Petition of the Counties in the District of Quebec and of the County of Warwick, District of Montreal

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Petition of the Counties in the District of Quebec and of the County of Warwick, District of Montreal.
Inhabitants of the Province of Lower Canada
December, 1827



To the King's most Excellent Majesty:

May it please your Majesty,

WE, your Majesty's faithful and loyal subjects, inhabitants of your province of Lower Canada, most humbly supplicate your Majesty to receive graciously this our humble petition, which we now lay at the foot of your Imperial throne, with hearts full of gratitude and unviolable attachment to your august Person and our Majesty's paternal Government.

Amongst the numerous benefits for which the inhabitants of Lower Canada are indebted to your Majesty's Government, there is none that they more highly prize than the invaluable Constitution granted to this Province by the Act of the Parliament of Great Britain, passed in the 31st year of the reign of Our beloved Sovereign, your august Father, of ever-revered memory.

Called by that Act to the full enjoyment of British constitutional liberty, and become the depositaries of our own rights, under the protection of the mother country, we contracted the solemn obligation of preserving inviolate this sacred deposit, and of transmitting it to our descendants, such as it was confided to us by the great men who then presided over the destinies of your powerful and glorious empire.

Deeply impressed with a sense of this obligation, alarmed by the abuses which have crept into the administration of the Government of this province, and suffering under the evils which weigh on its inhabitants, we entertained an anxious hope that the House of Assembly, in the Session of the Provincial Parliament, called for the dispatch of business on the 20th November last, would take into consideration the state of the province, and adopt efficacious measures to obtain the remedy and removal of these abuses and evils. We had a sure reliance on the well tried loyalty and disinterested zeal of our representatives; but we have had the mortification of seeing our hopes frustrated by the refusal on the part of His Excellency the Governor in Chief to approve the Speaker elected by the Assembly, and by the proclamation of the 22d of the same month of November, proroguing the Provincial Parliament. In these circumstances, deprived of the services of our representatives, suffering under great evils, and threatened with other still greater, we humbly implore the protection of your Majesty, the source of all grace and of all justice.

The enlightened and patriotic statesman ho devised our Constitutional Act, and the British Parliament by which it was granted, intended to bestow on us a mixed government, modelled on the constitution of the parent State; the opinions publicly expressed at the time in Parliament, and the Act itself, record the beneficent views of the Imperial Legislature; a Governor, a Legislative Council, and an Assembly were to form three distinct and independent branches, representing the King, the Lords and the Commons; but the true spirit of that fundamental law has not been observed in the composition of the Legislative Council; for the majority of its members consisting of persons whose principal resources for the support of themselves and their families are the salaries, emoluments and fees derived from offices which they hold during pleasure, they are interested in maintaining and increasing the salaries, emoluments and fees of public officer paid the people, and also in supporting divers abuses favourable to persons holding offices. The Legislative Council, by these means is in effect the executive power under a different name, and the Provincial Legislature is, in truth, reduced to two branches, a Governor and an Assembly; leaving the province without the benefit of the intermediate branch, as intended by the aforesaid Act; and from this first and capital abuse have resulted, and still continue to result, a multitude of abuses, and the impossibility of procuring a remedy.

We acknowledge that the Legislative Council ought to be independent; and if it were, we should not be entitled to complain to your Majesty of the repeated refusals of that branch to proceed upon various bills sent up by the Assembly, however useful and indispensable they might be; considering these refusals as the natural result of the composition of that body, and of the state of dependence in which the majority of its members are placed, we are compelled to consider its acts as the acts of the Executive Government; and we most humbly represent to your Majesty, that the Legislative Council of this province, the majority of which in composed of Executive Councillors, judges, and other persons dependent on the Executive, have, year after year, rejected several bills, refused and neglected to proceed on several other bills sent up by the Assembly, for the remedy of abuses, for encouraging education, promoting the general convenience of the subject, the improvement of the country, for increasing the security of persons and property, and furthering the common welfare and prosperity of the province: particularly —

  • Various annual bills granting the necessary sums for all the expenses of the Civil Government of the province, but regulating and settling limits to the expenditure.
  • For affording a legal recourse to the subject having claims against the Provincial Government.
  • For regulating certain fees and offices.
  • For enabling the inhabitants of the towns to have a voice in the management of their local concerns, and a check on the expenditure of monies levied upon them by assessment.
  • For facilitating the administration of justice throughout the province, for qualifying and regulating the formation of juries, and introducing jury trials in the country parts, and diminishing the expenses occasioned by the distance of suitors from the present seats of justice.
  • For providing a new and sufficient gaol for the district of Montreal.
  • For qualifying persons to serve in the office of justice of the peace.
  • For continuing the Acts regulating the militia of the province.
  • For increasing and apportioning the representation in the House of Assembly equally among the qualified electors throughout the province, particularly in the new settlements and townships.
  • For the security of the public monies in the hands of His Majesty's receiver-general in this province.
  • For the independence of the judges, by securing to them their present salaries, upon their being commissioned during good behaviour, and for providing a tribunal for the trial of impeachments by the Assembly, so as to ensure a just responsibility in high public officers within the province.
  • For appointing and providing for an authorized agent for the province, to reside in England and attend to its interests there.

It is with the most profound grief that we find ourselves compelled to represent to your Majesty, that during several years past the incomes derived from real estate in this province, the profits of trade and industry and the wages of labour therein, have greatly diminished, and still continue to diminish; that under these circumstances it would not be equitable to impose taxes or new duties on its inhabitants for the public uses; and that there exists no other resource which can reasonably be depended upon, to aid in the diffusion of knowledge and facilitate the exertions of individual industry, than the proceeds of the existing revenues levied within the province.

Nevertheless, more than one half of the gross amount of all its public revenues has been applied, for several years past, in payment of salaries, emoluments and expense of the officers of the Civil Government, exclusive of the usual and indispensable special appropriation; and our anxiety is the greater, as these salaries and emoluments and expenses have been greatly increased without the consent of the Legislature, and have in some instances been paid to persons who do not reside in the province or have rendered no service therefore; and in other cases the said salaries and emoluments and expenses are excessive, when compared with the incomes derived from real estate in this province, and the usual recompense obtained therein by the individuals of talent, character and industry equal to those possessed by the persons to whom the said salaries and emoluments are paid out of the public revenue of this province; and lastly, in addition to those unnecessary and excessive salaries and expenses, our Majesty's subjects of this province are also burdened with various and increasing fees paid to the officers of the Civil Government which are grievous to the subject, diminishing the protection of the laws, the benefits of government, and the resources of the country for its necessary wants.

We are convinced, that besides the most perfect security of persons and property, one of the most efficacious means of promoting the public prosperity and preventing its decline, is to aid in the diffusion of useful knowledge, and the free exercise of individual industry and enterprise; and we have witnessed with satisfaction and gratitude that our Provincial Legislature has appropriated very large sums of money for these objects since the close of the last war with the United States of America; but we have to perform the painful duty of humbly representing to your Majesty that the monies thus appropriated and applied under the direction of the Provincial Executive have not produced the beneficial results that were to be expected from a legal and judicious application of them, and have been tardily or insufficiently accounted for.

It is with the utmost pain that we are compelled to represent to Your Majesty, that in this province of the British empire large sums of public money of the revenue levied within this province, have been applied, year after year, by warrant of the Executive Government, without any appropriation by the Legislature of the province, (at a time when the necessary appropriations were rejected in the said Legislative Council,) in payment of alleged expenses of the Civil Government, and other expenses for which no services were rendered to the province, or for new and increased salaries and allowances never recognized by the Legislature. Were we to refrain from complaining of such an enormous abuse, we should co-operate in consolidating our slavery, and we humbly implore your Majesty's justice.

Alike negligent in the preservation of the public monies and prodigal in their expenditure, the Executive Government of this province has not only suffered the dissipation of large sums of money in the hands of the receiver-general, and other depositaries thereof, then and still under its superintendence and control, but has appointed other officers in the stead of these faulty depositaries, without taking any sufficient security for the future; and having advanced to different persons large urns of money appropriated by the Legislature, the neglect of the Executive Government in this respect has been such, that several of those persons have not accounted at the time when they ought to have accounted; some have insufficiently accounted, or not rendered any account; and notwithstanding their negligence and default, some of those persons have been appointed by the Executive Government to offices of trust, honour and profit; and we most humbly represent to your Majesty that the Executive Government of the province, by its negligent conduct in these respects, has exposed your Majesty's subjects in this province to heavy and grievous losses, dissipated and endangered the resources of the province, and subjected its inhabitants to unnecessary burthens.

Your Majesty's faithful subjects in this province have already forwarded humble representations to your Majesty's Government on the subject of the college and estates heretofore in the possession of the late order of Jesuits in this province, and while we deplore the unfavorable result of our past endeavours, we nevertheless continue to entertain the most perfect confidence; that so soon as the truth shall be fully known to your Majesty, justice will be rendered unto us; and we humbly represent, that as the said Order was never the proprietor of the said college and estates but merely the depositary thereof for the education of youth of Canada, the extinction of that order could not confer on the Sovereign any other rights on that property than were possessed by the said Order; and that your Majesty succeeded to the possession of those estates, subject to their being applied to the education of the youth of this province, conformably to their primitive destination; and it is with the most profound grief that we find ourselves still deprived of the benefit which were formerly derived from the actual application of that property to these objects under the direction of the Jesuits, while education is languishing amongst us for want of resources.

The settlement of the waste lands in this province, the importance of which has already, at various times, occupied the attention of your Majesty's Imperial Government, has been neglected in the most unaccountable manner by the Executive government of the province, so that large portions of the said lands, granted or reserved by the Crown, have been long held and continue to be held in the midst of, or in the immediate vicinity of actual settlement, without the others or possessors thereof having been compelled to perform the duty of settlement upon which said lands were granted by the Crown, or any other duty in relation to the said lands, to the grievous burden of the actual inhabitants, discouragement of new settlers, and the obstruction of the general increase and prosperity of the province.

But of all the abuses of which the inhabitants of this province have to complain, the most afflicting to your Petitioners is, that during the prevalence of the aforementioned and various other abuses and grievances, false representations and repeated attempts have been made by divers officers of the Provincial Executive, possessing the confidence of your Majesty's Government, to obtain from your Majesty's Government in England, and the Parliament of the United Kingdom, various alterations in the constitution of the Government of this province as established by law, without the knowledge of our Majesty's faithful subjects in this province, in contempt of their most sacred rights and dearest interests; and this at a time when a majority of Executive Councillors, Judges and other officers in the Legislative Council, prevented the inhabitants of the province from having an authorized agent in England to watch over and support their interests, and enable them to be heard by the Government of the mother country; and it is under these circumstances that the Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom, 4th Geo IV. c. 6, reviving or continuing certain temporary Acts of the Provincial Legislature levying duties within this province, and the Acts affecting the tenure of lands therein, were passed, without the knowledge of its inhabitants, to the subversion of their rights and dearest interests, and particularly without the knowledge or consent of the proprietors more immediately interested in the last mentioned Acts. It is with the most afflicting sensations that we have witnessed the intrigues which have been in operation to despoil your Majesty's faithful subjects in this province of the rights and benefits which were granted and guaranteed to us by the supreme authority of a powerful and generous nation, under the auspices of its most illustrious citizens.

We most humbly implore your Majesty to take this our petition into your most gracious consideration, to exercise your Royal Prerogative, so that your Majesty's faithful subjects in this Province be relieved from the aforesaid abuses and grievances, and justice be done in the premises, that your petitioners may be maintained and secured in the full enjoyment of the constitution of government, as established by the Act passed in the 31t year of the reign of our late Sovereign, your Royal Father, without any alteration thereof whatsoever.

And your Petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray.

December, 1827.

[N. B.—The Petitions to the Lords and Commons are the same as the above, with only the necessary change of style.]

Recapitulation of Signature to the above Petition:


County of Cornwallis,     —         —         —         —         —         —         3,583
Devon,     —         —         —         —         —         —         2,139
Hertford,     —         —         —         —         —         —         2,304
Dorchester,     —         —         —         —         —         —         4,157
Part of Buckinghamshire,     —         —         —         —         —         —         1,532
Ditto of Hampshire,     —         —         —         —         —         —         1,346
Quebec,     —         —         —         —         —         —         5,870
County of Orleans,     —         —         —         —         —         —         1,018
Northumberland,     —         —         —         —         —         —         2,445
_____
Total, District of Quebec,   —         —         —         24,484
County of Warwick,           —         —         —         4,904
_____
29,338


2nd. February 1828.

Notes

The above petition is founded on a series of resolutions adopted by a group of electors on December 13, 1827.

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