Imágenes de página

of this constitution was an attempt to undermine and contradict the professed purport of the bill,- the introduction of a popular government into Canada. But although this was the case with respect to the two Assemblies, although they were to consist of so inconsiderable a number of members, the Legislative Councils in both provinces were unlimited as to numbers. They might consist of any number whatever, at the will of the governor. Instead of being hereditary councils, or councils chosen by electors, as was the case in some of the colonies in the West Indies, or chosen by the king, they were compounded of the other two. As to the points of hereditary powers and hereditary hopours, to say that they were good, or that they were not good, as a general proposition, was not easily maintained; but he saw nothing so good in hereditary powers and honours as to incline us to introduce them into a country where they were unknown, and by such means distinguish Canada from all the colonies in the West Indies. In coun. tries where they made a part of the constitution, he did not think it wise to destroy them; but to give birth and life to such principles in countries where they did not exist appeared to him to be exceedingly unwise. He could not account for it, unless it was that Canada, having been formerly a French colony, there might be an opportunity of reviving those titles of honour, the extinction of which some gentlemen so much deplored, and to revive in the west that spirit of chivalry which had fallen into disgrace in a neighbouring country. He thought these powers and honours wholly unnecessary, and tending rather to make a new constitution worse than better. If the Council were wholly hereditary, he should equally object to it; it would only add to the power of the king and the governor; for a council so constituted would only be the tool of the governor, as the governor himself would only be the tool and engine of the king. He did not clearly comprehend the provision which the bill made for the Protestant clergy. By the Protestant clergy he supposed to be understood not only the clergy of the Church of England, but all descriptions of Protestants. He totally disapproved of the clause which enacts, “ That whenever the king shall make grants of lands, one-seventh part of those lands shall be appropriated to the Protestant clergy." He had two objections to these regulations, both of them in his opinion of great weight. In all grants of land made in that country to Catholics, and a majority of the inhabitants were of that persuasion, one-seventh part of those grants was to be appropriated to the Protestant clergy, although they might not have any cure of souls, or any congregations to instruct. One-tenth part of the produce of this country was assigned, and this, perhaps, was more than one-seventh of the land. He wished to deprive no clergyman of his just rights; but in settling a new constitution, and laying down new principles, to enact that the clergy should have oneseventh of all grants, he must confess appeared to him an absurd doctrine. If they were all of the Church of England, this would not reconcile him to the measure. It might be asked, why should they not have as much as the Church of England ? In this country we had that which some condemned, and others praised : we had a kind of shew, but still a proportion must be observed. The greatest part of these Protestant clergy were not of the Church of England; they were chiefly what are called Protestant dissenters in this country. They were, therefore, going to give to dissenters oneseventh part of all the lands in the province. Was this the proportion, either in Scotland or in any other country where those religious principles were professed? It was not the proportion either in Scotland, or in any other ecclesiastical country in Europe. We were therefore, by this bill, making a sort of provision for the Protestant clergy of Canada, which was unknown to them in every part of Europe; a provision, in his apprehension, which would rather tend to corrupt than to benefit them. The regulations were likewise in part obscure; because, after it had stated that one-seventh of the land should always be set aside for the Protestant clergy, it did not state how it should be applied. The bill was likewise exceptionable, as far as it related to the regulation of appeals. Suitors were, in the first instance, to carry their complaints before the courts of common law in Canada: if dissatisfied with the decisions of those courts, they might appeal to the governor and council: if dissatisfied with their judgment, they might then appeal to the king in council; and next, to the House of Lords. Now, if the House of Lords was a better court, which he believed it to be, than the king in council, why compel them to appeal to the king in council before they could come to the House of Lords? Why not apply to the House of Lords at once? This could answer no possible purpose, but to render lawsuits exceedingly expensive, and exceedingly vexatious. Those were the principal objections he had to this bill. There had not yet been a word said in explanation of it, with all its variety of clauses and regulations. It went through the House silently, without one observation; it also went through the Committee only in form, but not in substance. Of all the points of the bill, that which struck him the most forcibly was, the division of the province of Canada. It had been urged, that by such means we could separate the English and French inhabitants of the province; that we could distinguish who were originally French, from those of English origin. But was this to be desired? Was it not rather to be avoided ? Was it agreeable to general political expediency? The most desirable circumstance was, that the French and English inhabitants of Canada should unite and coalesce, as it were, into one body; and that the different distinctions of the people might be extinguished for ever. If this had been the object in view, the English laws might soon have prevailed universally throughout Canada ; not from force, but from choice, and conviction

of their superiority. He had no doubt that, on a fair trial, they would be found free from all objection. The inhabitants of Canada had not the laws of France. The commercial code was never established there: they stood upon the exceedingly inconvenient custom of Paris. He wished the people of that country to adopt the English laws from choice, and not from force; and he did not think the division of the province the most likely means to bring about this desirable end. In his opinion, this bill was also objectionable as far as it related to the trial by jury, and the habeas corpus act, which the Canadians were said to enjoy by an ordinance of the province. It was stated by one of the counsel at the bar, that either the ordinance, which gave the inhabitants the trial by jury, or that which afforded them the benefit of the habeas corpus, would expire before this bill could pass into a law. If this were true it was an objection to the bill, and ought to be remedied. He trusted that the House would also seriously consider the particular situation of Canada. It was not to be compared to the West Indies : it was a country of a different nature: it did not consist of a few white inhabi. tants and a number of slaves; but it was a country of great growing population, which had increased very much, and which he hoped would increase much more. It was a country capable of enjoying as much political freedom, in its utmost extent, as any other country on the face of the globe. This country was ' situated near the colonies of North America : all their animosity and bitterness on the quarrel between them and Great Britain was now over; and he believed that there were very few people among those colonies who would not be ready to admit every person belonging to this country into a participation of all their privileges, and would receive them with open arms. The governments now established in North America were, in his opinion, the best adapted to the situation of the people who lived under them of any of the governments of the ancient or modern world ; and when we had a colony Jike this, capable of freedom, and capable of a great increase of people, it was material that the inhabitants should have nothing to look to among their neighbours to excite their envy. Canada must be preserved in its adherence to Great Britain by the choice of its inhabitants, and it could not possibly be kept by any other means. But it must be felt by the inhabitants that their situation was not worse than that of their neighbours. He wished them to be in such a situation as to have nothing to envy in any part of the king's dominions. But this would never prove the case under a bill which held out to them something like the shadow of the British constitution, but denied them the substance. Where the principles of liberty were gaining ground, which would increase in consequence of the general diffusion of literature and knowledge in the world, they should have a government as agreeable to the genuine principles of freedom as was consistent with the nature of circumstances. He did not think that the government intended to be established by the bill would prove such a government; and this was his principal motive for opposing it. The Legislative Councils ought to be totally free, and repeatedly chosen, in a manner as much independent of the governor as the nature of a colony would admit. Those, he conceived, would be the best; but if not, they should have their seats for life; be appointed by the king ; consist of a limited number; and possess no hereditary honours. Those honours might be very proper, and of great atility, in countries where they had existed by long custom; but, in his opinion, they were not fit to be introduced where they had no original existence; where there was no particular reason for introducing them, arising from the nature of the country, its extent, its state of improvement, or its peculiar customs; where, instead of attracting respect, they might excite envy; and as but few could enjoy them, those who did not might be induced to form an un,

« AnteriorContinuar »