The Governors-general: Lord Metcalfe





A surrender of the official Imperial position so unexpected and so

contrary to the intentions of the Colonial Office, as that which Bagot

had made, provoked a natural reaction. Bagot's successor was one of

those men of principle who are continually revealing the flaws and

limitations implicit in their principles by earnest over-insistence on

them. It is unfortunate that Sir Charles Metcalfe should appear in

Canadian history as the man whose errors almost precipitated another

rebellion, for among his predecessors and successors few have equalled

him, none has outstripped him, in public virtue or experience. He had

earned, throughout thirty-seven years in India, a reputation for

efficiency in every kind of administrative work. As a lad of little

more than twenty he had negotiated with Ranjit Singh the treaty which,

for a generation, kept Sikhs and British at peace. In the {159}

residency at Hyderabad he had fought, in the face of the

governor-general's displeasure, a hard but ultimately successful battle

for incorrupt administration. After Bentinck had resigned, Metcalfe

had been appointed acting governor-general, and he might have risen

even higher, had not the courageous act, by which he freed the press in

India from its earlier disabilities, set the East India Company

authorities against him. He was something more than what Macaulay

called him--"the ablest civil servant I ever knew in India"; his

faculty for recommending himself to Anglo-Indian society on its lighter

side, and the princely generosity which bound his friends to him by a

curious union of reverence and affection, combined with his genius for

administration to make him an unusual and outstanding figure in that

generation of the company officials in India. Led by the sense of duty

which ever dominated him, he had passed from retirement in England to

reconcile the warring elements in Jamaica to each other; and his

success there had been as great as in India. In English politics, in

which he had naturally played little part, he identified himself with

the more liberal wing of the Whigs, although his long absence from the

centre of affairs, and the inclination natural to {160} an

administrator, to think of liberalism rather as a thing of deeds and

acts than of opinion, gave whatever radicalism he may have professed a

bureaucratic character. He described himself not inaptly to a friend

thus: "A man who is for the abolition of the corn laws, Vote by Ballot,

Extension of the Suffrage, Amelioration of the Poor-laws for the

benefit of the poor, equal rights to all sects of Christians in matters

of religion, and equal rights to all men in civil matters...; and (who)

at the same time, is totally disqualified to be a demagogue--shrinks

like a sensitive plant from public meetings; and cannot bear to be

drawn from close retirement, except by what comes in the shape of real

or fancied duty to his country."[1] Outside of the greater figures of

the time, he was one of the first citizens of the Empire, and Bagot, as

he thought of possible successors, only dismissed the suggestion of

Metcalfe's appointment because it seemed too good news to be true.

Nevertheless Sir Charles Metcalfe had one great initial disadvantage

for work in Canada. Distinguished as were his virtues, a very little

discernment in the home government might have discovered the obstacles

which must meet an absolutely efficient, {161} liberal administrator in

a country where democracy, the only possible principle of government

for Canada, was still in its crude and repulsive stage. The

delimitation of the frontier between Imperial control and Canadian

self-government required a subtler and more flexible mind than

Metcalfe's, and a longer practice than his in the ways of popular

assemblies. Between March, 1843, when he assumed office, and the end

of 1845, when he returned to die in England, Metcalfe's entire energy

was spent in grappling with the problem of holding the balance level

between local autonomy and British supremacy. His real contribution to

the question was, in a sense, the confusion and failure with which his

career ended; for his serious practical logic reduced to an absurdity,

as nothing else could have done, the position stated so firmly by

Russell in 1839.



Sir Charles Metcalfe came to Canada at a moment when responsible

government in its most extended interpretation seemed to have

triumphed. In Upper and Lower Canada the reforming party had accepted

Bagot's action as the concession of their principle, and the two chief

ministers, Baldwin and La Fontaine, were men resolute to endure no

diminution of their share of responsibility. Bagot's {162} illness had

given additional strength to their authority, and Gibbon Wakefield, who

was then a member of Assembly, believed that Baldwin had already taken

too great a share of responsibility to be willing to occupy a secondary

place under an energetic governor.[2] Indeed an unwillingness to allow

the governor-general his former unlimited initiative becomes henceforth

a mark of the leaders of the Reformers, and La Fontaine, who had

resented Sydenham's activity as much as his anti-nationalist policy,

protested against the suggestion that Charles Buller should be sent to

Canada, because he "apprehended that Buller would be disposed to take

an active part himself in our politics."[3] There seemed to be no

obstacle in the way of a complete victory for reforming principles.

The French remained as solidly as ever a unit, and under La Fontaine

they were certain to continue to place their solidarity at the disposal

of the Upper Canada reformers. The latter, ultras and moderates

alike, were too adequately represented, in all their shades and

aspects, in the cabinet, to be willing to shake its power; and {163}

the sympathetic co-operation between Irishmen in Canada, and those who

at that time in Ireland were beginning another great democratic

agitation, made the stream of Hibernian immigration a means of

reinforcing the Canadian progressives. One of the best evidences of

the growth of Reform was the persistent agitation of the Civil List

question. Following up their action under Bagot, the reformers

demanded the concession of a completer control than they seemed then to

possess over their own finances, and a more economical administration

of them. The inspector-general, in a report characterized by all his

admirable clearness, stated the issue thus: "It is impossible for any

government to support a Civil List to which objections are raised, and

with justice, by the people at large; first, on the ground that its

establishment was a violation of their constitutional rights; second,

that the services provided for are more than ought to be placed on the

permanent Civil List; third, on the ground that the salaries provided

are higher than the province can afford to pay with a due regard to the

public interests, and more especially to the maintenance of the public

credit."[4]



{164}



Metcalfe, then, found in Canada a ministry not far from being

unanimous, supported by a union of French and British reformers; and he

ought to have realized how deeply the extended view of self-government

had affected the minds of all, so that only by a serious struggle could

Sydenham's position of 1839 be recovered. But Metcalfe was an

Anglo-Indian, trained in the school of politics most directly opposed

to the democratic ways of North America. He was entirely new to

Canadian conditions; and one may watch him studying them

conscientiously, but making just those mistakes, which a clever

examination candidate would perpetrate, were he to be asked of a sudden

to turn his studies to practical account. The very robustness of his

sense of duty led him naturally to the two most contentious questions

in the field--those which concerned the responsibility of the colonial

executive government, and the place of party in dictating to the

governor-general his policy and the use to be made of his patronage.



His study of Sydenham's despatches revealed to him the contradiction

between that statesman's resolute proclamation of Russell's doctrine,

and the course of practical surrender which his actions seemed to have

followed in 1841. "In adopting {165} the very form and practice of the

Home Government, by which the principal ministers of the Crown form a

Cabinet, acknowledged by the nation as the executive administration,

and themselves acknowledging responsibility to Parliament, he rendered

it inevitable that the council here should obtain and ascribe to

themselves, in at least some degree, the character of a cabinet of

ministers."[5] In a later despatch, Metcalfe attempted to demonstrate

the inapplicability of such a form of government to a colony: "a system

of government which, however suitable it may be in an independent

state, or in a country where it is qualified by the presence of a

Sovereign and a powerful aristocracy, and by many circumstances in

correspondence with which it has grown up and been gradually formed,

does not appear to be well adapted for a colony, or for a country in

which those qualifying circumstances do not exist, and in which there

has not been that gradual progress, which tends to smooth away the

difficulties, otherwise sure to follow the confounding of the

legislative and executive powers, and the inconsistency of the practice

with the theory of the Constitution."[6]



{166}



To his mind, what Durham had advocated was infinitely sounder--"that

all officers of the government except the governor and his secretary

should be responsible to the united Legislature; and that the governor

should carry on his government by heads of departments, in whom the

United Legislature repose confidence.... The general responsibility of

heads of departments, acting under the orders of the Governor, each

distinctly in his own department, might exist without the destruction

of the former authority of her Majesty's Government."[7] So set was he

in his opposition to cabinet government on British lines in Canada,

that he prophesied separation as the obvious consequence of concession.

It was natural that one so distrustful of cabinet machinery in a colony

should altogether fail to see the place of party. It must always be

remembered that party, in Canada, had few of those sanctions of

manners, tradition, and national service, which had given Burke his

soundest arguments, when he wrote the apologetic of the eighteenth

century Whigs. Personal and sometimes corrupt interests, petty ideas,

ignoble quarrels, a flavour of pretentiousness which came from the

misapplication of British terms, and a {167} lack of political

good-manners--in such guise did party present itself to the British

politician on his arrival in British North America. Metcalfe, from his

previous experience, had come to identify party divisions with

factiousness, a political evil which the efficient governor must seek

to extirpate. His triumph in Jamaica had secured the death of party

through the benevolent despotism of the governor, and there can be no

doubt that he hoped in Canada to perform a precisely similar task.

"The course which I intend to pursue with regard to all parties," he

wrote to Stanley in April, 1843, "is to treat all alike, and to make no

distinctions, as far as depends on my personal conduct." But since

parties did exist, and were unlikely to cease to exist, the

governor-general's distaste for party in theory merely forced him to

become in practice the unconscious leader of the Canadian

conservatives, who, under men like MacNab and the leaders of the Orange

Lodges, differed only from other parties in the loudness of their

loyalist professions, and the paucity of their supporters among the

people. Metcalfe complained that at times the whole colony must be

regarded as a party opposed to her Majesty's Government.[8] He might

have {168} seen that what he deplored proceeded naturally from the

identification of himself with the smallest and least representative

group of party politicians in the colony.



The radical opposition between the governor and the coalition which his

executive council represented led naturally to the crisis of November

26th, 1843. For months the feeling of mutual alienation had been

growing. On several occasions, more notably in the appointment to the

speakership of the legislative council, and in one to a vacant

clerkship of the peace, the governor's use of patronage had caused

offence to his ministers; and, towards the end of November, the entire

Cabinet, with the exception of Daly, whose nickname "the perpetual

secretary" betokened that he was either above party feeling or beneath

it, handed in their resignations. The motives of their action became,

as will be shown, the subject of violent controversy; but the statement

of Sir Charles Metcalfe seems in itself the fairest and most probable

account of what took place. "On Friday, Mr. La Fontaine and Mr.

Baldwin came to the Government House, and after some irrelevant matters

of business, and preliminary remarks as to the course of their

proceedings, demanded of {169} the Governor-general that he should

agree to make no appointment, and no offer of an appointment, without



previously taking the advice of the Council; that the lists of

candidates should in every instance be laid before the Council; that

they should recommend any others at discretion; and that the

Governor-general in deciding, after taking their advice, shall not make

any appointment prejudicial to their influence."[9]



At a slightly later date the ministers attributed their resignation to

a serious difference between themselves and the governor-general on the

theory of responsible government. To that statement Metcalfe took

serious exception, but he admitted that "in the course of the

conversations which both on Friday and Saturday followed the explicit

demand made by the Council regarding the patronage of the Crown, that

demand being based on the construction put by some of the gentlemen on

the meaning of responsible government, different opinions were elicited

on the abstract theory of that still undefined question as applicable

to a colony."[10] There can be no doubt that the casus belli was an

absolute assertion of the right of the council to control patronage,

but it is, at the same time, {170} perfectly clear that in the opinion

of the ministers the disposal of patronage formed part of the system of

responsible government, and that they were quite explicit to Metcalfe

in their statements on that point. The incident, striking enough in

itself, gave occasion for an extraordinary outburst of pamphleteering;

and the reckless or incompetent statements of men on either side make

it necessary to dispel one or two illusions created by the partizan

excitement of the time. On the side of the council, Hincks, the

inspector-general, then and afterwards contended that the incident was

only an occasion and a pretext; that Stanley had sent Metcalfe out to

wreck the system of responsible government, so far conceded by Sydenham

and Bagot; and that the episode of 1843 was part of a deeper plot to

check the growth of Canadian freedom.[11] Apart from the absurdities

contained in Hincks' statement of the case, the only answer which need

be made to the charge is that, if Stanley could have descended to such

ignoble plotting, Metcalfe was the last man in the world to act as his

dishonoured instrument. On the other side, Gibbon Wakefield believed

that {171} the council chose the occasion to escape from a defeat

otherwise inevitable, in the hope that a renewed agitation for

responsible government might reinstate them in public favour. As

Metcalfe gave the suggestion some authority by accepting it

provisionally in a despatch,[12] the details of Wakefield's charge may

be given. The ministry, he held, had been steadily weakening. Two

bills, advocated by them, had been abandoned owing to the opposition of

their followers. The French solidarity had begun to break up, and La

Fontaine had found in Viger a rival in the affections of his adherents.

The ministers, intoxicated by the possession of a little brief

authority, had offended the sense of the House by their arrogance; and

the debates concerning the change of the seat of government from

Kingston to Montreal had been a cause of stumbling to many. With their

authority weakened in the House, doubtful in the country, and more than

doubtful with the governor-general, the resignation of the ministers,

in Wakefield's view of the case, "upon a ground which was sure to

obtain for them much popular sympathy, was about the most politic of

their ministerial acts."[13]



{172}



But the ministry possessed and continued to possess a great

parliamentary majority; and a dissolution could not in any way have

improved their position. Besides this, the alienation of the

councillors from the governor-general had developed far more deeply

than was generally supposed; indeed it is difficult to see how common

action between the opposing interests could have continued with any

real benefit to the public. On May 23rd, that is six months before the

resignation, Captain Higginson, the Governor's civil secretary, had an

interview with La Fontaine, to ascertain his views on the appointment

of a provincial aide-de-camp, and on general topics. The accuracy of

Higginson's precis of the conversation was challenged by La Fontaine,

but its terms seem moderate and probable, and do not misrepresent the

actual position of the Executive Council in 1843--a determined

opposition to the governor-general's attempt to destroy government by

party: "Mr. La Fontaine said, 'Your attempts to carry on the government

on principles of conciliation must fail. Responsible government has

been conceded, and when we lose our majority we are prepared to retire;

to strengthen us we must have the entire confidence of the

Governor-general exhibited most {173} unequivocally--and also his

patronage--to be bestowed exclusively on our political adherents. We

feel that His Excellency has kept aloof from us. The opposition

pronounce that his sentiments are with them. There must be some acts

of his, some public declaration in favour of responsible government,

and of confidence in the Cabinet, to convince them of their error.

This has been studiously avoided.'"[14] The truth is that the ministry

felt the want of confidence, which, on the governor's own confession,

existed in his mind towards them. Believing, too, as all of them did

more or less, in party, they must already have learned the views of

Metcalfe on that subject, and they suspected him of taking counsel with

the conservatives, whom Metcalfe declared to be the only true friends

to Britain in Canada. Matters of patronage Metcalfe had determined, as

far as possible, to free from party dictation; and so he and his

ministers naturally fell out on the most obvious issue which their

mutual differences could have raised. There was nothing disingenuous

in the popular party claiming that the patronage question stood in this

case for the broader issue. Indeed Metcalfe's own statement that "he

objected to the {174} exclusive distribution of patronage with party

views and maintained the principle that office ought, in every

instance, to be given to the man best qualified to render efficient

service to the State" was actually a challenge to the predominance of

the party-cabinet system, which no constitutionalist could have allowed

to pass in silence. Egerton Ryerson, to whom in this instance the

maxim about the cobbler sticking to his last is applicable, erected a

ridiculous defence for Metcalfe, holding that "according to British

practice, the councillors ought to have resigned on what Metcalfe had

done, and not on what he would not promise to do. If the Crown

intended to do just as they desired the governor-general to do, still

the promise ought not to be given, nor ought it to have been asked.

The moment a man promises to do a thing he ceases to be as free as he

was before he made the promise."[15] The actual struggle lay between

two schools directly opposed in their interpretation of responsible

government; and since Sir Charles Metcalfe definitely and avowedly set

himself against cabinet government, the party system, and the place of

party in allocating patronage, the ministers were not free to allow him

to {175} appoint men at his own discretion. For the sake of a theory

of government for which many of them had already sacrificed much, they

were bound to defend what their opponents called the discreditable

cause of party patronage.



The line of action which the members of council followed had already

been sketched out by Robert Baldwin in his encounter with Sydenham. In

the debate of June 18th, 1841, Baldwin had admitted that should the

representative of the Crown be unwilling to accept the advice offered

to him by his council, it would be impossible by any direct means to

force that advice upon him. But he also held that this did not relieve

the members of council for a moment from the fulfilment of an

imperative duty. "If their advice," he said, "were accepted--well and

good. If not, their course would be to tender their resignations."[16]



This indeed was battle a outrance between two conflicting theories of

government. Russell, Sydenham, and Metcalfe, had refused to admit

self-government beyond a certain limit, and Metcalfe, in accepting the

situation created by the resignation of his ministers, was battling

very directly for his view. On the other side, Baldwin and the {176}

colonial politicians had claimed autonomy as far as it might be granted

within the empire. By resigning their offices, they called on their

opponents to make the alternative system work. For two years Metcalfe

occupied himself with the task they set him.



It is not necessary to enter into all the details of those years. The

relevant facts group themselves round three centres of interest--the

painful efforts put forth by Metcalfe to build up a new council, the

general election through which he sought to find a party for his

ministers, and the attitude of the colony towards the new ministers,

and of both toward the representative of the Crown on the eve of his

departure for England in 1845.



The struggle to reconstruct the ministry was peculiarly distressing,

and ended in a very qualified success. Daly, Metcalfe's one remaining

councillor, carried no weight in the country. Baldwin and his group

could not be approached; and Harrison, the most moderate of the

reformers, had previously resigned over the question of the removal of

the seat of government from Kingston. In Lower Canada, Metcalfe found

himself almost as much the object of French hatred as Sydenham had

been, and it was with great difficulty that he {177} secured Viger to

represent the French Canadians in his council--at the expense of

Viger's influence among his compatriots.[17] By the end of 1843,

Metcalfe had secured the services of three men, "Viger representing the

French party, and Mr. Daly and Mr. Draper representing in some degree

as to each both the British and moderate Reform parties."[18]

Officious supporters, of whom Egerton Ryerson was chief, did their best

to introduce to the governor competent outsiders, and Draper used his

reputation for moderation in the effort to secure suitable candidates.

Even after the election of 1844 was over, Draper, and Caron, the

Speaker in the Upper House, actually attempted an intrigue with La

Fontaine; and although the episode brought little credit to any of the

parties concerned, La Fontaine at least recognized how much was

involved in acceptance or rejection of the proposals of

government--when he said: "If under the system of accepting office at

any price, there are persons, who, for a personal and momentary

advantage, do not fear to break the only bond which constitutes our

strength, union among ourselves, I do not wish to be, and I never will

be, of the {178} number."[19] Eventually a patchwork ministry was

constructed, but its pitiable weakness proved how difficult it was to

create a council, except along orthodox British party lines. It was a

reductio ad absurdum of the eclectic principle of cabinet building.



The reconstruction of the council involved a dissolution of Parliament.

The late councillors had a steady and decisive majority in the existing

Assembly; and the governor-general found it necessary to face the risk

of an appeal to the country. The fate of Lower Canada he could imagine

beforehand; nothing but accident could prevent the return of an

overwhelming majority against his men. Even among the western British

settlers an unprejudiced observer reported early in 1844 that more than

nine-tenths of the western voters were supporters of the late Executive

Council.[20] Montreal, which, thanks to Sydenham's manoeuvres, counted

among the British seats, returned an opponent of the new Ministers at a

bye-election in April, 1844, although the {179} government party

explained away the defeat by stories of Irish violence. But Metcalfe's

extraordinary persistence, and his belief that the battle was really

one for the continuance of the British connection, gave him and his

supporters renewed vigour, and, even to-day, the election of November,

1844, is remembered as one of the fiercest in the history of the

colony. Politics in Canada still recognized force as one of the

natural, if not quite legitimate, elements in the situation, and it was

eminently characteristic of local conditions that, early in his term of

office, Metcalfe should have reported that meetings had been held near

Kingston at which large numbers of persons attended armed with

bludgeons, and, in some cases, with firearms.[21] Montreal, with all

its possibilities of conflict, and with its reputation for disorder to

maintain, led the-way in election riots. In April, 1844, according to

the loyalists, the reformers had won through the use of Irish labourers

brought in from the Lachine canal. However that may be, the military

had been called in, and at least one death had resulted from the

confused rioting of the day.[22] In November, the loyalists in their

turn organized {180} a counter demonstration, and the success of the

loyal party was not altogether disconnected with physical force.[23]

From the west came similar stories of violence and trickery. In the

West Riding of Halton, the Tories were said to have delayed voting,

which seemed to be setting against them, by various stratagems,

including the swearing in of old grey-headed men as of 21 years of age,

and among the accusations made by the defeated candidate was one that

certain deputy returning officers had allowed seven women to vote for

the sitting member.[24] On the whole the election went in favour of

the governor-general, although Metcalfe took too favourable a view of

the situation when he reported the avowed supporters of government as

46, as against 28 avowed adversaries. At best his majority could not

rise above six. Yet even so, the decision of the country still seems

astonishing. There was the unflinching Tory element at the centre; and

the British members from Lower Canada. Ryerson had used his great

influence among the Methodists, and, since the cry was one of loyalty

to the Crown, many waverers {181} may have voted on patriotic grounds

for the government candidates. Metcalfe's reputation, too, counted for

him, for he had already become known as more than generous, and one of

his successors estimated that he spent L6,000 a year in excess of his

official income. "It must be admitted," he himself wrote to Stanley,

"that this majority has been elected by the loyalty of the majority of

the people of Upper Canada, and of those of the Eastern townships in

Lower Canada."[25]



The government, and presumably also the governor-general, were accused

of having secured their victory by doubtful tactics, and Elgin reported

in 1847 that his Assembly, which was that of the 1844 election, had had

much discredit thrown on it on the ground that the late

governor-general had interfered unduly in the elections.[26] Neither

side had been perfectly scrupulous in its methods of warfare, and it is

not necessary to blame Metcalfe for the misguided zeal and cunning of

his Ministers and his country supporters. Be that as it may, the

governor-general had won a hard-fought victory--Pyrrhic as it proved.



Throughout this political warfare, Metcalfe had {182} been sustained by

the strong support of the home government. The cabinet announced

itself ready to give him every possible support in maintaining the

authority of the Queen, and of her representative, against unreasonable

and exorbitant pretensions.[27] In the debate on the troubles, which

Roebuck introduced on May 30th, 1844, all the leading men on either

side, Stanley, Peel, Russell, and Buller, warmly supported the

governor, Russell and Buller being as strong in their reprobation of

the demands of the council as Stanley himself.[28] And the chorus of

approval culminated in the letters from Peel and Stanley, which

announced the conferring of a peerage on Metcalfe "as a public mark of

her Majesty's cordial approbation of the judgment, ability, and

fidelity, with which he had discharged the important trust confided to

him by her Majesty."[29] In a sense the honours and praise were not

altogether out of place. Metcalfe had been sent out to conduct the

administration of Canada on what we now regard as an impossible system;

and unlike his immediate predecessors he had conceded not one point to

the other side. In spite of all that his enemies could say, his {183}

personal honour and dignity remained untarnished. The nicknames and

cruel taunts flung at him, in the earlier months, apparently by his own

ministers, recoil now on their heads, as the petty insults of

unmannerly politicians; indeed, the accusations which they made of

simplicity and honesty, simply reinforce the impression of quixotic

high-mindedness, which was not the least noble feature in Metcalfe's

character. His generosity had been unaffected by his difficulties; and

there are few finer things in the history of British administration

than the sense of duty exhibited throughout 1845 by Lord Metcalfe,

when, dying of cancer in the cheek, almost blind, and altogether unable

to write his despatches, he still clung to his post "to secure the

preservation of this colony and the supremacy of the mother country."

It is easy to separate the man from the official, and to praise the

former as one of the noblest of early Victorian administrators.



But even before Lord Metcalfe's departure at the end of 1845, the

inadequacy of his system stood revealed. He had indeed a majority in

the Assembly, but a small and doubtful majority; and since its members

had been elected rather to support Metcalfe than to co-operate with his

ill-assorted {184} ministry, difficulties very soon revealed

themselves. There were causes of dissension, chief among them the

University question in Upper Canada, which threatened to wreck the

government party. But the most ominous sign of coming defeat was the

incompatibility of temper which rapidly developed between loyal

ministers and loyal Assembly. "It is remarkable," Metcalfe wrote in

May, 1845, "that none of the Executive Council, although all are

estimable and respectable, exercise any great influence over the party

which supports the government. Mr. Draper is universally admitted to

be the most talented man in either House of the Legislature, and his

presence in the Legislative Assembly was deemed to be so essential,

that he resigned his seat in the Upper House, sacrificing his own

opinions in order that he might take the lead in the Assembly;

nevertheless he is not popular with the party that supports the

government, nor with any other, and I do not know that, strictly

speaking, he can be said to have a single follower. The same may be

remarked of every other member of the Executive Council; and although I

have much reason to be satisfied with them, and have no expectation of

finding others who would serve her Majesty better, still I do not {185}

perceive that any of them individually have brought much support to the

government."[30]



That is the confession of a man who has attempted the impossible, and

who is being forced reluctantly to witness his own defeat. The

ministry which he had created lacked the authority which can come only

from the best political talent of a people acting in sympathy with the

opinions of that people. He had, with great difficulty, found a House

of Assembly willing by a narrow majority to support him, but personal

support is not in itself a political programme, and the fallacy of his

calculations appeared when work in detail had to be accomplished. He

had reprobated party, and he found in a party--narrower in practice

even than that which he had displaced--the only possible foundation for

his authority. He had come to Canada to complete the reconciliation of

opposing races within the colony, and, when he left, the French seemed

once more about to retreat into their old position of invincible

hostility to all things British. The governor-generalship of Lord

Metcalfe is almost the clearest illustration in the nineteenth century

of the weakness of the doctrinaire in practical politics.

Unfortunately, the {186} doctrine which Metcalfe had strenuously

enforced was backed by the highest of imperial authorities, and

sanctioned by monarchy itself. In less than ten years after the

Rebellion, the renovated theory of colonial autonomy had produced a new

dilemma. It remained with Metcalfe's successor to decide whether

Britain preferred a second rebellion and probable separation to a

radical change of system.







[1] Kaye, Life of Lord Metcalfe, revised edition, ii. p. 313.



[2] A View of Sir Charles Metcalfe's Government of Canada, by a

member of the Provincial Parliament, p. 29.



[3] Baldwin Correspondence: La Fontaine to Baldwin, 26 July, 1845.



[4] Parliamentary Paper concerning the Canadian Civil List (1 April,

1844), p. 5.



[5] Metcalfe to Stanley, 5 August, 1843.



[6] Metcalfe to Stanley, 13 May, 1845.



[7] Metcalfe to Stanley, 6 August, 1843.



[8] Metcalfe to Stanley, 13 May, 1845.



[9] Kaye, Life of Lord Metcalfe, ii. pp. 367-8.



[10] Ibid. ii. p. 369.



[11] See Hincks, Lecture on the Political History of Canada; and

Dent, The Last Forty Years. The latter work was written under the

influence of Sir Francis Hincks, whose comments on it are contained in

the inter-leaved copy in the possession of the Canadian archives.



[12] Metcalfe to Stanley, 26 December, 1843.



[13] A Letter on the Ministerial Crisis, by the old Montreal

Correspondent of the Colonial Gazette, Kingston, 1843.



[14] Quoted from Ryerson, Story of my Life, pp. 332-3.



[15] Ryerson, op. cit. p. 323.



[16] See above, p. 116.



[17] Viger was defeated in the election of 1844.



[18] Kaye, Papers and Correspondence of Lord Melcalfe, p. 426.



[19] See, for the whole intrigue, Correspondence between the Hon. W.

H. Draper and the Hon. B. E. Garon; and, between the Honbles. L. H. La

Fontaine and A. N. Morin, Montreal, 1840.



[20] The Rev. John Ryerson to Egerton Ryerson, February, 1844, in The

Story of my Life.



[21] Metcalfe to Stanley, 23 December, 1843.



[22] Montreal Gazette, 23 April, 1844.



[23] Montreal Daily Witness, 7 March, 1896, containing reminiscences

by Dr. William Kingsford.



[24] Young, Early History of Galt and Dumfries, p. 193.



[25] Metcalfe to Stanley, 23 November, 1844.



[26] Elgin-Grey Correspondence: Elgin to Grey, 9 December, 1847.



[27] Stanley to Metcalfe, 18 May, 1844.



[28] Hansard, 30 May, 1844.



[29] Kaye, Life of Lord Metcalfe, ii. pp. 405-9.



[30] Metcalfe to Stanley, 13 May, 1845.





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