Quebec History Marianopolis College

Date Published:
September 2009

Documents de l’histoire du Québec / Quebec History Documents


Quebec and Confederation


Misdirected Credit



It is somewhat amusing to observe the persistence with which the orators and journalists of the Reform party in the West take to themselves the entire credit for the happy settlement, under the new constitution, of the difficult political questions by which the country was formerly distracted. “We meet,” says one Reform journal, referring to the Toronto Convention, “to celebrate the triumph of the principles contended for by the Reform Convention of 1859.” “Nothing,” says another, “can be more in accordance with the dictates of sound sense and the requirements of reason (a nice distinction) than that the Reform party should meet, in order that the constitutional changes it has secured may be applied in good faith and made to bear their legitimate fruit.” In the same strain another enthusiastic gentlemen writes: - “In the Confederation scheme we have embodied to a great extent the ideas and the pursued policy” (he seems to contemplate the possibility of the party having a policy without perceiving it) “of the Liberal party.” In fact, all the satellites of the Toronto Globe, having learned the lesson from that great manufacturer of false opinions, go on repeating it like so many parrots. There is amazing impudence, however, in the assumption on which they proceed. The Confederation scheme is no more the embodiment of Liberal ideas than it is of Japanese ideas. The ideas of the Liberal party were, before the summer of 1864, confined entirely to Canada; and the course of events during the two previous years, while the Liberal party held office, showed how utterly impracticable those ideas were. The “triumph of the political principles contended for by the Reform Convention of 1859,” has never been achieved, and never will be. Those “principles” involved the subjection of Lower to Upper Canada, they ignored altogether the fundamental differences in race, religion, and social organization between the two sections of the Province; they took for granted, a principle which not only has not been taken for granted, but has been expressly repudiated by the new Constitution, namely, that a numerical majority of the whole Province might safely and properly be allowed to legislate for the whole Province on all questions whatever. And this is the “triumph” about which Mr. Brown and his followers are so jubilant. Why, if there is one thing which the very fact of Confederation declares more plainly than any other, it is that all the platforms and policies of the old Clear Grit party were simply so much rubbish, and Confederation, instead of sealing their triumph, has only consigned them to oblivion. Upon the other hand, the new Constitution contains not one single principle to which the Conservative party were opposed. Does it establish Representation by Population? It does, but under such conditions as to deprive it entirely of the objections which were formerly urged against it, and which the Liberals themselves found to be quite insuperable. And so far from Confederation having been carried mainly by the efforts of the Liberals, the fact is that it was brought to a successful issue mainly by the united support of the Conservatives. The Lower Canada allies of the Clear-Grits went dead against Confederation, and gave it the only serious opposition which it encountered in this country at all. And yet all the small organs of Radicalism in the West are crowing vigorously over what “we” did, the triumph of “our” principles and “our” policy and “our” labours, as if they had done all the work themselves, and the country were indebted to them alone for the results which have been achieved. Poor, simple people, perhaps they really believe it!


Source: Montreal Gazette, June 27, 1867, p. 2. Article transcribed by Joelle Krasny; revision by Claude Bélanger.




© 2009 Claude Bélanger, Marianopolis College