SIR PEREGRINE MAITLAND, the present Lieutenant-Governor of Upper Canada, is a decided friend to religion. Every Sabbath day, whether at home or abroad, he attends public worship twice, if he has it in his power, and always conducts himself in the church with the greatest reverence and propriety. Would to God that all great men would imitate his example. What a reformation of manners among their inferiors would soon follow! In his speech at the opening of the provincial parliament in 1821, among, other excellent expressions he made use of the following: “You will concur in promoting the interest of true religion, and in improving all those means which can add to the instruction, convenience, or happiness of the people.” The conduct of his excellent lady is no less praiseworthy. She gives encouragement and support to numerous benevolent institutions. The Sunday schools establish at York have, in particular, engaged her attention, and we are told that she has oftener than once distributed rewards to the deserving with her own hands.
The Commons House of Assembly in Upper Canada, consists of about forty members, but fifteen form a quorum for the dispatch of business. When the enemy took York in the late war, the journals of the house were burnt, which has been a serious inconvenience. Endeavours are, however, making to obtain copies of them from Earl Bathurst’s office.
Since the late war, there has been erected at York, in Upper Canada, an elegant and commodious building for the House of Assembly, &c. In this building, besides the public offices, there are several apartments, which the sergeant at arms, from his office of keeper of the house, thought he had a right to occupy. The clerk of the house, thinking he had a better right, occupied some of these apartments, and locked up the rest. Next session, namely, in 1821, they laid their respective claims before the House of Assembly. A committee was appointed to inquire into the business, and to make a report. The report was favourable to the Sergeant at Arms, upon which, the House resolved, “that the Sergeant at Arms is, ex officio, housekeeper of the House of Assembly, and all the apartments attached thereto, Clerk’s offices excepted; and that the Sergeant at Arms do, within a reasonable time, receive possession of the House, and apartments there unto attached.
The annual expenses of the civil government, and the administration of justice in Upper Canada, have been, for some years past, something under £20,000. This sum has been raised chiefly from three sources, namely, from licenses and duties on certain goods imported from the United States, one-fifth of the duties collected at Quebec, and £10,000 annually granted by England. The expenses of the naval and military departments are defrayed out of the military chest at the charge of England.
The licenses are, first, Shop licenses, for the retail of liquors to be used out of the house, £5 each; secondly, Tavern licenses, at all different rates, from £1 to £10, according to the situation of the tavern, the magistrates having a discretionary power to fix them at what they think right; thirdly, Still-licenses, at two shillings and sixpence a-year for every gallon the still contains; fourthly, Wholesale licenses, at £5 each; fifthly, Pedlar’s licenses, at £5 each, and £5 more for every horse he uses; and, lastly, Auctioneers’ licenses, also at £5 each. The duties upon imported goods are all charged and collected in Quebec, so that in Upper Canada no such animal as an excise-officer is to be met with.
There are duties charged upon certain goods imported from the United States; but as the frontier extends many hundred miles in length, and the collectors are not numerous, importers sometimes find it inconvenient to call upon them and consequently the intercourse is carried on chiefly by smuggling.
Breach of privilege is a thing not unknown in Upper Canada more than in England. In February, 1821, Robert C. Horne, Esq. government printer, and editor of the Upper Canada Gazette, was taken into custody, and placed at the bar of the House of Assembly, to answer for a breach of privilege, in making an erroneous report of the speeches of some of the members. Being permitted to speak for himself, he assured the House that he had always studied to be impartial, and that his endeavours had generally been successful, but that on this occasion the speeches had not been taken down by himself, but by another person whom he had employed for this purpose. That he was sorry to find that the words or opinions of any gentleman had been misrepresented, but that he was willing to retrieve the error by a public acknowledgement. This being the case, the House dismissed him with gentle reprimand.
When the House of Assembly met in 1821, that being the first session after the general election, there were two petitions presented, complaining of undue returns. To give you some idea how such things are done in Canada, I shall lay these petitions before you.
“To the Honourable the Commons House of Assembly, in Parliament Assembled.
“The petition of David Pattie, of the township of Hawkesbury, in the district of Ottawa, Esq.
“That your petitioner, and William Hamilton, Esq. were candidates at the last election of a knight to serve in the present parliament, for the counties of Prescott and Russell and that Joseph Fortune, Esq. was returning officer, who presided at the said election, which was held at the township of Longueil, in the county of Prescott, aforesaid, on Monday, the 10th day of July last, and a poll having been demanded, was continued by adjournments, until Saturday, the 15th of the same month.
“That at the close of the poll on Saturday, the last day of taking the same at the said election, your petitioner had a majority of votes; one hundred and three having polled for your petitioner, and only ninety-nine for the said William Hamilton, as appeared by the poll-book kept by the clerk of the said election; and that the said Joseph Fortune, being, such returning officer, as aforesaid, contrary to his oath of office, as such a returning officer, in gross violation of the rights of the people, and the privileges of your Honourable House, and to the great damage of your petitioner, in a partial and arbitrary manner, immediately after the close of the poll, on the last day of the said election, without instituting any scrutiny into the legality or illegality of any of these votes, received and entered upon the poll-book at the said election, and without assigning any sufficient reason for such his arbitrary and vexatious conduct, did, corruptly and falsely, return the said William Hamilton, and did declare him, the said William Hamilton, to be duly elected, to represent the said counties of Prescott and Russell in this parliament.
“That the said Joseph Fortune was, in other respects, grossly partial to the said William Hamilton, and inimical to the election of our petitioner; and that he exhibited such partiality upon many occasions, during the said election, and, in particular, in representing to the voters at the said election, that your petitioner, being an American, was a bad subject, and unworthy to represent them in parliament, and did also use various other means, highly unbecoming his situation and office aforesaid, to prevent persons from voting for your petitioner, and to induce and influence them to give their votes for the said William Hamilton.
“That several persons offered to vote at the said election, in the right of land they had only obtained tickets of location for, to the legality whereof your petitioner objected, and that many of the said persons hesitated to take the freeholders’ oath in respect of the lands so held by them until the said Joseph Fortune told them they had a right to vote, and might safely take the said oath, alleging he had seen a letter from the Hon. William D. Powell, chief justice of this province, to George Hamilton, Esq. brother of the said William Hamilton, stating that such persons had a right to vote at elections in this province.
“And lastly, That the said William Hamilton doth not possess an unencumbered freehold, in lands or tenements, in fee-simple, in this province, to the assessed value of £80, lawful money of this province; whereby he is ineligible to serve in Parliament, and his return is consequently void as your petitioner is advised, and humbly submits to the decision of your Honourable House.
“Wherefore your petitioner humbly prays that the said Joseph Fortune be ordered to attend at the bar of your Honourable House, and to produce the poll books taken at the said election under his authority, and that he be ordered to amend his return of the said to William Hamilton to serve in Parliament as aforesaid, by erasing the name of the said William Hamilton thereout, and inserting that of your petitioner instead thereof, and that your Honourable House will make such further orders as to Your wisdom may seem meet, and to justice appertains.
“And your petitioner, as in duty bound, will ever pray.
(Signed) DAVID PATTIE.“
“Mr. Jones of Grenville, seconded by Mr. Rutman moved that the petition of David Pattie, Esq. complaining, of an undue election, contains matter, which, if true, will make void the election of William Hamilton, Esq.
“Which was carried.
“Mr. Burwell, seconded by Mr. Crooks, moved, That the petition of David Smith, Esq. and others of the township of Durham, be now read.
“Which was carried, and the petition read as follows :-
“To the Honourable the Commons House of Assembly, in Parliament Assembled.
“The petition of John David Smith, of the county of Durham, in the district of Newcastle; Charles Fothergill, of the same place, Esq.; John William Bannister, of the same place, Esq.; John Williams, of the same place, Esq.; John Taylor, of the same place, Esq.; Jeremiah Button, of the same place, Esq.; and others, the undersigned freeholders of the same county;
“That Samuel Street Wilmot, Esq. and George Strange Boulton, Esq. were candidates at the last election of a knight to serve in this present parliament for the said county of Durham; and Thomas Ward was the returning officer who presided at the said election, which was held at Port Hope, in the said county of Durham, on Monday the third day of July last; and a poll having been demanded, was continued by adjournment until Saturday, the eighth day of the same month. That at the close of the poll each day, the said Thomas Ward, being such returning officer as aforesaid, declared the majority in favour of the said George Strange Boulton and that, at the close of the poll on Saturday, the last day of taking the same at the said election, after the votes had been examined by the said Thomas Ward in presence of the said candidates, and several names had been struck off by mutual consent, the said George Strange Boulton had a majority of votes, one hundred and sixty of the names still remaining on the poll-book having polled for the said George Strange Boulton, and only seventy for the said Samuel Street Wilmot, as appeared by the poll-book kept by the clerk at the said election.
“Yet the said Thomas Ward being such returning officer, as aforesaid, contrary to his oath of office as such returning officer, in gross violation of the right of your petitioners, and the freedom of elections, and of the privileges of your Honourable House, in a partial and arbitrary manner, after the close of the poll, on the last day of the election, and without adding up the numbers of the votes taken on the last day of the election, and without assigning any sufficient reason for his arbitrary and vexatious conduct, did corruptly and falsely return the said Samuel Street Wilmot, and did declare the said Samuel Street Wilmot to be duty elected to represent the said county of Durham in this Parliament.
“Wherefore your petitioners humbly pray, that the said Thomas Ward be ordered to attend at the bar of your Honourable House together with his poll-clerk, and to produce the poll-book taken at the said election, under his authority, and that he be ordered to amend his return of the said Samuel Street Wilmot, to serve in Parliament as aforesaid, by erasing the name of the said Samuel Street Wilmot, and inserting that of the said George Strange Boulton instead thereof, and that your Honourable House will make such farther orders as to your wisdom may seem meet, and to justice appertains.
“And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will every pray.
(Signed by) John D. Smith, J. P.
and eighty-one others.”
“Mr. Nichol, seconded by Mr. Burwell, moved, That it be resolved that the petition of David Smith and others contains matter which, if true, will make void the election of Samuel Wilmot, Esq. member for the county of Durham.
“Which was carried.
“The House then resolved, that Mr. Pattie and Mr. Boulton, previous to the investigation of their petitions, should enter into a bond of £200 each to the clerk, conditioned for the payment of such costs as should be awarded by the House against them, should they fail in supporting the ground of their petitions respectively.
“The Speaker was next authorised to order the attendance of the returning officers, with the poll-books, and such witnesses as were required by the petitioners or sitting members. The whole attended, except the returning officer of the counties of Prescott and Russell, whose conduct seems to have been very culpable. He being at a great distance from the seat of government, declined obeying the summons of the House, unless they paid the expenses of his journey. For this contempt of authority the Speaker issued his warrant to the Sergeant at Arms to take him into custody, and produce him at the bar of the House. The distance was about three hundred miles that the officer had to travel before he could carry his orders into execution. So Mr. Fortune, the returning officer, avoided him by crossing the Grand River into the Lower Province, where the Sergeant could not take him. The House was therefore compelled to content themselves with the evidence of the poll-book, the poll-clerk, and such other witnesses as they were able to procure. But they had evidence enough to enable them to determine that the returning officer had acted partially and unfairly, and that the sitting member ought not to have been returned. His seat was consequently declared vacant, and Mr. Pattie after the return was amended, was permitted to take his place.”
The matter, however, did not rest here. Mr. Fortune, the returning officer, being clerk of the peace, and registrar for the county, the House addressed the Governor, requesting his Excellency to remove him from those offices. This was answered by an assurance that the wish of the House should be attended to, and he was soon afterwards removed from office. In the other case the returning officer was directed to amend his return, and the petitioner took his seat.
The difficulty in these cases arose chiefly from the uncertainty which existed in the minds of many, whether the holders of location tickets have, or have not, the same right to vote at elections, as those who had deeds actually in their possession. A location ticket is a kind of certificate granted to a settler when he gets a grant of land from government, securing a deed to him at the end of three years, if he has then cleared at least five acres, and built a house, &c. Many of the new settlers have still nothing to show for their land except these tickets. Hitherto they have been considered sufficient, but now the House of Assembly have resolved that none are to be permitted to vote, unless they have deeds in their possession.
During the former provincial parliament, some diversity of opinion existed between the two branches of the legislature; but in 1821, when the new parliament assembled, greater unanimity prevailed. This afforded great pleasure to all but especially to the governor, who, in his speech at the end of the session, amongst others made use of the following expressions:-
“Having characterised this session of Parliament, the first since the late augmentation in your respective bodies, by great unanimity in the discharge of your important duties, you will, I trust, carry into your several counties a disposition which will lead you to cultivate a spirit of harmony and good will among all classes and descriptions of their inhabitants.
“Let me recommend that you should also instil into the minds of your fellow-subjects the duty of a ready and conscientious discharge of those local services which the laws require for the general advantage and convenience, and that you should give, by your countenance and support, all the weight in your power to the authorities appointed for the enforcement of obligations so important. In those parts of the provinces with which you are severally connected, you will, I doubt not, render your presence an additional security against the progress of misrepresentation on matters of public concern, of which, in whatever cause it may originate, experience has sufficiently demonstrated the evil tendency. The superior information you naturally possess, of subjects of general importance, and your nearer acquaintance with the views and principles of the government, will at times enable you, by means of Honourable and manly exertion, such as you, I am persuaded, would employ, to expose effectually any delusions which might be otherwise calculated to mislead the judgments of the unwary. You must be sensible that such a just discernment of their real interests, as recently influenced the great mass of this loyal people, must ever be in the highest degree important for the undisturbed enjoyment of your full rights and liberties, and that it must prove the best security for the permanence of that internal tranquillity which is so essential to the diffusive existence of private happiness, and the healthful growth of those advantages which, in their maturity, constitute the greatness and felicity of a country.“