John Russell's Speech in the British House of Commons on March 6th, 1837
This is the intervention given by John Russell on proposing the government's ten resolutions relative to the affairs of Canada to the British House of Commons. The Hansard transcript of the whole debate can be read here.
I can assure you, Sir, that I never rose with so much reluctance to make a proposition to the House of Commons, as I now rise to propose the resolutions of which I have given notice, and with which proposition I mean to conclude the observations I am about to make.
It is my duty, and it is the duty of his Majesty's Government to which I belong, and of which I stand here as the representative on this occasion, to bring under the notice of the House the affairs of Canada, with a view to the declaration of what is our sense of the conduct of the representatives of the people of Lower Canada, and to ask this House to apply to the necessary services of that colony those sums of money which ought, in the regular course, to have been voted by the colonial assembly. I feel that it is necessary, in order to justify us in taking such a course, to show, first, that there is a necessity for interference on the part of Parliament; and, secondly, that that interference cannot be other than that, and certainly should not stop short of it, which I shall have the honour to propose.
In making this proposition I do so with very great reluctance, yet, at the same, time, I feel that the House of Assembly of Lower Canada have the advantage of being represented in this House, and that their case will be stated with as much ability as they can desire; and that if in any respect I shall wrong them by the proposal I shall have to make to this House, they will have an opportunity of having their claims fully advanced, and their pretensions put in the most favourable light, by the Gentlemen who have undertaken to support their cause. It is likewise a consolation to me to know, in bringing forward the affairs of Lower Canada, that the pretensions put forth by the Assembly of that province, are not supported by the general concurrence of the other provinces of North America subject to the Crown of Great Britain, It is not now proposed, on the part of Upper Canada, that there shall be an elective Legislative Council; it is not proposed on the part of New Brunswick, or on the part Nova Scotia; and with respect to all these colonies, I may say, that the communications which have taken place between the Government and the Houses of Assembly of these provinces, tend generally towards a satisfactory adjustment—that they have the prospect, that what they now consider their grievances will be redressed in a manner the most full and sufficient; and, on the other hand, the Crown has every reason to expect a loyal and dutiful concurrence on the part of the Assemblies of those provinces. Therefore, we have not to reproach ourselves with having to contend against the general demand, and the general wishes of the provinces of North America.
On the contrary, all the demands are from Lower Canada; raked up, as I believe, in the course of long and unfortunate divisions, and the consequence, as I believe, rather of past irritation than demands, founded upon real and practicable wants, without the effectual redress of which we could not hope for future and permanent tranquillity. In so saying, I may likewise say, that I do not intend—and if I do, it is unintentional on my part —I do not propose to cast censure and reproach on the Assembly of Lower Canada for the course they have taken. I consider that this course so much resembles the course which other popular assemblies have on similar occasions taken, that instead of its being an act of self-will or caprice, or presumption, it seems rather to be the obligation of a general law which affects all these disputes between a popular assembly on the one hand, and the executive on the other; and the course of the proceedings which generally take place strongly impresses this lesson, that popular assemblies are hardly ever wrong in the beginning, and hardly ever right at the conclusion of such struggles, which generally commence with right, and end with the establishment of wrong. They are generally struggles which begin with seeking a remedy of well-founded and existing grievances, and end with a declaration of suspicion and distrust of all authorities at present existing, the popular party endeavouring to set up some new and unknown government, by which they suppose there will be a means to remedy all future grievances. But if they succeed in their attempts, they seldom end in producing the benefits that are expected from the new institutions.
The province of Lower Canada came into the possession of the English Crown, in consequence of the successful war which ended in the peace of 1763. It contained, at that time about 60,000 souls, who were governed according to the laws of the arbitrary monarchy of France, having for their own especial law one of those inconvenient and local laws known in France by the name of the Customs of Paris. At first, the British Government wished to make it a British colony, to give it a constitution like the other colonies that had fallen into our hands, and make it like other British colonies in every respect. This policy was afterwards changed; and when we entered into the contest with our other North American provinces, care was taken to separate Canada from the appearance of resistance to the British Crown, and to induce the colonists to cling to their own customs, and to become again, as it were, a French colony.
With the increase of the people, and the influx of emigration, it was proposed to introduce a new kind of government for that province, and Mr. Pitt proposed a Bill which became law in 1791. I think it will be doubted now, both upon abstract grounds, and the grounds of experience, whether the main provisions of that Act, or some at least of them, were adapted to secure future good government in that country. One part of the measure of 1791 was to establish an assembly, which should partly consist of hereditary members, and partly of members elected for life by the Government. Another part of the measure was, the separation of the provinces of Upper and Lower Canada, with the intention of making Upper Canada more completely English, and a resort for those emigrants who flocked thither in great numbers, while the lower province was left to become more gradually a country of a mixed proportion of French and British subjects.
I will not at present touch upon the latter of these two provisions, but I will take the liberty of saying a few words with respect to the former. It seems to me that it was intended to establish in Canada a general resemblance to the British constitution, which I think impossible in any colony. It is not in the power of any one—as the hon. and learned Member for Bath argued last year, and, as I think, was very generally admitted— it is not in the power of any one to establish in Canada an assembly which should have that moral influence which properly belonged to the House of Lords in this country; because there is no class of persons who can naturally be pointed out as an hereditary aristocracy in that country, and it would be difficult to select for life any persons whom the rest of the community would generally acknowledge to be worthy of that great honour.
It is hardly possible that in the natural course of events the different governors who have been sent from this country should not take different views of the nature of their duties, and of the persons who were fit to be appointed; and that there should not come to be in the end a very great difficulty in carrying on the government by an assembly thus created, without any settled system, as there would be no authority like that of the King acting through his ministers, which should be responsible for all appointments that might be made.
The evil consequences of the present state of things is agreed to by all parties. The Assembly, on the one hand, complains very much of the existence of the Legislative Council. The petition presented to Parliament last year, and which was sent to the Under Secretary for the Colonies from the Constitutional Association, declared that the power was a very dangerous one; that it had not altogether been properly executed; and that there ought to be some new check, in order to obtain a proper and due selection of the legislative councillors.
So far, I believe, I may conclude that there is some fault or some defect in the constitution of the Legislative Council; but this is not the only subject on which immediate remonstrances have been made, or on which contests have existed for a long time. On the contrary, there are many subjects of dispute, with respect to the nomination of judges, with respect to the disposal of the public money, with respect to the prosecution of certain persons who were defaulters, and various other subjects, which, after continuing for eight years, were still subjects of dispute in the provinces. These matters had been referred by Mr. Huskisson, when he was Secretary of State for the Colonies, to the consideration of a Select Committee of this House; and among the papers printed by the order of the House1, there is a minute of the Earl of Aberdeen, which was drawn up by him when he was Colonial Secretary, in which the question is treated with very great calmness and moderation, and quite to demonstration. It shows, that with respect to all the subjects, with the exception of one, which I shall mention presently, which were brought before the Committee of 1828, the remedies provided by the Government of this country were not only fully that which the Canada Committee recommended, but went beyond the propositions made by the Committee.
I will mention an instance of this, and it is a very strong instance. The Canada Committee recommended that a certain duty, which was imposed by the Act of 1774, should be appropriated by the House of Assembly itself as soon as that House of Assembly should make permanent provision for the support of the judges, and for the support of a certain number of officers of the civil government. The Government of this country went beyond that proposal, and by the Act of 1831 they repealed, simply and at once, the provisions of the Act of 1774, as far as it left the appropriation to the Lords of the Treasury of this country, and left it freely and fully to the House of Assembly to appropriate the funds arising from these duties. It did not follow that because the Government and the Legislature of this country dealt this fair and full concession to the House of Assembly, that they should be disposed to make a proper return, by acceding to what the Committee of 1828 considered an indispensable preliminary. On the contrary, they have not hitherto, and, I think, as I shall hereafter show, they do not seem disposed now to make any such provision.
There was one recommendation of the Committee which referred to the judges, with respect to whom it was by the Committee proposed that they should be independent as far as their salaries were concerned, but that they should be removeable at the pleasure of the Crown. An Act was proposed by Lord Ripon to the effect that the judges should not only have permanent salaries, but that they should hold their offices during good behaviour. The House of Assembly, in return for this, introduced into that Bill, clauses by which they made all the officers of the colony, not excepting the governor himself, subject to a tribunal appointed in the manner then pointed out. Thus they met the concessions largely and freely made by the Government of this country. These proceedings continued; contests upon various points were raised from time to time until, in 1833, a supply bill was passed, with many conditions tacked to the several items of it, declaring that certain persons should have salaries for such offices, providing, at the same time, that they should not hold any other office, and various conditions of this kind, in consequence of which the supply bill was lost.
In 1834 the House of Assembly passed ninety-two resolutions, which are familiar to this House both in their purport and their language.
In 1833 the House of Assembly separated without passing a supply bill, in consequence of Lord Aylmer refusing to sanction their votes for the contingent expenses.
In 1835 Commissioners were sent out from this country, in order to investigate the whole of the subject matter in dispute, and that they might make a report to his Majesty's Government, by which his Majesty should be informed of the whole of the matter in dispute, to be able to judge how far it might be safe or practicable to comply with the demands of the House of Assembly.
It is very satisfactory to me that the Commission which was appointed took full time to enter into every topic connected with the propositions made to this country. I think that, whatever suffering there may have been on the part of those officers of the government who claim, and have a right to claim, the protection of the British Crown and the British Parliament to defray the sums owing to them,—I think, whatever public inconvenience may have been suffered in consequence of the delay in the appointment of that Commission, yet the inestimable advantages derived from it— that we do not now proceed without the fullest and fairest inquiry, and that every subject has been carefully looked into—fully compensate for the time that has been lost.
After four years and a half no supply has been voted; and we have come at last to this decisive question, whether or not we can grant some or all of the demands of the House of Assembly, without which no supply can in any case be looked to? It is a great advantage, I think, that we do not appear to proceed in haste or passion, or in ignorance, and that every light which can be thrown on the subject has been thrown upon it—that everything that could be fairly granted to the demands of the House of Assembly has been previously granted—that there is now but one question for this House to consider, whether or not we shall proceed to alter the constitution of 1791, and to alter it in a manner which I shall afterwards show is inconsistent with the relations of the mother country and the colonies; or whether we shall interpose, as in a case of necessity, and a case of clearly and fully proved necessity, to protect the colony itself from disturbance, and to rescue the honour of the British Crown from that which I consider a stain upon it—of leaving the subjects of the Crown unprotected in a situation in which they have been encouraged and even directed by the government to place themselves?
That this is the question is sufficiently proved by the amendment which the hon. Member (Mr. Leader) means to propose. He does not say, neither do those who agree with him say, "Let not Parliament interfere, allow the colony to continue its course, do not coerce the assembly of the colony, do not interfere with the imperial parliament;" but what he says is this, "It is necessary to interfere; it is necessary that you should consider former acts of Parliament; it is necessary that you should repeal those acts and adopt another constitution."
To this question, then I beg leave to call the attention of the House, and I will only do so generally, because really, though I have been long conversant with the subject, I am not able to enter at length into every statement of the demands of the House of Assembly. But I am sure that my learned Friend who sits near me (Sir G. Grey) will be able to give any details that may be necessary.
I will go shortly and generally into the questions upon which the House of Assembly make their demand, and I will state the reasons why I think it impossible, for us to grant those demands, and the course which I propose to take on this subject.
The first demand of the Assembly is, that the legislative council having hitherto been nominated by the Crown, shall for the future be an elective assembly. The next is, that the executive council shall be a responsible council, similar to the cabinet in this country. Another is, that the law of tenures shall be changed without respecting the rights acquired under an Act passed by the British Parliament; and the fourth is, that the land company shall be abolished, with a similar disregard of the rights acquired under the same Act.
With respect to the proposition of making the legislative council elective, the effect of it in the present state of the colony must be to make a second assembly exactly resembling that which at present exists. There could be no doubt, from the Report of the Commissioners2—and every one who has spoken on the subject seems to have come to the same conclusion—that the second Assembly would be but an echo of the first Assembly, and would try to enforce all their demands.
It is proposed in the next place that the executive council should be made to resemble the ministry in this country. I hold this proposition to be entirely incompatible with the relations between the mother country and the colony. The relations between the mother country and the colony require that his Majesty should be represented not by a person removeable by the House of Assembly, but by a governor sent out by the King, responsible to the King and responsible to the Parliament of Great Britain. This was the necessary constitution of a colony; and if you have not these relations existing between the mother country and the colony you will soon have an end to the relations altogether.
Then, again, if the executive council were made responsible as the ministers of this country, of course the governor must act according to their advice. If the Assembly do not trust those ministers, if they do not think them fit, they must be removed, and others put in their places. The person sent out by the king as governor, and those ministers in whom the assembly confided, might differ in opinion, and there at once would be a collision between the measures of the King and the conduct of the representatives of the colony. But this proposition would tend not merely to produce disputes, not merely to try the King's authority, but it would tend to introduce authorities totally incompatible with the authority which the King seems to have over every colony. There is an obligation, for instance, on the Government of this country, to prevent any British subject being injured with impunity. If the executive council be appointed through the influence of the House of Assembly the consequence would be that the Ministers thus appointed must carry into effect the acts of the Assembly, and must deprive persons of land or other possessions, though holding them under the laws of this country, and by virtue of an Act of Parliament. Let it be considered, that these measures must be carried into effect not merely by the forces of the colony, not merely by the Assembly, but in the King's name, and by means of the King's forces in that colony.
Let me suppose this case, that the King sends out certain orders to the governor in conformity with the existing laws. The law in the mean time is changed by the Assembly, and the consequence might be that the King's troops would be obliged, in obedience to the orders of the ministers of the Assembly, to carry into effect those orders in defiance of an Act of Parliament, and tending, perhaps, to the injury and destruction of the King's subjects holding property according to law. It may be maintained that there is justice in the attempt to give an executive to the colony which should be responsible to the Assembly in the same manner that the Ministers in this country are responsible to this House. That part of the constitution which requires that the Ministers of the Crown shall be responsible to Parliament, and shall be removable if they do not obtain the confidence of Parliament, is a condition which exists in an imperial legislature, and in an imperial legislature only. It is a condition which cannot be carried into effect in a colony—it is a condition which can only exist in one place, namely, the seat of empire. Otherwise we should have separate independent powers existing not only in Great Britain, but in every separate colony. In such a case the Government would be unable to carry its measures or wishes into effect, and each colony would, in effect, be an independent state, with this singular anomaly, that the executive chief nominated by the King of England, and the troops and forces of the King of England, might be employed to carry the orders of the House of Assembly into effect. This is, therefore, a condition which it is impossible to have consistently with the relations between the mother country and the colony.
With respect to the other points of the tenures and the Land Company, in looking through the measures of the House of Assembly I do not find that they made any laws upon this subject; on the contrary, they seem to infer that these Acts of the British Parliament were Acts of usurpation altogether, and that they would be fully justified in repealing those Acts, and in acting according to their own discretion with respect to any persons who may have acquired property and rights under these Acts. It is neither possible for the Crown or the Parliament of Great Britain to yield the rights of those persons, and after the passing of a solemn Act of the Legislature to say that those rights shall be disregarded and set at nought, because they do not agree with the views of the House of Assembly. And as far as I can conceive, the only remedy that is left, according to the views of the House of Assembly, is for the British Parliament to vote compensation to such persons, and to provide for them out of the funds of this country. This is the resource left to us—a resource worse than that which we were compelled to accept from another of our American colonies after a most disastrous war.
I feel assured that this House will think that they are justified in taking under their protection those persons who have suffered in consequence of Acts passed by this and by the other House of Parliament. If the House were to concur in the views of the House of Assembly, taken as a whole, what would be the consequence? Canada would cease to be a colony, and would be regulated by an authority there independent and subversive of the power of the British Crown, and having all the inconvenience of a colony with none of its advantages. But there would be this anomaly also: if Canada were really independent, if any subject of Great Britain were wronged there, the King of Great Britain, as in the case of any other foreign power, could interfere to see that the wrong was redressed; but according to the demands of the House of Assembly, if a subject of the King of Great Britain were wronged on the banks of the St. Lawrence, the King of Great Britain would not have the power to interfere, which he would have if the wrong had been committed on the banks of the Danube and the Bosphorus. I ask Gentlemen to consider what will be the effect of these propositions of the House of Assembly?
One objection is stated by the Commissioners, and stated for a reason which I think all sufficient in the present state of the colonies, to prevent our acceding to the demand for an elective Legislative Council. With respect to a Legislative Council, they state that there is no reason with respect to the abstract consideration why there should not be an effective Legislative Council in the colony as well as one nominated by the Crown; but in the present condition of Canada, they cannot imagine a, state of circumstances,—they cannot imagine a body of constituents of such a nature, so different from the body which constitutes the present House of Assembly, as to have an independent assembly appointed in the manner of an election, and not by the nomination of the Crown. But they state that, whatever may be the result come to upon abstract speculation, that this is not the case in Canada; that the case of Canada is such, that if you yield to these demands a great portion of the King's subjects, namely, those of British descent, will be excluded altogether from a voice and representation in the two assemblies; that that portion, consisting of 120,000 of our fellow-subjects, persons of considerable wealth and intelligence, and who are engaged principally in commercial pursuits, would consider themselves so far abandoned, so far unprotected, that it was not likely that the peace of the colony would be preserved, but that they would oppose and resist the Government as a Government from which they could expect no security for life and property. They concluded that whatever might be the result of speculation on this subject, and though their views, as far as regarded them individually, were in many respects dissimilar, yet they all agreed in this, that in the present state of the colony it would not be possible, with security to the subject and tranquillity to the colony, to grant the demands that were made.
I consider —these Commissioners having, as I stated in many respects entertained dissimilar views upon many questions that came before them—I consider that there must have been a very strong impression that the present state of the colony was such that it would be unwise and unsafe to introduce an elective council into that colony. I think that the report of the Commissioners affords sufficient reasons for the opinions to which they have come.
Having thus stated why, in the opinion of his Majesty's Government, it is impossible to yield to the demands which have been made by the representative assembly of Lower Canada, I shall now proceed to state the views which we have taken of the whole case, and of the remedy by which we propose to put an end to the difficulties which have arisen in consequence of these occurrences. The first difficulty is the payment of the judges and of the king's officers in the colony. When it is recollected that it is now four years and a half since the judges have received their salaries, during which period they have been left entirely to their own resources for support, the House will, I think, consider that it is high time for us to come forward and interpose the authority of Parliament in their behalf and rescue those officers from the state of distress which must necessarily result from a protracted continuance of this state of things.
Had we followed the advice of the Commissioners upon this subject, we should have come forward last year and demanded of Parliament the means of paying the arrears justly due to these officers; but it was thought that as some misunderstandings appeared to exist between the Assembly of Lower Canada and Lord Glenelg, it would be desirable to give them an opportunity to re-consider the subject once more, and wait to see if they still persisted in refusing these payments.
With regard to the propriety of the proceeding which I am about to recommend, I apprehend that it is undoubtedly in the power of the imperial Parliament to interfere in colonial affairs, whether in legislative matters or in supply, when a pressing occasion occurs for so doing. In legislative matters we had recently an instance in regard to Jamaica, where we interposed our authority to continue an act of great importance, which the colonial legislature had omitted to pass within the proper period. In matters of supply, also, I have as little doubt that in cases of great necessity it is in the power of Parliament to employ all the means in its hands to appropriate the proceeds of the taxes raised in a colony to certain public services in a colony to which they are under ordinary circumstances applied.
This principle was admitted at the bar of the House of Commons by Dr. Benjamin Franklin, who in regard to the Assembly of New York, was asked, whether, if a colony were altogether to refuse supplies, the imperial Parliament could interfere, and he replied that "he could not conceive such a case to occur, though they had in some cases refused to grant permanent salaries to the officers of Government, and he thought very wisely so." He was then asked again, "whether in cases where interference was justifiable, the right of interfering ought not to be in the Parliament of Great Britain?" To which he replied, "that he would have no objection to it, provided the power were only used for the use and good of the colony itself."
Now this is a limitation in the justness of which I fully concur; for if we were to attempt to order the appropriation of the funds raised in the colonies to the use of the mother country, it appears to me dearly that we should be far overstepping our province and our authority. What I propose, however, to-night is simply to apply a certain portion of the revenues of Lower Canada to the payment of such items as the Representative Assembly have already agreed to in their votes of supply in the year 1833. The total amount is 148,000l., and my purpose is only to order the payment of that sum for those purposes which the Assembly has already admitted, and not for any which in 1832 it may have refused to agree to.
The next consideration is the manner in which the government of the province is to be carried on in future, and the nature of the legislative council which is to be adopted. It is proposed to adopt the recommendation of the Commissioners, that judges shall be excluded by law from this council, as also all persons guilty of any disgraceful offence; and that no person shall be appointed to it until his name has been sent over here by the governor of the province. With regard to the principle or predilections upon which persons have been selected for appointment to the legislative council, I believe it has been too much the practice to select them almost entirely from amongst persons of British extraction, who form but a small numerical minority in the province, whilst the Representative Assembly is composed in great part of persons of French extraction, who are the majority in point of numbers, and whose views and interests in many matters are entirely at variance with those of the minority, whose feelings are represented in the Legislative Council.
I must say that the manner in which governors of this colony have lately acted upon the authority vested in them by the acts of 1791 in this particular has not been judicious and I consider that to select the members of the Legislative Council alternately, one from the British and then one from the French stock, would be far preferable, as well as more in accordance with the practice in the earlier periods after the passing of that Act. Of course the governor should take care to appoint a person of sound discretion and of good character and standing in the colony, but at the same time no undue preference should prevail in favour of one particular class to the exclusion of others, keeping up and fermenting a perpetual opposition and jealousy the minority acting in every case against the wishes of the majority. I think by thus adopting many persons who had no hope of appointment hitherto, and by excluding all persons of doubtful character, and especially those who have been public defaulters, we shall go a great way towards effecting a reconciliation of differences upon this point. This, however, should of course be left as a matter of discretion, and not as a positive rule.
In the next place, with regard to the composition of the Executive Council, I propose that there should not be more than two or three official persons in that Council, and that the rest of the Council should be selected from the Legislative Council and the General Assembly. It is proposed also that they should not enter into the discussion of any subject not immediately connected with the province except upon advice of the Governor. I propose further that the Governor shall be at liberty to act contrary to the advice of the Executive Council if he think proper, but that on so doing he should make a minute of the occurrence. By this means, whilst we give the members of the Executive Council a proper degree of control in the affairs of the government of the colony, we also leave the Governor a discretionary power to act by himself when he conceives the duty of his office and his general instructions require it.
The next question to which I have to allude is the North American Land Company. This association, I believe, has been of great use to the colony; many settlers have obtained advantages from it which they could not have hoped for, either from the Government or from their own individual exertions and resources. I see no reason to differ from the resolution of the Commissioners in respect to this point. No doubt the Land Company might acquire possession of a greater extent of land than it would be judicious to allow it to possess but a provision might, without much difficulty, be framed to restrain this. The Assembly, it appears, pretend that the act of 1791 gives them the supreme control over all the wild land of the province—a pretence which I cannot agree to, as the Crown has never parted with its right to grant charters for the purposes of planting or clearing as it may think fit.
Another subject upon which much complaint has been made is the Act passed in this country in reference to tenures. This Act is complained of upon two grounds— first, that it was originally framed in ignorance of the tenures of the colony; and, secondly, that it does not provide a means of voluntary commutation. The Commissioners considered both these opinions to be well founded, and propose that as soon as any Act on the subject shall have been passed by the colonial Legislature, Parliament will repeal the above Act. In doing this, however, I need hardly observe that great care should be taken that the vested rights of individuals under the existing system be not prejudiced.
Another complaint of the Canadas against the Act of 1791, especially on the part of Upper Canada, is the embarrassment which arises out of it to the trade between the two colonies. A newspaper which I hold in my hand complains that every boat which comes from the lower provinces is subject to inspection at the Custom-house and forced to pay duty, and that the passengers from Great Britain passing by this route are also subject to pay certain dues of this kind. It complains further, that the general division of the duties is unfair, and, above all, that they have not a full vent for their merchandise by the St. Lawrence; for it appears that in the upper province, by the Act of 1791, they have not the means of communication with the sea, and consequently with foreign parts, without the payment of considerable duties, while other impediments are thrown in the way of the trade of Upper Canada in Lower Canada.
With respect to this and many other questions of the like kind I think it highly desirable that some satisfactory adjustment of difference should at least be attempted. At present, instead of the two colonies helping and strengthening one another, they seem to be a mutual hindrance and mutually injurious to each other's commerce. With a view to the adjustment of these differences it is proposed, with the assent of the Legislatures of the two provinces, that a joint Committee should be appointed, to sit at Montreal, and which Committee should be composed in the following manner, namely, of four members of the Legislative Councils of each province, and of eight members of each Representative Assembly, making twenty-four persons in all, who should have the power to prepare laws and to compare results upon all these points of reciprocal policy. One of the most important matters which would come under their notice would be the navigation of the St. Lawrence. Another would be the settlement of matters of commerce between the two provinces. Another point would be the constitution of some fair court of appeal, and of impeachment for judges and other officers of the executive, while under existing circumstances the accusing body would be at once both the accuser and the judge. The Committee would also have to direct its attention to the line of boundary. It is hoped that upon many of the points I have adverted to, this Committee would be able to devise measures by which the mutual interest and the good government of the two colonies would be greatly improved.
With regard to the matters of supply to which I have already alluded, it is proposed that, after securing the civil list, and the salaries of the judges and of certain Government officers, the whole revenue of the colony should be left to the disposal of the Assembly. The Assembly would hardly wish for more than this; they would hardly, I think, wish to see the judges' salaries made dependent on the annual vote of the Representative Assembly, instead of the judges holding the independent position which their important office so peculiarly demands. Putting these few items, therefore, out of the question, the Assembly would still have to dispose of the greater portion of the revenue of the province for purposes of national improvement, as the formation of roads, &c. In this situation, without any direct tax, without any debt, and while the whole revenue is raised by means of duties upon commerce, which the Assembly may apply as it thinks proper to internal improvements, and necessary expenses, the Canadas enjoy as desirable a state of things as it is possible to conceive. With respect to any injuries or disadvantages which the Canadians allege to be inflicted by the law, I can only say that they do not appear in any of the petitions before us.
That the House of Assembly should be entirely elected by the Canadians, that the Executive Government should be nominated by the Crown, but with certain conditions and securities, and that the House of Assembly should come to some arrangement with the upper province on the subject of trade and other international matters; such are the general propositions which we desire to submit with a view to bringing these complaints to an adjustment.
With respect to the wild lands, they are, as I said before, in the hands of the Crown. The rule now is, not to make the same improvident grants as formerly, but to sell the land at a fair price; the House of Assembly having the general control of the revenue, leaving only to the Executive such superintendence in matters of detail which is usual, both in the mother country and in the colonies.
According to this view of the case, I think it can hardly be denied that these colonies are in the enjoyment of as great a portion of political freedom, and of personal immunity from oppression, and of as great power to make wholesome laws, as any persons at home. They certainly do not possess some privileges in the imperial government of the colony, which it is not in their nature, as colonists, to enjoy. At the same time, however, it should be borne in mind that they are exempt from the payment of taxes which we have to pay. Their taxes, on the contrary, are exceedingly light, and their means of internal improvement very great and very promising. Such is the condition of these colonies, and such will be their prospects if they accept the propositions which I have now brought forward.
If, however, they take an unfavourable view of these proposals—if they persist in maintaining that it is absolutely necessary that there should be an elective Legislative Council and an Executive Council subservient to the Representative Assembly, then it must very shortly come to this, that they should also have a governor of their own nomination, for none other would do their bidding. If this be the proposition of the Assembly of Lower Canada, it is in another form nothing else than demanding the total independence of the colonies from the mother country. This is a demand which, if it be persisted in, must drive Parliament to the necessity of saying, whether there is any other form of colonial constitution under which the Canadas can be governed than that embodied in the Act of 1791. But to these addresses, by which the dignity of Parliament and of the country is impaired, and by adopting which we should be made responsible for acts in which we do not concur, and which we do not think desirable, I cannot agree. I however, do not suppose that these colonies will persist in their demands; but if they do still hold out, we have not the means of carrying on the government of them here in continual resistance to their Assemblies. I do not propose to do away with the constitution of 1791; but if the colonists are desirous of retaining that constitution, and will agree to carry it on in the fairest way, that constitution may be so carried on by the steps we are about to propose.
I do not think that we could carry on the government of the colony without the Legislative Council; and I wish to have the advice of Parliament on the subject, whether we should yield to demands which we consider would amount to the abandonment of the colony altogether, or whether we shall adopt the course I now propose, by which I hope to induce the colonists to re-consider the whole matter in dispute, and see whether those disputes had not arisen in a great part out of feelings of irritation consequent upon former disputes, and to offer such practicable measures as may induce them to abandon the greater number of those complaints.
The noble Lord concluded by moving the first of the following Resolutions:—
1. That since the 31st day of October, in the year 1832, no provision has been made by the Legislature of the province of Lower Canada, for defraying the charges of the administration of justice, and for the support of the civil government, within the said province, and that there will, on the 10th day of April now next ensuing, be required for defraying in full the charges aforesaid to that day, the sum of 142,160l. 14s. 6d.
2. That at a Session of the Legislature of Lower Canada, holden at the city of Quebec, in the said province, in the months of September and October, 1836, the Governor of the said province, in compliance with his Majesty's commands, recommended to the attention of the House of Assembly thereof, the estimates for the current year, and also the accounts, showing the arrears due in respect of the civil government, and signified to the said House his Majesty's confidence that they would accede to the application which he had been commanded to renew, for payment of the arrears due on account of the public service, and for the funds necessary to carry on the civil government of the province.
3. That the said House of Assembly, on the 3d day of October, 1836, by an address to the Governor of the said province, declined to vote a supply for the purposes aforesaid, and by the said address, after referring to a former address of the said House to the Governor of the said province, declared that the said House House persisted, amongst other things, in the demand of an elective Legislative Council, and in demanding the repeal of a certain Act 1305 passed by the Parliament of the United Kingdom in favour of the North American Land Company; and by the said address, the said House of Assembly further adverted to the demand made by that House of the free exercise of its control over all the branches of the Executive Government; and by the said address, the said House of Assembly further declared, that it was incumbent on them, in the present conjuncture, to adjourn their deliberations until his Majesty's Government should, by its acts, especially by rendering the second branch of the Legislature conformable to the wishes and wants of the people, have commenced the great work of justice and reform, and created a confidence, which alone could crown it with success.
4. That in the existing state of Lower Canada, it is unadvisable to make the Legislative Council of that province an elective body; but that it is expedient that measures be adopted for securing to that branch of the Legislature a greater degree of public confidence.
5. That while it is expedient to improve the composition of the Executive Council in Lower Canada, it is unadvisable to subject it to the responsibility demanded by the House of Assembly of that province.
6. That the legal title of the North American Land Company to the land holden by the said Company, by virtue of a grant from his Majesty, under the public seal of the said province, and to the privileges conferred on the said company by the Act for that purpose made, in the fourth year of his Majesty's reign, ought to be maintained inviolate.
7. That it is expedient, that so soon as provisions shall have been made by law, to be passed by the Legislature of the said province of Lower Canada, for the discharge of lands therein from feudal dues and services, and for removing any doubts as to the incidents of the tenure of land in fee and common soccage in the said province, a certain Act made and passed in the sixth year of the reign of his late Majesty King George IV., commonly called 'The Canada Tenures Act,' and so much of another Act passed in the third year of his said late Majesty's reign, commonly called 'The Canada Trade Act,' as relates to the tenures of land in the said province, should be repealed, saving nevertheless to all persons all rights in them vested under or by virtue of the said recited Acts.
8. That for defraying the arrears due on account of the established and customary charges of the administration of justice, and of the civil government of the said province, it is expedient, that after applying for that purpose such balance as shall, on the said 10th day of April, 1837, be in the hands of the Receiver-General of the said province, arising from his Majesty's hereditary, territorial, and casual revenue, the Governor of the said province be empowered to issue from and out of any other part of his Majesty's 1306 revenues, in the hands of the Receiver-General of the said province, such further sums as shall be necessary to effect the payment of the before-mentioned sum of 142,160l. 14s. 6d.
9. That it is expedient that his Majesty be authorised to place at the disposal of the Legislature of the said province, the net proceeds of his Majesty's hereditary, territorial, and casual revenue arising within the same, in case the said Legislature shall see fit to grant to his Majesty a civil list for defraying the necessary charges of the administration of justice, and for the maintenance and unavoidable expenses of certain of the principal officers of the civil government of the said provinces.
10. That great inconvenience had been sustained by his Majesty's subjects inhabiting the provinces of Lower Canada and Upper Canada, from the want of some adequate means for regulating and adjusting questions respecting the trade and commerce of the said provinces, and divers other questions, wherein the said provinces have a common interest; and it is expedient that the Legislature of the said provinces respectively be authorised to make provision for the joint regulation and adjustment of such their common interest.
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