« AnteriorContinuar »
it was made by the French, in 1908, who retained posses sion of it till 1766), when it was consered by the British army, and, by the treaty of Paris in 1763, ceded by France to the CTO o of Eagland, muder the government of which it has ever since continged.
One of the most remarkable events which history records of this country, is the earthquake in 1603, which over. whelmed a chain of mountaios of free-stone, more than 300 miles long, and changed the immense tract into a plain!
From the time that Capada was ceded to Great Britain until the year 1774, the internal affairs of the province were regolated by the governor alone. lo pursuance of the Quebec bill, which was then passed, a legislative Council was appointed by his majesty; the number of members was limited to twenty-three. This cogncil had full power to make all such ordinances and regulations as were tbooght expedient for the welfare of the province; bat it was prohibited from levying ang taxes, except for the purpose of repairing public buildings and highways, or the like. Every ordinance was to be laid before the governor, for his majesty's approbation, within six months from the time it was passed; and no ordigaoce, imposing a greater punishment on any person or persons than a fine, or im. prisonment for three montbs, was valid without his majes. ty's assent, signified to the council by the governor.
Thus were the affairs of the province regulated until the year 1791, when ap act was passed in the British parliament, repealing so much of the Quebec Bill as related to the appointment of a council, and to the powers that had been granted to it; and which established the present form of government.
The country, at the same time, was divided into two distinct provinces; the province of Lower Capada, and the province of Upper Canada. The former is the eastern part of the old province of Canada; the latter, the western part, situated on the northern sides of the great lakes and rivers through which the boundary line runs that separates the British territories from those of the United States. The two provinces are divided from each other by à line, which runs north, 24° west, commencing at Point au Baudet, in that part of the river St. Lawrence called Lake Francis, and continuing on from thence to the Utawas, or Grand River. The city of Quebec is the capital of the lower province; the town of Niagara is often called the capital of the upper province.
The executive power in each province is vested in the
governor, who has for his advice an executive council appointed by his majesty. T'he legislative power of each province is vested in the governor, a legislative council, and an assembly of the representatives of the people. Their acts, however, are subject to the controul of his majesty, and in some particular cases to the controul of the British parliament.
Bills are passed in the council and in the assembly in a form somewhat similar to that in which bills are carried through the British houses of parliament; they are then laid before the governor, who gives or withholds his assent, or reserves them for his majesty's pleasure,
Such bills as he assents to are put in force immediately; but he is bound to transmit a true copy of them to the king, who in council may declare his disallowance of them within two years from the time of their being received, in which case they become void.
Such as are reserved for his majesty's assent are not to be put in force until that is received.
Moreover, every act of the assembly and council, which goes to repeal or vary the laws and regulations that were in existence at the time the present constitution was estab, lished in the country respecting tythes; the appropriation of land for the support of a protestant clergy; the constituting and endowing of parsopages or rectories; the right of presentation to the same, and the manner in which the incumbents shall hold them; the enjoyment and exercise of any form or mode of worship; the imposing of auy bur. dens and disqualifications on account of the same; the rights of the clergy to recorer their accustomed dues; the imposing or granting of any farther due or emoluments to any eçclesiastics; the establishment and discipline of the church of England; the king's prerogative, touching the granting of waste lands of the crown within the province; every such act, before it receives the royal assent, must be laid before both houses of parliament in Great Britain, and the king must not give his assent thereto until thirty days after the same bas been laid before parliament; and in case either house of parliament presents an address to the king to withhold his assent to any such act or acts, it cannot be given.
By an aot passed in the eighteenth year of his present majesty's reign, the British parliament has also the power of making any regulations which may be found expedient, respecting the commerce and navigation of the province, and also of imposing import and export duties; but all such duties are to be applied solely to the use of the province, as the council and assembly shall directe
The legislative council of Lower Canada consists of fifteen members; that of Upper Canada of seren. The nomber of the members in each prorince must never be less than this; but it may be increased whenever bis majesty thinks fit.
The counsellors are appointed for life, by an instrument under the great seal of the province, signed by the governor, who is invested with powers for that purpose by the king. No person can be a counsellor who is pot twentyone years of age, nor any one who is not a natural-born subject, or who has not been naturalized according to act of parliament.
Whenever bis majesty thinks proper, he may copfer on any persons hereditary titles of honour, with a right annexed to them of being summoned to sit in this council, which right the heir may claim at the age of twenty-one; the right, however, cannot be acknowledged of the heir has been absent from the province without leave of his majesty, signified to the council by the goverpor, for four years together, between the time of his succeeding to the right and the time of his demanding it. The right is for. feited also, if the heir takes an oath of allegiance to aby foreign power before he demands it, unless bis majesty, by an instrument under the great seal of the province, should decree to the contrary.
If a counsellor, after baving taken his seat, absent him. self from the province for two years successively, without leave from his majesty, signified to the council by the governor, his seat is also thereby vacated.
All hereditary rights, however, of sitting in council, so forfeited, are only to be suspended during the life of the defaulters, and on their death they descend with the titles to the next heirs.
In cases of treason, both the title and right of sitting in the council are extinguished.
All questions concerning the right of being summoned to the council are to be determined by the conncil; but an appeal may be had from their decision to his majesty in his parliament of Great Britain.
The goveruor has the power of appointing and remov. ing the speaker of the council.
The assembly of Lower Canada consists of fifty members, and that of Upper Canada of sixteen; neither assembly is ever to consist of a less number.
The members for districts, circles, or counties, are cho. sen by a majority of the votes of such persons as are pos- : sessed of lands or tenements in freehold, in fief, in botare,
or by certificate derived under the authority of the governor and council of Quebec, of the yearly value of forty shillings, clear of all repts, charges, &c. The members for towns or townships are chosen by a majority of the votes of such persons as possess houses and lands for their own use, of the yearly value of five pounds sterling, or as have resided in the town or township for one year, and paid a rent for a house during the time, at the rate of ten pounds yearly.
No person is eligible to serve as a member of the assembly, who is a member of the legislative council, or a minister, priest, ecclesiastic, or religious personage of the church of England, Rome, or of any other church.
No person is qualified to vote or serve, who is not twentyone years of age; nor any person, not a patural-boro subject, or who has not been naturalized, either by law or conquest; nor any one who has been attainted of treason in any court in his majesty's dominions, or who has been disqualified by an act of assembly or council.
Every voter, if called upon, must take an oath, either in French or English, that he is of age; that he is qualified to vote according to law; and that he has not voted before at that election.
The governor has the power of appointing the place of session, and of calling together, of proroguing, and of dissolving the assembly.
The assembly is not to last longer than four years, but it may be dissolved sooner. The governor is bound to call it at least once in each year.
The oath of a member, on taking his seat, is comprised in a few words: he promises to bear true allegiance to the king, as lawful sovereign of Great Britain, and the province of Capada dependent upon it; to defend him againsi all traitorous conspiracies and attempts, which he may at any time be acquainted with; all which he promises with. out mental evasion, reservation, or equivocation, at the same time renouncing all pardons and dispensations from any person or power whatsoever.
The governors of the two provinces are totally independent of each other in their civil capacity; in military affairs, the governor of the lower province takes prece. dence, as he is usually created captain-general of his ma. jesty's forces in North America.
The present system of judicature in each province was. established by the Quebec Bill of 1774. By this bill it was epacted, that all persons in the country should be entitled to hold their lands or possessions in the same manner as
before the conquest, according to the laws and usages then existing in Canada; and that all controversies relative to property or civil rights should also be determined by the same laws and usages. These old laws and usages, hor. ever, were not to extend to the lands which might thereafter be granted by his Britannic majesty in free and common socage: here English laws were to be in full force ; so that the English inbabitants, who hare settled for the most part on new lands, are not subject to the controul of these old French laws, that were existing in Canada when the country was conquered-except a dispute concerning property or civil rights should arise between any of them and the French inhabitants, in which case the matter is to be determined by the French laws. Every friend to civil liberty would wish to see these laws abolished, for they weigh very unequally in favour of the rich and of the poor; but as long as the French inhabitants remain so wedded as they are at present to old customs, there is little hope of seeing any alteration of this paturę take place. At the same time that the French laws were suffered by the Quebec bill to exist, in order to conciliate the affections of the French inbabitants, who were attached to them, the criminal law of England was established througbout every part of the country; " and this was one of the happiest circumstances," as the Abbe Raypal observes, “ that Capada could experience; as deliberate, rational, public trials took place of the impenetrable mysterious transactions of a cruel inquisition; and as a tribunal, that had theretofore been dreadful and sanguinary, was filled with humane judges, more disposed to acknowledge innocence than to suppose criminality.”
The governor, the lieutenant-governor, or the person administering the government, the members of the executive council, the chief justice of the province, and the judges of the court of king's bench, or any five of them, form a court of appeal, the judges. however excepted of that district from whence the appeal is made. From the decision of this court an appeal may be bad in certain cases to the king in council.
Every religion is tolerated, in the fullest extent of the word, in both provinces; and no disqualifications are im. posed on any persons on account of their religious opinions. The Roman Catholic religion is that of a great majority of the inhabitants; and by the Quebec bill of 1774, the ecclesiastics of that persuasion are empowered by law to recorer all the dues which, previous to that period, they were ac. customed to receive, as well as tithes, that is, from the