House of Commons, 21 February 1870, Canadian Confederation with Manitoba



Monday, February 21, 1870

The Speaker took the chair at three o'clock.
A petition was presented from certain citizens of Hamilton, asking for the abolition of duty on refined salt.


Hon. Mr. Howe resumed the debate on the Address. After referring to the ceremony at the opening of the Session—a scene of which, he said, the country might be proud—he observed that his two hon. friends who moved and seconded the Address to the Speech from the Throne, were like two heralds proclaiming the lists opened. Then the hon. member for Chñteauguay threw down his glove and struck the shield of his (Mr. Howe's) hon. friend on the left (Sir F. Hincks), who at once picked up the glove and accepted the challenge. The opening debate took place in the presence of Queen Victoria's son; but, although the Prince had been present at the debate in Congress, and had traversed a great portion of this country, he had witnessed no such scene, embodying as it did the representation and security of the people, and a system of well-preserved liberty. A few years ago, he (Mr. Howe) had spent some ten weeks in Washington, and during all that time there was a deadlock between the Government and the Legislature; but no such thing could occur here and this was a subject of earnest congratulation. During the debate the Ministry had been challenged for explanations, and he had been challenged two or three times; and this was the first chance he had of rising to say a word in his own defence or give the explanations which the House had a right to demand. He would beg gentlemen on the other side to acquit him of remissness in not speaking, but he had wanted to narrow the debate and have a discussion on the North- West. At the same time he had nothing to conceal. The Opposition had a right to know and his friends on his own side of the House had a right to know, if he, last summer, had done anything to weaken the hold he had on the gentlemen on his own side of the House. It would be in the memory of the House that during the short session of 1867 he delivered on the other side of the House his opinion on the subject of the North-West. (Hear, hear.) It was known too, how, in the presence of an immense force on the other side, he had avowed and maintained the belief that the Imperial Government should assume the charge of that 80 COMMONS DEBATES February 21, 1870 Country. He believed that it should be formed into a Crown Colony, or a series of Crown Colonies, and that the Queen would have the benefit of all the trade without the people of the Dominion incurring the risk of extending their territories or burthening themselves with the expense. The session of Parliament to which he had referred, lasted forty days, and after it closed and went home. When Parliament opened again he found that it had decided to purchase the Territory. After this, delegates were sent to England, and the arrangements they had made were, he admitted, of an advantageous character. The policy as to the North-West was settled when he went into the Government last spring, and there was nothing to be done except to carry out the policy which Parliament had laid down. He now addressed the House in the presence of his friends in the Government, and would ask them whether, from the day he entered the Cabinet, they had not his sincere and hearty co-operation in the course they had determined to pursue. He would now say something as to his connection with this question, but everything that related to the policy of the Government after the insurrection, it would be more convenient to discuss when the papers came down. He proposed now to confine himself chiefly to those points on which the gentlemen opposite had made observations in the matter of his conduct. About mid-summer he had gone up the Upper Ottawa, and on his return was about to pay a visit to his own Province, when he was surprised to receive a note from one of the Government as to exchanging the office he then held to that of Secretary of State for the Provinces. On reference to this particular circumstance, he would observe it had been stated abroad, and not contradicted, that there was some French conspiracy, some conspiracy, hatched he did not know exactly where, or by whom, but hatched in some decree in the interests of Lower Canada, and by some gentlemen who represented that section of the country. He would now state that the proposal was made to him by the Minister of Justice, sitting in the Hon. Mr. McDougall's house, and no one was present but three persons; and those three were themselves. There was not in the city a French member of the Cabinet, save the Hon. Mr. Chapais. Sir George-E. Cartier and the Hon. Mr. Langevin were in the Lower Provinces. He did not know whether they were conversant with the proposition or not. Next day, going down the river to Montreal, he put the question to the Minister of Justice. "Do you really wish me to change office? I have no desire to change for I am happy enough where I am." (Laughter.) He further stated to Sir John A. Macdonald that he desired no change, but at the same time, was perfectly willing to 81 assist the Government in any department they desired. He also said to Sir John, "I know Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Newfoundland and the two Provinces of Ontario and Quebec, but what do I know of the North-West? But if it is wise for me to act, the best thing I can do is to go to the country, examine its approaches on every side, and bring back to the Government that amount of local and general knowledge which the Government may require." As a further evidence of this French conspiracy, Sir John A. Macdonald had said to him, with a good deal of earnestness, "I wish you would go." He (Mr. Howe) then asked him if he were at liberty to discuss this matter with their colleagues? and Sir John A. Macdonald replied in the affirmative. He (Mr. Howe) soon ascertained that the proposal had been made with the knowledge of the two French members. In the conversation he (Mr. Howe) had with these two French gentlemen, they neither attempted to influence his judgment nor control his free action. He believed that the statement which had been made with respect to these two gentlemen was without the shadow of a foundation. On his return to Ottawa he put himself in communication with Mr. McDougall, finding that the latter had made up his mind to accept the office of Lieutenant Governor. He consulted with Mr. McDougall as to the best way in which to employ his (Mr. Howe's) summer. Here he might take occasion to say, with respect to a certain matter that had been hinted at, that in one conversation which he had previous to the acceptance of office by Mr. McDougall, he said to that gentleman, "If I were younger nothing would gratify my ambition more than to go to the North-West, and there lay the foundation of a great Colony; but I am twenty years too old, and would not accept the office." Mr. McDougall knew this was his (Mr. Howe's) opinion before he accepted office. Mr. Howe having described the mode of his journey to the North-West, said that it had been objected to him that he had not sent back instructions before Mr. McDougall set out. The explanation on this head was very simple. When he got to Abercrombie, which was 315 miles from Fort Garry, he heard rumours and reports that the Governor would not be allowed to enter the Territory. These rumours were everywhere, even in the streets. Some young Canadian friends asked him how he knew that he would be allowed to enter the country. He said that he would make the attempt; that the party did not anticipate an army, but were quite prepared for any small force. These rumours had spread 315 miles this side of Fort Garry.
82 COMMONS DEBATES February 21, 1870
Hon. Mr. Bolton—What date?
Hon. Mr. Howe—About the 1st of October. On the way to Fort Garry there was no obstruction; there was nothing but courtesy and rough hospitality. At the end of twenty days they got to Fort Garry. There he received three invitations to take up his quarters, one from Governor McTavish, one from Dr. Schultz and another from the Bishop of Rupert's Land. But he preferred to go to the hotel, and be at liberty to see every one and learn what he could. Here he had been accused of uttering all sorts of treason in some mysterious way. That was simply impossible. There was but one parlor in the hotel, shared by Mr. Turner and Mr. Sandford, with himself. People were coming and going, and he could have had but little private conversation, nine out of ten times these two gentlemen being present when he was in company with any one, and heard every word he spoke. What he said might have been said on the street. He believed it to be his first duty to call on Governor McTavish, but he found he had been attacked with haemorrhage of the lungs. He then addressed himself to get such information as he could; went to the Seminary of St. Boniface, visited their schools and generally put himself in communication with the leading men as far as he could ascertain them. He had been requested to make speeches to the people but he felt that it would be neither proper to do so in consideration of the position of Governor McTavish on the one hand, or of the incoming Governor McDougall. He had stated that the new Governor would be into the country in a week or two and that when Governor McTavish had laid down his authority, the new Governor would declare what the policy was to be. Mr. Alcock, who was there, invited him to drive with him, and he had done so. He visited the Bishop of Rupert's Land, Dr. McCrae, Arch-deacon McLean, Rev. Mr. Black, Presbyterian Minister, and Judge Black, all leading and highly respectable men, and there was not much opportunity of speaking treason to them. He denied that there had been on his part either treasonable utterances or absurd chaff. That would have been simply foolish. When he visited Captain Kennedy, he (Mr. Howe) and Turner, and Sandford occupied the same room for nearly all the time during the visit. Kennedy and Turner went out for some business transactions, and he (Mr. Howe) was in conversation with the lady of the house, a woman of intelligence, and kind and hospitable manner. She generally passed in and out, getting dinner ready for them, and 83 he occasionally exchanged some observations with her. When Kennedy and Turner returned, they all sat down to dinner and after that they exchanged a few general observations. That was all the talk they had. Alcock and he parted good friends, and that was all he (Mr. Howe) knew of the matter. The hon. member for Lambton had taken him to task for abusing the Globe newspaper. He did not desire to abuse the Globe or any other newspaper, because he was too old a newspaper man himself to take up that course. But he would say this, that when he was in the house of Captain Kennedy, and when the subject of how the territory was to be governed, and how Canada was about to act, and what were the instructions of Mr. McDougall, and what he would do when he came into the territory, he (Mr. Howe) did there, as he did everywhere—he defended what was to be the policy of Canada in the most open and undisguised manner. And when he defended, as he was bound to do, the incoming Governor, against the charges and insinuations, and doubts, and apprehensions thrown out against him, when he did that what was the answer? He was referred to Mr. Brown's editorial as an evidence of the fact that he had said that Canada would send men in there to ride roughshod over the country; that the man who was sent was unfit on account of his political conduct, and was to bring with him instructions and men who would set at naught the rights and disregard the feelings of the people. When he found the state of public opinion in the district he ascertained that a number of Canadians had been sent out there in the public service, and had been there for some time, and certainly had not made any report regarding the state of feeling. When he left Ottawa, there was no report that would have led the government for a single moment to suppose that there was any dissatisfaction out there at the course government was taking. But when he (Mr. Howe) got into the country he saw there was a good deal the government had to learn. In the first place the English parts of the population were uneasy and dissatisfied, and were discussing the matter among themselves. He believed the difficulties originated, in the first instance, from the discussions by the English parts of the population, (hear, hear). And the ground they took was that they had never been consulted on the arrangements. They entertained fears and apprehensions with regard to the instructions given for the management of the country, that their rights would be to a great extent ignored. With regard to the French part of the population, the public grounds taken by the English people were widened by personal complaints, which, up to that time, he had never heard. But there was another element in the difficulty, 84 COMMONS DEBATES February 21, 1870 and it was one which, even if the Government had known of it, they could not have prevented it. Out in that country the Hudson's Bay Company has something like one hundred posts scattered all over, and almost every one of these stations is worked by a hard headed Scotchman, (laughter). There are chief factors, chief traders, there is a management in London and a management at Red River, and every summer at Norway House, at Lake Winnipeg, representatives of the hundred posts, assemble and hold a regular Parliament of their own, and discuss matters and make arrangements for the following year. These men have large interests in the territory and in the property of the Company, and there was a feeling of dissatisfaction among them. He had every reason to believe that there was a feeling of great uneasiness among the resident employees of the Hudson's Bay Company, or among a very large portion of them, and he believed that they thought the directors and managers in London, to whom the £300,000 was to be given, would divide it among themselves exclusively, which they feared would work great wrong to them, for some of the men. He was not prepared to say how many believed that they had fair and just claims to a portion of the purchase money. It was clear, first, that the English-speaking people were uneasy respecting the basis of their representation; it was equally clear the French people were apprehensive upon the grounds which touched the personal history of the gentleman who was coming to govern them, and it was equally clear that an uneasy feeling prevailed among the Hudson's Bay Company's people themselves. After all, the House would naturally inquire if all this were so, why didn't he take some pains to remove these impressions? (Hear, hear). He (Mr. Howe) took all the pains in his power to do so. He was all the time with leaders of society, as far as possible, and by personal explanations he endeavoured to remove these impressions; and it was only fair to say that when he left Winnipeg, there was not the slightest murmur which would lead him to believe that any armed opposition would be presented. On the contrary—and he called the attention of the leader of the Government, and the leader of the opposition, and other gentlemen on that side of the House, to the statement that when he left Winnipeg Governor McTavish was about to summon a Council, in order to prepare an address of welcome to present to Mr. McDougall, and when he left Winnipeg he was under the impression that that, in all probability, would be done. How could he (Mr. Howe) be expected to convey to Mr. McDougall any other impression than the general rumors and reports, and complaints which had reached him, and which he believed would be very soon 85 dissipated by Mr. McDougall's own conduct and explanations when he once got into the Territory. Hon. gentlemen opposite would allow him to say that one of his objects in going to Fort Garry was to get information for the use of the Government, and for his own use when he returned. He had no written instructions, and was not to do any particular thing, but was left to his own guidance to collect such information as would be likely to be valuable to government. He must say that Governor McTavish had met him in the most friendly way, and had placed in his hand the records of the old Council of that country, and these he had studied for two days. He procured and brought home for the use of the Minister of Justice a copy of the laws as they existed in that Territory, that Government might know the laws to which the people were accustomed. He also obtained a list of names of old councillors, so that Government might know in making appointments how to select men of experience in whom confidence had been reposed already. He discharged his trust faithfully and honourably, and did all any man could to quiet the difficulties. He met McDougall in the open prairie, when a cold north-east wind was blowing. Fortunately he (Mr. Howe) was travelling with the wind on his back, but the hon. member for North Lanark had the wind in his face—as with his family of children he travelled—he had to face the storm.
A Member—It has been in his face ever since. (A laugh.)
Hon. Mr. Howe—If hon. gentlemen had been on the open prairie that bitter morning, he thought they would not have been exceedingly anxious to hold communication with any one; and when there were women and children concerned, it would have been barbarous to have stopped the cavalcade. Therefore, they merely exchanged a few greetings and passed on. Now, looking back at all that he had done, he was not conscious that they could have made it much better if they had stopped for an hour or two and held consultation. He could merely have made a few general observations about the rumors he had heard, and the last he knew was that a council was to be summoned to prepare an address of welcome to Mr. McDougall on his arrival. Therefore he passed on, 86 COMMONS DEBATES February 21, 1870 after giving him (Mr. McDougall) a hint or two upon one or two topics, which he thought it would be better for him to avoid. With these explanations he would leave the matter with the House.
Hon. Mr. McDougall desired to make a few remarks in reply to the honourable Secretary of State, who had, he thought, very properly abstained from any observations on the general subject, but had confined himself to what appeared to be in his mind, an answer to some charges that have been made against his conduct in the North-West Territory. He (Mr. McDougall) saw no necessity on his part to offer any observations to the House on anything that had fallen from the honourable gentleman except that he felt it his duty to him, the Government and the country to state that having ascertained or heard of certain statements and conversations which the honourable gentleman had indulged in, in that country, and having met with a good deal of difficulty, as he then believed, and still believed, on account of the injudicious statements—to call them no harsher name—of the honourable gentleman there, he had spoken freely on the subject to members of the press who had commented on them, and he therefore felt constrained to make a few observations to the House and would endeavour to convey simply what he had learned from the friends as well as the enemies of Canada in that territory. The hon. gentleman opposite by his own confession did very little to smooth the way for the introduction of Canadian authority and his own representative. He (Mr. Howe) had stated that he found a very uneasy state of feeling among the English and Scotch portion of the population; that they had grave doubts as to the nature of the Government to be imposed upon them; and he had stated that he endeavoured to remove those feelings. He stated also that he had found great dissatisfaction among the employees of the Hudson Bay Company, against which they had complaints to make, and that they thought the officers to be introduced by the Canadian Government would interfere with their privileges and profits. He had gone on to say that among the French half-breeds there was some uneasiness, and from what he (Mr. McDougall) gathered, he (Mr. Howe) wished to convey that they were opposed to the person who had been appointed to govern them. He thought the hon. gentleman (Mr. Howe) had treated him rather cruelly in not telling him of this state of affairs when they had met on the prairie, even if he was 87 facing a storm. He was sure he should have been most happy to have turned back to hear his news, (hear, hear). The hon. gentleman, if he had so desired, had ample opportunity to state these facts, but instead of so doing he had spoken of the soil and the climate. The former he said was excellent, but the latter was execrable. He had not felt warm for three weeks (laughter). This was the burden of the conversation he indulged in, and he (Mr. McDougall) was so amused at finding he had nothing to combat but the climate that he indulged in a little badinage against the hon. gentleman, who complained that he had had to float across a river through the ice, and averred that a country where this had to be done in the middle of October was not fit for a white man to live in. He (Mr. McDougall) had recalled to the hon. gentleman's recollection that this sometimes happened on the St. Lawrence at Quebec at the same time of the year, and chatted and bantered with him for some time defending the country till the people in the carts poked out their heads to listen to the conversation. At last he said to him "then you do not envy me my position" and he replied, "no, upon my soul I don't" (great laughter). The hon. gentleman had also failed to write him (Mr. McDougall) from Fort Abercrombie as he had promised. The letter received from him was dated St. Paul's and did not reach him till weeks afterwards. After the admission made by the hon. gentleman as to what he found in the country it was surely his duty to tell him of the difficulties he was to meet instead of warning him of the terrors of the climate (hear, hear). In order to prevent any misunderstanding that might arise from hasty words in this dispute he thought it well to read an extract from a letter which he wrote from Pembina to a member of the Government. He had written this letter quite deliberately, and upon what he deemed sufficient information. After some preliminary sentences which it was not necessary to read, he wrote as follows:
"Laross Farm, Pembina, Nov. 13 1869.
I enclose extracts from two letters received the night before last, from Fort Garry. I send them confidentially because they were written under that protection and because they may not be agreable to our friend from Nova Scotia. You will I know give me credit for sufficient coolness and distrust of other people's impressions to scrutinize before I believe, and to be tolerably sure before I act, but it is unfortunate to say the least, that Mr. Howe's remarks when here, have been interpreted in the same sense by the enemies as by the friends of Canada. I differ from him entirely as to his estimate of the soil and climate and capabilities of this 88 COMMONS DEBATES February 21, 1870 country—from all I see, as well as from all I hear. The Red River, a sluggish stream, is not frozen over except at a few points, and at these it would be dangerous for a grown man to cross. It is raining as I write (Nov. 13) and the cattle still feed on the Prairie. Our horses which were jaded and thin when we arrived here, and have had nothing to eat but Prairie hay—cured at the proper season—are now in fair condition to start upon another journey. These facts are better than speculations and will carry more weight with those who know how to weigh them, than rhetorical flourishes."
He (Mr. McDougall) had written thus, because he knew from the views expressed by the Honourable Secretary of State that he would return to Canada and endeavour to depreciate the country.
"What Mr. Howe may have said to the malcontents, I of course do not know, but from his remarks to me on the Prairie when we met I infer that he disapproved of the ardour of the friends of Canada in the settlement and excused the hostility of those who are now its armed enemies. He did this, I have no doubt conscientiously, and without perhaps reflecting upon the use that would soon be made of his expressions. The Canadian Government and Canadians have done nothing to injure these people, but everything to benefit them. They helped to save them from starvation- gave them good wages for their labor—and by competition in trade and farming enabled them to obtain both food and clothing in greater quantities and at lower prices than before. They cannot specify a single grievance against Canada in the past, and I have not heard of one that they apprehend in the future except, that they—three or four thousand serfs of yesterday—will not be entrusted with the government and destiny of a third of the American continent! What ground exists for sympathy with them in such a case I am unable to perceive, or why those who have advocated the claims and defended the flag of Canada, and who are now ready to risk their lives for us, should be repulsed, and those who are leagued with Yankee sympathisers and foreign Jesuits to resist the authority of the Canadian Government, and, if need be, murder its representatives, excused and encouraged, I cannot discover. I write thus strongly because I feel that the thoughtlessness and spleen, and thin blood, and inability to forget recent personal antecedents and declarations of your missionary, have put obstacles in my way—the magnitude 89 and gravity of which you will appreciate as events develop themselves—and who, as far as I can learn, did nothing and said nothing, but flatly refused to do anything or say anything on behalf of Canada, its policy, or its representatives.
This is the report that reaches me, and I have no evidence to the contrary. Indeed, Mr. Howe told me himself that he had said nothing and promised nothing on my behalf, except that I would deal justly with all interests. In one sense this was prudent; in another—and in the presence of a conspiracy known to be on footreticence by a high functionary from Canada was as mistaken and as fatal to the cause of order, as the silence of the local authorities, who are believed by the rebels to be on their side . . .
You may show this to Sir George and Mr. Tilley, but I wish it to be considered confidential. Understand my remarks about Mr. Howe are not inspired by any ill-feeling or sinister motive of any kind. I have always had a strong regard for him politically and personally, but he has blundered awfully (more than once). This time, I am the victim and do not experience pleasurable sensations at the prospect."
He remarked that in a portion of the conversation he had with Mr. Howe on the prairie there were some very strong hints against the conduct of friends of Canada in the territory. But recalling his experience of events there, and after hearing the statements made in various quarters as to the course pursued by Mr. Howe, he had nothing to alter, nothing to abate from the views expressed in that letter. It seemed to him the' honourable gentleman might very easily, under the circumstances, have paved the way for the entry of the Canadian Representative. Instead of that he was in communication with, and visited the Bannatynes, the McKennies, the Kennedy's, the very men who are now in rebellion.
Hon. Mr. Howe—I never was at the houses of either Bannatyne or McKenny.
Mr. Mackenzie Understood the honourable gentleman to say that he had been at Mr. Kennedy's?
Hon. Mr. McDougall said that he understood that the British flag had been raised over the 90 COMMONS DEBATES February 21, 1870 residence of a Canadian at Fort Garry in honour of the arrival of a member of the Canadian Government, and that the honourable gentleman had denounced those who had raised that flag and wished that it should be pulled down. It did not appear to him that this was the spirit which ought to have been displayed by the honourable gentleman if he was loyal, and anxious to promote the policy of the government of Canada. He might have taken some opportunity as a public man, a man who was master of our language, to inform those people of the boon that was about to be conferred upon them. If the honourable gentleman deemed it necessary, for his own justification, he (Mr. McDougall) trusted that the House would grant a committee and that the matter would be enquired into, that it might be ascertained whether a member of the government had gone out to that country and added fuel to the flame. The people there know the history of this and they knew what impelled him to change his seat from one side of the house to the other, and they pointed to him and said "are we to be treated in any other way than Nova Scotia? Nova Scotia was on the point of rebellion, shall we not carry out the same plan?" And the honourable gentleman said "go ahead—you are quire right," and they did go ahead and barricaded the road and sent word that he (Mr. McDougall) was not to enter the territory. The leaders of the rebellion there are, he had every reason to believe, from uncontradicted reports from all parts, confidently relying upon the support of that honourable gentleman in his seat, and some of those who sit beside him. It was that which caused them to go to such extremes to imprison Canadians, to imprison poor Mrs. Schultz, and to refuse to allow her husband, or Dr. Macdonald, who was also a prisoner and a man of skill, to see her. It was that that emboldened them, in their inhuman treatment of loyal men who were driven out of the territory in the depth of winter to perish on the plains, (hear, hear). He, (Mr. McDougall), while the hon. gentleman was speaking, had received a letter from Mr. Provencher, who is still at Pembina, and this was what he said:
"Pembina, February 3, 1870.
Sir,—According to the last information received here, the position is very critical at Fort Garry, Riel is more powerful than ever, and his orders are the only laws enforced. Nobody is allowed to go out of the Fort without his permission, and when he is absent or engaged, they must wait. The council are now discussing with Mr. Smith the new "Bill of 91 Rights," composed of twenty articles, and in the interest of the freedom of speech, Mr. Smith is kept prisoner. So is Salaberry; but for what reason, I dont't know, perhaps as a hostage. I believe that the discussion will last perhaps two or three weeks more.
The soldiers are more numerous than ever, mostly living on pemican, tea, sugar and rum taken from the stores of Schultz and the Company. No more talk about the pledge.
It can be interesting for you to know that the gate at Fort Garry is guarded by an American citizen, and that two other American citizens were sent after Schultz to re-arrest him (without success). So much for the neutrality laws."
He continued to say that the action of the rebels, or malcontents, or whatever they might be called, had, from the beginning to the end, been caused by the fact that they had been sustained in it; that they had been encouraged to enforce their demands by driving him, and every man who was supposed to be desirous of assisting in supporting the Dominion of Canada, out of the territory, by the belief that the hon. gentleman opposite would sustain them in their line of action. It was for the country to say whether he (Mr. McDougall) who, he thought, it would be acknowledged, had made considerable sacrifices in his efforts to secure the union of all the Provinces, had been sustained by the hon. gentleman in bringing this territory peaceably and amicably into the Confederation. He had very serious doubts on the subject. He had nothing to complain of in the conduct of the other members of the Government. He looked back with the greatest satisfaction to his connection with the hon. gentleman at the head of the Government, and the Hon. Minister of Militia, who sat beside him, especially the latter gentleman, with whom he had been to England on a mission of serious importance. Circumstances coccurred there, and kindness was shown which he would never forget. He would always look upon him as a personal friend whom it would please him to serve. But on the whole he took it that it was not such a Government, such a combination as is best fitted to deal with the great question now before the House. He trusted the House would have a better opportunity, under more favorable circumstances, of discussing this matter when the papers were brought down. He did not know whether the Government intended to bring down all the papers. He took the liberty of making the observation now that in the interests of the public it would be well that the hon. gentlemen should look carefully at the nature of the documents before sending them to the House as 92 COMMONS DEBATES February 21 , 1870 there was this difficulty, that in getting information as well as he could for the government, it was necessary to mention names and persons. If the fact of these persons having informed and assisted the government, should reach the territory, their lives and property would be endangered. He had offered to one of the members of the government, to look over the papers in the most friendly spirit, with a view to prevent any injury to any individual in the territory, on account of the exposure of their conduct in the premises. He trusted this would be done. All the papers could be placed upon the table without mentioning names or involving any one. When the papers were on the table, the whole matter could be discussed. His conduct had been discussed and assailed by the public press, but he was not so thin- skinned and could wait better than his friend opposite, who, it was known, had made great blunders before, and he thought it would appear had done so in this case. (Hear, hear.)
Hon. Mr. Howe said he had heard for the first time the letter which the member for Lanark had read with reference to himself. It appeared it was to be shown to his two colleagues, but not to him. When the papers were laid before the House it would appear why the people of Red River, stung with madness, imprisoned every Canadian they could find. They would find the reason in that honourable gentleman's own handwriting. If Canadian people up there were not murdered it was to be wondered at, in view of the documents that the honourable gentleman had the hardihood and audacity to publish in that country. That honourable gentleman very kindly offered to sit down with members of the Government, and select from among the papers those which should be brought down. No doubt that gentleman would be glad to do that, but the House should be in possession of full information. The honourable gentleman said he (Mr. Howe) objected to a flag with Canada on it hoisted. Yes he did object to it. Long before he reached Red River he heard of an individual who was putting himself forward as a friend and representative of Canada. He learnt from Canadians on the way up the character of that individual; and when he got up there that individual hoisted a flag on his chimney. But he (Mr. Howe) felt not the slightest desire to fraternize with him. The member for Lanark knew well that one of the people he sent into the country, not content with attending to the duty with which he was charged, had written home to Canada language grossly insulting to the women of a large majority of the population of the North- West, that had created so deep a feeling of indignation, that one of the half-breed ladies- 93 as much a lady as one could expect in that place—had turned that individual out of her house, and slapped his face. The hon. member for Lanark wrote a public despatch calling the attention of the Government to those charges against his colleagues and friends. When the papers were brought down, he (Mr. Howe) would be prepared to justify not only all he had stated, but all public documents to which he had put his hand. The member for Lanark had said that he (Mr. Howe) told the people of Red River to go ahead. He denied this, and said that he had not used a single expression, while in the territory, that could properly be considered an instigation to insurrection. When they came to discuss the whole question, it might be his duty to show to the House that the cause of the difficulties with which they had to contend was more or less attributed to the gentleman selected as Lieutenant Governor. He did not know of this till he got to the territory, but the honourable gentleman would find that there were certainly as many personal objections to him as he could rake up with reference to him (Honourable Mr. Howe). The people of Red River should be governed the same as the people of Ontario and Quebec, by their minds (cheers from both sides). If we could not do that then he would say abandon the country, and let grass grow over the prairies, and the wild animals roam in the woods. Let us not go hence to shed human blood for the purpose of showing that a great Reformer from Canada—a great stalking horse of a Grit (laughter), in the absurd spirit of a tyrant, desired to grasp the power of a dictator. Read the documents when they come down and judge for yourselves.
Mr. Blake desired to say a few words, not upon the policy of the Government in regard to Red River, but as to the sufficiency or insufficiency of the personal explanations that had been made. He was willing to believe that when the Hon. Secretary for the Provinces consented to accept that office with the condition of a visit to Red River, that he was not aware of dissatisfaction existing in the Territory. Otherwise he would have been a most improper person to go upon a public mission to conciliate those people, seeing that he himself furnished a living example of the good results of persistent and almost violent opposition. Well, the hon. gentleman went up to Red River, and found as he had described a state of dis94 COMMONS DEBATES February 21, 1870 satisfaction among all classes. But he did not raise his voice in the endeavour to dissipate that dissatisfaction, by telling them of the real intentions of the Canadian Government, because, forsooth, that would disturb the harmony of society there—disturb the unanimity which prevailed against Canada. That was an excuse of the lamest kind, and one which the country could not accept. The hon. gentleman had denied that he did anything to invite insurrection, but he had not yet denied that he counselled them not to resist, but to obtain their rights by constitutional means.
Hon. Mr. Howe—Not only did I not attempt to instigate armed insurrections or to bar out the Governor, but the grounds I took everywhere in presence of all leading people was this: that there was no ground for apprehension at all; that when Mr. McDougall came into the territory, if he was a sensible man, (cheers and laughter from the opposition benches), he would learn the views of the people, and govern his actions accordingly, and that as soon as possible a responsible government would be granted.
Mr. Blake—To tell disaffected people who suspected their Governor, that if he was a sensible man he would do so and so, was rather a curious way to allay their apprehensions. If that was so, it were better for the Governor that he (Mr. Howe) had never said a word in his defence. Well the honourable gentleman left the country, without having given any public assurance to the masses, which might have tended to allay the agitation. There was an old parable about a man going down to Jericho and falling among thieves, who stripped him, wounded him and left him half dead. By and by there came a priest that way but he passed on the other side, (laughter). It was true his hon. friend from North Lanark had not at that period fallen among thieves, but he was on his way to them, and his hon. friend for Hants met him, and though there was time for chaffing and joking, not a word was uttered as to the difficulties before the Lieutenant Governor. He was utterly unable to understand how, with loyal feelings towards the settled designs of this country and towards the hon. gentleman appointed as Governor, and who was about to enter that territory, his hon. friend from Hants could have acted as he did upon that occasion. He hoped that gentleman could yet recollect some other and more reasonable excuse for his extraordinary con95duct, as facts now stood he was charged with the most gross neglect of a solemn duty. Was he to excuse himself with the fact that the wind was strong, and that trivial remarks about the climate, and chaff about the wind took place? He hoped that the hon. gentleman might be able to interrupt him again with further explanations in justification of this most gross, cruel, and direct violation of this most solemn duty, which one colleague owed to another. Then they had the circumstance that the hon. gentlemen had objected to the flag of England floating in the wind.
Hon. Mr. Howe—It was not that flag.
Mr. Blake—What flag was it?
Hon. Mr. Howe—It was not that. It had Canada upon it.
Mr. Blake—Then the hon. gentleman makes a distinction between the two. (Cheers.) He (Mr. Blake) concluded, amid cheers, by expressing his strong dissatisfaction at the course pursued by the hon. gentleman.
The third paragraph was then carried.
Hon. Mr. Holton said the leader of the Government had given as a reason the other evening why there should be an adjournment, that it was only due to the able and elaborate speech of the member for Lambton that it should be answered by one of the gentlemen on the Treasury Benches. They had been waiting patiently, two or three clauses of the address had been passed, and the ministry had not yet been heard from. The Opposition could afford to allow the Address to go without further debate, if the Ministry could. But there were some points in the speech of the hon. member for Lambton which clearly should not be left unanswered. Explanations especially were required of the statements made by the Finance Minister in a letter with his own signature, lately published, in which he said that the peace of the country was threatened by armed invasion from without, and from treason within.
The fourth clause of the Address were then passed.
Mr. Masson (Soulanges)—It is not my intention to detain the House very long; but I wish only to observe that up to this time of the proceedings, the French-speaking portion of the House had not the opportunity of having any ministerial explanations in their own language, therefore those who do not understand
Mr. Mackenzie—I did not bring it up as a grievance, but as a deception practiced upon Reformers at the elections in 1867. I wish the whole of you were Conservatives, and then we would have no difficulty.
Hon. Sir George-È. Cartier said the matter did not affect or interest the representatives of the other Provinces. The hon. member for Lambton said that he wished to see them all Conservatives; but let him try to get up a Liberal party. With regard to the charge of the want of success in Confederation, and supporting it by the cases of Newfoundland and Prince Edward Island, and the North West, he would refer to those countries. With regard to Newfoundland, it had rejected the proposal; but the terms were not those of the Government but of the House. The House agreed to their proposed terms, and then they ceased to be their proposals; and he was surprised to see that such intelligent men as the members for Lambton and Sherbrooke should found their charges upon such a foundation. He would tell the House that if they would be quiet, in a short time the terms would be accepted. With regard to Prince Edward Island, the Government had made certain proposals, but they did not like to do anything without the approval of Parliament. They had telegraphed the terms they should submit, and they had not yet received a reply. They could not force such powerful Provinces as Newfoundland and Prince Edward Island to accept their terms, but they must wait. With regard to the North-West Territory, the proceedings adopted had not been the action simply of the Government, but had been adopted by the House. After the plans had been adopted by Parliament the House was responsible for them. He hoped his hon. friend did not object to that. The responsibility rested not upon the Government, but upon the Parliament which had passed it; they had done all in their power to bring about the admission of the North-West into Confederation. He would admit that at the time the Confederation Act was discussed in Quebec, and at the discussions on it, they were not in possession of all the information that was desirable. The idea was that the Hudson Bay Company were not treating the inhabitants kindly, and that they would enter the Union gladly, but recent circumstances showed that the Government of the country was not as unpopular as it was represented. His own impression was that the population had become indifferent to it, and the late lamentable circumstances proved that it was partly unpopular. He regretted that his own colleague was now to be addressed as an opponent. Before he accepted the office, he came to him (Sir George) and asked him 118 COMMONS DEBATES FEBRUARY 21, 1870 whether he would support him. He promised him to do so for he thought that he would have been a good Governor. He thought now that he would have been a good Governor if he could have got into the country and could have explained to the settlers that the Government intended to do them no wrong. There could be no doubt that the Scotch and English half- breeds did not find fault with what the French Canadian half-breeds were doing. It had been published in some papers that there was a conspiracy against his hon. friend, because a French Gouvernor ought to be sent there, and that the Territory ought to be a second Quebec. He thought that these statements were the most wicked untruths that had ever been published. He had promised his friend his support, and he should not have been guilty of doing anything to give the least appearance of truth to such a wicked and mischievous untruth. The French Canadians were an impulsive race, and he thought it very wrong for a writer or a speaker to attempt to raise a disturbance in the East as well as in the West. They were French Canadians, but they were also British subjects (cheers), and were as much British, even if not more so, than the British, (cheers). He was a pure Frenchman, and he defied them to produce a more loyal man. Suppose that he was appointed to the Governorship, would his being a French Canadian make him unfit for that position? (No! no.) Sir G.-E. Cartier then contrasted the liberality of the Provinces of Ontario and Quebec, and gave a stirring description of the loyalty of the old French inhabitants of the Province of Quebec. As to the inhabitants of the Red River, the French had gone there with their fathers, but some stupid fanatical papers had said there should be no Frenchmen there. At any rate there was no intention to send a French Government there; but still their paper had no right to speak of the French population as they had done. The Red River must be a Province like Quebec, Ontario, Nova Scotia, or New Brunswick, but a Province for every race to settle in. He thanked God there were in Lower Canada 250,000 honest English-speaking residents; and he and his co-nationalists only regretted that there were not double the number. At the last census there were 80,000 French Canadians in Upper Canada. He hoped at the next census there would be 100,000 more (laughter), and he was convinced that the Upper Province would not be the worse for this increase. The address stated that the policy of conciliation would be adopted. There was the case of Ireland, conquered hundreds of years ago, and the misgovernment there was only now about to be relieved by Protestant votes. We wanted no such state of things here—no country baptized in blood. The House and country ought to be 119 thankful that the North-West Territory would be annexed without a drop of blood being shed, (hear, hear). The moderation of the half-breeds had been remarkable; and now they understood the policy of the Government was to be pacific. He was afraid that Mr. Macdougall had been misled by some designing people in Red River. But papers would come before the House, and they would show the necessity of having this unfortunate difficulty settled as soon as possible. Some papers asserted that Bishop TachĂ© had encouraged the movement. He had the authority of Bishop TachĂ© to deny it in toto. Some days before Bishop TachĂ© left for Rome in December last, Bishop TachĂ© was informed that Mr. Macdougall was to come. The Bishop wrote to the College of St. Boniface, to the nuns in the convent there, telling them to welcome Mr. Macdougall. The nuns having the little children under their control, were prepared to receive him by singing the National Anthem. As to the remarks which Mr. Mackenzie had made as to the militia he (Sir George) could inform him that there were enrolled in Lower Canada 43,000 men, or 3,500 beyond the quota. There was also an excess over the quota in Ontario, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia. There had been strictures as to the success of Confederation, but could it be denied that the Nova Scotian's difficulty de facto had been settled? It was well after all that the Constitutional Act of Confederation had been tested in Nova Scotia. There the Local Parliament was against the Dominion Government, but still it could not impede the whole of Confederation. By the action of the last Parliament giving justice to Nova Scotia, the cause of Confederation had been vastly strengthened. Sir A. T. Galt had accused the Government of slowness in carrying out Confederation; but New Jersey and Rhode Island had been for years out of the American Union. Let Sir A. T. Galt, who is so great an admirer of American institutions, give the Dominion the same time for the work of Confederation. The work of incorporating Red River, Newfoundland and Prince Edward Island would be completed before our American neighbors had settled their difficulties. The Hon. Mr. Huntington had taken part in a meeting in the Eastern Townships, called for the discussion of Independence, but luckily the member for Missisquoi (Mr. Chamberlin) was there and opposed him. The result was that Mr. Huntington did not try to hold a meeting of the same kind anywhere else in Lower Canada.
120 COMMONS DEBATES February 21, 1870
Hon. Mr. Huntington said, the question of Confederation was an old one, started by Sir A. T. Galt in 1858, seized on, and adopted by Sir G.-É. Cartier, and soon after introduced into a speech from the Throne.
Hon. Sir George-É. Cartier said the Government had real work to do to incorporate the different Provinces; but the Hon. Mr. Huntington had found it easier work to get up an agitation. He did not blame any one who cherished ideas about "Independence" but in England, amongst some of the public men and writers, there was an erroneous idea as to "Independence." There had sprung up there an abominable school of politicians, who would measure the greatness of England by estimating the savings of a few thousands a year. But if there were diseased parts in the body politic of England, let them show that they at heart, as members of the Empire, were healthy, and let them show by pronouncing that we have no desire for "Independence". (Cheers.)
Hon. Mr. Huntington said that the Minister of Militia confounded the theory of Confederation with its practical working. The Confederation question had been of slow growth. It was first proposed years ago by the member for Sherbrooke, who stood alone in the matter, and it was only when it was likely to be successful that the scheme was taken up by the Minister of Militia and a coalition formed to carry it. Judging from analogy he had little doubt that before long Cartier would make the independence question his own and earn great credit by carrying out other men's ideas, as he had done before.
Hon. Sir George-É. Cartier said the agitation now at all events was very slow. England was the centre of the British system. If there was any disease of the heart, let Canada prove herself sound and show herself determined to maintain the connection in spite of anything which might be uttered by any British Radical, (cheers).
The fifth to the ninth paragraphs were adopted. On the reading of the tenth,
Mr. Cartwright moved the adjournment of the House, and after remarks from some of the members the House adjourned at 11:35.


Canada. House of Commons Debates, 1870. Edited by P.B. Waite. Ottawa: Queen's Printer, 1979. Original scans accessible at: http://parl.canadiana.ca/.



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