Lettre à Lord John Russell 2
Sept. 18, 1839
MY LORD,—I have read the speech delivered by your Lordship on the 3rd of June, as reported in The Morning Chronicle, several times ; and beg your Lordship's attention to what I conceive to be the rational solution of the difficulties raised in that speech, to the concession of the principle of local responsibility. Had your Lordship been more familiar with the practical working of the existing colonial constitutions and with the feelings of the people who smart under the mischiefs they produce, you would not, perhaps, have 'fallen into some errors by which that speech is disfigured, or have argued the question as one in which the obvious, manifold, and vital interests of the colonists were to be sacrificed to fear of some vague and indefinite injury that might be sustained by imperial interests, if executive power were taken from the ignorant and given to the well-informed—if it passed from the hands of officers to whom but a nominal responsibility can attach into those of men subject to constant scrutiny and, whenever they fail in their duty, liable to exposure and disgrace.
Lord Durham recommends that the English rule, by which those who conduct public affairs resign when they have lost the confidence of the Commons, should be applied to the Executive Councillors in North America. Your Lordship denies the existence of the analogies upon which Lord Durham's views are based :
"It does not appear to me that you can subject the Executive Council of Canada to the responsibility which is fairly demanded of the ministers of the executive power in this country. In the first place, there is an obvious difference in matter of form with regard to the instructions under which the Governor of the colony acts. The Sovereign in this country receives the advice of the ministers and acts by the advice of those ministers, and indeed there is no important act of the Crown for which there is not some individual minister responsible. There responsibility begins and there it ends. But the Governor of Canada is acting, not in that high and unassailable position in which the Sovereign of this country is placed. He is a Governor, receiving instructions from the Crown on the responsibility of a Secretary of State. Here, then, at once, is an obvious and complete difference between the executive of this country and the executive of a colony."
Now, my Lord, let me beg your Lordship's attention to a few of the reasons why I conceive that such an argument as this ought not to stand in the way of the permanent peace, prosperity and happiness of a million and a half of human beings. "The Sovereign in England receives the advice of the ministers and acts by the advice of those ministers;" but are there not limits assigned by law within which those advisers are bound to keep, and is not the Sovereign bound to know and to apprise the country when they over-step them ? What is the question at issue now between Whigs and Tories ? Is it not, whether, according to the spirit and practice of the Constitution, Sir Robert Peel had or had not a right to advise the changes in Her Majesty's household, upon which he insisted, before he would consent to form an administration? Suppose the present Cabinet were to advise Her Majesty to cut off Sir Robert's ears, or to bombard the city of London, would she obey, or would she not say, " Gentlemen, you are exceeding your powers, and unless you con-duct yourselves with more discretion, you must resign"? It is plain, therefore, that there are bounds beyond which even in the mother country, neither the advisers nor the monarch can pass; and none who seek colonial responsibility are so mad as to require that corresponding restrictions shall not be binding here; that there shall not be a limit beyond which no Executive Councillor can pass and over which no representative of Majesty will consent to be driven. These bounds must be clearly defined in the Act of Parliament which establishes the new system or in the instructions sent to the Governors to be communicated to the Legislatures ; and which they may, if they see fit, embody in a bill, which, so long as it exists, shall be, to all intents and purposes, the Constitution of the Colony.
But, your Lordship says: "The Governor is acting, not in that high and unassailable position in which the Sovereign of this country is placed." Why should he not occupy a position nearly as independent; and be perfectly unassailable, so long as he does not interfere (as the Sovereign would not dare to do) with matters for which others are responsible; nor allow himself or his Council to overstep those boundaries which British subjects on both sides of the Atlantic, for the protection of their mutual rights and interests, have established; and for a jealous recognition of which he, in case bad advice be given him, is alone responsible l The Queen's position is unassailable only so long as she does no act which the Constitution does not permit to be done. The Governor, if assailed, would in like manner turn to the Constitution of the colony committed to his care, and show that on the one hand he had neither trenched upon the rights essential to the security of colonial liberty, nor on the other timorously yielded aught which the laws for the protection of imperial interests made it criminal to yield.
Your Lordship is mistaken, therefore, in supposing that the Sovereign is divested of all responsibility; although I admit it is much more difficult to call him or her to an account than it would be the Governor of a colony. If the Queen were to deprive Sir Robert Peel of his ears or open a few batteries upon London, an émeute or a revolution would be the only remedy ; but a Governor, if he consented to an act which shut out British manufactures or was tempted to levy war upon a friendly state, could be called to account without difficulty or delay ; and hence, I argue, that the facility and certainty of inflicting punishment for offences of this sort would prevent their commission and operate as a sufficient guard to the imperial interests which your Lordship seems so anxious to protect. If it be said that the people in a colony may sustain councillors who give unconstitutional advice, my answer is, that the same thing may occur in England. When it does, a peaceful modification of the Constitution or a revolution follows ; but these cases are not so frequent as to excite alarm, nor is there any reason to believe that they will be more so in the colonies, whose power to enforce improper demands is so questionable.
"He is a Governor receiving instructions from the Crown, on the responsibility of a Secretary of State." This passage suggests some reflections which I feel it my duty respectfully to press upon your Lordship's attention. One of the evils of the existing system, or rather haphazard mode of government devoid of all system, is the various readings given to the medley of laws, usages, and Colonial Office despatches by which we are at present ruled. An excellent illustration of the difficulty of obtaining an interpretation of these, about which there can be no mistake—which he who runs may read—may be furnished by contrasting the views put forth by your Lordship with those acted upon by Sir Francis Head ; and which, after a bloody rebellion, brought on to prove the value of his theory, he still avows in every succeeding edition of his Narrative, with a consistency and complacency worthy of all praise. "The responsibility," says your Lordship, "rests on the Secretary of State." " The responsibility," says Sir Francis Head, in every act of his government and in every page of his book, "rests on me." From the moment of his entering into Upper Canada, he threw overboard all the instructions from the Colonial Secretary (who, according to your Lordship, ought to have been obeyed, for he was alone responsible) ; he struck out a course of policy entirely new; commenced "putting the padlock on the mind," to be followed by some hundreds of handcuffs on the wrists, and padlocks on the body. His language to Lord Glenelg throughout was, " You must support me,"—" The fear is that I will not be supported at the Colonial Office." In fact, from first to last, Sir Francis gave instructions to, instead of receiving them from, the Secretary of State; and finding that Lord Glenelg would not permit him to try his experiments in government and combat the fiery dragon of democracy in the bosom of a British Province, at the cost of a good deal of blood and treasure and the prospects of a foreign war, without occasionally offering a little advice, the worthy Baronet resigned ; and has ever since been publishing his complaints to the world, and claiming its sympathy, as a sufferer for conscience' sake, in upholding the only correct reading of colonial constitutions, and which the Secretary of State, and the Whig Government of which he was a member, did not understand. The doctors in this case differed ; the patient was left prostrate, mangled, bleeding and exhausted, listening to their altercations, but suffering from every gash made to convince each other at her expense; and there she lay, until recently ; when, beginning to suspect that both had been talking nonsense and trying absurd experiments, she lifted her languid head, stretched out her wounded limbs, and began to fix her eyes upon the only remedy by which health could be restored.
Let us, in order to convince ourselves that the conclusion to which Upper Canada is coming after all her sufferings is a sound one, examine the two prescriptions and modes of treatment ; and ascertain whether either contains anything which ought to rescue it from the oblivion that invariably closes over the nostrums by which the science of politics, like the science of medicine, is often disfigured for a time.
A colony where the Governor is alone responsible is Sir Francis Head's interpretation of the system under which we live. It is one very much affected by colonial Governors everywhere. Unlimited power within a wide Province is a beautiful idea for an individual to indulge, especially when it is attended with but little risk and only nominal responsibility. Of all the British colonial Governors who have wielded this vast authority; plumed themselves upon the possession of these plenary powers and, in the exercise of them, vexed, distracted and excited to disaffection one Province after another, how many have been tried and punished? How many have met with even a reprimand from the ministry or a cold look from the Sovereign whose authority they had abused? I leave your Lordship, whose historical reading has been much more extensive than mine, to point out the instances; I have searched for them in vain. It is true that debates in Parliament occasionally arise upon such subjects ; but these, judging by their practical effect, can hardly be taken into account. A Governor knows well that, so long as he holds office, the ministry by whom he was appointed will defend him ; that their majority in the Commons precludes the possibility of a vote of censure being passed against him ; that the Duke, under whom he probably served, having a majority in the Upper House, he is perfectly safe, so long as he commits no act so flagrant as to outrage the feelings of the nation and which, coming home to the heart of every man and woman in England, would make it unsafe for any parliamentary combination to attempt to protect him. Thus fenced in during his administration, what are his perils when he retires ? The colonists, too happy when rid of the nuisance to be vindictive, and hoping better things from a successor, of whom they are unwilling to suspect any evil, cease to complain ; his Excellency is removed to another Province, with a larger salary, to act the same farce over there ; or retires to his estates in the mother country, to form one of that numerous body of ex-Governors who live upon the consciousness of having, once within their lives at least, wielded powers within a wide range and over the destinies of many thousands of their fellow-beings, such as are never permitted to be wielded by any individual, however high his rank or widely extended his influence, without full and ample responsibility, within the British Islands themselves. These men, whether they go into Parliament or not, always sympathize with Governors abroad acting upon their darling theory ; and, as they are often consulted by ministers who know perhaps a little less than themselves, they are always at hand to stifle the complaints of the colonists when appeals are made to England.
Your Lordship will perceive, therefore, that when a Governor declares, as did Sir Francis Head, that the responsibility rests on him, he merely means that he is about to assume extensive powers, for three or four, perhaps for eight or ten years, without the shadow of a chance of his ever being called to account for anything he may do or leave undone. To enable you to form some idea of the peace, prosperity and satisfaction likely to be diffused over a Province by a Governor acting upon this principle and exercising these powers, let me request your Lordship to imagine that, after twenty or thirty years of military service, by which I have become disciplined into a contempt for civil business and a fractious impatience of the opinions of all beneath me in 'rank, Her Majesty has the right and graciously deigns to exercise it, of making me Mayor of Liverpool. Fancy that, up to the moment when the information is conveyed to me, though I have heard the name of that city several times and have some vague notion that Liverpool is a large commercial port in England, yet that I neither know on what river or on which side of the island it is situated, nor have the least knowledge of its extent, population, requirements or resources ; the feelings, interests, prejudices or rights of its inhabitants. Within a month, having had barely sufficient time to trace out the situation of the place upon the map, read a book or two about it, hear an under-secretary talk an hour or two of what neither he nor I understand ; receive a packet of instructions—of which a half-a-dozen different readings may be given—and become thoroughly inflated with my own consequence, I find myself in Liverpool ; and feel that I am the great pivot upon which all its civil administration, its order and defence, its external relations with the rest of the empire and the rest of the world turns ; the fountain from which its internal patronage is to flow; and to which all, for a long period of years, must look for social and political ascendency, if they have no merit; and, if they have, for a fair consideration of their claims.
Your Lordship will readily believe, that a man thus whisked away from the pursuits which have occupied his thoughts for years and plunged into a new scene, surrounded by human beings, not one of whose faces he ever saw before; called to the consideration of a thousand topics with almost any one of which the assiduous devotion of half a life would be required to make him familiar, and having to watch over vast interests, balance conflicting claims, decide on the capacity of hundreds, of whose characters, talents and influence he is ignorant; to fill offices, of the duties of which he has not the slightest conception ;—that a man so situated, must be either very vain or very able, if he is not appalled at the extent of the responsibility he has assumed; and must be an angel of light indeed, if he does not throw the good city of Liver-pool into confusion. This, my Lord, is no fancy sketch; no picture, highly coloured to produce effect, but which, on close examination, an artist would cast aside as out of drawing; it is a faithful representation of what occurs in some British colony almost every year.
But it may be said, all this is granted and yet there is the Legislature to influence and instruct. Liverpool shall still serve for illustration, and we will presently see to what extent the representative branch operates on the conduct of a gentleman who assumes the responsibility and is placed in the circumstances described. Let us suppose that the city charter gives me for my advisers, from the moment I am sworn in, ten or a dozen individuals, some of them the heads of departments, enjoying large salaries and much patronage; others, perhaps, discarded members of the popular branch and not a few selected by no rule which the people can clearly understand, but because they happened to flatter the vanity of one or other of my predecessors or to be connected with the families or favourable to the views or interests of some of those by whom they were advised. This body, be it observed, by usage never departed from, hold their situations as councillors for life; the people have no control over them, neither have I; they are sworn not to inform upon each other, nor is it necessary that they should; because, as I have assumed the responsibility, and they for their own interest favour the theory, if any-thing goes wrong they can lay the blame on me. This body then, which owes no allegiance to the people of Liverpool; which often, in fact, has an interest the very reverse of theirs; which, suspected of usurpation and improper influence, pays back the imputation with unmeasured contempt; and hardly one-fifth of whose number could, by any possibility, be thus honoured if their seats depended on popular selection; this body I am compelled to call around me in order that my administration may commence, for without some such assistance, I am unable to take a single step. They come; and there sit, at the first council board, the responsible Mayor, who knows nothing and nobody, and his irresponsible advisers, who, if they do not know everything—and they are seldom greater witches than their neighbours—know their friends, a lean minority of the citizens, from their enemies, the great majority; and are quite aware that, for their interest, it is necessary that I should be taught, as soon as possible, to despise the latter and throw myself into the arms of the former. Will any sensible man, calmly viewing the relative situations, opportunities and powers of the parties, believe that any act of administration done, or any appointment made for the first six months, is my act or my appointment ? I may choose between any two or three persons whose names are artfully set before me, when an office is to be filled, and if determined to show my independence may select the worst ; but I must choose from the relatives and friends of my advisers or from the small minority who support them in the hopes of preferment; for to that section the whole of the city patronage must be religiously confined ; and it is of course so managed, that I scarcely know or have confidence in anybody else.
Can your Lordship believe that such a state of things would give satisfaction to the citizens? Would they not begin to grumble and complain, to warn, to remonstrate, and to expose the machinations and manoeuvres of the monopolists? It would be very odd, and they would be very strange English-men, if they did not. But, as I have come to Liverpool to demonstrate the beauties of this system of city government, which I highly approve ; as I have assumed the whole responsibility and become inflated with the consciousness of my extensive powers ; and, above all, as I am taught by my advisers to look upon every complaint of the system as a libel upon my judgment and an insult to my administration—I very soon begin to dislike those who complain ; to speak and write contemptuously of them in private and in public ; to denounce any who have the hardihood to suggest that some alterations are required, by which the opinions and rights of the majority shall be respected, as men dangerous to the peace of the city and disaffected towards Her Majesty's person and government; until, in fact, Liverpool becomes very like a town, in the olden time, in which the inhabitants generally being hostile to their rulers, the latter retire to the citadel, from which they project every description of missile and give every species of annoyance.
By-and-by the time arrives for the legislative branches of the city government to assemble. One of these, being elected at short periods, under a low franchise, which includes the great body of the independent citizens, may be taken as a fair reflection of all their great interests, their varied knowledge, passions and prejudices; the other is a body of life legislators, selected by my advisers from among their own relatives and friends; with a few others, of a more independent character, to save appearances, but in which they always have a majority of faithful and determined partisans. The business commences ; the great majority of members in the representative branch—speaking the matured opinions of the people—complain of the system and of the advisers it has placed around me ; expressing the fullest confidence in me, whom they cannot suspect of wishing to do them harm, but asking my co-operation towards the introduction of changes without which, they assure me, the city never can prosper. But my advisers having a few of their adherents also in this body, they are instructed to declare any change unnecessary; to throw every obstruction in the way ; to bully and defame the more conspicuous of those who expose the evils of the existing system; and to denounce them all as a dangerous combination, who, with some covert design, are pressing, for factious objects, a series of frivolous complaints. Of course, as the minority speak the sentiments which I have imbibed and put themselves forward as my personal champions on all occasions, they rise in my esteem exactly in the same proportion as the other party are depressed, until they become especial pets, and from their ranks, as opportunities occur, all vacancies are supplied, either in the list of irresponsible advisers who in my name carry on the government or in the number of life legislators who do their bidding in the upper branch.
I respectfully beg your Lordship to ponder over these passages, which I assure you are true to nature and experience; and ask yourself, after bringing home such a state of things to the bosom of any British city, how long it would be uncomplainingly endured ? or how long any ministry, duly informed of the facts, would wish it to continue ? Look back, my Lord, and you will find in every rotten corporation, swept away by the immortal Act of Which your Lordship was one of the ablest defenders, a resemblance to our colonial governments as they at present stand, too strong to be mistaken; and let me venture to hope, that the man who did not spare corruption so near the national centre of vitality, who did not hesitate to combat these hydra-headed minorities who, swarming over England, everywhere asserted their right to govern the majorities, will not shrink from applying his own principles—the great principles of the Constitution—to these more distant, but not less important portions of the empire.
Your Lordship will, perhaps, urge that Sir Francis Head succeeded in pleasing the people and getting the majority on his side. Admitting the full force which the worthy Baronet gives to this case, it is after all but the exception to the general rule. The true history of events in Upper Canada, I believe to have been this : A small but desperate minority had determined on a violent revolution; this party might have contained some men so wicked that a love of mischief and desire for plunder were the governing principles, and others, moved by attachment to republican institutions; but small as it was, the greater number of those found in its ranks had been driven there by the acts of another equally small and equally desperate minority, who had long monopolized,—and, under the present system, may and will monopolize for a century to come—the whole power and patronage of the Government, dividing among them the revenues of the country. The great mass of the people of Upper Canada belonged to neither of these bands of desperadoes. They were equally determined with the one, to uphold British connection ; and as equally determined with the other, to get rid of a wretched system of irresponsible local administration, under the continuance of which they well knew the Province could never prosper. When Sir Francis Head arrived, he entered the colony—if we are to believe his own account of the matter—almost as ignorant as my imaginary Mayor of Liverpool. Sir Francis admits his ignorance, but denies the consequences that must be deduced from it : that he was led and influenced, in the first acts of his administration, until the compact found him ripe for their own purposes and embroiled even with the moderate men on the other side. Then commenced that extraordinary flight of proclamations, addresses and declamatory appeals ; which, winged with the ready pen of a professional author and shot from the long-bow of the family compact, created so much false excitement, and carried so much misrepresentation into every corner of the Province. In these the great question at issue in Upper Canada—which was one between the interests of the family compact and the principles of the British Constitution—was winked out of sight ; and the people, not only of that, but of the surrounding colonies, were made to believe that they were to choose between British and republican institutions ; that Sir Francis and the family compact (Archdeacon Strachan with the Clergy Reserves, one-seventh of the Province ; and Attorney-General Hager-man, with the corrupt patronage and influence of administration, under their arms) represented the former ; and Mackenzie, and his band of desperadoes, the latter. Thus appealed to, the British population everywhere, as the cunning men at Sir Francis' elbow well knew they would, said, with one voice : " If that is the question, then we are for the British Constitution ; and hurrah for Sir Francis Head ! " Mackenzie was an outlaw in a week ; his small band of desperadoes was scattered by the energy of the people, the great mass of whom never dreamed of breaking the connection with the mother country. Then came the period in which the compact glorified themselves and Sir Francis ; the fever of loyal excitement in which the miserable minority of officials—feeling strong in the success of their manoeuvres and still stronger in the strength of British thousands profusely spent, regiments of militia to be officered, equipped and paid—began to wreak their vengeance upon every man who had been known to be hostile to their monopoly ; and to identify opinions, not more extreme when thoroughly understood, than those held by the most moderate section of the Whigs in England, with " privy conspiracy and rebellion." But the period was fast approaching when this unnatural excitement was to subside; when hundreds of thousands of British subjects, looking steadily through the mists that had been raised around them, were to ask of each other : " Has this case been decided upon the true issue ? Was that the question? " For evidence of the solemnity with which this inquiry has been put and the all-pervading unanimity with which it has been answered, I refer your Lordship to the meetings which have been held in every section of the Province ; to the opinions boldly expressed by every newspaper—with a few, chiefly venal exceptions—printed in Upper Canada ; to the bold and determined stand taken by many of the bravest and ablest men who crushed Mackenzie's rebellion and beat back the sympathizers upon the frontier ; to the extraordinary union of Orangemen and Catholics, Methodists, Baptists, Churchmen, and Presbyterians; whose watchwords are British connection and British responsibility, and down with the compact, and the absurd idea cherished by Sir Francis Head, of a government in which the whole responsibility rests upon the Governor. If your Lordship doubts the utter explosion of your theory, even in this Province, where for a time I admit it seemed to flourish, the approaching general elections will furnish evidence enough, and even Sir Francis, if he were to come out again with another sheaf of proclamations and addresses, and preach this unitarian doctrine of responsibility, would no longer be listened to by the Upper Canadians, who have embraced a higher and purer faith.
Having as I conceive then, shown your Lordship that the idea of a colony in which nobody is responsible but the Governor, while his responsibility is only nominal, however delightful it may appear in the eyes of those who have been or hope to be Governors, is one that never can be a favourite with the colonists and has been repudiated and rejected by those of them among whom, for a limited period and under a system of delusion, it seemed to flourish; let me turn your Lordship's attention for a few, moments to the doctrine maintained by Lord Glenelg against Sir Francis Head and now put forth by your Lord-ship in opposition to the Earl of Durham—that the Colonial Secretary is alone responsible and that the Governor is an agent governing the Province by instructions from him.
Whatever new readings may be given of our unwritten constitutions, this is the one which always has been and always will be the favourite with Colonial Secretaries and under-secretaries, and by which every clerk in Downing Street, even to the third and fourth generation yet to come, will be prepared to take his stand. And why? Because to deprive them of this much-talked-of responsibility, which means nothing, would be to deprive them of the power to which they cling; of the right of meddling interference with every petty question and every petty appointment in thirty-six different colonies. While things remain as they are, the very uncertainty which reigns over the whole colonial system invests the Secretary of State with a degree of power and influence, the dim and shadowy outline of which can scarcely be measured by the eye; but which, from its almost boundless extent and multiform and varied ramifications and relations, possesses a fascination which few men have been born with the patriotic moderation to resist. Though a Secretary of State may occasionally have to maintain, in a particular Province, a doubtful struggle for the whole responsibility and the whole of the power, with some refractory Governor, like Sir Francis Head ; yet even there he must exercise a good deal of authority and enjoy a fair share of influence; while in all others his word is law and his influence almost supreme. A judge, a crown officer, a secretary, or a land surveyor cannot be appointed without his consent; a silk gown cannot be given to a lawyer without his sanction; while his word is required to con-firm the nomination of Legislative Councillors for life and irresponsible Executive Councillors, in every Province, before the Queen's mandamus is prepared. The very obscurity in which the real character of colonial constitutions is involved of course magnifies the importance and increases the influence of the gentleman who claims the right to expound them. More than one-half the colonists who obtain audiences in Downing Street are sent there by the mystifications in which the principles of the system are involved ; while the other half are applicants for offices, which under a system of local responsibility would be filled up, as are the civic offices in Manchester and Glasgow, by the party upon whose virtue and ability the majority of the inhabitants relied. Adopt Lord Durham's principle, and above all, give to each colony a well-defined constitution based upon that principle and embodied in a bill, and "the office" will become a desert. The scores of worthy people, with spirits weary of the anomalous and cruel absurdities of the system and sincerely labouring to remove them, now daily lingering in the ante-rooms, would be better employed elsewhere, in adorning and improving the noble countries which gave them birth, and whose freedom they are labouring to establish ; while at least an equal number of cunning knaves whose only errand is to seek a share of the plunder had much better be transferred to the open arenas in which, under a system of responsibility, public honours and official emolument could only be won. But then the office of Colonial Secretary would be shorn of much power, which, however unwisely exercised, it is always delightful to possess ; the dim but majestic forms of authority which now overshadow half the world would be chastened into reasonable compass ; with boundaries, if less imposing and picturesque, for all practical purposes more simple and clearly defined. Nor would under-secretaries and clerks have so many anxious and often fawning visitors soliciting their patronage, listening to their twaddle, wondering at their ignorance, and yet struggling with each other for their smiles. The mother country would, it is true, hear less of colonial grievances ; Parliament would save much time now devoted to colonial questions ; and the people of England would now and then save a few millions sterling, which are required to keep up the existing system by force of arms. But these are small matters compared with the dignity of a Secretary of State.
Here then, my Lord, you have the reason why your reading of our constitutions is the favourite one in Downing Street. Let us see now whether it is more or less favourable to rational freedom and good government in the colonies than that advocated by Sir Francis Head. Your authority and that of Lord Glenelg is with me in condemning his, which I have done, as deceptive and absurd; he will probably join me in denouncing yours as the most impracticable that it ever entered into the mind of a statesman to conceive.
The city of Liverpool shall again serve us for the purposes of illustration. Turn back to the passages in which I have described a Mayor, ignorant of everything, surrounded by irresponsible but cunning advisers ; who for their own advantage embroil him with a majority of the citizens, while his countenance and the patronage created by the taxes levied upon the city are monopolized by a miserable minority of the whole, and insulted and injured thousands, swelling with indignation, surround him on every side. After your Lordship has dwelt upon this scene of heartburning and discontent—of general dissatisfaction among the citizens—of miserable intrigue and chuckling triumph, indulged by the few who squander the resources and decide on the interests of the many, but laugh at their murmurs and never acknowledge their authority—let me beg of you to reflect whether matters would be made better or worse, if the Mayor of Liverpool was bound, in every important act of his administration, to ask the direction of and throw the responsibility on another individual, who never saw the city, who knows less about it than even himself, and who resides not in London, at the distance of a day's coaching from him, but across the Atlantic, in Halifax, Quebec or Toronto, and with whom it is impossible to communicate about anything within a less period than a couple of months. Suppose that this gentleman in the distance possesses a veto upon every important ordinance by which the city is to be watched, lighted and improved—by which docks are to be formed, trade regulated and one-third of the city revenues (drawn from sources beyond the control of the popular branch) dispensed. And suppose that nearly all whose talents or ambition lead them to aspire to the higher offices of the place are compelled to take, once or twice in their lives, a voyage across the Atlantic to pay their court to him—to solicit his patronage and intrigue for the preferment, which under a better system would naturally result from manly competition and eminent services within the city itself. Your Lordship is too keen-sighted and I trust too frank, not to acknowledge that no form of government could well be devised more ridiculous than this; that under such no British city could be expected to prosper and that with it no body of Her Majesty's subjects, within the British Islands themselves, would ever be content. Yet this, my Lord, is an illustration of your own theory; this is the system propounded by Lord Normanby as the best the present Cabinet can devise. And may I not respect-fully demand why British subjects in Nova Scotia, any more than their brethren in Liverpool, should be expected to prosper or be contented under it; when experience has convinced them that it is miserably insufficient and deceptive, repugnant to the principles of the constitution they revere and but a poor return for the steady loyalty which their forefathers and themselves have maintained on all occasions?
One of the greatest evils of the colonial constitution as interpreted by your Lordship is, that it removes from a province every description of responsibility and leaves all the higher functionaries at liberty to lay every kind of blame at the door of the Secretary of State. The Governor, if the colonists complain, shrugs his shoulders and replies that he will explain the difficulty in his next despatch, but in the meantime his orders must be obeyed. The Executive Councillors, who under no circumstances are responsible for anything, often lead the way in concentrating the ire of the people upon the Colonial Secretary, who is the only person they admit their right to blame. It is no uncommon thing to hear them, in Nova Scotia, sneering at him in public debate ; and in Canada they are accused of standing by while Lords Glenelg and Melbourne were hanged in effigy and burned in the capital, encouraging the populace to pay this mark of respect to men whom, if your Lordship's theory is to be enforced, these persons at all events should have the decency to pardon, if they cannot always defend.
I trust, my Lord, that in this letter I have shown you that in contemplating a well-defined and limited degree of responsibility to attach to Executive Councillors in North America, I have more strictly followed the analogies to be drawn from the constitution than has your Lordship, in supposing that those officers would necessarily overstep all bounds ; that in divesting the Governor of a vague and deceptive description of responsibility which is never enforced and of a portion of authority which it is impossible for him wisely to exercise, and yet holding him to account for what does fall within the scope of his character as Her Majesty's representative—the constitutional analogy is still preserved, his dignity left unimpaired and the difficulties of his position removed. I trust also that I have proved to your Lordship that the colonial constitutions, as they at present stand are but a medley of uncertainty and confusion ; that those by whom they are administered do not understand them ; and lastly, that whether Sir Francis Head's interpretation or your own be adopted, neither offer security for good government : the contest between them merely involving a difference of opinion as to who is to wield powers that neither governors nor secretaries can usefully assume, and which of these officers is nominally to bear the blame of blunders that both are certain to commit.