Petition of Ancient and New Subjects for a House of Assembly, 1784
May It Please Your Majesty.
After the Conquest of the Province of Canada by the Arms of Great Britain, Your Petitioners in compliance with Your Majesty's gracious and royal Proclamation, bearing date the 7th day of October 1763, Settled and became established, in the New acquired Colony of Quebec; in the full reliance on the faith of the Crown of Great Britain, as expressed in that Proclamation, for the enjoyment of those Laws, that Freedom and Security in Canada, which the Principles of the English Constitution afforded, in every part of the British Dominions in America. Your Petitioners and the Inhabitants of the Province, have chearfully on every occasion, obeyed the Controuling power of the Parliament of Great Britain, and with patience have suffered, during a period of Anarchy and War, rather than wound Your Majesty's feelings, or embarrass the Throne with Remonstrances and Petitions, at a time when the safety of the Nation, made sacred every moment of Public deliberation. The Actions and Conduct of Your Petitioners when truly represented, will best express to Your Majesty, the Sincerity of their Loyalty and Attachment to the Crown and Government of Great Britain.
Your Petitioners look with Concern on the burthen of Great Britain, and with great Pain and Commiseration they see the distresses of Your Majesty's loyal Subjects, who, driven from their Estates, Wealth, and Possessions are daily taking Shelter in this British Colony; though their unsettled and distressed Situation, may for the present hinder them from bringing forward their Petitions and their Claims; Your Majesty will readily perceive that a Government similar or Superior, to that under which they were born, had lived, and were happy, must be considered by those Your Majesty's unfortunate Subjects as an Affectionate proof of Your Majesty's Paternal Care and Regard for them; and the first Comfort which Your Majesty in relief to their Distresses can now grant: And the more so, as it will be a Blessing not merely granted to them, but extended to their Children and Posterity. Your Petitioners fully persuaded that the Welfare and Happiness of Your Majesty's Subjects, are objects of Your Majesty's serious, and benign Consideration — beg leave to lay their Petition at the foot of the Throne and ardently to request Your Majesty's Interposition for the Repeal of the Quebec Bill; allowing such Priviledges as are already granted to the Roman Catholick Religion; as being inadequate to the Government of this extensive Province; the Cause of much Confusion in our Laws, and fraught with trouble and uneasiness to Your Majesty's loyal Subjects here. And that Your Majesty will be pleased to Concur in establishing your affectionate Subjects of this Province, in the full Enjoyment, of their civil Rights as British Subjects; and in granting them a Free, Elective House of Assembly. In these hopes they humbly presume to Suggest, that Clauses of the following Import, may be inserted in the Act of Parliament, which shall be made to Confirm a free Constitution to this Country.
1st That the House of Representatives or Assembly, — be chosen by the Parishes, Towns and Districts of the Province, to be Composed of Your Majesty's Old and New Subjects, in such manner as to Your Majesty's Wisdom may seem most proper, that the Assembly be triennial, and the Members elected every three Years.
2d That the Council consist of not less than Thirty Members and in case of Division on any measure before them, that no Act shall be passed, unless at least Twelve Members agree to carry the Vote. That the appointment of the Members, may be during their residence in the Province, and for Life; yet subject to temporary leave of Absence, as mentioned in the 11th Article; And that they serve as Councellors, without Fee or Reward.
3d That the Criminal Laws of England be continued, as at present established by the Quebec Act.
4th That the ancient Laws and Customs of this Country, respecting landed Estates, Marriage Settlements, Inheritances and Dowers, be continued; yet subject to be altered by the Legislature of Quebec; And that Owners may alienate by Will, as provided by the 10th Section of the Quebec Bill.
5th That the Commercial Laws of England, be declared to be the Laws of this Province, in all Matters of Trade and Commerce, subject to be Changed by the Legislature of Quebec, as in the preceeding Article.
6th That the Habeas Corpus Act, the 31st Charles 2d be made part of the Constitution of this Country.
7th That Optional Juries be granted, on all Trials in Courts of Original Jurisdiction. That they be regularly Baloted for, and a Pannel formed as in England; either in the Case of an ordinary or a Special Jury, at the option of the Party applying for the same, And that Nine Members out of the Twelve, may in Civil Causes, be sufficient to Return Verdicts, subject to be Modified by the Legislature of Quebec, as in the 4th Article.
8th That the Sheriffs be elected by the House of Assembly, and approved and Commissioned by the Governor, at the Annual meeting of the Legislature. That they hold their Appointment during the period elected for, and their good Behaviour; and that they find reasonable Security, for a faithful discharge of their Duty.
9th That no Officer of the Civil Government, Judge or Minister of Justice, be suspended by the Governor or Commander in Chief for the time; from the Honours, Duties, Salaries or Emoluments, of his Appointment; but with the advice and Consent of Your Majesty's Council, for the Affairs of the Province; which Suspension shall not Continue, after the Annual Sitting of the Council; unless it be approved by the same. The cause of Complaint if approved, to be thereafter reported to Your Majesty, for Hearing and Judgment thereon.
10th That no New Office be Created, by the Governor or Commander in Chief for the time; but with the Advice and Consent of Your Majesty's said Council and be approved at their Annual Meeting, as in the preceeding Article.
11th That all Offices of Trust be executed, by the Principal in the Appointment; unless by leave of Absence from the Governor, with advice and Consent of his Council; which leave of Absence, shall not extend to more than Twelve Months, or be renewed by the Governor, but with the Approbation of the Council, at the Annual Session.
12th That Judges be appointed, to preside in the Courts of the Province; to hold their places during Life, or their good Behaviour, and that they be rewarded with Sufficient Salaries, so as to confine them to the functions of administering Justice. That every Cause of Accusation for a Removal, proceeding from the Governor, shall follow the Rule laid down in the 9th Article. And every Cause of Accusation for a Removal, on the Part of the Public, shall proceed from the House of Assembly, and be heard by the Council; which, if well founded, shall operate a Suspension; and in either Case, be decided in Appeal and Report to Your Majesty.
13th That Appeals from the Courts of Justice in this Province to the Crown, be made to a Board of Council, or Court of Appeals, composed of the Right Honorable The Lord Chancellor and the Judges of the Courts of Westminster Hall.
14th Your Petitioners beg leave, humbly to Represent to Your Majesty; that from their Proximity to the United States, who from Situation and Climate, have many advantages over them, the Internal Regulations for promoting the Trade, Agriculture and Commerce, of this Province; are now become more intricate and difficult; and will require great Care and Attention, on the part of the Legislature here; to watch over the Interests of this Country. They therefore request, that the Assembly may have the Power, of laying the Taxes and Duties, necessary for defraying the Expences of the Civil Government of the Province. And for that purpose, that the Laws now existing, laying Taxes and Duties to be levied in the Province, may be repealed.
Such may it please Your Majesty are the Intreaties and Prayers of Your loyal Subjects; and in full Confidence they trust, that Your Majesty will relieve them from the Anarchy and Confusion, which at present prevail, in the Laws and Courts of Justice of the Province, by which, their Real Property is rendered insecure, Trade is clogged, and that good Faith, which ought, and would subsist among the People, and which is the Life and Support of Commerce, is totally destroyed. And be Graciously pleased to Secure to them, a Constitution and Government, on such fixed, and liberal Principles, as may promote the desire Your Affectionate Subjects of this Province have, of rendering this Mutilated Colony, a bright Gem in the Imperial Crown of Great Britain. And that may call on the present Generation, for their unceasing Acknowledgements and Gratitude. And upon the future, to feel as the present, that the Security and Happiness of the People and Province of Quebec; depend on an Union with, and Submission to, the Crown and Government of Great Britain.
In these pleasing hopes Your Petitioners as in Duty bound will ever pray &c. &c. &c.
Quebec 24th November 1784
1. The petition was signed by 2373 citizens, of which 1518 were New Subjects and 855 were Ancient Subjects. (See Hare, John (1993). Aux origines du parlementarisme québécois, p. 20)
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