Dissentient opinion of Lord Brougham on John Russell's Ten Resolutions

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Taken from The Canada Question, in The United States Democratic Review, Volume 1, Issue 2, January 1838, pp. 213 to 215



On the 9th day of May, the resolutions were taken up in the House of Lords, discussed and passed,—being opposed only by Lord Brougham, who, in addition to speaking against them, entered the following protest on the journal of the Lords.

Dissentient,—

  1. Because these resolutions, embracing a great variety of important subjects, upon which different opinions may be entertained by the same persons, were all passed to the vote as once, in a House of not a tenth part of the members that frequently attend when questions affecting the interests of political parties or even individuals stand for discussion.
  2. Because, though some of these resolutions are justifiable, there are others, and especially the eighth, which set all considerations of sound policy, of generosity, and justice, at defiance, and will most likely be regarded as indicating a design to crush whatever spirit of opposition to the Executive Government may at any time and for any cause show itself in any portion of North American provinces.
  3. Because it is the fundamental principle of the British Constitution which was intended to be established in Canada by the act of 1791,—and was finally promulgated in 1831, that no part of the taxes levied upon the people shall he applied to any purpose whatever without the consent of their Representatives in Parliament; and this control ought in an especial manner to be vested in the people of the Colonies, seeing that it never can give them the same unlimited influence which it confers on the people of the parent State; for, if supplies are withheld by the Commons of England on account of grievance, the Crown has no other resource, and the grievance must be redressed; whereas, if the Commons withhold supplies for the like reasons, the Crown cannot by this proceeding be obliged to redress the grievance as long as the Parliament of the mother country is willing to furnish the funds required.
  4. Because the taking possession of the money placed by the British Parliament at the disposal of the Colonial Councils, without their consent, is wholly subversive of the above-named fundamental principle, and directly contrary to the wise and salutary provisions of the act passed in 1831;— nor does it at all signify that this is said only to be done upon the present occasion, and that the rights of the Colonial Parliament are represented as left unimpaired. The precedent of 1837 will ever after be cited in support of such oppressive proceedings as often as the Commons of any Colony may withhold supplies; how justifiable soever their refusal may be, or in whatever designs the Executive Government may be engaged.
  5. Because the constitution of the Council, having been tried for nearly half a century, has not only failed to produce the advantages expected from it, but, after occasioning the most serious evils, has ended in bringing the Legislative operations of the Colonial Parliament to a close; and there seems good ground to hope the evils now complained of may be remedied by introducing the elective principle into the constitution of this body, under due modifications. But the 4th resolution seems to pledge Parliament against ever introducing that principle, since it is not possible to conceive any circumstance justifying its introduction if the existing state of things does not.
  6. Because the spirit in which these proceedings were conceived is avowedly adverse to the opinions and desires of a vast majority of the inhabitants of Lower Canada, and the no less plainly avowed object in bringing them forward is, by the authoritative declaration of Parliament to put down the principles and thwart the inclination so generally prevailing among the people of that Province.
  7. Because these proceedings, so closely resembling the fatal measures that severed the United States from Great Britain, have their origin in principles, and derive their support from reasonings, which form a prodigious contrast to the whole grounds, and the only defence, of the policy during later years so justly and so wisely sanctioned by the Imperial Parliament, in administering the affairs of the mother country. Nor is it easy to imagine, that the inhabitants of either the American or the European branches of the Empire should contemplate so strange a contrast without drawing inferences thereform discreditable to the character of the Legislature, and injurious to the future welfare of the State, when they mark with what different measures we mete to 600,000 inhabitants of a remote province unrepresented in Parliament, and to 6,000,000 of our fellow-citizens nearer home, and making themselves heard by their Representatives, the reflection will surely arise in Canada, and may possibly find its way into Ireland, that the sacred rules of justice, the most worthy feelings of national generosity, and the soundest principles of enlightened policy may be appealed to in vain, if the demand of the suitor be not also supported by personal interests and party views, and political fears among those whose aid he seeks, while all men, perceiving that many persons have found themselves at liberty to hold a course towards an important but remote Province, which their constituents never would suffer to be pursued towards the most inconsiderable borough of the United Kingdom, an impression will be inevitably propagated most dangerous to the maintenance of Colonial dominion, that the people can never safely entrust the powers of Government to any supreme authority not residing amongst themselves.

BROUGHAM.

See also

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