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Provincial Parliament,” we are forced often into an unfair justaposition, as it were, with such Institutions in England: people look upon this picture and upon that, and because ours here are so comparatively insignificant, or beset with difficulties, many would hold them to be mere failures, unworthy of further support, utterly inadequate to the end proposed. Now I hope you will agree with me when any people do so judge of them, that they have come to an unhappy conclusion, drawn from false premises; and it is to place this more clearly before you, that I shall occupy at least some of our time during the passing hour this evening.
It is not yet quite one hundred years since Canada became & Colony of England; and has not yet, I believe, quite completed the first decade of her present Parliamentary system. Many of the Institutions of the Old Country date from the days of Alfred and Edward the Confessor; and the first assembly of the Commons, as a confirmed Representation, dates back as far as the year 1265 in the reign of Henry III. This Province, compared with the growth of England, has almost started, as it were, into sudden maturity, her population and material prosperity advancing with extraordinary rapidity, and also the necessities for various Institutions to suit her growing life. England has been nearly one thousand years consolidating her greatness and maturing her condition. But, nevertheless, as to public scientific institutions, even in England, they are comparatively of very recent growth. The "Royal Institution,” of Great Britain, for diffusing the knowledge and facilitating the general introduction of useful mechanical inventions and improvements, and for teaching, by courses of philosophical lectures and experiments, the application of science to the common purposes of life, was only formed in the year 1800, under the patronage of George III.
“The Royal Society" for improving natural knowledge, had preceded it about 150 years; and others have sprung up more recently. It is true we have now the use and advantage of all their discoveries and publications; but we have a population very differently circumstanced to work with, and it is but just to take this fact into consideration,
First let us look at the subject, as respecting our Provincial Parliament and public official business. It is made a matter of reproach very often, in the public newspapers and elsewhere, that many of the representatives of the people are only political adventurers, without any fixed political view or opinions, who seek a seat in the House merely for the sake of obtaining the allowance paid to members, or to get, at some happy conjuncture, their share out of the spoils of office, or to secure some special benefit for their own immediate locality. And again, how often do we hear complaints of the impossibility of getting business expedited through this or that public office, without some special private fee being forthcoming. This may
be so in many cases; but if it be, however we may lament it, we must remember how far it arises from the present condition of the country. In a young country like this, where every one is engaged in the active business of life—where there are so few persons of acquired fortunes, who have time and inclination to devote themselves to the public service of the country, we must be more generally exposed to this risk, and with less feeling of an opposite kind to counteract it. But we are not on that account to decry our institutions as failures; but work onward in the hope and expectation of improvement. Nor is it fair to compare our Provincial Parliament with the Imperial Parliament as at present constituted, but rather let us look back but a very
and see what is then related of it. Payments, as here, used to be made to members in England for their attendance in Parliament, but they have ceased for a long time; and on the contrary, now, as is very notorious, peopleare willing to expend enormous sums for the mere honor of representing their native county in Parliament without expectation or desire of any pecuniary gain for themselves or those connected with them, perhaps continually occupying the opposition benches. These expenses have been much reduced since the passing of the reform bill; but when Mr. Wilberforce was returned for Yorkshire by the freeholders, free of all cost, in the famous contest with Lord Milton, (the present Earl Fitzwilliam,) his lordship was understood to have expended nearly £120,000. Moreover, to very few of the leading politicians of the day in England, are the emoluments of office a necessity; and any one now known to have received a direct pecuniary bribe for his vote, would scarcely ever be able to recover from the disgrace attaching to such a trans
action. But it was not always so, how much soever the inerease and more general diffusion of wealth may have in time rendered the payments for attendance unnecessary, and also produced a class of representatives, who, being themselves of more independent pri. vate fortune, are in a position more easily to despise the attempts of any minister who might try to corrupt them.
As late as 1724 Sir Robert Walpole used to make an allowance to all the Scotch members for their attendance in Parliament, as coming from a greater distance and poorer country. There being about that time, on one occasion, a difficulty about passing a bill, authorising a duty of sixpence on every barrel of beer in Scotland, as an equivalent to the malt-tax in England; the Scotch members were disinclined to vote for it. But the money was wanted, partly to defray an allowance of ten guineas weekly, which Walpole used to give to every Scotch member during the Session, in order, as was alleged, to support the charge of their residence in London. When they waited upon Walpole to remonstrate against this tax on beer in Scotland, he told them that they must find, or acquiesce in, some mode to make this
from the Scotch revenue, or else, as he expressed it, they must in future "tie up their stockings with their own garters.” The Scotch members might thus have then had excellent reasons for yielding to this impost, but the Scotch people unhappily had none; and its result was a general irritation throughout the country, and a serious riot at Glasgow. But the system of Parliamentary corruption was too common in those days to excite much observation. It had been customary in previous administrations, but it reached its maximum under Walpole. It was just before Walpole's day that the Speaker of the House of Commons (Sir John Trevor), on one occasion, accepted a bribe of 100 guineas from the city of London, and on its detection was himself obliged to put to the vote, that he had been guilty of a high crime and misdemeanor. The Secretary of the Treasury, (Mr. Guy) on another occasion, was sent to the Tower for a similar offence. A shameful system of false endorsement of exchequer bills on the part of several members was detected before; and even Burnett, the apologist of those times, is reduced to admit and deplore the extent of the corruption. In the “ History of his own
Times,” Burnett says, “ I took the liberty once to complain to the King of this method (of buying votes); he said he hated it as much as any man could, but he saw it was not possible, considering the corruption of the age to avoid it, unless he would endanger the whole.” The secret service money which, in the ten years preceding 1717, had amounted to £277,444, in ten years of Walpole's ministry, swelled up to very nearly a million and a half, or at the rate of £150,000 per annum; a large part of which, it was well known, was spent in bribing votes in Parliament. Some few statesmen of that day occasionally raised their voice against the prevailing system. Amongst others Secretary Stanhope, who succeeded Walpole after his first administration, publicly declared, (evidently as being something then very unusual,)“ that he would be content with the salary and lawful perquisites of office; and though he had quitted a better place as Lord Lieutenant of Ireland,) he would not quarter himself upon any body to make it up;
that he had no brothers or sisters to provide for, and that on his first entering into the Treasury, he had made a standing order against the late practice of granting reversions of places.” And he acted up to this; for some large government negotiations having been arranged with the Bank of England and South Sea Company, he stated in the House, that he “understood it had been the common praetice of those concerned in the administration of the Treasury, to make bargains for the public with Governors and Directors of Companies, by which some private advantages were generally made; but that in his (Mr. Stanhope's) opinion, such bargains ought to be determined at the bar of the House; and if any advantages could be made the public ought to have the benefit of them.” In the following year Mr. Secretary Craggs writes, “It is incredible what prejudice all these sales of office do the king's service; for to complete our misfortunes, I have remarked that there is no distinction of persons or circumstances (to whom they are not sold, Jacobites, Tories, Papists, at the Exehange or in the Church, by land or by sea, during the Session and in the recess, nothing is objected to, provided there is money to be obtained."
But one individual, who more than any other, assisted in raising the tone of public feeling in England on this subject, and whe
introduced a higher and better system of polítical morality, was Lord Chatham. Lord Mahon (now Earl Stanhope) in his History of England, among the many admirable portraits which he gives of the leading statesmen of the day, has drawn one, not the least happy of his efforts, of William Pitt, afterwards Earl of Chatham, but more popularly known as the Great Commoner. In the course of his remarks, he says of him:—“bred amidst too frequent examples of corruption, entering public life at a low tone of public morals, standing between the mock patriots and the sneerers at patriotism, between Bolingbroke and Walpole, he manifested the most scrupulous disinterestedness, and the most lofty and generous purposes; he shunned the taint himself, and in time removed it from his country. He taught British statesmen to look again for their support to their own force of character instead of Court Cabals, or parliamentary corruption. He told his fellow citizens (not as agitators tell them, that they were wretched and oppressed), but that they were the first nation in the world, and under his guidance they became so."
I mention these circumstances just to show how comparatively recently in her history England has had such difficulties to encount er, and evils to overcome; and if, in this country, quite in its earliest stages, we find ours, we may hope nevertheless, that we shall be able also to work out successfully the problemn of our political system, and with the inherent health and energy, and buoyant hope of youth, in due course to acquire and maintain a good and honorable name in history. Why may we not anticipate a time, when the future historian of Canada will have to tell of some one amongst us, who shall have taught Canadian statesmen to look for their support to their own force of character, instead of Court cabals, or parliamentary corruption—who shall have told his fellow citizens (not as agitators tell them, that they were wretched and oppressed, but,) that they were, if not the first, yet a great nation, and how, under his guidance, they became so.
But the general complexion of the representation of any people must, of course, take its colouring from that of the people themselves, and as the great body of the people advance in wealth and independence, and intelligence, and general tone of character, sa