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king erected the Canadas into a bishop's see, according to the laws of the church of England, lawfully made and received in England, was it the king's intention that the bishop and his clergy should become the stewards for the property of dissenters?' An innuendo is thrown out against the present governor, as being partial to the church of his native country, and allusion is made, in still clearer terms, to a stirring and aspiring Presbyterian minister [who] has been sent out to Quebec from Scotland. If the church of England,' adds the author, already somewhat moved from her foundation by the continual encroachments of the church of Rome, is to be elbowed in her seat, by the new raised ambition of the Presbyterian church, it is impossible she can maintain any true character of preëminence or permanent ground of establishment ; and will this touch neither the principle nor the interests of the crown?'
We have alluded to this pamphlet, as much because it brings into notice an important discussion (no ecclesiastical question is unimportant), as because it shows how indispensable it is to look somewhat deeply into the connexion of the landed interest with the general polity and the views of the government of the country. No lawyer will need much argument to be persuaded, that political institutions can never be rightly understood, unless the rules of property which prevail in the country, are exactly known. Those of Canada have a peculiar interest to American statesmen. The crown lands in that province are in some degree analogous to the public lands of the United States. No other country, we believe, has fiscal lands; most of the sovereigns of Europe have lost or given up their demesne estates. The manner in which the waste lands are disposed of in Canada is, we think, not so generally known in the United States, as to render it superfluous to invite public attention to that subject. Besides, many erroneous views may arise from the misapplication of terms, which have by long use, by etymology, and the sanction of great publicists, a determinate signification. Now, the feudal phraseology and terms, used in Canada, are far from really expressing the things and relations which they were elsewhere appropriated to represent. Fief, franc-allen, feudal tenure, fealty and homage, have not amongst our neighbors the signification they had originally throughout Europe. Without recommending that system as a model of polity, for the promotion of the general weal, one may well hesitate before he condemns it on no other ground than the effects which institutions, distinguished by the same names, have produced elsewhere.
mother country. The 26th part of the grain from the Catholic lands is found to be an ample allowance. The income of the Curés averages £300 per annum, which affords them, in a cheap country, the means of living most respectably and of even exercising a very liberal hospitality.'
The existence of a class of great land proprietors to whom the bulk of the population is tributary upon feudatory conditions, and who, nevertheless, enjoy no privilege of nobility as individuals, nor form a real aristocratic body in their collective capacity, is a remarkable anomaly in government. Under the French dominion several of the seigneurs were nobles by birth, but not on account of their tenures. A few of these families still exist in Canada but are mixed with the rest of the landholders, and destitute of all peculiar distinctions and prerogatives. Indeed, this is but strictly conformable to the feudal law of France. Although every fief is reputed noble, it does not confer nobility on the possessor, for whatever length of time he may have possessed it.' *
The sixth section of the statute 31 George III. ch. 31. commonly called the Quebec Government Act, provides † that his Majesty may annex to hereditary titles of honor, rank, or dignity, the hereditary right of being summoned to the legislative council, although the following four sections provide for the forfeiture of these descendible rights. Nothing has been done to carry into effect the sixth section. Such a measure would indeed be attended with important and lasting consequences. It is probable that a scheme of a similar nature may have occurred more than once, to the British ministry, in regard to the United States in their colonial condition. But their circumstances were different from those of Canada. No great land-holders existed in this country by grant of the crown, except the proprietors. No feudal tenure was known, and few were the families, who had connexions with the aristocracy of the mother country. Mr Fox, in the course of the debates on the Quebec act, was against the hereditary honors, which were to be conferred in future times by the billen the member he,* and of great utility in countries where they had existed by long custom ; but in his opinion, they were not fit to be introduced, where they had no original existence; where there was no particular reason for introducing them, arising from the nature of the country, its extent, its state of improvement, or its peculiar customs; where instead of attracting respect, they may excite envy; and as but few could enjoy them, those who did not, might be induced to form an unfavorable comparison between their own situation and that of their neighbors [the United States] among whom no such distinctions were known.'
* Title II. Introduction of the · Abstract of those Parts of the Custom of the Viscounty and Provostship of Paris, which were received in the Province of Quebec. London, 1772' p. 7.
f' VI. And be it further enacted by the authority aforesaid, that whenever his Majesty, his heirs or successors, shall think proper to confer upon any subject of the crown of Great Britain, by letters patent under the great seal of either of the said provinces, any hereditary title of honor, rank, or dignity of such province, descendible according to any course of descent limited in such letters patent, it shall and may be lawful for his Majesty, his heirs or successors, to annex thereto, by the said letters patent, if his Majesty, his heirs or successors, shall so think fit, an hereditary right of being summoned to the legislative council of such province, descendible according to the course of descent so limited with respect to such title, rank, or dignity; and that every person on whom such right shall be so conferred, or to whom such right shall severally so descend, shall thereupon be entitled to demand from the governor, lieutenant governor, or person administering the government of such province, his writ of summons to such legislative council, at any time after he shall have attained the age of twenty-one years, subject nevertheless to the provisions herein after contained.'
On the 11th of May, when the clauses of the bill were discussed, Mr Fox declared in the most expressive terms, that a sort of aristocracy ought to be introduced into the new political system of Canada. He considered it as an indispensable element of a mixed government, existing under a free constitution. The question with him was only on what principles it was to be founded; whether on property, birth, or talents. Property, he said, was the true foundation of aristocracy. But he thought it, above all, desirable that that branch of political power should be rendered independent of the executive government ; that if property was to be the basis of it, persons of property alone should be chosen. But at such distance from the mother country, how could the crown ascertain the persons
* Parl. Hist. vol. xxix. p. 111.
who would unite with that requisite, the talents necessary for so eminent a station? The mode he proposed was to render the aristocracy of Canada elective, but on other principles or on a higher standard than the other elective branch of the legislature, and their electors should also possess higher qualifications, than those of the members of the lower house. Should this idea not meet the approbation of the house, he would vote for a council, wholly nominated by the king or wholly composed of hereditary members; a council chosen in any manner, he confessed, was better than none. The governor should not be left to act alone with a pure popular legislature. Yet, while he wished hereditary counsellors and a political aristocracy, he ridiculed the idea of creating a Canadian nobility. The seigneurs, he remarked, were in fact a sort of nobility.. But, he declared them to be utterly unfit, as they were not respected enough, to be made hereditary nobles ;
and yet would ministers, he asked, pass by that nobility, and create a set of people over them, whom the world called nobility, and invest them with hereditary honors ? By the bye, he added, the sort of titles meant to be given, were not named in the bill ; he presumed the reason was, that they could not be named without provoking laughter.'
If the authenticity of the reported speeches may warrant such a remark, and if it were consistent with the respect due to a man like Fox, we should be free to confess, that we find it difficult to reconcile these opinions with those which are recorded in his previous speeches on the same question, or to understand what sort of aristocracy he really wished should be infused into the government of Canada. When Mr Wilberforce asked him, whether the elective council was to be for life or for a term of years, he replied that he had not decided upon that point, but was rather inclined to constitute them for life.' + Much of what he said in the session of the 11th of May was obviously intended to obliterate the impressions, which he might fear had been produced by some vague or ill considered remarks, that had fallen from him and had been referred, by his political adversaries, to the British constitution. According to the private history of the time, Mr Fox had shortly before entertained hopes of getting into power ;
* Parl. Hist. vol. xxix. p. 414. Ibid. p. 427.
the king had spoken favorably of him, and in such a juncture he was particularly desirous to avoid any discussion, that might lead him to explain his principles and opinions in regard to the late events in revolutionary France. He was drawn, however, into the debate, by Mr Burke, either at the instigation of Mr Pitt (as he himself suspected), or because the former had made
up his mind not to delay any longer an attack on the spirit and principles of the Revolution.
Mr Pitt said, that there existed elements of a future nobility in Canada, but that meanwhile there should be an heredit
He considered the absence of such a counterpoise in the constitution as one of the causes which accelerated the separation of the other British colonies. The aristocratic power, which was to exist in Canada, ought not to be founded on property alone. In founding it exclusively on that basis, it would be almost elective and too popular ; while it ought, on the contrary, to be made in a great degree immediately derivative from the crown, after the model of the British aristocracy.
In his reply to Mr Burke, Mr Fox repeated that nobility could not be ingrafted upon the existing society in Canada.*
A question arose upon the constitutional legality of the division of Canada into two provinces ; but upon consulting the 14 George III., it appeared that the king had authority to propose that measure. f Mr Fox however was against it.
• It had been argued,' said he,' that by such means, we could separate the English and the French inhabitants of the province, that we could distinguish, who were originally French from those of English origin. But was this to be desired ? Was it not rather to be
* Parl. Hist. vol. xxix. p. 402.
+ The following passage, transcribed from a letter of Gibbon, to J. Holroyd, dated October 14th, 1775, (4th ed. vol. i. p. 495,) is a curious statement of what the author thought of the public opinion and party feelings in Canada, at that time.
We are not quite easy about Canada ; and even if it should be safe from an attack, we cannot flatter ourselves with the expectation of bringing down that martial people of the back settlements. The priests are ours ; the gentlemen very prudently wait the event, and are disposed to join the stronger party ; but the same lawless spirit and impatience of government, which have infected our colonies, are gone forth among the Canadian peasants, over whom, since the conquest, the noblesse has lost much of their ancient influence.'