The Declaration of the Reformers of the City of Toronto to their Fellow-Reformers in Upper Canada

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The Declaration of the Reformers of the City of Toronto to their Fellow-Reformers in Upper Canada
in The Constitution, Toronto, August 2, 1837

The time has arrived, after nearly half a century's forbearance under increasing and aggravated misrule, when the duty we owe our country and posterity requires from us the assertion of our rights and the redress of our wrongs.

Government is founded on the authority and is instituted for the benefit of a people ; when, therefore, any government long and systematically ceases to answer the great ends of its foundation, the people have a natural right given them by their Creator to seek after and establish such institutions as will yield the greatest quantity of happiness to the greatest number.

Our forbearance heretofore has only been rewarded with an aggravation of our grievances ; and our past inattention to our rights has been ungenerously and unjustly urged as evidence of the surrender of them. We have now to choose, on the one hand, between submission to the same blighting policy as hath desolated Ireland, and, on the other hand, the patriotic achievement of cheap, honest, and responsible government.

The right was conceded to the present United States at the close of a successful revolution, to form a constitution for themselves ; and the loyalists, with their descendents and others now peopling this portion of America, are entitled to the same liberty without the shedding of blood — more they do not ask ; less they ought not to have. But, while the revolution of the former has been rewarded with a consecutive prosperity unexampled in the history of the world, the loyal valour of the latter alone remains amidst the blight of misgovernment to tell them what they might have been, as the not less valiant sons of American Independence. Sir Francis Head has too truly portrayed our country "as standing in the flourishing continent of North America like a girdled tree with its drooping branches." But the laws of nature do not, and those of man ought no longer to exhibit this invidious and humiliating comparison.

The affairs of this country have been ever, against the spirit of the Constitutional Act, subjected in the most injurious manner to the interferences and interdictions of a succession of colonial ministers in England who have never visited the country, and can never possibly become acquainted with the state of parties, or the conduct of public functionaries, except through official channels in the province, which are ill calculated to convey information necessary to disclose official delinquencies, and correct public abuses. A painful experience has proved how impracticable it is for such a succession of strangers beneficially to direct and control the affairs of the people four thousand miles off; and being an impracticable system, felt to be intolerable by those for whose good it was professedly intended, it ought to be abolished, and the domestic institutions of the province so improved and administered by the local authorities as to render the people happy and contented. The system of baneful domination has been uniformly furthered by a Lieutenant-Governor sent amongst us as an uninformed, unsympathising stranger, who, like Sir Francis, has not a single feeling in common with the people, and whose hopes and responsibilities begin and end in Downing-street. And this baneful domination is further cherished by a legislative council not elected, and, therefore, irresponsible to the people for whom they legislate, but appointed by the ever-changing colonial minister for life, from pensioners on the bounty of the crown, official dependents, and needy expectants.

Under this mockery of human government we have been insulted, injured, and reduced to the brink of ruin. The due influence and purity of all our institutions have been utterly destroyed. Our governors are the mere instruments for effecting domination from Downing-street ; legislative councillors have been intimidated into executive compliance, as in the case of the late Chief Justice Powell, Mr. Baby, and others ; the executive council has been stript of every shadow of responsibility and of every shade of duty ; the freedom and purity of elections have lately received, under Sir Francis Head, a final and irretrievable blow ; our revenue has been and still is decreasing to such an extent, as to render heavy additional taxation indispensable for the payment of the interests of our public debt, incurred by a system of improvident and profligate expenditure; our public lands, although a chief source of wealth to a new country, have been sold at low valuation to speculating companies in London, and resold to the settlers at very advanced rates, the excess being remitted to England, to the serious impoverishment of the country ; the ministers of religion have been corrupted by the prostitution of the casual and territorial revenue, to salary and influence them ; our clergy reserves instead of being devoted to the purposes of general education, though so much needed and loudly demanded, have been in part sold, to the amount of upwards of 300,000 dollars, paid into the military chest, and sent to England; numerous rectories have been established, against the almost unanimous wishes of the people, with certain exclusive ecclesiastical and spiritual rights and privileges, according to the established Church of England, to the destruction of equal religious rights ; public salaries, pensions, and sinecures, have been augmented in number and amount, notwithstanding the impoverishment of our revenue and country ; and the parliament has, under the name of arrearages, paid the retrenchments made in past years by reform parliaments ; our judges have, in spite of our condition, been doubled, and wholly selected from the most violent political partisans against our equal civil and religious liberties ; and a court of chancery suddenly adopted by a subservient parliament, against the long-cherished expectations of the people against it, and its operation fearfully extended into the past, so as to jeopardize every title and transaction from the beginning of the province to the present time. A law has been passed enabling magistrates, appointed during pleasure, at the representation of a grand jury selected by a sheriff holding office during pleasure, to tax the people at pleasure, without their previous knowledge or consent, upon all their rateable property, to build and support workhouses for the refuge of the paupers invited by Sir Francis from the parishes in Great Britain ; thus unjustly and wickedly laying the foundation of a system which must result in taxation, pestilence, and famine. Public loans have been authorized by improvident legislation to nearly eight millions of dollars, the surest way to make the people both poor and dependent ; the parliament, subservient to Sir Francis Head's blighting administration, has, by an unconstitutional act, sanctioned by him, prolonged their duration after the demise of the Crown, thereby evading their present responsibility to the people, depriving them of the exercise of their elective franchise on the present occasion, and extending the period of their unjust, unconstitutional and ruinous legislation with Sir Francis Head ; our best and most worthy citizens have been dismissed from the bench of justice, from the militia and other stations of honour and usefulness, for exercising their rights as freemen in attending public meetings for the regeneration of our condition, as instanced in the case of Dr. Baldwin, Messrs. Scatchard, Johnson, Small, Ridout, and others; those of our fellow-subjects who go to England to represent our deplorable condition are denied a hearing by a partial, unjust, and oppressive government, while the authors and promoters of our wrongs are cordially and graciously received, and enlisted in the cause of our further wrongs and misgovernment ; our public revenues are plundered and misapplied without redress, and unavailable securities make up the late defalcation of Mr. P. Robinson, the Commissioner of Public Lands, to the amount of 80,000 dollars. Interdicts are continually sent by the colonial minister to the governor, and by the governor to the provincial parliament, to restrain and render futile their legislation, which ought to be free and unshackled ; these instructions, if favourable to the views and policy of the enemies of our country, are rigidly observed ; if favourable to public liberty, they are, as in the case of Earl Ripon's despatch, utterly contemned, even to the passing of the ever-to-be-remembered and detestable everlasting Salary Bill ; Lord Glenelg has sanctioned, in the King's name, all the violations of truth and of the constitution by Sir Francis Head, and both thanked and titled him for conduct, which, under any civilized government, would be the ground of impeachment.

The British government, by themselves and through the Legislative Council of their appointment, have refused their assent to laws the most wholesome and necessary for the public good, among which we may enumerate the intestate estate equal distribution bill ; the bill to sell the clergy reserves for educational purposes ; the bill to remove the corrupt influence of the executive in the choosing of juries, and to secure a fair, free trial by jury ; the several bills to encourage emigration from foreign parts ; the bills to secure the independency of the Assembly ; the bill to amend the law of libel ; the bill to appoint commissioners to meet others appointed by Lower Canada, to treat on matters of trade and other matters of deep interest ; the bills to extend the blessings of education to the humbler classes in every township, and to appropriate annually a sum of money for the purpose ; the bill to dispose of the school lands in aid of education; several bills for the improvement of the highways; the bill to secure independence to voters by establishing the vote by ballot ; the bill for the better regulation of elections of members of the Assembly, and to provide that they be held at places convenient for the people; the bills for the relief of Quakers, Menonists and Tunkers ; the bill to amend the present obnoxious court of request laws, by allowing the people to choose the commissioners, and to have a trial by jury if desired ; with other bills to improve the administration of justice and diminish unnecessary costs ; the bills to amend the charter of King's College University, so as to remove its partial and arbitrary system of government and education ; and the bill to allow free competition in banking.

The King of England has forbidden his governors to pass laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his assent should be obtained ; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them. He has interfered with the freedom of elections, and appointed elections to fee held at places dangerous, inconvenient, and unsafe for the people to assemble at, for the purpose of fatiguing them into his measures, through the agency of pretended representatives ; and has, through his Legislative Council, prevented provision being made for quiet and peaceable elections, as in the case of the late returns at Beverley.

He has dissolved the late House of Assembly for opposing with manly firmness Sir Francis Head's invasion of the right of the people to a wholesome control over the revenue, and for insisting that the persons conducting the government should be responsible for their official conduct to the country, through its representatives.

He has endeavoured to prevent the peopling of this province and its advancement in wealth ; for that purpose obstructing the laws for the naturalization of foreigners, refusing to pass others to encourage their migration hither, and raising the conditions of new appropriations of the public lands, large tracts of which he has bestowed upon unworthy persons his favourites, while deserving settlers from Germany and other countries have been used cruelly.

He has rendered the administration of justice liable to suspicion and distrust, by obstructing laws for establishing a fair trial by jury, by refusing to exclude the chief criminal judge from interfering in political business, and by selecting as the judiciary violent and notorious partisans of his arbitrary power.

He has sent a standing army into the sister province to coerce them to his unlawful and unconstitutional measures, in open violation of their rights and liberties, and has received with marks of high approbation military officers who interfered with the citizens of Montreal in the midst of an election of their representatives, and brought the troops to coerce them, who shot several persons dead wantonly in the public streets.

Considering the great number of lucrative appointments held by strangers in the country, whose chief merit appears to be their subserviency to any and every administration, we may say with our brother colonists of old — "he has sent hither swarms of new officers to harass our people and eat out their substance."

The English parliament has interfered with our internal affairs and regulations, by the passing of grievous and tyrannical enactments, for taxing us heavily without our consent, for prohibiting us to purchase many articles of the first importance at the cheapest European or American markets, and compelling us to buy such goods and merchandise at an exorbitant price in markets of which England has a monopoly.

They have passed resolutions for our coercion of a character so cruel and arbitrary, that Lord Chancellor Brougham has recorded on the journals of the House of Peers, that "they set all considerations of sound policy, of generosity, and of justice, at defiance," are wholly subversive of "the fundamental principle of the British constitution, that no part of the taxes levied on the people shall be applied to any purpose whatever without the consent of the representatives in parliament," and that the Canadian "precedent of 1837 will ever after be cited in the support of such oppressive proceedings, as often as the Commons of any colony may withhold supplies, how justifiable soever their refusal maybe;" and (adds his lordship) "those proceedings, so closely resembling the fatal measures that severed the United States from Great Britain, have their origin in principles, and derive their support from reasonings, which form a prodigious contrast to the whole grounds and the only defence of the policy during latter years, and so justly and so wisely sanctioned by the imperial parliament in administering the affairs of the mother country. Nor is it easy to imagine that the inhabitants of either the American or the European branches of the empire should contemplate so strange a contrast, without drawing inferences therefrom discreditable to the character of the legislature, and injurious to the future safety of the state, when they mark with what different measures we mete to six hundred thousand inhabitants of a remote, province, unrepresented in parliament, and to six millions of our fellow-citizens nearer home, and making themselves heard by their representatives, the reflection will assuredly arise in Canada, and may possibly find its way into Ireland, that the sacred rules of justice, the most worthy feelings of national generosity, and the soundest principles of enlightened policy maybe appealed to in vain, if the demands of the suitor be not also supported by personal interests, and party views, and political fears, among those whose aid he seeks ; while all men perceiving that many persons have found themselves at liberty to hold a course towards an important but remote province, which their constituents never would suffer to be pursued towards the most inconsiderable burgh of the United Kingdom, an impression will inevitably be propagated most dangerous to the maintenance of colonial dominion, that the people can never safely entrust the powers of government to any supreme authority not residing among themselves."

In every stage of these proceedings we have petitioned for redress in most humble terms ; our repeated petitions have been answered only by repeated injuries.

Nor have we been wanting in attention to our British brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here ; we have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity ; and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which would inevitably interrupt our connexion and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and consanguinity.

We, therefore, the reformers of the city of Toronto, sympathising with our fellow-citizens here and throughout the North American colonies, who desire to obtain cheap, honest, and responsible government, the want of which has been the source of all their past grievances, as its continuance would lead to their utter ruin and desolation, are of opinion —

1. That the warmest thanks and admiration are due from the reformers of Upper Canada, to the Honourable Louis Joseph Papineau, Esq., Speaker of the House of Assembly of Lower Canada, and his compatriots in and out of the legislature, for their past uniform, manly, and noble independence, in favour of civil and religious liberty; and for their present devoted, honourable, and patriotic opposition to the attempt of the British government to violate their constitution without their consent, subvert the powers and privileges of their local parliament, and overawe them by coercive measures into a disgraceful abandonment of their just and reasonable wishes.

2. And that the reformers of Upper Canada are called upon by every tie of feeling, interest, and duty, to make common cause with their fellow-citizens of Lower Canada, whose successful coercion would doubtless be in time visited upon us, and the redress of whose grievances would be the best guarantee for the redress of our own.

To render this co-operation the more effectual, we earnestly recommend to our fellow-citizens that they exert themselves to organize political associations ; that public meetings be held throughout the province ; and that a convention of delegates be elected and assembled at Toronto, to take into consideration the political condition of Upper Canada, with authority to its members to appoint commissioners to meet others to be named on behalf of Lower Canada and any of the other colonies, armed with suitable powers, as a Congress, to seek an effectual remedy for the grievances of the colonies.

T. D. Morrison, Chairman of . . . . John Montgomery
Committee . . . . John Edward Tims
John Elliot, Secretary . . . . J. H. Price
David Gibson . . . . . . . . . . . John Doel
John Mackintosh . . . . . . . . . . M. Reynolds
W. J. O'Grady . . . . . . . . . . James Armstrong
Edward Wright . . . . . . . . . . James Hunter
Robert McKay . . . . . . . . . . John Armstrong
Thomas Elliott . . . . . . . . . . William Ketchum
E. B. Gilbert . . . . . . . . . . William L. Mackenzie.

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