Page images

To this letter Mr. Brown sent the following reply:

Toronto, January 25, 1864. MY DEAR MACDONALD,-Your letter oi the 7th on the subject of the American reciprocity treaty reached me on Saturday, and, late though it be, I am very glad to learn that you intend now to take action in regard to it. It appears to me that the importance to Canada of maintaining the treaty can hardly be overrated ; and that to secure its renewal we should be prepared to discuss all reasonable suggestions for its modification. I think that the clamour against the treaty has been allowed to go too long unchecked, and that no further time should be lost in communicating the views of the Canadian government not only to the executive at Washing. ton, but to the present members of the senate and house of represeutatives, in whose hands the fate of the treaty now apparently rests.

I think that the working of the treaty in all its relations should be clearly brought out, and placed under the attention of all the members of congress, and especially that the committees of both chambers charged with the subject should be frankly told that while the people of the United States have profited by the treaty quite as much as the people of Canada, we are desirous for its renewal, and are prepared to discuss any modifications they may propose.

It might not be without advantage, moreover, to have the Canadian view of the whole subject placed clearly before the Boards of Trade of New York, Boston, Chicago, and other places. But there is a difficulty in doing all this. The renewal or modification of the treaty is an imperial matter; the negotiations must be carried on through the imperial authorities, and no doubt Lord Lyons will desire to conduct them in his own way and according to his own ideas. Unless his views have recently undergone a change, I believe he thinks we should not move in the matter at all. I know that was his opinion very recently. But even if his views have undergone a change, and he is prepared to move in the matter, the negotiation must be in his hands. All that we can do here, I apprehend, is to place before Lord Lyons the wishes of the Canadian government, and cooperate with him in his efforts to give them effect.

It appears to me Mr. Holton is the man best fitted to do this. From his commercial training and his knowledge of the subject, and the men he would have to deal with, Mr. Holton would be of the greatest service in the negotiations, and his official position as Minister of Finance would give him a standing at Washington that no unofficial person could possibly have. He would be in a position to speak officially the views of the government, and to say at once what modifications couli or could not be assented to.

The matter is of such vast importance to the province that I think no consideration should prevent Mr. Holton assuming this duty at once and carrying it through. As regards myself, I do not doubt that in some respects I could be of service in the negotiations. But, in the first place, Mr. Holton is the proper person to be sent to Washington; in the second place, I do not see how any unofficial person could be placed in a position at Washington that he could accept ; and in the third place, it would be exceedingly inconvenient for me to be absent from home for any length of time at present. I purpose going to Europe early in the approaching summer, and it will require every spare hour before leaving to arrange my affairs for a lengthened absence. But while I cannot see my way to undertake the duty you proffered to me, I feel more deeply anxious on the subject of the reciprocity treaty, and if Mr. Holton goes to Washington, I will gladly lend him all the aid, personally and otherwise, that I possibly can.

Faithfully yours,


The proposed negotiations at this time never assumed any shape. They were proceeded with eighteen months afterwards under other auspices, and proved abortive. In the eventful session of the Canadian parliament about to open, Mr. Sandfield Macdonald's government received the full support of Mr. Brown. The conservative opposition showed their usual disregard of everything but what would most embarrass the government. The government again got tired of neverending senseless discussion involving little but the ascendancy of the one side or the other, and though it might have survived the session, it is doubtful if any useful legislation could have been passed. Their resignation was not universally approved by the liberal party, and it may be doubted whether it was in a tactical sense a wise movement. It did, however, lead at once to the event which precipitated the constitutional changes which were so soon to be concreted in the British North America Act forming the present federal union of all the provinces. On the 30th of March a new conservative government was formed under Sir E. P. Taché. This administration had a very precarious existence ; indeed, only succeeded in living a day by the purchase of two members of the liberal party by office. In the meantime Mr. Brown obtained a committee of the leading members of both sides of the House to “consider the best means of settling the constitutional changes which might be recommended, to avoid "trouble.” The committee consisted of Messrs. John A. Macdonald, Galt, Cartier, Chapais, Street, J. H. Cameron, Turcotte and McGee, from the conservative side ; and Messrs. J. S. Macdonald, Mowat, Holton, McKellar, Scoble, McDougall and Brown, from the liberal side. The report was presented at the opening of the House on the 14th.

Mr. Brown—from the select committee appointed to inquire into the important subjects embraced in a dispatch to the colonial minister addressed to him on the 2nd day of February, 1859, by the Hon. G. E. Cartier, the Hon. A. T. Galt, and the Hon. John Ross, then members of the executive council of this province, while in London acting on behalf of the yovernment of which they were members, in which they declared that very grave difficulties now present themselves in conducting the government of Canada in such a manner as to show due regard to the wishes of its numerous population.” That “differences exist to an extent which prevents any perfect and complete assimilation of the views of the two sections.” That “the progress of population has been more rapid on the western section, and claims are now made on behalf of its inhabitants for giving them representation in the legislature in proportion to their numbers. That “the result is shown by an agitation fraught with great danger to the peaceful and harmonions working of our constitutional system, and consequently detrimental to the progress of the province;" and that “the necessity of providing a remedy for a state of things that is yearly becoming worse, and of allaying feelings that are daily being aggravated by the contentions of political parties," has impressed the advisers of Her Majesty's representative in Canada with the importance of seeking for such a mode of dealing with these difficulties as may forever remove them, and the best means of


remedying the evils therein set forth-presented to the House the report of the said committee, which was read as followeth :

That the committee have held eight sittings and have endeavoured to find some solution for existing difficulties likely to receive the assent of both sections of the province. A strong feeling was found to exist among the members of the committee in favour of changes in the direction of a federative system, applied either to Canada alone, or to the whole British North American provinces, and such progress has been made as to warrant the committee in recommending that the subject be again referred to a committee at the next session of parliament. The whole respectfully submitted.

Geo. Brown, Chairman. The Hon. John A. Macdonald, John S. Macdonald and John Scoble, alone opposed the adoption of this report.

The day after the committee came to the decision to make this report, the government was defeated on a motion of want of confidence, moved by Mr. Dorion. Mr. John A. Macdonald had on the previous day recorded his vote against the conclusion reached by the committee in farour of a solution of the constitutional crisis as one which both sections might agree to. The want of confidence motion in the government, of which he was a prominent member, quickened his perceptions, and a few hours sufficed to induce him to acknowledge the existence of a serious crisis, and the wisdom of meeting it by the very plan suggested by the committee, but which was promulgated by the reform convention in 1859 as an alternative to representation by population with the existing union.

The first use made of the victory by Mr. Brown, as the western leader, was to consider how to turn the defeat to account in securing the constitutional changes required. He consulted some of his most intimate friends and supporters with a view of ascertaining whether they would be disposed to abate the ordinary party advantages now in their grasp in order to achieve a more signal triumph in securing such constitutional changes as would effectually do justice to Upper Canada. Finding a general disposition prevailing to adopt his view, he next addressed himself to some government supporters-notably Mr. Morris, member for Lanark-suggesting that they should press on their leaders the wisdom of trying to come to some agreement on constitutional changes which could be accepted by east and west. The Lower Canadian liberals declined to be parties to any arrangement with the conservative government, preferring to allow the ordinary course to be pursued which must follow the defeat of a government. During the negotiations which succeeded the conversations alluded to, Mr. Brown was pained to have to act without the countenance or aid of his trusty allies from Lower Canada-a band of noble men under the lead of Messrs. Dorion and Holton; but he made every effort to induce them to join in the scheme to obtain a final settlement of sec


tional troubles, and when they failed to respond, he could only go on without them; indeed, he was bound to do so in the interests of his own province. Many of the Upper Canadian members agreed, with much reluctance, to the negotiations, partly because they feared treachery on the part of the conservatives, and partly because it seemed probable that a separation from their Lower Canadian allies would be the result.




Mr. Morris having reported to the conservative leaders Mr. Brown's conversations, on the following day, June 16th, Mr. John A. Macdonald asked if Mr. Brown would meet Mr. Galt and himself to discuss the situation and the proposed remedy. This was at once assented to, and a preliminary meeting was held next morning, at which Messrs. Macdonald and Galt appeared as a delegation from the defeated administration, authorized to invite Mr. Brown to strengthen them, with a view to their carrying on the government for the purpose of settling the sectional difficulties between Upper and Lower Canada. When this proposal was made Mr. Brown at once informed them that nothing but the extreme urgency of the present crisis, and the hope

settling the sectional troubles of the province for ever, could, in his opinion, justify their meeting together with a view to common political action. .. Mr. Brown then stated, on grounds purely personal, that it was quite impossible that he could be a member of any administration at present, and that even had this been otherwise, he would have conceived it highly objectionable that parties who had been so long and so strongly opposed to each other, as he and some members of the administration had been, should enter the same cabinet. He thought the public mind would be shocked by such an arrangement, but he felt very strongly that the present crisis presented an opportunity of dealing with this question that might never occur again. Both political parties had tried in turn to govern the country, but without success; and repeated elections only arrayed sectional majorities against each other more strongly than before. Another general election at this moment presented little hope of a much altered result ; and he believed that both parties were far better prepared than they had ever been before to look the true cause of all the difficulties firmly in the face, and endeavour to settle the representation question on an equitable and permanent basis. Mr. Brown added that if the administration were prepared to do this, and would pledge themselves clearly and publicly to bring in a measure next session that would be acceptable to Upper Canada, the basis to be now settled and announced to parliament, he would heartily co-operate with them, and try to induce his friends—in which he hoped to be

« PreviousContinue »