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Joseph Howe


1. RESOLVED, that a committee be appointed to draw up an address to His Majesty to embrace the substance of the following resolutions:—

2. Resolved, that in the infancy of this colony its whole government was necessarily vested in a governor and council; and even after a representative assembly was granted, the practice of choosing members of council exclusively from among the heads of departments, and persons resident in the capital, was still pursued; and, with a single exception, has been continued down to the present time. That the practical effects of this system have been in the highest degree injurious to the best interests of the country; inasmuch as one entire branch of the legislature has generally been composed of men who, from the want of local knowledge and experience, were not qualified to decide upon the wants or just claims of distant portions of the province, by which the efforts of the representative branch were, in many instances, neutralized or rendered of no avail; and of others, who had a direct interest in thwarting the views of the assembly, whenever it attempted to carry economy and improvement into the departments under their control.

3. Resolved, that among the many proofs that might be adduced of the evils arising from this imperfect structure of the upper branch, it is only necessary to refer to the unsuccessful efforts of the assembly to extend to the outports the advantages of foreign trade; to the enormous sum which it was compelled, after a long struggle, to resign for the support of the customs establishment; to the difficulties thrown in the way of a just and liberal system of education; and to the recent abortive attempts to abolish the illegal and unnecessary fees taken by the judges of the supreme court.

4. Resolved, that while the population of this province is composed, as appears by the last census, taken in 1827, of twenty-eight thousand six hundred and fifty-nine members of the Episcopal Church, and one hundred and fifteen thousand one hundred and ninety-five Dissenters, which proportions may be assumed as fair at the present time, the appointments to the council are always studiously arranged so as to secure to the members of the church embracing but one-fifth of the population, a clear and decided majority at the board. That there are now in that body eight members representing the church; that the Presbyterians, who outnumber them by about nine thousand, have but three; the Catholics, who are nearly equal, have but one; while the Baptists, amounting, by the census of 1827, to nineteen thousand seven hundred and ninety, and the Methodists to nine thousand four hundred and ninety-eight, and all the other sects and denominations, are entirely unrepresented and shut out from influence in a body whose duty it is to legislate for all.

5. Resolved, that while the Catholic bishop has no seat at the council board, and while clergymen of all other denominations are, as they ought to be, carefully excluded, the bishop of the Episcopal Church always has been and still is a member.

6. Resolved, that while Dissenters, as they have a right to, justly complain of a state of things so exclusive and insulting, they would regard its continuance with more indifference if it did not lead to a general and injurious system of favouritism and monopoly, extending throughout almost every department of the public service over which the local government have control; thereby vesting in the hands of a part of the population the resources arising from the industry of the whole, and creating invidious distinctions and jealous discontent in the minds of large numbers of His Majesty's loyal subjects.

7. Resolved, that two family connections embrace five members of the council; that, until very recently, when two of them retired from the firm, five others were co-partners in one mercantile concern; and to this circumstance maybe attributed the failure of the efforts of this assembly to fix a standard of value, and establish a sound currency in the province.

8. Resolved, that the assembly of this province have for years asserted, and still most respectfully assert, their right to control and distribute the casual and territorial revenues of the country, whether arising from the fees of office, the sale of lands, or the royalty paid upon the produce of the mines. But this House regret that hitherto their efforts to obtain justice in this respect have been unsuccessful. The lands of the province are, in effect, mortgaged to pay to the commissioner a salary out of all proportion to the services he is called on to perform; while all the mines and minerals of the province have been leased for sixty years to a wealthy English company, without the consent of and independent of all control by the representatives of the people.

9. Resolved that apart from the mere question of judges' fees, which this House has pronounced, and still believes to be, unconstitutional and illegal, the presence of the chief justice at the council board is unwise and injurious, having a tendency to lessen the respect which the people ought to feel for the courts over which he presides. From the warm interest he has always manifested in public questions, and particularly in some of those in which the representative branch and His Majesty's council have been diametrically opposed, and from the influence which his position gives him over a numerous bar, he has generally been regarded as the head of a political party; and frequently been brought into violent conflict with a people imbued with the truly British idea that judges ought not to mingle in the heats and contentions of politics.

10. Resolved, that the evils arising from the structure of His Majesty's council, and the disposition evinced by some of its members to protect their own interests and emoluments at the expense of the public, are heightened and rendered more injurious by the unconstitutional and insulting practice, still "pertinaciously adhered to" by that body, of shutting out the people from their deliberations. This practice they still maintain, although it is opposed to that of the House of Lords in England and that of the legislative councils of Lower Canada, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, and Newfoundland; and notwithstanding the murmurs and complaints of the people for a long series of years and the repeated representations and remonstrances of this assembly.

11. Resolved, that while the House has a due reverence for British institutions and a desire to preserve to themselves and their children the advantages of that constitution under which their brethren on the other side of the Atlantic have enjoyed so much prosperity and happiness, they cannot but feel that those they represent participate but slightly in these blessings. They know that the spirit of that constitution—the genius of those institutions—is complete responsibility to the people, by whose resources and for whose benefit they are maintained. But sad experience has taught them that, in this colony, the people and their representatives are powerless, exercising upon the local government very little influence, and possessing no effectual control. In England, the people, by one vote of their representatives, can change the ministry, and alter any course of policy injurious to their interests; here, the ministry are His Majesty's council, combining legislative, judicial, and executive powers, holding their seats for life, and treating with contempt or indifference the wishes of the people, and the representations of the Commons. In England, the representative branch can compel a redress of grievances, by witholding the supplies; here they have no such remedy, because the salaries of nearly all the public officers being provided for by permanent laws, or paid out of the casual and territorial revenues, or from the produce of duties collected under imperial acts, a stoppage of supplies, while it inflicted great injury upon the country, by leaving the roads, bridges, and other essential services unprovided for, would not touch the emoluments of the heads of departments in the council, or of any but a few of the subordinate officers of the government.

12. Resolved, that as a remedy for these grievances, His Majesty be implored to take such steps, either by granting an elective legislative council, or by such other reconstruction of the local government as will insure responsibility to the Commons, and confer upon the people of this province what they value above all other possessions—the blessings of the British constitution.


MR. HOWE did not approve of the Pacific Railway policy of the government in 1872, which led to defeat in 1873. He was in no way mixed up with the election scandals of 1872, because while they were in progress he was in the United States under medical treatment. He was returned for Hants by acclamation in his absence. But on his return in the autumn he became dissatisfied with the policy, and although old and without means, he refused to give his sanction. He promptly wrote the following to Sir John:—

"Ottawa, December 6th, 1872. My dear Sir John:—After a night of anxious consideration of the scheme of railway policy developed by Sir Hugh Allan and his friends yesterday, and apparently acquiesced in by my colleagues, I have come to the conclusion that I cannot defend that scheme or be a party to arrangements which I believe will be a surprise to parliament and the country, and fraught with consequences deeply injurious to the best interests of the Dominion. I shall as rapidly as possible put upon paper the views I entertain of the measure as presented, and of the policy that ought to be pursued, and hope to be able to place them in your hands in the course of the afternoon. I regret sincerely the separation from old friends which this divergence of opinion must necessarily involve, but I apprehend it cannot be avoided, and am quite prepared to make the sacrifice rather than throw over for the sake of office my conscientious convictions. Believe me, my dear Sir John, Yours sincerely, (Sgd.) Joseph Howe."

Sir John could not afford to allow a resignation on such an issue, and instantly sent Howe the following note:—

"(Confidential.) December 6th, 1872. My dear Howe:—I have talked matters over with our colleagues and they desire to meet your views as much as possible. You need not prepare your paper, and I will be glad to see you in the morning. Yours always, (Sgd.) John A. Macdonald."

Matters were arranged in some way to satisfy Mr. Howe, for he remained in the government until May, 1873.

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