Search just our sites by using our customised site search engine

Click here to get a Printer Friendly PageSmiley

Baldwin, LaFontaine, Hincks
Chapter VI - The Coming of Metcalfe

ON March 29th. 1843, the little town of Kingston was once more astir with expectancy and interest over the arrival of a new governor-general. Sir Charles Metcalfe had sailed from Liverpool to Boston, and thence had journeyed overland to Kingston, the country being in that inclement season "one mass of snow." His journey terminated ,ii a drive across the frozen lake and river, and a state entry, with no little pageantry, into his colonial capital. "He came," said a Kingston correspondent of the time, " from the American side, in a close-bodied sleigh drawn by four greys. He was received on arriving at the foot of Arthur Street by an immense concourse of people. The male population of the place turned out on masse to greet Sir Charles, which they did with great enthusiasm. The various branches of the fire department, the Mechanics' Institution and the national societies, turned out with their banners, which, with many sleighs decorated with flags, made quite a show. Sir Charles Metcalfe is a thorough-looking Englishman, with a jolly visage."

In the drama of responsible government in Canada, it was the unfortunate lot of this "thorough-looking Englishman with a jolly visage," to be east for the part of villain. His attempt to strangle the infant Hercules in its cradle, to reassert the claim of the governor to the actual control of the administration, forms the most important and critical episode of the story before us and merits a treatment in some detail. Such a treatment may, perhaps, be best introduced by a discussion of the personality and personal opinions of the new governor, and in particular of his opinions on the vexed question of colonial administration. The word "villain " that has just been used, must be understood in a highly figurative sense. Metcalfe was a man of many admirers. Gibbon Wakefield has pronounced him a statesman f whom God made greater than the colonial office." Macaulay indicates for him a perhaps even higher range of distinction in calling him, "the ablest civil servant I ever knew in India." His enthusiastic biographer2 tells us that on his retiring from his administration of Jamaica, the "coloured population kneeled to bless him," while " all classes of society and all sects of Christians sorrowed for his departure, and the Jews set an example of Christian love by praying for him :n their synagogues." In face of such a record it seems almost a pity that Sir Charles should have abandoned the coloured populations of Jamaica and Hyderabad to assume the care of the un coloured people of Canada. That Metcalfe was an upright, honourable man, disinterested in his motives and conscientious in the performance of what lie took to be his duty, is hardly open to doubt. But it may well be doubted whether the antecedent training that he had received had not unfitted, rather than fitted, him for the position he was now called upon to assume.

In the British system a great gulf is fixed between the administration of a dependency and the governorship of a self-governing colony. Of the greatness of this gulf Metcalfe appears to have had no proper appreciation, and he was, in consequence, unable to rid his mind of the supposed parallel between the different parts of the empire in which he had been called upon to act as governor. In a letter which he addressed to Colonel Stokes, one of his Indian correspondents, during his troubles in Canada, he undertakes to make his difficulties with the Canadian legislature apparent by the following interesting analogy: "Fancy such a state of things in India, with a Mohammedan council and a Mohammedan assembly, and you will have some notion of my position." In view of the very limited number of Mohammedans in the Canadian assembly, it is to be presumed that the notion thus communicated would be a somewhat artificial one.

Sir Charles Metcalfe, at the time of his coming to Canada, was fifty-eight years old.1 For some time previous he had been suffering from a dangerous and painful malady—a cancerous growth in the left cheek—which had occasioned his retirement from his previous position. An operation performed in England had seemed to remove all danger of a fatal termination of the disorder, and Sir Charles, in coming to Canada, hoped that he had at last recovered from his long affliction.

What may seem strange in connection with Metcalfe's regime in Canada, and his attitude towards Canadian political parties, was that he was not, as far as British politics were concerned, a Tory or a friend of the royal prerogative. He was, on the contrary, to use the words of his biographer, " a Whig and something more than a Whig." The same authority3 has further described him as " a statesman known to be saturated through and through with liberal opinions." Metcalfe himself, in a letter written shortly before his appointment, spoke of his own opinions and his political position in the following terms: "In the present predominance of Toryism among the constituencies, there is no chance for a man who is for the abolition of the Corn Laws, vote by ballot, extension of the suffrage, amelioration of the Poor Laws for the benefit of the poor, equal rights to all sects of Christians n matters of religion, and equal rights to all men in civil matters."'

On the strength of such a declaration -t might have been supposed that Metcalfe would have gravitated naturally towards the Reform party of Canada, at the basis of whose programme civil and religious equality and the doctrine of equal rights lay as a corner-stone. But the lamp of Metcalfe's Liberalism burned dun in the colonial atmosphere. His inclinations were all on the side of the Tory party, whose fen id and ostentatious loyalty offered a cheering contrast to the stiff-necked independence of the Reformers. "It is," he said, "the only party with which I can sympathize. I have no sympathy with the anti-British rancour of the French party or the selfish indifference towards our country of the Republican party. Yet these are the parties with which I have to cooperate." The expression, "Republican party," shows that the incessant accusation of disloyalty brought by the Conservative journalists against their opponents, was not without its effect upon the governor's mind. By sheer force of iteration the Conservatives had convinced themselves that they were the one and only section of the people truly loyal to the Crown ; and since the governor was the immediate and visible representative of the Crown in Canada, there was a natural temptation to construe his attitude into a declaration of personal allegiance.

But although Metcalfe might plead guilty to a spontaneous sympathy with the Tory party, he had no intention of identifying or allying himself with any of the rival factions. On the contrary-, he cherished, as had his predecessors, the belief that his proper attitude and vocation should be that of the peacemaker, the wise administrator enabled by the altitude of his office to compose the differences that severed his fractious subordinates. "I dislike extremely," he said, "the notion of governing as a supporter of any particular party. I wish to make the patronage of the government conducive to the conciliation of all parties by bringing into the public service the men of greatest merit and efficiency, without any party distinction."

The governor seems, however, to have recognized that he could not disregard the fact that the party at present in power had the support of the assembly behind them. "Fettered as I am," he wrote, " by the necessity of acting with a council brought into place by a coalition of parties, and at present n possession of a decided majority in the representative assembly, I must in some degree forego my own inclinations in those respects." It was his intention, he told the colonial secretary, to treat the executive council with the confidence and cordiality due to the station which they occupied, but he; was prepared to be on his guard against any encroachments. This last phrase touches the root of the matter. Of what nature were the "encroachments" which Metcalfe was determined not to permit ? How did he interpret his own position in reference to the executive officers that were his constitutional advisers? What, in other words, was his opinion on the application of responsible government ? The answer to this question can best be found by an examination of Metcalfe's own statements as they appear in his confidential correspondence with the colonial office.

"Lord Durham's meaning," he wrote, "seems to have been that the governor should conduct his administration in accordance with public feeling, represented by the popular branch of the legislature, and it is obvious that without such concordance the government could not be successfully administered. There is no evidence in what manner Lord Durham would have carried out the system which he advocated, as it was not brought into effect during his administration. Lord Sydenham arranged the details by which the principle was carried into execution. In forming the executive council he made it a rule that the individuals composing it should be members of the popular branch of the legislature, to which, I believe, there was only one exception: the gentleman app<tinted to be president being a member of the legislative council. Lord Sydenham had apparently no intention of surrendering the government into the hands of the executive council. On the contrary, he ruled the council, and exercised great personal influence in the election of members to the representative assembly. ... I am not aware that any great change took place during that period of the administration of Sir Charles Bagot which preceded the meeting of the legislature, but this event was instantly followed by a full development of the consequences of making the officers of the government virtually dependent for the possession of their places on the pleasure of the representative body. The two extreme parties in Upper Canada most violently opposed to one another, coalesced solely for the purpose of turning out the office-holders, or, as it is now termed, the ministry of that day, with no other bond of union, and with a mutual understanding that having accomplished that purpose, they would take the chance of the consequences, and should be at liberty to follow their respective courses. The French party also took part ia this coalition, and from its compactness and internal union, formed its greatest strength. These parties together accomplished their joint purpose. They had expected to do so by a vote of the assembly, but hi that were anticipated by the governor-general, who in apprehension of t he threatened vote of want of confidence m members of his council, opened negotiations with the leaders of the French party, and that negotiation terminated in the resignation or removal from the council of those members who belonged to what is called by themselves the Conservative party, and in the introduction of five members of the united French and Reform parties. . . . These events were regarded by all parties in the country as establishing in full force the system of responsible government of which the practical execution had before been incomplete. From that time the tone of the members of the council and the tone of the public voice regarding responsible government has been greatly exalted. The council are now spoken of by themselves and others generally as the 'ministers,' the 'administration,' the 'cabinet,' the 'government,' and so forth. Their pretensions are according to this new nomenclature. They regard themselves as a responsible ministry, and expect that the policy and conduct of the governor shall be subservient to their views and party policy."

Very similar in tone is a despatch of May 12th, 1843, in which the governor declared that none of his predecessors had really been face to face with the problem of granting or withholding self-government. "Lord Durham," he said, " had no difficulty in writing at leisure in praise of responsible government. . . Lord Sydenham put the idea in force without suffering himself to be much restrained by it. . . Sir Charles Bagot yielded to the coercive effect of Lord Sydenham's arrangements. Now comes the tug of war, and supposing absolute submission to be out of t he question. I cannot say that I see the end of the struggle if the parties alluded to really mean to maintain it." The part that the new governor intended to play in this impending tug of war is clearly indicated in this communication to Lord Stanley, He had no intention of adapting himself to the position of a merely nominal head of the government, controlled by the advice of his ministers.

"I am required," he wrote, "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- including the complete nullification of Her Majesty's government—a course which he [Mr. LaFontaine, under self-deception, denominates Sir Charles Bagot's policy, although it is very certain that Sir Charles Bagot meant no such thing. Failing of submission to these stipulations, I am threatened with the resignation of Mr. LaFontaine for one, and both he and I are fully aware of the serious consequences likely to follow the execution of that menace, from the blindness with which the French-Canadian party follow their leader. . . . The sole question is, to describe it without disguise, whether the governor shall be wholly and completely a tool 164 in the hands of the council, or whether he shall have any exercise of his own judgment in the administration of the government. Such a question has not come forward as a matter of discussion, hut there is no doubt the leader of the French party speaks the sentiments of others of his council beside himself. . . . As I cannot possibly adopt them, I must be prepared for the consequences of a rupture with the council, or at least the most influential portion of it. It would be very imprudent on my part to hasten such an event, or to allow it to take place under present circumstances, if it can be avoided—but I must expect it, for I cannot consent to be the tool of a party. . . . Government by a majority is the explanation of responsible government given by the leader in this movement, and government without a majority must be admitted to be ultimately impracticable. But the present question, the one which is coming on for trial in my administration, is not whether the governor shall so conduct his government as tc meet the wants and wishes of the people, and obtain their suffrages by promoting their welfare and happiness—nor whether he shall be responsible for his measures to the people, through their representatives—but he shall, or shall not, have a voice m his own council. . . . The tendency and object of this movement is to throw off the government of the mother country in internal affairs entirely —but to be maintained and supported at her expense, and to have all the advantages of connection, as long as if may suit the majority of the people of Canada to endure it. This is a very intelligible and very convenient policy for a Canadian riming at independence, but the part that the representative of the mother country is required to perform in it is by no means fascinating."

The tenor of Sir Charles Metcalfe's correspondence cited above, which belongs to the period between his assumption of the government and the meeting of the parliament, shows that the difficulties which were presently to culminate in the "Metcalfe Crisis" were already appearing on the horizon. Meantime the new governor was made the recipient of flattering addresses from all parts of the country and from citizens of all shades of opinion. The difficulties of Metcalfe's position can be better understood when one considers the varied nature of these addresses and the conflicting sentiments expressed. Some were sent up from Reform constituencies whose citizens expressed the wish that he might continue to tread in the path marked out by his predecessor. Others were from "loyal and constitutional societies" whose prayer it was that he might resist the designing encroachments of his anti-British advisers. The people of the townsl ip of Pelham, for example, declared that they " had learned with unfeigned sorrow that unusual efforts had been made to weaken His Excellency's opinion of Messrs. Baldwin and LaFontaine and the other ] 66 members of his cabinet." The Constitutional Society of Orillia begged to " state their decided disapproval of the policy pursued by our late governor-general." "We have not the slightest wish," they said, "to dictate to your Excellency, but, conscientiously believing that i t would tend to the real good, happiness, and prosperity of the country, we in all humility venture to recommend the dismissal of the following members from your councils: The Hon. Messrs. Harrison, LaFontaine, Baldwin, Hincks and Small." Iu some eases1 rival addresses, breathing entirely opposed sentiments were sent up from the same place. It is small wonder that Metcalfe became deeply impressed by the bitterness of party faction existing in Canada.

"The violence of party spirit," he wrote to Lord Stanley, "forces itself on one's notice immediately on arrival in the colony; and threatens to be the source of all the difficulties which are likely to impede the successful administration of the government for the welfare and happiness of the country." In this statement may be found the basis for such defense as can be made for Metcalfe's conduct in Canada. He was honestly convinced that the antipathy between the rival factions was assuming dangerous proportions, and that it threatened to culminate in a renewal of civil strife. In this position of affairs it seemed to him Ills evident duty to alleviate the situation by using sueh influence and power as he considered to be lawfully entrusted to him, to counteract the intensity of the party struggle. In particular it seemed to him that his right of making appointments to government offices ought to be exercised with a view to general harmony, and not at the dictates and in the interests of any special political group. "I wish," he wrote, "to make the patronage of the government conducive to the conciliation of all parties, by bringing into the public; service the men of greatest merit and efficiency, without any party distinction."

This sentiment is 110 doubt, as a sentiment, very admirable. But what Metcalfe did not realize was that it was equivalent to saying that he intended to distribute the patronage of the government as he thought advisable, and not as the ministry, representing the voice of a majority of the people, might think advisable. Metcalfe seems to have been aware from the outset that his views on this matter would not be readily endorsed by his ministers. He spoke of the question of the patronage as "the point on which he most proximately expected to incur a difference with them." Indeed it may be asserted that Metcalfe was convinced that he must, sooner or later, come to open antagonism with his cabinet. As early as June, 1843, he wrote to Stanley: " Although I see no reason now to apprehend an immediate rupture, I am sensible that it may happen at any time. If all [of the ministers] were of the same mind with three or four t would be more certain. But there are moderate men among them, and they are not all united in the same unwarrantable expectations."

It is not difficult to infer from what has gone before that Metcalfe had but little personal sympathy with the two leaders of his cabinet. In his published correspondence we have no direct personal estimate of LaFontaine and Baldwin. But the account given by his "official" biographer of the two Canadian statesmen undoubtedly reflects opinion gathered from the governor-general's correspondence, and is of interest in the present connection. "The two foremost men in the council," writes Kaye, "[were] Mr. LaFontaine and Mr. Baldwin, the attorneys-general for Lower and Upper Canada. The former was a French-Canadian and the leader of his party in the colonial legislature. . . . All his better qualities were natural to him; his worse were the growth of circumstances. Cradled, as he and his people had been, in wrong, smarting for long years under the oppressive exclusiveness of the dominant race, he had become mistrustful and suspicious; and the doubts which were continually floating in his mind had naturally engendered there indecision and infirmity of purpose." How little real justification there was for this last expression of opinion may be gathered from the comments thereupon published by Francis Hincks in later years. "I can hardly believe that there is a single individual n the ranks of either party," he says "who would admit, that Kaye was correct in attributing to [Sir] Louis LaFontaine ' indecision and infirmity of purpose.' I can declare for my own part that I never met a man less open to such an imputation." Metcalfe's biographer saw fit, however, to qualify his strictures of LaFontaine by staling that he was a "just and honourable man" and that "his motives were above suspicion."

A still less flattering portrait is drawn by the same author when he goes on to speak of Robert Baldwin. "Baldwin's father," says Kaye, "had quarrelled with his party. and, with the characteristic bitterness of a renegade, had brought up his son m extremest hatred of his old associates, and had justified into him the most liberal (sicJ opinions. Robert Baldwin was an apt pupil; and there was much in the circumstances by which he was surrounded.—in the atrocious misgovernment of his country . . . —to rivet him in the extreme opinions he had imbibed in his youth. So he grew up to be ail enthusiast, almost a fanatic. He was thoroughly in earnest; thoroughly conscientious; but he was to the last degree uncompromising and intolerant. He seemed to delight in strife. The might of mildness he laughed to scorn. It was said of him that he was not satisfied with a victory unless it was gained by violence—that concessions were valueless to him unless he wrenched them with a strong hand from his opponent. Of an unbounded arrogance and self-conceit, he made no allowances for others, and sought none for himself. There was a sort of sublime egotism about him—a magnificent self-esteem, which caused him to look upon himself as a patriot, whilst he was serving his own ends by the promotion of his ambition, the gratification of his vanity or spite. His strong passions and his uncompromising spirit made him a mischievous party leader and a dangerous opponent. His influence was very great. He was not a mean man : he was above corruption : and there were many who accepted his estimate of himself and believed him to be the only pure patriot in the country. During the illness of Sir Charles Bagot he had usurped the government . The activity of Sir Charles Metcalfe, who did everything for himself and exerted himself to keep every one in his proper place, was extremely distasteful to him." It is an old saying that there is no witness whose testimony is so valid as that of an unwilling witness : and it is possible to read between the lines of this biased estimate a truer picture of the man. " In this dark photograph," says the author of The Irishman in Canada} "the impartial eye recognizes the statesman, the patriot, the great party leader, who was not to be turned away by fear or favour from the work before him,"

As early as May, 1843, an important episode took place in reference to the question of appointments, a question destined later to be the cause of the resignation of the ministry. The matter is of special historical significance in that LaFontaine sawr fit to draw up a memorandum explaining what had occurred and putting definitely on record the attitude assumed by himself and his colleagues in their interpretation of their relation to the governor-general. The facts in question were as follows. The office of provincial aide-de-camp for Lower Canada had fallen vacant. The post was a sinecure, the salary for which was voted yearly by the assembly. A certain Colonel De Salsberry, a son of the De Salsberry of Chateauguay, came to Kingston to solicit the office. He had an interview with Sir Charles Metcalfe, as a result of which it was reported that he had received the promise of the appointment. The private secretary of the governor--general, a certain Captain Higginson, met LaFontaine at a dinner given by His Excellency in Kingston. Higginson discussed the vacant office with LaFontaine and was informed that, if the post were given to Colonel De Salsberry, the appointment would be viewed with disfavour by the people of Lower Canada. On this Iligginson asked the attorney-general if lie might, at his convenience, have an opportunity of discussing with him the present political situation. LaFontaine granted this request and Higginson called upon hiin at his office next day. A conversation of some three hours duration ensued in which the question of the nature and meaning of responsible government was discussed at full length. Captain Iligginson declared that he was acting in the matter in a purely personal character and not as the accredited agent of the governor-general. This was probably true in the technical and formal sense, but it cannot be doubted that Higginson was expressing the known sentiments of Sir Charles Metcalfe;, and that he duly reported the conversation to the governor, whose subsequent actions were evidently influenced thereby. The substance of the argument may best be given in the words of La Fontaine's published memorandum. opinions which had been so often expressed on this subject as well in the House as elsewhere. He explained to him that the councillors were responsible for all the acts of the government with regard to local matters, that they were so held by members of the legislature, that they could only retain office so long as they possessed the confidence of the representatives of the people, and that whenever this confidence should be withdrawn from them they would retire from the administration; that these were the principles recognized by the resolutions of September 3rd, 1811, and that it was on the faith of these principles being carried out that he had accepted office. The question of consultation and non-consultation was brought 011 the tapis with reference to the exercise of patronage, that is to say, the distribution of places at the disposal of the government. The councillor informed Captain Higginson that the responsibility of the members of the administration, extending to all the acts of the government in local matters, comprehending therein the appointment to offices, consultation in all those cases became necessary, it being afterwards left to the governor to adopt, or reject the advice of his councillors; His Excellency not being bound, and it not being possible to bind him. to follow that advice, but, on the contrary, having a right to reject it: but in this latter case, if the members of council did not choose to assume the responsibility of the act that the governor wished to perform, contrary to their advice, they had the means of relieving themselves from it. by exercising their power of resigning." As Captain Higginson appears to have demurred to this interpretation of the meaning of the September resolutions, LaFontaine asked him to state the construction which he himself put upon them. Higginson replied.—and in replying may properly be considered to have expressed the sentiments of Sir Charles Metcalfe,—that although the governor ought to choose his councillors from among those supposed to have the confidence of the people," nevertheless "each member of the administration ought to be responsible only for the acts of his own department, and consequently that he ought to have the liberty of voting with or against his colleagues whenever he judged fit; that by this means an administration composed of the principal members of each party might exist advantageously for all parties, and would furnish the governor the means of better understanding the views and opinions of each party, and would not fail, under the auspices of the governor, to lead to the reconciliation of all." From these views La-Fonta-ne expressed an emphatic and unqualified dissent. "If," he said, " the opinions [thus] expressed upon the sense of the resolutions of 1841 were those of the governor-general, and if His Excellency was determined to make them the rule for conducting his government, the sooner he made it known to the members of the council the better, in order to avoid all misunderstanding between them." LaFontaine added that in such a case he himself would feel it his duty to tender his resignation. Since there is undeniable evidence that Higginson related this conversation in full to Sir Charles Metcalfe, it is plain that henceforth the latter was quite aware of the point of view taken by his cabinet, and must have felt that a persistence in the course he contemplated could not but lead to an open rupture. Indeed it appears to have been very shortly after tins incident that he wrote to Lord Stanley that his " attempts to conciliate all parties are criminal in the eyes of the council, or at least of the most formidable member of it."'

As yet, however, the difficulties that were im pending between the governor and his ministers were unknown to the country at large. The "want of cordiality and confidence " between Metcalfe and his advisers had indeed become " a matter of public rumour," but His Excellency had been careful >n his answers to the addresses praying for the removal of the ministry to rebuke the spirit of partisan bitterness in which they were couched. The governor was consequently able to summon parliament in the autumn of 1843 with a fair outward show of harmony, and it was not until near the close of the year that the smouldering quarrel broke into a flame. Meantime the parliament had passed through a session of great activity and interest, and had undertaken a range of legislation which rapidly developed the extent and meaning of the Reform programme. In this, the third session of the first parliament, which lasted from September 28th until December 9tli (1843), the ministry enjoyed in the assembly an overwhelming support. Of the eighty-four members of the House, some sixty figured as the supporters of the government; and even in the legislative council, the appointment of Dr. Baldwin, the father of the attorney-general, AEnnlius Irving and others, lent support to the government. Mr. Draper, on the other hand, now elevated to a seat in the legislative council, embarked on a determined and persistent opposition to the measures of the administration. Six new members had been elected during the recess to fill vacancies m the assembly. Prominent among these was Edward Gibbon Wakefield, elected for Beauhamois, notable presently as one of the defenders of Sir Charles Metcalfe. Wakefield had already attained a certain notoriety in England for his views on the ft art, of colonization," and for the theories of land settlement which he bad endeavoured to put into practice in Austral; i and New Zealand.1 He had already spent some time in Canada with Lord Durham u an unofficial capacity, and had had some share in the preparation of the report. He had returned to Canada n 1841. and as has been already noted, had been on intimate terms with Bagot and his ministry. He was anxious, according to Hincks, to press a certain land scheme of his invention on the government, and it was their refusal to meet his views which led him presently to oppose heir policy and to become the confidential adviser and the apologist of Sir Charles Metcalfe.

Hopelessly outvoted as they were in the Lower House, the Tories and other opponents of the government nevertheless maintained a spirited opposition. Sir Allan MacNab and his adherents persisted at every available opportunity in raising the racial question, in reviving uncomfortable recollections of 1837, and in assuming a tone of direct personal attack, the impotence of which against the solid majority of the government lent it an added venom.1 The government in its turn was well represented in debate. Baldwin, LaFontaine and Hincks were all members of the assembly; being now united in policy, the combined power of their leadership and the ardour which they put into their legislative duties, easily held their followers together and enabled them to enjoy a continued and unwavering support. A sort of natural division of labour had been instituted among them. The larger measures of the Reform programme were introduced by Baldwin: LaFontaine was especially concerned with the alterations to be effected in the judicial system of Lower Canada and cognate matters, while Hincks assumed the care of fiscal and commercial legislation.

A contemporary account1 of Francis Ilincks during the session of 1813, gives a vivid idea of the legislature of the day and the prominent part played in its deliberations by the inspector-general. "He [Mr. Hineks] had a portable desk beside him and a heap of papers. He was as busy as a nailer, writing, reading, marking down pages, whispering to the men on the front seat, sending a slip of paper to this one and that one, a hint to the member speaking; there was no mistaking that man. Presently he stood up and started off full drive. — half a dozen voices cry out. 'Hear, hear!' 'No! No!' He picks up a slip of paper and the whole House is silent. The figures come tumbling out like potatoes from a basket He snatches up a journal or some other document, and having established his position he goes ahead again. The inspector-general, Mr. Hincks, is decidedly the man of that House. When one has observed with what attention he is listened to by every member, when we look up to the reporters, who are, during half the time when the other speakers are up, looking on wearily, now all hard at their tasks, catching every word they can lay hold of, it is not difficult to guess how it has happened that Francis Hincks has been one of the best abused men that ever lived in Canada. No wonder the old Compact hated him: they foresaw n him a sad enemy to vermin. He is a real terrier. He speaks much too rapidly; and in consequence runs into a very disagreeable sort of stammering. His manner of reading off statistical quotations is peculiarly censurable. It is impossible for reporters to take down the figures correctly, and the honourable gentleman should reflect of what great importance it is to himself and the ministry that all such matter be correctly reported."

The measures of the session included altogether sixty-four statutes assented to by the governor, with nine other bills reserved for the royal assent, of which four subsequently became law. Of these, many were of an entirely subordinate character and need no mention, but the more important measures require some notice. Among the matters to which the attention of the House was early directed was the question of the seat of government. Lord Sydenham's selection of Kingston had given dissatisfaction m both sections of the province, and many representations had been forwarded to the home government requesting that some other

Notre Dame Street, Montreal, 1840

capital might be selected. Montreal, Quebec and Toronto all aspired to the coveted honour. Even Bytown, as the present city of Ottawa was then called, was favoured by some persons, owing to its inland sit nation and its immunity from frontier attack. But in point of wealth, importance and natural situation, Montreal seemed obviously destined to be the capita] of Canada. It was at this time a city of over forty thousand inhabitants. Its position at the head of ocean navigation rendered it, as now, the commercial emporium of the country, and the narrow streets near the water front,—St. Paul and Notre Dame, then the principal mercantile streets of the town,—were crowded during the season of navigation with the rush of its seagoing commerce. The extreme beauty of the situation of the city, its historical associations and its manifest commercial greatness of the future, ought to have placed the superiority of its claims beyond a question. But the racial antagonism, which was the dominant feature of the politics of the hour, rendered the question one of British interest as opposed to French. Montreal was indeed by no means an entirely French city. It numbered several thousand British inhabitants, had two daily newspapers published in English and had in it (to quote the words of Dr. Tache in the assembly) more "real English, more out and out John Bulls, than either Kingston or Toronto."

But the Conservatives of Upper Canada persisted in identifying Montreal with the Lower Canadian province. "It is not," said the New York Albion in an editorial article,1 " a mere matter of holding parliamentary sessions in this place or in that, that is involved; it is a matter that carries with it the great question of English or French supremacy for the future." Legally speaking the matter lay with the imperial government (acting through the governor-general) but a representation3 was made to Sir Charles Metcalfe and communicated by him to the Canadian parliament to the effect that ft Her Majesty's government decline to come to a determination in favour of any place as the future seat of government, without the advice of the provincial legislature." It was, however, made a proviso that the choice must be between Kingston and Montreal; Quebec and Toronto "being alike too remote from the centre of the province." In accordance with this message a resolution was introduced by Robert Baldwin, and seconded by LaFontaine (November 2nd, 1843), advising the Crown to remove the seat of government to Montreal, The members of the administration (with the exception of Mr. Harrison, the member for Kingston, who now resigned his post as provincial secretary) were entirely in favour of the measure. Sir Charles Metcalfe himself supported it. But the Tories persisted in regarding it as a betrayal of Upper Canada. In the legislative council Mr. Draper had already succeeded in passing resolutions condemning the proposed change, on the ground that the retention of the capita) ri Upper Canada was a virtual condition of the union of the two provinces. Sir Allan MacNab took even higher ground: he regarded the journey to and from Kingston and the sojourn in the British atmosphere of Upper Canada as a necessary training for the French-Canadian deputies, whereby they might acquire, by infection as it were, something of the spirit of the British constitution.1

In despite of the Conservative opposition, the resolution favouring the transfer of the government was carried in the assembly by a vote of fifty-one to twenty-seven (November 3rd. 1843). In the legislative council the presence of the newly appointed members enabled the same resolution to be adopted. An attempt was made by the Tories to refuse to consider the question, on the ground that Mr. Draper's recent resolution had already dealt with it. This contention was rejected by the Speaker, who insisted that the resolution must be duly voted on; whereupon an indignant councillor, Mr. Morris, said he "must protest in the most solemn manner against A measure of the session, the work of LaFontaine, for which the Reform party are entitled to great credit , was the Act for securing the independence of the legislative assembly.1 The ami of this statute was to consolidate the system of cabinet government by removing placemen from the assembly, It enacted that after the end of the present parliament a large number of office-holders should be disqualified for election. The list included judges, officers of the courts, registrars, customs officers, public accountants and many other minor officials. The holders of the ministerial offices were of course outside of the scope of the statute, which thus aimed to place the relation of the legislature to the holding of office on the same footing as n the mother country. The reasonableness of this measure was admitted even by opponents of the government, but the question of its constitutionality having been raised in the legislative council, it was reserved by the governor for the assent of the Crown. This assent was duly granted.

The reorganization of the judicial system of Lower Canada with a view to render the administration of justice more easy and less expensive was carried forward by LaFontaine n a series of five statutes. The district and division courts that had been established under Mr. Draper's government (September 18th, 1811) were abolished in favour of a simpler system of circuit courts: a new court of appeal was organized and provision made lor the summary trial of small causes.

Among the bills laid before parliament, in whose preparation Baldwin was chiefly concerned, a prominent place should be given to the bill for the discouragement of secret societies. During the summer and autumn of 1843 the province of Upper Canada had been the scene of deplorable and riotous strife between the rival factions into which the Irish settlers of the colony were divided. With the large immigration from the British Isles during the preceding years, a great number of Irish had come into the country. Unfortunately these had seen fit to carry with them into Canada the unhappy quarrels of their native country, and nowhere was the strife of Orangemen and Repealers, Protestants and Catholics, more ardent than in the little Canadian capital. The events of the year 1843, during which all Ireland was in a frenzy of excitement over O'Connell's agitation for repeal, naturally precipitated a similar agitation in Canada. Here the situation was further aggravated by the fact that the two parties of Irishmen were in a sort of natural alliance with the rival political factions of Canada. The Orangemen, with their ostentatious attachment to the British Crown, found allies in the Tories, while their Catholic opponents had much in common with their co-religionists of French Canada. Orange lodges had sprung into being throughout Upper Canada: "Hibernian societies" of Irish Catholics flaunted in defiance the colours and insignia of their associations.

In such a state of affairs, collisions between the rival parties were inevitable. At Kingston, on the anniversary of the battle of the Boyne, serious troubles occurred; several persons were wounded, and one killed; the troops had to be called out to maintain order. On a later occasion the streets were placarded with bills announcing rival assemblages, one in aid of the cause of repeal, the other for preventing the repeal meeting, "peaceably if we can, forcibly if we must." The unofficial action of the governor and the cabinet prevented the holding of the meetings.

Sir Charles Metcalfe was obviously alarmed at the prospect of a general conflagration. Humours had reached him that the Irish of New York were busily engaged at drill under French officers, and that an invasion of Canada was to be attempted. "It is supposed," he wrote to Stanley, "that if any collision were to occur in Ireland between the government and the disaffected, it would be followed by the pouring of myriads of Roman Catholic Irish into Canada from the United States." It is just possible that this apprehension caused the governor to look more than ever towards the Tories as an ultimate support. In the course of the month of July he had an interview with a Mr. Gowan (then grand-master of the Grand Orange Lodge of Canada and a man of the greatest influence), after which the grand-master wrote a mysterious confidential letter to a friend, in which he told his correspondent "not to be surprised if Baldwin, Hincks and Harrison should walk." Mr. Gowan said, furthermore, that he had given his views to the governor maturely and in writing} It is quite possible that the grand-master had recommended a reconstruction of the government as the price of obtaining the support of the Orange order. Meantime, however, the tumults of the rival Irish factions continued unabated. At Toronto, for example, during the time when legislation in regard to secret societies was being discussed, an Orange mob gathered in the streets one November night, having amongst them a cart with a gibbet and effigies of Baldwin and Hincks placarded with the word "Traitors," which effigies were burut during a scene of great confusion before the residence of Dr. Baldwin."

It was in order to discourage, as far as possible, the manifestations of the Irish societies that Baldwin introduced (October 9th, 1843) his bill in regard to secret societies. The provisions of the bill declared all societies (with the exception of the Freemasons) to be illegal if their members were bound together by secret oaths and signs: members of such societies were to be incapable of holding office or of serving on juries: all persons holding public office were to be called upon to declare that they belonged to no such societies: innkeepers who permitted society meetings on their premises were to lose their licenses. Drastic as thi« measure appears, it must be borne in mind that the secret societies bill was introduced as a government measure with the knowledge and consent of Sir Charles Metcalfe. It passed the House; by a large majority, fifty five votes being cast in favour of it and only thirteen against it.1 Nevertheless, Sir Charles saw fit to reserve it for the royal sanction, which in the sequel was refused. It is true that the legislature had already adopted a law of a more general nature in regard to demonstrations tending to disturb the public peace, and that this additional legislation was viewed by many as special legislation against a particular class. But the ministry, as will be seen later, considered that, under the circumstances, Metcalfe had gone beyond his constitutional functions in withholding his assent.

Two Acts of the session1 which elicited a general approval were Hincks's measures for the protection of agriculture against the competition of the United States. The latter country had recently adopted a high tariff system whereby the Canadians found themselves excluded from the American market. The present statute did not profess to institute a definite and permanent policy of protection, but claimed to remedy the unequal conditions imposed on the farming population under the existing customs system, which put duties on merchandise but allowed foreign agricultural produce and live stock to come in free. Under these Acts a duty of £1 10s. was to be paid on imported horses, £1 on cattle; and on all grains other than wheat, duties of from two to three shillings per quarter.

In order to remedy the defective operation of the existing school law two new statutes were adopted. Fifty thousand pounds a year were now to be given by the government to elementary schools. The difficulties which had arisen under Mr. Draper's Act in regard to the apportionment of the government grant were to be obviated by a division of the money between Upper and Lower Canada in the ratio of twenty to thirty thousand pounds until a census should be taken, after which the division was to be according to population. In the second of the school Acts (which dealt only with Upper Canada) it was provided that the government grant should be distributed among the localities according to population; that the townships (or towns or cities as the case might be) should levy on their inhabitants a sum at least equal to, but not more than double, the government grant. Fees were still to be charged for instruction in the common schools, but a clause of the Act (section 49) enabled the council of any town or city to establish free schools by by-law. The Act continued to recognize the system of separate schools, which might be established either by Protestants or Roman Catholics on the application of ten or more tree-holders or householders.

The school law was mainly in amplification and in extension of the existing system. A measure n regard to education of a much more distinctive character, and which evoked a furious opposition both within and without the House, was Robert Baldwins University of Toronto bill. Although this measure was not finally adopted, the university question remained for years in the forefront of the political issues of the day, until the matter was finally set at rest by the statute enacted under the second LaFontaine-Baldwin administration.

As the name Robert Baldwin will always be associated with the successful removal of all denominational character from the University of Toronto, some explanation of the question at issue is here in place. The present University of Toronto originated in an antecedent institution called King's College. The first impetus towards the creation of this college had been given by Governor Simcoe, who called the attention of the imperial government to the wisdom of making provision for a provincial university and to the possibility of effecting this by an appropriation of Crown lands. In 1797 the two Houses of the legislature of Upper Canada petitioned the Crown to make an appropriation of a certain portion of the waste lands of the colony as a fund for the establishment and support of a respectable grammar school in each district of the province, and also of a college or university. In 1799 the land grant was made. It consisted of five hundred and fifty thousand, two hundred and seventy-four acres of land. Beyond this nothing was done for many years. Meantime a certain part of the land was set aside for special educational objects ; one hundred and ninety thousand, five hundred and seventy-three acres were appropriated in 1823 for district grammar schools, and in 1831, sixty-two thousand, nine hundred and ninety-six acres were given to Upper Canada College. At length ;n 1827 a royal charter was issued for a university to be known as the University of King's College. Under this document the conduct of the university and of its teaching was vested <n a corporation consisting of the chancellor, the president and the professors. Certain clauses of the charter gave to King's College a denominational character: the bishop of the diocese was to be, ex officio, its visitor, and the archdeacon of York (at that time Dr. John Strachan) its ex officio president: the university was to have a faculty of divinity, all students in which must subscribe to the Thirty-nine Articles of the Church of England : the same test was prescribed for all members of the university council.

The issue of this charter had occasioned a violent agitation. Vigorous protest was raised against the peculiar privileges thus extended to the Church of England. The opposition to the charter prevented any further action being taken towards the actual establishment of the college. Finally, in 1837, a statute2 was passed by the legislature of Upper Canada which revised the terms of the royal charter. It provided that the judges of the court of king's bench should be the visitors of the college, that the president need not be the incumbent of any particular ecclesiastical office, that no religious tests should be required of students, and that no professor, nor member of the council, need be a member of the Church of England. The statute still left the faculty of divinity as a part of the university, and left it necessary for every professor and member of the council to subscribe to a belief in the Trinity and in the divine inspiration of the Scripture. Even after the charter had been thus modified, a further delay was occasioned by the rebellion of 1837. and it was not until 1842 that the building of King's College actually commenced, the corner-stone being laid by Sir Charles Hagot in his capacity of chancellor of the university. In April of 1843 actual teaching had begun, the old parliament buildings on Front Street, Toronto, being used as temporary premises. Meantime the long delay which had been encountered in the creation of the provincial university, and the somewhat arrogant claims that had been put forward by Dr. Strachan and the extreme Anglicans, had led the members of the other sects to make efforts towards the establishment of denominational colleges of their own. The Methodists incorporated in 1836 an institution which opened its doors at Cobourg in the following year under the name of the Upper Canada Academy. In 1841 an Act of the parliament of Canada conferred on the academy the power to grant degrees, and gave it the name of Victoria College. The Presbyterians, acting under a royal charter, established Queen's College at Kingston, which entered on the work of teaching in 1842. The Roman Catholics had founded in the same town a seminary known as the College of Regiopolis.

To Robert Baldwin and those who were able to take a broad-minded view of the question of higher education in Canada and to consider the future as well as the present, the separate foundation of these denominational universities appeared a decided error. It meant that, in the future, Canadian education would run upon sectarian lines and that a narrow scholasticism would usurp the place of a wider culture. The theologian would be substituted for the man of learning. More than this, the present system was in violation of that doctrine of equal rights which was the foundation of Robert Baldwin's political creed; for the opulent land grant enjoyed by King's College gave to it a form of state support which was denied to its sister institutions. The measure which Baldwin presented to the parliament n remedy of the situation was sweeping in character. It proposed to create an institution to be known as the University of Toronto, of which the existing sectarian establishments should be the colleges. The executive academic body of the university was to consist of the governor-general as chancellor, together with a vice-chancellor and council chosen from the different colleges. With this was to be a

Queen's College, Kingston, 1840

board, of control made up of dignitaries of the respective churches together with various public officials. The essential principle of Baldwin's bill lay in the fact that all the denominational colleges involved were put on an equal footing. Each retained its own faculty of divinity, the university granting a doctor's degree in divinity to graduates of all the divinity faculties alike. The property that had been granted by the state to King's College was to become the property of the University of Toronto. It proposed, in a word, a general federation of the existing sectarian institutions into a single provincial establishment looking to the state for its support, including denominational colleges as its affiliated members but itself of an entirely unsectarian character. To those acquainted with the recent history of educational development in Ontario, the wisdom of the idea of federation needs no commentary.

At the present day the general principle of the bill —the secularization of state education—meets with a ready support; but the proposal of the measure aroused in Upper Canada a storm of opposition. First and foremost the opposition came from the Anglicans, to whom the measure seemed a piece of godless ieonoclasm directed at their dearest privileges. Dr. John Straclian, whose intense convictions and untiring energy made him the most formidable champion of the Church of England, led the attack on the bill. Strachan was by instinct a fighting man who did not spare the weight of his blows in a good cause. He forwarded to the parliament a thunderous petition, presented by "John, by Divine Permission First Bishop of Toronto." the intemperate language of which bespeaks the character of the man. "The leading object of the bill," so began the prayer, "is to place all forms of error on an equality with truth, by patronizing equally within the same institution an unlimited number of sects, whose doctrines are absolutely irreconcilable: a principle in its nature atheistical, and so monstrous in its consequences that, if successfully carried out, it would utterly destroy all that is pure and holy in morals and religion, and lead to greater corruption than anything adopted during the madness of the French Revolution. . . . Such a fatal departure from all that is good is without a parallel in the history of the world."

A whirlwind of discussion followed the legislative progress of the bill. It was argued that parliament had no legal right to abrogate the royal charter of King's College; that the proposed measure was equivalent to a confiscation of the property of the college; more than that it was argued that the provincial parliament was not empowered to create a university at all. These were the arguments of the lawyer, to which the churchmen added their cry of horror at the desecration of the privileges of the Church. The violence of "John, by Divine Permission," etc., was imitated by lesser luminaries. "Here we have," screamed "Testis," in a hysterical contribution to a leading Anglican paper. "the true atheistical character of the popular dogma of responsible government. This is its fruit, its bitter, poisonous fruit; this is the broad road to destruction into which its many votaries are rushing headlong." Draper in the legislative council (November 24th. 1843) opposed the bill in a speech excellent in its masterly analysis, in which the really weak points of the bill—its interference with charter rights and its peculiar degrees in assorted divinity—were exposed with an unsparing hand. But in spite of opposition from outside, the bill was making its way through the legislature and had reached its second reading when its further progress was stopped by an event which threw the whole country into a turmoil of excitement.

Return to Book Index Page

This comment system requires you to be logged in through either a Disqus account or an account you already have with Google, Twitter, Facebook or Yahoo. In the event you don't have an account with any of these companies then you can create an account with Disqus. All comments are moderated so they won't display until the moderator has approved your comment.

comments powered by Disqus