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Mr. Brown asked if it was a sine quæ non that he himself should enter the cabinet ? To which it was replied, that to secure a successful issue to the attempt to settle the sectional difficulties, it was considered that Mr. Brown's acceptance office was indispensable.
Mr. Brown then stated that it was now for him to consider what course he should pursue, entertaining as he still did the strongest repugnance to accepting office.
On Wednesday Mr. Brown met the same ministers, and informed them of his final decision, that he would consent to the reconstruction of the cabinet as proposed; but inasmuch as he did not wish to assume the responsibility of the government business before the House, he preferred leaving till after the prorogation the consideration of the acceptance of office by himself and the two gentlemen who might be ultimately selected to enter the administration with him.
Sir E. P. Taché and Mr. Macdonald thereon stated that after the prorogation they would be prepared to place three seats in the cabinet at the disposal of Mr. Brown.
The preceding narrative of the negotiations of Mr. Brown with the conservative leaders is nearly verbatim from the memoranda published at the time.
PROGRESS OF THE CONFEDERATION SCHEME.—DEATH OF SIR E. P. TACHE.—NEGOTIATIONS FOR THE RECONSTRUCTION OF THE
CABINET. In the wisdom of Mr. Brown entering the coalition government the writer never concurred, but he yielded his opinion to the great majority who held otherwise. Mr. Brown himself also had misgivings of coming trouble, which were realized within eighteen months of the consummation of the coalition. In the meantime Mr. Brown was, on June 30th, sworn in as President of the Council, with Messrs. Mowat and McDougall as his colleagues (the latter being a selection very few desired), and devoted himself with great zeal to the promotion of the great scheme of political reform, or revolution, to which he and his friends committed themselves.
With other members of the government he visited the Lower Provinces during the summer, where he addressed meetings at Charlotte. town, Halifax, and St. John. He returned in time to take part in the convention of the provincial delegates that assembled in Quebec on the 10th of October, where he took an active part in preparing the resolutions which formed the basis of the Confederation Act. Parliament met early in 1865, and as soon as the usual formalities could be disposed of, the scheme for reconstructing the government of the North American Provinces was brought up for discussion. The debate was a memorable one, for the ability which characterized it as much as for the importance of the questions which it decided. Mr. Brown's speech was a most able and exhaustive one. To him, as leader of the liberals, the position was a painful one. He was opposed by a large portion of his own friends from Lower Canada. Among all the sacrifices he made on public grounds, none were so great as the necessity laid upon him to be compelled to stand upon the opposite side to his old colleagues Messrs. Dorion, Holton, and their friends. The result of the debate was that the federal resolutions were carried by a vote of 91 to 33. Of the minority only eight were from Upper Canada, and of these eight, it will be observed that the names of several members are recorded who voted at the caucus of 1864 for Mr. Brown's scheme, and who asked him to enter the coalition cabinet.
It was no secret that His Excellency, Lord Monck, took a very lively interest in the proposed constitutional changes, and did all he properly could do to secure the proposed unification of the British provinces under a federal system. During the interregnum-for it could hardly be said that there was a government in existence after the hostile vote--Lord Monck had several interviews with Mr. Brown with a view to induce him to set aside his scruples and act as a minister in securing the acceptance of the new system. Lord Monck was a thoroughly honest man, an upright Governor-General, and an enthusiastic lover of Canada. He was also in British politics a wellknown liberal. The opinions of such a man very naturally had much weight with public men generally. It may be too soon to discuss the full share he had in bringing influence to bear on the governments of some of the provinces, and possibly on individuals, but it may be accepted as incontrovertible that the means used and the influence exerted were such only as he was justified in using in a great crisis.
The following letter was written by His Excellency to Mr. Brown on the same day on which the liberal caucus was held, and materially influenced him in assuming the responsibilty which the liberal party from Ontario wished him to take on his shoulders.
QUEBEC, June 21, 1864. MY DEAR MR. BROWN, -I think the success or failure of the negotiations which have been going on for some days, with a view to the formation of a strong government on a broad basis, depends very much on your consenting to come into the cabinet.
Under these circumstances, I must again take the liberty of pressing upon you by this note, as I have already often done verbally, my opinion of the grave responsibility which you will take upon yourself if you should refuse to do so.
Those who have hitherto opposed your views have consented to join with you in good faith for the purpose of extricating the province from what appears to me a very dangerous position.
They have frankly offered to take up and endeavour to settle, on principles satisfactory to all, the great constitutional question which you, by your energy and ability, have made your own.
The details of that settlement must necessarily be the subject of grave debate in the cabinet, and I confess I cannot see how you are to take part in that discussion, or how your opinions can be brought to bear on the arrangement of the question, unless you occupy a place at the council table.
I hope I may, without impropriety, ask you to take these opinions into consideration before you arrive at a final decision as to your own course.
Believe me to be, yours very truly,
At the close of the first session of 1865 Mr. Brown, with Mr. John A. Macdonald, Mr. Cartier and Mr. Galt, visited England to confer with the Imperial government on the proposed constitutional changes, commercial treaties and legislation, the consideration of the defences of Canada, arrangements 'for settlement of North-West Territory and Hudson Bay Company claims, and generally upon the critical state of
affairs by which Canada was at that time most seriously affected. The Canadian ministers were received with great cordiality in Britain, and especially by the Queen and royal family. The project of a federal union of the colonies was highly approved of by the Imperial authorities, “as (to use Mr. Cardwell's words) an object much to be “ desired, that all the British North American colonies should agree “to unite in one government.” The Lower Provinces had manifested strong objections to the union, though the Nova Scotia legislature had formally approved of it; and the British government undertook to press the wisdom of the measure upon them. However desirable it might be to embrace all the provinces, it was not right to apply any pressure. This was undoubtedly done by Mr. Cardwell, and doubtless at his instance Mr. Arthur Gordon, governor of New Brunswick, applied all the pressure in his power, and not very fairly. He succeeded, but at the expense of some keen feeling, in the expression of which by some Mr. Brown was unjustly blamed.
On the 30th day of July Mr. Taché, the Premier of the coalition government, died, and negotiations for the continuance or reconstruction of the government were commenced with Mr. Brown by Mr. Macdonald, who was the senior member. He desired to be Premier himself, but failing that, he was willing Mr. Cartier should be placed in that position. Mr. Brown, as leader of the liberal section, was bound to see that neither the reform party nor the policy agreed on were jeopardized by the new arrangements to be made. The following correspondence will best show the ground he took, supported by his two colleagues :
MINISTERIAL NEGOTIATIONS FOR THE RECONSTRUCTION OF THE GOVERN
MENT CONSEQUENT ON THE DEATH OF SIR E. P. TACHÉ.
No. 1.-Memorandum made 4th August, 1865, of Conversation held on the
preceding day between Messrs. Macdonald and Brown. Mr. Macdonald, yesterday, sought an interview with Mr. Brown and informed him that His Exccelleny the Governor-General had sent for him that morning, and had stated his desire that the administration, as it was formed in 1864, should continue in office, with as few changes as possible, in order to carry out the policy announced by the government on its formation ; that, with that view, His Excellency had expressed the opinion that the most obvious mode of supplying the place, vacated by the death of Sir Etienne Taché, would be for Mr. Macdonald to assume the position of First Minister, as being the senior member of the ministry; and that Mr. Cartier would, on the same principle, become the leader of the Lower Canadian section of the government; and that, for the purpose of carrying those views into effect, he had commissioned Mr. Macdonald to take the post of First Minister, at the same time requesting all the other ministers to retain their offices. Mr. Macdonald further informed Mr. Brown that he had assented to this proposition of His Excellency, and had seen Mr. Cartier, who at once agreed to it. He then invited Mr. Brown to accede to the proposal of His Excellency.
Mr. Brown replied that he was quite prepared to enter into arrangements for the continuance of the government in the same position it occupied previous to the death of Sır Etienne Taché ; but that the proposal now made involved a grave departure from that position. The government, heretofore, had been a coalition of three political parties, each represented by an active party leader, but all acting under one chief, who had ceased to be actuated by strong party feelings or personal ambitions, and who was well fitted to give confidence to all the three sections of the coalition that the conditions which united them would be carried out in good faith to the very letter.
Mr. Macdonald, Mr. Cartier, and himself (Mr. Brown) were, on the contrary, regarded as party leaders, with party feelings and aspirations; and to place any one of them in an attitude of superiority over the others, with the vast advantage of the premiership, would, in the public mind, lessen the security of good faith, and seriously endanger the existence of the coalition. It would be an entire change of the situation. Whichever of the three was so preferred, the act would amount to an abandon. ment of the coalition basis and a reconstruction of the government on ordinary party principles, under a party leader unacceptable to a large portion of those on whose support the existence of the ministry depended. Mr. Brown reminded Mr. Macdonald that when the coalition was formed, the liberal party in opposition constituted a majority of the House of Assembly; that, solely for the accomplishment of a great measure of reform essential to the peace and progress of the country, they had laid aside, for the time, party considerations, and consented to form a coalition with their opponents, on conditions which nothing but the strongest sense of public duty could have induced them to accept. He reminded Mr. Macdonald of the disadvantageous and embarrassing position he (Mr. Brown) and his colleagues, Mr. McDougall and Mr. Howland, had occupied during the past year, united as they were with nine political opponents who held all the important departments of state ; and he asked him to reflect in what light the liberal party must regard this new proposition to abandon their distinctive position, and place one of their chief opponents in the premiership, though his conservative supporters in parliament were much inferior, numerically, to the reform supporters of the coalition. Mr. Brown stated his conviction that the right mode of settling the question would be to invite some gentleman, of good position in the legislative council, under whom all the three great parties to the coalition could act with confidence, to become the successor of Colonel Tache. In no other way, he thought, could the position heretofore existing be continued. Mr. Brown concluded by saying that the proposal of Mr. Macdonald was palpably one for the construction of a new government, and that if the aid of the reform party of Upper Canada in the assembly were desired in its formation, a distinct statement of the policy of the new government must be made, and a definite proposition submitted. Speaking, however, for himself alone, he (Mr. Brown) occupied now precisely the ground that he had held in the negotiations of 1864; he stood prepared to give an outside but frank and earnest support to any administration that might be formed, pledged, like the coalition government, to carry through parliament, in the spring session of next year, either a measure for the final completion of the confederation scheme of the Quebec conference, or one for removing existing difficulties in Canada, by the introduction of the federal principle into the system of govern. ment, coupled with such provisions as will permit the Maritime Provinces and the North-West Territory to be incorporated into the system.
Mr. Macdonald stated in answer that at the time the coalition was effected in 1864, Sir Etienne Taché held the position of Premier, with him (Mr. Macdonald) as leader of the Lower House, and of the Upper Canadian section of the government. That on reference to the memorandum con