Mr. TOLTON asked :
1. How much money has been voted for improvements on Collingwood, Meaford, Owen Sound, and Wiarton harbours ?
2. How much of such several votes has been spent on each of said harbours ?
Mr. BELL-by Mr. Taylor-asked : 1. What was the aggregate amount of the manufactures of Canada during the year 1900 ? 2. What was the aggregate amount of the agricultural products of Canada, including animals and their products, during the same year ? The MINISTER OF AGRICULTURE (Hon. Sydney Fisher.) The returns of the manufacturing schedules of the census have not yet been made out.
1. How much money has been voted for improvements on Collingwood, Meaford, Owen Sound, and Wiarton harbours ?
2. How much of such several votes has been spent on each of said harbours ?
1. For the year ending 30th June, 1902 :
$25,900 00 $25,161 39Meaford
41,000 00 18,180 48Owen Sound
28,500 00 28,456 28Wiarton 14,500 00 13,516.20
2. Up to the 30th June, 1091, the amounts expended are :
Collingwood . $280,203 61 $138,280 74 $418,484 45
97,499 11 6,602 13 104,101 24
262,693 00 39,104 35 301,797 35Wiarton 71,578 91 .. 71,578 91
Mr. CLARKE asked :
Is it the intention of the government to provide that the day which has been fixed for the Coronation of His Most Gracious Majesty King Edward the Seventh, shall be proclaimed as a public holiday throughout the Dominion of Canada ?
This is under consideration.
MONK (Jacques Cartier) moved for :
Copy of all correspondence, papers, documents, memoranda and despatches exchanged between the British government and the Canadian authorities in reference to the Bulwer-Cl&yton treaty and the abrogation thereof, as well as in reference to the Alaskan boundary since the last adjournment of the Joint High Commission, appointed in connection with said boundary.
He said : It seems to me, Mr. Speaker,
that this is a very opportune time for parliament to become possessed of all the corre- J Hon. Mr. FISHER.
spondence between our government and the home authorities, which preceded the abrogation of the Clayton-Bulwer treaty, and equally opportune for the production of the correspondence which may have passed between them concerning the Alaskan boundary since the international Joint High Commission has ceased to sit. It is, I believe, a principle of constitutional law that parliament should be fully informed of all correspondence on subjects such as those to which my motion relates. Iu that opinion I am fortified by the words which fell from my lion. friend from Labelle (Mr. Bourassa) at the time he saw fit to bring a similar motion to the notice of the House, hut which motion he afterwards withdrew.
I shall be as brief as possible. In the first place, I would like to refer to the rule which prevails in England and that which holds here. On referring to the English rule practice, I find that unquestionably all correspondence of a diplomatic character must be produced in parliament, except in some very extraordinary cases, the principal one of which is when negotiations are still pending. This rule I find very well expressed in Todd's work on parliamentary government in England. At page 439 of that work, Mr. Todd says :
It is imperative that parliament shall be duly informed in every thing that may be necessary to explain the policy and proceedings of the government in any part of the empire ; and the fullest information is communicated by the government to both Houses, from time to time, upon all matters of public concern. For it is in parliament that authoritative statements are made, or information given by ministers, upon public questions ; and no action in parliament should be based upon declarations of policy made elsewhere.
Sometime a statement, by the minister who is specially responsible, is made in one House and not repeated in the other, the ordinary channels of information, i.e., the newspapers, being relied upon to give it general publicity. But such a course is Inconvenient and objectionable. Much ( inconvenience having been occasioned by motions for papers having been agreed to in one House, and opposed by government in the other chamber, it is now understood that when papers are presented to one House they shall also be laid on the Table of the other.
Considerations of public policy, and a due regard to the interests of the state, occasionally demand, however, that information sought for by members of the legislature should be withheld, at the discretion and upon the general responsibility of ministers. This principle is systematically recognized in all parliamentary transactions : were it otherwise, it would be impossible to carry on the government with safety and honour. Whenever it is declared, by the responsible servants of the Crown, that any information sought for in parliament could not be supplied without inconvenience to the public service, or for other sufficient reasons, the House refrains from insisting upon Its production.
And if the government object to produce any documents on the ground that they are of a
private and confidential description, it is not usual to insist upon their being furnished, except under peculiar and imperative circumstances.
Referring to the case of negotiations pending, Mr. Todd thus lays down the rule at page 355 :
It is a necessary rule that the substance of all personal communications between the representatives of the British Crown and the ministers of any foreign country, upon matters of public concern, should be committed to writing, in order that a fair and complete record of the transaction between Great Britain and other states may be preserved in the foreign office, and, in due course, submitted to parliament. The English constitutional system requires that parliament should be informed, from time to time, of everything which is necessary to explain the conduct and policy of the government, whether at home or abroad, in order that it may interpose with advice, assistance, or remonstrance, as the interests of the nation may appear to demand.
In 1810 the House of Commons passed a resolution of censure upon the Earl of Chatham (the Master-General of the Ordinance and a cabinet minister), who had commanded a military expedition to the Scheldt, on account of his having presented to the King a secret report of the expedition, without communicating the same to his colleagues, or. causing it to be considered a public document. It was justly contended, that if such a proceeding were permitted, it would strike at root of ministerial responsibility.
It is unquestionably of immense advantage to the country, that the diplomatic transactions and proceedings of government abroad should be freely communicated to parliament, for thereby the foreign policy of the Crown ordinarily receives the approbation of parliament, and is sustained by the strength of an enlightened public opinion. This in itself confers an additional weight to our policy and opinions abroad. On the other hand, it is notorious that the English system of giving publicity to information obtained by government, in regard to occurrences in foreign countries, is viewed with great disfavour on the continent. A knowledge of the fact that all information procured by our foreign agents is liable to make public militate somewhat against their usefulness, and tends to place them occasionally in an embarrassing position. It induces towards them, moreover, a feeling of reserve on the part of the representatives of other governments ; and necessitates that our ministers should resort, more than they would otherwise do, to the practice of private correspondence.
After giving several cases in which motions for the productions of papers were negatived, Mr. Todd goes on to state cases in which papers have been laid before parliament while negotiations were still pending :
Thus, it is generally inexpedient and highly impolitic to communicate to parliament, papers concerning diplomatic negotiations which are still pending ; and nothing is more prejudicial to the action and efficiency of the diplomatic service than the perpetual motions for the production of papers, which are made by a certain class of politicians, who insist upon the
fullest information on questions of foreign policy at unreasonable times.
It would appear from this enunciation of the doctrine as it exists in England-which enunciation, I find, is confirmed by all the other authors I have had occasion to consult on this subject-that the doctrine is that all correspondence with foreign powers ought to be subject to parliament, that parliament is the legitimate critic of the conduct of the ministers in their foreign policies, and it is only by the means afforded to parliament of having correspondence of the government before it that that assembly is in a position to justly and fairly appreciate the action of the ministers abroad. There is, in the short passage I have just read to the House, an explanation of the methods which render impossible, under certain exceptional circumstances, the production before parliament of the correspondence of ministers in order that parliament should be able to form an opinion. That is the difficulty that exists in carrying on the negotiations with a foreign power, and not only the difficult position in which the executive finds itself under these circumstances, but the courtesy, the rules of honour, if I may use that expression, which the home government is obliged to observe with regard to that foreign power. The rules of confidence which exist between individuals and exist, I may say to even a stronger degreee between independent powers negotiating with one another. And there is also the motive given where the object in view has not been obtained. Where, in other words, negotiations are pending, where the correspondence is expected to lead up' to some definite result, it would be impolitic-not to communicate to parliament, if we were ruled by the olden usages which made the deliberations of parliament secret and private-but to communicate to the public at large the pending negotiation, and, in that manner, interfere, perhaps, with the success, the favourable issue of those negotiations. That is the rule which prevails in England, and, if I emphasize it, it is because I believe that if, to any degree, that rule can obtain here in Canada, it must only be applied with very serious modifications and restrictions. Why ? Because the correspondence asked for here is not an interchange of diplomatic notes between two independent powers, it is not a case of negotiations which must be covered by the principles and rules of propriety which I enunciated a moment ago and as explained by the authority whom I quoted ; but the correspondence we want is a domestic matter. It is a correspondence between the home government, a branch, if I may use that expression of the government, of the empire, and one of the dependencies. That is, strictly speaking, a domestic affair. What we wish to have, and what we are entitled to have at this stage-at this late stage- is the correspondence between the Canadian
government, which is a branch of the government of tlie empire, and the home government in regard to the abrogation of the Clayton-Bulwer treaty. What we want ta know is what inquiries were made of our government at the time cf the negotiations leading up to the abrogation of that treaty, and what answers were given by the executive of this country. This is not, as I repeat, a question where it is absolutely necessary, in order to protect the rights of one nation against the other, to observe strictly the proprieties as pointed out by the authority I quoted as governing the relations tietween two independent powers. But we want to know what representations were made from this part of the empire before the home government-before the two powers concerned-arrived at the conclusion that the abrogation of that treaty was in the interest of both the contracting parties. Let me. for a moment, take up the time of the House to show, what, to my mind, is the rule which obtains here as to the interchange of communications between the home government and our own government. I believe that it can be laid down ns a governing principle, such as obtains in England, that all correspondence passing between the Imperial government and the government of Canada should be submitted to the parliament of this country, except such strictly secret or confidential letters as are required by the Secretary of State in the Imperial administration, to be kept absolutely from the public gaze. And, even in the case of communications considered absolutely private by the Imperial Secretary of State, tlie government of the day in this c mntry, in refusing to produce that correspondence must take upon itself all responsibility. In other words, since we have here a ministry responsible for every act, of every nature whatsoever, of the head of the executive, if the head of the executive in tills country, under the instructions he receives from the Imperial government, judges fit to withhold from this parliament any part cf that correspondence, he can do so.' But he does it through his responsible ministers, and they assume the responsibility of that refusal. I find, Sir, that, under instructions which are made to accompany the letters patent establishing the function of the Governor General-under the Royal instructions which always accompany the issue of such an important document-dating back thirty years, to the 6th July, 1871. this is what has been laid down :
The communication of the despatches passing between the home government and the government of this country are divided into three classes : Numbered despatches, secret despatches and confidential despatches.
Mr. Todd says in his book on parliamentary government in the British colonies, at page 126 :
By Royal instructions, governors are forbidden to give to any person copies of despatches they
may receive from the Secretary of State-or to allow copies to be taken of them-unless under a general or special authority from that officer. But where responsible government is established, the governor is considered to be at liberty to communicate to his advisers all despatches not marked ' confidential.' And by a circular dated July 10th, 1871, despatches are reclassified as l, llows : (1) Numbered despatches, "which a governor may publish, unless directed not to do so; (2) Secret, which he may, if he thinks fit, communicate, under the obligation of secrecy, to his ministers, and may even make public, if he thinks it necessary. (3) Confidential, which are addressed to a governor personally, and which he is forbidden to make known, without express authority from the Secretary of State.
In laying despatches and other papers before the legislature, the governor of a colony is bound by constitutional practice. In general, the governor in colonies with responsible minis-' tries, takes no personal action, in this matter, in the case of ' numbered ' despatches and ordinary papers, and is rarely even consulted. The ministers lay before the legislature any such documents, on their own discretion and responsibility. But it is generally a reasonable rule of the public service that despatches and other documents forwarded to ihe Imperial gcv-ernment should not be published until they shall have been received and acknowledged by the Secretary of State ; and that no confidential memorandums passing between the ministers and the governor should be laid before the colonial parliament, except on the advice of the ministers concerned.
AVhen advised to do so by his ministers, the governor should lay any numbered and not confidential despatch addressed by him to or received by him from the Secretary of State before the local parliament, unless there be some strong reason to the contrary, such as a pending reference to the Secretary of State.
Exit the Governor must first be advised by his misisters before taking such a step, and ihey . must be prepared to defend his action if it be impugned.
Ministers cannot relieve themselves from the responsibiity of advising as executive councillors; nor is a governor free to act without or against ministerial advice, in cases not involving the rights cr prerogatives of the Crown or Imperial interests.
Tlie author goes on to quote several cases which I think make clear the principle which is laid down. Now, Sir, my hon. friend the member for Lahelle (Mr. Bou-rassa) not only made us acquainted with what many of us knew before but he made us acquainted, and to a certain extent the right hon. the Prime Minister did also, with certain facts which, to my mind, render doubly imperative the demand which we have made for the production of this correspondence, which we have a right to see, not only under the rule which I have just endeavoured to establish pertaining to the constitution of this House, but upon the principle that it is urgent that the correspondence which we now seek for as regards the two matters which are completed, are finished, should be placed in possession of this House in order that we may be in a position to appreciate the action which this government has taken during
the proceedings which led up to the conclusions of the treaty abrogating the Clayton-Bulwer arrangement; and also that we should be fully acquainted with what has passed, with what have been the res gestae of this government since the international commission, having under its charge the treatment of several most important subjects of vital interest to this country, has ceased to exist, or has adjourned, according to the statement of these gentlemen already submitted to this House, sine die. It must not be forgotten we have to bear in mind the fact that my hon. friend from T.abelle acted throughout the proceedings to which I have referred in laying this resolution before the House, in a special capacity. He was there as the official secretary of the commission, he occupied an official position in which it was open for him to acquire absolute knowledge of a multiplicity of facts with which we are unacquainted, and it is right and proper, I submit to you, Mr. Speaker, to give considerable weight to the utterances made in this House the other day by that hon. member as to these facts. Now what do we find ?
The hon. gentleman is referring to a previous debate, which he must know is against the rules of the House.
I think, Mr. Speaker, that rule has been considerably modified in England as long as the reference is not an undue one. It is impossible to discuss a question-that is what I believe they have decided in England-without referring to a certain extent to a past debate. We do it every day, and if that reference is simply in order to sustain an argument and is not prolonged, I understand that under the rules of discussion that obtain in England the reference is allowed. If you rule differently, I submit to your ruling.
The position always taken in this House has been that it is not permissible to refer to a previous debate. In some instances we have gone so far as to decide that no reference should be made to answers to questions, and that has also been decided in England. And so far as this parliament is concerned I think it has been the invariable rule that no reference should be made to a previous debate.
If you apply the rule rigidly, Mr. Speaker, I think you go further than they do in England at the present time. But I am perfectly prepared to submit to your ruling. Still, it seems to me quite within the rules of this House for me to
say that we have had, not only in this House, but time and again outside of this House, public utterances from that hon. gentleman who occupied, as I said, an official and important position during the sittings of this commission; wS have had time and again, in the city of Montreal and elsewhere, admissions from him of the utmost value. He has told us there what he has told us here many a time, that during the proceedings which led up to the abolition of the Clayton-Bulwer treaty the interests of Canada were insufficiently and improperly guarded by this government, that they failed by acts of omission and by acts of commission in accomplishing what to my mind was a sacred duty, in representing to the British government what was so ably represented by the late Minister of Justice, Hon. David Mills, that Great Britain had unquestionable and unquestioned rights in Central America, and that it was of the utmost importance that those rights should not be sacrificed except we received in exchange something for ourselves; that those rights should not be foresworn until we had obtained from the American government something of what we considered our most just and equitable claims in respect to the Alaskan boundary.
Has this government performed its duty, as the hon. member for Labelle (Mr. Bour-assa) has time and again urged, in representing those claims and our rights to the mother country during the lengthy negotiations which led up to the abrogation of the Clayton-Bulwer treaty, and are we not entitled to know by the production of the correspondence in reference to the treaty whether the government has accomplished this duty ? If we have a refusal to produce before this House the correspondence which will show that it has really and earnestly taken up the defence of our interests, that it has not been idle and has done nothing, as has been intimated time and again by the hon. member for Eabelle, we will be entitled to assume that it has not made the representations which it was its duty to make at the time as to our rights and as to the necessity, in the exercise of the treaty making power, not to sacrifice those rights but to see that they were maintained, when they were unquestionably giving up rights accruing to the empire in Central America. We have had that intimation time and again from the hon. member for Labelle. We have had it stated all over the province of Quebec. It is not necessary for me to refer to wlvat may be considered as his more solemn utterances in this chamber, but it is sufficient for me to say that they more than confirm the arguments and statements of fact he has made everywhere. It is necessary for the honour of this government that it should show to this House that at the time and during these delicate and difficult moments when the British government was negotiating for the abrogation of that treaty, it. here, was not failing in its duty to make proper representations to the British government in regard to our claims in Alaska, or in respect to the boundary of Alaska. It is also important to know if at that time the government was urging upon the home government in respectful but in urgent and proper tones our claims in respect to a
variety of other matters of interest to this country and which was its duty to urge upon the home government. Sir, it is an admitted principle in England, and surely we are not going to go back on that principle here, that where a treaty has been concluded, where negotiations are terminated, it belongs to parliament to judge of the acts of the government as to the conduct of those negotiations. It would be impossible for anybody to refute, or even to pul in question before the British parliament, that principle. What have we here ? We have the known fact, the fact known to the public, the official fact, that the abrogation has taken place and upon what ground can the government refuse to lay before the parliament of this country what undoubtedly has been laid, or can be laid, at any moment, upon the demand of a member, before the House of Commons in England ? We are entitled to know what part our government took in these negotiations. It had a part to take, it had a duty to perform, and we are entitled to know how it carried out that duty. In respect to the Alaskan boundary at the time the same arguments were held. We have had the statement of the former Minister of Marine and Fisheries, while in England, to the effect that the commission had sat in Washington without obtaining anything, that he considered the negotiations to be over and terminated for the timebeing. We have had the statement of the secretary of that international commission, made time and again, not only in this House but before the public at large at a great variety of meetings, that the commission had been an utter failure, in respect to the Alaskan boundary, that when they had come to the discussion of that subject all further discussion was impeded and had become impossible. We have had his statement and the statement of the participators in that conference also, that it was impossible to obtain the consent of the United States to the proposal which had been made by our own commissioners to submit the question of tlie Alaskan boundary to a commission of similar composition to the commission which had been proposed by the American authorities themselves to settle the boundary of Venezuela. Therefore, I say we are entitled to consider and the public will consider, as this House ought to consider, that the sittings of that commission are for the present suspended. I submit, under these circumstances, that commission being a distinct body especially created for the settlement of the specific question submitted to it, and that commission having, according to the admission of those who took part in it. on our own behalf, adjourned finally in the face of insurmountable difficulties, that if is the right of this parliament, not, Sir. to pry into the doings of this commission. but it is the right of parliament to know what has passed between our own government and the Imperial authorities since the adjournment of the commission upon Mr. MONK.
the subject of the Alaskan boundary. It is a subject which interests us in the highest degree. We may be wrong, but we live under the belief that a part of that territory belongs to us. It is our property, it is being exploited by a foreign power, and we have the right to know what steps our own government is taking in regard to the authority, which is the only one that can deal with a foreign power and, what have been the doings of this government since that time by correspondence, despatches or otherwise in respect to this most important question. I repeat, Sir, I believe the rule which applies in England, which is a very wise one and which has been applied there with the discretion and moderation which always obtain in the great parliament of that country, should, in this country, receive considerable modification even as to negotiations pending when the desire of this parliament is not to pry into negotiations being carried on by diplomacy between a foreign power and the government of this empire, but when we are asking for documents having reference to our own relations with the British government as to what may be considered, I submit. Sir. an Imperial domestic concern. I submit this motion. Sir.
Respecting the question that has been raised, I may call the attention of the House to two decisions I find in Blackmore. In 1862 and 1863 I see this question was decided in England. It was held in 1862 :
It is out of order to read extracts from speeches made in the same session.
And in 1S63 :
It is irregular to quote extracts from speeches in a past debate.
. I would quote also a decision in reference to the question given in 1880 to the following effect:
An hon. member cannot refer to a late debate; and the same rule applies to the answer to a question as to a debate.
Hon. members will, therefore, see that the rule has gone very far in England.
I must express my surprise that my hon. friend (Mr. Monk) should again bring this question before the House, after the debate which took place only a few days ago. I am still more surprised that he should persist in his intention of forcing the motion on the House in view of the quotations which he himself has read from such a standard constitutional authority as Todd. The hon. gentleman (Mr. Monk) must see that the quotations from Todd defeat the very object which he seeks to obtain by his motion. The whole tenor of the hon. gentleman's speech has been to the effect, that while the rule, that papers are not to be communicated to parliament while negotiations are pending, applies in England, that very same rule should not be adhered to in this country. I am at
a loss to understand liow it is that a rule of parliamentary government in England should not be a rule of parliamentary government in Canada. The only argument which the hon. gentleman made was, that while in England it would not he proper to ask for the production of such papers because it might necessitate the bringing down of secret correspondence with foreign powers, yet this could not occur in Canada with reference to this matter, as it only involved the publication of correspondence between the government of Canada and the government of Great Britain; no foreign power being in the case. A moment of reflection will convince my hon. friend, or ought to convince him, that his contention is purely gratuitous, and that it would be impossible to bring down the correspondence he seeks without at the same time divulging negotiations which are pending between Great Britain and a foreign power. The very contingency which the hon. gentleman (Mr. Monk) said does not exist, does exist, and it exists in a very aggravated form. X hope that a word or two from me will convince the hon. gentleman (Mr. Monk) that he is in the wrong. The hon. gentleman says that the Clayton-Bulwer treaty is at an end; that therefore there is nothing to conceal; that the treaty negotiated between Lord Lytton and Mr. Clayton has been modified by a recent treaty, and that therefore the papers in the Clayton-Bulwer treaty can be brought down. That reasoning of my hon. friend is fallacious. Canada had no direct interest in the Clayton-Bulwer treaty; Canada had no direct interest in the Nicaragua canal. Canada had no more interest in the negotiation of a treaty which affected the Nicaragua canal than she would have in a treaty in reference to the Suez canal, or in any other question between Great Britain and a foreign power in which she was not interested.
Had we no interest ?
Canada had no direct interest. But why did Canada take any interest in the Clayton-Bulwer treaty ? It was not that we had a direct interest in the matter, but it so happened that we had a difficulty to settle with the United States in the northern part of the continent with regard to the Alaskan boundary, and Great Britain had a difficulty to settle in the Isthmus of Nicaragua in the southern part of the continent, and the suggestion being offered that concessions should be made by one power and the other, it was thought opportune that the two questions should be negotiated together, and that the request for the modification of the Clayton-Bulwer treaty should be made the means to an end, in order to obtain our object, which was a settlement of the Alaskan boundary. I would recall to my hon. friend the well known fact, that the only references that were made by the Canadian government at any time with
regard to the Clayton-Bulwer treaty, were simply with the object of having the Alaskan boundary considered together with the Nicaraguan question. We made representations to that effect and though one branch of this subject has been disposed of, the other has not yet been disposed of, though it is still in a fair way towards settlement, and the negotiations are yet pending. My hon. friend will see that it would be impossible to bring down anything concerning the correspondence with regard to the Clayton-Bulwer treaty except such as concerns the Alaskan boundary question, and we could not bring down these papers unless we were to give at once to the public the negotiations which are still going on with regard to the Alaskan boundary. I now come to another branch of the argument made by the hon. gentleman (Mr. Monk). The hon. gentleman has stated that whether negotiations as to the Alaskan boundary are pending or not, we should bring down the representations which had been made by one government to the other. The hon. gentleman will understand that it would be impossible to bring down that correspondence unless jve were to bring down at the same time the protocols exchanged, and the propositions and counter propositions which have been made up to this very moment upon the subject. The hon. gentleman referred to the fact that the Joint High Commission which sat at Quebec and Washington has adjourned sine die, and he says that we should not withhold the correspondence until this commission resumed again. I will at once relieve the apprehension of my hon. friend by telling him, as he knows-because the papers have been placed on the table of the House two years ago-that the Alaskan boundary question has been removed from the commission, and referred by the commission itself to the British government and the Uuited States government, the two interested parties. Since that time, that is to say, since the month of February, 1899, negotiations have been going on between the two governments. Protocols have been exchanged, propositions have been made, counter propositions have been submitted, other propositions have been made again, and the matter has been under consideration and is still under consideration. So that the very argument which my hon. friend has made cannot apply to this matter, for a very obvious reason : that we could not bring down the papers without submitting the very terms of the propositions and counter propositions that have been made. I cannot divulge these secrets to-day ; but it is easy to suppose what has been going on. It is easy to suppose that certain propositions have been made by one government to the other ; that these propositions have been referred to the Canadian government ; that the government have made its comments upon these propositions ; that it has either assented to them
or dissented from them. It is easy to suppose that this is the character of the correspondence which has been going on ever since, which has not been concluded, but which is going on at this very moment; and therefore it would be not only impolitic, but a breach of the etiquette which is due by one nation to another, as well as a breach of the most sacred interests of the Canadian people in connection with the Alaska boundary question, if we were to place on the Table of the House to-day the papers for which my hon. friend asks. Does Thy lion, friend or any other member of the House seriously expect that we could, consistently with the duty we owe to the people of Canada at this very moment, when negotiations are pending, when the British Ambassador at Washington and the American Ambassador at London are exchanging notes, when the two governments are in conference, when we are cognisant of these conferences, when we have submitted our views upon the different propositions which have been made, when the negotiations have reached a certain stage, when it is possible that these negotiations may be completed within a month or so or perhaps longer- does he seriously contemplate that we are going to-day to place on the Table of the House and distribute to the four corners of publicity the negotiations which are still going on, but which I hope may be completed before long ? Sir, the matter is a serious one, and I must express my surprise that the hon. gentleman should not have apprehended the nature of the motion he was making, and should still persevere in the demand that we should lay these matters before the public.
I agree with my hon. friend that the procedure and the methods of the British government are very different from what prevails on the continent. The system of government in Great Britain is a system of publicity-a system based on the idea that nothing should be hidden from parliament or the people. But my hon. friend knows that even in Great Britain, which is the mother of that system, there are some matters which even the representatives of the people cannot have laid before them until the time comes when the communication of them can be made with safety to the public interest. In this matter, it is obvious-I have only to state the case to show at once to every man who views the question unbiased-that it would be highly prejudicial to the public interest to bring down this correspondence. As soon as it is completed the government will be only too happy to bring it down. I have only to express my deep sorrow that the matter is not yet concluded, and my deep hope that it will be concluded at an early day. At all events, no efforts of the government will be spared to bring it to a conclusion as speedily as possible.