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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open to Mr. Brown. He resigned.

Those who understand the purpose and drift of Mr. Macken-
zie's book need not be told that the character of Sir Edmund
Head, in its pages, appears as black as ink and an unscrupulous
malice can make it. Mr. Mackenzie's style is usually clear and
incisive — it now and again suggests the filing of a saw — yet it
is hard in the pages he devotes to this question to ascertain what
he means, other than to say malicious things of Sir Edmund
and to cover George Brown with glory — perhaps we ought to
say with whitewash. Where page after page reeks with this
file-cutting censure of the governor, the reader who does not pre-
suppose malice naturally looks for a plain statement of some
scandalous and unconstitutional act of the viceroy. But he will
find no such thing. The honour of a chief justice, who in private
life could no more stoop to the baseness with which he is


charged, than Mr. Mackenzie could say a generous word for an
opponent, or do him justice, is aspersed ; while the conduct of
the governor, upon the testimony of irresponsible rumour and
clever surmises, is pictured to be that of a conspirator, and his
whole character sought to be covered with infamy. But we
must rule out of court even Mr. Mackenzie's unsupported slander
and address ourselves to the facts. The governor, he says —
and this is one of his strongest grounds — " was bound as a ruler
and as an honest man to see that no VttbpedwMnt should be
thrown in the way of his new advisers getting fair play in sub-
mitting their policy to the country through the medium of a
new election." The " impediment," which we have italicized,
meant the non-confidence vote passed by the house, But what
would Mr. Mackenzie have the governor do about this vote \
He tells us it was his excellency's duty " to see that no impedi-
ment" should be thmwn in the way. Would he have the go-
vernor go down like the tyrant Charles, to muzzle the Legisla-
ture? If the language does not mean this, it means nothing.

His other point, and these are the only two he offers, out-
side of the slanders he scatters through his pages, is that the
governor should have granted a dissolution to Brown because
he had given the latter " to understand, as plainly as if he had
said it in so many words, that whatever' he (Mr. Brown) found
it necessary to do he should have his support" We suppose the
reader is now able to judge of Mr. Mackenzie's tactics. He
deliberately ignores the interview held before Brown formed
his government, in which the latter was informed by his excel-
lency that he was not to count on a dissolution ; and the distinct
statement in the memorandum, before the ministry was sworn
in, or the governor had any knowledge of Brown's choice, that
" the governor-general gives no pledge or promise express or im-
plied, with reference to dissolving parliament; " and charges
Sir Edmund with having deceived Mr. Brown. He shuts his
ears to the governor's distinct and repeated words and elicits a
contrary language, instead, from his actions. Brown, however*


understood the governor's language plainly enough, but too
elated with the otter of office " rushed to glory " reckless of con-
sequences. As ■ party driver he may have depended on his
power of tallying the governor, though we cannot give him the
credit of such forecast. He fared little better than the excited
son in the beleagured city, who wanted to be a captain. He
wore the honours for four days, and then was out of office, and
Ottt of parliament. As to the governor's conduct throughout
the atlair, no impartial man will say that it was not beyond
reproach, while we cannot douU with - lev, that "hatred

of what might he divined incendiarism, and a sense of the peril
which it was bringing on the country, may very likely have
prejudiced Sir Edmund against Mr. Brown," though this would
not, and did not, influence the act of his excellency.

The governor-general next applied to Mr. Gait, a member of
marked abilities and high parliamentary standing, but that
gi nt leman had occupied soli tary ground, allying himself to neither
party, and was without a following. He declined the gover-
nor's proposal, — something that George Brown would not have
done — and recommended to his excellency Mr. George E. Car-
tier the late leader of the Lower Canada section of the cabinet.
Sir Edmund took the advice, and called Mr. Cartier, who
promptly undertook the task of forming a new ministry. The
incoming administration was the same as the Macdonald-Car-
tier government, the only exception being that Messrs. Cay ley
and Loranger were left out and Messrs. Gait and Sherw r ood
taken in their places. The Cartier-Macdonald ministry resumed
office eight days after the resignation of the Macdonald-Cartier
government. Though Mr. Macdonald had changed places, and,
as some who did not like the transposition at the time phrased
it, " the car had been put before the horse," Macdonald's was
the ruling spirit in the cabinet, although Mr. Cartier was one
of the ablest men in Canada. Now during the session of 1857,
an act relating to the independence of parliament had been
passed, and the seventh section provided that, " whenever any


person holding the office of receiver-general, inspector-general,
secretary of the province, commissioner of crown lands, attor-
ney-general, solicitor-general, commissioner of public works,
speaker of the legislative council, president of committees of
the executive council, minister of agriculture or postmaster-
general, and being at the same time a member of the legislative
assembly, or an elected member of the legislative council, shall
resign his office, and within one month after his resignation
accept any other of the said offices, he shall not thereby vacate
his seat in the said assembly or council." A meeting of pro-
posed ministers was held after the personnel of the cabinet had
been decided upon, and it was then mooted, that, under the sec-
tion just quoted, the incoming ministers, by complying with
certain legal formalities, need not go back to their constituencies
for re-election, but simply take their seats. The technicality
of the law was complied with by M. Cartier, on the O'th instant,
becoming inspector-general ; Mr. Macdonald, postmaster-gene-
ral : Mr. Alleyn, prov incial -secretary ; Mr. Sicotte, conimi-
sioner of public works ; Mr. Rose, receiver-general ; Mr. Sidney
Smith, president of the council and minister of agriculture.
On the following day another change was made and the new
cabinet stood as follows : —


Hon. John A. Macdonald - - - - Attorney-General
" P. M. Vankoughnet - - - Com. Crown Lands.

" John Ross President of the Council.

" Sidney Smith Postmaster-General.

" George Sherwood - - - - Receiver- General.


Hon. George E. Cartier - Premier and Attorney General
A. T. Galt Inspector- General.

" L. V. Sicotte - - - - Minister Public Works.
N. F. Belleau - - Speaker Legislative Council

" Charles Alleyn - - - - Provincial Secretary.


Thus it will be seen that the new ministry evaded the re-
sponsibility of going Kiek for election by accepting within a

month other offices than those held at the time of resignation.
This Wlfl the expedient that has been since known as the
"double shuttle." The laws of the land with their technicali-
ties, are for cabinet ministers we presume, as well as for shabby
clients in inferior courts: and we are unable to see why a plea
which would be respected and irresistible in a court of justice
should be regarded aa ■ disgraosfol trick in a council chamber.
1 Mice more, technicalities may be the excrescences of law, but
if the writer of ■ The Last Forty Years " sued his friend to re-
cover a loaned pair of boots and won the same on a technicality,
would he have the moral generosity to say to the defendant,
■ Here are the boots ; I recovered them by the mere letter of
the law, and not according to its spirit. We do not believe he
would. But he is shocked as he writes about ministers retainin-
their seats by virtue of a technicality, and, after due condemna-
tion, utters a sigh, and "dismisses the subject from his pages." If
we are not mistaken two cases, almost similar to this, occurred
not so very long ago in England. In 1839 Lord Melbourne intro-
duced his Jamaica Bill, but being only able to carry it with a
majority of five, resigned. The Queen at once sent for Peel,
the leader of the refurbished tory party, and invited him to
form a ministry ; but as everyone remembers the " question of
the petticoats " stood in his way — he could not rule with Lady
Numanby — and he had to fall back into private membership.
Her Majesty at the advice of Lord John Russell called on Mel-
bourne ajrain, who, with the rest of the cabinet, resumed their
offices, without, if we remember aright, appealing to the people.
Another case in point happened in 1873 when the liberal govern-
ment suddenly found themselves defeated on their Irish Uni-
versity Bill. Mr. Gladstone resigned, and, by his advice, the
Queen invited Mr. Disraeli to form a ministry. Mr. Disraeli,
who did not resemble George Brown, thought the situation over,
and concluded not to try his luck in the commons as consti-


toted ; whereupon Her Majesty again sent for Mr. Gladstone,
who, with the other ministers, quietly resumed their places.
There was no election, if we are not mistaken, in this case
either ; } r et there is nothing on record in England about single
or double shuffles. The case here differed somewhat, but not
so as to change the constitutional principle involved in the
English cases. There was a slight legal barrier in the way
ill I anada, and it was avoided by taking advantage of the
letter of the law. But we have to repeat that the client who
would, in one of our courts, take advantage of a technicalitv to


gain his suit, is ineligible to cast a stone at the actors in the
double shuffle, unless it be assumed that politicians have more
honour, or ought to have, than other men ; a contention which
we deny.

The new government was supported by a good majority
and daring the session passed a number of important meas-
ures. Since a quietus bad been given bo the question of double
majorities, a desire for representation by population bad taken
deep root in Upper Panada. The question of " Protection to
Home Industries," as a direct issue, came up for the first time
during t] a of 1858, being introduced by Mr. Cayley,

though, as we have already seen, it had been discussed before
in connection with certain tariff changes. During this pear
science accomplished one of its wonders, in connecting Europe
and America by the Atlantic cable. During the year, likewise,
the 100th regiment was organized, and that highminded politi-
cian of stainless name, Robert Baldwin, passed to his rest.



WHILE Canada was struggling for responsible government,
reformers were engaged in a similar conflict in the mari-
time provinces. There, it is true, the question of races, which lay
at the bottom of most of the tumult in Canada, did not exist ;
but both in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick the will of the
people was threatened by the domination of a Family Compact.
The chief cause of discontent in New Brunswick was the con-
t r< »1 of crown lands and timber by a commissioner responsible
only to the imperial government. This official received a hand-
some salary, sold the lands according to his caprice, retained
fees and perquisites, and defied the houso of assembly. During
the session of 1832 the latter body presented an address to the
governor praying that he would cause to be laid before the
Tiouse, annually, a detailed statement of the receipts of the crown
lands department In their zeal for the welfare of the province
the members went too far, however ; for the governor haugh-
tily refused to grant the demand, and left the impression that
both himself and the executive, especially the commissioner of
•crown lands, regarded the request as an insult. Messrs. Charles
Simonds and E. B. Chandler were then deputed to go to Eng-
land and press upon the colonial secretary the necessity and
justice of handing over the crown lands to the control of the
legislature. As a result of the mission, Lord Stanley, the fol-
lowing year, proposed terms which satisfied the assembly ;
but there was a hidden hand at work, and the irresponsible
commissioner went on selling lands at choice terms to friends



and wealthy speculators, without making the desired return
of receipts. In 1836 the blood of the house of assembly again
began to rise. An address was presented once more asking
for detailed accounts of the sales of crown lands and tim-
1 >er. but the governor presented a mere general statement, again
battling enquiry. An address to the king was then passed
praying for redress, and Messrs. Crane and L. A. Wilmot were
deputed to lay it at the foot of the throne. King William ap
proved of the prayer, and the outcome was that the net amount
of casual and territorial revenue was placed at the disposal of
the assembly, the latter undertaking to provide a permanent
civil list of £14,500, annually, for the payment of public offi-
ciate. The decision of the home government went sorely
against the grain of the governor, Sir Archibald Campbell, and
lie despatched Hon. George F. Street to the colonial office to
endeavour to "undo the mischief." The fact is the governor
was sincere in believing that public moneys should not be
trusted to legislatures for expenditure ; that they were only safe
in the hands of some man like the commissioner who was be-
yond popular control. The governor was a soldier, and his
whole being was pervaded by the military instinct. He re-
garded the people much as he looked upon the troops under
his command. The duty of the commander was to give orders ;
that of the soldier to obey. What could the troops know of
expenditure, and the order or economies of campaigns. What
did the people or their house of assembly know of how govern-
ment should be administered or public moneys expended. The
truth is Sir Archibald was like some extinct animal restored,
which had broken loose and wandered out of past ages down
into a time when a higher order of creatures moved upon the
planet — when the dawn-light of liberty had burst upon the
world in all its virgin freshness.

In the summer of 184?8, as we have seen, toryism made its
last appeal to Canada, and then fell never again to raise its
head. Its fall was not without an influence on other provinces


than Canada. Lord Falkland, the governor of Nova Scotia
found a coalition on his arrival in that province in 1840,
similar to that established the following year in Canada
under the union ; but as his term of office advanced he learned
from Metcalfe, the Canadian scourge, the plan of making ap-
pointments, and committing the government to certain acts of
policy, without the consent of the reform members of his
cabinet. The result was that Joseph Howe, the chief reformer
of the administration, and his liberal colleagues, resigned, as
Messrs. Baldwin and Lafontaine had done in Canada. After
Falkland had succeeded in distracting the province, and several
witty, if not scurrilous, reformers had loaded him with abuse
and ridicule in prose and rhyme, he was recalled, and Sir John
Harvey, the " political pacificator," removed from Newfound-
land, and appointed in his place. The new governor at once
tried to construct a ministry out of the timber of both parties,
but Howe was sick of coalitions, and said that as it was now
the eve of a general election he would wait for " a better pro-
position than that." The election came in 1848. As Howe had
foreseen, the Compact were routed, to use the newspaper phrase
of the time, " horse, foot and artillery." They laid down their
arms, and Howe's patience, if not patriotism, was rewarded by
being called on to form an administration. In the same year
the question of responsible government was put to a test in
New Brunswick. Mr. Charles Fisher, the member for York,
framed a resolution affirming that the terms of Earl Grey's
despatch of 1847 were as applicable to New Brunswick as to
Nova Scotia. The most important point laid down in this
despatch was that no ministry could hold its place unless it
commanded a majority of the house of assembly. The resolu-
tion was debated with much fervour, and when the ministry
saw that it was certain to be carried, like Richard, they turned
suddenly around and joined the insurgents. The surprise at
this change of attitude was not greater, however, than that
occasioned by the entry into the tory cabinet, a few days later,


of Charles Fisher and Lemuel Wilmot. Had these two gentle-
men possessed the patience, or the patriotism, of Joseph Howe,
they might have reaped the same rewards with a full measure
of honour at no distant day, as the province was prepared, when
the opportunity came, to cast aside the remnant of what had
been so long a galling yoke. But Fisher and Wilmot were
Loth weak and vain men. The lure of office, even under
circumstances that compromised their political honour, was
more than they could resist. The next question of importance
that stirred the maritime provinces was the scheme of con-

During the session of the Canadian parliament which met
early in 1859, the decision of her majesty in selecting Ottawa
as the capital, or rather the compromise, of Upper and Lower
Canada, was brought before the house, and ratified after a
stormy debate by a majority of five. One of the most impor-
tant measures of the session was tin* adoption of a "national
policy." Mr. Gait, the in general, introduced the reso-

lution, the most important feature of which was an increase
of from fifteen to twenty per cent, on non-enumerated imports.
The duty was so laid on as to give protection to certain
classes of Canadian manufactures, and the author of the
measure was Mr. Isaac Buchanan, of Hamilton, who had given
life-long attention to trade questions, and believed that it
lay in the power of legislatures to make or mar commerce.
In this same session the term inspector-general was abolished,
and "Finance Minister," which, under our budding nationality,
has become such an important name, adopted in its stead. The
first minister of finance in this country, the reader will hardly
wonder at being told, was Mr. (now Sir) Alexander Tilloch Gait.
The most important measure the session brought forth was the
address which both houses passed, praying that her majesty,
accompanied by the prince consort, and such other members of
her royal household as she might select would graciously "deign
to be present at the opening," in the following year, of the


Victoria Bridge across the St. Lawrence river at Montreal.
Bridie-building was not so common in Canada then as it is
now, or the house would not have thought of routing out the
whole royal family to come over here on the occasion in
question. They sent the speaker of the assembly, Mr. Henry
Smith, over with the address and to receive her majesty's reply.
W may as well state here the result. Her majesty could not
Leave the seat of empire, much m it would have pleased hex
to be pr ese nt at the opening of a bridge in Canada, but she
rouslv resolved* to send her son, Albert Edward, then in
his nineteenth year, and up to this time having a good charac-
ter — so far at the public knew — to be present at the event.
It i> true it was a sacrifice, greater than any leader of this book
can imagine, fox the prince to undertake a journey out to this
rouirh countrv. but so mvat was the regard for the welfare of
the colonies that lie shut his eyefl to the hardships and came.
\\ shall tell in a paragraph in its proper place all that it is
ssary for the reader to know about the visit. After the
«' of the session, which took place in May, the offices of
government, after a strong protest against the expense, by a
number of Upper Canada members, were removed to Quebec,
where they remained till they were finally established at
( >tta\va. six years later.

During the summer following prorogation the feeling rapidly
grew in Upper Canada, that, since the abandonment of the
double -majority principle, representation by population could
alone save the upper province, rtbw making rapid strides for-
ward in progress and spread of population, from French dom-
ination. During the late autumn a monster reform convention

* Rev. Charles Pedley, who wrote a " History of Newfoundland," dwells raptur-
ously on the " sentiment of reverent and grateful loyalty," shown by the colonists
" towards the royal lady who had entrusted her son to the hospitality of the distant
subjects of her realm " (p. 448). The same excellent historian regards the visit of
the prince to St. John's, N. F. , as an occurrence of greater moment than the laying
of the Atlantic cable, which had been accomplished two years before the date of the
royal visitation.


composed of delegates from all parts of the upper province, was
held in Toronto to " consider the relations between Upper and
Lower Canada, and the financial and political evils that had
resulted therefrom, and to devise constitutional changes fitted
to remedy the said abuses and to secure good government for
the province." A number of speeches aflame with denuncia-
tion of the government were made, and before the gathering
dispersed a " constitutional reform association" was Organized
to press forward a scheme for a repeal of the union, and the
establishment of two or more local governments, with a joint
authority having control of matters common to both sections
of the province. A scheme for a confederation of all the British
North American colonies was proposed at the conference, bat
the general opinion was that such a measuiv was so beset with
difficulties that it could not be accomplished within several
years, if at all, and, that, meanwhile, crying evils in Upper Can-
ada demanded an immediate remedy. Borne minor reformers
sniffed upon the breeze a faint taint of treason, and opposed
the resolutions of the convention ; while .I<>lm Sandtield Mac-
donald withdrew, expressing his decided disapproval of any
measures that aimed to make inroads upon the constitution.
In Montreal Messrs. Drummond, Metier, 1 >orion, and others set
on foot a similar movement, but the ardour of the scheme was
damped by the undying feeling of hostility which existed
towards George Brown, who was the hustler of the movement
in the upper province.

An event of the new year, and one fruitful of evil and an-
noyance to the government, was the appointment of Mr. Joseph
Curran Morrison to the office of solicitor-general- west, which
position he retained from February, 18G0, to March, 18G2,
though in the meantime he had no seat in either branch of the
legislature. There were men at the time, having the parlia-
mentary qualifications, equally as capable to fill the office as
Mr. Morrison, but the personal friendship of Mr. John A. Mac-
donald overcame all obstacles, and the censure of the opposi-


tion presa We cannot but admire the man who for the sake
of satisfying friendship would brave obloquy, and challenge
serious dangers ; but we have not much admiration for the man
who would accept favours at such a risk to a chivalrous friend.
It' Macdonald owed a duty to friendship, so too did Morrison;
and the duty of the latter was not to enter the cabinet, or,
having enteral it, to have resigned when the enemy began to
sound a censure upon their trumpets,

The next session opened at Quebec, in February The
"abundant harvest,'' such m was tin- custom in the beginning,

18 now. and ever shall be, WM touched upon, and in such a
manner that the allusion, like at this day in the documents
planned by Mr. Mowat, and by the subject of this biography,
read like an insinuation, that, while providence was to be
thanked for the said bountiful harvest, the ministry was also
i-utitled to a share of the credit. The government was sus-
tained by majorities obtained from the Lower Canada mem-
bers, and the enemy declared that Macdonald was bound neck
and heel to the French. No one in the house more deprecated

Online LibraryJoseph Edmund CollinsLife and times of the Right Honourable Sir John A. Macdonald, premier of the Dominion of Canada → online text (page 18 of 57)