Joseph Edmund Collins.

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

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friends steadily strive to keep me down here in means and
influence. I applied for three years assembly wages due —
refused. Applied for a year's wages due on the "Welland Canal
— refused. Also for the money due Randal's estate, £500 —
refused. In every possible way they have striven to render
my residence here burthensome tome. Why is this? Are
the reformers of '37 the tories of '50 ? Or does office and the
fear of losing it convert manly oppositionists into timid and
crouching placemen ? If so I trust I'll never be ' led into temp-
tation.'" The anti-papacy articles of Brown rose before their
author in the Haldimand election like the ghost of Banquo,
and Mackenzie was elected by a fair majority. Brown went
back to his newspaper to print more indiscreet articles, and
kensie went to the legislature where, for the remainder of
his public career, he was at best a hasty critic with a narrow
\ it w and limited conception of public measures. Another new
face was seen at this last session of the third parliament under
the union, a man who, could he have cast the horoscope, would
have seen, down the years, political degradation — let us not say
dishonour — whether his star showed he deserved that fate or
not. Perhaps it is needless to say that the new member intro-
duced to the house was M. Luc Letellier de St. Just.

Parliament met in Toronto in the early spring. The chief
measure of legislation was a bill making provision for the
construction of railways to supplement the canal system, and
put Canada in a position to compete with the carriers of the
United States, where railroad building had recently become a
mania. A measure introduced during the session by Mr. Hincks
authorized the governor-in-council to take steps in concert
with the governments of the maritime provinces towards the
construction of a railway from Hamilton to Quebec, to make
connection there with another line to run along the St. Law-
rence and through New Brunswick to Nova Scotia, terminating
at Halifax. A meeting of delegates was held in Toronto, and



THE GREA T MINISTR Y FALLS. 147

measures were adopted towards the construction of the lines.
But when the delegates, Mr. Hincks from Canada and Mr.
Chandler from New Brunswick, went to England to ask impe-
rial aid, they were astonished to find that Joseph Howe had
either been guilty of duplicity in leading them to hope that
help would be given, or that Earl Grey had deceived Mr.
Howe ; for Sir John Pakington informed them that imperial
assistance could not be promised. But out of these projects
eventually grew the Intercolonial and Grand Trunk railways.
Another important measure of the session was the abolition of
the law of primogeniture, in defence of which Mr. Macdonald
had aired his early eloquence ; but he had grown wiser now,
and sat with supreme unconcern while the politicians swept
the ideal law of hisv.mth off the statute books.'

Macdonaid'a attitude during the session was not more demon-
strative, and less Boornfu], than it was on his first appear-
ance in the house, On July 19th he brought in a bill relating
to the medical profession in Upper ( 'anada, introducing it to
the House in afew terse sentences. The measure met with some
opposition, and the chief hostility, though for what reason it
is hard to tell, came from the Solicitor-* Jeneral, John Sandneld
MacdonaM. The arguments used by this opponent were very
paltry, and as some other members took up the same strain,
John A. Macdonald at la->t became annoyed. "Mr. Speaker,"
aid, •• if the Solicitor-* feneraJ is to be Logical and consistent,
after he has opposed my bill, in view of what it aims to do —
and its scope and aims are not denied — he ought to introduce a
bill to legalise murder." How apt, not to say how crushing,
was this thrust must be apparent to those who will now try to
conceive of our great body of medical practitioners without ob-
ligations, organization, or protection.

When the simple brother in one of Matthew Arnold's poems
plucked the tiny plant to fling at Balder, the gods laughed at
his humour, but presently they saw the Father against whom
they had hurled their javelins in vain fall, pierc3d by the fragile



U* LlFF OF SIX JOIIX A. MACDOKALD.

Weed. The country lia<l seen Mr. Baldwin stand bravely
through the clangor of the tire bells, and in the glare of the
burning halls of pari lament ; saw him supreme when Sir Al-
an Mac-Nab tried once again to coax abroad the spurious Bri-
tish Lion ; now they sec him, 00 a measure brought in by
William Lyon Mackenzie to abolish the court of Chancery,
stand ii]> and declare that he will resign his place in the
eminent The we ed had slain. Balder. The house rejected
Mackenzie s measure, but a majority of the Upper Canada mem-
voted for it; and though Mr. Baldwin was no advocate
double majorities " he was cut beyond endurance at this
rebuke to his ideal court. His lofty spirit could not bend. It
was a time ol wonders ; for almost immediately afterwards M.
Lafmitaine arose at his de>k and announced Ids intention of
retiring at an early day. "The two masts are overboard,"
Macdonald remarked in an undertone to Mr. Sherwood ; " a
less hulk there is 1. ft now!"
In October, M. Lafontaim- withdrew and the other ministers
followed him. Lord Elgin, who was now at his lovely resi-
dence, Spencer Wood, upon the cliffs of Sillery, sent for Mr.
Hincks to form a government. Perhaps Mr. Hincks could not
through the blank wall of the future; perhaps he did get
■ glimpse through it, but made up his mind to follow the path
he had traced out. At any rate he did not send for George
Brown, who was burning to get into office, but made up his
government as follows :

FROM CANADA WEST.

Hon. Francis Hincks Premier and Insp'r-General.

u W. B. Richards Attorney-General West.

" Malcolm Cameron President of the Council.

" Dr. John Rolph Com'r of Crown Lands.

" James Morris Postmaster-General.



THE GREA T MINISTR Y FA LLS. U9

FROM CANADA EAST.

Hon. A. N. Morin Provincial Secretary.

" L. T. Drummond Attorney-General East.

" John Young Com'r of Public Works,

" R. E. Caron Speak* r of Legislative Coun<[J

" E. P. Tache Receiver-General.

But there was more than one jealous member when Mr. Hinck-
made out his programme. Mr. John Sandfield Macdonald, who
aimed to be attorney-general, was offered the commissioner-
ship of crown lands, but refused, and went away muttering
"curses not loud but deep." George Brown, as was Ins wont,
found vent for an angry spirit and disappointed hopes in noise
and foamed more indiscreetly than ever through the Globe.
He had little denunciation for the tories— indeed, the tone of
his paper was complimentary to John A. Macdonald and many
other candidates of the party, — but he was unsparing of the
Government, he who had lashed the clear grits luefa a brief
*time before for their treachery in putting themselves in oppo-
sition to the " redeemers of the country." But this all happened
before he got into the Legislature, and, more than all, before li<'
was ignored in tin- making up of Kindts' cabinet.
Once again ( Sanada was in the throes of a general election.




CHAPTER X.

"burning" questions.

THE new government was pledged to the public to provide
measures for an elective legislative council, for increased
parliamentary representation, the abolition of seigniorial tenure,
and the secularization of the clergy reserves. Of all the ques-
tions which had agitated the public mind, this latter was the
most prominent, the most galling and unjust Among the other
evils planted in the constitutional act of 1791, were the provi-
sions for granting a seventh of the crown lands in the provinces
of Canada, for the support of " the Protestant clergy," and the
establishment of rectories in every township or parish, " accord-
in- to tli. establishment of the Church of England." In the
early history of Upper Canada, the effect of these grants was
not felt, but as the population began to spread over the public
domain, and it was found that the sanctified hand of the church
had aggregated her reserves in large blocks, to aid in the spread
of the gospel according to her way of teaching, a general cry of
dissatisfaction was raised. Well might the dissenters have cried
with Cassius, " Now is it Rome indeed, and Rome enough." It
was Rome without the ceremonies and canonical panoply, but
it was Rome monopolized. The heads of other protestant deno-
minations met to protest against the injustice. The words " a
protestant clergy" excluded the dissenters, whom all imperial
statutes ignored ; but the presby terians stood boldly up and
proved that they came within the meaning of the words. The
law officers of the Crown, on pondering the question said
the Presbyterians were correct in their view, and that the

150



"BURNING" QUESTIONS. 151

benefit of the act should extend to " these persons, so long as
there were any of them in the country." The language of the
officers might be taken to refer to moose or bears, but it really
did point to " the presbyterians." The sturdiest advocate for
the maintenance of the reserves was Dr., afterwards Bishop,
Strachan, one of the ablest men that has ever appeared in
Canada, and an uncompromising champion of the church of his
second love. He resisted the claims of dissenting bodies — " pre-
tensions " he called these claims — and hurried away to Eng-
land to fortify the colonial office against the importunities of
the outraged denominations. In 183G, Sir John Colborne was
recalled to England, but before his departure endowed forty-
four rectories to the unspeakable amazement and indignation
of the province. To each such rectory was allotted about three
hundred and eighty-«h acres of land. The law officers in Eng-
land promptly declared the endowment to be invalid, but Dr.
Strachan got together a bundle of doeumentfl which he packed
off to England ; whereupon the oracles ravened their decision.
It must certainly have bean annoying to officials of the Bri-
tish Government to be pestered about every little colonial mat-
out tiny brought the trouble upon thei by arro-
gantly, not to say, impertinently, undertaking to deal with
matters which rightly belonged to the jurisdiction of the colo-
nial Legislatures, in framing our constitutional acts. Nor had
they grown more wise, perhaps are should say less meddlesome,
in 1840. The Union Act provided that no further reservations
were to be made — as if the Canadian government were not the
best judge whether more reservations ought to be made or not —
and that, of previous Bales of reserves, one-third should go to the
oyterian body and two-thirds to the church of England;
and that of the future proceeds of sales, one-third should go to
the episcopalians, one-sixth to presbyters, and the remainder "for
purposes of public worship or religious instruction in Canada."
This latter citation was an insinuation in favour of the dissent-
ers ; for the framers of the act could not be expected to name



1.VJ LIFE OF SIR JOHN A. MACDOKALD.

the Baptists. Wesley a ns, Unitarians, et ea-tera. But this settle-
ment of the question, proposed doubtless by the spiritual peers,
was made without any regard for the census, and at once caused
a cry of anger and dissatisfaction through the country. We
know not by what light went the peers when making the ap-
propriation. It is their custom when choosing a bishop, we
know, to pray to be guided in the choice they are about to make,
and then to appoint the person named by the prime min-
ister. It is not certain that in apportioning the reserve
proceeds among the Canadian religious bodies they gave much
time to thought or pray. r. simply setting down double as much
to the episcopalians, whether they numbered ten or ten thou-
sand, as to any other denomination. Four years afterwards,
discontent at the settlement had reached such a head that a
complete secularization of the reserves was demanded by the
reform party. The question was discussed on the hustings
and in the legislature with much passion, and Mr. Henry Price,
a congregational ist, at his place in the house, described the
rves, with not less justice than force, as "one of the great-
est eurses that could have been inflicted upon the land." But
the tories showed no inclination to disturb the arrangement.
On the contrary, to them, like to the framers of the act of 1791,.
establishment was one of the dearest features of our govern-
ment. When the reformers came into office in 1848, the
champions of secularisation were filled with hope; but as we
have seen, Mr. Baldwin, although opposed to the union of
church and state, or rather of God and Mammon, had enough
of high church prejudice to be content to let the settlement by
the union act abide. In Lower Canada the question was never
of any consequence, and for this reason M. Lafontaine was op-
posed to opening up the matter again. We shall discuss, in its-
proper place, the influence it had upon parties, how it split
governments, begot coalitions, and changed the whole current
of our political history.



"BURNING" QUESTIONS. 153

But if the lower province was not concerned about the clergy
reserves, it had a grievance scarce less exasperating. In the
seventeenth century the feudal system still existed in France,
and was transferred, though not in all its rigours, to Canada.
Large blocks of land were granted by the West India Company
to families of the crown, army officers and religious bodies, who
held them en eeigneurie. This condition embraced the pay-
ment of fealty and homage to the king. On the day set apart
for doing homage, came the seigneur, or holder of the granted
lands, to the castle of St. Louis in Quebec, and kneeling before
the representative of the king; be there, in token of submission,
delivered up hifl sword; which was graciously returned. Nearly
all the fertile lands, stretching, for three hundred miles, along
the banks of the St. Lawrence were granted to the seigneurs.
The latter enjoyed many rights and privileges, but they also
had their duties. Within their domains they had jurisdiction
overall offences against the laws save treason and minder.
When the seigneurie or any portion of it was sold, a fifth of
what it brought, called a gttiflf, WIS paid to the crown. Being
unable to cultivate his extensive grant, the seigneur divided it
into lots having a frontage of three acres on the St. Lawrence,
extending backward eight v acres. The holders of these lots
which were granted vn ratwre t were called eensitaires. Several

annoying condition- were imposed upon the censitaire. He
was obliged 4 "to grind 1 ns grain at the seigneur's mill, bake his
bread in the seigness/s OVen, work for him one or more days
in the year, and give him one fish in every eleven for the priv-
ilege of fishing in the river before his farm." He was also
obliged to pay a small yearly rental, to do military service, to
open up and repair roads, and build bridges. If he sold his lot
he was obliged to hand over loda et psntes, that is, the twelfth
part of the receipts, to the seigneur. The holding descended
to the censitaire 's heir, whose relations to the seigneur remain-

* Fran< is Turkman : "The Old Kc'gime in Canada."



154 LIFE OF SIR JOHN A. MACDONALD.

ed the same as during the original occupation. Some years
after the conquest the censitaires became restive under the in-
creased obligations put upon them by the seigneurs, who, in
consequence of the system of dividing the seigneurie among all
numbers of the family, were driven to sore straits to maintain
a living suitable to their rank. At the time reformers in
Upper Canada were demanding a secularization of the clergy
reserves, the wretched censitaire was praying to be released
bom the yoke of his master. Accounts are given of the most
dishonest and harassing measures adopted towards the ignor-
ant kabitonUj who was not aware that lie was being cheated —
only knowing that he was being oppressed — by the seigneurs.
Some hot-headed Frenchmen, without any instinct of justice,
advocated the totals weeping away of seigniorial claims without
compensation ; others advocated a joint commutation of what
was called the cens et rentes by the state and the censitaires ;
and the legislature in 1849 passed an act providing for optional
commutation. This measure, however, did not satisfy the
habitant, who demanded that the system should be abolished
branch and root. Thus the legislature had upon its hands at
the period to which our narrative has reached, two important,
or, to use the phrase of the time, two " burning " questions.

Mr. Francis Hincks, the leader of the government asked to
grapple with these questions, was the youngest son of Dr.
Hincks, of Breckenborough, Yorkshire, England, and could trace
his ancestry far backward, finding a Hincks as alderman of
Chester in 1341. Dr. Hincks obtained a fellowship in Trinity
College, Dublin, and subsequently became rector of Killyleagh.
He was the author of a number of papers on the transactions of
the Royal Irish Academy, and on Assyrian, Persian, and Egyp-
tian archaeology. Some of his discoveries proved valuable
additions to the knowdedge of Eastern lore, and chief among
these may be mentioned his determination of the value and
forms of the Assyrian numerals. After spending some years
at college, his son Francis entered a large business house, and



"BURNING" QUESTIONS. 155

subsequently sailed as supercargo to the West Indies, visiting
Jamaica, Trinidad, Demarara, and Barbadoes. In the latter
city he met a Canadian gentleman with whom he visited Can-
ada, for the purpose of studying her commerce. He went back
to Ireland, well pleased with the new country, married the
second daughter of Alexander Stewart, a merchant of Belfast,
and soon after returned to Canada, taking up hiy residence in
Toronto. He rapidly rose in the estimation of all with whom
he came in contact for his great abilities and integrity ; and
after the arrival of Lord Durham to Canada, established the
Examiner newspaper. As a journalist he was seen to possess
abilities of the highest order, and while he fearlessly sifted
v question to the bottom, his style of writing always main-
tained the clue dignity of the prom. In 1841 he was ''called
out" for Oxford, and defeated his Opponent by a majority of
thirty-one votes; and wis re-elected on going back to his
constituency after having accepted the inspector-generalship.
Three yean later he was defeated by a son-in-law of Admiral
Vansittart for the same oonstitneney, but in ims was again
electf'l by a majority of three hundred and thirfcy-flve over his
old opponent Oarroli Again he entered the government of
his first friend in Canada, taking the same office he had held
before. In the autumn of 1851, as ire have seen, on the
retirement of Robert Baldwin, lie was called to form a govern-
ment. He is to be an interesting figure for some years to
come, and we must not anticipate his career.

II Angostin Norbert tforin, his " other half," as the second
government head used to be called in tho^<- <l,i\ -, was born at
St. Michel, district of Quebec, in 1803. He studied law in the
office of D. B. Viger, and was called to the bar at Montreal, in
1828. In his twenty -eighth year he was returned to parlia-
ment, and was so brilliant as to fill his friends with great hopes
for his future. He entered the Baldwin-Lafontaine ministry
as commissioner of crown lands, in October, 1842, retaining
office until December the following year, when, with his col-



15(3 LIFE OF SIR JOHN A. MACDONALD.



leagues he was forced out of office by the treachery of the
governor. In 184s he was Again returned to parliament, and
elected bo the speakership. On the resignation of M. Lafon-
taine, three years later, Mr. Hinck's choice fell upon him as the
only suitable successor to the retiring statesman. Kay<\ whose
portraits are not always above suspicion, pays honest tribute
to the character of M. Morin. His administrative abilities, lie
tells us. were of the highest class. 11- had vast powers of appli-
cation, rare conscientiousness, and a noble s.-lf-dcvotion, which
in old times would have carried bin cheerfully to the stake.
His patriotism wa> of the purest water, and he was utterly
without selfishness and guile. And he was of so sensitive a
nature and so confiding a disposition, that it was said of him
he was as tender-hearted as a woman, and as simple as a child.
A prominent figure in the new cabinet, a man who as yet
had no clear notion of what his party leanings were, was
Etienne P. Tachd, receiver-general. He was the descendant of
an ancient and distinguished French family, and was born at
St. Thomas, Lower Canada, in 1795. When the war broke
out in 18L2, young Tache* entered the militia of Lower Canada
as an ensign in the 5th battalion, and dashed bravely to the
front in defence of his country. After the war had closed, he
studied medicine and achieved much success in his profession.
He was elected to the first parliament under the union, and six
yean later was appointed deputy-adjutant-general, which po-
sition he retained for two years, when he entered the Lafon-
taine-Baldwin ministry as commissioner of public works. On
the resignation of L. M. Viger the following year, he became
receiver-general, and was allotted to the same office on the for-
mation of the Hincks' ministry. Henceforth Mr. Tache* began
to evince preferences for the conservative party, and was din-
ing his term of office in the reform government a professed
admirer of Mr. John A. Macdonald. We shall see that he soon
boldly goes to the party whither his sympathies had been



"BURNING" QUESTIOXS. 157

leading him, and stands at the head of a government with the
member whom it was his wont so warmly to admire.

The election was held in the early winter, and resulted in a
return of all the new ministers. The position of parties was
little changed, save indeed that the only member of the onee
mighty compact who took his place in the new house was Sir
Allan HacNab, and he only won his seat by repudiating many
of the principles which he had been in the habit of defending
with much fury. One of the surprises of the election was the
rejection of the honoured ex-leader of the reform party by the
elector- of North York for a candidate who up to the time
had been unknown to the electorate. The fact is that the
public mind had been excited during the summer about the

question of secularization, and the suspicion got abroad that
Mr. Baldwin looked upon the disturbance of the existing set-
tlement with no friendly eye, And so when he appeared at the

hustings a throng of his friends waited upon him. and bluntly
requested him to pledge himself to support secularization. It
IS n<> r strange that Robert Baldwin should receive a request
like thi.N with scorn. He calmly told his supporters that he
•came before them with no claim iijiHii their regards save what
a record of his public career had given him: thathehadalwavs
i unfettered by pledges, free to do what he believed was
right: that he would not fetter himself now, and if they sent
him to the legislature he would go there free of pledges. They
rejected him, and took the unknown.

John A. Maodonaldj whose popularity had flagged not since
his first election, was returned again for Kingston, but took
his seat not in that listless manner which was his wont, but
sat up at his desk, his eye upon every movement that was
made. Mr. John Sandfield Macdonald, who was burning for
an opportunity to be avenged on Mr. Hincks, was elected
iker. The Speech made reference to the proposed intro-
duction of decimal currency, to railways, the attitude of the
imperial government towards >ecularization of the clergy re-



158 LIFE OF SIR JOHN A. MACDONALD.

genres, and the expediency of settling the grievance of seignorial
tenure.

Some life was introduced into the debate on the address by
George Brown, who made his maiden speech — a slashing and
effective effort, and perhaps as forcible an array of raw material
as had rwr been presented to that parliament. In after years
Mr. Drowns style of parliamentary speaking improved, but not
wry much. This first speech of his revealed all his strength,
and not a few of his defects. He had a prodigious capacity for
getting facts together, and these he flung with a tremendous
force in the face of his audience. Only the one qualification
of an orator had lie, however, and that was this force, a quality
which was perhaps made better by having to it a nervous side.



Online LibraryJoseph Edmund CollinsLife and times of the Right Honourable Sir John A. Macdonald, premier of the Dominion of Canada → online text (page 12 of 57)