Reply of the Central and Permanent Committee of the County of Montreal to the Address of the London Working Men's Association

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Reply of the Central and Permanent Committee of the County of Montreal to the Address of the London Working Men's Association

William Lovett, leader of the Chartist Movement of England

Bothers, - We have received The Address of the London Working Men's Association to the People of Canada. It was read during a sitting of our Central and Permanent Committee, in the midst of lively acclamations, and published in our newspapers. Diffused throughout the American continent, it proves that the intrepid democratic spirit that once shook the yoke of infamous barons and set limits to the despotic prerogatives of sovereigns, still animates a part of the citizens of your country.

Your nation has always prided herself of the democracy which allowed her, in the course of long and hard battles, to preserve a freedom and a political power higher than those of her neighbours of Europe. We thus accept with gratitude the sympathy of a democracy animated by feelings so high and so just on the nature of government.

Aristocracy is foreign for us. We do not share any principle in common with it. Thanks to the facility with which our ancestors could obtain fertile lands on an immense territory, thanks to our laws against the accumulation of hereditary fortunes, almost all our population draws its subsistence from manual or intellectual work. We respect men for their good work; we scorn them for their misdeeds, no matter the merits of their fathers. We honour that one who makes two corn shoots germinate where only one grew before; that one who goes forward and makes the forest disappear in front of his steps. We scorn the idler who vegetates on the land and is satisfied to consume what men better than him have produced. The quite characteristic names of your various trades are more respectable to our eyes than the pompous titles, the oppressive privileges, and the laws against nature based on heredity, all things which were usurped and granted by the sovereigns and recorded at the office of armoury with the futile intention to create two orders of intelligence where nature only made one.

We live in a hemisphere whose destiny is to see democracy being exercised and grow in complete freedom, far from an aristocracy, whose deep roots would exhaust the soil. The rare exotic elements of this tribe that were transplanted from another world fade and disappear from this land which offers no food to their order and on which the words "Equality of Rights" were engraved in eternal types as soon as it emerged from chaos.

The indigenous Masters of the wild regions of America knew neither lords nor kings; they freely chose the most deserving as chief of the council and chief of war. When, fond of freedom, the pilgrims of England approached for the first time the desolated shores of New England, they brought good seeds to a land which was already prepared to receive them and from where they would be propagated and borne fruit. And, although Europe undertook to confine its nations in various parts of this sanctuary, the corruptions which came in their wake disappeared under the intense light of these principles recognized, proclaimed and applied by a group of wise and virtuous democrats who faced and overcame the difficulties of their new colony, not for some reason related to wealth or by thirst for spoils, but to establish on more solid principles the science and the economy of government.

For a long time united to you as subjects of the same sovereign, we too have felt the drying influence of an aristocracy, which, cherished in the Eastern hemisphere, was authorized, for our misfortune, to obstruct the Western hemisphere. Although we are confident that our democratic continent could not remain subjugated for long to a principle so disastrous and contrary to nature, we fear like you that the hereditary veneration towards certain families, the dangerous accumulation of immense fortunes in the hands of a few, and the corrupting practices of a government perverted by the distribution of favours, has so greatly wasted the benefit which the glorious charter of your rights should have given you that, undoubtedly, it will take years before you touch your ancestor's heritage of freedom to enjoy it fully. The accession of a young queen to the throne created an occasion favourable to the renewal of the terms of the social contract and your contract of allegiance. Co-heirs with her of the institutions of your country - this country for whose defense you have poured your blood many times -, you have, by the persevering labour of your daily work, brought this country to the ridge of richness; and now, in the middle of this blinding splendour, the fruit of your untameable energy, one robs you trough unequal and unjust laws, one overburdens you with taxes, depriving to you of the bare essential, in order to insure abundance to an arrogant caste busy to hamper you in its snares, you who work honestly and conscientiously to create and maintain its immense fortune, which is at the same time its quota and the instrument of your political subjection. Although some of your acts, filled with the dignity which the conscience of one's own strength confers, were crowned with success, too often we had the sorrow to see some of your more valorous friends left behind in your recent elections, and a portion of the people behave like indifferent spectators, as consenting auxiliaries or servile mercenaries of one or the other of the aristocratic factions which dispute the privilege to hold you under their yoke, completely indifferent to your interests, except insofar as the reform of an abuse tends to strengthen their own power.

In the free exercise of the privileges which are recognized to us - to defend the dear rights which are guaranteed to us, we have held public meetings in our various counties, as a preliminary step, in order to solemnly protest against an infamous violation of our fundamental powers. Conscious of our strength and our right, we treated with contempt the stupid proclamation emitted by an ignorant governor against such meetings. We hope that this lesson will be understood. We are confident it will prevent, in the future, here like elsewhere, any presumptuous attempt against the prerogatives of the people. We are happy that our prompt response to the attack of the British Parliament against our possessions has gained your approval. Did you consider how enormous is the responsibility which the people of our province are invested with towards all the British Empire? - Never the British cabinet could have had your Parliament adopt a monstrous measure in order to destroy the powers of a democracy, for sole purpose of hastening the payment of some ridiculous civil servants' wages, when this objective could have been achieved by simple and honest ways, if your aristocracy did not weave an impious plot against your own freedoms. One makes Lower Canada the theatre of this experience because it is believed that in spite of the constant abuses or the arbitrary exactions of which it is the victim, the majority of the population, being of French ascent, will not wake any sympathy among the English race which surrounds it.

The conscience of baring this heavy responsibility, far from discouraging us, reinvigorates us, because we know that, from one end to another of the Empire, all the energetic and free minds follow our courageous fight with the greatest of interest - send us their wishes and wish to see us successfully defend the rights of all. For our part, you can be sure of it, we are determined never to subject to the usurping intentions of the ministry - never to live in being an object of derision for the whole world, as a people, more ignorant than slaves being traded, that would let their birth right be taken away, thus creating a precedent so that a similar aggression is perpetrated against the freedoms of their brothers in all the other colonies of the Empire.

Do not believe that, being very few, we fear the consequences of our determination. Nature gave fortified places to our country and valiant hearts to our people. For the hour, the arguments of justice and reason are our weapons. They can easily be replaced by more destructive weapons if the usurpers of our rights continue to have eyes too weak to see and ears too deaf to hear. We do not believe that bands of soldiers from Europe would wage a war of extermination against the democracy of America. They are themselves the children of a democracy which, in the XIXth century, is linked by a community of feelings throughout the civilized world. They know that they are but the blind instruments of a brutal Master, but as moral beings, responsible for their acts in front of God and humanity. On the day of the test, they will throw down the emblems of their cruel works to enter the midst of an American fraternity, instead of lending their contest to criminal intentions against the generous blood of a people which defend the rights of any man.

Daguerrotype of Louis-Joseph Papineau around 1852. Attributed to T.C. Doane

If we address your government on the tone of challenge, it is because we are forced to it. Our objections are neither recent nor new in nature. They were stated publicly and clearly; the mode and measures of redress have been well defined. Since many years, our fellow-citizens reiterate them during public meetings. They presented on this subject humble requests to your Parliament, which, after showing a deaf ear, now adds the aggression to contempt. In similar circumstances, we can appeal without fear to the judgement of the whole world to legitimize our determination to no longer maintain the vain hope of obtaining reparation from overseas and rather to count on our own energy and on the sympathy of our brothers on the American continent, a sympathy which a cause as just as our own cannot fail to inspire.

We did not evoke independence from the British Crown, but we do not forget that the destiny of the continental colonies is to separate from the metropolitan State when the unconstitutional action of a legislative power residing in a remote country is no longer bearable. In this eventuality, the community of interests which should exist between the democracy of the Old World and that of New World will not disappear. If the colonies become the instrument of the corrupted favouritism which is used to shelter and maintain the poorest portion your aristocracy, an excuse to maintain professional armies, to deprive the people of their subsistence in order to pile up stones and mortar to make fortifications out of it, or a pretext to restrict the free movement of your trade, then the separation of those which can be self-sufficient can only give stability to your freedoms and support the prosperity of your nation. See the example of the United States which, in one year, as an independent offspring, contributes more to the honour and the benefit of the motherland that they could have done in centuries of weakness and dependence.

Once again, we thank you for the sympathy which you express towards the Canadian people. It is pleasant to receive similar testimony on behalf of English citizens. You posed a noble gesture: a people being responsible for the acts of their governors, you showed a virile and virtuous determination in letting humanity know that you dissociate yourselves from the hugeness which are attempting to commit those on whose actions you have, alas for yourselves and us too, no control. Whatever the result of your noble patriotism and your generous abnegation, we are sure that your children will be better armed against your dominating oligarchy than you personally were at the time of entering life.

We wish, via our association, to proclaim that, no matter the way which we will be constrained to follow, we hold nothing against the people of England. We only fight against the aggressions of her tyrannical oppressors, who are also our own oppressors.

Signed by order and in the name of the Central and Permanent Committee,


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