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Lord Elgin by John George Bourinot

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The LaFontaine-Baldwin government remained in office until October,
1851, when it was constitutionally dissolved by the retirement of the
prime minister soon after the resignation of his colleague from Upper
Canada, whose ability as a statesman and integrity as a man had given
such popularity to the cabinet throughout the country. It has been
well described by historians as "The Great Ministry." During its
existence Canada obtained a full measure of self-government in all
provincial affairs. Trade was left perfectly untrammeled by the repeal
in June, 1849, of the navigation laws, in accordance with the urgent
appeals of the governor-general to the colonial secretary. The
immediate results were a stimulus to the whole commerce of the
province, and an influx of shipping to the ports of the St. Lawrence.
The full control of the post-office was handed over to the Canadian
government. This was one of the most popular concessions made to the
Canadian people, since it gave them opportunities for cheaper
circulation of letters and newspapers, so necessary in a new and
sparsely settled country, where the people were separated from each
other in many districts by long distances. One of the grievances of
the Canadians before the union had been the high postage imposed on
letters throughout British North America. The poor settlers were not
able to pay the three or four shillings, and even more, demanded for
letters mailed from their old homes across the sea, and it was not
unusual to find in country post-offices a large accumulation of dead
letters, refused on account of the expense. The management of the
postal service by imperial officers was in every way most
unsatisfactory; it was chiefly carried on for the benefit of a few
persons, and not for the convenience or consolation of the many who
were always anxious for news of their kin in the "old country." After
the union there was a little improvement in the system, but it was not
really administered in the interests of the Canadian people until it
was finally transferred to the colonial authorities. When this
desirable change took place, an impulse was soon given to the
dissemination of letters and newspapers. The government organized a
post-office department, of which the head was a postmaster-general
with a seat in the cabinet.

Other important measures made provision for the introduction of the
decimal system into the provincial currency, the taking of a census
every ten years, the more satisfactory conduct of parliamentary
elections and the prevention of corruption, better facilities for the
administration of justice in the two provinces, the abolition of
primogeniture with respect to real estate in Upper Canada, and the
more equitable division of property among the children of an
intestate, based on the civil law of French Canada and old France.

Education also continued to show marked improvement in accordance with
the wise policy adopted since 1841. Previous to the union popular
education had been at a very low ebb, although there were a number of
efficient private schools in all the provinces where the children of
the well-to-do classes could be taught classics and many branches of
knowledge. In Lower Canada not one-tenth of the children of the
_habitants_ could write, and only one-fifth could read. In Upper
Canada the schoolmasters as a rule, according to Mrs. Anna
Jameson,[11] were "ill-fed, ill-clothed, ill-paid, or not paid at
all." In the generality of cases they were either Scotsmen or
Americans, totally unfit for the positions they filled. As late as
1833 Americans or anti-British adventurers taught in the greater
proportion of the schools, where the pupils used United States
text-books replete with sentiments hostile to England--a wretched
state of things stopped by legislation only in 1846. Year by year
after the union improvements were made in the school system, with the
object of giving every possible educational facility to rich and poor

In the course of time elementary education became practically free.
The success of the system in the progressive province of Upper Canada
largely rested on the public spirit of the municipalities. It was
engrafted on the municipal institutions of each county, to which
provincial aid was given in proportion to the amount raised by local
assessment. The establishment of normal schools and public libraries
was one of the useful features of school legislation in those days.
The merits of the system naturally evoked the sympathy and praise of
the governor-general, who was deeply interested in the intellectual
progress of the country. The development of "individual self-reliance
and local exertion under the superintendence of a central authority
exercising an influence almost exclusively moral is the ruling
principle of the system."

Provision was also made for the imparting of religious instruction by
clergymen of the several religious denominations recognized by law,
and for the establishment of separate schools for Protestants or Roman
Catholics whenever there was a necessity for them in any local
division. On the question of religious instruction Lord Elgin always
entertained strong opinions. After expressing on one occasion his deep
gratification at the adoption of legislation which had "enabled Upper
Canada to place itself in the van among the nations in the important
work of providing an efficient system of education for the whole
community," he proceeded to commend the fact that "its foundation was
laid deep in the framework of our common Christianity." He showed then
how strong was the influence of the moral sense in his character:

"While the varying opinions of a mixed religious society are
scrupulously respected.... it is confidently expected that
every child who attends our common schools shall learn there
that he is a being who has an interest in eternity as well
as in time; that he has a Father towards whom he stands in a
closer and more affecting and more endearing relationship
than to any earthly father, and that that Father is in

But since the expression of these emphatic opinions the tendency of
legislation in the majority of the provinces--but not in French
Canada, where the Roman Catholic clergy still largely control their
own schools--has been to encourage secular and not religious
education. It would be instructive to learn whether either morality or
Christianity has been the gainer.

It is only justice to the memory of a man who died many years after he
saw the full fruition of his labours to say that Upper Canada owes a
debt of gratitude to the Rev. Egerton Ryerson for his services in
connection with its public school system. He was far from being a man
of deep knowledge or having a capacity for expressing his views with
terseness or clearness. He had also a large fund of personal vanity
which made him sometimes a busybody when inaction or silence would
have been wiser for himself. We can only explain his conduct in
relation to the constitutional controversy between Lord Metcalfe and
the Liberal party by the supposition that he could not resist the
blandishments of that eminent nobleman, when consulted by him, but
allowed his reason to be captured and then gave expression to opinions
and arguments which showed that he had entirely misunderstood the
seriousness of the political crisis or the sound practice of the
parliamentary system which Baldwin, LaFontaine and Howe had so long
laboured to establish in British North America. The books he wrote can
never be read with profit or interest. His "History of the United
Empire Loyalists" is probably the dullest book ever compiled by a
Canadian, and makes us thankful that he was never able to carry out
the intention he expressed in a letter to Sir Francis Hincks of
writing a constitutional history of Canada. But though he made no
figure in Canadian letters, and was not always correct in his estimate
of political issues, he succeeded in making for himself a reputation
for public usefulness in connection with the educational system of
Upper Canada far beyond that of the majority of his Canadian

The desire of the imperial and Canadian governments to bury in
oblivion the unhappy events of 1837 and 1838 was very emphatically
impressed by the concession of an amnesty in 1849 to all the persons
who had been engaged in the rebellions. In the time of Lord Metcalfe,
Papineau, Nelson, and other rebels long in exile, had been allowed to
return to Canada either by virtue of special pardons granted by the
Crown under the great seal, or by the issue of writs of _nolle
prosequi._ The signal result of the Amnesty Act passed in 1849 by the
Canadian legislature, in accordance with the recommendation in the
speech from the throne, was the return of William Lyon Mackenzie, who
had led an obscure and wretched life in the United States ever since
his flight from Upper Canada in 1837, and had gained an experience
which enabled him to value British institutions more highly than those
of the republic.

An impartial historian must always acknowledge the fact that Mackenzie
was ill-used by the family compact and English governors during his
political career before the rebellion, and that he had sound views of
constitutional government which were well worthy of the serious
consideration of English statesmen. In this respect he showed more
intelligence than Papineau, who never understood the true principles
of parliamentary government, and whose superiority, compared with the
little, pugnacious Upper Canadian, was the possession of a stately
presence and a gift of fervid eloquence which was well adapted to
impress and carry away his impulsive and too easily deceived
countrymen. If Mackenzie had shown more control of his temper and
confined himself to such legitimate constitutional agitation as was
stirred up by a far abler man, Joseph Howe, the father of responsible
government in the maritime provinces, he would have won a far higher
place in Canadian history. He was never a statesman; only an agitator
who failed entirely throughout his passionate career to understand the
temper of the great body of Liberals--that they were in favour not of
rebellion but of such a continuous and earnest enunciation of their
constitutional principles as would win the whole province to their
opinions and force the imperial government itself to make the reforms
imperatively demanded in the public interests.[12] But, while we
cannot recognize in him the qualities of a safe political leader, we
should do justice to that honesty of purpose and that spirit of
unselfishness which placed him on a far higher plane than many of
those men who belonged to the combination derisively called the
"family compact," and who never showed a willingness to consider other
interests than their own. Like Papineau, Mackenzie became a member of
the provincial legislature, but only to give additional evidence that
he did not possess the capacity for discreet, practical statesmanship
possessed by Hincks and Baldwin and other able Upper Canadians who
could in those days devote themselves to the public interests with
such satisfactory results to the province at large.

It was Baldwin who, while a member of the ministry, succeeded in
carrying the measure which created the University of Toronto, and
placed it on the broad basis on which it has rested ever since. His
measure was the result of an agitation which had commenced before the
union. Largely through the influence of Dr. Strachan, the first
Anglican bishop of Upper Canada, Sir Peregrine Maitland, when
lieutenant-governor, had been induced to grant a charter establishing
King's College "at or near York" (Toronto), with university
privileges. Like old King's in Nova Scotia, established before the
beginning of the century, it was directly under the control of the
Church of England, since its governing body and its professors had to
subscribe to its thirty-nine articles. It received an endowment of the
public lands available for educational purposes in the province, and
every effort was made to give it a provincial character though
conducted entirely on sectarian principles. The agitation which
eventually followed its establishment led to some modifications in its
character, but, for all that, it remained practically under the
direction of the Anglican bishop and clergy, and did not obtain the
support or approval of any dissenters. After the union a large edifice
was commenced in the city of Toronto, on the site where the
legislative and government buildings now stand, and an energetic
movement was made to equip it fully as a university.

When the Draper-Viger ministry was in office, it was proposed to meet
the growing opposition to the institution by establishing a university
which should embrace three denominational colleges--King's College,
Toronto, for the Church of England, Queen's College, Kingston, for the
Presbyterians, and Victoria College, Cobourg, for the Methodists--but
the bishop and adherents of the Anglican body strenuously opposed the
measure, which failed to pass in a House where the Tories were in the
ascendant. Baldwin had himself previously introduced a bill of a
similar character as a compromise, but it had failed to meet with any
support, and when he came into office he saw that he must go much
further and establish a non-sectarian university if he expected to
carry any measure on the subject in the legislature. The result was
the establishment of the University of Toronto, on a strictly
undenominational foundation. Bishop Strachan was deeply incensed at
what he regarded as a violation of vested rights of the Church of
England in the University of King's College, and never failed for
years to style the provincial institution "the Godless university." In
this as in other matters he failed to see that the dominant sentiment
of the country would not sustain any attempt on the part of a single
denomination to control a college which obtained its chief support
from public aid. Whilst every tribute must be paid to the zeal,
energy, and courage of the bishop, we must at the same time recognize
the fact that his former connection with the family compact and his
inability to understand the necessity of compromise in educational and
other matters did much injury to a great church.

He succeeded unfortunately in identifying it with the unpopular and
aristocratic party, opposed to the extension of popular government and
the diffusion of cheap education among all classes of people. With
that indomitable courage which never failed him at a crisis he set to
work to advance the denomination whose interests he had always at
heart, and succeeded by appeals to English aid in establishing Trinity
College, which has always occupied a high position among Canadian
universities, although for a while it failed to arouse sympathy in the
public mind, until the feelings which had been evoked in connection
with the establishment of King's had passed away. An effort is now
(1901) being made to affiliate it with the same university which the
bishop had so obstinately and bitterly opposed, in the hope of giving
it larger opportunities for usefulness. Its complete success of late
has been impeded by the want of adequate funds to maintain those
departments of scientific instruction now imperatively demanded in
modern education. When this affiliation takes place, the friends of
Trinity, conversant with its history from its beginning, believe that
the portrait of the old bishop, now hanging on the walls of
Convocation Hall, should be covered with a dark veil, emblematic of
the sorrow which he would feel were he to return to earth and see what
to him would be the desecration of an institution which he built as a
great remonstrance against the spoliation of the church in 1849.

The LaFontaine-Baldwin ministry also proved itself fully equal to the
demands of public opinion by its vigorous policy with respect to the
colonization of the wild lands of the province, the improvement of the
navigation of the St. Lawrence, and the construction of railways.
Measures were passed which had the effect of opening up and settling
large districts by the offer of grants of public land at a nominal
price and very easy terms of payment. In this way the government
succeeded in keeping in the country a large number of French Canadians
who otherwise would have gone to the United States, where the varied
industries of a very enterprising people have always attracted a large
number of Canadians of all classes and races.

The canals were at last completed in accordance with the wise policy
inaugurated after the union by Lord Sydenham, whose commercial
instincts at once recognized the necessity of giving western trade
easy access to the ocean by the improvement of the great waterways of
Canada. It had always been the ambition of the people of Upper Canada
before the union to obtain a continuous and secure system of
navigation from the lakes to Montreal. The Welland Canal between Lakes
Erie and Ontario was commenced as early as 1824 through the enterprise
of Mr. William Hamilton Merritt--afterwards a member of the
LaFontaine-Baldwin ministry--and the first vessel passed its locks in
1829; but it was very badly managed, and the legislature, after having
aided it from time to time, was eventually obliged to take control of
it as a provincial work. The Cornwall Canal was also undertaken at an
early day, but work had to be stopped when it became certain that the
legislature of Lower Canada, then controlled by Papineau, would not
respond to the aspirations of the west and improve that portion of the
St. Lawrence within its provincial jurisdiction.

Governor Haldimand had, from 1779-1782, constructed a very simple
temporary system of canals to overcome the rapids called the Cascades,
Cedars and Coteau, and some slight improvements were made in these
primitive works from year to year until the completion of the
Beauharnois Canal in 1845. The Lachine Canal was completed, after a
fashion, in 1828, but nothing was done to give a continuous river
navigation between Montreal and the west until 1845, when the
Beauharnois Canal was first opened. The Rideau Canal originated in the
experiences of the war of 1812-14, which showed the necessity of a
secure inland communication between Montreal and the country on Lake
Ontario; but though first constructed for defensive purposes, it had
for years decided commercial advantages for the people of Upper
Canada, especially of the Kingston district. The Grenville canal on
the Ottawa was the natural continuation of this canal, as it ensured
uninterrupted water communication between Bytown--now the city of
Ottawa--and Montreal.

The heavy public debt contracted by Upper Canada prior to 1840 had
been largely accumulated by the efforts of its people to obtain the
active sympathy and cooperation of the legislature of French Canada,
where Papineau and his followers seemed averse to the development of
British interests in the valley of the St. Lawrence. After the union,
happily for Canada, public men of all parties and races awoke to the
necessity of a vigorous canal policy, and large sums of money were
annually expended to give the shipping of the lakes safe and
continuous navigation to Montreal. At the same time the channel of
Lake St. Peter between Montreal and Quebec was improved by the harbour
commissioners of the former city, aided by the government. Before the
LaFontaine-Baldwin cabinet left office, it was able to see the
complete success of this thoroughly Canadian or national policy. The
improvement of this canal system--now the most magnificent in the
world--has kept pace with the development of the country down to the
present time.

It was mainly, if not entirely, through the influence of Hincks,
finance minister in the government, that a vigorous impulse was given
to railway construction in the province. The first railroad in British
North America was built in 1837 by the enterprise of Montreal
capitalists, from La Prairie on the south side of the St. Lawrence as
far as St. John's on the Richelieu, a distance of only sixteen miles.
The only railroad in Upper Canada for many years was a horse tramway,
opened in 1839 between Queenston and Chippewa by the old portage road
round the falls of Niagara. In 1845 the St. Lawrence and Atlantic
Railway Company--afterwards a portion of the Grand Trunk
Railway--obtained a charter for a line to connect with the Atlantic
and St. Lawrence Railway Company of Portland, in the State of Maine.
The year 1846 saw the commencement of the Lachine Railway. In 1849 the
Great Western, the Northern, and the St. Lawrence and Atlantic
Railways were stimulated by legislation which gave a provincial
guarantee for the construction of lines not less than seventy-five
miles in length. In 1851 Hincks succeeded in passing a measure which
provided for the building of a great trunk line connecting Quebec with
the western limits of Upper Canada. It was hoped at first that this
road would join the great military railway contemplated between Quebec
and Halifax, and then earnestly advocated by Howe and other public men
of the maritime provinces with the prospect of receiving aid from the
imperial government. If these railway interests could be combined, an
Intercolonial railroad would be constructed from the Atlantic seaboard
to the lakes, and a great stimulus given not merely to the commerce
but to the national unity of British North America, In case, however,
this great idea could not be realized, it was the intention of the
Canadian government to make every possible exertion to induce British
capitalists to invest their money in the great trunk line by a liberal
offer of assistance from the provincial exchequer, and the
municipalities directly interested in its construction.

The practical result of Hincks's policy was the construction of the
Grand Trunk Railway of Canada, not by public aid as originally
proposed, but by British capitalists. The greater inter-colonial
scheme failed in consequence of the conflict of rival routes in the
maritime provinces, and the determination of the British government to
give its assistance only to a road that would be constructed at a long
distance from the United States frontier, and consequently available
for military and defensive purposes--in fact such a road as was
actually built after the confederation of the provinces with the aid
of an imperial guarantee. The history of the negotiations between the
Canadian government and the maritime provinces with respect to the
Intercolonial scheme is exceedingly complicated. An angry controversy
arose between Hincks and Howe; the latter always accused the former of
a breach of faith, and of having been influenced by a desire to
promote the interests of the capitalists concerned in the Grand Trunk
without reference to those of the maritime provinces. Be that as it
may, we know that Hincks left the wordy politicians of Nova Scotia and
New Brunswick to quarrel over rival routes, and, as we shall see
later, went ahead with the Grand Trunk, and had it successfully
completed many years before the first sod on the Intercolonial route
was turned.

In addition to these claims of the LaFontaine-Baldwin government to be
considered "a great ministry," there is the fact that, through the
financial ability of Hincks, the credit of the province steadily
advanced, and it was at last possible to borrow money in the London
market on very favourable terms. The government entered heartily into
the policy of Lord Elgin with respect to reciprocity with the United
States, and the encouragement of trade between the different provinces
of British North America. It was, however, unable to dispose of two
great questions which had long agitated the province--the abolition of
the seigniorial tenure, which was antagonistic to settlement and
colonization, and the secularization of the clergy reserves, granted
to the Protestant clergy by the Constitutional Act of 1791. These
questions will be reviewed at some length in later chapters, and all
that it is necessary to say here is that, while the LaFontaine-Baldwin
cabinet supported preliminary steps that were taken in the legislature
for the purpose of bringing about a settlement of these vexatious
subjects, it never showed any earnest desire to take them up as parts
of its ministerial policy, and remove them from political controversy.

Indeed it is clear that LaFontaine's conservative instincts, which
became stronger with age and experience of political conditions,
forced him to proceed very slowly and cautiously with respect to a
movement that would interfere with a tenure so deeply engrafted in the
social and economic structure of his own province, while as a Roman
Catholic he was at heart always doubtful of the justice of diverting
to secular purposes those lands which had been granted by Great
Britain for the support of a Protestant clergy. Baldwin was also slow
to make up his mind as to the proper disposition of the reserves, and
certainly weakened himself in his own province by his reluctance to
express himself distinctly with respect to a land question which had
been so long a grievance and a subject of earnest agitation among the
men who supported him in and out of the legislature. Indeed when he
presented himself for the last time before his constituents in 1857,
he was emphatically attacked on the hustings as an opponent of the
secularization of the reserves for refusing to give a distinct pledge
as to the course he would take on the question. This fact, taken in
connection with his previous utterances in the legislature, certainly
gives force to the opinion which has been more than once expressed by
Canadian historians that he was not prepared, any more than LaFontaine
himself, to divert funds given for an express purpose to one of an
entirely different character. Under these circumstances it is easy to
come to the conclusion that the LaFontaine-Baldwin ministry was not
willing at any time to make these two questions parts of its
policy--questions on which it was ready to stand or fall as a

The first step towards the breaking up of the ministry was the
resignation of Baldwin following upon the support given by a majority
of the Reformers in Upper Canada to a notion presented by William Lyon
Mackenzie for the abolition of the court of chancery and the transfer
of its functions to the courts of common law. The motion was voted
down in the House, but Baldwin was a believer in the doctrine that a
minister from a particular province should receive the confidence and
support of the majority of its representatives in cases where a
measure affected its interests exclusively. He had taken some pride in
the passage of the act which reorganized the court, reformed old
abuses in its practice, and made it, as he was convinced, useful in
litigation; but when he found that his efforts in this direction were
condemned by the votes of the very men who should have supported him
in the province affected by the measure, he promptly offered his
resignation, which was accepted with great reluctance not only by
LaFontaine but by Lord Elgin, who had learned to admire and respect
this upright, unselfish Canadian statesman. A few months later he was
defeated at an election in one of the ridings of York by an unknown
man, largely on account of his attitude on the question of the clergy
reserves. He never again offered himself for parliament, but lived in
complete retirement in Toronto, where he died in 1858. Then the people
whom he had so long faithfully served, after years of neglect, became
conscious that a true patriot had passed away.

LaFontaine placed his resignation in the hands of the
governor-general, who accepted it with regret. No doubt the former had
deeply felt the loss of his able colleague, and was alive to the
growing belief among the Liberal politicians of Upper Canada that the
government was not proceeding fast enough in carrying out the reforms
which they considered necessary. LaFontaine had become a Conservative
as is usual with men after some experience of the responsibilities of
public administration, and probably felt that he had better retire
before he lost his influence with his party, and before the elements
of disintegration that were forming within it had fully developed.
After his retirement he returned to the practice of law, and in 1853
he became chief justice of the court of appeal of Lower Canada on the
death of Sir James Stuart. At the same time he received from the Crown
the honour of a baronetcy, which was also conferred on the chief
justice of Upper Canada, Sir John Beverley Robinson.

Political historians justly place LaFontaine in the first rank of
Canadian statesmen on account of his extensive knowledge, his sound
judgment, his breadth of view, his firmness in political crises, and
above all his desire to promote the best interests of his countrymen
on those principles of compromise and conciliation which alone can
bind together the distinct nationalities and creeds of a country
peopled like Canada. As a judge he was dignified, learned and
impartial. His judicial decisions were distinguished by the same
lucidity which was conspicuous in his parliamentary addresses. He died
ten years later than the great Upper Canadian, whose honoured name
must be always associated with his own in the annals of a memorable
epoch, when the principles of responsible government were at last,
after years of perplexity and trouble, carried out in their entirety,
and when the French Canadians had come to recognize as a truth that
under no other system would it have been possible for them to obtain
that influence in the public councils to which they were fully
entitled, or to reconcile and unite the diverse interests of a great
province, divided by the Ottawa river into two sections, the one
French and Roman Catholic, and the other English and Protestant.



When LaFontaine resigned the premiership the ministry was dissolved
and it was necessary for the governor-general to choose his successor.
After the retirement of Baldwin, Hincks and his colleagues from Upper
Canada were induced to remain in the cabinet and the latter became the
leader in that province. He was endowed with great natural shrewdness,
was deeply versed in financial and commercial matters, had a complete
comprehension of the material conditions of the province, and
recognized the necessity of rapid railway construction if the people
were to hold their own against the competition of their very energetic
neighbours to the south. His ideas of trade, we can well believe,
recommended themselves to Lord Elgin, who saw in him the very man he
needed to help him in his favourite scheme of bringing about
reciprocity with the United States. At the same time he was now the
most prominent man in the Liberal party so long led by Baldwin and
LaFontaine, and the governor-general very properly called upon him to
reconstruct the ministry. He assumed the responsibility and formed the
government known in the political history of Canada as the
Hincks-Morin ministry; but before we consider its _personnel_ and
review its measures, it is necessary to recall the condition of
political parties at the time it came into power.

During the years Baldwin and LaFontaine were in office, the politics
of the province were in the process of changes which eventually led to
important results in the state of parties. The _Parti Rouge_ was
formed in Lower Canada out of the extreme democratic element of the
people by Papineau, who, throughout his parliamentary career since his
return from exile, showed the most determined opposition to
LaFontaine, whose measures were always distinguished by a spirit of
conservatism, decidedly congenial to the dominant classes in French
Canada where the civil and religious institutions of the country had
much to fear from the promulgation of republican principles.

The new party was composed chiefly of young Frenchmen, then in the
first stage of their political growth--notably A.A. Dorion, J.B.E.
Dorion (_l'enfant terrible_), R. Doutre, Dessaules, Labreche, Viger,
and Laflamme; L.H. Holton, and a very few men of British descent were
also associated with the party from its commencement. Its organ was
_L'Avenir_ of Montreal, in which were constantly appearing violent
diatribes and fervid appeals to national prejudice, always peculiar to
French Canadian journalism. It commenced with a programme in which it
advocated universal suffrage, the abolition of property qualification
for members of the legislature, the repeal of the union, the abolition
of tithes, a republican form of government, and even, in a moment of
extreme political aberration, annexation to the United States. It was
a feeble imitation of the red republicanism of the French revolution,
and gave positive evidences of the inspiration of the hero of the
fight at St. Denis in 1837. Its platform was pervaded not only by
hatred of British institutions, but with contempt for the clergy and
religion generally. Its revolutionary principles were at once
repudiated by the great mass of French Canadians and for years it had
but a feeble existence. It was only when its leading spirits
reconstructed their platform and struck out its most objectionable
planks, that it became something of a factor in practical Canadian
politics. In 1851 it was still insignificant numerically in the
legislature, and could not affect the fortunes of the Liberal party in
Lower Canada then distinguished by the ability of A.N. Morin, P.J.O.
Chauveau, R.E. Caron, E.P. Tache, and L.P. Drummond. The recognized
leader of this dominant party was Morin, whose versatile knowledge,
lucidity of style, and charm of manner gave him much strength in
parliament. His influence, however, as I have already said, was too
often weakened by an absence of energy and of the power to lead at
national or political crises.

Parties in Upper Canada also showed the signs of change. The old Tory
party had been gradually modifying its opinions under the influence of
responsible government, which showed its wisest members that ideas
that prevailed before the union had no place under the new,
progressive order of things. This party, nominally led by Sir Allan
MacNab, that staunch old loyalist, now called itself Conservative, and
was quite ready, in fact anxious, to forget the part it took in
connection with the rebellion-losses legislation, and to win that
support in French Canada without which it could not expect to obtain
office. The ablest man in its councils was already John Alexander
Macdonald, whose political sagacity and keenness to seize political
advantages for the advancement of his party, were giving him the lead
among the Conservatives. The Liberals had shown signs of
disintegration ever since the formation of the "Clear Grits," whose
most conspicuous members were Peter Perry, the founder of the Liberal
party in Upper Canada before the union; William McDougall, an eloquent
young lawyer and journalist; Malcolm Cameron, who had been assistant
commissioner of public works in the LaFontaine-Baldwin government; Dr.
John Rolph, one of the leaders of the movement that ended in the
rebellion of 1837; Caleb Hopkins, a western farmer of considerable
energy and natural ability; David Christie, a well-known
agriculturist; and John Leslie, the proprietor of the Toronto
_Examiner_, the chief organ of the new party. It was organized as a
remonstrance against what many men in the old Liberal party regarded
as the inertness of their leaders to carry out changes considered
necessary in the political interests of the country. Its very name was
a proof that its leaders believed there should be no reservation in
the opinion held by their party--that there must be no alloy or
foreign metal in their political coinage, but it must be clear Grit.
Its platform embraced many of the cardinal principles of the original
Reform or Liberal party, but it also advocated such radical changes as
the application of the elective principle to all classes of officials
(including the governor-general), universal suffrage, vote by ballot,
biennial parliaments, the abolition of the courts of chancery and
common pleas, free trade and direct taxation.

The Toronto _Globe_, which was for a short time the principal exponent
of ministerial views, declared that many of the doctrines enunciated
by the Clear Grits "embody the whole difference between a republican
form of government and the limited monarchy of Great Britain." _The
Globe_ was edited by George Brown, a Scotsman by birth, who came with
his father in his youth to the western province and entered into
journalism, in which he attained eventually signal success by his
great intellectual force and tenacity of purpose. His support of the
LaFontaine-Baldwin ministry gradually dropped from a moderate
enthusiasm to a positive coolness, from its failure to carry out the
principles urged by _The Globe_--especially the secularization of the
clergy reserves. Then he commenced to raise the cry of French
domination and to attack the religion and special institutions of
French Canada with such virulence that at last he became "a
governmental impossibility," so far as the influence of that province
was concerned. He supported the Clear Grits in the end, and became
their recognized leader when they gathered to themselves all the
discontented and radical elements of the Liberal party which had for
some years been gradually splitting into fragments. The power of the
Clear Grits was first shown in 1851, when William Lyon Mackenzie
succeeded in obtaining a majority of Reformers in support of his
motion for the abolition of the court of chancery, and forced the
retirement of Baldwin, whose conservatism had gradually brought him
into antagonism with the extremists of his old party.

Although relatively small in numbers in 1851, the Clear Grits had the
ability to do much mischief, and Hincks at once recognized the
expediency of making concessions to their leaders before they
demoralized or ruined the Liberal party in the west. Accordingly, he
invited Dr. Rolph and Malcolm Cameron to take positions in the new
ministry. They consented on condition that the secularization of the
clergy reserves would be a part of the ministerial policy. Hincks then
presented the following names to the governor-general:

Upper Canada.--Hon. F. Hincks, inspector-general; Hon. W.B.
Richards, attorney-general of Upper Canada; Hon. Malcolm
Cameron, president of the executive council; Hon. John
Rolph, commissioner of crown lands; Hon. James Morris,

Lower Canada.--Hon. A.N. Morin, provincial secretary, Hon. L.P.
Drummond, attorney-general of Lower Canada; Hon. John Young,
commissioner of public works; Hon. R.E. Caron, president of
legislative council; Hon. E.P. Tache, receiver-general.

Later, Mr. Chauveau and Mr. John Ross were appointed
solicitors-general for Lower and Upper Canada, without seats in the

Parliament was dissolved in November, when it had completed its
constitutional term of four years, and the result of the elections was
the triumph of the new ministry. It obtained a large majority in Lower
Canada, and only a feeble support in Upper Canada. The most notable
acquisition to parliament was George Brown, who had been defeated
previously in a bye-election of the same year by William Lyon
Mackenzie, chiefly on account of his being most obnoxious to the Roman
Catholic voters. He was assuming to be the Protestant champion in
journalism, and had made a violent attack on the Roman Catholic faith
on the occasion of the appointment of Cardinal Wiseman as Archbishop
of Westminster, an act denounced by extreme Protestants throughout the
British empire as an unconstitutional and dangerous interference by
the Pope with the dearest rights of Protestant England. As soon as
Brown entered the legislature he defined his political position by
declaring that, while he saw much to condemn in the formation of the
ministry and was dissatisfied with Hincks's explanations, he preferred
giving it for the time being his support rather than seeing the
government handed over to the Conservatives. As a matter of fact, he
soon became the most dangerous adversary that the government had to
meet. His style of speaking--full of facts and bitterness--and his
control of an ably conducted and widely circulated newspaper made him
a force in and out of parliament. His aim was obviously to break up
the new ministry, and possibly to ensure the formation of some new
combination in which his own ambition might be satisfied. As we shall
shortly see, his schemes failed chiefly through the more skilful
strategy of the man who was always his rival--his successful
rival--John A. Macdonald.

During its existence the Hincks-Morin ministry was distinguished by
its energetic policy for the promotion of railway, maritime and
commercial enterprises. It took the first steps to stimulate the
establishment of a line of Atlantic steamers by the offer of a
considerable subsidy for the carriage of mails between Canada and
Great Britain. The first contract was made with a Liverpool firm,
McKean, McLarty & Co., but the service was not satisfactorily
performed, owing, probably--according to Hincks--to the war with
Russia, and it was necessary to make a new arrangement with the
Messrs. Allan, which has continued, with some modification, until the
present time.

The negotiations for the construction of an intercolonial railway
having failed for the reasons previously stated, (p. 100), Hincks made
successful applications to English capitalists for the construction of
the great road always known as the Grand Trunk Railway of Canada. It
obtained a charter authorizing it to consolidate the lines from Quebec
to Richmond, from Quebec to Riviere du Loup, and from Toronto to
Montreal, which had received a guarantee of $3,000 a mile in
accordance with the law passed in 1851. It also had power to build the
Victoria bridge across the St. Lawrence at Montreal, and lease the
American line to Portland. By 1860, this great national highway was
completed from Riviere du Loup on the lower St. Lawrence as far as
Sarnia and Windsor on the western lakes. Its early history was
notorious for much jobbery, and the English shareholders lost the
greater part of the money which they invested in this Canadian
undertaking.[13] It cost the province from first to last upwards of
$16,000,000 but it was, on the whole, money expended in the interests
of the country, whose internal development would have been very
greatly retarded in the absence of rapid means of transit between east
and west. The government also gave liberal aid to the Great Western
Railway, which extended from the Niagara river to Hamilton, London and
Windsor, and to the Northern road, which extended north from Toronto,
both of which, many years later, became parts of the Grand Trunk

In accordance with its general progressive policy, the Hincks-Morin
ministry passed through the legislature an act empowering
municipalities in Upper Canada, after the observance of certain
formalities, to borrow money for the building of railways by the issue
of municipal debentures guaranteed by the provincial government. Under
this law a number of municipalities borrowed large sums to assist
railways and involved themselves so heavily in debt that the province
was ultimately obliged to come to their assistance and assume their
obligations. For years after the passage of this measure, Lower Canada
received the same privileges, but the people of that province were
never carried away by the enthusiasm of the west and never burdened
themselves with debts which they were unable to pay. The law, however,
gave a decided impulse at the outset to railway enterprise in Upper
Canada, and would have been a positive public advantage had it been
carried out with some degree of caution.

The government established a department of agriculture to which were
given control of the taking of a decennial census, the encouragement
of immigration, the collection of agricultural and other statistics,
the establishment of model farms and agricultural schools, the holding
of annual exhibitions and fairs, and other matters calculated to
encourage the cultivation of the soil in both sections of the
province. Malcolm Cameron became its first minister in connection with
his nominal duties as president of the executive council--a position
which he had accepted only on condition that it was accompanied by
some more active connection with the administration of public affairs.

For three sessions the LaFontaine-Baldwin ministry had made vain
efforts to pass a law increasing the representation of the two
provinces to one hundred and thirty or sixty-five members for each
section. As already stated the Union Act required that such a measure
should receive a majority of two-thirds in each branch of the
legislature. It would have become law on two occasions had it not been
for the factious opposition of Papineau, whose one vote would have
given the majority constitutionally necessary. When it was again
presented in 1853 by Mr. Morin, it received the bitter opposition of
Mr. Brown, who was now formulating the doctrine of representation by
population which afterwards became so important a factor in provincial
politics that it divided west from east, and made government
practically impossible until a federal union of the British North
American provinces was brought about as the only feasible solution of
the serious political and sectional difficulties under which Canada
was suffering. A number of prominent Conservatives, including Mr. John
A. Macdonald, were also unfavourable to the measure on the ground that
the population of Upper Canada, which was steadily increasing over
that of Lower Canada, should be equitably considered in any
readjustment of the provincial representation. The French Canadians,
who had been forced to come into the union hi 1841 with the same
representation as Upper Canada with its much smaller population, were
now unwilling to disturb the equality originally fixed while agreeing
to an increase in the number of representatives from each section.
The bill, which became law in 1853, was entirely in harmony with
the views entertained by Lord Elgin when he first took office as
governor-general of Canada. In 1847 he gave his opinion to the
colonial secretary that "the comparatively small number of members
of which the popular bodies who determine the fate of provincial
administrations" consisted was "unfavourable to the existence of a
high order of principle and feeling among official personages." When a
defection of two or three individuals from a majority of ten or so put
an administration in peril, "the perpetual patchwork and trafficking
to secure this vote and that (not to mention other evils) so engrosses
the time and thoughts of ministers that they have not leisure for
matters of greater moment" He clearly saw into the methods by which
his first unstable ministry, which had its origin in Lord Metcalfe's
time, was alone able to keep its feeble majority. "It must be
remembered," he wrote in 1847, "that it is only of late that the
popular assemblies in this part of the world have acquired the right
of determining who shall govern them--of insisting, as we phrase it,
that the administration of affairs shall be conducted by persons
enjoying their confidence. It is not wonderful that a privilege of
this kind should be exercised at first with some degree of
recklessness, and that while no great principles of policy are at
stake, methods of a more questionable character for winning and
retaining the confidence of these arbiters of destiny should be
resorted to."

While the Hincks government was in office, the Canadian legislature
received power from the imperial authorities--as I shall show
later--to settle the question of the clergy reserves on condition that
protection should be given to those members of the clergy who had been
beneficiaries under the Constitutional Act of 1791. A measure was
passed for the settlement of the seigniorial tenure question on an
equitable basis, but it was defeated in the legislative council by a
large majority amongst which we see the names of several seigneurs
directly interested in the measure. It was not fully discussed in that
chamber on the ground that members from Upper Canada had not had a
sufficient opportunity of studying the details of the proposed
settlement and of coming to a just conclusion as to its merits. The
action of the council under these circumstances was severely
criticized, and gave a stimulus to the movement that had been steadily
going on for years among radical reformers of both provinces in favour
of an elective body.

The result was that in 1854 the British parliament repealed the
clauses of the Union Act of 1840 with respect to the upper House, and
gave full power to the Canadian legislature to make such changes as it
might deem expedient--another concession to the principle of local
self-government. It was not, however, until 1856, that the legislature
passed a bill giving effect to the intentions of the imperial law, and
the first elections were held for the council. Lord Elgin was always
favourable to this constitutional change. "The position of the second
chamber of our body politic"--I quote from a despatch of March,
1853--"is at present wholly unsatisfactory. The principle of election
must be introduced in order to give to it the influence which it ought
to possess, and that principle must be so applied as to admit of the
working of parliamentary government (which I for one am certainly not
prepared to abandon for the American system) with two elective
chambers... When our two legislative bodies shall have been placed on
this improved footing, a greater stability will have been imparted to
our constitution, and a greater strength." Lord Elgin's view was
adopted and the change was made.

It is interesting to note that so distinguished a statesman as Lord
Derby, who had been colonial secretary in a previous administration,
had only gloomy forebodings of the effects of this elective system
applied to the upper House. He believed that the dream that he had of
seeing the colonies form eventually "a monarchical government,
presided over by one nearly and closely allied to the present royal
family," would be proved quite illusory by the legislation in
question. "Nothing," he added, "like a free and regulated monarchy
could exist for a single moment under such a constitution as that
which is now proposed for Canada. From the moment that you pass this
constitution, the progress must be rapidly towards republicanism, if
anything could be more really republican than this bill." As a matter
of fact a very few years later than the utterance of these gloomy
words, Canada and the other provinces of British North America entered
into a confederation "with a constitution similar in principle to that
of the United Kingdom"--to quote words in the preamble of the Act of
Union--and with a parliament of which the House of Commons is alone
elective. More than that, Lord Derby's dream has been in a measure
realized and Canada has seen at the head of her executive a
governor-general--the present Duke of Argyle--"nearly and closely
allied to the present royal family" of England, by his marriage to the
Princess Louise, the fourth daughter of Queen Victoria, who
accompanied her husband to Ottawa.

One remarkable feature of the Imperial Act dealing with this question
of the council, was the introduction of a clause which gave authority
to a mere majority of the members of the two Houses of the legislature
to increase the representation, and consequently removed that
safeguard to French Canada which required a two-thirds vote in each
branch. As the legislature had never passed an address or otherwise
expressed itself in favour of such an amendment of the Union Act,
there was always a mystery as to the way it was brought about. Georges
Etienne Cartier always declared that Papineau was indirectly
responsible for this imperial legislation. As already stated, the
leader of the Rouges had voted against the bill increasing the
representation, and had declaimed like others against the injustice
which the clause in the Union Act had originally done to French
Canada. "This fact," said Cartier, "was known in England, and when
leave was given to elect legislative councillors, the amendment
complained of was made at the same time. It may be said then, that if
Papineau had not systematically opposed the increase of
representation, the change in question would have never been thought
of in England." Hincks, however, was attacked by the French Canadian
historian, Garneau, for having suggested the amendment while in
England in 1854. This, however, he denied most emphatically in a
pamphlet which he wrote at a later time when he was no longer in
public life. He placed the responsibility on John Boulton, who called
himself an independent Liberal and who was in England at the same time
as Hincks, and probably got the ear of the colonial secretary or one
of his subordinates in the colonial office, and induced him to
introduce the amendment which passed without notice in a House where
very little attention was given, as a rule, to purely colonial

In 1853 Lord Elgin visited England, where he received unqualified
praise for his able administration of Canadian affairs. It was on this
occasion that Mr. Buchanan, then minister of the United States in
London, and afterwards a president of the Republic, paid this tribute
to the governor-general at a public dinner given in his honour.

"Lord Elgin," he said, "has solved one of the most difficult problems
of statesmanship. He has been able, successfully and satisfactorily,
to administer, amidst many difficulties, a colonial government over a
free people. This is an easy task where the commands of a despot are
law to his obedient servants, but not so in a colony where the people
feel that they possess the rights and privileges of native-born
Britons. Under his enlightened government, Her Majesty's North
American provinces have realized the blessings of a wise, prudent and
prosperous administration, and we of the neighbouring nation, though
jealous of our rights, have reason to be abundantly satisfied with his
just and friendly conduct towards ourselves. He has known how to
reconcile his devotion to Her Majesty's service with a proper regard
to the rights and interests of a kindred and neighbouring people.
Would to heaven we had such governors-general in all the European
colonies in the vicinity of the United States!"

On his return from England Lord Elgin made a visit to Washington and
succeeded in negotiating the reciprocity treaty which he had always at
heart. It was not, however, until a change of government occurred in
Canada, that the legislature was able to give its ratification to this
important measure. This subject is of such importance that it will be
fully considered in a separate chapter on the relations between Canada
and the United States during Lord Elgin's term of office.

In 1854 the Roman Catholic inhabitants of Quebec and Montreal were
deeply excited by the lectures of a former monk, Father Gavazzi, who
had become a Protestant and professed to expose the errors of the
faith to which he once belonged. Much rioting took place in both
cities, and blood was shed in Montreal, where the troops, which had
been called out, suddenly fired on the mob. Mr. Wilson, the mayor, who
was a Roman Catholic, was accused of having given the order to fire,
but he always denied the charge, and Hincks, in his "Reminiscences,"
expresses his conviction that he was not responsible. He was persuaded
that "the firing was quite accidental, one man having discharged his
piece from misapprehension, and others having followed his example
until the officers threw themselves in front, and struck up the
firelocks." Be this as it may, the Clear Grits in the West promptly
made use of this incident to attack the government on the ground that
it had failed to make a full investigation into the circumstances of
the riot. As a matter of fact, according to Hincks, the government did
take immediate steps to call the attention of the military commandant
to the matter, and the result was a court of inquiry which ended in
the removal of the regiment--then only a few days in Canada--to
Bermuda for having shown "a want of discipline." Brown inveighed very
bitterly against Hincks and his colleagues, as subject to Roman
Catholic domination in French Canada, and found this unfortunate
affair extremely useful in his systematic efforts to destroy the
government, to which at no time had he been at all favourable.

Several changes took place during 1853 in the _personnel_ of the
ministry, which met parliament on June 13th, with the following
members holding portfolios:

Hon. Messrs. Hincks, premier and inspector-general; John
Ross, formerly solicitor-general west in place of Richards,
elevated to the bench, attorney-general for Upper Canada;
James Morris, president of the legislative council, in place
of Mr. Caron, now a judge; John Rolph, president of the
executive council; Malcolm Cameron, postmaster-general; A.N.
Morin, commissioner of crown lands; L.P. Drummond,
attorney-general for Lower Canada; Mr. Chauveau, formerly
solicitor east, provincial secretary; J. Chabot,
commissioner of public works in place of John Young,
resigned on account of differences on commercial questions;
and E.P. Tache, receiver-general. Dunbar Ross became
solicitor-general east, and Joseph C. Morrison,
solicitor-general west.

The government had decided to have a short session, pass a few
necessary measures and then appeal to the country. The secularization
of the reserves, and the question of the seigniorial tenure were not
to be taken up until the people had given an expression of opinion as
to the ministerial policy generally. As soon as the legislature met,
Cauchon, already prominent in public life, proposed an amendment to
the address, expressing regret that the government had no intention
"to submit immediately a measure to settle the question of the
seigniorial tenure." Then Sicotte, who had not long before declined to
enter the ministry, moved to add the words "and one for the
secularization of the clergy reserves." These two amendments were
carried by a majority of thirteen in a total division of seventy-one
votes. While the French Liberals continued to support Morin, all the
Upper Canadian opponents of the government, Conservatives and Clear
Grits, united with a number of Hincks's former supporters and Rouges
in Lower Canada to bring about this ministerial defeat. The government
accordingly was obliged either to resign or ask the governor-general
for a dissolution. It concluded to adhere to its original
determination, and go at once to the country. The governor-general
consented to prorogue the legislature with a view to an immediate
appeal to the electors. When the Usher of the Black Rod appeared at
the door of the assembly chamber, to ask the attendance of the Commons
in the legislative council, a scene of great excitement occurred.
William Lyon Mackenzie made one of his vituperative attacks on the
government, and was followed by John A. Macdonald, who declared its
course to be most unconstitutional. When at last the messenger from
the governor-general was admitted by order of the speaker, the House
proceeded to the council chamber, where members were electrified by
another extraordinary incident. The speaker of the assembly was John
Sandfield Macdonald, an able Scotch Canadian, in whose character
there was a spirit of vindictiveness, which always asserted itself
when he received a positive or fancied injury. He had been a
solicitor-general of Upper Canada in the LaFontaine-Baldwin government,
and had never forgiven Hincks for not having promoted him to the
attorney-generalship, instead of W.B. Richards, afterwards an eminent
judge of the old province of Canada, and first chief justice of
the Supreme Court of the Dominion. Hincks had offered him the
commissionership of crown lands in the ministry, but he refused to
accept any office except the one on which his ambition was fixed.
Subsequently, however, he was induced by his friends to take the
speakership of the legislative assembly, but he had never forgiven
what he considered a slight at the hands of the prime minister in
1851. Accordingly, when he appeared at the Bar of the Council in 1853,
he made an attempt to pay off this old score. As soon as he had made
his bow to the governor-general seated on the throne, Macdonald
proceeded to read the following speech, which had been carefully
prepared for the occasion in the two languages:

"May it please your Excellency: It has been the immemorial
custom of the speaker of the Commons' House of Parliament to
communicate to the throne the general result of the
deliberations of the assembly upon the principal objects
which have employed the attention of parliament during the
period of their labours. It is not now part of my duty thus
to address your Excellency, inasmuch as there has been no
act passed or judgment of parliament obtained since we were
honoured by your Excellency's announcement of the cause of
summoning of parliament by your gracious speech from the
throne. The passing of an act through its several stages,
according to the law and custom of parliament (solemnly
declared applicable to the parliamentary proceedings of this
province, by a decision of the legislative assembly of
1841), is held to be necessary to constitute a session of
parliament. This we have been unable to accomplish, owing to
the command which your Excellency has laid upon us to meet
you this day for the purpose of prorogation. At the same
time I feel called upon to assure your Excellency, on the
part of Her Majesty's faithful Commons, that it is not from
any want of respect to yourself, or to the August personage
whom you represent in these provinces, that no answer has
been returned by the legislative assembly to your gracious
speech from the throne."

It is said by those who were present on this interesting occasion that
His Excellency was the most astonished person in the council chamber.
Mr. Fennings Taylor, the deputy clerk with a seat at the table, tells
us in a sketch of Macdonald that Lord Elgin's face clearly marked
"deep displeasure and annoyance when listening to the speaker's
address," and that he gave "a motion of angry impatience when he found
himself obliged to listen to the repetition in French of the reproof
which had evidently galled him in English." This incident was in some
respects without parallel in Canadian parliamentary history. There was
a practice, now obsolete in Canada as in England, for the speaker, on
presenting the supply or appropriation bill to the governor-general
for the royal assent, to deliver a short address directing attention
to the principal measures passed during the session about to be
closed.[14] This practice grew up in days when there were no
responsible ministers who would be the only constitutional channel of
communication between the Crown and the assembly. The speaker was
privileged, and could be instructed as "the mouth-piece" of the House,
to lay before the representative of the Sovereign an expression of
opinion on urgent questions of the day. On this occasion Mr. Macdonald
was influenced entirely by personal spite, and made an unwarrantable
use of an old custom which was never intended, and could not be
constitutionally used, to insult the representative of the Crown, even
by inference. Mr. Macdonald was not even correct in his interpretation
of the constitution, when he positively declared that an act was
necessary to constitute a session. The Crown makes a session by
summoning and opening parliament, and it is always a royal prerogative
to prorogue or dissolve it at its pleasure even before a single act
has passed the two Houses. Such a scene could never have occurred with
the better understanding of the duties of the speaker and of the
responsibilities of ministers advising the Crown that has grown up
under a more thorough study of the practice and usages of parliament,
and of the principles of responsible government. This little political
episode is now chiefly interesting as giving an insight into one phase
of the character of a public man, who afterwards won a high position
in the parliamentary and political life of Canada before and after the
confederation of 1867, not by the display of a high order of
statesmanship, but by the exercise of his tenacity of purpose, and by
reason of his reputation for a spiteful disposition which made him
feared by friend and foe.

Immediately after the prorogation, parliament was dissolved and the
Hincks-Morin ministry presented itself to the people, who were now
called upon to elect a larger number of representatives under the act
passed in 1853. Of the constitutionality of the course pursued by the
government in this political crisis, there can now be no doubt. In the
first place it was fully entitled to demand a public judgment on its
general policy, especially in view of the fact, within the knowledge
of all persons, that the opposition in the assembly was composed of
discordant elements, only temporarily brought together by the hope of
breaking up the government. In the next place it felt that it could
not be justified by sound constitutional usage in asking a parliament
in which the people were now imperfectly represented, to settle
definitely such important questions as the clergy reserves and the
seigniorial tenure. Lord Elgin had himself no doubt of the necessity
for obtaining a clear verdict from the people by means of "the more
perfect system of representation" provided by law. In the debate on
the Representation Bill in 1853, John A. Macdonald did not hesitate to
state emphatically that the House should be governed by English
precedents in the position in which it would soon be placed by the
passage of this measure. "Look," he said, "at the Reform Bill in
England. That was passed by a parliament that had been elected only
one year before, and the moment it was passed, Lord John Russell
affirmed that the House could not continue after it had declared that
the country was not properly represented. How can we legislate on the
clergy reserves until another House is elected, if this bill passes? A
great question like this cannot be left to be decided by a mere
accidental majority. We can legislate upon no great question after we
have ourselves declared that we do not represent the country. Do these
gentlemen opposite mean to say that they will legislate on a question
affecting the rights of people yet unborn, with the fag-end of a
parliament dishonoured by its own confessions of incapacity?" Hincks
in his "Reminiscences," printed more than three decades later than
this ministerial crisis, still adhered to the opinion that the
government was fully justified by established precedent in appealing
to the country before disposing summarily of the important questions
then agitating the people. Both Lord Elgin and Sir John A.
Macdonald--to give the latter the title he afterwards received from
the Crown--assuredly set forth the correct constitutional practice
under the peculiar circumstances in which both government and
legislature were placed by the legislation increasing the
representation of the people.

The elections took place in July and August of 1854, for in those
times there was no system of simultaneous polling on one day, but
elections were held on such days and as long as the necessities of
party demanded.[15] The result was, on the whole, adverse to the
government. While it still retained a majority in French Canada, its
opponents returned in greater strength, and Morin himself was defeated
in Terrebonne, though happily for the interests of his party he was
elected by acclamation at the same time in Chicoutimi. In Upper Canada
the ministry did not obtain half the vote of the sixty-five
representatives now elected to the legislature by that province. This
vote was distributed as follows: Ministerial, 30; Conservatives, 22;
Clear Grits, 7; and Independents, 6. Malcolm Cameron was beaten in
Lambton, but Hincks was elected by two constituencies. One auspicious
result of this election was the disappearance of Papineau from public
life. He retired to his pretty chateau on the banks of the Ottawa, and
the world soon forgot the man who had once been so prominent a figure
in Canadian politics. His graces of manner and conversation continued
for years to charm his friends in that placid evening of his life so
very different from those stormy days when his eloquence was a menace
to British institutions and British connection. Before his death, he
saw Lower Canada elevated to an independent and influential position
in the confederation of British North America which it could never
have reached as that _Nation Canadienne_ which he had once vainly
hoped to see established in the valley of the St. Lawrence.

The Rouges, of whom Papineau had been leader, came back in good form
and numbered nineteen members. Antoine A. Dorion, Holton, and other
able men in the ranks of this once republican party, had become wise
and adopted opinions which no longer offended the national and
religious susceptibilities of their race, although they continued to
show for years their radical tendencies which prevented them from ever
obtaining a firm hold of public opinion in a practically Conservative
province, and becoming dominant in the public councils for any length
of time.

The fifth parliament of the province of Canada was opened by Lord
Elgin on February 5th, 1854, and the ministry was defeated immediately
on the vote for the speakership, to which Mr. Sicotte--a dignified
cultured man, at a later time a judge--was elected. On this occasion
Hincks resorted to a piece of strategy which enabled him to punish
John Sandfield Macdonald for the insult he had levelled at the
governor-general and his advisers at the close of the previous
parliament. The government's candidate was Georges Etienne Cartier,
who was first elected in 1849 and who had already become conspicuous
in the politics of his province. Sicotte was the choice of the
Opposition in Lower Canada, and while there was no belief among the
politicians that he could be elected, there was an understanding among
the Conservatives and Clear Grits that an effort should be made in his
behalf, and in case of its failure, then the whole strength of the
opponents of the ministry should be so directed as to ensure the
election of Mr. Macdonald, who was sure to get a good Reform vote from
the Upper Canadian representatives. These names were duly proposed in
order, and Cartier was defeated by a large majority. When the clerk at
the table had called for a vote for Sicotte, the number who stood up
in his favour was quite insignificant, but before the Nays were taken,
Hincks arose quickly and asked that his name be recorded with the
Yeas. All the ministerialists followed the prime minister and voted
for Sicotte, who was consequently chosen speaker by a majority of
thirty-five. But all that Hincks gained by such clever tactics was the
humiliation for the moment of an irascible Scotch Canadian politician.
The vote itself had no political significance whatever, and the
government was forced to resign on September 8th. The vote in favour
of Cartier had shown that the ministry was in a minority of twelve in
Upper Canada, and if Hincks had any doubt of his political weakness it
was at once dispelled on September 7th when the House refused to grant
to the government a short delay of twenty-four hours for the purpose
of considering a question of privilege which had been raised by the
Opposition. On this occasion, Dr. Rolph, who had been quite restless
in the government for some tune, voted against his colleagues and gave
conclusive evidence that Hincks was deserted by the majority of the
Reform party in his own province, and could no longer bring that
support to the French Canadian ministerialists which would enable them
to administer public affairs.

The resignation of the Hincks-Morin ministry begins a new epoch in the
political annals of Canada. From that time dates the disruption of the
old Liberal party which had governed the country so successfully since
1848, and the formation of a powerful combination which was made up of
the moderate elements of that party and of the Conservatives, which
afterwards became known as the Liberal-Conservative party. This new
party practically controlled public affairs for over three decades
until the death of Sir John A. Macdonald, to whose inspiration it
largely owed its birth. With that remarkable capacity for adapting
himself to political conditions, which was one of the secrets of his
strength as a party leader, he saw in 1854 that the time had come for
forming an alliance with those moderate Liberals in the two provinces
who, it was quite clear, had no possible affinity with the Clear
Grits, who were not only small in numbers, but especially obnoxious to
the French Canadians, as a people on account of the intemperate
attacks made by Mr. Brown in the Toronto _Globe_ on their revered

The representatives who supported the late ministry were still in
larger numbers than any other party or faction in the House, and it
was obvious that no government could exist without their support. Sir
Allan MacNab, who was the oldest parliamentarian, and the leader of
the Conservatives--a small but compact party--was then invited by the
governor-general to assist him by his advice, during a crisis when it
was evident to the veriest political tyro that the state of parties in
the assembly rendered it very difficult to form a stable government
unless a man could be found ready to lay aside all old feelings of
personal and political rivalry and prejudice and unite all factions on
a common platform for the public advantage. All the political
conditions, happily, were favourable for a combination on a basis of
conciliation and compromise. The old Liberals in French Canada under
the influence of LaFontaine and Morin had been steadily inclining to
Conservatism with the secure establishment of responsible government
and the growth of the conviction that the integrity of the cherished
institutions of their ancient province could be best assured by moving
slowly (_festina lente_), and not by constant efforts to make radical
changes in the body politic. The Liberals, of whom Hincks was leader,
were also very distrustful of Brown, and clearly saw that he could
have no strength whatever in a province where French Canada must have
a guarantee that its language, religion, and civil law, were safe in
the hands of any government that might at any time be formed. The
wisest men among the Conservatives also felt that the time had arrived
for adopting a new policy since the old questions which had once
evoked their opposition had been at last settled by the voice of the
people, and could no longer constitutionally or wisely be made matters
of continued agitation in or out of parliament. "The question that
arose in the minds of the old Liberals," as it was said many years
later by Thomas White, an able journalist and politician,[16]

"was this: shall we hand over the government of this country
to the men who, calling themselves Liberals, have broken up
the Liberal party by the declaration of extravagant views,
by the enunciation of principles far more radical and
reckless than any we are prepared to accept, and by a
restless ambition which we cannot approve? Or shall we not
rather unite with the Conservatives who have gone to the
country declaring, in reference to the great questions which
then agitated it, that if the decision at the polls was
against them, they would no longer offer resistance to their
settlement, but would, on the contrary, assist in such
solution of them as would forever remove them from the
sphere of public or political agitation."

With both Liberals and Conservatives holding such views, it was easy
enough for John A. Macdonald to convince even Sir Allan MacNab that
the time had come for forgetting the past as much as possible, and
constituting a strong government from the moderate elements of the old
parties which had served their turn and now required to be remodelled
on a wider basis of common interests. Sir Allan MacNab recognized the
necessity of bringing his own views into harmony with those of the
younger men of his party who were determined not to allow such an
opportunity for forming a powerful ministry to pass by. The political
situation, indeed, was one calculated to appeal to both the vanity and
self-interest of the veteran statesman, and he accordingly assumed the
responsibility of forming an administration. He communicated
immediately with Morin and his colleagues in Lower Canada, and when he
received a favourable reply from them, his next step was to make
arrangements, if possible, with the Liberals of Upper Canada. Hincks
was only too happy to have an opportunity of resenting the opposition
he had met with from Brown and the extreme Reformers of the western
province, and opened negotiations with his old supporters on the
conditions that the new ministry would take immediate steps for the
secularization of the clergy reserves, and the settlement of the
seigniorial tenure, and that two members of the administration would
be taken from his own followers. The negotiations were successfully
closed on this basis of agreement, and on September 11th the following
ministers were duly sworn into office:

Upper Canada.--Hon. Sir Allan MacNab, president of the
executive council and minister of agriculture; Hon. John A.
Macdonald, attorney-general of Upper Canada; Hon. W. Cayley,
inspector-general; Hon. R. Spence, postmaster-general; Hon.
John Ross, president of the legislative council.

Lower Canada.--Hon. A.N. Morin, commissioner of crown lands;
Hon. L.P. Drummond, attorney-general for Lower Canada; Hon.
P.J.O. Chauveau, provincial secretary; Hon. E.P. Tache,
receiver-general; Hon. J. Chabot, commissioner of public

The new cabinet contained four Conservatives, and six members of the
old ministry. Henry Smith, a Conservative, became solicitor-general
for Upper Canada, and Dunbar Ross continued in the same office for
Lower Canada, but neither of them had seats in the cabinet. The
Liberal-Conservative party, organized under such circumstances was
attacked with great bitterness by the leaders of the discordant
factions, who were greatly disappointed at the success of the
combination formed through the skilful management of Messrs. J.A.
Macdonald, Hineks and Morin.

The coalition was described as "an unholy alliance" of men who had
entirely abandoned their principles. But an impartial historian must
record the opinion that the coalition was perfectly justified by
existing political conditions, that had it not taken place, a stable
government would in all probability have been for some time
impossible, and that the time had come for the reconstruction of
parties with a broad generous policy which would ignore issues at last
dead, and be more in harmony with modern requirements. It might with
some reason be called a coalition when the reconstruction of parties
was going on, but it was really a successful movement for the
annihilation of old parties and issues, and for the formation on their
ruins of a new party which could gather to itself the best materials
available for the effective conduct of public affairs on the patriotic
platform of the union of the two races, of equal rights to all classes
and creeds, and of the avoidance of purely sectional questions
calculated to disturb the union of 1841.

The new government at once obtained the support of a large majority of
the representatives from each section of the province, and was
sustained by the public opinion of the country at large. During the
session of 1854 measures were passed for the secularization of the
reserves, the removal of the seigniorial tenure, and for the
ratification of the reciprocity treaty with the United States. As I
have only been able so far in this historical narrative to refer in a
very cursory manner to these very important questions, I propose now
to give in the following chapter a succinct review of their history
from the time they first came into prominence down to their settlement
at the close of Lord Elgin's administration in Canada.



For a long period in the history of Canada the development of several
provinces was more or less seriously retarded, and the politics of the
country constantly complicated by the existence of troublesome
questions arising out of the lavish grants of public lands by the
French and English governments. The territorial domain of French
Canada was distributed by the king of France, under the inspiration of
Richelieu, with great generosity, on a system of a modified feudal
tenure, which, it was hoped, would strengthen the connection between
the Crown and the dependency by the creation of a colonial
aristocracy, and at the same time stimulate the colonization and
settlement of the valley of the St. Lawrence; but, as we shall see in
the course of the following chapter, despite the wise intentions of
its promoters, the seigniorial tenure gradually became, after the
conquest, more or less burdensome to the _habitants_, and an
impediment rather than an incentive to the agricultural development
and peopling of the province. Even little Prince Edward Island was
troubled with a land question as early as 1767, when it was still
known by the name St. John, given it in the days of French rule.
Sixty-seven townships, containing in the aggregate 1,360,600 English
acres, were conveyed in one day by ballot, with a few reservations to
the Crown, to a number of military men, officials and others, who had
real or supposed claims on the British government. In this wholesale
fashion the island was burdened with a land monopoly which was not
wholly removed until after the union with the Canadian Dominion in
1873. Though some disputes arose in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick
between the old and new settlers with respect to the ownership of
lands after the coming of the Loyalists, who received, as elsewhere,
liberal grants of land, they were soon settled, and consequently these
maritime provinces were not for any length of time embarrassed by the
existence of such questions as became important issues in the politics
of Canada. Extravagant grants were also given to the United Empire
Loyalists who settled on the banks of the St. Lawrence and Niagara
rivers in Upper Canada, as some compensation for the great sacrifices
they had made for the Crown during the American revolution. Large
tracts of this property were sold either by the Loyalists or their
heirs, and passed into the hands of speculators at very insignificant
prices. Lord Durham in his report cites authority to show that not
"one-tenth of the lands granted to United Empire Loyalists had been
occupied by the persons to whom they were granted, and in a great
proportion of cases not occupied at all." The companies which were
also in the course of time organized in Great Britain for the purchase
and sale of lands in Canada, also received extraordinary favours from
the government. Although the Canada Company, which is still in
existence, was an important agency in the settlement of the province
of Upper Canada, its possession of immense tracts--some of them, the
Huron Block, for instance, locked up for years--was for a time a great
public grievance.

But all these land questions sank into utter insignificance compared
with the dispute which arose out of the thirty-sixth clause of the
Constitutional Act of 1791, which provided that there should be
reserved for the maintenance and support of a "Protestant clergy," in
the provinces of Upper and Lower Canada, "a quantity of land equal in
value to a seventh part of grants that had been made in the past, or
might be made in the future." Subsequent clauses of the same act made
provision for the erection and endowment of one or more rectories in
every township or parish, "according to the establishment of the
Church of England," and at the same time gave power to the legislature
of the two provinces "to vary or repeal" these enactments of the law
with the important reservation that all bills of such a character
could not receive the royal assent until thirty days after they had
been laid before both Houses of the imperial parliament. Whenever it
was practicable, the lands were reserved under the act among those
already granted to settlers with the intention of creating parishes as
soon as possible in every settled township throughout the province.
However, it was not always possible to carry out this plan, in
consequence of whole townships having been granted _en bloc_ to the
Loyalists in certain districts, especially in those of the Bay of
Quinte, Kingston and Niagara, and it was therefore necessary to carry
out the intention of the law in adjoining townships where no lands of
any extent had been granted to settlers.

The Church of England, at a very early period, claimed, as the only
"Protestant clergy" recognized by English law, the exclusive use of
the lands in question, and Bishop Mountain, who became in 1793
Anglican bishop of Quebec, with a jurisdiction extending over all
Canada, took the first steps to sustain this assertion of exclusive
right. Leases were given to applicants by a clerical corporation
established by the Anglican Church for the express purpose of
administering the reserves. For some years the Anglican claim passed
without special notice, and it is not until 1817 that we see the germ
of the dispute which afterwards so seriously agitated Upper Canada. It
was proposed in the assembly to sell half the lands and devote the
proceeds to secular purposes, but the sudden prorogation of the
legislature by Lieutenant-Governor Gore, prevented any definite action
on the resolutions, although the debate that arose on the subject had
the effect of showing the existence of a marked public grievance. The
feeling at this time in the country was shown in answers given to
circulars sent out by Robert Gourlay, an energetic Scottish busy-body,
to a number of townships, asking an expression of opinion as to the
causes which retarded improvement and the best means of developing the
resources of the province. The answer from Sandwich emphatically set
forth that the reasons of the existing depression were the reserves of
land for the Crown and clergy, "which must for long keep the country a
wilderness, a harbour for wolves, and a hindrance to compact and good
neighbourhood; defects in the system of colonization; too great a
quantity of land in the hands of individuals who do not reside in the
province, and are not assessed for their property." The select
committee of the House of Commons on the civil government of Canada
reported in 1828 that "these reserved lands, as they are at present
distributed over the country, retard more than any other circumstance
the improvement of the colony, lying as they do in detached portions
of each township and intervening between the occupations of actual
settlers, who have no means of cutting roads through the woods and
morasses which thus separate them from their neighbours." It appears,
too, that the quantity of land actually reserved was in excess of that
which appears to have been contemplated by the Constitutional Act. "A
quantity equal to one-seventh of all grants," wrote Lord Durham in his
report of 1839, "would be one-eighth of each township, or of all the
public land. Instead of this proportion, the practice has been ever
since the act passed, and in the clearest violation of its provisions,
to set apart for the clergy in Upper Canada, a seventh of all the
land, which is a quantity equal to a sixth of the land granted.... In
Lower Canada the same violation of the law has taken place, with this
difference--that upon every sale of Crown and clergy reserves, a fresh
reserve for the clergy has been made, equal to a fifth of such
reserves." In that way the public in both provinces was systematically
robbed of a large quantity of land, which, Lord Durham estimated, was
worth about L280,000 at the time he wrote. He acknowledges, however,
that the clergy had no part in "this great misappropriation of the
public property," but that it had arisen "entirely from heedless
misconception, or some other error of the civil government of the
province." All this, however, goes to show the maladministration of
the public lands, and is one of the many reasons the people of the
Canadas had for considering these reserves a public grievance.

When political parties were organized in Upper Canada some years after
the war of 1812-14, which had for a while united all classes and
creeds for the common defence, we see on one side a Tory compact for
the maintenance of the old condition of things, the control of
patronage, and the protection of the interests of the Church of
England; on the other, a combination of Reformers, chiefly composed of
Methodists, Presbyterians, and Baptists, who clamoured for reforms in
government and above all for relief from the dominance of the Anglican
Church, which, with respect to the clergy reserves and other matters,
was seeking a _quasi_ recognition as a state church. As the Puritans
of New England at the commencement of the American Revolution
inveighed against any attempt to establish an Anglican episcopate in
the country as an insidious attack by the monarchy on their civil and
religious liberty--most unjustly, as any impartial historian must now
admit[17]--so in Upper Canada the dissenters made it one of their
strongest grievances that favouritism was shown to the Anglican Church
in the distribution of the public lands and the public patronage, to
the detriment of all other religious bodies in the province. The
bitterness that was evoked on this question had much to do with
bringing about the rebellion of 1837. If the whole question could have
been removed from the arena of political discussion, the Reformers
would have been deprived of one of their most potent agencies to
create a feeling against the "family compact" and the government at
Toronto. But Bishop Strachan, who was a member of both the executive
and legislative councils--in other words, the most influential member
of the "family compact"--could not agree to any compromise which would
conciliate the aggrieved dissenters and at the same time preserve a
large part of the claim made by the Church of England. Such a
compromise in the opinion of this sturdy, obstinate ecclesiastic,
would be nothing else than a sop to his Satanic majesty. It was always
with him a battle _a l'outrance,_ and as we shall soon see, in the end
he suffered the bitterness of defeat.

In these later days when we can review the whole question without any
of the prejudice and passion which embittered the controversy while it
was a burning issue, we can see that the Church of England had strong
historical and legal arguments to justify its claim to the exclusive
use of the clergy reserves. When the Constitutional Act of 1791 was
passed, the only Protestant clergy recognized in British statutes were
those of the Church of England, and, as we shall see later, those of
the established Church of Scotland. The dissenting denominations had
no more a legal status in the constitutional system of England than
the Roman Catholics, and indeed it was very much the same thing in
some respects in the provinces of Canada. So late as 1824 the
legislative council, largely composed of Anglicans, rejected a bill
allowing Methodist ministers to solemnize marriages, and it was not
until 1831 that recognized ministers of all denominations were placed
on an equality with the Anglican clergy in such matters. The
employment of the words "Protestant Clergy" in the act, it was urged
with force, was simply to distinguish the Church of England clergy
from those of the Church of Rome, who, otherwise, would be legally
entitled to participate in the grant.

The loyalists, who founded the province of Upper Canada, established
formally by the Constitutional Act of 1791, were largely composed of
adherents of the Church of England, and it was one of the dearest
objects of Lieutenant-Governor Simcoe to place that body on a stable
basis and give it all the influence possible in the state. A
considerable number had also settled in Lower Canada, and received, as
in other parts of British North America, the sympathy and aid of the
parent state. It was the object of the British government to make the
constitution of the Canadas "an image and transcript" as far as
possible of the British system of government. In no better way could
this be done, in the opinion of the framers of the Constitutional Act,
than by creating a titled legislative council;[18] and though this
effort came to naught, it is noteworthy as showing the tendency at
that time of imperial legislation. If such a council could be
established, then it was all important that there should be a
religious body, supported by the state, to surround the political
institutions of the country with the safeguards which a conservative
and aristocratic church like that of England would give. The erection
and endowment of rectories "according to the establishment of the
Church of England"--words of the act to be construed in connection
with the previous clauses--was obviously a part of the original scheme
of 1791 to anglicize Upper Canada and make it as far as possible a
reflex of Anglican England.

It does not appear that at any time there was any such feeling of
dissatisfaction with respect to the reserves in French Canada as
existed throughout Upper Canada, The Protestant clergy in the former
province were relatively few in number, and the Roman Catholic Church,
which dominated the whole country, was quite content with its own
large endowments received from the bounty of the king or private
individuals during the days of French occupation, and did not care to
meddle in a question which in no sense affected it. On the other hand,
in Upper Canada, the arguments used by the Anglican clergy in support
of their claims to the exclusive administration of the reserves were
constantly answered not only in the legislative bodies, but in the
Liberal papers, and by appeals to the imperial government. It was
contended that the phrase "Protestant clergy" used in the
Constitutional Act, was simply intended to distinguish all Protestant
denominations from the Roman Catholic Church, and that, had there been
any intention to give exclusive rights to the Anglican Church, it
would have been expressly so stated in the section reserving the
lands, just as had been done in the sections specially providing for
the erection and endowment of Anglican rectories.

The first successful blow against the claims of the English Church in
Canada was struck by that branch of the Presbyterian Church known in
law as the Established Church of Scotland. It obtained an opinion from
the British law officers in 1819, entirely favourable to its own
participation in the reserves on the ground that it had been fully
recognized as a state church, not only in the act uniting the two
kingdoms of England and Scotland, but in several British statutes
passed later than the Constitutional Act whose doubtful phraseology
had originated the whole controversy. While the law officers admitted
that the provisions of this act might be "extended also to the Church
of Scotland, if there are any such settled in Canada (as appears to
have been admitted in the debate upon the passing of the act)," yet
they expressed the opinion that the clauses in question did not apply
to dissenting ministers, since they thought that "the term 'Protestant
clergy' could apply only to Protestant clergy recognized and
established by law." We shall see a little farther on the truth of the
old adage that "lawyers will differ" and that in 1840, twenty-one
years later than the expression of the opinion just cited, eminent
British jurists appeared to be more favourable to the claims of
denominations other than the Church of Scotland.

Until 1836--the year preceding the rebellion--the excitement with
respect to the reserves had been intensified by the action of Sir John
Colborne, lieutenant-governor of Upper Canada, who, on the eve of his
departure for England, was induced by Bishop Strachan to sign patents
creating and endowing forty-four rectories[19] in Upper Canada,
representing more than 17,000 acres of land in the aggregate or about
486 for each of them. One can say advisedly that this action was most
indiscreet at a time when a wise administrator would have attempted to
allay rather than stimulate public irritation on so serious a
question. Until this time, says Lord Durham, the Anglican clergy had
no exclusive privileges, save such as might spring from their
efficient discharge of their sacred duties, or from the energy,
ability or influence of members of their body--notably Bishop
Strachan, who practically controlled the government in religious and
even secular matters. But, continued Lord Durham, the last public act
of Sir John Colborne made it quite understood that every rector
possessed "all the spiritual and other privileges enjoyed by an
English rector," and that though he might "have no right to levy
tithes" (for even this had been made a question), he was "in all other
respects precisely in the same position as a clergyman of the
established church in England." "This is regarded," added Lord Durham,
"by all other teachers of religion in this country as having at once
degraded them to a position of legal inferiority to the clergy of the
Church of England; and it has been most warmly resented. In the
opinion of many persons, this was the chief predisposing cause of the
recent insurrection, and it is an abiding and unabated cause for

As soon as Sir John Colborne's action was known throughout the
province, public indignation among the opponents of the clergy
reserves and the Church of England took the forms of public meetings
to denounce the issue of the patents, and of memorials to the imperial
government calling into question their legality and praying for their
immediate annulment. An opinion was obtained from the law officers of
the Crown that the action taken by Sir John Colborne was "not valid
and lawful," but it was given on a mere _ex parte_ statement of the
case prepared by the opponents of the rectories; and the same eminent
lawyers subsequently expressed themselves favourably as to the
legality of the patents when they were asked to reconsider the whole
question, which was set forth in a very elaborate report prepared
under the direction of Bishop Strachan. It is convenient to mention
here that this phase of the clergy reserve question again came before
able English counsel at the Equity Bar, when Hincks visited London in
1852. After they had given an opinion unfavourable to the Colborne
patents on the case as submitted to them by the Canadian prime
minister, it was deemed expedient to submit the whole legal question
to the Court of Chancery in Upper Canada, which decided unanimously,
after a full hearing of the case, that the patents were valid. But
this decision was not given until 1856, when the whole matter of the
reserves had been finally adjusted, and the validity of the creation
of the rectories was no longer a burning question in Upper Canada.

When Poulett Thomson came to Canada in the autumn of 1839 as
governor-general, he recognized the necessity of bringing about an
immediate settlement of this very vexatious question, and of
preventing its being made a matter of agitation after the union of the
two provinces. The imperial authorities had already disallowed an act
passed by the legislature of Upper Canada of 1838 to reinvest the
clergy reserves in the Crown, and it became necessary for Lord
Sydenham--to give the governor-general's later title--to propose a
settlement in the shape of a compromise between the various Protestant
bodies interested in the reserves. Lord Sydenham was opposed to the
application of these lands to general education as proposed in several
bills which had passed the assembly, but had been rejected by the
legislative council owing to the dominant influence of Bishop
Strachan. "To such a measure," says Lord Sydenham's biographer,[20]
"he was opposed; first because it would have taken away the only fund
exclusively devoted to purposes of religion, and secondly, because,
even if carried in the provincial legislature, it would evidently not
have obtained the sanction of the imperial parliament. He therefore
entered into personal communication with the leading individuals among
the principal religious communities, and after many interviews,
succeeded in obtaining their support to a measure for the distribution
of the reserves among the religious communities recognized by law, in
proportion to their respective numbers."

Lord Sydenham's efforts to obtain the consent "of leading individuals
among the principal religious communities" did not succeed in
preventing a strong opposition to the measure after it had passed
through the legislature. Dr. Ryerson, a power among the Methodists,
denounced it, after he had at the outset shown an inclination to
support it, and the Bishop of Toronto was also among its most
determined opponents. Lord Sydenham's well-meaning attempt to settle
the question was thwarted at the very outset by the reference of the
bill to English judges, who reported adversely on the ground that the
power "to vary or repeal" given in the Constitutional Act of 1791 was
only prospective, and did not authorize the provincial legislature to
divert the proceeds of the lands already sold from the purpose
originally contemplated in the imperial statute. The judges also
expressed the opinion on this occasion that the words "Protestant
clergy" were large enough to include and did include "other clergy
than those of the Church of Scotland." In their opinion these words
appeared, "both in their natural force and meaning, and still more
from the context of the clauses in which they are found, to be there
used to designate and intend a clergy opposed in doctrine and
discipline to the clergy of the Church of Rome, and rather to aim at
the encouragement of the Protestant religion in opposition to the
Romish Church, than to point exclusively to the clergy of the Church
of England." But as they did not find on the statute book the
acknowledgment by the legislature of any other clergy answering the
description of the law, they could not specify any other except the
Church of Scotland as falling within the imperial statute.

Under these circumstances the imperial government at once passed
through parliament a bill (3 and 4 Vict., c. 78) which re-enacted the
Canadian measure with the modifications rendered necessary by the
judicial opinion just cited. This act put an end to future
reservations, and at the same time recognized the claims of all the
Protestant bodies to a share in the funds derived from the sales of
the lands. It provided for the division of the reserves into two
portions--those sold before the passing of the act and those sold at a
later time. Of the previous sales, the Church of England was to
receive two-thirds and the Church of Scotland one-third. Of future
sales, the Church of England would receive one-third and the Church of
Scotland one-sixth, while the residue could be applied by the
governor-in-council "for purposes of public worship and religious
instruction in Canada," in other words, that it should be divided
among those other religious denominations that might make application
at any time for a share in these particular funds.

This act, however, did not prove to be a settlement of this disturbing
question. If Bishop Strachan had been content with the compromise made
in this act, and had endeavoured to carry out its provisions as soon
as it was passed, the Anglican Church would have obtained positive
advantages which it failed to receive when the question was again
brought into the arena of angry discussion. In 1844 when Henry
Sherwood was solicitor-general in the Draper-Viger Conservative
government he proposed an address to the Crown for the passing of a
new imperial act, authorizing the division of the land itself instead
of the income arising from its sales. His object was to place the
lands, allotted to the Church of England, under the control of the
church societies, which could lease them, or hold them for any length
of time at such prices as they might deem expedient. In the course of
the debate on this proposition, which failed to receive the assent of
the House, Baldwin, Price, and other prominent men expressed regret
that any attempt should be made to disturb the settlement made by the
imperial statute of 1840, which, in their opinion, should be regarded
as final.

A strong feeling now developed in Upper Canada in favour of a repeal
of the imperial act, and the secularization of the reserves. The
Presbyterians--apart from the Church of Scotland--were now influenced
by the Scottish Free Church movement of 1843 and opposed to public
provision for the support of religious denominations. The spirit which
animated them spread to other bodies, and was stimulated by the
uncompromising attitude still assumed by the Anglican bishop, who was
anxious, as Sherwood's effort proved, to obtain advantages for his
church beyond those given it by the act of 1840. When the
LaFontaine-Baldwin ministry was formed, the movement for the
secularization of the reserves among the Upper Canadian Liberals, or
Reformers as many preferred to call their party, became so pronounced
as to demand the serious consideration of the government; but there
was no inclination shown by the French Canadians in the cabinet to
disturb the settlement of 1840, and the serious phases of the
Rebellion Losses Bill kept the whole question for some time in the
background. After the appearance of the Clear Grits in Upper Canadian
politics, with the secularization of the reserves as the principal
plank in their platform, the LaFontaine-Baldwin cabinet felt the
necessity of making a concession to the strong feeling which prevailed
among Upper Canadian Reformers. As they were divided in opinion on the
question and could not make it a part of the ministerial policy,
Price, commissioner of Crown lands, was induced in the session of 1850
to introduce on his sole responsibility an address to the Crown,
praying for the repeal of the imperial act of 1840, and the passage of
another which would authorize the Canadian legislature to dispose of
the reserves as it should deem most expedient, but with the distinct
understanding that, while no particular sect should be considered as
having a vested right in the property, the emoluments derived by
existing incumbents should be guaranteed during their lives. Mr.
Price--the same gentleman who had objected some years previously to
the reopening of the question--showed in the course of his speech the
importance which the reserves had now attained. The number of acres
reserved to this time was 2,395,687, and of sales, under two statutes,
1,072,453. These sales had realized L720,756, of which L373,899 4s.
4d. had been paid, and L346,856 15s. 8d. remained still due. Counting
the interest on the sum paid, a million of pounds represented the
value of the lands already sold, and when they were all disposed of
there would be realized more than two millions of pounds. Price also
pointed out the fact that only a small number of persons had derived
advantages from these reserves. Out of the total population of 723,000
souls in Upper Canada, the Church of England claimed 171,000 and the
Church of Scotland 68,000, or a total of 239,000 persons who received
the lion's share, and left comparatively little to the remaining
population of 484,000 souls. Among the latter the Roman Catholics
counted 123,707 communicants and received only L700 a year; the
Wesleyans, with 90,363 adherents, received even a still more wretched
pittance. Furthermore 269,000 persons were entirely excluded from any
share whatever in the reserves. In the debate on the resolutions for
the address LaFontaine did not consider the imperial act a finality,
and was in favour of having the reserves brought under the control of
the Canadian legislature, but he expressed the opinion most
emphatically that all private rights and endowments conferred under
the authority of imperial legislation should be held inviolate, and so
far as possible, carried into effect. Baldwin's observations were
remarkable for their vagueness. He did not object to endowment for
religious purposes, although he was opposed to any union between
church and state. While he did not consider the act of 1840 as a final
settlement, inasmuch as it did not express the opinion of the Canadian
people, he was not then prepared to commit himself as to the mode in
which the property should he disposed of. Hincks affirmed that there
was no desire on the part of members of the government to evade their
responsibilities on the question, but they were not ready to adopt the
absurd and unconstitutional course that was pressed on them by the
Clear Grits, of attempting to repeal an imperial act by a Canadian

Malcolm Cameron and other radical Reformers advocated the complete
secularization of the reserves, while Cayley, Macdonald, and other
Conservatives, urged that the provisions of the imperial act of 1840
should be carried out to the fullest extent, and that the funds, then
or at a future time at the disposal of the government "for the
purposes of public worship and religious instruction" under the act,
should be apportioned among the various denominations that had not
previously had a share in the reserves. When it came to a division, it
was clear that there was no unanimity on the question among the
ministers and other supporters. Indeed, the summary given above of the
remarks made by LaFontaine, Baldwin, and Hincks, affords conclusive
evidence of the differences of opinion that existed between them and
of their reluctance to express themselves definitely on the subject.
The majority of the French members, Messrs. LaFontaine, Cauchon,
Chabot, Chauveau, LaTerriere and others, voted against the resolution
which affirmed that "no religious denomination can be held to have
such vested interest in the revenue derived from the proceeds of the
said clergy reserves as should prevent further legislation with
reference to the disposal of them, but this House is nevertheless of
opinion that the claims of existing incumbents should be treated in
the most liberal manner." Baldwin and other Reformers supported this
clause, which passed by a majority of two. The address was finally
adopted on a division of forty-six Yeas and twenty-three Nays--"the
minority containing the names of a few Reformers who would not consent
to pledge themselves to grant, for the lives of the existing
incumbents, the stipends on which they had accepted their
charges--some perhaps having come from other countries to fill them
and having possibly thrown up other preferments."[21] The address was
duly forwarded to England by Lord Elgin, with a despatch in which he
explained at some length the position of the whole question. In
accordance with the principle which guided him throughout his
administration of Canadian affairs--to give full scope to the right of
the province to manage its own local concerns--he advised Lord Grey to
repeal the imperial act of 1840 if he wished "to preserve the colony."
Lord Grey admitted that the question was one exclusively affecting the
people of Canada and should be decided by the provincial legislature.
It was the intention of the government, he informed Lord Elgin, to
introduce a bill into parliament for this purpose; but action had to
be deferred until another year when, as it happened unfortunately for
the province, Lord John Russell's ministry was forced to resign, and
was succeeded by a Conservative administration led by the Earl of

The Canadian government soon ascertained from Sir John Pakington, the
new colonial secretary, that the new advisers of Her Majesty were not
"inclined to give their consent and support to any arrangement the
result of which would too probably be the diversion to other purposes
of the only public fund ... which now exists for the support of divine
worship and religious instruction in the colony." It was also
intimated by the secretary of state that the new government was quite
ready to entertain a proposal for reconsidering the mode of
distributing the proceeds of the sales of the reserves, while not
ready to agree to any proposal that might "divert forever from its
sacred object the fund arising from that portion of the public lands
of Canada which, almost from the period of the British conquest of
that province, has been set apart for the religious instruction of the
people." Hincks, who was at that time in England, at once wrote to Sir
John Pakington, in very emphatic terms, that he viewed "with grave
apprehension the prospect of collision between Her Majesty's
government and the parliament of Canada, on a question regarding which
such strong feelings prevailed among the great mass of the
population." The people of Canada were convinced that they were
"better judges than any parties in England of what measures would best
conduce to the peace and welfare of the province." As respects the
proposal "for reconsidering the mode of distributing the income of the
clergy reserves," Hincks had no hesitation in saying that "it would be
received as one for the violation of the most sacred constitutional
rights of the people."

As soon as the Canadian legislature met in 1852, Hincks carried an
address to the Crown, in which it was urged that the question of the
reserves was "one so exclusively affecting the people of Canada that
its decision ought not to be withdrawn from the provincial
legislature, to which it properly belongs to regulate all matters
concerning the domestic interests of the province." The hope was
expressed that Her Majesty's government would lose no time in giving
effect to the promise made by the previous administration and
introduce the legislation necessary "to satisfy the wishes of the
Canadian people." In the debate on this address, Moria, the leader of
the French section of the cabinet, clearly expressed himself in favour
of the secularization of the reserves in accordance with the views
entertained by his Upper Canadian colleagues. It was consequently
clear that the successors of the LaFontaine-Baldwin ministry were
fully pledged to a vigorous policy for the disposal of this vexatious

A few months after Lord Elgin had forwarded this address to the Crown,
the Earl of Derby's administration was defeated in the House of
Commons, and the Aberdeen government was formed towards the close of
1852, with the Duke of Newcastle as secretary of state for the
colonies. One of Sir John Pakington's last official acts was to
prepare a despatch unfavourable to the prayer of the assembly's last
address, but it was never sent to Canada, though brought down to
parliament. At the same time the Canadian people heard of this
despatch they were gratified by the announcement that the new
ministers had decided to reverse the policy of their predecessors and
to meet the wishes of the Canadian legislature. Accordingly, in the
session of 1853, a measure was passed by the imperial parliament to
give full power to the provincial legislature to vary or repeal all or
any part of the act of 1840, and to make all necessary provisions
respecting the clergy reserves or the proceeds derived from the same,
on the express condition that there should be no interference with the
annual stipends or allowances of existing incumbents as long as they
lived. The Hincks-Morin ministry was then urged to bring in at once a
measure disposing finally of the question, in accordance with the
latest imperial act; but, as we have read in a previous chapter, it
came to the opinion after anxious deliberation that the existing
parliament was not competent to deal with so important a question. It
also held that it was a duty to obtain an immediate expression of
opinion from the people, and the election of a House in which the
country would be fully represented in accordance with the legislation
increasing the number of representatives in the assembly.

The various political influences arrayed against Hincks in Upper
Canada led to his defeat, and the formation of the MacNab-Morin
Liberal-Conservative government, which at once took steps to settle
the question forever. John A. Macdonald commenced this new epoch in
his political career by taking charge of the bill for the
secularization of the reserves. It provided for the payment of all
moneys arising from the sales of the reserves into the hands of the
receiver-general, who would apportion them amongst the several
municipalities of the province according to population. All annual
stipends or allowances, charged upon the reserves before the passage
of the imperial act of 1853, were continued during the lives of
existing incumbents, though the latter could commute their stipends or
allowances for their value in money, and in this way create a small
permanent endowment for the advantage of the church to which they

After nearly forty years of continuous agitation, during which the
province of Upper Canada had been convulsed from the Ottawa to Lake
Huron, and political parties had been seriously embarrassed, the
question was at last removed from the sphere of party and religious
controversy. The very politicians who had contended for the rights of
the Anglican clergy were now forced by public opinion and their
political interests to take the final steps for its settlement. Bishop
Strachan's fight during the best years of his life had ended in
thorough discomfiture. As the historian recalls the story of that
fight, he cannot fail to come to the conclusion that the settlement of
1854 relieved the Anglican Church itself of a controversy which, as
long as it existed, created a feeling of deep hostility that seriously
affected its usefulness and progress. Even Lord Elgin was compelled to
write in 1851 "that the tone adopted by the Church of England here has
almost always had the effect of driving from her even those who would
be most disposed to co-operate with her if she would allow them." At
last freed from the political and the religious bitterness which was
so long evoked by the absence of a conciliatory policy on the part of
her leaders, this great church is able peacefully to teach the noble
lessons of her faith and win that respect among all classes which was
not possible under the conditions that brought her into direct
conflict with the great mass of the Canadian people.



The government of Canada in the days of the French regime bore a close
resemblance to that of a province of France. The governor was
generally a noble and a soldier, but while he was invested with large
military and civil authority by the royal instructions, he had ever by
his side a vigilant guardian in the person of the intendant, who
possessed for all practical purposes still more substantial powers,
and was always encouraged to report to the king every matter that
might appear to conflict with the principles of absolute government
laid down by the sovereign. The superior council of Canada possessed
judicial, administrative and legislative powers, but its action was
limited by the decrees and ordinances of the king, and its decisions
were subject to the veto of the royal council of the parent state. The
intendant, generally a man of legal attainments, had the special right
to issue ordinances which had the full effect of law--in the words of
his commission "to order everything as he shall see just and proper."
These ordinances regulated inns and markets, the building and repairs
of churches and presbyteries, the construction of bridges, the
maintenance of roads, and all those matters which could affect the
comfort, the convenience, and the security of the community at large.
While the governmental machinery was thus modelled in a large measure
on that of the provincial administration of France, the territory of
the province was subject to a modified form of the old feudal system
which was so long a dominant condition of the nations of Europe, and
has, down to the present time left its impress on their legal and
civil institutions, not even excepting Great Britain itself. Long
before Jacques Cartier sailed up the River St. Lawrence this system
had gradually been weakened in France under the persistent efforts of
the Capets, who had eventually, out of the ruin of the feudatories,
built up a monarchy which at last centralized all power in the king.
The policy of the Capets had borne its full, legitimate fruit by the
time Louis XIV ascended the throne. The power of the great nobles,
once at the head of practically independent feudatories, had been
effectually broken down, and now, for the most part withdrawn from the
provinces, they ministered only to the ambition of the king, and
contributed to the dissipation and extravagance of a voluptuous court.

But while those features of the ancient feudal system, which were
calculated to give power to the nobles, had been eliminated by the
centralizing influence of the king, the system still continued in the
provinces to govern the relations between the _noblesse_ and the
peasantry who possessed their lands on old feudal conditions regulated
by the customary or civil law. These conditions were, on the whole,
still burdensome. The noble who spent all his time in attendance on
the court at Versailles or other royal palaces could keep his purse
equal to his pleasures only by constant demands on his feudal tenants,
who dared no more refuse to obey his behests than he himself ventured
to flout the royal will.

Deeply engrafted as it still was on the social system of the parent
state, the feudal tenure was naturally transferred to the colony of
New France, but only with such modifications as were suited to the
conditions of a new country. Indeed all the abuses that might hinder
settlement or prevent agricultural development were carefully lopped
off. Canada was given its _seigneurs_, or lords of the manor, who
would pay fealty and homage to the sovereign himself, or to the feudal
superior from whom they directly received their territorial estate,
and they in their turn leased lands to peasants, or tillers of the
soil, who held them on the modified conditions of the tenure of old
France. It was not expedient, and indeed not possible, to transfer a
whole body of nobles to the wilderness of the new world--they were as
a class too wedded to the gay life of France--and all that could be
done was to establish a feudal tenure to promote colonization, and at
the same time possibly create a landed gentry who might be a shadowy
reflection of the French _noblesse_, and could, in particular cases,
receive titles directly from the king himself.

This seigniorial tenure of New France was the most remarkable instance
which the history of North America affords of the successful effort of
European nations to reproduce on this continent the ancient
aristocratic institutions of the old world. In the days when the Dutch

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