« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »
put to me whether I would step into the position in which I now find myself, the answer from my heart was the same - I wish to dwell among mine own people. (Great applause.) Happily, the time may have comeI trust it has come when in this country an honest man may enter the service of the Crown, and at the same time not feel it in any degree necessary to dissociate himself from his own people. (Cheers.) Some partial friends of mine have said that I have earned all this by my long services in the popular cause. (Hear, hear, and cheers.) They know not what they say. They would add labour to labour, and would compensate a life of service by a redoubled responsibility. I am sensible of the duty which is imposed upon me as a Minister of the Crown. is my duty faithfully to perform that which belongs to such a position ; but I have not less faithfully to act as becomes an honest representative of the people. (Cheers.) I shall make the attempt. There are many who believe the attempt must fail. I hope that it will not fail. I will do all that I can to make it succeed. And if I should find that the two offices of which I am speaking are inconsistent or discordant, I hope at least that I shall be able to discover which of them it is right for me to surrender.' (Cheers.)
No opposition was offered to Mr. Bright's reelection. With regard to his acceptance of office, the entire press of the country endorsed his decision in this matter. The right hon. gentleman performed his duties with general acceptability, as might have been expected from his long training in business habits, though it was not a little remarkable to find the impassioned orator answering questions connected with his department from all the dry details of trade up to, or down to, ‘bottle-nosed whales.'
The Irish speeches of Mr. Bright in the sessions of 1868 and 1869 have been already dealt with; but there were two other speeches during these sessions on questions of public moment which call for treatment here. The first of these, delivered in the session of 1868, referred to Nova Scotia and the Confederation scheme. An Act had been passed in the previous session for uniting the British North American provinces in one Confederation, and this Act met with a very adverse reception from a considerable portion of the inhabitants of Nova Scotia. Remonstrances were addressed to the Crown, and the attention of the British Parliament was directed to the matter. A series of resolutions were passed in the Nova Scotia House of Assembly on the 21st of February, 1867, to the effect that the Assembly, in consenting to Confederation, had acted in excess of its powers; that even if it possessed such a right, it had not empowered the delegates to form a Confederation which should omit Newfoundland and Prince Edward's Island; and that the scheme consented to did not ensure just provision for the rights and interests of the province, but, if finally confirmed, would deprive the people of the province of their rights, liberty, and independence. Other resolutions equally strong and definite were also adopted, and the passing of the bill through the Imperial Parliament was imputed to "fraud and deception' committed by persons who misrepresented the public sentiment of the colony.
The case of the remonstrants was powerfully stated by Mr. Bright in the House of Commons. He not only presented a petition to the House, complaining of the absorption of the province into Canada by the Confederation Act, but on the 16th of June brought forward a motion for inquiry, giving in his speech effective expression to the grievances of the petitioners. In the outset, he traced with great detail the history of the question of Confederation for some years back, and maintained that the Nova Scotians had never agreed to anything beyond an union of the maritime provinces. The Legislature, by sanctioning the plan, had acted contrary to the wishes of the people; the assent of the British Parliament had been obtained, if not by fraud, at least by extravagant over-colouring of the facts; and the Government, when they were pressing the bill on with indecent haste, knew that Nova Scotia was averse to it. Mr. Bright mentioned, as a proof of the public opinion in the colony, that at the last general election, out of fifty-seven members elected to the local and the colonial Parliament, only three were in favour of Confederation, although the influence of the Colonial Office, of the military services, of the Canada officials, and the name of the Queen had been used on that side. He therefore proposed an Address to the Crown, praying that a Commission might be sent out to inquire into the causes of the discontent felt by the Nova Scotians; and from such an inquiry he anticipated either that some modifications might be made in the Confederation which would meet the wishes of Nova Scotia, or that the union might be confined to the maritime provinces, or to the Canadas alone. To refuse the inquiry would be to follow up the foolish haste of last year by more perilous obstinacy, and he warned the House in the most solemn tone-deprecating, however, any such unhappy result—that to turn a deaf ear to these complaints of the colony would be the first step
towards throwing it into the arms of the United States.
The motion was seconded by Mr. Baxter, but opposed from the Treasury Bench by Mr. Adderley, who, while not denying the discontent, said that Confederation was the only alternative of annexation to the United States, as these provinces could not remain for ever in an independent position. Mr. Cardwell believed that the discontent would pass away, and supported the action of the Legislature. At the close of the debate, Mr. Bright replied forcibly to the arguments which had been raised, but the motion for inquiry was rejected by 183 to 87.
In the session of 1869, Mr. (now Sir) T. Chambers made an attempt—not by any means the first which had been made—to effect the legalization of marriage with a deceased wife's sister. On the motion for the second reading, Mr. Sclater-Booth moved the rejection of the bill. Mr. Beresford-Hope looked at the question in
very remarkable light. He maintained that the whole tendency of the oft-quoted chapter in Leviticus was against these marriages, and that they had always been condemned by the ecclesiastical law.
Such reasoning on a question of this kind, which was supported by the great bulk of the people, including the religious societies, drew a warm speech from Mr. Bright. He said he had never heard, nor did he expect to hear, an argument against the bill. The opposition rested entirely on sentiment. Speaking of the ecclesiastical rubbish' which had been urged
against the change, the right hon. gentleman said, 'I recollect that a very distinguished relation of my hon. and learned friend the Solicitor-General (Mr. Coleridge), in one of his poems, speaks of
Warriors, lords, and priests,—all the sore ills
That vex and desolate our mortal life.” Little sympathy as I have with warriors and lords as devastators and rulers of mankind, I am not sure that the mischiefs which they have inflicted upon our race have been greater than those we have suffered from the domination and tyranny of priests.'
Mr. Bright argued that the matter was one of freedom, and the right of every man to follow the law of his own conscience. If there was no Divine law against these marriages, the natural liberty of man and woman ought not to be interfered with except on an overwhelming necessity. There was no reason why a man should be prevented marrying any woman willing to marry him, except natural kinship of blood, and on this ground there was more objection to the marriage of first cousins than with a deceased wife's sister. He urged as proofs of the legitimacy of these marriages that the persons who contracted them excited no feelings of condemnation among their friends and neighbours, and that none would be so cruel as to stigmatize the offspring of them by the odious epithet of bastard. With respect to the social inconveniences, and the interference with the position of sisters-in-law, apprehended from the change, he pointed out that they had never been experienced in