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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•gain. Notwithstanding, we say, that the prince of Wales had
visited the United States a year before, a feeling of hostility
was aroused in the north against the British nation for her in-
discreet sympathy with the rebellion. Hot-headed republicans
Blood for a moment upon their own hotly-fought fields, and
turned their eyes towards Canadian territory, muttering that
thither lay their duty next ; turned again and faced the rebel.
On the 8th of November, 18G1, the British mail-steamer, 7Y< nt,
was pursuing her way in the Bahama channel, one morning, with
mails and passengers, when an American ship of war, San
Ht", cannon M0wHng through her port-holes, bore down,
fired a shot across the steamer's bows, and putting out boats
> warming with blue jackets, armed to the teeth, took forcible
possession of two passengers, Mason and SI id< lei, southern oom-
1 1 1 i ^sioners, on their way to England. This act of national piracy
was hailed with enthusiasm by the northern states, and Wilkes,
the captain of the piratical man-of-war, became the hero of the
hour. When the mail steamer reached England and made
known the story of the outrage, the government at once de-
manded that the commissioners be rendered up, and intimated
that a refusal would be regarded as a declaration of war.
While we are among those who glory in British valour, we are
not one of those whose blood comes tingling to their cheek as
they read of how promptly the British lion arose to his feet
when the captain of the Trent told his story. The northern
states were already locked in a struggle with the south, and a
small foreign force could give a disastrous turn to the scale.
That was the secret of the promptitude. While British troops
were yet upon the ocean, bound for American territory, Presi-
dent Lincoln quietly surrendered the commissioners, who sailed
from Boston to England on the first day of the new year.
When the Guards and Rifles arrived in St. John, New Bruns-
wick, the cloud had blown over, though an intense feeling of
hostility existed in the northern states towards Canada. In-
vasion had been predicted by the timid ones among us, and at


once our volunteers looked to their arms. Measures for the
organization of militia companies were put on foot; every Can-
adian youth old enough to carry a rifle exhibited an enthusiasm
for drill. To the impartial reader, now, it seemed as if we were
anxious in Canada for a little war, just for exercise or recrea-
tion. While we were preparing to resist an invasion, we wore
nurturing a cause for invasion. While our school boys and
their fathers were asking for rifles, to defend the homes of
their sisters and wives, we were giving harbourage and hospi-
tality to southern rebels, who harassed American settlement-
and the government troops from our border territory.

The first parliament under Lord Monck met in March, 1862.
In the speech from the throne it was stated that Her Majesty
recognised the loyalty of her subjects in their conduct through
the Trent embroglio, but it is not unlikely that self-preserva-
tion rather than extreme solicitation about a sovereign two
thousand miles beyond the reach of American bullets, dictated
the attitude of Canadians. OoOfi for all, let us say, that should
an enemy, be he ever to insigniiieant or ever so great, threaten
our homes and our country, we shall be ready to do all that we
can to repel him for our own takei ; and after our selfish duty
has been done, if there is a ■ man with soul so dead" as to
say that it was a * selfish " duty, we shall not consider ourselves
entitled to eulogiums for loyalty to a throne and a person that
we were not thinking about when fighting the foe, and which
were two thousand miles out of harm's way.

To satisfy the feeling of uneasiness abroad, the speech recom-
mended the reorganization of the Canadian Militia, and attor-
ney-general Macdonaldset himself to work to frame a bill. He
counted on the support of a majority from his own section of
the province, and relied on M. Cartier for the rest. Of late he
stood higher in the affections of Upper Canada, than ever before;
for during several years he had been believed, by the larger
portion of the people, to have had little regard for the inter
of his own section, and to have maintained a league with the


French for the sake of office. But previous to the late general
election, the conviction came upon a great many of his harsh
judges, that there might be another side to the stories told by
the Globe, and its folio wers ; that he may have been wrongfully
accused, and the victim of an unscrupulous and disappointed
ambition. And so deep grew this impression that the traduced
attorney-general wa.s invited cordially, nay entreated, to visit
their towns and cities. He consented, and made what maybe
called, without exaggeration, a triumphal tour through Toronto,
Hamilton, London, Simcoe, Brantford, Dunnville, St. Thomas,
(iu.lph, St. Catharines, Belleville, and a number of other lesser
towns, at each of which he addressed large assemblages. All
captivated by the address of the man, and won over by
hia defence of himself and the government ; yea, those who had
been taught to believe him the ally of the French, and the
enemy of his own, cheered him to the echo. Everywhere he
was received with cordial and spontaneous welcome, and his
tour placed the government in a favourable light before the
pi < vince. Nor had his uncompromising and manly attitude of
resistance to the agitation for representation by population, the
effect of lessening him in the esteem of the people of Upper
Canada ; rather, it won for him their hearty respect.

One of the ablest speeches he has ever delivered was made
in defence of the ministry's attitude in resisting the question
of representation by population. We who dream of the day when
the reproach of colonialism shall be a thing of the past, and
Canada be ranked among the independent nations, read with
pleasure an outburst of eloquence touching this fond hope of
ours, and firing, while restraining, our ambition. It is impossible
not to believe that if the man who uttered the following words
were not a minister of the crown, we should have had the hopes
without the limitations. Said Mr. Macdonald : " I trust that
for ages, for ever, Canada may remain united with the mother
country. But we are fast ceasing to be a dependency, and as-
suming the position of an ally of Great Britain. England will


be the centre, surrounded and sustained by an alliance not only
with Canada, but Australia, and all her other possessions ; and
there will thus be formed an immense confederation of free-
men, the greatest confederacy of civilized and intelligent men
that ever has had an existence on the face of the globe." To
the greatness predicted of our future in this thrilling picture,
only, however, can we subscribe ; for we cannot conceive of that
"alliance," which means equality, on which the speaker in the
fervour of the moment dwells, and the connexion which makes
ubject and inferior as being the same thing; or, of being
sister to imperial greatness, when our highest distinction is to
be ruled by a subject.

Early in the session some changes were made in the cabinet.
Mr. Ross resigned the presidency of the council, and retired
from the government ; Mr. Sherwood assumed the commission-
erahip of crown lands, ami John darling succeeded him in the
receiver- generalship. Mr. John Beverley Robinson, a lawyer
With a clear and well-balanced head, took tin- presidency of the
council; and James Paton, whose lucky star was John A. Mac-
donald's friendship, became solicitor-general. These new mem*
bersof the ministry were favourable to representation by popu-
lation, but the question was left an open one in the cabinet.
Mr. Robinson was re-elected for Toronto AVot, and Mr. ( ailing
for London, but Mr. Paton who represented the Saugeen divi-
sion in the legislative council was rejected by his constituents.
He nevertheless retained his portfolio, as Joseph Morrison, who
by this time had escaped to the bench, had done before him ;
for Mr. Macdonald, in this case, too, was stronger than the con-

Brown out of the legislature, the opposition was no longer a
mere butt for reproach, but a dangerous and rapidly -increasing
combination. It resisted the address with stubborn pluck, and
fought not as had been its wont under the tyrannous and indis-
creet drivership of George Brown, in detached eddies, but, pow-
erfully, as a unit. A vote was taken on a resolution virtually


affirming want of confidence, but it was defeated by a majority
of 17, and the ministry breathed easy. Nevertheless causes
were at work undermining public confidence in the adminis-
tration. On the parliament-buildings question a dangerous
discussion arose. It was shown that £900,000, appropriated for
the construction of the buildings, had been all expended, besides
ral large amounts not authorized by parliament, and yet
the structure was not half completed. Affairs in the depart-
ment of public works, at the head of which was Mr. Rose, w< ore
in a scandalous plight, and the minister was charged with
incompetency — which was glaring — and corruption. In the
letting of contracts, large sums had been lost to the public by
dishonest means, or an incompetency that, so far as it related
to the country's interests, was as criminal as corruption. Of the
two, the dishonest and the incapable minister, we believe the
former is the preferable, his competency granted. For a capable
minister can be watched into doing the right, be he ever so cor-
rupt in intention ; but hope in an incapable minister may be a
will-o'-the-wisp to lead to disaster. The ministry, though not
onsible, was held accountable for the shortcomings of Mr.
Rose, and it soon became known that its tenure of life was
maintained by a slim thread.

While affairs were in this state, Mr. John A. Macdonald in-
troduced his Militia bill, a measure that made ample provision
to resist invasion, but which would have required an expendi-
ture beyond the convenient ability of the province to meet.
Mr. Macdonald could, usually, at a glance, see the dangers in his
course, but on this occasion the future was inexorable. He
introduced his bill. It was supported warmly by a considerable
majority from the Upper Canada section, but Mr. Cartier's fol-
lowers, in the hour of trial, pretending to be alarmed at the
burthen threatened in the bill, proved faithless, and the measure
was rejected by a vote of 61 to 5 k On the following day the
government resigned.


In the emergency the governor had recourse to John Sand-
field Macdonald, whose eyes lit up when the aide-de-camp
handed him a note from the head of the government ; and on
the 24th of May, while cannon was thundering its rejoicings
proper to the Queen's natal day, the Macdonald-Sicotte minis
try was sworn into office. We give the personnel of the new
government, and glancing down the names one is reminded of
the " Who ? Who ? " administration in England whose member-
ship so sorely puzzled the Duke of Wellington. There were


Hon. John Sanpfiei.d Ma< d<>nau> Pn mier and Att-Gcv.
W. P. Howland - - Minister of Finance.
M. II. Foley - - - - Postmaater-Qeneral,
Adam Wii.sox ... - SUicUar^O&neral.
James Morris ... Receivers-General
W. McDouo ai.i. - Can t'Crowu L>i,,


ffoN. v. SicoTTE - AUontey-Qeneral.

" A. A. Doiuon - Provincial Secretary.

" J. J. C. Abbott - - - Solicitor-General.
" T. D'Arcy McGee - Preside ni of the Council.
" N. J. Tessier - Commissioner of Public Works.
,c Francois Kvanti \\y.\. - Minister of Agriculture.

Two days later, Mr. Wallbridge announced the ministerial
programme in the house of assembly. The double-majority
principle, so far as related to purely local questions, was admit-
ted, and a measure was promised that would provide "a more
equitable adjustment of the parliamentary representation."
The new government was determined to carry out its every act
of policy according to that high standard of purity, efficiency,
and proper economy that always guides the actions of incoming
administrations. A thorough cleansing was to be given to tho


Augean stables, a complete system of " retrenchment," — that
word which has covered more extravagance since the establish-
ment of legislatures than any other expression known to our
English tongue — was to be inaugurated ; a most searching in-
\ '-tiiration of affairs in that " pent-house of corruption," as one
young legislator — who had not yet been afforded an opportunity
of soiling his own hands by corrupt transactions — called the
Board <>f Works office, was to be made; and the government
pledged itself to abide by the decision of Her Majesty with re-
ference to the seat of government, though the greater portion
of the new ministry's timber had signalized themselves particu-
larly by opposition to the choice of Ottawa by the sovereign,
and had made the question the basis of non-confidence motions
Bg&inst the late administration. To all who understood that,
while the union was maintained, a scheme for representation by
population was incompatible with justice to one section or the
• >tli«r of the province, the decision of the new ministry, to allow
the question to stand, was learnt without surprise. John A.
Macdonald said to his colleagues : " We shall have Brown with
us again ; not that he cares so much for Rep. by Pop., but he
wants to be at John Sandfield ; " and while he was yet speak-
ing, it is related, a copy of the Globe came in, with every battery
opened upon the new ministry. After a fierce article had been
read aloud, Macdonald asked Cartier : "In what way would
Brown have been able to carry off his feelings against John
Sandfield had they not providentially repudiated Rep. by Pop V
At the formation of the Brown-Dorion administration, a cold-
ness had appeared between John Sandfield and George Brown,
which grew in course of time into active hostility. Both men
were ambitious, the former wanting to live himself, but wil-
ling that others also should exist ; the latter determined that
no one but himself should live, and ready, with the engine with
which he destroyed character, to crush any one who crossed the
path of his ambition. He sorely felt that during the two last
.sessions of parliament his party had repudiated his leadership


and chosen Macdonald in his stead ; now in his rage and disap-
pointment he almost forgot that his constituents had likewise
repudiated him, and looked upon the new premier as having
usurped a place belonging to himself. John Sandfield solaced-
himself by saying, " Let the heathen rage " when he received the
first broadside of the Globe's " afflicting thunder ;" but it was
not a trivial matter for a prime minister to have arrayed against
bim the most powerful newspaper of his party. Meanwhile the
ex-ministers offered no obstruction to the new administration
at the polls, or in finishing the programme of legislation.

The defeat of Mr. John A. Macdonald's militia bill, as he con-
jectured himself, was regarded in England as a measure of the
practical loyalty of Canadians. The Times which had, on seve-
ral previous occasions, displayed its coloniphobia. if we may be
permitted to coin that word, led off by a rebuke to Canadian-,
which was taken up by a multitude of the minor uewsp&p
who declared that we were an assemblage of -reedy self-seek-
without gratitude <>r loyalty, or even the instinct, com-
mon to the animal, of self-defence. One organ urged the British
government to " shake off the unprofitable colonies " and leavi
them to the mercy of the first comer; another said we brought
neither strength nor profit to the empire, and that any loyalty
we had was in our breeches' pocket. Lord Palmerston's face
turned purple as he told in his place in the commons that Her
Majesty's government had done all for the Canadians in assist-
ing them to procure defences that they intended to do, and thai
it now rested with the colonists to do the remainder themselves
or to " disgrace the stock from which they sprang." At a < I i n n e i
in Montreal, Lord Monck feebly reechoed the imperial senti-
ment, preferring to trust the impressions of the home ministry
and an uninformed press to the facts of the case which were
plain to every Canadian. Mr. John A. Macdonald's hill was an
admirable measure, but the house weighed the cost of the
scheme against the danger of invasion, and rejected it. It
not true, though Lord Palmerston and the British press seem t


have been differently informed, that the Canadians were relying
upon imperial soldiers to fight for them in the day of trouble:
though they rejected a measure which, whether rightly or
wrongly, they regarded unwarranted by the expediency of the
time, they never once thought of shirking the defence of their
•country and homes should the occasion come. As we have,
however, seen, the loss of the measure was due to the defection
•of th<- Freneh-l anadian members among whom a threat of inva-
sion ereated no serious panic, and who, if the truth could be
known, eared very little, since their destiny was that of a oon-
•tjuered people, whether their PTfltcru were republican English
or monarchical English. But in Mr. Macdonald's measure all
the British spirit, all the loyalty to Canadian welfare found ex-
PTOStioP) as was shown by the considerable majority from the
upper province by which the bill was supported.* There was no
invasion ; but this fact was not any more foreknown to those
who rejected the attorney-gent'ial's means for defence, than it
was brought about by disarming resistance at such a critical
time. M All's well that ends well," is the maxim of the fatalist,
and the prophet ; for the one is the bondsman of the event and
the other foresees it: on occasions where stupidity or reckless-
ness fail to provoke disaster, it often becomes triumphant jus-

The war in the republic was a harvest-time for Canada. The
army raised by President Lincoln to subdue the South had been
in a large measure, taken away from the field, and the work-
shop. Canada was overrun by persons from the United States
who bought up everything that we had to sell. For our staple
articles of food, for cattle, poultry, eggs and grain they paid al-
most fabulous prices. Government agents ran over the country
with pockets full of gold purchasing horses for the northern
cavalry ; and many a farmer, tempted by a pouch of shining

* The bill was supported by a majority of seven of the Upper Canada represen-


eagles, sold his best team from the plough. Warned by the re-
sults of over speculation during the Crimean war, the com-
munity launched out into no extravagant enterprises, but, with
prudence, made the most of their neighbours' misfortune.

During the summer the gout accomplished its victory over
Sir Allan MacXab, and the gallant knight, loaded with honours
which give little joy to a dying man, passed to that bourne
whence no traveller returns. His place, as speaker of the legis-
lative council, was filled by Mr., now Sir Alexander, Campbell,
a popular and clear-headed Kingston lawyer, who, as we have
Been, studied law many years previously in the ofhce of Mr.
John A. Macdonald, and had subsequently been in a legal part-
lip with that gentleman.

Parliament met on the 12th of February. The government
now, to use the phrase of the ex-att<wn.\ r *general-West, ha 1
" lived lung enough." Enemies began to arise in every quarter
and South Oxford had just sent a pest in the person of George
Brown. He was full of the accumulated energy of two years,
and at once savagely assailed his rival, John SandhVld Mac-
donald, foi infidelity to the principles of non-sectarian schools,
and representation by population. A small but bellicose band
of clear grits rallied around their tyrannical chief, and throw
themselves in with the liberal-conservatives whenever the lat-
ter assaulted the ministry. It will be remembered that tin-
premier took office affirming the double majority principle, yet,
when a large majority of the Upper Canada section voted against
his school measure, he refused to resign. Early in May, John
A. Macdoflatd informed his party that he had decided to move
a want of confidence in the ministry. Some prominent liberal-
conservatives did not approve of the step, but counselled delay
till further defection took place in the ministerial side ; but the
ex-attorney-general-west assured them that he was certain of
a majority, and pointed out that there was no object in further
delay. Two days later he rose in his place and moved a direct
non-confidence motion. John Sand f if Ms eyes twinkled ner-


volley, but he assumed a bold air, and sat upright at his desk.
He knew his government had received the grave censure of
those from whom it ought to have looked for support, but he
did nut believe that the majority was willing that he should be
hurled from power. John Sandfield's glance was quick, and, as
far as it went, took an accurate survey of things ; but in this
case, as in many others, he argued upon sentiment, while his
more astute rival concluded from fact. The ministry was de-
feated by a majority of live votes. The premier hastened to the
governor and asked for a prorogation with a view to dissolution,
whieh was granted. The dissolution followed immediately, and
the election writs were made returnable in July. In Upper
Canada, the result of the election showed some important gains
to the ministry, but this was balanced by fully as many losses
in the lower province. After much shuttling in the cabinet, and
the total foundering of the Lower Canada section, on the 12th
of August, a new administration was formed as follows : —


rX<Hf. A A Dorion - - - Attorney -General.

" Isidore Thibaudeau - - Presdt. Council

" L. H. Holton - - - Minister of Finance.

" L. Letellier de St. Just - Min. of Agriculture.

* L. S. Hunti.v; t<»n - - Solicitor-General.

" Maurice Laframboise - Comr. Public Works.


Hon. J. S. Macdonald - - Premier and Att-Gen.

" W. McDougall - Com. Crown Lands.

" A. J. Fergusson-Blair - Provincial-Secretary.

" W. P. Howland - Receiver-General.

" Oliver Mowat - Postmaster-General.

It was a favourite practice with John Sandfield Macdonald,
whenever the ship became unmanageable, to pitch some of his


crew overboard ; but like the malignant Schriften in Man-van 'a
book, they never failed to appear for vengeance at an unex-
pected moment. It was not wise, surely, to throw over such
Jin n as Thomas D'Arcy McGee, M. Sicotte, and the late post-
ma-ter-general, M. H. Foley. Office being more to these poli-
ticians, at least at this time, than principles, they joined the
opposition into whose ranks they were warmly welcomed- by
John A. Macdonald, and assailed their former chief in unmea-
sured language. They charged him with betraying his trust
leading minister of the crown, and with having descended
•ts of personal meanness and treachery to prop up his party.
The premier's ayes glowed like live coals as he hurled back the

charges of baseness and political perfidy on the heads of his

: and where he received only censure from friendly
members, he so lashed the critics as to turn them into enemies
opon the spot. One of the premier's faults, and a grave failing

in a party h-ader, was, that, under the [ feeling, lie could

not keep a bridle upon bis tongue, should the outburst put his
rnment in jeopardy. The fruitless session came to an vwd
in October. The premier was hopeful, but his opponent and
namesake assured him, on the day of prorogation, in the smok-
ing-room, that he was" nearing the end of his tether." Towards
the clos,. of the year— 1863 — Mr. Albert Norton Richards was
a j .pointed to the vacant solicitor -generalship for Upper Canada,
and returned for re-election to his constituency, South Leeds.
But before the new minister reached the hustings, he learned,
to his dismay, that Messrs. John A. Macdonald and Thomas
D'Arcy McGee were abroad in his constituency. What was
worse, the two clever oppositionists shadowed him wherever he
appeared, and, whenever they believed he had made a telling

Online LibraryJoseph Edmund CollinsLife and times of the Right Honourable Sir John A. Macdonald, premier of the Dominion of Canada → online text (page 20 of 57)