The Revolt of French Canada, 1800-1835: A Chapter of the History of the British Commonwealth

By Helen Taft Manning | Go to book overview

XVI
The Mind of Parliament

I

I am glad that the supreme power of the British Parliament to deal with defects or difficulties of this nature, and to reform the previous acts of legislature in regard to the government of our Canadian territories, cannot be disputed. I am rather disposed to rejoice at this circumstance because, standing aloof, as we do, from party feelings and local jealousies of the Canadians, our decision will be the more respected; first, at coming from a high and competent authority, and next, on account of our manifest impartiality.

William Huskisson in the debate on the Civil Government of Canada, 2 May, 1828.1

Lord Liverpool is not as a rule reckoned among the prophets. Yet there is a passage in his confidential letter to Sir James Craig, in 1810, which foreshadows the relations between the Canadas and Parliament better than the sentences quoted at the beginning of this chapter from the noble speech in which William Huskisson called for a Select Committee of the House of Commons to investigate the need for changes in the Canadian constitution. In that speech Huskisson invoked the aid of Parliament as the one impartial tribunal to which the Canadians could turn. Lord Liverpool may have been inferior to Huskisson as an imperial statesman but he was a much better practical politician, and he knew well that the factions in the House of Commons were not accustomed to viewing any question with Olympian detachment, but always with an eye to the advancement of their own prestige and power.

You may rely upon it [he wrote to Craig] that if the subject of the Constitution of Canada were brought under discussion of the British Parliament, the cause of the Canadians would be warmly supported by all the democrats and friends of reform in this country. It would probably receive the support likewise, under present circumstances, of Lord Grenville, the original framer of the Act of 1791, and of his friends. The support of so powerful a combination, even if it were for the moment successfully resisted, could not

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