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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the necessity of resorting to French-Canadian majorities on all
questions which touched the existence of the government than
the attorney-general-west, but he believed that a change was
coming. The tyranny of George Brown was so galling, that
all the members of the grit party who had any spirit were
looking for other leadership. Several liberals of standing re-
fused any longer to follow Brown's lead ; others became dis-
gusted and grew lukewarm about the fate of parties. One day
while major Thomas Campbell, the member for Rouville, and
a liberal of high standing and much ability, was making a
speech, he called upon George Brown to " relinquish the leader-
ship of a party with which French-Canadians could never unite
so long as he was at its head." The friendship of George
Brown had proven to many Lower Canada members what the
upas is to him who rests in its shade. Yet it was George
Brown, if our readers remember, who put forward as one of



TBANSITION. 231

his strong grounds for urging a dissolution upon Sir Edmund
Head, that discord existed between the English and French,
and that his government had a specific to heal the sores. But
although Mr. Brown saw that his followers were dropping off
and looking for another leader, he bent himself vigorously to
work. He prepared and moved two resolutions, setting forth
that the union was a failure, and that the true remedy lay in
the establishment of two or more governments having jurisdic-
tion over local affairs, and a supreme joint authority, " charged
with such matters as are necessarily common to both sections
of the province." Resolutions were introduced with tin- ablest
speeches, it is said, that Mr. Brown ever delivered, but were
defeated, one, by a vote of 66 to 27, and the other by 74 to •'>-.
As this was a black-lrttrr year in ( anadian annals, the
famous I860, during which a prince of the Feigning house, and
the heir apparent to the British throne and dominions, was to
visit Canada, the legislature prorogued in May. with the under
standing that it was to in d in the summer to give a

suitable welcome to the royal visitor. When the chariot of
Zeus was seen in the clouds by the armies barling their might
against Troy, a flutter went through warriors who showed no
emotion before the ruinous spear of the foe ; for now a " god
was coming." Harsh thunder, too, grated across the heavens,
and the hills shivered at the approach of this great deity.
When it was known that the prince of Wales was actually
afloat in the Hero hound for Canada, the hearts of colonists
began to bound, and a feeling of awe came over them like that
which passed through the serried ranks of the Greeks, when
Jupiter's wheels were seen in the thunder-smoke. Some of
our people could not convince themselves that the visit was a
reality and not a myth. Was it possible, they mentally asked,
that the prince, in actual flesh and blood, the heir of a king-
dom, was actually to be in our cities, to put his foot on our
streets, to eat our bread and drink our milk, like an ordinary
human being. To do justice to the Greeks, they had an excuse



232 LIFE OF SIR JOHN A. MACDONALD.

for their perturbation, for he who filled them with awe was

not some frail, earthly creature like themselves, whose corpse
would one day make a banquet for the worms, but a god dis-
encumbered of flesh; and f vamed of spirit and ether, who held
the winds and the lightnings in hifl hands, and who in battle
plucked up the hills by their wooded crowns and hurled them
at the foe. There was no similarity in lN(iO between Zeus
and Albeit Ed ward, nor has any appeared since — unless it be
in their morals. In July the Hero, l>earing the prince and his
suite, and followed by a fleet of war vessels, arrived off those
grim cliffi of Newfoundland, that rise like cold, haughty Titans
out of the Dover Tenting sen. The cormorant, and the guillemot,
and the tieklace. and the sea-mew, and all the feathered broods
that rear their young on the rocky cliff-shelves in the summer
time, twisted themselves upon their terraces as the great pro-
cession, bearing the body, passed, but gave no other sign. The
convoy sail sheer for the steep when, suddenly, the adamant
did opens, and the ships steal in between two plumb rock-walls
that tower several hundreds of feet into the blue. These rise
from the base, clean cut as if from the chisels of the gods, and
you hear the waters, as deep at the foot of the cliff as in the
channel's centre, lapping against the rock as the ships move in.
Cannon look down into the vessels' decks from the forts on the
hi 11- tops, and a chain stretches across the narrow water-path —
a path so narrow that you listen, as each ship passes in, to hear
the grim rocks gride her sides. This was a more glorious sight
for the prince, if he was able to appreciate it, than all the
arches green bushes could make, all the mottoes that commit-
tees could devise, all the addresses that mayors and corporations
could grind out upon pink-bordered vellum. We are not aware,
however, that the great Architect of the universe fashioned the
St. John's Narrows merely to give a pleasant surprise to the
prince of Wales in 1860. From Newfoundland the young gen-
tleman sailed for Halifax, and thence proceeded to St. John and
Fredericton, N. B., in all of which cities he was honoured to*



TRANSITION. 23S

the fullest extent of the people's ingenuity. From Fredericton
the party proceeded to the little, flat meadow-province, with
the coy motto, "Parva sub ingente"; and from its capital set
out for Canada. At Gaspe, famous lobster-fishing grounds,
they were met by the governor-general and the members of
his ministry. A grand reception took place on the 18th of
August at Quebec, and, on the 21st, both branches of the legis-
lature presented addresses to his royal highness expressing
their loyalty and devotion to the throne and person of his
mother. Before the prince came out they created him vice-
king of all the British North American colonies, so that he
had the power of turning any inhabitant he chose into a knight
on coming here. Messrs.N.F.Belleau and Benry Smith, speakers
of both houses of parliament, had the dignity of knighthood
conferred upon them — and felt more comfortable for the rest
of their lives. On the 25th of the month the prince accom-
plished the task for which he came over here. He laid tin
keystone of the arch of Victoria Bridge, and fastened the last
of a million rivets. Some mothers had babes atHicted with
king's evil, which they were going to carry to the prince
that he might lay his hand upon and cure them ; but some of
the fathers and grandmothers said it would be no use, as be
was not yet a king : that only the king or the queen had tie
"virtue in the hand.'' A week after <jhe prince had finished
Victoria Bridge he laid the foundation stone of the proposed
parliament buildings at Ottawa. He did not, we must say to
his credit, ridicule the day's operations to his guardian wlim
they were both alone in the evening, like a near ancestor of
his, who, having performed a similar task, said contemptu-
ously to some of his suite that he was " tired of this ditch dig-
ging." The prince then made a progress through the western*
portion of the province, visiting the chief towns and cities in
the route. The populace was giddy with excitement, and each
city tried to outdo its neighbour in rearing arches and flaunt-
ing welcome-legends. The Orangemen of Kington, Belleville,



LIFE OF SIR JOHN A. MACDONALD.

antl Toronto exhumed the cerements of the Orange king, and
hong them on arches, but, in the latter city, the regal party
Turned their horses' heads and proceeded by another street.
The Duke of Newcastle declared that he would lend no coun-
tenance to displays oi' party that were not conducive to the
public peace and good-will. The Orangemen took bitter
nge on thf duke, for they burnt himself and the governor-
tal that night 00 ( ulhorne street. The fuel, however, was
only t tliiries. Before Betting out for Canada the hospitalities
of tin- republic were offend the Queen for her son by President
Buchanan, should he choose to pay a visit to the United
States. After the Canadian vi>it had ended, the prince and his
suite leeepted the president's invitation, and the reception met
everywhere in the republic was so cordial that the Duke of
castle declared that the visit did more to cement a hearty
feeling between the two countries than half a century of dip-
lomacy. But the duke was not a seer, and could not forecast
some threatening clouds soon to cover the face of the bright
sky. The calculation of the diplomatist after all is a science as
inexact as that of the weather prophet.

During the autumn Sir Allan MacNab, like the ghost of
Hamlet, appeared again upon the scene, and was elected to the
upper house. In 1856 we dropped some tears over the old
man as we saw him, swathed in flannel and racked with pain,
bidding a long farewell to his companions in the assembly.
Shortly after the scene was ended a baronetcy was conferred
upon the deposed leader, whereupon he mastered his gout for
the nonce, and turned his face toward England, where, near
his sovereign, he resolved to spend the remainder of his days.
He had not been well settled in England, when, bethinking
him of his career and honours, and how dear he must be to the
heart of the empire, he persuaded himself that he could defeat
Admiral Pechel, who was a parliamentary candidate for the
town of Brighton. But the triumph of the admiral helped the
poor baronet somewhat to realize that he had probably over-



TRANSITION. 235

rated his standing with the empire; and he returned to Can-
ada, to be elected, as we have seen, in 1860, to the legislative
council.

The session of 1861 was interesting to those who had begun
to look with alarm upon the ever-increasing strength of the
reform party. It is related by those who were intimate friends
of Mr. John A. Macdonald, at this time, that he was not less
u busy holding his own party together, than keeping his oppo-
nents in hot water among themselves." It is not known in
what way he succeeded in promoting discord in the ranks of
his opponents, but he remarked one day quite early in the ses-
sion, while some ministers sat smoking in the council chamber :
"John Sandfield is at last in our service; In- is now on Browns
track." It must not be understood that there was any collu-
sion between the two Macdonalds, nor is it above question that
the attorney-general- west was responsible for some of the dis-
cords among the reformers attributed to hk " machinations."
His readiness in penetrating the situation of his opponents,
and his accuracy in breasting their movement*, often Led lees
powerful observers to believe that he had originated the discords
he foretold. Notwithstanding the tact and finontin of Mr. Cartier,
several of his prominent followers began to break away from
restraint, and range themselves in opposition. For the past
two sessions one man alone maintained the government in
power, and that man was George Brown. " If anything should
happen to Brown," Macdonald need frequently to say jocosely,
though the joke was pregnant of truth, "the government would
be done for." The movement to which we have already re-
ferred, in the reform ranks, and which John A. Macdonald had
predicted, now became apparent to the public. John Sandfield
Macdonald and George Brown could no longer disguise their
hostility for each other; and the public saw that there was a
struggle between the two men for the mantle of leadership.
But so long as the rivals stood in the same parliament, which
ever succeeded, the government had nothing to fear. Yet Mr.



236 LIFE OF SIR JOHN A. MACDOKALD.

Cartier changed colour when he learnt that Messieurs Sicotte
add Loranger had forsaken him and leagued themselves with
John Sandfield Maodonald. Mr. Dorion, to whom the friend-
ship of George Brown was as the upas shade, was removed
from tin- leadership of the Lower Canada opposition on no other
grounds than that he had been on terms of political intimacy
with the man who was an enemy " t<> the religion, the institu-
tions, and the very e&istenoe of the French people." Yet Mr.
Brown wanted to heal '" sectional differences " hetween the two
provisoes ; and Alexan<ler Mackenzie says Sir Edmund Head
was guilty of treachery in not giving Mr. Brown an oppor-
tunity to do what he intended. A few weeks before the open-
ing of the session, a oenaw had been taken, which showed that
the population of Upper Canada was 300.000 in excess of that
of Lower Canada, though twenty years before, at the formation
of the union, the population of the lower province exceeded that
of the upper by 200,000. The logic of these figures, in the
contest for representation by population, was irresistible, though
Mr. ( art i.r resisted the measure with a fervour that seemed
like ferocity, and vowed that he would never consent to a
change which aimed to sacrifice the interests of his section of
the province. Mr. Cartier has been censured for taking this
attitude by several writers, who view the question from their
own peculiar ground and the present time ; and one of these
tells us in referring to Mr. Cartier, that " on this particular
question .... the lawyer and the sectionalist
were seen everywhere, the statesman and the Canadian no-
where." * The writer of this assertion ought to have remem-
bered that union was not granted to Lower Canada, but forced
upon her ; and that by the terms of union she was allotted
only as many members as Upper Canada, though her population
exceeded the latter 's by 200,000, at a time, when, to all obser-
vers, the possibilities of increase in the upper province were no

* Dent : " Portrait Gallery."



TRANSITION. 237

greater than those of the lower. But while this might have
served as a justifiable excuse for the ground taken by Lower-
Canada statesmen in opposing the demand for increased rep-
resentation for the upper province, because the population of
the latter exceeded that of her partner by 300,000, there was a
reason overshadowing this why no alteration should be made,
a reason that also absolves Mr. John A. Macdonald and his
Upper Canada colleagues from the imputation of disloyalty to
their own section by supporting the position of Mr. Car tier.
The very virtue of the union consisted in the equality of poli-
tical power held by each section of the united province ; where-
as, the moment that balance was destroyed, a larger represen-
tation given to one portion of the province than to the other,
the virtue departed, and one section became bound neck and

heel tO the will of the greater f< never. There were two ways

by which justice could be done to one and both : these were
union on terms of equality, or aaptaatioa. There was one other
alternative, but it lay far in the 1-ack ground, and that the
plan of giving to each section a parliament todeal with its local
affairs, and the establishment of a supreme Legislature, with
jui isdietion over such measures as were common to both. But
ongas til.- union was maintained, and the wisdom of t he
connection under the circumstances no one is blind enoturh to
believe, it was the duty of Mr. Cart in- and of John A. Mac-
donald, and of every man to whom justice was dearer tlian any
interest, even the interest of their own section, to resist the
scheme for the adjustment of representation by population,
though the inhabitants of Ontario exceeded those of Quebec
by two to one. Yet the people of the upper province whose
minds were excited by demagogues, were not in a mood to do
justice ; and on the eve of the elections, which took place in the
rammer, it was evident that the ministry would have difficulty
in breasting the current. Among several other charges brought
against the administration on trial before the constituencies,
was that of having kept Mr. Joseph Morrison in the council



233 LIFE OF SIR JOHN A. MACDONALD.

despite the fierce remonstrances of the house, and the bitter,
bat reasonable, censure of the reform press. The action of Mr.
Maedonald in retaining Mr. Morrison in the ministry, for we
believe the action to have been his, passes our understanding,
and seems like the infatuation that has sometimes led sove-
reigns t<> retain favourite ministers against the will of the
nation, though, through their <>l»stinacy, their thrones have
trembled

Meanwhile the country was in a gale of excitement anent
the "' election campaign." Several stalwart warriors fell in the
battle. John Crawford, a member to "fortune and to fame
unknown " vanquished George Brown in east Toronto ; while
the whilom friendship of the defunct grit leader proved fatal to
the fortunes of Messieurs Dorion, Thibaudeau and Lemieux in
Lower Canada. For the first time when the new parliament
met the sharp, matter-of-fact face of Mr. Alexander Mackenzie
was seen at <me of the desks, The figures of Henri Oustave
Joly and Henry Elezear Taschereau were likewise seen there for
the first time. Mackenzie represented Lambton. In 1842, be-
ing then in his twentieth year, he came from Perthshire, Scot-
land, to Canada, and settled at Kingston ; but removed thence
five years later, to the neighbourhood of Sarnia where he plied
the trade of a stone mason, and engaged in large building ope-
rations. It soon became apparent that he was a man of su-
perior ability — though self-made — of untiring industry, and
that he possessed a character of the highest integrity. He
was a pronounced reformer from the time of his settlement in
Canada, and seemed to be drawn towards George Brown, who
was like himself of humble origin, and a Scotchman. For a
time Mr. Mackenzie edited a reform newspaper in Sarnia, and
in 1861, when his brother, Mr. Hope F. Mackenzie decided not
to again become a candidate for Lambton, which he lately re-
presented, Alexander appeared, and, as we have seen, was suc-
cessful. We shall find a good deal more to say of Mr. Macken-
zie, who is not our ideal of a statesman — (but who certainly



TRANSITION. 239

makes a better statesman than a historian) as our story pro-
gresses, and shall not anticipate.

In October Sir Edmund Head set out for England, his term
of administration having expired. A wrecked ambition never
lacks malevolence towards the rock on which it finds disaster.
It was no wonder then that the Globe pelted the departing vice-
roy with every missile at its hand. But through all the tur-
moil of party strife, the governor, if we have read the records
aright, did his duty with resolute and dignified judgment ;
although he refused to do an act which was inexpedient, un-
timely and improper merely because it would forward George
Brown's ambition. There may have been better governors in
Canada than Sir Edmund Head, but we are unable to discern
any errors of judgment in his administration ; or the trace of
any act that shows lie did not strive to the fullest of his powers
to do his duty. Despite the slanders of the Gluhs, and the-
biting malice of Alexander Mackenzie, he appears to all im-
partial readers of Canadian history M an honest man. Sir
Edmund's successor to the governorship was Lord Monck, who
reached Quebec, in October, 1861. The new governor, the-
fourth viscount of Monck, was born at Templemore, in the
County of Tipperary, Ireland, in 1819. He was a descendant
of the Le Moynes, an ancient and honourable Norman family.
He was called to the Irish bar and sat in the commons for some
years as a representative for the English constituency of Ports-
mouth. Under the Palmerston administration he was ap-
pointed lord of the treasury, and was a respectable, though
not a brilliant, figure in the government. In 1857 he failed to
secure reelection, and dropped out of public life till his appoint-
ment to the governorship of Canada. The new governor
reached us at a time when there were forebodings, on the Am-
erican continent, of the mightiest civil war that the world has
ever seen. The presidential contest in the United States dur-
ing the preceding year had been attended with public excite-
ment strained to the highest pitch, and had resulted in the



LIFE OF SIR JOHN A. MACDOXALD.

election of Abraham Lincoln, a noted republican and an un-
promising enemy to shivery. The causes of hostility be-
tween the north and south were the questions of slavery and
of trade. The great bulk of southern wealth consisted of large
plantations tilled by negro slaves, who were driven and
whipped like beasts. Upon these plantations grew cotton, to-
i and rit*.-, \v hieh the planters sent to the north, or exported
to the great markets of Kurope. The abolition of slavery
would deprive the plantation owner of the cheap labour of the
slaves, while the establishment of a protective policy would
bring e tax-iunthen without any benefit, as the eommerceof the
Sooth oonaiflted in the products of the plantations, which were
>rted raw, while manufacturing formed but a small factor
of trade. On the 20th of December, 1861, a day well remem-
beied in American annals, the legislature of South Carolina
passed an ordinance of secession. The people of this state
had for many years maintained that each state in the confed-
eracy was sovereign and independent, and had the right to
separate itself from the union whenever it chose. Fired by the
example of South Carolina ten other states, Mississippi, Alabama,
ida, Georgia, Louisiana.Texas, Tennessee, North Carolina,
Arkansas, anil Eastern Virginia, also seceded, and constituted
themselves into a separate republic under the presidency of Jeff-
erson Davis. The population of the union before the secession
was about 31,000,000 ; the population of the Southern Confed-
eracy was 9,000,000 of which 3,000,000 were slaves. Within
the Southern Confederacy was Fort Sumter, a garrison held by
Northern troops, and against this the cannon of Charleston
hurled its rebellious thunder. Seeing the whole country around
him under hostile arms, the commandant laid down his
-word. The North made no delay, but sprang to arms to
maintain the integrity of the republic. The booming of the
guns before Fort Sumter must have sounded loud in the ears
of Great Britain, for a month after the surrender of the fort a
royal proclamation was issued calling upon British subjects



TRANSITION. 241

everywhere to maintain a neutrality during the war. The
British cabinet had fallen into the common delusion of suppos-
ing that one swallow makes a summer ; that the triumph of
the Charleston guns meant victory and stability for the south-
ern confederacy. The proclamation may have only been the
' pas of a stupid minister, though this view is hardly ten-
able, but it was regarded by the United States government as
a deliberate insult, and a recognition of a cluster of rebellious
states as an independent power. President Lincoln called upon
every state true to the union to make ready its quota of termed
men to send into the field ; and proclaimed a blockade of the
southern ports. The war had not progressed very far when it
became apparent that the Duke of Newcastle had overestimat-
ed the importance of the prince's visit to the United States.
The imperial government, in many ways, had unwisely per-
mitted the world to see its hostility to the north ami friendship
for the south ; while a large portion of the Canadian public,
dutifully, though not less rashly and stupidly, inclined the
sentiment of the mother-land We presume (here is some code
of honour among nations as well as men ; but it is hard to see
l.y what code went Great Britain in conniving at the indepen-
dence of a body of rebels, and in regarding citizens of a sov-
ereign state, in unlawful revolt, as an independent power. If a
band of Irishmen, to-morrow, were to fling the lord-lieutenant
into the Liffey, pull down the union jack, and set up the green
rlag upon the hill of Tara, Englishmen would surely consider
that Prussia had outraged the code of national honour, and
levelled a gross insult at the British empire, did Frederick
William issue a proclamation commanding all his subjects to
preserve neutrality during the " war " between England and
Ireland. But the United States government had graver grounds
for complaint against the British nation : southern privateers,
as piratical as partisan, pounced out of British ports, and
harassed the merchant shipping of the north. The most noted
of these cruisers was the Alabama, of which we shall hear
p



242 LIFE 01 SIB JOHN A. MACDONALD.



Online LibraryJoseph Edmund CollinsLife and times of the Right Honourable Sir John A. Macdonald, premier of the Dominion of Canada → online text (page 19 of 57)