Mr. Secretary Huskisson
said:—The subject, Sir, to which I wish to call the attention of the House, on the present occasion, is one which, however it may bear, and it chiefly floes bear, upon interests and feelings in a great degree removed from those which ordinarily affect, ourselves, is nevertheless a matter of considerable importance.—The question which I wish at this time to induce the House to investigate is, whether those extensive, valuable, and fertile, possessions of the Crown, the Canadas, are or are not administered under a system of Civil Government, adapted to the wants, the well-being, and the happiness of nearly a million of British subjects, and well calculated to maintain the allegiance of our settlements and preserve unbroken the affection and good understanding which should always subsist; between colonies and the mother country. If, upon inquiry, it shall be found, that the present system of government in those States is not calculated to answer this purpose, and that the remedy for the evil cannot be applied without the authority of parliament—it will be for parliament to deal with the question, with a view to the introduction of such modifications, improvements, and alterations in, the existing system, as may appear necessary.
But, Sir, though considerable errors and defects may be found to exist in the present system, and some oversights may be discovered in its administration, it does not follow, that any particular individual is responsible or can be justly accused of occasioning those imperfections. Sir, the constitution under which the Canadas are now governed, was devised and introduced by some of the greatest statesmen that ever appeared within these walls. But when we consider how little the country in question was then known, and to what a limited extent its resources and interests were 301 understood, it will not appear matter of astonishment, that under such circumstances, the system devised for its government should have been extremely detective. Neither will it appear unaccountable that, in the details of that system, there should be many difficulties which require to be removed—many imperfections which require a remedy—many omissions which require to be supplied. In contemplating the nature of the constitution provided for the Canadas, we must always bear in mind the great and leading principle on which this country has ever acted, in regard to her political relations, both foreign and domestic—I mean tin: maintenance of national honour and good faith. In this case it is necessary for us to maintain the good faith of the engagements entered into by this country with the French settlers, who constituted the original population of these colonies; at the same time that we endeavoured, as far as was consistent with these engagements, to introduce among them the benefits to be derived from a system of British law, jurisprudence, and civil administration; a system which has already advanced the prosperity of this country, and her other dependencies to so unparalleled an extent. Nor can there be any difficulty in our examining fully and fairly into all the merits and demerits of the system of government at present, prevailing in these valuable colonies, or in our applying an adequate remedy to any evils 'that may be found to exist; for by the constitution given to the Canadas by parliament in 1791, the legislature of England reserved to itself the liberty to alter, vary, and amend, the government of those colonies as it might think proper. I state this, not upon any abstract or general reasoning that might ha applied to the subject, because there must be a paramount power in parliament to redress wrongs in any dependencies of the empire, and to establish any system necessary for the welfare of the subject. In the present case, there is an enactment in the act itself, and it is expressly declared and required in a manner which leaves no doubt of the views and intentions of the persons by whom that act was brought into this House. In constructing this law Mr. Pitt expressly provided, that nothing which it contained should be held as not liable to such further alterations and amendments as circumstances might, from time to time, appear to require. Sir, it 302 carries the principle of modification or repeal even to the reserved lands, allotted for the use and maintenance of the Established Church in Canada. It is therefore clearly apparent, that we are quite as much at liberty to consider the act of 1791, with reference to the amendment of any imperfection or defect contained in it, as we are at liberty to consider in a similar manner any other act of the legislature. Sir, I look upon it as extremely fortunate, that no doubt can exist on this point. I am glad that the supreme power of the British parliament to deal with defects or difficulties of this nature, and to reform the previous acts of the legislature, in regard to the government of our Canadian territories, cannot be disputed. I am the rather disposed to rejoice at this circumstance, because, standing aloof, as we do, from the party feelings and local jealousies of the Canadians, our decision will be the more respected; first, as coining from a high and competent authority; and next, on account of our manifest impartiality. On both these grounds I am satisfied that the final determination of parliament, in regard to the civil government of the Canadas, will be cheerfully received, and readily acquiesced in. In this view of the subject I confess I feel sanguine of the result of our interference. I consider it calculated to allay all the animosities of the Canadians, and, if wisely conducted well adapted to place the system of government in our North American territories on a satisfactory and permanent footing; thus conducing at once to the manifest benefit of the colonies, and to the interests of the mother country. Sir, I feel most anxious to save the time of the House as much as possible, and with that view I shall not enter into details of the various changes that have taken place.
The House is aware that the Canadas were ceded, in full sovereignty, to the British Crown, by the French nation, in the year 1763, They were then ceded to this country, without any stipulation or obligation whatever, with respect to the mode in which they were to be administered. So far from there being any condition or qualification connected with the surrender of these provinces, they were yielded up to England by France in full sovereignty and complete possession, as in the case of a new conquest. Perhaps it may be necessary to state, that the country was settled by the French about 303 the year 1660, when the first French governor was appointed. At this time the population was principally, if not wholly, confined to the banks of the river St. Lawrence, and the two towns then built, namely, Montreal and Quebec; and at the period of the conquest the French settlers did not exceed sixty-five thousand. This was the utmost extent of the colony at this epoch of its history. Although the population was so very limited, and although it was placed under circumstances, and with wants and necessities so different from what it could possibly have experienced in the mother country, it was thought wife and just by the French government, to graft on so extremely limited a stock, the whole of the feudal system of France, as it existed in all its odious deformities about the middle of the seventeenth century. We may apply to this conduct what had been said of those who built country seats about the same period—that they adopted all the faults and sacrifices of comfort observable at Versailles, only wanting its grandeur. Such was the state of Canada under the French régime: the feudal system flourished in all its vigour among a small population and in the midst of a desert. The mother country grafted upon the other institutions of her colony a law of succession—not the general French law of succession, which was that of primogeniture, but a system denominated "the Custom of Paris." So that, connecting the effects of this law of succession with the influence of the feudal system in Canada, while under the dominion of the French, the consequences to the colony wore any thing rather than beneficial. The lords paramount held directly under the Crown, and granted certain portions of lands to their vassals. These seignories (according to the law of succession to which I have alluded) were not capable of severance; but they were divided and subdivided ever since the period of their first institution. They were to remain indivisible, because the holder of the land owed suit and service to the lord paramount. Now, however, they are subdivided into shares so minute as to be greatly to the advantage of those who administered the existing system of civil law; at the same time that the circumstance is equally disadvantageous to the interests of persons possessing or claiming to possess property in them. Such is the natural consequence and effect of the com- 304 plicated state of tenures in the Canadas. It was no longer ago than this morning that I saw in a Canada paper an advertisement of the sale of a one-thirteenth of a hundredth part of a lordship. Some of the notices of sale in these colonies are extremely curious, and comprehend fractional parts of fractions of estates, of a nature to puzzle Mr. Finlayson himself, with all his skill in figures. We read constantly of the third of a seventh, and the half of a sixth of a lordship to be disposed of. I recollect a notice of the sale of a forty-fourth of a fourth of a tenth of a sixth share of an estate; another, of an eleventh of a fourth of a fifth of a sixth; and another of a forty-fourth of a fifth of a sixth. Under this curious and rather puzzling state of the law, by which seignories are divided into such impracticable shares, it is almost impossible for any person to tell to whom it is that he owes suit and service. Yet a great many duties are imposed under the feudal system, some of them to be paid in kind and some in money. For instance, there are fines—annual duties on all alienations of property—and various rights and duties of a most vexatious and harassing nature. Very shortly after the treaty, by which, in 1763, Canada was ceded to the Crown, the king of England issued a proclamation, inviting-such of his subjects as were so disposed to settle in the newly-acquired territory; declaring the royal intention shortly to confer a Legislative Assembly on the colony; and informing them, that all persons settling in the country should forthwith enjoy the benefit and protection derivable from British laws and courts of justice. Until the year 1774, British laws were, as far as possible, introduced and carried into effect in the colony. British courts of justice were established, with proper judges to administer the law, and the whole system of British judicature was set on foot, according to the terms of his majesty's proclamation. The other part of the proclamation, however, containing an assurance relative to the appointment of a Legislative Assembly, was not carried into collect. In 1774, from the situation in which other provinces of America, then belonging to the Crown, were placed, it was not thought expedient, by the government of the day, to grant a Legislative Assembly to Canada. It appeared, about this time, that the Canadians were greatly attached to their original system of legis- 305 lation, and not well satisfied with that more recently introduced amongst them. Accordingly, it being thought desirable to conciliate the loyalty, affection, and goodwill, of our Canadian subjects at that juncture, in 1774 it was, for the first time mentioned in parliament, that it would be desirable to pass an act of the legislature, not for the purpose of making good the assurance of 1763, but to recall all the pledges relative to the formation of a system of British jurisprudence, and the establishment of British courts of justice. A bill was accordingly brought into the House of Commons, for the purpose of effecting this object. The preamble of the act was suggested by, and drawn up in compliance with, the wishes and feelings of the Canadians, and went upon the principle, that the French laws, to which they had been long accustomed, were well adapted to their situation and circumstances. The bill itself recalls all the declarations contained in the proclamation of 1763; re-establishes the French laws and customs as they regard property, and the system of civil law, including the Custom of Paris. However, the same act makes provisions for retaining the administration of the criminal law of England in Canada; which, from 1774, was to be governed by the civil law of Franco, and the criminal code of England. Between the years 1763 and 1774, the Crown had proceeded to make grants of land in Canada, with a view to the settlement of the colony, by an additional number of new inhabitants. In all grants, out of immediate lordships, the lands were hold under tenures of free or common soccage, as contradistinguished from seignories. The holders were placed under the influence of an unintelligible system of law. One estate was held by common soccage, another by a different tenure. With respect to civil rights, as I have, already said, the French law and administration was established; but the: English system of jurisprudence prevailed in criminal matters. In the same year, 1774, another important act, and one well calculated to conciliate the favourable feelings and loyalty of the Canadians towards the Crown, received the sanction of the legislature. By this act, it was provided, that all customs and duties (and they were numerous, onerous, and oppressive), heretofore imposed on the colonists by France, and from the dale of the conquest to that year payable to Eng- 306 land, should thenceforth and for ever cease and determine. In lieu of these imposts, the act appointed other duties of a more easy and equitable nature; the produce of which was to be appropriated, not to the advantage of the mother country, but to defray the expenses necessarily attendant on the administration of civil justice, and the maintenance of the local government of Canada. Thus, in the memorable year, 1774, two boons were afforded to the Canadians; the first of which was, the restoration of the system of civil law, of which they approved, and under which they had before lived; the other consisted in the recognition, by this country, of the established religion, and a provision being made for its maintenance and support. The latter is a boon which I sincerely trust may never be withdrawn. I have spoken of these two measures adopted by England, as boons to the Canadians; for such they were certainly considered by them at the time, whatever may have been the subsequent effects of one of them: suffice it to say, they were afforded in a spirit of conciliation, and accepted with feelings of gratitude and satisfaction. Of the recognition and establishment of the prevailing religion in Canada, in 1774, I have already spoken in terms of approbation, and have only to repeat my hope, that the gift may never be disturbed. No doubt, it was thankfully received, and is gratefully remembered. The other boon; namely, the restoration of the system of French law, and administration in civil cases, was, in all probability, quite as much prized at the time by the parties, as the provision made for recognising their religious faith. I am satisfied, however, that if not then restored and re-established, the laws in question (which are unfriendly to commerce, and repugnant to enlightened principles of unrestricted dealing) must soon have disappeared under the influence of British enterprise. But, passing by this topic for the present, I may be allowed to remark, that the abolition of the French duties, and the imposition of other and less burthensome taxes, the proceeds of which were applied to the support of the Colonial Government and institutions, was in itself a considerable benefit to the Canadians.
In 1778, a law was passed in this country, which, although not immediately bearing upon, or having reference to, Canada, was yet of considerable importance, as 307 well to that as to our other colonies. I allude to the Declaratory act, by which this country relinquished all future right to tax its colonies, granting them the power to impose duties themselves, which duties were to be applied to the support of their own institutions and establishments, and were not to form part of the revenue of Great Britain. At this time there existed, perhaps, a doubt, as to whether the act applied to Canada. Some thought that the bill was only meant to apply to our colonies in the West Indies, and to those places in America that retained their allegiance to England, and had legislative assemblies of their own, which were hereby authorised to tax themselves. But, however the fact might be, in this state Canada remained until the year 1791, when it was thought necessary by Mr. Pitt to introduce his bill, since known by the appellation of the Quebec Act. This law attracted more notice at the time of its enactment, principally on account of the then state of parties in the House of Commons, than it might, in all probability, have otherwise done, by reason of its intrinsic interest or importance. Mr. Pitt thought it no more than was due to the growing importance and wealth of Canada, to give that colony a popular representation. By one of the provisions of this act, the right and control over all imposts was vested in an Assembly, to be so constituted. We should bear this circumstance in mind, because what now exists has reference to this act. By the act of 1774, the system of civil law of the colony was established, and provisions were made for the support of its government, by means of moderate duties then imposed. Under the act of 1791, all duties were to be imposed and appropriated as the colonial legislature should determine. Another object of the act was, to divide the colony into two separate provinces—(Upper and Lower Canada), giving to each a separate legislature. It was considered desirable to encourage loyalists and disbanded soldiers to become settlers in Upper Canada, where there were no French settlers, and no feudal system was in operation. The act provided, that, in the province of Lower Canada, the legislative assembly should consist of not less than fifty members, while in Upper Canada (then about to be settled) the population being more scanty, the minimum of members of assembly was fixed at fifteen. In 308 Upper Canada the assembly was to be increased, as the province should become more thickly peopled. These details were left to those persons who administered the government in the colony. The gallant officer who administered the government of Canada in 1792, divided it into eighteen counties, each sending two members to the assembly: three counties sending each one representative; two cities privileged to elect four members; one town sending two members, and one electing one representative; making a total of fifty. What I complain of is, that the representation was not equally distributed; it is a great error to take the density of population many years ago, and apply it, as a permanent standard, to the number of representatives to be chosen for particular places and departments. The effect of this erroneous principle has necessarily been, to throw the chief power of representation into the hands of the seignories. The same defect exists in Upper as in Lower Canada. The English settlers are excluded from a fair participation in what ought to be a popular representation, and the power of election is thrown into the hands of the descendants of the French. I state these complaints with the more confidence, because, in all parts of Canada, it is agreed that the present system works so ill as to stand in need of alteration. Under the present practice, the English settler is exposed to great inconvenience, and suffers an unjust exclusion from advantages of which it is only just that he should enjoy a reasonable share. I allude now to the condition of our countrymen in Lower Canada; but, in doing so, I do not desire to make it a matter of charge against those who represent the French seignories, that they act as they do. It is the system, and not the individuals, that requires reformation. There is no possibility of suing or being sued, except in the French courts, and according to the French form and practice—no mode of transacting commercial business, exec-plunder French customs, now obsolete in France. In Lower Canada they go upon the law and system of feudal tenure, and the law is more incapable of ever being improved or modified by the progress of information and knowledge, than if it still remained the system of France and the model of her dependencies. More, in the midst of a wilderness, flourishes the French feudal system, and the custom of Paris of centuries ago. The result is, 309 that Englishmen in Canada are as much like aliens and settlers in foreign land, as an equal number of British subjects, who should have sat down in the centre of France in the thirteenth century. It is not therefore to be wondered at, that our countrymen have had to encounter considerable difficulty in Lower Canada, and that but a slow progress has been made towards the settlement of that, province, as compared with the Upper province. In fact, the inconvenience of the existing condition of things cannot be well understood in this country. In this colony the law of mortgage is in the worst state. The registration of deeds is another point deserving attention; and the laws and usages relating to the formation of roads are those of the old French feudal system. The consequence has been, that in the last fifteen years not one single Road-bill has been passed by the legislative assembly of that province. Thus, there is no opportunity afforded the English townships of communicating with the river St. Lawrence, except by some of its tributary streams, on account of the interposition of the seigneuries between them and that river. In the same manner, another part of what I consider an important public duty in legislative assembly was overlooked—I mean the education of the children of the settlers. That is a subject never thought of. In point of fact, the state of things is such, that the settlers feel more disposed to connect themselves with those districts which border on the United Slates, where they can better have their wants of this description supplied, and receive the benefits of the administration of justice, than to remain in the country to which they owe allegiance. These evils, Sir, have, I regret to say, been of some standing, but they have been more severely felt, as the capital and population of this country have been directed to these colonies, and as they have become of greater importance to the interests of the mother country. Having become sensible of the evil, the question now arises as to what, remedy shall be applied to it. There was one suggested, and which was attempted to be carried into effect about four years back, by which the two legislatures were to be incorporated into one; that is, the Upper, or English part of the province, was to be reunited under one government, with the French or lower part of it. There were various grounds 310 on which the bill which my right hon. friend introduced with that view, were opposed, but the principle, I believe, was the lateness of the session at which it was brought forward, and the consequent fewness of the members that would have been present at the discussion of so important a question. That bill, therefore, did not pass. Whether the remedy it proposed is the best that can be imagined, I will not undertake to say; but it is certainly open to many serious objections. Those, however, will be proper subjects for the consideration of the committee I mean to propose. Another remedy that has been suggested is to form all the English townships, as they are, for the sake of distinction, called, into a third province. To that scheme, also, the objections are numerous and serious. Indeed, none that have been devised have not been subject to many objections. It will be the duty of the committee to point out that course which presents the least of those objections, to reconcile the conflicting pretensions of the different parties, and thus to remove the great obstacles to the improvement of this important colony.
But, Sir, these are not the only considerations that have induced me to recommend the House to take into its consideration the state of the civil government of Canada. Besides the obstacles I have mentioned, as lying in the way of the happiness of this colony, another, of a most formidable nature, has grown up out of the state of the representative system, as I have described it. I allude to the disputes which have arisen, concerning the extent, of control which the colonial legislature should have over the public revenue of the colony and its fiscal regulations. I have already stated that, in 1774, all the taxes that had been imposed under the French regime were abrogated, and other duties levied in their stead, which were appropriated by the Crown to defray the expenses of the administration of justice, and of the civil establishment of the colony. The duties, thus levied, in lieu of the old French ones, I may describe technically as the permanent revenue of the Crown. It amounts to about 35,000l. per annum, and has been applied to the purposes for which it was appropriated by the act of 1774. Besides this, the Crown has a small revenue called the casualty revenue, which consists of fines, forfeitures, and other incomings, 311 belonging to the Crown as the Lord Paramount. This revenue amounts to about 5,000l. per annum, and is at the absolute disposal of the Crown; but this also has been appropriated to the civil services of the country. The remaining revenue of the colony arises from taxes imposed since 1791, by the colonial legislature. Part of this revenue the Assembly has appropriated specifically to discharge the expenses of its own sittings, and part to the improvement of the navigation of the river St. Lawrence. The remainder has been appropriated by the legislature to the different expenses of the colony generally. The amount thus collected, by the taxes imposed by the Assembly, has been, upon an average, about 140,000l. per annum. There are also some small sums raised, by virtue of acts of this House, passed for the purpose of regulating the trade of the colony. For some time after the passing of the act in 1774, nothing could go on more smoothly than the system it established. The Crown had divested itself of the power it had over the permanent revenue; and the sum raised under that name, although small, was sufficient for the maintenance of the civil service, and of the judicial establishments. Afterwards, however, the necessity of making roads, and numerous other expenses incidental to a rising colony, rendered this sum insufficient. It became necessary, therefore, to raise a larger sum; and this was done by the authority of the House of Assembly. By what degrees, in what manner, and under what circumstances, a difference grew up between the local legislature and the executive government., it is not necessary I should trace, for any of the purposes I have now in view. The present, state of the controversy, however, is of this nature. The House of Assembly of Lower Canada claims the right of appropriating the permanent, revenue item by item; that is to say, the right of deciding what brandies of the civil service, and what of the judicial establishments, should receive their incomes, and in what, portions, from this fund. On the other part, it is maintained, and, as it appears to me, in a manner absolutely incontrovertible in law, that the Crown possesses over this revenue a discretionary power, as to the proportions in which it is to be distributed, provided it be for purposes directed by the act. I believe there is no lawyer in this country, nor indeed any one 312 in the least acquainted with the relative situations of the parties, who will deny, that as long as the Crown appropriates that revenue to the administration of justice in Canada, and to its civil government, pursuant to the words of the act of 1774—as long as it fulfils all the conditions required by good faith towards the Canadians, no one, I say, will deny its right to prescribe the mode in which the revenue, consistently with that act, shall be expended. There is no one who will not say, that the pretensions of the legislative body to take the whole management of this money into its own hands, are neither founded in law nor practice. On the other hand, the House of Assembly holding the public purse in its hands, having the complete command of the general revenue, in order to enforce its unreasonable pretensions, have refused to appropriate any part of the larger revenue, of which they have the command, unless the appropriation of the permanent Crown revenue be given up to them also.
This, Sir, is the state of the controversy between the Executive and Legislative body in Canada. The consequences of the agitation of such a question as this, in which both parties have stood upon their extreme rights, have been most unfortunate. One of the consequences has been, the necessity under which the representative of the king has found himself, of appropriating money for the necessary services of the colony, without the sanction of the colonial legislature. Such a thing as this in a country with a Legislative Assembly, can only be justified by the absolute necessity of preventing general confusion, and the subversion of the government. I do not stand here—living as I do, in a country where the rights of the popular branch of the legislature to control the expenditure of the money it raises are so well known and universally acknowledged—to defend the abstract propriety of a governor of a colony, appropriating its revenue without the sanction of an act of the legislature, as required by law; but, pressed by necessity, it ought not perhaps to be wondered at, however we may regret the necessity, that a governor should take all the means in his power to maintain the tranquillity of the place committed to his charge. When principles are pressed to the extreme, a legislature may, no doubt, distress the executive government of a country, and so wear it out by continued 313 opposition, as to have the point in dispute conceded; but what, in the mean time, are the unfortunate results to the people? What, in the midst of these conflicts, has been the result to the province of Canada? Nothing was expended, of the money raised in this irregular manner, but what was absolutely necessary to carry on the government of the province: all improvement was at a stand; the roads were neglected; education was overlooked; the public buildings were suffered to fall to decay, and the country generally brought to such a state that there was not a Canadian whose interests did not suffer.
Sir, the recurrence of such a state of things it is our duty to prevent, and I think I have made out a case sufficient to convince the House, that, if we have the right and the power, the time is come which warrants me in calling upon parliament to interpose its authority, for the purpose of quieting these feuds, and of establishing such a system of civil government in Canada, as may give a fair share to all parties in the province, of the administration of the revenues, so as to render them available for the improvement, of the country—such a system as will, on the one hand, give to the Legislative Assembly the power of directing the whole application of funds for the internal improvement of the province, and, on the other, restrain them from the exercise of any authority over what I may call the civil list. Every man who knows any thing of the country must be aware of the unfitness of the king's representative in the government, and the judicial establishment for the administration of criminal justice, which is the same as that of England, depending for their stipends upon the varying judgments of a popular assembly. The inexpediency of this, with regard to the judicial establishment, which in its administration of justice might often come into collision with the members of the Assembly, whose judgment is every year to regulate the reward of their services, must be particularly obvious. Judges have duties to perform, which render it essential that they should be perfectly independent.
I trust I need say no more to convince the House, that the system wished to be established by the Canadian legislature is not compatible with the independence and dignity, either of the king's representative or the criminal judges. Out of what par- 314 ticular fund these charges should be defrayed, I am not prepared to say; but the present plan of paying a fixed sum out of a variable revenue. I certainly think might be amended. I think some mode might be found, for establishing what I have styled the civil list; from which the salaries of the judicial and other departments should be granted for life: or in any other way that would answer the object I have in view. The remainder of the revenue should then be left at the free disposal of the Colonial legislature. I must here, in justice to the king's government in Canada, claim for them their due. So far were they from wishing to have the control over any further sum than that to which I have alluded, that they never hesitated, during the whole of these troubles, to lay before the legislature of the province an account of the application of the revenue, in order that the Assembly might be assured there was no misapplication of it. The government there are perfectly willing, it is evident from this, to accede to the suggestion I have just made respecting the share of control it shall have over the Colonial revenue.
Sir, I do not think there are any other topics connected with the present state of Canada, which would justify me in detaining the House longer, as I trust I have said sufficient to support me in the motion I intend to make. There are two grounds on which I principally rest. The first is the state of the Representative system in Lower Canada, and the situation of the revenue in respect to the administration of Justice; the second is the controversy which has grown up respecting the powers of the Executive and Legislative bodies. The case I have made out on those two points is sufficient, I trust, to entitle me to the committee for which I mean to move. Before I sit down, I beg only to add a word or two, respecting a point which has been insinuated in this House, and discussed in other places. I allude to what has been said respecting the policy of giving up the colony altogether. Those who think it would be politic to do so, may say that we ought to spare ourselves the trouble of improving the state of the provinces, by taking the wiser course of relinquishing them altogether. Let those who argue thus, consider that the inhabitants are our fellow subjects—and willing to fulfil all the obligations that their sworn allegiance to the Crown requires. I say 315 that, whilst that is the case, they are entitled to claim from us that protection which their fidelity and good conduct have rendered them so worthy of. On the present occasion, I will not dilate on the importance of the connexion, in a naval, political and commercial, point of view, but I must remind the House, that the political honour, the good faith of this country, are pledged to the protection and support of the Canadian provinces, and warn them of the moral effect which will be produced throughout Europe and the world, by our voluntary relinquishment, if it may not rather be called abandonment, of our dominion over that quarter of the globe. No country more loudly, more justly, demands our support, our protection, than Canada. Her value to us, is not like that of Louisiana to France, to be estimated by pounds, shillings, and pence, nor ought it basely to be sold or bartered for money. We cannot part with our dominions there without doing an injustice to their fidelity, and tried attachment, and tarnishing the national honour. We are not at liberty to forego the high and important duties imposed on us by our relative situation towards those colonies. It is a country where no distinctions prevail, such as disturb some of our other territorial possessions abroad; there are no distinctions of castes, no slavery, which tend to engender dissention or disaffection. We have every were displayed marks of a paternal government, and planted improvement not only on our colonies there, but wherever our empire is acknowledged: we have carried thither our language, our laws, and our free institutions, and they cannot, fail, in the fulness of time, to be free countries like our own. I f it be said "this was true, but it has been done at a great sacrifice,'' I answer, that, in despite of that sacrifice, England still stands pre-eminent in power and in happiness above all other nations. I say, moreover, that we should be well paid for all the sacrifices we may yet be called upon to make, if we are to add to the rich harvest of glory we have already reaped, by being the parent of countries in which the same happiness and prosperity that have distinguished this country will, I trust, for ages to come, be enjoyed. That will be our reward for establishing our superfluous population, not only in America, but in other quarters of the world. What can be a prouder feeling for Englishmen than that England has done its duty 316 to the world, by attempting, and successfully, to improve it? Whether Canada is to remain for ever dependent on England, or is to become an independent State—not, I trust, by hostile separation, but by amicable arrangement—it is still the duty and interest of this country to imbue it with English feeling, and benefit it with English laws and institutions. I move, Sir, "That a Select Committee be appointed to inquire into the State of the Civil Government of Canada, as Established by the 31st George 3rd,cap.31, and Report their Observations and Opinions thereupon to the House."
§ Mr. Labouchere
said, that he fully admitted that the parliament of Great Britain, in what Mr. Burke had termed its imperial capacity, possessed the power of interference and control over all the subordinate legislatures of our colonies, but he thought that this power should be used with extreme caution, and only on a clear case being made out of the imperative necessity for such interference. He thought a fair exception might be taken to the light attempted to be thrown on the views of Mr. Pitt, in framing the constitution of 1791, which was the great charter of Canadian liberties. He could not help saying, that if those views had been carried into more complete effect, and that if the free governments thus formed, had been administered more fully in the genuine spirit of that great minister, the prospects of the Canadas would have been much advanced, and the present discontents would not have existed there. Mr. Pitt attached the utmost importance to the independence of the legislative council in both provinces, and even went so far as to desire to create an order of nobility, of which it might consist, in the Lower Canada. But the present system was to fill the legislative councils with placemen and dependents upon the government, and in the lower province to throw the whole power of that body into the hands of the English minority. The right hon. gentleman, therefore, in his opinion, did injustice to the memory of Mr. Pitt, when he said that his plan had failed, that plan having, in fact, never been acted upon. With regard to Lower Canada, he trusted that the House would not lose sight of the state of its population. There were at present, about four hundred and forty thousand French, and eighty thousand English in that province. He felt as strongly as any one could do for the 317 situation of the English minority. He felt that the government of this country were bound to do all that could be done in their behalf, and if the right hon. gentleman should do him the honour of naming him on the committee, no one would enter it with a more sincere desire to act on that feeling. He was a little alarmed, he would confess, at the manner in which the right hon. gentleman had spoken of the French system of laws; he had spoken of them as something barbarous, handed down from the middle ages, and as entitled to little respect in present times. But, whatever the right hon. gentleman might think of the system, or whatever the system in itself might be, the French were warmly attached to it, and that was a reason why it should be regarded with due consideration for their opinions or prejudices. He was no lawyer, but he was told that the Custom of Paris was the mildest of all the systems of feudal law, and he knew that every class of the French population preferred it to any other whatever. In relation to this subject he could not entirely pass over a point on which he wished, however, to speak with great reserve and caution, fie regretted that lord Dalhousie had succeeded so ill in conciliating the affections of the people he was sent to govern, and that he had thought it necessary to have recourse to such strong and extreme measures towards the House of Assembly, and towards most respectable individuals, officers of that militia which had evinced in the late war, not merely the strictest fidelity, but the most enthusiastic loyalty to the British Crown and people. There was one point more, which he begged to press with peculiar anxiety on the right hon. gentleman. He hoped that he should have the satisfaction of hearing that right hon. gentleman declare more distinctly that he had no intention of taking these colonies by surprise, or to make any material alteration in their laws and constitutional rights, without giving them an opportunity of expressing their opinions upon such alteration. He felt the greater anxiety upon this point, when he recollected the manner in which these colonies had been treated by the government at Rome in the year 1822, which had been introduced into this House by a right hon. gentleman he saw in his place, the member for Newcastle (Mr. Wilmot Horton). It was with pain that he was obliged to connect the name 318 of that right hon. gentleman with such a measure; but he could not help reminding the House, that it was at the close of the month of June, in a House composed of only sixty members, that the right hon. gentleman had thought proper to introduce his bill—a bill calculated to do no less than to destroy the constitution which Mr. Pitt and the parliament had solemnly bestowed upon the Canadas. The right hon. gentleman came down to the House, in order to take the House by surprise, and so he could assure the House that the colonies themselves had felt it. Sometime after this had happened, it had been his fortune to visit Canada, and he could aver, that the feeling of indignation and suspicion produced towards this government by the bill of 1822, was greater than those could well imagine who had not been witnesses of it. A right hon. and learned gentleman below him, whom he rejoiced to see in his place (sir J. Mackintosh) had been mainly instrumental in saving this House from the disgrace, and these colonies from the evils, that would have been consequent on such a measure. He hoped that what was about to be done now, would be done in a very opposite spirit, that it would be made the subject of purr deliberation, and above all, that nothing would be done until they knew what the colonies themselves wished. If we could not keep the Canadas with the good-will of the inhabitants, we could not keep them at all. He hoped that this all-important truth would never be lost sight of in any measure to be proposed. He could not sit down without thanking the right hon. gentleman for what he had said towards the conclusion of his speech, that as long as Canada desired British connection, this country could not desert her. He liked to hear such sentiments from the mouth of a British minister, and he agreed with the right hon. gentleman, that. English honour, as well as English interests, were here concerned. It well became the spirit of the British nation, to place u high value on a colony associated in her annals with the trophies of Wolfe, and the genius of Chatham, and the still more honourable distinction conferred by the attachment of a people whose affections she had conquered by the inestimable gift of her own free and liberal institutions.
§ Sir James Mackintosh
said—I think I may interpret fairly the general feeling of the House, when I express my congratula- 319 tions upon the great extent of talent and information which the hon. member for St. Michael's has just displayed, and that I may venture to assert, he has given us full assurance, in his future progress, of proving a useful and valuable member of the parliament of this country. I cannot, also, avoid observing, that the laudable curiosity which carried him to visit that country, whose situation is now the subject of discussion; and, still more, the curiosity which led him to visit that imperial republic, which occupies the other best portion of the American continent, gave evidence of a mind actuated by enlarged and liberal views, and evinced a spirit of inquiry into scenes and subjects which have been disdained by the modern travellers who seek foreign countries from a passion for: the fine arts, or as a source of elegant amusement.—After having presented a petition signed by eighty-seven thousand of the inhabitants of Canada, comprehending among its numbers nine-tenths of the heads of families in the province, and more than two-thirds of its landed proprietors; and after having shewn, that the petitioners had the gravest causes of complaint against the administration of the government in that colony; it would be an act of inconsistency on my part, to attempt to throw any obstacle in the way of that inquiry which the right hon. gentleman proposes. It might seem, indeed, a more natural course on my part, if I had seconded such a proposition. Perhaps I might have been contented to give a silent acquiescence to the appointment of the committee, and reserve any observations I may have to offer until sonic specific measures were proposed, or until the House was in possession of the information which may be procured through the labours of the committee—perhaps, I say, I might have been disposed to adopt this course, if I had not been intrusted by those parsons with the presentation of their petition, and therefore bound by a sense of the trust reposed in me, to allow no opportunity to pass over of calling the attention of the House to the grievances of the petitioners, and to their claims for redress, and for the maintenance of their legitimate rights. This duty I hold myself bound to execute, according to the best of my ability, without sacrificing my judgment, or rendering it subordinate to any Sense of duty, but feeling only that the confidence of the petitioners binds me to act on their 320 behalf, and as their advocate, in precisely the same manner, and to the same extent, as if I had been invested with another character, and authorized to state their complaints in a different situation.
To begin, then, with the speech of the right hon. gentleman, I may lake leave to observe, that in all that was contained in the latter part of it, he has my fullest and most cordial assent. In 1822, when the state of the Canadians was last before the House, I stated the principles which ought to be maintained with respect to what the right hon. gentleman has very properly and eloquently called the Great British Confederacy. I hold now, as I did then, that all the different portions of that confederacy are integral parts of the British empire; and, as such, entitled to the fullest protection. I hold that they are all bound together as one great class, by an alliance prior in importance to every officer, more binding upon us than any treaty ever entered into with any stale, and the fulfilment of which we can never desert without the sacrifice of a great moral duty. I hold that it can be a matter of no moment, in this bond of alliance, whether the parties be divided by seas and oceans, or be occupiers of two neighbouring countries. I hold that the moral bond of duty and protection is the same. My maxims of colonial policy are few and simple. A full and efficient protection from all foreign influence; full permission to conduct the whole of their own internal affairs; compelling them to pay all the reasonable expenses of their own government, and training them, at the same time, a perfect control over the expenditure of the money; and imposing no restrictions of any kind upon the industry or traffic of the people. These are the only conditions which I would impose in the bond of alliance with the metropolitan government, and the only terms upon which I wish that all of them should be governed. These, too, are the only means by which the hitherto almost incurable evil of all distant governments can be either mitigated or removed. And it may be a matter of doubt whether, in such circumstances, the colonists would not be under a more gentle control, and in a happier stale, than if they were to be admitted to a full participation in the rule, and brought under the immediate and full protection, of the parent government. This is my creed upon the subject of Colonies; and I 321 agree most fully with the hon. gentleman who spoke last, when he expressed a wish, that we should leave the regulation of the internal affairs of colonies to the colonists, except in eases of the most urgent and manifest necessity. The most urgent necessity, I say; and few and rare ought to be the exceptions to the rule even upon the strength of those necessities. Under these circumstances of right, I contend, it is prudent to regard all our colonies, and peculiarly the population of these two great provinces; provinces placed in one of those rare and happy states of society, in which the progress of population must be regarded as a blessing to mankind; provinces exempt from the curse of fostering slavery—exempt from the evils produced by the contentions of jarring systems of religion, enjoying the blessings of universal toleration, and presenting- a state of society the most unlike that can possibly be imagined to the fastidious distinctions of Europe. Exempt at once from the slavery of the West, and the castes of the East—exempt, too, from the embarrassments of that other great continent which we have chosen as a penal settlement, and in which the prejudices of society have been displayed, I regret, to find, in a most unreasonable degree—exempt from all the artificial distinctions of the Old World, and many of the evils of the New, we see a great population rapidly growing up to be a great nation. None of the claims of such a population ought to be cast aside, and none of their complaints can deserve any but the most serious consideration.
The right hon. gentleman divided his speech into two parts; or rather, I ought to say, he entered into two different classes of reasoning, in order to prove the necessity for the Committee of Inquiry for which he has moved. In the first he declared, that the excesses and complaints of the colonists arose from the defect of their constitution, and next from certain contentions into which they had fallen with lord Dalhousie. In any thing I may say upon this occasion, I beg to be understood, that I do not cast any imputation upon the character of that noble lord: I speak merely of the acts of his government; and I wish solely to be understood as saying, that my opinion of the acts of that government are different from those which I conscientiously believe to have been his. I really, however, must say, that I thought the right hon. gentleman, in one part of 322 his address, had indulged himself in some pleasantries which seemed ill-suited to the subject upon which he claimed our attention: I allude to the three essential grievances which he seemed to imagine led to many, if not all, of the discontents and complaints of the colonists. There was the perplexed system of the laws upon the subject of real property, which created such a vexatious delay, and such enormous costs to the suitor, that amounted very nearly to a denial of justice. This, the right hon. gentleman said, arose from the law called the Custom of Paris. The next cause of discontent the right hon. gentleman described as arising from the very inadequate representation of the people in parliament. That he recommended to the immediate attention of the committee, for the purpose of revision. And lastly, that the members of the legislature were so absurdly ignorant of the first principles of political economy as to have attempted to exclude all the industry and capital of other countries from flowing in to enrich and fertilise their shores. These were the three grounds upon which the right hon. gentleman had formally impeached the people of Canada, before the knights, citizens, and burgesses, of Great Britain and Ireland in parliament assembled. Did the right hon. gentleman never hear of any other system of law in any other country than Canada, in which a jumble of obsolete usages was mixed up and confounded with modern subtleties, until the mind of the most acute men of the age, or of the nation—men who had passed, in a service of forty years, through every stage of its gradations—were driven to declare, that they felt totally unable to find their way through its labyrinths, and were compelled, by their doubts of what was law and what was not, to add, in a most ruinous degree, to the expenses of the suitor? This system has been called the Common Law, the "wisdom of our ancestors," and various other venerable names. Did the right hon. gentleman never hear of a system of representation in any other country, totally irreconcilable either with the state of the population, or with any rule or principle under heaven? Have I not heard over and over again, from the lips of the right hon. gentleman, and from one whom, alas! I shall hear no more, that this inadequate system of representation possessed extraordinary advantages over those more systematic contrivances which resulted from 323 the better-regulated systems of the constitution-makers of other countries? And yet it is for this very irregularity in their representation, that the Canadians are now to be brought before the judgment-seat of the right hon. gentleman's committee.—I felt still greater wonder, however, when I heard the right hon. gentleman mention his third ground of objection to the proceeding? of the colonists, and his third cause of their discontent—their ignorance of political economy. Too surely the laws for the exclusion of the capital and industry of other countries did display the grossest ignorance of that science! I should not much wonder if I heard of the Canadians devising plans to prevent the entrance of a single grain of foreign corn into the provinces ! I should not wonder to hear the members of their legislature, and their great land-owners, contending, that it was absolutely necessary the people should be able to raise all their own food; and consequently (although, perhaps, they do not see the consequence), to make every other nation in the world completely independent of their products or their industry. It was barely possible that some such nonsense as this might be uttered in the legislative assembly of the Canadians. The right hon. gentleman has alluded to the seigniors, and their vassals. Some of these "Most potent, grave, and reverend signiors" might happen to be jealous of their manorial rights, for seignoralties mean manors; and a seignior is only, therefore, a lord of the manor. I low harmless this lofty word seems to be when translated ! Some of these seigniors might happen, I say, to be jealous of their manorial privileges, and anxious for the preservation of their game. I am a very bad sportsman myself, and not well acquainted with the different objects of anxiety to such persons; but there may, too, be persons in these colonies who may take upon them to institute a rigorous inquiry into the state of their game, and into the best methods of preserving red game and black game, and pheasants and partridges; and who might be disposed to make it a question, whether any evils arose from the preservation of these things for their sport, or whether the safety, the liberty, and the life of their fellow-subjects, ought not to be sacrificed for their personal gratification?—In referring to the observations upon the subject of the Custom of Paris, I would beg the House to consider, that 324 no change was made in it from 1760 to 1789; and although I admit, with the right hon. gentleman, that it may be bad as a system of conveyance, and as rendering the system of laws expensive, from the difficulties produced by mortgages, yet still I must contend, that the Canadians cannot be very ill off under a code of laws which grew up under the auspices of the parliament of Paris—a body comprising the greatest learning and talent ever brought to the study of the law, and boasting of the names of L'Hopital and Montesquieu. Neither can it be said, that the Assembly of Canada was so indifferent to its system of representation; for it ought to be recollected, that they passed a bill to amend it, although it was thrown out by the council; that is, in fact, by the government. At all events, this showed that there was no want of a disposition to amend the condition of their representation, although government might differ from them as to the best method of accomplishing that object.—A bill for establishing the independence of the judges was another of those remedial measures thrown out by the Upper House. As at present informed, however, without going further into those questions, I see enough stated in the petition upon the table of the House, to justify the appointment of a Committee of Inquiry. In every country, Sir, the wishes of the greater number of the inhabitants, and those in possession of the great mass of the properly, ought to have great influence with the government; they ought to possess the power of the government; and if this be the case as a general rule, it ought, à multi fortiori, to be followed in the government of colonies by a distant country, to which the information that is to guide the government is sent by a few, and that information is never correct nor complete. It is only by following the opinion of the better-informed part of such a community, that it can be governed with any advantage. A government on the spot is exposed to delusion, but it has the means of obtaining correct information; out for a government at a distance, the only safe course to pursue is, to follow public opinion. In making the practical application of this principle, if I find the government of any country continually engaged in squabbles with the great mass of the people—if I find it engaged in vexatious controversies, and fostering ill-timed disputes, and especially if that go- 325 vernment be the government of a colony—I say, there is a reasonable presumption against the government. I do not charge it with injustice, but I charge it with imprudence and indiscretion, and I say that it is unfit to hold the authority intrusted to it. The ten years of squabbles and hostility which have existed are a sufficient charge against the government. I was surprised to hear the right hon. gentleman put the people and the government on the same footing, in this respect. What is government good for, if not to temper the passions by its wisdom? The people are said to be deficient in those qualities, and government is presumed to possess them. If the people are not deficient, it is a fallacy to talk of the danger of intrusting them with political power. If they are deficient, where is the common sense of exacting from them the same moderation which government is instituted for the very purpose of supplying. Taking this to be true as a general principle, it cannot be false in its application to the question before the House. As I understand it, the House of Assembly has a right to appropriate the supplies which itself has granted. The House of Commons knows well how to appreciate that right, and should not quarrel with the House of Assembly for indulging in a similar feeling. The right hon. gentleman admits that the Assembly has this right; but the governor of Canada has infringed upon it. He appropriated 140,000l. without the authority of the Assembly. As to the revenue of 1777, the House of Assembly did not claim a right to appropriate it; they only claimed a light to examine the items of the appropriation, in order to ascertain if the government needed any fresh supplies. Before the Assembly can grant new supplies, it has a right to know how the permanent revenue had been applied. The petitioners from Canada state it as one of their not imaginary grievances, that they have lost 100,000l. of the public money by the neglect of the receiver. This is not one of those grievances which arise from the Assembly claiming political rights. The right, hon. gentleman will not push to an extreme the rights of the government; he will rather, with that liberality which distinguishes him, give instructions to the governors of all the British colonies to be wise, and not to wrangle with the legislative assemblies; he will not encourage contentions for right between the executive 326 and the legislative; and he will instruct them, that nothing is lost by any government in yielding to the wishes of the people, when expressed by their representatives; and that the government of the colonies can only be strong when seconded by the people. If the dispute was to be continued, where would it end? One dispute arises from the governor claiming—in imitation of the power possessed by the king to confirm the Speaker of the House of Commons—a right to confirm the Speaker of the House of Assembly.—This is a very ancient right, and venerable from its antiquity, and from being an established part of an excellent constitution; but it is most absurd in a governor of a colony; and it is a sufficient charge against him, that, on such a claim, he engaged in a battle with the representatives of the people; and it is most unfortunate for the governor, that the only time when this right was brought into question in England was one of the worst periods, and under one of the worst of our kings. But I will not now investigate the question, nor enter into any legal reasoning with respect to it; for no discussion in any case can, as I feel, be put in competition with the feelings of the whole people. There is nothing so unfortunate as an infatuated mistrust of the people in a government; and there is nothing winch is a stronger indication of its precariousness, and which will so surely lead to its fall. It is a fatal error in the rulers of a country to despise the people: its safety, honour, and strength are best preserved by consulting their wishes and feelings. The government of Quebec, despising these considerations, has been long engaged in a scuffle with the people, and has thought hard words and hard blows not inconsistent with its dignity. I observe, that twenty-one bills were passed by the Lower House of Assembly in 1827—most of them reformatory. Of those twenty-one bills, not one was approved of by the Upper House. Is the governor responsible for this? I answer, he is. The Council is nothing better than the tool of the government. It is not a fair and just constitutional check, between the popular Assembly and the governor; but it is the governor's council. The counsellors are all creatures of the governor; and they sit in council, not to examine the bills sent to them, but to concur in the acts of the governor. Of these counsellors, consisting of twenty- 327 seven gentlemen, seventeen hold places under the government at pleasure. These seventeen divide amongst themselves 15,000l. of the public money; which is not a small sum in a country where 1,000l. a year is a large income for a country gentleman. I omit the bishop, who is, perhaps, rather inclined to authority, but of in pacific character. The nine remaining counsellors were worn out by opposing the seventeen, and at present have withdrawn from attending its deliberations; and two of them, being the most considerable landowners of the province, were among the subscribers to the petition. Under these circumstances, I appeal to the House if the Canadians are not justified in considering the very existence of this council as a constitutional grievance? It has been said, by the hon. member, that there is no aristocracy formed in the province, though, according to Mr. Peel's bill, one was to have been formed. It is not possible that this part of his plan could ever be carried into execution: an aristocracy cannot be created; it is the creature of time and opinion, and is not formed by law. There is no aristocracy formed; but men of great merit and superior qualifications get an influence over the people, and they form a species of aristocracy differing from an aristocracy by birth and descent, but supplying the materials out of which a constitutional senate may be constructed. Such an aristocracy there is in Canada; but they are excluded from the council by the governor, and those who are not connected with the government are not elected to be members of the council. This was a serious grievance, and the very existence of such a council to the Crown in such a country was one of the prime grievances of the people.—There are, then, two specific classes of grievances complained of by the Canadians: the first is, the continued hostility to all the projected measures of the Assembly, by the governor; the second is, the use he makes of a council to oppose them. This is the ground on which inquiry and change are demanded; but these are things which the government might have remedied. It might have made up a council of better councillors; and it might have sent out instructions to the governor to consult the feelings of the people. All wise sovereigns do so; and our ministers, with their usual liberality, should, have given some whole- 328 some instructions to the governor of Canada, and pointed out to him the example of a government which gave way to the wishes and the views of a majority of the people, expressed by a majority of their representatives—and gave way to the opinion of the majority on a question of religious liberty, and which, instead of weakening the government, had seated it more firmly in the hearts of the people.—I do not look on these circumstances as requiring any change in the constitution. On reviewing the whole question, the only practical remedy which I see is to introduce more prudence and discretion into the councils of the administration of the province. I should listen, with respect and attention, to any specific circumstances requiring an alteration; but I have heard nothing from the right hon. gentleman this evening which a better temper might not have averted. If such circumstances were stated, I should ask, what share of them falls to the constitution, and what to the person of the governor and to the administration? These are grave questions, and the right hon. gentleman would do well to examine them more closely, and give a clear answer to them, before he puts the constitution of two provinces on its trial. I should like to hear, Sir, first, an account of the specific evils; and, secondly, what share of them is due to personal failures, and what to faults in the constitution. The right hon. gentleman had addressed himself to the feelings of the House, not with a view to excite our sympathy for the sufferings of the petitioners, but to interest us in behalf of the English inhabitants of Canada; and he has made, in several parts of his speech, allusions to the English settlers in that country, as if they were oppressed by the natives. But I ask, what law has been passed by the Assembly of Lower Canada that is unequal or unjust towards the English settlers? What law applies distinctly to them? As a remedy, is it proposed to change the representation? The English inhabitants of Lower Canada, who must be the foundation of such a change, amount to eighty thousand; and what influence can they have against upwards of four hundred thousand natives or Canadians, possessed of all the land and property of the country? The English settlers, with some few exceptions, are collected in towns; and they consist, in a great measure, of merchants, or the agents 329 of merchants. They are very respectable persons, I have no doubt; but would it not be the height of injustice to give them that influence, which the Canadians, from their number and property, ought to possess? Sir, when I hear of an inquiry on account of measures necessary to protect the English settlers, I greatly lament that any such language should be used; and I should regard it as a very bad symptom if the House were disposed to treat as a favoured race, as a ruling caste, any body of men, and to look on them as placed in one of our colonies to watch over the rest of the inhabitants. Shall we have an English colony in Canada separate from the rest of the inhabitants? Shall the English be a favoured body? Shall they have different privileges? Shall they have a sympathy with English interests and Protestant ascendancy? And shall we deal out to them six hundred years of misery, as we had dealt out to Ireland, from having in that country an English colony with English sympathies and English interests? Let us not, in God's name, introduce such curses into another region-Let the policy of this country be, to give to all classes equal law and equal justice; and let it not be supposed that the native Canadians are less entitled to be considered subjects of the king, or less entitled to the protection of the law, than the English inhabitants. I consider all his majesty's subjects in Canada to be equal. I cannot listen to unwise distinctions generating alarm, which can lead to nothing but what is evil, without adverting to them. We must consider that Canada cannot be long held, unless it be justly governed, and it will be wise to abstain from any expressions, even in this House, which shall tend to make a distinction between the English and the other inhabitants. For my part, I cannot but consider the least hint about different races—the least notion of the two classes being different people—as extremely dangerous; and I shall be glad if my observations supply the gentlemen opposite with an opportunity of disavowing—knowing as I do that the disavowal will be sincere—that any such distinction is to be kept up.
As to Upper Canada, the plans and statements of the right hon. gentleman appear to me to be very scanty of information, and not to point out, as is usual in proposing such a committee, what is to 330 be the termination of the change proposed. According to common sense they should see the way to the termination of their labours, before they engaged in them; but neither the claims of the right hon. gentleman to have a committee had been justified, nor had his plans been clearly developed. The right hon. gentleman has thrown out two or three plans; but he has found objections to them all. To the plan for the union of the two provinces, there are so many and such powerful objections, that I think the measure will not speedily come to a conclusion. The proposed measure of 1822 had excited alarm, and made all the colonies of Great Britain look with anxiety and mistrust to the councils of the mother country. The union proposed in 1822 was intended to weaken the bitterness of the House of Assembly in Lower Canada, by an infusion from Upper Canada; but it seems that the right hon. gentleman felt that this plan was not practicable. The Assembly of Upper Canada is as independent as the Assembly of Lower Canada. I have heard of some of their measures—an Alien bill, a Catholic bill, a Jury bill, and a bill for Regulating the Press; and these discussions were managed with as much spirit as those of an Assembly which I will not say is better, but which has the good fortune to be their superiors.—The right hon. gentleman has also spoken of separating the English settlers; but he appears as little satisfied with this plan as the other, and has a great many objections to it. I do not know the merits of these measures; but what he has stated shews that his plan is not calculated to remedy the grievances of which the Canadians complain. I do not know what other plans are to be brought forward; but I think the wisest measure would be to send out a temperate governor, with full instructions to be candid, and supply him with an administrative council, which should introduce such reforms as would put an end to the present disputes, and infuse a better spirit into the administration than it has known for the last ten years.—In Upper Canada, the people were much disappointed by the immense grants of land which had been made to the Church of England, and the reserves kept for a church which is not the religion of the majority of the people. Such endowments may be held sacred when they have been long made, but I do 331 not see the propriety of now making such endowments for a church which is not the religion of the people; nor do I understand the regulations which have been made for the new college of Upper Canada. I see with astonishment that in a country, where the majority of the people do not belong to the Church of England, the professors must all subscribe the Thirty-nine Articles; so that if Dr. Adam Smith were alive, he could not fill the chair of Political Economy, and Dr. Black would be excluded from the chair of Chemistry. It was, I contend, absurd that in a country where there are no tests, the public instructors should be compelled to subscribe to the religion of the minority of the people. Another thing should be considered; namely, that a large portion of the population of Canada consist of American settlers, who have been brought up in the most extended notions of liberty, and who can, least of all men, endure the intrusion of law into the domains of conscience and religion. It is a bad augury, I think, for the administration of the colony, that opinions, prevalent at the distance of some thousands of miles, should be the foundation of the charter of the new college; and it is still worse, that if those opinions be only the opinions of a faction, we cannot interpose to correct the injustice. There are two cases in which parliament may properly interpose. The first is, when there is a difference between the different provinces; and the second, when it may be necessary to prevent flagrant injustice committed by one part of the population against the other. In either of these cases, the House may interpose. I think the rounds laid for the interference by a committee, the scantiest that ever were laid, except those in 1822; which ought to be looked on as a warning rather than a precedent. I wish, however, to state, that I have not come to a final judgment, but have merely described what the bearing of my mind is on those general maxims of colonial policy, any deviation from which is as inconsistent with national policy as it is with national justice.
Mr. Wilmot Horton
said, the right hon. member appeared to have completely misunderstood the argument upon which his right hon. friend had grounded his demand of a committee. But, before he entered upon this question, he wished to make one simple statement. The right hon. member 332 had said, that an attempt was made by his majesty's government, in 1822, to bring about a union between the two provinces of Canada, contrary to their feelings and wishes, in a House in which there were only sixty members present. The fact was, however, that the question was brought forward, much to their inconvenience. A late member for Coventry, no longer in that House, assured him, in writing, that his political friends were so convinced of the benefits to be derived from such a measure, that no opposition on their parts would be given, but that, on the contrary, it had only to be presented to be carried through the House. He repeated, that this statement had been made in writing; and he considered that never was there a man worse used. He said, plainly, that an instance of greater baseness had never been exhibited. He was in possession of the communication in which that statement was made, and one word would make him produce it. The right hon. gentleman had argued, that because the colony was French—because it had fallen into our hands by conquest—it ought to remain French to the end of time. Now, he thought it became that House to declare, what plan of colonial policy it was their intention to pursue. He agreed with the right hon. member as to the basis upon which it ought to be fixed. The argument was, that the colony was French, the laws were French. He admitted this; and also that a settler, even if an Englishman, was bound by those laws. But this did not prevent parliament from interfering to modify those laws; else what became of the right hon. member's reasoning respecting the Dutch laws of the Cape of Good Hope, or the Spanish laws of Trinidad, which he declared it scandalous for an Englishman to be subjected to, as being contrary to nil his feelings and prejudices. For himself, he would never flinch from the proposition that all our colonies should be Anglicised rather than preserved in their original form. The quotation from Mr. Pitt convinced him, that the idea of that great man was, that the French Canadians would, in the course of time, become imbued with English feelings and sentiments, and that their laws would be changed progressively, until they became assimilated to those of England. But it had been decidedly the contrary. There were three points upon 333 which the right hon. member had displayed more wit than sound argument. He had spoken of the law of property, without considering that the question was not, how that law affected the French, but also the other inhabitants of Canada; for the French held, that their law extended not only over the Seigneuries, but over the whole surface. That law was peculiarly defective as respected mortgages; which any man might execute, whether he possessed an acre of land or not. There were in Canada two hundred and fifty public notaries, before any one of whom they might be executed; and there was no registration, nor any means of the mortgagees knowing if any previous mortgage existed, or if there was any land to mortgage, all the notaries being bound to secrecy. The consequence was, that there was no confidence in the transmission of property from one hand to another. He asked, would they decide on giving a triumph to those who favoured the French class when such were the principles of their laws? The right hon. gentleman had made one great mistake. He (Mr. H.) held in his hand a petition from Lower Canada, complaining of the English parliament imposing a tax of any kind on Lower Canada; and he would ask the House, whether they had not a right to impose duties when they granted protection; and were they to be debarred from legislating on trade? for if so, their colonial system was at once and for ever at an end. The petition contained another clause, which was, if possible, still more unreasonable; it was, that the king had no right to interfere with feudal tenures; which he considered to be a most extravagant proposition.—Again, with respect to the complaint, that the Assembly of Lower Canada had not a sufficient control over the expenditure of the revenue; that they had not a sufficient cognizance of the appropriation of the money. This he could not admit. The whole of the accounts were laid before the Assembly in the fullest detail. There was a reservation of an appropriation of a sum of money for the maintenance of the civil list. This was the only portion of the expenditure, reserved by a former act of parliament, over which the House of Assembly had not a certain control; and because this was not also submitted to their control, they refused to exercise their constitutional superintendence over the other items of the 334 revenue. The salary of the judges was a payment, and the renewal of it from year to year might be very agreeable to the feelings of members of the House of Assembly, as it afforded an opportunity of removing judges whose conduct may have been obnoxious to the members of that body; but it appeared to him more consistent with the principles of sound justice and impartial law, that the judges should be permanent, and their salaries fixed. This was a subject, among others, which might well engage the attention of the committee, for which his right hon. friend had moved. The result of the inquiries of that committee would be, he trusted, to improve the system of colonial administration generally, and of correcting the anomalies which had sprung up in the lapse of years. He was anxious that the notion should not go abroad, that there was the slightest disposition entertained, on the part of this country, to relinquish her colonial superintendence; such a notion, if permitted to prevail, would work extensive evil; on the contrary, it should be distinctly understood, that there was a determination on the part of this government, to cherish the connexion; and to take every opportunity of assisting the Canadas, and of developing all the resources of that country. As to the question of religion, he would not touch upon it now; he admitted its importance; but, as that and other important topics would undergo revision in the committee, it was not necessary for him now to enlarge upon them. He concluded by expressing his approbation of the motion.
said, that, after the clear and highly satisfactory statement of his right hon. friend, who opened the debate, and after the able comprehensive, and statesman-like, commentary of his right hon. and learned friend, there was but a very narrow ground for observation afforded to him. He could not forbear from expressing on this occasion the great pleasure which he derived from the speeches of the two right hon. gentlemen—the former of which was an historical detail of all the leading events connected with our intercourse with the Canadas since the commencement of it; the latter, a powerful review and illustration of that historical statement, enforcing the soundest principles of legislation with great wisdom, wit, humour, and eloquence. The subject before the House was one of as great im- 335 portance as could well occupy the attention of the legislature. The occasion was one of no less importance than this—that his majesty's ministers thought it expedient to appeal to the House of Commons of England, as arbitrators in a case in which the Crown was a party on one side, and the people of Canada a party on the other. In this situation his majesty's minister, instead of proposing any specific measure, flung his responsibility upon the House, moved for a committee, and left it to that committee to advise him how he should act in the difficult circumstances in which he was placed.—He conceived that this case had been argued too much as if it had been a question for the abolition or confirmation of the laws affecting the property of the French Canadians only. He was sorry for it; as that was not the turn which the debate ought to have taken. At present he believed there was no intention to interfere with that law; but he confessed he thought there had been a time when these laws might have been merged in the laws of England. That time was now gone by: and on those laws he believed that there was at present not the slightest intention to trench. He must now remind the House, that in the year 1763, a proclamation was issued in Canada, which introduced the English law into that colony. The proclamation proposed that a Legislative Assembly should be appointed to frame laws for the province, as similar as possible to those of England. The Assembly met, but it was rendered ineffective by the operation of the Test act; for when it was going to commence its functions, it was found that the members of it were all Catholics—that not one of them could take the Oath required—and that therefore no sitting of the Assembly could be held. In 1766 a commission was issued to chief justice Hay, authorizing him to judge in all cases, and to decide by the oath of twelve good and honest men, as was the custom in that part of the king's realm called England. In that state did Canada remain until the Quebec act of 1774. Previous to that act there were several meetings between the French and English inhabitants, as to the propriety of petitioning parliament on the subject. He had a letter in his possession which was written at the time, upon the subject of the petition; and as it gave a curious picture of Canadian society at that time, he would read it to them. The 336 petition of the French Canadians was, that the House of Assembly should, as far as two-thirds went, consist of Roman Catholics: and this was the letter which a leading Roman Catholic wrote to Malcolm Fraser, esq., one of the leading English proprietors. The writer stated, that if two-thirds of the Assembly in Canada were Englishmen, they would be able, from their superior knowledge of legislation, and their greater capacities, to obtain the suffrages of the remaining portion of the Assembly. "This," added the writer, "you will say, is no great compliment to my countrymen, but I am too well acquainted with their capacities to speak of them in any other manner." The writer then proceeded to state, that his Canadian friends were anxious that, whether or not parliament should deem it expedient to admit Roman Catholics to the assembly of the province, at all events the French laws in the province should be preserved to them. This, he stated, was their second wish; but, in addition to that, they would greatly prefer that the House of Assembly should be constituted as above mentioned.—The hon. member said, he had read this letter to exemplify the state of feeling which prevailed on this subject. With regard to the opinions therein expressed, as to the maintenance of the French laws, and the position that the country was not for the adoption of English laws, these sentiments were not applicable to the question, after the lapse of time which had since occurred. The act of 1774 had been alluded to in the petition; but he conceived the act of 1791, as furnishing the principal groundwork for the present motion. In it were embodied the views of government on the subject of the Canadas, as it formed the basis of the constitution of those colonies. He was well aware that there were times in which constitutions were described as mere codes of law, which might or might not be maintained, as might seem most fit to those to whom their execution was confided; but sure he was that that was not the way in which Englishmen would look to them. The right hon. gentleman had founded his proposition for taking the state of Canada into consideration, upon the state of real property there, the present constitution of the House of Assembly, and the condition of the revenue. The division of the two Canadas he held to be a great mistake. The attempt to form a 337 permanent separation between the Upper; and Lower Canadas was a most mischievous measure. While it professed to endeavour to keep out of Lower Canada British capital and British industry, it allowed British subjects to settle in the unclaimed and uninclosed lands in the several townships, and thus it opened the way for the introduction of British capital and industry. While in fact, then, it gave an: apparent temporary advantage to one class, it afforded a tacit encouragement to the introduction of another class of persons, whose habits of industry and enterprise were calculated to render them superior, and towards whom, as being their own country men, the members of the government might exhibit feelings of partiality, The evils which might naturally be expected from such a system had been the result and the consequence was, that the governor had been compelled to govern that province by a minority, and against the feelings of the great majority of the population. When the government turned its attention to the settlement of the representation in Canada, a difficulty presented itself to the formation of a House of Lords, as there existed no hereditary aristocracy: there, and the existence of the French feudal law opposed an effectual bar to the establishment of any aristocracy. To remedy this evil the Legislative Council was instituted, to supply the place of a House of Lords. How ill that Council; had discharged that office, they might judge from the papers before them. The members of that Council upon every occasion had enrolled themselves on the side of the government, and against the people; they stood as an impotent screen between the government and the people: they neither repelled the people on the one side, nor impelled the executive on the other; but while they enabled the one to maintain the war against the other, they were the means of keeping up a continual system of jarring and contention between the government and the people. This Council was the root of all the evils which had taken place in the administration there during the last ten or fifteen years. The petitioners also complained of being subjected to many grievances by the interpretation put upon the Tenure act; an act by which the original holders of land, under the French laws, became tenants of the Crown on paying a compensation, and they then considered them- 338 selves as holding their property under the protection of the laws of England. This was a point which had occasioned much discussion; and, as it was a question which involved property to a large amount, and greatly excited the popular feelings, it certainly was a subject that ought to be determined by parliament, and not be left to the decision of the noble individual against whose government so many complaints had been made. He was desirous not to provoke any hostile feeling; but, at the same time, he must say, that the case would be imperfectly treated before the committee, if the inquiry was not conducted into the state of the Canadas generally, and if the committee did not advert to the ecclesiastical question, which should now at once and for ever be settled. He was ready to contend, if he were sitting on the committee, that if any exclusive privileges were given to the Church of England, not only would the measure be repugnant to every principle of sound legislation, but contrary to the spirit and intention of the act of 1791, under which the reserves were made for the Protestant clergy. He trusted the whole subject would be fully discussed in the committee; for, it he understood the scope of the inquiry, it was to go into all the questions affected by the act of 1791. He hoped that the House would carefully guard Canada against the evils which religious dissensions had produced in this country and in Ireland. They had seen the evil consequences at home. God forbid they should not profit by experience, and especially in legislating for a people bordering on a country where religious intolerance was unknown. It was important, that his majesty's Canadian subjects should not have occasion to look across the narrow boundary that separated them; from the United States, and see any thing there to envy. He trusted that, in revising the constitution by which the Canadians held their dearest rights, and the; security of their lives and property, parliament would bear in mind the principles of a liberal policy, and be checked by none of those considerations, which at home perhaps it was necessary to observe, with respect to previous interests and existing prejudices. There they might begin de novo; there they might follow the most unfettered liberality, the soundest and most prudent policy they could adopt; there they might enter into a noble rivalry 339 with the United States. They might thus preserve their friendly relations with Canada, both as to the parent State while she remained a colony, and when in the course of ages she became independent as an ally. When they looked at the United States, they must see that, after all the quarrels they had had with that power—after a bloody Revolutionary war, founded on principle, and therefore the more bitter in its character, which was justice on one side, and oppression on the other—all unfriendly feelings had disappeared; and when they found, as he knew well by personal experience, that in America so thoroughly convinced were the people of the benefits of a liberal policy, and so strong were the ties of a common origin, that an English gentleman travelling in that great republic, was sure to meet with the most hospitable reception. That great country was proud to acknowledge its relationship to England, and to recognise the love and attachment it yet felt to the mother country, and would feel for ages. If ever the Canadas separated from this country, as they must some day or other in the ordinary course of things, it was in our power still to retain their friendship; but on the result of the deliberations of parliament, depended that power. He, therefore, entreated the committee to do justice to both parties, to sacrifice nothing to national prejudice, but to keep constantly in view that the interests of a great country were at stake, and that it was their duty, by just measures, to establish that friendly and intimate relation, which he trusted would ever subsist between this country and Canada.
§ Mr. Hume
concurred almost entirely in what had fallen from the right hon. and learned gentleman who had so ably and eloquently addressed the House. But, as the grievances of Upper Canada had not even been alluded to by the right hon. Secretary for the Colonies, he felt called upon to state shortly what he considered due to the people of that colony. He trusted that they would meet with ample justice in the course of this inquiry, though he differed entirely from his hon. friend who spoke last, who had applauded the motives, and approved the act of the right hon. Secretary, in referring the affairs of Canada to a committee of that House. The right hon. gentleman and his predecessors in office had raised the storm, which they were now afraid to meet, and 340 claimed the protection of a committee. He objected to this course, because he believed the duty was such as no committee would perform. The measure would be that of the right hon. gentleman, but the responsibility would be that of the committee. His majesty's government were principally to blame for the situation in which Canada was placed. The prerogatives of the Crown had been debated on former questions of this nature; but whoever reverted to the history of our unfortunate dispute with the colonies, which were now the United States, would find that when the British government were urging their claims in that House, they found legal advocates enough; but yet these rights of the Crown, which the government of this country then insisted on, were afterwards obliged to be given up; as they would be compelled to yield claims of a similar nature in the present instance. They had established independent legislatures in Canada,—they had given to them all the advantages of a British government, and assimilated them to a British House of Commons. Were these houses of assembly to have the free conduct of their affairs, or were they to be subjected to the control of the executive government? Were these legislative bodies to be mere ciphers? What was their use, if all the legislative power was to be lodged in the hands of the executive? He was firmly convinced that his majesty's government had been the cause of all the fermentation and irritation in the Canadas. It betrayed a weakness in the government, and a want of confidence on the part of the right hon. gentleman, to send the consideration of this matter to a committee. The colonial policy of the government for some time had been any thing but conciliatory. With the exception of Nova Scotia, was there a single colony from which they had not loud and frequent complaints? If a system of conciliation had been pursued towards the Canadas, the condition of that colony would have been far different from that which it now presented. It was the duty as well as the interest of the government to conciliate the population of Canada, instead of driving them to despair by acts of severity and oppression. When the bill passed that House, authorizing the disposal of the clergy reserve lands, it was understood that it would not be exclusively devoted to the support of any particular 341 clergy. But it appeared that since then they had been solely appropriated to the Protestant clergy. On the 15th of March a charter was granted for the establishment of a university in Upper Canada; but what did it provide? That the chancellor, the professors, &c, must be all of the Established Church, and before they are admitted they must subscribe to the Thirty-nine articles. In a seminary to educate the youth of Upper Canada, the professors must be of the religion of the minority! Was this fair, or just, or defensible, upon the principles of common sense? Dr. Strachan had grossly misrepresented the missionaries in Upper Canada to the British government. With the exception of five, he had stated that they were principally from the United States; that they had derived all their knowledge from thence; that they were subject to the control of the Methodist Conference in the United States; and that their influence was calculated to render a large portion of the population hostile to the institutions of this country. This was gross misrepresentation. There were two hundred and thirty-five clergymen in Upper Canada; and of that number there were alone thirty-one of the Church of England. Yet it was upon the representations of this rev. gentleman that his majesty's ministers had determined to establish three hundred clergymen of the Church of England in Upper Canada. Of the other clergymen there were—hundred and seventeen Methodists, forty-five Baptists, and forty or fifty of other denominations. So far from all of them having been educated in the United States, a hundred and thirty-three of the Methodists and Baptists, and eleven of the Church of England clergymen, were born and educated in his majesty's dominions. The doctor had stated, that a large proportion of the members of the Assembly were of the Church of England. This he flatly denied; and in contradiction of the assertion, he would state, that at a meeting of the Assembly, where a resolution was proposed to the effect that Protestants of the Church of England formed but a small proportion of the population of the province; twenty-seven out of thirty voted for the resolution. He concluded by expressing his opinion, that. Canada had been reduced to its present condition by the conduct of the government.
said, that one grievance 342 of which the population of Upper Canada complained deserved to be mentioned. Large grants of land had been made there to American loyalists. It was afterwards discovered, in the House of Lords, that those to whom the grants had been made had never qualified as aliens under the 2nd of Geo. 3rd, and that consequently they were not subjects of his majesty. This matter had occupied the serious attention of land-holders there for many years, and the doubts upon the subject should be cleared up as soon as possible. He hoped it would be one of the first objects of the committee to set at rest those doubts.
Mr. Stuart Wortley
said, he had come down to the House with the intention of voting in favour of the committee; but if he had supposed that one of the objects of the committee was to consider the disputes between the government and the legislature of Canada, he should have had different feelings on the subject. The consideration of such matters, did not, he thought, belong to that House. He was anxious to learn whether the object of the committee was to take into consideration the civil government of Canada.
thought this one of the most important subjects that could come under the notice of the House. When he reflected upon the attempt of government to anglicise the people of Canada, and, under the guidance of Dr. Strachan, to establish a predominant religion there, he could not hesitate to attribute all the grievances complained of to misgovernment; nor could he wonder at the petitions of eighty-seven thousand of the people of Lower Canada, and of eight or nine thousand of the people of Upper Canada. The question was one of extensive importance, and nothing ought to be left untried to find out a system which would conciliate all parties. When he heard a right hon. gentleman talk of anglicising the Canadians, and imposing the Thirty-nine articles in Canada, and when he heard him cheered by a number of gentlemen who must know very little of either Upper or Lower Canada, he could not regret that that gentleman was no longer in the colonial department.
Mr. W. Horton
said, that the hon. gentleman had altogether mistaken his line of argument, which was, that if we did not anglicise Trinidad or the Cape of Good Hope, why should we anglicise Ca- 343 nada? He had never said one word about the Thirty-nine articles.
Mr. Hu skisson
, in reply, observed, that he had abstained from adverting to the character and conduct of lord Dalhousie, because he thought they were not concerned in this question, and because they required no vindication. The high situation which the noble lord would soon be called upon to fill would prove that he had not incurred the disapprobation of the government. An hon. friend behind him had asked him, if it was his intention that the committee should take into consideration the disputes between his majesty's government and the Canadian legislatures? The very wording of the motion distinctly showed that he had no such intention. Much had been said of the opinions of Mr. Pitt upon the subject. To that great man's authority he should always be disposed to bend; but he begged leave to read an extract from one of Mr. Pitt's speeches. It was to the effect, that if the legislative system of Canada were found to be defective, it was open to revision; and that there was nothing to prevent the parliament of Great Britain from correcting any part of that system which seemed to demand correction. What he was most anxious to do was, if possible, to conciliate all parties in that country. To effect that, the most judicious course which it seemed practicable to adopt was, to refer it to a select committee. His right hon. and learned friend, the member for Knaresborough, had in some degree advocated the cause of the population of Lower Canada; and in doing so had, like an advocate, introduced much misrepresentation. Me had addressed him, as if he had charged the Canadians with being bad political economists. That was not the case. What he charged them with was, that they excluded English manufactures. He had also to complain of his right hon. and learned friend, and of the hon. member for Aberdeen, that they both very fluently recommended ministers to put an end to the existing difficulties, by immediately conceding every possible demand of the Canadian legislature. But, was the conduct of that legislature such as to justify such a concession? The fact, that in a petition from eighty-seven thousand persons there were only nine thousand names signed, the rest being-marks, was a lamentable proof of the little attention which had been paid to the 344 people of Canada by its legislature. His hon. friend deprecated the employment of force in the settlement of the existing disputes. Nothing could be further from his intention. If it were desirable, it would not be possible. Neither force nor any other improper means would be resorted to. Whatever course might be adopted, his efforts would be directed to do what was right by the colonies, to endeavour to extinguish all animosities, and to place the relations between those colonies and the mother country on their only proper basis.
§ The motion was agreed to, and a select committee appointed.