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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was accepted by the whole house, and hon. gentlemen who voted for my
resolution areas much responsible for it as myself. N< >t only was my DfO-
>n considered, but it was weighed by the hon. member for South
Bruce. So much did the boo. member consider it as a matter of certainty
that the committee must sit during the recess that he used this language :
" With regard to giving the committee power to sit after the prorogation,
he thought the correct course to pursue would bo to introduce a bill
authorizing the committee to sit during the recess, and by a resolution of
the house to take evidence under oath." The hon. gentleman saw that it
was quite impossible for us to get through the investigation during the
session, and I do not see in justice how it was possible to get through
without these gentlemen coming. H ive I not then proved my case, Mr.
Speaker ? (Cheers.) Have I not proved that this house solemnly re-
solved, as far as it could resolve, that this enquiry should be continued
after the prorogation ? Now, Mr. Speaker, I shall not elaborate this
question any further than to say that believing as I did, believing as I
do, that it would have been an injustice to proceed with this enquiry in
the absence of the gentlemen whom I have named, the government, of
which I am a member, offered the advice to the governor-general that
the house should be prorogued on the 13th of August, it having been
understood that in the intermediate time the committee might sit. That
advice was accepted, that was the advice I brought down and communi-
cated to the house, and that advice was acted upon by this house and that
act this house cannot now recall. (Hear, hear.) This house is responsible
for its own acts and ordinances, and when I announced here that the
house would be prorogued on the 13th of August, this house accepted
that proposition as it should have done. (Cheers.) But, Sir, I stated to
this house for all the purposes of this house that the adjournment should
be considered a prorogation. (Cheers.) That was accepted by this house,
and more than that, I brought down a bill to pay every member his
salary, on the ground that it was a prorogation, and I say further that any
member who got this money and wished for more and came back to get it


was guilty of taking money under false pretenses. (Cheers.) We know
what has happened in the United States. We know that the Globe, in
• Tiler to induce its friends to come — they knew of course that my friends
from the Pacific did not care for a thousand dollars — but they thought
that the hon. members who were nearer Ottawa would be induced to come
by a bribe, and the Globe to the eternal disgrace of that paper, insinuated
that if hon. members came they would get their money. (Cheers.) I
shall now make a few remarks in respect to the issue of the royal com-
mission. I have spoken of the prorogation. I believe that it was consti-
constitutional. I believe that it was wise, or whether it was wise,
or unwise, it was sanctioned by this parliament, and I know that parlia-
ment cannot, without dishonour, reverse their vote ; and I beliov,
I know that the house accepted that prorogation on the ground that the
irnment was in effect to be a prorogation, and that only the fcwo
Speakers should be in the house on the 13th of August. (Cheers.) Aj
regards the legality of the royal commission, I believe that I need not speak
so long on that subject. Tho motion of the hon. member for Lambton
n lifves me from that necessity. 1 will quota the evidence of the royal

Mr. Blake— Hear, hear.

Sir Jon M H i-'Nald — I hear the member for Booth Bruce say " hoar
hear.'' Surely he ought not t<» touch, taste nor handle the unclean thing.
(Laughter.) Surely he will not think that any good fruit will come from
a vile stalk. Surely he won't qooti any evid» nee of the commission if he
believes the evidence of that commission to be illegal. The hon. gentle-
man is on tin- botltt of i dilemma. Kither the evidence is legal or illegal.
If it is legal, then the house can judge from the evidence, but if it is ille-
gal, the house must discard it ; and yet the hon. member for Lambton
■d this evidence, and every man who spoke on tho opposite side of
the house used that evidence ; and it cannot be said, if that evidence is
to be used against the government, that it is illegal or unconstitutional.
(Cheers.) You have your money, and you take your choice. Either ac-
cept or discard it, and remain as you were before this evidence was taken.
(Cheers.) Now it was alleged in the argument of an hon. gentleman op-
posite, with respect to this committee, that the governor-general had been
snubbed. 1 tell the hon. gentleman, and I have the permission of the
crown to state it, that in addition to the official announcement, there is a
formal opinion given by the law officers of the crown. — those authorities
whose opinion the hon. member for Both well looked so scornfully upon,
but every one else so much respected — that the course taken by the gov-


ornor-general both in respect to the prorogation and the issuance of the
royal commission, was legal and constitutional.

Mr. Blake. — Hear, hear.

sir .1 on M \ ■ .vu».— Well, Mr. Speaker, I cannot help it if thehon.

gentleman does not agree with the law officers of the crown. But I have
still ■ further statement to make, and I think I may make it in the pre-
I of my hon. friend the finance minister— that the course of thegov-
i -general in respect to all these transactions had been finally settled
and agreed upon by the whole imperial cabinet. (Cheers.) It is said, Mr.
Speaker, with Wtpt<< to the commission that by constitutional authority
BTOWB cann«.t know what happens in the house of commons. Well,
Mr. Speaker, that is <>ne «>f the anachronisms which we see in the quota-
tions of the hon. gentlemen opposite. They are two or three centuries
behind the times. Did the matter rennin with the house alone, or con-
clude with the house ? No, the house itself sent information to the gov-
r-general by the member for Shefford. In consequence of the reso-
lution passed by the house, the member for Card well introduced a bill for
the purpose of giving the committee power to administer oaths. Wt
passed that bill through both houses, and it went to the crown, to the first
branch of the legislature. Is it to be supposed that when we, the advisers
•of the crown, the advisers of the governor-general, asked him to come
down here contrary to usual practice, contrary to the general universal
practice, to come down before the end of the session to give his sanction
to a measure ; is it to be supposed that when we brought him down for
that special purpose we were not charged by the legislature to convey to
him why we asked him to give his assent i Then why, Mr. Speaker, was
it to be supposed that the sovereign would give, as a matter of course, his
■assent to a measure passed by this parliament without a reason. Sir, we
gave that reason. The advisers of the crown told the crown what the
motion of the member for Shefford was. They told the crown what the
proceedings before the house were, and that the culmination of their pro-
ceedings was that the act should be passed. That was the reason why the
crown came down, that was the reason why the governor-general instead
of at the end of the session came down in the middle. He was fully in-
formed of the motion of the member for Shefford, and of all the proceed-
ings on which the bill was based. But it has been said, sir, that this act
was an obstruction of the action of parliament. Why sir, it was intended
for the purpose of aiding parliament, but it was disallowed ; but certainly
by no act of mine as has been charged. It was even asserted somewhere
that I had, or that the governor-general had, attempted in some way to
influence the government in England to disallow the act. Well, sir, the


paper before parliament shows with what scorn that statement can pro-
perly be met. No suggestion direct or indirect, went from the Canadian
to the imperial government with respect to the disallowance or passage of
that act. (Cheers.) I did not hesitate in my place in parliament to ex-
press my opinion that the passage of that act was beyond the powers of
the Canadian parliament. I had formed, I may say, a very strong opinion
on the point, but I did not express my opinion so strongly to this house
as I really felt it, because I knew from the usual generosity of gentlemen
opposite that they would at once have said, "Oh, of course, you throw
obstacles in the way because you do not wish the bill to pass," and there-
loie, while 1 would have liked to state that we had not the power to pass
the act, at the same time I placed great confidence in the opinion of the
lion, member for Cardwell. I do not know whether the member for South
Bruce expressed any opinion on the point, but if he did not, many other
learned members did, and I paid great respect to their opinions. 1 did
not therefore oppose, as otherwise I would have opposed, the passage of
the bill, which I would certainly have done had 1 not been personally con-
cerned. When it went up to the go\ trnor _aner;il, as the papers will
show, as I was bound to express my real opinion, I stated my doubt of its
legality, but hoped would see his way bo allow it instead of

reserving it for the signification of her majesty's pleasure, and 1 gave my

« not only as first minister, but as minister of justice, that the act
should be passed. The measure was passed and went home to England

is fully argued, so far as it could
well be argued, and the strong impression of the representative of our
sovereign at the time was, that I was wrong in my law, and that the hon.

bum m who had supported the hill were right, and that the bill would
become law. We know what the result was, and that after the consulta-
tions the bill was disallowed. It has been said by the hon. member for
B >thwell, that it is out of the question that we should be governed by the
law officers of the crown, but let me state to this house, Mr. Speaker, that
OH was not the decision merely of the law officers of the crown,
but it was the decision of the British government. It was an orderof tin
privy council, and there is not an order of the privy council passed in
which the lord chain vllor is not consulted before a decision is come to.

sir, whether the commission was legal or not, and we will suppose for
a moment that it was not, though it is a great stretch of supposition, would
• have been well for the hon. member for Shefford to have come be-
fore that commission ? Would it not have been well for the hon. member,
as a man really anxious to have justice done ? Would it not have been
well for the hon. member if desirous of the triumph of his party, not de-


sirous of the defeat of a ministry, not desirous of a change of government,
but really, truly, anxiously, and, as he said, painfully desirous of having
justice done, to have come before the commission and have followed up
the investigation from day to day ? I think the house will say that the
privileges of parliament were not endangered, and that he might safely
have prosecuted the matter and have brought the offenders to justice, and
that he could have done so without prejudice to his position as a member
of parliament. Why then did the hon. gentleman not come ? It did not
suit his plans to come. The hon. gentleman's game was first to destroy
the Pacific railway company under the charge of Sir Hugh Allan, and then

stroy the government, and not to have a real inquiry into the con-
duct of the administration. Besides, sir, and it is a consideration of some
importance to the house, and one that ought to have great force in the

ry, I myself, and the other members of the government who were in
this country, desired to give our explanation under oath. I went there,
Mr. Speaker, and you know it was said in the newspapers that the com-
mission would be a sham, and there would be no examination at all, and
that the members of the government and other witnesses would shelter
themselves under the plea that they need not criminate themselves. I
would ask you, sir, and every hon member, whether every member of the
government, when called before that commission, did not give full, clear
and unreserved statements as regards all the transactions connected with
the Pacific railway. (Cheers.) As I believe that that commission was
issued in accordance with the law, because the crown as such had a perfect
rigfcl to enquire into that matter, so at the same time I believe that in no
way was it designed, and in no way did it in any way obstruct the action
of parliament. Mr. Speaker, this house is not governed by that commis-
sion or the evidence, although the member for Lambton has quoted the
evidence, and used it, and made it the basis of his motion. I say the
house is not in any way bound by that commission. It is in no way
checked or obstructed or prevented from instituting the most searching
examination into the matter. As a matter of fact, I believe that when the
member for Shefford made his charges here, there was a notice given in
the senate for an inquiry, and there was no reason in the world why the
senate should not have had an inquiry. They might have had a commit-
tee, and, as we have often seen it in England, the two branches of the
legislature might have had concurrent committees sitting at the same time;
and it might happen, as in England, that these committees might come to
different conclusions. If a committee had been granted by the senate,
would that have been a breach of the privileges of this house ? Certainly
not. Well then, sir, if it be not a breach of the privileges of parliament


lie second and third branches of the legislature should have concur-
rent examinations into a certain charge, how can it be a breach of the
privileges of the second and third chambers for the first branch of the
legislature to go into the matter. (Cheers.) If the senate can discuss the
matter, cannot the sovereign go into it ? Sir, the answer is too obvious to
admit of doubt, and it must be remembered the sovereign holds a two-fold
position ; that the sovereign is not only the first branch of the legislature,
and is such has a right to inquire into such matters, but is also the head of
the executive and is the executive. The crown governs the country ; the
crown chooses its own ministers, and this house has no control, and the
senate has no control over the crown in this respect, except in deciding
whether they have confidence in the ministers chosen. The crown, in
: to be a reality and not a myth, must have the full and sole selection
of the individual members to form the government, and it is then for par-
liament to say whether that selection is such as will command the confi-
dence of parliament as well as enable them to carry on the affairs of the
• .untry. If that is constitutional law, and I think it is, what is the conse-
quence ? It is that the sovereign has the right to inquire into the con-
duct of its own officers. If an offence is committed, the crown has a right

juire into it. If a charge is made the crown has the right to ascertain
whether that chargo is true. I will .suppose the case of a minister charged
with a crime amenable to eonunon law. Ooold not the crown make in-
quiry into such a matter? The proposition is too absurd a thing to need
an answer, for we know of many cases where the crown has made such in-
quiry. The case that is most applicable in principle to the present one is
that of Lord Melville, and I will refer to that because it lays down certain
principles to which I would invite the attention of the house. The case is
especially applicable because the matter was first discussed in the house of
commons ; and it is said here that because the matter was first discussed
in the house of commons it should end there, and no other tribunal should

with it, and no other authority should intervene and prevent the

eluding its inquiry. But there is no reason in the world

why any independent authority should not pursue an independent inquiry,

Dg to the house a full, unrestrained and unrestricted right of inquiry,
In the case I have I I there had been great abuses in connection

with the navy contracts in Kn gland during the Peninsular war, and there
were allegations of enormous frauds, and a pledge was given by Mr. Pitt's
government, of which Lord Melville was a member, that so soon as a peace
was concluded, an inquiry should be entered into, as it was thought im-

:ble that in the height of the war a proper inquiry could be made. I

' that it was a different administration that moved for a committee in


the matter, but the notion was in consequence of the pledge given by Mr.
Pitt, but when Lord Sidmouth asked for the committee it was opposed in
the house of commons, on the ground that the crown could prosecute the
iu<(uiry. The navy board had full authority, and the admiralty had full
authority, and it was urged that the crown m it appointed the judges so
it should appoint commissioners to try the particular case. There was
the responsibility, and this view was argued strongly. As anyone will
see who reads it, the commission was only granted after the government
had been asked whether they bad got tli Ut mr.nis-mmers, and after the
house had been informed that the navy board and the government of the
day asked for the commission, and the act to authorize the administration
of oaths was passed because there was no poster in the navy board to ad-
minister oaths. The commission was similar t<> this in all respects. On
this the minister w;is tried, Hid 00 this a minister was admitted, and the
only difference between that case and this was that on that case a com-
mission was asked for by the government, and in this the commission was
issued by the government under th
Mr. Wood. — Win-never there were commissions, special acts were pass-

these commissions.
Sir John M im». Would the lion, gentleman tell me of any such

commissions ?

Mr. Wood. — Yes, there was the act of 1843, and tha act of St. Albans,
and in 1852 a general act was passed relating to such matters. No tingle
case could be found En which a royal commission was appointed to try cor-
rupt parties at elections, except under a special act.

\u». — The hon. gentleman cites certain acts relating
to corrupt practices, but the hon. gentleman must see that his cases had
no reference to this one, because those which he cited referred to corrup-
tion in boroughs, and the charge here is general carruption on the part of
the government. It had been contended by the hon. member for Bothwell,
who spoke at some length, that it was very surprising that the witnesses
before the royal commission did not know anything, that they came up
one after another, telegraph operators and others, and all stated that they
did not know anything about the matter. Why were they called ? The
reason was plain, and the reason was known to the hon. member. It was
because Mr. Huntington handed in the names of these witnesses to the
committee. He handed in my name among the rest, and it was alleged
that there was an arrangement about this as if the government had any
control over that commission. The witnesses were called one after ano-
ther and in the order shown on the list handed in by the hon. member for
Shefiford. Early in the session he handed in the list of witnesses, and


they were all called in their sequence. I could not help it if a railway
operator or a telegraph operator was called up and did not know anything
about it. His name was there on the list, and in one case it was shown
that If. Coursol, whose name was put on the list, met Mr. Huntington,
and when he asked him why it had been done, that hon. gentleman said
he did not know. It was the duty of the commissioners to call upon every
man that hon. gentleman had placed on the list, whether they knew any-
thing Of knew nothing, and therefore the charge of the hon. gentleman
that they were called up by arrangement was untrue, and it was altogether
unworthy of the hon. gentleman. Witnesses wore called up as they came
on the list, and as they came on that list they came up to give their evi-
dence. With respect to the composition of the commission, I have not
much to say. 1 1 II beneath me to say much. (Cheers.) There is no man
in Lower Canada who will not say that .Judge Day, by his legal acquire-
rs well fitted for the position, and when 1 tell you that the pro-
chief justice of the superior court, Judge Meredith, has said that the
greatest loss that the bench of Lower Canada ever had, was in Judge Day.
I have said all that can l>e said. (Cheers.) Judge Day is a man above
any charge of political bias. He has shown what he was on the bench ;
he has shown what he was as a politician ; he has shown in the oodinoa-
lion of the laws of Lower Canada what he was as a jurist. The hon. mem-
ber f ■• 1 Mid that the other two jadgei were my creatures. He
• lid not venture to v 'ice Day, but he attacked the other two.
Now, with respect to Mr. .Justice I may say that I have not seen
him, n<>r have I had any mimunieation with him for seventeen long
years. I sari he had been obliterated out of memory.
I knew him in mj early days in parliament as a supporter of the Lafon-
ilition. From that time he departed from my vision until
he was appointed on that commission. And why, sir, why was he appoint-
. mission I I was resolved in consequence of the insult that
had been heaped upon the committee in Montreal, that the commissioners
must sit in Ottawa, where they could be protected from such insults, and,
therefore, there was no chance of the charge being tried by a Lower Can-
ada judge, I was anxious that there should be a Lower Canada judge on
the commission. It was suggested by the Globe that no superior court
judge ought to sit on the commission, as a cause might arise out of it yet
which would have to be tried before them. I endeavoured, therefore, to
carry out the suggestion. I thought it was a good one, and took Justice
Day, who, as a retired judge, could by no possibility try any case which
might arise. He said that he would be only too glad to do so, but as ho
was on very friendly personal relations with the Hon. Mr. Abbott, per-


haps it might be thought not to be proper. He, however, consented to
10& He also stated to me that at least one French Canadian judge should
sit, as one of my colleagues, a French Canadian, was implicated. He
thought over all the names of the judges of Lower Canada, and suggested
to me the name of M. Justice Polette as a man of high standing, a man of
great legal power, as worthy in all rospeota to take his seat on the com-
mission. And it is said Mr. Justice Gowan was a creature of mine. How
Mr. .1 MtiM 1 1 "w;m i \ at came to be considered a creature of mine, I can-
not say. He commenced life as a partner of Mr. Small, and was an ex-
treme reformer. He was appointed by Mr. Baldwin on the representation
of Mr. Small. I never did him a single bwoOf that 1 know of. 1 did not
appoint him a judge. He was appointed a judge before I was a member
of parliament, his appointment being made in IMS, while I became a
member of parliament in 1844, I afterwards became acquainted with
Judge Gowan, and 1 found that he was a good lawyer. I may also say
that I have received great advantage, and that the country has received
great benefits from the services of Mr. Justice Gowan. There is but one
judge of the superior court in Upper Canada whom I have not appointed
or promoted, and that one judge, I am proud to say, on the best evidence,
has declared in the strongest terras that in the evidence produced before
mimission there is not one tittle of evidence against me. (Cheers.)
It has been said that the commission was a partisan commission ; but sup-
posing 1 had committed any crime under the common law of the land, I
must have been tried under a judge who war appointed or promoted by
myself ; and I believe that not one single month or day less punishment
would have been given to me if I had been tried by any one of these
judges whom I have been from my position instrumental in placing on the
bench. With respect to the charges brought against the judges, they have
assumed various phases. First we are told that the government had acted
with these American gentlemen and had given up all the rights of Canada

Online LibraryJoseph Edmund CollinsLife and times of the Right Honourable Sir John A. Macdonald, premier of the Dominion of Canada → online text (page 51 of 57)