Annual Report of the General Committee of the Montreal Constitutional Association
The termination of the period for which the Executive Committee of the Constitutional Association was appointed, imposes on the General Committee the duty of addressing themselves to the entire body of their fellow citizens who have rallied round the edifice of the Constitution.
The committee, at their first meeting on the 28th, January, proceeded to elect, by ballot, an Executive Committee, according to the Rules and Regulations of the Association; and has received from the following detail of their proceedings:—
On taking communication of the proceedings since the formation of the Association in January last, the Executive Committee now report:—That at the general meeting, held at the theatre on the 26th March last, the Chairman then reported to the Association the proceedings of that Committee up to that period, and it is therefore considered unnecessary here to repeat them.
Mr. Walker, the agent appointed at the general meeting to proceed to England, with, and in support of the Petitioners to the Imperial Parliament, was, without delay, furnished with copious documents, information and instruction, for his guidance on his mission; and early in April last, took his departure for England. An early opportunity was afforded both to him and the agent for the Quebec Association, by the Colonial Secretary, to make known to His Majesty's Government, the object and importance of their mission; and Mr. Gillespie, Chairman of the North American Colonial Association in London, was appointed by that body to unite with them in urging on the Government and Parliament, the claims and complaints of the inhabitants of Lower Canada, of British and Irish origin.
The determination of His Majesty's Government having then been signified to the Agents, of sending to Canada a Commission to inquire into, and to report upon, the complaints and grievances of the adverse parties, they, the Agents, were informed that no legislative proceedings would be resorted to in the Imperial Parliament, in regard to Lower Canada, until that Commission had reported to His Majesty's Government; but that up to the period of the departure of the Commission from London, the Colonial Secretary would be willing to receive from the Agents any communications they chose to make on the subject of their claims, and the complaints of their constituents; and that the Commissioners would be specially instructed to investigate, when in Canada, and receive testimony, in regard to all these.
On the llth August last, a communication was addressed to Mr. Walker, signifying that the Committee saw no necessity for his remaining in England on behalf of the Association, after the rising of Parliament, and from recent intelligence they have re son to think that he may be daily expected.
The Commission already alluded to, it is well known, has now been in Canada about three months; and a letter has lately been addressed to the Secretary of the Commission desiring to know when and in what manner the Commissioners will be disposed to receive testimony in support of the claims and complaints of this Association.
The following is a copy of the communication:—
MONTREAL, Nov. 24, 1835.
SIR,—I have the honor to enclose, and to beg you will lay before the Honorable Commissioners whom His Majesty has been pleased to appoint for the purpose of investigating certain grievances complained of in Lower Canada, a copy of the Petition of divers inhabitants of this Province, resident in the District of Montreal, which was transmitted to England by W. Walker, Esq., Agent of the Constitutional Association of Montreal, and presented to His Majesty and to the two Houses of the Imperial Parliament, during the past summer.
With reference to that Petition, and to certain Resolutions adopted by the Executive Committee of the Association, which were laid before His Majesty's Secretary of State for the Colonial Department (and of which I have the honor herewith to transmit a copy) I am directed by the Executive Committee to state, that the Association have been informed by their Agent, that at an interview with which Mr. Walker was honoured by Lord Glenelg, on the 13th of June last, his Lordship was pleased to state, that all the points adverted to in the Resolutions of the Montreal Association would be embraced in the instructions to the Commissioners whom His Majesty had been pleased to appoint. Mr. Walker has further informed the Association, that at a subsequent interview with his Lordship, to which he was admitted on the 16th June last, Lord Glenelg repeated the assurance previously given, that the various topics of complaint enumerated in these Resolutions should be noticed in the instructions to the Commissioners.
I am now directed by the Executive Committee to enquire in what manner, and at what time, His Majesty's Commissioners will be pleased to investigate the various complaints of the Petitioners.
I have the honor to be, Sir,
Your obedient servant,
J. GUTHRIE SCOTT, Sec. C.A.M.
Thomas Frederick Elliot, Esq.
Sec. of the Royal Commission.
To this letter no reply has been received by the Association.
(The Secretary intimated, however, that the following had been received by this morning's post:)
QUEBEC, December 5, 1835.
SIR,—I have the honor to receive and lay before the Commissioners your letter, dated 24th of November, inquiring at what time and in what manner they will be prepared to investigate the complaints in the Petitions addressed last year to His Majesty and both Houses of Parliament, by divers inhabitants of the District of Montreal; and I am to acquaint you, in answer, that the Commissioners are at present engaged in consideration of the conditions which it may be proper to annex to the measure of giving up the Crown Reserves; and that, in connection with that subject, they have also before them the question of the independence of the Judges and the creation of a Court of Impeachment. If the Constitutional Association of Montreal wish to offer any information on these points, the Commissioners will be happy to see any person or persons whom they may depute for that purpose.
In order, however, to enable the Association to decide whether it be desirable for them to send such a deputation at present, or to wait some future stage of the proceedings, I am desired to apprize you, that as soon as the Commissioners shall have despatched their Report on the matters above adverted to, it is probable that their next enquiries will relate to any improvements which may seem practicable in the system of managing the Crown Lands, and desposing of the Wild Lands and Forests;—that from thence they will proceed to the tenures of Land generally, and to the effect which the Seigniorial Tenure may produce upon the prosperity of the City of Montreal, as well as to the subjects of the Registry of Titles, and the future Incorporation of Land Companies.—Finally, that the Constitution of the Executive and Legislative Councils, and the state of the Representation of the People, are questions which it will be necessary to approach. The scope of the Commission is not confined to the subjects which I have enumerated, although, under the instructions from His Majesty's Government, they are considered to have the first claim to attention.
Having thus stated the course of inquiry contemplated by the Commissioners, I am to add, that during its progress, it is probable they will remove their sittings to Montreal; and as they propose to make their Report on the appropriation of the Crown Reserves before Christmas, I am to request that you will favor me with the earliest intimation you can conveniently afford, whether or not it is likely that any gentleman from Montreal will wish to attend before that Commission be despatched.
I have the honor to be, Sir,
Your obedient humble servant,
THOS. FREDK. ELLIOT
J.G. Scott, Esq. Montreal.
The Executive Committee have been very desirous of organizing Ward Committees throughout the City and suburbs, the utility of which would be felt in the event of any emergency arising, requiring union and strength; but they fear that their wishes have been but partially and imperfectly carried into effect; and this Committee cannot refrain from recommending the immediate and general adoption of a system of organization.
Petitions, respectably and numerously signed by the inhabitants of Montreal, have recently been transmitted, through the medium of the Executive Committee, and presented to the Provincial Parliament.
First.—For the establishment of Registry Offices throughout the Province.
Second.—For the abolishment of the Feudal Tenure throughput the Province.
Third.—For the continuation of the improvement of the Harbour of Montreal.
Fourth.—For the improvement of the Canal Navigation in this Province, on a scale to correspond with that going forward in Upper Canada.
Measures have also been taken to procure an amendment of the Act for incorporating the City of Montreal.
The Executive Committee cannot refrain from bringing under the notice of the Association the infraction lately committed on the Constitution of this Province, by the Executive branch thereof, in paying, without authority of law, and for purposes tending to the total subversion of that Constitution, a large sum of money out of the Public Treasury. If one infraction of the law could justify another, they do not see why the payment of the duties by which the Public Treasury is filled should not be withheld to prevent the recurrence of such an act of spoliation.
All which, is nevertheless, respectfully submitted. By order of the Executive Committee,
W. ROBERTSON, Vice Chairman, J. GUTHRIE SCOTT, Secretary.
Montreal, Nov., 1835.
At a meeting of the General Committee, held on the 28th of November, the following resolutions were carried:—
First.—That a Committee of three persons be appointed to audit the Treasurer's Accounts.
Second.—That the present aspect of affairs in this Province demands a closer union of persons of British and Irish origin for the purpose of mutual defence and support; and that a Committee of seven persons be now named to alter and amend the Rules and Regulations of this Association, with the view of carrying into effect so important an object, and to report thereon at the next general meeting.
Third.—That a Committee of five be appointed to draw up a Report of the General Committee, to he laid before the Association, and that it be an instruction to the said Committee to point out such objects as it may consider of importance to bring under the consideration of the Association.
In conformity with the last clause of this resolution, the Committee have prepared and respectfully submit to the consideration of the Association the following observations:
The Association cannot too frequently place before the public the principles and demands of the population of British and Irish descent, and contrast them with the acts and the demands of the dominant party in the Assembly.
Constitutionalists demand ameliorations in the law, and changes in the institutions of the country, beneficial in their immediate effects, and valuable as elevating the condition of the French peasantry, and qualifying them for the exercise of the loftier duties of freemen.
The effects of the French Canadian leaders, on the contrary, are limited to the preservation of their ancient institutions, and to a change in the Constitution which cannot reasonably be expected, so long as the existing form of Government of the British Empire shall be preserved.
The French leaders have obtained, with the unreflecting, a character of liberality by their demand that the Legislative Council should be elected by the people, instead of being, as at present appointed by the Crown; and the opposition of Constitutionalists to this change, has given rise to much misrepresentation of their principles.
Any expression of opinion in regard to the superior adaptation to the wants and interests of society of the republican form of Government, or that of a constitutional monarchy, is not required from the Committee. Both forms of government have their advocates; each can be sustained by powerful arguments derived from history and from reason. But the Committee believe that no educated man of unprejudiced mind, will hesitate to denounce the course pursued by the French Canadian leaders, who, under the specious guise of Reformers, ostensibly desirous of a Government more intimately connected with the will of the people, as really animated by zeal for the preservation of all those peculiarities which so unenviably distinguish this Province from all other inhabited portion of North America.
The most ardent admirers of self-government will admit, that the qualification of a people for investiture with that important privilege, is a solemn consideration; and the Committee feel convinced they shall have no difficulty in repelling the charge which the duplicity of the French Canadian leaders induces them to reiterate, that the Association is 'factiously and unjustifiably' opposed to the introduction of the elective principle of Government in this Province. The Association numbers amid their ranks, many of the children of Republican America, who venerate the land of their birth, and are proud of her institutions. Enrolled in the Association is a large body of individuals who have a variety of forms, who, witnessing the effect of despotism to degrade, and of freedom to elevate and ennoble, willingly join in the declaration that the source of power is in the people. But, who compose the Association? Are they not mainly Scotchmen, Irishmen, Englishmen, Germans, and the descendants of those from the British Isles, who sought the enjoyment of civil and religious liberty in America? And needs there any declaration that a body so composed, can deem an intelligent people unfit to exercise the privilege of self-Government; and yet that charge has been made, and is reiterated by the leaders of the French party, who have the hardihood to proclaim themselves the exclusive champions of free institutions within this Province!
But whilst the Association record their conviction that the intelligence of a people is the guarantee for the proper use of the elective principle, they appeal to history, in particular to the progress of the Republics of South America, to the opinions of the most eminent and distinguished Republican writers' to bear them out in the assertion that, when a population is unlettered and unenlightened to entrust them with the unrestricted use of political power would be, in fact, to retard the progress of rational freedom. To resist a state of things so repulsive to the feelings of freemen, the Association have banded themselves together,—they have caused their declaration to be made known to the British people,—they have received assurances from the Imperial Government that justice shall be impartially administered; and notwithstanding that recent circumstances have violently shaken their faith in the commissioned organs of the ministry, they repose quietly in the confidence, that, though deprived by an adverse majority, glorying in their foreign origin, of that power and influence which they ought to exercise, their dearest privileges, and feelings, and interests, will not be committed to the keeping of a population, which, however moral and religious, are unfit to sustain their own just rights and interests, and are necessarily totally unqualified to be entrusted with the rights and interests of others. If, in the ordinary and varied relations of private life, we should contemptuously refuse the proposition to submit our difference to the arbitration of men ignorant of the rudiments of education, what language can we employ sufficiently indicative of our feelings, when the demand is boldly made that to such men shall be entrusted the management of our political liberties.
The right of suffrage, almost universal, has been conferred by the Constitution on the population of this Province, and although the Association do not desire the right to be curtailed, yet they appeal to the intelligence of all communities whether it would be proper and just to divest the Constitution of a check on popular violence and precipitation where, unhappily, ignorance and prejudice characterize the majority.
Although lo those resident in this Province, and intimately acquainted with the condition of the rural population, it is supererogatory to adduce proofs of the deplored ignorance of the French Canadian inhabitants, yet our fellow-countrymen in the other American Provinces and in Great Britain and Ireland may desire that our assertion be substantiated.
The Committee disclaim all intention of charging upon the French Canadian population, a participation in the selfish acts of their leaders: and were it not that a disclosure of certain facts were necessary to a right understanding of the position of parties, they would willingly abstain from any allusion to their peculiar characteristics. The following quotation from Address to 'Men of British and Irish descent,' will convey, in precise terms all that is necessary to be said on that subject:—
The want of education among the French majority and their consequent inability to form a correct judgment of the acts of their political leaders have engendered most of our grievances. The extent of that ignorance may be collected from the facts that within the last two years, in each of two Grand Juries of the Court of King's Bench for the District of Montreal, selected under a Provincial law, from among the wealthiest inhabitants of the rural parishes, there was found but one person competent to write his name; and that trustees of schools are specially permitted, by statute, to affix their crosses to their school Reports.
The political information of that part of the Canadian population engaged in agricultural pursuits is therefore derived exclusively from the few educated individuals scattered among them, who speak the same language and who possess the means of directing public opinion, exempted from those salutary checks which education alone can bestow.
The persons who wield this mighty power are, generally speaking, Seigniors, Lawyers, and Notaries of French extraction, all of whom, as will be shown hereafter, have a direct and selfish interest in maintaining a system of feudal law, injurious to the country and bearing with peculiar severity on the British interests.
Our endeavors to procure relief have been represented as a covert attack upon the customs and institutions of the Province; national prejudices have been called into action, national feelings excited, and a majority, ignorant of the nature of the contest, is now arrayed against a British minority.
Passing by the petty vexations of the Feudal Tenure, such as the Seigniors right to call for the title deeds of every vassal; his exclusive right of grinding the grain of his seigniory; his right to assume any property within the limits of his Seigniory on reimbursing to the purchaser the cost of his acquisition; and other claims of a servile and arbitrary character incident to Feudal Law, we proceed to the subject of the more grievous burdens by which we are oppressed.
Throughout the Seigniories of Lower Canada, within the limits of which are comprised the Cities of Montreal and Quebec, upon the sale of real property the Feudal Lord exacts from the purchasers a fine equal to one-twelfth part of the price; a claim which recurs with each successive sale: thus every person who clears, or otherwise improves a farm, erects a building, either in town or country, or invests capital in landed estate, bestows one-twelfth of his outlay on the Seignior, whenever the property is brought to sale.
This odious law, so injurious in its effects, readily-explains why this fine Province, although richly endowed by nature; is so far surpassed in the career of improvement by neighbouring Provinces and States.
From the want of a Bill for the registration of real property, the validity of a title cannot be ascertained except by a course of expensive proceedings through the Courts of Law, but secret incumbrances may still exist, unaffected by that procedure, for whose discovery no means are afforded; hence the difficulty of borrowing money on mortgage and the frequent seizure and forced sale of real estate.
The profits which accrue to the Seignior from this state of things are obvious; and the interests of the French Lawyer and Notary, in maintaining a system of law that fosters litigation and produces corresponding expense, is equally intelligible.
The first settlers in Canada brought with them the artificial distinctions of rank, and the oppressive laws of that state of society, which had grown up in rank luxuriance, under the despotism of the Bourbons.— The eradication of these laws, as it would have been the first object of dawning intelligence, so would it have been the first effort of a reforming Legislature. Yet the French Canadian population still submit to their pernicious operation—the House of Assembly proclaims to the world a resolve for their perpetuation, and denounces the Constitutionalists for seeking their abolition.
The Committee cannot omit making reference to the notorious fact, that several Members of the House of Assembly, in successive Parliaments, have been unable to read or write. In one State of Republican America, those similarly circumstanced, are disqualified for the comparatively humble duty of a Petty Juror, while, in this Province, a virtual encouragement to the neglect of education is offered, by rendering ignorance no impediment to the responsible and important duties of legislation. Can it be supposed that a people in this condition are competent to judge of the various and complicated relations of society—to decide upon the nicely graduated scale of punishments so necessary to a just system of law—to regulate the intricate concerns of commerce—and, finally, to comprehend the wants and the wishes of that portion of the community, which, from education and superior intelligence, is more advanced in the social scale.
When to this state of affairs is added the fact, that the pernicious distinction of origin has been sedulously employed to perpetuate a separation of the two classes—that feelings of enmity have been created and encouraged among the French population, against their fellow-citizens of British and Irish descent—the opposition of the Association to the introduction of the elective principle in this Province, will be regarded by all unprejudiced men as dictated by self preservation.
The Association earnestly desire that the Legislative Council should be composed of men who, by birth or long residence in the country, are warmly attached to its interests, who are intimately concerned in its prosperity, who are alike independent in mind and circumstances, and distinguished by the esteem of their fellow-citizens. A Legislative Council formed of such materials will enjoy the confidence of the people, and be alike observant of duty towards the Crown, and of respect for popular privileges. Public opinion will sufficiently punish a dereliction from the one, or a disregard of the other.
To surrender the entire control of the Government of the Province to the present constituency, would be in effect, proportionally to increase and confirm the power of the French faction. The influence which has brought the French population not simply to endure, but to cherish pernicious laws, cannot be counteracted, until education and a free press shall have diffused among them the elements of political knowledge.
The British and Irish population perceive in the past conduct of the French leaders, sufficient evidence of what would be their future career. Confident of the continued support of a majority, inaccessible to argument and united by an indefinite dread of everything British, they have ventured upon acts that would have blighted their character in any enlightened state. They have violated the principles of a Representative Government, by expelling from successive Parliaments a Member freely elected by the people; another Member has been expelled on the ground of alleged disqualification, while one of their own party, under similar circumstances, has been permitted to retain his seat:—and the sitting Members for the West Ward of this City are allowed to retain their seats in opposition to the votes of a majority of qualified electors.
The French Canadian leaders have numbered among their grievances, that one-seventh of the Township lands has been appropriated by law for the support of a Protestant clergy, and yet they have studiously withheld from the public view the facts, that, for the support of the French clergy is exclusively appropriated the revenue derived from the exaction of tithes in the Seigniories, and that large revenues from extensive tracts of land are enjoyed by French communities. Are duplicity and exclusiveness the characteristics of Reformers?
The men of the Constitutional Association are united for one grand object—the maintenance of equal rights. Upholding the principle, that every clergyman should derive the means of support from his congregation, they cordially accede to the application of the Clergy Reserves to purposes of education; but they claim what their opponents have intentionally overlooked, a general adoption of that principle.
Although years have elapsed since the British Government, after strict investigation, declared that certain properties were held by communities without any legal title, yet a large population, comprehending that the principal cities of the Province, remain subjected to grievous and irritating feudal exactions by these communities; the growth of our cities is checked, by the interruption of parcels of land held in mortmain, and which are refused, for purposes of public improvement, to earnest applications. These evils might well have found enumeration among the numerous grievances which a microscopic vision has detected, and would have commanded the attention of a Reforming Legislature.
The Association have no sinister motives; in the true and stern spirit of reform, they demand that those oppressions cease. They protest, in the name of their fellow-countrymen, against any compromise or concession that shall confer the sanction of His Majesty's Government on the illegal exactions which a weak policy has suffered to exist.
Our fellow-citizens in Upper Canada demanded the modification of the Charter of the King's College at Toronto, because of its exclusiveness, and yet their brethren in Lower Canada have, of late years, witnessed the establishment, by Provincial Charter, of several French Colleges of the most exclusive character, deriving their support principally from the public revenue, by annual grants freely and lavishly bestowed by successive Parliaments. In their anxiety for the advancement of education, the Constitutionalists have hitherto uttered no complaint, but, goaded by a sense of wrongs inflicted by the French majority, they now formally protest against the support of Colleges founded on narrow and exclusive principles, which necessarily deprive a large portion of the population of the advantages of those institutions, and demand a general system of education, divested of sectional and illiberal views.
The numerous French Colleges, supported chiefly by grants from the Public Funds, warrant the Association in demanding, as an act of justice, proportionate grants for the instruction of youth of British and Irish origin; and further, they conceive that the Jesuits' Estate and College at Quebec should be dedicated to the establishment of an institution for the higher branches of science and learning, open to all classes, and divested of all sectarian religious test, in either its professors or its students.
The proceedings of the Assembly, now in Session, evince the usual spirit of hostility to any beneficial change in the laws affecting property, and the prosecution of works of public utility, which are imperatively called for, to enable us to compete successfully with our rivals for the western trade. Serious and wounding to our interests as are the obstacles which a narrow-minded and hateful policy interposes to prevent the march of public prosperity, the Association more deeply regret that no hope of speedy amelioration can be discerned, except through the interposition of the Imperial Parliament, or from a legislative union of the Provinces of Upper and Lower Canada. However, another resource is yet afforded to those of the Association resident in the County of Montreal—namely, an annexation to Upper Canada, which would free them from a connection repulsive to their feelings, and destructive of their interests.
The Provincial Revenue, mainly furnished by the British and Irish population of this Province and of Upper Canada, has been in part, illegally applied to reward political partizans—to engage the service of an agent, who advocates principles destructive of an important branch of our trade—to disseminate false and libellous attacks on our principles and motives through the British press, and to sustain Journals in this Province. Sincerely does the Association deplore that the Governor in Chief, in obedience to instructions from His Majesty's Ministers, should have sanctioned an unconstitutional application of the Provincial Funds; painful and irritating as would, in any circumstances, have been this infraction of the Constitution, yet more accurately felt is the wrong, proceeding from those who, we confidently expected, would have interposed the shield of British justice for the protection of that structure reared by the Imperial Parliament itself.
The Constitutional party in this Province are resolved to devote their energies of the preservation of the fundamental principles of the existing Constitution, not merely because of its assimilation to the Constitution of the United Kingdom—not merely because the change so ardently and pertinaciously demanded by the majority of the House of Assembly will, if effected, speedily sever the connection with the parent state, a connection which the Committee maintains is beneficial to the colony, and affectionately appreciated by the bulk of the Association, not merely because the lamented ignorance of the French Canadian peasantry presents an insurmountable objection to a further extension of the elective principle, but chiefly, because the change demanded by the House of Assembly, would entail upon them and upon their children, a virtual deprivation of the elective franchise, an insupportable condition of moral servitude.
The dishonest imputation of the French Canadian leaders, that the Association is composed of anti-reformers, and supporters of official abuses, has been for ever put at rest by a distinct and open avowal of our principles, and the true character of the struggle as between feudalism and rational liberty—domination and equal rights—French Canadian nationalité and the spirit of universal liberty, is known and appreciated throughout North America.
The peculiar position of the men of British and Irish origin, though surrounded by difficulties, must not give rise to despondency. A confident reliance upon the justice of their cause, and the energies of the race to which they belong, must animate them to resistance against oppression, and will yet crown their efforts with success. But, watchfulness and action are required, and a more intimate connexion with their brethren throughout this Province and in Upper Canada; to effect which important object, they earnestly recommend that delegates from all the constitutional societies in this Province assemble in Congress, to deliberate upon our situation, and to devise the best and speediest means of political emancipation; and considering the identity of interests between the inhabitants of Upper Canada and the constitutionalists of this Province, that urgent representations be made to them, by means of deputies or otherwise, for that aid which will accelerate the overthrow of a hateful domination.
All which is, nevertheless, respectfully submitted.
Chairman, General Committee.
Montreal, December 5th, 1835.
The following Resolutions were adopted by the Meeting
Moved by Adam Ferrie, seconded by James Brown—
1. Resolved, That the Report now read be received and adopted by this Association.
Moved by John Boston, seconded by Henry Corse—
2. Resolved, That the Report of the Committee appointed at the meeting of the General Committee, held on the 28th November last, for the purpose of altering and amending the Rules and Regulations of this Association as now read, be received and adopted.
Moved by T. A. Begly, seconded by John Jones.
3. That this Association do now proceed in conformity to the Rules and Regulations, to the election of a Gene.al Committee for the ensuing year.
Moved by J. Holmes seconded by J. Shrimpton—
4. Resolved--That the threatening aspect of public affairs in this Province, leaves the enlightened and independent, of whatever origin, among the population, no alternative between vigorous action and humble submission, and as the latter is not to be thought of, that means to insure greater efficiencies of action be taken, and that it be an instruction to he Executive Committee to adopt such measures as they may deem fit, for the assembling in Congress, at some central point deputies from the various Constitutional Societies in this Province, and from our fellow-subjects in the Sister Colonies.
Moved by G. Auldjo, seconded by J. P. Sexton—
5. Resolved, That the assumption by Louis Joseph Papineau of the character of a representative of the West Ward of the city of Montreal, is contrary to the law of this land; and is a gross violation of the electors of that Ward; and that such assumption is the more strongly to be denounced as proceeding from an individual whose avowed principles are directly hostile to the political and commercial interests of His Majesty's subjects in this Province of British and Irish origin, and dangerous to the peace and prosperity, not only of Lower Canada, but of all the British possessions in North America.
Moved by H. Griffin, seconded by John Molson, Jr.—
6 Resolved, That this Association view with surprise the manifest opposition by the popular branch of the Legislature of this Province, against every advance made by individuals calculated for the improvement of the Province, and particularly of the District of Montreal. In the present Session, we have already witnessed the extraordinary inconsistency of the Speaker and his followers, exercised expressly to defeat the Railroad application for this District, by which a barrier is intentionally erected to the employment of emigrants, forcing them to the necessity of seeking a home elsewhere, and whereby these Provinces would mainly be enabled to compete with the rapid strides making by our neighbors, which ere long, (unless counteracted by the march of improvement on our part) must prove ruinous to ourselves individually, and to our rising commercial interests.
At a meeting of the Executive Committee of the Constitutional Association of Montreal, held on the 27th February, 1836, the following resolutions were adopted:—
Resolved 1.—That the views of His Majesty's Government in relation to the constitutional questions at issue in this Province, as set forth in the extracts from the instructions to His Excellency the Earl of Gosford, communicated by the Lieutenant Governor of Upper Canada to the Legislature of that Province, and the line of policy prescribed to Sir Francis B. Head, with respect to the questions at issue in Upper Canada, in so far as the same can be rendered applicable to this Province, are calculated, if honestly carried into effect, to promote the cause of good government.
Resolved 2.—That Constitutionalists are not disposed to shield the malversations of any individual in office; that they do not sympathize with the hopes or the fears of office seekers, and disapprove of the undue importance which has been attached to this subject by the British press generally; and that they will rest satisfied with any appointments to office which may be made, provided the essential qualifications of integrity and ability are properly considered,
Resolved 3.—That the population of British or Irish descent noticed, with a well founded apprehension, certain passages in the opening speech of His Excellency the Earl of Gosford—more especially, the eulogy of a system which has been productive of consequences fatal to the peace and prosperity of the colony—which formed a prominent subject of complaint in the petitions to His Majesty and the Imperial Parliament, and had been referred for investigation to the Commission of Enquiry of which His Excellency is the head; and that the recent message of His Excellency to the Assembly, adhering to every declaration made by him on the first meeting of the Legislature, as conveying "the sense in which the instructions from His Majesty's Government are understood by those who are to execute them," cannot but disturb our confidence in the justice and wisdom of those who have departed from the character of impartiality, so necessary to their station, by avowing hasty and inaccurate opinions on the matters submitted to their investigation.
Resolved 4.—That His Excellency's admiration of "the system," having been founded on the supposition that "it sustained a dense rural population without the existence of any class of poor," it might naturally have been expected that the facts made known in the address of this Association, and substantiated by the records of the Provincial Legislature, shewing that there is in Canada "a class of poor," for whose assistance the provincial funds have been, at different periods, lavishly bestowed, would have induced His Excellency to entertain doubts of the excellence of "a system," under which the rural population have been in many instances reduced to a state of pauperism, unknown in other parts of the North American continent, where, happily for the inhabitants, a different "system" prevails.
Resolved 5.—That "the system," which it has pleased His Excellency to declare, "there is no thought of endeavoring to break up," consists in the setting apart one-seventh of the township lands for the Support of a Protestant Clergy; in holding in mortmain a large extent of seigniorial lands; in the establishment and support of French colleges of a rigidly exclusive character; in a code of law, imposing a tax of eight and one-third per cent on every sale of landed estate; in the absence of registry offices, thereby creating a general distrust in the titles and securities of land; and in various other evils, affecting the daily transactions of life; depressing industry and enterprise; encouraging and protecting fraud; disturbing the peace of society, and preparing men's minds for any, and every effort, to work out their deliverance.
Resolved 6.—That this Committee deem it incumbent on them to declare, that there is not the slightest foundation for the assertion so frequently made by the French leaders, that the system of law in force in this Province, was guaranteed and confirmed to the French population by the British Government in the articles of capitulation and treaty of cession; they further declare, that the existence of that system is a manifest violation of His Majesty's Proclamation in 1763, inviting immigrants from the British Isles to make Canada their home, and guaranteeing to them a system of law in accordance with their previous habits, and with the spirit of free institutions to which they had been accustomed; that this state of things, so derogatory to British justice, is solely maintained by the intervention of Imperial power; and that the colonists of British and Irish descent, if unrestrained by other ties, would speedily devise the means of emancipating themselves from the galling oppression to which they are subjected by the persecuting spirit and exclusive pretensions of their French opponents.
Resolved 7.—That in the opinion of this Committee, it would be impolitic and unwise for the Constitutional party to bestow its confidence or support on His Excellency the Governor in Chief, so long as his present line of policy is adhered to; or to identify itself with any of the great political parties in England; and that the only prudent or safe course, in the present state of affairs, consists in firmly and energetically maintaining the objects and demands recapitulated in the reports and addresses of this Association.
Resolved 8.—That the high degree of prosperity which Upper Canada has attained, and the comparative tranquility she enjoys, when contrasted with the condition of this Province, conclusively establish the fact, that other and more exciting causes exist, to disturb the peace of this community, than the agitation of those constitutional questions common to both Provinces; that these causes have been clearly defined and set forth in the addresses of this Association; and that the opposition of the French party to the salutary reforms demanded in those addresses, is the great cause of the dissensions which disturb the peace of society in this Province.
Resolved 9.—That the selfish, illiberal, and anti-commercial policy of the French leaders, and the inertness of the French population, by withholding co-operation in works of internal improvement, have led our brethren of Upper Canada to look abroad for those facilities which are denied in the natural channel for their trade,—the Saint Lawrence :—That this Association again expresses the earnest hope, that a wise policy will repair the error committed in dividing the former Province of Quebec, and, by uniting, what should never have been disjoined, confer prosperity on this Province, and firmly ally the interests of both.
Resolved 10.—That the project of annexing the County of Vaudreuil and the Island of Montreal to Upper Canada, would meet with the unqualified approbation of this Association, and would be hailed as a boon only secondary to the union of the two Provinces.
Resolved 11.—That this Association disclaims any control over the newspaper press of this city, and is in no respect chargeable with the opinion it promulgates; that this announcement is deemed necessary, to prevent misconceptions, to correct errors, and to give assurance of an undeviating adherence to the principles enunciated in the various addresses and reports of this Association.
Resolved 12—That these Resolutions be published in the Journals of this city.
By order of the Executive Committee,
J. Guthrie Scott, Secretary.
- Robert Christie, A History of the Late Province of Lower Canada, Parliamentary and Political, 1866, Volume IV, pp 243-261