Report from the Select Committee on the Civil Government of Canada

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The Report

The Select Committee appointed to inquire into the State of the Civil Government of Canada, as established by the Act Geo. III. and to report their Observations thereupon to the House; and to whom several PETITIONS for an alteration in the present Government were referred; - Have examined the Matters to them referred, and agreed to the following REPORT:

Your Committee began their investigation into the State of the Civil Government of Canada, by examining the several Petitions from the Inhabitants of the two Provinces, which had been referred to them by the House. The Petitions from the Townships of the Lower Province, signed by above 10,000 persons, complain of the want of Courts within their own limits, and of the administration of French Law in the French Language; that they are without Representation in the House of Assembly in Lower Canada, and the Emigrants of British origin have been deterred from settling in the Province; and finally, they pray that a legislative Union may take place between Upper and Lower Canada.

Your Committee then proceeded to examine the Petition signed by about 87,000 Inhabitants of Lower Canada, resident within the Seigneuries, who complain of arbitrary conduct on the part of the Governor of the Province; of his having applied Public Money without legal appropriation; of violent prorogations and dissolutions of the Provincial Parliament; and of having prevented the passing of many useful Acts, which they enumerate. They complain also, that a Receiver-General had been maintained in the exercise of his functions for some years after his insolvency was known to this Government; that similar abuses had prevailed with respect to the office of Sheriff. And it is further stated, that the rights of the Petitioners had been injured by Acts of the Imperial Parliament, particularly by the Canada Trade Act, and the Act passed in the Sixth year of His Majesty's reign, c. 59, affecting to the Tenures of Land.

For further knowledge of the grievances complained of, your Committee beg leave to refer to the Petitions, which will be found in the Appendix.

Before your Committee proceeds to explain, or to discuss these important subjects, they think it their duty to state that Petitions from the Province of Upper Canada were also referred to their consideration; the prayer of which Petitions is, that the Proceeds arising from the sale of certain Lands, set apart for a Protestant Clergy, may not be applied solely to the use of the Clergy of the Church of England, (the adherents to which throughout the Province they state, in contradiction of the representations of Archdeacon Strachan, to be comparatively few in number), but that they may be applied to the maintenance of the Protestant Clergymen of other denominations, and to the purposes of general Education.

As these Petitions appear to comprehend the most material subjects that have of late agitated the Provinces of Upper and Lower Canada, Your Committee thought the best course they could pursue was to examine witnesses as to each Petition in succession; and in communicating to the House the information they have received, and the opinions they have been induced to form as to the Civil Government of Canada, they will treat of the different subjects, as much as possible, in the order in which they were investigated.

Tenures of Land in Lower Canada

Your Committee proceeded to examine into the system of Law established in Lower Canada, to which their attention was particularly drawn by the Petition from the Townships. Your Committee have examined evidence in great detail on this subject; from which they collect, that uncertainty has long existed on points of law relating to the Tenure of Real Property in that portion of the Province. It appears that shortly after the cession of the Province, the King of England, in a Proclamation dated the 7th of October 1763, (which will be found in Appendix,) declared, amongst other things, that "all the Inhabitants of the Province, and all others resorting to it, might confide in His Royal protection for enjoying the benefit of the Laws of England;" and he announced that he had "given commands for the erection of Courts of Judicature, with an appeal to His Majesty in Council."

In the year 1774 the first Act of Parliament was passed, making provisions for the better government of this part of the British dominions. By this Act the English Criminal Law was preserved. But it was enacted, "that in all matters of controversy relative to property and civil rights, resort should be had to the Laws of Canada as the rule and decision of the same; and all causes that should thereafter be established in every Court of Justice, to be appointed within the Province, should, with respect to such property and rights, be determined agreeably to the said Laws and Customs of Canada." There is, however, one marked exception to this concession of the French Law, namely, "that it should not apply to Lands which had been or should be granted in free and common soccage."

After and interval of seventeen years this Act was followed by the Constitutional Act of 1791. The provisions of this important Act have no bearing upon the subject under our consideration, excepting that it provides, with respect to Lower Canada, that Lands shall be granted in free and common soccage, if so desired: and further, that such Grants shall be subject to such alteration as to the nature and consequences of Soccage Tenure as may be made by the Provincial Legislature, and with His Majesty's approbation and assent; but no such alteration has been made.

On examining into the application of those provisions in the Province, it appears not only that doubts have existed as to the true interpretation of them, but that the general practice of the Colony has been to convey real property within the Townships according to the Canadian forms, and that it has descended and been subject to the incidents of that law. In the year 1826 the British Parliament passed and Act, which put its own interpretation of these Statutes beyond the reach of further dispute. This Act, commonly called the Canada Tenure Act, declared that the law of England was the rule by which real property within the Townships was to be hereafter regulated and administered. In offering any recommendations on points of so much difficulty and importance, Your Committee are fully aware of the disadvantages under which they labour, and of their inability, from their want of sufficient technical and local information, to enter for any useful purpose into minute and intricate details. They do not however decline to offer as their opinion, that it would be advantageous that the declaratory enactment in the Tenures Act, respecting lands held in free and common soccage, should be retained; that mortgages should be special, and that in proceedings for the conveyance of land the simplest and least expensive forms of conveyance should be adopted, upon the principles of the law of England, that form which prevails in Upper Canada being probably, under all circumstances, the best which could be selected; that a registration of deeds relating to soccage lands should be established as in Upper Canada.

Your Committee are further of opinion, that means should be found of bringing into effective operation the clause in the Tenures Act which provides for the mutation of tenures, and they entertain no doubt of the inexpediency of retaining seigneurial rights of the Crown, in the hope of deriving a profit from them. The sacrifice on the part of the Crown would be trifling, and would bear no proportion to the benefit that would result to the Colony from such a succession.

In addition to these recommendations it appears to be desirable, that some competent jurisdiction should be established to try and decide causes arising out of this description of property, and that Circuit Courts should be instituted within the Townships for the same purposes.

The Committee cannot too strongly express their opinion, that Canadians of French extraction should in no degree be disturbed in the peaceful enjoyment of their religion, laws and privileges, as secured to them by the British Acts of Parliament; and so far from requiring them to hold lands on the British tenure, they think that when the lands in the Seigneuries are fully occupied, if the descendants of the original settlers shall still retain their preference to the tenure of Fief et Seigneurie, they see no objection to other portions of unoccupied lands in that Province being granted to them on that tenure, provided that such lands are apart from, and not intermixed with, the Townships.

Representative System of Lower Canada

Your Committee are now desirous of adverting to the Representative System of Lower Canada, with respect to which all parties seem to agree that some change should take place; to this branch of their inquiry they are desirous of recalling to the recollection of the House, that under the provisions of the Act of 1791, the division of the Province, for the purpose of exercising the elective franchise, was entrusted to the Governor; and it appears that Sir Allured Clarke took the numerical amount of the population as the sole basis on which his calculations were formed, and divided into counties as much land as was found to contain a given number of inhabitants; on the thickly-peopled banks of the Saint Lawrence a small district was found to suffice, while in the more distant parts vast territories were comprehended in one county, in order to obtain the required amount of population; thus it happens that the counties of Kent, Surrey, Montreal, Leinster and Warwick, do not, altogether, equal in extent the single county of Buckinghamshire; the small counties too are composed wholly of lands holden as Seigneuries. A Bill actually passed the Assembly, the object of which was to increase the number of the Representative Assembly. This Bill did not become a law; and it appears to have been founded upon the same principle, and to have involved the same error, as the original arrangement by Sir Allured Clarke. It has been stated by one of the witnesses, that under the proposed division a disproportionate increase would have been given to the Representatives from the Seigneuries.

In providing a representative system for the inhabitants of a country which is gradually comprehending within its limits newly peopled and extensive districts, great imperfections must necessarily arise from proceeding, in the first instance, on the basis of population only. In Upper Canada a representative system has been founded on the compound basis of territory and population. This principle we think might be advantageously adopted in Lower Canada.

One of the obstacles which is said greatly to impede the improvement of the country, is the practice of making grants of Land in large masses to individuals who have held official situations in the Colony, and who have evaded the conditions in the grant by which they were bound to provide for its cultivation, and now wholly neglect it. Although powers have been lately acquired by the Government to estreat these lands, and although we think that under certain modifications this power may be advantageously used, we are nevertheless of opinion that a system should be adopted similar to that in Upper Canada, by the levy of a small annual duty on lands remaining unimproved and unoccupied contrary to the conditions of the grant.

Constitutional Matters in Lower Canada

It now becomes the duty of Your Committee to advert to the Petitions signed by the Inhabitants of the Seigneuries. On the important subjects contained in them, they thought it right to call for explanation from Mr. Neilson, Mr. Viger, Mr. Cuvillier, Members of the Assembly of Lower Canada, who had been deputed to this country for the purpose of seeking redress for the injuries complained by the Petitioners.

From the testimony of these gentlemen they have learned, with the deepest regret, that the disputes which have arisen between the Government and the House of Assembly, originating (as they appears to have done) in doubts as to the right of appropriating and accounting for a considerable portion of the Public Revenues, have led to a state of confusion and difficulty in the administration of public affairs in that Colony, which calls for an early and decisive remedy.

With a view to understand accurately the grounds of this dispute, the Committee have carefully examined into the different sources of Revenue arising in Lower Canada, and they have examined also the public documents, which have enabled them to trace the successive steps which have been taken by the contending parties in these disputes. Your Committee beg leave to refer to the evidence of Mr. Neilson, and of Mr. Wilmot Horton, for a detailed account of the origin and progress of these differences.

Upon this important subject Your Committee have felt that they should not do wisely in confining their views to a critical examination of the precise meaning of the words of the different statutes. They look rather to the circumstances of Lower Canada, to the spirit of its constitution, to the position and character of the local Government, and the powers, privileges, and duties of the two branches of the Legislature. Although, from the opinion given by the law officers of the Crown, Your Committee must conclude that the legal right of appropriating the revenues arising from the Act of 1774 is vested in the Crown, they are prepared to say that the real interests of the Provinces would be best promoted by placing the receipt and expenditure of the whole Public Revenue under the superintendence and control of the House of Assembly.

On the other hand Your Committee, while recommending such a concession on the part of the Crown, are strongly impressed with the advantage of rendering the Governor, the Members of the Executive Council, and the Judges, independent of the annual votes of the House of Assembly for their respective salaries.

Your Committee are fully aware of the objections in principle which may be fairly raised against the practice of voting permanent salaries to Judges, who are removable at the pleasure of the Crown; but being convinced that it would be inexpedient that the Crown should be deprived of that power of removal, and having well considered the public inconvenience which might result from their being left in dependence upon an annual vote of the Assembly, they have decided to make the recommendation, in their instance, of a permanent vote of salary.

Although Your Committee are aware that the grant of permanent salaries has been recommended to a much greater number of persons connected wit the Executive Government than they have included in their recommendation, they have no hesitation in expressing their opinion that it is unnecessary to include so large a number; and if the officers above enumerated are placed on the footing recommended, they are of opinion that all the revenues of the Province, (except the territorial and hereditary revenues,) should be placed under the control and direction of the Legislative Assembly.

Your Committee cannot close their observations on this branch of their inquiry without calling the attention of the House to the important circumstance, that in the progress of these disputes the local Government has thought it necessary, through a long series of years, to have recourse to a measure, (which nothing but the most extreme necessity could justify,) of annually appropriating, by its own authority, large sums of the money of the Province, amounting to no less a sum than £.140,000, without the consent of the Representatives of the People, under whose control the appropriation of these sums is placed by the constitution.

Your Committee cannot but express their deepest regret that such a state of things should have been allowed to exist for so many years in a British Colony, without any communication or reference having been made to Parliament on the subject.

Upon the several points referred to Your Committee, connected with the Office of Receiver-General, of the Sheriffs, and of the Jesuits Estate, Your Committee proceeded to examine evidence upon each. The facts of the case, as regard the Receiver-General, Mr. Caldwell, are detailed in Mr. Neilson's evidence. Mr. Caldwell was defaulter in 1823 for £.96,000 of the public money of the Province. Upon an examination of his accounts by the House of Assembly, no acquittal could be traced from Treasury of a later date than 1814, though some balances were stated up to 1819; and it appeared by documents then produced, that the fact of his deficiency was known for a considerable time before he was suspended.

Your Committee recommend for the future, that steps should be taken, by efficient securities, and by regular audit of the accounts, to prevent the recurrence of similar losses and inconveniences to the Province.

As connected with this branch of the inquiry, Your Committee recommend, that precautions of the same nature should be adopted with regard to the Sheriffs; as it appears that within a few years two instances of the insolvency of these officers have occurred while possessed, in virtue of their office, of large sums of money, deposited in their hands.

With respect to the estates which formerly belonged to the Jesuits, Your Committee lament that they have not more full information; but it appears to them to be desirable that the proceeds should be applied to the purposes of general education.

One of the most important subjects to which their inquiries have been directed has been the state of the Legislative Councils in both the Canadas, and the manner in which these Assemblies have answered the purposes for which they were instituted. Your Committee strongly recommend, that a more independent character should be given to these bodies; that the majority of their Members should not consist of persons holding offices at the pleasure of the Crown; and that any other measures that may tend to connect more intimately this branch of the constitution with the interest of the Colonies would be attended with the greatest advantage. With respect to the Judges, with the exception only of the Chief Justice, whose presence on particular occasions might be necessary, Your Committee entertain no doubt that they had better not be involved in the political business of the House. Upon similar grounds in appears to Your Committee, that it is not desirable that Judges should hold seats in the Executive Council.

Your Committee are desirous of recording the principle which, in their judgement, should be applied to any alterations in the constitution of the Canadas, which were imparted to them under the formal Act of the British Legislature of 1791. That principle is to limit the alterations which it may be desirable to make by any future British Act, as far as possible, to such points as, from the relation between the mother country and the Canadas, can only be disposed of by the paramount authority of the British Legislature; and they are of opinion that all other changes should, if possible, be carried into effect by the local Legislatures themselves, in amicable communication with the local Government.

Upon the great question of the Union of the two Canadas, Your Committee have received much evidence, to which they desire to call the attention of the House. With reference to the state of public feeling that appears to prevail in these Colonies on this momentous subject, Your Committee are not prepared, under present circumstances, to recommend that measure.

Your Committee nevertheless think it highly desirable that some satisfactory arrangement, (and if possible one of a permanent nature,) should be effected between the two Canadas with regard to the imposition and distribution of the Customs collected in the St. Lawrence. They trust, however, when the heats which so unfortunately exist shall have subsided, that such an arrangement may be amicably effected.

Clergy Reserves in Upper Canada

It now remains for us to lay before the House the result of our inquiries into the Clergy Reserves, which appear, by the statements of the Petitioners from Upper Canada, to be the cause of much anxiety and dissatisfaction in that Province. By the Act of 1791 the Governor is directed to make, from and out of the lands of the Crown within such Provinces, such allotment and appropriation of lands for the support and maintenance of a Protestant Clergy within the same, as may bear a due proportion to the amount of such lands within the same, as have at any time been granted by or under any authority of His Majesty. And it is further provided, that such lands so alloted and appropriated shall be, as nearly as the circumstances and nature of the case will admit, of the like quality as the lands in respect of which the same are so allotted and appropriated; and shall be, as nearly as the same may be estimated at the time of making such grant, equal in value to the seventh part of the lands so granted.

The directions thus given have been strictly carried into effect, and the result is, that the separate portions of land which have been thus reserved are scattered over the whole of the districts already granted.

It was no doubt expected by the framers of this Act, that as the other six parts of the land granted were improved and cultivated, the reserved part would produce a rent, and that out of the profits thus realized an ample fund might be established for the maintenance of a Protestant Clergy. These anticipations, however, have not as yet been, and do not appear likely to be, soon realized. Judging indeed, by all the information the Committee could obtain on this subject, they entertain no doubt that these reserved lands, as they are at present distributed over the country, retard more than any other circumstance the improvement of the Colony, lying as they do in detached portions in each Township, and intervening between the occupations of actual settlers, who have no means of cutting roads through the woods and morasses which thus separate them from their neighbours. The allotment of those portions of reserved wilderness has, in fact, done much more to diminish the value of the six parts granted to these settlers, than the improvement of their allotments has done to increase the value of the reserve. This we think must be apparent from the results of the attempts which have been made to dispose of these lands. A corporation has been formed within the Province consisting of the Clergy of the Church of England, who have been empowered to grant leases of those lands for a term not exceeding 21 years. It appears that in the Lower Province alone, the total quantity of Clergy Reserves is 488,594 acres, of which 75,689 acres are granted on leases, the terms of which are, that for every lot of 200 acres 8 bushels of wheat, or 25s. per annum, shall be paid for the first seven years; 16 bushels of 50s. per annum, shall be paid for the next seven years; and 24 bushels, or 75s. per annum, for the last seven years. Under these circumstances the nominal rent of the Clergy Reserves is £.930 per annum. The actual receipt for the average of the last three years has been only £.50 per annum. The great difference between the nominal and the net receipt is to be accounted for by the great difficulty of collecting rents, and by tenants absconding. We are informed also, that the resident Clergy act as local agents in collecting the rents, that a sum of £.175 had been deducted for the expenses of management, and that at the date of the last communication on this subject £.250 remained in the hands of the Receiver-General, being the gross produce of the whole revenue of an estate of 488,594 acres.

An attempt has been made to dispose of this estate by sale. The Canada Company, established by the Act 6 Geo. IV. c. 75, agreed to purchase a large portion of these reserves at a price to be fixed by commissioners. 3s. 6d. per acre was the price estimated, and at this sum an unwillingness was expressed on the part of the Church to dispose of the lands.

The Government therefore have made arrangements with the Company, and an Act has since been passed authorizing the sale of these lands to any person desiring to purchase them, provided the quantity sold does not exceed 100,000 acres each year.

As Your Committee entertain no doubt that the reservation of these lands in mortmain is a serious obstacle to the improvement of the Colony, they think every proper exertion should b e made to place them in the hands of persons who will perform upon them the duties of settlement, and bring them gradually into cultivation.

That their value, whatever it may be, must be applied to the maintenance of a Protestant Clergy, there can be no doubt. And Your Committee regret that there is no prospect, as far as a present and succeeding generation is concerned, of their produce being sufficient for that object, in a country where wholly unimproved land is granted in fee for almost nothing to persons willing to settle on it. It is hardly to be expected that, wit the exception of some favoured allotments, responsible tenants will be found who will hold on lease, or that purchasers of such land will be found at more than a nominal price.

Your Committee, however, are happy to find that a principle of the progressive sale of these lands has already been sanctioned by an Act of the British Parliament. They cannot avoid recommending in the strongest manner the propriety of securing for the future any provision which may be deemed necessary for the religious wants of the community in those Provinces, by other means than by a reservation of one-seventh of the land, according to the enactment of the Act of 1791. They would also observe that equal objections exist to the reservation of that seventh, which in practice appears to be reserved for the benefit of the Crown; and doubtless the time must arrive when these reserved lands will have acquired a considerable value from the circumstance of their being surrounded by settled districts, but that value will have been acquired at the expense of the real interest of this Province, and will operate to retard that course of general improvement which is the true source of national wealth. Your Committee are of opinion therefore, that it may be well for the Government to consider whether these lands cannot be permanently alienated, subject to some fixed moderated reserve payment, (either in money or in grain, as may be demanded,) to arise after the first 10 or 15 years of occupation. They are not prepared to do more than offer this suggestion, which appears to them to be worthy of more careful investigation than it is in their power to give to it; but in this or in some such mode they are fully persuaded the lands thus reserved ought without delay to be permanently disposed of.

To a property at once so large and so unproductive, it appears that there are numerous claimants.

The Act of 1791 directs that the profits arising from this source shall be applied to a Protestant Clergy; doubts have arisen whether the Act requires the Government to confine them to the use of the Church of England only, or to allow the Church of Scotland to participate in them. The law officers of the Crown have given an opinion in favour of the rights of the Church of Scotland to such participation, in which Your Committee entirely concur; but the question has also been raised, whether the clergy of every denomination of Christians, except Roman Catholics, may not be included; it is not for your Committee to express an opinion on the exact meaning which the words of the Act legally convey. They entertain no doubt, however, that the intention of those persons who brought forward the measure in Parliament was to endow with parsonage houses and glebe lands the clergy of the Church of England, at the discretion of the local Government; but with respect to the distribution of the proceeds of the reserved lands generally, they are of the opinion that they sought to reserve to the Government the right to apply the money, if they so thought fit, to any Protestant Clergy.

The Committee see little reason to hope that the annual income to be derived from this source is likely, within any time to which they can look forward, to amount to a sufficient sum to provide for the Protestant Clergy of these Provinces; but they venture to press the early consideration of this subject on His Majesty's Government, with a view to an adjustment that may be satisfactory of the Province, of the principle on which the proceeds from these lands are hereafter to be applied; and in deciding on the just and prudent application of these funds, the Government will necessarily be influenced by the state of the population, as to the religious opinions, at the period when the decision is to be taken. At present it is certain that the adherents of the Church of England constitute but a small minority in the Province of Upper Canada. On the part of the Scotch Church, claims have been strongly urged on account of its establishment in the empire, and from the numbers of its adherents in the Province. With regard to the other religious sects, the Committee have found much difficulty in ascertaining the exact numerical proportions which they bear one to the other; but the evidence has led them to believe, that neither the adherents of the Church of England nor those of the Church of Scotland form the most numerous religious body within the Province of Upper Canada.

The attention of the Committee having been drawn to the establishment of the University of King's College, at York, in Upper Canada, they thought it their duty to examine the charter granted to that college; that charter was granted under the great seal, and it is to be observed, that it does not impose on the students an obligation to subscribe to the Thirty-nine Articles, which was done in the case of the other North American Colleges. Your Committee find it provided, amongst other arrangements, for the conduct and government of this institution, that the Archdeacon of York for the time being shall, by virtue of his office, at all times be President of the said College.

It is further ordained, that there shall be within the said College or Corporation a Council, to be called and known by the name of the College Council, which shall consist of the Chancellor, the President, and of seven Professors in Arts and Faculties of the said College; and that such said Professors shall be members of the Established Church of England and Ireland, and shall, previously to their admission, sign and subscribe the Thirty-nine Articles of religion. To this Council the whole government of the College is confided. Of the great advantage which the establishment of a college for the purpose of general education in Upper Canada is likely to confer upon the Province, Your Committee entertain the strongest conviction; they lament only that the institution should be so constituted as materially to diminish the extent to which it might be useful.

It cannot, they think, be doubted, as the guidance and government of the College is to be vested in the hands of the members of the Church of England, that in the election of Professors a preference would inevitably be shown to persons of that persuasion; and in a country where only a small proportion of the inhabitants adhere to that church, a suspicion and jealously of religious interference would necessarily be created.

For these and other reasons the Committee are desirous of stating their opinion, that great benefit would accrue to the Province by changing the constitution of this body. They think that two Theological Professors should be established, one of the Church of England and another of the Church of Scotland, (whose lectures the respective candidates for holy orders should be required to attend); but that with respect to the President, Professors, and all others connected with the College, no religious test whatever should be required.

That in the selection of Professors no rule should be followed, and no other object sought than nomination of the most learned and discreet persons; and that (with exception of the Theological Professors) they should be required to sign a declaration, that, as far as it was necessary for them to advert in their lectures to religious subjects, they would distinctly recognize the truth of the Christian Revelation, but would abstain altogether from inculcating particular doctrines.

Though Your Committee have now disposed of the most important subjections of their inquiry, they are aware that on an examination of the Petitions, and of the Evidence, many other matters will appear entitled to consideration.

The Committee think it necessary also to observe, that the evidence from Upper Canada has not been equally ample and satisfactory with that which they have had the advantage of receiving from the Lower Province. Your Committee, however, are desirous of directing the attention of Government to the Sedition Act, (should it not be found to have expired,) the repeal of which appears to have been long the object of the efforts of the House of Assembly of Upper Canada.

Your Committee also beg leave to call the particular attention of the Government to the mode in which Juries are composed in the Canadas, with a view to remedy any defects that may be found to exist in the present system.

Your Committee lament that the late period of the Session in which they were appointed has rendered a minute investigation into all parts of the subject submitted to their inquiry impossible. They believe too, that if the Legislative Assemblies and the Executive Government of Canada, can be put on a right footing, that means will be found within the Province of remedying all minor grievances. They are disposed nevertheless to recommend that the prayer of the Lower Canadians for permission to appoint an agent in the same manner as agents are appointed by other colonies which possess local legislatures, should be granted, and that a similar privilege should be extended to Upper Canada, if that Colony should desire it.

At an early period of their investigation, Your Committee perceived that their attention must be directed to two distinct branches of inquiry:

-1st. To what degree the embarrassments and discontents which have long prevailed in the Canadas, had arisen from defects in the system of laws and the constitutions established in these Colonies.
-2d. How far those evils were to be attributed to the manner in which the existing system has been administered.

Your Committee have clearly expressed their opinion that serious defects were to be found in that system, and have ventured to suggest several alterations that have appeared to them to be necessary or convenient. They also fully admit that from these, as well as from other circumstances, the task of Government in these Colonies, (and especially in the Lower Province,) has not been an easy one; but they feel it their duty to express their opinion that it is to the second of the causes alluded to that these embarrassments and discontents are in great measure to be traced. They are most anxious to record their complete conviction that neither the suggestions they have presumed to make, nor any other improvements in the laws and constitution of the Canadas, will be attended with the desired effect, unless an impartial, conciliatory and constitutional system of Government be observed in these loyal and important Colonies.

Your Committee had closed their Inquiry, and were proceeding to consider their Report, when it became their duty to enter into further evidence upon a Petition referred to them by the House, and signed by the Agents who had brought to this country the Petition of 87,000 Inhabitants of Lower Canada, of which mention has been made in a former part of their Report.

This Petition, and the evidence by which it is supported, contain the most grave allegations against the administration of Lord Dalhousie since the period at which those Gentlemen left the Colony.

Those complaints consist chiefly of the dismissal of many officers of the militia for the constitutional exercise of their civil rights; of the sudden and extensive remodelling of the commission of the peace, to serve (as it is alleged) political purposes; of a vexatious system of prosecutions for libel at the instance of the Attorney-General, and of the harsh and unconstitutional spirit in which these prosecutions have been conducted.

Your Committee have hitherto felt that they should best and most usefully discharge their duty by studiously abstaining from commenting upon the official conduct of individuals; but it is impossible for them not to call the serious and immediate attention of His Majesty's Government to these allegations.

Your Committee also feel bound to urge upon His Majesty's Government, in the most especial manner, their opinion, that it is necessary that a strict and instant inquiry should take place into all the circumstances attending these prosecutions, with a view to giving such instructions upon them as shall be consistent with justice and policy.

Your Committee learn, with the greatest concern, that disputes have lately arisen in Upper Canada between the local Government and the House of Assembly, which have lead to the abrupt termination of the Session of the Legislature of that Colony.

22 July 1828.

Minutes of Evidence

(p. 11 to 328)


(p. 329 to 377)


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