§ The comments which this speech contains upon the conduct of the Government have been complained of—as if Lord Brougham had some duty to perform of suppressing his opinions upon the most important questions that can occupy the attention of statesmen; and as if especially the Colonial Minister had a right to complain of strictures openly made upon his public conduct.
§ It is, however, well known, that Lord Brougham never showed any disposition to censure the present Government until they adopted a course wholly at variance with his oftentimes recorded opinions. As long as he could support them, the history of Parliament shows that he rendered them every assistance in his power; nor did he ever while in office exert himself more or spare himself less than in their defence in 1835, and in carrying through the House of Lords the great measure of Municipal Reform.—In the summer of 1836, he refrained from all complaint when he saw his measures for preventing pluralities and non-residences abandoned, and a Bill introduced upon opposite principles.—In 1837, he continued to lend them support on all but one or two occasions, when it was impossible to approve their conduct—and on the Canada resolutions especially, last May, he was compelled to oppose them—a duty which he performed with manifest reluctance. He had during that Session, 1837, expressed his opinions178
§ honour to bear last summer in this House, when the Commons sent up those ill-fated resolutions to which I trace the whole of the present disasters, impels me to present myself thus early, and to obtrude upon your Lordships my sentiments regarding the important question before you. And, my Lords, I wish that, in following my noble Friend over the ground which he
§ upon the necessity of altering the Reform Bill in essential particulars, and especially of extending the elective franchise. The present Session was unhappily opened with a declaration on the part of the Government as a body, that they took a view wholly different from that of most reformers; indeed, of the great body of the Liberal party throughout the country. To this has been added their support of a policy by which the rights of the subject are invaded, and the maintenance of peace itself put in jeopardy. They who complain of Lord Brougham—(the Ministers themselves are assuredly not of the number)—for adhering to his declared opinions, are respectfully requested to assign any reason why he should abandon his own principles—those which he has maintained, without the least deviation, throughout his whole life—merely that he may support the Ministers who had most conscientiously no doubt, though for the country most unfortunately, seen fit to adopt other views. Thus much as to the claims of the Governmental large, not only to form new opinions, and follow an altered course, but to carry along with them others whom their reasonings have wholly failed to convince.
§ Now, as to the Colonial Secretary, the party whose conduct is principally involved in the question of Ministerial responsibility for the present state of the North American provinces;—It is well known that Lord Brougham never showed any backwardness in coming down to his defence when he observed him unjustly attacked. No man can be better aware of this than the noble Lord himself; with whom, however, it is understood that Lord Brougham never had any intercourse save that of an official nature while a Member of the same Government. But they who complain on the noble Secretary's behalf (he himself, assuredly, is not of the number), are respectfully requested to assign any reason why full licence having been always allowed him, and some of his principal colleagues, to form their own opinions—with them to oppose Parliamentary Reform up to the 1st March, 1831—to defend the Manchester massacre—to support the Six Acts—to remove Lord Fitzwilliam from office for attending a Parliamentary Reform meeting at York—to oppose Lord Brougham's motion on the case of Smith the missionary—why, those noble persons having without any blame whatever been suffered formerly to hold such courses—and having, so179
§ has just trodden, I could confine myself to the space he has travelled over without trespassing upon other more delicate parts of it. But it never seems to have struck him that when a Minister of the Crown comes to Parliament with a proposition, not merely such as the address contains, but such as we are warned is to follow swiftly upon the address—a demand of extraordinary aid for the executive Government—measures of a high prerogative and unconstitutional kind—it never has struck him, that the Minister who resorts to Parliament for the help of its extreme powers, in applying remedies of the last description—has something more to do then merely to ask for those remedies and shew their necessity—that he has to explain whence the necessity arises; to
§ happily for the country, and so honourably for themselves, adopted a different line of policy from November 1830 to November 1837, Lord Brougham alone should be complained of, for continuing since November 1837 to abide by the very same principles which he had not taken up for the very first time in November 1830, but held in all former times? It is respectfully asked, what right they who now complain of Lord Brougham for differing from the noble Secretary of State, have to expect that he should rather differ from his former self, than from his former colleague; and while yet unable to partake of the convictions that have come over others, should abandon that devotion to the cause of freedom, and of peace, to which his public life had been consecrated?
§ The accident of members of a party feeling themselves under the necessity of opposing, upon some great occasion, those with whom it is their general wish to act, although unfortunate, is by no means unprecedented. When, in consequence of their friends being in office, almost all the Whigs were found, during twelve months of the last war to relax in their desire of peace, retrenchment and reform, Mr. Whitbread—a name never to be pronounced without reverence and affection by Englishmen—alone opposed the measures of the Administration, that he might adhere to his principles. In 1820, Lord Brougham declared in his place, that he stood wholly aloof from his party, on all that related to the case of the late Queen, because there appeared a danger of her interests being, without any blame, sacrificed to other, possibly more important, considerations. There seems no good reason why he should not pursue the same course, when it is understood, that he now very sincerely, though perhaps quite erroneously, believes a sacrifice is made of principles, incomparably more important—the most sacred principles which used to bind the Liberal party together; and180
§ defend the conduct which has led to this crisis in our affairs; to repel from himself and the Ministry whereof he is parcel, the charge of having brought the colonial Empire committed to his care, into such a state, that we are assembled at this unwonted season, for the purpose of quelling a rebellion in the principal settlement of the Crown, preventing if we can the recurrence of disaffection, and suspending the free Constitution of the province, in order to secure its peace. Are these every-day occurrences? Are revolt and civil war of such an ordinary aspect that they pass over us like a summer's cloud and be regarded not? Are the demands of despotic power by the Crown, and the suspension of the whole liberties of the subject, mere matters of course in the
§ when so many men are firmly persuaded that, but for the accident of the party being in office, they would have joined in pursuing the same course which Mr. Fox and Mr. Burke followed with such signal glory in the former American war.
§ It is probable, that Lord Brougham, in choosing to continue in that course, has had little fear of thereby impairing the strength of the present Government—that may be greater or it may be less; but there can be very little chance of any diminution befalling it, while its party supporters, be they more or less numerous, both in Parliament and in the country—more especially in many of the corporations—appear to be so firmly held together by the common principle which guides their conduct. That principle is one in some respects well grounded, and forms indeed the foundation of all party connexions. When not pushed too far, it is justifiable and it is useful. It teaches men to overlook minor differences of opinion, for the purpose of effecting common objects of superior importance, and warns them against the fatal error so well described by Mr. Fox, of giving up all to an enemy rather than anything to a friend.—It is, however, equally manifest, that the abuse of this doctrine may lead to a justification of the very worst misconduct—may be used as a cover for the most sordid speculations of private interest—and may sap the foundation of all public principle whatever. It is to be hoped, that the party zeal of those above referred to, may not lead them to such excesses. But for the present it does appear to have made the most grave questions of national polity—retrenchment—slavery—colonial rights—constitutional principle—peace itself—all sink into nothing compared with the single object of maintaining a particular class of men in power—and invested with the patronage of the Crown, as well as intrusted with the affairs of the empire.181
§ conduct of Parliamentary business? Are such demands as these to be granted the instant they are made, without any question asked—without one word said upon the antecedent parts of the novel and portentous case—without any attempt, whatever to explain or to defend the maladministration which has terminated in the necessity of those demands—without even one allusion to the obvious questions—who caused this disastrous state of things?—whose fault is it that such powers are become requisite?—whose misconduct caused the rebellion to burst forth?—whose neglect of all timely precautions fostered discontent till it ripened into disaffection?—whose unpolitic councils first stirred up the discord—and whose misapplication of the national resources fanned the disaffection into a flame? Yet, strange to tell! looking from the beginning to the end of my noble Friend's statement, distinct and lucid as it was—to this hour I cannot descry one explanation offered—one justification attempted—one position taken or defended with the design of protecting himself against the charges which have rung all over the country for weeks, from one end of it to the other, and all pointed against him and his colleagues in the service of the Crown! But, my Lords, I cannot consent so to abandon my duty, as to pass this matter thus over. I feel myself bound to enter upon the subject of these charges at once. I cannot follow the Colonial Minister in the course which he has found it convenient to take of flying away from the real matter in discussion, or allow him to claim the extraordinary and unconstitutional powers which he asks, as if he were discharging some common duty of mere official routine—moving for yearly returns—laying sessional papers before the House—or calling for a vote to supply the yearly expenses of his department in the ordinary circumstances of tranquil times. There was, indeed, one remark made by him that might seem an exception to the account I have given of his speech. He attempted some defence against the great and leading accusation of having sent over the offensive resolutions and providing no force to support them. But I shall presently show your Lordships that the explanation he gave made his case much worse, and that he left the charge more grave and formidable if possible than he found it.182
§ I will now come to the course of his proceedings at large, and first of all to the interval alluded to by the noble Baron opposite (Lord Ellenborough), when we last met—the period which elapsed between the dispatch of the 20th of November 1836, promising instructions to the Governor of Canada, and the 11th of March, 1837, the date of the next dispatch.—It is not true, says the noble Lord, that near four months elapsed between the promise and the non-performance (for the dispatch of March gives no instructions); a small interval only occurred; a letter was written about the middle of February, but it was private and cannot regularly be produced or even alluded to, says the noble Lord. A shorter production than that of March—shorter in point of physical dimensions for one falling shorter of its purpose there could assuredly not be—but mathematically smaller.—
Really, then, I must say, this is the most extraordinary mode of selecting papery for the information of the Parliament or the exculpation of the Ministers, that in my whole life I ever heard of. The dispatch of March, which is of no value whatever, which tells absolutely nothing, is produced. The dispatch of July, which may be of some value, and may tell something (I cannot know that it does till I see it), is withheld. Why is it not here with the other? My noble Friend affirms, that it has something in it; at any rate that it is long; and he is exceeding wroth with me for curtailing it of its fair proportions. Anxious, like a good parent, for the credit of his offspring, he extols its size, without, however, letting his natural partiality carry him the length of asserting that its value is in proportion to its bulk. Nevertheless, I will, if he pleases, assume it to be so. I will suppose that, instead of containing nothing, like its predecessor of November and its successor of March, and, indeed, that long train of phantom letters which followed each other "stretching out to the crack of doom," it really told the provincial governor something of the intentions of the Ministry; something of the course he was to pursue;—then, I ask, why we have it not produced, that we, too, may know what that something was which was thus conveyed across the Atlantic at 183 a critical moment, a year ago? Why are we not to see that which tells something and only that which tells nothing at all? That is my question; a simple one, and 1 should think easily to be answered; and if my noble Friend will give it an answer, I shall readily pause in order to be spared the necessity of dwelling longer on this point of debate, willing enough, God knows, where there remain so many others which it is impossible to pass over, that I should be spared the task of dealing with any one which is superfluous. The mysterious description of this letter is to me incomprehensible, as given by my noble Friend. It was a private one. But what can that signify? Whether a dispatch begins My Lord, or My dear Lord, and ends with "the Honour to be,"—or with "Your's truly"—I had always thought made no kind of difference in its nature, provided the matter of it was public business. The test of production is the letter relating or not to the affairs on which the Parliament has been convoked, and the Sovereign is to be addressed. Nor did I ever yet hear of any Minister refusing to produce a paper, whatever its form might be, which bore that relation, unless, indeed, he had his own reasons for suppressing it. But to refuse it on the pretence of its being private, and yet to use it as a proof that the promise of November was fulfilled in February, while the only papers produced show that it was never fulfilled at all, is one of the most extravagant draughts ever made upon the unsuspecting confidence of Parliament.
It is on the 20th of November, then, that a promise of ample instructions is given to the governor. The next dispatch produced is on the 1lth of March; when, instead of fulfilling the promise, now four months old, new promises are made, new hopes of instructions held out, to be realised as soon as the decision of Parliament shall be pronounced upon the case. The promissory letter of November, and the promissory note of February, are, as it were, renewed, but at an uncertain date. When was the decision of Parliament asked? As early as the 6th of March, and after passing some of the principal resolutions, including, indeed, the most material of the whole, that refusing an elective council, the Easter recess comes to the relief of the Colonial Department, and Parliament is adjourned. But it meets again on the 6th of April, 184 and assuredly neither before nor after the vacation does it testify any great reluctance to comply with the Ministerial desires From all parts of the country the Members flock to their support against the hapless province which has been denounced. From all parts of the empire the Parliamentary host assembles. Does there appear in any quarter a disposition to be over-nice about the votes given—over scrupulous as to the principles asserted? Do any of the Ministerial supporters, of that staunch and trusty band to whom the Government is indebted for its majority—betray any squeamishness what measures they shall sanction—what votes they shall give? Is any wish betokened to scrutinize very narrowly the plans or the propositions of the Cabinet before they declare them unexceptionable? On the contrary, so the Ministers leave the concerns of the Sister Kingdom untouched, and administer its more practical affairs to the taste of its Representatives—there is no inclination whatever evinced to make any kind of difficulty about any kind of measure—how violent so ever, how coercive soever,—that may be propounded for quelling the spirit and completing the misgovernment of any other portion of the whole empire. I confess myself, then, quite unable to comprehend why all this delay of the necessary orders should be made to turn upon the affected ignorance of what course Parliament was likely to take upon resolutions which were sure to be carried through the one House by unexampled majorities—through the other with scarce a single dissentient voice. Yet still not a word is wafted across the ocean more substantial for the guidance of the unhappy governor, than empty promises of orders—notices that some instructions will hereafter be sped towards him. This system, I own, puzzles me not a little. I can well understand the use of notices where there is to be debate and resistance to your propositions. When a question is to arise upon what you propose, that its merits may be discussed, and that its adversaries may be warned to attend the controversy. I can easily conceive the use of giving them intimation; though even then such intimations as the dispatches give, specifying no time at all, would be of no great avail. But what sense can there be in giving your servant a general notice of orders to be after- 185 wards issued, when all he has to do must be, not to debate but to obey? Does he require notice in order to make up his mind to comply? Or is he called upon to consider in the interval, whether he shall resist or do as he is bid? And yet the noble Lord's dispatches are stuffed so full of mere notices, that 1 know of nothing in this respect at all equal to it unless it be the order book of the other House of Parliament on the first day of a Session after a general election. The notice, however, being given, and the promise made in November, in the fulness of time, at the end of April, comes the expected dispatch; a six months' child is brought forth,—it makes a cry,—struggles for life—and is heard no more. I defy the wit of man to suggest the purpose of the November dispatch, or of the March one, which, instead of instruction, conveys merely a report of the divisions in the Commons, as the newspapers would have done with equal, and the original document, the votes, with greater, authority; but still less can any one divine the purpose for which the dispatch of April was called into a premature and precarious existence; for, instead of redeeming the oftentimes repeated pledge by letting the Government know what he was to do, it merely brings down the report of the divisions, and adds carefully the yet more useless information of the lists of the Members' names. The resolutions, says my noble Friend, have all been passed, by large majorities, and I enclose, "for your Lordship's information, extracts from the proceedings of the House, containing a statement of the several divisions which have taken place on this subject since I last addressed you." Then as to the introduction of the Bill itself, that it seems "must be postponed till after the opinion of the House of Lords shall have been taken;" about which there seems to be entertained some doubt, to me, I confess, rather unintelligible, considering that but one voice was at all likely to be raised in this place against any of the resolutions. But the noble Lord adds, "I have every reason to anticipate that the Bill will be submitted to Parliament within a very short period," and this was written on the 29th of April. Then come promises in abundance. "So soon," says my noble Friend, "as the resolutions shall have been disposed of by the House of Lords, I shall address to your Lordship full instruc- 186 tions on the steps which should be adopted under existing circumstances, especially with reference to the composition of both the legislative and executive councils. Your Lordship may rely on receiving them in ample time, to enable you to prepare for the meeting of the Legislature." Did he rely on receiving them in time? I know not—but if he did he was grievously-deceived. I shall presently shew your Lordships that he did not receive them till long after the Parliament had met and been prorogued, and I shall demonstrate that most fatal effects were produced by these instructions not arriving. After adverting to the time of the Colonial Legislature meeting, and stating that the Governor was the best judge of this, the dispatch goes on to say:—"I shall however, distinctly advert to this point in connexion with the other matters on which I shall have to address your Lordship, and I only refer to it now that you may be aware it will not be overlooked." Really, I can hardly admit that this would be the necessary effect on the governor's mind of such a reference; so many things had been so often referred to, all of which had in succession been entirely overlooked, that I am rather apprehensive, the reference to this question (which, by the way, it is admitted Lord Gosford alone could decide), frustrated its own object, and was fitted to make him expect that this point of future instruction would be overlooked like all its predecessors. But another reason is given for the prospective reference—"and in order that your own attention may be directed to it in the meantime." To it? "To what?" exclaims the governor, "for as yet you have told me nothing. How shall I direct my attention in the mean time, to that of which you withhold from me all knowledge?" The thing seems incredible, and we must keep the eye steadily fixed upon the original document lest unbelief get the mastery of us. "With a view," the dispatch proceeds—for there was a view with which Lord Gosford was to keep his attention fixed upon an unknown instruction, to arrive at an uncertain time, he was to ponder upon the question of the time of meeting Parliament which he alone could solve, directing his attention to the instructions on that subject, to be sent by those who could form no judgment upon it, and in utter ignorance of the purport of those instructions on which he 187 was to be all the while reflecting. And what think you, my Lords, was this view with which he was to attend and reflect? What was the reason why his attention should be fixed upon nothing, why his eyes should be directed to glare upon darkness or vacant space? "With the view," concludes this unparalleled letter, "to the sound exercise of that discretion"—some faint semblance there is here, the approach, at least, of some definite matter—but it vanishes instantly like all the rest—"that discretion which it may probably be expedient to leave in your Lordship's hands, with regard to it!"—So the governor is informed that at some future, but uncertain, time, he shall be told something of importance which is carefully concealed from him; the reason, however, is given for warning him that he may expect it, namely, that he may be enabled to occupy the awful interval between reading what tells him nothing, and receiving what is to tell him he knows not what, in making up his mind how he shall act in unknown circumstances, upon undisclosed instructions, and exercise "a sound discretion" upon the undiscovered matter, there being a grave doubt intimated in the same breath, whether or not any discretion at all may ever "be left in his hands." To such orders was Lord Gosford's conduct subject; by such instructions was he to be guided; in such circumstances, and leading to such results, was his discretion to be exercised. My Lords, let us in justice towards an absent man—let us in fairness towards one, who, because he is absent, is by the common proverb, so little creditable to human candour, assumed to be in the wrong—pause for a moment, to consider whether one so situated and so treated, even if his conduct had been the most defective, and had the least satisfied his superiors, would justly have been visited with blame, or at least let us say whether the blame, must not have been largely shared by his employers? Mark, I beseech you, in what position he is left. Sent to the advanced posts of the empire—at a distance from the seat of Government—far removed from the wisdom, the vigour, the resources of those councils which rule our affairs—unprovided with any but the ordinary force of the colony, the force adapted to peaceful times; and with this inadequate force appointed to meet a crisis brought on by his employers, a crisis unparalleled in the 188 affairs of the province—mark, I say, the helpless position of this noble person, so unaided by adequate resources, so surrounded by extreme perils, and instead of being instructed how he is to act, told by those who first planted him there, then surrounded him with danger, and at the same time refused him help to meet it, that at a future day he shall be informed how he is to comport himself; that for the present he is to know nothing; and that he may be making up his mind by guess work how he shall act when he may be told what he should do! But my Lords! I say it is not Lord Gosford only, whose situation you are to mark and to compassionate—Look to the provinces committed to his care! If you will have dominions in every clime; if you will rule subjects by millions on the opposite sides of this globe; if you will undertake to administer a Government that stretches itself over both hemispheres, and boast an empire on which the sun never sets—it is well. Whether this desire be prudent or impolitic for yourselves, I ask not—whether its fruits be auspicious or baneful to our own interests—I stop not to inquire; nor do I raise the question, whether to the distant millions over whom you thus assume dominion, this mighty and remote sceptre be a blessing or a curse. But of one thing I am absolutely certain; at all events this resolution to have so vast an empire imposes upon you the paramount duty of wakefulness over its concerns—it prescribes the condition that you shall be alive to its administration—vigilant at all times—that you shall not slumber over it, neither sleep, nor like the sluggard fold the hands to sleep, as if your orders were issued to a district, each corner of which the eye could at each moment command—or a kingdom, the communication with all parts of which is open every day and every hour, and where all the orders you may issue, are to be executed in the selfsame circumstances in which they were conceived and were framed. That is the condition upon which such mighty empires must be holden—that is the difficulty which exists in the tenure; hard to grapple with—perilous to be possessed of—not wholesome it may be, either for the colony or the parent state, should they long remain knit together—but at all events the condition, sine quâ non, of having to administer such arduous concerns.
But let us, my Lords, resume the his- 189 tory of these transactions. The resolutions were introduced and in part were adopted by the Commons, on the 6th of March. Parliament having re-assembled on the 6th of April, they were not brought before your Lordships, till the 9th of May, when you passed them with only my dissenting voice. Now both Lord Gosford and the Parliament had been assured that the resolutions should be followed up by immediate action, as indeed the plainest dictates of all sound policy required, and that the bill to make them operative should be introduced without delay. Was it so? Was any thing like this done? No. Nothing of the kind. Day after day passed; week after week glided away; and up to the middle of June, when the lamented illness of the Sovereign ended in a demise of the Crown, no one step had been taken to convert the resolutions into a legislative measure. Yet did any man living doubt what the inevitable effect of these resolutions must be? They were not conciliatory, they were any thing but conciliatory.—They were coercive, they meant refusal, they meant repression—or they meant nothing. They imported a repulsive denial of the Canadian's prayers—a peremptory negative to his long pressed claims—an inexorable refusal of his dearly cherished desires. This might be quite right and necessary. I don't now argue that question—but at any rate it was harsh and repulsive. Nor was there the least accompaniment of kindness, the smallest infusion of tenderness, to sweeten the cup which we commended to his lips. His anxious wish was for an Elective Council. This was strongly, unequivocally, universally expressed. Far from relaxing, the feeling-had grown more intense; far from losing influence, it had spread more widely year by year. Instead of being expressed by majorities in the Assembly, of two to one, of the people there represented, after the last dissolution that had increased in the proportion of fourteen to one, the representatives of 477,000 against those of 34,000 only. Never let this fact for an instant pass from the recollection of your Lordships—it lies at the root of the whole argument, and should govern our judgment on every part of the case. It is a fact which cannot be denied, and it indicates a posture of affairs which all attempts to change must be vain. How were the resolutions formed to meet this state of the 190 public mind? How did the Parliament, the Reformed Parliament of England, meet the all but unanimous prayer of the Canadian people? By an unanimous vote of this House, by a majority in the other, nearly as great as that which in the provincial Parliament supported the improvement so anxiously solicited, the people of Canada were told that they had no hope, and that from the parent state they never would obtain the dearest object of all their wishes. But was there on the other hand no tenderness displayed to soften the harshness of the refusal—no boon offered to mitigate the harsh, the repulsive, the vexatious act of turning to their prayers a deaf ear, and putting an extinguisher on all their hopes? There was. You had given them in 1831 the power of the purse; had told them that they should no longer have to complain of possessing the British constitution in name, while in substance they had it not; had "kindly and cordially," such were your words, conferred on them a privilege that should place them on the self-same footing with the British Parliament, secure to them the substantial power of granting, postponing, or refusing supplies, instead of the mere shadow of a free constitution, which they had before been mocked with. You had told them that in future the means were theirs of protecting their rights from encroachment; that they could thenceforth enforce their claims of right; that they could insist upon redress of their grievances by withholding supplies, while the redress was refused. But what do you offer them in 1837, by way of sweetening the bitter refusal of their prayer for an Elective Council? You absolutely mingle with this nauseous potion, not a repeal of the act of 1831, but a declaration that for using its provisions—for exercising the option it gave of refusing supplies—for employing the powers it conferred, in the very way in which you intended, or at least professed to intend they should be employed, to enforce a redress of grievances,—you would set the act and all its provisions at nought, appropriate their money without their consent, and seize their chest by main force, in spite of their teeth, because they had done what you took credit six years ago for giving them the right to do—withheld their money until they had obtained redress! Such were the resolutions; such their import and intention. I am not now arguing 191 their merits. I am not about proving their monstrous cruelty—their outrageous injustice. But I ask if any human being ever existed in this whole world moon-stricken to the excess of doubting for one instant of time, what must be the effect of their arrival in Canada? Some there may be who viewed them with a more favourable eye than others; some who deemed them justifiable, some even necessary; while others abhorred them as tyrannical and without the shadow of justification; some again might apprehend a more instantaneous revolt to be risked by them than others dreaded, and some might differ as to the extent and the efficacy of that commotion; but where was the man of any class, whether among the authors of the resolutions, and their supporters, or their enemies, or the by-standers, among those of liberal principles who were struck with dismay at the shame in which their leaders were wrapt, or among those of opposite opinions who exulted to see the liberal cause disgraced and ruined—where, I demand, among them all was the man endued with understanding enough to make his opinion worth the trouble of asking for it, who ever doubled that the arival of these detested resolutions in Canada must be the signal of revolt, at least the immediate cause of wide-spreading discontent and disaffection through out the Province? The event speedily justified this universal apprehension. I might appeal to the ordinary channels of information; to the public papers of America as well as of Canada; to what formed the topic of conversation in every political circle, both of the Old world and the New; but I will only refer you to these papers, meagre and imperfect as they are, for they contain abundant proofs of the fact which I state; and in the face of these disclosures, reluctant and scanty though they be, I will defy my noble Friends to gainsay the statement I have made. I may here observe, that as several of the dispatches give so little information that they might without any detriment to the question have been withheld, so some have manifestly been kept back, of which the Government are unquestionably possessed, and which would throw light upon this part of the subject; although those produced give us plain indications what has been suppressed. Thus the dispatches of the 2nd, 8th, and 9th of September, shew to an attentive reader, as strikingly as 192 anything in the late deplorable Gazettes themselves, the progress of that discontent which has been suffered to break out into rebellion. In the first, Lord Gosford states that he thinks it may become necessary to suspend the constitution—not an indication, surely, of things being in a satisfactory or a tranquil state. It) the last of the three letters, he says, "up to this day (not at once, but in a course of time) he has been obliged to dismiss fifty-three magistrates and public officers;" and for what? The magistrates for attending unlawful meetings, and the officers for seditious practices. What stale of things does this betoken? And how plainly does it shew that the evil was not of yesterday? Manifestly the dismissals had been going on for a time, and notice of them had been communicated to the Government at home; but how happens it that no other intimation is given of so grave a matter except in this one dispatch? Then in the letter of the 8th September, Lord Gosford describes a Central Committee as having been formed by the disaffected, from which orders were issued to what he calls "the Local Committees." The Local Committees! Yet we find no mention whatever of any Local Committees in any of the other letters produced for our information! The use of the definite article plainly shows that the governor had in some previous dispatch described those bodies to which he here refers without any description. When in the same sentence, he speaks of the Central Committee—evidently for the first time—he calls it "a Central Committee," and explains its nature. Clearly, then, there has been received some other letter, whether long or short, private and informal, or regular and official, informing the Government of the ominous circumstance, here only alluded to as already well known, of Local Committees having been established throughout the Province. But that other letter is kept back. The information which the supposed dispatch would disclose is not new to me, and it is of deep importance. It points at an organised system of insurrection, and it traces the system to the arrival of the resolutions in Canada. In each parish, parochial committees were formed; in each district, district committees; and these local bodies were under the orders of the Central Committee. But a judicial system was also established: in each place there were appointed arbitra- 193 tors, called amiables compositeurs, or pacificators, to whom it was required that all having suits should resort, and not to the King's courts of justice; or if any party preferred the latter, he was visited by some one who warned him that the Patriots had passed resolutions against suing in the courts of the State; his cattle were marked in the night if he persevered; and a further contumacy towards the courts of the arbitrators was visited with the maiming of his beasts the night after. This system was established and in operation as early as the beginning of September. But there are some plans which cannot be the work of a day, and of these a judicial establishment like this is surely one. We may safely calculate that months had elapsed before the things stated respecting it in these papers could exist. But I know that the plan was not confined to such committees of government, and such irregular tribunals. Men were raised, as was said, for the purposes of police; as, I believe, to be ready for resisting the Government. The pretext was the removal of so many magistrates from the commission of the peace. So that we have here all the great functions of Government usurped by the disaffected;—executive administration provided, judicial tribunals formed, and a military force levied;—and all usurped under the very eye of the Government. Why do I ascribe all these frightful results to the resolutions? My reason is plain—it is in these dispatches. Lord Gosford himself tells you what their effect was, particularly that of the eighth, respecting the money; they who were most attached to the Government, who most reprobated the proceedings of the Patriots, who least favoured the French party, were loud in their disapprobation of that eighth Resolution. I do not marvel at this, my Lords; to me it is no surprise at all; 1 expected it. I contended against the resolutions; I protested against them; I earnestly, though humbly, besought you not to plunge the country into that civil contention which I saw was inevitable the moment that eighth resolution should pass. To injury of the deepest character, it added what is worse than all injury, mockery and insult. To tell men that you gave them the British constitution, and to brag of your bounty in giving it;—to tell them that they no longer had it in form, but that now you generously bestowed on 194 them the substance;—to tell them that they now possessed the same control over the executive government which we in England have, and which is the cornerstone of our free constitution;—to tell them that you gave them the power of stopping supplies, for the purpose of arming them with the means of protecting their rights from the encroachments of tyranny, and of obtaining a redress of all grievances;—bragging of your liberality in thus enabling them to seek and to get, by these means, that redress; and then, the very first time they use the power so given, for the very purpose for which you gave it, to leave them nominally in possession of it, to pass by it, to disregard it, to act as if you never had given it at all, and to seize hold of the money, to send a file of soldiers and pillage the chest of that fund which you pretended you had given them, and them alone, the absolute power over—this surely is a mockery and an insult, in the outrageous nature of which, the injury itself offered merges and is lost. But I am not now arguing the merits of these ill-fated proceedings. Let them have been ever so justifiable, I have nothing to say against them. They were adopted by the wisdom of Parliament, and it is too late to discuss—it is unavailing to lament it; but this at least we may say, that when such a course as this was taken, known beforehand to the Government, to its advisers who could not be taken unprepared by it—who had been deliberating on it from the 20th November, 1836, to the unknown date of the suppressed dispatch in July, and thence to that of the next not very instructive, but at least forthcoming, dispatch of April 29—the Ministers were aware of the measure they had conceived,—they knew its tendency,—they must have made up their mind to its effects,—they had resolved to inflict the grievous injury and offer the intolerable insult yet worse than the injury. Was there ever yet imbecility—was there ever confusion or want of ideas—ever yet inexplicable policy, (if I might prostitute such a name to such a base use,)—was ever there seen in the history of human blunders and incapacity anything to match this of wronging, and mocking, and insulting, and yet taking no one step by way of precaution against the inevitable effect of the outrage offered, and to prevent the disaffection into which you were goading them from bursting out into 195 revolt, and the revolt from proving successful? The Canadian people are told—You shall be defeated, and oppressed, and scorned, and insulted, and goaded to resent, but care shall all the while be taken that nothing is done to prevent the irritation we are causing from bringing on rebellion, and should rebellion peradventure ensue, no means shall be used to prevent the shedding of blood,—to protect the loyal and restrain the insurgent. My Lords, there have been before now at various times, men inclined to play a tyrant's part; to oppress the unoffending, to trample upon the liberties of mankind; men who had made up their minds to outrage the feelings of human nature for some foul purpose of their own, aggravating the wrongs they did, and exasperating the hatred they deliberately excited by insults yet more hard to be borne. These courses have had different fortunes,—sometimes the oppressor has prevailed,—sometimes he has been withstood, and punished by the people. But I will venture to assert that this is the first time such a course ever was pursued without some foresight, some precaution to enforce the policy resolved on,—some means provided to preclude resistance, and at least to guard against its effects. Tyranny and oppression has here appeared stript of its instinctive apprehension and habitual circumspection. Compared with the conduct which we are now called to contemplate, the most vacillating and imbecile, the most inconsistent and impotent rulers, rise into some station commanding respect;—King John, or Richard Cromwell himself, rises into a wise, a politic, and a vigorous prince.
But it is said that there were various reasons why these Resolutions should not be accompanied with an effective force. And first, because the event has shewn that there were troops enough already in the Colony to quell the revolt. I hope it is already put down—I do not know that it is; but assume it to be so, does not nay noble Friend see how much this proves? The defence, if it means any thing, means this—that the ordinary peace-establishment of Canada is quite large enough to meet the most extraordinary emergencies that ever yet happened in its whole history. How, then, will he meet those œconomists of our resources—those who are so niggardly and frugal of the public money, and justly complain of every 196 pound needlessly spent and every man not absolutely required for the defence of the provinces? Because if it turns out that you had in times of profound peace so large a force in the colony, as was enough to meet a most unexpected crisis, and to cope successfully with a civil war, how is the question to be answered,—"Why an army should be wanted in peace, equal to the establishment which a war requires?" Had such a question been put on any other occasion than the present, I well know the answer it would have received, because I have heard it again and again both while in office and while out of office. The answer would assuredly have been: We keep only just force enough to meet the ordinary demands of tranquil times. Yet according to the extraordinary defence set up this night, there never are fewer troops maintained in Canada than are sufficient to meet demands of the most unexpected kind. There may a civil war any moment break out, and the Government may occasion and may quell an universal insurrection, without dispatching an additional man or gun thither. The establishment is so happily constituted as not to be too great for peace, and also not too little for war. But a second argument has been used more startling still. My noble Friend tells you that to send more men over would have had a very bad effect, because it would be admitting the Resolutions were wrong, and shewing we anticipated a resistance. Why, my Lords, is it not better to anticipate a resistance, and thereby prevent it, than to do nothing and be surprised by one? Which is the worst and most dangerous course, to be over cautious, or too supine? Is not the reality of a successful revolt infinitely more hurtful than the appearance of dreading one which may never break out? Is not a revolt far more likely to happen, and if it happen, to succeed, if you omit the ordinary and natural precautions? And suppose these prevent its happening, what the worse are you for having it said, and said unjustly, too, that you were apprehensive without cause? But then a third defence is attempted. Sending troops, says my noble Friend, would have been paying a bad compliment to the loyal zeal of the Canadians; it would have been treating them as if we could not sufficiently rely on them alone. Now, I should not much wonder if these peaceable inhabitants of the province, however loyal, and 197 however devoted, were to say, when they found themselves, through this extreme delicacy, exposed unprotected to civil war, "A truce with your compliments; send us some troops. Don't laud our zeal and loyalty at the expense of our security. Don't punish us for our good qualities. Give us less praise and more protection. Never heed the imputation you may expose us to by sending out effectual succour to those who are not military men, so that you only secure the settlement against the worst of calamities, the flames of civil war, and should they break out, their laying waste our province." Surely, my Lords, those peaceful and loyal subjects of the Crown are sorely aggrieved when you tell them that their settlement may be involved in agitation and torn by civil broils, but that still no protecting hand shall be stretched forth to stay their ruin,—that you abandon your duty towards them—the duty of protection, which alone gives you a title to the reciprocal duty of allegiance—and as surely they are mocked beside being aggrieved, when in excuse for thus deserting your duty towards them, they are told that were you to discharge it, you might appear to doubt their loyalty and their zeal. My, Lords, this is not, it cannot be, a real defence; it is an after thought. I am sorry to say, that I cannot bring myself to regard it as sincere, and but for the respect I owe my noble Friend, I could not bring myself to regard it as an honest defence. If any man had asked him six months ago, before the event, why no troops had been sent to back the odious resolutions and render resistance hopeless, he might have given various answers to a very pertinent question. I cannot, indeed, easily divine what he would have urged in explanation; but of one thing I am quite certain—I can tell at once what he would not have urged—he never would have uttered a word about the dispatch of troops indicating a distrust of Canadian loyalty or a condemnation of the eighth resolution. All this is a mere ingenious expedient resorted to after the event, and it is not, permit me to say, characterised by the accustomed candour, fairness, and ingenuousness of the noble Lord.
Well, then, thus matters went on, and thus to the very last with admirable consistency. No instructions, either as to the Legislative or Executive Council reached Canada before the Parliament of 198 the province met, although it had been distinctly promised that they should arrive before the meeting, as indeed after it they could serve no kind of purpose. Nay, the Parliament had met and been prorogued before they were even dispatched from Downing-street. I am aware, indeed, of the dispatches which bear the date of July 14th, a day remarkable in the calendar of the Colonial-office for unwonted activity—no less than four of these dispatches being all dated upon that singular day—and I know that one of these appears to contain a good deal about the constitution of the Legislative Council, but when you examine it you find nothing more than a long, a very long extract from the report of the Commissioners—so long as to require an apology in my noble Friend's letter for the length of the quotation. It seems that on this matter the three Commissioners had agreed. Their general course of proceeding had been to differ upon every thing—so that each reason assigned by the one found a satisfactory refutation in the arguments urged by his able and ingenious Colleagues. Nevertheless, they had an odd manner of often coming to the same conclusion, not only by different roads, but by travelling in diametrically opposite directions, as if to reach York they took not the Hull road or the Grantham road, but the road by Exeter or by Brighton. However, in this paper, they had for a wonder all agreed; therefore, my noble Friend catches at it, and for the edification of the Governor, sends him nearly the whole of it in the form of a dispatch, without adding one word of advice or information as to how the Governor should proceed in carrying the propositions into effect, or constructing his council—the whole practical matter being what men he should put upon it. The noble Governor was now surrounded by disaffection, and sitting upon the collected materials of an explosion; he was ruling a province on the brink of civil war, and without supplies of force, or a word of information or advice from home. So my noble Friend sends him a long quotation from the report of the Commissioners, a precaution the less necessary that the noble Lord himself, being one of those Commissioners, had himself signed that report, and might, one should suppose, very possibly be possessed of some knowledge of its contents. Nay, it was barely possible that he might 199 have a copy of the document at large. So careful, however, was the noble Secretary of State, that he thought it better to send him a part of it, as he was pretty certainly already in possession of the whole. Nothing more is done till August 22nd, when at length a dispatch is forwarded, with full instructions as to the composition of the Council. The dispatches before sent had contained only a very partial and entirely provisional power of appointment. But the difference between the two dates is in fact quite immaterial; for if all that was sent in August, had been sent in July, it was too late—the Parliament met on the 18th of August, and unless the powers had arrived before that day, they were absolutely useless; not to mention that a proclamation issued in June, shews the colony to have been then on the verge of rebellion. The provincial Parliament met—nothing but the resolutions was laid before them—nothing but refusal and coercion, disappointment and mockery, were tendered to them, without a single proposition to soften the harshness of the refusal, or mitigate the bitterness of the insult. The provinces were now arrayed in opposition, and preparing resistance to the Government,—an extensive system of combination was established,—civil, judicial, and military powers were exercised by the patriots. It was now too late to soothe, by the appointment of councillors, whose names, a few weeks earlier, might have given confidence to the people, and paved the way for a restoration of kindly feelings towards the Government; they had already gotten the local Committees,—their central body—their amiables compositeurs, their police-bands.—On the one hand, hope had been held out never to be realised—promises made only to be broken. On the other hand, resolutions of coercion had been passed amounting to hateful threats, to be followed immediately by bills, but these were never so much as proposed to Parliament. The insurrection breaks out—blood is spilt—the province is involved in rebellion and in war—still no legislative measures are ever framed upon the resolutions. Parliament assembles weeks after the most important information has come from the colony,—still not a word is said of anything but the new Civil-list; and instead of the often promised Bill to carry the resolutions of April and May into effect, an entirely new Bill is an- 200 nounced, upon a wholly different plan, and to meet the completely altered state of affairs.
Now, then, I ask the reason why the measures were delayed, after being distinctly promised in April? The Government are aware that this question must be answered, and I find several reasons assigned in these papers.—The first is given in one of the four dispatches of July 14th. "Much as the Government have always lamented the necessity of adopting such a measure under any circumstances, they would, at the present moment, feel a peculiar reluctance in resorting to it, as they would deeply regret that one of the first legislative acts of her most gracious Majesty's reign, should carry even the semblance of an ungracious spirit towards the representatives of her loyal and faithful subjects in that province." If, then, even "the semblance of an ungracious spirit towards the loyal and faithful subjects," is so "deeply regretted" by my noble Friend, what thinks he of the reality of an audacious spirit of resistance to the Sovereign herself? Does he not consider that it would have been quite as well to avoid such empty, unmeaning compliments to his Sovereign, and discharge the imperative duty cast upon him, of maintaining her authority and protecting her loyal people? Would it not have been full as respectful a course, and to his Royal Mistress just as grateful, if instead of such tawdry and clumsy figures of speech, he had given her the opportunity of maintaining the peace of her dominions, by pursuing the course begun under her illustrious predecessor? My noble Friend speaks of "deep regret,"—was it then a subject of much satisfaction to him that weakness and indecision, delay and inaction, should lead from dissatisfaction to revolt, and end in shedding the blood of the people? Are these things no matter of regret, when deep regret is expressed at merely continuing in the new reign, the measures resolved upon towards the end of the old? The rose leaves on the royal couch of the young Queen, must not, it seems, be ruffled by the discharge of painful, though necessary duties.—But then was the death-bed of the aged Monarch to be studded with thorns? If the mind of the successor must not be disturbed with the more painful cares of royalty, was the dying Prince to have his last moments harassed and vexed by measures 201 of a severe and harsh aspect? Such, I presume, is the reason assigned for nothing having been done after the resolutions were passed in the beginning of May. My Lords, this is a delicate—a perilous argument. We are here treading slippery ground—we are dealing with very high matters. I affirm that I speak the language of the constitution, when I absolutely refuse my ear to all such reasons. They are resorted to for the defence of the Ministers at the expense of the Monarchy. I know nothing of the last hours of one reign—or the dawn of another—nothing in the change of Sovereigns which can lessen the responsibility of their servants, or excuse them from performing their duty to the Crown, be it of a stern and harsh nature, or be it gentle and kind. Beware, I say, how you give any countenance, aye, or any quarter to topics of defence like these. They are so many arguments against a monarchical constitution, and in favour of some other form of government. This is no discourse of mine. It is not I who am to blame for broaching this matter. You are they (to the Ministers)—you are they who have forced it into debate—and this dispatch—this dispatch is the text upon which, trust me, commentators will not be wanting!
But, my Lords, these were not the reasons of all the vacillation and all the delay. The real reason oozes out a few pages later in the book before me. I have been reading from the dispatch of June 29th; turn now to one a fortnight later, and you find that a resolution had all at once been taken to give up the eighth resolution, and ask money from Parliament here, for the Canadian service, instead of despoiling the chest at Quebec. This abandonment of the eighth resolution as to all fruits to be derived from it, is indeed unaccompanied with any benefit whatever from the surrender—the announcement of the policy, harsh and insulting, is to continue; only its enforcement is given up, and the people of England are as usual to pay the money. But see with what a magnanimous accompaniment this abandonment—this shifting of the ground is ushered in. We are now in full vigour; and we cannot boast too loudly of it, while in the very act of performing the crowning feat of impotency. "The time (says this very dispatch) has passed away in which it was right to pause and delibe- 202 rate." Some hopes, indeed, seem yet to have been entertained of amicable adjustment—it is difficult to see why—nor, indeed, does the noble Secretary of State see—for he candidly says, "hopes, resting as I must confess on no very definite ground;" yet he adds, "I cannot altogether despair that the Assembly—or some considerable portion of it, will abandon their course."—I suppose, because there was nothing whatever to make them think of doing any such thing.—My noble Friend, however, in the act of abandoning his course,—a course which he declares was "entered on by him, upon no light or ordinary motives"—adds, "To retreat from such a course would be inconsistent with our most deliberate sense of public duty." "Deprecating, therefore, (he proceeds) every appearance of vacillation where no doubt really exists"—and so forth. Then did he flatter himself, that when the appearance of vacillation was so much to be deprecated, its reality would work no harm to the public service? Did he not perceive that all he here so powerfully urges against inaction and hesitation, and oscitancy, and faltering, were triumphant arguments in favour of that line of conduct which he never once pursued? This dispatch full of reasons against vacillation, affords the most marvellous sample of it, which is to be found in the whole train of his proceedings. The resolutions were passed almost unanimously—it was resolved to take the money of the good people of Canada—it was affirmed that there must be no pause—no doubt—no vacillation—and the new determination prefaced by this announcement is, that the former resolutions about which no man (say they) can now have any doubt, shall be given to the winds, and the money taken from the pockets of the good people of England!
It would indeed seem, that just about this time some wonderful change had come over the minds of the Ministers, depriving them of their memory and lulling even their senses to repose—that something had happened, which cast them into a sweet slumber—a deep trance—such as physicians tell us, not only suspends all recollection of the past, but makes men impervious to the impressions from surrounding objects through the senses. Could this have arisen from the deep grief into which my noble Friend and his colleagues were known to have been plunged by the de- 203 cease of their kind and generous Master? No doubt that feeling must have had its day—or its hour—but it passed swiftly away—it is not in the nature of grief to endure for ever. Then how came it to pass that the trance continued? Was it that the demise of one Monarch is necessarily followed by the accession of another? Oh—doubtless its pleasing endurance must have been caused by the elevation of their late gracious Master's illustrious successor, prolonging the suspension of the faculties which grief had brought on—but changing it into that state, inexpressibly delicious, which was suited to the circumstances, so interesting, of the new reign. Or could it be, that the Whig party, having for near a hundred years been excluded from the banquet of Royal favour, had now sitten down to the rich repast with an appetite, the growth of a century's fast, and were unable to divert their attention from so pleasurable and unusual an enjoyment, to mere vulgar matters of public duty, and bring their faculties steeped in novel delight, to bear upon points so distant as Canada—affairs so trivial as the tranquillity of the most important province of the Crown, and the peace of this country—possibly of the world? All these inconsiderable interests being in jeopardy, were they insufficient to awaken our rulers from their luxurious stupor? I know not—I put the query—I suggest the doubt—I am unable to solve it—I may for aught I know have hit upon the solution; but of this I am sure, that to some such solution one is unavoidably led by the passage of the despatch which refers to the demise and accession, as the cause of the general and absolute inaction which at that critical moment prevailed. But another event was in prospect, the harbinger of almost as much joy as the prospects of the new reign—I mean the prospect of a new Parliament. The dispatch gives the approaching dissolution as one reason for the conduct, or rather the inaction of the Government—and I sincerely believe most truly—for as surely as an accession follows the dissolution of the Prince, so surely does an election follow a dissolution of his Parliament. It is not that there was any thing like a justification of the Bill not being introduced, in the approaching dissolution; for there was abundance of time to pass it between the beginning of May and the end of July when Parliament was dissolved. It could not have been much delayed in 204 the other House, where such unprecedented majorities had concurred in passing all the resolutions; and in this House, my noble Friend (Lord Melbourne) knows he can do as he likes—I mean when he is doing wrong—Illâ se jactet in Aulâ, and he is little opposed here. I am far from saying your Lordships would so readily let him do anything to advance the interests of the people, or extend their rights; but only let him invade their liberties, and he is sure to find you every way indulgent; such is your partiality for a bold and decided policy; so great your inclination to support what are termed vigorous measures! It is not, therefore, with the dissolution that I can connect the laches of the Government in the way in which they urge it as a defence. But they were impatient to get rid of the old Parliament, that they might be electing a new one, and all their attention was absorbed in their election schemes. Their hopes were high; they reckoned upon gaining largely, and little dreamt that upon their appeal to the people, instead of gaining fifty, they should lose fifteen. Those "hopes too fondly nursed," were afterwards "too rudely crossed;" but at the time, they filled their whole soul, and precluded all attention or care for other matters—whether justice to Canada, or justice to England. What passed in this House to the serious interruption of our judicial functions, may be taken as a proof how little chance any colonial affairs had of commanding a moment's regard, or delaying for a day the much wished-for general election. The report had been made to head quarters by the proper officers—those whose duty it is to preside over the gathering of the Commons—to take care that there shall be a house when it is wanted—or that there shall be none when that is expedient; and above all, whose department is to arrange the times and seasons of elections. The result was, that the interests of the Ministry were understood to require that certain writs should issue on Monday, and that on no account whatever the Parliament should be allowed to exist another day. In the general joy of the new reign and the sanguine hopes from the new Parliament, my noble Friend on the Woolsack, (Lord Cottenham) seemed himself to be a partaker. He betrayed signs of hilarity unwonted; I saw him, I can undertake to say, smile twice at that critical period, and I have heard it 205 said, that the same symptom was observed on one other occasion; but that of course passed away. We were engaged in a most important cause—a question of law—long the subject of dispute in Westminster Hall, and on which the different Courts there had widely disagreed. It had come at length before this House for decision in the last resort, and after being fully argued, the learned judges, whose assistance your Lordships had, still differing in opinion, had delivered their arguments seriatim. It was for the House to determine, and set the controverted point at rest for ever by a solemn decision; and accordingly, on the Saturday, my noble and learned Friend had begun by moving an affirmance of the judgment below; and by a natural mistake (the point being one wholly of common law) he had given a reason rather for reversing than affirming, by citing the case that made against his argument. At this identical moment, there was observed to approach him from behind, a form not unknown to the House, though to the law unknown, the Lord Privy Seal, robed as a Peer of Parliament, and interrupting the judge in delivering his judgment, to suggest what immediately put an end to my noble and learned Friend's argument. There could be no doubt of the purport of that communication;—the hour of four had arrived, and then, if at all, must the Commons be summoned to hear the Commission read. The Privy Seal had warned the Great Seal that if the judgment were given—if the reasons in its favour were assigned, only the ones against it having been stated—the Parliament could not be dissolved on Monday; and thus, the grave interests of the elections might, be sacrificed to the mere administration of justice. The judgment being thus prematurely closed, and the argument left against, and not for, the decision recommended by the Speaker of your Lordships' House, the Commission was executed, and some score or two of Bills were passed. The judicial business was then resumed. Your Lordships differed in opinion. The Lord Chief Justice took a view opposite to that of the Lord Chancellor. It was my fortune to agree with the latter; and after considerable argument the judgment was affirmed, not for the reason which he had given in favour of it, but in spite of the reason which he had urged against it. But this, was not all: I and other noble Lords were most anxious 206 to have the dissolution postponed one day longer, in order to dispose of several important causes, which had been fully heard at heavy expense to the parties, and to prevent the risk of the whole expense being renewed in case those who had heard them should die before next Session, or be unable to attend the judicial business of the House. We earnestly besought the Government to grant this postponement for so important a purpose, as well as to prevent the vexation to the parties of increased and most needless delay;—to the Court, the serious inconvenience of deciding a year after the argument had been heard. But we prayed in vain; they would hear of nothing but dissolving and electing—would attend to nothing else—would allow nothing to interpose between them and their favourite electioneering pursuits; and the reports of your Lordships' judicial proceedings bear testimony to the haste with which, to attain those electioneering objects, the Session was closed, and the administration of justice in the last resort interrupted. Well, therefore, might the noble Lord's dispatch of the 14th July, assign the approaching dissolution of Parliament as a principal reason why Canada could not be attended to. Although not in the sense of that dispatch, or as anything like an excuse for his conduct, assuredly, the dissolution and its consequences had much to do with that neglect of duty. It called away the minds of men to nearer and dearer objects; fixed their attention upon things that far more nearly touched them—things that came home to their business and bosoms;—the preparations for the approaching elections; and the affairs of the remote province, which had at no time engrossed too much of their care were thought of no more.
Thus, then, my Lords, all is uniform and consistent in these transactions; all is in keeping in the picture which these papers present to the eye. A scene is certainly unfolded not much calculated to raise in our estimation the capacity, the firmness, the vigour or the statesmanlike habits of those distinguished persons to whose hands has been committed the administration of our affairs. I do not by any means intend to assert that the great qualities of public life may not be discovered in these proceedings. I should be far from saying that both deliberation and dispatch may not be traced in their conduct;—deliber- 207 ation amounting even to balancing, and pausing and delay;—dispatch running into rapidity, precipitancy, hurry. You meet with the unhesitating haste, and with the mature reflection; the consulto and the matura facto are both there. But then they are at the wrong time, and in the false position; the rapidity presides over the deliberative part—the deliberation is applied to the executive. The head is at fever heat; the hand is paralysed. There is no lack of quickness but it is in adopting plans fitted to throw the country into a flame; no lack of delay, at the moment when those schemes are to be carried into execution. They rush, unheeding, unhesitating, unreflecting, into resolutions, upon which the wisest and readiest of mankind could hardly pause and ponder too long. But when all is determined—when every moment's delay is fraught with peril—then comes the uncertainty and irresolution. They never pause until the season has arrived for action, and when all faltering, even for the twinkling of an eye, is fatal, then it is that they relapse into supineness and inaction; look around them, and behind them, and everywhere but before them; and sink into repose, as if all had been accomplished, at the moment when everything remains to be done. If I were to ransack all the records to which I have ever had access, of human conduct in administering great affairs, whether in the annals of our own times or in ages that are past, I should in vain look for a more striking illustration of the Swedish Chancellor's famous saying to his son, as he was departing to assist at the congress of statesmen, "I fili mi ut videas quantulâ sapientiâ regatur mundus!"
My Lords, I cannot sit down without expressing also my opinion upon the conduct of the other party in this disastrous struggle. Both here and elsewhere still more, invectives have been lavished with unsparing hand upon those whom the proceedings of the Government first drove to disaffection, and afterwards, by neglect, encouraged to revolt. I will not stoop to protect myself from a charge of being prone to vindicate, still less encourage men in their resistance to the law, and their breach of the public peace. But while we thus speak of their crimes, and give vent to the angry feelings that these have excited among us, surely it becomes us to reflect that we are blaming men who are 208 not present to defend themselves—condemning men who have no person here to say one word in explanation, or palliation of their conduct—and that while we have before us their adversaries in this country, and the whole statements of their adversaries in the colony, from themselves we have not one single word spoken or written to assist us in forming our judgment, or to stay our sentence against them. To any fair and candid, not to say generous nature, I am sure I need not add another word for the purpose of showing how strong is their claims to all forbearance, to every allowance which it is possible for charity to make in scanning their conduct. Then I shall ever hold those deeply responsible, who could have made all resistance impossible by making it hopeless, but who sent out no reinforcements with that design—those who first irritated, and then did not control—who, after goading to insurrection, did nothing to overawe and deter insurgents. And after all, when men so vehemently blame the Canadians, who is it, let me ask, that taught them to revolt? Where—in what country—from what people did they learn the lesson? You exclaim against their revolt—though you have taken their money against their wishes, and set at thought the rights you boasted of having bestowed upon them. You enumerate their other comforts—that they pay few taxes—receive large aids from this country—enjoy precious commercial advantages, for which we pay dear—and then you say, the whole dispute for which they have rebelled is about the taking of 20,000l. without the consent of their representatives! Twenty thousand pounds taken without their consent! Why, it was for twenty shillings thus taken, that Hampden resisted—and by his resistance, won for himself an imperishable name, which the Plantagenets and the Guelphs would give all the blood that swells their veins to boast of! If to resist oppression—if to rise against usurped power, and defend our liberties when assaulted, be a crime, who are the greatest of all criminals? Who but ourselves, the English people? We it is, that have set the example to our American brethren. Let us beware how we blame them too harshly for following it! My Lords, I throw out these things with no view of merely giving offence in any quarter—I do so with a better object—an object of all others the dearest to my 209 heart at this moment,—to prevent, by this palliating reflection, the shedding of one drop of blood, beyond what self-defence and the lowest demands of justice administered in mercy require—to warn those into whose hands the sword is committed, that they have a care how they keep it unsheathed one instant after the pike of the rebel has been thrown away!
My Lords, the speech of my noble Friend would now carry me after him into a wide field—the consideration of the new system which is to be proposed for governing the colony. Upon that ground I decline entering at present; but the general aspect of it demands a single remark. The constitution is to be suspended for three years, and a governor is to rule with absolute power; and yet all the while the boast is, that the insurrection has been partial—that only a single county of the whole eight has taken any share in it—and that all the rest of the community are loyal and well-affected! Then, I ask, why are the loyal and well-affected, because they have put down the partial revolt, to be punished for the offences of others, and to lose not only the privileges which you gave them in 1831, but the constitution which Mr. Pitt gave them forty years before? This may be vigour—it is certainly not justice. It looks like an awkward and preposterous attempt to supply at this late hour, the total want of activity which has prevailed throughout the whole conduct of Government, by an excess of action—by a morbid vigour that can work nothing but mischief to all. It is a proceeding wholly repugnant to all ideas of justice, and contrary to common sense. Only see how utterly this measure is inconsistent with the rest of my noble Friend's defence. When you ask why no force was dispatched to secure the peace of the colony—you are told it was quite unnecessary—the people were all so loyal, that the peace was in no peril, and sending troops would only have been offering a groundless insult by suspecting their zeal and devotion. But when it is thought desirable to destroy the free constitution, and put a pure despotism in its place—straightway it is found out that the whole mass of the population is disaffected, and can no longer be in. trusted with political rights. The rebellious spirit shifts and changes—contracts and expands—just as it suits the purpose of the argument. Now it is confined to 210 a single county—pent up in a corner of the settlement—o[...]nded by he river Richelieu. This is when the Ministers are charged with having left the colony to its own resources. Presently the new plan of arbitrary government is on the carpet, and immediately the revolt spreads in all directions—spurns the bounds of rivers and mountains—diffuses itself over the whole country—and taints the mass of the inhabitants. My Lords, I care not which way the question is put, but it is a question that must be answered before these Ministers can compass both their objects, of defending their past conduct and obtaining new powers. The dilemma is now complete and perfect. If the colony was in such a state as to justify this arbitrary Bill, why did you leave it without a force? If the colony was in such a state as justified you in withholding reinforcements, what pretence have you for disturbing its peace, and inflicting upon it a despotic Government? Answer me these questions. One answer will suffice for both. But I believe for that answer I shall wait for ever and in vain.
But then it seems that this despotic constitution is only to be the fore-runner of some other arrangement. Whether the noble Lord had himself formed a very clear and precise idea of that ulterior measure, I am unable to say with confidence. But this I know, that his explanation of it left me without the power of comprehending it with any distinctness; and what I could comprehend, seemed absurd in the extreme. Of all established constitutions, we are bound to speak with some respect, more or less; they have been tried, and at least been found to answer some of the purposes for which they were designed. But a wholly new and untried scheme is intitled to no respect at all beyond what its intrinsic merits claim; and, as far as this scheme is comprehensible, it appears eminently ridiculous. A certain number of persons, we are told, are to be called by the Governor to his aid as Councillors, but how they are to be selected, and what powers they are to have, we are not informed. Is the Governor to summon whom he pleases? Then he gives no share whatever in the deliberations of the people, and for the purpose of conciliation, or indeed of learning the public opinion, the proceeding is utterly nugatory. Is he to choose the districts, and leave the electors there to 211 send representatives? But still it is a packed assembly, and no voice is given to the bulk of the community. Is he then to issue writs generally—only requiring ten councillors instead of ninety representatives to be elected for his help-mates? But when the whole country is unanimously of one opinion, this plan can have no other effect than to bring together a Parliament composed exactly like the present, only fewer in number, and under a different name. It is plain that in one way or another the intention must be that the people shall not elect freely as they now do, else a Parliament precisely like the disaffected one will be returned; and that those elected shall have no power to act unless they do as they are bid, otherwise the Government will be in the precise difficulty which now oppresses it. But if any such semblance only of consulting the people, is all you mean to give—if under the pretence of calling them to your aid, you exclude all the men of their choice, and only take counsel with creatures of your own—I tell you fairly, that such an intolerable mockery will avail you nothing. Better proclaim at once a despotism without any disguise or any mitigation. Make the Governor supreme. Let him rule without advice or even instruction—in his own name and not in the name of the law—for your interest, and not for that of the colonial people.
But, my Lords, I have said that I should at present forbear to pursue in detail the subject which we shall hereafter have ample opportunities of discussing at large. Neither will I go into the particulars of the civil war that has so lamentably been kindled. I have mentioned that there is reason for hoping its disasters have already reached their term. I hope, most devoutly hope, it may be so. No thanks to the Government, the colonists themselves, left wholly to their own resources and their own zeal, are supposed to have quelled the insurrection, and restored peace. But what kind of a possession is that which must be kept by force of arms? Are we not here reminded of Mr. Burke's observation upon the too parallel case of America? Here, however, I must, in passing, express my astonishment at finding the address now moved, to be so nearly copied from that of 1775—after the peremptory denial of my noble Friend (Lord Melbourne), when I the other night said, I supposed it 212 would turn out to be so. Really, though he is but a novice in office, he made the denial with a readiness and a glibness, that might have done honour to those inveterate habits of official assertion, only acquired by the few who are born in Whitehall and bred in Downing Street. And yet, when we look at it, we find it the same address with that of 1775 to the very order of the topics—all but one passage, which is of necessity omitted here, because I defy the utmost courage of official assertors to have reproached the Canadians as my noble Friend's predecessor, Lord North, did the Americans, with making an ungrateful return to the tenderness shown by Parliament towards the principles of the English law and the English Constitution. The authors of the eighth resolution, were not, I presume, capable of setting their hands to such a boast as this.—In all other respects the two addresses are identical.—May the omen not prove inauspicious, and may the likeness end here!
But I was drawn aside from the just remark of Mr. Burke, which I was about to cite. The rebels, said he, may be put down, but conquering is not governing, and a province which, to be retained, must be always subdued, is little worth keeping. My Lords, I may truly say the same of Canada. The revolt may be suppressed; I hope it is suppressed already, and that the blood of our American brethren has ceased to flow. But the difficulty of the case is only then beginning. Then conies the time to try the Statesman—the far more delicate question then arises—and the more important—demanding infinitely greater circumspection and foresight, wisdom and judgment, than how a rebellion may be suppressed—I mean the question, how a distant province may be well governed, a disaffected people reclaimed, and the maintenance of your empire reconciled with the interests of your subjects? The scheme of polity for accomplishing this great and worthy purpose, must be well matured before it is adopted, and, when once adopted, must be executed with vigour; all pausing and faltering must then be ended. I would fain hope that the Ministers have been taught a lesson by the past, and that henceforth they will deliberate at the season of proposing measures, and act when the period for executing them arrives. But, if I am called upon to pronounce whether 213 or not the authors of these dispatches, the propounders of last year's resolutions, they who followed up their own policy with no one act of vigour, and accompanied it with no indication of foresight, they who embarked in a course avowedly harsh and irritating, without taking a single precaution to prevent or frustrate resistance, and, at the instant when their measures required to be prosecuted with effect, suddenly deserted them—if I am to decide whether or not they are the men endowed with the statesmanlike capacity to meet the difficulties of so arduous an occasion, I, too, must falter and pause before I give an affirmative answer. To quell an insurrection, asks but ordinary resources and every-day talents; a military power, often a police force, may subdue it, and may bridle for a season the disaffected spirit. The real test of the Statesman's sagacity and vigour is applied when tranquillity is for awhile restored. My Lords, painful as the avowal is, their conduct throughout these sad affairs has wrung it from me—I must pause before I can pronounce these men fit for the emergency which is fast approaching, if it have not already come.
But, let it not all the while be supposed, that when I dwell upon the greatness of the occasion, it is from setting any high value upon such a possession as Canada. The crisis is great, and the position difficult, on the assumption that you will resolve to keep hold of it, whether in prudence you ought or not, and will be for making sacrifices to retain it, of which 1 hold it altogether unworthy. Not only do I consider the possession as worth no breach of the Constitution—no violation of the principles of justice—good God! what possession can ever be of a value to justify a price like that!—but in a national view, I really hold those colonies to be worth nothing. The only interest we have in the matter, concerns the mode in which a separation, sooner or later inevitable, shall take place. The only question worth considering, as far as our national interest is concerned, is whether that separation shall be effected amicably or with hostile feelings, unless in so far as the honour of the country is involved. But I am not so romantic as to suppose, that any nation will ever be willing to give up an extended dominion, how unprofitable, nay, how burthensome soever it may be to hold it. Such possessions, above all, are not likely 214 to be surrendered to dictation and force. The feelings of national pride and honour are averse to yielding in these circumstances; but I do venture to hope, that when all feelings of pride and honour are saved—when resentment and passion has cooled—when the wrong-doers on either side are forgiven—when the reign of law is restored; that justice will be tempered with mercy, the foundation for an amicable separation laid, and an estimate calmly made of the profit and the loss which result from our North American dominions. I am well assured that we shall then find them very little worth the cost they have entailed on us, in men, in money, and in injuries to our trade; nay, that their separation will be even now a positive gain, so it be but effected on friendly terms, and succeeded by an amicable intercourse. The Government and defence of Canada alone, costs us considerably more than half a million a-year; independent of the million and a-half which we have expended on the Rideau Canal, and between two and three millions on fortifications, uselessly spent. I speak on the authority of a Minister of the Crown, who has recorded his opinion of the burthen we sustain in holding such possessions. [Lord Glenelg:—Who?] The Paymaster of the Forces (Sir H. Parnell.) But, beside all this, we have to pay 55s. duty on the excellent timber of the Baltic, in order that we may be compelled to use the bad timber of Canada at a higher price, on a 10s. duty. The severance of the colony would not only open our markets to the better and cheaper commodity which grows near our own doors, but would open the Baltic markets to our manufactures, restrained as they now are in their export to the north of Europe, by the want of any commodities which we can take in return. Their produce is grain and timber, and our Corn-laws for the benefit of the landed interest shut out the one, while our colonial laws for the benefit of the planters, exclude the other. Is it not then full time that we should make up our minds to a separation so beneficial to all parties, if it shall only take place amicably, and, by uniting together the whole of our North American possessions, form an independent, flourishing, and powerful-state, which may balance the colossal empire of the west? These, my Lords, are not opinions to which I have lately come; they are the growth of many a long year, and the fruit 215 of much attention given to the subject. Of this I am intimately persuaded, that it is of paramount importance to take care how the change shall be consummated. If the severance be effected by violence—if the member be rudely torn away and bleeding from the body of our empire, a wound is left on either side to rankle and irritate and annoy for generations to come. Hence a perennial source of national enmity, the fruitful cause of commercial embarrassments, and of every kind of discontent and animosity not only between the countries, but among the different classes and parties of each. There is no evil against which it better becomes us anxiously to guard. All expedients should be tried to render the severance kindly and gentle—every thing resorted to that can pour balm into the wound occasioned by the operation. This is the most sacred duty of every wise and virtuous Statesman. Low-ring as the aspect of affairs now appears, my hope still is, that those who are intrusted with the Government, be they who they may, will bestir themselves, with these views, for this purpose; and while it is yet time, seek, above all things, to heal the injuries which imprudence and rashness, complicated with imbecility and vacillation, have inflicted, so as to give us not outward peace only, but real concord and friendship, without which the wound is but skinned over, and peace must be precarious and only a name. But, to give real peace and concord, the wrongs complained of must be redressed, and I fairly tell you, that the master grievance must not be suffered to remain. All Canada cries out for an Elective Council. Refuse it you cannot. The complaint against its present constitution is like that some time ago urged against this House. [One of the Ministers here said this was not a judicious allusion.] Will my noble Friend, whose eagle-eye can pierce through the darkness of a statement barely commenced, and catch its application to an argument not yet broached, suspend his sentence of condemnation till he hears whether the allusion be indeed judicious or no? I was stating, that language more severe had not been used towards the Legislative Council in the province, than I have often heard employed in this place against this Legislative Council of the parent State. But, there is a wide difference, my Lords, between the two cases, and upon that difference rests the application of my present appeal, 216 so prematurely judged of by my noble Friend. First, whereas, only an inconsiderable fraction of the people of England have demanded a reform in the constitution of this House, and even they have not persevered in the demand, all the Canadian people with one voice have called aloud and vehemently for a change in their upper House, and have never for one instant, in any circumstances, abated one jot of the vehemence with which they universally urged that demand. Next, we never have been rationally, or even intelligibly informed in what way the reform of this House could be effected, without the overthrow of our mixed monarchy, whereas the change proposed in the Colonial Council has always been distinctly stated, and accords with the whole principles and frame of the political constitutions all over the new world. Lastly, and chiefly, the charge made against your Lordships of refusing the measures which the other House sent up, rests upon a very narrow foundation indeed, compared with the sweeping accusation brought against them. You altered some bills for the worse as I think; you mended others, changing them for the better; one or two you wholly rejected in one or two Sessions; whereas the Council in Canada refused Bills of all kinds by wholesale, rejected scores of the most important measures upon all subjects indiscriminately. Bills upon government, education, administration of justice, trade retrenchment, reform of all abuses, all shared the same fate. Trust me, my Lords, if you had been so ill-advised as to pursue a course like that, there would a very different cry have arisen for Peerage reform from any thing you have ever yet heard. With all the difficulty of forming a plan for it, the demand of some change would have become general, if not universal. Instead of a feeble cry, proceeding for a little while from a small portion of the country, all England would have vehemently persevered in the demand of reform. The wisdom of your Lordships prevented this. The conduct of the upper House in Canada was the very reverse; and when the people had nothing to hope from its present structure, no wonder that the demand for its change became loud, vehement, universal, but much wonder if in a cause so just, it should not in the end prove irresistible! In vain, believe me, do you send out new Governors with larger 217 powers! In vain you commission my noble Friend to carry out the force of a despotic Government, if he is not also armed with force to redress the master grievance! With every disposition to trust his ability and his temper, the work of reconcilement never can flourish under his hands, if they be not strengthened to do it by the only power which can avail; if they are strong only to inflict new wounds, and impotent to bestow the boon of justice and redress. I shall most deeply deplore his undertaking such a mission, if he goes thus cramped and fettered. If he is only to carry out the most unconstitutional, the most oppressive act that has crossed the Atlantic since the fatal Bill of Massachusetts Bay, I shall lament it on his account, because he can reap from such a service no honour; I shall still more bitterly deplore it for the country's sake which can derive nothing but disgrace from such a course; for the sake of the first of all blessings, the public peace, which will never be permanently secured by acts of unmitigated injustice.
But, once more let me beseech you to resolve that you will abide by the course of justice, grant liberally, improve fearlessly, reform unflinchingly, whatever the Canadian people is entitled to demand that you should grant, improve, reform. By none other measures can either right be done by the parent State to its American subjects, or the character of England be sustained; by no other course can the honour of the Crown, the character of the Parliament, above all the peace of the new world be restored, or the peace of the old maintained.
§ Viscount Melbourne
I should have wished, before I addressed the House on this subject, that some other noble Peer who took a different view of the question from the noble Lord who has just resumed his seat should have risen. Even amidst the torrent of invective and sarcasm with which the noble Lord has overwhelmed the officers of her Majesty's Government, and that most laboured and most extreme concentration of bitterness which has been poured forth on this occasion, I have not, however, discovered that the noble Lord entertains any decided disapprobation of the present motion, and I apprehend that I may fairly take it for granted that no such disapprobation will be expressed; and I trust that I may expect that no noble Lord will take a view very different from that 218 of the noble Lord. The noble Lord towards the conclusion of his speech said that he faltered, he hesitated, he paused, before he could pronounce it to be his opinion that the present Ministers had shown themselves to be fitted to act in this important affair, with the management of which they are intrusted. Now, considering the introductory part of the speech of the noble Lord, I do not see why he should falter; but I rather think that his doing so savours in some degree of that vacillation which he has alluded to as having characterised the conduct of Ministers: and I do not see with what confidence the noble Lord, entertaining the opinions which he has expressed, can excuse himself from making some motion to this House declaratory of his want of confidence in the Government. However he may falter in respect to his judgment of Ministers, I do not falter with regard to this expression of my opinion in reference to the noble Lord's speech. The noble Lord has taken a very large discursive view, not only of the question now immediately before the House, but also of the measures which have preceded it and which have led to the present state of affairs, and of all the topics which have reference or allusion to this most important subject. He is well acquainted with the subject, and is well aware of the various steps which have been taken, to many of which he has himself been a party, and he knows how by degrees they have led to the state of things which unfortunately at this moment exists in Lower Canada. That state of things I, for one, most sincerely lament; but it is impossible to say how it could have been averted, or whether its occurrence, by any means which might have been adopted, could have been prevented, or whether it must not have happened in the ordinary course of events: but I feel some satisfaction, and I think all the officers of Government who have been employed on this question must do the same, that, to whatever other cause it may be attributable, it cannot be suggested to have arisen from any want of justice on the part of this country, or from any assertion of rights which did not exist, from any tyrannical or unjust proceedings, but only from the unreasonable and impracticable Reform which is demanded in the Canadian constitution by the House of Assembly. My learned and noble Friend has made several observations on the various delays which he conceives have taken place in the correspondence; he has made several observations 219 on the promises which he asserts were held out, and which have never been fulfilled; and many observations on the long interval which elapsed between one letter and another; but I must say, that he does not appear to me to have made out his case upon this point. It is not sufficient for him to assert that promises have been made, it is not sufficient for him to say, that there was a long interval without any dispatch; but he must prove also that it was necessary to write something during that interval; he must prove that something beneficial to the service must have accrued from sending out further instructions; and he must prove also, that there has been some omission prejudicial to the colony, and injurious to the public service; and he has not brought forward any such proof. The noble and learned Lord has indeed said, that there have been some laches and some neglect which have had a prejudicial effect, and have been the real cause of the outbreak; but I confess, my Lords, that I cannot recollect throughout the whole of that noble Lord's able and discursive speech one single endeavour to bring his assertion to the test. My Lords, my noble and learned Friend commented with much severity on some passages in the dispatch of Lord Glenelg to the Earl of Gosford, dated 29th of April, 1837. In that dispatch Lord Glenelg held the following language:—I regret that, owing to the delay which has occurred in passing the resolutions, arising in great measure from the pressure of public business, I have been compelled to withhold these instructions for a longer period than I anticipated, but your Lordship may rely upon receiving them in ample time to enable you to prepare for the meeting of the legislature; whether that meeting should be postponed until the time that the law will require that a session should be held, or should be fixed for an earlier time, is a question which must depend to a certain degree on local circumstances, of which your Lordship will have the means of obtaining a far more accurate acquaintance than I can.What was the fair meaning of this passage, but that with respect to the time of calling together the local legislature the governor was better acquainted with the circumstances which must regulate the period than any one here could be, and that Lord Glenelg would not, in opposition to the governor, venture to give an opinion? Was not this the proper course to be taken, and was it not in accordance with common sense? Lord Glenelg then went on to say 220 —"I shall, however, distinctly advert to this point, in connection with the other matters on which I shall have to address your Lordship, and I only refer to it now that you may be aware that it will not be overlooked, and that your own attention may be directed to it in the meantime, with a view to the sound exercise of that discretion which it may probably be expedient to leave in your Lordship's hands with regard to it." What did Lord Glenelg say in this, but that we would think the subject over, and that we wished the Earl of Gosford also to consider it, because it was a subject better left to his discretion and determination? And I think, my Lords, that the dispatch is not only consistent with right reason and prudence, but that it is precisely the course which any reasonable man would pursue upon such an occasion. My noble and learned Friend seemed to imply that the Earl of Gosford would infer from this dispatch some doubt as to our approval of his conduct; but, my Lords, it was the furthest from my thoughts to complain of the course which the governor might pursue, to give other than a fair and candid consideration to all his actions, and to extend to them a fair, firm, and unflinching defence. As to the 8th resolution of the last Session, it is not my intention, my Lords, to re-argue the question. I admitted then, and I admit still, that it was a strong resolution; but it was a measure rendered necessary by the desertion from and dereliction of duty on the part of the Legislative Assembly of Lower Canada, which had rendered it impossible that the most important duties relating to the government of the colony could be performed. My noble and learned Friend says, that we must have known what were the feelings of the Canadians with respect to those resolutions—that we must have known the result which they were likely to produce and that after what had previously taken place it was our duty to have provided against the possibility of an outbreak, by increasing the military force in the colony. My Lords, I am perfectly ready to own that this is a point which seemed to me the most pressing in the whole case; but, my Lords, it is perfectly clear that the persons in office in the colony did not entertain any great apprehension for the internal safety and quiet of the country; still, when it was considered what discontent the resolutions were likely to produce, when it was considered what agitation was at work, some danger might possibly have been anticipated. 221 However, this was a most difficult question to decide. If we did not reinforce the troops we certainly ran the hazard of what has since taken place, and, as my learned and noble Friend says, we knew that we could have easily put down any outbreak if the force had been larger, and that possibly it might not then have taken place, or if it had, that less blood would have been spilled. But the opposite view might have been supported with equal probability and with plausible arguments. For if a considerable body of troops had been sent out, there would have been an end to all chance of an amicable termination of the disputes; it would have been instantly said, that we were filling Canada with troops, and that we were manifesting a fixed intention of bearing down the opinions of the Canadians by main force. Between these two difficulties, therefore, we had to decide, if we did not send out troops we were running some risk of an outbreak, if we did send them out we were giving up all hopes, we were destroying all chance, of that which every government hoped, perhaps too fondly hoped, to effect—the termination of the differences in a friendly manner. My Lords, I have fairly stated both sides of the question, and there is no point in the case which imposed upon me a greater difficulty than this intricate question which we had to decide. We decided, my Lords, according to the best of our judgment; and I do most sincerely trust that no permanent evil, that no irreparable mischief, has arisen, or will hereafter arise, from the determination to which we have come. My noble and learned Friend has made another great charge against us, and asks, after we had passed the resolutions complained of, why we did not introduce a Bill to carry them into full effect; and he has stated that the preparation of a Bill would have been an easy measure, and that it would have rapidly passed the Parliament; but the noble Lord knows well the state of the country at that period. He knows that we were bordering on a dissolution, and we all know how easy a weapon for delay this difficulty would have afforded. But then the noble Lord adds, that it did not signify whether the dissolution took place in August or in the begining of July. That there was, however, a necessity for hastening the dissolution I thought had been generally admitted: at any rate, all parties in this House, my Lords, agreed in its propriety, and no one raised against it a dissentient voice; and it 222 was further agreed that it would not have been proper to bring under the consideration of a Parliament whose existence was in so precarious a state any measure of great magnitude and importance. The noble Lord had also asked what good we had derived from this hasty dissolution, and, he affirms that it has ended in a reduction of our majority in the other House by fifteen; but how does the noble Lord know that. I hope, my Lords, that the Members returned to the House of Commons know their duty better than to come pledged to any fixed opinion, but come disposed to hear what is said, and to form their own judgment upon it; and if such be the case how was the decrease of fifteen to be ascertained. We have certainly heard of declarations on the hustings which have not afterwards been acted up to, and I therefore hope that hon. Representatives have come to consider fairly the propositions which will be brought forward, and that they will come to a decision in favour of what they conscientiously believe to be most likely to promote the interests of the country. As to the noble Lord's observations on the beginning or termination of a reign, I may perhaps be disposed in some measure to agree with him, but, my Lords, that depends upon totally different principles, and relates to the Constitution of the monarchy itself; and most true it is, that, whether in the helplessness of infancy or the decrepitude of age, the monarch is perfectly able to discharge the functions of government, and that it cannot absolve itself from this duty. But this had little to do with the present question. It was said, that the resolution which the House had passed was, to take the money out of the public chest, and that the course which we have adopted was to pay the money from this country. But, my Lords, is there any great difference between the errors of such a course? Do the Canadians think, that there is any great difference in principle between the two measures? One is as invidious as the other, for each avowed the right to appropriate the supplies without the vote of the Legislature; and we are charged with imbecility and weakness, such as has never before been exhibited, because we have adopted a measure not less strong than the one we abandoned. My noble and learned Friend also complains, that when, on a former evening, he stated his belief that the present address would be the same as the one of 1775, I said, "No, quite different." Perhaps, my Lords, I 223 was too hasty in giving that reply, because the present address, which contains a declaration to support the Government, is necessarily drawn up in somewhat similar terms to those of the address of 1775; but what I meant, to assert, my Lords, was, that there was every difference between the circumstances of that period and the present time, that there was no similarity between the two cases, and that I hoped there would be no similarity in the result of the contest. My noble Friend concluded his speech with some observations on the general state of Canada, and the advantage it was of to this country; and as to some of his remarks, I must own, my Lords, that to an observer of the present day only, and who looks alone to the present state of Europe, I am not disposed to say there is not some appearance of truth in the noble and learned Lord's observations; but these are matters of vast and grave importance, and ought not to be incidentally discussed. We have been told, my Lords, that these provinces contain within them materials from which might be formed a great empire; that they have vast harbours, immense natural resources, and that they are rich in mineral and vegetable products; and that it is not known of what influence they might become as a separate country. But, my Lords, it is not known how valuable all these resources may become in the hands of England herself, and our present proceedings not only involve the interests of the colonies themselves and of England also, but the honour and the integrity of this country, its interest among nations, and its character as a great empire. This question also involves, my Lords, the future welfare as well as the present security and tranquillity of these colonies. It is of great importance, therefore, that we should not listen to vague theories or fanciful suggestions; but that we should pass the address now before your Lordships, in favour of which I am sure but one feeling pervades your Lordships.
§ The Duke of Wellington
said: My Lords, though I am disposed to support the present address, it was not my intention to have offered any observations to your Lordships upon the present occasion—but after the remarks of other noble Lords, I must say a few words. I certainly still feel strongly, my Lords, that the subject has not been brought before Parliament in the form which it ought to have been. I object to the present method of proceeding, not merely on the ground of 224 form, but also on the ground of the substance of the measure itself. I say, my Lords, that the Sovereign ought to originate any measure which relates to war; and I was particularly anxious that the measure should originate in a message from the Crown, on the very grounds and for the very reasons which have been so ably referred to by the noble Viscount in the last moments of his address to your Lordships. I was anxious that her Majesty should declare herself positively on this subject, in order that there might be no doubt in this country, or throughout Europe, of the determination of her Majesty to assert her right of sovereignty; that the Government should expressly declare its feelings on this subject, and that the country should understand that the sovereignty of the Crown will be maintained at all events. I was the more anxious upon this subject, my Lords, because, in the different discussions upon this subject, more than one Minister of the Crown has stated that the measures about to be adopted are not to be promoted with the view of supporting the authority of the Crown, not with the view of vindicating the law, but to protect a party in the colonies which has adhered to and supported her Majesty's Government. I cannot think, my Lords, that this is the proper ground to take; but I conceive that, for the sake of her Majesty, for the sake of the public interest, and for the sake of the colonies themselves, we ought to have assumed the highest ground. I am quite satisfied, however, with the explanation of the noble Viscount on this part of the subject, and I state my feelings now, not with the view of casting blame, for I am sure that if the noble Viscount had adverted to the considerations which I have advanced, he would have adopted another course more consistent with every precedent relating to America, relating to Ireland, and to every other part of the empire. In respect to the address itself I must observe, that though to some parts I give my full acquiescence, yet I must beg leave to guard myself against making myself a party to any portion of the transactions either with respect to the suspension of the constitution of 1791, or to any other specific portion, till I see the measure which the noble Viscount means to bring forward. I have, my Lords, thoroughly considered this question, for I had the misfortune to differ from many other noble 225 Lords, and was almost the only individual who in 1831 voted against the propositions of my noble Friend near me, then the Secretary of the Colonies (Earl of Ripon). I believe that another noble Lord also opposed the Bill, but I only signed a protest against it because I thought then, as I think still, that it was a most unfortunate measure. My opinion at that time was, that the Bill ought to have contained a clause providing for its repeal in case provision were not made by the House of Assembly in Canada for granting the civil list, and if provision were not made by them to enable the king to maintain a civil Government, and I believe that the omission of this clause is the cause of all that has happened from that time to the present. I differ entirely from the noble and learned Lord in thinking that the Act of 1831 established the British constitution in Canada, for it is not consistent with the British Government to leave the civil Government of the country, and especially to leave the judges of the land to be provided for by an annual vote of the Parliament. I say, my Lords, that the British constitution for the last 150 years, at least, has made full provision for the administration of the civil Government, and most particularly for the independence of the judges, and I maintain, therefore, that the Act of 1831 did not establish the British constitution in those colonies, but something quite distinct, for it gave to the people what was considered a popular right, but which was not in fact a right, being quite foreign to the genius of the constitution of this country. It enabled a small party to raise the people against the Government, thinking to overthrow it by getting the inhabitants to stand by them, and it has ended in a few individuals inducing the people openly to oppose her Majesty's troops, and by the same individuals running off to the neighbouring territories of the United States as soon as they found that their own persons were exposed to danger. Such turned out to be the real state of the case, for the would-be leaders left the unfortunate people in a state of rebellion against her Majesty's Government, and ran off themselves, letting the unlucky inhabitants return to their houses as best they could, and forcing them to submit with the best grace to the mercy of her Majesty's Government. I warned the noble Lord 226 against endangering the establishments of the country, by giving any thing like an authority to a popular assembly to withhold the funds necessary for carrying on the civil Government, for nothing is more necessary to a country than to uphold the civil power, and the independence, as well pecuniary as political, of the judges of the land. And let noble Lords learn from the events in Canada, and our other dominions in North America, what it is to hold forth what are called popular rights, but which are not popular rights either here or elsewhere, and what occasion is thereby given to the perpetuation of a system of agitation which ends in insurrection and rebellion, and coming to blows with her Majesty's troops. It is not my intention to follow the noble and learned Lord, or the noble Viscount, through a long discussion as to the contents of the papers now on your Lordships' table. I certainly have learned from a perusal of these papers that the noble Lords opposite had not thought it proper to send a reinforcement to the troops in Canada in the course of the last summer, and I must do the noble Lords the justice to say, that I cannot blame them for not having taken more active measures, for I happen to know several persons, and particularly officers well acquainted with the provinces, and who have been concerned in their Government, and I may safely assert in my place in Parliament, that I have received the opinions of those officers that there was not the smallest reason to apprehend anything like insurrection in Lower Canada. I do not doubt that her Majesty's Government may have received the same information, and Lord Gosford, in his dispatches, admits that he did not fear an insurrection up to a very late period, and I may add, that I believe the same opinion to have been entertained by the general commanding in chief in that colony. But at the same time I must say, that although I can impute no blame to the noble Lords for not having sent out more troops to Canada at an earlier period of the year, yet it does appear that at one period of the year, I think in March, the Secretary of State for the colonies thought it right to authorise the Governor of Canada, and the general Commanding-in-Chief, to send to Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, and move the troops from those places into Canada, and I cannot understand why the noble Lord, when he 227 gave those instructions, especially if he thought that they would be carried into execution, did not dispatch fresh troops to Nova Scotia and New Brunswick to fill up the vacancies which would have been occasioned if Lord Gosford or Sir John Colborne had called for the troops already there. I do not, therefore, think that the non-sending out of troops to the Canadas is the most pressing point of the case, but I conceive that the point which does most press is the non-sending out of troops to Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, to supply the vacancies there. One consequence would have been, that all those colonies would have remained amply provided with troops, but another, and still more important consequence would have been, that the world would have seen, and this country especially would have been convinced of, the determination of her Majesty's Government to maintain the ground which they had taken in the resolutions of last year relative to Lower Canada—that they were determined to maintain the dominion of this country, to support those who were willing to support us, to preserve inviolate the authority of the Government, and to uphold the due execution of the law. I will not advert to what has been said by a noble Lord in the course of this evening in respect to the separation of the Canadian colonies from this country. The answer which has been given by the noble Viscount upon that subject is quite satisfactory to me. I will, however, allude, in one word only, to that part of the noble Lord's speech. I confess, my Lords, that I have a feeling for the honour of my country, and I cannot but believe that if, by any misfortune, we should fail in restoring peace in Lower Canada at an early period of time we shall receive a blow, in respect to our military character, to our reputation, and to our honour, from which it will require years for us to recover. My Lords, there is one topic which has been adverted to by the noble and learned Lord (Lord Brougham), upon which I think it necessary to say one word, although it is not adverted to in the address, and will more properly form the subject of discussion on the Bill which is to be brought in upon some future day, and that is the establishment in Lower Canada of an elective legislative council. The noble and learned Lord, with his knowledge of Lower Canada, has not, in my opinion, sufficiently 228 adverted to the fact of the difference of the two races of inhabitants in that country. My Lords, it may be easy to talk here of establishing an elective council, but if the noble and learned Lord will look into the discussions which have taken place upon that subject, and to the opinions that have been delivered upon it by the different parties in that country, he will find that the British inhabitants are to the full as much opposed to that arrangement as the French are in favour of it; he would find that in point of fact they would be in a state of insurrection against that arrangement, in the same degree as the French are now supposed to be in a state of insurrection in favour of an elective legislative council. I will likewise beg the noble and learned Lord, and I would entreat the noble Viscount opposite, and every Member of her Majesty's Government, to attend to this fact, that an elective legislative council is not the constitution of the British monarchy, that a legislative council, appointed by the monarch, is the constitution of this country, that it is so stated in the discussions upon the Bill passed in the year 1791 by all the great authorities who discussed that measure, amongst others by Mr. Fox himself. Mr. Fox states that a legislative council, appointed by the monarch, is an essential part of the British constitution. Under these circumstances I entreat the noble Viscount, and every noble Lord, not to lose sight of that fact in the arrangement which they may be prepared to adopt. Let them not flatter themselves that they will satisfy all the inhabitants of Lower Canada by admitting the principle proposed by the French inhabitants of that colony, and most strongly urged by the noble and learned Lord in the course of the present discussion. My Lords, it has been my wish to avoid making any remarks upon any of the subjects which are likely to become matters of discussion upon the Bill to be introduced on a future occasion. I have adverted only to what I considered to have been the most prominent parts of the noble and learned Lord's speech. I wish, my Lords, to support the address, and certainly to support the Government in any measure they may think proper to adopt, in respect, and in consequence of this address, in order to bring the contest which has now commenced between this country and Lower Canada to a speedy termination, and to effect an honourable 229 and a firm settlement of this unfortunate question.
§ The Earl of Ripon
wished to offer some explanation on the point to which his noble Friend (the Duke of Wellington) had referred, namely, the situation in which the act of 1831 had placed the Government of this country with respect to the civil government of Lower Canada. It was perfectly true that when he proposed the introduction of that Act, the noble Duke opposed it, and said, he (the Earl of Ripon) would find in point of fact that the legislature of Lower Canada would readily take the boon which the bill gave, but would not establish any civil list in return. The noble Duke certainly prophesied that, and unquestionably the noble Duke's prophecy had turned out to be true. He would admit, that on that occasion he acted more or less under the influence of an imprudent confidence, and under what he conceived to be a pledge on the part of the House of Assembly in Lower Canada, namely, that they would not take the advantages to be afforded to them by that act of the Imperial Parliament without making a reciprocal concession. And what was the ground on which he founded this confidence? Not only the repeated assurance on their part that they would not take that advantage; he did not mean to say, that in so many precise words they had made that pledge, but taking men's meaning as to the course of conduct they would pursue from the language they used, no man of honour and honesty, after reading the resolutions and addresses adopted by the House of Assembly from time to time, could doubt that they did lead the Government at once to believe, that when the royal revenues were given to their control they would in return provide a civil list. Not only had he this ground for entertaining that feeling of confidence in them, but he had another reason for believing that they would keep good faith with the Government, which was this, that the province of Upper Canada, which also had had its grievances, at least as long and as fully as Lower Canada, did give a civil list; and what was the fact? That at this moment the province of Upper Canada was in the enjoyment of its share of the royal revenues, and that the governor, the secretaries, and the judges of that province were in the enjoyment for ever of an independent income, not controllable 230 by an annual vote of the House of Assembly. The House of Assembly of Upper Canada performed their promise; but the House of Assembly of Lower Canada did not: and that was the reason why this country had been involved in all those enormous difficulties that at present existed, and out of which he confessed he was not sanguine enough to say that he could clearly see how it was to escape. But he ought also to add, with respect to the situation in which the Government stood at this moment in Lower Canada, that it was not without resources out of which the governor and judges, and those persons whom successive Governments had believed to be proper objects of an independent provision, could be paid; because the Government had the whole of the territorial and casual revenue, and they had also 10,000l. a year voted permanently by the Legislature of Lower Canada itself by two separate acts since 1791; so that his noble and learned Friend was somewhat mistaken if he thought that the Legislature of Lower Canada had never had any power over the purse before the bill of 1831. [Lord Brougham: Not a complete control.] No, not a complete control, certainly, because there were still those two resources of which he had spoken. But, in point of fact, subsequent to 1791 the Legislature of Lower Canada passed two laws giving to the Government two sums of 5,000l. forever, for the purpose of maintaining the civil government in that colony. Those two sums, together with the revenues he had mentioned, would amount to not much less than 28,000l. or 30,000l. a-year. Although he admitted that that sum was not sufficient to pay all the expenses which used to be defrayed either out of the funds at the disposal of the Government, or out of the grants made by Parliament, yet, as far as regarded those particular individuals, the maintenance of whose independence in their offices was considered essential, the Government unquestionably possessed the power even yet to pay them. With respect to the proposed address, he entirely concurred in what had fallen from his noble Friend (the Duke of Wellington). He did not feel any disposition to canvass it, or to object to its adoption; but he must beg to guard himself against being supposed to express any opinion whatever as to the scheme intended for the future, or as to the attempt 231 to be made for the settlement of this question. He confessed he knew very little about it; for his noble Friend (Lord Glenelg) had not explained it very fully. Perhaps, indeed, his noble Friend did not consider himself called upon to go very fully into it; he (Lord Ripon) should therefore abstain from expressing even the slightest shadow of an opinion upon that part of the subject. He could not, however, give his acquiescence to this address without expressly guarding himself as to another point involved in this discussion, namely, that such acquiescence on his part by no means implied any approbation of the course that had been pursued during the last nine months. He was sorry to say anything unpleasant of his noble Friend and his noble Friend's colleagues, but he (Lord Ripon) could not bring himself to think that they had managed this question in a judicious or satisfactory manner. He admired the candour of the noble Viscount at the head of her Majesty's Government, because the noble Viscount had stated in a perfectly fair and manly manner the matter about the troops, and had admitted that there was a great deal to be said on both sides; and he certainly did not appear to take any very strong ground to justify the course that had been pursued by the Government in respect to this branch of the question. For himself, he thought that that course had been a most unfortunate one, and had very much contributed to occasion the explosion which had taken place in Lower Canada, and which involved the necessity of those measures that were now suggested. It was evident that it had been the intention of the Government to send out additional troops to Canada. That intention was communicated by his noble Friend (Lord Glenelg) to Lord Gosford on the 6th of March, 1837. Well on the 22nd of March his noble Friend again wrote to Lord Gosford, and said—"Since I made my communication (of the 6th) to you, I have ascertained that it would not be possible to detach such a force without extreme inconvenience, and making a demonstration which might be productive of much greater evil than it could prevent;" and then his noble Friend suggested that in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia there were between 2,000 and 3,000 men who, in case of need, might be drawn from those provinces. Now, as it had been stated by his noble Friend (the Duke of 232 Wellington) that it might be proper to give power to remove those troops, but that he could not conceive a more obvious policy than that of filling up the vacancy which the removal of those troops would create. But to what was this inconvenient pressure of which his noble Friend (Lord Glenelg) spoke, to be attributed? He found that Lord Gosford stated when writing on the 10th of June, not long after he had received the second letter of Lord Glenelg, mentioning that there were particular reasons against sending out additional troops, stated that he had sent to Sir Colin Campbell for a part of the troops stationed at Halifax; adding, however, this passage;—"I must repeat that these steps would not be dictated by the apprehension of any serious commotion, for I have every reason to believe that the mass of the Canadians are loyal and contented; but from the persuasion that the presence of a larger military force in this province might of itself"—do what? Increase the difficulties already existing? Increase the chance of the disaffected succeeding? Make the Government of Lower Canada less able to promote tranquillity? Not at all; but that it would "prevent the occurrence of any disturbance by deterring the ill-disposed, securing the wavering, and giving confidence to the timid." Why, if the state of Lower Canada was such that the presence of additional troops were wanting there, because there were ill-disposed persons to be deterred, wavering persons to be secured, and timid persons to whom confidence was to be given, ought not that to have led the Government to infer that the state of the province was such that it was not safe to leave it without having a power capable of overwhelming the very first attempt that might be made to disturb the peace, and thus prevent those lamentable consequences of an insurrection which, whether successful or not, was certain to occur? As time went on, the necessity of such a course appeared to have been constantly increasing. His noble Friend (Lord Glenelg), indeed, in his dispatches alluded to this fact himself, and described the rapid progress of a disposition on the part of a portion of the people to revolt; but it did not appear that the necessity of increasing the number of troops in the colony had at all crossed his mind. In consequence of no additional troops having been sent out, 233 Sir John Colborne was at length compelled to draw every soldier from the upper province, in order to maintain his ground in the lower province. It was true that Sir Francis Head, with the gallant spirit of an English soldier, took great credit to himself for volunteering to send away all the troops from Upper Canada, and he seemed to think that it was a great thing in point of policy to show that the people of that province did not require the presence of any troops for the purpose of holding them to their allegiance, and to show also that there was no danger in that part of the country of a revolt. But the gallant officer was in error: that danger did exist. A Mr. Mackenzie, who had been so often spoken of, brought men together and there was an actual breaking out. Now it was impossible that he could have got together 500 or 600 persons to make an attack upon the city of Toronto—though he was madman enough to do almost anything, for he was certainly the most absurd man that ever existed—if any British soldiers had been there. But they were all gone in order to put an end to the revolt, in the lower province, while the upper province was left to take its chance. It turned out that Mr. Mackenzie was beaten, and fled to the United States, where he was amusing himself in all possible ways to stir up the people to aid the revolt but where, as it was not likely he could be got hold of, he would no doubt long remain. But what did all this show? That proper precaution had not been taken by the Government. No such disturbance could have happened in Upper Canada if Sir F. Head had not felt it to be his duty, for want of a sufficient force in Lower Canada, to deprive himself of the assistance of his own troops. There was another point to which he (Lord Ripon) would shortly advert. In the upper province Sir F. Head relied much upon the militia in maintaining order. In Nova Scotia and new Brunswick the militia was also relied upon to maintain tranquillity; but this was not found to be the case in Lower Canada. Lord Gosford had felt himself called upon to dismiss a great number of the officers of the militia, and among others the great agitator, or whatever he was called, Mr. Papineau, who happened to be a militia officer: and he thought it was a very doubtful thing whether Lord Gosford would have considered it prudent to have called out the 234 militia on his own authority, in order to act with the King's troops. Lord Gosford said that he believed, by the law of the colony, the militia could not have been called out, unless against actual invasion. But then in exact proportion to the difficulty of calling out the militia, whether arising from the state of the law or from their indisposition towards the Government, did it become the more imperative duty of the Government at home to take the precaution of having a larger body of troops established in the colony. For these reasons he could not but conceive that the matter was by no means dealt with in the way in which it ought to have been; and although he did not ascribe the breaking out of the rebellion to the want of troops, yet every one knew very well—every one at least who had read the history of the rebellion knew—that though the chances of success amounted almost to nothing, yet the madness and folly of men were sometimes so great that the slightest apparent advantage would impel them into the most absurd attempts. The Government ought therefore to have taken care that even that apparent advantage should not have existed, but that there should have been on the spot a military force sufficient at once to crush by one vigorous effort whatever rebellious schemes might have been attempted.
§ The Marquess of Lansdowne
did not mean to enter into the argument which had been introduced by the noble Earl, but as the noble Earl had adverted to the fact of the troops being called away from upper Canada to serve in lower Canada, he ought also to have stated what was the fact, that Sir Francis Head, who was charged with the Government of Upper Canada and intrusted with its destiny at this moment—a destiny which he had most successfully succeeded in upholding was in fact the author and suggester of the measure for sending the troops from Upper to Lower Canada before he had been called upon by Sir John Colborne; and that he himself attached the greatest importance to the policy of exhibiting to the Canadians and to the world that Upper Canada was able to protect its own Government without any troops at all; and that whatever might be the disposition of the lower province, such was the attachment and such was the adhesion of the population to that Government, that 235 he, without the aid of a single soldier was enabled to resist any attempt that might be made upon the Government of that colony. He had no doubt that Sir John Colborne was glad to have the assistance of those troops; but he (the Marquess of Lansdowne) would with equal confidence say that Sir John Colborne was no less glad that Sir F. Head was without them, for the sake of having given that proof which was now manifest to the world, from the circumstance that Mr. Mackenzie was at this moment a fugitive in the United States, that without a single soldier to oppose the insurgents the Governor was able to make head against them by the spontaneous aid of the loyal inhabitants of that part of the province. But he would not enter into the question of the troops farther than to remark that whatever opinion noble Lords might form upon it, there was at least a provision made for enabling Lord Gosford to supply himself with troops from Halifax, but of which that noble Lord did not think it necessary to avail himself to the full extent, because, having the power to send for two regiments, he judged it only expedient to send for one. Quitting this part of the subject, he was anxious, after what had fallen in such very candid terms from the noble Duke opposite (the Duke of Wellington), who had stated his opinion upon this question in a way which did him infinite honour, and in that spirit in which he was always desirous to give efficient support to the Government under circumstances like the present—after such conduct on the part of the noble Duke, he was anxious to remove one or two impressions which seemed partially to influence his mind with regard to the course which her Majesty's Government were disposed to pursue. The noble Duke adverted in the first instance to the course which he thought ought to have been adopted with respect to a communication being made by her Majesty to Parliament; and he stated, that he could have wished to have seen, in conformity with former precedents, a message communicated from the Throne. In conformity with precedent, a message undoubtedly would have been the proper course; but he was anxious to state to their Lordships, that it was not from want of a full sense of the importance of the occasion, or of the exertions which Parliament would be called upon to make in support of the Queen's authority, that that mode 236 was not in the first instance adopted; but it was solely because of the occurrence happening on the day immediately previous to the adjournment, and when it was almost impossible to have obtained the attention of Parliament, almost every Member being out of town; so that even if there had been a message, it would have been impossible to have acted upon it in the form of an address. It was solely, therefore, with a view of giving importance to the proceedings of Parliament on this question by obtaining a full attendance of Members that a communication of papers was made in the first instance, and with a view also of enabling Parliament to deal effectually with these papers, and of assuring her Majesty of their intention to support her in all her rights of sovereignty. The noble Duke, professing himself satisfied with the declaration of the noble Viscount at the head of her Majesty's Government upon that subject, had stated that he had read, that in some places expressions had been used implying that there was a desire, not so much to support the Queen's authority in Canada, as to give assistance to a party in that country. He could only say, that great as their duty was to give support to her Majesty's loyal subjects in that country, who he believed would be ultimately found to be the majority there—confirmed as he was, that such was the first duty on the part of the Ministers of the Crown and of the Sovereign; yet, on the part of Parliament, he believed the first and most imperative duty to be to re-establish her Majesty's authority there. Whatever might be the result of those measures upon which they were then engaged, as affecting Canada—whether they might end in the re-establishment of the former constitution, whether they might terminate in the establishment of a new constitution, or whether they might, as he believed, unfortunately for Canada and for this country, end in a separation of that state from this—though he saw no reason to apprehend such a result, still, in the first instance, it was essential to the character of this country, that her Majesty's authority should be firmly established before any of those topics were considered, and before his noble Friend (the Earl of Durham), who, fortunately for himself, and fortunately for the country, as he hoped, had been induced to accept the important mission, could entertain those great questions 237 which must be mooted, but which could only be mooted with safety after her Majesty's authority and the authority of the law should be established, and should allow them to be discussed lawfully, tranquilly, soberly, and with the attention their importance required. He was firmly impressed with the conviction which he had before taken occasion to express, that the vast majority of the population of Canada was attached to the Government of this country, and, for his part, he did not regret, that any symptoms of delay or hesitation might appear in these papers, indicating a disposition upon the part of the Queen's Government to adopt conciliatory measures. He firmly believed, that this course of conciliation had produced a beneficial result. He believed, that the system of concession, pushed to the utmost verge of reason, and attending to all the real sentiments and wishes of the inhabitants of that country, had been successful, if not in detaching, at least in affording moral support to many individuals in that country who might otherwise be found at the head of the insurrection. It was owing to this circumstance that men of a very different character from Papineau and Mackenzie were not only not now found leading the discontented, but were known to have receded from the ranks of insurrection, previously to the breaking out of that desperate measure, at the instigation of Papineau and his associates. The noble Lord who last addressed their Lordships had stated most truly, that the noble Duke opposite had, to a certain extent, prophesied, that the present state of things would arrive in Canada. The noble Duke had certainly prophesied, that the House of Assembly would ultimately arrive at the point of declining to vote the civil list; but it was also unquestionably true, that if that body had proved the existence of any real grievance, of any one palpable abuse calling for a remedy, the attention of Government would have been immediately directed to its removal. And if, from their numerous speeches, petitions, resolutions, and remonstrances, as well as from the examinations of their witnesses deputed for that purpose, any one thing positive and substantial could be collected, it was, that if the control over the colonial revenues, which they desired, (and which they subsequently obtained) were granted, all their wants would be satisfied; and that these "ill-used per- 238 sons," as they were represented by the noble and learned Lord who had sat on the bench below him, would gladly accept that arrangement, because the settlement proposed was said to be a monument of human wisdom, embodying all their wishes and all their hopes. His noble and learned Friend (Lord Brougham) had spoken three hours upon the subject of this address, but he did not in one instance advert to that which constituted the very gist of the whole question—namely, that all the demands of the House of Assembly of Lower Canada had been conceded, and that it was under the influence of a party, who had since raised the most unreasonable demands, that all the subsequent misfortunes had arisen, and that the present insurrection had taken place. He regretted that he was deprived of the opportunity of adverting to these circumstances in his noble Friend's presence. His noble Friend had distinguished himself during the course of this evening more than even Papineau or Mackenzie had done; and he had also acted like them in running away. It was not without some embarrassment that he felt constrained to allude in terms of disapprobation to some portions of the noble Lord's speech in his absence. He could not, however, refrain from observing that he never was more astonished than to hear that noble and learned Lord make an observation similar to one which had been made by persons very much his inferiors, out of their Lordships' House; and had absolutely traced a resemblance between the present question in respect of the Canadians, and the resistance which had been made by the inhabitants of the United States upon the occasion of the memorable declaration of independence. The circumstances of the two cases were totally different, and the resistance in the one case commenced where, in the other case, it ended. The parity which the noble and learned Lord had sought to establish between these two cases reminded him of that which the famous Captain Fluellin had endeavoured, with memorable pertinacity, to institute between Alexander the Great and Harry of Monmouth,—a parallel which he founded upon the ingeniously-detected coincidence of there being "a new river in Macedon and a river in Monmouth," and made quite satisfactory to himself by means of the additional circumstance that Alex- 239 ander quarrelled with his friend without a reason, and Harry of Monmouth with a reason. The resemblance which the noble and learned Lord sought to establish in the present instance was based upon quite as substantial reasoning. The Atlantic divided Canada from England, and it also divided England from the United States. There was a House of Assembly in Canada, and there had been also a House of Assembly in the United States. The analogy was, therefore, according to the noble and learned Lord, conclusively established. Unfortunately, however, for the truth of the resemblance, it failed in this important particular, that in the case of the United States the right of controlling their taxation was disallowed, while in that part of Lower Canada it would have gone on for ever but for the absurd interposition of the House of Assembly. But he should have a very different opinion from that which he then entertained as to the issue of the present contest with the Canadians, were we not determined that there should exist in that colony a free community and a free people; for he was happy to say, that it was the genius of the constitution of England, wherever it maintained a connexion with colonies flourishing in trade and commerce, to communicate to them, to leave to them, or, if they had them not, to provide for them, the means of enjoying practical freedom, and of regulating their own local and domestic concerns. But in the colonies, as at home, there were various parties to this contract, and it ought never to be forgotten that, if the Colonial Houses of Assembly had duties to perform, so also had the Crown. The noble and learned Lord had spoken that evening as if the only object in granting to the colonial assemblies the power of giving supplies was to enable them to refuse those supplies when they could not carry any political object on which they had set their hearts. Now, the main objects of a constitution were to insure justice between man and man, to advance improvement, to promote education, to diffuse intelligence, to make roads, and to conduct all the affairs of the community—all which, not once, but systematically, the House of Assembly of Lower Canada had refused to do. If it were to be contended that the House of Assembly had a right to do this, it might be as well contended that, if the Crown were to order 240 its troops, which it had a right to control, to stand still when Canada was invaded by a hostile force, or when the property of its inhabitants was attacked by a riotous mob, it had a right to do so; for it might say, "You have not done what I wish—you have not acceded to my political wishes, and therefore the enemy shall ravage your country, and the mob shall spoliate your property." He contended, that the mode in which the House of Assembly had exercised the privileges granted to it under the constitution of 1791 was a mode calculated to defeat the end of all government. And when he found the House of Assembly on the one hand repeatedly refusing to perform its duties, and the Executive Government on the other repeatedly in collision with it, he could not help thinking that a case was made out for re-considering the constitution, not by convening delegates, as had been stated, for the purpose of making an entirely new constitution, but by convening, under the authority of Government, individuals from the existing Legislature, if there was one, and from the community at large, if there was not, in order to elicit the opinions of that community, and to submit them, with a plan of an improved constitution, to the consideration of the Government at home. That, however, was a question which could not be discussed on the present occasion, nor upon the Bill which was shortly to be introduced to the notice of their Lordships—for this convention, if it were to be called by such a name, could be assembled under the prerogative of the Crown. The noble Marquess concluded by declaring, that in his opinion it was impossible to consider the case of Upper Canada as separated from that of Lower Canada, and that in their future legislation they must consider whether the measures intended for the benefit of the former were not also calculated to promote the interests of the latter province.
§ The Earl of Durham
felt, from the peculiar situation in which he stood, and more especially from the circumstance of his having accepted the high office to which his noble Friend had alluded, that it would not be consistent with his duty to take any part in the debate upon the present question. He wished, therefore, to address only a very few sentences to their Lordships—a few words explanatory of the general principles which would in- 241 fluence his conduct in the discharge of the grave duties imposed upon him, and of the reasons which had induced him to accept the trust. It is impossible (continued his Lordship) for words to express the reluctance with which I have consented to undertake this arduous task, to incur the awful responsibility which I know must attach to me in endeavouring to accomplish the objects of my mission; and I can assure your Lordships that nothing but the most devoted attachment, nothing but the most determined devotion to her Majesty's service and the service of my country could have induced me to place myself in the situation in which I very much fear I shall not answer the expectations either of my noble Friends who place me there, or of the country generally. The noble Duke has stated, in the course of the discussion of this evening, that he had very much regretted to hear it said that one of the objects of the intended measures with respect to Canada was merely the support of a particular party in that province. It is not with that view that I by any means shall undertake the mission. I believe that my duty, in the first place, will be to assert the supremacy of her Majesty's Government; to assert the dignity and honour of the British Crown, and to see that the law is carried into execution—that it is not set aside in the remotest cabin or in the most distant settlement. I shall not conceive that I have done my duty as long as there is the slightest pretence for considering that the dignity of the Crown or the supremacy of the law continues to be violated. Having effected that necessary and essential preliminary object, I shall consider, without reference to party, casting aside all reflections that may concern either the British party or the French party in that country—indeed, I know no French—I can regard all only as her Majesty's subjects, having effected the necessary and essential preliminary objects to which I have adverted, I shall consider that I ought to extend protection to all, to give justice to all, that I ought to endeavour to protect as much the local rights and privileges of those who are the possessors and proprietors of the soil as the great commercial interests which more affect those who are called the British settlers. The noble and learned Lord, at the end of his long and eloquent speech, has been pleased to say that I shall execute but a 242 thankless task in carrying out with me the measure for the suspension of the Canadian constitution. I do not agree with him. I do not think that this measure, or any of the acts of Parliament which are in contemplation, can be regarded in any such light. The constitution has already been de facto suspended, not by an act of the British Parliament, but by the rebellion of the Canadians themselves. I consider therefore, that I go there, not for the purpose of suspending the constitution, but for the purpose of endeavouring to provide as well as I can for the extraordinary state of circumstances which has been produced by the rebellious part of the Canadian community, and which has rendered it impossible for the constitution to continue in operation. These are the views with which I shall consent to undertake what I admit to be a great and awful responsibility—these are the views with which I shall enter upon the exercise of powers greater, I know, than are usually intrusted to the discretion of an individual. Great and dictatorial as these powers are, I shall be anxious to lay them down at the earliest possible time. Believe me, my Lords, I shall endeavour to execute as speedily as possible this highly honourable, but most difficult and dangerous mission. As far as concerns the principal province, it would be my wish—and I implore my noble Friends to give me the means of accomplishing it—to effect such a kind of settlement as should produce contentment and harmony amongst all classes, enable me to establish not temporarily but lastingly the supremacy of the laws, and finally, to leave behind me such a system of Government as may tend to the general prosperity and happiness of one of the most important portions of her Majesty's dominions. If I can accomplish such an object as that, I shall deem no personal sacrifice of my own too great. I feel, however, that I can only accomplish it by the cordial and energetic support—a support which I am sure I shall obtain—of my noble Friends the Members of her Majesty's Cabinet, by the co-operation of the Imperial Parliament, and permit me to say, by the generous forbearance of the noble Lords opposite, to whom I have always been politically opposed. From the candour and generosity which have distinguished the noble Duke's remarks this evening, as well as upon all other occasions. I trust that he and those who think with him will 243 give me credit for the good intentions which I feel, and will only coudemn me if they find my actions such as shall enable them, consistently with their own character, to find fault. I will not trouble your Lordships further. I thought it right to state the feelings with which I enter upon this mission, and to explain to your Lordships that I go not for the purpose of exercising that power, that species of discreditable power, as the noble and learned Lord calls it, which is to be vested in me; but in the first place to restore, I trust, the supremacy of the law, and next, to be the humble instrument of conferring upon the British North American provinces such a free and liberal constitution as shall place them on the same scale of independence as the rest of the possessions of Great Britain, and as shall tend to their own immediate honour, welfare, and prosperity.
§ Lord Glenelg
having stated, that he should trespass on their Lordships only for a very short time, in reply, said: I must he allowed with my noble Friend near me, to express my regret that the noble and learned Lord (Brougham) has been pleased to remove from this scene of action. Abiit, evasit, erupit. Having vented his thunder with no sparing hand, and having also heaped upon me those measures of wrath and indignation which seems to be inexhaustible in his mighty bosom, he has at length shown me that having discharged his deadly bolts, he is capable, like the Thunderer, of veiling himself in clouds. I should have been glad to have returned my thanks to him for this, the first testimony of his friendship with which he has favoured me. I have been much in the habit of hearing the noble and learned Lord launch out his invectives and point his sneers at persons infinitely above me in character and station, and much more intimately connected with himself than I have the honour to be; but I am and was surprised at the inexhaustible vocabulary with which he had charged himself against me to-night. I confess, however, that the violence of the noble and learned Lord's invective has much less weight with me, from the circumstance to which I have alluded: because I have seen it applied somewhat indiscriminately to others, not so much from opposition to any noble Lord whom he chooses to attack, but once engaged in the career of assault the noble and learned Lord is carried away with that fervour of indignation which is 244 the characteristic of his exalted mind. I am sorry to make these observations in his absence; but it is not my fault that he has removed himself from the House. He said it was with pain and sorrow that he felt himself obliged to give utterance to the remarks which fell from him. If the noble and learned Lord were here, I should say to him, "Do not spare me your invective, but, for God's sake, spare me your pain and sympathy." I need not, I am sure, point out to the House the contrast between the speech of the noble and learned Lord, and that of the noble and illustrious Duke who followed him. In the speech of the noble Duke I recognised a mind—in his presence I cannot express half what I feel of the candour, and magnanimity of a speech which was so consistent with all his own political views, and at the same time so generously candid to his political opponents—yet I must he allowed to say, that in the speech of the noble Duke, I recognised a mind strengthened by long habit of application to the great business of the country—a mind careful of throwing bolts at random, either upon this person or upon that, and, above all, not hinting vituperation which it dared not express—a mind anxious only to do justice to the great cause of the country—anxious only to do justice even to his political opponents, and anxious by the same genius which he had already exercised in rescuing the country from danger in another theatre, to rescue it again in a different sphere, from the possible diminution of its colonial greatness. As the noble and learned Lord is not present, I will not depict in its full colours, the contrast between the speech made by him, and that made by the noble Duke. The contrast however, is one which I am sure must have struck every noble Lord who hears me. The noble and learned Lord observed, with respect to one particular point—with respect to the composition of the Legislative Council—that having declared at a somewhat distant period, that that council should be re-constructed prior to the meeting of the House of Assembly, it nevertheless appeared by the papers which had been laid before Parliament, that the Commission for effecting that re-construction was not sent out until the 22nd of August. Now if the noble and learned Lord had examined the papers thoroughly he would have found in them the explanation of that delay. It was impossible for me to send out the Commission until I had been furnished with the names by Lord Gosford. Early in March, 245 Lord Gosford assured me that the names should be sent, and in two or three subsequent dispatches, I alluded to the want of them. Lord Gosford, however, could not send them because he found it extremely difficult, in the state of parties in the province, to select proper persons. The names did not reach me until the beginning of August. There was certainly no loss of time after the names arrived, for in less than ten days, the Commission was made out, a council held, and the dispatch forwarded to Canada. Do not let it be supposed, as the noble and learned Lord was pleased in his generosity to insinuate, that I mean by this explanation to throw any blame upon Lord Gosford. I am stating only what I am sure Lord Gosford would himself state if he were here. Then the noble and learned Lord said, that he did not perceive why this measure, which in truth ought to be applied only to a particular district, should be made general, and he was further pleased to observe, that whenever it suited my argument I represented the whole country as in a state of rebellion, and at other times spoke of it only as partially disturbed. I never on any occasion represented the whole country as being in a state of rebellion. I always said, and the papers upon the table prove the fact, that the rebellion was confined to the district of Montreal. If I apply the measures about to be proposed to the whole country, the reason is this: that although the resistance to the laws and to the authority of the Crown had been limited to one district, yet that the conduct of the House of Assembly, as the representatives of the whole country, has been such as to render it impossible for the constitution to proceed; and I know not how it would be possible to maintain good government, or any government at all, in that country, if you confined your measures simply to the district which is now in a state of rebellion.
The Earl of Fitzwilliam
was understood to state that the inference he drew from the observations made by the noble Duke was, that no Government could succeed in Canada unless it were of an arbitrary character. [The Duke of Wellington: No, no.] He knew that the noble Duke did not make use of those words; but such was the inference he drew from the remarks and the line of argument used by the noble Duke. Their Lordships need not look to the present nor to the last administration for the seeds of this rebellion; they must be sought for in a much more distant period. He begged, however, not 246 to be included among those who doubted the success of the intended mission to the Canadas. When be considered the character of the noble Earl who was to be intrusted with that mission, he was quite persuaded that his measures would be conducted in that constitutional spirit from the observance of which alone could an advantageous result be expected.
§ Motion for the Address agreed to, nem. con.