Joseph Edmund Collins.

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

. (page 55 of 57)
Online LibraryJoseph Edmund CollinsLife and times of the Right Honourable Sir John A. Macdonald, premier of the Dominion of Canada → online text (page 55 of 57)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

against us. I have been the victim of that conduct to a great extent; but
I have fought the battle of confederation, the battle of union, the battle
of the Dominion of Canada. I throw myself upon this house; I throw my-
self upon this country; I throw myself upon posterity; and I believe that
I know, that, notwithstanding the many failings in my life, I shall have
the voice of this covntry, and this house, rallying around me. (Cheers.)
And, sir, if I am mistaken in that, I can confidently appeal to a higher
court — to the court of my own conscience, and to the court of posterity.


(Cheers.) I leave it with this house with every confidence. I am equal
to either fortune. I can see past the decision of this house, either for or
against me; but whether it be for or against me, I know — and it is no vain
boast for me to say so, for even my enemies will admit that I am no boaster
— that there does not exist in Canada a man who has given more of his
time, more of his heart, more of his wealth, or more of his intellect and
power, such as they may be, for the good of this Dominion of Canada.

The right hon. gentleman resumed his seat, amid loud and long continued



Tin \i>.\.

describes the state of affairs in Lower Canada opmi

C British i. till he c;une upon the

..rant of tl inwardness " of the strife in that cli.s-

1 1 e says :—

'• I expected t<> find a contest between a government and a people ; 1

tarring in the bosom of a single state. I foun 1 a strng-

raees ; and I perceived that it would be idle

ion of laws or institutions until we could liisb

succeed in terminating the deadly animosity that now separates the inhab-

divisions of French and English.
. . . . Tli 1 hostility has not assumed its permanent influ-

ence until of la* nor has it exhibited itself everywhere at once.

While it displayed itself long ago in the cities of Quebec and Montreal,
where the leaders and masses of the rival races most specially came into
collision, (he inhabitants of the eastern townships, who were removed
all personal contact with the French, and those of the district bed »iw
Quebec, who experienced little interference from the English, co itiuued
very late period to entertain comparatively friendly feelings toward*


tli- m of the opposite races. But this is a distinction which has unfortu-
nately, year after year, been exhibiting itself more strongly, and diffusing
itself mora widely. One by one the ancient English leaders of the assem-
bly have fallen off -from the majority, and attached themselves to the
party which supported the British government against it. Every election
from the townships added to the English minority. On the other hand,
year, Lb spite of the various influences which a government can
exercise, and of which no people in the world are more susceptible than
the 1 .uadians ; in spite of the additional motives of prudence and

: which deter timid or calm men from acting with a party, ob-
_ering the public tranquillity by the violence of its conduct,
French Canadians, on whom the government could rely,
has been iiam-wcd by the influence of those associations which have drawn
them into the ranks of their kindred.

" The insnnv 1837 completed the division. Since the resort to

arms, races have been distinctly and completely arrayed against

each other. No portion of the English population was backward in tak-
ing arms in defence of the government ; with a single exception, no por-
tion of the Canadian population was allowed so do so, even where it was
asserted by some that their loyalty inclined them thereto. The exaspera-
tion thni generated has extended over the whole of each race. The most
just and sensible of the English, those whose politics had always been
liberal, those who had always advocated the most moderate policy
in the provincial disputes, seem from that moment to have taken their
part against the French, as resolutely, if not as fiercely, as the rest of their
countrymen, and to have joined in the determination never again to sub-
mit to a Fench majority. A few exceptions mark the existence, rather
than militate against the truth of the general rule of national hostility.
A few of the French, distinguished by moderate and enlarged views, still
condemn the narrow national prejudices and ruinous violence of their
countrymen, while they equally resist what they consider the violent and
unjust pretensions of a minority, and endeavour to form a middle party
between the two extremes. A large part of the Catholic clergy, a few of
the principal proprietors of the seignorial families, and some of those who
are influenced by ancient connections of party, support the government
against revolutionary violence. A very few persons of English origin
(not more, perhaps, than fifty out of the whole number), still continue to
act with the party which they originally espoused. Those who affect to
form a middle party, exercise no influence on the contending extremes ;
and those who side with the nation, from which their birth distinguishes
them, are regarded by their countrymen with aggravated hatred, as rene-


gades from their race ; while they obtain but little of the real affection,
confidence, or esteem, of those whom they have joined. . . .

" The French Canadians have attempted to shroud their hostility to the
influence of English emigration, and the introduction of British institu-
tions, under the guise of warfare against the government and its support-
ers, whom they represented to be a small knot of corrupt and insolent de-
pendents ; being a majority, they have invoked the principles of popular
control and democracy, and appealed with no little effect to the sympathy
of liberal politicians in every quarter of the world. The English, finding
their opponents in collision witli the government, have raised the cry of
loyalty and attachment to British connection, and denounced the repub-
lican designs of the French, whom they designato, or rather used to de-
signate, by the appellation of radicals. Thus the French have been view-
ed as a democratic party, contending for reform ; and the English as a
conservative minority, protecting the menaced connection with the British
crown, and the supreme authority of the empire. . . .

'• Nor did I find the spirit which animated each party at all more coin-

.; wnli th. \itions current in this country, than their objects

appeared, when tried l>y English, or rather European ideas of reforming

legislation. An utterly uneducated and singularly inert population, im-

ho ruled them by the influence of a blind confi-

and naR ial prejudices, accorded very little with the resem-

m which had 1>< .red to that high-spirited democracy which

rotation* Still less could I discover in the Eng-
lish population those slavish tools of a narrow official clique ; or a few
irhicfa their opponents had described them as be-
in-. I hive found thfi main body of the English population, consisting
: sand humble mechanics, composing a very independent,
manageable, and, sometimes a rather turbulent, democracy.
Thou ating a somewhat extravagant loyalty and highly

at; I found them very determined on maintaining in
own persons a great respect for popular rights, and singularly ready
t«. enforce their wishes by the strongest means of constitutional pressure
on tl, them and the Canadians I found the strong-

est hostility ; and that hostility was, as might be expected, most strongly
developed among the humblest and rudest of the body. Between them
and the small knot of officials, whose influence has been represented as so
formidable, I found no sympathy whatever : and it must be said, in justice
dy of oflicials, who have been so much assailed as the enemies of
the Canadian people, that however little I can excuse the injurious influ-
ence of that system of administration, which they were called upon to


carry into execution, the members of the oldest and most powerful official
families were, of all the English in the country, those in whom I generally
found most sympathy with, and kindly feeling towards, the French popu-
lation. I could not therefore believe that this animosity was only that
subsisting between an official oligarchy and a people; and again, I was
brought to a conviction that the contest, which had been represented as a

st of classes, was, in fact, a contest of races. . . .
• ' The two races thus distinct have been brought into the same commu-

muler circumstances which rendered their contact inevitably produc-

f collision. The difference of language from the first kept them

asunder. It is not any where a virtue of the English race to look with

i any manners, customs or laws, which appear strange to

them ; accustomed to form a high estimate of their own superiority, they

no pains to conceal from others their contempt and intolerance of

their usages. They found the French Canadians filled with an equal

amount of national pride ; a sensitive, but inactive pride, which disposes

:e not to resent insult, but rather to keep aloof from those who

would keep them under. The Freneh eouhl not but feel the superiority

.glish ent< ley could not shut their eyes to their success in

undertaking in which they came into contact, and to the constant
superiority which they were acquiring. They looked upon their rivals
with alarm, with jealousy, and finally with hatred. The English repaid
them with a scorn, which soon also assumed the same form of hatred. The
French complained of the arrogance and injustice of the English ; the

sh accused the French of the vices of a weak and compiered people ;
and charged them with meanness and perfidy. The entire mistrust which
the two races have thus learned to conceive ir's intentions, in-

duces them to put the worst C n on the moat inn luct ;

to judge every word, every act, and every intention unfairly ; to attribute
the most odious designs, and reject every overture of kindness or fairness.
as covering secret designs of treachery and malignity. . .

• Xo common education has served to remove and soften the differences
of origin and language. The associations of youth, the sports of ch. Id-
hood, and the studies by which the character of manhood is modified, are
distinct and totally different. In Montreal and Quebec there are English
schools and French schools ; the children in these are accustomed to tight
nation against nation, and the quarrels that arise among boys in the streets
usually exhibit a division into English on one side, and French on the
other. . . .

•• As they are taught apart, so are their studies different. The literature

which each is mo3t conversant, is that of the peculiar language of



each ; and all the ideas which men derive from books come to each of them
from perfectly different sources. The difference of language, in this res-
pect, produces effects quite apart from those which it has on the mere in-
tercourse of the two races. Those who have reflected on the powerful in-
fluence of language on thought, will perceive in how different a manner
people who speak in different languages are apt to think ; and those who
are familiar with the literature of France know that the same opinion will
be expressed by an English and French writer of the present day, not
y in different words, but in a style so different as to mark utterly
different habits of thought. . . .

'• I me of the greatest of all the evils arising from this system of irre-
sponsible government, was the mystery in which the motives and actual
purposes of their rulers were hid from the colonists themselves. The most
important business of government was carried on, not in open discussions
or public acts, but in a secret correspondence between the governor and
the secretary of state. Whenever this mystery was dispelled, it was long
ti had been prodaoed by doubt and misapprehension ;
qoently the last to learn the things that
ahlioation of papers on the order of the

and the colonies Inc.

rned them, by t

>f parlia


xelusively C
do w merits w
their nriest

stholios, and their church has

hich it had at the conquest.

protest ant.

national mi
iio clei

and zealous
and has bee

incomes sut'
ui, try


pensers of c
and LI

haritv. and

but as it || limited by law

a catholic, the priest loses his tithe the

. sale or ot into the hands of a

h is at variance with the true spirit of

igious purposes, has a natural tendency to res

>f protestants in the seigniories.

of this province have, to a very remarkable

will of persons of all creeds; and 1 know of

>rld pract ice of all the Christian virtues

ir clerical duties, is more universally admitted,

more beneficial consequences. Possessed of

large, according to the notions entertained in

he advantage of education, they have lived

ldness with the humblest and least instructed

ricts. [ntimatelj acquainted with the wants

ibonrS, they have been t he promoters and dis-
tal guardians of the morals of the people;
»f any permanent institutions of civil govern-

iiurch has [»resented almost the only semblance of


stability and organisation, and furnished the only effectual support for
eivilization and order. The catholic clergy of Lower Canada are entitled
to this expression of my esteem, not only because it is founded on truth,
but because ft grateful recognition of their eminent services in resisting
the arts of the disafl'ceted, is especially due to them from one who has
administered the government of the province In these troubled times. " . .

i in '• i vmii.n OOKPAOr."

His lordshp with his usual insight, accuracy and precision thus describes
the '* Family Compact."

•• In the preceding account of the patting of the constitutional system
in In da, 1 have described the eihet which the irresponsibility of

the real advisers of the governor had in lodging permanent authority in
the hands of a powerful party, linked together not only by common party
raattj but by personal ties. But in none of the North American pro-
- s has this exhibited itself for so long a period or to such an extent,
as in Upper Canada, which has long been entirely governed by a party
commonly designated throughout the province as the ' Family Compact/
a name not much more appropriate than party designations usually are,
inasmuch as there is, in truth, very little oi family connection among the
persons thus united. For a long time this body of men, receiving at
times accessions to its numbers, possessed almost all the highest public
offices, by means of which, and of its influence in the executive council, it
wielded all the powers of government ; it maintained influence in the
legislature by means of its predominance in the legislative council ; and it
disposed of the large number of petty posts which are in the patronage of
the government all over the province. Successive governors, as they came
in their turn, are said to have either submitted quietly to its influence, or,
after a short and unavailing struggle, to have yielded to this well-organized
party the real conduct of affairs. The bench, the magistracy, the high
offices of the episcopal church, and a great part of the legal profession, are
tilled by the adherents of this party : by grant or purchase, they have ac-
quired nearly the whole of the waste lands of the province ; they are all-
powerful in the chartered banks, and, till lately, shared among themselves
almost exclusively, all offices of trust and profit. The bulk of this party
consists, for the most part, of native-born inhabitants of the colony, or of
emigrants who settled in it before the last war with the United States ;
the principal members of it belong to the church of England, and the
maintenance of the claims of that church has always been one of its dis-
tinguishing characteristics." . . .


sri'KEMAl V Of TI1K LF.i.lSl.ATtRE.

When Lord Durham came to Canada, the Imperial mind was not clear
as to how much freedom should be extended to colonial parliaments ; and
a majority of British statesmen regarded arbitrary authority in the hands
of the governor as the only efficient and safe method of government. But
Lord Durham had not the film of age and custom upon his eyes, but at
once saw what was due to the colonies. He gives his opinion with no un-
certain sound :

" We arc not DOW to consider the policy of establishing representative
government in the North American colonics. That has been irrevocably
done ; and the experiment of depriving the people of their present consti-
tutional power, is aoi to be thought of. To conduct their government
harmoniously, in ROC mlance with its established principles, is now the
business of its rulers ; and I know not how it is possible to secure that
harmony in any other way, than by administering the government on

those principle* which have been found perfectly efficacious in Great Bri-
tain. I would not impair a single prerogathre of the crown; on the con-
trary, I be] ■ the intereeta of the people of these colonies require

the ] I, which have not hitherto been exercised,

hut • must, on the other hand, submit to the necessary conse-

OOSS of representative institutions ; and if it has to carry on the gov-
srnmetri in unison with a representative body, it must consent to carry
it on by means of those in whom that representative body has confidence.
In England, this principle has been so long considered an indisputable and
essential part of our constitution, that it has really hardly ever been found
necessary to inquire into the meam by which its observance is enforced.
" When a ministry oeasSS to I ••minand a majority in parliament on great
its doom is immediately sealed ; and it would appear
to US SS Strsnge to attempt, for any time, to carry on a government by
means of ministers perpetually in a minority, as it would be to pass laws
with a majority of votes against them. The ancient constitutional reme-
l a stoppage of the supplios, have never, since the
reign of William 111., been brought into operation for the purpose of re-
moving a ministry. They have never been called for, because in fact, it
has been the habit of ministers rather to anticipate the occurrence of an
absolutely hostile vote and to retire, when supported only by a bare and
: tain majority. If colonial legislatures have frequently stopped the
supplies, if they have harassed public servants by unjust or harsh impeach
ments, it was because the removal of an unpopular administration on Id


not be effected in the colonies by those milder indications of a want of
confidence, which have always sufficed to attain the end in the mother
country. . . .

14 The colonists may not always know what laws are best for them, or
which of their country ukii are the fittest for conducting their affairs ; but,
at least, they have a greater interest in coming to a right judgment on these
points, and will take greater pains to do so than those whose welfare is
very remotely and slightly affected by the good or bad legislation of these
portions of the empire.

" If the colonists make bad laws, and select improper persons to conduct
their affairs, they will generally be the only, always the greatest, sufferers;
and, like the people of other oouIltriM, they must bear the ills which they
bri&g OH themselves, until they choose to apply tin- remedy, lint it surely
cannot be the duty or the interest of Great Britain to keep a most expen-
sive military possession of these colonies, in order that a governor or
tary of state may be able to confer colonial appointments on one ra-
ther than another set of persons in the ooloi t this is really the
only question at issue. The slightest acquaintance with these colonies
proves the fallacy al tin- common notion, that any considerable amount of
patronage in them is distributed among strangers from the mother coun-
try. Whatever inconvenience a constant frequency of changes among the
hold., rs ot oAoe may produce, is a necessary disadvantage of free govern-
ment, which will be amply compensated by the perpetual harmony which
the system must produce between the people and its rulres. Nor do I
fear that the character of the public servants will, in any respect, suffer
from a more popular tenure of office." . . .

municipal Qoranrmn.

One of the cures proposed by his lordship was municipal government,
which Lord Dufferin has since described as the basis upon which the en-
tire governmental fabric stands. Mr. Gladstone has in recent years, at-
tempted to introduce " Home Rule " in agitated Ireland, by applying the
municipal system, and the Marquis of Ripon has made a similar effort in
India. No man, however superior, can entirely escape bias from the un-
enlightened influences of the age in which he lives ; as will be seen from
this, that even the great-minded Lord Durham saw as the chief merit of
municipal government, that it distributed the political power broadcast,
instead of allowing it to preponderate in dangerous unity. Municipal


government, no one now considers a matter of power, but of popular ex-
pediency. Says his lordship :

11 The establishment of a good system of municipal institutions through-
out these provinces, is a matter of vital importance. A general legislature,
which manages the private business of every parish, in addition to the
common business of the country, wields a power which no single body,
however popular in its constitution, ought to have ; a power which must
be destructive of any constitutional balance. The true principle of limit-
ing popular power is that apportionment of it in many different deposito-
ries which has been adopted in all the most free and stable states of the
union. Instead cf confiding the whole collection and distribution of all
the 1 • in any country for all general and local purposes to a

single representative body, the power of local assessment, and the appli-
n of the funds arising from it, should be entrusted to local manage-
ment. It is in vain to expect that this sacrifice of power will be volun-
tarily made bj any representative body. The establishment of municipal
institutions fur the whole oountrj should be made a part of every colonial
institution j and the prerogative of the crown should be constantly inter-
posed to check any encroachment OH the functions «.f the local bodies, un-
til th. alive, .is most assuredly they almost imme-
diately would he, to th. ting their local privileges." . .


It is not generally known that one of Lord Durham's dearest schemes
in his report was the mi i . if we may make that expression, of the

French Canadian people ; and in view of the utterances of b >me of the
leading English Canadian press of late, on the industrial and social infe-
riority of U>« French Canadian, and the expediency of Quebec coming
out el the shell of her foreign exclusiveness, the views of the high com-
missioner may be interesting.

" I entertain no doubts as to the national character which must be
given to Lower Canada ; it must be that of the British empire ; that of
th. majority of the population of British America ; that of the great race
which must, in the lapse of no long period of time, be predominant over
the whole North American continent. Without effecting the change so
rapidly or so roughly as to shock the feelings and trample on the welfare
of the existing generation, it must henceforth be the first and steady pur-
pose of the British government to establish an English population, with


English laws and language, in this province, ami to trust its government
to none but a decidedly English legislature. . . . The French Cana-
dians are but the remains of an ancient colonization, and are, and ever
must be, isolated in the midst of an Anglo-Saxon world. Whatever may
happen, whatever government should be established over them, British or
Ann rican, they can see no hope for their nationality. They can only
sever themselves from the British empire by waiting till some general
cans. i,.n alienates them, together with the surrounding

colonics, ;md leaves them part of an English confederacy ; or, if theyare
able, by eth-eting ■ separation simply, and so either merging in the Ameri-
can union, or keeping up for a few years a wretched semblance of feeble
independence, which would expose them mOTC than ever to the intrusion

Online LibraryJoseph Edmund CollinsLife and times of the Right Honourable Sir John A. Macdonald, premier of the Dominion of Canada → online text (page 55 of 57)