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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dered by a gang of Roman Catholic Irishmen. In the following
spring seven of the assailants were tried for the murder in
Quebec ; but in spite of the plainest and most overwhelming
testimony, they were declared * not guilty." When the verdict
became known a cry of indignation was raised through the
protestant community of Canada ; and it did not tend to allay
thp feeling when it was learnt that the jury trying Kelly and
his fellow murderers was virtually packed, being composed
exclusively of Roman Catholics, and that judge Duval, who
presided, was also a Roman Catholic. When any great public
wrong has been done, it eventually cries out from the parlia-
ment for redress. On Friday, the 7th of March, Mr. John
Hillyard Cameron, who since his rejection by the anti-Mac-
Nab ministers was not particular whether he embarrassed the
government or not, moved an address to (he governor for the
production of a copy of judge Duval's charge to the jury. This
address the motion affirmed,— and coming from a criminal
lawyer of Mr. Cameron's stan< ling, the asseveration startled the
house — "contained statements which could hardly have been
made by any man who had anything like a fair acquaintance
with the manner in which the criminal law ought to be ad-
ministered." The government was in a sore plight. They dared
not commit themselves to any measure that cast an imputation
on judge Duval's character, for the French Canadians made
the judge's cause their own ; while upon the other hand nearly
every Upper-Canada member in the assembly demanded that
the matter should be sifted tothe bottom On the night of the
10th, after three days stormy debate, the motion was put and
carried against the government by a vote of forty-eight to forty.
Attorney-general Drummond hurriedly arose and moved an
adjournment of the house.

On the following day ministers asked permission for a further
adjournment of two days, and meanwhile endeavoured to bring
together their sundered forces. During the term of grace they
decided to present the address to the governor, and to subse-


quently have a friendly member move a want of confidence in
the ministry. Though conservatives as well as reformers would
have the disgraceful miscarriage of justice in Quebec investi-
gated at much public sacrifice, they were not willing that the
liberal-conservative ministry should give place to elear-gritism
and newspaper tyranny; and when the motion of non-confi-
dence was put they sustained the government. It is scarcely
>sary to add that the governor did not produce judge
Duval's address, for the good reason that it w r as not in his pos-
session, and could not even be ieenmed to exist; while, if it
did exist, he had not the power to compel its production.

Th.' government, however, was shattered by the adverse vote
on the Corrigan matter; and while yet engaged in healing the
breaches, hon. John Ross resigned the speakership of the legis-
lative council. This action was dictated by the attitude of the
reform members in the cabinet, who pointed out to him that
since the secularization of the clergy reserves had been accom-
plished the purposes of the coalition no longer existed, and that
they were not willing to form a permanent concordat with a
party at whose head was Sir Allan MacNab. Colonel Tache*
took Mr. Ross's place, and Mr. J. C. Morrison, through the
influence of Mr. Macdonald, was admitted into the cabinet.
At a later day the enemy would say the sweet tongued siren
lured Mr. Morrison thither. It was hoped that this accession
would restore the equilibrium between the reform and conser-
vative elements of the minis try. The step was endorsed by
Mr. Morrison's constituents in Niagara, but was regarded by no
small portion of his party for years afterwards as a betrayal of
trust. The accession, however, added little strength to the
cabinet. It had no effect indeed save to discredit the new coun-
cillor before his party, and to satisfy a friendship.

Some days later, Mr. John Sandfield Macdonald, who when
a storm was to be raised, was always ready to take the part of
Ariel, brought in a motion respecting the seat of government,
and providing for the abolition of the perambulating system.


u Out of evil Providence sometimes brings good," attorney-
general Macdonald said when "John Sandfield" brought in his
motion. Quebec was then chosen as the permanent capital, and
the house was asked to grant a sum of £50,000 to erect legisla-
tive buildings there. To this latter proposal George Brown and
his grits offered fierce opposition, but the amendments they
offered were declared out of order by the chair. " Make a
direct non-confidence vote" said attorney-general Macdonald,
"if you are debarred by the rules of the house from getting
the sense of parliament." He would be a superficial man who
supposed that a fit of generosity to Brown and his followers
dictated this advice. The suggestion was adopted, Mr. Holton
moving that the course of the ministry on the seat of govern-
ment and other important questions disappointed the expecta-
tions of a majority of the people. The motion was defeated
by a vote of seventy to forty-seven : hut an analysis showed
thirty-three Upper ( anada members to he among the minority,
and only twenty-seven with the majority. For the first time
the " double majority " principle was now adopted. It was
contended that on a question affecting each division so dis-
tinctly as did this, the Upper Canada section of the ministry
would be faithless to their trust did they retain office while
supported only by a minority of members from their own part
of the province. So the Upper Canada division of the gov-
ernment, despite the protestations of Sir Allan, who was "tor-
tured at every joint," decided to resign. It now seemed as
if Providence were about to bring good to the government out
of the evil. While the albatross hung about the neck of the
Ancient Mariner, there was naught but woe for the unfor-
tunate man, but when the disastrous bird dropped off the curse
departed. Sir Allan had long been the albatross about the
government's neck, and " worked 'em woe," but on the 21st of
May he informed the governor-general from the midst of his
flannels, that while " not recognising a sectional majority as a
sufficient reason for a change of government," no alternative


bat resignation was open to himself and his colleagues from
Upper Canada. Thus the albatross dropped off, and the gov-
ernment was saved. A daring way to seek riddance of an
incubus; but the man who planned it saw his course far before
him. and was not mistaken. Men are sometimes masters of
their fate Ctorina tells Brutus, and Mr. Macdonald had steadily
climbed the ladder, never failing in his purpose, till, at last, we
find him upon the round whither he had aspired. We do not
beliew the superstitious dame who tells us that this one who
has attained fame and that one fortune are " lucky;" the fault is
never with our stars but with ourselves that we do not succeed ;
and that " chance,' through which they tell us some gain glory
and others power, is not chance at all, but "direction which we
cannot see." The governor-general called upon colonel Tachd,
president of the legislative council, he being the senior mem-
ber of the government, to lead the ministry, but Mr. Macdonald
took the reins in the assembly and was virtually the ruling
spirit in every department. Mr. Drummond, attorney-general -
east, the gentleman whom Mr. Mackenzie brings in judgment
against Macdonald, had ambition to Lead in the assembly and
pressed his claims with much persistency ; but the cabinet was
not likely to turn from indiscreet impetuosity to respectable
mediocrity, and therefore did not entertain Mr. Drummond's
proposals at all. " Well, then, I shall not sit in the cabinet,"
he said. " And you may go," they replied. He did go, believ-
ing that the fabric would fall when such a pillar as he had
withdrawn its support. Mr. Cartier, the late provincial secre-
tary, became attorney-general-east in the place of Mr. Drum-
mond ; Mr. Philip Vankoughnet, one of the most thriving
lawyers at the bar, and a close personal friend of Mr. John A.
Macdonald's, took Sir Allan MacNab's place as president of the
council, and Mr. Timothy Lee Terrill succeeded Mr. Cartier as
provincial secretary.

Two days after the resignation Sir Allan was borne into the
house, swathed in flannel, by two serving men. The rumour


having gone abroad that the knight's ire against Mr. John A.
Macdonald was very strong, curiosity was on tip-toe, and
members who appreciate " scenes " looked anxiously for the
arrival of Mr. Macdonald and his colleagues, in whose absence
they did not suppose the explanations proper to the occasion,
with the anticipated extra, would be made. But the attorney-
general- west and his colleagues judiciously remained away,
and Sir Allan, muffled in flannels, and seated in his invalid
•chair, addressed the house. As his colleagues had chosen to
absent themselves, he did not deem it proper to make the ex-
planations he had to offer. The state of his health, he said, had
prevented him from discharging his duty as he would wish,
during the session. " I have been a member of this house " he
went on, "twenty-six yean, and during all that period I have
not been so Ions absent as daring tins session. I think the
people of this country will receive that from a man of my age
ufticient excuse." He would be ready, he assured the house,
to meet the ministers on the following Monday to make cer-
tain becoming statements, and he would appeal to the people
for a verdict on the course be had taken. "If I am supported
by their voice," he added with much emotion, " I shall feel that
I am right. If condemned, I am ready to retire into private
life, — and perhaps I am now tit for little else." There is some-
thing touching in the spectacle of an old man bowed with time
and pain, telling those gathered around him, some full of higb
hopes as he once had been, that the autumn of his days has
come, and that he looks now to the falling of the leaf. At such
a moment with the grave dimly seen in the background, we can
afford to drop the party questions that divide us during our
brief sojourn upon the mortal stage and moralize on the in-
stability of human things. There was many a moist eye as
this old man, who, with all his defects of character, was frank
and generous to a fault, told the assembled members that he
had been thrown aside — let us add in the murderous struggle
for the survival of the fittest — by younger men, and. that, per-


haps, he was no longer useful and only fit to die. It is not, how-
ever, that we believe a catastrophe had come upon Sir Allan
which was not meet and just ; indeed we can allow our tears to
flow as Macbeth, the fiend and victim of a morbid ambition, paces
the stage and we hear him wail, H I have lived long enough :
my way of life has fallen into the sear and yellow leaf." There
was genuine sorrow as Sir Allan bade a long farewell to the
men among whom for 80 many years he had been a prominent
figure. But turning aside from the humanity that bids us weep
when the tree in the fulness of time falls, and the petal drops
that is new to bloom again, we find ourselves in a world
where tears and sentiment will not satisfy the demands of duty;
where the fittest survive*, and justly so, and the incompetent
gives way to the capable.

One of the most important acts of the session was the
measure respecting the legislative council. It was provide* I
that councillors already appointed should hold their seats for
life (it is probable their positions were regarded as vested
rights, though should a merchant or a railway " boss" believe
his staff too large he would not allow scruples about " vested
rights " to trouble his conscience when discharging such assist-
ance as he did not need) ; but that every future member should
be elected by the people, and for a term of eight years. The
province, for the purposes of the act, was divided into forty-
eight electoral divisions ; and the elections were to be held
biennially, twelve members to be chosen at each contest.

Two months before a joyful thrill had run through the civi-
lized world as it was learnt that a treaty of peace had been
signed at Paris by the powers. With all the fame and victory-
trophies of the war, it had an appalling summing up. Not less
than twenty thousand Englishmen who went out to meet the
enemy, returned no more. About a sixth of these fell in battle-
or died of their wounds. Cholera and other diseases engendered
by a climate against which the British soldier was not proof, ren-
dered a grim return of the rest. England and France thought


not of the loss of sixty thousand lives, but rang with the fame
of the allied armies. Instances of heroism had been shown by-
British troops that gave the actors a place beside the heroes in
ancient legend whose valour had filled the world with wonder
for more than two thousand years. Many a Canadian flushed
with pride as he heard of the brilliant and successful daring of
our troops at Alma; many a one compared the unflinching
bravery of Fenwick Williams at Kars, the noble if fatal courage
of the six hundred horsemen who "rode into the valley of
death," to the deeds of the Spartan at Thermopylae, and of
Horatius at the Bridge. The treaty of peat*' was signed on the
•30th of March, One of the articles provided as follows: "The
Black Sea is neutralized ; its waters and its ports, thrown open
to the mercantile marine oi every nation, are formally and in
perpetuity interdicted to tin- flag of war either of the powers
possessing its coast or any other power." There was an excep-
tion by which each power reserved the right of maintaining a
force of small armed vessels in the Black Sea to do the duty of
a maritime police, and protect the coasts. The navigation of
the Danube was tin-own open, and the rule was confirmed pro-
hibiting ships of war from passing the straits while the Porte
was at peace, during which the Sultan undertook to refuse-
such vessels admission into the Bosphorus or the Dardanelles.
Such wen- among the mos1 important stipulations of the treaty-
Some hopeful statesmen believed that the settlement would
long endure, and the olive branch flourish perhaps for centuries
to come. Lord Aberdeen, who had no heart in the war, pre-
dicted that the results would maintain peace in Eastern Eu-
rope for " probably twenty-five years." It was not a bad fore-
cast. Just twenty- two years later the clangour of arms was-
heard there again.

CHAPTER X 1 1 r.


AS immigration poured into Canada in an ever-increasing
stream some public men began to speculate about a time
when population would have spread to the limits of Canada, and
the pioneer would venture forth into the vast regions held by
the Hudson Bay Company. Some began to dream of a day, not
far in the future, when a proud nation would be reared between
the republic and the Arctic Ocean ; but there lay as a bar to
the realization of the vision the gigantic monopoly by which a
private company held vast stretches of British territory in the

t, unknown North-west Several wise newspapers and
public speakers ridiculed the ardour shown about "desolate

n> of -now and muskeg, inhabited by the fox and prairie-
wolf, a few bands of indians, and a handful of furriers and half-
breeds." The territory was said to be a dismal expanse, set
apart by providence for wild beasts, composed of sterile
wastes, and of such a climate that grain would not grow there ;
while its summer, — a season afflicted with frosts — was too short
to mature even a small potato or a cabbage. The government,
however, were fully alive to the importance of getting possess-
ion of the company's territory, and to this end, at the sugges-
tion of attorney-general Macdonald, negotiations were opened
with the British government and the company; and chief justice
Draper went to England to represent the interests of Canada.
The house met in February. George Brown and his grits
were drawn up in line, refusing to be comforted by any man-
ner of legislation emanating from the ministerial mind. In this



state of feeling, hostility may be predicated of them to all
measures whatsoever not originating on their side of the house,
and we need not retail special incidents. One question, how-
ever, had grown up of late, a not engrossing question it is true
when first discussed, yet like the little cloud, that, in the begin-
ning appears upon the horizon, in regulation size, but which
gradually spreads across the heavens, breaking in storm and
wracking thunders. This question had now suffused the public
mind and promised a harvest of trouble in the near future to
the ministry. Representation by Population was the cry thus
agitating the, popular breast. It was debated on the busting,
and discussed witli much warmth and bitterness through the
press. On the 27th of April, George Brown, who revelled in
public tumult as the petrel does in the storm, arose at his d< &k
holding a piece of paper in his hands from which he read the
following motion : " That, in the opinion of this house, the
representation of tin- people in parliament should be based on
population without regard to a separating line between Upper
and Lower Canada."

The motion after a hot debate was lost, but the opinion ex-
pressed during the discussion taught that the time was drawing
near when such a concession could not be refused. Mr. Brown
warmly advocated the measure in his newspaper as well as in
the house, though he was not the originator of the question,
and his impetuosity now was due rather to a desire to embar-
rasa the government than to a belief that the country had yet
suffered anything from the state of its representation. Had
he been a member of the coalition, as he aimed to be, or had
hitherto given it support, we may be sure he would have been
able to maintain silence about " Rep. by Pop." as he was about
the clergy reserves till his own interests and those of the gov-
ernment diverged. This, perhaps, is as proper a place as any-
where else to say that the province was no more indebted, if it
was as much, to Mr. Brown for a secularization of the reserves,
than to any one of a number pf his contemporaries. He con-


tinned his alliance with a government which he knew was not
disposed to settle the question when the time was ripe for its
settlement : when that government reconstructed, and ignored
him, hf went to the hustings declaring that above all things
he wanted seenhuuation, and would form any alliance, or sup-
port any candidate, to effect that object ; but when the election
was done, be ca use his overtures for alliance were rejected, he
thwarted in every possible way the administration which ac-
oompKshed the legislation for which he had been crying out, a

mini-try whieh at a bound placed itself abreast of public opi-

The government saw the danger to its own existence in enter-
taining Brown's latest proposition, but attorney -general Mac-
donald did not hesitate to inform Col. Tactic* that the time was
fast coming when it would be the duty of his Upper Cana-
dian colleagues to take up the question of representation. Mr.
Macdonald did not believe the interests of the province thus far
had suffered anything, or was likely for some time to be pre-
judiced by maintaining the representation scale fixed by the
union ; but he was resolved when " the time was ripe " — an
ression he was fond of using — to grapple with the question
let his party stand or fall. This waiting for the time to ripen
the ready critic may deem a vulnerable spot, but it can only
be so on the assumption that it is the duty of the statesman to
lead public sentiment, instead of to give expression to it in
legislation. A fatal mistake surely. We do not send the
statesman to the cabinet to do his will, but to do ours : we do
not depend upon his talent to devise out of his own conscious-
ness legislation which has not appeared to us as needful ; but
to give the right and effectual form to that which we regard as
for the general good. Nor do we believe it to be the function
of the newspaper to mould, or to lead, public opinion. There
seems to us to be no special need for thinking machinery in a
man if the " we " in the editorial column, which may represent
a needy law-student or a feather-headed Bohemian, is to think


for him on every subject from killing potato-bugs to voting on
the National Policy. With the spread of the habit of inde-
pendent thinking, and the ceaseless activity of the printing
press, bringing from the four winds of heaven knowledge of the
revelations and products of every day, the reign of dogma has
passed. In the middle ages, when a small tallow candle had to
si led light for tens of thousands, when the priest thought for
the flock on all important matters, cleric and lay, just as one
man now grinds grain for another — at such a time as this, we
say, when the mind and conscience of the benighted being were
always in the pocket of some one else, the dictum of the editorial
column would have been a beneficent aid to the race. Now.
however, the little editor who became a censor of human action
and intelligence because he failed as a schoolmaster or a vet-
erinary surgeon, is seen endeavouring to coerce the public
with a lead pencil : every day engaged in the experiment

of leading the high-spirited horse to the well — seldom indu-
cing him to drink. If the statesman have his duty, so we
believe has the journalist. That duty La t<> give the public
facts, not to give them inference! ; to keep a record of the
births of busy time, not to till his pages with distortions.
Give the people the facts: trust to their having sutlicient
ability to come to proper conclusions. If the lion. Edward
Blake gave forty dollars to the Muskoka sufferers, and David
M ills gave them thirty dollars, depend upon the public conclud-
ing that the joint donation reached just seventy dollars. There
is no use in the tory editor saying that the " miserable contri-
bution of the two reached a trifle over $20." Give the public
the rein, and have no misgivings. If they have an upset they
are entitled to it.

The upper house having thrown out the item providing for
the erection of legislative buildings, the question was again in
the status quo and attorney-general Macdonald suggested to
his colleagues a reference of the matter to the Queen for arbi-
tration. The clear grits raised a howl against submitting " a


question of purely local concern to the decision of her majesty,"
and contended thai such an act '"outraged the spirit of respon-
sible government." Mr. Brown and his grits evidently knew
little of propriety or precedents. We believe the custom of
submitting questions, great or small, to disinterested parties for
arbitration still survives, and that notable cases are on record,
such, for example, u the reference of the dispute about the
New Brunswick boundary to the king of the Netherlands.

Tlf ministry was now, as ministries always are and always
will be, held responsible ibr the reaction in trade caused by
lavish expenditure during the period of unwholesome business
I it y attending the war. and the failure of the crops through-
out the country. Some of the ministers began to grow uneasy,
but the hand of Macdonald was at the helm, though Mr. Tache*
the nominal commander, and he steered the ship steadily
through the reefs. Late in the autumn of lo">7 Mr. Terril re-
signed to give his attention to private affairs, and his place was
tilled by M. Jacques Loranger. On the 25th of November
Col. Tache. who had' grown tired of the worries of state-craft,
also resigned, and the governor-general at once applied to
attorney-general Macdonald to form a government. At last
he found himself on " fortune's crowning slope," invested with
the semblance as well as the substance of power. The Upper
Canada members resumed their places; Mr. George Etienne
Cartier took the leadership of the Lower Canada section, still
retaining the portfolio of attorney-general-east. On the day
following Col. Tache"s resignation, the Macdonald-Cartier gov-

Online LibraryJoseph Edmund CollinsLife and times of the Right Honourable Sir John A. Macdonald, premier of the Dominion of Canada → online text (page 16 of 57)