Fathers of Confederation

[With politics in Canada growing increasingly dysfunctional, Brown renews his call for constitutional change with a novel tactic – citing the 1858 federation dispatch of his Liberal-Conservative opponents, Brown invites his political opponents to agree with their own call for urgent change, and establish a committee to examine the Constitution. For the good of their common country, Brown calls on members to set aside their party allegiances for the good of Canada, and indicates he hopes some independent member will move his motion at the next opening of Parliament. George-Étienne Cartier heckles, “Where is the independent member to be found?” Taking a bow, and to laughter in the House, Brown replies, “I have the honour to be one.”]

Constitutional Difficulties

Hon. Mr. Brown, on the following notice of motion being called – Resolved, That on the 2nd February, 1859, the Hon. G.E. Cartier, the Hon. A.T. Galt, and the Hon. John Rose, then members of the Executive Council of this Province, while in London, and acting on behalf of the Government, of which they were members, did address a dispatch to the Colonial Minister, in which they declared that, “Very grave difficulties now present themselves in conducting the Government of Canada in such a manner as to show due regard to the wishes of its numerous population;” – that “differences exist to an extent which prevents any perfect and complete assimilation of the views of the two sections;” – that “the progress of population has been more rapid in the Western section, and claims are now made on behalf of its inhabitants for giving them representation in the Legislature in proportion to their numbers;” – that “the result is shewn, by an agitation fraught with great danger to the peaceful and harmonious working of our constitutional system, and consequently detrimental to the progress of the Province;” – and that “the necessity of providing a remedy for a state of things that is yearly becoming worse, and of allaying feelings that are daily becoming aggravated by the contention of political parties, has impressed the advisers of Her Majesty’s representative in Canada with the importance of seeking for such a mode of dealing with these difficulties as may forever remove them.” That a Select Committee of thirteen members be appointed to enquire and report on the important subjects embraced in the said Despatch, and the best means of remedying the evils therein set forth,”

Mr. Brown said he had intended on several occasions to bring this motion forward, but such had been the state of political parties throughout the session that he had not felt himself justified in so doing. It was quite clear that the introduction of a motion of this kind at this particular juncture must be attended with great inconvenience, and he had proposed it – not because the subject was not of the highest importance – but because he thought that under the circumstances, a motion of this kind should stand, so long as the question itself sustained no injury thereby.

The position in which the House had found themselves throughout the session was but another proof of the absolute necessity of some means being found for settling those constitutional difficulties which had so long divided the two sections of the Province.

And he was free to say this – that strongly as they had contested on that side of the House throughout the session for the supremacy – that although the Government had carried through with a majority in spite of all the votes of want of confidence – his opinion remained unchanged that it was not convenient or desirable that the present condition of things should continue – that, on the contrary, the strongest efforts should be made to secure a majority in Lower Canada, as well as in Upper Canada.

A VOICE – “Buy them out.”

Hon. Mr. BROWN – The honourable gentleman entirely misapprehended him. There were other ways of obtaining a Lower Canada majority than “buying them out”; and if honourable gentlemen opposite put themselves in the market, desiring to be “bought out,” he (Mr. Brown) protested against it. (Hear, hear, and laughter.)

It was, however, perfectly obvious that the Government had no other course to follow in carrying on the Government than to carry it on, though in a Lower Canada minority. The honourable gentleman who stood at the head of the Government was sustained by a majority, and a majority of hearty supporters, and it was not for him to forsake his post until he could see that a stronger Government might be obtained.

The Government had been in a minority of one section, and he held that every legitimate effort ought to be made in order to obtain a majority from each section. It would be deeply regretted if they thus met Parliament again – if another Session like the present should be held. (Hear, hear, from the Opposition.) It was by no means to be said, however, that the government should be censured for this state of things. On the contrary he did not see how it was possible that they could take any other course than they had done. Still, as he had said before, it was to be regretted that the circumstances were such that the government should be compelled to be carried on without a majority in both sections.

But he might say this, that much as the people of Upper Canada have had to complain of Lower Canada ruling them against their will, he was not in a position to sustain any government who went on continuously and systematically with a Lower Canada minority, until every effort had been made to secure majorities from both sections. (Hear, hear.)

Evidently, some solution must be found for the difficulty, and he thought that the solution was to be found in the motion he now held in his hand. They should all set aside, if they could do so, their party prejudices, and come to the consideration of the question with an earnest desire for its settlement. The position they had found themselves in this session was such as to render it impossible for them to approach it in the temper desirable to be exhibited towards it; but he hoped that at the opening of another Session either that or a similar resolution would be moved by the government or by some independent member.

Hon. Mr. CARTIER – Where is the independent member to be found?

Hon. Mr. BROWN (with a bow) – I have the honour to be one. (Laughter.) With these remarks, I will withdraw the motion for the present; but with the distinct understanding that it will be brought forward again at the opening of next Session.