Mr. Mackworth' s Motion for Copies of Reports

Mr. Mackworth' s Motion

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A motion was made, by Mr˙ Mackworth, that an humble Address be presented to his Majesty, that he will be graciously pleased to give directions, that there be laid before this House.

Copy of a Report made by Major General Carleton, Governor of the Province of Quebec, to his Majesty, relative to the state of the Province.

Copy of a Report made by William Hey, Esquire, Chief Justice of the said Province.

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Copy of a Report made by Francis Maseres, Esquire, late Attorney General of the said Province; and

Copies of the Reports of his Majesty' s Advocate General, Attorney General, and Solicitor General, relating to the said Province.

Lord North

Lord North. I shall oppose the calling for those papers; they will take some time in copying; there have been several reports from the Board of Trade, which are long, and if we wait for addressing the Crown to lay them before us, the season will be delayed too late, and for no purpose, as we may have the same information at our bar. The Governor of the Province I see at the bottom of the House, who may be ordered to attend when you go into the Committee; Mr˙ Hey, who is Chief Justice, is near Canterbury, and may be ordered up; and Mr˙ Maseres, who was Attorney General of that Province, is also in London; as to the Attorney and Solicitor General, we have them amongst us; therefore I do not see but we may have just as good information in this manner, and much more expeditiously, than by addressing for the papers.

Mr. T. Townshend

Mr˙ T˙ Townshend. As this is not the proper time for going into the principle of the Bill, I shall confine myself to the absurdity, to say no more of it, of bringing in a Bill of such magnitude and importance so late in the session, without previously laying upon the table the necessary information; at present we have none; and if the noble Lord means that we should know the subject upon which we are to debate, he certainly will not object to giving us that information, without which we cannot proceed with propriety. Let us, in the name of common sense, see what are the complaints of the Canadians against their present Government, what are their distresses; what their desires; and let us see the opinions of the great law officers which have been given upon this point.

Colonel Barré

Colonel Barré. I think there will be very little difficulty in shewing, that the proposition now made by the noble Lord will be very far from answering the purpose of those who wish for full information on this subject. The papers we now call for would give us that information; those papers are drawn up coolly, attentively, and upon long and mature consideration; and they have been drawn up at leisure by men of great character and abilities. Now, Sir, the noble Lord will not, he cannot assert, with any appearance of justice, that calling those men to your bar, to be questioned in the desultory manner common upon those occasions, and in the midst of the contention between those who patronise the Bill, and others who condemn it — will he tell us that this is such information as we should receive from the papers referred to? It is impossible. As to the two great law officers who are present, I admit that their standing in their places, and reciting the opinions they gave would be satisfactory; but then they ought simply to inform us what those opinions were, and not to enter into the debate on the merit of the Bill at the same time, or, by a side wind, to warp information concerning a past fact into an opinion of a debate in question. That satisfaction should be made the House on these points nobody can doubt; for to tell us that we cannot have information for want of time to copy papers, is to tell us plainly that we are to proceed in the dark; it is and will be a deed of despotism, and therefore may well be linked with darkness. I wish it to be the deed of a single hand; it is a proper exertion of arbitrary power, in which the less concern Parliament has, the better. Intelligence must be kept from us because it will not bear the light; if it was openly and fairly laid before you, it would condemn in the strongest and clearest manner the principles and the provisions of this Bill, all of which it would be found are equally unnecessary and pernicious.

Mr. Attorney General

Mr˙ Attorney General. My opinion, and that of my learned colleague, were in writing, and lodged among our State papers; nor have we any right to read them in our places as servants of the Crown. No person, without his Majesty' s consent, has a right to them.

Mr. Edmund Burke

Mr˙ Edmund Burke. I am very sorry to find from the turn which the debate takes on the other side of the House that we are to have no satisfaction relative to the information which every man of common sense must think necessary on this occasion: this is a fresh reason for condemning the Bill; since if Administration thought their

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conduct in this Bill would bear the light, they would give you light to view it in, and rejoice in the opportunity of giving such a proof of their abilities and moderation. For what purpose is it that you would precipitate this affair? You have been nine years considering, weighing maturely, and reflecting perpetually upon what Government should be given to this Province: what harm can arise from a delay of a single year? What prodigious mischief is to result from the Government of the Province continuing one year more in the present situation?

Motion Rejected

And the question being put, the House divided: Yeas, 45; Nays, 85.

So it passed in the Negative.