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CALLED ON TO FORM MINISTRY.-CORRESPONDENCE WITH SIR
The next general election took place late in the autumn of 1857. Mr. Brown did not again offer himself for the county of Lambton. This was a great disappointment to the electors of that county. Mr. Brown was, unwisely, persuaded to offer himself for the city of Toronto, with a fair prospect, no doubt, of carrying the metropolitan constituency, but it withdrew his active efforts necessarily from other places, and enabled him to win one important place probably at the expense of the loss of several other counties. The uncertainty always more or less felt as to city elections induced Mr. Brown's friends to secure a seat elsewhere. He was accordingly elected for North Oxford. When parliament met he decided to sit for Toronto, and induced Oxford, with some difficulty, to elect Mr. Wm. McDougall. The old issues of 1851 and 1854 respecting ecclesiastical corporations, sectarian schools, the course pursued by ministers and representation by population, formed the most engrossing subjects of discussion at the elections.
The new parliament met on the 25th February. The ministry had a majority varying from ten to thirty in their favour, although on the representation question they could only command a majority of twelve. On the following motion, respecting the selection of Ottawa for the seat of government, on the 28th day of July: "That in the "opinion of this House the city of Ottawa ought not to be the 66 permanent seat of government for the provinces," the ministry were defeated by a majority of fourteen. Ministers at once placed their resignations in the hands of the Governor-General, who promptly accepted them. He at once sent for Mr. Brown, "as the most promi"nent member of the opposition." In order that the circumstances connected with Mr. Brown's acceptance of office may be thoroughly understood, the official correspondence between the Governor-General and Mr. Brown is here inserted.
On Thursday, 29th July, the following note was received by Mr. Brown:
TORONTO, Thursday, 29th July, 1858
The members of the Executive Council have tendered their resignation to His Excellency the Governor-General, and they now retain their several offices only till their successors shall be appointed.
Under these circumstances, His Excellency feels it right to have recourse to you as the most prominent member of the opposition, and he hereby offers you a seat in the council as the leader of a new administration. In the event of your accepting this offer, His Excellency requests you to signify such acceptance to him in writing, in order that he may be at once in a position to confer with you as one of his responsible advisers.
His Excellency's first object will be to consult you as to the names of your future colleagues, and as to the assignment of the offices about to be vacated, to the men most capable of filling them.
GEORGE BROWN, Esq., M.P.P.
Immediately on the receipt of this document, Mr. Brown waited on the Governor-General, and asked time to consult his friends.
On Friday morning Mr. Brown waited on the Governor-General by appointment, and stated that he was engaged consulting his friends, but would next morning give His Excellency a final answer.
On Saturday morning Mr. Brown waited on His Excellency with the following acceptance of the trust proposed to him :
Mr. Brown has the honour to inform His Excellency the GovernorGeneral, that he accepts the duty proposed to him in His Excellency's communication of 29th inst., and undertakes the formation of a new administration.
CHURCH STREET, 31st July, 1858.
On Sunday night at ten o'clock, Mr. Brown was waited on by the Governor-General's secretary, and presented with the following memorandum :
His Excellency the Governor-General forwards the enclosed memorandum to Mr. Brown to-night, because it may be convenient for him to have it in his hand in good time to-morrow morning.
The part which relates to a dissolution is in substance a repetition of what His Excellency said yesterday at his interview with Mr. Brown.
The portion having reference to the prorogation or adjournment of parliament is important in determining the propriety of the course to be pursued.
His Excellency therefore requests Mr. Brown to communicate the memorandum to his future colleagues, in order to avoid all misapprehension hereafter.
GOVERNMENT HOUSE, TORONTO,
August 1, 1858.
His Excellency the Governor-General wishes Mr. Brown to consider this memorandum, and to communicate it to the gentlemen whose names he proposes to submit to His Excellency as members of the new government.
The Governor-General gives no pledge or promise, express or implied, with reference to dissolving parliament. When advice is tendered to His Excellency on this subject, he will make up his mind according to the circumstances then existing, and the reasons then laid before him.
The Governor-General has no objection to prorogue the parliament without the members of the new administration taking their seats in the present session. But if he does so, it ought, His Excellency thinks, to be
on an express understanding that parliament shall meet again as soon as possible say in November or December. Until the new ministers meet parliament, His Excellency has no assurance that they possess the confidence of the majority of the House.
The business transacted in the interval ought, in his opinion, to be confined to matters necessary for the ordinary administration of the government of the province.
If Parliament is prorogued, His Excellency would think it very desirable that the Bill for the Registration of Voters, and that containing the prohibition of fraudulent assignments and gifts by traders, should be proceeded with and become law-subject, of course, to such modifications as the wisdom of either House may suggest. Besides this, any item of supply absolutely necessary should be provided for by a vote of credit, and the money for repairs of the canals, which cannot be postponed, should be voted.
His Excellency can hardly prorogue until these necessary steps are taken. If parliament merely adjourns until after the re-election of the members of the government, the case is different, and the responsibility is on the House itself. A prorogation is the act of His Excellency; and, in this particular case, such act would be performed without the advice of ministers who had already received the confidence of parliament. His Excellency's own opinion would be in favour of proroguing, if the conditions above specified can be fulfilled, and if Mr. Brown and his colleagues see no objection.
GOVERNMENT HOUSE, Toronto,
July 31, 1858.
Early on Monday morning Mr. Brown, on his own personal responsibility, and without consulting his proposed colleagues, sent the following note to the Governor-General :
Mr. Brown has the honour to acknowledge receipt of His Excellency the Governor-General's note of last night, with accompanying memorandum.
Before receiving His Excellency's note, Mr. Brown had successfully fulfilled the duty entrusted to him by the Governor-General, and will be prepared, at the appointed hour this morning, to submit for His Excellency's approval the names of the gentlemen whom he proposes to be associated with himself in the new government.
Mr. Brown respectfully submits that, until they have assumed the functions of constitutional advisers of the Crown, he and his proposed colleagues will not be in a position to discuss the important measures and questions of public policy referred to in His Excellency's memorandum. CHURCH STREET, 2nd August.
On Monday morning at half-past ten, Mr. Brown waited on His Excellency, and submitted for his approval the names of the proposed government. At noon, on the same day, the members of the government took the oaths of office. On Monday night adverse votes were given against the administration in both Houses. On Tuesday Mr. Brown waited on His Excellency, and informed him that the cabinet advised a prorogation of parliament with a view to a dissolution. The Governor-General requested the grounds of this advice to be put in writing. In compliance with His Excellency's request, the following memorandum was communicated to the Governor-General:
MEMORANDUM FOR THE CONSIDERATION OF HIS EXCELLENCY THE
His Excellency's present advisers having accepted office on His Excellency's invitation, after the late administration had, by their resignation, admitted their inability successfully to conduct the affairs of the country in a parliament summoned under their own advice, and being unanimously of opinion that the constitutional recourse of an appeal to the people affords the best if not the only solution of existing difficulties, respectfully advise His Excellency to prorogue parliament immediately with a view to a dissolution.
When His Excellency's present advisers accepted office, they did not conceal from themselves the probability that they would be unable to carry on the government with the present House of Assembly. The House, they believe, does not possess the confidence of the country; and the public dissatisfaction has been greatly increased by the numerous and glaring acts of corruption and fraud by which many seats were obtained at the last general election, and for which acts the House, though earnestly petitioned so to do, has failed to afford a remedy.
For some years past strong sectional feelings have arisen in the country, which, especially during the present session, have seriously impeded the carrying on of the administrative and legislative functions of the government. The late administration made no attempt to meet these difficulties, or to suggest a remedy for them, and thereby the evil has been greatly aggravated. His Excellency's present advisers have entered the government with the fixed determination to propose constitutional measures for the establishment of that harmony between Upper and Lower Canada which is essential to the prosperity of the Province. They respectfully submit that they have a right to claim all the support which His Excellency can constitutionally extend to them in the prosecution of this allimportant object.
The unprecedented and unparliamentary course pursued by the House of Assembly-which, immediately after having by their vote compelled the late ministry to retire, proceeded to pass a vote of want of confidence in the present administration, without notice, within a few hours of their appointment, in their absence from the House, and before their policy had been announced-affords the most convincing proof that the affairs of the country cannot be efficiently conducted under the control of the House as now constituted.
At two o'clock this day the following memorandum was received from the Governor-General :
His Excellency the Governor-General has received the advice of the Executive Council to the effect that a dissolution of parliament should take place.
His Excellency is no doubt bound to deal fairly with all political parties; but he has a duty to perform to the Queen and the people of Canada paramount to that which he owes to any one party, or to all parties whatsoever.
The question for His Excellency to decide is not, "What is advantageous or fair for a particular party?" but what, upon the whole, is the most advantageous and fair for the people of the province.
The resignation of the late government was tendered in consequence of a vote of the House which did not assert directly any want of confidence in them.
The vote on Monday was a direct vote of want of confidence on the part of both Houses. It was carried in the assembly by a majority of forty, in a house of a hundred and two, out of one hundred and thirty members, consequently by a majority of the whole house, even if every seat had been full at the time of the vote.
In addition to this a similar vote was carried in the upper House by sixteen against eight, and an address founded on the same was adopted.
It is clear that, under such circumstances, a dissolution, to be of any avail, must be immediate. His Excellency the Governor-General cannot do any act other than that of dissolving parliament by the advice of a ministry who possess the confidence of neither branch of the legislature.
It is not the duty of the Governor-General to decide whether the action of the two Houses on Monday night was or was not in accordance with the usual courtesy of parliament towards an incoming administration. The two Houses are the judges of the propriety of their own proceedings. His Excellency has to do with the conclusions at which they arrive, provided only that the forms observed are such as to give legal and constitutional force to their votes.
There are many points which require careful consideration with reference to a dissolution at the present time. Amongst these are the following:
1. It has been alleged that the present House may be assumed not to represent the people. If such were the case, there was no sufficient reason why, on being in a minority in that house, the late government should have given place to the present. His Excellency cannot constitutionally adopt this view.
2. An election took place only last winter. This fact is not conclusive against a second election now, but the costs and inconvenience of such a proceeding are so great, that they ought not to be incurred a second time without very strong grounds.
3. The business before parliament is not yet finished. It is perhaps true that very little which is absolutely essential for the country remains to be done. A portion, however, of the estimates, and two bills at least, of great importance, are still before the Legislative Assembly, irrespective of the private business.
In addition to this, the resolutions respecting the Hudson Bay Territory have not been considered, and no answer on that subject can be given to the British Government.
4. The time of year and state of affairs would make a general election at this moment peculiarly inconvenient and burthensome, inasmuch as the harvest is now going on in a large portion of the country, and the pressure of the late money crisis has not passed away.
5. The following considerations are strongly pressed by His Excellency's present advisers as reasons why he should authorize an appeal to the people, and thereby retain their services in the council.
(1.) The corruption and bribery alleged to have been practised at the last election, and the taint which on that account is said to attach to the present Legislative Assembly.
(2.) The existence of a bitter sectional feeling between Upper and Lower Canada, and the ultimate danger to the union as at present constituted, which is likely to arise from such feeling.
If the first of these points be assumed as true, it must be asked what assurance can His Excellency have that a new election, under precisely the same laws, held within six or eight months of the last, will differ in its character from that which then took place?
If the facts are as they are stated to be, they might be urged as a reason why a general election should be avoided as long as possible; at any rate until the laws are made more stringent, and the precautions against such evils shall have been increased by the wisdom of parliament. Until this is done, the speedy recurrence of the opportunity of practising such abuses would be likely to aggravate their character, and confirm the habit of resorting to them.
The second consideration, as to the feeling between Upper and Lower Canada, and the ultimate danger of such feelings to the union, is one of a very grave kind. It would furnish to His Excellency the strongest possible