Thursday, October 15, 2009

Live-blogging the Quebec conference #6

Saturday, October 15, 1864. “We have had such a week of it. Council from 9 to 11. Conference from 11 to 4, Council again from 4 to 6 and sometimes to 7 – every day – and then letters and orders-in-council to write at night. It has been very hard work.” -- George Brown, writing to his wife today.

The constitutional conference has yet to start on most of the principal items. Indeed, they have deadlocked on the first one to arise. So today they revise the schedule. Starting Monday, instead of meeting from 11 am to 4 pm, they will meet daily (and Saturday, bien sur) from 10 am to 2 pm and then from 7.30 pm until they decide to adjourn -- sometimes after midnight. The workload is not getting easier.

Today, like yesterday, they spend the whole day debating seats in the senate. Back on Thursday, the Canadians had proposed equal numbers of senate seats for Ontario, Quebec, and the Atlantic provinces, and the Maritimers had counter-proposed more seats from themselves. The fight continues today.

But today they adjourn at 2.30. It's party time. There is a large and lavish social whirl going on around the conference, even if the delegates themselves have to miss quite a bit of it. Yesterday the Canadian government hosted a ball that went on until 3 am. Tonight there is a dinner at the Russell Hotel, hosted by the Quebec Board of Trade, in honour of the Maritime delegates.

This one runs until midnight, and the speeches, as transcribed and later published by Edward Whelan, a PEI delegate and Charlottetown newspaper owner, run to sixteen pages of text. Almost as much as they loved parliamentary procedure, they loved formal speaking, a near endless sequence of toasts and replies to toasts. I will spare you -- they do not do a lot of jokes.
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