House of Commons, 26 April 1870, Canadian Confederation with Manitoba

1188 COMMONS DEBATES April 26, 1870


Hon. Mr. Holton said he did not propose to precipitate the discussion on the Red River affairs, he thought it was due to the House that the Government should give information on certain points. He would therefore put the following questions. Was it true that the Government were preparing to send a military expedition to Red River? If so, what was the nature, 1189 object and scope of the expedition, and under what policy was it to be sent? Also, what were the relations between the Imperial and Canadian Governments on the subject; what proportion of the expedition were to be volunteers, what proportion of expense was to be borne by each Government? Was the Territory yet transferred to Canada? If not, was it to be transferred before the departure of the expedition? He could not imagine that the Government proposed sending a military force at the cost of this country, composed in part of the volunteers of this country, into a country over which the jurisdiction of this country had not been formally extended. Also whether the Government was at this moment negotiating or had had any communication with the so—called delegates from the Red River country, known as the delegates from the Provisional Government, namely, Father Ritchot, Judge Black and Scott. Finally, when the papers so often promised—the report of Donald A. Smith and, other gentlemen commissioned to the Red River country by the Government—would be laid upon the table? He could not think that with the Parliament in session, men would assume the grave responsibility of deciding upon matters of the kind he had alluded to, without taking the advice of Parliament; and Parliament would be recreant in its duty if it allowed the Government to proceed in a matter of this kind compromising, perhaps, the peace of the country, certainly compromising the exchequer of the country to perhaps an incalculable amount, without having submitted to it some statement of the policy upon which their course was based.
Hon. Sir John A. Macdonald—The hon. gentleman in the exercise of his responsibility as a member of Parliament has asked certain questions, of course the responsibility is his—it is not mine. I am very glad it is his case and not mine; for I think a majority of this House will agree with me that that responsibility is a very grave one, and will feel that my hon. friend, in putting those questions at all, and in putting them in the way he has today, must have some over-ruling principle or reason for doing so, because to any ordinary man, to any man of common sense, it must be evident that these questions are exceedingly inopportune (hear), and in order to show that they are inopportune I will simply answer one of his questions— almost the last in his category. The hon. gentleman asked if the Canadian Government have been or are in communication with any delegates from the North-West Territory. The answer to that is simply that they are, (hear).
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They are now in the midst of those communications.
Mr. Mackenzie—With what delegates?
Hon. Sir John A. Macdonald—They are now, I say, in the midst of them, and they believe that the result of those communications will be a solution of all the difficulties that have so harassed the Government and painfully engaged the public mind since last Autumn. I believe it is only a matter of days—indeed I may say a matter of hours; and I think that by paying a due regard to reticence my hon. friend might have prevented any unseemly discussion, or rather I should say any undue and premature statement, as to what those communications are. My hon. friend must understand that the Government have, and can have only one object—that object being to settle this unfortunate state of affairs as soon as possible, as economically as possible, and as fairly as possible, with a due respect and regard for the interests of all concerned. I can only tell my hon. friend that it is not in the interest of the people of Canada, or of any portion of the people of Canada, that at this moment these questions should be put, and I take this opportunity at once of stating that it is in the highest degree inexpedient that they should be answered. At the same time, however, I will inform my hon. friend that in a very short time—in a very few hours, and several days before this House can hope to be prorogued— there will be a satisfactory solution of all these difficulties, and the Government will be in a position to give a full answer to all these enquiries, when my hon. friend will find that they have paid due regard not only to the principles and interests, but even to the prejudices of all our people, both East and West, and that there will be a happy solution of every embarrassing question, (hear, hear). I need not, I think, Sir, further press this point or dwell upon these questions. I can quite understand what the hon. gentleman urges—that this House has a right to full explanations of this grave situation of affairs. I can quite understand that this House has a right to demand, especially, full explanations of any matter involving an expenditure of public money.
Hon. Mr. Holton—Hear, hear. That is the point.
Hon. Sir John A. Macdonald—I can only assure my hon. friend that the Government fully recognize that right, and that any expenditure of public money which may be made will be with the full sanction and approval of Parliament, (hear, hear).
Hon. Mr. Dorion said it seemed to him that the whole question was whether any expenditure of public money was going on without the sanction of Parliament. They knew that East and West preparations had been on foot for sending an armed expedition into the Territory. It was proper that this House should be informed whether those preparations were still going on or not, and a plain answer would satisfy members that things were not being done which the Government had no right to do. He hoped, therefore, the Premier would have no hesitation in quieting the public mind by stating whether the public expenditure was now going on with a view to prepare a military expedition for despatch to the Red River Territory, and what was the extent of the preparations if any had taken place. He (Mr. Dorion) could not conceive the Government had any right to order public expenditure for any purpose whatever, without informing the House of its object and extent.
Hon. Sir John A. Macdonald—I will only make one remark upon the most unfortunate speech of the hon. gentleman opposite, and it is this, that the Government are making arrangements of a certain kind, which, however, cannot be carried out, and will not be carried out, without an express vote of Parliament. They will appeal to Parliament with every confidence; and instead of having their arrangements condemned for extravagance, they will more probably be censured for parsimony. I say no more.
Hon. Mr. Holton said he had only one or two remarks to make upon what had been stated by the Minister of Justice. He (Mr. Holton) had based his whole questions on the fact that considerable expenditure had been already incurred—an expenditure which he regarded as improper without consulting Parliament while Parliament happened to be in session. He would only say that he hoped, with the hon. gentleman, that this matter would find a happy solution within a few hours, or a few days. Certainly no man could have so deep an interest in the realization of that hope as the hon. gentleman himself, who, more than any other man in the country, was responsible for the deplorable dilemma into which we were brought, for he (Mr. Holton) maintained that the whole of this imbroglio in the North-West was due to the unfortunate management, or want of management, of the hon. gentlemen opposite; to their ignorance of what was doing there, and to their vacillations in doing what required to be done as emergencies arose.
Hon. Sir John A. Macdonald—Hear, hear.
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Hon. Mr. Holton—I therefore join with the hon. gentleman in hoping that a happy solution will be found for the difficulty.
Hon. Sir John A. Macdonald could only say, in reply to the hon. gentleman, that the Government accepted, and felt the responsibility, and believed they would have the support of a majority of this House, and of the country, in the course which they had taken.
Mr. Mackenzie asked if the hon. gentleman was in a position to say when the promised Bill would be brought down. It had been promised for Saturday, and was not yet before the House.
Hon. Sir John A. Macdonald—I will explain, that the discussion of this matter is carried on by Government, not with one or two or three alone, not with the delegates so-called, chosen by the convention—but with other gentlemen also. We are getting all the information we can from gentlemen who have come from that western country. We are discussing, primarily, those clauses which may be considered disputed clauses—clauses in regard to which there are fears and jealousies on the part of the old settlers of the Territory, lest they should be overridden in their rights by the newcomers. I believe that those jealousies are unfounded—but still we have got to overcome them, and to make it clear that there is no intention to do injustice. Saturday, Monday and to-day, myself and my hon. colleague who sits next to me, have been engaged continuously—I may say night and day—in considering these very important questions. This is a matter upon which too much pains cannot be expended. It is a matter in which an enormous sum of money, and perhaps the future of this continent are involved, and therefore my hon. friend will see that it is inadvisable to bring down the measure with undue precipitancy. But I can tell my hon. friend, that last night after going home from the House, and guided by communications with people from Red River Territory, I prepared a measure which may be brought down almost without delay. There were one or two points to be discussed to—day, and that discussion was going on from morning till half-past three, when we were sent for to come down to the House. To-morrow morning the questions under consideration will be settled, and I will probably be able shortly afterwards to bring down the measure. It will be placed in the hands of the draftsman to-night, and when put into form to-morrow, will probably be laid before the House. I think it will be found to be a measure which will meet with satisfaction in all parts of the country, and especially in that part of it, 1193 represented by my hon. friend from Lambton, (hear, hear).
Mr. Mackenzie hoped the Government did not intend to continue the services of the agent at St. Paul's, employed by the Secretary of State for the Provinces, as a medium for transmission of despatches to and from the Territory. He had systematically colored the despatches from that quarter. He referred to Mr. Wheelock, editor of St. Paul's Press, the most rabid anti-Canadian that could be found.
Hon. Mr. Howe said he thought Mr. Wheelock had forwarded everything sent to him, faithfully.
Mr. Mackenzie—I doubt it.
Hon. Mr. McDougall (North Lanark) said he gathered from the remark made by the Secretary of State for the Provinces that he approved of what had been done by the gentleman employed to transmit despatches at St. Paul's, and intended to continue him in that capacity, believing him to have been faithful to his trust. He (Mr. McDougall) was here to say, that he had very grave doubts upon that matter, and if the House entered into a discussion of the subject he was prepared to give his reasons for those doubts. The hon. member for Lambton said truly that that gentleman was a most bitter and rabid anti-Canadian. He was editor of almost the only paper in the United States that justified the murder of Scott, and applauded the doings of the rebels at Red River. Even the New York Herald had abandoned that cause, and yet the St. Paul's Press still approved of it. He (Mr. McDougall) was amazed to find the hon. gentleman justifying his conduct, and approving what he had done.
Hon. Sir John A. Macdonald said that the Secretary of State for the Provinces stated no such thing. He simply stated that he believed that Mr. Wheelock transmitted faithfully all despatches sent through his hands. He (Sir John) knew this, because all despatches and papers sent through him by the Government were acknowledged by the parties to whom they were always sent. Under peculiar circumstances of that day, if they had not been sent through Mr. Wheelock, who was supposed to be friendly to those on the other side of the lines, they would very likely never have reached their destination. The member for North Lanark had himself received letters through Mr. Wheelock in due course. But these exceptional times had long since passed away, and Government neither sent nor received any cor 1194 COMMONS DEBATES April 26, 1870 respondence through Mr. Wheelock, since many months back.


On the House going into Committee of Ways and Means,
Hon. Mr. Holton asked if it was proposed to consider the clauses in concurrence as they had been passed in Committee. He thought they might as well take the discussion now on the items as at any other time.
Hon. Sir Francis Hincks said it could not be denied that there was a difficulty in bringing down proposals for increased taxation, and were not likely to give satisfaction. There was no doubt that there was great discussion regarding the 4th resolution, and numerous remonstrances had reached him against that resolution. It was his duty to receive a great many deputations and letters on the subject which he had submitted to his colleagues, and he had to submit now certain resolutions to the House. It would be most convenient to come at once to the articles most strongly objected to, and which had caused the strongest remonstrances, and those, moreover, which were most open to objection. But there were other reasons which led the Government to think it right to abandon such a scheme. The duties they were determined to abandon were those on coal and on wheat, but not on flour. They had also determined to propose an addition to the original words of the resolution respecting salt in the eighth resolution. They propose to add the words "when imported from United Kingdom or any British Possessions," the words "or imported for the use of sea and gulf fisheries," so that for these purposes it would come in free. The next alteration was in the fourth resolution, and it was a mere technical one, the addition of the word "greater" which had been omitted. The next alteration was the correction of an error which had crept in accidentally as it was not intended to put an extra duty on Old Tom Gin, which was intended to go with ordinary spirits. He proposed also to take grease and grease scraps from the ten per cent list. He proposed also on the eleventh resolution to make such alterations as would remove some, possibly not all the objections on the subject of charges on goods. He proposed striking out the words "on shipboard, at the last place of shipment to Canada," and substitute the words "place where purchased," and in the tenth line add after shipment to Canada, the words "and the United States." As to the duties on tobacco, great exception had been taken to these and not without reason.


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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