The Bishop of Exeter
, in rising to present the petition of which he had given notice, said, he thought it would, perhaps, be convenient to their Lordships, considering the peculiar circumstances of the case, if he entered somewhat at length into the merits of the subject as they appeared in the petition. His reason for thinking that this would be the more convenient course was, that as he should that evening only move, that the petition do lie upon the Table, an opportunity would thereby be afforded to their Lordships to consider the case more fully before a motion were made for any ulterior proceedings on the part of their Lordships' House. 1302 The petition with which he was charged was one of no ordinary importance; it was one, too, of rather a singular character in itself, for it prayed their Lordships that they would interpose with their advice, and address the down not to give its sanction to an ordinance which had been passed by the Governor-general of Canada, with the advice of his Special Council. He believed, that this was the first instance in which such a petition had ever been presented to their Lordships; but, singular as the petition was, he thought that the occasion fully justified the singularity; for it appeared to him, that the occasion which gave rise to the petition was far more singular than the petition itself. Her Majesty's Ministers had, within the last few days, laid upon the Table of the House—and he thought their Lordships were much obliged to them for so doing—certain despatches and other papers to aid the House in its deliberations upon this subject. The first of the papers so laid before the House was a despatch of the Governor-general of Canada, of the 20th of January of the present year, in which the Governor-general enclosed a list of the persons who had enfranchised their property under the ordinance passed by him, in Special Council, last June, by virtue of the 2nd & 3rd of Victoria, cap. 53. In that despatch the Governor-general thus expressed himself:—I am happy to say that all excitement on the subject has now subsided, and I can conceive no probability of its being renewed, except it were that there was a probability of the ordinance being interfered with in England. How little such an interference would accord with the interests or wishes of those who last year petitioned the Crown, your Lordship will easily understand from perusing the inclosed list.Then followed a list of the proprietors who had enfranchised their land; and amongst them were some of the petitioners to their Lordships' House. Now, so far was he from thinking that this indicated any disposition on the part of those persons to assent to the measure, that he could see in it only a proof of their great moderation. These petitioners did not approach their Lordships' House with any view to induce their Lordships to interfere in such a manner as to prevent the passing of an ordinance to put an end to feudal tenures by a composition, which they as proprietors were to pay. That 1303 was not the hope of the petitioners; their prayer was, that their Lordships would interpose to prevent far greater evils than any of a mere pecuniary nature; and it would presently be his duty to state to their Lordships what these far greater evils were; what the opinions of the petitioners regarding them were, and what also were his own views in reference to them. Independently of the despatch of the 20th January, 1841, there had also been laid upon the Table a despatch of the 28th June, 1840, a long and rather an elaborate despatch, professing to give much information upon the subject, both as to the mode in which the ordinance had passed, and as to the character and motives of the petitioners. In reference to that despatch, so laid upon their Lordships' Table, he thought he should not be transgressing the rules of propriety if he placed before their Lordships some statements a little at variance with the facts set forth by the Governor-general. The tone in which the Governor-general had spoken of the petitioners, as to the mode in which they had conducted themselves, rather called upon them to justify themselves in their Lordships' eyes; and it happened that before their deputation left this country last year, they put into his (the Bishop of Exeter's) hands certain statements which he should not have considered it necessary to bring under their Lordships' notice but for the production of the despatch to which he was alluding. The first point connected with that despatch to which he begged to call their Lordships' attention, was contained in the very first paragraph, in which the Governor-general said, "I accordingly sent down to the special council on the 30th ult. a draft of the ordinance for that purpose, which, after the fullest discussion was passed." This expression, "the fullest discussion," was rather equivocal: although it implied a discussion that was "very full," it did not imply a discussion forwarded on the fullest information, and unless that were supplied the "fullest discussion," might not mean "the fairest discussion." Now, he was authorised to state, that when a motion was made in the Special Council that there should be laid before them, to assist them in their deliberations, and to enable them to have not only the "fullest" but the "fairest" discussion—information of all that had passed between the seminary of St. Sul- 1304 pice, the body most interested in the subject, and the Government—and when they asked, also, for the sake of becoming acquainted with the law of the case—for in Canada the council had not the advantage which their Lordships enjoyed, of calling upon the judges to aid their deliberation by explaining points of law—when they asked, from the Governor-general to be put in possession of all the various opinions which during the last fifty years had been given to the Crown upon this question, and when they further asked to be informed of the value of the property thus to be given away to the seminary of St. Sulpice,—for reasons which he (the Bishop of Exeter) had no doubt were very good, because they satisfied the great body of the council, but which he (the Bishop of Exeter) could not venture to guess, all the requests embodied in these motions were peremptorily refused. The discussion, therefore, he repeated, however full, was not founded upon the fullest information. In one other respect the discussion in the Special Council was distinguished by a very novel circumstance. It was no less than this—that the Governor-general himself sat there for the first time. Though such a thing was unheard of before, it was an indisputable fact, that the Governor-general himself presided in the Council during the whole of their discussion in their legislative capacity. He (the Bishop of Exeter) said, that this was new and unheard of, and upon that point he would venture to give their Lordships an authority which he thought they would consider of some weight in this case. It was no other than the authority of the Governor-general of Canada himself. If their Lordships would take the trouble of looking at the despatch from Lord Sydenham, at that time the right hon. Mr. Poulett Thomson, of the 16th of November, 1839, they would find him stating for the information of the Colonial Secretary, that he had appointed the chief justice to preside at the deliberations of the Special Council; and he added this important observation:I expect that great advantage will result from the presence of the Chief Justice in Council, and from his presiding over its deliberations, which I find are not carried on in the presence of the Governor-general; and I am happy to say, that this opinion is common to the whole of the council.He thought, then, that he was justified 1305 in saying, that the presence of the Governor-general in the council on the occasion to which he had referred was singular and unprecedented, even in the estimation of the Governor-general himself, and perhaps he should hardly be going too far if he added, that the presence of the Governor-general on such an occasion was as unfit as it was unprecedented. The Governor-general must of necessity know how the member of the council spoke and voted, and when he considered how the council was composed, the number of Members who held office under the Government, especially remembering the remarkable despatch of Lord John Russell on the tenure of office in the colonies, he could not do otherwise than conclude that this discussion, if the "fullest," could not at any rate be regarded as the "fairest or the freest." The despatch of the 28th of June 1840 further stated, and this was another observation lo which he wished to call their Lordships' attention.I have every reason to believe, that notwithstanding the clamour raised by a few individuals in this city (Montreal), and the violence of the press, the measure was approved by the moderate men of all parties.He was extremely sorry to say, if that part of the despatch were strictly accurate that the moderate men of the British party, at least in Montreal, were exceedingly few; for the petition he had now the honour of bringing under their Lordships' notice, was signed by very nearly the whole of the male British population of that city. This petition was drawn up against the ordinance which had appeared in the Gazette Extraordinary, and which was expected to be the one intended to be proposed by the Governor-general to the Special Council in June last. The ordinance actually proposed, however, differed from that of the Gazette Extraordinary in some not unimportant points. The committee of the petitioners, immediately on the ordinance passing, addressed letters to those gentlemen whom they had deputed to represent them in England, urging them to be not less earnest in pressing forward the petition against the ordinance in the somewhat altered form in which it was proposed. Nor was this all. Immediately after the ordinance passed, a meeting of the petitioners was held in Montreal, at which, indignant at the measure carried against them, they entered 1306 into some strong resolutions. And might he (the Bishop of Exeter) venture to observe that, whatever the strength of the terms employed by the petitioners on such an occasion—an occasion on which, not only the rights of their property, but the far more grave and valuable rights of their religion were involved—it could not be regarded as a matter of surprise that even moderate men, under such circumstances, should be roused to strong expressions? He would now stale who the petitioners were. The petition conceived and expressed in terms of pre-eminent calmness and moderation, was signed by above 2,000 of the persons who were described at the head of it as "the undersigned proprietors of real estates, merchants and others, inhabitants of the city of Montreal, in the province of Lower Canada." More than 2,000 of these gentlemen had subscribed the petition, which, however, was sent off without allowing sufficient time for all who wished to sign it, and give in their adherence to it. The British population of Montreal was only 15,000, and as 3,000 of that number were Roman Catholics, there could be counted only 12,000 as the British Protestant, population, including men, women, and children. Taking the male population at one half, namely, at 6,000, and reckoning the adults as one half of these, it followed, that the petition being signed by more than 2,000 male adults, for the signatures of females and children had been rigidly excluded, must betaken as representing the views and wishes of a great proportion, two-thirds, of the British Protestant population. But this was not all. He would not dwell upon the fact that the petition was signed by all the Established clergy in the city, and he believed also by all the Dissenting ministers; it could only be expected that the clergy would take such a course, and for that reason he would not press it upon their Lordships' consideration;—but he was anxious to direct attention to the fact, that out of the twenty-four British magistrates of Montreal, the petition had received the signatures of eighteen, and of the remaining six two or three were absent in England, two were members of the special council, and although they avowedly favoured the petition, they declined to attach their names to it. There remained one or two whose names were withheld—withheld, as he (the Bishop of Exeter) was told, not from any 1307 dislike to the petition, but for reasons which they did not give. But even supposing that all who had not signed it were opposed to it, still there would be eighteen out of the twenty-four who came lo their Lordships' House to express an earnest prayer that their Lordships would interpose to save them from great calamities not only to themselves, but to the peace and safety of the colony, if this measure of the provincial government were not arrested in its progress. If, however, it should be held, that neither the 2,000 persons whose signatures were attached to the petition, nor the clergy, nor the eighteen magistrates were worthy of attention, there was at least one person whose name had been affixed to it, which he was sure the noble Viscount (Viscount Melbourne) and even the Governor-general of Canada, would admit was worthy of their Lordships' consideration; and that individual was no less than her Majesty's Solicitor-general of Lower Canada. He was not Solicitor-general at the time he signed the petition; but in the interval between the signing of the petition and the passing of the ordinance, Mr. Day was made Solicitor-general, a convincing proof of the high estimation in which he was held by the Governor-general. What was the conduct of Mr. Day in the Special Council? In the Special Council there were but two members who voted against the ordinance. Of that fact there could be no doubt, because it came under the hand of the Governor-general; but the despatch, although it informed their Lordships that two members of the Special Council had voted against the ordinance, did not inform them of two others who declared themselves against it, but who for some reasons, which no doubt satisfied their consciences as men of honour, stayed away, and did not vote. One of those two Members of the Special Council was Mr. Day, the Solicitor-general; and as he (the Bishop of Exeter) was told Mr. Day opposed the ordinance in committee, but upon the question "that it be fairly engrossed," which, according to the forms used in Canada, was equivalent to the question in this country that a measure "do pass," Mr. Day was not present, Mr. Day, however, was not the only individual who stayed away. There was another—a highly honourable man—Mr. Black, the judge of the Vice-Admiralty court. He also opposed the ordinance in 1308 some of its stages, but was absent when the final question was put. He (the Bishop of Exeter) was assured, upon the authority of a man of veracity, honour, and high distinction in Montreal, that it was perfectly notorious that Mr. Black, after intimating his objection to the ordinance in one of its early stages, was sent; for by the Governor-general. Nothing of course was known of what took place at this interview. But though he (the Bishop of Exeter) could not say post hoc, ergo propter hoc, at all events post hoc, for Mr. Black, although in Montreal, did not afterwards attend the Special Council to vote upon the ordinance. He would not go further into the particulars of who the petitioners were, nor dwell at greater length upon the claims which they had to their Lordships' consideration. He came now to the prayer of the petition: that prayer was—Having stated our reasons for calling on her Majesty to refuse her sanction to any ordinance for incorporating the seminary of St. Sulpice, we humbly pray that the funds collected for that seminary may be applied to those public purposes from which all classes of the population will derive equal and commensurate advantages.Such was the prayer of the petition, the object of which was, to prevent the incorporation of the society of St. Sulpice, and the appropriation of the funds in question to other purposes than those which tended to the public good, and the petitioners called upon their Lordships to take such measures in compliance with their prayer, by address to her Most Gracious Majesty, or by some other course which they in their wisdom might deem fit, as should avert the evils thus complained of, by securing a refusal of the royal sanction to the obnoxious ordinance. It was stated by the Governor-general, that to the bargain on which this ordinance was founded, the present petitioners were parties—not only parties, but assenting parties; and in support of that statement, reference was made to the report of Mr. C.Buller, which was to be found in Appendix E to Lord Durham's report. But, if their Lordships looked to the statement of Mr. Buller, they would find that he did not commit himself to any such assertion. Mr. Buller was directed to investigate the subject, and he had consulted with Mr. Quiblier, the superior of the seminary. He did not call together the whole body of indivi- 1309 duals who were interested, in fact the whole report was drawn up without their concurrence, or even cognizance, but he selected three persons, who, he doubted not, Mr. Duller thought very fit to decide this question. After consulting with them, he made a most lucid report on the subject, and in it he stated that his opinion was founded on the sentiments of those who might fairly be regarded as representing the general feeling of the British inhabitants on the subject. That assuredly was a very different thing from stating that all those who were interested were parties to the bargain. Mr. Buller referred to those whom he had consulted as persons very likely to know and speak the general feeling, but on that point he happened to be quite mistaken. In fact, from the first, much opposition was offered to this plan; and when it was originally spoken of, a deputation from the petitioners waited on the late Earl of Durham, to entreat him that no such ordinance should be passed. Lord Durham answered these very unsatisfactorily, but gave them no reason to suppose that an ordinance was prepared. The noble Earl was succeeded by a noble Lord (Seaton), who he wished was now in the House to give them the benefit of his advice on this subject. Finding the matter nearly concluded, and the assent of the parties to whom references had been made, already obtained to the proceeding, finding too, that these parties were considered by his predecessor as representing fairly the sentiments of the censitaires in general, the noble Lord went on with his ordinance. Immediately a deputation waited on Lord Seaton, and staled, that so far from having given their assent to the ordinance, they were not even aware of the step proposed. There was no bargain made; those parties had uniformly, from first to last, declared themselves against it, not merely on pecuniary grounds, but for higher and better reasons. He rejoiced to say that the parties who had signed this petition had shown their moderation by abstaining from saying a single word against the corporation of the seminary of St. Sulpice. From all he had heard of the members of that body, he believed that they were entitled to the utmost credit for their zeal, moderation, and desire faithfully to do what they believed to be their duty. Perhaps the most important investigation 1310 that had been made into the claims of this seminary was that which was made in 1836, by the Commission of Inquiry into the Grievances of the Canadians. That commission was composed of a noble Earl, a gallant officer, and a right hon. Gentleman who had formerly been Chief Justice of Calcutta, who was a very old and valued friend of his, he must be highly valued indeed, he must be by every one who had the advantage of his acquaintance. While those commissioners negatived everything like a legal claim on the part of this seminary to the possessions it claimed, they however urged what they considered to be the equitable claims of the seminary on her Majesty's Government. Two of the commissioners used rather less strong language as to the nullity of the pretended legal claim than the third, but the right hon. Judge, who on a question of law might be considered as high an authority as the noble Earl and the gallant Officer associated with him, spoke of the legal claim as being absolutely destitute of reasonable foundation, asserting, however, along with the others, the equitable claim which he supposed the seminary to have. The strongest argument assigned for the legal claim by the two commissioners was the 34th article of the capitulation of Montreal, by which it was stipulated that the communities generally should retain their property in the seignories; but Sir C. Grey disposed of that argument altogether, and showed its complete futility. The commissioners, however, agreed in declaring their opinion that the seminary had the strongest claim to the generous consideration of her Majesty's Government, asserting that the acts of Government since the conquest had all along recognized the equitable right at least of the parties in possession of the property. One of the strongest points in favour of this view was drawn from a clause in the Royal instructions given to the Governor of Canada, after the Quebec Act of 1774, 14th George 3rd., c. 83. In that act there was a provision that all her Majesty's Canadian subjects, except the religious orders and communities, should freely hold the possessions and properties to which they were entitled at the time of the cession of the province. This seemed like an absolute exclusion of the claims of the seminary j but in the Royal instructions to the governor, issued subsequently to the 1311 passing of the act, there was a passage declaring,That the societies of Romish priests, called the seminaries of Quebec and Montreal, should continue to possess and occupy their houses of residence, and all other lands and houses to which they were lawfully entitled on the 13th of September, 1759.The commissioners, in their report, did not quote these precise words. They preferred using different language, to having recourse to the words of the mere dry official document. He would read to their Lordships the statement of the commissioners. They said,New instructions were given to the Governor of Canada on the 3d of January, 1775, in consequence of the passing of the Quebec Act in the preceding year; the 21st section related to the exercise of the Roman Catholic religion; and by the 11th head of it, it was directed that the seminaries of Quebec and Montreal should remain in possession of all houses and lands of which they were in possession on the 13th of September, 1759.Surely, there was a marvellous discrepancy between the real language of the instructions and the account of it thus given by the commissioners! The commissioners said the seminaries were to hold all the lands of which they were in possession on the 13th of September, 1759, whereas the royal instructions expressly restricted the lands to those to which they were "lawfully entitled" on that day. This completely negatived the conclusion which the commissioners had adopted. The commissioners stated that they were to remain in possession of all the houses and lands of which they were before in possession. He must take leave to say the instructions said no such thing. They said they were to continue to possess and occupy—a very important word, because it seemed they were to continue in possession of only those things of which they were in occupation—that they should continue to possess and occupy their houses of residence, and other lands and houses to which they were lawfully entitled on the 13th of September, 1759. Unless, therefore, on the 13th of September 1759, those seminaries were lawfully entitled to the possession of the property which they now claimed, those instructions which the commissioners appealed to as conclusive in their favour, were conclusive against them. The commissioners themselves admitted they were not lawfully entitled, that their 1312 legal title was a mere illusion. But what was the property they were then considering? Was it houses of residence and lands? No, seignorial rights and dues. If he might be permitted to call the attention of the noble and learned Lord opposite to this, (and he wished there were more noble and learned Lords present) he would beg of him to consider whether the phrase "houses and lands," which those parties were to continue to possess and occupy, could in any legal sense cover the claims to those seignorial rights and dues? Unless they did, those words would exclude the claims of St. Sulpice, instead of bringing them within the contemplation of the Royal instructions. He would not detain their Lordships by going at large into the nature of these seminaries. They were most respectable bodies, and of great antiquity—they were bodies well known to the primitive Church—they were bodies which the Church of Rome had done wisely in retaining, and which he would be much pleased to see in our own Church. They were instituted, first, for the purpose of giving instruction to persons who were qualifying for holy orders, a most useful purpose, and he thought such an institution would prove of great benefit to our Church. Another purpose of the seminaries was to attend to foreign missions, and this of St. Sulpice, of Paris, was an illustrious instance of the pious munificence of an excellent man, M. Olier, an intimate friend of Fenelon. To his piety did it owe its existence. The exertions of the missionaries in New France, as the present United Province of Canada, was originally called, were crowned with much success; they had converted many of the Indian tribes, but he was sorry to say that the impression was not permanent. However, the consequence of their success was, that a society in France, resembling our Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts, to whom the island of Montreal had been given, transferred this possession to the seminary of St. Sulpice, at Paris, and letters patent of Louis 14th confirmed the grant in the year 1667. The same letters patent permitted the establishment of a seminary at Montreal, but at the same time expressly guarded against permitting the Montreal seminary to be anything more than a mere dependency of the seminary in Paris. They occupied the houses and lands under the seminary at Paris, and 1313 accounted to it for the revenues of the lands they held. Their possessions amounted to about 1,500 acres, 800 of which was wood, from which they obtained their fuel—one farm of 180 acres was in their occupation, and another farm was let. With regard to the seignories they were distinctly in the legal possession of, the Seminary of St. Sulpice in Paris, as was clearly proved by Sir John Sewel in 1801—he adduced proofs from books of unquestionable authority that the society in Montreal was an off shoot—a dependency of the society in Paris. Now he apprehended that the recognised principle of national law was that all the rights of corporations located, nay, that all the rights of individuals which were opposed to the institutions of a conquering State, were ipso facto abolished by that conquest. That was the ordinary and common sense doctrine, and therefore it was perfectly open for the new State to say as these possessions devolved to the Crown that they should be employed for the conversion of the Indians by protestant clergymen, and for the instruction of the protestant population, as they were formerly applied by the Roman Catholic clergy to the Roman Catholic population. At any rate, they fell to the Crown as of right. He spoke not from his own authority, but from that of every British jurisconsult who had given an opinion on the subject. The residence of the original owners of the property was France, and only those who were resident in the colony were entitled to the benefits of the capitulation in which there was nothing that recognised the rights of the Seminary of St. Sulpice at Paris. From the year 1773, down to the year 1829, various officers of the Crown, after investigating the legal rights of these ecclesiastics, affirmed the principle he had stated. What was the consequence? Why, that the Seminary of St. Sulpice of Montreal, besides being not recognized as a corporation, were not even considered entitled to the property as individuals. The only permission accorded to them was, that they should continue to occupy their houses and lands during the king's pleasure.
It was said that by the Treaty of Cession in 1763 persons natives of Canada holding property there were allowed to retire to France and to part with their property to other persons in the colony, and that in 1764 the seminary of St. Sulpice in Paris 1314 executed a deed of gift of all the property in question to the seminary in Montreal. This was one ground on which the seminary claimed; but it was ridiculed by every lawyer. Unless they had a title in 1759, they could have no title of a subsequent date, and their present title did not commence till 1764. The commissioners had indeed considered that the Crown had invariably treated the members of the seminary of St. Sulpice as legally and equitably entitled to continue in possession of the property. They founded their view on the instructions which continued to be given to each successive governor, down to the time of Lord Gosford; but it has been already shown that the terms of those instructions had been (unintentionally no doubt) changed by the commissioners, and that the instructions in their real import repudiated the notion, that the assent of the Crown had been given to the possession of this property, by the members of St. Sulpice. He would give another instance to their Lordships of the fact that the Government had not always considered the claims of St. Sulpice to be a settled question. He was sorry that the noble Earl who, in the year 1835, filled the office of Colonial Secretary, was not in the House, but he would beg leave to read to their Lordships an extract from a despatch from the Earl of Aberdeen to Lord Aylmer on the 1st of January, 1835, which would show that the Government of that day considered the question open to dispute. The despatch, which was very conciliatory in its tone, assigned the reasons of Government for refusing to accede to a bill passed by the provincial Legislature relating to public education, which appeared to be very objectionable in its general policy. The extract was as follows:—Finally, the terms of this bill are so chosen, that I apprehend they would terminate the question so long disputed, whether the corporate character asserted by the priests of the seminary of St. Sulpice really belongs to them or not. The decision of that question in favour of the seminary would involve consequences which every Canadian, whatever his national origin or religious persuasion, would alike have reason to deprecate—such as the holding a great commercial city upon a feudal tenure, &c.; the dedication of a vast territory to purposes now become, in a great measure, obsolete, and for which, to the advantage of every class of society, other public objects of the same general character might be substituted." &c.1315 In that document then there was a complete contradiction of the main averment of the commissioners, on which they founded their opinion, that the seminary was entitled in equity to retain possession of the lands in their occupation: and more than that, there was the authority of the Government in the beginning of the year 1835, expressed by the noble Secretary for the Colonies at that time, that the possession by the seminary of the property it claimed, would be looked upon as a most disastrous occurrence by every Canadian, whatever might be his religious or political opinions. He rejoiced to know that the petitioners had so high an authority in their favour.
He had now to approach a part of the subject that involved delicate considerations—he meant the merits of the parties. As individuals, he believed most conscientiously that they were entitled to the honour, and respect, and reverence of every man of every religious communion. He believed they were most exemplary in their conduct. That was, indeed, the uniform testimony from every quarter of Canada. But their merits as a religious body was quite another affair. How had they exerted themselves in their collective character? A return from M. Quiblier, the principal of the seminary, contained in the appendix to Lord Durham's report, set forth the objects to which the funds of the seminary were actually directed to be as follow;—1. The service of the parish of Montreal, containing about 20,000 Roman Catholics; one third of which are English, Irish, or Scotch. For these the seminary maintains from 15 to 18 priests. 2. The Mission of the Lake of Two Mountains, for the instruction of two tribes of Indians. 3. The Little Seminary or College; 5 priests and 15 masters. Here are taught French, English, Greek, Latin, the belles lettres, philosophy, mathematics, &c. About 250 scholars attend this establishment. 4. The parochial schools; 30 masters or mistresses. 1,400 children are taught almost gratuitously. 5. A foundation at the Hospital-General of the Gray Sisters for six poor and aged invalids. 6. Another foundation at the same hospital for 40 Irish female orphans. 7. This year (i. e. 1838) an establishment of Brethren of the Christian Schools.This was a body of men brought from France, and he (the Bishop of Exeter) confessed he did not think the worse of them on that account, but it was right to say he had heard and believed they were 1316 Jesuits. He did not want to go into the subject of Jesuitism on this occasion, yet he must say that he thought the Jesuits were not people who were entitled to much respect from their Lordships. When they considered what was going on in the world at the present time, they might without any impropriety, entertain some special jealousy of Jesuits.That establishment is frequented by upwards of 260 young men, who are taught (gratis) reading, writing, arithmetic, grammar, geography, the elements of geometry, and lineal drawing, &c. 8. Public and private alms, and subscriptions for public improvements.Of all these objects, the second was the only one which at all agreed with the objects for which the seminary of St. Sulpice, of Paris, like its offspring at Montreal, was permitted to be established, by letters patent from Louis 14th, namely, for the "conversion and instruction of our subjects in New France." The term, "conversion," of course, was applicable to the native Indians; "instruction" included both French and native Canadians, and thus all the subjects of the Crown of France, in New France, were embraced in that article. It was very remarkable, that at the capitulation of Montreal, a special demand was made, that the Indians should be instructed by the Roman Catholic Ecclesiastics. The 4th article of the stipulations, after making provision for the security of the Indian tribes, which had been friendly to the French during the war, proceeded thus to state the demand of the capitulating party, the people of Montreal:—The actual vicars-general, and the bishop, when the episcopal see shall be filled, shall have leave to send them new missionaries, when they shall see it necessary.What was the answer to that demand? "Granted: except the last article, which has been already refused." Now what had been the conduct of the British Government—he did not mean of her Majesty's present Ministers, but of every administion since the year 1763? Had they acted in conformity with this refusal? Yes; in the instructions given to the governors-general from that time to this—no, not to this period, because the instructions recently given to the Governor-General of Canada formed an exception—but, till that exception, down to the period of Lord Sydenham going out, all the Go- 1317 vernors general had received these instructions?—That all missionaries amongst the Indians, whether established under the authority of, or appointed by the Jesuits, or by any other ecclesiastical authority of the Romish church, shall be withdrawn by degrees, and at such times, and in such manner, as shall be satisfactory to the said Indians, and consistent with the public safety, and Protestant missionaries appointed in their place.That was the invariable order of the British Crown to the representatives of the British Crown in Canada, and it was dictated by the truest and most just appreciation of the duties of the Sovereign, who had bound himself, in the most solemn manner, to maintain throughout his dominions, not merely in Great Britain and Ireland, but in all the territories thereof, to the utmost, the true Protestant religion as established by law. Should it be said, that the object of the establishment of the seminary, as stated in the letters patent of 1677, was generally for the conversion and instruction of the subjects of the ruling sovereign, the answer was, first, that this provision applied then to the whole province of New France, including both Canadas; and, secondly, that by right of conquest, all such instructions became applicable to the similar objects of the conquering state, namely, the Protestant religion. But the recent instructions to the Governor-General, though they contained all the other instructions relating to religious matters, did not contain the two articles which he had read to their Lordships. There was appended to the instructions given to Lord Sydenham, an intimation that certain things had become obsolete—that was the word—"certain things had become obsolete," and the Governor was to apply himself to the instructions given in respect to those things that were not obsolete. In consequence of what took place in 1839; this subject was specially referred to in the new Colonial Secretary's letter to Lord Durham, and it was advised that more liberal views should be taken, that he should act upon liberal dictates, and that he should deal with his instructions in the manner best suited to the liberal spirit of modern times. But the fact was that the right of this seminary, to carry out the purpose of the endowment of 1667, even the conversion of the Indians, was expressly desired in regard to this most 1318 important point, until Lord Sydenham's time.
He applauded the teachers connected with the establishment of St. Sulplice for the efforts they had made to diffuse education. But what had been the practical result of their labours? Had they been productive of general advantage to the community? He would refer their Lordships for an answer to the report made by Lord Durham. Though he did not approve of all the conclusions of that report, he might be allowed to say, that he considered it a very well-written and able document, and from that he would quote the account which Lord Durham gave of the result of the education which had been given to the Canadians.The bulk of the population "said Lord Durham," is composed of the hardworking yeomanry of the country districts, commonly called habitans, and their connexions engaged in other occupations. It is impossible to exaggerate the want of education among the habitans; no means of instruction have ever been provided for them, and they are almost universally destitute of the qualifications even of reading and writing. The piety and benevolence of the early possessors of the country founded in the seminaries that exist in different parts of the province institutions of which the funds and activity have long been directed to the promotion of education. Seminaries and colleges have been by these bodies established in the cities and in other central points. The education given in these establishments greatly resembles the kind given in the English public schools, though it is rather more varied. It is entirely in the hands of the Catholic clergy. The number of pupils in these establishments is estimated altogether at about 1,000, and they turn out every year, as far as I could ascertain, between 200 and 300young men thus educated. Almost all of these are members of the family of some habitan, whom the possession of greater quickness than his brothers has induced the father or the curate of the parish, to select, and send to the seminary. These young men, possessing a degree of information immeasurably superior to that of their families, are naturally adverse to what they regard as descending to the humble occupations of their parents: a few become priests; but, as the military and naval professions are closed against the colonists, the greater part can only find a position suited to their notions of their own qualifications in the learned profession of advocate, notary, and surgeon. As from this cause these professions are greatly overstocked, we find every village in Lower Canada filled with notaries and surgeons, with little practice to occupy their attention, and living among their own families, or at any rate among exactly the 1319 Same class. Thus the persons of the most education in every village belong to the same families and the same original station in life as the illiterate habitans whom I have described. They are connected with them by all the associations of early youth and the ties of blood. The most perfect equality always marks their intercourse, and the superior in education is separated by no barrier of manners, or pride, or distinct interests from the singularly ignorant peasantry, by which he is surrounded. He combines, therefore, the influences of superior knowledge and social equality, and wields a power over the mass, which I do not believe, that the educated class of any other portion of the world possess. To this singular state of things I attribute the extraordinary influence of the Canadian demagogues. The most uninstructed population anywhere trusted with political power is thus placed in the hands of a small body of instructed persons, in whom it reposes the confidence which nothing but such domestic connexion and such community of interest could generate. Over the class of persons by whom the peasantry are thus led, the Government has not acquired, or ever laboured to acquire, influence; its members have been thrown into opposition by the system of exclusion long prevalent in the colony; and it is by their agency that the leaders of the Assembly have been enabled hitherto to move as one mass, in whatever direction they thought proper, the simple and ductile population of the country. The entire neglect of education by the Government has thus, more than any other cause, contributed to render this people ungovernable, and to invest the agitator with the power which he wields against the laws and the public tranquility.These were the practical results of the laudable exertions of this seminary. For this they had the authority of Lord Durham's very able report—for an able report it certainly was, though he would not be guilty of the affectation of saying he thought it a wise one. Independently of that statement however, what was notoriously the state of the fact? He admitted that full praise ought to be given to the seminary for having prevented the outbreak of sedition and violence in the city of Montreal, ft was stated that it had done so; and he had no doubt it was stated correctly. But what was the effect in the rural districts' within the seignories claimed by the seminary? It was there that the worst excesses of the Canadian rebellion were committed; thus bearing the amplest testimony to the accuracy of the statements in the Earl of Durham's report. He contended, then, that no special case interposed between the seminary and justice; and justice de- 1320 manded that the vast resources in question should be wielded by the Crown for the public good. He maintained that those funds belonged not to the seminary, but to the Crown; and if that were the case, it was the duty of the Crown—and he was sure that no one would be more ready to admit that it was than the noble Viscount near him—to employ them for the general benefit of the most important province in which they accrued, Here he might leave the subject, but there were considerations connected with it of a higher character than any he had hitherto mentioned.
He apprehended that the ordinance relating to the seminary must have been passed subject to the instructions imposed on the Governor-general by the Legislature. By the Quebec Act it was provided that no ordinance should be passed which would have the effect of altering the spiritual or religious interests of any ecclesiastical body. Now the ordinance professed to incorporate the ecclesiastics of the seminary at Montreal. Could it be denied that that was making an important alteration, both in the temporal and spiritual interest of the body? It also gave to the seminary vast possessions, to which it had not the shadow of a legal title. The restrictions imposed by the Legislature upon the Governor-general ought to be construed largely. The Legislature was conferring upon that officer extraordinary powers—powers unknown to the Constitution (he did not say that they were unnecessarily conferred), and therefore he contended that the restrictions imposed upon such powers ought to be construed most largely. By the ordinance passed with respect to the seminary, the Legislative restrictions had been completely disregarded and put aside. That, however, he held as nothing, compared with the illegality of the ordinance in another respect. It in effect, created an Ecclesiastical corporation of Romish priests. He ventured to say, that this was the first time since the Reformation that the English Government had done such an act. James 2d. even never dared to do it. Father Petre never ventured to advise the attempt. It was reserved for the noble Viscount's Government in 1841 to do it. This was all in the natural course of things, he supposed. We were now favoured with new lights, adapted to the spirit of the age, and must conduct 1321 ourselves accordingly. Still, however, we had yet a constitution, and laws, and the fundamental laws of the Constitution ought to be, and, he doubted not, would be maintained by their Lordships. He was sure their Lordships would not tolerate an attempt to create an ecclesiastical corporation of Romish priests in defiance of the fundamental laws of the country. What was the first object of an act of incorporation? It was to make the body to which it was applied perpetual. Then, he asked, could a Protestant Government—could a Protestant Legislature, if it were what it professed to be—could it dare to attempt to perpetuate that which, if it believed the creed it professed to hold, it must not only think ought not to be perpetuated, but must be satisfied would at last cease to exist? It was impossible, he conceived, for a Protestant Legislature to incorporate a body of Popish priests—[A noble Lord "Romish."]—Well, Romish priests; he had no objection to use that word, if noble Lords liked it better.
He would now venture to call their Lordships' attention to the Act of the 24th of Henry 8th., c. 12., as one of the fundamental laws of the realm. That statute described the state and constitution of England; it claimed for the imperial Crown of this realm, independence of every foreign power; it declared that to it was attached a body politic, compact of different sorts and classes of persons, called by the names "spiritual" and "temporal;" and that the body which was bound to the imperial Crown of Great Britain, was sufficient of itself to discharge all the demands of justice within the realm; and it proceeded, therefore, to declare, that it should be unlawful to make any appeal whatever to any foreign state, and it specially ousted the jurisdiction of Rome. That statute was one of the most important ever passed by the Parliament of this country. It was a grave declaratory statute of the ancient constitution of this realm; and that statute, be it remembered, was passed before Henry 8th. had ceased to be a member of the Romish church. Again, the 16th section of the Act of 1 Elizabeth, cap. 1, enacted—That no foreign prince, person, prelate state, or potentate, spiritual or temporal, shall at any time after this Session of Parliament use, exercise, or enjoy any manner of power, jurisdiction, superiority, authority, pre-emi- 1322 nence, or privilege, spiritual or ecclesiastical, within this realm, or within any other your Majesty's dominions or countries that now be or hereafter shall be.It was illegal to incorporate any body, in any part of the territories belonging to the Crown of Great Britain, which acknowledged the authority of a foreign power. But the ordinance was also in direct contravention of the Quebec Act of 1774, and also of the 31st. Geo 3d., commonly called the Constitutional Statute of Canada, by which it was distinctly declared, while the utmost favour should be given to the Roman Catholic inhabitants of Canada in the free exercise of their religion, that must still be subject to the supremacy of the Crown, as defined by the 1st of Elizabeth, to extend over all the dominions of her Majesty "which now are or hereafter shall be." So fundamental was the Queen's supremacy in the Constitution of the country, and so extensive in its effects wherever the Protestant empire existed, that it was impossible for the Crown itself to set it at nought. Indeed, this was one of those things which transcended the power of the Crown. It was also beyond—he would not say the force, but the moral power of Parliament, to do anything in derogation of the fundamental statute to which he had referred, What, then, was this ordinance? Its first object was to make the seminary an ecclesiastical corporation. This audacious proceeding—he begged pardon—he would retract that word. It would be correctly applied only if the thing actually attempted to be done, had been intended in violation of our fundamental laws; but he must suppose that the matter had obtained very little consideration from the special council—that, indeed, they really had not been aware what they were about; for he never could believe that they would venture on so bold an experiment as violating the fundamental laws of the realm. It was entirely to want of reflection he attributed a proceeding so rash and so unparalleled for nothing like it had ever been heard of before. Was there the slightest necessity for incorporating the seminary? If there were, that would be a plea, but not an excuse, for the ordinance; but it was perfectly idle to pretend that it was necessary to make the seminary an ecclesiastical corporation, or a corporation at all. Even if it had been just, wise, and proper 1323 to grant to this seminary the properly in question, and he would prove it was not just, wise, or proper, still it was not necessary to make it an ecclesiastical incorporation, or a corporation at all. Upon what authority did he say this? On the authority of the British Legislature itself in a most important instance—the establishment of the College of Maynooth. That college was enabled by Act of Parliament to hold lands, but was it made a corporation? Nothing like it. No one in those days ever dreamt of such a thing. Effect was given to the intention of the Legislature by creating trustees, and enabling them to hold property for such a length of time as the educational necessities of the Roman Catholics might require. He would say frankly and freely, that he regarded this as only one of many instances of the encroaching spirit of Popery. Never, never, since the era of the Reformation, did greater danger menace the peace of Europe, and the rights and liberties of every free state in Europe; ay, and beyond it, especially in America, and our own colonies there and elsewhere (particularly Newfoundland), from the gigantic strides made by Romanism to resume its power; and never was its progress watched with such utter indifference; nay, he wished he could say with indifference, but he feared he must state with such favour by the Government of this country. [Viscount Melbourne: No.] The noble Viscount disclaimed it. Then he retracted the assertion, and would believe, that the noble Viscount did not intend to favour Popery, however the acts of his Government might seem to indicate the contrary. The noble Viscount must be aware, that there was some apparent ground for misconstruing his intentions. He must recollect certain expressions which fell from him a few years ago, and which he (the Bishop of Exeter) would not repeat, because they had become "familiar as household words," and now here was the proposed incorporation of the seminary. Of course it was not intended to favour Popery; and, for aught he knew to the contrary, it might have been supposed, that the incorporation of the seminary would be for the good of the Government and the province. So it was, we had a Government professing attachment to the Church of England, which was, in appearance, doing all it could to favour Romanism, yet declaring all the 1324 time that it intended nothing of the kind. It happened, that amongst the documents placed upon the Table of the House by the noble Marquess near him (Marquess of Normanby), when he was Colonial Secretary, was a paper in which a Roman Catholic functionary was styled "Bishop of Quebec." The language he believed was used in pure innocence; but it was an indication of the way in which these matters were treated by the Government. At the time of the capitulation of Quebec, one of the points most strenuously urged on the part of the inhabitants was, that there should be an acknowledged Roman Catholic Bishop of Quebec. In those days the very notion of such a thing was laughed at, and every attempt subsequently to establish a Roman Catholic bishop had been set at nought. To show the jealousy which had prevailed upon this point, he would refer to a transaction which would be in the recollection of some of their Lordships. A Roman Catholic clergyman had gone from Quebec to Rome, and was there appointed a bishop in partibus by the Pope. He returned to Quebec, and secretly prevailed with the remaining members of the old chapter at Quebec to elect him Bishop, and he then consecrated another Romish ecclesiastic, by authority from Rome, to be a bishop in partibus, who was made his coadjutor, cum jure successionis. The governor reported the circumstance of the consecration to the Secretary of State, Lord Dartmouth, who wrote him a very sharp rebuke for having suffered it. Now, however, the Colonial Secretary openly recognised the Roman Catholic Bishop of Quebec, which was an important sign of the times, which it was their duty not to overlook. He regarded it as a matter of regret, that there was no Protestant Bishop of Quebec, and that the Prelate who succeeded to the episcopal functions of the last bishop did not also adopt his title of Bishop of Quebec. All these proceedings rendered it necessary that their Lordships should watch what was going on. They must keep their eyes open. Or, if they were resolved to wink at every thing, yet, wink as hard they pleased, they could not be altogether blind.
There was another ground on which he contended this ordinance must somehow or other be blotted out of the legislation of Canada—it was in direct defiance, in the very teeth, of a most important act—the 1325 Act of Union, which was passed last year. By the 3rd and 4th Victoria, c. 35 (the act to reunite the provinces of Upper and Lower Canada), the consolidated fund of the province was charged—With the payment to her Majesty of two several sums of 45,000l. and 30,000l. for the several services and purposes named in the schedules; and so long as the said sums should be payable to her Majesty, the same should be accepted and taken by her Majesty, instead of all territorial and other revenues now at the disposal of the Crown; and all the produce of the said territorial and other revenues now at the disposal of the Crown, within the province of Canada, should be paid over to the said consolidated fund.By that act the Crown had put it out of its power to exercise any control over the property which the Government now affected to give to the seminary. He made that assertion on the authority of the commissioners on grievances. In their first report, p. 4, they gave part of the speech by which Lord Gosford opened the provincial Parliament of Canada. He said,I have received the commands of our most gracious Sovereign, to acquaint you that his Majesty is disposed to place under the control of the representatives of the people all public monies payable to his Majesty, or to his officers in the province, whether arising from taxes, or from any other Canadian source; but that this cession cannot be made, except on conditions which must maturely be weighedThen, after stating the conditions, the commissioners proceeded,We have now stated the conditions we should think necessary in giving up the right of appropriating the King's casual, territorial, and hereditary revenue; but in order to render our report complete, it appears desirable that we should preserve the best view in our power of the extent of cession that is to be made.—p. 13.After stating the present sources of revenue—In order to furnish a further idea of the extent of the sacrifices, not only present, but prospective, which will be made by the proposed cession, we also annex a list (see App., No. 4), as far as the same can be made out, of all the descriptions of property belonging to the Crown in Lower Canada, as well as of the rights of the Crown, which though they are at present unproductive, may, in the course of time, become sources of revenue.On turning to Appendix, No. 4, he found aStatement of all the sources, whether at 1326 present productive or unproductive, from which a revenue may accrue to the Crown in Lower Canada,And what did their Lordships think was the 10th article in that list? The 10th item was,The claim of the Crown to the seignory of Montreal.Such was the advised report of these commissioners, who gave their opinions with respect to this seminary. After such a distinct renunciation of this property to the provincial Legislature, it was obviously impossible to defend the ordinance on principles of common honesty. The noble Viscount (Viscount Melbourne) might think, after all, there was no great danger in a measure of this sort, but he should recollect that unions did not always carry with them the affections of all classes of the people. They had heard of unions which, even forty or fifty years after they had been effected, were still matters of great soreness to a great portion of the people. They heard of agitation for repeal, even without the shadow of a pretence of grievance. The only pretence of grievance in the case of Ireland was redressed twelve years ago; for, although nothing of the sort was to be found in the Act of Union, it was alleged that something passed between the statesmen of the clay which pledged the Government to the admission of the Roman Catholics to civil rights; and on this poor pretence the passions of the people were aroused against the Union. What would be the case in Canada? They would have no mere shadow of grievance to complain of, but a real, material, embodied grievance affecting all the dearest relations of life. Common honesty would forbid the sanctioning of such an ordinance; and unless the noble Viscount could make it distinctly plain, not only to their Lordships, but to the plain minds of all men in Canada, that such would not be the effect of the measure if it be carried into effect, he implored their Lordships to consider the frightful evils to which it would give rise, and for which that House would in some measure be held responsible. He called upon their Lordships, in their legislative capacity, to consider this matter. He would not now call upon them for their vote, though probably he would so on a future occasion, but his only object now was, to set frankly 1327 and fairly before them the grounds upon which he would ask for it. When that time should come, he hoped their Lordships would bear in mind that, in dealing with the ordinance, they must act as if they were dealing with a bill upon the Table, which, without their consent, could not pass into a law. The petitioners, in the meeting which was held by them after the passing of the ordinance, declared by one of their resolutions, that the manner in which it was proposed to deal with the property in question is a fraudulent evasion of the compact entered into with the people of the provinces. He thought that in the use of this language the petitioners had gone further than they ought to have done, because he conceived that the Government could not have intended to act dishonestly. If they had so intended, no language could be too strong to be applied to their conduct. Had the petitioners, instead of calling it a "fraudulent evasion," characterised it as a direct violation of the compact made with the people of the provinces, every honest man must have concurred with them. And who were the men who complained of this violation of good faith? The very men who held the lower province at the risk of their lives, by their own energies, their own valour, their own virtues, at a time when many, at least of the disciples of this seminary, were doing their utmost to wrench that noble possession from the British Crown. Such a body of men had a peculiar claim upon this country, both from the time at which the ordinance was proposed, and from the authority by which it was sought to be carried into effect. It was when the constitution under which they had long, gratefully, and devotedly lived, was suspended, a constitution for which they had fought and which they were anxious to have restored—it was when this constitution was withheld from them for the crimes of others that the ordinance was passed by a despotic authority, established in opposition to all the principles of the British constitution. This was a grave question, and must be gravely attended to; but he must recur to what the Governor-general himself said of the ordinance. Lord Sydenham made a most important admission with respect to it. He said, at the conclusion of one of his despatches,Undoubtedly, if I considered the Crown 1328 to be free from any obligation, and that (supposing the strict legal right to be with it and not with the seminary) I was at liberty to recommend the appropriation that I thought best, I should not make the present one. Although the seminary is a most useful body, and manages its affairs greatly to the advantage of the province, I would willingly, under such circumstances, adopt a less exclusive distribution of such large Crown funds; and, above all, I would increase them greatly, by making those who would then be the censitaires of the Crown purchase their freedom at a much higher rate.And this was the reluctant conclusion to which the Governor-general had come.But, I am not in a situation, hampered as the Crown is by its previous engagements, to take such a course, and, therefore, for the same reasons, I come to the same conclusion as those to whom I have above referred have done.But the Governor-general was not known to their Lordships by this measure alone. He was known to them last year by that important measure which he urged on—the Clery Reserves Bill; and did they then hear anything of the obligations of the Crown? He would remind their Lordships that when George 3rd—a name which should never be mentioned without reverence—consented to favour the Roman Catholics of Canada so far as to give them the free exercise of their religion, he took care to send a message to Parliament, asking that Parliament to enable him to make grants of lands for the maintenance and security of the Protestant clergy, and Parliament did so most gladly. Were the obligations of the Crown felt to be so stringent then? On the contrary, did not this very Governor of Canada then recommend a measure, which directly set at nought and trampled in the dust all those rights of the Protestant clergy, which were consecrated by the acknowledged oath of the Sovereign? What had occurred in the reign of George 3rd, also occurred in that of William 4th, when the noble Earl (the Earl of Ripon) was Colonial Secretary, and the noble Viscount (Melbourne) a Member of the Government, possessing that power and influence which must belong to him as the member of any government. King William 4th, under the advice of a cabinet of which the noble Viscount was a leading Member, sent a message to the legislature of Canada, desiring them to make arrangements to put an end to the difficulties respecting 1329 the clergy reserves, and in that message was the following passage:—Bound, no less by his personal feelings, than by the sacred obligations of that station to which Providence has called him, to watch over the interests of all the Protestant churches within his dominions, his Majesty could never consent to abandon those interests with a view to any objects of temporary and apparent expediency.Yet, in spite of all this, the promise of a Sovereign—the declaration in an act of Parliament, and solemn recognition of the ancient constitutional law—such obligations did not hamper, but were "snapped in two like withes in the hand of the strong man" by the Governor-general, under whose authority these reserves were to be applied to pay all the Ministers of religion to whom the faith of the Government was pledged; and amongst them were the Roman Catholics, for, according to the list given in by Sir George Arthur, 1,500l. was to be given to ministers of the church of Rome. That was done in a statute which their Lordships had passed last year on the urgent solicitation of the same Governor-general, who now told them that he should not wish to urge the present measure, "if the Crown were not hampered by its previous engagements." He would not waste their Lordships' time further; but he should call on their Lordships, when the hour came for sanctioning this ordinance, to stand between their Protestant fellow-subjects and this most fatal measure. He said fatal, because he did not think that the considerations of duty, good faith, and religion, could be trampled upon with impunity, even by the Legislature itself. More he could not say; but with this conviction, he moved that the petition he on the Table.
§ Viscount Melbourne
Perhaps, my Lords, in presenting a petition relating to a matter of great importance, and embracing a subject the details of which were, in some degree, involved in obscurity and not very familiar to your Lordships, the rev. Prelate may be considered as taking no unusual or improper course, in stating somewhat more particularly j than would be necessary on another occasion, the whole of his views on the question, and entering upon it at great length; but, at the same time, I am sure your Lordships will feel that it is not necessary for me to go over the whole of 1330 the ground traversed by the rev. Prelate, and that it will be sufficient to treat the question as it really stands—namely, the presentation of a petition—without discussing the whole of the statements and arguments brought forward to support it. The rev. Prelate takes as his first objection to this ordinance that it was not properly passed in Upper Canada—an objection not stated in the petition, an allegation not made in the petition, but which rests entirely on its own authority, which he has, no doubt, received from those persons who sent him this petition, and instructed him on the subject. The rev. Prelate proceeded to say—though it was stated in the despatch that the council acted on the fullest discussion—that they did not receive some information which they ought to have received, and that some motions were made there which were negatived. It is impossible for me to answer such a charge. We must give, my Lords, that Assembly credit for proceeding on such information as they deemed satisfactory; and it is impossible for us on the mere statement of the rev. Prelate to condemn the course which they took, or in any respect to impugn their ordinance for informality. It must be supposed this body did their duty; and, certainly, with regard to other parts of the charge against them, in which it was said that some persons had voted in a certain way, and that they had reasons for doing so, and that somebody would have voted against the ordinance, but that his views being made known to the Governor-general he was sent for, and (though it was not even alleged that his vote was influenced by that circumstance) the bare fact, being taken as conclusive—why, there never was a measure passed in any assembly (I will answer for it) which was not attacked upon such grounds, and in the progress of which, was not subject to observations and imputatations of this nature. I therefore feel I do not ask too much when I call on your Lordships entirely to dismiss from your minds all the accusations which the noble Prelate has brought forward on this point, particularly when they are contradicted by the usual conduct of the governor and council; and by his own statement of the proceedings of the council. It is not a matter on which, as I have said already, I can be instructed or assured. I can only say that I am sure nothing unfitting or unbecoming 1331 took place in the mode of proceeding in the council, and that the ordinance was passed in accordance with the rules which regulate such an assembly. The right rev. Prelate next passes to a statement concerning the respectability, the number, weight, and importance of the petitioners. I cannot say anything to the contrary. It is a petition identical in form with one which was transmitted by the Governor-general, in March, 1840, to her Majesty; and the right rev. Prelate admits that the despatch of my noble Friend is correct in which he alleges that many of the persons who signed the petition have since taken advantage of this ordinance and settled their rights of property under it. That this fact is to be considered as retracting and rendering null their signatures to this petition, I do not assert; but I am justified in asserting that it affords some presumption that they would probably be unwilling to reverse compositions and to alter settlements which they have made under an ordinance of which they have taken the benefit, and probably now think that they have derived advantage. The rev. Prelate has, in addition to those I have noticed, gone into a variety of topics through which I shall not venture to follow him on the present occasion. He has traced the whole history of this seminary of St. Sulpice—how it stood before the conquest of Canada—how it was affected by the capitulation—how it was affected by the grant from the seminary of Paris after the capitulation—how it was affected by the act of 1774; and he says that on all these matters very considerable legal doubts have arisen, and that many governments have received opinions of great weight and eminence impugning the rights of the seminary to those estates and feudal tenures which they contend belong to them. Now, there is nodoubt of that; but the rev. Prelate must have seen how the question really stands at present from the lengthened arguments which he used against the report of the commissioners—a report by which he felt he was much pressed, and which, in my opinion, is so distinct, clear, and decisive, that I do not see what stand can be made against it. These are the words of the commissioners:—That whether or not the legal title be in seminary, the King has done numerous acts which would render it very derogatory to the honour of the Crown to contest it, except for 1332 the attainment of some great public good, which could not be gained by any other means. We do not wish to assert that the Crown has or has not the right; but only that it has constantly pursued a course implying that the right would not be claimed. We do not say, for instance, that the deed of gift in 1764 was valid; but at least that there is every reason to believe that the King, by his Minister, encouraged the execution of it. But we do say, that after seventy years of uninterrupted possession under the British Crown, confirmed by so uniform a succession of acts tending to its recognition, to enter upon a long, and perhaps doubtful legal contest, capable, as we have seen, of being protracted by a multiplicity of arguments on both sides, could never be justified, except for the sake of some great public good, not to be compassed by any other means.And then, my Lords, I beg you to consider that at the time the British obtained possession of Montreal, in 1763, the seminary of St. Sulpice enjoyed all this property, and the complete exercise of those seignorial rights to which it had since laid claim. I say, then, that if the recognition of governor after governor—of council after council—of the statute of 1774—of so many assemblies—of the statute of 1790, when the Canadian Act passed—by all which the possession of the seminary was admitted, and the complete exercise of their seignorial rights acknowledged, does not constitute a settled and fixed title, there is nothing settled or fixed among mankind. If such a course of things does not convey the recognition of a moral and equitable right of property, superseding any purely legal right which may by possibility have existed, nothing in human affairs can be looked upon as fixed, settled, stable, and permanent. This ordinance has accordingly been framed in order to relieve the people of that country from those evils which the tenures heretofore observed there inflict on it. There is no attack made on the form of the ordinance which complies with the report of Mr. Buller, and the assent, as far as it could be collected, of the censitaires. If the rev. Prelate should be induced to carry in to effect that which he seems to hold forth, and to bring forward this question in a manner which would lead to a vote of a more decisive character, I do think that, on consideration, your Lordships will feel that this ordinance is the best mode in which the matter could be settled, and that it will be your Lordships' duty not to advise her Majesty to 1333 withhold her assent from it. The rev. Prelate has taken a great many objections to the ordinance, such as that it was contrary to the powers of the Canadian Act. For these assertions he has given no ground whatever. He has also stated that to make this body an ecclesiastical corporation is contrary to the fundamental principles of the constitution. I must say I cannot go along with the reasonings of the rev. Prelate. I do not think there is anything in his objection; nor do I think there is any weight in the objection founded on the act of union, because, unquestionably, the act of union relates to the property of the Crown at the time of the passing of that measure; whereas this property had, previously to this act, been surrendered by the Crown by this ordinance. The rev. Prelate says that there is on our part a disposition to favour and assist the progress of the Church of Rome. I can only, of course, simply deny that any feeling of that kind exists amongst the Government; and shall merely add to that disclaimer the opinion, that the slight matter he has mentioned of the accidental recognition of the title of the Bishop of Quebec does not, I think, form a sufficient foundation for so grave a charge. The rev. Prelate says the Church of Rome is making great strides and encroachments, and that she encounters but a weak and feeble resistance. There may be a disposition on the part of the Church of Rome to make great strides and encroachments on the civil power. I do not deny that there is such a wish; but is that inclination quite confined to the Church of Rome? Is the Presbyterian Church of Scotland very feeble in her demands at the present day? Is the Church of England quite free from a tendency to encroachments upon temporal authority, or unaffected by the spirit of domination? Can we forget the rev. Prelate's speech on the Church Discipline Bill? Have we not heard his speech to-night, in which he broadly lays down the doctrine that there are matters which the Parliament may settle by force, but which are above its moral jurisdiction? That, to my mind, looks very like a domineering principle; and if the rev. Prelate had generalised his opinion and stated that at the present moment all the ecclesiastical bodies and persuasions were aspiring to extend their power and influence, I should perhaps not be inclined to differ very widely from him. I trust that, not- 1334 withstanding the elaborate and powerful speech of the rev. Prelate, your Lordships will be of opinion that this is a fair settlement of a difficult question, and that you will be extremely unwilling to interfere with that which may have a very material effect, either in confirming that tranquillity or disturbing the rights of the inhabitants of an important part of the British empire.
§ The Duke of Wellington
must say that the House should feel indebted to the right rev. Prelate for bringing this question forward, and for throwing so much light upon it. The manner in which the attention of the House had been called to it would enable it to decide whether or not they were bound to take further steps in the matter. He must say that the noble Viscount did not, in his opinion, do exact justice to the arguments of the right rev. Prelate, particularly that with respect to the first part of the speech, in relation to the consideration of the ordinance in the Council of Lower Canada. It was perfectly true that, in the consideration of every legislative question, there was generally a great difference of opinion. There was this difference, however, in this question, the noble Viscount had passed over what the right rev. Prelate had so ably dwelt upon, namely, that this question had been considered by the Council, which had met under the actual superintendence of the Governor-general,—that the representative of her Majesty had presided over this council. All those irregularities had been noticed by the right rev. Prelate—namely, that this measure had been passed under the Governor-general's view; that he had knowledge of every debate that related to it, and that it was he who had actually to urge the adoption of this measure, notwithstanding all the objections which he had to it, as stated at length by the right rev. Prelate, and to which he (the noble Duke) must say no answer whatever had been given by the noble Viscount. There was no doubt that that body had been made a corporation—a Roman Catholic corporation—by means of that ordinance; yet, until that property had been legally vested in them by the ordinance, they had no legal right whatever to it. True they had an equitable right, which was recognised by the commissioners, and that title the noble Viscount seemed to consider as very high in the discussion of this question. 1335 Nor did he mean to enter any objection to the validity of that title; but he did say, that neither was the seminary itself a legal body, nor did it possess a legal property, and that in order to legalise it and enable it to convey that property to any one else, the Government were obliged to create the seminary a corporation, whereas, if that ordinance had not been made, and that corporation had not been created, the property would come to her Majesty, and her Majesty would convey those seignories to whom and for what purpose she pleased. He was very much struck, he must confess, when first he read the petition and the ordinance relating to this subject; he was very much struck by the total departure it evinced from the principle of the Reformation; a principle untouched up to this moment. And he entreated their Lordships, whatever they might think on the subject of this ordinance or other questions—he entreated the attention of their Lordships and of the British public to this, that this ordinance was the first blow openly struck by authority at the principles of the Reformation; principles hitherto upheld, particularly throughout Canada, from the period of the conquest down to the present moment. He felt strongly on this point the moment he saw the petition and the ordinance, and he still continued to feel strongly on the subject since he had heard the right rev. Prelate state that it was the Governor-general, not a Member of the Legislative Council, but the Governor-general of the province, who brought forward this measure, acting on the part of the Queen, whose rights, interests, and prerogative it was his duty to protect, and which he should have protected in the Legislative Council. Upon these grounds he (the noble Duke) felt strongly on this question; not the less so, as to all those points the noble Viscount had given no answer whatever. In considering the results of the Act of Union passed in the last Session, their Lordships should therefore pause, and hesitate before they abstained from the performance of the duties they were called upon to perform in relation to this ordinance; for no doubt all the property of the Crown, whether in possession or in reversion, was placed by the Act of Union at the disposal of the Canadian Assembly. The noble Viscount had given no answer to the circumstances adduced respect- 1336 ing the commission of inquiry, which discovered the equitable title to this property as being vested in the seminary of Saint Sulpice, which discovered also that the Crown possessed the valuable reversion of this very properly, and which reversion was now to be disposed of by the Assembly of Lower Canada. Surely the noble Viscount, in setting up the importance of the commission in such strong language, must have made some mistake, which it was to be hoped he would explain. Now the fact was, the Government had made over this property to be disposed of by the Assembly of Canada, under the Act of Union, and they had no right now to dispose of it under an unconstitutional ordinance, which ought not to have been passed even on other grounds. All these were important points, calling for their Lordships' consideration. He felt obliged to the right rev. Prelate for having pointed out where they could find information on this question, and also for the luminous statement on the whole case which he had made that evening. But it rested with their Lordships to consider, between the present time and the next ten or twelve days, whether or not they would proceed further in the performance of those duties which they were empowered to execute respecting this question. He (the noble Duke) was one of those who thought that the union of the two provinces last year was premature—he thought that circumstances had not as yet prepared the country for the union; but he was unwilling to pledge their Lordships to adopt his opinions; and he was unwilling even now to press their Lordships to adopt his views on this occasion. But again he entreated their Lordships to avail themselves of the few days that were yet at their disposition to consider well before they concluded an act which invaded some of the most important principles that ever came under the attention of a British Parliament—some of them relating to the religion and the religious institutions of the country as established at the time of the reformation, and which had remained untouched up to the present moment.
§ Petition laid on the Table.