p. 1124 C
DEBATE ON THE QUEBEC BILL, 1774.
EXTRACTS FROM CAVENDISH'S DEBATES OF THE HOUSE OF COMMONS
ON THE BILL, SO FAR AS RELATES TO THE BOUNDARIES.(*).
Thursday, May 26, 1774.
On the order of the day, for the second reading of the Bill “for making more effectual provision for the Government of the Province of Quebec, in North America,”(¹).
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The first thing objected to by the honourable gentleman(³) is, the very great extent of territory given to the province. Why, he asks, is it so extensive? There are added, undoubtedly, to it two countries which were not in
(*) Published by J. Wright, Editor of the Parliamentary History, Etc., London, 1839.
¹ The bill was brought into the House of Lords by the Earl of Dartmouth, on the 2nd of May. It passed without opposition, and without any witnesses having been called to support the allegations upon which it was founded, on the 17th of the same month. On the 18th of June, it was returned to the House of Lords, with the amendments introduced by the House of Commons; and then the Earl of Chatham, though extremely ill at the time, came down to oppose it, stating, in a short speech, his conviction, that “it would involve this country in a thousand difficulties; that it was a most cruel, oppressive, and odious measure, tearing up justice and every good principle by the roots; that the whole of it appeared to him to be destructive of that liberty, which ought to be the groundwork of every constitution; and that it would shake the affections and confidence of his Majesty's subjects in England and Ireland, and finally lose him the hearts of all the Americans.” The bill was passed by a majority of nineteen; the contents being twenty-six, the non-contents seven. The minority consisted of the Duke of Gloucester, the Earls of Chatham, Coventry, Effingham and Spencer, and the Lords Sandys and King.
On the 22nd of June, the Lord Mayor, attended by several aldermen, the recorder, and upwards of one hundred and fifty of the common council, went up with an address and petition to the King, supplicating his Majesty not to give his assent to the bill. On their arrival at St. James's, the Lord Chamberlain acquainted them, by order of the King, that “as the petition related to a bill agreed on by the two Houses of Parliament, of which his Majesty could not take notice until it was presented for his royal assent, they were not to expect an answer.” The King, who was then on the point of going down to Westminster to prorogue Parliament, immediately proceeded to the House of Lords, and gave his assent to the Bill; observing, that “it was founded on the clearest principles of justice and humanity, and would, he doubted not, have the best effect, in quieting the minds and promoting the happiness of his Canadian subjects.”—Extract from Editor's Preface; Cavendish, op. cit., pp. iii-iv.
² First Lord of the Treasury, and Chancellor of the Exchequer.
³ (Mr. Thomas Townshend, jun.) Son of the Honourable Thomas Townshend, second son of the second Viscount Townshend, and member for the University of Cambridge. Mr. Townshend, jun. was at this time member for Whitchurch.
the original limits of Canada, as settled in the proclamation of 1763; one, the Labrador coast, the other, the country westward of the Ohio and the Mississippi, and a few scattered posts to the West. Sir, the addition of the Labrador coast has been made in consequence of information received from those best acquainted with Canada, best acquainted with the fishery upon that coast, who deem it absolutely necessary for the preservation of that fishery, that the Labrador coast should no longer be considered as part of the government of Newfoundland, but be annexed to that country. With respect to the other additions, three questions very fairly occur. It is well known that settlers are in the habit of going to the interior parts from time to time. Now, however undesirable, it is open to Parliament to consider, whether it is fit that there should be no government in that country, or, on the contrary, separate and distinct governments; or whether the scattered posts should be annexed to Canada. The House of Lords have thought proper to annex them to Canada; but when we consider that there must be some government, and that it is the desire of all those who trade from Canada to those countries, that there should be some government, my opinion is, that if gentlemen will weigh the inconveniences of separate governments, they will think the least inconvenient method is to annex those spots, though few in population great in extent of territory, rather than to leave them without government at all, or make them separate ones. Sir, the annexation likewise is the result of the desire of the Canadians, and of those who trade to those settlements, who think they cannot trade with safety as long as they remain separate.
Tuesday, May 31.
Mr. BAKER presented a petition to the House from Thomas Penn, esq., on behalf of himself and of John Penn, esq., true and absolute proprietaries of the province of Pennsylvania, and the three lower counties of Newcastle, Kent, and Sussex, in Delawar, in America, setting forth:—
“That his late Majesty, King Charles the Second, by letters patent under the great seal, bearing date the 4th day of March, in the 33rd year of his reign, was graciously pleased to grant unto William Penn, esq., (late father of the petitioner Thomas Penn, and grandfather of the petitioner John Penn), in fee, the said province of Pennsylvania, the extent and bounds whereof were expressed in the said letters patent; and taking notice of the bill; for making more effectual Provision for the Government of the Province of Quebec, in North America;' and alleging that, from the best observations which have been made, and the most correct maps which have been laid down of those parts, and from other evidence, it appears that the river Ohio intersects a very large tract of the north-western, western, and south-western parts of the said province, as granted by the said letters patent, the limits or boundaries whereof in that part have not, as yet, been allowed and confirmed by the Crown; and that, in order to have the limits and boundaries of the said province ascertained, the petitioners did, on the 27th day of March, 1773, present a petition to his
Majesty in Council, praying that his Majesty would be graciously pleased to appoint such disinterested persons in those parts, as his Majesty should think proper to join with such persons as should be named by the petitioners, to mark out and ascertain the northern, western, and south-western boundaries of the said province; which petition has been referred, by his Majesty, to the consideration of the lords commissioners for trade and plantations, and is now under consideration of that board; and that the petitioners conceive that the said bill will be injurious to them, if it should pass into a law, without containing some provision, that the same may not affect the petitioners' rights under the said letters patent: And therefore praying, that the description of the territories, islands, and countries, to be annexed to the said province of Quebec, may be so confined, as not to affect the petitioners' said province; or that a provision may be made in the said bill, that the same shall not affect the petitioners' province, granted to them by the said letters patent; and that the petitioners may be at liberty to be heard by their counsel, upon the matter of their petition.”
Lord NORTH.—I do not rise to oppose bringing up this petition. It was never intended that the bill should intrench upon other colonies. Whenever any proposal is made to us, whatever can tend to secure Pennsylvania and the other proprietaries, shall meet with no opposition from me. The demand is so just and so reasonable, that, without hearing counsel, it ought to be complied with.
Mr. EDMUND BURKE.—I am glad to hear the noble Lord say this. There are several other colonies anxious to petition; but if, in the committee on the bill, satisfaction is given, there will be no need of bringing up their petitions.
Mr. BAKER.—It would be too much for me to say that the petitioners do not desire to be heard by counsel; for no gentleman can answer for what may be done in the committee. If, upon the report, nothing is done satisfactory to the petitioners, then I shall move, that they may be heard by counsel. Their intention was to be heard by counsel in the committee; what they have to state is very short.
Mr. EDMUND BURKE.—The boundary line of the colony of New York does come within the line marked out by the bill; and the proclamation has departed from the limitary line there, as well as in the other parts. All I wish upon the part of that colony is, that they should not suffer any injury by this irregularity.(¹)
Lord NORTH.—I have no objection to their being heard by counsel; but it is better for the petitioners to be heard upon the report, if they should not have satisfaction in the committee.
¹ Mr. Burke was, at this time, member for Wendover. He was also agent for the colony of New York in this country.
Mr. BAKER.—I trust such alterations may be made in the committee, as may make it unnecessary to have them heard at all.
The petition was ordered to lie upon the table, until the report be received from the committee of the whole House, to whom the bill is referred; and that the petitioners be then heard by their counsel, if they think fit.
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Captain PHIPPS.(¹)—From what has just passed, I think this will be a proper time to express my doubts, as to the propriety of going into the committee upon this bill.
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I should have expected that evidence would have been taken in the place where the bill originated, from all persons who have filled high offices there, or resided in the country; but none such have given evidence in the other House. You are now going into a committee, without having such evidence brought here. I should have expected some evidence, that the fisheries of this country would have been injured by the coast being put under the government of Newfoundland. I should have expected that three or four persons now in England, would have been called to the bar to give evidence, as to how far the sedentary fishery upon the coast, supposed to be in the hands of the Frenchmen—how far that fishery ought to be so preferred, as to destroy the fishery of this country. I should have been glad, if the merchants of Poole and the merchants of the western counties in England, had given evidence as to how far the taking away that fishery from the government of Newfoundland, was proper—whether there should not be a fleet to watch the French fishermen; who certainly will be favoured in preference to our own. They will be instrumental in carrying on smuggling, which will give the scale against the English who come there: if so, the French, will carry on what trade they please there; and the governor will be debarred from protecting the English fishery, because it is put under another power. I should have expected some evidence to have been brought to that point.
Friday, June 3.
The order of the day being read for going again into the committee upon the bill, the House resolved itself into the said committee. As soon as the Chairman had taken the chair, General Carleton was called in and further examined.
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¹ The Honourable Constantine John Phipps, eldest son of Constantine, first Lord Mulgrave, of New Ross, in the county of Wexford. He was a captain in the royal navy; in which station he made a voyage, in 1773, to discover the existence of a north-east passage into the South Seas, of which the published an account in the following year. He afterwards filled successively the offices of first Lord of the Admiralty, Joint-paymaster of the forces, Lord of Trade and Plantations, and Commissioner of the India board. He died in 1792, without issue, and was succeeded in the Irish barony by his brother Henry, father of the Marquis of Normanby.
Further Examination of General Carleton.
Have you adverted to that part of the bill describing the boundaries which the province of Quebec is to have for the future?—Yes.
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What inconvenience arises, in your opinion, from the limits given to Canada in the proclamation?—I had frequent complaints from the Canadians, that the province cut off in that manner, and contracted, deprived them of the greatest part of their property, which was promised to be protected. The English, as well as the Canadians, complained that their property went up to the upper country, and that, if the persons entrusted with this property did not, of their own accord, act honestly, they had no means of procuring justice.
What do you mean by that property? Was it the property of lands granted to them by the King of France; or what?—Lands granted to them by the King of France, and the profits of the land.
Was any part of this land cultivated and inhabited by Canadians? I never examined that matter thoroughly. Whether their demands were just or not just, it was without my reach. I know, from very good information so far, that there were, upon the Labrador coast, certain posts established, where they carried on the sedentary fishery and trade with the Indians. I believe very little is cultivated upon that side; nor do I think the country capable of much cultivation.
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Was the information respecting the seal fishery from your own knowledge?—From the best information I could pick up. That system of fishery which compelled the people to remove from Newfoundland, could not be applicable to the sedentary fishery.
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Monday, June 6.
The House resolved itself into a committee on the bill, Sir Charles Whitworth in the chair. The preamble being postponed, and the first clause read, viz:—
“And whereas, by the arrangements made by the said royal proclamation, a very large part of the territory of Canada, within which there were several colonies and settlements, of the subjects of France, who claimed to remain therein under the faith of the said treaty, was left, without any provision being made for the administration of civil government therein, and other parts of the said country where sedentary fisheries had been established and carried on by the subjects of France, inhabitants of the said province of Canada, under grants and concessions from the government thereof, were annexed to the government of Newfoundland, &c. be it enacted, that all the said territories, islands, and countries, heretofore part of the territory of Canada, in North America, extending southward