Lettre à Lord John Russell 4
September 18, 1839
MY LORD,—The business of factious demagogues of all parties is to find fault with everything, to propose nothing practical, to oppose whatever is suggested, to misrepresent and to defame. The object of honest and rational politicians ought to be to understand each other—to deal frankly, abhorring concealment, that mistakes may not be made about facts, terms or intentions ; to deal fairly, giving credit for a desire to elicit truth and a wish to weigh in a just balance both sides of every question. Having put before you such evidence as I hope will lead your Lordship's mind to the conclusion that the system by which the North American colonies are at present governed must be abandoned, it is not improbable that your Lordship may inquire what it is that we are desirous to substitute for that system ? The demand is a reason-able one. The party who seek this change are bound to prove that they have a safe and intelligible remedy for the evils of which they complain. If I cannot show to your Lordship that, without endangering the authority of the mother country over her Provinces, weakening the constitutional powers of the Crown or trenching on the high privileges and wide range of duty assigned to the Imperial Parliament, a better form of government than that which I am anxious to overturn—one more nearly conforming to the practice and spirit of the Constitution, as understood at home—to the wants and peculiar situation of these colonies, and less repugnant to the feelings and prejudices of English-men everywhere—can be established, then I must quit the field of argument and cannot complain if your Lordship adheres to your own opinions.
THE QUEEN AND PARLIAMENT
From what has been already written, it will be seen that I leave to the Sovereign and to the Imperial Parliament the uncontrolled authority over the military and naval force distributed over the colonies ; that I carefully abstain from trenching upon their right to bind the whole empire by treaties and other diplomatic arrangements with foreign states ; or to regulate the trade of the colonies with the mother country and with each other. I yield to them also the same right of interference which they now exercise over colonies and over English incorporated towns; whenever a desperate case of factious usage of the powers confided, or some reason of state, affecting the preservation of peace and order, call for that interference. As the necessity of the case, the degree and nature of this interference, would always be fully discussed by all parties concerned, I am not afraid of these great powers being often abused, particularly as the temptations to use them would be much lessened if the internal administration were improved.
THE COLONIAL OFFICE
The Colonial Secretary's duties should be narrowed to a watchful super-vision over each colony to see that the authority of the Crown was not impaired and that Acts of Parliament and public treaties were honestly and firmly carried out ; but he should have no right to appoint more than two or three officers in each Province and none to intermeddle in any internal affair, so long as the Colonial Government was conducted without conflict with the Imperial Government and did not exceed the scope of its authority. This would give him enough to do, without heaping upon him duties so burden-some and various that they cannot be discharged with honour by any man, however able ; nor with justice or safety to the millions whose interests they affect. His responsibility should be limited to the extent of his powers ; and as these would be familiar to every Englishman, exposure and punishment would not be difficult, in case of ignorance, incapacity or neglect.
I have shown in the illustration drawn from the city of Liverpool, that most governors come out to colonies so ignorant of their geography and topography climate, productions, commerce, resources and wants, and above all, of the parties, passions and prejudices which divide them, and of the character, talents and claims of the men by whom the population are influenced and led, that for the first six or twelve months they are like overgrown boys at school. It is equally clear, that while the business of government must move on and the administration commence from the day on which the new Governor arrives, the schoolmasters, from whom all his facts are derived—from whom he gathers his views of internal affairs and his impressions, not only of different parties, but of individuals of each party,—are the irresponsible Executive Councillors, whom the present system calls around him, and who, possessed of such advantages, rarely fail, before he can by any possibility escape from their toils, to embroil him with the popular branch of the Legislature and the mass of the people by whom it is sustained.
Now let us suppose, that when a Governor arrives in Nova Scotia, he finds himself surrounded, not by this irresponsible Council, who represent nothing except the whims of his predecessors and the interests of a few families (so small in point of numbers, that but for the influence which office and the distribution of patronage give them, their relative weight in the country would be ridiculously diminutive),—but by men who say to him : " May it please your Excellency, there was a general election in this Province last month or last year, or the year before last, and an administration was formed upon the results of that election. We, who compose the Council, have ever since been steadily sustained by a majority of the Commons and have reason to believe that our conduct and policy have been satisfactory to the country at large." A Governor thus addressed would feel that at all events he was surrounded by those who represented a majority of the population, who possessed the confidence of an immense body of the electors, and who had been selected by the people who had the deepest interest in his success, to give him advice and conduct the administration. If he had doubts on this point—if he had reason to believe that any factious combination had obtained office improperly and wished to take the opinions of the country ; or if the Executive Council sought to drive him into measures not sanctioned by the charter, or exhibited a degree of grasping selfishness which was offensive and injurious, he could at once dissolve the Assembly and appeal to the people : who here, as in England, would relieve him from doubt and difficulty, and, fighting out the battle on the hustings, rebuke the councillors if they were wrong. This would be a most important point gained in favour of the Governor ; for now he is the slave of an irresponsible Council which he cannot shake off ; and is bound to act by the advice of men who, not being accountable for the advice they give and having often much to gain and nothing to lose by giving bad advice, may get him into scrapes every month, and lay the blame on him. The Governors would in fact have the power of freeing themselves from thraldom to the family compacts, which none of them can now escape by the exercise of any safe expedient known to our existing constitutions. It will be seen, too, that by this system, whatever sections or small parties might think or say, the Governor could never, by any possibility, become what British Governors have of late been everywhere, embroiled with the great body of the inhabitants over whom he was sent to preside. The Governor's responsibility would also be narrowed to the care of the Queen's prerogative, the conservation of treaties, the military defence, and the execution of the imperial Acts; the local administration being left in the hands of those who understood it and who were responsible. His position would then be analogous to that of the Sovereign —he could do no wrong in any matter of which the Colonial Legislature had the right to judge; but would be accountable to the Crown, if he betrayed the imperial interests committed to his care.
THE EXECUTIVE COUNCIL
Executive Councillors now are either heads of departments or members of the two branches who are generally favourable to the policy of these and disposed to leave their emoluments intact. One or two persons, of more independent character, and slightly differing from the others upon a few points, are sometimes admitted; but a vast preponderance in favour of the views of the official compact is always, as a matter of course, maintained. The heads of departments are always very well paid for their trouble in governing the country by the enormous official salaries they receive ; their colleagues either are looking for office, or have means of providing for their relatives and friends; while if it should so happen, that such a thing as a colonial Executive Councillor can be found for any length of time in office, who has not served himself or his friends, the title and the consciousness of possessing for life the right to approach and advise every Governor and give a vote upon every important act of administration, without a possibility of being displaced or called to account for anything said or done, is no mean reward for the small amount of labour and time bestowed. Formerly these people, in addition to other benefits, obtained for themselves and their friends immense tracts of Crown land. This resource is now cut off by the substitution of sales for free grants; but looking at the Executive Council or Cabinet, as it exists in any of the North American Provinces at present, we find a small knot of individuals, responsible neither to the Queen, the Secretary of State, the Governor nor the people; who owe their seats to neither, but to their relatives and friends through whose influence and intrigues they have been appointed; and who, while they possess among them some of the best salaries and nearly all the patronage of the country, have a common interest in promoting extravagance, resisting economy, and keeping up the system exactly as it stands. It will be perceived that such a body as this may continue to govern a colony for centuries; like the Old Man of the Sea, who got upon Sinbad's back, ordinary exertions cannot shake it off. To understand more clearly how un-English, how anti-constitutional, how dangerous this body is, it is only necessary to contrast it with what it ought to resemble, but never does. In England, the government of the country is invariably carried on by some great political party, pledged to certain principles of foreign or domestic policy which the people for the time approve ; but the Cabinet in a colony is an official party who have the power for ever to keep themselves and their friends in office and to keep all others out, even though nineteen out of every twenty of the population are against them. What would the people of England say, if some twenty families, being in possession of the Treasury, Horse Guards, Admiralty, Colonial Office, had the power to exclude Whigs, Tories and Radicals; to laugh at hostile votes in the Commons, and set the country at defiance to defend each other against the Crown and the people ; to cover ignorance, incapacity, corruption and bad faith? Would they bear such a state of things for a week? And yet your Lordship seems to think that we should bear it, for an indefinite period, with patience.
Now for this body I propose to substitute one sustained by at least a majority of the electors ; whose general principles are known and approved ; whom the Governor may dismiss, whenever they exceed their powers; and who may be discharged by the people whenever they abuse them ; who, instead of laying the blame, when attacked, upon the Governor, or the Secretary of State, shall be bound, as in England, to stand up and defend, against all comers, every appointment made and every act done under their administration. One of the first results of this change would be to infuse into every department of administration a sense of accountability which now is nowhere found —to give a vigorous action to every vein and artery now exhibiting torpidity and languor—and to place around the Governor and at the head of every department of public affairs the ablest men the colony could furnish ; men of energy and talent instead of the brainless sumphs, to whom the task of counselling the Governor or administering the affairs of an extensive department, is often committed under the present system. In England, whether Whigs, Tories or Radicals are in, the Queen is surrounded and the public departments managed, by some of the ablest men the kingdom can produce. But suppose a mere official faction could exclude all these great parties from power, how long would the Government possess the advantage of superior abilities to guide it ? Would it not at once fall far below the intellectual range it now invariably maintains ?
But it may be asked, Would not the sudden introduction of this system work injustice to some who have taken offices in the expectation of holding them for life ? Perhaps it might, but even if this were unavoidable, the interests of individuals should give way to the public good. The borough-mongers had the same objections to the Reform Act; recorders and town-clerks to that which cleansed the corporations. This, like all minor difficulties, might easily be provided for ; and I am sure that there are but few of those seeking to establish responsible government who desire to overturn even a bad system in a spirit of heartless vindictiveness.
THE LEGISLATIVE COUNCIL
The colonies, having no hereditary peerage, this body has been constructed to take its place. From the difficulty of making it harmonize with the popular branch, some politicians in Lower Canada—and it was said that the Earl of Durham at first inclined to the opinion—thought it might be abolished. I think there is no those of the mother country; and again, because a second legislative not entirely dependent upon popular favour, is useful to review check undue haste or corruption in the popular branch. Besides, I see no difficulty in maintaining its independence, and yet removing from it the character of annual conflict with the representative body, by which it has been everywhere distinguished.
The main object of the Executive Council being the preservation of a system by which they enjoy honours, office and patronage, uncontrolled and uninfluenced by the people, and they having the nomination of Legislative Councillors, of course they have always selected a majority of those whose interests and opinions were their own and who could help them to wrestle with and fight off the popular branch. Hence the constant collision and the general outcry against the second chamber. The simple remedy for all this appears to be to introduce the English tion of the Executive Council; and then the appointments to the Legislative will be more in accordance with public sentiment and they are now. I should have no objection to the Legislative Councillors holding their seats for life, by which their independence of the people would be secured, provided they were chosen fairly whom, from time to time, the constituency, as at home, entrusted and not as they are now selected, to serve a particular purpose and expressly to wrangle rather than to harmonize with the popular Lords includes men selected by all the administrations which the Britain have called into power. The House of Lords, in the colonies, have been created by all the administrations which the people never could influence or control. Some members of the second branch should, of course, have seats in the Executive Council, because in that chamber also, the acts and the policy of the Government would require to be explained; but here, as in England, though very desirable, it would not be essential that the administration should always be sustained by a majority in the Upper House.
One of the first effects of a change of system would be a decided improvement in the character of all the Colonial Assemblies. The great center of political power and influence would in the Provinces, as at home, be the House of Commons. Towards that body the able, the industrious, the eloquent and the wealthy, would press with ten times the ardour and unanimity which are now evinced ; because then, like its great prototype in Britain, it would be an open and fair arena, in which the choice spirits of the country would battle for a share in its administration, a participation in its expenditure and in the honour and influence which public employment confers. Now a bon vivant, who can entertain an aide-de-camp; a good-looking fellow, who dances with a Governor's lady ; or a cunning one, who can wheedle a clerk or an under-secretary in Downing Street, may be called to take a part in governing a province for the period of his natural life. Then, these disreputable and obscure channels of advancement would be closed ; and the country would understand the reason, and feel the necessity for every such appointment, and the population would be driven to cultivate those qualities which dignify and adorn our nature, rather than debase it. Now, any wily knave or subservient fool feels that his chance is as good as that of the most able and upright man in the colony; and far better, if the latter attempts to pursue an independent course ; then, such people would be brought to their proper level, and made to win their honours fairly before they were worn.
Another improvement would be the placing of the government of a colony, as it always is in England, in a majority in the Commons, watched, controlled, and yet aided by a constitutional opposition. Under the present system, the government of a colony is the opposition of the Commons and often presents in that body the most unseemly and ridiculous figure. Numberless instances might be given of this. The three Executive Councillors who sit in the Assembly of Nova Scotia, have been resisting, in miserable minorities, on a dozen divisions during the last two sessions, votes by which the Commons recorded a want of confidence in them and their party ; and, in fact, the Government, instead of taking the lead in public measures with the energy and ability which should belong to a government, cannot take a single step in the Assembly without the sanction of its opponents. Every emergency that arises and for which an administration ought to be secure of a majority, presents some absurd illustration of the system. When the border difficulties with the State of Maine occurred last winter, the Government of Nova Scotia had not the power to move a single man of the militia force (the laws having expired) or to vote a single shilling, until the majority came forward, as they always have done, in the most honourable manner, and, casting aside all political differences, passed laws for embodying the militia and granted £100,000 to carry on the war. But will your Lordship believe, will it be credited in England, that those who voted that money, who were responsible to their constituents for its expenditure and without whose consent (for they formed two-thirds of the Commons) a shilling could not have been drawn, had not a single man in the local cabinet by whom it was to be spent, and by whom in that trying emergency the Governor would be advised. Nor are things better when the Legislature is not in session. In consequence of the establishment of steam navigation, a despatch was sent out this spring, after the House was prorogued, requiring the Governor of this Province to put the main roads in thorough repair. Of course he had no means to accomplish the object, nor could his Executive Council guarantee that a single shilling thus expended would be replaced or that a vote of censure would not be passed upon him if he spent one; and to obviate the difficulty, they were seen consulting and endeavouring to propitiate the members of the majority, whose places, upon such terms, they are contented to occupy and to which, so far as I am concerned, if such humiliations are to be the penalty, they are heartily welcome.
It has been objected to the mode proposed, that it would lead to the rotation of office or extensive dismissals of subordinates, practised in the United States. But no person abhors that system more than myself, nor has it found any favour in the colonies, where the English practice is preferred, of removing the heads of departments only. To those who are afraid of the turmoil and excitement that would be produced, it is only necessary to say that if upon the large scale on which the principle is applied at home, there is no great inconvenience felt, how much less have we to fear where the population is not so dense, the competition not so active, nor the prizes so gigantic. A ministry that in England lasts two or three years is supposed to fulfil its mission ; and a quadrennial bill is considered unnecessary, because Parliament, on the average, seldom sits longer than three or four years. As, under a system of responsibility, the contest for power would be fought out here as it is in England, chiefly on the hustings; an administration would, therefore, last in Nova Scotia until the Quadrennial Bill was passed, for six years certainly—two years more than the Governor, unless specially continued, is expected to hold his appointment; and if it managed judiciously, there would be nothing to prevent it from holding the reins for twenty or thirty years. Of course, an Executive Council in the colonies should not be expected to resign upon every incidental and unimportant question connected with the details of government ; but, whenever a fair and decisive vote, by which it was evident that they had lost the confidence of the country, was registered against them, they should either change their policy, strengthen their hands by an accession of popular talents and principles, or abandon their seats and assume the duties and responsibilities of opposition. If there was any doubt as to what the nature of such votes should be, the parliamentary usage would be the guide on this as on all minor matters.
APPOINTMENTS, INTERNAL IMPROVEMENTS, ETC.
One of the greatest evils of the present form of government is that nothing like system or responsibility can be carried into any one branch of the public service. There are, exclusive of militia and road commissions, nearly nine hundred offices to be filled, in the Province of Nova Scotia alone ; all essential to the administration of internal affairs, not one of them having anything to do with imperial interests. And will it be believed in England that the whole of this patronage is in the hands of a body whom the people can never displace—that the vast majority in the Commons have not the slightest influence in its distribution—while the greatest idiot who gives his silent and subservient vote in the minority is certain of obtaining his reward ? But the evil does not stop here. It is utterly impossible for the people either to bring to punishment or to get rid of a single man of the whole nine hundred if the local-government chooses to protect him.
Perhaps the most cruel injury that the system inflicts upon the colonists, arises from the manner in which they are compelled to conduct their internal improvements. This has been noticed by Lord Durham. But perhaps his Lordship did not fully comprehend the reasons which render the mode—however anomalous and injurious—in some degree acceptable to the constituency, in order that other evils may be prevented, which might be a great deal worse. It will be perceived that the nine hundred offices already referred to, are generally distributed by the irresponsible official party in such a way as to buy their peace or strengthen their influence in the country. Let us see how this operates in practice. Suppose a county sends to the Assembly four representatives, all of whom support the local government; the patronage of that county is of course at their disposal to strengthen their hands and keep down all opposition ; but should the whole be hostile to the compact, then it is used to foster opposition and create a party to displace them. If there is a division of sentiment among the members, those who support are always aided in mortifying and getting rid of those who attack the Government. Though but one of the four is an adherent of the compact, every man in the county knows that his influence is worth much more than that of the other three; that while one can obtain any favour he wants for a friend or partisan, the others cannot, unless by the barter of a corrupt vote or the sacrifice of principle, even obtain justice. Now, if besides these nine hundred offices, about five hundred commissions for the expenditure of the surplus revenues of the country upon roads, bridges and internal improvements, were given over to be disposed of in the same way, the hands of the compact would be so much strengthened that it would be still more easy to create a party in a county, to endanger the .seat of any member who ventured to give an independent vote. To obviate this risk, which was seen at an early period to menace the independence of the Commons, it was determined that the members from each county should recommend the commissioners for the expenditure of moneys within it ; and this being acquiesced in by the Governors for some time before its political bearing was much regarded by the compacts, has grown into usage which they have not ventured openly to attack; although, as they still contend that the right of appointment is in the Executive, they seldom fail to show their power and vent their feelings, by petty alterations almost every year. The advantages of this arrangement are that the majority of this constituency —and not the minority, as in every other case—distribute the patronage under this branch of expenditure; and, as the members who name commissioners have a great deal of local knowledge, and are, moreover, responsible to the people, they can be called to account if they abuse this trust. But still, from the very nature of things, it is liable to abuse. Road commissions may be multiplied and sums unwisely expended to secure votes at the next election, or to reward, not a good road maker but a zealous partisan. The Executive has not the control it would have if these men were selected by the Government; and the legislative power, which should be used to unmask corruption, is sometimes abused to afford it shelter. The remedy which our compacts always suggest, like all their remedies for political discrepancies, aims at the extension of their own influence and the firmer establishment of their own power. They are loud, upon all occasions, in denouncing the corruption of the road system. The minority in the Assembly are eloquent on the same theme ; while, through the columns of some newspaper in their pay, they are always pouring forth complaints that the roads are wretchedly bad and will never be better until the expenditure is placed in their hands. It will be perceived, however, that to follow their advice, would be to make what is admitted on all hands to have its evils a great deal worse; because, if these nominations are taken from those who possess local information, and given to men who have little or none, who will not be advised by those who have, and who can be, called to account by no power known to the constitution ;besides a great deal more of blundering being the result, the partial responsibility, which now makes the system barely tolerable, would be entirely removed. Political partisans would still be rewarded ; but instead of all parties in the country sharing the patronage (for members of the minority, as well as of the majority, make these appointments), it would be confined to those only who supported the compact, and who, however imbecile, ignorant or corrupt, would then be, as every other officer in the colony is now, independent of any description of popular control. If any doubt could be entertained as to whether the public would lose or gain by the change, evidence enough might be gathered; for some of the vilest jobs and most flagrant cases of mismanagement that disgrace the history of the road service in Nova Scotia, have been left as monuments of the ignorance or folly of the compact, whenever they have taken these matters into their own hands.
But make the Governor's advisers responsible to the Assembly and the representatives would at once resign to them the management of such affairs. It would then be the business of the Executive, instead of leaving the road service to the extemporaneous zeal or corrupt management of individuals, to come prepared, at the commencement of each session, with a general review of the whole system ; and supported by its majority, to suggest and to carry a comprehensive and intelligible scheme, embracing the whole of this service, accounting for the previous year's expenditure and appointments, and accepting the suggestions of members as to the plans of the current year. We should then have an Executive to which every commissioner would be directly account-able; to which he could apply for instructions from January to December; and which, being itself responsible, would be careful of its proceedings ; and yet, being more independent than individual members are in dealing with their own constituents, would be more firm and unyielding where it was right. This is the simple and I am satisfied the only safe remedy for the abuses of the road system. To take the distribution of commissions from fifty men, possessed of much local knowledge and partially responsible, to give it to twelve others having less information and subject to no control, would be an act of madness. Fortunately, in this, as in all other cases, we have no occasion to seek for new theories or try unsafe experiments ; let us adopt the good old practices of our ancestors and of our brethren; let us "keep the old paths," in which, while there is much facility, there is no danger.
My Lord, there is an argument used against the introduction of Executive responsibility, by Sir Francis Head, which it may be well to notice, because it has been caught up by shallow thinkers everywhere, and is often urged with an air of triumph, that to those who look beyond the surface, is somewhat ridiculous. It is said, if this principle had been in operation, Papineau and Mackenzie would have been ministers in the respective Provinces they disturbed 1 But do those who urge this objection ever stay to inquire whether, if there had been responsibility in the Canadas, either of these men could have assumed so much consequence as to be able to obstruct the operations of government and create a rebellion in a British Province ? Nothing made a dictator tolerable in ancient Rome but a sense of common danger, arising out of some unusual and disastrous posture of affairs, which rendered it necessary to confide to an individual extraordinary powers—to raise one man far above all others of his own rank—to substitute his will for the ordinary routine of administration and to make the words of his mouth the law of the land. When the danger passed away, the dictator passed away with it. Power, no longer combined in one mighty stream, the eccentric violence of which though useful might be destructive, was distributed over the surface of society and flowed again through a thousand small but well-established channels, everywhere stimulating and refreshing but nowhere exciting alarm. In political warfare, this practice of the ancients has been followed by the moderns with good success. O'Connell in Ireland, and Papineau and Mackenzie in Canada, grew into importance from the apparent necessity which existed for large masses of men to bestow upon individuals unlimited confidence and invest them with extraordinary powers. I wish that the two latter, instead of provoking the maddest rebellions on record, had possessed the sound sense and consummate prudence which have marked every important step of the former's extraordinary career. But who believes, if Ireland had had " justice " instead of having it to seek, that ever such a political phenomenon as the great agitator would have appeared to challenge our admiration and smite the oppressors with dismay? And who dreams that but for the wretched system upheld in all the colonies, and the entire absence of responsibility, by which faction or intrigue were made the only roads to power, either of the Canadian demagogues would ever have had an inducement or been placed in a position to disturb the public peace? I grant that even under the forms which I recommend, such men as Papineau and Mackenzie might have existed; that they might have become conspicuous and influential; and that it is by no means improbable that they would have been Executive Councillors of their respective Provinces, advising the Governors and presiding over the administration of their internal affairs. But suppose they had; would not even this have been better than two rebellions—the scenes at Windsor, St. Charles and St. Eustache—the frontier atrocities—and the expenditure of three millions sterling, which will be the cost before the accounts are closed? Does any man in his senses believe, if Mackenzie or Bidwell could have guided the internal policy and dispensed the local patronage according to the British mode, that either of them would have been so mad as to dream of turning Upper Canada into a republic; when, even if they succeeded, they could only hope to be Governors for a few years with powers very much more restricted and salaries not more ample than were theirs for life or as long as they preserved their majority? Possessed of honours and substantial power (not made to feel that they who could most effectually serve the Crown were excluded by a false system from its favour that others less richly endowed might rise upon their ruins), would these men have madly rushed into rebellion with the chances before them of expatriation or of an ignominious death?
You well know, my Lord, that rebels have become exceedingly scarce at home since the system of letting the majority govern has become firmly established, and yet they were as plenty as blackberries in the good old times, when the sovereigns contended, as Sir Francis Head did lately, that they only were responsible. Turn back and you will find that they began to disappear altogether in England about 1688, and that every political change which makes the Executive more completely responsible to the Legislature and the Legislature to the country at large, renders the prospects of a new growth, "small by degrees and beautifully less." And yet, my Lord, who can assure us, that if the sovereigns had continued, as of old, alone responsible; if hundreds of able men, all running the same course of honourable ambition, had not been encouraged to watch and control each other ; and if the system of governing by the minority and not by the majority and of excluding from power all who did not admire the mode and quarrelled with the court, had existed down to the present day; who, I ask, will assure us, that Chatham and Fox, instead of being able ministers and loyal men, might not have been sturdy rebels? Who can say that even your Lordship, possessed of the strong attachment to liberty which distinguishes your family, might not,—despairing of all good government under such a system,—instead of using your influence to extend by peaceful improvements the happiness of the people, be at this moment in the field at their head and struggling, sword in hand, to abate the power of the Crown ? So long as the irresponsibility principle was maintained in Scotland and the viceroys and a few bishops and courtiers engrossed the administration, there were such men as Hume and Lindsay, and such things as assemblies in Glasgow, general tables in Edinburgh, and armed men in every part of that noble country, weakening the Government and resisting the power of the Crown ; and up to the period when Lord Normanby assumed the government of Ireland and it became a principle of administration that the minority were no longer to control the majority and shut them out from all the walks of honourable ambition, what was the attitude in which Mr. O'Connell stood towards the Sovereign ? Was it not one of continual menace and hostility, by which the latter was degraded and the former clothed with a dangerous importance ? And what is his attitude now ? Is it not that of a warm-hearted supporter of the Queen, whose smiles are no longer confined to a faction but shed over a nation, every man of which feels that he is free to obtain, if he has ability and good fortune to deserve, the highest honours in her power to bestow ? Daniel O'Connell (and perhaps it may be said that his tail suggested the comparison) is no longer a political comet blazing towards the zenith and filling the terror-stricken beholders with apprehensions of danger and a sense of coming change ; but a brilliant planet, revolving in an orbit with the extent of which all are familiar and reflecting back to the source of light and honour the beams which it is proud to share. Who any longer believes that O'Connell is to shake the empire and overturn the throne ? And who doubts, had he despaired of justice, but he too might have been a rebel and that the continued application to Ireland of the principles I denounce, would have revived the scenes and the sufferings through which she passed in 1798 ?
If, my Lord, in every one of the three great kingdoms from which the population of British America derive their origin, the evils of which we complain were experienced and continued until the principles we claim as our birthright became firmly established, is it to be expected that we shall not endeavour to rid ourselves, by respectful argument and remonstrance, of what cost you open and violent resistance to put down ? Can an Englishman, an Irishman or a Scotchman, be made to believe, by passing a month upon the sea, that the most stirring periods of his history are but a cheat and a delusion ; that the scenes which he has been accustomed to tread with deep emotion are but mementoes of the folly and not, as he once fondly believed, of the wisdom and courage of his ancestors ; that the principles of civil liberty, which from childhood he has been taught to cherish and to protect by forms of stringent responsibility, must, with the new light breaking in upon him on this side of the Atlantic, be cast aside as an useless incumbrance ? No, my Lord, it is madness to suppose that these men, so remarkable for carrying their national characteristics into every part of the world where they penetrate, shall lose the most honourable of them all, merely by passing from one portion of the empire to another. Nor is it to be supposed that Nova Scotians, New Brunswickers and Canadians—a race sprung from the generous admixture of the blood of the three foremost nations of the world—proud of their parentage and not unworthy of it, to whom every stirring period of British and Irish history, every great principle which they teach, every phrase of freedom to be gleaned from them, are as familiar as household words, can be in haste to forget what they learnt upon their parents' knees; what those they loved and honoured clung to with so much pride and regarded as beyond all price. Those who expect them thus to belie their origin or to disgrace it, may as soon hope to see the streams turn back upon their fountains. My Lord, my countrymen feel, as they have a right to feel, that the Atlantic, the great highway of communication with their brethren at home, should be no barrier to shut out the civil privileges and political rights, which more than anything else, make them proud of the connection; and they feel also, that there is nothing in their present position or their past conduct to warrant such exclusion. Whatever impression may have been made by the wholesome satire wherewith one of my countrymen has endeavoured to excite the others to still greater exertions, those who fancy that Nova Scotians are an inferior race to those who dwell upon the ancient, homestead or that they will be contented with a less degree of freedom, know little of them. A country that a century ago was but a wilderness and is now studded with towns and villages, and intersected with roads, even though more might have been done under a better system, affords some evidence of industry. Nova Scotian ships, bearing the British flag into every quarter of the globe, are some proofs of enterprise; and the success of the native author, to whom I have alluded, in the wide field of intellectual competition, more than contradicts the humorous exaggeration by which, while we are stimulated to higher efforts, others may be for a moment misled. If then our right to inherit the constitution be clear, if our capacity to maintain and enjoy it cannot be questioned, have we done anything to justify the alienation of our birthright? Many of the original settlers of this Province emigrated from the old colonies when they were in a state of rebellion—not because they did not love freedom, but because they loved it under the old banner and the old forms ; and many of their descendants have shed their blood, on land and sea, to defend the honour of the Crown and the integrity of the empire. On some of the hardest fought fields of the Peninsula, my countrymen died in the front rank, with their faces to the foe. The proudest naval trophy of the last American war was brought by a Nova Scotian into the harbour of his native town; and the blood that flowed from Nelson's death wound in the cockpit of the Victory mingled with that of a Nova Scotian stripling beside him, struck down in the same glorious fight. Am I not then justified, my Lord, in claiming for my countrymen that constitution, which can be withheld from them by no plea but one unworthy of a British statesman—the tyrant's plea of power? I know that I am; and I feel also, that this is not the race that can be hoodwinked with sophistry, or made to submit to injustice without complaint. All suspicion of disloyalty we cast aside, as the product of ignorance or cupidity; we seek for nothing more than British subjects are entitled to; but we will be contented with nothing less.
My Lord, it has been said, that if this system of responsibility were established, it would lead to a constant struggle for office and influence, which would be injurious to the habits of our population and corrupt the integrity of public men. That it would lead to the former I admit ; but that the latter would be a consequence I must take leave to deny, until it can be shown, that in any of the other employments of life, fair competition has that effect. Let the bar become the bar only of the minority, and how long would there be honour and safety in the profession ? Let the rich prizes to be won in commerce and finance be confined to a mere fragment, instead of being open to the whole population, and I doubt whether the same benefits, the same integrity, or the same satisfaction would grace the monopoly, that now spring from an open, fair and manly competition, by which, while individuals prosper, wealth and prosperity are gathered to the state. To be satisfied that this fair competition can with safety and the greatest advantage be carried into public as well as private affairs, it is only necessary to contrast the example of England with that of any continental nation where the opposite system has been pursued. And if in England the struggle for influence and office has curbed corruption and produced examples of consistency and an adherence to principle extremely rare in other countries, and in none more so than in the colonies, where the course pursued strikes at the very root of manly independence, why should we apprehend danger from its introduction or shrink from the peaceful rivalry it may occasion? But, my Lord, there is another view that ought to be taken of this question. Ought not British statesmen to ask themselves, is it wise to leave a million and a half of people, virtually excluded from all participation in the honourable prizes of public life 7 There is not a weaver's apprentice or a parish orphan in England, that does not feel that he may, if he has the talent, rise through every grade of office, municipal and national, to hold the reins of government and influence the destinies of a mighty empire. The Queen may be hostile, the Lords may chafe, but neither can prevent that weaver's apprentice or that parish orphan from becoming Prime Minister of England. Then look at the United States, in which the son of a mechanic in the smallest town, of a squatter in the wildest forest, may contend, on equal terms, with the proudest, for any office in twenty-eight different States ; and having won as many as contents him, may rise, through the national grades, to be President of the Union. There are no family compacts to exclude these aspirants ; no little knots of irresponsible and self-elected councillors, to whom it is necessary to sell their principles, and before whom the manliness of their nature must be prostrated, before they can advance. But, in the colonies, where there are no prizes so splendid as these, is it wise or just to narrow the field and confine to little cliques of irresponsible politicians, what prizes there are ? No, my Lord, it is neither just nor wise. Every poor boy in Nova Scotia (for we have the feelings of pride and ambition common to our nature) knows that he has the same right to the honours and emoluments of office as he would have if he lived in Britain or the United States; and he feels, that while the great honours of the empire are almost beyond his reach, he ought to have a chance of dispensing the patronage and guiding the administration of his native country without any sacrifice of principle or diminution of self-respect.
My Lord, I have done. If what has been written corrects any error into which your Lordship or others may have fallen and communicates to some, either in Britain or the colonies, information upon a subject not generally under-stood, I shall be amply repaid. Your Lordship will perhaps pardon me for reminding you that, in thus eschewing the anonymous and - putting my name to an argument in favour of Executive responsibility for the North American colonies, I am acting under a sense of deep responsibility myself. I well know that there is not a press in the pay of any of the family compacts, that will not misrepresent my motives and pervert my language ; that there is not an over-paid and irresponsible official, from Fundy to the Ottawa, whose inextinguishable hostility I shall not have earned for the remainder of my life. The example of your Lordship will however help me to bear these burdens with patience. You have lived and prospered, and done the state good service, and yet thousands of corrupt boroughmongers and irresponsible corporators formerly misrepresented and hated you. Should I live to see the principles for which I contend operating as beneficially over British North America, as those immortal acts, which provoked your Lordship's enemies, do in the mother country, I shall be gratified by the reflection that the patriotic and honourable men now contending for the principles of the British Constitution, and by whose side as an humble auxiliary I am proud to take my stand, whatever they may have suffered in the struggle, did not labour in vain.—I have the honour to be, with the highest respect, your Lordship's humble admirer, and most obedient servant,