Joseph Edmund Collins.

Life and times of the Right Honourable Sir John A. Macdonald, premier of the Dominion of Canada online

. (page 11 of 57)
Online LibraryJoseph Edmund CollinsLife and times of the Right Honourable Sir John A. Macdonald, premier of the Dominion of Canada → online text (page 11 of 57)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


Major-General Rowan came down, and the thunder of cannon
announced the close of the last parliament ever to sit in Mon-

The summer sped away and autumn came, but tumult still
lived in Montreal. In August the ringleaders in the spring
riots were rearrested and released again on bail, but the mob
flew to arms, and after nightfall gathered like fiends around M.
Lafontaine's dwelling. The inmates knew the fate in store for
them should they fall into the hands of that mob, and after due
warning fired, wounding several of the rioters. One of the
gang, William Mason, was shot in the thigh, and as he fell his
associates cried out, " The blood of a Saxon has been shed by a
Frenchman.* Then, and, as it would seem, when the house
and its inmates were about being torn to pieces, the military
came and the mob went off, bearing with them the insensible
Mason who died next morning.

Since the burning of the parliament buildings, the question
of removing the seat of government from Montreal to some
other city had been under the governor s consideration. The
protracted and outrageous disposition of the mob, which ap-
peared ready to rise to deeds of destruction at any moment out
of cold blood, now decided his course. It was therefore fixed
that the remaining two sessions of parliament should be held
in Toronto, and that henceforth the sittings should be held at
that city and Quebec, at each for four years alternately. Thus
was the parliament driven out of Montreal, and thus was the
reputation of the city once again, as but too often since, smirch-
ed by the lawlessness of her mobs.



AFTER the wild paroxysm of loyalty bad spent itself in
storm, many of tin* tones, who by their speeches had
stirred their followers Op to the riot point, and afterwards
attempted to find excuse for their exooosofl, begin to fee]

ashamed of the part they had played and to be anxious about
the consequences, A conclave was held at winch it was de-
cided to send Sir Allan MacNab and Mr. Cayley to England to
avouch in Downing Street the loyalty of the party who had
burnt down the parliament buildings, poked sticks through a
picture of the queen, and attacked the repre s en tative of the
sovereign with addled e^gg. No one to this day knows what
reception these t wo got at Downing Street ; but as they have re-
mained so reserved upon the subject, it would not be hazardous
to say that their silence was probably judicious. Hot upon
their heels followed Mr. Francis Hincks, accredited by his
rnmeni to make known fully the causes of the disgraceful
outbreaks. We are not surprised that the colonial office
about this time took a good deal of our provincial business
into its own hands ; for if two parties here had a dispute
about a jack-knife they ran to Downing Street to have it
settled. Why was it necessary for Sir Allan and Mr. Cayley
to hurry off to England to apologize, to an indifferent official
in the colonial office for the riots in Canada ? — and why was
it necessary for Mr. Francis Hincks to follow them there ? We
complained then, and murmur still 1 about Downing Street in-
terference ; yet it is we who have taught the officials there how



to interfere. Even at this day, though we regard the authority
of the colonial office only a fiction, and lash ourselves into a
rage when it becomes a reality, we take sometimes the most
trivial cases from our own supreme court and refer them to the
judicial committee of the imperial privy council. The persons
who proclaim the loudest that Canadians ought to be (supreme
in their own affairs, are among the wry first, when a decision
contrary to their views is given in our highest courts, to hasten
away to the oracle at Downing Street. If every disputed
case, originating in a magistrate's court about the paying of a
municipal tax or the right of prosecution under a Dominion act,
is to be submitted for a decision to the superior wisdom and
higher justice of a conclave of English law officers, why per-
petuate the costly mockery here of a " supreme " court ?

Mr. Hincks returned from England, elated as a schoolboy who
had received the " well done" of his parents. During the autumn
the weather-cock in the colonial office described a revolution,
and the governor-general was raised to the peerage of the
United Kingdom for pursuing a course the precise opposite to
that for which, five years before, Lord Metcalfe had been en-
nobled. Though perhaps title conferred according to this
method of discrimination, does not fill our minds with awe
for the " belted knight, the duke and earl and a' that," that a
king can make, the honour was highly prized at the time by
Lord Elgin, and properly prized, for his conduct had been on
trial before the home government. He made an extended
tour of the province, and at every place was received with
evidence of admiration and gratitude. As he drove through
Toronto a party of gentlemen hurled a few eggs and some
bottles at him, but they fell short of the mark. In Kingston
a few persons came down to the wharf at which lay the vice-
regal steamer, and gave some dismal howls, then slunk away
again. This trifling exhibition of tory manners was dictated
by fear, however, rather than by hate, for the rumour had got
abroad in Montreal that the seat of government was to be re-


moved ; whereupon the instigators of the riots in that city
promptly sent out emissaries whose duty it was to see that the
governor-general was insulted in any city that was likely to
be chosen as the capital.

In November the seat of government was changed to Tor-
onto, and the offices established in the dreary pile along Front
Street, which does duty to the present day. The government
met in all its strength, and he were a rash prophet who would
predict that it was not impregnable for many years to come.
But some shrewd eyes looking through the assemblage of re-
formers, saw in this semblance of strength irresistible evidence
of weakness. A large majority is to be coveted when parties
are divided by Borne well marked line, and each avows a set of
well understood opinions; but the government whose party
doctrines are yet only in the formative process, is not to be
envied of the possession. One day a vote was taken in the
1 >\ver chamber which divided the house upon party issues; and
as the reformers Btood dp in all their appalling strength, John
A MacdonaM is credited with having observed to a member
who sat beside him, " That mighty fabric is soon to go to
pieces." 1 1 is companion replied, " I suppose no government has
a perennial lease, but if numbers aud apparent harmony count
for aught, I think their prospects are good." "Ah, yes," said
Maedonald, " <tpi> irent harmony ! But we shall see."

As has been stated already, the reform party composed not
only mod3rate seekers for reform, but many who desired radical
Changes, and not a few who thought we ought to fashion our
political system after the republican model. The advocates of
these innovations pressed their views upon the government, but
neither Mr. Baldwin nor Mr. Lafontaine seemed disposed to
move any further at once in the direction of reform, and inti-
mated that the change desired must come thro u#h gradual stages,
u the attitude of the leaders became known, a number of
the most prominent of tho government followers met, laid down
a new political platform, and resolved to withdraw themselves


from the reform party. The chief names in the new combina-
tion were David Christie, Dr. John Rolph, James Leslie, and
Malcolm Cameron ; and among the concessions they demanded
were, abolition of judges' pensions, biennial parliaments, uni-
versal suffrage, and election of all public officers. The name
given to the new party was the " Clear Grits," a term which first
appeared in the Globe. The appellation appears to have origi-
nated during a conversation between George Brown and Chris-
ti»\ the latter remarking that they wanted in the new move-
ment " nun who v w grit? The clear grits had no sooner
completed their organization in Upper Canada, than Louis
Papineau aroused himself and formed in Lower Canada " Le
Pa rti licmge" a combination less radical than revolutionary.
\V» ran fancy that member to whom John Macdonald had made
the prediction turning aghast as he saw the great fabric which
he had regarded as indestructible already split into three parts.
And we might fancy the astute observer teliing him to wonder
not, that the " greatest was behind."

This double defection set the government reeling ; but many
of those who stood fast in their allegiance waited upon minis-
ters and informed them that the time had now arrived when
they expected a settlement of the long-burning question of the
clergy reserves upon a new basis. Mr. Baldwin professed
himself hostile to a union of Church and State, but gave little
assurance of meeting the wishes of his supporters ; while Mr.
Lafontaine did not conceal his hostility to what he called a
"disturbance of vested rights." "When sorrows come they
come not single spies but in battalions " that luckless govern-
ment might have exclaimed. From every quarter evil seemed
to come upon them now ; every breeze that blew brought them
dark tidings. One of the staunchest ministerial organs hitherto
had been the Toronto Globe, but it now assumed such an atti-
tude that ministers felt themselves obliged to repudiate responsi-
bility for its course. In short, the Globe was endeavouring to
wipe popery off the face of the earth.


In the year 1850, as many a nervous Englishman had cause
to remember, the conviction entered the breast of the Holy
Father that the Episcopal Communion of England were pre-
paring to follow Newman over to Rome. So he set about to
parcel off the land of protestant Englishmen into ecclesiastical
districts, and created Cardinal Wiseman Archbishop of West-
minster. The ordinances declaring the districts were written
in Rome after the manner of the time when a sovereign pon-
tiff set an English king scourging himself before the tomb of a
"rebellious priest," shut up the churches and absolved subjects
of their allegiance. "Datum apud Roma sub anulo piscato-
r'>s." wrote the rash papa in the palace of the Peters; " " Given
at Rome under the fisherman's ring!" echoed the people of
England, some in scorn and many in dismay. They had
less experience of "paper towns' 1 in England then than
has fallen to our share in Canada since the inauguration
of the "boom," or they might have regarded the employment
of the pope in Betting districts off on sheets of vellum, as of no
very serious consequence. Y.-t, alarmed thousands of very
valiant Englishmen became, and we have it on excellent
authority that the "British Lion" stalked through the land.
Lord Truro called forth applause that oigfa shook down the
building when he quoted, at the Lord Mayor's dinner, the
words from the play, " Under my feet I'll stamp thy cardinal's
hat in spite of pope or dignities of church;" and thun-
ders of applause were evoked by Kean the tragedian, when in
the theatre, he quoted the words from King John, "No Italian
priest shall tithe or toll in our dominion." In good season,
however, the tumult died, and when the hurly-burly was done,
it was found that the " country of protestant Englishmen "
had sustained no serious damage.

After Englishmen had become heartily ashamed of their ex-
hibition of fear, the cardinal, the pope and the unfortunate
papacy fell into the hands of a wild protestant Canadian. This
person was consumed with the idea that the papacy ought to


be rooted out of this country, and without calculating whe-
ther the object was a possible one, began the crusade in the
columns of his newspaper, the Globe. He published the
pronunciamento of Wiseman, replying in his editorial columns
in language as rough and intemperate as it was intolerant and
illogical. Cardinals may be light or they may be wrong, but
it is not in writers of George Brown's stamp that they find
conf uters. Bavins begun the discussion. Mr. Brown used
every means to lash public feeling into tumult. He pictured
the Roman hierarchy in Canada as an odious system that
menaced the well-being of our social and political institutions,
and the public were informed that it was their duty to resist
the common enemy. This indiscreet onslaught upon an un-
offending portion of the community was made with as much
noise and fervour as " temperance reformers" to-day employ
against the vice of drunk. nn.- B, But this was the manner of
Mr. Brown. He never moved without noise; and whether it
was his entry into the legislature, or that he addressed a
meeting in a school-house ; introduced a bill, or presented a
medal to a school girl, the fact was announced by a clatter of
kettle-drums and a bray of bugles. It has always seemed to us
that the prominence he so suddenly attained, from being a
mere adventuring raw youth, to the adviser and hustler of
the reform party, was more than Mr. Brown could stand. He
was ambitious, and had a great deal of honest, worthy ambition
too, we may be sure, but under his brusqueness, which was the
result of a lack of refined atmosphere during the formative
period of his character and manners, he was inordinately vain
of his powers and his position. Early in the year 1851 some
newspaper writer declared he was seeking the wardenship of the
Kingston penitentiary; but he announced, not bluntly but
vainly, in his own paper that he was "seeking higher game
than that." Yet he had not the foresight to see that his
senseless and uncharitable crusade against a law-abiding and
inoffensive Christian denomination must prove a barrier be-


tween him and the "higher game" he sought. And he did not
injure his own prospects alone, but drove the already shattered
government to the alternative of bearing the responsibility of
the Globes fatally reckless course, or repudiating it, and thus
alienating its support and following.

Every age and country has produced its whitewashes, and
we see in a book lying before us now, Hon. Alexander Mac-
kenzie, with a brush in his hand, bedaubing the dark spots in
this portion of George Brown's career. Mr. Mackenzie, who
has evidently not informed himself about a period of which
he writes, with some levity admits that harsh things were
Baid in this discussion by Mr. Brown, but adds that "no arti-
cle ever appeared (in the Globe) which bore the character of
intolerance/ 1 Dnscrupulous politicians," he says, "of little or
no standing as public men, for years lilled their scrap-books
with garbled extracts, torn from their context, and used them
lectioneering weapons.* 1 Through all this whitewash the
merciless types In the Globe itself will tell the facts. We have
made a few "extracts," not " garbled," and not all "torn from
their context," and the whitewash cannot hide their intoler-
ance. Is it tolerance, whether it be the truth or not, which is
not the qnestion we are discussing, to be told that "the ad-
vance of education has been the death-knell of popery through*
out the w'orld ; " that " its mummeries have failed to stand the
of free institutions;" 1 that "civil despotism and the papal
delusion hang together ? " — or will it make the statements less
offensive to Roman Catholics to join them with the cont.
Will the printing of the context make it less offensive to say
that "popery binds all men in the most debasing thraldom ; "
that "this religion robs man of his noblest privilege, direct
communion with God. . . . and debases him to the very level
of paganism " ? Or to ask with a note of admiration, " What
a frightful weapon of tyranny the confessional is ! " Perhaps
we have misunderstood what Mr. Brown's biographer means
by intolerance. George Brown was never thejmperial dictator


of Canada, lidding the life and liberty of the subject in his
hand. It may be going too far, then, to say he was not intol-
erant, because he did not banish the Roman Catholics out of
the country. But the spirit was willing if the flesh was weak.

A powerful auxiliary of Brown was one Padre Gavazzi, who
had broken out of his Roman cage, and was now abroad
through Christendom breathing five and smoke against the pa-
pacy. His mission, he said — as reported in the newspapers —
was * not to protest against Rome; — it is to destroy, to destroy.
It is not protestantism at all. my dear brethren," said the in-
flamed padre, 'it is destruction; the destruction of pope and
popery. My mission ifl to destroy, to annihilate in my Italy
the pope and popery. I am no protestant. Call me destructor,
for that is my name." It is hardly too venturesome to say,
that, had Mr. Brown not been "settled down" at this time to
politics the laudable purpose of the Italian priest might have
lured him away into missionary work. Mr. Brown was a
warm admirer of Gavazzi, for the Globe of June 10th, 1853, de-
scribed him as "the distinguished defender of the Protestant
faith." It is seldom two such distinguished defenders of any
faith get together and some harm does not come of it. It is
hardly necessary to add that the papacy withstood the shock
of the cleric and the journalist. Indeed, both the editor and
the ex-priest are dead, and Rome still lives, or did, at least,
** up to the hour of going to press." It takes more than a
great newspaper and a small padre to destroy an institution
that may flourish when the traveller from New Zealand stands
upon the ruined arch of London Bridge.

The session of 1850 produced a number of important meas-
ures, and the most prominent of these referred to an extension
of the canal system, which gave to inland shipping an uninter-
rupted course of navigation from lakes Erie and Ontario by
the St. Lawrence to the ocean ; the control of post offices and
postal revenues by the Canadian government ; and a measure


for the establishment of free trade between the provinces of
British North America.

Notwithstanding the plenitude of important legislation
achieved by the government and the latter's apparent impreg-
nableness, it was a house divided against itself, as we have
already seen, and soon must fall. Opinion was in a nebulous
state among reformers, and just as in the formation of our
stellar systems — as some scientists believe — masses of insubor-
dinate matter become detached from the main bulk and roll
away, each forming a sphere in itself; so the great reform
body was dissevered, one portion becoming rouge, another clear
grit, still another independent, the balance remaining true to
its origins] conditions. ( )nc might suppose that a party made
up of so many independent sovereignties as this would be a
helpless mass before the skilful attack of the enemy; but the
conservative party, which was then in its chrysalis state —
between a dead and effete toryism, and the coming conserva-
tism was led i,y the indiscreet and offensive Sir Allan Mac-
Nab, who did not injure his opponents by his bad temper and
•tics and only disgusted his friends. So coarse and
so insolent were his attacks on Mr. Lafontaine, and even on
Lord Elgin, that Colonel (Jugy, who had been an uncompro-
mising tory, arose in his place and disclaimed approval of Ids
leader's course. He said he had borne the reproach of such
leadership too long, and announced his separation from the

Several consultations were held among the conservatives,
and when the government first began to show evidences of
division within its ranks, Mr. Macdonald proposed a course of
action, but Sir Allan broke so repeatedly beyond the lines
which had been laid down, that Macdonald despaired of suc-
cess by attack. He summoned philosophy however ; and at a
caucus in Toronto, held by his party to adopt " ways and
means," after it was decided that no ways or means could be
adopted her emarked, " We need not despair ; their sands of life


arc rapidly running themselves out ; they will die in due time if
w. bat l't thriii alone." As early as this date there were seve-
ral conservatives of the liberal school who whispered among
themselves that so long as Sir Allan was the leader there was
little hope for a vigorous conservative party. " MacNab and
Sherwood were a pair of weights upon liaodonald'f wings"
a conservative of that day ttlls us, "and some of our party, I
for one, felt that there \v;h no hope till we got a change of
at the head of our party." It is true MacNab had begun
to trim his sails to the popular breeze, so far as he could see
the direction in which blow that wind, but he belonged to a
pa>t e. mury, and was too old and too stubborn to bend to the
demands of the time.

During the spring of the following }*ear, a vacancy occurred
in the representation of Haldimand, and a number of candi-
dates, among whom were George Brown and William Lyon
Mackenzie, offered themselves for the seat. We have already
introduced Brown, but have made only slight mention of Mac-
kenzie. William Lyon Mackenzie, whose figure seen down
the galleries of the past, seems in these latter years to the
careless student of Canadian history to be suffused with glory,
was born at Dundee, Scotland, about the year 1795. In 1824
he established a newspaper at Queenston, Upper Canada, and
at once began a galling attack upon the Family Compact.
Though he was possessed of a sturdy, independent spirit, and
might under any circumstances have brought himself into col-
lision with the powers of the time, in declaring war against the
Compact, he had everything to gain and nothing to lose. After
a short journalistic career in Queenston, during which his de-
e and uncompromising way of dealing with offences against
freedom and public morality brought him to some notice, he
removed to York and began to issue flaming denunciations in
the very shadow of the enemy's camp. The oligarchs became
enraged at his attacks, and bitterly complained before some of
the young gentlemen of their own set, like Henry when pro-


voked by Becket, that they had no one to rid them of M this
fellow's annoyance." The genteel young men consulted about
the matter, and one June day in 1826, with canes and kid
gloves called at Mackenzie's office ; broke open the doors, bat-
tered the face off some of the types, and bore away a
quantity which they threw in the bay. The persecution only
made a martyr of the bitter journalist, who thereafter became
a sorer thorn than ever in the side of the Family. Two years
later the county of York sent him to the assembly, but here lie
violated privilege by publishing lengthy reports of the legis-
lative debates; and was expelled. But after the expulsion he
was again elected, and again expelled; and the farce was con-
tinued till he had been four times elected and as often expelled.
In 1834 he was chosen for the second riding of York, and took
his seat without molestation. Two years subsequently, parlia-
ment was dissolved, and Sir Francis Bond Head and his coun-
cil adopted corrupt and unmanly ways to keep their opponents

out of the assembly, One Of the victims wa> Mackenzie; and

operated beyond all endurance, he turned his thoughts to

rebellion. The Btory of tic farce on Gallows Hill lias already
been told and need not be repeated. Mackenzie fled away
through the wintry woods and found an asylum in the re-
public for a time, but was after war- 1> arrested there and thrown
into prison. When a pardon was granted to the rebels he
made bifl way back to Canada, and living in the remembrance
of the people as a brave man, who with all his indiscretion and
impatience, had risked the all lie had for popular liberty, he
was welcomed to the hustings of Haldimand with vociferous
cheers from ■ thousand lusty throats. But although he seemed
to be remembered gratefully by some of the people, he was re-
ceived coldly enough by Mr. Baldwin and other members of
government. The following extract from an unpublished letter,
written by him in 1850, to Mr. Aug. Thibodo, of Kingston/will
explain his relations to the government, and show also, we
believe, why he put himself at the head of a refractory party,


after his entry into the legislature. "Mr. Baldwin and his

Online LibraryJoseph Edmund CollinsLife and times of the Right Honourable Sir John A. Macdonald, premier of the Dominion of Canada → online text (page 11 of 57)