« הקודםהמשך »
“ I did not accept the government of British North “ America, without duly considering the nature of the “ task which I imposed on myself, or the sufficiency of “means for performing it.
When Parliament con“centrated all legislative and executive power in Lower “ Canada in the same hands, it established an authority “ which, in the strictest sense of the word, was despotic(?). This authority her Majesty was graciously
week afterwards, tells a deputation from the inhabitants of Kingston, that they are in circumstances “ in which the ordinary considerations of justice, truth, and conscience, are superseded by the all-absorbing power of party feeling ?"* Is it possible that Lord Durham should have persuaded himself that the impulse under which he issued such a proclamation, at a moment when he was about to leave British America, was a care for its peace and security, and not the indulgence of a vexed spirit? In an example of insubordination by a Governor General, is there no danger ?
(?) It is singular that it should so soon have become necessary, in these pages, to refer to the explanation which was given in August from “ Richardson's Dictionary,” of the term “ despotic.”+ The “strictest sense of the word” does not seem to include an office which is established by an act of parliament, and is necessarily dependent on future acts of parliament; which, in its creation, is by parliament expressly subjected to several precise restrictions; an office, the holder of which, binds himself by the terms of the Commission which he accepts from the Crown, “ to conform in all things to such instructions as may, from time to time, be addressed to you for your guidance by us under our sign manual and signet, or by our order in our Privy Counsel, or through one of our principal Secretaries of State.” I When Lord Durham was duly considering pleased to delegate to me. I did not shrink from as
* Montreal Gazette, 16th October, 1838. + See Preamble, No. IV. p. 121.
See Preamble, No. IV. p. 108.
suming the awful responsibility of power thus freed “ from constitutional restraints, in the hope that, by “ exercising it with justice, with mildness, and with “ vigour, I might secure the happiness of all classes of " the people, and facilitate the speedy and permanent " restoration of their liberties. But I never was weak
enough to imagine that the forms by which men's “ rights are wisely guarded in that country where freedom “ has been longest enjoyed, best understood, and most
prudently exercised, could be scrupulously observed in “a society almost entirely disorganised by misrule and “ dissension. I conceived it to be one of the chief ad“ vantayes of my position, that I was enabled to pursue “ the great ends of substantial justice and sound policy, “ free and unfettered. Nor did I ever dream of applying " the theory or the practice of the British Constitution
to a country whose constitution was suspended, where “all representative government was annihilated, and the
people deprived of all control over their own affairs, “ where the ordinary guarantees of personal rights had “ been in abeyance during a long subjection to martial “ law, and a continued suspension of the Habeas Corpus,
the means which were intrusted to him, did it never occur that his powers were very similar to the well-known and ordinary powers of those Governors of British colonies, and other British dependencies, not few in number, who are neither assisted or embarrassed by a colonial parliament, but have a council substituted for it? Does his lordship think it right that all these should be permitted to act as if they were, in the strictest sense of the word, « despots ?” Before he finally pronounces a decision on this point, it may be worth his while to read the fervent speeches which, a few years ago, were made in the House of Commons on the case of James Silk Buckingham, by Mr. Lambton.
" where there neither did exist, nor had for a long time
existed, any confidence in the impartial administration of justice in any political case.
“ To encourage and stimulate me in my arduous task, “I had great and worthy objects in view. My aim was “ to elevate the province of Lower Canada to a thoroughly “ British character, to link its people to the sovereignty “ of Britain, by making them all participators in those
high privileges, conducive at once to freedom and order, " which have long been the glory of Englishmen. I hoped “ to confer on a united people a more extensive enjoy“ment of free and responsible government, and to merge “ the petty jealousies of a small community, and the odious “ animosities of origin, in the higher feelings of a nobler “ and more comprehensive nationality.”(3)
“ To give effect to these purposes it was necessary that my powers of government should be as strong as they were extensive — that I should be known to have the means of acting as well as judging for myself, without a
perpetual control by distant authorities. It were well “ indeed if such were the ordinary tenure of government “ in colonies, and that your local administration should " always enjoy so much of the confidence of those with “ whom rests the ultimate decision of your affairs, that it
might ever rely on being allowed to carry out its policy “ to completion, and on being supported in giving effect to “its promises and commands. But in the present posture
(3) The avowal of Lord Durham that he never dreamed of governing Lower Canada according to the theory or the practice of the British Constitution is, as it ought to be, ingenuous; and no objects can be more laudable than those which he shews that he had in view. But the question is, Whether the Imperial Parliament intended that he should be at liberty to pursue those objects with a total disregard both of the practice and theory of the British Constitution ?
“ of your affairs, it was necessary that the most unusual “ confidence should accompany the delegation of a most “ unusual authority; and that, in addition to such great " legal powers, the government here should possess all the “ moral force that could be derived from the assurance that “ its acts would be final, and its engagements religiously
observed (*). It is not by stinted powers, or a dubious
authority, that the present danger can be averted, or the “ foundation laid of a better order of things.
" I had reason to believe that I was armed with all the power which I thought requisite, by the commissions and “instructions under the royal sign manual, with which I “ was charged as Governor General and High Commissioner,
(*) It is not very obvious what proportion or relation exists, or can be established, between the extent and the strength of powers of government. If, as empire extends, power is to become despotic, the sooner England gets rid of her colonies the better. How the ultimate decision of the affairs of the colonies can rest with the home government, if the local administration is to be always allowed to carry out its policy to completion, requires explanation. Nor is it clear what is the force of the morality, or the morality of the force, which could have been derived from an assurance that “in addition to great legal powers” the acts of Lord Durham's government should be final, and its engagements religiously observed. The question is, Whether the Ministers of the Crown and the British House of Peers, and, indeed, the Imperial Parliament, ought to have declared that Lord Durham's “engagement" to consign Papineau and fifteen others to death as traitors, without permitting them to put in issue any other fact than that of the spot of ground on which they might be found being a part of the province of Lower Canada, should be “religiously observed ?” Of course, if the authorities at home ought to have allowed this religious observance, it would have to be inferred that Lord Durham himself must have meant to have observed religiously his own engagement.
by the authority vested in me and my council, by the act “ of the imperial legislature, and by the general appro“bation of my appointment which all parties were pleased
to express. I also trusted that I should enjoy, through“out the course of my administration, all the strength " which the cordial and steadfast support of the autho“ rities at home can alone give to their distant officers; “ and that even party feeling would refrain from molesting “ me whilst occupied in maintaining the integrity of the “ British empire(6).
“ In these just expectations I have been painfully dis“ appointed. From the commencement of my task, the “ minutest details of my administration have been exposed
to incessant criticism, in a spirit which has evinced an entire ignorance of the state of this country, and of the
only mode in which the supremacy of the British Crown “can here be upheld and exercised. Those who have in “ the British Legislature systematically depreciated my
powers(6), and the Ministers of the Crown by their tacit
acquiescence therein, have produced the effect of making “it too clear that my authority is inadequate for the “ emergency which called it into existence. At length an “ act of my government, the first and most important “ which was brought under the notice of the authorities at “ home, has been annulled ; and the entire policy of which
(5) See note (?).
(6) “ Depreciated” is not a good word to apply to matters which cannot properly have any fluctuating value. Lord Durham's powers were prescribed by act of parliament; and there was consequently a statute measure of them, but price and depreciation are out of the question. If any false construction of the act of parliament was propounded in the presence of the Ministers of the Crown, and they made no reply, Lord Durham may have some reason to complain. But why is the instance not adduced ?