[Brown’s non-partisan strategy comes to a head, as he calls a debate on his motion to establish a cross-party committee to study the constitution, citing the Liberal-Conservative federation memorandum of 1858. “He stood here as an independent member – as a thoroughly independent member,” Brown declares. At this date, Macdonald, Cartier, and Galt remain opposed to the Brown initiative. But in a surprise vote, Brown would secure his committee, setting in train events that would lead to confederation.
“He would fain believe that they had reached that point when the question of the great difference between the population of Upper and Lower Canada could be approached without party feelings being excited – that political feeling upon it had so far subsided as to enable every honourable gentlemen to see that it was absolutely necessary that we should have all causes of variance between the two sections removed – that the time had come when they could approach a question like this with a degree of harmony that they never could bring to its consideration in former times.”]
BROWN moved that it be 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.
Honourable Mr. BROWN, in moving the above, said that during the debate on the Address, an honourable gentleman opposite made a remark in regard to the position which he held on the subject of Representation according to Population. He did not then make any reply, because, in the first place, de did not think it of any great moment that he should justify his course of conduct. It mattered very little whether he was consistent or not, or whether other advocates of the principle were consistent or not. The great matter was the merit of the question itself, altogether apart from the position which individuals may hold upon it. With regard to himself he had very little fear of being misunderstood in the country, however much he might be misunderstood or maligned in the House.
Another reason why he made no reply at that time was that he was about to bring forward this resolution, and he thought it would be exceedingly undesirable to call up any party feelings in relation to it. He would fain believe that they had reached that point when the question of the great difference between the population of Upper and Lower Canada could be approached without party feelings being excited – that political feeling upon it had so far subsided as to enable every honourable gentleman to see that it was absolutely necessary that we should have all causes of variance between the two sections removed – that the time had come when they could approach a question like this with a degree of harmony that they never could bring to its consideration in former times. He had sought to bring the subject before the House in the least objectionable form. He did not now bring forward a proposition of his own, but appeared as a defender of the policy that was enunciated by his honourable friends on the opposite side of the House – the Hon. Mr. Cartier and the Hon. John Ross. (Hear, hear.) He determined that he would take ground that could not be assailed – that was perfectly indisputable – that both sides of the House had agreed to. He would ask his honourable friends opposite to take that course now that they considered it desirable to take five years ago. Honourable gentlemen would please observe the clear, unmistakeable and incontestable grounds on which his honourable friends based their appeal, and the comprehensive manner in which they approached the subject. He was sure there was no honourable gentleman on the floor of the House who would not subscribe to every one of the propositions. The honourable gentlemen composing the deputation spoke not for themselves only, but for the whole Cabinet and for the country. There never was wiser, or more sound and patriotic advice given by Ministers of the Crown than was given by His Excellency’s advisers upon this subject, in the words he had quoted.
Hon. Mr. CARTIER – That is the first time you have ever said so – the first time you ever gave us credit for sound advice.
Hon. Mr. BROWN replied that he could on that account say it with the more force now. And he could say it with all his heart. If he had been unable to give the honourable gentleman’s late Government credit for what good actions they might have performed upon other subjects, he had always given them credit for their bold and manly enunciations on this, and he had been sorry that the Government of his honourable friend from Kingston had not carried the question to a practical result. He asked no more, at present, by his motion than that a committee should be appointed to consider the great propositions which the honourable gentlemen had laid down in 1859, when acting in the responsible position of sworn advisers of the Crown.
Some honourable gentlemen might be of opinion that there was not sufficient ground for the advice tendered to His Excellency at that period. Well, he was fully prepared to shew that the advice was most wise, and that the positions taken were perfectly indisputable. It must be observed that the advice referred to was given in 1858, when they had nothing later than the census of 1851-2 to guide them and substantiate their positions. But we now had the census of 1861, which showed that the population of Upper Canada had gained very largely upon that of Lower Canada, and that if the statements alluded to were true in 1859, they were doubly true in 1864. They said that at that time there was a grave disparity between the population of the two sections respectively, and that it was necessary that the evils growing out of that disparity should be provided for by a fair representation on the floor of that House. By the census of 1861, the population of Upper Canada was shewn to be 1,396,091, while that of Lower Canada was but 1,111,566, making a majority in the Upper section of 284,525. Three years had elapsed since that census was taken, and at the same ratio of increase as that exhibited during the previous nine years – Upper Canada 4 ½ per cent. and Lower Canada 2 ½ per cent. – the difference must now be 383,181. (Hear, hear.) But the ratio of the previous nine years was not a fair one, he thought, to apply to the past three years, for it was well known that the population of Upper Canada had increased at a much greater ratio during the past few years, in many of the western counties, than for many years before.
Some honourable gentlemen had given it as their opinion that Lower Canada would eventually settle the question by such an increase of her population as would give a reasonable prospect of an equality, being eventually obtained. (Hear, hear.) No one would be more rejoiced if a solution were arrived at in that way than himself, and if Lower Canada obtained a preponderance, he would be quite willing to accord her a proportional increase of her representation. But there was no prospect whatever that the question would ever be settled in that way. At the time of the last apportionment of members, the ratio was a member for every fifteen thousand of a population, and taking that basis, Upper Canada was now entitled to twenty-six more members than Lower Canada; but at the present proportion, in Lower Canada, of members to population, the Western section would be entitled to a preponderance of twenty members.
It was a proposition that could not be disputed, that the 382,000 Upper Canadians ought to have some representation on the floor of the House. That large number of the people of his section of the Province was practically disfranchised. The relative amount of taxation borne by the two sections, also, carried with it a very strong argument in favour of some change. (Hear, hear.)
He might proceed to analyse the Public Accounts, page after page, and shew that a very large preponderance of the whole taxation was borne by the people of Upper Canada. Very fortunately, however, it was not necessary for him to do that. He could stand on the doctrines enunciated by honourable gentlemen opposite. The honourable member for Montreal East [Cartier], when addressing his constituents in Vercheres, had alleged that Upper Canada paid two-thirds of the entire taxation of the province. That was in 1855, and nearly ten years had since passed, making a greater disparity than formerly, as he had shewn, in the population, and increasing the proportion of the taxation. He (the speaker) was not satisfied that, even at that time, Upper Canada did not pay for more than two-thirds of the taxation, but he was willing to take that figure for argument’s sake. The honourable member for Kingston had also declared that his section of the country paid two-thirds of the taxation. He would put it to the people of Lower Canada whether, in case they had a preponderance of 383,000 of population, and paid two-thirds of the taxation, they would quietly submit, without a murmur or an effort, to be deprived of the increased representation to which they would thereby be entitled.
Mr. PERRAULT. – The honourable gentleman ought to remember that we were in that position once.
Mr. BROWN replied that he never approved of that state of things, and if he had been in Parliament he would undoubtedly have been found advocating Representation according to Population. He asked no more for Upper Canada than he was willing to concede to Lower Canada, if the tables were turned. But the lesser representation of Lower Canada after the Union, in proportion to population, was a matter of Imperial policy with which the colonists had nothing to do.
But all the disadvantage that Lower Canada laboured under at that time had been more than repaid, long ago. In 1847 the population of Upper Canada passed that of Lower Canada. The latter had the disadvantage of an undue representation, to a slight extent, for seven years, but Upper Canada had now borne a greatly augmented injustice for seventeen years. For all that time Upper Canada had not only been deprived of proper representation, but had borne the heavy end of the taxation. Oh, but, it is said, the Union inherited a heavy debt from Upper Canada. But the surplus of the taxation paid by Upper Canada had more than paid the interest of that debt, so that Lower Canada had not suffered in the slightest degree from the Union on that account.
He did not complain of the paying of a larger amount than one-half of the taxes. On the contrary, the people of Upper Canada were quite willing to pay in proportion to their population and their wealth, but they could not be expected to endure being kept constantly in a position of disadvantage – deprived of the right to an equal representation, according to their population, or wealth, with Lower Canadians. He did not wish to base this great question on pounds, shillings and pence, but this consideration came up incidentally. There had been a measure recently to increase the revenue from excise duties, and the taxation apportioned to Upper Canada was $578,231; to Lower Canada, $192,931. But although this proportion was so great, the people of Upper Canada id not complain of that; they complained that they had no equitable representation in the parliament of this Province.
Some remedy must be found for this state of things; for he was no statesman, no friend of the Province at large, no friend of Lower Canada who endeavoured to avoid the settlement of this question. He might show that with regard to industry and exports Upper Canada was decidedly in advance of Lower Canada. IN the matter of wheat, for instance, he found that in 1861, the Upper Province was credited for twenty-four millions bushels, and the Lower Province for two millions six hundred and fifty-four thousand bushels – that was to say, twenty-four millions to two. The proportion in other agricultural products was largely in favour of the Upper Province. In Upper Canada there were nine million bushels of peas to show against two in Lower Canada; in oats the Upper Province was the greatest producer, and in butter could show twenty-four millions against fourteen.
Now, whether as regard population, taxation, or exports, he affirmed that the people of Upper Canada were far in advance of Lower Canada; and he would also assert that the inhabitants of the Upper Province were placed in a most injurious and in a most unfair position, when they were asked to be consistent with the present number of representatives on the floor of this House. The people of the Upper Province asked no more than Lower Canada on account of bearing heavier taxes, on account of larger industrial products, but on the ground of population they felt they were entitled to representation on a more extended scale. This was the sole reference on which he intended to make this a sectional question, and he regretted it was necessary to go that length.
He would not wish to call attention to the position of this question in a united point of view. There – for instance – was the honourable member for Huron and Bruce, sitting as the representative of 79,455 souls, while there were no fewer than ten members of this House sitting for the same population. His friends from Lower Canada thought they could go one with that system; but he would tell them that they laboured under a delusion. To look at it in another light, he would state that there were thirty-nine members sitting here for half the population, and ninety-one for the other half. Could any one state that this was right? He could not conceive that any one would say so. He would recommend the honourable members for Montreal East [Cartier] and Sherbrooke [Galt] to ponder this matter well, to dismiss the question of politics, go into the Committee Room, and have the matter settled once and for all.
If the present state of things were defended on the ground of territory, wealth, education, on family or hereditary grounds he could understand the matter, for their was common sense in all these claims to a certain extent, but there could be no argument for the absurd system we had in force here. Was it because there happened to be an absurd line drawn in 1791, that the present state of things was to continue. Were we to declare that no matter what happened we were to keep up that line, and have always the same state of things exist on either side? A more senseless proceeding he could not conceive, than to argue that a line drawn seventy years ago, was to exist for all time. IF a man went to the United States, or to Europe, and if he were asked what sort of representation we had here, and if he replied that it was regulated by a line drawn in 1791, when the two Provinces were separate, and that they were brought into union on the same conditions, he would be laughed at. There could be no doubt that such a state of things would be laughed to scorn in any other country, where people knew any of the details of true institutions.
Were any argument necessary to sustain his motion, it was the position in which parties were found at the present moment. Nothing could show more clearly the necessity for some change in our system of representation than the position of parties in the Province at the present time. It had been the case ever since the Union that Upper and Lower Canada had had a line drawn between them, and of late years, the question had specially come to this point, “which is to prevail?” It had come to be the question – Is Upper Canada to rule Lower Canada, or is the Lower Province to rule the Upper Province? This was the position we now occupied, and we had the spectacle of a Ministry, with a large majority from Upper Canada, and an Opposition with a large majority from Lower Canada. But it could not be said that this Administration was not supported by Lower Canada on account of its measures – there was no opposition on that account. He had listened attentively to the debate on the Address and he had not heard any one object to the policy of the Administration, he had heard objections to acts and to persons, but not to any public measure. (Hear, hear)
Hon. Mr. CARTIER – We will see when the time comes.
Hon. Mr. BROWN said that a large number of measures had been avowed in the Speech and it was very true that the Opposition might not agree in the details, but they had not dissented from policy enunciated. When the Coalition was in power the Upper Province returned its members triumphantly, but the honourable member for Kingston with his small band was taken in hand by the hon. Member for Montreal East, and the Government selected the patronage of the Upper Province, gave that Province acts which it did not want, and refused the acts which it did want.
Hon. Mr. CARTIER – Now?
Hon. Mr. Brown said he was not going to preach what he did not believe. He deeply regretted that we had the same thing now, but not to the same extent. He knew the Hon. Mr. Dorion, and he ought to know him well, as he had sat with that hon. gentleman for years, and he could say that that gentleman was not the man to sit on the Ministerial Bench and do that which was unjust to his own portion of the Province. (Oh, oh, from the Opposition.) The speaker proceeded to say that honourable gentlemen opposite might sneer, but he was well aware that the Honourable Mr. Dorion would be found true to his own section of the Province, and would force no measure down the throats of his own countrymen. (Hear, hear.)
Hon. Mr. CAUCHON observed that the honourable gentleman, in a speech he had once made, had enunciated sentiments different from those he now uttered.
Hon. Mr. BROWN replied that if the honourable member would only take the trouble to look up the paper in which the speech was reported, he would find that what he had stated then and what he said now, were in perfect concord.
What he had always contended for was this, that in his opinion it was not at all desirable that a Ministry should rule while in a majority in one section and a minority in the other; he considered that no Ministry ought to govern the country until they had tried every effort to get a majority in both sections. He should not like to see imposed on Lower Canada that which had been suffered so long in Upper Canada.
Here, upon one side, was the Honourable Mr. Cartier, and on the other the Honourable John Sandfield Macdonald; the one had a majority in Lower Canada, and the other had a majority in Upper Canada. Now, the question was, which of these two gentlemen should prevail? He thought that until every effort had been exhausted by the honourable member for Cornwall [Sandfield Macdonald] to obtain a majority from both sections, that he would not be justified in governing the country. He never had any hesitation in enunciating this principle when his friends were on the other side of the House, and he had no hesitation now. The honourable member for Cornwall had the responsibility of knowing whether he had exhausted every effort to obtain a majority in both sections (Applause and laughter.) He was very glad that the honourable gentlemen opposite enjoyed themselves so much; but the honourable member for Montreal East when he represented Vercheres, was not so jocular when he (Hon. Mr. Brown) told him that he ought not to rule Upper Canada by a Lower Canadian majority. (Hear, hear.) The honourable member for Montreal East said he could not do otherwise, he was told to try it, but he never thought of doing so.
He (Hon. Mr. Brown) knew what he would do if he were in the position of the honourable member for Cornwall. He would go to His Excellency and say – I am supported by a majority of this Chamber as constitutional ruler of this country; I have a majority of this House; I am in a position to speak the views of the parliament of the country, but I do not think that on important measures to be submitted, I have a majority sufficient to carry me through. He (hon. Mr. Brown) would then ask his Excellency for power to go to the House and state his position freely, frankly and honestly, and would obtain the power to reconstruct. He would then go to the gentlemen opposite, and would appeal to their patriotism, and see whether, in view of an Upper Canada majority on the Ministerial side of the House, they would not lend their assistance in forming a strong government. This would be a patriotic movement, and might prove effective. He hoped that his friends opposite were tired of crises; for a general election would surely come if this thing were not done. (Hear, hear.)
He stood here as an independent member – as a thoroughly independent member – (hear, hear) – and did he consider that the interests of the country would be advanced that the principles he advocated would be advanced tomorrow by the removal of this Administration, he should give his vote for that purpose without hesitation. But when he compared this Ministry with their predecessors – when he reflected on their purity of purpose – on the absence of all corruption in their Government and the measures they proposed, and he challenged the honourable member for Kingston to put a finger on a single corrupt act (Loud and continued cheers from both sides.) He must prefer this Administration. The Government had submitted measures of a practical kind, tending greatly to the advancement of the country, and if he had to choose between them and any administration created by the honourable member for Montreal East, then he should not have the slightest hesitation in knowing what to do. (Hear, hear.) The question for him was, how he might best do his duty to his country and carry out the principles he always professed, and he had no doubt he would justify his course to his conscience and his country by supporting the gentlemen on the Treasury benches. (Hear, hear.)
He would not call the attention of the House to the effect that this system of carrying on the affairs of the country had produced. There had been constant jarring between Upper and Lower Canada, and numerous occasions of crises in the successive Governments. There was a crisis in June, 1854, and another in September of 1854; in 1855 there were two, and also in 1857. In July, 1858, there was a crisis when the Brown-Dorion Government was formed, and another in August, and another in December. Then there was the Robinson crisis, and the Carling crisis, and the Cauchon crisis. Then there was a great crisis in 1862, and another in 1863, and how many they should have in 1864 no one could tell.
Hon. Mr. CARTIER – It is a chronic state. (Laughter.)
Hon. Mr. BROWN replied that undoubtedly they had been in a chronic state of crisis for eleven years past. No honourable gentleman would presume to say that that was a desirable state of things to have continued. It was of the utmost importance that they should find some means of going on without having a break up so very often. (Hear, hear.) Undoubtedly most of those crises had grown out of the unsettled state of this question. The object of so many changes had been to satisfy public opinion on this and kindred subjects.
The question that would be put to him, he supposed, would be – What remedy ought to be applied? They had, on the floor of the House, gentlemen who were in favour of different schemes. The honourable member for Montreal West [McGee] was in favour of a Confederation of the Provinces, and of a Monarchical Government. He did not know whether the honourable member for Sherbrooke was in favour of a Confederation of all the Provinces, or of the Canadas alone.
Hon. Mr. GALT. – Of all the Provinces.
Hon. Mr BROWN. – Then there were some in favour of a dissolution pure and simple, and some favoured a legislative union of all the Provinces, and others were in favour of the Toronto Convention. (Laughter.) Well, honourable gentlemen might laugh, but there never was a fairer proposition broached, and he doubted if a more satisfactory one could ever be found. Then, there was another proposition, and that was to leave the constituencies precisely as they were at present, but to pass an Act authorizing each to elect an additional representative if it possessed over, say, forty thousand of a population, and three when it attained to sixty thousand. For himself, though he had his preference, he was prepared to accept any remedy which, on a fair consideration by the House, should be found to be an advance, or an approach to a settlement, or which would be any considerable instalment of justice to Upper Canada. He had no doubt but that the Committee would be able to discover some basis upon which the Legislature could agree. His honourable friend from Richelieu had presented an amendment, proposing to go to England, but if the people of Lower Canada went there, the people of Upper Canada would go too. In conclusion, he (Mr. Brown) named the following Committee, viz: Hon. Messrs. Cameron, Cartier, Cauchon, J.S. Macdonald, Macdougall, McGee, Holton, Foley, Galt, Turcotte, and Dorion, and Messrs. Chapais, Dickson, Dunkin, Joly, McKellar, Scobie, Street, and the mover.
Hon. Mr. GALT said that the fact of the House being willing to go to the vote upon this important subject, after the speech of the honourable member for South Oxford, without anything he said on it by any of the members of the Government was surprising to him (Mr. Galt). When he recollected the animated discussions we had heard in this House on the difficulties between the two sections of the country, he confessed he was not prepared to see the House go to a division on this subject without a single word as to the views of the Government upon it.
It was not as if this question were brought forward by an undistinguished member of this House; but introduced as it was, by one who held the first place in Upper Canada for years, especially in connexion with this subject, the House had a right to expect from the Government some expression of opinion as to whether they did or did not believe the motion before the Speaker would afford some relief to those whom it was intended to affect. He felt that the House would be approaching this subject blindfold if we did not obtain from the Government some expression of opinion on this important question. (Hear, hear.) Their silence on this matter must either be taken as an evidence that the Ministry considered the country was so pleased and benefitted by their accession to office as to absolve them from their many promises of legislation on this subject, or as an evidence that they had no policy at all on the subject. (Hear, hear.) He (Mr. Galt) believed the House would arrive at the latter conclusion.
He was surprised that the honourable member for South Oxford should have expressed himself willing to accept any remedy whatever, and to leave to a committee of members elected broadcast from the House, the duty of saying what should be done. The Government itself should take the responsibility of dealing with this matter, and not leave it to a Committee to suggest what should be done. (Cheers.) He for one would oppose the appointment of a Committee for this purpose. (Ministerial cheers.)
While he and the honourable member for East Montreal were in office they did not shrink from dealing with this question, as was evidenced by the very motion now in the Speaker’s hands. They had suggested a remedy of which all might judge, and which he still believed was the right one.
The present Government were bound to take up the subject and suggest some remedy for the evil, or deny its existence. The granting of the motion before the House would be a practical reference of the most important functions of the Government to a private Committee, and therefore the former ought not allow this question to come to the vote without telling us what their opinion upon it was. They should tell us plainly whether they intended abdicating their functions and leaving to a Committee of this House, appointed at the instance of Hon. Mr. Brown, who was to be its Chairman, important duties which the Administration themselves ought to be ready to discharge. (Cheers.)
Hon. John Sandfield Macdonald [Premier]: said he was not a little surprised at the remarks that had just fallen form the lips of the honourable member for Sherbrooke. Of all the honourable members in the House, he was the last that anybody, who knew what his course had been, would have expected to denounce any Government for not having a policy on this subject. (Hear, hear.) He had been a prominent member of a Government, and what policy had he upon it? Who that heard it could forget the speech that he delivered when sitting on the cross benches, just before he was taken into the Government, and who could put his finger upon any practical thing the honourable gentleman had done, after getting into office, towards carrying out the views he enunciated while in opposition, on the question. If he was as much wedded to the scheme of federation as he pretended to be, before and since his possession of power, why did he not carry it out when in office? If he was in earnest in 1858, what became of his earnestness when he got upon the Treasury benches, and in a position where it was to be supposed he could do something towards carrying out his principles?
Hon. Mr GALT said that when he joined the Government in 1858, the question was made a part of the policy of that Administration.
Mr. MACFARLANE – and carried out, was it?
Hon. J.S. Macdonald said that was the question. But no; after he got office he contented himself with drawing up a document which, as his honourable friend from South Oxford had said, was replete with good sense, and depicted the exact condition of the Province at the time. There it ended. He sat upon the Treasury benches for three or four years, after having proclaimed to the world that there was an urgent necessity for a change, and did nothing towards securing the change. Where was his policy?
Hon. Mr. GALT – In that despatch. (Laughter.)
Hon. J.S. Macdonald observed that the honourable member for Sherbrooke had acknowledged the difficulties that surrounded this question, but had never proposed any remedy; yet that gentleman had risen tonight and asked if the Government had a policy. When the Government to which that honourable gentleman belonged had a strong majority at their back, they never attempted to make a move towards the settlement of that question.
He (the speaker) had never seen a more barefaced attempt to raise a false issue than that made by the honourable member for Sherbrooke. (Applause and laughter.) Any other member of the Opposition might be forgiven for such an attempt, but pardon could not be extended to the honourable gentleman who had just sat down. The idea of that honourable gentleman clamouring for a policy on a matter on which he never pretended to have a policy – he who was always protesting against the agitation of the question, saying that the time had not arrived. (Hear, hear.)
The present Government declared that this was an open question, and in this they had only followed the practice of the former occupants of the Treasury benches. Every one had his opinion in regard to this matter, and so had he (the speaker). It was well known that he had entertained opinions on this matter for a number of years; and though some gentlemen changed their opinions a number of times, he never changed his. The opinions he might have forms on a question might remain in abeyance till he had an opportunity of enforcing them; but show him the time he could enforce them, and he would soon do so. (Applause and laughter.)
The great questions which agitated the mother country, such as the Catholic Emancipation, the Reform Bill, and the Corn laws, were uppermost in the public mind for a long time. Men kept these questions in abeyance till the proper time came, and then they were successfully solved. But as far as the honourable member for Sherbrooke was concerned, the time for his action had not arrived, for he was afraid he should be led blindfold into this matter, and could not vote till he found out how the honourable member for Chateauguay would vote. (A laugh.) The honourable member for Sherbrooke would find that the Government would vote according to their conscience. That honourable gentleman was not going to force the Government to declare a policy that the party to which he belonged never had. He must say that the honourable member for Sherbrooke had given the House the benefit of a lecture which, considering his antecedents, he should have withheld. (Hear, hear.)
Hon. Mr. GALT asked permission to say a few words partly in explanation and partly in reply. He (Mr. Galt) was quite ready to admit the hardihood of the honourable Premier and his readiness of reply; but, certainly, considering the fact that the motion now in the hands of the Speaker, contained an extract from a despatch setting forth his (Mr. Galt’s) opinion on the question now under discussion, he was hardly prepared to hear himself taunted by the honourable gentleman (Mr. J.S. Macdonald) with having no policy upon it. (Hear, hear.)
He would remind the honourable Premier that, when the Government of which he (Mr. Galt) was a member, announced a policy they exerted themselves to carry it out, unlike the conduct of honourable gentlemen opposite who announced questions they never intended to take up – as, for instance, the re-adjustment of the representation, which was mentioned in the Speech from the Throne, and yet was allowed to slumber in oblivion. (Hear, hear.)
The Government of which he (Mr. Galt) was a member had announced their intention on the subject of the Confederation of the Provinces, and this announcement was followed up – not only by the despatch in question; but by a mission of delegates on the subject, and if their policy had not been carried out it was not the fault of the Canadian Government of the day, for their policy was a progressive policy. (Hear, hear and cheers.)
Honourable gentlemen opposite might ask for the fruits of that policy. In reply he would refer them to the correspondence on the subject with the Lower Provinces, and to the fact that the question of a union between two of these Provinces was now being mooted. (Hear, hear.) He (Mr. Galt) would allude to just one more point before sitting down.
The honourable Premier had boasted that he did not change his opinions. Well, if he did not change his opinions, he certainly changed his colleagues; and the strange feature of the case was that, while he managed to get rid of those colleagues who were favourable to his permanent opinion, he associated himself with others who were opposed to those opinions. (Cheers and laughter.) What was the House to think of his course?
It was for him to select one or the other horn of the dilemma in which his conduct placed him. The honourable Premier appeared to be very strongly inclined to leave certain subjects and opinions in abeyance. (Laughter.) This might be a very convenient and agreeable way of getting rid of a disagreeable question; but it was hardly creditable in the conduct of the leader of the Government. (Hear, hear)
[…][Ed: Later in the debate:]
Honourable John A. MACDONALD expressed pleasure at hearing the speech of the honourable member for West Elgin, with whom he perfectly agreed that it was in accordance with British constitutional practice for any Ministry having a majority of the whole House, without regard to sections, to remain in office. He also agreed with him that our best policy was to form a union with the Lower Provinces. But if we wished to avoid the dangers and troubles which had befallen the United States, we must form not a Federal Union, but a union in fact. (Hear, hear.)
Hon. MR. BROWN – Is that the policy of the honourable member for Montreal East?
Hon. Mr. CARTIER – No, no.
Hon. John A. Macdonald said the Hon. Commissioner of Crown Lands had every reason to rejoice at the predicament in which the honourable member for South Oxford [George Brown] had appeared with reference to the question of Representation by Population. We could remember the manner in which the Honourable Commissioner of Crown Lands had been reviled and abused by that honourable gentleman for his course in this House in regard to this question, notwithstanding which we saw him giving a free, independent and unswerving support to the Government, including gentlemen whom he had repeatedly thus denounced for their abandonment of this important question.
It now appeared that the honourable member for South Oxford had himself given up the whole question. Ever since he (Mr. J.A. Macdonald) had entered Parliament that honourable gentleman had made this question a stalking-horse to power. Ever since 1854 he had attacked every Government previous to the present one, for not taking the course which he practically abandoned in making the present resolution.
If he (Mr. J.A. Macdonald) had not a majority from Upper Canada while in the Government, it was because the honourable member for South Oxford had published all over the country that he had basely betrayed the interests and rights of that section, and had governed it by means of a Lower Canada majority; and that the only way Representation by Population could be carried was by the people sending to Parliament men who would not only vote for the measure, but oppose any Government which would not take it up (Cheers.)
He had said, again and again, that the only way to carry this measure was to render Government impossible – to oppose every administration – till the question were taken up and disposed of. Had the honourable gentleman been true to this policy? Did he not give the present Government, which had abandoned the measure, a free, independent and unswerving support, and was he not amendable to the very charge of want of good faith and consistency, in regard to this subject brought against the honourable Commissioner of Crown Lands? (Cheers.)
Not only was he supporting the Government, but declaring by this motion that he abandoned the whole question. The honourable gentleman embodied in his motion the very views set forth in the despatch of three honourable gentlemen who belonged to the Cartier-Macdonald Government, which stated in effect that the principle of Representation by Population was impossible – that it could not be granted, and that in order to settle the question there must be a Federation of the Provinces – that this was the only remedy. In that despatch it was laid down that the principle of equality was adopted at the Union of the Provinces; that upper Canada was now opposed to the principle which Lower Canada had adhered and would adhere, and that Confederation was the only remedy. And this was the principle which the honourable member for South Oxford, who had roared so loud and so long about the rights of Upper Canada to increased representation, was prepared to adopt. (Laughter.)
He moved for the appointment of a committee to be partly composed of men whom he knew well were pledged against Representation by Population, and now declared himself willing to take anything he could get, in spite of the fact of this former asseverations that Upper Canada would rise in arms if the measure were not granted.
Hon. Mr. BROWN – I never said so in my life.
Hon. John A. Macdonald contended that his paper, the Globe, had declared this would be the result and that the honourable gentleman was responsible for the publication of such statements.
The Hon. Mr. Macdonald proceeded to read an extract from the Globe, printed in 1860, informing the Duke of Newcastle that we had reached a crisis in this country which must end either in a change of the Union Act, with the aid and assent of the Imperial Parliament, to secure equal rights and immunities to the people of Upper Canada in proportion to their numbers, or in the violent disruption of the relations of the two Provinces. (Opposition cheers.) This was the language of the honourable gentleman throughout the columns of his paper. What did this “violent disruption” mean? (Laughter.)
Mr. BROWN – I never said so – never.
Hon. J.A. Macdonald – And yet after such threats the honourable gentleman came before the House and in moving for a Committee to consider the question of representation, said he would accept Confederation of the Provinces, if the Committee should select that remedy – in fact that he would take everything or anything. (Cheers.)
If he believed that Upper Canada suffered an injustice in this matter why not come boldly forward and propose a definite remedy – why propose men for his Committee who always voted against representation by population? Why, but for the purpose of betraying the confidence of this followers and abandoning the principles formerly entertained and advocated in relation to Representation by Population. The honourable Commissioner of Crown Lands had now reason to feel that he had got his revenge of the honourable member for South Oxford. (Cheers and laughter.)
It was strange he should move for a Committee to inquire and find out some remedy for evils which did not appear to be pressing hard upon the country at present. We did not find a single paper in Upper Canada agitating this question, or the indication of any ferment fraught with danger to the country. The honourable member for South Oxford knew the question of Representation by Population was as dead as Julius Caesar. (Cheers and laughter.) yet the honourable gentleman was obliged to make a show on this question – his move was a mere show, without any reality.
Hon. J.A. Macdonald went on to read a motion proposed by the Hon. Mr. McDougall in 1862, declaring any Government which kept the question of Representation by Population in abeyance was censurable – that, in fact, any Government which did not take it up was censurable. Why did the honourable member for South Oxford not meet the question now as directly? The trust was his resolution appeared to be drawn up for the purpose of sending the question to the Committee-room downstairs, never to rise again. (Hear, hear.) He also read extracts from the papers, showing Mr. Brown’s sentiments during the debate, in 1858, setting forth the opinion that this principle would never be carried unless it was taken up by a Government committed to the principle, and promising his opposition to any Administration refusing to take up this question and deal with it.
Speaking of the acceptance of office by an honourable member formerly an advocate of Representation by Population, the honourable member for South Oxford stated he was bound before doing so, to get a clear declaration from the Ministry in favour of the measure, or leave them to carry it. Those were his sentiments in June 1858.
In July 1858, he had an opportunity of forming an Administration to carry out this principle; but instead of doing so, he formed a Cabinet that would not grapple with it without “checks and guarantees,” all of which were of a nature to render it a nullity. We afterwards found out what those “checks and guarantees” were, when an honourable member of that Cabinet (Hon. Mr. Thibedeau) came to Quebec and stated he had three reasons for accepting office on that occasion. First, that there were more Roman Catholics than Protestants in the Cabinet; second, that there were 7 to 6 against representation by population and the third, he (Mr. Macdonald) believed referred to the prospects of the Upper Canada Separate School Bill. (Cheers.)
Mr. J.A. Macdonald proceeded to read extracts from an article in the Globe, expressing “holy horror” and great regret at the acceptance by Hon. Messrs. McDougall, Wilson, Howland and Foley of office in the Macdonald-Sicotte Government under the circumstances attending that proceeding. It was like Rachel weeping for her children because they were not. (Cheers and laughter.) The article proceeded thus:
“In going into an Administration pledged against Representation by Population, the first reflection that must strike the mind of every one is the shocking inconsistency of their course.” (Great laughter.)
The article went on to condemn those honourable gentlemen for accepting office at such a compromise, to this effect – “They were doing the very thing which they so strongly condemned in the Macdonald-Cartier Government, only their conduct was worse than that of the latter. The late Government left the matter (Representation by Population) open for discussion at any moment. Their crime consisted in stating that, as a Government, they would not introduce any measure upon the subject. But how much worse is the position of the Macdonald-Sicotte Government in abandoning the matter altogether.” (Cheers and laughter.) This article also declared that Government had by their action in this matter, inflicted a serious blow on the cause of Upper Canada.
Hon. Mr. BROWN – (Hear, hear, hear.)
Hon. J.A. MACDONALD continued the reading of the article, commenting upon it in a manner that elicited roars of laughter. It went on – “Better a thousand fold that the Cartier-Macdonald Government, with all its wickedness, could have been recalled rather than that so many leading men of the Liberal Opposition should have sacrificed their principles and destroyed the influence that they formerly possessed.” (Renewed laughter.)
Hon. Mr. BROWN – Hear, hear, hear.
Hon. J.A. MACDONALD – Yet the honourable gentleman supported the Government, of which some of them were members and followers, [in] spite of the recreancy so sadly deplored. Then in 1863 the honourable gentleman stated in his journal that the Government had no right to the support of the Liberal party of Upper Canada, and that it was not consistent with the honour of any of them to remain in the Cabinet – that to do so was an abandonment of their principles. Yet there was not a man of them who was not prepared to give the Government a strong and hearty support. The honourable gentleman had stated in Upper Canada that he had the word of the Premier for it that Representation by Population would be brought in by the Government by-and-bye – as soon as convenient. (Laughter.)
Hon. Mr. BROWN – He reads from the Ingersoll Chronicle. There is no truth in the report; and on my statement to that effect, that paper had withdrawn it.
Hon. J.A. MACDONALD contended that the report bore intrinsic evidence of truth. The report appeared to be a short-hand one, taken in the first person and, no doubt, revised by the honourable gentleman himself.
Hon. Mr. BROWN – No, no.
Hon. J.A. MACDONALD went on to read extracts form this report of Mr. Brown’s speech to the farmers, which occasioned much merriment, especially the passage describing an interview that gentleman had with the Premier, pending the issue of a want of confidence motion, on which occasion the former told the latter that he might expect to be in a minority as regards Lower Canada, whose members the Cartier-Macdonald Government had been in the habit of buying up, and that he would be similarly situated in reference to Upper Canadian support, etc.
The honourable member for South Oxford was reported to have said on that occasion the Premier had consented to give up the Intercolonial Railroad scheme, and that he himself was heartily desirous it should be given up; that the postal subsidy, etc., were abandoned, and that the Premier had assured him that he would favour Representation by Population. (Loud laughter.) That we never before had such a chance of carrying the measure, which the Hon. Mr. Dorion, when in the Brown-Dorion Government, was prepared to support. (Renewed laughter.)
Hon. Mr. Macdonald went on to read from the speech at Ingersoll a series of questions put to Hon. Mr. Brown, and his answers there anent. The third was – “In what do the professions of the present Government with regard to Representation by Population differ from those of the Cartier-Macdonald?” Answer of Mr. Brown: “There are five members in the present Administration pledged to vote for it, and the Hon. J.S. Macdonald has stated that should there be any prospect of its success he would not stand in the way.” (Cheers and laughter.)
Mr. T. FERGUSON – Is that so?
Hon. Mr. BROWN – Yes, that is so. (Opposition cheers.)
Hon. J.A. MACDONALD – Well the honourable Premier must be playing at cross purposes with this House, in order to please the hon. member for South Oxford (Mr. Brown); he tells him he would not stand in the way of such a measure, while he tells others he always has and will oppose it. (Hear, hear and cheers.)
The honourable gentleman then alluded to the course of the Hon. Postmaster General (Mr. Mowat), and said that not one stood in such an unenviable position as that honourable gentleman. He, it was, who although supporting the Macdonald-Sicotte Government, and desiring to be ranked and considered one of their supporters, yet voted against that Government, and declared it unworthy of confidence, because it was not in favour of that principle to which he owed his election and which he was resolved never basely to abandon. (Hear, hear and cheers.) The honourable gentleman (Mr. Mowat) wished to keep the Macdonald-Sicotte Government in office, yet he ran the risk of defeating the former and driving them from the Ministerial benches, because he was true to Representation by Population; because, come what might he was determined to wrap himself up in virtue, to abide by his principles, and to vindicate himself by his adherence to principle.
But what did we behold, a short time after this stern act of virtue? Why, a few months afterwards the honourable gentleman accepted office in the Government and voted against the very principle of which he had been such an earnest advocate, after having censured his best political friends for their course upon it. (Hear, hear.) The House and the country would appreciate the honourable gentleman’s conduct. Either he had changed his opinion – either he had given up Representation by Population, or he had sacrificed his principles for the purpose of taking office, although he could not have been elected but for his adherence to them. The reason, however, was easily explained:
What makes all doctrines plain and clear –
‘Tis just twelve hundred pounds a year,
And prove that false was true before
The answer plain – twelve hundred more.
The honourable gentleman then sat down amid loud cheers.
Mr. COCKBURN said that owning to the importance of the question, and the lateness of the hour, it would be better to adjourn the debate. He moved, seconded by Mr. Dunkin, that the debate be adjourned.
Hon. Mr. BROWN thought it would be advisable to finish up the question at once, unless several honourable gentlemen desired to speak upon it. For himself, he would like to say a few words in reply to the honourable member for Kingston [Macdonald].
It was most singular that that honourable gentlemen, in the course of his somewhat lengthy speech, never dropped a single statesmanlike idea upon the subject before the House, but contented himself with endeavouring to excite the mirthfulness of the House by what he called his (Hon. Mr. Brown’s) inconsistencies. He could not see what right he had to talk to anybody of consistency; but what was consistency after all, compared with the question.
It was a grave and important state question which was at stake – one which would have to be dealt with before long, no matter if every honourable gentleman on the floor of the House could be proved to have acted inconsistently with regard to it. It ill became him to talk of the honourable member for North Ontario being bribed and bought off by twelve hundred a year. If there had ever been an obsequious, painstaking paid agent of Lower Canada, it was the member for Kingston during the time he held office – especially during the latter portion of his official career. He had stood there in the Cabinet as the puppet of the member for Montreal East, and had spoken and voted, and bobbed up and down as directed by that honourable gentleman. The time was when the honourable member for Kingston stood upon the floor of the House with some credit to himself, to his constituents, and to the country, but that was before he had anything to do with twelve hundred a year.
Getting a chance of that, he had held on to it by one trick and another, until his followers in his own section were reduced to a mere handful. The Double Shuffle was only a fair specimen of a whole series of disgraceful expedients to retain office at the sacrifice of principle, of honour, and of the respect of his fellow men. It must have been pleasant for the honourable member for Welland, who once refused office because this question was not taken up, to hear his leader treat it as a mere personal matter between a few members of the House. What did the honourable member for East Northumberland think of it? He was sure there could have been but few honourable gentlemen on that side of the House who approved the manner in which the honourable member for Kingston had made light of the question, and passed it over.
For himself, nothing that any Government could give him could induce him to abandon his principles. The change that had been made by the Reform party in the method of advocating the representation principle, had not been made without his being a party to it, until it had been accomplished, for he was absent from the country at the time, and had not a seat in the House. But the party having adopted that policy, he at once expressed his willingness to work for the principle along with them, and he was sent to the House by nearly1,000 of a majority. If he had been in the House at the time he would have opposed the formation of the Macdonald Sicotte Government on the terms on which it was formed. But on coming home from Europe he found that Government in power, and even though they were greater opponents of his views on representation than their predecessors; he could not do otherwise than support them in their other measures, temporarily, for he would have cut a sorry figure, indeed, upon the other side of the House.
The new Government was a great improvement on their predecessors, who, during their time had doubled the debt of the Province, and whose last act was a proposition which in one year would have added five millions more to that debt; and he was glad to see their places taken by any set of men who promised to change the system on which public affairs had been so badly managed. The country was glad to see it too, for it returned forty-eight out of the sixty-five in Upper Canada, as supporters of the present Government.
Instead of attacking him for being willing to accept any instalment of justice, honourable gentlemen opposite ought to give him credit for moderation in approaching the subject, and meet him in the same spirit. In concluding, he referred to the resolutions passed at the Toronto Convention as embodying what he considered the best mode of settling the difficulty, but said he was not so wedded to that scheme that he would not be willing to unite with the majority of the Committee in reporting something which would be a step in the right direction. He had apprehended that the policy of the honourable member for Kingston was in favour of federation, yet the honourable gentleman had repudiated federation in his speech this evening.
Hon. Mr GALT remarked that the honourable member for Kingston had not repudiated federation of the Provinces. Federation might be legislative or otherwise.
Hon. Mr BROWN was not to be taken advantage of by the specious phrases of the honourable member for Sherbrooke.
[Ed. After some further discussion, the debate was adjourned. On March 21, 1864, the Sandfield-Sicotte government resigned, replaced by the Tache-Macdonald government.]