« AnteriorContinuar »
with more propriety when the bill was before the House, he should state only in a few words the outlines of the plan, unless questions were asked, or explanations demanded, in the first instance. The bill which he meant to propose was founded, in the first place, on the recommendation contained in his Majesty's message to divide the province into two governments. This division, it was hoped, would put an end to the competition between the old French inhabitants and the new settlers from Britain or British colonies, which had occasioned the disputes and uncertainty respecting law, and other disputes of less importance, by which the province had been so long distracted. This division, it was hoped, could be made in such a manner as to give each a great majority in their own particular part, although it could not be expected to draw a line of complete separation. Any incon. veniences to be apprehended from ancient Canadians being included in the one, or British settlers in the other, would be cured by the establishment of a local legislator in each.
It was for this purpose that he should first propose, in imitation of the constitution of the mother-country, a Council and House of Assembly for each ; the Assembly to be constituted in the usual manner, and the members of the Council to be members for life, reserving power to his Majesty to annex to certain honours an hereditary right of sitting in the Council. All laws and ordinances of the province were to remain in force all altered by this new legislature. They would consequently retain
as much of the law of England as they now bad, and chose to keep ; and they would possess the means of introducing as much more as they might think convenient. THE HABEAS CORPUS ACT WAS ALREADY LAW, BY AN ORDINANCE OF THE PROVINCE, AND THIS INVALUABLE RIGHT WAS TO BE CONTINUED AS A FUNDAMENTAL PRIN. CIPLE OF THE CONSTITUTION.
These were the most important points ; but there were others to which the attention of the House was called by his Majesty's message. It was meant to make provision for a Protestant clergy in both divisions, by an allotment of lands in proportion to those already granted; and as in one of them the majority of the inhabitants would be Catholics, it was meant to provide that it shall not be lawful for bis Majesty in future to assent to grants of lands for this purpose, under the sanction of the Council and Assembly of either division, without first submitting them to the consideration of the British parliament. The tenures which had been the subject of dispute, were to be settled in Lower Canada by the local legislature; in Upper Canada the settlers being mostly British, or British colonists, the tenures were to be soccage tenures ; and in order to prevent any such dispute as had been the cause of separating the thirteen states from the mother country, it was provided that the British parliament should impose no taxes but such as were necessary for the regulation of trade and com. merce; and to guard against the abuse of this power, such taxes were to be levied and to be disposed by the legislature of each division. As the constitution which he had thus briefly opened could not be in a state of activity for some time, his Majesty was to be empowered to make tempo. rary regulations, to be in force for six months after the establishment of the new constitution.
Mr. Fox declared it impossible to express an entire approbation or disapprobation of a bill which the House had not yet seen ; but he did not hesi. tate to say, that if a local legislature was liberally formed, that circumstance would incline him much to overlook defects in the other regulations, because he was convinced that the only means of retaining distant colonies with advantage was 10 enable them to govern themselves.
ORDERED, that leave be given to bring in a bill to repeal certain provisions of the act of the 14th of his Majesty, respecting the government of Canada, and to make other provisions, &c.
Friday, 8th April. The order of the day for taking the report of the Quebec bill into farther consideration having been read,
Mr. Hussey begged leave to inform the House that he had a petition to present, from a number of very respectable persons, against the bill in question. They had conceived that it was likely to prove prejudicial to their trade.
The petition was brought up and received. It contained the prayer of several merchants, warehousemen, and manufacturers of Quebec, that the bill might not pass into a law, inasmuch as after having duly weighed the consequences of it, they feared that it would be attended with great injury, particularly to their trade and commerce.
The petition was ordered to lie on the table. The Speaker then put the question, “ That this report be now taken into further consideration."
Mr. Hussey moved, “ That the bill be recommitted.”
Mr. Fox remarked, that the bill contained a variety of clauses of the utmost importance, not only with respect to the country to which they immediately related, but to Great Britain. Many of these clauses appeared to be very exceptionable, and such as he could by no means subscribe to. The bill proposed to give two Assemblies to the two provinces, and thus far it met with his approbation; but the number of persons to whom these Assemblies were to consist deserved particular attention. Although it might be perfectly true that a country three or four times as large as Great Britain ought to have representatives three or four times as numerous, yet it was not fit to say that a small country should have an assembly proportionally small.The great object in the institution of all popular assemblies was that the people should be fully and freely represented; and that the representative body should have all the virtues and the vices incident to such assemblies. But when they made an Assembly to consist of 16 or 30 persons, they seemed to him to give a free constitution in appearance, when, in fact, they withheld it. In Great Britain we had a septennial bill; but the goodness of it had been considered doubtful, at least, even by many of those who took a lead in the present bill. The right honourable gentleman (Mr. Pitt) had himself supported a vote for the repeal of that act. He did not now mean to discuss its merits ; but a main ground on which it had been thought defensible was, that a general election in this country was attended with a variety of inconveniences. That general elections in Great Britain were attended with several inconveniences could pot be doubted; but when they came to a country so different in circumstances as Canada, and where elections, for many years at least, were not likely to be attended with the consequences which they dreaded, why they should make such assemblies, not annual or triennial, but septennial, was beyond his comprehension. A septennial bill did not apply to many of the most respectable persons in that country: they might be persons engaged in trade, and if chosen representatives for seven years, they might not be in a situation to attend during all that period: their affairs might call them to England, or many other circumstances might arise, effectually to prevent them from attending the service of their country. But although it might be inconvenient for such persons to attend such assembly for the term of seven years, they might be able to give their attendance for one, or even for three years, without any danger or inconvenience to their commercial concerns. By a septennial bill the country of Canada might be deprived of many of the few representatives that were allowed by the bill. If it should be said that this objection applied to Great Britain, he completely denied it; because, although there were persons engaged in trade in the British House of Commons, and many of them very worthy members, yet they were comparatively few, and therefore he should think that, from the situation of Canada, annual and triennial parliaments would be much preferable to septennial. Of the qualification of electors he felt it impossible to approve. In England a freehold of forty shillings was sufficient; five pounds were necessary in Canada. Perhaps it might be said, that when this was fairly considered, it would make no material difference, and this he suspected to be the case; but granting that it did not, when we were giving to the world by this bill our notions of the principles of election, we should not hold out that the qualifications in Great Britain were lower than they ought to be. The qualifications on a house were still higher, he believed ten pounds. He thought that the whole