Petition of the Counties in the Districts of Montreal and Three Rivers

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Petition of the Counties in the Districts of Montreal and Three Rivers
Inhabitants of the Province of Lower Canada



In a remote part of the immense domains of Your Majesty, there is a people, not numerous, it is true, but faithful and honest: they enjoy with pride and recognition, under the domination of Your Majesty, the noble title of British subjects, which was conferred to them under the reign of your father1 of glorious memory, with all the rights that make this title an object of envy.

The greater this benefit was, the more your good people of Lower Canada believed it their duty to show recognition: history is there to testify in our favour: let us leave it the care to prove that we have twice prevented this country from passing under a foreign domination.2

Grateful of the priceless present that the motherland gave us by granting our constitution, convinced that it can make the happiness of your faithful subjects in Canada, the first of our wishes is to preserve it intact and to freely enjoy the invaluable rights it ensures us.

Among the rights inherent to the title of British subjects, that of petition is one of most important and most sacred: it ensures the poorest individual the right to be heard and the hope of justice even when he complains of persons the most elevated in public dignity. The voice of a whole people will undoubtedly be even more powerful, when it will reach the foot of your throne, and will reveal Your Majesty that oppression can exist under his paternal Government.

The distance where we are from the seat of empire, and the hope of a change for the better, engaged us up until today to a painful silence; but the excess of evil finally forces us to break it. It is not suitable to the character of British Subjects to servilely suffer oppression: patience in this case is only a virtue for slaves.

We come to deposit at your feet our just complaints against His Excellency the Earl of Dalhousie. Asked by yourself to represent you in your colony, and to make us enjoy the benefits of Your Majesty's government, it would be far fetched for us to claim, unfortunately for us, that he fulfilled the high mission of which you had gracefully charged him for the happiness of your faithful Canadian subjects.

He has, during his administration, committed various arbitrary acts, tending to alienate the affection of the faithful subjects of Your Majesty, acts subversive to the Government such as established by the law in this province.

He has, by warrant or differently, withdrawn from the hands of the receiver-general of this province, considerable sums without being authorized to do so by the law.

He, voluntarily and maliciously, truncated, removed, kept for himself and without the knowledge of the Provincial Parliament, various documents and public papers necessary to the dispatch of businesses and the good government in this province, and this to the detriment of public service and to the prejudice of the subjects of Your Majesty in the said province.

He voluntarily and in violation of his duty towards his sovereign and his faithful subjects in this province, maintained in the performance of his duties, John Caldwell, esquire, formerly receiver-general, in the hands of whom the public revenue of this province was kept, under the terms of the law and royal instructions, for a long time after this public servant had acknowledged his embezzlement and had declared his incapacity to meet the demands made against him for the public service: and that to the detriment of the inhabitants of this province, and the prejudice of the public service, and the public faith.

He has in opposition to the constant practice of the government of Your Majesty, and in violation of his duty as administrator of the government of this province, appointed John Hale, esquire, to replace the said John Caldwell, as receiver-general, without requiring nor request of him the necessary and ordinary securities to ensure the due execution of the duties of this place.

He has at various times made use of his authority as Commander-in-chief, to influence, intimidate the inhabitants of this province in the exercise of their civil and political rights.

He has as commander-in-chief dismissed and disgraced a great number of officers of militia in the province, without just cause, or sufficient reason.

He has without cause, or sufficient reason, arbitrarily and despotically, dismissed and deprived several civil officers of the places of confidence and responsibility they occupied, and this to the prejudice of these officers of the public service.

He maintained and preserved, and still preserves and maintains in place, several public functionaries, after it was proved that their nomination to such places or their behaviour in the performance of their duties, were prejudicial to the service of Your Majesty and the interests of his subjects in this province.

He multiplied in times of peace, and without any need for it, the number of special Courts of Oyer and Terminer, in addition to the regular and ordinary terms of the criminal Courts established by the law, imposing in this a considerable burden on the subjects of Your Majesty, and an enormous expenditure to the province.

He has, by sudden and violent prorogations and dissolutions of the Provincial Parliament, harmed the public interests of this province, delayed its progress, prevented the passing of useful acts: He has in his speeches during such prorogations falsely accused the representatives of the people, in order to decry them in the opinion of their constituents and with the goal of fostering, with the government of Your Majesty, unfavourable prejudices concerning the loyalty and the character of the Canadian subjects of Your Majesty: He tolerated and allowed that the gazettes of the government be published under his authority or his control, daily carrying the falsest and most libellous accusations against the House of Assembly, as against all the people of this province.

He has by the same means threatened the country to exert the royal prerogative in a violent, despotic, and disastrous manner, that is to say, to continuously dissolve, or according to the insulting expression of these threats, to drive out the representative body until the freeholders and the owners be obliged to choose as representatives, no longer those who have their confidence, but those who would be disposed to grant all demands of the Executive and sacrifice the right of the people of this province, acting through their representatives, to determine which sum of the public money the administration will have the right to spend, and to ensure the faithful use of these sums of money; or that he would punish the province by rejecting the bills passed through the representatives of the people for the general advantage, until they give up the right to fix and control the expenditure; and that the magistrates and judges of the country would be, as are lower officers, relieved of the high and important places they occupy, which places, in the public interest as in the interest of the private individuals, require independence and absolute impartiality, if they were not agreeable to present the administration.

He has, in accordance with the vindicatory policy admitted by these writers he employed, indeed punished the country, by not giving the royal sanction to five bills of appropriation to aid the progress and improvement of the country in 1826, to which Your Majesty since then has giving his sanction, and by allowing his executive councillors and other people under his control and holding their place at pleasure, to make use of their preponderance in the Legislative Council of which they are also members, to support this vindicatory policy and to reject in 1827, all bills of appropriation for the advancement of the province and for objects of charity which had been passed annually since a great number of years.

He violated the elective franchises of the inhabitants of this province, by directly and indirectly trying to influence on election of the members of the House of Assembly of this province.

He has, finally, by all these various acts of oppression, created in all the country a feeling of alarm and dissatisfaction, depreciated the authority of the judicial power in the public opinion, weakened the confidence of the people in the administration of justice, and inspired in all the province an insurmountable feeling of mistrust, suspicion and disgust against his administration.

Therefore, we dare to beg Your Majesty to agree to take into his royal consideration the vexations that your faithful subjects in this distant portion of your domains. Pressed under the weight of so many acts of oppression we believed it our duty to beg Your Majesty to want, for the interest of his service in this colony, and the advantage of his faithful subjects residing in it, to recall forever his Excellence the governor in chief, as unable to enjoy the public confidence in this province, nor to honourably administer the government for the Crown or with advantage for the people.

May it please your Majesty,

Deprived as we are now, by the prorogation of the Provincial Parliament, from the public services of our representatives, services which we had right to expect from their well known zeal for the interests of the province, and from their tested patriotism, we are in need submit to the benevolent consideration of Your Majesty, some objects which we consider of the highest importance for the well being of the Country, objects which also tend to ensure the happiness of the people, and to render this colony more useful to the British Empire, which cannot but interest the royal heart of Your Majesty, as both the father of his people and the supreme leader of a powerful empire.

The education is the first good a father can give to his son, the first good an enlightened legislation can ensure the people. In rendering justice to the efforts which were made in this country towards this important object, by several bodies and a great number of private individuals, one cannot however deny that public education is not encouraged in this country in proportion to its needs. And yet the province was not deprived of means: the munificence of the kings of France and benefits of some private individuals had left nothing to be desired on this subject. Truly royal foundations as much by their object as their extent, ensured this country of resources sufficient for the time, and growing with the needs of the population. Since the extinction of the Order of the Jesuits in this country, these goods passed to the hands of the Government of Your Majesty. Your Majesty can only return them to their first and beneficial destination. We beg him very humbly. May it not be said that this province was deprived under the government of the constitutional King of Great Britain, of the benefits that the absolute king of France had conferred it for the education of its inhabitants.

One of the natural, fundamental, inalienable rights of the British subjects, one of the titles of their glory and their safety, is the right to tax themselves and to freely contribute to the public offices according to their means. To this natural title we can add the rights resulting from the written law, the acts of the Imperial Parliament declaring that England has renounced levying taxes on her colonies, and also given this province the right to pass laws for its peace, happiness, and good government. We beg Your Majesty humbly; to excuse our temerity, or rather to approve of our confidence in your justice and that of the Imperial Parliament, which binds us to deplore that these rights were injured in a grave manner by acts of the Imperial Parliament. We refer especially to the Canada Trade Act, passed in the third year of the reign of Your Majesty, ch. 119, and to that of the Tenures of Lands, passed in the sixth year of the reign of Your Majesty, ch. 59, against which we already addressed our humble complaints to Your Majesty through our representatives: one directly establishes taxes in this colony, and makes them perpetual without the participation of the Provincial Parliament; the other touches objects of interior legislation on which we humbly believed that the colonial legislature had full jurisdiction.

We would believe, Sir, to deserve very little the priceless benefits which the constitution governing us procures, if we did not make all efforts to preserve it intact. It is to prove how strongly we feel its full value.

Cumulation in one person of several important places in these colonies and which seem to us incompatible, is an obstacle strongly felt, a considerable obstacle to the good government of this province. We see in this Country the places of judge of the King's Bench, of executive and legislative Councillors, held by the same person. We humbly believe that these high positions should be exerted separately rather than cumulated: that Judges limited to the important functions of their state should not sit in the Councils: that the legislative Councillors should not be allowed to the Executive council, and vice versa: that it would be suitable that the judges be more independent, subject only, along with other important public functionaries, to a court established in the province to judge impeachments.

We have already made representations and taken steps concerning these various objects by the means of our representatives in the House of Assembly. The measures by them suggested failed in the other branches of the legislature. We humbly beg Your Majesty to agree to take into his royal consideration the many evils that must inevitably result from this ill-advised and unwise distribution of all the powers of the government so that being very justly condemned by Your Majesty, it may please you to order your Ministers to give instructions to the colonial government on this subject, so as to authorize the passing of acts by the Provincial Parliament, which would tend to correct these abuses.

The rapid increase in the population since the first demarcation of the counties, rendering necessary a corresponding change in the provincial representation, our Parliament judged it careful, as a preliminary measure, to record the state of the population, by a census to be used as a basis for the changes to be done in the representation. On several occasions, the House of Assembly passed a bill to increase the number of counties and representatives. These bills also failed in the other branches of the legislature.

There is still an object which highly interests the people of this province; it is the nomination of an authorized provincial agent, near the government of Your Majesty, who could forward at the foot of the throne, the expression of our needs, to provide the ministers of Your Majesty with useful information and take care of our particular interests. This province has already more than once felt the need of such an agent: its representatives have not yet been able to succeed in passing an act for this purpose.

Ill-founded charges carried by the governor in chief against the House of Assembly, in his speech for the prorogation of the last Parliament, to which the House has not yet had the occasion to reply, show the need for an agent; the governor who accuses the House being hardly suited to be the channel of communication the defendants can confidently use to defend their cause. — We humbly beg Your Majesty to agree to order your ministers to give instructions to the colonial government, in virtue of which a bill to increase the representation may be sanctioned, as well as a bill to grant this Province the advantage which enjoy the majority of the other Colonies of Your Majesty, that of having a colonial agent, appointed and deputed by the people of the colony, to take care of their interests in England.

The whole very-humbly submitted to the benevolence and wisdom of Your Majesty, by the faithful and loyal subjects of Your Majesty in Lower Canada, the undersigned petitioners who as in duty bound will ever pray.

Lower Canada, January 1828.




Recapitulation of Signatures, to February 6 1828:


County of Montreal,     —         —         —         —         —         —         7,753
Kent,     —         —         —         —         —         —         2,163
Huntingdon,     —         —         —         —         —         —         5,327
Leinster,     —         —         —         —         —         —         6,192
Surrey,     —         —         —         —         —         —         3,080
Bedford,     —         —         —         —         —         —         1,342
York,     —         —         —         —         —         —         4,199
Richelieu,     —         —         —         —         —         —         8,175
Effingham,     —         —         —         —         —         —         2,654
_____
Total District of Montreal,     —         —         —         —         —         —         40,885
Total District of Three Rivers,     —         —         —         —         —         —         10,665
_____
51,550
District of Quebec,     —         —         —         —         —         —         29,338
_____
Total to both Petitions3 80,888


Forwarded since, to 17th February 1828:


Districts of Montreal and Three Rivers, and District of Quebec,     —         —         6,212
_____
Grand Total, 87,099


Chairmen of the several county committees who have certified the appointment of the agents to the Petitioners, viz: Messrs. Neilson, Viger and Cuvillier, members of the Assembly of Lower Canada;

District of Montreal, February 1828.

Notes

1. George III, father of George IV.

2. Allusion to the War of 1775 and War of 1812 against the Old Colonies which separated from British North America and became the United States of America.

3. See the Petition of the Counties in the District of Quebec and of the County of Warwick, District of Montreal, signed by 29,338 other petitioners.

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