Translation:Address of the Confederation of the Six Counties to the People of Canada
When a people find themselves invariably stalled following a succession of systematic oppressions, in spite of their wishes expressed in all manners recognized by constitutional customs, by public meetings and by their representatives in Parliament after a serious deliberation; when their rulers, instead of rectifying the various evils that they themselves produced by their bad government, have solemnly recorded and proclaimed their guilty determination to sap and overthrow to the very foundations of civil liberty, it imperiously becomes the duty of the people to seriously apply themselves to the consideration of their unhappy position, - the dangers which surround them, - and, by a well-combined organization, to make the arrangements necessary to keep intact their citizens rights and their dignity as free men.
The wise and immortal authors of the DECLARATION OF THE AMERICAN INDEPENDENCE, recorded in this document the principles on which the rights of man are solely founded and demanded and successfully established the institutions and the form of government which alone can permanently insure the prosperity and the social happiness of the inhabitants of this continent, whose education and mores, resulting from the circumstances of their colonization, require a system of government entirely dependent upon the people and which is directly responsible to them. In common with the various nations of North and South America which adopted the principles contained in this Declaration, we regard the doctrines which they encapsulate as sacred and evident: That God did not create any artificial distinctions between man and man; that the government is just a simple human institution formed by those who must be subject to its action good or bad; and consecrated for the advantage of all those who will consent to come or remain under its protection or under its control, and that consequently its form can be changed as soon as it ceases to accomplish the ends for which this government was established; that the public authorities and the men in power are but the executors of the wishes legitimately expressed by the community; honoured when they possess the public trust, and respected for as long as they enjoy public esteem, and who must be removed from power as soon as they cease to provide satisfaction to the people, the only legitimate source of any power.
In conformity with these principles and in the name of the treaties signed and the capitulations ordained with our ancestors and guaranteed by the Imperial Parliament, the people of this province never ceased for many years, through respectful requests, to complain of the intolerable abuses which poison their days and paralyses their industry. Far from reparations being conceded to our humbles prayers, aggression followed aggression, until finally the day came when we no longer seem attached to the British Empire for our happiness and our prosperity, our liberties and the honour of the people and that of the Crown, but only for the sake of fattening a horde of useless officials, who, not unhappy to enjoy salaries enormously disproportionate to the responsibilities of their assignments and the resources of the country, have combined in a faction solely motivated by the private interest to oppose all reforms, and to defend all the iniquities of a government hostile to the rights and liberties of this colony.
Though we are universally in agreement on the justice of our requests, the wisdom and the prudence that there was to remedy our evils, still today we bare the unbearable burden of an irresponsible Executive under the command of an ignorant and hypocritical chief. Our judges depend as a condition attached to their commission, on the sole will and pleasure of the Crown, almost all violent partisans of a corrupt administration, and more absolutely the mercenary instruments of the Executive, in accepting, in violation of every principle of judiciary independence, wages for their servility to a foreign authority, without the consent of the people, which is the sole barer, through the intermediary of their representatives, of the exclusive right to vote the salaries of public servants; the men in office in this province devour, by their so extravagant salaries that they deprive us of the funds needed for the general improvement of the country which results in our public works being stopped and the navigation of our rivers continuing to be obstructed; a Legislative Council appointed by men a thousand leagues away from the country, and systematically composed in a manner suited to paralyse and destroy the efforts of our freely chosen representatives, in all measures designed to promote the public good after remaining unchanged under the current administration, depriving this the country of the advantages of an interior legislation, has finally been modified in a manner that is insulting to all classes of society, disgracious for public morality, and which annihilates the respect and confidence of all parties for this branch of the legislature, following the introduction of men in the majority notorious only by their incapacity, and remarkable in the same way by their political insignificance, thus making obvious, to the point of demonstration even, to everyone, whatever their preconceived ideas, the convenience and the urgent need to introduce the principle of election into this body, as the only suitable method to place the provincial legislature in a position to advantageously carry out the conduct of public affairs.
Our municipalities are entirely destroyed; the rural areas of this province, forming a disgracious contrast with the other parts of this continent, are absolutely deprived of any power to regulate, in a municipal capacity, their local affairs, by the means of freely elected parish and township officers; the upcoming generation is deprived of the benefit of education, primary schools providing education to 40 000 children were closed by the Legislative Council, body hostile to the progress of useful knowledge, and incited to act in this way by an Executive opposed to the dissemination of general knowledge among the people; - the Jesuits' college, founded and endowed with by the foreseeing government which colonized this province, for the encouragement and the diffusion of knowhow and science, has been, with a barbarity unworthy of the governors of a civilized state, disgraciously for the enlightened century in which we live and that is without comparison even among the Goths and the Vandals, converted into barracks, and is still retained for such usage today by an army rabble, while the funds and properties dedicated to the maintenance of this building and other such institutions have been and continue to be wasted and badly administered, for the advantages of the favourites, the creatures and the instruments of the government; our fellow citizens are deprived of the benefits of impartially chosen juries, and arbitrarily persecuted by officers of the Crown who, in order to meet the goals of the vindicative government of which they are the creatures, have exhumed proceedings of another age, and whose precedents we only find in the darkest pages of British history. Thus, our tribunals being soiled by the combined conspirations of a bad Executive, of servile judges, partisan law officers and political sheriffs, the innocent and the patriot are exposed to being sacrificed, while the enemies of the country and the violators of all the laws are protected and patronized depending on whether the administration wishes to crush and destroy or to save and protect. Our trade and our domestic industry are paralysed; our public lands alienated, for a nominal price, to a corporation of speculators, foreign to the country, or given out to insolent favourites as a reward for their servility; our money is extorted without our consent, in the form of taxes unconstitutionally imposed by a foreign Parliament and then converted into the instrument of our degradation, distributed as they are among a noisy gang of officials, against our will, without our participation, and in violation of all the principles of constitutional law.
In the middle of their indefatigable and honest efforts to obtain the redress of the preceding grievances, our compatriots have been insolently called upon to justify their public conduct, of which they are responsible to no one and even less to the individual which luck or ministerial patronage placed for a time at the head of our provincial government. One has harassed and vexed them by forcing resignations to purely honorific positions, reserved for the advantage and at the requisition of their immediate neighbours, and that for having reclaimed the rights of their fatherland, as is suited to free men of America; and as a clue that one intends to push the aggression even further, armed troops are to be stationed, in a time of profound peace in all the extent of the country, with the goal of compressing by physical force the expression of public opinion, and to complete by the means of violence and blood shed our own ruin as is already decided across the seas.
Such an aggression is more than sufficient to justify, among an outraged people, the recourse to any and all the means to preserve the last one of the insulted privileges, the right to have our complaints be heard. But thanks to the blindness of our aggressors, the wickedness of this measure will find by the care of the providence its antidote in its very folly. The regiments that one proposes to distribute among us are composed of men who come out and were educated in the middle of their country's democracy. Most of them embraced their current profession not by choice, but because they could not find any other employment to make a living in their native country. Instead of stimulating among them the noble emulation of a good conduct and the hope of advancement to higher echelons, they are poorly paid, and are exposed to all sorts of small tyrannies, and when murmur escapes their lips as true slaves, they are immediately given the ignoble punishment of the whip. If one contrasts this hard destiny with the liberty, the consent, the ease of obtaining employment and high salaries in the United States, with the certainty that the inhabitants of these counties which neighbour and border the lines will not make obstacle to the soldiers' attempts to emigrate to the neighbouring republic, one will see that it is morally impossible to retain in Her Majesty's province, once they will be dispersed in detachments, men whom we would like to be the vile instruments to our slavery and to their own dishonour.
The long and heavy chain of abuses and oppressions which weighs on us, and to which each year a new and no less annoying link is added, proves that our history is but a recapitulation of the evils that the other colonies endured before us. Our grievances are but a second edition of theirs. Our complaints in favour of relief are the same. Like theirs, ours were treated with scorn and contempt, and attracted on the petitioners but an increase of insults and persecutions. Thus the experience of the past shows the madness to await and hope for justice from European authorities.
However dark and little flattering that the current prospect can be for our beloved fatherland, we find in the public virtues of our compatriots an encouragement to hope that the day of our regeneration is not so distant. Domestic manufactures ramify among us with a speed quite suitable to delight us in the middle of our struggle.
The impulse given since a few months by the example of generous and patriotic citizens, in wearing clothes made by fabric manufactured in the country, was generally followed and will soon be universally adopted. The determination not to consume any goods burdened with taxes, and to encourage a free trade with our neighbours, two objects of vital importance, becomes day after day more general, more decided and more effective. The people must everywhere be full of conviction that the great sacrifices to be made must be so in proportion to the glorious object which we aim to achieve, and that the personal inconveniences that will be the consequence in favour of the good cause must be endured not only with goodwill but also with firmness.
Fellow-citizens! brothers of a common affliction! you all, of whatever origin, language or religion you may be, to whom equal laws and the human rights are dear; whose hearts palpitated of indignation at the sight of the innumerable insults that your common fatherland had to go through, and who so often experienced a just alarm, while rolling in your minds the dark future which bad administration and corruption promise to this province and your prosperity; in the name of this fatherland and the rising generation, having no more hopes but those resting on you, we solicit you to take, by means of a systematic organization in your respective parishes and your townships, this attitude which alone can bring you respect for yourselves, and the success of your requests. That committees of vigilance enter all at the same time in active operation in all your respective vicinities. Withdrawing your confidence to the current administration and all those who would be low enough to accept employment from it, assemble you incontinent in your parishes and elect pacificatory magistrates, following the example of your reformists brothers of the county of the Deux Montagnes, in order to protect the people against a useless and unforeseen expenditure, and against the revenge of enemies. Our youth, the hope of the fatherland, should everywhere organize like their brothers, the Fils de la liberté, of Montreal, in order to be ready to act with promptitude and effectiveness according to whether the circumstances should require it; and the brave militiamen, who twice by their value and at the price of their blood, defended this country for ungrateful dominations, should also associate in this moment under officers of their choice, for safety, good order and the protection of life and property in their respective localities. It is by these means that we will fortunately be able to preserve colonial liberties.
To this hope and counting for our emancipation from the bad government under which we groan, on the divine providence, of which we humbly beseech the blessings of our disinterested efforts, relying on the love of freedom that the free air and the impregnable fortresses of America can inspire in all the hearts of the people in general, and on the sympathy of our democratic neighbours, which in the establishment of an arbitrary government on their very borders, are rather careful and clear-sighted enough to envisage the elevation of a system which could be used as a precedent and an instrument for the introduction of the same arbitrary government into other parts of the American continent, and who will not consent that the principles for which they fought with such an amount of success in the eighteenth century, be in our persons stepped on in the nineteenth century. We, the delegates of the confederated counties of Richelieu, Saint-Hyacinthe, Rouville, Acadie, Chambly, and Verchères, hereby publicly record the solemn and determined resolution of the people which we represent, to put in practice, as soon as possible, the preceding recommendations, and never to stop our patriotic efforts until the various grievances of which we complain today are rectified; and by these, we invite all our fellow-citizens in all the province to join their efforts to ours in order to get for our common fatherland a system of good government, inexpensive and responsible.
Signed for and in the name of the Confederation of the Six Counties, this October 24, 1837.
Wd. Nelson, Chairman
J. T. Drolet, F. C. Duvert, Vice Chairmen
J. P. Boucher-Belleville, A. Girod, Secretaries