Puslapio vaizdai

THE GOVERNOR-GENERAL'S CENSURE among the great mass of thinking people; and it was impossible for the Radicals of Lower Canada to persuade their compatriots that their special institutions, so dear to their hearts, could be safely entrusted to their American republican neighbours. All the men who, in the thoughtlessness of youth or in a moment of great excitement, signed the manifesto-notably the Molsons, the Redpaths, Luther H. Holton, John Rose, David Lewis MacPherson, A. A. Dorion, E. Goff Penny-became prominent in the later public and commercial life of British North America, as ministers of the Crown, judges, senators, millionaires, and all devoted subjects of the British sovereign.

When Lord Elgin found that the manifesto contained the signatures of several persons holding office by commission from the Queen, he made an immediate inquiry into the matter, and gave expression to the displeasure of the Crown by removing from office those who confessed that they had signed the objectionable document, or declined to give any answer to the queries he had addressed to them. His action on this occasion was fully justified by the imperial government, which instructed him "to resist to the utmost any attempt that might be made to bring about a separation of Canada from the British dominions." But while Lord Elgin, as the representative of the Queen, was compelled by a stern sense of duty to condemn such acts of infidelity to the empire, he did not conceal from

himself that there was a great deal in the economic conditions of the provinces which demanded an immediate remedy before all reason for discontent could disappear. He did not fail to point out to Lord Grey that it was necessary to remove the causes of the public irritation and uneasiness by the adoption of measures calculated to give a stimulus to Canadian industry and commerce. "Let me then assure your Lordship," he wrote in November 1849, "and I speak advisedly in offering this assurance, that the dissatisfaction now existing in Canada, whatever may be the forms with which it may clothe itself, is due mainly to commercial causes. I do not say that there is no discontent on political grounds. Powerful individuals and even classes of men are, I am well aware, dissatisfied with the conduct of affairs. But I make bold to affirm that so general is the belief that, under the present circumstances of our commercial condition, the colonists pay a heavy pecuniary fine for their fidelity to Great Britain, that nothing but the existence of an unwonted degree of political contentment among the masses has prevented the cry for annexation from spreading like wildfire through the province." He then proceeded again to press upon the consideration of the government the necessity of following the removal of the imperial restrictions upon navigation and shipping in the colony, by the establishment of a reciprocity of trade between the United States and the British North American


Provinces. The change in the navigation laws took place in 1849, but it was not possible to obtain larger trade with the United States until several years later, as we shall see in a future chapter when we come to review the relations between that country and Canada.

Posterity has fully justified the humane, patient and discreet constitutional course pursued by Lord Elgin during one of the most trying ordeals through which a colonial governor ever passed. He had the supreme gratification, however, before he left the province, of finding that his policy had met with that success which is its best eulogy and justification. Two years after the events of 1849, he was able to write to England that he did not believe that "the function of the governor-general under constitutional government as the moderator between parties, the representative of interests which are common to all the inhabitants of the country, as distinct from those that divide them into parties, was ever so fully and so frankly recognized." He was sure that he could not have achieved such results if he had had blood upon his hands. His business was "to humanize, not to harden." One of Canada's ablest men—not then in politics-had said to him: "Yes, I see it all now, you were right, a thousand times right, though I thought otherwise then. I own that I would have reduced Montreal to ashes before I would have endured half of what you did," and he added, "I should have been justified, too."

"Yes," answered Lord Elgin, "you would have been justified because your course would have been perfectly defensible; but it would not have been the best course. Mine was a better one." And the result was this, in his own words: "700,000 French reconciled to England, not because they are getting rebel money; I believe, indeed that no rebels will get a farthing; but because they believe that the British governor is just. 'Yes,' but you may say, 'this is purchased by the alienation of the British.' Far from it, I took the whole blame upon myself; and I will venture to affirm that the Canadian British were never so loyal as they are at this hour; [this was, remember, two years after the burning of Parliament House] and, what is more remarkable still, and more directly traceable to this policy of forbearance, never, since Canada existed, has party spirit been more moderate, and the British and French races on better terms than they are now; and this in spite of the withdrawal of protection, and of the proposal to throw on the colony many charges which the imperial government has hitherto borne."

Canadians at the beginning of the twentieth century may also say as Lord Elgin said at the close of this letter, Magna est Veritas.




HE LaFontaine-Baldwin government remained in office until October, 1851, when it was constitutionally dissolved by the retirement of the prime minister soon after the resignation of his colleague from Upper Canada, whose ability as a statesman and integrity as a man had given such popularity to the cabinet throughout the country. It has been well described by historians as "The Great Ministry." During its existence Canada obtained a full measure of self-government in all provincial affairs. Trade was left perfectly untrammeled by the repeal in June, 1849, of the navigation laws, in accordance with the urgent appeals of the governor-general to the colonial secretary. The immediate results were a stimulus to the whole commerce of the province, and an influx of shipping to the ports of the St. Lawrence. The full control of the post-office was handed over to the Canadian government. This was one of the most popular concessions made to the Canadian people, since it gave them opportunities for cheaper circulation of letters and newspapers, so necessary in a new and sparsely settled country, where the people were

« AnkstesnisTęsti »