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Full text of "Civil liberty in Lower Canada"

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KINGSTON, ONTARIO 



CIVIL LIBERTY 



IN 



LOWER CANADA 



SIR A. T. GALT, K.C.M.G. 



D. BENTLEY & CO., PRINTERS, 364 NOTRE DAME STREET. 

1876. 



• • • \ .... 

• • • • • • • • » a 



L - 









Civil Liberty in Lower Canada. 



In the recent debate upon Mr. Huntingdon's 
Argenteuil speech, Mr\ Masson referred to the part 
I had taken in regard to the measure of Confedera- 
tion, and to the safeguards which I insisted on, as 
representing the Protestant minority in Quebec, — 
arguing that these precautions were uncalled for in 
themselves, and almost humiliating to them (the 
French Roman Catholics) to grant. The position 
was also taken by himself and other speakers that 
the attitude recently assumed by the Roman Catholic 
Hierarchy concerned the members of their com- 
munion only, and afforded no just grounds for ap- 
prehension or animadversion on the part of any 
Protestant. 

At the date of the discussion on Confederation, 
it may be admitted that appearances justified great 
confidence in the liberal and generous action of the 
French Canadian majority. Politically they had 
been for many years under the leadership of men 
of known and tried liberality. Lafontaine, Morin, 
and Car tier, were names synonimous with upright 
dealing and even-handed justice, irrespective of race 
or religion. Whilst at the same time the course of 
the Roman Catholic Hierarchy and Clergy had ever 
been distinguished by such devotion to their duty 
of inculcating piety and virtue, and such moderation 
towards all who differed with them, that it may 

61 



truly be said they had earned the respect and coil* 
fidence of all. Notwithstanding the apparent ab- 
sence of danger, it became my duty to ask and to 
obtain certain guarantees on two points : Education 
and Representation, — for which measures, supposed 
to be adequate, were adopted. 

The status thus created might, I think, have 
lasted for generations, had it not been for the ex- 
traordinary claims recently advanced by the Roman 
Catholic Hierarchy of Quebec, based as they allege 
upon the authority of the Vatican Decrees and the 
celebrated Syllabus, though unsupported by Arch- 
bishop Lynch, of Ontario, and certainly unclaimed 
by His Eminence Cardinal Manning, in his recent 
controversy with Mr. Gladstone. These claims, I 
confess, filled my mind with uneasiness many 
months ago ; they pointed to the extinction of all 
free thought and action on the part of our Roman 
Catholic fellow subjects, and ultimately tended to 
the neutralization of the safeguards held by the 
Protestants, especially in the matter of Representa- 
tion. So much was I disturbed by these reflections 
that in May last, immediately after the publication 
of Monseigneur Bishop Bourget's pastoral, and before 
the Quebec elections, I addressed the following letter 
to the Hon. Mr. Robertson, then Treasurer of 
Quebec : — 

Montreal, 31st May, 1875. 

My Dear ROBERTSON, 

On my return from the West, I am much 
concerned to observe the attitude taken by the Ultra- 
montane Party, not only towards liberal Roman Catho- 



lies, but also towards us Protestants. I refer more 
immediately to the manifesto by the Roman Catholie 
Bishop of Montreal, but remotely, though not less 
directly, to the ecclesiastical pressure which has been 
put upon the press of the country, and the claim ad- 
vanced, with ever-increasing arrogance, to the right of 
the Eoman Catholic Church and its hierarchy to control 
and direct the scope of political action and public law 
within the Province of Quebec, treating it as their own 
peculiar domain, and regarding us as strangers and 
aliens, holding no status of our own, but simply toler- 
ated in their midst. 

These pretensions we could afford to view with 
indifference, if they were only those of a few ambitious 
priests ; but, unfortunately, the Vatican Decrees have 
announced, as the future policy of the Church of Eome, 
the complete subordination of all the members of that 
communion to the control and direction of the Pope. 
And the celebrated Syllabus sufficiently discloses the 
design that the regulation of faith and morals is to be 
extended to embrace the whole field of human thought 
and action. 

That these views and ulterior aims are repugnant 
to the convictions of by far the larger number of the 
Eoman Catholic clergy of Lower Canada, I firmly 
believe. Many years of intimate acquaintance with 
them long since satisfied me that, as a body, they were 
highly estimable men, conscientious and scrupulous in 
the discharge of their duties, and tolerant of the claims 
of others. As a natural consequence, a freedom of 
thought sprang up among the laity, and was shewn in 
the public utterances of their press, w T hich held forth 
the hope that the liberal views of the so-called G-allican 
Church would ever prevail in Lower Canada, and that 
Protestant and Catholic would alike respect their several 
opinions, cordially uniting in all that concerned the 
prosperity of their common country, without either 
Church claiming undue supremacy, or introducing the 
fatal element of religious strife. 

These expectations, I regret to say, cannot, I think, 
be any longer safely held, nor ought we to accept the 



6 

past as a guarantee for the future. The object seems 
at this time to extend no further than the complete sub- 
jection of the section of the Eoman Catholic party who 
do not accept the extreme views enunciated at Rome ; 
and partly through fear, but greatly through the indirect 
allurements of future political power, it seems not un- 
likely that the Ultramontanes will overcome their oppo- 
nents, if we Protestants continue to lend them our 
powerful aid. The contest must appear to them hope- 
less when they find arrayed against them all the reli- 
gious forces of their own Church, and the influence of 
those who ought to sympathize with their desire to be 
free from ecclesiastical tyranny. 

"What we have to dread is the action of the formid- 
able Church party, after it has brought into harmony 
with itself all the members of its own Church — all those 
of French-Canadian origin. Our turn will then come, 
and, having under their control the whole machinery of 
Legislative and Executive power, the rights we enjoy 
and the safeguards we possess will be, one by one, 
attacked, until our position will be so intolerable as to 
induce us to become, as their organs even already term 
us, aliens or strangers ; or force on us such a physical 
contest as must be most deplorable. 

To say that I had any fear of the ultimate result of 
the present attempt to make Lower Canada a Province 
of Ecclesiastical Eome, would be untrue. The strength 
of the Protestant Church in the Dominion, and on this 
Continent, renders it beyond all doubt, where the final 
victory must rest, but grievous injury* must meantime 
arise, not the least of which will be the blight that will 
fall on the prosperity of the people by the mental sub- 
jugation of so large a part of our Eoman Catholic 
fellow subjects. 

Ordinary party politics lose all their significance in' 
the presence of a contest which involves the right of 
holding any opinions at all hostile to the Eoman Catholic 
hierarchy — and much reflection has convinced me that 
we shall be false to our own immediate and future 
interests, if we hesitate in now repudiating in the most 
decided manner the threatened encroachments upon 



the rights of our Roman Catholic fellow citizens, equally 
as if our own were at this moment attacked. 

As the representatives in the Government, of the 
British Protestant element, I address you and Dr. Church 
and ask you to obtain from Mi. de Boucherville and your 
Roman Catholic Colleagues a public and explicit declara- 
tion that they reject and refuse to acknowledge the 
authority claimed for his church by the Roman Catholic 
Bishop of Montreal, in all matters pertaining to public 
law and the government of the country, and that 
religious belief shall never be made the ground for 
interference by the Roman Catholic majority, but that 
Catholic and Protestant, French Canadian and British 
shall ever be maintained in their equal and co-ordinate 
rights. 

Without such a declaration for the re-assurance of 
our minds, and which will place your Government 
equally with your opponents on a footing of decided 
independence of the Church, I think you should not 
obtain the support of the Protestants of Lower Canada. 

In my retirement from public life, I certainly 
thought that the party with whom I had so long acted 
in Quebec, and who had with me provided for the 
future security and independence of both Catholic and 
Protestant, French Canadian and British, in the Act 
of Confederation, would have been the last to assail 
those safeguards. But the lamented death of Sir G-eorge 
Cartier has left this party to fall under the baneful in- 
fluence of foreign intrigue, and it may well be that I 
shall have once more to enter the arena of political 
strife, to protect those interests which I am so respon- 
sible for creating. 

Meantime, I have the conviction that you will be 
able to avert the impending disruption of our former 
party alliances, and maintain the supremacy of law and 
of public opinion over the dictum of any one, be he 
priest or layman ; or, failing this, that you will take the 
lead in withdrawing the support of British Protestants 
from the G-overnment of Mr. de Boucherville. 

Yours sincerely, 

A. T. GALT. 



To which the following reply was made : — 

Quebec, 5th June, 1875. 
My Dear Sir ALEXANDEE, 

Yours of the 31st Oct. is before me, 
and I embrace the earliest possible moment after the 
adjournment of Council to reply. I thought it better 
after Conference with my Colleague, Dr. Church, to 
bring the matter up before the Council, and there to 
invite the fullest and frankest discussion. I represented 
that there was a certain portion of the Protestant popu- 
lation who feared that the Roman Catholic Priesthood 
were assuming an arrogant and intolerant spirit to- 
wards the Protestant Minority and that it was feared 
that the Church as a Church would assume to itself to 
dictate a political policy and to enforce this policy by 
means which the Protestant people consider very 
objectionable, and that in the last result, the rights of 
the minority would be invaded and overturned. I 
purposely put the case as strongly as possible, read 
your letter to me, — and illustrated it by such instances 
as occurred to me, of what were supposed to be mani- 
festations of such intentions, and particularly referred 
to the late pastoral letter of Bishop Bourget. 

I pretty well knew, from an association of some years 
with Mr. De Boucherville, and of several months with 
my other Eoman Catholic Colleagues, in what way 
these representations would be received. They one 
and all disclaimed any intention to disturb in any 
way whatsoever the vested Constitutional rights and 
safeguards guaranteed the Protestants of Lower Canada, 
pointed out that any such attempt must end disas- 
trously to them or any political party attempting it, and 
assured me that in no way, directly or indirectly, was it 
contemplated to legislate away, restrict or alter the 
present status of Protestants in this Province. That all 
that might be claimed for the Roman Catholic Church, 
would be conceded to the Protestant Establishments, 
and that the present condition of affairs should be 
maintained in its integrity. The Premier will make a 
declaration at St. Croix to-morrow on this subject, the 



9 

subject of which will be as follows : " Inasmuch as in 
this Province we have different races, and different reli- 
gions, in Legislation as in the Administration of the 
Law, it is important that the rights of privileges of 
each be guaranteed without distinction of origin or 
creed. The present Government is fully determined to 
maintain in all their force these rights and privileges, 
and will never permit, upon any pretext whatsoever, 
even an attempt to take from the minority that which 
the Constitution and the title of a Britisn subject 
assures to all those who live under the protection of the 
British Flag." 

I think this must satisfy you that there is no reason 
for alarm or even anxiety under the DeBoucherville 
administration, whilst its policy remains unchanged, 
and I have only to add, that any attempt to change it, 
w T ill be at once met by myself and Dr. Church, in such 
a way as will ensure no change being made, till such 
change has had the fullest sanction of the Protestant 
population of this Province. 

I am, yours truly, 

J. B. ROBERTSON. 

P.S. — I have read this over to Dr. Church, and he 
fully agrees with me as to the interpretation I have 
given above of the declarations and intentions of our 
Roman Catholic Colleagues, as communicated to us to- 
day, and asks me to state as much to you. 

J. B. R. 

The assurance thus given, though distinct 
enough as regards the Protestant, did not touch the 
point from whence I apprehended danger. But I 
thought, as I now believe unwisely, that it was safer 
to rest content with such pledges rather than to dis- 
turb existing political alliances, at the risk of finding 
the so-called Liberal Catholics equally ready to 
obey the behests of their Clergy. I could not 
forget the history of the Programme, or their union 



10 

with Bishop Bourget to defeat Sir George Cartier. 
I therefore withheld this correspondence from 
publication. 

The legislation of last session at Quebec, on the 
School question, placing that of Roman Catholics 
wholly under the control of the Clergy, was not 
re-assuring, — but the repeated and arrogant inter- 
ference of Bishops and Clergy in elections has 
seemed to me to threaten [the civil rights of all, 
both Catholic and Protestant, and to require united 
and vigorous efforts to repress it. There is no 
question of religious faith involved — let any one 
worship God as his conscience dictates, but the 
Clergy, whether Protestant or Catholic, must be 
forbidden to interfere with secular affairs in any 
other character than as ordinary citizens. It is re- 
pugnant to all proper feeling that the tremendous 
weapons of religious anathema should be lightly 
used in mere secular warfare, or that the hold over 
the human conscience entrusted to the Minister of 
God, should be exercised for any other purposes 
than those of piety and moral purity. Nor can it be 
believed that such a severe and cruel pressure is put 
upon the consciences of our Roman Catholic fellow 
subjects for the paltry object of securing the 
ephemeral triumph of a temporary political party. 
The conclusion is inevitable, from the nature of the 
means employed, that a deep laid plan exists for the 
complete subjugation of Lower Canada to Ecclesias- 
tical rule, with the view of extending the same 
baneful influence, hereafter, to the whole Dominion. 
In this view the importance of early and stern 
opposition to the schemes now being gradually 



11 

disclosed becomes the duty of all good citizens, be 
they Catholic or Protestant. 

The Pastoral Letter of Monseigneur Bishop 
Bourget, dated 1st February, 1876, among many 
other extraordinary statements, contains the fol- 
lowing, extracted from the translation in the 
Montreal Herald : — 

WHAT IS CATHOLIC LIBERALISM? 

Catholic Liberalism is a combination of religious 
and social doctrines which tend to free more or less spirits 
of the speculative order and citizens of the practical 
order from the rule which tradition had everywhere and 
always imposed upon them. Or rather what is Catholic 
Liberalism ? "What is Liberal Catholicism ? 

It is a false and dangerous sentiment ; it is a factious 
party which conspires in fact, against the church and 
against civil society. A Liberal Catholic is a man who, 
to a certain degree, partakes of this sentiment, whether 
in this party or in this doctrine the more sick is he as 
the more', Liberal; theless sick is he as he is more Catholic. 
Liberalism always seeks to subordinate the rights of the 
church to the rights of the State in the measure of 
prudence and high wisdom, and even to separate the 
church from the State where it desires a free church in 
a free state. Liberalism claims that the clergy is called 
on solely to defend religion, and that the laity have not 
this mission. Since that the Pope declares in his 
Encyclical of 1853 that the laity fulfil in that a filial 
duty from the moment that they combat under the 
direction of the clergy. Modern Liberalism pretends 
that religion should not leave the sacristy, nor go beyond 
the limits of private piety. But the Pope declares that 
Catholics can only efficaciously defend their rights and 
their liberties by actively mixing up in public affairs. 
By these characteristic traits you will recognize Catholic 
Liberalism. It is for that we have deemed it our duty 
to point them out to your serious consideration in order 
that you may better understand the definition of them 
which we have given you. 

In order to make you understand still more clearly 



12 

we will reproduce here what the Fathers of the Fifth 
Provincial Council of Quebec, have said of it. 

" Catholic liberalism," they say, was introduced 
little by little into the Holy Church and is there hidden 
by means of tricks and adroitness, like the ancient 
serpent in the terrestrial paradise, in order to lead away 
imprudent souls, inducing them by his artifices, to eat 
of the tree of knowledge of good and evil." 

We leave to your serious reflection all and every 
word of this definition, which makes you understand 
that Liberalism is no other thing than the demon which, 
hidden under the form of the ancient serpent, and 
armed with his rage, his malice and his tricks, is now 
found in the middle of us to destroy us, as it unhappily 
destroyed our first parents, in despoiling us of the robe 
of justice and innocence, and in making us lose that 
faith, pure and simple, which does not reason with God 
and with the Church. Alas, it is for us to .make our- 
selves guilty of arrogance and disobedience, to merit 
for ourselves the heaviest chastisements of divine ven- 
geance, for them to be shamefully chased from the 
sanctuary of all revealed revelations by losing the 
faith, and to be plunged into the abyss of the 
greatest evils. In order to well comprehend it, it will 
be sufficient just to cast a glance at the horrible evils 
which desolate European Governments and peoples, 
struck with an inconceivable vertigo in punishment for 
their Liberalism. Thus, Christian brethren, the cer- 
tainty that Catholic Liberalism is hidden among us, and 
the fear that this terrible monster causes not only the 
evils which he necessarily drags in his train are suffi- 
cient to make us tremble and make us cry out against 
our dangers. 

*Jr ^fe ^ ^ -tP 

WHAT MUST BE DONE IN ORDER NOT TO FOLLOW A FALSE 

ROUTE. 

Ill passing through these bad times, and lining in 
these days of scandals, attach yourself with all your heart 
to the practical rules which we trace out for you in the 
presence of God and with the sole object of securing 
your greatest good. 

1 st. — Hear Jesus Christ in hearing the Church, To 



18 

this end penetrate the sacred oracles, which fell from the 
mouth of the Divine Master, " He who hears you hears 
me ; he who does not hear the Church, let him be a 
heathen or a publican." Now, here is how we must 
put this rule into practice. Each one of you can and 
aught to say in the interior of his soul, " I hear my Cure ; 
my Cure hears the Bishop ; the Bishop hears the Pope, 
and the Pope hears our Lord Jesus Christ, who aids with 
his Holy Spirit to render them infallible on the teaching 
and Government of his Church. With this rule so sure, 
I cannot be led astray, and I am certain of marching in 
the way of justice and of truth. 

2nd. — Bear a religious respect to all your pastors, 
fearing that in despising them you incur that terrible 
anathema, pronounced by our Lord, " He who despises 
you despises me ;" Oh ! and what words : To despise 
Jesus Christ in despising' His priests. They are w r orthy 
of attention and deserve to be seriously considered. 
As it has just been observed he who hears the priest 
hears the Bishop, and he who hears the Bishop hears 
the Pope, hears Jesus Christ. He hears then all the 
clergy whose chief is Jesus Christ. In the same way, 
he w T ho despises the priest despises the Bishop, he who 
despises the Bishop despises the Pope, and he who 
despises the Pope despises Jesus Christ. He despises 
then all the clergy whose chief is Jesus Christ. After 
all which has been reproduced above of the instructions 
given by the Pope and the Bishops against Catholic 
Liberalism, it is evident that the priests in their instruc- 
tions regarding this detestible error, scrupulously attach 
themselves to the principles w 7 hich are dictated to them 
by their pastors. It is then all the clergy who thus 
speak through the mouth of their members. Thus to 
despise this organ of the clergy, is to despise Jesus who 
made them His ambassadors. It is to despise the Eternal 
Father, who sent Jesus Christ, His only son, into the 
world, to teach and to save it. But how must we 
consider him, who, upon the hustings, be it at the polls, 
upon the platform, or in papers, dares to prefer insults 
to the person and to the character of the priest to 
despise, or make his w r ords and his conduct to be des- 
pised, in order to take aWay from him, if it be possible, 
all the estimation and the consideration which he enjoys 



14 

among the people ; and how ought he to be treated ? 
We invoke to reply to it, the authority of the Holy See, 
against which it is not permissable for any one to reply 
and to make an attack. 

For about three years, the Holy Congregation of 
the Propaganda, charged with Apostolic superintendence 
over this country, has been informed that certain papers 
allowed themselves to publish insults to the ecclesias- 
tical authorities. The Prefect of this Holy congregation 
was constrained to write to the Bishops of this Province 
to impress upon them the necessity ot doing all in their 
power to cause an end to be put to these unhappy 
discussions which could only secure the triumph of 
Protestants. His Eminence recommended in his letter, 
the Bishops to compel, if it were necessary, those who 
were guilty in this particular, to submit to this injunc- 
tion by forbidding the faithful to read their papers. 
" Curent ( Episcopi ) ne hujusmodi contentiones per 
" ephemerides et libellos a catholicis exerceantur, utque 
" eos qui in hoc deli querent coercere, et si opus fuerit 
" earumdem edhemeridum lectionem fldelibus prohibere 
" non omittant." (Rescript of 23rd March, 1873.) 

We publish herewith this rule of conduct and 
we order all those who have charge of souls to exactly 
conform themselves to it. By refusing admission to the 
Sacrament to all those who read or efficaciously encour- 
age the newspapers in which they take to task or cover 
with insults, the shepherds of souls, because they oppose 
the dissemination of erroneous principles, reproved by 
the Sovereign Pontiff or by the early Fathers, charged 
by Jesus Christ to teach all people those holy doctrines 
which are placed in the bosom of the Church. Especially 
must the sacraments be refused to those editors who 
write such insults, and to those who employ them to 
edit the newspapers of which they are proprietors. 

The foregoing extracts point with unfortunately 
too direct an aim at the absolute subjugation of the 
Liberal Catholics, uncter threats for disobedience 
which one is amazed to see fulminated in the 
nineteenth century. It would appear that unless 
complete abasement of mind and body, — absolute 



15 

subordination of the state to the church is yielded, 
the recusants are to be thrust forth as heretics from 
the Catholic fold. 

The religious question I have no intention to 
discuss, but the foregoing dogmas laid down by the 
Bishop affect the political rights which I enjoy, and 
is therefore open to criticism. It is not consistent 
with the good government, the peace, and the pros- 
perity of the country, that any portion of our 
population should be held in such bondage, and 
though, as a Protestant, it does not reach me, still 
as a citizen my rights are impugned, and my civil 
liberty impaired. 

Our constitution provides for government by the 
majority ; — if that majority be elected in obedience 
to the dictum of the Hierarchy, what possible hope 
will there be for the Protestant minority to preserve 
their dearest interests ? 

One of our cherished safeguards is the possession 
of certain specified constituencies, which cannot be 
changed, except by their own votes ; but there are 
many Eoman Catholics in every one of these con- 
stituencies, and our safety hitherto has lain in the 
political divisions among them, if these are to vanish 
at the commands of the Hierarchy, our security is 
at once and for ever gone. 

I do not hesitate to say that I think our thanks 
are due to Mr. Huntingdon for his outspoken re- 
marks in the County of Argenteuil. They were, 
perhaps, politically distasteful to some of his friends, 
but they embodied a most serious truth, in declaring 
that the attitude of the Eoman Catholic Hierarchy 
is antagonistic to the principles of civil liberty, and 



16 

involves issues of a magnitude far transcending the 
ordinary political questions which now separate men. 

Other conservative Protestants may perceive 
some different and yet safe course, but for my own 
part, acting under the sense of responsibility for my 
past acts, I find but one line of duty open to me, 
and that is to give my hearty support and sympathy 
to the Liberal Catholics of Quebec. With a plain and 
unmistakeable declaration on the part of the Pro- 
testants that they will, equally for their Roman 
Catholic fellow citizens, as for themselves, resist the 
encroachments of the Church upon the State, it may 
be possible to arrest the arrogant course of Bishop 
Bourget and his confreres. If not, it requires no pro- 
phetic vision to predict an early agitation for the sepa- 
ration of the Montreal, Ottawa, and Eastern Town- 
ships districts from the Ecclesiastical tyranny of 
Quebec. 

With very great respect for the gentlemen who 
have organized the Protestant Defence Association, 
I venture to think that it would be wiser to abandon 
an organization which must necessarily repel con- 
scientious Catholics, — and considering, that it is the 
civil rights of free speech, a free press, and free 
political action, and not in any way religion itself 
which are endangered, I would suggest that a 
more general name might be adopted, and a much 
wider scope given to its action, so as to include 
within its sphere all those who desire the action of 
the State to be untrammelled by ecclesiastical influ- 
ence and interference. 

A. T. GALT. 

MONTREAL, 17 th February, 1876. 






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