Inside Politics

FLASHBACK: Let the 1st Session of the 1st Parliament of Canada begin!

As speculation swirls through the precinct in breathless anticipation of a Speech from the Throne that, if past political practice is any guide, is almost certainly at risk of being all but forgotten within days of its delivery, it seems the perfect occasion to revisit the Throne Speech that launched the very first session of the very first Parliament of Canada.

Delivered by the Right Honourable Viscount Monck on November 7th, 1867, the inaugural address offers a rare glimpse at the nuts and bolts of the nation-building business. 

Among the promised measures to be brought forward: the adoption of a "uniform Postal system," and the "proper administration of Indian affairs," as well as "a well considered scheme of Militia Organization and Defence."

Honourable members and senators could also look forward to "being asked to consider measures defining the privileges of Parliament and for the establishment of uniform laws relating to elections, and the trial of controverted election." 

As for the highlights, aside from Confederation itself -- which, to be fair, was a pretty big deal -the speech notes that, thanks to the "liberality" of the Imperial government, "the whole Volunteer Force of Ontario and Quebec is already ... armed with the breech-loading Rifle." 

In closing, the speech reminds newly Confederated Canadians that "within your own borders peace, security and prosperity prevail." 

"I fervently pray that your aspirations may be directed to such high and patriotic objects, and that you may be endowed with such a spirit of moderation and wisdom as will cause you to render the great work of Union which has been achieved, a blessing to yourselves and your posterity, and a fresh starting point in the moral, political and material advancement of the people of Canada." 

Courtesy of the Library of Parliament, here's the complete reconstituted text:

Honourable Gentlemen of the Senate, Gentlemen of the House of Commons:

In addressing for the first time the Parliamentary Representatives of the Dominion of Canada, I desire to give expression to my own deep feeling of gratification that it has been my high privilege to occupy an official position which has made it my duty to assist at every step taken in the creation of this Great Confederation.

I congratulate you on the Legislative sanction which has been given by the Imperial Parliament to the Act of Union, under the provisions of which we are now assembled, and which has laid the foundation of a new Nationality that I trust and believe will, ere long, extend its bounds from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean.

In the discussions which preceded the introduction of this measure in the Imperial Parliament, between the Members of Her Majesty's Government on the one side, and the Delegates who represented the Provinces now united on the other,--it was apparent to all those who took part in those conferences, that, while Her Majesty's Ministers considered and pressed the principle of Union as a subject of great Imperial interest, they allowed the Provincial Representatives every freedom in arranging the mode in which that principle should be applied.

In a similar spirit of respect for your privileges, as a free and self-governing people, the Act of Union, as adopted by the Imperial Parliament, imposes the duty and confers upon you the right of reducing to practice the system of Government, which it has called into existence, of consolidating its institutions, harmonizing its administrative details, and of making such legislative provisions as will secure to a constitution, in some respects novel, a full, fair, and unprejudiced trial.

With the design of effecting these objects, measures will be laid before you for the amendment and assimilation of the laws now existing in the several Provinces relating to Currency, Customs, Excise, and Revenue generally,

--for the adoption of a uniform Postal System,

--for the proper management and maintenance of the Public Works and Properties of the Dominion,

--for the adoption of a well considered scheme of Militia Organization and Defence, for the proper administration of Indian affairs, for the introduction of uniform Laws respecting Patents of Invention and Discovery,

---the naturalization of Aliens,

--and the assimilations of the Criminal Law, and the Laws relating to Bankruptcy and Insolvency.

A measure will also be submitted to you, for the performance of the duty imposed upon Canada, under the terms of the Union Act, of immediately constructing the Intercolonial Railway.

This great work will add a practical and physical connection to the legislative bond which now unites the Provinces comprising the Dominion, and the liberality with which the guarantee for the cost of its construction was given by the Imperial Parliament is a new proof of the hearty interest felt by the British people in your prosperity.

Your consideration will also be invited to the important subject of Western Territorial extension, and your attention will be called to the best means for the protection and development of our Fisheries and Marine interests.

You will also be asked to consider measures defining the privileges of Parliament and for the establishment of uniform laws relating to elections, and the trial of controverted elections.

Gentlemen of the House of Commons - The circumstances under which the Act of Union came into operation, rendered it impossible to obtain the assent of the Legislature to the expenditure necessary for carrying on the ordinary business of the Government.

The expenditure since the first of July has therefore been incurred on the responsibility of Ministers of the Crown.

The details of that expenditure will be laid before you, and submitted for your sanction.

I have directed that the estimates for the current and succeeding Financial Year shall be laid before you. You will find that they have been framed with all the attention to economy which is compatible with the maintenance of efficiency in the different branches of the public service.

Honourable Gentlemen and Gentlemen,

The general organization and efficiency of the Volunteers and Militia have been great-ly improved within the last year, and the whole Volunteer Force of Ontario and Quebec is already, by the liberality of the Imperial Government, armed with the breech-loading Rifle.

I am happy to be able to congratulate you on the abundant harvest with which it has pleased Providence to bless you, and on the general prosperity of the Dominion.

Your new nationality enters on its course backed by the moral support--the material aid--and the most ardent good wishes of the Mother Country. Within your own borders peace, security and prosperity prevail, and I fervently pray that your aspirations may be directed to such high and patriotic objects, and that you may be endowed with such a spirit of moderation and wisdom as will cause you to render the great work of Union which has been achieved, a blessing to yourselves and your posterity, and a fresh starting point in the moral, political and material advancement of the people of Canada.  

Tags: blackberry jungle, parliamentary history, throne speech 2013

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