Joseph Edmund Collins.

Life and times of the Right Honourable Sir John A. Macdonald, premier of the Dominion of Canada online

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personal feelings, a great national institution. I apologise to the house for
anything that I have said that may have been unparliamentary ; but I
said it because it was true. I shall not repeat again what I have said,
because the hon. gentleman says it is not parliamentary. The hon. gentle-
man seems to say that I do not understand what a university is. Why,
sir, if I know anything about it, I understand that the original meaning
of the word university is, a seat of learning where all branches of science
are taught. They might remember that there was a time when there were
thousands of students at the university of Oxford before a single college
was established. Colleges are merely places where the students take
shelter. The university system means a great institution where students
from all parts of the country come together and study under the profes-


sorial system. It is so in Scotland, it is so in Germany, everywhere in
fact except in England. Upon this very question what does the recent
report of the university commission say ? It recommends the doing away
with the colleges, and restoring to the university the power and discretion
of regulating the whole curriculum. I know just as well as the hon. mem-
ber the difference between a college and a university. This bill proposes
to establish what the university commission in England proposes to dises-
tablish. This bill proposes to do away with the university and restore
the colleges: just the very reverse of what is being done in England. By
this bill, law is nothing, medicine is nothing, and religion is a farce.
It leaves nothing but mathematics and classics. Is it not known every-
where that the English system is a false one, and that they should return
to the German free-scholar system ? Is not the report of the commission
that hai been published, stn-n^ly in favour of doing away with the colle-
giate system and restoring the university I The hon. gentleman says that
my remarks were rash; well, they nriy have been so, but that depends on
whether they were true. Does not the hon. gentlemen know that he has
been charged by every professional brother in Toronto, with destroying
a great medical lehool to advance his own seltish porpngei. I do no ^ sav
that ' • is true f« r that would he unparliamentary; but does he

not know that he has been pointed at with the finger of scorn for doing
so / The hon. gentleman may have found that another school protected
by the government interfered with his own. I do not mean to disparage
the school of the hon. gentleman, hut I mean to say this, that while it
Hourished so well under his own immediate patronage, there was no reason
why the college school should be destroyed ; there was no reason for it at
all. It is since tbat hon. gentleman has not been able to attend to it
that the great evil has heen discovered. The hon. gentleman sneers at my
remarks about the philosophy of law, but I tell him that law is a science,
and the practice and philosophy of law are the same thing, and must be
taught together. Is that doctrine not laid down by lilackstone in every
line of his immortal Commentaries. Moral law is a moral science, but
■civil law is that which protects one man from another, and one man's pro-
perty from another. That is law in the sense in which this bill means, and
in that sense the philosophy of law and the practice of the law are the
same. I regret that I have been compelled to go into this discussion ; I
regret it exceedingly: but I thought, and still think, that this bill was
ired solely with the view of doing away with a certain school of medi-
cine in Toronto. If I am mistaken, I have done wrong to the commis-
sioner of crown lands and his colleagues; and if it be not as I have stated,
I can only say that my error is participated in by every educated man in


Upper Canada. There is a strong feeling in Upper Canada that these
great branches of learning are excluded from the university, not from any
desire for the public good, but from purely personal motives.



As early as 1851, the advocates of virt-ie, whether-yon-like-it-or-no,.
induced a certain member t<» introduce a bill into the Canadian legislature,
to restrain the sale of intoxicating liquors and promote temperance. Mr.
John A. Macdonald, who did not believe that legislation ought to take
the place of Christian perseverance, and that a man or a wcman to get to
heaven, cannot be helped there by the law of the land, since heaven is the
reward only of those who fight the good fight and conquer, and since, if
there was no temptation there e<>u!d be no strife, and hence no glory and
no heaven, opposed the bill in the following speech, which as will be seen
is replete with searching logic, through which there is an undercurrent of
stinging sarcasm. Say the newspapers cf the time:

Hon. J. A. Macdonald ridiculed the remarks of the hon. member for
Lincoln, who looked on ardent spirits as a poison; and although he would
not have it here for himself, would send it abroad to pcison hi3 friends,
or else would have it all drunk up in the next eighteen months. This bill
struck at the very root of the excise altogether ; and the strangest feature
was, that the hon. gentleman who had introduced it, and wanted to make
it almost a crime to manufacture spirits at all, came down with the budget.
Now, the hon. member for Lincoln, a minister responsible for that bud-
get, wanted to introduce laws repealing license, except in relation
to the duties on distilleries (Hear, hear). How could that hon. gentleman-
come forward and propose that all excise duties in Upper Canada should
be repealed, except the duty on whiskey ? He preserved those duties
where he really advocated their existence, for the most mean purpose,
namely, that of augmentation of the revenue ; that appeared palpably
from the course which that hon. gentleman had pursued ; but he would


ask, did he not state, when he introduced his bill, that the question was
one far above pecuniary considerations I When the hon. member for
Simcoe said that it was a revenue question, the hon. inspector-general
said that the hon. member ought to be ashamed of himself to bring for-
ward such a statement ; for that the welfare of the country depended
upon the carrying of the bill ; but he brings forward a measure by which
he wishes to wipe away excise duties, and still preserve his distillery
duties; and for what purpose ? For the sake of about £16,000. What is
the effect of this measure ? To prohibit not only the use of ardent spirits,
but the use of any liquors that will intoxicate. Wine was one of those
liquors [at least he was told so and he believed it was], and yet that hon.
eman according to hU measure wished to make wine cheaper to
fbodj, so that the man who formerly paid 3s. for a bottle of Medeira,
>hould be enabled to get it now f«-r «> 1.* Now, he would ask the hon. in-
spector-general whether the measure for altering the duties on wine was
not for the sake <>f n hi i rice in the market I Undoubtedly it was.

But there was a contradiction — there had bean ■ total des» rtion ©f the
great principles of responsible government by the ministry of the day. It
was just like those gentlemen, who declared that they never belonged to
hmperanoeaoi only grounds of justice thty brought forward

for advocating the measn booae, w-iv, that in their little miser-

able mui, 4 man who Joined together upon

this question. Those hon. gentlemen were therefore willing to sacrifice
their own principles for the sake of winning a support of that kind. He
held that the policy of the government was bad. The inspector-general
could no more legislate a man to be sober than to be religious ; but with
all those resolutions of his, he would say that in order to raise a man, the
influence must proceed from the action of man upon man, and not by the
operation of a statute. It is only by the force of public opinion, and by
the force of the public mind being directed and laid on as it had been in
England, Ireland and the United States, against a particular vice, weak-
ness and frenzy, that you can succeed. The moment you trust to the law,
that moment your exertions cease. He would take one instance to estab-
lish the truth of his assertion. When his hon. and gallant friend, Sir
Allan MacNab was a young man, and in His Majesty's service, what was
the law in relation to duelling? If the one felt his honour injured, or
himself insulted, he would send a challenge ; the parties went, out, and
they might shoot one another. But what was the consequences, if one
party did shoot the other and left him weltering in his blood, leaving a

• This is evidently a mistake of the reporter.


family behind him: what did the law deel.tre ? It declared that the man
should be hanged by the neck until he was dead. Did the existence of
that law prevent the crime of duelling / No. How was it now? Duelling is
ndand out <>f date; the fashion has gone out; public opinion has
declared against it. A man now who has had two atl'airs in his life is
considered no longer within the pale of civilized society. The fact of the
matter is, that public opinion is strongly againal such wicked contests, and
therefore the custom has almost ceased perforce the opinion of society.
Read the memoirs of the list l'\s. ye irs about the people in Ireland. They
had a duty on spirits which almost rende-ed it prohibitory — they could
not gal it legally, and what was t lence ? I would ask whether

the bottle of whiskey was not as before present at the wakes night after
night I What was the law there ? When Father Haifa went there, he
did not go with the Main Liquor Law in his hand ; he prevailed upon
them by tlnit moral suasion stronger than all the legislation ever de-
vised by human brain, an I wrought into acts of parliament, and pro-
duced a moral revolution which all the Kind's laws and all the King's
troops for the last hundred of years were unable to obtain. Why endeav-
our to make people feel oppressed, injured, and irritated by a measure
tried for numberless moral purposes already, and as often proven futile ?
I hope this bill will be thrown out, and that the house will not go so far as
to admit that there ought to be an absurd law like this, an oppressive law
like this, and a futile law like this ; for it has been proved by every gen-
tleman who spoke, even by the advocates of it, that so valueless a law as
that could not be allowed to exist. The hon. member for Kent (who had
made, he thought, the strongest speech against it) said that any law intro-
duced at a time when the people were not prepared for it was a futile
law, and he said, " put it off till 186

Mr. Brown, — no, the hon. gentleman was mistaken. He said, that for
his own part he would like to have heard from the special committee clear
evidence as to the state of the public mind upon the question, for he con-
sidered that the bill should not be put into operation until public opinion
was clearly in favour of it. He was quite willing to vote for the bill now
with the proviso that it should come into force upon the first of January,

Mr. Macdonald resumed, in conclusion : Then he saw that the hon.
member for Kent was of the same opinion as the hon. member for Lin-
coln, to have the stock already in hand drank up first. He thought that
it would be doing a great injury to the community to pass this bill, and
he should therefore vote against the second reading of it.




Mr. Macdonald at this time did not believe that compensation ought to
be made to seigneurs out of the funds of Upper Canada. We give the
resolutions offered by the government, and the amendments and the speech
of Mr. Macdonald;

1. Jiesolved— That it is expedient to appropriate for the payment of the
indemnity to be awarded to seigniors, and other expenses to be incurred
under the bill 1 define seigniorial rights and to facilitate the redemption
thereof.. t sum equal to that OOmiug into the consolidated revenue fund of this

from the following Lower Canadian sources of revenue, that is to
say: I f , and Other dues which are now or hereafter shall become

payable to the crown in Off upon the leigflioiiei in Lower Canada, of which
the crown is the seigneur dominant, as well as from all arrears of such dues:

inory of LMfl 'ii. and the : A the sale

he said seigniory which DO -rbe sold. ;md all arrears

of such revenue i moneys arising from auction duties and auction-

eers' licenses in Lower Canada: From all m< Dg in Lower Canada

from licenses to sell spirituous, vinous Off fermented liquors by retail in
place IB places of public entertainment, commonly called shop or

2. Resolal That it is expedient that the sums required to pay the said
indemnity and , be raised by debentures to be issued under the
authority of the governor-in-council, and chargeable on the consolidated

one fund; but that separate accounts be kept of the moneys coming
into the said consolidated revenue fund from the several Lower Canadian
sources of revenue aforesaid; and that if the sums payable out of the con-
solidated revenue fund for the principal and interest of such debentures,
shall exceed the amount arising from the several sources of revenue men-
tioned in the preceding resolution, it will, in the opinion of this house, be
expedient to appropriate a sum equal to such excess for some local purpose
or purposes in Upper Canada.

To the first resolution, Mr. Macdonald moved in amendment: "I hat it

is inexpedient and unjust to the tax-payers of Canada to appropriate any

portion of the territorial revenues of this province to the payment of the

mnity to be awarded to the seigniors of Lower Canada, inasmuch as


the proposed legislation under the bill as now framed, is of local interest
only, and such indemnity should be paid by the parties immediately bene-
fited thereby."

To the second: "That it is inexpedient and unjust to the people of
Canada to charge the consolidated revenue fund of the whole province
with the payment of any portion of the said indemnity to seiyniors, and
that such indemnity should be paid by that section of the Province im-
mediately benefited by the proposed measure."

And again, in amendment t«» the same resolution, " That the proposition
to pledge the consolidated revenue fund for the payment of the said indem-
nity, or any portion thereof, and thereby to increase the provincial debt and
taxation to an unknown and unlimited amount, is improper,»unprecedented
and dangerous; that it deprives this house of the necessary check over the
public expenditure and the public burdens; and that this house will fail
m its duty to the people of Canada if it assents to any such proposition."

In proposing this amendment, he went on to say that it was a most un-
precedented course that was now proposed by the government with regard
to this matter. That the legislature of this country, who are the guard-
ians of the public purse, should be called on to impose upon the people
and their children a burden the amount of which they did not know, was>
a most objectionable and as well as inconsistent course of procedure. They
had no security whatever that the amount they were now called upon to
secure for this purpose might not be one hundred thousand pounds, or
that it might not be twice as much as that sum. He would ask the in-
spector-general if he could find a precedent for the course he now pro-
posed. It was true that a vote of credit had been given on one occasion,
but that was under extreme circumstances, and for one year only. Again,
they had undertaken great public works to advance the material interests-
of the country, and how could they go on with their undertakings with a
burden of this kind upon their resources, the amount of which could not
be told, which the government themselves did not know, and which they
said they could not find out. The hon. gentleman then went on to allude
to the slavery question in England, which he contended was analogous ta
this. When it was proposed to indemnify the slave-owners for their pro-
perty, the government did not ask parliament to pledge the revenues of
the country to an unlimited extent, but the secretary of the colonies,
Lord Stanley, came down with minute and elaborate calculations as to the
value of each slave, and an exact estimate of the sura required. The in-
spector-general should have done the same in this case. He should have
formed an estimate of the amount required for every seigniory, and then
come down with an exact statement of the whole sum that would be re-


quired. A finance minister in England would be laughed at if he proposed
to tax the people for an unlimited amount; and then what a miserable
proposition was this that was laid down in these resolutions. Two-third*
of the whole taxation of the country is paid by the people of Upper Can-
ada, and here they talk of taking a certain amount out of the consolidated
fund for the benefit of Lower Canada, and then remunerating Upper Can-
ada by paying her a similar sum out of her own resources. The govern-
ment have already refused to reduce the customs duties on account of the
present burden arising from the publjp works, and yet they ask us to take
on ourselves another burden the amount of which they do not know; and
as far as the remuneration to Upper Canada is concerned, it justamounta
to tolling her to tax herself for her own benefit. He thought it very ex-
traordinary that the people of I'pper Canada and the eastern townships-
should be taxed to settle the differences between ttigniofl and censitaires
in Lower Canada. It was as much as saying that Upper Canada should
be brined \vi tli her own money. The proposition was to be laughed at,
and he very much questioned whether even the hon. inspector-general
could be serious in proposing that the hi -use should consent to these reso-
lutions. What in the world had the people of Upper Canada as a whole
with this question ? He would ask upon what principle it was that
the House could be called upon to vote such resolutions i The hill of the
attorney-general-east did not propose to do away with the seigniorial ten-
ure, but would only have the effect of perpetuating it, which made the
proposition to pay indemnity out of the consolidated revenue the more-
absurd. If the tenure were to be done away with, some expediency mighi
be urged for these resolutions.



During the debate on the address, in 1854, Mr. Macdonald made a
scathing attack upon the ministry, and his speech furnishes excerpts, re-
presenting some of the most acrid utterances ever delivered by a Canadian*
public man. It is not necessary to say here that the occasion gave war-
rant to the language employed.


Hon. Mr. Macdonald, say the newspapers, remarked that it was a some-
what strange circumstance that Dr. Rolph had not read with that accuracy
which might have been expected of one reading from a printed document.
The extracts, it appeared, had not been correctly read, and the hon. mem-
ber for Kent had happened to detect what was of course an unintentional
mistake. Mr. Macdonald then explained the course he had taken last
session when the bills for increasing the representation and extending the

lve franchise were before the house. When those bills were intro-
duced, he had opposed them on the ground that the present parliament
fairly represented the people, and that at the commencement of its exist-
ence it ought not to pass measures which seemed to invi lve the admission
that it did not thus fairly represent the people. The government, how-
ever, strenuously maintained that they involved no such admission, and
that the house, during the whole period of its existence, retained the
right to legislate upon any and every subject. So soon as the represen-

n and franchise bills were read a second time, the solemn declaration
was thereby made, which was quite as obligatory on the conscience of the
house as if the bills had then received the royal assent, that a large num-
ber of individuals were excluded from the right of voting who ought to be
admitted. But they all knew that after this some of the most important
subjects of legislation had been brought before the house and were now
the law of the land. This very question which they were now discussing
was one of these, and night after night and week after week the attorney-
general pressed the seignorial bill on the attention of the house. But now
they said this house was incompetent to deal with that and similar ques-
tions! He (Mr. Macdonald) took up last session a strong position against
the passing of the franchise bill, on the ground that it was premature to
ask members of the house at once to divest themselves of all their rights
and privileges, but the hon. inspector-general stated over and over again
that the passage of the bill involved no such necessity. And the very last
act of the government last session was advising his excellency to give the
royal assent to that bill, the first clause of which provided that there
should be no alteration in the franchise till the 1st of January, 1855.
Could they have meant then, on the supposition that the present parlia-
ment had declared itself incompetent, that there was to be no real legis-
lation to meet the wants of the country till the 1st of January, 1855 ? He
{Mr. Macdonald) believed then that this house did represent the feelings
of the people of Canada, and hs has believed so still, and he felt quite
•competent to vote on any and every question that in any way affected the
interests* of the people of Canada. He must say that he was surprised at
the announcement made by the hon. inspector-general at the opening of


the house to-day. It exceeded any flights of daring ever before attempted,
even by that hon. gentleman himself. He might as well at once, like
Cromwell, have ordered that bauble [pointing to the mace] to be taken
away, as to come down and tell them, forsooth, that they, a free parlia-
ment, representing a free people, were only to be allowed to pass two or
t'iree measures, which he named. Mr. Macdonald then alluded to the
charges of corruption which had been brought against the government.
Be knew a great many reformers in his part of the country, and they were
(.manually saying to him, Any government, any change, anything to get
rid of the rampant corruption going on in this country. It was well known
that the system of the present government had been that of a most rampant
corruption, ami appealing to the most sordid and basest motives of men.
art of the eountry their money was tor use, and offioei were offered
in return for influence brought to their aid. Even the postmaster-general
•h.inntV the purchase of some government pro-

perty by members of the government, that there had been a job perpe-
! by his colleagues, with whom lie continued to sit at the same table
— that th- • in that matter had been such as he OOtlld BOt approve

of. Now a gc, ihonld be free even from suspicion, and should

I stain on their escutcheon like a wound on tie : <i. Especially

should they keep their hands clear of any speculations m government pro-
perty, i leave all attacks on his char-
and imputation! on his motive! unanswered ; hut once he departed
from this rale. I' was when he was accused, in a public newspaper, of
haviny made a purchase in the funds. When this accusation was made,
he at once handed tin- matter to the attorney-general, to bring the party
pnbliahing the paper to condign punishment for the foul and unfounded
slander. Had the members of our administration been equally sensitive
on account of charges far more serious ] Had they dared, for example, to
bring an action against the newspaper which published the report of the
speech of their hon. colleague, the Hon. Malcolm Cameron, at Perth I lint
he would not any longer speak of Pitt. They had Walpolei in the minis-
try, not Pitts ; the government was steeped to the very lips in infamy ;
they were tainted with corruption, collectively and individually, both in
their public and private characters. All honour had gone from them, and
all loyalty even to one another ; and the only bond to which they were
held together now was the bond of common plunder. It was time that an
end should be put to this system of corruption, which was disgracing Can-

Online LibraryJoseph Edmund CollinsLife and times of the Right Honourable Sir John A. Macdonald, premier of the Dominion of Canada → online text (page 43 of 57)