Their common country

Howe was forward looking for his time and he had a vigorous interpretation of justice, certainly as it relates to the British Constitution and its role in Nova Scotia — it’s what framed his defense against charges of seditious libel which eventually led to his acquittal.

The “races” he speaks of here were likely that of the United Kingdom’s parts ⁠— that is the settlers of English, Welsh, Scottish and Irish origin, perhaps French in terms of the Acadians, most likely as represented through a prism of religious denominations as was the custom at the time. That isn’t to say he was disinterested in the plight of “others”, it speaks to his spirit that he believed in the buoyant action of education, that its effects were enjoyed without regard to creed or color, that all had the potential to share in its bounty and that of the country.

I’m sure there’s an academic army currently working on cancelling Joseph Howe but there’s no reason his spirit can’t be interpreted as broadly as possible today. Equality of opportunity, the power of “the Nation” coming from that of “the people” through the obligations of citizenship, a commonality as it connects all people, regardless of creed, color or station in life.

From what was a pre-Marxian time it seems reminiscent of something else, perhaps he was influenced by the spirit of the US Constitution, embodied by the motto as it appears on the Great Seal. Individuals working together, the body of the state as actuated by the people in their pursuit of happiness, the basis of the safety and security afforded by “the commonwealth”.

Howe, Joseph. An Address Delivered Before the Halifax Mechanics’ Institute. November 5th, 1834.

Coalition Government on Trial (The New Constitution Defined)

The political landscape of Nova Scotia in the 1840s was marked by a struggle for power and influence between various factions. The newly appointed Lieutenant Governor expressed concerns over the perceived excessive political power of the populace due to low suffrage qualifications. He advocated for maintaining the Crown’s power and prerogative within local government to balance this.

A coalition government was formed, with Liberal leaders strategically included in the Executive Council to win elections, but they lacked control over the Lieutenant Governor’s actions and policies. While the Liberal party held sway in the House of Assembly, the old Conservative party retained influence in the Upper House and public offices.

When the new government convened in February 1841, Joseph Howe, a Reform leader, became Speaker of the House. The Lieutenant Governor’s speech emphasized cooperation between branches of government while asserting the preservation of royal prerogative.

Debates ensued over the meaning of the new constitution, with Howe defending the coalition government as a step towards responsible government. However, disagreements persisted within the government regarding the interpretation of the constitution and the extent of its reforms.

Conservative leaders in the Legislative Council challenged Howe’s assertions, arguing that the Executive Council remained independent of the legislature. This disagreement highlighted the uncertainty surrounding the government’s responsibilities and authority.

“The new Lieutenant Governor had warned Lord John Russell that the people of Nova Scotia “possessed too great a degree of political power” because of the low suffrage qualifications and that it should be held in check by preserving in the local government the power of the Crown and the influence of the prerogative.

The Liberal leaders had been cleverly brought into the Executive Council and by their influence the elections had been won for the new administration; but they had not gained control over the actions of policies of the Lieutenant Governor. Reform and constitutional opposition had been swallowed up in a coalition arrangement in which the avowed enemies of democratic self-government held the majority control. But while Howe and his friends were a minority in Council, their party held the power in the House of Assembly. The old Conservative party, therefore, remained under cover entrenched in the Upper House and in possession of the public offices of the province.

On February 3, 1841, the new Assembly and the new government of Nova Scotia met to begin their work, and to justify the hopes and expectations of the friends and supporters of the new constitutional program. Joseph Howe, already a member of the new Executive Council, was elected Speaker of the House of Assembly.

In the speech from the throne Lord Falkland studiously avoided a direct statement in regard to the responsibility of the Executive Council to the majority party in the House, suggesting rather that the prosperity of the province made it indispensable “that a sufficient degree of reciprocal confidence should exist between the three branches of the Legislature to insure from each a fair and candid construction of the acts of the other constituent powers.” Cooperation was also necessary, he said, to enable the representative of the Crown to carry out the beneficent intentions of the Queen. While he was prepared to cooperate fully with the Legislature in all matters purely local, it was his purpose to maintain inviolate the royal prerogative.

The reply of the Assembly was couched in terms equally diplomatic. They assured Falkland of the warm attachment of the citizens to British institutions, and of the earnest desire to maintain the prerogative, “while guarding and preserving the rights of the people.” They assured him also that the “most effective means of securing the cooperation of the Commons will be at all times a conviction that the British principle has been observed, and Your Excellency surrounded by advisers enjoying the public confidence.”

On February 11 the House, organized as the committee of the whole, debated the meaning of the new constitution. The task of defending the principles on which the new government had been constructed fell naturally to the Reform leader, Joseph Howe, and his speech was something of a defense of his own act in accepting a place in the new organization. He declared that the changes had not been exactly according to his views and those of his party, but were the best that could be obtained under the circumstances. The British government had conceded to them the principle that harmony must be the rule as between the Executive Council and the Assembly.

The Governor-General had given them all to understand that no one was to sit in the Council unless he occupied a seat in one of the legislative bodies. Thomson had urged him to enter the Council, and he had done so reluctantly, with the “distinct understanding” that harmony was to prevail between the Executive and the Legislative departments. This principle would lead ultimately to the establishment of responsible government as understood by the Liberal party and its leaders, and the new system was a long step in that direction. To Howe the Coalition was simply a temporary convenience, out of which would come in time a permanent system under which the will of the people would be recognized as the supreme law. Meanwhile, a good and efficient government would be carried on concerning itself primarily with the peace and prosperity of the province.

Falkland evidently was following an entirely different point of view. To him it seemed that Howe’s acceptance of a seat in the Executive body had broken the back of the Liberal opposition. He had even taken in some of Howe’s friends and followers in order to strengthen the popular leader, to make of him a stronger support for the government, and to keep in line the Liberal members of the newly elected Assembly. Herbert Huntington, however, refused to accept either a seat in the Council or the compromise of principle. He continued to insist that the control of the casual and territorial revenues should be in the hands of the local government and that the Executive Council should be reorganized by dismissing all those who had opposed the Reform program. But Huntington’s following was small, and Falkland’s government, with the support of Howe and Uniacke, could easily command a majority in the Assembly.

The leader of the old Conservative party, Solicitor-General J. W. Johnston, spoke in the Legislative Council, the strong citadel of the old order, on February 17. His speech may be taken as a reply to Howe’s attempt in the Assembly to define the constitution. He thought it impossible to recognize any fundamental change whatsoever. No statute existed which defined the power of any part of the British government, and the same principle held true for their local constitution. The “good sense” and “good feeling” of all branches explained the success of its operations. “Direct responsibility” was entirely “inconsistent with the circumstances of a colony,” because of a lack of proper checks and balances, such as existed in the mother country; the well defined orders of society, and nicely balanced economic interests did not exist in Nova Scotia.

“The change cannot be defined in specific terms. It is not a change of the constitution as has been said elsewhere. The three branches will continue as before; the change simply is that it becomes the duty of the representatives of Her Majesty to ascertain the wishes and feelings of the people through their representatives and to make the measures of Government conform to these so far as it is consistent with his duty to the mother country. This is not to be effected by any declaration that he should do so; nor any power of the assembly to say that it has not been done, but by calling to his Councils individuals possessing influence in the Legislature, who may advise measures that would secure confidence and harmony. Supposing they did not command the confidence, is the Governor bound at the bidding of the people, to change his Councils? If that question were put in writing it would receive a negative from the Home Government. Yet who will say, that in the present position of the Executive, some such power exists . I cannot lay my hand on any theoretic change. The system is not that sought last year by the action of the Assembly on the vote of want of confidence.”

This was a calm explanation by the Conservative leader of the new order of things in Nova Scotia, and a flat repudiation of the claims of the Liberal members of the Government. The will of the Assembly was only a matter of convenience for the Lieutenant-Governor. His responsibility was to the Secretary of State for the Colonies, and through him to the Crown of England; to go beyond this was to court the disruption of the Empire. Could Nova Scotia continue moving in the direction of self-government and still remain loyal to the British King? If so, a constitutional revolution was certainly in progress.

Alexander Stewart, another member of the new government with a seat in the Legislative Council, was even more outspoken against the claims asserted by Howe. The Executive Council was completely independent of the other branches of the government. Responsible government in a colony would mean independence, severing the bonds of the empire, and in his opinion, it was “responsible nonsense.”

The view thus expressed by the Conservative leaders was a challenge to Joseph Howe. He had entered the government with these men, understanding that a new constitution had been established. He met the issue, therefore, emphatically and at once, in a statement from the floor of the Assembly in which he said that “if any man in the colony, in this House or the other, says that there is no change in the constitution, the person so speaking does not state what is the fact.”

The principle had been established if the House was true to itself, that the Executive Council depended for its continuation upon the support of the popular branch, and must resign in case of a vote of censure by that body. The next day he spoke at length on the same question asserting again with considerable spirit that the constitution sought by the Liberal party had been fully established. It was the British system, and now, in case of an adverse vote by the Assembly, the Lieutenant-Governor must do one of three things: discharge the Executive Council, change his policy, or appeal to the people by dissolving the Assembly.

It is clear from these statements that the members of Falkland’s government did not agree as to the meaning of the constitution under which they served, and that there was a serious lack of harmony among the members of the new Executive Council. Each side claimed that the British constitution had been granted to Nova Scotia, but each had a different interpretation as to its fundamental meaning. The same difference of opinion would have been found at the same time even among the members of the British Parliament.

The whole question of the responsibility of the ministry was quite unsettled, and at this time Lord John Russell himself would hardly have dared to venture an opinion as to the exact definition of that responsibility. The task of the ministry in England was not to quibble over a theoretical point, but to carry on the government as successfully as circumstances would permit. This same task faced the coalition government of Nova Scotia. In most instances an opposition party would have debated with the members of the government the theories upon which it rested, but in the case of Nova Scotia the opposition was now a part of the government, so the argument was carried on among its own members.”

Livingston, Walter Ross. Responsible Government In Nova Scotia: a Study of the Constitutional Beginnings of the British Commonwealth. Iowa City: The University, 1930.

Nova Scotia and her People (The Family Compact)

There was a spark of academic interest from south of the border that coincided with the abolition of Nova Scotia’s Senate, known as the Legislative Council. It was a change that seemed to signal a final split from its once-colonial brethren who had chosen Statehood and Constitutions for themselves rather than life as subjects under an unwritten, forever fungible constitution. The split can be seen clearly enough in many of the legal libraries of American schools who negated to stock yearly Provincial acts going forward from 1929, as they had up until that point.

I really appreciate Livingston’s perspective, perhaps owing partially to his geographical situation in Iowa, later recognized with first in the nation status, but also as it relates to the American lens and “republicanism” — less so with regard to capital R in terms of the party, more generally as a concept, self government and popular sovereignty. That Nova Scotia is the only legislature instituted before the revolution that survived beyond creates a unique opportunity in terms of studying its constitutional mechanics.

I share some of the concerns of the Family compact of the old days in terms of an elected Senate, certainly one that is directly elected, that it pollutes a branch which should be relatively free of public feeling unlike the lower house. The disappearance of such an institution doesn’t disappear those it was traditionally meant to represent, no doubt these interests are well-served by the present circumstance but under a kind of cover in a unicameral house. That Nova Scotia and all Canadian provinces for that matter now operate without a bicameral check with executives essentially inseparable from the judicial is the antithesis of the protection of liberties and safe government that Howe tried to impart.

Propelled by a pandemic in what has become an all-encompassing green light to unilateral state action, today we plunge headlong into authoritarianism and totalitarianism with no institution or mechanism left to prevent it. Representatives of “the crown” in complete and perfect opposition to “the people”, the people’s management conducted by a government monopoly bureaucracy regulated so as to purport its emanations are that of the people not an insular ruling class. The spirit of the star chamber propels the machinations of its gears, the King’s tea as a concept as applied to an ever-increasing number of its services for which anything but the most inconsequential competition is against the law, the ultimate return to form in what is or has become or has returned to being a proprietary vessel in its entirety.

“The government of Nova Scotia in 1830, like that of the other British provinces having representative institutions, was, as far as conditions would permit, a replica of the government of the mother country. Pitt had spoken of the Constitutional Act of 1791 for Canada as the “very transcript of the English constitution” and the constitution of Nova Scotia was very nearly the same. But according to the British constitutional system as it was understood and interpreted by the British statesmen in the closing years of the eighteenth century, representative institutions in a colony as well as at home did not mean that the government was in any way democratic or responsible to the people of the state. Indeed it was understood by many that the great advantage of the English system was that it was so checked and balanced that any direct control by the people would be virtually impossible. In Nova Scotia the balanced mixture of Monarchy, aristocracy, and representation was characterized by one observer as “John Bull, a farce in three acts.”

The Lieutenant-Governor and the Council acted as sufficient checks upon any pretensions to power which might find expression in the popular branch… The wealthy merchant class, the members of the Established Church, the officials and employees of the government, with their relatives and friends constituted a party, known here as it was known in the Canadas, as the “Family Compact.” In no province was this group so completely entrenched in power as in Nova Scotia, but it must be said also in their favor that the members of this party were able and efficient in the administration of the local government.

The third part of the “farce in three acts” was a House of Assembly elected by the freeholders of the several counties. Supposedly this was a miniature House of Commons, but according to the Whig theory of responsibility, it was the mistake in the whole system. In England the House of Commons was in no sense a democratic assembly, nor was it representative, directly, of the great mass of the English people.

In this body, as in similar bodies in Massachusetts and Virginia a half century earlier, the popular will found expression and the spirit of reform made itself manifest. To be sure the power of this Assembly was sufficiently checked and properly balanced by the Governor and the Council, but even so, it made a breeding place for the germs of reform and discontent which developed out of their local problems, or were brought in either from the United States or the mother Country. It was indeed hardly necessary to introduce this spirit from the outside, for it had been planted by the early settlers, and there were many good reasons for its growth and development. The dissenting pioneers from Scotland and Ireland, and those from early New England, would never be content with a government patterned upon the unreformed oligarchy of eighteenth-century England and administered by a secret Council supported by a “Family Compact” and an Established Church.

The Baptist churches, having come from the Congregationalists of New England, understood the principles of popular representative government, and the Presbyterians not only practiced self-government in their church organizations, but taught it openly for the government of the state. (It is said that Joseph Howe learned first of the principles of responsible government from a Scottish minister by the name of MacCulloch, who founded Pictou Academy as a liberal educational institution in 1820). The Roman Catholics also opposed a government in which they had no voice and which proscribed for them as severely in the colony as it did in the mother country. Indeed, class government by the Halifax aristocracy was almost as much out of place in the growing life of Nova Scotia as had been John Locke’s Grand Model in the wilderness of old Carolina. (The Fundamental Constitution, 1669, see H.R. Fox Bourne, The Life of John Locke (2 vols., New York, 1876), Vol. I, pp. 339 et seq.)

On several occasions prior to 1835 the spirit of reform and opposition showed itself in the local assembly. One of the first of these outbreaks came in an attempt to regulate the financial and banking facilities of the province. In 1825 a group of merchants in Halifax organized a private banking concern, the Halifax Banking Company. It had no charter from the government and proceeded to issue notes without the legal requirement that they should be redeemed in specie. The members of this company were also members of the provincial council, which meant that for a number of years the company possessed a monopoly of the banking business of the province.

The Halifax Banking Company was organized on July 1, 1825, as follows:

Hon. Enos Collins  £10,000
Henry H. Cogswell £10,000
Andrew Belcher £10,000
James Tobin £5,000
Samuel Cunard £5,000
John Clark £5,000
William Prior £5,000
Joseph Allison £5,000
Martin Gay Black £5,000

From 1832 to 1837 five members of the Halifax Banking Company were members of the Council of twelve:

Enos Collins appointed in 1822
Samuel Cunard appointed in 1831
H.H. Cogswell appointed in 1832
Joseph Allison appointed in 1832
James Tobin appointed in 1832

Enjoying the protection and cooperation of the local government, the enterprise was profitable for its stockholders. The province was soon flooded by their paper notes, which led naturally to a serious economic and financial maladjustment. The result was a movement for the incorporation of a regularly chartered banking institution. The liberal reforming elements in the Assembly supported the move, while the Council and Family Compact, as might be expected, opposed it. The agitation resulted in a temporary victory for the reformers and the incorporation in 1832 of the Bank of Nova Scotia, destined in time to be one of the great banking institutions of the new world. The old private company continued, however, and the consequent rivalry of the two banks became a factor in the movement for a reform in the local constitution. (Short accounts of this early episode are give in A.M. Saunders, Three Premiers of Nova Scotia (Toronto, 1909), p.61, and in W.S. Grant, The Tribune of Nova Scotia (Toronto, 1915), pp. 26-27).

From Three Premiers of Nova Scotia: “After the miscarriage of the resolution initiated and supported by the Reformers before Mr. Howe had a seat in the Legislative branch, and which were intended to effect a change in the constitution of the Council, Mr. Howe took a bolder stand in his paper. His editorials attracted much attention, and he was denounced by the old school. In his newspaper work he evidently resorted to the device of writing anonymous articles, purporting to come from different parts of the Province. This awakened much interest in the places where, they were supposed to have been written; and men in these localities not wishing to be outdone by their neighbors, tried their hand at writing for the press. By this stratagem the people were aroused, and latent talent developed. By this and various other schemes Mr. Howe rapidly gained influence with the people. As his opponents became bolder, his friends and popularity increased.
About this time the currency question was a burning subject in the minds of the people. Neither the bank then established in Halifax nor the Government was by law bound to meet their paper by specie payment. This principle soon produced its legitimate fruits. Gold and silver were withdrawn from circulation, and paper money was depreciated. Mr. Howe denounced both the bank and the Government as enemies of the people. In this he was not alone. Among prominent men, Bliss, Huntington, Fairbanks and others stood with him. This abuse, after a short struggle, was removed.”

From The Tribune of Nova Scotia: “Early in the nineteenth century, when there was no bank in the province, the government had issued notes, for the redemption of which the revenues of the province were pledged. In 1825 some of the more important merchants founded a bank, and issued notes payable in gold, silver, or provincial paper. The Halifax Banking Company, as this institution was called, was simply a private company, with no charter from the province, and that it was allowed to issue notes is an instance of the easy-going ways of those early days. No less than five of its partners were members of the Council. Thus the state of affairs for some years was that there was but one bank in the province, that its notes were redeemable in provincial paper, and that the Council was largely composed of its directors, who could order the province to print as much paper as they wished. The Halifax Banking Company was of great benefit to the provincial merchants, and, though its partners made large profits, there is no proof that they abused their position on the Council to aid them in business. But the general feeling in the province was one of suspicion, and the combination of financial and legislative monopoly was certainly dangerous. Soon some other citizens endeavored to found another bank and to have it regularly incorporated by provincial charter, with the proviso that all paper money issued by it should be redeemable in coin. The directors of the Halifax Banking Company fought this proposal fiercely, both in business circles and in the Council, arguing that as the balance of trade was against Nova Scotia, there would rarely be enough ‘ hard money ‘ in the province to redeem the notes outstanding. In 1832, however, popular clamor forced the legislature to grant its charter to the second bank, the Bank of Nova Scotia. The Halifax Banking Company also continued to do a flourishing business, and during the struggle of Howe and his fellow-reformers against the Council, the influence of its partners was one of the chief causes of complaint. In 1873 it obtained a charter from the Dominion, but in 1903 was absorbed by the Canadian Bank of Commerce (CIBC).”

In 1830; the attempt of the Council to prevent an increase of the duty; on brandy by the Assembly brought the two bodies into violent conflict. The Assembly under the leadership of S. G. W. Archibald held that the regulation of taxes, under British precedent, belonged solely to the representatives of the people. The Council on the other hand catered to the wealthy brandy merchants of Halifax who were evidently trying to escape the tax barrier. The controversy was one of considerable warmth and led to a general election in which the party of the Assembly won a signal victory, electing all of their candidates with one exception. For the moment it seemed that the Reform party would be able to control the whole government. Their leader, however, Archibald, was elected to the speakership which removed him from active participation in party politics, and the Family Compact group continued in power. (Parts of the debate on the brandy tax are quoted in Nova Scotia, in its historical, mercantile and industrial relations, Duncan Campbell (Montreal, 1873), pp. 268-276).

From Nova Scotia, in its historical, mercantile and industrial relations: “Since the revolution of 1688 the Lords had ceased to claim a privilege which the Commons had resisted so frequently, and at the time of the collision between the Assembly of Nova Scotia and His Majesty’s Council, it was a settled principle of the constitution, that all charges or burthens on the people must begin with the Commons, and cannot be altered by the Lords.
Much dissatisfaction was expressed in all sections of the country with the Council for the rejection of the revenue bill, and the general feeling was so forcibly evinced in various ways that no doubt could be entertained as to the result of the coming election, which was that all the leaders of the opposition to the action of the Council were re-elected, with the exception of Mr. Beamish Murdoch.
Mr. S. G. W. Archibald was again elected Speaker, and in returning thanks stated his determination to preserve inviolate the privileges of the House.”

In 1829 Howe began to write definitely on political questions. He studied the English papers and pamphlets, and became familiar with the reform movement in the mother country. In 1830, during the brandy dispute, he championed the cause of the Assembly against the Council and the Family Compact. The election of that year was a victory for the Reform party, but the triumph was wasted through want of proper leadership. Howe saw the need of educating the people, particularly those in the rural sections, along political lines, and to that end gave his attention to the publication of what he termed his “Legislative Review,” a series of articles on the political issues of the day. Laboring under a burden of debt, with the success of his paper yet to be won, with no friends among those of the inner circle of Halifax, the young editor attacked the problems of the province with courage and ability. When the new Assembly, elected in 1830, failed to accomplish the reforms for which it had been chosen, he informed his readers and urged them to continue the fight for their just rights and privileges in the control of the local government.

The masses of the plain people caught the inspiration of his zealous appeals and a new party feeling and a new party solidarity began to gather around his leadership. His zeal also brought down upon his head the wrath of the powerful Family compact.

On January 1, 1835, an important date in the history of reform in Nova Scotia, a letter appeared in Joseph Howe’s paper, The Nova Scotian, accusing the magistrates of the city of Halifax of corruption in the management of municipal affairs. (Halifax had not been incorporated as a city but was still under the old system of municipal control, i.e. under a body of magistrates appointed by the Crown).

As might be expected the city government was entirely in the hands of the members of the Family Compact party who had already felt the sting of the opposition of the young editor. In fact the letter had been written and contributed by a friend, but as publisher, Howe was obliged to take the legal responsibility for its appearance and suffer the wrath of the city fathers. This was their opportunity; they could now crush him completely; a heavy fine would mean financial ruin; a jail sentence would cool his zeal, and both would shatter forever his influence as a reformer. At a meeting of the Grand Inquest of the County, therefore, a true bill was lodged again Joseph Howe for criminal libel. (At that time in criminal libel the truth of the libel could not be introduced as evidence. This was changed in England in 1843 by Lord Campbell’s Act).

This meant that the law officers of the Crown would prosecute him as a dangerous character in the community in which he had grown to manhood and where he was respected and loved by a large majority of the population. It was in some respects a cowardly proceeding on the part of the magistrates of the city. Because of the legal circumstances Howe was thus caught in a dangerous and difficult situation. First he went to his friends of the legal profession, but no one of them would take the case of his defense. They were ambitious and did not wish to endanger their future by opposing openly the powers of the inner circle. Their advice to Howe was to admit the guilt of the charge and trust to the mercy of the court for leniency.

Howe was made of finer and stronger stuff and refused positively to entertain the idea of guilt. He would prepare and handle his own defense. It was a brave stand for the odds were heavy against him. He had no legal training, nor even the advantage of a higher education, and his experience in court had been only that of a newspaper reporter. Moreover, the very judges before whom he was to be tried, while men of character, were all friends of the same group that sought his destruction. Undaunted, he borrowed the law books of his friends, and, by the time his case was called, had mastered the law; of libel and was ready for the ordeal of his own defense.

Joseph Howe had many friends among the more democratic elements of the community, and to them the issue of the trial was an important political matter. The government was bent upon destroying the champion of popular interests, one who had lifted up his voice in criticism of maladministration. On the day of the trial crowds of people came to the court to hear the arguments in the case. Howe had written and memorized two paragraphs of his address to the court and jury. With the skill of a trained and experienced lawyer, he convinced his hearers of his innocence and of the injustice of the charges placed against him. For six hours his eloquence and wit held the unbroken attention of the jury and the onlookers. He lifted the case out of the narrow grooves of legal technicalities and placed it beside the great issues over which had been fought the battles for British liberty. The freedom of the press was at stake; one of the fundamental rights of all Britishers had been questioned; and his speech was a plea for its vindication.

He claimed for himself the “impenetrable shield of the British law,” and “those invaluable principles” which “our forefathers fixed and have bequeathed.” When he had finished Howe returned to his humble home where the great emotion, which had filled his soul poured itself out in a flood of tears. He had not known before or even suspected that he possessed such power.

The next morning the Crown’s attorney closed the case with a strong argument in support of the law against public slander and for the conviction of the young editor. But in spite of his efforts and the stern and straightforward instructions of the Chief Justice5 the jury returned a unanimous verdict of not guilty. The joy of the community was unbounded and the feelings of the people could no longer be held in check. Howe was carried to his home on the shoulders of his friends and admirers and the victory was celebrated by a two days’ holiday. Politically Joseph Howe had been born. The leadership had at last been found which the reforming forces of Nova Scotia were to follow gladly for a generation. In this simple triumph a movement was started which was to produce ultimately a method of government under the Crown more freely democratic than that sought and established by the patriots of 1776 under republican institutions. But no man who celebrated the vindication of young Howe, realized the ultimate importance of the occasion.

Howe was already a statesman of the Empire and his vision embraced a world wide organization, based upon “a right understanding” of the ancient Constitution of England. He was seeking not only to adapt the English system to the growing life of Nova Scotia, but also to every other colony under the British Crown. The life of Nova Scotia was fundamentally democratic, and in this quest his great object was self-government without independence; he was seeking all that Dickinson and Jefferson had sought before the fateful hour of 1776, and he knew it could be accomplished without resorting to secession or to republicanism. In short, Joseph Howe, in seeking to adapt the English system to the conditions of life in the new colonies was in reality propounding the question of colonial responsible government, which was the first step in the transformation of the constitution of the Empire. The cornerstone of the Commonwealth was in the making.

The Resolutions were opposed by the Family Compact with all its strength. Some of the best leadership, and some of the most thoughtful people in the province were of that group. The program of the Reform party, they argued, would lead to independence and republicanism. Their liberties were preserved by monarchical institutions, and they pointed to the sad state of the government of the United States as an example of a self-governing democracy which they did not care to follow. The proposal to make the Council elective would “substitute for the high minded independence of Englishmen, the low and groveling subservancy of democracy.” The elective principle should ever be discouraged in order to preserve to Nova Scotia and to posterity the constitution of the mother country.”

Livingston, Walter Ross. Responsible Government In Nova Scotia: a Study of the Constitutional Beginnings of the British Commonwealth. Iowa City: The University, 1930.

Halifax Harbour from near the Narrows. Windmill on Dartmouth side the only one in the Province

The Windmill seen on what is now Windmill Road, house at right perhaps Fairfield, Howe’s House, at far right is Black Rock Point, now the foot of Lyle Street.

“Halifax Harbour from near the Narrows. Windmill on Dartmouth side the only one in the Province”, Mercer, Col. A.C. 1840.

Joseph Howe to Lord John Russell

My Lord,-The business of factious demagogues of all parties is to find fault with everything, to propose nothing practical, to oppose whatever is suggested, Lo misrepresent and to defame. The object of honest and rational politicians ought to be to understand each other-to deal frankly, abhorring concealment, that mistakes may not be made about facts, terms or intentions; to deal fairly, giving credit for a desire to elicit truth, and a wish to weigh in a just balance both sides of every question. Having put before you such evidence as I hope will lead your Lordship’s mind to the conclusion that the system by which the North American Colonies are at present governed, must be abandoned, it is not improbable that your Lordship may inquire what it is that we are desirous to substitute for that system? The demand is a reasonable one. The party who seek this change are bound to prove that they have a safe and intelligible remedy for the evils of which they complain. If I cannot show your Lordship that, without endangering the authority of the mother country over her Provinces, weakening the constitutional powers of the Crown, or trenching on the high privileges and wide range of duty assigned to the Imperial Parliament, a better form of government than that which I am anxious to overturn-one more nearly conforming to the practice and spirit of the Constitution, as understood at home-to the wants and peculiar situation of these Colonies, and less repugnant to the feelings and prejudices of Englishmen everywhere, can be established, then I must quit the field of argument, and cannot complain if your Lordship adheres to your own opinions. From what has been already written, it will be seen that I leave to the Sovereign, and to the Imperial Parliament, the uncontrolled authority over the military and naval force distributed over the Colonies; that I carefully abstain from trenching upon their right to bind the whole empire, by treaties and other diplomatic arrangements, with foreign states; or to regulate the trade of the Colonies with the mother country, and with each other. I yield to them also the same right of interference which they now exercise over Colonies and over English incorporated towns; whenever a desperate case of factious usage of the powers confided, or some reason of state, affecting the preservation of peace and order, call for that interference. As the necessity of the case, the degree and nature of this interference, would always be fully discussed by ail parties concerned, I am not afraid of these great powers being often abused, particularly as the temptations to use them would be much lessened if the internal administration were improved. The Colonial Secretary’s duties should be narrowed to a watchful supervision over each Colony, to see that the authority of the Crown was not impaired, and that Acts of Parliament and public treaties were honestly and firmly carried out; but he should have no right to appoint more than two or three officers in each Province, and none to intermeddle in any internal affair, so long as the Colonial Government was conducted without conflict with the Imperial Government and did not exceed the scope of its authority. This would give him enough to do, without heaping upon him duties so burdensome and various that they can not be discharged with honour by any man, however able; nor with justice or safety to the millions whose interests they affect. His responsibility should be limited to the extent of his powers; and as these would be familiar to every Englishman, exposure and punishment would not be difficult, in case of ignorance, incapacity or neglect. I have shown, in the illustration drawn from the city of Liverpool, that most Governors come out to Colonies so ignorant of their geography and topography, climate, productions, commerce, resources and wants; and above all, of the parties, passions and prejudices which divide them; and of the character, talents and claims of the men by whom the population are influenced and led, that for the first six or twelve months they are like overgrown boys at school. It is equally clear, that while the business of government must move on, and the administration commence from the day on which the new Governor arrives, the schoolmasters, from whom all his facts are derived-from whom he gathers his views of internal affairs, and his impressions, not only of different parties, but of individuals in each party,-are the irresponsible Executive Councillors, whom the present system cals around him; and who, possessed of such advantages, rarely fail, before he can by any possibility escape from their toils, to embroil him with the popular branch of the Legisiature, and the mass of the people by whom it is sustained. Now let us suppose, that when a Governor arrives in Nova Scotia, he finds himself surrounded, not by this irresponsible Council, who represent nothing except the whims of his predecessors and the interests of a few families (so small in point of numbers, that but for the influence which office and the distribution of patronage give them, their relative weight in the country would be ridiculously diminutive), but by men who say to him: ” May it please your Excellency, there was a general election in this Province last month, or last year, or the year before last, and an administration was formed on the results of that election. We, who compose the Council, have ever since been steadily sustained by a majority of the commons and have reason to believe that our conduct and policy have been satisfactory to the country at large.” A Governor thus addressed, would feel that at all events he was surrounded by those who represented a majority of the population; who possessed the confidence of an immense body of the electors, and who had been selected by the people who had the deepest interest in his success, to give him advice and to conduct the administration. If he had doubts on this point-if he had reason to believe that any factious combination had obtained office improperly, and wished ,to take the opinions of the country; or if the Executive Council sought to drive him into measures not sanctioned by the charter; or exhibited a degree of grasping selfishness which was offensive and injurious, he could at once dissolve the Assembly and appeal to the people: who here, as in England, would relieve him from doubt and difficulty; and, fìighting out the battle on the hustings, rebuke the Councillors if they were wrong. This would be a most important point gained in favour of the Governor; for lie is now the slave of an irresponsible Council, which he cannot shake off; and is bound to act by the advice of men, who, not being accountable for the advice they give, and having often much to gain and nothing to lose by giving bad advice, may get him into scrapes every month, and lay the blame on him. Tie Governors would, in fact, have the power of freeing themselves from thraldom to the family compacts, which none of them can now escape by the exercise of any safe expedient known to our existing Constitutions. It will be seen, too, that by this system, whatever sections or small parties might think or say, the Governor could never, by any possibility, become, what British Governors have of late been everywhere, embroiled with the great body of the inhabitants over whom he was sent to preside. The Governor’s responsibility would also be narrowed to the care of the Queen’s prerogative, the conservation of treaties, the military defence, and the execution of the Imperial Acts; the local administration being left in the hands of those who understand it, and who were responsible. His position would then be analogous to that of the Sovereign-he could (o no wrong in any matter of which the Colonial Legislature lad the right to judge; but would be accountable to the Crown, if he betrayed the Imperial interests committed to his care. Executive Councillors now are either heads of departments, or members of the two branches who are generally favourable to the policy of these, and disposed to leave their emoluments intact. One or two persons, of more independent character, and slightly differing from the others upon a few points are sometimes admitted; but a vast preponderance in favour of the views of the official compact, is always, as a matter of course, maintained. The heads of departments are always very well paid for their trouble in governing the country, by the enormous oflicial salaries they receive; their colleagues are either looking for office, or have means of providing for their relatives and friends; while, if it should so happen, that such a thing as a Colonial Executive Councillor can be found for any length of time, in office, who has not served himself or his friends, the title, and consciousness of possessing for life the right to approach and advise every Governor, and give a vote upon every important act of administration, without a possibility of being displaced or called to account for anything said or done, is no mean reward for the small amount of labour and time bestowed. Formerly, these people, in addition to other benefits, obtained for themselves and their friends immense tracts of crown land. This resource is now cut off, by the substitution of sales for free grants; but, looking at the Executive Council, or Cabinet, as it exists in any of the North American Provinces at present, we find a small lot of individuals, responsible neither to the Queen, the Secretary of State, the Governor nor the people; who owe their seats to neither, but to their relatives and friends through whose influence and intrigues they have been appointed; and who, while they possess among them some of the best salaries and nearly all the patronage of the country, have a common interest in promoting extravagance, resisting economy, and keeping up the system exactly as it stands. It will be perceived, that such a body as this may continue to govern a Colony for centuries; like the Old Man of the Mountain, who got upon Sinbad’s back, ordinary exertions cannot shake it off. To understand more clearly how un-English, how anti-constitutionally how dangerous this body is, it is only necessary to contrast it with what it ought to resemble, but never does. In England, the government of the country is invariably carried on by some great political party, pledged to certain principles of foreign or domestic policy, which the people for the time approve; but the cabinet in a Colony is an official party, who have the power for ever to keep themselves and their friends in office, and to keep all others out, even though nineteen out of every twenty of the population are against them. What would the people of England say, if some twenty families, being in possession of the Treasury, Horse Guards, Admiralty, Colonial Office, lad the power to exclude Whigs, Tories, and Radicals; to laugh at hostile votes in the Commons, and set the country at defiance; to defend each other against the crown and the people; to cover ignorance, incapacity, corruption, and bad faith? Would they bear such a state of things for a week? And yet your Lordship seems to think that we should bear it, for an indefinite period, with patience. Now for this body I propose to substitute one sustained by at least a majority of the Electors; whose general principles are known and approved; whom the Governor may dismiss, whenever ,they exceed their powers; and who may be discharged by the people whenever they abuse them; who, instead of laying the blame, when attacked, upon the Governor, or the Secretary of State, shall be bound, as in England, to stand up and defend, against all comers, every appointment made and every act done under their administration. One of the first results of this change would be to infuse into every department of the administration a sense of accountability, which is now nowhere found-to give a vigorous action to every vein and artery now exhibiting torpidity and languor-and to place around the Governor, and at the head of every department of public affairs, the ablest men the Colony could furnish; men of energy and talent, instead of the brainless sumphs, to whom the task of counselling the Governor, or administering the affairs of an extensive department, is often committed under the present system. In England, whether Whigs, Tories or Radicals are in, the Queen is surrounded, and the public departments managed, by some of the ablest men the kingdom can produce. But suppose a mere official faction could exclude all these great parties from power, how long would the government possess the advantage of superior abilities to guide it? Would it not at once fall far below the intellectual range which it now invariably maintains? But, it may be asked, would not the sudden introduction of this system work injustice to some who have taken offices, in the expectation of holding them for life? Perhaps it might, but even if this were unavoidable, the interests of individuals should give way to the public good. The Borough mongers had the same objections to the Reform Act, recorders and town-clerks to that which cleansed the corporations. This, like all minor difficulties, might easily be provided for; and I am sure that there are but few of those seeking to establish responsible government who desire to overturn even a bad system in a spirit of heartless vindictiveness. The Colonies, having no hereditary peerage, the Legislative Council has been constructed to take its place. From the difficulty of making it harmonize with the popular branch, some politicians in Lower Canada-and it was said that the Earl of Durham, at first, inclined to the opinion-thought it might be abolished. I think there is no necessity for this; first, because it would destroy the close resemblance which it is desirable to maintain between our Institutions and those of the mother country; and again, because a second legislative chamber, not entirely dependent upon popular favour, is useful to review measures and check undue haste or corruption in the popular branch. Besides, I sec no difficulty in maintaining its independence, and yet removing from it the character of annual conflict with the representative body, by which it has been everywhere distinguished. The main object of the Executive Council being the preservation of a system by which they enjoy honours, office and patronage, uncontrolled and uninfluenced by the people; and they having the nomination of Legislative Councillors, of course, they have always selected a majority of those whose interests and opinions were their own, and who could help them to wrestle with, and fight off the popular branch. Hence the constant collision, and general outcry against the second chamber. The simply remedy for all this appears to be, to introduce the English practice: let the people be consulted in the formation of the Executive Council; and then the appointments to the Legislative will be more in accordance with the public sentiment and general interest, than they are now. I should have no objection to the Legislative Councillors holding their seats for life, by which their independence of the Executive and of the people would be secured, provided they were chosen fairly by those to whon, from time to time, the constituency, as at home, entrusted the privilege; and not as they are now selected, to serve a particular purpose, and expressly to wrangle, rather than to harmonize with the popular branch. The House of Lords includes men selected by all the administrations which the people of Britain have called into power. The Houses of Lords, in the Colonies, have been created by ail the administrations which the people never could influence or control. Some members of the second branch should, of course, have seats in the Executive Council, because in that Chamber also, the acts and the policy of the government would require to be explained; but here, as in England, though very desirable, it would not be essential that the administration should always be sustained by a majority in the Upper House. One of the first effects of a change of system would be a decided improvement in the character of all the Colonial Assemblies. The great centre of political power and influence would in the Provinces, as at home, be the House of Commons. Towards that body the able, the industrious, the eloquent, and the wealthy, would press with ten times the ardour and unanimity which are now evinced; because then, like its great prototype in Britain, it would be an open and fair arena, in which the choice spirits of the country would battle for a share in its administration, a participation in its expenditure, and in the honour and influence which public employment confers. Now a bon vivant, who can entertain an aide-de-camp; a good looking fellow, who dances with a Governor’s lady; or a cunning one, who can wheedle a clerk or an under-secretary in Downing Street, may be called to take a part in governing a Province for the period of his natural life. Then, these disreputable and obscure channels of advancement would be closed; and the country would understand the reason, and feel the necessity for every such appointment; and the population would be driven to cultivate those qualities which dignify and adorn our nature rather than debase it. Now, any wily knave or subservient fool feels that his chance is as good as that of the most able and upright man in the Colony; and far better if the latter attempts to pursue an independent course; then, such people would be brought to their proper level, and made to win their honours fairly before they were worn. Another improvement would be the placing of the government of a Colony as it always is in England, in a majority in the Commons, watched, controlled, and yet aided by a constitutional opposition. Under the present system, the government of a colony is the opposition of the Commons and often presents in that body the most unseemly and ridiculous figure. Numberless instances might be given of this. The three Executive Councillors who sit in the Assembly of Nova Scotia have been resisting, in miserable minorities, on a dozen divisions during the last two sessions, votes by which the Commons recorded a want of confidence in them and their party; and, in fact, the government, instead of taking the lead in public measures with the energy and ability which should belong to a government, cannot take a single step in the Assembly without the sanction of its opponents. Every emergency that arises and for which an administration ought to be secure of a majority, presents some absurd illustration of the system. When the border difficulties with the State of Maine occurred last winter, the Government of Nova Scotia had not the power to move a single man of the militia force (the laws having expired), or to vote a single shilling, until the majority came forward, as they always have done, in the most honourable manner, and, casting aside all political differences, passed laws for embodying the militia, and granted £100,000 to carry on the war. But, will your Lordship believe, will it be credited in England, that those who voted that money; who were responsible to their constituents for its expenditure, and without whose consent (for they formed two-thirds of the Commons) a shilling could not have been drawn, had not a single man in the local cabinet by whom it was to be spent, and by whom, in that trying emergency, the Governor would be advised? Nor are things better when the Legislature is not in session. In consequence of the establishment of steam navigation, a despatch was sent out this spring, after the House was prorogued, requiring the Governor of this Province to put the main roads in thorough repair. Of course he had no means to accomplish the object, nor could his Executive Council guarantee that a single shilling thus expended would be replaced or that a vote of censure would not be passed upon him if he spent one; and to obviate the difficulty, they were seen consulting and endeavouring to propitiate the members of the majority, whose places, upon such terms, they were contented to occupy and to which, as far as I am concerned, if such humiliations are to be the penalty, they are heartily welcome. It has been objected to the mode proposed, that it would lead to the rotation of office, or extensive dismissals of subordinates, practised in the United States. But no person abhors that system more than myself, nor has it found any favour in the Colonies, where the British practice is preferred, of removing the heads of departments only. To those who are afraid of the turmoil and excitement that would be produced, it is only necessary to say, that if upon the large scale on which the principle is applied at home, there is no great inconvenience felt, how much less have we to fear where the population is not so dense, the competition not so active, nor the prizes so gigantic. A ministry that in England lasts two or three years is supposed to fulfil its mission; and a quadrennial bill is considered unnecessary, because Parliament, on the average, seldom sits longer than three or four years. As, under a systen of responsibility, the contest for power would be fought. out here as it is in England, chiefly on the hustings; an administration would, therefore, last in Nova Scotia until the quadrennial bill was passed, for six years certainly-two years more than the Governor, unless specially continued, is expected to hold his appointment; and if it managed judiciously, there would be nothing to prevent it from holding the reins for twenty or thirty years. Of course, an Executive Council in the Colonies should not be expected to resign upon every incidental and unimportant question connected with the details of government; but, whenever a fair and decisive vote, by which it was evident that they had lost the confidence of the country, was registered against them, they should either change their policy, strengthen their hands by the accession of popular talents and principles, or abandon their seats and assume the duties and responsibilities of opposition. If there was any doubt as to what the nature of such votes should be, the Parliamentary usage would be the guide on this as on all minor matters. One of the greatest evils of the present form of government is, that nothing like system or responsibility can be carried into any one branch of the public service. There are, exclusive of military and road commissions, nearly nine 4 hundred offices to be filled, in the Province of Nova Scotia alone; ail essential to the administration of internal affairs, not one of them having anything to do with Imperial interests. And will it be believed in England, that the whole of this patronage is in the hands of a body whom the people can never displace? that the vast majority in the Commons have not the slightest influence in its distribution? while the greatest idiot who gives his silent and subservient vote in the minority, is certain of obtaining his reward? But the evil does not stop here. It is utterly impossible for the people either to bring to punishment or to get rid of a single man of the whole nine hundred, if the local government chooses to protect him. Perhaps the most cruel injury that the system inflicts on the Colonists, arises from the manner in which they are compelled to conduct their internal improvements. This has been noticed by Lord Durham. But perhaps his Lordship did not fully comprehend the reasons which render the mode-however anomalous and injurious-in some degree acceptable to the constituency, in order that other evils may be prevented, which might be a great deal worse. It will be perceived that the nine hundred offices already referred to, are generally distributed by the irresponsible official party in such a way as to buy their peace or to strengthen their influence in the country3 Let us see how this operates in practice. Suppose a county sends to the Assembly four representatives, all of whom support the local government; the patronage of that county is of course at their disposal, to strengthen their hands, and to keep down all opposition; but should the whole be hostile to the compact, then it is used to foster opposition and create a party to displace them. If there is a division of sentiment among the members, those who support are always aided in mortifying and getting rid of those who attack the Government. Though but one of the four is an adherent of the compact, every man in the county knows, that his influence is worth much more than that of the other three; that, while one can obtain any favour that he wants for a friend or partisan, the others cannot, unless by the barter of a corrupt vote or the sacrifice of principle, even obtain justice. Now, if besides these nine hundred offices, about five hundred commissions for the expenditure of the surplus revenues of the country upon roads, bridges and internal improvements, were given over to be disposed of in the same way, the hands of the compact would be so nuch strengthened that it would be still more easy to create a party in a county, to endanger the seat of any member who ventured to give an independent vote. To obviate this risk, which was seen at an early period to menace the independence of the Commons, it was determined that the members from each county should recommend the commissioners for the expenditure of moneys within it; and this, being acquiesced in by the Governors for some time before its political bearing was much regarded lby the compact, has grown into usage which they have not ventured openly to attack; although, as they still contend that the right of appointment is in the Executive they seldom fail to show their power and vent their feelings, by petty alterations almost every year. The advantages of this arrangement are that the majority of the constituency-and not the minority, as in every other case-distribute the patronage under this branch of expenditure; and, as the members who name commissioners have a great deal of local knowledge, and are, moreover, responsible to the people, they can be called to account if they abuse this trust. But still, from the very nature of things, it is liable to abuse. Road commissions may be multiplied and sums unwisely expended to secure votes at the next election; or to reward, not a good road maker but a zealous partisan. The Executive has not the control it would have if these men were selected by the Government; and the legislative power, which should be used to unmask corruption, is sometimes abused to afford it shelter. The remedy which our compacts always suggest, like all their remedies for political discrepancies, aims at the extension of their own influence and the irimer establishment of their own power. They are loud, upon all occasions, in denouncing the corruption of the road system. The minority in the Assembly are cloquent on the same theme; while, through the columns of some newspaper in their pay, they are always pouring forth complaints, that the roads are wretchedly bad and that they will never be better until the expenditure is placed in their hands. It will be perceived, however, that to follow their advice, would be to make what is admitted on all hands to have its evils, a great deal worse; because, if these nominations are taken from those who posesss local information, and given to men who have little or none, who will not be advised by those who have, and who can be called to account by no power known to the Constitution ;- besides a great deal more of blundering being the result, the partial responsibility, which now makes the system barely tolerable, would be entirely removed. Political partisans would still be rewarded; but, instead of ail parties in the country sharing the patronage (for members of the minority, as well as of the majority, make these appointments), it would be confined only to those who supported the compact; and who, however imbecile, ignorant or corrupt, would then be, as every other officer in the Colony is now, independent of any description of public control. If any doubt could be entertained as to whether the public would lose or gain by the change, evidence enough might be gathered; for some of the vilest jobs and most flagrant cases of mismanagement that disgrace the history of the road service in Nova Scotia, have been left as monuments of the ignorance or folly of the compact, whenever they have taken these matters into their own hands. But, make the Governor’s advisers responsible to the Assembly, and the repre- sentatives would at once resign to them the management of such affairs. It would then be the business of the Executive, instead of leaving the road service to the extemporaneous zeal or corrupt management of individuals, to corne prepared, at the commencement of each session, with a general review of the whole system; and, supported by its majority, to suggest and carry a compre- hensive and intelligible scheme, embracing the whole of this service, accounting for the previous year’s expenditure and appointments, and accepting the sug- gestions of mermbers as to the plans of the current year. We should then have an Executive to which every commissioner would be directly accountable; to which he could apply for instructions from January to December; and which, being itself responsible, would be careful of its proceedings; and yet, being more independent than individual members are in dealing with their own constituents, would be more firm and unyielding where it was right. This is the simple, and I am satisfied the only safe remedy for the abuses of the road system. To take the distribution of commissions from fifty men, possessed of much local knowledge ,and partially responsible, to give it to twelve others having less information and subject to no control, would be an act of madness. Fortunately, in this, as in all other cases, we have no occasion to seek for new theories, or try unsafe experiments; let us adopt the good old practices of our ancestors and of our brethren; let us “keep the old paths,” in which, while tiere is much facility, there is no danger. My Lord, there is an argument used against the introduction of Executive responsibility, by Sir Francis Head, which it may be well to notice, because it has been caught up by shallow thinkers everywhere, and is often urged with an air of triumph, that, to those who look beyond the surface, is somewhat ridiculous. It is said, that if this principle had been in operation, Papineau and Mackenzie would have been ministers in the respective Provinces they disturbedi But, do those who urge this objection ever stay to inquire whether, if there had been responsibility in the Canadas, either of these men could have assumed so much consequence as to be able to obstruct the operations of Government and to create a rebellion in a British Province? Nothing made a dictator tolerable in ancient Rome but a sense of common danger arising out of some unusual and disastrous posture of affairs, which rendered it necessary to confide to an individual extraordinary powers-to raise one man far above all others of his own rank-to substitute his will for the ordinary routine of administration, and to make the words of his mouth the laws of the land. When the danger passed away, the dictator passed away with it. Power, no longer combined in one mighty stream, the eccentric violence of which, though useful might be destructive, was distributed over the surface of society, and flowed again through a thousand small but well-established channels, everywhere stimulating and refreshing, but nowhere exciting alarm. In political warfare, this practice of the ancients has been followed by the moderns with good success. O’Connell in Ireland, and Papineau and Mackenzie in Canada grew into importance, from the apparent necessity which existed for large masses of men to bestow upon individuals unlimited confidence, and invest then with extraordinary powers. I wish that the two latter, instead of provoking the maddest rebellions on record, had possessed the sound sense and consummate prudence which have marked every important step in the former’s extraordinary career. But, who believes, that if Ireland had had “justice” instead of having it to seek, that ever such a political phenomenon as the great agitator would have appeared to challenge our admiration and smite the oppressors with dismay? And who dreams that, but for the wretched system upheld in all the Colonies, and the entire absence of responsibility, by which faction or intrigue were made the only roads to power, either of the Canadian demagogues would ever have had an inducement, or been placed in a position to disturb the public peace? I grant that even under the forms that I recommend, such men as Papineau and Mackenzie might have existed; that they might have becone conspicuous and influential; and that it is by no means improbable that they would have been Exccutive Councillors of their respective Provinces, advising the Governors and presiding over the administration of their internal affairs. But suppose they had; would not even this have been better than two rebellions-the scenes at Vindsor, St. Charles and St. Eustache-the frontier atrocities-and the expenditure of three million sterling, which will be the cost before the accounts are closed? Does any man in his senses believe, if Mackenzie or Bidwell could have guided the internal policy and dispensed the local patronage according to the British mode, that either of them would have been so mad as to dream of turning Upper Canada into a Republic; when, even if they succeeded, they could only hope to be Governors for a few years, with powers very much more restricted and salaries not more ample than were theirs for life or as long as they preserved their majority? Possessed of honours and substantial power, (not made to feel that they who could most effectually serve the Crown, were excluded by a false system fron its favour, that others less richly endowed might rise upon their ruins), would these men have madly rushed into rebellion with the chances before them of expatriation or of an ignominious death? You well know, my Lord, that rebels have become exceedingly scarce at home, since the system of letting the majority govern has become firmly established; and yet they were as plentiful as blackberries in the good old times, when the sovereigns contended, as Sir Francis Head did lately, that they only were responsible. Turn back and you will find that they began to disappear altogether in England about 1688, and that every political change that makes the Executive more completely responsible to the Legislature and the Legisiature to the country at large, renders the prospects of a new growth, “small by degrees and beautifully less.” And yet, my Lord, who can assure us, that if the sovereigns had continued, as of old, alone responsible; if hundreds of able men all running the same course of honourable ambition, had not been encouraged to watch and control each other; and if the system of governing by the minority and not by the majority, and of excluding from power all who did not admire the mode, and quarrelled with the court, had existed down to the present day ;-who, I ask, will assure us, that Chatham and Fox, instead of being able ministers and loyal men, might not have been sturdy rebels? Who can say that even your Lordship, possessed of the strong attachment to liberty which distinguishes your family, might not,-despairing of all good government under such a system,- instead of using your influence to extend by peaceful improverents the happiness of the people,-be at this moment in the field at their head and struggling, sword in hand, to abate the power of the Crown? So long as the irresponsibility principle was maintained in Scotland, and the viceroys and a few bishops and courtiers engrossed the administration, there were such men as Hume and Lindsay, and such things as assembles in Glasgow, general tables in Edinburgh, and armed men in every part of that noble country, weakening the Government, and resisting the power of the Crown; and up to the period when Lord Normanby assumed the government of Ireland and it became a principle of administration that the minority were no longer to control the majority and shut them out from all the walks of honourable ambition, what was the attitude in which Mr. O’Connell stood towards the Sovereign? Was it not one of continual menace and hostility, by which the latter was degraded and the former clothed with a dangerous importance? And what is his attitude now? Is it not that of a warmhearted supporter of the Queen, whose smiles are no longer confined to a faction but shed over a nation, every man of which feels that he is free to obtain, if he lias the ability and the good fortune to deserve, the highest honours in her power to bestow? Daniel O’Connell (and perhaps it may be said that his tail suggested a comparison) is no longer a political cornet blazing towards the zenith and tilling the terror-stricken beholders with apprehensions of danger and a sense o! coming change; but a brilliant planet revolving in an orbit with the extent of which all are familiar, and reflecting back to the source of light and honour the beams which it is proud to share. Who any longer believes that O’Connell is to shake the empire and overturn the throne? And who doubts, had he despaired of justice, but he too might have been a rebel; and that the continued application to Ireland of the principles I denounce, would have revived the scenes and sufferings through which she passed in 1798? If, my Lord, in every one of the three great kingdoms from which the popula- tion of British America derive their origin, the evils of which we complain were experienced and continued until the principles we claim as our birthright became firmly established, is it to be expected that we shall not endeavour to rid ourselves, by respectful argument and remonstrance, of what cost you open and violent resistance to put down? Can an Englishman, an Irishman or a Scotchman, be made to believe, by passing a month upon the sea, that the most stirring periods of his history are but a cheat and a delusion; that the scenes which he has been accustomed to tread withi deep emotions are but mementoes of the folly, and not, as he once fondly believed, of the wisdom and courage of his ancestors; that the principles of civil liberty, which from childhood he has been taught to cherish and to protect by forms of stringent responsibility, must, with the new light breaking in upon him on this side of the Atlantic, be cast aside as useless incumbrance? No, my Lord, it is madness to suppose that these men, so remarkable for carrying their national characteristics into every part of the world where they penetrate, shall lose the most honourable of them al, merely by passing from one part of the empire to another. Nor is it to be supposed that the Nova Scotians, New Brunswickers and Canadians-a race sprung from the generous admixture of the blood of the three foremost nations of the world-proud of their parentage and not unworthy of it, to whom every stirring period of British and Irish history, every great principle which they teach, every phrase of freedom to be gleaned from them, are as familiar as household words, can be in haste to forget what they learnt upon their parents’ knees; what those they loved and honoured clung to with so much pride, and regarded as beyond ail price. Those who expect them thus to belie tleir origin, or to disgrace it, may as soon hope to see the streams turn back upon their fountains. My Lord, my countrymen feel, as they have a riglit to feel, that the Atlantic, the great highway of communication with their brethren at home, should be no barrier to shut out the civil privileges and political rights, which more than anything else, make thiem proud of the connection; and they feel also, that there is nothing in their present position or their past conduct to warrant such exclusion. Whatever impression may have been made by the wholesome satire’ wherewith one of my countrymen has endeavoured to excite the others to still greater exertions; those who fancy that Nova Scotians are an inferior race to those who dwell upon the ancient homestead or that they will be contented with a less degree of freedom, know little of them. A country that a century ago was but a wilderness and is now studded with towns and villages, and intersected with roads, even though more might have been done under a better system, affords some evidence of industry. Nova Scotian ships, bearing the British flag into every quarter of the globe, are some proofs of enterprise; and the success of the native author, to whom I have alluded, in the wide field of intellectual competition, more than contradicts the humorous exaggeration by which, while we are stimulated to higler efforts. others nay be for a moment misled. If then our right to inherit the Constitution be clear; if our capacity to maintain and enjoy it cannot be questioned; have we done anything to justify the alienation of our birthrighit? Many of the original settlers of this Province emigrated from the old Colonies when they were in a state of rebellion-not because they did not love freedom, but because they loved it under the old banner and the old forms; and many of their descendants have shed their blood, on land and sea, to defend the honour of the crown and the integrity of the empire. On some of the hardest fought fields of the Peninsula, my countrymen died in the front rank, with their faces to the foe. The proudest naval trophy 2 of the last American war was brought by a Nova Scotian into the harbour of his native town; and the blood that flowed from Nelson’s death wound in the cockpit of the Viclory mingled with that of a Nova Scotian stripling’ beside him struck down in the same glorious fight. Am I not then justified, my Lord, in claiming for my countrymen that Constitution, which can be withheld from them by no plea but one unworthy of a British statesman-the tyrant’s plea of power? I know that I am; and I feel also, that this is not the race that can be hoodwinked with sophistry, or made to submit to injustice without complaint. Ali suspicion of disloyalty we cast aside, as the product of ignorance or cupidity; we seek for nothing more than British subjects are entitled to; but we will be contented with nothing less. My Lord, il has been said, that if this system of responsibility were established, it would lead to a constant struggle for office and influence, which would be injurious to the habits of our population and corrupt the integrity of the public iien. That it would lead to the former I admit; but that the latter would be a consequence I must take leave to deny, until it can be shown, that in any of the other employments of life, fair competition has that effect. Let the bar biecome the bar only of the minority, and how long would there be honour and safety in the profession? Let the rich prizes to be won in commerce and finance 1e confined to a mere fragment, instead of being open to the whole population; and I doubt whether the same benefits, the same integrity, or the same satisfaction would grace the monopoly, that now spring from an open, fair and rnanly comipetition, by which, while individuals prosper, wealth and prosperity are Lrathered to the State. To be satisfied that this fair competition can with safety and the greatest advantage be carried into public as well as into private affairs, it is only necessary to contrast the example of England with that of any Continental nation where the opposite system has been pursued. And if, in England, the struggle for influence and olice has curbed corruption and produced examples of consistency and an adherence to principle extremely rare in other countries, and in none more so than in the Colonies, where the course pursued strikes at the very root of manly independence, why should we apprehend danger from its introduction or shrink from the peaceful rivalry it may occasion? But, my Lord, hiere is another view that ought to be taken of this question. Ought not British statesmen to ask themselves, is it wise to leave a million and a half of people, virtually excluded from all participation in the honourable prizes of public life? There is not a weaver’s apprentice or a parish orphan in England, that does not feel that lie may, if ho has the talent, rise through every grade of office, municipal and national, to hold the reins of government and influence the destinies of a mighty empire. The Queen may be hostile, the Lords may chafe, but neither can prevent that weaver’s apprentice or that parish orphan from becoming Prime Minister of England. Then look at the United States, in which the son of a mechanic in the smallest town, of a squatter in the wildest forest, may contend, on equal terms, with the proudest, for any office in twenty-eight different States; and having won as many as content him, may rise, through the national grades, to he President of the Union. There are no family compacts to exclude these aspirants; no little knot of irresponsible and self-elected councillors, to whom it is necessary to sell their principles, and before whom the manliness of their nature must be prostrated, before they can advance. But, in the Colonies, where there are no prizes so splendid as these, is it wise or just to narrow the field and 1onine to little cliques of irresponsible politicians, what prizes there are? No, my Lord, it is neither just nor wise. Every poor boy in Nova Scotia (for we have tie feelings of pride and ambition common to our nature) knows that he has the saine right to the honours and emoluments of office as lie would have if he lived in Britain or the United States; and lie feels, that while the great honours of the empire are almost beyond his reach, he ought to have a chance of dispensing the patronage and guiding the administration of his native country without any sacrifice of principle or diminution of self-respect. My Lord, I have done. If what has been written corrects any error into which your Lordship or others may have fallen, and communicates to some, either in Britain or the Colonies, information upon a subject not generally understood, i shall be amply repaid. Your Lordship will perhaps pardon me for reminding you, that, in thus eschewing the anonymous and putting my name t, an argument in favour of Executive responsibility for the North American colonies, I am acting under a sense of deep responsibility myself. i well know that there is not a press in the pay of any of the family compacts, that will not misrepresent my motives and pervert my language; that there is not an over-paid and irresponsible official, from Fundy to the Ottawa, whose inextinguishable hostility I shall not have earned for the remainder of my life. The example of your Lordship will, however, help me to bear these burdens with patience. You have lived and prospered, and done the State good service, and yet thousands of corrupt borough mongers and irresponsible corporators formerly misrepresented and hated you. Should I live to sec the principles for which I contend, operating as beneficially over British North America, as those immortal acts, which provoked your Lordship’s enemies, do in the mother country, I shall be gratified by the reflection, that the patriotic and honourable men now contending for the principles of the British Constitution, and by whose side, as an humble auxiliary, I am proud to take my stand, whatever they may have suffered in the struggle, did not labour in vain.-I have the honour to be, with the highest respect, your Lordship’s humble admirer, and most obedient servant, JOSEPH HOWE.

Kennedy, William P. Statutes, Treaties and Documents of the Canadian Constitution: 1713-1929. Oxford Univ. Pr., 1930.

Joseph Howe to Lord John Russell

My Lord, The next passage of the Speech of the 3rd of June, which I am bound to notice, is that in which you say:- “The Governor might ask the Executive Council to propose a certain measure. They might say that they could not propose it unless the members of the House of Assembly would adopt it, but the Governor might reply that he had received instructions from home commanding him to propose that measure. How, in that case, is he to proceed ? Either one power or the other must be set aside; either the Governor or the House of Assembly; or else the Governor must become a mere cipher in the hands of the Assembly, and not attempt to carry into effect the measures which he is commanded by the Home Government to do.” This objection is based upon the assumption, that the interests of the mother country and those of the colonies are not the same; that they must be continually in a state of conflict; and that there must be some course of policy necessary for the Imperial Government to enforce, the reasons for which cannot be understood in the colonies, nor its necessity recognized. This may have been the case formerly in the West Indies, where the conflict was one between the ideas engendered by a state of slavery and a state of freedom; but it is not true of the North American Provinces, to the condition and claims of which my observations are chiefly confined. Of all the questions which have agitated or are likely to agitate Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, of Prince Edward Island, how few, when rightly understood, can be said to involve any Imperial interests; or trench upon any principle dear to our brethren at home, or the concession of which could disturb the peace of the Empire? Have any of these colonies claimed the right to regulate the foreign trade or foreign policy of the Empire? lave they ever interfered, except to carry out the views of 1-er Majesty’s Government, with any of the military or naval operations? Have they exposed a grievance, the continued existence of which is indispensable to the well-being of the British Islands; or demanded a right, the concession of which would not be serviceable to themselves, without doing the least injury to the people of Britain? For what have they asked? For the control of their own revenues and the means of influencing the appointment and acts of the men who are to dispense them; and who are, besides, to distribute hundreds of petty offices, and discharge functions manifold and various within the Colony itself? The people of England have no knowledge of these matters, nor any interest in them, to give them the right to interfere. Interference does much mischief to the Colonists, and can do no good to their brethren across the water. If British statesmen would let these things alone-and it is over these only that we claim to enforce responsibility and confine themselves to those general arrangements affecting the whole Empire, of which we admit them to be the best judges, and in the conduct of which we never asked to take a part, it would be impossible to conceive how such a case could arise as that supposed by your Lordship, or how the Governor could be charged with “a measure which his Executive Council would not dare to propose.” Admitting that there might be some subjects requiring discussion in the Provinces, but which the Colonists were not prepared to adopt, surely an Executive Councillor could be got, even if he were opposed to the views of the ministers, to submit the measure and explain those views to the popular branch; or might there not be ” open questions” in the Colonies as at home? The conclusion at which my mind arrives, then, after the best attention that I can give to this branch of the subject, is, that if the duties and responsibilities of government are fairly and judiciously divided between the Imperial and Colonial authorities, no such case as that assumed by your Lordship can occur; and, if it should, surely the good sense of all parties concerned may safely be trusted, to avoid any violent or unpleasant collision. But did it never occur to your Lordship to inquire, whether the very evil anticipated, as an insuperable objection to the new system, does not disfigure and annually occur under the old? What else were the Executive Councillors in Upper and Lower Canada doing for a series of years but “proposing certain measures,” to be as certainly rejected by the popular branch? What else are they about now in Newfoundland? What but this were they doing in New Brunswick, down to the close of Sir Archibald Campbell’s Administration? In all these Provinces a state of constant collision between the Executive and the popular branch, which could by no possibility arise under the system I contemplate, would answer the objection, even if the difficulty suggested could be fairly taken into account. If it be said that the Councillors now do not refuse to propose measures, I answer, But if the Legislatures invariably reject them, does government gain anything, or is public business advanced by the system? What a figure did the Executive cut in Nova Scotia, in 1838, when the Councillor who brought down from the Governor a grave proposition, led the opposition against it? And how stand things in this Province now? Are not all the Councillors selections from a lean ninority of the commons, in which body almost every debate terminates in a vote of implied want of confidence in them; and where the Governor they surround bas, on several occasions, only been saved from an insulting vote of censure by the good temper and moderation of the majority? This is a state of things too ridiculous to be long continued. To me it seems essential that, Her Majesty, in every colony, should be represented by an Executive not only willing “to attempt” but ” able to carry” any measures that it may be necessary to propose. The next objection taken by your Lordship to the introduction of Provincial responsibility, one eminently calculated to have weight with the body you addressed, and to alarm the timid everywhere, was drawn from an application of the principle, to the management of foreign affairs. ” If,” says your Lordship, ” the Assembly of New Brunswick had been disposed to carry the point in dispute with the North American States hostilely, and the Executive Council had been disposed to aid them, in my opinion the Governor must have said that his duty to the Crown of this country, and the general instructions which he had received from the minister of the Crown, did not permit him to take that course, and, therefore, he could not agree with the Executive Council to carry into effect the wish of the Assembly. That is allowed. Does not, then, its very exception destroy the analogy you wish to draw, when, upon so important a point as that of foreign affairs, it cannot be sustained?” Your Lordship, in delivering this passage, of course, was not aware that, without the alteration of a single syllable, you answered the very objection that yourself had raised. If the Executive Council of New Brunswick advised Sir John Harvey to declare war upon the State of Maine, “he must have said that his duty to the Crown and his instructions did not permit him to take that course.” Most certainly lie would, if a measure so ridiculous had been attempted in New Brunswick, which nobody, who knows anything of that Province, could for a moment imagine. I do not believe that there are ten men in it, certainly there are not fifty in all the lower Provinces put together, who do not know that the Sovereign alone lias the right to declare war upon foreign powers; and who are not willing that, upon all the relations of the Colonies with these, and with each other, the Imperial Government shall decide. A few of the New Brunswickers blamed Sir John Harvey for not acting upon Her Majesty’s instructions to maintain exclusive jurisdiction over the disputed territory, notwithstanding the advice received from the Minister at Washington; but, if those instructions had not existed, and had not been positive, no one would have been idiot enough to suppose that Sir John Harvey would have been bound to make war, on a point of honour or policy newly discovered by his Executive Council, and upon which ler Majesty’s government had had no opportunity to decide. Suppose, when Parliament was granting a charter to Hull, it was objected that the Mayor might be advised to make war upon Sweden (and, in the case of an elective officer, Lhe danger would be greater than if lie were appointed by the Crown,) would not the same louse of Commons that thought it unsafe to let a Colony manage its internal affairs for fear it would engage in foreign wars, laugh at the possibility of such an absurdity being committed by any body of Englishmen out of Bedlam? Why then should it be taken for granted that we are not English in our habits and opinions, our education and training, our capacity to discern the boundaries of authority; and that therefore it would be unsafe to depend upon our wisely exercising powers, which, in the British Islands, millions exercise for their own security and without danger to the state? In the case of Hull, if the objection were gravely urged, the ready answer would be, “No greater powers can be exercised than are granted in the bill; and if there is the least danger of the city authorities doing anything so ridiculous, put in a clause that shall restrain them.” And I say-after soberly protesting that the very suspicion of such an attempt is an insult to the understanding, and an imputation upon the character of our population, which they do not deserve-that if you wish “to make assurance doubly sure,” put a clause into the bill which concedes the principle of responsibility so far as relates to domestic affairs, and by which all such belligerent Councillors shall be expressly restrained. Whether this point were or were not thus defined, that any Executive Council, merely because they were responsible to the people, would, after receiving such an answer as your Lordship admits a British Governor must give, proceed in defiance of his authority, to levy war upon a friendly state, I cannot for a moment believe. If they did, they would certainly so completely fail, and render thenselves so supremely ridiculous, that the attempt would not be likely to be repeated, at least for a century to come. Let us suppose the case to have occurred in New Brunswick: that the Executive Council being responsible, had advised Sir John Harvey to proceed hostilely; and that, on his declining, they had levied war. In the first place, as all the regular troops were at Sir John’s disposal, as Commander-in-Chief within the Province, and not merely as civil Governor, they not only could not have moved a soldier, but would have had the whole military force of that and the adjoining Provinces against them. As the Gover- nor’s order to the colonels and officers commanding the militia is indispensable before a single step can be taken, under the laws by which that force is embodied, of course no hostile order would have been given, nor could those laws have been inodified or changed without Sir John’s assent. And if it be urged, that volunteers would have flocked to the aid of the Executive Council, may I not inquire where tiey would have obtained arms and ammunition, when all the military munitions and stores were deposited in military warehouses, under the care of commissaries and officers of ordnance responsible only to the Crown ? Oh! no, my Lord, whatever effect such imaginary cases as these may have on men at a distance, unacquainted with the state of society in British America and the general intelligence which prevails; here they are laughed at, as the creations of a fertile imagination taxed to combat political improvements that were feared without being understood. If, even under the federative government of the United States, in which each state is much more independent of the central authority than any Colony would be under the system I contemplate, this right of private war has only been once asserted, by a single State, in more than half a century, and then was scouted all over the Continent, is it to be supposed that British subjects will pay less respect to the authority of their Queen than do republican Americans to that of their President? There is one bare possibility, which your Lordship bas not suggested, in opposition to the new system, and yet it is scarcely more ridiculous than some that have been urged; that the Colonial Councillors might claim the control of the squadron upon the North American coast, as well as of the land forces, in their anxiety to engage in foreign wars. The danger in this case would be nearly as great as in the other; for, in modern warfare, a fleet is nearly as necessary as an army; and yet, it is certain that the admiral upon the station would know how to treat such a claim, should it be preferred by a Council, who, in the wanton exercise of authority, were disposed to transgress all bounds. The next objection which i am bound to notice, is given in the report: “Let us suppose that an officer of the militia in Upper Canada, after an action, was to order that the persons taken in that action should be put to death on the field. I can conceive it possible, in a state of exasperation and conflict with the people of the neighbouring States, that the Assembly might applaud that conduct, and might require that it should be the rule and not the exception,-that all invaders of their territory should be treated in that manner, and that the parties should be put to death without trial. Supposing that to be the case; could the Government of this country adopt such a rule? Could the Secretary of State for the Colonies sanction such a rule, and not decide, as my honourable friend the under-secretary has done, that the practice should meet with his decided reprehension?” Now, my Lord, admitting that such a case might occur once in half a century, under the new system, let me remind your Lordship that it has already occurred under the old. If it is to have any weight, the fact of its occurrence in a Province in which the Executive Council is irresponsible and the Colonial Secretary is in the exercise of his full powers, makes in favour of my argument; while I have a right to deny, until proof is furnished, that it could occur, if matters were more wisely ordered, and a more rational system established, by which all temptations to foreigners to make inroads into British Provinces, speculating upon the disaffection of the people, would be removed. But, my Lord, life bas been taken under your system-” death” has been inflicted “without trial,” illegally, as you infer-and has any punishment followed? Have the laws been vindicated? No! Then why not? Simply, I presume, because your beautiful mode of government has produced such a state of things in a British Province, that the ministers of the Queen dare not bring the man charged with this high offence to trial. Under a system of responsibility, by which the population were left to manage their domestic affairs, I hold that no such violation of law would be likely to occur, and that, if it did, investigation would be as safe, and punishment as certain, as though a crime had been committed in Middlesex, or Surrey. I have thus disposed, my Lord, of the military questions; and, as I have left Her Majesty and her representatives in full control of the army and navy and of the militia force of British America, and have asserted no claim of the Colonists to interfere with foreign treaties and diplomatic arrangements affecting the empire at large; I think, if peace be not maintained with foreign states, the punishment for offences strictly military be not awarded, the blame will not rest with the Executive Councillors, who are to exercise no jurisdiction over these matters, and cannot be responsible if others fail in their duty. Let me now turn to another class of objections, arising out of our Colonial and foreign trade. “Again,” says your Lordship, “neither could this analogy be maintained with regard to trade between Canada and the mother country, or Canada and any other country. How then can you adopt a principle from which such large exceptions are to be made? If you were to do so, you would be continually on the borders of dispute and conflict; the Assembly and the Executive, on the one hand, requiring a certain course to be pursued, while the Governor, on the other hand, would be as constantly declaring that it was a course he could not adopt; so that, instead of furnishing matter of content and harmony in these Provinces, you would be affording new matter for dispute and discontent if you were to act upon this supposed analogy.” Now, my Lord, i feel it my duty to state, that you may take from any part you please to select, of England, Ireland, or Scotland, two hundred thousand persons, and among them you will not find a larger number than are to be found in Nova Scotia, well informed as to the degree of authority in matters of trade, which, for the good of the whole empire and the preservation of the advantages in which all are to participate, it is necessary to confide to the care of the Sovereign and the wisdom of the Imperial Parliament. The great corporations of London, of Bristol, and of Liverpool, do not presume to interfere with these, except by petition and remonstrance, neither do we. Each of these cities bas the right to levy small duties within their own limits, for matters of internal regulation, or to aid public improvements; and these rights they exercise, in common with us, when they do not contravene any British statutes necessary for the protection of the trade of the empire. But, if it can be shown that a law bears unequally upon London or Halifax, and that a flagrant case of hardship exists; or if the industry of any portion of the people, either in England or the Colonies is taxed, while no corresponding advantage is reaped by any other portion; or that, if reaped, it is an unfair and illegitimate advantage,-an appeal is made to Parliament. We have hitherto been contented, although not directly represented in that Assembly, to abide the result of that appeal; or to pass bills, taking our chance of their being assented to in England. The same thing would occur, even if the Executive Council was responsible; for, upon this point, there is no part of our population prepared to set up absurd or irrational claims. If Parliament should undertake to legislate directly against our interests; to cut up our commerce, and prevent the growth of domestic industry; and, after fair notice and ample proof of injury, were to persist in such a course; why then a state of things would arise, which similar policy produced elsewhere, in other times, and upon the results of which either responsible or irresponsible Councils would exercise but little influence. But, as political economists at home are every day becoming convinced that the more liberty they afford to the Colonist to conduct his commercial operations the greater will be his demand for British manufactures; and as, under the guidance of this enlightened policy, the laws of trade and navigation are annually becoming less restrictive, it is not probable that difficulties, which were never insuperable, will all of a sudden admit of no rational remedy; or that the boundaries of Colonial and Imperial authority, now so well understood, and the recognition of which is so easily enforced, will often be called in question on either side. If the Colonists assert rights which do not belong to them, and persist in their contumacy, disturbing solemn treaties and setting acts of Parliament at naught; why then they have broken the social compact: it is a case of rebellion and they must be put down. Let us reduce the difficulty to practice, for the purpose of illustration. Suppose that both branches of the Legislature pass a law by -which a heavy duty is laid on British broadcloths, and those from the United States are admitted duty free; and that the Executive Council, being responsible, advise the Lieutenant Governor to assent to it. Such an absurd piece of bad faith as this could never be attempted in the lower Provinces; for public opinion would never sanction any interference with the general laws not intended to remedy abuses, or that struck at Colonial without promoting British prosperity; nor would any changes be popular which violated the fraternal comity by which British subjects everywhere are bound to encourage and protect each other. But I have supposed the law passed and presented. The Governor would say in this case, as he now invariably says-as your Lordship admits he must say, if urged to provoke a foreign war: “Gentlemen, you are exceeding your powers. To legislate for your own advantage is one thing; to legislate directly against your brethren at home, for the advantage of foreigners, is another. This bill must be either modified or rejected, or reserved for Her Majesty’s assent, before it can go into operation.” If the parties urging it persisted, a dissolution might be tried; and an appeal to British subjects, in a case where the Governor was clearly right and his advisers wrong, would never be made in vain; particularly when aided by the Constitutional opposition, which, under a system of responsibility and manly competition, would exist in every Colony. But if it failed; and such an almost impossible thing were upon the cards, as that a majority could be found in Nova Scotia to sustain such an act, or anything bearing a resemblance to it, then a case would have occurred for the interference of the Imperial authorities, who should say to us frankly: If you will come into unnatural and hostile collision, the weakest has the most to fear. Had your Lordship been as familiar with the mode of dealing with such subjects as most Colonists are who have watched the proceedings of Colonial Assemblies, you would have been satisfied that no danger was to be apprehended from violent collisions about matters of trade. When a new duty is proposed in Nova Scotia or a reduction suggested, the first question asked on all sides is, Will the proposition violate the letter or does it even run counter to the spirit of the Imperial Acts? If it does, in eight cases out of ten, the person bringing the measure forward drops it, on being assured of the fact. In the ninth case, where a doubt exists as to the policy and wisdom of Imperial legislation is found, on inquiry, that the clause which seemed to press upon us, originated in a wide view over the whole field of commerce, which British statesmen, often better than others whose positions afford fewer advantages, are enabled to take and that its repeal would inflict an injury and not confer a benefit. The tenth case is perhaps one in which the Imperial Parliament, either from haste, or prejudice, or insuflicient information, has committed an error in political economy, or inflicted a wound upon Colonial without benefiting British industry. In this case (and they only occur once in a great while) no one ever dreams, that, as your Lordship expresses it, the Imperial Legislature is to be “overruled” by that of the colony. We never doubt but that an appeal to the good sense and the justice of our brethren over the water will be successful. A bill is passed, perhaps, to meet the difliculty; and an explanation of the facts and reasoning in which it originated, is sent with it, in the form of an address to the throne, and in most cases is found to be successful. This is the mode at present. What reason is there to suppose that it would be much changed, if we had an Executive Council, whose powers and responsibilities did not extend to matters of general commerce, already provided for by Imperial legislation? If we are so fond of violent conflicts and factious opposition, what hinders us from indulging our propensities now? Shall we be less considerate the more kindly we are treated? Shall we have less respect for Imperial legislation, when we see that it leaves us the entire management of our domestic affairs and only deals with those great interests which transcend our authority and are beyond our control? Suppose twelve Nova Scotians, who are not responsible to any authority under Heaven, are made accountable to the rest of their countrymen, shall we have a man the more for forcible resistance than we have now or a gun, a pike, a bomb, or a barrel of powder? I have thus, my Lord, gone over the arguments urged by your Lordship in the speech of the 3rd of June. I have omitted none that appear to me to have the slightest bearing upon the great question at issue, and I trust I have given to each a fair and satisfactory answer. I have written not only under a solemn sense of duty, but with a full assurance that sophistry, woven around this question, either on one side of the Atlantic or the other, would be torn to shreds in the conflict of acute and vigorous minds now engaged in its discussion. Had your Lordship, in announcing the decision of the Cabinet, forborne to state the reasons upon which that decision was founded, 1 might, like counsel at the bar under similar circumstances, have felt myself compelled to acquiesce in a judgment, neither the justice nor the policy of which I could fathom. But when the arguments were stated, and when I saw a question involving the peace and security of six extensive Provinces, and the freedom and happiness of a million and a half of British subjects, disposed of by a mode of reasoning which I knew to be deceptive and unsound,-when I saw, in fact, that the parties claiming their rights were to be turned out of court, with all the arguments and ail the evidence on their side, I felt that to remain silent would be to deserve the social and political degradation which this unjust decision was to entail on my countrymen and myself; to earn the Helot mark of exclusion from the blessings of that Constitutional freedom, which our forefathers struggled to bequeathe; and which we should never cease to demand, as a patrimony that runs with our blood, and cannot be rightfully severed from our name…. JOSEPH HOWE.

Kennedy, William P. Statutes, Treaties and Documents of the Canadian Constitution: 1713-1929. Oxford Univ. Pr., 1930.

Joseph Howe To Lord John Russell

My Lord,

-I have read the speech delivered by your Lordship on the 3rd of June, as reported in The Morning Chronicle, several times; and beg your Lordship’s attention to what I conceive to be the rational solution of the difficulties raised in that speech to the concession of the principle of local responsibility. Had your Lordship been more familiar with the practical workings of the existing colonial constitutions, and with the feelings of the people who smart under the mischiefs they produce, you would not, perhaps, have fallen into some errors by which that speech is disfigured; nor have argued the question as one in which, the obvious, manifold, and vital interests of the colonists were to be sacrificed to fear of some vague and indefinite injury that might be sustained by imperial interests, if executive power were taken from the ignorant and given to the wellinformed-if it passed from the hands of officers to whom but a nominal responsibility can attach, into those of men subject to constant scrutiny, and, whenever they fail in their duty, liable to exposure and disgrace. Lord Durham recommends that the English rule, by which those who conduct public affairs resign when they have lost the confidence of the Commons, should be applied to the Executive Councillors in North America. Your Lordship denies the existence of the analogies upon which Lord Durham’s views are based:- “It does not appear to me that you can subject the ExecutiVe Council of Canada to the responsibility which is fairly demanded of the ministers of the executive power in this country. In the first place, there is an obvious difference in matter of form with regard to the instructions under which the Governor of the colony acts. The Sovereign in this country receives the advice of the ministers, and acts by the advice of those ministers; and indeed there is no important act of the Crown for which there is not some indîvidual minister responsible. There responsibility begins, and there it ends. But the Governor of Canada is acting, not in that high and unassailable position in which the Sovereign of this country is placed. -le is a Governor receiving instructions from the Crown on the responsibility of a Secretary of State. Here then, at once, is an obvious and complete difference between the executive of this country and the executive of a colony.” 1 Now, my Lord, let me beg your Lordship’s attention to a few of the reasons why I conceive that such an argument as this ought not to stand in the way of the permanent peace, prosperity, and happiness of a million and a half of human beings. “The Sovereign in England receives the advice of the ministers and acis by the advice of those ministers;”-but are there no limits assigned by law, within which those advisers are bound to keep ?-and is not the Sovereign bound to know and to apprise the country when they over-step them? What is the question at issue now between the Whigs and Tories? Is it not, whether, according to the spirit and practice of the Constitution, Sir Robert Peel had or had not a advise the changes in ler Majesty’s household, upon which he insisted, before he would consent to form an administration? Suppose the present Cabinet were to advise 1-er Majesty to cut off Sir Robert’s ears, or to bombard the city of London, would she obey, or would she not say, “Gentlemen you are exceeding vour powers, and unless you conduct yourselves with more discretion, you must resign?” It is plain, therefore, that there are bounds beyond which even in the mother country, neither the advisers nor the monarch can pass; and none who seck colonial responsibility are so mad as to require that corresponding restrictions shall not be binding here; that there shall not be a limit beyond which no Executive Councillor can pass, and over which no representative of Her Majesty will consent to be driven? These bounds must be clearly defined in the Act of larliament which establishes the new system, or in the instructions sent to the Governors, to be communicated to the Legislatures; and which they may, if they sce fit, embody in a bill, which, so long as it exisis, shall be, to all intents and purposes, the Constitution of the Colony. But, your Lordship says:-” The Governor is acting, not in that high and unassailable position in which the Sovereign of this country is placed.” Why should he not occupy a position nearly as independent; and be perfectly unassailable, so long as he does not interfere (as the Sovereign would not dare to do) with rnatters for which others are responsible; nor allow himself, or his Council, to overstep those boundaries which British subjects on both sides of the Atlantic, for the protection of their mutual rights and interests, have established; and for a jealous recognition of which he, in case bad advice be given him, is alone responsible? The Queen’s position is unassailable only so long as she does no act which the Constitution does not permit to be done. The Governor, if assailed, would in like manner turn to the Constitution of the colony committed to his care; and show that on the one hand he had neither trenched upon the rights essential to the security of colonial liberty, nor, on the other, timorously yielded aught which the laws for the protection of imperial interests made it criminal to yield. Your Lordship is mistaken, therefore, in supposing that the Sovereign is divested of all responsibility; although I admit it is much more difficult to call him or her to an account than it would be the Governor of a colony. If the Queen were to deprive Sir Robert Peel of his ears or open a few batteries upon London, an émeute or a revolution would be the only remedy; but a Governor, if he consented to an act which shut out British manufacturers, or was tempted to levy war upon a friendly state, could be called to account without difficulty or delay; and, hence, I argue, that the facility and certainty of inflicting punishment for offences of this sort would prevent their commission; and operate as a sufficient guard to the imperial interests, which your Lordship seems so anxious to protect. If it be said that the people in a colony may sustain councillors who give unconstitutional advice, my answer is, that the same thing may·occur in England. When it does, a peaceful modification of the Constitution, or a revolution follows; but these cases are not so frequent as to excite alarm, nor is there any reason to believe that they will be more so in the colonies, whose power to enforce improper demands is so questionable. “He is a Governor receiving instructions from the Crown, on the responsibility of a Secretary of State.” This passage suggests some reflections which I feel it my duty respectfully to press upon your Lordship’s attention. One of the evils of the existing system, or rather haphazard mode of government, devoid of ail system, is the various readings given to the medley of laws, usages, and Colonial Office despatches, by which we are at present ruled. An excellent illustration of the difliculty of obtaining an interpretation of these, about which there can be no mistake-which he who runs may read-rnay be furnished by contrasting the views put forth by your Lordship with those acted upon by Sir Francis Head; 1 and which, after a bloody rebellion, brought on to prove the value of his theory, he stîll avows in every succeeding edition of his Narralive, with a consistency and complacency worthy of ail praise. “The responsibility,” says your Lordship, “resis on ihe Secreiary of Stale.” “The responsibility,” says Sir Francis -lead, in every act of his government and in every page of his book, “resis on me.” From the moment of his entering into Upper Canada, he threw overboard ail the instructions from the Colonial Secretary (who according to your Lordship ought to have been obeyed, for lie was alone responsible); he struck out a course of policy entirely new; commenced “putting the padlock on the mind,” to be followed by some hundreds of handcuffs on the wrists, and padlocks on the body. His language to Lord Glenelg throughout was, ” You must support me,”-“The fear is that I will not be supported at the Colonial Office.” In fact, from-first to last, Sir Francis gave instructions to, instead of receiving them from, the Secretary of State; and finding that Lord Glenelg would not permit him to try his experiments in government, and combat the fiery dragon of democracy in the bosom of a British Province, at the cost of a good deal of blood and treasure, and the prospects of a foreign war, without occasionally offering a little advice, the worthy Baronet resigned; and has ever since been publishing his complaints to the world and claiming its sympathy, as a sufferer for conscience’ sake, in upholding the only correct reading of colonial constitutions, and whicli the Secretary of State, and the Whig Government of which lie was a member, did not understand. The doctors in this case differed; and the patient was left prostrate, mangled, bleeding and exhausted, listening to tlieir altercations, but suffering from every gash made to convince each other at her expense; and there she lay, until recently; when, beginning to suspect that both had been talking nonsense and trying absurd experiments, she lifted lier languid head, stretched out ber wounded limbs, and began to fix her eyes upon the only remedy by which health could be restored. Let us, in order to convince ourselves that the conclusion to which Upper Canada is coming after ail lier sufferings is a sound one, examine the two prescriptions and modes of treatment; and ascertain whether either contains anything which oughît to rescue it from the oblivion that invariably closes over the nostrums by whichî the science of politics, like the science of medicine, is often disfigured for a time. A colony where the Governor is alone responsible is Sir Francis Head’s interpretation of the system under which we live. It is one very much affected by colonial Governors everywhere. Unlimited power within a wide Province is a beautiful idea for an individual to indulge, especially when it is attended with but little risk and only nominal responsibility. Of ail the British colonial Governors who have wielded this vast authority; plumed themselves upon the possession of these plenary powers; and, in the exercise of them, vexed, distracted, and excited to disaffection one Province after another, how many have been tried and punished ? How many have met with even a reprimand from the ministry, or a cold look from the Sovéreign whose authority they had abused? I leave your Lordship, whose historical reading has been much more extensive than mine, to point out the instances; I have searched for them in vain. It is truc that debates in Parliament occasionally arise upon sucli subjects; but these, judging by their practical effect, can hardly be taken into account. A Governor knows well that, so-long as he holds office, the ministry by whom he was appointed will defend hin; that their majority in the Commons precludes the possibility of a vote of censure being passed against him; that the Duke, under whom lie probably served, having a majority in the Upper House, lie is perfectly safe, so long as he commits no act so flagrant as to outrage the feelings of the nation; and which, coming borne to the heart of every man and woman in Eng iand, would make it unsafe for any parliamentary combination to attempt to protect him. Thus fenced in during his administration, what are his perils when lie retires? The colonists, too happy when rid of the nuisance to be vindictive, and hoping better things from a successor, of whom they are unwilling to suspect any evil, cease to complain; his Excellency is removed to another Province, with a larger salary, to act the same farce over there; or retires to his estates in the mother country, to form one of that numerous body of ex-Governors who live upon the consciousness of having, once within their lives at least, wielded powers within a wide range and over the destinies of many thousands of their fellow-beings, such as are never permitted to be wielded by any individual, however high his rank or widely extended his influence, without full and ample responsibility, within the British Islands themiselves. These men, whether they go into Parliament or not, always sympathize with Governors abroad acting upon their darling theory; and, as they are often consulted by ministers who know perhaps a little less than themselves, they are always at hand to stifle the complaints of the colonists when appeals are made to England. Your Lordship will perceive, therefore, that when a Governor declares, as did Sir Francis Head, that the responsibility rests on him, he merely means that he is about to assume extensive powers, for three or four, perhaps for eight or ten years, without the shadow of a chance of his ever being called to account for anything lie may do or leave undone. To enable you to form some idea of the peace, prosperity and satisfaction likely to, be diffused over a Province, by a Governor acting upon these principles and exercising these powers, let me request your Lordship to imagine that, after twenty or thirty years of military service, by which I have become disciplined into a contempt for civil business and a fractious impatience of the opinions of all beneath me in rank, Her Majesty has the right, and graciously deigns to exercise it, of making me Mayor of Liverpool. Fancy that, up to the moment when the information is conveyed to me, though I have heard the name of that city several times and have some vague notion that Liverpool is a large commercial port in England; yet that I neither know on what river or on which side of the island it is situated, nor have the least knowledge of its extent, population, requirements or resources; the feelings, interests, prejudices or riglts of its inhabitants. Within a month, having had barely sufficient time to trace out the situation of the place upon a map, read a book or two about it, hear an under-secretary talk an hour or two of what neither lie nor I understand; receive a packet of instructions-of which half-a-dozen different readings may be given-and become thoroughly inflated with my own consequence, I find myself in Liverpool; and feel that I am the great pivot upon which all its civil administration, its order and defence, its external relations with the rest of the empire and the rest of the world turns: the fountain from which its internal patronage is to flow; and to which all, for a long period of years, must look for social and political ascendency, if they have no merit; and, if Lliey have, for a fair consideration of their clains. Your Lordship will readily believe, that a man thus whisked away from the pursuits which have occupied his thoughts for years and plunged into a new scene, surrounded by human beings not one of whose faces he ever saw before; called to the consideration of a thousand topics, with almost any one of which the assiduous devotion of half a life would be required to make him familiar; and having to watch over vast interests, balance conflicting claims, decide on the capacity of hundreds, of whose characters, talents and influence lie is ignorant; to fill offices, of the duties of which lie has not the slightest conception; -that a man so situated, must either be very vain or very able, if he is not appalled at the extent of the responsibility lie has assumed; and must be an angel of light indeed, if lie does not throw the good city of Liverpool into confusion. This, my Lord, is no fancy sketch; no picture, highly coloured to produce effect, but which on close examination, an artist would cast aside as out of drawing; it is a faithful representation of what occurs in some British colony almost every year. But iL may be said, all this is granted, and yet there is the Legislature to influence and instruct. Liverpool shall still serve for illustration, and we will presently see to what extent the representative branch operates on the conduct of a gentleman who assumes the responsibility and is placed in the circumstances described. Let us suppose that the city charter gives me for my advisers, from the moment I am sworn in, ten or a dozen individuals, some of them heads of departments, enjoying large salaries and much patronage; others, perhaps, discarded members of the popular branch; and not a few selected by no rule which the people can clearly understand, but because they happened to flatter the vanity of one or other of my predecessors, or to be connected with the families, or favourable to the views or interests of some of those by whom they were advised. This body, be it observed, by usage never departed from, hold their situations as Councillors for life; the people have no control over them, neither have I; they are sworn not to inform upon each other, nor is it necessary that they should; because, as I have assumed the responsibility, and they for their own interest favour the theory, if anything goes wrong they can lay the blame on me. This body, then, which owes no allegiance to the people of Liverpool; whicli often, in fact, bas an interest the very reverse of theirs; which, suspected of usurpation and improper influence, pays back the imputation with unmeasured contempt; and hardly one-fifth of whose number could, by any possibility, be thus honoured if their seats depended on popular slection; this body I am compelled to call around me in order that my administration may commence, for without some such assistance, I am unable to take a single step. They come; and there sit, at the first council board, the responsible Mayor, vho knows nothing and nobody, and his irresponsible advisers, who, if they do not know everything-and they are seldom greater witches than their neighboursknow their friends, a lean minority of the citizens, from their enemies, the great majority; and are quite aware that, for their interest, it is necessary that I should be taught, as soon as possible, to despite the latter and throw myself into the arms of the former. Will any sensible man, calmly viewing the relative situations, opportunities and powers of the parties, believe that any act of administration donc, or any appointment made for the first six months, is my act or my appointment? I may choose between any two or three persons whose names are artfully set before me, when an office is to be filled, and if determined to show my independence may choose the worst; but I must choose from the relatives and friends of my advisers, or fromn the small minority who support them in the hopes of preferment; for to that section the whole of the city patronage must be religiously confined; and it is of course so managed, that I scarcely know or have confidence in anybody else. Can your Lordship believe that such a state of things would give satisfaction to the citizens? Would they not begin to grumble and complain, to warn, to remonstrate, and to expose the machinations and manoeuvres of the monopolists? It would be very odd, and they would be very strange Englishmen if they did not. But as I have come to Liverpool to demonstrate the beauties of this system of city government, which I highly approve; as I have assumed the whole responsibility and become inflated with the consciousness of my extensive powers; and, above all, as I am taught by my advisers to look upon every complaint of the syslem as a libel upon my judgment and an insult to my administration-I very soon begin to dislike those who complain; to speak and write contemptuously of them in private and in public; to denounce any who have the hardihood to suggest that some alterations are required, by which the opinions and rights of the majority shall be respected, as men dangerous to the peace of the city and disaffected towards Her Majesty’s person and government; until, in fact, Liverpool becomes very like a town, in the olden time, in which the inhabitants generally being hostile to their rulers, the latter retire to the citadel, from which they project every sort of missile and give every species of annoyance. By-and-by the time arrives for the legislative branches of the city governîment to assemble. One of these being elected at short periods, under a low franchise, which includes the greater body of the independent citizens, may be taken as a fair reflection of all their great interests, their varied knowledge, passions and prejudices; the other is a body of life legislators, selected by my advisers from among their own relatives and friends; with a few others, of a more independent character, to save appearances, but in which they always have a, majority of faithful and determined partisans. The business commences; the great majority of members in the representative branch-speaking the matured opinions of the people-complain of the system and of the advisers it has placed around me; expressing the fullest confidence in me, whom they cannot suspect of wishing to do them harm, but asking ny co-operation towards the introduction of changes withoutwhich, they assure me, the city never can prosper. But my advisers having a few of their adherents also in this body, they are instructed to declare any change unnecessary; to throw every obstruction in the way; to bully and defame the most conspicuous of those who expose the evils of the existing system; and to denounce them all as a dangerous combination, who, with some covert design, are pressing, for factious objects, a series of frivolous complaints. Of course, as the minority speak the sentiments which I have imbibed and put themselves forward as my personal champions on all occasions, they rise in my esteem exactly in the same proportions as the other party are depressed, until they become special pets; and, from their ranks, as opportunities occur, all vacancies are supplied, either in the list of irresponsible advisers who in my naine carry on the government, or in the number of life legislators, who do their bidding in the upper branch. I respectfully beg your Lordship to ponder over these passages, which I assure you are true to nature and to experience; and ask yourself, after bringing home such a state of affairs to the bosom of any British city, how long it would be uncomplainingly endured? or how long any ministry, duly informed of the facts, would wish it to continue? Look back, my Lord, and you will find in every rotten corporation, swept away by the immortal act of which your Lordship was one of the ablest defenders, a resemblance to our colonial governments as they at present stand, too strong to be mistaken; and let me venture to hope, that the man who did not spare corruption so near the national centre of vitality, who did not hesitate to combat these hydra-headed minorities, who swarming over England, everywhere asserted their right to govern the majorities, will not shrink from applying his own principles-the great principles of the Constitution-to these more distant, but not less important portions of the empire. Your Lordship will, perhaps, urge that Sir Francis Head succeeded in pleasing the people and getting the majority on his side. Admitting the full force that the worthy Baronet gives to this case, it is after all but the exception to the general mie. The true history of events in Upper Canada, I believe to have been this: A small but desperate minority had determined on a violent revolution; this party might have contained some men so wicked that a love of mischief and a desire for plunder were their governing principles, and others, moved by an attachment to republican institutions; but smal.l as it was, the greater number of those found in its ranks had been driven there by the acts of another equally small and equally desperate minority, who had long monopolized,-and, under the present system, may and will monopolize for a century to come-the whole power and patronage of the government, dividing among them the revenues of the country. The great mass of the people of Upper Canada belonged to neither of these bands of desperadoes. They were equally determined with the one, to uphold British connection; and as equally determined with the other, to get rid of a wretched system of irresponsible administration, under the continuance of which they well knew the Province could never prosper. When Sir Francis Head arrived, he entered the colony-if we are to believe his own account of the matter-almost as ignorant as my imaginary Mayor of Liverpool. Sir Francis admits his ignorance, but denies the consequences that must be deduced from it: that he was led and influenced, in the first acts of his administration, until the compact found him ripe for their own purposes and embroiled even with the moderate men on the other side. Then commenced that extraordinary flight of proclamations, addresses and declamatory appeals; wlhich, winged with the ready pen of a professional author and shot from the long bow of the family compact, created so much false excitement, and carried so much misrepresentation into every corner of the Province. In these the great question at issue in Upper Canada-which was one between the interests of the farnily compact and the principles of the British Constitution-was winked out of sight; and the people, not only of that, but of the surrounding colonies, were made to believe that they were to choose between British and republican institutions; that Sir Francis and the family compact (Archdeacon Strachan with the Clergy Reserves, oneseventh of the Province; and Attorney-General Hagerman, with the corrupt patronage and influence of administration, under their arms) represented the former; and Mackenzie, and his band of desperadoes, the latter. Thus appealed to, the British population everywhere, as the cunning men at Sir Franci!’ elbow well knew they would, said, with one voice: “If that is the question, then we are for the British Constitution; and hurrah for Sir Francis Headi’. Mackenzie was an outlaw in a week; his small band of desperadoes was scattered by the energy of the people, the great mass of whiom never dreamed of breaking the connection with the mother country. Then came the period in which the compact glorified themselves and Sir Francis; the fever of loyal excitement in which the miserable minority of officials–feeling strong in the success of their manoeuvres and still stronger in the strength of British-thousands profusely spent, regiments of militia to be officered, equipped and paid-began to wreak their vengeance upon every man who had been known to be hostile to their monopoly; and to identify opinions, not more extreme when thoroughly understood, than those held by the most moderate section of the Whigs in England, with “privy conspiracy and rebellion.” But the period was fast approaching when this unnatural excitement was to subside; when hundreds of thousandsof British subjects, looking steadily through the mists that had been raised around them were to ask of eaci other: “1Has this case been decided upon the true issue? Was that the question? ” For evidence of the solemnity with which this inquiry bas been put and the allpervading unanimity with which it bas been answered, I refer your Lordship to the meetings which have been held in every section of the Province; to the opinions boldly expressed by every newspaper-with a few, chiefly venal exceptions-printed in Upper Canada; to thie bold and determined stand taken by many of the bravest and ablest men who crushed Mackenzie’s rebellion and beat back the sympathizers on the frontier; to the extraordinary union of Orangemen and Catholics, Methodists, Baptists, Churchmen and Presbyterians; whose watchwords are British connection and British responsibility, and down with the compact, and the absurd idea cherished by Sir Francis Head, of a government in which the whole responsibility rests on the Governor. If your Lordship doubts the utter explosion of your theory, even in this Province, where for a time I admit it seemed to flourish, the approaching general elections will furnisi evidence enough, and even Sir Francis, if he were to come out again with another sheaf of proclamations and addresses, and preach this unitarian doctrine of responsibility, would no longer be listened to by the Upper Canadians, who have embraced a higher and purer faith. Having, as I conceive, then, shown your Lordship that the idea of a colony in which nobody is responsible but the Governor, while bis responsibility is only nominal, however delightful it may appear in the eyes of those who have been or hope to be Governors, is one that never can be a favourite with the colonists and bas been repudiated and rejected by those of them among whom, for a limited period and under a system of delusion, it seemed to flourish; let me turn your Lordship’s attention for a few moments to the doctrine maintained by Lord Glenelg against Sir Francis Head and now put forth by your Lordship in opposition to the Earl of Durham-that the Colonial Secretary is alone responsible, and that the Governor is an agent governing the Province by instructions from him. Whatever new readings may be given of our unwritten constitutions, this is the one which has always been and always will be the favourite with Colonial Secretaries and under-secretaries, and by which every clerk in Downing Street even to the third and fourth generation yet to come, will be prepared to take bis stand. And why ? Because to deprive them of this much-talked-of responsibility, which means nothing, would be to deprive them of the power to which they cling; and of the riglit of meddling interference with every petty question and every petty appointment in thirty-six different colonies. While things remain as they are, the very uncertainty which reigns over the whole colonial system invests the Secretary of State with a degree of power and influence, the dim and shadowy outline of which can scarcely be rneasured by the eye; but which, from its boundless extent and multiform and varied ramifications and relations, possesses a fascination which few men have been born with patriotic moderation to resist. Though a Secretary of State may occasionally have to maintain, in a particular Province, a doubtful struggle for the whole responsibility and the whole of the power, with some refractory Governor like Sir Francis Head; yet even there he must exercise a good deal of authority and enjoy a fair share of influence; while in all others bis word is law and bis influence almost supreme. A judge, a crown officer, a secretary, or a land surveyor cannot be appointed without his consent; a silk gown cannot be given to a lawyer without bis sanction; while bis word is required to confirm the nomination of Legisiative Councillors for life and irresponsible Executive Councillors, in every Province, before the Queen’s mandamus is prepared. The very obscurity in which the real character of colonial constitutions is involved of course magnifies the importance and increases the influence of the gentleman who claims the right to expound them. More than onehalf the colonists who obtain audiences in Downing Street are sent there by the mystifications in which the principles of the system are involved; while the other lalf are applicants for offices, which under a system of local responsibility would he filled up, as are the civic offices .in Manchester and Glasgow, by the party upon whose virtue and ability the majority of the inhabitants relied. Adopt Lord Durham’s principle, and above ail, give to each colony a well-defined constitution based upon that principle and embodied in a bill, and “the office” will become a desert. The scores of worthy people with spirits weary of the anornalous and cruel absurdities of the system and sincerely laboring to remove them, now daily lingering in the ante-rooms, would be better employed elsewhere, in adorning and improving the noble countries which gave them birth, and whose freedom they are labouring to establish; while at least an equal number of cunning knaves, whose only errand is to seek a share of the plunder, had much better be transferred to the open arenas in which, under a system of responsibility, public honours and official emolument could only be won. But then the office of Colonial Secretary would be shorn of much power, which, lowever unwisely exercised, it is always delightful to possess; and the dim but majestic forms of authority which now overshadow half the world would be chastened into reasonable compass; with boundaries, if less imposing and picturesque, for all practical purposes more simple and more clearly delined. Nor would under-secretaries and clerks have so many anxious and often fawning visitors, soliciting their patronage, listening to their twaddle, wondering at their ignorance, and yet struggling with each other for their smiles. The mother country would, it is true, hear less of colonial grievances; Parliament would save much time now devoted to colonial questions; and the people of England would now and then save a few millions sterling, which are required to keep up the existing system by force of arms. But these are small matters compared with the dignity of a Secretary of State. lere, then, my Lord, you have the reason why your reading of our constitutions is the favourite one in Downing Street. Let us see now whether it is more or less favourable to rational freedom and good government in the colonies, than that advocated by Sir Francis Head. Your authority and that of Lord Glenelg is with nie in condemning his, which I have done, as deceptive and absurd; he will probably join me in denouncing ‘yours, as the most impracticable that it ever entered into the mind of a statesman to conceive. The city of Liverpool shall again serve us for the purposes of illustration. Turn back to the passages in which I have described a Mayor, ignorant of everything, surrounded by irreponsible but cunning advisers, who for their own advantage, embroil him with a majority of the citizens, while his countenance and the patronage created by the taxes levied upon the city are monopolized by a niserable minority of the whole; and insulted and injured thousands, swelling with indignation, surround him on every side. After your Lordship has dwelt upon this scene of heartburning and discontent-of general dissatisfaction among the citizens-of miserable intrigue and chuckling triumph, indulged by the few who squander the resources and decide upon the interests of the many, but laugh at their murmurs and never acknowledge their authority-let me beg of you to rellect whether matters would be made better or worse, if the Mayor of Liverpool was bound, in every important act of his administration, to ask the direction of, and throw the responsibility on another individual, who never saw the city, who knows less about it than even himself, and who resides, not in London, at a distance of a day’s coaching from him, but across the Atlantic, in Halifax, Quebec, or Toronto, and with whom it is impossible to communicate about anything within a less period than a couple of months. Suppose that this gentleman in the distance possesses a veto upon every important ordinance by which the city is to be watched, lighted and improved~-by which docks are to be formed, trade regulated, and one-third of the city revenues (drawn from sources beyond the control of the popular branch) dispensed. And suppose thaLt nearly all, whose talents or ambition lead them to aspire to the higher offices of the place, are compelled to take, once or twice in their lives, a voyage across the Atlantic to pay their court to him-to solicit his patronage and intrigue for the preferment, which under a better system would naturally result from manly competition and eminent services within the city itself, Your Lordship is too keen-sighted and I trust too frank, not to acknowledge that no form of govern- ment could well be devised more ridiculous than this; that under such no British city could be expected to prosper; and that with it no body of Her Majesty’s subjects, within the British Islands themselves, would ever be content. Yet this, my Lord, is an illustration of your own theory; this is the system propounded by Lord Normanby 1 as the best the present Cabinet can devise. And may I not respectfully demand why British subjects in Nova Scotia, any more than their brethren in Liverpool, should be expected to prosper or be contented under it; when experience has convinced them that it is miserably insufficient and deceptive, repugnant to the principles of the constitution they revere, and but a poor return for the steady loyalty which their forefathers and themselves have maintained on all occasions? One of the greatest evils of the colonial constitution as interpreted by your Lordship is, that it removes from a province every description of responsibility, and leaves all the higher functionaries at liberty to lay every kind of blame at the door of the Secretary of State. The Governor, if the colonists complain, shrugs his shoulders and replies that lie will explain the difïiculty in bis next despatch, but in the meantime his orders must be obeyed. The Executive Councillors, who under no circurnstances are responsible for anything, often lead the way in concentrating the ire of the people upon the Colonial Secretary, who is the only person they admit their right to blame. It is no uncommon thing to hear them, in Nova Scotia, sneering at him in public debate; and in Canada they are accused of standing by while Lords Glenelg and Melbourne were hanged in effigy and burned in the capital, encouraging the populace to pay this mark of respect to men, who, if your Lordship’s theory is to be enforced, these persons at all events should have the decency to pardon, if they cannot always defend. I trust, my Lord, that in this letter I have shown you that in contemplating a well-defined and limited degrce of responsibility to attach to Executive Councillors in North America, I have more strictly followed the analogies to be drawn from the constitution, than bas your Lordship, in supposing that those officers would necessarily oversLep all bounds; that in divesting the Governor of a vague and deceptive description of responsibility, which is never enforced, and of a portion of authority which it is impossible for him wisely to exercise, and yet holding him to account for what does fall within the scope of bis character as Her Majesty’s representative-the constitutional analogy is still preserved, his dignity left unimpaired, and the difficulties of bis position removed. I trust also that I have proved to your Lordship that the colonial constitutions, as they at present stand, are but a medley of uncertainty and confusion; that those by whom they are administered do not understand them; and lastly, that whether Sir Francis Head’s interpretation, or your own be adopted, neither offers security for good government; the contest between them merely involving a difference of opinion as to who is to wield powers that neither governors nor secretaries can usefully assume, and which of these officers is nominally to bear the blame of blunders that both are certain to commit.

Kennedy, William P. Statutes, Treaties and Documents of the Canadian Constitution: 1713-1929. Oxford Univ. Pr., 1930.

Joseph Howe’s Letters To Lord John Russell. Sept. 18, 1839

My Lord,-I beg your Lordship to believe that no desire to seek for notoriety beyond the limited sphere in which Provindence has placed me, tempts me to adress these letters to you. Born in a small and distant Province of the empire, and contented with the range of occupation that it affords, and with the moderate degree of influence which the confidence of some portion of its population confers, I should never have thought of intruding upon your Lordship, had not the occupations of my past life, and the devotion to them of many days of toil and nights of anxious inquiry led me to intertain strong opinions upon a subject which your Lordship has undertaken recently to discuss; and which, while it deeply concerns the honour and the interests of the empire, appears to be, by Her Majesty’s present ministers, but little understood. Whether or not the Anglo-Saxon population, upholding the British flag on this side of the Atlantic, shall possess the right to influence, through their representatives, the Government under which they live, in all matters touching their internal affairs (of which their fellow-subjects living elsewhere know nothing and with which they have no right to interfere) is a question, my Lord, that involves their happiness and freedom. To every Nova Scotian it is no light matter that the country of his birth, in whose bosom the bones of a hardy and loyal ancestry repose, and whose surface is possessed by a population inferior in none of the physical, moral, or mental attributes which distinguish his race, to any branch of the great British family, should be free and happy. I share with my countrymen their solicitude on this subject; I and my children will share their deep disgrace, if the doctrines decently attributed to your Lordship are to prevail to the utter exclusion of us all from the blessings and advantages of responsible government, based upon the principles of that Constitution which your Lordship’s forefathers laboured to establish and ours have taught us to revere. To the consciousness of social and political degradation which must be my portion, if the future government of North America is arranged upon the principles recently avowed by the ministry, I am reluctant that the reflection should be added that the colonists were themselves to blame in permitting a great question, without ample discussion and remonstrance, to ·be decided upon grounds which they knew to be untenable and untrue. In addressing your Lordship on such a topic, it is gratifying to reflect that your past life is a guarantee that the moment that you are satisfied that a greater amount of freedom and happiness can be conferred on any portion of your fellow-subjects than they now enjoy, without endangering the welfare of the whole-when once convinced that the great principles of the British Constitution can be more widely extended, without peril to the integrity of the empire-you will not hesitate to lend the influence of your great name and distinguished talents to the good old cause “for which Hampden died in the field and Sidney on the scaffold.”

Lord Durham’s Report on the affairs of British North America appears to have produced much excitement in England. The position which his Lordship occupies as a politician at home naturally draws attention to whatever he says and does; and the disclosures made in the Report must appear so strange to many and the remedies suggested so bold and original to many more, that I am not surprised at the notice bestowed by friends and foes on this very- important document. From what I have seen, however, it is evident that his Lordship is payink the penalty of party connection; and that his opinions on Canadian affairs, instead of being tried on their merits, are in many cases applauded or opposed, as his views of British or Irish politics happen to be relished or condemned. It is almost too much to expect that my feeble voice will be heard amidst the storm of praise and censure that this Report has raised; and yet there may be some, who, disliking this mode of estimating a state paper, or distrusting the means of judging possessed by many who express opinions, ·but whose practical experience of the working of colonial constitutions has been but slight-if indeed they have had any-may feel disposed to ask, What is the thought of the Report in the colonies? Are its leading features recognized as true to nature and experience there? Are the remedies suggested approved by the people whose future destinies they are to influence and control?

The Report has circulated for some months in the colonies, and I feel it a duty to state the grounds of my ·belief that his Lordship in attributing many if not all of our colonial evils and disputes to the absence of respon- sibility in our rulers to those whom they are called to govern, is entirely warranted by the knowledge of every intelligent colonist; that the remedy pointed out, while it possesses the merits of being extermely simple and eminently British,-making them so responsible, is the only cure for those evils short of arrant quackery; the only secure foundation upon which the power of the Crown can be established on this continent, so as to defy internal machination and foreign assault.

It appears to me that a very absurd opinion has long prevailed among many worthy people, on ·both sides of the Atlantic, that the selection of an Executive Council, who, upon most points of domestic policy, will differ from the great body of the inhabitants and the majority of their representatives, is indispensable to the very existence of colonial constitutions; and that if it were otherwise, the colony would fly off, by the operation of some latent principle of mischief, which I have never seen very clearly defined. By those who entertain this view, it is assumed, that Great Britain is indebted for the preservation of her colonies, not to the natural affection of their inhabitants-to ·their pride in her history, to their participation in the benefit of her warlike, scientific or literary achievements,- but to the disinterested patriotism of a dozen or two persons, whose names are scarcely known in England, except by the clerks in Downing Street; who are remarkable for nothing above their neighbours in the colony, except perhaps the enjoyment of offices too richly endowed; or their zealous efforts to annoy, by the distribution of patronage and the management of public affairs, the great body of inhabitants, whose sentiments they cannot change.

I have ever held, my Lord, and still hold to the belief, that the popula· tion of British North America are sincerely attached to the parent State; that they are proud of their origin, deeply interested in the integrity of the empire and not anxious for the establishment of any other form of government here then that which you enjoy at home; which, while it has stood the test of ages and purified itself by successive peaceful revolutions, has so developed the intellectual, moral, and natural resources of two small Islands, as to enable a people, once comparatively far behind their neighbours in influence and improvement, to combine and wield the energies of a dominion more vast in extent and complicated in all its relations than any ether in ancient or modern times. Why should we desire a severance of old ties that are more honourable than any new ones we can form? Why should we covet institutions more perfect than those which have worked so well and produced such admirable results? Until it can be shown that there are forms of government, combining stronger executive power with more of individual liberty; offering nobler incitements to honourable ambition, and more security to unaspiring ease and humble industry; why should it be taken for granted, either by our friends in England, or our enemies elsewhere, that we are panting for new experiments; or are disposed to repudiate and cast aside the principles of that excellent Constitution, cemented by the blood and the long experience of our fathers and upon which the vigorous energies of our brethren, driven to apply new principles to a field of boundless resources, have failed to improve? This suspicion is a libel upon the colonist and upon the Constitution he claims as his inheritance; and the principles of which he believes to be as applicable to all the exigencies of the country where he resides, as they have proved to be to those of the fortunate Islands in which they were first developed.

If the conviction of this fact were at once acknowledged by the intelligent and influential men of all parties in Britain, colonial misrule would Speedily end and the reign of order indeed commence. This is not a party question. I can readily understand how the Duke of Wellington and Sir Robert Peel may differ from your Lordship or the Earl of Durham as to whether measures should be carried, which they believe would impair, and you feel will renovate, the Constitution; but surely none of these distinguished men would wish to deny the Constitution itself to large bodies of British subjects on this side of the water, who have not got it, who are anxious to secure its advantages to themselves and their children ; who, while they have no ulterior designs that can by any possibility make the concession dangerous, can never be expected to be contented with a system the very reverse of that they admire; and in view of the proud satisfaction with which, amidst all their manly struggles for power, their brethren at home survey the simple machinery of a government, which we believe to be, like the unerring principles of science, as applicable to one side of the Atlantic as to the other, but which we are nevertheless denied.

Many persons, not familiar with the facts, may wonder how this occurs, and may be disposed to doubt the correctness of my assertion. It seems strange that those who live within the British Empire should be governed by other principles than those of the British Constitution; and vet it is true, notwithstanding. Let me illustrate the fact, by a few references to British and Colonial affairs. In England the government is invariably trusted to men whose principles and policy the mass of those who possess the elective franchise approve and who are sustained by a majority in the House of Commons. The Sovereign may be personally hostile to them; a majority of the House of Lords may oppose them in that august assembly; and yet they govern the country until, from a deficiency of talent, or conduct, or from ill fortune, they find their representative majority diminished, and some rival combination of able and influential men in conc;lition to displace them. If satisfied that the Commons truly reflect the opinions of the constituency, they resign; if there is any doubt, a dissolution is tried, and the verdict of the country decides to which party its destinies are to be confided. You, in common with every Englishman living at home, are so familiar with the operation of this system, and so engrossed with a participation in the ardent intellectual competition it occasions, that perhaps you seldom pause to admire what attracts as little attention as the air you breathe. The cabman who drives past St. Paul’s a dozen times a day, seldom gazes at its ample outline or excellent proportions; and yet tney impress the colonist with awe and wonder and make him regret that he has left no such edifice in the west.

As a politician, then, your Lordship’s only care is, to place or retain your party in the ascendant in the House of Commons. You, never doubt for an instant that if they arc so, they must influence the policy and dispense the patronage of the Government. This simple and admirable principle of letting the majority govern, you carry out in all your corporations, clubs, and public companies and associations; and no more suspect that there is danger in it or that the minority are injured when compelled to submit, than you see injustice in awarding a cup at Epsom or Doncaster to the horse that has won rather than to the animal which has lost the race. The effects of this. system are perceptible everywhere. A peer of France, under the old regime, if he lost the smiles of the court suffered a sort of political and social annihilation. A peer of England, if unjustly slighted by the Sovereign, retires to his estate, not to mourn over an irreparable stroke of fortune, but to devote his hours to study, to rally his friends, to co;mect himself with some great interest in the state, whose accumulating strength may bear him into the counsels of his Sovereign, without any sacrifice of principles or diminution of self-respect. A commoner feels, in England, not as commoners used to feel in France, that honours and influence are only to be obtained by an utter prostration of spirit, the foulest adulation, the most utter subserviency to boundless prerogatives, arbitrarily exercised,~but, that they are to be won in open arenas, by the exercise of those manly qualities which command respect; and by the exhibition of the npened fruits of assiduous intellectual cultivation, in the presence of an aumiring nation, whose decision ensures success. Hence there is a self-poised and vigorous independence in the Briton’s character by which he strangely contrasts with all his European neighbours. His descendants in the colonies, notwithstanding the difficulties of their position, still bear to John Bull, in this respect, a strong resemblance; but it must fade if the system be not changed; and our children, instead of exhibiting the bold front and manly bearing of the Briton, must be stamped with the lineaments of low cunning and sneaking servility, which the practical operation of colonial government has a direct tendency to engender.

From some close observation of what has occurred in Nova Scotia and in the adjoining colonies, I am justified in the assertion, that the English rule is completely reversed on this side of the Atlantic. Admitting that in Luwer Canada, in consequence of the state of society which Lord Durham has so well depicted, such a policy may have been necessary; surely there is no reason why the people of Upper Canada, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, and Newfoundland, should, on that account, be deprived of the application of a principle which is the corner-stone of the British Constitution the fruitful source of responsibility in the Government and of honourable characteristics in the people. If the Frenchmen in one Province do not understand, or cannot be entrusted with this valuable privilege, why should we, who are all British or of British descent, be deprived of what we do understand and feel that we can never be prosperous and happy without?

Your Lordship asks me for proofs. They shall be given.

Looking at all the British North American Colonies, with one single exception, so far as my memory extends, although it has sometimes happened that the local administration has secured a majority in the Lower House, I never knew an instance in which a hostile majority could displace an Executive Council, whose measures it disapproved; or could, in fact, change the policy or exercise the slightest influence upon the administrative operations of the Government. The case which forms the exception was, that of the Province of New Brunswick; but there the struggle lasted as long as the Trojan war-through the existance of several Houses of Assembly; and was at length concluded by an arrangement with the authorities at home after repeated repeals and two tedious and costly delegations to England. But the remedy applied, even in that case, though satisfactory for the time, can have no application to future difficulties or differences of opinion. Let us suppose that a general election takes place in that Province next year and that the great body of the people are dissatisfied with the mode in which the patronage of the Government has been distributed and the general ·bearing of the internal policy of its rulers. If that colony were an English incorporated town, the people would have the remedy in their own hands; if they were entrusted with the power which as British subjects of right belongs to them, they would only have to return a majority of their own way of thinking; a few men would change places; the wishes of the majority would be carried out, and by no possibility could anything occur to bring the people and their rulers into such a state of collision as was exhibited in that fine Province for a long series of years. But under the existing system, if a hostile majority is returned what can they do? Squabble and contend with a executive whom they cannot influence; see the patronage and favour of Government lavished upon a minority who annoy, but never outvote them; and, finally, at the expiration of a further period of ten years, appeal by delegation to England; running the hazard of a reference to a clerk or a secretary whose knowledge of the various points at issue is extremely limited-who has no interest in them, and who, however favourably disposed, may be displaced by some change in the position of the parties at home before the negotiations are brought to a close.

In 1836, a general election took place in Nova Scotia; and when the Legislature met for the despatch of business, it was found that the local government had two-thirds of the members of the representative branch against them. A fair-minded Englishman would naturally conclude that the local cabinet, by a few official changes and a modification of its policy, would have at once deferred to the views and opinions of so large a majority of the popular branch. Did it do so? No. After a fierce struggle with the local authorities, in which the revenue bills and the appropriations fer the year were nearly lost, the House forwarded a strong address to the foot of the throne, appealing to the Crown for the redress of inveterate grievances, the very existence of which our colonial rulers denied, or which they refused to remove.

To give your Lordship an idea of the absurd anomalies and ridiculous wretchedness of our system up to that time, it is only necessary to state, that a Council of twelve persons administered the government, and at the same time formed the upper branch of the Legislature, sitting invariably with closed doors. Only five of these twelve gentlemen were partners in on private bank, five of them were relations, two of them were heads of dt’.partments, and one was the Chief Justice, who in one capacity had to administer the law he had assisted to make, and then in a third to advise the Governor as to its execution. To heighten the absurdity of the whole affair, it is hardly necessary to add, that only nine of these twelve men were members of a particular Church, which, however, useful or respectable only embraced one-fifth of the whole population of the Province. To the passage of certain measures for the regulation of our currency, the derangement of which was supposed to be profitable to those who dealt in money, the bankers were said to have opposed their influence. Any attempt at reduction of the expense of the revenue departments, the heads of which sat at the board, was not likely to prevail; while the patronage of the Government was of course distributed by the nine Churchmen, in a way not very satisfactory to the four-fifths of the people who did not happen to belong to that communion. Such a combination as this never could have grown up in any colony where the English principle of responsibility had been in operation. Indeed, there was something so abhorrent to British feeling and justice in the whole affair that Lord Glenelg at once decided that it was “too bad”; and, while in Her Majesty’s name he thanked the Commons for the representation they had made, he directed the Governor to dissolve the old Council and form two new ones free from the objections which the Assembly had urged.

Had the instructions given been fairly carried out, there is little doubt that in Nova Scotia, as in New Brunswick, the people and their representatives would have been contented for a time; and would have felt that, in extreme cases, an appeal from their local rulers to the Colonial Secretary w mid be effectual. The existing machinery of government might have been supposed to be adequate to the necessities of the country, with perhaps an entire revision and repair at the hands of the master workmen at home once in ten years, or whenever the blunders of subordinates in the colony had completely clogged its operations.

But mark the result. The Governor was instructed to call into the new Councils those who “possess the confidence of the country.” Now, you in England are simple enough to believe, that when the Whigs have, in a house of six hundred and sixty-eight members, a majority of eight or ten, they possess the confidence of the country; and if their majority should happen to be double that number, you would think it droll enough if they were excluded from political influence, and if the new creations of peers and selections for the Cabinet should all be made from the ranks of their opponents. Tl}is would be absurd at home, and yet it is the height of wisdom in the colonies. At the time these commands were sent out, the party who were pressing certain economical and other reforms in Nova Scotia were represented by two-thirds of the members of the popular branch. The relative numbers have occasionally varied during the past three sessions. At times, as on the recent division upon a delegation, the reformers have numbered thirty-three to eleven, in a House of forty-six. On some questions the minority has been larger, but two-thirds of the whole may be fairly taken as the numerical superiority on all political questions, of the reformers over their opponents. It will scarcely be believea, then, in England, that in the new appointments, by which a more popular character was to be given to the Councils, six gentlemen were taken from the minority and ·but two from the ranks of the majority. So that those who had been thanked for making representations to the Queen and who were pressing for a change of policy, were all passed over but two; while those who had resisted and opposed every representation, were honoured by appointments and placed in situations to render any such change utterly hopeless. The Executive Council, the local cabinet or ministry, therefore, contained one or two persons of moderate views, not selected from the House; one from the majority, and eight or ten others, to render his voice very like that of the “man crying in the wilderness.” He held his seat about half a year and then resigned; feeling that while he was sworn to secrecy and compromised by the policy he had not approved he had no influence on the deliberations of the Cabinet or the distribution of patronage. Things were managed just as much in accordance with the royal instructions with respect to the Legislative Council. The pack was shuffled, the game was to remain the same. The members of the majority, as I have said before, were all omitted in the new creation of peers, but one; while from the House and beyond it some of the most determined supporters of old abuses were selected; and among them, a young lawyer who had shown a most chivalrous desire to oppose everything Her Majesty so graciously approved; and who, in the excess of his ultra zeal, had, upon the final passage of the address to the Crown, when almost all his friends deserted him, voted against the measure in a minority of four.

Here, then, your Lordship has a practical illustration of the correctness of Lord Durham’s observations, and may judge of the chance the present system offers of good colonial government, even when the people have the Queen and the Colonial Secretary on their side. Such policy would wither all hope in the Nova Scotians, if they did not confide in the good sense and justice of their brethren within the four seas. We do not believe that the Parliament, press, and the people of England, when rightly informed, will allow our local authorities “to play such tricks before high heaven” or force us to live under a system so absurd, so anti-British, so destructive of every manly and honourable principle of action in political affairs. The House of Assembly, as a last resort, after ample deliberation, determined to send two members of that body as delegates to England, to claim the rights of Englishmen for the people of this country. Your Lordship’s declaration tells me, that on this point they will be unsuccessful; but patient perseverence is a political characteristic of the stock from which we spring.

You ask me for the remedy. Lord Durham has stated it distinctly: the Colonial Governors must be commanded to govern by the aid of those who possess the confidence of the people, and are supported by a majority of the representative branch. Where is the danger? Of what consequence is it to the people of England, whether half-a-dozen persons, in whom that majority have confidence, but of whom they know nothing and care less, manage our local affairs; or the same number, selected from the minority, and whose policy the bulk of the population distrust? Suppose there was at this moment a majority in our Executive Council who think with the Assembly, what effect would it have upon the funds? Would the stocks fall? Would England be weaker, less prosperous or less respected, because the people of Nova Scotia were satisfied and happy?

But, it is said, a colony being part of a great empire must be governed by different principles from the metropolitan state. That, unless it be handed over to the minority it cannot be governed at all; that the majority, when they have things their own way, will be discontented and disloyal; that the very fact of their having nothing to complain of will make them desire to break the political compact, and disturb the peace of the empire. Let us fancy that this reasoning were applied to Glasgow, or Aberdeen, or to any other town in Britain, which you allow to govern itself. And what else is a Province, like Nova Scotia, than a small community, too feeble to interfere with the general commercial and military arrangements of the Government; but deeply, interested in a number of minor matters, which only the people to be affected by them can wisely manage; which the ministry can never find leisure to attend to, and involve in inextricable confusion when they meddle with them? You allow a million of people to govern themselves in the very capital of the kingdom; and yet Her Majesty lives in the midst of them without any apprehension of danger, and feels the more secure, the more satisfaction and tranquillity they exhibit. Of course, if the Lord Mayor were to declare war upon France, or the Board of Aldermen were to resolve that the duties on brandy should no longer he collected by the general revenue officers of the kingdom, everybody would laugh, but no one would apprehend any great danger. Should we, if Lord Durham’s principles be adopted, do anything equally outre, check us, for you have the power; but until we do, for your own sakes-for you are as much interested as we are-for the honour of the British name, too often tarnished by these squabbles, let us manage our own affairs, pay om own officers, and distribute a patronage, altogether beneath your notice, among those who command our esteem.

The Assembly of Nova Scotia asked, in 1837, for an elective Legislative Council, or for such other reconstruction of the local government as would ensure responsibility. After a struggle of three years we have not got either. The demand for an elective upper branch was made under the impression, that two Houses chosen by the people would sufficiently check an Executive exempt from all direct colonial accountability. From what has occurred in the Canadas; from the natural repugnance which the House of Peers may be supposed to entertain upon this point; from a strong desire to preserve in all our institutions the closest resemblance to those of our mother country ,a responsible Executive Council, as recommended by Lord Durham, would be preferred. Into the practicability of his Lordship’s plan of a union of all the colonies under ‘on e government, I do not intend to enter; that is a distinct question; and whenever it is formally propounded to the local Legislatures, will be gravely discussed upon its own merits; but whether there be union or not, the principle of responsibility to the popular branch must be introduced into all the colonies without delay. It is the only simple and safe remedy for an inveterate and very common disease. It is mere mockery to tell us that the Governor himself is responsible. He must carry on the government by and with the few officials whom he finds in possession when he arrives. He may flutter and struggle in the net, as some well-meaning Governors have done, but he must at last resign himself to his fate; and like a snared bird be content with the narrow limits assigned him by his keepers. I have known a Governor bullied, sneered at, and almost shut out of society, while his obstinate resistance to the system created a suspicion that he might not become its victim; but I never knew one, who, even with the best intentions and the full concurrence and support of the representative branch, backed by the confidence of his Sovereign, was able to contend on anything like fair terms, with the small knot of functionaries who form the Councils, fill the offices, and wield the powers of the Government. The plain reason is, because, while the Governor is amenable to his Sovereign, and the members of Assembly are controlled by their constituents, these men are not responsible at all; and can always protect and sustain each other, whether assailed by the representatives of the Sovereign or the representatives of the people. It is indispensable, then, to the dignity, to the independence, to the usefulness of the Governor himself, that he should have the power to shake off this thraldom, as the Sovereign does if unfairly hampered by faction; and by an appeal to the people, adjust the balance of power. Give us this truly British privilege, and colonial grievances will soon become a scarce article in the English market.

The planets that encircle the sun, warmed by its heat and rejoicing in its effulgence, are moved and sustained, each in its bright but subordinate career, by the same laws as the sun itself. Why should this beautiful example be lost upon us? Why should we run counter to the whole stream of British experience; and seek, for no object worthy of the sacrifice, to govern on one side of the Atlantic by principles the very reverse of those found to work so admirably on the other. The employment of steamers will soon bring Halifax within a ten days’ voyage of England. Nova Scotia will then not be more distant from London than the north of Scotland and the west of Ireland were a few years ago. No time should be lost, therefore, in giving us the rights and guards to which we are entitled; for depend upon it the nearer we approach the mother country, the more we shall admire its excellent constitution, and the more intense will be the sorrow and disgust with which we must turn to contemplate our own.

Kennedy, William P. Statutes, Treaties and Documents of the Canadian Constitution: 1713-1929. Oxford Univ. Pr., 1930.

League of the Maritime Provinces


Executive Officers:
President: Hon. Joseph Howe
Vice Presidents: W.J. Stairs, Esq., Patrick Power, Esq.
Secretaries: Mr William Garvie,
Robt. L. Weatherbee Esq.,
Treasurer: Robt. Boak, Jr, Esq.

The Maritime Provinces of British America now enjoy all the blessings of self-government, controlling their own revenues, forming, controlling and removing their own Cabinets; appointing their own Judges, Councillors, and Public Officers; regulating her own Trade, training their own Militia, and discharging all the duties of loyal British Subjects in due subordination and steadfast allegiance to the Crown.

The people of these Provinces have lived in harmony with each other — have no disputes with neighboring States — no controversies with the Mother Country, have ever been prone to mutual sympathy and protection, and are ready to uphold the honor of the national flag, and the integrity of the Empire.

They are willing to promote well-considered measures for the joint construction of railways, and the establishment of Inter colonial lines of steamers— for the interchange of staple and of domestic manufactures; for the adjustment of a uniform currency; the general extension of Free Trade, and for the arrangement of such measures of mutual defence as shall place, in time of war; all the physical force of the Provinces under the control of the Military and Naval Commanders-in-chief appointed by the Queen.

But they are opposed to rash innovation and revolutionary changes. They are specially opposed to the scheme of Confederation arranged by certain gentlemen at Quebec in 1864, without any authority from the people they profess to represent; and they are equally opposed to the measure now in contemplation, by which it is intended to overthrow the established institutions of these Provinces by an Act of Parliament prepared by a secret committee, without the sanction of the loyal People, whose future it is intended to bind, and whose interests and wishes it is designed, in a most high-handed and unconstitutional manner, to override and disregard.

This League is formed to protect the institutions of the Maritime Provinces from such rash innovation — to assert the right of the people to be consulted before their revenues are swept away; and a distant authority, which they can never influence, is invested with powers of dictation and control which the Queen’s Government, for a quarter of a century, has not pretended to exercise.

The undersigned pledge themselves, each to the other, to protect the Maritime Provinces from radical changes by all lawful means and agencies, and, with this simple end in view, enroll themselves as members of this League.

League of the Maritime Provinces. Executive Officers of the League: President, Hon. Joseph Howe .. [S.l.: s.n., 186?]

An address delivered before the Halifax Mechanics’ Institute on the 5th November, 1834 by Joseph Howe

“Far be it from me to wish, on this occasion, to draw national distinctions. I desire rather to show you how the certainty that your descendants will be one race, having a common attachment to Nova Scotia, and knowing no higher obligation than to love and honor her, ought to draw you closer to each other in friendly union, and make you solicitous to give that direction to their minds which shall best secure their happiness, and promote the welfare of their common country.”

“…from Virginia, with her 66,000 square miles, covered with flourishing towns and more than a million population – from New York, with her magnificent rivers, princely cities, and two millions of people – from Massachusetts, with her extensive border crowded with activity and intelligence – from the Canadas, with their national dimensions, great natural resources, and rapidly increasing population – to our own little province, hemmed in by the Atlantic and its bays, and presenting an outline as comparatively insignificant as her numbers, we may be pardoned if, at times, the desire to elevate and adorn our native land, is borne down by a sense of the competition we must encounter, and the apparent hopelessness of the task.”

Howe, Joseph, 1804-1873. An Address Delivered Before the Halifax Mechanics’ Institute On the 5th November, 1834. Halifax, N.S.: [s.n.], 1834.

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