Petition of Merchants of London Trading to Quebec

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Mr˙ Mackworth. The Petition which I have in my hand, is from the merchants of London, trading to Quebec, who finding that a Bill is about to pass this House, which they apprehend will essentially injure them in their commercial transactions with that Colony, rely on the justice and the candour of this House to take their case into consideration. As to the merit, Sir, of the Bill, which is now coming before us, I must make this general observation, that a Bill which has confessedly taken nine years for Administration to consider of effectual means to remedy the evils complained of; such a Bill, Sir, surely will demand more time than a few days for the members of this House, to judge in what manner to give their vote. Information is what we want. I know not what opinion I am to form upon the necessity which can call for such a Bill, and for want of that information which ought now to be before the House. I cannot but condemn most sincerely several arrangements in the Bill, which seem destructive of that liberty which ought to be the ground-work of every constitution formed by this House; but I cannot judge what are the causes which call for such measures, while I remain go uninformed as at present. There were reports from the Board of Trade, to the King in Council, upon the state of the Province; there were representations from men in the highest offices in the Provinces, upon the proposed constitution to be given to it; there were opinions in writing from the Attorney and Solicitor General, upon the plans proposed; these papers would, if laid before us, give that information which we want, and without which it will be impossible for us to give any other than blind votes, which will, from every thing that we can at present see in the Bill, establish a most fatal system of Government in that country.

Mr˙ Mackworth then presented a Petition of the several merchants of the City of London, trading to the Province of Quebec, in North America, whose respective names are thereunto written, setting forth, that there is a clause in the said Bill, by which his Majesty' s Royal Proclamation, and the grants and commissions issued in consequence thereof, will be revoked and made void; and that by another clause in the said Bill, all matters of controversy, relative to the property and civil rights of any of his Majesty' s subjects of the said Province, are to be decided by the laws of Canada, and by the Judges presiding in the courts of judicature of that Province, without the interposition of a Jury; and representing to the House, that the system of government and administration of justice in the said Province of Quebec, which have taken place in consequence of his Majesty' s said Royal Proclamation, have been hitherto, as nearly as might be, according to the laws of England, and such government and administration of justice have been perfectly satisfactory to his Majesty' s subjects residing in the said Province of Canada; and the Petitioners conceive it will be highly injurious to his Majesty' s said subjects trading to the said Province, to have the laws of Canada substituted in the place of the laws of England, and to have the trial by Jury abolished: and therefore praying (in behalf of themselves and others interested in the prosperity of the said Province) that the said Bill may not pass into a law, with the above-mentioned clauses remaining in it; and that they may be heard, by their Counsel, against the same.

Ordered, That the said Petition be referred to the consideration of the Committee of the whole House, to whom the said Bill is committed; and that the Petitioners be heard, by themselves or Counsel, before the said Committee, upon their petition, if they think fit.