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duties on spirits and molasses, of which the proceeds were declared applicable by the Lords of the Treasury to the civil and judicial expenses of the colony. Both these statutes were intended, and were accepted, as valuable concessions. One proof of the contentment of the people at this time was their successful resistance to an invasion by the Americans in 1774 ; a resistance which, to their honour be it spoken, they have never failed to offer whenever an enemy to Great Britain has entered their territory. In 1791 was passed the Act, commonly called the Constitutional. Act, which continues to regulate the form of government in the Canadas. It divided the former province of Quebec into the two provinces of Upper and Lower Canada, and conferred upon each a legislature consisting of a Governor, Legislative Council, and Assembly, designed to bear as near an analogy as circumstances would admit to the King, Lords, and Commons, of the Parent State.
For several years after this statute was passed, no collision took place between the Colonial Legislature and the Government at home. Local differences of more or less consequence prevailed from time to time, but the mother-country did not become involved in them. In 1812 the Canadians were amongst the foremost, and for a time almost the only, defenders of their country against the Americans.* In 1818, however, a change took
* A circumstance this, by the way, which a recent writer in the “ Spectator” astutely observes, shows that they were no
place in the system of administration, which, however necessary and proper, gave the first occasion for the dissensions that sprung up soon after that date between the Assembly and the Government.
The expenditure of the colony had hitherto been defrayed out of permanent revenues within the control of the Crown, and the deficiency, as they were not equal to the whole demand, was annually supplied by the House of Commons. The Assembly offered to relieve the British Parliament of this charge, but the offer was not at first accepted. In 1818, however, the peace having occurred, and retrenchment being anxiously sought after in all directions that admitted of it, a different course was adopted, and from that time the Assembly was applied to for supplying the deficiencies of the
permanent grants which the Government considered to be at its own disposal.
better than Frenchmen. Had they been Englishmen, doubtless it would have been a more natural course to turn their arms against England. Perhaps, however, if this writer should be able to bestow his time again on the subject, he may find it not unedifying to inquire what course was pursued by the English Militia of Upper Canada on the same occasion. Or should he cast his eye on the history of Englishmen and Frenchmen in Europe, he may possibly discover that in any part of the world it is no more the exclusive characteristic of one than the other of these two noble races of men, to repel foreign aggression, from whatever quarter it may come. Let us hope that they may be equally proof against the “ malice domestic,” which in Parliament and elsewhere would now teach them so different a lesson.
In the progress
It was not long after the introduction of this practice that financial differences broke out between the several officers successively in the administration of the Government and the Assembly, in which, however, the Assembly, being at first clearly in the right, speedily prevailed; but fresh matter of dispute did not cease to arise. of the dissension, one governor had recourse to the unwarrantable measure of ordering the issue of the Provincial funds by his own authority. The Assembly, on the other hand, steadily and unremittingly enlarged upon its demands. It soon denied the right of the Crown to the control of the permanent grants which had up to that time been considered at its disposal.
With respect, especially, to the duties under the 14 Geo. 3. c. 88., which had always been applied to the support of the Provincial Government by authority of the Lords of the Treasury, to whose appropriation they were by the terms of the statute consigned, the Assembly asserted that as the famous “ Declaratory Act” of 1778, not merely announced that Great Britain would not after the passing of that act tax her colonies except for the regulation of trade, but added that any taxes of that nature should be applied by the same authorities as applied any Provincial duties levied in the same colony : this enactment deprived the Lords of the Treasury of the right to appropriate the proceeds of the 14 Geo. 3., and transferred it to the House of Assembly. The answer was, that the act of 1778, being entirely prospective, could not supersede the provisions of the act of 1774 ; that the Lords of the Treasury, therefore, had not the power, even if they had the wish, to decline the office imposed upon them by the lastnamed statute, and that an extensive and undisputed usage
in various colonies besides Lower Canada might be adduced in support of this view, which, moreover, was fortified and confirmed by an opinion of the law-officers of the Crown. There can be no doubt that in this controversy the Assembly was wrong in what it maintained to be the actual law. With respect, on the other hand, to what the law ought to be, it will be seen presently that their views were acceded to at home, and that a change was made accordingly.
These several debates on pecuniary matters did not proceed without attracting attention to various other topics of complaint. In the midst of them, too, great sums having accumulated in the hands of the Receiver-General, that officer failed to the amount of upwards of 96,000l.* The end was, that the discontents were brought before the British Parliament in 1828, by petitions signed by no less than 87,000 persons, and brought over by three delegates named for the purpose, praying for redress of grievances. The petitions were referred to á Committee of the House of Commons.
* It has been deemed an unanswerable grievance that this money has not been repaid by Great Britain. But although the omission to take sufficient pecuniary securities may be an evidence of mismanagement, and the failure of the individual be proof that he was not well selected, yet it may be doubted whether one part of an empire is to be assumed to guarantee another against the errors of their common government. It may be doubted whether Canada has any more right to call on Great Britain to bear the defalcation of servants in the colony, than Great Britain has to call on Canada to bear defalcations here: “ Where the tree falls, there it must lie.” Be that as it may, and the question, no doubt, admits of dispute, what is certain is, that the Province now has in its hands a very valuable landed estate of Sir John Caldwell's, for which 150,0001. were offered a couple of years ago, while the remaining principal of his debt to the Province does not exceed 82,000l. ; and that, the sale having been deferred till it can be effected to the satisfaction of the House of Assembly, a receiver is in the meanwhile appointed to gather the rents and profits on behalf of the Province. The judgment against Sir John Caldwell was given without interest.--Commons' Papers, No. 356. 1837. p. 5.
The sitting of this committee in 1828 forms a very important æra in the history of Canadian affairs. The opinion of the writer of these pages (and he wishes to lay particular stress on the admission contained in the first part of it) is, that up that period the Assembly was right in almost every one of the complaints which it preferred, and that in a renewed statement which it made of the same and of some additional grievances in 1831, it acted in good faith, and with good reason; but that when the whole of those grievances were put into course of adjustment, and several of the most distinguished, the most able, and most upright of the former adversaries of government were thus detached from