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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se when such staid men and men of such high position

se, we can perhaps pardon hon. gentlemen opposite for
having b itreyed an unseemly warmth on the ISth of August because the

own was exercised as the crown had the right to ex-
tra to every hon. gentleman who has consid-
i, that tii d of constitutionality cannot exist

question of privilege set up against prerogative
is alt' hi untenable cry, a cry unconstitutional and un-

warranted i,\ law. (i Sheers.) The prerogative at present is valuable only
as one of the liberties of the people, and it is one of the liberties of the
piople because it is guided, as 1 said before, by the advice of ministers
naible to the two houses of parliament, not alone to this chamber.
The prerogative is not dangerous. There is no hazard that any one of our
personal or political, will be endangered, so long as the preroga-
is administered on the advice of a minister having the support and
requiring support from the two chambers of parliament. (Cheers.) The
question then comes, whether the present ministers of his excellency the


governor-general were justified in recommending the prorogation on the
13th day of August. Sir, if they had not given that advice they would
have the sovereign to break his word ; they would have advised the sov-

;i to commit a breach of faith against every absent member of parlia-
ment. 1 can say in the presence of this house, in the presence of the
country, and in the presence of the world, if the world were listening to
our rather unimportant Bfifcin, that if ever a pledge, if ever a bargain, if

;in agreement or arrangement was made, it was that the house should
be prorogued on the IStfa day of August. Some of the gentlemen who
have spoken, I won't tax my memory as to which of them, have made the

itutional objection that the house never agreed to the prorogation. on
the 13th of August. Sir, the house had nothing to do with it. It is not
a matter of agreement between the sovereign and the people ; it is a mat-
ter of prerogative. Did any educated man, any man who knows what the
constitution in Canada or what the constitution in England is, believe that
1, the first minister of the crown, could get up in my place and tell this
house that on the 13th of August it would be prorogued, and that on that
day there waa no real necessity for members being present, because it was
to be merely a formal meeting J that I, a minister of nearly twenty years
standing — (hear) —who ought to know by practice, and do know by study,
somewhat of the British constitution, should make that announcement un-
less I had got the authority of my master; had got the sanction of the

i I As a matter of course, as his excellency has stated in the answer
he made to the gentlemen who waited upon him, I submitted the propo-
sition to his excellency and took his pleasure upon it, just as the first min-
ister in England would take the pleasure of her majesty as to the day on
which prorogation was to take place. I got the sanction of his excellency
the governor-general to make that statement, and if I had not got that
sanction I do not believe the house would have agreed to the long ad-
journment. We will look back for one moment to see whether I was right,
whether the government was right — in speaking of myself I speak of my-
self and my colleagues whether we ought to receive the sanction of the
the house in giving that advice. Let us look back to the circumstances of
the case. 1 invite the careful attention of the house, and especially the
attention of those hon. members who were not members of the parliament
of Canada at that time, to the circumstances of the case. In February, I
think it was, there was a royal charter given for the purpose of building a
Pacific railway, to the Pacific railway company. They went home —
their president, Sir Hugh Allan and certain other members of the Board
for the purpose of attempting to carry out this charter which had been
given to them. The charter had been given to them according to the


vote of the Parliament of Canada, with the sanction of the parliament of
Canada, and every clause of it was in accordance with the provisions of
the law passed by the parliament of Canada. (Cheers.) These gentlemen
had gone home to England to lay a great scheme, so great a scheme, Mr.
Speaker, that some of the hon. gentlemen opposite said that it was going to
overtax our resources and destroy our credit, and that they could not sue •
oeed at all with so small a population in such a young country. They had

home t«> England to lay the project before the English world and
B nr o p oa capitalists. They wire going home to operate, and it depended
much on the support they received from this country, from the parliament
and press of Canada, whether they could succeed or not. They had gone

in February. Parliament met early in March, I think. The hon. mem-

■r Bheflbfd rose in his place and made his charge against the govern-
ment on the 2nd of April. The hon. gentleman may have been, I do not say
he was not, actuated by principles of fine patriotism in making that charge ;

bothflT he was so actuated or not, whether his motives wire parliamen-
tary Of unparliamentary, patriotic or unpatriotic, one thing is certain,
thai • aim, the direct object, the point at which that motion and

that statement ww> I kill the charter in England. (Cheers.)

The weapon was aimed with that object, not so much with the desire of de-
stroying the administration, not so much with the pnipOM of casting a re-

ii upon tb v, m with I destroying that first on the

expectation that the ministry would fall afterwards. That was the aim ;
there was no doubt about it, and when the hon. gentleman's motion was
and when 1 took up tli.- resolution the aim was well intended —
of killing was well iutended — but it failed in the execution.
k it up I considered the whole position of events.
Ulan and those OOnnected with him went to England in March,
ament was sitting at hon. gentleman made his motion.

1 not know how long parliament would last, and the chances were
irn some time before the end of the session. If they
turn th«n, of course I considered that there could be no examin-
ation until they did, but I thought they might return. I declare that I
never for a moment supposed that the hon. member, when he made nil
moot, could be guilty of such great, such palpable, such obvious in-
justice, as to press his committee in the absence of Sir Hugh Allan, Mr.
Abbott, and Sir George Cartier, when they had no opportunity of defend-
ing either themselves or the charter which they had obtained. The house
must remember also that the motion made by the hon. gentleman went
much farther than my motion. The motion of the hon. member, which
he moved on the 2nd of April, was not only to inquire into the facts that

580 ArFENDlX.

he mentioned, the statements upon which he based his motion, but to go
into the whole of the subject connected with the charter and the granting
of the charter to the Pacific railway company. The aim of his motion, I
repeat, was to destroy that charter. I will read the motion of the hon.
member. After detailing the facts, he moved, " that a committee of seven
members be appointed to inquire into all the circumstances connected with
the negotiations for the construction of the Pacific railway, with the legis-
lation of last session on the subject, and with the granting of the charter
to Sir Hugh Allan and others." So that the aim of the hon. gentleman in
making that motion wasn<>t simplyto attack the government, not simply that
from improper motives or inducements of any kind they had given the char-
ter, luit was for the purj>ose of destroying that charter and of attacking all
tin- legislation of the previous session on which the charter was based. L
M.TWE lot OOf moment supposed that any h-m. member would be guilty of
the gross injustice of attempting to attack the whole of the legislation of
the previous session and the charter solemnly granted under an act of par-
jiament, and of attempting to affect vested interest, on which a million of
money had been staked, in the absence of the persons primarily interested.
That motion was made, and was intended to be a vote of want of confi-
dence. Was that so ! or was it not so 1 Will the hon. gentleman say it
was not so ?

Mr. H -The motion when made was intended to express

precisely what it did express. (Laughter.)

Sir John M v i-o.v \i.i>— It is said, sir, that if there had been one hon-
est man in the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah they might have been saved •
and so the Opposition may be saved in the same way, for they have one
honest man in their ranks — the member for South Wentworth — who
stated that that motion was intended to be a vote of want of con6dence.
Everybody knew that that was its design (hear, hear), and yet at this day,
at this late hour, the hon. gentleman (Mr. Huntington) had not the man-
liness to get up and say so. (Cheers.) He dare not say it was not a mo-
tion of want of confidence. It was meant in that way, and I can prove
that it was by my hon. friend the member for South Wentworth. I call
him, and I believe him. He said it was so. Will the hon. gentleman not
believe him ? Although differing from him in politics, I know he would
not say what was not true. If I remember rightly, the hon. member for
Shefford said he would make the motion when we went into committee
of supply. He gave the necessary notice that is always given in such
cases, and I certainly supposed that he intended to make a general mo-
tion on our policy connected with the Canadian Pacific railway. He said
he was going to make a motion on that subject, and it was by mere


accident that when my friend, the minister of finance, rose to make his
budget speech, with you in the chair, instead of a committee of supply,
the hon. member said he would take another opportunity of making the
statement in connec.ion with the Pacific railway. Had we gone into
committee of supply the hon. gentleman would have made, in the ordi-
nary parliamentary way, his motion of want of confidence. But he
should have given notice of his attack, for a more unmanly attack is un-
known. What notice had been given that he was going to make that mo-
tion I True, the government of the day are unworthy of their position
unless they are ready to meet any charges brought against them. But
had we the most remote information respecting that personal matter ?
And even when on the second day he announced that he was going to

one to a future occasion further action, he did not venture to give
the slightest intimation to the men he was going to attack ; the men whose
characters he was going to blacken; of what he was going to say ; but he

us by surprise and sought by bringing in documents carefully pre-
pared to get a committee on those statements for the purpose. Certainly
it would have been so if the committee had been granted as he proposed,
— of killing, as it was designed to kill, as it was bound to kill, the efforts
of the Canadian people to get a body of English capitalists, to build the
Pacific railway. (Loud cheering. ) He could not possibly have supposed
that he would have got the inquiry through that session, but he supposed
if the house had granted the committee on his statement, and it had gone
graphed by cable by the associated press, with which some hon.
gentlemen opposite seemed to have mysterious connections— (laughter) —
it would certainly have been mysterious but it would certainly have
ted the construction of the Canadian Pacific railway, throwing

for years the building of the railway, casting discredit on Canada,
and telling British Columbia what they had told them two years before,
that re not going to get the railway. Mr. Speaker, the hon.

smaii did not speak, in his remarks on the motion, of facts within
his own knowledge, and as the member for Marquette had done in his
statements of facts, he only stated that he was credibly informed that
the fact existed, and he would be able to prove it, and I venture to say
that in the whole range of parliamentary experience in England, and
wherever else fair play is known, no man could be expected to have
got any other answer than the one he got from the house. . If the hon.
member had risen in his place and said of his own knowledge that ho
was personally cognizant of certain facts, then the house might have con-
sidered those facts as proved, at all events sufficient for a prima facie case
for inquiry, but the hon. member for Shefford did not pretend to say so,


but rose in the housa and said he was credibly informed of certain facts,
and thereupon asked for a committee to try the government, and not
only so, but to try whether the legislation of tile previous session was cor-
rupt or non -corrupt ; whether the members of parliament who had voted
for the Government were right or wrong, and whether that charter, to
which great credit was attached, was fraudulent or valid. And on the
nonce, when the hon. gentleman made the proposition, we resolved to
leave it to the house to say whether they believed that the facts had oc-
curred. When the hon. gentleman stated that he was credibly informed
that such was true, the house voted down the motion. On the next day
I gave notice that 1 would introduce the resolution which I did introduce.
I gave notice of the resolution, and there is a little history with the reso-
lution to which I will call the attention of the house. It is reported that
at a meeting at New Glasgow the hon. member for Lambton stated that
that resolution which I moved was forced upon me by my own followers,
and that members on this side of the house had come to me to urge me
to introduce that resolution. The hon. gentleman had heard my denial.
He heard my speech ; he was in his place when I made that speech, and
interrupted me several times, and I then turned round and asked my
friends if any of them had come to me to force me by any influence, or
language, or anything of the kind, to come down to the house with that
motion. I should like to know the names of those eight members,

Mr. Mackenzie — I am quite satisfied I never mentioned eight names.
(Ministerial cries of "How many /") I said 1 was informed, as 1 was,
that it was because of the pressure his supporters had brought to bear
that an inquiry had been asked for next day.

Hon. Mr. McDonald (Pictou) — I wish to state what did occur at the
meeting, and there will, I think, be no difference of opinion between the
member for Lambton and myself as to the question of fact. The hon .
member during his address stated that the leader of the government was
compelled by the pressure of his own friends in the house — I don't re-
collect that he stated eight members — to bring down the motion for a
committee to the house. I interrupted and said ; " Why, did you not
hear Sir John Macdonald declare that he did not introduce that resolution
owing to the pressure of his friends or of any friend ? n The hon. gentle-
man replied ; " I did not. I now declare he was pressed by his friends."'

Mr. Mackenzie — The statement made by the hon. member for Pictou
is quite correct. I stated I had no recollection of that statement being
made, but as the hon. gentleman had said that it was made, I was bound
to believe it ; but I was still prepared to say that the information I had
was that the leader of the Government was compelled by the pressure of


his friends to make that motion. I am borne out in that by what the
member for Shelburne stated the other day in the House, He for one
was obliged to bring that pressure to bear the next day. (Opposition
cheers.) I cannot recollect all the others, but I heard similar matters
mentioned by some others.

Sir John Macdonald — 1 have got the speech here, and before the de-
bate closes I shall refer to it, because I do not like any misapprehension
on these matters. I am satisfied the hon. gentleman said so, as he is re-
ported, and I can state here that the hon. gentleman had his own repor-
ter present. The hon. gentleman was reported to have said : — M I may
inform the hon. gentleman there were eight of the Government suppor-
ters who put the screw on htm." In other words —

Mr. Mai kknzik — I am perfectly certain I did not use the word

Sir John MaoDOVALD— Now, I haw occasion to repeat what I stated
then, that no member of the party, and not only no member of the party
but not one of my own colleagues, spoke to me on the subject until 1 had
announced my own determination. (Loud cheers from Ministerial
benches.) The motion took us by surprise, and we met it, as I think we
OUgllt to have net it by voting it down. Next day I came down late and
walked into the Council-room at half-past one. My colleagues were all sit-
ting around. I said to them, after consideration: "I have made up my mind
that I will move for a Commi fore any one had spoken. I had

stated my intention without a single suggestion from any man, that as the
charge was of such a nature that I would move for the appointment of a
mittee and bring such motion before Parliament on the following day.
And that is the way that the characters of men are lied away in this coun-
try. I do not mean to say that the hon. member for Lambton has lied
down my character because he has denied it. What I do mean to say, it
has be«.n lied away by the mistake of a reporter who thought that he was
reporting his words. I have now got the report here. It is from the
Halifax ('■ iVrhaps the hon. gentleman knows this paper? Per-

haps the h<n. member knows that his friend who formerly sat in this
House for Halifax is the proprietor of this paper, or that he certainly
writrs for it. (Hear, hear and cheers ) Here is the newspaper, and if
the hon. gentlemen thinks I have made a mistake, and if he thinks I have
done him an injustice, perhaps he will be patient with me while I read
the few sentences: — "Some gentlemen afterwards informed Sir .John
I ' maid that before they voted with him an inquiry there must be. He
was thus compelled to come down and say that he himself moved an in-
quiry on the following day."


Mr M v< kkn/ik — Wh;it about the eight that the hon. member spoke of.
(Laughter.) I refer to what the lion, member for Shelburne stated the
other night.

Sir JoHH II \< -imixald — Does the hon. member for Shelburne say that
he ever came to speak to me «>n the subject \

Mr. Eton ( Victoria)—! may say that two or three of us wont to see the
Ministers next day and stated that unless they promised a committee
themselves that was the last VOM they would get from us.

Mr. Cl ru< h— I accept that statement. We saw the hon. Mr. Mitchell
on the following day and said the charges were very serious affairs, and
that a committee must be appointed.

Sir -Ions || \. DOV \i.o— Thus we see another exemplification of the old
story of the three Black Crows. (Laughter.) The hon. member stated
that eight of my followers and supporters came to me and said that I
must move that Committee. The hon. gentlemen say that they went to
some one else, and I say, in the presence of my colleagues, that I myself
went down to the council, and before having met or agn ted with any
single member of the council, I said to them on going into the council
chamber — " Gentlemen, I have made up my mind that on the first op-
portunity that presents itself I will move for a committee to inquire into
this matter." (Cheers.) I had had no communication with any member
g \ eminent ; no communication with any member of the house ;
mmunication with any one in or out of the house, and therefore you
can understand how guarded the hon. member for Lambton should be in
giving publicity to other men's affairs. He may perhaps have a vacancy
in his memory. There is something, Abercrombie says, which leads men
not only to forget certain facts, and to state things as facts that never oc-
curred. At all events, whether I was waited on by the eight members or
not, I shall produce the hon. gentleman the report about the eight mem-
bers before the night is over.

Mr. Mackenzie — I don't care about it.

Sir John Macdonald— I know you don't. I know the hon. gentleman
is quite indifferent about the evidence that I can produce. (Laughter. )
At all events I came down to parliament and gave my notice of motion.
Now I wish the house carefully to consider the circumstances under
which I made my motion. I was of course exceedingly anxious that Sir
Hugh Allan should succeed in his mission to England, and that the Pacific
railway should be proceeded with without delay. I was anxious that no
blow should be struck in this house for party or any other purpose that
could injure the prospects of these men in England, and yet I did not de-
sire that there should be any undue delay in this inquiry, which affected


the honour of hon. gentlemen and of myself. Now it must be remem-
bered that my motion having been unanimously adopted by the house, was
n<>t only my motion, was not only my vote, but was also the motion and
the vote of hon. gentlemen who were then members of this parliament. I
ci msidered at that time that the chances were innnitesimally small that these
•gentlemen would be back in time to go on with the inquiry before the proro-
gation of parliament ; and what did 1 move I I moved " that a select com-
mittee of live members be appointed, of which Committee the mover shall
not be one," and here, Mr. Speaker, I may perhaps bring in, pbrpafmUhe» ,
a remark. I moved that resolution as I thought that I being one of the
accused should not be a member of that committee, and yet the hon.
member for Shefford stated in a speech recently that if he had had his own
way he would have been the chairman of that committee ; that he would
have been chairman and that he would have guided the deliberations of that
Commi tt e e he the accuser. The hon. gentleman may think that I may
have committed something like folly in this course, but, at all events. 1
i that "a committee of live members be appointed, of which the mover
shall not be one, to impure into and report 00 the special matters men-
tioned in the resolution «>f the lion, member for Shell'ord, With power to
send for papers and reOOfdf, with power t«» report to the house from time
to time, with power to report their evidence to the house from time tO
time, and if need ■ r the pro r ogation of parliament." I

Jit that by a mere lucky chance, by a mere fortuitous circumstance,

Bil II Igfa Allan and his associates might perhaps raise the money, make

the necessary arrangements and bo back in time before parliament was pro-

• >re, I put in merely ad an alternative that if need be the

committee could sit after parliament prorogued. I never thought for a single

mom 1 to my mind, that any man having asense of jus-

• uld enter upon a trial of a matter, in the absence of those who were

chiefly implicated, and perhaps you will say that the government were im -

nit at all events Sir Hu^h Allan and Mr. Abbott were not only

nally implicated, but their capital, their vested rights, their pledged
were all interested in this inquiry, and I never thought any man
would attempt such an effort of lynch law as to go on in the absence of
Sir Hugh Allan, Bon. .Mr. Abbott, and Sir Geo. Cartier ; in the absence
of all the evidence which these gentlemen could give on the subject of
these charges. 1 therefore, sir, drew up the motion in the manner I have
named, and 1 must confess that I am somewhat ashamed that my know
ledge of constitutional law should have been at fault ; but I was anxious
that the government should not lie under the charges for a whole year,
and I put that in the resolution in order that the commission might sit


from clay today during the recess, and if Sir Hugh Allan, Mr. Abbott
and Sir George Cartier arrived in this country that their evidence might
be taken. This was my object in placing this clause in the resolution.
On consideration we found that this house could not confer the power,
and for a very substantial reason, because if this parliament could appoint
a committee with power to sit during the recess it could also appoint a
e ••mmittee of the whole house to sit during the recess, and thus the prero-
gative of the Crown to prorogue would be invaded, and parliament a>- ■
committee of the whole might sit indefinitely. But I m:ule a mistake ; it

Online LibraryJoseph Edmund CollinsLife and times of the Right Honourable Sir John A. Macdonald, premier of the Dominion of Canada → online text (page 50 of 57)