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[This text was written by Alexander Mackenzie in 1882. For the full citation, see the end of the document.]
THE "DOUBLE SHUFFLE."—LIBERAL CONVENTION OF 1859.
By the unconstitutional course pursued by parliament, and the unfair course of the Governor-General, Mr. Brown and his colleagues were at once out of office and out of parliament. Mr. Brown again appealed to his Toronto constituents for re-election, where he was opposed by the Hon. J. H. Cameron, supported by the whole influence of the government and Government House, and such influences with a city constituency were very great. In the meantime, the old government were recalled, when the political trick known as the “double "shuffle" was performed, whereby the ministers were enabled to avoid going to their constituencies for re-election. The Independence of Parliament Act provided that a minister resigning one office and accepting another within one month would not require re-election. In this case all the ministers accepted other offices than those held before their resignation, and again changed to those they were to keep. It was said at the time that before midnight they were all sworn in to the changed offices with all due solemnity, and at the same sitting, after midnight, resigned such offices and were sworn into the others. Ministerial oaths are administered by the Governor-General in person. It must have been a melancholy sight to see the Governor winking at what was a violation of the spirit of the law, and—until a judgment was delivered affirming its legality—was believed to be contrary to its letter, and contrasting his conduct then towards his own political friends with the treatment he had given to Mr. Brown. It need only be added that, except with extreme partisans, his conduct found no defenders, while the liberals held his conduct and memory in execration, and few, if any of them, again accepted any invitation to Government House until a new incumbent reached it. How 'different was Lord Dufferin's conduct towards Mr. Mackenzie in 1873, under precisely similar circumstances.
The Toronto election was fought with great bitterness on both sides: ministers thought they were sure of defeating Mr. Brown, and made desperate efforts to accomplish this, while his supporters were naturally indignant at the action of the Governor and his ministers, and worked all the harder on that account. Mr. Brown succeeded, however, in carrying the day, and sat for Toronto until the dissolution in 1861.
The conspirators had failed in one important part of their programme. Mr. Brown continued his agitation for representation by population, having already impressed the public mind so thoroughly with its justice and reasonableness, that much of the discussion after this period was devoted to the plan by which it could be carried out. The members of the Brown-Dorion government were pledged to pro-pound a plan for dealing with the question, but of course had no time to mature the scheme. Mr. Laberge, his Solicitor-General (east), had afterwards some misunderstanding with Mr. Brown as to the extent of the agreement, and some correspondence ensued on the subject.
Mr. Brown has been frequently assailed because of an alleged hostility to Mr. Baldwin by the small class of conservatives who call themselves Baldwin reformers. In fact, there was no hostility existing. There was not a sentence or word in Mr. Brown's articles or speeches which could be complained of by that gentleman or his friends. Criticisms on his public course on subjects of great importance to the country were undoubtedly indulged in towards the end of his parliamentary life. Such criticisms were not only just and fair, but —in the public interest, in the interest of the reform party—they were unavoidable. He was at the time, in that sense, public property, and had he continued to sit in parliament after 1851, he must necessarily have taken his share of censure from reformers in common with Mr. Hincks and others. In this year Mr. Baldwin was persuaded to emerge from his retirement and become a candidate for the Legislative Council. He failed to announce any views of public policy, or in any way to show his sympathy with the late reform ministry, which had a few weeks before been made the victims of an unconstitutional exercise of gubernatorial power. Mr. John Hillyard Cameron had barely finished his contest with Mr. Brown in East Toronto, when he signed a requisition to Mr. Baldwin to bring him out as a candidate for the upper House. In this Mr. Cameron was joined by several other leading conservatives. The following extracts on the subject are from an article in the Globe of September 3rd, 1858 :
We would not willingly utter a sentence depreciatory of Mr. Baldwin. Recognizing the value of much of his public service, estimating highly the integrity of his character and the excellence of his private life, according to him most sincerely credit for fidelity to his convictions, whatever they may be we have no inclination to say a word that can be construed into personal suspicion or personal disrespect. And though of late years we have worked in opposition to the party with whom Mr. Baldwin is understood to have sympathized, we have never entertained any opinion derogatory to his personal worth. We differed from him politically ; as a man we never mentioned him without respect….
If, then, Mr. Baldwin desires success as a candidate for the council, it is due to the public, due to himself, that he should afford the means of determining his position in regard to the existing position of public affairs. This is rendered the more necessary, since we find amongst his advertised requisitionists names that are certainly not entitled to confidence. Despite of inclination, we are constrained to seek information of a practical character when he reappears associated with Mr. John Hillyard Cameron, Mr. George Platt, Mr. James Beaty, Mr. John Crawford, and other representatives of the same school, all gentlemen whose political affinities are such that no reformer can consistently co-operate with them for the accomplishment of any party object. Under any circumstances, this contest will assume a party complexion. . . .
In what light, moreover, does he view the recent ministerial crisis? Does he approve of the course pursued by the Governor-General in his dealings with the Brown-Dorion administration ? Does he hold that His Excellency violated the spirit of the constitution when he rejected the reasonable counsel of his sworn advisers, and attempted to dictate the action of parliament on questions before it ? Does he approve or condemn the unlawful and unconstitutional proceedings of the Cartier-Macdonald government in accepting and transferring offices without appealing to their constituents for re-election?
On the appearance of this article Mr. Baldwin withdrew from the contest, and the same parties who brought him out brought out the Hon. George Allan, and elected him as the conservative candidate. No person can be justly blamed for declining to allow personal excellences to atone for political error. It is sufficient to recognize such excellences, but the political failings must be exposed after such recognition. This was done by Mr. Brown as a journalist, and nothing more. The veteran statesman made no complaint himself of ill treatment, and doubtless he felt less offended by fair criticisms on his public acts than at the use made of his name by men who shared all his mistaken views, but who possessed none of his strict integrity.
The population of western Canada in 1858 was estimated as being 1,300,000, while that of Lower Canada was only estimated at 1,000,000, showing practically that 300,000 were without representation. It was also shown that the most important legislation regarding Upper Canadian matters was forced on the latter by a Lower Canadian majority. This state of affairs could not possibly last, and the treatment given by Governor and parliament to the only ministry which had determined to grapple with the evil intensified the demand for some constitutional changes. This demand was thenceforth scarcely opposed even by conservatives.
Mr. Brown called a meeting of the reform members of both Houses for the 23rd of September, 1859, to consider the state of affairs. This meeting decided to call a convention of the liberal party on the 9th of November. In response to this call 570 delegates met on the appointed day and discussed very fully the mode of remedying the existent evils. The result was the passage of certain resolutions affirming the failure of the existing union, the non-remedial character of the double majority plan, and that the true remedy lay in a federal union of the provinces, with “some joint authority" charged with “such matters us are necessarily common to both sections of the province.” An elaborate address of an exhaustive character was issued setting forth the great evils suffered by Upper Canada under the existing union. This document was chiefly the work of Mr. Brown, and bore ample testimony to his untiring zeal and industry. This convention, held under his auspices as leader, presented in their resolutions and address the principles and policy upon which the liberal party made their appeal to the country in 1861, and which was predestined to prevail in the parliament elected in 1863.
Resolutions embodying the policy adopted at this convention were submitted to parliament at the next session of parliament in the following resolution : “That the existing legislative union between Upper and Lower Canada has failed to realize the anticipations of its promoters ; has resulted in a heavy debt, burdensome taxation, great political abuses, and universal dissatisfaction ; and it is the matured conviction of this assembly, from the antagonisms developed through difference of origin, local interests and other causes, that the union in its present form can be no longer continued with advantage to the people.” Mr. John Sandfield Macdonald, of course, opposed the policy because he clung to the double majority plan, but Messrs. Connor and Foley strongly opposed the policy of proceeding in parliament on the convention resolutions, because they hoped for some advantageous ministerial changes under the existing circumstances; in this course they were supported by several other members in the caucus meeting. Only Patrick and Wallbridge, of all those who usually followed the liberal leader, ultimately voted against the resolutions. Mr. Brown was undoubtedly right in proceeding as he did. He was bound, as the leader of the party, to carry into effect the policy decided on at the great party gathering called together for the express purpose of adopting and formulating a decisive policy. He had for some time been convinced that representation according to population pure and simple would long be resisted, and that the exigencies of the country no less than those of political party life called for some alternative policy which might be acceptable in Lower Canada. He did not, nor did his followers, intend for a moment to stay the agitation for the just principle of representation, which he had conducted from small beginnings until it had forced nearly every public man in the ranks of both parties in Upper Canada to pledge themselves to it. He did, however, intend to say in Lower Canada, “If you determine to resist our just demand for representation in the present union, let us dissolve the union and form a new federal system which will leave each province free to manage its own affairs, and have some central authority for matters of common concern.” The subject had indeed been once discussed, on a motion of Mr. Galt, in parliament, but until 1860 no political party had been as such committed to such a policy. From this time until the final triumph in 1864, Mr. Brown kept this alternative policy prominently before the public without for a moment abandoning the demand for reform under the existing constitution.
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Source: Alexander MACKENZIE, "George Brown and the 'Double-Shuffle' Government", in The Life and Speeches of Hon. George Brown, Toronto, The Globe Printing Company, 1882, 381p., pp. 69-73.