Report of the Quebec Constitutional Association
The Executive Committee of the Quebec Constitutional Association, to whom was referred, on the 28th November last, the resolution of the General Meeting of the members of the Association, and signers of the petitions presented to His Majesty and both Houses of Parliament, for the purpose of reporting resolutions on the present state of public affairs, as regards the complaints contained in said petitions,
That at a meeting of the Executive Committee, held on the 10th December last, Messrs. Aylwin, Duval, Neilson, Pemberton and Stuart were appointed a Sub-Committee on the said resolutions.
On the 22nd December, a draft of a proposed Report was read at a meeting of the Executive Committee, and left on the table for the consideration of the members, but not reported till the 5th instant, at a meeting specially called to take the Report into consideration. The meeting, after receiving, reading and discussing the Report, adjourned to the following day, at 3 o'clock, P.M., and ordered all the members to be again notified of the adjournment.
At this meeting, the Report and resolutions, with some amendments, were finally agreed to, and it was ordered to be printed and distributed, and a general meeting of the Association and Signers of the petitions to be called for Thursday, the 21st instant, to which meeting the said Report and resolutions, as subjoined, are now respectfully submitted.
A. Stuart, Chairman.
T. C. Aylwin, Acting Secretary.
Committee Rooms, No. 13, St. Lewis Street.
The Sub-Committee to whom was referred the resolve of the general meeting of the Quebec Constitutional Association and the signers of the petitions to His Majesty and both Houses of the Imperial Parliament, praying for justice, and protection in their rights as British subjects; which resolve, dated 28th November last, requested the Executive Committee "to prepare Resolutions on the present state of public affairs, as regards the complaints contained in their petitions,"
That they have bestowed on the said reference that serious consideration which is due from all those entrusted by their fellow-citizens with the performance of a public duty, but more particularly when their rights and liberties are concerned, and they have made a constitutional appeal to the supreme authorities of the Empire for justice.
The complaints of the Petitioners as set forth in their petitions, are:—
1st.—That they are deprived of a fair and equitable representation in the Provincial Assembly:
2nd.—That the powers of the Assembly, under the Act of the British Parliament, by which it is constituted, as one of the three branches of the Provincial Legislature, have been exercised to the injury of the Petitioners, and the disturbance of the quiet and prosperity of the Province:
3rd—That the increased powers improvidently conceded to the Assembly by the British Parliament have been abused, for the avowed purpose of subverting the Constitution of the Government as established by the said Act, and for the subjugation of the Petitioners to arbitrary rule and control, through the instrumentality of a majority acting and held together under the impulses of national prejudices and feelings:
4th.—That in consequence of the proceedings of the Assembly in furtherance of the said ends, the property of the Petitioners and the rewards of labor and industry have diminished in value by the decrease of public confidence in their security, and the continuance of various abuses, while funds derived from permanent taxes, levied for the public uses, as may be directed by law, are pledged by the Assembly in furtherance of their aforesaid ends:
5th.—That the Judges are held in a state of annual dependence, on the Assembly for their subsistence, while the Administration of Justice and the Judiciary system-, as regulated in 1794, is become insufficient, and in many cases entailing ruinous expenses, amounting to a denial of justice:
6th.—That His Majesty's Executive Council for the affairs of the Province, both as respects the number and composition of its members, is inefficient for the purposes of its institution:
7th.—That proper regulations ought to be adopted by the Crown in the exercise of its prerogative of calling to seats in the Legislative Council, so as to ensure the selection of fully qualified persons.
The Sub-Committee have not been able to discover that any relief has been afforded to the Petitioners on any of the foregoing heads of complaint.
A Commission has indeed been appointed by His Majesty, to inquire into alleged grievances in the administration of the local Government, and this inquiry embraces the complaints of the Petitioners. The Commission, consisting of three persons, arrived at Quebec, the 23rd August last.
On the 9th of October, the Executive Committee applied to the Commission, through its Secretary, expressing their readiness to support the petitions to His Majesty and both Houses of Parliament. The resolutions of the Committee and answer of the Commissioners, dated 12th October, have been published, and may be referred to. On the 15th December instant, a letter from the Secretary was received, stating the readiness of the Commissioners to receive information, and listen to representations on the part of the Association, which has led to the first examination of two deputations of the Executive Committee on the 23rd instant.
With the measure of sending out a Commission of enquiry, was connected a change of the person entrusted by His Majesty with the chief Government of the Province and the new Governor was placed at the head of the Commission.
The speech delivered by His Excellency at the opening of the Provincial Legislature on the 27th of October last, may be referred to, as indicating the views of the British Government on the state of affairs in this Province.
This speech affords sufficient evidence that the King's Ministers were desirous of conciliating the majority of the House of Assembly and its leaders upon whose conduct is founded the five first and principal heads of complaint on the part of the Petitioners as before stated.
The only concession to the Assembly announced in this speech, beyond those contained in the despatch of His Majesty's Principal Secretary of State for the Colonial Department, dated 7th July, 1831, which, being in answer to an Address of the Assembly of the 16th March, 1831, was laid before that body on the 18th November following, seems to be, the surrender of all the net proceeds of the revenue of the Crown arising "from any sources in the Province;" on condition that the management of these sources of revenue should be "reserved to officers of the Crown, and that a provision should be made for the support of the Executive Government, and for the salaries of the Judges, by an adequate Civil List."
The manner in which this new concession may affect the Petitioners, through the power of the House Of Assembly, in which they are not represented, will depend greatly on the conditions which may be annexed to the proposed surrender. On this subject it is stated in the speech, that the Commissioners are to enquire and report to His Majesty's Government, and His Excellency expresses a hope that he will be able to submit to the Assembly "proposals in a session to be holden in the ensuing year."
The Sub-Committee beg leave to observe that it would appear from declarations, several times repeated, in the speech, that it is not intended to confine the duties of the Commissioners to mere enquiry; but that they are to come to "impartial and well weighed conclusions," which they "will state with an earnestness of purpose, calculated to give additional force to the authority which they ought to derive from having been deemed worthy so grave a charge."
The declaration contained in the speech against incompatible offices, is, in part, conformable to a bill passed by both Houses of the Provincial Legislature, and reserved for the signification of His Majesty's pleasure thereon. The declaration seems to have been acted upon in respect to certain officers having seats in the Executive Council. Three of the four acting Executive Councillors, resident at Quebec, are stated to have expressed a wish to resign their seats in that body. This result is tantamount to its annihilation. Indeed, it is generally understood that this body had long ceased to act as the advisers of the Governors in matters of state. The object of the Petitioners, in respect to the Executive Council can, however, only be attained by its being re-constituted, so as to form a body of able and well-informed individuals, aiding by its local knowledge and advice, the Executive authority, and thereby enabling it to proceed with "sound discretion, uniformity, consistency and system."
While His Excellency repeats the disclaimer contained in the despatch of 7th July, 1831, on the part of His Majesty and the British people, of all distinctions from difference of national origin in the exercise of the Royal prerogative of appointing to office in the Province, he distinctly acknowledges the existence of two parties therein, based on these distinctions. It is to this source that the petitioners trace their principal complaints. It is against the grasping and insatiable greediness and ambition of the leaders of the party of French origin in the House of Assembly, and on their spirit of unjust domination over those of different national origins, so repeatedly exemplified in their acts and public declarations that the petitioners have been compelled to appeal to their Sovereign for protection, and to co-operate in the support of their rights and liberties.
It would be a subject of sincere congratulation to the Sub-Committee could they perceive that this spirit is abated: that whatever may be the national peculiarities of language, religion and usages among His Majesty's subjects in this Province, they were all fully sensible of their duty to cultivate peace and good understanding with each other, by mutual toleration, an inviolable regard for the established rights of all, and an active co-operation for the common welfare.
The established Constitution ought indeed to promote such a state of feeling and conduct. The population of French extraction, forming a majority of the electors, are secured by it against all changes in their present condition, and in the laws, institutions and usages peculiar to them, as no such change can be effected without the consent of representatives chosen by themselves; and the legal rights, liberties and privileges which are dear to the population of other origins, cannot be subverted without the consent of two other branches of the Legislature, who are, or ought to be, independent of the representative branch.
The Sub-Committee is, however sorry to have to state, that a majority of French origin in the present session of the House of Assembly, amidst professions of equal justice to all, has shown, by its acts, that it continues in its disposition to subjugate those of all other origins to its mere will and pleasure, or that of the distinct national origin to which it owes its existence. Not contented with its former attacks on the Constitutional Act, to which it had so often and so recently professed its entire devotion,— not contented with having employed, for several years past, the increased power confided to it by the British Government and Parliament, on the faith of these- protestations, to effect the destruction of the Constitution, the annihilation of a co-ordinate branch of the Legislature and of all efficient executive authority within the Province, derived from His Majesty,—it has now unequivocally proclaimed its intention to perpetuate its exclusive power by the establishment of a pretended pure Democracy, deriving its existence from a majority of electors of a particular national origin only, and liable to no check but the will of that majority, notoriously influenced by means of excited national feelings and prejudices.
If the Sub-Committee could entirely confide in what ought to be the result of the declaration contained in His Excellency's speech at the opening of the present session of the Legislature, viz.: ' That a Government of which consistency and good faith are the main elements of power, will not fail to maintain the spirit of that Constitution which has been long held out as a boon to the natives of the Province and an inducement to the settlers who have embarked in it their enterprise, their wealth, and their hopes of individual happiness,—the petitioners might pursue their wonted and highly useful avocations, in peace and security, regardless of the efforts of the turbulent and unprincipled characters by whom they have so long been disturbed; but the Committee cannot perceive, by reference to the conduct of the British Government and Parliament in regard to this Province for several years past, that character of firmness and decision which, supported by knowledge, justice and strength, are the foundation and preservers of empire and public security. Neither can they perceive, in some recent proceedings of the executive authority here, a conformity with the spirit or even the letter of the British Constitution and the Act of the British Parliament providing for the better government of this Province.
The means of more effectually operating against the petitioners and the' authority of the Empire as lawfully existing in this Province, have lately been afforded to those of whose attempts they have complained in their humble petitions to His Majesty and both Houses of Parliament. An amount equal to about one-fifth of the whole annual revenue of the Province levied under permanent laws, paid in great part by the petitioners, and desposited with the executive authority to be applied to the public uses of the Province "in such manner only as shall be directed by any law or laws which may be made by His Majesty, his heirs and successors, by and with the advice and consent of the Legislative Council and Assembly of the said Province," (Vide Act British Parliament, 31 Geo. III, cap. 31, sec. 47,) has been yielded up to the national majority before mentioned and is now used, in part, by its leaders and their agents in forwarding its illegal, anti-constitutional, and domineering projects, both in the Colonies and in England.
The Sub-Committee is sorry to have to add, that this open disregard of the law has been resorted to by the executive authority under a public and manifest threat, acted on by the House of Assembly at its last session, of not proceeding with the public business unless the Governor advanced to that body all the money that it chose to demand, to be applied to such purposes as it saw fit; and this after it had publicly pledged the funds of the Province to illegal purposes, ,and had long neglected, and finally formally refused to make good, according to its promise, advances formerly made, an amount of which, exceeding seventy thousand pounds, still remains uncovered, and has been included in the amount which the Governors are accused by the Assembly of having spent without authority of law.
This palpable injustice and breach of faith on the part of the Assembly cannot be more offensive to every upright and honorable mind than the sacrifice which it implies of a principle essential to the existence of free government, by. those who are the natural guardians of the public funds, to the end that they may be applied only under the authority of law.
Upon the whole matter referred, the Sub-Committee is of opinion that in the present state of public affairs as regards the complaints of the petitioners, there is nothing that authorizes a relaxation of vigilance; but rather, while they continue to respect and bestow proper confidence in public authorities derived from His Majesty, the petitioners ought to lose no time in acting more in concert, and, being thrown chiefly on their own resources, they ought to come to an understanding as to the means which they can most effectually employ to maintain their rights as British subjects under the established Constitution; thus asserting their claim to the high character of their ancestors, and of the great majority of the people who inhabit the northern parts of this continent. For these purposes the Sub-Committee conceive that it would be expedient that the petitioners, throughout the whole Province, by means of persons selected from among themselves, should consult together, in the view of giving effect to their petitions, and ensuring the permanency of their connexion with the Mother Country under Constitutional Government, and the general quiet, prosperity, and happiness of this important part of the British North American Colonies.
The Sub-Committee most respectfully submit the following Resolutions, with a view to their being reported to a General Meeting, should they be concured in by the Executive Committee:—
1st.—Resolved that this meeting has seen with regret that no remedy has hitherto been afforded to the evils of which they complained in their humble petitions to His Majesty and both Houses of the Imperial Parliament, presented at the last session thereof.
2nd.—That they have seen with extreme regret, that since the presenting of these petitions additional .means of injuring them have been afforded to those of whom they complained, and that these means, derived in great part from the petitioners, are now avowedly employed for the purpose of subjugating the persons, property, and freedom of the petitioners to the mere will and pleasure of a power derived from a majority of one distinct portion of the population only, proclaiming its "French origin" by solemn resolves of its Representatives, and manifestly held together by feelings and prejudices averse to other origins, and acted upon by ambitious and self-interested individuals.
3rd.—That the Executive Committee be requested to take measures with a view to the assembling of a Select General Committee of the petitioners, at some place to be agreed upon, to consult on such ulterior measures as may then seem most advisable to the said General Committee, in support of their petitions; and for the security of all the rights and liberties, civil and religious, which the inhabitants of all classes and denominations in this Province now enjoy, or of right are entitled to.
4th.—That the said Select Committee consist of one member for each County, City, Town or Borough in the Province, and that the persons so selected be admitted on producing sufficient credentials.
5th.—That the time, mode and places of selection of the members of the General Committee be determined by the Executive Committee, in concert with the Montreal Committee, and that the same be publicly notified at least two months before the day fixed for meeting.
6th.—That the day and place of meeting of the General Committee be fixed in the same manner, and that at least one month's notice be given of the time and place of meeting.
7th.—That Vigilance Committees of the petitioners, to consist of three residents, be appointed for each Ward within the City of Quebec, to receive signatures to the Declaration, and to enter in a book,, by streets, a list of the names, surnames, additions, and residences of the members and signers of the petitions within each Ward; the chairman and members of which Committees shall respectively keep a copy of such lists, and transmit a duplicate to the Executive Committee.
8th.—That the unavoidable disbursements of said Vigilance Committee be allowed by the Executive Committee.
9th.—That the appointment of Vigilance Committees, for like purposes, be recommended to the several Branch Associations, and the petitioners in each Parish, Township, or detached Settlement, and that the Committee-men, and all members and signers of the petitions, keeping in view the sixth object of the Association, as expressed in its Declaration, avoid all national reflections, altercations, or angry discussion with those who differ with them in opinion on public affairs, or who are of a different national origin, but extend to all the inhabitants of the Province that kindly feeling and toleration which they claim for themselves.
J. Neilson, Chairman Sub-Committee.
5th January, 1836.
Another meeting of the Quebec Constitutional Association took place on the llth March, at which the following were submitted and approved:—
The Sub-Committee appointed by a Resolve of the Executive Committee of the 2nd March instant, to consider the present state of public affairs in the colony, as connected with the objects of the Association, and to Report if it be expedient or necessary to adopt any, and what measures, in relation thereto,
That the sub-Committee have thought it proper to confine their inquiries into the state of public affairs as affecting the objects of the Association, and of the Petitioners, to the principal events and proceedings which have taken place since the Report submitted to the General Meeting of the 21st January last.
The then state of affairs as affecting the aforesaid objects, is detailed in the Report made to the General Annual Meeting of the 28th November, and in the said Report of the 21st January.
The subsequent events and proceedings which have a material bearing on the prospects of the petitioners, are:
1st The continued co-operation of a majority in the House of Assembly of Upper Canada, in the views and objects entertained by the leaders of the majority of French origin in Lower Canada.
2nd. The declarations on the part of His Majesty's Government, contained in that part of the instructions of the 17th of July, 1835, to the Royal Commissioners sent to this Province.
3rd. The recent proceedings of the House of Assembly, and more particularly the refusal to vote the arrears due for the last three years, for the support of the civil government, and the administration of justice in this Province.
4th. The proceedings of Constitutional meetings of the Petitioners throughout the Province.
Your Committee are aware, that for some years past there has been an active communication between some of the leading members of the Upper Canada and Lower Canada Houses of Assembly, particularly since the general election of 1834. It has been endeavoured to extend these communications to all the North American colonies, by means of hired agents, recently paid out of monies advanced for the contingencies of the Lower Canada Assembly, resident in London, and no pains have been spared by these agents to produce a combined action in all the Provinces, to enable the leading members of the Assemblies to remove all checks to their arbitrary and exclusive control within the colonies, and to repudiate the just, necessary, and lawful authority of the King, which is indispensable to the connection of the colonies with the Empire, and for ensuring peace and justice, and equal protection to all His Majesty's subjects residing in the said colonies, or resorting thereto.
It is only in Upper Canada that this combination has hitherto obtained any decided success; and in that Province it only became apparent at the session of the Assembly, last spring, more by the management of those connected with the Lower Canada leaders, than by any expressed declaration of the Upper Canada Assembly.
At the session of the Upper Canada Legislature, which opened on the 13th January last, the cooperation before referred to became decided. It will be recollected that, shortly after the opening of the Lower Canada Assembly, on the 27th October last, and previous to the opening of the session in Upper Canada, two persons intimately connected with the Upper Canada leaders, visited Quebec, and had frequent communications with the leading members of the Lower Canada Assembly, when the course to be followed in Upper Canada was probably settled.
This co-operation of the leaders in the Assemblies in the two Provinces, for objects which evidently have a tendency to the attainment of power and emolument for themselves and associates, has been promoted by the indecision of the British Government during several years, on the attempts made in Lower Canada to obtain from the British Parliament, the subversion of the established Constitution, which is the same in both Provinces, by the abuses which had grown up in some departments of the Local Government, and by the encouragement of final success held out to the parties in Lower Canada, by their hired agents and others, in England. There is, however, reason to believe, that the majority of the inhabitants of Upper Canada, sincerely attached to the countries of their birth, or of their ancestors, and satisfied with the liberal views of the British Government as again made public, will repudiate the unnatural connection into which some of their representatives have entered, and discountenance the encroachments on the authority of His Majesty and the British Empire, which originated not with the people of Lower Canada, but with a few leaders in the House of Assembly.
Your Committee have Been, with pleasure, the declarations of .His Majesty's Government contained in the despatch of the 17th July last, forming instructions to the Royal Commissioners appointed for this Province, as communicated to the Legislature of Upper Canada, by the recently appointed Lieutenant Governor of that Province.
This despatch puts beyond a doubt the favorable decision of His Majesty's ministers on the following objects, prayed for by the petitioners for whom the Executive Committee of the Association has acted:
lo. The independence of the Judges.
2o. A Tribunal for the trial of Impeachments.
3o. No modification of the Constitution of the Legislative Council, excepting such as may be "founded on the principles, and conceived in the spirit of the Constitutional statute now in force."
4o. The establishment of some adequate security against the evils which have resulted from the abusive exercise of the powers confided to the Assembly over the public revenues.
5o. The retention in the hands of the Crown, of: the exclusive management and disposal of the waste lands.
These, indeed, embrace the principal objects prayed for by the petitioners, excepting a better composition of the Executive Council—security for the appointment of fit persons as members of the Legislative Council—a reform in the system of Judicature, and the administration of Justice, and a fair distribution of the representation throughout the Province, concerning all which the views of the British Government have not yet been made public.
Since the report of the 2lst January, the House of Assembly of this Province has been actively engaged in the most extraordinary line of proceeding ever adopted in a British Province, professing allegiance to the King.
It has refused or neglected, for several years past, to provide a tribunal for the trial of impeachments. In the 92 Resolutions of the 21st February, 1834, which it has confirmed at every session since, it declared "His Majesty's officers, both civil and military, a combined faction, induced by interest alone to contend for the support of a Government inimical to the rights, and opposed to the wishes of the people." (Vide 30th and 31st Resolutions.) That 157 of the officers of the civil government were "apparently of British or foreign origin," and only 47 of "French origin;" and that of the Judges in the three great Districts, only one in each was of "French origin." (Vide 75th and 76th Resolutions.) At this session it has commenced or renewed accusations against four of the seven Judges of "British origin," and against two members of the Legislative Council holding offices under the Crown, two Sheriffs, one Coroner, one Clerk of the Peace, and several others, examining such witnesses, and calling for such documents as the accusers chose to bring forward before Committees named by the Assembly, without any one on the part of the accused to cross-examine such witnesses, or call other witnesses, or evidence; and without hearing the parties, the Assembly, after the most violent appeals to passion and prejudice from some of its members, has pronounced all those whose cases have heretofore come before it, guilty, and addressed the Governor for their removal from office.
It can hardly be presumed that the Assembly itself expects that any Governor, commissioned by the King, will comply with such Addresses. Great and certain evil is, however, effected by these proceedings. No administration of justice, no officer of government, however pure, able and faithful, could stand against such a system of public calumny, under colour of judicial proceedings, and the appearance of a legal sanction. All these accusations are not only spread throughout the Province, and in the adjoining colonies and country, in newspaper reports of the debates in the Assembly, but the Reports whereon these Addresses are founded, are to be forwarded to the salaried Agent of the Assembly, and his assistants in England, to be used in Parliament, and through the press, as documents having a like weight, and entitled to similar credit as Reports of the House of Commons.
It matters little what may be the intentions of the movers in these proceedings; the effect is to bring, if possible, the British Government and the administration of justice in the colony into contempt; to alienate the affections of the subject from His Majesty, weaken his allegiance, and undermine British connection, which of late the leaders in that body have affected to cherish.
That any government should exist in a British colony, which would countenance, or suffer such proceedings to be perseveringly resorted to, is indeed a grievance of which every peacable and loyal subject is justly entitled to complain, however desirous he may be to see abuses eradicated.
The effect on the administration of justice, and the due execution of the duties of public officers, is peculiarly alarming. Reduced to a state of extreme distress, from the witholding their just dues by the Assembly, accusations publicly invited, encouraged and rewarded, there are few men who possess a sufficient degree of moral courage to resist the temptation of yielding a corrupt compliance to those who may be their accusers or judges, in the hope of escaping the torture and ruin which has visited or threatened so many of their colleagues.
On the 9th November last, His Excellency Lord Gosford, Governor in Chief, transmitted a message to the Assembly, with a statement of the arrears due for the service of the civil government on the 10th October preceding, amounting to £135,617 9s. l0d. sterling, expressing his confidence "That the House of Assembly will see the necessity of proceeding, without delay, to a consideration of this part of the public accounts." The amount of the arrears includes £30,519 4s. 2d. sterling, advanced from the military chest in payment of part of these arrears. This was followed the same day by an Address from the Assembly for an advance of £22,000, nominally to pay arrears due, and towards defraying the contingent expenses of tho House for the present session, £16,920 of which arrears were included in the general amount of the arrears above mentioned of £135,617 9s. l0d. The whole amount prayed for by the Assembly, viz., £22,000, was advanced by His Excellency on the 11th November.
The general statement of arrears was referred by the Assembly to the Standing Committee of Public Accounts, on the 9th November, which, on the 6th January, reported. This Report was finally referred to a Committee of the whole House, on the state of the Province, for the llth February, on which day a call of the House was ordered. On the 23rd of February a motion to vote the arrears was negatived in Committee of the Whole; yeas 31, nays 42, and the House proceeded to vote half a year's salary to the Governor, Judges and Public Officers, and Departments. &c., from the 15th January, 1836, to 15th July, on the estimate submitted by the Governor for the year, from the 10th October, 1835, to 10th October, 1836, leaving out several salaries heretofore sanctioned by the Legislature, and imposing conditions never before so sanctioned.
With respect to the arrears, and the supply for the current year, thus refused to be voted by the Assembly, His Excellency expresses himself in the speech from the Throne at the opening of the session on the 27th October, as follows: "I earnestly request you to pass such votes as affect the liquidation of these arrears, and provide for the maintenance of the public servants, pending the enquiry of the Commissioners, to which I have alluded. Should you place the government in this position, I am authorized to engage that no part of the surplus proceeds of the Crown revenue, which may accrue, beyond the charges to which they are at present permanently liable, shall, in the interval of the Commissioners' inquiry, be applied to any purpose whatever, unless with your consent." With regarded to the £30,519 4s. 2d., advanced from the military chest, under the sanction of His Majesty's Government, to meet the pressing exigencies of the public service, His Excellency says, "His Majesty hopes that an issue made in reliance on the just and liberal feelings of the House of Assembly, and designed for no other purposes, than to prevent a highly inconvenient interruption of the general business of the Province, will be cheerfully paid."
After such declarations on the part of the Crown, and after the reception they have received on the part of the Assembly, your Committee presume that no British Ministry can be so wanting to the dignity of the Crown as to submit to further humiliation; and that the offer of giving up the hereditary revenue of the Crown in this Province, in consideration of an adequate civil list, must be withdrawn, as entirely hopeless. The British Government is indeed put to the option of abandoning all pretensions on the part of the Crown to its lawful authority in the Province, or to provide for the payment of its officers, indispensable to the administration of the civil government within the Province.
The injustice and distress to the parties immediately concerned, the decrease of employment to the industrious classes, from the non-payment of advances, the discontinuance of public works and improvements, the want of confidence and insecurity resulting from the inefficiency of government, occasioned by the withholding of the salaries of the Judges and Public Officers, as already set forth in the petitions presented at the last session of the Imperial Parliament, are now increased and more severely felt.
This grievance is indeed become intolerable, and amounts almost to the withdrawal of the King's protection from his loyal subjects in the colony, which is justly to be deprecated by all, as the forerunner of anarchy and bloodshed.
In this point of view, increased watchfulness, activity and union, are more necessary than ever, among all those who are determined to maintain the public peace and their connexion with the countries of their forefathers, together with that freedom and security which they have formerly enjoyed in this portion of the King's dominions.
It has been with the utmost astonishment that in a printed paper, purporting to be an Address from the House of Assembly of Lower Canada, to His Majesty, and the two Houses of the Imperial Parliament of Great Britain and Ireland, your Committee have read, amongst many other false and injurious assertions, a paragraph, of which the following is an extract: "We have at least the satisfaction of seeing that the inhabitants of this Province, of every creed, and of every origin, are satisfied with the share they have in the provincial representation, and that our fellow-subjects, of the less numerous origin in particular acknowledge the spirit of justice and brotherly love with which we have endeavoured to ensure to all the inhabitants of the country, a participation in its political and natural advantages. We perceive in this happy union another guarantee of good government, and an antidote against the vicious policy which it is sought to support by unjust distinctions." That any number of men should publicly assert, and transmit to the highest authority of the Empire, allegations so false and unfounded, and in direct contradiction to the petitions of twenty thousand men, equal to one-fourth of the greatest number of names affixed to any petitions transmitted from this country to England, a number, in fact, representing nearly the entire body of the inhabitants of this Province, who are not of French origin, shews a recklessness of character, and wickedness of purpose, which could hardly be believed to exist in any country where it is not known by melancholy experience.
The inhabitants of this Province, of every creed and of every origin, are not satisfied with the share they have in the representation; those of the less numerous origin, in particular, do not acknowledge a spirit of justice and brotherly love on the part of the majority in the House of Assembly; they deny that this majority has endeavoured to secure to all the inhabitants of the country a participation in its political and natural advantages; they have in every County of the Province, publicly proclaimed these truths, and every day's experience proves that they have no union to expect from the leaders of the Assembly, but an abject submission to their will; no government, but that of tyranny, proscription and spoliation.
If anything were wanting to show the spirit of justice and brotherly love which these leaders entertain for their fellow-subjects, designated in the 92 resolutions as "of British or foreign origin," it may be found in these resolutions themselves, and in the address of their principal author to the electors of the West Ward of Montreal, after the last general election. It may be found in the fact that, forming at least one-fourth of the population of the Province, and contributing much more than a proportionate share towards the public burthens, they have only 14 members of their choice out of 88; and if their opinion is to be judged of by the votes of their representatives, ten of the 14 are to be found in opposition to the French origin majority in almost every division recorded in the Journals of the House of Assembly. Every political measure or measures to improve the natural advantages of the Province coming from the majority of the inhabitants of the "less numerous origin," is voted down by the majority of French origin joined by those members with English names, who are elected by a French majority, and hold their seats at the nod of the French leaders. In every contested election, a reference to the poll- books will show how completely the votes of the "less numerous origin" have been nullified by those of the more numerous origin, and how completely marked were these distinctions which the leaders of French origin had so profusely disseminated at the public expense in the 92 resolutions. Had there been any change in the disposition of the French leaders, they would not have renewed their adherence to these resolutions at every session since, and in the Address before alluded to; had they been disposed to do justice to the less numerous origins, they would long ago have taken into consideration the state of the representation, and passed a bill allowing the population not of French origin a representation of their own choice, at least proportionate to their whole population.
Your Committee cannot conceive a greater insult to the victims of an unjust exercise of power and political proscription, than to tell them that it proceeds from a spirit of justice and brotherly love.
Your Committee, however, trust that, on this head, as well as on others, the grievances complained of in the petitions to the King and Parliament will be listened to, and that the spirit which, for the second time, has rejected the liberal offers and conciliatory policy of the British Government, in pursuit of uncontrolled power over the King's subjects in this Province, will be fully appreciated, and relief and protection afforded, especially if they remain true to themselves, and do not relax in their exertions.
As connected with the present state of affairs and the objects prayed for, your Committee cannot refrain from referring to the intense anxiety which prevails among the petitioners for the independent administration of justice, assailed as it is by party and prejudice, and the most unjust and selfish feelings and passions, with hardly any share in the representation; with a Legislative Council threatened in its independent existence, and but feeble in its composition, an Executive, which has yielded to the mandates of the. Assembly, the petitioners have, no adequate security for their liberties, lives and properties but in the Courts of Justice, and if these were to become the timid and corrupt instruments, or be filled with the avowed partisans and co-operators of a prejudiced and vindictive national majority in the Assembly, as a late appointment* gives reason to apprehend, this condition would be past endurance to men who have been accustomed to value the freedom and security of their British ancestors more than their lives.
Your Committee, since the date of the last Report of the 21st January, have had occasion to observe, with great satisfaction, the constitutional meetings held in the Counties of Beauce, Megantic, Drum- mond, Sherbrooke, Stanstead, Mississippi, Beauharnois and the Two Mountains, and the Town of Three Rivers, and some other places. Their resolutions all breathe a decided support of the Constitution and Laws, and a firm determination to maintain their allegiance to the Sovereign, their connexion with the Empire, and their rights as freemen. In most of the places of these meetings Vigilance Committees have been formed and the registration commenced, and in some of them, delegates have been named to the proposed general meeting.
In most of the Wards in Quebec the registration has been promoted with the greatest zeal by the Vigilance Committees elected at the ward meetings. In one ward alone upwards of five hundred names above 18 years of age have been enregistered, and your Committee conceive that it is of the highest importance, in the present state of affairs, that the recommendations of the general meeting of the 21st January, should be carried into effect in each settlement in every County of the Province, and the registration of all supporters of the King and Constitution, completed. This is now become indispensable for the selection of delegates, truly expressing their sentiments in the approaching general meeting on the part of the petitioners throughout the Province.
The Sub-Committee must respectfully report the following ^Resolutions for the consideration of the general meeting. All which is humbly submitted.
Resolved 1st. That we deeply regret that a majority of the Assembly of Upper Canada should have been led by a combination of some members of that House, with certain leaders in the Lower Canada Assembly, to co-operate in their unjust, prejudiced, and oppressive views against the population of Lower Canada, which they have qualified as of' British or Foreign origin,' in the 92 resolutions of the 24th February, 1834, renewed at each session since that date.
2°. That we entertain a confident hope that our brethren of Upper Canada, true to their Sovereign, attached to the countries of their forefathers, and satisfied with the just and benevolent views of the British Government, recently made public, will withdraw their confidence from men who have thus prostituted their trust as representatives, to enter into combinations against the Constitution of the Canadas, as by law established, and aid in arresting the progress of improvement, destroying the trade of the country, and weakening the ties which connect us with the British Empire.
3°. That we feel grateful for the expression of the views of His Majesty's Government in England, as contained in the instructions to the Royal Commissioners, dated the 17th July, 1835, and laid before the Upper Canada Legislature by Sir Francis Bond Head, Lieutenant Governor of that Province.
4°. That the recent proceedings of the Assembly of this Province, in a session which has now lasted more than four months, in occupying themselves with Bills heretofore deservedly rejected, lost or amended in the Legislative Council, in the renewal of laws expired by their own desertion of their posts at the last session, or in vain and anti-Constitutional projects and abortive measures; neglecting or counteracting beneficial improvements, and to co-operate with the other branches for the remedy of abuses; in spreading national prejudices, individual abuse, calumny and ill-will; and in vindictive, partial, and arbitrary proceedings against judges and public officers; in the refusal of the just dues retained from the judges and public officers and departments for several years past, and in the lavish and unchecked expenditure of public money, have given additional proofs of the truth of the complaints contained in our petitions to His Majesty and both Houses of the Imperial Parliament, and new ground for claiming effectual and immediate relief from our present sufferings.
5°. That the following paragraph, among others of alike character, contained in a printed paper, published by order of the House of Assembly and addressed to both Houses of Parliament, viz.: "We have at least the satisfaction of seeing that the inhabitants of this Province, of every creed and of every origin, are satisfied with the share they have in the Provincial representation, and that our fellow-subjects of the less numerous origin, in particular, acknowledge the spirit of justice and brotherly love with which we have endeavoured to ensure to all the inhabitants of the country, a participation in its political and natural advantages. We perceive in this happy union another guarantee of good government, and an antidote against the tortuous policy which it is sought to support by unjust distinctions,"—is a daring violation of truth against which we now protest; an insult to the high authority of the British Parliament and to the people of Great Britain and Ireland, who are thus attempted to be imposed upon; and, as far as respects at least one-fourth of the people of this Province, whom the said Assembly have qualified as of "Britisher Foreign origin," adding insult to injury.
6°. That we continue to urge on His Majesty's Government, our just right to a full and fair reform in the representation in the Provincial Assembly, from which, constituted as it now is, we can expect neither justice nor benefit, but unmixed evil and injury, placing us, and the most industrious classes throughout the Province, in a worse situation than if there were no representative Assembly.
7°. That we have seen with great alarm, the attempts recently made to extend to the Court of King's Bench and His Majesty's Courts of Justice in this Province, the spirit which has been exhibited in the Committees of the House of Assembly, and to bring the administration of justice more in the dependency of that House, and to a participation in the character and feelings of its ruling members.
8°. That while we assert our opinions with that freedom which belongs to British subjects, and firmly maintain our Constitutional rights, we will never be wanting in due respect to the authorities derived from our Sovereign; and we now express our gratitude to the Legislative Councillors, who, in discharge of their obligations to the Crown and the country, have sacrificed their personal ease and interests in attending during the present prolonged session of the Provincial Legislature, maintaining the independence of the Council, resisting encroachments on the rights of the subject, and supporting the Constitution as established by law. That we are equally grateful to those members of the House of Assembly who have attended in their places during the present session, and who have steadily divided against the anti.Constitutional measures and proceedings of the "French origin" majority.
9°. That we have observed with great satisfaction, the public meetings and proceedings of our brethren in various Counties of the Province, and in the adjoining parts of Upper Canada, and we renew our pledge of hearty co operation with all of them conformably to our original declaration in support of the King, the Constitution, and our connexion with the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland.
10°. That the thanks of this meeting be given to the Vigilance Committees of Quebec, for their zealous and successful exertions, and we renew our earnest solicitations for the formation of Vigilance Committees in every settlement, and a speedy and general enregistration of all who support the King, the Constitution, and British freedom, to the end that they may be prepared, in time, to select delegates to the proposed general meeting for every County in the Province.
At a Special Meeting of the Executive Committee, held at the Rooms of the Association, on Tuesday, the 8th March, 1836.
A. STUART, Esquire, in the Chair.
The foregoing Report and Resolutions were read, and unanimously adopted, and ordered to he submitted to a general meeting, to be called for Friday the llth instant, at the Albion Hotel, at seven o.clock, P.M.
At a General Meeting of the Members of the Quebec Constitutional Association, and the signers of the Petitions to His Majesty and both Houses of the Imperial Parliament, presented at the last session, called by public advertisement, and held at the Albion Hotel, on Friday the llth March, 1836,
ANDREW STUART, Esquire Chairman of the Association, in the Chair.
The chairman submitted the foregoing Report, which was read by the Secretary, and on motion the same was received unanimously.
And on motions made and seconded, the resolutions reported by the Committee were separately concurred in.
Resolved, That the foregoing Report and Resolutions be published in the Quebec Gazette and Quebec Mercury, under the authority of the Association, and authenticated by the signatures of the Chairman and Secretary, and that copies thereof be transmitted to the Constitutional Associations throughout the Province, and otherwise forwarded in such manner as may be deemed proper by the Executive Committee.
ANDREW STUART, Chairman. R.H. GAIRDNER, Secretary.
* Probably Mr. Bedard's.
- Robert Christie, A History of the Late Province of Lower Canada, Parliamentary and Political, 1866, Volume IV, pp. 272-30