Page images
PDF
EPUB

a

the schism in the reform ranks continued, though events were maturing a feeling in favour of united action and formal organization. Mr. Brown had in several constituencies supported conservative candidates who pledged themselves thoroughly in favour of representation by population and secularization of the clergy reserves ; this, in several instances, accomplished the defeat of liberal candidates who were more or less unwilling to commit themselves to out-and-out measures. It may fairly be questioned whether this course was the best party movement for a leader to take, even under the peculiar circumstances then existing ; but if the triumph of righteous principles was the right thing to aim at, there can be no doubt that Mr. Brown's policy was successful. A comparatively good government might be had under a vicious system for a time, but for permanency in good government it was necessary that the English population of Upper Canada must be put on terms of perfect equality with the Lower Canadians, and that legislative enactments which brought certain churches in close relationship to the state, thus giving them an exceptional standing, must be swept away, and all denominations of Christians be placed on terms of perfect equality in the eye of the law. To the advocacy of such measures Mr. Brown applied himself in this parliament with untiring zeal and indomitable energy. If others fell out by the way wearied with the march, he held on his way, making light of all obstacles; and looking forward with a hope that was never dimmed to the objects to be reached, he never allowed himself to doubt of ultimate success.

The work he performed in the sessions of 1854, 1855, 1856, and 1857, was far more than any man should attempt. He had noble supporters in the toil in William Lyon Mackenzie and others, whose patriotic efforts for good government will never be forgotten.

.

CHAPTER IX.

ATTACKED BY MR. J. A. MACDONALD.-REPORT OF COMMITTEE OF

INVESTIGATION

a

a

a

In proportion to the vigour of Mr. Brown and the opposition in opposing bad measures and promoting the reverse, did the bitterness of Tory and coalitionist in the government increase. This bitterness at last took shape in the session of 1856 in a concerted attack on Mr. Brown by the government in connection with the Penitentiary Commission, which they hoped would banish him from parliament. Mr. John A. Macdonald made a violent speech in relation to this subject in the House on the 26th day of February, in which Mr. Brown was accused of falsifying the evidence, suborning witnesses, procuring pardons for murderers at the price of evidence to be given against the then management of the institution. The pitiable spectacle of the chief law officer af the Crown indulging in such violence and perpetrating such injustice, created unusual astonishment. If he believed Mr. Brown guilty of such conduct he should have brought him to trial for the specified offences. Mr. Brown rose immediately, and said there was not a vestige of truth in the charges made, and that he would next day move for a committee, and compel Mr. Macdonald to prove his statements.

Next day Mr. Brown made the following motion : “That the "Honourable John A. Macdonald having, in the course of a debate on “last evening, charged Mr. George Brown, a member of this House, “while acting, in 1848, as a member and secretary of a commission

appointed by the government to inquire into the condition of the "provincial penitentiary :-First, with having recorded falsely the "evidence of witnesses examined before the said commission ; second, “ with having altered the written testimony given by witnesses after “their evidence was closed and subscribed; third, with having “suborned convicts to commit perjury ; fourth, with having obtained “the pardon of murderers confined to the penitentiary, to induce “them to give false evidence, or in words substantially to the same “ effect ; and the said Honourable John A. Macdonald having pledged “ himself to substantiate these charges, a special committee of seven “ members be appointed to inquire and report with all convenient “speed as to the truth of the said charges, with power to send for persons, papers and records."

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

This motion, singularly enough, was opposed by some ministerialists, who were unwilling to afford to the accused an immediate opportunity of disproving the infamous charges. Some called for delay, others for amendment. Mr. Macdonald would neither admit nor deny that the language in the motion quoted as his was uttered by him, but he demanded that the committee should be required to find out what he did say, and then investigate the conduct of Mr. Brown on the commission. Mr. Cayley put these extraordinary views in writing in amendment to Mr. Brown's motion. He moved “that a committee “of seven members be appointed to inquire into and report with all “convenient speed as to the nature of the charges made by the Attorney“General against Mr. George Brown, a member of this House, and as “to their truth, and that this committee be struck to-morrow." Mr. Loranger, Mr. Cameron, and others on the ministerial side, urged the immediate appointment of the committee to have the charges gone into. Indeed the accuser, in making his charges, was bound in honour to make his charges good at once, as he alleged he could do, while the accuser was not bound, by law or custom, to prove a negative. Mr. Brown, however, at once waived his right and determined to disprove the charges, yet some ministerialists desired that he should not be allowed to do so, but that he should lie under the accusation as long as possible. An overwhelming majority were, however, determined that a committee should at once be granted, the Speaker also ruling that the committee, if granted, must be struck that day, and the motion was carried by a vote of 94 to 12. The report of this committee was presented on the 16th of June, every effort having been made by the ministerial majority in the committee to delay its production until it should be too late to act upon it during the session. The minority report was also produced on the 16th of June. The ministerialists on the committee acted throughout in the most partisan manner. Instead of finding whether the charges were true-yes or no—they entered on a prolonged discussion as to the mode in which Mr. Brown and his cocommissioners had conducted the penitentiary inquiry. They assumed that the condensed evidence reported was the actual detailed evidence, and affected to find discrepancies, and so reported. The report cunningly implied blame to Mr. Brown, and finally blamed Mr. Macdonald for having allowed himself to reiterate charges. It was coolly assumed that such charges had been made before, whereas the matter alluded to was on a general charge against the commission which Mr. Macdonald had made some years before.

When the report was presented, on the motion “ that the report be received,” Mr. Wilson moved in amendment, seconded by Mr. Holton, “That all the words after that be left out, and the following

6

[ocr errors]

66

" words substituted: The evidence adduced before the said commit"itee completely fails to substantiate any of the charges against Mr. “ Brown.

Mr. Felton (a government supporter) moved, in amendment to the amendment, that the words following be inserted before the words " the evidence : " “While Attorney-General Macdonald appears to “have acted under a firm conviction of the truth of the charges made

against Mr. Brown, and to have been justified in doing so by all the "evidence within his reach.” The effect of the amendment would have been solely and simply to fully exonerate Mr. Brown; the effect of the amendment to the amendment would have been to exonerate John A. Macdonald from malice in his attack.

It was supposed and generally believed that the original report of the penitentiary commission was burned in the parliamentary buildings at Montreal in 1849. On this belief the attack was planned. It is said that at one of the first meetings of the committee, Mr. Vankoughnet, counsel for Mr. Macdonald, in moving for an order to examine certain convicts in the penitentiary, stated that unfortunately it was found that the report of the penitentiary commissioners was destroyed in the Montreal fire. He said he regretted this, as, if that report were extant, he would be able to prove his case without calling such witnesses as he now proposed to put in the box. Mr. Brown was in the committee room sitting with his overcoat on waiting for the proceedings to commence, and on hearing Mr. Vankoughnet's speech, he unbuttoned his coat, and drawing from it the original report of the commission, said he was happy to hear that that document was all that was wanted, and throwing it on the table, said, “There it is.” Mr. Vankoughnet immediately left the room, and meeting Mr. Macdonald, said to him, “Your case is dished.” The committee was most unfairly constituted of five ministerialists, some the least scrupulous of any, and two opposition ministers. Mr. Brown took no exception to this, however, knowing that no man could avoid declaring the charges to be without foundation. It was remarkable that one of Mr. Macdonald's colleagues, Attorney-General Drummond, was candid enough to declare that there was no evidence criminating Mr. Brown. Sir Allan McNab and other conservatives took similar ground, and boldly stated their views. Had a division taken place on the report, it is all but certain that the government would have been defeated. The utmost sympathy was manifested for Mr. Brown, as may have been observed, by many still in active life, from the newspapers of the day of all political shades. Some indeed, while condemning the attack, said Mr. Brown had, by his violent attacks on his adversaries, provoked retort. Probably he did provoke some retaliation in kind, but this

[ocr errors]

was not that, but a personal attack of the vilest character, and peculiarly out of place, coming from the head of the government.

The ultimate effect of the attack was that Mr. Brown stood higher than ever in the national affections. Many people very naturally believed that when such charges were made by the leading man in the government, there must be some truth in them; and when an investigation, by a committee of Mr. Macdonald's own choosing, could not find a particle of evidence to establish one single charge, the reaction in the public mind was complete.

« PreviousContinue »