British Colonial Developments, 1774-1834

By Vincent Harlow; Frederick Madden | Go to book overview

23
CANADA: REPORT FROM THE SELECT COMMITTEE OF THE HOUSE OF COMMONS APPOINTED TO INQUIRE INTO THE STATE OF THE CIVIL GOVERNMENT, 22 July 18281

THE SELECT COMMITTEE appointed to inquire into the state of the civil government of Canada, as established by the Act 31 Geo. III and to report their observations thereupon to the House; and to whom several petitions for an alteration in the present government were referred, and agreed to the following report:

. . .The Committee cannot too strongly express their opinion, that the Canadians of French extraction should in no degree be disturbed in the peaceful enjoyment of their religion, laws and privileges, as secured to them by the British Acts of Parliament; and so far from requiring them to hold lands on the British tenure, they think that when the lands in the seigneuries are fully occupied, if the descendants of the original settlers shall still retain their preference to the tenure of Fief et Seigneurie, they see no objection to other portions of unoccupied lands in that province being granted to them on that tenure, provided that such lands are apart from, and not intermixed with, the townships. . . .

Your Committee, while recommending such a concession on the part of the Crown, are strongly impressed with the advantage of rendering the Governor, the members of the Executive Council, and the Judges, independent of the annual votes of the House of Assembly for their respective salaries.

Your Committee are fully aware of the objections in principle which may be fairly raised against the practice of voting permanent salaries to Judges, who are removable at the pleasure of the Crown; but being convinced that it would be inexpedient that the Crown should be deprived of that power of removal, and having well considered the public inconvenience which might result from their being left in dependence upon an annual vote of the Assembly, they have decided to make the recommendation, in their instance, of a permanent vote of salary.

____________________
1
Parl. Papers, 1828 (569), vol. vii, pp. 379-87. This Committee was appointed on a motion of Huskisson ( Hansard, vol. xix, 300-16) who had been impressed by certain representations from Lower Canada. This Report became the platform for Lower Canadian reformers in the following decade. It is significant too as an indication that a Parliamentary Committee, while questioning the manner and spirit of administering the 1791 constitution and considering methods of conciliation, affirm their faith in the structure of the 1791 Act itself. The idea of responsible government had already been mooted both in Canada and in Britain by a few individual thinkers (see, for example, Canadian Historical Review, xxxi, pp. 288-96) and even by James Stephen the younger, but it was to remain for some years in the realm of theoretical speculation. Not till the publication of Lord Durham's Report in 1839 did it become a practical political issue.

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