Speech of the Hon. Louis-Joseph Papineau before the Institut canadien on the occasion of the 23rd anniversary of this society, December 17, 1867
|Speech of the Hon. Louis-Joseph Papineau before the Institut canadien on the occasion of the 23rd anniversary of this society, December 17, 1867
by , translated by Wikisource
|On December 17, 1867, Louis-Joseph Papineau, then 81 years of age, was invited to speak on the occasion of the 23rd anniversary of the Institut canadien in Montreal. This is the last public speech that he delivered.
This edition was translated from the original French by Mathieu Gauthier-Pilote in 2003.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
You will believe me, I hope, if I tell you: I love my country.
I loved it wisely; did I love it madly? ... From the outside, the opinions may vary. Nevertheless, my heart and then my head conscientiously consulted, I believe I can say that I loved it as it should be loved... This feeling, I sucked it with the milk of my nurse, my holy mother. The brief expression by which it is best stated: MY COUNTRY ABOVE ALL, I undoubtedly stammered it on the knees of my father. As soon as he heard me say a word, he saw that his son would not be mute, and that his education had to be put in the right direction. This direction, at a time when the country was more moral than speculative, was known in our good old families, and instilled in us the love of the country and respect for all that could be a source of well-being and greatness for it. I therefore like the Institut canadien, one of our national glories; the institute which served our homeland with such perseverance, with such complete devotion, with such generous ardour, with truly great and useful successes. I could not be in a more pleasant and interesting company than in that of the members of this institute and their many friends, rightly appreciative of the services it provided to the country, and grateful admirers of the judicious program it has adopted to preserve the bits of political freedom that we conquered during a glorious past, in long, difficult, and often perilous parliamentary battles. These bribes had been torn off, with one hand from the ill will of the aristocratic government of England, always hostile to popular rights; and, with the other hand, from an oligarchy, weak in number, null in merit, landed just yesterday from overseas, and that the metropolis, by an arbitrary partiality, had constituted local dominant power.
I feel happy, I feel good, among such a patriotic reunion, so liberal, so progressive, so proudly independent as the institute is. I hope it will continue to be so, by remaining faithful to the rules it gave itself, and to its valuable antecedents.
Two words suffice to explain its symbol, its political motto. It says: "Justice for us, justice for all; reason and liberty for us, reason and liberty for all." It is cosmopolitan. I feel well among the most patriotic elite of Montreal, among the beautiful, lovable, virtuous wives of the members of the institute, their husbands, devoted to the service of the natal or adopted country, devoted in life and in death, were it required to the safety of the homeland. Young ladies, beautiful, good and patriotic like your mothers, you are here in a worthy sanctuary where the cult of the homeland is celebrated with dignity, because it is free from any covetousness, gains and personal interests.
Messieurs of the institute, you have accepted the apostate to proclaim, to have others love, and to defend the right to free examination and free discussion, as the best and most legitimate means of attaining knowledge of the truth, the love of all that is good and useful to humanity in general, to the homeland in particular. It is only with free examination that we can acquire convictions so firm that they become, during important matters, a true and burning faith, of which we want the propagation and triumph despite whatever risk and personal nuisance it may expose us to.
Among the most important and useful truths, those that pertain the the better political organization of society are at the forefront. They are among those it is shameful not to have carefully studied, and cowardly to dare not proclaim, when we believe that those we possess are true and therefore useful.
The good political doctrines of modern times, I find them condensed, explained and delivered to the love of peoples and for their regeneration, in a few lines of the 1776 Declaration of Independence, and the 1789 Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen.
You will reply and ask: Is it possible that the rights of man and of the citizen were revealed to him only yesterday? No, no, Messieurs, the emancipatory genius of the human kind, the genius of Greece, the most judicious that has emerged onto the Earth to direct humanity in the way of progress, had understood them, codified them and practised them. Aristotle, the most vigorous mind of his time, and maybe of all times; the deepest, the most creative, the most encyclopedic; Aristotle explained what we do and did yesterday, since the declarations of the Congress and the Assemblée nationale, since 1776 and 1789, all that pertains to the science of government. He had a deep knowledge of it. He studied and made us know of more varieties of government than we have today in all of America and Europe. He spoke of the advantages and disadvantages that were associated to this infinite variety of governments. He explained why monarchy was adopted in the birth of nations, adopted by all the states of Greece in past centuries, and why it was wisely rejected later. He described all types of monarchies: absolute, moderate, constitutional, hereditary or elective, accompanied by one, two, or three independent bodies to make it durable and protective. It is a capital work, like all that emerged from his extraordinary mind.
To really know the affiliation of ideas and the progress of political science from these times to ours, the considered study of Aristotle's politics seems essential to me. I strongly advise it to my young friends, to all those who will be called on to participate in governmental life and desire to be of real use there. In the same department of science, the man and the book attributing the most honour to modern ages and to 18th century philosophy, is surely Montesquieu and his The Spirit of Laws. His book is good enough, as you know, that it made people say: "The human kind having lost the great charter of its liberties, Montesquieu has recovered it and given it back." True, but mutilated and insufficient praise. It should have been added that he had taken it in the policies of his predecessor, greater than him, since he was the real discoverer of the true principles of which Montesquieu was but the skillful commentator.
Aristotle had been more careful of the danger of mixing truth and falsehood, more careful not to let his strong reason bend under considerations of personal advancement. He was too sincere to veil his thoughts with apprehensive cares. Aristotle, tutor of Alexander, proudly signalled the vices of monarchies and monarchs. Montesquieu, convinced republican and free thinker, exalted the excellence of the French monarchy when it was in full disintegration following the proud despotism of Louis XIV, with his ceaseless and foolish wars, his ruinous ostentation, his Neronian persecutions against French protestants. He exalted it, when it was in a rapid state of decomposition because of Louis XV's vices, the King by divine right, the merchant associated with the company of the pacte de famine, who abused the royal power to create a fictitious abundance at one point of the kingdom and a real shortage elsewhere, in order to buy at low cost here, and sell for big profit there, letting his beloved subjects die of hunger for as long as he judged it to be profitable.
Aristotle prepared his pupil at the foundation of Alexandria, a great moment in the history of the development of the human mind, a city which carried on the exchange of ideas and goods; he united the Eastern and Western worlds, developed a free commerce that went on to share its benefits on all lands, with all the elements of a more enlightened and fertile civilization. The excellence of Aristotle's lessons could not stop Alexander from being sometimes extravagant and ferocious.
There is nothing better in antiquity than The Ethics of Aristotle. It is a book to read and read again. What was worthy in Alexander's conduct must be credited to his tutor. What was bad, and that is what prevailed, must be blamed on the vices of his impetuous temperament and on the adulation that power invariably creates around itself. Neither ethics, nor Callisthenes, parent and friend of Aristotle, whom the latter sent to protect him from his vicious inclinations, could prevent Alexander from abandoning himself to vice with fury. He made his monitor, who did not know how to flatter him, die. At the request of a courtesan, he set Persepolis on fire; on false denouncements, he had many of the braves, who helped him conquer the world, killed. He was Nero, he was Caligula, except that he had remorse, in the moments no doubt when the image of Aristotle, indignant, appeared to him in a dream, or the day before, if he dared to be alone one moment to collect himself. Alexander had the power to make this virtuous head fall, like Nero, later, killed Seneca. The tutor knew it and did not excuse it.
What was Montesquieu afraid of in Louis XIV, when he was hiding his thoughts on the dishonourable reign? Only a decree of prohibition against the printing of his book, which would have appeared clandestinely in France, and freely abroad; a lettre de cachet, at most a few weeks at the Bastille, where life was not hard or austere for men of letters, where the sympathy of his friends and admirers would have created around him a more respectable court than that of Versailles. The persecution could have only made his name even greater and helped to popularize his work.
Montesquieu has been a just and erudite judge: but he bought his position of judge like a good number of other people who had bought similar magistracies. Such was the way of the time. Did personal interest and esprit de corps not push him to approve of the venality of public positions in the monarchy, even though more judicious publicists, less blinded by their position, would have denounced it?
Aristotle is by far the greatest in thought, the most virtuous in conduct. Despite all this, we must read The Spirit of Laws again and again. This book will make us better and more enlightened citizens than if we neglected to study it. It contains the best teachings on the subjects it deals with. No other is more suited to make one think, fortify judgement, renew the flame of patriotism, despite the important mistakes it contains, mistakes which were noted just after it was published.
Montesquieu fell in another error. He praised the English Constitution with exaggeration, without letting us know exactly all his thinking. Avoiding to specify the motive of his admiration, some believed it to be absolute and it was greatly exaggerated, especially in Canada. He judged this constitution to be excellent only when comparing it to that of France at the time. Daring not to say frankly: "We are badly governed in our beautiful country of France", he said: "How better governed our neighbours are compared to us!". Some want him to have seen nothing as perfect as the English institutions, nothing but this combination of three powers always kept in balance. He knew better than that. He knew that since the beheading of a certain Stuart and the expulsion of his family, there was only one power in Great Britain: the aristocracy. By its preponderance, it weighed in the most courteous ways on the Kings, crushed beneath it. The aristocracy had disposed of the King's crown at will, which it had given to a foreigner. — Fortunate fluke! this foreigner deserved it.
Cromwell the Republican had started the greatness of his country, the Dutch republican consolidated and expanded it with perfect merit and success. The aristocracy weighed even more heavily on the people, and in the most discourteous ways, buying and auctioning it like a merchandise. It remained in control by the venality of elections, tolerating only its juniors and its clerks on the benches of the Commons. Montesquieu hence employed an artifice, like we still use today, to put in better contrast the despotism which then ruled in France. He showed in this more skill than standing. So do his imitators today.
Nobody in France dares to attack the emperor personally. He has too formidable means of repression. However, there is nobody against whom so many bitter reproaches, caustic epigrams are more ceaselessly brought to the knowledge of his subjects, under the veil of the most transparent allusions. All that Tacitus, Suetonius and Martial have written on the doings of the emperors, on the terror and cowardice of the senators, is enchased in the so-called Roman stories addressed to Napoleon III. So did Montesquieu. Not wanting to state how degraded the court and the courtesans of Versailles truly were, he pretended to see abroad perfections that were not there.
The true sociological doctrines of modern times can be summed up in a few words: To recognize that, in the political and temporal order, the only legitimate authority is that to which the majority of the nation has given its consent; that are wise and beneficial constitutions only those for which the governed have been consulted, and to which the majorities have given their free approbation; that all which is a human institution is destined to successive changes; that the continuous perfectibility of man in society gives him the right and imposes him the duty to demand the improvements which are appropriate for new circumstances, for the new needs of the community in which he lives and evolves.
Institutions will last more or less, depending on how well they formulate and define the rights and duties of the responsible magistrate, — responsible to have the law executed, without being able to substitute his extra-legal action but at the cost of an unquestionable and effective punishment — as well as the rights and duties of the subjects, who should remain powerful enough to easily safeguard their franchise and their immunity.
A generation which has enjoyed the priceless privilege of choosing the constitution which is most appropriate to them, will readily admit and declare that the following generations are also to enjoy the right which they found good and just to give themselves. Consequently, at fixed and not so distant periods, the free peoples are to have conventions, distinct from their parliaments and other ordinary legislative bodies. These, founded and elected by the constitution, owe it absolute submission. They have the mandate to keep it intact, to pass only laws that do not violate it. These free peoples must also have a judicial power, authorized to decide, when a question is submitted to it, if a law is in conformity with or against the constitution, to declare it executory if it is in conformity with it, or null and of no effect if it is against it. The convention, during the periods and circumstances for which it is established, becomes the most important authority of a country, without possessing the power to pass any law. It has no other role than that of examining if the body politic has remained healthy, or if it has become sick; if it is currently strong; if it is progressive and satisfied; or if there is any disease that human wisdom could possibly cure, any dissatisfaction that it is possible to end. Under the watchful eye of the country, assisting to the deliberations by means of the daily journal, which publishes the report of all that is being said, proposed and resolved, it concludes that the modifications to the existing constitution, as indicated by the convention, be submitted to the consideration and decision of the citizens. After a free discussion, the majority of those can decide what modifications they accept and what modifications they reject. The country hence gives itself a new, revised, and improved constitution.
Such is the American system, by far the most perfect that ingenuity and human reason have imagined to rapidly promote the greatness and prosperity of the States that will have the chance of receiving it.
These are my political convictions, this is my faith. I do not pretend nor have the right to have them adopted; but I undoubtedly have the right to express them freely. I have the same right that all those who think otherwise have to refute them. It is not a theoretical right, it is a right given by the supreme authority which enlightens any man born in this world and whispers to him: "Do unto others as you would have others do unto you." It is the right that was only partially recognized by the Articles of Capitulation of Montreal which said: "They become British subjects." This title broke for them [the New Subjects] the seal that was on their lips, the sealing by lettre de cachets for whatever they would say and write; conferred upon them the right to full oral and written discussion, the authority to call in public assembly whoever is willing to appear to hear them; abolished the former censorship on books, and proclaimed freedom of the press, as soon as a printing press would be imported in the country.
Such was the law: It was beautiful, very beautiful! What has been done, is ugly, very ugly! — Soiled and covered in blood.
According to these thrice holy and just principles, Canada, since it has become English, has not yet had a constitution. It has had an infinite variety of administrations, all bad. Each and every one of them deserves and will obtain from the impartial history only disgust for their defects, and fading for the names of their authors, who organized the oppression of majorities by minorities.
Let us enumerate them:
- War Regime: three months in 1759.
- Soldier Regime from 1759 to 1763: duration, four years.
- Royal Regime, from 1763 to 1774: duration 11 years.
- First Parliamentary Regime, 1774 to 1791: 17 years.
- Second Parliamentary Regime, from 1791 to 1837: 46 years.
- Second Soldier Regime of 1839: one year.
- Third Parliamentary Regime, Special Council: 2 years.
- Fourth Parliamentary Regime, Union of the Canadas: 27 years.
- Fifth Parliamentary Regime: established a few months ago, and the guiltiest of all.
Here are eight regimes piled one on top of the other in little time by the best of monarchies; this authority which guarantees great stability, some say, for all that it touches.
The war regime! it can be devastating and pagan, or civilizing and Christian. Nobody doubts today that the war as ordered by Louis XIV in the Palatinate, by the burning and devastation of the fields and dwellings, was but an act of cruel barbarity. Nowhere was it denounced more bitterly than in England. Wolfe was well-read man, Wolfe was Christian and he chose to make war with more cruelty and less reasons for excuse than Louis XIV had.
In Canada, all the eligible population, and more than the eligible population, since there were volunteers of over eighty years old and others of less than twelve, was concentrated in the camps and garrisons.
The entire population of Canada was of no more than sixty thousand souls; the three invasion armies had more than sixty thousand soldiers. The one moving toward Québec City counted more than twenty thousand disembarkment soldiers, not counting the power of its fleet.
For the attack, there were 100 seamen against one, 20 canons against one. This was known in both camps. Transfuges, always attracted by the taste for gold and the disgust of service, unceasingly passing from one army to the other, were letting the respective situation of the combatants be known. On one side, abundance of all ammunitions of war and mouth. On the other, from the very beginning of the conflict, a recommendation to save up powder during engagements, and reduction of the ration, in parts horse meat, otherwise they would have soon ran out of the first and the second.
This information known, Wolfe believed the defence could not be serious, that he would only need to wait the first few canon blows to come out with the honours of war, at the moment of the capitulation.
The summation to surrender was from high above. Noble and firm was the refusal.
During the whole of the siege, the losses were, in the small battles as well as in the regular attacks, in reverse proportionality of the number of combatants, three to four in the big battalions against one it the little units.
Irritated by such heroic resistance, anger winning over all sentiments of justice and reason, Wolfe wrote that if the enemy were to continue to employ the Sauvages, he would have the Canadien and French war prisoners shot.
He was answered back that he was not going to do it; that he would refuse to dishonour his name and those of his King and country; that he was not going to succeed in turning his brave soldiers into assassins; that his menace was in vain, and that after reflexion he would have regretted to have ordered it.
The reprimand bared fruit. The Sauvages fought and took prisoners. Wolfe fought, took prisoners, and did not assassinate them.
But reason did not completely return to his head.
By four consecutive orders, he had the incendiary torch carried from St-Antoine de Tilly to Kamouraska, forty miles of land. He had it done on the Beaupré coast, ten other miles of land, fifty miles total, where there were no men baring arms, only a crowd of women, children and elders in tears and praying for the conservation of their husbands, fathers and children above twelve. All these were, as their sense of duty, honour, and great hearts wanted it, around the insuperable enclosure of Québec City.
The same devastation was felt in the abandoned Orléans island, emptied of its disabled persons, women and children, who had been transported beyond Jacques-Cartier.
In the city, the three quarter of which was damaged and on fire because of the continuous stream of canon balls, bombs and fire pots day and night, some were saying: "It is visible that the army no longer wishes to remain in the country. If it were to remain here, it would have some interests of conservation. When there is nothing more than the rage of destruction, it is because the enemy is about to retreat." The return to confidence made us less vigilant. A surprising event took place. An error took Montcalm, who had the temerity to attack, with half of his army (which he would have had complete two hours later) brave troops like his, but much more numerous and better posted. He was beaten. The two Generals fell in glory. Wolfe exclaimed: "I die happy, because my country is victorious."
Valiant words, which for his own people and on the day of his martyrdom exonerated great wrongs.
But truthful history is inexorable. It does not have the right to hide the crimes and the shames of heroes.
History will prove over and over again that Wolfe has outraged the laws of Humanity and violated the laws of nature and nations, since long ago regulated and established between all policed nations. There is only the crime of the deportation of the Acadians that, in darkness, surpasses his own crime, and it is the English aristocracy who wanted them both.
Here were, in the beginning, the titles England displayed to show the love she felt for her future subjects.
Triumph, joy, money, and crime also, was left to the winner; pain, ruin, and unstained honour, was left to the vanquished. Let us pay tribute to our glorious ancestors!
Then came the soldier regime. Québec City had capitulated. Parts of the troops had gone back to England and the neighbouring colonies. General Murray was confined inside the city with a strong garrison. He claimed that with the fall of the fortress, the entire government of Québec City had become English. He knew that there did not remain a single armed man in this government; that the French troops had fallen back to Montréal, some sixty miles away. He had nothing to fear. He was not a doctor in law, I am ready to admit it. But there is no Englishman at the age of man, no man of birth and having enough education to be General in the army, who is unaware that the English law, like the law of God, forbids assassination.
The event of the conquest seemed to have disturbed the heads and vitiated the hearts, opened only to the inspiration of insane terror without a cause, to the thirst for blood, the desire for atrocious revenge.
That power nourishes such feelings; that it pays the devoted henchmen and assassins ready to applaud its brutalities, it will not go hungry for lack of spies and providers of human flesh to gratify its appetite.
Twelve miles from Québec City, a poor wind mill owner didn't join the army. He was exempted from it because of his position, by the necessity of not letting the neighbouring women, children, and elders die of hunger. It was necessary to have someone remain there to mill the little grain that could be saved from the fire, pillage and general devastation. He had a few bushels of wheat over what he needed to feed his family. He refused to sell it. Pressured, he said: "The King of France will not abandon Canada. Our people will come during the spring. I will give them my wheat then rather than sell it to you today."
Report of this brave reply was made to General Murray.
His fury was shared by his entourage, and was no longer restrained. An example was needed. "We need to strike the country with terror!" screamed of a common accord the furious gang.
Then came the order: "A sergeant, a corporal and a party of eight men went to St. Thomas, asked the miller if his name was Nadeau, and, after his positive reply, hung him to the wheel of his mill, remain there for two hours, and after being sure that he was really dead, came back to Quebec City".
Here is how the rights of the new British subjects were understood and explained; how the promised protection was, how the administration of the English criminal law was; how the administration of the civil laws would be, pari passu.
A few months later, in July 1760, Mr. Duchesnay, Lord of Beauport, of the oldest titrated family of the country, distinguished and deserving then and now, officer in the French Army or the militia, had followed them to Montreal. Many other gentlemen of the government of Quebec City had done the same. Their residences, further away, did not allow us to know them.
The soldiers did not go far away. Beauport and the Montmorency falls were so close and so beautiful, that the officers of the garrison gave themselves the pleasure of this charming walk. The manor, which, I think, still exists today, is a pretty house whose happy site and picturesque quality are quite tasteful. This house had been used as a model for other seigneurial houses, such as the Castle of Vaudreuil on the Place Jacques Cartier, a pretty house at Près-de-ville once belonging to the Cotté family, and some others that I saw standing up, all disappeared since, some fallen from outdatedness, others due to the enlargement of the city.
It was natural to ask to whom the pretty manor belonged. — To the Lord of the place, Mr. Duchesnay. - Where is he? — Apparently in Montreal, with the army. — Oh! good! good! the house is ours!
The General and his council had passed a decree saying that of all the inhabitants of this part of Canada now called the "conquered country"... those who would not return to their homes, but would remain with the French Army, would be deprived of all their goods, lands and possessions;
And considering that Mr. Duchesnez [sic], inhabitant of Beauport, is currently with the French Army, we deprive him of all his houses, lands and possessions, of all the real goods and personal belongings which he owns, or which he had at any time in the parish of Beauport, and we give it all to you, Captain Wm. Johnston, and to you, Lieutenant Nugent, with all the rights that Duchesnez [sic] could exert on it if he were on his lands and in possession of those, with full powers to you, to your heirs, executors, and successors in title, to sell them and alienate them as you wish. In witness whereupon I affix my seal and my signature — James Murray, July 2, 1760
Here is an easy and expedient system of confiscation. But what a level of ignorance, rapacity, lack of honour, in the governor who takes away and in the soldiers who receive the deeds!
The capitulation of Montreal in the month of September which followed automatically cancelled this official robbery.
Let us add that there was not yet a printing press in the country to let people know of these decisions, called "ordinances"; nor were there any French translation to make it possible for those such ordinances applied to to understand them.
This is how the English government was represented, at the beginning, by men capable of such aberrations of the mind, culprits of such excesses.
Who would believe it? This governor was much better than all his deputies in authority. Among those were: 1. Sutlers and public-house keepers who had made a fortune by following and selling in the army camps; 2. Out of prison, a favored and needy one, ignorant of the civil law and the French language, which, by commission on parchment, was given the robe of Chief Justice. A worthy chief of his assessors, of the same demerit as himself.
All were so filled with hatred and fanaticism against the Canadiens-Français and Catholicism, that the governor sometimes had to block their projects of persecution.
Meeting, on the contrary, educated and well-mannered Canadiens, "gentlemen" with all the strength of the word, he vested an affectionate interest in them.
His Royal government had been fabricated in the Privy Council, evidently without consulting the legal advisers of the Crown. The aristocracy, armed with the sword of Brennus, and his Vae Victis roaring, issued that English laws would be those of Canada "for as much as the circumstances allow it."
There was an odious and studied ambiguity, which delivered everything to arbitrary rule, and left the judges the possibility to always decide for the friend, the party, the purchaser, always for the English, since "the circumstances allowed it."
The public offices were openly sold with rebate, by the holders to their substitutes.
The General, shocked by the violence of the Chief Justice, had to suspend him and send him back to England. All the English population of Canada was irritated by the Governor's action, while the few Canadiens who took part in the events expressed their confidence in him.
Disgusted by the task he had to accomplish, he wrote to England:
Under the pretext that the exclusion laws against Catholics in England and Ireland are applicable to Canada, the new subjects are excluded from all public offices. There is only among the English and Protestant population that magistrates and juries are taken. This population accounts for 450 men, the majority despicable by their ignorance. They are drunk on the unforeseen importance that has fallen upon them, and hasten the exercise of their new powers with ostentation and rigour. They hate the Canadien nobility, because it is respectable, and the rest of the population and me, because I prevent a little of the wrongs they would like to accomplish.
The merchants of London, influenced and blinded by those of Canada, demanded the recall of Governor Murray and obtained it. His commission was revoked because he had become sympathetic to the Canadiens. He asked for an enquiry, and, after examination, the Privy Council decided that the charges brought against him were not founded.
Finally, the law officers of the Crown were consulted. In 1766, they repudiated the ordinances of 1764 which had excluded the new subjects from any participation in the administration of justice, and passed one which enabled them to be juries and lawyers.
This is the limit to the amount of justice that was granted to them at the time.
And then everything remained chaotic and disorderly until the Quebec Act or Bill was adopted, after the law officers of the Crown had formally declared that the King alone was not a legislator; that He was legislator only with the two Houses of Parliament; that the proclamation of 1763 and all that had been done of supposed legislation under His authority were as many unconstitutional and null acts.
Thus, the most perfect government in the world according to Montesquieu, Blackstone and Delolme, had remained twelve whole years in the ignorance of its ignorance, its usurpation, its incapacity and its negligence to govern by law rather than by arbitrary rule, always armed with the sword of injustice, never with the balances and blindfold of justice.
All this part of our history was for the first time elucidated, put in order, written with the heart and the sensitivity of a patriot, the depth of thought of a statesman, the integrity of an impartial and enlightened judge, the charms of a simple and pure style, by our virtuous compatriot, the best of our historians, the late Mister Garneau, my close friend, whom every day I deplore the loss, along with that of so many other men of rare merit with whom I acted, — to whom I survive. It is also one of the books of which I recommend the assiduous and considered reading to whoever loves Canada and wants to help in the improvement of its fate.
As for the more recent times, the historian was very faithful to the rule of daring not to say anything that is false. But the desire of conciliation, clerical pressure, seem to have left him less free than was needed for him to dare not conceal the truth.
On the one hand, he did not know the truth entirely; no one can blame him for that. On the other hand, he may have been persuaded that it would be more advisable not to say today what would be more usefully said tomorrow. The consideration of usefulness must dominate in the man of action. But the consideration of the truth, the absolute and whole truth on the historical facts and men, must alone guide the free feather of the historian. If he believes that it is not advisable to reveal it all at a given time, and that the time has not yet come for him to say it all, it is his right to differ, provided that he keeps it all in his wallet until the day when the revelation will no longer have any disadvantage. Who knows? Perhaps was it the case for Mr. Garneau!
Since his beautiful history of Canada was published, a lot of new historical documents were discovered, and they will throw a greater light on the recent past. These documents make us wish for a new edition of this great work.
Fortunately, Mr. Garneau left children worthy of their good and distinguished father, worthy to continue the noble monument he erected and to which he devoted himself in honour of his beloved Canada. — Heaven gave them all, to the elder in particular, whom I had the privilege to know, a superiority of talents which would enable him to enrich his country with a new and more complete edition. He was at the most abundant source there is in the country (the Library of the Parliament) of all that was printed pertaining to Canada. His loyal character automatically opens him the handwritten communications of all the communities, of the executive and legislative councils, provincial secretaries, the clerks' offices of all the courts; finally those of private families, which contain many more writings relative to the various moments of our history than is commonly thought. These last sources will let the state of our society be better know than it is today.
There had been no legitimate government in the country. The aristocracy was informed of it and recognized it. The reign of evil without a cause was thus to end; Would the reign of good begin? All the wisdom and all the authority of the State assembled in Parliament gave us the third kind of administration, the first parliamentary charter.
It became urgent not to uprise the whole of America. The thirteen former colonies were agitated and did not want to let themselves be taxed by the metropolis. While waiting for a more serious game, they played the game of burning the King and his ministers in effigy, they prevented the importation of stamps; and when some were smuggled in, they got the smugglers to pack them up and return them to the English treasury, which then had to pay the useless printing. They threw into the sea the tea taxed by the high wisdom, the full justice, and the absolute power of the Parliament. They competed to be right against England with irrefutable protests and writings. Lastly, reason not being able to do anything against an unjust and presumptuous obstinacy, it became necessary for them to think of confederating, of organizing themselves in power under the direction of a Congress.
Powers can continue playing their game in order to steal money from the aristocracy: the money spent, they become aggressive. Then one says to the other: "Maidservant, I paid you too much." The other answers: "We know of others who will pay us more." I seem to remember having heard a similar dialogue, exchanged between London and Ottawa. It will be repeated in crescendo.
The Second Congress ringed the alarm bell in Philadelphia with the Declaration inspired by Independence. It drowned the aristocracies of birth and privilege in crowds, and replaced them by divine aristocracies. Those of genius, knowledge, public virtues, those which prove their true nobility in contests open to a free competition between all the classes of citizens of the same country; in the equitable elective system, where the lowest in fortune can attain the highest position in the social hierarchy, if he is richer in merit, and under the happy command of whom we can ensure the successions of Presidents, who all will be men of transcendent superiority and such that heredity cannot provide.
The mediocre monarch, the sovereign lost by flatterers, is necessarily the standard among kings; the virtuous monarch is the rare exception. The first four Hanover princes must have weakened the respect for royalty by much: — three of them for their personal defects, and the best of them for the humiliations and the misfortunes of his long reign, misfortunes caused by his obstinate denial of justice toward Ireland and America. He was finally forced to recognize their rights, but when? Only after the defeat and the capture of his armies, and when he saw that the rebellion was perhaps going to overthrow his throne.
]Today, there is pleasure in recognizing that our majestic sovereign has all the virtues most suited to inspire the veneration for her person; that she understood and practised, better than any other king of her dynasty, as far as it is possible to understand them and to fulfil them, all the duties of her high dignity; that she does happily all that the law allows her to do; that she is an accomplished constitutional monarch. Knowing how much her rights are restricted, she has not lost any, she did not covet any other. We know that nothing can exceed the assiduity with which she has, in the most painful moments, continued to do the work which falls under her responsibility. That is very great and is very admired by the civilized world. But to those of her subjects who are less concerned with public life and more with the life of their family, this first and strong element of moralization which is much more respected in the British Isles than on the continent, she is even more venerated and more cherished as a wife and mother than as a queen. There is not a single English woman who does not say: "May my husband be for me what he has been for her!" No Englishman who does not repeat daily: "May my wife be for me as the queen has been to her majestic husband! No family where the children do not not repeat: "May our princes and their sisters be worthy of their majestic parents!"
Ah! if they answer to the lavished cares which gave them the best of education and the best teachings to prepare them to fulfill their duties, whatever public or private position they may have to occupy thereafter, they will be worthy of their parents. They will do great good, all the best for them and us.
This sentiment, repeated in all the families of the empire, tends to moralize them all.
Just read the very interesting volumes that Her Majesty has published on her private life.
Your sentiments of respect and affection for Her Majesty will be fortified, — all the while not proving the superiority of the English constitution over those that give more liberty to the people.
Let us return to 1775.
The aristocratic government could no longer delay the making of laws for this country, since it claimed to be the only omnipotent legislator for the disarmed and subjugated colonies, while at the same time fighting against those that resist. The aristocracy established a taxation system against us, in a Parliament where we were not represented.
By that, it violated, and the Great Charter, and the declaration of rights, and these essential principles of public law and English common law, that established, by the punishment of the kings and the judgements of the courts, that there is no legal taxation without representation.
It refused the country the freedom to appoint representatives, because it was too fanatical to allow the Catholics, who were then more than eighty against one protestant, to be placed on an equal footing with their British co-subjects and be eligible voters like them.
It had to deprive all and sundry of this right, always as dear to the people as it is unpleasant and a source of worries to those who are legislators by birth right.
Thus, the legislative power was entrusted to a small council appointed by the Crown.
By good grace, Catholics were not excluded from it. — In practise they were, never forming but an unimportant minority in it.
Astonishing liberality in reality, that only the terror of the American revolution was able to tear off from our oppressors.
Americans, great thanks! — And you, O Lords, you were quite narrow minded and petty in your generosities.
But our fathers did not think that way. — All the Canadian nobility and the pupils of our colleges gathered around governor Carleton, determined to make the greatest of efforts with him for the defence of the country, and all of the clergy decided to make sermons of circumstance, to get the people of the country to take arms for the same reasons. — This people had the good idea of saying: "Our purpose is to grow wheat and sell it for a good price." It succeeded surprisingly well and repaired, from '75 to '83, the distress of '59 to '63.
Of the thousand or twelve hundred Englishmen that there were in all of Canada, the nine-tenth of those who were in Quebec City had the good idea of leaving the day before the siege to go fetch some goods in England, sure that they would resell them for an enormous profit. The majority, and with perfect reason, was saying that the metropolis was doing an impious war to her children, that they had for themselves the forests of their country, where the armies would be encircled, famished and captured, and that justice and the good cause would end up prevailing: fortunately, the prophecies were accomplished.
Quickly after the fight, the marvellously fast progress of the United States rendered them the object of the astonishment and benevolence of all the great writers of the European continent.
Later, when in Canada some began to learn English, they became impassioned precisely for the sublime speeches of Fox and Burke in favour of the just American cause.
Those in the country who had best fought for England must then have started to doubt than they had done well in fighting for a caste, against a people.
When I asked them "even if the English were to have done better from 1774, back then you knew them only for the injustices and the insults they poured on you by torrents. Colonial Englishmen explained you the wrongs of the metropolis and stayed with their arms crossed. Why did you not do the same?" — I was given for an answer: "the older ones among us had taken part in the battle of Monongahela (invariably known as Malengueulée), of Chouaguen (Oswego), of Carillon, of Québec, and a lot of others."
To take up arms once again reminded them of the beautiful days of their youth. They had enjoyed the plenitude of an adventurous life of expeditions and camps. It had been followed by fifteen years of lethargic numbness. The nearest and first side ready to draft them was sure to have them.
To fight, such was the life of a gentleman: — it is all there.
For the young people of the colleges, the king was everything. There were still only French theology and philosophy tutors and precepts. These ones adored George III, with more reason than they had had when, taking their French doctor bonnets, they had had the naivety of believing in a fiction such as the virtues of Louis XV, and the Holy Ampulla, brought from heaven, oil and flask, to ensure the perpetuity of the monarchy. A sovereignty separated with some other authority than that of the king, was for them a monstrosity. It was this new and impious sovereignty that was setting fire and spilling blood in the country of our unfortunate neighbours.
"How the king of England is good, were they saying! he comes to restore the payment of the tithe. Fight for him, noble schoolboys. By doing it you are sure not to sin. By not doing it, we are sure that you would sin."
There were boy schools only in the towns, which did not account for a sixth of the population. The wealthy families living in the seigniories were sending their children to be educated in Québec City. The landlords and the priests were sending, partly at their own expense, the farmers' sons of outstanding talents. They were using their influence to solicit wealthy farmers to also send their children there.
This is how, during an end of year examination at the Séminaire de Québec, the young Nadeau, the unfortunate orphan of the miller ordered to be killed as I said earlier, answering with great success, governor Carleton, who was present, came to request to know the name of this young man. He learned it. He turned red, he blushed, then yielding to his emotion, and with tears in his voice claimed: "poor child, since it is an English governor who took the life of your father, it is only right that another English governor vous en tienne lieu. Continue your efforts, then come to see me; I will take care of your education."
This beautiful trait of honest sensitivity, this public confession in expiation of a great crime committed by one of his predecessors, must have done more and better than the sophistical quibbles of the tutors to win the hearts, the will, and the service of the volunteer schoolboys.
The oligarchy which filled the new council nourished the same covetousnesses, the same religious fanaticism, the same thirst for exclusive power, that it had nourished during the preceding administrations.
The fight and the reproaches between the governor, the councils and the courts, were of the greatest virulence and much more scandalous than the preceding ones because there now was a journal, which reported on the investigations, proving the guilt of the majority of the employees.
This printing press published, for who wanted to pay the price, the charges, the advertisements, and the refutations of the combatants. There never again was a greater number of Canadien lampoons than at that time.
Only one press was not enough. Besides, the printing was very expensive here: monopoly price.
The safety for the free expression of thoughts was much better in London than here.
It's also there that the judges of the fight were.
There always were twenty pages and more printed in London, against one in Québec City.
Soon, judges and litigants, advisers and petitioners, all agreed that the current state was intolerable, and that it was necessary to demand a new one from the government, which had so badly done with its first attempt.
Thus finished in unanimous reprobation the first parliamentary system.
For the time it lasted, General Haldimand had his reign of terror and his lettres de cachets, which were much crueler than those of French despotism. He threw in prisons, pontoons, or the Récollets convents, hundreds of people, — citizens who never knew neither the names of their indicters, nor the nature of the crimes they were accused of, who could not obtain trial, who were subject to brutal treatments, who were always forced to secrecy, and who, imprisoned during an undefined amount of time, did not know when nor how the power and the mischievousness of those torturing them would cease.
There must be a lot of authentic details still kept secret in some registers, other than those provided by the known writings of this disastrous epoch.
Du Calvet, passed to England to have his accusative books against this odious tyrant printed, had a good number of copies sent to Canada. He returned to America to collect funds, in order to sue his atrocious persecutor before the courts. He perishes at sea. We know of the departure of the vessel which was to transport him; his arrival was announced neither at destination point, nor in any other place. It thus sank in the sea. Many of his friends believed in a violent death. But one should never proclaim that an enormous crime was committed when it has not been clearly proved.
The bill of '74 and the opinions of the law officers of the Crown had finally recognized that, in the articles of the capitulation and the peace treaty of 1763, and even in the principles of public law of Christian Europe, there should never have been, for any new subject, any incapacity to exercise a public function, because of his Catholicism, and that, in Canada, all subjects were fully equal in law. The colonial oligarchy nevertheless kept demanding a representative system, with an eligibility right for Protestants only. The Canadiens asked it for all without distinction of cult or origin. They were in the right. The hesitations of the English cabinets lasted for several years, leaving everything here in suffering and disorder. They had lasted longer without the storm which, in one instant, shook and uprooted the oldest and the strongest monarchy in the world, dispersed its valiant nobility and raised popular agitation in all places. Consternation was in all the courts and terror felt by all the nobles, in those of England more than elsewhere, because they were more enlightened and more informed. The fear spread by the principles of the French National Assembly had more salutary effects than those the Declaration of Independence had produced. One pretended to convert, if one did not convert sincerely. The danger having become greater by being closer, one was more liberal in 1789 than in 1776, and we were finally granted a representative system, with a quasi universal suffrage and the same eligibility for all the subjects indistinctly.
These concessions had to be advantageous to the majority, for the men of the minority, who had always been in control until then, seemed so extremely irritated to see themselves, as they were saying, lowered to this level. "The constitutional influence of the representative body will undoubtedly be the same here as the one which exists in England, and it is a great one." Good Canadiens, we say this to you, and you believe it... Wake up! your gilded dream will vanish. The Crown still had the right to appoint the legislative council; and to alleviate the anger of the oligarchy that wanted the system all to itself, it found a way to render illusory this insane and blindly conceived hope that an influential French representation could be tolerated in an English dependence. The oligarchy thus turned the council into the permanently organized enemy of the representative body. Were called in the new council those members of the old one who had most violently opposed the introduction of the representative system. Were inflexibly excluded the small number of them who had supported the request for it, without distinction of origin. The right thus took back what the left had hypocritically offered.
Thus, these two irreconcilable houses would do nothing at all, they would be a balance of power, a balance maintained in the opposite direction of what it is in metropolis, where the dominating action truly exists in the House of Lords, Lords who only let their sons, their devotees, their commensals and their servants be elected, in these boroughs so accurately named rotten, which are the heritage of their families in the past and for the future. Their proud domination has fortunately just been weakened by the most recent act of parliamentary reform. All of those who had supported the request for a representative system were thus eliminated from the new council; all those who had impetuously opposed it were selected, with two or three exceptions.
The animosity between these two bodies was thus knowingly prepared, or rather artistically organized. It did not stop one moment for as long as they were in the presence of each other.
The history of this governmental regime was grossly depicted by Lord Durham. He is far from giving justice to the liberality of the representatives, but he makes justice to the arrogance and the illiberality of the council and the family compact in one of the provinces, and the council and oligarchy in the other.
In the middle of the difficulties of a situation so voluntarily and purposely made bad and arbitrary, it is not a small merit for our house of assembly to have been the first one to establish, in all the extent of the Empire, the principle of absolute religious tolerance, to have destroyed the disqualifications resulting from an out of date legislation against the Israelites, and, to a lesser degree, against all the dissenting churches, by allowing their ministers and the synagogues to hold civil registers for the members of their congregations. We had this done a long time before the Imperial Parliament even thought of doing the same. We imposed it to the council, for a long time reluctant to it.
But the keen fight has always been that of the right of the assembly to levy taxes and distribute it alone. There also, the intervention of the Imperial Parliament was pernicious, unconstitutional, contrary to the established rights of English subjects, in the metropolis as well as in the colonies. All the colonies which had representatives had control over their full revenues, by the vote of their elective houses. This right was refused to the Canadas alone.
The insurrectionist movement, legitimate in theory, imprudent in practise, since it has succumbed, was not proposed by the most influential men in Parliament: on the contrary. But those who wanted to destroy the politicians of Lower Canada; who wanted the union of the two provinces; who wished to see the executive branch be in control and regulate the income and the legislation, pushed for it. They succeeded in precipitating the revolt and collected the benefits from it. They too were mistaken, and the Parliament which supported them was misled. It has cost them more than they would have liked to give, and in concessions of long refused freedoms, and in treasury, to the profit — in the two Canadas — of minorities, which had its support but not its respect. What was obvious in these movements is well known today, what was kept secret will be known later. Both in the United States and the provinces, eminent citizens, tested and sincere patriots, have the evidence and the means of letting the people know more than we do today on the men and the historical events of that time.
The second soldier regime created itself on its own. It proclaimed, without the right to do so, the martial law and made it work more sanguinarily, in a few weeks, than the Committee of Public Safety had done in France.
At the time when the committee devoted itself to hateful assassinations, the kings of all Europe were advancing to dismember the Republic. This terrible committee had to improvise and launch fourteen armies, to organize the victory. Never the words: "vaincre ou mourir" had been pronounced with more necessity than in this supreme moment. It was necessary to obey, in order to avoid the penalty of foreign control. The resistance to armament, the refusal to be drafted, were crimes against France, and against humanity, which France wanted to see free around itself as much as inside its borders. The courts had been set up, by the legislature, for absolutism, with exorbitant and exceptional powers. Its most active members ferociously pursued those who were denounced as conspirators against the armament and the defence of the invaded soil. The precautions wished by the law that had created it were violated in a too great number of cases. From there the accurate and perpetual infamy which sticks to its name. In the two years it lasted, it condemned to death a little less than two thousand victims! It is atrocious! Proportion kept to populations, the immolation in Canada was five times worst.
In Canada, at the time of the second uprising, there was no possible danger for the government, which had been put on its guards, and strengthened by the presence of several regiments that had arrived since the first taking of arms.
All the regular courts of the country exerted their authority freely. Nobody could legally be torn off from the jurisdiction of its natural judges, without those who ordered it doing it in open revolt against the law to which they owed submission. Many of those who were assassinated, not having been caught with a weapon in hand, could be held captive by the suspension of the Habeas Corpus Act, and later be subject to criminal lawsuits in front of judges and juries. For the proportion to be the same one as in France under Robespierre, only seventeen lawsuits would have been needed; there were eighty nine convictions, all illegal, more vindicative, more atrocious than those which the Committee of Public Safety ordered! Let us be assured that the name of the one who signed the order to establish these martial courts, who signed seventeen death sentences followed by execution, plunged his hands in more innocent blood than the damned committee. His name will be forever associated to those of the most odious criminals of 1793. And those who pushed him to this iniquitous determination belong to the same gang. The aristocracy claimed him under the title of Lord Seaton: in Canada, we called him "Milord Satan".
A third soldier regime will probably not be seen in Canada. The press has blunted and softened the sabre by too much. It is no longer good for politics.
The Special Council is another regime, which those who gave it to us and those who accepted the exercise of it declared being bad, but temporary. Mr. Poulett Thomson was sent to inaugurate it. There never was a more insolent autobiography than this one in which this very vicious man incriminated himself, by detailing with ostentation the means of violence and corruption which he employed to give himself a factitious majority in the houses of the two Canadas. These scandalous confessions would have attracted the aversion of his superiors on him, if the English government had not been the one, with its far reaching hand, wanting the Union of the two Canadas, and pushed at it by its closest provincial functionaries, answering directly to it, as well as secret emissaries, pensioned travellers, who everywhere intrigued for it.
There was too much at heart, at the cost of whatever shames, in the success of this measure, not to reward the man who had acted with such a complete conformity to the noble and practical habits of the English aristocracy.
He was made Lord Sydenham.
The fourth parliamentary system was inevitably imposed, as with all the former acts, without the populations being consulted.
A civil list where we were not represented was voted by the Parliament. Violence imposes and force maintains such usurpations.
They violated the law. They outraged the weak; — but he who is a man governed by fixed principles must not kiss the hand that strikes him. He must protest and say: "On the first day that you will be weak and that I will be strong of your embarrassments, I will be avenged."
The men who accepted the law of the strongest and its usurpation, who flattered the strong, who served him, shouted very loudly: "the Union saved us!!"
They were dazed by the shame of being deserters to the principles which they had proclaimed to be the only truths, the only salutary ones and the only ones applicable to their country.
A change in opinion, when it is not interested, may be sincere and creditable. But when it is remunerated on the day following a defection, it is always suspicious, often treason.
When your opinion was exposing you to persecution, excluded you from the chance of being promoted, there were no doubts that it was a sincere and very-honourable one.
You were great.
The majorities were coming ahead for you, and elected you, and re-elected you, without it ever costing anything to you or your friends.
But since patronage and gold became essential means to have you elected, you no longer deserve their confidence.
Legislation will never be able to do as much good for society, as corruption did against it.
You can remain a strong government on the seats of Parliaments, but outside its enclosure, you are without any moral authority on the masses.
The population is so divided and subdivided, that it feels irritated, that it remains deaf to advices, indifferent to the fate of the public men who floated between so many various opinions.
If a time of danger were to arise, where the support of all would be essential to surmount it, it would not be there. Those who shouted: "the Union saved us" the most are those who, as soon as they were involved in some personal embarrassment, exit out of the Union.
They demanded a ninth political combination to the same authority whose eight previous political combinations they had blamed. They did not have the mission to ask it. They were elected to preserve the eighth combination, to make laws not exceeding the limits of the authority that it had conferred to them.
They were not a constituent body.
If they had felt any patriotism, and if they had believed useful the changes which they obtained for their electors, the ones most interested in the questions regulating their social state, they would have trusted the decision of the interested parties.
They did not have the means to submit their projects to the decision of the interested parties, they will say.
Very well; they could not unite them in a convention; they wanted it even less. They were too certain that their plan would be rejected in at least three of the now confederated provinces!
They should have at most prepared their resolutions and asked the Parliament to authorize the meeting of provincial conventions to decide if they were to be adopted or rejected. They would have been their faithful agents, instead of being usurpers.
Or if they fear the word "convention" because it is too American, — as if it were judicious to push away an eminently reasonable proposal because Americans consecrated it with a happy experiment of more than eighty years, — they should at least have said: "We, who cannot modify the act in virtue of which we take seat, we, who cannot ignore the conditions for which we were elected, announce general elections, which will have the goal of giving the people the opportunity to come to a conclusion on the merit or the demerit of the work which we prepared for it, in their interests, and not for us, and in our interests".
Instead of that, going directly to England was like saying: "We recognize your full power; we always complain about it, and we always have recourse to it."
It is also to say to England: "You are as inconsistent as we are, since you are always ready to seize the opportunity to give birth to causes of complaints and rightful dissatisfactions in your colonies. Why do you get involved in regulating difficulties for which you cannot be the best judges? Why do you legislate for countries whose desires, needs, resources, you cannot appreciate as well as the ones who were born there or those who went to live there?"
"At least, wait until their petitions make you aware of their cause. You will get petitions from all the provinces and parties, heard contradictorily. You will understand them after the discussions in the press have enabled you to appreciate the value of the reasons that will be given by the friends and the adversaries of the project. For as long as your deliberations last, the interested parties will wait without too much impatience."
"Why, during this deliberation, would you not seek some new means of solution to the difficulties that were born in your colonies? The old means seldom made you succeed. They have often cost you blood and treasures. You took erroneous decisions which you were forced to rescind, to not weaken the principles of your own government. Do you comfort yourselves by saying: we inflicted more harm than we received?"
"Who doubts your might? How much more beautiful it would be if we could count on your justice!" The Americans seem to have employed the most suitable means of preventing the complaints and uprisings of the people against the rulers, by letting the majority decide, by way of the poll, the choice of the institutions which are most appropriate for them. The very large majority of publicists and statesmen of all Europe and the United Kingdom in particular admit that this method is perfectly appropriate for the United States. In what way is the social state of the (Canadian) colonies so different from that of their close neighbours, to presume that the same political organization would not be appropriate for them?
Can a better one be prepared? Search, find, reveal, and submit it to the examination of enlightened men; those who have the right to decide questions of this importance by the recognized superiority of genius and knowledge, and not by the sole accident of their birth.
There are men of genius and knowledge in great number in a body as numerous as that of the United Kingdom, men whose special education is the science of government. May they give a proof that they are better qualified to govern than those who gave admirably good constitutions to the general government of the Union and those of the thirty-six States of the American confederation! It is not the precipitated adoption of the botched Quebec Act of confederation that can prove the wisdom of the statesmen of England. It is not their work; it was prepared in hiding, without the authorization of their constituents, by some colonists anxious to clung on the power that had escaped them. The sinister project is the works of badly famed and personally interested men, it is the achievement of evil at the British Parliament, surprised, misled, and inattentive to what it was doing.
At first sight, the Act of confederation cannot have the approval of those who believe in the wisdom and the justice of the Parliament and the excellency of the English constitution, since it violates its fundamental principles, by taking control over the sums of money belonging to the colonists alone and not to the metropolis nor to any authority in the metropolis. It is guiltier than any of the preceding acts. It has the same defects, and it has new ones, which are unique to it, and which are more exorbitant against the colonists than were those of the parliamentary charters granted or imposed before.
The others were given in times and conditions that were difficult and exceptional. The transfer of a new country, with a majority whose religious beliefs and political education differed deeply from those of the minority, could have let us fear that the latter be exposed to denials of justice. Full religious tolerance, the most important of the rights which belong to men in society, had not been understood nor allowed at the time. England was persecuting at home, insane and unjust; she was insane and unjust here, here more than elsewhere, because the public law was supposed to protect us from evil. She ignored it. If she had restricted herself to protective measures for the minorities, she would have been praised; but she exceeded the goal, she oppressed the majority, she did wrong. But it was then a common error which misled her and which excuses her. The odious laws of intolerance are repudiated by all of the civilized world today, except for Rome and St. Petersburg. There too however, sooner or later it will be necessary to render justice at the sight of the benefits which it pours on the States which respect it.
The concision in the word of Cavour: "The free Church in the free State", is one of the most beautiful titles given to respect, love and admiration, justly acquired by this famous statesman. These happy words, which once stated can never be forgotten, which, in a short sentence, contain a complete and perfect code on the subject they expose and explain, in one moment, — as if the tongues of fire of the Cenacle had touched all those who hold them back — allow us to understand, love, and proclaim the full truth which was only obscurely perceived and timidly loved before. And yet this revelation, sudden for a lot of people, is codified for all since a long time, in the thirty-six States of the Union next door.
The free, independent Churches, separated from the State, do not require anything from it in presence of one another, are the happiest and become most useful, because of this separation from the State and the proximity of their rivals. They rely on their knowledge and their virtues, they do not require nothing else. They miss nothing of what they consider useful to the promotion of their cult, to the comfort of their ministers, and their charitable and benevolent works. Watching over each other, they are eminently moral, because exposure and publicity would punish each fault they commit. No fault being able to go by unpunished, it will rarely occur. Where only one Church rules, it is not useful, it represses heresies, schisms and witches. Its adversaries claim: "it must necessarily be that it is wrong, if it is so cruel." and its friends say: "it must necessarily be that it is divine, if it is supported in spite of these cruelties."
When the right to freethinking, whether religious, political or scientific, is as generally proclaimed as it is it by the laws, the values and the practise of our days, it cannot be lost. Judicious people will not need to demand it later.
Other parliamentary acts against Canada were acts of rigour, following disorders which would have been prevented by a tiny portion of the concessions that were granted much too late. The merit of these concessions is small and has little value, because they were made only after executions which were murders.
The present act was inflicted to provinces which were peaceful, where there no longer existed animosities of race or religion to calm down. Where nobody was guilty, all were punished, since they received a law on which they were not consulted.
Here is the common objection.
But the exceptional objection, and the more outrageous among all the other miseries and degradations of the colonial state, in the past and the present, is the fate given, by the Canadian leaders initially, and the imperial Parliament later, to Nova Scotia.
The people of Nova Scotia, represented by the most skillful, and, in his province, the most irreproachable of public men, in possession of the full confidence and the justly acquired respect of his fellow-citizens, and the respect of the ministers and that of the most eminent men of the English Parliament in all parties, is before them. He requests them to listen to the wishes and the prayers of a people they must love, for their peaceful habits inside, for their uninterrupted attachment to the metropolis, for the constant defence of its councils, and he assures them that the expression of repulsion against the measures prepared by some intrigues in Canada, was but the true expression of the feeling of the majority of the voters of Nova Scotia. He could have said: of their unanimous feeling, considering how negligible was the portion who, yielding to personal interests, ended up sending to the Dominion Parliament, for the whole province, but one man, made a paid minister.
When the confederal Parliament assembled, the fact had become obvious that our brothers of Acadia were unanimous to reject the confederation. One rightfully left to illiberal officials the role to scorn their wishes and their rights. It is a repetition of their role of all times. They were saying to them as to us: "you believe yourselves to be oppressed, be it. You are mistaken, we decide for you and against you, like England decided. Good day or bad day, you are chained to us, we love you and we do not want to divorce. We are strong, you are weak, be submissive!"
In fact, their rights were even more outrageously violated than ours. All free men who deserve their freedom, owe themselves a mutual support. Therefore, we cannot remain indifferent to the oppression of our brothers of the maritime colonies, and all the truly liberal and independent men of Canada owe them support and sympathy.
This new governmental plan reveals, more than the others, the violent animosity that the aristocracy feels toward elective institutions. It was only after long years of ceaseless efforts that the Legislative Councils were made elective. Did those who had been morally glorified by tearing off this important concession to the colonial and metropolitan authorities glorify themselves much by ravishing it to their compatriots later? On the contrary, they felt and they knew that they would not escape the contempt that these tergiversations deserved. They fought among themselves with eagerness to obtain nobility titles from overseas. On the one hand, they defrauded their country and on the other they were even defrauding among themselves for the superiority of the rank; and they found ways to associate many accomplices to their shame, as if it was less dark because it was shared! They promised counsellors elected for a term to make them counsellors for life. They created a fake aristocracy, that became such by their participation in an obvious violation of the law. All these intrigues were immoral enough to please the English cabinet and to push it to adopt an act even worse than almost all its past wrongs. These reactionaries were asking the institutions of the Middle Ages back at the very moment the noble English people was demolishing them.
By recapitulating some phases of our country's history to indicate you the policy that was systematically followed by the aristocratic government of England, in its old and its new colonies, I wanted to show you that this system was always imposed according to the natural prejudices of the caste who governs us in her own interest, interest which is in perpetual and irremediable conflict with those of the masses; that it was harmful to new settlements in America; that the interest of these is to ask for their emancipation as soon as possible, and to acquire all the advantages and all the privileges of new nationalities, completely independent from Europe.
It is to my fellow-citizens of all origins that I call on today as I always did; to them I say that we must not only be anxious to preserve the rights which are acquired, but that, by free discussion, we must unceasingly endeavour to acquire new ones. The best means of obtaining this happy result is to call the young and vigorous minds of the elite, of all the various nationalities, to socialize, to meet frequently in this enclosure, this library, and in the other enclosures and libraries of comparable nature. They will seem themselves as friends, equal, compatriots. They will share a common admiration for Shakespeare and Corneille, for Newton and Buffon, Coke and Domat, Fox and Lamartine, — for this legion of men, eminently great and useful to all of humanity, that both the English and French nationalities have produced in such a great a number. In the current state of our society, with the ease of learning the two languages as of childhood, it would be to condemn ourselves to a marked inferiority to neglect to learn them both correctly, to not be able to taste the exquisite fruits that their literature produced, more abundant and tastier than those of the other peoples.
No, it is not true that the political dissensions, which were as sharp in both Canadas, were a fight between races. They were as rough in Upper Canada, where there was only one nationality, as they were here, where there were two. The majorities of both of them were uninterested friends of the rights, freedoms, and privileges due to all English subjects. They were voluntarily exposing themselves to the lieful slander, dangerous anger, sanguinary revenge sometimes, of egoistic minorities, by themselves weak, but supported by the strength of the bayonnettes paid with the gold of the people, but everywhere directed against the people.
The most enlightened men of England and America called noble and just the efforts that my English friends and my Canadien friends, me and my colleagues in the House, and our colleagues by identity of principle and community of devotion in the Parliament of Upper Canada, have done to deliver our countries from outrage and oppression. It was the aristocracy's prejudice and interest to applaud at the excesses of the colonial bureaucracy, this small-footed nobility, aping the airs, copying the practises, and following the Machiavellism of those who had installed them. The Parliament approved them, reason made them fade away. The Parliament approved them! But isn't it notorious that more than the nine-tenth of the imperial representation remains foreign to any interest, any knowledge of what is being done and of what should be done in the colonies? At that time especially, it was the colonial minister who had to know what was appropriate for them. He was paid to know it. With him, the honour of success, the shame of errors, the responsibility of the decisions, and the flock of sheep following his steps behind him. But the men who all their lives were friends of public rights and freedoms without ever deserting them, the princes of the science of Justice and the Law: — the virtuous Sir James Mackintosh, in our first battles; Lord Brougham, the most universal and most surprisingly erudite man of our days; and O'Connell, the most eloquent of the defenders of the rights of Ireland, before him defended by giants in oratory power, Curran, Grattan, Plunket, and so many others; and Hume, who devoted his great fortune to the protection of the colonies; who, surrounded by four secretaries, worked day and night, and deprived himself of any recreation, because the crimes committed in the English possessions on all five continents and their archipelagoes, by delegates of the aristocracy, were brought to his attention, with prayers to protest against evil; and a crowd of other worthy and good Englishmen understood us, and praised us. What means the number of ignoramuses and interested ones who condemned us because they were bribed for it, were interested in it, interested in the destruction of all feelings of hostility towards what is arbitrary and oppression?
By the number, we were ten against one in the two provinces. By morality, by disinterestedness, by our justly acquired influence, we were ten times more powerful than by the number. The English and Irish people, by those who were their true and worthy representatives approved us; the American governors and citizens approved us; the enlightened men of the European continent approved us; but especially our compatriots, for whom we suffered and who suffered with us, approved us; better than that even, our conscience approved us.
Those who today exile in such great a number, because the disgust for the present men and their measures push them to go breathe a purer air, tell once abroad what are the stigmata which the colonist bare on his forehead; what are the obstacles that stop him in his walk toward progress; these shackles which chain his so unproductive arms on the native soil, governed by and for the aristocracy, yet so sought for and so greatly productive on the free land! You can be sure that they are preparing anguish and vexation for the Minister of War. They pulverize his bronze batteries by those of the free press, by those of free discussion. They will more and more give consolation and hope to the oppressed; they move forward the hour of retribution, the hour of noble revenge, when good will be done even to those who practised evil.
The privileged ones always imagine that the prayers and the complaints against the abuses which benefit them are an invitation to repress them by violence. Proud, just and enlightened men, whose convictions are intense because they are the result of serious studies and long meditations, have faith in the empire of reason, and it is for reason alone that they ask for the correction of the abuses. Their efforts are addressed to all, to the powerful initially, to inspire them sympathy for the people that are suffering and that were impoverished by the abuses. They show them the glory and happiness they can conquer, by rendering the society of their time more prosperous and more moral than it was in the times which preceded it. They address them initially and preferably, because their mind being more cultivated, they would be better prepared to consider questions of general interest under all their various aspects, and to solve them quickly and correctly when selfishness does not blind them.
They address the masses after, to tell them that the sabre is not in their hands, but that reason is the richest and most invaluable of the divine gifts and that it was separated almost equally amongst all, that the culture of the mind can centuplicate its fruitfulness and strength; that to clear the land one needs physical strength enlightened by experience, but that in order to make good constitutions and good laws, and to apply them wisely, it is necessary to have before all a strong reason, enlightened not only by serious studies, but above all by a real devotion to the country, and the absence of any personal covetousness, of ambition or of interest. Here is what could be seen before, here is what has since become so rare, now that fortunes acquired at the expense of the public and personal honour, have become so numerous! How badly does the reproach of propensity to violence come from those very ones who constantly have recourse to violence to prevent the free discussion of political or social questions, physical violence by means of the law, moral violence by the anathema!
All I can do next is to compliment you on the high intelligence and the enlightened liberality with which you proclaimed and applied the principle of solidarity, and of the gathering in your enclosure — as in all the political and social organization of our fatherland — of all races, all religious beliefs, of all freely expressed and freely discussed opinions.
Very blind are those who speak of the creation of a new nationality, strong and harmonious, on the northern bank of the St. Lawrence and the Great Lakes, and who are unaware of or denounce the major and providential fact that this nationality is already very well formed, that it is great, and growing unceasingly; that it cannot be confined to its current limits; that it has an irresistible force of expansion; that in the future it will be more and more made up of immigrants coming from all the countries in the world, no longer only from Europe, but soon from Asia, whose overpopulation is five times more numerous [than that of Europe] and no longer has any other outfall than America (1); composed, says I, of all races of men, who, with their thousand religious beliefs, great mix of errors and truths, are all pushed by the Providence towards this common rendez-vous that will melt in unity and fraternity all of the human family.
This great fact is too obvious on all the extent of America and in all its history, since its discovery by Colombus; it is too inevitable for one not to recognize there one of these great providential indications that man cannot hide from himself, and nevertheless on which he has no more control than on the immutable laws which govern the physical universe.
One must see in this the divine teaching of universal tolerance and fraternity of mankind.
On this solid basis, the man of the New World, whether statesman, philosopher, moralist, or priest, must establish the new society and its new institutions.
The fatherland will not know strength, grandeur, prosperity, serious and permanent peace, for as long as all these divergences of origins or beliefs will not harmonize themselves and contribute together and simultaneously to the development of all forces and social resources.
This noble program which you published and which attracted opposition from these enemies of reason and of thought who wished the dispersion of the Institute and its books, must rally around you the support and goodwill of all the educated and enlightened citizens, of all the patriots who really desire happiness and grandeur for our fatherland, common to all of us Canadiens by birth or adoption.
This support, you deserve it. You conquered it; it will remain with you, I do not doubt it, and nobody could be more delighted of it than me.
Notes of Le Pays
(1) Ten thousand Chinese are currently at the the summit of Snow Mountains, 8,000 feet above ground, constructing the great railroad that will connect the two oceans and make our America the commercial centre of the whole word.
The transcript of this speech first appeared on January 18, 21, 23, 25 and 28 of 1868 in the newspaper Le Pays in Montréal under the name of Discours de l'Hon. Louis Joseph Papineau devant l'Institut canadien à l'occasion du 23ème anniversaire de fondation de cette société, le 17 décembre 1867. It was then reproduced as a brochure by the Imprimerie du journal Le Pays. It also appeared in the Annuaire de l'Institut Canadien pour 1867. The Grande Bibliothèque in Montréal has a copy of thee brochure as well as a copy on microfiche (MIC/B524\11604 GEN). Recently, in 1998, the speech was reproduced in Louis-Joseph Papineau. Un demi-siècle de combats. Interventions publiques. Choix de textes et présentation de Yvan Lamonde et Claude Larin, Éditions Fides (ISBN 2-7621-2008-X)
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