Fathers of Confederation

[Just ejected from government after only two days in power, Brown addresses his constituents seeking re-election. Acknowledging charges of abandoning his principles – Brown maintains his government was committed to representation by population, but with certain “constitutional protections” for Upper and Lower Canada. “My Government was formed with a special view to the removal of those constitutional and political evils of which we in Upper Canada have so long and earnestly complained as separating the two sections of the Province, and retarding the progress of the country.”]

GENTLEMEN, – In consequence of an adverse vote in the House of Assembly on Wednesday, the 28th of July, Mr. John A. Macdonald and his colleagues, the morning following, placed their resignations in the hands of the Governor General. His Excellency was pleased thereupon to charge me with the formation of a new Administration. I accepted the trust, and was speedily enabled to submit for the approval of his Excellency the names of eleven gentlemen of high personal and political position as my colleagues in the Government. The Governor General approved of all the arrangements, and the new Cabinet was only installed on Monday, 2nd inst. By a salutary law, giving the people control over the composition of the Executive Council of the Province, all members of Parliament accepting office in the Government, are compelled to go back to their constituents for re-election – and in consequence, therefore, of my accepting the Inspector Generalship of the Province, my seat as senior Representative of the city of Toronto became vacant, and I am now before you as a candidate for re-election.

The new Government had not been two hours installed, when the old office-holders – enraged at the loss of office, and taking advantage of the absence from the House of the ten gentlemen who had gone to their constituencies for re-election – commenced a furious onslaught on the new Ministry. Without allowing us time to put our policy before the country – without permitting us the opportunity, never before denied by a British Legislature, of meeting our opponents face to face to vindicate our proceedings – they passed a vote of censure upon the new Ministry. They tried and convicted us behind our backs, unheard and undefended. My colleagues and I thereupon advised the Governor General to dissolve Parliament and to order a new election; his Excellency refused; and we immediately resigned. In one hundred and fifty years there is not in British, nor is there since the Union in Canadian history, one instance of the Sovereign or his Representative having refused an appeal to the people when recommended by the constitutional Advisers of the Crown.

On the resignation of the Brown-Dorion Administration his Excellency was pleased to send for a gentleman from Lower Canada who has not, and never had, one political supporter in the House of Assembly, and requested him to form a new administration. Mr. Galt failed in the attempt, and speedily declined the task. His Excellency then sent for Mr. George Etienne Cartier, the Attorney General of Lower Canada in Mr. Macdonald’s Government, and committed the task to his hands. The old office-holders were at once recalled – Mr. Galt replacing Mr. Loranger in the Lower Canada section of the Cabinet, Mr. George Sherwood replacing Mr. Cayley, and Mr. Cartier becoming Prime Minister in room of Mr. J.A. Macdonald.

The return of Mr. Cartier and his colleagues to office, was, however, attended with a direct violation of the Constitution, which ought to excite the alarm and indignation of every elector in the Province. Well knowing that they could not go back to their constituents and be elected, the resolved – by the aid of their partisan majority in the House of Assembly and the absence from the Opposition benches of ten of their firmest opponents – to set all law and constitutional obligation at defiance by refusing to go before their constituents for approval of their accepting office. As a colourable pretext for this most high-handed and dangerous proceeding, Messrs. Cartier, Macdonald & Co., hunted up a statute passed some years since, permitting the head of a department to change his office with the head of some other department, without either of the parties so exchanging, going to their constituents for approval: and on the strength of this statute, framed for the sole purpose of facilitating the better management of the public offices, and designed to apply solely to an Administration in office and in full operation – the gentlemen honoured with his Excellency’s confidence proceeded to execute their reckless scheme for the evasion of one of the best safeguards of popular rights. On Friday night the gentlemen had themselves gazette to offices not one of which they intended to fill; they solemnly swore that they would perform duties they had not the remotest intention even to enter upon – and next morning they changed back to their old positions and swore all round a new set of oaths!

These are the circumstances attending the present appeal to the Electors of Toronto. You are to decide whether, as your Representative, I have faithfully discharged the duties entrusted to me. You are to decide whether the Administration formed under my leadership was founded on principles entitling it to confidence and support. Your are to decide whether the conduct of our opponents in taking advantage of our absence form the House, was such as the people of Canada ought to endorse; and if their evasion of the constitutional appeal to the people on their accession to office, merits public approval. Above all, you are to decide  if the men who have ruled the country for some time past, through their Lower Canada majority – who have in four years doubled the national debt, doubled the taxation, and brought the country to the very verge of bankruptcy – ought or ought not to be sustained. If you return me again, you declare your condemnation of the Macdonald-Cartier Administration; and if, on the other hand, you return my opponent, Mr. Cameron, it will be a triumph for the Ministry.

It has been charged by my opponents that in the formation of the late Government, I sacrificed the principles which I have so firmly advocated since I entered political life. Nothing could be more unjust – nothing more utterly groundless. My Government was formed with a special view to the removal of those constitutional and political evils of which we in Upper Canada have so long and earnestly complained as separating the two sections of the Province, and retarding the progress of the country. We were pledged as a Government to the great principle of Representation by Population, with constitutional protections for the local interests of both sections. We were pledged as a Government simultaneously with our measure for Representative Reform to settle finally the Seat of Government question. We were pledged to the settlement of the Separate School question; and we had reason to believe that by the adoption of certain modifications from the National School system of Ireland, we could render the Common Schools of Upper Canada entirely acceptable to all classes of the community, Protestant and Roman Catholic, and abolish all Separate Schools with general consent. We were prepared to consider anxiously, whether Commercial Reciprocity would not be extended between Canada and the United States, with a view to throwing open to our manufacturers and our shipping interest, the markets and the ports of the Republic. We were prepared to initiate a system of thorough retrenchment throughout the public service – to reorganize the public departments – to consolidate the national debt, collect the public arrears, and reduce the burdens of the people; and the moment we ceased to enjoy public confidence, or found ourselves unable to fulfil honourably the pledges to our constituents, we were prepared to resign office.

In my address to the Electors of Toronto, at the last general election, I used these words: “May we not indulge the hope that the country ere long may see established a Government pledged to grapple with the evils that retard our progress as a people – a Government that will endeavour  to make the Union of Upper and Lower Canada, a union in feeling as well as in name; that will legislate, for all Canada, and not for localities; that will regard all men alike as subjects of the realm and not as sectarians; that hill hold Religion as a matter between each man’s conscience and his Maker, and too sacred to be made the subject of political contestation, that will enforce economy in every branch of the public service; and that will not be deterred by the fear of losing office from adhering to opinions that gained public confidence, and raised the advocate of them to power.”

Such a Government was the one I was enabled to form by the aid of Mr. Dorion – and as a member of the Parliamentary Opposition earnestly seeking the establishment of such a government – I care no who may compose it – I again ask to be elected your Representative.

 

I am,

Gentlemen,

Your most obdt. Servant,

GEO. BROWN.

Church Street, Toronto,

12 Aug. 1858

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