HotFreeBooks.com
The Story of the Upper Canada Rebellion, Volume 1
by John Charles Dent
Previous Part     1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10     Next Part
Home - Random Browse

This was beyond doubt the most vigorously-written protest that had ever been presented to an Upper Canadian Lieutenant-Governor. It was signed by Jesse Ketchum, James Hervey Price, James Lesslie, Andrew McGlashan, James Shannon, Robert McKay, M. McLellan, Timothy Parsons, William Lesslie, John Mills, E. T. Henderson, John Doel, John E. Tims, and William J. O'Grady. All these were ardent Radicals, and coadjutors of Mackenzie. Two of them—Jesse Ketchum and James Lesslie—delivered the rejoinder at Government House, without waiting for a reply. It was already in type, and during the next day was widely read and commented upon. The Lieutenant-Governor was not insensible to its cutting irony, but it did not admit of any sur-rejoinder, and after the first transient ebullition of his wrath, the matter, so far as he was concerned, was quietly permitted to drop out of sight. The document, however, acted as an additional stimulus to the public excitement, and it continued to be quoted against Sir Francis from time to time so long as he remained in the colony.

While these events were occurring the Provincial Legislature still remained in session. A Committee having been appointed by the Assembly to consider the correspondence between the Lieutenant-Governor and the ex-Councillors, it proceeded to deal with the question in the usual manner. The report was presented to the Assembly on the 18th of April. In the course of the debate which ensued, several eloquent speeches were made on the Tory side. The most effective Tory arguments were founded upon the assumption that the concession of Responsible Government would be a mere preliminary to separation from the mother country. The speech made by Mr. Hagerman on this occasion was one of the most brilliant efforts of his life. Mere verbal eloquence, however, exhausted itself in vain. The report was adopted by a vote of thirty-two to twenty-one. It was even more directly condemnatory of the Lieutenant-Governor than the rejoinder above referred to had been. It expressed the Committee's belief that the appointment of the three ex-Councillors had been a deceitful manoeuvre to gain credit with the country for Liberal feelings and intentions where none really existed. The question of Executive responsibility was gone into at considerable length, and the conduct of the ex-Councillors was approved of in every particular. There is no need to analyze the entire report, which was long and exhaustive. It distinctly recommended the withholding of the annual supplies. The Assembly, by adopting the report, and by committing itself to this extreme measure, proved that, in the language of Lord Glenelg's instructions,[232] it regarded the present in the light of "an emergency." The supplies, however, were not entirely withheld. Money was granted for the construction of roads, for schools, for the improvement of navigation, and other useful purposes; but all these grants were nullified by the Lieutenant-Governor, who signified his disapprobation of the Assembly's conduct by refusing his assent to the money-bills of the session. He afterwards stated as one of his reasons for this refusal that he had good grounds for believing a portion of the money would have been spent by the Assembly in sending an agent to England[233]—which was probably the fact.

The Assembly, feeling that some reason should be assigned for their action in the matter of the supplies, which were now withheld for the first time in the history of Upper Canada, passed an Address to the King, in which the Lieutenant-Governor's conduct was painted in no neutral tints. He was directly charged with being despotic, tyrannical, unjust and deceitful. His conduct was declared to have been "derogatory to the honour" of his Majesty, and "demoralizing to the community." A memorial to the House of Commons was also adopted, in which his public acts were referred to as having been arbitrary and vindictive, and wherein he was charged with mis-statements, misrepresentations, and "deviations from candour and truth." This bitterly-worded memorial was formally signed by Mr. Bidwell as Speaker of the House—a circumstance which was long remembered against him by the person implicated.

It must have been gall and wormwood to Sir Francis to be compelled to forward these documents to the Colonial Office. It was the first time that clear and undisguised charges of so humiliating a nature had been officially laid against a colonial Lieutenant-Governor, and one must needs confess that nothing short of the most unassailable evidence could have justified the employment of such terms in a communication between two representative bodies respecting a trusted servant of the Crown, more especially in the case of one occupying so lofty a position. Something is due to the proprieties, and to accuse a man of deviations from candour and truth is of course merely a slightly periphrastic method of charging him with falsehood. The Assembly, however, had become convinced, not without reason, that Sir Francis's word was not to be trusted. Other persons who had been brought into more or less intimate relations with him had been driven to the same conclusion.[234] The fact is that when his feelings were much stirred he knew not how to speak the language of truth and soberness. He talked so much and so thoughtlessly that he very frequently gave utterance to the thing which was not. Some excuse might perhaps be made for one who, in the heat or haste of verbal controversy, gives currency to erroneous statements. But Sir Francis's mis-statements were not confined to verbal controversy. He had been distinctly convicted of "a deviation from candour and truth" in a deliberate official communication. The Assembly had requested that they might be furnished with copies of any bond or agreement between him and his Councillors respecting the administration of the Government in the event of his Excellency's death or removal. To this request Sir Francis had replied, explicitly denying the existence of any document of such a nature. Yet upon the examination of certain of the Councillors it had been proved that an agreement on the subject had actually been made, and that it had been reduced to writing by his Excellency's own hand. The devices to which he had had recourse in his attempts to prove that he had merely been guilty of tergiversation instead of downright lying, were such as positively to aggravate the original offence, and to fully justify the Assembly in refusing to attach any weight to his unsupported statement upon any subject.[235] As the weeks passed by, the quarrel between him and the Assembly waxed positively ferocious. On the 20th of April he prorogued Parliament, making a speech on the occasion which must have occupied a full hour or more in delivery, and wherein he reviewed, in his own inimitable fashion, and from his own point of view, the various events by which his Administration had up to this time been characterized. Any attempt to analyze it here is altogether out of the question. It should be read in its entirety in the official Journal of the session.

During the weeks following the prorogation the public excitement continued to increase, until it had reached a height without precedent in the history of the Province. The Reformers felt that they had been wofully deceived in the Lieutenant-Governor, and many of them placed no bounds to their censure. Some of the Reform newspapers hinted pretty strongly that no people could be expected to remain permanently loyal when they were deprived of their rights year after year, and when all their petitions were set at naught. The political atmosphere was charged with electricity. The outlook was lurid and ominous. Some of the loyalists began to dread an actual uprising of the people. Such an uprising, they thought, would be a legitimate sequel to so extraordinary a proceeding as the stoppage of the supplies. To not a few well-meaning but old-fashioned people the mere act of refusing to vote the supplies was in itself a species of treason. To more practical people this act presented itself in a different aspect. It seemed to them indicative of a niggard and ruinous parsimony. They gazed with ill-concealed envy at the marvellous prosperity of the neighbouring State of New York. Any one crossing the Canadian frontier in that direction at once became aware that he had passed from a land of comparative stagnation to a land of activity and progress. This contrast had been largely brought about by the construction of great public works, and a lavish policy on the part of the State Legislature. There seemed no reason to doubt that the adoption of a similar policy would bring about similar results in Upper Canada, where large and costly public works were urgently needed for the proper development of the resources of the colony. But, instead of liberal grants of money for such purposes, the Assembly had cut down the supplies to meet the barest works of necessity. The colony could never hope to hold up its head by the side of its enterprising neighbour while such a cheese-paring system prevailed.

The Lieutenant-Governor's advisers were shrewd enough to make the most of this unpromising state of affairs. The cheese-paring policy went for something, but it was almost lost sight of in the much more effective imputation of disloyalty to the Empire. Nothing was so certain to turn the scale of public opinion in favour of his Excellency as an apparently well-founded stigma of disloyalty cast upon his opponents. The official party accordingly set themselves deliberately to work to disseminate the belief that the bulk of the Opposition were ripe for treason, and that, under the guise of agitation for Reform, they concealed a design of effecting the separation of the colony from Great Britain. It is not improbable that many of those who industriously circulated the report did so in good faith, for the language of some of the Reformers, used in moments of irritation, was of a nature to lead to such a conclusion. No sooner did this report gain credence than there was a very perceptible turning of the scale of popular opinion. Many who had grumbled loudly at Sir Francis's conduct now declared themselves as being on his side. They favoured the doctrine of a responsible Executive, but devotion to the mother country was as the breath of their nostrils. Whatever tended to relax the tie which bound the colony to the Empire was a thing to be utterly opposed and stamped out. The domination of the Compact was bad, but even at its worst it was better than separation. So argued many persons who had always been conspicuous for the moderation of their political views. The official party of course turned such sentiments as these to the utmost account. The cry of disloyalty was heard on every side. The state of the Lower Province, which was rapidly gliding into insurrection, was triumphantly pointed to as evidence of what was to be looked for if democratic ideas were allowed to make headway. Twice within the last four years had the Lower Canadian Assembly resorted to the extreme measure of refusing to grant supplies to the Government. By so doing they had embroiled themselves with the Imperial Ministry, and drawn down upon themselves the indignation of persons of moderate views. It was no secret that the Upper Canadian Reformers generally were in sympathy with the projects of Reform entertained by the Lower Canadian agitators; and it suited the Tories to assume that the sympathy extended not only to legitimate projects of Reform, but to less openly-avowed schemes of rebellion. Just before the prorogation Mr. Bidwell had laid before the Assembly a letter written by Louis Joseph Papineau, Speaker of the Lower Canada Assembly, wherein the great agitator had given utterance to sentiments which, read in the light of subsequent events, cannot be construed otherwise than as treasonable. Several members of the Reform party had publicly spoken enthusiastically of M. Papineau, and had even gone so far as to express approbation of his most indiscreet and objectionable language. This circumstance was now urged to show that the objects of the anti-Executive party in both Provinces were identical. There was no attempt to discriminate between constitutional Reformers of the Baldwin stamp and advanced Radicals like Mackenzie. All were included in one sweeping verdict as "disloyal" persons, against whom it was necessary for right-minded citizens to organize in self-defence.

Early in May these sentiments began to find expression in outward acts. A number of Tory gentlemen of Toronto formed themselves into what they called the British Constitutional Society, with the fundamental principle and object of perpetuating the connection between Upper Canada and the United Kingdom. A society bearing the same name had been formed upon the breaking out of the War of 1812, and this of 1836 professed to be a reorganization of the former one. In reality, however, it was to all intents and purposes a new society, started for the specific purpose of opposing the cry for Responsible Government, and of gaining support for Sir Francis Head. During the previous year, Colonel Fitzgibbon had, under Sir John Colborne's auspices, formed a drill corps for such young men of Toronto as desired military instruction. A handful of well-connected young men had availed themselves of the opportunity. The Colonel now devoted himself with redoubled ardour to preparations for the insurrection which he declared would burst forth before the next winter. He got together a rifle corps to the number of seventy, and drilled them twice a week with tireless enthusiasm, declaring that when the hour of trial should come, he and "his boys" would be found in their places, however the rest of the community might see fit to demean themselves.

Notwithstanding these preparations, and the prevailing sentiments which inspired them, it is doubtful whether the idea of rebellion had up to this time taken definite possession of the mind of a single human being in Upper Canada. There seems abundant reason for believing that the time for wise concession was not past, and that a prudent and discreet Administrator might have restored tranquillity to the land without going an iota beyond the scope of Lord Glenelg's instructions. But Sir Francis Head acted in no such spirit. He set his mind firmly against concession, feeling convinced, as he said, that the more he yielded the more would be demanded of him. In this respect he—no doubt unconsciously—emulated the example of James the Second, who was of opinion that his father owed the loss of his head to his concessions to the House of Commons. That this opinion was altogether erroneous does not admit of argument. Sir Francis was equally wrong, and equally stubborn in maintaining his opinion. His conduct was the last straw heaped upon the back of the much-enduring camel, and the outbreak which followed must in large measure be attributed to his misgovernment.

FOOTNOTES:

[210] See the letter, in Head's Narrative, chap. iii.

[211] This proceeding was not relished by the Assembly. Sir John Colborne had already delivered one Speech from the Throne at the opening of the session, and this delivery of a second one was resented as a breach of privilege. After much time had been wasted in discussion, a precedent for the Lieutenant-Governor's action was found under date of December, 1765, and this matter was allowed to drop.

[212] In the third chapter of his Narrative Sir Francis attempts to excuse himself for this senseless act. The reader who thinks it worth while to consult the rhetorical plea there attempted to be set up will recall Pembroke's dictum, in King John, that

"——oftentimes excusing of a fault Doth make the fault the worse by the excuse."

[213] This is the despatch referred to ante, p. 246, which had been treated with such contempt by the Law Officers of the Crown, and which had been returned by the Provincial Legislative Council to the Lieutenant-Governor.

[214] See the 8vo edition of the Report, p. xxxix.

[215] See the rejoinder of certain citizens of Toronto to the reply of the Lieutenant-Governor to their address, dated 25th March, 1836.

[216] Ib.

[217] Ib.

[218] Life of Mackenzie, vol i., pp. 345, 346.

[219] Narrative, chap. iii.

[220] Ib.

[221] Narrative, chap. iii.

[222] See Head's despatch to Lord Glenelg, dated February 22nd, 1836, in Narrative, chap. iv.

[223] Ib.

[224] See the extra number of the Gazette issued on that date. A very full account of the negotiations and conferences which led to this result will be found in a letter written by Robert Baldwin to Peter Perry, dated "Front Street, 16th March, 1836," and published in the papers of the time. See post, p. 312.

[225] See the representations of the Councillors to the Lieutenant-Governor, dated Friday, 4th March, 1836.

[226] See Report of the Select Committee to which was referred the Answer of His Excellency the Lieutenant-Governor to an Address of the House of Assembly, relative to a Responsible Executive Council, p. 6. Toronto, 1836.

[227] Ib., p. 7.

[228] Narrative, chap. v.

[229] Narrative, chapters iv., v.

[230] Kaye's Life and Correspondence of Charles, Lord Metcalfe, vol. ii., p. 339. Revised edition, 1858.

[231] It is fair to say that some of these were due to the efforts of the Radicals in the Assembly, who had sent out blank petitions to local friends, with instructions to obtain signatures and fill in the name of the constituency.

[232] Ante, pp. 303, 304.

[233] See his despatch to Lord Glenelg, dated April 28th, 1836, in Narrative, chap. v.

[234] Sir Francis himself has gravely recorded that certain militia officers publicly declared him to be "the d——dest liar and d——dest rascal in the Province." See despatch of 6th February, 1837, in Narrative, chap. ix.

[235] The evidence will be found in appendix to Journal of 1836, 2nd Session, Twelfth Parliament, vol. iii., No. 106, pp. 57, 58.



CHAPTER XVI.

THE TRIUMPHS OF A TRIED REFORMER.

While the public excitement continued unabated, the Lieutenant-Governor resolved upon a step which was little calculated to allay it. This step was the dissolution of the existing Parliament. He and his advisers, sworn and unsworn, believed that the time was opportune for a general election. If the numerical majority of the Opposition in the Assembly were reversed, the Government could afford to laugh at what they called "low-bred democracy." Such a reversal, it was thought, might now be effected. The disloyalty cry might safely be trusted to do its work, not only by clearing the Assembly of the chief members of the Opposition, but by giving the Government party an easy working majority. In order, however, that his Excellency might seem to be following public opinion in this matter instead of guiding it, the official party caused petitions to be sent in from various quarters, praying that a dissolution and a general election might take place. This not only served the intended purpose of misleading the public as to the designs of the Executive, but also afforded Sir Francis an opportunity of pouring out oceans of words in the form of replies. The concluding sentence of his reply to an address from certain electors of the Home District is eminently characteristic of the man. Portions of the already-mentioned letter from Papineau to Bidwell had seemed to point to a possible invasion of the Province by inhabitants of the United States. This idea was eagerly seized upon by Sir Francis, as indicative of concerted action between the hypothetical invaders and the Upper Canadian Radicals. "In the name of every regiment of militia in Upper Canada," said he—"Let them come if they dare!"[236] Nothing but actual perusal of his despatches will afford any accurate idea of his blatant self-confidence at this time. It is quite evident that he regarded the above-quoted reply as a master-stroke of vigorous diplomacy. He drew special attention to it in a communication to Lord Glenelg, in the course of which he made use of language which must have almost stunned the conventional and decorous Colonial Secretary. "I am aware," he wrote, "that the answer may be cavilled at in Downing Street, for I know it is not exactly according to Hoyle. Mais, man seigneur, croyez-vous done qu'on fasse des revolutions avec de l'eau de rose?"[237] The tone of his despatches is from first to last extraordinary. It would seem as if they ought to have told their own miserable tale of superficiality and unfitness to the Colonial Secretary. In announcing the probability of an early dissolution of the Provincial Parliament, Sir Francis requests his Lordship to send him no orders on the subject, but to allow him to work the matter in his own way.[238] The Opposition are constantly referred to in such phrases as "the republicans in the House of Assembly," and "the revolutionists of Upper Canada."[239] His Lordship is warned that if the demands of the Opposition be complied with in the matter of Executive responsibility, "democracy, in the worst possible form, will prevail in our colonies."[240] "In South America," he remarks, "truth and justice carried me through difficulties even greater than those I have now to contend with, and I have the firmest reliance they will again be triumphant."[241] In another despatch[242] his Lordship is notified that Robert Baldwin, who is referred to as an agent of "the revolutionary party," is about to start for London. "It is stated," writes Sir Francis, "that he goes there for the recovery of his health, but it is acknowledged by his party that he will be prepared to answer any questions which the Government may feel disposed to put to him." This intimation is followed by the expression of a confidence that his Lordship will discountenance "the system of sending agents from the British North American colonies, and their being received by the Government." A hope is expressed that should Mr. Baldwin directly or indirectly communicate with the Colonial Office during his stay in England, he may be effectually sat upon, and that he may receive "that style of answer," a copy of which may be transmitted to Sir Francis, and published in the Canadian papers, as a means of deterring further "left-handed attacks upon the constitution." It may be added that the expression of confidence above referred to was justified by the result, as Mr. Baldwin, during his stay in England, was not admitted to an interview with Lord Glenelg, though a written statement of his views was received by his Lordship, and submitted to the Cabinet.

The Reformers, moderate and radical, were brought closer together by the agitated state of the public mind, and by the efforts of the official party to destroy their influence. Several weeks before the dissolution actually took place it became known that such a step was imminent, and quiet preparations were made for the general election which was to follow. The formation of the Canadian Alliance Society by the Radicals, towards the close of 1834, has already been referred to.[243] Neither the platform of this society nor the mode of conducting it was such as to commend it to Reformers generally, and it was now deemed advisable to organize a new association on a broader basis, with a special eye to cooeperation with Reformers who resided in the rural districts. This was accordingly done under the auspices of some of the leading Reformers of Toronto. In contradistinction to the British Constitutional Society mentioned towards the close of the last chapter, the new association was called the Constitutional Reform Society. Dr. Baldwin accepted the Presidency, and Francis Hincks, who was then engaged in commercial life in Toronto, was appointed Secretary. Steps were taken to counteract the misrepresentations of the official party, and generally for the efficient maintenance of the impending election campaign. The Reformers seem to have greatly underestimated the efforts of their opponents. As the event proved, they were also hopelessly astray in gauging the public opinion of the Province, for they looked forward to the approaching contest with the utmost confidence in the result. The new society, it was thought, would accomplish wonders in the way of thorough organization, and it was confidently believed that the existing Reform majority in the Assembly would be fully maintained, if not increased. The efforts of the official party to spread a belief prejudicial to the patriotism of the Reformers were laughed to scorn. So also was the attempt of the Lieutenant-Governor to imbue the inhabitants with a belief in the probability of a foreign invasion. Upon the promulgation of the challenge to the imaginary invader, a number of the Toronto Reformers, with Mr. Hincks at their head, amused themselves by perpetrating a practical joke. Having taken counsel together, they formed themselves into a deputation, and called upon his Excellency in a state of well-assumed perturbation. In a formal address they expressed much solicitude on the subject of the contemplated invasion. They professed to re-echo his unbounded confidence in the Provincial militia, but begged to be informed of the quarter whence the attack was anticipated. "We do not doubt," said they, in their Address, "the readiness with which would be answered upon any emergency your appeal to the militia, which appeal we are satisfied would not have been made without adequate cause. In a matter so seriously affecting the peace and tranquillity of the country, and the security of its commerce, we beg to learn from your Excellency from what quarter the invasion is alleged to be threatened." To this not unreasonable demand the Lieutenant-Governor was unable to make any definite reply. The absurdity of his challenge was for the first time fully brought home to him. According to the testimony of eye-witnesses, he "did not sit, but stood with that personal oscillation which you witness in a man so situated as not well to know what to say or what to do."[244] When at last his reply came, it proved to be the briefest and most sensible of all his replies. "Gentlemen," said he, "I have no further observations to make to you on this subject." The deputation, struggling with suppressed laughter, withdrew.

The Provincial Parliament was dissolved on the 28th of May, and as it was thought desirable to strike while the iron was hot, the elections were hurried on with unseemly haste. They began on the 20th of June, and all the returns were in during the first week in July. The issue was an exciting, but not a doubtful one, for the official party entered upon the contest with loaded dice and a determination to win. Numerous attempts have been made to explain and excuse their conduct during this eventful epoch; but it is impossible to blink the fact that the result was a foregone conclusion from the very moment of the issue of the writs. The whole weight of the Government was put forward to ensure the return of Tory candidates, and this was done in the most direct and shameless manner. The Lieutenant-Governor openly made himself a party to the contest. His replies to the various addresses which he had himself promoted were one and all set to the same tune.[245] The issue was presented in such a light that no inconsiderable part of the population were led to believe that the maintenance of British connection depended upon the result of the contest. Owing to the representations of Government emissaries, backed by the Tory press, and reinforced by the inflammatory speeches and addresses of the Lieutenant-Governor, it was widely believed that should the Reformers succeed there would be a speedy uprooting of cherished institutions, followed by separation from the mother country and ultimate annexation to the United States. The indiscreet language of Mackenzie and some other Radicals had been such as to lend colour to misrepresentations of this nature, and the spirit thereby aroused was decisive of the result. Not only professed Tories, but most of the moderate-minded of the population, rallied to the side of the Lieutenant-Governor, to uphold British connection, and to oppose the encroachment of republican and revolutionary ideas. Loyalty was rampant, and patriotic fervour was aroused to a height which it had not reached in Upper Canada since the War of 1812. "Down with democracy!" "Down with republicanism!" "Hurrah for Sir Francis Head and British connection!" Such were the legends inscribed on the dead-walls in the principal towns of the Province.[246] Tory votes were manufactured by wholesale, and Tory funds were squandered with reckless profusion. For the first time in the history of Upper Canada, Government agents were sent down to the polling-places armed with patents for land, to be distributed among the electors. It is open to doubt whether some of these were not conferred upon persons who had no title to them.[247] Reform votes were rejected by partisan returning-officers upon the most frivolous pretexts. Gangs of ruffians were stationed at the polls to intimidate those who ventured near to record their votes in favour of anti-Government candidates. In at least one instance, the Lieutenant-Governor presented himself in person at the polling-place while the contest was at its height, and remained there for some time on horseback, in close proximity to the spot where votes were recorded.[248] As for the Reformers, they were soon aroused from their dreams of confidence. But their rude awakening, early as it was, came all too late. They perceived that the seed had been well sown, and that the crop would have to be reaped. They found themselves looked upon with suspicion and dislike among their neighbours and others from whom they had been accustomed to receive confidence and respect. They needed all the courage of their opinions to support them against the obloquy which official slander had aroused. The courageous among them faced the polls in the spirit of a forlorn hope. The more timid quietly remained at home and refrained from voting, rather than subject themselves to certain insult and probable physical violence.

It may perhaps be urged, in reply to some of the foregoing allegations, that a Committee of the Assembly subsequently inquired into the various matters complained of, and that their report acquitted the Governor of all culpability. But anyone who is familiar with the proceedings of election committees in those days, and even in times much more recent, will not need to be informed how much—or how little—weight should be attached to a verdict from such a source. In the case under consideration, the proceedings were conducted with exceptional disregard to propriety, and the verdict of acquittal cannot be considered as of any value whatever. Only one member of the Committee heard the whole of the evidence upon which the report was based. Three of the members declared that the report was adopted without their knowledge or consent. Of the other five members who prepared the document, one attended only two meetings out of fourteen; while another attended four, and another five. A fourth member attended twelve meetings, and one only of the five attended all the fourteen. The inquiry was from first to last conducted in a spirit of partisanship, and the report, in the language of Dr. Rolph, was "the offspring of untempered zeal, insufficient evidence, hasty conclusions, and executive devotion."[249] As a general rule, it is a difficult matter to convict a Government of actual, direct interference with the freedom of election. But in the case of the general election of 1836, there is unfortunately no room for doubt. That patents were issued in great numbers by the Commissioner of Crown Lands, and despatched by the hands of trusted agents of the Government to the polling-places, to be used by the voters, is as well established as is the fact of the election itself. Nay, the fact is admitted by Sir Francis Head in the supplemental chapter to his "Narrative," as well as by the Committee appointed by the Assembly to investigate the matter, and the attempts to explain it away are of the weakest kind. The number of patents issued was so great as to require a special staff of extra clerks to get them ready by the time they were wanted. In some cases the patents covered only a quarter of an acre of wild, uncultivated land, upon which no buildings had been erected. Many of them were issued between the date of the dissolution of Parliament and the close of the election a month later,[250] and in some instances they were issued after the actual opening of the poll. They were distributed openly at the places where the elections were held, to persons who had not applied for them, and who, at least in some instances, received them without paying the usual fees, merely that they might thereby be enabled to vote. Whether the issue of the patents affected the result of the election in any single instance is altogether beside the question. It would be absurd to pretend, in the face of such tactics as these, that there was any real freedom of choice offered to the people in the matter of Parliamentary representation. Freedom of election was paralyzed. Reform voters were literally overwhelmed, and their franchise rendered of no avail. All this was done with the cognizance and assent of the Lieutenant-Governor, who thereby wilfully violated the instructions which he had received from the Home Office.[251]

The result of an election contest conducted on these lines was such as to fully realize the expectations of Sir Francis and his advisers. Not only were all the old Tory members returned—and this, in several cases, without any opposition—but a number of new adherents of that side found seats. Hagerman was returned for Kingston by acclamation, McLean was returned for Stormont, George S. Jarvis for the Town of Cornwall, Jonas Jones and Ogle B. Gowan for Leeds, A. N. MacNab for Wentworth, W. B. Robinson for Simcoe, Mahlon Burwell for the Town of London, Henry Sherwood for Brockville, and William Henry Draper for Toronto. The last-named gentleman, known to later times as Chief Justice Draper, now entered public life for the first time. He was a very decided acquisition to the ranks of Upper Canadian Toryism, and was destined to exert a wide and far-reaching influence upon successive representatives of the Crown in this colony. But the triumphs of the official party were not confined to mere numerical successes. They wrested some important constituencies from the hands of their opponents. The Reformers were not only left in an insignificant minority, but nearly all their ablest members were defeated in what had long been regarded as safe Reform constituencies. Bidwell and Perry suffered defeat in Lennox and Addington; Lount underwent a similar fate in Simcoe; and Mackenzie was signally worsted in the Second Riding of York by a man of no political standing. Gibson, Morrison and Mackintosh gained their respective elections in the other three Ridings of York, but none of them possessed much Parliamentary ability, or was to be depended upon in any great emergency. The one significant gain to the Reform party arose out of the election of Dr. Rolph. The Doctor, after having allowed himself to be talked into accepting a seat in the Executive Council whose resignation had been the beginning of the contest between the Reformers and the Lieutenant-Governor, had not felt himself at liberty to reject the overtures of his friends. He had been put in nomination for the County of Norfolk, and his candidature had been successful. He was a host in himself, and his return was the one streak of bright light which appeared in the Reform horizon at the close of the campaign.

Perhaps the most unsatisfactory feature about the whole unsatisfactory business, from the Reform point of view, was that the ignominous discomfiture of the Reformers had been brought about by defections from their own ranks. Moderate-minded Reformers had come to think, with the Conservatives, that even Family Compact domination was preferable to the ascendency of such men as Mackenzie. The publication of the baneful domination letter, followed, as it had been, by Tory misrepresentation, had led thousands of persons to believe that the Radicals secretly favoured the separation of the colony from Great Britain. The Wesleyan Methodists, a numerous body, were doubly impelled to oppose Mackenzie and all who favoured his cause. The quarrel between Mackenzie and the Rev. Egerton Ryerson has already been referred to.[252] Mr. Ryerson was in those days one of the most prominent figures in Upper Canadian Methodism, and in conjunction with his brothers, exerted a predominant influence among the members of that body. At the time of the general election of 1836 he was absent from the Province on a mission to England, whither he had gone to obtain a charter for the Upper Canada Academy, and to solicit subscriptions for the establishment and maintenance of that institution, which subsequently developed into the University of Victoria College. But the reverend gentleman's arm was far-reaching, and stretched across the broad expanse of the Atlantic. In common with a large and respectable portion of the Upper Canadian population, he cherished a feeling of personal contempt for Mackenzie, whose character he thoroughly despised, and whose projects he regarded as prejudicial to the welfare of the colony. The publication of the baneful domination letter had convinced him that rebellion and separation were among the cherished schemes of the Radicals. To all such schemes he was prepared to oppose his firmest resistance, for his loyalty was of the perfervid order, and his dislike of Mackenzie probably imparted additional zeal to his opposition. As has been seen, Mackenzie, with the aid of Hume, Roebuck and other British statesmen, had succeeded in creating in the minds of the English public considerable sympathy for Canadian Reform. To counteract this influence Mr. Ryerson, under the signature of "A Canadian," contributed a series of letters to the London Times. They were vigorously written, and attracted much attention, not only in England but in Canada, where they were republished in the columns of the Tory newspapers, and where they were circulated in pamphlet form as a campaign document. Mr. Ryerson also wrote to leading members of the Methodist body in Canada, urging them to cast all their influence for Government candidates, and against the revolutionary policy of the Radicals. His appeals served their purpose, and the great bulk of the Wesleyan Methodists of Upper Canada, who had theretofore supported Reform members, went over to the side of the Government. In many constituencies—notably so in Lennox and Addington—they held the balance of power, and their secession from the Reform cause decided the fortunes of the candidates.[253] A few remained unaffected by Mr. Ryerson's lucubrations, and some even went so far as to denounce his conduct and reply to his arguments, but these were too few in number to affect the general result. Some of the successful candidates were compelled to pledge themselves in advance to the Methodists and other Nonconformists to take immediate steps for the settlement of the Clergy Reserves question, but the pledges were neglected or forgotten during the turbulent epoch which ensued.

It will thus be seen that, as is clearly pointed out in the Report of Lord Durham,[254] the contest which had been commenced on the question of a responsible Executive Council had afterwards been adroitly turned by the official party, and had been decided on very different grounds. The question of a responsible Executive, as well as the question of the Clergy Reserves, had for the time sunk out of public notice. All other matters had given way to a resolve to return candidates who would "rally round the throne." The triumph of the Government went far beyond what several members of it had ventured to anticipate. On the 8th of July, Sir Francis was able to report to Lord Glenelg that "the Constitutionists"—by which name he designated the official party and all who supported them—had a majority of twenty-five,[255] whereas in the preceding Assembly they had been in a minority of eleven. In the same despatch he availed himself of the opportunity to malign Mr. Bidwell, whom he characterized as the "twin or Siamese companion of Mr. Speaker Papineau." He descanted upon the powerful reaction which had been brought about, and exultingly informed his Lordship that of the four candidates who had contested the constituency of Lennox and Addington Mr. Bidwell had polled the fewest votes.

The Colonial Minister must have been sore puzzled to know what to make of this gushing and galloping Lieutenant-Governor, who was so evidently devoid of the peculiar qualifications supposed to be requisite for one in his station, and who framed his official despatches upon the model of a sensation novel. Here was a man who had been selected for an elevated and honourable post because be had been supposed to be an adept in the science of politics, but who, as it now turned out, was utterly unacquainted with the principles and practice of Government; who was ignorant of the proprieties and amenities of official intercourse; who, in what were intended for grave official despatches, indulged in extracts from French vaudevilles, and referred to certain methods of procedure as not being according to Hoyle! By all known theory and precedent, the accession to office of such a man ought to have been attended by immediate and ignominous failure. Yet, so far as could be judged, he had by no means failed. Nay, he actually appeared to have scored a marvellous success, and to have brought about what men of greater ability and wider experience had been utterly unable to accomplish. Such a success was an inscrutable mystery to the official mind, and Lord Glenelg, after the first few weeks, appears to have abandoned all attempts to penetrate it. The entire demeanour of this unconventional Lieutenant-Governor was incomprehensible. He had expressed his total dissent from the policy of the Commissioners of Inquiry in Lower Canada, who had reported in favour of a responsible Executive.[256] He had even gone so far as to tender his resignation in consequence of his inability to concur in the liberal measures of Reform advocated by the Commissioners.[257] But the Home Government had by no means been disposed to accept his resignation just at that time. They had no available person to put in his place, and it had been thought desirable that he should be permitted to try his hand a little longer. And now this news as to the result of the elections seemed to fully justify their determination to retain him in office. If he had really inaugurated a new and improved order of things in Upper Canada, it was only fair that he should enjoy the prestige of his success.

But the ill effects of Sir Francis's superficial and disastrous policy were already beginning to be apparent to those whose eyes were keen enough to look below the surface of things. The Reformers felt that they had been out-manoeuvred. That they could have borne, for they had often been compelled to bear a similar infliction in past times. But they considered that they had been cheated out of their rights by one whose especial duty it was to watch over and preserve those rights inviolate. They had endured much at the hands of a Gore, a Maitland and a Colborne. But Gore, Maitland and Colborne had not presented themselves before them in the garb of tried Reformers. They had been the Tory emissaries of Tory superiors beyond sea, whose instructions they had generally carried out. All this had been changed; but the change, so far as Upper Canada was concerned, had been for the worse. The Reformers of the Province felt that the man who had been placed at the helm of State—the man who had been sent over by an ostensibly Liberal Government to redress the accumulated wrongs of the past—was in some respects far more dangerous than any of his predecessors had been. Carlyle had not then delivered his celebrated discourse on fools, but the idea that a fool may sometimes be far more dread-inspiring than a wise man is sufficiently obvious, and had presented itself in vivid shape before the minds of a good many of the Reformers of Upper Canada. They had by this time come to know something of Sir Francis Head. They had brought themselves to regard him as not only a fool, but a fool devoid of right feeling or principle; a fool who would stop at no injustice or iniquity the perpetration whereof would conduce, in however small a degree, to his own glorification. He evidently regarded his personal interference in the elections as a thing upon which he ought to plume himself. Such a state of things was not to be borne. It was clear that life, for Canadian Reformers, would very soon be not worth living. They despaired of the future, which, to their depressed vision, seemed to be overhung by a sky of unrelieved blackness. Their despair was accompanied by a smarting sense of defeat and injustice proportionate to the circumstances. Such feelings were not confined to defeated candidates and their immediate friends, but were participated in by Reformers generally. Some of them began to weigh the advantages and disadvantages of removal from the Province. Others, after the first effervescence of disappointment had expended itself, determined to endure in patience and to hope for the best. A comparatively small number, yielding to the influence of mingled despair and exasperation, began to contemplate armed resistance to authority as among the possibilities of the near future. Constitutional resistance, they thought, had had a fair trial. Might it not be worth while to try a more drastic remedy?

Conspicuous among the personages who were strongly influenced by such thoughts as those last indicated was William Lyon Mackenzie, who, as previously mentioned, had lost his election in the Second Riding of York. It might have been supposed that if any constituency in the Province was beyond the reach of Tory influence, the Second Riding was entitled to that distinction. It was notoriously the most Radical constituency in the colony. It had stood loyally by Mackenzie all through the troubled epoch of the successive expulsions. Yet it had now thrown him overboard on behalf of a political nobody. The explanation is to be found in the fact that the Riding had been the scene of some of the moat scandalous abuses committed during the campaign. The Tories had resolved that Mackenzie should be defeated at any cost, and had resorted to the most reprehensible means to secure that end. To elect a professed Tory would have been an impossibility, so the person fixed upon to oppose him was one whom the author of "Middlemarch" might have had in her eye when she described Sir James Chettam as "a man of acquiescent temper, miscellaneous opinions and uncertain vote."[258] His name was Edward William Thomson, and he professed to be a moderate Reformer. His moderation was acceptable to a considerable proportion of the electors, many of whom were tired of Mackenzie. The official party, however, did not choose to rely upon legitimate means for defeating the Radical candidate. Money was spent freely, and brawny bullies were hired for purposes of intimidation. Good votes were rejected on one side, and bad ones accepted on the other. Patents were sent down to the polling place, certain recipients whereof voted for Thomson. Sheriff Jarvis attended, and by his language and demeanour did what he could to discourage Mackenzie's supporters. Not a stone was left unturned to effect the desired object. Such means as Mackenzie had at his command were altogether insufficient to counteract the devices employed against him. He was beaten, and by a majority of a hundred votes.

This result took Mackenzie completely by surprise. It came upon him in the form of a revelation. He had not permitted himself to entertain any doubt of his success, and the conviction that he had lost his popularity cut him to his inmost soul. He retired to the house of one of his supporters in the neighbourhood, where he completely broke down, and wept with a bitterness which evoked the active sympathy of those present. But this mood did not last. It was succeeded by a sullenness and stolidity such as had never before been observed in him. He knew that he had been beaten unfairly, and resolved to petition against the election. Meanwhile his rage against the party which had been concerned in his defeat was ungovernable, and must have vent. He resolved that he must again have control of a newspaper. He accordingly established The Constitution, a weekly paper, the first number of which made its appearance in Toronto on the sixtieth anniversary of the Declaration of Independence of the United States—namely, the 4th of July, 1836. Its tone was such as might have been anticipated from the mood of its editor. It was more outspoken than the Advocate had ever been under his management, and might from the first have been styled a revolutionary organ. In its columns every phase of discontent found utterance, and some of its editorial articles were marked by a spirit of bitterness and implacability such as had not commonly been supposed to belong to Mackenzie's nature. Means would doubtless have been taken for its suppression, had not the Government felt that they had achieved a signal triumph, and that they could afford to ignore its attacks.

Many others of the Radicals felt little less rancour towards the Government party than did Mackenzie. Indeed, the conduct of the party in power had been such as to make temporary Radicals of not a few persons who had theretofore been known as moderate Reformers. It may be said indeed that nearly all the moderates had either made common cause with the Government party for fear of the Radicals, or had coalesced with the Radicals from a sense of official tyranny and injustice. Public meetings were held, at which the Lieutenant-Governor and his myrmidons were subjected to the most vehement denunciations. At a meeting of the Constitutional Reform Society Dr. Baldwin, George Ridout, James E. Small and others referred to his Excellency's conduct in terms which public audiences had never before heard from their lips. An official address issued by the Society on the subject of the resignation of the Executive Councillors also contained some severe but well-merited strictures. The Lieutenant-Governor marked his condemnation of the language employed by promptly dismissing the three gentlemen above named from certain offices which they held.[259] As will hereafter be seen, this proceeding eventually led to serious complications between the Home Office and Sir Francis. Meantime, the latter was permitted to have his own way, but not without stubborn attempts at resistance on the part of some of his opponents. A number of the most pronounced Radicals resolved to make a strong representation of election and other abuses to the British House of Commons, and to that end sent Dr. Charles Duncombe to England. Dr. Duncombe had been re-elected for Oxford, but had had to contend against similar influences to those which had been employed in other constituencies, and was thus able to speak of the partisan conduct of the Lieutenant-Governor's emissaries from personal observation. He prepared a statement of the case against Sir Francis, which was laid before the House of Commons by Mr. Hume. The Colonial Secretary despatched a copy of it to Sir Francis for explanations. It is unlikely that Dr. Duncombe's mission would have been a successful one under any circumstances, but he made the mistake of protesting too much. The greater part of the indictment could easily have been substantiated before any impartial tribunal, but it also contained charges which, whether true or not, the prosecutor was unable to prove. As mentioned on a former page[260], the matter was referred to a Committee of the Provincial Assembly, by whom the Lieutenant-Governor was completely exonerated. A further reference to the matter will be made in connection with the proceedings of the following session.

The Lieutenant-Governor was meanwhile engaged in a voluminous correspondence with the Colonial Secretary. The subjects dealt with therein were many and various. Perhaps the most important of all was the Lower Canadian Commission of Inquiry. The Commissioners had made a report in which they had recommended the concession of Responsible Government, and other much-needed Reforms. As previously mentioned, Sir Francis had no sympathy with these views, and distinctly repudiated the policy thus recommended. The idea of a responsible Executive was utterly repugnant to him. He erelong perceived that the Imperial Government would sooner or later yield to the imperative demand made on behalf of the different British North American colonies, but he determined to fight against it as long as opposition was possible, and his despatches teem with what he doubtless regarded as arguments on the negative side. He predicted the most serious results if the policy of the Commissioners was adopted. The language of the Ninety-two resolutions of the Lower Canada Assembly he pronounced to be not only insulting to the British Government, but traitorous. He proposed various measures for establishing the power of the Crown in the Canadas on a firm basis. Among these were the repeal of the Act surrendering the revenue, the annexation of the District of Gaspe to the Province of New Brunswick, and the annexation of Montreal to Upper Canada. It may safely be assumed that these ideas were not his own, and nobody who has read "Canada and the Canada Bill,"[261] published several years later, will entertain much doubt as to the individual from whom he derived his inspiration.

FOOTNOTES:

[236] Sir Francis afterwards denied that this challenge was addressed to the Americans. See his despatch to Lord Glenelg dated 6th November, 1836, embodied in his Narrative, chap, vi. But it is quite evident that the denial, as well as the construction there sought to be put upon his language, was an after-thought. If, as he there asserts, "the Americans had no more to do with the subject than the Chinese," there was no appropriate significance whatever in his doughty defiance.

[237] See despatch of May 28th.

[238] See despatch of 21st April.

[239] Ib.

[240] Ib.

[241] Despatch of May 28th.

[242] Of April 28th.

[243] Ante, p. 281.

[244] See Dr. Rolph's Speech to the House in Committee on the Report of the Select Committee on the Petition of Dr. Charles Duncombe to the British House of Commons, delivered on Monday, January 30th, 1837.

[245] It was afterwards urged by Sir Francis that his replies to addresses were made before, and not during the election. The plea will not bear a moment's examination. The mischief was done by the inflammatory and menacing tone of the replies, and the mere question of the time of their delivery in of no importance whatever. An English writer thus effectually disposes of this attempted defence: "Surely he [Sir F. B. Head] must have some glimmering perception that this is not a question of time, and that, if promises or threats are addressed to the electoral body with regard to their exercise of the electoral franchise, it is a matter of no importance whether this is done before or at the time of the election. Illogical as he has proved himself, we cannot suppose him to be so utterly destitute of the reasoning faculty as a sincerity in this defence would imply; and we must therefore believe that he knows the charge to be well founded, and has recourse to this shuffling evasion in pure despair."—See London and Westminster Review, vol. xxxii., No. 2, article vi.

[246] During the contest people on the hustings actually demanded of the candidates: "Do you vote for the House of Assembly or for Sir Francis Head?"—a question which, as Sir Francis himself remarks, amounted in plain terms to this: "Are you for a republican government, or are you not?"—See Memorandum on the Present Political State of the Canadas, in Narrative, chap. vi.

[247] Lord Durham, reasoning from such evidence as he had before him, proceeds upon the assumption that no patents were issued except to persons entitled to the land. But, as his Lordship admits, the granting of patents at all under such circumstances was an act of official favouritism which no Lieutenant-Governor with a proper sense of his duty would have permitted. See Report, U.C. folio edition, p. 51.

[248] This was at Streetsville, while the contest for the Second Riding of York was in progress between William Lyon Mackenzie and Edward William Thomson.

[249] See his speech in the Assembly on January 30th, 1837.

[250] From official returns it appears that 1,478 patents passed the Great Seal between the 20th of April (the date of the prorogation) and the close of the contest in June. Of this number 1,245 were issued in pursuance of Orders in Council made prior to Sir Francis Head's arrival in the Province. Between his arrival and the close of the election 233 were issued, whereof only 150 were issued under Order in Council on his authority. But that the entire 1,478 were passed under Sir Francis's regime within a very brief period; that a special staff of clerks was employed for the purpose; that for the first time in the history of the Province these patents were distributed at the polling-booths by Government agents who were strong adherents of the official party, and who were moreover dependent upon the Government for their situations—these are circumstances which admit of but one brief explanation. The only one of these agents whom the Committee of Inquiry ventured to summon before them was Mr. Welsley Richey, of Barrie, who, on his examination, deposed that he mentioned to the Lieutenant-Governor that the persons who wanted their deeds were entitled to them, and that he thought they would vote for Constitutional candidates; that Sir F. B. Head strictly commanded witness not in any manner to interfere as Government agent, or to use any influence which his situation gave him at the election; that out of a number not exceeding 130 patents which persons residing in the County of Simcoe were entitled to, and which were in witness's possession for them, only about thirty were called for, and only part of that thirty voted. This is mere petty evasion. As pointed out in the text, the extent to which such tactics as these affected the result is not the chief question to be decided. The mere fact that they were employed is sufficient to settle the question of culpability. Richey was directed not to interfere with the elections as Government agent. How was it possible for an official known to be connected with the Government to divest himself of the influence inseparable from such a connection, more especially when his strong political bias was well known, and when he presented himself at the poll as a distributor of deeds among the voters? The mere fact of a conference on such a subject between the head of the Government and a subordinate is in itself a suspicious circumstance.

[251] In Lord Goderich's despatch to Sir John Colborne, dated 8th November, 1832, referred to ante, p. 246, the following language is employed: "His Majesty expects and requires of you neither to practise, nor to allow on the part of those who are officially subordinate to you, any interference with the rights of his subjects to the free and unbiased choice of their representatives;" and, as previously mentioned, Lord Glenelg had expressly instructed Sir Francis Head to adopt that despatch as a rule for the guidance of his conduct. See ante, p. 301.

[252] Ante, p. 272.

[253] Sir Francis Hincks, who, as previously mentioned in the text, then resided in Toronto, and was identified with the Reform party, has, in his Reminiscences, recorded his views on this subject, and as they are founded upon personal experience and recollection they are worth quoting. "Bearing in mind," he writes, "that there are exceptions to all general rules, I think that I am not wrong in my belief that the members of the Church of England and the Presbyterians generally voted for the Tory candidates, while the Roman Catholics and the Baptists, Congregationalists, etc., voted as uniformly for the Reformers. The Wesleyan Methodists held the balance of power in a great many constituencies, and I believe that it has been generally acknowledged that the elections in 1836 were carried against the Reformers by their votes." Again: "I believe that I am correct in asserting that Sir Francis Head carried the elections in 1836 against the Reformers mainly through the influence of the Rev. Egerton Ryerson, who, though absent from Canada at the time, had, by his published impressions, induced those who confided in him to abandon the Reform cause."—Reminiscences, etc., pp. 17, 18.

[254] U.C. folio edition, p, 49.

[255] The House contained in all only sixty-two members, so that a majority of twenty-five constituted what might be called absolute control. The actual majority was twenty-six, as there were but eighteen Reform representatives as against forty-four supporters of the Government.

[256] See his despatch of 1st June.

[257] Ib.

[258] This language aptly characterizes Mr. Thomson, for afterwards, in the Assembly, it was impossible to predict how he would vote on any conceivable question. His "Reform" principles must have been very "moderate," for he frequently supported the measures of the Compact. His votes seem to have been dictated by chance or caprice, rather than political conviction of any kind.

[259] Dr. Baldwin was Judge of the Surrogate Court of the Home District. His dismissal was probably due quite as much to the fact that he was President of the Society as to his remarks about the Lieutenant-Governor, or to the official address. Mr. Ridout was Judge of the Niagara District Court, Justice of the Peace, and Colonel of the Second Regiment of East York Militia. He was dismissed from all three offices, although he was not a member of the Reform Society. Mr. Small was Commissioner of the Court of Requests in Toronto, and also Lieutenant-Colonel of the First East York Militia.

[260] Ante, p. 330.

[261] Written by Chief Justice Robinson, in opposition to the project for uniting the two Provinces of Upper and Lower Canada.



CHAPTER XVII.

REACTION.

The closing weeks of the summer and a part of the early autumn were spent by the Lieutenant-Governor in an informal tour through some of the most interesting and picturesque districts of the Province. A great part of the tour, which occupied in all about two months, was performed on horseback, and with only two attendants. A pleasantly-written account of some of the experiences encountered during this invigorating holiday may be found in "The Emigrant," a light, sketchy, and most readable little volume put forth by Sir Francis ten years afterwards. Soon after his return to the Seat of Government his self-complacency received a check in the form of a despatch from the Colonial Office, enclosing copies of instructions which had been sent to Sir Archibald Campbell, Lieutenant-Governor of New Brunswick. It appeared that the strenuous exertions of the Reformers of that Province had been crowned with success. Sir Archibald had been directed to surrender to the Assembly the casual and territorial revenues of the Crown, and to concede a responsible Executive. This was not all. Sir Francis was himself distinctly informed that what had been conceded in one British North American Province could not be withheld from the rest. Scarcely had this piece of intelligence been chewed and digested ere he received another despatch which added to his discomfiture by confirming the previous one, and by seating the obnoxious doctrine at his very door. He was instructed that the Executive Councils in the various North American colonies were thenceforward to be composed of individuals possessing the confidence of the people. This, though not altogether unexpected, was almost past bearing. He saw the house of cards which he had constructed with such pains about to crumble before him. If this course were persisted in, all his efforts to pack a House of Assembly would erelong prove to have been made in vain; for no Assembly would permanently uphold a clique of Councillors in whose appointment they themselves had had no voice, and in whose principles they had no confidence. Sir Archibald Campbell and he were entirely of one mind as to the vexed question at issue, and they were both firmly determined to resist such a policy to the last ditch. Of Sir Archibald's proceedings it is unnecessary for this work to present any detailed account. It will be sufficient to say that he preferred to resign his office rather than obey the instructions he had received, and that he carried out this resolve during the following year, when he was succeeded by Sir John Harvey. Sir Francis Head meanwhile contented himself as best he could with vehement protests addressed to the Home Office. "The more seriously I contemplate the political tranquillity of this Province," he wrote,[262] "the more steadfastly am I confirmed in my opinion that cool, stern, decisive, un-conciliating measures form the most popular description of government that can be exercised towards the free and high-minded inhabitants of the Canadas." The style of his despatches did not improve with time. It was wordy, bombastic and slangy. The despatches themselves were largely made up of inflated, impertinent phraseology, and quotations from the light literature of the period. Lord Glenelg, however, had become accustomed to the unconventional methods of his protege, and was by no means disposed to judge him with severity. On the 8th of September he wrote to him to the effect that his "foresight, energy and moral courage" had been approved of by the King. "It is peculiarly gratifying to me," wrote his Lordship, "to be the channel of conveying to you this high and honourable testimony of His Majesty's favourable acceptance of your services." From all which it is sufficiently apparent that the real state of Upper Canadian affairs was not much more clearly understood by the Colonial Office than by Sir Francis Head.

The new Parliament was assembled on the 8th of November. Archibald McLean, of Stormont, was elected Speaker by a majority of fifteen, the vote standing thirty-six to twenty-one. This vote did not by any means indicate the full strength of the Government, which was simply irresistible. The power of the Compact was not only completely restored, but increased. Never had its ascendency been so great. It was absolute, overwhelming; and any opposition to it was a bootless kicking against the pricks. In the Speech from the Throne his Excellency congratulated the Houses on the loyal feeling pervading the Province, and on the stillness and serenity of the public mind. He drew attention to "the conspicuous tranquillity of the country," and briefly referred to the legislation contemplated by the Government, which, as thus indicated, was of an exceedingly practical character. The Speech concluded with a declaration of his Excellency's intention "to maintain the happy constitution of this Province inviolate." If the Speech, as a whole, contained a faithful reflex of the official mind, it indicated that the Government greatly misjudged the state of opinion in the country. True, there was little conspicuous agitation, for the Reform party had sustained so signal a defeat that they for the time felt powerless. But they were feverishly sensible of the crushing blow that had been dealt them, and reeled from it in a spirit which was far removed from "serenity." Scores of them despaired of the future, sold out their belongings, and removed to the United States. During the months of September and October there had been a considerable emigration of farmers from the western part of the Province to Michigan. Such was the "tranquillity" upon which Sir Francis plumed himself, and upon which he continued to dilate at recurring intervals until he was roused from his slumbers by the intelligence that "the rebels" were at Montgomery's.

The Legislature at once proceeded to pass a Bill to provide for the support of the Civil Government for the current year, a circumstance of which the Lieutenant-Governor hastened to apprise Lord Glenelg. Various matters of importance occupied the attention of Parliament during the session. Among other questions which came up for discussion was the long-standing grievance of the Clergy Reserves. On Thursday, the 8th of December, a Bill was introduced into the Assembly by Hiram Norton, member for Grenville, having for its object the disposal of the Reserves for purposes of general education. It passed the second reading on the 13th of the same month, whereupon the House, in Committee of the Whole, after several days consideration and discussion, reported a resolution in favour of appropriating the Clergy Reserves lands and the proceeds arising from the sales thereof to the religious and moral instruction of the people. This gave rise to a motion of amendment by Dr. Rolph, "That it is expedient to provide for the sale of the Clergy Reserves, and the application of the proceeds to the purposes of general education, as one of the most legitimate ways of giving free scope to the progress of religious truth in the community." In support of this amendment the Doctor made what was unquestionably the most noteworthy speech of his life—a speech which a well-known writer[263] has pronounced to be without a parallel in the annals of Canadian Parliamentary debate. Its copiousness and felicity of illustration, its fluent and harmonious elegance of diction, could not have failed to stamp it as a great effort if it had been delivered before any audience in the world. No higher praise can be awarded to it than to record the simple fact that it added to the Doctor's already high reputation as an orator, and that it evoked the admiration of many persons who could not subscribe to the doctrines and arguments it contained. But no oratory and no arguments would have availed with that House. The amendment was lost, and on Friday, the 16th, the original resolution was carried by a vote of thirty-five to twenty-one. The matter was then referred to the Upper House for its concurrence. As the measure fell through during the session, and ultimately came to nothing, it seems unnecessary to follow its fortunes any farther.

[Sidenote: 1837.]

Dr. Rolph made another powerful speech during the session; a speech which would of itself have entitled him to a high place as a Parliamentary orator, and which was inferior in vigour only to the one on the Clergy Reserves. It arose out of Dr. Duncombe's charges against the Lieutenant-Governor. Having received from the Colonial Secretary a copy of the complaint which had been submitted to the House of Commons, his Excellency, who was of course able to rely implicitly upon the Assembly as then constituted, handed it over to that body to be dealt with. The result fully justified his confidence. A partisan Committee was appointed, by whom the question was approached in a spirit very far removed from judicial fairness. How the inquiry was conducted has already been recorded.[264] Dr. Duncombe had made certain charges, some of which were easily susceptible of positive proof, while others were from their nature of a kind which admitted of nothing stronger than indirect evidence. With regard to one or two damnatory charges, he implicitly believed them to be true, but he failed to secure any substantial proof whatever. He presented himself once before the Committee, only to find, as he had expected, that he must not look to obtain a fair or patient hearing. Under these circumstances he felt that nothing was to be gained by any further attempt to establish the truth of his allegations, and permitted the case to go by default. The Committee accordingly proceeded to take evidence on their own responsibility. The verdict arrived at was such as might easily have been foreseen. Every charge and insinuation made against his Excellency was declared to be "wholly and utterly destitute of truth." Not only was his conduct vindicated in this comprehensive manner, but he was referred to as one to whom the Province owed a large debt of gratitude. In due course the report came before the Assembly on a motion for its adoption. The proceeding had from the first been of the nature of a practical impeachment of the Lieutenant-Governor, a matter which was really beyond the jurisdiction of any Canadian tribunal. It afforded to Dr. Rolph an opportunity for addressing the House at considerable length, and in a speech which, as remarked by Mr. Mackenzie's biographer, "will ever be memorable in Canadian history."[265] It was delivered on the 30th of January, 1837. It dealt in most trenchant fashion with the various abuses which had been practised during the elections. The serio-comic tone which pervaded a great part of it evoked roars of laughter, while its more earnest passages aroused the most conflicting feelings in the minds of the auditors. True oratory is never altogether fruitless, and it would seem as if this powerful speech must have given the spur to feelings which, sooner or later, were bound to produce specific results. So far, however, as any immediate effects upon the action of the House were concerned, it might as well have remained unuttered. The report was adopted by a vote of more than two-thirds of the members present, and the Lieutenant-Governor stood officially exonerated from blame.

Among other matters presented for the consideration of the Assembly was a petition from Mr. Mackenzie. Ever since the election, he had publicly announced his determination to petition against the return in the Second Riding of York. He was prevented by illness from filing his memorial within the prescribed period, and an extension of time was obtained on his behalf. He got together a great mass of evidence, some portions of which the Government would certainly have found it hard to answer to the public satisfaction. He was jubilant, and openly boasted that he would expose such a mass of corruption as would make the country stare aghast. He was however so intent on collecting evidence and on discounting his contemplated triumph over his enemies that he failed to enter into the necessary recognizance until the allotted period for doing so had elapsed. The statute governing the case required that the petitioner should enter into recognizance within fourteen days from the presentation of the petition. In this case the petition was presented on the 20th of December, 1836, so that the fourteen days expired on the 3rd of January, 1837. "If at the expiration of the said fourteen days"—so ran the statute—"such recognizance shall not have been entered into, the Speaker shall report the same to the House, and the order for taking such petition into consideration shall thereupon be discharged; unless, upon matter specially stated and verified to the satisfaction of the House, the House shall see cause to enlarge the time for entering into such recognizance." Accordingly, on the opening of the House on Wednesday, the 4th of January, Mr. Speaker McLean announced that the time limited for W. L. Mackenzie, the petitioning candidate for the representation of the Second Riding of York, to proceed upon his petition, had expired. Mr. Boulton, one of the members for Durham, then moved that the further consideration of the petition be discharged. Dr. Morrison sought to obtain additional time for the furnishing of the statutory recognizance, but the House was under no obligation to grant any indulgence, and after a long debate declined to do so. Mr. Boulton's motion was carried; whereupon Dr. Morrison moved that Mr. Mackenzie have leave to present a new petition. The House negatived this motion, and Mr. Thomson was confirmed in his seat. The matter was again brought before the notice of the House a few days afterwards by Dr. Morrison, who moved that Mr. Mackenzie be allowed further time to enter into the requisite security. The motion was made in order to give Dr. Rolph—who had not been present during the former discussion—an opportunity of speaking on the subject. The member for Norfolk delivered himself of a vigorous and subtle argument, in the course of which he reviewed the English practice, as well as the practice which had generally prevailed in similar cases in Upper Canada. The fourteen days, he argued, should be computed from the time when the petition was read to the House, not from the date when it was handed in. The presentation referred to in the statute, he alleged, was not complete until the reading of the petition, which could not take place until it had lain on the table two days. Still further, the petitioner's delay had been in part due to the Clerk of the House, who had led Mr. Mackenzie to believe that the fourteen days would not begin to run against him until two days after the delivery of the petition. The argument throughout was plausible and powerful, but it shared the fate of many other powerful appeals in those days. The motion was lost. There seems to have been a strong determination on the part of the Government to burke the investigation. This was suggestive of a fear of the result, and was so regarded by many wholly disinterested persons. Some of the charges were of the gravest nature, and, if the Government had felt that their skirts were clean, it is incomprehensible that they should not have availed themselves of such an opportunity of establishing the fact by official record. There seems but too good reason to believe that, if the inquiry had been proceeded with, Mackenzie would have made good his boast, and that a disgraceful exposure of Executive corruption would have been made.

One of the significant measures of the session was an Act to prevent the dissolution of the Provincial Parliament upon the demise of the Crown. The desire of the Executive for such an enactment arose in this manner. During the brief election campaign of the preceding summer the most tempting promises had been made to the electors on behalf of the Government. This had been done with the full knowledge and consent—nay, probably at the instigation—of the members of the Government themselves. The fulfilment of some of the promises would have been feasible enough. Others had been as absurdly impossible of fulfilment as were Jack Cade's pledges that seven halfpenny loaves should be sold for a penny, and that the three-hooped pot should have ten hoops. The Government now realized that their performances were far from being commensurate with the promises so lavishly made. In the event of a new election taking place within the next few months it would be easy for the Reformers to make out a strong case, and it would be hard for the Government party to reply thereto with effect. It seemed not improbable that a new election might erelong become necessary, for King William the Fourth was more than three score and ten years old, and was known to be in a state of health which rendered it unlikely that he would live much longer. Now, his death, in the ordinary course of things, would bring about a dissolution and a general election, and this was the contingency against which it was thought desirable to guard. A measure was accordingly passed whereby it was enacted "That the Parliament of this Province shall not in any case be deemed to be determined or dissolved by the death or demise of His Majesty, his heirs or successors; nor shall any session of the Parliament of this Province be deemed to be determined, or the proceedings therein pending in any manner abated, interrupted or affected by the demise of His Majesty, his heirs or successors; but notwithstanding such death or demise the Parliament of this Province shall continue, and, if sitting, shall proceed to act until dissolved or prorogued in the usual manner, or until the legal expiration of the term of such Parliament." The Reformers fought this Bill inch by inch on its way through the Assembly, but in vain. Upon its coming up for its third reading, Norton, of Grenville, moved its recommittal, and, upon the defeat of his motion, he made a final effort by moving "That the Act shall not go into operation before the expiration of the present Parliament." This, too, was defeated, and the Bill was finally passed by a vote of twenty-six to eighteen. The measure is suggestive of the English Act passed by the Long Parliament during the reign of Charles the First, which enacted that Parliament should not be dissolved by the King without its own consent.

There was a good deal of extravagant legislation during the session. Large sums were voted for the construction and improvement of Provincial highways, for surveys of the Ottawa River and the territory contiguous thereto, for the improvement of the navigation of the Trent and Grand Rivers, for the completion of the Welland Canal, and for the construction of various other canals, harbours, and lighthouses. Provision was also made for loans to several railway and other companies. Most, perhaps of all these, were enterprises deserving of aid and encouragement, but the aggregate sum of the moneys voted was nearly four millions of dollars, being considerably more than the condition of the Province and the circumstances of the people justified. This exceeding liberality was probably to some extent due to a wish to respond to the popular demand for the expenditure of money on public improvements. It was during this session that an Act was passed providing for the establishment of a Provincial Court of Chancery. Mr. Jameson was soon after appointed Vice Chancellor, the Chancellorship being vested in the Crown.

The session terminated on Saturday, the 4th of March, and its termination was attended by a scene of "most admired disorder" in the Assembly. The project of uniting the Provinces of Upper and Lower Canada had occupied a certain amount of attention on the part of both Houses, and had been on the order of the day throughout the greater part of the session. When the final day of deliberation arrived, the Legislative Council sent down to the Lower House an Address embodying certain resolutions against the proposed union. The Address was accompanied by a request that the Assembly would concur therein, after which it was to be despatched to the King. It reached the hands of the Clerk of the Lower House about noon, and was at once submitted in the form of a motion of concurrence. This was not relished by the Reformers, who were strongly disposed in favour of an equitable union of the two Provinces, a step which, as they believed, would go far to adjust the balance of parties. A considerable number of the members had already left for their homes, and Dr. Rolph took advantage of this circumstance as a plea for postponing the further consideration of the matter until the next session. He moved an amendment to that effect, and said a few words in support of his motion. Dr. Morrison and Thomas Parke[266] took up the argument, and spoke for some minutes. They were subjected to frequent interruptions from the supporters of the Government, who were evidently anxious to prevent discussion. Dr. Rolph then rose to speak to the question of order, upon which the interruptions were renewed. Frequent appeals were made to the Speaker, who soon found himself involved in an animated discussion with Dr. Rolph. Nearly all the prominent members of the House erelong became participants, and the situation became critical. Hard words were freely bandied about, amid the greatest confusion and disorder. An eye-witness compares the scene to a wasp's nest disturbed.[267] The Speaker finally put a stop to the ebullitions of temper, and brought the scene to a close by announcing that the time had arrived for waiting on the Lieutenant-Governor with certain addresses. There was no opportunity of renewing the discussion, and at half-past three o'clock Black Rod summoned the House to the bar of the Legislative Council. In proroguing Parliament the Lieutenant-Governor referred in complacent terms to the legislation of the session, and applauded the harmony which had prevailed between the two branches of the Legislature.

By this time it began to be apparent to discerning persons that Sir Francis's success as an Administrator had been rather apparent than real. All through the election campaign, as well as for some time before and after, the Tory party had sounded his praises with stentorian lungs. He had to a large extent been accepted by the country at their valuation. But sufficient time had now elapsed to enable the people to judge for themselves, and it was shrewdly suspected that the current estimate of him had been too high. He had triumphed at the elections, and had managed to pack the Assembly with an overwhelming majority of members pledged to support his policy; but he now began to discover that he had raised a spirit which he could not control. Neither the majority in the Assembly nor the members of the Legislative Council were prepared to slavishly accept his dictation, or to follow him blindfold whithersoever he might choose to lead them. Some of the official utterances of these bodies during the session had been as strongly assertive of their own dignity and independence as the deliverances of the former Assembly had ever been. Even the Executive Council had begun to exhibit an impatience of being indirectly dictated to by unsworn advisers who were permitted by the Lieutenant-Governor to usurp the functions peculiarly belonging to themselves. His Excellency's popularity was evidently waning throughout the land. There was a decided reaction against him, and thousands of Reformers who had voted for Government candidates at the election were now animated by a strong sentiment of opposition. The Lieutenant-Governor was also at issue with the Colonial Office on several matters of importance. To the recommendations of the Lower Canada Commissioners, as previously mentioned, he had strenuously opposed himself. He had failed to carry out the direction of Lord Glenelg to restore Mr. Ridout to the offices from which that gentleman had been dismissed. He now displayed further insubordination by neglecting to obey several minor injunctions received from headquarters, by which course of procedure he involved himself in much disputatious correspondence. His anxieties were increased by a commercial crisis which set in about this time in the United States. There had been an era of seeming prosperity but real inflation in that favoured land, of which the present crisis was the legitimate consequence. Specie payments were suspended, and business was all but paralyzed. This disheartening state of things was speedily reflected in Canada, which was ill qualified to bear such an infliction. The banks and the mercantile community generally became alarmed. In the Lower Province the banks suspended specie payments, and our own were much disposed to follow the example. The directors of some of our leading financial institutions applied to the Lieutenant-Governor for advice and direction. As all these matters, however, belong rather to the mercantile history of the country than to the story of the Rebellion, there is no need to go into them with minuteness. Suffice it to say that Sir Francis Head deemed it proper in this emergency to convene an extra session of the Legislature, which met accordingly on Monday, the 19th of June. As Mr. McLean had accepted a seat on the bench since the close of the preceding session, it was necessary that a new Speaker should be elected, and A. N. MacNab was chosen as his successor.[268] The session lasted only three weeks, and terminated on Tuesday, the 11th of July. It was purely a session of emergency, and the legislation was confined to relieving the banks from certain penalties which the crisis had threatened to impose upon them.

Previous Part     1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10     Next Part
Home - Random Browse