Joseph Howe.

The speeches and public letters of Joseph Howe. (Based upon Mr. Annand's edition of 1858) (Volume 1) online

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House had been deljarred the usual official courtesies due to his rank, and
never, for half a century, omitted. After all this had been done, and no pains
spared to make the quarrel personal, is it strange that we should have deter-
mined to retaliate ; to show our opponents the blunder they had committed by


forcing the Queen's representative into the political arena ; to let them see CHAP, xi
there was some wit and humour on the opposite side ; and that if they monopo-
lized political power, they were not to have a monopoly of the elegant manufac-
ture of political pasquinade. " The Lord of the Bed-chamber " describes the
perplexities and conflicting feelings of the Governor and his advisers during the
fourteen days' debate on the address in the winter session. If the writer has
gone too far, gentlemen, bear in mind the extent of the provocation. Let it not
be said that Lord Falkland and his advisers were not answerable for what
appeared in The Morning Post ; that paper was edited and owned by the printer
of The Gazette. The Government had the command and the direction of both.
If a person kept a brothel and a boarding-house under the same roof, and if the
former was a nuisance to the neighbourhood, could those who frequented and
patronized and encouraged the proprietor plead that they were only accountable
for what was done in a single suite of apartments ? I think not ; and acting
on this principle, I have claimed my right to hold the Lieutenant-Go vernor
personally responsible for all the defamation published by the organ of his
Government, by his paid official servant. I may have been right or wrong, but
I fearlessly avow the fact. [Mr. Howe here referred to and read the poem l
complained of by the Attorney-General, and kept the House laughing for ten


The Lord of the Bed-chamber sat in his shirt

(And D dy the pliant was there),

And his feelings appeared to be very much hurt,

And his brow overclouded with care.

It was plain, from the flush that o'ermantled his cheek,

And the fluster and haste of his stride,
That, drown'd and bewildered, his brain had grown weak

From the blood pump'd aloft by his pride.

" No answer I The scoundrels, how dare they delay !

Do they think that a man who's a Peer,
Can thus be kept feverish, day after day,

In the hope that their Speaker '11 appear.

" The Goths ! Has not J , ' my leader,' so 'cute,

Stood up in his place and declared
That, whenever it happens my humour to suit,

To do justice to all I'm prepared ?

" How dare they delay, when a Peer of the Realm,

And a Lord of the Bed-chamber, too,
To govern them all has been placed at the helm.

And to order them just what to do 1


CHAP. XI minutes with ludicrous commentaries.] The Attorney-General had bitterly

complained of the opening line:

" The Lord of the Bed-chamber sat in his shirt."

This is the first time I ever suspected that to hint that noblemen wore
shirts was a grave offence, to be prosecuted in the high court of Parliament by
an Attorney-General. Had the author said that the Lord of the Bed-chamber
had no shirt, or that it stuck through his pantaloons, there might have been
good ground of complaint. There was a little poem of Hood's, that began

" With fingers weary and worn,

With eyelids heavy and red,
A woman sat in unwomanly rags,

Plying her needle and thread.

" Go, D dy ; go, D dy, and tell them from me,

That like Oliver Crom. I'll come down,
My orderly sergeant mace-bearer shall be,

And kick them all out of the town."

Then D dy the pliant looked puzzled and grim,

And he made a salaam with his head,
But ventured to hint that it might not, for him,

Be quite safe to repeat what was said.

' They've got some odd notions, the obstinate crew,

That we are their servants and they
A sergeant have got, and a stout fellow, too,

Who their orders will strictly obey.

" Besides, though the leader and I have averred,

That justice they soon shall receive,
Tis rather unlucky that never a word

That we say will the fellows believe.

" Their satire and arguments freely they pour ;

In their numbers and talents they glory ;
And your bed-chamber title they'll care for no more

Than they did for my bed-chamber story."

Then the Lord of the Bed-chamber stamped and he swore,

Till D dy looked pale as a sheet,

And was quietly edging away to the door,

In the hopes to effect his retreat

" How now," cries his Lordship, " deserted by you I

I hope you don't mean to retire ' ;
Sit down, sir, and tell me at once what to do,

For my blood and my brain are on fire."


Stitch ! stitch ! stitch ! CHAP. XI

In poverty, hunger, and dirt,
And still, with a voice of dolorous pitch, 1845

She sang ' the song of the Shirt.' "

The author of these lines has recently been pensioned, and I have no doubt,
whenever our " Song of the Shirt " is brought to the notice of her gracious
Majesty, which it must be now that it has become an important state paper,
she will be equally mindful of the merit of the author.

I come now to the paper of the 10th of June, and mean to fulfil the pledge
with which I set out, by showing that every article in The Nova Scotian, to
which the Attorney-General takes exception, was called for by an insidious
defamatory publication, put forth by the official servant of the Government.
This, which I confess I wrote, is in answer to a long one in the Executive
organ of the 30th of May. That is coarse and brutal throughout ; it accuses

Then D dy, bewildered, shrank back to his chair,

And protested he'd fight till he died ;
Bat he looked like a beautiful cast of Despair,

With the Angel of Wrath by his side.

" Suppose," and his voice half recovered its tone,

" You ask them to dinner," he cried,
"And when you can get them aloof and alone,

Let threats and persuasions be tried.

" If you swear you'll dissolve, you may frighten a few,

You may wheedle and coax a few more,
If the old ones look knowing, stick close to the new,

And we yet opposition may floor.

" For a month I have laboured divisions to sow,

And 8 y has lied like a Turk,

And M r has feasted, and J , you know,

Is nearly knocked up with hard work.

" But still, in close column, they stand and they fight,

And the country is getting on fire,
And the county of Hants sent a squadron last night,

To ask W at once to retire."

" I'll do it, my D dy I'll do it this night,

' Party Government ' still I eschew ;
But if a few parties will set you all right,

I'll give them, and you may come too."

The Romans of old, when to battle they press'd,

Consulted the entrails, 'tis said.
And arguments, if to the stomach addressed,

May do more than when aimed at the head.



CHAP. XI me of wishing to be "at the head of a tyrannical and oppressive Government."
It reiterates the monstrous falsehood a thousand times repeated that I
demanded leave of the Lieutenant-Governor " to lot me form a party Govern-
ment," when I never proposed to him to form any Council, either before or
after the elections, in which the Conservatives were not to have had four or five
seats. As * specimen of the high compliments paid to the Opposition, it is only
necessary to say that they are styled " a band of brigands." Was it to be
expected, then, that I should put the buttons on the foils, in defending my
friends and myself from such an assailant ? Out of five columns of calm and
good-humoured argument, the Attorney-General has selected a single passage ;
and that, taken in connection with the line of reasoning I have pursued and the
article to which it was an answer, carries with it its own justification :

"We shall now only say a word or two as to the 'personal attacks' which
we are accused of making ' on Her Majesty's representative,' and on this subject
we shall 8j)eak out plainly and distinctly. When a Governor descends so far as
to publicly accuse men who have served him faithfully, of attempting to ' wrest
the prerogative,' because they differ in opinion with him and retire from his
Council ; when he accuses them of ' pretensions,' when they counsel him
fearlessly, as they are sworn to do ; when he refuses to the Speaker of the
Assembly the official courtesies which are his due, because that officer acts
independently in the discharge of his public duty; and seeks to curb, by a
boyish pettishness of resentment, all freedom of action and sentiment in politics,
he places himself upon a much lower level than the Liberals of Nova Scotia
think a Governor should always occupy. For our part we have no hesitation
in saying, that he no longer represents, but that he misrepresents our Sovereign ;
and, so far as we are j>ersonally concerned, we would not allow the proudest
duke that ever stood behind a throne to play such antics in Nova Scotia,
without letting him feel that there was at least one person in the Province a
little prouder than himself, and quite conscious that

The rank is but the guinea stamp
A man's a man for a' that.'

" As to the statement that his Lordship c had written himself down,' the
opinion is very current among those who have examined the letters, speeches,
and state jxipers which have been issued from the Executive during the last
year ; but it is well known that we hold his advisers responsible for these, and
that when we speak of the Governor, in those political essays, we but refer to
and criticise the acts of his Executive Council. If they knew their duty, they
would apply to themselves every attack, every joke, every sarcasm, without
thrusting the Queen's representative into the front of the battle, to receive the
shot* and return the fire."

Let me now direct your attention to the paper of the 15th July, and ask
again what drew forth the article which it contains ? The answer is another


gross libel on the retired Councillors, in the Government organ. Sir Charles CHAP, xi
Metcalfe had written to Lord Stanley :

1 ft A ^

" I am required to give myself up entirely to the Council ; to submit
absolutely to their dictation ; to have no judgment of my own ; to bestow the
patronage of the Government exclusively on their partisans ; to proscribe their
opponents; and to make some public and unequivocal declaration of my
adhesion to these conditions, involving the complete nullification of Her
Majesty's Government."

Lord Falkland's official scribe, commenting on this passage, had said :

" This is what Lord Falkland is required to do by his opponents ; the
enemies of justice to all parties, and to constitutional freedom. Is this
disputed ? "

What was my answer? The passage garbled and complained of by the
Attorney-General. The committee will pardon me for quoting the whole :

" So, then, Lord Falkland has been required by Uniacke, Howe, and McNab
' to submit absolutely to their dictation ; to have no judgment of his own ; to
bestow the patronage of the Government exclusively on their partisans ; to pro-
scribe their opponents, and to make some public and unequivocal declaration
of his adhesion to these conditions, involving a complete nullification of Her
Majesty's Government.'

"Surely, surely, Lord Falkland cannot wonder that these gentlemen and
their friends are not very measured in their expressions, when his paid official
servant, the mouthpiece of his Government, puts forth such barefaced lies as
these. The epithet may be strong, but it is the right one to use in such a case.
In the name of the ex-Councillors, on the house-tops, before Lord Falkland's
face ; aye, in the presence of the Queen herself ; wherever and whenever this
charge is brought against James McNab, James B. Uniacke and Joseph Howe,
to our dying day we will pronounce it a base, black falsehood, without a shadow
of foundation ; yes, and add, that no man knows better that it is so than the
nobleman who thus instructs or permits his underling to defame men, whom the
plain unvarnished truth could not injure."

Was this language too strong ? What was the charge ? Treason, disloyalty,
utter prostration of the royal authority ; and " base, black falsehood " was the
only term to apply to such a slander.

Let me quote the proof that it was so, which the Attorney-General con-
veniently forgot to give :

"Now what are the facts? We speak of our own personal share in this
charge and of our own experience. Will the public believe that in three years and
a half but one appointment was made by our advice to which Lord Falkland
evinced the slightest repugnance, and that was the reappointment of an old
servant ? Will they believe that in every other, for reasons deemed satisfactory
to ' his own judgment,' he gave a cheerful and full concurrence, and that these
amounted to hundreds ?

" Will the country believe that in every act of administration, throughout


CHAr. xi the whole period that those gentlemen thus defamed were members of Lord
Falkland's Council, a most respectful deference was paid to his Lordship's
feelings and opinions ; that in no one instance was anything pressed upon him
to which he entertained a decided and strong objection ? "

I coine now to another of those satirical poems, 1 which the Attorney-General

Private and Confidential.


By this mail, which I have not detain' d.

A few lines, mark'd private, to write I'm constrain 'd.

In my public despatch, my position, en beau,

Is set off to the greatest advantage, you know ;

When you read it you'll think I have nothing to bore me,

Bat am driving Bluenoscs, like poultry, before me.

I'm sorry to own, yet the fact must be stated,

The game is all up, and I'm fairly check-mated.

The Poacher in Chaucer, with goose in his breeches,

Was betrayed by the neck peeping through the loose stitches ;

And I must acknowledge, unfortunate sinner,

As my griefs are enlarging, my breeches get thinner ;

And I feel, if I do not soon make a clean breast,

That, from what you observe, you will guess at the rest.

But while talking of geese, it is said, in some ruction,
That Rome, by their cackling, was sav'd from destruction
The luck of the Roman runs not in my line,
For I am destroyed by the cackling of mine.

There's H y, whose pedantry, blent with his blarney,

Makes his verses so stiff and his letters so yarny,

Has physick'd and scrawled till I'm nearly done over

For his books never sell, nor his patients recover.

There's W s, half German, half Taffy, they say,

Whose brains have " a looseness," who talks by the day
I wish that his wind would but go t'otitcr way.

There's J n, the costive, when spinning a yarn,

On the floor of the House, or the floor of a barn,
Excels in the fine arts of canting and prosing,
And never can see when his audience are dozing :
The extent of his labour no midwife can guess,
While the wearisome after-birth spreads o'er the Press.

Then there's R s, who goes snorting and screaming so fine,

In whom all the worst points of the bagpipe combine,


declares is " so indecent " that it cannot be read ; and really, if it were not for CHAP, xi
wasting your time, Mr. Chairman, with such trifles, I would read the whole of
it, and let the committee judge of the text and the commentator. It is a letter
in humorous verse, supposed to be written by Lord Falkland to Lord Stanley.
It appeared in The Nova Scotian on the 20th of November ; but the committee

The drone, and the harshness ; our ears would be dinn'd,
But the fellow, My L d, is deficient in wind.

But the plague of my life is a genius I bought
(I'm indebted to Stewart for the unlucky thought),
In mischief laborious in judgment deficient
In the slang of all despots a slavish proficient ;
As a dog is with hairs, so he's cover'd with lies
If he touches a flower, it fades or it dies :
Like an issue, first opened the patient to save,
But which festers and runs till he reaches the grave,
This fellow exhausts me I'm thin as a ghost,
With detaining the Mails, and maintaining the Pott.

My L d , if I wrote this as long as a lecture,

One half of my cares you could never conjecture :
Only think how my feelings are wounded and hurt,
By having a reference made to my " shirt "
Among ignorant people, so soft, that before, one
In ten hardly knew that a nobleman wore one.
The " Prerogative's" safe, as the talent we're told of,
Which the idle and profitless steward got hold of,
Wrapt up in a napkin, it " lies" on my table,
But to make any use of 't I own I'm unable.

Then Metcalfe has cut me, and Ryerson swears
That Sir Charles never dressed himself out in my airs ;
And your own declaration on Party, came down,
Like the blow of a stick on the head of a clown.

And that strange fellow, Howe, though I've tried to destroy him
(I wish from my soul that I yet could employ him),
Goes laughingly telling the truth o'er the hind,
Till the storm rages round me on every hand
And the people, beginning to take my dimensions,
But smile at my pride and resist my " pretensions."
Have pity, my Lord, and, if possible, aid me,
I know at the Clubs they will laugh and upbraid me ;
But if in the East yon can stow me away,
Of your temporal welfare I'll think, when I pray
And blunder no more, with my temper contrary,
But behave myself better,

Your friend,


CHAP, xi will bear in mind that it was provoked by two letters of the same description,
published at my expense by the official printer just ten days before. It

My Lord, by this mail, which I have not detained,
A few linos marked ' private,' to write I'm constrained."

This was only a fair hit at the Government for the detention of all the
correspondence of the Lower Provinces, because the Governor's advisers were too
careless or too stupid to write in time an official letter to the officer in charge
of the steamer. We have asked for the correspondence on this subject ; it has
been refused. When it is necessary to denounce a lampoon or deprive Her
Majesty's lieges of the innocent privilege of laughing, we have grave despatches
in abundance ; when thousands of letters and hundreds of thousands of pounds,
in orders for insurance and bills of exchange, are detained here a fortnight by
gross ignorance or dereliction of duty, information is denied. But to proceed
with the poetry :

" In my public despatch, my position, en beau,
Is set off to the greatest advantage, you know ;
When you read it, you'll think I have nothing to bore me,
But am driving Blue Noses, like poultry, before me.
1 am sorry to own, but the fact must be stated,
The game is all up and I'm fairly check-mated.
The Poacher in Chaucer, with goose in his breeches,
Was betrayed by the neck peeping through the loose stitches ;
And I must acknowledge, unfortunate sinner,
As my griefs are enlarging, my breeches get thinner ;
And I feel, if I do not soon make a clean breast,
That, from what you observe, you will guess at the rest."

I fear that this allusion to his Excellency's breeches is regarded by the
Government with as much alarm as the former reference to the startling fact of
his wearing a shirt.

" But while talking of geese, it is said, in some ruction,
That Rome, by their cackling, was saved from destruction ;
Tho luck of the Roman runs not in my line,
For I am destroyed by the cackling of mine."

When this was written, lightly as I estimated the discretion of Lord Falk-
land's advisers, I did not think they were such geese as to come cackling to the
Assembly over such eggs as these. There are other passages, perhaps a little
broad, but surely not half so bad as dozens that are to be found in Shakespeare,
Swift, Sterne, Pindar, or in Hanbury Williams's political pasquinades, all of
which, I doubt not, arc to be found on the Attorney-General's book-shelves.
If thia squib is to be condemned, let Judge Slick, whose volumes abound in


broad humour, preside at the trial, and I doubt if the Crown officers can obtain CHAP, xi
a verdict.

[Mr. Howe next read and reviewed the article of the 2nd of December, 1845
which he proved was, like all the others, called forth by a violent and scurrilous
attack on himself and on the Speaker of the Assembly.]

I have now gone through all the articles on which this solemn Executive
proscription is founded, and I may say at the end of this review as I said at the
beginning, that I mourn over the spectacle which the Governor of my country
presents ; coming down to Parliament with a case at which Lord Stanley and
every clerk in Downing Street would laugh, if the pleadings on both sides were
before them. Nova Scotians were wont to occupy high ground for steady
loyalty ; for firm adherence to principle ; for acute circumspection in the
management of their affairs. But I doubt if this solemn impeachment of a
political newspaper, this war upon the satiric muse, will elevate us much either
at home or abroad. Before passing from these topics, in justice to myself, I
must make one or two observations. That I know what is due to my Sovereign's
representative when the dignity of his high station is adequately sustained ;
when political warfare is conducted within the boundaries of the constitution j
when personal feelings are not outraged and public principle is not sought to be
crushed by Executive defamation, the members of this committee and the people
of this Province, know right well. From 1836 to 1840, at the head of a
majority in this Assembly and with a press at my command, I conducted an
opposition to Sir Colin Campbell's administration, and never'wrote a line or
uttered a syllable personally offensive to that gallant old soldier. Why ?
Because he treated the members of the Opposition like gentlemen and because,
by the men who sustained him under the leadership of my learned friend from
Cape Breton, and those who differed with them on principle, all the courteous
observances of chivalrous warfare were maintained ; we saluted each other as
the first volley was fired and drank at the same stream when the battle was

For the more barbarous style of warfare which has come lately into
vogue, the Opposition are not to blame ; they but follow the mode set by his
Lordship's advisers. I regret the change, for I well remember, when standing
in the crowd at Lord Falkland's first levee, Sir Colin Campbell thus addressed
me : " Mr. Howe, there is my hand ; we fought it out bravely, for each thought
he was right ; you treated me like a gentleman and I cherish no unkind
feeling." Such are the terms upon which British Governors and British
colonists should part; it will be always so, when those who represent the
Sovereign respect themselves and respect the feelings and the rights of

But it is said I praised Lord Falkland in 1842. I did ; he had then done
nothing undeserving of commendation I spoke as I felt. I speak now as I
feel, with two years of added experience ; and after, misled by bad advisers, he
has committed innumerable blunders. If I praised him in 1842, the Attorney-


CHAP. XI General's friend hissed him ; surely there is as much inconsistency in the one
cue as in the other. Members of Council lauded my magnanimity in 1842,
1845 wno are now parties to this miserable proscription. The papers that sustain
his Lordship in 1845 teemed with scurrilous invective in 1842. What has
produced the change ? Am I the only inconsistent party of the whole ? Neither
are inconsistent; his Lordship has forfeited the confidence of his old friends
by the very policy which has delighted his old enemies. Circumstances develop
character often very rapidly. Saul was the same Saul after he had launched
his javelin at David that he was before. A trifle had touched his vanity and
aroused his pride. Yet David could hardly be expected to feel or speak of him
as he felt and spoke before his life was menaced. The Moor is the same
man in the fifth that he is in the first act of the play ; but his whole character
has been changed ; the wily lago has poured a leprous distilment into his ear,
has so practised on his noble nature that he rants like a maniac and destroys
the wife of his bosom in his rage. A man may have praised a fine horse that
he would hardly know again when driven frantic and blown by a nettle tied to
his tail. Sir, I have always done Lord Falkland justice ; I will do him justice
now, though he has taken the Sovereign's name in vain and prostituted Her

Online LibraryJoseph HoweThe speeches and public letters of Joseph Howe. (Based upon Mr. Annand's edition of 1858) (Volume 1) → online text (page 67 of 85)